Category Archives: Vegetarian

Capers are Not Just for Muppets: Inspiration from Real Recipe Plans

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Real Recipe Plans

When I was offered a free trial of Real Recipe Plans, I thought, “Great! This will help me to be organized!” So, I began the membership by promptly vacating my own gluten-free cooking zone for a suspect kitchenette in the Alps, which is a less-than-stellar way to begin any new endeavor.

I came back from our marathon festivities, which included a close-encounter with Austrian cheese, to find a backlog of recipes along with a sinking sensation that I had failed before I’d begun.

I needed help, and Real Recipes Plans offered it to me.

Not only do I receive five simple, gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian recipes each week, I also get a handy shopping list I can download to my iPad. The only way this service could be improved would be if I could highlight, check or delete items as I go along. But I AM happy to have the list because all I have to do is pick up the ingredients and then rest soundly knowing that even if I’m stuck behind a parade of tractors on my way home from Crossfit, a fresh, whole foods dinner will still be on the table in a timely manner.

But more than just the ease of using this service, Real Recipe Plans encourages me to add new things to our dietary repertoire. I’ve gotten into a Vegan rut recently, serving the ‘usual’ garbanzos with coconut milk, sweet potato tacos and if all else fails, rice and beans. While these recipes are good ones, some members of the family say things like, “It’s Monday, we must be having mango black bean salad.”

Thus enters Real Recipe Plans to revitalize the Wellman family palate.

One of the first recipes I made called for capers. I was under the impression capers were a type of little fish, like an anchovy or sardine. Fortunately for my children, I googled it before doing the shopping, and thus, the Wellman family had their first capers in a quinoa salad that did NOT taste like fish and had nothing to do with Muppets (our only prior experience with the word).

Most of the recipes are perfect as is, but sometimes, such as in the Farmer’s Market Bowl, I added some fresh ginger and garlic: not only to spice it up a little, but because I am a firm believer that fresh ginger and garlic ward off colds, flus and unwanted houseguests.

Even though I haven’t yet stuck with the ‘plan’ of making one recipe per day, and even though I can’t always find some of the ingredients here in Germany (like kale, since it is a seasonal crop and won’t be seen for several more months) Real Recipe Plans has encouraged me to try new things and has helped me out of the gluten-free Vegan doldrums.

I have friends who scour the internet for recipes and have APPS that create shopping lists for them, but I am too busy/distracted/interrupted to do this myself. I would much rather pay someone ten bucks a month to send me the recipes (and the lists) and know that dinner will be more than just a can of beans.

Real Recipe Plans is a great service for those of us who value fresh, whole foods but need a little help in the organizational department. Thank you, Chef Kimi, for the great-tasting, easy-to-make, real-food recipes! 

A Message from Master Chef Kimi Reid of Real Recipe Plans

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I don’t often do this, but I thought I’d share this note from Master Chef Kimi Reid, of Real Recipe Plans, who sends easy, healthy and delicious recipes to my inbox once a week. The blog of my experience with this service will follow soon, but I was encouraged this post because I agreed with SO much of it.

–Keri

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Why Gluten-Free?  Why Real Recipes?  Master Chef Kimi Reid explains.

“We live in a fast-paced society and healthy food is not always accessible or affordable!  There are so many alternatives to cooking at home, and I realized that there needed to be a simple solution to take-out. An alternative to delivery.  A downright easy way to avoid common food allergens.  We need to get back in the kitchen…asap…go, now!

So I created Real Recipe plans, which provides busy people like yourself with a simple plan every week.  After spending 9 years in the professional culinary world, I can tell you that the only way to avoid processed foods and many common food allergies, is to make the food yourself.

My food philosophy is ‘Naturally gluten, dairy and soy-free,’ because I understand the challenges associated with food allergies.  I personally follow this eating philosophy and have found incredible anti-inflammatory and digestive success eating this way.  And honestly, most of my subscribers have been astounded how easy it is to keep these foods out of your diet…just focus on the real ingredients, and follow our awesome recipes.

I personally have sensitivities to gluten, dairy and soy, and have found that I feel much better without these ingredients.  It can be easy to eat gluten-free, but there is a whole world of gluten-free products out there, which will not necessarily help anyone reach their health goals.  I honestly feel that eliminating common food allergens from your diet, opens up your world to a plethora of exciting, real ingredients…but not everyone knows how to cook with real ingredients these days.  Real Recipe Plans shows you how to cook with real ingredients in new, fresh and delicious ways.  Yahoo!”

*Bonus: ‘Like’ Real Recipe Plans on Facebook, and try the service for FREE for one month!

Himalaya China Thai German Chickpea Dish 151 or Culture Shock Curry

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Recipe of the Week

Culture Shock Curry

Every few weeks, you will see my son and I walking through downtown Würzburg.

I am alert, peeking into the yarn shop and forcing myself to swiftly move past the stores that sell running gear, while chanting, “I don’t need more running gear. I don’t need more running gear.”

My son, on the other hand, walks briskly and silently, trying not to collide into people on his way to what he calls “the perfect combination of psychological and physical torture,” known to those of us without braces as the “orthodontist.”

He will thank me someday, as he wheels me in to get my dentures.

I enjoy our outings to Würzburg. Maybe it’s because of the guy we saw with the purple mohawk and purple tights, with a purple balloon tied to his waist, carrying an old-style boom box on his shoulder; or maybe it’s the way I have to hold my breath when I go down the stairwell of the parking garage; but whatever the reason, Würzburg certainly has a more cosmopolitan ambiance than my lovely little village, where the oddest sights often include farm machinery.

As is our custom, I let my son have Pizza Hut after his orthodontist appointment, and yes, I DO realize there is some irony in this. I am a Health Nut Mom, but let me tell you, Pizza Hut is a rarity in my neck of the woods, so I indulge the young man, though it is probably clogging his arteries and contributing to a host of diseases he will have to combat in the future–but it’s his choice. [End of Mom Rant].

While I usually consume an organic nut bar and a smoothie while he eats, this time I was hungry for hot food. We still had a lot of errands to run, so I thought I might be able to find a safe-ish sort of Asian food place. I’ve gone before to the one just around the corner from Pizza Hut, known by the ambiguous name ‘China Wok.’

As I approached, a sign a little further down the alley with the interesting name “Himalaya,” caught my eye. But in case the onlooker was put off by the “Himalaya” part, they had also added “China” and “Thai,” making me briefly question the geographical integrity of the owners.

Since I am constantly on a quest for good Pad Thai here in Germany, I decided to be bold and try this place, even though it was filled with angry-looking guys drinking beer (at noon), a group of chatty girls, and a lone Asian tourist, looking very out-of-place (like us). However, I took it as a good sign that every seat was filled, though the place was no bigger than my living room, and the kitchen was right there behind the cash register, where my TV would be.

Having perused the menu intensely (and not finding a single strand of Pad Thai noodles), I decided on number 151, a Chickpea dish for vegetarians. And wow! I’m glad I did! It was an absolutely fabulous curry, and the best part is that I could watch the guy make it, and I tried to remember what he put in it–though maybe next time I’ll secretly video tape him with my iPhone.

Thus, tonight I experimented, added mushrooms plus a bit of this and that and a new favorite was born.

All through dinner, I heard (through mouthfuls of food) “Yum! This is SO good Mom!” And “Can you make this again?” And “This is better than steak! Plus it won’t kill me!”

I was so excited about the results, I felt the need to share this right away, while I could still remember what I put in it. So, inspired by a trip to the orthodontist and a quirky Himalayan Chinese Thai German restaurant, I present:

Culture Shock Curry

The Raw Materials

1 large yellow onion (thinly sliced)

2-3 cups white button mushrooms (sliced)

1 cup green onion (chopped)

2 gloves garlic (pressed)

2 tbsp ginger root (freshly grated)

4 cans of chickpeas (for a family of 6…adjust according to your family size)

2 cans unsweetened coconut milk

1 tbsp freshly ground coriander (use a mortar & pestle–it’s great AND relieves stress)

*2-3 tbsp Thailand Sunset Dream Curry Powder: Okay, so I found this at an organic market (yes, in Würzburg) so you may not have this exact spice in your area. But mine contains paprika, cumin, coriander, mustard powder, chili powder, garlic powder and something called bockshornklee, whatever that is. So experiment, if you don’t have this, I would recommend playing around with some curry powder, chili powder, red pepper and cumin until you get the spiciness that you like.

6-8 cups cooked rice (again, depending on your family size)

The Method

Set your rice cooking in a rice cooker. If you do not own a rice cooker, you should, as they are wonderful.

Rub down your cast iron wok with wok oil then heat up the puppy on med-high till it sizzles. Toss in your large onion and water sauté until onion is brown and your eyes are watering. Add the ginger, garlic and freshly ground coriander, and cook 1-2 minutes, until aromatic.

Add your mushrooms, and sauté 3-4 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to soften and brown. Continue adding small doses of water to keep the stuff from welding itself to the bottom of the wok. Push the mushroom mixture to the outer ring of the wok, turn your heat to high and add the chickpeas and green onion.

Mix everything together for 4-5 minutes, then add coconut milk and remainder of curry spices.

Simmer 3-4 minutes and serve piping hot over brown rice.

Prepare to be a hero.

(One who has a minor addiction to cooking with coconut milk–it’s just SO creamy!)

Guten Appetit! 

Vegelicious Squashetti

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I’d heard of these things called ‘spaghetti squash’ but had never seen them in person.

Sad, but true.

Maybe it’s because things like this are seasonal here in Germany, or maybe they’ve always been buried beneath the mounds of decorative gourds that invade like martians every autumn.

Whatever the case, I paused when I read the sign ‘Spaghetti Squash,’ causing a mini-stau in the narrow aisle.

Actually, there were three placards and therefore three different types of squash for my consideration. I could have quickly googled it on my iPhone, but sometimes, I like to do things the old-fashioned way. So I stood there pondering the squash, while people bumped past, giving me the stink-eye.

Butternut was an easy one since, being the only type sold at our commissary for what seems like years on end, I had previously purchased it for my red lentil stew. The other squash was small, round and green, and thus, I could not imagine what type of so-called spaghetti could come from it. The buttery color of the third made it a prime candidate. Proudly, I scooped up the only two yellowish gourds and hoped for the best.

Upon returning home, a quick google search showed that I had chosen wisely. After reading a number of cooking blogs and realizing that I was too lazy to stand there and boil the things, I sawed them lengthwise in halves, cleaned them, placed them face down on a cookie sheet, wrapped them in foil, and left them to fend for themselves in the oven at 400 degrees.

20 minutes and a pan of pasta sauce later, a new family favorite was born.

The Gourd

2-3 spaghetti squash, halved. As with most squash, it’s hard to cut these bad boys raw. You can just toss them in the oven and clean them later, but I never have enough patience time for that sort of thing. So, as any good mom would, I had my teenage son cut them for me. It’s good training for him.

Clean out the seeds and gunk in the middle, and wrap the gourd halves in foil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on how big they are, and if you like them softer or more al dente).

After baking, you’re ‘supposed’ to let them cool, which means I plunge right in, trying not to burn myself on the hot gourds whilst scraping the steaming innards with a fork.

Though the actual name of the gourd was a subtle form of foreshadowing, nearly every person in the house (myself included) exclaimed, “It looks like spaghetti!”

Brilliant.

I tossed the stringy meat of the squash into a big bowl and served it hot with pasta sauce.

The Sauce

If you’re in a rush for time, you can simply dump a jar of organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan pasta sauce over it, which I know you always have on hand. But to make this dish truly live up to its vegelicious name, make your own sauce.

The Raw Materials

6-8 tomatoes plucked from your pesticide-free garden, chopped

1 large sweet yellow onion

6-8 white mushrooms, sliced

1-2 red peppers chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 large zucchini, chopped

1 large yellow squash (I didn’t read the placard on that one, though I’m sure it has an official name), also chopped

2 tbsp tomato paste

water or tomato juice, as needed (I ended up adding one large can of organic diced tomatoes with the juice)

1/4 -1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1-2 tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 dash red pepper

Any other kind of  spices or veggies you like

The Method

Water sauté the garlic and onion on medium-high until translucent, adding water as needed to prevent sticking, and then add the red pepper.

Saute for 2 minutes and then add mushrooms.

When the peppers begin to soften (about the time you can smell them 2-3 minutes later), add the tomatoes.

Keep adding small amounts of water or tomato juice as necessary to prevent a smoking mess on the bottom of your pan.

When the tomatoes begin to soften and break into mush, add your spices, tomato paste, and enough liquid to make it look like pasta sauce. If it’s too runny, add more tomato paste and/or a can of organic chopped tomatoes.

Bring to a simmer then add your yellow squash and zucchini.

Simmer until the squash and zucchini are just beginning to soften, but remove from heat before they turn to mush (5-8 minutes).

Aesthetics

Form your spaghetti squash ‘noodles’ into the most spaghetti-ish arrangement possible, leaving a divot in the middle. Fill the squashetti nest with your vegilicious pasta sauce, and garnish with freshly plucked basil leaves.

Topping this with some spicy Mrs. Dash (known as ‘Mister Dash’ around this house for some strange reason) and some Veggie Shreds (if you can find them), makes this the most Vegelicious Squashetti you will ever have.

Guaranteed!

Weight off my Shoulders

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When I tell people I was overweight, they often don’t believe me.

Maybe I hid it well, or maybe it was because at the peak of my girth, I was the least sociable. But recently, I found a health journal I kept nearly 4 years ago, which depicts the struggle of a typical American woman who realized she needed to change her life, but was at a loss as how to do so.

The journal doesn’t lie: I weighed 184 pounds (unless I was, in fact, lying, in which case I was closer to 190) and could squeeze into a size 14, though I could actually bend in a 16.

Not surprisingly, I also had many health problems…which I will happily talk about with you over coffee sometime–if you really want to know.

The saddest part of that little pink journal was the desperation that poured from its pages.

I wrote about all the diets I had been on in my life: low fat, low cal, South Beach, cabbage soup (twice…makes me shudder to think of it), Atkins, and I even resolved to follow that farcical ‘guide’  known as the USDA food pyramid (which requires a ranting blog post of its own).

But in the end, I always gained back the weight, and when I moved to the land of strudel and schnitzel, the weight came back with a vengeance, leaving me with a sense of despair and helplessness.

Then due to medical problems, I had to go gluten-free.

It was tough at first (especially with the many pity-parties I was quick to host), but my loved ones were supportive. After all, gluten was a medical issue.

But this new plant-based life has been tougher. And with my track record, I don’t blame people for being skeptical–especially when I become passionate on the subject.

I probably come across like some caricature from an infomercial.

I am from a nation that is notorious for exporting its fad diets, and I have been steeped in a culture that strives to bring newer, faster, cheaper products to the market. So to stumble upon a simple, ancient plan that brings good health seemed too good to be true.

I remember the feelings of helplessness and desperation that excess weight and health problem pack onto a person’s psyche. And I know that in American culture we look for fast results with minimal introspection. We want to be thin, healthy and comfortable–and we want it now…or at least before the next family reunion.

I distinctly recall feeling so desperate to lose weight, I would have tried almost anything.

But what I discovered is that the secret of obtaining good health is to slow down, to take control over what you put into your mouth, to not count calories or follow a ‘diet,’ but to simply eat foods found in nature.

Unless you drench them in ranch and top them with bacon & cheese, you can NOT get fat from eating veggies. If you don’t believe me, try it and prove me wrong!

While weight-loss is a fabulous by-product of plant-based eating habits, the best part, by far, is the sense of well-being you get from nourishing your body on a cellular level. Every cell in your body is a microscopic factory, and by eating veggies and fruit, you are giving those cells the fuel they need to work efficiently. It is that simple.

Long before meals came in a take-out bag, meat was not on the Ancient Daily Specials list. If meat WAS on the menu at all, it was 100 percent grass-fed and organic–and the consumer burned a lot of calories to get the food from plains to plates.

As a modern-day human, you may feel completely discouraged about your health. While there’s no going back to a completely agrarian society, there are steps you can take (like I did) to take control over your own health destiny.

My unsolicited advice:

  • Eat a salad before every meal (use quality balsamic or find a natural topping, such as nuts or fruit)
  • Stop using oil in your cooking (even ‘good’ olive oil–it’s still fat)
  • If you have a sweet tooth–eat dry fruit instead of candy
  • Refuse to purchase anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, now also under the happy name ‘corn sugar’
  • Think of processed food as poison–a small dose may not kill you right away, but it won’t help you either
  • Try limiting your dairy or only choose organic, whole or raw
  • Take time to re-train your taste buds
  • Eat beans or legumes instead of meat products
  • If you do eat meat, choose organic–from a local farm, if possible
  • Vote for politicians who support the small farmer. This may seem irrelevant (and nearly impossible), but America’s obesity/cancer/diabetes epidemics are symptoms of a corrupt and injust political system. If government officials no longer come to the banquet escorted by Monsanto & Tyson, there might be real and lasting change in our nation. (Yes…I just watched Farmageddon and was shocked)

If you feel powerless about achieving your own good health, please do some research. The following resources opened my eyes, first to my own nutritional needs, and second, to the preventable epidemics sweeping through our nation:

  • Eat to Live and Disease-Proof Your Child, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman: Lots of nutritional information and a 6 week program for plant-based eating (which can turn into a complete overhaul of your eating habits)
  • Forks Over KnivesThe scientific research behind the benefits of plant-based eating
  • Food Inc: a candid look at the food system in America
  • Farmageddon: a shocking documentary on how current food policies in America are killing the small farm, and how our rights to nutritional foods are being whittled away
  • King Corn: a funny, yet sad look at the effects of corn subsidies in America–a must see if you’re from the Midwest:)

While I am still not where I’d like to be health wise, I am on the right path, and nothing makes me happier than to see other people walking there with me. All it takes is a small, first step.

Won’t you join me? 

Travels of a Gluten-Free, Vegan(ish) Gypsy Mama

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It is possible to be gluten-free, and it is possible to be vegan; but it is nearly impossible to be both in certain situations, for example, on an 8 hour flight.

And yes, I brought my own food with me. And no, the tepid, ten-hour old slices of cucumber in the baggie in my purse did not seem savory when presented a steaming plate of chicken and polenta (the BEST gf meal ever), courtesy of the kind chefs at Lufthansa.

As for me, the vegan thing is by choice, not politically or morally motivated, and therefore it can be neatly packed in my carry-on at will.

While I am beyond craving meat, I would eat that particular airline meal again and again, until it gave me coronary artery disease, in which case I would have to limit myself to dreaming about it post-op.

I admit it: I ate meat during my travels. But a lot of people who love me bent over backwards to make me gluten-free meals, vegan meals, or  both, and I don’t want to be that annoyingly neurotic sort of person who disdains food presented–especially when I’m lodging (free) with very generous people.

My husband and I have a saying, “Fifi only drinks champagne.”

I’m not sure where it came from, but at some point, we started saying it whenever one of the kids vocalized a food aversion, and then we would laugh.

Thus, not to be a Fifi, the only neurosis I allow myself is the gluten paranoia, only because I don’t want people to feel bad for inadvertently poisoning me.

*Editor’s note: if the author is glutened, it is ENTIRELY her own responsibility! The host is NEVER at fault. NEVER.

Before my trip to the US, I specifically requested my Grandma O. create a gluten-free version of her famous ham balls.

If you are vegetarian, I apologize for the image that may be in your mind at the moment, and I can only say, if you commit vegetarian impropriety just once in your long, untainted life, it should be with Grandma O’s ham balls.

While the kids and I did eat out a few times, we purposely boycotted fast-food (though Tasty Tacos, Chilie’s & Applebee’s blur the distinction).

And the rumor is true: with my consent, Grandpa took the children to IHOP–a place that could now kill me.

*Editor’s note: after the author returned home, she found a ‘Frequent Customer’ card from IHOP in an old purse. The author wants to make it clear that her life has changed drastically from six years ago!

But if the kids eat IHOP once every six years, I think they will survive (with large doses of veggies in the middle).

I also had lattes & cappuccino while I was traveling. Because seriously, if I’m going to have milk with my espresso, I’m going for whole milk. Milk gleaned from rice, soy or almonds just isn’t the same.

Before my vegan and/or vegetarian readers begin posting angry and/or disparaging comments to my blog, let me change the subject by asking: Is true veganism something you can turn off and on by choice?

Was I a convert to begin with? Am I just a backslider? Maybe I’m not a vegan at all. I already find myself fantasizing about the steak I’m going to consume after my marathon this summer.

I’m most likely someone Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in his book Eat to Live, calls a Nutritarian, which simply means someone who, for the most part, eats a veggie-based diet.

While not recommended, the occasional fling with meat & dairy is permissible.

And occasionally really means ‘on occasion,’ as in ‘special’ occasion; not as in It’s three o’clock again–bacon cheeseburger time! 

You might be wondering how I felt with all this fat and cholesterol floating around in my bloodstream, trying to attach itself to places it shouldn’t.

By the end of my binge, I felt bloated, fat, tired, and quite ready for my lean green.

The surprising thing is that I didn’t gain any weight. However, I’m quite sure daily bingeing would put me back into elastic-waisted jeans in no time–an endeavor I do NOT wish to put to the test.

After getting through the jet-lag, my husband and I began a detox. He had lost nearly 20 pounds while I was gone (making a total of 80 pounds since this year began), and I think he joined the Reboot simply to humor me.

But regardless, this week’s juice fast has been tough. I even cheated by eating a fresh fig, a strawberry, and a handful (okay, an entire can) of garbanzo beans. Oh, and there was the mushroom soup I had to sample, since I was cooking for the kids; but that was purely a quality control issue.

But my husband was supportive of my deviation by remarking, “At least you weren’t sucking down hunks of chicken!”

He meant it as a compliment.

And he’s right. In just four days, my cravings for sweets and dairy went away.  Now I fantasize about fruits, veggies, and legumes.

A juice fast will do that to a person.

I don’t want to sound like I don’t enjoy my juice–because I do. I have missed the tangy flavor of my Lean Green.

And knowing that my body is receiving an entire bag of spinach’s worth of nutrients in one drink is satisfying on both mental and molecular levels. If someone were to see my cells under a microscope, I’m sure they would be cheering.

With no trips in my immediate future, I can better control my eating environment; and my cells can slap on their shades, sit back, and take in the liquid sunlight.

Home sweet home.

Recipe of the Week: Don’t Make Fun of Me Cashew “Cheese”

Friday night is pizza night around the Wellman ranch, and since becoming vegan (or mostly vegan), I’ve struggled to find something to replace cheese on my pizza. Well, I found this recipe in the Forks Over Knives cookbook–and it does the trick.

Not only is it scrumptious on pizza, but it’s awesome on gluten-free crackers too. It bears little (if any) resemblance to real cheese, but the flavor is delicious! Don’t make fun of me! Try it!

The Raw Materials

1 cup organic cashews

1/2 lemon (I used one whole lemon, but it was small)

1 tsp fresh basil, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/4 cup water

The Method 

Toss ‘cheese’ ingredients in the food processor. Puree, adding water slowly until it reaches a thick, cream-cheese-like consistency. You should be able to form little ‘cheese’ balls, so don’t add too much water. Add seasonings (salt if you want it) to taste.

You can form this into ‘cheese’ patties (similar to mozzarella, Italian style) and place it on your pizza. Or, you can crumble it over the top. Or, you can spread it on crackers. Or, you can lick the spatula.

Whatever your method of delivery, it will be good (and filling).

A Fatted-Calf a Day: Why I’m Eating Veggies

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Why would a woman who has gone for three years without beer or brezen or apfel strudel or any other form of gluteny goodness decide to also do away with dairy, meat, candy & any so-called food created in a laboratory?

My food journey begins with a guy named Daniel. He was from a war-torn city; and he & some of his buddies were taken away as captives. But instead of living in tents in the burbs with the other prisoners, these guys were brought into the largest, most powerful city in the world at that time.

These young men were special–chosen to learn the language and literature of the place which was to be their new home. As an added bonus, they were to live in the palace, which was pretty snazzy student housing.

My kids & husband & I stood next to these very same palace gates–still shiny cobalt blue and adorned with the popular gods of that time. I craned my neck back and tried to imagine the hot desert sun & bright blue sky above, rather than the pale autumn sun trickling in through the sky lights of the museum.

These ancient city walls were built in order to symbolize, for anyone who could see, the greatness and supremacy of the king.  I mean, who could argue with the king of the world?

As I maneuvered to get pictures of the kids without a thousand other photo-snapping tourists in the picture, I thought about Daniel & his friends, walking through these gates as humble captives.

After Daniel had settled into the palace, the king ordered that these chosen men were to be given the same food & drink that the king himself ate.

It was a really nice gesture, but in spite of the fact that a king who could build such an impressive foyer probably had some great-tasting grub flowing through his kitchen doors, Daniel wasn’t good with it.

The servant in charge of the buffet table was concerned that Daniel would starve & look terrible if he DID NOT eat the king’s food. So Daniel asked him for ten days to prove that the fruit & veggie tray really was better than anything from the all-you-can-eat menu.

As you’ve probably guessed, Daniel & those on his fad diet looked like movie stars compared to the guys sucking down milkshakes and bacon double-cheeseburgers.

But here’s the important point that many people emulating Daniel overlook: after the ten days, Daniel did not jump on the king’s gravy train. Rather, during his three years of studying in the palace, he continued to eat healthy food. And he ended up being the wisest man in the kingdom.

I’m not saying that eating veggies is going to make you gorgeous and brilliant–but seriously, it can’t hurt!

I am two weeks into plant-based eating, and though I had 2 cappuccinos (with real milk), the veggie plan seems to be working small wonders already. My skin is soft, my complexion is better, I have more un-caffeinated energy, I don’t need to consume as much food to actually feel full, I eat when I’m hungry, and I’ve lost 4 pounds. So, I’m going to stick with it for a while–especially since I have a marathon (possibly two) in my near future.

I anticipate that I will eat meat sometime this year. And that’s okay. Meat is there for us if we want it. If you are at all interested in the Bible, then you know about the feast days, which sometimes include things like lamb (which means I can justify the occasional doner kebap). On other days, people did actually eat fish, though it probably wasn’t battered and deep-fried.

In ancient times, only rich people (like kings) could kill the fatted calf every day. For the average working slave, it was only a couple times a year–if that. And I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure the normal ancient person didn’t die from heart disease or type 2 diabetes–not when there were so many natural things that could kill you.

My nutritional journey began with Daniel, but the more scary food documentaries I watch, the more I want to stick with plant-based eating.

I’m not the only one doing this. For thousands of years, entire people groups were eating this way. And while words like “vegan,” “organic,” and “whole foods” conjure images of people who tie-dye t-shirts in the bathtub, I believe that the more plant-based food I eat, the healthier I will be.

And if I want to be the great-grandma who wins her age division in the ultra-marathon mountain race, I’ll need all the eating wisdom I can get.

 

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Spinach Baba Ganoush

Inspired by a whimsical purchase of Portobello mushrooms (because I’d never bought them before), and a whimsical batch of baba ganoush (because I liked saying the name–and I had eggplants getting a little too soft). I added spinach for good luck, and voila! a new favorite was born.

The Raw Materials
6 Portobello mushrooms, cleaned with stems removed
2-4 medium eggplants (depending on family size)
olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup thawed, drained frozen spinach or finely chopped fresh (more if you like it, less if you don’t)

The Method
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke the eggplants with a fork. Lightly oil them and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until they look withered and the flesh is soft (30-45 minutes). Remove eggplants from the oven and let them cool.

When the eggplants are cool, remove the pulp from the skins. Squeeze pulp gently to remove excess water. This process will remind you of gently squeezing a squid, but bear with it. Chop the pulp very fine. Combine with the remaining ingredients. Taste the mixture and adjust ingredients to your liking.

Brush mushrooms lightly with olive oil. Fill mushrooms with eggplant mixture and bake until you can smell it–8-12 minutes.

These are most excellent served on a bed of rice (long grain or wild).

Fast, Family

Standard

What did we do over the holidays?

We baked goodies, snacked, baked more goodies, feasted, ate leftovers, and gained at least ten pounds. Well…only some of us gained ten pounds.

We did enough eating to last an entire year, which is part of the reason we began the new year with a fast.

To kick off the new healthy-eating lifestyle, the adults in the family went 24 hours without eating anything. By the end of it, we were thrilled with our dinner of potatoes and broccoli. The complete fast truly made us appreciate the rabbit food we are now eating.

In all honesty, it feels great to purge the clogged cupboards. There are many scary things in industrial food, and I feel better simply taking a few steps away from it.

So even though I currently cannot eat gluten without getting sick, I am also avoiding meat, dairy (for a little while), refined sugars, high-fructose corn poison, and any oils that can stick to my arteries.

Even though we didn’t force the kids to fast with us, they did give up certain foods for a few days; and since their mini-fast ended, I’ve seen them reaching for healthier alternatives. By having healthy snacks on hand (and by pitching the junk) the kids will be healthier too.

It seems so simple.

I’ve had some glorious successes, such as the gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free blueberry-banana pancakes; and I’ve had some failures, like the garlic-tofu-mashed potatoes, but the challenge has been fun.

This week, our family has eaten a lot of things that are unusual to us–eggplant, butternut squash, soy milk & red lentils. And I’m finding that in order to eat better, I have to plan better, which is not always easy for me.

Though I love wearing aprons (I have one for cooking & one for cleaning), I’ve never thought of myself as the “meal-planner” type. Just saying “meal-planner” brings to mind June Cleaver.

But with 4 growing kids and this newfound desire to eat whole foods, I might advise Webster to slap a new picture next to the term “meal-planner.” Gone are the high-heels & pearls; in are the barefoot trail shoes & yoga pants.

Now that my kids are learning about nutrition through real-life example, rather than some phantom mom in my imagination, the majority of my children want to eat better (though one young mac & cheese addict is hopeless); and all of the kids are starting to exercise on their own accord.

The younger kids beg & plead with me nightly to lead them in simple weight lifting; and Noah (my only runner) wants to do a 5k with me this spring. We already began training.

It is a new year, full of new possibilities.

And we’re off to a fast start!