V is for Vegan-ish: Gluten-Free Black Bean Burgers #AtoZChallenge

This year my husband decided to become more vegetarian. First, he asked me to be vegan, which I just couldn’t bring myself to do. I love cheese too much. Then he wanted to be vegetarian, but he really likes fish, and I like a burger now and then. So we landed on being what he calls “vegan-ish”. Basically we mostly eat vegetarian, but some days we eat vegan and some days we eat meat. Overall, I think we ended up healthier than before, so that’s a good thing.

My favorite cookbook for vegan recipes is Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.

Because I rarely can leave a recipe alone, here is my take on making their black bean burgers gluten free.

Gluten Free Black Bean Burgers

  • 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1/4 cup rice flour or 1/3 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 small onion, diced
  • About 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Mash beans with a fork in a mixing bowl just until there are no whole beans left. Add potato starch, xanthan gum, flour, chile powder, cumin, water, ketchup, cilantro, garlic, and onion. Mix with fork, then knead until firm and uniformly mixed (about a minute or so).

Preheat a griddle or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil.

Divide burger mixture into six equal parts. Roll each part into a ball and flatten until 1.5 inches thick. Cook patties for 5 minutes on each side, pressing down firmly with a spatula. Spray olive oil on patties before turning.

U is for The Upanishads #AtoZChallenge

Today I give you a passage from Part Four of the Katha Upanishad, as translated by Juan Mascaro.


The foolish run after outward pleasures and fall into the snares of vast-embracing death. But the wise have found immortality, and do not seek the Eternal in things that pass away.

This by which we perceive colours and sounds, perfumes and kisses of love; by which alone we attain knowledge; by which verily we can be conscious of anything:

This in truth is That.

When the wise knows that is is through the great and omnipresent Spirit in us that we are conscious in waking or dreaming, then he goes beyond sorrow  When she knows the Atman, the Self, the inner life, who enjoys like a bee the sweetness of the flowers of the senses, the Lord of what was and of what will be, then she goes beyond fear:

This in truth is That.

The god of creation, who in the beginning was born from the fire of thought before the waters were, who appeared in the elements and rests, having entered the heart:

This in truth is That.

The goddess of Infinity who comes as Life-power and Nature; who was born from the elements and rests, having entered the heart:

This in truth is That….

Whence the rising sun does come, and into which it sets again; wherein all the gods have their birth, and beyond which no man can go:

This in truth is That.

What is here is also there, and what is there is also here. Who sees the man and not the ONE, wanders on from death to death.

Even by the mind this truth is to be learned: there are not many but only ONE. Who sees variety and not the unity wanders from death to death.

The soul dwells within us, a flame the size of a thumb. When it is known as the Lord of the past and the future, then ceases all fear:

This in truth is That.

T is for Tea #AtoZChallenge

I admit that I do not like coffee. I don’t even like the smell of it. I make my husband use mouthwash after he drinks it. I can go into coffee houses, but I don’t like the smell; I just don’t think about it.

So how do I get my caffeine fix? Black tea. For a long time, I got my fix from Barq’s and Mountain Dew, which meant that I really didn’t drink caffeine all that often after college. I thought black tea all tasted like the bottom of the barrel cheap tea that is so ubiquitous in the United States. Sometime in my late 20s, this myth was abolished.

I often drink my tea with cream and honey or agave nectar.

My gateway tea was a chocolate black tea from Adagio that my husband received for Christmas and shared with me. From there, we both started trying other varieties. Like Scotch, wine, cheese and other delicacies, I’ve come to appreciate the differences in flavor and nuance produced by location, preparation and packaging.

I prefer loose, whole leaf tea, but I have had some good crushed tea. A few of my favorites:

What do you think? Do the leaves of Golden Monkey tea resemble monkey paws?

  1. Darjeeling (India): This is a very delicate tea that is low on the bitterness factor–as long as you brew it for no more than five minutes. The spring crop is generally lighter bodied than the fall harvest.
  2. Assam (India): A full-bodied tea, it is often a main ingredient in Irish breakfast blends.
  3. Ceylon (Sri Lanka): A good all-around tea, I find it’s flavor a bit milder than Assam but more robust than Darjeeling. It’s often used in breakfast blends, too.
  4. Keemun (China): A good Keemun will have a delightful smokiness that I find pairs well with sweet foods, like french toast. Keemun is a traditional ingredient for English breakfast tea.
  5. Golden Monkey (China): A wonderfully light yet flavorful tea, this is one of my favorites. It does well with cream and sugar or straight up, depending on what you’re looking for. Plus it’s unique looking. The name comes from the leaves’ resemblance to monkey paws.

R is for Reiki #AtoZChallenge

Reiki is an important part of my book To Hiss or to Kiss, as well as my life. I am a Reiki Master Teacher, and the practice has enhanced my life in innumerable ways. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this healing modality, I wanted to share a little information about it. I practice Reiki primarily for pets, so this is written about animals.

Yin Yang kitties

Reiki is a form of therapy with the goal of improving the flow of energy in a person or animal. Reiki (pronounced ray-key) means “universal life energy” in Japanese, and Reiki practitioners are trained to detect and alleviate problems of energy flow on the physical, emotional, and spiritual level. It is safe and gentle and has been used in hospitals in the U.S. and around the world.

How is energy balanced?

All living beings have energy, commonly called chi or ki. Traditional eastern medicine has identified several main energy centers of the body. By measuring and balancing these energy centers, the reiki practitioner can bring more harmony and peace to your pet’s body.

What should I expect during a session?

Once the session begins, your pet may walk around, vocalize, yawn, stretch or even fall asleep. These are all typical releases as your pet relaxes and receives the reiki energy.  Each animal is different and each session is different.

What is distance reiki?

Reiki is not limited by proximity. Because reiki is universal energy, it can flow anywhere. Level II and master reiki practitioners have been trained to connect with others all over the world. Distance reiki can be beneficial when it is not practical to for a practitioner to meet in person or be close enough to lay hands on, for instance if a client is traveling, moves, or is in surgery. In addition, animals that have been abused or have fear or aggression issues may respond better to distance reiki initially until they establish a deep level of trust with the reiki practitioner.

H is for Hope #atozchallenge

The word hope is used a lot in our culture. I see it on TV, in movies, political speeches, books, etc. And sometimes I wonder if hope is a good thing or a bad thing–or like most things, a little bit of both depending on how we use it. Hesiod wrote that hope was the only thing that remained in Pandora’s box when it was closed, but no one is sure exactly what that means for humans. Hesiod’s moral merely stated: “Thus it is not possible to escape the mind of Zeus.”

Each week, I get a short teaching from Pema Chodron in my email. This one came a few weeks ago and summed up what I’d been thinking about hope in a way I hadn’t been able to put in words before.

The following is an excerpt from: When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics)


Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what’s going on, but that there’s something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.

Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do. We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we were not there. It’s better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our basic sanity arises.