Iris Inn Spinach Artichoke Breakfast Casserole

iris-inn-spinach-casserole

For several years my husband and I made an annual long weekend excursion to the Shenandoah River Valley in Virginia. Always in Autumn so we could enjoy the gorgeous scenery dressed in stunning colors of orange, red and gold, and we were never disappointed. In mid to late October Virginia is still warm enough to enjoy outdoor fun like hiking and kayaking with only a sweater or light jacket occasionally needed.

We’ve stayed in many hotels and B&B’s on these vacations, but our favorite has always been The Iris Inn in Waynesboro. (www.irisinn.com). Built as a Bed & Breakfast (never a family home), this establishment offers everything you could want: secluded country location, yet close to many things to do and sites to see, beautiful accommodations from private rooms to individual cabins, and delicious bountiful breakfasts.

As vegetarians, breakfast at any B&B is always a challenge, however our hosts at The Iris Inn always tried to accommodate when we warned them in advance. One morning we were pleasantly surprised when the friendly innkeeper handed out recipes for the breakfast being served. Now, we usually tell people when we eat out that we are vegetarians (to relieve some of the pressure on them), but at home we follow a vegan lifestyle, so I was thrilled to have a copy of this casserole recipe that I easily veganized to enjoy at home. If you are planning to serve a brunch or take a dish to a potluck, this recipe is perfect for either occasion. It goes together quickly with only a few ingredients and is a welcome savory addition to any brunch table that even a vegan can enjoy. I hope you like it!

Ingredients:

3 – 10 oz. packages, or 1 – 32 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (you can do this overnight)

12 ounces vegan “cream cheese” ( I used Tofutti brand Better Than Cream Cheese)

1/4 cup organic butter or vegan “butter” at room temperature

1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 – 6oz. jars marinated artichokes, drained

Cracked pepper

1/2 cup Vegan “Parmesan Cheese” (Search under “Recipes” to make your own)

-Place spinach in the bottom of a large greased glass baking dish. Top with chopped artichokes.

-Mix together vegan “cream cheese,” “butter,” and  almond milk. Spread this mixture on top of spinach and artichokes in the dish.

-Top with vegan parmesan and cracked pepper, to taste.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve warm.

 

 

 

 

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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.

Veggie 2

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?

 

 

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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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!

Dehydrating

This is the coldest winter I can remember. I thought I just felt it more because we’ve relocated farther north (from southern Pennsylvania to northern New Jersey), but the locals tell us that this is the coldest winter on record for these parts. So while the heat runs constantly and everything in the garage freezes solid, I have discovered that keeping the dehydrator running and the kitchen cupboard doors open, our under-the-sink water pipes won’t freeze shut again (as they did a couple of days ago). So, I am dehydrating everything within reach. That appliance is running almost constantly!                                                                       Dehydrating

Dehydrating is so easy to do. Much more convenient than canning, in my opinion, and if you do it at a low temperature (I usually dehydrate at 105 – 107 degrees) the fruits and vegetables retain all the living enzymes of raw food. This is important if you want to get maximum nutrition for your effort. My Excalibur Dehydrator has a fan in the back that constantly blows warm air over all the trays, so I don’t need to babysit it and shuffle the trays around to get even air distribution as you would with a round stacked dehydrator with the fan at the top or bottom. Many times I load the dehydrator at night and in the morning everything is done to perfection. (I would highly recommend an Excalibur to anyone considering such a purchase). At this low temperature, it takes awhile longer to properly dehydrate, but I like things to be thoroughly dehydrated.  When I make chips I want them to be thin and crispy, not tough and chewy like leather. The secret is to slice the fruit and vegetables very thin using a mandolin or a very sharp knife if you have the patience — 1/8 inch thick or less is perfect.

In the photo you can see some of the things I’ve done so far. You can experiment with the seasonings you like, but I will tell you what I used and you can improvise from there.  I only use thoroughly washed organic produce because when dehydrating any chemicals in or on the food will be concentrated. Flavor is also concentrated when foods are dehydrated.  Notice that I did not use any sugar at all.  The natural sweetness of the fruit and vegetables is all you need.

The APPLE CHIPS were easy. Just thinly slice each apple, cut slices in half, remove core parts and any seeds, and lay slices in a single layer on the mesh dehydrator tray. You will get a lot of apple chips from one apple! Some people brush the apple slices with lemon to keep them white, but I don’t think it makes that much difference. Sometimes I sprinkle slices with cinnamon before dehydrating. This time I didn’t.

BANANA CHIPS were peeled, sliced very thin and laid in a single layer on the mesh tray. These I did sprinkle with cinnamon and they tasted great!

RED BEET CHIPS were a first for me. Once again I sliced the beets very thin. I made a marinade of 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, and 1/2 tsp. Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. In a large bowl I gently tossed the slices in the marinade until they were evenly coated and let them sit for about a half hour, tossing a couple of times just to make sure each slice was flavored. Each beet, single layer not touching, made a full tray of chips!

SWEET POTATO CHIPS…so yummy! I scrubbed, but did not peel, the sweet potatoes. I cut off about 1/2 inch from each end, thinly sliced them, and placed the slices in a large bowl with 2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil and 1 tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt. I gently tossed the slices until each one was coated and placed them in a single layer on a mesh tray.

That’s it. When the dehydrator was full I turned it on at 105 degrees and went to bed. No timer, no turning or repositioning trays, no worries. In the morning everything was dried to a perfect crisp chip. No, the flavors did not transfer, and the house smelled wonderful. We have a supply of healthy chips for snacking, AND with the dehydrator fan blowing 105 degrees all night and the cabinet doors open, our kitchen pipes didn’t freeze!

 

Chen Vegetarian House, 709 Penn Ave. West Reading, PA 19611- Phone: 610-374-2288 or www.chenvegehouse.com

Chen Vegetarian House is an all vegetarian Asian restaurant with a full menu of vegetarian dishes to choose from…just what the health-minded people of Berks County have been waiting for!  Tonight was our first visit there and I was impressed.  We will be going back!  Although this is a small establishment, probably more geared to take-out than dining-in, our experience was entirely enjoyable.

We entered the newly remodeled restaurant (next to Haute Chocolat) and were promptly seated at one of the two tables by the window.  Several other tables were available near the take-out counter.  Our server answered all our questions and explained the menu (Yes, EVERYTHING on the menu is vegetarian — even the chicken, the beef, the pork, and the seafood).  They do not use MSG in any of their food.  We talked and drank green tea until our dinners arrived.  The spring rolls were piping hot and very fresh (not frozen and reheated).  My Pad Thai was delicious, seasoned perfectly with not too much “chicken” and lots of crunchy bean sprouts.  My husband ordered General Tso’s “Chicken” (his favorite) and we were both impressed by the quantity and presentation.  Our meals were delicious and the service was efficient and courteous.

Chen Vegetarian House also features something other Asian restaurants don’t offer — fresh vegetable and fruit juices (3.99) and fruit smoothies (4.29).  Hallelujah!

The menu states that lunches including white or brown rice, hot & sour soup or spring roll, and entrée are only $5.99.  To save time you can pre-order online and pick up at the counter. Business hours are Mon. – Thurs.: 11 am – 10 pm, Fri. and Sat.: 11 am – 10:30 pm, and Sun.: 12 pm – 9:30 pm.  Visa, Mastercard, and Discover are accepted.  Now until 1/31/2014 is their Grand Opening and you get 10% off a minimum $20 order!

If you want a healthy and delicious meal for not a lot of money, then I would highly recommend Chen Vegetarian House.

Tomato Chips

Because it’s the end of the growing season, and gardeners probably have an overabundance of tomatoes, I thought I would share this again. I use these tomato chips in place of sundried tomatoes all year long. Delicious!

This is the easiest way I have found to preserve your abundant tomato harvest.  Only two ingredients besides the tomatoes, and so simple!

The first thing you will do is thinly slice the tomatoes — not more than 1/4 inch thick.  Spread the slices in a single layer on the dehydrator mesh tray making sure the slices are not touching each other.  There is no need to line the tray with a teflex sheet or parchment paper.20130917_211051 tomato chips ready for dehydrator, 2

Lightly sprinkle each slice with a little Herbamare (or any sea salt and herb seasoning you desire). Then top with some nutritional yeast. Dehydrate for 6 – 8 hours or overnight.  Store in a tightly covered glass jar in the pantry, and they’ll stay crisp all winter. 20130921_134958 tomato chips jarred, 2

Bet you can’t eat just one!

Veggie Lasagna

A word to the wise: If you’re trying to change your family’s eating habits to a healthier vegetarian diet, please don’t serve them a green smoothie or a blended salad to start out.  Unfamiliar and unrecognizable food like that will only shock them into resistance. Give your family something they are used to, something they can identify and already enjoy eating — but make it healthier, lower in fat and calories, with no animal ingredients.  This is a delicious recipe even a carnivore can enjoy.  It may become one of your family’s favorites!

Ingredients:

1 chopped onion

1 clove minced garlic

1 lb. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

8 oz, sliced mushrooms, rinse well and drain

12 – 15 lasagna noodles

1 container (12.3 oz) Mori-Nu silken tofu, drained and mashed with a fork

¼ c. vegan parmesan topping, plus another 1/2 c. reserved for top

1 Tbs. parsley flakes

1 tsp. oregano

1 ½ tsp sea salt

12 oz. shredded vegan mozzarella (Soya Kaas or Daiya are good brands)

1 ½ qt. any good meatless spaghetti sauce (reserve 1 c.)

Method:

— Cook noodles according to package directions.

–Saute onions, garlic and mushrooms in 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add thawed, drained spinach and toss together.

–In a large bowl combine: tofu, ¼ cup veggie parmesan and spices. Add sautéed vegetables and mix together with a fork.

–In an ungreased oblong casserole layer:

A thin layer of sauce

¼ noodles

¼ sauce

¼ tofu mixture

¼ vegan mozzarella

Repeat this process three times.

–Spread reserved 1 cup sauce over top layer of noodles.  Sprinkle with ½ cup vegan parmesan topping. (At this point lasagna can be covered and refrigerated for several hours.)

–Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (allow additional 10 – 15 minutes if lasagna has been refrigerated.)

For easier cutting, let stand for 15 minutes after removing from oven.

Did People in the Bible Eat Animal Foods?

As a Health Minister, one of the statements I often hear is, “But people in the Bible ate meat.” I encourage you to read below and learn the facts. The diet in Bible times did not in any way resemble the Standard American Diet. To read the complete article: http://healthtip.hacres.com/index.php/2013/02/12/how-to-stop-cheating-on-the-hallelujah-diet?

Animal-Source Foods

In Bible days, there were societies of pure vegetarians while other societies consumed some animal products – animal flesh and goat milk. However, even in those societies where animal flesh was eaten, consumption was extremely limited and confined to special occasions because the ancients had no means of refrigeration.

For this same reason, goat milk was consumed in its raw state almost immediately after milking. It is also important to note here that almost all milk consumed in Bible days was goat milk. Even to this day, The United States is one of the few countries in the world that consumes more cow milk than goat milk.

It is also interesting to note that in Bible days, the fat content of grass-fed animals, which was all they had to eat, was around 3%. This is the fat content that you will find in wild deer to this day.

6 Things Man Didn’t Learn from the Bible

  1. Man started graining the animals in an effort to put more fat on their flesh.
  2. Even later, farmers learned that they could get these animals to grow more rapidly if they gave them growth hormones.
  3. Then they learned that by giving the animals antibiotics, they could cover up the physical breakdown that occurred by this unnatural and rapid growth.
  4. Farmers next began to realize that by giving the milk cows hormones that caused them to grow faster, they could also generate more milk production.
  5. Forcing these milk cows to produce more milk than God designed them to produce caused all manner of physical breakdown. Farmers realized (again) they could give cows more antibiotics.
  6. As man began to drink more and more cow milk, man had to find a way to prevent the milk from going bad too quickly. To solve that problem man learned that by cooking the milk in a pasteurizing process that killed both friendly and unfriendly bacteria and destroying the enzymes (life force in raw milk) they could give the milk a longer shelf life under refrigeration.

With the consumption of ever increasing amounts of both animal flesh and dairy, physical breakdown from these animal source foods began to manifest earlier and earlier in the lives of those who consumed them. In fact, my research reveals that animal source foods, both flesh and dairy, are the cause or contributing cause of as high as 90% of all the physical problems being experienced today.

These animal sourced foods are the primary cause of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes, as the fat in these animal sourced foods clog up the arteries. In addition to the fat clogging up the arteries and causing all of these physical breakdowns, these animal sourced foods are the primary cause of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, colon problems, acid stomach, asthma, allergies…

The list goes on and on….

Be encouraged, God loves us and His way is always best 🙂                              “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
~ Romans 12:2