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Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

I needed to bring a kosher vegetable dish for Passover Seder tonight, so I figured this was a perfect time to try out my new, larger tagine. I started with this yesterday:

Most of it is from the farmers markets. Last night, I made the tomato sauce portion from a Moroccan Vegetable Tagine recipe I found. I even made my own Harissa paste.

While I was doing that, I had some wine and made dinner. Breaded-and-baked, stuffed squash blossoms, roasted carrots and asparagus and a little sautéed spinach. Instead of ricotta, I used a fresh, sheep’s milk soft cheese from the Farmer’s Market. They were awesome. I asked if I could bring cheese for the vegetarians tonight but got laughed at. They missed out. ;-)

Tonight, I chopped up the remaining vegetables, mixed them with the tomato sauce, and threw it all together in the tagine in the oven for an hour and a half at 400°. It took longer because the tomato sauce had been in the fridge instead of already boiling. I walked the dog and folded laundry while waiting.

Late for appetizers, I arrived two minutes to sundown. My car trunk smells a bit, but it was worth it. I forgot to take a photo of the dish when it was finished, but here is what I had left when I got home.

It was spicy and good. I’ll definitely make this one again.

Pasta with capers, tomatoes and olives

Tonight’s experiment with dinner was Pasta with capers, tomatoes and olives; roasted parsnip, carrots, kale and asparagus; and a side of steamed artichoke with lemon butter. Cooked with white wine.

I drank the wine. That is how I cooked with it.



Hair Porn Day

Before and after. Just a color touch up and a trim.



Cutting sugar

A friend asked recently if I had given up sugar completely after posting a link to this article. No, I haven’t. I am fighting just like everyone to cut more of it out of my life.

Over the years, I’ve been slowly doing things to make changes. I do find some of it is easier to do in Cali and because I have no one at home but myself to feed.

I wrote a post a while ago about how I was losing weight. Some of those are good suggestions for cutting sugar, but here is a list of how I got to where I am today.

The important thing to remember is that I made these transitions over years. Don’t try to cut sugar out of your life completely and immediately. Do it gradually and in a way that you can sustain. You will be more likely to succeed.

So pick one of these suggestions and practice it until you are successful at it. Then try another. And another.

Cut out soda

This is a great starting point. Just stop drinking soda. It is carbonated sugar water. Replace it with sparkly water so that you still feel like you are drinking something fun. But not the sparkly water with the fake sugar in it—the kind that is just water, carbonation, and a hint of lemon or lime.

Don’t drink fruit juices

Much of it is natural sugar, but you are missing all the other parts of the fruit. Just eat a piece of fruit instead. Drink water. At this point, the only fruit juice I drink is either a fruit smoothy—as a meal, or wine. I’m not willing to give up fermented grape juice quite yet!

Stop adding sugar

Don’t add sugar to your coffee or cereal. Don’t add it to food you cook. Add half of what a recipe calls for. Keep cutting back. Apple pie is so much better with half the sugar. I just use sweeter apples and less sugar. It will take a while for your taste buds to adjust. Don’t rush them, but continue to challenge them.

Never buy candy yourself

This is one of my random rules. I haven’t bought anything from the candy aisle in years. I will sometimes eat things supplied at the office. I have the same rule with French fries. I can eat leftovers off someone else’s plate, but I can’t get them myself.

Only eat homemade pastries

This is an easy way to cut back on pastries without offending friends. If they made it from scratch, I’ll have some. If it is store bought, I’ll try to avoid it. Homemade, yes. Mass produced, no.

Read package labels

The FDA just announced new package labels this week. Read them. Learn about them. Understand them. You’d be surprised what chemicals you are consuming—and how much sugar. The new labels will make the added sugar more obvious.

Cut out canned tomato sauce

Canned tomato sauce has a ton of sugar and salt in it. My favorite thing to do now is different variations on pasta primavera. Basically, it is a hodgepodge of what is laying around. I start by sautéing garlic and onion in olive oil, then add chopped tomatoes (skin on. Blasphemy!) and other chopped veggies like peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and carrots. Sometimes I use no-salt-or-sugar-added, diced tomatoes from a can. Another favorite is to halve cherry tomatoes, toss the pasta with them, olive oil, spinach or basil and Parmesan. Anything but canned tomato sauce.

Stop rewarding yourself with food

This is one I need to get better at. I had a good week of losing weight and what did I do tonight? Splurge on food. I’ll spend all weekend working it off. Food shouldn’t be a reward. Find another way to reward yourself. And if you figure out how to succeed at this, let me know. I need some pointers.

Shop in the outside aisles

Canned, packaged and frozen foods are notorious for their sugar and salt content. I shop in the outside aisles at the grocery store. That’s where the fresh veggies, bread, cheese and meat are. Everything you need to make dinner. Luckily, the beer and wine is also usually near there. I do have to slip into an aisle occasionally for deodorant and soap though. I’m not that crunchy.

Get a CSA box

For about two years, I purchased a weekly CSA box. I got a half fruit, half veggie box from The Fruit Guys. Sadly, now that I’ve left, they no longer do veggies. It was great though. They did a mix of different things and there were always new plants for me to learn how to eat. It really helped my route to being a vegetarian.

Learn to cook

The CSA box also forced me to learn how to cook. I didn’t want to waste my money, so I had to be creative about what was in my box. Doing so forced me to try a lot of things I never would have tried. That brought me to my next step…

Shop at the farmer’s market

Now that I’m not afraid to try new things and I recognize vegetables in their original form, I now do most of my shopping at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I thought people were lying about this, but they were right—farm-fresh veggies do taste better. Just like Guinness tastes better in Ireland. Just sayin’.

Don’t replace sugar with fake sugar.

Last but not least, whatever you do, do not replace sugar with fake sugar. It doesn’t stop the cravings and it is just putting chemicals in your body.

Enough of my preaching. I’ll go back to my beer, which yes, has sugar in it. The yeast have to eat something. Like I said, I didn’t cut it out entirely, I’m just trying to cut back. We are all in this together, so let me know if you have suggestions. I need help too!

Good luck!

Butternut squash pasta, take two

In an effort to skip the butter in the browned butter, sage, butternut squash pasta, I went in search of a new butternut squash recipe and landed with this pasta with winter squash and tomatoes recipe. I made spinach as a side dish, but dumped it into the pasta at the last minute.


Notes for next time: roast the squash in the oven to make it super juicy and tender. Then toss it in with the pasta into the sauce.

First (of many) tagine success!

After reading many tagine recipes, I used a recipe at Vegetarian Times as a base. What I learned is that I can use tagines to empty my fridge, I just need the right mix of vegetables, spice, sweet and savory.

This is what I started with.


I didn’t have raisins, but I had dried apricot for the sweet. The olives had blue cheese in them, but I pulled that out. I’m missing saffron, which I understand is important, and my ginger and cinnamon were ground. I didn’t have parsley either.


Regardless of what I was missing, I call this a success! I didn’t make any bread, so I ate it over couscous.


And there is enough leftover for lunch tomorrow!

I also made homemade hummus from dried garbanzo beans. I made way too much. And it needs a little something, I just need to figure out what.

Best pasta yet!


The Pasta

Barilla Veggie Rotini pasta made with zucchini and spinach.

The Sauce

Garlic and onion sautéed in olive oil. No-salt, pure tomato sauce with oregano and freshly-ground salt and pepper added. Halved cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black olives, and fresh basil. Tossed with the pasta. Sprinkled with parmesan. (Less sprinkled, more like a New England snow storm.)

The Veggies

Sweet potato and carrots tossed in olive oil, freshly-ground salt and pepper, baked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Bad dog, no biscuit.

My dog is under house arrest, per order of Animal Control.

It all started when I came back from Boston a little over a week ago. My niece gave me the kiss of death at Logan that turned into The Plague. Upon arrival home, my neighbor stopped by to tell me she was interviewing at work and to ask some questions. While in my condo, she mentioned that they would be happy to watch Perl the next time I was out of town.

Oh really? Because I’m actually going to Detroit next weekend.

Despite having The Plague, I had them over for dinner on Thursday night before I left. We had homemade pizza and salad and wine. We talked about where they are from and how they met and how I’ve been a bad neighbor for not really talking to them before this. Then we discussed my pets’ needs. Walks early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Feeding hippie food that has to be mixed with hot water. I skipped the drugs. They would survive the weekend, and I was too sick to write instructions down. I was just grateful that they wanted to do this.

Friday morning, I moved one of Perl’s beds into their place and headed off to Detroit.

Detroit was cold and snowy. Literally freezing. I was sick and tired. I gave a talk at 10 pm after getting there. I didn’t get much sleep. But it was fun. I answered lots of questions. I saw lots of great apps.

I learned that taxi drivers in Detroit don’t like to turn on their meters. They prefer to just rip you off. When the taxi driver did it to me, he said it was such a short drive I could give him whatever. I had $6, so that is what he got. Some other people got charged more than $20 for the same ride. I got lucky.

On my trip to the airport, my driver was overly chatty, but talked quietly, so I couldn’t hear him well. He didn’t immediately turn on the meter, so I reminded him to. Told him I’d had a problem with taxi drivers not turning on their meter. He turned it on and proceeded to drive 55 mph to the airport, talking constantly all the way. I tried to explain that my hearing aid batteries were dying. It didn’t seem to stop him. And he kept giving me high fives, even though he heard me blow my nose for five minutes.

When we did finally get to the airport and he had sufficiently ripped me off, he couldn’t get his Square reader to work. I had to show him how to enter the credit card manually. I think he just memorized what buttons to press because the rest of his phone wasn’t in English, as was apparent when I hung up on his wife when she called.

I had no free time at the airport since the taxi driver had taken his sweet time. So when the TSA agent looking at my driver’s license looked at it and me three times, I got worried that she was going to hold me up for some invented reason. Finally, she asked me with a smile, “Have you lost weight?”

“Yeah, about 25 lbs since that photo.”

“You should get a new photo.” As if the DMV will just let me walk in and retake my photo. Easy peasy.

I was rushing to my gate. Boots click-clacking loudly to scare people out of my way. It was working. The guy on the moving sidewalk moved over to let me pass. As I was walking by him, he spoke my name into my deaf ear. My hearing aid batteries had finally died.

I must be hearing things. I looked at him.

He said it again.

“Hi. Did we meet at the conference?”

“No, we met years ago.”

I was confused. He said his name. Between the taxi driver and the TSA agent, I was off my game. It took me a few seconds. Then I realized it was @PowerUser. Relief! He really was someone I’d met before and wasn’t someone I had just forgotten from the conference. Of course, over the years I’d forgotten what he looked like. I felt bad about not recognizing him. He was seated in front of me on the plane. I’d just scored the window seat—ten rows back—earlier in the day. Fate is weird sometimes.

Back home after a sick, sleepless weekend, I stopped next door to get my key and my dog. I hoped my instincts were right and that my neighbors hadn’t robbed me blind. They hadn’t. They’d enjoyed having Perl visiting over the weekend. She’d whined when they made her sleep in the living room, so they let her in the bedroom and she was happy. They’d taken her on long walks and loved having a reason to get out. They’d driven her to a local park. While there, Perl had found a chicken bone. My neighbor had tried to take it out of Perl’s mouth knowing how dangerous they are. Perl, feeling like she won the jackpot, wasn’t going to give it up. She pierced my neighbor’s finger while trying to hold onto the bone.

“Did Perl at least look like she felt bad?” I asked?

“She didn’t notice she had done it. But I know she didn’t do it on purpose.”

They wanted to make sure that she was vaccinated. She is. I provided them with documentation.

Yesterday, they went to see the doctor because her finger was swelling. We were all afraid it might be infected. I wasn’t worried about Perl transmitting a disease, but I was worried about what might have been on the chicken bone, or anything else she might have been eating off the ground that day. She is a scavenger.

They told the doctor what had happened. Of course, the doctor then had to call Animal Control. So, Animal Control called my neighbors this morning. My neighbor explained what had happened, and that she didn’t blame my dog, but we all know how well that worked. There was a notice on my door when I got home that my dog is under House Arrest, otherwise known as Home Quarantine. And that is going to cost me $50 and a week of no walks with my dog. I love my walks.

Now, not only do I feel bad that my neighbor got bit trying to keep my dog from hurting herself while they were taking her out for an awesome walk, but they feel bad for telling the doctor they knew the dog. They tried to explain, but we all know how these things go. They aren’t from around here, so they couldn’t have known. They were just doing what they thought was right.

Sigh. It is going to be a long week.

You have nothing to fear but fear itself

I vividly remember reading this paragraph from the introduction of Orson Scott Card’s, “Maps in a Mirror.” He’s describing the different types of fear: horror, terror, and dread. While seeming deceptively harmless, dread is the absolute worst.

Dread is the first and the strongest of the three kinds of fear. It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home an hour ago; when you hear a strange sound in the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house.

You can read the full introduction yourself. I despise watching horror. It is the director trying to gross us all out. Over the years, I’ve become numb to the Hollywood fake blood and guts. Terror still scares me because there is room for interpretation. However, dread is what floors me. Dread makes me want to curl up in the corner of the room and hide. And the worst part is I can’t hide from dread because what makes dread the most paralyzingly of all fear is that it is all in my imagination. And trust me when I say that my imagination is limitless in its ability to think the worst will happen. No director can film a horror movie that touches on everyone’s fears, but a good writer can leave their readers petrified by leaving blanks for the reader to fill in.

I finally watched The Happening tonight. I’d wondered why I hadn’t watched it before, since I normally love M. Night Shyamalan movies. His early ones played on dread perfectly, with a little bit of terror, but this one had too much horror. I don’t know if someone forced good actors to act poorly, but the movie was just awkward to watch. The script was miserable. It was no Unbreakable or The Sixth Sense. The premise of dread was there. I will be freaked out now when the wind blows, but I could have done without seeing some of the blood. The blood cheapens the movie in the same way that talking about how bad the movie was cheapens this post. It was really just a brief distraction from reality.

Tonight is all about dread for another reason. I was saddened to learn today that two friends have lost loved ones. Taken in their primes. I’ve learned to deal with the passing of the elderly when they’ve had a full life and are ready, but parents should never have to witness the death of their child. And friends shouldn’t have to deal with the death of a sibling when we are all still so vibrant. It is an unimaginable fear. And, I can only imagine, an unimaginable pain to endure.

The old adage says that bad things come in threes. I don’t want to believe it. I’m trying my best not to run worst-case scenarios in my head. My imagination can be difficult to tame.

I dread going to sleep tonight.

However, as one of those friends reminded us all in a post he made after the loss of his daughter, his late wife always said, “In the face of uncertainty, remember these two things: you are stronger than you think, and you are not alone.”

Hug your loved ones a little tighter and a little longer, and tell them you love them. Don’t wait.

You can thank Steve for that

I went to Alexander’s Steakhouse tonight for dinner. Yes, I know that I’m a vegetarian, and so going to a steakhouse is quite the contradiction. However, the decision was made in an email thread I missed while I was out learning how to communicate. Ironic, right?

In California, I’m never worried. There is always something vegetarian on the menu. And if all else fails, I make a meal of side dishes and salad. Outside of California, this is much more difficult. Even more difficult for the gluten-free crowd. But I have yet to actually starve. So I didn’t argue about the selection.

Sure enough, on the third page of the menu was, in bold letters, the word Vegetarian, standing out between the steak and everything else. Well, that did it. I’ll have the Vegetarian.

When it came out, it was incredible. A plate of local, farm-fresh vegetables, beautifully arranged. “Isn’t it gorgeous,” the waiter exclaimed?

Yes, I agreed, as I discretely took a picture.

“You can thank Steve Jobs for that,” the waiter said.

It turns out, Steve at some point convinced Alexander’s that they should have a vegetarian option for those of us who accompany our meat eating friends to the fine establishment. So, the Vegetarian was born and added to the menu.

The waiter jokingly suggested that maybe we should all go to vegetarian restaurants and demand they add meat to their menu.

Thank you, Steve.


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