Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review and Cardamom Scented Warm Slaw

This week and next week are going to be far more busy than usual. There are far too many appointments and errands lined up in the coming days. I should be able to find time to post everyday but in case I don’t I wanted you to know that I will be back as soon as I have a chance to catch my breath. I hope to be able to keep all my balls in the air but sometimes time gets away from me.

I wanted to start this post with a book review since I literally just finished reading it. The book needs to go back to the library so I needed to get it knocked out.

Book Review: The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno

Some of you know that I think Tosca Reno is a great role model for women our age. She is three years older than I am and looks like a million bucks, IMO. It is impossible to see her and not think she appears much more youthful than someone with a birthday in 1959. I appreciate her emphasis on whole foods and exercise to be healthy. She is not a vegetarian but she has a plan for vegans in her latest book which I was quite happy to see.

Her book is organized as follows:

1. The Eat-Clean Diet Principles
2. What to Expect
3. Breakfast – An Entire Chapter
4. The Basics of Metabolism
5. Hydration – The Power of Water
6. Reclaiming Your Life
7. Shopping Clean
8. Eating Clean On the Go
9. Eating Clean in Social Situations
10. Getting Started with Exercise
11. Cellulite, Loose Skin and Saggy Bits
12. Longevity
13. Making the Most of Superfoods
14. Meals and Grocery Shopping Lists
15. Recipes
16. Frequently Asked Questions
17. The Eat-Clean Diet at a Glance

Things I liked:

This is a substantial book coming in at 415 pages. The author covers many topics and does a nice job of sources many of the facts she tosses out. I really appreciate that she focuses on whole natural food. Her chapter on “Eating on the Go” is useful to anyone that finds themselves out of the house for extended periods of time. She offers some great prep ahead tips that any busy person would find useful. I think it is terrific that she gives options for various levels of weight loss as well as a family, vegan and gluten free plans. The grocery lists that are included are a nice addition. I love that the author is down on sugar and refined foods. I wanted to shout “you go girl” when she was outlining the problems with both. Overall I think her program is a sensible whole food based plan. But there are a few things I would tweak. You had to know that was coming. My husband doesn’t call me “The Nutrition Nazi” for nothing. ;-)

Things I find less than ideal:

I do not agree that animal products are healthy or that they can be part of a “healthy” diet. There is a lot of science out there that backs me up but most people are unable to give up the SAD. As you all know I am not a fan of adding oil to food and the author does (though not much) so as you would expect I am not fond of that aspect either. I was very surprised to see TVP mentioned positively as an option for vegans. *sigh* Seriously soy protein isolates are not good for anyone. I also disagree with relying on protein powder. Finally my gut reaction reading the book was the author was pushing too much protein. However, when I looked at the sample meal plan for vegans it actually didn’t seem out of line so I am probably being a little harsh on this aspect. ;-)

In conclusion:

To be fair this book promotes itself as a way to lose weight not get healthy. In my mind it doesn’t matter what you weigh if you aren’t healthy which is the why the two ideas go together for me. This book focuses on food and not exercise. There is some discussion of exercise but it is in the periphery. I agree completely with the author that diet is 80% of being healthy with the remaining 20% being evenly split between training and genetics. I am not trying to suggest that exercise isn’t important only that nutrition has a greater overall impact. The authors overall approach to whole food (not refined processed garbage) is very refreshing and I think would benefit most people. Now if only we could get her to go vegan. ;-)

Monday, Monday:

Why are Monday mornings always so hectic? No matter how much I have gotten ready the evening before Mondays always have a frenetic rhythm all their own. After I made fresh veggie and fruit juice for Dan, his breakfast and packed his lunch I was almost awake, LOL. I used the end of the carrots in his juice this morning so I walked to the grocery store before it got too hot. Our fall weather has disappeared and summer has returned. It was 90 degrees by 11 am was 95 when I checked at 5pm.

This morning I opted to do a little step aerobics for cardio instead of heading outside. With the heat outside staying inside made the more sense today. After exercising it was time for my breakfast. With the heat outside I decided a smoothie would be nice but had no idea what I wanted. It ended up being what I saw when I opened the refrigerator. I would have added kale this morning but our refrigerator is packed and I didn’t feel like digging it out. Can you say lazy? ;-)

My smoothie this morning contained the following: 2 tablespoons oats (grind into flour first if not using a high powered blender), 1 tablespoon chia seeds (for omega 3’s), 1 peach, 1 frozen banana, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger, 2 frozen strawberries, water and ice to taste. I always add cinnamon and ginger to my smoothies. Cinnamon helps the body process the sugar found naturally in the fruit. Powdered ginger is known to be anti-inflammatory. Both cinnamon and ginger also add antioxidants and flavor the smoothie in a way that I particularly like.

Lunch was a bit of leftover brown rice topped with the tomato artichoke sauce from last night. I have been saving the leftover lasagna for Dan to have for lunch since he likes it much more than I do.

To accompany the rice dish I lightly warmed the curried bean dish I made yesterday and had it on top of shredded romaine and topped it with yellow tomato and cashews. I liked the curried beans and shitakes on salad. Since Dan is at work I don’t know what he thought of it. But he will let me know if it isn’t one of his favorites. ;-)

For my afternoon snack I had my usual frozen grapes.I also added a few walnuts (unpictured). This was washed down with iced green tea with powdered ascorbate C.

Today I decided to make one of my favorite foods, warm cabbage slaw with apples. This is one of those dishes that could eat any time of day I just love it. Cabbage is one of those comfort foods for me. I also like knowing that it is filling, nutritious (especially when raw or lightly cooked) and low in calories. This is a dish you can eat mountains of and not put on weight. ;-) To make this serious comfort food serve it with potatoes. Here is how I made it:

Cardamom Scented Warm Slaw
Serves 6


½ large yellow onion, thinly sliced (allow to stand 10 minutes)
½ inch fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup water
3 carrots, julienned
6 cups thinly sliced cabbage (about ½ head)
1 crisp apple, julienned
¼ cup dried fruit (could be golden raisins, julienned apricots, julienned pineapple or julienned pear, I used pear)
cardamom, to taste (I used about ¼ teaspoon)
stevia, to taste (if you think it needs to be more sweet than sour)
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal for garnish


Cook the onions, ginger and carrot in the vinegar and water. Add the cabbage after two or three minutes and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes. You want the cabbage to still have some body to it so that it retains more nutrition. The apple and dried fruit at added for the last minute of cooking. Season with cardamom and stevia to taste. The stevia is optional if you prefer this dish to be more sweet than sour. Top with green onions when you serve it.


Amount Per Serving
Calories - 73.14
Calories From Fat (4%) - 2.74

Total Fat - 0.33g
Saturated Fat-  0.06g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium-  43.75mg
Potassium - 416.44mg
Total Carbohydrates - 17.59g
Fiber - 3.9g
Sugar - 8.51g
Protein - 1.74g


As you can see this stuff has a ridiculously low amount of calories. If you are not a fan of cardamom you can flavor this with fennel seeds, poppy seeds or caraway seeds any of them would work. If you use the fennel or caraway I would leave out the ginger.

If you want to make this a meal serve it over sweet potatoes. It would also be good with a cooked whole grain or soft polenta.

Dinner tonight:

Dan is still swamped at work and ended up getting home later than I like to eat a big meal. I had a plate of the warm slaw to keep my hunger under control until he got home (pictured above). Once he got home we had a salad with: shredded romaine, shredded kale, cucumber, red bell pepper, fat free roasted red pepper hummus, shredded carrot, a few falafel from the freezer and a drizzle of cashew crème fraiche that I always keep on hand in the refrigerator in a squirt bottle. I also added a few raw sunflower seeds because I like the texture on salad.


I have a number of things on my agenda tomorrow. Given my schedule I know I won’t be on-line until later in the day.

I hope everyone had the best Monday possible. Initially I wrote I hope everyone had a good Monday but really is there such a thing? ;-) Talk to you all again tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Farmers’ Market Sunday

Why does 6am seem to arrive earlier on the weekend than it does during the week? I did drag myself out of bed but only after our two alarms were ringing for 16 minutes. Clearly I did not start the day bright eyed and bushy tailed whatever that old saying means. ;-)

Since we were a bit later than usual getting to the market we had a little difficulty getting a parking spot but it wasn’t terrible, just not what we are used to. We started our shopping trip talking to Rudy about vitamin D. I really enjoy talking to him. Imagine how much more I would absorb if I were actually awake during our conversations, LOL. Rudy is fascinating to me because not only is he an organic farmer but he is a biochemist. He pointed me to an article on BPA and schizophrenia this morning. Once I find and read that I will let you know the upshot. Since Rudy was high on this article I am guessing it is something I will enjoy reading. I learn something every week talking to him; he is such a fascinating guy. :-)

We bought an almost ridiculous amount of produce today at the market. Today’s haul included: 1 large basket of gala apples (probably 100), 1 small basket of peaches (about 20), 2 bunches of kale, 2 bunches collards, 1 pound fresh ginger, 3 big beets, 6 cucumbers, 3 bell peppers, 1 huge leek (for more crispy dehydrated leeks) 2 small baskets blackberries, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 bunch parsley, 1 bunch green onions, 1 head cabbage, 6 ears organic corn from our CSA, 1 box of Roma tomatoes (about the size of paper box). While we were there we also picked up produce for my parents. As you can imagine we had to go back to the car half way through the shopping trip because we were loaded down with food. How can two people eat so much produce? It never ceases to amaze me. ;-)

Food today:

Breakfast today was a quick smoothie which contained: 2 tablespoons oats, 1 tablespoon chia seeds (I am trying to use them up because they have been open for too long in the refrigerator), 1 peach, 1 frozen banana, 3 collard leaves, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon powdered ginger and a pinch of stevia. I also added water and ice until I liked the texture.

Lunch was a simple salad of ½ head of shredded romaine, 1 Roma tomato, ¼ cup sliced cucumber, a couple tablespoons of salsa, ¼ cup or so of fat free hummus with roasted red pepper. I finished the salad with cashew crème fraiche (which I keep in the refrigerator in a squeeze bottle) and a few raw sunflower seeds.

I followed the salad with a plate of fruit which included peaches, blackberreis and sliced almonds.

We were running very low on hummus today after I packed Dan’s lunch so I knew I needed to make some chickpeas. When I started them cooking I was planning to make hummus but I changed my mind while they were cooking. Here is how my warped little mind works. I really liked the caponata on salad the last week but I also wanted something different. Then I started thinking of Indian food since turmeric is so healthy. The next thing you know I am making curried tomato sauce with no idea what to do with it. I thought if I cooked the tomato sauce down until it was a bit thick and “jammy” it would make a nice salad topping. Then I remembered that I had green beans and shitakes that I should use up and in the sauce they went. Green beans in tomato sauce is a classic combination and shitakes work well in Indian food which I learned that from my chef friend Ian. The next thing you know the chickpeas were going into the sauce too. For those of you that ask where my recipes come from now you know. They are all some variation of that process above, LOL. ;-) Nothing scientific in the recipe development process just thoughts that dance through my head and slow down long enough to be executed.

While I was cooking the curried bean dish there was plenty of tasting because I need to get the flavors right.  This may be why I wasn't very hungry tonight when I should have been thinking about dinner. ;-)

The nice thing about a dish like this is that it can be used hot over a grain or cold on a salad. If I get bored with it like this I can use it to top a sweet potato, or add a little coconut milk to change the texture just a little. It would also be excellent with broccoli or cauliflower stirred into it. It could also be turned into a soup which would make it a different meal. I love dishes like this that have so many uses.

It was also on my agenda to make soup and seitan today but I get distracted with exercise and then cleaning. I have had the organizing bug lately so I can feel purging coming again. It would be nice to start the fall with less “stuff” in the house. It always amazes me how many “things” two people can accumulate. What do we need all this stuff for? I am feeling the need to pare down to the essentials, or least closer to the essentials. That doesn’t mean I am getting rid of many books, kitchen gadgets, or my Deruta ceramica, but everything else might be fair game.

Dan didn’t leave for work as early today he had planned which meant dinner was later than I would prefer. I got too preoccupied doing things here and forgot to make dinner. How long have I been feeding myself? Who forgets dinner? Tonight we had a quick meal that I can make in less than 20 minutes. Since I like to keep cooked brown rice in the refrigerator all I needed to make was a sauce to top the rice. I combined ½ of a large thinly sliced yellow onion, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 cup Muir Glen Fire Roasted Pasta sauce and, ½ cup water, 2 jarred thinly sliced roasted red peppers, 10 ounces quartered frozen artichoke hearts, ½ teaspoon fennel seeds and fresh minced parsley to taste. I finished this with a squirt of fresh lemon juice to taste to brighten the flavor, ¼ cup fresh minced parsley, and pine nuts and served it over brown rice (much more for Dan than me). This is quick dish I make when I need food fast. Sometimes I make the tomato sauce and other times I used the jarred fire roasted sauce from Muir Glen, either way we enjoy it.

Sorry for the lack of properly documented recipes with nutritional stats. Today was a little more busy than usual but it was a great day.

I hope you all had a great weekend. Talk to you again tomorrow.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sicilian Inspired Swiss Chard Lasagna with Golden Raisins and Pine nuts

Since Dan has been working so hard for the last few months I wanted to make him something special tonight for dinner that he can take tomorrow to work for lunch. I have mentioned before how much he loves my spinach lasagna. Today I wanted to make lasagna but I thought a different flavor was in order. I had purchased a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard last weekend at the farmers’ market which I thought would be perfect in the lasagna. I couldn’t quite decide between using walnuts or going in a Sicilian direction with the chard. In the end Sicily won out. To mimic the flavors of a dish I make with dark greens I have added golden raisins, pine nuts and hot pepper flakes to this lasagna. In order to bump up the flavor a little I decided I would like balsamic glazed onions and garlic to top the lasagna. In lieu of tomato sauce I made a light veggie sauce which I thickened with cornstarch. Here is what I made:

Sicilian Inspired Swiss Chard Lasagna with Golden Raisins and Pine nuts
Serves 4

Balsamic onion topping Ingredients:

1 yellow onion, peeled and very thinly sliced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the thiopropanal sulfoxide can develop)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the allicin can develop)
½ cup water, divided in half
2 tablespoons good balsamic vinegar (I buy the 18 year old vinegar from Napa Valley Naturals)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (I used 2 good pinches)

Swiss chard filling Ingredients:

1 bunch Swiss chard, cut into julienne (my bunch was approximately 12 ounces before it was washed)
¼ cup golden raisins, or to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts, or to taste
1 pinch nutmeg, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Tofu ricotta filling ingredients:

14 ounce block firm or extra firm organic tofu (without soy protein isolates), thoroughly drained
¼ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 30 minutes and well drained (this adds richness that is missing in most tofu ricotta recipes)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (a touch of this adds a buttery background, too much will make it cheesy in a bad way)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons dehydrated onions
1 pinch nutmeg, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, zested (to brighten the flavor of the filling)
2 tablespoons brown rice flour (this helps the tofu set up so it is more like ricotta)

Sauce ingredients:

2 cup vegetables stock (I used homemade from the freezer made without salt)
1 lemon juiced (use the lemon zested above)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (to thicken the sauce)


6 whole wheat lasagna noodles, par cooked (cook approximately 75% through so that it will absorb some of the sauce and help the lasagna to set up)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, I used my convection setting. Line a loaf pan with parchment or aluminum foil to serve as a sling to remove the lasagna easily from the pan if you are going to serve it right away. If you plan to cook it ahead of time it will release easily in one piece once it has cooled a bit.

Combine the onions, garlic and ¼ cup of water and cook, stirring frequently, until the water has evaporated. Add the second ¼ of water and cook until that has evaporated. Now add the balsamic vinegar, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes and cook until the vinegar has become a glaze and the onions look like this. Refrigerate the onions until the lasagna has baked.

Trim and clean the Swiss chard. Microwave the chard until it has just wilted. Add the remaining ingredients (raisins, pine nuts, nutmeg and black pepper) and taste for flavor. Adjust any of the ingredients to suit your taste. Set aside.

For the tofu filling combine the ingredients in your food processor and process until the cashews have been completely broken down. Taste the tofu filling and adjust the flavors to your taste.

To make the sauce combine the ingredients and whisk until the cornstarch has been completely incorporated. Now cook until the sauce thickens and the color goes from opaque to translucent. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste.

The reason I continue to tell you to taste all the components is that lasagna is nothing but the sum of its parts. Each individual layer needs to suit your taste or you won’t enjoy the combined dish as much as you could.

To make the lasagna place 1/3 of the Swiss chard mixture in the bottom of the pan, add 1/3 of the sauce. Top with 2 par cooked lasagna noodles, cut to fit. Now top the lasagna noodles with 1/3 of the tofu mixture. Continue adding layers like the first ones, chard, sauce, noodles and tofu until the pan is full.

Cover the loaf pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes or until the noodles are completely cooked. I check the noodles by inserting a paring knife into the pan. If the noodles are cooking the knife will slide in easily.

Allow the lasagna to cool for at least 20 minutes before trying to cut the lasagna.

When you are ready to serve heat the balsamic onions and top the slice of lasagna with the balsamic onions or serve the balsamic onions on the side.  I added a few pine nuts to the top as well that aren't included in the recipe.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 356.86
Calories From Fat (29%) - 104.67

Total Fat - 12.24g
Saturated Fat - 1.31g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 199.14mg
Potassium - 684.88mg
Total Carbohydrates - 50.45g
Fiber - 6.95g
Sugar - 10.95g
Protein - 17.62g


This is not your usual lasagna but it is good. Even my hubby who loves the traditional spinach lasagna I normally make said this was very good and he would eat it again without complaint. This is higher praise than you realize since he really loves the spinach version.

Food today:

Lunch today was very simple for me. I made myself a quick salad of ½ head of shredded romaine, a little roasted pepper fat free hummus (this recipe with roasted red pepper added), salsa, and a little cashew crème fraiche.

To accompany my salad I opted for a cup of frozen grapes. As often as these turn up can you tell how much I love them?

Knowing that Dan wasn’t going to be home before 7pm I opted for a mid afternoon snack that consisted of: falafel, roasted red pepper fat free hummus, a bit of cashew crème fraiche and green onions and celery to dip into the hummus.

I also had two peaches sprinkled with a few white chia seeds.

Dinner tonight was a slice of lasagna pictured above.

To accompany the lasagna we had one of our favorite salads: romaine, mango, apple, shredded carrot, and mint dressed with miso and mirin. This is such a winning combination you really should try it.

Time for me to sign off and spend a little time with my hubby before it is time to turn in. I hope you had a great day. Talk to you all again tomorrow.

Breakfast today: Peach, Banana and Collard Smoothie

Saturday is our only day to sleep in so we took advantage of that and didn’t get up until 7 am. Some days it is nice to lounge in bed a bit longer than usual and catch up on your rest. Dan has to work this weekend so he is downtown at his office now. I have decided to try to cross a lot of things off my to-do list while he is gone; at least that is my plan now.

Dan had his usual oatmeal with wild blueberries, cinnamon, ginger and walnuts before he left the house. I haven’t had a smoothie in a few days so I opted for one of those today instead. I haven’t been eating as many dark green leafies as I should be recently so I added a couple of raw collard leaves to my smoothie today. Collards are part of the cruciferous veggie family and are more nutrition raw than cooked to oblivion like they are traditionally served in the Southern US. I find that I can add two leaves to my smoothie and I don’t taste the collard. In a light colored smoothie, like the one I made today, the collards do make the drink an odd light green color but I am used to that now. I added chia seeds for omega 3 fatty acids. Cinnamon was included for flavor and to help my body efficiently process the sugar naturally found in the fruit. Powdered ginger is something I like to include it not only for flavor (I like the little bit of zip it adds) but I for its anti-inflammatory properties. Here is the smoothie I had this morning:

Peach, Banana and Collard Smoothie:
serves 1


2 tablespoons oats, preground if not using a Vitamix
2 peaches, pitted
1 frozen banana
2 collard leaves, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ginger, powdered
water (necessary to achieve the consistency you like, I added about a cup)
ice cubes (necessary to achieve the consistency you like, I added about 6 cubes)


Place all the ingredients in your blender and process until smooth. I like to have mine in a chilled glass that I keep in the freezer just for smoothies.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 307.62
Calories From Fat (11%) - 32.93

Total Fat - 3.94g
Saturated Fat - 0.51g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 16.55mg
Potassium - 1115.16mg
Total Carbohydrates - 69.54g
Fiber - 12.97g
Sugar - 40.95g
Protein - 7g


This smoothie tastes mostly of peach and banana. Since those are two of my favorite fruits I enjoyed this smoothie. Dan is hot a huge fan of peaches which is why he had oatmeal this morning. I like to have smoothies for breakfast occasionally because they are easy to make and eat. Smoothies are the perfect portable breakfast in my mind. You know I love that this 300 calorie breakfast also contains over 2,300IU of vitamin A.


From weather perspective yesterday started out almost perfect. Fall is definitely in the air. It was in the 60’s in the morning when we got up which meant a nice crisp feel was in the air when I hit the pavement. I couldn’t help be a little sad that summer seems to be coming to end. Not that I love the heat mind you but I do love shopping for local organic produce at the farmers’ market and this cool weather reminds me that local produce will soon be only a memory. *sigh*

Like many mornings I walked to the grocery store this time for organic carrots for Dan’s fresh juice. When I got to the store they had rows of potted mums outside for sale. If that doesn’t say fall is approaching I don’t know what does.

Breakfast was a small salad that included: ½ head shredded romaine, ½ cucumber, ½ tomato, salsa, fat free hummus and dehydrated leeks. I was so hungry that I completely forgot to take a picture. How long have I been doing this? *rolls eyes at herself*

Lunch was leftover soba noodle soup with mushrooms from last night.

To go with that I finished off the organic cantaloupe from the CSA topped with a peach, a few blackberries and a sprinkle of white chia seeds. We have been eating this same cantaloupe for most of the week. It may have been the biggest cantaloupe I have ever seen and it was organic.

Lunch was so filling I probably should have had less soup. I was going to add a side salad but I didn’t have room for it after the soup and fruit. I want to get another salad in before dinner. I am trying to increase my consumption of greens. We have Dan’s greens covered with his fresh juice but I don’t always eat as many green leafies as I should.

Because it was Friday that meant I had my usual errands. I checked on my parents and did a little cleaning while I was there. As always I checked to see what they needed before I took care of things for us. I was so tired today I cut things for us short.

After I got back I was relaxing in the family room in my favorite big comfy chair and fell asleep sitting up. I have never done that before unless I was sick and had couldn’t lie down due to sinus pressure. The worst part is that I slept for about 3 hours. Clearly I am more exhausted that I realized. *shakes head* I will be happy when the insomnia aspect of perimenopause eases up. Thank goodness I fell asleep at home sitting up and not while driving. This did show me why it is dangerous to drive tired. The experts always say driving while tired is as dangerous as driving drunk and I didn’t believe it. What happened today may have changed my mind. I will think twice before driving when exhausted now. Good thing I prefer to walk to run my errands.

Dinner was a simple salad (very much like breakfast) with shredded romaine, salsa, roasted red pepper fat free hummus, cucumber, tomato, a little drizzle of cashew crème fraiche, dehydrated leeks and raw sunflower seeds. When we have dinner late in the evening I don’t think a heavy meal works well.

Clearly this was not the most exciting day food wise. However the mailman delivered a very thoughtful present from a friend. My friend printed a picture of Binky from the blog and put it in a frame and mailed it to me. I thought that was so kind and thoughtful. Thank you Michelle, your surprise made both Dan and me smile. You are too sweet!


After I got everything ready for Dan to go downtown today to work I had the chance to relax for a few minutes before I got my breakfast and started my day. Have any of you seen the BBC show “You Are What You Eat”? I saw it for the first time last week and I quite enjoy it. Gillian cracks me up she is such a little spit fire. I assume no one is surprised that I would like this show or that I really do live and breathe this stuff. ;-)

I need to run for now, knock out my exercise and get busy around here. My plan is to have some time to make seitan sausages this evening for the freezer before Dan gets back from work. I have not decided which flavor to make but I am leaning toward Mexican or Italian since I make those cuisines most often. Whatever I finally make I will be back with the recipe.

I hope you are all having a great Saturday. Our weather is beautiful today so far I hope yours is too. Talk to you later.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Middle Eastern Flavored Rice Salad and Asian Inspired Mushroom Soup

Sometimes I crave grains and that was what was happening today. I just wanted something “carby”. Well you know me well enough to realize it wasn’t going to be unhealthy carbs right? Yes even I have carb cravings.

While brown rice isn’t the most healthy grain out there I do like the texture and size of the grain. I wanted to make something Middle Eastern inspired to have with our baked falafel. Here is what I came up with:

Middle Eastern Flavored Rice Salad
Makes 8 servings


1 ½ cup brown basmati rice
3 cups water
½ tablespoon tomato paste (to add a bit of background flavor)
6 whole allspice berries, ground into a powder
1 cinnamon stick
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ cup golden raisins (or any finely diced dried fruit about the size of raisins)
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup fresh mint, finely minced
¼ cup fresh dill, finely minced
1 cucumber, finely diced
½ carrot, finely diced


Combine the rice, water, tomato paste, allspice, and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Make certain to dissolve the tomato paste in the water so you don’t end up with a lump of tomato paste in the cooked rice.

When the rice has cooked completely add the lemon zest and juice and fluff the rice with a fork. Allow the rice to cool to room temperature. Add the remaining ingredients and distribute the ingredients evenly into the rice. Refrigerate until needed.

I like this in a lettuce cup topped with a falafel and a bit of cashew creme fraiche.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 186
Calories From Fat (18%) - 34.12

Total Fat - 4.11g
Saturated Fat - 0.44g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 19.4mg
Potassium - 243.46mg
Total Carbohydrates - 35.45g
Fiber - 3.65g
Sugar - 4.03g
Protein - 4.08g


This dish has much more flavor that you would expect it to have without oil or salt. The fresh herbs add a lot of flavor to the dish. I like the pops of sweetness from the raisins. I added finely diced carrot for color and a bit of texture since they are harder than the cucumber. The pine nuts add a nice richness to the dish. Overall I think this is light but very nice.

Book Review: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (by Caldwell Esselstyn, MD)

I should start by saying that I tried to read this some time ago and it seems so strict that I didn’t finish it. However now that my diet has become so “clean” it seems much more reasonable. Hmmmm, I wonder what that says about me? Yes this book is strict in terms of fat, very strict. However if someone has heart disease I think that makes the most sense.

From the title it is obvious what this book is about. I find it fascinating how much success this MD has had with not only stopping but reversing existing heart disease. If you or someone you love have heart disease this books outlines a plan that is much more palatable than surgery, or at least it would be for me. I would much rather change my diet that have someone cut me open.

You may be wondering why I am reading a book about heart disease when neither Dan nor I have any signs of heart disease. I have learned from my reading about nutrition that the same diet that is helpful for preventing and/or slowing cancer also prevents and/or reverses diabetes and heart disease. There is very little difference in good nutrition in terms of preventing all chronic disease. This came together for me after I read “The China Study” when the author discussed the diseases of affluence. Also I like to read what various clinicians have to say about nutrition since everyone has their own way of explaining things as well as their own biases. I find it helps to understand all the different theories. I have even read books by Sally Fallon trying to understand all the various nutritional theories. Let’s just say some of the theories are backed by more scholarly studies than others.;-)

The book is outlined as follows:

Part One: The Heart of the Matter

1. Eating to Live
2. “Someday We’ll Have to Get Smarter”
3. Seeking the Cure
4. A Primer on Heart Disease
5. Moderation Kills
6. Living, Breathing Proof
7. Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?
8. Simple Steps
9. Frequently Asked Questions
10. Why Can’t I Have “Heart Healthy” Oils?
11. Kindred Spirits
12. Brave New World
13. You Are in Control

Part Two: The Joy of Eating

14. Simple Strategies
15. Advice from Ann Crile Esselstyn
16. Breaking the Fast
17. Feasting on Salads
18. Sauces, Dips, Dressings and Gravies
19. Vegetables, Plain and Fancy
20. Soups, Thick and Delicious
21. Sandwiches for All Occasions
22. The Main Course
23. Wonderful, Easy Desserts

Since my focus has been on cancer I have a much better understanding of heart disease after reading this book. The doctor does a good job of taking a complicated subject and making it easy to understand. I particularly liked his chapter “Moderation Kills” as well as “Why Can’t I Have “Heart Healthy” Oils?”. I feel as though I now know the damage that oil has on the endothelium’s ability to produce nitric oxide and why this is something we should all care about.

If you are trying to follow Dr. Fuhrman or Dr. McDougall the recipes alone are worth the cost of the book. Dr. Esselstyn’s plan is more like Dr. McDougall’s in terms of total grain consumption but the recipes would be easy to modify to reduce the grain.

Overall I enjoyed this book and it enhanced my understanding of how the body works and the impact that food has on the functioning of the book. If you are concerned about heart disease (and who isn’t since it impacts 1 out of every 2 of us) this book is a good read.


Somehow we have run out of soup and cooked beans again. I swear I don’t know where all the food goes around here. ;-) Of course I needed to rectify this situation today so we had quick food to eat for lunch. I made some roasted red pepper fat free hummus similar to this.

Next I worked on making a pot of soup. Dan and I both like mushrooms so I decided use them as the focus of the soup. While the dried mushrooms were soaking I was thinking what to do with them. I considered making a cream of mushroom soup but decided I wanted something a little lighter and ended up with an Asian style soup. Here is what I made:

Asian inspired Mushroom, Vegetable and Soba Noodle Soup
Serves 6


3 cups dried mushrooms
10 cups of water to rehydrate the mushrooms
½ yellow onion, peeled and finely diced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the thiopropanal sulfoxide can develop)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating so the allicin can develop)
½ inch fresh ginger, finely minced
2 carrots, very thinly sliced on a mandoline or thinly julienned
1 bundle soba noodles (check the noodles for sodium content the amounts vary from 110 - 1,080mg’s per bundle from what I have seen)
6 collard leaves, thinly julienned into bite sized strips (or sub 2 cups of thinly sliced Napa cabbage or green cabbage)
3 green onions
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (to add a little background buttery flavor)
Asian sauce of your choice to taste (I used vegetarian oyster sauce that is mushroom based)


Combine the mushrooms and water and heat until hot. Allow the mushrooms to soak for at least 30 minutes before straining then from the soaking liquid, to remove any grit. Chop the mushrooms into pieces that will fit on a soup spoon.

Combine the strained mushroom soaking liquid, diced mushrooms, onions, garlic, and ginger and cook until the onions are tender. To the simmer liquid add the carrot and noodles and cook according to the noodle package directions. Two minutes before the noodles are expected to be finished add the carrots and collards.

Add the nutritional yeast at the end and then add Asian sauce to taste.

Nutritional Information (does not include the Asian sauce component which will mostly impact the sodium):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 264.32
Calories From Fat (4%) - 11.15

Total Fat - 1.25g
Saturated Fat - 0.1g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 110.5mg
Potassium - 656.43mg
Total Carbohydrates - 58.26g
Fiber - 6.44g
Sugar - 3.59g
Protein - 8.51g

Food since my last post:

Dan worked ridiculously late last night so dinner wasn’t really dinner. I had a few baked falafel on a small green salad and Dan had a bowl of strawberry banana soft serve (no oats).

Breakfast this morning was oatmeal with raspberries, blueberries, cinnamon, ginger, ground flax and walnuts for Dan, like usual.

I made myself a small salad of ½ head of shredded romaine, ½ heirloom tomato, a little salsa, ½ cucumber, ½ shredded carrot, a sprinkle of raw sesame seeds, a drizzle of cashew crème fraiche and some dehydrated leeks.

To accompany the salad I had 1/6 of a large cantaloupe, a peach, a few blackberries and a sprinkling of white chia seeds. This was washed down my hot lemon water which has become my new morning ritual as the mornings grow colder.

At lunch time I wasn’t particularly hungry but I knew needed some beans so I grabbed about a cup of stove top baked beans to give me a little extra protein.  If you think the scale looks wrong it is because I tend to eat off salad plates with appetizer forks unless I am having a green salad.

My afternoon snack was a cup of frozen grapes. My freezer always contains frozen grapes. I never put them in smoothies they always go into a bowl and I eat them like little bon bons. They are so good this way I never eat grapes that aren’t frozen.

Dinner was a bowl of the soup (from above) and a lettuce wraps with rice salad (from above), baked falafel topped with cashew crème fraiche. I put red pepper hummus in the middle of the plate because I thought the plate needed color. Didn’t see that coming did you? ;-) Sometimes I add things for appearance it isn’t always just taste. A little of the eggplant tomato salad would have been great in the middle of the plate but we ate it all.

That is going to be it for me tonight it is getting late and a Jimmy Buffet concert for the Gulf Coast is playing that Dan and I want to see. We haven’t seen him in concert in 10 years but so far it is the same as always, less the smoldering hair that is. ;-)

I hope you are all having a good evening. Talk to you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Baked Falafel and Soy Protein Isolate?

Falafel is a staple food at our house. I always have them in the freezer to toss on our salad for a fast bean component to a meal. It wasn’t until I had a friend from the Middle East that I learned that falafel are traditionally made with uncooked beans. I still remember when I heard this thinking the idea was nuts to use only soaked beans but it works and results in a lovely light textured falafel. My friend is a bit of a falafel snob so I have picked up a few pointers just by going to dinner with him often. According to him falafel should have a green tint or they aren’t authentic. You can use all cilantro or a combination of cilantro, parsley and mint. I love cilantro so I use it exclusively.

Some of the other things I have added to the falafel are not traditional. Specifically I am referring to the raw sesame seeds, lemon zest and hot crushed peppers (wet hots). These are how I make the falafel my own. Here is what I did:

Baked Falafel
Makes 36 balls that are approximately 2 small bites each


1 cup garbanzo beans, soaked at least 24 hours
1 cup mini fava beans, soaked at least 24 hours (or substitute garbanzo beans)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ large yellow onion, peeled (about ½ cup)
1 lemon, zested and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup raw sesame seeds
1 - 2 cups fresh cilantro (depending on how much you like cilantro) the “dough” should be green
2 teaspoons coriander, ground
2 teaspoons cumin, ground
1 tablespoons hot crushed peppers (wet hots) – optional but adds nice flavor
1 teaspoon baking soda
black pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (convection) and line a half sheet pan with silpat or parchment paper. If you don’t have a parchment or silpat you can lightly mist the sheet pan with oil to make certain the falafel don’t stick. I have not tried to bake them without lining the pan first or using oil however it may work fine like baking tofu, but I am not certain.

Drain the beans well and grind them thoroughly in your food processor. I have a 14 cup Cuisinart food processor which allowed me to grind all the beans at once but you may want to divide them into two batches if you are using a smaller machine. When the beans are thoroughly ground move them to a mixing bowl. Make certain the beans are completely ground. If you have any big pieces of bean in the mixture it will be unpleasant to eat.

Place the remaining ingredients (using the smaller amount of cilantro) except the baking soda and pepper, into you blender. Process until you have a smooth mixture. I had to use the plunger on my Vitamix to get the items to blender thoroughly. Pour the mixture into the beans and mix well. Taste the mixture for seasoning and add more pureed cilantro is desired. To the falafel mixture add the baking soda and mix very well. Next add black pepper, to taste. It is important to thoroughly mix the baking soda into the dish so you don’t end up with any particularly salty individual falafel.

Use a cookie disher (one that is 1 ½ tablespoon size) to form the balls. Form a round ball in your hands then flatten slightly so that they don’t roll on the sheet pan. Refrigerate the formed balls on the sheet tray until the oven comes to temperature. This will help the balls to stay together. In the past I have sprayed the balls with olive oil in a mister but I now omit that step and they are still brown and crispy. Go figure. ;-)

Bake the balls for 20-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow them to cool a few minutes so they are easier to flip then gently flip and bake until the bottom is lightly browned. The second baking takes less time maybe 10-15 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them or they can get dry.

If you are going to freeze them (like I do) place them on baking sheet in a single layer and freeze until solid. Then place them in a zipper bag of vacuum bag and freeze in your typical portion size (one serving, two servings, etc.).

Nutrition information per ball:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 49.86
Calories From Fat (25%) - 12.53

Total Fat - 1.5g
Saturated Fat - 0.19g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 38.56mg
Potassium - 123.13mg
Total Carbohydrates - 7.03g
Fiber - 2.43g
Sugar - 0.97g
Protein - 2.69g


I posted this recipe more for the method and general ingredients so that you can make the recipe your own. The flavor of this version is my favorite but I do vary it also. If you like a lighter flavor falafel you may want to eliminate the hot crushed peppers, reduce the onion and garlic and add a grated zucchini instead for moisture. Also you can add a little mint in place of some of the cilantro if you are a fan of mint. There are many ways to change this dish.

What’s the Matter with: Soy Protein Isolates?

I mentioned a few weeks ago that after talking to a few of my friends about the health concerns with specific foods I decided that I should work on a series of posts about some of these foods. I decided to start with soy protein isolates because these seem to show up on other blogs daily which I find very disturbing from a health perspective which is my primary focus when it comes to food.

What is Soy Protein Isolate?

I should start with what is soy protein isolate. Soy beans are mashed into slurry which is mixed with an alkaline solution to remove the fiber. The fiber is separated using an acid wash which is neutralized in an alkaline solution. Worse yet the acid washing typically happens in aluminum tanks leaching aluminum into the resulting “high protein” soy product. This was not easy to find and harder to confirm. Apparently no one wants to actually discuss the process of making soy protein isolate.  I wonder why! What does soy protein isolate become? It turns up in fast fast food hamburgers, veggie burgers, soy protein powder, textured vegetable protein, soy dairy substitutes, and it is also added to some brands of tofu.

The first thing I noticed when I was reading about how soy protein isolate is made is that it isn’t something that I can make at home. I am not a fan of processed food but this one sounded particularly bad to me. About a year ago I read in “Life Over Cancer” that TVP should be on the rarely consumed list. The doctor didn’t discuss any specifics but it made me wary of TVP. I did a little more research and discovered that soy protein isolates (found in TVP) increase IGF-1 (just like dairy). If you know anything about IGF-1 you know that it is not something you want to elevate since it is linked to an increase in the incidence of cancer.

What is IGF-1?

IGF-1 stands for insulin-like growth factor 1 and stimulates the growth of both normal cells and malignant ones (cancer). It is particularly dangerous for people with hormonally sensitive cancers but also promotes lung cancer, colon and pancreatic cancers. Exercise can reduce the levels of IGF-1 by lowering the production and increasing blood proteins that bind to it so it is less available to promote tumor growth. It has also been suggested that some carotenoids (those antioxidants found in red, yellow and orange vegetables) inhibit IGF-1. Increased levels of IGF-1 are associated consumption of meat, dairy, and soy protein isolates.

Where is Soy Protein Isolate in the food supply?

What are some typical foods that contain soy protein isolates? Generally anything vegan and processed is probably suspect. I have seen it listed in many veggie burgers and even in organic silken tofu. If you buy vegan dairy substitutes they contain not only soy protein isolates but frequently trans fat. This is another reason to avoid processed foods in my opinion.

I was going to list products which contain these items but decided that it would be best to avoid any unnecessary contact with lawyers. I have also seen soy protein isolated listed on labels as “soy protein”, “processed soy flour”, “textured vegetable protein” and even just “soy flour”. The problem is that soy flour or soy beans are used at the front end of the process so it I not always listed as soy protein isolate. My approach is to avoid any food that contains some form of soy and has been processed into an unnatural form. This avoid list includes the following commercial processed food: veggie burgers, vegan meat substitutes, vegan hot dogs, vegan dairy substitutes, TVP, tofu with soy protein isolates (including one popular organic brand). There are a few brands that don’t include soy protein isolates but they are the exception and still contain other nasty chemicals so I don’t buy those for other reasons.

What can you use in place of food with soy protein isolate?

I use beans or organic soy protein free tofu, and tempeh when I need an easy source of protein. Frozen edamame is something I also keep in the freezer to add to salads and soups. If I have more time I will make seitan sausages or seitan cutlets but those we eat more rarely because I prefer food that is less processed even when homemade. Most of the time I rely on beans for protein for a few reasons: beans a cheap even when they are organic, I can make a bunch and freeze them, beans have a mild flavor and can be seasoned in many different ways.


It is not difficult to avoid soy protein isolates but it does require you to cook. If you are consuming commercial processed food you are most likely ingesting soy protein isolates. Now that I have learned about them you couldn’t force me to eat anything that contains them. Additionally most ingredients that contain them are not organic which means you have gotten a nice dose of pesticides along with your food. *shivers*

I hope this helps some of you to understand the problems with soy protein isolates. I am not a nutritionist so I encourage you to do your own research. But I can assure you this product is not something that anyone or anything should eat. Yes I did check our cat food and it isn’t in there, but I would suggest your check your animal food too.

If new science comes out to suggest soy protein isolate isn’t as dangerous as I now think it is I will let you know. For now it is on my “do not consume” list and I expect it will stay there.

My Food Today:

Breakfast this morning was a simple salad of ½ head of shredded romaine, ½ heirloom tomato, ¼ cup cucumber, ½ cup of stove top baked beans, a tiny bit of cashew crème fraiche and dehydrated leeks. I added beans for protein and flavor they are serving as the “dressing” for the salad. The cashew crème fraiche was added to provide a little fat to help me absorb the fat soluble vitamins. Dehydrated leeks were included for crunch and there antiproliferative effects.

To accompany this salad I made myself a small bowl of peaches with a few blackberries and white chia seeds. I like to add blue foods to our diet whenever I can. I try to always eat the rainbow everyday because different antioxidant families are concentrated in similarly colored foods. The blue food group is the toughest for most of us to consume. In order to consume blue foods every day I try to keep the following on hand: frozen wild blueberries, frozen black raspberries, red cabbage and dried wild blueberries. By having those items available I can add blue foods to our oatmeal, smoothies, fruit salad, green salads or trail mix.

At the moment I have no idea what I am making for dinner. But I will try to come back tonight and let you know what I end up making.  I hope everyone is having a good Wednesday. Talk to you all later.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chermoula for Marinating Tofu, Tempeh or Potatoes

Yesterday is now a complete blur to me now. I had a busy day and then had computer problems in the evening that kept me off the blog. Today was much more like a normal day at my house. I spent a little time in the kitchen today making more Middle Eastern food, specifically chermoula.

Chermoula is a Moroccan condiment that can also be used as a marinade. In the past I have used this marinade (with oil) on fish, poultry and lamb). There are many different variations of chermoula other versions include onions, cayenne and salt. Traditionally it contains oil which I left out for obvious reasons. It can also be made as a dry rub rather than a marinade. The mix usually contains parsley and cilantro which I add after the baking to keep it fresh. Here is what I did:

Chermoula for Marinating Tofu, Tempeh or Potatoes
Enough for 14 ounces of tofu and 1 pound of par cooked new potatoes


½ teaspoon coriander seed, ground
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
2 teaspoons paprika (not smoked)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 lemon zested and juiced
¼ cup water

Additional ingredients:

¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, minced


Toast the coriander and cumin and grind in your spice grinder (or using your mortar and pestle). Place the ground seeds in your blender with the paprika, garlic, lemon and water and process until you have a smooth sauce.

To use pour the marinade over tofu slices or tempeh and allow them to soak up the marinade for a few hours in your refrigerator. Bake until the tofu is firm and lightly browned (about 35 minutes at 350 degrees).

If you are going to make the potatoes as well par cook them in the microwave until they are 75% cooked. Cut them into bite sized chunks and toss them in the chermoula while the oven preheats. Roast them in the oven on a half sheet pan with the tofu and they will be finished at the same time.

To serve, top the tofu and potatoes with a sprinkling of parsley and cilantro. The tofu and potatoes are both good hot or cold. I think they are both good on salad, but I say that about everything, LOL.

Nutritional Information (for the entire recipe which will not be entirely absorbed):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 79.28
Calories From Fat (17%) - 13.11

Total Fat - 1.76g
Saturated Fat - 0.21g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 27.96mg
Potassium - 518.52mg
Total Carbohydrates - 22.72g
Fiber - 8.44g
Sugar - 0.79g
Protein - 4.22g


This marinade has a lot of flavor it is not mild. If you like intense flavors you will enjoy this. If you prefer your food more mildly flavored you may want to skip this.


How does my day always seem to get away from me? Does that happen to any of you? I often wonder how we got anything done at home when I worked the same crazy hours as my husband. But even now with me home I still don’t everything crossed off my to-do list. I swear there are more things on my list now than there used to be. Well, it could be that or just that I am older and slower at getting them done. ;-)

Yesterday started like always with my making a bottle of fresh fruit and vegetable juice (similar to this one) for Dan to take to work with his trail mix. Then I made his usual breakfast of cinnamon and ginger oats with flaxseeds, mixed berries and walnuts. While he was having breakfast I put together this lunch for work.

After Dan left for work I relaxed a little and then knocked out my exercise. Needless to say exercise always seems to make me hungry; I think it does that everyone one. At least I hope it isn’t just me. For breakfast I had an odd combination of things. First I made myself a hot water with lemon and a bowl of fruit containing two peaches, a few blackberries and sprinkle of white chia seeds.

The fruit just didn’t seem substantial enough and about an hour and half later I had a small salad which contained: ½ head of shredded romaine, ½ heirloom tomato, ½ cup stove top baked beans (cold) and a dollop of cashew crème fraiche. I may be alone on this but I think the baked beans tasted better cold. ;-)

Lunch was a small bowl of the curried lentil and veggie soup over a little brown rice. I stirred in a handful of shredded spinach once it was warm for added nutrition. I like to add nutrition of meals any place that I can. I finished this with a dollop of cashew crème fraiche.

Yesterday has been gorgeous day weather wise. There a few puffy clouds in the sky and temperatures are in the low 80’s with a nice breeze. I don’t think the weather could be more perfect. First thing in the morning I opened the windows to air the house out. It is so wonderful to get fresh air into the house. I wish we lived in a climate where we could have the windows open more often.

Here is my little angel (Massimo aka Masi) enjoying the fresh air in his favorite window.

After at 10 clicks here is he telling the paparazzi (me), no more pictures you have taken enough. My cats are very vocal. I think it is because they are related to the Siamese breed which you can see in the angular face, long legs and slender body.

Dinner was a simple salad of: shredded romaine, salsa, tomatoes, cucumber, carrot, falafel (from the freezer) and raw sunflower seeds.

Of course Dan has his usual big bowl of strawberry banana soft serve (no oats) for dessert.


Our day started like usual with my making a bottle of fresh juice for Dan to take to work, his breakfast (the usual berry oatmeal with flax) and packing his lunch. After Dan was out the door I did my exercise and walked to the grocery store for carrots and lemons (for the fresh juice).

Our weather has been cool (low 70’s) and grey all day. It was been threatening to rain but no precipitation has made it to the ground. I went to the store early to make certain I was home before the thunderstorms started. As usual the weathermen were not exactly on target. Well, at least they got the cloudy and cool part right. ;-)

By the time I was back from the store I was really hungry. Breakfast this morning was a salad of shredded romaine, eggplant and tomato salad, pine nuts, roasted tomatoes and falafel I had thawed yesterday for dinner.

Lunch was a Mariblu Naturals granola bar and small bowl of curried lentil soup.

I spent most of the day trying to get caught up my email. I am through about 75% of it. Thankfully that means I should get through the remainder tomorrow.

Last night I was talking with a friend and we got on the topic of falafel. When she mentioned that she had a healthy (no oil) version that she liked you know I had to ask for the recipe. ;-) Looking at the recipe this morning it is similar, but not exactly like mine. Since I have yet to post my healthy falafel I got some garbanzos and mini favas soaking today so that I can make them tomorrow. Yes I did say fava beans, they are the reason my falafel are a darker color on the exterior without frying. My falafel is not traditional, but we like them.

After I decided to get the beans soaking for tomorrow chermoula danced through my head. I used to love this but my original version contained a lot of olive oil so I have not make it in years. I knew I had to try making a no oil version to see how that would change the dish. As you can tell dinner tonight was more of an experiment than anything else. My poor husband always has to be my cooking guinea pig.

The reason we had potatoes tonight with dinner was that there was quite a bit of chermoula left in the dish once I removed the tofu. I immediately thought par cook potatoes cut them into bite sized pieces and tossed in the chermoula would be good. I did this while the oven was preheating and got the tofu and potatoes in the oven at the same time.

Dinner was a romaine salad topped with tomatoes, cucumber, lemon tahini sauce, chermoula tofu and chermoula potatoes, which was pictured at the top of the post.

Dessert was a slice of pineapple topped with a little cranberry and orange granita from the freezer.


Assuming the weathermen are right we should be getting more sun tomorrow and returning to a more seasonable mid to upper 80’s. I had planned to make the falafel because it was suppose to rain all day tomorrow, but that was a few hours ago. How can the weather people change their minds so dramatically in just a few hours? Is anyone else frustrated with weather forecasters? *rolls eyes*

Food Philosophy:

I get a lot of interesting emails asking food questions that typically revolve around food philosophy as in why we eat this way or how we changed and what sort of difference it made. Those of you that have been reading a long time know most of this but for the new followers I wanted to cover the basics again.

Back in 2004 we found out my husband had cancer. My first thought was what I can do to help him beat this. In general doctors are convinced that there is nothing that patients can do to help themselves once they have cancer. Not being one to give up control and put my life in someone’s hands I immediately went into research mode. It ended with a vegan diet that morphed in a very healthy vegan diet (no oil, little flour, few grains and little sodium). We are not vegan for ethical reasons it is all about health for us. That is also the reason you don’t see unhealthy foods like commercial faux meat or dairy substitutes. I am very particular about what we eat. Soy protein isolates are high on my list of things we will not ingest and they are rampant in processed food.

Our diet continues to evolve and change as I read more books and studies on nutrition and health. I am always looking to improve our diet and nothing is really off limits, in terms of being removed, if it helps us to be healthier. As I said before my husband lovingly refers to me as “The Nutrition Nazi” like “The Soup Nazi” on Seinfeld. He claims everyday there is something else added to the list of “No ______ for you”. I don’t think I am that bad, but I will admit I am adamant that we eat well (translation healthy) the vast majority of the time. We do occasionally go out to eat but even then we try to make the healthiest choice on the menu and we modify our diet at home to get our average numbers back into balance.

One of the things that I have been doing is monitoring how different foods or food groups work for me. I think nutrition is a more personal than many professionals realize. One of the things I have found is that whole grains are not something that my body likes. Don’t get me wrong I love the taste of them, but my GI system moves more slowly when I eat grains resulting in an unpleasant slow feeling. I would not have realized that if I didn’t track what I eat, how I feel (energized, sluggish, tired, etc.). Keeping a food and mood journal has done more to help me narrow down work works best for my body than anything else has. It works best if you make one change at the time and give the change a couple of weeks to have an impact. I have learned a lot about myself with this process.

Overall I know both Dan and I feel really good eating this way. It was a tough transition initially but was well worth it. Now we both have low blood pressure, great cholesterol, better complexions, no seasonal allergies, and we lost a few pounds in the process. I have said before that we probably couldn’t have made these changes just for weight. Since we were focused on health that was the motivation we needed. It really is amazing what drastic changes you can make when your life is threatened. We both feel like these dietary changes have become permanent. Once you have felt as good as we do you can’t imagine going back to anything remotely like the standard American diet.

I hope that explains why we have moved to an “uber healthy” vegan diet and gives you some insight into my initial and current motivation.

On that note I need to run. It is getting late here and 6am comes early in the morning. Talk to you all again tomorrow assuming my technology problems are gone.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Curried Lentil and Coconut Stew with Veggies

Today as part of the mid day meal with my folks I made a curried lentil soup with veggies that I served over brown basmati rice and topped with cashew crème fraiche and cilantro. My parents are old (early 80’s) and are a bit stuck in their Midwestern meat and potatoes ways. It is always challenging to come up with food that is healthy enough for Dan and me but that my parents will also enjoy. Soup and salad is one of those ideas that seems to work for everyone so I do variations of it quite often.

We had not had anything curried in a few days and I love adding turmeric to our food for its antioxidant punch as well as its reported ability to kill cancer. I also add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper to dishes with turmeric since the piperine in black pepper is said to greatly enhance (I have read anywhere from 100 to 1000 times) the bioavailability of the turmeric. Additionally since turmeric is fat soluble I also make certain to have it with a little fat, in this case the coconut milk and cashew crème had us more than covered. Here is what I made:

Curried Lentil and Coconut Stew with Veggies
Serves 8 as a main dish (assuming you have a little grain in with it)


2 cups mixed dried mushrooms
4 cups of water to soak mushrooms
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced (allow to stand 10 minutes so the thiopropanal sulfoxide can develop)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (allow to stand 10 minutes so the allicin can develop)
2 cup brown lentils, sorted, picked through and rinsed
6 cups water or light veggie stock (add more if necessary as the stew cooks to achieve the texture you desire)
6 cups peeled, diced tomatoes (or 3 – 14 ounce cans)
1 tablespoon turmeric, ground
4 teaspoons black mustard seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed (ground is traditional I prefer whole)
1 teaspoon cumin seed (ground is traditional I prefer whole)
1 teaspoon ajowan seed
freshly ground black pepper, to taste (be generous the piperine in the pepper makes the turmeric more bioavailable)
13.5 ounce can reduced fat coconut milk (Let's Do Organic Brand)
1 zucchini, finely diced
4 cups frozen organic corn, carrots, peas and greens beans (from Costco)

Garnish ingredients:

cashew crème fraiche
fresh minced cilantro


Cooked grain of some sort (I used brown basmati rice but quinoa, millet or bulgur would all be good but less traditional)


Combine the dried mushroom and water and heat in your microwave until hot (a few minutes). Allow the mushrooms to soak for 30 minutes to give them time to soften. Then strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit (you will use the strained liquid in your stew). Chop the mushrooms into bite sized pieces.

In a very large pot (I used a 31 Le Creuset 6.314 quart) combine the strained mushroom liquid, mushrooms, onion, garlic, lentils, water, tomatoes, and the dried spices. Simmer until the lentils are tender (about 45 minutes but longer wouldn’t hurt anything). Add the coconut milk, zucchini, and veggies and simmer until the veggies are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

To serve place the brown rice in the base of the bowl, top with soup, fresh cilantro and a dollop of cashew crème.

Nutritional Information (without the garnishes or the brown rice):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 417.69
Calories From Fat (13%) - 55.72

Total Fat - 6.16g
Saturated Fat - 2.93g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 133.61mg
Potassium - 1366.69mg
Total Carbohydrates - 75.76g
Fiber - 18.09g
Sugar - 5.02g
Protein - 22.85g


This soup/stew tastes far richer than it is. Additionally it has a wonderful aroma that perfumed the house while it simmered away on the stove. Dan and I enjoyed this and even my parents (who are not overly fond of Indian food) liked this. It is very filling particularly when you serve it on a little bed of rice. I would describe this as one of those “stick to your ribs” dishes. If you like heat some crushed red pepper flakes would be great in this. I left them out since black pepper is pushing things with my mother. The leftovers will be getting some heat for sure. ;-)

Unusual ingredient from this recipe:

Ajowan is used mostly in Indian cooking and imparts a flavor similar to thyme with notes of anise, oregano and black pepper. It can be used with veggies, breads and beans. It is said be an effective antiflatulent. It is also used as a component of berberre.

Farmers’ market this week:

Wow did 6am come early this morning since we didn’t even think of going to bed until 11:30pm last night. I had to drag myself to the market this morning. But as always once we were there it as great. We even managed to be a little earlier than usual. We helped one of the organic farmers unload his truck. This farmer is a fascinating man who is also a biochemist. We talk about fun things like macrophages, the impact of vitamin D deficiencies and aminopyralid. Even though it is early and I am not completely awake I always enjoy talking to Rudy.

I swear it seems like I buy more produce at the market each week and somehow we still manage to eat it. This week I got: 2 bunches collards, 1 bunch Swiss chard, 4 pounds sweet potatoes, 6 poblanos, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, beets, leaf lettuce (for lettuce cups), 2 eggplants, 1 basket apples, 1 basket peaches, 1 quart blackberries, fresh dill, fresh cilantro, and probably other things that I have forgotten. Our refrigerators are once again full of produce which makes me smile.

Food today:

For breakfast we had a big bowl of fruit containing cantaloupe, peaches and blackberries. I had expected to make something else to go with this but we were both full after we eat this.

We did decide that we needed a snack about noon and you know what Dan wanted, strawberry banana soft serve (again no oats since Dan has put on a couple of pounds).

Lunch was a big bowl of the curried lentil soup over brown basmati rice topped with cashew crème and pictured above. To accompany that I made a small side salad with shredded romaine, carrot, zucchini, cucumber, salsa, heirloom tomatoes and sunflower seeds.

Dinner we ended up skipping. We had such a big meal at 3pm that we just weren’t hungry later in the day.


I hope to have some time to catch up on my reading after I do a few things around the house. After that I really need to get caught up on my email which I am dreadfully tardy in attending to at the moment.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Talk to you all again soon.
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