Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recipe Wednesday: Fiesta Black Bean Salad

Fiesta Black Bean Salad
Colorful, tasty, high in fiber, protein, vitamins A & C...  This a great dish for so many reasons.  It’s healthy, delicious, and infinitely adaptable to whatever you have on hand—you could use other beans, or different veggies, or a different oil or a different acid.  It’s also infinitely adaptable in terms of how you serve it—cold on a bed of lettuce for a great hot-weather salad, or warm as a side dish, or in a big bowl with chips on the side (I guarantee that any vegetarians at your Superbowl party will love you if you have this on the table)…  You could fold this into a quesadilla, or layer it with shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, guacamole and sour cream for a great party dish.  The possibilities are endless.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Retrospective on Transitions

While I'm on vacation this week, I thought I'd pull one out of the archives.  The following blog post was from an old blog of mine, and a lifetime ago.  I was a military wife, an at-home mom, a marginal homesteader, an organic growing activist, and a freelance writer.  My kids were wee.  We were living in rural Connecticut, and I had recently learned we would be moving here, to southern California. 
I share this because sometimes, it's interesting to open time capsules.
Between Homes
Military wives know better than to plant perennials.

But I went ahead and did it anyway.

Friday, February 17, 2012

8 Ways to Maximize Your Energy + 2 Quasi-Recipes

I recently had the pleasure of teaching a six-week wellness workshop.  We talked about ways to maximize what I call “broad-spectrum wellness”—wellness that encompasses your mind, body, spirit, and interpersonal relationships—in order to achieve concrete goals.  Since achieving anything is so much more difficult when you’re feeling sluggish and foggy, I put together a list of quick energy boosters.  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Recipe Wednesday: Chocolate-Filled French Toast with (or without) Strawberry Sauce

This is one of those delightful recipes that produces results waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more impressive than the amount of work required.
French Toast:
For every two servings, you’ll need:
4 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
1 egg
2 T. milk
Splash of vanilla extract
2 oz. grated or chopped chocolate*
Oil or butter for cooking

Strawberry Sauce:
1 c. fresh strawberries
Sugar, honey, or agave syrup to taste
A squeeze of fresh orange juice (optional)

Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. 
In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla until well blended. Take two pieces of bread and place about 1 oz. chocolate between them, leaving a ¼” margin of chocolate-free bread around the edges.  Hold the two slices together and gently dip both sides of the “chocolate sandwich” into the egg.  (It will greatly reduce the mess you make if you do this right next to the griddle.)  Place the egg-dipped chocolate sandwich on the heated griddle and cook until golden brown on the first side (2-4 minutes), then gently turn over (“flip” implies too vigorous of a motion) and cook the second side until golden brown.
While the French toast is cooking, puree the strawberries and orange juice (if using) in a blender.  Taste and sweeten if necessary.
Dust the French toast with powdered sugar and serve the strawberry sauce on the side.

*The quality of the chocolate really matters here.  I use Trader Joe's Bittersweet and Milk chocolates that come in the huge bar.  (Helpful, I know.)  Then I break off chunks and chop them with a big chef's knife.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Really Hard Thing About Writing

Sometimes I think the hard thing about writing is coming up with ideas, but then I go for a walk or look around my kitchen or reflect on some random event in my life and suddenly, I have more ideas than time to write about them.  Sometimes I think it’s finding a way to express my opinions without offending people, specifically the people whose opinions I value even though they differ from mine.  And that is hard, but then I consult a thesaurus and do a little mental calculus and strike the best accord I can.
The really hard thing about writing is that I want to write about what matters most to me, and right now what matters most to me is being the best parent I can.  Writing about the challenges of parenting helps me to sort things out, and get perspective, and make connections I can’t make just by whining or obsessing or bitching to my friends.  I also like to think it might help, or at least amuse, some reader somewhere who is going through something similar.
But the people I am parenting don’t necessarily appreciate this.  Not yet, anyway.  I cling to the comforting illusion that someday, they might look back on what I’ve written and find the value, the tenderness, the love, or at least a little humor.
By all indications, however, that is going to take a while.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Goldfish and Other Abominations

We have goldfish.  It’s a long story.  It starts with a turtle, which is an even longer story, involving a dear friend of mine who, miraculously, is still a dear friend even after he gave my daughter a Red-Eared Slider for her birthday. 
A Red-Eared Slider is just what every parent wants for their child: a high-maintenance, emotionally unavailable pet that will outlive them.
After a few months of turtle ownership, I decided he needed a little enrichment.  A second turtle was out of the question, because it turns out you need at least two females for every one male, plus 10 gallons of tank space for every inch of shell length.  The turtle book recommended aquatic plants, but the he ate them faster than they could grow.  I consulted the book again.  Recommendation?  “Fast-swimming fish.”  Solution: “Feeder fish.”  At $.19/each, they were way cheaper than the aquatic plants.  And, as it turns out, less edible.  The turtle had no idea what to make of feeder fish, but dinner never occurred to him.  (Exhibit A in the case against releasing pet turtles into the wild.)  Which was a very good thing, since—despite my pre-fish introduction briefing to the children (“You do understand why they’re called ‘feeder fish,’ right?”), my younger daughter had formed an emotional bond with them before we even let them out of their pet store baggies.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


My older daughter’s school recently took a field trip to the Museum of Tolerance in LA.  When she brought home the permission slip, I almost didn’t want to sign it.  She’s a sensitive girl—the sort who has nightmares when she sees a scary movie—for example, Finding Nemo.  I can relate; I still shudder when I think of that barracuda (spoiler alert!) snapping up Nemo’s mom and siblings.
I’m not trying to shelter her from the horrors of the Holocaust, or the reality of hatred in the world today.  She’s read the diary of Anne Frank.  Twice.  We’ve talked—in oblique terms—about the situation in Darfur, and in not-so-oblique terms about the history of slavery and racism in the U.S.
But the Museum of Tolerance, I feared, would be a little too…real. I want her to learn, but I don’t want her to be scarred.  So I showed her the Museum’s website, and I talked a little about my concerns, and I left the decision up to her.  Ultimately, she decided to go.  Her friends were going, and if she didn’t go, she would have had to stay home (Oh!  The horror!) and do homework (salt, meet wound).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Recipe Friday? Salmon Hash

Where oh where did Wednesday go?  Or for that matter the first 1.5 months of 2012? 

OK—focus, Erica.  It’s a quick blog post for a quick dinner recipe:

Salmon Hash
(Serves…4? 6? Leftovers are good.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

...That Saved a Soul Like Me...

I'm not, by any means, religious.  And of all the means of religious I am not, Evangelical Christian is probably in the top three.  But I'll happily take wisdom wherever I find it, and I really, really, liked parts of this prayer from evangelical minister Scotty Smith.  I don't know anything about Mr. Smith--I haven't perused his blog beyond this one page, which I found via a friend of a friend's blog's know how it goes.  So I offer this with the disclaimer that he might very well stand for other things I would not in any way support.  But these few lines from his "Prayer for Gospel Parenting"? Pure gold. 

"Oh, the arrogant pride of thinking that by our 'good parenting' we can take credit for what you alone can graciously do in the lives of our children. Oh, the arrogant unbelief of assuming that by our 'bad parenting' we’ve forever limited what you’ll be able to accomplish in the future.
"Oh, the undue pressure our children must feel when we parent more out of fear than faith; more out of rules than relationship; more out of and pride than patience; more out of comparison than covenant; more out of threats than theology. Forgive us. Free us. Focus us...teach us how to care for them as humble stewards, not as anxious owners."
All I can add is a heartfelt Amen

Feminism Friday: Lilly Ledbetter's Legacy

If Lilly Ledbetter’s name sounds a little familiar, it may be because you have heard of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  Ledbetter was a long-term employee of the Goodyear Tire Company who learned near the end of her employment that she was being paid significantly less than her male counterparts (and all of her counterparts were male).  
In Ledbetter’s words: “…after 19 years of service at a Goodyear factory, someone left an anonymous note in my mailbox listing the names and salaries of my male coworkers -- who I learned that day were making at least 20 percent more than I was, even though many had less education, less training, and fewer years on the job.”  She initiated a wage discrimination case under the Equal Opportunity Employment Act, and won in a lower court.  Goodyear appealed on the basis that the discrimination had happened outside of the 180-day statute of limitations.  Eventually, the case made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled five to four in favor of Goodyear.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thankful Thursdays: Tea, Technology, and Therapy.

1.       TEA. And also coffee, but mostly tea.  Tea is one of those too-rare rituals in my daily life that make me feel you, know, almost in control amidst the mountains of evidence to the contrary.  And I’m not talking “Control” in the big sense, like Destiny and Fate and Fortune.  I’m just talking about the piddly little things like, say, having children with free will.  And cars with flat tires.  And housework that never, ever, ever takes a break, even when you are sick or weary or whatever.  These are all things that I am ultimately grateful for in their own right (I have healthy children!  Who are growing into their own independent, willful people! I have a car! And a warranty on the tires!  I have a warm, safe house!  With lots of appliances!) but…But.  All of those things, while ultimately blessings, are also the sorts of things that have a way of going Not As I Planned, which makes a person feel, maybe, a smidge out of control.  So I wake up in the morning, and heat my water, and select a tea from my embarrassingly large stash, and brew a cup, and maybe add honey or milk or lemon, and…sigh.  Getting things under control, one cup at a time.  (Coffee is reserved for when no illusion of control will suffice, and I need to just muster the energy to muscle through it all.)  My current faves:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Recipe Wednesday: Turkey Stroganoff. I think.

First, a confession: Despite being a major foodie and having a collection of (literally) hundreds of cookbooks amassed over the past 20 years, I really don't know what "Beef Stroganoff" is.  Or is supposed to be.  I know what it was when I was growing up: Dinner at least once a week. 

It consisted of ground beef (what didn’t?) and canned mushrooms and a creamy sauce.  We ate it on egg noodles (one of the very few foods I still really, truly, hate) or sometimes rice.  I don’t know if it was good.  It was quick and cheap and that is what counted.

Last night I had one of those dinner-planning meltdowns that results when you realize you have two pounds of ground turkey in the fridge that simply must go before it…goes and you think about making turkey burgers, so you can also use the fresh avocadoes, but you forgot buns, so then you think maybe you’ll make turkey chili and start browning the turkey with the chili powder and onions but then realize that you have no tomatoes, and then you find the burger buns, but the turkey is already crumbled, not pattied, and your daughter is begging to make biscuits, and you looooooooooooooooooove her buttermilk biscuits even though they are pure carbs and you are trying to lose weight and…

Am I the only one who has days like this?

Anyway.  Turkey Stroganoff.  Sort of.  It may not be authentic, but it is good.

Oil for cooking
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 lb. fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 lbs. ground turkey
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 T. paprika
16 oz. sour cream
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Sautee the onions and pepper  until the onions are fragrant and just starting to brown.  Add the turkey, garlic, and paprika and cook, stirring often, until the turkey is almost completely cooked, then stir in the mushrooms*, and continue cooking until turkey is done.  Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.  Add salt and pepper to taste, but go heavy on the pepper.  Trust me on this.

Eat plain, or serve on toast, or biscuits, or rice, or even…egg noodles.

This makes a lot, and keeps well in the fridge, but be careful when re-heating or you will curdle the sour cream.

*Note(s): you want the mushrooms to release their liquid into the dish—you don’t want to drive off the moisture.  This is why we are waiting and adding the mushrooms after everything else has already been added. 

Also: Slice the vegetables in a food processor and you’ll be ready to go in seconds.