Start the Day Right. World-Class Oatmeal.

I ask you, “What could be a more right way to start the day than to wake up and find breakfast already cooked?” I personally like that very quality about this little breakfast that I whip up a couple of times a week. It is 4 servings, and leftovers keep in the fridge.

And, by the way…I apologize for neglecting this blog. I have honestly been pretty fascinated with Instagram and have been spending time learning to love my iPhone camera. As to FaceBook, I am still avoiding engaging. Somehow, the whole Instagram thing seems to have helped me get over a creative block, and one of the creative things I’m getting into is cooking. It’s hard to get in a cooking groove in a town like San Miguel de Allende, where there are so many good restaurants that are affordable and fun. (For example…Aguamiel.) But, there is nothing like a good home-cooked meal and an evening of just hanging in the house.

But, let’s get back to breakfast. Fred and I rarely go out for breakfast. We both like to eat and read the news and just sit around a bit before we officially start the day. So, we have leisurely mornings. But, sometimes I’m not in the mood for a lot of cooking, and I’m happy to have this ready. If you find your mornings rushed, this one is just right for you. You start this one the night before. It is wheat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and full of goodness.

In a pan on top of the stove, heat 2 T. coconut oil.                                                                                 Add 1 large green-skinned apple, chopped.                                                                                             Saute the apple for about three minutes, then bring 3 cups of oat milk to a boil.(Or any dairy-free milk of your choice. Just no rice milk because it is made with white rice and turns to sugar quickly.)                                                                                                                                   Add a good sprinkle of cinnamon, salt to taste, and 1/4 tea vanilla.

When the  milk comes to a boil, add one cup of steel-cut oats. Turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan. If you are stoned, double check on turning off the heat, otherwise you’ll lie in bed and think about it. This recipe is to help you look forward to getting up and pretending that the cooking angels have visited your kitchen over night. Now, when you get up in the morning all you have to do is heat this up, put it in a bowl, and top it with chopped pecans. Buen provecho.

Fred’s Continental Potato Salad

20130902-102949.jpg

Fred’s Continental Potato Salad

The Sunday before Labor Day we had a few close friends over. I decided to relax a bit and allow salmon to be grilled, much to Fred’s delight. (I picked up a mock crab cake for myself at Whole Foods to stay in the seafood spirit). So, Andrew, Kyle and Fred were the grillmeisters, adding some skewered vegetables, and Andrew came through with some grilled peaches for dessert. Candace and Keith brought some lovely wine, and Keith walked in with a centerpiece of flowers from his garden. Thanks to a rainy day, the temperature on our porch was perfect as the afternoon drifted into evening.
Fred and I spent a couple of hours making some side dishes before people arrived. We had the coleslaw that I usually make for tacos, the stewed tomatoes that I told you about a few days ago (which I knew Andrew would love), and potato salad. Fred had volunteered to help with the cooking, and the potato salad was his assignment. He researched a recipe from Julia Child, but put some of his own spin on it. It was fabulous. The perfect potato salad, and I’m glad we have some left over for lunch.
So, without further ado, here is

Fred’s Continental Potato Salad
About 2 lbs of red potatoes. Trim the eyes out, but don’t peel. Cut into chunks, and boil until tender, but don’t overcook.
Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool.
In a small bowl mix with a wire whisk
2 T apple cider (or white wine) vinegar
1 1/2 T good French grainy mustard
2 tsp salt (you might want to add a little more salt to your own taste)
Ground black pepper to taste
1 T sugar
Now slowly whisk in
6 T olive oil
Chop very finely and mix with the potatoes
6 small green onions (remove most of the green stalks)
3 small celery stalks
Add the dressing.
This will serve 6 to 8 people.
Bon appetit!

Tacos, Family Style. Part 1, the Fillings.

20130825-142515.jpg

TACOS FAMILY STYLE. Part 1, the Fillings.

Here is a wonderful vegan/wheat-free meal; a perfect dinner party for six. I am cooking this for a Saturday night supper for Fred and me to share with four friends on our back porch. A perfect meal for a summer evening. I will try to get most of the cooking done early in the day. I always like to shop the day before I cook, so that my energy can stay focused. And, here’s a thought about housecleaning before having people over: don’t do it. Just tidy up and don’t worry. Nobody really cares. Save your energy for the fun stuff. There will be plenty to clean the day after the party.
Over the past few years our home has earned the name Casa Ellis, because usually when we have people over the meal takes a trip south of the border, with tequila being the featured house spirit. This menu will fill your house with wonderful aromas by the time your guests arrive. I plan to serve this meal at the table family style and let everyone build their own tacos. I have become fascinated with making my own tortillas, and after a little practice I am getting the kinks out. I will include the recipe and instructions in my very next blog post, with more photos to be extra helpful. If making your own tortillas seems a bit too much, you’ll be perfectly fine with “store bought” corn tortillas. Shop around for good ones. So, here we go–Tacos Family Style Part 1, the Fillings.
There are several things to prepare for this meal. I would estimate about 2 1/2 hours for preparation time, not counting the tortillas. They will take about 15 minutes to make the dough, 15 minutes to rest the dough, and another maybe 30 minutes to cook. I usually do them at the last minute. One or two of the guests are usually intrigued enough to keep me company in the kitchen, because let’s face it, you don’t get to hwatch someone make tortillas every day.

First….MEXICAN STREET CORN OFF THE COB.
Kernels from 6 ears of sweet corn
1 T olive oil
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I love Vegannaise, the best vegan version)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder or Tajin, if you have it. (Tajin is a prepared mix of chili powder and lime, hopefully available at Mexican grocery stores).
salt and pepper to your own taste
Toss the corn, garlic and peppers with the olive oil. Roast in a 425ºF oven until corn starts to brown a little, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix mayo,cayenne and salt and pepper with the corn. Serve warm.

Second….CASHEW AND TOFU CHEESE
I got this idea from my dear friend, Edward Tomlin, and I use it so much. Great for anything that needs cheese. Creamy and delish. I also use this on my pizzas.
In food processor blend
1/2 cup raw cashews
1T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
When these ingredients are all blended and nuts are well chopped add and blend well
1 package firm tofu, drained and crumbled. My favorite is Mori Nu (12.3 oz.) if you are using tofu packed in water place it between paper towels and press out the water.
1 1/2 tea dried basil
1 tea salt.
Taste and see if you’d like more salt.
Visit Edward’s blog, http:/inthekitchenwithedward.blogspot.com He is a marvelous vegan cook.

Third….REFRIED BEANS
Well, this couldn’t be easier. I really cheat here and use canned ones. Just make absolutely sure you get the vegetarian version. Of course, I do my own spin on them, as follows:
2 15 Oz cans refried beans. I like Amy’s
1 large yellow sweet onion
4 cloves garlic. I really do prefer fresh, but you can buy it in a little jar, already chopped.
2 T olive oil
1/2 teas hickory smoked salt
1 T adobo seasoning, or chili powder
1 T smoked vinegar
You can buy the smoked salt and vinegar at blvd if you live in Nashville. You can use regular salt and cider vinegar in a pinch
Chop the onion and add to hot olive oil. Sauté about 5 minutes over medium heat, then add the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the adobo and salt and cook until it starts to stick to the pan
De-glaze pan with the vinegar and cook low heat for a few minutes.
Add the beans and stir

Fourth…..GUACAMOLE
I hate to boast, but I think I make the best guacamole in the world, and I have tried quite a few. Personally, I don’t like my guacamole spicy. I think it should be smooth avocado wonderfulness, with just a little bit of a tweak. When I’m making it in advance, I do everything but the avocado, which I peel and add at the last minute. This is fast and simple, and is great before a meal with chips (and a Corona). Yes, beach food at it’s finest. This recipe is for 4 to 6 people.
In a bowl mix together
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 bunch finely chopped green onions, or 1/2 large yellow onion finely chopped
1 teas sea salt
Set aside a lime to add after you peel
2 ripe avocados, mashed. Leave them a little chunky
Mix it all together and add the juice from the lime.
You want to serve this as fresh as possible.

Fifth….COLE SLAW
There are so many ways to make cole slaw but this simple version is my favorite.
1 small head of cabbage, finely sliced.
For the dressing:
4T rice vinegar
4T sugar
1/2 tea salt (to taste)
4 T Veganaise

Mix with the sliced cabbage. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sixth. TOMATO SALSA
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1 small jalapeño, stemmed, seeded (if you wish) and finely chopped
12 ounces (about 2 medium-small round or 4 to 5 plum) red-ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces. Take out the seedy part, and squeeze out the juice. You don’t want watery salsa
1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
Scoop the onion into a strainer, rinse under cold tap water, shake off the excess and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the green chile, tomatoes, and cilantro. Stir well, taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.

A Mid-Summer’s Night’s Dream of Pasta

I Dream of Pasta on a Mid-Summer’s Night

I must confess. Just because I’ve given up wheat doesn’t mean I’ve gotten over my lifelong love affair with pasta. It just means I’ve found some great wheat-free versions. There are several available and one of my favorites is Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta. It comes in a green box. I find it at Whole Foods. It is a corn-quinoa blend. The only restaurant I’ve found in Nashville that has a great gluten-free pasta is Porta Via, so I usually just scratch my pasta itch at home. Tonight I’m doing just that with

Perfect Summer Pasta. Everything here is fresh.
This makes 4 sort of medium servings. If you are feeding 4 hungry people I suggest doubling this recipe and planning on a bit of left overs.

Start by sautéing in about 1 1/2 T of olive oil heated on high heat in a large skillet
1 cup of chopped mushrooms. I don’t wash mushrooms because I don’t want them to get waterlogged. I wipe them off with a damp paper towel.
You want them to absorb the oil and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. I cook them separately because I want them to retain their personality. When they are done, put them in a bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet, now empty, add 2 more T olive oil and sautée
1 large onion that you chopped while the mushrooms were cooking.
After about 5 minutes add 4 cloves chopped garlic.
While this continues to cook over medium heat chop
3 very large tomatoes. Add to the onions and garlic. Chop about
1 cup fresh basil. Add to the mixture.
After about 5 more minutes add
1/4 cup nice red wine. Bring to boil, then turn to low heat. Add
1 tea salt
1T brown sugar
Now add the mushrooms
Let this simmer over low heat until it thickens up a bit.
Just sit on the porch and have a glass of that red wine while you wait.

The Pasta
I cook according to the directions on the box.
Just put some pasta in a bowl, add the tomato sauce, and you could also add a scoop of that great tofu/cashew cheese that is mentioned in the pizza receipt. ( There’s a reason I keep a batch of this stuff in the fridge.). You can buy vegan “cheese” in the store, but this version is so much better.
Get ready to have a wonderful mid-summer’s night pasta dream.

20130808-163810.jpg

A State of Mind

20130624-182322.jpg
Sometimes it’s just time to shift a gear and move on to the next thing. People who know me seem surprised that Fred and I have sold our business and retired. Not that it’s so unusual for a woman approaching 70 to be ready for a change. It was great to get in touch with what I really wanted to do-design jewelry-and then to somehow manage to do it, and do it with a fair degree of success, for 30 years. It was a wonderful life for Fred and me to both quit our day jobs and do something that seemed so risky and adventurous. And we did have an adventure. We went places we otherwise would not have gone, and met some very interesting people along the way, but when it was time to move on, it was time to move on. Personally, I had reached a point where I wasn’t enjoying my work as much. My motto for the past few decades has been, “Always leave while you’re still having fun.” I wasn’t having much fun and I was completely tired of selling things to people.

I had jokingly said for about the past five years that I liked photographing the jewelry more than any other part of my job. I really only had time to do one portrait a month which was the ad for my jewelry. I needed to spend more time on photography in order to see my photos become art. I wanted to spend more time studying Spanish, and to turn our 3 week vacations in Mexico into much longer stretches of time. I also wanted to have time to cook more and develop wheat-free, vegan recipes. I felt I needed more time every day for physical workouts. As I was approaching 70, I realized more every day how fleeting time really is.

Fortunately, my husband and partner, Fred, is a good planner and he had starting to thing about the economics of our retirement. That is huge, and you are never to young to start thinking about this. We found a great financial advisor, and realized that we actually could retire without living in a cardboard box.

It took a year from the day we knew we were both ready until we actually left. In the midst of that time we sold our business to Mclaine Richardson, a very talented young woman who had worked for us for about three years. She is young, doing an excellent job, and I believe she is having fun in the same way I did so many years ago. I was so happy this happened; for many reasons. Obviously, it’s great to sell your business. It is also a very good feeling to know that your loyal employees will still have jobs, and to see the name of something you have worked hard to develop for a long time be continued.

I’m sure everyone who has ever retired has had their own process to go through. For Fred and me there was some stress to get here, but for now, it’s absolutely the best life I’ve had so far. I don’t really think of myself as “retired,” just as someone who has changed her state of mind.
This blog will be about how this journey unfolds. I will focus a lot on cooking, and try to be helpful to people who want to eat healthier. I will explore issues that relate to gender identity, as this is currently the subject matter I am most interested in photographing. When we travel I will share those destinations. Next trip up is to San Miguel in the mountains in Mexico. The photo for this piece was taken there last summer. I don’t want to define and confine this writing on the front end. Who knows where it will go? Who knows where the journey will take me? I’d love to have you go along for the ride.