What is The Vegan(ish) Experiment?

Our family (me, my husband D, and our four-year-old Molly) started 2009 with a mostly-vegan, macrobiotic-inspired diet (although I have to admit, the strict macro rules have pretty much gone out the window). I have seen a marked improvement in my chronic migraines, and I'm enjoying proving that we can make amazing, mouth-watering, memorable food without animal products. For a more in-depth intro, click here.

I stopped updating this blog quite awhile back, when life got in the way. I'm still keeping a mostly vegan kitchen, though, and loving it. Have fun browsing my recipes!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Death in the Family

This is D with his mom, Helen. We lost her yesterday, at the age of 62. We have spent an awful lot of time in the hospital the last few weeks, and the Internet has (rightly) taken backseat. I will return to my frequent comments, tweets, Facebook updates, and (semi-)regular blog posts soon, but I'm not sure when.

I met Helen six years ago today, only three weeks after meeting D. We already knew we would end up married, although it was over two years before we did it. I didn't feel like I knew Helen well until the last several months, though. She was slow to open up to me, and I suppose I was in return, until she became sick and we both started to reach out to each other.

I am so grateful that I was able to really know her, to love her as family, before she died.

I am grateful that Molly loved her Nana and got to see her often.

I am grateful that D and I were by her side when she took her last breaths, and that she was so peaceful and free of pain as it happened.

I am grateful for the ICU nurses, who learned the family members' names and greeted us every time we came to visit. It takes a very special type of person to work in an environment where the private grief of families is so prevalent. They were amazing.

I am grateful for last Sunday, Easter, when Helen had a very good day. She was talking, the breathing tube out for a few days. She knew where she was, and she was able to see and talk to four of her grandchildren. Her room was a celebratory place that day, with Irish folk music playing so loudly that it must have entered the rooms of patients halfway down the hall.

I'm grateful for the funny memories that keep popping up, like when D told me about how his mom used to put him on the handlebars of her bike and ride him to Cub Scouts. And yesterday, when we passed a Christmas Tree Shop (a discount store full of trinkets, figurines, and the like - not all holiday-oriented), and I commented that we should have her memorial there, because she loved it so much. D said that they'd see a dip in their sales now, and we both laughed and cried at that.

We are exhausted, and it hasn't completely sunk in yet. We're discovering that, although we know she is gone, believing it is something altogether different. The belief comes in waves, and I think it will gradually build over the months. Some day, her death will be fully real. I think we're all kind of glad it's not yet.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Day 94: Macrobiotic Oatmeal Cookies

Way back on Thanksgiving Day, my sister Beth had a blog post that asked readers to say something they were thankful for. Beth was thankful for something starting with the letter A, the first comment was to include a thanks starting with a B, and so on. Whoever got to Z first would win cookies from Beth.

If you are bored, stressed, or otherwise in need of a laugh, go back and read all the comments on Beth's post. I dare you not to giggle. Beth didn't count on me and D hijacking the contest (and D trying to cheat his way to a win by starting with Z and going backwards from there.) In the end, after much family hilarity, I won fair and square by a few seconds.

Every day for months, I looked for my cookies in the mail. If my sweet tooth struck, I would say to myself, "I'm not going to make or buy cookies. Maybe Beth's cookies will come TODAY!" But they didn't.

Just kidding. In reality, I forgot all about the contest. Months later, Beth called me and said, "Your cookies are on the way!" and I said, "What cookies?" She had to remind me about the contest. This was near the end of February, and we'd been staying away from almost all refined sugar since January 1. Ugh. What would we do with an entire batch of cookies?

And then they arrived: Beth had looked online and found a recipe for Macrobiotic Oatmeal Cookies. Gluten-free. Sweetened with maple syrup and pumpkin puree. No added oils, flour, or white sugar. And they were yummy. Just a hint of sweetness, sort of like a really moist granola bar. We actually ate them for breakfast for the next few days.

I got the recipe from Beth and discovered that its measurements were listed by weight, not volume. I could "borrow" one of the digital balances from my school's chemistry lab for awhile (not a good idea, considering the toxic stuff they work with in chem class), or I could do some research on the densities of the ingredients and convert the measurements to teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups. Being a math/science geek, I opted for the latter. I also added cinnamon to the recipe, because everything's better with cinnamon. For those of you who don't think it's fun to do density calculations while you're cooking (you crazy people), I'm posting the adapted recipe here.

Macrobiotic Oatmeal Cookies

This is a great recipe to play around with - what other dried fruits, nuts, and seasonings could you use? I'm thinking a pinch of nutmeg next time ... maybe some chopped pecans ... dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots ... sweet potato puree instead of pumpkin ... Mmm!

3/4 c. raisins
3/4 c. slivered almonds
2 c. old-fashioned oats
1 - 2 t. cinnamon (Mom, you have permission go crazy and add a whole tablespoon ... I know you will, anyway!)
3 T. maple syrup
1 c. soymilk
1/2 c. pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling - just pure pumpkin. You can freeze the leftovers if you use canned.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F (about 170° C).
  2. Toast almonds in a dry saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned and fragrant. Pour onto a paper towel to cool.
  3. Mix raisins, oats, and half of the cinnamon in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Chop nuts and add them to the mixture.
  4. Pour syrup, soymilk, pumpkin, and the other half of the cinnamon into the same saucepan you used for the nuts. Heat over low flame, stirring, until it boils.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir to mix.
  6. Place spoonfuls of cookies on a cookie sheet (you can press them down to make them more crispy and cookie-ish, like Beth did, or keep them more ball-shaped to make them moister and more like a soft granola bar, like I did). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until slightly browned.

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