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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I bought all the ingredients for traditional Irish corned beef and cabbage and planned to make Grandma Dwyer’s soda bread to go with it. The meal was meant for the soup-supper at church before Lent service. Making the dish in a crock pot required me to put in the meat first at dawn, five hours later, adding the hard veggies—carrots, onions, potatoes—then throwing in chunks of cabbage just before leaving for church. Great plan.

Three briskets of corned beef and two bags of vegetables sat in the refrigerator waiting my skilled hands—for days. Unfortunately, my car went to the shop but wasn’t ready on Tuesday. I had to pick it up Wednesday morning. Then my husband had two doctor appointments on opposite sides of town with three hour wait in between. Then time slipped through my fingers.

As we drove home, the reality hit me. We had one hour left before I was to arrive at church with my soup du jour. There was no way I could make it. I hadn't started anything. What to do? What to do?

When we arrived, I had twenty minutes to cook, dress, and leave. I thought of chicken soup but then why? Others would probably have that. Of course, with a pastor named Murphy I figured I wouldn’t be the only one planning corned beef on March 16th—the day before St. Patty’s Day.

With no time to eat myself, I decided on a simple Vegan dish that could be shared with the closeted-vegans within the congregation. An appropriate choice in retrospect. The dish proved popular though nestled in between the good Germanic based dishes—kielbasa sausage soup, sauerkraut soup, potato cheese soup—served to a Lutheran crowd.

Only one complaint echoed in the kitchen about the lack of Irish fare that came from our own Pastor Mike. He forgave me my transgression and tried my soup. I think his wife liked it better than he.

Vegan Lemongrass and Thai Chili Soup (17 minutes from start to finish)

1 qt Container Organic Vegetable Stock Low Sodium
1 8 oz Small Can Garbanzo Beans
1 24 oz Large Can Red Kidney Beans
½ cup Celery Heart Chopped
½ cup Bell Pepper Julienned—Red, Yellow or Orange
½ cup Carrots Sliced
3 Green Onions Chopped
6 Button Mushrooms sliced or canned mushrooms
4 leaves of Kale Chopped in Squares
4 leaves of Swiss Chard Chopped
2 rolls of Mung Bean Threads
1/3 cup Mizo Paste
¼ to ½ cup of Frozen Chopped Lemongrass and Thai Chili or chop the fresh ingredients
1/3 cup Soy Sauce

First dump the vegetable stock into a large pan and heat over medium burner. Add the hard vegetables—carrots, onions, celery—and the mung bean threads. Add drained and washed canned beans. Raise the heat. As the mixture starts to bubble add the rest of the vegetables. Stir. When the mung bean threads are soft, shut off the heat and add the lemongrass, Thai chili, Mizo paste and soy sauce. Mix well. Serves six to eight. Should be done in 17 minutes. That’s what it took me. Plus I transferred the whole thing into a crock pot and drove it to the church for Lent service.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Please Define Vegan

This weekend I attended a dinner party hosted by a raw-vegan family. The party consisted of a western theme complete with barbeque chicken and pork for the attending meat-eaters. I grazed happily on trays of veggies dipped in fake sour cream, bowls of vegan chili, and baskets of ruby-red strawberries. After my seventh strawberry, I proudly passed on the offered birthday cake. It was a lovely day.

At the end of the party, hostess Jacki offered several books from her personal library. We discussed being raw, vegan, and hungry during the winter months. Jacki admitted with some reserve that she cooked some vegetables. I confessed my passion for mung-bean-thread noodles in mizo soup. We agreed raw was harder in the frosty months.

The discourse made me realize that I had not addressed terms defining diets in my blog. Not because I couldn’t but it’s so varying from one periodical to another—dependent on the personal experience and age of the writer—that I did not want to spend a week or so writing definitions. So I pared down the list a bit and present the info for you.

Vegan: Someone who does not eat any animal products. No cheese, eggs, milk, fish, chicken, pork. Vegans I have met do not wear leather or animal based make-up. If it requires watering, has a root, and grows then probably it’s edible to a vegan. Adam and Eve—vegan. Cain—vegan. Abel—probably not.

Vegetarian: Someone who does not eat or believe in eating meat. This usually includes not eating fish, fowl, or any food derived from animals but not always. Some vegetarians eat eggs but not fish. Pollotarians eat poultry, but not red meat. Pescetarians eat fish or other seafood, but not red meat or earth-bound animals. The term Vegetarian is loosely used in today’s society.

Raw Foodies: are a group that eats only uncooked, unprocessed, and mostly organic foods. Raw foodies typically believe that the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits. Raw foodies are into sprouting grains, fresh organic fruits, tons of vegetables. Mostly they are into vegan but it is not a requirement. Rawism can include consumption of eggs, raw fish, meats, non-pasteurized dairy like raw goat cheese or raw Greek yogurt.

Raw Vegans: exclude all food of animal origin, and all food cooked above 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit). A raw vegan’s kitchen includes a dehydrator instead of an oven and a high end blender—like the one at Jamba Juice—as a tool for everything else like a microwave. Subsets include: fruitarian, juicearian, and sproutarian.

Flexitarians: or Semi-vegetarians eat usually vegetarian and mostly raw diet. But at the dinner party when the vegan declines to eat any meat this person will try the chicken to be polite. Jane Goodall, a famous vegan, said that she does not completely stick to the vegan diet while traveling. Getting a balanced diet on the road is challenging but can be closely followed if well planned. I can see Jane nibbling a piece of cheese but not chowing-down a steak.

Standard American Diet (SAD): more politely called the Western pattern diet, or the Affluent diet, is the one chosen by most Americans and many people in developed countries. This is how we were raised. We treat every day as holiday. We eat meat usually three times a day, sugar in drinks and desserts, high-fat foods, like French fries and dairy, and processed grains. What the SAD diet lacks is water, natural fiber from fresh vegetables, and whole fruits. We love our morning coffee, processed juice, and pop tarts. Can I have a slice of bacon with that?

I started my life as SAD and have dabbled from time to time as flextarian. Given my improved health and weight loss, I am well on my way to being a raw foodie and very possibly a raw vegan.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rising from Seiza

Most of yesterday afternoon I spent in the removal of two forty-year-old rose bushes. I managed to pull the dirt around the bases only to find roots as big around as my arm and just as long. Clearing another two feet of dirt, I decided that the only way the plants could be freed was to saw through the main roots. My husband bought a nine-inch branch saw a few years ago that fit my need perfectly.

I plopped down on two knees with my fanny resting on my heels and shoved that saw back and forth over the massive root. After cutting all the way through and twisting out the thorny bush, I scooted on my legs to the next plant and repeated the process. When the final rose gave way, I rotated onto the soles of my feet and stood.

With amazement, I realized that I completed a perfect Geisha seiza-style kneeling posture and managed to stand-up from that position without help, groaning, pain, or use of supporting material. Something I did when I was a child, in my twenties, and even as late as my thirties. I’m thrilled that I handled physical work without my back screaming. I’m excited that I can sit on my heels. I’m surprised at this evidence that I am no longer obese and have regained the physical motion I once had.

My aunt passed away a few years ago with cancer. She was a heavy-set woman. When Mom visited her in those last months, Aunt Kate told her that the fat kept her from being flexible not age then she pulled her leg to the side of her head. I now understand what she was talking about.

Oh yes, I still have the aches and pains the next day from overdoing on home projects. My back will always remind me of the 1980 motorcycle accident that squished my fifth lumbar. But now I find that losing the weight gives me greater range of motion and flexibility.

It is nice to feel younger.

P.S. My next-door neighbor took the rose bushes for his garden.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ugly Second Grader

I have lost fifty-two pounds of fat—that’s an ugly second grader. The wall of two hundred ten has been broken and I’m now a svelte two hundred eight. Don’t snicker. It’s a long way down from the 2X clothes and size nine shoes. Yes, even the shoe size has shrunk.

I did manage to squeeze into size 16 pants yesterday. The resulting muffin top was too gross for polite company so I switched to the extra large for the day. I am so close to being a perfect 16, I almost went shopping. That would not be prudent as I hope to be in a size 14 by June. So I picked up a few smaller pants at EcoThrift—my favorite second hand store, paying ninety-nine cents a pair. This will have to do until I hit my goal.

Although I battle cravings every day, the diet has been simple to follow. You would think I would crave pies or cookies. Actually, it’s out of season stuff like watermelon, cherries, and lamb. Lamb is seasonal. Try to find lamb chops in January. My raw-local diet has made the exotic foods like Chilean cherries come off my list replaced by pippin apples available at the market—oh so yummy with fresh ground peanut butter.

For over a month, Ultimate Flora brand probiotics are part of Paul and my daily diet, thanks to the suggestion of our friend, Pam Medeiros. I take adult formula and the Moose has been on the critical care formula to counteract the antibiotics flowing through his veins. These work better than anything else Paul has tried. Though this is my first experience with probiotics for colon health, I have much happier intestines since I started taking the cultures. You might want to check it out.