Sunday, July 31, 2011

Making Interesting and Healthy Salads

At first I wasn’t going to post this because I think making salad is something that everyone does, particularly in the summer. However once I thought about it realized that there are a few tricks to making an interesting and healthy salad. After I realized that I knew I should write something on the topic. Here are a few salads I made so far this weekend.

The first was a quinoa and veggie salad. This one contained cold cooked quinoa, diced cucumbers, julienned carrots, dried tart cherries, cilantro and green onions and pecans. I dressed this simply using only lemon zest, lemon juice and no salt seasoning.

The second salad was also a grain and veg salad. It was a simple salad which contained: cold cooked barley, shaved kohlrabi, artichokes, diced cucumber, tomato, and parsley. I wanted this one to have an Italian flavor and dressed it with red wine vinegar and nutritional yeast.

The third salad was all veg, no cooked grain. This one contained raw corn, shaved kohlrabi, diced cucumbers, artichokes, cilantro, tomato, and walnuts. I dressed this salad with fresh lemon juice and no-salt seasoning.

The first thing you will notice is that I don’t use oil on my salads. This isn’t a surprise to my long time readers since you know that I don’t use oil at home except for the occasional splurge with truffle oil or roasted sesame oil. This was a tough habit for me to break being part Italian. I was convinced that salad wouldn’t be any good without unfiltered extra virgin olive oil initially. However I have been away from oil so long now that salad which contains oil just tastes greasy to me. The other thing that I noticed is that oil mutes the flavor of the other ingredients in the salad. I never realized that until I gave it up. It does take a month or more to get used to food without oil, but once you get used to it you won’t go back. Plus your arteries will thank you.

I like to add nuts or seeds to my salad in lieu of oil. They add good fat to help your body absorb the fat soluble vitamins in the salad.

When I make salad I try to make sure that at least 50% of the ingredients in the salad are raw. I do this for both texture and nutrition.  You will notice that the kohlrabi is raw and that is because it is a member of the cruciferous veg family and is far more nutritious when it is raw or lightly cooked.

In addition I intentionally vary the texture of the vegetables. Some of them are cut into chunks, others julienned, and still others shaved. This adds interest to the salad.

I also love to add fresh herbs to salad because they add wonderful flavor intensity.  However herbs also add nutrition so add as many as you like.

Sometimes I add fresh or dried fruit to salad and that always adds a nice little variation to a straight veg or fruit salad. The dried fruit is particularly nice when you want pops of sweet intensity.

Salad dressings are something that I had to play around with for a while to get a feel for what we like. I always start with an acid base either: balsamic, wine vinegar, or citrus. To the acid base I add something that will help the dressing emulsify and this is either Dijon (which works great), miso or a nut cream (walnut and raw cashew are my favorites). Once you have the base done add any flavorings you like. These could be grated garlic or ginger, herbs or spice, poppy seeds, and maybe a little sweetener like stevia. After you start making no oil dressing you will find that they are simple to prepare it just takes a little time for your brain to adjust to the idea of no oil. If you want something really simple use straight balsamic glaze or pomegranate molasses. Both of these are thick as is and they add plenty of flavor.

Happy Thoughts:

• We had a lovely laid back Saturday. It was great to hang out at home and relax and recharge our batteries. We ate popcorn watched a movie and took it easy most of the day. In case you are interested I flavored the popcorn with nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, dill, no-salt seasoning and powdered garlic.  :-)

• Sunday morning we had a great trip to the farmers’ market. We picked up our usual enormous haul of produce. This week we brought home: zucchini, eggplant, kale, portabellas, red potatoes, cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro, wheat germ, wheat bran, whole rye berries, steel cut oats, and mango curry hummus from the hummus stand. It was definitely a good haul this week. They have opened a “flea market” at Sonar next to the farmers’ market. This is where we picked up the organic whole grains. If you are downtown next Sunday check out the organic grains they have. I was very pleased with the variety and the prices.

• The fur children seem to have rebounded from their recent trips to the doctor. Luca is toddling around and smacking her brothers just like always. Masi is moving a little slower than usual but it might just be the season. My little ones seem to be less active in the summer even though they are in the air conditioning.

• I am enjoying reading “Younger Next Year”. If you want to understand the science behind why it is a good idea to exercise everyday this is the book for you. I checked this out from the library but will be buying this for my Kindle because I can see myself referring to it often.

• My laziness really paid off this morning. I was making a batch steel cuts oats to share with Dan today but I wanted savory oats and he wanted fruit and nut oats. I took some oats out for me and then put his breakfast together. Since I didn’t feel like running to the pantry to grab nutritional yeast I ended up making sushi oats for myself and loved it. I will share the details in the next post. While it sounds odd I promise you it was delicious. :-)

Signing Out:

We have other errands to run today so I need to get moving. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Talk with you again soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Does Life Have to Teach You?

Have you ever wondered when and how your life became what it is today? All week I have been in an introspective mood, probably due to lack of sleep over the last three days. No matter what the reason I wanted to share some of what I have been thinking about. Those of you who have been reading for a while know a lot of this, though there is some new information, but I wanted to talk about it in a different way in the hope that something I write will resonate with more people.

I have always believed that ideas are what make everything happen. Without ideas where would any of us be? What do I mean by this? When the oncologist said there was nothing that we could do to keep the cancer under control I viewed that as a challenge. I knew in my gut that lifestyle mattered and I was not going to stop until I understood the science behind how it could make a difference. Additionally, I was determined to show the oncologist that lifestyle could impact cancer. I am not sure that I have gotten through to the MD, but everything for us is going great so that doesn’t matter as much to me now. It took me a while but I now realize that all people see what they are ready for and no more. Maybe one day more doctors will be open to treatments that include lifestyle change. I know many people listen to their doctor religiously but fortunately that doesn’t describe us. We are practical about treatment but are also open to ideas that most MDs think absurd, like lifestyle changes.

If there was one thing I knew early on during this journey it was that what I do (and what you do) matters in life. Every moment each of us has a choice to make. What are we going to do? How are we going to react to something that happened to us? We each make decisions all day long that we don’t give much thought to. Going back to the last post, if you hate your job and it makes you miserable that is a decision that you made. The job doesn’t create your misery you do.

Cancer happened to us, and it sucked, but that didn’t mean that we had to allow it to take control of our lives. Also it didn’t take me long to realize that I could learn from cancer and use what it taught me and share it with others. I have always believed that when you learn you are obligated to teach. Additionally I think that all of us are here for a reason. My reason at this time is to share what I have learned about nutrition and how it impacts health.

I can imagine some of you are reading this thinking, where the heck did this come from? I completely understand why you would have that reaction. If I had read this pre-cancer I might have had the same reaction. Cancer has a way of cutting through the noise, the garbage, and getting to the heart of what really matters most. While cancer is a horrible scourge it can also be the ultimate teacher if you are open to the lessons it brings. In my case cancer has taught me many things including:

• Life is short, don’t waste it whiny, complaining or hating
• Don’t bother to get upset about little things which don’t matter
• You don’t have control over anyone but yourself (this was really tough for me)
• When you make sense people will listen, though they may not change
• If you truly care about others you will reach them on some level

Once I started learning from cancer I knew that I needed to do something with my new knowledge but I didn’t actually know what that meant. In the beginning it was enough to share recipes and teach people that they could eat healthy food that also tasted terrific. Initially I thought that food was all that I had to share because it was something that I was comfortable writing about. However it didn’t take long before writing about cooking became boring for me. After all cooking isn’t exactly mentally stimulating stuff. That is why I share so many links to scientific studies on my Facebook page. At least that stuff makes you think and keeps your mind engaged. Not to mention I love learning since it helps me to put more pieces together. However I also thought that I should go beyond food and science since I know that attitude and mood make a big difference in terms of health.

Back to cancer, it has taught me that I cannot survive in this world relying on myself. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. Before cancer I thought that I was island and that as long as I took care of myself that was all that mattered. Of course that was short sighted and selfish. My excuse for that behavior is that I was young and immature then, okay younger not exactly young. ;-) As I have gotten older I have started to realize that what we all put out into the world really does make a difference. That is why I try to share things that go beyond food. I also believe that life is about growth and change. When you are no longer growing it is time to change. That is another reason that my blog continues to morph as time passes.  I will still be writing about food but also about other things as well.

Additionally good luck, or bad luck, is not really something that I believe in. In terms of good luck I think that what people call luck is actually better described as what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Everything that has happened in your life is preparing you for the moments that are to come in your life. Additionally I believe that everyone’s life has a pattern and those patterns leads all of us to our purpose. Where do you feel most at home? Knowing where you are comfortable will lead you to your purpose. I bet you already know what my purpose is; it just took me longer to figure it out because I am stubborn.

I also believe things show up in your life that you are supposed to notice. In my case what kept showing up in my life was health, nutrition, and caring for other people. For decades I have been interested in food and the impact of food on health though I had no idea what to do with that if anything. It took me a long time to figure out what I should do with the idea. However on some level I knew that I needed to stay true to what was important to me, what I now see as my purpose in life.

I also believe that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Every thought that we think is going to create an action that will come back. In my case early actions resulted in “bad luck”. Of course it wasn’t luck at all it was my actions causing other actions which I didn’t like. Fortunately I figured this out before it was too late. I am pointing this out in case it causes you to think about your actions and whether they are leading you in the direction that you do not want your life to go. A perfect example of this would be hating your job and dreading going there each day. With an attitude like that is there any wonder why your day would be less than stellar?

For years I would joke and say that I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I must be a slow learner because it was in my 40’s before I had any inkling what I was passionate about other than cooking. In the process of teaching myself everything that I could learn about health and nutrition I started to understand what it was that I loved. A funny thing happens when you love what you are doing. When you are happy you tend to spend more time on things and you naturally do them better. Additionally when you do things well people tend to notice which is what continues to happen for me. I am constantly surprised by the number of people who ask me questions about nutrition and health. I also believe that whenever you work hard and do your best you are preparing yourself for opportunity.

During my path to learn about nutrition and realized this was something that I would love to turn into a career. After all since I was happy doing it for free getting paid to do it would be even better right? Are you starting to see where this is going? ;-) I have decided to put my nutrition knowledge to work and to see if I can turn it into a career. Exactly what that career will look like I am not 100% certain yet though I have some ideas. However I am working on that now and as soon as I have it completely worked out I will let you know. Assuming that I stick to my schedule I should have things worked out in the next month or so. Wish me luck as I think I am going to need it. If you have any suggestions or ideas please feel free to share I would love to know what you think.

Since I suspect some of you are wondering …. yes, I am planning to continue writing this blog. In addition to this blog I am planning to have a second blog for the business that I am working on. I will also be writing a newsletter that will be free and when I have that ready to go I will let you know how you can sign up. There is a lot going on in my life at the moment as you can see. Good thing I thrive on being busy huh? ;-)

Feline Update:

Like the last time the cats had to fast Nicco (Binky) is certain that he is going to starve overnight without any kibble to eat. I should lock the cats out of the bedroom but that seems so mean since they like to sleep in the bed with us and I can't do that to them. I am paying the price for that decidions in terms of lack of sleep exactly like the last time. Dan was sweet enough to drive Luca to the hospital and back Tuesday. Good thing because I was too tired to do it safely.

Luca Belle had two molars removed and she was not a happy girl Tuesday night. However she usually isn’t a happy cat so her behavior isn’t markedly different from normal. ;-) She is on two medications now, one for pain and an antibiotic. Let’s hope she continues to be more cooperative about taking these meds compared to how she behaves about her asthma meds.

Overall she seems to be doing well just a little sore from the operation. She is feeling good enough to swat at her brothers which she seems to love to do based on how often she does it. Since Tuesday night I have been trying to keep Luca out of the crunchy kibble. I am taking that a sign that she is feeling well. Clearly her appetite has not been impacted by the surgery based on her often I have been feeding her Wednesday and Thursday.


I have been remiss in my food photography duties lately. I guess this is what happens when you are operating on 4 hours of sleep or less for three days in a row. After I drive my father to the orthodontist today I am going to relax and maybe take a nap this afternoon. I can feel myself really starting to drag now.

I did photograph a snack of peaches and cinnamon raisin hummus. This hummus I bought at the farmers’ market but I will be making my version of this soon because it is really good. Who knew sweet hummus would be so good? I am usually more of a savory girl but I am enjoying sweet flavored hummus much more than I ever expected.

I also made an eggplant and shitake dish in curried tomato sauce. To this I added a few diced dried apricots for a little sweetness. I served this over quinoa and finished it with cilantro and cashews

There was also a “crème” of lentil soup with shitakes that was made similar to this split pea soup. I flavored the soup last night with Spanish seasonings including: sherry vinegar, smoked paprika, and lemon. I added some leftover bulgur to the soup just before serving. The soup was topped with fresh cilantro and sliced almonds.

Of course there was salad too.  This on was shaved zucchini, tomato, marinated mushrooms, roasted peppers, basil, nutritional yeast, red wine vinegar and fresh basil.  Since I like to finish my salad with nuts or seeds this one had pine nuts.

Happy thoughts:

• It was a huge relief to hear out little fuzz ball Luca Belle came through surgery fine. We were both concerned about her undergoing anesthesia because she is a little chubette. Thankfully there was nothing to worry about. In fact she seems to have bounced back faster than Massimo which I didn’t expect.

• Having a low key week is something that I am very thankful for. Three days with little sleep has been much easier to take when I can play things by ear.

• Things are going well in Grenada which also makes me very happy. We might have a small paperwork delay to contend with but that is not the end of the world. Our girl will be here soon and a potential short delay is certainly not worth getting upset about.

• We have another concert coming up in August which I am starting to look forward to…of course it is more jazz. :-) For my fellow jazz fans the next concert is Euge Groove. I love listening to live jazz in case you hadn’t noticed.

• I am looking forward to Saturday because all the cats will be eating the same food again and that means I will be able to leave the dry kibble down. Having kibble available for the fur children to free feed means I will get sleep again. *woo hoo* Sleep is definitely something to be thankful for.

• Additionally I am also extremely thankful to all of you who take the time to read. It makes me very happy that so many of you are interested in eating a better diet and that I can offer you ideas for what to feed your family.

Signing Out:

Now it is time for me to get a little rest before Dan gets home from work. We started watching “Wind” last night for the first time since it came out. I guess it isn’t a surprise that we would like movies about sailing.

Wish me luck getting some sleep tonight. I am doing my best to get back to daily posting but without sleep that hasn’t been possible this week. Talk with you again soon.

If you any thoughts about this post please let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks! :-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

How Does Attitude Impact Your Health?

(Flowers make eveyone happy don't they?)

Today when I was running around I thought of a person I used to know who was one of the most unhappy people I have encountered. It won’t be a surprise that this person and I have drifted apart. I imagine it is tough to be around someone who can find the bright side to cancer when you can’t find anything good about your own life. However I think there are lessons we can all learn from this person so I wanted to share some of my observations.

This particular person ruminated about how much they disliked their job. They didn’t like the company they worked for. Their boss was useless. The job itself wasn’t fulfilling. Combine this with a bad job market and a husband who was underemployed and this person felt like they had no choice but stay in the job because they needed the money and health insurance.

(This is a picture I took of the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore)

Of course I asked many questions about the situation to try to help. However the answers didn’t really sound all that bad to me. The commute was easy, the pay was good, she had autonomy, and there was a lot of free time during the day when she could do things she was interested it. Yet this person was miserable and would talk about how unhappy she was every day or two.

After a while I felt my own happiness being pulled down by these stories of doom and gloom. However as much as this depressed me imagine what this did for the other person. I am sure it was much harder for her having these feelings than it was for me to hear about them. I think she was so stuck in this story in her head that she couldn’t step out of the situation and to see what it was doing to her health.

It is probably no surprise that this lady also wasn’t happy with how she looked and felt like she needed to lose weight. However she was so busy complaining about work, and medicating herself with food and alcohol at night that she didn’t do anything to resolve her excess pounds. I haven’t talked to her in a while but I imagine her life hasn’t changed.

You might be wondering why I am telling you this story and yes there is a point. I believe that unless we are happy with life it is very difficult to make the right food and lifestyle choices. Have you ever been under stress at work or at home and made bad food choices like eating ice cream for dinner because of a bad day? Emotional eating (or drinking) is something that has happened with most women that I know. If you someone who eats emotional how do you stop? Think about the story I just told you, is the food the problem or is it the underlying emotions? In my opinion you have to deal with emotions first and then the other things can be dealt with.

What would I do in her situation? I would focus on what is good in my life. Instead of complaining about what I didn’t like I would find things to like. In her case it would be the pay, the health insurance and the time during the day to look for another job. Of course I would also focus on the non-work things in my life that were also good.

(This is a crazy picture I know but doesn't it just make you smile?  That is what it does for me.)

I believe that attitude has more to do with health than most people realize. If you wake up in the morning with a love of life and being excited about your day than you are more likely to have a great day. However if you get up in the morning dreading your commute, dreading your day at the office or coming home to a spouse you don’t like you probably aren’t going to have a good day. Does any of this make sense to you? If any of this resonates with you or have a story similar to this please share. I would love to hear what you think about this and how you resolved a similar situation.

Nautical News:

The sea trial went well today. *woo hoo* All is well in our world today. There are a few minor items to deal with but nothing too time consuming. That means the delivery crew will be leaving this weekend at the latest. Both Dan and I are looking forward to the arrival or our new floating child. I am sure the cats will not be as happy as we are about this .... but they will adjust. Now I need to remember to talk to the vet tomorrow about how to deal with feline motion sickness which I have read recently can be a problem.  :-/

Today I have been busy working on boat things. However I have made a lot of progress so that is a very good thing. Since the boat will be here very soon I wanted to get as organized as possible before she arrives. Those of you who know me know that my organized former accountant self comes out when things need to get done. I immediately shift into to-do list mode and scheduling tasks to be done. Last night and today I have working on what we need to accomplish and when it needs to happen. I have scheduled tasks by day and who is responsible for those coordinating or accomplishing those tasks either myself or Dan. Now that we have a well thought out to-do list that I can work from I feel much better. Are you a list maker too is is it just me?

Feline News:

Luca Belle goes to the vet tomorrow to have her dental procedure. Please keep her in your thoughts. She is a little round butter ball so I am a little concerned about how she will handle anesthesia. However we need to get her teeth taken care of meaning surgery is required it is only a matter when. I am comforted by the knowledge that she will be in good hands tomorrow.

Happy Thoughts:

• We heard from Island Dreams and the sea trial went extremely well. There are some minor items to deal with but nothing that will take much time. That means the baby will be leaving Grenada very, very soon. *woo hoo* I am not happy about his in the slightest, can you tell? LOL

• Today I was very productive and that makes me happy. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I had on my list for today, but my list was aggressive. I find that it is better for me to have an aggressive list and that pushes me to get more accomplished.

• We had a nice cold front run through this afternoon. After our over 100+ days last week it was nice to be back in the low 80’s even if it is only for this afternoon. Every little bit helps right?  ;-)

• Massimo has been doing much better the last few days. He is no longer vomiting and has starting eat out of his food bowl (rather than my hand) again….thankfully. Additionally he is behaving more like his old self. He and his little brother (Nicco) have been running around the house playing today, which I love to see.

• Spending time today getting uber organized has been very good for me. I am one of those people who are comforted by organization. Not that I know why, but I love to cross items off my to-do as I complete them. I guess my inner nerd is coming out since I love my to-do lists and binders so much, LOL. ;-)

• It was nice today to spend a few hours studying nutrition. Since I enjoy learning and growing any time that I spend studying makes me very happy. Sorry I didn’t have much time on Facebook today. Tomorrow I have time set aside for Facebook while Luca is at the vet. As much as I like to study I also love connecting with those of you on Facebook and missed ou today.

Signing Out:

Now I need to spend some time with my hubby and fur children. I hope Monday was good for you too. Talk with you again soon, hopefully tomorrow with good news about how Luca Belle did at the vet. Have a great evening!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Jazz Concert and Photography Workshop

It has been another busy couple of days at our house. Have you noticed that we aren’t home much during the summer? When Dan can take time off of work I try to work as many things into our schedule as possible. However Dan isn’t really into photography so I went to this one alone while he spent a little time in the office. Other than that we have been glued together this weekend like usual.

Peter White, Gerald Albright and Rick Braun In Concert:

Friday night we went to Rams Head Live in Annapolis to enjoy some live jazz. Fortunately Dan got home from DC with enough time that we were on schedule. Those of you who are local know that the traffic around DC is unpredictable. I think because it is summer the traffic in DC was lighter than usual.

Above is the best shot I got with my phone. For the next concert in August I will use my “real” camera and get some better photos to share. It as hot Friday night and I didn’t feel like going down front for pictures.

One nice thing about going to jazz concert is that they are frequently better live than they are on CD, not something you normally see from mainstream musical artists. They played one song that they somehow compared the classic Bond riff with Bob Marley. It sounds like an odd combination I know but it worked.

For those who are thinking of attending a concert at Rams Head in Annapolis they do have a veggie sandwich (no cheese) which you will need to ask them to hold the mayo, and a roasted red pepper hummus that are both vegan once you eliminate the mayo.

Photography Workshop:

Even though we got home late Friday night I had to get moving early this morning to be at the photography workshop near BWI at 8:30am. This meant we had green smoothies for breakfast because they are fast. I grabbed some coconut water to take with us because was hot again today. You didn’t expect me to leave the house without some sort of snack did you? :-)

The photography workshop was a lot of fun. Of course I am now convinced that I need to upgrade my camera. However with the new floating family member I should probably practice a little restraint on that front. I will probably buy another lens and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom soon though.

Since I had posted on my individual Facebook page  that I was at the photography seminar Jenn (from the restaurant) posted that she thought about attending the workshop too because she had just purchased a new camera and hasn’t used it yet. I offered to teach her what I learned on Saturday. If Jenn and I don’t find time to get together before the boat arrives we can take pictures while we are out sailing. Emily, our friend who graduated from MICA and who works in wedding photography wants to take some photographs from the boat too. Looks like the boat may end up being a frequent subject doesn’t it?


After the photography workshop Dan and I can home and had a quick lunch. This one included: julienned carrot, diced tomato, shaved cucumber, sliced bell pepper, golden raisins, lemon zest, lemon juice and was topped with chopped walnuts.

To accompany the salad I made a simple quinoa dish with sesame seeds, granulated ginger, and sunflowers. This was for protein and extra calories since the salad was so light.


After lunch we had a few errands to run. I always have books to return to return so we stopped at the library. This time I did something completely out of character and didn’t pick up any books to bring to bring home since I don’t have time to read them. However I didn’t come home empty handed either. While I was there I found 6 music jazz CDs that I wanted to listen to.

Dinner Out:

We were already out of the house so you know what happened next right? Yes of course we had dinner out. By now I am sure you are starting to see why we know everyone at the restaurant by name as well as quite a bit about them. They probably see us more than they see their own families. LOL

Today was “Shorty's” (6’7” tall Michael hence why I call him Shorty) birthday and since we came into dinner early the gang was just finishing up cake at the bar. Somehow I know part two of the birthday celebration included adult beverages at another bar. ;-)

While I was out the photography class I picked up an extra handout for Jenn. She told me a bit about the camera she bought and how she picked it up because it was a good deal on Woot. Smart girl right? We talked about photo composition and that we will take pictures from the boat is we don’t get together before then.

We chatted with Aimee for a while and are planning to go to DC early August when her schedule settles down a little. Will (formerly from the restaurant) is going to try to join us too. Are you starting to notice that we aren’t like “regular customers”? ;-)

Ian wasn’t thrilled that we didn’t let him know that we were coming in for dinner tonight so that he didn’t have anything planned for us. Of course that didn’t matter to us in the least. After the obligatory hugs and catching up Ian told me what he had to work with in the kitchen and asked me if I wouldn’t mind making up my own dishes and that the guys would execute whatever I came up with. We really are spoiled and we know it.

Since Jerome had made a vegan lentil vegetable soup with started with two bowls of that for our first course. Sorry the photo is dark I was playing the manual settings on my camera.

Ian has a tomato, mozzarella and pesto salad on the menu which I decided to make a vegan version of. Since I knew he didn’t have any baked tofu on hand I asked them to sauté a little tofu and serve that with sliced tomato, cilantro lime sauce all served on a bed of mixed greens. We enjoyed this so I will be baking some tofu this week so that I can make my version of this to share with you soon.

For our entrée I took a chicken and olives dish that Ian has on the menu and made that vegan which wasn’t difficult. Obviously they needed to hold the chicken and I asked them to add chickpeas and mushrooms. The dish also contains roasted potatoes, snow peas, onions and garlic in a white wine sauce.

Here is another picture I took messing around with my camera.  Not bad I thought. 

We didn’t stay long this evening for a few reasons, one there was a line a people waiting to be seated and there was a large group of ladies who were extremely loud. Sitting near them was not a pleasant experience. In fact they were so loud I couldn’t hear Dan across the table if that tells you anything.

Ian sat at our table to chat for a little while before he left for the evening. He is going on vacation the last week of August and then his kids go back to school. In order to get him to the boat while the kids are still off of school he may end up being the first one there besides us which is fine with us.  We both love spending time with Ian.  I still haven’t figured out how we are going to schedule things to make it easier for everyone else. I am thinking of some sort of online scheduling program we can call access but haven’t narrowed it down yet. If you have any suggestions feel free to let me know.

Happy thoughts:

• Both Dan and I enjoyed the jazz concert on Friday. The nicest thing about live jazz is that it is frequently better than recorded jazz. Peter White, Gerald Albright and Rick Braun were all very lively. It was definitely a good show and a nice way to spend a Friday night.

• The photography seminar by Okello Dunkley Saturday morning exceeded my expectations. Too bad I didn’t take this when my camera was new. Oh well, better late than never right. It is nice to use my digital camera more like my old film camera which I loved. Do any of you use Adobe Lightroom? I had never heard of it but seeing what could be done with it on Saturday I am adding that to my wish list. ;-)

• We had a nice relaxing dinner out on Saturday. Dan and I both like seeing everyone as much as we like going out to eat. This is why I keep mentioning that you need to find a place close to home where you can be regulars too. Everyone goes out of their way for us which is extremely endearing. There are not many vegan restaurants near us and we are extremely fortunate to have an omni restaurant that will make us special dishes whenever we come in. Having worked in a restaurant before I know isn’t the easiest thing in the world which makes me appreciate the effort even more.

• We had a nice trip to the farmers’ market this morning too though we did get there a little later than usual. We talked to Paul (one of the owners of Calvert Farms) about his boat while we shopped. Calvert Farm is the CSA we belong too and I highly recommend them to anyone who is local. Next we stopped to see Rudy (the owner of Cat’s Paw Organic) for more shopping and talking. Yes, I do talk everywhere I go before you ask. I have always been very verbal. LOL

Signing Out:

For some unknown reason I didn’t sleep well last night so I am moving a little slowly this morning. At the moment we are sitting in the family room listening to some jazz. However I do need to get a few things accomplished today.

Talk to you again soon, hopefully tomorrow. I hope you have a great Sunday!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thursday Evening and Crazy Friday

After the marine electronics workshop we made a beeline to the restaurant for dinner. Since the workshop didn’t end until almost 8pm there was no way I would going to have time to make dinner at home.

It was a scorcher outside so we actually ate inside. Shocking, right? Ian was on his way out when we arrived so he stopped for a few minutes to get a quick update on the sailboat. He mentioned to me that he had some baby eggplant in the kitchen in case I wanted the guys to do something with that and then he headed for home.

We chatted with Jonathan, Jen, Jacqueline, Steph and Janine and ordered dinner. We decided to stay pretty much to the menu and ordered the following:

Our first course was two cups of gazpacho which they only had to leave the crab topping off and it was vegan.

For our second course we shared Ian’s version of a samosa. Dan really loves this dish so I only had two bites, literally. It is filled with diced potato, lentil and golden raisins along with Indian spices. The plate has mixed greens and sriracha and the cilantro lime dipping sauce which also contains curry is the bomb. ;-)

Our entrée was a bowl the Szechuan mushrooms and tofu over cilantro and lime dressed cucumber noodles. We asked the guys to add eggplant to the dish and they split two and grilled them which I thought was a great idea.

Aren’t we lucky to have a special place where we can stop in and find something vegan to eat without having to jump through hoops? 


Like my usual Friday this one has been hectic and out of control. I started my morning with a quick trip through the neighborhood. It was my intention to do 4+ miles but at the 15 minute mark I turned around and headed for home. With temperatures in the mid-90’s by 10am and high humidity I was nothing but a sweat ball by the time I got home. Today was definitely a day to stay inside in the AC. I can’t remember a day where the heat index was 115 at 11am before. Seriously I was so hot when I got home all I wanted to do was drink water. *ugh*

I also had a webinar today and needed to check in on my parents and do a little housework for them. It has been one of those days where I am running around chasing my tail all day.


My Massimo has decided that he needs to eat his meals from mommy’s hand. I know I started this because he wasn’t eating but he is starting to take things too far. *rolls eyes* Is it any wonder that I don’t feel like I am in control around here? LOL

Jazz Concert Tonight:

Now I need to make myself presentable and head downtown to meet Dan because we are going to Annapolis this evening to hear Peter White and Gerald Albright. Thank goodness the concert is inside because an outdoor concert would be purely miserable today.

Photography Seminar Tomorrow:

Early tomorrow I am going to a digital photography seminar/workshop which should be a lot of fun. I am sure you have all realized that I enjoy taking pictures. My intention for this workshop is to learn more about the functionality of my camera since I know I don’t use it to the fullest.

Happy thoughts:

• Massimo is definitely continuing to improve. He has a wonderful appetite and even played with his little brother today for the first time in days.

• The marine electronic seminar went well. Dan and I both decided that we won’t have any trouble using the electronics. It was a great idea to see them function on land rather than trying to learn how to use them while we are underway. ;-)

• It has been a crazy Friday but is has also been a good day. Things is Grenada are going extremely well. Most of the items have been crossed off the to-do list. The upcoming sea trial should go off without incident. *finger crossed*

• I love to hear music live and am looking forward to the jazz concert this evening. I will tell more about that in my next post.

Signing out:

Things continue to crop up and get in the way of my posting the Middle Eastern eggplant stew. Let’s hope I can make that happen tomorrow after the photography seminar.

I need to get moving and figure out what I am going to wear this evening. Enjoy your weekend and I will talk to you again soon.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy Feline News!!!

Massimo Update:

I hav hade another crazy day today but wanted to fill you in on how Massimo is doing today. When I spoke to the vet he told me that Massimo’s kidney function is completely normal. *woo hoo* I don’t have to tell you that this was a huge relief for both Dan and me. Massimo’s liver function test was a little elevated but it was not to a level that caused great concern. Doc explained that kidney removal doesn’t typically work out well with cats or dogs. He also told me that when cats have cancer in the kidney it is generally lymphoma so removing the kidney is of no use. His recommendation was to keep an eye on Masi, paying attention to his appetite, bathroom habits, and whether he is vomiting more than normal. For now Masi isn’t in any danger and there is a good chance that the abnormal kidney that they saw on the x-ray isn’t going to be an issue. *whew* I feel like we dodge a bullet with this one.

Luca Belle:

Since her asthma continues to be under control I have scheduled her dental procedure for this coming Tuesday. I decided it was best to get all the felines taken care of now while we had time in our schedule. Given how poorly Nicco (aka Binky) handled fasting for Masi I think Monday night we will be closing the bedroom door so that I can get enough rest to safely drive Luca to her doc appointment. I swear having pets is exactly like having children only they don’t speak.

Marine Electronics Seminar:

Tonight Dan and I will be attending a marine electronics seminar where will hopefully learn how to use some of the fancy equipment on the boat. I need to leave the house soon to drive downtown and pick Dan up and then drive to class.

Sorry I didn’t have time to get the eggplant soup recipe posted today. I thought I would have more time today but some unexpected things came up.

Happy Thoughts:

Today was busy but it was a great day so I have many things to be thankful for which is wonderful.

• I am thrilled that my precious little angel Masi is doing much better than I expected after the radiology results yesterday. Thank you for everyone that kept him in their thoughts. It is also very touching to have so many people care about my little baby.  :-)

• We got some good news on the boat today which I can be happy about now. The sea trial is scheduled for Monday (7/25) and the boat will be leaving Grenada either 7/29 or 7/30. Sailing days are here again! *woo hoo* Both Dan and I are really looking forward to having our girl downtown. Yesterday I was only concerned about my boy but today I am happy about the boat again.  ;-)

• It makes me happy that the online book club seems to be of interest. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to answer the 7 question survey please do. I am very interested in your responses. So far it looks like the first book will be “The China Study”. If you are looking for an excuse to reread it please join us online. I will be posting the details soon.

• My little baby has gotten his appetite back. *woo hoo* My little Masi ate his lunch from the palm of my hand today. It was good to see him eating with such energy. This was the first meal he ate with intensity. *whew* I wish there was more I could do for my fur children rather than feeling helpless. However I am grateful that they have a wonderful caring doctor to look after them. For years I have said that I wished I could find an internist that I liked as much as our vet. Our current internist is a nice guy but he isn’t our veterinarian. However that is probably only because I have only known him 10 years not the nearly 30 we have known the vet. Besides, our vet is a tough act to follow. ;-)

Signing Out:

It is time for me to make myself presentable for this evening. It is nice to be leaving the house knowing that all my fur children are happy and healthy this evening. Talk to you again soon. Enjoy the remainder of your evening.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Truffled Hummus

Massimo Update:

Today has been a rough day at our place. It started last night since the cats all fasted so that Massimo could go under anesthesia today. Nicco (Binky) wanted no part of fasting with his brother and made sure that I knew he was starving. He run up and down the bed all night meowing. When that didn’t get me out of bed he decided to burrow until the blankets and nibble me. As you have probably guessed by now I didn’t get much rest last night.

Masi was at the doctor a little before 9 and was the first procedure on the schedule. Since he isn’t the most cooperative little guy at the vet I offered to get him out of the cage and put him into the anesthesia chamber so that he didn’t hurt anyone at the hospital. Word of advice on this, don’t try it. Masi kept trying to cling to me and wrap himself around my neck. I felt so incredibly guilty prying him off of me and placing him in the chamber.

Doc called around 10:45 to tell me that Masi was doing fine and was already waking up. The only problem is that the x-rays showed that one of his kidneys doesn’t look right. He also told me that he has seen this before and that sometimes it is nothing and other times it is a problem. We will know more after the blood work comes back tomorrow. I need to talk to Doc and Dan but I think I am going to suggest that we go ahead and have an ultrasound on Masi so that we know more about what we are dealing with. If cats can do fine with one kidney (like people) I am leaning toward saying remove the problem kidneyI don’t want to miss an opportunity we may have to stop this before it spreads. I will know more tomorrow and when I do I will let you know.

Truffled Hummus:

Needless to say my day has not been good. Between being sleep deprived and then worrying about Masi this is a day I could have done without.

While I waited for Masi to recover completely from surgery (so he could safely come home) I made some truffled hummus today. I took hot freshly cooked chickpeas into the food processor and added some of the cooking liquid a ladle at a time until the mixture was creamy. Then I added a little truffle oil, less than a tablespoon and continued processing. I also added a little truffle salt, a clove of garlic and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. When I compared this to what I bought I could immediately tell the difference but in a good way. The hummus I bought had much more fat, and included tahini which I think detracted from the truffle taste. I was glad I still had some that I bought to compare.

I got started writing this post later because the fur children have been out of sort today hissing and swatting since Masi came home. I will get the eggplant soup posted tomorrow when I have more time.

On-line Book Club:

I have mentioned an on-line book club on the blog before and the idea also seems to be taking off on the Facebook page. I set up a quick survey to gather ideas from all of you regarding the book club. Please take a minute and answer the questions, there are only 7, if you are intrigued by the idea. You answers are anonymous. Thanks!

Happy Thoughts:

Since it has been another rough day around here finding things to be grateful for may not be easy but let’s see how it goes.

• I am enjoying the new hummus flavors and being back in the kitchen. I had lost my desire to cook for a while so it is nice to have it back.

• Things are going well in Grenada which is very good. I only wish I could be a little happier about it. I would much rather have a healthy little fuzz ball.

• Our friend Walid is on his way to Egypt now to bring his mom back here for Ramadan. Even with all the chaos here the last few days I managed to get in touch with him to tell him to have a safe trip. I am looking forward to seeing his mom (Nadia) because she is so sweet and caring. Exactly the sort of lady that anyone would like to spend time with. I suppose that is why Walid is also a great person; he obviously takes after his mom.

• Masi seems to be doing well at the moment and I am trying to be thankful for that. He is the sweetest little guy and we have been very lucky to have him in our lives for 10 years. If I have anything to say about it Masi will be a part of this family for another 10 years.

• Last night I took some pictures downtown at the harbor. Here are a few of them to give you another glimpse into Baltimore life.

• I am looking forward to the jazz concert on Friday. That will be a nice distraction from my week.

Signing Out:

I am dragging this evening because I got very little sleep last night. I need to turn in soon because I am exhausted. Talk with you again soon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lemon Poppy Seed Hummus

I knew Tuesday was going to be crazy and it has been. After talking to our vet we decided that Masi needs to be thoroughly checked out tomorrow. Unfortunately he isn’t the most cooperative little angel when he is at the vet’s office. The only time they can draw blood is when he is knocked out. This evening the feline population at our house will be fasting so that Masi can spending much of the day at the doc getting blood drawn, having x-rays and getting subcutaneous fluids. We need to rule out as many things as we can since he is a very loved little precious. Needless to say I have been lamenting Masi’s trip to the vet because I am a very concerned cat mommy, otherwise known as moderately neurotic. ;-)

Today I have been running around trying to get things done today that were on my calendar for tomorrow since I know that I won’t have time. Not to mention I will be too worried about Masi to remain focused. Good thing I held back on the second hummus recipe from Monday so I had something quick to blog about.  :-)

For my morning snack today I had sliced peaches spread with lemon poppy seed hummus and loved it. I had never thought of sweet hummus until I saw so many varieties of it at the hummus stand at the farmers’ market. However I must say hummus really is a blank canvas just waiting for any flavor combinations you can think of to add to it. One thing I have learned is that almost anything seems to work with hummus. Expect to see many more hummus variations now that my eyes have been opened.

Yesterday I took some freshly cooked and drained chickpeas and pureed them with a little of the cooking liquid. I have learned that hot or at least warm chickpeas get creamier when you process them. To the pureed chickpeas I added lemon zest, lemon juice and a small amount of stevia. I incorporated poppy seeds at the end of the processing. What I had at the end was a smooth lemony spread which is lightly sweet with poppy seeds. This works perfectly with fruit and reminds me of lemon poppy seed muffins which I used to love but wouldn’t eat now.

Great Quote:

I read a phenomenal quote today that spoke to me so I wanted to share it with you.

"Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible." - Claire Goldberg Moses

The moment I read this I felt as though the writer could have been me. I have always been someone who didn’t take no for an answer and thought anything was possible with enough hard work and practice and the writer certainly seems to agree. In fact I think that willingness to take on the impossible is what separates people. To be clear what I am speaking of is the unwillingness to give up.

Specifically when oncologists said there were no lifestyle changes that would impact health I refused to believe that and dove into research. Thankfully I was that type of person and decided that no change was too drastic if it had science behind it. However I know many cancer patients who listen to their doctors as though they are demi-gods. My heart goes out to these people since I have the feeling that by them continuing to do what they have always done they will continue to get what they always got, in other words more cancer is likely in their future.  *sigh*  Maybe one day lifestyle changes will be prescribed for disease before drugs and surgery.

What are some of your favorite quotes?

Happy Thoughts:

Today has been a rough day for me with Masi being sick. I am unnerved by the thought of Masi going under anesthesia tomorrow because he didn’t handle it well when he got his teeth cleaned in the fall. However I am going to force myself to look on the bright side. Here goes:

• I am thankful that I have a caring veterinarian who I have known for almost 30 years. It is comforting knowing that Masi will be in the hands of someone who cares about his welfare as much as I do.

• I am also grateful that we have the financial ability to pay for whatever services Masi needs to recover. There really isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my fur children but at least this I don't need to worry about how to pay for his care.

• I had to cancel cooking class this week to be home with Masi. However I fortunate that Donna (our cooking teacher) understood that my precious baby needed to come first. She even sent me an email saying “she would miss me and that I was a good mamma”. Awww, wasn’t that sweet?

• This week have tickets to a jazz concert with Peter White and Gerald Albright which I am really looking forward to attending. I love modern jazz and it is even better when it is live. With all the worry over Masi an evening to relax will be very welcome.

• Dan was in Richmond today but he will be home earlier than normal so that is also something that makes me very happy.

• At the moment I am grateful for Pandora and my husband who insisted that we needed a new TV last summer. The Sting channel is playing on the TV now and that always makes me want to move around which in turns makes me feel happy even when I am down before the music starts.

Signing Out:

It is time for me to get ready for Dan to get home. We are going downtown to listen to a little Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs. This is music that I grew up on, because yes I am that old. ;-)

Enjoy the rest of you evening. I should be back tomorrow with a Masi update and a Middle Eastern flavored eggplant soup with sumac, clove and cinnamon that I made on Sunday. Talk with you again soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Massimo is Sick Again and a New Hummus Flavor

My poor baby finished his run of antibiotics and now he is vomiting. Fortunately his urinary system isn’t blocked but I also don’t know why his gastrointestinal system is upset. It looks like we will be going back to the vet tomorrow. At the very least I will be on the phone again in the morning to talk to doc. Monday I spent most of my day tracking Masi to make certain that he was able to urinate. I have all the fun don’t I? I love that little fuzzy man so I don’t mind. He is so quiet when he moves that he is much harder to follow around than you would expect.

While my baby was sleeping I took the opportunity to make two new varieties of hummus. I got the flavor ideas from the hummus man at the farmers’ market on Sunday.

The first variety was wasabi and pickled ginger. All I did was cook some dried chickpeas until they were very soft and pureed them with a little of the cooking liquid. To this I added some wasabi powder and pickled ginger. Since I thought it needed a topping I tried three options: black sesame seeds, Eden shake (sesame seeds and shiso leaf) and a mix of black and white sesame seeds with dried ginger granules. I wasn’t sure what to expect but this didn’t really taste anything like hummus. The texture was like hummus but the flavor was more like sushi. I really liked this and will be playing with more exotic hummus variations now.

I will tell you all about the second variety tomorrow.  I am holding back in case I am busy tomorrow taking care of my little fuzzy baby. 

Happy thoughts:

It was an unusual day so my happy thoughts are not at all like normal. Here is what I am thankful for today:

• While I hate that Masi is sick I am very happy that his urinary system isn’t blocked. Both Dan and I love this little angel and will do anything that is necessary to resolve this problem for him.

• I enjoyed the hummus experimentation today and feel like a whole new world has opened to me. Expect to see some crazy bean dip variations soon as I play around more with this concept.

• I have a lot of fun planned for this week which gives me something to look forward to. The photography seminar and jazz concert should be a lot of fun. If Masi isn’t feeling better thankfully I can cancel my other plans if necessary. I hate to cancel things but my family comes first.

• Dan saw an old friend today which I am sure he enjoyed, though he would never admit it.

• Things are going well in Grenada which also makes us both very happy.

• We went to the harbor last night to watch the sunset and to pick up Dan’s car from the garage. I took some nice photos of the  harbor as the sun was setting which made me happy. As you know I love to take pictures. It is good to remind myself that I am capable of photographing things other than food and cats.

Signing out:

Dan needs to get up at 5am for a trip to Richmond tomorrow so we need to wind down. Talk to you again soon, hopefully tomorrow.  *fingers crossed*

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nice Saturday and Food Ideas

Our Saturday started very early, 5 am to be specific. We needed to be out the door by 6:30 to head south of DC for the second part of the two part boating course. We had finished the class by 11am and were headed back to Baltimore to have lunch with our friend Louis. We all decided to meet at our usual place at noon. Our friend Aimee was working today so that was wonderful. She and Louis have a pharmacy connection since she wants to be a pharmacist and Louis is one. Are you starting to notice all the connections? ;-)

For breakfast Dan and I have green smoothies before we headed to class so we weren’t very hungry. We started lunch with the hummus and veggie wrap that Ian makes for us. He included some fresh jalapenos to this version which added a nice heat with the sweet and crisp veggies which we loved. We enjoyed the beets on the side of this sandwich too.

Ian also thought we needed a bowl of fruit to go with the sandwich. Who were we to say no? ;-)

Louis got the Sicilian tuna salad for lunch. This salad includes capers and is light in mayonnaise.

After lunch we decided to head to the boat store and pick up a few other items. We bought a grill to attach to the rail of the deck, boat shoes for Dan and another beaded eyeglass chain for my sunglasses.

When we left the restaurant Ian asked when we would be back and I said maybe tonight because I won’t be home to cook. Guess what? We did end up back at the restaurant for dinner.

Aimee and I had more time to chat at dinner and are still trying to coordinate a trip to the museums in DC and a trip to Jaleo. Both Dan and I adore Aimee in case you hadn’t noticed.

The weather was gorgeous Saturday evening so the patio was full from about 5:30pm on. We knew Ian didn’t have time to think about anything for us so I made specific requests from the kitchen for our dinner. Ian always tells me that whatever I can dream up they will execute. How lucky are we to have that option?

Our first dish was Ian’s soy and truffle marinated mushrooms which we both adore.

The next dish was a new menu item which is crispy herbed bread with a tomato and olive relish. The crispy bread was the perfect counterpoint to the salty olives and slightly sweet fresh tomatoes. Since I love olives this was a real winner with me.

Ian added a new pizza (which he calls a flatbread) to the menu which sounded delicious. We knew with a few changes it was easy to make vegan. This pizza included: tomato and harissa sauce, roasted red pepper, olives, fennel, roasted portabello, tofu and arugula. Delicious! The omni version has lamb sausage and feta but we enjoyed the mushroom and tofu substitution.

I thought we needed a little more veg and asked for Sicilian Swiss chard. This dish included: Swiss chard, garlic, golden raisins, hot pepper, wine vinegar, and carrots. Since we are both fond on anything agro dolce we enjoyed this.

Saturday I wasn’t home long at all as you might have noticed. It was a busy day but also a good day.

Happy thoughts:

We had a nice week but it was a busy one. Things are all starting to fall into place and that makes me very happy. Here are my happy thoughts this morning:

• It is nice to have the first boating course behind us. We wanted a quick refresher before our new baby got here and now we can cross that off our to-do list.

• Both of us love to see our buddy Louis. When he moved to Delaware I was a little sad. However we talk to him a few times a week and see him fairly often so it has been nice that we didn’t lose touch.

• Next week we have some fun things on our calendars which we are both looking forward to. Specifically we have the following activities planned: cooking class, a marine electronics talk, jazz concert, and a photography workshop. Yikes, I am going to be busy.

• We had at the restaurant on Saturday for lunch and dinner. The food is always delicious and we enjoy spending time with everyone who works at the restaurant.

• Sunday we had a nice trip to the farmers’ market. We picked up a nice variety of produce and even a container of black truffle hummus which I can’t wait to try. Talking to the hummus guy I got a lot of ideas for other flavors of hummus which I will be trying out soon.

Signing Out:

I haven’t made us breakfast yet so I need to get moving. I hope you have some fun planned for today. We will be doing some yard work and maybe heading to the harbor to sit by the water and watch the sunset this evening. Talk with you later. :-)
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