Saturday, December 31, 2011

And now...what you've all been waiting for...

...Happy New Year!  =)

The great thing about another year is a new start. As I think about goals, I am reminded of the blessings I've received from the Lord - blessings of new friendships, new challenges, meaningful family time...the list could go on...

What are you going to do in 2012 that will make a difference in someone's life? Do you have a legacy to leave when your time on earth is done? Maybe I'm the only one who considers this at the beginning of each year. But it does make me think about my future...and my children's future.

There's a saying that sounds like this, "If you have no goals, you'll hit them every time." Hmmm. Something to think about isn't it?

There's a song I like to sing that goes like this:

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end,
They are new every morning, new every morning,
Great is thy faithfulness, Oh, Lord,
Great is thy faithfulness."

It reminds me that we have a fresh day every single day! The mornings are new. We don't have to wait for January 1st every year to start over, reboot, refresh, or make new goals. We can do it every day. And what a true blessing that is. To know that we can make changes and start right where we are. We don't have to wait for the timing to be right, or be at the right place in life, or have the right resources/friends/car/house/you-name-it...We can do it anytime. And the great thing about that is, you can do it anywhere, anytime, with whatever you have/don't have, right now.

You, my friend, are irreplaceable and I can't wait to see what the Lord can do in your life! May this year be your best year ever. May tomorrow be better than today.

Blessings to you today. ~ Loretta

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Resolutions???

Where has the time gone? I was talking to my son today and we realized that people still have time to finish their 2011 New Year's resolutions. Not too much time, mind you, but consider it a head start for January.

I'm not one to put too much stock in resolutions, but it does get one thinking about good habits replacing old bad habits. Or getting one more thing done on your "life" list.

Two years ago, I wrote this post about broken resolutions. I hope that you take some time to think about being positive and maybe using this chance to be kind to another.

On another note: One of my hopes this year was to gain the chance to be slim (part one & part two). I have happy news...I not only had the chance, I took the opportunity to be responsible for my own health. The results so far have been good, but it will be saved for another post. Suffice it to say, I am happy that I've made a turn for the better.

I realize that support to get to goals is a must. No one can really, truly, do things alone. With God's help, my husband, children and others supportive of my goal, I am slowly able to believe that such a thing is possible.

Oh, and I didn't start in January with the idea to do anything spectacular this year. But I have a feeling that this year will be the best one yet! Stay tuned for a post soon to come! =)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Raw "Peanut" Sauce

I've been loving the recipes in Ani Phyo's book, "Ani's Raw Food Essentials". I think this book is a must for those of us who want to incorporate more raw foods into our diet. I'm not 100% raw, but you can't go wrong with more raw food in your diet. 

Here's a great savory recipe to try. And even if you put it on a base of something cooked, it's still got to be better than other dairy laden sauces out there. Definitely more interesting than tomato based sauces too. Add a little spice with this almond version of peanut sauce. I tweaked this recipe a little to include more almonds and less coconut oil than her original recipe. My version follows. 

Please feel free to change the amount of hot pepper to your liking. Remember the fat content of this recipe will definitely tone down most of the spiciness. So don't be afraid to put some in, taste and add more to get some zing. You might be surprised to find how much you can put in. I actually used a bit of dried cayenne pepper, since I didn't have any fresh jalapenos on hand. 

Raw "Peanut" Sauce

1/2 cup raw almond butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 Tablespoons (or less) Nama Shoyu (soy sauce)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon seeded, chopped jalapeno (or to taste)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 water

Blend everything together in a blender until smooth.

Use this sauce for anything you would use peanut sauce with. Be creative. This is a nice, but rich sauce, so think of low calorie veggies for topping with this sauce. Suggestions: shredded cabbage, kelp noodles, sliced cucumbers, zucchini shreds. Thinned down with a bit of water, you can even use it as a salad dressing.

When I made this, I actually doubled it, since I wanted leftovers for a couple of meals. My family loved it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Almond Butter

We enjoy almond butter instead of peanut butter these days. I like using raw nuts and seeds to make nut/seed butter. No roasting required. Good raw food.

I want to note here that it is harder to find true raw almonds. As many of you know, almonds are now routinely pasteurized in the US. This means that raw almonds are heated before they go to market and therefore are not truly raw. You may wish to seek out a health food store (or source online) that carries raw (versus pasteurized) almonds. They will cost more per pound, but they have all the life still in them.    

Making this recipe will generate some heat. If you prefer to make it on the cool side, thereby preserving all the enzymes and keeping it totally raw, then you'll need to be patient. Just process until you feel some warmth, but not too much. Stop the food processor and let it cool. After cooling, continue and repeat until smooth. This may take a few hours. You can do this over the course of the day, while doing other things.

To make 1 cup of almond butter:

Homemade Almond Butter

2 cups raw almonds
salt, to taste (optional)

Using a food processor with the "S" metal blade in, process the almonds for a few minutes until smooth. Every few minutes, you'll need to stop processing and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and continue. (A food processor works best, but a good blender can work in a pinch. A food processor is easier to clean, in my opinion, after making a nut butter.)

As a variation, you could add a (preferably raw) sweetener after the nut butter is smooth as a mix in. This will limit its use to sweet preparations though.

Look for a raw "peanut" sauce recipe coming soon that uses the (unsalted) basic recipe for almond butter.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wild Rice Stuffing

I thought I would try a gluten free recipe for stuffing this year. It's been so long since I've had wild rice and this sounded so good. It was delicious when I made it today. Even got compliments on it tonight at a church dinner. If you've ever had wild rice, you've experienced that wonderful chewy texture. It'll all come back to you, when you have some of this stuffing.

You can substitute other dried fruit and nuts instead of apricots and pecans. If you don't want a sweet element to it, just leave out the dried fruit altogether. Allergic to nuts? Leave out the pecans. This is made like bread stuffing, but uses brown rice and wild rice instead. You could also use this to stuff peppers, winter squash and maybe even mushrooms. Tell me how you use it.

Wild Rice Stuffing

1 Tablespoon grapeseed/coconut oil
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup uncooked wild rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage (or 3/4 Tablespoons dried)
1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup chopped pecans
salt, to taste

In a large pot, on medium-high heat, saute celery, onion, wild rice, and garlic in oil for about 3 minutes. Stir in broth and sage. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and cover, then simmer for 25 minutes. Stir in brown rice and bring to boil again. Cover, reduce heat, and cook for 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, let stand, covered for 10 minutes. Stir in apricots and pecans and taste for seasoning.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Black Bean Chipotle Chili

A recent chili "cook-off" got me thinking about posting a chili recipe. I made some changes to one at Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. It has a rich, deep, dark color that looks and tastes wonderful. To make prep quick, use canned versions of the tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans.

This large recipe makes almost 4 quarts. Great for freezing ahead. As is, this recipe is mild enough while still giving a spicy heat. Instead of chili powder to give this soup its classic flavor, it relies on the real deal, a smoky chipotle pepper. If you want to cook in even more spicy heat, add another chipotle pepper to the recipe and enjoy.

Black Bean Chipotle Chili 

1 dried chipotle pepper, soaked with 3/4 cup water, pureed in blender
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil/coconut oil
2 medium onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow (or red or orange) bell pepper, chopped
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with chiles
2 cups tomato sauce
6 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika (or smoked paprika)
4 teaspoons carob powder, mixed with 1/2 cup hot water
2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup raisins, soaked & pureed with 1 cup water
1/2 c. cornmeal, mixed with 1/4 cup water (optional thickener)

During the making of this chili, I was using my blender for a bit of the prep. You'll notice that the dried chipotle pepper and the raisins will need pureed (separately). Keep your blender (or personal blender handy for these two steps. A bowl and whisk will be helpful for the carob powder and optional cornmeal (also mixed separately). Because of these steps, I added water during cooking time (rinsing the blender and other containers, etc), so there is an option to add in a little cornmeal toward the end if you so desire. If you like a little more liquid in your chili, feel free to leave the cornmeal out.

Remove the stem (if still attached) from the dried pepper before soaking and proceed to soak and prep the pepper as stated, then set aside. Prepare the raisins as well at this time.

In a large pot, saute the onion in oil. When softened, add the garlic and bell pepper, then cook a few more minutes. Add the chili pepper puree, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, corn, and spices (except the carob, salt and raisins). Bring to a simmer.

In a small bowl, prepare the carob powder. Add it to the chili. Taste for seasonings and add salt to taste. Add raisin puree. You may add the optional cornmeal at this time, stirring the soup as you add it.  Cook for another 30 minutes or more at a low simmer, stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Curried Nutmeat

This is from a book that I borrowed awhile back and never tried until now. The book, "Delights of The Garden" by Imar Hutchins has raw recipes that look different than you would expect, but it's a book to check out!

This recipe is a replacement for a raw curry flavored "meat" made with pecans. And yes, there seems to be a lot of spices, quantity wise. No mistake. Now I know why I've never achieved the true curry flavor that I've experienced in Indian restaurants.... Not enough herbs and spices! Really. The only major flavor difference will be your type of curry powder and how much pepper you add. A little of this goes a long way. Curry lovers, prepare to be amazed.

Curried Nutmeat

1 pound raw pecans
1 large onion, very finely chopped
1 /2 cup curry powder
1/2 cup scallions (green onions), chopped
1/4 cup thyme
1/4 cup parsley1 tablespoon sage
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 Tablespoons black pepper*
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper**

Grind pecans to a fine texture in a dry food processor using the S blade. Add finely chopped onion to the processor and process until a dough-like texture is achieved. Add curry powder, scallions and all other seasonings, then blend again. Add sea salt and pepper to taste. Spoon out in balls and serve with your favorite dish or use it to make sandwich. (We used it alongside boiled potatoes, and whatever dish we were having, over the course of a couple days.)

*I am still getting used to using black pepper in my cooking. I only used about 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. I will use more each time I make this to see were my preferred amount is.

**The day I made this we were beyond dangerously low on cayenne...we were out! So I actually did not use this at all. My 5 year old daughter (and the rest of us) loved this recipe as is. Next time I will put some cayenne pepper in the recipe, but probably not the full amount. My 13 year old son would be happy for more spice though. I may just keep out a portion for my daughter, then add the cayenne into the rest. Easy enough and everyone will be happy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Date Logs

Another raw sweet to add to your collection of vegan recipes...from the book, "Raw Energy" (2009) by Stephanie Tourles.

Date Logs

15 Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup dried (finely shredded) unsweetened coconut
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch sea salt

Soak the dates for 4 hours in purified water to cover by 1 inch. Drain and reserve the soak water to use in smoothies or just to drink. Put the dates, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Using your hands, mash and knead the ingredients until the coconut is incorporated into the moist dates and a stiff dough ball forms.

Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into nuggets or log shapes. Store in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months. They will not get hard, just firm, in the freezer.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Coconut "Bacon"

 When we first went vegetarian, we used a lot of those vegetarian "bac'uns" (soy based "bacon bits") for salads and for flavor in other dishes. We decided to try them in the organic version and it turned me off completely. I did not like them at all.

We aren't using tvp (textured vegetable protein made with soy) anymore and use very little soy foods these days. Every now and again though, I get a hankerin' for a flavor like bacon...

One of the things that other people may also miss when going vegetarian are certain meats. For some reason, it always seems to be pork based products. Bacon is one of those that come to mind.

Enter a book by Ani Phyo, "Ani's Raw Food Essentials" (2010) and some young coconuts in my fridge...and you've got the makings of some real flavor. Ironic that I would post this after my weight loss posts, but it is what it is....=)

This is not soy free, but you can play with the recipe a little. Experiment on your own. It does call for a food dehydrator, but you can work around this, if you don't have one, by using your oven set on a low temperature with the door ajar. 

Raw Coconut Bacon

2 cups coconut meat (from 3 to 4 Thai baby coconuts)
3 Tablespoons Nama Shoyu or Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 Tablespoons olive oil
a few drops of liquid smoke flavoring (optional, not raw)

When scraping the meat out of your coconuts, try to keep pieces as large as possible. Clean the meat by running your fingers over its surface, picking off any pieces of hard husk. Rinse with filtered water as a last step, and drain well. (I also patted them dry with a paper towel.)

Place the coconut meat in a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss to mix well. Lay the meat in a single layer on two 14-inch square Excalibur Dehydrator trays.

Dehydrate for 6-8 hours at 104 degrees F. The length of time will depend on how thick your coconut meat is. Check it and dry it to your liking. Don't over-dehydrate, because the more you dry it,the more it will shrink, and you'll be left with only a small amount of bacon.

Options: Replace the smoke flavor with herbs and spices to make different flavors. Try chipotle powder, garlic, dill, or oregano.

I would add here... the liquid from the marinade that will be leftover can be used for another batch of coconut or used otherwise in dressings or other sauces, etc. So please don't throw it out...very little will actually soak in. Make sure to use it up within a few days.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How I Open a Young Coconut

A word or two to begin...Every young coconut (sometimes called baby or Thai coconuts) is different. When my son took these photos of me opening one recently, it happened to have a lot of coconut meat and only about 1 cup of coconut "water". Usually I get thinner coconut meat and more "water", about 2 cups worth. So keep this in mind, especially if you've never opened a young coconut before.

There are many uses for young coconut meat (or "flesh") and it's liquid or "water". I will have a good use for this demo because of the next recipe I intend to share with you to use the meat. The water in it can be used for many of which is green smoothies (of course!). I am just touching the tip of the iceberg with the many things you can do with fresh coconut. And I'm just thinking of the raw uses.

So gather your tools...mine on this day were a cutting board (with cloth underneath to keep it in place), cleaver, mallet, a smaller knife, and a 2 cup measuring cup for the water... and a young coconut.

Ready to go!

I make 4 cuts in a square shape centered around the top "tip". I always leave the plastic wrap packaging on.

When the cuts are sufficient, you should be able to lift off a "cap".

Usually when you get this far, the liquid will start to run out some.

As you can see, my coconut "cap" came off without the meat attached to it.

Here I am cutting a small opening for the liquid to get the liquid out.

It's a thick one this time.

Getting my measuring cup handy, I pour in all the liquid, a total of 1 cup.

After the liquid is out, I make another deep cut with the cleaver to split the whole thing in two.

I'm pulling the two halves apart after another deep cut down the middle. This will make it easier to get the meat out.

This is very thick meat. This is why so little liquid came out.

Using a spoon, scraping the meat out. Sometimes turning it the other way also yields good results. Try both ways.
Ideally, your white coconut meat will separate from the dark brown "skin", but sometimes you have to take it off by hand. The meat will not always come off in this big of a piece, but each time is different.      

After this point you will want to have a bowl nearby to put your coconut pieces in. I would add that a swish in filtered water will get rid of any husk still clinging to the meat and while doing that you can further clean off any dark brown "skin" by removing them by hand.

Now you've got coconut "water" and "meat" ready for your recipes. Things like coconut milk, for starters...not to mention eating the meat fresh, as is, and drinking the liquid straight up...especially good if you've kept them chilled like you should - yum!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Slim Chance: Part 2

And now... continued from Part 1...

Anyone that has known me since childhood, can attest to the fact that I really was a slim child. But that all changed once I hit junior high school. I was heavy in my teen years. I had stretch marks to prove all the weight I gained in high school!

It followed me into married life and until I had my first child, I really hadn't known what it was like to be thin as an adult. My first taste of being "adult" thin was after I had my firstborn child. Apparently I had lost my own weight, while being pregnant. Of course I gained weight overall, but within a week of the birth I was under what I weighed 9 months before!

In fact, to tell you how big I was when I graduated from high school...I weighed the same as when I was 9 months pregnant! That first child weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces! The weight simply was not a issue for me then...that was in my 20's.  I had only gained 15 pounds in that pregnancy.

After a while, I gained back some of the weight, although never to see my high school numbers again, thankfully. When I was pregnant with my second, I was in my 30's, and this time things were different. I had less energy, didn't eat nearly as well...I gained about 50 pounds! The weight was hard to get rid of this time around. My second child, at birth, weighed 8 pounds even.

We moved to Ghana for two years when this baby was 4 months old. With a food change and walking more (no car), the weight pretty much left ...and easily too. When it's hot out, it's hard to eat too much and water was about the only thing I drank. Easily we had a change of lifestyle that had weight loss built in.

I did get down to a slimmer weight this way... But moving back and the stress associated with an overseas move put about 10 pounds back on. Give it another 3 years and you've got a few pounds to lose.

As I would soon learn, there was a website that I could use to track my calories and exercise. It also had "friend ability" (you could get help from others and be accountable to friends). When I first started, I could hardly believe how many calories I was really eating! I had no idea. It was then I realized...No wonder I was not thinner! I had been fooling myself.

I like seeing all the numbers and the Lose It! website (and phone app) are helpful to many who have lost weight using this food diary. You use any food plan and exercise regimen you like. This is just a tool to keep track of food and exercise, with an emphasis on weight loss. And it's free!

So I continue on this vegan path I've been on, emphasizing smaller portions, more raw and lean foods, and exercise, a little more lately. Using a free website and my rebounder (mini trampoline) at home is working for me to, once again, get slim.

My journey from late July till now has been a good one. In that time I have lost more than 16 pounds and I'm almost to my goal weight. A real dream goal weight. I have never been this light in my entire adult life.

And guess what? Two months after I started actively losing weight, my husband also joined me. Our weight loss goals (number of pounds to lose) are within one pound of each other and he is almost there as well. It's fun to support each other this way! =)

I won't say it's easy, but the work has been good and rewarding to have another chance at being slim!

A Slim Chance: Part 1

I know that for many people reading this, you will relate to the following, in one form or another... about being overweight.

Recently in late July this year, I decided to do something I've never done before. Count calories. The reason being that I felt I wanted to rid myself of that last 20 pounds or so that I was unable to shake just by "eating well."

I remember telling someone within the last year that I really never "had" to count calories, because I didn't feel (at the time) that I had any weight issues. I think that as soon as I said it, I felt a twinge of guilt knowing that I wasn't really at a good weight....meaning that I wasn't particularly heavy, but I knew I wasn't very fit for sure. I realized that I'm not getting any younger and fitness doesn't just happen.

I love dealing with food and that is an area I feel well rounded in health-wise. But I needed to get moving, in a big way. About early July, I decided to walk my husband to work in the mornings for exercise. We moved into town one year ago and he's been walking to and from work everyday since (unless in rains, busy schedule, etc). Since the days are longer in July, it was a nice way to greet the morning and watch the sun rise. Considering he leaves the house at 5:45 am, I think it went well. And we could talk on the way... Every woman needs to talk to her husband.

When it was got too dark and cold to keep doing this in the mornings, in October, I decided to do my workouts at home instead. My husband still walks to work and has for this entire year. Yes, we have snow and ice in the winter here. And his walk to work is 1 and 2/3 mile one way. He's a hard worker on the job too. He is amazing. =)

Stay tuned for Part 2...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Forks Over Knives" Documentary Film

With all these documentary reviews I written lately, it feels like I've switched my focus on the blog. It isn't so. The films I've been watching lately just seem to get better. I think it's because my realization of what they are saying is hitting home.

Much of the time, watching this, I found myself just nodding to myself...not because I know this already, but I'm really glad to see the whole foods, plant-based diet being promoted in a big way. They present it in a "just see this to believe it" sort of way. Following some people who changed their eating habits on the path to better health, doctor monitored and all, you find out their results.

Featured are Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemist from Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former top surgeon at Cleveland Clinic. Two men of near the same age and both raised on farms, finally meet after decades of work in their respective fields of research. They put their knowledge to use to help those "least likely to succeed" in their personal health journey. They practice what they preach and still maintain active lives using a whole foods, plant-based approach.

You see everyday people, changing what they eat, with wonderful results. I want to emphasize whole foods here. Being vegetarian and now vegan for a number of years, I can honestly say that my journey has not always been whole foods.

Of course, pre-veggie days, it might have been slightly better that most standard American diets out there, but not "whole" in any sense. Just the processing alone of the foods we Americans eat is just plain crazy. Some foods don't even resemble their plant based "roots". Did you know that some children don't know what many vegetables are, let alone know that they grow out of the ground?

Seriously, we are so far from our farmer "forefathers" that we just buy it in a package, take it home, freeze it, then "nuke" it in the microwave, in its own bag, nonetheless. Then we eat it on disposable plates with paper napkins on the side. And throw the whole disposable mess away when we are done. It's like fast food, only "homemade" instead.

Did you know there are actual cooking shows on television that you can watch that feature someone putting cans of this and boxes of that, a little artificial this and, throw in some decor for your next party, and "your done" kind of stuff? 

Granted some people actually do this. It's a modern trend happening because people don't know how to cook and prepare food that tastes homemade. What people know is pre-made food, mass produced for the grocery shelves, that is warmed up at home.

And yes, you can gain weight and not be in the best health as a vegetarian, even  vegan....ask me how I know. I would also venture to say though, that most people everywhere eating whatever they eat, also gain weight and are not in the best health. That being said, we all could use some pep talk now and again to make us aware that we all must plan to thrive by doing better and not just do it "good enough."

"Good enough" just isn't...You must make it a goal to eat well and avoid the "knife" that the title of this documentary alludes to. We must take back our health and show our children the way to pass it on to the next generation.

I believe the film claims correctly that a whole foods, plant based diet is the way to go.

Soapbox is put away now...Just want to make sure you know that this is a must see.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Ingredients" Documentary

Another documentary that focuses of local foods and farmer's markets in called "Ingredients - The Local Food Movement Takes Root". Here's a link to the website: It talks about how local foods are so much more sustainable, as there are minimal costs involved in transporting foods.

There is also more variety available because some produce doesn't ship well for long distances or over time. I have realized that the less time there is from garden to the table, the tastier and more nutritious the food is. It is so fresh looking and beautiful.

The film is only a little over an hour long and is similar to the "Food Matters" documentary that I wrote about earlier. Our family watched it recently after we put a hold on this film at our local library.

It is encouraging to see how chefs and restaurants are tasting the difference that local, organic foods have on their menu and customer's enjoyment. In fact, some are writing their menus daily based on what is available that day in the gardens.

They feature one woman, a local foods advocate, who has been growing all her own food. Very interesting that she doesn't go to the store for any of the produce she eats. She simply grows it all.  A whole different twist on "farm to table" that many (especially city folk) don't see.

It focuses on sustainability-minded farmers in Oregon, New York and Ohio. There's also a good explanation of what the "bio-dynamic" agriculture method is all about. 

I encourage all to view this film. It has excellent photography to appropriately show the beautiful local foods we all can enjoy.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Potlajella: Eggplant Dip

I tried a new recipe yesterday and it was a hit at our house. Even my five year old daughter gave it a "thumbs up". I found this in an old Vegetarian Times article, "A Father's Hands", by Lisa J. Solomon, September 2003 issue. I had an eggplant to use and figured I'd give it a go.

Archie's Potlajella (Eggplant Dip)

2 large, firm eggplants
1 small white or red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red tomato
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
pinch crushed red pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash eggplants and prick with a fork a few times. Put into a baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

When cool, peel and discard skin. Place the eggplants in food processor or blender and pulse until  they are coarsely chopped. Add onion, garlic, tomato and seasonings (not oil) pulsing until mixed. Be careful not to overprocess - you do not want it smooth or liquid. (You can also do this by hand instead of using a food processor or a blender.) Place eggplant mixture in a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Food Matters" Documentary

I recently watched "Food Matters" with my family. I highly recommend it to everyone. Informative and eye opening. It reinforces what I've already learned and reminds me to stay vigilant on matters of food and health care.

You really are what you eat! Watch the video.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Raw Zucchini Lemon Soup

This is a great recipe to share in the throes of summer zucchini season. I think most of you can understand what that means if you've ever had a garden or you have a close friend with one. Actually I can't help but pick up more zucchini every time I go to the farmer's market in town. Using real, local, fresh produce will yield wonderful results whenever you want great tasting food.

I really love zucchini and there are so many ways to prepare it. Here I present to you a raw recipe that is refreshing and very nice to serve chilled. Easy to whip up, literally, all you do is to puree the raw ingredients together and you are done. If you use chilled water and cold ingredients, you will not need to chill further.

I love using my Vitamix blender for makes easy work of grinding up the spices and chunks of vegetables at the same time. I found this recipe on a "Chef Mary B" DVD that I borrowed from the local library. She calls it Zucchini Lemon Bisque.

Raw Zucchini Lemon Soup

Combine in a blender:

7 cups zucchini, peeled & chopped
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup lemon juice (or 2 lemons, juiced)
1/2 cup olive oil, extra virgin (or less)
2-3 cloves garlic (use only 1 for mild)
1 Tablespoon onion, dried, granulated (or 1 small onion)
1 Tablespoon agave nectar (or 1 teaspoon honey)
1 Tablespoon sea salt (or seasoned salt instead)
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder (or whole cumin seeds)
pinch black pepper (6 whole black peppercorns)

Puree all in the blender. Garnish with fresh dill, after serving into bowls.

Makes about 6 cups pureed soup.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Farmer's Markets

I am really loving the farmer's markets this year. Last year we participated in a CSA, but this year we thought we'd try a farmer's market approach. I guess it goes back to how we shopped in Ghana and we enjoyed getting to know the merchants. We thought we'd have a (mini) garden this year, but that proved difficult with our time schedule.

In Ghana, we needed to buy about 98% of our produce at roadside stands. Since buying pre-frozen produce was so expensive, we got used to having to do everything from fresh and raw. Probably a very good thing. Trust me, buying tropical fruit, that was grown locally, was fun! And a lot cheaper too.

This year, I've made fresh raw salsa with farmer's market tomatoes, garlic, hot peppers, and red onions. I've made green smoothies with Swiss chard, kale and leaf lettuces bought at farmer's markets. I even braided some garlic too. Today I bought some basil that will be pesto tomorrow.

It's fun to try new things. I found some 100% beeswax votive candles today that I can't wait to use. They smell so good! We've found maple syrup, bread, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini (what's a summer without zucchini?), acorn squash, blueberries in addition to the others already mentioned and much more!

If you are not familiar with farmer's markets in your area, I encourage you to ask around. Find out the days and hours they are open and where they set up. You may find more than you think. If you are unfamiliar with something they sell, ask them how to use it and go and try it at home. Hopefully you've checked the recipes I've posted for many ideas on using fresh produce.

If you want to try something and I don't have a recipe for it here, please comment and tell me what you want to see. I can find one that might work for you.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Life Happening at Break-Neck Speed

Do you ever feel like this? I do. I just thought I'd share that this is why I haven't written recently.

Three months is a long time to take a break from blogging and I'm not sure when I'll be back. I just thought I'd check in...I intend to keep writing, but sometimes a mama just needs to be a mama. More importantly, a wife with a Titus chapter 2 focus.

No apology.

May the Lord bless you today.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More Green Smoothie Ideas & Tips

Since I wrote about making green smoothies in Africa, it's been almost 3 years now. I thought that it was time for an update on how I make them here in the states. I've also attended an event where Victoria Boutenko appeared and saw first hand how she makes her smoothies.

Use a different type every day, preferably organic. Spring mix, spinach, romaine, collards, kale, parsley, etc. I use 5 to 6 ounces per batch, which makes about 2 quarts. I put the greens in first in the blender and yes, it will look like a lot. It will get smaller when you add some water and blend a little, then you can add fruit and other ingredients. I absolutely love parsley as the greens in smoothies and I didn't even think I liked parsley! Try mint for part of the greens.

Water is my standard, adding about 1-2 cups, depending on how juicy the fruit is. This depends on how thick or thin you want it. I also add a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, either freshly made or in small frozen cubes I make when I juice a bunch of lemons at once. Coconut water from a fresh young coconut is fantastic and considered the best way to replace electrolytes that nature can offer.

Fruit portion...

Save money when buying bananas when they are reduced. Take home, peel, then freeze (make sure they don't touch each other) on a baking sheet, if you have many of them. After I peel them, I cut them into thirds, so they freeze faster and are smaller for my blender to break down easier. You do not need to use bananas at all or you can use less. It gives the smoothie a creamy texture and sweetness, but these qualities can be obtained other ways.

I add 1 or 2 apples to stretch my other more expensive fruit. I always use organic. I add seeds and all, cutting out only the stem and blossom end.

Other fruit:
Put in what fruit you like. It helps to have something sweet combined with berries to make up for their not-so-sweet taste. I don't usually add any citrus (other than lemon juice), but when I make an exception, I always peel with a knife only the outer colored part, leaving the white on (bioflavanoids). Pineapple cores can go right in with the pineapple if you have a good blender.

You may not need to add anything since you have fruit in the smoothie. But sometimes you may feel it's not sweet enough. If I don't have room to add much bulk, I might add a tiny bit of stevia (doesn't spike blood sugar), remembering a little goes a long way. If I have some room, dates might go in to sweeten, unless fresh fruit would do. When I can, I try to use fresh or frozen fruit instead of dried fruit because I want more water and less concentrated sweet.

Optional veggies:
Cucumber, celery, sweet bell other words, mild, but juicy veggies can work here. I don't add too much of any of these since it may be hard to get the right sweetness I want. Also, don't add starchy veggies (carrots, peas, corn) as this will slow the digestive process down. Stick with those things that combine well with fruit and greens. Avocados work well and especially so if you don't use any bananas and still want it "creamy."

Other optional additions:
I realize some would not add in these other items, because it can slow the process of digestion down some. I feel that now and then it is a good idea to "supplement" this way. For children in the house not used to these things, it can be a way to get them into their bodies in agreeable ways (works for the greens!). I have added in (about 2 at one time) the following: 1 tablespoon chia seeds or 2 tablepspoons flax seeds (good for creamy texture), 3 tablespoons hemp hearts (great protein and good fats), 1 tablespoon whole leaf aloe vera juice (good digestive), 1-2 teaspoons fresh ginger (gives a great flavor, not hot this way and great to help digest), and/or carob powder as desired (gives it a chocolate-y flavor).

Remember that with smoothies you adjust amounts as desired. The point is to get the greens in and the more the better. Fruit helps to make it palatable. The liquid is to make it blend. Have some fruit frozen in small pieces to give it a cold temperature or you can add some ice in with the liquid.

It helps to have a powerful blender to blend some of these things. I love my Vitamix. It gets a workout everyday. Now if only my workouts were as often!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Miso Soup

Sometimes when I want something light and warm I think of miso soup. Since I don't use bouillon, but I like brothy type soups, this hits the spot.  Remember that for each serving, you'll need to multiply accordingly (ex: 4 servings for 4 people = 4 times recipe).

Wakame is a sea vegetable sold in dried form. Scallions are also called green onions. Try adding any or all of the following: finely shredded carrots, minced celery, finely sliced cabbage, or sliced shiitake mushrooms. I skip the tofu. I tend to use more water than called for and may soak the wakame in another bowl. Children love to watch it "bloom."

I like the American Miso Company Miso Master brand of miso. They use only organic ingredients. I usually have one dark (saltier) and one light (sweeter) in my fridge. When I made this soup I used the red miso. This is their recipe from the insert inside the container. Look around on their website for more recipes that use miso, sea vegetables, and other Japanese items.

Miso Soup

For each serving, simmer:
1/2 teaspoon chopped scallion
1/2 teaspoon wakame
several pieces of cubed tofu
1 cup water or stock

Dissolve in another bowl:
2 teaspoons miso in small amount of water

Remove soup from heat and add in the miso. Do not boil miso.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts about Money and Food

   I am still on a journey. A journey to get to where I'm going. Some people may read this blog and other blogs and think that we have it all together. Fact is, we are really on the road just like you are. We've just written about our experience so far. That's is our experience, epiphanies, memories, aha! moments, and advice we might have for others coming along behind us.

I know that the following post is long, but I didn't want to break it up into more posts. I hope you'll read it through and comment.

   Recently a friendly neighbor asked where we shop for food. Knowing our "special" diet, I think she wondered about the healthy food we try to eat and where to obtain the like. My answer was a long one, as it isn't one specific place. Rather it's a few places, depending on where I may be or what I need. To say that, seems logical, however we do not shop at only "health food" type places or only farmer's markets.

   As I've stated on the blog before, we do consider the cost and live on less than we make. Eating on a budget seems to be all the buzz lately as people claim the economy has changed their financial outlook.

   I've written about some specific people who have had impact for me in this particular area. These things have really shaped how we go about our journey. One thing that I have realized is that there is not one single solution for everyone. No magic bullet.

   I have come up with what works for me at this time. It may change, and, by the way, it has many times over and over....I think they call it growing, progressing, and generally moving towards a goal.

   Years ago, I thought that if I just cut out certain things that I would be finally eating right. For example: no bleached white flour, no white rice, no white sugar, no white hydrogenated shortening, no white table salt. I substituted those with unbleached flour, brown rice, turbinado ("raw") sugar, butter (in my non-vegan days), and sea salt. And in my pre-vegetarian days: no pork products, no non-fish seafood, no lard, or not use lots of red meat or dairy. Instead I would eat more chicken and fish, and cut down on red meat and use "better" forms of dairy.

   All these are a good step forward I may agree, however it may seem to some people that if it stops there, they are set for life. There is so much more to life than what we eat. To say that may make you think that what we eat is not important. That couldn't be further from the truth. What we eat makes our body into what it is.
   If you eat "nutritionally poor" food, you will have a body that has to figure out how to come up with the building blocks for your muscles, bones, blood, organs, glands, arteries, veins, and so on. If you eat "nutritionally dense" foods (have a high percentage of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and other nutrients), then your body will have what it needs to renew your body's building blocks like it should.

   To eat what you want with no regard for nutrition and then take a few supplements to cover your bases isn't what I mean either. That approach does nothing to help you or your pocketbook. Our "SAD" ("Standard American Diet") food is not helping.

   Have you noticed prominent fast food restaurants have been introducing more and more "healthy" foods to their menus lately. In an effort to save their reputation for inadequate nutrition (and maybe more so to cater to those that simply choose not to eat their food, so they still make money) they have changed things. I am always glad for more choices. Glad that I can still choose to eat at home, thank you.

   I enjoy good food. I don't know anyone that doesn't. It is true that you need food to live, but one must not live to eat. There's a saying that if something tastes so good, you say "it is to die for". In health food circles, they may say instead, "it is to live for". The difference being, of course, that the food can taste good and be good for you.
   To go back to my list of foods (above) I should do without, I now think about many things when I consider what to buy. I may choose whole (sometimes sprouted) grains, fresh & dried fruits and raw honey to sweeten, use avocados, nuts and seeds to get my fats, and use herbs and spices to flavor my food. In the animal products department, we have decided to go "whole hog"  =) and cut it out altogether. And you know what? I don't miss it. I find that we eat many more vegetables than we used to and more whole fruits and I've introduced more nuts and seeds than we ate before. And I can't go further without mentioning that raw foods have become really prominent in our diet. When we do have cooked foods, I try to make sure that they are still full of nutrition and things I and my family need to build good healthy bodies.

   My taste buds have changed. My "pinch your pennies" attitude about things doesn't always apply to food anymore. I can still buy dried beans from a discount store and know it's helping to save money and buy nutrition at the same time. I may look for organic whole grain pasta and organic dried fruit. It's amazing when you look, what you find in any store that can help you save money and still get the nutrients you need. But remember that apple may seem expensive compared to the candy bar, but we all know which one is the better buy nutritionally.

   I just made a raw birthday cake for my husband that I know he'll love and I had a lovely little four year old help me. This was also the cake she requested for her fourth birthday last year. And we call it raw cake. Imagine that.

   There are so many things you can do "one better" than you did before. Keep moving on the journey and you'll never get tired of the many ways to eat better and enjoy it. I have learned so much about food, but I haven't "arrived" by any stretch of the imagination. What I've learned has worked for me. I'm glad to share it with you.

   When it comes to saving money on food expenses, please don't shortchange your family's health. Save in other areas so that you can afford the apple instead of the candy bar. Start a garden, or like we are planning, garden where you can (thanks, Katie!). You may find more "gold" than you planned when you dig into that dirt.

   I write mostly to give you food for thought so that you never stop learning. Learn something new everyday. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Blue Vinyl Documentary

Every now and again we watch a DVD from the local library for something different. Enter "Blue Vinyl", a documentary that says on the cover, "toxic comedy." Hmmm...interesting.

It turns out to be an expose about the the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) industry. It was very informative and served to solidify my desire to build our own home one day.

Filmmaker Judith Helfand co-directs with Daniel B. Gold in this Sundance award-winning film. They do a great job at giving us the story in a sort of comic relief way. They bring out such irony in the way they present their findings. Judith especially because this involves her own parent's decision about residing their house. We walk through it with them over the course of a few years time.

Of particular interest to us was the piece about Habitat for Humanity, since we were once volunteers with Habitat. Suffice it to say, this is one of those must see documentaries that I come across and would recommend to anyone. Period. Very interesting indeed.

Check it out on their website, My House Is Your House.Org.