Experimental spaghetti sauce, take 2

Years ago, I attended a few interesting workshops put on by a friend of my mother’s.  And one of those workshops was on healthy eating.  The ladies, I believe, were Seventh Day Adventists who, as I understand it, are recommended to be vegetarian, or otherwise to observe the kosher laws of Leviticus.  In this workshop, they were encouraging eating whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, etc.  And they talked about the use of walnuts for protein.

Now, I knew already that walnuts are a good source of lots of things (though, like most nuts, have a high fat content), but I had never considered using them as the protein in a cooked dish like… spaghetti sauce.

Yes, they were recommending using ground walnuts instead of, well, ground beef, or in my case – veggie ground round.

I remembered this not too long ago, and thought I would give it a shot.  The ladies never did send me a recipe, but frankly, I’m confident enough in the kitchen to experiment.

My boyfriend and I are trying to cut down on the super processed things in our diets, and unfortunately, a lot of the soy products are extremely processed and have tons of additives.  They are useful for a veg just starting out, to build confidence and not have them rely on cheese for protein all the time, but after a while, it’s more like you’re a junkfood-etarian rather than veg.

So, for experiment one – I picked up some walnuts (they are kind of expensive so I may end up experimenting with other nuts or more mixed ones) and ground them up in my little hand-cranked food processor (yes, it doesn’t have an electrical cord).  I toasted the ground up walnuts in a dry fry pan to just give them a bit of a toasty flavour and then set them aside.  I had also picked up some portobello mushrooms because they are delicious.  Also because they are meaty.  I chopped them up and tossed them in the pot with some onion and garlic (of course) and let them sautee a little bit.  Then I added the tomato sauce and the walnuts.

Well… The toasty walnuts kind of overpowered the tomato flavour, so I had to add some tomato paste, and spices, which didn’t really help.  In the end, I just kind of went with it.  Also, there was an unfortunate portobello-ing of the colour.  I’m not prone to remove the gills on mushrooms because they’re just as edible.  But this kind of turned the sauce a brownish colour.  Not very red-spaghetti like.  But despite all of this, it was tasty enough and I figured out some things I’d do differently next time.

Tonight was that Next Time.  Experiment two – I ground up fewer walnuts than before and did not toast them.  I used half an onion, one clove of garlic, and cremini mushrooms, sliced, instead of portobellos.  I sauteed them until the mushrooms were a little soft and had released some of their juices, and then added the sauce and the walnuts.

The tomato sauce stayed pretty red.  The walnut flavour didn’t overwhelm.  I didn’t add any spices this time either, except for a bit of fresh ground black/green/white/pink pepper overtop of the sauteeing onions and garlic (pre-mushroom).  Pretty good!

20130827-210252.jpg

Next time, I might use more walnuts and a bit of spice (oregano etc.) but all in all, a good second attempt.  Thanks to those ladies for an interesting option!

More travels

Ahhh… My boyfriend and I are just back from a relaxing and wonderful long weekend, mini-vacation to Stratford, Ontario, where we ate good food, drank loads of alcohol and watched two Shakespearian plays – Romeo and Juliet and Othello.

Stratford is a lovely little town in southern Ontario, and we have gone there to watch Shakespeare three years in a row now. Luckily, we both love theatre, Shakespeare especially.

We each took Friday off and we drove down, through Toronto. Traffic was actually pretty good, considering. And Friday night, we just let ourselves relax. We went to one of our favourite restaurants – Fellini’s (where we realized that neither of us remember having seen a Fellini film in actuality). They have Hob Nob Pinot Noir by the bottle, and a delicious appetizer of marinated olives (with sundried tomatoes) and hummus and pita. They also have limoncello…

Saturday was R&J, in the evening, so we had the whole day to do even *more* relaxing. I managed not to fill our day up with things to do and let myself relax too. We wandered around town, poking into some of the stores but we didn’t end up buying anything. Which was nice. I commented to my boyfriend, as we had just passed two ladies with two shopping bags each, that I wondered whether those ladies had actually wanted to buy those things or if they’d bought something just to pass the time.

We wandered by the Avon…

20130826-205730.jpg

And we saw ducks and swans and geese, all enjoying the water and free tourist food.

20130826-205854.jpg
This one was pretty big…

We ate at Pazzo that night, in the cellar/pizzeria. We really lucked out to get a table, I think, because the place filled up quickly right after we sat down. The upstairs is a fancier dining experience and the downstairs is more like a really good restaurant, where you get to sit in their wine cellar, or near their wood-fired, thin crust pizza oven. We had delicious food and a bottle of Californian Zinfandel (though not my favourite one). Then we headed off to R&J.

They did it in period costume with rapiers (okay, autocorrect – really? rapiers turns to rappers? It’s like you don’t even *know* me…). Juliet did a good job evoking the “Eeeeee!!! He’s so dreamy!!!” And Romeo did a good job with the melodramatic and rash young man role. They broke the third wall and were interacting with the crowd a bit – it would be nice if one of these times, we could get them not to kill themselves…

Sunday was Othello. Not one of my favourites of Shakespeare’s plays but one I hadn’t seen yet. Wow. It was intense and Iago is a very, VERY bad man. It was also in period dress with rapiers, and I’m sure Othello needed a soothing lozenge between Acts because of the way he yelled and growled so… I couldn’t help but think that, again, all of this could have been avoided with some effective communication between the parties involved. Let that be a lesson, boys and girls – before you murder your significant other based on the rumours of someone else, have a real honest conversation with your dearest to prevent, well, a murder-suicide.

I really did appreciate the utter relaxation we had to do. :) And only a week until my next long weekend.

My poem

A bit of reviewing of my writing going on the past couple of days, I guess. Here’s a poem I started writing a few months ago as I was walking – I spend a lot of time writing in my head as I walk.

*************************************
My poem

I walk across parking lots.
I cut through flower beds.
I let my dog stop to smell almost everything.
I smile and wink at babies.
I don’t need coffee.

I am a chipper morning person.
I am a night owl revelling in the dark.
I look up at the stars and say hi.
I talk to the animals.
I believe in magic.

I want to help people heal.
I want to teach people to think.
I want to teach people to breathe.

I like wearing my hair short and punky.
I like wearing scarves.
I would dress like a gypsy all the time,
Except that I sometimes want to dress like a rocker chick,
And other times I want to dress in business casual.

I love the idea of a cottage in the woods
With a garden and a studio.
Lots of natural light, lots of natural air.

I like being able to walk places.
I like the smell and taste of coffee.
I prefer to walk on the grass, not the sidewalk.
I love to cook.
I love to nurture.

I love the world.
I like the idea of the apocalypse,
Of the destruction of civilization.
I struggle with deep questions.

I love my family and want to protect them.
My pets are my friends.
My friends are a part of my family.

I occasionally want to eat meat,
Until I really smell it, and then the sourness of it hits me.

I am constantly battling lethargy.
I am harder on myself than anyone else.
I am constantly seeking balance,
Neither too gentle and lazy,
Nor too harsh and strict,
A balance of loving-concern and self-care to be healthy.
Like a pendulum, sometimes it swings too far
And I must struggle to catch it.

I have so much I want to do.
And the best and worst part
Is that I have limited time in which to do it.

Best because it’s valuable when I dedicate time to it.

Worst because I have to choose one thing at a time.

This is My Poem.

Turtle Pearls

I found a little short story last night, three ripped out pages stuck at the end of the top shelf of one of my bookcases.  I read it through, and I thought – I want to post this.  I’ll edit it as I type it in, but here is a story I wrote I’m-not-sure-how long ago.

*******************************

The council of elders came together on the silvery sand as they did every year.  They had traveled far to get there, but they always did.  The tribe gathered and hushed as the eldest raised her leathery and lined, yet proud, head to speak.

“I have been coming to this sacred place for over two hundred years,” she intoned, “We all know the struggle through the sand, the terror of the first run to the water’s edge, the truth in the ocean of life and death.”

Murmurs of acknowledgement rippled through the assembly.  Heads bobbed in agreement.

“We all gather to bring another circle into being, with the recognition of the firstlings who have survived their first year in the ocean as full members of the tribe now,” she inclined her head to the small sea turtles amongst the group.

“Guided by the ocean, the elders have prepared a special gift of truth for the tribe this circle.  Although we are far flung, we communicate through the waves, and we know the circle of truth.”

The seven elders pulled themselves into a half circle before the assembly, some more slowly and creaking than the others.  The stars shone overhead, and the moon was new, shedding no light on this secretive meeting.

“We, the elders,” stated the eldest male, “Have brought you gifts from the deepest wells of the ocean.”

With that, each elder laid a solitary pearl on the sand before them.  There were seven distinct, beautiful pearls.  Each was a different shade – silver, gold, white, blue, pink, yellow and black.  They shone with an internal, unearthly glow.  The rest of the sea turtles gasped, for never in their collective memories had one of the sea tribes received such a gift.

“These pearls were given to our tribe by the ocean herself,” the eldest said gravely, “She is concerned for us, thus these are no ordinary pearls.  These are pearls of wisdom, and of protection.  They are from every corner of the ocean.  We spent much time this circle seeking out these pearls to bring them back for this gathering.”

One of the youngest turtles shuffled forward to ask a question.

“Yes, firstling, what is your question?”

“Please, Grandmother, but where are we to keep these treasures safe?  For, since they are a gift from the ocean, we must take care for them.”

“Indeed, you are wise already.  We mean to place them in the cauldron which marks the entrance to this sacred place.  From there, they will protect and guide each of our hearts, as they rest at the heart of our birthing ground.  For where is there more truth than here, where the circle is complete?”

The eldest angled her head, listening for a moment to a voice only she could hear, then turned her weary ancient eyes to behold her children, grandchildren and kin.

“Now the ocean calls.  So I must call upon the eighth eldest to come forward.”

A scarred, grey-green, beautiful sea turtle pulled herself heavily forth from the parting crowd.

“Sister, cousin, kin – I am here,” her voice flowed strongly from within her shell.

“Sister, cousin, kin – I greet you.  Take my place as I took my brother’s place.  Help counsel and guide our tribe.  Protect them.  And keep the truth, the circle, complete,” she bobbed her head, greeting and anointing her replacement.

“I will, sister.  May the ocean keep you.  Watch over us from your place among the ancestors.”

“Thank you.  And may the ocean keep you in wisdom and courage.”

The eldest surveyed her kin once more, “And may the ocean keep you all in wisdom and courage, and truth.”

“Sister,” said the second eldest, “Before you go to the ocean, will you take the pearls to the cauldron?  Or at the least, lead us all?”

“I should be honoured, my brother.”

With that, the slow procession solemnly followed the eldest as she slipped into the water and gracefully glided through the darkness, leading them unerringly to the cauldron – a natural hollow in the reef surrounding the birthing grounds.

Each of the elders carefully placed their pearls in the cauldron, and the eldest placed hers on the top of the pile, gleaming silver.  The collection glowed brightly and the tribe felt peace within their hearts.

“Now, I must complete my circle.  Be safe, my kin, my tribe.  I shall watch over you with the ancestors.”

With that, the eldest began her pilgrimage back to the depths of the ocean.

All the assembly meditated for a moment on the completion of another circle in their tribe.  Like a chain stretching back through time, every circle created a new link in the protective line of ancestors watching over the tribe.  Every generation had a circle as well.  With the complexity of a fractal, the tribal lineage could be traced back for thousands of years, to when the Earth was much younger.

The pearls glowed, throbbing like the heartbeat of the tribe, as the sea turtles turned to begin another circle.  The wise firstling cast another long look at the cauldron.  She bowed low to the pearls, honouring the gift of the ocean.  She was turning to follow the tribe when a deep voice whispered to her, “Mark them well, my child, for you will one day have a great task.”

The tribe was protected and prospered over the years.  And every new generation was greeted by the elders, introduced to the cauldron and shown the pearls, which shone just as brightly as they did the first day they were placed there.

A few updates

Sorry, guys.  It’s been a while.  July is generally crazy busy for me, and this July was no exception.

I did my slideshow at work, and I got some very complimentary reviews of my dSLR photos.  So I admitted to one of my friends that I’m hoping to do a show at “my local” pub.  I just need to contact the new artistic director there and see if she would like to display my photos.  I should get on that…

Then it was my birthday – I had thought to have an open house at my place to show my friends some of the paintings I’d done over my nine weeks off.  But it was sweltering hot in here for the week leading up to my birthday, so I opted not to spend my time sweating over a stove preparing food and cleaning my house, and instead went for a hike in Gatineau Park with my boyfriend, his brother, sister-in-law and our nephew (who didn’t hike so much as ride).  It was great, even with me tripping on a divot on the paved pathway to the head of the trail and skinning both of my knees right off the bat.  *sigh*  They don’t call me Klutzapalooza for nothing.  I kept right on hiking though, with my bloody knees and shin, because I’m badass like that.  And it was so worth it – so many lovely nature interactions that day – toads, garter snake, heron, woodpecker, deer…  After the hike, we were famished and we went to Cafe Soupe’Herbe in Chelsea, QC, for delicious, delicious vegetarian food.

Deer photobombing my heron picture.

Deer photobombing my heron picture.

She came up to the trail and crossed it behind us.

She came up to the trail and crossed it behind us.

Currently, this is my long weekend of nothing – no plans, not rushing around, just relaxing and not over-programming myself.  Sure, we go out and do things if it catches our fancy, but I don’t have anywhere I *have* to be.

Oh, and I tried a neti pot for the first time.  It was one of the purifications that we learned about in yoga and I was not excited to try it.  You see, I almost drowned twice as a kid (once, the neighbour’s kid was holding my head underwater in my little turtle wading pool in the backyard; the second time, because I was trying to touch the bottom of the pool like some of the other kids and I wasn’t strong enough to kick to the surface), and that led to a fear of water that I had to work through as a slightly older kid.  And water up your nose is never a great feeling anyway.  But I tried it, and the sensation was a momentary “Uh, that’s usually reason to panic” but I made it.  I poured the entire one cup of saline water through both nostrils letting it pour (or drip…) out the other nostril.  Apparently I need to work on my right to left, because the flow is not as easy.  And I just did it again this morning.  Then again, I did have a dream this morning that something green, slimy and sentient was stuck in my sinuses and wouldn’t come out.  I don’t know – the subconscious is a weird place.  Maybe because we went to see Pacific Rim the other night, who knows…  Will I continue to use the neti pot?  I’ll keep trying it out.  It does makes your head feel clearer afterwards.

So, heading in to August and it’s cooled down dramatically.  Weekends don’t look quite as hectic, but I have something written down for three of the remaining four weekends.  But not two things each weekend, so that’s nice.

************************************

One of the things I remembered that I wanted to write down was about Irish veggie burgers.  Here, our veggie burgers are usually tofu, soy or some sort of bean/frozen vegetable mix (those are not my favourite).  But there was one night that I came back to my first B&B and my host had indicated there was a “chipper” down the way, so I thought I’d try it out.

So veggie burger and fries at the chipper, where the fellow was watching the somewhat violent football match (soccer, for those not in the know).  The veggie patty was covered in a golden brown breading type coating – deep fried.  Biting into it, you realize that it’s made of mashed potato, creamy and hot, with little jewels of veggies studding it.  Yum.

I ended up stopping at an Irish fast food place, Supermac’s, the day I was driving to Northern Ireland, after hiking up to Carrowkeel Neolithic Cemetery, and got a veggie burger there – the same kind.  It’s really interesting.  I have reams and reams of recipes on how to make homemade veggie burgers, and they focus on beans and mushrooms (I have a decadent mushroom burger recipe… drool).  But I can’t recall any that recommends making a veggie burger with mashed potato and veggies only.  Maybe something to try – I don’t have a deep fryer (and I don’t want one…) but I am a fan of potatoes.

************************************

Also, if you have an hour to spend, I’d recommend watching this video by NutritionFacts.  While I recommend you exercise your critical thinking about it as well, it is a really interesting talk by a doctor about how nutrition can impact (and reverse the damage leading to) the top causes of death in the Western world.  Probably nothing you haven’t heard before, but he actually flashes up some research (granted, some of it was quite dated) and it’s nice to have a personable doctor interpreting it rather than media.