Monday, January 31, 2011

Middle Eastern Seasoned Cucumber Salad with Chickpeas, Tomatoes Red Onions and Olives


No surprise we had a bowl of oatmeal Sunday morning for breakfast. This time the oatmeal included: mixed berries, dried apricots, cinnamon, powdered ginger, walnuts, and freshly ground flaxseed. I added the apricots for color and chew. Dan’s oatmeal was the same but had more of everything.


Lunch with my parents was a tricky one list always. I never know what to make that they will like but that I consider healthy enough. Meals with my parents are always a balancing act. Since I couldn’t think of anything today I went back to soup.

I had picked up this package of spelt with dried veggies before Christmas. Today I added leeks, garlic, thinly sliced crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced carrot, thyme, sweet paprika, dill, celery seed and pepper. Surprisingly everyone agreed they prefer spelt to barley. Now I need to figure out where I bought this so I can get more.

To accompany the soup I made a quick marinated salad. This is a super fast salad to put together but it needs time to marinate in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to be absorbed. Here is what I did:

Middle Eastern Seasoned Cucumber Salad with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, Red Onions, and Olives
Serves 4


1 English cucumber sliced very thinly on a mandoline
¼ red onion, sliced thinly on a mandoline
6 olives, very thinly sliced
approximately 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
approximately 1 cup cooked chickpeas, well drained
zatar, to taste (I used two big pinches or about ½ teaspoon)
sumac, to taste (add this if your zatar doesn’t include sumac I used approximately ¼ teaspoon)
red wine vinegar, to taste (I used about 2 tablespoons)
stevia, to taste (I used 1 small scoop that comes in the container)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I used about ¼ teaspoon)
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
1 head romaine, shredded


This is a salad I tossed together an hour before dinner. I didn’t plan to post the recipe but since everyone loved I thought I should. Sorry the amounts are approximate. Before I had the blog I never measured anything and I fall back into that habit when I don’t expect to post the details of a recipe. Mea culpa. ;-)

To make this salad combine everything except the romaine and parsley, toss to combine, and refrigerate for an hour. You want the onions to mellow and the cucumber to absorb the flavor. Add the parsley to the veggies just before serving and toss.

To serve, top the romaine with the marinated veg salad.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 125.48
Calories From Fat (16%) - 19.52

Total Fat - 2.36g
Saturated Fat - 0.29g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 71.34mg
Potassium - 728.27mg
Total Carbohydrates - 22.45g
Fiber - 7.68g
Sugar - 5.12g
Protein - 6.61g


I could eat mountains of this but I love salad and anything pickled. If you like pickled food you should give this a try. It has a lot of flavor and doesn’t taste like healthy food to me. Even my father proactively offered up that this salad “hit the spot” and I didn’t add any oil to his. I think that says it all since my father is not a healthy eater by any stretch of the imagination.

Sunday Evening:

We decided to take it easy Sunday night and spent a couple more hours watching season 6 of Criminal Minds. Can you tell it was a TV weekend? While we watched TV the soymilk maker took care of making another batch of non-dairy milk for tomorrow. Now that I have learned that I can pour the hulls off the top of the soybeans the job of making soymilk goes much faster. I also made a quick batch of walnut parmesan to have on hand in the refrigerator.

Since we were “busy” in front of the TV Sunday evening dinner was a very simple affair. I made a pot of quinoa. Like always I made more quinoa than was necessary for dinner leaving leftovers for another meal. For dinner I topped the quinoa with the red sauce and garbanzos from yesterday and heated it in the microwave. Then I topped the dish with fresh chopped spinach and walnut parmesan. The heat from the cooked dish lightly wilted the spinach.

Later in the evening Dan has his usual strawberry banana soft serve which I made with soymilk instead of water. Are you starting to notice how often Dan has this dessert? I think he has it at least 5 times a week. He really has a huge sweet tooth.

12 Super Foods Article:

Since I assume most of you don’t get the daily emails form I wanted to share this article. It contains a lot of interesting information. Nothing earth shattering but reinforcement is always good. If you like the article you may want to sign up for the emails. There is a nutrition or health article at least once a week and usually more often.

New 2010 Dietary Guidelines:

Just like the government to release the 2010 guidelines in 2011. Oh well, better late than never. *rolls eyes*

As expected they reduced the maximum sodium intake to 1,500mg for everyone. I wanted to point this out since most people consume more than that every day. If you eat processed food like veggie burgers, faux meat, commercial bread, canned tomatoes with salt, Asian food, canned soup, bottles sauces or condiments you are probably well over the 1,500mg. I was shocked when I initially started to track our sodium. Even though I made our food from scratch the liquid aminos, miso and tomatoes had us consuming more than 1,500mg of sodium on average.

The guidelines are also encouraging people to eat more whole food (plants) and less sugar, processed food and saturated fat. Woo hoo! *happy dance* It is nice to see things going in the right direction for a change. Maybe in 2015 they can take their recommendations a bit farther. However even a little progress in the right direction is a good thing.

If you want to read the full set of dietary guidelines, all 112 pages they can be found here.

Happy thoughts:

What a good weekend we had. Here are my happy thoughts:

• There is nothing like an entire weekend with my hubby to make me happy. Even when we are just hanging out at home, or at our second home (the restaurant) we always have a great time together.

• I had a very nice evening with everyone at dinner on Saturday. For those of you that are trying to figure out how we got to know people at the restaurant so well it is very simple actually. Since I get a lot of email about that I will write about in a future post, maybe tomorrow assuming it doesn’t slip my mind. ;-)

• I was able to reschedule my dental appointments so that they are back to back tomorrow. Woo hoo? LOL! I need to see both the dentist (to have old fillings removed and replaced) and the hygienist. My appointments were tomorrow and Wednesday but now they are both tomorrow. Assuming everyone can get downtown (they are predicting an ice storm) I am happy to knock those visits out at one time.

• As I type this I am using my little halogen/infrared/convection oven to roast a big winter squash which I cut into 1/8’ths. The new countertop oven is getting a lot more use than I expected it to. I like that is uses less power and cooks quicker. However I love that it doesn’t generate any VOC’s .

• This morning I woke up with a nagging headache. The pain isn’t terrible it is enough to slow me down. I am thankful to have the ability to take it easy when I am feeling less than 100%.

• I am also thankful to have Masi to as part of the family. When he comes to get me in the morning to remind me to turn the electric blanket on in the bed I think it is the cutest thing. Spoiled? Well of course but I wouldn’t have him any other way. ;-)

Signing out:

Time for me to log off the computer otherwise I won't get anything done at home today. Like always I have a backlog of things to do after spending the weekend with my sweetie.

I hope you are having a great start to the week. If you are in one of the cities that are expecting ice this week please be careful. I have two dental appointments tomorrow and hope the weather forecast of ice turns out to be a bust. *fingers crossed*

Talk to you again tomorrow.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Baked Veggies in Red Sauce topped with “Melted Mozzarella Topping”

Don’t you just love Saturday? I think it is my favorite day of the week. It is wonderful to sleep in until your body wants to get up. Saturday is my only day to sleep in which makes me appreciate it all the more. A girl could get used to this but someone needs to feed my hubby. Even though Dan knew how to cook when we met has forgotten how to do anything in the kitchen. I guess that should be expected since I have done all the cooking for the last 20+ years. Dan will tell anyone that there are two types of people in the world cooks and eaters and we all know which one he is. ;-)

When I asked Dan what he wanted for breakfast he choose a green smoothie again. Like always this one contained: kale, frozen banana, cinnamon, powdered ginger, freshly ground flaxseed, walnuts, a pinch of stevia and fresh soymilk. I processed it in the Vitamix until it was completely smooth. Since the machine was already green I made myself the same thing only with less banana and walnuts and I used water instead of soymilk.

Every weekend not long after breakfast we start to discuss what I am going to make for the 3pm meal with my parents. We both decided I have been making soup and beans too often lately and that I needed to do something different. We talked about a few options but decided that I would bake veggies in red sauce and top it with “cheeze”. I thought about adding beans to the dish which meant I also needed to make some of those since the freezer inventory of home cooked beans was empty.

First I made a pound of pressure cooked garbanzo beans. To 1 pound of dried beans I added 9 cups of water, 2 bay leaves, 4 cloves of peeled cloves of garlic and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I cooked them on high pressure for 32 minutes and allowed the pressure to reduce naturally. In the end I didn’t use them in the meal so they went straight into the refrigerator. If I don’t use them Sunday or Monday they will be frozen in 2 cup containers for future meals. Beans freeze well and are great to have on hand since I don’t like canned beans. It seems to me that canned beans taste metallic plus I don’t like the sodium and other additives they typically include.

Next I knew I needed some red sauce for the next meal. Instead of making a small amount I made a large pot so I would have more intentional leftovers. Why make a little when I can always freeze the extras? This is part of my philosophy of cooking once and eating many times. Every time you do this you are saving yourself a step later. Having items like this in the freezer is a huge help when you are short on time or cooking ambition.

Next I steamed veggies to add to the sauce. In this case I used crimini mushrooms which I cut in quarters, carrots cut into bite-sized chunks and broccoli florets. I stored them in the refrigerator until I was read to put together the dishes to be baked and broiled quickly before dinner.

The last step was making the “mozzarella” to go on top. This literally comes together in 5 minutes. I got the basic recipe from my friend Courtney who always has tasty and healthy recipes to share.  Thanks again for sharing this Courtney.  I made very minimal changes to the recipe, here is what I did:

Melty Mozzarella Cheeze
Serves 8


2 cups water
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup oats
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds or tahini if not using a high powered blender
4 tablespoons arrowroot (you could use cornstarch too)
3 or 4 tablespoons lemon juice (I used 1 Meyer lemon)
1 tablespoon dried onion granules
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
white pepper, to taste
salt, to taste


Combine all the ingredients in your blender and process until completely smooth. The mixture will be very thin when you pour it out of the blender. Don’t worry it gets much thicker when it cooks.

Pour into a sauce pan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until very thick and smooth (it will get very very thick--just keep whisking/stirring).

I made it right before using it and poured it warm over the prepared dishes.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 91.01
Calories From Fat (35%) - 31.82

Total Fat - 2.34g
Saturated Fat - 0.33g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 2.77mg
Potassium - 56.25mg
Total Carbohydrates - 8.3g
Fiber - 1.16g
Sugar - 0.41g
Protein - 1.32g


Much to my surprise my parents cleaned their plates. No one asked what the white topping was, though I am sure they know it wasn’t cheese. They did however eat it all which I thought was great. I guess you can say this recipe is omni approved. 

To make the entire veggie dish place the par cooked veggies in small casserole dishes, top with red sauce and then the melty mozzarella. I baked them until they began to bubble and finished them with dehydrated leeks when they came out of the oven.

I tried to keep the 3pm meal with my parents light because we were thinking of going out to dinner on Saturday. Even though we hadn’t decided I had a feeling we would end up going out. Dan and I both like to relax and chat with everyone at the restaurant so it was a good bet we would end up going which we did. Not to mention when we went tea shopping last weekend we picked up a couple of bags for “the kids” so we had to drop that off. Since we were going to be at the restaurant we might as well go to eat right? ;-)

To accompany the veggie dish I made a side salad of shredded romaine, pineapple, strawberry, dried apricots and sliced almonds. I made a quick dressing of white miso, reduced-fat almond butter and apple cider.

At 5pm we called the restaurant and made a 6:30 reservation. Since we didn’t give them any notice we told them we would make something up from what they had and not to go to any trouble. Did they listen? Of course they didn’t. I felt very guilty because the restaurant was packed and there were people waiting when we got there. Much to our surprise they had our dinner all planned so we went with it. We both love not knowing what is coming to the table other than it is vegan. Are we the only people that like to eat that way? ;-)

When we walked in Jeannine was behind the bar and had to give me a kiss. On the way to the table I got a hug from Corey. I guess you can see why Dan and both feel like part of the family every time we are there. Of course we sat in Aimee’s section where else would we go when she is working? She had our pot of tea waiting for us. Can you tell we are spoiled? I guess you are all starting to understand why we almost always end up at the same place for dinner when we go out to eat.

Our first course was a tofu Caprese salad. Will had skinned the little tomatoes which I thought was a great touch. The tofu was either baked or broiled I didn’t ask which and it had a touch of sesame oil and I think I could detect rice wine. The dish was finished with fresh basil. It was definitely a twist on a Caprese salad but we both really liked it.

The second course was a curried chickpea and spinach dish. The dish was flavored with curried powder, habanero and a touch of red sauce. It had really nice flavor and I appreciated that the spinach was just lightly wilted. This was an extremely filling dish.

The last course was an Asian veggie dish with broccoli, shitakes, edamame, red bell pepper, carrot, snow peas and onions. The sauce included sriracha, rice wine vinegar, agave, habanero, ginger, garlic, and I thought I could detect a hint of five spice. Dan liked the sauce so much he was dipping whole wheat pita into it long after he said he was full.

We like to take our time and talk while we eat so we prefer to have our courses come to the table very spread out which everyone knows. We also have to talk to everyone and find out how they are doing while we are there. I imagine other customers wondered who we are since we hug and chat with everyone at the restaurant all evening long.

Like usual we were still there talking when everyone was cleaning and setting up for brunch. By then we had moved to the bar and were catching up with Jonathan, Will, Jeannine and Jen. We always have to chat and find out how things are going with them and what they have going on. Will has some fun stuff going on with his Master’s thesis that I can’t wait to hear more about, Jen’s boyfriend has almost finished his first month as a commercial flight instructor, Jeannine has her other job as a realtor moving along and we just learned that Jonathan is almost finished with his finance degree. I love talking to people and getting to know them since they are all so unique and interesting.

On the Aimee and Michael front things are going very well. They are both enjoying their classes this semester and Michael is doing extremely well in his MCAT prep class but we knew he would. He is taking it near us at Hopkins and has developed a good relationship with the instructor. He is going to make a wonderful doctor.

We ended up talking to everyone until Michael arrived to pick Aimee up a little after 11 and then walked out with her to say hello to Michael. We are trying to plan our trip to DC with them over spring break since he is very busy with school and MCAT prep.

When we got home we were both wide awake and needed time to wind down before bed. Somehow we were still up at 1:30 in the morning. It will be hard to get up Monday morning at 5am for the gym since we have gotten back to our old night owl ways. I hope we can make that happen since I would like to get back into the routine. I like having my workout finished earlier in the day.

Happy thoughts:

As you have probably guessed we had a good Saturday so I have many things to be thankful for. Here are my happy thoughts today:

• I am very thankful to have such a great neighborhood restaurant where we can go to get a great vegan meal even though it isn’t a vegan restaurant. As you must have noticed by now we always have a great evening when we go there. Both Dan and I are looking forward to the weather change which means we can start enjoying dinner under the trees on the patio again. When the weather is nice we are there quite often relaxing, talking to everyone and enjoying the weather. ;-) We both love having dinner al fresco. There is just something incredibly relaxing about a leisurely dinner outside.

• It was great that my parents ate dinner this weekend both days without complaint. Who knows maybe eventually I will get through to them. Nah, what was I thinking? *shakes head* LOL

• Dan didn’t work at all on Saturday or Sunday which was wonderful. It was nice to spend an entire weekend with Dan where both of us had a chance to relax.

• It was also nice to have our temperatures get over 40 on Sunday. We needed some of this snow to melt. It is time to start warming up now. ;-) I am looking forward to the return of spring.

• I am also grateful that we are both happy and healthy today. That is something that we both used to take for granted. When you are at risk of losing your health it becomes much more precious to you, at least that is what happened to us.

Signing out:

We had a great weekend but it is coming to an end. We spent a relaxing day at home on Sunday we had my parents over for dinner and then we went back to catching up on season 6 of Criminal Minds. It looks like we aren’t going to be finished for a few more days. I am not sure why but I love this show. As my girlfriend Deirdre says it may have something to do with "that fine piece of man candy" on the show. LOL, she does have a way with words doesn’t she? I wonder which actor she could be referring to. ;-)

I hope you had a great weekend and found time to recharge your batteries for the week. Talk to you again tomorrow.

Quick Soba Noodle and Vegetable Soup

Friday morning we awoke to more snow but this time it was only flurries thankfully. It its funny I thought I missed snow until it arrived. Since we are well past Christmas I am ready for spring now thank you very much. ;-) I guess we all want what we don’t have. It must be part of human nature.

I typically ask Dan what he wants for breakfast and this time he requested a green smoothie. It was his usual smoothie with kale, frozen banana, cinnamon, powdered ginger, freshly ground flaxseed, and fresh soymilk processed in the Vitamix until smooth. Dan is convinced that smoothies are better when made with soymilk. He thinks they are creamier and the flavor is more well rounded. I still make mine with water because I don’t need the extra calories but if you do I think he has a point about the flavor and texture.

Like usual I knocked out my exercise and then made breakfast for myself. I was in the mood for savory oats this time. This version included nutritional yeast, freshly ground flaxseed, cumin, chili powder and black pepper in the oats. I topped the oats with chopped broccoli, salsa and raw pumpkin seeds. I really could eat these every day. I love having something as nutritious as green veggies in my breakfast. It seems to be the right way to start the day.

As I usually checked on my parents and did some light housekeeping at their place. Since my father does everything at their house I like to give him a hand. Cleaning is not something he is accustomed to which means also he greatly appreciates the help.

Once I was back home and ready to eat my lunch I wanted something fast and decided to warm up the end of the curried lentil and tomato soup which I topped with sliced almonds. Looks like I will be making a pot of soup this weekend again. ;-) As you can see there is some consistency to the universe. If it is a weekend I must be making soup. LOL

After lunch I found time for laundry, reading, organizing and listening to jazz while I sipped tea. I try to be kind to myself everyday and do something that isn’t productive rather just something that I enjoy. Normally I pick listening to music but it could also be taking a long hot bath, reading or talking to a friend. Most women seem to be too busy taking care of their families that they don’t do anything for themselves. I feel that when I am rested and content I can do a much better job of taking care of others. Does anyone agree with me on this?

Like usual for my afternoon snack I had an orange and two Brazil nuts (for the selenium). I am absolutely in a snack rut but I am still enjoying it which means it may not change for a while.

Much to my surprise Dan actually came home from work earlier than usual. Since we had some time before dinner we decided to try to get caught up on season 6 of Criminal Minds. This meant I was not in the kitchen making dinner. When we were both hungry I made a quick pot of soup with soba noodles. Dan loves soba noodles which is why I made this particular soup. It isn’t as healthy as most of my food but it is still better than a lot of things I could have made I suppose. Here is what I did:

Quick Soba Noodle and Vegetable Soup
Serves 2 as dinner


8 cups water or no sodium veg stock (I used water)
1 large onion, thinly sliced (after slicing allow to sit 10 minutes to allow the chemical reaction to take place)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (after slicing allow to sit 10 minutes to allow the chemical reaction to take place)
½ tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced (I don’t peel mine since it is organic I just clean it well to remove the dirt)
2 cups mushrooms thinly sliced (I used crimini but shitake would make more sense)
2 individual bundles of soba noodles
3 cups broccoli, thinly sliced (I used frozen that was most defrosted it is easier to slice when still a little frozen)
½ tablespoons red barley miso, or to taste (you could substitute liquid aminos or low sodium soy sauce)
¼ cup freshly cilantro, minced
½ teaspoon black and white sesame seeds with dried ginger bits for garnish


Combine the water, onion, garlic, ginger, mushrooms and bring to a boil. Add the soba noodles and stir so they don’t clump together. Set a timer for 3 minutes then add the broccoli and set the time for 2 minutes. Test the noodles to see if they are done if yes turn off the heat. Mix the miso with a little of the soup broth so there are no miso lumps and add that to pot and stir. Stir in half of the fresh cilantro reserving the rest for garnish. Serve with sesame seeds on top.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 420
Calories From Fat (6%)- 26.73

Total Fat - 3.06g
Saturated Fat - 0.24g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 365.61mg
Potassium - 912.29mg
Total Carbohydrates - 82.69g
Fiber - 11.13g
Sugar - 4.78g
Protein - 19.36g


This is one of my very fast one pot dinners. Dan enjoyed it but as always he thought it needed more salt. He says that about everything but he also knows we are trying to keep our sodium level to a minimum for health reasons. I think he likes to remind me that he is paying attention. ;-)

You can add many different items to this soup. I have made it with tofu cubes, julienned carrot, thinly sliced green onion, dried mushrooms, broccoli rabe, shredded Chinese cabbage, julienned bell pepper, jalapenos, to name a few possible options. It is very versatile and you can use almost any veggies you have on hand.

Poor Dan he was so full after the giant bowl of soup that he didn’t have room for his usual strawberry banana soft serve. ;-)

After dinner we watched another few episodes of Criminal Minds and then we turned in the evening. Overall it was both a productive and relaxing day. Not bad for a Friday I thought. ;-)

Happy Thoughts:

I am in a great mood since it is the weekend. *happy dance* I love my weekends, LOL. Here is what I am happy for today:

• It is wonderful to have the ability to help out my parents and be home to make our food from scratch. I realize that most people don’t have that option which makes me very thankful that I can do it.

• I loved that Dan was home much earlier than usual. We had a nice relaxing evening at home. I wish he would relax more often but I will take any little bit I can get. ;-)

• I am grateful that I taught myself to cook when I was younger. I have so many friends in their 40’s or older that can’t cook and have to rely on Whole Foods prepared meals. I am grateful to have the ability to make healthy meals for my family in a minimal amount of time.

• Our fur children are being precious like always. I love that the three of them want to be near us all the time. We are very lucky to have them as part of our family.

• We had a nice evening out on Saturday and got to see Aimee (one of “the kids”). She is always such a joy to be around.  When Michael came to pick her up from work he saw our car and came in to see us.  I was not kidding when I said these are the kids we wished were ours. We picked up some loose tea last weekend and grabbed a couple bags for them too. Since they are also enjoying tea now I wanted to make certain they didn’t run out. We wouldn’t want them going back to soda now would we? ;-) I was very happy when Aimee told me she has been making tea for them to take to class to drink instead of soda.  You go girl!

• I have been enjoying Saturday with Dan. It is wonderful that he doesn’t need to work this weekend. I love spending time with my husband; he has been my best friend for as long as I can remember.

Signing out:

Time for me to spend some time with my hubby and that means logging out. I hope all of you are having a wonderful weekend. Talk to you again tomorrow. I have another quick recipe to share. This one is baked veggies in red sauce topped with homemade “melty vegan mozzarella”. Even my mother and father liked this. Will miracles never cease? ;-)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winter Wonderland and My New Kitchen Toy Reviewed

Wow did we get hit with snow Wednesday evening. It was the craziest weather I have seen in a long time. Thunder and lightning during a snow storm is wrong and creepy. It came down so quickly that many people abandoned their cars on the expressway (83 North) heading out of town and walked out. However Thursday morning we were greeted with a beautiful winter wonderland effect of a foot of wet snow sticking to everything. It is gorgeous but I didn’t have to drive in it so that is easier for me to say than those who did have to come home in it. I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Our breakfast Thursday morning contained: oatmeal, wild blueberries, cinnamon, powdered ginger, cardamom, freshly ground flaxseed, and walnuts. I made mine with water and Dan’s with soymilk.

My lunch was okara sliders I dipped in a quick sauce of salsa and bbq. I liked the sauce because it was less sweet than bbq but also had chunks of tomatoes and more heat. I am not sure what possessed me to combine them but I liked the way it turned out.

The first afternoon snack of the day was a navel orange and two Brazil nuts (for the selenium).

My second snack was frozen grapes and walnuts. In case you hadn’t noticed walnuts are my nuts of choice, other than my two daily Brazil nuts for the selenium. I tend to grab walnuts because they have the best omega 3 to omega 6 ratios of the tree nuts.

For some reason I was hungry today and my third snack was a small bowl of the curried red lentil and tomato soup with a few sliced almonds on top

New Sharper Image Oven:

I had not planned dinner tonight so I decided to make something simple and try out the halogen, convection and infrared oven I ordered last week. Thursday night seemed like a good time to try out the oven. I used it make BBQ tofu since I knew how long that should take in the oven. Here are the pros and cons of the oven:


• It preheats very quickly; it took under 10 minutes to reach 350 degrees which is much quicker than my stove. It is also easy to tell when it has reached temperature because the light goes out.

• In 20 minutes the tofu was firm and chewy and that would take 45 minutes in my convection oven

• It has a self clean feature that worked extremely well. You put two inches of water in the base and a small amount of dish liquid and set it to self clean. I was skeptical this would work but it did very well. The steam generated even softened the BBQ sauce on the lid making it easy to wipe off with a damp towel.

• It draws no more power than my Vitamix and uses much less than my oven.

• No VOCs were generated by this machine. I had an air quality monitor set up with two foot of the machine to see what would happen. This is huge for me since I know the oven sets off the air quality monitor every time.


• Takes up a large footprint on the counter when not in use. Additionally it requires space on either side so you have somewhere to set the lid down when flipping or removing the food.

• The light coming off and on attracted the cats which wasn’t good since the exterior gets hot. I will have to work on how to keep the felines away from it when it is on. Hopefully they will get used to it and stop being attracted to the light going off and on.

Overall, I am happy with the purchase. If you are someone who uses a toaster oven for a small meal this takes up about the same amount of room and is faster.

Dinner was the BBQ tofu from the little oven and frozen broccoli that I cooked until lightly tender and tossed with tomato and raisin pesto and topped with sliced almonds for crunch.


Jenny asked how dangerous carrageenan was in a prior post. I had read years ago that it was linked to cancer in lab animals and then eliminated it from our diet. When you read your ingredient lists I think you will be surprised how often this shows up in processed food, particularly non-dairy beverages, cheezes and frozen desserts. It is also called Irish moss and is used often in raw food. In case any of you wanted to read more on this here is what Dr. Weil has to say about carrageenan.

Vitamin Water and Soda with Vitamins:

These products make me crazy! Why would people what to get their artificial vitamins in water or soda? Does anyone actually think these are natural sources of vitamins? Seriously they are no different than taking a multivitamin only most people that drink them seem to do both as though more artificial vitamins are better than less. *sigh*

Studies are now showing that getting your vitamins from artificial sources (like supplements or beverages) does not have a positive impact on health and in some case can be harmful. If you want to do something healthy eat more fresh whole food because that contains natural vitamins that your body knows how to process and use. There really is no magic bullet you can use to overcome living a less than healthy life.

Sorry for the rant but whenever I see commercials for this junk I get annoyed. As you can guess I just saw that vitamin water is on sale at Whole Foods and it set me off. ;-) *ugh*

Making Dietary Changes Part 2:

Back to this section I started on January 15 with the idea of starting your morning with a healthy breakfast. I wanted to give you plenty of time to work that in before introducing another idea. After writing about carrageenan and vitamin water I think the next idea has to be to reduce the intake of processed food. I can almost hear the collective groaning as I type this. I know it isn’t the easiest thing to do but it will have a huge impact on your health. Don’t believe me? Pull something out of your refrigerator or pantry and read the ingredient list. I will almost guarantee it you includes some chemical word that you can’t pronounce and don’t know that it means (unless you are a chemist). I am not a medical professional but it can’t be good to ingest a chemical cocktail every day. Humans weren’t designed to consume artificial food.

Corporate America has taken something natural, food, and turned it into “food-like substances”. It looks like food, it smells like food but it has been chemically altered making it not natural. When we initially gave up processed food it was difficult mostly because I needed to make more things rather than buying them. However once you get into the habit it really isn’t that difficult. Also now when I take a bite or sip of something processed it takes like the chemical concoction that it is. It never tasted like that to me before, I suppose my taste buds were used to it. But now processed food tastes vile to me.

I would suggest you start by removing the processed food you consume the most and substitute something natural for it. If you are huge diet soda drinker switch to water or tea. If you eat a lot of processed faux meat switch to beans and tofu or learn to make your own veggie burgers or seitan. By removing the thing you consume the most you will have the biggest impact on your health.

Happy Thoughts:

With all the snow we had I spent Thursday at home as you might have guessed. It was a good a day for me and here is what I am thankful for today:

• Thursday was a mostly me type of day. Sometimes you need to pamper yourself to recharge your batteries. I had a relaxing day which included exercising, listening to instrumental jazz, talking on the phone with friends, and a nice long soak in a hot bath with sea salt and essential oils. Doesn’t it just sound like heaven? ;-)

• I loved playing with my new kitchen gadget. I am totally a gadget type of girl so anytime I get a new toy I am in heaven. I am very pleased by how well it worked and love the self clean feature which was a very pleasant surprise.

• I was grateful that Dan made it to work and back this week safely and without incident. There were many travel horror stories which made me very thankful he wasn’t one of them.

• It was also wonderful to be one of the homes that didn’t lose power in the storm. I heard Friday morning that 80,000 in DC are still without power. It made me appreciate that ours very rarely goes out.

• Dan liked the combination of BBQ and salsa that I sent in his lunch for dipping his okara and oat sliders into. This is probably our new favorite sauce of the moment. I love coming up with new sauce ideas especially one that is super quick like this one. *happy dance*

Signing out:

Friday was a busy day but also a good one. Dan even ended up coming home from work earlier than usual. We spent a nice relaxing evening catching up on season 6 of "Criminal Minds" that we had recorded but hadn’t watched. It was a good way to spend the evening.

Talk to you again tomorrow. I hope you are having a great start to the weekend.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Okara and Oat Sliders & Sesame and Lemon Dipping Sauce

When we got up Wednesday morning we found a few inches of snow. So much for the predictions of the national weather service who said we would have rain overnight. You would think they would get it right a couple of hours before the “weather event”. Sometimes I have no idea why I check the weather forecast. Needless to say having snow on the ground in the morning made me especially happy that Dan had gone to Costco Tuesday night.

One of our Christmas presents from “the kids” was a book on tea. Aimee and Michael know how much we love our tea which is the reason for the book. It contains a lot of information about tea but most important to me is that it talks about the health benefits of many tea additions and gives recipes for tea blends. Reading about all blends in the book has me experimenting with blends of my own. My latest blend includes: sencha green tea, fresh lemon grass, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove. This was a good blend that even Dan liked. If you like experimenting with tea flavors give it a try. It is a good use for the dark green portions of lemon grass that you usually throw away. I used the lemon grass that I trimmed from my plant and had stored in the freezer.

Dan had a bowl of oatmeal with wild blueberries, ground flaxseeds, cinnamon, powdered ginger, ground cardamom a pinch of stevia and roughly chopped walnuts.

I had my breakfast after Dan has left for work and decided that I wanted to have leftover soup from last night. I was in the mood of something savory and since we had so much soup in the refrigerator that seemed like a good idea.

My lunch was okara and oat sliders with a little sesame, lemon, garlic and cumin sauce and salsa. These have become a new staple at our house. I have made them three times since this weekend. It is more of method than a recipe but that should tell you how easy it is. I measured but you will probably have different proportions. I will explain it below:

Okara and Oat Sliders
Makes 4 – 6 servings


okara from 1 cup of dry soybeans (what is leftover over from making soymilk)
2 cups oats, dry
2 tablespoon minced dehydrated onion
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
freshly ground pepper, to taste
no-salt seasoning, to taste


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a half sheet pan with silpat, parchment paper or easy release aluminum foil and set aside.

Combine the okara and as much oatmeal as is necessary to firm up the mixture. I added it ½ cup at a time and stirred until it would hold its shape. How much oatmeal you need to add will be a function of how wet/dry your okara is. I used the dried minced onion to also help absorb the liquid in the okara. Now add seasonings that you like to taste. Be careful with salt as the burgers will become saltier as they dry out during baking.

Now use a small disher (in essence an ice cream scoop for cookies) so create equal size small balls. Roll the balls in your hands and press lightly so they are flat top and bottom or they will roll on the sheet tray. Form all the mixture into balls and place them on your sheet tray.

Bake the sliders until they are firm. Mine cooked for approximately 40 minutes but I didn’t check my oven temperature so that time could be off. I would suggest you check them after 25 minutes. Allow the sliders to cool for at least 15 minutes on the tray before trying to remove them. This will help them to stay together. They are less delicate when they have cooled just a little.

Nutritional Information:

I omitted the nutritional information since the nutrition stats on okara would just be a WAG (wild a.. guess) on my part. The servings are given as a range 4 for an entrée size and 6 for a lunch size.


Dan has declared this the best use of okara yet. It is ridiculously easy and very easy to change or adapt to suit any cuisine. I have made in with Indian flavors, Italian and Mexican now and they all worked. They also freeze and reheat well in the microwave. When they come out of the oven they are more “crunchy” and are softer when reheated in the microwave.  If you want them to be a little "lighter" you can add a little baking soda to the mixture.

For dipping sauces I have used the sesame and lemon sauce that follows, salsa and a combination of salsa and bbq sauce. These little things are very versatile because of the mild character of the okara.

Sesame and Lemon Dipping Sauce
Serves 4 (approximately 2 ounce servings)


¼ cup raw sesame seeds
½ cup water
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, to taste


Combine in your high speed blender (I used my Vitamix) and blend until smooth. If you want a thicker sauce start with ¼ cup of water and slowly drizzle more into your blender (while running) until you like the texture. The sauce will become thicker as it chills. Refrigerate until needed.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 57.99
Calories From Fat (65%) - 37.74

Total Fat - 4.51g
Saturated Fat - 0.63g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 2.5mg
Potassium - 69.11mg
Total Carbohydrates - 3.94g
Fiber - 1.17g
Sugar - 0.4g
Protein - 1.77g


This sauce has a lot of flavor but also adds a nice creamy mouthfeel. If you don’t like lemon and garlic this is not the sauce for you since both flavors are very prominent in this sauce. It works beautifully with the okara sliders but would also be a great salad dressing.

To accompany the okara sliders I also made myself a simple salad of romaine, fresh pineapple, cucumbers fresh strawberries and sliced almonds. Since the fruit in the salad was very juicy I opted not to use any salad dressing.

Around 4pm the predicted storm rolled through and was extremely weird. It isn’t often that you have lighting and thunder during a heavy snow fall. We got 11 inches of snow in less than 6 hours. At one point I could barely see across the street it was that heavy. Since it was a heavy wet snow 250,000 in DC lost power as did 100,000 in Baltimore and the surrounding counties. Thankfully we weren’t one of those power outages.

For dinner I made a salad that contained: romaine, cucumber, tomatoes, salsa and nut cheese. Now we are out of nut cheese, so it is time to make more. Knowing this I had macadamia nuts soaking before I went to bed last night. When I don’t do these things right away I forget.

No surprise Dan’s Dessert last night was strawberry banana soft serve. You would think he wouldn’t want that after spending thirty minutes last night shoveling once he got home. However he loves his dessert and was even hinting around for it within 30 minutes of coming inside. I am always surprised by how much he loves the stuff.

Happy Thoughts:

• Dan made it home safely in the crazy weather. I wasn’t thrilled that he left work at 7pm in our horrible weather but it was great that he made it home without incident.

• We weren’t part of the 350,000 people who lost power last night. That was a great thing and something I was very thankful for.

• It was also wonderful to have things mostly back to normal yesterday. Having my routine altered caused to appreciate the relative tranquility of my daily life.

• I have been enjoying playing around with making my own tea blends. It was great to receive the book from “the kids” that started me down that road. I am looking forward to coming up with more of my own blends.

• I found a nice cast iron tea pot warmer at Teavana that I ordered for Dan to use at his office. He has wanted something like this since I found the cast iron tea pot so I was happy to find it for him. I will let you know how well it functions once it arrives.

• The snow covered landscape is gorgeous this morning. I love to look at the snow from the comfort of my nice warm home. ;-) It reminds me a winter fairy tale outside.

Signing Out:

I have a few things to cross off my to-do list today. I need to make more soymilk, okara sliders, nut cheese, something for dinner and some house cleaning. It never ceases to amaze me that there are always things to do around the house. I am also starting to think about the garden and what I am going to plant this year. It will be nice to get back into the dirt.

I hope you have a great Thursday. It is almost time for another weekend. Woo hoo! Let’s hope this one is a more relaxing at our place. Talk to you again tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Long Weekend Recap

Where did the last four days go? It started with a hot water heater which decided to leak so it had to be replaced. In addition to the plumbing problem Dan didn’t feel well on Sunday and Monday. To top things off I was up for 4 hours Monday night in the middle of the night. Tuesday Dan went back to work and I ran around trying to get caught up on the things I neglected the prior three days. Getting anything accomplished on less than 5 hours of sleep felt like a major undertaking. I should have taken a nap Tuesday but I was too busy. That wasn’t the smartest thing I ever did but at least I was able to cross a few things off my to-do list.  ;-) Tuesday night I slept for 10 hours which was a good indication that I was exhausted. I tried to post this last night but I was too tired to get it finished. This morning I feel great after catching up on my sleep.  *happy dance*

I am going to give you a quick recap of the food from the weekend. Sadly I was too busy to write anything down so there are no recipes. However I did make little okara sliders/bean burgers that Dan thinks are the best use of okara yet. That recipe/method will appear very soon along with the sesame/lemon sauce I made for dipping which was also very well received. Here is some of the food you missed with a quick description.

Breakfast for us was either savory oatmeal or green smoothies. The savory oats contained broccoli, nutritional yeast, ground flaxseeds, salsa, garlic, cumin and raw pumpkin seeds. The green smoothies were our usual with banana, kale, walnuts (for omega 3 and richness), cinnamon, powdered ginger and water or homemade soymilk.

For one meal I took the bean soup from the other night and changed it by added canned diced tomatoes. This is something I do often to change soup leftovers. I served it with a dollop of nut cheese.

Here are the okara and oat sliders with the sesame/lemon sauce. I have made these twice now because Dan really enjoyed them and I have a ready supply of okara from making soymilk everyday. I will post the method for these later this week. They are extremely simple to make and healthy too.

I also made a pot of vegetable barley soup with mushrooms. This type of soup is always a winner with my parents.

Since we hadn’t had Asian food in a while I also made a quick pot of soba noodle soup with broccoli, edamame, onions, garlic, ginger and finished it with black and white sesame seeds with dried ginger bits.

For another meal I used the mixed organic beans that I found at Hmart to make bean soup. I made the beans in the pressure cooker by cooking the beans for 10 minutes which was 2 minutes longer for the black eyed peas but less than the other beans called for. The result was that the black eyed peas disappeared but the other beans held there shape. Once the beans were cooked I added diced tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, oregano, minced garlic, hot crushed peppers (wet hots) and finished the soup with lemon zest and juice and fresh cilantro and served it over quinoa.

There was another bean soup that I made specifically for Dan since he loves red lentil and tomato soup. This time I used Indian seasonings and added turmeric, black mustard seed, coriander, ginger, and ajowan. I finished this soup with lime zest and juice and fresh cilantro and served it over brown basmati rice.

Of course we also had a number of salads. Some of the salads were made with veggies and others with fruit. I did make an interested dressing from reduced-fat almond butter, miso and apple cider that worked well with fruit. I will be making that again and measuring so I can share the proportions.

Increasing Water Intake:

Even with all the activity I have figured out how to keep my water intake up. I have started making my green tea double strength to decrease the overall amount of liquid while keeping my EGCGs where I want them. That seems to be working very well so far. I have been drinking the equivalent of 6 green teas and 6 mugs of water every day. With all the water rich food I eat (fresh produce and soup) that has been more than enough water.

Happy Thoughts:

Plumbing and body aches aside it hasn’t been the worst four day just hectic. Here are my happy thoughts today:

• I am happy to have the plumbing issue behind us. It is never fun to wait around for someone to come fix things.

• It is great that Dan only had some body aches, very minimal fever (less than 1 degree above normal) and was back to his usual self in less than 48 hours. It was also nice to have him home on Monday even if he did spend part of his sick day responding to work email. At least he was home so he could rest part of the day.

• I was fortunate to not need to go anywhere today given my sleep deprivation. Since I am one of those people that need their rest I would not have been a joy to be around today. ;-)

• The felines seemed to sense that “mommy” was cranky and exhausted Tuesday and gave me a wide berth to get to my to-do list. Wasn’t that sweet of them?

• I am grateful that Dan made a run to Costco for me Tuesday night since we are expecting snow and freezing rain Wednesday and Friday this week. That didn’t leave me much time to get there for groceries. Like always we were running low on many times. It is wonderful knowing I don’t need to drive in the inclement weather. I have been in Maryland so long I am turning into one of the weather wimps, LOL. I don’t like driving in this but it is pretty. ;-)

Signing out:

Hopefully today will be back to normal around here. *fingers crossed* I hope everyone is having a wonderful start to the week. Unless something else unforeseen happens will talk to you again tomorrow. I need to make more soymilk which means I will okara to use again today. I should have the okara slider recipe up tomorrow.

Sorry for disappearing on you the last few days. It was definitely one of those periods of time where I felt like I was draining the swamp while being up to my behind in alligators. ;-) I hope the week is going much better for you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mexican-Flavored Red Kidney Bean Soup

It has been crazy warm the last few days here in the Mid-Atlantic. Wednesday we reached 50 degrees and Thursday morning it was 38 when we woke up. *shakes head* The weather here is always unpredictable you never know what to expect. I almost opened the windows yesterday it was so warm but decided that would be a bit wasteful and settled for airing out the kitchen instead. It is nice to have our weather be a little warmer than our normal highs on 41.

Dan had his usual oatmeal with wild blueberries, cinnamon, powdered ginger, freshly ground flaxseeds and walnuts for breakfast. While he got ready for work I packed his lunch and took a quick bath to wake up. I was feeling a little “brain fog” this morning and hot water seems to get me going.

Massimo (aka Masi) has a new trick I wanted to share with you. I have mentioned before that we use an electric blanket to warm up the bed at night before we get in and then we turn it off so we don’t get too hot. Masi figured out that the bed gets hot and he jumps in every night when we turn it on. His new trick is to stay in bed when we get up but to call us to turn the bed on for him. When we ignore him he will come to see us, “murf” (the noise he makes in place of a meow), and run back and forth to the bedroom until we follow him. Then he jumps onto the bed and murfs until we turn the electric blanket on. *rolls eyes* These felines are so spoiled, I wonder how that happened? I am sure I had nothing to do with it. ;-)

After Dan left for work I wrote the last post about Tuesday and Wednesday. I need to really try to stay current on my posts because those two day posts take a lot longer to write, LOL. While I worked on that post I had a mug of hot tea and a cup of water. Next I knocked out my strength training (TRX) and had breakfast. Since I was running late I was starving this morning and had a big mug of the leftover Mexican flavored soup topped with the remainder of the salsa. We are now out of soup which means I need to make more of that today.

Once I was fed I was ready to start my day and got into the kitchen. I had a few things that I needed to work on today and decided to start by making soymilk for Dan’s breakfast and strawberry banana soft serve.

Then it was time to figure out what kind of soup I was going to make. Coming up with new dishes all the time can be exhausting. *rolls eyes* Maybe I need to give myself a break and make a few more repeats when I am busy. Though we both know this isn’t likely to happen very often, LOL.

My afternoon snack was a repeat of a tangerine, a few dried plums (aka prunes) and two Brazil nuts (for the selenium). Clearly I am in a snack rut at the moment. ;-)

Since I had red kidney beans cooking and waiting to go I decided that I would like to make something similar to black bean soup only using kidney beans. Here is what I did:

Mexican-Flavored Red Kidney Bean Soup
Serves 6


5 cups water or no sodium added veg stock (I used water)
3 ½ cups red kidney beans, home cooked without sodium (or substitute 2-15 ounce cans)
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
8 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, whole, crushed or ground
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 ½ teaspoons oregano
1 ½ teaspoons coriander seed, crushed or ground
2 chipotles in adobo, minced (scrape away the seeds before mincing you don’t want much heat)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoon masa harina (to thicken and add that distinctive “corn tortilla” flavor)
1 lime, zested and juiced

Possible garnishes:

salsa or diced fresh tomato
avocado, diced
cashew cream
finely chopped red onion or sliced scallions
lime wedges
cooked grain, brown rice would be traditional but I used quinoa


Combine the water, beans, onions, garlic, spices (cumin, chili powder, oregano), chipotles, and black pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes or as long as it takes to soften the onions and garlic and for the flavors to blend. Puree a few cups of the soup and return that to the pot. Alternately you can use an immersion blender to puree only some of the soup. Remove a little of the soup and sprinkle two tablespoons masa harina into it and whisk to combine. Return the masa and soup to the pot and simmer until the soup is thickened and the raw corn flour taste has been cooked out. Add the juice and zest of one then taste and correct the seasonings and serve one of more of the possible garnishes listed above.

Nutritional Information (without the garnishes):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 157.78
Calories From Fat (2%) - 3.64

Total Fat - 0.44g
Saturated Fat - 0.07g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 18.13mg
Potassium - 544.57mg
Total Carbohydrates - 29.7g
Fiber - 10.72g
Sugar - 1.22g
Protein - 10.36g


This soup has a big bold flavor and nice level of heat that is mild to medium in level and that is with the seeds left in the chipotles. I wanted something that was substantial tasting and warming without being too heavy. I think this soup can be easily changed by varying the toppings.

Tonight we had the soup with diced fresh tomatoes and cilantro over quinoa.

Needless to say Dan “needed” to have two bowls of strawberry banana soft serve (made with soymilk) as his dessert. If he keeps asking for this we may need an intervention soon. ;-)

Water Intake Update:

In an attempt to keep myself on track I am going to post my water intake for a few weeks until this becomes a habit. Thursday I had 5 mugs of hot tea, and 5 mugs of water. Increasing my water intake has had the impact of reducing my white and green tea consumption. Gee, I wonder why, LOL. My new target is between 4 and 5 mugs of tea and cups of water per day.

I have also noticed that I am not as hungry as usual which could be a problem if my food intake dips too low. Increasing my water intake is a bit of an experiment on my part. I am always trying to improve my health and nutrition and was running out of ideas which was why I decided to try increasing my water. I will keep you informed regarding how this works out for me.

Happy Thoughts:

• The temperatures have been extremely nice two days in a row. I will always take highs in the 40’s and 50’s over the frigid temperatures we had earlier in the month. Having nice weather has reminded me that spring is just around the corner. I always look forward to spring and love it when my azaleas are in full bloom. You can expect more photos like last year since I love my azalea bushes. ;-)

• If you can love an inanimate object then I am in love with my TRX. As usual I was skeptical but this may actually live up to the hype and most things never even come close. I want to get through all the workouts a few more times before I review it but I can tell you that I have been enjoying it more than I expected to. If you have a friend with at TRX see if they will demonstrate it for you. I think you will be surprised by all the things you can do with it.

• Given how much soymilk I will be making I am also grateful for my soymilk maker. This was something Dan thought I needed and it does make it easy to make soymilk. I also love knowing that it doesn’t contain anything artificial. You know how I feel about “Frankenfood”. ;-)

• I am thankful that we have three adorable felines to share our lives with. Masi was particularly adorable this morning. I absolutely love our three felines. Dan is right when he has we are wrapped around their fuzzy little toes.

• It was great to hear Dr. Oz tell people to avoid sugar Thursday on his show. I am hopeful that by him outlining the problems of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver and high blood sugar to such a wide audience it will get more people’s attention.

• Have you ever had one of those surreal moments where you catch a glance of yourself in the mirror and think “is that me?” That happened to me today. I know this will sound impossible but I look younger (or at least as young) today compared to 10 years ago and it floors me every time I notice it. Go whole food! ;-)

• I am also thankful that Dan made it home last night before the snow. I like to have him safely home before the frozen precipitation starts falling.

Signing out:

Today is Friday which means I need to take care of my usual Friday errands. We had snow overnight and the temperatures have been falling since I got up. Hopefully the roads aren’t too bad. Have I said recently that I don’t like the cold? LOL

Talk to you tomorrow. Happy Friday!
Related Posts with Thumbnails