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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?


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 I was so excited to have that once held purpose for that I have never once 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 moment.

Part of living more mindfully is being FULLY PRESENT and seeing the possibilities all around 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.


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 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'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


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).


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: 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!


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 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.


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:

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.

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.  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:

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:  and in a previous blog post:

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.


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.

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.


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 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