Sunday, January 31, 2010

It helps to read the recipe first

A Louisiana black bear cub being relocated to a new home
Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Holtcamp

It helps to read the recipe first, apparently. It's technically transition day, when I'm supposed to have fresh-squeezed orange juice, and the veggie soup only but I couldn't help myself. In the evening, after the gym, I decided to try out a recipe I've been drooling over in the Vegetarian Times magazine, Oct 2009 issue: Chickpea Croquettes with Greek Salad Topping. I don't know what it is about chickpeas, but I have been craving them or days. Yesterday I forgot to mention that in addition to the two almoonds and one raisin, I ate about 6 chickpeas with salt on them. Yum!

I halved the recipe, because it called for one can of chickpeas, and I'd already used a half-can in the veggie soup so I had a half-can in the fridge. It's a good thing I halved it, since although they turned out good, I want to try the recipe using the water, instead of omitting it. They turned out a bit dry, and I think that may have been why...

Here's the recipe:

Greek Salad Topping (I omitted the cheese since I'm transitioning and wanted to use only non-dairy at this point. When I make it again, I am not going to use the vegan feta...but regular). :)
1 cucumber, quartered and sliced (1 cup)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 green onions, chopped
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled low-fat vegan feta cheese, optional

1 cup chickpea flour
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 green onions, chopped (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)

(I substituted rice flour because I couldn't find chickpea flour in bulk and I already had a bunch of rice flour. I also added a bit of leek because I was so excited about the leek chopping video, I just couldn't help myself. I had to try my newfound skills on the rest of the leek from yesterday. I used the final technique, quartering the leek, and then chopping fine. I also started chopping yellow bell pepper because I had one partly used in the fridge but then felt guilty so used a combo of red and yellow. I diced them up pretty fine but I think it would work better (more flavor detection) with a bit bigger chunks.

Notice there is no mention of 3/4 cup hot water?? Recipes should put that in the ingredient list! I have a tendency to skim the recipes, so hopefully I'll learn that lesson. I should've learned when I make Elissa's recipe for Beef Burgundy (from Mark's Daily Apple) on Halloween. It apparently had to bake two hours... so we didn't get to eat it until the next day but all the trick or treaters said it smelled amazing!

What you are supposed to do is whisk together the flour, cumin, chili powder and salt in a bowl (I already failed at this point, because I dumped in the chickpeas before stirring the flour and spices. Doh!). Whisk in 3/4 cup hot water (second fail!). Stir in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. I am using this brand new pepper grinder I got super cheap - like a couple bucks. It already had the pepercorns in it! I never had a peppercorn grinder before. I'm like a kid in a candy store! At any rate, then you put dollops of the mix into a skillet at medium heat coated with cooking spray like you're cooking pancakes. I have switched from cooking sprays to a oil mister, which has the same effect but without the "propellent." I got it 50% off at Randalls grocery store a few weeks ago, and I love it. I use olive oil in it.

Amazingly they cooked just fine, and taste good! Topped with the fresh cucumber and tomato - mmmm. I was slightly disappointed but I think the dryness was part of the problem. There was also a slightly bitter flavor but I think that was because my green onions (which I call chives but technically those are different I guess) are a couple weeks old. I think it will be really good with the feta cheese too! I look forward to trying this next week. I Only ate one small croquette, since it was my first solid food in 13 days, and I have three left over. I'd have made up a sauce or something to make up for the dryness but again only wanted to put pure vegetable stuff (very little fats, no dairy yet) in my body. If you try it, let me know what you think!

foodie blog one

A fence in central Texas at sunset
Copyright (c) 2005 Wendee Holtcamp

After thirteen days drinking a cayenne pepper-lemonade concoction and no food, you'll understand that I've been drooling over food the last few days. I've been reading Vegetarian Times magazines, and creating a list of yummy recipes. I only started doing the cleanse in 2006, which I blogged about in sisterhood of the lemonheads and weirdest place to put cayenne pepper, and I never thought I'd go more than a few days but to my surprise I made it nine days. You're supposed to do a minimum of ten days, but I thought nine was a-ok for me. I've used this cleanse in the past as a way to give up bad food habits, such as my old habit of drinking Diet Coke. I knew aspartame was bad for me, but I was addicted to the stuff. Not anymore! I haven't touched it since that first cleanse in 2006. I had thought I may have a gluten allergy at one point, and I gave up wheat, oats, and all gluten-containing products for over a year by first kick-starting that with the Master Cleanse. It's a good transition to a new healthy food lifestyle. And you lose a few pounds in the process! I've been working out nearly every single day at the gym, or walking or running, for the past month and am super proud of myself for that. I can thank Doug, who joined my gym and has been a huge motivating force.

I really wanted to make it to day 14, but when yesterday evening came around, I munched on an almond, slowly chewing it and delighting in each and every savory bit of flavor. And then I had a golden raisin. And then another almond. And I knew it was time. Time to transition back to regular food. I had been doing very good with extending my cleanse a few days past ten (yesterday was 13) and the transition is liquid and soup for a couple more days. So in a sense the cleanse aspect will continue through the transition.

I call the transition soup "Stone Soup" like the children's book! I put some filtered water in my crockpot, and then add whatever veggies I have on hand. This time, I threw in chopped celery (including leafy bits), chopped fresh cilantro, a chopped carrot, a bit of frozen spinach, frozen butter beans, frozen green peas, a half can of garbanzo beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes with green chiles. I also added about a half cup of millet and quinoa (combined) - two healthy whole grains. Then in a tiny bit of olive oil I sauteed some white onion, elephant garlic, and a half of a yellow bell pepper, and added this to the soup. (Just now I remembered to add some dried shiitake mushrooms). It's really a hodgepodge of stuff in there. For spices, I add hot curry powder, some turmeric (curry contains turmeric but it's super good for you so I added more), garlic powder, and salt. Then I let it cook in the crock overnight and through the day. Today for lunch I will have broth and tonight more in combination with fresh squeezed orange juice (organic of course) and more lemonade.

So after I created this creation and it had started brewing in my crockpot, I remembered I'd bought leeks at the grocery store for this very purpose. I had never bought or cooked with leeks before, but I knew that they sounded like they go in soups, right? So I got them out, and thought, what the heck do I DO with this thing? If you're not familiar with a leek, it's like a ginormous overgrown chive. With chives you just cut up and eat the green parts. With the leek, the leaves are tough, so I was clueless. Thank God for Google! I found a site that said to put a couple of the leaves in soup for flavoring. In fact you can create a bouquet garni, which is a little creation tying the leek leaves around cracked peppercorns and bay leaf (where's the Youtube video for that, I ask! sheesh), and then plopping that in your soup. The leek leaves didn't seem long enough to tie everything up (I later learned you're supposed to tie with string or something else but I was in a hurry because Doug was coming over so we could watch Seinfeld, a show I've never watched, believe it or not).

I knew the white bulb part of the leek could be used but I didn't know how far up the stem - in the "light green" part of the leek between the white bulb and the dark green leaves - I could go. So I just chopped a bit of the white bulb part and threw it in the soup. I saved the rest in my fridge, but I just found this video online "How to Chop a Leek" that I wish I'd seen last night! Apparently you can go about 5 or 6 inches up the leek from the bulb. One thing I'm glad I learned was that all the leaves hold a lot of dirt and grime so you really have to peel each of the leaves back and clean or you'll end up with dirty leeks in your food. I'll leave you with a video on how to chop a leek (unfortunately it doesn't show a good view of what a whole leek looks like). Another video on said that in soups he just cuts the leek part in half (3 inch pieces). He shows several different cutting techniques, which is cool.

I have made a list of vegetables I plan to use in various recipes. I've decided it doesn't totally count to use it as a part of a hodgepodge stone soup either. The recipe has to highlight that veggie prominently. I'm going to try to go mostly vegetarian again, and I have found a bunch of amazingly delicious recipes that I'm going to try out on my family, and when he's in town, Doug. Here's the veggie list in no particular order... drumroll....

Kohl rabi
Collard greens
Sweet potato
Bok choy
Green peas
Sugar snap peas
Mung bean sprouts
Brussel sprouts
Kabocha squash
Butternut squash
Acorn squash
Spaghetti squash
Yellow (summer) squash
Broccoli rahb
Jersalem artichoke (sunchoke)
Turnip greens

Note that while I generally love most things, and most veggies, a couple of these things I have absolutely hated my whole life. Those include green peas and brussel sprouts. And turnips and parsnips? Meh. I have already found a couple recipes with Brussel sprouts and green peas that look actually very good, so I'll keep ya posted!

Savannah and a friend on Halloween. I love this pic and never got to share it so am now!

Friday, January 29, 2010

An end of January hodgepodge

Ruby Beach, Washington on the Olympic peninsula
Copyright (c) 2008 Wendee Holtcamp

I hope to blog more frequently again (have I said that before?!) but I wanted to post before too much time got away. It's been a crazy January. It never slows down does it? This month I focused on my January resolution of clean-purge-simplify. It started in December, actually, but continued through the month. I focused on donating stuff to charity, and cleaning out drawers and closets (I generally keep the rest of my house pretty clean - thanks to my wonderful kiddos!) I can't say my whole house is spotless and decluttered, but I made huge progress. My bedroom closet is so spacious - I can see the back of it now! Likewise the closet in my office is a completely different space. So yay, I think I met my goal. In a future post, I will mention my February resolution but I have to make this quick as I'm about to head out the door to go to Body Pump at the gym.

With the surrender, clean, purge, I think God had some plans for my life I didn't like at all. I will reveal the details in time, but suffice it to say it is devastating (everyone is fine, don't worry). I am trying to place my trust in God, and work on my relationship with Him, rather than trying to do things on my own power, and I am very good at taking control of things that I should let go and let God!

I'm continuing with the 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse, which has been interesting but I think the most important thing I'm doing I just started this week. I started an Experiencing God Bible Study at my church. I got this book years ago, and tried doing it on my own but it really requires a small group setting. So when I heard my church was offering it, I jumped at the chance. And then I missed the first week. I tried to make it the second week. I decided I had too much on my plate. But then I thought it over and decided I would go. But then the third week, I was all set to go and I came down with a headcold right at the last minute! Excuses, excuses huh. So I went this week - yay me! And I am already being blessed in my walk with the Lord. I have started catching up in the workbook and starting to see synchronity happen again in my life - one way the Lord speaks to me!

For example I came across this story (in a couple forms) not once, but twice in the same week that the "bad thing" happened. When a friend received a promotion, Albert Camus would give his condolences warning that they might get stuck in complacency. When his friend lost his job, he would open a bottle of champagne and celebrate, because it would force them into new experiences they wouldn't have had otherwise. There's another version - it's a Buddhist parable I believe. I'll try to find it.

I am on day 12 of the Master Cleanse, which is part of my January clean-purge mode. I will be finishing it soon and got a couple Vegetarian Times magazines from the library and am uber-excited about trying some amazing recipes!! In fact, and I credit my Montana friend Elissa with this, I have started a list of veggies to use in recipes - everything from kabocha squash to kohlrabi! I was thinking about maybe doing some foodie stuff with this blog, and talking about the recipes I try. I love cooking and it's becoming more and more a passion of mine. I'm an on-again off-again vegetarian and I am going to TRY to minimize meat consumption, especially if it's not organic or humanely raised. I have become much more aware of food issues since doing my Animal Planet blog! Well I better get off to the gym!

Friday, January 22, 2010

consciousness cleanse

Peruvian Amazon rainforest along the River Madre de Dios
Copyright (c) Wendee Holtcamp 2006

I'm using my old desktop computer, which actually is not that old, but it is slow as a slug, and the keyboard is incredibly annoying. I had to mail my laptop off for repairs. Everything is falling apart it seems - my trusty Subaru had to be taken down for work yesterday too. It was getting awfully loud, and I thought it was just age. But turns out the wheel bearings were so bad that I was lucky it didn't just lock up on me. I only brought it down on a whim. Glad I did!

I have started doing the 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse, and the coolest thing is that I got several friends to do it alongside me, so we're all sharing our experiences. The Consciousness Cleanse is based on a new book by one of my favorite authors, Debbie Ford. There are online meditations and readings, but I got the book from my library and it's got some additional reading material. On the first day, which we did yesterday, you sort of come up with what area of your life most needs your focus, and to create an inner and outer goal to help you achieve it.

The audio meditation allows you to sort of think through and figure out what feeling you would have inside were that dream to come true to your wildest imaginings. I initially thought of financial success. Which is so unlike me, because I have always sort of despised people who have a lot of money. Maybe despised isn't the right word. Distrusted, maybe? It's like I have issues with people who seek money for money's sake and because of my own upbringing (I had a hippie dad, what can I say) I had/have some negative associations with money.

Yet I have always been extremely responsible with money, and done well for myself but the last year was tough on me financially. Hence the new focus. I have a future I need to save for. And I want to come to grips with the fact that not all wealthy people are selfish or greedy, but that is just a semi-conscious mental attitude I picked up along the way. And maybe a little bit of envy. But in my ponderings and such on this goal, I realized that what I really want is to make a difference, and I feel if I had wealth or greater success I could do more good the world. There's so much I dream of doing that is just impossible without the money to do it. And it brought me back to my book, and dreaming of its success. And wanting it to make a difference in terms of getting the message out there that God is love, and God is truth, and that science reveals truth about the natural world, God's creation, and science and faith are fully compatible! And all this brought me back to the fact that because of financial struggle I don't feel as much joy and passion for my work, which sometimes keeps me from giving my 100% attention to it as I should. The writing becomes more of a struggle, something that has to be done, rather than a true joy. And I crave that passion again for my work, for whatever I do. So that is what I'm working towards.

I started smiling at everyone I meet. It is amazing how by giving a smile, you can bring joy to them, and back to you. Just a simple little thing. And I've noticed a little more spring in my step the last few days. So that's where I'm at, and some of the things on my mind and heart lately! What's new with you? Leave a comment! ;)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

turn and face the strange ch-ch-ch-changes

Sunset over Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
Copyright (c) 1999 Wendee Holtcamp

Still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was runnin wild
A million dead end streets and
Every time I thought I got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me

- David Bowie, Changes

Some changes are going on in my life, and thought I can't yet really talk about them yet I will soon! I am excited about the changes, and can't wait to share more. Of course, much of it is still up in the air, which is why I can't spill any beans. I can share this change, though: Starting this month, I will be writing my Animal Planet "Animals in the News" blog only once per week instead of five times per week now. I'll post every Monday. Please still stop by and read and leave comments - I love comments!

I also have been going through my house and really getting rid of so much stuff! I have donated car-loads full of stuff, and have been going through file cabinets and recycling many scientific papers I had gathered during my many years of grad school, and other old files and papers. I hadn't gone through some of this stuff in decades! I cleaned out my office and my bedroom closets, and some drawers (still more to go) and it feels symbolic. In the process I unearthed my boxes of slides from the pre-digital era of photography and one of these days soon I'd like to buy myself a slide scanner and get some of them online and perhaps start marketing my photography a bit more. Speaking of photography I took that photo in Costa Rica during one of the most exciting times in my professional life, while on assignment for Discovery Channel (Love & Death on Turtle Beach) and writing about leatherback turtles. I remember feeling so very alive! I put a framed copy of that photo in a frame in my bathroom to remind me of that feeling, 'out there under the stars, surf roaring furiously'...

I have tried to think up some New Year's resolutions (other than the standard one for the last couple years which is to love the Lord God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind) but nothing has really stuck yet. I did drag out my gratitude journal again, something I do on an on-again, off-again fashion. When I'm writing in it, I try to write down five things I'm grateful for that day. I also started re-reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's awesome Simple Abundance daybook, which is where I got the idea for a gratitude journal in the first place, years ago! I may try to start meditating for 10 minutes per morning but so far I've only done that once this year, so I'm not quite sure that should be my resolution...

Do any of you have any resolutions? Any in the past you have been able to keep and implement into your life?

As for the rest of my life, I am in the process of tweaking my book chapters with my editor at Beacon, and trying to get caught up on some articles and other things before the ch-ch-ch-changes. As always, it's a bit crazy busy around here! I am staring at my dry and crispy Christmas tree, which desperately begs to be taken down... but I love having my tree up more than anything! It makes the house look so vibrant and festive. My kitties are giving me some company now as I sit on the couch writing this, but I have some other work to do before the night is through, so I'll simply point you to my latest articles!

  • My BioScience magazine feature on pikas, the little cute mammals that live on the rocky talus slops in the West and are threatened by climate change, Silence of the Pikas recently came out in their January 2010 issue, just in time for the announcement by the US Fish & Wildlife Service on whether they'll be a federally threatened species.
  • Mimicking Mother Nature: Scientists and entrepreneurs are increasingly borrowing concepts from the natural world to help them create better, more sustainable products. National Wildlife Magazine. Dec/Jan 2010.
  • The essay I originally wrote for OnEarth Magazine, My 30 days of Consumer Celibacy, appears as a chapter in the book Consumerism: Opposing Viewpoints