Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

It was another long day for us. Our day started very early at the farmers’ market.

After that there was hiking at a state park in the Appalachians.

Next we stopped at the C&O Canal.

Then we visited an old cemetery because I find them fascinating and it was Halloween.

There was some outlet shopping.

Finally we were home for dinner after 8pm. Since our day started at 6am I am exhausted. I will fill you in on everything tomorrow. I wanted to give you a quick peek into our day. Talk to you all again tomorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

No Bloodshed at the Vet, Shopping and Dinner Out

Is that what it looks like?  You will need to read on to find out.  ;-)

Have I said recently that I don’t like mornings? Nothing has changed there. This morning I had to be ready to leave the house much earlier than normal which is very tough for me.

We both had a quick breakfast of oatmeal with mixed berries and nuts. My breakfast included: ½ cup oatmeal, 1 cup water, 1 cup mixed frozen berries (no sugar added), ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and 2 tablespoons sliced almonds.

What a day we had today. It started early with a trip to the veterinarian. We were both grateful that Nicco (aka Binky, aka Danger Kitty) didn’t bite anyone. He did his best impersonation of Exorcist cat but no one got hurt, including him. All three of the felines need to have dental procedures soon. Can’t say I am looking forward to that process. But we all have those moments we don’t look forward to in life. When we got home from the vet to say all three cats were ticked would be too mild. The vaccinations and residual muscle pain resulted in chaos. There was nothing but hissing, swatting, and running around. It was a zoo at our place. The fur children were upset for over an hour after we got home and that was after a 45 minute ride back from the vet.

I know it sounds crazy that we go that far to the vet but he is practically part of the family. I have known the vet since right after he became a DVM and before he had his own practice.  Actually I have known my vet longer than husband which says it all.  Since the vet and his wife, also a veterinarian, started their practice we have made the drive to the suburbs to have them care for the cats. Earle is so wonderful with the cats I can’t imagine anyone else taking care of my fur babies. 

When we got home my father had left a message that he overslept this morning and would still be exercising when we normally get together to eat so he needed to cancel. That was a relief since I was not actually in the mood to cook and wanted to take it easy today.  I guess you could say I was being lazy. Then our friend Louis called to see if we were available for dinner tonight. Wow I get the entire day off from cooking. Woo hoo! I am too happy about that aren’t I? LOL

We had the end of the smoky black-eyed peas with shitakes to tide us over for a couple of hours while we ran a few errands

After the three amigos calmed down Dan and I ran out for a while. We went to the health food store.

While at the health food store we got a fresh juice or carrot, beet and romaine. Since our juice at home contains kale, ginger and lemon this was almost too sweet. It is amazing how much our taste buds have changed.

I found a few interesting things at the health food store including: real powdered wasabi, natto miso, hatcho miso (aka Tekka), raw granola without added oil, and vanilla/nut flavored Teeccino. It was a productive stop.

Next we stopped at the library because I had books on hold. I picked up Tracy Anderson’s “The 30-Day Method” and “The Alchemist” by Paul Coelho. I have heard good things about the exercise aspects of “The 30-Day Method” so I am anxious to read it. Jill recommended “The Alchemist” so I am also looking forward to that too.

While we were in the neighborhood we stopped at Wegman’s. I took the opportunity to replenish my bean inventory since I don’t think you can ever have too many beans on hand.  ;-) We also needed more raw sesame and pumpkin seeds. Since they had organic walnuts in the bulk section (I think this is new) we grabbed two pounds of those and Dagoba organic cocoa powder.

Mid-afternoon we had a salad of marinated mustard greens, shredded carrot, dried blueberries, raw sunflower seeds and apple cider vinegar. We were both a little hungry and I felt like we hadn’t had enough produce today.  But I guess you can say we always feel like we need more produce. ;-)

I decided to cook a pound of great northern beans to turn into some type of bean dip or spread for tomorrow. I am not sure exactly how I am going to flavor it yet. That is something I will ponder later.

For dinner we met Louis at our local hangout. Ian was off tonight apparently being a good dad and doing something festive with his little ones.

Dan and I split a plate of roasted veggies (cauliflower, potato, sweet potato, portabella, carrots, beets, artichokes, red peppers and red onions) topped with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and a few pine nuts.

To accompany the veggies we ordered a whole wheat pizza with black olive tapenade, sliced potato, roasted red peppers, red onions and rosemary. This was good but more like a foccacia than a pizza. Next time I will add roasted mushrooms to the topping.

For dessert we eat got a small cup of fresh fruit (cantaloupe, honey dew, strawberry and Granny Smith apple).

Here is the shock of the evening. There was a Masi Pinot Grigio on the menu by the glass and I could not resist it. I “had” to order a glass for myself. Dan enjoyed the bouquet and one tiny sip. One of us has more self control when it comes to wine and it isn’t me. I love my Italian vino. Masi Amarone was our house wine which is where Massimo got his name. There was no way I could not order a glass of Masi tonight. See, I am not always good. ;-)

However we did also have green tea which you can just see peaking in on the side.  Besides we had our share of antioxidants today.  Since I haven't had a glass of wine is I don't know how long I do not feel too bad about this, though maybe I should. ;-)  But I will leave that for another day.

My buddy Louis found a Deruta platter for me today when he was shopping and knowing my addiction for that particular type of pottery he picked it up for me. Isn’t it adorable? I love that it isn’t the traditional colors. Thank you Louis! You are too good to me.

Signing out:

That is going to be it for us tonight. Tomorrow starts early with a trip to the market. It was a good day but a long one. I hope you all had a good day too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Baked Tofu and Agrodolce Cauliflower with Cucumber

Here is a preview of dinner tonight, baked tofu and agrodolce cauliflower with cucumber.

This morning:

What a good food day it was at our house yesterday. I am already feeling the pressure to live up to it today which is going to take some work if it is even possible. I loved both the savory oatmeal and the beans and green rice. It is unusual for me to come up with two meals in one day that result in the happy dance. ;-) Oh the pressure of it all, LOL.

The cold front has definitely rolled through the high today is supposed to reach yesterday’s low. Whoa, what happened to my upper 70’s? Good thing I took the time to enjoy them while they lasted as they seem to be gone now. This morning it was 52 degrees at 9am. Brrrr that felt especially cold after the warm front we had for a few days. Oh well, all good things must come to end. Hopefully we will have some pretty (and light) snow falls this winter to enjoy.

Breakfast for Dan this morning was his favorite mixed berry and nut oatmeal. He could eat this everyday and be perfectly content. I feel the need to change things around more than he does.

Dan took leftovers from dinner last night in his lunch today. We both liked the smoky beans and green rice a lot so I don’t expect it to stick around very long.

My breakfast was another bowl of savory oatmeal. This one contained the following: ½ cup oats, 1 cup water, 2 cups of spinach, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, 2 tablespoons salsa, 1 radish julienned, ½ tablespoon dehydrated leeks. I sprinkled a little no salt seasoning on top and that was it. I really love savory oatmeal for breakfast when it is cool outside. Thank you again Courtney for sharing the concept.

Here is the nutrition on this version:

Calories - 294.81
Calories From Fat (21%) - 61.44

Total Fat - 5.44g
Saturated Fat - 0.66g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 255.74mg
Potassium - 658.13mg
Total Carbohydrates - 39.95g
Fiber - 10.01g
Sugar - 2.57g
Protein - 9.01g

I checked on my folks, did a little light housekeeping for them and watched a roast my father had in the oven while he went to pick up my mother from her hair appointment. I had to take the opportunity to snoop in their cupboards. OMG, talk about processed food *shakes head* I wouldn’t eat 95% of what my parents have in the house that they call food. No wonder my meals are such a culture shock for them. I guess I should be amazed that they eat anything I cook, LOL.

At mid-day I had an enormous apple and two Brazil nuts. I thought I was hungry but the apple was so large that it and the two nuts were more than enough.

Next I headed for the garden to for a little fall clean up. It is sad to see the little plants winding down. It seems like we have such a short growing season here but that is probably just my imagination. I love having my herb garden to use all summer. That is the part of the garden I miss the most in the winter. Do any of you have an Aerogarden? I have thinking of buying one for herbs for a few years but haven’t done it since I want the herbs to be organic. I would love to hear your experiences with the Aerogarden.

Mid afternoon had some of the leftover smoky black-eyed peas and green rice. Darn I like this stuff. This may actually have to be a repeat soon. I really enjoyed this dish.

Tomorrow there will be excessive excitement in our lives. The three amigos (Luca Belle, Massimo and Nicco) have their annual wellness check up with the vet. I dread this trip every year. Nicco is particularly poorly behaved at the vet which is why he has a warning on his medical record. That is when we started affectionately referring to him as “danger kitty”. Hard to imagine that six pound white puff ball could be so bad isn’t it? He has bitten more people at the vet office than I care to admit. In fact he is so bad that only the vet that I have known for 30 years likes to deal with him. Sad isn’t it? I always end up leaving the vet apologizing for his bad behavior. Dan gets to be the cat holder so that Nicoo can’t bite anyone while he is being examined. Let’s hope everyone leaves the vet unscathed tomorrow. I will fill you on the antics when we get home. *sigh*

Knowing that tomorrow will be a busy morning with the furries I know I need to think about food today for the mid-day tomorrow with my parents. As always I have absolutely no idea what I am going to make. Time to stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open and wait for inspiration to hit me.

Well, I tried the inspiration routine and nothing jumped out at me. I have decided that one option is to roast veggies for a salad with a quick soup, maybe in the Vitamix. If that doesn’t appeal to me tomorrow when we get back from the vet I may make a pasta or rice dish with veggies and a quick sauce and the Sicilian salad. I feel better having a few ideas that I can make quickly and easily.

Dinner tonight was something that I didn’t plan. I opted to bake two containers of tofu, one for tonight and one for another night. To go with that I made an agrodolce cauliflower dish with cucumber. Here is what I did:

Baked Tofu
Serves 4


2 – 14 ounce blocks extra firm tofu
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
dulse granules, to taste (used in place of salt)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 convection. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.

Drain the tofu and press if out its excess water. Cut the tofu into 4 slabs and place them on the baking sheet.

Combine the liquid smoke, Worcestershire. Add the dulse and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Use a pastry brush to apply the flavoring to the tofu.

Here is what the tofu should look like before you bake it. Bake until you like the texture. I baked mine for 45 minutes and flipped it at the 25 minute mark.

This is what it looks like when it is finished. You will notice that it shrinks by about 20 percent.

Nutritional information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 189.06
Calories From Fat (51%) - 96.7

Total Fat - 11.58g
Saturated Fat - 1.08g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 111.99mg
Potassium - 363.02mg
Total Carbohydrates - 6.16g
Fiber - 0.81g
Sugar - 1.84g
Protein - 19.64g


This results in a lightly flavored tofu that you can use in most dishes. I find the light flavor makes it more versatile.

Agrodolce Cauliflower with Cucumber
Serves 4 (though we split this)


½ red onion, peeled and finely diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
¾ cup water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
5 kalamata olives, pitted and finely diced (for a little salty pop, can be omitted or replaced with capers)
¾ cup dried fruit, finely diced (any dried fruit will do I used apple, apricot and peach)
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 pinches saffron
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
approximately 1 ½ cups diced cucumber
2 – 4 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Combine everything but the cucumber and parsley and cook covered until the cauliflower is beginning to get tender. Then remove the lid and cook uncovered to evaporate the excess water. Add the cucumber and parsley and turn off the heat. You want the cucumber to warm slightly but still have good texture.

Nutritional Information (assumes 4 servings):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 181.81
Calories From Fat (9%) - 16.54

Total Fat - 1.87g
Saturated Fat - 0.08g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 192.28mg
Potassium - 1499.18mg
Total Carbohydrates - 38.69g
Fiber - 11.77g
Sugar - 22.64g
Protein - 8.85g


This was a nice dish that is out of the ordinary. We both enjoyed it. It is a little sweet, a little sour and has salty pops from the olives. I liked the firm bite of the cucumber. Next time I may add more parsley but other than that I wouldn’t make any changes.

Signing out:

I need to get ready for the road trip with the felines tomorrow. We have their carriers out and open so they can explore them this evening. That seems to help them not panic when it is time to load them up for the trip. Wish us luck tomorrow at the cat doc; we are going to need it.

I hope everyone had a good week and has a great weekend. Talk to you again tomorrow.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Smokey Black-Eyed Peas and Mushrooms over Green Rice ... a winner!

What a nice morning it was today. It was 65 and sunny this morning with projected highs in the mid to upper 70’s. It is extremely hard to believe it is the end of October. What a nice respite before the cold winter sets in. Both Dan and I are hoping we don’t get much snow this year. I don’t think anyone in the Mid-Atlantic wants a repeat of last winter.

For breakfast this morning Dan wanted to have his favorite oatmeal with mixed berries and nuts. For his lunch and dinner I packed the leftover baked tofu and Asian veggies with quinoa. I also packed sliced almonds for him to add to the veggies for crunch and calories. This means I am out of intentional leftovers again which means there will be more cooking today. I am thinking I may do something with cabbage but that could change a dozen times before I actually start cooking. Food planning is not something that happens here. ;-)

For my breakfast I had another version of savory oats and this one might be my favorite so far. Here is what I did: ½ cup of oats and 1 cup of water cooked half way; add 2 cups of baby spinach roughly chopped and cook until the spinach is lightly wilted; now top with 2 tablespoons nutrition yeast, 2 tablespoons of salsa, 1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds and 1 tablespoon dehydrated leeks. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and no salt seasoning. Stir and enjoy. Here is the nutrition:

Calories - 251.39
Calories From Fat (13%) - 32.67

Total Fat - 2.83g
Saturated Fat - 0.39g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 248.5mg
Potassium - 655.97mg
Total Carbohydrates - 36.22g
Fiber - 7.11g
Sugar - 2.48g
Protein - 7.56g

Additionally this contains: 5,700IU of vitamin A, 95mg of calcium, 135mcg of folate, 290mcg of vitamin K, 200mg of phosphorus, 110mg of magnesium, and 20mcg of selenium. Fairly impressive nutrition for so few calories I think.

Thanks for the fresh spinach suggestion Courtney this is really good. :-)

Electronic Vision Boards:

Since Laura Jill mentioned her last vision board was electronic I had to see if they could be done without buying special software. For those of you that have Photoshop here is a tutorial. I also think you can do the same thing with Word but I haven’t tried that yet.

Glorious Day:

It was so nice outside I had to spend some time in the yard today. I took a few pictures that I thought you might like. It is very surprising to me that so many things are still blooming.

But first look at this fuzzy little creature I found on the sidewalk. Isn’t he/she adorable? I wanted to bring it in but knew the cats would terrorize it to death even if I could figure out how to keep it alive so I left it outside. If anyone knows exactly what this is and will become I would love to know. It is mostly black (or a very dark brown) with deep red stripes.

Oddly my rosemary bush is sending up little flowers.

Next I noticed that my lavender had some sporadic blooms.

Here is the wild clematis I have growing on my garden arch reaching for the sky.

I thought we needed a little color so here are the dahlias.

I hope you enjoyed the end of the blooms this year. Soon I fear I will be sharing snow pictures like last winter.

I wasn’t terribly hungry today so I had two dried peach halves (no sugar added) with 2 Brazil nuts (for the selenium) at mid-day.

After my snack I did a few things at home and decided to walk to the grocery store. We were out of bananas again and it is nice walk to the store so I enjoy going especially in this weather. It was so nice outside I was able to wear sandals, yoga pants and T-shirt and be perfectly comfortable. While I was at the Rotunda I stopped at the drug store and then went to grocery store. The fresh fennel looked great today as did the oranges which meant I will be making my favorite Sicilian salad soon.

Once back from the store I did a few things around the house, talked on the phone too long and listened to some jazz. I was a relaxing day and really needed one of those.

Intentional Leftovers:

Since Dan took all the leftover baked tofu and Asian veggies for lunch today I needed to make more intentional leftovers. As I stood in the pantry looking the bean inventory I realized we haven’t had black-eyed peas in a while. Like usual while the beans were soaking and cooking I had no idea what I was going to do with them. Nothing like planning right? When I needed to flavor the beans I thought maybe Hoppin' John would be good but I had to change it which is when I added tomato and the changed the rice from being included in the bean pot to a separate green rice side dish. I think this turned out really well. Here is what I did:

Smoky Black Eyed Peas and Mushrooms over Green Rice
Serves 6

Bean Ingredients:

2 cups dried black eyed peas, picked through rinsed and soaked
water to cover the beans by an inch
10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
½ red onion, peeled and finely minced
2 cups peeled, diced tomatoes
1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced (fresh or dried will work I used fresh shitake caps don’t forget to save the stems in the freezer for stock)
2 tablespoons no salt seasoning
½ teaspoon cumin
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tablespoon’ish cornstarch to thicken bean “gravy”, if necessary
dash of liquid smoke, to taste (or you can substitute smoked paprika this is to mimic the smokiness of bacon)

Green Rice Ingredients:

1 cup brown basmati rice
2 cups water
10 ounces frozen spinach, thoroughly drained, finely minced and heated so it won’t cool off the rice
1 lime, zested and juiced
½ cup cilantro, minced


Cook the beans until they are tender. Then add the remaining ingredients (except the cornstarch) and simmer uncovered to evaporate the excess liquid for at least 30 minutes. Use as much cornstarch as is necessary to tighten up the bean liquid.

Start the brown rice just before the beans are tender so that both the rice and beans are ready at the same time. Cook the rice and water until the water has been absorbed. The time will be different depending on the construction of the pot you are using. I have found that used an enameled cast iron pan means the brown rice will cook in 30 – 35 minutes so that is what I use. When the rice is cooked add in the spinach, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro and combine the ingredients by fluffing the rice with a fork. If you use a spoon you will mash the rice. I always use a fork.

To serve top the green rice with the smoky beans or serve them side by side. If desired you can make a fresh salsa to go on top the beans. I would probably opt for diced avocado, cucumber, radish, cilantro and lime juice but anything would work. The point of the fresh salsa it so add temperature and textural contrast as well as acidity from the vinegar.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 252.72
Calories From Fat (6%) - 15.83

Total Fat - 1.88g
Saturated Fat - 0.33g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 59.47mg
Potassium - 748.95mg
Total Carbohydrates - 49.96g
Fiber-  9.8g
Sugar - 5.85g
Protein - 11.24g


If you like Hoppin’ John I think you will like this more flavorful version of rice and black-eyed peas. Sometimes beans and rice can be a little bland and boring but that is not the case with these. I love the brightness the green rice adds to the dish. If you want to take it to the next level (and show off) top it with a fresh acidic salsa like I mentioned above. Normally I would have been I was not in the mood this evening for whatever reason.

This dish turned out really well. I am going to have a difficult time making rice any other way now that I have made it this way. I would describe this as a party in your mouth. It is amazing how much flavor this has considering the is no added fat or sodium. Both Dan and I think this is one of the better dishes I have made in the last couple of weeks. It is definitely a very flavorful legume and rice dish. *pats self on back* ;-)

PSA levels:

On a side note I want to share the impact of eating like we do on the PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) level. Dan’s level was low 6 months ago coming in at 1.0 (below 4.0 is normal) and has now declined to 0.7. Let’s hear it for a healthy diet! I wanted to share this in case any of you have a husband with a PSA level that is increasing. Over last six month we have tried to make our diet healthier and it seems to be showing unexpected dividends. Obviously given Dan’s low PSA to start with we weren’t concerned about this but we both take this as a sign that enhancing our nutrition is working to improve our overall health. Between the PSA and blood pressure and cholesterol I can say that what we eat is having a big impact all around.

Window markers?:

Those of you that have kids probably have seen this already but they were new to me. I bought them at our local drug store to see if they were any different than using dry erase markers on windows or mirrors. I have used dry erase markers on mirrors for years. In my kitchen I have a mirror that I use to jot down my grocery list. That works well for me since it is easily removed with a paper towel.

I find it works best if I write things down as soon as notice we are out. Having the ability to jot down items on the mirror while cooking has been very useful. I tried a caulk board in the kitchen for the grocery list but that absorbs grease so it didn’t work well. The caulk board might be fine now since I don’t cook with oil. Since the mirror works so well I probably won’t try it though. I like the light the mirror adds to the room as well as how easy it is to erase.

However these may also work well for leaving my hubby love notes on his bathroom mirror. ;-) 

Signing out:

That is going to be it for me tonight. I hope you try the recipes from today. It was a very good food day at my house.

I loved the savory oatmeal with spinach and the green rice is amazing and would work with so many dishes. It is seriously going to be tough to come up with a more flavorful healthy rice side dish, but you know I will keep working on it. I hope you are having a good evening.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Baked Tofu with Asian Flavored Veggies

Is it really the end of October? We woke up this morning and it was 72 degrees and that was after a heavy rain complete with tornado warnings overnight. We have the strangest weather in this part of the country. There is nothing like a dark rainy morning to make me want to stay in bed.

Since it was a busy morning here there were green smoothies for breakfast. These contained: frozen banana, kale, powdered ginger, cinnamon, ground flaxseed, avocado and a little stevia. We both like to have smoothies on busy mornings since you can pour them into a mason jar and carry them out the door with you.

A few of you have asked me what is up with the dehydrated leeks. This is something I added to our diet after reading a study which I talked about here. The scientists tested a number of raw foods on various types of cancer in the lab. Raw leeks were effective against most forms of cancer in a Petri dish. I would have preferred to see human studies but since that will probably be a while and raw leeks can’t hurt us I looked for ways to add them to our diet. Since no one actually enjoys eating raw leeks I decided to try dehydrating them. It is amazing how dehydrating tames the flavor and makes the leeks very crispy. Now I add them to garnish our soups and salads and anywhere else I think the crunchy texture will work. It has resulted in use eating a lot more leeks than we did in the past which has to be good.

Lunch today was soup and salad. Dan and I were able to have lunch together at home and we started with a salad we split that consisted of: 1 head of shredded romaine, ½ cucumber thinly sliced, 1 large carrot thinly sliced, ½ avocado sliced, ½ cup salsa, 1 tablespoon raw pumpkin seeds and 1 tablespoon plain dehydrated leeks.

The soup was a bowl of the Mexican spiced mushroom and barley soup I made yesterday. Like all soup it was better today than yesterday. I packed the end of the soup in a container for Dan to have at work anticipating he would still be at work when he got hungry again. Since that is the end of the soup it means I need to cook again today so that we have planned leftovers on hand. As I am writing this I have no idea what I want to cook but I am sure something will pop into my head sometime this afternoon.

My afternoon snack was a banana and two Brazil nuts. The Brazil nuts are included for selenium. Two Brazil nuts contain 200mcg of selenium on average. I say on average because it is a function of the growing conditions. According to science there are levels you shouldn’t want to be below or above so don’t go wild with the Brazil nuts. For more on selenium go to this post.

With the grey rainy weather I felt the need to curl up on the couch with a book and a mug of green tea or hot water with lemon. It was a quiet afternoon at our place.

Since we needed intentional leftovers I decided to make an Asian inspired dish with the fresh shitakes and broccoli rabe in my refrigerator which was my inspiration. Here is what I did:

Baked Tofu and Veggies Asian Style
serves 4


14 ounces of baked tofu (homemade** or store bought)
1 pound bunch of broccoli rabe, or any veggie you prefer (bok choy would be wonderful)
1 pound of fresh mushrooms (I used shitake caps which I sliced)
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
2 carrots, julienned
½ red onion, thinly sliced (top to bottom)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced
2 tablespoons fermented black beans
2 – 3 tablespoons water to loosen the black beans
sriracha, to taste (or substitute crushed red pepper flakes or whole dried chilis)
1 cup of brown basmati rice or 1 cup quinoa
2 cups of water


Prep all your veggies and tofu before anything else and get the rice started.

Mix the garlic, ginger, fermented black beans and enough water to thin the black beans. Heat a heavy pan or a wok over high heat. Add the black bean sauce and the sliced onions, broccoli rabe and carrots. You are adding the onion and broccoli rabe first because they will take the longer to cook. When the onion is just beginning to soften add the remaining veggies. Toss in the tofu at the end so that I heats through. Add sriracha or you choice of heat to taste. If desired you can use a teaspoon of cornstarch to thicken the “sauce”.

** If you want to make your own baked tofu it is very easy. I press it release the excess water and cut it into small cubes. Create a flavoring sauce with anything you desire. Tonight I used a little liquid aminos (maybe 2 teaspoons), a dash of vegan Worcestershire sauce, and a few tablespoons of mushroom stock. I placed the tofu cubes in this mixture to soak up the flavor while the oven was preheating to 350 degrees convection (increase by 25 degrees if not using convection). When the oven has reached the temperature place the tofu cubes on a silpat or parchment lined sheet pan and bake until you like the texture. Dan prefers his tofu on the firm side so I baked ours for 40 minutes.

Nutritional Information with the brown rice: (assumes you used homemade baked tofu as described above)

Amount Per Serving
Calories 394.62
Calories From Fat (22%) - 85.42

Total Fat - 18.27g
Saturated Fat - 0.94g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 337.2mg
Potassium - 993.7mg
Total Carbohydrates - 60.62g
Fiber - 11.1g
Sugar - 10.3g
Protein - 21.16g

Nutritional Information with the quinoa: (assumes you used homemade baked tofu as described above)

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 379.81
Calories From Fat (26%) - 97.33

Total Fat - 19.49g
Saturated Fat - 0.97g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 336.09mg
Potassium - 1129.78mg
Total Carbohydrates - 52.15g
Fiber - 12.46g
Sugar - 9.9g
Protein - 23.48g


Sometimes you just need Asian food at least that happens at our house. I love Asian food which is tough since we are trying to keep our sodium intake as low as possible. Tonight I decided to run with scissors and make Asian anyway. I was happy with how low the sodium turned out to be. I guess this just proves it can be done if you are careful with how much of the salt filled ingredients you use.

This dish is very filling because the servings are quite big. I enjoyed this but if you want to add richness you could include cashews, pine nuts or sesame seeds to this dish. Fresh cilantro and/or green onions would also be good in finish this dish.

I posted the stats with both the rice and the quinoa since I wasn’t sure which way to go tonight. In the end I used quinoa which you can see adds a touch more protein, fiber and fat and less carbs. Since I was interested in the nutritional difference I thought some of you would be as well.

Projects in the works:

Yesterday when I walked to the Rotunda I was looking for poster board. Laura Jill recommended making a vision board and I decided that would be a great idea given my current mood. I haven’t made one in quite a while but they help me refocus on positive ideas which would be great anytime. Since I have been purging with this in mind I have been cutting out pictures of things that inspired me.

I suspect it will take me a while to get the boards finished but I will share them when I am through. At the moment I know I am doing more than one so I can focus on health, happiness and of course food.

Being a recovering accountant I tend to be very much a thinker and planner rather than a feeler. It is good for me to connect to the other side of myself. If any of you make these regularly and have tips I would love to hear them. The process of making vision boards always takes me out of my comfort zone but I enjoy it in the end.

Signing out:

That is going to be it for me tonight. I had a long day and need to take some time to relax and recuperate. I hope everyone had a good Wednesday. Talk to you again tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Ready for the Holidays and Mexican Flavored Mushroom Barley Soup

Monday’s are never my favorite but this one was uneventful since Dan worked the weekend it could just as easily have been Wednesday this morning. Poor Dan worked until after 10pm last night. He came home we chatted for about an hour and then it was time to turn in. I swear that is no way to live (I am talking about him not me) but I appreciate that he works so hard to take care of us. However I also think there has to be a better way. *rolls eyes*

Getting Dan Ready to Leave:

This morning I was back to making fresh veggie and fruit juice to put in Dan’s lunch. The fresh juice uses up quite a bit of produce which is one reason our refrigerators are frequently packed. A little space is starting to appear in my two refrigerators now. I can actually see a bit of the back wall in the main refrigerator. ;-)

Breakfast this morning for Dan was oatmeal (3/4 cup dry) with 1 cup mixed frozen berries (blackberries, raspberries and Marion berries), ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds, a pinch of stevia, and 2 tablespoon sliced almonds. He washed that down with 2 cups of fresh juice that didn’t fit in the 1 liter bottle I pack in his lunch.

While he was eating breakfast I packed his lunch and dinner (it is going to be another late night at work for him). He got a quart of the soup I made Sunday, 2 cups of brown rice to add to the soup for calories, dehydrated leeks to top the soup, 1 liter of fresh veggie and fruit juice, marinated kale salad from yesterday and trail mix (now with 2 brazil nuts for selenium) to have with his juice. I wanted to outline what I pack for him since people are curious how I get enough calories into my husband since my food is so healthy and therefore low in calories. If he is hungry when he gets home there may be dessert too.

My Morning:

Once Dan left for work I made myself a big mug of hot water with lemon slices to sip while I decided what to do next. Hot water with lemon or just hot water by itself is something that I have done on and off for 30 years. When it is cool or cold outside iced beverages have no appeal and sometimes I don’t want green tea first thing in the morning.

I have read that hot water with lemon helps the liver detoxify and that hot water by itself stimulates the lymphatic system. However I have seen no scientific proof that either of these ideas is true. Additionally I am skeptical by nature so I can’t say I believe either of these claims. I drink the hot water with or without lemon because I enjoy it as odd as that sounds. If you haven’t tried it you should give it a try, it is oddly satisfying.

After I exercised I got myself a fairly big bowl of Sunday’s soup with about ½ cup of brown rice in the bottom of the bowl. Once the soup was hot I topped it with a few sliced almonds and dehydrated leeks for crunch. When it is cool outside a hot bowl of soup makes a good though unorthodox breakfast.

For an afternoon snack I had frozen grapes and Brazil nuts. This was followed up by green tea with lemon and ascorbate C powder.

For my next snack I had falafel (from the freezer) and salsa. That tasted so good to me I had the same thing later for dinner.

How do you become a good cook?:

This is a question I very often. I don’t think there is much of a secret to this one. Cooking is like any other skill you need to practice to become good at it. You need to master basic cooking techniques: sautéing, roasting, braising, grilling, poaching and steaming. Then you need to know how make basic sauces (like white, tomato and “cheeze”). You need to know how to balance the flavor of a dish with herbs, spices, and acid. Also it is important to only cook with good quality ingredients. For example if a dish tells you to use wine but you use one you wouldn’t drink by the glass you are probably going to ruin the dish. When you cook with wine you concentrate the flavor and therefore magnify the faults of the wine. Bad wine means bad food. The other important quality is to seasoning adequately. Most new cooks are timid with seasonings and no one enjoys bland food.

One of the things that helped me is that I have had the privilege of enjoying serious fabulous food at places like the MiniBar at the Café Atlántico. We were omni most of our lives so my experience with food is both more deep and broad than most vegans. Since I have always loved food and cooking I pay attention to the details when we go out and have make notes for years. A smart phone is very handy for this. I have said for years that being able to enjoy Ian’s food often has also made me a much a better cook. He and I always talk about food whenever we see each other so that also helped make me a better cook.

Additionally I read cookbooks like novels which also helped me to understand flavors that work together. I don’t limit myself to vegan cookbooks because they are not typically very inventive. In general I tend to learn more reading omni cookbooks. My cookbook collection is beyond ridiculous in terms of volume. I exceeded 1,000 cookbooks long ago and now that they are spread all over my house I have no idea how many I own. The odd thing is that I rarely use them. I find that I read them once, cover to cover, and then they go on the shelf. There are very few that I find interesting or unusual enough that I want to use.

I hope that gives you some insight into what it takes to be a good cook. It just comes down to practice, and mastering the basics. If you are uncomfortable in the kitchen you should start with reliable recipes from others and as your confidence builds change ingredients or proportions to make them your own. It really is no more complicated than those few ideas.

My little organizing project:

Paperwork is something that seems to pile up around here and not in the most organized fashion. You would think all those years I spent running an accounting department (which required me to be very organized) my paperwork would be very organized but somehow that didn’t translate into my home life. When I read articles on line I frequently end up printing them and putting them in binders. I am big on highlighting and making notes in the margins. I also save little health or nutrition articles that I find interesting from magazines and the Wall Street Journal. I decided it was time to get all that stuff sorted in a way that I can find it easily when I need to refer to it. This is a much bigger job than I anticipated and may take me a month or more to finish.

Dan ended up coming home earlier than I expected and I didn’t want to spend time online while he was home since he has been spending most of his time at work recently. We spent some time talking and catching up and then turned in a little early since we both need to get more sleep.


It was crazy warm this morning when we got up. The weather is completely unpredictable during the fall and spring in this area. This morning it was in the mid 60’s before the sun came up.

Dan had he favorite oatmeal with mixed frozen berries, cinnamon, powdered ginger, ground flaxseeds, and sliced almonds. He washed that down with the fresh veggie and fruit juice that didn’t fit in the 1 liter bottle I try to send in his lunch every day.

Much to my surprised Dan asked for marinated kale salad in his lunch today. I was very surprised that he enjoyed it that much but I was happy that he did.

Once Dan was off to work I decided to see if a little yoga would clear my mind and it seemed to help. I also did cardio and then had my breakfast. I had a bowl of the Indian spiced veggie and red lentil soup. This time I topped it with plain dehydrated leeks, sliced almonds and fresh cilantro. It was the perfect breakfast.

Next I decided to go for a walk through the neighborhood. Our neighborhood is hilly which means a walk is a good way to burn a few calories particularly if you intentionally head for the hilly roads which is what I do.

When I left the house I knew I was going to end up at the grocery store so I took my wallet and reusable grocery bags when I left. We were out of organic carrots again for juice, bananas, and were getting low on kale. It never ceases to amaze me how much produce we consume in a week. *shakes head*

This is one of my local grocery stores, I know it doesn’t look like one but it is. Forty years ago a developer turned this 100 year old insurance building into an enclosed mall called “The Rotunda”. I tend to stick to the grocery and drug stores but there is also a cinema, book store, clothing store, optician, hair place, unusual home décor store, and local fast food. It is very nice to have a few grocery stores within walking distance from our house. It came in very handy last winter when we had the blizzards every few weeks.

When I got home from the store I went back to organizing and started making my Christmas binder. This will include sections for: decorating ideas, possible presents, and recipes. I tend to get a little carried away at Christmas so it is handy to have a binder dedicated to the holiday to hold all my ideas and projects in process. I do the same thing for Thanksgiving but that one is mostly recipes. I copy the recipes I want to use and put them in a binder to refer to when I am cooking. It makes it easier to make the grocery list, task list and keeps my cookbooks clean since I tend to be a mess in the kitchen. ;-)

Food today at my house has been very much like my usual day. For lunch I had thick cucumber slices with the garbanzo cheeze and topped with salsa. This was so good I had the same thing about an hour later when I realized I was still hungry.

Then I had a banana (that is cinnamon on top) with two Brazil nuts for the selenium.

Dinner was two bowls of mushroom barley soup. I made a big pot of soup today since we had finished the Indian spiced red lentil and veggie. This mushroom barley I decided to flavor with Mexican seasonings and it turned out really good. Here is what I used: 2 cups dried mushrooms, 8 cups water, 2 cups diced tomatoes, 1 red onion, 10 cloves garlic, 1 chipotle in adobo, ½ cup hulled barley, 15 ounce can white hominy, ½ tablespoon chili powder, ½ tablespoon cumin, ½ tablespoon oregano, ½ tablespoon paprika, 2 tablespoons no salt seasoning, 1 dash liquid smoke, 2 poblanos and a dash of sherry vinegar at the end. The flavor of this worked really well. It was not your grandmother’s mushroom barley soup but I really liked it.

Dan is actually heading home a little early again tonight. I rushed to get this posted before he walked in the door. Hopefully there aren’t so many typos that you can’t figure out what I was trying to communicate. ;-)

Tomorrow we have a few appointments. I expect to have time to check in later in the day. I hope you are having a good week.
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