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!

Homemade Spicy Citrus Potpourri

Today I felt like playing, not cooking, not even writing, so I put together the bits and bobs I’ve been squirreling away to make potpourri. Here is a photo of the finished product… about a gallon of potpourri in my largest pasta bowl. I wish you could smell it — the fragrance is like citrus spice heaven!

All summer I’ve been dehydrating fruit and vegetables. Last week it was apples (because it’s Fall) and bananas (because I bought way too many). Never wanting to waste anything, I’ve also been saving orange and lemon peels leftover from juicing. Over the summer months I collected quite a lot of dehydrated peels. (Orange and lemon peels are a great way to fill that extra empty tray when you dehydrate). I followed my normal procedure of dehydrating overnight at 105 degrees F because that low temperature protects the living enzymes in the fruit so it is preserved, but still considered raw. It was also the perfect temperature to dry out the citrus peels while still allowing them to maintain their fresh fragrance. Can you see them on the bottom shelf?

Here is what I used in this potpourri (amounts are up to you):

Orange peels, cut into 1/2 inch strips

Lemon peels, cut into 1/2 inch strips

cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces or crushed

whole star anise

whole cloves

Fragrance oils: I used food grade wild orange, cinnamon and clove oils (a few drops each) because I didn’t want any unnatural chemical smells contaminating the air in our home.

dried calendula flowers (optional). I used these because I had a huge bag on hand for making a soothing decaffeinated tea, and because they look pretty in the potpourri mixture… but you can skip the calendula or add something else you might have in your pantry.

Cinnamon/ applesauce cutouts:

To make these you will need about 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce and enough ground cinnamon to make a workable dough. I used a container of the cheap cinnamon you can find in many stores for about a dollar and mixed these two simple ingredients together until the dough was no longer sticky. Sprinkle more cinnamon on your work surface as needed, and roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut shapes with small cookie cutters and dehydrate overnight at 105 degrees. The house will smell wonderful when you wake up!

So, try making your own potpourri. It’s much less expensive than the fancy varieties you’ll find in stores this holiday season, You can refresh the scent with a few added drops of essential oil as needed. Have fun! Fill your home with fragrance or give as gifts. Enjoy!

Homemade Muesli

 

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If you like granola, but are leery of the fat contained in most commercial brands, if you like to make your own granola but don’t want to heat up the kitchen making it on hot summer days, if you’re looking for a healthy breakfast that really gives you energy and keeps you feeling full until lunchtime, then muesli is for you. Muesli is a raw oatmeal dish that contains other grains, nuts, seeds and dried or fresh fruit. It’s a heart-healthy alternative to processed cereals that actually helps to lower your cholesterol! Have you ever tried it? Some people have never even heard of muesli.

Muesli was first created by Swiss physician Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who believed that much of the sickness experienced by his patients could be alleviated through a diet rich in raw grains, fruits and vegetables, plus moderate exercise including walking and gardening daily. Although muesli was first commercially produced in 1959 and has been a presence on grocery store shelves for over 60 years, it is is often overlooked or crowded out by the slick packaging, colors and shapes of the processed breakfast foods we know today. That is a shame, because muesli is so healthy, can be eaten cold or hot with or without added plant milk or yogurt… and it is so easy to make that even a child can do it.

Ingredients:

In a large bowl add:

1/2 cup raw walnuts, crushed*

1/2 cup raw almonds, crushed*

3 cups organic old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed

2 Tbsp. wheat germ

1/2 cup chopped dates

1/2 cup organic raisins

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Gently stir to mix all ingredients together. Place in a tightly covered glass container and store in the refrigerator. Take out individual portions as needed and serve cold with plant milk or as a yogurt topping. If you prefer a softer cereal, top your muesli with just enough plant milk to cover and keep it in the refrigerator overnight. It will soften by morning, and you can eat it cold or warm it in the microwave for a hearty porridge. Add fresh fruit, honey or maple syrup to sweeten if desired.

* Hint: this is an easy way to crush nuts, and cleanup is a breeze. Put the walnuts and almonds in a plastic lunch bag, press out all the air and seal it closed. With any rolling pin roll over the bag several times until each nut has broken into desired size chunks. When you are finished just dump the nuts into your large bowl and throw the bag away. Nothing to wash!

 

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This recipe makes 10 or more 1/2 cup servings. Muesli is a real time-saver to have on hand for busy mornings. Healthy and delicious!

Vegan Stuffed Italian Zucchini Boats

Vegan Stuffed Zucchini Boats

 

It’s zucchini season again and if you are a gardener, you’re looking for zucchini recipes right about now. You would think that vegan zucchini recipes would be everywhere, but they’re not. I found a great Italian Zucchini Boat recipe online by Valerie Brunmeier, but it wasn’t vegan, so I made a few changes and voila! I really like this recipe first of all because it tastes delicious, second because it is a filling entree served with a side of brown rice or pasta, and third because it is beautiful.

Ingredients:

3 medium zucchini, roughly the same size

1 (24 to 26 ounce) jar marinara sauce, divided

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/3 cup chopped onion

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms or small jar of sliced mushrooms

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp dry parsley flakes

1/2 tsp pink sea salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper or to taste

1/2 lb hamburger style veggie crumbles

1 – 1 1/2 cups veggie mozzarella cheese

1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

2 Tbsp. panko bread crumbs

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Measure out 1 cup marinara sauce and set aside for later.
  • Trim about 1/2 inch from each end of the zucchini and slice in half lengthwise. With a sharp knife lightly outline the center area you will remove to create the hollow of your boats (this will include the seed area, leaving about a half inch of solid zucchini around all the edges). Be careful to not cut through the skin. Using the tip of a spoon remove the zucchini flesh inside your outline, chop and set aside.
  • Place the scooped out zucchini boats into a 13″x 9″ baking dish, and add about 1″ of water. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven 20 minutes or until just slightly fork tender but not soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool a bit.
  • Meanwhile add olive oil to a 12″ frying pan and place over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cook a few minutes until veggies have softened, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the chopped zucchini flesh, mushrooms, remaining marinara sauce, veggie crumbles, nutritional yeast and the spices. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove the partially cooked zucchini boats from the baking dish and pour off water. Pour the reserved 1 cup marinara sauce into the empty baking dish and place the zucchini boats on top of the sauce.
  • Generously divide the cooked filling between the 6 zucchini boats (if you have extra filling just spoon it into the dish around the boats). Cover dish with foil and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until zucchini boat is fork tender, but not soft and droopy.
  • Remove baking dish from oven and set oven to BROIL.
  • Remove foil and sprinkle zucchini boats with half the veggie mozzarella, panko bread crumbs, and more mozzarella.
  • Place dish in oven and broil for just a few minutes (watch closely so it doesn’t burn) until the cheese melts and bread crumbs are golden brown.

 

Delicious!