Vegan Stuffed Shells

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Looking for something to please both vegetarians and meat eaters? This dish is an easy crowd pleaser. Who doesn’t love pasta? Some of the steps can be completed the day before, so it shouldn’t take too long to pull everything together when you plan to serve it. I appreciate recipes like this that allow me to spend time with my guests rather than slaving away in the kitchen on the big day. (Always choose organic ingredients, if available, for the most nutrition).

Ingredients:

2/3 box of large shell pasta

1 Tbsp. oil: grapeseed, olive or coconut

1 chopped onion

1 clove minced garlic

8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms

1 container organic firm tofu

10 oz. frozen spinach, kale or chard, defrosted and drained

1 Tbsp. parsley flakes

1 tsp. oregano

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Shredded veggie mozzarella cheese (8 – 12 oz.)

1 jar any good meatless spaghetti sauce

Drain all the water off the tofu, then place tofu on a flat plate lined with several layers of paper towels, cover with more paper towels, top with another plate and on top of all that place a large unopened can of anything that weighs about 2 lbs. Your goal is to press as much water from the tofu as possible. This will take about 30 minutes, so continue with the rest of the recipe while the tofu drains. (I like to squeeze water from the saturated paper towels a couple of times during this process). Tofu is very versatile and will take on the flavors of any seasoning IF it isn’t water-logged, so draining it well is very important.

While the tofu is draining, also drain the defrosted spinach, kale or chard — whichever you are using. (Use a large spoon to press out any extra moisture or it will also dilute the flavor).

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet and saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms. Add thawed, drained greens and toss together. Heat through, then remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl combine: tofu (mash with a fork), 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, parsley, oregano and salt. Add sauted vegetables and mix all together. The hard part is done. This mixture may be refrigerated until tomorrow if you wish, or you may complete the rest of the recipe.

Next day or continue:

Cook pasta shells according to package directions. Drain and set aside on a clean tea towel to cool.

Add half the veggie mozzarella cheese to the tofu mixture and stir to mix.

Lightly grease a large glass casserole dish. Spread a thin layer (scant 1/2 inch) of sauce on the bottom.

Stuff each shell with a large spoonful of tofu mixture and place each one in a single layer in the casserole dish.

Distribute the rest of the sauce over each shell and top with the remaining veggie cheese.

Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes. Remove foil the last 10 minutes of baking.

Serve hot. Enjoy the compliments!

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Sourdough Bread

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First of all, I want to give credit to my friend, Mary Anne Williams, who graciously shared this recipe with me. According to Mary Anne, her mother’s bread was locally famous with family and friends. A friend once told her mother that all she wanted for her birthday was her bread, and that’s exactly what she got! (We should all have such a friend!) It really is delicious, and I will share the recipe just as it is written.

This recipe makes three full size loaves! It’s simple to make if you follow the directions exactly. The starter is alive, and keeping it that way is a bit tricky, so at least for your first attempt I would suggest not changing a thing. Be prepared to wait 3 – 5 days from start to finish, most of that time is for the dough to rise.

RECIPE*

— Hint: Use metal only for the baking pans. Yeast does not like metal and will die. That means wooden or plastic spoons, glass bowls, measuring cups, etc.

— Hint: Store in a bowl with a lid, but yeast must breath. The lid should have holes, or you can use plastic wrap and leave it partially uncovered.

— Hint: When you get too much starter, share some with a friend.

To make starter:

Ingredients:

1 package dry yeast

1/2 cup very warm water

2 cups lukewarm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup very warm water. Stir well

Add 2 cups lukewarm water, sugar and salt. Stir well.

Stir in flour and mix well.

Place mixture in a large container, cover with a cloth, and leave at room temperature until mixture begins to ferment. (It usually takes about 18 – 24 hours). When it foams and bubbles, it is ready to use.

It may be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator.

To make bread:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cup warm water

1 cup starter

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix with a wooden spoon.

Add 6 cups bread flour and mix well with hands.

Put this in a larger greased bowl. Cover with a clean cloth and let stand in a warm place overnight.

Next morning, divide the dough into three parts. Knead each part on a floured board. It does not need to be worked much.

Put each loaf into a greased loaf pan. Brush with vegetable oil.

Let rise in a warm place 4 – 6 hours.

Bake at 325 for approximately 45 minutes.

Remove from oven, brush with butter. After a few minutes, remove bread from pans and allow to cool completely before wrapping to prevent sweating.

After removing starter to bake bread, add:

1 cup lukewarm water

1/2 cup flour

3 teaspoons sugar

Feed the starter every Tuesday and Friday. Add to starter:

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons instant potatoes

1 cup warm water

Stir with a wooden spoon.

Let sit at room temperature for 8 – 10 hours, then refrigerate until ready to use.

*My notes after trying this recipe:

Knowing a little bit about the chemistry of sourdough bread, I was surprised to see that this recipe includes yeast and sugar. The yeast helps reduce rising time and sugar feeds the yeast.  Traditional sourdough does not include either of these ingredients — only flour and water in the starter, but it takes much longer to get a good starter going, and your location is also a critical factor. San Francisco is famous for traditional sourdough bread because the location’s climate is perfect.

I would call this recipe Amish Sourdough Bread, sometimes known as Friendship Bread because you can and are encouraged to share the starter and recipe with a friend. (A variation of the Amish starter is sometimes called Herman which can be used to make sweet pastry).

Don’t be reluctant to add the sugar called for in this recipe. The yeast consumes most of the sugar, so you won’t.

The addition of instant potatoes surprised me, but it works here, so don’t leave it out.

Use only purified water or bottled spring water. Chlorine kills yeast, so regular tap water is not a good choice.

A good place for your bread dough to rise is on the middle rack in the oven with only the oven light on for heat. Place a bowl of warm water on the lower rack. Warmth and moisture are the perfect conditions for keeping yeast happy.

If you are thinking about substituting whole wheat pastry flour for half the bread flour, don’t. Whole wheat pastry flour is best suited for sweet baked goods that include baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast to produce rising. (I don’t know if regular whole wheat flour will work here, because I haven’t tried it… yet.) Here is a photo of my bread when I tried substituting half whole wheat pastry flour (pretty flat!) compared to the bread made according to the recipe. It still tastes great, but you’ll never make a sandwich with that one.

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If bread making seems intimidating to you, then try this recipe as a start. The results are yummy, and you will have such a sense of accomplishment. Your confidence will grow, and then you can experiment with other recipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm

42461 Lovettsville Rd., Lovettsville, VA 20180. Phone: (540) 822-9017

For Thanksgiving Dinner 2019, we decided to dine at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. Finding a great upscale restaurant that serves something vegetarian and delicious on Thanksgiving has become a quest for my husband in recent years. Our kids are grown and live in all corners the country, so we gladly sacrifice the burden of family travel on Thanksgiving so we can all be together on Christmas.  In addition, I am more than happy to give up the chore of spending Thanksgiving Day elbow deep in a turkey that I won’t even eat in exchange for dining like a queen at a fine restaurant. (This new tradition was all my husband’s idea — what a guy!)

Weeks ahead of the holiday he was searching the web for the perfect restaurant and found this unusual venue. Situated on a mountain top, with a wonderful view of the Potomac River, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm is a working organic farm that features locally grown and/or foraged seasonal produce and grass-fed organic animal products on their menu. He booked our reservation even though they warned him that they would have a special fixed Thanksgiving menu that featured a lot of meat. Well, he must have said something right, because when we arrived they gave us a special vegetarian menu created just for us. The only thing we couldn’t eat was the Seared Escolar (fish).

Patowmack Farm

 

The drive up the side of a mountain to the restaurant was a bit steep (I wonder what they do when it snows). At the top is a large all-glass dining room with brick floor and nature-inspired decor. Food is prepared on site, tapas size and served family style, so you can share and pass plates around the table. And there is plenty of food! At first we thought we should choose what we wanted from the menu, but no. We were served everything on the menu! I can’t even describe how delicious each dish was. The spices and sauces were unique and so flavorful — definitely gourmet cuisine.

Patowmack Farm vegetarian Thanksgiving menu

Service was excellent. Each course was expertly timed and dishes discreetly removed, so we barely noticed. Our waitress explained each dish as it came out and met our every request with a smile. We felt as though we were her top priority even though she was serving others, too. At the end of the meal coffee and tea were brewed at the table, and the dessert platter was brought out. The only thing I would recommend is more pie for dessert. The four small portions served were so delicious that we all wanted more!

If you want to try excellent food that is minus all the commercial chemicals and pesticides, in season and fresh, in a lovely location with a view, then The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm is your special occasion destination.

 

It’s Never Too Late

photo of child reading holy bible
Photo by nappy on Pexels.com

Total health starts with your spiritual life.  Prayer, reading the Bible and meditating on God’s word will reduce stress and give you answers to life’s questions. If you want to be healthy body, mind and spirit, then start here.

Jesus never refuses an invitation to be with you. He’s never too busy. He never has something more important to do. You are the most important thing to Jesus, and he loves spending time with you, It’s never too late. He’s just waiting to be asked.

Luke 24: 28-29 — As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

River Bluff Farm Bed & Breakfast

I just had to share a review of this B&B where we stayed for a long weekend in the Fall. River Bluff Farm B&B is located off the beaten path in the beautiful hills of Virginia near New Market. When we left the highway we thought , “Oh, this is pretty…” past the farms , pastures, etc. Then we turned into the little town of Quicksburg, crossed the railroad tracks and landed on a dirt road. When we drove past a few houses and turned into an unpaved driveway that never seemed to end, my husband was glaring at me. His face said, “Where are we, and what have you gotten us into?”  Really, the only other living thing we saw after leaving the highway was a cow, so I was concerned, too. “The reviews online looked great,” was my defense. Finally, a sign came into view: NOT YET, KEEP GOING. Okay, we proceeded down the driveway past another sign that said SCENIC VIEW.  We saw nothing, but later learned that you had to hike up the path to see the view. Then, just as my husband was threatening to turn around, a house came into view. (Thank you, Lord!)

That was our humorous introduction to this wonderful B&B. Everything there great. Lots of rustic charm and antiques while providing every modern convenience you could want. We stayed in the New England Room on the second floor. River Bluff B&B boasts three bedrooms, all with queen beds (and oh, the sheets are heavenly — definitely better than hotel quality) and private baths plus a loft that has been used for groups with children who don’t mind climbing the ladder and spreading out sleeping bags. A cozy fireplace, modern kitchen and large adjoining diningroom complete the interior. In warm weather guests can also choose to eat outside on the ample deck overlooking an expansive yard and North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

Our hosts, Donna and Matt, made sure we and the other two couples who were staying there, were comfortable and had everything we needed. All the breakfasts were homemade and delicious. Our hosts were very knowledgeable about the area, and pointed us in the direction of several interesting tourist attractions, places to eat, and orchards to pick apples. Knowing we were vegetarians, Donna managed to make a delicious vegetarian breakfast for us each day in addition to what the others were being served. We really appreciated that. So, I was surprised one morning when she offered us FROG Jam for our muffins. (What… another great reason to be a vegetarian?) Well, she also had BEAR Jam if we didn’t want FROG for breakfast. As you can see from the photo, not a frog or bear was sacrificed in the making of either. She got us that time!

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River Bluff Farm B&B, 183 Quicksburg Mill Lane, Quicksburg, VA 22847. (540) 454-9751, http://www.riverbluffbnb.com  Check them out!

 

 

 

What You Eat Really Does Make a Difference

Remember that children’s song, “Oh be careful little mouth what you say?” Maybe we need to learn a new verse — “Oh, be careful little mouth what you eat!”

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Proverbs 21:23- He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.

If you are eager to improve your health, then God may be speaking to you about the food you eat. Sometimes saying yes to God means saying no to yourself. The Holy Spirit will begin to change your appetite if you don’t ignore his voice. If you are asking God to help you lose weight, the answer to your prayers may be on your plate.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

Bakers Guild Café

225 Center Street

Bloomsburg, PA

570-784-2271

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While in the college town of Bloomsburg, PA last weekend we found a delightfully healthy café. We just had time for a quick lunch before a family wedding started, but we didn’t want to settle for junk food either. We were so glad we checked this place out! There is seating for about 12 – 15 inside the café, but take-out is also available. We ate inside.

Bakers Guild Café is also the retail outlet for Columbia County Bread and Granola, known for their organic sprouted breads, crackers and granola. You can visit their website ColumbiaCountyBread.com to learn more about their products. Yes, they ship anywhere in the country.

Bakers Guild menu (2)

I chose the sprouted whole-grain pita for my Vegan BLT. It was so good, and came with a side of organic sprouted spelt chips. The vegan bacon had all the flavor (if not the texture, so don’t expect that) and none of the fat and cruelty of bacon. All the flavors complemented each other perfectly. This was such a treat for a vegan who never gets to have a BLT! Dave ordered a grilled cheese and onion sandwich (his usual lunch order), and even though it wasn’t on the menu they didn’t blink at the request. He also ordered the Caesar Salad with greens, capers and sprouted “sprigs.” The sprigs were thin slices of their sprouted whole grain bread toasted. That salad was quite large so he shared a bit with me. I usually don’t like croutons, but these “sprigs” were just lightly toasted and still warm — not like the hard little rocks usually topping a Caesar Salad. It was exceptionally delicious. Douglas Michael, the owner, took the time to explain the process he uses to sprout the grains and his wholefood philosophy behind the restaurant’s menu.

 

Dave and I both had iced tea, freshly brewed and served from a pitcher, not from a can, bottle, or soda fountain. You could taste the difference. This iced tea tasted like tea, not chemicals, and our empty glasses were promptly refilled. An unexpected find was compostable straws. Ever since learning about the harmful effects of plastic straws on the environment and wildlife I have been trying to find a safer straw to use. Paper straws are no longer available, and I hate to drink an iced beverage without a straw (always waiting for the ice to come crashing down onto my face). Bakers Guild uses straws that are cornstarch-based and completely biodegradable. Doug even told me where to order them… yay!

bakers Guild owner enhanced vignette

If you are ever in Bloomsburg, and want something healthy to eat, please look for Bakers Guild Café. The prices are reasonable and the food is wonderful. You will feel like you’ve eaten real food, and know that you’ve done something good for your body and the environment.

Bakers Guild Café, 225 Center Street Bloomsburg, PA 570-784-2271

Garlic Dill Salad Dressing

Garlic Dill Salad Dressing   If you love pickles, then you will love this salad dressing. It’s so simple to prepare, and has none of the unhealthy fats you’ll find in commercial dressings. The only fat in this salad dressing comes from the single fresh avocado. The green color will stay bright several days in the refrigerator (thank you, lemon) — if it lasts that long!

Vegetarians eat a lot of salad, and this light creamy dressing is one of my favorites!

Ingredients:

1 avocado

Juice of one fresh lemon

1 lg. garlic clove

1 tsp. dry dill weed

1 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 – 2/3 cup water  You can add a little more water if necessary, but don’t dilute too much, or you’ll lose flavor.*

Put all ingredients into a blender, then blend until smooth and creamy.

*Add a little less water and you’ll have a tangy dip for veggies or pita chips.

Tips for Healthy Eating When Eating Out

pexels-photo-313700.jpegI Corinthians 10:13 — No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The menu looks disappointing. I probably shouldn’t have come with my friends. What can I eat in this restaurant? Maybe I’ll just give in and order a burger. This is too hard!

We all face this dilemma at some point after deciding to eat a plant-based diet, but here are a few tricks (ways out of temptation) to help you maintain a healthy diet even if there isn’t a single vegetarian entrée on the menu:

— First of all, look at the soup, salad and appetizer sections of the menu. It is quite possible that you will find something suitable there. Many times appetizers that are meant for sharing are huge and can easily be your whole dinner. One of our favorite restaurants has a delicious Hummus Platter Appetizer (a platter of fresh romaine lettuce topped with homemade roasted red pepper hummus, and garnished with sliced tomatoes and warm toasted pita bread) that I adore. It is meant for four people to share, but I always order it as my entrée when we go there, and it is more than enough.

— Look at the side dishes. You can certainly put together a satisfying meal of three or four vegetable sides (not french fries, macaroni, and onion rings!) and a salad. Cracker Barrel calls this a Vegetable Platter, and it’s becoming popular in other restaurants, too. Keep it simple and be creative.

— Sometimes you can find a great vegetarian pasta dish already on the menu, but if you can’t then look at the options that are available, and don’t be afraid to ask if a dish you like could be prepared minus the meat and/or cheese. Most restaurants are happy to comply. I usually request mushrooms instead of the meat. My husband will request nuts be substituted for the meat in his pasta dish.

— If one entrée comes with broccoli and another comes with mushrooms and peas, then ask your server if you could please have the pasta (baked potato or brown rice) minus the meat, but topped with broccoli, mushrooms and peas (because you know they already have those ingredients in house) instead. Restaurants teach their staff that a satisfied customer will be a returning customer and will tell their friends, so they are more than willing to make you a satisfied customer.

— Even fast food restaurants are becoming veg-friendly. Burger King has a veggie burger. It’s not on the menu, but ask for it. Subway and Moe’s (you probably know of others) both have several vegetarian options that you can put together however you like, and they are very inexpensive. Ethnic restaurants offer many unique plant-based dishes that are sure to please, so be courageous and try something different. You might be surprised to find a new favorite food!

— Finally, if all else fails just ask the chef if he can prepare a special meal that meets your dietary requirements. Some of the most delicious restaurant meals we’ve enjoyed were the result of simply making that request when the menu looked hopeless. Many chefs welcome the challenge. You won’t know if you don’t ask. The better restaurants always try to accommodate.

So please, don’t be intimidated by menus or refuse to go out to eat because you’re afraid you won’t be able to stick to your new healthy lifestyle if you do. Meet your friends for dinner! Enjoy their company, and don’t stress out about what to eat. In the whole scheme of life it is, after all, just one meal. You don’t have to live like a hermit to eat healthy. Just be creative and enjoy the journey … To life!