February 27, 2010

Medeski Martin & Wood

Saw these guys last night in Portland. No vocals, just the instruments doing the singing and speaking. I especially enjoyed the drummer/percussionist and all the toys he uses to make his music. Nice show!

Saturday morning is mine for awhile.

For many years I have made Saturday morning a full errand day. Up early starting the meals by soaking beans, reviewing the fruit and vegetable inventory and recipes for my grocery list, cleaning whatever needs cleaned, starting the laundry, going to a volunteer commitment for an hour or so, farmer's market, grocery store, health foods store, fuel the car, if needed, and then home to put it all away and begin the rest of the household duties. I am usually home by about 1 or 2 p.m. a bit tired and hungry. A few years ago I also fit in a Weight Watcher's meeting.

I have a good time doing these things, farmer's market is my favorite. It's a social event for me too as I know all the farmer's, vendors, many of the patrons. I not only get my produce, but chat, listen to music, learn about gardening and new, interesting vegetables I haven't tried yet. I exchange recipe and gardening ideas, and get some fresh air. I am often tired very early in the day on Saturday and sometimes forget to eat lunch because I get too busy. That can be dangerous, mostly to my husband. We call it the "past feed mom time." Well, I had another DUH moment a couple months ago, I can just stay home and do the shopping later. After all, all I need is a produce stand.

So, I have been staying home on Saturday mornings, enjoying my peaceful haven. That is one of the reasons I go to work isn't it? To have a warm, peaceful, loving place to just be.

Since my last year of weekly and daily emotional turmoil, life took on many changes. I couldn't see it in all the fog of the anger and fear, but many of those changes were good. We spend much more time together, my husband and I. We're working as a team more than ever before. I don't go out to as many separate social gatherings as I was, I cut out much of the volunteer work I was doing at the time. I had a volunteer commitment for the last thirteen years on Saturday morning. I enjoy this commitment and will go back to it, I am sure. It is always there when I am ready. For now, home just seems like the nicest and best place to be. We have worked to build the peasant haven we call home. I am getting to know it in the morning again a little more. I have also made a personal rule that I only go to the grocery store twice a week and work with what I have at home. If I don't have it, I don't use it. That saves some time and money.

This morning, I have already transplanted some plants, read a couple chapters in a book, made a great smoothie: 2 bananas, a large mango, a very large pear, a whole orange, and an avocado. I had smoothie, coffee and conversation with my husband. I sat on my deck and enjoyed the sunshine, the new growth all around, and the birds this morning and I haven't worried about how I am dressed or if the dishes are done. Feels nice. I can go get some produce with my husband later today or when we go to Shelton tomorrow. Hmmm, relaxing at home doing what I love what a concept. DUH!

What a beautiful morning it is. There is some sunshine, but better than that, I am spending time in my garden after I finish this. Yes, in my garden. Everything is growing and looking strong this morning I found myself just sitting for a few minutes just looking at the plants and breathing in their beauty as I do in the outdoor garden. I have already transplanted some babies this morning. All the artichokes, 35 of them, are getting their own homes in little peat pots today. They have outgrown their seedling trays, or will very soon. In their place I am going to start some more herbs: oregano, sage, garlic chives, peas and maybe some tomatoes. I have been told by many experienced farmer's and gardeners that we will have an early spring and now is the time to get things going. A friend of mine mentioned, when I came up with this indoor seedling garden idea, that she envisioned my husband putting glass around my deck because my garden got too big. She may not have been that far off, I love this very much already.

So, I now need to "STEP AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER" and get back to the babies and Saturday morning. If you need me this morning, I'm in the basement.

February 26, 2010

The Rain Song

It is the springtime of my loving - the second season I am to know You are the sunlight in my growing - so little warmth I've felt before. It isn't hard to feel me glowing - I watched the fire that...

Non Roast Pot Roast

Wednesday night while working out on my elliptical machine I was watching the Food Network and they were having a chicken pot pie cook off. I got to feeling very hungry and it was looking really good. I don't want chicken, but I was craving some of that warm, comforting food. I started thinking about what I had that would make a nice warm meal for that evening. I made something similar to pot roast without the roast for dinner. I thought it very simple and almost anyone who would read a recipe online probably knows how to make it. My husband said it's a perfect transition food and some folks who don't know what to eat if they don't eat meat might want to know about it. He said it's the best parts of the pot roast without the meat. It would a satisfy a meat craving. He thought I should share it.

All I did was chop up an onion, some carrots, celery, and potatoes. I sauteed the onions in sage oil, (thanks for the that tip Morgaine), mixed with some coconut oil. I added the carrots and celery and the potatoes last. I seasoned with sea salt and pepper, some rosemary, crushed dried sage, and a little dried basil. I crush my dried herbs in a coffee grinder I have just for that purpose. After the vegetables were browned and almost tender I added about a half cup of black bean flakes and a cup of water. I covered it and let it steam for about five minutes until the beans and water become a nice brown gravy. I didn't cook it so long as to make the vegetables soft, they were firm and still full of flavor. It was a warm, hearty meal for a rainy night.

Some of the best meals are the most simple.

Now, I am off to water my garden babies and turn on their sunshine. I get to work with them this weekend. Happy Friday!

February 25, 2010

Do the next right thing - the benefits.

The benefits of eating a plant based diet are many. Besides health, there are some environmental benefits I've noticed. Our electric bill went down a bit, I use the stove top and oven much less and I only run the dishwasher once a week. We almost never have more than half our garbage can full when they come to collect. I think there is usually only one kitchen bag in there. This is our packaging from two meals, dinner last night and our morning smoothie. Instead of taking the garbage out daily, we empty our packaging into the compost pile sometimes twice a day. It will become groceries sometime next year in the garden. This is only from last night and this morning. I also get kind of excited knowing that we ate that much fruit and vegetables when I look at our colorful packaging. It doesn't look like garbage to me.

The garden is coming along. I will be transplanting the artichokes into six inch pots this weekend. They are getting their third set of leaves and they have definition now. They don't look like every other seedling anymore. The peppers are beginning to come up and we have lots of onions. Gee, basil sure is fast. I set some seeds in a window box just Saturday and the basil are already coming up. I think I will start some peas next, seems a lot of gardeners I know are planting those now, so it must be time. That's how I'm learning, watching the local people who have been growing my vegetables for years.

Sometimes I realize that I have acquired a new responsibility because I have to watch, water, feed, and take care of these little babies. (And now this blog.) A new thing to be fit into the morning routine. But, this morning I found myself running down the stairs first thing after making my coffee to check on them. The planting is giving me a very nice a direction right now.

The healthy snack day at work was great fun yesterday. I think we should do something like that every other month, a healthy potluck. Quite a few people participated and made interesting low calorie treats. It was a fun challenge to come up with something fun to eat under 200 calories. Everyone brought a list of their ingredients and the calorie count. Some got fancy about it and made pretty signs, others just left the recipe. You could tell people really had some fun. It is fun to see what other people prepare too. I am always on the hunt for a recipe. I love the variety and adventure of it all. I have at least three new recipes to try. I brought the dairy free chocolate pudding I saw on my friend's blog. I am a big fan of this already. I can't believe I can eat chocolate pudding and it is just two servings of fruit.

 My Version
Now the best benefit of the day! I have been on a great exercise track, not missing but one day in the last three weeks. Last night I even did forty minutes straight on the elliptical. This morning the scale finally went backwards five pounds. AMAZING how well things work out when put one foot in front of the other and I do what I know I should do.

I am grateful to Good Orderly Direction and those I have in my life who motivate me when I cannot do it myself.

February 22, 2010

Organic Learning Farm

Orange Chocolate Bean Cupcakes

These cupcakes were very easy and tasty. I used a whole orange instead of orange juice concentrate listed in the recipe. When I was blending the wet ingredients, I just wanted to drink the mixture as a smoothie.

I don't usually count calories, but some of the people I share my goodies with are concerned about that lately, so I estimated these. I calculated them at: 110 calories, 3.9 g fat, 2.6 g fiber, 2.7 g protein, and since they are 100% plant based, zero cholesterol. These can be eaten for dessert or as lunch since they are made from beans, rice, nuts, and fruit. I made little muffins using a one ounce scoop, so they are half the calories and make a handy, healthy, chocolate snack.

Orange Chocolate Bean Cupcakes
Wendy Gabbe Day

1 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup Sucanat (or evaporated cane juice)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup flax seed meal - (grind flax seeds in a coffee grinder.)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup almonds (or other nuts)
2 apples
11/2 cup water
1/3 cup orange juice concentrate (I just used a whole orange)
2 TBL orange zest

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Lightly oil a 12-muffin tin.
3. Combine first eight dry ingredients in a bowl.
4. Blend almonds into a coarse flour - (I use a food processor, a blender will work)
5. Core the apples (leave skins on) and blend with the almonds, water, and orange juice until smooth.
6. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, sprinkle in the freshly grated orange zest, and mix until just combined.
7. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (I used the little muffin tins, the cooking time was about 35 minutes.

I topped them with
Coconut Whipped Creme

14 oz can Unsweetened Coconut Milk (use top firm part only)
1/3 cup Powdered sugar
1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked 4 hours in filtered water), drained well (use this water in your smoothie, it has lots of protein and nutrients from the nuts)
1 tsp Vanilla bean (scrape inside)

1. Place can of coconut milk into refrigerator for 4 hours. Open and remove thick part on top to use in recipe. Reserve rest for other uses.
2. In a blender, blend cashews and coconut to smooth, add powdered sugar. Blend to thick and fluffy.
3. Transfer to small stainless steel bowl, add vanilla, stir.
4. Chill 1 hour minimum or overnight.
5. Use within 2 days.

It's a really rich tasting cream sauce that can be used for all kinds of goodies. This creme sauce can also be created in many different ways, sweet and savory. I have omitted the powdered sugar and vanilla bean and used chipotle chili peppers to use as a sauce for enchiladas, Chipotle creme sauce.

This will add about 22 calories to those muffins for those of you who count your calories.

February 21, 2010

Friend and Gifts - They find their own way

Of the many things I do to entertain myself, I love textile crafts, spinning yarn is one of those. A dear friend taught me how to spin about thirteen years ago. I don't always know what or if I am going to make anything with it, I just love to create beautiful yarn, combining all kinds of colors and textures: wools, silk, flax, and cotton. Sometimes just the yarn is a nice gift. Most of my art usually finds it's own way to it's eventual home. Sometimes, just the way someone looks at what I am making while I am making it tells me it is theirs. It might sound strange, but it happens all the time that what I make finds it's own way.

I had invited Connie for lunch Saturday. Around the time I expected her to call, she called and told me that one of our mutual friends, Nadine, had broken her ankle cleaning her house. She is at one of the local nursing homes and we should go visit her right now and that she'd be over to pick me up in ten minutes. I agreed, threw on some jeans and we went to visit her. Knowing that she is an avid knitter and crocheter, I grabbed a couple hanks of some yarn I had spun this winter.  She might like something to work with while laying around that hospital room.

She was cleaning her walls and fell off a stool. She has a pretty severe compound fracture in her ankle. It required surgery immediately. She says the doctor said it looks like she could be down for up to five months. I broke my ankle last summer and have a good idea how much her life has changed for awhile. She definitely has some challenges ahead. I am grateful my break wasn't as bad. Nadine is 81 years old and usually in great shape. She was alone when she did this and told us how she pulled herself down the hall to a phone with her arms to call 911. She was humored when I pointed out that she had called someone and actually said "I have fallen and can't get up." I know, pretty rude, huh? I couldn't help it. It did bring a smile to her face.

When we got there, she said she was doing all right except that she was bored silly. I pulled out the yarn and she pushed it away saying she wasn't doing any crocheting there. She said she wasn't reading or anything. She is always crocheting. That's something we always share when we are together. She was worried about her garden, she wanted to get some onions in the ground this week. I could tell she was feeling bad, but trying not too show it too much. I know how she feels. I am usually a self-motivated, energetic person and when I had to depend on others to do so many things, it was very frustrating and humbling. I let her know I have some tools to help out when she gets home, a wheelchair, very handy in the kitchen with a broken ankle, crutches, small benches for the shower and the garden. She was glad to hear that.

I tried to give her the yarn again. She pushed it away again, saying rather firmly that she didn't need it. She said she has a project at home she can work on when she gets home. She also had just told me she might not be home for months. I said, "At least we can talk about the yarn, I made it myself." When she heard that, her eyes got big and she said "You made it yourself?" She promptly reached out and snatched that yarn out of my hand and quickly put it beside her where she could have it handy. It was so funny the way she grabbed it, like she had something very valuable that might get away. As we talked during the rest of our visit she picked it up a couple of times saying she had to make something with it. When we left she was getting ready to call her husband and ask for some real food when he came to visit. She's says she has never seen anyone cook such bad food as she was being served in this nursing home. She said she was also going to ask him to bring a crochet hook for her new yarn.

On the way home and during lunch Connie and I laughed and laughed at Nadine grabbing the yarn the way she did after telling us she didn't want it. It definitely brightened our day. I hope we brightened Nadine's as well. I am going to pack a small cooler with some edibles for Nadine today. I hope she isn't really stuck in that nursing home for months. If so, I need to include her on my weekly schedule and go help pretty up that room a bit. I know I got through my broken ankle adventure with lots of help of my friends, my turn to help now.

Hand Spun Yarn

Delicata Squash Soup, Vegan Fajitas, Dairy Free Berry Raw Fruit Pie

What a beautiful day yesterday, Huh? Spring time in February for the PNW. We went on a nice long walk out by Tam O'Shanter Park. We also went shopping at the local produce market together. My husband picked up a couple organic Delicata squash and said they looked good. I told him to grab three medium sized squash and I would do something with them. When we got home, I thought I'd try this free app I got for IPhone a few weeks ago, Vegan Yum Yum. It's a vegan cookbook on my IPhone. I just type in the ingredient and it finds recipes with pictures and checklists. When I am done with an ingredient or step, I can check it off. I guess it stems from a vegan food blog. I tried the recipe I found and I really like it.

I made Delicata Squash Bisque. I only made a couple variations, I added a pound of nice young tender asparagus I picked up today at the local produce market. I also added a little ground lavender with the sea salt. This soup is creamy, delicious, and filling. The cashew creme sauce is a savory variation of the cashew vanilla creme that I use in many of my sweet recipes. There aren't many ingredients and it's pretty easy.

3 pounds Delicata Squash (2 pounds after prepping)
oil for basting
4 cups Rich Vegetable Broth (I use low sodium organic vegetable broth)
Lots of black pepper - I like that - I used about 1 tsp or so of fresh ground black pepper
1-1/2 tsp salt, more or less to taste - I used less, about 1 tsp Celtic sea salt

Cashew Creme
1 cup Raw, unsalted cashews
1 cup Rich Vegetable broth divided, I used a portion of the 4 cups above.

Delicata Squash Bisque
You were probably starting to think that we have a pretty boring diet, I make a large salad and a pot of beans every week. Well, I did make the beans, there will be salad made tomorrow to last a few days. Those are just the staples in our diet, I do make other meals from time to time. Today I made some vegan fajitas. I made this recipe up as I created, so the measurements are estimated.

1-2 TB Coconut oil or olive oil
1 Red onion halved and the halves sliced thin
2 small or 1 medium red bell pepper sliced thin
1 TB garlic minced
2 - 3 roma tomatoes sliced in lengthwise wedges
1 pkg vege crumbles, (textured vegetable protein)
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
salt, cayenne pepper to taste

Sautee the onions until tender in a little of your favorite oil, I like coconut oil. Add the sliced red pepper, cook a couple minutes until the pepper is tender. Add the tomatoes just to warm them and remove from the heat, set aside.

In about a teaspoon of hot coconut oil add the vege crumbles. Add the spices and about a half cup of water just to plump the vege crumbles and get a nice brown coating. This doesn't have to cook very long, just reduce a bit. Put the vegetables you sauteed earlier back in the pan.

Serve in a whole grain tortilla, we used tomato basil wraps. Add some sliced cabbage and avocado. I also used a little of the cashew creme I made for the soup in them. I did not miss the cheese in these burritos.

I don't use vege crumbles very much. Even though they are a plant based, low fat, high protein and fiber food, they are processed food, soy and wheat gluten. It's a good transition food but shouldn't be used very much.

Vegan Fajitas
I went to a cooking demo this week in Portland. I belong to a vegetarian/vegan educational group, NW Veg. I get lots of great information and ideas reading their newsletters, website, and attending events like the annual VegFest.

Wendy Gabbe Day did a dessert demonstration, one raw foods dessert and a muffin that can be eaten for a meal. It's a chocolate muffin made with bean flour, it's got some great fiber and protein as well as tastes good. I haven't tried the muffin yet, but I did try her pie. I made mine with mixed frozen berries from last summer, you can make it with any fruit you want. This recipe is very similar to my mango mousse recipe except that dessert calls for some coconut milk. It's easy, has very few ingredients, dairy free, and very low calories. I haven't calculated it out yet, but I think it's under 100 calories for this treat. I topped it, wrote on it, with vanilla, cashew, coconut cream. I made the cashew vanilla cream after we had our first sample, the chef has to taste the food first, right?

I never get bored of eating this way.

February 20, 2010

Garden Babies

Well, it's week two for my seedlings and I am amazed at how fast things are going. I didn't expect anything for at least three weeks. The artichokes are getting their second set of leaves and it's time to feed them a little now. The onions are interesting. Everyday I take a peek at them and there are two or three that just shot up two inches overnight. I am putting them in three inch peat pots as they sprout. The herbs are doing just great. We have basil, cilantro, and mint right now. I will add more as spring nears. There are a couple sprouts in the pepper seed trays, time to give them a little sunlight I think. They are very delicate little sprouts. I planted the peppers a week after the artichokes, they are supposed to take a little longer to germinate. When the artichokes are ready for transplanting to larger containers, I will start some eggplant and maybe some tomatoes.

I am trying to space this so I have plenty of room to give them the light they need while growing. I can't plant in the ground until May 1, so I have to space this out right. I need to be able to keep them all alive until they get to the garden. We also have a small greenhouse behind the house. The dryer vent is hooked up so that the warm air goes in there to keep the small plants warm. We haven't utilized it in a long time as a greenhouse, time to get the shelves in order.

We have a nice plot in the local community garden. It is a great place to be. There are over 120 garden plots and when they are all alive, it's a very peaceful, beautiful place. It almost became our living room last year we spent so much time out there. In the NW the sun doesn't completely set until almost 10:00 p.m. in midsummer. We spent some memorable evenings harvesting and working as the sun set and under the full moons of the season. Even when I had a cast on my leg, I found a way to help out. A step stool worked great for weeding and harvesting. When I couldn't help out, I just set up a lawn chair and read. I'll post pictures as the field progresses from a flat piece of ground to an abundant food source made up of many original gardens. It's truly a wonderful place. Here's a couple pictures from last year.

February 19, 2010

Dairy Free Chocolate Pudding

My friend just turned me on to this chocolate pudding recipe from the Balanced Bites Blog. Made with avocado and banana, it's whole food and very easy to prepare. I had to share. It's going to the office as a chocolate mousse pie next week for a healthy treat day. I will make a crust with raw almonds and dates. I have to be careful to make a dessert that is less than 200 calories. I think this one will be about 125 a slice, once it is paired with the almond/date pie crust.

Special Friends

Glenn Smith, Santa Cruz Music Man

We met our friend Glenn on our Baja trip. He entertained us continuously with his guitar, harmonica, voice, and original music. I am looking forward to his visit. I love it when people come in to our home and bring our musical instruments to life. I am so grateful people like this come into our lives. Enjoy!

February 18, 2010

More About Whole Grains

This week my focus has been exercising 30 minutes a day and adding more whole grains to our diet. I have been pretty successful at both this week. I made some nice treats that were whole grain,low in sugar and fat.

   Bob's Red Mill
I made some changes when I made these:
Instead of Oat Bran cereal, I just used rolled oats.
Brown sugar replaced with suganot, (Rapadura)
I used 1 cup Almond milk and 1 tsp lemon juice in place of the yogurt.
I would ordinarily use egg replacer instead of an egg, but I had one left from when we had some guests. Since I get my eggs fresh from a local farm, when I do buy eggs, they last a little longer than from the grocery store.
I omitted the Walnuts.

Even with the guidance of this nutritious recipe, I cut out some of the fat by replacing the yogurt and omitting the walnuts.

 Nutritious Muffins

American Whole Foods Cuisine, Nikki & David Godbeck
This is a great cookbook for transitioning to a more whole foods and vegetarian diet. Used so much, my copy of this cookbook is really messy, I've tried many of these recipes. When I found this book, I purchased so many for gifts, when my friend went online to buy one, they were gone and she had to buy another edition. I might have purchased all that were left in 2006 of this one. There is a rice nut loaf recipe that is a favorite around here. I have gotten compliments for my "meatloaf" from guests that didn't know it was a "non-meatloaf." It even makes a pretty good non-meatloaf sandwich.

I made the Summer Fruit Cobbler and it was pretty good. Made with cornmeal instead of the usual shortening, sugar, flour and milk mixture we traditionally use for cobbler. It has a different texture than traditional cobbler, but just as tasty and just as comforting. I served it with a small scoop, 1 oz., of mango sorbet.

Summer Fruit Cobbler

5 to 6 cups mixed preaches, nectarines, berries, and plums peeled if desired and cut in bite-size pieces. (You can use any fruit you like, I used peaches and blueberries we froze fresh last summer.)
3/4 cup honey (I used raw agave syrup)
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp butter (I use vegan margarine made with flax or canola oil)

Preheat oven to 375

Combine fruit with 1/4 cup honey or agave in a shallow 2-quart baking dish or a 9 x 13-inch pan.

Mix cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk and let sit a minute or so until batter is thick. Drop by spoonfuls evenly over fruit.

Heat together remaining 1/2 cup honey, lemon juice, and butter just until butter melts. Pour over batter and fruit.

Bake for 30 minutes unitl crust is firm. Cool and serve at room temperature. I ended up baking mine for about 40 minutes because I used a little deeper dish than a flat 9 x 13 baking dish

Serve warm with vegan whipped cream or dairy free ice cream.

February 15, 2010

Valentine Flowers

Nice day Sunday, drove through some pretty spots and stopped to breath. These are my Valentine's Day flowers. I left mine, where I found them.

February 13, 2010

Dinner this week - Whole Grains

There's been a lot of talk about whole grains in my world this week. It got me wondering if we are getting enough whole grains in our diet. I do try to make brown rice or pasta now & then, but I probably don't do it enough. That's easy to remedy, so, this weekend I made some quinoa AND millet for our meals this week. These are kind of tricky to work with together as they both have different cooking times and if I am not careful, I can measure them out and forget which is which. Can you tell the difference?

The Quinoa is on the left, the Millet on the right. The only difference is that the millet is a bit more yellow, but not much. I buy these in bulk and make sure to put them in their jars as soon as I get home. Those little twist ties come off those bags and it is very difficult to tell these grains apart until they are cooked.

The Quinoa has a simmer time of 10-15 minutes. The millet has a cooking time of 25-30 minutes. If I get these mixed up, as I have done, I can have a mess. One is over cooked and the other under cooked. I use sticky notes to remind which is which. I cooked one cup of Quinoa and one cup of millet. Here's a SITE with grain cooking times for your reference. When I fluffed the grains as you do rice. I used a little garlic chili fax oil, about a tablespoon for each grain. I diced and sauteed two yams in coconut oil until tender and a little browned and set them aside. I then sauteed sliced red onion and diced red pepper together until the onions were carmelized. I added a little balsamic vinegar into the pan and put the yams back in. I added the cooked grains and tossed together. I served the grains on a collard green. I often use the collard greens as wraps just like a torilla.


So, no surprise I made some beans this week too. Our main source of fiber and protein besides all the vegetables we eat. I cooked some pinto beans this week. Very simple, Celtic sea salt, fresh ground pepper, diced onions, garlic and celery. I didn't do too much different other than add some lime juice before adding the vegetable broth. That should enhance the flavor a bit. I thought I would do something different this week and provide you with some cooking times. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and she told me one of her biggest problems was cooking her beans the right amount of time. She has problems getting them too soft or too hard. She said she has never gotten pinto beans right. As long as I have been cooking, I still consult a chart before cooking my beans or grains, especially if I haven't used that particular variety in awhile.

Halter's College Inn - Home of the Halter's Ham and Hi-Fi Steak Sandwiches

Halter's College Inn
Grandma's Hamburger Stand

This is where I spent my summers and weekends in the sixties. Named the College Inn as it was across the street from Valley College in Van Nuys, CA. My grandparents lived in a house in the back. This was my first place of employment. I started helping out as a very young girl. I used to stand on an orange crate and work the counter when it was busy. This was at the very beginning of the fast food revolution. Former German delicatessen owners in Ohio, when we all moved to the west, they purchased this little restaurant. Their food was purchased and prepared by them personally. My grandfather would bake hams and prepare sauces and salads all day Sunday for the week ahead. The fast food was beginning to creep in though, notice the "Corny Dog" sign. I remember that being a new food that was usually only something you ate at the county fair. (It was made fresh at the fair too, not prepared somewhere else to be eaten weeks later.)

My grandfather was a hard working cook and he loved food. His food was usually made with old fashioned ingredients including real butter and animal fat. He used the gelatin from the hams he baked as a secret ingredient on his hamburgers. He would brush some of the melted gelatin on the burgers before they were placed on the bun. That was his 'secret' ingredient. He loved sweets, ice cream, and pastries. They served fresh ice cream until they bought a new, fancy machine that made soft ice cream. Ice cream sundaes were at reach any time you wanted, we all like it. The fast food systems were creeping in. I remember watching as they bulldozed the houses on either side of their restaurant and a Baskin Robbins and a Taco Tio building next door, Der Wienersnitchel on the other side. And he never wanted us to go that new McDonald's place down the road. His love of too much of the wrong kind of food killed him, he had diabetes and died of coronary disease. I think he was only 52 years old. This is one of my main motivators to paying attention to what I put in my body. I have already passed that age and so far have avoided diabetes. The same is not true for most of my younger brothers and sisters.

After he died in 1969 some weirdos, as my parents called them, bought the place and made it one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Van Nuys. They painted signs all over that said "Eat Plants, Not Animals." I don't think they were so weird.

Food Rules

I just read Food Rules, by Michael Pollan. It's a small book with a lot of information. It's a straightforward collection of simple rules to keep in mind in the pursuit to choose the right things to put in my body and enjoy eating at the same time. Much of it is based on fact and research, and much of it is just the way our great grandmothers ate when they grew their own food and baking a fruit pie meant picking the fruit while it was in season and baking it herself. The crust was made from stone ground wheat not far from home. He suggested remembering at least three of the 64 rules laid out in his book, if I don't remember anything else. Some of the rules I had heard before.  Some explanations opened up some new thoughts on the subject and made many of them much clearer.These rules have been laid out so simply that a few times I thought, that makes so much sense, why hadn't I heard or thought of this before?

Rule #2 - "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." 

My grandmother was a great inspiration to my love of good food and cooking. She was my greatest teacher. She actually had one of the first hamburger stands in Van Nuys, CA. But, her food was not processed in mass quantities. She and my grandfather shopped every weekend and made many trips to the farmer's market in the area. There was a permanent facility for farmer's to come sell their produce back then. A produce man would come every week with fresh produce he sold out of the back of his truck. I used to love it when plums were in season, he had the sweetest plums. We made Sunday dinner together every Sunday. Fresh roasted chicken and vegetables. She was raised on a farm in Tennessee and taught me how to plant and care for a garden when I was a child. Being a depression era child, she never wasted ANYTHING. She taught me how to use the tiniest bit of carrot as a garnish, if nothing else. She thought soft ice cream was a great invention though, but she didn't eat too much of it. She lived until 95 eating her fruit and oats for breakfast everyday and always having fresh cooked whole food.

This one was very interesting:

Rule #8 - Avoid food products that make health claims.

Michael Pollen points out that in order for a product to carry a health claim on its package, it must first have a package. The healthiest food in the supermarket is the fresh produce and it doesn't boast about its healthfulness because the growers don't have the budget for packaging. The big food manufacturers have the money and means to secure FDA approved health claims and advertise the fact. The packaging alone is a clue that the food is more likely to be processed rather than a whole food.

Rule #16 - Get out of the supermarket when you can.

There isn't any high fructose corn syrup or elaborately processed food-like substances at farmer's markets. You'll find food that is alive and will eventually rot. Unlike some highly processed food-like substances containing long lists of ingredients no one can pronounce or has ever heard of and probably wouldn't put in our bodies if we did understand them.

Some of his rules have or need no explanation at all.

Rule #20 - It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
Rule #21 - It's not food if it's called by the same name in every language. (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.)

And one of my favorites that was amusing as much as it is sad.

Rule #57 - Don't get fuel from the same place your car does.

American gas stations now make more money selling food than they do selling gasoline. But the kind of food they sell is highly processed, imperishable snack foods and estravagantly sweetened soft drinks in hefty twenty-ounce bottles. Gas stations have become "processed corn stations": ethanol outside for your car and high fructose corn syrup inside for you.


February 12, 2010

The Garden Begins

Well, here they are, my little artichokes are poking their first leaves out.

They will be ready for the lights this Sunday, I think. After their third set of leaves comes in I will transplant into six inch peat pots and keep them warm and fed until we can plant in the spring. I am very excited about the artichokes as that is something I grew up with. Living near the coast in California where artichokes are a huge cash crop, we passed fields and fields of them anywhere we drove. I hate paying $2 for an artichoke here. Not only are they expensive, it seems the artichokes that are marketed in this area are mainly a big round meatless variety that were grown for a decorative purpose. They are good for putting a nice dip in on a pretty buffet table, but not for getting that great, tender artichoke heart. I hope they do all right, many people tell me they've grown great artichokes here.

I set some lemon basil to germinate last weekend. They didn't waste any time coming up. I was very surprised, they popped up in only four days. It's going to smell so good when they get to growing, I love fresh herbs. Last summer I snipped fresh herbs out at our garden and just put them on the dashboard of my car. We had three kinds of basil, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and marjoram.

This weekend it's time to start some peppers. I know this only because I have been flooding my brain with information about seedlings and gardening. I really am very new at this. I am reading a very good book, The New Seed-Starters Handbook, which is walking me through the whole process. I am following her suggestions with a little advice from some of my favorite local gardeners and farmers.

So, I started these peppers today: Tequila Sunrise, Sweet Bell Peppers, and Tennessee Cheese. They are all sweet peppers. The Tequila Sunrise peppers are supposed to go from yellow to orange to red. That's going to be pretty having them at different stages with all the colors in my garden. The Tennessee Cheese peppers are something my husband found by accident last year when he stopped at a local produce stand. These are a little more flavorful than the typical red pepper, spicier, but not hot. They are firm little round balls that are perfect for stuffing and roasting. They are also about $4.99 per lb organic, I must grow my own.

Tennessee Cheese Peppers


So there have been some kinks in my day, but most of the day has been great.

There was some very bad news for a friend. But, I will make sure to give her some good attention and love.

I exercised in two twenty minute increments today. In just a week of working out a little everyday, I felt better in my clothes today.

I finished a kind of scavenger hunt I've been on for a work project, that feels good. I was a little baffled at first when handed this assignment as to where I would find the information, but it is all coming together. 

I made plane reservations to go see my sister in Tennessee in April. That's another chapter to be written here, our reunion after 25 years apart in 2000. Anyway, I have a free round trip plane ticket with SW Airlines, kind of like frequent flier miles. It only cost me $10 for a round trip ticket. Something about doing that just feels fun. I got kind of giggly when I did it. She and I will have a nice week together in the spring. I've never been to the south, I have heard it's beautiful in the spring.

I have no plans tomorrow except to go to a meeting, prepare some food for the week ahead, and work on our home with my husband in the afternoon. We just heard Robbie Laws is playing in town at a little restaurant tomorrow night, might peak in for a bit. Sunday we are off to see our son. It should be interesting going visiting at a prison on Valentine's Day. I already have in mind how we will pose for our family picture. It's the only real fun I can see having there, gotta do it.

We ended our day today sharing a lovely sashimi dinner with stir fry vegetables at a local restaurant. It was so pretty we had to take a photo. The whole plate of sashimi was arranged like a huge flower blossom. The wasabi was put in a mold and shaped into leaves. It was truly beautiful, tasty, and we didn't over-eat. In the center of this rose are two kinds of tuna, salmon, halibut, fillet of sole, cod, and octopus that was surprisingly tender. It wasn't very expensive either.

Now, I am going to enjoy some Mango Sorbet, not too much though.

It could be Worse

I awoke to find my basil and artichokes seedlings poking their first leaves out, excited to begin some more seedlings today, happy to have someone to greet and look forward to spending time with, I get to go to work, and I'm truly grateful for the day. No matter how bad things seem, I know inside that I am loved and life is pretty good, it could be worse.

Shortly after waking I found out my dear friend's 16 year old son tried to kill himself yesterday. He was sad over a girl and ate quite a few handfuls of pills. She spent the whole night in the emergency room watching her baby in pain. He's going to be ok, but she just went through one of the worst nights a mother could experience. I have learned the pain a mother can endure this year and thought of nothing else but her today.

Yes, life could be worse!

Vincent - Welcoming the day!

February 10, 2010

Lifestyle books

"If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t" - sensible words from food guru Michael Pollan.


Robert, my oldest son. I am very proud of my young man. He's a good dad and a good man. A corpsman in the Navy, he works with the Marines mostly in emergency medical units. I am not too thrilled with his choice of career, but he is doing what he dreamed of doing and doing it well. For that I am grateful. He's off to Afghanistan very soon. I haven't even begun to worry about that. I am sure learning some patience lately. Too bad it's one of the things I tend to learn the hard way. I did pretty good when he went to Iraq. One of the things that helped was sending care packages regularly. Thank goodness for flat rate boxes!


There's A Bright Side Somewhere - Hot Tuna

February 9, 2010

Salad Dressings

This is going to be a great place to store recipes and ideas. Most of the meals I prepare begin with someone else's recipe, or recipes from magazines, the internet, or cookbooks. (I have more cookbooks than a human should own.) I make most recipes pretty close to the way it was written the first time I make it, substituting plant based products in place of any animal products as often as I can. Then the next time I make the same dish, it will take on many changes as I play in my kitchen. I like to take conventional recipes and change the ingredients so we can eat the same things we love, like the occasional cake or cookies, but without the animal products.

I love to go out to eat, find something wonderful and go home and try to recreate it. Many times it works out great, sometimes it doesn't. Some things take experimenting with a couple of times to get the right consistency. When I make a cake using an egg substitute or agave instead of raw sugar, I don't always get the right dry to liquid ratios with some of the substitutions. Most of the time it's a consistency issue and not taste. But I keep at it until I get it right. I think the worst thing my husband has ever said about my food is, "this one is hard core hippie food, don't know if your friends at work will like it." I think that's his way of keeping the goodies at our house.

Throughout my journey from the Standard American Diet, SAD, to a diet consisting of 90% fruits and vegetables I have taken classes, gone to many presentations, and read a quite a few books on the subject. A couple of my favorites are Becoming Vegetarian, by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis and Getting Into Your Pants, by Dr. Leslie Van Romer. Both of these authors and nutrition specialists have given me some great direction. They both not only reinforced everything I have been learning about the health benefits of a plant based diet, they gave me some tools and directions about HOW to make the change and eat a consistently good, nutritious diet. They both lay out the basics: plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and very little or no dairy products is better. They also talk about menu planning and how to eat the right foods so that I get all the nutrients I need to stay healthy and hopefully avoid common diseases like diabetes and coronary disease. Dr. Leslie makes it super easy, eat ten servings of fruits and vegetables first, everyday, shop in the produce section only,and if it has a label maybe I shouldn't be eating it at all.

I get a regular inspirational email from Dr. Leslie Van Romer with healthy eating encouragement and tips. Today she sent some nice salad dressing recipes. I thought I would share a few of them. I usually go for her favorite, the diced avocado, balsamic vinegar, and freshly squeezed lemon. I use fresh orange or lime juice too sometimes instead of lemon. But, I do like to change up the menu now and then and make something different. After all, if it gets boring, we might not continue. So far my husband and I are enjoying this journey very much.

I am probably going to try the Creamy cashew dressing first, but I will try them all. I like creating with raw cashews, I can do so many things with raw cashews. I can make vegan chipotle cream sauce, vegan whipped cream, and a ricotta for raw lasagna with raw cashews. I also put them in my chili, they plump up like a nice big, sweet bean.

Creamy Cashew Salad Dressing
By Julia Spagnoli 


1 cup Unsweetened Soy Milk (or simply water)
1 cup Raw Cashews
1 large Lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons No-Salt Mustard
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup Riesling Raisin Vinegar (whatever vinegar you’d like)
1Tbs. flax seed (Lorna added this when she stopped using soy milk. The water made it thinner and the flax seed thickens it. Great tip, Lorna!)

Instructions: Put all ingredients in Vita-mix or blender and blend until very smooth. Delicious!

Caesar Salad Dressing
(per Lorna Grant) By Casinera


4 - 8 cloves garlic, roasted *
1 cup unsweetened soy milk (or water)
1/2 cup cashew butter
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions: Roast garlic, then blend all ingredients together.
* To roast garlic; break the cloves apart. Leave the papery skins on. Roast at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until mushy. When cool, remove skins.

Herb Lemon Dressing
“God’s Garden” by Rhonda Malkmus

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup distilled water
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp. Celtic sea salt
1 garlic clove
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1/2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano

Mince garlic clove and onion and combine with liquids. Add herbs and allow it to sit several hours for the flavors to combine.

Avocado & Tomato Dressing
“God’s Garden” by Rhonda Malkmus

2 ripe tomatoes
1 stalk of celery
1 ripe avocado

Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth, add herbs of your choice.

No-Oil Poppy Seed Dressing
“God’s Garden” by Rhonda Malkmus

1 cup distilled water or vegetable soup stock
1 Tbsp. arrow root powder

Mix well and pour into a small saucepan, heat until clear and thickened, allow to cool slightly, pour into blender and add the following: 1/3 cup lemon juice 1/3 cup honey 2 Tbsp. poppy seeds 1/4 tsp. Celtic sea salt (optional) 1 tsp. dry mustard (optional) 1 tsp. paprika Blend well, pour into jar and refrigerate until ready to serve.


February 7, 2010

Rule 62 - Don't Take Life Too Seriously

I accomplished many of the things I wanted to do this weekend. I got my food preparation done for our meals this week. My garden is underway, I have two trays of artichoke seeds germinating in the basement, there was a row open so I also put some lemon basil seeds in also. I also put a small set of seeds germinating in the kitchen, some lemon basil, mint, cilantro, and catnip. I have some little seedling warming mats to keep them warm while germinating. I was very lucky to run into one of my favorite farmer's market farmers yesterday and he gave me one of his secrets to successful germination. This is the first time I am attempting to start my garden this early, I appreciate any help I receive. He said to cover the trays with plastic wrap and don't water again until they begin to sprout. This way they aren't watered too much and they shouldn't dry out.

I also planted some bulbs, Ranunculus and Tigridia. I haven't seen too many Ranunculus growing around the area, but then I sometimes get them mixed up with dahlias. I did have them in my homes in California, I like them a lot. I hope they come up. I also put some bulbs in large pots so I can transplant into our garden when it comes time to plant outdoors. We have this vision of our garden perimeter outlined with colorful flowers this year.

It was such a beautiful day today, we made sure to get some "outside time." It was almost like a spring day in February. I planted my bulbs and my husband cleared some of the dead foliage to make room for all the new growth. I spotted some today too, lots of little green plants starting to wake up from the winter.


I even felt some warmth outside. While working the flower bed I even took off my sweatshirt and worked in a tank top. It didn't last very long, but the natural warmth felt good while it was there.

I took a hike around through our yard and canyon. I stay inside so much during the winter and get busy with life, I forget about our beautiful little forest in our own yard. We always have a little reunion each year. Right outside in my yard is such beauty. I remember telling the realtor when we bought our house that I wanted rural or the "illusion of." She did a very good job with the illusion. We are very close to town, yet we feel like we are secluded.

One of my most favorite plants in the yard, I call the "antler plant" takes on at least three distinct personalities, a unique one each season. In the springtime it's very green with beautiful pink flowers. In the fall it changes to many colors of reds and oranges and looks like a ball of flames. It is quite beautiful in the fall, I can't walk by it without noticing. Then, as it is now, in the winter, it looks like the molting antlers of a deer or an elk. I couldn't find a springtime picture, but I will remember to save one where I can find it this spring.


So, what's my title about? Rule 62? Don't take life too seriously?

It is sad my son is where he is right now, but I finally managed to find something to laugh about. When we go to visit, we sit with other families in the same room and everyone is playing board games, talking, reading, laughing, eating snacks together. There's a play area for small children. It's very strange as it does seem like we are in a room full of warm, nice people. We probably all are in our ways. But, family game day under armed guard, it's a very strange thing to experience. We are not supposed to talk to each other, the stangers and I, but it is hard not to. I've met some nice women there doing the same thing there that I am, visiting their children.

There is an inmate that makes a couple of bucks taking photos of folks for $1.75. It seemed kind of silly to me, at first, to pose in front of a fake waterfall and make a family pose, smiles and all. I guess the children aren't completely aware this is not a happy situation, it's really a fun idea, I guess, especially if your loved one is incarcerated for a lengthy sentence. I guess we'd bring a camera in, if we could. And it's another way to pass the time in an uncomfortable situation.

So, when it was our turn, I thought, "let's pose as we would if we were hiking and noticed this lovely waterfall." So, we all turned our backs to the camera and looked at the waterfall in the woods. The guy taking the picture thought it was weird and I assured him it was also weird being where we were, he agreed. I must admit, I am a sick pup for thinking this would be fun. Well, we got the photo yesterday and my son likes it, I think it's the funniest thing I've seen in awhile. What's the clue that tells you this picture isn't real? It's not the fact that we looked superimposed or digitally planted in the photo. Not the fact that my son doesn't usually wear Orange. The clue is: If we were on a hike and taking notice of this beautiful site, my husband would have a camera in his hand and wouldn't have a free hand to point. I hope I still look at this later on and can get the smile I get right now. Guess there are times I can find the joy and not take life so seriously.


Just another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest

What's for Dinner?

What a beautiful day, we had some "outside time" today. It was almost like spring in February. I even had a tank top on for a short time today, a very short time, but I did feel some warmth outside. Did a little yard cleanup and got some bulbs planted and enjoyed being outside. I planted some Ranunculus and Tigridia. Looks like the daffodils are showing their faces too. Pretty soon,there will be many colors popping up everywhere in my yard.

Last weekend I didn't get our salad made until Monday night. Even though there were plenty of healthy choices for my lunch, I did miss the raw vegetables. I couldn't wait to get home from work and make our salad Monday night.

What's in it this week?

Swiss Chard
Beets and beet greens
collard greens
chopped fennel bulb
onion sprouts
grated carrots
roasted pumpkin seeds
dried cranberries
the juice from an orange
and a dash of balsamic vinegar and
a dash of garlic/chili flax oil

I also got to wondering if we get enough whole grains. So this weekend I sauteed some red onions with some dill, sea salt, ground pepper, coriander, and some crushed basil. Then I added some fresh broccoli and caulflower flowerettswith a diced red bell pepper. I sauteed them just until they were tender, but still crisp. Then I added some steamed whole grain brown rice. When I fluffed the rice, I added a little garlic chili flax oil. Then tossed it all together.

My beans this week are cooked with leeks and potatoes. I used the 13 bean mixture from the bulk foods. I soaked them for a few hours, seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic, lavender, and ground dried basil. I diced the potatoes very small so that some of them dissolved creating a creamy consistency. Combined with the red lentils and peas in the bean mixture, it made a nice creamy bean soup. My beans may look the same to some of you week after week, but they are different. I think I have managed to go about six weeks at least without repeating a bean recipe. I might have done baked beans twice, but used different beans each time.


All of the above make a complete meal in themselves. But, if I do decide to bring home some fish or make another entree, they all make a nice sidedish.

Then I made a nice surprise this week, Vegan Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies. These could almost qualify as an energy bar; Whole Wheat Pastry flour, barley flour, sweetened with dark Agavi syrup and bananas. I toasted the walnuts myself so I know they don't have any added salt or sugar. No animal products so no cholesterol in these cookies.

Why did I make so many cookies? I am thinking I should drop by Vernie's and meet some new friends. I post my weekly menu on another forum and the members like to get together to meet once a month. I think I will check it out. Homemade cookies are always  add to a welcome greeting especially when meeting new friends.

Thought I'd share something I found in the backyard today. The groundhogs and their counterparts around the country predicted six more weeks of winter. But the new life popping up all over my yard tells me spring is coming.

Sources of Inspiration

A friend gave us a copy of a collection of works by Kahil Gibran last year. I have read it often and enjoy the poetry and essays. It's one of those books I can pick up and open just about anywhere and it speaks to how I am feeling or at the least, gives me something inspirational to think about as I begin my day. I have added this to my daily prayer and meditation literature. A favorite emerged very quickly as I read this prose. I am drawn to this piece often.

I understand that all of these are inside every one of us, the pessimist, the optimist, the idealist, the mystic, the philanthropist, the realist, and the purist. But, none of them should be out of balance lest I may lose my way and cause harm mentally, physically, or spiritually to myself and others along my path.

It reminds me of another passage in a book that I use as a guide on my personal journey.

“Creation gave us instincts for a purpose. Without them we wouldn’t be complete human beings. If men and women didn’t exert themselves to be secure in their persons, made no effort to harvest food or construct shelter, there would be no survival. If they didn’t reproduce, the earth wouldn’t be populated. If there were no social instinct, if men cared nothing for the society of one another, there would be no society. So these desires—for sex relation, for material and emotional security, and for companionship—are perfectly necessary and right, and surely God given.”
“Yet these instincts, so necessary for our existence, often far exceed their proper functions. Powerfully, blindly, many times subtly, they drive us, dominate us, and insist upon ruling our lives. Our desires for sex, for material and emotional security, and for an important place in society often tyrannize us. When thus out of joint, man’s natural desires cause him great trouble, practically all the trouble there is. No human being, however good, is exempt from these troubles. Nearly every serious emotional problem can be seen as a case of misdirected instinct. When that happens, our great natural assets, the instincts, have turned into physical and mental liabilities.”
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pg 42

Both of these passages speak to my journey as I progress and live my life as a productive human being who can be an asset to my family, friends, and community. Giving myself over to a power greater than myself, which I call God, asking that my natural instincts stay in balance and don’t reveal themselves as character defects, and asking for the opportunity to help someone else is a daily priority.

I am grateful to be alive! There is a lot of love in my Life!

I call this "Rain Forest Garden"

I took this picture on Christmas Day walking through the Olympic Rain Forest.  Some might have thought it sad this tree fell over, but look at all the beautiful new life that began in it's nourishing trunk.

February 5, 2010

The Journey for Health - Benefits

I am becoming friends with my elliptical machine again. Monday starts the big Olympic challenge at work. It will be fun. Left to ourselves a lot of us may not participate, but thanks to my competitive boss, we are now a team. We basically commit to 20-30 minutes of exercise three to four times a week to earn miles down a ski slope course. We have a cute little chart to track our miles. There is a wide variety of health promoting activities to earn extra miles along the way also such as: eating a vegan meal, tracking your calories, cutting out caffeine, bringing a healthy treat to work, etc. This is the kind of friendly motivation I need. I was doing pretty well with the exercise and weight loss before I broke my ankle last June, but haven't gotten back on that horse very well since.

So let's talk about food. The meals I make on the weekend usually last us for about four days of lunches and dinners. One of the things I really like about eating vegetarian is that we seem to eat all the food I purchase and prepare. I don't see leftovers going to waste very often. When we ate meat I remember throwing out the last portions of fish, chicken or pork chops, etc. It's Friday and we still have enough salad from the large one we made Monday night for our lunches today. Yesterday before work I put some white beans and black beans to soak together, About 3/4 of a cup of each. Beans are a main staple in our diet, so I challenge myself to come up with different flavors combination's all the time, don't want to get bored.

I sauteed diced onion and celery in some coconut oil until tender. I like to add the seasoning and herbs while the vegetables are cooking. I used freshly ground Celtic sea salt, pepper, garlic, dried dill, and some crushed lavender. I added the beans, some organic baby carrots, and chopped up two portabello mushroom caps. I don't use processed food very much, but I do like to have low sodium, organic vegetable broth around for my beans. I used a quart of organic vegetable broth and a quart of water. This all simmered together for about an hour. It made a nice rich vegetable bean soup. Looking forward to lunch today.

The transformation to whole foods has been a process, it took a few years. I think my kitchen is finally transformed.  There isn't too much processed food in my kitchen and when I come across a recipe I would like to try much of time, I already have most, if not all, the ingredients. I also noticed some benefits of eating this way very quickly. As my main goal to eating this way is health there are some benefits I didn't think about.

Since last January when we went head on into more raw foods and vegan meals, we both lost 30 pounds and my cholesterol level decreased. Not as much as I would like, but it did decrease. But, hey, I strive for progress not perfection, I'll get there.

Our small part for the environment; we are not contributing to the landfill as much. Our garbage can is never more than half full and usually not even half. By shopping in the produce section only and growing our own vegetables, we don't buy many products that have packaging. Most the natural packaging on our food is compostable, it becomes next year's garden.

Since we began only shopping in the produce section, our grocery bill was cut by more than half of what it used to be even when we were learning to be vegetarian and still buying processed food like tofu and the vegetarian meats. These are great transition foods, but still over-processed food. They should be used in moderation and are expensive. It also saves time. It only takes about 20 minutes to gather a week's worth of groceries. We spent even less since we were so lucky with our garden last year. I am starting our garden in our basement this year. This weekend it's time to start artichokes.

Our electricity consumption went down by about one third. We eat a lot of raw foods so we cook much less. We pay attention to buy local, we also have a CSA share with a local farm. We are cutting down on transportation costs and fuel usage as well as helping out our local farmers. What I don't grow, my friends at Willow Grove Gardens do and I get lots of gardening advice as well as organic starts for my own garden.

It's wear RED for heart health awareness day.

Not only does a plant-based diet prevent heart disease and cancer, but it also can lead to a gentler menopause and prevent other life-altering diseases such as diabetes. Centering your meals around fruits and vegetables will not only help you stay vibrant and full of life, but it will help you steer clear of many of the diseases our parents suffered from.

Limit your intake of animal products. The American Cancer Society’s number one recommendations for the prevention of cancer is to eat more plant based foods, the number two recommendation for the prevention of breast cancer: eat fewer animal-based foods. According to T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study, the people around the world who eat the most animal protein have the most cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Cholesterol, which only comes from animal products, contributes directly to an increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease. It is not about completely eliminating anything out of your life, except for the some things that could take your life: diabetes, heart disease, cancer. Center your meals around fruits and vegetables and prepare to be amazed how your health changes for the better! 

Our Harvest 
July 16, 2009