Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Tonight I made Larb for dinner.  And it was marvelous!  Larb is a Thai dish that is often served as an appetizer.  It is a luscious blend of ground turkey, red onion, Serrano pepper and a delicious sauce - served in tender butter-lettuce cups.  A dinner serving was two cups with a side of Japanese rice made in our rice cooker - a must for any authentic Asian meal. 

I have made other Larb recipes, but none compared with this one.   My son and I both loved it.  He ate the leftovers today - cold - and said they were delicious.  The recipe was from one of my new favorite cooking magazines:  the Food Network Magazine.  I confess that I am an avid fan of the Food Network and the magazine features recipes by many of the cooks I have come to know and love, and even had an eye-opening article on how the show Chopped (my favorite TV show) is filmed.    The recipe for Turkey Larb was in the May 2013 issue and is as follows:

For the dressing:
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1-3 T. fresh lemon juice (I used 2)
2 T. fish sauce (can be found in the Asian section of your supermarket)
2 T. Honey

For the Larb:
3 T. vegetable or canola oil (I used 2 T. canola)
1/2 medium red onion, diced
3 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 4-inch piece lemongrass, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 Thai chile (such as prik kee noo) or Serrano chile, stemmed and thinly sliced (I wore gloves to stem and remove the seeds from my Serrano chile)
Kosher Salt
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (I used 1 pound ground breast meat)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Freshly ground pepper
1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated

1.  Make the dressing in a small bowl; whisk the lime juice, lemon juice, fish sauce, and honey, and set aside.
2.  Make the larb;  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, shallots, lemongrass, and chile, and salt to taste.  Cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the turkey and season with salt..  Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat and vegetables are cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Add the dressing to the pan and cook 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the mint leaves.  Season with salt and pepper.
3.  Spoon larb mixture into lettuce leaves and serve. 

I hope you will try this healthy and satisfyingly delicious meal.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's Been a Long Time!

These past few months have been busy!  My baby got into college.  Yes, my "baby"!  Read:  applications, essays, recommendations, deadlines, and headaches. He also got a scholarship to the college he will be attending.  Read:  another application, more essays, recommendations, deadlines, and headaches.  His prom was about a month ago - tuxedo rental, party bus (yes, you read that correctly), pictures, and more headaches.  We threw him a graduation party with his 3 best friends - lots of fun but it took us over 3 months to plan it.  My oldest son is home from college for the summer, which is nice.  But both boys will be getting their wisdom teeth out in a couple of weeks, which is not so nice.  For these and various other reasons, it has been a LONG TIME since I have posted on my Blog, something I once did daily.  Consequently, there is so much I want to share with you.  Alas, "headlines" are going to have to do.
I have a favorite baker who happens to be 100% vegan.  She is my go-to person for cakes and cupcakes.  She made a German chocolate cake for my husband's birthday and it was luscious.  Her "cookies and cream" and "the pretty" cupcakes were so delicious that when I recently shared them with some friends, they could not believe they were not loaded with butter and cream.  They are honestly the best cupcakes I have had   I have a Blog post about her.  She is My Vegan Baker.  Please check her site out when you get the chance.
Ethiopian cuisine has become one of my favorites.  I just got a cookbook by Marcus Samuelson that features African cooking and I am dying to try some of the recipes.  I found a restaurant that sells Injera down the street from where I live and took it as a sign that I am, in fact, to embrace this new cuisine.   (Note:  Injera is the spongy flat bread with which one scoops up the saucy dishes that comprise Ethiopia's incredibly complex dishes). 
A wonderful winery has opened just up the street from us.  It is called The Winery at Bull Run and features some of the best red wines, including one called Meritage, and probably the best red dessert wine I have had.  I buy a bottle of it almost every time I go there and, as decadent as it sounds, I often sip on it while I cook.   The picture (above) was taken when the winery first opened.  It is a view from the back patio/grass area.  Now, whenever I go there, that area is PACKED with people sitting at picnic tables, playing various games, and sipping on their favorite wines. 
I still try to keep fiber way up and fat way down in my diet, which has become challenging with some of my new cravings and all of the wonderful graduation parties I have been attending.  To supplement my daily walks, I plan to increase my flexibility by taking a Yoga class.  Speaking of my daily walks, just up the road from my favorite winery are some beautiful, historic hiking trails.  I try to hit one of them at least once a week to add some variety to my routine.   
Well, that's it for now.  I am trying to decide what direction to take with my Blog now that my "nest" will soon be empty.  I hope life has been treating you all well.   Until next time,  happy and healthy eating!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

On Love

Tomorrow is what we Orthodox Christians call Meatfare Sunday.  It is technically the beginning of a 56-day fast that will culminate on May 5th, when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ, or Pascha.  As I prepare myself for this season of prayer and fasting, I am reminded of the reason for it.  And that reason, in a word, is love.  Love was the driving force behind Christ's sacrifice for us and it is, or should be, the driving force of our lives as well, something we get better at as we get older.  But I look around me and realize that the only thing about many of us that changes as we advance in years is that our physical bodies age.  Maturity is a vague concept that I used to think was marked primarily by experience.  I realize now that it is actually marked by how closely we come to resemble our Creator.  Let me explain. 

It is true what they say, about the Judeo-Christian God, that is.  He is epitomized by Love.  Whether you believe He is the son of God or just a great teacher, Jesus preached a philosophy of kindness that was unparalleled.  He told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and that the ultimate expression of that love is to be willing to lay down your life for him or her.  Hand in hand with that, He also told us to judge no one.  The full impact of the first statement is often missed by those who quote it.  People do love themselves - deeply.  But without compassion, self-love manifests itself as selfishness or self-centeredness; and the fruit it bears is often rotten. 

Who has not been to at least one wedding where the following verses from scripture were read:   "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking," etc.  Now, how many of you have heard those same verses read with the word "love" being substituted with "charity"?  It used to disturb me that the King James translation used "charity" instead of "love", and I certainly didn't want it read that way on my wedding day!  But now I get it.  The words, in practice, are interchangeable.  The kind of love we are called to - that truly benefits mankind as a whole -  is sacrificial, not self-serving or self-gratifying.

You can learn with age how to adapt to others, but without God, you can never really learn how to love or to even know what love is.   The body will age as we get older, but the soul will remain childlike or, worse yet, infantile unless we reach the point of maturity where we acknowledge that we are not alone - that we are not the be all/do all of existence.  We laugh at those who persecuted Galileo because he said the Earth was not at the center of the Universe.  Yet we fail to accept the fact that we are not the center of our existence.

I look at Jesus and see that he often hung around with people most of society looked down upon and shunned, including tax collectors, and prostitutes.  And because he showed them respect and love, their lives were changed.  The tax collectors gave back money they had "stolen" from people, and prostitutes realized they were worth much more than what a man was willing to pay for them.  Love your neighbor as yourself and you can change a person's life.  Love your neighbor as yourself and you will grow into a true son or daughter of the most high God. 


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Craving a Really Good Salad

Fruits and vegetables.  Even with the new "food plate", our diet is to consist primarily of these foods.  During my recent visit to California, I did something I do not do too often here in Virginia - I ordered a salad.  It had crisp romaine lettuce, the sweetest yellow peppers I have ever had, delectable grape tomatoes, shredded carrots, sweet red onion, cucumbers, and edemame.  The dressing, which I used very little of, was a simple balsamic vinaigrette.  I ate every bite and felt absolutely fabulous the rest of the day.  And I realized that a great salad begins with great ingredients.  The problem is that they are hard to find here in Virginia unless they are from a CSA or a Farmer's Market, which is a problem in late fall, winter, and early spring.  Even the organic produce at high-end supermarkets leave something to be desired - specifically taste.  Non organic produce is all too often imported from places with different standards than ours in terms of pesticide and fungicide use and leave me feeling queasy.  In addition, they are picked way before their prime so that they can be "pretty" when they come state-side. In California, much of the produce is "from California" so it is picked fresh and ripe, and it tastes like it.  My question for you:  how (and where)can I get a really yummy and healthy salad outside of California now - in the heart of winter?

I hope to hear from you.  I am craving that California-style salad big-time!   I hope 2013 has been good to you so far.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies

Gluten-free.  The word sends shivers down my bread-loving spine.  I can not imagine being on a diet that excludes wheat products.  I can do without steak, french fries, or even ice cream.  And I have done so for going on 11 years.   But wheat?  Bread is my comfort food.  Bread, and all other wheat-based goods, such as scones, cakes, and, on occasion, brownies.   Because I have many friends who are on gluten-free diets, I have been experimenting with gluten free baked goods and found a brownie recipe that I think is surprisingly good.  Especially since the mystery ingredient that takes the place of the wheat is Black Beans; an ingredient that is at once a protein, a "good" carbohydrate, and a great source of fiber - something most of us do not get nearly enough of.  I have made them for a few of my gluten-free friends and have to admit that I like them quite a bit.  The texture is somewhere between a brownie and fudge.  I make these brownies now and then for myself just because they are a healthier choice.   I have had some requests to post the recipe, so here it is as I make it.  Hope you'll give it a try:

Black Bean Brownies

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (you can get dairy free ones if need be)
3 T. canola oil
3 eggs (or egg replacer powder, which makes them a good Lenten choice)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I use a full cup)
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking powder  
1/8 tsp. salt

Place the beans, 1/4 cup chocolate chips and oil in a food processor; cover and process until blended.  Add the eggs (or prepared egg replacer), brown sugar, cocoa, vanilla, baking powder, and salt.  Cover and process until smooth.  (Note:  If you do not have a large food processor, you can just add the processed beans and chips to the other ingredients in a bowl and beat them together.  That's what I had to do).
Transfer batter to a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle evenly with remaining chocolate chips.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.  Cut into bars. 
(This is a revised version of the recipe that appeared in Healthy Cooking magazine, Dec'Jan 2013)  Note that it is also dairy-free and can be vegan if you use the egg replacer powder.

I hope 2013 has been good to you so far.  Until next time, happy and healthy eating!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Traditional Thai Curry (With Seitan)

In my old neighborhood, I had a neighbor who made delicious Thai curry and was kind enough to share her recipe with me.  It tastes exactly like the kind we order in the best Thai restaurants.  It can be made with chicken, but I am sharing a "Mock Duck" version for those of you who do not eat meat.  Mock Duck is another name for the ingredient of the week - Seitan.  If you enjoy Thai curry, you will love this recipe:

Mock Duck in Red (or Green) Curry with Bamboo Shoots

1 lb. cubed Seitan
1 T. red or green curry paste
1 can coconut milk, divided (I use Lite Coconut Milk)
1/2 cup sweet basil leaves
5 kaffir lime leaves, halved (these can be found in Oriental markets, usually in the freezer section)
1 sweet red bell pepper
1/2 cup sliced zucchini or baby eggplant (I use a half cup of each)
2 T. fish sauce (found in the Oriental section of grocery stores)
1/4 t. salt
1/3 cup water or milk (I use skim or almond milk)
8-oz can bamboo shoots
1 1/2 t. sugar

In a pot, bring half the coconut milk to a slow boil, stirring constantly.  Put in red or green curry paste and seitan, stir well, and cook about 5 minutes.
Add remaining coconut milk, water (or milk), bamboo shoots, veggies, red pepper, kaffir leaves, sugar, and fish sauce and slowly bring to a boil.  Cook until vegetables are desired consistency.  Garnish with basil (I actually add some to the sauce when I add the other ingredients).
Serves 4 to 5.

If you can not find kaffir lime leaves, I have seen recipes that substitute a bit of lime juice.  I hope you enjoy this recipe.  I have been making it (with chicken, then tofu, and now Seitan) for years.

Until next time, happy and healthy eating!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Seitan - Nutrition Facts and Recipes

I mentioned in a previous Blog post that Seitan is my favorite non-meat source of protein.  It is a wheat protein that has only 120 calories per 1/3 cup serving and only 2 grams of fat.  This same serving also contains 21 generous grams of protein!  The brand I buy is Westsoy and it can be found in the refrigerated portion of the Organic section of your local supermarket. 

Seitan has a wonderful texture that absorbs flavors beautifully.  I am finding that I can substitute it in any recipe where meat is stewed or served in a sauce.  Examples include beef or lamb stews, Beef Stroganoff, chili, Thai or Indian curries, and even Coq au Vin or Beef Bourguignon.  It does not need to cook as long as stewing meat does.  Usually the flavors soak in perfectly in anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the recipe and the other ingredients you are adding.

A good friend sent me the following recipe for "Better-N-Beef Bourguignon":

4 - 6 Seitan medallions (I used a box and a half of the cubed Westsoy Seitan)
6 medium carrots, sliced
1 big onion, sliced
1 bottle of dry red wine (I used an inexpensive Merlot)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 garlic clove
1-2 bay leaves (I used 2)
1 T. flour or cornstarch (to thicken broth)
salt & pepper to taste
fresh parsley for garnish

Saute Seitan in a small amount of oil for 2-3 minutes on each side.  Remove from pan.  Add garlic, and saute 2 minutes.
Add wine and broth, carrots, onion, and bay leaves and bring to a boil.  Then let simmer for 30 minutes, half covered so broth and wine can evaporate a bit.
Add Seitan to vegetables and simmer with lid on for another 30 minutes.
Mix flour (or cornstarch) with 1 T. water and add to mixture, stirring well over medium heat to thicken broth.
Serve over potatoes, rice, or noodles and sprinkle with parsley.  (I serve it over potatoes mashed with fat free milk and a little Lite Butter, but egg noodles are an excellent choice too). 

This week I plan to make Beef Stroganoff for my carnivores and I will make a small separate batch for myself using Seitan instead of the beef.  Last week I made a Thai curry (using curry mix from the Asian section of the grocery store and substituting the meat it asked for with Seitan) and it was wonderful.   Just pull out your favorite stew or curry recipe and replace the meat with Seitan.  It's that easy.  I have not made a chili with it yet, but I plan to next week. 

I hope that those of you who have been curious about this tasty ingredient will try it soon, transforming an old favorite into something healthy, Vegan, Lenten, and good!

Until next time, happy and healthy eating! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

It takes me a few days to come up with changes I want to make in any new year.  This year, there are several, only some of them dietary.  In that area, I plan to eat less meat.  I just went to Wegmans and bought two packages of Seitan, which is delicious and can be cooked into any stew, curry, or stir-fry with ease.  My plan is to make myself Seitan versions of some of the dishes my carnivores will eat.  I wish I could say that The China Study was the catalyst for this proposed change in my diet.  But it wasn't.  It was the recent Advent fast that spanned 40 days and ended on Christmas day.  Some health issues that had disappeared for a while re-emerged as soon as I put meat back into my diet.  Any way I spin it, I can not find any other reason for the negative change in certain parts of my digestive tract.   Oh well....

Other resolutions?   To begin to piece together the fragments of the book I started last year.  And to spend more time in prolonged prayer/meditation.  The peace I felt after doing my part of the Psaltery each night during this Advent season was palpable.  Otherwise, I hope to see my baby go to the college of his dreams and my oldest son to find complete contentment with the choices I am so proud that he has made.

What about you?  What does 2013 hold in store for you?   Please share.  In the meantime, happy New Year to you all!!