Friday, December 9, 2011

Wednesday's Soup

I've started a new activity for the winter, which is Wednesday soup and open craft time for my friends.  I'll make a big pot of soup each week, and enjoy the company of whoever is available that day while we work on projects together after lunch.  Leftover soup is never a problem in this house... I like to eat it for breakfast and lunch, and Lavender takes it for lunch, too.

This week's soup was adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.  I've liked every recipe I've made from this book, although I never prepare them exactly as written.  Recipes are just a guideline!  Here, I've made it a more filling stew-like meal by using the whole pound of split peas.  I also added spinach, chipotle pepper, and celery, and used vinegar instead of lime juice (which is probably lovely, but was not in my refrigerator).

Green, Orange, and Gold Split Pea Soup (about 10 servings; prep + cooking time ~ 2 hours)

2 c chopped onions sauteed in 1 t olive oil or chicken fat
1 lb yellow split peas
6 c chicken or vegetable broth
2 c peeled and diced sweet potatoes
1 c cored, peeled, and diced apples
1 c finely diced celery
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp chili powder

1 dried chipotle pepper

3/4 c diced tomatoes
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar

2 c fresh spinach, slivered

Rinse split peas and add to large pot with all ingredients through the dried chipotle pepper.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook until peas are done and beginning to fall apart, about 60-90 minutes.  Remove chipotle pepper and either discard it, or, if you want more of its flavor, take out the seeds and return the pulp to the soup.  Add tomatoes, soy sauce, and vinegar and puree slightly with an immersion blender if desired.  Add spinach and continue to heat gently until it is wilted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween and the never-ending stream of candy and sugar

The constant availability of sugar in many forms has to be a large part of the current obesity epidemic. Everywhere we go, someone is offering Lavender or all of us candy, a cookie, or some other flour- or sugar-based item.   It makes me crazy.  Food does not need to be a part of every activity in which we participate!

And now it's nearly Halloween, just one of the sugar-dominated holidays of winter.   The costume is the biggest fun, but my little trick-or-treater is sure to bring home a lot of stuff that none of us needs.

What to do with all that candy? 
Well, first... I need to come up with a way of separating it from Lavender.  My thoughts:
  • candy for 2 days
  • one piece of candy each day for a week
  • fill a small container with favorites
  • pick a few pieces, trade the rest for a family dinner at kid-chosen restaurant
  • pick a few pieces, trade the rest for a favorite homemade dessert that we will make
  • parent buys the candy at a per-pound or per-piece rate
  • kids can choose from these options but not "candy until it's gone."  This is probably the route I'll take this year.  Last year, I offered to buy the candy but she wanted nothing to do with that - however, this year, she is much more interested in money.
and then, what to do with the rest? 
  • Give the first-purged candy to the next kids who come to the door.
  • Conduct candy experiments.
  • Make decorations for Thanksgiving and Christmas (gingerbread house) or just let the kids make some art. Bonus result of seeing the candy as a not-food item.
  • Some dentists participate in this buyback program.
  • Our food shelf collects it.  I have mixed feelings about that.  
  • Give it to Herb to take to work.
  • Just pitch it.  Yes, it's a waste of resources, but using it doesn't make it healthier for anyone.
How can we limit our own participation in the annual tooth decay and environmental damage?  Instead of candy, how about 'treating:'
  • All those random plastic young-kid toys that entered your house to be played with once, that you would otherwise throw away - let someone else enjoy them for the day.
  • Pencils, regular or mechanical, or pens.
  • Small spiral notebooks
  • Raisins (these are in recyclable boxes, too)
  • Microwave popcorn (avoid the artificial, chemical "butter") or not-horrible chips, if you find some, although these are in throwaway packaging
  • Sunflower seeds (individually packaged)
  • Bookmarks

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cell Phones and Kids

Lavender doesn't carry a cell phone, but we are a cell-phone-only household and so she occasionally uses mine, usually on speaker mode.  However, when I see a study like this, I pay attention:

Cellphones Exceed U.S. FCC Exposure Limits by as Much as Double for Children, Study Finds

excerpt: "The paper notes that the industry-designed process for evaluating microwave radiation from phones results in children absorbing twice the cellphone radiation to their heads, up to triple in their brain's hippocampus and hypothalamus, greater absorption in their eyes, and as much as 10 times more in their bone marrow when compared to adults."

Check the SAR rating on your phone - and next time you upgrade, compare models before purchasing!


EWG's Best & Worst Phones / Shopping Guide

CNET: Cell Phone Radiation Levels

FCC: Specific Absorption Rate for Cellular Telephones

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Arguing about Starchy Vegetables

The Senate stood up for potatoes and corn this week when the Obama administration proposed limiting starchy vegetables to 1c/week in school lunches (how did corn ever become a vegetable, anyway?).  Simple solution: serve them, but don't count them as vegetables, but rather toward the grain portion of the meal, which is often overloaded anyway. Non-starchy vegetables have higher nutrient levels by far, and are the ones less likely to be found in abundance in many homes - why not take this opportunity to introduce students to them?  This approach follows Dr. Joel Fuhrman's nutritarian food pyramid.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quinoa for breakfast

Quinoa is a seed that is treated as a grain, and which is cooked exactly like white rice (1:2 ratio, cook for 20 minutes after bringing to a boil).  It has a light, fluffy texture much like couscous.  Rinse and cook 1 c. quinoa for 4 breakfast servings.  Add butter, or fruit and nuts, milk and cinnamon, or cooked greens with whatever else your taste buds fancy.  Refrigerate or freeze extra servings in microwave-safe glass containers.  Cost per serving (quinoa only): about $0.25 for organic quinoa purchased in bulk.

For numbers buffs: According to, 1/4 c dry quinoa has 157 calories, 2.5g fat, 27g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, and 6g protein.  Unlike other grains and grain-like foods, all essential amino acids are represented in that protein. 

But we don't cook it just because of that.  Lavender likes it, and it's a much better breakfast (not to mention far less costly) than processed cereal from a box! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Summer Wrap

This wrap is loosely based on summer rolls, the fresh and delicious, not-fried rolls that are on the menu at some Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, made with rice paper wrappers. 

per serving:
1 tortilla of choice (not corn) - mine were 6" so if you use very large tortillas, adjust quantities below accordingly
1 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
1/4 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1/4 c shredded Romaine or spinach
3 T shredded carrot
a few slivers of sliced bell pepper
any other random vegetables you have ready to go - I added some shredded Brussels sprouts

Add ingredients in order listed, and roll it up.  Slice or not.
Cost: about $0.50 each.  Lavender took 2 of these for lunch today, with olives, fruit salad, and carrots.  Total lunch cost, $1.75.  (Largest individual cost = tortillas at $0.25 each.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

More homemade school lunches, with cost estimates

 Cream cheese and jam on sprouted whole grain bread ($0.50), carrot and cucumber sticks ($0.25), olives ($0.25), prune plums ($0.25).  Total $1.25.

 Homemade chicken spaetzle soup ($1.00), carrot sticks ($0.25), pickles ($0.20), and homemade apple crisp ($0.10 - from homegrown apples).  Total $1.55. 
It was difficult to estimate the cost of the soup since the stock and much of the chicken came from the carcasses of 2 organic chickens that we roasted.  I estimated $3 worth of chicken for the 5 servings of soup, probably in excess of the actual cost.

 PB & J on sprouted whole grain bread ($0.55), olives ($0.25), carrot and red bell pepper sticks ($0.40), and mango-prune plum salad ($0.60).  Total $1.80.

Homemade vegetarian split pea soup ($0.25), homemade bread (free, from a friend), olives ($0.25), trail mix ($0.20), and prune plums ($0.25).  Total $0.95.

Lavender requested to make her own lunch twice this week, and that's why the humble sandwiches appear.
Average cost of these lunches = $1.39
Average savings per day over school lunch = $0.96

Friday, September 30, 2011

Food this week

It's fall harvest time - roasted root vegetables are a favorite.  Tonight, parsnips, beets, and carrots, cut into strips to maximize child interest and dipping ability.  Lavender liked all of them plain ("I have so many favorite foods!" she said) ... but decided that they were even better with ketchup.
Now for a few of this week's packed lunches and how they compare to school lunch at $2.35.  In our district, school lunch consists of a highly processed entree that comes frozen and is baked in an industrial oven - there is no cooking in the kitchens.   Meals have to meet USDA school lunch requirements but as many people know, that leaves a lot to be desired.

First, homemade chili (made with local, grass-fed beef) with some trail mix (homemade granola, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, freeze-dried strawberries, and currants) and fresh prune plums.  The chili cost about $1.10/serving, the prune plums $0.25 for 3, and the trail mix $0.20.  Total lunch cost: $1.55 (all numbers rounded up to the nearest nickel).
 Hard-boiled organic eggs ($0.35), baked potato chips ($0.30), carrot sticks ($0.25), prune plums $0.25).  Total $1.15.  (Eggs purchased at Costco, which has the lowest-priced organic eggs I've seen.)
 Wrap (cream cheese, sliced chicken, romaine, carrots, red bell pepper) at $1.00, baked chips, olives ($0.25), prune plums, muesli.  Total $2.00.  Cost of the wrap would be a lot lower if I had made my own tortillas.

My lunch system is fairly simple.  Although I can agree that there are some very tempting lunch and bento systems, for the sake of food safety I pack items in a container of the right size.  Things that need to stay cold are placed between two ice packs.  If we're using the hot food jar, I don't pack anything that needs to stay cold - both so that the food jar can remain hot (I wrap it in a towel for extra insulation, inside the lunch bag) and so that nothing perishable heats up from the food jar.  Lavender has an early lunch and a later snack, so sometimes I use a small insulated bag for each of those, and sometimes everything is packed together in one bag.  The food above is for lunch and snack together. Lunch is only 20 minutes - not a lot of time to eat much of anything!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Updated Menu

 I finally updated the "menu" following completion of the allergy elimination diet.  As you will notice, bread is still mostly off the list - completely, for me. We all found the food listing to be a handy reminder of good things to eat during the elimination - it reduced the tendency to fall back on typical snack items.  Lavender particularly likes to look at the menu when thinking of what she wants to pack for lunch or have for an after-school snack.   Everything listed is free of concentrated and refined sweeteners, and nearly everything is free of all flours as well.  There are so many whole foods choices!


Fruit and Nuts
Oatmeal, plain or with fruit or pumpkin
Granola with yogurt or milk
Brown rice porridge with cinnamon
Eggs, scrambled or hard-boiled, or omelette
Huevos rancheros
Buckwheat pancakes
Turkey sausage
Lentil or bean soup
Chicken soup

Lentil or bean Soup
Chicken soup
Chicken slices with lettuce wrappers
Taco-seasoned beans
Salad with beans or nuts
Roasted sweet potato with almond butter
Roasted beets with cream cheese
(cheese, turkey, bean spread, or almond butter)
Hard-boiled egg

Sides and Snacks
Raw carrots, pepper, lettuce, etc. with dip
Roasted vegetables
Boiled or roasted potato
Sweet potato
Cole slaw or broccoli salad
Rice cakes
Nuts / Seeds
Chickpeas or beans
Trail Mix
Hummus or bean spread
Pickles / Olives
Yogurt & granola

Fruit plate with cinnamon or yogurt
Rice pudding
Fruit-nut-coconut treats
Fruit tart
Cookie or macaroon
Dried fruit and/or nuts
Dark chocolate
Baked apples
Fruit crisp
Sweet potato or pumpkin pudding
Chocolate or fruit pudding

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Allergy Elimination Diet Results

It's been over 4 months since we began the elimination diet, and all foods have now been tested.  I did not find any allergies, but I did learn about some food sensitivities that I never would have uncovered had those foods stayed in regular rotation.  I also lost about 15 pounds (even though I was within normal BMI range), primarily from the elimination of flour and sugar.  This experience has made a fresh-baked loaf of whole grain bread look far less appealing!

Other observations:
- The chronic nasal congestion that I've had as long as I can recall is gone.

- So is the on-again, off-again back pain that I've experienced for about 10 years.
- I've had fewer headaches than my baseline. I averaged about 1-2/month before - but now I've had one or two in the entire last 4 months.
- I dropped more weight with less effort than ever before in my life, including when jogging 4 mi/day and breastfeeding.
- Mosquito bites didn't itch at all.  I assume this is due to the anti-inflammatory diet.
- No asthma problems.
- Total cholesterol dropped from about 160 to about 140, despite eating more poultry and fish than usual, and occasional meat.

We traveled for 2 weeks in August and my diet was not ideal.  I could feel it, too, and was really ready to come home to my fridge full of veggies, because my back was aching, I felt mild asthma, and in general, my body just did not feel as comfortable.  I cleaned things up after we got home but fell in to a bad pattern a few days ago and had too much sugar.  After the second day of not eating optimally (and those days weren't terrible by most people's standards - I had a couple of granola bars and some tortilla chips), I felt terrible and my joints ached, and I got a terrible headache.

But a great benefit of being off junk for so long is that most of it just does not taste good anymore.  I had a bite of a chocolate-chip cookie at a meeting and it didn't taste like anything at all.  It was store-bought or made from a mix and just tasted like a bunch of greasy chemicals.  I left it untouched after the first taste.

So, there it is.  I feel like this was a valuable experiment and I have a new way of eating, with minimal dairy (occasional homemade yogurt), minimal grains in their whole form but no wheat and no "whole grain flour," and no sugar or other concentrated sweeteners (with exceptions for special occasions).  Breakfast is usually fruit and nuts, sometimes yogurt/granola, sometimes leftovers.  Lunch is generally a salad with legumes or nuts or a legume-based soup.  Dinner varies a lot, but vegetables are the highlight, and probably 5 out of 7 nights includes some form of animal-based protein in a modest serving (0.25 lb or less).  (This is highly ironic for me since i was a no-dairy vegetarian for over 10 years.)

Last night I made pasta for the family, but I steam-sauteed a bunch of baby summer squash for myself and had the pasta toppings on that instead.  (This actually works out pretty well since I love sauteed summer squash and they do not like it at all!)  While I'm still cooking grains for them, I'm also cooking more vegetables - both in quantity and in number - so that their serving sizes of pasta, rice, or other grains are decreased (which so far has gone unnoticed).  Our total family bread consumption over the summer was about 3 loaves of sprouted grain bread. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Natural and organic processed meats and "naturally occurring nitrates"

If you're paying premium prices for natural and organic hot dogs, with "no added nitrites,"  read about happens to the "natural nitrates" from the celery juice powder that is typically used - and, alarmingly, how high the levels are.

"Applegate and other natural companies have proposed alternate wording to the U.S.D.A. in the past without success. They say they are confident their products offer enough other benefits — all natural ingredients, meeting the standards for the humane treatment of animals, for example — that it is best to be upfront with consumers about the preservatives. Ms. Boardman said tests showed the amount of nitrite and nitrate in Applegate products was similar to conventional brands."

What's the solution?  Unprocessed foods.  An "organic" or "natural" label doesn't mean that it's good for you, especially if it comes in a box.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Easy fresh ginger

After cooking a recipe that called for using a blender to combine fresh ginger with water, and finding that it had an incredible flavor compared to mincing the ginger before cooking, I decided to prep all of the ginger that I bought this way and freeze it in ice cubes.  1-2 cubes add lots of gingery flavor to the average stir-fry or curry!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First garden harvest of the year

The asparagus did not like the cold, wet spring (it snowed at least 5 times in April), but we had some delicious Red Russian kale last week.   Up next: probably the strawberries or radishes.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Foods in Week 6 of the Allergy Elimination Diet

Instead of the full list of this week's menus, I'm just going to list new items. 

Breakfasts and lunches were the same as previous weeks, until we introduced eggs on Friday.  We had hard-boiled eggs with our lunches - quite a treat after all these weeks.

The only new dinner was a Mexican-style rice with kidney beans and green beans, which made some extra lunches as well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Allergy Elimination Diet Week 5 Meals

Homemade turkey sausage patties
Buckwheat-almond Pancakes with maple syrup (re-introduced this week)
Fruit and nuts
Half avocado and apple
Random leftovers

Chicken, lettuce wrappers
Broccoli salad with cashew-prune dressing
Red lentil daal

Cod and salad
Rice pasta, chicken sausage, steamed vegetables (2 nights)
Lamb pot roast, potatoes, carrots, streamed broccoli (2 nights)
Poached salmon, sugar snap peas, and salad
Lettuce leaf chicken-vegetable tacos

Apples, pears, bananas, mango
Granola and rice milk
Coconut macaroons
Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds
Rice cake with almond butter

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Granola, updated

Even Easier Granola

6 c rolled oats, old-fashioned or thick cut
1 T cinnamon
1 c unsweetened applesauce

Mix cinnamon and oats, then add applesauce and mix thoroughly.  Spread on 2 lightly oiled baking sheets and bake at 300F for 20 minutes.  Shake pans lightly and switch locations in oven; bake for another 20 minutes.  Allow to cool on pans and then store in refrigerator.   Add dried fruit, coconut, and/or nuts/seeds when you eat it - this allows for endless variety of flavors and uses.

This recipe uses applesauce in place of the oil and honey in my other recipe.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Summer Reading Programs for Kids

Borders Books
Barnes and Noble
Half Price Books

Rhubarb-fig Compote with Cinnamon Rice (and thoughts on sugar)

I was slightly dismayed when I realized that we would be on the full elimination during the peak of rhubarb season, but then I thought about my successes in sweetening muffins and cookies with only dried fruit.  Now that I've been off sugar for 5 weeks, I'm not sure that I even want to test it after the elimination period is completed.   There are so many flavors available in fresh, whole foods - why go back to wheat flour and sugar?  Not that they won't tempt me, as they've always done.  But now I know that neither of those is necessary for a satisfying day of food - including dessert.

The only sweetener here is the figs.  The cinnamon rice has a sweet flavor of its own from the rice - it's amazing how sweet foods begin to taste on their own once sugar is off the table.

Rhubarb-fig Compote with Cinnamon Rice

6-8 stalks rhubarb (more if you like it tart)
8 oz dried figs, quartered *

Cook rhubarb and figs together over low heat until the figs have mostly dissolved.  Test for sweetness and add more figs if needed.

* If you don't have, and don't wish to buy, dried figs, you could substitute about 5 oz dates or a larger amount of fresh fruit such as apples or strawberries.

Cinnamon Rice
2 c leftover rice, white or brown
3 c unsweetened almond milk
2 t cinnamon
1 t cardamom
1 t vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to a pot, stir well, and heat slowly until the rice has expanded and thickened the almond milk to a pudding-like texture - about an hour or two on low heat.  This can also be done in a crockpot for about 4 hours on low.

Serve the rhubarb compote in a bowl topped with the cinnamon rice, warm or cold.   Chill leftovers in separate containers; both will thicken in the refrigerator.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Allergy elimination week 4

This is the last week before we begin slowly testing foods.  It will be about 2 months before we test gluten and dairy.

Buckwheat-almond pancakes with applesauce
Half avocado with banana (this might have triggered a migraine)
Granola with unsweetened rice milk
Gingered black-eyed pea soup from the freezer

Chicken with lettuce or spinach leaves for wrapping
Broccoli salad with cashew-prune dressing
Mixed vegetable salads
Leftover red lentil soup

Mango, Apple, Kiwi, Banana
Coconut macaroons
Date-sweetened banana muffins (amazingly, free of gluten, dairy, eggs, sugar and nuts!)
Raw veggies: cucumber, carrot, red bell pepper, sugar snap peas
Banana-blueberry smoothie
Almonds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts

Salmon cakes, fried potatoes, and steamed broccoli
Turkey/veggie burritos on rice tortillas (2 nights).  The rice tortillas are ok.  DD loved them, but I thought lettuce was probably better.  I haven't tried making my own tortillas yet.
Lamb Rogan Josh, Indian-spiced spinach, and rice with salad (very good!)
Baked cod with roasted cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots
Roasted chicken with roasted potatoes and carrots, steamed green beans

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Buckwheat-almond pancakes with blueberry sauce

My daughter hated the red lentil soup we had two nights ago (she loves regular lentils - I wasn't expecting this).  However, I completely redeemed myself in her eyes with this breakfast today.  She ate hers with both applesauce and the blueberry sauce.

Adapted from
1.5 c buckwheat flour
0.5 c almond meal
1 t baking soda
1 t cream of tartar
1 t cinnamon
2 c unsweetened almond milk (could use half water)
1/3 c applesauce (unsweetened)

Combine dry ingredients, then add almond milk/water and applesauce.  Let sit while the skillet heats.  These cook more quickly than wheat flour-based pancakes.  For 3" pancakes, flip after about 3 minutes.

Blueberry sauce
1.5 c frozen blueberries
4 finely chopped dates
1 t arrowroot powder

In a small pot, heat blueberries, dates, and a splash of water until dates are soft.  Mash blueberries with spoon if desired.  Place arrowroot powder in a small dish and add 1 t water; mix and then add to blueberries, stirring until sauce thickens, just a minute or two.  Remove from heat.

Allergy Elimination Diet Week 3

We're halfway there! --- almost (Not counting the many weeks it will take to slowly reintroduce foods.).

This week's foods:
Avocado-mango salad
Fruit & nuts
Homemade granola with almond milk
Homemade turkey "sausage" with fruit
Buckwheat-almond pancakes with blueberry sauce

Lunches (home & packed):
Broccoli salad (the dressing works really well with a couple of soaked dried apricots in place of the sweet potato)
Dinner leftovers
Sliced chicken with cucumber slices to make mini-sandwiches

Rice pasta with tomato sauce and chicken sausage (hurrah! we didn't get to this really obvious meal until the end of 3 weeks!)
Red lentil soup
Baked salmon, quinoa, and steamed vegetables
Chicken soup with carrots, brussels sprouts, and chickpea socca
Chicken-spinach salad, leftover socca, and  steamed broccoli
Daal saag
Baked tilapia and steamed vegetables over rice with a faux teriyaki sauce

Coconut macaroons
Watermelon and other fruit
Almonds & walnuts
Sliced raw vegetables
Coconut milk-based ice cream, amazingly made without refined sugar

Faux teriyaki sauce
5 prunes, finely diced, cooked in 1 c water and pureed
1 T coconut aminos
1/4 to 1/2 t prepared mustard, to taste
1 t toasted sesame oil
Mix together and taste - season as needed.  Can add some fresh ginger to cook with the prunes if available - I had run out.

Monday, May 9, 2011

No BPA? Great. What else is in that (bottle, paper, can lining)?

Hitting the Bottle

"our regulatory system allows manufacturers to introduce or continue to use chemicals that have not been adequately tested for safety. A manufacturer can replace BPA with another untested compound and get a few years’ use out of it before it, too, becomes the subject of health alerts or news media attention. By the time we know what those new chemicals do to us, entire generations are affected. We are the guinea pigs. The system is broken. We must reverse the process: test first."

To read more about the lack of regulations for chemicals in the U.S., and what other countries do, see Mark Schapiro's Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power (2009).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Allergy Elimination Week 2

Roasted sweet potatoes with cinnamon and chopped pecans
Gingered Black-eyed Pea Soup
Homemade granola with almond milk
Avocado half and sliced apple with cinnamon

Lunches: (home & packed)
Broccoli salad with Cashew-Sweet Potato Dressing
Lentil soup with chickpea crackers
Salad of mixed greens, vegetables, pepitas, and strawberries
Dinner leftovers

Coconut macaroons
Fresh organic strawberries
Sliced apple sprinkled with cinnamon
Fresh pineapple
Raw sugar snap peas, red bell pepper, carrot
Leftover broccoli salad
Almonds and walnuts

Baked tilapia with roasted Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes
Summer rolls with steamed broccoli and green beans (2 nights)
Carrot-potato-buffalo stew (2 nights)
Mixed green salad topped with chicken and vegetables with olive oil-rice vinegar dressing

Roasted sweet potatoes have been a favorite of mine - and my daughter's - since I first learned how to make them - so simple, and so much better than the usual boiled or casseroled sweet potatoes!  Just wash them off and put them on a baking sheet - either an old one that already has burned spots on it, or one with a parchment layer, because they are messy.  Bake at about 400 for an hour or so, until soft and oozing.  If you're baking something else, a range of temperatures will work, just vary the time accordingly.  Bake some extras - they're great for breakfast, in soups, in muffins, etc.

I am enjoying savory breakfasts.  My long-time standard breakfasts have been homemade yogurt and granola or oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts, but this week I've eaten all sorts of dinner leftovers for breakfast, in addition to that wonderfully gingery soup.   When I was planning foods for this allergy elimination diet, I realized quickly that dinners would be easiest, and that breakfast would change for me - I've gone off oats as well, since I normally eat them every day.  I haven't really missed anything, surprisingly enough, after 2 weeks of this - our refrigerator is full of fabulous produce, and we have many good flavors every day that far surpass anything made out of wheat, dairy, or soy.

Crackers, Muffins, Cookies for the Allergy Elimination Diet

Chickpea Crackers
Modified from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen

1/2 c chickpea flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 t paprika or other seasoning of choice (I've also used a mixed, salt-free seasoning, oregano, and turmeric+cumin)
1.5 t olive oil
2-3 T water

Mix dry ingredients together.  Add oil and 2 T water.  Mix well and try to form a ball from the dough.  If it is still quite crumbly, add 1/2 T water at a time and mix until it will clump together.  Roll out on floured surface or towel, to 1/8 inch or less, and cut into approximately 1" squares, or use a small cookie cutter.  Bake at 350 for about 15-18 minutes, until puffed and lightly browned.  They should be crisp after cooling; if not, return to oven for just a few minutes.  This makes about 40 1" square crackers.

GF, Vegan Banana Muffins
Modified from
3/4 c brown rice flour
1/2 c chickpea flour
1/2 c tapioca flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2.5 T flaxmeal mixed with 3T hot water
2 T melted coconut oil
2 T canola oil
1 t vanilla
6 dates, finely chopped
2 T brown rice syrup (or a few more dates - I've made it both ways)
3 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare muffin pan.  Mash bananas thoroughly and combine with oils, brown rice syrup, flaxmeal mixture, and vanilla.  Mix well. Add the dry ingredients on top of this and when they're all there, gently stir them together before combining with the banana mixture.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Makes 12 regular muffins.  These freeze well.

Vegan Coconut Macaroons 
Modified from Recipes Reinvented

2 c unsweetened shredded coconut (available in bulk at most health food stores)
1 c coconut or almond milk, unsweetened
1-2 T brown rice syrup or 6 dates, chopped
1 T arrowroot flour
1 t vanilla
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare baking sheet with oil or parchment.  In small pot, whisk together milk, syrup, and salt.  If using dates to sweeten, add them now and cook until soft, then puree.  Add arrowroot and whisk until lump-free.  Continue to heat until the mixture is very thick.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and coconut.  Drop onto baking sheet - about 2 tsp size cookies will result in 2 dozen.   Bake for about 18 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool on cookie sheet until firm, and then cool completely on a rack.   These store well in the freezer, and thaw in a few minutes.

Almond Shortbread Cookies
2.5 c almond meal (I used Trader Joe's, and whirled it in the food processor to grind it a little finer)
1/2 c arrowroot flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/4 c brown rice syrup or about 9-12 dates, pureed
5 T canola oil
1 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare baking sheet with oil or parchment.  Combine dry ingredients and then stir in oil, syrup, and vanilla.  Drop from a spoon on to baking sheet - about 1T size cookies makes between 24-30 cookies.  Flatten cookies lightly with a spoon.  Bake about 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  These keep at room temperature for several days and freeze well.

Air quality matters - for more than respiratory conditions

Air Pollution Near Michigan Schools Linked to Poorer Student Health, Academic Performance

"Half of all states, including Michigan, do not require any evaluation of the environmental quality of areas under consideration as sites for new schools, nor do they prohibit building new industrial facilities and highways near existing schools.

Children are known to be more vulnerable than adults to the effects of pollution. Exposure to environmental pollutants during important times of physiological development can lead to long-lasting health problems, dysfunction and disease, the experts said...
Ninety-five percent of the estimated industrial air pollution around schools comes from 12 chemicals: diisocyanates, manganese, sulfuric acid, nickel, chlorine, chromium, trimethylbenzene, hydrochloric acid, molybdenum trioxide, lead, cobalt and glycol ethers...
The 12 chemicals are suspected of producing a wide variety of health effects, including increased risk of respiratory, cardiovascular, developmental and neurological disorders, as well as cancer."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Slow Cooker Gingered Black-eyed Pea Soup

8 oz black-eyed peas
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 small sweet potato, roasted
Ginger, about 1 cubic inch, peeled and minced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamon
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 c fresh spinach, washed and packed

Add black-eyed peas, pepper, carrot, and ginger to slow cooker.  Add water to cover by about 1".  Cook on high for 2 hours or until black-eyed peas are beginning to soften.   Add sweet potato and spices (not salt) and cook on low until about 2 hours before meal time.  Check peas and if they are done, leave on low - otherwise, switch to high. 30 minutes before serving, add spinach and salt.  Stir in spinach as it wilts.

Broccoli salad with cashew-sweet potato dressing

Right before dinner, my daughter told me she didn't like broccoli anymore.  Then she ate about 2c of this salad and told me it was the best dinner ever. 

About 3 c finely chopped broccoli, including tender stems
3 prunes, minced
3 dried apricots, minced (sulfite-free)
1/4 c cashews
1/4 c boiling water
1 T roasted sweet potato
1 T rice vinegar

Soak cashews in boiling water for at least 10 minutes.  Puree in blender, add sweet potato and vinegar, and blend again.  Mix broccoli and dried fruit, add dressing.  Better if served after a couple hours of refrigeration to allow the broccoli to marinate a bit.

Vietnamese-style summer rolls with apricot-sesame sauce

Add fresh herbs to the rolls if you have any.  We just had what I hope will be our last snow of the year here and fresh herbs are only a fond memory.  This sauce is also tasty on steamed vegetables.

6 dried apricots, minced
3 prunes, minced
3/4 c boiling water
1 T almond butter
1 t coconut aminos
1 T rice vinegar
1 t toasted sesame oil
Pour boiling water over the dried fruit and allow to soak for about 10 minutes.  Pour into the blender and puree.  Pour into serving bowl and stir in remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using to allow flavors to blend.

Rice wrappers, or use Romaine leaves
Chicken if desired - I used poached chicken, then cut it into small pieces and seasoned with coconut aminos
Julienned vegetables as available - I used radish, cucumber, carrot, lettuce, spinach, red bell pepper, and green onion
Bean thread noodles if desired - 1 bunch is enough for about 8 rolls

Pour boiling water over bean thread noodles and allow to soak for about 10 minutes.  Soak one rice wrapper for about 10 seconds in hot water, or until pliable and smooth.  Smooth out on a place, fill like a burrito, and roll up the sides.  Put on serving plate and repeat.  Plan for 2 rolls per serving with medium-sized rice wrappers.

If you're not soy-free, you can use tamari instead of coconut aminos, and baked tofu in place of chicken.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Allergy Elimination Week 1

Fruit & Nuts
Homemade granola with almond milk (6 c gluten-free oats mixed with about 1c homemade, unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon and baked at 300F until toasted and dried, about an hour.  Store in refrigerator.)
Quinoa with olive oil and salt
Turkey-vegetable soup (see below)
Curried rice with green beans (leftovers, see below)
GF oatmeal

Lunches at home:
Dinner leftovers
Salads (mixed greens, chickpeas, various chopped vegetables, nuts/seeds, fruit, vinaigrette)

Packed lunches:
Sliced chicken, steamed waxy potatoes, and sliced raw vegetables
Dinner leftovers, packed in a food jar
Chickpeas and raw vegetables

Packed snacks:
Fruit and vegetables
Chickpea crackers*
Potato chips (check ingredients)
Allergy-OK banana muffins*
Allergy-OK almond shortbread*
* recipes to follow in next post

Poached chicken, steamed waxy potatoes, and steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots
Curried rice with green beans (recipe follows)
Chickpea-vegetable soup
Chicken sausage, rice, and asparagus
Turkey-vegetable soup (recipe follows)

Additional cooking
1 pound chickpeas - used broth and some chickpeas to make a vegetable soup; ate some on salads or as a snack; roasted some for snacks.
Roasted sweet potato slices - not thin, like chips, but about 1/4 inch thick - very tasty addition to salads or for eating as a snack

Curried rice with green beans
modified from Jeanne Lemlin's Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

1/2 cup cashews, toasted
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 t turmeric
1/2 t cardamon
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1/4 t salt
1 cup brown or brown basmati rice
1 lb green beans (I use frozen, whole organic beans for this recipe)
1 carrot, sliced
1/3 cup finely cut prunes (about 6-8 prunes)
2 c boiling water

In a 6-quart pot, saute the onion & ginger in the oil. Mix in spices and toast lightly, then add rice, prunes, and carrot and stir to coat. Pour in the boiling water and cover.  Cook over low heat until the rice is nearly done (30-35 minutes).  Add frozen green beans to the top of the mixture; they will steam as the rice finishes cooking.  When done, add cashews and mix together gently.

Turkey-Vegetable Soup

Most commercial turkey and chicken is injected with a "broth solution;" the ingredients are never labeled on the poultry packaging.  We generally buy locally-raised poultry, organic when possible. In addition to the lack of added ingredients (and paying a poultry price-per-pound for what is in essence saltwater, the added broth), we find that the local birds are much leaner and tastier.  Our local natural foods store sells turkey pieces, and this week there was a surplus of wings at a good price.

6 turkey wings, organic if possible
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 carrots, finely sliced
1/2 c brown rice
1/2 t salt
2 t dried thyme
1 t dried rosemary
2 t dried parsley
1 lb frozen peas

Add 2 quarts water to a stock pot and poach the chicken wings until completely cooked, then remove.  After cooling slightly, remove the meat from the wings and refrigerate.  It will likely be in tiny pieces, which is perfect for soup and burritos, which is where it's headed.  Add 1T apple cider vinegar to the water in the pot, and return the turkey bones and skin.  Simmer gently for two hours, then strain into another pot.  Skim the fat from the broth, and use this fat, or part of it as needed, to saute the onions and carrots (and celery if you have some; I didn't), then add this to the broth, along with brown rice and seasonings; cook for about 40 minutes, or until rice is done.  Add as much of the turkey as desired, then add the peas.  If you are serving immediately, continue to cook until the peas are hot.  If saving for another meal, add the frozen peas and allow them to begin chilling the soup, then refrigerate.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Allergy Elimination Diet

Our family has embarked on an allergy elimination diet that will (hopefully?  or not?) help pinpoint a cause for some chronic health issues.  For 6 weeks, we are eschewing gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, peanuts, citrus, shellfish, beef, pork, sugar, and chocolate.  Nearing the end of week 1, I can say that it hasn't been as difficult as I feared.  We're eating a record amount of fresh produce and no one has really experienced any cravings for "illegal" foods. 

I spent the week after the physician's recommendation preparing, which was the key for success.  During that time, we had easy, favorite meals from foods that were perishable and not included in the allowed list, which resulted in a bare refrigerator.  I removed other items from the kitchen and stored them in a bin in the basement pantry.  I found some remarkable blogs with recipes that were doable or modifiable and created a binder of starting places.   I realized that dinner would be the easiest meal, but that breakfast and packed lunches might undergo a substantial facelift.  I bought some grocery items I'd never heard of before, such as coconut aminos, a replacement for soy sauce.

I planned meals, as always, and created a "menu" that I posted on the refrigerator for my husband Herb and daughter Lavender to reference when they were hungry, with the warning that all baked items would be highly experimental.   I was pleased to turn out some remarkable banana muffins as well as almond-meal based shortbread for occasional snacks, and returned to the chickpea cracker recipe I have made on occasion.  However, the abundance of fresh fruit and prepped veggies in the fridge has resulted in those being the easiest food to grab - a good thing all around.


Fruit and Nuts
Granola with almond milk
Brown rice porridge with cinnamon

Lentil Soup and chickpea crackers
Chicken slices with lettuce wrappers
Beans or chickpeas
Almond butter and jam on gluten-free bread
Salad with beans or nuts
Roasted sweet potato sandwiches with almond butter

Sides and Snacks
Carrot sticks
Red bell pepper
Rice cakes
Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
Chickpea crackers or bread
Hummus or bean spread
Homemade popsicles

Rice pudding
Fruit-nut-coconut treats
Blueberry tart
Baked apples
Fruit crisp
Sweet potato pudding

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding and Kung Pao Tofu

My daughter was clearly enamored with the pudding cups that some kids have brought in their packed lunches, so she was thrilled when I told her I would make some "real" pudding.  I made a vegan chocolate pudding today in about 20 minutes.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding (about 12 small, rich servings)
3 c unsweetened soy or almond milk (I used a mixture of both)
1/4 c sugar (if your "milk" is sweetened, you might be able to omit this)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces (mine was 72%)
1/4 c arrowroot powder (or substitute cornstarch at the same measurement)
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Simmer water in double boiler.  In top, mix arrowroot, salt, and sugar; whisk in milk.  Continue whisking until everything has dissolved.  When it is warm, add the chocolate.  Stir frequently until it thickens.  Once it begins to thicken, it will continue at a rapid pace.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into storage container and refrigerate. 

I've been experimenting with sauces for Kung Pao Tofu, and this was my best to date:
 Mix together -
1 T cornstarch
1 t vegetable broth powder
about 1 T minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T ketchup
1 t crushed red pepper
2 T sherry
1 c water

Wrap a block of tofu in 2 dish towels in the early afternoon and refrigerate.  When you're ready to bake the tofu, cube it and stir it around with 1 T soy sauce.  Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.
After getting the tofu into the oven, start the rice.

For the stir-fry -
I no longer use oil for my stir-fries, and I don't notice any difference at all.  Heat 2 T water in the wok to boiling, and add the vegetables.  I used a frozen blend of cauliflower and broccoli.  Stir around for a few minutes to begin cooking (or thawing, as the case may be), and then add the sauce and cover.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until veggies are nearly done.  Add the tofu and 1/4 c. peanuts, and mix together.  With 1 pound tofu and 1 pound vegetables, this makes about 4 servings.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's About Time!

Government's Dietary Advice: Eat Less

"As the nation’s obesity crisis continues unabated, federal regulators on Monday issued their bluntest nutrition advice to date: drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables and cut down on processed foods filled with sodium, fat or sugar."