Supporting Simon: Empathy for Autism

Friends, meet Jessica.  We met over 15 years ago as teenagers, bent on changing the world for the better.  Over the years, we have remained dear friends and are happy to have sons just a year apart.  Last year, Jessica’s youngest son, Simon, underwent a long process of therapy and testing which finally culminated in an autism diagnosis.  I asked her to share Simon’s story here.  She graciously complied. In a conversation last week she said, “Could you imagine someone telling us all we would encounter now, 15 years ago? We wouldn’t want to even open our eyes to the future. Yet here we are and we are thriving!” And that is why I wanted her to share.  Life keeps going.  We are stronger and braver  and bigger than our diagnosis, disease, and dysfunction. We have access to hope and healing, even if we have no cure (yet). I’m proud to call this woman a friend.
~Carrie
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        Its been close to four months now since D-Day: the day we received the package. A package full of the numbers, paragraphs and codes. The package that labeled my dear son Simon as a boy who was autistic.
Simon and Jessica
        I was expecting this, but I was not prepared for the avalanche of emotion that followed, seeing it all in black and white on crisp smelling paper.  The heavy blue folder filled with advice on teeth brushing, sensory processing, oh and a list of lawyers to contact should our school district not be cooperative.
        What is NOT in the big blue folder is how to handle your relationships. How to talk to people you know as well as strangers about your sons neurological differences. Nor was there a guide titled “Emotionally Processing Your child’s Diagnosis and Letting Others Know How They Can Be There For You”.
        One can find a million articles on autism and plenty of them start with the “37 Things You Should Never Say to a Parent of an Autistic Chilld”. I struggle with these articles, not because the content isn’t true, because it leaves people feeling paralyzed and fearing they will say the ‘wrong’ thing. So, they either avoid the topic all together in order to avoid saying anything hurtful or, perhaps, say nothing at all.
        After doing a bit of self care in the last few weeks, I was truly blown away by some of the truths in Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability and especially, how Empathy helps propel us into relationship and away from shame.
        With much of this truth, in addition to realizing how I personally process grief, I can look back and tell you exactly what I needed in this time. I needed a cozy, safe space where nothing I said, or felt, was perceived as wrong and held against me. A space where I could scream, freak out, ask “why”, followed by more crying. In this space, the nights would feel long and dark and alone. This space is grief. It is real and evolves each and every day. Some days laughter comes back for a moment only to be followed by more tears. Eventually, the tears flow less and less frequently.
“To every person walking through a major life-changing situation, you need to allow this space in your life to exist.”
        To everyone else who is watching from the outside looking in, you need to simply choose to sit in that space with that family for a moment. There is no need to fill up this space with empty works. Simply let them know that they are never alone. It can be liberating to acknowledge that nothing you can say verbally will change the grief and trauma they are experiencing. Instead of filling space with words, YOU simply hold the space and share it with them.
        On our way home from the Cleveland Clinic with that big blue folder on my lap, my husband and I cried and remained quiet without any music playing as we drove. We let the silence and sound of our tears be our song. We pulled into the driveway to find our fantastic neighbors in the driveway.  They knew the diagnosis was possibly coming that day, and not even a minute out of the car they were there with open arms and tears to match ours. They listened to the few words I could utter and instead of filling the air with ‘I’m sure it will be fine….or my nephew is autistic and doing great…’  They chose to inhabit the space with us and be in it too.
        An hour or so later, we’re trying to just get back to our day and a friend had told me she wanted to bring something by. Truth be told, I wasn’t up for any visitors but something in me also really wanted her there. I knew she was coming clear across town and she pulled in the driveway and when our eyes met, it was like she understood what we had just underwent.  Her hug was compassionate and gracious. She also did not fill the air with ‘Gods got it under control….everything will be OK…’ because she wasn’t actually certain of anything in that moment.  What she DID do was hand me a six pack of beer for Joel…fruit snacks for my kids and flowers for me. She also handed me a card and it wasn’t filled with words of empty flattery or ‘Only special Moms get special kids…’ – what it was filled with was ‘You are not alone. We love you.’ She joined me in my space. She brought a little light in.
        I could go on about the beautiful conversations, hugs and acts of kindness sent our way upon, during and before Simon’s diagnosis. What I am most grateful for is those who chose to sit with us, look us in the eye, wipe our tears and cry a few of their own. If you’re unsure on how to be there for a friend who is going through something you do not fully understand, just go and be with them or practically love on them.  It is as simple and dropping off a coffee or a little bouquet of flowers and a hug.  Never under estimate the power of a hug.
Miller Fam
Jessica and Family
        In four months, we may have a gained a diagnosis that will likely effect Simon forever. We have also gained a support system of Grandparents, teachers, therapists, and a new found surge of power within my husband and myself. This gives us courage on hard days and helps us see the progress. Even progress many would regard as trivial, is a big deal for Simon. Simon is growing, learning, and understanding more of his world every day. Ultimately we are so grateful to all who have helped us and are still helping us process this new way of life.
Proud Mother of three fantastic sons and one exceptional Simon,
Jessica

Feeding Echo and Finding Purpose – Our Life with FPIES

FPIESGraphic

A few weeks ago, our local news station asked our family to do a news segment on FPIES.  We talk about FPIES almost weekly here in an effort to raise awareness around food allergies, and I’m all about raising awareness wherever and whenever I can. So, of course we said yes.

{Watch our story here.}

Our awesome story teller, Kerry Tomlinson.
Our wonderful story teller, Kerry Tomlinson.

I love the story, I love how well they captured the sweetness of my boy, his gentle, joyful spirit, and most of all his interaction with his dad. The news got about 85% of the story right, and I’m grateful for that.  But they missed a few details, and one major detail that I want to express:

Echo’s illness changed everything.

From the ashes of that first year, a new life was born.  I don’t mean a human life, (although we were terrified of losing our baby for the first 18 months of his life).  But this.  This work, this site, this whole idea was formed from the grief.

Hospital
Echo, two days old and fighting for his life after a stroke.

In the summer of 2014, my long-time friend, Jessica, asked me to write our story for The Leaky Boob.  I was in the middle of dealing with massive PTSD, chronic mastitis from exclusively pumping milk from boobs that just wanted to quit, a crumbling marriage, and figuring out a way to keep our son alive and thriving in the midst of an illness nobody, even specialists, know much about. He had three “safe” foods at the time: TED breastmilk (wherein I was limited to 12 foods at one point in time), coconut oil, and spinach. Nightmares of feeding tubes and bankruptcy and divorce tormented my sleep, while emotional paralysis, physical pain, and extreme anxiety plagued me during the day.

Echo's second FPIES vomit-to-shock reaction.
Echo’s second FPIES vomit-to-shock reaction when he was 8 months old.

I said yes to telling our story.  Beyond the fear and the trauma, I knew other families were dealing with the same issues.  They were dealing with the despair, discouragement, and constant barely-subdued terror that their child might not make it.  And what if their kid does make it?  What kind of life and wounds will this struggle indelibly imprint their little bodies and spirits with? I started three drafts, scrapped them all, and then Echo had a vomit reaction to green beans in the middle of it all.  And that was it.  The impetus I needed to get it all out in real time.

This season. Trying to keep it all together and almost losing our marriage in the process.
This season. Trying to keep it all together and almost losing each other in the process.

Our story isn’t just for FPIES families, though.  It is for every family who has faced unimaginable obstacles and trauma.  Maybe it looks like FPIES, maybe it looks like unknown illness, maybe it looks like a brain tumor or infant hearing loss.  Maybe it looks like a massive struggle with self-care or divorce or being a terrible friend for a season.

EchoandLance
Echo eating for the first time at a chain restaurant.

Telling our story gave me access to the power I needed to find my way through, even though I never quite knew the next step until I took it.  It gave me just enough Brave to inch ahead of my Scared, and continues to fuel the heart of this little corner of the Internet where I believe Everyone deserves a seat at this table.

Thank you for being a part of this community.

Thank you for continuing to give us, and other families, a voice.

Thank you for sharing posts that are relevant to you with people you love.

Thank you for enjoying the food and laughter and tears and gathering here to have a human experience. This doesn’t happen without you.

Thank you.

Love,
Carrie, Lance, and Echo

FamilyTwoyears

“Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. They come together and they fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

― Pema Chödrön

Protein Packed Make-Ahead Mini Frittatas

Looking for the recipe and want to skip the back story? Skip down to the portion just under the picture of food, between rows of ******************.

On Sunday evenings during the school year, I make 36 mini frittatas.

I know, I know, who needs 36 mini frittatas?

Nobody would ask that if I was making cookies, that would be perfectly understandable. Making 3 dozen cookies is when a recipe feels worth the effort. But there’s usually sugar, chocolate, and other ingredients that aren’t great for breakfast involved in cookies so who wouldn’t want 36 of them? And that’s not even talking about for sharing.

But frittatas? Eggs and veggies? Sure, they can be great but who really needs 36?

For starters: brunch. Can you imagine 3 dozen darling little frittatas stacked and displayed for a dozen or so of your closest friends over at your place for Sunday brunch? It would be so charming and everyone would think you were the best at brunching. They would probably be right too.

Brunch would be a lovely reason to make 36 frittatas.

That has never been my reason for making 36 frittatas.

Personally I do it because on any given day during the school year I’m trying to get myself, my husband, and anywhere from 2-6 children fed, clothed, packed, and out the door by 7am. (I have 6 children with various schedules, it depends on the day as to who is going where.) There are 8 of us to feed and somehow get dressed. Since I will say on average “please put on your pants” 73 times, “you need to wear a shirt” 41 times, “didn’t you just have your socks” nearly 106 times, and of course “You have to be kidding me, where are your shoes” close to 312 times each morning Monday-Friday, breakfast needs to not be time consuming but it needs to be healthy. And something I can toss at my kids as they’re stuffing their feet into the magically elusive shoes when we’re walking out the door. If there are 36 already made mini frittatas in the fridge or freezer, this means our chance of actually eating is higher than their chance of finding their shoes. This is why I make 3 dozen frittatas on Sunday evening.

This is my attempt at having my life together, pretending to be organized, and making mornings smoother.

You would think this means we are never late. You would be wrong.

Because doing 1 thing or even 2 that are organized and prepared doesn’t change two crucial facts:

I am not organized.

Children are involved.

In our family of 8 at least 3 of us have high protein needs, particularly in the mornings (I think it is more like 8 of us but I’m not going to try to convince them of that). If we start off with a high carb breakfast without a good dose of protein we’re going to be feeling yucky, irritable, and falling asleep by 9am if not sooner. Since I am one of those 3 people, a carby start to the day pretty much means everyone has a crabby start to the day. Because when mom isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Combine the protein needs with the low nutritional value of most cereals, we aim for a quick and easy tasty protein choice that is usually egg based.

These 36 mini frittatas fit the bill. And make for a happy mom.

The size means that the teens can eat as many as they need, (usually 2-4) and the little kids can have just the right amount for them (usually 1-2). Customizable little bites, we change them a little every week. One week we’ll be eating broccoli bacon and cheese protein packed mini frittatas and the next we’ll be eating sausage asparagus, tomato protein packed mini frittatas. Add a bit of salsa, tomatoes, and black beans and we’re having Tex-Mex bites. Next time chop some black olives, green onions, marinated artichoke hearts, and pancetta and we’re going Mediterranean inspired. Everybody awaits Monday morning breakfast with anticipation of “I wonder what the frittata surprise will be this week?”

Ok, that’s not true. But after a week of having pretty much eaten the same thing for breakfast nearly every day, they do seem happy for a change. “Oh look, we finally get a break from broccoli, it’s another green veggie instead… wait, no, it’s broccoli again. She just pureed it.”

I like broccoli and as a frozen vegetable it does very well and I almost always have some in the freezer. But in late summer when we have 600 zucchinis I really like zucchini mini frittatas so see, sometimes I go wild and really do change things up.

This recipe is one I created after a few years of tweaking and experimenting. It is meant to be flexible and leave room for creativity. It isn’t an exact science. If you find you like them more eggy, add more eggs or take away some of the filling. If you don’t do dairy, make them dairy-free. If you don’t do meat, leave out the meat. If you don’t do broccoli… don’t tell me. Change up the mix-ins however strikes your fancy or that your children will eat. The point of these little darlings is to simplify life, not make it more complicated. Make them your own.

And I hope you get to serve them for brunch. Nobody would even know you made them the week before if you did.

Make-ahead family friendly breakfast

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Protein Packed Make-Ahead Mini Frittatas
Bake time: 18 minutes at 350.

12-18 eggs*
3/4 C unsweetened milk of your choice (dilute almond milk 2:1)
3 tbsp of your favorite fresh herbs (we used parsley, basil, and chives)
OR
3 tsp of your favorite dried fresh herbs (i.e. rosemary, sage, oregano, etc.)
1 C cooked quinoa (be sure to rinse before cooking)
1/4 tsp salt (slightly more if not using a salty meat option)
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 C precooked to tender chopped veggies (broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, onions, peppers, etc.)
1 C choice of shredded or crumbled cheese, optional (mozzarella, cheddar, blue, parmesan, gouda etc.)
5 oz of you favorite breakfast meat, cooked (ground sausage, bacon, ham, ground beef, turkey, etc.)
Oil, butter, or nonstick cooking spray of your choice for greasing tins (we used Kerrygold butter)

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Add in other ingredients and mix well. Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full using a ladle, be sure to get down to the bottom of the bowl for even distribution of filling. Bake on middle rack for 18 minutes. Remove from oven when tops begin to golden, set on wire racks in tins for 5 minutes. With a table knife, go around each frittata to loosen, remove from tin and cool on wire racks. Store in airtight container.

Makes 36.

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These will stay good in the refrigerator for 5 days, the freezer for a good few months. Freeze in small batches to defrost only what you need. Reheat in microwave (30 seconds) or toaster oven (10 minutes in a preheated toaster oven).**

*Number of eggs used depends on how eggy you like it. I usually use somewhere between 12-15. Fewer eggs will make it more cake-like, more eggs will make it more like a true frittata and be more like scrambled eggs.

**I recommend the toaster oven if possible, the taste is better, the heating is even, and the texture is consistent. Microwaves can do strange things to food, specially eggs.

Don’t think you have room in the freezer for 36 mini frittatas? Here’s the reduced version of the same flexible recipe:

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Small-Batch Protein Packed Make-Ahead Mini Frittatas
Bake time: 18 minutes at 350.

5 eggs
1/3 C unsweetened milk of your choice (if using almond milk, use 2 Tablespoons with 1 Tbsp water)
3 tsp of your favorite fresh herbs (we used parsley, basil, and chives)
OR
1 tsp of your favorite dried fresh herbs (i.e. rosemary, sage, oregano, etc.)
1/3 C cooked quinoa (be sure to rinse before cooking)
1/8 tsp of salt (slightly more if not using a salty meat option)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 C precooked chopped veggies, tender (broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, onions, peppers, etc.)
1/4 C choice of shredded or crumbled cheese, optional (mozzarella, cheddar, blue, parmesan, gouda etc.)
1.25 oz of you favorite breakfast meat, cooked (ground sausage, bacon, ham, ground beef, turkey, etc.)
Oil, butter, or nonstick cooking spray of your choice for greasing tins (we used Kerrygold butter)

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Add in other ingredients and mix well. Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full using a ladle, be sure to get down to the bottom of the bowl for even distribution of filling. Bake on middle rack for 18 minutes. Remove from oven when tops begin to golden, set on wire racks in tins for 5 minutes. With a table knife, go around each frittata to loosen, remove from tin and cool on wire racks. Serve warm.

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And last but not least, just for funsies:
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Protein Packed Individual Frittata
Bake time: 15 minutes at 350.

1-2 eggs
1 tbsp unsweetened milk of your choice (if using almond milk, use 2 Tablespoons with 1 Tbsp water)
1/4 tsp (dash) of your favorite fresh herbs (we used parsley, basil, and chives)
OR
1/8 tsp (pinch) of your favorite dried fresh herbs (i.e. rosemary, sage, oregano, etc.)
1 tbsp cooked quinoa (be sure to rinse before cooking)
pinch tsp of salt (slightly more if not using a salty meat option)
bigger pinch of ground black pepper
1/8 C of precooked chopped veggies, tender (broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, onions, peppers, etc.)
1 tbsp choice of shredded or crumbled cheese, optional (mozzarella, cheddar, blue, parmesan, gouda etc.)
Some of you favorite breakfast meat, cooked (ground sausage, bacon, ham, ground beef, turkey, etc.)
Oil, butter, or nonstick cooking spray of your choice for greasing tins (we used Kerrygold butter)

Preheat oven to 350 (toaster oven works well for this). In small bowl, whisk eggs and milk. Add in other ingredients and mix well. Fill greased small Mason jar, mug, or 3.5” cast iron skillet, fill with egg mixture. Bake on middle rack for 15 minutes. Remove from oven when tops begin to golden, set on wire racks for 5 minutes. With a table knife, go around the individual frittata to loosen, remove from tin and cool on wire racks. Serve warm.

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What mix-ins would you want to try in your mini-frittatas? What other breakfast and morning survival strategies do you use?

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11 Ways To Keep Food Allergy Kids Safe

It’s back to school time.  I heard the internet’s collective cheer as parents and children started a new school year, and then the following week grumble as new clothes lost their shimmer and the reality of the next nine months starts to settle in like a fog.

With every new school year comes an increasing debate around food allergies.  Peanuts, tree nuts, soy, dairy, wheat, avocado, strawberries, eggs, fish, chicken, you name it, someone is allergic to it.  (Whatever we are doing as a society with and to our food, it’s beginning to emerge as allergies in our children. But that’s another post.)

My son, E, is one of those allergy kids.  In fact, his allergies are so severe, I cannot send him to group childcare or preschool.  I want him to have the socialization.  I think it’s incredibly important. But his list of allergens is so extensive, group settings with other small children just isn’t safe.

EEating

But one day, my kid will have to go to school.  He’s outgrowing many of his allergies, and by the time he’s ready for kindergarten, I’m hopeful that he will be completely okay.  Chances are slim that wheat and eggs will ever be okay for him, though.  And I think peanuts will always pose a problem while he’s young.

So, as the school year pushes into full swing, so does the conversation around eliminating certain foods from our schools.  It’s a hot topic this year, and we are all divided.  I’m always going to side with the most vulnerable among us, especially because this hits so close to home.  This isn’t a debate about anything.  This is about caring for children who could die from inhaling PEANUT DUST. Or vomits to shock from a crumb of wheat.

  1. Wash hands after eating. My niece, who is allergic to peanuts, reacts to traces of peanut residue on the shopping cart.  My son pukes when he gets a tiny crumb of wheat.  Wash hands, okay?
  2. Wipe mouths after eating. If you think your child might put their hands in their mouths after eating, go ahead and wipe their mouths. If you plan on kissing or hugging a kid with food allergies, take this to heart.  Your love should not cause pain.
  3. Create a safe zone. Remove shoes before entering a house where children have food allergies.  If you have someone over who has food allergies, wipe surfaces down, and give a good sweep or vacuum.
  4. Don’t mix food with toys. Don’t allow food to be in the same space as toys.  Contact reactions are real, and they’re scary.  Kids eat in a designated area, kids play in designated area and wash hands after eating, before playing.
  5. Consider changing your routine. If you or your child eats peanut butter or wheat bread at home before school, consider eating first, then washing hands and face, brushing teeth, and then changing clothes to minimize contact.
  6. Take allergies seriously.  Yep, food allergies are a total pain in the peanuts.  I get it.  But you know what’s more painful?  People (and specifically children who are too young to fully advocate for themselves) dying from a speck of peanut dust they inhaled that could have easily been prevented. Why did they die a needless death?  Because you wrote the mom off as crazy.  And speaking of crazy…
  7. Acknowledge the crazy.  Parents of children with food allergies are totally crazypants.  I’m raising my hand here because it’s true.  But imagine the entire world was full of poison that could kill your child at any given moment and the only thing standing between death (or a trip to the ER) and your kid is YOU. All the time.  You would be crazy, too.  Hug that frazzled mom next time you see her.
  8. Skip food crafts. Macaroni art or jewelry making? Use toothpicks or beads.  I’ll buy some for your classroom, and I’m sure every food allergy parent would gladly buy the supplies.
  9. Talk to your kids about food allergies.  Your children are soaking up every attitude you have, more than every word you say.  The words are still important, though.  Talk to them about the importance of keeping each other safe and discuss ways you can work together to keep their friends safe.
  10. Volunteer to eliminate peanuts (or known allergens) from your child’s school lunch. Keeping our kids safe in community space relieves massive pressure for Crazypants Allergy Mom and Dad.
  11. Become an advocate. Be a safe harbor for these kids.  Advocate for their safety, just as you would if it was your child in danger.  Learn how to use an Epi pen. Learn CPR and brush up on food handling safety. Be a vocal supporter in the PTA, support separate eating areas and safe classroom policies. Give Crazypants Mom and Dad a hug and a bottle of wine when you see them.

Every child deserves to feel and be safe in our schools.  You can help make that happen.  Now, go forth and switch your peanut butter sammies to sunbutter and try to keep your sanity this school year.  And for the love of Zeus, STOP MINIMIZING ALLERGIES.  It’s harmful and directly hurts the children in your community.

Your Crazypants Allergy Mama,
Carrie

Creamy Polenta Ragu {Vegan and Gluten-Free}

Polenta RaguI have these neighbors. We will call them Wilfredo and Valentina, because those are their actual names. Cool, right? Well, they ARE cool and totally live up to those epic names. They moved in downstairs about eight months ago from New Jersey and we have become close friends. So close, in fact, that my two year old son, E, feels totally comfortable opening their front door and walking right in to say hello at any hour of the day.  (Yeah, we’re working on the whole concept of knocking.)

Wilfredo and Valentina are both avid athletes. It’s not uncommon to see them sprinting up and down the steep hill in front of our building, or doing interval training in the parking lot at dawn. And rain or shine, Wilfredo is running his heart out, getting ready to run UltraMarathon races,  and Valentina is probably completing a 50 mile bike ride as part of her triathlon training before heading off to work.  They have a serious love for activity, the outdoors, and competition.

They’re also VEGAN.

Now, we eat many animal products in our house. We eat plenty of veggies and fruits, too. But we are decidedly not vegan.

Our tribe here has expanded to enfold Wilfredo and Valentina into our hearts. We want to fully integrate them into our little community and become a safe place for these New Jersey transplants.

But here’s the thing: I love them. I love them BIG. They love my kid fiercely and he loves them fiercely right back. My love language is food. So, in order to share our table with them, I’ve been experimenting with dishes outside of my normal food repertoire.

But here’s another thing: Every single person in our tribe has special food things. E takes the (gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, carrot-free) cake because of his FPIES, but he certainly is not the only one who needs special food. But nobody has excluded animal products entirely from their diets.

Until now.

So, when the tribe decided to do a vegan brunch a few weeks ago, I accepted this challenge with great excitement.  Because even though you will never see me sprinting up and down the hill for funsies, I do love a good challenge.  And if the challenge translates to a little food love, then even better.

Everyone can technically eat corn, including E. I typically try to avoid it, but it doesn’t make me feel like wheat does. I also wanted to do a homestyle dish that was still healthy and everyone could enjoy.  I began to dream about casseroles, baked dishes, and rich, flavorful sauces.

Creamy, hot polenta dishes started filling my mind. It’s easy to veganize polenta. So, I scoured the internet looking for recipe ideas. I hit a wall when I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for and started getting frustrated.

Then I remembered that I can cook. DUH.

I started extracting favorite elements from dishes that looked great. Easy enough. Then I got to work.

I discovered that making the polenta first and baking it for a bit gave it the perfect texture. Scoring it, and then topping it with a simple tomato and veggie mixture and putting it in the oven to bake longer made mouth magic.

I brought my finished polenta dish before our tribe. I know I can count on them to give me their honest feedback. They tasted. They went back for seconds. They lamented when it was over, especially Wilfredo and Valentina. Luckily, I made an extra dish of it just for them, and walked it downstairs after brunch was done. They were stoked.

This dish is the classic, simple-food-done-right, love-in-a-Pyrex pan taste of comfort every person needs in their life. Probably right now.

You can make your own variations by using what you have on hand. THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE VEGAN. But then again, you can’t share it with your awesome vegan neighbors if it’s not. So, prepare wisely.

Ingredients for Polenta:

  • 2 cups dry polenta
  • 4 cups unsweetened, unflavored hemp milk (or regular milk)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ½ cup Nutiva Shortening, or butter
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt

Ingredients for Ragu:

  • 1 jar crushed tomatoes
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch spinach or chard, chopped
  • 1-2 zucchini, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 leaves fresh basil, or 1 Tbsp dried
  • 4 leaves fresh sage, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, or 1 Tbsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Directions for Polenta:

  1. Cook polenta according to instructions on package, subbing water for milk. Add additional water to thin it out. It should be a smooth, creamy texture, and easy to stir.
  2. Pour polenta into a large, greased casserole dish. Bake on 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven, and score with a sharp knife into 1-2 inch squares, but do not remove from the dish.

Instructions for Ragu:

(Note: This is great to start while the polenta bakes in the oven.)

  1. Saute onion and garlic in oil, then add herbs, tomatoes, zucchini and sauce. Bring to a low boil.
  2. Remove from heat, and stir in spinach or chard.
  3. Pour over polenta, and bake for 30 additional minutes, or until mixture is bubbling.
  4. Serve and eat immediately, or store for leftovers.

This freezes okay, but stays good in the refrigerator for a week. But the thing is, I don’t think it will last that long. This is comfort food at it’s very best.

Hug a vegan,
Carrie

Are you interested in learning more about vegan eating and running?  Visit Wilfredo’s blog over at Eat, Run and Done.