Black rice with coconut, fruit and pistachios – ooooh, mama this is good!


I spotted a bag of black rice at the Asian supermarket near me, not having a clue what it was or what to do with it…. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Black rice is glutinous or sticky so it’s great for pudding-y type dishes. It’s loaded with antioxidants and has the essential amino acid lysine and tryptophan and vitamin B1, vitamin B2, folate acid and is a good source of minerals including iron, zinc, calcium and phosphorus.(from Wikipedia).

It’s also called purple rice or forbidden rice, and frankly, if I were the despotic ruler of ancient China, I would forbid anyone from eating this rice but me. But I’m not. So here’s my recipe for black rice with coconut milk, fruit and pistachios. Prepare to lose your mind over the deliciousness!

1 cup black rice
2 cups water
4 cardamom pods (or about 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
1 cinnamon stick (or about 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
Some sweetener – I used 1 Tbsp agave nectar, but you could use sugar and as much or little as you like.
A can coconut milk (optional)
1 mango peeled and diced
2 kiwis peeled and sliced
– Use any fruit you like, but I find the tropical fruits work nicely with the coconut… so would strawberry or raspberry though.
½ cup shelled pistachios

Rinse the rice then put it in a pot with the water. Add the spices and sweetener, stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce and simmer. Black rice takes a while – about 40 minutes. Patience – it’s worth it! Don’t keep lifting the lid on your rice pot… let it do its thing. The rice is done when the water is all absorbed… the rice will not be fluffy. It’ll be sticky when done. If you used cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick, fish them out and dispose.

When the rice has cooled, add a can of coconut milk. This is optional. The rice is good enough just as is, but the coconut milk adds delicious decadence that life requires, in my opinion.
Top with the diced mango and kiwi (I also added a few slices of cherry) and pistachio. Enjoy!!
The rice makes 4 servings.

Asian quinoa salad


Here’s what I’m having for lunch today. My version is very closely based on the recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod. This salad is super delicious, satisfying and sustaining.

Funny, up until this year I hated quinoa. It was bitter. Then my lovely neighbor, Marion, who is also a retired a Home Ec teacher, told me to rinse it. Et voila! I love quinoa… though I do still think it looks like tiny rolled up condoms.

This salad would be great topped with a few crunchy chow mein noodles or some chopped cashews.
I’ve added comments in the recipe indicating what changes I made. Let me know if you make this dish and how you riff on it.

Asian quinoa salad
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup chopped red cabbage (I used green because that’s what I had, though red cabbage would look prettier)
1 cup shelled and cooked edamame (get a bag in your freezer section, already shelled. Let thaw in your salad bowl)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots (about 1 medium carrot)
1 cup diced cucumber
For the dressing:
1/4 cup lite soy sauce or tamari sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped green onion (one very luscious green stalk plus the white part)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (totally optional, I added, but found it did nothing for or against the dressing)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (I toasted mine)
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used about ½ teaspoon chili paste)
Salt and black pepper, to taste (I didn’t bother, soy sauce is salty enough)
1. Rinse your quinoa to remove the bitter coating. Add water and quinoa to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 -20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
2. Place the quinoa in a large bowl and add the cabbage, edamame, red pepper, carrots, and cucumber. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, ginger, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
4. Pour the dressing over the quinoa salad and stir to combine.

Note-Make sure you use tamari for a gluten-free salad, not all soy sauce is gluten-free. This salad is good served at room temperature or chilled.

Permission from a pig

EstherAnyone who knows me knows that I have fallen in love with Esther the Wonder Pig. This social media superstar is a real pig – who, just three years ago, as a tiny piglet, somehow escaped the horrific factory farm system and made her way to Steve and Derek, two men with hearts as wide open and big as the sky.

Steve and Derek quickly realized a couple things:
1) Esther was no family-pet-style mini-pig. She was a commercial pig, bred to grow quickly and become food.
2) Esther was not food. She was family, part of the brood of pets in Steven and Derek’s Toronto home.

Because she was not food, Steven and Derek questioned what else they had considered to be food.
They knew the dark side of the world’s industrialized factory farming, but had never really delved into it. Now they did. Within weeks of Esther joining their clan, Steve and Derek became vegan. Esther and all animal-based foods were literally no longer on the table.

And then Steven and Derek, affectionately called the Dads, did all manner of brave and outrageous things.

Esther became the “spokes pig” for their message of veganism and kindness to all creatures on earth. The Dads began to share photos of their giant house pig (Esther is now 700 pounds) along with witty, heartwarming and engaging comments on social media. Esther now has an ardent global following of almost half a million people and has inspired many people – me included – to adopt a vegan diet.

Keeping Esther in her Toronto home was a municipal violation. So the Dads decided to open an animal sanctuary called Happily Ever Esther. They crowdfunded the purchase of a farm and raised far more than the $400,000 they were asking for – all from strangers.

Esther and her dads have been in the news and on the news all over the world. Celebrities have come to visit her. People flock to see her, make donations and passionately share her story.

I’ve wondered often what has made Esther the Wonder Pig such an incredibly popular phenomena. After all, there are loads of cute animals on social media. There’s a ton of funny stuff too, and vegan recipes and calls to action against animal cruelty abound on the internet. So what is the magic of Esther and her Dads?

I believe it’s the permission they give us. The permission we rarely are given (or take!) to be ourselves.
To love openly.
To be vulnerable.
To ask for help.
To be kind and generous.
To care desperately.
To be authentic.
To be different.
To be brave.
To dream.
To challenge the status quo.
To embrace and welcome others.

It’s a marvelous gift. And when you receive it and open it up, you automatically pass it on to others.

So wave your freak flags, love and shine on!

Blueberry banana pancakes


These pancakes are completely vegan and surprised me with their fluffy texture and utter deliciousness. Since I live in the heart of the world’s pretty tiny maple-syrup-production area, these babies are happily swimming in maple syrup. But they’d be great with jam, a dusting of sugar or just on their own.

You will need:
1 ripe banana mashed
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cup almond or other plant-based milk
1 Tbsp sweetener – I used maple syrup, but sugar or brown sugar or agave are all fine. If you use honey, well, then they’re not vegan anymore
2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp walnut pieces (optional)
½ – 2/3 cup blueberries
A pinch salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
In a small bowl, mash the banana with ¼ cup milk and the sweetener.
In a larger bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Stir well. Add the walnuts.

Add the banana mixture and remaining 1 cup milk to the dry ingredients. Mix until just blended. Then stir in the blueberries.

Make as per usual. The pancakes won’t bubble up as much as normal pancakes, but you will see the edges setting and a few bubbles forming. This recipe made 10 three-inch pancakes.

Miracles for all

StormSept52014This is the full definition of miracle according to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

  1. : an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
  2. : an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
  3. Christian Science: a divinely natural phenomenon experienced humanly as the fulfillment of spiritual law

This definition explains a traditional view of miracles as something supernatural and divinely generated, belonging only to the theists in the crowd. But what about people who don’t believe in a deity? Don’t they get to experience miracles too? I say they do.

Here is my full definition of a miracle.

  1. And explosion of awe (often accompanied by a feeling of joy) upon experiencing something beautiful, wonderful or inexplicable
  2. The awareness of the complexity of life and everything in it
  3. Deep gratitude for the privilege of being alive in this time and place knowing that you could have just as easily not been.
  4. Extending this sense of awe, joy, awareness and gratitude to everything and everyone you encounter

Miracles belong to everyone. You only need to be willing to recognize them.