Sunday, February 16, 2014

Uncle Gene's Mindful Advice

Gene's New Philosophical Review 368

Are you Mind-full?
When Time's Title Page reads: "THE MINDFUL REVOLUTION: The Science of Finding Focus In A Stressed-Out, Multi-Tasking Culture," you know that the need for "mindfulness" has struck home. We live in a culture where "distraction" is everywhere, where our senses and our minds are bombarded by more stimuli than we can ever hope to respond to.
   When there are more stimuli than we can process, we wind up not processing any information very well; we also wind up with a series of psychological and physiological problems comparable to someone who has been sleep-deprived for far too long.
  The article in Time offers the outline of a solution in two sentences: "If distraction is the preeminent condition of our age, then...mindfulness is the most logical response. Though meditation is considered an essential means to achieving mindfulness, the ultimate goal is simply to give your attention fully to what you're doing."
  The "prophet" of mindfulness in recent years is Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose 1990 book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness, established him as the pre-eminent figure in the mindfulness meditation revolution. Kabat-Zinn had worked in pain clinics and rehab centers, and he developed his "mindfulness" approach as a parallel therapy. What he perfected has been preached and practiced by countless thousands in the intervening years, and the judgment of time is that it really works, anyone can do it, and the practice is pretty simple.
  Here is a four step version of it: Sit comfortably where you won't be disturbed for at least ten minutes; begin by focusing on your breathing out and breathing in; let your thoughts bounce off your mind like clouds hitting a mountain top, and come back to awareness of your breathing; do this ten minutes every day for a week, and you will find that you want to make it a regular part of your daily activity.
   There are various scientific studies that document physiological benefits, including lowered blood pressure, but the real benefit is psychological: if you do this, you will cease being a member of "the harried information- overload class," you will process information more effectively, and the emotions that occasionally overwhelmed you will be more manageable. It could be the best imaginable use of ten minutes of your time each day, with benefits that go beyond all measurement....

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Vegan Black Bean Chili

You can find a lot of recipes for vegan black bean chili. This is my version. It's my "go-to" meal when I want something fast and delicious. Recently I've updated it by eliminating the use of the food processor, adding olive oil and fire roasted tomatoes. It's easier and better tasting. You can play with the heat by adding jalapeno peppers just before serving.

Black Bean Chili

4 (15.5 oz.) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 C. water
1 cube of vegan bouillon (I use the Rapunzel brand)
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (at least 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped
½ red pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz.) fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 1/2 t. cumin
1 1/2 t. chili powder
1 t. dried oregano leaves
1/2 t. sea salt

Scallions, sliced
Jalapeno pepper, sliced
Avocado, chopped

Pour olive oil into a soup pot and add the onion, celery, red pepper and garlic. Cook the vegetables over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until tender, stirring often. Add the fire roasted tomatoes with its juices, 2 cans of the rinsed and drained beans, water, bouillon cube and spices. With a potato masher, mash the beans breaking them up to help thicken the broth. Add the remaining black beans and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve garnished with scallions, peppers and avocado.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Strawberry Sorbet with Blueberry Syrup

Strawberry Sorbet

1 C simple syrup*
4 C fresh sliced strawberries (approx. 1 1/2 lbs.)
2 T vodka (optional, but vodka produces a soft less icy sorbet)
1 T reduced Fustini's Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar**

In a blender, puree the strawberries, simple syrup, vodka and Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until cool. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours. 

*To make the simple syrup, combine 1 1/2 C sugar with 1 1/2 C water. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool or refrigerate. You will use this for both the sorbet and the topping.

**To get the reduced vinegar, pour 1/2 C vinegar into a small saucepan. Simmer on low until reduced in half to 1/4 C. Set aside to cool or refrigerate. You will use the Sicilian Lemon Balsamic for both the sorbet and the topping.

Blueberry Syrup

1/2 C simple syrup (from above)
1/4 C reduced Fustini's Wild Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar
1 t reduced Sicilian Lemon Balsamic Vinegar (from above)

2 pints fresh blueberries

In a bowl thoroughly mix all the liquids together.

To Serve:
Scoop the sorbet out into serving bowls. Spoon fresh blueberries over the top. Drizzle the Blueberry Syrup over the berries and sorbet. Serve.

Here's a link to Fustini's:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tuscan Herb Focaccia

This is far and away the best focaccia I've ever tasted, and it's all about the oil! The recipe may look like a lot, but it's not difficult. The hardest part will be keeping yourself from eating the focaccia as soon as it comes out of the oven! I encourage you to wait, but don't hesitate to cut into it while it's still warm!!!

Note: You need to begin the starter (or biga) the day before. Then, begin making the dough about 4 - 5 hours before you want to bake it off.

Tuscan Herb Focaccia

1/16 t. active dry yeast (you will need one package total, so set the remaining yeast aside for use later)
1/2 C. water
1/2 C. plus 2 T. all purpose flour

In a small mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour until thoroughly combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside until the sponge becomes bubbly and thick. This will take 12 - 24 hours.

 Just after mixing

After 20 hours

Focaccia Dough
1 C. water
1/4 C. Fustini's Tuscan Herb Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 C. of the biga
The remaining yeast from the package
3 1/3 C. all purpose flour
1 T. kosher or sea salt

In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, put the water, Fustini's Tuscan Herb Olive Oil and 1/2 C. biga into the bowl of the stand mixer. Begin mixing on low. Add the yeast and mix for 2 minutes. With the mixer still running, slowly add the salt then increase the speed to medium. Mix on medium for 8 minutes.

While the dough is mixing, lightly oil a large bowl with the Tuscan Herb Olive Oil. Once the dough is mixed, turn it out into the oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm part of the kitchen until doubled, about 2 hours.

Lightly dust the counter and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. It will be rounded but pretend it has four sides. Gently stretch the left side and fold it over toward the center. Gently stretch and fold the top of the dough over onto itself and to the center. Do this same stretch and fold for the bottom and right side. Then turn the dough over and put it back into the bowl folded side down. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm part of the kitchen for 1 hour.

Toppings for Focaccia
1/2 C. Fustini's Tuscan Herb Olive Oil divided, plus more for brushing on top
30 - 40 Kalamata Olives
2 - 3 T chopped fresh rosemary
Coarse salt for sprinkling over the top

Using 2 cake pans, pour 1/4 C Fustini's Tuscan Herb Olive Oil into the bottom of each pan. Make sure the bottoms and sides are coated with oil. Lightly dust the counter and carefully turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Divide the dough in half and put it into the cake pans gently pulling the edges to make it round. It does not need to fill the pan. It's more important that you do not deflate the dough.  Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.Chop the rosemary and put into a small bowl with 2 - 4 tablespoons of oil.

Before baking, start in the center and push the olives into the dough while pushing the dough outward. As you do this with each olive, the dough will begin to fill in the cake pan. Push them deep. You will use 15 - 20 olives for each loaf. Again, the dough will most likely not fill the cake pan.

Brush the top of each loaf with the rosemary oil. Sprinkle with salt and set the loaves aside to rise one last time. They should sit for 30 minutes.

Bake the loaves in the center of the oven for 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from the pan and brush with a little more oil.


 Here's a link to Fustini's:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sourdough Bread

Well...I've been busy baking bread and I want to share a piece of it with you. A piece of my journey, that is. I was introduced and inspired to the art of baking bread by a dear friend and his wife, Kari and Roberta. Kari is an enthusiastic maker of bread and other delectable baked goods. Roberta happily praises his love for the art of bread baking, and when you taste his fare you can't help but be impressed and inspired. So it all started in their cabin up north when Kari introduced us to the art of baking bread at home.

But to say that was my only inspiration wouldn't be true. Each of my daughters have problems with wheat and as I researched this growing issue, another friend of mine pushed me in a similar yet different direction... that of sourdough. She gave me a copy of the 2012 September issue of Whole Living magazine. In it was an article written by Todd Oppenheimer titled Our Daily Bread

In the article, Oppenheimer  reports that several studies have found some people with gluten issues can tolerate fermented wheat. The studies are small and some believe the data is weak, but in one, it was found... "that when wheat bread was thoroughly fermented, it reduced gluten levels from roughly 75,000 parts per million to 12 - a level that technically qualifies as gluten-free."

The article has a lot of information about the use of ancient grains, long fermentation time and the increasing rise of Celiac Disease around the world. So I've put a link to the article here if you're interested in reading more:

I've spent more time on this one thing than I ever dreamed. I've read, experimented and shared. I've gone from using organic wheat to heirloom. I've fussed and taken notes and fussed some more... and I've loved it all. You will too. Because at the end of the road there's always a delicious loaf of bread with a very satisfying experience attached to it. I recommend it to anyone! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Basil Oil Bruschetta

I came up with this recipe two summers ago, but I've improved it with the use of a flavored olive oil. My family likes this version much better. I buy my oil and balsamic from Fustini's, a Michigan based company that has a crazy variety of fantastic tasting oils and vinegars.

(Just follow this link for a look... )

I'm sure you know that bruschetta is an antipasto from Italy. But did you know that it's origin dates to the 15th century? There are many variations on this starter, much more than we're used to seeing, including toppings of beans and cured meats. Mine is the tomato version. The flavored olive oil deepens and intensifies the flavor. It's a great recipe for entertaining when you don't have a lot of time because so much of it can be done in advance, and it tastes better if you do!

Basil Oil Bruschetta

1 baguette
10 oz. of cherry tomatoes
1/2 C. Fustini's Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 garlic cloves, finely minced (I like garlic, so I use 2 cloves)
3 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1/4 t. fresh rosemary, finely minced
1/8 t. crushed red pepper
1/2 t. sea salt

1/2 C. Fustini's 18-Year Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
extra basil leaves for garnish

The night before (or 3-4 hours before serving) mix together the Fustini's Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil, garlic, basil leaves, rosemary, crushed red pepper and sea salt in a bowl large enough to hold the oil mixture and all of the tomatoes. Slice each cherry tomato in half, then quarter and add them to the olive oil marinade. Cover and set aside until ready to serve.

Pour the Fustini's 18-Year Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in small sauce pan and heat over a low setting until reduced to a thick syrup. This can also be done in advance.

When ready to serve, slice the baguette in to thin rounds. Grill the rounds if you can. The flavor is so much better. If you can't grill, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lay the rounds out on a cookie sheet. Toast the bread in the oven checking every few minutes so it doesn't get too dark.

Lay the grilled or toasted bread out onto a serving plate. Spoon the tomatoes and some of the olive oil over the top. Drizzle the reduced balsamic over or near the bruschetta. Add the whole basil leaves. Serve!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Green Juice

I'm trying to juice more often. Specifically, with green vegetables. I have a sister that has promoted it for years, and you can't watch TV or read anything about health without realizing how popular green juices are. So I decided to read up on the benefits.

Certainly juicing any fruit or vegetable packs an array of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, but green juices have the additional benefit of not messing with your blood sugar. Green juices are very nutritious. All the sunshine that vegetables require to produce chlorophyll help provide us with more oxygen.

When juicing, it seems the most important thing is to use fresh produce. So use the best quality you can, and it's great if it's organic or sustainably grown. If that's not the case, just wash it gently or peel it. I've read that you need to be careful when combining vegetables with fruits because they require different enzymes for digestion. Still, I always include fruit when I juice greens to make it more palatable. Apples are a good choice because they are more neutral than most fruits, but I also use pears.

Green juice enables us to rid toxins and help cleanse the digestive system. And, as with all juices, it’s quickly absorbed and easily digested. Is it a fad? I don't know, but if you read about juicing greens, it's hard to discount it. So try to make it simple, easy and delicious. You should probably change up the veggies from time to time in order to provide different nutrients, but this recipe is easy for me because I can find these ingredients, all organic, at a local grocery store.

Green Juice 

2 stalks of celery
1 cucumber
1 apple
1/2 lemon, peeled
1 inch of ginger
a handful of parsley
5 kale leaves

Juice the ingredients and enjoy!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Community, by my Uncle Gene

Community is one of those words we use all the time, without thinking much about what it means. While it means "those who share common interests," it  implies that some kind of "unity" is essential if there is to be a "community." We have a common interest in the welfare of children, and so we quickly became a national community in our grieving over the mass shooting in Connecticut. We "come together" as a community when such disasters occur, and we like to think our patriotism or love of country unites us all in the community of Americans. We acknowledge that our own "families" are our most basic community, and we build our other communities to some extent on that model. Our recent national election, however, profiled what deep differences there are, when we try to think of the community of all Americans. We have personal examples of how the various communities to which we belong are sometimes torn apart by the differences of opinion held by the members. Some of the most vocal disagreements we hear about, come from members of religious communities, be they Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Hindu. To the ancient question, Why can't we all just live together in peace?, the philosophical response dates back to ancient times, and is brought up to date by lively interchanges between Harvard philosophers like Thomas Scanlon, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, and Michael Sandel.

But no philosopher has looked at the problems of community more perceptively than Alasdair MacIntyre. From his book After Virtue:  "We all approach our own circumstances as bearers of a particular social identity. I am someone's son or daughter, someone's cousin or uncle; I am a citizen of this or that city, a member of this or that guild or profession; I belong to this clan, that tribe, this nation. Hence what is good for me has to be good for one who inhabits these roles. As such, I inherit from the past of my family, my city, my tribe, my nation, a variety of debts, inheritances, rightful expectations and obligations. These constitute the given of my life, my moral starting point. This is in part what gives my own life its moral particularity." MacIntyre claims we have lost the sense of loyalty to a tradition, the sensitivity to the needs that others may have, a willingness to go the extra mile simply for the benefit of someone who stands in need, and is a member of some community of which we are a part. 

What has torn us apart in recent years is our own penchant for extreme libertarianism: I am free to choose whatever I want to be or to do, quite apart from the needs of my community or my communities. "From the standpoint of individualism I am what I choose to be." While finding our own identities is no doubt important, we do owe something to each community to which we have belonged, beginning with our own family, but also to virtually every community that has had a hand in making us who we are. (Personal confession: I was a student in Canada for nine years, and I know I owe something to that community, something that can never be repaid, so it remains one of my many outstanding debts…) As MacIntyre comments: "For the story of my life is always embedded in the story of those communities from which I derive my identity. I am born with a past; and to try to cut myself off from that past…is to deform my present relationships." 

In a word, we owe something to the communities of which we are members. We owe something on a personal level, not just through the taxes we pay, but through some obligation of community building, of doing something to make every community of which we are a part, better for our having been there. Evolutionary biologists study the phenomenon of "altruism," the capacity to do something strictly for the benefit of someone else, and note that human beings are capable of remarkable acts of altruism, even to the point of sacrificing one's own life. While we may not be called to do that on an everyday basis, certainly there are daily examples when we can ride to the rescue of someone who needs our attention...

Just as we are born into the family that nourished us, and have built families where we may be the primary nurturers, so we are all members of larger communities, and we owe something to those with whom we share common interests, common boundaries, common visions of the future. In pursuing our own private interests, it is all too easy to overlook the obligations we have as community members, to do some good for others. It is the interests we have in common with all those with whom we associate, that truly make us who we are. While we may take pride in our individual achievements, we could not achieve anything apart from the communities that have nourished us. We have obligations of solidarity and loyalty that go far beyond whatever differences that may divide us. We only become truly human by participating in the communities that nourish and sustain us...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Take Time for Meditation, by my Uncle Gene

People often talk about how "stress-full" the holidays are. How can that be? Holidays are days off from the serious business of making a living and getting things done, supposedly giving us time to think about the things that really matter. We are all caught in the grind of trying to get more and more done in less and less time, and there are never enough days in any week to get done all the things on your "To Do" list for that week. 

The best time management technique I know is also the best stress buster. Set aside ten minutes every day where you will not be disturbed or easily distracted. Find a quiet place, and sit and meditate. Think first about your breathing: breathe deeply, and for a few minutes, count your breaths. You may want to spend a few minutes deliberately relaxing each part of your body, beginning with your toes, and progressing to the top of your head. You may want to focus on a plant that you can see, or a blank wall. You may find a mantra helpful, something as simple as: "There is nothing I have to do right now, there is no place I have to be right now." Whatever trials and tribulations your life has brought you, right now is a moment of tranquillity, when you are neither concerned about the past or the future. Devote ten minutes a day for a week to this simple practice, and you may find you want to make it a permanent part of your day, and you may find you want another ten minutes in the evening, or some other time when you can get away from it all, and focus simply on the joy of being alive.

As Gail Sheehy wrote many years ago, "there are predictable crises in adult life." There are also unpredictable crises, and concerns that may become more serious as you age. Every time you have a doctor's appointment, you may hear something you would prefer not to hear, maybe something you thought only happened to other people. We have our lives parceled out to us one day at a time, and each day is something of a little life, an entity complete to itself. It may be helpful to reflect that as long as we exist we are in motion towards something, but that we should also "delight" in what we have, what we have accomplished, and what we hope to do.

One of my meditating friends of fifty years passed away last week. His dying words were: "I am ready to go, but I am not eager to go." There have been giants of the spiritual life who have looked upon life and death with equanimity, and written words like these: "Let nothing disturb thee, nothing terrify thee: all things are passing, God never changes." While atheists might ask what God has to do with it, and theologians might debate the unchangingness of God, there is a point to having an anchor somewhere where nothing will disorient or overcome you, and the daily practice of meditation may help you reach that point. 

Even in these busy weeks, set aside ten minutes where you will not be disturbed. Take stock of your life: do you do some things that aren't really necessary? Are there things you know you should do that you have not taken time for? Do you set aside some time each day for yourself, for your own mental and emotional health? Meditation may do more than any other practice to put you on the path to taking control of your time and your life. Don't wait. Your life, and the meaningfulness of your life,  depends on it...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eat Your Greens!

This is a wonderful combination of greens, beans and rice, and there are a couple of ingredients that you can easily sub out for others if needed. The most unusual ingredient in this recipe is black garlic. I found it at Whole Foods. Before cooking, I researched and learned that it is fermented garlic. It's often found in Asian cuisine and it's rich in antioxidants! It's made by fermenting whole bulbs of garlic at high temperatures resulting in a deep black color with a slightly sweet taste similar to that of balsamic vinegar. If you already have this tasty garlic in your house, lucky you! If not, it won't be hard to find. There are on-line sources if it's not in your nearby health food store.

Eat Your Greens
Serves 4 as a Side Dish

1 C cooked rice
1 - 2 T Fustini's Extra Virgin Garlic Olive Oil
1 leek, white part only, diced
1 large leaf of red chard, vein removed and chopped
1 clove of black garlic
10 leaves of dandelion, chopped
1 C spinach
1/2 C maitake mushrooms, chopped
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
1/2 C cannellini beans
1/4 C kalamata olives
sliced almonds, toasted in a skillet over med. heat for 7 - 10 minutes
fresh lemon juice

Cook the rice according to the package directions so you end up with about one cup. Toast the sliced almonds. Once that's done, warm the olive oil in a saute pan. Saute the leek over medium low heat until it becomes translucent. Add the chopped chard and saute for 5 - 8 minutes. Add the black garlic and mash it as you stir it in. Add the dandelion, spinach, maitake mushrooms, thyme and continue to cook over low heat until the greens have wilted and the mushrooms have cooked down. Add the rice, beans and olives to the mixture and continue to cook until heated. Mix in the almonds and squeeze with a little fresh lemon juice.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Meditation and Morals.... by my Uncle Gene

It dawned on me that in whatever city I have practiced Sitting Meditation with a group, I could have left my wallet and my car keys anywhere on the floor, and they would have been there when the session ended. Granted that those who practice  Meditation are a special subsection of the general population, there is something about all practitioners of "mindfulness" that sets them apart, and not just the capacity of some of them to sit in an unusual cross-legged position (a capacity I do not happen to share). Is there something about practicing mind-full-ness that disposes one to be more fully aware of how one should behave, including a heightened sense of compassion? Are meditators more moral than the rest of the population? 

I am reminded of what I heard from a Catholic priest, before the dawn of the ecumenical era. He said: "Better to forget your umbrella in a Protestant Church on a rainy Sunday, because Catholics are obligated to go to Mass, so the moral people as well as the thieves are there, but only the moral Protestants go to Church on rainy Sundays." Whether you go to Church, Synagogue, or Mosque, the preaching inevitably will relate to what you should do, and how you should live your life. And certainly the quiet times, the interludes when nothing appears to be happening, might be the times of quiet meditation, times for reflection, times for thinking about how your life should be lived, and perhaps what your obligations to others might entail...

How much more "moral" our culture might be, if some form of Mindful Meditation were taught in our schools! While some might fear an intrusion of something that appears to have a Buddhist heritage, Mindfulness Meditation has become a distinct practice that can be applied in many ways. Jon Kabat-Zinn's new book, Mindfulness for Beginners, could create something of a moral revolution, if what he teaches in the book were ever widely practiced. "The real that the practice itself gives us instant access to other dimensions of our life that have been here all along, but with which we have been seriously out of touch." I wonder how many of those dimensions relate to how we might become better at the art of being fully human...

There is a collection of stories within the Sufi Tradition called "The Nasrudin Tales." Here is a good example: "Nasrudin, is your religion orthodox?" "It all depends," said Nasrudin, "on which bunch of heretics is in power."

And there is a story circulating in Meditation circles about a renowned Rabbi from Byelorussia. An American traveler stopped to visit him, and was surprised that the Rabbi lived in a one room apartment, with a table, two chairs, and a small desk. The traveler said: "But where is your furniture?" The Rabbi replied: "Where is your furniture?" The traveler said: "I have no furniture, I am just passing through," to which the Rabbi replied, "I am just passing through too...."

There is much to meditate about, in those tales...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Blueberry Cherry Cobbler

I don't make desserts often because I rarely crave something sweet. Also, I don't think the habit of a nightly dessert is a healthy practice. But every now and then I do like to bake. So, when I was at the farmers market and saw an abundance of blueberries and cherries, I took it as a hint and decided to make a cobbler. I have an old recipe that I veganized and this combination of fruit turned out to be delicious! It was a bit of a surprise to me, but I really enjoyed the pairing and I hope you do too!

Hot out of the oven!
My husband had his with vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Cherry Cobbler
Serves 6

4 C blueberries
1/2 - 1 C sweet cherries, pitted (this takes a little time, but well worth it)
1 T flour
1 T sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

1/2 C Earth Balance, melted
1 1/4 C flour
 1 C sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C toasted walnuts
1 t cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the walnuts by placing them onto a sheet pan in a single layer. Put the pan into the oven and remove after 8 - 10 minutes. Set the walnuts aside to cool. Once cool, chop into smaller pieces.

Lower the temperature of the oven to 300 degrees. Combine the ingredients for the filling stirring to mix well. Put the fruit mixture into an 8 X 8 baking dish and set aside. Combine the melted Earth Balance with the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Top the fruit filling evenly with the topping and bake for one hour. The topping should be brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and cool.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Food Pyramid for Vegetarians & Vegans

My Uncle Gene, who is a vegan, sent this to me. I always find his advice helpful and this is another example. Not only does this pyramid make sense, it's easy to remember.

Thank you Uncle Gene!
Web MD and the Mayo Clinic Health letter have both been talking about the challenges of a Vegetarian, or Vegan diet, and I found this chart helpful:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Well... how can I post a salsa recipe without guacamole! Silly girl... So I went back to one of my first blog posts and dug it up. Of course, there's a story...

My sister, who lives in Arizona, makes the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted. I've been eating it for years. All this time I thought she used sour cream and Mexican cheese, but during my last visit to Arizona she made it. To my surprise, she doesn't use either one of those ingredients! It's still the best ever, and it's just one of those things... the girl has it down!

Now, I hope this doesn't disappoint you, but what follows isn't her recipe. She really doesn't have one. Figures. So this is mine. It's very good, really! 


3 avocados
1T. lime juice or more to taste
½ C. red onion, diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 minced garlic clove
2T. cilantro, chopped
½ t. cumin
½ t. salt
Pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together and serve. I keep it fresh by placing plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole, pushing down so it's air tight, and placing it the in refrigerator.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tomato Salsa

We went to my favorite Mexican restaurant last night. I just can't get enough of that cuisine. The beans and rice, the corn tortillas, the sauces and salsa. Ahh yes... the salsa. I could eat salsa everyday. It has an addictive quality. I like making it too!

I've posted this recipe before and I decided to post it again, not just because I love it, but because my daughter was looking for a "favorite recipe" to give to a friend at a wedding shower. Cute idea, right? Everyone brings their favorite recipe to go into a cookbook for the bride. As my daughter brought the recipe card in to the kitchen she went right to my salsa recipe. I love that girl.

The truth is everyone LOVES this recipe. Whenever I make it, it's gone fast! It's an adaptation on a recipe given to me by my sister-in-law. I tweaked it to suit our tastes and I hope it suits yours. Enjoy this easy and delicious salsa!

Tomato Salsa

15 minutes

1 - 28oz. can Dei Fratelli Seasoned Diced Tomatoes
1 T. cilantro, chopped finely
½ small red onion, chopped finely (approximately ¾ C.)
½ - 1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and chopped finely
1 t. of fresh lime juice
¼ - ½ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Drain the can of diced tomatoes. Add all of the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for at least ½ hour. Serve with chips.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Easy Schmeezy White Bean Salad

Looking for a simple, quick, delicious salad? Then try this. It's a light, healthy side dish.

 Easy Schmeezy White Bean Salad

2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 C red onion, chopped
1/3 C celery, chopped
1/4 C chopped parsley

1/8 C + 1 T white wine vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1/2 t. sea salt
1/8 t. black pepper

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together in a medium to large bowl. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Collard Greens with Beans and Rice

This is another dish inspired by the local farmers market. It's a complete protein meal that's easy to put together. Everyone in my family liked this one!!

Collard Greens with Beans and Rice
Serves 4

2 T olive oil
2 T Earth Balance
2 small sweet Spanish onions, thinnly sliced (or shallots)
4 garlic cloves, sliced
 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1 inch wide pieces
1 C. water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans
1 C brown rice, cooked according to package instructions
fresh lemon juice

Begin by cooking the rice according to package directions. In a large saute pan, saute the onion in the oil and Earth Balance on a low heat until lightly browned or caramelized, 5 - 10 minutes. Add the sliced garlic cloves and crushed red pepper. Continue to saute another 4 - 5 minutes. Add the collard greens and stir to coat with the oil mixture. Once slightly wilted, add the water and bouillon cube. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, uncover and add the cannellini beans. Continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated (5 - 10 minutes). Add the rice to the mixture stirring to combine. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the mixture, stir and serve.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fresh Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries in Orange Liqueur

I was at the Royal Oak Farmers Market recently. It's an excellent market with lots to look at, think about, sample and buy. I bought some veggies, fruit, wild Alaskan salmon (for my husband) and a beautiful succulent plant arrangement for my kitchen. It's a fun way to spend a morning.

When I got home, I put the fruit together with some sugar and orange liqueur. It made a really quick, fresh dessert that we all enjoyed. In fact, I've made twice since. We tried the fruit compote with three different sorbets and thought mango was the perfect compliment. Enjoy!

Fresh Strawberries, Raspberries and Blueberries in Orange Liqueur with Sorbet
Serves 4

1 half pint raspberries
1 C strawberries
1 C blueberries
3 T sugar
2 T orange liqueur
zest of 1/2 lemon

With the back of a fork, lightly mash half of the raspberries and strawberries to get the juices flowing. Add the blueberries and mix together. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, liqueur and zest of the lemon. Pour the mixture over the berries and gently stir to combine. Cover and let sit until ready to serve.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Raw Food at Oryana

My sister is working at Oryana in Traverse City. She has long been interested in the relationship between food and health, so working at Oryana is a great fit. Oryana is a food co-op that consistently provides quality food to the community. It's an amazing store that reminds me of a smaller, better version of Whole Foods.

There's a lot going on in this store and all of it is good. They pride themselves on featuring local products some of which include produce, chocolate, wine, and bread.  There's a restaurant that serves up anything from smoothies to sandwiches and when you visit you may find yourself happily listening to live music as you sip your chai.

But back to my sister. She loves her job and its easy to see why. She demonstrates healthy, delicious meals featuring seasonal food while focusing on dishes that are easy to prepare. I visited recently with our mother and she was serving up a raw dish that could be made for lunch or dinner. It's a twist on pasta. You simply sub out the pasta for zucchini and end up with a raw, fresh, healthy, fun, good for you meal (her words). She found the recipe in the magazine,  "Whole Living,"  and it is so delicious I had to share.

Zucchini "Pasta"
Serves 2

8 ounces cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts
2 T torn fresh basil, plus leaves to garnish
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
sea salt
1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise, slices cut into 1/4 inch long strips

In a bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, walnuts, basil and oil. Season with salt. Let stand 20 minutes. Toss with zucchini, garnish with basil and an extra drizzle of olive oil if desired.

This photo is from the Whole Living website.

Oryana - Natural Foods Market

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why not meat?

We come to this way of eating for different reasons, in different ways and with different levels of commitment. My Uncle Gene emailed the following excerpt to me and I thought I would share.

I met Christof Koch at the Consciousness Conference 4 years ago. He has this remarkable new book out entitled "Consciousness," in which he not only pulls together the research on consciousness, he says a great deal about himself, and about how his research has changed his life. 

"When my beloved dog Nosy died, I was moved to act... when she passed away, I was distraught; I still dream about her today. I asked myself that night, as she lay dying in my arms, how could I cry over her but happily eat the flesh of lambs and pigs? Their intelligence and brains are not that different from those of dogs. From that night on I stopped eating mammals and birds, though somewhat inconsistently, I still consume fish." (p. 160)

--of all the Consciousness researchers I have met, he was by far the most personable. I can't help but thinking he might also be the smartest.....which is no small compliment....

Monday, June 18, 2012

Easy Vegan Baked Beans

I made this dish for Fathers Day and everyone liked it. I have to say it was very simple.  

Easy Vegan Baked Beans
Serves 4 - 6

1 28 oz. can vegetarian baked beans
1/2 C onion
1/2 C celery
1/4 C catsup
2 T brown sugar
1 T canola oil
1 t. molasses
1 t. prepared mustard
1/2 t. apple cider vinegar
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
fried onion rings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl add all of the ingredients. Place the beans in a shallow ovenproof dish. Bake covered about 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle some fried onion rings on top and bake 30 minutes more.

Note: The pic is not mine.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pico de Gallo

I know I haven't been blogging, but there's a reason. One you can all relate to... stress!

Work had been crazy and I felt like I wasn't doing anything well. I had been in the middle of reading a book (for about a month), my house was screaming "CLEAN ME" as I walked through every room, the weeds wouldn't stop growing (no matter how I looked at them) and I wasn't cooking. I was a mess.

Still, there are those beautiful moments that happen in the middle of all the chaos, and you just can't ignore them. In this case, it was on Mother's Day. Everyone (including the dog) let me sleep late. I laid in bed and read all morning. My girls came home. They cleaned the house, shopped and cooked dinner. What a gift. They probably won't understand what that meant to me until they're a little older, but I know the gift will be returned to them one day.

So, when I saw what they were making for dinner I decided to help out, just a little. I had the ingredients to make a pico de gallo that would fit in nicely with the dinner the girls had planned. So I made it.

I really love adding pico de gallo to a Mexican menu. In fact, I think it's a great condiment most any time. It's also called salsa fresca. It's a fresh, uncooked condiment made from chopped tomato, onion and chilis.  Other ingredients are often added, such as lime juice and fresh cilantro. My recipe is well liked and very versatile. You can easily build onto it and I hope you do.

Also, I know it's seriously late in the year, but Happy Mother's Day ladies!

Pico de Gallo

3 plum tomatoes, about 1 3/4 - 2  cups
3/4 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon diced jalapenos, seeded and de-veined
1/2 cup cilantro
Salt and pepper


In a bowl combine all ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to almost ready to serve. Let it sit out for about 30 minutes if you can. Serve.

Note: The pic is not mine.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Cashew Bars

This recipe came to me by way of my dear friend, Mary Ann. She enjoys cooking and reading blogs, and she always sends me her best finds. This one is from the blog "Peas and Thank You" and it hit a home run in my house. It's a sweet and salty, fruity and chocolaty, crunchy and chewy taste treat.

What more could you want?

Chocolate Cherry Cashew Bars

Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook Time: 30 mins | Difficulty: Easy


  • Ingredients (12 bars)
  • 2 T. flax seeds (or approximately 3 T. ground)
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup, agave or honey (or mixture of any of the three)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 c. whole almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. cashew pieces
  • 1/2 c. dried cherries
  • 1/2 c. quality chocolate chips


Prep Time: 5 min.
Cook Time: 30 min.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To the ground flax, add the syrupy sweetener of your choice. Mix well and set aside. In a large bowl, combine salt, almonds, peanuts, cashews and cherries. Pour flax syrup mixture over nuts and cherries and stir until evenly coated. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Spread the nut mixture in the baking pan evenly, from corner to corner. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until bars are slightly browned and edges are crisp. They will be soft, but will harden upon cooling.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave or over a double-boiler. Drizzle chocolate over almost cooled bars. Chocolate will be wet, but will set upon cooling.

When bars and chocolate have set, pull parchment out of pan and set bars on a flat cutting surface.
Cut bars into squares, and store in an airtight container. They stay especially crunchy if you refrigerate them.

Nutritional Info:

3.62 = weight watcher points 1/3 cups = cherries

Note: The pic is not mine.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"MEDITATION" by my Uncle Gene

There were more Asians at the Tucson Consciousness Conference this year than ever before. The presence of Deepak Chopra, the special section on "Eastern Philosophy and Consciousness," and the increased interest in the West about the practice of Meditation probably all contributed. Dr. Herbert Benson's book thirty years ago, The Relaxation Response, fostered medical interest in the benefits of the practice of meditation. Jon Kabat-Zinn has gone around the country for many years offering stress reduction programs at Hospitals and Universities; he has a new book, Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the present moment and your life. It is an all out, no holds barred exhortation to practice daily meditation. "In many Asian languages, the word for 'mind' and the word for 'heart' is the same word. So when you hear the word 'mindfulness,' you have to hear the word 'heartfulness' simultaneously to understand or feel what mindfulness really is." 

There are many thumbnail sketches of how to practice meditation; the following is slightly modified from a recent posting on the RealAge website:
--Find a quiet place to sit, where no one will interrupt you. Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Breathe.
--Unwind: tense and relax each body part, to bring your whole body to stillness.
--Go blank. When thoughts come to your mind, repeat a mantra like "peace," or "om," or "Cloud Nine." 
--Don't move for 5 minutes. Go for 10 or 20 minutes when you can.
--Get up slowly, and keep the sense of peacefulness and calm with you as you go back to your daily tasks.

What do the presenters at the Consciousness Conference have to say about this? There are now (f)MRIs available to monitor what is actually going on in the brains of both novice meditators and long-term practitioners. The bottom line? "Long-term meditators, those who have been practicing for many years, or even decades, do enter states of very deep relaxation. Breathing rates can drop to 3 or 4 breaths a minute, and brain waves slow down from the usual beta (seen in waking activity) or alpha (seen in normal relaxation), to the much slower delta or theta waves." The oddity here is that most of these meditators are not doing it to seek relaxation, but something quite different: they meditate to seek salvation, to help others, to gain insight, or because it is the portal to ASCs, "altered states of consciousness," and they simply have become habituated to this unusual experience. For such experts, the goal is the original meaning of the word "meta-physical," they are doing something beyond the physical. 

To the person who sets aside five minutes a day and uses meditation as a mode of relaxation, the experts would probably say, better spend that time going for a walk, or engaging in vigorous exercise. What do I think of all this?  I believe that even a few minutes a day dedicated to Meditation can help you cope with the stresses of daily life. I suspect that the experts in Meditation, who practice for an hour or more a day, really do experience something denied to the rest of us, something we might perceive in that occasional "Aha!" experience, something that, however infrequent, cleanses the doors of perception, and enables us to see more deeply into what our life means. Even a little bit of Meditation is better than none; even a few moments of reflecting on the mystery of Consciousness, the mystery of what it means to be a self, is better than going through life only half awake.....

Monday, April 30, 2012