Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Microwave nori and kale

A few years ago, a mom shared her kids' favorite way to eat kale - chips. I was familiar with kale chips, having made them in a dehydrator and having them eaten all up in a sitting (sometimes by me). So when she told me she just made them everyday in 3 minutes, I was intrigued.

The recipe is simple:
Wash and stem kale. Tear into pieces.
Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
Arrange in a single layer on a plate and microwave for 3 minutes.
3 minutes on high - no less, no more. Less leads to limp non-chippy kale, and more can mean burning. 

This has been my go-to for instant kale chips when we want them. But the other thing my kids love is nori - you know, the toasted, seasoned seaweed goodness enjoyed in lunches everywhere. It comes impeccably packaged in a plastic tray and then a non-recyclable shiny outer layer, complete with disposable desiccant packet. Certainly delicious, and certainly unsustainable. 

In my search for a homemade/less wasteful solution, I have tried toasting nori in the oven after coating with oil, or a combination of soy sauce and oil. I have tried toasting it lightly over my gas stove, watching as it curls. These are fine, but the former often leads to burned nori, and the latter can singe either my fingers or result in a powdery mess when cutting.

Enter the kale chip method - a simple untoasted sheet of nori, drizzled with sesame oil, brushed across, then a tiny drizzle of soy sauce, brushed on. Microwave high for a minute (or less). It stays mostly flat, so it can be cut with kitchen shears into rectangles for lunch. No burning in sight, and as my kids and the empty jar can attest - delicious!

I have yet to try wasabi or other seasonings, but nori sheets are available in packages of 10 so I'm sure more flavors are in our future!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Jilebi, masala oats, and being away

I haven't been on here for a few reasons: the world has exploded with things vegan and green - you can find pretty much anything with a simple search and the options are numerous. What could I possibly offer that isn't already out there?

For example, this Diwali, my dad suggested we make jilebi - it happens to be mostly inherently vegan, and is my daughter's (and his) favorite Indian sweet to boot. It's one of those sweets that you think you can never make at home, until you do. We followed this recipe, for the most part, substituting diluted vegan cream cheese for the yogurt. We could easily have chosen a really vegan one (240 results for "vegan jalebi recipe"). 

Many sites suggest using a ketchup squeeze bottle for making them, which I highly recommend (you may need to cut the tip wider for ease). It's also great for making fancy pancakes, and the kids can wield it with fewer drips.

All that to say that not much else is needed here, until I wanted to make some masala oats. Masala oats are curried spicy oats - an answer for someone like me,too used to sweet breakfasts and ready for something equally tempting on the savory side. Saffola makes a delicious masala oats mix, that tastes like the closest thing to South Indian comfort food for breakfast. The drawback? It is made with, of all things, whey! Not to mention the other preservatives and colors it may have which are not on the non-recyclable packet. 

Hence, a search for "vegan masala oats mix." Nada. Variations turn up plenty of fresh vegan recipes but they are not the kind you can make in advance and stir up when the mood strikes. So, a few hours of experimenting resulted in the following. It's likely too spicy/turmeric-ey/somethingy for you, so feel free to tweak. If I could find a nice dairy-free soy milk powder, I might use that in the future. Nutritional yeast works well in the meantime. Add fresh veggies to make it a nutritious meal you could serve the whole family for lunch. Store airtight. 

Vegan Masala Oats Mix

1 cup rolled oats, pulsed to break up (or quick oats)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp rasam powder, or 1.5 tsp each coriander powder, cumin powder OR 1 tbsp garam masala
1 1/2 tbsp sambar powder (less if you want it less spicy)
1 tbsp flax/almond/chia powder
1 tbsp tomato powder or powdered sundried tomatoes
3 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp curry leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp nutritional yeast
pinch cardamom
pinch cinnamon
optional add-ins: dehydrated vegetables, coconut powder, soy milk powder
1 tsp dried cilantro, optional

Mix all ingredients together, stirring well. Store in an airtight jar. 

Cook on the stove (or microwave), adding water or any milk to cover. Stir well to combine and serve warm.

I hope this brings you a new breakfast inspiration.

In the meantime, I've been gleaning my own inspiration from reading the book Simple Matters, and lately the accompanying blog by Erin Boyle. Certainly valuable for those interested in simplicity and sustainability. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pining away

My daughter found a magazine with a  pinecone craft, so she picked up an unopened one fallen from a neighbor's genuine pine tree (now that I can identify those) - we realized, this is where pine nuts come from!

A little bit of browsing later, we tried heating the cone on the gas stove (fail), followed by the oven at 170, then 250, then 350 degrees. About 20 minutes in, the aroma of pine wafted around the kitchen, and the cone blossomed in the oven. Bits of a sticky sap dripped onto the baking sheet.

We removed and cooled the cone, and tapped and banged the cone on the sheet - releasing fluttery wings with a dark end attached - the pine nut! We removed the wing and kept the dark seed. Each was much smaller than the store-bought kind, and getting the meat inside proved difficult - teeth worked, but smashing ended up with pine nut dust. A new appreciation for store-bought pine nuts!

We also found that the sticky sap hardened - it dawned on me that this is pine rosin. Yes, the stuff prized by string orchestra musicians worldwide. 

When we are done banging our pinecone and getting the last few pine nuts (we were able to recover about 50 from a single pinecone), we'll be filling them with sunflower or peanut butter and coating with seeds to make a bird feeder. We might plant a few of these "nuts," feed some to birds, and keep the rest to eat. The shells are traditionally powdered or made into a tincture in Russia, so perhaps we will try that, too.

So many uses for the humble pinecone. 

Friday, August 19, 2016


Part of being mindful is just watching. I see myself watching my kids. I see the receipt I forgot to say no to. I see myself crumpling it up and putting it in the recycle bin.

I pause. I remember the receipt is coated with BPA. I see myself pick it up and put it in the trash bin. I resolve to avoid more receipts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mindful anger

I got angry. My daughter was tired and cranky, and we were both hungry. We got home and found the driveway blocked, both yards covered with leaves and a big mess back there, along with the fact that the tree trimmers were not supposed to arrive yet.

I yelled. I railed at the world. Halfway through, I caught myself - here, this is anger. I'm really angry. I'm feeling it. This is me angry - a tightness in my chest, shoulders hunched, neck tight, brow furrowed, breath forced. Breathe - this is definitely less big a deal than the weight I give it now, but I'm not ready. I am enjoying my anger, this feeling of indignation, of "how could they?!"

Then I get perspective. Someone says, you know, those are nice guys, just talk to them. Someone says, don't yell at me. My daughter looks on in awe, wondering what is next. I sigh, I drift back down to earth. It's ok. It will be okay. It was okay. Here, now, we can get through this.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Jetlag and mindfulness

After travel, I lie awake in bed, unable to sleep.

This is jetlag - I tell myself, if I don't sleep now, I will nap during the day and the cycle won't end. The kids and my schedules will be off. I fear the chaos that may come.

Then I see, allow our bodies to rest. Even here in bed in the middle of the night, I can remember to be mindful. This is a good time to meditate as long as I want in bed, a time to sit and reflect, to just be aware of the busy-ness about me, to breathe and enjoy the silence of the night.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Mindful while sick

It is very difficult to be mindful while ill. Especially the congested sore throaty kind. With kids. On a plane. In the middle of the night.

Still, it offers an opportunity to rest, drink all the water I want and need, meditate, and not worry about the kids so much.

Avoiding the extra plastic is difficult as well, with all the disposables on board. We brought our water bottles to use, and some cloths to wipe hands, but the rest is as it is. Flying itself is the least green of travel choices, so we will offset this trip and plant some trees, then avoid air travel for a while!