I like to think that I'm the kind of person who knows how to stick to her guns, to take a belief to heart and run with it. When I look in the mirror, I want to see a woman who knows what she believes in, and refuses to let the world compromise her. A lot of the time I feel like I'm somewhere in the neighborhood of that goal, but even at my best, I still struggle with maintaining a balance between indulging my ideals and accepting the facts of life.
My cell phone, for example, eats at me. I use it all the time. It's a tool for my blog and my job, a favorite toy in moments of boredom, and my golden ticket to an endless library of information. Sometimes I even use it to call or text someone. I can't deny how much I adore my phone, and of course, that bothers me. Such an attachment to a material object goes against the spiritual goals I set as a buddhist. It's very existence, as disposable technology, goes against my beliefs as an environmentalist. Knowing what other human beings are put through in order to supply and dispose of my precious phone strikes a chord with my conscience that is hard to ignore.
Yet, I can't put the damned thing down. I justify it with some vague notion that like my computer, the device allows me to act as a force of good in the world. I remind myself to take that deal seriously and put out content that is more thoughtful, more helpful, and more worthwhile. Similar justifications are made for indulging in the occasional bite of meat or cheaply-made dairy purchase. I tell myself that I am exploring different foods, and Scott often reminds me that we can't afford to "damn the man" at every turn, so I pick my battles one by one, and try to do the right thing more often than not.
Every once in a while someone dangles something shiny in front of me and I snatch it up without thinking about the strings attached. Let's say, for example, a television production company approaches me about participating in an online event for their popular reality cooking show. I think about how great the exposure would be for my blog, about how many more readers, subscribers, or followers I might get. I even think about how the experience will puff me up, making me look a little bit famous. It's so sparkly!
But then it actually happens, and I feel a knot in my gut. When I'm given a long list of what not to say, not to wear, not to do, the knot gets tighter. I suddenly realize that I am helping to promote something that I don't even like, a show that portrays food and cooking as something difficult and mysterious, as if it only belonged to these shiny special people on TV. I have a personal rule against burning bridges or backing out of things I've committed to, so I go through with it anyway, even though I'm not allowed to mention my blog or my last name, even though the dish we are cooking isn't vegetarian, even though I feel used and stepped on.
Then it is over, and I just feel angry, with the TV people, of course, but also with myself. I just sold myself out for nothing. At least I can say that I learned my lesson: to thyself be true. No more reality shows for this little vegetarian.
Instead of becoming more phoney, I've decided to start getting real. While I will still be sharing plenty of polished and perfect recipes, I'm also going to begin posting about what I'm eating every day. Unless it is for a recipe post, I don't often cook the same thing twice, so these recipes will be shot from the hip. I hope they will inspire you to get in your kitchen and throw something together too.
Go forth and cook, my friends. It's a good day to be yourself.
If you've ever wondered what I actually eat every day, you should probably be following me on Instagram. As my IG followers are acutely aware, veggie rice and noodle bowls are pretty much a staple part of my diet. I eat them mostly for lunch since the hus-beast has been on an anti-vegetable kick lately. (Ask me later how THAT'S working out. Guh.)
Anyway, I like to get at least two colors of veggies in each bowl I make. Greens are almost always color one. The second color rotates between orange sweet potatoes and carrots or red peppers. Yellow squash and purple peppers are also known to pop in now and then. Sometimes I feel like it needs an egg on top. Sometimes I'm not in the mood. Anyway, this is a pretty typical lunch or dinner for me.
I should warn you that this is a pretty intense veggie bowl. I hope you like greens. If not, you might want to start with something a little lighter, like spinach. Chard can be a little earthy, in the same way that beets can, and it's not everyone's cup of tea. Amaranth actually has a really interesting taste, most of which is covered up in this particular recipe. If you've never had amaranth, you might want to just saute it up with some sesame oil, salt, pepper and garlic instead of roasting it with the chard. In that case, I'd also reduce the amount of sauce you use on the chard. By half or so?
I like this bowl with a few squirts of sriracha and kewpie mayo. I have a serious kewpie habit. What can I say? If that isn't your thing, you could sub a few slices of fresh avocado or a drizzle of plain tahini to give this bowl a creamy touch.
- 1 cup cooked rice (I use brown basmati)
- 1 bunch chard, rinsed well and roughly chopped
- 1 bunch amaranth, rinsed well and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce (or gluten free tamari)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 raw carrot, shredded
- 2 eggs, fried
- 1/4 cup Roasted Wild Nori Seaweed Flakes (optional)
- Mayo and Sriracha (optional, to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss the greens in the sesame oil until well coated. Mix the soy sauce, syrup or honey, garlic, ginger, and red pepper in a small bowl, then toss with the greens.
- Spread the greens out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast for 5 - 10 minutes, stir, and then roast for another 5 - 10 minutes. For lightly "done" greens, roast for a total of 10 minutes. 20 minutes of roasting will produce well done greens.
- Spoon the rice out between two bowls, then top with a drizzle of kewpie and sriracha. Next, add the greens, followed by the shredded carrot and seaweed, if you are using it.
- I like to top this bowl with an over-easy style fried egg. My husband prefers it sunny-side-up. Someone else might like it scrambled. Do what you feel.
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I like to think of Mary Makes Dinner as a healthy cooking blog. With the exception of an occasional ice cream recipe, hehe, my recipes are mostly veggie-centric, fresh, and unprocessed. I try to focus on meatless recipes, especially now that my everyday diet has shifted so far in that direction. I spent most of mid-2012 on a 90% vegan diet, and felt not only healthier for it, but happier.
So what about 2012? Did I accomplish everything I dreamed of? Did I break barriers, scale walls, rise from ashes and spread my glorious burning wings across a clear blue sky?
Well, duh. Weren't you all here for that?
Actually, I did pretty well this year. This time last year I'd vowed to eat healthier. It all started with the Whole Living detox, which was pretty much a week of vegetables, followed by vegetables with fat, then vegetables with grain. Soon after, I started cooking only vegetarian meals at home, and began replacing meals with green smoothies. At some point, the vegetarian home thing turned into a vegan home thing. A few months back, Scott and I did a juice cleanse, prompting him to join the mostly-vegan bandwagon I was on. It all happened sort of gradually, but with the exception of the holiday-season we've kept up the mostly vegan, everyday juicing pattern pretty well.
Next week we are doing another juice cleanse followed by a liver cleanse. Shit's getting crazy over here, but I'm looking forward to getting my supposedly congested fatty liver reset. I know, I'm speaking hippy-greek. Sorry. The point is that over the past year of healthy eating I have never felt better. Besides that time I drank river water I wasn't sick all year. Of course, I was slammed with a head cold in the last month of December, crushing my chances for reporting a cold-free year. Curse you, cruel fate.
Then, we bought a house, which is pretty cool, but also feels really stupid and frightening sometimes. You know what I mean, right? It's all gravy - totally awesome, but at the same time you can't help but feel like the adult who lives here is going to come home sooner or later and kick you out. Just yesterday I drilled a hole through a cabinet and grimced over having to hide it from the landlord. Hiding it from the hus-beast was way harder.
Then there is Chef Hangout. Though I have to admit, it hasn't become the new career that I hoped it would, it has opened a lot of doors for me, and helped me realize how very much I enjoy teaching. I'll be keeping it up in the coming year, but I'm also going to be making a big effort to find other places to teach as well, both online and locally. If anyone hears about a teaching opportunity, I'd be gratfeul if you kept me in mind.
Scott and I welcomed our latest nephew to the party in 2012. Little Michael is Scott's sister, Karen's third baby, giving us a grand total of six nieces and nephews and three god-children. My sister, Sarah, is making our nine-count an even ten later this year. She's preggo! Sarah's baby will be the first grandkid on my side, so we are all extremely excited. I was tempted to list having a baby in my goals for 2013, but if 2012 has taught me anything, it's that some things don't come according to your schedule. The best things in life arrive whenever they damn-well feel like it.
The Leonard grand-kids, tall and small.
Of course, 2012 had some really, really sad bits too. The last month was particularly difficult. My stomach still drops whenever my mind wanders that direction. Tears still come whenever I'm prompted to talk about any of it. My heart aches, my hands cramp up, and my breath gets trapped in my chest. Nothing can ever make it right, and part of me is really, really scared of what 2013 could bring. Sometimes I feel like the world just keeps getting scarier.
Then I wonder if the world was always so cruel, and it's just me getting older? Either way, part of me was happy to stay home with a cold last night, safe and warm under a blanket. We toasted the new year with kombucha, then went outside to watch my neighborhood explode into an amateur fireworks show. We were in bed soon after, and for some reason or another I didn't wake up for twelve more hours.
So, I missed half of my first day this year. How's that for an omen? Then Gracie got a mud-foot. Luckily, I caught her in the mud-room before she escaped to fling mud all over the house. As I was cleaning her up I snapped my first shot for this year's 365 project, #Underfoot. Once I put some clothes on I'll be heading to the Container Store again to try and finish up my first goal of the year. My pantry ought to be shaking in its boots.
Twice a year I spend at least a few measly hours over-analyzing my life. Being born in July, I have the opportunity to indulge in self-examination every six months or so, which seems to me to be a comfortable minimum. On these ocassions, I think about my ratio of accomplishments to failures, count up my goals-achieved to goals-deferred, and compare where I am now to where I was three hundred sixty five days prior.
It's far from an uncommon practice. I'm sure everyone is doing it, at least a little. The next week will be undoubtedly filled with bloggers repenting for their pasts transgressions, and making oaths to change in the coming year. Gym memberships will be purchased. Trips to the salon will be made. Old socks and underwear will find their way into rubbish bins across the nation. Everyone will be reborn as improved versions of themselves.
Everyone but me. Sorry tradition, but I'm not planning on changing very much at all this year. After evaluating my accomplishments over the past twelve months I've decided that I'm on a pretty good path. I'm progressing at a healthy pace, and I'm moving in the right direction. So, no u-turns for me this year. Instead of resolutions, I'm going to set a small list of goals for 2013.
Hello. I'm Mary Helen
Comfort food, healthy cooking, and ethnic cuisines are my obsessions. As a cook, writer, and culinary instructor these worlds collide in my kitchen on a daily basis.
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