Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Food "Philosophy" - Part 4...Whole Foods And Living "Lightly"

On the whole foods thing… I am a lover of all things vegan, whole, and raw. For example, apples, not applesauce or apple juice. Whole grains freshly milled, not processed white flour or other flours bought off the shelf. I like to use fresh raw veggies and fruit as opposed to cooked, baked or otherwise, because I like the taste and it gives me energy. Cook everything in sight and you’ll be going to bed early everyday. No thanks. So eat mostly raw, but relax and have some cooked things when your health is good.

I have recently been asked for my grilled mushroom marinade recipe for someone who was actually told by her doctor to try a vegetarian diet for her diabetes…! After I get the doctor’s name, number and address, I will let you know this veggie friendly doctor!!! =) I couldn’t believe it either. Anyway, as a way to thank that doctor, I posted this recipe as the first one on my blog.

On the “footprints”…I try to maintain a light “footprint” ecologically. With my blog, I intend to pass on ways to do just that. Also, how to live simply and usually that means spending less, but not always. You can use this blog as a resource. But use other sources as well. I do. Where do you think I learned all of this through the years? Use your local library (Please! Or they will go extinct!)…check on the internet… learn from your friends…and then pass it on to help others.

You'll hear more throughout my posts about my food "philosophy" - so stay tuned...

Shalom,
Loretta

My Food "Philosophy" - Part 3...A Little On What We Eat And What We Don't

Back to “going” vegetarian…We initially cut out all flesh meats, including fish, and gelatin, meat broths. We did eat dairy and eggs. We ate lots of cheese then. And omelets…LOL! Yes, we tried tofu and other things “only the veggies eat” like soybeans and stuff. We learned a lot about foods we never tried before. And you know what? We loved it. And we changed things along the way.

One thing we changed was that we began to see that especially dairy was not helping us. We eventually cut that out as well. Eggs? We don’t need them to survive either. So began our journey in the vegan world, at least diet wise.

Just a slight change of thought for a minute…a “tangent” if you will… on being strict vegans…we are not…we are still vegetarians…we still eat no flesh meats or fish or any animal product that required the animal to be killed. However, we have felt that being very strict everyday in our world is not likely. In our own kitchen, it is entirely vegan. When we are away, we eat what we like, sometimes that includes having a little egg in the fried rice, or a little shredded cheese on the salad made for us, or even “cheesefood” sauce for our haystacks (the recipe coming for the haystacks soon…no, not the cheese sauce!) =) We don’t fuss and we enjoy it, guilt free. It works for us.

We happen to live in Ghana, West Africa at the present time. We have found it easy to eat a vegetarian diet here (and tropical fruits, yummy!). We also know that in some cases, it is better to eat what is served to you than to say anything. We have found everyone to be very helpful when they learn we eat no meat. From restaurants to other people’s homes, we have been happy with the food served. We do not mind other people eating meat when we are with them. It is something that not all vegetarians (or vegans, for that matter) would do.

We feel that the relationship with others is much more important. We hold that when it’s our home, we can eat and serve to others what we normally would eat, making something they would enjoy when we have guests. And we are very grateful when others do the same when we are at their house. I have yet to be somewhere lately, where I didn’t get more than enough to eat and then some. Really. And as far as restaurants, I ask questions, but I don’t require them to bring me the ingredient lists of all the foods on the menu or buffet (in Ghana or in the states).

Just so you know, I intend to post only vegan recipes on this blog. As most people know how to change out ingredients to “veganize” they can go the other way just as easily. I just happen to like searching for vegan recipes, since that is how I cook at home.

With that said, there are a couple of notes that I wish to add so you are “in the know”… I do use honey. Not all vegans do…I do…I use bee “products” like bee pollen, bee propolis, royal jelly, and honey. I don’t think the other bee products will come up in my recipes (if at all), however honey will. People can replace it with another liquid sweetener or replace with a dry sweetener. More in another post sometime. I do use stevia occasionally and other sweeteners depending on availability, time and place. I do believe people should buy honey from a reputable bee keeper or nearby crop farmer (preferably who grows things the organic way) who bottles their own if they do decide to use it. It is better business and much better for you. If you can get “raw” honey, go for it. As each person’s tastes change and seasons change, so will what’s in my cupboard. I happen to have honey (from the states) here to use (Thanks, mom!). I have not tried the local Ghana honey. I have enough to last until we move back this summer. Yeah! =)

I plan to include more raw things into our diet and so you will see recipes that reflect that too. I don’t think that I’ll ever be all raw anytime soon. So there will be plenty of “cooking” recipes on here eventually.

My Food "Philosophy" - Part 2...Newlyweds "Going" Vegetarian

My husband’s experience before we married was more so on the processed stuff. His mother also cooked, but has always worked. They didn’t have animals or a large garden, so his diet was even more typical “standard American diet” (SAD) than mine was. He was just very grateful I knew how to cook. It did come pretty natural to me and I am by nature a “foody”, I guess. My mother did (although not directly) somehow impart to me a sense of the kitchen and how to cook most things or at least figure it out ok, with no total disasters to destroy the kitchen!

When we married 15 years ago (Ok, not till next month technically, but I love saying “15”!), I resolved to not have these “whites” in my kitchen: white flour, white rice, white sugar, and white shortening. So I didn’t…And that I would never own a microwave – and I never have. Neither my husband nor I were vegetarians at the time we got married, so I continued doing what I had then become accustomed to…cooking with some convenience foods, but trying to stay away from the above mentioned items.

I do not relate to those women who had no clue how to cook when they got back from their honeymoons. No. Not me. I was having a ball. My very own kitchen! Stocked with everything I needed and wanted (as long as we had the money- he he). I remember our first Thanksgiving. I wanted to make some rolls that my grandma used to make for us whenever we’d visit (out of state). So I wrote her and asked her for the recipe. I still have her letter that she sent in my recipe notebook. That was the first time that I can remember making bread. They were just as I remembered. Ah...I love those memories.

Fast forward to November 1996…I had gotten used to getting stomach aches after I ate. We (husband and I) talked about “going” vegetarian for a couple of years before this. One day I decided I was going to try not eating meat for a week. Hey…feeling better…one week passed…two weeks passed… my husband joined me about 3 months later. We have never looked back. Two children later, we (and they) are all vegetarian.

I think our only small appliance for years was a toaster. Actually we had two of them, both wedding gifts. I think we still own one of them. Oh, no, wait…we had a hand held mixer too (a hand me down from a friend at church). But that was it. If I needed more than a stove, oven, fridge or tiny apartment size freezer (inside the fridge door, tiny metal door…”freezing-is-optional” type) and my trusty toaster and hand mixer, I had to figure it out. I didn’t own a blender for years. Since then I have had a blender, stand mixer, bread machine, chest freezer, and dehydrator. Of these, only my blender remains as the others were not mine personally, except the stand mixer which I sold later.

I have cooked for large groups (with help) at camps that I worked at, so I really like making food. I am the type that likes to read cookbooks…for ideas….and then go do it my way. Who says there’s only one way, right? =)

Make Your Own Seasoned Salt

Have you ever wanted to make your own seasoned salt because you need something without additives? I searched for an all purpose seasoning that had a better kind of salt in it. There are good ones out there, but they can be expensive. So I made my own version, adding in kelp for natural iodine. The basic recipe follows.

Basic Seasoned Salt

3 Tbsp. salt (we use Real Salt)
2 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. kelp powder
½ Tbsp. granulated onion
½ Tbsp. granulated garlic
dash red pepper, optional
Tiny dash green or white stevia powder, optional

Mix and store in airtight container. An empty spice container works well.


“Spike” Style Seasoning



I came up with a version of “Spike” seasoning that we like. Make the above seasoned salt recipe first. Add in any or all of the following in very small amounts at first, adding more as you see that your family likes it. I add many of these to make this a “greener” salt that is very versatile. We use it in cooking, on popcorn, at the table. We hardly ever use just plain salt when we have this around. In fact, I don’t even have a plain salt shaker!

1 batch Basic Seasoned Salt recipe, set aside
Other additions* as desired –generally about 1/8 tsp. to 1 tsp. each (Put these in your blender to make them into a powder that will mix well with your basic seasoned salt recipe.) Store finished seasoning into an airtight container.

*I have used all or a combination of the following:
Allspice
Basil
Bay leaf
Cardamon
Celery seed
Chives
Cilantro
Cinnamon
Cloves
Coriander
Cumin
Dill weed
Dulse
Fennel seed
Ginger
Marjoram
Mint
Mustard seed
Nutmeg
Nutritional Yeast^
Oregano
Parsley
Rosemary
Saffron
Tarragon
Thyme
Turmeric
Curry Powder
Chili powder

^Vegetarian Support Formula – has B12, not baking yeast

This seasoning can be used in place of the salt listed in my Portabella Grill Marinade or other savory recipes.

Check out Tammy's Recipes for more tips.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Marinade For Grilled Portabella Mushrooms

I know not everyone is having weather nice enough for outside grilling...so if not, try this recipe under your broiler instead. Otherwise, these are fantastic on the grill. Enjoy!

Portabella Grill Marinade

½ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
2-4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
Dash cayenne pepper (optional)

1 pound whole portabella mushrooms

Combine marinade ingredients. Cover portabellas with marinade for at least 1 hour, longer is better. Grill whole for “burgers” or thickly slice (before marinating) the mushrooms, marinate, then broil in your oven. If grilling, brush extra marinade on mushrooms while they are cooking.

Leftover grilled mushrooms are great for adding to recipes. Just chop and add. For a really great salad, add thin slices or small chunks to make a veggie salad your main dish. Add a flavor booster with these little gems in a bean dish or your refried beans. Yummy!!! =)

Note on ingredients:

This is the recipe I “loosely” follow. I have used Spike seasoning or “Liquid Aminos” (a no salt added soy sauce, very yummy) instead of the salt. You can vary the amounts of oil and lemon juice as well, use more mushrooms, etc. you can add any herbs to the marinade you like for more flavor options (oregano, basil, etc.).

My Food "Philosophy" - Part 1 ...Growing Up

I enjoy good food. I don’t think you’ll meet many that wouldn’t agree. However, ask anyone about their version of “good food” and the answer will be much different than the next guy. I will attempt to share with you my own view of food from a few angles.

A little background is probably in order…Vegan Footprints…I didn’t start out life as a vegan (pronounced “vee – guhn). But then again I don’t know many that have.

Growing up, my mother cooked and we ate out at least once a week. Now that I think about it, it was probably more than that. If we were away at a mealtime, we’d pick up something somewhere fast food style. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s meant for me that most of the time that included eating packaged food.

Part of my young life, my mother worked nightshift as a nurse, so she used the convenience of packaged food. If we had homemade pizza, it was probably because “Chef Boy R D” helped out. If we were having breakfast, usually it included boxed cereals at our table with plenty of milk to slurp from the bowl afterwards. Birthdays almost always included a professionally decorated cake from our favorite grocery store’s bakery. Thanksgiving time meant there would be cranberry gel from a can that was sliced to serve as the cranberry sauce.

Since my father was a “meat-and-potatoes-kind-of-guy-&-don’t-mix-anything-up-together”, we rarely had any kind of casserole. So the meals were generally main dish meat, side vegetable, bread, maybe potatoes, with likely, something to serve as salad on the side. Dessert was not usual, nor was candy, but my dad loved his ice cream, so that was usually in the house and we would have some a couple times a week. My mother did bake some. I remember when she had time she would make pies (with white shortening) and the occasional homemade birthday cake. Cakes were made with boxed mixes. She never baked bread that I can recall. Rice was rare at our house unless it was in some sort of canned soup or packaged side dish mix. We always had eggs, meat, and dairy around like most other families we knew. And we had a microwave.

We even raised animals for butchering. Through the years I can tell you that at one time or another, we had the following on our small farm: Sheep, rabbits, goats (for milk too), a bull calf (my brother raised), chickens…both layers (for eggs) and broilers (for meat), geese, even a couple of ducks (the last one was mostly for pets). There was even a farmer that rented part of our barn and pasture out to raise heifers (young cows that had not yet had a calf).

We did always have a garden. A very LARGE garden. So our vegetable intake was pretty decent I think. I don’t remember not liking any vegetable. Even now the only ones I don’t prefer are ones I can’t recall us growing at home. And we actually had a small “orchard” around the farm here and there of the following trees: apple, plum, cherry. Also the berry bushes: black raspberry, red raspberry, blueberry. Back at the woods, we had wild blackberry bushes too. It just makes me hungry talking about this part. Yummy.

My dad is a farmer. These days his farm work includes growing soy beans and grains like: wheat, rye, corn. He used to be certified organic in fact. He has also tapped the many maple trees on the place to boil down for maple syrup for years. He’d sell it too.

It really was and is (hey, my folks still live there, minus a few of the above these days) a wonderful place they have, complete with woods and creek on the “back 40” (OK, it wasn’t that big, but you get the idea). I am very grateful to them for the many things they taught me about doing it yourself. As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention” and sometimes they had to do with what they had. Money was not in abundance especially in the young married years. My folks moved to that property when my mother was pregnant with me and my older brother was only 1 year old. It’s the only home place I’ve ever known. So as far as “homesteading”, my folks did well I think, for busy people.

Over the years, my mother had many health problems. She was sick much of her own growing up years. She was a nurse by trade. She had to stop working when she was too sick most of the time. Fast forward a few years. My mother was able to find help and relief for her ailments through natural therapies and using herbs and whole foods. Whole grains, brown rice, even sprouts made it to our table. We used real butter and honey. We still had the occasional “treat,” but we saw healthier substitutions of the overly processed stuff more of the time.

Fast forward a little more. She started her own “health food” store which included bulk foods and herbs & other supplements. Eventually she also carried packaged items, alternative cleaning supplies, water filters, and juicers too. She also learned about helping others and did consulting to teach others about how to help their bodies get better and live healthier. She is a great lady. These days she deals with what Parkinson ’s disease sends her way the best she can. She closed her store more than 2 years ago now (I know, we all miss it), after she had double knee replacement surgery.

So as you can see, there are many things in my background that helped to shape my view of food…Everyone responds to food through their own “filter” – this is mine, up to about when I got married.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Blog Photo & Purpose

You might be wondering about the photo at the top of this blog. Beautiful, isn't it? It's a photo my wonderful husband took on his latest mountain trip here in Ghana (April 2008). We live not far from there (depending on road conditions and traffic going out of town).

It just reminds me of my desire to "live simply so others can simply live".

Ghana is not a fully industrialized country. It makes me wonder what the United States was like before all the "modernizing" it has gone through in the last couple hundred years.

This blog is dedicated to all those people who think there is no one out there like you. Somewhere in this world, there are people that feel like you do, think like you do, and believe like you do, and maybe even look like you (not all at the same time, mind you...). I know because I once felt that way myself.

This blog is also dedicated to posts that help encourage others. To borrow from a song I know, "to make it easy for those behind." Meaning that I want to share my experiences to help others that wish they had known this before... as if I were able to pass this on to myself about 15 years ago when I married my life long companion. We have been through a lot together.

So join me. Maybe I'll need encouragement along the "living lightly, but purposefully" road as well.

Shalom,
Loretta