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Recipe: Rustic Italian Bean “Dip”

November 5th, 2015

rustic beansMy friend and student Gwen asked me to give her this recipe today. It goes over extremely well when I bring it to gatherings.

Coarsely-blended beans, olives and Italian seasonings meld together into a wonderful mixture. Use it as a dip for pita or corn chips, pair it with eggs at breakfast or substitute for refried beans in tostadas or burritos.

I make a lot and then freeze some for later. I think it tastes better after freezing, somehow the flavors bloom with time.

There are many ingredients in this recipe, but the actual preparation takes almost no time.

Rustic Italian-Seasoned Bean “Dip”
3 (15-oz) cans Pinto beans (or one larger can, ~ 3lb)
1 (15-oz) can Black (California) Olives (optional, but it brings a lot of flavor to the mix)
1/4c to 1/3c Tomato Paste (or a small can- I buy qt jars at a Halal/Mideastern market and freeze ahead of time)
3/8 c Water
3/8 c (6 Tbsp) Juice from Olives (or more water and a few dashes of salt)
1/4 c Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Oregano
1 Tbsp Basil
Optional: 1/2 tsp Thyme or 1/4 tsp Rosemary, crushed

rustic beansDrain and rinse beans. In a large bowl, place all ingredients. With stick blender, blend until chunky but fully blended.

Chill or heat. Serve with tortilla chips, pita bread, wrapped in any tortilla or lawash you like, or wrap in a clear rice/tapioca “spring roll wrapper” from the Asian market. OR serve with eggs and avocados for a hearty brunch!

Recipe: Pumpkin-Comfort Tapioca Pudding

October 18th, 2015

Brrr! Time to Warm Up.

Cold-Weather Comfort Food

Both pumpkin and traditional (homemade) tapioca pudding are comfort foods for me. If you have only ever had tapioca pudding from the deli case, we are not talking about the same thing – I won’t eat that gummy, gluey stuff. This simple version is more like a firm custard than the deli namesake, and it has much smaller bits of tapioca.

finished pudding cold

What’s more, this recipe has 4 ingredients in all, and those are one-ingredient ingredients (canned pumpkin contains only pumpkin, tapioca is dried cassava-root starch, sugar is sugar, and this particular soy milk is soy… and water… if you count water). No preservatives, no thickeners, flavorings or the like. Yes, it’s sweet. However, there is no junk in it… no xanthan gum, no corn syrup…! Real food.

Three is a Charm

I’ve been making tapioca puddings for a long time. When I was allergic to cow’s milk, I posted a rich recipe I developed for LynnH’s Sinful Coconut/Vanilla Tapioca Pudding here. That was in February 2003, when we thought Coconut Oil was a bad thing for hearts. A dozen years later, it’s a fad food for health. Go figure!

The First Version

I had a recipe for Brown Sugar Tapioca Pudding in my holiday dessert cookbook “I Can Eat These!” a handful of years ago. I’ve been making that quite often when I feel chilled to the bone or need comfort.

Then one night I wondered if I could make it with pumpkin. Oh, my goodness!!! I may never make it without again! (If you don’t have pumpkin, you can omit it and change the sugar to only 1/2 cup, and you’ll have my original recipe.)

pudding ingredients

Above you see the only ingredients in this pudding. Regardless of what type of milk you choose, be sure to use one with no sweeteners. Mine is soy, with two ingredients: Soybeans and water. If you prefer, I have a few friends who used a box of almond milk instead of the soy and loved it. Just one box (4 cups) of some sort of milk product will do, though I am guessing that some rice milks might be a bit too thin.
pudding done boiling hard
No Corn
Dairy Optional
No Egg
No Potato
Soy Optional
No Tree Nuts
No Wheat
No Yeast

Pumpkin-Comfort Tapioca Pudding

Dry Ingredients
1/2 c Minute Tapioca (granules)
3/4 c Brown Sugar (I prefer dark)

Wet Ingredients

1 box (4 cups) unsweetened Soy Milk (or sub almond milk or other type you tolerate, but not lowfat)
1 small/ 15-oz can (1-3/4c) Pumpkin (not pie mix, just one ingredient)


Mix dry ingredients coarsely in standard-sized round crockpot/slow cooker. Add pumpkin and stir. Add milk (I add half a box at a time, stirring each time).

Crock Pot/Slow Cooker method

Turn pot on high. Set buzzer for 20 minutes.

When buzzer goes off, stir again. place clean cloth over pot to prevent spitting. Set buzzer for 30 minutes. When buzzer goes off, open the lid and look for boiling against the edges of the pot. It should boil significantly on the edges but don’t expect it in the middle (the heat is in the walls of the pot). After inspecting, stir again. It is probably not done yet… it should look like the photo above. There should be resistance against your stirring utensil as you stir, and it should be sticky with small clumps on your stirrer.

At this point, set your buzzer for every 10-15 minutes and evaluate/stir again. It will thicken after cooling, but tastes better if the pumpkin and milk meld together in the heat.

When it is clear that the mixture has boiled at the edges (the color of the mixture near the boiling edge will be darker in color, as you can see in the photo above), turn off the pot. If you can remove the crock from the heating element, do so. Leave the lid off for about 15 minutes.

At 15 minutes, if you like the cooled/thickened crust on top, skim it off and eat it! If you prefer it all to be smooth,

finished pudding hot

stir it in. Either cool it further or eat warm. The final photo shows the texture of the pudding after being partially cooled. The photo at the very top of this post shows it after being cooled overnight.

Stovetop Method

If you have no crock pot, you can cook in a 3-4 quart double boiler with the same instructions as above. If you have no double boiler, place on a stove burner at a very low setting and stir at least every 5 minutes to keep it from burning on. When it’s cooked per the description above, cool 15 minutes and stir or not, as described above.

Note: This pudding must be refrigerated if you do not eat it immediately.

Makes: Approx. 8 (eight) servings, about 1/2 cup each.

Enjoy!!! Share!!! This is yummy to anyone, not just those with food restrictions.

Actively Nurturing  Positivity

July 22nd, 2015

A Facebook friend got helper fatigue and posted about her need to rest. She had started seeing only the troubles in the world and felt deep despair.

I’m not blind to injustice and pain. In fact I have an over-functional “empathy gene” that I’m sure my father shared. I can’t go to movies or watch TV. I can’t tolerate music with a lot of dissonance or minor chords.

Because of this, I need to work hard to keep positive. I can’t function when I allow a fearful feeling in my gut.

Here is what I shared with my Facebook friend. I do hope it helps her… and I hope sharing it here may help you, too. (We all face rough days.)

How I Stay Up
(Where I focus) There are SO MANY good people in the world, I meet new ones every day. I look for them.

I had a friend lose her wallet after dark on the riverwalk trail here a month or so ago. Got it back. I’ve had phones and keys and wallets returned. Even had a cabby come back to give me my camera… In VEGAS! And a public bus driver stopped his route to bring me my big bag on my honeymoon in Madison Wisconsin.

In ’75 a friend left her SUITCASE on the subway in Toronto and got it back. I left a handspun shawl on a train from Toronto to Montreal only 3 summers ago, and got it back.

NONE OF THESE MADE THE NEWS. Only exceptions make it in. We are fed the dramatic exceptions in service of advertising, at least on any of the services we get for “free” (excepting public TV and radio.) this includes Facebook and the like. 

Ears take in everything. Make sure you don’t listen to any news at all. Let music be your drug and listen to select pieces to bring you up. Here is a “Stand Tall” optimistic playlist I put together for a friend going through a divorce, on YouTube:

Find a toddler or puppy and drink in their enthusiasm for life. Treat yourself to swinging on the swings at a park, or a favorite coffee, tea, or cheese. Find a farm market and give your money to a farmer who grew your food and thank them.

Go on a long walk or sit on a porch with earphones feeding you peaceful sounds. I often choose Ladysmith Black Mambazo or James Taylor, you may prefer Michael Buble or Frank Sinatra or madrigal singing. No minor keys or dissonance…

It’s time for extreme measures to get yourself noticing the good people again. They are everywhere.

Photo: a 5-year-old child I love, gathering violets out of my side yard. Time with youngsters really heals my anxiety. 

Choosing Ease over Ceaseless Striving

June 1st, 2015

The New York times published an article called The Small Happy Life. I found it  a thoughtful essay. I relate.

After daddy died (I was 14), besides holding relationship more dear, I was a “Live! Live! Live!” Grrrl. I felt I needed to be/do/think big. (The inner frenzy now reminds me of the Peter Gabriel song, Big Time.)

Now I have a wonderful, contented life. We have a modest home in a modest city instead of the condo in Chicago with a view of Lake Michigan that I nearly bought. We sing at nursing homes and make folks light up and sing along, instead of me singing solo on a big stage or in a movie s I dreamed as a child. I have no unsecured debt, and at present no car or house payment… Instead of the expensive hair, clothes, shoes, and credit card/car payments I had when I was trying to impress others and myself. 

Ironically, I have more friends and more ease than I ever imagined… and I love being an adult. Life is full and joyful. I have never laughed so much!

I once truly had a job with a key to city hall. It paid well and someone’s else sorted my mail for me. I had another job where the secretary supported my needs (after I had been the secretary myself for years). Now I work more hours for less pay, but fewer expenses… and am content. 

And my husband lights up when I walk into the room. Who needs designer clothes? This is the life.  

Big Time by Peter Gabriel

World-Shaking News for Our Friend!

May 19th, 2015

…the sun keeps shining through the driving rain
And I know that we can turn it around.
— Workingman’s Hymn, Josh Davis

I just broke down and bawled.  Our friend Josh Davis wrote a song called “The Workingman’s Hymn” and he recorded it last night for NBC’s The Voice.
At noon today, The Workingman’s Hymn was number 9 on the iTunes singles chart! This is not just a song Josh performed, this is a song he WROTE.

I talked to my brother this morning. He is out of work again, a computer professional with current certifications who is highly regarded, but also over 50. (Most computer work is contract now.)

My brother said when he heard The Workingman’s Hymn last night, it gave him goosebumps. He is living the story in that song right now.

When I got off the phone, I went to YouTube and watched the video for the song. And sobbed gut-wrenching tears… for the hope in the song, for the future of Michigan, and for Josh.

As an artist and musician, I have watched this show as a peer. I have learned about performing, staging, costuming… and that truly even the glamor job of musician is a “workingman’s” hard job. You can’t afford an off day on that stage (and all the hours preparing for it).

Please go watch this video. It will surely improve your outlook even if you don’t know Josh.

Watch The Voice tonight, Tuesday May 19, 8-9pm Eastern (followed by a 2-hour special which promises a huge roster of amazing singers… The top 20 from this season and a roster of well-established professionals.

PS  Josh’s other solo single, Hallelujah, was #12. Nice job, friend. 

Kindness Heals the Heart

May 16th, 2015

throw kindness around like confetti!-Kid President
I started the day discouraged. Nobody can function when they are down like that. I needed a change.

Just as music can be a drug and determine your mood for the day, so can other things such as videos and reading material.

be the reason somebody dances this week!-Kid President
I needed a better mood. I needed to change my direction. Fortunately, Kid President came to mind. Just the thing!
Watch this. Giggle. Go on recharged. It only takes 3 minutes, less time than getting up for a drink of water.

DO it! Click!

 Kid President screengrab 

Represent Michigan Music- Vote by Noon!

May 12th, 2015

Friend Joshua Davis’ song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Bonnie Raitt) is at #13 on itunes right now! If he is #10 or higher at noon, his itunes votes are multiplied by 10! Please download it by noon on Tuesday (eastern time) for a mere $1.29 and represent the Michigan music community! (Click on the image below.)

Competition is tight this week… Three other Voice singles are already in the top 10.  It’s a great song, besides. (I once wished to sing this one, myself,) 

iTunes Joshua Davis 

For other ways to vote for Josh, go to Earthwork Music. Thanks for your help. 

Need to Manage Your Time?

May 11th, 2015

Is this True?

I think I might be like you…

It’s so easy to feel I need to “manage my time” so I can do everything on my plate. Do you have that idea, too?

Stopped in my Tracks

Then last week I went to the Doctor for a routine appointment… And was pronounced sick with a contagious virus and told to stay home for 5-7 days. Ack! I didn’t feel too bad, mostly tired and spaced out. (Usually sick for me means sleeping all day feeling miserable.) Yet the fog made me slow down. 

There were a few things I could do with my feet up, so I did those while feeling guilty and ineffective. Most of them involved knitting. 

Since knitting frees up thoughts and ears, I listened to audiobooks. When I was done with those I switched to podcasts. (Podcasts are like radio shows I can download to my iPod and listen when it’s convenient.)

Explore Your Enthusiasm 

As a creative professional, I enjoy Tara Swiger’s “Explore Your Enthusiasm.” I often even listen to the episodes multiple times.”

So I listened to Tara’s podcast 46 from a few months ago… About “Time Management Fallacy.” It was the perfect message.  

Excellent Effectiveness Advice

She makes great points: 

  • Don’t plan forever, just dive in & do the work. 
  • Don’t give yourself 2 hours for a 20-minute job. 
  • Stop doing things you don’t need/want to do (and are doing because others want you to).
  • Choose to enjoy time, not cram it full of more tasks. 

Excuse me, I’m off to work on the porch with my laptop. Seize the day!!!

 Working on the Porch 

Maintenance Monday: Mystery

May 4th, 2015

Today’s Maintenance Monday is brought to you by mysterious items in the freezer.

It is also brought to you by crockpot soup! Sweet potato, crowder peas, 1.5 cups of broth and some greens/ sauteed onion.

Most of the ingredients came from the freezer and were taking up more space than their contents deserved. All of them will taste better together tonight when Brian and I sit down to eat them.

(The items shown actually were two jars of homemade pumpkin butter, and one jar of unsweetened cranberry juice. Those did not go in the soup. Thank goodness for that!)

What is This?
I started naming my days, at least some of them, a few years ago. The more I use the concepts, the more I actually get done when I’m alone and in charge of “what do I do next?”

Maintenance Mondays can be about balancing a checkbook, confirming my schedule for the next 10 days or so, handling backed up laundry or handwash, finally hanging that poster on the wall after months of intending to do it.

Today besides my freezer adventure, I did some computer work and made a few appointments.

What do you think of this idea? Could it help you, too?

Joshua Davis: Echoes of Simon & Garfunkel

April 27th, 2015

#DavisNation @JoshuaDavis77Oh, joy! My friend Joshua Davis is now in the last 8 performers competing on NBC’s The Voice show.

Josh still needs our votes. I’m here to do my best to encourage you to listen (8pm Monday night, Eastern Time). In Lansing, Michigan you can watch for free at Celebration Cinema, and there are other locations for viewing in Frankfort, Leland, Grand Rapids, Bellaire and Portage. Check http://EarthworkMusic.com for information on the #DavisNation and how to vote/view.

I’m really impressed with how well the show is set up to help the contestants get to know each other and feel like family (rather than encouraging competition and conflict). There is enough drama in waiting to hear for who got voted in by “America” (the voters), there is no sense making the competitors feel alienated and alone on stage. That nonsense is not happening here, and I’m grateful.

I spent time a few weeks ago reading everything I could about the show, because I was new to this. I found a number of people suggesting that Josh’s performance of Budapest reminded them of Simon and Garfunkel. This intrigued me, because I felt that way, too, and I couldn’t figure out why.

While you are listening to Budapest, notice the subtle voice he starts with… it also reminds me of the soothing voice of Art Garfunkel. And then he gets so strong at the “Michigan feels like a dream to me now…” section. Of course. His stronger voice has echoes of Simon… and of course, he always sounds like himself under it all.

Then I listened to the intro guitar picking pattern on Budapest and it reminded me of something… so I went and listened to some intros to Simon and Garfunkel. I found it! Listen to the beginning of Budapest and then listen to April, Come She Will at about 11 seconds, where the second intro pattern emerges. The same pattern!!! And the voice of Art Garfunkel has that soft insistence we hear at the beginning of Budapest. Yeah, Josh!!!


So… I started to write this post and it was involved enough that I didn’t finish in time for the top 10… so I got surprised. Josh picked America by Simon and Garfunkel as his performance at that point. And he did it artfully, perfectly and with so much emotion! It stands tall even when listened to with eyes closed on earphones. Sound alone, he delivers it beautifully.

Even Music Times agrees with me:

Team Adam still feels like the weakest batch to me, but I think America did right by picking Joshua Davis as the first of his three to make it into the top 10. His performance of Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” on Monday night was soft and perfectly balanced, proving that the power of quiet music never leaves.

Carolyn Menyes, Music Times

And that got him into the top 10. And last week, he sang for top 8 and got the instant save via tweets on Monday night… So much adrenaline, my stomach hurt… but this guy is really showing his chops from having been on many, many stages over 15+ years on tour with Steppin’ in It and now solo. What a pro. His “instant save” song was “I Won’t Back Down” (we know this one from Tom Petty).

If you download any of these songs by Joshua Davis via iTunes, he gets votes that follow him to the end. Only $1.29 for the studio version, and the pleasure of hearing them any time you want on your favorite gizmo!

Two Hours to Show Time

I’m sitting here 2 hours before he sings again. I need to get going and post this… and get over to the Theatre to watch. I don’t have a TV in my house, so it’s pretty lovely to watch with others who also want to support our friend!!!

There will definitely be knitting. I’m going for the 2nd week with my knitting friend Helen. So fun!

Pass this along, if you would please. All the 8 are stars. Let’s give them credit. And let’s be sure to give Josh our well-deserved votes.

Friend Josh Davis, on The Voice, needs you!!!

April 14th, 2015

Joshua Davis on The VoiceLongtime readers here know that I sing with my husband Brian, as The Fabulous Heftones. One of the amazing things about singing professionally is that I get to meet and jam with other musicians who are top notch. It’s a joy!

One band we’ve known for about 15 years is Steppin’ in It. They played weekly (for years) at the Green Door, a music venue on the Eastside… my favorite part of town!

#DavisNation @JoshuaDavis77About Joshua Davis
Josh Davis is the front man for Steppin’ in It, and writes many of their songs. Lately he’s been doing more solo work (they all have). Josh got a surprise call from NBC’s show The Voice, and is on the current Season 8.

I don’t watch TV… we literally have no way to watch at home. I’d never heard of The Voice. But with my friend on it, I’ve been finding ways to watch.

The Voice is a Class Act
I’m really impressed at the respect the contestants receive from the celebrity coaches, and the way they are set up to cooperate and learn to feel connected to each other in spite of the competition. Very refreshing!

Please Support Josh: Vote before Noon Tuesday!
Josh is now in the final 12 people. At this point, the celebrity coaches can not impact if he moves on or not. It’s all up to us, the public. If he is in the top vote-getters, he can complete the competition. If not, he goes home. Please consider helping him out. (There are videos below to show you why he is worthy of your votes.)

Each fan can vote up to 41 votes.

To help, you must vote by noon, Tuesday 4/14!!!

Here are instruction pages on how to do it:

How to Vote for Joshua Davis on The Voice from Earthwork

The Lansing State Journal: How to vote for Josh Davis by Anne Erickson

Listen to Joshua Sing
Here is a video of the song he sang Monday 4/13. (America by Simon & Garfunkel, a wonderful song.) If you download it from iTunes before noon ($1.29) it will count as one vote and you can listen to Josh serenade you whenever you want!

And besides… Josh’s voice singing Simon and Garfunkel? I must confess I cried.

Here he is singing “Budapest,” a song that was a hit in Europe. I didn’t know it, but I think it’s my new favorite recording.

Thanks for your support and your consideration. Hugs from Michigan’s music heartland.

Use that Good China!

April 1st, 2015

I clipped this quote somewhere on the internet, and now I’ve done a Google search and a search of Facebook and can’t find it. May the writer forgive me for sharing these wise comments (which clearly were intended to be shared) without attribution.

” When I was studying nursing, I worked in a nursing home. There were so many residents that had sentimental and special things that were given away, in pristine condition and never used. It just seems like such a waste!

Tomorrow may never come, so don’t leave your beautiful, sparkly things sitting in boxes and in the cupboard. Use and enjoy them!”

I also found a column by Regina Brett, Columnist Regina Brett45 life lessons. It’s being circulated on Facebook as written by a 90-year old. They have her name right, but her age is 53 (I found this information on the urban-legend-busting website Snopes.com). I particularly want to share this goodie that relates to the one above:

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

–Regina Brett

For the record, I’m showing Ms. Brett’s photo here… and then showing the photo that has been accompanying the post on Facebook. Iris Apfel, Fashion DesignerI happened to recognize the incorrect photo. It’s Iris Apfel, a New York fashion icon and designer. I love her style!!! Click here for more photos and information on Iris.

My Own Challenge

I’m in a group on Facebook full of entrepreneurs working solo. One week there was a challenge to find things in our homes that we had not used, that we were essentially “saving for good.” I did well in the kitchen area, there was one jar of golden syrup that I deem so yummy I was saving it for a special occasion. I’d used my long-saved saffron and a vanilla bean, before the challenge.

Hawaiian dressBut in my closet? Oh, the beautiful clothing I wasn’t wearing. I have a 1960’s Hawaiian dress, in like-new condition. I sort of think of it as a museum piece and so I leave it for later, which never comes. I have a hand-woven/hand-embroidered dress from 1970’s Egypt which I’ve never worn and now doesn’t fit me anymore.

I do have some textiles I deem collectible which I never intended to wear (hand-embroidered with hand-dyed threads, from Uzbekistan and Turkey… and hand-knitted Turkish socks and Andean hats). I also have an amazing wool double-knit top from the 70’s (back when polyester double-knit was king… with op art patterns).

But really? Why not wear a dress until it doesn’t fit my 50-something body… when it did fit when I got it as a gift from a woman who bought it in Egypt?

And I have some amazing yarn I’ve collected as souvenirs on my travels. The problem with this is that I typically buy yarns I can’t get at my local shop. And I make a living helping shops help their customers, by pairing their yarns with my designs. So it’s hard to justify knitting with a specialty one-off yarn.

Isn’t life funny? I think I don’t hoard. I don’t hoard food or household supplies. I don’t hoard money, goodness knows. But I hoard textiles, which are my most precious things.

I am now eager for a hot day. It’s time to wear that dress.

How about you?

First Flowers of Spring

March 31st, 2015

Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding.”
Marc Chagall (1990-1985)

Maybe you are like me, waiting for spring. It seems every year winter feels harder.

First VioletI did get a break this year when I drove south a few weeks ago. However, I nearly cried when Brian brought in this beautiful little bloom two days ago. He found it in our side yard. It had snowed that day, but the flower was there, along with the first robin we have seen this year.

Tuesday, the birds were all happy. There was no snow, and the side yard had many little violets blooming.

In Lansing, Michigan, where we live… well, there is always at least a light flurry of snow sometime in April. However, if we are lucky it won’t stick again this year.

I think we made it!

Violets peeking through

Above the Daisies!

March 18th, 2015

Just being alive is enough.colored daisies

I get confused about priorities, I get distracted constantly, I mismanage my time, I make choices that later I think might have been best made a different way.

However, I have people who love me and work I am excellent at doing, and a community, and a great family (by birth, marriage, and choice) and I am ALIVE.

As mom says, I am “above the daisies.” I really can’t want for anything else.