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Monday, December 23, 2013

Vegan Johnny.....

Marzetti!

I am so excited about this recipe. 

I used to make this casserole, Johnny Marzetti, all the time for my family, when the kids were little....it was such a snap.  Brown ground beef, add in cream of mushroom soup, pasta and pasta sauce and it was a done deal.  Of course, since going vegan, this, and my other claim to fast food fame, tuna slop (tuna, cream of celery, rice and cheese), have been permanently archived.

This weekend, for some reason, I was thinking about ole Johnny and thought, wait a minute....I can figure this out.

I started with my favorite lentils, Trader Joe's cooked lentils.  I don't know how they cook them, but they are so good.




Then I made up some cream of mushroom soup.  After searching the web a bit, I settled upon two vegan versions and basically did a combo of the two.



In my version, I sauted about a half of an onion and one clove of garlic in some water.  I used one small box of baby bella mushrooms (chopped), and added those to the onion/garlic.  I soaked about 1/2 C of raw cashews for several hours, and processed those in the food processor with some coconut milk (I had leftover in the frig needing to be used).  As a thickener, I used a couple of tablespoons of flour and blended with some of the coconut milk along with some pepper, celtic salt (my new favorite seasoning) and a dash of onion powder.

Here is the blending of the soaked (and drained) cashews with the coconut milk going into the onion/garlic/mushroom mix that is sauteeing.



I added a bit more liquid after adding in the flour mixture.

Let heat for a few minutes to thicken up.

I lightly seasoned with some white pepper.

At this point, you could puree the mixture again and that would break up the mushroom chunks some, but I omitted that step.  I'm thinking I could boost the nutritional value of this dish and the mouth feel of the bottom layer by adding in some cannellini beans.  I'll play with that a bit.  More veggies could be added as well.

From here it is an easy conversion.



Mushroom mix blended into the lentils.  Pasta on top of the lentil/mushroom mix.  Whole-wheat penne in this case, but spaghetti would be nice too.



And pasta sauce on top of the pasta.

I like lots of oregano in mine.



Top with some ground raw cashews and a quick heat up and it is good to go.



 Both my husband and my (fairly finnicky) son pronounced this as GOOD! 


Fun stuff......already kicking around some ideas for resurrecting tuna slop.... :)

Sue, loving Johnny, in Ohio

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Wishes, On Cultivating Joy and Fudge, of course!

We are nearing the winter solstice and the holidays and it is always this time of year that I find myself taking stock on a deeper level; what is working in my life, what requires a major over-haul and what do I want to accomplish in the time that remains.

These are heady contemplations and are best pondered with chocolate!  I used to make fudge and many other decadent treats this time of year for my loved ones, but since embarking on a plant-based and mostly non-processed diet, have dropped most of that tradition.  I found a fudge recipe recently that I thought would be, while not perfectly healthy, a good choice.  More on that in a few paragraphs. (Scroll down for recipe if you wish to skip my musings).

I've spent a lot of this year working on my emotional fitness, having reached the point where I feel that my diet is pretty good and now solid enough to free me up for some of the tougher work.  I can tell I've made some definite progress; while shopping this year, not only have I managed to avoid getting sucked into the rat race of commercialism that bombards us spurring us on to buy more, more, more, I've also avoided that twinge of nostalgia, the ache and yearning in my heart that would sometimes come upon me while in a store often triggered when a particularly sentimental holiday song would play.  It's that sweet and sour combination of missing the days gone by, relatives who've passed on and the sense that one's own days are numbered.  It used to leave me positively crippled somewhere between housewares and tinker toys.  This year, I feel the beginnings of 'the twinge' and quickly replace it with thoughts of gratefulness for the HERE and the NOW and all that I have in my life.  PROGRESS!

I've learned that life isn't about PREVENTING the negative or painful from seeping in (although certainly we can do some work in this area) as much as it is about having a good arsenal at the ready to meet it when it does.  The strategies to just 'quit that' or 'don't let it bother you', I have found to be woefully inadequate.  One needs TOOLS to utilize, not the challenge of meeting a negative goal. 

Freed up from intense depression, I can now look around at the faces in the stores and see the strain and stress and worry and hurry and I wonder, where is the joy in the season?

Recently while in a Target store, I remarked to the cashier about how terribly crowded it was in there, was there a big sale on or something going on that I was unaware of?  She explained to me that we DO have fewer shopping days before Christmas this year. 

What???

It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

I had no idea that in 2013 the calendar had been shortened!!!  Where did they take the days out?  April?  August?  November?  I thought the year went by fast!!!

(Now of course I figured out what she meant - Thanksgiving fell later this year and apparently, "most people" don't do their Xmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, but still...the absurdity of the statement really struck me.  Really....it's a panic, people!!!  Come on, you have FEWER days! Get out there and buy!)

No wonder we feel rushed, tugged and constantly under the crunch with these artificial shortages created to put more pressure on and impossible standards to reach finding 'the perfect gift' and so on.

It can be a challenge to remain joyful and in-the-moment.

But it is as simple as a decision to do so and to chart a different course.  Then, like a good sailor, make the corrections as the seas change....do less sooner, to avoid doing more later.  Take a pause, take a breath, look for and find the joy in your own life.  (Hint:  it's not in Housewares or Electronics).

As happy as I am with my progress, I'll continue my emotional fitness work into the new year and recently was referred to a neuro-psychologist's work by a friend on a similar path.  You can get a taste of Dr. Rick Hanson's work here if you have 13 minutes to spare. He has a few books out that I'll be working with and hope to blog about in the future. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpuDyGgIeh0


Now on to the chocolate.

I wanted to bake a few treats this year, send off some and also have some for the gift baskets I make.  Virtually Vegan Mama had an interesting fudge recipe using pistachios and pomegranate arils.  I decided to give it a try.   Here is the link to the recipe and VVM's beautiful photography.

Virtually Vegan Mama's Pomegranate Pistachio Fudge

http://virtuallyveganmama.com/2013/12/pomegranate-pistachio-chocolate-fudge.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+VirtuallyVeganMama+%28Virtually+Vegan+Mama%29

The recipe goes together quickly.  I did a quick half-recipe making a few substitutions, not having coconut butter, and subbing coconut oil instead (which makes for a sloppier concoction best kept in the fridge) and also using walnuts in place of pistachios.  I plan to make the exact recipe after I have a chance to run to the store and find coconut butter and stock up on pistachios, which are impossible to keep around here  (darling husband's favorite snack).  I think that combo will be wonderful.

I did have pomegranate arils, frozen, and used some thawed and drained and they are wonderful in the fudge. 

I'm also thinking that the fudge part, the chocolate without the additions, would lend itself well to a  recipe for Buckeyes, so I may play with that and will post any successes later.


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My holiday wish for you and yours is to connect with all that gives you joy, in whatever form it takes (even if it is electronic, :), and to have some time for peace in all the hecticness of the season.

Happy Holidays!

Sue, joyful, in Ohio


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Zen of Rock-Watering/ "2013 Cake"/Giveaway Winner

Did you know that it is important to water your rocks? 

You know, the rocks you may have around your flower bed......or possibly just a random rock you may find on the ground?



No?

I didn't either.

But recently, I had a lesson in rock watering.....from one of my favorite teachers.

I've been studying the Zen of Life from her for almost three years now. 










Here she is:








Seem a little young to be a Zen Master?

I assure you, she is not. 

What I have learned from her in the last three years could fill a 1,000-page book.

Like the need to water your rocks.

We were watering the flowers last weekend when I noticed that she was watering the rocks.  She said "I watering". 

I started to say, 'oh, but the flowers need the water' and stopped myself short.  Maybe the rocks do need the water.  How do I know?

I watched.

I saw the sheer joy in her as she lovingly watered the rocks.  Not just tossing water everywhere either.  Systematically covering every square centimeter on the surface of these huge rocks.  Rocks I found on our land and struggled to move into place to hold my flower bed......rocks I was so excited to have found.....rocks that once held purpose for me.....rocks that I have never once watered....rocks that I never even really look at anymore....completely forgetting the joy and excitement they once held for me.


My Professor of Zen caught me watching her and paused to flash me the broadest of grins, punctuated with a little giggle that simply would not be contained in her small body.

I answered with my own grin.....and giggle.

Yes, 'we watering'.

Maybe it isn't about the rocks or the water but is about just being....in....joy.....in....the moment.

Part of living more mindfully is being FULLY PRESENT and seeing the possibilities all around us.....in NOT just going down the same trodden path, but in looking beyond the things we do and unplugging from all that we do on 'automatic'.  Not just stopping to smell the flowers, but maybe stopping to ponder a rock, or to water one. 

Simple.  But not easy.

To find joy in the simple, is to find the key to a happy life.

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Today is my husband's birthday.  Happy Birthday, honey.  I don't know why I am wishing you happy birthday on here (my husband doesn't read my blog---in his view: 'why should I....you tell me all that stuff anyway'.  True that!).

He's getting his big yummy vegan german chocolate cake this weekend when we have a little get-together, but I thought he needed something today as well.

I wanted a lighter cake and some way to use up the gazillion pears I have from our pear trees who have been over-achievers this year.

So I came up with a hodgepodge of a recipe.  This is something I actually did just 'make up myself' although really I am pulling from memories of all the cakes I have made in my life and applying a few vegan baking concepts.  I had no idea how this was going to turn out.  Sorta like how I felt in January of this year....here's what I'm going for, no idea how this year is going to turn out kinda thing.  So, I'm calling this "2013 Cake".





Thought I'd go really out-there and add a baked sweet potato.  I peeled the skin off (feed to the nearest dog....they love them!), and mashed up by hand.

Terrible picture, but ground flax seed soaked in water for a few minutes.  Gets very gelatinous and is a great substitute for eggs in baked goods.


Adding in sweetener (maple syrup).


Alcohol-free vanilla.
Dry meets wet.

Getting ready to put in the oven.
"Icing".  Really is just melted chocolate chips mixed with some coconut milk.
2013 Cake
It came out very moist (this actually could have been baked a bit longer) and very tasty!  The birthday boy really liked it.  Success!

2013 Cake

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/4 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon

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1 baked sweet potato, peeled
1/2 C maple syrup
1 t vanilla
2T ground flax seed (soaked in 3 T water)
3/4 C pears, peeled (I lightly poached mine)
1/4 - 1/2 C coconut milk
vegan dark chocolate chips

Mix dry ingredients.  Mash potato.  Blend in syrup, vanilla, flax mixture.  Add in pears.  Slowly add in coconut milk and stir.  Adjust to get consistency of cake batter.  Fold in approx. 1/2 chocolate chips.
Bake 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Check with toothpick and remove from oven when toothpick comes out clean.

Melt 1/2 c chocolate chips and stir in approx 1/4 c coconut milk.  Spread on cake (melts a bit into cake if you spread while cake is warm, or let cake cool first if you prefer).


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Winner of my 2013 Giveaway (copy of Happy Herbivore and a Veji-Bag) is Glorianne.  Thank you for entering, Glorianne.  You are the only one that did!  (I have to remind myself that I did not start this blog to amass a huge following or to 'monetize' it and have ads all over the place {nothing against people that do that, it's just not my thing}, but merely as something to help keep me accountable and to chronicle my efforts to become healthier.  A nice side-effect has been that a few people seem to have benefitted from the blog, and that is very satisfying.  To pay it forward I only need one person, so you are it, Glorianne!  Please e-mail me at:  sunnyhawklane@gmail.com and I'll get shipping info from you.)  Thanks to my overseas readers who didn't enter due to prohibitive shipping costs.  Gotta find a way to include you next year!

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Sue, off to water my rocks, in Ohio








Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss, Tipping Points.... and more on Vitamin D

Michael Moss's Salt, Sugar and Fat....is an infuriating book.  But oh, so necessary.

I would go so far as to say it should be required reading in order to live on Planet Earth, or in the mainstream U.S. anyway.

I have often said that sometimes I feel like I'm in the middle of a bad Mel Gibson movie, but, I have always often said that just because you are paranoid doesn't mean that someone isn't really out to get you.

It is hard to read Moss' well-written and well-documented work without feeling like finally, the 'paranoia' has been justified. 

Four to five years ago when I really began heavily researching nutrition, the failure of the modern medical system and the subversive nature of the insurance and pharmaceutical conglomerates, I could hardly believe the connection of the dots I was making.  How could evil exist at this extreme, in this time and place?

It seems clear:  money and profits, at all costs, even that of our health, is what is truly valued by the proverbial powers-that-be.  I don't know why someone hasn't extrapolated and figured out that if we die too early, they can't milk us for more money.  Oh wait, we also have to feed the greed of the funeral industry, but that, as they say, is another talk show.

Modern medicine and the pharmaceutical giants fill in the gaps and hold out their cold, greedy hands too.  They can (and do) conspire to keep us alive longer.  We just will not be healthy enough to actually enjoy being alive (and in some cases, even KNOW we are alive), and there will always be another pill that we 'need' in order to be 'healthy', and another to counter-act the side-effects of pill number one.

(I am not 100% jaded and do believe that many many students start on the course of medicine in a true effort to help their fellow humans, but somewhere along the way, things get very muddled indeed.  I also am over-simplifying somewhat as I do know some doctors will even suggest that patients exercise and eat more fruits and veggies; I am sure they are tremendously frustrated when the patient says: can't you just give me a pill?  Still, I have my own experience to pull on....for example, my own doc rolling her eyes at me when I told her I am on a vegan diet, and saying, that's just too hard.  And there is my own recent Vit D deficiency with ZERO follow up from my doc and yet I've received 3 notices that I need to get a mammogram.  ---I'm not getting any more mammo's....more on that in a future post----.  Things are just so completely inverse from what they should be.  It defies all logic.  But I seriously digress....)

Read Michael's work.  I know it isn't standard on-the-beach-Fabio-on-the-cover reading, but he illustrates clearly the linear progression of the rise of the modern food giants, and who is behind it, and traces it forward to the current state of health disaster that the U.S. finds itself in.  And, of course, like a true epidemic, this debacle knows no boundaries and is now a global problem.  Recently Mexico has over-taken the U.S. in the race to become the fattest nation in the world (excellent work, Mickey D's).  Very, very sad.

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I've just finished reading another book by Malcolm Gladwell who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors.  His book Blink was extremely interesting and The Outliers literally changed my life.  Tipping Point,   was also intriguing.  Like his others, TP often bogs down in the detail, still, it is worth pushing through all of those pertinent tiny pieces as Gladwell makes his case for whatever social/psychological observation he is exploring.  Tipping Point is fascinating to me on a personal level as I believe this is what will happen with our modern food system and our paradigms for medical treatment.  (more on Gladwell and his work here:  www.gladwell.com).


The public is not healthy.  The public is not happy.  There are not sufficient healthy food options to meet the changing perceptions regarding food.  It is still far, far easier (and cheaper) to get unhealthy food than to find fresh, organic alternatives.  But people are beginning to vote with their dollar.  The dollar is the language the powers understand.  Those dollar votes plus an uprising and united front on demands for change will in fact initiate change.

One whispering voice joined by 10,000 others becomes too loud to ignore.  At some point, the tipping point, things will landslide in the other direction and instead of finding fat, laden with sugar, topped with salt and more salt on every corner, we will find fresh organic produce in an ever increasing variety and the reward will be living in a world of healthier, happier people.

I know, you probably think I believe in fairy godmothers too..... :).

I do.
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As a follow up to the brief mention I gave the important topic of Vitamin D in an earlier post, I wanted to reference a great article by Paul Stamets about increasing the bio-availability of Vitamin D by exposing mushrooms to UVB.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-stamets/mushrooms-vitamin-d_b_1635941.html  Now is the time in northern hemispheres to take on such a project if you are interested.  I know I will re-visit the Vitamin D issue again.  It is so vital to our good health.




Giveaway on next post!

Sue, working for the tipping point, in Ohio

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The "Palette" of our Lives, and My Anniversary Giveaway

I had tea with a friend yesterday.  He's a long-time vegetarian, not vegan (yet ;), but very much on a similar path as mine.  You may recognize that path too.  The one filled with giant boulders and invisible pits of quick sand and ruts so deep that once in them you think you'll never see the light of day again.

That path.

The one of self-discovery and continuous self-improvement.

"Good, better, best.  Never let it rest.  Get your good better and your better best", George Burns said.

This path is not for the faint of heart (many pairs of big-girl/boy panties required).  The temptations to take the 'easier' side roads are everywhere.

But along the way, you find those who can help you; some directly and some whose sole purpose seems to be to show you where you don't want to end up.

My friend has come up with a much better metaphor than the many I have dreamed up to describe the culling process I have gone through in surrounding myself with those that will help me on my way and in learning to keep those that will not at a bit of a distance.

He calls it my palette.  If my palette is earth tones and I am painting the canvas of my life, well then I do not want a big blob of shocking pink or chartreuse splashed in the mix. 

He's an artist and thinks like that.  Cool.
  This is what he fixed me for a snack:
I had to take a picture of it before messing it up!


I'm getting better at identifying the clashing 'colors' that do not mesh with my basic nature and the path I work so hard to stay on.  There are distinct 'hues' and types of energies I need to help me on my way.   But, occasionally, I am blind-sided.

(My brilliant son said to me the other day, after a particularly challenging event in my personal life, that I needed to remember the story of the frog and the scorpion.  I said, well, I think it had something to do with a river.  He said, yes, the scorpion wants the frog to carry him on his back across the river but the frog is afraid he will sting him.  The scorpion promises not to and the frog then agrees to help.  Half-way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog.  The frog asks: 'why did you do that?  Now we both will die'.  The scorpion says:  'because I am a scorpion'.   My son gave me a moment to take that in and then said:  Mom, these people are scorpions.  You are a frog.  You can't keep trying to carry them across the river.  Brilliant.)

----------------------------------------------------

My giveaway.

I am a bit over 3 years now on this wonderful path of whole-food, vegan eating.  It has brought me so much more than I ever could have anticipated.  I like to celebrate by 'paying it forward' in a small way.

So here is my give-away for this year:





Lindsay S. Nixon's The Happy Herbivore
and a Vejibag


Lindsay's book is one that I use so regularly that it is one of the very few that I will not loan out to anyone.  I love her Everyday Happy Herbivore book as well, but Happy Herbivore has just become a trusted friend in my kitchen. Check out Happy Herbivore here:  http://tinyurl.com/l6s72pf

Vejibag recently had a sale on seconds....I picked up a couple and honestly can't find anything wrong with them.  I thought I'd include one with the book.  More on vejibags:   http://vejibag.com/  and in a previous blog post:  http://www.sunnyhawklane.blogspot.com/2013/06/two-reviews-veji-bag-and-film-may-i-be.html

Enter to win by:
Leaving a comment.  No 'theme' to this.  Don't have to tell me your favorite anything.  Just a comment.  I'll have my genius son pick a name out of a veji bag in a week or so.

Good luck in the drawing and, more importantly, in your life and whatever path you choose. 

Watch out for scorpions.

Sue, enjoying the journey, in Ohio

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mac 'n Cheez --- Dr. Michael Holick, The Vitamin D Solution ---- Happy 3 years

Who doesn't want a mac 'n cheez recipe and it is one of the hardest to get 'right' on a vegan/plant-based diet.  Mac Not Cheese was one of the first vegan recipes I tried, Rip Esselstyn's recipe from Engine 2 Diet.  That is still on my 'go-to' list as is Christy Morgan's version from Blissful Bites.  Both of these have become well trodden recipes, but I was shopping with a friend recently who happened to show me a dry mix version at our local Whole Foods, and I may have happened to possibly note the ingredients (shhh!) on said version with the intent of creating something similar at home.


Anyway, I came up with something I think is an acceptable version.  It still needs some tweaking, but my husband said he likes this better than either of the two recipes I normally use, and having something to eat that he enjoys is very high on my list of priorities.

My first try went like this:

Dry Mix: 
Whole Wheat flour**:  2 T (1 1/2T)
Nutritional Yeast:         3 T
Potato Starch*:             2 T
Salt:                              1 t
Garlic Powder:             1/2 t (1/4 t)
Mustard Powder:         1/2 t (1/4 t)
Onion Powder:            1/2 t
(cayenne powder:        1/8 t)

(*I used potato starch as the ingredient I was replacing was a root vegetable starch so I reasoned this would be a better substitute than corn starch--corn being a non-root vegetable.  I actually think it wouldn't matter.  I happened to also have a ton of potato starch that I got at our Asian supermarket super cheap.
**I have made this using Garbanzo Bean flour instead of wheat flour and it was just as good).

In parentheses are the changes I am going to make next time I make this.  I believe I will continue to tweak it over time and will post anything earth-shattering here.  My husband likes things a little spicy, so I thought I would add in the cayenne, just a bit.  He did say that he thought this was a bit heavy on the garlic.  It would be very easy to double, triple, whatever the recipe and store in the frig to throw together very quickly.  I'll be putting it to the true test this weekend with my grand-daughter!





Here are the dry ingredients mixed together.

I heated up coconut milk and also tried a version with homemade almond milk.  The coconut milk was far superior, but it would be interesting to try purchased almond milk as my homemade version tends to have flecks of almond in it since I don't strain it and I think that affected the texture of the sauce.




Adding the dry mix to the milk.

Mine got very thick and I ended up adding a bit more milk to get the right consistency before adding on top of pasta.




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I've been reading Dr. Holick's book, the Vitamin D Solution.  For some time I have suspected that I have low vitamin D levels and when I got my blood work done in May, it was confirmed that I have a Vit. D deficiency.  Up here in Ohio, we are lucky to see the sun even in the summer it seems this year, and I've learned a lot from Dr. Holick about just how our bodies make vitamin D and how vital it is to every cell in the body.  Dr. Holick believes we are suffering a pandemic of vitamin D deficiencies, and I find his logic to be very solid.  (Dr. H. knows a thing or two about Vit D having been the first person to identify the active form of vitamin D in the blood.  You can read an interview with him at this link and get a quick overview of the basics about Vitamin D, sun exposure, supplements, toxicity, etc. http://www.alternative-therapies.com/at/web_pdfs/0508_interview.pdf)

We are very limited to what we can get from our diet in the way of vitamin D, and even meat-eaters getting their D by consuming foods are doing so because D has been added, which may or may not be adequate or even accurate as reported on the food labels, per Holick. 

I am also supplementing with Vit. D2 at least until I get my levels up to an acceptable range. I  prefer not to use supplementation, but living this far north may not give me another option.

To make things more complicated, we need calcium to properly utilize and absorb D, and this too can be problematic to get in our diet.  I've been solving the calcium problem by making a concerted effort to get my greens at every meal (here I am back to Dr. Fuhrman's advice to eat a pound or more of greens per day), and I am also aware of other foods that provide calcium and strive to get those foods in.

Sun exposure is important, especially during key times of the day, when UVB rays are at the right angle so that we can absorb what we need and contrary to the fright that has been put into us about avoiding the sun, we need this exposure to ensure good health.

I highly recommend reading Dr. Holick's book for an eye-opening education on the vital role of vitamin D.  http://drholick.com/

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July has come and gone and that is my anniversary month.....I celebrated 3 years on this fantastic journey and way of eating in 2013.  I am so very proud and feel as committed as ever to this lifestyle.  I'll do a celebratory give-away next week.  Happy Anniversary to me!

Til then....

Sue, getting all the sun I can and eating my greens, in Ohio

Mexicali Yum Casserole

It's 5:00, (probably more like 6-6:30!) and you haven't started dinner yet and want something good and also need to cover your nutrient bases, what do you do? 

Start opening cans, baby.

This casserole is based on my dear friend, Renae's, Mexican Rice dish.  Renae has become a wizz at throwing things together, a skill no-doubt born out of necessity from her busy schedule.  I've changed it slightly from the original she sent me and you could do the same....as it is very easily adaptable.

I put on a large pot of brown rice (short-grain is my favorite).  I don't fuss about my rice cooking.  Water in pot, throw in rice, bring to a boil, turn down heat for a few minutes and cover and turn heat off.  I'll check to see if it needs more water and add as needed.

I chop a large onion or two and put them in a large skillet with just a little bit of water.  Stir occasionally and let the pan go mostly dry, then stir, stir, stir, to carmelize.




just starting to brown


getting there....


For this version, I lightly sauteed some leeks and shallots that I had fresh from my garden.  It was a nice treat.




While the rice and onion are cooking I start opening cans/packages.  My newest thing is cooked lentils from Trader Joe's.  Normally I am a bit of a snob about buying things pre-cooked, but I tried these and now am hooked.  YUM!  I layer these in the bottom of a large casserole dish.


When the rice is done, it will go on top of the lentils, but there are no rules to Mexicali!  Layer/dump as you see fit.

I open various cans of beans, my favorites for this dish being black beans and pinto beans.  Usually I will open about 3 or 4 cans, and pull the frozen corn out of the freezer.




Open canned tomatoes, usually one or two cans (omit if using fresh from the garden), and a can of Rotel tomatoes with chilies.

Open a bottle of salsa; I love Trader Joe's black bean and corn salsa.
but this is good too...


Start dumping everything into the casserole dish.  I usually go rice and lentils on bottom, then onion, then beans and corn;  I add tomatoes (fresh from the garden if you have) and salsa last.  Everything is cooked at this point so no reason to put it in the oven, but you can heat if you want.  We usually just warm up a portion, but I also like this cold with avocado slices on the top and Lindsay Nixon's sour cream recipe (from Happy Herbivore) as a topping.  My husband likes to spoon it into small corn tortillas and eat it soft taco style.  I've added Lindsay's queso with this too and that is also quite good.  This casserole is great as a topping on baked sweet potatoes and I've even spooned it on top of greens for a quick salad.



Definite yum!


(Note:  I've been having a side of greens, usually kale/collards with a sprinkling of raw sunflower seeds with most meals, even breakfast, for about a month now.  I've noticed an increase in energy and think it is providing some added calcium and vit A (per Dr. Michael Klaper we need a bit of healthy fat with the greens to help utilize vitamin A in our bodies). 


Sue, comer bien, in Ohio

Friday, June 7, 2013

Two Reviews: The Veji-bag and the film "May I Be Frank"

When I saw Wendy's blog post over at Healthy Girl's Kitchen (www.healthygirlskitchen.blogspot.com) about a new product called the Veji-bag, I was riveted.  Even though I've become fairly diligent about monitoring what is in the frig and working on not over-buying, I still will occasionally find limp, yucky greens in the produce drawer.  Nothing is as sad as decomposing lacinato kale. 

It is such a waste of a resource and beautiful food, and always makes me feel bad.

After watching the little video of the story of Sally Erickson, the creator of Veji-bag and her mission, I was impressed with her efforts to keep this product as green as possible, down to every detail, even the ink that is used to create the label.  http://vejibag.com/

The economist in me looked at the product and thought, oh, heck I could make one of those, and I may do something similar for myself in the future, but I've become very mindful of my power to vote with my dollar.

So vote I did and ordered one of the bags.

The bag arrived the very next day, in an eco-friendly package and with a kind little note from Sally.
It is very soft material and the easy-to-use instructions are clearly printed along with pictorials.









I used it to store kale and it did an excellent job of keeping those greens very fresh for the 3 or 4 days I had them in it.  I did a test and split the kale, storing half in plastic.  There really was a noticeable difference in favor of the Veji-bag. 

Next I put it to the true test:  organic red leaf lettuce.  I have a heck of a time keeping this dainty stuff fresh and usually try to consume in two days or so.

I left the lettuce in the Veji-bag for a week.  It was still in great shape.  I left some of it in for another week and pushed that to a week and a half.

So....at over two and a half weeks, here is the lettuce:


If you look closely at the piece on the left, you'll see a dark piece and that is slimy as were the very outer leaves which I discarded.  But the rest, while not what I would classify as 'fresh', is entirely edible.  I would have had to toss this long ago if stored in plastic.

Sally has introduced a larger Veji-bag and I took advantage of a reduced price for buying three of these.  This larger size will be perfect for kale, chard, collards and will help me out as I harvest my kale which is growing like crazy in the garden.




Pricey, but I believe these bags will be a good investment and will end up nearly paying for themselves in the first year.  And really, I'm not going to get around to making these for myself anytime soon.  I have other things to do. 




Like teaching my grand-daughter the joys of making a big ole mess with watercolors.
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I recently viewed the film "May I Be Frank", the story of Frank Ferrante, an over-weight man who is offered a second chance on finding joy and love in his life by three of the most loving individuals I think I've ever come across.  Watch the trailer here:
Inspirational, graphic, I laughed, I cried, I saw so many of us in Frank....I highly recommend it.  If you are sensitive to language or explicit images of naked fat men, you likely won't enjoy.  Otherwise, watch one man's journey and see what love can do.  (Note:  be sure to watch the special features; the interview with Frank shows the rest of his amazing transformation).
Sue, grateful for my healthy life and fresh greens, in Ohio

Monday, March 18, 2013

Interview with a "Newbie" and Variations on Chef A.J.'s Banana Muffins

It has been my extreme pleasure to work with a family that has recently gone to a predominately plant-based diet after watching Forks Over Knives.  These are just super cool people, and knowing how challenging it can be when starting this program, I thought it might be a good opportunity to get a fresh perspective from a 'newbie'.

Bethany and her husband, D.J. have an absolutely precious son, Deklin. Bethany is setting this family up for success by immersing herself in educational materials and research and by stocking their home with healthy food choices.  It's been my pleasure to 'pay it forward' a bit, and I've gone shopping with her, and generally tried to be a resource and pass on what has worked for me.  Bethany asks the good questions and has already turned the tables and proven to be a resource for me by finding vegan options here in Central Ohio and causing me to think deeper about certain aspects of our food program.

Here is a survey Bethany and D.J. recently completed for me.

I am so excited that you and your husband have gone plant strong! Congratulations on making such an important decision. I know there are other "newbies" out there that have various degrees of challenges as they transition to a vegan whole-foods diet, so I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions.

1. What was your biggest motivation for switching to a plant-based diet?


Watching Forks Over Knives* was a great motivation to switch to a plant based diet. We have seen family members struggle with heart disease, obesity, cancer, etc. If we have some control over the effects these diseases could have on us and our child then why not do our best to prevent them. Especially if it is something so trivial as eating better.

(*Forks Over Knives is a documentary film delineating the benefits and scientific basis for a plant-based diet.  Check it out at Amazon here:  http://www.amazon.com/Forks-Over-Knives-Colin-Campbell/dp/B0053ZHZI2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1363639294&sr=8-2&keywords=forks+over+knives)

2. Do you have any specific health benefits or goals that you hope to achieve by making this change?
My husband wanted to lower his cholesterol. It is not "high" but it was 166 and one month after following a plant based diet his cholesterol is 136. I am so proud of him!

I have hypothyroid and do not want to be on medication ever. I am hoping to see an improvement with my thyroid and cholesterol. I am scheduled for blood work in March.

3. What, if any, has been the biggest surprise in switching over?
A pleasant surprise, with help from Sue, & cookbooks such as The Happy Herbivore and The Engine 2 Diet and the internet it has been much easier than we expected.

I did not enjoy cooking before but I find myself in the the kitchen a lot more. I now relish the creative ways to make a plant based meal for my family. There is just something about cooking a healthy, nutritious meal that I love! This has become my passion and obsession :)



4. What are some of the challenges you have faced and how have you dealt with them?

Explaining that I follow a plant based lifestyle has been a challenge. I do not expect anyone to understand immediately. If someone is semi interested I encourage them to watch Forks Over Knives. It is hard for me to articulate all the reasons to enjoy a PBL (plant-based lifestyle). After watching Forks Over Knives, a few people have joined me in this adventure, including my parents.

5. Do you have a favorite recipe/food?

I am not sure I could list just one favorite recipe. I think my family would all agree, even my 16 month old son, that we love to start our day with a kale smoothie! A great way to start our plant based day. We usually use kale, carrots, spinach, frozen banana, berries and nut milk in my new favorite kitchen appliance, the Vitamix!

6. Any other tips or advice for other newbies?
My husband and I have joined The Wellness Forum. Dr. Pam Popper runs the Wellness Forum and is very accessible. They now have a physician on staff and Chef Del who wrote the Forks Over Knives cookbook teaches cooking classes and sells Forks Over Knives inspired food. They will even deliver dinner to you and it is very reasonably priced. We are so lucky to have this resource in Columbus. Wellness Forums are located in several states and you don't have to be located nearby to take advantage of all their great resources.
Thank you!
Bethany sent me this video of her adorable son's reaction to green smoothies.  Check it out here:
Thanks for sharing, Bethany, (and I hope that huge 'smoothie kiss' washed out of your blouse!)  Continued health to you and your beautiful family.
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Banana/Pumpkin Muffins

I've mentioned Chef A.J. on my blog many times.  I am a huge fan of hers and love her book Unprocessed as well as her videos with Julieanna Hever.  When one of A.J.'s recipes shows up on the blogosphere, I just go get paper and pen as it will be tried in my kitchen.  Wendy from Healthy Girl's Kitchen is another one of my favorite people on this shared journey and she featured a banana muffin recipe from A.J. this week on her blog.  Read the post and find the recipe here:

I got a chance to give this recipe a try this weekend, but made a few modifications.  I didn't have applesauce, but did have an apple, so it is quick work to turn that into applesauce in the Vitamix.  I didn't have applejuice either, but I did have some oranges that were in need of a job, so I juiced them.

           Just the aroma of this orange freshness made this dreary-where-is-spring day brighter

I decided to make two versions of this recipe.  I wanted to try it with some pumpkin, so while I had everything out and already dirty, I whipped up another batch, omitting the apple and adding pumpkin.  I also added nutmeg.  Two other changes I made to both batches were to use half oatmeal flour and half whole wheat flour.  I added in two medjool dates to the Vitamix when blending the bananas.



The batter comes out quite liquid, but the recipe requires it to sit so it'll thicken and poof up, which it does quite nicely.




This muffin has just the right sweetness (I don't think it really needed the dates, but I did enjoy the taste of it) and will make a great snack for me when I have my mid-morning smoothie and really want something to go with it.  I can keep a stash of these in the freezer for a quick snack.

So far, the banana is my favorite, but I think the pumpkin would be very nice in the fall.  I could see adding in some dried cranberries and maybe raisins or rough chopped raw sunflower seeds.

Thank you, A.J. and thank you, Wendy!






Sue, eating my sunshine, in grey Ohio