Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Garden 2014

It was so good to get my hands in the dirt again! Learning every year from experience, this year I'm being conservative with the tomatoes -- two plants should be plenty. The garden no longer has much sun because of the growth of trees, so I've got the tomatoes at the sunny end, along with a few cucumbers planted along a trellis. The other trellis is for the Chinese long beans -- free to me every year since I save a few beans from the ones that get lost in the mature bean bramble at the end of the season. Also "free" to me this year are the French breakfast radish seeds left over from last year. The rest of the plants were not very expensive though -- 99 cents for about 100 Georgia sweet onions, and $3.00 each for 8 packs of lacinato kale and rainbow chard ($3 per 8-pack, not per plant!). The herbs, which I've planted in pots, cost no more than if I had bought small packages for cooking in the produce section, and will produce all summer long, and just may come back again on their own next season. Sometimes a mild winter will afford a rebound crop.

Every year, mild or not, my peppermint pot has prolifically bounced back, but this spring I found the pot to be infested with thousands of [fast moving] ants or termites. I picked up the pot and ran it away from the house, away from the garden, but had to put it down quickly before extremely well-organized and speedy regimental lines of soldiers made their way into each armpit.  Ughhhh (shudder)! I was quick and calm enough to effectively swipe the vanguard from my limbs before I was chowed-upon, which supports my theory of termites versus ants. I wonder how well Pinocchio would have fared in the same circumstance. So I repurposed a different pot for the new mint. The termite pot may need to be a loss, unless I can come up with some non-toxic way to eradicate the critters without sending them somewhere else I don't want them.

Last season provided two particularly good gardening wisdom nuggets:
1. Onions are the best deterrent to darling woodland creatures who would eat my food! I planted them all around the perimeter of the garden and also more thickly around tender greens, which happen to be Peter Rabbit's favorite.
2. Don't use soil containing fertilizer. Duh. I was a lazy gardener last year. I wound up with long, lanky tomato vines with nary a fruit.

This year I used my compost for the first time, which finally looked like soil and not garbage:

Some newspaper is still visible there, but that was part of my "brown matter" and will break down pretty easily. I stirred in a bag of peat moss to lighten the mix. I have a dual-chamber composter. It is interesting to compare the different stages of decomposition of each. The compost really doesn't stink! You just have to be careful what you put in it -- only veggie matter.

Here's the sad garden before I cleaned it up a bit and gave it new life. I had covered it with newspaper for the winter in an attempt to eradicate weeds. I don't know if it'll work.

"Ahh," I can almost hear the garden saying as it gets its first drink of the season, "that's better,"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mashed Cauliflower with Sauteed Shallots

This cauliflower was really delicious and light, but creamy. I served it with stew. Here's my recipe:

Mashed Cauliflower with Sauteed Shallots
1 head organic cauliflower, cut into large chunks
2 shallots, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. Earth Balance
Tbsp. unsweetened coconut milk coffee creamer
garlic salt to taste -- I used about 3/4 teaspoon

Boil the cauliflower for 15 minutes, making sure all parts of the florets are submerged. Meanwhile, saute the shallots in the olive oil over medium-low heat, until translucent. In a large bowl, put the Earth balance. Drain the cauliflower and pour it on top of the Earth Balance so it melts. Begin mashing the cauliflower into the "butter" with a pastry cutter or ricer, or a large sturdy fork. Add the shallots and olive oil and mash more. When the texture is becoming homogeneous (some small lumps are fine) incorporate the coconut coffee creamer. Finally, season with garlic salt. 

My garlic salt had some herbs in it -- that explains the little flecks you see. It looks like dill but the overwhelming flavor was garlic. This cauliflower was delicious and satisfying, and even better the next day!

As I begin to learn about and incorporate elements of the Wahls Protocol into my diet, I'm documenting my progress on a parallel blog, A Midlife Regeneration. Disclaimer: there will be meat. I'll continue to contribute to A Midlife Vegan any delicious veggies I eat as I go through the transition of determining what is best for my health.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


We've just returned home from a week on the lovely shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The early days were cool and stormy. Most folks are disappointed with weather like this on vacation, but in my opinion, there is no better storm-watching than at the beach. These first few photos were taken over the course of only a couple of minutes.

Yikes! The above photo was at mid-day! We certainly had a front-row seat for Nature's thrilling, drama. Once the sun came out again, we braved the beach, but it was still a bit too chilly, and was best enjoyed from the comfort of our condo. The company of wonderful friends, good food, cocktails and cozy movie watching got us through the first few days, then finally the beach looked like this:

We took full advantage. It was pretty tough to leave.

I am still hard at work trying to learn what diet changes will help me most -- studying the Wahls' Protocol which allowed Dr. Terry Wahls to recover from almost complete disability from MS. Getting my head around some of the major changes I'll be making, and working them into the family table is overwhelming, so whatever transition I make at this point will be more of a "leaning-in" rather than the "flipping of a switch" that was my vegan transition. Since I'm still pretty confused, and was feeding lots of lovely folks at the beach with different dietary requirements and preferences, I just made a lot of food, sometimes multiple versions of the same dish.

My last morning at the condo, I ate as much delicious, gluten-free, veggie-ful food as I could stomach, knowing I'd be driving through gluten/gmo/dairy/non-organic/fried wonderland for about 7 hours. Seriously, I cannot be the only one who sees the need for healthy road-trip food. In this age of celiac, diabetes, gluten/dairy/nut intolerances and various and sundry autoimmune disorders it seems like a ripe opportunity for some entrepreneur. Maybe it'll be me someday after we're done paying tuition.

Back to my beachy-Buddha-bowl:

These leftovers were eaten cold from the fridge. They are: quinoa prepared with organic broth and garlic, sauteed potatoes and onions, crispy sauteed broccoli and half a raw avocado. The beautiful, delicious bowlful saw me through most of the journey home.

For a late lunch, Wendy's seemed to be a reasonable road-food candidate for the two gluten-free folks in our carload, so I carefully studied the menu. My daughter's gluten-free friend chose a baked potato with sour cream (she is not dairy-free). I chose a southwest barbeque chicken salad. Of the listed ingredients, I only needed to ask for the chicken, bacon and dressing to be omitted. (I know, the Paleo model of Wahls' Protocol allows for meats, but I won't choose non-organic meats, and don't really think I will ever choose chicken anyway because of what I learned in my macrobiotic dabblings). So, settling back into the car, I got ready to dig into salad greens with fresh tomatoes and roasted corn. Already on the highway, I lifted the lid and found . . . cheese. No, Wendy's, cheese isn't actually a salad green. It's surprising nobody at Wendy's thought it might be a good idea to list cheese as an ingredient. Piece by piece, I eradicated the offending morsels. Everyone else was done with their food by the time I got my first forkful.

All in all, it was a great beach week. I am inspired anew in my quest toward health and innovative, forward-thinking road-trip-franchise-creation.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I'm making some gradual changes to my diet for health reasons which are outlined in a new Page I've added to the blog called "My Chronic Illness: What's Next". As I learn what I can best do for myself, I'm in a transition and will decide the particulars as I go along. Thanks for your patience and understanding. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gluten Free Parsnip Tabouli

When reading Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen, her tabouli recipe blew my mind. Who'd have thought raw parsnips could sub for couscous? I didn't follow her recipe here -- I couldn't find it -- long story. I just tried to remember what I'd read and mixed that with my Dad's old recipe from his days working in the  Middle East. From memory, here's last night's Tabouli:

Parsnip Tabouli
1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
6 raw parsnips, peeled if not organic, cut into large chunks
1 large clove of garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
In a food processor, mince the parsnips and the garlic, scraping the sides periodically so the parsnips are all minced evenly. Keep pulsing and scraping until the vegetables are the consistency of cooked couscous. Combine the parsnips with all other ingredients and mix well.

This salad was really delicious, and was a big hit with the meat-eaters too. The parsnips are such a light, lovely consistency and are very subtly sweet, which goes surprisingly well with garlic. This morning I did find Kris' recipe and discovered that she doesn't use parsley at all -- cucumbers instead, and her proportions are different -- lots more garlic. I'm sure hers is delicious, and look forward to trying it soon. I bet this salad would be good, and different, with other herbs as well. Maybe I will try it with fresh dill next time, which always goes so nicely with lemon.

I will be making some changes to my diet, including reducing or eliminating gluten, and this recipe is perfect for that. More news on the diet changes as they evolve.