Let’s Start at the Very Beginning!

 

Are you wondering how to eat as you search for answers to your health problems? Has your search led you to more questions than answers? Are you concerned about the health of planet Earth as well as your own body? Sixteen years ago I was asking all those questions, too. I read everything I could find on health and nutrition. I spent days in the library and online studying the scientific research, taking and comparing notes, searching for answers only to become more and more confused as everyone from the FDA to fad diet promoters each led me down yet another rabbit trail of doubt. I prayed for guidance.

Instinctively I knew that the answers to my questions were to be found somewhere in the oldest book of wisdom known to mankind, the Bible. Thinking this would take forever, I started to read, determined to root out the answers to a healthy diet. To my surprise, the answer was hidden in plain sight in the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible!

Genesis 1: 29  Then God said, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

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Then it dawned on me… a plant-based diet is not something new and suspect. Vegetarian diets are not recent inventions by New Age gurus. Eating a healthy whole food plant-based diet is the oldest and most efficient diet in the world! Always was, always will be. If you are wondering where to look in your search for health, why not start at the very beginning?

 

 

Zucchini Chips

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Do you have an overabundance of zucchini in your garden right now? Are your friends and neighbors starting to avoid you because they can’t accept any more of your extra zucchini “gifts?” Well, this recipe will help you to easily preserve your harvest without using up any freezer storage space (or annoying your friends). When you pull out these raw zucchini chips on a cold winter night people will gobble them down like they’ve never seen zucchini before in their life.

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When you have a large bowl of sliced raw zucchini it’s time to make the marinade. (You may have to make several batches of marinade in order to coat all the slices).

Ingredients:

1 TBS. olive oil

2 TBS. fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 TBS nutritional yeast (for cheesy flavor)

Extra nutritional yeast to sprinkle on top

Pour the marinade over the chips and gently toss them to coat. Make sure that each slice is coated. It helps to slide a coated slice over an uncoated one, front and back, to get the flavor onto each chip. Make more marinade as needed and repeat the process until all slices are coated.

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Arrange the coated slices in a single layer on the mesh dehydrator trays making sure that they do not touch each other. Lightly sprinkle more nutritional yeast on top of each slice. In order to maintain a raw chip dehydrate at only 110 degrees for 10 – 12 hours. I usually dehydrate overnight and then check them in the morning. Add more time if necessary. They are done when all the chips are dry and crisp.

Allow the finished chips to cool in the dehydrator before storing them in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. These will stay crisp and tasty for months stored this way, and you can enjoy your fresh garden produce any time of the year. Zucchini chips are great for parties and healthy lunchbox treats, too!

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Fresh, green veggies… enjoy zucchini all year long!

 

YOUR PERSONAL SALAD BAR

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You want to eat a healthy meal, but when you arrive home famished the last thing you want to do is spend the next 20 – 30 minutes preparing a fresh salad. You want to eat now! All that washing, chopping, slicing, and dicing veggies each time for a salad is time consuming. All home cooking takes time, but it’s time well spent for your health, and you are worth it — even if you’re cooking for just one person. So, before you give in to the temptation to pop some kind of prepared fast food into the microwave or open yet another can of soup, STOP! There is a more excellent way!

You probably already know that it is wise to cook once to eat twice. This smart idea can be applied to preparing fresh salads, too. You simply need a plan — a specific block of time for food preparation. It is just as easy to prepare veggies for six salads as for one. Your chosen block of time can be any time that is convenient for you, when you are not hungry — before or after work, when the kids are napping or while watching evening TV. And, don’t just stand in the kitchen in silence while you slice and dice (unless you are using this time for prayer or meditation, too). Put on some music, listen to a podcast, practice your French — make it fun!

I have seen those huge salad boxes that people make up once a week for their various salad ingredients, but honestly, most people don’t have that much space in their refrigerator — I know I don’t. I do however, have a couple of plastic relish trays with eight sections each. Each tray has a lid, so they are stackable — what a space saver! When you have your favorite salad ingredients already prepared and waiting to be thrown on top of a heaping handful of triple-washed ready-to-eat greens, eating healthy fresh salads will no longer be a chore you dread. You will be your very own raw chef at a gourmet salad bar featuring only your personal favorites (none of those icky raw onions). It’s all about you, and you are worth it!

Healthy Thymes Market, 265 Route 94 Vernon, NJ 07462. Phone: 973-209-8555

Healthy Thymes Market may have been there for 25 years, but I just discovered it on Saturday. What a treasure trove of health foods, supplements, and expert health advice all tucked away in the little town of Vernon in the Highlands of northern New Jersey! It may look small from the outside, but Healthy Thymes Market has managed to fill every inch with things you can’t find in your local grocery or drugstore, including refrigerated and frozen items. When we were there a Kombucha Demonstration was also going on, so we had a chance to sample Aqua ViTea elderberry kombucha… crisp and fizzy!

Besides all that, there is also a snackbar, The Kitchen, where you can order breakfast until noon Monday thru Friday and lunch/dinner all day any day. We decided to get our lunch at The Kitchen the day we stopped in. All items on the menu are vegetarian and can be made vegan if desired. I chose the Sweet Potato Quesadilla which consisted of a whole wheat wrap (gluten-free is available) stuffed with organic mashed sweet potato, saluted onions, spinach, and vegan mozzarella cheese (dairy cheese is an option). This was an unusual combination for a quesadilla, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was very delicious, and the cheese melted perfectly. The price, only $6.99! My husband ordered the Falafel Wrap, also $6.99: organic store-made vegan chickpea patties served with romaine lettuce, onion, tomato and tahini dressing served on a whole wheat wrap (gluten-free available). He said that it was good, but he would have liked more dressing on his. We both got cold bottled drinks with no high fructose corn syrup from the refrigerator case; strawberry lemonade for him and watermelon lemonade for me. The one downside, there is no place to sit and eat once you have purchased your meal at The Kitchen. Fortunately there were some benches by a pond across the street, and the weather was lovely for eating outdoors, so we enjoyed our healthy lunch in the sunshine.

We will certainly go back to Healthy Thymes despite the fact that it is a bit of a drive for us. I hope they add seating for The Kitchen soon. Even so, for health food shopping or a yummy and healthy takeout meal, it’s worth the trip.

Hours are: M-F 8 am – 7 pm; Sat.-Sun. 9:30 am – 5 pm

Excellent “Chicken” Salad

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This is a wonderful vegan “chicken” flavored sandwich spread that is great for school or work lunches. Packed with protein, taste, and crunch it satisfies on every level. Even if you have a nut allergy, you can still enjoy this scrumptious “chicken” salad with no fear– simply substitute raw cauliflower for the nuts.

 

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Ingredients:

1- 15 oz. can chick peas, rinse and drain

1 handful each of almonds and cashews OR an equal amount of chopped raw cauliflower.

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

4 – 5 Tbsp. Vegenaise

2 tsp. prepared mustard

1/8 – 1/4  tsp. ginger powder

1/8 – 1/4 tsp. Adobo seasoning salt

pepper to taste

1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)

Method:

Chop scallions and celery (and cauliflower if using) — set aside.

Blend remaining ingredients in food processor ( blend only enough to chop — you want it kind of chunky, not creamy).

Place blended ingredients in a bowl and add chopped scallions and celery (and cauliflower). Mix well with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Makes 6 – 8 great sandwiches!

Community Organic Garden Opening Day

Saturday, May 7, was the Opening Day Celebration/ Seedling Sale/ Potluck Lunch at the West Milford, NJ Community Organic Garden. After a full week of rain, threatening clouds did not put a damper on these festivities. Apple Acres was buzzing with gardeners shopping for organic seedlings and sharing delicious food in the beautiful Apple Acres Mill Barn (circa 1809).  A wonderful time was had by all!

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Escala Latin Bistro

126 Airport Rd., West Milford, NJ 07480. Phone: 973-506-6096. Fax: 973-506-4563

Escala Latin Bistro

Escala Latin Bistro is a relatively new restaurant in West Milford. Located at the Greenwood Lake Airport in the newly remodeled site of a former eatery, the interior of this restaurant is bright and cheerful with Latin American travel posters on the wall and tabletop graphics that look like airport runways. Just sitting there makes you want to book a flight to somewhere warm and exotic.

We had heard good things about this restaurant, so I really wanted to like this place. I was looking forward to a pleasant first-time lunch there with my husband, but this is an honest review of my personal experience at Escala. My first disappointment was the menu — not one vegetarian entrée! Well, we’ve faced this dilemma before, so I tried my favorite tactic; I ordered the San Pedro Chicken Salad, minus the meat, and requested that grilled vegetables be substituted for the chicken. The waitress consulted the chef and came back with the news that he had only squash as a grilled vegetable. That didn’t sound very appealing, so I settled for the Avocado Salad and Yucca Fries instead. My husband ordered the Caribbean Caesar Salad with green plantain croutons and a Cheese Quesadilla (from the children’s menu). The choices for vegetarians seemed mighty slim. We both ordered iced tea, brewed and unsweetened for me, bottled sweet for him.

When they arrived our salads were large and pleasing to the eye, however, while eating mine I discovered many wilted and yellowed leaves among the baby salad greens. The waitress offered to have the salad remade using only romaine lettuce, but knowing how fast my husband eats and how slow I am, I decided to just keep the salad I had and push the objectionable greens off to the side. The sliced avocado was fresh. Besides that the only other adornments to this salad were a couple of grape tomatoes and a few strips of mild cheese (maybe 4). The oil and vinegar dressing was unseasoned and unremarkable. Honestly, the salad was unimpressive. On the other hand, this was the first time I’d ever had yucca fries and didn’t know what to expect, but they were delicious! (I offered one to my husband and then had  to stop him from eating them all himself!) The home-brewed unsweetened tea was very weak — almost as clear as water. He was satisfied with his bottled sweet tea, so unless you are staying away from sugar that would be the better option.

As underwhelmed as we were with our lunches, we decided to try one more item. Strawberry/Nutella Empanada was the featured dessert on the tiny plastic menu stand on the table , so we ordered one to share. While waiting for our dessert to be served, we turned over the tiny plastic menu stand and lo and behold, there was a list of Empanadas that could be ordered individually… no fewer that 5 were vegetarian! Why weren’t these printed on the main menu? Why didn’t our waitress tell us about them when she knew we were diligently searching for something that didn’t contain meat? Major failure to pay attention to detail on several fronts.

When delivered, the Strawberry/Nutella Empanada was beautifully presented with strawberry syrup swirled on the plate and a cloud of whipped cream holding two chocolate cookie sticks on the side. That little treat was enough to make us decide to give this place one more try. We will return to Escala sometime in the future. Hopefully, by then they will have added some vegetarian entrees to the menu. If not, we now know to look behind the dessert menu for the list of vegetarian empanadas!

Turmeric Pickled Cauliflower*

Turmeric, and its active component curcumin, has been used for thousands of years in India, and recent research confirms that its anti-inflammatory properties can be helpful in the treatment of many conditions. Turmeric also gives food a warm golden color.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable. Cruciferous vegetables belong to the Brassica genus and include: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels spouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, watercress, and wasabi. These plant powerhouses contain potent antioxidants which may reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. Their anti-viral, anti-bacterial effects have been shown to fight illness and inhibit tumor growth.

This simple recipe incorporates both of these natural disease fighters. Tart and tangy, serve it cold as a salad topper or as a colorful addition to a relish tray.

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Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower

1 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 cups warm water

3 TBS. Sugar (cuts the acid)

2 TBS. Kosher salt

2 tsp. ground turmeric

1 dry bay leaf

1 Mason jar

Disinfect Mason jar before beginning by placing it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.

Cut cauliflower into small florets that are evenly sized. Place florets into Mason jar and set aside.

In a small pot, add turmeric, bay leaf, salt, and sugar. Once dry ingredients are combined, add water and vinegar, creating a brine.

Bring your brine to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes.

Pour boiling brine into your Mason jar to cover cauliflower.

Seal and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

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*Courtesy of Ellie Kahlon and Matthew Weisberg, Novo Mediterranean Restaurant, 37 Chestnut St., Ridgewood, NJ. 201-444-4910; novomediterranean.com

 

 

 

Beauty of Sprouts

   It’s been some time since I’ve posted a restaurant review, but while vacationing in Florida we came upon a new restaurant that simply must be recognized. If you try to eat vegan, or even just healthfully, then you know how difficult it is to find a restaurant that meets your needs. Even vegetarian restaurants bury their entrées in cheese. Eating a vegan meal when out on the town can stretch your creativity to the limit.

   Today we were fortunate enough to stumble upon Beauty of Sprouts, 1474 Fruitville Rd. Sarasota, FL; 941-350-8449. Chef  Rano has worked at Rockefeller Center and is an award winning chef in her native Russia. Her menu features all vegan, mostly raw, dishes that are lovingly prepared and artfully presented at reasonable prices. Fresh healthy sprouts are the highlight of each dish.

   As an appetizer, we ordered guacamole with spicy dehydrated crackers. The portion was generous enough for two hungry people to nosh on while we waited for our entrées, and we devoured it all. My husband also ordered the mildly seasoned, sprouted hot mung bean soup, because he eats likes to eat soup whenever he can get it. As an entrée he had the vegan burrito, which was wrapped in a chard leaf instead of a flour tortilla. He liked the filling of fresh veggies and side of salsa, but left the chard leaf on the plate — just his personal preference. I had the raw vegan Pad Thai. It was scrumptious! A mountain of thinly sliced cabbage and carrots, kelp noodles and cashews all served in a tangy sauce. I loved it! Several beverage options are on the menu, including some unique teas and homemade Kombucha, but as we were feeling dehydrated after a day of vacation fun we chose the restaurant’s own purified, ionized, alkalinized water to drink. We topped off our meal with a lovely raw lavender crème brulee for dessert. The serving was deceivingly small but filling, and you don’t want to miss this sweet taste of heaven!

   If you like chatting with the friendly chef, clean bright surroundings, and nutritious food, then you will surely enjoy Beauty of Sprouts. This was definitely the healthiest meal of our entire  vacation. We like to eat nutritionally dense food and also to get the most nutrition for our dollar. Beauty of Sprouts meets both criteria. If you ever want a delicious, guilt-free meal in Sarasota, then this is the place for you!