Pre-race Dinner Idea

Two of our daughters and daughter-in-law are running an early half-marathon race tomorrow. Tonight they wanted a light, but protein-packed dinner — something that would fuel their race, but not weigh them down. So, they put their heads together and came up with this beautiful plant-based veggie bowl.

Quinoa, marinated tofu, and spiced chickpeas provided the protein. The colorful veggies included: roasted squash and mushrooms, onions, pickled carrots, snow peas, avocado chunks, and grape tomatoes over a bed of crisp greens. A choice of light dressings completed this delicious veggie bowl.

I am so proud of my girls, not just for running, but for coming up with this much healthier pre-race meal, so different from the carb-loading pasta dinners I remember from their highschool days. This is a much healthier and satisfying meal.

PS: They all finished with good times. Shannon came in third in her class. (Could it have been the quinoa?) 😉

SMASHING IDOLS: Transform Your Body, Mind, and Spirit with a Plant-Based Lifestyle

This book has lived in my heart for a long, long time, but now it is finally published! I am not going to review the book here because I have lived it for so many years (I might be a bit partial), but I hope you will take a look. I pray that readers will be blessed and changed by SMASHING IDOLS. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09G2KJ1M6.

Book Review: “Alaska Sourdough, The Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan,” revised edition, by Ruth Allman (forward by Addie Studebaker)

If you have ever thought about making your own sourdough bread, but were intimidated by the online instructions and videos detailing the complicated method involved in creating and keeping a living starter, then this is the book for you. I admit the whole process seemed daunting and mysterious to me. I really didn’t want my life to revolve around feeding a sourdough starter morning and evening for a whole month before even trying to bake bread. If you do some research you will discover that there are dozens of ways to create, and kill, a sourdough starter, and I wasn’t willing to take any chances after that investment of time and effort. This book is perfect for people like me — like you?

Alaska Sourdough, the Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan was first printed in 1976, but has recently been revised for the modern reader. I love the wisdom and charm of Ruth Allman’s notes and advice. She makes everything seem simple, and her common sense style of writing will convince you that yes, even you can bake your own sourdough bread. Throughout this book she intersperses the history of early Alaskan pioneers who depended on their sourdough starter to keep them alive through bone-chilling winters on the frozen tundra. These early pioneers were not expert chefs or bakers. They were in Alaska to homestead, find adventure, and hopefully strike it rich. They did not have the luxury of allowing their sourdough efforts to fail. Their very lives depended on the success of their sourdough, and the author is generous in sharing their many no-nonsense tips and tricks for success.

So, encouraged by their efforts, I dove in and made the starter using her potato water recipe. I expected to wait and feed the starter daily for at least one week before baking. Well, by the second day my starter had nearly doubled in size, and by the third day I had to bake, or it would have overflowed the quart jar where it was bubbling and brewing like a witch’s cauldron. The two loaves of bread I made on the third day came out great! I continued to feed the starter following the author’s simple instructions, and two days later used some to make delicious sourdough hotcakes for three hungry adults. All this in less than one week! I have plans for more bread and sourdough pretzels in the near future. If I can do this, you can, too. I highly recommend Alaska Sourdough, the Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan, by Ruth Allman, and wish you much success on your bread baking adventure!

My sourdough starter on day 2. (The rubberband marks the starting point on day 1). On day 3 it was definitely time to bake!

August Zucchini Casserole

If you garden, you are probably up to your eyeballs in summer produce by now. We currently don’t have room for a garden where we live, and I do miss growing my own veggies. There is just something so primal about digging in the warm earth and nurturing your own nutrition to life. I guess you can take the girl out of the garden, but you can’t take the garden out of the girl! Fortunately, we have generous friends that are willing to share their bounty with us. Thanks Mary and Rohn! And, that’s how this simple and economical recipe was born.

Ingredients:

2 – 3 zucchini, thinly sliced

2 – 3 peppers (red or green), diced

1 medium onion, chopped

2 – 3 large tomatoes, diced (include the juice)

1 – 15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded veggie cheese of your choice

Herbamare for seasoning

Vegan parmesan and Italian herbs (garlic, basil, oregano) for topping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Use a 13 x 9 inch glass casserole dish. Spread about 1 Tbsp olive oil in the bottom of the dish.

Layer one half of the zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and all the chickpeas.

Season with Italian herbs and Herbamare

Spread shredded veggie cheese over all.

Then layer the remaining half of the zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes and a final layer of zucchini.

Drizzle some olive oil over top, just a tablespoon or two (or you can spray some over the top)

Season with Italian herbs, Herbamare, and veggie parmesan. (You can make your own with this recipe: Vegan “Parmesan Cheese”)

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 1-1/4 hours.

The Greenhouse Cafe, 18 State Hill Rd. Wyomissing, PA 19610, Phone: (484)509-2121

We visited The Greenhouse Cafe in Wyomissing, PA last weekend. What an enjoyable experience! It isn’t often you find a restaurant where all the food is plant-based, so we were in breakfast heaven when we saw their menu. The friendly staff will greet you with a warm welcome and offer to answer any questions you may have. Have any special dietary requirements? Eating gluten-free? They will try to accommodate your request.

We both chose the Tofu Scramble, which came with a side of breakfast potatoes, because we were so hungry. (I apologize for digging in before taking the photo, a very bad habit of mine). This hearty Tofu Scramble will fill you up with no cholesterol to sabotage your diet.

Hot or iced, a non-dairy Matcha Tea Latte is my favorite breakfast drink, because it’s a delicious way to start the day with healthy greens. This matcha latte did not disappoint, and the guilt-free caffeine kick was just what I needed to face the long drive home that morning.

The Greenhouse Cafe offers a casual, relaxed atmosphere. You may choose to dine inside in airconditioned comfort, or outside on the sunny patio (pet friendly). They are open for breakfast and lunch 8 AM – 3 PM most days, close at 6 PM on Wednesday and Friday (closed Monday). You will notice and appreciate the effort that has been put into making sure this cafe truly is green in every way. Food is healthy and prices are reasonable.

To learn more about The Greenhouse Cafe, view their full menu and more photos, please visit them online: http://www.thegreenhousecafepa.com

Veggie Quinoa Casserole (serves two)

If you have never tried quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”), here are some things to consider:

Quinoa is one of the least allergenic grains. It contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, and it is a plant protein source of all 9 essential amino acids. Technically a seed, quinoa is nutritionally dense and gluten free. It is an excellent grain substitute for anyone suffering with celiac disease. In addition, the fiber in quinoa acts as a prebiotic by providing food for your beneficial gut flora. If you have a sensitive tummy or live with an inflammatory digestive condition like colitis, you know how important all these factors are to your diet and comfort.

This Veggie Quinoa Casserole is an easy protein-packed main dish that will satisfy even a meat-eater. The recipe serves 2, but I tripled it because I knew people would want seconds.

Ingredients:

1 cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

2 tsp. olive oil

2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 cup broccoli florets

1/2 cup diced firm tofu (press to drain)

1/4 cup vegetable broth

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup chopped fresh spinach

Directions:

Place uncooked quinoa in a sieve and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Drain.

Press tofu between two paper towel-lined plates with a heavy can of something on top to drain for about 1/2 hour.

  • In a medium sauce pan, bring 1 cup vegetable broth to a boil. Stir in drained quinoa and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • While quinoa is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, broccoli florets, and tofu cubes. Stir for one minute, then cover and steam over low heat for two minutes.
  • Stir in 1/4 cup vegetable broth, mushrooms, and spinach. Cover and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are soft and the spinach is wilted (about 3 minutes).
  • Stir the vegetable/tofu mixture into the cooked quinoa. Cover, and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Season with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos if desired.

The Silver Diner (review), 5120 Buckeystown Pike, Frederick, MD 21704, (301)694-9501

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.

Hen of the Woods Mushroom Picatta

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!

Homemade Muesli

 

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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.

Ingredients:

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

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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!

 

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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!

Vegan Stuffed Italian Zucchini Boats

Vegan Stuffed Zucchini Boats

 

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.

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

  • 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.

 

Delicious!