Let’s Start at the Very Beginning… A Very Good Place to Start

verybeginningWhen you read you begin with ABC. When you start eating better food you begin with…. okay, so this would be a clumsy way to continue. But I’ve been inspired to provide a little bit of a get started post by a phone conversation I had yesterday. Someone very near and dear to me was explaining that she had read about the new dietary guidelines and wanted to incorporate more plant-based meals into her dinner plans. The question to me that followed: “So, do you have any plant-based meals that you could recommend?” Ummmmm….. yeah. I do. I have around 200… on that blog… that you tell me you read… never mind. That’s okay. No, it’s really okay, because I don’t think she was actually asking the question that I heard.

What she meant to say was more like: “I know I should be doing something different, but when I start to think about it I draw a total blank because I’ve eaten this way for a long time. When I look at your blog I am totally overwhelmed because I don’t know where to start and I don’t want to do a search and I don’t even know if I like any of these foods. Help.” That’s what she was really saying, so I decided maybe in honor of the recent guidelines and my very dear relative, a primer would be a good idea. So the purpose of this here post is to use the new dietary guidelines as inspiration to start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

Paraphrasing the recommendations, there are 3 main components:

A)  include more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

B) Reduce your red and processed meat consumption.

C) Reduce your added sugar intake.

There was more information in the guidelines (including some good news about caffeine and cholesterol), but these are the key points – things to add and things to minimize in your diet. I’ve put them in this order on purpose. If you’ve struggled to eat more healthfully in the past, perhaps starting with what you can add – the food you get to have more of allows you to approach dietary change as a positive and exciting thing – a series of culinary experiments instead of a constant discussion about deprivation.

A) Include more plant-based meals.

So the primer for accomplishing this change will be a list of my favorite super easy go-to plant based dishes. These are not the ones I’d necessarily make for fancy company or the ones that I’d make for the joy of spending an afternoon in the kitchen. These are dishes that I believe anyone can make in a reasonable amount of time and most everyone would enjoy enough to make again. Without further ado… here’s your starter kit for plant-based meals.

1. Lentil Casserole: so simple and easy it’s almost ridiculous. So hearty, flavorful and satisfying it’s Miss Picky Pants’ all time favorite dish. That’s right, my picky daughter has a lentil dish as her absolute favorite. It’s that good.

2. Slow Cooker Bean, Corn, and Barley Burritos: Again, it doesn’t get much easier than dumping a bunch of stuff in the Crock Pot and turning it on. All you need to do is add whatever burrito fixings your tribe likes and you’ve got a delicious plant-based meal on the table.

3. Varia-Bowls: This is a little harder to explain as it’s a concept rather than a recipe, but the idea is that you add a bunch of veggies to a grain or a whole grain noodle, add some sauce and yum! We’ve made some suggestions to get you started.

4. Picadillo: This gentler and fantastically flavored Cuban chiii is super easy and a crowd pleaser. Make the lentil version for plant-based yum. Make extra and freeze it for fast dinners.

5. Nutshroom BurgersThese vegan burgers totally surprised us the first time I made them. They are simply fantastic and if you have a food processor, easy peasy.

6. Roasted Butternut Squash SoupI have yet to meet someone over the age of however old my daughter is at the time you read this who doesn’t like this soup. It is simple and fabulous.

7. Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato SoupEasy, delish, comforting, and feels like you’re eating something that MUST be bad for you. Perfect for dipping a sammy or some great crusty bread.

8. Roasted Veggies 2 Ways:  A great way to take advantage of whatever is in season at the moment and make enough for 4 meals. Can we say freezer dinner rescue?

9. Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever with Non-Dairy ToppersEating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to take a lot of time, or even require you to get used to all kinds of new tastes – who doesn’t like pasta for pete’s sake? This gem of a sauce will save you scads of time and please whoever you make it for.

10. Cauliflower Steaks: I know you think I’m nuts, but these are simple and turn out so delicious and elegant that you’ll feel like you’ve done something really special for very little work, and you may just discover you like cauliflower after all.

B) Reduce your red and processed meat consumption.

Well, if you start including meals from the above list you just might have already taken care of this, eh? But let’s be a little more thoughtful about it for just a minute. What you need to sort out is when you are eating red and processed meats. Just to be clear, when we’re talking about red meat, we’re talking about beef. When we talk processed meat we’re talking about A LOT of things: bacon, hot dogs, deli meat, sausages, ham, salami, pepperoni, variations on ham (prosciuto, etc). This list could go on for a very long time, and it’s hard for me to make it for you because I don’t know what you eat. A trick to thinking about processed meat is considering how long something stays good. Most of these things can stay in the fridge for a very long time because of the way that they’ve been processed, because of the ingredients that they contain which are precisely the ones that our leading nutrition experts would like you to keep out of your mouth, at least most of the time. What to do?

The first thing to do is go back and look at that list in the A section – replace a dinner that usually would be red meat or processed meats with one of our plant based winners. Then you’ve killed two birds with one stone (this has always seemed unnecessarily brutal to me, but you get the point). The next thing to do is identify the role that red and processed meat plays in your diet and attempt to cut back and replace it. Family eats a lot of deli meat for sandwiches? There are deli meats that are uncured and contain fewer objectionable ingredients. They are, predictably, more expensive and they WILL spoil, so while they may be a good substitution from a taste standpoint, they’re probably not going to be a complete answer. It might be time to experiment some plant-strong sandwiches (search our recipes for hummus, dips, spreads, and you’ll find a ton of sandwich ideas). Perhaps it’s time for a thermos to bring leftovers from those lovely plant-strong dinners. Reduce the red and processed meat, up the veggies, fruit, whole grains. They go hand in hand.

C) Reduce your added sugar intake.

One of the things that has startled me the most in my own transition to healthier eating is how much sugar I was consuming that I didn’t even know about. Sugar is EVERYWHERE in our packaged food. I’m not kidding. It’s in potato chips. It’s in salad dressing. It’s in prepackaged macaroni and cheese. Deciding to cut out added sugar from your diet is not a small undertaking and could easily become totally overwhelming, particularly if you have neither the time nor the inclination to increase your home cooking efforts. We recommend that sugar cutting be a gradual and targeted endeavor. The first step is to begin to notice how much you are having. Start looking at the labels. Compare the quantities to things that you consider sweet – for example a candy bar. A standard sized Snickers bar has 27 grams of sugar in it. So do many of those convenient cups of fruit flavored yogurt. I’m guessing you weren’t eating yogurt to get the nutritional impact of a Snickers bar… The new nutrition guidelines suggest that individuals consume no more than 10 grams of added sugar per day (that’s twice the amount suggested by the World Health Organization, by the way). That yogurt, and that more obvious Snickers bar, are almost 3 days worth of added sugar.

I can almost feel you shaking your head and losing interest. A life without Snickers bars may not seem worth it. I hear you. What we’re looking at is your overall nutritional profile. In general, how do you eat? These new guidelines, and an increasing number of health practitioners are saying that in general, added sugar is to be avoided and consistent use of it is dangerous to your health. Best way to change that? Baby step your way out of it. Notice when you’re eating it and consciously decide to have less of that item and to eventually replace it with something that is less sweet, and perhaps eventually with something that isn’t sweet at all. Step down that sugar. Let your taste buds have the time that it takes to get used to lower levels of sugar, to appreciate more complex flavors. You’ll be stunned over time as you realize how great fruit is, how you can taste sweetness in nuts and other foods that you never thought of as being sweet before. You’ll be stunned when you do indulge in a super sugary treat to find that you don’t really want quite as much of it as you used to. The world of abundant and fresh food is entirely masked by added sugar. Peel that mask away and delightful surprises await. And yes, you can still have a birthday cake. 🙂

So there you go. A primer on Baby Stepping your way to better health designed to help you understand and implement the new nutrition guidelines, complete with a list of 10 plant-strong recipes that you don’t have to do a search to find. You’re welcome. For more information on changing your eating habits, check out our e-book: Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals. For more information specifically on cutting sugar, check out our Sugar Busting series on the blog. Eat well, be well friends.

Weekly Meal Plan 2/23-3/1

The calendar is telling me it’s time to start my seedlings. My frozen fingers are telling me that’s preposterous. I may defy my fingers and begin some of the earliest crops, and those that do well waiting to go in (like peppers). There’s nothing that adds a little hope like a seedling poking it’s head up out of the dirt. Any other gardeners up there afraid to trust their calendars? What I DO know is that it is going to be yet another cold week here whether I start my seedlings or not, so continuing the theme of warm and warming seems like a great idea. Before we know it we’ll be trying to think of cold meals to cool us off… right, RIGHT?! I hope wherever you are the weather is treating you reasonably well and you at least have warming company.

Monday: Slow Cooker Black Bean, Barley, and Corn Burritos, chopped veggies, green salad

Tuesday: Rice Noodles with Fabu Asian Peanut Sauce, peas, and chopped veggies

Wednesday: Spinach Chickpea Burgers, oven fries, Fancy Shmancy Green Beans with Clementines and Pecans, salad

Thursday: Leftover Pot Pie (with burrito filling to make a taco pie)

Friday: Homemade Pizza (roasted artichokes, onions, and sunflower cheese for mine please – yum!)

Saturday: Cashew and Carrot Curry, green salad, sautéed green beans

Sunday: Homemade Pasta with Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever and Nutshroom Neatballs, and Moo-less Flavorful Parmesan Sprinkles

Lunchbox Treat: Intensely Good Banana Bread

Adult Lunches: Potato and Chickpea Soup


Wow am I hungry now. While this posting of meal plans has been great for planning purposes and has DEFINITELY saved me both money and time, it sure does make me hungry while I’m doing it! Time for some leftover pasta! Eat well, be well friends!

New Dietary Guidelines – Who Knew?!

NewsUpdate6As if there weren’t enough people in the world telling you what to eat – you’ve got your parents, you’ve got us… A few days ago, a panel of top nutrition experts submitted their report to the federal government, describing changes that they think would benefit the average American diet. Wait, what?! A group telling the government how they think I should eat – wait, what?! Well just hold your horses if this is the kind of thing that distresses you. These folks are no joke when it comes to nutrition recommendations.

The panel includes Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health; Marian Neuhauser of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA; and Alice Lichtenstein, the vice chairwoman of the dietary guidelines committee and a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University. This is no group of average know-it-alls. When it comes to nutrition, they may actually know-it-all, or at least know that which is already known… The panel took a look at previous nutrition guidelines, pulled them apart, took in all the most recent research and the latest medical findings and you know what they want you to do? Eat more vegetables.

Yep. Eat your veggies people, and not so much of the other stuff, especially red meat, processed meat, and sugar. All that fretting about coffee? Keep your consumption in check and it might actually be good for you. All that worry about cholesterol? Again, stay out of the deep fat fryer and you’re probably just fine. But red meat, processed meat and sugar… yeah.

For the first time this committee looked not at particular nutrients (i.e. Vitamin D) but looked at the benefits and detriments of whole diets. Looking across your days, weeks, and months – what are you eating the most of? They’d suggest veggies, fruits, whole grains as a big part of that answer. Legumes, nuts and seafood also feature heavily as does lower fat dairy (why lower fat if the whole cholesterol thing is not an issue, but I won’t quibble as I don’t eat it). That’s a lot of really good things to eat if you ask me. I think I could live that way. Wait, I think I do mostly live that way. And for me, and I suspect for many other people, it is the mostly that matters here.

Changing the way we eat is often a question of shifting our ratios. Seeing a positive change in eating habits as an act of deprivation is a sure-fire way to experience a great deal of failure and frustration in my experience. Seeing a positive change in eating habits as a shifting of percentages (lowering meat and raising veggies) or as the opportunity to experiment with abundant foods that are new and exciting, now that’s something that motivates, and something that has a better shot of sticking. Here at the pantry we’ve never claimed to have a corner on the market of dietary advice. There are lots of good ways to go about improving the quality of what you eat and improving your health. When you line up all of that expert advice and look for commonality, it starts to look a lot like these recommendations from these very prominent physicians, which oddly enough also sounds a lot like our friend Michael Pollan (Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual): “Eat real food, mostly vegetables, not too much.”

If you’re inspired to get things going, feeling like just maybe you could feel better, we’d really be happy to help (see our E-Book: Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals for details). We’ve thought a lot about food. Actually, we’ve thought an embarrassing amount about food. We’ve changed, and are still changing. You can too, if you want. The great thing about it is you get at least three chances every day to try to get it right. Eat well, be well friends!

More about the panel and their findings here and here.

Silence – An Absence that is Part of Wholeness

Silence.  Silence!  SilenceBabySteps.pptx

Absence of noise.  A place.  A state of being.  A chance to listen.  Silence.

Not sure what to say next because I’m not supposed to be talking.  Apparently I’m supposed to be quiet right now.

Not an easy task for me.  Just ask Little Sis…. or Carni-Mom.  Plus I am supposed to be contributing to our Well-Being series.  So I get to proceed – as usual  🙂 talking about silence.

Beyond my own ability to keep my mouth shut, and my enthusiasm bridled, there is the relative difficulty we all face of establishing quiet around ourselves even with our mouths shut.  We are surrounded by devices and machines and tasks and people and news and entertainment and alarms and warnings and intentions and plans and much human noise.  Yet, amidst all of this noise, most of us would agree that silence is powerful.  Isn’t that a bit telling?  Silence is something powerful that we often decrease or even eliminate from our lives.  Perhaps a year of wellness warrants taking a closer look at silence and what we can get from silence.

Sometimes silence is scary.  We associate it with apocalypse.  Perhaps it is more truly associated with a chink in our civilized armor.  Perhaps we don’t want time to think about more than our devices, schedules, tasks, entertainment and distraction, because if we do we might be faced with some questions about our own priorities, or our own power, or our own disappointments.  Perhaps our ‘conquest’ of the natural world is only complete if we are removed from the natural world.  How is it that we acknowledge this power and can acknowledge that it is a good thing, (think ‘peace and quiet’) but are for some reason losing, or even avoiding silence.

Silence is one of those things, like a dark night sky, or fear of predators, or for many people the ability to provide one’s own basic needs, that for good or ill we lose with modern civilization.  It is power that can weigh like an anvil, or beckon like a boat at the end of a dock on a peaceful lake.  Silence allows expansion.  It is a starting place.  A void.  There are places that silence can take us.  Perhaps journeys that feed our imaginations, our spiritual musings or longings or feed insights that can help us grow, prioritize and appreciate all of the blessings in our lives require a clear canvas on which to unfold?

True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.  ~William Penn

Where to start such a journey?  In order to appreciate or benefit from silence, we must find it, make it, accept it, allow it and work with it.  As is our wont over here at the Pantry, baby steps come to mind in any endeavor of change or exploration that seems difficult or even impossible.

Start by thinking about the sources of noise that block out natural noises in your life.
Is there a TV, radio or other device that makes noise always on at your house or in your car?  Does it ever get turned off?  Can you set a time each day when the devices will be silenced?  It doesn’t have to be a big deal of everyone being very quiet.  It could just be a time without music, TV, news or other outside noise.

An inability to stay quiet is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind.  ~Walter Bagehot

Being quiet is indeed not easy which is why I suggest just establishing a few times with less noise as a starter.  You might be surprised by what you notice or even think about with less noisy stimulation going on.

You might also like to try some true quiet time when there is an intention of not making noise.
We will sometimes sit as a family and meditate.  Other times we will simply be quiet for a number of minutes, close eyes and mouths and pay attention to what we are hearing, smelling, and feeling.  We often discuss what we noticed when done, and also do this outside to notice smells, sounds and feelings outside.  This was especially hard for our son at first, but he has become quite good at it and can now also be still and meditate.  If you’d like some ideas for family meditation, we have enjoyed these 2 books:

Product Details

This one being particularly good for young children.  The next one works for all ages, especially if you are willing to just replace the words ‘child’ or ‘children’ with people / family members, etc.

Product Details

Silence is the true friend that never betrays.  ~Confucius

Once there is some silence in your life, I believe it then becomes easier to choose noise more wisely.  One can decide to actually listen to music OR to have it be a soundtrack in the background OR not have it at all.  Well-being, or being well is not an accident but a result of our choices and our reactions to the things we can not control.  Silence and meditation are wonderful ways of increasing self awareness, mindfulness, stress-reduction and peace.

Silence is a source of great strength.  ~Lao Tzu

Be well.

(Quotes were all found at http://www.quotegarden.com/silence.html)

Weekly Meal Plan 2/16-2/22

I am so blessed. A surprise drop in from good friends, lots of music, lots of play, and now a lovely snow falling in a way that makes me think we might score an unanticipated weekend recovery day with sledding tomorrow. Yay! Bring on the snow gear! Bring on the hot chocolate! Bring on the hot food! There is little better in winter than a bona fide meteorological excuse for eating comfort food. And so we shall proceed this week. Light and refreshing? No – that’s not what we’re shooting for. We want warm, belly filling, and homey.

Monday: Mulligatawny Soup, served with brown rice, salad, and some cooling plain yogurt for the kids

Tuesday: Mushroom Stroganoff over whole wheat noodles (from the The Engine 2 Diet, green salad, wilted mediterranean kale

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Soup, Multigrain Bread, sunflower cheese, cut veggies

Thursday: Rockin’ Gluten Free Falafel, whole wheat pitas, sandwich veggies, carrot fries, green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Cauliflower Steaks, quinoa, sautéed green beans, salad

Sunday: Homemade Pasta

Hot Breakfasts: Oatmeal (like this one from Bg Sis), Hot & Hearty Quinoa Porridge

Lunchbox Treats: Almond Lemon Jots

Adult Lunches: Picadillo


Yay! A week’s worth of comforting belly warming food and a snow covered landscape to look at while I eat. I hope your meteorological desires are being met and that you are enjoying a warm bowl of yum! Eat well, be well friends!

Healthier Oats Made Even Easier

This morning it was 16 degrees here in Middle TN.  Some of you may not think that’s cold, but my daffodils are already peeking out, so for us, that is a bit of a seasonal abnormality.  The already cooked steel cut oats that awaited me were a delicious and hearty meal with which to start the day.  Steel cut oats are fairly similar to rolled oats nutritionally speaking but they have a lower glycemic index (meaning they don’t spike blood sugar as much) and most people find they have a nuttier taste and more hearty texture.  In addition, even if it doesn’t affect the nutrition label, it seems to me that the more processing, the more chance that something nasty or unnecessary is being introduced and I’d just as soon skip that possibility!  They do however take longer to cook than rolled oats.

Little Sis and I have both posted a recipe for cooking steel cut oats (the whole oat grain) overnight in the crockpot….. But what if you don’t have a crockpot?  Our versions are full of flavors that do indeed require a little extra work…. What if you don’t have time for a little extra work?  (I’m heading for a solution – just building a little suspense first).  Little Sis posted Chocolate Oats, ooh lala, this IS Valentine’s Day weekend you sweet thing you.  And I posted Pumpkin/Apple Steel Cut Oats.  Take THAT Starbuck’s.  If you have a crockpot and haven’t tried these yet.  You must.  Really.

If however, you are lacking a crock pot, or a little extra time or the tastes and tolerances in your family for oatmeal flavors are too diverse to make a big single flavored pot, and/or all you have time to do is measure water and oats into a pot, let it boil while you do something else and then turn it off, then I have a solution for you.  Yep.  That’s it.  Put the oats and water and a pinch of salt in a pot, boil for 1 minute, cover and let sit all night.  Quick as you please, even if it’s cold and nobody wants to get up and get going!

This recipe comes from Snack Girl who has lots of good advice about eating healthfully.  She is also a professor of biology and that makes her even more special in my biology loving book 😉

Quick Steel Cut Oats

Makes 4 – 1 cup servings

1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
pinch of salt

The night before you want to eat oatmeal put oats, water, and salt in a large saucepan (allow room for oatmeal expansion). Boil for one minute.

Cover the pot, remove from heat and leave on stove until morning.

Now there’s no saying you couldn’t add a little canned pumpkin…. or some chopped apple…. or some cocoa and a little sweetener, or your favorite dried fruits, nuts, apple sauce, frozen berries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon – lots of cinnamon really sweetens things up without sugar, or whatever else you like on your oatmeal.  But these oats are heartier and less processed.  Hurrah!  and Hurrah!

I heartily endorse doubling this recipe.  Truly, this meal is leftovers from the get-go.  Why not make extra and have some more get up and go leftovers?  You can make some servings in appropriately sized containers with some toppings, stick in the fridge and voila you have breakfast to go for anyone with access to a microwave.  Take that again Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, AND the hospital cafeteria!

Here are pix of our nummy oatmeals for the crockpot.  Turn your overnight-without-the-crock oats into something just as yummy….. in no time.

20140928_075629IMG_9142This recipe also allows for Baby Steps to healthier oatmeal.  Slowly decrease the amount of sugar that is used as a topping.  Or try some fresh fruit or Date Cream or Apple Drizzle (also made the night before).  How nice to be able to provide and enjoy a hot, healthy breakfast with ingredients you know and can pronounce in about a minute.  That’s sweet.

Hemp and Bean Sausage Patties (GF,V)

Let me just start by saying that in general, I am not a fan of meat substitutes. For the most part I like to create dishes that aren’t trying to emulate something else as I feel that it nearly always disappoints meat lovers and only occasionally really gets the vegetable crowd excited enough to bother. But there does seem to be a trojan horse for this particular problem. If you make something in the form of a patty, the adventurousness and acceptance both seem to increase – veggie burgers, falafel, or neatballs for sandwiches or pasta have all gained acceptance and, more often than not, enthusiasm over here. So when I saw a recipe for breakfast sausage made from beans, masa harina, and hemp, I was intrigued.

What is it that makes breakfast sausage worth emulating? This is a valid question, and an important one when deciding whether or not to bother. Breakfast sausage, for all their greasy yuck (in my non-that much grease loving opinion), have a combination of herbs and spices that really are tasty and it is my opinion that keeping that flavor profile solely for the breakfast table is nonsensical, but we’ll get to that. So, a less greasy plant strong version of that? Yeah, I’ll give that a go.

The result? Delicious, and as I suspected an excellent candidate for moving off the breakfast table into many other parts of the day. We’ve used our nausage patties as the centerpiece of a dinner that also included roasted plantains and sweet potatoes and fresh cut veggies. We had salsa, malt vinegar, and ketchup on the table to scratch any of the varied condiment itches I could imagine. The only thing I would do different the next time I make these babies, is that I would make at least a double batch and freeze the remainder so that they could be served with pancakes some morning. While not difficult to make, they were time consuming and so I would not want to execute these and pancakes at the same time (pre tea cooking must be strategically limited). If you have given up meat but miss breakfast sausage, these are a good fit. If you are trying to eat less meat and are more open to the whole patty concept, these are delicious and very flexible (in use, not in texture because that would be weird and gross).

A nice thing about this recipe, for me anyway, is that I had nearly everything I needed already in my pantry. Only one item was missing… the masa harina. Honestly I know my store carries it, but you know how I feel about dashing out for a single ingredient (and if you don’t know, let’s just say I suffer from a lack of self control at the store so limiting trips is best), especially when I don’t really know what that ingredient is. So I looked it up. Masa harina is a flour made from corn… so far so good. The corn is apparently dried, cooked in water with slaked lime, dried, and finely ground. The limewater imparts a distinctive flavor. And masa harina is more finely ground than corn meal. Okay, so I don’t have limewater and I’m not up to a chemistry experiment in addition to a recipe experiment. My solution? Grab that cornmeal and grind the crap out of it. I used my food processor, but would likely use my Vitamix next time. The only other problem with the recipe was that it requires that you refrigerate the sausage batter overnight… yeah, I may write a meal plan, but THAT level of planning is rare in this house. I added a little more ground corn meal instead to firm the batter up. I’ve also ditched the liquid smoke called for in the original recipe because I don’t regularly cook with it and there are some concerns with the safety of the product. The safety concern for liquid smoke is less, but still apparently present, in smoked paprika I am sad to discover. I actually have smoked paprika, and will use it here, but next time I may switch out the liquid smoke for scotch whiskey (boozy breakfast) and the paprika for a little extra pepper.

Hemp and Bean Nausage Patties (GF,V) – adapted from Spicy Hemp Breakfast Sausages in December 2014’s Vegetarian Times

Spice Liquid

  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 2 T dried parsley
  • 2 T dried rubbed sage (this is KEY, don’t skimp)
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 2 c boiling water

Nausage Mix

  • 3/4 c plus 2 T finely ground corn meal (use food processor or power blender)
  • 1 c hemp seeds
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1 15 ounce can of soft beans (or 1 1/2 c well- cooked from dried; I used black beans here, probably anything well cooked other than chickpeas would work), drained and rinsed

First thing to do is to make the spice liquid – it’s basically like flavor tea. Combine all of the seasonings in a medium sized bowl. Add the boiling water and set aside for at least 5 minutes. While the flavor tea steeps, collect the other ingredients. Place corn meal in large bowl. Place beans in skillet or large sauce pan on stove, but don’t heat. Measure out hemp seeds. Drink some water.

Add 1 1/2 c flavor tea to the beans on the stove. Turn to medium heat to bring to a gentle boil and then simmer, stirring occasionally until liquid is largely evaporated, leaving a thick mixture that looks a bit like refried beans. While they are simmering…

Add 1 cup of the flavor tea to the corn meal and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add hemp seeds. When beans are done, add to cornmeal mix and stir.

Heat olive oil in pan on medium. Add nausage batter in plops with a large spoon. Allow to cook for a minute or so and then flatten a little with a spatula. Cook about 5 minutes per side or until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve wherever you like. Delish!

Weekly Meal Plan 2/9-2/15

I’m told that it was on this day in 1870 that the National Weather Service was established (then called something else and under the war department). While I’m generally glad to have weather forecasting information; today’s forecast does not exactly put me in a celebratory mood. While last winter we had a lot of snow and I confess to having grown weary with the constant uncertainty about the school schedule in that situation, I have come to the conclusion that snow is preferable to the usual mid-Maryland winter weather event offering: wintry mix. While we have rain at the moment, temperatures will drop and tonight we’ll have our beloved Mid-Atlantic travel boondoggle that includes sleet and snow, and over time maybe also some freezing rain. Not quite cold enough for graupel. If you live somewhere warmer, you get rain. If you live somewhere colder, you get snow. Here, we get about 12 variations on slippery snow/rain – let’s call it snain. With the grey skies and no hope of a lovely blanket of snow and sledding, I am quite tempted to take comfort in my non-snow blanket and just hibernate for a few days until the temperatures change again. Comfort food and experimentation might help keep the wheels turning.

Monday: Lentil Casserole (we didn’t have this last week because the stomach bug spread), sautéed green beans, green salad

Tuesday:  Roasted sweet potatoes and plantains (similar to Naturally Sweet Sweet Potatoes), Spicy Hemp Breakfast Sausages, spinach and orange salad

Wednesday: Lentil Bulghur Burgers, roasted potatoes, cut veggies and freezer pickles

Thursday: Korean BBQ Tofu Tacos, green salad

Friday: Homemade Pizza, cut veggies

Saturday: Dinner Out

Sunday: Homemade Pasta, green salad

Lunchbox Treat: Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Adult Lunches: Cold Kickin’ Soup – no we’re not currently sick, but I think a little immunity boost would do us some good right now.


I feel better already just from talking about all that yummy food. Pair that with another night of good sleep and I’m sure things will seem much brighter. I have been getting more sleep (generally, not necessarily consistently) and I have to say that it’s pretty clear how much difference an extra hour makes for me. It’s easier to wake up in the morning. I’m more productive when I’m awake. I’m more patient and more resilient in the face of a problem. I am working on shoring up my resolve and continuing to eliminate or sideline the obstacles that prevent me from getting enough sleep, interfering with my Year of Well-Being. Hope you are rested and enjoying a sunny day in spirit if not in reality. Eat well, be well friends!

Loving Raw Chocolate Macaroons

Food makes a lovely gift.  Everyone loves sweets.  Most of us give sweets to those we love in some way, at some time, in some place…. and especially in February when Hallmark moves us….. I mean our hearts move us, to make our amorous leanings known through buying stuff.

Making a gift has always been a way to imbue a gift with an extra bit of love and caring because not only your resources but your time was given (albeit shopping for the right gift can take time as well!).  But how loving is it to hand someone a box of candy that consists of a whopping load of sugar and unrecognizable chemicals?  It feels like love when given, when received, when consumed, but the health consequences are surely not was intended by the giver in love.  See our Sugar Busting series if you need a reminder about just how rough sugar is on our bodies….. (How Sugar Strict Should You Be?, Salt, Sugar Fat, How the Food Giants Hooked Us, The Sweet Stuff (facts about sugar consumption), Eat Food, Real Food., Giving Hidden Sugar the Boot,)

But back to the problem at hand.  Our Sweetie-Dad is having a few health troubles that the doctors think would be helped by cutting back on sweets.  He is Sweetie-Dad because he is indeed wonderfully sweet and charming…. and also because he’s consumed enough sugar over the years to turn himself into plum jelly.  Of course the poor man has to listen to The Sis Daughters lecture here and again and is probably often frightened when we come by what we might try to pass off as dessert, however, as with all things, experimentation and perseverance can yield workable results.  I know of quite a few lower sugar treats that he enjoys and with Valentine’s Day in mind decided to try a recipe that had been stored on my Kindle for some time waiting for a test run.

Tessa the Domestic Diva created these morsels that are perfect for a pre-kiss Valentine’s exchange.  I only added one ingredient – an almond on top of each, so she really gets all the credit for this one 😉  And Sweetie-Dad and I thank her.

Raw Chocolate Macaroons

2 c shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 c coconut oil (don’t over do it)
4 – 5 Tbsp cocoa powder (I used this)
1/4 cup maple syrup (she also lists honey or coconut nectar as possibilities)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
about 2 dozen raw almonds

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix well (scraping down sides as needed).  I am gathering from her description that she placed hardened coconut oil.  I melted mine first and mixed in the cocoa powder and vanilla before pouring into the food processor.  Mine probably mixed faster, her mixture was probably easier to shape.

20150206_120102-001Roll, scoop, plop, shape – just get it in reasonable portions onto wax or parchment paper or a silpat lined cookie sheet and chill in the fridge or freezer until firm.

20150206_134903-001You can store them in the refrigerator or the freezer and share them with the sweeties in your life knowing that your time and your love has translated into a treat that lacks processed ingredients without a high dose of sugar.  Love 🙂


If you’d like to give some other kind of loving sweets check out these other options from us and friends:

Chocolate Apricot Truffle Cups from an unrefined vegan

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drop Cookies

Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie

Cocoa-nutty Good Bars / or Cake!

Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Crispy Chocolate Granola Stacks from Emmy Cooks!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Vedged Out

For more ideas for reducing the amount of sugar and processed food in your life, check out our book!  Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals.  Eat well, Be well friends!

Broccoli Meatballs? Reallly? Yes, Really.

I don’t know about you, but my preparation of, or suggestion of broccoli to the youngest members of our tribe is rarely met with an enthusiastic: “Oooooo broccoli!” I confess I find it hard to understand as broccoli was one of the only vegetables I willingly ate as a child, but I digress. When I make broccoli (despite their admission that my preparations are better than most thanks to this broccoli secret) there is usually at least a few faces that range from disinterest to disgust and either an implied or directly stated requirement that it be eaten regardless of how you feel about it because it’s broccoli. Why should they (and by they I mean all of us) eat their broccoli?

If you’re a data hound looking for reasons to eat broccoli, check this out (lots of graphs for you). If you prefer paragraphs to charts, give this one a go. The long and short of it is that broccoli is one of the richest sources of nature’s good stuff out there. It’s so great it makes the Mayo Clinic’s list of top 10 healthy foods. I’m gonna assume at this point that you at least logically believe that eating broccoli is a good idea, even if it has not been your favorite in the past. I would suggest that this preparation is a winner and just might turn your broccoli feelings on their healthy little hearts.

Vegetarian Times says: “Broccoli Meatballs.” Okay, there’s a lot of problems with that name for a dish. First of all “broccoli meatballs” just sounds weird. Secondly the fact that these little gems are called “meatballs” suggests that they have meat in them, which they do not. Admittedly simply calling them broccoli balls would likely not increase their appeal. Even I, a broccoli lover, am not particularly interested in eating broccoli balls. These little dealios, strange name or no, are really quite delicious, packed with nutrition (they include yet another ingredient on the Mayo Clinic’s top 10 list, almonds), and pretty simple to prepare. So let’s get on with… broccoli balls or bust! Okay, yeah, still no on the broccoli balls.

Broccoli Meatballs (adapted from Vegetarian Times Broccoli Meatballs with Garlic-Tomato Sauce)

  • 4 cups chopped broccoli (original called for just florets, but that’s wasteful, so peel the stems and go for it)
  • 1 c raw almonds
  • 2 t sesame seeds + 1 t salt in a 1/4 c measure – fill the rest with nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 11/2 T dried basil
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh spinach (shut the door – it’s another super healthy Mayo Clinic approved food!!)
  • 1/8 t cayenne pepper
  • 2 flax eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment. Steam the broccoli until just fork tender (maybe 10 minutes). It should be bright green and not mushy. Remove from steamer and allow to cool. Pulse almonds in food processor until ground. Place in mixing bowl. Pulse broccoli in food processor until mostly chopped. Add spinach and pulse a few more times and then add to ground almonds. Add all remaining ingredients except for the flax eggs and stir to combine. Add eggs and stir until combined. Shape mixture into meatballs.


We made 12, but I would make more smaller ones next time. You will have to press a little to get them to stick together. Place on baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until browning on the outside. Serve wherever you might consider serving meatballs. We had ours in mini pitas (a slight size mismatch there) with some leftover Easiest Pasta Sauce EVER, a salute to my old favorite a meatball sub. Sauteed green beans on the side made it a super green dinner bonanza. Delish! Since then I’ve had the leftovers with pasta, on a salad, and on a bed of rice with more nutritional yeast. All of them were great, so I give this badly named nutritional powerhouse a super Sis Sisters thumbs up! Eat well, be well friends!