My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Healthy, Home-made, Vegetarian, Indian 2

Posted on February 22, 2009 by crankycheryl

tandoori-spicesFriends had us over for dinner and a movie last night.  The food was so fresh and spicy and healthy that I had to ask Sara to share the recipes.

Balti-Style Cauliflower with Tomatoes

(But Sara cautions, “The water really needs to be eyeballed, because 6 ounces was way too much and I had to drain it, losing some of the seasoning.)

Tandoori Sweet Potatoes and Rice

Breakfast for Bittman 1

Posted on February 08, 2009 by crankycheryl

amaranthI have been a distant but loyal admirer of Mark Bittman for a long time.  I’m loving watching him stroll through Spain with his stunning  companion, I’m always glad to see that Bitten has a new post, and though I don’t own any of his many, many cookbooks, many of The Trusted Food Advisors swear by them.

And now he’s out promoting Food Matters, his book about how we can address obesity and other health issues while reducing carbon emissions AND living more ethically by reducing our consumption of animal products and processed food.

If I were a cartoon character, I’d have cute little hearts for the pupils in my eyes.

What he’s done in his own life is eat only whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruit until 6:00 at night, at which point he eats whatever he wants.   He’s lost 35 pounds, but what he’s really talking about these days is what it would mean for all of us to cut down the meat, dairy and eggs – and processed foods – that we eat.   He’s saying not to worry about being vegan or perfect or even consistent 100% of the time, but to make incremental changes that are good for you, and possible to live with.

He worked with a researcher who helped him determine that if every American were to reduce their meat/animal consumption by the equivalent of three fewer cheeseburgers a week it would literally be the environmental equivalent of taking every American SUV off the road.

The point, he says, is that small individual changes will make a huge difference if done on a large scale.

He’s my kind of food saint – a hypocrite who strives for doing well, and isn’t a sanctimonious jerk about it.  I heart Bittman.

As I was listening to the interview last week, I was reminded of what I was eating a few years ago when I decided to try the anti-Candida diet.  (You’ll forgive me for not wanting to relive the food traumas of that time by describing it in too much detail.)  Breakfast was the biggest challenge with all the things that were verboten, until I came up with this really delicious, vegan, gluten-free, relatively high-protein, low-glycemic hot cereal.  You’ll want to bake a couple of extra sweet potatoes the night before so you’ll be able to get this ready in regulation breakfast-prep time.

Amaranth-Sweet Potato Porridge

1 c. amaranth
1/4 t. salt
2 sweet potatoes, baked in their skins, cooled, pureed with 1/4 c. water with immersion blender or food processor
Place the amaranth, salt and 3 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover, turn heat down to very low, and simmer gently for 20 – 25 minutes, until the tiny grains have expanded and are slightly chewy.  Uncover, stir in the pureed sweet potato and add additional salt to taste.  Remove from heat and serve.  You could add a sprinkle of cinnamon or ginger or cloves if you like, but I prefer it as is with just a splash of soymilk.

Do my kids eat it?  I assure you that you already know the answer.

Epiphany Dinner Pictures 2

Posted on January 06, 2009 by crankycheryl

Next: An Epiphany 0

Posted on January 02, 2009 by crankycheryl

orangesSo my next turn cooking for our cohousing community is coming up on Tuesday, January 6.  And because I’ve seldom encountered a theme I don’t like, I’ve been researching traditional foods for the Epiphany.  (This is the “12th Day of Christmas,” the day that the three wise men are said to have arrived in Bethlehem after Jesus was born.)  I have found many cakes, often a type of fruit cake, but dinner menus have been much more difficult to come by.

At last, I stumbled onto a Tuscan Epiphany dinner menu here.   Keeping in mind that we’ll be cooking for a big gang of people, that we’re only supposed to spend $3.50 on food per adult, and that we’ve got plenty of vegetarians, I’m truncating this multi-course meal to:

  • Sweet Potato Gnocchi (a pasta course is naturally traditional for an Italian meal, but in American fashion it’ll just be part of the main course, plus the orange color represents gold and the sun)
  • Vegetarian Sausages (sausages represent abundance)
  • Broccoli Saute (broccoli’s bitterness has some apparent significance)
  • Oranges & Figs
  • For dessert, I was tempted by both a sweet foccacia called La Fugassa de la Befana, and Ciambella de Rei Magi – Three Wise Men Torte.    I like the sound of La Befana – a witchy character who leaves presents/charcoal in stockings on the Epiphany.  (She’s survived from older, pagan times – maybe an agriculture goddess, according to some sources.)  After searching through many, many funny translated Italian websites for a recipe, I at last found myself back at good old Recipezaar for this Befana Cake.

(And for more interesting things about the holiday and its pagan origins, visit  here and here.)

I’ll report back with pictures and results.  And hopefully also with sore muscles from a vigorous workout to atone for more feasting.

Dinner at CoHousing: Food, Love, Work! 1

Posted on December 15, 2008 by crankycheryl

I have to start with this:  I love living in cohousing.  And one thing living here means is eating together when we can, and helping prepare one meal a month.  I’m one of the queen bee-ish types who tends to be the “lead cook” when my turn comes around, so that I get to do the menu planning, the shopping, and take charge of the cook team in preparing dinner for the 30 – 50 who typically attend.

There’s no doubt that it’s a lot of work, but there’s so much that happens as we do it.  The casual conversations over the chopping board where we get to know where people come from, find out what’s happening in each others’ lives.  Watching neighbors come and go on their various ways.  Learn who’s away and where and who’s coming to visit.  Learning more about where people come from, where they hope to go.

Still, meal planning for this interesting and diverse group isn’t easy.  We have a gluten-free neighbor, one who can’t eat any form of pepper, two who have walnut allergies, a dairy free guy and several vegetarians.  When you come to dinner here you see the big trays or pots alongside single, labeled servings for these folks.  But I think it’s true that none of us minds these extra steps.  Offering delicious, safe food to each other is an honest expression of our appreciation for each other.  You can’t help having this kind of affection for the people who babysit for you for free, who brush the snow off your car, clean the bathrooms in the common house, plant the common garden, bring your compost to the pile for you.  Make some baked tofu alongside the chicken?  Sure.

And I do love coming up with the menus.   I wanted one that was festive and fairly opulent, but vegetarian.   So what developed was:

I had a great, capable cooking team to put it all together, but we also had Melissa and Allison from the Burlington Free Press on hand to do an article on cohousing, asking questions and taking pictures, which may have made it a tad more unfocused, but definitely made it much more exciting.  Whisking eggs!  Crimping pastry!  Giant pot of greens!  All photo ops.  I felt like a celebrity when I took the pies from the oven and the photographer swooped in to capture them as they emerged.

But what made me really feel like a star, as it does every time, was the thumbs-up, back-pats, and whispered compliments as I walked around the dining room that night.   To have my neighbors and friends receive and return the caring we put into that meal feels like deep community.  Like family.  Like, well, love.

(Oh, and my kids?  They picked the puff pastry off their plates, pronounced it delicious, drank two sips of milk, then ran off crying when I suggested they try something else.)

So that’s dinner here.  We do it every other day, usually with as much TLC, but often with less fanfare … though we’ve been known to burst into applause at all the wanton yumminess.

(Check out the 12/20/08 BFP article!)

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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