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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Healthy Eating When Eating Out

pexels-photo-313700.jpegI Corinthians 10:13 — No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The menu looks disappointing. I probably shouldn’t have come with my friends. What can I eat in this restaurant? Maybe I’ll just give in and order a burger. This is too hard!

We all face this dilemma at some point after deciding to eat a plant-based diet, but here are a few tricks (ways out of temptation) to help you maintain a healthy diet even if there isn’t a single vegetarian entrée on the menu:

— First of all, look at the soup, salad and appetizer sections of the menu. It is quite possible that you will find something suitable there. Many times appetizers that are meant for sharing are huge and can easily be your whole dinner. One of our favorite restaurants has a delicious Hummus Platter Appetizer (a platter of fresh romaine lettuce topped with homemade roasted red pepper hummus, and garnished with sliced tomatoes and warm toasted pita bread) that I adore. It is meant for four people to share, but I always order it as my entrée when we go there, and it is more than enough.

— Look at the side dishes. You can certainly put together a satisfying meal of three or four vegetable sides (not french fries, macaroni, and onion rings!) and a salad. Cracker Barrel calls this a Vegetable Platter, and it’s becoming popular in other restaurants, too. Keep it simple and be creative.

— Sometimes you can find a great vegetarian pasta dish already on the menu, but if you can’t then look at the options that are available, and don’t be afraid to ask if a dish you like could be prepared minus the meat and/or cheese. Most restaurants are happy to comply. I usually request mushrooms instead of the meat. My husband will request nuts be substituted for the meat in his pasta dish.

— If one entrée comes with broccoli and another comes with mushrooms and peas, then ask your server if you could please have the pasta (baked potato or brown rice) minus the meat, but topped with broccoli, mushrooms and peas (because you know they already have those ingredients in house) instead. Restaurants teach their staff that a satisfied customer will be a returning customer and will tell their friends, so they are more than willing to make you a satisfied customer.

— Even fast food restaurants are becoming veg-friendly. Burger King has a veggie burger. It’s not on the menu, but ask for it. Subway and Moe’s (you probably know of others) both have several vegetarian options that you can put together however you like, and they are very inexpensive. Ethnic restaurants offer many unique plant-based dishes that are sure to please, so be courageous and try something different. You might be surprised to find a new favorite food!

— Finally, if all else fails just ask the chef if he can prepare a special meal that meets your dietary requirements. Some of the most delicious restaurant meals we’ve enjoyed were the result of simply making that request when the menu looked hopeless. Many chefs welcome the challenge. You won’t know if you don’t ask. The better restaurants always try to accommodate.

So please, don’t be intimidated by menus or refuse to go out to eat because you’re afraid you won’t be able to stick to your new healthy lifestyle if you do. Meet your friends for dinner! Enjoy their company, and don’t stress out about what to eat. In the whole scheme of life it is, after all, just one meal. You don’t have to live like a hermit to eat healthy. Just be creative and enjoy the journey … To life!

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!

 

Iris Inn Spinach Artichoke Breakfast Casserole

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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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?

 

 

Healthy Thymes Market, 265 Route 94 Vernon, NJ 07462. Phone: 973-209-8555

Healthy Thymes Market may have been there for 25 years, but I just discovered it on Saturday. What a treasure trove of health foods, supplements, and expert health advice all tucked away in the little town of Vernon in the Highlands of northern New Jersey! It may look small from the outside, but Healthy Thymes Market has managed to fill every inch with things you can’t find in your local grocery or drugstore, including refrigerated and frozen items. When we were there a Kombucha Demonstration was also going on, so we had a chance to sample Aqua ViTea elderberry kombucha… crisp and fizzy!

Besides all that, there is also a snackbar, The Kitchen, where you can order breakfast until noon Monday thru Friday and lunch/dinner all day any day. We decided to get our lunch at The Kitchen the day we stopped in. All items on the menu are vegetarian and can be made vegan if desired. I chose the Sweet Potato Quesadilla which consisted of a whole wheat wrap (gluten-free is available) stuffed with organic mashed sweet potato, saluted onions, spinach, and vegan mozzarella cheese (dairy cheese is an option). This was an unusual combination for a quesadilla, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was very delicious, and the cheese melted perfectly. The price, only $6.99! My husband ordered the Falafel Wrap, also $6.99: organic store-made vegan chickpea patties served with romaine lettuce, onion, tomato and tahini dressing served on a whole wheat wrap (gluten-free available). He said that it was good, but he would have liked more dressing on his. We both got cold bottled drinks with no high fructose corn syrup from the refrigerator case; strawberry lemonade for him and watermelon lemonade for me. The one downside, there is no place to sit and eat once you have purchased your meal at The Kitchen. Fortunately there were some benches by a pond across the street, and the weather was lovely for eating outdoors, so we enjoyed our healthy lunch in the sunshine.

We will certainly go back to Healthy Thymes despite the fact that it is a bit of a drive for us. I hope they add seating for The Kitchen soon. Even so, for health food shopping or a yummy and healthy takeout meal, it’s worth the trip.

Hours are: M-F 8 am – 7 pm; Sat.-Sun. 9:30 am – 5 pm

Excellent “Chicken” Salad

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This is a wonderful vegan “chicken” flavored sandwich spread that is great for school or work lunches. Packed with protein, taste, and crunch it satisfies on every level. Even if you have a nut allergy, you can still enjoy this scrumptious “chicken” salad with no fear– simply substitute raw cauliflower for the nuts.

 

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Ingredients:

1- 15 oz. can chick peas, rinse and drain

1 handful each of almonds and cashews OR an equal amount of chopped raw cauliflower.

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped

4 – 5 Tbsp. Vegenaise

2 tsp. prepared mustard

1/8 – 1/4  tsp. ginger powder

1/8 – 1/4 tsp. Adobo seasoning salt

pepper to taste

1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)

Method:

Chop scallions and celery (and cauliflower if using) — set aside.

Blend remaining ingredients in food processor ( blend only enough to chop — you want it kind of chunky, not creamy).

Place blended ingredients in a bowl and add chopped scallions and celery (and cauliflower). Mix well with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.

Makes 6 – 8 great sandwiches!

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!