"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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Orange You Glad

     Here are some basic guidelines I follow on a low fat, low sodium, low glycemic index, high fiber, vegan eating plan. Vegan means I don't eat animal products, for example, meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.  Lean cuts of beef, chicken, or fish are not low fat.  Protein from plant sources like beans, for instance, are easier on the digestive system. For further explanation and information on the scientific and medical research go to my helpful links at the top right and click on Dr. Neal Barnard, M.D.
    I use sparingly healthy foods that have a high fat content, like nuts, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil.  I cook and prepare foods without adding any fats or oils. My cooking methods are: steaming, microwaving, grilling, or roasting in the oven.  I drink low fat almond milk or soy milk.
    I don't add salt to my food and I avoid foods with added sodium. I buy, for example, no-salt-added canned diced tomatoes.  I add iodine to my diet by occasionally sprinkling dulse (sea vegetable) granules on my food.
    The low glycemic index part means I don't eat anything with white flour or refined sugar. I eat a variety of fruit, but skip the watermelon and pineapple which are high GI.  I choose a yam instead of a white potato. Typically, bread (including whole wheat), and cold cereals are high glycemic. They break down and turn into glucose quickly after they are eaten because of the holes in their structure. I do eat pasta, beans, whole grains, and Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas, steel cut oatmeal, and original Fiber One 57% cereal.
    I eat fruit, vegetables, and beans which add a lot of fiber and flavor to the eating plan.  I stay away from artificial sweeteners.   My taste buds and palette have a renewed sensitivity and appreciation for the natural flavors in the food I eat. 
    I do read labels carefully. When shopping for food, I first determine if the item is low glycemic index. Then, I read the label to check the sodium and fat content. Also, I take a daily multi-vitamin.
    Knock, knock.
    Who's there?
    Orange who?
    Orange you glad pasta is allowed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


    A few weeks ago I went to visit my sister in New Hampshire.  She is very supportive and has encouraged me from the very start of my new eating habits. She thoughtfully prepared for my arrival by getting all kinds of wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables which she artfully displayed on her kitchen island.  She also bought soy milk and high fiber whole grain pasta for me.  
   She asked if it bothered me to be around certain foods that I don't eat.  The answer is no. The sight of meat, cheese, doughnuts, or other things doesn't bother me. I simply choose not to eat them because I feel, think, and look better when I don't eat them.  It's the wildest thing: I have no food cravings since I have stopped assaulting my taste buds, brain, and body with so much fat, salt, refined sugars, white flour, and additives.
    I've lost weight and my skin looks better too. I eat as much as I like whenever I like. There is no measuring, weighing, or counting involved.  I am highly motivated, but my motivation is not weight loss--although it's a positive outcome. I choose to continue to stick to a low fat, low sodium, low glycemic index, high fiber, vegan diet simply because I'm visibly happier and healthier now.
    My purpose is to do what I can to optimize my health and sense of well-being as I age. As I age? ... It's crazy how fifty sneaked up on me.  At this point in my life I have more resolve because, frankly, I have more at stake. When I was younger my body and brain were more forgiving and resilient--or so it seemed anyway.  I have no desire to deviate from a low fat, low sodium, low glycemic, high fiber, vegan diet. I choose to continue because I'm feeling its benefits, and I want to be proactive. It is a way for me to maximize my energy, as well as head off and avoid illness.
    To be perfectly clear, this is about my choices and what works for me; I'm not trying to convince anybody to change their lifestyle.  This blog is for people who are interested in finding out more about this type of plant-based eating.

Top photo:  cantalope, blackberries, blueberries in compote
Bottom photo:   tofu, tomato, fresh basil, avocado, Ezekiel tortilla, black bean and corn salsa

Friday, May 28, 2010


     I'm not a morning person by nature, and have always been a member of the skip-breakfast club.  In spite of this, I now eat breakfast every day--although I'm still no Sally Sunshine and don't tolerate singing, humming, or whistling first thing in the morning.
     Cold breakfast cereals are typically high on the glycemic index. The exception is original Fiber One bran cereal with 57% daily value of fiber.  I think it's crunchy and tasty.  I add almond milk and sometimes sprinkle on cinnamon, or berries.
    According to my sister, this topic is the most important thing in the universe. My sister candidly admits she has been constipated for years and has tried everything out there that is supposed to help. However, now that she is eating this cereal everyday, she is regular for the first time in her life. She adds that this cereal is great to bring on trips, and there's no gas. Best of all, my sister tells me that she feels like a new person.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eating Out

   Eating out can be challenging. The hurdle isn't the vegan part; it's the low fat, low sodium, low glycemic index part that pretty much rules out all items on a sit-down restaurant chain menu. I've found that even "healthy" offerings are loaded with fat and salt. So I skip those places. Instead, I like to go to A1A Burrito Works in Flagler Beach. It's a colorful beachy walk-up that offers alfresco dining at picnic tables.  A1A Burrito Works consistently serves up fresh tasty ingredients; efficient and friendly service; and a laid back atmosphere.  I order a large vegan burrito with the works and #4 heat. I like to walk across A1A and chow down while watching the waves and the surfers. 
    In my quest to lighten up and put more "life" back into my life, I am more thoughtful in my choices.  I look forward to my trip to A1A Burrito Works because the experience elevates my whole day.  Here are some of the positive life lessons they roll into my burrito:  Be open.  Be authentic and people will be attracted to you.  Set people at ease; smile first.  Appreciate and embrace your own unique style and beauty.  Don't make work look like work.  Quality and value matter.  Spend time outside.  Add color; black and white and shades of gray are over-rated.

Top photo:  Sami and Adam at A1A Burrito Works
Bottom photo:  Adam

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Food Frump

    I didn't realize I was such a food frump.  My food presentation at mealtime had become the culinary equivalent of baggy sweat pants. However, since writing this blog, I've started to serve food in something besides Gladware.  Today, after I took this picture of my husband's fresh made salsa, guacamole, and chips, we actually sat down and enjoyed a festive colorful meal. I felt like I was getting special treatment--the kind reserved for "company."   I couldn't help but think, "This is nice," and  "I can get used to this."
    The fresh salsa is made with raw corn cut off the cob, tomato, black beans, cilantro, vidalia onion, lime juice, hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. It's light, refreshing, and full of flavor. 
    The guacamole is avocado, tomato, Vidalia onion, cilantro, and lemon juice.
    The crispy homemade chips are made from Ezekiel sprouted whole grain tortillas. They toast easily in a pan on the stove top. While the toasted tortilla is still warm, it is cut into triangles.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Megan's Amazing Roasted Chick Peas

   My daughter's friend Megan told me I needed to try what she calls the perfect snack. She is right. This amazing snack is as satisfying and fun to munch on as peanuts, but they're not, they're chick peas. One of the great things about this low fat, high fiber, high protein snack is the variety of possible sweet or savory flavor combinations.  I seasoned the batch pictured above with some of my favorite flavors. They turned out crunchy, slightly smoky, and spicy.
   I started with a bowl of cooked and drained chick peas. I sprinkled them with chipotle hot sauce to get them slightly damp. To this I added chili powder, paprika, and garlic powder. I also added dulse granules which are a sea weed chopped into a coarse powder.  Since I don't add salt to my food, the dulse flakes are a great way to add iodine to my diet.  Next, I covered them and gave them a shake to coat evenly. Then, I spread the chick peas onto a baking sheet and popped them into a preheated 425 degree oven for about 35 minutes. While they were roasting I turned them a few times. After the first turn with a flat spatula, they rolled easily in the pan. 
   I tasted samples during the cooking process to determine doneness.  When they were crispy on the outside, but not too dry or hard on the inside, I turned off the oven and left them inside for about ten minutes.
   While they were still warm I put the chick peas in a container and added more of the chipotle hot sauce and seasonings. After giving them a shake to coat them evenly I transferred them onto a plate to cool. The ones that weren't eaten on the spot were stored in a covered container. In my kitchen we call them Megan's Amazing Roasted Chick Peas since she was the one who introduced me to this perfect snack that is beyond good.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Vegan's Blank Canvas

   I admit, it took some time for me to wrap my head around tofu. One day I had an aha! moment that went something like this:  For an artist, the blank canvas is not the work of art; for a writer, the blank page is not the story; and for a vegan cook, the bland tofu is not the meal.
   Before starting an oil painting I always take a little time to prepare the canvas. Similarly, for the best result,  I prep a brick of tofu by putting it in a colander and placing something heavy like a Gladware filled with water on top of it for about 15 to 20 minutes.
   Tofu is very versatile since it takes on the flavors of other ingredients in a dish.  It is low fat and loaded with protein.
   Tofu used to intimidate me.  However, now I see it as an opportunity to be creative and express my ever-developing culinary style while having fun creating masterpieces in the kitchen.

Top photo:  block of tofu
Bottom photo:  penne pasta, tomato, tofu

Friday, May 21, 2010

Simply A Winner

   I'm not a fan of anything complicated when it comes to food preparation.  So I love it when a few ingredients come together and deliver the one-two punch of bold flavor and nutrition. I was knocked out by the winning combination of  clean fresh flavors this dish delivered.  I simply tossed together pinto beans, chopped garlic, chopped cilantro, and lemon juice.

Chilling Out

   Some days are so hot and humid I feel like I'm living in a dog's mouth.  As a way to beat the heat I enjoy this simple icy treat.  First, I steep a teabag of my favorite tea--Good Earth Original caffeine free Sweet and Spicy--along with a teabag of decaf green tea in a large mug.  Next, I pour this into a tall glass filled with ice.  Then, top it off with a generous splash of cold almond milk.   Every sip of this light cooler refreshes and satisfies--mingling sweet and spicy with a whisper of creamy almond flavor.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eat Garlic Without the Bad Breath

   While in Italy visiting a friend, she and I took a short walk to the daily farmers market.  Her selections for our lunch that afternoon included generous portions of  raw garlic cloves marinated in olive oil, vinegar and spices. She assured me that the part of the garlic that causes bad breath had been removed.  Incredulous, but eager to be polite, I ate several of the delicious cloves.
   The next morning I met up with another friend, warned her that I had eaten garlic, and asked her to frankly rate my breath.  As only a true friend would, she leaned in and took a few sniffs as I breathed out. Nothing. No garlic breath at all. We were both amazed.
   The part of each clove causing the bad breath is the center portion that would sprout. If you slightly smash a clove you will see the long thin, sometimes greenish, sprout that runs from the top stem to the bottom of the clove. Remove and discard this piece.  This sprout part can be seen in the above photos.
  If you love garlic and would like to keep your vampire friends, test this out on a clove and see how it works for you.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Love, Love, Love, Love

   A successful strategy for newbie's and seasoned veterans is to choose vegan foods that you know you already love. For me, cherries top the list. Every time I eat a cherry I think back to the giant cherry tree that stood in our neighbor's front yard. My brother and I would join our friends and, like chattering magpies, we'd descend on that tree full of luscious ripe cherries. We'd jump up to grab low-hanging limbs, or climb right up and settle into the higher branches  which were heavy with the biggest sweetest cherries. We  would while away the sunny afternoon laughing and chatting while munching  the never ending bounty of that huge tree.  So for me, cherries are a blast from the past as well as a treat for the kid still alive and well in me today. The bonus now is knowing that cherries are a very low glycemic index fruit  packed with nutrients.

Garrett said...
I love cherries too!! For hannukah I bought my boyfriend a cherry pitter because we are both such cherry-aholics. The best part is that cherries taste the best raw. Yummm

No-Gas Beans

  • Beans are a staple of a plant-based diet. To avoid the gas associated with eating beans I soak dry beans in water overnight before cooking them.
  • Discard soaking water and rinse the soaked beans before cooking them.
  • Beans can be left to soak on the counter or in the refrigerator.
  • The beans will expand as they absorb water. I add more soaking water as needed to keep the beans covered.
  • If I don't have time to cook the beans the day after their soak, I rinse and store in zip-bag or airtight container in fridge for an extra day before cooking.
  • Soaking the beans allows them to rehydrate so they will cook and soften.
  • To cook, boil the beans until tender. Drain and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Freeze extra cooked beans to have on hand for future recipes.

Nosh In Season

   In life, and vegan eating, some things are worth waiting for. Choosing foods in season is a cost-effective way to boost flavor and satisfaction at my vegan table. Lately, I have been savoring the smell and sweetness of berries bursting with true strawberry flavor. 
   In the past, unable to always sample before buying, I've purchased berries out-of-season because they looked enticing on the outside. More often than not I've been disappointed by tasteless berries.
   I'm always on the lookout to take advantage of the changing variety in nature's seasonal bounty.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Grilled Peppers and Onions with TSP over Brown Basmati Rice

   My daughter gave me the tip to grill vegetables on the George Forman. In this dish I cut red and yellow peppers into wide flat pieces and grilled them along with Vidalia onions. This method browns and adds rich flavor without having to add any oils in the cooking process.  
  I added pre-soaked TSP, texturized soy protein, to the grilled vegetables.  TSP comes in small dried chunks which I soak before adding to the recipe. I can soak it in water since the re-hydrated chunks  marry with the flavors of the other ingredients. In this case, I soaked mine in water left when I steamed some baby portabello mushrooms. 
   I'm not looking for a meat substitute per se, but I do like to add protein and different textures to the veggies on my plate. If you would like to incorporate soy into your diet, TSP adds variety and  protein to vegan creations.

Discover New Favorites

   I realized once I embraced a plant-based diet that I needed to increase the number of selections in  my veggie repertoire. For example, now I try leafy greens that I used to pass by without a second glance. I learn as I go,  adding them to recipes to determine which ones I like.  I discovered that I love swiss chard.  When steamed  the delicious flavor of the tender leaves and stems brings me back for seconds.  To give a comparison, I find the taste of swiss chard  less astringent and less pungent than spinach.
  Keep in mind, with experimentation comes triumph and failure. My son came to visit when I was incorporating some mystery greens--which my husband failed to identify when he picked them up from our local farmers market--into a big pot of soup simmering on the stove top. My son took one whiff and dubbed my creation "fart stew." So you can't win them all. Have a laugh and move on.

Tantalize Your Tastebuds

   Avoiding the bland is a  necessary strategy to stick with a low fat, low sodium, low glycemic index plant-based diet.  I am always on the hunt for foods my senses can feast on like this luscious tropical delight.  A ripe mango can bowl me over with its perfume and color even before  that juicy sweet flesh touches my tongue.

Picnic Favorites

   One way I mix it up at mealtime is to go outside and picnic. A grassy park or sandy beach can be fun, but I need not venture much further than my front door to enjoy the outdoors. Sitting out on a deck,  porch, or yard can be a welcome change to meals eaten inside at the table or in front of the TV.  Here I prepared a quick pasta salad by mixing bow tie pasta with no salt added canned diced tomatoes, tofu, chopped fennel, red and yellow peppers, fresh dill, and balsamic vinegar. I served mine on a bed of romaine lettuce leaves.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lemon Juice Brightens Flavors and Can Substitute for Salt

   Fresh squeezed lemon juice can be a great substitute for salt in just about any vegan dish. I use it all the time. However, I find that some lemons can be too sour which ends up overpowering  instead of complimenting and enhancing the other flavors in a dish. To avoid this I buy my lemons ahead and let them sit and "mellow" on a platter on my coffee table. Waiting a week or so before using these lemons really does the trick.

Farmers Market: Well Worth the Trip

  I discovered that my local farmers market is a treasure trove of fresh seasonal  fare. Frankly, before I ate a vegan diet--back when fruit and vegetables were mere side dishes--I seldom made the extra trip to the farmers market. Instead I'd buy everything at the grocery store, and a lot of the time I'd settle for produce that I knew was not the freshest, ripest, or tastiest.
   I expect the farmers market fruit and vegetables to look "natural" like the tasty peppers pictured above.  Also,  I often find myself trying unexpected offerings like these amazing squash blossoms pictured below.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Start With What's Already Familiar

   I realize that I don't need be a culinary master chef in order to prepare delicious and varied vegan meals. I start with ingredients that are already familiar to me.  Lentils were one of the first things I tried to cook after making the switch to a plant-based diet.  My recipe below has been a favorite of vegans and non-vegans alike.  I make a big pot and freeze the leftovers.
   I rinse the dried lentils in water then toss them (no soaking needed) into a pot of boiling water.  To this I add:
  • chopped roasted onions
  • dried barley
  • no salt added diced tomatoes
  • chopped roasted colored (yellow, red, and orange) peppers
  • TSP chunks
  • tomato paste
  • a bay leaf
  • cumin
  • ground clove
  • thyme
  • turmeric
  • and chipotle hot sauce  
   I let all this simmer until the lentils become tender. 

   Make your own version of my recipe by substituting things you have on hand, and omitting things that you don't have or don't like.

Vidalia Onions

   Raw Vidalia onions are surprisingly mild yet loaded with flavor. When mixed with other ingredients they  harmonize beautifully without overpowering. I find myself incorporating these versatile sweet onions in raw salads and cooked dishes alike.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Piano, Piano Vai Lontano

   I cried in despair the first day I went into the grocery store after deciding to try low fat, low sodium, low glycemic, vegan eating.  I didn't know what to eat.   I just wasn't sure what low glycemic  meant, let alone what was okay and what wasn't.      However, I was determined and had already decided to give this a try for three weeks.  Otherwise I would have walked out of the store and given up right then.
   One of my father's favorite Italian sayings is "piano, piano, vai lontano" which basically means take it slowly and you'll go a long way.
 In other words, expect a learning curve when committing to something new in life.

Rev Up the Flavor




   I store fruit at room temperature to maximize its flavor. Refrigerating fresh fruit is sometimes necessary. However, cold stifles the flavor that is naturally in the fruit. Here's an analogy. Start a car on a summer day and the engine immediately roars to life with a VROOOOOM!  That same engine on a frigid winter morning gives a weak rrr..rrrr.rrr..rr.