"But food is not just a conversational common denominator like the weather is in Britain. The subject, sometimes passionately debated, represents a personal philosophy of life." --Kinta Beevor

Friday, September 24, 2010

Naturally Sweet

    My tastebuds have a renewed appreciation for the natural sweetness in fruit since I've cut added sugars and artifical sweeteners from my diet. For the best taste I search out ripe locally grown fruit when available. This summer I spent a month in southern California. Each day, my friend and I picked and enjoyed juicy sweet tree ripened nectarines from her back yard. It was such a treat.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Minestrone Soup

      Today is the first day of autumn and I celebrated by making a big pot of minestrone.  And, if I do say so myself, it's really good.  I get excited when a new vegan recipe turns out to be as good, or better than my non-vegan version of a favorite dish.
     I cooked the kidney beans in a big pot of water.  When the beans were nearly done I added the tomato, TVP, seasonings, fresh cut carrots, celery, onion, and yellow squash. I let the vegetables cook with the beans and water.  I kept the bean cooking water to add a little body to the soup.  I was careful to check the veggies so they didn't overcook to mush.
  Then, I added the frozen veggies, cooked chick peas, fresh spinach, and cooked pasta.  The heat already in the soup warmed these ingredients.
   One of the best things about minestrone is that you can vary the ingredients depending on what you have on hand.
  • kidney beans
  • no salt added diced tomatoes
  • no salt added crushed tomatoes
  • TVP (texturized vegetable protein)
  • garlic
  • bay leaf
  • basil
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • Spike no salt seasoning
  • turmeric
  • hot sauce
  • celery
  • carrots
  • onion
  • yellow squash
  • pasta
  • chick peas
  • frozen cut green beans
  • frozen corn
  • fresh spinach

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Navy and Pinto Bean Salsa

 Here in Florida, the balmy summer temperatures linger into September so I've been in the mood for recipes that call for fresh ingredients served cold. This quick and colorful salsa is a favorite because it is tasty and nutritious. Beans are low in fat and high in fiber. Navy beans contain 9 1/2 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup serving.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pasta Primavera

      Pasta primavera is a great example of a quick and easy vegan meal. I cook thin spaghetti and drain it in a colander. While it's still hot and steamy I add fresh raw spinach and tomato.  Next, in a large serving bowl, I toss steamed  fresh veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and yellow squash with the pasta and wilted spinach.  Family style, everyone serves themselves and dresses and seasons their own dish to their taste.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food For Thought

      Some vegans take a high moral ground saying that, since they eat vegetables, they sleep better at night because they avoid the cruelty and suffering associated with the meat, dairy, fish, and poultry industries.   I don't think store bought vegetables are guilt-free eating.  I recognize the realities of migrant workers who pick most of the produce we eat. I'm not saying it's all bad, but there is plenty of poverty and human suffering in this industry. Just saying, I'm grateful for the food I eat and appreciate the labor involved in producing it. The following article from Eye witness to history.com includes  Dorthea Lange's account of the day she took this photo of a widowed migrant mother.

In 1960, Lange described her experience in an interview with the magazine Popular Photography. The photos that accompany the following account are captioned with Lange's field notes: "It was raining, the camera bags were packed, and I had on the seat beside me in the car the results of my long trip, the box

"Nipomo, Calif. March 1936.
Migrant agricultural worker's family.
Seven hungry children and their
mother,aged 32. The father
is a native Californian."
containing all those rolls and packs of exposed film ready to mail back to Washington. It was a time of relief. Sixty-five miles an hour for seven hours would get me home to my family that night, and my eyes were glued to the wet and gleaming highway that stretched out ahead. I felt freed, for I could lift my mind off my job and think of home.
I was on my way and barely saw a crude sign with pointing arrow which flashed by at the side of the road, saying PEA-PICKERS CAMP. But out of the corner of my eye I did see it I didn't want to stop, and didn't. I didn't want to remember that I had seen it, so I drove on and ignored the summons. Then, accompanied by the rhythmic hum of the windshield wipers, arose an inner argument:
Dorothea, how about that camp back there? What is the situation back there?
Are you going back?
Nobody could ask this of you, now could they?
To turn back certainly is not necessary. Haven't you plenty if negatives already on this subject? Isn't this just one more if the same? Besides, if you take a camera out in this rain, you're just asking for trouble. Now be reasonable, etc. etc., etc.
Having well convinced myself for 20 miles that I could continue on, I did the opposite. Almost without realizing what I was doing I made a U-turn on the empty highway. I went back those 20 miles and turned off the highway at that sign, PEA-PICKERS CAMP.

"Destitute in a pea pickers camp,
because of the failure of the early
pea crop. These people had just sold
their tent in order to buy food."
I was following instinct, not reason; I drove into that wet and soggy camp and parked my car like a homing pigeon. I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was 32. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it.
The pea crop at Nipomo had frozen and there was no work for anybody. But I did not approach the tents and shelters of other stranded pea-pickers. It was not necessary; I knew I had recorded the essence of my assignment."
   Lange, Dorothea, "The Assignment I'll Never Forget: Migrant Mother," Popular Photography (February 1960); Curtis, James. Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth: FSA Photography Reconsidered. (1989).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Good Earth Teas

     A friend introduced me to Good Earth Original caffeine free tea. It remains my favorite ever since that first cup. Its spicy sweet flavor hits the spot served iced or hot.  
     In place of a cup of coffee in the afternoon, my husband enjoys a mug of Good Earth Decaf Green Tea with lemongrass. He says it refreshes and revives his energy without added sugar or caffeine.       
     Dr. Oz routinely touts the health benefits of drinking green tea on his TV show, and says that if there were a "pill" that did what green tea does, we'd all be running to take that pill.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hot Sauce

      I often season my low fat, low sodium, low glycemic index dishes with hot sauce. The hot sauces we use add more flavor than heat. After trying different brands, my husband and I have some favorites. We like Cholula brand original which wakes up the flavor of  the ingredients in a dish without adding salt, sugar, or fat. Cholula brand chipotle adds a really nice smoky quality to a recipe. We also like Pickapeppa which adds a sweet fruity essence to savory dishes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Best Pasta Salad Ever

      This pasta salad is simply the best.  It gets rave reviews whenever I serve it.  The roasted red peppers, marinated mushrooms, soy nut/pumpkin seed/dried cranberry mixture, no-salt seasoning, and sun dried tomatoes are items I pick up at Costco.  They all meet the low sodium, low fat, low glycemic index criteria.
  • pasta
  • chick peas
  • cucumber
  • marinated mushrooms
  • pumpkin seeds
  • corn
  • soy nuts
  • dried cranberries
  • vidalia onion
  • garlic
  • parsley
  • roasted red peppers
  • balsamic vinegar
  • pinto beans
  • sun dried tomatoes
  • no-salt seasoning
  • dill

Friday, September 10, 2010

Don't Re-Invent The Wheel


      I have found it surprisingly easy to convert many of my favorite recipes to fit the low fat, low sodium, low glycemic index food plan.  However, if you find yourself stuck for vegan recipe ideas, don't feel you have to re-invent the wheel. Check out vegan recipes available in cookbooks or online. Many vegan recipes are not low fat, low sodium, and low glycemic index so make adjustments as needed.
   I make my own version of vegan sushi. I roll brown basmati rice, black beans, carrot, avocado, and cucumber in dried sea weed sheets called nori.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Artichoke Dip

     Here's a flavorful artichoke dip that's quick and easy to prepare. Simply mix together minced garlic, lemon juice, tofu, chopped artichoke hearts, nutritional yeast, no-salt seasoning, and a touch of chipotle hot sauce.
     We scoop this tasty dip with tortilla chips.  I toast Ezekiel brand tortillas in a dry frying pan on the stovetop. The crisp tortillas are cut into triangles while they are still warm.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Frozen Assets

     This past week I enjoyed a variety of delicious meals without preparing or cooking a thing. They were all dishes I had in my freezer. Since most of the recipes I prepare lend themselves to cooking for a crowd, I have the habit of making a lot and freezing what can't be eaten within a few days. This week my husband and I enjoyed healthy and satisfying entrees including lentil, carrot, and mustard green soup; split pea and onion soup seasoned with clove; squash stuffed with veggies and chick peas; and the rustic tofu chili shown above.  It was a welcome break from cooking and food shopping.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Latte

     Labor Day weekend ushers out summer and welcomes in autumn and seasonal treats like pumpkin spice lattes.  I make my own delicious iced latte by combining a strong half cup of brewed pumpkin spice herbal tea with brewed hazelnut Teeccino, almond milk, and lots of ice. (Sweeten to taste.)  It's creamy with a lovely finish from the nutmeg.  
     Teeccino is a caffeine-free herbal coffee alternative.  It's brewed the same way you'd make ground coffee, and it has real coffee flavor.
     I also make an aromatic hot version by sprinkling dried pumpkin pie spice on top of the dry Teeccino grounds right before I start brewing a pot. The Teeccino is really good on its own so the added hint of autumn flavor is all that's needed. This harvest time treat is so good--the smell alone makes green leaves start turning red and orange. 
     We do experience a subtle change of season here in northern Florida, but it's enjoying autumn treats like pumpkin spice lattes that help mark the season.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Being Flexible

     Don't you just love weddings? I do. (No pun intended.)  Such care and love goes into planning every detail of the special day for the happy couple. A few weeks ago, we had the best time celebrating my niece Jami's wedding day. In addition to the heirloom tomato salad and my vegetable napoleon entree, I tasted my husband's filet mignon, and enjoyed delicious appetizers, and wedding cake.
     I heard a comedian say the reason vegans live so long is because they don't get invited anywhere or to do anything fun.  Vegan eating is a mystery to most people. Non-vegan eaters don't quite know what to do with us so it's just easier to avoid inviting us to any event where food is involved. I prefer to be flexible and low key so people feel comfortable including me. Eating a low fat, low sodium, low glycemic index, high fiber vegan diet has eliminated my food cravings and the desire to over eat. I feel balanced and relaxed in a way that allows me to be a gracious and low maintenance guest when I'm visiting with family and friends. 
    I find people are interested in learning what vegan eating is all about.  I try not to put them on the spot thinking they have to prepare something vegan before they even know what it means. I remember feeling freaked out and clueless when I first started eating low fat, low sodium, low glycemic index vegan.  Gradually, over time, I am learning more and more and I'm feeling quite comfortable and confident in our vegan kitchen.

Photo: Jami and Johnny's wedding cake. My sister, Jami's mom, made the amazing sugar flowers on the cake.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Plant Yourself Where You Will Bloom

     In addition to the adage "bloom where you are planted"  I say, whenever possible, "plant yourself where you will bloom."  Optimal health is achieved by consistently making wise choices concerning food, exercise, relationships, as well as one's living and work environment.
     I just spent a month living and painting in the southern California home of a friend and her parents. She and her mom are artist friends I know from my time spent studying classical realism in Florence, Italy. This past month we worked long hours each day in the painting studio attached to their home. I was overwhelmed by the generous spirit in this household.  (Imagine having me as a house guest 24/7 for a month!) I felt like a plant in a greenhouse where everything was geared to promote growth, strength, and blooming.  Having been nurtured--body, mind, and spirit, I left their home and studio encouraged and confident.
     Surrounding oneself with people who inspire you to become a better version of yourself is important. Similarly, be mindful of the impact your living space is having on your mood and productivity.  As I continue to grow as a person, and artist, I plant myself in living and work spaces that meet my needs and motivate and energize me on a daily basis.  Life is full of moves, changes, and adjustments which are well within our control if we have faith and are willing to put in some work to better our situation.

Photo:  my still life is oil on canvas and measures 18" X 24"