Friday, December 19, 2008

Your Money Ceiling

Sometimes saving money isn't about all those discounted prices on goods you "can't live without". Using coupons is good only for those who already have the appetite for the things they can be redeemed on.

If you suddenly found you were without money, all those decisions about which one and what color to buy of the latest gizmo would be laughable. It would be much easier to decide that it's impossible to buy, considering your current circumstances.

Ah, but you say, "I have a credit card, no problem". The fake money ceiling of credit makes you feel like the sky is the limit. In actuality, your real money ceiling is much lower, for some very very low. Nothing like realizing that it's right above your nose. You have no room to budge.

What I'm talking about makes sense to some of you. Then there are those of you who have been "playing the Pharaoh"...living in denial (the Nile). If you really live within your means (less than your income), then this makes total sense, does it not?

You've probably heard a famous person say "I've been fat and I've been slim...Slim is better." Well I say, "I've been in debt and I've been debt free...Debt free is much much better!" There's nothing like knowing that you owe no one...for anything. Your whole mindset changes and you can sleep at night.

I realized recently that after 4 months in the US with no work for my husband, that we may be in for more belt tightening. Times are tough for those out of work. I can relate.

What I challenge everyone to do is to reconsider the things you want and only consider those that you need. Who knows, maybe your situation will take a downturn before you know it. What are you going to do? Where's your emergency fund?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Better Butter

Recently I attended a seminar based on a vegan diet that uses a high percentage of raw foods in their diet. I gleaned a few recipes that I'd like to share with you. This one is very tasty and one that most people would want a substitute for when going vegan. There is Earth Balance that I've used before, but this one is raw and can be made at home - two things I love!

This recipe is from "Eating Without Heating".

Better Butter


1/2 cup pine nuts
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon Udo's Oil (if available)
1/2 cup coconut oil


Blend all together except the coconut oil until smooth. Add more water if needed. Add the coconut oil and blend again. Chill in refrigerator or freezer.

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shannon's Raw Veggie Wrap and Raw Sweet Snack

Shannon's raw vegan food idea/recipe is a great veggie idea and a "cookie" idea. Thanks, Shannon.
Shannon said...
My favorite snack... I slice jicama, carrot, avocado, red pepper, and whatever other veggies I have on hand. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with grated ginger and sunflower seeds, and then squeeze half a lemon over it. Wrap it all up in butter lettuce leaves. Yum!
My other idea... is to stack a dried apricot with a whole, raw almond. The two eaten together is like a cookie!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ginger Cinnamon Cookies

"These are vegan? They are really good!" This is something I hear when I make these cookies. They are soft and lend themselves to many variations. The original recipe called for molasses for the sweetener, which I have replaced with maple syrup. You could use other sweeteners as well, just adjust the recipe for the changes appropriately.

Ginger Cinnamon Cookies

1 1/2 cup maple syrup (or molasses)
1 cup (or less) oil
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoon (or more) ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon (or more) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
4 cups wheat flour (or other whole grain, finely ground)

Mix ingredients well together. Dough will be soft. Chill dough for a few hours (can freeze dough for use anytime). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll into walnut size balls and if desired can roll in additional cinnamon in a bowl (see photo of finished cookies made this way) before placing on ungreased cookie sheet. Leave about 2-3 inches between cookies - they will spread flat. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until done. Cool on paper bags cut open and laid flat.
If storing, put wax paper/parchment paper between cookies to keep them from sticking together.
Can replace a some of the oil with some ground walnuts or pecans. Can use coconut oil.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway if you live in the USA!

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Be a Friend...

...Give a hug.

It's amazing to me sometimes how some people just exude comfort to everyone they meet. I am so thankful for the kind words and actions of people that have been welcoming to my family since we've been back from Ghana. Thanks to good friends, we have been able to appreciate a little more, love a little more, and relax a little more.

Have you ever realized how relaxed you are around people who love you? It's part of that wonderful whateveryoucallit that just makes you laugh a little more, talk a little more, and overall feel a lot better about life.

After a good uplifting conversation with a friend, you go away feeling like you could take the world on your shoulders. After a time like that you think that so much more in the world is trivial and nothing could harm you. Because you have been refreshed and loved and cared for.

I have been with friends today that lost a loved one and after crying with them and giving them hugs, I felt like I had paid it forward, so to speak. It was really good to be able to do that and feel like we connected a little more.

It's easy to give love when you've been showered with it. Go show someone today how much you love them. Allow them to pass it on. The results are worth it!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Something I'll Miss

My daughter is now 2 1/2. I stopped breastfeeding her about a month ago now. The main reason I breastfed her this long is to have something to comfort her during our transatlantic flights back in August.

Those flights were actually uneventful as she never even had so much as a tummy ache or any ear trouble at all. It was still handy nonetheless to have a "snack" on hand. So when we had settled back in the states, I suddenly realized that I did not need to nurse her anymore.

After I tapered her nursings down to three a day, it wasn't long before it was two, then finally once per day. It was actually pretty easy to totally wean her. No trouble when we finally stopped altogether. She had the most tears when we went from three to two times per day, missing the midday one right before her nap. All in all, things went well.

But...I will miss it. I nursed my son (now 10) until he was almost 18 months old. With my daughter, I nursed her until she was about 30 months old. I definitely prefer nursing longer. With my new found nursing tool and experience this time around, I can't wait to have another to care for in the future in the same way.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cranberry Sauce

Like many others today, we celebrated Thanksgiving with a feast meal. The good part of cooking the meal for seven people was getting another great recipe to add to my favorites. So consider this next time you need to have a cranberry dish. It's easy and tastes great. If you use a raw sweetener this can be a truly raw dish as well.

Blender Cranberry Sauce


Combine in blender:

2 cups cranberries
1 peeled orange, seeded and quartered (I used a tangerine)
1 apple, cored and quartered
1/4 cup (or slightly more) "raw" turbinado sugar (or sweeten to taste with preferred sweetener)

Pulse in blender until fruits are chopped and blended well, but not too much. It will look like cranberry jam. Chill until ready to serve.

Edit to add: Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a free juicer here.

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pomegranates


These beautiful little gems are called arils, the flesh covered seeds of the pomegranate fruit. This morning these went into our smoothies with some frozen strawberries for a vitamin C "zinger."

To open a pomegranate there are a couple of different ways:

1. "Like a star" click on this link from www.seasonalchef.com
or
2. "With water" click on this link from www.pomwonderful.com

They are a beautiful decoration in and on many foods. This time of year they are more readily available.

Please remember to protect your clothing as the juice will stain anything it touches. But please don't be afraid to try one. I opened mine using the aid of a bowl of water...see #2 above.

For a simple way to get the juice from the seeds, try putting them into a ziploc type baggie, taking the air out and seal well (!), then take a rolling pin and roll over the bag on a counter. Then cut a tiny hole in a bottom corner of the bag (so the seeds don't come out) and pour your juice into a cup or liquid measuring cup to proceed with recipes that call for the juice.

Catalina Dressing (Red French)

Every time I think about taco salad, I think of this dressing. I am posting this in honor of Betty, who introduced me to taco salad dressed with red French dressing, many years ago at church fellowship dinners. In fact, when I whipped this up the other day, taco salad was on the menu for lunch.


Catalina Salad Dressing



1/2 teaspoon dried onion granules
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup oil (I use extra virgin olive oil w/another mild oil)
1/2 cup ketchup (or some tomato paste w/water)
2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
pinch ground celery seed (optional)

Mix all ingredients by shaking in a pint jar or blending in a blender. Keep in the refrigerator.

For a great taco salad: combine lettuce (and/or other salad greens), chopped tomatoes, a little chopped onion and garlic, shredded carrots, and some cooked pinto beans (seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and a bit of oregano and basil), some crushed corn chips....oh, and don't forget the nutritional yeast... with this Catalina Salad Dressing....and you've got yourself some yummy taco salad. (Thanks, Betty!) =)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Peanut Butter Banana Chip Ice Cream

I love it when I can make a previous dairy treat into something without dairy! And who doesn't love a little ice cream now and then? I tell people I don't have a sweet tooth...and that would generally be true, but on occasion I do enjoy something like this with my family.

Add to that a few things... I recently came across an almost new ice cream maker (I know I have a Vitamix, but there's something about getting out the ice and salt to make it the "old fashioned" way) at a second hand store for only $2.50. It is a Sunbeam 6 quart capacity electric...ok, so not too old fashioned! =)... ice cream maker.

The other is a recipe on the Eating with Wisdom blog (thanks, Mindi) that struck my fancy. And I had everything to make it! Whoo-hooo! =) So, my friends, a vegan ice cream that you can make and it is delicious.

Peanut Butter Banana Chip Ice Cream


1 can (13-14 oz.) coconut milk or non-dairy milk/creamer
1/2 cup sucanat
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
3 bananas (divided use)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup grain sweetened carob/chocolate chips
optional: chopped peanuts

Blend 2 bananas, milk, sucanat, peanut butter, and vanilla in blender until smooth and sweetener is dissolved (uniformly distributed). Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Add the third banana (chopped) with the chips about 5 minutes before the ice cream is done in the maker.
I used coconut milk and carob chips in our version. Nice and rich!

Kristen's (Almost Raw) Almond - Cacao Nibs Ice Cream

1 can (13-14 oz.) coconut milk
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 cup raw almond butter
3 bananas (divided use)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup (or less) raw organic cacao nibs

Follow directions for Peanut Butter Banana Chip Ice Cream above.

One thing that really helps develop the flavor (especially the peanut butter version) is to "ripen" the ice cream in your refrigerator freezer (or deep freezer).

How to "Ripen" Homemade Ice Cream

This tip comes a day early for a non-dairy ice cream recipe I'll share tomorrow, but a tip nonetheless.

When making homemade ice cream, no matter how you make it, if you eat it immediately, it tends to be a little soft and runny. With some recipes, it tastes just fine that way. When you want to have hardened ice cream for that classic look or even to scoop for cones, you'll want to "ripen" the ice cream first.

All you need to do is to take your homemade ice cream and put it into a covered container in your refrigerator freezer (or deep freezer) for about an hour (or more for larger amounts) to harden. Depending on your ingredients, you may need to take it out for a few minutes before scooping.

This also helps to make strong flavors a bit more mild... Like the Peanut Butter Banana Chip Ice Cream recipe I'll share tomorrow!

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My Mother's Granola

For at least 20 years, my mother owned and operated a health food store. Though it is no longer around, this recipe for her granola was made many times to sell. I hope you enjoy it.


Ravae's Granola



Mix together:


4 1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup sunflower seeds*

1 cup coconut*

1 cup wheat germ*

1 cup slivered almonds or chopped pecans/walnuts*

1/2 cup sesame seeds*



Mix separately:

1/2 cup oil (I used sunflower)

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Mix together dry and wet ingredients. Spread mixture onto two oiled (or use parchment paper) jelly roll pans (cookie sheets with sides) and bake at 300 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until done as desired. Stir every 15 minutes or so for even baking. After it has sufficiently cooled, put into airtight container.

Optional: After baking, you can add up to 1 cup of raisins/currants or chopped dates/apricots* stirring well to combine.

*Note: I always use raw, unsalted, unsweetened coconut, wheat germ, dried fruit, nuts and seeds.
Photo: this batch of granola was made using chopped walnuts and raisins. I believe I also added a bit more rolled oats as well.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What encourages you?

Or maybe I should say, who encourages you?

I am so thankful for a roof over my head, food on the table, relatively good health, a wonderful husband and two active children. And I'm truly thankful that the Lord has been with us during the transition time between moving from Ghana, West Africa and back to the United States.

When things don't go the way that you planned, what is helpful for you to remember, to hear, to see during times like that?

Thanks to a great sister in Christ, I'm reminded that in His time, things will be OK. I'm being refined and I know that it will be rough for a while, but in the end more fitted to do the work that He intends for me to do.

Please comment and send a little something along that has helped you or tell about someone who has helped refocus you in rough times. Maybe they didn't even realize it, but it was illuminating to your path that day.

Thanks.

Shalom,
Loretta

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fast, Easy Way To Serve Prebagged "Salties"

To serve things like chip, tortilla, or pretzel (etc.) snacks quickly for a buffet style meal for family or guests, especially at potlucks, try this fun trick:

Lay your unopened bag of chips on its back on a table or counter so the front label is facing up (toward the ceiling). Then taking a scissors, cut a circle (oval or square, etc.) out of the front label, creating its own "bowl." If you have leftovers, just put them into an airtight container for later. Clean up is easy.

Fun and easy. Great idea and everyone will think you are so creative! =)

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pumpkin Soup

I know this is another soup recipe, but I can't help it. It's been cold around here and it can go into the crockpot...so here's another great warming soup...especially if you add a little hot sauce! (smile)

This soup is surprisingly good. I really never liked just plain mashed squash (sorry, Mom), but I knew I'd have to find a way since my husband does. I already knew I liked squash in sweet things (pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, etc...). Could I find a recipe for a savory squash dish that I did like? I can't even remember where I found this, but it works for me. I love it. The original recipe actually uses milk. I tried using it with (non-dairy) and without and enjoy it without better.

Pumpkin Soup




Saute:

1 onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon oil

1-2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3 cloves garlic, chopped



Add:

3 cups pumpkin (or other winter squash) puree

3 cups vegetable broth

salt and/or other seasoning as desired

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)



Cook until heated through. When serving add a little nutritional yeast and maybe some little pepitas (green roasted pumpkin seeds) on top of soup in bowls. Option: put all ingredients in the crockpot after sauteing the onions and garlic. Great as leftovers.

When I made it this time, I used a butternut squash and pumpkin. I tripled the recipe for leftovers...see photo. Yum.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gumbo

Around here gardens are winding down. We recently had a relative bring us some okra, peppers, green onions and tomatoes along with some fresh green beans. I love okra and saw my chance to make some gumbo. If you've never had okra, it does take a little getting used to as far as the goo-iness. Don't use "woody" ones - ones that are a bit too ripe and hard (don't worry you'll know when you start cutting them).


Since we have an abundance of home frozen creamed sweet corn, I put in lots of corn, making sure it was thawed before adding it to the crock pot. I doubled the recipe for our large crock pot.



Here is a crock pot recipe for an easy meal:


Gumbo



1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, diced

3 whole cloves (like the spice, not garlic)

2 cups diced tomatoes

4 cups stock

1 cup lima beans

2 cups corn

1 1/2 cup sliced okra

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Saute the onions, peppers, and cloves. Then remove cloves and put all the ingredients into the crock pot. Make sure everything is thawed and not frozen solid (like creamed sweet corn can be). Slow cook on high for 6 hours or 8-10 hours on low. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Calculator: A Valuable Tool

I have been putting off getting into the mode of checking prices like I should at the grocery store. I have been doing figures in my head, but one tool that makes my life easier is a calculator. I take it to the store with me to find the real price per cup, pound, ounce, or other measurement.

I know that some stores have per unit pricing on the shelf label, but sometimes that label is missing or it's not broken down the way that's useful for me. So I take my own calculator and figure it out right there in the store aisle.

Yesterday I bought a calculator that will fit in my wallet and planner to make my life easier. I plan to start writing prices down into a price book. Since moving back about 5 weeks ago, I've realized that I need to get on the ball with this. I plan to write more about the price book soon.

Getting the "real" price with a calculator can be valuable to see if you are really saving money. It may not always seem like much, but it adds up over time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vegan Diet in a Nutshell

A reader asked this great question in a comment recently:

Q: You know, it occurs to me that I do not know all the ins and outs of what a vegan will eat. Can you tell us?

A: Yes, certainly. There are a few types of vegetarians. When people say vegetarian, often they are talking about someone who does not eat meat. Sometimes you will meet someone who considers themselves to be a vegetarian even though they eat fish or chicken on occasion. Here are some definitions you might find useful:

  1. Lacto-vegetarian: eats plant based foods and dairy
  2. Ovo-vegetarian: eats plant based foods and eggs
  3. Lacto-ovo-vegetarian: eats plant based foods plus both eggs and dairy (most common vegetarian)
  4. Vegan (pronounced "vee-guhn") vegetarian: eats only plant based products, abstains from all animal products including: eggs, dairy, gelatin, and sometimes bee "products" like honey

(Some people cannot eat eggs or dairy because of allergies or sensitivities to these foods. So although some people are lactose intolerant (cannot digest the sugars that are naturally occurring in milk), for example, they can use vegan recipes for dairy based products because vegans do not eat dairy either. Vegan Footprints recipes can still be useful for them for this reason.)

I consider myself to be a vegan. But considering lately what our diet has been like, right now it is lacto-ovo-vegetarian. Since we are not yet moved into our own place, we have diverted for a time because we are sharing a table with and cooking for non-vegetarians. So although we are still not eating meat, we are allowing ourselves some eggs and dairy on occasion. Since the eggs are from my brother's small farm and the dairy is not every day, we allow it on a temporary basis (if you'd like to read more about our philosophy on this, read this previous entry).

So when we move into our own place (we anticipate a few more weeks), we will return to preparing only vegan foods at our house again. Since I will be cooking for non-vegetarians some during the week (in their kitchen), that can be a challenge, but they have told me that they don't mind eating what we do when I make the meals, so that's nice.

In fact, we have been finding that they did not realize what was actually in the foods they have in their cupboards. They would rather not eat lard (animal fat) found in their canned refried beans, for example. Again, it comes down to learning about what is in your foods and reading labels before you buy (or at least before you eat).

There are many foods that can be vegan very easily. Some people call making vegan substitutions "vegan-izing." This is a good description for what I've been doing for years. Eating foods close to the way God intended. The way they occur in nature is best. I call it eating real food.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Frugal Tip - Do you know where things are?

One thing that I've realized since being back is how unorganized our storage was. Our move to Africa was very disorganized and I didn't have a good system on how to locate things (without going through everything). I guess I figured "it's all there somewhere."

One thing I should have done is to make a master list of what we do have. You think you'd remember, but two years later...not gonna happen! One fun thing (if there is one) - it feels like your birthday when you find something you love that you didn't remember you had. =)

What would be useful in the future? Keep my things organized and not buy duplicates of things I already own. Seriously, after two years, you will forget! We won't move to our own place for a few more weeks, so I need to resist buying anything right now, that I might already have in our storage. Bad part is our storage is in another state about 5 hours drive away. Ugh!

What's funny is that I really love being organized and when we settle into a new place, I'm usually a very organized person. In fact, I love helping others organize too. I will be helping my parents to organize their home so that it is more accessible for them both.

Finding things can never be overrated!!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New (To Me) Appliances!

Since we've been back, I've acquired a couple of small kitchen appliances that I can't wait to use.

One is a used Excalibur (5 shelf) food dehydrator. I picked it up at a second hand store for $10. We have it in our storage until we move, but I'm excited to get it back in a few weeks to try it out. Can't wait to try out some raw food recipes that utilize this tool.

The other one is more of a special pan than a small appliance. It's a pressure cooker. This was a gift from a friend who is paring down her household items and wondered if I could use it. I told her that I've wanted to try one, just never have yet. It's a nice size (6 quart) stainless steel pot, barely used and it has a second lid made of clear glass too! Thankfully she had the instructions for it. I'll let you know how it works for us in the future.

And another friend has told me that I can have her air popcorn popper, since she doesn't use it. Ours gave out before we moved away, so I'm thankful she's willing to pass it our way.

So although it's good to know how to cook the "old fashioned" way, it's fun to have some tools for your hobby that help make it easier...and more fun!

Anybody have some good recipes for drying or pressure cooking, hmmm???

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Give Your Leftovers a New Look

Are you tired of seeing the same leftovers over and over? Why not change them a little or put them into a totally different dish to use them up?

I found that planning my meals so that any leftovers from meals the day or two before can be used. For example:
  • tacos one night (leftover toppings)...into the chili the next night
  • cut fruit for dessert one day...into smoothies the next morning
  • cooked hot cereal one morning...into smoothies/cookies/pancakes etc. the next day
  • too much soup?...put into the freezer to use in a couple weeks
  • leftover cooked vegetables...into a soup (classic)/casserole/make a "pot pie"

I have been working with a (non-vegan) stocked kitchen since we moved back. Since we are living here temporarily, I have been trying to make the best of it. So although it's a bit harder to eat what we normally would, I am thankful for the challenge to use up things creatively. If you have ideas about leftovers you can pass along, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear.

To read more great kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Please vote in the newest poll. Thanks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Good Friends, Good Fellowship, and Great Hugs!

Since we've returned, we've been enjoying the company of family and friends we haven't seen for two years.

It's fun to laugh again with those in the same room with you. Maybe that doesn't make sense to everyone, but believe me, when the best we had was a phone call, email or written letter, it really does make a difference. It's great to experience fun times again and get (and give) real hugs in person.

Showing up to a church yesterday, where a couple of our friends attend, I got the best hugs in a long time! Thanks, Mistee & Andrea! =) We surprised them and it was great fun!

Hug someone today - you need it! (And they're free, so get busy!)

=)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Eat Real Food

When all else seems to be out of order...eat real food!

That's right. Even when things are in order, eat real food.

Just recently a good friend gently reminded me that while all else seems to be uprooted (and in chaos sometimes) make sure we take care not to overlook our health during the resettling and adjusting time. How true. She said to eat real food. Not junk, not "fake" stuff...not chemical laden stuff. Real, true, honest to goodness food.

It can be too easy to eat the things that we've been so far away from for two years now (ask me how I know!). What I've been enjoying though is the wonderful garden bounty that is happening here right now. We've been enjoying fresh green beans, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries (boy, did I miss berries!) and peppers. And sweet corn, oh sweet corn, how delicious! It's been a long time. I don't even put anything on it... great as is and compared to what we had in Ghana -you'd think it was "prebuttered" already!

So we have been eating fresh fruit and veggies we've missed for so long. But I have to admit, it's very easy to celebrate a little too much and eat some not so great stuff while we are not at home. And since we are in a temporary place for another month, we have to remain mindful of our eating habits that they don't get too lax in the meantime (and I'd like to keep off the pounds that so easily came off while we were in Africa!).

What I've been doing lately to eat "real food":
  • Eating green smoothies when I can. Yesterday we had in the Vitamix: bananas, apples(including seeds), a peach, raw spinach, carrots, and a celery stalk, with added water. Actually ended up being very good, kind of like sweet, but green, carrot juice (which I love!). I wondered if the celery would make the finished product kind of stringy. No fear - that Vitamix made it smooth as always.
  • Eat something fresh (fruit or veggies) as a first course before eating other foods during a meal. While eating out recently with my parents, my dad wondered if I was on a fruit fast when we ate at a buffet restaurant. I had gone up to the buffet and returned with all fruit on my (first) plate for myself and to share with my daughter. We dined on seven different fruits before having some hot dishes. We were eating Chinese (I know, not so great, but done in moderation can be a fun outing). My two year old daughter loves the garlic green beans.
  • Eating fresh little cherry tomatoes from right outside the back door where we are staying. It's a fun thing to have amidst a flower garden for great snacking, especially after hanging laundry outside.
  • When eating out, using fresh lemon wedges to make water taste better and be better for me.
  • Never adding salt to dishes when eating out (or carry out). Restaurants always have more fat and salt in foods they serve, than you would use at home. Remember that! They are fast de-railers to eating well, so be careful.
  • Drinking water, good purified water. Plenty of it...'nuff said.
  • Eating something fresh and raw at every meal if it's available.

I am excited to get back to regular posting of recipes and such. For now, remember...eat real food.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Red Clover and Queen Anne's Lace

I am so happy to be back in the states.

I am a somewhat sentimental person when it comes to my childhood home. My parents moved to this property when my mother was pregnant with me. Other than moving into a new home that they built on the same property when I was in junior high school, they have never moved. I am grateful. I can come back to the home place where I grew up. I know not everyone can say that.

I love it - back on the farm. One thing I love to do when I'm here visiting is to walk on the country road my parents live on. It is a breath of fresh air to me...a "refilling" so to speak. When I was in college, I liked to speed walk around the track with my friends. I still like to walk fast and love long walks too.

One of my favorite sites (anywhere) are the wildflowers on the way. I have always loved the red clover and queen Anne's lace that is along the road where I lived. I am reminded of my father's clover hay that he grew. The queen Anne's lace sometimes bigger than my hands.

A day or two after we returned from Ghana. We awoke early one morning, before dawn...the four of us, all before my parents and sister. My husband had a great idea... "Let's take a pre-dawn walk!" So we did and we enjoyed it very much.

My daughter bundled up in a winter coat (we were very cold) and we got jackets on and went down the road. The lacey flowers and the clover were so beautiful. Here are some sights for you to enjoy.







Some other flowers my mother has planted by the house...




The early morning sun makes these flowers all the more beautiful, doesn't it? God's creation recreated every single day.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Poll #5 Results

Thanks to everyone who voted on the latest poll (ended August 1st). With 54 votes total, the following numbers are as follows:

How did you learn about Vegan Footprints?
  • link through Biblical Womanhood: 12 (22%)

  • link through Tammy's Recipes: 38 (70%)

  • internet search for related topic: 1 (1%)

  • know me personally: 2 (3%)

  • link or other mention in another blog/website (not mentioned above): 1 (1%)

I have been posting a "frugal Friday tip" every Friday on "Biblical Womanhood", a blog by Crystal. It's been a good way to let people know about Vegan Footprints. Thanks to all those who have come back even on other days to read my posts. Keep reading!

Another weekly post I do is for "kitchen tip Tuesday" hosted by Tammy at Tammy's Recipes. This has apparently been the best way to let others know about Vegan Footprints. For all these readers, I am thankful. Keep reading!

I am glad to know a little more about my readers through these polls. The newest poll has been added to the sidebar. Please vote today!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Support Breastfeeding in Every Country!

A few years ago, I learned about how formula companies can operate. I am just horrified at how third world countries have been affected by these sometimes very unscrupulous activities. My heart goes out to every mother who doesn't feel there is any other solution.

My own experience with breastfeeding has been very positive. I wrote about my first time experience when our first born, a son, was born. Rocky though it was, I missed it once he was weaned at 17 months.

I am currently still nursing my daughter a few times a day. She is now 2 years old (27 months). I knew that I would nurse her longer, because we were moving to Ghana for 2 years, when she was not quite 4 months old. Nursing her longer - meaning that I was willing to nurse her exclusively (no other foods, except water) for up to 12 months. Then at that time introduce foods (she is THE healthiest of all of us in this house - rarely gets sick!). I did give her foods starting at about 10 months old because her teeth looked like she could handle foods well at that point. Each child is different. My birthing doula, Deb, had a child who didn't get her first tooth until she was 19 months old. She also nursed longer.

You can click on the images above or below this post to read about the Nestle boycott. This company has especially been very unethical about its practices. Being vegan would steer you away from their products anyway, but I especially wanted to give everyone (vegan or not) reading this blog, another reason why breastfeeding is so important - the world over.

I intend to post more about breastfeeding in the future. No matter if I am currently nursing a child or not, this is so important to teach all parents. No matter mother or father. Why? Because it takes support from everyone to make it easier to do the right thing, not just the popular trend of the day.
Please click on the images in this post to read why you should join me in the boycott.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Two Transcontinential Flights, Moving Countdown & Using Up Foods

OK everyone, this is a little of a tip and a request. In light of our moving in 18 days (!) from Africa back to the USA, I am using up things in my pantry, fridge and freezer. I have food I bought here in Ghana as well as foods that were sent with people visiting on mission trips. I even have foods we brought with us two years ago!

Here's what I have now of any amount (does not include fresh produce):

Nuts: Cashews, Raw Almonds, Walnuts
Seeds: Sunflower Seeds, Alfalfa Seeds (for sprouting)
Dried Fruits: Pineapple, Mango, Coconut, Dates, Prunes
Oils: Red Palm Oil, Sunflower Oil
Sweeteners: Raw Honey, Powdered Stevia
Beans: Mung Beans, Lentils, Groundnut paste (Peanut Butter)
Grains/Starches: Oatmeal, Wheat Flour, Rice, Banku (corn & cassava), Gari & Tapioca Pearls(cassava products), 100% Rye Bread, Rice Noodles
Other dried items: Sun Dried Tomatoes, Carob Powder
Other baking/cooking items: Active Dry Yeast, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Balsamic Vinegar, Real Salt, Miso, Greens Powder, various other herbs & spices for seasoning
Drinks: Fruit & Grape Juice, Dried Mint Tea Leaves


Fresh Produce:

Onions
Garlic
Carrots
Lemons
Apples
Okra

Some things I know I will use for snacks for our (more than 24 hour) travel time to the states in the airplane and 2 airport layovers. Some of the nuts and dried fruit will be used there because they are easy travel food. It just goes without saying that some of the dates, coconut and almonds will find their way into some dates balls for the trip. Same for the peanut butter and carob and honey for some fudgy treats. I know that the produce will be used and bought as needed until we leave.

You know, just writing this out has already helped me get some good ideas to make menus:

Banku with okra stew (okra with red palm oil, onions, garlic, carrots)
Vegan ice cream with the soy milk and honey
Sprout the alfalfa to put in a sandwich with the rye bread
Mint tea sweetened with honey or stevia
Baked oatmeal with peanut butter to stand in for some of the oil
Smoothies with fruit & greens powder, prunes, juice, carob & peanut butter
Make bread with the yeast and flour
Gravy with the sunflower seeds to eat on rice
Meatless burgers with the oatmeal and walnuts
Tapioca pudding with soymilk and tapioca pearls
Carob cake with carob fudge frosting using a few of the items
Granola with the oatmeal, almonds, coconut and honey
Lemon water
Soup with lentils, onions, garlic and gari
Barbecue sauce (or a version of it) with the sun dried tomatoes
Cookies with flour, honey, oil and walnuts
Homemade seasoned salt to use in savory dishes
Marinade (using balsamic vinegar for lemon juice) for a bean salad or vegetables on the grill
Noodles with cheese sauce
Carrot dip
Lentil tacos with flour tortillas
Popcorn for a snack

That ought to get me started. Maybe I'll start marking my pantry items in the future with the dates purchased so I don't wait so long to use them next time! =) Tip: use up what you have before it gets too old to be good.
___________________________________________

Now for that request... I need some tips on what to do when we have layovers in Frankfurt, Germany (7 hours long) and Washington D.C.- Dulles Airport (4 hours). Anyone know these specific airports? I'm not as worried about the DC one, since it won't be as long, but tips for there are still welcome.
Keep in mind I have a 10 year old son and a 2 year old daughter. I need some frugal tips for our entire trip and move. So please pass them along. =)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brown Gravy (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

We love a good gravy now and then for potatoes or as a replacement for "cream of" type soups in casseroles. A good vegan replacement for the dairy in this sauce comes from sunflower seeds, thickened with arrowroot. (Pictured below is brown gravy I made today with added oyster mushrooms.)

Brown Gravy


1/2 cup water

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (no added oil or salt)

1/4 cup arrowroot

3 Tablespoons soy sauce* (I use Bragg's Liquid Aminos)

1 Tablespoon onion powder

4 cups additional water

Put all ingredients into blender except the additional water. Pour into a 3 quart (or larger) saucepan. Rinse out blender with the additional water, adding it to the saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Lightly boil, while stirring (a whisk works well), about 10 minutes, until thick. If you want a thinner sauce, add more water.

Use as a gravy on potatoes, sauce for casseroles, with vegetables, over homemade baked fries, or on whole cooked grains.

Add mushrooms & extra water for a "cream of" mushroom soup.

*If you use this for a soup, you may want to use only 2 Tablespoons soy sauce at first, adjusting it to taste when ready to serve for more "salty" flavor.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Reader's Question About Ghana's Foods

A reader asked about food preservation and what the Ghanaian people eat in the "off" season...

Good question...actually here in the tropical climate, there really isn't an "off" season per se. There are only seasons for specific foods. There are fresh local foods all year around.

Right now, the avocados are getting too expensive to buy again, because they are almost totally out of season. But the lovely mango fruit are starting to get very large and cheaper because they are in season. Oh, so yummy too!

The idea of refrigeration, freezing or canning produce doesn't really happen here for the majority of people. Because many do not have electric or even the space to store home canned goods plays into this. There are some stores in Accra (capitol) where supplies can be procured to do things like freezing or canning, so it's not impossible. But really, those supplies are there generally because of the expats (foreigners living in Ghana) that would buy them to do such things.

What you might find however is preservation by ground storage, drying, smoking, salting or other similar method that does not involve electricity. That's how many of our own ancestors preserved food before such modern conveniences.

The seasonal question is still valid here however, because of the planting and harvesting of certain foods at different times of the year. That mostly applies to fruits and vegetables, but for beans and grains, those can be bought at the markets anytime of the year.

A couple of weeks back, I bought a fresh white yam. It was not from storage, but rather had just been harvested. I thought I'd like to try a fresh yam to see the difference, thinking that it would taste much better and richer, etc. than the stored ones I had been buying. Believe it or not, we did not prefer it. It didn't taste as good as the stored ones. I don't really know why, but maybe that "aged" flavor is just better.

Each seems to have its own season: cassava, plantain, white yam, corn (maize). When it's corn season, you'll notice people selling it grilled or boiled. Then another time, it will be the plantains that are cheap. It's like this all year around. The food places on the street will change what they sell based on the in season foods. Rice can be found all year around, but lately prices have been going up here, just like in other parts of the world.

If there are places to buy stews, the main vegetable will vary depending on the produce available. Even sit down restaurants may not have half their menu available because it all depends on the season.

They really do eat locally and in season here. It's cheaper and some people grow much of their own food, if they have any land to speak of. No yards here, but maybe corn or cassava growing.

I think that that is where its at for everyone concerned with food availability and prices. Grow your own. If that's not possible, then eat locally and in season.

Know your food and grow some too. Gardens are good for the whole family! I can't wait to start one myself next year after we settle back in the states again. Until then, I'll try to find some good farmer's markets to go to.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Poll #4 Results

Poll #4 was a fill in the blank - 16 people voted.

"I am more likely to change something I do because...

...I read something convincing" - 100% of the voters answered this selection.

Since those of you who answered the poll already value the use of the internet as a great research tool, I'm not surprised. Seeing something in print somehow makes a persuasive argument seem more timeless and therefore more convincing. Seeing is believing they say. Ah, "the power of the pen" does ring true.

May I be honest and truthful with my "pen" here on Vegan Footprints. I hope that reading this blog has helped you in some way. Maybe to learn about something you've wondered about or never knew before. Maybe you'll learn a new vegan recipe to prepare for your family.

I do appreciate all my readers, from 40 different countries! Wow! My thanks to everyone who has commented. It helps me see what you think about when you are reading. I'm glad to everyone who asks questions. Send me an email if the comment section isn't exactly what you are looking for at: vegan footprints at gmail dot com (no spaces - listed this way to avoid spam).

Thanks to all who voted. My next poll #5 is up, so vote today.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Making Tofu in an African Village

There is a woman who sells "soya" to us here in Ghana. We call them spicy tofu kebabs. She has been coming to our house to sell soya for a while now. I realized that I will miss her kebabs one day, so I asked her to show me how to make it myself. Although I don't have all the steps learned yet, I thought I would show you our family field trip to learn the art of making tofu - Ghana style.

(captions underneath each photo will explain the steps)




Here's the woman (with my daughter, Francesca, on her back) taking her soybeans, which have been soaking for 3 hours, out of one container and putting them in another.










She cleans, sorts, and drains them all at the same time this way.








Here we are walking to the grinder about 15 minutes away.

She carries them on her head to the grinder

(daughter on my back and son in the foreground to the left - photo taken by my husband).






The grinder with his machine. Up to the left you see the wires he touches together to start and stop the motor.






While the soybeans are getting ground, he adds water to make it go through easier. This is the first pass through. By the time it's finished it will have gone through about four times. She says this greatly depends on the grinder. Sometimes it only takes one time through.




The final product of the grinding process. The soybeans are now like a thick paste with added water.



Back at her house again, she has put them into her very large bowl. You can see better the consistency of the ground beans.




She stirs the ground soybeans with her hand as she adds water.





She fills it to the brim with water. The final amount shown here.



Close up (looks like a foamy "ocean," as my son put it).




One of her kettles she will use to squeeze out the milk from the bowl. She will eventually get two kettles full from this amount of soybeans.






She fills a large cotton sack with the ground soybean and water mixture, scooping it from the large bowl into the sack, on the edge of her kettle.




This next step proved to me how strong this woman is - here she squeezes the milk from the mixture through the fabric to get all the milk out.




She squeezes and squeezes, twists and squeezes some more...





...and when she can't get anymore from the soybean and water mix bowl, then she adds more water from another bowl to get even more out. I think I now know what the phrase "milking it for all it's worth" means now!




Her setup inside her house during this step. Front center is her original bowl of soybean and water mixture. She is squeezing the milk into her cooking kettle. The black bowl beside her holds more water to get more out of the sack. The smaller bowl diagonally opposite to her kettle is holding the dry pulp (okara) that is left after this step.




This step is time consuming. I liked getting photos of her hands at work.





Her kettle on the fire. She has a tripod type setup for support.





Another view.




She uses Epsom salts for the coagulant.





Mixing the coagulant with water.





Since putting the kettle on the fire, the milk has been cooking. During this entire time, we were asking questions and taking photos (I took over 100 total). Our children were playing in the courtyard that she shares with other close neighbors. My daughter here exploring. If you look closely, you can see in the background that she has a small version of her large kettle on a square brazier or cooker (uses charcoal). She has separated some milk out to make soy milk with it. All of this larger kettle and another will go into making the soybean curd (tofu). She makes this everyday for her family this way. She let us taste it - warm and sweetened with a little sugar - very delicious, like hot cocoa without the chocolate.




Her kettle has been cooking away for a while. Now it it is starting to foam up. This is what it looks like right before she adds the coagulant and water mixture.



She pours in the coagulant.



Another view.





One of the kettles that "settled down" after this step.


After about a minute on the fire after she adds the coagulant, a neighbor will help her take it off the fire. They use cloth threaded through the small handles and then carry it off careful not to touch the hot kettle.




Here the "meat" as she called it, rising to the top and the liquid is underneath. You can see it has pulled away from the sides of the kettle.




She scooped out one side to show how it looks (curds and whey).



Here are both kettles with another bowl waiting to help with the next step.





She scoops out some of the liquid to move it out of the way. She is putting it into the white bucket (pail) to the left in the photo.




The setup for this step. Similar to the squeezing out the milk earlier, she now is pressing the curds in another large cotton flour sack. This time it is for the final pressing of the tofu. She scoops from one kettle and then the other to combine them in her sack.




Auntie Akua hard at work.




Scooping some of the liquid from the bowl that has come through the sack.




She twists it closed.





She lets it rest a minute. It is very hot and steaming.






She is almost finished!




She presses more liquid out with a bowl so she won't burn her hands. That's a lot of tofu!





She positions it on her homemade press. The press is 2 cement blocks in the ground with a plastic tarp-like sack underneath the tofu. The tofu in a flour sack...





...a flat piece of wood on top to even out the weights she will place on top.




Placing two large stones on the flat piece of wood...





...and another to complete it.




The tofu will be pressed this way for two hours. From the start of the soak time for the soybeans until now it has been about 6 to 6 1/2 hours total.



Here my daughter plays with her youngest daughter in the courtyard.




Her family (with my daughter) with 4 of her 5 children in the doorway of her home. She provides for them as a single mother. Making tofu is what she does for a living.



I took all of the photos except the ones I'm in. My husband took this photo of us together. I felt a little like a journalist that day. Camera, pen and paper in hand taking notes. We really enjoyed it. She was very patient with us.



Later she brought me some of the finished tofu. I took photos of it for you to see the final outcome of her hard work. It is very firm and dense. Perfect for using in kebabs on the grill.




This is a photo of the "soya" as we buy it from her, ready made.

The steps you don't see are the preparation of the kebabs. She freezes the tofu, cubes it, then fries it in oil. She then skewers it and adds her seasoning. The seasoning consists of peanut powder (groundnut) from which the oil has been removed, roasted corn (maize) flour, and chili pepper and other seasonings from northern Ghana she tells us. She also adds small pieces of red onion between each piece of tofu. They are very good and spicy.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour. Makes me more thankful for those kebabs! =)

For great kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes. Don't forget to vote in the newest poll.