This is Help Whip Cancer month with Pampered Chef. However, when you are married to someone who is a cancer survivor, every month is about cancer prevention and education. When Zoe was going through chemotherapy, finding foods she would eat was the biggest challenge. Everything to her tasted like cardboard. It was so hard to get her eat anything. The greatest blessing during that time was a cookbook I found called the Cancer Fighting Kitchen. In it, the author, explained how I could make the food taste palatable for Zoe. I learned to oversalt all her food so that it no longer tasted like cardboard
Sadly, the wisdom I gained from this book is a gift I have shared numerous times with friends who are battling cancer. When a dear friend of mine was recovering from what was to be her first of several battles with cancer, I suggested to her daughter that she add acids like lemon juice and hot sauce to her mom’s food. My friend, who normally does not like hot sauce, could not get enough.
We do what we can to help our loved ones eat when their taste buds make everything taste horrible. Another friend of mine said everything tasted metallic. So I suggested her husband put peanut butter on things. He mixed peanut butter into her spaghetti and meatballs one night and she scarfed it down like crazy. Peanut butter became her best friend and they went through gallons of it, or so I am sure it seemed. Read More
When we began this new vegan journey, I had no idea how much I would be learning and considering as I planned out our menu for the week. Not that I stick to it exactly, however, it helps me think through how much I am preparing and what I need and am I making sure we are getting enough of all the nutrients we need. There are so many processed vegan products and we have been trying where possible to avoid those. However, making our own seitan to make “chicken” patties and other faux meat products can be a bit more time consuming then our schedule allows.
The other challenge can be that Zoe and I have different palettes and love different kinds of food. Zoe loves foods that are crunchy, salty, sweet, and fried. As a friend of ours says about her husband, you can be an unhealthy vegan, especially when you are filling your diet with deep fried everything, ice cream, and foods that are loaded in pasta, pizza dough, etc. I tend to like more vegetables, especially the ones Zoe does not like, such as eggplant.
When we find something we both like we get uber excited, as that rarely happens. Read More
One of the reasons Zoe and I decided to give up animal products was that we decided to get serious about our health and working to reverse some of our health issues. Better late than never. What we have quickly learned, however, is that we fell into the trap of eating the same type of foods, just vegan style. Our quickie lunches became “chicken” patties with sweet potato fries and salad. We became quickly aware that our menu choices were become increasingly dependent on faux meats and cheeses. Yes, they were vegan but they were allowing us to be on a plant based diet with minimal eating of plants. I think there is something wrong with that
Even the recipes in the cookbook I had said I was going to cook my way through were vegan, but had minimal use of plants. Now I realize that nuts and grains and beans can be classified as plants. However, for us, we were thinking more about fruits and vegetables. So this week, we made the decision to focus on meals that were 50% fruits and vegetables and the balance could be grains and other proteins. While I may still prepare a dish or two from that cookbook, we have decided we need to make and eat things that are more plant, as we defined it, centered. Read More
This week I was going to reflect on what I learned about freezing from the book I am cooking my way through, The Make Ahead Vegan, but then life happened. Three people of varying importance in my life passed over and I, once again, found myself in this state of grief. I once again found myself wondering if meditations of my heart and my work in this world was making a difference. So I did what I normally do and then the signs began to pop up as they tend to do when I need them the most. Yet despite those signs I did not feel motivated to write about food. I wasn’t really feeling motivated to even cook food this week. It was just one of those weeks where I wondered how I could make eating plant based food feel junky and comforting. I haven’t been successful at that either. The the universe heard and answered my prayers in the form of the following random Facebook message from a woman and an organization I had never heard of.
Hi, Sharon--I found your blog when I was seeking inspirational words about how food is a global language. I am one of two founders of a non-profit in Austin, Texas, that is dedicated to help refugee women use their amazing cooking skills and heritage to earn money and integrate into our community. One of the things we do is host dinners--people buy tickets to come and eat food from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., and meet these women, etc. We're about to do one with Chefugees from Syria and Iraq, and I would love to include the passage below on the inside of our printed menus (there will be one at each guest's place).
Normally when I get a new cookbook I start with the introduction, but I was in a hurry to get the menu planned for this past week and the grocery list done. Zoe and I picked two recipes from the section on Hearty Meals and took off running. I plugged them in the menu plan, into the grocery list and jumped into making them, never thinking twice again about the introduction, which I am reading now.
One of the things which attracted us to this book was that it looked like everyday food, which was one of the authors goals. What we decided I would make for us this week was the Rigatoni and Vegan Sausage Casserole and Pasta Chili Bake. One of the things I appreciated was that she shared information about storage times for both the refrigerator and freezer, not that ours will ever make it to the freezer. However, one of the things that I realized was that while these recipes were going to be exactly the kind of food that Zoe loves, they were not going to push or challenge me in the kitchen or help me introduce Zoe to new and different foods. Although it is going to help both of us develop a new relationship with lentils. Read More
A few weeks ago, I shared that I was going to select a vegan cookbook and like Julie Powell, from the book Julie and Julia, cook my way through it. I was quite methodical in my approach. I looked at various lists of top vegan cookbooks, compiled my list of those that were on more than one top list, and borrowed them from the local library. I was not sure how I was going to discern which one I would choose, but I was clear I would be selecting one from the top ten list I had put together. Then life happened.
I had the opportunity to leave my home and physically go to the library by myself, something I had not been able to do in 7 years, and browse the vegan cookbooks. I found several which caught my attention for various reasons, so I came home with about 6 more books to add to my collection. Now I was faced with an even more difficult task of picking THE book I would cook my way through.
I had no idea on how I was going to pick THE book until I was reminded about how important family is. I was doing more then just cooking my way through a cookbook. I was going to be cooking for my wife and her selective palette. This was not just a me thing; this was a family thing. The decision of what book to use went from being a me thing to a family thing. Zoe and I began to go through the books together. Immediatel6y, some books were eliminated because there were not enough pictures for Zoe to imagine what these dishes were going to look like. Since we tend to eat with our eyes first, those with little to no pictures went back to the library. Read More
This morning was my first attempt to make vegan cream cheese. Zoe has been pretty happy with my getting Tofutti from the grocery store. The last three trips, however, they have been out of Tofutti. So we have tried another brand, but it did not meet Zoe’s desire for bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, her favorite. Last night, they were out of Tofutti again, so I decided I would try to make vegan cream cheese, something I had read was pretty easy to do. Yes and no.
Last night, I did as everyone suggested, well almost everyone, and I soaked my cashews over night. This morning they were uber soft and I could tell it would be fairly easy to blend them in my blender. So I began. I followed the direction that had the highest rating which had me add 1 tsp organic apple cider, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and a pinch of salt. I was supposed to add 1 tsp of water at a time to help it blend, but I thought I would add cashew milk instead as needed.
So the first tasting with Zoe and she thought it was not creamy enough. So I had it blend several more minutes. It was creamy enough for her, but I could tell by her face it was not cream cheesy enough to please her palette. Other then it not being Tofutti, it did not taste fatty enough. So back to the cookbooks. Read More
Several years ago, well four to be exact, I was in the process of reading the book Julie and Julia. It was about Julie Powell’s efforts to cook her way through Julia Child’s book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” My goal at the time was to cook my way through the newly released cookbook by Alex Guarnaschelli. That did not go so well for a number of reasons.
This morning I was reminded it was Julia Child Birthday and it got me thinking how fun it would be to pick a Vegan cookbook and work my way through it. Unlike most people, I do not read cookbooks for the recipes. I read them for the wisdom and the spiritual lessons they offer. So now I am reviewing a list of vegan cookbooks. Not sure which one I will choose yet. If you have a recommendation from the list below, please share your comments or if you know of one I should definitely consider let me know about that cookbook as well.
Unlike Julia Powell, I am not setting a time limit, although my kitchen is not much better than the one she appeared to have in the movie. So what will I learn? Perhaps I will learn lessons about timelessness, senses, simplicity, integrity, adventure, and technique. Time will only tell.
Cookbooks under consideration are: Read More
I almost missed this, but August is National Peach Month. I have always loved peaches, but now I have a greater understanding of why. Both in China and Japan the peach is associated with immortality and a long life. It is one of the “Three Blessed Fruits” in Buddhism and symbolizes longevity, so eating peaches may help me live longer.
That is just one reason I love peaches now. However, having lived in Georgia for several years, I came to love the state fruit. There is nothing like a good Georgia peach. I used to love making peach pies, but hated peeling peaches until I discovered the Pampered Chef serrated peeler, which makes peeling peaches so easy.
This week I thought I would share a few of my favorite Pampered Chef peach recipes and a few of my new favorite vegan peach recipes. Let me know which ones are your favorites. Read More
So it has been a complete week now of vegan eating and unlike my previous times of eating vegetarian, we have found ourselves going through some changes I was not anticipating. Yes, menu planning is taking more time as I realize how much of our previous meal plan was meat, cheese and egg dependent. I have also come to realize how, with my hectic schedule, I had become dependent on 30 or less minute meals. This week I have learned to slow down, breathe, and take time to think things through.
Interestingly, one day this week I was reminded to take time to do nothing. It was during that “do nothing” time that I began to gain insights into how this change was going to affect every aspect of my life. Zoe who is normally minimally engaged in meal prep and planning, has begun helping me, which is an awesome surprise. The other day she helped me grate potatoes for potato pancakes and realized just how much time I sometimes put into meal preparation. Read More
Over the last 17 years, we have been through numerous dietary shifts in our life, including several years of vegetarian eating until Zoe went through chemo and then all she craved was meat. So back we came to the land of the meat eaters. We have been talking about returning to a vegetarian diet for a while, but after watching a documentary Forks Over Knives, we decided it was healthiest for us and our desire to lose weight and eventually be able to come off all our medication to go vegan.
It's been a slow journey, but like with anything we do, when we decide to do it, we just do it. So the past few days we have eaten as much of what we had that needed to be gotten rid of.
This morning, we started this next phase of our journey. It is not just about changing what we buy, how we prepare it, what we eat, but an inward journey to learn more about ourselves, think about what these new choices are doing for us and how much our life is going to change Read More
July is National Picnic Month. It is a month to celebrate and share time with family and friends. As I goofed around to see if I could find any spiritual writings about God and Picnics, I stumbled upon this song called God Shuffled His Feet by Crash Test Dummies.
After seven days
He was quite tired, so God said:
“Let there be a day
Just for picnics, with wine and bread.”
He gathered up some people He had made,
Created blankets and laid back in the shade.
What if God’s idea of honoring the Sabbath was to gather together with loved ones and have a picnic. What if we took a day each week, month, or year, to rest and gather with friends to picnic with wine and bread.
I woke up this morning to realize that yesterday was National Pick a Blueberry Day and so not surprisingly, today is National Blueberry Muffin day. While I like blueberries, they take fourth place in my list of berry favorites (raspberry, blackberry, strawberry and then blueberry. Yet my favorite way to eat them has always been in muffins.
What I have found fascinating about blueberries is the various spiritual and medicinal uses and meanings. For example, blueberries contain anthocyanin, which is good for eyesight and they contain significant quantities of both antibacterial and antiviral compounds and have a reputation in northern Europe of fighting infections. They may also help protect against heart disease. Native Americans believed that the five-pointed start on the top of the berry was a sign that they were sent by the Great Spirit to feed children and never allow them to go hungry.
Making the perfect muffin is fairly simple, it just calls for one to be patient and nor rush the process. For example, it is best to combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ones in another. Before combining them, most baker sources I went to suggested you make a well in the dry ingredients, similar to what you do when making fresh pasta, and slowly add the wet ingredients Read More
Every season of the year is filled with opportunities to gather with friends and share a meal. This is true across the world. Summer is filled with opportunities to gather and barbecue. The fourth of July, in the US, is the most popular holiday for barbecuing followed by Memorial and Labor days. Barbecuing is one of those ways of cooking which transcend social and political classes. There is a history of barbecuing at the White House for example, since Thomas Jefferson. Each President has had their own favorite. For example, Lyndon B Johnson was a lover of Texas style barbecued ribs. The most popular flavors of barbecue sauce are hickory, mesquite, honey and spicy hot.
While making plans for these holiday get togethers one is probably thinking most about who to invite, what proteins to make and what beverage and vegetable to pair with them. Rarely, do we think about how spiritually rich these gatherings are. In South Africa, for example, these gatherings are braai and they are more then just a chance to gather and barbecue, they are just to celebrate cultural and spiritual traditions. Gathering with others is about more than cooking and creating memories. It is about honoring the feast, the friends, and the ways foods and wines pair up with each other. It’s about understanding how these pairings brings out the best in conversation and camaraderie for those gathered. There is a richening of community when we gather and share a meal together. Read More
This time of year, well anytime of year, I enjoy sipping on a cup of tea. On those cold days, I love sipping on a hot cup of tea and feeling the heat from the cup warm me up inside and out. During the summer, however, I look forward to a tall cup of iced tea. Maybe that is why June was chosen as National Iced Tea Month.
A friend of mine once told me that iced tea was created by accident at the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair. It seems a vendor was trying to sell hot tea on a hot day. People wanted something cool, not hot, so he iced it down and it became a hit. Other food scholars suggest that people were writing about iced tea in cookbooks dating back to 1842. Regardless of how it came to be, it is now something people around the world enjoy drinking on hot summer days. Read More
It has been a few years since I have written about fondue, but given that this is National Fondue month, it is a good time to reflect on Fondue again. Fondue is one of those foods which has varied in its popularity over time. However, in some cultures, like Switzerland, fondue is a sacred food. For one very simple reason. It is a meal you can share with people you love. There are some spiritual values in fondue, which are difficult to find in other types of meals.
Fondue is about more than people gathering around a table to share a meal. Fondue is a communal dish. Each and every person gathered around the table is connecting with each other every time they dip something into the fondue pot. It is not so important what is in the fondue pot. It can be cheese, chocolate, or some other form of awesomeness. Nor does it matter what one is dipping into the fondue pot. It could be cheese, berries, or some other delicious dipper. It is the process of sharing a pool into which we all enter and engage.
Eating fondue reminds us to slow down and appreciate time with each other. Especially in this season, we are busy. Eating fondue is a time to sit down, share a homemade meal, sit, talk, and share an experience. Eating fondue allows us to share food and conversation with those we love. Read More
This has been a fast-paced and hectic week for me. I was having a hard time quieting my brain enough to get inspired. I was torn between reflecting on an ingredient or a product. This morning, I woke up to a reminder on Facebook of a blog I wrote three years ago today. As I reread it, I laughed as it fits perfectly with our spiritual practice this month -- you. I took this as a sign to share my thoughts again.
It has been a while since I posted here, while I have been resting, healing, and preparing for the next round of surgery. However, I was reminded of something last night that resonated with my soul and that is in all things to do you. I was watching a special episode of Chopped (no surprise to those who read this blog often) and Katie Lee, one of the competitors, was surprised that she won. In reflecting on it, she talked about how she thought she had won because she had stayed true to who she was. Katie is best known for her comfort foods and that is what she cooked all three courses, foods filled with memories of growing up and cooking with her grandmother and mother. She gave the judges her on a plate. Read More
Recently, I stumbled upon this video which helped me to understand that chocolate, a food that most people enjoy and savor, has a deeper meaning and importance then I realized. A few weeks ago, I began to reflect on the debates and discussion about what is chocolate. This week I came to realize that Mexican chocolate is nothing like what we are used to eating in this culture and has a rich history and brings flavors of chocolate to the table, which other chocolates do not. This short video will give you some understanding of the history behind cacao in Mexico. Read More
Today is National Cranberry Day. Most folks I know do not LOVE cranberries. However, perhaps we should. Not just around Thanksgiving, but year round. Cranberries have a history, which stems back to Native American folklore of preventing illness. Modern medicine has shown that cranberries can help prevent urinary tract infections, gum disease, cancer, and numerous other illnesses. They are not a treatment for, but a source which can help prevent. Yet, most people are not craving to sit down and eat a bowl of cranberries because of their bitter taste.
Most of our consumption of them comes around the Thanksgiving season. This year as we gather with family and friends and give thanks, perhaps we should give thanks for this bitter, bright red berry. And the diversity of ways cranberries, as well as other berries, are full of health-promoting antioxidants. Read More
We all know that the end of this month is Thanksgiving, but how many of you know that this month is National Peanut Butter Month. So this week I am paying homage to Peanut Butter. I love peanut butter for a few reasons. One being that it has taught me some amazing life lessons.
A friend of mine tells the story of how much he hates peanut butter, but would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for his daughters who loved them. One day he realized that he was imposing his disdain for peanut butter on his daughter without even realizing it. He realized it when his daughter complained that he put too much jelly, which he loved, and not enough peanut butter on her sandwich. He was so focused on what he loved that he was not thinking about what she enjoyed and what spoke to her. To this day he still hates peanut butter, but puts more peanut butter on his daughter’s sandwiches and less jelly, which she enjoys, but not as much as the peanut butter. His story reminds me of how easy it is to put our needs and desires over others. Read More