red curry and vegetables

This evening, David and I tried a new vegan recipe adapted from the truffle honey blog.  When I am “cooking” in the kitchen, David is less a sous chef and more of an emergency responder.  Without fail there will always be some minor or major disaster in the kitchen from exploding pots to fires. I would not be cooking if I was not also making a GIANT mess of something.  At first, this was a source of great anxiety and discouragement. Why couldn’t I flow through the kitchen? Why did I cut my hands with the chopping knife? Why did I light paper on fire while reading the recipe? Why did I burn rice? Why did the pudding explode on the stove-top? Perhaps it is because I lack overall patience in my life and watching a pot doesn’t make it boil faster….so why not crank up the heat?  These messes and disasters have now become a way of life and David is quick off the couch when he hears, “Ah Help!”  Without any questions, he scans the room first for my safety and then proceeds with his rehearsed crisis management skills. Tonight, I threw red curry on the floor while sautéing onions, chopping veggies, and trying to use my body to shield the dogs from the paste on the floor. In an odd way, in the midst of the disaster we have established a rhythm to quell the incident and move on towards meal time. As Julia Child once said, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” This dish was delicious, disaster and all!

Saute onions in oil with garlic until translucent and fragrant 

Julienne peppers, carrots, Shitake mushrooms, and bamboo shoots

Cut a large handful of snap peas in half

Once onions are cooked through add two tablespoons of red curry paste

Add one can (14 oz) of unsweetened coconut milk, bring to boil, add in vegetables and simmer on medium-high covered for about 8 minutes. Then serve with brown rice and toasted naan. 

curried lentils and sweet potatoes

Yesterday was our first full day as vegans. It was surprisingly fun to walk through the school cafeteria and repeat my new mantra as I scanned the buffet, “You are a vegan, you are a vegan.” Upon entering, I noticed that the main hot meal was chicken quesadillas.  I quickly by-passed this selection and made a beeline for the vegetarian option. Alas, it was cheese quesadillas and those do not quite fit the vegan protocol. I tried not to panic. Thankfully, my school’s menu items are diverse and plentiful and I was able to put together a delicious meal of salad, veggies, and butternut squash soup. Having survived my first school day as a vegan, I went confidently into the kitchen to cook my first vegan meal for dinner. We chose a recipe from smitten kitchen and were delighted with how satisfying and flavorful it was. I highly recommend it to all herbivores (and anyone else who enjoys a restaurant quality meal in the comfort of one’s home!). Not to shabby for Day 1 and the pledge to this new lifestyle and eating habit has only gotten stronger.

Vegan Pledge

Today, Monday, November 26, 2012 ,David and I are officially starting an entirely whole-foods, plant based diet. Yes, you might think this is a radical approach to cut meat, dairy, and all foods that “had a face or a mother at some point” from our diet, but I am excited for this endeavor.  It most definitely will not be easy.  David and I have grown accustomed to eating meat and are too addicted to mac n’cheese. In the one year since we married, we have each gained 10 pounds of what I like to call “comfy weight.”  But, really this means that while we try to cook home most nights, we often ditch our own kitchen for something more convenient out of doors. David in particular has been categorized/demonized as a carnivore extraordinaire. Just the very idea of David eating veggies over meat will have many family and friends scratching their heads. Isn’t he from the South? Doesn’t he love his ribs, chicken wings, steaks, and burgers? Does he even eat vegetables? Ah, but little do the naysayers know that in fact this “carnivore” is a herbivore at heart. I will not be taking David down the path to vegetarianism kicking and screaming.  Rather, he is coming willingly especially after a Thanksgiving weekend in which he ate as much meat as physically possible (just shy of getting meat sweats) before this sudden and abrupt halt starting today.

Why now?  Well, why not!  Perhaps we do not want to be totally cliche by making this into a New Year’s resolution that people will inevitably be expecting us to break two weeks into the new year. Or perhaps we know that if we don’t start today then tomorrow will just never come. There is no better day then today the old saying goes. On Friday night we watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and realized that we have a great deal of information at our fingertips that has pointed us to the same conclusions made in this film. We have seen countless other documentaries, read books, blogs, and have noted that most of our doctors are vegans or vegetarians. Dr. Oz is a vegetarian, my father’s cardiologist is a vegan and my doctor has often discussed with me taking the same pledge to plant based eating as each of the individuals. So here I am making it. For some reason the commitment feels more validated when I write about it on the blog. As though each one of you will help hold me accountable or at least my writing about it will hold me accountable to it. Gorging myself on Thanksgiving and feeling bloated, full, and tight in my clothes afterwards also helped with the decision!

Yesterday was our “last hurrah” in the animal protein world. We went out for a delicious post thanksgiving brunch. Eating those eggs hit the spot.  I have always loved eating brunch and devouring as much coffee, potatoes, and eggs benedict as humanly possible. This time though I thought I would be sad as I said good-bye to my delightful, full-fat and protein rick brunch but I wasn’t.  I was actually excited to get the meal over and to start on my new path with David to more wholesome and nutrient rich eating habits. And with the last swallow, the pledge began.

Of course sticking to this pledge will require a great deal of work: planning meals, educating ourselves on the nutrients we need, and just plain ignoring/changing our old eating habits. Thankfully, I am not doing this alone. David and I will “struggle” through this dietary shift together and hopefully be lean, green, fighting machines on the other side!

Here are some helpful blogs we will be using during the transition:

Smitten Kitchen
Skinnytaste
Eatliverun.com
PostPunk
VeganYumYum
101 Cookbooks
Oh my veggies
http://herbivoracious.com/

thanksgiving eats

Thanksgiving this year at the new house has been primarily stress free. Yes, there have been a few times when the holiday has gotten the best of me: a broken glass, mud on the wood floors, getting lost on our way to Walden Pond.  But overall I declare this Thanksgiving holiday at our house to be a success.  Especially when we end the day with a hilarious game of Apples to Apples!

thankful

My parents will arrive in Boston today. They are driving in from Ohio to celebrate our first Thanksgiving with us in our new home.  On Wednesday, David’s mom and step-dad will be joining our little party.  It is very exciting to embark on our first holiday and plan and prepare not only the foods for the table but also introduce some new traditions. In light of this exciting time filled with anticipation, I want to share my thankful list.  One item for each day of November leading to Turkey Day:

1. For my husband David.  I admire him for his commitment to our family, his passion for his interests, and his playfulness that permits me to be totally myself and to know that when I let my hair down, David is there to love me completely.

2. For our home. Little did we know that we could afford a home let alone the one we found. The shelter, space, and warmth it provides is a blessing.

3. For our families. Without the constant love and support of our inner circle David and I would not be who we are today.  The lessons in respect, empathy, compassion, and love that they each shared with us continues to shape us.

4. For our health. It can often be taken for granted but we are lucky to be healthy and able-bodied and to use this gift to share with those around us.

5. For our jobs. Finding one’s passion is a life long journey and while we cannot predict the future of where we will be and what we will be doing, right now we are lucky to each be satisfied and inspired by our “jobs.”

6. For our puppies.  Friends often ask, “Do you regret having dogs?” And, yes while sometimes it is hard to wake up in the morning and trek out into the snow with them, our puppies are very much a part of our family and us. Life would not be the same without these little souls.

7. For our country. While not everyone is satisfied all of the time with the politics of the nation, in the end, we are lucky to live in a country that seeks to represent the people, that allows men and women to vote for its leaders, and that continues to evolve to fit the needs of its changing demographics.

8. For our friends. Living so far from our families is often lonely and without our friends we would be lost.  The ladies and gents of our life here in Boston continue to remind us of how lucky we are to have made a surrogate family here.

9. For our state. There is something about New England that calls to my soul. Perhaps it is the history of this space or the people or the scenery or everything! I am proud to live in a state that offers the charms of the beach and the mountains and that is open to accept the love of all people regardless of the gender of their partner.

10. For my education. My parents have instilled in me the importance of education and using this gift towards not only advancing oneself but one’s community.  I am honored that my parents invested their time and hard earned money so that I could attend my dream college and be exposed to the experiences that led me to today.

11. For creativity. Our brains are powerful, unique, and talented. When given the space and the inspiration, its creative powers can be utilized to help the community and solve world problems. When we work together our creativity does so much good.

12. For hobbies. This is a luxury and the ability to change hobbies, invest in interests, and spend time getting to know one’s inner talents  is a gift.

13. For the internet. I have more computing power in my fingertips today than people had a generation ago. The ability to connect with individuals around the world, to share experiences, news, and information across global boundaries is incredible. Freedom of information is central to the progress of humanity.

14. For our travels. Being able to take time to visit other countries from Italy to France to Canada to Costa Rica has broadened our horizons.  Experiencing new cultures and sharing in the life experiences of new communities is indescribable and I wish we could do it even more often!

15. For our nieces and nephews. Yes, I thanked our families earlier, but I wanted to make a special shout out to our littles.  It is so amazing to watch our siblings turn from brothers to fathers and the littles bring a completely new life experiences to us.

16. For standing on the top of mountains. When we hike to the top of a small summit the view is breathtaking and reminds us of how lucky we are to be alive, and how we need to continue to protect our planet and its environment.

17. For being able to laugh. They say that laughter is the best medicine and being able to take a moment to be goofy each day keeps us not only sane but reasonable =)

18. For being financially secure. This is a precarious state of being in our times. It is very important for us to be thankful that right now we have made good and sometimes just plain lucky decisions that have lead us to a stable place.

19. For Pad Thai.  Mmmm this is a little frivolous but I am so thankful for my favorite food and for sharing it during mealtimes with friends and family.

20. For science. Without science many of the medical advances that have extended the duration and quality of our lives would not be present today. Similarly, it is important to continue to invest in the sciences and in science education as we begin to confront the challenges that will face us and our planet in the future.

21. For volunteers. Taking time out of our busy lives is not easy. For those who do so, I am thankful for your work with animals, the elderly, the kids, the poor, the sick, those in need, and the many other places that need a few more hands on deck in order to raise the quality of life for someone or something greater than just oneself.

22. For our servicemen. To volunteer for combat and to possibly give one’s life for your country and for the safety of its people is the ultimate sacrifice.  Thank you to all of our troops who are serving around the global this holiday season and everyday so that we can live comfortably and securely at home.

And thank you for reading this post and encouraging me to continue at this blogging thing!

guerrilla education part II

Earlier this week, my students began work on a design thinking project. When you ask teachers who have tried these in their own classroom for advice, the advice can be quite vague and frustrating.  The general counsel given is typically, “It is like riding a bicycle, you can not really describe how to do it.  You just have to get on the bike and give it a try.” Having a type A personality does lend itself to this proposal well. With great trepidation, I waded into the waters of design thinking.  The project prompt dealt with current issues facing Latin America.  We spent almost two weeks studying a variety of revolutions, movements, and issues facing this region since 1945.  Then it was time for me to sit down, sit back, and let the students take hold of their learning.  While I gave feedback liberally, I avoided giving too many details on “what to do” in order to avoid doing the creative heavy lifting for them. The results were surprising. My students spent more focused time working on these assignments than on any other project we have done all year!  Similarly, yesterday when the projects were installed in the various public spaces around campus, they stayed with their installations longer than expected answering questions and pinning for a larger audience. Lastly, when they presented their project and findings to the class, the listeners asked more deep thinking critical questions to the presenters than ever before. Overall, design thinking was a MAJOR success!!  My students remarked that they wanted to do these types of projects again.  And, a few curious students came around to me during the installations to ask if they would be able to do something similar in their own classes.

Yes, guerrilla education or “design thinking” is not completely seamless.  Yes, I had to very active in watching their planning and execution of their ideas. Yes, I had to remind them of due dates, project components, and the “reason” behind what they were doing. BUT, I would have had to do this for any project.  It felt different but overall the students still needed support.  I guess I went into thinking that the students would be able to handle all of the executive functioning of the project on their own as design thinking’s focus is to have the student own and control their learning process.  This was an unfair assumption because they are still kids who need to learn these skills.  Once I held a more realistic balance between letting the reins totally loose and checking in regularly on their targets, the projects worked. The response alone from my students to being active, to creating, to engaging a larger audience has convinced me that when done well, when thought out, when planned, and when given the space for students to tap into their creativity and interest, design thinking works smashingly well!

The fingerprint project and the border control project images as evidence that this actually happened.

weeknight pasta with pancetta and peas

One of my favorite meals to cook on a weeknight comes from The Newlywed Cookbook which we received as a wedding gift from our registry with Crate&Barrel.  When we added this book to our registry, we had never in fact seen it nor browsed its recipes.  Rather we fell in love with the cuteness of such a book title (yes, we judged a book by its cover). Luckily, it turned out to be a major hit!  This recipe in particular has been in the family rotation quite often. With simple ingredients it is hard to avoid whipping this up every week! Pancetta, linguine, white wine, sage, bread crumbs, garlic, and olive oil combine in this dish and unleash a delightful and delicate flavor profile.