Better with Time…

•January 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’ve told this story to a few friends but I love it so much that I need to shout it to all the Internet.  It concerns….wedding china.

You see, many years ago, I fell in love with a china pattern.  Kate Spade June Lane to be specific.  I fell in love with it in college WAY before I met Mr. Fluvial and filed it under the ‘Someday….’ category.  Whenever I’d go get linens or small kitchen items, I’d always take a quick moment to visit the china and, yup, I just kept loving it.

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Flash to 2010.  Mr. Fluvial and I are engaged (well, legally married but you know…) and contemplating the idea and composition of a registry.  I was REALLY stressed with wedding plans and the beginnings of starting a really intense relationship with another person (Mr. Fluvial…I love marriage but it’s a big deal and requires much tending) and for whatever reason, I didn’t want to be That Girl who pestered her fiancee about china patterns.  Social pressure: it’s a real thing!

Anyway, so we’re in the department store armed with the scanning gun and the consultant releases us into the wild…right smack dab in the middle of the fine china section.  Without skipping a beat, Mr. Fluvial heads straight for June Lane and says ‘This is really nice.  Do we want to register for china?’  I was dumbfounded and ecstatic.  Of all the patterns, he chose the one I’d love for years.

We ended up receiving an entire set from my mother-in-law on Christmas morning and suddenly, my mind was buzzing with dinner party plans.

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We we we so excited.

Let me say this: everything tastes better on fine china.  I don’t care if it’s frozen pizza or homemade whathaveyou that took you 10 hours to make; it just tastes better when served on pretty dishes.  We use our china as our every day dishes (hurrah for being dishwasher safe) and, with time, they’re starting to show age.  Little bits of paint have rubbed off over time which is sad BUT, I had a thought:

OMG we’ve been married long enough for our china to start showing wear and tear.  Same thing with the towels and other linens we received as gifts.  They are all starting to look a little worn which, oddly, makes me warm in the heart.

Nothing super profound but there ya go.  Warm worn hugs to all of you.

The Benefit of Snowflake Diets

•January 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Alternate Title: How Being a Part-time Vegan Made My Marriage Even More Awesome. 

Ok calm down.  a) My marriage with Mr. Fluvial was and continues to be awesome.  It’s just become more awesomer for reasons I’ll be describing below.  b) We’re not hard-core vegans.  But what if we were?  What’s it to you?   Anyway.

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Gluten-free continues to be the new black. (Is it the old black now?)  Everywhere you look, someone is turning gluten-free.  Allergies are rampant.  People are varying degrees of vegetarian/vegan.  New Year/New Cleanse Diet.  Etc. I lump all these into a category I like to call ‘Snowflake Diets’.  They add to your own personal sense of identity and make you special…like a snowflake!  Mr. Fluvial and I have been snowflakes for a while now due to our being vegetarian at home (I refuse to call myself a veggie because I know that I’ll consume meat even if on an infrequent basis but Mr. Fluvial is 100% vegetarian and has been for 20 years) but a powerful conversation with dear friends over dinner had us questioning our consumption of animal products like milk, eggs, and cheese.  She brought up questions of production and process and, honestly, once you know things…you can’t un-know them.  You can choose to ignore them (or practice certain gratitude rituals and bring awareness to your choice) but you still can’t un-know them no matter how hard you try.

Mr. Fluvial and I marinated on what we’d heard (which came from a primary source and was well-researched by us too) and kinda sat there like ‘Huh.  Well, we can’t un-know it.  What should we do?’  And so, we’ve embarked on a ‘Vegan at Home’ journey.

We have a few rules:  

1. Don’t be obnoxious about it.

2. Outside the house…don’t be obnoxious about it (seriously).  If someone is serving eggs, just eat them (and revel in their deliciousness!!).  No one likes an obnoxious vegan (or gluten-free, or paleo, or……)

3.  Keep your protein up.

I have a few exceptions: 1. Kefir.  I love it.  It’s a super food.  I will not give it up.  2. Cheese on pizza.  I’ve not adjusted to vegan cheese and, honestly, some things are sacred.  Pizza is one of them.  It will not be tampered with.

So, we’re about 2 weeks into it and I’ll just say this: I feel AWESOME.  I always knew dairy was inflammatory but I ignored it citing ‘Annoying Snowflakes blah blah’.  Hmm…well, maybe they had a point because I’ve noticed a significant reduction in my general achiness and joint pain (wait, aren’t I too young for all that?!).  I reserve the right to claim ‘Placebo!!!’ but I’ve noticed a difference.  Other happy health stuff too which I won’t go into.  But, all around, yay!

But really, the biggest benefit has been in the emotional space, specifically, between Mr. Fluvial and I.  And this is where I defend Snowflake Diets:

Snowflake Diets require effort.  Granted, going from vegetarian to vegan is not as much of a stretch as omnivore -> vegan but still, effort is required.  And suddenly, we were in it together.  What dairy-free milk tastes best? Well, we can taste-test the almond, coconut, rice, and soy milk that’s hanging out in our fridge. Does Earth Balance compare to butter?  We can try it on toast together!  

Plus, what we’re doing has been an excuse to cook more.  Going out to eat is a pain when you’re trying to do the vegan thing so if it’s just the two of us, we opt to stay in.  Which means we’re eating dinner together more often.  This leads to bonding.  Plus, with all the leftovers that we portion out for lunches, we go through the day remembering our awesome dinner conversation maybe more intimately than if we’d just gone out and bought our lunch. 

See where I’m going with this?  

Snowflake Diets can have many more benefits just above the physical.  Of course, if you’re simply replacing your favorite non-vegan or glutenous treats with heavily processed convenience alternatives, you’re missing the point.  So, I’ll be making our own seitan fresh (I can’t wrap my head around processed meat substitutes.  The squig me out.) and using apple sauce as an egg-replacer instead of the chemical alternatives, etc.

And now onto some recipes and ingredients we’ve been using a lot lately.  We are still in the discovery phase so please let us know if you have any favorites we haven’t thought of yet!

Breakfast:  I went out and bought a smaller croc-pot so we could make hot breakfast cereals with the greatest of ease. Throw a timer on there and you’re good to go.  Also, please notice the salt lamp in the photo below.  That’s how you know we’re real hippies.

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1/4 quinoa + 1/4 steel cut oats + 2 cups milk of your choice + frozen fruit. Cook 5 hours on low.

Butter Tofu:  I made this recipe with chicken over the holidays and enjoyed it thoroughly.  This is super easy to convert to vegan.  Simply replace the butter with Earth Balance, the heavy whipping cream with soy creamer, and add tofu instead of chicken.  EASY.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/saras-secrets/butter-chickenindian-chicken-in-tomato-cream-sauce-recipe/index.html

Vegan Caesar Salad: I brought this to a meeting last week and everyone loved it!  Ok, truth, it doesn’t taste exactly like Caesar Salad but Snowflake Diets require adjusting your expectations.  It was still awesome.  Would do business with again.  Plus, it has quinoa in it and what Snowflake doesn’t like quinoa?!

http://www.theppk.com/2013/11/quinoa-caesar-salad/

Trader Joe’s Coconut Milk: This is by far my favorite of the milk substitutes we’ve tried so far.  Almond being the runner up.  I still refer to soy milk as ‘Bean Milk’ so, obviously, I’m not quite there yet.  Maybe someday. Oh, and all the vanilla flavored milks…..nasty.  Just don’t.  Gross.

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Tastes like a vacation!

Spirulina:  Let’s talk about protein, shall we?  When I went mainly veggie, I was shocked at how much protein was contained in the non-meaty things I already ate so I didn’t really worry too much about my protein intake.  Well, you cut out eggs and suddenly..where’d the protein go?  Mr. Fluvial has introduced me to spirulina and, again in the vein of adjusting expectations, I was open to it.  If you drink it straight with water, you will feel as if you’ve mowed your lawn with your own mouth.  But when blended into smoothies (mango is my favorite!) it’s not so bad. Plus, 62% amino acid (ie: protein) content can’t be beat. Here’s a quick academic overview: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/spirulina

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All your green drink are belong to spirulina.

And now for resources!  Some of you may be thinking ‘Going vegan is HAAARRDDD!’  Well yes. So is learning to ride a bike.  Or playing the piano.  Or balancing a spoon on your nose.  But here’s the thing, Mr. Fluvial and I were shocked at how vegan-friendly modern urban environments are nowadays.  All it takes is awareness.  This isn’t the 1950′s and, with the acceptance of Snowflakes, vegan stuff is readily available.  To that end, I’ve been a big fan of Isa Chandra Moskowitz for many years, even before I knew Mr. Fluvial.  Her book ‘Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World!’ is so well-worn and kitchen tested that I can’t really bring myself to make any other cupcakes than hers.  Another book, ‘Vegan With a Vengeance’ (picture below) is packed with vegan deliciousness and is a must-read for vegan-curious folk.   Her website also provides lots of inspiration and research: http://www.theppk.com/

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Nom.

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So fluffy!!

And that’s it!  That was an incredibly long post with a very short thesis: Snowflakes Diets, when properly executed, may lead to increased emotional happiness via opportunities for bonding with loved ones through a shared mission.  

Hugs and fall on my Snowflake brethren!  

Fluvial Gone Global

•December 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

One of my favorite parts of blogging is checking the stats and seeing what parts of the world are reading my words.  The map below shows all location stats for 2013:

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So cool!

So, hello to my friends in Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Tanzania, India, Sweden, Serbia, and beyond!  May the new year bring you all joy, peace, and prosperity wherever you may be.

Sometimes, resolutions come early.

•December 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The title says it all.  My resolutions came early this year!  After doing really well and dropping inches and pounds like crazy via CrossFit and paying attention to my diet, work and school went bananas on me and I ‘fell off the wagon’.  By ‘fell’, I mean that I was dragged off that darn wagon by the demons of Working Late and the brain-infiltrating alien known as Health Ethics Course.  And then my class ended, work slowed down, and Mr. Fluvial went out of town and I luxuriated in every single moment.  It was introvert heaven!  I could starfish out onto the whole bed!  I could binge watch Smash!  I could eat frozen pizza!  BECAUSE I COULD!

Right, so all of that did plenty for clearing out mental cobwebs but I noticed that just as quick as I lost those pounds and inches, they had crept back on.  Oh well.  I only say this because I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.  I liked the way I felt when I was eating right and working out like a crazy person for those 30 minutes/3 days per week.  And to be clear, Mr. Fluvial still maintains that ‘muffin top’ is “…the best part of the muffin…” so there’s zero pressure on me to have unhealthy/unrealistic size goals.

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^^^^ The best part of the muffin. ^^^

But still…

So, I’ve recommitted to being nice to myself. This means:

1. Working out 3x per week.  I just need to prioritize that just like I would anything else.  If it’s important to me, I will make the time.

2. Eating well.

3. Sleep.

On the working out front, I’m learning to get excited instead of terrified when I look at the WODs online.  It’s a simple mental exercise.  Today’s WOD:

DB/ KB Windmills 10-8-6
5 Rounds of:
8x Medicine Ball Full Squat Clean Wall Ball Shot!!!!!
12 x Kettlebell Power Swing

For eating right, I’ve gone back to the WW framework.  I’ve started incorporating minimal amounts of meat in my diet and, honestly, I really really like it.  But, for ethical reasons*, I’m not at the point where I can make that my primary source of calories/protein so I’m sticking to my mostly plant based diet.  I know I know, CrossFit = Paleo blah blah blah.  I see any health choice you make as a victory and I’m not a huge fan of all-or-nothing attitudes so I’m incorporating paleo into my (mostly) vegetarian diet and celebrating the fact that I didn’t reach for the Cheeto’s.  Things like using coconut oil in everything.  Phasing out cow’s milk.  Etc.  But I eat a lot of soy, quinoa, etc.  Not giving that up! :)

To start the day off right, I’ve been loving these WW slow cooker porridge recipes.  Today, I made quinoa/farro porridge with dates and coconut.  I made it with almond milk and added cinnamon.  Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 2/3 cups almond milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 2/3 cup farro (not quick-cook)
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup chopped, pitted dates
  • 3 Tbsp unpacked brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • Dash cinnamon

Throw everything in the slow-cooker and cook on low for 7 hours.  Wake up to deliciousness!  Note: I halved the recipe and ended up with enough for both me and Mr. Fluvial for two breakfasts each.

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For more WW slow-cooker porridge recipes, click here: http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=3&art_id=216761&sc=3022&ExplicitNav=food&ExplicitSubNav=Shopping&ExplicitSubThirdNav=PlanningAndMakeAhead

Have any of your resolutions come early this year?  How are you going to be nice to yourself…inside and out?

*My meat ethics explained: Mr. Fluvial has been vegetarian for 20 years and has really helped me tease out my true feelings around the consumption of animals.  This is where I’m at today: our life situation affords us the luxury of choice with regards to meat/no meat.  Mr. Fluvial is an animal in the gym and has a very healthy diet (yes yes, with lots of protein) so arguments like  ‘But you need meat to be healthy!  Humans evolved to eat meat!’ fall on deaf ears at the Fluvial house.  It simply isn’t true.

And yet, I enjoy meat.  It’s comfort food for me.  So how do I reconcile it?  By realizing that yes, it’s selfish of me to eat meat simply because I like it.  It’s ok to be selfish every now and then.  So, 98% of my meat consumption has the following ritual involved: I plan my recipe in advance and go to a natural grocery store (PCC, if you’re in the Seattle area) to purchase meat that was ethically sourced.  I do not want to participate in the industrial meat complex and will not purchase meat at large chain stores.  Now, in both cases, the animal still died so that I could have a tasty treat.  The difference is, PCC offers me the opportunity to support farms who don’t feed animals antibiotics to fatten them up or treat them like garbage while they are alive.

Part of the ritual includes preparing the meat myself and meditating on gratitude.

Again, an animal still died and I’m aware that my little ritual as described above is me just finding a way to reconcile the choice I’ve made in that moment.  I own it. :)

A girl walks into a cafe….

•November 19, 2013 • 2 Comments

So, I had lunch with Rosie the Riveter yesterday.  The conversation was unexpected and quite profound so I thought I’d retell the details below.  Enjoy!

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It’s been wild and crazy in Fluvial world, as always, and yesterday was more of the same.  I was travelling between work locations and needed to pick up lunches for a team of vendors so after a quick Yelp check, I settled on a sandwich shop boasting homemade bread and tasty soup.  I walked in, ordered the lunches, and proceeded to check my calendar to prep for the insanely busy afternoon ahead.  I then heard someone say “Sweetie, come sit here with me and talk.”  I looked up and saw that it was a lady and a gentleman probably in their 80s and when I looked up, the lady again motioned for me to come over.  

(Pause: Seattle can be a super passive aggressive town and we have a reputation for avoiding interactions with strangers whenever possible.)

Not being one for social conformity, I decided to go over and chat.  The conversation got pretty deep pretty fast and went something like this:

Lady: “I like your coat!  All the pockets!  Back before the war, we didn’t have any choices.”

Me: “Oh thank you! Yes, I’m grateful for the choices we have today”

Lady: “Do you have children?”

Me; “No, not yet.  Maybe next year.”

Lady: “But you’re married, right?”

Me: “Yes.  You?”

Lady: “Oh good.  My husband and I have been married for 67 years!!  We have 5 children and they’ve all grown up to be people we really like.  They fight over who gets to take care of us and we just love them so much.  You know, I was a newlywed before The Pill so I didn’t have the choices you have today.  I had 13 pregnancies but only have 5 children.  All the others died at 7 months while I was pregnant.  When you lose a baby that way, it hurts just as much as it would if they died at 1 year of age.”

Woah.  I was so grateful for her honesty and openness because it’s true, for all the political vitriol spewed about reproductive choice, it’s easy to forget the personal stories about families like hers.  This woman delivered 8 (EIGHT!!!) still born babies and looked me straight in the eye and told me that she’s grateful that women now have a choice about when to have children.  That’s powerful.

She then told me how she met her husband which went something like this:  During WW II, she built C-47s and would hide notes in the plane to give the soldiers something fun to discover while in-flight.  Turns out, her husband was a paratrooper and ended up flying in one of the planes she helped to build.  He read the notes and realized he grew up in the same town as the author.  Flash to a few years later, and the two meet at church! In her words “At that point, I had to marry him.”  :)

We talked about her children a little more and how much she loves them.  How they all grew up to be “…people we like” and their involvement with charitable organizations and causes.

At this point, my order has been ready for a while and is getting cold and I realize that I’m late for my meeting.  So, I reluctantly told her that I needed to leave.  When I asked her name, she told her real name but asked that I call her by her (incredibly awesome) nickname.    

And with that, I returned to work.  A few takeaways:

1.  It’s awesome that she felt no fear in asking a total stranger to come over and chat with her.

2. Local involvement.  She and her husband had been coming to the same cafe for years.  She told me that the current owner came here for Laos and had trained with the original owner to learn how to make everything on the menu and continues to bake things the way they’ve always been baked for years.  

3. Gratitude for progress.  It was the part about her being grateful for today’s reproductive choices that gave me pause.  She’s right.  I am so lucky to be able to choose my pregnancies and, for the most part, it’s also my choice to end them should the need arise.  Having a woman in her 80s remind me of this was pretty powerful. 

4. Happy Spouse -> Happy House.  She also opened up about her husband’s struggle with mental illness (we covered a lot of ground in 20 minutes) before the days of compassionate mental health care and, again, I was struck by the love and practicality she brought to her analysis.  They loved each other and just made it work.  You don’t stay married for 67 years by accident and I was blown away by her humor and vulnerability.

5. NICKNAMES!  This is not the first time a woman ‘of a certain age’ has given me her nickname in response to the question ‘What’s your name’.  While I’m going to withhold her name/nickname for the sake of anonymity, trust me, it was awesome.  Another lady once told me “My real name is sldfjsldf but when I’m naughty, my husband calls me Darla!”  (I don’t remember her real name because ‘Darla’ was the only person I met that night).  I need a nickname.  Seriously.

So yes, when asking if you should go talk to sweet elderly people in a random cafe, the answer is always yes.

 

The Very Merry Housewife_Dinner Party!

•June 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I’m starting a new series of posts titled ‘The Very Merry Housewife’ which is going to be all about kicking ass domestically.  Mostly things like brutal truth about recipe win/loss ratios and how to throw dinner parties ‘like a boss’ (still trying to decide if I like that term).  In this edition, my spring dinner party for 6!

I recently read a dazzling blog post over at The Kitchn about a vegetarian spring-time dinner for 6 and made no secret that I planned to lift the entire menu and try it out on a few willing participants. And so I did! I made the same menu twice for two different groups and reactions were overwhelmingly positive both times. So, I’m going to talk about the recipes but, more importantly, discuss the timing and prep required to pull an event like this off while still being able to have fun.

Appetizers:

Rosemary and Chipotle Spiced Nuts Ok, I used paprika instead of chipotle spice because I too lazy to run around looking for that spice. The nuts turned out fine. No one died. Carry on. If I’ve learned one thing in cooking, it’s not to stress too much about particular spices. In baking, you don’t want to sub baking powder for baking soda but when it comes to non-specific spices, no stress. Just use what’s readily available. Also, nuts tend to be expensive but the recipe makes plenty for your party and snacks for later.

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Cream Cheese and Arugula Toast Bits Another modification here: I did not use the mini toasts she refers to in the recipe. Instead, I got a skinny baguette, toasted the slices under the broiler, and carried on with the recipe as noted. I ended up with a lot more than I needed so the extra made a nice snack in subsequent days.

Here’s a picture of the appetizer scene at Chez Fluvial (aka ‘Radiance’):
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Main Course

Creamy Watercress Soup (with lemon-goatcheese dumplings)
This. Soup. Is. Awesome. I’ve made the soup four times now and will likely be making it again soon. It’s very easy, tastes incredible and deserves the categorization of ‘Naughty & Nice’ due to the fact that it has both heavy cream (naughty) and a whole pound of watercress (nice). The recipe calls for lemon-goatcheese dumplings but, while very tasty, you end up with way more dumplings than you could possibly eat and it just adds mess and time to your day. Low ROI on those dumplings so I opted to omit them for the party. As you’ll see in my timing section later, I made the soup ahead of time and kept it warm in the crock pot. Such a very merry housewife thing to do! Picture below:

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Roasted Potatoes, Radishes, and Fennel with Lemon Brown Butter Sauce I’m kicking myself for not getting a picture of these pretty veggies pre-roasting! They were gorgeous with the pink of the radish, the purple of the potatoes, and scent of fennel making it all come together. Roast these guys about 10 minutes longer than the recipe calls for if you want them crunchy (my preferred method).

Baked Ricotta with Lemon, Garlic, and Chives This recipe was such a winner. The warm ricotta with zesty lemon flavor was delightful especially when paired with rosemary bread. Make extra because it’ll be gone fast.

Dessert

Dessert was creme brulee (as posted about previously) but I made Roasted Strawberries to go on top. The recipe has goat cheese and puff pastry but I just liked the idea of roasted strawberries on smooth cream. Also, these strawberries go excellent over pancakes, ice cream, etc. 16 ounces of fresh strawberries reduces to about 1.5 cups once cooking is complete.

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Logistics

When you’re planning a multi-course dinner party, planning is your friend. Take the time to read each recipe thoroughly and make a project plan accommodating for cooking time and the need to share oven space. Make as many things ahead as possible! Here’s the plan that worked for me:

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To be clear, starting at 4pm gave me about 30 minutes of extra time that I didn’t need. This menu safely takes about 3 hours if you’re efficient and have two ovens. I recommend making the nuts, strawberries, and creme brulee ahead of time just to take stress out of your immediate pre-dinner prep.

And one final photo: the table!

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So that’s it! A spring time dinner party for 6. ‘Twas delicious and what’s better than giving the gift of homemade food to your friends?

Crème Brûlée: Ooo la la!

•May 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hi again! Per my earlier post, I made crème brûlée as a way of breaking in our new kitchen because, really, you should make something sweet for your first creation in a new kitchen. Good energy all around.

Crème brûlée can seem intimidating but it really isn’t. The key is to GO SLOWLY. When adding the eggs, they really mean it when they say to add a little at a time and stir frequently. Otherwise, cold egg yolks + boiling cream = decadent scrambled eggs. Awesome but not exactly what we were going for. If you’re going for luscious, decadent, sexy sexy custard, this is the recipe to try. And don’t be shy with the vanilla bean…add a little more to make it extra mwah.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/creme-brulee-recipe/index.html

Oh, another thing of note: have you all discovered vanilla bean paste? Umm..it’s awesome. Looks like this:

Vanilla

(photo courtesy of Amazon)

It’s a paste containing the cherished insides of the vanilla bean. Per the label, 1 tbsp of the paste = the goods from 1 vanilla bean. It’s pricey but again, if you have it in your kitchen, you’re likely to find excuses to use it and vanilla beans, for whatever reason, are too complicated to work with when I’m feeling lazy but really want custard. So, if you’re able, splurge and add this to your pantry.

Oh! And vanilla sugar…it’s great too! We brought ours back from Austria (well now…that sounds schmancy) but I believe it’s pretty easy to make yourself. I’ll research and get back to you.

Quick note about the blow torch: while possible to get the crisp sugar cap via sugar under a broiler, it’s just better to bust out the pyro. I snagged one in the clearance bin at Bed, Bath, & Beyond but found out later that smoke shops sell them too. I thought that was odd but Mr. Fluvial said that food grade torches also serve to facilitate crack cocaine delivery. The more you know kids..the more you know. I did wonder why the shop owner was particularly nosey about my need for butane.

Anyway, here’s the final product:

Brulee