About Me

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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recipe Testing

You never know where a tweet will take you.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted that I'd like to be a recipe tester.

Now, *ideally* I'd not only like to be one, but I'd like to get paid for doing it.

A girl can dream...

Well....a few days after I sent that tweet, Vanessa Kimbell, who has a blog describing her upcoming cookbook, replied that I could test recipes for her though doing so would not involve money. 

That really is OK.  It's kinda fun to test somebody else's experiment.

We sent a few emails back and forth to each other, and after I told her that I'd prefer to test vegan recipes, she sent me one.  Turns out that her upcoming cookbook has many vegan recipes, so it should appeal to quite a broad audience. 

The recipe she had me test is Tomato and Garlic Pasta.   The recipe calls for "fresh Parmesan for serving," which my omnivore family members used.  I used a vegan version, Almesan, from Isa Moscowitz's Veganomicon (p. 207).   For copyright reasons I cannot describe that recipe to you, but it involves a lot of almonds and ends up tasting surprisingly like Parmesan. 

Back to the recipe I tested:  Vanessa is writing for a British (or at least broadly European) audience.  If you look at her recipe, you will see that it has metric quantities which Americans would need to convert. 

Aside:  I remember in second grade being told that we HAD to learn the metric system because by the time we grew up, the US would be using the metric system "just like every other country".  I guess I haven't grown up yet, because 35 years later, the US still uses a system brought over by the colonists!

Converting quantities really isn't so hard, except that the foods used (tomato puree, olive oil, spaghetti) do not readily come in the quantities requested, unless you go search for European imports at a specialty store.

I decided to make her recipe with quantities as close to those requested, but in the quantities that the products are most readily available in American supermarkets.  I used:

1 head of garlic
1 6 oz can tomato paste (known as "tomato puree" on the other side of the pond)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 lb spaghetti

You can look at her recipe to know how it's made; the only other change I made was to add a quarter cup of water to thin the sauce. 

The recipe was excellent and very cheap.  Garlic was on sale for 3 heads for $1, so the one head was about .33.  The spaghetti was .99 for one pound.  The tomato paste was .59.  Literally, for a little more than two dollars, I made a main dish that could serve six.  (Wine, bread, and a salad completed the meal.)

Here's a picture.  Though it's from her blog, I can attest that mine turned out to look just the same.


I look forward to testing more in the future!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Soccer Snacks

My youngest is now playing soccer, along with his older siblings.  It's adorable; the kids swarm around the field during their six five-minute three-on-three games like bumblebees.  They get very sweaty.  They have a lot of fun.  Some of them even seem to understand the basic rules.

But then comes the after-soccer "treat".  I'm used to this by now, since my oldest has been playing for nearly 10 years.  Most parents, even those who profess to be very concerned about health and particularly concerned that their kids stay fit, think that the after-soccer snack should be a "treat".

It's very ironic that such parents drag their kids from pill to post to make sure they get plenty of exercise and then hand them something like this:

Sorry the picture is small; that's a 10 oz. Nestle Juicy Juice Apple Juice and a Kraft Handisnacks Oreo Cookies 'n' Cream thing.

The juice has 140 calories and 33 grams of sugar.

The Kraft Handi-Snacks Cookies and Cream also has 140 calories and 13 grams of sugar (and 6 grams of fat).

According to this website, forty-six grams of sugar is equivalent to 3.8 tablespoons.  I measured that out; it looks something like this:

Anybody who reads this blog knows that I do not hold perfection up as the ultimate goal. But gosh darn it, we can do better than handing our kids 46 grams of sugar with next to NO nutritional value after a soccer game.

Irony?  I was debating folks yesterday at Consume This First about the benefits of bringing ice pops to soccer games.  (They were against; I was arguing they are hardly the worst choice.)  In fact, compared to what my kid got today, a popsicle looks positively healthy at 40 calories a pop and only 6.9 grams of sugar.  I agree that sliced oranges and water would be even better, but given the range of "bad" options, popsicles aren't so bad!

The Mom who is organizing the treats asked me if I wanted to participate.  She asked me this before I had even seen the treats for today.  Had I already known what was going to be offered, I might have phrased this differently, but I said:

"Sure!  I'd love to, but I have a bias in favor of healthy snacks and unprocessed food with no high fructose corn syrup."

She said, "Well...you can bring whatever you want to."

I said, "Well, I mean -- could we as parents kinda come to an agreement that we're ALL going to bring healthy snacks?  I mean, it's kind of ironic that we bring out kids out to play a sport and then sometimes feed them junk."

Her reply:  "If people already agree that they're going to put themselves out to bring a snack, we cannot tell them what then to bring."

There was a time in my life when I would have agreed with that. 

But now I no longer do.  Do you want your kid to be healthy?  Want to lower their risk of obesity and diabetes -- the former condition affecting up to 60% of US adults and the latter affecting up to 1 in 3 children born after 2000?  Step one might just be to stop feeding them so much sugar.

Whatever happened to after-dinner dessert being the only time during the day that people ate sugar?

Time to go back to the basics:  snacks are FOOD not processed junk.  And dessert is also FOOD and only once a day.

I'll be bringing the oranges and water.  We'll see what happens.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I'm pretty sure if I blogged about my days as often as other people do theirs, about 75% of my posts would be about cleaning.


It's not so much that I'm some fanatical person who needs everything just so.  I'm not Martha Stewart. 

Not at all.  I can put up with piles of paper here and there and shoes left askew in the entry hall.  I can live with the blind that needs repaired for a SCARY long time before I actually take it down and find a company that fixes blinds.  I can live with a broken shower door.  And I can tolerate (albeit with a good sigh or two) the sign on my daughter's bedroom door that reads, "My room was clean yesterday.  Sorry you missed it."

What I cannot put up with is literal horrible DIRT. 

But I have three kids.  Doing sports.  (Read:  There is a HELL of a lot of laundry and a lot of sticky surfaces.)

And a cat with an irritable bowel.
I'll spare you those details.

Anywho....I clean and scrub and pick up and organize and cook and shop and fold and iron. 


To help myself, I made the wonderful decision a few years ago to have somebody clean the house every other week.  (And the kids have chores, too and my husband *tries* though he is not, by nature, particularly aware of when things need to be cleaned.) 

Twice a month.  I can live with it, although I still twitch at the reality that I don't do *all* the housework the way, say, my mother did.

It feels fairly bourgeois and uncomfortable to admit.  But there it is.  I do have help.

Kind of. 

Said cleaning lady has now not shown up for FIVE scheduled cleanings (fortunately, not in a row). 

I've never fired somebody before.  But honestly, if you don't want the job or can no longer do it, is it too much to ask to just LET your employer know?

I waited around for her to show up.  She didn't.  I sent her a text.  She didn't reply.

She's gone.

So, I took off a whole day from my real work to clean today.

Benefit:  if you REALLY clean a house, top to bottom, there is *absolutely* no need to work out that day.  I was a sweaty mess when I was done (perhaps more so than usual because I also decided to clean out a cupboard or two AND I took apart the plumbing underneath my bathroom sink in order to take care of a clog myself). 

Today felt very productive.  The house looks pretty good.  The sink is draining beautifully.  Everybody has clean sheets on their beds and ALL the laundry is put away.

Unfortunately, something will need cleaned again tomorrow. :)