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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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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!

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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.

Beefless Stew with Dumplings

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My mother made the best beef stew ever! It was hearty and delicious. On a cold winter afternoon the aroma of her simmering stew filled the house, and we couldn’t wait for dinner time. Since giving up meat, the vegetable stews I tried making just seemed too light on flavor and texture. They weren’t the satisfying meal I remembered from childhood, and they left me feeling disappointed — until I hit on this recipe. Yay!

I call this Beefless Stew. It has all the flavor I remember, but none of the beef! Hearty enough to please my picky husband (he actually went back for thirds) and no unhealthy fat and cholesterol, this recipe is one you will want to make often. It is especially good with Grandma’s Dumplings!

I started everything in the crockpot. Hours later, when the vegetables were almost cooked through, I transferred the stew to a large pot on the stove (because you just can’t keep stew at the boiling point in a crockpot). The liquid must be boiling in order for the dumplings to cook properly, so don’t forget this important step.

Ingredients:

For best results start with room temperature ingredients.

1 Tbsp. olive or coconut oil

1/4 cup barley or rice

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped green cabbage

2 large carrots, sliced

3 – 4 potatoes, cubed

2 Tbsp. Pumpkin puree, optional

1 cup peas (fresh or frozen, thawed), set aside

6 cups vegetable broth

1 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 whole bay leaf

Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, to taste

Turn the crockpot on High and add about 1 cup of the vegetable broth, the oil, onion and garlic to the bottom of the crockpot. Cover and allow those ingredients to steam on High while you prepare the other vegetables.

When all the other vegetables (except the peas) are ready, add them to the crockpot along with the remaining broth and spices. (You will save the peas to add when the other vegetables are almost tender). Turn the crockpot to Low, and cook for 6 – 8 hours.

When the vegetables are almost tender, turn off the crockpot and transfer everything to a large stockpot. Add the peas, and heat to a slow boil. Now it’s time to add the dumplings!

GRANDMA’S DUMPLINGS:

2 c. whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. sea salt

3/4 – 1 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk

1 1/2 Tbsp. firm coconut oil

Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. With a pastry blender, cut in the coconut oil until it looks like tiny crumbs. Slowly add the milk until a sticky dough forms. Drop spoonfuls of dough on top of the bubbling stew (try to drop dough on the vegetables and not the broth).

Cook at a low boil for 10 minutes uncovered, then cover and cook an additional 10 minutes until the dumplings plump up and are fluffy.

Remove from heat and gently stir with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, How’s that New Year’s Resolution Going?

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The start of a new year is a funny time. People ponder the state of the goals they set during the previous year and resolve to do better this time around. Lose weight, finally read that book, get your finances in order, clean out the hall closet — every missed opportunity and put-off chore is on the list of things we resolve to make happen this year. Because it’s a New Year, a fresh start — anything is possible!

One thing I have been thinking about for a while is this blog. I’ve noticed that there are many blogs out there based on diet and food. Recipes abound for any diet you wish to follow. But, for some people, like me, you need more than a recipe to entice you to alter your diet even if it will improve your health. As a believer, I had to be convinced that following any specific diet was God’s will, so I researched with an open mind, read and prayed a lot. After two years I was convinced that a vegetarian (mostly vegan) diet was the correct diet for humans. Fad diets come and go, but this one has stood the test of time for promoting optimal health and longevity. This isn’t the answer I was hoping for (believe me, if there were a hot fudge sundae diet that worked, I would tell you!), but I am convinced this is the truth.

So this year, I resolve to share more about what God’s word has to say about the food we should eat. There will still be recipes, but more about what the Bible says that convinced me to permanently change my diet 18 years ago. It wasn’t because I loved vegetables (or even animals). My lifestyle change was an act of obedience to what I knew God was telling me. And, I believe that when you ask God a question, and He answers, then you’d better do what He says. I hope that throughout this new year you, too, will understand the wisdom of God’s original diet (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.”)

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True Food Kitchen, coming to a location near you!

20161217_142206-truefood-kitchenWhile traveling in Atlanta, we had the pleasure of visiting a refreshingly different kind of restaurant. True Food Kitchen is dedicated to not only serving delicious and unique recipes, but their menu closely adheres to the principles of Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. True Food Kitchen is based on the idea that food should make you feel better — not worse — and that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice taste to live a healthier lifestyle. The menu includes a variety of gluten-free, organic, vegetarian and vegan options influenced by Mediterranean, Asian, and California cuisine. The restaurant uses locally seasonal and organic whole foods whenever possible. It was nice to see a menu that is light on meat. (The meats available are “clean,” if you must have it.) Hot and cold teas, smoothies and natural juice blends are offered along with an extensive wine list, seasonal cocktails using fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices paired with organic spirits, plus local beers and cider.

We visited True Food Kitchen for an early afternoon brunch. From the list of teas and refreshers I chose one called “Medicine Man.” It was an iced triple-brewed black tea with cranberry, pomegranate, honey, and sea buckthorn. Very refreshing. From the extensive list of tantalizing main dishes I ordered the vegan Ancient Grains Bowl with tofu. Not really a bowl, this was more like a platter (no complaints here) and came with miso glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow peas, grilled Portobello, avocado and hemp seed. The portions were more than generous, and I was the last one at our table to finish eating because I did devour every delicious morsel.The prices at True Food Kitchen are moderate for upscale casual dining.

I was impressed with the cuisine and also the attention to environmentally friendly architectural detail, lighting, and décor. This truly is a green restaurant in every sense of the word. To learn more, check out their website: http://www.truefoodkitchen.com.

At the present time there are 16 True Food Kitchen’s scattered across the US, with 7 more coming soon. For my friends in the northeast, look for a new True Food Kitchen in King of Prussia, PA scheduled to open in Summer ’17, and in the Mid-Atlantic region Bethesda, MD in Spring ’17. Definitely try to find one near you… you won’t be disappointed!

 

Vegan “Chicken” Noodle Soup

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The winter holidays are in full celebration mode! If you haven’t eaten a cookie all year, you will this month. Parties, baking with the family, snacking while enjoying in the annual Christmas movies on TV — don’t be surprised if someone in your house comes down with a cold. Did you know that eating sugar suppresses your immune system for the next four hours?  With all the added sugar we consume at this time of year, is it any wonder that flu season tags right along after the holidays?

Mom always said that chicken soup is the best medicine for a cold, and she was right. With this recipe even a vegan can get all the benefits of her age-old remedy without sacrificing a bird. It tastes just like the real thing!

Ingredients:

1 – 2 TBS. Organic coconut oil

2 carrots, chopped

1 stalk celery (including leaves), chopped

1/2 large onion, chopped

6 – 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (can use frozen)

1 can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup frozen organic corn

4 – 5 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped fine

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. sea salt

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. pepper

1 bay leaf

8 cups vegan “chicken” broth (I like Imagine brand No-Chicken Broth best)

2 tsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

1 cup small dry pasta

Melt coconut oil in a stockpot or dutch oven. Add the chopped carrots, celery, and onion and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper, ginger, and curry powder and cook for another 2 -4 minutes.

Add the vegan “chicken” broth, garbanzo beans, corn, garlic, bay leaf, and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Turn heat to high and heat to boiling. Add the pasta. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until pasta is tender. (If not serving immediately, cook pasta less than the recommended time because it will continue to cook in the hot soup).

Makes 8 – 10 servings.

Don’t wait ’til you’re sick to enjoy this delicious soup. It will be one of your favorites!

 

 

 

If It Makes My Husband Notice, Then I’m All for It!

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Recently I tried a brand new line of skin care products from a brand new company, Wellness Prioritized. First let me say that I have not been paid for this review, and I did not receive any product or discount. I purchased both products at full price from Amazon.com after a friend’s recommendation.

Why the review? Because I think everyone who is interested in the quality and purity of the food they put into their body is also interested in the quality and purity of the products they put on their body. Whatever we put on our body is very efficiently absorbed by the skin, so we should try not to introduce harmful chemicals and fragrances that many skincare lines contain.

The label states that Wellness Prioritized is an all natural, organic, vegan skin care line. This caught my attention immediately… no toxins, really? I was skeptical.  The fact that it is made in an FDA approved facility, and not someone’s kitchen or garage, put my mind at ease. As someone who still gets occasional breakouts I am very particular about the products I use on my skin, and have a drawer full of rejects to prove it.

I gave both the body lotion and the body butter a one week trial. When using, I noticed that both products have a mild clean fragrance… no offensive chemical smell at all. The gentle herbal fragrance is derived from pure essential oils. Check out the ingredients in the lotion.

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I LOVE the Wellness Prioritized Body Lotion for everything, especially my face!  I know, I was surprised that a body lotion could be used as a facial moisturizer, too, but it works! After using the lotion morning and night for just a few days, and while not wearing any makeup, my husband remarked that my skin looked so nice. He asked, “Are you doing something different? Were you out in the sun?” Wow! This is a man that doesn’t notice anything! I could come home from the salon with my hair three inches shorter and six shades lighter, and he wouldn’t say a word. If HE notices, then it works!

The body butter is a bit thicker than the lotion, so I have not tried it on my face.  For hands, heels, knees, and elbows (you know, all the rough spots) it works great. The weather here has just started to get cold. Already I’ve gotten one of those painful skin cracks on my thumb. I applied the Wellness Prioritized 100% Vegan Shea Body Butter on the crack several times a day, and it healed right over. I am going to be using the Body Butter a lot this winter!

So, my opinion: I give both these Wellness Prioritized products two thumbs up. I can’t wait to see what they add to their line in the  future!