Tuesday, July 31

When Worlds Collide

It kept getting later and later trying to leave for our weekend road trip. I knew what was happening. We’d be on the road right at lunch time and I just could not get it together to make something healthy to eat for the road. Where does that leave us? I knew the answer. Each time we go on a road trip, we concede to fast food. When you are out of your environment, you have to make concessions, right? Afterall you have to live in the real world, right? It’s all in balance, I tell myself. This is where worlds collide. And it doesn't just happen in food. In fact, our choice of food is just a value. Isn't this the way human beings group themselves off from others, because they don't share their values or beliefs or practices? Is this why we kill each other? Not worth it, in my opinion, but I do see the value in grouping with like-minded people. It feels good.

I used to consider eating fast food almost a treat. It was kind of fun to have something so “bad” and for-sure I enjoyed the cheeseburger, fries and cola on the rare occasions my food options were so limited. But this time I knew I just couldn’t go there. I didn’t even want a cheeseburger. I really didn’t. I knew I would already be breaking my live diet at their party where there would be lots of typical American fare: meat, carbs and beer.

Which fast food place is the least junkish? If only we could find some local sandwich shop, it wouldn’t be as unhealthy as “fast” food, but finding something like that while zooming down the freeway at 70 isn’t feasible. Subway, I suggested. Husband nixed. Jack in the Box he suggested. Axed by me. What about Taco Bell, would that be so bad? After some bantering we settled on Wendy’s. Luckily they have a few veggie side dishes. As we checked out in line I noticed a chart of all their menu items with calorie and nutritional value listed. Interesting. I got the two items containing a few wee grams of fiber: a salad and baked potato. Was pretty darn happy with myself as I watched Daniel gorge down that gross, empty-caloried hamburger.

I refuse to live in a bubble, and I’m way too social to not join people for feasts. This diet thing, what we choose to eat, don’t eat, how we decide to treat our bodies…you just can’t take it all too seriously…it’s only life. Life is a banquet: eat, eat! I do draw the line at some things, though, like soft drinks, most fried or processed foods. However, for 46 years I’ve eaten meat. I’m a Texas girl where steak is king and ribs are venerated, so when we arrived up in the mountains at our friend’s remote cabin, where slow cooked ribs, bbq brisket and roasted turkey awaited, I stepped over into...The Other World.

It’s hard enough to maintain a living food diet in the Bay Area, heck, even in my own home, but where our friends live, there are only steak houses, fast food and barbeques. I decide in situations like this, that it’s better to be balanced than to be on some freakishly strict diet. So in the spirit of my Texan-ness (and weakness for savory home-cooked meat), I joined right in (a beer first, of course) on the tender ribs, potato chips, potato salad, bread, macaroni salad and other mouth-smacking, high-acid, non-fiberous, low nutritious, high carb and protein party food. I ate. And ate. And drank. Ate some more. And ate. Had another beer. I breaked half way through my fruit crumble to gnaw on some crusty bread and olive oil and then went back to my dessert. What was wrong with me?

I kept walking by the table and grazing on the potato chips, eyeing the spare ribs and thinking how I’d like to have another. Finally around 10 p.m. I allowed myself one last a spare rib as a “night cap.” I felt insatiable. I really felt like I could eat more, but I cut myself off after that. Geez, where’s the balance?

Is it that this food is so un-nutritional that you don’t feel satisfied and that’s why you feel like gorging? Or is it that I’m starving myself to death on this rabbit food and when I finally got to some real food my will to survive kicked in? I was afraid I’d wake up the next morning with a stomach ache. But thank goodness, I did not. I had danced in The Other World and crossed back with only a pot belly and bit of constipation. I started my morning, not by joining my comrades in coffee and cake, but blended up watermelon and drank a big glass. They all thought I was nuts.

Traveling back to the Bay Area, we stopped at the store. I ran straight for the produce section. Huge local, organic tomatoes, a parsnip, zucchini, avocado and cucumber. Daniel bought some red trout. For dinner we would have a stuffed tomatoes, cucumber soup and fish. I was back in My World again, at least for now safe from the temptations of the ribs, chips, chops and lox.

Thursday, July 26

Textured Flavors of Food and Friend, Sarahndipity

Well, I’m closing in. Recipe 33. 18 recipes and more than thirty days left. I think I can do that. Whew. Man, I’m glad the pressure’s off. Now I can really take my time in planning the recipes and get more into quality versus rushing it in!

Last night’s recipe was Tomato, Rapini and Spring Legume Salad. A fabulous recipe, I recommend it. Crunchy beans, ever-so-slightly peppery rapini (broccoli rabe), tomatoes which are in their prime now, sweet fennel strands and a delicate and perfect mustard vinaigrette. See comment for recipe.

I’d like to dedicate this here recipe of many textures, colors and flavors, to an amazingly multi-textured, colorful, many-flavors of a woman I met about 15-16 years back who has made a remarkable impression on my life. She’s truly the smartest person I’ve ever been friends with; or who would even consider being friends with me, oh-one-of humble IQ origins. She has taught me how to look differently at life in a way no one else ever has. Because of her, I know have an astounding new template for this Universe, seeing connections and building my spirituality to new bounds. She is an artist, philosopher, writer, avid reader, lay-naturalist, self-taught scientist, book author, computer nerd, creator, cheerleader of all that is inspiring and good, and dreamer…boy, is she a dreamer!

Have you ever met a person who affected you on a deeper level than you ever imagined? It’s like how you feel when you catch the sight of a shooting star. It is spectacular and wondrous. That’s how I feel about Sarahndipity. She is my shooting star.

To see some of Sarah’s projects: http://www.graceartgroup.com/

Wednesday, July 25

I am the Queen of…

Yes, I am known as the Queen of the Pterodactyls but those who are closest to me know the bare truth that I am more notably known as the Queen of Bodily Functions. Let me just say that the raw food diet so harmonizes with my body that I am in danger of losing my latter title.

The heart of live food, Roxanne Klein writes, is enzyme preservation. Cooking food kills enzymes. Live food is loaded with them. Enzymes help us digest and they act as catalysts for every metabolic reaction in your body. Cell division, energy production, brain activity, all need enzymes. Vitamins and hormones need enzymes to do their work, as does our immune systems. The hormone part is close to my heart as I begin my journey on pausing menses, with the byproduct of the urge to tear my clothes off, especially at night.

Temperatures higher than 118 degrees kills enzymes, vitamins and nutrients, that's why we use dehydrators over long periods of time to get the texture, without losing all the healthy stuff. When my body is dealing with such functional, alkalizing fuel, I don’t heat up. Unprocessed foods are cooler and that’s good for a Queen with lively bodily functions.

Take raw cheese for example. In raw food-making cheese is nut cheese and is “cured” with rejuvelac, a fermented grain berry juice that’s loaded with enzymes and naturally occurring acidophiles which is a well known probiotic that promotes production of niacin and folic acid in your body, good digestion and is also considered an immune booster. Lactose intolerant like me? Delicious nut cheese is the answer! No longer do you have to look to dairy to get your acidophiles. Click here for information on rejuvelac and how to make it: http://www.hishealingways.com/rejuvelac/makerejuvelac.html

Today’s recipe is the Mediterranean Cheese Salad. The cashew cheese was rolled in tomatoes, basil and olives. The spicy pine nuts were my favorite surprise in this salad: soaked pine nuts tossed with chile, cumin, salt and onion and then dehydrated until they were crispy. The salad is served with live flax crackers (pure omega-3 fatty acids).

I don’t think I should lose my title over this. I am still the Queen of Bodily Functions. They’re just quiet, gliding vibrant functions now, that’s all. Ahaa, Ahaa.

Tuesday, July 24

Cherries Sabayon and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

My sister Susie has been galavanting the country, completely ignoring me. OK, it’s true, she’s one of the few dedicated blog readers, but still. How dare she go on two vacations and have a good time without me? But yesterday I got a few precious hours with her alone, so made the Cherries Sabayon as an afternoon dessert. Fitting, because my sister Susie is: a bowl full of cherries! And, also affectionately described by my husband as a Mary Hartman act-alike. But even though she has some really genuine Mary Hartman mannerisms, Susie has that cherry-bowl thing going on.

She teaches me how precious life is. She’s someone who drinks in every moment of life’s experiences like a rare elixir. Biologist, teacher, adventurer, mother, violinist? and now grandmammy of twins. There is no one I’d rather travel with. She makes me do things. Dangerous and wild things like hiking in a tropical forest with only my flipflops and no bug spray (can you say 37 bug bites in the face?) or like spending the night on an open 300’ high platform, exposed to the elements in a strange and tropical country. I won’t go into the details behind the weird slurping sounds I heard as I laid awake pretending to be asleep.

Susie mirrors some piece of my adventurous self that crawled back into it’s safe little crevice. She is bold and brave and wonderful. She is German too, and hard-headed, that one, but still, a bowl full of cherries.

And so Michigan Sour Cherries with Vanilla Cream and Orange Sabayon. Minus the Michigan Sour part of it. Cherries are coming to the end of their season so I was anxious to use this recipe while they are still so deliciously dropping. What are Michigan Sour cherries, anyway? I probably would have had to order them online or something. I wielded my hatchet again so that I could make the cream and sabayon, whose bases are pureed young coconut (I know what that is now).

I hate to possibly add a speed bump to all you potential raw foodies out there, but in order to really get into the raw food thing, you’ll eventually break down like I have done and purchase a better blender than your house blender. I just spent $400 on a Vita-Mix blender and I expect it will be well worth it. The problem is, soups and sauces, like this sabayon, for example, just aren’t as smooth and velvety as you want them to be. Use the Cuisinart you say? Nope. I thought the same thing--the Cuisinart does a lot of things well and does puree, but it does not get it that smooth, velvety consistency. So I’m down $400 and am anxiously waiting my new purchase to arrive any day now. I ordered a red one. Like cherries.

Friday, July 20

Mrs. Cleaver Meets Young Thai Coconut

Bought my first cleaver today. And, finally, finally found out what the hell she means by “young Thai coconut” in so many of her recipes. In the past, I just used dried coconut but last night I attended Elaina Love’s class on a Detox Diet at Café Soulstice, and it was wonderful. She not only had a young coconut but used it in the class and demonstrated how to open it.

So when I found the “young Thai coconut” at a local Asian grocery AND a cleaver at my other favorite Asian market to open it with, I decided it was a Good Day. I just adore being in the kitchen, it’s my new favorite thing in life. I could do this every day, but only as long as I didn’t have anyone telling me what to do, or what I am doing wrong (everything). Anyway, dessert was to be Fig Napoleon with Honey Pastry Cream.

First I started early this morning with the “Baklava Tuiles.” Golden flaxseeds, maple sugar, fuji apple, cinnamon and vanilla. I was supposed to spread that onto the dehydrator tray, but really I poured it onto the tray. Then I realized the problem: I had used maple syrup instead of maple sugar. It was too runny. Damn! Good thing I was getting started early, now I would have extra time to dehydrate it several more hours to get the tuile to the crisp texture it needed.

Deb dropped by so I decided it would be safest to try the new cleaver with a guardian standing by. I wielded the big axe and actually did a fair approximation of what I saw Elaina do last night. Deb was impressed. I was shocked that I still had my fingers.

Now that I had opened the coconut, I could make the “custard” for Star Thistle Gelato (young thai coconut meat, coconut juice, honey, cashew milk, honey, coconut oil and vanilla). From that base I added agar agar and some cashews to supposedly thicken it up. Into the blender as directed. Whirl, whirl. Still like water. Whirl, Whirl. Not thickening.

Checked the tuile and flipped it. Hours later it was still not crisp. This is when I started multi-tasking. This is what I do when I'm nervous. I put in the remaining star thistle custard into the ice cream maker. Why not make it gelato as intended? Intermittently running the blender trying to thicken the cream. Also cutting, chopping and mixing ingredients for the main entrée. Washing dishes. Re-reading the recipes. The kitchen is getting more crowded with produce scraps, dirty cutting boards and measuring cups. Crash! One of the pitchers I have drying turns over and breaks in the sink. I rummage through the dirty dishes and retrieve the broken pieces. Goodbye, pitcher. I puree up the fig sauce for dessert. It is 8 p.m. Husband sizes up situation and announces he is going out to buy us dinner. Check tuile, still pliable. I turn the dehydrator up. Fuck the enzymes and nutrients, I want it crisp! Gelato done, voila! I put in freezer. Now to focus on entrée.

After my tirade about not eating raw mushrooms in the previous post, I would be damned if I would eat the Portobello Mushroom Pave recipe raw. But I still wanted to do the recipe, afterall I have vowed to do every recipe in the book. So I decided to broil the mushrooms. Let me just say I’m glad Daniel went out to buy dinner. And also that cooked mushrooms aren’t too friendly about being cut “paper thin.” I did get good at it though. When Daniel came home and complained the salmon skin had been left on, I said “No Problem!” and whipped out my knife and slicked off the skin pretty well, I’ll admit. But I have to say, folks, this is the first recipe I’ve done in this book that I really disliked, and I like portobellos. Even the sauce, (tahini, shallot, garlic, oil, rice vinegar and water) was yucky! Nope, this one didn’t turn out. Pictured here is my dish with the photo from the book behind it. See how nice hers looks? Mine looks like sliced dead frog. Ribit. Maybe if mine were raw they would have had more flavor and been more attractive on the plate, but like I said: I won’t eat mushrooms raw anymore.

So the entrée was pretty much a failure, but I still had hopes for the Fig Napoleon. I checked the dehydrator, still the tuile is not crisp. It’s 9:30 p.m. Screw it. You can’t tell in the photo they’re not crispy, I reasoned, and they still taste good, so that’s the way it will be. It was pretty delicious, even though the sauce never thickened and the tuile was soft. Daniel doesn’t like figs, or so he thought, because he ate almost all of his dessert even though he wasn’t hungry (as if hunger ever had anything to do with enjoying a dessert…men!) After the photo, I put the tuile back into the dehydrator. Just to punish them I am going to keep them in there all night. We’ll see if they defy crispness then.

Shrooms aren’t Vegetables, so Don’t Eat ‘em Raw (right, even those little white ones they serve in your salad)

After my weekend hiatus am back eating raw again and feeling as energetic as ever. Have found that my stove top makes a good drain board, so it’s useful for something.

Yesterday I made Mushroom Ragout. Now we can have a serious talk about when raw foodies take it too far. I put my trust in Paul Stamet, see http://www.fungi.com/front/stamets/index.html. I consider him the foremost authority on mushrooms in this country, if not the world. Well, at least he’s the one I’ve heard of anyway. He has discovered that mushrooms can clean up toxic waste in our environment far more effectively than any conventional methods ever used, and in his studies he advocates using mushrooms medicinally to stimulate your immune system and treat various diseases. But one thing Mr. Stamet is clear on, is that raw mushrooms do not have nutritional or medicinal value for us. Mushrooms must be cooked for our bodies to commune with nature, so to speak. In fact, mushrooms can have a slight toxicity when eaten raw. In short, it’s not good for you.

My question was: how cooked do they have to be? So I called the helpful staff there at Fungi Perfecti and was told mushrooms need to be cooked to at least 160 degrees. Portobellos need an even higher temperature: 400 degrees. Apparently mushrooms (not a vegetable, they are fungi, so they are their own animal) have very large proteins (and other compounds too) which our bodies can’t break down. Cooking reduces their size, making us able to assimilate the mushroom’s great qualities, such as anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, reduces cholesterol, and immune enhancer just to name a few (see the chart at: http://www.fungi.com/mycomeds/info.html).

The danger in eating them raw? Well unless your diet is really high in fiber, they’ve been know to cause colon impactions. Our bodies just don’t know what to do with them raw. Thank you, Julia from Fungi Perfecti, for sharing your valuable time and knowledge with me.

Which brings me to the Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout recipe. Turned out lovely and tastey, and my colon did not have a fit…have a look at the list of mushrooms it called for:

  • Lobster mushrooms

  • Pom Pom

  • Shitake

  • Cinnamon cap

  • Portobello

The recipe called to dehydrate them, which I did, but if I ever make this recipe again, I will pull out the old frying pan and convert my stove top from it’s dish draining duties and give it back it’s old job.

PS: go to this link to see something that will blow your mind!

Tuesday, July 17

Putting the Tomato Right

Truthfully I haven’t felt that great lately. What could it be? It’s true I’m meno-pausing. Or could it be the back and forth between raw and cooked…the real world that I still have to live (and eat) in and the at-home world where I can control my meals? It is also likely that eating raw is detoxing me, and every time I go back to cooked foods, I am more sensitive to the toxins in those foods. With a hot flash or two for emphasis.

Life is like that. Think of the toxic people we have to be around. I’ve arranged my life intentionally to exclude the types who don’t harmonize with me, but I still have to run into them from time to time on the outside. Frankly, because I’ve held the distance from them and protected my space, it’s given me a greater capacity to not feel so threatened by them, and to even have compassion (from a safe distance!). Hopefully this not-feeling-on-top-of-the-world thing that has come on in the last days is just a movement forward to the next whatever good thing I’ll be experiencing, like delicious heirloom tomatoes!

Today’s dish is Heirloom Tomato Terrine. What better summertime dish than this one when tomatoes are coming into their peak. I’m not a “cut out the seeds and peel” kind of gal. I think tomatoes are so delicious nothing should be cut off, except the navel, but for this recipe, since it would be a stacked dish, in a terrine (vs. a tureen, Justine), I followed the directions and peeled the tomatoes and removed those delicious seeds. I slurped up a few as I went and saved the peelings, etc. to juice and pour on the dog’s head. Yes, the faint aroma of skunk lingers yet.

Here’s the dish on a bed of spinach pesto (w/cashews, garlic, salt and olive oil). She wanted me to salt and pepper each layer of the tomatoes but I love the naked flavor of tomatoes so much, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. Of course when I went to flip it over onto the dish, there were a few runaway tomatoes sliding out, trying to ruin the photo. So just like how I’ve been feeling, I’ll pull myself back in…slide the tomato back into the space where it belongs, let it all marry together, and then cut a slice of life and enjoy how delicious it tastes, even if I’m not feeling on top of the world.

Thursday, July 12

Titanic Kitchen

Does it make any sense that I’m so busy cooking that I don’t have time to make anything to eat? For Daniel, losing weight is a good thing. For me, not so much. Frankly, I was suprised to learn I have dropped almost 4 lbs. So tonight after whipping up (see the state of my kitchen if you want to see the aftermath) Stuffed Chiles with Mole Sauce (yum!), I ate that, a burrito (thank you Alane, it was delicious), the fruit salad, a bite or two of pizza and a few bites of a hot dog and a beer. There. That ought to do it.

The Stuffed Chile recipe looked insane, but once I got into it, it wasn’t so crazy. The stuffing was made of walnuts, cashews, almond butter, veggies and spices. The delicious mole (a la maurine) I had to alter. She (the great Roxanne) wanted to have all these chiles included:

1 ancho chile
1 chipotle chile
1 mirasol chile
2 guajillo chiles
1 pulla chile
2 pasilla chiles

what is she, a dragon? ? It reminds me of my friend Rosemary. We call her the Goddess.
Most times she has cooked for me, my mouth went ablaze with the firefull peppers she likes to season her dishes with. She is Italian and she is Hot. We call her the Goddess for a reason. She’s one of these remarkable people who never stops if she wants something. A college professor, world traveler, book author, speaker, consultant in the business world, and one of those rare people who are so incredibly beautiful on the outside, it’s surprising to find they are flawlessly beautiful on the inside. Maybe if I ate spicier food I could be like her, but this is what I put in:
a few small pieces of 1 Anaheim chile
and that was enough, it had just enough heat.

I mean, really. If I would have put all those chiles in there it would have set off the fire alarm in my kitchen! But all the other ingredients made a beautifully delicious mole! Especially the chocolate sauce, made with almond butter…yum!

I brought the stuffed chiles to Music in the Park night tonight. Everybody liked them, but they went wild for the mole.

NEW: I will have an attachment with all the good recipes and my notes on them linked to this site…COMING SOON!

The Savory Fruit Salad was an interesting balance between the sweet melon and nectarine and the shaved fennel and red onion, then with a fennel vinaigrette with shallot and fennel.

So, the dishes are piled up. The kitchen is a ship wreck. Where is Daniel? I hear the great guru say “go to the TV and you will find your husband.”

At least I’m not going to bed hungry.

Crepes A La Mo + Watermelon Soup – The Easy Bake Oven Way

Look how soft and spongy the crepe from her book looks—pictured here. Mine turned out like corn tortillas. But I’m not complaining, I’m thrilled they turned out at all. A couple of them got stuck on my dehydrator screen. I couldn’t figure out whether to use parchment paper or not so I tried it both ways. I guess parchment would be the safer bet if there ever is a next time. The crepes are made from golden flax, green apple, some spices and water. I took a departure on her version of sour cream. I just don’t like the graininess of coconut, so instead used sunflower seeds with the cashews, a splash of rejuvelac and a little honey. It was pretty good.

I forced the Curried Crepes with Yogurt Sauce on my poor unsuspecting music tutor who is always hungry, why? Because he never eats. He just works and works. The mother instinct in me wants to feed the poor man. He was so hungry he ate standing up. I’m glad he enjoyed it. I keep having these close calls with nobody eating my dinner, thanks for coming through, Curt.

Making food like this reminds me of being a kid. You don’t have to worry about burning yourself. I have this “play” oven (dehydrator) with these cute plastic trays and screens, it’s like putting together a puzzle. To make soup I just toss in ingredients and press a button on the cuisinart and presto: soup. Of course there’s the danger of cutting yourself, and I am far too careless with the mandolin, making elegant juliennes. But cooking like this is like having a play kitchen for me. Everything is fresh and colorful; there’s no secret, really other than letting all the flavors meld together and taking a chance on the sauce. I mean it’s not like learning the finer technique of flipping a crepe or the science of baking the perfect cake.

Watermelon Salad was dessert, really. Longans again. This is the second recipe calling for these obscure “longans.” My Food Lovers Companion describes them as a small soft fleshy fruit with a tough outer shell and large seed. But no one’s ever heard of them around here. How about a lychee? If you look lychee up, it’s basically the same description. Those I can find, living here in the multi-cultural San Francisco Bay Area, so lychee instead of longan it is.

And so it is. When I had my solo tea parties as a kid, I didn’t have tea so I found some vinegar and used that for my tea. God it was sour, but I lived in pretend land so developed a tolerance for it. And so it is.

Tuesday, July 10

Wanted: Last Minute Eaters Recipes 21-22: Lasagna and Kabocha Soup

It took a few weeks but finally the administrator in me came out and now I have an actual “chart” (isn’t that sick?) of the coming week’s menus, with a list below each day ticking off items I will need to buy AND special notes if I need to get something started that day for the next day’s recipes. Oh, but it doesn’t end there. I now have a list of every grocery store with the phone number and extension# of the produce department taped on my cabinet. The low point came today when I started a frickin’ price comparison spreadsheet of bulk items that I regularly buy with the prices from all the grocery stores. That means I have to now bring that spreadsheet with me next time I go shopping and fill in the blanks. Once done, I’ll know who’s got the least expensive flax seeds in the area and so on. Don’t worry, I’ll post it so you can save money too.

So now that Daniel is clear on not sharing live food dinners with me, the routine is that when a recipe seems like it’s going to turn out, I start madly calling my neighbors to drop by for dinner, at the last minute. I can never give them advance notice because, what if it’s a disaster? So tonight when I lifted off the “terrine” (as opposed to a tureen, Justine-thanks, now I know what a terrine is!) and the lasagna didn’t spread out like blobby lava, I knew I had a winner. I frantically started calling around. “Sue, want to have dinner?” Not sure, she has to call me back. “Deb, want to have dinner?” I left a message. Who else to call? My husband was napping so I suddenly felt very alone. I went ahead and started pureeing the kabocha squash for the soup. That looked like it would turn out too. And then my heart was heavy. Nobody to share it with. Not even the dogs, they hate this type of cuisine.

I got the camera out and starting snapping. But I needed to actually cut the lasagna for the photo so people could see the layers. God, I hated to cut into it. What if the whole thing fell apart? Just then the phone rang. Deb saved the day! She’d be right over. Suddenly my whole world lit up. I confidently sliced into the lasagna and it didn’t fall apart. Snap, I got my photo.

Lasagne was a winner! The photo from the book was so intimidating, I can’t believe I made this and it wasn’t even that difficult. In fact it was fairly straight forward. The only hassle being I had to start the herb cheese a day or so back so it would be ready today. This dish was absolutely delicious and really tasted like lasagna, only better!!

The Kabocha Squash Soup with Sweet-Sour Sultana Sorbet was supposed to be a dessert, but I think it’s better placed as an appetizer or between-course palate cleanser, if you do that kind of thing (I don’t, but maybe I should start!). What are sultanas? Apparently they are a small, white raisin from somewhere else in the world, so it’s comparable to a Thompson grape here. That’s what I used.

So if you want to be a last-minute-call-to-dinner friend, drop me a message. I need last minute eaters.

Monday, July 9

Penetrating Love: Recipes 19 and 20 Heirloom Tomato Soup with Olives +Greek Salad

Love has penetrated the walls of this house. I will look back on these days as the fullest of my life.—Susan Frey

Moving around our kitchen, I’m a little more aware of the splatters on the wall, how clean the stove top is these days since I don’t “cook” and my sister’s poem that hangs on the wall. I look at it often. Sometimes I feel it’s true (the love part) and sometimes it couldn’t be further from my experience. And then I feel sad, because I never want to look back on a time behind me as the fullest of my life, like all the fullness could be over. It seems each year in these times of mine feels fuller and fuller. Music with Daniel and Rick, cooking like a maniac, running a small business that I love, singing with a choir, loving our Sonoma place, our dogs, each other, my huge family of friends…it’s so full. May it stay so.

And as Daniel declared he can take the raw food no more, he must have MEAT!, I served the Tomato Soup and the Greek Salad. Not before I made him take the photos, though. We continued to argue through most of dinner. About nothing. About “I am aggravated, so it’s your fault” kind of stuff. Stupid frustrations of living with a person who is as dynamic and headstrong as yourself. Who doesn’t see it your way. Feels like most of the time. But then we ended up singing songs in the kitchen, which is my favorite thing in the world. That and making food: Heaven. I love him for that, making our kitchen heaven.

I’m sure that is what Susan meant for me, for us, when she gave the poem as a wedding gift. Letting the loving times fill us up.

Sunday, July 8

Mystery Ingredient Soup and a Salad only the Cook will Eat

Does it make you a good cook if you know you could have whipped up a tasty meal for your loved ones if only you hadn’t followed the recipe?
Or does it make you a bad cook because you couldn’t get the recipe, written by two high-end gourmets, to taste very good.

Or are my friends just complainers? I mean I expect it from my closet food-critic husband, but my girlfriends? Just because the Red Bell Pepper Soup with Mango Dollops had strands of “white things” in them…I mean, why make a big deal out of that? They said the “white strand things” distracted them from the taste. What sissies. I gulped mine right down. I thought it tasted pretty good. What white strand things? Finally Susan dug one out of her soup. Huh, I thought, weird. Then Justine piped up with the same complaint. What could it be? It looked like hairs from a bottle brush. Could it be the fibers from the turnip thing I added that was supposed to be juiced horseradish? No, it was too tough for that. In a word, inedible. I gave up on trying to figure it out and poured their soups through a sieve, but neither of them accepted the refined version. Doesn't say much for their adventurous spirit, does it?

To stay in theme, today (the theme of fixing meals my guests won't eat) I made the Creamed Cauliflower Soup and the Marinated Artichokes, Turnips and Beets. The soup should be called Boringly Bland White Stuff that has no flavor. After you puree basically only cauliflower, water and some vinegar you’re supposed to put it through a sieve, but if you did that, there would only be one bowl of soup. No matter, no one would eat it anyway. Although I ate most of mine. I’m the only one around here with any determination.

The Beet-Artichoke Marinade turned out surprisingly tasty. To me, that is. No one liked that one either, but the thinly sliced beets, turnips and artichokes flavored with a vinaigrette, a bed of date, jalapeno and cranberry sauces is really delicious. And loved ones who don’t like your food? At least I keep them entertained and obesity at bay.

18 Down and 33 To Go! 54 days left.

Friday, July 6

Dolmas and Broccoflower Couscous and Neighbors of the Mayacamas

I don’t like traditional dolmas very much. They taste vinegary and mealy, but these live-food Dolmas with Dill-Sour Cream Sauce were crispy and fresh with a delicate sweetness. The “rice” in the dolmas was the ever-popular pulsed parsnip which I am finding in so many of Roxanne's recipes and I could not find dried currants so used fresh ones. How the coconut and cashews could wind up tasting like a dill sour cream sauce was pretty amazing to us all. But when I do the recipe again (and I will!) I won’t bother with the sauce, the dolmas were so delicious they didn’t need a sauce. Thank you to Sarahndipity for the photos.

I served this on the 4th of July when we were up at our Sonoma place and invited our crazy neighbors Karen and Jannell over. Karen, a product of the Berkeley-Hippy era who still lives by the finer virtues of that time, and Jannell who lives next to her in a tiny cabin and grows a sprawling and beautiful flower and vegetable garden. They brought over the illustrious Ricky, master-of-all-things-at-age-24 and a few other friends. Sarah and William have been up planning out their huge deck that will surround a tree, and we had Cath, a prior guest at Cinque Terre also there with her faithful dog Molly to grace our table. What a party.

Couldn’t find broccoflower, so did the most logical thing and simply mixed cauliflower and broccoli heads. No champagne grapes so used red grapes. The curry oil finished the recipe, giving it the spicy flavor it needed to not be bland.

Being up on top of the wine country in the mountains is a sublime and cleansing experience. The atmosphere is wild and wonderful, as are most of our neighbors who I refer to as the “Smiling Eyes Tribe.” To see the fireworks we all piled in the car (including the dogs) and drove along the incredibly bumpy and dusty road over to Random Ridge, Bill Hawley’s place which sits up on the southwest side of the mountain and overlooks the entire Bay Area and downtown Sonoma. Since Bill is a grape grower, there was plenty of his wine flowing, I had my wands glowing and we all enjoyed the fireworks show from our tailgates. http://www.randomridge.com/place/photos.html

I never made it to the soups and looks like I’ll be taking tonight off too. Still recovering from the alien party in my gut, I guess.

Heirloom Apricots Losing Ground

Ever heard of Blenheim apricots? They’re only grown down in the Santa Clara Valley region and anyone who’s tasted one says they are the best tasting apricot in the world. Forget the bland Turkish apricots with the great shelf life. But sadly these dreamy fruits don’t travel well and Blenheims often have green and yellow colors on their skins, which fool consumers into thinking they have no flavor. People just want to buy the pretty rosy-orange apricots, but if they took one bite, they would be so happily surprised!

Slow Food has added the Blenheim to their endangered list as farmers throw in the towel when competing with the visually perfect and tasteless apricots at our groceries. And we lose so much farmland to developers too. Luckily Nancy Kux invites me each year to accompany her to a farm where we can either pick, or simply buy a nice quantity of the Blenheims. This time we were directed by Blenheim Apricot advocate Barbara Anderson to Bertuccio’s in Hollister.

We toured their facilities and came home with 25 lb boxes of the little jewels. Pictured here drying. I’m giving them away like crazy as they don’t last long. They are an ‘eat now, always remember’ fruit. I hope the few of us who trek down every year, and those who buy the dried Blenheims will be enough to keep a few orchards in business.

For more info, check out: http://www.freelancenews.com/printer/article.asp?c=60974

Internal FireWorks make Holiday in my Gut

I’d like to say I took it easy over the 4th of July holiday. Instead I invited aliens into my house for a party. Aliens being bacteria and house being my stomach. Can you say food poisoning?

Should I blame it on the evil beef burger or the killer squash blossoms?
Here I’ve been on this insanely healthy diet, feeling so energetic and healthy and then I had a beef burger at a friend’s party. Could it be that it was such a shock to my body?
Or could it be that the raw food I didn’t wash harbored the bad guys?
Nobody knows but my innocent and suffering intestines, but I confess I suspect the innocuous-looking, delicate squash blossoms. Look at them, so colorful and pretty. Those deceptive little imposters.
Photo courtesy of: http://www.seasonalchef.com/recipe0805b.htm

I consider this rude experience (yes, I writhed in pain on a public bathroom floor for 45 minutes, unable to move) to be a sort of graduation, an awakening if you will of the degree of respect I must now have as a raw foodie. I’ve always been so cavalier and trusting about the cleanliness of the produce I buy. When the squash blossoms came in a shrink wrapped container (and knowing that I did not want them to wilt for the photo I would be taking of them shortly) I skipped over my usual step of soaking produce in a solution of grapeseed extract water.

Verily, verily I say unto you: many foreign hands hath touched thy produce. Lo, false prophets shall attack your belly if you do not obey the god of sanitization (sanity?).

Even (and especially) sprouts need to be washed. Those tiny hard-to-wash onion, daikon or sunflower sprouts apparently love to harbor unfavorable bacteria.

The bacteria party is over, but my cells are still sweeping up, repairing the damage and pulling the house back together. And who knows, a lot of the time people need antibiotics to recover from food poisoning, I didn’t. Maybe all this healthy eating put my body in a better position to ward off the evil aliens all on it’s own. That’s what I’d like to believe.

Monday, July 2

Tomato Tart / Ceasar Salad with Rawmesan+Croutons / Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Wow! These recipes were worth the effort! Took me three days to pull it all together. First I had to make rejuvelac (fermented wheat berry juice) so that I could make the nut cheese, which took a day. Then I had to dehydrate it. Had to make croutons also with the cheese, which also required hours of dehydration. Had to make dragon crackers so that I would have crackers to roll the onion rings in. Whew!

Keep in mind those new to raw food: all recipes shown here are fresh "alive" have not been cooked. We dehydrate crusts, crackers, croutons, etc., to get the desired texture, but all enzymes and vitamins are preserved (unlike cooking).

We had the tomato tart for lunch with one of my “splash” salads, which means a fresh vegetable and nut-filled bowl of whatever I can find in the refrigerator with very little leaf action. The tart was not as much work as I had imagined and pretty tasty, although I gave up when it came to making my own dehydrated tomatoes. I just used a jar of sundried tomatoes. This recipe is a keeper! Email me if you want me to send you the recipe.

I worked straight (including yet another trip to the grocery store) from lunch on for dinner. I had been dehydrating a single carrot since yesterday so that I could grind it up and roll the “croutons” in it. That damn carrot just would not get crispy. I finally just ground it up anyway, the clock was ticking. Rolled the croutons in it then it all went back into the dehydrator. The “rawmessan” was dehydrating too. I whipped up the ceasar salad dressing which was KILLER, and then began blending the stuffing for the squash blossoms.

Finally the crackers were ready, so I ground a few of those up and added the herbs, then dipped red onion rings in olive oil and rolled them in the crumbs, which didn’t stick very well (egg would have been nice, but this is vegan, remember?) and then they went into the dehydrator.

Ready to stuff the blossoms and discovered I couldn’t find all the parts to my pastry bag and nozzle…a momentary panic until I got resourceful and resorted to a large grip-lock bag. Man, it worked like a charm! The photo here does not do it justice. Oh! The stuffing was pine nuts, pistachios mixed with a delightful Indian herb mixture and it was just HEAVEN…a wonderful floral aroma, so delicious.

The rawmessan and croutons made the ceasar salad, pictured here in a beautiful new bowl that my dear sister Deb gave me as a gift to cheer me on for this project. Thank you, Debbie, I love you.

These are the most delicious recipes I’ve made so far, although I can see a growing annoyance in Daniel (husband-photographer). He repeated several times today “we can go back to paper plates after this project is over, right?, right?” He grumbled rather loudly at having to do the dishes again (although I was the one in the kitchen ALL day). Goddess bless him, he is helping me so much and I know he’s quite unsure why the hell I am taking on such a time-intrusive hobby, but I’m HOOKED and I am just having SO MUCH FUN, but I admit I am tired and looking forward to my day off of doing this tomorrow.

Count: 13 down, 39 to go in 9 weeks.
Next up over 4th of July holiday – Red Bell Pepper Soup with Mango / Greek Salad /Dolmas and Kaboch Squash Soup. God help me.

Sunday, July 1

House Stinkin’ Party

Whenever we’re invited over, we always try to bring more than we take.
Last night our friend Nick was celebrating moving into his new place.
Like the Clampits that we are, we of course brought our dogs. He’s on ten acres of open space and the dogs were in pure heaven running around like hyenas.

We had a lovely evening and toward the end of the night an overwhelming odor floated onto the patio as Boomer (our dog) approached. We knew within a split second he had been skunked. Poor boy got hit in the face and his eyes were burning, as he madly rolled himself on Nick’s lawn. Boomer often wears a t-shirt, so we pulled the soaked t-shirt off of him, he rolled some more. We squirted his eyes with water and wiped them off with paper towels and he rolled some more. By this time, we both were reeking.

As nice of a guy as Nick is, I couldn’t help notice how he tried to close his front door on me as I tried to walk in. Imagine that. Soon his whole house was reeking and all his guests were groaning. By then my olfactories were desensitized so I didn’t see what the big deal was. We called the vet who gave us a concoction to remove the odor:
-1 qt hydrogen peroxide
-1/4 c baking soda
-1/4 c dishwashing liquid

We ungracefully bowed out with Nick enthusiastically waving goodbye through a closed window (I think he was holding his nose).

We got home and bathed Boomer and it was much better except for the fact the damn skunk got him in the face and we couldn’t put the mixture too close to his eyes. So you only smell it if you kiss him, or when he kisses you! He of course slept with us last night, after all he’d been through I couldn’t reject him from his comfort zone.

But we had to chuckle this morning, realizing that Boomer had probably wiped most of the skunk smell onto Nick’s lawn, right in front of his front door. I wonder how long that smell will linger? And imagining the skunk-soaked t-shirt laying in his yard as a special “gift” made us laugh even harder. Happy House Warming, Nick!
Yes, we’re givers.

Next up: Open Faced Tomato Tart & Ceasar Salad with Rawmesan & Croutons!