Thursday, March 11, 2010

When Life Happens: The Addiction Monster (Thank You for Waiting: My Vegan Brownie Breakthrough)

I am on my second pan of eating through my "vegan brownie breakthrough"--just to be sure. Had I made these under too much stress? Was my recipe share-worthy? Just what the heck did I use? So, in case you've been through the great "vegan brownie" hunt as I have, go ahead and give these a try. I'm not saying everyone will love them, but I do, and truthfully, that's all that matters at this point. 

This theraputic knit-for-a-cause handbag went so fast, I really don't remember how I made it! I just began knitting and grabbing whatever yarn I had. It went to the highest bidder on Sunday's silent auction. I loved it--hated to part with it. But someone else can love it now.
Mr.Thyme is the best photographer ever. Is that shot of the Botanical Garden lake not the best?
Even with the garden dormant, it was so worth walking through and enjoying the sparseness of it.
Uh, I am going to put this out there just because I feel I need to: Don't even think about copying my stuff off my site without my permission. It's all copyrighted to me--and I know people in high places. So ask first.
I've added this tidbit in my profile, too.

Again, the orchid show was spectacular and great therapy in the dead of winter.

Just a bunch of oohs and ahhs taking place here.

More oohs and ahhs. . .

Pretty in pink and yellow.

I can't stand to see a water fountain off--it makes me sad and sort of feels like armageddon. So I jumped in and Mr. Thyme grabbed a picture of me in the fish fountain. It was a good moment.

I haven't left yet. Thank you for sticking with me. If you've left, I totally understand. I have been, what can I say? Recovering. Little did I know that my setback in the hospital would have this lingering effect. Little did I know that within a week of my returning to somewhat normal activity--hives lifting, appetite returning, that I would have to face the emotional trauma of someone very dear to me (okay, let me be frank--my only living relative I have left on the planet) facing a long hospital stay. (The kind of stay that is sort of forced upon you when you've gone "too far" with really bad social habits--habits, in the plural here.) I am talking addiction. I could talk about the utter destruction addiction has on both the families it emotionally destroys, or about the cost of addiction to our society. Either way--dealing with the breaking down of someone I love dearly is what has kept me from my blog, from my cooking and from my life these past few weeks--that and my own post-traumatic recovery from "the incident" have all built up to a "hard stop".


Thank goodness, I have a deep respect and belief in the role of therapy. Some therapy took place last weekend. Mr. Thyme got me out of the house insisting it would be good for me. He was right. We went to the Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Gardens--after stopping in for a yummy vegan lunch at Sweet Art. The orchids were amazing. But when you are in a "state" any distraction is like a humming in the background, you are there, but your mind may be in fifty other places. Afterward, we walked through the gardens, even though everything is dormant--it was quite soothing. I love seeing the plant world this time of year--it makes you so hopeful. But seriously, bring on some spring.

This is the second most difficult time in my life. The first was when I lost my mom. I could not in all honesty "create a post" and snap food shots as if nothing were happening. First, there has not been a lot of food going on. However, plenty else is happening and it affects all aspects of my life. Trust me, we are on the third night of a vegan lasagna, this after several days in a row of some sort of "potato-based" main entree--I just have not had the strength to cook.

Let me back up--I am on my second pan of vegan brownies. Second. I have finally, finally after god-knows how many attempts, had a vegan brownie breakthrough (about friggin' time). I would have eaten this flour, sugar and chocolate with canola oil mixed in--spooning it up raw, but opted baking my mixture (though there was plenty of spoon-testing going on). I was pleasantly surprised. I even have enough confidence after two trays of these to post a recipe. Meanwhile, my poor husband is patient with me and subsists on vegan lunch meats for work and whatever I have left in the fridge for dinner. He is my anchor.

I have been sober thirteen years. I am putting this out there to the readers of my blog and anyone else willing to chance upon my ditherings. I want it clear, I am not a fan of drinking of any kind. Period. (Or of the other sort of recreational things people use to mask their "problems,anxieties, paranoia. . . whatever". Snap out of it and just deal like the rest of us do.) Easier said than done. I know from personal experience. My husband has also been victim to the ravishes of alcoholism as someone very dear to him was killed by a drunk driver. And if you've been a reader of my blog, you also know that last October I finally found my biological father, who, by all accounts, died from his own addiction to alcohol. He was kindly referred to by his friends in his obit as: the world's best social chemist (bartender). He just collapsed and was gone. This is, in a word: personal.

I figure now is the time for me to get this off my chest. First, I don't buy that "intervention" is the answer. I think the biggest con of them all is for someone to say: I need rehab. It has become cliche and rife with ill intent. So I am not expecting a miracle, I am being realistic. But as a "family" member, one of the passages one must make is to have a "family" session with said rehab participant. Hmmm. I received a call from someone two days ago. Day six, I think it was. I was like, Uh, No. I am not ready nor am I interested in discussing this right now. Hello! How about giving me MY four weeks without worry for a change? I mean, there is no chance of an arrest, a drunk phone call, or some other crisis taking place. Let ME relax for awhile--you do your job--call me in the end, let me know the prognosis. (As if I don't already know it. There is a two-to-five percent chance of success--the odds of success happening takes place at about the fourth or fifth "intervention". As a business model, no one in their right mind would invest in this. BTW, this is the "second".) For those unfamiliar, insurance provides a road map, if you will, of the treatment plan. I don't know what rocket scientist sat down and gave four weeks the go-ahead for "cleaning" someone up, but as anyone who watches even a nano-second of Entertainment Tonight or catches hi-lights of celeb-news, this whole "rehab" concept is devoid of any redeeming qualities or life altering changes in my opinion. It is a cash cow for the institutions providing the "stay". It is a band-aid on a much larger problem. And the most ridiculous part of all: who is left picking up the pieces three months later when the resources have been spent, and the labeling is gone, and we have a "relapse"? No one. But the check's been cashed. The net is out from under everyone--we are all left on our own. End of structure, end of role-playing and endless re-lived moments of those who "hit bottom". Spare me. It is heartbreaking and miserable to live through. It is the most helpless feeling in the world.

I'm still eating, and still cooking. Again, my bragging rights going to the vegan brownie recipe I've finally tweeked--it's "postable". You have to try it to see if you like it. It works for me--I'm a picky brownie eater--just know, this may not be for everyone. Overall, I just don't have that whole "photo-shoot-this-plate-for-my-blog" desire right now. I'll get it back. I mostly have this pent up month of crappy happenings distracting me right now. Emotional war. Family issues. Healing. Falling back down. Getting back up. It all takes time. I'm just lucky to have my whole body back in one piece and, overall, to be healthy scar and all. And for anyone wondering, yes, I am still running. My feet are fine. My mind, not so much. I did, for the first time in my life as a runner purchase a can of mace at my local running store. It comes with a velcro wrist band. It goes with me on all runs now. I am scared for the first time in my life of an "accident" or chance encounter with a "stray". Me and all my animal efforts--and now this.

Speaking of animals, I was able to make it through the silent auction/fundraiser this past Sunday. Only to set the auction up, then leave after--I was so exhausted. This told me I had waaaay too much going on in my little world--that I need to hunker down and do some healing. I was able to knit and felt a really adorable handbag--pictured above. I also threw together some of my lampwork beads for a darling bracelet and matching earrings. No picture, but trust me, it was really nice. I should get back to the glass making studio. Kind of hard to do now, thank you very much family member. (Pardon me for sounding cynical, but you have no idea. . . no idea.) So I arrived at the fundraiser without a stitch of make-up. I have never gone out in "public" to an event make-up free. My face incident has not been kind to my psyche--I can't stand to spend too much time looking in the mirror right now. It's like re-living the whole affair all over again. After all, what do you think was the first thing out of my mouth when I looked at the damage? If you guessed, Oh my god, my face!--you are right. If this had happened anywhere else--my mental state may be different. And people who've just seen me since "the incident" all say the same: It's hardly noticeable. Really? Well, unfortunately, for now, I notice my scar and it is a constant reminder. The weight of this will pass and I will return to Walgreens for a new "line of defense" in all things face. But for now. Not happening.

I am back in the garden--or should I say, Green Acres. Clean up time right now. If I see one more oak leaf pile, I will scream. And spring is officially here. I had a tick on me yesterday after my all-day outside excursion. Ick. That in itself is the best place for me--being outside (no ticks would be nice).

I opted out of the painting class--too far to drive. I have this "driving" phobia. (Along with crowds, too--I'll spare you of my eating disorder history for now.) I drive a sports car for the simple fact that I want to out-run anyone else on the road I deem "not-a-good-driver"--which is anyone within four feet of my car on the road. I need the speed and strength to pull away should I begin to feel like I might be killed. Shall we get the DSM manual out and begin our voyage? I mean seriously, if you've read this far and are in the "profession"--you've probably already drawn some pretty good conclusions. And you'd be right.

I will, as I said earlier, pull out of this. Hey, the vegan eats are still happening. I just have not been jumping up and down about it lately. It's all in the mind and the mind rules the stomach. The rest will come later. I will keep you all updated--as well as I can. Thank you again for sticking around--I love all of you folks who write--and you know who you are--you have made a huge difference in my life.

Vegan Brownie Breakthrough Recipe
Let me say that this is adapted from Ghiradelli's Brownie Recipe--I had to make plenty of adjustments and opted out of using Ener-G as my egg-replacer, instead using canola oil. To work with getting that crusty-ness on top, I experimented with different amounts of sugar, canola oil and maple syrup ratios. Overall, I am quite pleased with my vegan version--it doesn't have any weird "taste" it really has the chocolate bang I crave. You will need two jars of Ghiradelli chocolate: Sweet Ground Chocolate and Natural Unsweetened Cocoa. I take my chocolate seriously.

2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 plus 1/8 cup Ghiradelli Sweet Ground Chocolate (*1/8 cup is just half of 1/4 cup--I needed math help on this)
1/4 plus 1/8 cup Ghiradelli Natural Unsweetened Cocoa
1/2 cup unsalted vegetable margerine (melted)--You could use Earth Balance, but there is a level of salt in it that I felt would hurt the taste--too much salt, that is. If you opt for the EB, omit adding any salt.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup of sugar
1/4 cup canola oil plus like a teaspoon of water
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Check your oven temperature--you need this to be right! Lightly spray an 8" square baking pan. (*I used a dark, non-stick pan--an old, cheap one from Wal Mart). In a medium bowl, add all of the dry ingredients--except sugar, and whisk it together. In a small bowl, whisk all wet ingredients together--including sugar. Add wet ingredients to dry, fold in the chips. Mix with a fork! Don't over mix, a few dry spots are fine. Pour into baking pan. Spread out evenly. Bake for 20 minutes. Don't overbake--it needs time to both cook the middle and make that nice crust and chewy ends. I prefer my brownies a bit undercooked and like eating them after they are completely cooled off--easier to cut then, plus chewy factor rules. I also think they last longer and stay moister this way. So they are gone in two days and then I make more.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for all your hard work on the vegan brownie front. I have had countless disasters and lately just stopped trying. I want to make these right away but I have some shopping to do first.(Ghiradelli) I'm sorry you're going through such a tough time right now. I have alcoholism in my family(past and present) and it makes me feel mad and sad. I try to remember that I can't control anyone else but I can decide to be happy right now,in this moment. I have a lot of issues myself(and I mean a lot lol) but I think of all the things I have to be grateful for and it helps. I don't mean to sound preachy because I don't know much, I just wanted to say what helps me sometimes. And now for a change of subject, I just bought some pepper spray to carry with me when I hike or attempt to run. Running is a work in progress but I'm trying. I'm curious what the difference is between mace and pepper spray. Is the mace better? I may have to look into that. Well, thanks again for the brownie recipe and I'll let you know how it turns out.:)

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  2. Hi! Thank you so much for your comment, I am glad you wrote me and are understanding of this illness, and please know--it ALL helps! Alcoholism makes everyone mad and sad, I am sure. Sorry about your personal life being impacted as well. It drains you, honestly. I hope you have great success with the recipe--I am so afraid of what others might say--the vegan brownie has eluded us all--me especially, I have had so many disasters--so I really did make this twice to be sure! Hey, on running--that is so great you are trying it out! I think mace and pepper spray are the same--I probably bought pepper spray. All I know is that it goes with me! Yes, please let me know how this turns out for you! I like my brownies a little underdone--just know, I really do let them cool completely before slicing!

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  3. WoW, those brownies look truly amazing. Is ground chocolate just that? I guess my question is, can I use any chocolate bar and ground that up? I need to know because I need to make these brownies, lol!

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  4. Kelly, thank you for sharing such personal thoughts! I get excited just knowing you have a new post! Alcoholism sure is a nasty monster especially when it runs in the family. My mother used to share with me the dangers of just having to much since it "ran" in the family. Her father was an alcoholic and was terribly abusive, where I sometimes was a witness to. It is a horrible monster and tends to creep in life when we are in our lowest points. I am praying for you Kelly! Big hug and thanks again for sharing such a nice and great recipe! Funny that we both made something chocolatey! :)

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  5. Hi Mihl!
    Thanks so much--you are too funny! It is, indeed, a ground chocolate--but you are in Germany, I am certain you have chocolate-worthy options! (LOL!) I would guess gounding it first may work fine. I might even suggest you try melting maybe 6-8 ounces of chocolate bars and possibly increase the flour by a tablespoon or two? Just thinking out loud here. If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think. I have eaten these for several nights in a row (and for lunch, too!) since making them--they are really yummy for several days if they are a bit undercooked!

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  6. Hi Noelle! Oh, sweetie, my heart goes out to anyone who has had to endure alcoholism's wrath--I am so sorry to hear this. I also SOOO appreciate your note. You are right, it crept in at my lowest point and really, knocked me down pretty hard. As anyone knows, getting to the stopping point is only the beginning, it is the work afterward that must stick to keep the person I love sober. Thank you for the kind, kind words and thoughts and prayers. I am heading over to check out your chocolate now!

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  7. You poor thing. You have been through SO much, and you know I can relate to the pain of losing your mom ... sometimes anything that even remotely approaches or reminds me of that pain can really send me into a tailspin. It's a back and forth process for sure. You've had so much to deal with and you're really doing amazing I think. Plus - you have nailed the elusive brownie! There should be a plaque or something. ;)

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  8. Hi Trixie!
    Girlfriend, I can honestly say, I have had enough of 2010! So much in such a short period of time--enough! I am ready for some good to come my way--positive thoughts abound here now!
    I am so ready for digging in my garden and working with the soil--it will help! But the kind thoughts and words all help me heal, too!
    I know the tailspin you speak of all too well. OH, and I will take the pity. . . (just to get me through this rough patch). May there be no more rough patches! Or maybe I'll take Vegan Thyme on a little vacation! Thanks for writing--you know it helps!

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