When you were young, do you remember there being a mother who always wanted to feed you when you walked through her front door? Was there a mother whose first question as you entered was, “are you hungry?” or “have you eaten?” Well, I am pretty sure I have become that mom. I don’t know what it is but when someone comes over, young or old, I feel the need to feed them. I don’t even really think about it. It has become a natural instinct. Sometimes I don’t ask any questions and just start whipping up some chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, or just a bowl of olives or almonds. I feel like there should be food offered. It makes me happy to feed people.
When it comes to dinner, I really want to make sure everyone who sits around my table has something to eat that they will enjoy. I absolutely love to cook but I think I love pleasing the appetites of my friends and family more. It’s not so much that I want to hear that what I cooked was fantastic. I want my family and guests to be satisfied, full and happy.
Sometimes I am presented with a variety of tastes that need to be addressed. I have a daughter who is a pescatarian, friends who are vegetarians and flexitarians, my husband likes every meal to include meat, and my son really only likes cheese burgers…and pop tarts. I have a sister who is a vegan and doesn’t eat eggs, milk or cheese. I can’t even imagine living like that. I pretty much like everything, except pop tarts. It can be challenging to satisfy all of these varieties of tastes in one meal; but, I am usually up for it.
Last night, our friend Rachel was over for dinner and she is a vegetarian. We were talking about what we would make for dinner. She enjoys cooking too. We always have so much fun cooking together. Somehow our conversation led to Hare Krishnas and how they eat a vegetarian diet. I remembered that I have a Hare Krishna cook book called, “The Higher Taste: a guide to gourmet vegetarian cooking and a karma-free diet.” We both thought it would be fun to make a dish for dinner from this book. As we drove to New Ulm to pick up my kids from school, Rachel read aloud some of the recipes. They had recipes for stuffed tomatoes, stuffed eggplant, spring rolls, vegetable quiche, and minestrone soup (to name a few). We finally decided on stuffed peppers.
I had never had vegetarian stuffed peppers and thought this was an interesting idea. I wondered if Claud would like it and I knew Jack wouldn’t come near it. There was one ingredient I didn’t have. It was a plant called hing. Well, I didn’t know it was a plant until I looked it up. We learned that onions and garlic could be a substitute for hing. Rachel and I didn’t understand why they didn’t just put onions and garlic in the recipe, so we looked further into it. You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the alliaceous family (alliums) – along with leeks, chives and shallots. According to Ayurveda, India’s classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories: sattvic, rajasic and tamasic. These are foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other alliaceous plants are classified as rajasic and tamasic, which means that they increase passion and ignorance. Apparently, Hare Krishnas do not eat onions and garlic because they are in the mode of passion and cannot be offered to the Lord Krishna. Again, I was amazed by how much I learn from cooking.
Personally, I couldn’t live without onions and garlic. So, we added them to the dish. We also changed a few other things to make the recipe our own. We used brown rice in place of white. We added almonds instead of pine nuts and baked the peppers instead of frying them.
The finished dish turned out delicious. The brown rice with vegetables and cheese combined with fennel seed was so flavorful that Claud didn’t even miss the meat. Jack ate a ham sandwich. Daphne and I had a nice piece of seared salmon with the stuffed pepper. I also included a small simple salad. In the end, everyone was full and satisfied and I was pleased. You could make this same recipe and add some ground beef or ground turkey if you don’t have any vegetarians eating with you and it can be a meal in itself. However you wish to prepare it, I am sure you will enjoy it.
Time: 45 minutes
4 red peppers
2 C. cooked brown rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ tsp. fennel seed
½ tsp. black pepper
1 C. zucchini, chopped
½ C. black olives, chopped
1/3 C. almonds, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 C. ricotta cheese
½ C. parmesan cheese
Cook the brown rice and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops off of the peppers and wash out the seeds. Steam the peppers for about ten minutes. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for ten minutes. Add fennel seed and pepper and heat for five minutes. Add the zucchini, and black olives. Cook for another five minutes. Add the almonds, salt and ricotta cheese. Pour in the rice and mix everything together for one minute more. Stuff this mixture into the peppers and top with the parmesan cheese. Place in the oven for twenty minutes.
November is vegan month. There are many reasons why people choose to maintain a vegan diet. The obvious reason is to avoid killing another being for consumption when there are alternatives. Another is to eat a healthy low fat diet and avoiding the health risks associated with ingesting too much meat. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, legumes and fruit is beneficial to longevity. Shopping for a vegan diet is also cheaper. These reasons focus on the individual and their health, finances or values.
There is a bigger picture associated with eliminating meat and dairy from a diet: eating a vegan diet can help our planet. Even cutting down on meat and dairy consumption, people will lessen the harmful impact livestock production has on our environment.
Studies show, the consumption of meat has increased human being’s carbon footprint on Earth. Livestock eat grain which causes them to secrete methane into the atmosphere. The grain grown to feed these animals needs plenty of fertilizer. The fertilizer turns into nitrous oxide which is poisoning our water supply. Because we need so many fields of grain to accommodate our livestock, we have fewer forests. Forests are necessary to provide oxygen and keep our air clean. Here is a video with more information on the subject:
Of course, some people are still going to want to eat some meat. However, by cutting down and substituting a few vegan meals per week, we as individuals, can help the health of our planet. Furthermore, meat lovers will be surprised to find how easy it is to substitute vegan meals for the meaty alternatives. Here is a substitution for a meat filled chili.
Hearty black bean and vegetable soup
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stocks celery, chopped (with leaves)
1 carrot, chopped
2 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed
1 15 oz. can stewed tomatoes
½2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
tsp chili powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp cumen
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
Pour olive oil into a sauce pan over medium heat. Sauté onion, carrot, celery and garlic for five minutes (until onions are clear and soft). Add the beans and tomatoes and mix. Add the chili powder, paprika, cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper. Let this simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Pour into bowls and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy.
Cooking with herbs and spices is essential to making delicious meals. However, it may be overwhelming deciding what to buy at the grocery store. Or, maybe you are creating a dish and aren’t sure what herb or spice is appropriate for your food. Here is a short list of herbs and spices, their flavors, and their common uses.
This spice comes from an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. It has a pungent and fragrant odor. The flavor and smell reminds people of a mixture of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. However, it isn’t a mixture of anything or a combination of all spices. Allspice is usually used to flavor stews and curries, teas, cookies and sausages.
This white powder comes from a root of a West Indian plant. It doesn’t have a flavor or an odor. It is used as a thickening agent for sauces and stews. It is best to mix it in a cup of water before adding it to your sauce to avoid clumping.
This plant comes from the mint family. It is generally used in Italian cuisine and paired with tomatoes. It has a sweet herbal bouquet. You can put it on pizza or garnish your pasta with marinara.
This is a ground seed of a tropical fruit. It comes from the ginger family. It is usually used in curries, breads, and coffee. It has an intense, pungent and sweet flavor.
This feathery annual is in the parsley family. It is used in pickling. It is also widely used in German, Russian and Scandinavian cuisines. It is delicious chopped and tossed on top of salad or over freshly broiled fish. It has a clean and pungent flavor.
This is a dried root from the lily family. It is essential in Chinese, Mexican and Italian food. It has a distinctive odor and flavor.
This is a hot and pungent condiment is made from a plant in the mustard family. It is used as a condiment for roast beef, fish and oysters.
This comes from two large shrubs found in Asia. It is hot and spicy. It is used with meat, fish, fowl, sauces, and salad dressing.
This spice comes from a mild red pepper. It is widely used in Hungarian dishes like goulash. It is also used as a garnish for deviled eggs and casseroles.
This plant is in the mint family. It is a small evergreen shrub. It is widely used in Italian cuisine. It can flavor lamb, pork, chicken, and bread. It has a piney flavor.
There are countless more herbs and spices to choose from. Try some of these for yourself and experiment with others. You will find that dishes can be taken to another level of flavor with each new spice or herb.
Dan Buettner, author of the New York Times best selling book, The Blue Zone, travelled the world in search of Blue Zones. Blue Zones are places where the highest percentage of the population in relation to the rest of the world live the longest. They have more people living beyond 100 years than anywhere else on the planet.
Dan was curious to find out why or at least to find common elements in each place to help determine a key to longevity. The first place he discovered was Sardinia. Sardinia is an Italian island located 120 miles west of mainland Italy. It has a population of 1.6 million people. In all of the blue zones discovered by Buettner, there were common characteristics among the longest living populations. In addition to Sardinia, the other blue zones are: Okinawa, a U.S. city in Southern California (in particular the Seventh Day Adventists within this city) called Loma Linda, and Costa Rica. In all of the blue zones, Dan Buettner tried to determine key factors in the longevity of the lives of the inhabitants. The factors were very similar among each blue zone.
The Sardinian lessons were:
1. They ate a lean plant based diet:
This includes whole grain bread, veggies, beans, fruit, pecorino cheese made from grass fed sheep (high in omega 3 fatty acids). They only ate meat on special occasions. Therefore, their diet was “accented with meat”.
2. The Sardinians put family first:
Everyone in the family was cared for by each other. This included the elderly and the babies. Family helped family. This decreases the rate of depression and levels of stress.
3. They drink goat’s milk:
This may protect against inflammatory disease such as heart diseases.
4. They celebrate their elders:
Grandparents provide child care, financial help, wisdom and motivation for thier younger relatives. They promote traditions which, in turn, produces healthier children (emotionally and physically).
5. Sardinian’s (shepherds) walk at least five miles each day:
This provides great cardiovascular health as well as muscle and bone metabolism. It does not provide the joint pounding you get from running.
6. Sardinian’s drink 1 – 2 glasses of red wine per day.
This provides artery scrubbing flavonoids and may reduce stress.
7. They laugh with their friends regularly.
Sardonic sense of humor (have you heard of this?) comes from these people. They gather each afternoon to talk and joke. This lowers risks of cardiovascular damage and decreases health.
Dan’s book is so well written. It takes you into the heart and soul of each of the blue zones. You feel like you know the families he interviews personally. It really makes you want to visit each one of these places yourself. Furthermore, the book encourages the reader to do more to improve your own life and live a longer and healthier one. All of the advice given throughout the book is easy to follow and makes you feel so much better each day. I highly recommend it. Here is the link to buy the book: http://www.thebluezonesstore.com/
I spent the summer learning how to preserve all of the bounty from my garden. Doing this opened up the flood gates. I began thinking about food differently. Everyone is trying to find ways to spend less and conserve more. One great way is with food. Also, I am reading a novel called The Guernesy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The story takes place on and island in the English Channel during World War II. People living on this island had an extremely scarce food supply and practically no meat due to the German occupation. So, this added to my consciousness of wasting less food. The more I researched, I was surprised to discover how wasteful I have been with food. I never thought about keeping the end pieces of the vegetables and onions. It never occurred to me to buy chicken on the bone and to use the bones for a different dish. I never saved the celery leaves. But, now I am beginning to wonder if I am not throwing out perfectly good food. I discovered a great website with useful tips on how to get the most out of our food and to waste very little, if anything at all. Here it is: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/home-garden/ways-avoid-waste-food.html
I absolutely loved planting and tending to my garden all spring and summer. It was my first time ever and such a success. I hope it wasn’t beginner’s luck. I learned how to freeze pizza sauce, can salsa, and blanch vegetables to freeze. I made my own ketchup, pasta sauce, and roasted and froze green chilis to use year round. I have been using whole chicken so I can make stock, which I keep in small containers in the freezer to use in sauces. I’ve made many balls of pizza dough and stuck them in the freezer to make pizza whenever we feel like it. It’s so nice to go to the freezer or pantry and pull out some of these homemade items, knowing what went into making them (the precise ingredients). I decided that I am going to make a lot more of these homemade goodies, like jams and jellies, peanut butter, and more. I discovered this great website which offers many recipes and teaches you how to make so many more items you never thought of making at home like baking powder? Check this out: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/surprising-diy-homemade-foods.html
I had Archie, Ella, Daphne and Jack all snuggled up in my bed on a snowy cold winter night. Claud was on a business trip. I told the children a story before they fell asleep. Out of my imagination came the story of Sasparilla Villa. She is a young girl who teaches her family and her village about compassion and sharing. Also, because everything I do or think is food related, Sasparilla’s mom makes amazing bread. The story was published on Authspot.com. It will be the first in a series of Sassy Stories. Here is the link:
I subscribe to the Minnesota Grown Newsletter and we must be on the same wavelength. Today, they too are discussing apples. They have recipes and other great Fall ideas. Check it out: