Friday, October 03, 2014


I have been meaning to write about making my oatmeal yogurt for a while.  I am so happy to have discovered it.  I first read about making this in The Vibrant Table, Recipes from My Always Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan & Sometimes Raw Kitchen.  The title of this book grabbed me, as I have been vegetarian since 1975, am mostly vegan – but refuse to be religious about it – and raw foods is how I naturally eat for more than half the day.  Author Anya Kassoff has a talent I look for in cookbook writers….she tells a story while explaining her craft. 

Kassoff states that she requires a high-speed blender.  Even though my blender is sort of sucky in its well-used old age, it has worked out fine here. I'm trying to squeeze all the life I can out of it before it gets replaced.  Kassoff's recipe calls for 1 cup of oat groats, 1 cup of rolled oats and ½ cup of Brazil nuts.  I didn't have oat groats on hand and substituted 1 cup of steel cut oats the first time around. This still worked out fine…..though get the oat groats if you can, they make a better yogurt.

You rinse and drain the groats and cover with water (she states purified water….I used tap), making sure the water level is about a half inch above the oats.  You soak this 8 hours or overnight.  Make sure the bowl is glass or ceramic because of the fermentation process. I did this on a work night, but it took no time at all to blend them in the morning with their soaking water until smooth.  You can add more water if you like.  Just be aware that this yogurt does not thicken through fermentation, but from absorption.  You blend the Brazil nuts into almost a flour and add them to the mix.  I chose to soak the Brazil nuts right along with the oat mixture and ran it through the blender all at the same time.  

Now you just loosely cover the bowl and let the mixture sit at room temperature for one to three days. Instead of cheesecloth I used a clean cloth napkin held tightly in place with a large rubber band. I think this works better because it is easier to remove for stirring and tasting and it keeps the cloth from touching the surface of the oat mixture. Stir the yogurt with a wooden spoon every 8 hours or so and taste it for tanginess.  I like my yogurt sour so I go the whole three days.  It can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.

I don’t tend to leave recipes alone, so I am going to tell you how I make this oatgurt now. I really like a smooth and very thick yogurt so I wanted to do something to get more of a Greek yogurt consistency.  I didn't feel any loyalty to keeping this recipe raw, and I figured that cooking the oat mixture would be the way to go if I wanted to get the thickness I craved. So I cooked the oats and groats (using groats instead of steel cut oats makes a huge difference in creaminess) along with the nuts.  I have tried Brazil nuts, almonds, filberts and raw cashews.  The raw cashews definitely win out in my opinion for improving the flavor and creaminess.  I doubled the nuts to a cup and now the recipe is even easier to remember - 1 cup each of thick rolled oats, oat groats, and cashews, and you can’t get much simpler than that. I bring it all to a boil and then simmer it (groats cook just like rice) and it takes about 45 minutes to be done the way I like it.  The water is pretty much 2:1 in ratio with the oats….I might add a little extra to counterbalance the nuts, but not much.  When it is cooked and at the consistency I like, I cool it down and then I blend it in the blender until it is as smooth as possible. Then I set it aside, covered to ferment, as explained before. The thicker your mix, the longer it takes to get its tang going, but if you stir it a little more frequently the timing is not that much different and it is still done in three days time.....sooner if you don't like it as sour as I do. You can keep a small amount to add to your next batch as a starter so that it ferments quicker. Adding a plain soy or coconut milk yogurt to the batch would be a simple way to get this going more quickly also, though I must admit I am super happy with the plain old bacteria that occur naturally at my house for the fermentation process. You can also buy yogurt cultures, vegan or non-vegan, easily online.

I buy my oats and groats and nuts at the local co-op.  Making this really satisfies the need to be frugal. You get about two quarts of oatgurt for about $1. When going vegan I thought I would miss cheese and ice cream, but I just don’t…… yogurt was the one item I really missed. This stuff is amazingly satisfying and hits the spot. I keep it in my refrigerator every week now, and use it with fruit, granola, or maybe just a little maple syrup. I also use it to make a spread to put on my veggie wraps or pita sandwiches. Simply blend it to taste with a bunch of nutritional yeast, some tamari, and black pepper (and minced garlic if you have some). I usually just make how much I need on the spur of the moment, though you could easily keep this in a jar in the fridge.  I like this spread instead of mayonnaise and it has a cheesiness to it that goes well on sandwiches. You can thin it down and heat it to make a gravy for mashed potatoes. I tend to like kimchee on these wraps also…..another fermented food I love to make now, but that will have to be another article. 
So there you go! Give it a try!

Friday, September 26, 2014

I haven't posted for a while......So here are some photos I have taken and would like to share.

This is a tree at my home in the woods.

This tree was at a city park in Olympia Washington.

This family of trees was also in Olympia Washington.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Some notes and observations regarding the "Hobby Lobby" case

Hobby Lobby is a corporation not a citizen...

How can Hobby Lobby say they don't want to make health care decisions for their employees when the whole reason they are in court is that they want to deny them insurance coverage for contraception to which it has “religious objections”? 

Since when do corporations have religion?

The ACA (Obamacare to some of you) does not require employers to provide insurance. Repeat....the ACA does not require employers to provide insurance. It has an individual mandate, not an employer mandate. So the ACA is not requiring Hobby Lobby to provide insurance, ergo they are not forcing them to provide birth control.

The federal law does require virtually all group health-insurance plans to include coverage for various preventive services, including 18 forms of FDA-approved birth control. So if Hobby Lobby decides to provide health insurance coverage they are required to provide the same standard of coverage everyone else offers. If Hobby Lobby so badly doesn't want their employees to get birth control coverage they can let them get their own coverage through the ACA and/or choose to pay them a decent enough wage to buy their own insurance (crazy idea). If they don't offer health insurance, the ACA imposes a tax, and they can avoid that tax if they offer a health insurance plan to their employees. It is a circular situation, but they do have a choice. 

Back to my “since when do corporations have religion?” statement. This place is already nuts with granting free speech money rights to corporations.....I mean, PLEASE let there remain a significant difference in rights and recognition of citizens and corporations. This is another step in the direction of losing our voting power and our citizenship rights to corporations. There will be the fifty states and their electoral colleges completely outweighed by a state the size of Canada wanting the name of Corporanna. 

That disgusting statement by Hobby Lobby bemoaning that they don't want to make healthcare decisions for their employees is not only a lie, but shows their desire for a corporation’s rights be given preference over the concern for an employee’s rights. The employee's right to privacy, for instance.  And how about the idea that an employee should not have to follow the religion of their employer? Does that not even occur to them? We have hopefully established that our government does not have the right to dictate an individual’s religious beliefs. So, instead, are we going to allow them to be dictated by corporations? Where is this leading? Denying of service to gay couples because of a business’s “faith”? (yep). Denying employment to an unmarried pregnant woman? Remember 1983?  That is when the IRS had decided it would no longer give tax subsidies to racist schools and Bob Jones University argued to the Supreme Court that this could not constitutionally be applied when the racial discrimination was based on "sincerely held religious beliefs".  Thankfully the Supreme Court did not side with them. If the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby on this one, they will be effectively siding with Bob Jones University.....just in its corporate persona.

I just had to vent. Thank you.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

About the Vagina Lollipops:

Once again, Food Works is processing an order for our chocolate Vagina lollipops. Here in the kitchen I have heard a lot of comments and some questions as to why we do them. This is an attempt to explain why a domestic violence shelter program like Food Works is participating in the promotion of the sale of vagina suckers. Hopefully after reading this, you can address the same questions and comments when they come your way. Or not….as you have no obligation to agree with the points I make.

There may be some valid criticisms to be made regarding the use of the vagina as a symbol for feminism, the women’s rights movement, and the effort to work against domestic violence.  I will leave it to you to imagine for yourselves what those criticisms are.  Some criticism is based, frankly, on the fact that some people are just uncomfortable with talking about anything that has to do with sex and the vagina definitely has a lot to do with sex.

However, and this is a BIG however, there are important issues needing to be addressed locally, regionally, nationally and worldwide.  According to a 2003 U.N. report “ One in three women throughout the world…in her lifetime…will be beaten, raped, assaulted, trafficked, harassed or forced to submit to harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM).  Just as pink ribbons have been used as an emblem for breast cancer awareness, the vagina has taken on an emblematic status in the world-wide feminist movement to bring awareness to the issues of domestic violence, the subjugation of women and rape.  

The U.N. report carried an important message. There is a tendency, however, for information so broadly based across many nations to lose its impact. Localized information might make a stronger impression.
Did you know that last year there were 58 domestic violence homicides in Indiana? Think about that. An average of more than one woman a week in Indiana is murdered in an act of domestic violence.  

Between July of 2012 and July of 2013, there were 6,819 women and 4,868 children who sought and received shelter from domestic violence shelters like Middle Way House. These shelters are most often the last recourse. Women and children fleeing violence tend to prefer the shelter provided by families and friends, as long as they have a safe window of time and much of a choice.  Having worked crisis line myself, I can directly attest to the fact that when calls come in, most of the women calling in while attempting to get away from violence do not apply for shelter.  Instead, they work out other solutions.  I am pointing this out to make it clear that the 11,687 women and children that received shelter this past year in Indiana are just a portion of the population dealing with domestic violence. It is also a crying shame that over 3,800 women and children were turned away from shelter last year simply because the programs available were operating at full capacity. There were simply not enough beds to be had. 

The sexual assault situation in Indiana is simply horrid. According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 10.5 percent of all high school-age girls have been sexually assaulted and regrettably it is WORSE here in Indiana, where the numbers are considerable higher than nearly anywhere else in the country. 17.3 percent of girls in grades nine through 12 in this state have reported experiencing rape or sexual assault. The Justice Department estimates that 54% of rape victims do not press charges, and also reports that nationwide there are 207,754 people sexually assaulted in a year. Not all of these victims are owners of vaginas, but the vast majority of them are. While these statistics should shock you, they are not nearly as shocking as what each of these individuals has had to endure. 

What does this have to do with our making and selling Vagina pops? You may be familiar with the Vagina Monologues, a play written by Eve Ensler in 1996. This play is now performed world-wide on a yearly basis and was the result of interviewing over 200 women of all ages, ethnicities and sexual orientations about their vaginas.  In 1998, Ensler and others launched V-Day, a global non-profit movement that has provided over $75 million for women's anti-violence groups through benefits of The Vagina Monologue. Those are much needed funds both world-wide and locally. Here in Bloomington, the vagina pops are sold by the I.U. Women’s student association at events surrounding their production of the Vagina Monologues to help bring awareness to the event and the issues surrounding the V-Day movement. It is hard for someone who does not work around domestic violence issues to feel any connection to the numbers just referred to above and the admitted shock value of these lollipops helps to bring these issues forward in a dramatic way. They are delicious conversation starters. 

I have some additional points of consideration to offer people who are concerned about whether it is appropriate to sell vagina lollipops for Food Works and these points don’t have anything at all to do with the ability to gain funds for shelter services or to advertise the Vagina Monologues. I can’t say it any better than Jessica Valenti, the author of Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters: “What’s the worst possible thing you can call a woman? Don’t hold back, now. You’re probably thinking of words like slut, whore, bitch, cunt (I told you not to hold back!), skank. Okay, now, what are the worst things you can call a guy? Fag, girl, bitch, pussy. I’ve even heard the term “mangina.”Notice anything? The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally fucked up.”  

This is the gut of the problem. The inherent insult and shame implied in a female word. You can’t get much more female than the vulva or vagina, and this is why they are the strongest emblem for the fight against domestic violence. It is good to promote vaginas, and feminine sexuality as something not to be ashamed of. Shame and insult are the currencies spent by our culture to allow the continuation of rape and violence.  If you have ever attended the Vagina Monologues, one of the most universal reactions of the women in attendance is the proud embracement of terms such as cunt, slut, vagina. There is an empowerment that happens when the ownership of those words are on a woman’s terms, not a man’s. It is part and parcel with a refusal to be shamed or insulted about who we are. When sex, sexuality, and vaginas remain taboo and unspoken they hide with them all those other things that remain unspoken and shoved under the rug......things like rape, sexual abuse and repression. It is hard to uncover and fight what is hidden.

The problem is not just the use of the feminine as an insult.  When someone gets a vagina pop the reactions range from “cool” to an embarrassment to comments that “this is nasty”. Well a vagina is not nasty, nor is the acts of sex brought to mind in innuendos when people laugh and joke about the suckers.

It is a real shame that our society has made sex a sinful thing. Not quite so sinful for men, after all “boys will be boys” but hugely sinful for women. If these sexist attitudes were not holding sway, we would not have to hear about Rehtaeh Parsons’ suicide or the Steubenville rape trial. We would not be learning about the 14-year-old in Elwood, Indiana who was raped and became pregnant and then faced ongoing harassment and vicious public shaming from her community

I am extremely tired of the denial that sexism exists. It is similar to how there are tons of people out there that are claiming racism is dead, while the ones making this claim are the very ones trying to minimize their own racist tendencies. The virgin/whore mythology, the good girl/slut stories, the “you must have asked for it” stories surrounding violence and rape…..there are those of us that are refusing to buy those stories any longer.

Hence - the lovely delicious chocolate vagina lollipops.