Pre-race Dinner Idea

Two of our daughters and daughter-in-law are running an early half-marathon race tomorrow. Tonight they wanted a light, but protein-packed dinner — something that would fuel their race, but not weigh them down. So, they put their heads together and came up with this beautiful plant-based veggie bowl.

Quinoa, marinated tofu, and spiced chickpeas provided the protein. The colorful veggies included: roasted squash and mushrooms, onions, pickled carrots, snow peas, avocado chunks, and grape tomatoes over a bed of crisp greens. A choice of light dressings completed this delicious veggie bowl.

I am so proud of my girls, not just for running, but for coming up with this much healthier pre-race meal, so different from the carb-loading pasta dinners I remember from their highschool days. This is a much healthier and satisfying meal.

PS: They all finished with good times. Shannon came in third in her class. (Could it have been the quinoa?) 😉

Book Review: “Alaska Sourdough, The Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan,” revised edition, by Ruth Allman (forward by Addie Studebaker)

If you have ever thought about making your own sourdough bread, but were intimidated by the online instructions and videos detailing the complicated method involved in creating and keeping a living starter, then this is the book for you. I admit the whole process seemed daunting and mysterious to me. I really didn’t want my life to revolve around feeding a sourdough starter morning and evening for a whole month before even trying to bake bread. If you do some research you will discover that there are dozens of ways to create, and kill, a sourdough starter, and I wasn’t willing to take any chances after that investment of time and effort. This book is perfect for people like me — like you?

Alaska Sourdough, the Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan was first printed in 1976, but has recently been revised for the modern reader. I love the wisdom and charm of Ruth Allman’s notes and advice. She makes everything seem simple, and her common sense style of writing will convince you that yes, even you can bake your own sourdough bread. Throughout this book she intersperses the history of early Alaskan pioneers who depended on their sourdough starter to keep them alive through bone-chilling winters on the frozen tundra. These early pioneers were not expert chefs or bakers. They were in Alaska to homestead, find adventure, and hopefully strike it rich. They did not have the luxury of allowing their sourdough efforts to fail. Their very lives depended on the success of their sourdough, and the author is generous in sharing their many no-nonsense tips and tricks for success.

So, encouraged by their efforts, I dove in and made the starter using her potato water recipe. I expected to wait and feed the starter daily for at least one week before baking. Well, by the second day my starter had nearly doubled in size, and by the third day I had to bake, or it would have overflowed the quart jar where it was bubbling and brewing like a witch’s cauldron. The two loaves of bread I made on the third day came out great! I continued to feed the starter following the author’s simple instructions, and two days later used some to make delicious sourdough hotcakes for three hungry adults. All this in less than one week! I have plans for more bread and sourdough pretzels in the near future. If I can do this, you can, too. I highly recommend Alaska Sourdough, the Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan, by Ruth Allman, and wish you much success on your bread baking adventure!

My sourdough starter on day 2. (The rubberband marks the starting point on day 1). On day 3 it was definitely time to bake!

August Zucchini Casserole

If you garden, you are probably up to your eyeballs in summer produce by now. We currently don’t have room for a garden where we live, and I do miss growing my own veggies. There is just something so primal about digging in the warm earth and nurturing your own nutrition to life. I guess you can take the girl out of the garden, but you can’t take the garden out of the girl! Fortunately, we have generous friends that are willing to share their bounty with us. Thanks Mary and Rohn! And, that’s how this simple and economical recipe was born.

Ingredients:

2 – 3 zucchini, thinly sliced

2 – 3 peppers (red or green), diced

1 medium onion, chopped

2 – 3 large tomatoes, diced (include the juice)

1 – 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded veggie cheese of your choice

Herbamare for seasoning

Vegan parmesan and Italian herbs (garlic, basil, oregano) for topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a 13 x 9 inch glass casserole dish. Spread about 1 Tbsp olive oil in the bottom of the dish.

Layer one half of the zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and all the chickpeas.

Season with Italian herbs and Herbamare

Spread shredded veggie cheese over all.

Then layer the remaining half of the zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes and a final layer of zucchini.

Drizzle some olive oil over top, just a tablespoon or two (or you can spray some over the top)

Season with Italian herbs, Herbamare, and veggie parmesan. (You can make your own with this recipe: Vegan “Parmesan Cheese”)

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 1-1/4 hours.

Another Reason to Love Animals!

Did you know that according to a study following over 1 million children over the first 10 years of their life, children living with dogs, or on a farm, have a 54 percent lower chance of developing asthma over children without animal exposure? These amazing results were published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2015. The theory is that exposure to a varied population of animal microbes in the home may somehow influence the gut microbiome, and change human immune response in the airways.

What a fun way to combat allergies!

Veggie Quinoa Casserole (serves two)

If you have never tried quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”), here are some things to consider:

Quinoa is one of the least allergenic grains. It contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, and it is a plant protein source of all 9 essential amino acids. Technically a seed, quinoa is nutritionally dense and gluten free. It is an excellent grain substitute for anyone suffering with celiac disease. In addition, the fiber in quinoa acts as a prebiotic by providing food for your beneficial gut flora. If you have a sensitive tummy or live with an inflammatory digestive condition like colitis, you know how important all these factors are to your diet and comfort.

This Veggie Quinoa Casserole is an easy protein-packed main dish that will satisfy even a meat-eater. The recipe serves 2, but I tripled it because I knew people would want seconds.

Ingredients:

1 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

2 tsp. olive oil

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup broccoli florets

1/2 cup diced firm tofu (press to drain)

1/4 cup vegetable broth

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

Directions:

Place uncooked quinoa in a sieve and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Drain.

Press tofu between two paper towel-lined plates with a heavy can of something on top to drain for about 1/2 hour.

  • In a medium sauce pan, bring 1 cup vegetable broth to a boil. Stir in drained quinoa and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • While quinoa is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, broccoli florets, and tofu cubes. Stir for one minute, then cover and steam over low heat for two minutes.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup vegetable broth, mushrooms, and spinach. Cover and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are soft and the spinach is wilted (about 3 minutes).
  • Stir the vegetable/tofu mixture into the cooked quinoa. Cover, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Season with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos if desired.

Eat the Rainbow… All the Colors of the Rainbow

It seems like rainbows are everywhere today — TV ads, social media, posters, t-shirts and billboards. Did you know that God made the first rainbow? Not as a marketing ploy or a social/political statement; God made so many colors because he knew we would enjoy them!

I love that God thought of color as a primary way to entice humans to find nutritious food. In the beginning God made the different fruits brightly colored and easy to find peeking out from the green leaves in the garden. Fruit is designed to appeal to all of our senses, so we are instinctively drawn to it… IF we aren’t distracted by modern fake food. For a healthy, natural, sweet treat, fruit should be your first choice. Fruit is not only colorful, but fragrant, sweet and juicy, plus it comes in its own edible or biodegradable wrapper. Win! Win! Win! Win!

Continue reading “Eat the Rainbow… All the Colors of the Rainbow”

Run, Walk, Move!

Isolation, social distancing, schedule changes, constant adaptations to your normal way of living have taken a toll on everyone. Listening to the “news” for a glimmer of hope may only depress you even more, so is it even necessary? The tension and stress of daily life are cumulative if you don’t regularly take some time to let off steam. The good news is the weather is improving, so you can enjoy some outdoor activities again!

While you can’t control everything in this crazy world, you can do something to shift your attitude toward a more optimistic focus. Running, or even fast walking, for just 15 – 30 minutes each day has great mental as well as physical benefits. It not only tones and strengthens your muscles, it also improves blood flow to your entire body including your brain. This releases feel-good endorphins for natural stress relief. The “Runner’s High” we hear so much about is real. That’s what calls many habitual runners to don sneakers and squeeze in a run in any type of weather. 

Go at a comfortable yet challenging pace. This level is different for each individual. This is not a race. You are not in competition with anyone. It has been said that if you aren’t sweating, then it isn’t exercise, but you should still be able to converse with another person while exercising. If you haven’t been physically active for a long time, then start slowly and work your way up. If you can only walk half a block, then start there. You are moving more today than yesterday, so celebrate each accomplishment as a WIN! Soon you will be walking one block, two blocks, a mile, then more. You might even turn that walk into a run! 

The important thing is to get moving. Now that the weather is warmer and masking is optional, you can go outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine as you walk or run. Fifteen minutes of direct sunlight on your bare arms, face and legs will give your vitamin D levels a real boost, which will in turn improve your natural immune system.

Start now and make daily exercise a priority. You devote so much time and effort to other people and things, you should not feel guilty about taking time for your own physical and mental well-being. You are worth it! If you schedule this time as a meeting on your calendar it will be much harder to ignore. Put your sneakers on first thing in the morning as a reminder to get moving. Now is better than later!

 

Continue reading “Run, Walk, Move!”

Firestone Culinary Tavern, 105 North Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701, (301)663-0330, www.firestonerestaurant.com

Valentines Day was the perfect opportunity to visit Firestone Culinary Tavern, one of our favorite restaurants in Frederick. Once a 1920-era department store complete with original tin ceilings, Firestone has become a flagship establishment in Frederick’s increasingly dynamic and diverse restaurant scene. Known for its steak and seafood specialties, the menu is farm-to-table fresh and at Firestone they are always willing to accommodate any special dietary requirements… which keeps us coming back again and again. We were so excited to learn that Firestone was open for indoor dining on Valentines Day (50% capacity, masks required unless seated at your table).

There are so many things to love about this restaurant. We like to sit in the mezzanine. With its wall of windows you can enjoy a view of both the active street scene on one side and the bar/lounge area below on the other. We also love that the knowledgeable servers and talented chef are always up for a challenge and never seem satisfied with anything ordinary. Each dish is a delightful surprise of presentation and flavor. On this most recent visit the Brunch Menu offered nothing specifically for vegetarians, and we try to eat vegan, but after a short conversation with our server we were off and running with an array of suggestions to order salad, main course and dessert to make any wholefood plant-based diet lover swoon.

For my salad I requested one of the salads on the menu (arugala, radish, apple) with an exchange of avocado for the goat cheese. No problem! The lemony dressing was a delicious accent to the other flavors, and the salad (served on a dinner plate) was huge.

And notice the size of that teapot! One two-cup teapot full of really hot water per person, offered with a selection of black, green and herbal teas was greatly appreciated on that cold winter day, and they even refilled one of our pots and gave us fresh teabags! It was a restaurant tea miracle! (If you are a tea drinker, you know what I mean). Even the mugs were hot when served. Bless you, Firestone!

Despite the Brunch Menu, the chef whipped up a tasty vegan entree for us with a melange of stir-fried fresh vegetables in a tasty garlic sauce over barley (our choice of grain — the other option was black rice). Complimentary homemade bread was an unexpected treat. It is refreshing to find a chef that doesn’t shrink from a challenge. At Firestone the menu is not carved in stone. Just ask and they will do their best to grant your request. The entire staff takes pride in providing an excellent dining experience whether for a full course meal or just a sandwich.

There were several desserts offered the day we were there, but the most appealing to me was the Pineapple Bread Pudding with coconut cream. We were not expecting it to be so large or we would have shared just one, but I’m not complaining. The second half was just as delicious the next day at home!

If you are trying to eat healthfully, but want to enjoy an unforgettable meal with excellent service, then I would highly recommend Giving Firestone Culinary Tavern a try. It is the perfect place for a special occasion dinner or a quick lunch break when shopping the many quaint stores in the City of Frederick.

Be prepared to be impressed!

The Silver Diner (review), 5120 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick, MD 21704, (301)694-9501

When you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, dining out can be a challenge. When you find a restaurant like The Silver Diner, the news is just too good to keep to yourself. Prices at The Silver Diner are reasonable, the food is delicious, and you can even find a selection of hot vegetarian/vegan entrees on the menu! (If I had a dollar for every restaurant that doesn’t even have a veggie burger on their menu… sigh).

From the outside this diner looks like the classic silver diners of your memory. Inside the booths and on-table jukeboxes carry on that feeling, but the casual decor is a bit more trendy than you might expect — definitely not your typical burger joint. Their flexitarian menu features the highest quality, locally sourced ingredients creatively assembled in delicious and unique dishes you won’t find in even the more expensive restaurants.

The Silver Diner offers take-out, curbside pickup and dining-in. In fact they were one of the first restaurants in our area to allow dining-in to resume. How did they do it? The Silver Diner uses the same social distancing, disinfecting surfaces, masked/gloved servers, etc. as most, but they have gone even further to ensure the safety of their patrons. This restaurant has a triple filtration air system and germicidal lights to keep the indoor environment as sanitary as possible. But for all that, I would take my chances even without all their safety precautions — the food is just that good.

On our visit, I ordered the Hen of the Woods Mushroom Picatta over roasted tomatoes, farro, roasted organic corn, butternut squash, lemon-caper sauce, asparagus and sunflower seeds. This was fantastic! The flavors of all the ingredients were so enhanced by the lemon-caper sauce that I couldn’t stop until I finished the whole thing, and it was huge! At only $15.99 this was a bargain for something I would expect to see at an upscale restaurant for $35 – $50 minimum. This photo doesn’t do it justice, because I had already started eating when I said, “OMG, this is going public!” So delicious.

Hen of the Woods Mushroom Picatta

The Silver Diner has 18 locations (at last count) scattered throughout VA, MD, NJ and even one at BWI Airport, Concourse B. Maybe there’s one near you, or look for one when you travel. Bon apetit!