pistachio-crusted eggplant cutlets

Eggplants seem to be a favorite food of ours – so far every recipe tried with eggplants has been a big hit! The other day I used my relatively new food processor to make something besides hummus, Pistachio-Crusted Eggplant Cutlets, a recipe found in my new subscription to Vegetarian Times. Another hit!

I had such an intense feeling of satisfaction while preparing it, which is saying something because I am notorious for disliking cooking. This has been a major life-style change here and I now find myself spending hours in the kitchen, happily, churning out healthy food as fast as we can eat it.

Frankly, I am pleasantly surprised by this turn of the tide. Tim is doing better avoiding animal products than I dreamed was possible. Last weekend we ate out at a Lebanese restaurant with vegan and gluten-free choices clearly indicated on the menu, so neither of us had any animal protein at all, yet we came away stuffed to the gills.

There have been a few awkward and uncomfortable moments as those around us adjust to this change. For years I have brought Swedish Meatballs to Dad’s for Christmas and Auntie apparently looks forward to them all year. My poor sister tried to explain to her why I would not be bringing them this year, to prepare her ahead of time for the inevitable disappointment. Auntie was not pleased. In fact, she declared that she didn’t see why I should bother to come if I wasn’t going to bring Swedish Meatballs. Ouch! When I did show up, she spent the evening eyeing me suspiciously. She showered Tim with affection, however. Perhaps she feels sorry for him…

The more I enjoy cooking now, the more I’m understanding what my problem was with cooking before. I disliked intensely handling animal flesh and animal carcasses. Trying to stuff a turkey one year brought me to tears – it’s hard to stuff something you’re trying not to touch. At the time I knew nothing about how animals were being tortured on their way to become our food, and I knew nothing about the link between animal protein and the diseases of affluence. Something about it just revolted me, a case of my intuition alerting me, but I just kept struggling along, managing as best I could, relying mostly on prepared meats, like Swedish Meatballs from IKEA.

There is a dark comedy I love, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, which is also a quirky love story. Wilbur is great at pointing out the endless ironies found in our lives. One of the many scenes that endeared me to him was when he was trying to prepare a goose for Christmas dinner. He just couldn’t cope and finally threw the uncooked goose into the kitchen sink and shouted, “Why does this have to be so disgusting!?!” I knew exactly how he felt.

One thing I love about vegan cooking is that the pots and pans are so easy to clean, even if the food is burned on. And I don’t have to worry about thawing something in the morning for dinner. Our freezer is now full of veggies and I can decide at the last-minute which ones I want to prepare, although we have fresh veggies as much as possible.

Our favorite cookbook remains 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles. We tried a Hearty Lentil & Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas, which was kind of blah, but there are more recipes in that cookbook which look promising. I love slow cookers and we both loved the Slow & Easy White Bean Cassoulet with the Tempeh & Shallot Confit from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.

Tim once came home with scallions when I had asked for shallots, but he is slowly getting more familiar with all these new foods. And I didn’t read a label carefully enough and bought a spice jar of red curry instead of curry. The resulting super spicy Curried Chickpeas & Kale (1,000 Vegetarian Recipes) was too hot for both of us. I made it again with regular curry and loved it, but it was still too hot for Tim.

Some of my readers had requested that I keep you all updated on our progress so I will no doubt write more about our culinary adventure in the months to come. Bon appétit!

turkeys, pine cones, snowflakes

"Wild Turkey" by John James Audubon
“Wild Turkey” by John James Audubon

Wednesday night there was a delightful Nature program on PBS, called My Life as a Turkey. I tried to stay awake but kept nodding off. The story is of Joe Hutto’s amazing journey of self-discovery while raising sixteen wild turkey poults to adult turkey-hood. We frequently see wild turkeys in these parts and it was fun learning more about them. Fortunately I can see the parts of the program I missed at this link. Should you decide to watch it, I promise, it will melt your heart!

Thursday morning Larisa called from New York. “Mom! I occupied Wall Street!” You go, girl! (Corporate greed is one of my pet peeves.)

My hand is without bandage now, still red and tender but the surrounding skin was developing a rash from the bandage adhesive which kind of forced the issue.

Tried some recipes in a slow cooker vegan cookbook with mixed results. Tim is happier going back to the Carol Gelles cookbook. He loved the Broccoli Florets & Red Bell Peppers with Black Beans & Garlic! We had it with brown rice. And it was fun cooking it!

Another birdhouse group at the Florence Griswold Museum:
#14. “Back Through the Wardrobe” by Erik Block Design-Build, based on The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
10.26.11 ~ Old Lyme, Connecticut
Dr. Mel Goldstein
Dr. Mel Goldstein

Thursday evening Dr. Mel gave his special farewell forecast on WTNH8 TV. He’s been our favorite weather man for well over two decades. We will miss him very much, as he seems like a dear friend, who has advised us wisely through many a storm. He was a meteorology professor before becoming a television weatherman, and taught us many things while reporting the weather. He has battled with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, for many years, far outliving the doctors’ dire predictions that he only had a three-year life expectancy. But lately the cancer has flared up again, forcing him to retire. More about this wonderful man here: Dr. Mel Goldstein

UPDATE: Sadly, Dr. Mel died on January 18, 2012. Rest in peace, our friend.

wounded planet

"Landscape with Chickens" by Auguste Durst
“Landscape with Chickens” by Auguste Durst

Earth is generous with her provisions, and her sustenance is very kind; she offers, for your table, food that requires no bloodshed and no slaughter.
~ Ovid

Honestly, I could live indefinitely on soy milk and cereal, and beans and rice. But husband Tim is a lover of great variety and hearty meals. I’m starting to realize that if I am going to have a vegetarian kitchen I am going to have to add a lot more to my repertoire to keep this guy reasonably satisfied.

Borders is or was going out of business and we found ourselves there browsing around for good deals on books. Looking over the cookbook selections I thought 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles sounded promising and started thumbing through it. It has won two awards, the Julia Child Cookbook Award and the James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence. Following my intuition about this one – sorry Dr. Ornish, but Tim was not at all thrilled with the recipes in your cookbook – I bought it and am so happy I did. So far, Tim has liked every recipe I’ve made from it! 🙂 Who knew there were so many ways to prepare eggplant? Or that eggplants and plums went well together in the same concoction?

A few days ago my friend Robin, over at Life in the Bogs, mentioned that she was becoming more of a vegetarian. I told her I was heading in the same direction and she recommended a book to me, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted & The Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss & Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. Campbell. Well, thanks again to Kindle it didn’t take me long to finish this amazing book, which delves quite deeply into why animal protein is so unhealthy for us, even if it is humanely and organically raised. Our Western diets are primarily animal protein and this is probably the cause of many of what the authors call diseases of affluence – cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis – the list goes on and on as he cites the China Study and many other scientific studies.

As it turns out, the diet that is good for us is also good for our little blue planet.

We plow under the habitats of other animals to grow hybrid corn that fattens our genetically engineered animals for slaughter. We make free species extinct and domestic species into bio-machines. We build cruelty into our diet.
~ Peter Singer & Jim Mason
(The Way We Eat)

It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second- and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the over-population of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat.
~ Jeremy Rifkin
(Beyond Beef: The Rise & Fall of the Cattle Culture)

It’s going to take a lot of effort to become a vegan household, but I feel like I’ve got enough information now to help me keep this new commitment.