Sunday, May 30, 2010

You Win Some…You Lose Some

Since 9/11 I have been a faithful blood donor.   Every eight weeks, like clockwork, I would show up at the blood bank to donate blood.  It was an easy way for me to “do  my part.”

But a few years ago, I began to be rejected for low  iron.  It began to be a complete roll of the dice every time I went….would my iron make it? 

Soon every time I went, as soon as they sat me down for the history I would tell them to just go ahead and check the iron right away as it would be the deciding factor on where we were going. 

I would suffer the little fingerstick and the squeezing of my poor finger until it turned purple and filled a small tube full of blood …and then the telling moment where the technician would plop a drop of my blood into a little fluid-filled vial.  The story was usually the same, we would watch, our eyes riveted to the blood drop, me holding my breath, as we waited for that drop of blood  sample to sink, passing me through to the next phase of blood donation….or not as was  usually the case.   For a long period of time (nearly two years), my little blood drops tended to float not sink…or perform a great tease, dropping almost but not quite all the way down, then slowly make their way back up, stopping to hover somewhere in the middle of the jar, suspended in limbo, not going down….but not going all the way up either.

At this point they would take the little tube and stick in a centrifuge to run a manual count on my iron level.  The magic number was 37.  37 or higher and I was in…any lower and I was OUT!  Usually I would end up somewhere between 34 and 36, with the occasional jackpot of a 37…or close enough to the 37 mark that they would pass me along.

It finally got to the point that even after spinning my blood I was rejected more than I was accepted.  And after a period of time I just gave up. 

Fast forward to the present where I have been  eating far healthier than I ever have in my life.  I drink my Amazing Grass shakes pumped up with spinach..sometimes raw, sometimes steamed.   And I eat lots of beans, broccoli, oatmeal and other iron-rich foods.  

I decided it was finally time to give it another try and headed back to the blood bank.  

This week I made sure I drank my Amazing Grass shakes daily, and steamed the spinach to get the iron.   I also added peaches, with vitamin C, to the shakes to help with the iron absorption.

In addition to this, Tuesday night’s dinner was heavy with lentils, an iron-rich legume,  as I ate a nice helping of my lentil salad, and Wednesday I had my chickpea and spinach stir-fry. 

Thursday morning was the day and I knew I was fortified and ready to go!

FabTeen went along with me for company..not to give blood himself. 

I hadn’t made an appointment, but sadly they are usually not too busy and welcome walk-ins.       DSCF3746FabTeen waited in the waiting area while they whisked me into the office to do my intake…and perform the all-telling iron test!DSCF3747 DSCF3748 DSCF3749As usual  I had them perform the fingerstick first…and he didn’t even drop it into the vial, he immediately walked it out to the centrifuge to check it that way while I waited…DSCF3750End result????   I FINALLY PASSED!  barely with an iron of 38 (remember I needed 37 as the minimum) but at least I passed!

From there he completed the rest of the questionnaire, took my blood  pressure (a  very nice 100/70, thank you very much), pulse, and temperature.DSCF3754After all of the preliminary testing, I was passed on to the “other side” where they actually take the blood!

I had chit-chatted with the guy quite a bit before getting to this point, and it turns out he is vegetarian as well.  I told him about the organic produce box and encouraged him to sign up!DSCF3757I have given blood many, many times in my life and I have never felt nervous…but for the first time this  guy made me nervous!  I even asked him if he was sure he knew how to do it!

He just seemed so hesitant and unsure about it…and right before he stuck the needle in me he kept talking and dragging it out!  First he said, “okay now,”  and I expected him to do it…then “here we go” and I expected him to do it…then “just about ready,” and a few more other things before he finally stuck me!  All his talking made me wonder who he was getting ready…me…or HIM!  And that made me really unsure!

When he finally put it in though, it was so smooth I barely felt it!  I had worried for nothing…DSCF3758 DSCF3759  They took  several vials of blood for testing……DSCF3761 DSCF3762 DSCF3763 And when FabTeen went to take a picture of me, rather than jumping out, the phlebotomist was happy to pose!DSCF3764 No big deal!DSCF3765 All ready to help somebody!DSCF3766 Afterwards, they give you a drink…I used to enjoy an ice cold coke afterwards but now I took water.  The guy next to me (he reminded me exactly of an older version of FabHubs) joked about them being all out of beer…so they whipped out a coupon for the pub next door, a pint for a pint, meaning we could each get a pint of beer for donating a pint of blood!  Cool!!

Then the guy asked for a t-shirt!  They always give a bunch of goodies when you give blood…but they only had one t-shirt.  I really didn’t want another one.  I have so many already and honestly I don’t wear them except for coloring my hair or other messy jobs, so I really didn’t care.   So the  guy offered it to me…but I said no thanks you take it, and he said no you take it, and we went back and forth a little bit…when the other phlebotomist who had the t-shirt asked if I would like a free movie pass instead.  Hmmm…t-shirt or free movie pass….HELLO!  Is there any question????  I so much rather the movie pass!!!  Score!

So I left with a pass for a pint of beer, a free movie ticket, a sticker, a pretty purple gauzy thing, a bottle of water, some Chex Mix, and lots of good feelings…because I was able to help somebody by donating blood AND because my iron was high enough that I could help somebody by donating blood!DSCF3760

DSCF3768 DSCF3772You can only donate every eight weeks…my next date is July 22.  Stay tuned…

Back at home I turned my sights on dinner!

I LOVE tofu….family not so much.  So I am on an endless quest to try to make  the tofu palatable for them!  I try to make it crispy and full of flavor.  So far I am a complete failure in this department…the only one who  likes it is still me.

But I had tofu ready and waiting, and a bunch of veggies I wanted to use up in a stir-fry, and set out on yet another mission to make FabHubs and FabTeen see the light!

First I dug out some yummy-sounding recipes…I stumbled upon one for tofu that sounded great…and another  for an easy stir-fry with miso that sounded great as well.   I had a new tub of miso that had been sitting in the fridge for way too long, and finally welcomed the opportunity to press it into service.

The recipe for the tofu came from Gliding Calm.  I followed it almost to a “T." (for tofu!)  

First though, I had read that tofu was a little less “spongy” if you froze and defrosted it…so that is what I did.  In advance I stuck it in the freezer, and then yesterday I took it out to thaw.  The only other exception was I used pumpkin pie spice instead of ginger, since I was out of ginger.  I sliced up the tofu, mixed the marinade ingredients together, and put everything in a baggy to marinate.DSCF3778

DSCF3776 The freezing business only seemed to make some of the pieces a little crumbly!  DSCF3779 DSCF3780 While my poor tofu was first marinating and then trying to crisp, I got to work on the rest of the dinner.  I cut up a bunch of veggies to get ready to stir-fry them.  What a colorful array!

I had yellow squash, carrot, portobello mushroom, broccoli, onion, and garlic…all from my wonderful organic produce box!  I love that weekly delivery!!DSCF3781 I made a delicious stir-fry sauce, adapting it from this one from FatFree Vegan. 

My miso was red, and I used rice wine vinegar instead of mirin.  I also was out of corn starch so I didn’t thicken my sauce.  I used honey as my sweetener…and  added extra to try to make it palatable  for FabHubs who is a big resistor of anything soy sauce related.  And of course my veggies were as above, whatever I had on hand!DSCF3784Then I got the brilliant idea to toast some sesame seeds to sprinkle on top of the final dish!DSCF3783  DSCF3785I also made some unpictured brown rice on the side to go with the stir-fry.  

Finally everything was cooked and assembled…


And what a disaster! 

The rice was totally mush!

The veggies were not crisp…they were also overdone!

The tofu was tough and chewy!

What a mess!  The sauce came out good though!

So not one of my best cooking efforts at all…but I think that happens to everybody at times.

I definitely got “The Look” from FabHubs and he did not have seconds.   FabStepson was the only other one home…but he ate it.

However FabTeen happily ate it as leftovers the next day, go figure!

I will still not give up on the tofu though! 

Do you have any tried and true hits for preparing tofu!  Please share!!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jewel’s Lentil Cilantro Salad

(currently I have no picture of the finished product!)

  • 1 16-ounce bag of lentils
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or more to taste)
  • 2 carrots, sliced thin
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or more to taste)
  • S&P to taste

Soak lentils in water for 2-3 hours.  Drain and put in pot with water to cover.  Bring to boil 10-20 minutes, until softened, but firm.

Drain and rinse with cool water.   Add other ingredients and toss.  Refrigerate to blend flavors.

Notes:  This is a very forgiving recipe.  If I am out of scallions I will use onions.  If I don’t have carrots I don’t add them.  I also prefer the red wine vinegar in this recipe, although balsamic or apple cider will work as well.

The mainstays are the lentils, cilantro, onions, tomatoes, and seasonings.  Add seasonings until you reach the desired flavor; you may want to add more or less oil and/or vinegar.

It is also delicious served warm.

DSCF3730    DSCF3729

Still Craving Fresh….and Fresh!

Tuesday night we had a court of honor at our scout meeting, with a pot luck dinner.  Each patrol is assigned a “category” of food to bring. 

Last court of honor our patrol was assigned dessert so that is what I brought.  But at dinner that night, nobody had brought salad or veggie side dishes and I ended up with almost nothing to eat!

This time I was taking no chances!

I was assigned a main dish and I was making sure it would be something I could happily eat if there was nothing else available!

So lentil  salad it was.  Now I totally expected (based on past experience when I bring healthy stuff) to have most of it left over.  But I didn’t care! 

I LOVE my lentil salad!

I planned ahead for this one, ordering an available add-on from my organic produce buying club that included a bunch of scallions and two bunches of cilantro.

Warning #1:  I was such a lousy photographer for this day!  I was too busy trying to get everything together and rushing around to get work done, food done, kids picked up, and to the ceremony on time!

Warning #2:  This is one of my “throw everything together” recipes with no measurements…it probably comes out differently each time I make it!

First I soaked a bag of lentils in water for most of the day, and then boiled them for about 15 minutes to soften them up.  I rinsed them off in cold water.DSCF3730Then I grabbed three (which later turned into four) scallions, a gorgeous tomato, a couple of carrots, and a handful of cilantro.  The scallion, even though fresh, was rooting already! (of course no picture of that!)  Gotta love those organics!DSCF3729I had FabTeen chop everything up and add it to the lentils.  Then we used red wine vinegar, some olive oil, and S&P to taste.  We placed it in the fridge for a few hours for the flavors to meld, although this lentil salad is delicious served warm as well.

Honestly it could have used a little more vinegar…but I hadn’t done a taste test towards the end and I was rushing.  I also meant to add a can of kidney beans…but that slipped by me too!

Needless to say the salad was a big hit!  Several people even asked me for the recipe!  It was soooo good! 

I absolutely love this salad and have been making a variation of it since FabTeen was born, but it has been a while since I have made it.   I think it is my new vegetarian (and vegan) Go-To potluck recipe dish though, as it is perfect for a side dish..but robust enough for a meal.

Of course that is where the pictures ended…no completed salad…no buffet picture, not even a picture of my plate!  Although at least I did manage to remember to take the more important photo of FabStepson receiving his merit badges!  (He is the not so hairy one)DSCF3731

Another major salad craving I have been having is for Sweet Annie’s massaged kale salad. 

Last week we had curly kale in the box and I was soooo craving it!  Sometime during the week I went to make it, and when I was washing it, I found some extra protein in my kale!DSCF3655 After four days in the fridge they were still wiggling away!  YUCK!

I picked through, soaked in vinegar, and rinsed the kale to death after that…but I just couldn’t bring myself to eat it raw.  I was satisfied that they were gone we had it sauteed for dinner that night.  But that still didn’t satisfy my kale craving.

So this week I also ordered the $5 leafy add on from the buying club, which included a big bunch of kale and an extra head of lettuce.  With all of my salad cravings lately we have had to buy extra lettuce anyway, so I may as well get it from the buying club!

Finally this week I was able to make my kale salad.  This kale salad is a veritable powerhouse of superfoods!  I feel so healthy when I have it for lunch!

The superfoods include kale, raisins, garlic, walnuts, and honey.  The only nonsuperfood in the mix is the olive oil!

I add everything into the bowl, and then massage all the ingredients together for about ten minutes to wilt the kale and make it soft.  It is a messy job!  But Oh So worth it!         DSCF3734 We have been storing up ripened bananas in the freezer…I like to use them for the Green Monsters, but FabTeen has been wanting to make banana soft serve for a while, so he finally remembered to do it when we had time. DSCF3736It has been a long time since we have had this!   I had forgotten how thick, smooth, and creamy this is…so much like ice cream only totally guilt-free!  Definitely something we need to make more often.  It disappeared way too quick!

Finally, dinner was a total throw something together to use up my organic veggies sort of event.  I needed to use up some yellow squash….a bunch of fresh spinach…onions (we have several bags of those!), garlic, and a beet!DSCF3737

What I started out making turned into something totally different.  I was tired and feeling like I was coming down with something, and just didn’t feel like doing anything!  FabHubs said he would take over…but he was going so ssssllllloooowwww and at the rate he was meditatively chopping the veggies, I was worried we wouldn’t be eating before  10 p.m. and I wanted to get to bed!

So I took over some of it…and then  he took over again with a little more hurry in his step!

I sliced up the  squash and added the onions and garlic that FabHubs had minced into the big bowl and tossed with some EVOO, balsamic, and S&P.  I am not a big fan of yellow squash but this made them very yummy!  I also peeled a head of garlic with some giant cloves on it…and tossed the cloves  whole into the mix so they would roast as well.  I LOVE roasted garlic cloves!

I sliced some more onions and rough cut some garlic, and had FabHubs sautee them in some coconut oil.  Then I had him add the spinach that  I had washed and separated.  Finally, I gave him a can of garbanzo beans to add to the mix.DSCF3739 Kind of impromptu and totally thrown together…but the end result was so good and  filling too!  When I don’t have a clear source of meat-like protein for FabHubs, you never know if it will pass muster.  Usually I can make beans fit the bill in some way…so I try to add them often to our meals.

In this case it worked!  It was flavorful, healthy, and satisfying!

Plus…the lentils from Tuesday, spinach, and chickpeas were filled with much-needed iron for me…to see if I would pass the test.  I will you about that tomorrow!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another Day, Another Salad..or Two

Another busy day spent at FabSheteen’s school…we were hungry and they were making cheeseburgers for the kids (a fun reward day…party all day with slides, rock climbing, food, and more) , so FabHubs and I ran home for lunch.

I  was in the mood for salad again…..


So I finished up the last of the salad, topped with my home-grown sprouts and half of last avocado.  It was heavily sprinkled with nutritional yeast and dressed with my new fave…homemade garlic/oil/lemon dressing.  So. So. Good.

But my manly man, tool-wielding, pioneering master, carnivorous husband…look at his lunch…



Yes..he voluntarily fixed himself a lunch of a can of sardines packed in water (we read in a recent Eating Well article we should be eating more sardines); a carrot; a banana; and the other half of my avocado (guess who didn’t eat avocados when I married him)!

I am soooo proud!  LOL!  (I am obviously feeling way too much glee over this!)

After lunch we ran back to school to volunteer for the “bake sale” which was really a water bottle and and frozen artificially flavored and colored high fructose corn syrup sale (read water bottles and melting icees…..melting because this is May in South Florida of course!)  I am so NOT happy peddling this stuff to kids, some of whom come back for thirds and fourths! (I did manage to fuss enough about selling sodas though, so they don’t sell them anymore at these weekly sales.  Yes, I am THAT mom.)

Anyway, once that was finished, FabGrumps I mean Hubs and I did a Costco run to re-stock our nearly barren pantry.  We were out of nearly all of our staples!   Garlic, lemons, lettuce (no! not lettuce!), maple  syrup, peanut butter, EVOO, white vinegar for cleaning…and more.

While sampling my way running through the aisles of Costco, I found pizza on sale, two ginormous unbaked pies for $7.99…and they had yummy Margherita pizza!  A bargain like this I couldn’t resist!  Salad and pizza would be perfect (and easy for a change) for dinner.

Once home I couldn’t resist fixing it up some!  I had some leftover grilled eggplant in the fridge just begging to be added to this pizza…as well as a Vidalia onion who couldn’t wait to be sliced and diced and join the melee as well!

They were perfect on top….this pizza was perfection!DSCF3689Next came the salad….Costco organic spring mix topped with whatever was left in the fridge from the last two boxes:  Cukes, carrots, onions, tomatoes, celery, and parsley.

Have I mentioned how much I love salad??????DSCF3683

We are in love with this dressing! 


Lemon juice.  Olive Oil.  Minced garlic.  Parmesan Cheese.  

That is it!  A slight variation on a garlicky lemon dressing my mom used to make!DSCF3686And I can’t say enough about the combination of the dressing spooned over a thick layer of nutritional yeast (over the salad of course!)


While I love salads…I find I love not just any old salad, but mostly MY salads.  I put all sorts of things on them…sometimes beans, cheeses, nuts, tons of veggies, hearty greens, and more. 

Regular old iceberg lettuce with a few carrot shreds just don’t do it for me.  Unfortunately that is what I seem to find mostly when I go out!  I am starting to dread my week away at Boy Scout camp in June when I will not be able to make all of my favorite things and will have no refrigeration…so I will be almost completely relying on a meal plan based on the SAD diet.  How will I get through a week without my beloved salad?????  Or fresh veggies????  Or fresh fruits????

So far my main plan consists of bringing along some sprouting containers, starting them before I leave, so I have some fresh sprouts to munch on!  At least that will be something.  More on that to come.

The rest of the evening was spent family style.  My new best friend is the Blockbuster Movie Express, found in grocery stores where you can rent a movie for $1, for one day.  So after dinner we gathered ‘round the TV and watched The Ugly Truth…very cute movie!

What do you put on your salads to make them fun and exciting?

Friday, May 21, 2010


Back to my eats!  Yesterday was seriously delicious! 

Breakfast was in a hurry and very simple (and delicious in its own way)……DSCF3661

Yes…I ran off to school fueled by simply an unpictured espresso to watch my daughter perform in several skits and monologues!

So filling….in a parental sort of way!

By the time I got home I was STARVING though!  and craving salad in a BIG way.  Lately I find I have been constantly craving huge, fresh, crunchy salads!

While I didn’t end up with huge I ended up with delicious.  

FabTeen had made some organic Annies organic Mac & Cheese so I had some of that as well.  

Kids complained it didn’t taste like Kraft Dinner…but that is a good thing!  It is a little blander, but doesn’t have all of those ORANGE chemicals, does it!

On the side I added a perfect avocado.  I forced myself to give FabTeen half of this creamy green perfection!


Over the top of the salad and  Mac and Cheese I sprinkled heavily some nutritional yeast.  I started eating it because I had to…but I am finding I  love the stuff!

Finally…I once again begrudgingly shared this perfect, juicy, sweet, and stunning peach (the last one from the box on Monday!) with FabTeen.  The things you do for your kids!DSCF3666

Dinner started out almost a disaster, but turned out far beyond my expectations!

I wanted to use up some things I had on hand from the box….and  thought I would make some couscous with veggies with a sort of Moroccan type flare.  I LOVE Moroccan/Indian/Middle Eastern seasonings. 

I pulled out a box of couscous and these veggies….


Carrots, half a cauliflower, tomato, onion, garlic, ginger, and broccolini.

I was going to cook the couscous and add in the veggies.

Couscous  turned out to be moth infested!!  YIKES!  What now!!!

I debated brown rice…but was worried the veggies would turn out mushy.  So then I switched to white rice…then finally quinoa.  Despite all the indecision, somehow I ended up pulling together something that turned out FANTASTIC!

While not the original plan,  I decided to cook the quinoa separately than the veggies, and add it to the cooked veggies.  DSCF3668

While the quinoa cooked I went to work on the veggies.  I  rough cut several  cloves of garlic and diced up a bunch (quarter cup maybe?) of fresh ginger (yum) and a whole onion.  

One of my major philosophies is that you can never have too much garlic or too much ginger!

Although first I pulled  out the olive oil…last minute decision led to using coconut oil instead to saute these in the cast iron skillet.  Another last minute  decision  was to toss in a handful of sliced almonds so they would be toasted too.   (originally I was going to add them at the end!)



You can’t imagine  the gorgeous aroma that came out of this pan..coconut, ginger, onion, garlic…aaaaahhhhh…DIVINE!

Once these caramelized a little I began adding the other ingredients. 

First the carrots as they take the longest to cook.

Then the cauliflower, chopped into nice little bite-sized pieces.

Then a  handful or three of raisins.

Then a drained  can of chickpeas (trying to make this appealing to FabHubs…he hates cauliflower and quinoa but somehow beans in some form seem to pacify him!)            DSCF3672I generously poured turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin on top and  stirred to make sure everything was coated. 

By now the pan was so full, so I decided not to add the broccolini or the tomato.

I also decided to serve the quinoa on the side rather than mix it in.DSCF3674

OMG this turned out UNBELIEVABLE!

Even my quinoa, stir-fry, cauliflower-despising husband begrudgingly acknowledged, said, “this is actually pretty good.”

HA!  I will win him over yet!