Dates Are Sweet and Good For You!

Photo by Rahou Maachou on Pexels.com

We just returned from a vacation in Palm Springs, CA. The weather and climate were such a contrast to what we are used to, with only two seasons (hot and dry summer and even hotter and drier summer, with rare downpours that can even cause flooding), compared to our four distinct seasons that span every weather possibility from freezing cold to hot and humid (but never as hot and dry as Palm Springs). The climate and terrain were so very different that sometimes we felt as though we were on another planet. We saw cacti growing as ornamental landscape foliage. Grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime trees are grown in yards and along tree lanes, and acres and acres of palm trees are a common site.

Did you know that there are over 119 varieties of dates, and you can find them all in Palm Springs, the Date Capital of the World? While there, we visited Shields Date Garden to learn more and to sample the many varieties that grow on their over 17 acres of date palm cultivation. We ate lunch in the cafe which features delicious breakfast and lunch dishes (I can highly recommend their Portobella Burger). Many dishes feature dates grown on the plantation, and don’t skip their gift shop for anything and everything date-related. They ship all over the world, in case you would like to send a sweet healthy treat as a gift.

Photo by J Surianto on Pexels.com

Did you know that dates grow in clusters almost like grapes? I didn’t. Individual clusters must be protected from moisture or they will spoil. So, each cluster is grown in a waterproof cover that shelters the dates as they mature on palm trees. It looks kind of odd to see all those bags hanging off the trees, but it is the only way to insure a good crop, and I can testify… these dates are delicious!

Shield’s Date Garden also boasts a walk-through botanical garden featuring 23 handcrafted larger-than-life statues that depict scenes from the life of Christ. The paved path offers a contemplative journey that meanders through each scene from birth to crucifixion. At Christmas lights and music add to the effect.

Jesus and the woman at the well.
Jesus heals a paralytic man

Some facts about dates: Dates are high in fiber and help to improve digestion. They can be used in smoothies and other recipes as a natural sweetener. Dates are rich in minerals and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C. And, as a bonus, dates don’t contain cholesterol or any other forms of fat. Nature’s candy, guilt-free!

Dates are a healthy snack. Enjoy!
Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

If you would like to learn more about dates here is a link to the film, “The Romance & Sex Life of the Date,” which describes the painstaking process of date cultivation: https://shieldsdategarden.com/theater. This film is shown in the on-site theater (reservations not required) at Shields Date Garden, 80225 CA-111, Indio, CA 92201, Phone: (760) 347-0996.

Ukrainian Halushki (Halusky)

This is a favorite dish of the early Polish, Ukrainian, and Slovak immigrants to North America that is still enjoyed today. You will probably find it on the menu if you attend a block party, church bazaar, or county fair in northeastern Pennsylvania coal country. This is authentic Russian comfort food that is so simple to make with everyday ingredients. I rarely go a month without making halushki, because if I do they will start asking for it. Even today, halushki evokes warm memories of our grandmother, my mother, and her sisters cooking, laughing, and feeding the hoards together. If my mother had a head of cabbage, she could feed an army!

Halushki served with vegan sausage and applesauce

Today we try to eat healthier than the original recipes that were handed down to me, but I still want the flavor and the memories. Originally butter was a big part of any Russian meal, but I swapped that out for grapeseed oil and steamed the cabbage and onion instead of frying for lower fat and calories. This recipe is not complicated at all.

Ingredients:

1 head of fresh green cabbage (chopped, not shredded). Discard the bitter core.

1 large onion, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

Place the grapeseed oil in the bottom of a very large pot. Add the chopped cabbage and onion, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper as you add more. You don’t need to add any water, because the cabbage and onion contain enough water to steam the vegetables. Steam and stir occasionally until the mixture cooks down to about half the original volume. (HINT: if you add a couple teaspoons of vinegar you will greatly reduce the cabbage smell that will surely fill your house if you don’t).

Cabbage and onions steaming.

Ingredients for Drop Noodles:

2 cups flour

1 tsp. salt (I used Himalayan pink salt)

2 large eggs

warm water: 1/2 – 3/4 cup

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl

Make a well in the center and add the eggs. In the same bowl whip up the eggs with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour/salt mixture a little at a time until it looks crumbly. Add just enough warm water to make a soft sticky dough (approximately 1/2 – 3/4 cups water).

Slide the mixture by spoonfuls into the boiling water. (This is the easiest and simplest way to do it. Some people insist that you need a “spaetzel maker,” but that is totally unnecessary. I use two large soup spoons — one holds a portion of dough and the other scrapes bits of dough off the spoon and into the boiling water). Work fast and repeat the process until the noodles are all in the water.

Cook noodles for 10 minutes and drain in a colander. Add the drained noodles to the cabbage/onion mixture and serve.

In a separate pot: noodles cooking in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Dinner is served!

September 6th is National Read a Book Day!

This is one “holiday” we can all celebrate and enjoy together. I can’t think of a single day in my life when a book hasn’t been in my hands. Books can expand your mind, open new worlds to explore, and feed your spirit.

Need some quiet time alone? Relax with a book. Doing research? There’s a book on that topic. Is it time to build a better you? Answers can be found in books. Trying to get a child to go to bed? Books can help with that, too!

Here are a couple of suggestions so you can get a headstart on National Read a Book Day.

You can find these books on Amazon now, read sample pages, and have them in your hands by September 6. Just click on the links:

SMASHING IDOLS: http://www.amazon.com/dp/173758641X

Peeling Potatoes: Katie’s Story: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1737586436

I hope you enjoy everyone’s holiday on September 6th, and know that I will be reading with you!

Mediterranean Hummus Platter

I saw this on a friend’s Facebook Page and thought it was such a beautiful presentation that I had to share it with you all. I just know you will want to take this to your next potluck dinner or party.

Courtesy of Nourished with Alice Group page on Facebook.com

It’s so simple to prepare!

Spread hummus on a platter.

Top with a variety of colorful mediterranean vegetables, such as:

red onion, cucumber, grape or cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, orange bell pepper, and fresh oregano.

Serve with crackers or pita bread.

Alice has more delicious recipes on her Facebook Page, Nourished with Alice Group. Thank you for sharing this recipe with us, Alice!

Barley Mushroom Casserole (Tsar-kasha)

Because I am working on a new book series for middle grade children that focuses on early 20th Century eastern European immigrants to North America where life was hard and childhood was short, I currently have a special interest in Russian/Ukrainian cuisine. Both of my grandfathers worked in the coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania during that era, so some of these recipes have been passed down through the generations. I am resurrecting a few favorites from my childhood and experimenting with them to fit a meat-free plant-based lifestyle.

This is a simple Russian/Ukrainian peasant recipe that I have adapted from the original to be vegan. I am including the original ingredients in parentheses so you can choose the version you prefer. This was an easy recipe to adapt because it was already vegetarian. I just made a few minor adjustments to make it vegan.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup finely chopped onion

3 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or 6 Tbsp butter)

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 lb fresh sliced mushrooms (these were traditionally hand-picked in the forest, but you can just use sliced white mushrooms from the grocery store as I did here)

3 cups water

1 cup regular barley

3 tsps instant vegetable bouillon granuals or “Better Than Bouillon-No Chicken Base” (or instant chicken bouillon or regular chicken broth)

1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley

1 tsp dried basil leaves

1/2 tsp salt (optional)

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Method:

In a large pot combine the onion, oil, garlic, and mushrooms. Cover and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, just until the onion is tender.

Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover and cook until barley is tender. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.

Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes.

This simple recipe yeids 8 -10 side dish servings or 4 – 5 maindish servings.

My mother would have served this with ground redbeets mixed with horseradish, but I really dislike that concoction. I served it with a side of whole cranberry sauce instead and roasted vegetables. Serve as you like.

If you are interested in learning about the early 1900’s coal mine experience as seen through a child’s eyes, then please check out my new book, “Peeling Potatoes: Katie’s Story” on Amazon. Available in Paperback or eBook: https://amazon.com/dp/B0B4KTJL3F

Hippy Chick Hummus Restaurant

I really, really wanted to like this place. They serve healthy vegan, locally sourced food with an emphasis on green sustainability throughout this casual restaurant. These things, as well as the food, mean a lot to me. The decor is colorful and quirky. I’m always on the lookout for good vegan food, and I love things that are different. Hippy Chick Hummus looks like a fun place to grab a quick bite to eat while shopping or sight-seeing in town, but that was not my experience. This is my honest review:

interior view

Perhaps Hippy Chick Hummus is a little bit too casual for me. I did not appreciate the panhandler who wandered in through the open door and approached each table asking for money, and then sauntered up to the register to ask for money there as well. The open door again — an invitation for flies that had to be batted away from our food as we ate. We could have sat outside at a sidewalk table and enjoyed the traffic noise and exhaust, but we chose the lesser of two evils.

Falafel Wrap and Falafel Salad

The food was fresh and locally sourced. Servings were large. The falafel is their own unique recipe, a bit different and air-fried which makes them lighter and drier. The flavor was just okay, but could have been greatly improved if they served both items with more of the lemon tahini dressing (a lot more). The food was pretty dry with such a skimpy amount of dressing. You can ask for more dressing with an upcharge (who charges for more salad dressing?). The oily dressing on the side — I couldn’t identify a flavor. I poured it over the entire salad, but there was just no flavor to that dressing.

Finally, the ginger-lemonade. I wouldn’t recommend it. Have you ever tasted a sour beverage with no sugar, but hot ginger instead? It is an awful combination that burns your throat and overwhelms everything else. Fortunately, I had a packet of stevia with me, but that lemonade was painful to drink. As I said, I really, really wanted to like this place, but sadly couldn’t. Maybe you would feel differently. We did notice a lot of take-out orders being picked up while we were there. That could be a clue.

Exterior view

Hippy Chick Hummus, 237 N. Market St., Frederick, MD, Phone: 240-815-7175

New! About Jayne M Booth, Author of “SMASHING IDOLS: Transform Your Body, Mind and Spirit with a Plant-Based Lifestyle.”

Jayne M Booth has always loved reading and writing. At 16, she started working as a waitress at Percy Brown’s Restaurant in Wilkes-Barre, PA. She is a certified Health Minister. She helps individuals enjoy a healthy whole-food plant-based lifestyle. She likes to paint, dance, hike, and read to anyone who will listen. Read full interview…

Matcha Green Tea Latte

Do you ever find a product that is so outstanding you just have to share it? Well, sometimes I do, and this is one of those times. I should mention at the beginning that I am not being paid for this review. I simply believe that when a product performs above and beyond your expectations, it deserves to be noticed.

I like to start my day with green tea… and not just any green tea. Each morning I enjoy lingering over a tall vegan Matcha Latte. Tea is very important to me, so I have tried many different brands of matcha. Some are good, and some are just meh. The very best I have had so far is Rishi Ceremonial Matcha (organic, single origin). You can find this tea at many retail outlets and online: http://www.rishi-tea.com

There is absolutely nothing bad about this tea. It mixes well and creates a decent layer of foam when I mix it with my little electric whisk. (Hint: If you do use an electric whisk be sure to also use a tall mug. Fill the mug 1/3 full with boiling water and a spoonful of matcha powder. Then, and this is the important part, completely immerse the whisk BEFORE turning it on. Otherwise you will have green matcha tea splashing everywhere!) When you are satisfied with the quality of the mix and the foam you can add more boiling water, sweetener, and non-dairy creamer if desired. The foam and flavor last even after adding plant-based creamer.

Additionally, the little container in which this tea comes deserves mention. It’s round, as every loose tea container should be — no nasty corners to trap that last bit of tea you just can’t dig out no matter how hard you try. The outer lid glides off easily and the little tab on the inner seal that helps you easily remove that seal without breaking a fingernail — inspired!

You may wonder why I am so passionate about this tea. Well, it’s not only delicious, but it also contains a healthy dose of L-theanine. Along with caffeine, L-theanine helps to increase focus and attention, ease anxiety and stress, and helps you to relax without causing drowsiness.* Sounds like the ideal way to start your day, right?

Several studies have also found that the antioxidants in green tea could enhance the function of the body’s immune system, decreasing upper respiratory tract infections and preventing flu symptoms. Right now it is more important than ever to bolster your natural immune system. Sipping this creamy Matcha Latte is a delicious way to do that. Drink to your health!

https://www.healthline.com/health/l-theanine