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My Interview in my favorite magazine (and website), Vegetarian Times

one on one

BY Chris Mann

MEGYN PRICE

This actress stays true to her heartland roots

Off the set of her CBS-TV comedy series Rules of Engagement, you’ll likely find Megyn Price cultivating her extensive herb and vegetable garden and adding to her collection of veg recipes, which she’s compiling into a cookbook. “To me, cooking vegetarian is an expression of love. It’s saying, I’m taking care of my family. I’m taking care of myself. I’m taking care of animals that aren’t being killed,” she says. “A cookbook is about sharing the joy of that.”

Q:  How did the birth of your daughter, Grace, four years ago, affect your diet?

A:  I’d already started eating less and less meat, and then my daughter popped out of the womb a vegetarian. Because of her I stopped cooking meat. She wouldn’t eat it. So she sort of turned me. The final straw was reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals. He’s not preachy, but he definitely doesn’t pull any punches.

Q:  Have your country roots influenced your gardening?

A:  My mom was my first inspiration. She heard that if you planted hot peppers next to your tomatoes, the bugs wouldn’t eat the tomatoes. There’s an organic gardening idea right there! I remember when I was a little kid my mom gave my brother and me our own little patch and said, “You can plant whatever you want.” I grew peas because I hated peas. My mom told me, “If you grow peas, you will not hate peas.” And I realized that what I hated was frozen peas cooked within an inch of mush. But peas out of the ground I loved!

Q:  This year you’re preparing a totally veg Thanksgiving meal for your omnivore relatives. What might be on the menu?

A:  I like to bake a sourdough rye-buckwheat bread, and then toast that for breadcrumbs to use in a sage stuffing. I also make a killer lentil salad; it has all these vibrant, crunchy vegetables in it. And my walnut–green apple salad has become my favorite thing in the universe.

Q:  You lobbied for Meatless Mondays on the set of Rules of Engagement. What happened with that?

A:  I had to fight to get the producers to go along with it. I was so excited. I put up all these signs and posters to let people know what was going on and encourage them. Some people actually got angry. But there were many more people who came up to me and said it was delicious, and a great thing.

Q:  What keeps you grounded as an Oklahoma girl in Hollywood?

A:  Definitely home. I’m happiest in my cutoff shorts in my garden. As an actress starting out in my 20s, I thought I had to be skinny, and I was so scared of food. And a really good friend said, “Plant a garden. Because once you do you will have such respect and joy and love for the miracle that is food.” I feel like my garden cures me.

Freelance writer Chris Mann grew up watching sitcoms in his boyhood home in rural Oklahoma.

http://www.vegetariantimes.com


			

Recipes: Summer Salad with Chickpea Pancakes

 

I cooked for a neighbor last night, and fell in love all over again with this salad.  The genius of it is that it can really be constructed from whatever leftover grain/bean combo you’ve got in your fridge + whatever looks gorgeous at the market that day.  Here’s a codified version, but feel free to improvise ad infinitum.  If you want to add some serious WOW to your meal, make the chickpea pancakes.  They are SO worth the extra effort.

DINNER IN A BOWL: SUMMER SALAD WITH CHICKPEA PANCAKES

½ c. pearl barley

½ c. brown or green lentils

2 T. kosher salt

1 c. corn (blanched fresh* is best)

½ lb. green beans, blanched* and cut into ½ inch pieces

2 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow or orange), cut into thin 1/2 in. strips

1 scallion, thinly sliced

½ c. fresh soft herbs – basil, tarragon, Italian parsley (whatever you like)

For the dressing:

¼ t. Dijon mustard

2 ½ T. balsamic vinegar

juice from one lemon

1 t. kosher salt

3 T. olive oil

Fresh ground pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a boil.  Add the barley & lentils and let cook for 10 min.  Add the salt and continue to cook until al dente (about 12 more minutes).  Drain and set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk all ingredients for dressing together and set aside.
  3. Combine cooled beans & grains with prepped vegetables, toss with vinaigrette, adjust seasoning and add fresh herbs.

* – To blanch fresh vegetables:  bring large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Drop veg in until color turns bright and veg is crisp/tender (or however you like your veg).  Corn takes about 45 seconds.  Fresh green beans take a few minutes.  Taste.

 

CHICKPEA PANCAKES WITH TAHINI SAUCE

2 c. chickpea flour

1 c. AP flour

2 t. baking powder

2 T. curry powder

1 T. kosher salt

1 c. plain yogurt

4 eggs, beaten

3 T. canola oil, separated

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 c. chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Whisk dry ingredients: chickpea flour, AP flour, baking powder, curry powder and salt in medium bowl.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients: yogurt, eggs, 2 T. oil.
  3. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture.  Stir to combine and add scallions and cilantro.
  4. Coat nonstick pan with a bit of the remaining canola oil, heat on medium and ladle 2/3 c. batter into the pan.  Cook as you would regular pancakes (until golden brown on each side), and serve immediately with Tahini sauce (below).

 

TAHINI SAUCE

½ c. tahini

½ c. water

¼ c. fresh lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

½ t. kosher salt

¼ t. cayenne pepper

Whisk together (or whir in blender) until smooth.

Pancakes and Papa

Well, it’s Fathers’ Day.  My own dad passed away 14 years ago, next month, so this day is always a little bittersweet.  I pointedly try to make this holiday only about the father of my daughter, but, I gotta admit, it’s a little tough to keep out the sadness entirely.

This morning, as I made pancakes for my husband’s LET’S SURPRISE DADDY WITH BREAKFAST IN BED!, I was overwhelmed by a memory of an evening when I was a teenage girl.  On the very rare occasion that my mom was not at home for dinner, my dad would make Breakfast Dinner.  Usually, he made his signature, pan-sized disk of an omelet – an inch-thick round slab of overcooked egg and cheddar, in the EXACT shape and size of our non-stick pan – but on this particular night, he was making pancakes.  I sat on the counter in the kitchen watching him, his left hand on his jutted-out hip, his right holding the spatula.  He told me a story about “this one fella” who worked breakfast mess duty in my dad’s Army Company in World War II.  He described how this guy would pour the batter into the pan, let it cook awhile, flip it, and then SMASH down the pancake until it was as thin as possible.  He described the SMASH with total disbelief and horror, turning down the corners of his mouth and shaking his head.  I couldn’t help giggling.  My dad was actually offended at this man’s deplorable mistreatment of the poor pancakes.  He told me how he tried to gently instruct his fellow infantryman about the delicate chemical reactions between eggs, baking powder and heat, and how his strong-arming of the spatula was killing the fluffy soul of each pancake, but his advice fell on deaf, pig-headed ears.  The flapjack squisher continued his reign of terror, and, almost forty years later, Tom Price was still telling the tale with all the raw emotion of his 18 year old self.

In my dad’s mind, as in his daughter’s today, there really IS a right way and a wrong way to do things.   Put simply, in many, if not most situations in this life, right is right and wrong is wrong.  Of course, my “right” may not be your “right,” and, you know what?  We don’t all have to agree.  Get clear on your own values and then, yes, IMPOSE those values on your children – it’s called parenting.  I’m sure some politically-correct, morally-suspect pundit will give me an earful about letting my three-year-old child discover all of the many religions, schools of thought and possible life choices out there, but I respectfully disagree.  My daughter will have her chance to listen, weigh the options and then agree or disagree with me when she’s older.  For now, my job is to model my version of how she can live her best life.

Today, I will teach her as my father taught me – to show some respect for the pancakes.

Recipes: Quinoa Porridge

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Look out, steel-cut oats!  There’s a new kid on the block, and she’s packed with protein.  Quinoa (“keen-wah”) is my new favorite grain.  Each serving of this porridge contains 11.5 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber and, with the addition of flax seed, your full RDA of omega 3’s.  I have mine with a cup of soy milk, which adds another 7 grams of protein.  (Still wondering where vegetarians get their protein?)

Quinoa Porridge

(One serving)

1 c. water

1/3 c. quinoa (well rinsed)

Pinch of salt

1 peeled, chopped apple

1 t. cinnamon

2 T. ground flax seed

Fruit for garnish

Boil water in saucepan. Add pinch of salt and quinoa and bring back to a boil.  Turn heat down and add chopped apple and cinnamon.  Let simmer for about 7 minutes or until quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid.  (You may need to add a bit of water, if it gets too dry before the quinoa is soft).  Stir in ground flax seed, scoop into a bowl and garnish with berries, additional cinnamon or a drizzle of agave syrup.

Now go work out!  You’ve got tons of protein for muscle-building!


Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

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. . . TO GET TO A BETTER HOTEL.

#1 Lesson I’ve learned while traveling with my family: If you don’t like your surroundings, CHANGE THEM.

This is so basic and yet so cosmic.  It all started with a crappy hotel, which, for legal purposes, we’ll call the Skeraton.  We began our stay with a ride from the burned-out parking garage on the world’s most repulsive, vandalized, rickety, freight elevator.   After a less-than-lovely reception at check-in, we opened the door to a wave of damp, vaguely dog urine-esque aroma.  The toilet was suspiciously still running, and we noticed the upholstery was coming apart in every direction.  Alas, we were exhausted and somewhat confused.  Hadn’t we agreed to pay SEVERAL hundred dollars a night for this place?  It couldn’t be that bad, right?

We dropped our bags, ordered food and went to check out the pool, which had been the highlight of our campaign to get the three year old excited about the trip.  Stepping off the elevator, I thought we were in Downtown Baghdad.  It literally looked like a bomb had detonated.  There was scaffolding everywhere, exposed heating ducts, demolished floors, ripped up carpet and, again, that damp, dog urine smell (Is this some sort of a signature Skeraton Room Freshener?).   We peeked into the dark pool area and saw a slimy, triangular-shaped, 4 foot deep wading pool that I could smell right through the thick pane of filthy glass.

When I couldn’t sleep at 4 a.m. – the toilet was STILL running – I went to the bathroom, turned on my computer and typed in www.marriott.com.  I would now like to go on record as the new spokeswoman for Marriott.   This is the greatest company on the planet.  Within 7 minutes, I had booked a Junior Suite, bigger than my NYC apartment, within walking distance to everything, and the price was almost exactly the same.

I cried when I opened the door to room 8105.  I literally cried.  I felt like a large Southern woman had opened the door to her plantation-style home and handed me a steaming plate of homemade, buttery biscuits.  The carpets were clean!  The toilet was fully functioning!  There was a sink, a mini-kitchen,  a huge, gorgeous bed, a sitting area and a freaking dining room for six, all laid out beautifully . . .   AND a divine absence of dog urine to boot!

So that’s my takeaway from this family adventure.  If things around you are rotten, change them.  It’s one of the most sublime gifts we have.  No, you can’t force your neighbors to stop being soul-sucking, space-invading menaces, but you CAN actually exert healthy, non-crazy-pants control over a few very important things in this world.   Just figure out which things you have to accept and which things you can change and CHANGE THEM.  And, if you smell dog urine, call Marriott.

Grateful Girl

I had coffee with some friends this morning, and I’m pretty sure I had one of those annoyingly poignant Oprah moments.  One guy was joking around, saying that while he was changing his 2 year old’s diaper, he kept thinking “Damn.  I was meant for grander purposes than changing this kid’s filth!  Why do I have to do this?”  Everyone laughed except me.

You see, I spent last Thursday at the Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, handing out baby blankets to parents of infants in the NICU, toddlers on oxygen and pre-teens with feeding tubes.  As one of the numerous perks of my crazy career, I was invited to drive a race car (an insanely fun experience, of course) in the Toyota Pro-Celebrity Grand Prix of Long Beach, which raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Miller Children’s Hospital.  Before the race, all of the celebrity drivers visited the hospital, signed fan photos and did a little “meet and greet” for the afternoon.  We gathered in the lobby of the hospital and were briefed on the protocol for our visit.  Most importantly, we were told, NEVER ask a patient why they are there or when they are going home.  The unspoken reality was that some of these kids will never go home.

We walked through the hospital floors — me, a Jonas brother, a UFC fighter, and our motley crew of celebs — pulling red wagons full of toys and books and blankets, smiling and laughing and joking around.  We put on a good show, but the whole time, my heart was in my throat.  I sang songs, made crazy faces, put on a Tinkerbell costume in the play area, and tried not to notice the IV stands, the wheelchairs and the yellow hospital bracelets.  It just wouldn’t compute.  (These kids couldn’t be sick, could they?  My God, they’re just CHILDREN.)  I looked into the face of a 20 month old girl, Alyssa, who had both Down Syndrome and leukemia, and saw pure joy.  Her mother was so proud of how affectionate her daugher was, with her incredible energy and brilliant smile.  As I held Alyssa, she patted my face and stared into my eyes and just radiated happiness.  There was NO WAY this girl could be sick.  I didn’t want to let myself believe it, because I couldn’t handle it — Alyssa was handling it just fine.

Spending the afternoon with those patients and their families brought home to me the importance of remembering to say THANK YOU to God, the Universe, or whatever greater power you find out there.  So for this week, I’ve changed my vocabulary.  I GET TO exercise today.  I GET TO feed my dog.  I GET TO weed the garden.  I GET TO do my laundry.  I GET TO wipe my daughter’s nose and clean off the skinned knee she got learning to climb the Japanese maple tree in our front yard.  My kid is climbing a tree.  She’s dressing herself and making up knock-knock jokes for the Easter Bunny and she is healthy.  For every moment of this life of mine, I am so grateful.

Meatless Monday

So, after much cajoling, begging and wheedling (and MAJOR help from one of our producers ), I managed to implement Meatless Monday on the set of Rules of Engagement.  I worked with our craft service head honcho, Rhonda, and came up with a plan to both satisfy the cast & crew and avoid killing any living creatures for at least one day.  I thought it was pretty straightforward – eat delicious food that happens to not have meat in it.  I stayed up the night before the big launch until after midnight, writing recipes, making a big, funny sign to hang in the kitchen, and compiling a list of concise, nutritional facts that I thought might put people’s minds at ease about going meatless (OH MY GOD!  NO MEAT FOR ONE WHOLE DAY!!!)  I arrived at work at 6:00 a.m., giddy for the day, all hopped up on steel cut oats and flax seed.  I put up my signs, hung my recipes and went to hair/makeup to prepare for a 10 hour day of shooting.  When I walked out to set, two hours later, I took a moment to address our crew.  I welcomed them to Meatless Monday, told them how much it meant to me that we were doing this, thanked them for their participation, and said, “kindly vent your bacon rage on me and not the craft service lady.”  I smiled and stood there, and . . . nothing.  Nobody said a word.  Total silence.  I felt a bit of hostility in the air and then someone said, “All right.  Let’s get to work.”  I slinked off set and felt my stomach lurch.

Later in the day, I heard many positive comments about the whole concept and, of course, absolute raves about the food (it really was so tasty – Italian stuffed portabello mushrooms, bucatini pasta with roasted garlic, zucchini and sundried tomatoes, rosemary focaccia, tiramisu, eggplant lasagna – deliciously decadent!).  But the quiet haters really bothered me.  I heard murmurings about “food Nazis” and “liberals” FORCING them to go without meat.  Well, first of all, my father fought in World War II in the army infantry, on the ground in the Battle of the Bulge — so, please, have some respect, and don’t call his daughter a Nazi.  As far as the “liberal” label goes, I grew up in Oklahoma , graduated from Stanford University, and have voted Republican, Democrat and Green Party at different times in my life.    I think staunch, polarized political positions are for the wildly ignorant.  (Read more than one news source, friends.  You’d be amazed at how enlightening opposing views are.)   I’m very wary of politicians who never “flip-flop” on an issue.  New information necessitates reevaluation.   If you open the door, and it’s raining, don’t you run back in and exchange your tube top for a turtle neck?  So don’t call me liberal and don’t call me conservative, because it ain’t that simple.  My eyes are open, and I change my mind when necessary.  I believe, in the words of that wise, wise man, Bobby Brown, “It’s My Prerogative.”

The takeaway is that Meatless Monday was a 75% success – lots of people loved it.  I know I sound naïve, and, call me Pollyanna, but I expected a little more curiosity and little less animosity.  As I look back, I’m proud and happy that, even for just one day, the people I work with and love made a huge, positive, healthy change, and no animals had to be slaughtered in the process.  And, by the way, from what I remember, Pollyanna lived happily ever after.

The Big Hatch

My name is Little Miss Megyn Price

And people seem to think I’m nice

But what they don’t know

Is I like to go

To Las Vegas and gamble with dice

(Winner, 3rd grade limerick contest)

I thought it appropriate to begin this blog on the day of my parents’ anniversary.  My parents chose this, the holiest of all holy days, April Fool’s Day, to exchange their sacred vows.  I am one of eight children — three were his, two were hers and we last three are theirs.  I have two siblings with double-jointed thumbs and two sisters named Susan.  My Great Aunt was so jealous of my Grandmother, that when Grandma got a dog named “Princess,” Aunt Dot got a dog and named her “Queenie.”  That’s my genetic pool.  We’re feisty, hard-working and quick to laugh at each other, especially when we light ourselves on fire, as one of the Susan’s does disturbingly often.

I’ve been told that, from the outside, my life looks glamorous and perfect.  Now, don’t get me wrong — I know I’ve got it good.  I have a wildly, enviable job and I love my life.  Most days, I’m so grateful I could pinch my dog.  But, the word perfect doesn’t even enter into this equation.  I am an actress by trade, but, the rest of the time, I’m a cooking, child-rearing, dancing, cheese-making, vegetable-growing, chicken-raising, triathlon-training, imperfect vegetarian circus act.  How do I “juggle it all?”  Well, I don’t.  Children get dropped.  Hamsters get ignored.  Mascara gets smeared.  When I stop beating myself up for the mistakes, however, I laugh one hell of a lot more and wrinkle one hell of a lot less.  There’s your beauty tip for the day.  Oh, and use coconut oil to take off your makeup.  It’s gentler and cheaper than all the other stuff on the market . . . and your eyelids will smell like the Lido deck of the Love Boat.

There’s an old Buddhist saying I love:  “There are only two mistakes one can make on the road to happiness;  not going all the way and not starting.”  This is my start.