Departing The `Bus

Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

It’s pretty amazing to me that an author writing to an audience 400 years ago could capture my emotions so completely today.  So many adventures await us in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.  Yet so many friends and memories tug me back to The `Bus.  I am pretty reminiscent about the last 2 years here.  Columbus, a city that began to feel like a real home so immediately.  A block of neighbors that reshaped my idea of what community really is.  A campus that challenged me beyond my wildest hopes.  A group of close friends who reached out to The Philosopher and me in ways I can’t begin to recount here.  I find myself tugged towards a future, yet I am not ready to give up my home.  I feel I am fortunate to have had my time in The `Bus and am pretty sure that if Ohio pulls us back someday, it will be Columbus calling. We wrapped up our time in this city with a lovely, wet evening a few weekends ago.  We built our last backyard bonfire, cooked up some of the last ingredients in our fridge, and poured from those few remaining liquor bottles for a final night with our friends.  Our community.  The makers of our home.  During that damp, cool night, I stared into the fire and talked to a new `Bus resident about how great it is to call this city home.  I began recounting my favorite local events, restaurants, and bloggers, encouraging them to learn more about all that this city offers.  Soon, I was being urged to create my personal Best of the `Bus List.  So here it is.  Tracy’s Favorite Columbus “Stuff” List.  Like all “Best Of” lists, I should say that this is from my limited perspective and income.  In fact, let’s not call this a “Best Of” list.  Let’s call it Tracy’s Lived in Columbus for 2 Years and Discovered Some Awesome Stuff List.  This city is huge in opportunity.  If you are new to The `Bus, I would be happy to serve as a part of your city introduction, but I want to also encourage you to explore on your own.  This city is pretty awesome.

First, it should be noted that I spent a fair amount of time on campus.  The great thing about OSU is that there are more interesting, intellectual, exciting things to do than I usually had time for.  See a play, go to a speaking event, and watch an obscure film.  I often found that stepping out of my College of Public Health’s list of events and speakers opened new doors and introduced me to amazing people.  The Wexner Center has great foreign films at reasonable prices.  As a student, a large amount of campus time was spent studying.  Prior Health Sciences Library has a great coffee shop with extremely friendly staff.  You can also reserve a room for your study group.  The Thompson Library also has great meeting rooms.  I am certain that my limited knowledge of biostatistics was developed in one of those meeting rooms with a dedicated group of very intelligent women who never let me fail!  Lastly, my friends and I ate many meals at the OSUMC cafeteria and Hang Over Easy.  OSUMC’s cafe allows for packed lunches, so all members of our group could meet weekly to share our ideas for how to change the world.  I am certain that we got pretty close a time for two!  Hang Over Easy was a great place to stare at a computer, editing that group project one last time.  No matter how long we squatted at a table, the servers refilled our coffee cups!

I ensured that our cupboards were never bare by running to Weiland’s Gourmet Market.  The fish, produce, and meat is fresh and local (when possible), the staff are extremely knowledgeable, and it always reminded me of my local grocery store growing up.  The faces were familiar, the smiles warm, and the food comforting.  I also found local food at the Clintonville Farmer’s Market.  As The Philosopher and I grew more experienced, we found that talking to the farmers became easier, we knew what we valued in our food and we never hesitated to ask questions about how something was grown.  This task was immensely easier because of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.  Our membership kept us in the loop about Ohio agriculture.  We loved the annual potluck and talking to the crusaders of the local, organic food movement in Ohio.  After meeting Warren Taylor, I knew all of my future milk purchases would support Snowville Creamery.  Four Seasons City Farm is working in our community to bring produce into our inner city with urban gardens.  You should look them up and volunteer.  They are doing good work and I am sorry that my time working with the organization has been so short.  This year, I expanded our personal garden with the help of the Como Yarden.  Our tomatoes and peppers were vibrant, tasty, and in varieties I had never heard of.  Finally, I have written much about our experience with a Community Support Agriculture share with the Sippel Family Farm.  Leaving farmers we trusted and produce that never failed to be of the highest quality, is very difficult for us.  Ben and Lisa were highly skilled at communicating with us non-farmers about the highs and lows of the growing season.  They offered us recipes and food advice and folded us into another community in The ‘Bus with their monthly potlucks at their home.

Speaking of food, The Philosopher and I enjoyed eating out in The ‘Bus. Clintonville is filled with fabulous options.  We frequented The Wildflower Cafe with some of our neighbors.  It was near our home and reliable for a great breakfast at reasonable prices.  We also dropped into Mozart’s Cafe for breakfast often.  The atmosphere is great, especially their outdoor seating.  The homemade pastries are delicious.   You can find the keys of a piano chiming throughout the day and evening.  Stopping in on a Friday evening for the live music and a glass of wine is the perfect end to a busy week.  When I needed a caffeine fix, I found my way to Yeah Me Too.  During my first visit, I learned that it was a cash only establishment.  Disappointed, I began to walk out as I only had a credit card, when the owner told me to pay the next time I returned.  Well, return I did.  My last visit was Friday, the day my movers arrived.  After chatting with the owner, he again sent me on my way with a free cup of joe, as his going away gift. Yeah Me Too feels like my best friend’s home.  The coffee will be ready soon and the person pouring your cup is someone you hope you can one day emulate.  As a graduate student, I completed many projects and homework assignments with my dear friend at Global Gallery.  It’s a great place to linger over a cup of coffee or to discuss healthcare reform in a group meeting.  My friend and I also nibbled on muffins and cinnamon rolls from Pattycake Bakery when exam time rolled around.  Another Fine Mess:  Desserts by Dorie is another great way to get delectable study treats.  A scoop of Jeni’s was always the perfect reward at the end of a long quarter, as well as a martini from Sage.  When The Philosopher and I wanted a low-key evening out with friends, we found our way to India Oak.  The bar feels an awful lot like the television show Cheers.  Let me just say, that graduate school taught us how to celebrate!  The Philosopher and I occasionally needed a pizza to get through the weekend.  Thankfully both Hound Dog’s and Dante’s never failed to disappoint.  Many an evening was spent on the patio of Northstar.  As one of the few restaurants we could enjoy while on our detox diet, our already deep love of the place grew and expanded even further.  From my post-yoga cup of coffee and biscuit to the mid-week break from cooking for a ginger ale and Northstar burger, The Philosopher kept going back for more.  And we took each of our coworkers, visitors, and new ‘Bus transplants.  Lastly, Cafe Bella may be one of the ‘Bus’ best kept secrets.  The patio is beautiful with the trickling sounds of the hydroponic system. Since there is no menu, it feels like you dropped into your forgotten Italian grandmother’s house with your own bottle of wine for dinner.  You don’t know what will be on the plate in front of you, but you will certainly love it.  I tried to get the recipe for their amazing eggplant parmigiana, but Vince, the owner, had no secrets to share.  I guess you all will have to find visit soon to this culinary delight!

The Philosopher and I loved to eat in The ‘Bus.  And we didn’t just eat in Clintonville.  The North Market was the place we took every visitor to our home.  One of my favorite memories of the North Market was when my best friend and I spent a morning sipping coffee, watching local farmers deliver their produce to the various stands, and feel the market began to grow and swell with electric excitement in the space.  Skillet wasn’t close to our home, but it was never far from our weekend breakfast thoughts.  The menu is filled with comfort food you can feel good about.  The best restaurant in The ‘Bus has to be Alana’s.  There is no better way to celebrate an occasion than to sit on this patio and await the wonders of Alana.  The Philosopher still talks about the best pasta we have ever eaten from her kitchen.

Finally, The Philosopher and I never had a boring Saturday.  Or Tuesday.  The ‘Bus is filled with great ways to spend your time.  The museums and parks are great.  The movie theaters and local organizations never left our To Do list empty.  Pecha Kucha is a great way to find all the great things going on in The ‘Bus:  great music, great speakers, and food carts.  Wild Goose Creative has events for every person.  We have attended events from foodie parties and improv comedy events in this space.  The Park of Roses offered a space for leisurely strolls and energy-filled doggie playdates.  Two good friends kept my eyes happy with their photography skills.  While both of them take amazing photos of graduating seniors and wedded bliss, their specialties are my favorite!  Moments by Kelsey will make you want to grasp a baby’s hand or wonder over their tiny toes.  Photo Kitchen will leave you salivating while reading Edible Columbus or will send you out to the grocery store to make her newest posted recipe.  WOSU filled my car, bathroom, and IPod with the news and stories that were important to me.    The Philosopher and I found that the Drexel in Bexley was the best place to see those hard to find foreign films that we craved.  They also have great opening nights.  Studio 35 may be the local business we frequented most.  They show all the OSU football games on their big screen for free.  We also watched most of the World Cup games with a few hundred of our closest Clintonville friends.  Many nights we could be found in a seat holding a great beer and chowing down on some Pizza Primo awaiting the previews or cheering on the Buckeyes.

I read nearly everything written by local bloggers.  These individuals kept me in the loop about the new and the old ‘Bus favorites.  Thank you to Hounds in the Kitchen, The Pizza Slayer, Itinerant Foodies, Breakfast with Nick, the CMH Gourmand, The Green Between, the Columbus Foodie, Nothing Better to Do, and Columbus Food Adventures for showing me around.

Finally, I am challenged to acknowledge those individuals who made The ‘Bus my home.  No combination of cool places to shop, eat, and play will make any city feel like home.  It’s the people who fill your life and your backyard who make the difference.  I have used this space to try to express my deep feelings of connection with our friends in The ‘Bus.  I have gathered with old and new friends to swap nice belongings we no longer wanted or needed or new things we didn’t know we wanted or needed.  Ask me about the Swap Parties — you should plan one for the friends in your neighborhood.  I enjoyed countless bottles of wine and delectable treats with The Vertebrates, the book club that breaks all the book club rules.  I am proud to have been one of the two outcasts at the College of Public Health’s orientation.  We found ourselves speaking out in the classroom, surrounding ourselves with like-minded, beautiful and strong women, standing up when we knew that changes had to happen, seeking ways to change the world, and learning all the things we didn’t know that we didn’t know.  Scarecrow, I think I will miss you most of all.  The Philosopher and I hosted countless dinner parties and backyard bonfires.  We broke bread with people whose intersecting lives have profoundly changed ours.  We have laughed and cried and screamed together in frustration and excitement.  We have hugged and high fived.  We have found comfort and care in people who have shared our table, used the spare key to turn off our oven we we accidentally left town with tomatoes drying inside, joined us for drinks, dropped in to help a stranger move into their new home, chased Penny through the neighborhood, talked about philosophy and religion and healthcare and politics, served us the perfect homemade pizza, watched great and horrible movies, became immediate friends while chatting at the bus stop, challenged us, inspired us, helped us when we most needed it, and made us redefine everything we ever imagined the words community and neighbor could possibly mean.  We are different, better because of each of you.  My growth as a person, as a professional, as a cook, as a gardener, as a writer, as a friend, in my marriage, in the classroom, in my relationships, is because of you.  I look toward my future with excitement and hope and promise because of my community in The ‘Bus.  You compose my memories of the last 2 1/2 years.  Thank you for everything.  You always have a place in our home.  And we will be visiting you again soon.

Love always,

Tracy, Bradley, Sophia, and Penny



We May Have Overeaten…

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”   ~Erma Bombeck

Yes, I know that the fourth of July is a faint memory as summer’s time whizzes by.  But I ran across this quote somewhere and couldn’t help feeling that it summarized my last week so completely that I had to share it with you readers.  Our Monday was a day filled with some of my favorite things; dogs, children, friends, neighbors, and food.  Have I mentioned lately how fortunate we are to be surrounded by awesome people?  A random conversation one day suggesting a cookout soon turned into a gathering of old and new friends, two- and four-legged family members, laughter, culinary treats, games, smiling, sparklers, beer, and happiness.  We may have overeaten, but celebrating my community is a pretty good way to commemorate the fourth.  Here’s evidence of the event.

think it is safe to say that all enjoyed the day.  I mean, what’s not to love?  My friends are fabulous cooks.  The dogs children are always well-behaved.    And the conversation always ripples through, punctuated by laughter.  A good evening, ended with a walk to the Park of Roses to watch Clintonville’s firework display.  The Philosopher ended up with a wide-eyed 5-year-old in his lap.  I don’t know if the flies died from happiness, but I suspect few faces fell asleep without a smile on their lips.

Tuesday’s CSA pick up was an exciting event as summer squash had arrived.  I received another huge head of lettuce, a bunch of beets, kale, a kohlrabi (with leaves), 2 yellow squash, and one zucchini.  While my own plants are beginning to show signs of life, it’s nice to be able to trust the Sippel’s to keep my refrigerator packed.  I recently rediscovered cornmeal in my house.  Since our detox diet eliminated corn, I had buried my supply deep in the recesses of my basement.  I recently unearthed many lovely treasures and found them loving homes on my kitchen shelves again.  The zucchini was calling for polenta.  I just knew it.  I made two 8″ round (but square pans would work well also) of polenta and popped them in the fridge around lunchtime.  At dinner, I heated them in a large skillet lined generously with oil.  I sauteed an onion and a few cloves of garlic in a separate skillet until the onions were soft and added the zucchini, cut into 1″ pieces, and a large can of crushed tomatoes.  (Just think, my time of canned tomatoes is nearly reaching it’s end!)  I also added fresh basil and oregano from my garden, red pepper flakes for some heat, kosher salt, and a bit of agave for some sweetness.  When the zucchini had begun to soften, the polenta was golden brown.  After topping a piece of polenta with the veggies and adding a sprinkling of basil on top, the season’s first zucchini reached my lips.  Welcome summer!  In your kitchen, feel free to make the polenta the night before and keep it in the fridge until it’s time to make dinner.  You can also simply put the pans in the oven or under the broiler.  I suggest spraying or brushing the top with oil so the top browns nicely.  It will likely take about the same amount of time, but if you are like me, you are staying far away from the oven these days!

The week ended with the lovely celebration of my nephew and father-in-law’s birthday.  Again, the afternoon was filled with the excited sounds of children; on bicycles, helping to open presents, and enjoying a story together.  My brother-in-law who is stationed in Las Vegas in the air force had arrived the day before to surprise his parents and attend a friend’s wedding.  A few hours in the sunshine with important loved ones strengthened the bonds and commitment of this caring family.  I couldn’t help snapping a few shots to help the birthday boy remember how his birth caused such celebration three years later.

Few occasions aren’t improved by a dinosaur cake and the gift of a sword.  As the long-distance aunt, it’s amazing to see the transformation of my niece and nephew into little people, with their own unique personalities.  Each visit, each year, each celebration shows a little more of them.  Who they will be, what the will become.  It’s a great honor to be a part of such a magnificent process.

And the remains of our CSA found a good home at another fabulous evening as last night we gathered with fellow CSA friends and other members of our extended Clintonville circle to enjoy a delicious meal.  I had the kohlrabi, beet greens, and lettuce remaining from our share this week.  If you are not familiar with kohlrabi, don’t be alarmed.  I think my neighbor said it best when she asked something like, “Who would have ever looked at that thing and thought to themselves, ‘I should eat that’?”  Well, I don’t know who that person was, but I gladly accepted the fruit of their ingenuity.  I found this recipe on Epicurious and thought it was a perfect use of my leftovers.  I made some changes, obviously.  I didn’t have the kale, so I used the kohlrabi greens and my beet greens.  I also felt it need a little more crunch than my one kohlrabi could offer, so I added the better part of my head of lettuce.  Finally, I used sunflower seeds as they were already in my cupboard.  It was a perfect side dish to the falafel, tzatziki sauce, and french bread made by our hosts and was followed by a lovely banana cream pie.  What a great way to share in our kitchen skills and produce.  Eating with friends makes everything taste a little bit better!  A nice balance of texture, punch of lime juice, and garlicky goodness made this a pleasant summer salad.  Don’t have an alien-like kohlrabi laying around? I would try this again using a small head of cabbage, I think it would still be lovely.

I hope your week was filled with a form of patriotism that makes you proud.  Proud to be a citizen.  Proud to meet and mingle with all those other citizens.  Proud of the good feelings you get when we come together.  Proud to serve as both leaders and servants in the rest of the world.  Proud to learn from other nations forging new paths forward.  Proud of your own families, friends, neighbors, and communities.  We may have overeaten, but we truly found a way to honor the occasion.

The Diet: Day 24

It’s been a busy weekend!  What was hoped to be an in like a lamb spring break, has certainly been a little more out like a lion around here.  Friday, The Philosopher was off work and much needed spring cleaning commenced.  As well as cooking for an NCAA watching party.  It’s hard to cook for friends when you diet is so limited, but we did well.  I made black bean burgers based on my knowledge from Mark Bittman and the Day 20 success.  I roasted potatoes and made a papaya-cranberry juice “cocktail” for our guests.  Friends were kind enough to bring cheese, buns, kale chips, and a huge salad to share.  We started the second half with a pieces of gluten-free and vegan carrot cake with hopes of an OSU victory.  Well.  At least my cake was victorious.

Yesterday we took an impromptu trip to Toledo to visit The Philosopher’s family.  Today we helped our neighbor move the rest of her belongings in and found ourselves again at Northstar for lunch.  Wow.  What a shame 🙂

Now onto that last meal.  The veggie burgers used the same proportions as before.  I used black beans, oatmeal, and onions as a base.  I also added a chopped tomato, salsa, 2 jalapenos, chili powder, fresh cilantro, and cumin.  I tripled the recipe.  Don’t ask why.  I was being ambitious.  This time I baked them (I did make like 15 burgers or something crazy).  They again turned out lovely.  Some guests even had seconds.  Two people wanted to copy the recipe.  I made a batch of guacamole and had some salsa to top them.  Delicious! 

The “cocktails” were 2 parts papaya juice, 1 part cranberry-pomegranate juice, and 2 parts sparkling water.  I floated a piece of lime top of each glass.  Lovely!

Now, on to the interesting stuff.

Gluten-free, Vegan Carrot Cake

(adapted from Flying Apron’s Gluten-free and Vegan Baking Book)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment on the bottom of 2-3 round baking pans.  I only had two, so I just baked mine longer.  Either will be fine.

In one bowl mix together 2c brown rice flour, 1 1/4c garbanzo bean flour (or chestnut flour–if you can find it), 1 1/2t baking soda, 3/4t kosher salt, 1 1/2t cinnamon.

In a separate bowl mix 1c safflower oil, 2c water, 1t vanilla extract, 2c agave (or maple syrup or concentrated fruit juice, the author suggests pineapple-peach-pear).

Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients.  In the empty bowl, add 5 medium, grated carrots (or about 1 1/4c), 2 1/2c shredded, unsweetened coconut, and 1 c golden raisins.  If you can find walnuts or pecans you can have, add 2c chopped also.  All the baking nuts I can find are cross-contaminated with peanuts–so I left them out.

Add the carrot mixture until combined.  Distribute evenly in your pans and bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Mine took about 50 minutes as I used two 8″ cake pans and the recipe calls for three 9″ pans.  My cake was still wonderful, so don’t worry about the equipment you have, I bet a 13×9 would also work, just keep watching the cake and testing with a toothpick.  After the cake cooled for 15 minutes, I removed them from the pans to cool on a rack.

I iced the cake based on a recipe in the same cookbook for Coconut Heaven Frosting.

First, toast 4 1/2c shredded unsweetened coconut.  Place on a cookie sheet (after you have baked your cake) in a 300 degree oven.  Stir every few minutes until the coconut is browned evenly and fragrant.  Be careful not to burn the coconut!

In a mixing bowl combined 3c palm or coconut oil, 1 1/2c agave (or again, use the fruit concentrate), 1/8t kosher salt, and 1 1/2T vanilla extract.  Combine with mixer until all the ingredients are incorporated.  I looked closely for chunks of remaining coconut oil.  Add the shredded toasted coconut.

Make sure your cake is completely cool before icing.  Oops.  I skipped this step.  Ah well.  The good part?  Coconut oil melted into the cake, making it one of the most moist, rich delectable things to have left my kitchen in a long time.  The bad thing?  It was surely not a pretty cake when I was done with it.

The cake was so rich in fact, that few of us could finish our pieces.  Those of you that can drink coffee out there or those that love rich and moist baked-goodness, MAKE THIS CAKE.  Then make some coffee.  Enjoy together.  Be happy.

Until you notice the score on the TV.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.

The Diet: Day 19

Good news everyone, I took pictures today.  Bad news, I have been away from the blog too long, so long I failed to realize that I typed a post on Thursday and never published it.  Shame on me!

The last few days haven’t been too exciting culinar-ily, but have been busy!  We helped a friend move in next door to us on Saturday morning and spent the evening with my brother watching my cousin perform with his band.  We went to Northstar with my brother for dinner Saturday night.  Yesterday, morning, I made gluten-free apple pancakes and hashbrowns for my brother and neighbor.  Then, we spent the day with my mother and enjoyed baked cod and steamed broccoli for dinner.

Today I was busy with work (yes, on my spring break!) and doing some yard work.  Dinner wasn’t too fancy, but it tasted great.  For some reason, I was craving soup, even though the weather was probably in the 60s today.  Maybe it’s because I have a stack of butternut squash from my CSA I still haven’t used.  Either way, I stirred up some butternut squash soup and made gluten-free flatbread.  And I am going to share with you what I did!

Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk and Gluten-free Flatbreads

Peel one butternut squash and chop into 1-2″ pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a 400 degree oven until tender and beginning to caramelize.  In the meantime, saute one chopped onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add 2-4t of curry powder, 1/4-1/2t cayenne pepper, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1T tomato paste.  I had a huge squash, so I used the larger amounts of ingredients.  With a smaller squash, I would recommend using less spices.  I also added one chopped ripe tomato.  When the spices were fragrant in the pot (stir together at least 1-2 minutes), add 2-4c vegetable stock and 1 can coconut milk.  Add 2-3 chopped carrots (about 1-2″ long pieces, halved if necessary) to the pot and the roasted squash.  Bring to a low boil and reduce heat.  Simmer at least 20 minutes.  In the meantime, make bread.  First, reduce the heat on the oven to 375 for the bread.

This flatbread recipe is based on one from Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book.

In a small bowl proof your yeast.  Mix 1 c of lukewarm water, 1/4c agave (maple or plain flavored), and 1/2t yeast.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl mix together 2 3/4c brown rice flour, 1c garbanzo flour, 1/4c flax meal, 1 1/2t sea salt, and 3/4t xanthan gum.  In the bowl to my mixer, I add 1/4c olive oil or safflower oil and 1/3c pumpkin puree  (can also use sweet potato puree).  When the yeast has bubbles rising to the surface and looks a little cloudy, add it to the mixing bowl.  Slowly add the dry ingredients while mixing slowly.  Do not overmix.  I knead the loaf 3-4 times in the bowl, but you could do this on your counter if you prefer.  Divide into 8-10 portions on a rice-floured surface.  I use my hands to roll into a ball and gently flattened until 1/2″ thick, but a rolling pin would also work well.  Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the top liberally with oil.  You can sprinkle the bread with dried or fresh herbs, coarse salt, or leave them plain.  Tonight, I left them plain for my soup.  Pop them in the oven until they are lightly brown and slightly firm, ~15-20 minutes.

When the flatbreads are in the oven, puree the soup in the blender (or with a handy immersion blender, if you have one) until smooth.  Serve together, piping hot!

The play off the sweetness of the coconut and squash against the spicy background was fantastic.  Especially with a piece of bread to dip in and clean out the bowl with.  Yum!  Great dinner, eaten outside with a new neighbor and old friend.  Doggie fun has begun now that the weather is warm.  Wrestling and running around our steaming plate of soup, the sounds of barking and good conversations fill the air.  Ahh, spring!  You may arrive after all!

The Diet: Day 15

I have to apologize.  Tonight’s dinner was awesome!  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures.  The Philosopher and I hosted dinner for friends and somehow it always seems weird snapping pictures while my guests’ food gets cold.  This is actually great news for me, because it means I have a really good reason to make this dinner again and share it with you.

Just for jealously, tonight’s dinner included:  homemade falafel (yes, gluten-free and vegan), homemade gluten-free flatbreads, homemade hummus, quinoa tabbouleh, and lots of fresh veggies.  Trust me, no one missed wheat or cheese tonight!

This dinner also included the continued realization that we don’t really know how to behave socially on these diets.  The couple that joined us is also on the diet and brought beautiful tulips, but remarked it was the only thing they could think of instead of bringing a bottle of wine.  While I was frying falafel, The Philosopher and I realized it was weird not offering a beer or glass of wine to our guests.  This diet certainly seems to have a long adjustment period.  It was nice to spend an evening in a room with fellow dieters and talk about the experience together.

In other news, The Philosopher discovered that our vitamins that we have been taking at a physician’s suggestion include corn and soy products.  Unfortunately, this means we have only almost eliminated all the soy and corn from our diets for the last two weeks.

One thing this diet has proved, our food is packed with soy and corn.  They are in everything.  I bought a bottle of safflower oil cooking spray the other day and it had soy products in it–I discovered this after bringing the $6 bottle home.  It’s nearly impossible to purchase nuts that are not contaminated with peanuts or have been roasted in canola oil.  Out of an entire section of salsa, I found only 2 jars that did not have sugar or another “no” ingredient in them.  Whether this diet seems crazy to some, there are certainly many disturbing things to find on our food labels, more than I even realized.  There may really be something to this idea that we have exposed ourselves sick to a few specific ingredients.  Only time will tell.  But for now, I am getting better at reading labels.  If for no other reason, to save myself from more costly mistakes in the future!

The Diet: Day 4

Breakfast and lunch weren’t too exciting today.  More granola and leftovers from day 1 and day 2Dinner now that was exciting.

Good friends came to visit The Philosopher and I soon after we moved to Columbus.  They were moving west to find a new home and jobs and decided to take a cross-country road trip.  We were the fortunate first stop on that trip and enjoyed experiencing some of our favorite Columbus restaurants and sites with them.  When they moved on for the next portion of their journey, they kindly left a gift that has become incredibly useful in our home.  The cookbook Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a great gift on its own.  What made the leaving of a cookbook so special, was that they also left helpful hints within the pages of their favorite recipes and suggestions.  While I have been known to pull the cookbook off the shelves only when I need basic measurements for muffins (yes, I once made dark chocolate muffins with heavy cream using this cookbook.  Vegans, I accept your vengeance), I have also been fortunate to have it for some menu items that quickly became household staples.  While her peanut sauce is out of the world, it is not allowed right now.  So, I decided to try her recipe for Moroccan Tagine with Spring Vegetables.  Of course, I made some changes.

Moroccan-Inspired Veggie Stew

First I sauteed 2 onions in olive oil until translucent.  I diced 2 carrots and 1 serrano chili (without the seeds) and added them to the pot.  I minced 3 cloves of garlic and grated 2 T of fresh ginger and added then to the pot.

Note:  I literally added each of the above ingredients after prepping, that should time them out enough to allow the onions to be cooked enough before adding the carrots, peppers, and spices etc.

I measured two heaping tablespoons of tomato paste into the pot as well as 2t ground cumin, and 1 t each ground turmeric and ground coriander. After all the veggies looked like the picture, I added 2 cups of homemade vegetable stock, 2 cups of water, and one cup of dried lentils.  Additionally, I added 2 cinnamon sticks, two bay leaves, and freshly ground pepper.  I let the pot rise to a boil and then turned the heat back to medium low to simmer uncovered while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

In the meantime, I prepared 1 cup of fresh green beans cut ~1 inch thick, 2 cups of halved grape tomatoes, the leaves of 1/2 bunch of swiss chard, and one zucchini (halved and sliced ~1/4″ thick).

When the lentils are fully cooked (I tasted them to check) add the vegetables, 1/2 c raisins, and salt to taste.  I felt I wanted a little more liquid, so I added an additional 1/2 c water to the pot.  While that is simmering, coarsely chop 1/2 c fresh cilantro and 1/2 c fresh mint.  I also chopped the chard leaves.  When the raisins are plumped and the green beans are nearly as cooked as you prefer, add the herbs, chard, and a few handfuls of fresh spinach.  When the greens have wilted, turn off the heat.  Remove the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.  I served this with a helping of brown jasmine rice on the bottom of the bowl and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top.

The Philosopher and I agreed that the savory and sweet combination was our favorite part of this dish.  The fresh mint and lemon juice contrasted nicely with the backdrop of cinnamon.  And each raisin was like a little surprise in our mouths!

Tomorrow I am going to focus on school work and will not be updating the blog.  We still have fresh fruit and granola for breakfast as well as leftovers that we will eat for lunch and dinner tomorrow.  After taking an inventory of our leftover supply, cooking will likely commence again on Tuesday.  Have a great evening and a great meal!

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The Diet: Day 2


This afternoon I had the pleasure of cooking with my dear friend Cathy.  Cathy is a fellow vegetarian, frequent backyard visitor, and extremely talented photographer.  While Cathy’s focus is on food,  she loves to shoot just about anything, including portraits, products, and pets. Her website,, features her portfolio and pricing. She even sells fine art prints online, at  She took tons of pictures today (here are some of my clutter-y kitchen) and has shared them with me.  Since her pictures are of a much higher caliber than mine, I thought it would be fun to do some side-by-side comparisons of my photo work and hers.

Breakfast:  Same: granola, fresh fruit, and unsweetened almond milk

Lunch:  The Philosopher had the same meal as yesterday.  I mixed it up a bit.  I mashed a whole avocado with a dash of salt and pepper and a splash of lime juice.  I spread the avocado on two pieces of romaine lettuce and piled sliced tomatoes on top.  Delish!  I also ate a few olives with Cathy.






Dinner:  Chard Rolls Filled with Winter Vegetables (Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”)

I followed the recipe pretty closely as the only “no” ingredient was butter.  It was time-consuming to dice the vegetables finely enough to fit well inside of pieces of swiss chard.  Otherwise, this was a very easy and really tasty recipe.  Thankfully, Cathy was patient and willing to snap pictures and even lent a hand with a bunch of carrots.  Here’s some of her photo handiwork:






Here’s what I did:  Dice 1 onion, 4 carrots, 1 potato, 2 parsnips, 4 sweet potatoes and chard stems.  (Outside the onions, I think there was about 10c of veggies total)  Mince one clove of garlic.  Add to a skillet with 2T olive oil and 2 t dried tarragon.  (Warning:  This filled my largest pan!  Until the veggies softened slightly, it was hard to stir!) Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over medium heat until tender (~20-25 minutes).  Here’s more pictures for your drooling pleasure (far left is my picture, the rest are Cathy’s)





In the meantime, blanch chard leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and allow to dry on a towel. (My picture shows the chard waiting, Cathy’s is of the chard swimming in boiling water, so pretty!)









Add juice of one lemon once veggies are softened.  Place an appropriate amount of vegetables for the size of your chard leaf (~2-3 T) on a flattened leaf, above the notch.  Fold the sides in and roll up the leaves.  This part was actually easier than I expected, even with the leaves I had torn a little.  Place the rolls on top of the remaining filling and top with a dollop of coconut oil.  Add 1 c water or vegetable stock to the pan and simmer, covered for 10 additional minutes.  Serve rolls with extra vegetables and juices.  Cathy got pictures of this process, check it out!  (Of course we had to talk and laugh a little.  It helps make dinner.  And good kitchen karma.)









These are delicious!  The slightly bitter flavor of the greens plays nicely off the sweetness of the vegetables.  You all should know by now that I am a sucker for the savory/sweet combo so this totally worked for me.  The Philosopher seemed pretty happy too.  He nearly licked the plate clean!

Here are two [very different quality] photo representations of that meal.










The other day I picked up “Flying Apron’s Gluten-free and Vegan Baking Book” by Jennifer Katzinger.  While many of the recipes require sugar, many more use agave, rice syrup, stevia, etc.  They also strive to all-allergy free, so there are no peanut or soy recipes.  It was pretty exciting to pick up a cookbook where we could eat almost everything, without many adaptations.

Tonight I made Maple “Butter” Bars.  They were super easy and fast to make.  I mixed 2 3/4 c brown rice flour and 1/4 t salt together in a bowl.  Then I added 1c coconut oil, 1 c maple-flavored agave, and the beans from 1/2 of a vanilla pod (no vanilla extract!).  I mixed these until smooth (2-3 minutes) in my electric mixer.  These baked in a 13×9 parchment-lined pan for ~15 minutes at 375 degrees, until the sides turned golden brown.  Since the photo op was important, I cut them soon after removing from the oven.  Again, Cathy’s photos make me want to drool.  Do you think she could follow me around every day?






While slightly chewy for a baked good, they were really delicious.  Hopefully they will also help a little with the snacking temptations we have had.  Unfortunately, my attempt to make whipped almond milk failed.  I was really hoping for a stand-in for ice cream on top!

Here’s my photo of those bars.  It’s amazing what a trained, artistic eye can compared to my hurried, cooking eye!

Thoughts:  So far, things are good.  I was thrilled to be able to experiment with new recipes with a friend.  We even convinced her meat-eating boyfriend to eat a few bites, see?  (Sophia is always a big help when eating!)

While he was affirming, he claimed it would best be served beside a pastrami sandwich!  I would choose to share my kitchen any time with a friend who is interesting, warmhearted and hungry.  Thankfully, not only does Cathy fit that bill, but she also has a great smile and a contagious laugh.  What more can you ask for?  A friend who loves taking pictures of food [and dogs, and friends and babies and flowers and and and]….even better!  If you would like to read Cathy’s take on the day, check it out here.  Thanks Cathy, it was an awesome day!