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!

Midwinter

“Yule Goat” by John Bauer (1882-1918) Swedish Illustrator
“Yule Goat” by John Bauer

Keep me safe and hold me tight 
Let the candle burn all night 
Tomorrow welcome back the light 
It was longest night of the year 

We press our faces to the glass 
And see our little lives go past 
Wave to shadows that we cast 
On the longest night of the year 

Make a vow when Solstice comes 
To find the Light in everyone 
Keep the faith and bang the drum 
On the longest night of the year 

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Longest Night of the Year) ♫

God Jul!

Winter Solstice: December 22, 2011, 12:30 a.m.
December 21, 2012, 6:12 a.m.

Christmas ~ Midwinter ~ Yule

Movement ~ Rebirth ~ Renewal

Seasonal movie:
Christmas Story

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving

11.22.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
Baby ~ 11.22.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

As the four of us piled into the car one night to pick up some pizza at Z Pizza, I realized that this was the last Thanksgiving all four of us will be in our 50s – next year Tim will be 60. Where did all the years go???

Again we took the train to Washington, DC and then the Metro to Springfield, where Tim’s brother Dan picked us up after his session in Cardiac Rehab. There was so much to talk about, and so many notes to compare… The household cats (Baby above, Tammy below) took little notice of our arrival.

Tammy ~ 11.22.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
Tammy ~ 11.22.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

The new plant-based diet was a hot topic, and the guys decided to make some pasta from scratch, with a pasta machine Dan dragged out from storage in the garage. They used a broomstick to hang the pasta – after cleaning the stick part thoroughly. It was fun listening to them solve logistical problems as they went along. And the pasta was such a hit that they made it again a couple of days later!

Tim and Dan ~ 11.23.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
Tim and Dan ~ 11.23.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

After a few days I was totally hooked on the cappuccinos Dan made with soy milk. One night on CNN we all watched with great interest, Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: The Last Heart Attack. We did wind up having a turkey, and one night some salmon, but other than that we enjoyed vegan and vegetarian fare, Fran inventing a gluten-free vegan lasagne that was out of this world!

Below – Baby anticipating her share of the Thanksgiving feast…

Baby ~ 11.24.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
Baby ~ 11.24.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

A lovely centerpiece on the coffee table…

11.24.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
11.24.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
11.24.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia
table set for Thanksgiving ~ 11.24.11 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

While Tim and Dan went golfing on Friday, Fran and I went shopping in historic Occoquan, Virginia, where there was not a Black Friday deal in sight, and a friendly gnome reminded dog owners to mind their manners.  🙂

11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia
11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia

At the Golden Goose I was thrilled to find a Norwegian Julenissen (Santa) figurine, five and a half inches high! I’m sure he will show up soon on this blog if I get a good picture of him while decorating for the holidays…

11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia
11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia

We had a great lunch at The Blue Arbor Café

11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia
11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia

Whimsical rest room signs…

11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia
11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia
11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia
11.25.11 ~ Occoquan, Virginia

And this is pretty much when the picture-taking ended – I was having too much fun to continue!

Saturday Fran and I took the two Freds out for lunch at the Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant. Fred and Fred have been friends for over thirty years. One is blind from birth and the other is intellectually disabled. They had no one to share Thanksgiving with so Fran wanted to do something special for them. She was afraid these meat lovers would balk at the idea of eating at a vegetarian restaurant, but they came along with open minds and really enjoyed their selections. I had the yummy Eggplant Medley.

Sunday we all went to see The Descendants, which was an excellent movie. Then the guys went to wash the car and make more pasta while Fran and I shopped at Ten Thousand Villages in Alexandria, a Fair Trade retailer. I bought two blue egg ornaments from Peru, looking into the cut-outs there are little snowman families inside. The cashier wrapped them very carefully for the train ride home on Monday.

Tim gave Dan a bottle of port which should not be opened until 2018. That’s seven years from now, a goal for them to look forward to as they adopt this new plant-eating lifestyle in order to reverse their heart disease and beat the odds. Here’s to family and life!

A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.
~ Hippocrates
(Regimen in Health, Book IX)

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.

All Hallows’ Eve

"The Day of the Dead” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
“The Day of the Dead” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Your tombstone stands among the rest;
Neglected and alone.
The name and date are chiseled out
On polished, marbled stone.
It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to mourn.
You did not know that I exist
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you
In flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
Entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
One hundred years ago
Spreads out among the ones you left
Who would have loved you so.
I wonder if you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
And come to visit you.
~ Author Unknown

image: grandmasgraphics.com
image: grandmasgraphics.com

Listen …
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
 The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break free from the trees
And fall.
 ~ Adelaide Crapsey
(November Night)

Samhain: November 7, 2011, 1:27 p.m.
November 6, 2012, 7:10 p.m.

All Hallows’ Eve ~ All Saint’s Day
Celtic New Year
Day of the Dead ~ Halloween ~ Hallowmas
Last Harvest ~ Martinmas ~ Samhain

Ancestors

Seasonal Movie:
Sleepy Hollow

Activities:
Visit graves of ancestors at cemeteries…

complicity

"Shepherd with Cows on the Lakeshore" by Christian Friedrich Mali
“Shepherd with Cows on the Lakeshore” by Christian Friedrich Mali

The process of becoming a vegetarian acts like a spark to consciousness, and as you journey down this path, you become mindful of the connection between the living, breathing creature and the package of meat or fish neatly wrapped in the supermarket.
~ Jennifer Horsman & Jaime Flowers
(Please Don’t Eat the Animals: All the Reasons You Need to be a Vegetarian)

In the past, the idea of being a vegetarian has always appealed to me, but marriage is about compromises and I married a devout meat-and-potatoes guy. Our children had to put up with a few episodes of me trying to convert everyone to my way of thinking, but my lack of cooking talent and the lack of helpful information made for many unappealing meals. They all remember, without fondness, the TVP debacle – the cookbook didn’t mention that the textured vegetable protein needed to be soaked until soft before adding it to spaghetti sauce! No one appreciated the crunchy spaghetti and TVP sauce…

A little background of my journey from omnivore to herbivore…

My mom loved all things Native American. I remember her telling me that Indians worshiped nature and believed they should only take from her, with gratitude, what they needed to survive. With her words, she painted a picture for me that I still see to this day, of a hunter respectfully kneeling over the animal he had killed with his arrow, thanking its spirit for the sacrifice of its life for the benefit of his family or tribe.

One day I asked my father about hunting. He told me his story about a gun his father gave him as a gift so he could go hunting in the woods. Not wanting to disappoint his father, he set off to find some game. He found a squirrel and shot it on his first try. When he went over to retrieve it he found himself devastated and sick to his stomach that he had taken its life. He never hunted again.

But, Mom’s knowledge and Dad’s experience did not stop them from eating the all-American died of meat and dairy products! And while my paternal grandfather lived us, until he died when I was 8 years old, he regularly used his ax on a stump in the back yard to chop the heads off of chickens for dinner. It was very disturbing to me to see the decapitated chickens running around for what seemed like an eternity.

You have just dined, and, however scrupulously the slaughter-house is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(A Political Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Over the years I got an inkling that animals were suffering terribly on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, so Tim & I agreed that we would only eat meat that was naturally raised, cage-free, and slaughtered humanely. A friend, knowing my sensitivity to violence, warned me not to watch the documentary, EARTHLINGS, but I did watch it, in August, while Tropical Storm Irene was raging outside. It did deeply disturb me, and removed all doubt from my mind about how bad things were in these torture chambers.

In one scene there was a pig who had spent its whole life squished in a cramped pen and had never seen a ray of sunshine or a blade of grass. Now it was time for it to be slaughtered. The worker opened the gate and started poking the terrified pig with a sharp prong. It fell down repeatedly and was pierced over and over to make it get up and move on. All the while the merciless worker kept shouting at it, over and over, “Come on, mother-f—-r, move.”

And a sharp contrast appeared in my mind between these two images: one, the cruel words coming out of the mouth of that heartless factory farm worker; and the other, much different picture: the sincere words of thanks coming out of the mouth of the respectful Native American hunter.

EARTHLINGS

First Harvest

"The Harvest" by Camille Pissarro
“The Harvest” by Camille Pissarro

She’ll come at dusky first of day,
White over yellow harvest’s song.
Upon her dewy rainbow way
She shall be beautiful and strong.
The lidless eye of noon shall spray
Tan on her ankles in the hay,
Shall kiss her brown the whole day long.

I’ll know her in the windrows, tall
Above the crickets of the hay.
I’ll know her when her odd eyes fall,
One May-blue, one November-grey.
I’ll watch her from the red barn wall
Take down her rusty scythe, and call,
And I will follow her away.

~ Francis Ledwidge
(August)

Lughnasa: August 7, 2011, 4:37 p.m.
August 6, 2012, 10:26 p.m.

First Harvest ~ Lammas

Harvest ~ Life ~ Wisdom

Seasonal movie:
Dancing at Lughnasa

Activities:
Visit Buttonwood Farm for sunflower harvest

solstice sunset

6.21.11 ~ Avery Point
6.21.11 ~ Avery Point

This year Tim & I celebrated the summer solstice at home, just the two of us. I spent the day preparing side dishes, potato salad, cucumber salad, etc. Unusual for me as I’m not fond of cooking, but it can be fun once in a while, for something special. There was anticipation in the air because when I went to buy salmon in the morning, the fish guy (a butcher sells meat, who sells fish?) was excited because he had some rare wild white king salmon to offer me! His enthusiasm was contagious and so I bought it.

6.21.11 ~ Avery Point
6.21.11 ~ Avery Point

When Tim came home from work we cooked our dinner together, poached salmon with dill sauce, drank some mead one of his coworkers brewed, and listened to my new summer solstice playlist. The salmon was very good!!! Then we were off to feed the kids’ fish and cat, and then we went to the beach to watch the sunset. Returned home and had some more mead while we watched the movie A Midsummer Night’s Dream by candlelight. ‘Twas a lovely evening!

6.21.11 ~ Avery Point
6.21.11 ~ Avery Point
6.21.11 ~ Avery Point
6.21.11 ~ Avery Point

Midsummer

"Take the Fair Face of Woman & Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers & Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy Is Made of Most Beautiful Things" by Sophie Gengembre Anderson
“Take the Fair Face of Woman & Gently Suspending, With Butterflies, Flowers & Jewels Attending, Thus Your Fairy Is Made of Most Beautiful Things” by Sophie Gengembre Anderson

The summer breeze was blowing on your face
Within your violet you treasure your summery words
And as the shiver from my neck down to my spine
Ignited me in daylight and nature in the garden
~ Van Morrison
♫ (In the Garden) ♫

"Sunflowers" by Claude Monet
“Sunflowers” by Claude Monet

I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer. My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music. It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.
~ Violette Leduc
(Call of the Wild: Quotes from the Great Outdoors)

Summer Solstice:
June 21, 2011, 1:16 p.m.
June 20, 2012, 7:09 p.m.

Litha ~ Midsummer

Emotion ~ Fairies ~ Fertility

Seasonal movie:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Activities: Bonfire

*