Meatless Monday – Thug Kitchen 101

Two years ago my love whisked me away for a night in Mendocino. After a lovely afternoon walk on the beach, we ate dinner at The Ravens, a vegan restaurant so good you simply have to try it to believe it (especially if you think you don’t like veggies). While we waited for a table, we sipped chardonnay and browsed the bookstore. They had a great cookbook collection, and there I first encountered Thug Kitchen.

I don’t remember which of their cookbooks I picked up, but I couldn’t stop flipping the pages–these were the recipes I had been longing for as I increasingly leaned toward a plant-based diet. And the irreverence made me laugh. I’m not big on curse words, but the profanity makes it clear that the writers don’t take themselves too seriously.

Recently someone asked for veggie cookbooks recommendations so I grabbed Thug Kitchen 101 from the library. When my Guy saw how much I enjoyed it, he quickly placed an order for one more Christmas gift for me–yippee!

I don’t typically read cookbooks cover to cover, but I did with this one. I laughed. I experimented. I got my Tween in the kitchen cooking with me. I have made some recipes more than once. Others I’m still dying to try. As of right now, this is my favorite ever cookbook!

So far I have tried: flautas (where have these been all my Mexican-food-loving life? Note: make with leftover roasted fingerling potatoes), sun-dried tomato carbonara, skillet beer chili mac, coconut-lime rice, panko pasta topping, and 60-second parm. Not a miss among them.

Last night I had a killer headache and felt chilled to the bone after two hours of watching middle school rugby in a very gray San Francisco. I thought we had leftovers (Guy and Tween had taken care of those leftovers, apparently), so I needed to cook. It needed to be easy, fast, and comforting. Skillet Beer Chili Mac, I’m coming for ya…

You guys… So easy, so fast, comfort food at its best. The Kid and I had more for lunch today and Guy got jealous when he saw our dirty bowls because he forgot. We still have enough for tomorrow’s lunch and we might all drool on ourselves in anticipation between now and then.

The only things I did differently from the recipe: I cooked the onions without oil, added 2 cloves of garlic, and left out the maple syrup, oh, and I cooked the whole thing in my large soup pot. I used whole wheat curly macaroni and one can each of pinto and black beans (drained/rinsed). If you don’t do beer, you can sub another cup of veggie broth.

Skillet Beer Chili Mac
Serves 4-6

2 Tbsp mild chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1 c diced yellow onion (about 1/2 of a large onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (mine was large; use a smaller one next time!)
1/2 c carrot (about 1 large or 2 small)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 c light beer
3 c vegetable broth
3 c small macaroni/pasta
3 c mixed beans (or 2 15-oz cans), like pinto or black
1/4 c nooch (nutritional yeast)
1 Tbsp lime juice
Optional toppings: sliced jalapenos, cilantro, red onion, avocado

Combine seasonings in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute onion for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno and cook for another 2 minutes. Add carrot, spices, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

Add tomato sauce, beer, and veggie broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in pasta, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 9-12 minutes until pasta is cooked. Remove from heat and add beans, nooch, and lime juice.

Adjust seasonings as necessary and serve with whatever toppings your mouth desires (avocado & tortilla chips for me!).

Link to the recipe as written (includes profanity)

Checking In

Do you know what it is to feel the light of love inside you?
And all the darkness falls away
If you feel the way I feel then I believe we have the answer
I’ve been searching for tonight
–Dave Matthews, “Shake Me Like a Monkey”

Mendo

He took me to the coast, this Guy who knows and loves me well.

Teen and Tween are at Scout camp this week. Both kids, same camp, all week long – miss them but, woo hoo!

Guy didn’t need to book a Mendocino ocean-front B&B. We could have enjoyed our very own quiet house. We could’ve made happy progress on cleaning out the garage or finally sprucing up the backyard (seriously, we’re stoked on these projects). We could have made dinner together and rented a DVD, or gone out to dinner and a movie sans kid-consideration.

But he knows that the sun-streaked blue-and-tan view of ocean-meets-sand, the salty-musky beach smell, the crash-and-slick of waves, the salt-sticky whip of my hair in sea-breeze and crunch of sand between my toes, they heal my little cracks and fill me up with peace, with joy.

As we dashed out the door I grabbed a new-to-me book: John Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Recommended to me by friends, I’ll say this: if you are married, go right now and order this book! I’d read the first four chapters on my own, but each of the seven principles chapters includes exercises to do/discuss. As Guy drove I peppered him with questions – some we answered about each other (“I think the current stressors in your life are…”) and others we answered for ourselves (“I am most proud of xyz accomplishments in my life”). We talked about childhood and adulthood, life before and after marriage and kids, our worries and joys and hopes. We laughed and reminisced and got serious on things that matter. Talk about checking in with each other, whew, this was Marriage Intensive 101 and, thank-God-hallelujah, 20+ years of marriage and we still pass with beautiful flying colors.

About an hour into the almost four-hour drive, we stopped at Russian River Brewing Co, my brother’s favorite and a place we’d never been. The gal seated next to me at the bar instantly struck up conversation and I’m so glad she did! While we sipped and waited for food, this East Coast darling confessed that she and her husband travel to California at least once a year for their favorite beer. The chatter wound leisurely this way and that, surprising in its ease, and we happily exchanged contact info before we departed.

At last we checked in at the Sandpiper House Inn in Elk, California. Our host Craig pointed us to our room and back out to the beach, where we delightedly drenched ourselves in late afternoon sun. As we walked north to beach end, and then south again, stepping over and around the bull kelp curlicuing the beach, we thought we heard music, maybe horns. Until we spotted a trio of young adults, two men and a woman, who had industriously turned the bull kelp into musical instruments, like shofars calling us to our beach-side Sabbath rest. Later we saw them kelp-jump-roping – Sabbath is also laughter and fun.

seaweed

Dinner: we talked with Craig, scanned the local paper, drove through heritage-town Mendo, and finally landed at The Ravens, a vegan restaurant at The Stanford Inn (no kidding, spooky-populated with a conspiracy of ravens as we drove in). If you like veggie/vegan food, this restaurant is for you. If you think you don’t, won’t, never will like veggie/vegan food, this restaurant is a MUST! Oh. My. Word! The ceviche might be the most surprising bite we’ve ever eaten – so tangy-tequila tasty, crafted from cauliflower and mushrooms instead of seafood. And the warm bread served with cauliflower-basil-cilantro “butter” – mouth watering. This will go down in our history as a milestone meal.

I awoke early to glorious light, sun-on-water on the Most Amazing View reflecting on pale-blue-turned-bright-white wallpaper. Guy slept in. He never sleeps in, a testament to restorative sea air, a comfortable bed, and his need to unwind. I soaked in the view. Gradually the fog crawled its way across the water, dampened the light, and I got up.

Early coffee service and, wouldn’t you know it?, the Inn had one of our very own 20+-years-of-marriage china tea cups which I filled chock-to-the-brim with hot, black coffee. We walked down to the cliffs, pausing to pet the twin Tabby rescue cats (one of which was hell-bent on guarding a gopher hole), admiring hummingbirds buzzing amidst garden along the path. Craig made a crazy-good breakfast of French toast with blueberries, accompanied by classic 70’s rock. We chatted with another Bay Area couple as we watched Turkey Vultures soaring over the cliffs. Did you know that, unlike most birds, Turkey Vultures have a keen sense of smell and can smell fresh carrion up to a mile away? Google over breakfast – sometimes a good thing.

As for me, I put away my phone. I didn’t check email or social media for two days; I even resisted the temptation to review iPhone pictures lest I feel “the need” to post immediately. I’ve realized that, half-over, I’m not as relaxed as I’d hoped to be this summer. I’ve cut back my at-work schedule but frittered away too much in-between time on social media and nonsense instead of intention. I want to be Present, capital P on Purpose. Last summer in Costa Rica, new culture + shock, we had little choice but to live purposefully hour-to-hour, day-to-day. This summer, at-home-“usual,” it’s easy to let moments slip, let days slide into nothing-done, nothing-gained.

Sometimes a surprise is the *shock* one needs to reflect, remember, restore.

We hiked along foggy Point Arena, so mist-covered we couldn’t see the newly-named National Monument lighthouse and closest California point to Hawaii. Lanky golden grass shivered in the sea breeze, as did we. We drove north to Fort Bragg and dug deep in a festival of sea glass. We grabbed a quick sandwich lunch and headed home, our only regret that our getaway ended too soon.

seaglassWe could have stayed home. Instead we created memories. Guy made the better choice, and we are better for it. Thank you, my love!