Homemade Mondays: Vegan Mac and “Cheese” (no, not the gross Velveeta kind)

One of the comfort foods I missed the most during my dairy free time was macaroni and cheese. I wish I’d discovered cashew-based cheeses earlier; they are so easy! In certain applications they are even creamy and yummy enough that I actually didn’t miss cheese. The “cheese” part of this was also delicious spread thick on bread and fried up like a grilled cheese.

Vegan Mac and “Cheese”

Ingredients:

2 Cups cashews, covered by at least 2 inches and left to soak 1-2 hours on the counter or overnight in the fridge

1/4 C lemon juice

3-4 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup or so of water (more if it’s too thick at the end)

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tbsp miso of your choice

2 cloves garlic

3/4 tsp salt

a dash of black pepper

pasta of your choice

 

Method:

While the pasta is cooking, combine all other ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend on high for a few minutes until everything is very well combined and creamy. Adjust seasonings as needed. Drain pasta, add cashew mixture, and garnish with fresh herbs, meat, “meat”, veggies of your choice, or just eat it the way it is.

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Kind over Nice

It was freshman year, and time for our Thursday night Real Life meeting for Campus Crusade for Christ. The guys across the hall from my dorm room started gathering up people to head over in a big herd (when you’re a freshman in college and away from home for the first time it’s comforting to do things in herds).

“Is K coming?” said one of my fellow Crusaders.

“Uhh, I don’t know….Katie, why don’t you go knock on her door and see?”

I trotted off down the hall and knocked on K’s door, bible in hand and sure she was just running late. She’d come with us for the first few weeks of the year, after all.

*Knock, knock.* “Hi! Are you coming to Crusade tonight?”

Her face flashed with anger. “NO!” She said quite firmly and shut the door hard in my face.

 

I was sitting at the Oxley cafe a couple of days later for a sandwich when K came and sat down next to me.

“I’m sorry I slammed the door in your face. I just…can’t go there anymore.”

“Oh! Ok. Why not?”

“It’s just…the church is made up of people, and it’s not supposed to be perfect and cookie cutter and…” She explained herself for a while, and eventually realized I was completely lost.

“Look. Katie, you’re smart. You can figure out how to be what they want, and say what they want you to say. You can make them like you. The question is, do you want to?”

***

It took 14 years, but I think I am finally beginning to unpack what she meant.

At the time, it wasn’t true in the least. I had no idea how to make people like me. I didn’t feel like other people’s approval had anything at all to do with me.

The thing is, K’s correct. At this point, I can often figure out what people want me to do. And that is often useful to keep in mind. The problem that knowledge presents then is what to do about it. It goes a little like this: if someone is going to be offended by my choice to abstain from a particular food I can eat it, not eat it, or leave. If I choose not to eat it, I can explain why, or leave it alone and let them assume whatever they like about me (if they care to). If I explain why they can believe the best about me or not. People may like me or dislike me a little more in a given moment based on what I say. I didn’t used to know that but now I can even see it happening sometimes. My words have an effect.

It’s exhausting. What am I supposed to do with all this information?

 ~~~~~

From the Merriam Webster site:

Full Definition of KIND

1
chiefly dialect :  affectionate, loving

2

a :  of a sympathetic or helpful nature

b :  of a forbearing nature :  gentle

c :  arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance <a kind act>

 ~~~~~

At first glance, it would seem that kindness and tenacity are at odds with one another. It doesn’t immediately read as “sympathetic or helpful” to tell someone that they’re wrong about something, that you’re hurt by their actions, or that what they’re doing is harmful to themselves or others. I get that. Does that mean we should never do those things? I think not. I think it means we may do well to expand our definition of kindness. A small definition of kindness (which I’ll refer to from here on out as being nice) is the wide road to people pleasing and denying others feedback which can help them meaningfully learn about themselves and the world. Can it really be kindness to stand by and let someone we care for harm himself or others when we might be able to help him not to do it?  The more I think about it, the more being nice begins to look less like actual kindness.

Someone I trust recently told me that kindness is not something to strive for because kindness is about people pleasing rather than doing what is best for myself or others. I disagree. I think kindness goes far deeper than being nice and that those two things do not always or even usually look the same.

Kindness holds on tenaciously when niceness would let go. Kindness pushes through awkwardness, offense, and hurt. Sometimes, kindness draws boundaries or even steps away for a time when niceness would stay put just to keep the peace for the moment. Niceness may hide the truth to make people happy; kindness looks for the most gentle way to say what is true and necessary.

Being nice instead of kind is like trying to sing a harmony part without any melody to go with it. It might be ok sometimes, but mostly it’s not enough and it will definitely never be a whole song. To put a Sondheim quote on it, “Nice is different than good.” Or, to apply it here, nice is different than kind.

K was right. I’m smart. But figuring out how to be nice to everyone all the time is not a good use of my intelligence.

What am I supposed to do with all this information? Sometimes the answer, thank God, is nothing.

I can figure out how to get more people to like me by being less of who I am. The question is, do I want to?

The answer, I am relieved to find, is no.

kind over nice

 

Homemade Mondays: Drinking Chocolate

I first learned about drinking chocolate at Mount Vernon* during a family trip there.

One of the things I missed when we had to give up dairy was hot cocoa (I know you can use almond milk but it’s really just not the same). But while this is markedly different, it’s delicious enough that it fills the empty chocolatey space nicely. And if dairy is your thing, you can add a bit at the end for some extra creaminess.

Drinking Chocolate

Serves 2-3

Ingredients and supplies:

1/3 c sugar

1/3 c cocoa powder

dash salt

add-ins of your choice (see below)

wide mouth quart jar

wand blender (You could probably do this in a regular blender but we like the wand blender)

Method:

Combine sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in mason jar. Add boiled water to make about 1 1/2 or 2 cups altogether, then blend until well combined. stream in add-ins with the blender going. Taste, adjust flavorings and add-ins as needed, and serve.

Add-ins

Extract of your choice: standards include vanilla, almond, mint (a very little bit of mint goes a long way)

Heavy cream or Half and half

Whiskey, rum, or flavored liqueur of your choice, like kalhua

Candy cane

Whipped cream (use this as a topping, not streamed in, obviously)

drinking chocolate

*Mount Vernon is a peculiar mix of confronting the facts of slavery and standard white privilege denial. You can go and tour the slave quarters and read about what life was like for the three hundred and nineteen slaves living there at the time of George Washington’s death, and while it doesn’t go into too many details, they don’t hide the fact that these were, in fact, people who were owned. And yet, when we reached the end of our tour, there was a demonstration of how to make drinking chocolate “like Martha Washington herself would have made it.” Really? Ground the cacao pods into powder by herself, did she? Still, this stuff is delicious, and these days as long as you get fair or direct trade chocolate, you can even be sure no one has to be enslaved for you to drink it. So that’s nice.

We get ours from Costco right now, because I found Rodelle cocoa powder there and found this post on the internet about it (granted, it’s anecdotal and secondhand information but I chose to go with it for now; there’s also this on their website if you’re interested in reading further):

“Elise Neufeld says:

OCTOBER 3, 2013 AT 2:44 PM

Being concerned about cocoa powder, I contacted the company which supplies cocoa powder to our local Costco (Rodelle brand), and was shocked to get an email back within a few hours from their president. I was so impressed with his answer that I reproduced it below:

“It is very important to our company that our vanilla and cocoa are sustainably and socially sourced. Myself and our procurement team routinely visit our growing regions to personally audit our exporters and farming cooperatives for such issues you have mentioned. I was a Peace Corps volunteer many years ago and I learned at an early age how important it is that all parties are treated fairly throughout the supply chain especially when it comes to commodity food products in developing countries. We do source a number of “Fair Trade” products but I do feel that a lot still needs to be ironed out when it comes to the “Fair Trade” certification. Therefore we have established our own criteria based on working with transparent cooperatives supporting them with social programs and paying premium prices to the farmers. I am proud to say we have impacted over 15,000 farmers for the better by having such strict procedures in place. We do have more information on our website regarding our programs. ”

It’s good to know that even some of the bigger brands are committed to ethical sourcing!”

Homemade Mondays: Kail Brose

This is not my recipe, but it it very, very easy, it’s good for what ails you, it doesn’t have a long ingredient list, and it’s what I’m making for dinner tonight.

I’ve found other recipes but the one I’ve linked to is the first one I found so I’ll share that one. Lots of room for experimentation and using what you have. It’s also in The Scots Kitchen by F. Marian MacNeill, with a few variations.

Kail Brose

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To the Parents of the Screaming Baby In the Restaurant

I recently took E out for sushi at a local restaurant. It was a Wednesday afternoon and we were seated near the bar. As we ordered her favorites and mine, shared some chamomile tea, and chatted like Big Girls, our conversation was occasionally punctuated with loud screams of delight from across the room. In the corner across the restaurant there was a couple with a yearling in a high chair who was clearly delighted about something and felt no need to control her volume as she shared her happiness. We watched them for a little bit, and noticed with each scream more people turned around to give them an angry stare. These people were not mollified in the least by the fact that the parents were, in fact, not pinching the baby in order to make her emit such screams, or even by the fact that they were really trying to shush her the best they could as they scrambled to finish their meal quickly.

After a brief talk with our server (who also had children and specifically also remembered what it was like to have young children) we sent them a secret cookie. She dropped it off at their table and said, “One of your fellow customers remembers what it was like to have a child this age and wanted to say ‘good job being out in the world.’” The angry restaurant patrons nearest them heard and quietly turned back to their own meals, and hopefully found that it didn’t actually prevent them from eating delicious Japanese food for someone else to have a baby in a restaurant. The couple was surprised and said thank you (I think-we were far away and trying hard not to give ourselves away) and then thanked her again on their way out the door five minutes later.

You know what? Parents whose children are behaving perfectly aren’t the ones who *need* to hear that they’re doing well. Don’t get me wrong…I love it when people like my kids. It makes my mama heart swell with pride and contentment. I work very hard with my children to set the culture of our family. We have expectations and try to set examples of kindness, politeness, generosity, honesty, and many other ways of being with each other. It’s an astonishing amount of work, and I don’t mind when people notice that.

You know what else is an astonishing amount of work?

Parenting a toddler who’s throwing a fit because the seam of their sock isn’t hitting their toe just right (not that they can articulate that that’s the problem). When they throw themselves on the ground and start kicking and screaming in the grocery store aisle, there’s some tiny part of me that just wants to do it too as if that would make them stop. In the movie Riding in Cars With Boys, Drew Barrymore has this scene where the baby’s been screaming for hours and she just falls apart. She sobs, “WHY WON’T YOU STOP CRYING?” If you’ve never considered your child with this air of desperation, you’re a better parent than me. Or, at least, this post isn’t about you.

If you have ever felt that way, particularly in public, I just want to say…hang in there and keep doing your best. Parenting littles is no joke and sometimes when it’s the hardest, people judge you the most harshly.

There are ways in which I try to absorb most of the impact of my kids’ public tantrums…I will not go home immediately from the library if my kids are losing it, but I also won’t make the librarians talk to them. I will be the one to deal with my children climbing all over the motorcycle chairs in the kids’ room at the hair salon, but I won’t make a stylist the big bad or insist that she risk her fingers trying to cut my child’s hair as he tries to climb the walls or shriek and run away (having stylishly coiffed children is really not that important to me; especially factoring in considerations of courtesy, safety, and fairness to the people who work in that industry, but that’s just me).

All that aside, those are decisions we didn’t make on the fly. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s nearly impossible to think clearly. It’s hard to come up with a plan that makes everyone happy when someone is screaming in your face, spittle and boogers flying every which way. It’s even harder when you can feel the angry stares from all around; unless you are a very secure person it may be tempting, just for a split second, to want to just run home and stay there. Maybe you should give up restaurants and libraries and really anywhere where people are until the kids are “ready”. When will that be? When they are five? Ten? Surely by college…?

We were one of those brazen couples that took our babies (and later, toddlers) to restaurants with us. And sometimes they even cried there! And we didn’t leave immediately! We learned early that there was a certain percentage of the population which is offended by the audacity shown by those who dare to have children in public. But we have this idea children can best learn how to be in public by, y’know, actually being in public.

So you…yes, you with the twelve month old screaming happy screams into her miso bowl at the sushi place at 5:30 p.m. on a Wednesday…good job. I remember how hard it was to get out with a kid that age, and I think you’re doing just fine. <3

Homemade Mondays: Cock-a-Leekie Soup

We had that gross summer cold that was going around. It was…gross. And weirdly seasonally inappropriate. Luckily, since we live in Ohio, before we were done having that cold the weather had turned to chilly, delicious soup weather. And then it turned back. Go figure. One of my high school friends used to say, “If you don’t like the weather in Ohio, wait a minute…” Anyway this soup was perfect for the weather and for our colds.

E has discovered leeks. She made such a big deal about this soup that I bought two more big bunches of leeks this weekend at the market so I could make more.

My favorite thing about this recipe is how simple it is…from what I understand about Scottish cooking, the focus is on getting good quality ingredients and preparing them in simple ways to really allow the food to shine. Many of the recipes have considerably fewer ingredients than I would have expected.

Cock-A-Leekie (Cocky-Leekie) Soup

Ingredients:

Good chicken stock (put a chicken carcass and livers and hearts if you have them on the stove covered with water in the pot by an inch or so, bring them to a boil, reduce heat and let the whole thing simmer for several hours. If you are starting with a whole chicken, maybe cook it in the crock pot overnight, pull off the meat, and then stick the carcass back in the crockpot covered with water to make your stock-then you only use a bit of the chicken for the soup and reserve the rest for something else. In our house, if we are choosing to eat animals, we try to do so in the way that is most respectful and least wasteful. This includes using the whole bird and making stock from the bones at least once).

One bunch of leeks (about 8-10 medium)

bits of chicken

salt

allspice (Scots Kitchen called this “Jamaica pepper”), if you like.

pepper, if you like

prunes, if using–I didn’t, because I wanted to be a good christian. ;-)*

Method:

Cut leeks in pieces about a half to three quarters of an inch or so wide. Put in a bowl, cover with water, and let stand for a few minutes. The dirt will sink to the bottom. Agitate a bit to remove the last of the dirt. Put half the leeks in a big soup pot with the bits of chicken, the salt and pepper or allspice, and the strained stock. Let simmer for an hour or so. Add the rest of the leeks, simmer for another half hour, until the leeks are tender. A few minutes before serving, you can add the prunes if you are using them.*

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*Amusing anecdotes from The Scots Kitchen by F. Marian MacNeill:

“Shepherd: Speakin’ o’ cocky-leekie, the man was an atheist that first polluted it with prunes.

North: At least no Christian. –Christopher North: Noctes Ambrosianae

“The leek is one of the most honourable and ancient of pot-herbs…The leek is the badge of a high-spirited, honourable and fiery nation-the Ancient Britons. In the old poetry of the northern nations, where a young man would now be styled the flower, he was called “the leek of his family, or tribe,” an epithet of most savoury meaning.”- Ibid.

“The soup must be very thick of leeks, and the first part of them must be boiled down into the soup until it become a lubricous compound”- Meg Dods.

Homemade Mondays: Scented Vinegar Cleaning Spray

We use this to clean almost everything in our home. Vinegar contains about 5% acetic acid, which has antimicrobial properties and will disinfect nearly as well as bleach, but without the environmental and health concerns. If you would like to read more about that, and when bleach is appropriate to use, here’s an article that goes into much greater detail.

From a user standpoint, my vinegar spray and a microfiber cloth or old piece of flannel clean windows just as well as windex (not that the windows around here are always or even usually hand-print free; ahem). It can be sprayed thoroughly on a cloth and wrapped around faucets or laid over stuck-on food spots, to be wiped off easily later.

If you have some pretty basic supplies, making this cleaner only takes the time necessary to open and close bottles, pour, and shake. I really like when homemade things are easier, cheaper, and better than what you can buy at the store. This is one of those times.

Scented Vinegar Cleaning Spray

Ingredients and Supplies:

Distilled White Vinegar (this is the cheapest option, but other vinegars may work)

essential oils of your choice*

water to dilute, if using

old empty spray bottle, rinsed**

small funnel

Method:

Funnel essential oils into the bottle first (that way the vinegar will catch any drops that end up on the funnel by mistake). Use about 20-30 drops, depending on your preferences, the oils you chose, and the size of your bottle. Fill the bottle half-way or more with vinegar, then fill the rest of the way with water. For extra disinfecting power use straight vinegar and don’t add any water. Shake and use.

*there are many essential oils that do very well in cleaning applications. Lemon, sweet orange, tea tree, and lavender are popular and easily accessible. Eucalyptus, Thieves blend (or some mix of oils like rosemary, clove, cinnamon, etc.), peppermint, or other scents that you enjoy will also work nicely. Follow good sense guidelines for using essential oils, and be aware that some oils are not recommended to put on your skin undiluted as they are very concentrated (to make about 10-15 pounds of tea tree EO they start with approximately 1,000 pounds of raw materials; it makes sense to use oils as needed but sparingly for a number of reasons).

**the spray bottle pictured there is a fun drinking bottle from an afternoon out, the cap of which turned out to be the same thread size as the top of a bottle of some store bought cleaner I had sitting around from a long time ago. Now I feel fancy when I clean.

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