Edible Flower Salad / Flowerpot Salad

 

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Around the beginning of February each year I start to get hungry for color. Where we live, winter seems to drag along forever. The only colors we see outside are brown, gray and white (if it has just snowed). I miss the greens of spring and summer, but most of all I miss the kaleidoscope colors of flowers. Nothing makes me happier than seeing a rainbow of flowers growing in my yard or in pots on the patio and deck. This year I just couldn’t wait for the weather to cooperate, so I decided to start planting my flowers early, inside instead of out.

Fortunately, I have a little AeroGarden* that sits on my kitchen counter where I usually grow fresh organic herbs. This winter I decided to plant organic edible flowers to brighten our salads and introduce some color into my kitchen. I’m sure you could grow flowers in pots on a sunny windowsill, too. I have tried in the past to buy organic flowers for salads, but no one (grocer or florist) would guarantee they could supply organic, never-sprayed flowers, so I was a little leery of buying them commercially. However, when you grow your own flowers you know exactly what chemicals they have, or have not, encountered. Mine have encountered none. I also have plenty of fresh flowers to place an occasional centerpiece on the table (The snapdragons are especially prolific. The more you cut off, the more they bloom).

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This is one of the best ideas I’ve ever had, and the timing was perfect. The colors of my little garden just sparkle on the black granite countertop, and the salads have been a hit with our family, too. Seeing the living profusion of colors lifts my spirit everyday and reminds me that this long dreary spell, which now includes social isolation due to the coronavirus, shall also pass.

The flowers I grew are: calendula, marigolds, snapdragons, and dianthus. All are competely safe to eat. If you are shy about eating flowers, there is nothing to fear. Most of them have a very mild flavor. The marigold petals (that’s the only part of this flower you use) are a bit peppery tasting, but the others have practically no flavor at all. Their purpose in salads is mostly aesthetic. Calendula petals have healing properties, especially when used as a tincture on the skin. Because of their mild flavor, Snapdragons have been used for years to decorate elegant desserts and specialty cocktails as well as salads. The Dianthus flower has a mild clove-like scent and is a member of the carnation family. Dianthus (Greek) means “flower of the gods.”

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This little Flowerpot Salad would be perfect at a shower or tea party. The “pot” is a long thin slice of zucchini wrapped in a circle and held together by a fancy little toothpick with a frill on top. Inside place a couple spoonfuls of your favorite hummus. “Plant” celery and carrot sticks along with strips of red pepper, broccoli spears, a few salad greens and an edible flower. So pretty, and healthy, too!

* http://www.aerogarden.com

 

 

Mexican Stuffed Yams

 

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This is one of my favorite go-to meals when I know there won’t be time to prepare dinner tonight. It takes just minutes in the morning to get the yams into the slow cooker, and then in the evening pulling it all together for serving is a breeze. Bonus: Everyone can even assemble their own!

Main Ingredient:

One organic yam per person, scrubbed and individually wrapped in foil. Place yams in slow cooker, and cook on high for 4 hours or 7 – 8 hours on low. This is all the early preparation you need to do before your busy day.

Other Ingredients:

Seasoned black beans — you may use your own recipe (a great way to use leftovers) or canned as shown below.

Guacamole — once again, your own homemade or purchased.

Vegan shredded cheddar cheese

Salsa — homemade or purchased (I like to add a squeeze of lime to my salsa)

Organic corn chips.

As you can see, making this is simple as can be if time is a factor. I know homemade everything is always the best, and I feel like I’m cheating when I open a can, but this is the 21st century. We’re all strapped for time, and if I can put a healthy inexpensive meal on the table, it sure beats take-out. So, dip your chips and enjoy a healthy meal with little preparation and lots of fun.

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The Coronavirus: Fear vs. Wisdom

 

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If you follow the news, then you hear hourly updates on the coronavirus as  reporters spread doom, gloom and fear about worldwide sickness and even death from the  coronavirus. You may be asking: When will it strike here? What should I do if I get sick? Am I safe? How can I protect my children from something I can’t see? Obsessing on this one topic is creating panic when commonsense wisdom would be more helpful.

Please, keep in mind that fewer people have died from the coronavirus this year than from the flu last year, and those who have died had compromised immune systems before they contracted the virus. It is believed that thousands of people have recovered from the coronavirus thinking it was just the common cold, because their symptoms were so mild. So it seems obvious that the way to deal with this new health threat is to strengthen your immune system and use the necessary precautions to avoid getting sick in the first place. Here are some reminders:

— Wash your hands often, at least 20 seconds each time with soap and running water.

— Use antibacterial wipes at the grocery store (many stores provide them at the entrance) to wipe down shopping cart handles before use.

— Carry antibacterial wipes with you, and remember to use them.

— Sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm instead of your hands.

— Keep your hands away from your face.

— Carry your own supply of tissues with you. Communal tissue boxes are loaded with germs.

— Think of others. If you feel sick, STAY HOME. No matter how badly you “need to be there,” no one there wants to catch what you have.

— At home, sanitize often: door knobs, light switches, buttons on the microwave, toaster, stove, coffeepot, tea kettle, toilet seat/handles, faucets, etc.. Bleach infused wipes or even a paper towel saturated with rubbing alcohol will do the job quickly and easily.

— Avoid sugar. Sugar depresses your immune system for the next four hours after consuming it.

— Eat plenty of whole foods: vegetables, fruit, and minimally processed grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

— Stay hydrated and make pure water your beverage of choice. Nix the sugary drinks.

— Increase your intake of Vitamin C and Zinc. Taken together these help to lessen the severity of a cold, but you can also take them before any symptoms arise as a preventive measure.

— Elderberry syrup taken daily is a great immune booster (also comes in lozenges in case you’re traveling).

— If you live in the northern hemisphere and don’t get much sun for part of the year, you may need to increase your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D3+K2 is most easily absorbed. Ask your doctor to monitor your blood levels to get the correct dosage.

— Finally, reduce the stress in your life. Prayer and meditation, daily exercise, even a walk are all great stress relievers. Read a good book. Enjoy a hobby you’ve neglected for a long time, or try something new. Spend time with your pet. Turn off the news and just relax.

— Refuse to worry. Worry leads to anxiety, which stops you from living your best life. As long as you use wisdom, you have nothing to fear.

God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.         II Timothy 1:7 NKJV

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NIV

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Homemade Ranch (Vegan)

This vegan ranch dressing looks delicious. Thank you Midnight Munchies and More!

Midnight Munchies & More!

Usually I just buy vegan ranch because I’m lazy but I decided to give it a whirl on my own. And holy shit y’all, it’s everything! And way cheaper!

Super legit to dip your vegan wings into as well!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegan mayo
  • 3/4 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp each of onion powder, garlic powder, dried parsley, dried chives
  • 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed

Directions:

  1. Put everything in a jar and shake until well combined.
  2. Pop that jar in the fridge overnight for all the flavors to marry together. Don’t skip this step!
  3. Shake before serving.
  4. Enjoy!

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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

 

 

 

 

Oven Roasted Cauliflower Florets

I love roasted vegetables. Roasting just seems to bring out a whole other dimension of flavor. I think this cauliflower recipe would also make a spicy appetizer with some hot wings sauce drizzled over top.
Thank you Indians Abroad Desi Videsh Me!

Indians Abroad Desi Videsh Me

Quick and Easy Recipe for  Delicious Roasted Caulflower flavoured with Garlic and Lemon as Side dish. Preheat – Oven 200°C

Cut- 1 Head Cauliflower –  in florets  Mince – 4-5 cloves Garlic

Drizzle  – 2 tbsp. Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon Lemon Juice

Mix – Handful Parsley – 1 tsp. Turmeric Powder – Salt and Peper to taste.

Toss – in Roasting Pan – Spread Single Layer  – 25-30 mnts until Slightly Brown.

Serve Hot.

Note – Use Rosemary instead of Parsley. Sprinkle Garam Masala for additional flavour.

Quick and Easy Recipe for  Delicious Roasted Caulflower flavoured with Garlic and Lemon as Side dish.

*****

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Pumpkin Pie (Vegan)

Tis the season, and it’s not easy to find a great vegan pumpkin pie. I will be making this one tomorrow. Thanks to Midnight Munchies & More!

Midnight Munchies & More!

Before becoming vegan, my grandma’s pumpkin pie was the ONLY pumpkin pie I would ever eat! Her secret recipe that she taught to my mom and then to me, was the most perfect texture! So much more ‘creamy’ and soft. It was almost more like a custard than a traditional pumpkin pie.

Fast forward to veganism and holy shit. I needed her recipe veganized so bad! I spent so much time testing and perfecting this recipe to do my grandma proud. And when I figured it out….I cried like a baby! It reminds me of her and my soul is happy to the core!

Be sure to check out my Recipe video

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (chickpea brine)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 15oz can of pumpkin purée
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (I used almond…

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