I’m a Little Bit Vegetarian and a Little Bit Meat Eater


Canning Ballymaloe Style

Canning Ballymaloe Style

I had a dream the other night about feeling unappreciated.  Discussing the dream with my husband over our morning coffee, I was able to connect the dots between my history of being fifth of twelve to my more recent professional life as a social worker. I contend that the most underappreciated and underpaid professionals in our country are the ones who serve the most vulnerable populations or who serve when people face the most vulnerable situations. You heard me—teachers, counselors, social workers, firefighters, police officers, paramedics all come to mind. Okay, off the soapbox onto the point.

As Catholic educators, my husband and I have always had to think outside of the box to get anything done particularly around finances. Though a distant memory, one of the most anxiety provoking was around childcare. Even back in our day quality childcare could break a budget. Thankfully, we were able to tap one of the benefits of coming from large families that has been time-tested for many generations. We invited my younger sister to live with us. This became a blessing in untold ways.

She and I were both in the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. She was a year behind me in the program, and in classes and fieldwork on opposite days, such that a loving adult was always home with my children. At the time, my sister was a vegetarian. My husband and I were not. One evening at the dinner table whether in an effort to emulate those she loved or please us all, my daughter announced, “I’m a little bit vegetarian and a little bit meat eater.”

I loved that my sister was such a strong positive influence on my children despite some minor offenses around words we didn’t use. There was the time I had spilled milk on the floor and my son informed me what we say in such circumstances. As I wiped at the spill with a dishcloth, I said, “Oh, shoot,” in my frustration. Watching and listening, my son said, “We don’t say shoot Mama, we say ‘shit’, right Mimi?”

“Do we now?” I responded, suppressing a laugh while looking askance at my sister.  BTW my sister was and continues to be a very good cook and therapist. At the time, I would marvel over how she could look into an empty cupboard and cook up a delicious meal.

I offer this post as a note of appreciation for my sister, Maria aka Mimi.   Having another loving adult in the home blessed my children with multiple viewpoints and approaches to problem solving, childrearing, and play. As long as parenting or “aunting” is done with loving kindness, the word “shit,” isn’t the worst thing a child could learn. My adult children continue to benefit from the positive influence of my sister and continue to have a great relationship with her. For a parent what could be better? And I’m happy to say that I know she knows how much I’ve always appreciated her.

Speaking of appreciation–one of the aspects I love about cooking is the appreciation one gets from a good meal. People love to eat good food. Eating is primal necessary for our sustenance and evoking memories of family and community. Just this morning, I received this very nice note from one of my husband’s colleagues after a gift of tomato chili jam that I gave her yesterday.

For breakfast I had whole wheat sourdough toasted and topped with your jam, a slice of mozzarella, and a bit of sea salt and it was amazingly good. It reminded me of something that you would have for breakfast at a really excellent bed and breakfast in Nantucket or someplace like that. Thank you for that moment!

I had also taken lunch to my former colleagues for the first day of classes and again received immediate feedback from my fellow Licensed Clinical Social Worker after I suggested she take home the Ballymaloe Lemon Candied Peel I had also made.

Awesome!! I loved it and so will Jackson. He is a lemon fanatic!

Thanks for the yummy treats today. It bolstered my energy, which was good since I had a scheduled appt. and a busy urgent hour already!

As I hope is obvious, appreciation is a two way street.  Preparing food for others is a way to express appreciation. Putting in the effort to make a delicious meal becomes love on a plate. We cook for others. We say thank you with food. We thank people for food.

That’s why I take the time to find the healthier substitutions for unhealthy ingredients. I want my loved ones to enjoy the meal, yes, but I don’t want to kill them with the kindness. My Mount Everest is to get my boys to enjoy healthier ingredients. I just suggested my youngest son think about a job as a food critic. For one thing, he has a very sensitive palate. Of my three children, he was most likely to pick out the offending healthy ingredient hidden in a dish disguised as a childhood favorite.  For example, the soy crumbles mixed with ground beef in tacos or pureed cauliflower in spaghetti.  The funny thing is he likes both now.  For a boy who “hates” vegetables one that he will eat is cauliflower.  Go Figure!

This week’s recipes include my wins and losses for the week in my attempts to climb Mount Everest.  First up: Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse.

Dark Chocolate Mint Avocado Mousse

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse.  See more pictures @mtobin57 on Instagram.

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse. See more pictures @mtobin57 on Instagram.

2 ripe avocadoes

4 oz. dark chocolate I used Ghirardelli 60% chips, melted

1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 C vanilla soy milk

1/3 C maple syrup

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/8 t mint extract

pinch of salt

1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped should result in 1 C whipped cream.

Combine all ingredients except the heavy cream in a blender or food processor.  Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold into avocado mixture.  Divide into six 1/2 cup serving dishes and chill for an hour.  Whip more cream for topping.  For extra flavor add a tablespoon of chocolate mint syrup into the whipped cream or you can substitute 1/4 t cinnamon for the mint extract and add salted caramel syrup to the whipped cream or serve whipped cream as is.

I inadvertently disclosed the fact of the avocado base to my husband while my son was present. He did finally agree to try it—mother guilt trip—and he did like it—yay one in the win column! My blackberry/raspberry tray bake did not go over so well with him, “I don’t like raspberries,” he said handing it back for me to finish. The jury is still out on my garden herb hummus, as his only feedback there was “I can really taste the basil.”  The dance continues.  My hope is that someday he discovers the beauty of a plant based diet. You don’t have to choose one camp or the other. I guess like my daughter I’m a little bit vegetarian and a little bit meat eater.

Blackberry & Raspberry Almond Cake

This was really an effort to use up the fruit in my refrigerator. Despite my son not loving it, my husband and I dispensed with it by breakfast of the next day. I will make it again with less butter, but as my father used to say, “butter never hurt the taste of anything.”

6 oz soft butter

Blackberry/Raspberry Almond Cake

Blackberry/Raspberry Almond Cake

2 1/2 oz. maple sugar

2 1/2 oz. date sugar

3 oz almond meal

3 oz. sprouted whole wheat flour

1 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

8 oz mix of blackberries & raspberries

Preheat oven 350 Fahrenheit. Grease an 11x 7 glass oven safe baking dish

Mix all but the fruit in a food processor.  Spread evenly in prepared dish and sprinkle fruit on top.  Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Garnish with a sprinkle of castor (fine) sugar and rose petals (optional).





9 thoughts on “I’m a Little Bit Vegetarian and a Little Bit Meat Eater

  1. That was so fun to read your blog and find my own words among your post today! We definitely appreciate your culinary skills around here and I’m glad you know that:)


  2. That is a lovely tribute to Maria. Your words made to ponder who and what I am appreciative for. The list is long, but you my friend are on there for a long list of things. Too much to list… From my rock during my grief to my much loved tomato sandwiches😘


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