Thursday, January 14, 2010

bringing gratitude back

It occurred to me at some point today that if I didn't start finding the day's blessings, I would let this be a complete Birthday Fail. I could go into a diatribe about all the things about today that sucked, but I think I'll be in a better humor about how everything came out if I start with a list of things for which I'm thankful:

I'm grateful that I opened my eyes on another birthday. No, I won't tell you which one - a lady never reveals her age, and I am old enough to say that.

I'm grateful for the many messages of love, well wishing, and kindness that I received from people I'm fortunate to have in my life.

I'm grateful that I don't have a physical birthday gift because my husband has something so specific in mind that he can apparently (by his own admission) only find it in cyberspace.

I'm grateful I didn't have to work on my birthday for the first time since I started working for a weight loss company - January is kind of an important month, in case I haven't let on.

I'm grateful that the woman who sold me my Beaujolais this evening asked to see my ID. She also wished me a happy birthday and many more.

I'm grateful that my day was more or less redeemed by a husband who loves me enough to limp two and a half blocks to my favorite restaurant and then hobble home after a delightful five-course tasting menu...on what is probably a newly broken foot.

Along those lines, I'm also grateful that my husband is stubborn enough about injuries that he didn't want to spend my birthday in the hospital...although it didn't become evident that his toe is probably broken until after dinner anyway.

I am grateful that being off today gave me the opportunity to sleep in for the first time in a month.

So, despite the fact that I kind of hate grocery shopping and I can think of at least a dozen better ways to spend my day off and my birthday, it feels good to have that out of the way and know that the ingredients for the coming "week" of dinners are all collected in the cupboard, fridge, and freezer. This week's menu is completely inspired by the woman who taught me my first lessons in vegan cooking: Sarah Kramer.

1. Tortilla Chip Soup from La Dolce Vegan. I've mentioned before that this is absolutely my favorite book out of the three she's written. The portions are perfect for our little family of two humans and a curious cat and most of the ingredients are "normal." That's kind of a rude way to say it, but she's Canadian and they have all kinds of wacky condiments up there, apparently. Anyway, this looked like a fun way to use up the leftover tortilla chips.

2. Veggie Goulash also from La Dolce Vegan. This is an easy and fun recipe - the combination of flavors and textures is bizarre enough to be interesting but safe enough to be edible.

3. Punjabi Peppers and Tofu also from La Dolce Vegan. I don't think I have ever done a series of recipes from this book that did not include this one. It's easy, it's fast (important in January), there are never leftovers, and it's just so darn good!

4. Aloo Chana Soup from The Garden of Vegan. I tried really hard not to have more than one soup on the menu, but this just looked like too much fun to pass up. I'm trying to figure out how I have passed it by before! Aloo = potatoes and Chana = chickpeas and the tastes I can imagine from this Indian-inspired soup are just lovely.

5. Peanut Butter Pasta also from The Garden of Vegan. I was going back and forth between this and another pasta recipe involving spinach and miso...I'm still thinking I may have to include that one in the next "week's" menu, but I didn't feel like dealing with the heat of raw garlic when I was making my menu, so it fell into second place.

For anyone in the Philadelphia area, let me really plug for Horizons. If you've never eaten here, now is the time - the five-course early winter tasting menu is amazing. Here is a brief, and hopefully tempting, review:

We started with Salt Roasted Golden Beets with fresh avocados topped with micro-greens and a ball of smoked eggplant topped with seaweed caviar. The eggplant was amazing - perfectly smoky. The second course was a Cauliflower Soup, with a crispy seared cauliflower lying on a bed of pureed cauliflower, surrounded by a consomme. The presentation at this place is also just to die for, as though the food being awe-inspiring isn't enough. Our third plate was Pan Seared Peppercorn Tofu, which Mister and I have both wanted to try for a while and kept going back and forth on it. Mister compared the tofu to a very tender tuna steak and I found the chunks of coarse salt mixed with the pepper to be absolutely charming. On top of the tofu was a crepe filled with mushrooms, which resulted in some less than dignified faces made by the Mister. After he finished sputtering and grimacing, he expressed his disbelief that anyone would eat fungus on purpose and removed the offending crepe from his tofu. Fortunately, the tofu was resting on a bed of perfectly sauteed spinach and smothered in a tasty sauce (actually, it was delicately drizzled). I tried a bite of my crepe, just to see what Mister was fussing about and it wasn't great but it wasn't nearly as revolting as my husband made it seem. Fourth course included our well-loved Grilled Seitan on Yukon Mash with some kind of mustard-based sauce. Finally, they brought out a three-dessert sampler plate...I love dessert, so this was the best possible way to end my birthday meal. Mister disagreed because he felt there should be candles involved and the waitress agreed with him, so she presented me with the tealight illuminating our little table-for-two and wished me a happy birthday no fewer than three times.

So, having counted my blessing and recounted my dinner, I'm off to count sheep. I'll bet I get all the way to....zzzz.....

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