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Friday, December 30, 2011

Meal Plan

      I've been doing meal plans almost every week (though sometimes only roughly) since I posted the first one a few months ago.  Today, I'm finally getting around to posting another.  I still don't assign the meals I pick for the week specific days.  What I make any given night will depend on the family's mood and what I feel like prepping, in addition to all the other factors that play into any given night.

      This week, we will be having:

      Taco Salad
      Hot and Sour Vegetables
      Cabbage Rolls with Black-Eyed Peas inside (this will be the New Year's meal)
      Lentil Vegetable Stew
      And a special surprise for MacGyver: Corned Beef!  The (local, organic, humane) ham I made for Christmas turned out so amazingly well that I decided to try my hand at curing my own corned beef using a brisket from local humane farmer we get beef from.

      I'll try to post the recipes, but I've been pretty bad about that lately.  We'll see...

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Sausage" Casserole

      This started out as just a fridge clean-out meal and may become a comfort food favorite.

I used: 
1 med onion 
About 10 large shitake mushrooms, diced 
1 lb Gimme Lean "Sausage" 
1 cup steamed chopped kale or other dark leafy green 
1/2 lb steamed brussels sprouts 
3 med red potatoes, microwaved for 2 min then sliced (don't burn your fingers!) 
1/4 - 1/3 cup organic low sodium veggie broth 
Sprinkling of pepper, oregano, paprika, and chili power or BAM (by Emeril Legasse)

      First, I chopped the onions and let them sit for at least 5 minutes.  In the meantime, I diced up the shitakes (I found some at the farmer's market, bonus!), and started to fry up the sausage in a tbls or so of grapeseed oil.  Then I threw in about 3/4 of the chopped onion and all the diced shitake.
      While that sauteed, I put a layer of the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the casserole dish.  Once the "sausage" was heated through and the onions started to get transparent, I added the mixture on top of the potatoes. On top of that, I layered the last of the onion, the chopped kale (leftover from an earlier meal - any dark leafy green will work), and the brussels sprouts (which I cut in half).

      I then sprinkled the dish with the veggie broth and topped with another layer of potatoes.  Sprinkle on the seasonings, and bake uncovered at 375 until the potatoes start to crisp.  Makes an amazing comfort food  

      A note about "fake meats:"

      I have mentioned before that I am not a fan of “fake meat,” as you buy it from the grocery store.  To be sure, it is MUCH better than the inhumane, processed, chemical filled meat products from factory farms you find in the grocery store, but “fake meat” is still a processed food.

       But for all my ruminating and pronouncing on health and ethical eating, we still have our vices, and fake meat is one we’re not giving up just yet.  We eat some fake meat product probably once a week.  Most often, it’s “fake” breakfast “sausage,” like the Gimme Lean used in this recipe.

      I neither endorse nor indict fake meat products.  I use them, but I use them sparingly as they are a processed food.  Most of the time, if I need a “meat substitute,” or something to fill a meat-like role in a recipe, I try to do that with more whole foods like Tempah.  For a couple excellent uses of Tempah, please check out Sloppy Joes and Mexican Lasagna. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Green Eggs and "Ham"

      This quick and easy breakfast is one of Punky's favorites, and it's a nutritional powerhouse.

       All it is is HUMANE eggs mixed up with puréed spinach.  Please, please, if you make any of my recipes, use humane eggs from a local farm.  The sickening conditions and incomprehensible cruelty that takes place in the factory farms that supply the grocery stores - EVEN for "free range" or "cage free" eggs, is intolerable. I would refrain from eating eggs before I would eat those.  They throw millions of baby chicks into grinders alive!!  In most places, it is a lot easier to find local, humane eggs than you'd think.  Or you can get your own backyard chickens! We love ours!

      To make green eggs, I just throw frozen spinach (preferably organic); thawed but not hot, into the Ninja/blender/food processor with a few eggs in about equal amounts.  You want just a bit more egg than spinach.  Then I blend it up until smooth and uniform.

       If your family is particularly picky, if you're not planning on telling then what makes the eggs green, or just for maximized looks, purée the spinach first until it is completely smooth, or use organic puréed spinach baby food (I liked Earth's Best and Sprout when I didn't have time to make my own).  This will cause the spinach to blend completely with the egg.

      Once the spinach and egg are combined, you throw them and a pan and make scrambled eggs. Be sure to stir them continually or they'll get a little brown, which ruins the fun of green eggs!

      Obviously, we don't eat store bought ham. Aside from being inhumane, it is extremely processed and full of chemicals known to increase rates of cancer, particularly brain cancer, in children (the study was actually done on hot dogs, but store ham contains the same chemicals - nitrates and nitrites).  We use vegetarian meats, and even my skeptical family loves them. The meal above is pictured with MorningStar Farms Sausage.

      One caveat about fake "meats:"  While I feel that most fake meats are a better choice than grocery store meats, they are still very processed. I don't recommend eating them on a daily basis.  We usually only eat it on weekends. 

       Plate up your green eggs and "ham," and enjoy some Dr. Seuss over breakfast!

       Let me know if you give this one a try!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Magical Allergy Tea

      For as long as I've known him - actually, since his childhood - MacGyver has suffered from allergies.  Dust mites are his largest irritant, but many allergens get to him.  He has tried all manner of treatments and medications from allergy shots and perscription meds to over the counter meds and Neti Pots.  Nothing has ever been that effective.  Diphenhydramine provides relief for his symptoms but it also knocks him out.  For a daytime remedy, nothing has worked.

      Enter:  Magical Mama with the Earth-centered know how and the herbal hookup, also known as the best wife ever!  In case I'm not being clear, that's me!

      A few weeks ago, MacGvyer's allergies suddenly and mysteriously spiked again.  Poor guy was really suffering.  I decided that since my Cold Remedy Soup was such a big hit, and because I've been very, very into herb gardening lately, that I would try my hand at making something to sooth MacGyver's allergies, specifically, a tea.

      So I dug into my books and perused a few websites, compiled a list of ingredients, compared them, cross referenced the active compounds in each of them, gave a little consideration to taste, and developped what MacGvyer has since dubbed my Magical Allergy Tea.

      Before I proceed to the tea recipe, a couple caveats:  I have ZERO medical training.  I have ZERO herbal training.  This is a recipe I came up with myself based on my own research and knowledge of herbs.  For MacGvyer, it works wonders.  I don't claim that it will do the same for anyone else.  All the ingredients in it are common herbs that are considered safe to cook with.  That said, if you've never tried any of them, you should consult your doctor before trying them.  This is particularly true if you have ANY medical conditions, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding*.

      Mama's Magical Allergy Tea
For one roughly 8oz cup of tea:
-  7 leaves of fresh lemon balm (vaious sizes)
-  1 tsp dried nettles/stinging nettles (they are the same thing)
-  1/2 tsp dried peppermint (the HERB, not the candy)
-  1/2 tsp dried spearmint (again HERB, not candy)
-  Pinch dried red pepper flakes

      Finely dice the lemon balm, combine all ingredients in your perferred brewing vessel or infuser.  Boil water, remove from heat.  Steep for 5 minutes.  If desired, add some LOCAL honey (local honey is exponentially more effective for allergies and better for the environment than the store bought crud.  If you can't get local honey, I recommend a little pure maple syrup or agave nectar).  Enjoy!  Feel the relief.

      Some notes:  The only reason I used fresh lemon balm and the rest of the ingredients dried is because that's what I had on hand.  Next year, I will be growing all these ingredients and will adjust my recipe accordingly.  If you use dried lemon balm, use a heaping 1/2 tsp.  Also, you don't have to use both peppermint and spearmint, you can use 1 tsp of one or the other if you perfer, but I had both so I figured the flavor and the effectiveness would benefit from using both.

      The first day MacGyver tried this tea, he was a little skeptical.  The second day, he was downright excited to drink it.  By the third day, he proclaimed that he felt instant relief after just the first sip and dubbed it my "Magical Tea."  I make no such claims, but I am sooo happy that it has made him feel better.  I'm thinking I'm going to go ahead and premake a whole bunch of this mix so I don't have to set it out for him every morning (like I have been for the last couple weeks).

      If you try this tea, let me know!  I'd love to know if it brings you relief.  There have been many studies showing that the ingredients in the tea help with alleries, particularly the nettles.

      I have since developped a few more home remedy teas - Menstrual relief, Stress relief, Anxiety relief, and Motion Sickness relief.  Let me know if you'd like to try one!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

      Another excellent Tempah recipe.  If you don't tell 'em it's not meat, they may not even know!  Start with a green pepper and a red pepper (which our garden is STILL producing!).  Dice them up and throw them in a pan with a diced onion (let 5he onion sit for 5 minutes after chopping for max nutrition).   Get the veggies sauteeing then use a cheese grater to grate up a brick of tempah (which you should be able to find in any grocery store).  Toss that in with the peppers and onions (I just grated it right into the pan), and sautee all that together with a lot of garlic and cumin as well as some paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and a touch of tumeric.  You could also use your favorite taco seasoning mix.  Add water as needed to keep the seasonings wet and reach the desired consistency.

      While that cooks, mix a good (preferably organic) salsa with a can of (preferably organic) diced tomatoes in a bowl. Stir in a can of dark kidney or black beans and a small bag of (preferably organic) frozen corn (thawed).

      Once the tempah tastes like taco meat, spray a deep pie dish with cooking spray and lay a whole wheat tortilla at the bottom.  Add a layer of the tempah mixture then a layer of the tomato mixture. Next is a layer of (HUMANE!!!) Cheese (Organic Valley is a great Humane brand) or cheese substitute.  Lay another tortilla over it and repeat until you reach the top of the dish.  Top with one final tortilla and more cheese.  Bake at 375 until cheese is bubbly and starting to crisp at the edges.

      Enjoy!  And please let me know if you try it!

Flintstone loved it!

Though he wasn't SO into the corn . . .

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Savory Squash Soup

    I love Fall and I love cooking seasonally.   I've already talked about pumpkin in a couple of posts, but squash is another wonderfully versatile Fall staple.  Plus, since it keeps for so long, it's easy to keep on hand. And this recipe turned out amazing. Seriously, I can't exaggerate it. This is a must try!

      A couple weeks ago, one of our favorite farms at the Farmer's Market had a beautiful selection of squashes, and we had to grab a few.  Since then, they've been making such a beautiful centerpiece all arranged in a great big bowl with some onions and sweet potatoes, I was almost hesitant to use them!  But I'm sure glad I did!  This soup is unbelievable.
      MacGyver has always been a big fan of squash soup.  Actually, MacGyver is really a big fan of soup in general.  I like to try to do a lot of different things with squash, but soup remains the standby.  We typically do two different squash soups: one savory one, which I'll detail here, and one sweet one that also has apples in it.  Both are delicious.
      Tonight, I used one butternut and one acorn squash, but you could use two of the same or incorporate any number of other fall squashes, though I recommend against using spaghetti squash. I cut the squashes in half and steamed them for 10-15 minutes to soften them up. In the meantime, I chopped up an onion and a large leftover sweet potato we got from the same Farmer's Market.  I went out and picked some rosemary and oregano from the garden.  I can't express how much I love garden fresh herbs and how happy it makes me to hop outside while I'm cooking and grab ingredients.

      I tossed the diced sweet potato, onion, rosemary, and oregano in a small amount of olive oil, spread them in a pan, and broiled them until the potatoes had softened and were just starting to brown.

      Once the sweet potatoes were starting to soften, I added the squashes to the pan and stuck it back in to bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or so.

      Once I felt that everything was nicely roasted and the squashes were cooked through, I transferred everything into the food processor (scooping the squashes out of their skins).
      I blended everything up, adding low sodium organic veggie broth until it reached the desired consistancy (I'd estimate about 3 cups of broth).

      At this point, you could serve straight from the blender/food processor since everything's still hot from broiling, but I moved it all into a pot to keep hot since it wasn't quite dinner time yet.
      This soup was a smash hit. I highly recommend it (as do MacGyver, Punky, and Flintstone). Steaming the squash at the beginning is not a necessary step, but I find it easier to scoop out the squashes that way. You could also cube the squashes raw in the beginning.

      You should totally try this hearty, healthy, delicious winter soup! And let me know if you do!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


       Spaghetti is a great go-to quick and easy dinner.  We pretty much always have whole wheat noodles and a couple jars of organic spaghetti sauce in the cupboard.  And if we really are dealt just a SUPER busy night with nothing prepped ahead of time, there's no harm in just throwing the two together and calling it good. But I'm pretty sure we all know that's not really my style.

       I honestly don't think we've had spaghetti that was just noodles and sauce in years.  It can still be quick and easy: If I'm pressed for time, I'll just throw in a can of beans and a bag of frozen spinach or other frozen veggies.  Boom, that's it. Still quick and easy, but definitely a more nutritious, satisfying, and rounded out meal.

      And if I have a few minutes, I like to dice up an onion and a couple peppers and some basil from the garden and sauteé them for a few minutes before adding the sauce.  And I always like to throw in some leafy greens. The nutritional benefits of leafy greens (kale, spinach, collards, mustard or turnip greens, chard, . . .), are so amazing that I see no reason not to slip them in at every possible point.  Note: like onions and garlic, kale benefits from being allowed to sit for a few minutes after being chopped and before being heated.

      Just ten minutes of chopping for a drastic improvement in flavor, nutrition, and texture.  And if your kids don't like chunky veggies in the sauce or bulk at the idea of greens in spaghetti, throw the veggies in the blender or ninja for a few seconds before stirring into the sauce. It really is just that easy.

      Last night we had spaghetti, not because we were particularly rushed, but because I was too lazy to invent something else (it's rare, but it happens).  I added an onion and, from the garden, a red pepper, a green pepper, and some fresh basil. I also threw in a good about three cups of chopped Farmer's Market kale.

       Lastly, I added some Boca fake meat crumbles. I don't like cooking with fake meat, because it's processed and sometimes has artificial colors, but MacGyver loves it once in a while and we happened to have some in the freezer. I'm also a big fan of Veggie Patch brand meatless balls (ok, they're called meatless meatballs, but I call them meatless balls in hommage to La Vie Boheme from Rent).

       What is your favorite quick and easy dinner?
       Do you doctor your spaghetti?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Latte

      We've already thoroughly discussed the fact that I am completely in love with Fall. One of my favorite parts of Fall is Fall flavored things - like the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks!

       Now, I have a deep love for Starbucks. Their coffee is all Fair Trade/Equal Exchange and they treat their employees very well. But I do have a problem with the amount of sugar (and lack of pumpkin!) In Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte.

       So I set out to make it for myself. I found one recipe online, but it was a bit complicated and I didn't really like it.  What I came up with is much simpler:

1 Can Pumpkin (I used Farmer's Market brand Organic)
2 cups fair trade/equal exchange coffee (I used Full Circle Ecothentic Blend)
1 cup Almond Milk (if you use regular milk, please use Organic Valley, but Almond milk has a better texture and flavor for this recipe)
Cinnamon, Allspice,  and Ginger (or whatever your preferred pumpkin spice recipe is)
Agave nectar (you can also use brown sugar or another sweetener, but agave nectar works perfectly for this and is lower glycemic index than sugar)

      Combine all the ingredients in a blender (adjusting the spices and agave nectar to taste), blend and enjoy!  Pour into a pot and simmer gently until you reach the desired texture.  Added bonus: all the pumpkin nutritional goodness!

      If you try this recipe out, feel free to send me the $4.95 you saved by not going to Starbucks ;-)

Sloppy Joes

      Years ago, when I was just starting out in the Mom Cooking world, I was always on the lookout for ways to sneak more veggies into Punky's diet.  Bell peppers were a particular sticking point for me.  I love peppers and put them in darn near everything and Punky insisted that she hated them though she had had next to no experience with them since MacGvyer wasn't big on peppers.

      I know from my background in Anthropology that human tastes change and develop according to exposure.  When a person tries an unfamiliar food a number of times in most cases, that person will develop a taste for that food and begin to like it.  That is why pediatricians recommend having a child try any veggie at least 15 times before giving up on it (the accepted threshold for number of tastes required to develop an affinity for a particular food had always been 14).  Recent research has even indicated that the more new and different foods a person tries, the more quickly one adapts a taste for them.  I am a prime example of this.  I will try any really nutritious food over a few times, even if I don't like it, and it typically only takes me a few tries to develop a taste.  Similarly, after years of living with my cooking experimental ways, Punky is also much more willing, and even excited, to try new things and often takes a liking to them very quickly.

      So I was on a mission to encorporate peppers into as many meals as I could, but they had to be hidden.  Just like MacGvyer and I, Punky can be very bullheaded when she wants to be, and at the time she was only 4.  I don't care what anyone says; there is no reasoning with a 4 year old.

      I don't remember how I found out that Sloppy Joes had peppers in them, but I do know I was surprised as heck to find it out.  I guess I had never watched my mom make them growing up.  I was chatting with NotDonna about my discovery, and she already knew (heck, she may have been the one who told me).  She said that her mom, MMom, had a great sloppy joe recipe, so I called her up to get it (or maybe NotDonna called?  Either way, I got MMom's Sloppy Joe Recipe).

      I was thrilled to find out that not only did it include peppers, they were basically the main componant.  And, ultimately, this was the recipe that won Punky over on peppers.  To this day, she loves my Sloppy Joes.

      After getting Happy Herbivore, my favorite cookbook, I tried making these with Tempah instead of ground up animals, and I was thrilled with the results.  It is almost impossible to even tell the difference, and Tempah is sooooo good for you.  If anyone is trying this recipe, I implore you to try it with the Tempah.  Its so much better for you, and the result is amazing.  If you've never heard of tempah, it is a soybean product but one with a completely different texture and nutritional profile than tofu.  It's very nutritious and good for your digestion.  And, as I said, it works perfectly in this recipe.  There is also a sauce recipe in Happy Herbivore, but I perfer the recipe I got from MMom, below.

Basic Ingredients:
Two 8oz pkgs Tempah (which you can find in most any grocery store)
One Medium Onion
2 large or 3 smallish bell peppers, at least one red
Organic Ketchup (without high fructose corn syrup - important),
Yellow Mustard
Worshtershire and/or Soy sauce
Pepper, to taste
Optional: TBLSp brown sugar

      Add enough water to a pot to submerge the tempah.  Add a couple of shakes of soy sauce and bring to a boil.  Boil the tempah for 10 minutes.  In the meantime:

      Finely dice the onions and set aside for at least 5 minutes to maximize nutritional potential.  Finely dice bell peppers.  Lightly sautee the peppers and onion with the garlic (adjust according to your own taste).  You can either sautee in a little water or a bit of grapeseed oil.

      If you're "hiding" the veggies, puree the onions and peppers in a food processor or blender and return to the pan.  Otherwise, just leave them in the pan and go on the the next step.  I haven't had to puree the peppers into the sauce for years.

      Next, add the ketchup.  You can adjust the amount per your taste, but you'll need a lot of ketchup since it's the base of the sauce.  That is also why it's important to get a ketchup without HFCS in it (most organic ketchups are HFCS free), you're using a lot of it and that much HFCS is gross and makes the sauce way too sweet.  I would say you're going to want to start with at least a cup of ketchup.

      Stir in a couple tablespoons of yellow mustard and a couple dashes of soy and/or worchestershire sauce.  Cook on medium/low heat, stirring continually, adjusting ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, and black pepper as necessary to taste.  Add a tablespoon of brown sugar or a dash of cinamon if desired.

      Once the sauce is heated through and at the taste you want, leave it on just enough heat to keep it warm.  After boiling for 10 minutes, drain the tempah and grate it into the desired texture, usually about the size of rice grains, maybe a little bigger.  If you're grating by hand, run the tempah under some cold water to keep from burning yourself.

      Stir the grated tempah into the sauce, "slop" onto some whole wheat buns, and enjoy!

      Please let me know if you try this recipe!  It is definitely a favorite in our house.  Heck, I just made it last night.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Negative Rice

      A clever reversal of typical beans and rice using black rice and white beans.  When cooking dark wile rices, I usually boil the rice in low sodium organic veggie broth.  Rinse and toss in the beans, throw in some veggies or wilted greens, and you're good to go.  Talk about an easy dinner, and it's always a hit.

      For a finishing touch, I hit it with just a pinch of truffle salt.

      As always, let me know if you try it! This one is super kid friendly.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Stuffed Peppers

Orange bell peppers cut into jack-o-lanterns, stuffed with quinoa, kale, and just a little parmesan cheese and tomato sauce.   Peppers and kale from the Farmer's Market. Pictured on a bed of sauteed zucchini, japanese eggplant, and peppers also from the Farmer's Market.
Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Chop up the kale and steam it until soft but not mushy. Mix the quinoa and kale with just enough tomato sauce and parmesan cheese to moisten the mixture. Fill the peppers and bake at 350 until the peppers just start to soften. Enjoy a delicious, fun, and very healthy Halloween dinner! As always, let me know if you try it!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Focaccia Pizza

Start with some fresh focaccia, either made from scratch or from a bakery.  We cheated this time and used bakery style.  Turn the bread upside down and "hallow out" the middle to form a crust.  Coat with organic tomato paste as sauce.  Add veggies of your choice; we used green and red peppers, oregano, and basil - all from the garden, and mushrooms and onions. Top with humane cheese (like Stonyfield farms or Cabbot) or a veggie cheese, and bake at 350 until it looks the way you want it.  Delicious, quick, and easy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eggplant Tagine

      Tried a new Moroccan inspired recipe tonight, and it was a hit.  Eggplant, zucchini, and squash salted for 20 minutes, rinsed, and broiled for 20 minutes.  Onion, garlic, and mushrooms sauteed together and seasoned with cardamon, cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric a pot with tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced new potatoes (skin on), and chickpeas.  Throw in the eggplant, zucchini, and squash and enjoy!

      As always, please let me know if you try it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mexican Cabbage and Individual Apple Crisps

Tonight, we had mexican cabbage, a recipe from Happy Herbivore, using up a bunch of the leftover green and purple cabbage in a simple, delicious, vegan recipe packed with nutrients.

And since everyone ate all they were served, we got to have individual Apple Crisps for dessert.  These are really easy to make, just core some organic apples, but leave the bottom in so it's like a cup.  Coat the inside with cinnamon. At the same time, soak 1/2 cup of steel cut oats (I use the 5 minute kind) in water for 10 minutes or so and preheat the oven to 350.

Mix together the oats, drained, with1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup brown sugar or a substitute, and 1/3 cup butter substitute.  The mixture will be rough and crumbly.

Fill the apples with the mixture and bake for 35 minutes or until the apples are soft and the crisp is crisp.

These are excellent with Stonyfield Farms humane vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mama's Cold Remedy Soup

     Most - I think all - kid's cold remedies and expectorants have been  taken off the market. So when Flintstone came down with a cold I can only imagine he picked up from the Dr's office the other day, I found myself searching for a way to give him some relief.

     For pretty much everyone I know, the go to at home remedy for a cold  (besides a hot toddy - can't give Flintstone one of those!) Is chicken soup. WELL, we don't have any humane local chicken handy this week, and really the negative health effects of eating meat outweigh any minor positives in the
"remedy," so I started from scratch.

     This is a very flexible recipe. There are a few "essential"n ingredients, ones I'm labelling as such because they have healing or helping properties, and the rest is up to you!

     Onion - Essential - I always dice the onion first in any recipe and  let it sit for at least five minutes. This maximizes the nutritional benefits of the food since it gives time for the chemicals to mingle and  create super healthy compounds. For my purposes, I just chop the onion in first and throw it in the bottom of the pot (not over heat). I'm not into  dirtying a whole bunch of dishes to hole all the ingredients - one pot, one
knife, one cutting board, and the countertop compost container.

     Garlic - essential - I put a lot of garlic in this recipe. Garlic is  known for it's cold fighting properties, and, as such this is a very garlicy soup. Fresh is best, and the same chop (or crush) first and let sit health
rules apply. Use as much garlic as you can stand (or have!).

     Chili pepper - essential - This soup should be somewhat spicy. The  chili pepper is an excellent decongestant and improves circulation, which is very important when you're sick. We happened to have an unbelievable Crop of chilis in the garden this year, so I used fresh, but I also threw in  some red pepper flakes and chili powder for good measure.  I also added a generous sprinkling of regular ground pepper, but I put that in just about everything.

      Carrots and Celery - flavor essential - this iss just the sort of soup that calls for the flavors of carrots and celery.  I recommend organic celery because it is one of the "dirty dozen" typically the highest pesticide produce, and is pretty easy to find organic.  I used our last carrot (organic, of course) then had to resort to using the organic shredded carrot MacGyver keeps on hand for sandwiches.  Whatever works.

      Salt - essential - This is probably the only time you'll hear me recommend adding salt to anything.  I feel that the US American diet is already over inundated with sodium, and, as such I rarely cook with it.  But here (depending on how much sodium is in your broth - we buy the lowest sodium organic brand our store carries), salt is necessary for taste and to sooth a coughing throat.  You can use whatever kind of salt you prefer - sea salt, kosher, whatever.  But if  you're pregnant, I recommend using iodized salt.  Pregnant women often don't get enough iodine (a necessary nutrient) because it is generally left out of prenatal vitamins.

      Shitake Mushrooms - Essential - you CAN leave these out if you really really want to, or you can substitute other mushrooms, but I don't recommend it.  Shitake mushrooms are PACKED with disease fighting properties and vital nutrients.  They add a lot to this soup.

      Herbs - in this soup, fresh is always best.  Normally, I don't feel too guilty about using dried herbs if that's all we have on hand, but I think this soup benefits a lot from the oils in fresh herbs.  I used rosemary and oregano from our garden and a lot of tried Thyme since thyme is not one of the half dozen or so herbs we grow and Thyme has great antiseptic properties and tastes great in this soup.

      Veggie Broth - Essential - I ALWAYS have at least one box of it in the pantry.  I use it all the time.  We buy organic because it's easy to find and generally doesn't cost any more than regular veggie broth.  Seriously, veggie broth is awesome.  You should start using it to replace all animal broths immediately.
      From there, you add whatever other veggies you happen to have on hand.  Since I made this Saturday morning before we went to the Farmer's Market, we were out of almost everything.  I used broccoli,  peas, corn, and a few new potatoes (skin on!).  Just chop up the veggies (onion and plentiful garlic first) and throw them into the pot as you go.  Pour in the veggie broth, add the herbs, salt, and pepper, and simmer until you reach desired flavor/texture.  Throw in some whole wheat noodles for a kid pleasing touch.

      What foods to you serve when you or someone in your care is sick?  What are your comfort foods and home remedy recipes?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Farmer's Market Ravioli

Tonight we had caprese ravioli we get from a guy at the Farmer's Market. I sauteed up zucchini and squash, also from the Farmer's Market, with a small onion in a little bit of grapeseed oil with some oregano and bam.  MacGyver made a delicious vegan sauce from almond milk and a bunch of basil and sweet red peppers from our garden. He roughly blended it all then boiled it down with a little sherry.  Delicious!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

Flintstone doesn't understand Saturdays. He gets up between 6:30 and 7:30 no matter what day it is.  While it makes me groan a little to get up at such a "decent" hour on a Saturday, it does give me a nice block of time to get some stuff done.

This Saturday, Flintstone woke me up with sloppy baby kisses and giggles (I had brought him into bes to try to weasel an extra hour of sleep out of him). We got up and cuddles and played for a while. Soon he was doing his own thing, and I had some time to tidy up the kitchen.

Then I absolutely destroyed it again making pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin french toast. I am ALL ABOUT Fall themed foods.

The recipe is really simple. I just took my Nan (my mom's mom, may she rest in peace)'s. Pancake recipe and added in pumpkin and spices:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tsps baking powder
2 tblspns sugar - Fair Trade!
1 humanely obtained egg (back yard chickens!)
Humane milk - almond milk works great or Organic Valley (not Horizon Organics - they are not humane)
Ground flax seeds - optional; just some added nutrition
1/2 a can (or more) of pumpkin - or use fresh!

1. Put all the ingredients except the milk together in a bowl, with spices adjusted to your taste preferences.
2. Mix together, adding milk until you reach the desired batter consistency.
3. Fry up, just like regular pancakes.
4. Enjoy a warm taste of Fall!

Pumpkin French Toast
Bread - I used some leftover buns - this is a great way to use up add pieces of bread.
3 Humanely obtained medium eggs
1/2 can of pumpkin

1. Mix the eggs, spices to taste, and pumpkin in a wide bowl. The batter will be thicker than typical french toast batter; that's a good thing!
2. Dip (or soak, per your preference) your bread.
3. Fry up as usual.
4. Enjoy another perfect Fall breakfast!

Flintstone loved these*, and I'm ok with him eating them (without syrup!) because they're whole wheat and pumpkin is full of vitamins and minerals. 

If you like these, you should also check out my famous Pink (beet) Pancakes! Flintstone (and Punky and MacGyver) loves those, too!

* And I got some great pictures, but of course the upload failed.  Erg.  Maybe later.

Friday, September 30, 2011

New Posts Coming Soon

Can't wait?

Submit a recipe or do a guest post!

I am always on the look out for new recipes to try and I love to hear about yours! If you want to add a recipe to this site, just email it to me at CheapWineandCookies at gmail dot com.

ooorr Do a GUEST POST!

I'd be happy to feature just about anything you'd like to offer that fits under the headings of Recipes or Nutritional Information. Got a great cookbook you want to plug? A great food prep or storage technique? Just really want to write a post about why you think eggplant is the best vegetable ever? Email me! CheapWineandCookies at gmail dot com.

*Vegan or Vegetarian recipes are perferred, however I'd be more than happy to include other recipes and guest posts if they include Ethical Eating information.

**Please be aware of copyright and intellectual property laws when posting information.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Featured Cookbook: Happy Herbivore

About a month ago, I posted about my ever evolving pursuit of Ethical Eating.  If you’re unfamiliar with Ethical Eating (not to be confused with veganism), please, please follow this link and find out a little about it.  I think you’ll be surprised by the ethics behind some foods and the very simple ways you can make a difference.  Anyway, in response to that post, Tricia asked if I could throw any good vegetarian recipes her way.  I started making a list of a few of my favorites, which promptly got buried under mountains of work.
Then I got a new cookbook.  An awesome new cookbook.  I had spent many hours over at least three visits to the bookstore scouring countless vegetarian cookbooks, trying to find a couple to buy.  While the internet provides millions of great, free vegetarian recipes, I remain loyal to cookbooks.  I like browsing through them.  I like having them on hand whenever I need them.  I even like the way the pages get stained with little droplets of cooking and powdery with flour – cookbooks sort of pick up the life of the kitchen like magic.  I think the bookworm and the pagan in me work together to foster this love of cookbooks.
I went through cookbook after cookbook, but couldn’t find just the right one.  Many of them called for unusual ingredients I had never heard of, or just had very extensive ingredients lists.  Others might as well have been regular non-veg omnivore cookbooks because every other recipe called for soymeat or TVP.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Morningstar Farms Grillers Prime burgers once in a while, and Punky and MacGyver are all about vegetarian sausage patties, but I wasn’t looking for 105 different ways to prepare “fake” meat.  I can come up with th0se myself.
Then I found it.   It had everything I wanted:
-  Uncomplicated ingredients lists.
-  Simple recipes.
-  Full, hearty, stand alone vegetarian meals that didn’t rely on meat alternatives.
-  Quick prep times for many of the recipes.
Nutritious recipes (believe it or not, it’s very easy to get really unhealthy in vegetarian cooking – fettuccine alfredo from a pouch, anyone?)
Seriously, even if you’re not a vegetarian, this cookbook rocks.  MacGyver and Punky are still omnivores; they still eat meat on the weekends (and probably other times when I’m not around ;-)), but they have loved everything I have made from this cookbook.  These are full, satisfying meals.  You never miss the meat.  When I started the push toward vegetarianism, half the time I just subbed beans for meat and went with it.  And while that works pretty well in a lot of dishes, after a while you miss the meat.  Hence my motivated search for a veg cookbook like this one.
This wonderful book that you should totally try even if you’re not a vegetarian (or vegan, like the author) is called
The Happy HerbivorebyLindsay Nixon
I was so thrilled with it that after preparing just two recipes from the book (and tabbing 8 more for the next couple weeks), I contacted Ms. Nixon to ask permission to share one of her recipes with you all.  Graciously, she agreed.  Not only did she allow me to post one of her recipes here, but she honored me with a short interview:
Q.  You used to be a lawyer, or you are a lawyer but no longer practicing - however you choose to look at it -  how does that play into your current life? 

A.  I am still technically licensed, but I am not practicing anymore. I started happyherbivore.com in law school when I went vegan and it morphed into a healthy weekend hobby when I was a lawyer. Then life handed me a curve ball which, in the end, allowed me to reevaluate my priorities and passions, so I left the law to pursue a new career. I guess I made the right choice because a few months later, I had a book deal :)

Q.  Are your dogs vegan?  (I ask this because I've been contemplating starting on the hunt for a more ethical dog food myself lately)

A.  Yes! They also get home cooked meals. I wrote a great post about them and their diet here on the blog.

Q.  Are you also vegan in other areas of your life - clothes, hair products, etc.?

A.  Yes and no. We don't buy cosmetic products (or other products) that are tested on animals or contain animal ingredients. We even avoid beers and wines that are not "vegan" because they are filtered with isinglass, eggs or something else. We also don't buy clothes or shoes, etc that are made out of leather and we've replaced all of our leather shoes from our pre-vegan days. That said, Scott & I both still own wool coats that we've had for years, before we were vegan. We don't have the resources to replace them (plus, we feel its better to use it then get rid of it anyway). We also will both eat things like whole wheat bread that has a dab of honey in it. We try to source breads (and other foods) that don't have honey but we have very limited options where we live (St. Maarten), so we bend on the honey issue.

Q.  What was the most unexpected health benefit you got from becoming vegan?

A.  I went vegan initially because I'd heard it would clear my skin and help me lose weight, but I didn't expect it to actually work! A healthy vegan diet has really helped me stay at a healthy weight, which I thought was something I'd always struggle with.

Q.  You are a self-proclaimed big mouth.  I'm sure you've had plenty of people give you flak about being vegan.  What has been your most humorous, enlightening, or infuriating encounter with an omnivore so far?

A.  Anytime an omnivore asks me where I get my protein, I ask them where they get their fiber :)

Q.  What is your favorite wine and why?

A.  I'm actually not much of a wine drinker, though I do enjoy a glass of sangria from time to time. The Nixon household praises hops.

 Bonus question:  You have lived in my favorite city, and the state I currently live in (SC), and now you live on an island (*envy*); how  would you say each of those places, as well as your "vagabond"  lifestyle have affected your veganism and your cooking?

A.  Living--and traveling to-- so many places has a huge impact on my recipes. I draw a lot of inspiration from all the different cuisines I've been exposed to. Each city has also helped shaped me as a chef.  For example, living in New York City is why I focus on quick, no fuss recipes since my kitchen there (where I wrote my cookbook) was tiny.
It's smaller than my mom's closest! Meanwhile island life has really made me value simplicity and cooking with what you have available to you.

Not only is the cookbook awesome, but the author is, too!  Seriously, I could have hounded her with dozens more questions.  I mean, come on – a vegan lawyer who went to school in NY, wrote a cookbook, and is now living on a tropical island where she makes vegan food for her dogs?  We’re talking serious girl crush.

So, without further ado, I give you the recipe I made last night, African Kale and Yam SoupMy comments in green.
I double all the recipes in the book to make enough for all three of us, but the amounts below are from the original recipe, which would be perfect for 2 people.  Everyone ALWAYS wants seconds, and there are rarely leftovers.

whole red onion, small 2 cups vegetable broth 1 whole yam, diced – I used sweet potatoes5 cups kale, chopped 2 tsp chili powder 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp garlic powder ¼ tsp red pepper flakes 1 tsp mild curry powder ¼ tsp cinnamon     1 tbsp yellow miso paste – This is a rather unusual ingredient – the first I’ve encountered after making about 6 recipes from this book – but it wasn’t hard to find, and I’m thrilled to have gotten it because it proved delicious and MacGyver and Punky love Wakkame Miso Soup anyway.
DirectionsLine a medium pot with 1/4 cup of water and cook onions over high heat until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Remember to let the onions sit for at least 5 minutes after you slice them up to maximize their nutritional value.
Add broth, yam, 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium and cook until potatoes are almost fork tender, about 3 minutes. Immediately add kale and remaining ingredients and cook, stirring frequently, until kale is dark green and soft, about 3 more minutes. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, allowing flavors to merge.  See how SHORT that cook time is?  For me, chopping up the veggies for any recipe is always the most time consuming part, but when the rest of the prep is this fast and easy – and the meal is this delicious AND healthy – it’s soooo worth it.  Plus, the chopping in this recipe is minimal, just the onions, sweet pots, and kale.  (The picture above is from the book; the one on the left I took last night.  I always like to compare how good a recipe looks compared to the professional shots, and so far all the ones from
The Happy Herbivore have done quite nicely.)

I suggest serving the soup, which is just a little bit sweet, with a semi-dry Reisling from Washinton State - there are a lot of good organic brands out there, too!  The book also suggests serving with bread, and I wholeheartedly agree.  I'd suggest a crusty Italian bread.

This recipe, after having eaten the 5 Spice Harmony Bowl from the book last week, inspired Punky to announce that Kale is her new favorite veggie because it’s so healthy, so yummy, and so versatile.  I am totally okay with that.

Please let me know if you try the recipe!  I would LOVE to hear what you think of it.  You can find a whole bunch of other awesome recipes on Lindsay’s website.  I also highly suggest the Teriyaki Chickpeas (also delicious on a spinach salad), the Mexican Cabbage, and the Kale Chips – a great, nutritious snack food!

And, in case you’re interested, here are the links to a couple other vegetarian recipes I love from before I got The Happy Herbivore:

Curried Beans and Kale
Spinach Brownies – you have to try these; you won’t believe it!

Disclaimer:  I was not asked to write this post, nor have I been compensated in any way for doing so.  I just happen to love this cookbook and the associated website and wanted to share them with my wonderful bloggy friends.
Originally posted:
Feb 22, 2011 12:09 PM

Curried Kale and Sweet Potatoes - Hands Down Family Favorite

Originally posted:
Jan 8, 2010 7:47 AM

We went fully vegetarian this week mostly to make up for our sins over the holidays, but also because Punky has started to exhibit increased sadness over the animals that die for us eat. We usually eat a lot of vegetarian foods, but we do have lean meats with dinner a few times a week. This week, though, we didn't. All veggies, and it went swimmingly (except for one cocktail party we had on Base - Marines don't do vegetarian options all that well).

Last night, I tried a new recipe,
Curried Mustard Greens & Beans with Sweet Potatoes. It was awesome! MacGyver and Punky LOVED it. I only wish I would've thought to take a picture before we all ate most of it. In addition to being super nutritious and yummy, it was beautiful!  The picture was taken with my phone and doesn't nearly capture the vibrant colors in this dish!

The recipe is from a site I've mentioned before,
World's Healthiest Foods.  I love WHFoods.  I get a weekly feed from them with the in-depth nutritional profile of various foods, and there are a bunch of super healthy, easy recipes that you can search according to what ingredients you want to include and what you'd like to exclude.

The recipe is below.  I substituted dark kidney beans for the garbanzos because MacGyver doesn't like garbanzo beans, and I added ground flax seeds (we add flax - or wheat germ, etc. to pretty much everything).


Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes

  1. Bring water to a boil in a steamer with a tight fitting lid. Peel and slice sweet potatoes in fairly thin slices so they will steam quickly (about 5-10 minutes).
  2. While steaming potatoes, slice onion and garlic. Heat 1 TBS broth in 12 inch skillet. Healthy Sauté onion in broth over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes stirring frequently, until translucent. Add 1/4 cup broth, garlic, curry powder, turmeric, and mustard greens. Stir occasionally until mustard greens are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add garbanzo beans, diced tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Mash sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you need to thin potatoes more you can add a little broth. Serve mustard greens with mashed sweet potatoes.