Monday, December 5, 2016

Pink Rice

This was a delicious accident!  I started with an idea from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet, but I didn't actually follow a recipe.  I boiled Jasmine Rice with organic veggie broth and then I got busy making paper snowflakes with my grown-up daughter.

Next thing I knew, I was smelling something crispy!  Thank goodness the rice didn't actually burn -- there were just some crunchy pieces at the bottom that came right up when I added a little water to the pot.  The crunch made for an interesting texture and flavor.   Since I overcooked it, the rice was kind of sticky and more porous than usual.  I added fresh basil, two chopped tomatoes and the juice of half a lemon.  The rice absorbed all the fresh tomato juice, becoming this lovely, salmon/ballet slipper shade.  When I'd followed Alicia's recipe, the rice had retained its whiteness.  It's only pink this time because I overcooked it.  Nevertheless, we all loved this fresh, funky-looking side dish.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Seasons Must Change

This year was not a big one for the garden.  The heat came early and I'm not cut out for it so I didn't plant very much.  I did have two tomato plants, one of them in a pot in the sunshine, and the other in my cultivated garden patch.  My potted cherry tomato did not disappoint, but my garden plot is now in the shade.  Our growing season spans most of the year and so our trees span most of the yard.  All my garden tomatoes are gorgeous and large, but green.  For weeks now I've been waiting for a hint of blush, but there's still no sign of it.

The same thing happened last year and I continued to wait for a ripe tomato until a few were spoiled by freezing.  Surprisingly, the ones which weren't cracked and soggy on the vine actually turned red in a bowl on my counter!  I thought that was interesting.  They were certainly getting less sunshine inside my kitchen than they were on their shady vine.  Maybe the difference is that our indoor climate is steady, albeit cool.  Taking no chances this year, I've brought most of what's out there inside.  I'll share if something fun happens.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rum Raisin Smoothie!

Yes, another smoothie!  I'm aware my photos of late are monotonous with one glass after another, but you'll thank me for this one, I think.
My doctor tracks my nutrient levels very carefully every few months and a recent blood test revealed low iron for the first time in recent memory. I'm not crazy about the nausea that ensues from iron supplements, but half a tablet doesn't bother me, so I've added that to my arsenal of meds.  My doctor also provided a list of foods that may improve the iron situation with bioavailability that surpasses what I can get from a pill.  It turns out that raisins are an excellent source!  So I began to experiment . . .

I really think of this smoothie as a special treat since it is pretty sweet.  It tastes like rum raisin ice cream to me, but there is no rum.  There's a scant bit of alcohol from the vanilla extract but you could leave that out of the mix if you prefer and I bet it'd still be luscious.  Here you go:

Rum Raisin Smoothie!

1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/2 a frozen banana
1 Tbsp. almond butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
a generous shake of nutmeg, with more on top, if you like
a shake of cinnamon
a small handful of organic raisins
a couple of ice cubes

If you don't have a high-powered blender, soak the raisins in the milk for 15 minutes or so first.  Otherwise, no pre-soak needed. Blend all ingredients until most of the raisins are minced finely.  Enjoy -- this makes about 2 cups.

It's definitely worth it to splurge on the organic raisins, which are superior in nutritional value, and they are juicier and more flavorful too. I'm a huge fan of nutmeg, so I use a lot of it.  You can obviously tweak this recipe to suit your preference.  If you'd like it a little sweeter, you could use a whole banana and/or more raisins.  I've just learned there's a whole subset of folks who don't enjoy autumnal spices, so if you are one of those, this smoothie probably won't appeal at all.  For all the rest of you -- you're gonna love it!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Now This

It was good to find these big 48 oz jugs of kombucha at Whole Foods the other day.  I love the way this fermented tea picks up my energy level late in the afternoon, but because of the slight sugar content, I limit the frequency of this otherwise healthy treat.  Another good reason to limit the frequency is the price tag for the smaller bottles -- around $4-$5 each.  48 oz for around $9 is better.  This'll last me a while.  I'm not drinking out of the bottle, so bacteria won't be competing with the good probiotic bugs in this brew.  The first glass did taste a little different than I'm used to, but I think it's because the "mother" had settled to the bottom.  I'll try gently turning or swirling this bottle before my next serving.

I'll never forget the first time I ever tried one of these bottled kombuchas -- it was the green variety.  Seeing the sediment on the bottom, I shook it vigorously before opening it.  Fellow kombucha drinkers will know the result already -- dark green probiotic potion all over myself and the room.  When it comes to this fermented concoction, "swirled, not shaken" is the way to go.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Giving In to a Craving

Yes, I backslid yesterday.  I wanted veggies and BEANS so I ate them.  As a former vegan, I think it's really still in my wiring.  I still want food like this, and there's no problem with eating veggies, in addition to other high quality proteins I now must include for the health of my neurology, but beans are a no-no.  Why?  apparently legumes are considered "anti-nutrients".  They are powerhouses of protein and fiber, but they bond with vital minerals and leach them from our bodies.  For most folks a little less copper, iron, manganese or zinc is fine, but not for me.  I'm now eating to feed mitochondria in an effort to strengthen the healthy function of the immune system and to calm the malfunction that occurs during an MS exacerbation.  over 20 years from diagnosis now, I need to take this seriously.

Dairy has been off my diet since 2010, and gluten has been greatly reduced.  Both of these are detrimental to the health of mitochondria too.

I did give in to the craving this time, but if I supply enough healthy minerals I'll hopefully offset this lapse.  As with anything else, it comes down to what we do on a regular basis when trying to effect a change.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Simply Veg

This baby bok choy side dish last night was so easy and delicious.  I cut two bbchoys in lengthwise quarters then threw 'em into a big bowl of water for a minute.  It's easier to clean tightly layered veggies such as cabbage, leeks, etc. after you open those layers.  While the bbchoy was soaking,  I sauteed half a chopped onion in coconut oil and a little olive oil then added the drained veggies at medium-high heat for two minutes, and finally one lightly chopped garlic clove before I took it off the heat, letting it all sit, covered, for another minute.  Garlic burns quickly, so I always add it last.

From crisper to plate, this dish took five minutes.  Think you don't have time to prepare fresh veggies?  Think again!

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Word About Nightshades

I've been looking over some of my old writing and found the following blogpost, originally published on "Functional Food 4 Thought" the blog of Atlanta Functional Medicine.  I realized it might be helpful information for those of us who lead with veggies, so am sharing it today.

A Word About Nightshades

Mmm -- a fresh garden harvest. Enjoy with caution, veggie-lovers!

I know, I was just telling you about how adding more fresh, organic vegetables to your diet will cure many ills, but as you clean up your act you may begin to notice subtle differences in how individual foods make you feel. A system laden with the sludge of dairy, sugars, white carbohydrates and processed foods will not be sensitive enough to notice these subtleties. A cleaner system is not addled and numb. The effects of foods are immediately apparent, not delayed as in the sluggish system of someone eating the processed diet. It behooves each of us to be observant diners -- to be present in the moment and understand the effects of our nourishment.

A few years ago I was a novice gardener, so I gravitated toward hardier plants -- the ones which seem to thrive on neglect and seldom get eaten by garden marauders. As I began to clean up my own diet, I noticed a certain uncomfortable feeling on my tongue when eating eggplants which were only lightly cooked. Then I began thinking about how the eggplants in the garden, unlike the green beans, weren't nibbled by critters -- not even a little bit. So I did some research.

Eggplants are part of the nightshade family, the members of which are poisonous in varying degrees! The nightshades contain alkaloids which taste bad to animals, thus ensuring the plants' survival. Obviously, these veggies do not contain enough "poison" to kill you, even if eaten in large quantities, but they do have enough to make you sick, if you have a sensitivity, or to exacerbate certain existing conditions. Cooking the vegetables thoroughly serves to break down many of the offending alkaloids. The effects of nightshade alkaloids vary from person to person. Generally they've been found to cause disturbances in nerve-muscle function, joint function and digestion. If you suffer from arthritis, try limiting your nightshade intake and see if you notice a difference. Besides eggplants, the nightshade family includes tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potatoes, which aren't even related to potatoes), peppers, tobacco, morning glory and belladonna, among others. The amounts of alkaloids in the nightshades vary from species to species, the worst likely being belladonna which is deadly, and one of the least being the tomato. An interesting side note: Thomas Jefferson deemed the tomato, unknown at the time, the "poisonous love apple" since he noticed it was eschewed by native Americans.

Of course adding more vegetables to our diets is important for overall health. Today's post is about fine-tuning. Your doctors at Atlanta Functional Medicine are familiar with the effects of food allergies and sensitivities and can work with you personally to discover what's best for you, and then you can make an informed choice. Vegetables from the nightshade family may or may not be tolerable for your system. If you are able to tolerate them, they're still better than a slab of baby back ribs!
by Cheryl Salinas
Previously published at Functional Food 4 Thought

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Vegan Polenta

This sage polenta from Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen is so very delicious that it satisfies vegans and omnivores alike.  I knew a big potful would be appropriate for my daughter's friends, all with differing dietary needs and wants.

This recipe is seriously so good -- replete with soft, buttery onions and fresh sage still warm from the garden.  I topped it with spicy marinara and Italian parsley last night.  Leftovers for breakfast sounds like a great idea right now!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Breakfast of Champions

This was my crave this morning and thank goodness I had it on hand:  broccoli rabe, garlic and organic sunflower seeds sautéed in coconut oil.  YES!

Friday, April 22, 2016


This richly deep green juice so perfectly matches the state of things in my yard.  Green!  The wood cover is suddenly opaque.  Now when the sun shines on us in the afternoon, it is through a veil of green.

The deep color belies the mellow flavor of this juice.  Inspired by a recipe from Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Juice, I included no fruit in this juice, but added a cup of plain coconut water at the end to impart a subtle sweetness.  Chock full of electrolytes and low in sugar, this concoction was a delicious blend of organic cucumber, parsley, celery and romaine.  Just perfect.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An Oldie But a Goodie

You know I can never get enough greens.  Inspired originally by a post on the wonderful blog {Plate+Simple} (no longer active, but you may be able to find archives), I've made so many versions of these sweet curried collards using whatever I have on hand.  This time I started with coconut oil, a leek, three organic carrots, several mushrooms, and a can of black eyed peas, rinsed well.  To these veggies I added a couple of shakes of turmeric powder, a shake of allspice, a pinch of salt, a few shakes of nutritional yeast and a couple shakes of dried oregano.  Once the carrots had softened, I added chopped collard greens, turned up the heat to medium high and added a couple of shakes of tamari and a generous splash of orange juice.  I stirred it all up, popped a lid on it and turned the heat back down, leaving the covered pan on the hot burner for a couple of minutes.  That's it!  I Love, love, love a recipe with no measurements.  It's so much more fun to cook that way!  I cannot say enough good things about this combination of flavors!  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A New Kind of Greek Salad

Many years ago, while I was still in college, my family and I spent a couple of months in Greece over the summer.  It wasn't intended to be such a long stay, but there was a highjacking a couple of days after our arrival and U.S. airlines had stopped flying to Athens.  Eventually, since we had to go back to school, we boarded a freighter ship to Ancona, Italy, and enjoyed a few bonus days driving around that gorgeous country before flying home from Rome.  It was a memorable summer, to say the least.  But I digress . . .

Greece:  our time in this seat of global culture was highlighted by fellowship with several amazing people. A Greek friend from school was an amazing host/tour guide in Athens and at his family's home on Mykonos.  Living with the locals cannot be beat for a cultural immersion experience. My Dad's co-worker and his family were also amazing hosts, in and around Athens and also at his grandma's house in the tiny town of Leonidion (I'm not sure how to spell it in English) up in the mountains at the end of the road. In Greece, foods are served in a very unadulterated way -- close to their original forms.  Preparing food is more a pairing of flavors than a transformation.  With fresh ingredients, that's the best way.  Whatever we were eating, the greek salad was ubiquitous.  It was never discussed, we just all pitched in and started chopping -- every day.  In Greece, the salad always starts with tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese with olive oil.  There were black olives sometimes, herbs sometimes, bell peppers sometimes, but always cukes, tomatoes and feta.

As our weather begins to warm, I find myself wanting fresher flavors. Since I'm not eating cheese, I got a little creative with replicating that Greek salad tanginess.  The kalamata olives (not a favorite of  my current family but I love 'em) contributed so much toward the tanginess goal, but since I used a bit of restraint for the sake of the fam, I had to find another tang source without the pungency of the olives.  I decided to open a recent jar of pickles I made:  radish and purple onion.  Nothing gets wasted round here, so when I finished the purple cabbage kraut I had bought at the store, I repurposed the pretty brine for the pickles, adding a bit of purified water and a few drops of ume plum vinegar.  The resulting pickle concoction was just what I needed to round out my newfangled Greek salad. The salad was delicious and effectively transported me, temporarily, back to a lovely memory.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


Bits of our Spring have sprung, such as my cherry blossoms here, but other bleary-eyed plants are only just beginning to wake.  On this overcast day, I enjoyed capturing some of my backyard paradise in photos.

 On my way outside, I snuck up on these little microgreens I have growing in a pot in my screened porch.  Aren't they darling?  I can't wait to gobble them up.

My woodland path is basically carpeted this year with this lovely moss!  Can't you just see fairies and wood nymphs gamboling across the plush surface?  Yes, I was down on my belly in the woods to experience this fairy vantage point.

Halfway down the hill to the creek, I looked up.  I always wish I could put on a raincoat and boots and hang out at the creek during a storm to see how it is transformed, but these scary titans really move in the wind, leaving chunks of themselves on the woodland floor.

Lilliputian greenery has a head start on other emerging flora down by the creek too.  Looking up or looking down, it's my favorite time of year.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Groovy, Baby

Have you ever seen one of these?  I think it's some sort of Tuscan Cauliflower.  Staring too closely at the kaleidoscopic, psychedelic whorls of this symphony of fractals made me a teeny bit dizzy.  Still, I think it's beautiful.  Blanched and roasted whole with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, I found the flavor to be slightly tastier than a white cauliflower.  I turned the leftovers into an amazing, creamy soup with sauteed onions, broth, a little coconut milk, cumin, cinnamon and chipotle powder.  I just whirled it all up in the Vitamix. Delish!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

More From My Vegetarian Daughter

This isn't vegan food, but I've enjoyed watching my vegetarian daughter expand her repertoire of foods as she learns how to cook for herself and her dad (I'm still not eating dairy).  Pasta is ubiquitous for many vegetarians and vegans.  This dish of tiny farfalle with tomato sauce and ricotta is a bit of a change from the standard mac and cheese.

Here's a quesadilla my daughter prepared for herself the other day.  What sets this one apart from something she'd have eaten as a child is the inclusion of sautéed onions and roasted red peppers, as well as vegetarian refried beans and guacamole on the side.

I get a kick out of watching my kid evolve into an adult with dietary standards and creative ideas for how to incorporate more veggies into her vegetarian lifestyle.

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Vegetarian Daughter Made Paella

She made it all by herself from scratch, and was very particular about it.  This paella is actually vegan since she didn't use dairy.  I provided her with a recipe from Joy of Cooking and she loosely followed it, omitting all animal products, of course.  The two of us giggled over part of the recipe, which read "add saffron to taste, up to two teaspoons if you are Spanish," -- what an odd thing to put in a recipe.  Saffron is a distinctive, but mild spice and I can't imagine having trouble with two teaspoons of it.

I really enjoyed watching my daughter's creativity in the kitchen.  I'm glad she's becoming mindful of different ways to get her nutrients as a vegetarian.  Macaroni and cheese is great, of course, but variety is the spice of life.

My daughter has been vegetarian for close to a year now, and it was completely her decision, though I'm sure my being vegan for four years may have rubbed off on her.  At least she's used to having tons of veggies in the house.  I'll be interested to see what she opts to eat in college next year.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Ben & Jerry's Now Has Vegan Ice Cream!

I made my daughter laugh out loud today.  As she will, she was scrolling through a news feed and announced, calmly, "Ben and Jerry's now has vegan ice cream,"

"What!?" I exclaimed, agog, jumping back.

"Wait,"  she said, laughing, as she began switching to photo on her phone, "can you do that again?"

I love being a source of entertainment for my daughter and her friends, but I declined this particular command performance.  Then I explained my dramatic response to this happy news. Nostalgia:  Ben & Jerry's reminds me of my first taste of adulthood, living in the big city as a single girl.  It was really out of my budget -- a special treat.  When I opted for a vegan lifestyle so very many years later, treats like Ben & Jerry's were among the very few things I did miss.  The truth is, for health reasons I've got no business going back down that road.  The sugar will addle my brain, I know.  Still . . . it's nice to know it's out there!  If I try it I'll post a photo and share my thoughts. Check the link:
Ben & Jerry's now has vegan ice cream

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Delicious Food Is Pretty

I've been having fun with color this winter.  This salad of a different color, comprised of purple kale, purple cabbage, radishes, carrots, pumpkin and sunflower seeds was delicious with a Vitamix-ed dressing of tahini, capers, garlic, lemon and dijon mustard.

These sauteed mushrooms with tarragon tasted even better than they look in this photo.

A pop of color or careful attention to garnishing can help to jar the palate from it's mid-winter doldrums.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Oh Holy Moly

Sometimes I realize I sure can cook.  In all honesty this most fabulous of meals doesn't really represent cooking skills, per se, but rather an innate knowledge of what tastes good and how to pull it together.  I wish you could taste it because I cannot possibly convey in words the deliciousness.  The photos might give you an idea, though.

The whole thing was quite an exercise of laziness and waste-not-want-not.  I bought a boxful of very pretty artisanal dried pasta from Target and cooked it according to directions, in only slightly boiling water, and not for very long.  In another pan, I sauteed zucchini, mushrooms, onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  I pulled out the rest of my leftover colorful greens (bok choy and rainbow chard), stirred them into the pan with more chopped kale and marinated olives -- kalamata and briny green.  Finally, a couple of tablespoons of marinara and a splash of veggie broth kept the food from drying out as it warmed in the pan.  I thought of adding a little tamari but, after tasting, decided against it.  So much delicious flavor and texture didn't need anything else.

I normally avoid gluten, but have found pastas to be less offensive to the system than breads, so I do indulge periodically.  This gem was a worthy vehicle for piles of beneficial and varied veggies.

Seriously, so good -- there's just enough left over for breakfast.

Monday, January 18, 2016

More Colorful Greens

You know me:  there are never enough greens.  Last night we enjoyed this lovely bowlful of baby bok choy and rainbow chard.  I think it's gorgeous in my grandmother's everyday china bowl.  This is one of a couple from this set which remain, and it's precious to me.  I have her formal china too, but I hardly ever use it.

These not-so green greens were lightly sauteed and then brightened with a few choice drops of ume vinegar.  Mmmm.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Something Warm

It's that time of year, in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, to add this healthy staple to the arsenal.  As we continue to craft our lifestyles, a pot of this in the fridge beats a bag of chips for those hungry-without-a-plan moments.

My green soup varies according to what is on hand, but always starts with a chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, simmered slowly over low heat until transluscent.  Then broth or water (not too much -- the greens will cook down), roughly chopped greens (I try to use two or three types) and half a cup or so of cooked rice round out the ingredients.  I also love to add full-fat coconut milk and plenty of nutmeg.  The rice and the coconut milk make this a creamy, dairy-free soup after blending.  I love to garnish the top with a drizzle of truffle oil or artisanal olive oil.  The consistency above is from a submersion blender.  Those wand blenders are very convenient but don't yield as smooth a result as a Vitamix.  I enjoy the soup both ways.