Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a healthy New Year to everyone near and far!
When you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, dining out can be a challenge. When you find a restaurant like The Silver Diner, the news is just too good to keep to yourself. Prices at The Silver Diner are reasonable, the food is delicious, and you can even find a selection of hot vegetarian/vegan entrees on the menu! (If I had a dollar for every restaurant that doesn’t even have a veggie burger on their menu… sigh).
From the outside this diner looks like the classic silver diners of your memory. Inside the booths and on-table jukeboxes carry on that feeling, but the casual decor is a bit more trendy than you might expect — definitely not your typical burger joint. Their flexitarian menu features the highest quality, locally sourced ingredients creatively assembled in delicious and unique dishes you won’t find in even the more expensive restaurants.
The Silver Diner offers take-out, curbside pickup and dining-in. In fact they were one of the first restaurants in our area to allow dining-in to resume. How did they do it? The Silver Diner uses the same social distancing, disinfecting surfaces, masked/gloved servers, etc. as most, but they have gone even further to ensure the safety of their patrons. This restaurant has a triple filtration air system and germicidal lights to keep the indoor environment as sanitary as possible. But for all that, I would take my chances even without all their safety precautions — the food is just that good.
On our visit, I ordered the Hen of the Woods Mushroom Picatta over roasted tomatoes, farro, roasted organic corn, butternut squash, lemon-caper sauce, asparagus and sunflower seeds. This was fantastic! The flavors of all the ingredients were so enhanced by the lemon-caper sauce that I couldn’t stop until I finished the whole thing, and it was huge! At only $15.99 this was a bargain for something I would expect to see at an upscale restaurant for $35 – $50 minimum. This photo doesn’t do it justice, because I had already started eating when I said, “OMG, this is going public!” So delicious.
The Silver Diner has 18 locations (at last count) scattered throughout VA, MD, NJ and even one at BWI Airport, Concourse B. Maybe there’s one near you, or look for one when you travel. Bon apetit!
If you like granola, but are leery of the fat contained in most commercial brands, if you like to make your own granola but don’t want to heat up the kitchen making it on hot summer days, if you’re looking for a healthy breakfast that really gives you energy and keeps you feeling full until lunchtime, then muesli is for you. Muesli is a raw oatmeal dish that contains other grains, nuts, seeds and dried or fresh fruit. It’s a heart-healthy alternative to processed cereals that actually helps to lower your cholesterol! Have you ever tried it? Some people have never even heard of muesli.
Muesli was first created by Swiss physician Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who believed that much of the sickness experienced by his patients could be alleviated through a diet rich in raw grains, fruits and vegetables, plus moderate exercise including walking and gardening daily. Although muesli was first commercially produced in 1959 and has been a presence on grocery store shelves for over 60 years, it is is often overlooked or crowded out by the slick packaging, colors and shapes of the processed breakfast foods we know today. That is a shame, because muesli is so healthy, can be eaten cold or hot with or without added plant milk or yogurt… and it is so easy to make that even a child can do it.
In a large bowl add:
1/2 cup raw walnuts, crushed*
1/2 cup raw almonds, crushed*
3 cups organic old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
2 Tbsp. wheat germ
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup organic raisins
Gently stir to mix all ingredients together. Place in a tightly covered glass container and store in the refrigerator. Take out individual portions as needed and serve cold with plant milk or as a yogurt topping. If you prefer a softer cereal, top your muesli with just enough plant milk to cover and keep it in the refrigerator overnight. It will soften by morning, and you can eat it cold or warm it in the microwave for a hearty porridge. Add fresh fruit, honey or maple syrup to sweeten if desired.
* Hint: this is an easy way to crush nuts, and cleanup is a breeze. Put the walnuts and almonds in a plastic lunch bag, press out all the air and seal it closed. With any rolling pin roll over the bag several times until each nut has broken into desired size chunks. When you are finished just dump the nuts into your large bowl and throw the bag away. Nothing to wash!
This recipe makes 10 or more 1/2 cup servings. Muesli is a real time-saver to have on hand for busy mornings. Healthy and delicious!
It’s zucchini season again and if you are a gardener, you’re looking for zucchini recipes right about now. You would think that vegan zucchini recipes would be everywhere, but they’re not. I found a great Italian Zucchini Boat recipe online by Valerie Brunmeier, but it wasn’t vegan, so I made a few changes and voila! I really like this recipe first of all because it tastes delicious, second because it is a filling entree served with a side of brown rice or pasta, and third because it is beautiful.
3 medium zucchini, roughly the same size
1 (24 to 26 ounce) jar marinara sauce, divided
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms or small jar of sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp dry parsley flakes
1/2 tsp pink sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper or to taste
1/2 lb hamburger style veggie crumbles
1 – 1 1/2 cups veggie mozzarella cheese
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp. panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Measure out 1 cup marinara sauce and set aside for later.
- Trim about 1/2 inch from each end of the zucchini and slice in half lengthwise. With a sharp knife lightly outline the center area you will remove to create the hollow of your boats (this will include the seed area, leaving about a half inch of solid zucchini around all the edges). Be careful to not cut through the skin. Using the tip of a spoon remove the zucchini flesh inside your outline, chop and set aside.
- Place the scooped out zucchini boats into a 13″x 9″ baking dish, and add about 1″ of water. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven 20 minutes or until just slightly fork tender but not soft. Remove from oven and set aside to cool a bit.
- Meanwhile add olive oil to a 12″ frying pan and place over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; cook a few minutes until veggies have softened, stirring occasionally.
- Add the chopped zucchini flesh, mushrooms, remaining marinara sauce, veggie crumbles, nutritional yeast and the spices. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the partially cooked zucchini boats from the baking dish and pour off water. Pour the reserved 1 cup marinara sauce into the empty baking dish and place the zucchini boats on top of the sauce.
- Generously divide the cooked filling between the 6 zucchini boats (if you have extra filling just spoon it into the dish around the boats). Cover dish with foil and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until zucchini boat is fork tender, but not soft and droopy.
- Remove baking dish from oven and set oven to BROIL.
- Remove foil and sprinkle zucchini boats with half the veggie mozzarella, panko bread crumbs, and more mozzarella.
- Place dish in oven and broil for just a few minutes (watch closely so it doesn’t burn) until the cheese melts and bread crumbs are golden brown.
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).
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.”
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!
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!
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.
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.
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).
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!
225 Center Street
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.