A rockin’ reunion

My sister, Megan, dad and me.

So last weekend I went home to Kansas to see my dad play bass guitar with his band from the ’70s, Plain Jane. They were being inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, and since I’d never actually seen my dad play with them before, I didn’t want to miss it.

Dad and my stepmom, Bonnie.

He left the band in 1978, and I was born in ’80. The rest of the band continued to play up until 1992.

I can remember having a Plain Jane poster in our basement, and my dad getting out his acoustic guitar to play random songs on occasion, but really I know him as a computer programmer more than a musician. So it was cool to see that other side of him. Isn’t it funny to imagine the life your parents had before you came along?

It was really fun to see them play, but I think it might have actually been more fun to hear all the stories from back in the day. They traveled all over the Midwest to play shows and had quite a few adventures. They apparently played a regular gig at a strip club in Salina, where they had to introduce all the dancers. They ate a lot of Denny’s because it was the only thing open late at night. I’m sure there are a lot more stories they’d rather keep to themselves…

Here are some photos of the band in the ’70s. Gotta love the hair! My dad is at the bottom right.

There were lots of changes to the lineup, and apparently at one point two guys who went on to be in the band Kansas were in Plain Jane. One of them, Rich Williams, is in the next photo at top left.

Mike took this video of Plain Jane singing one of their original songs at the induction ceremony.

I am dying for one of their T-shirts now. I just love the logo – classic!

It’s meeeeelllllllting

I was getting to the point where I never thought I would see my driveway, the street, or grass ever again. And then winter decided it was finally done torturing us.

The only problem is that now it’s supposed to start raining. Which means we get to go straight into flood season.

On quieting your mind



Adho Mukha Svanasana.

No, I have not lost my mind and starting speaking in tongues. Those are the sanskrit names of some yoga poses I have had to learn the last couple of weeks. (Low pushup, warrior, and downward facing dog, if you’re curious). I’ve been taking some training sessions so that I can teach yoga classes, and really so I can learn all the things I never bothered to learn about the poses. Teaching yoga one of those things I always thought was for people who were a lot fitter than me, or that it was somehow just not something I could do. But here I am doing it. Teaching Nia definitely gave me the confidence to take yoga to the next level.

So a couple nights a week I gather with an amazing group of people and we practice our sanskrit names and we adjust each other in poses and we stumble through teaching vinyasas. But the first thing we do at every class is meditate. Just a few minutes of trying to quiet our minds so we can focus on this one task. It’s amazing how hard it is to do that. I find myself trying not to multitask when I’m at home because I realize that I don’t remember how to do just one thing at a time anymore. No wonder I always leave my coffee in the microwave or forget random little things that cause me to slap my forehead later.

I’ve found that when we do our meditation it always goes the same way for me. The first couple of minutes my mind is running a constant stream of lists and conversations, and then all of the sudden it’s like I snap out of it and realize I’ve been talking in my head all this time. And then slowly I start to catch the thoughts and dismiss them, and at some point, my head tilts back and my mind really does start to turn off. Then it’s just me and my breath, in and out, in and out. It’s the most wonderful feeling. Last class we started this round of chanting Oms that was really lovely. Some people probably think we’re crazy and weird, but I think it’s crazy and weird how we don’t know how to shut everything off.

Anyway, it’s also been great learning a little more about what yoga is, beyond just the poses. There’s a great quote by B.K.S. Iyengar, where he says, “Yoga is the method by which the restless mind is calmed and the energy directed into constructive channels.” I like to think of it that way.

Here’s what we’ve been reading, and I can highly recommend these books for interested yogis:

“Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar. It’s sometimes called the yoga bible because it has a really extensive list of poses and photos.

“Journey Into Power” by Baron Baptiste. This one also has great color photos, but I loved the text just as much.

I would love to hear any other recommendations of books or even trainings you’ve attended. Or give me the name of your favorite pose. In sanskrit. 🙂

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie

This is one of those recipes that makes me feel really okay with giving up meat, because it proves you can have a hearty classic dish without a lick of meat, and it still tastes good. The key here is using shredded tofu and a yummy gravy to create the effect of ground beef. It’s probably no surprise that this recipe originated in a Moosewood cookbook, because they really know their way around a meatless dish.

The main thing I changed was I left out the mushrooms and added some of my own veggies because that’s how I like it! But feel free to saute up some mushrooms to add to your gravy, if you like them.

Here are the ingredients:

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
adapted from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant

1 cake firm tofu, frozen, thawed and shredded
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
Pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen peas
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
Salt to taste

2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Pinch of black pepper
1 1/2 cups hot potato water
1 cup veggie broth (or veggie bouillon dissolved in water)
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/2 cup of water

You start by slicing up a block of tofu and freezing it for at least a couple of hours. Then take it out to thaw for at least two more hours. When it thaws, a lot of the water comes out, making it easier to shred. You might want to press it a little more just to get out as much water as you can.

You’ll probably want to work on all three of the elements of this dish (tofu and veggies, potatoes, and gravy) at once to save time. Put the potatoes in a big pot with salted water and heat them to boiling. When they get there, turn down the heat a little and boil them until soft, maybe 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, saving the starchy water for your gravy.

Meanwhile heat up the vegetable oil in a big saute pan and cook the onions, carrots and peas with the thyme, coriander and pepper until the onions are translucent and the carrots are soft. Add in the walnuts and shredded tofu. When those are heated through, add the lemon juice and soy sauce and take the pan off the heat.

Mash your potatoes with the butter, milk and salt. Taste them to make sure they are just how you want them.

To make the gravy heat the butter in a skillet and saute the shallots until translucent. Stir in the soy sauce and black pepper. Add the potato water and veggie broth and bring to a boil. Then stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until the gravy is thickened and bubbly.

Now you can layer everything in a casserole dish. I used an adorable 8-inch square Glasbake dish, which promptly overflowed when I put everything in. You might want to choose something a little bigger.

Oil, butter or spray the dish, then layer the tofu and veggies, the gravy and the mashed potatoes inside. Put a few dabs of butter on top of the potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top of the potatoes start to get brown.

It’s not the most beautiful of dishes, but it sure is tasty.

No-knead bread, take 2

So the first time I tried making bread, I was pretty happy with it. But it came out a little flat and a little too crunchy on the bottom. So when my friend Jen recommended a different recipe (her husband baked a phenomenal loaf for my last birthday), I had to try it.

It turns out the recipe had also run in Mother Earth News. The story, recipe, and lots of good tips can all be found here.

Even though you can make this in one day, and you don’t have to knead/punch down the dough, it’s still a pretty big operation to make one tiny loaf. The good news is that you’re actually making enough dough for four loaves, and you can refrigerate or freeze the extra loaves to bake another time.

Basically you mix the yeast with warm water and then slowly add in the flour. I used the Kitchen Aid mixer instead of elbow grease and it worked great.

Then you let it rise for two hours, at which point it becomes gigantic!

Then you move the dough to the fridge, which makes it less sticky and easier to handle in a few hours.

At that point you divide it into four loaves, and shape one of them into a ball. As long as you flour your board and your hands you shouldn’t have any trouble handling it, which is nice.

You let it rise again for 40 minutes while you preheat your oven to 450. When you actually put the loaf in (use a pizza peel to slide it onto a baking stone – much easier than I thought it would be), you also put in a broiler pan or just a regular baking pan with some water in it, so that your oven becomes a steamy environment.

When your cute little loaf comes out, you can hear it crackling inside. The article calls this ‘singing.’ Love it.

Anyway, I was much happier with this recipe. The top was crunchy and blistered just like the loaves you see at bakeries and the bottom was solid but not too hard to cut through. Mike ate a warm slice with just a little butter smeared on top, and I turned my into dessert bread with a little Nutella.

I think if you’re ready to try baking artisan bread from scratch, this is the method to go with.

Birch bark tags

I have been using these on my products, and now I am selling them over at Mary Marie. They are real pieces of birch bark that you can write on!

Aunt Lark’s tabbouleh

If a recipe comes from my aunt Lark, you know it’s gonna be good. She is the most fabulous cook. I think she was the first in our family to really get into gourmet cooking. I’ve had a lot of things for the first time at her house. And since she has two vegetarian kids, she always makes something meat-free for holiday meals.

At one of those dinners she served this tabbouleh salad, and it was so superior to anything similar I’d ever made I just swooned, and asked for the recipe. Then she packed me up a to-go package to take home, which I treasured. I think what made it so great, in addition to all those fresh veggies, was a bit of cumin. It’s one of my favorite spices, and it gave it just enough of a kick to stand out.

So here’s the recipe. It’s super healthy, and a great accompaniment to something else Greek or Middle Eastern like falafel. Just remember to allow yourself enough time to soak the bulghur and marinate the salad before you plan to eat it.

Doesn’t a recipe that starts out with this colorful array of veggies have to be good?

Aunt Lark’s Tabbouleh

2 cups bulghur (she likes Bob’s Red Mill brand)
2 cups hot water
3 or 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups freshly chopped parsley
1/3 cup freshly chopped mint
3 green onions, finely sliced
1/2 small yellow or red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cucumber or half an English cucumber, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 package feta cheese (optional)

Start by soaking the bulghur. You can use any method you like best, but 2 cups bulghur soaked in 2 cups hot water for an hour should do the trick. You can also use boiling water for half an hour.

Once it’s done (chewy but not too hard), drain any extra water. You may need to put it in a strainer and press out the excess water with the back of a spatula.

Chop up the rest of the veggies and herbs. The key here is to chop everything really finely so you get a little bit of everything in each bite. And no one wants to bite into a big chunk of raw onion.

Normally I don’t love parsley, but the fresh herbs in this recipe are part of what makes it tabbouleh, so be generous with them. Once all the flavors blend together it just seems right.

In another bowl, whisk the lemon juice (I like to use my vintage juicer, which makes it easy to separate the seeds),

with the olive oil, salt, cumin and pepper.

Just a side note: We buy olive oil in HUGE amounts and just refill a container that sits on the stove because we use so much of it. Next to milk/bread/eggs, we probably use it more than anything.

Mix the dressing with the veggies and then add the strained bulghur. Refrigerate for at least two hours before eating. You might also want to taste it to see if you need to add more seasonings. And, I think it’s extra good with a little feta cheese mixed in at the end.

Yum, yum, YUM.

Thoughts on Stevia?

Lately I’ve been thinking I could really use a solution for my coffee drinking that does not come with a zillion calories or high fructose corn syrup. For some reason I am really attached to fake creamer, and when I try half & half with sugar, it seems like I have to dump tons and tons of sugar in there to even be able to taste it (Mike likes coffee super dark and strong). So, I picked up some of these Stevia in the Raw packets at the grocery store, thinking that might be at least a somewhat more natural low-cal alternative.

I put one of the packets in a big glass of green tea this morning, and it was just the right amount of sweetness for me. Does anyone else use Stevia? It seems like a good thing, but is it too good to be true?