Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rainy Day Spice

I am cooking today because

a) it is raining and that atavistic gene to "put the kettle on the stove" has kicked into gear,

b) because my cupboard is bare and I am too lazy to go to the store,

and, most importantly,

c) I want supper tonight.

I lucked out -- my bare pantry produced everything I needed for this quick and easy and deliciously spicy meal.

If I were more ambitious, I would serve it over wild or brown rice or couscous -- but I scooped it into its Tupperware carry case just as is, and it is yummy -- lip smackin' good.


1 Vidalia Onion
1 can of white beans -- any kind, folks with empty cupboards can't be fussy
1 can of diced tomatoes
sweet potatoes -- 2 bigs or a bunch of littles

Slice the sweet potatoes and deal with the peel according to your own sensibilities ( I like to leave it in -- again, lazy, but I say it is "because the peels have nutrients.") Drain and set aside if they finish before you are ready.

Into the skillet, I tossed my chopped sweet onion and let it start sizzling. I added the slightest touch of water.

1/4 teaspoon each of cumin, cinnamon and chipolte powder -- all Penzey's, of course.

And gently stir adding tiny hints of water to help marry the spices with the onions. It smells exotic and heady and you will feel so worldly and sophisticated.

Then I tossed in a can of the white beans, a can of diced tomatoes, and the chopped sweet potatoes, which were boiled to the point of wanted to mush up a little, and that made the mixture better, in my opinion.

Since I, make it: LOVE fresh cilantro, and since the squirrels are leaving behind the spindle flowery spikes (after demolishing the rich earthy leaves), I cut up the remaining bits and tossed them in.

If I had some limes, I would garnish with a slice of lime.
But then again, if I had wheels, I would be a wagon.

It is as it is -- a quick (less than 15 minutes from raiding the pantry, including steaming the sweet potatoes, to finishing and tasting) and easy, inexpensive and tasty dish. And I bet the flavors are getting to know each other as I blog this -- and by tonight for supper, it should be killer good!

Wishing you all spice in your life and occasional rainy days for your yard and spirit.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I like mine dark, rich, intense and bold

Coffee that is.

I love my coffee. Mostly I drink espresso. At Starbucks, I get a venti (large) iced, 4 shots of espresso to go. Several times a day. I have coffee machines in two places in my house and at my office.

An addict. Yes, I am sure. But I love it. It is a delightful ritual for me. And at this point in my life, I see no reason to part with this intensely rich and bold friend of mine.

I DO, however, see a reason NOT to drink it during my shift at the hospital from 4 p.m. to midnight which I was doing. And then I would come home and entertain the Naked Chihuahua for hours until the sun came up. This schedule was wearing us both ragged.


It is naturally caffeine free. It is a "nutritious blend of Mediterranean herbs, grains, fruits and nuts that are roasted and ground to brew and taste like coffee." So sayeth the label, and true it is.

It is non-acidic, contains heart healthy potassium and soluble fiber, and is prebiotic since the inulin from chicory root supports beneficial microflora that improve digestion, elimination and intestinal health.

KOOL BEANZ -- oh, I mean grains!

I like the Java the best -- it has a "strong coffee bite softened with slight sweetness" and is a Medium Roast with "deep, balanced body." Heck, I like anything with a "deep and balanced body!

I also purchased the Original with "citrus notes of orange peel sweetened by dates and figs," a light roast, "fruity, bright body." I don't like my coffee sweet, but if you do, you would probably like this. It is okay, but not my cup of tee..........ccino, if you know what I mean.

Seems like this product is a keeper for the Garden of Eden Vegan lifestyle and self improvement gig. I make a large pot of it around noon and take a thermos with me when I head to work.

My sleep has improved too. I can usually stop entertaining Ms Maddie Sue around 1:15 a.m. and head off to bed, falling asleep shortly thereafter. Good thing -- I need to start waking up early.....I mean e-a-r-l-y for my newest form or torture. Oh did I say torture, sorry, I meant exercise: C25K. Google it. I'll blog on it later.

It is time for another cup of French Roast Coffee since it is still morning and it is still caffeine.

May your day be blessed with eyes made for wonder.....and wonder to fill them with awe.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A rich and creamy lunch or, what to do with cauliflower.

While standing in front of my open refrigerator, hearing my mother's voice, "Just get in and close the door behind you if you are going to keep looking in there for so long," I spotted a head of cauliflower that needed to be prepared sooner than later. I cleaned it and steamed it and set it out in a bowl, but it just did not appeal to me today.

My leaning was toward something Indian, or spicy or creamy.


I decided to make a raw sauce that was creamy but had a little kick.


I soaked one cup of raw cashews in water for a hour
Then added them to my food processor with:
3/4 cup of water
2 TBSP of fresh lemon juice
1/2 teas. of garlic powder
a nice slice of Vidalia onion
a hit of Chipolte powder
and sea salt

and I let her swirl around until creamy

Then I tossed in a few leaves of fresh basil, and an equal amount of chives and pulsed it into the mixture so it would blend, yet maintain its character.

To my bowl of steamed cauliflower pieces, I added one drained can of petite peas, mushrooms and pearl onions.

Then I added the creamy sauce over all the veggies and blended them gently.

To plate, I was fortunate to find in my refrigerator some Organic Girl (brand name sold at Publix) Herby Romaine. I filled my plate with this leafy mixture and then topped it with the creamy cauliflower, peas, mushrooms and onions.

The marriage of flavors was yummy. I like the Herby Romaine because I the various herbs just surprise my palate whilst I am eating. There was enough savory flavor to the sauce to really enhance the flavor of the veggies.

This is a KEEPER!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A tribute to my former mother-in-law, Madelene Trudeau

I know it is difficult for those who know me to picture this, but in 1980, I was 30 and a hot shot international management consultant, globetrotting and earning five time more than I ever made, even as an attorney - and that was 30 years ago!!

I had a personal assistant, a personal shopper, and a driver. I spent six days a week on the road or working and one day a week: getting my hair done, face done, make-up updated, massage, manicure, pedicure. I had an expense account for clothes and one for all of the above pampering. Hard to think a 30 year old needed that much grooming, but appearances are important in that industry.

During 1980, however, I not only experienced being caught in the crossfires of a terrorist bombing in Manila, but also a serious home invasion, burglary, attack and an armed robbery. (In some ways, little in my life has changed. I still need major trauma and drama to convince me that it is time to make life changes! smile.)

I decided, then, to move to the country and settled in NW Connecticut, marrying the local John Deere Dealer who became the father of my wonderful son.

I am sure his family was stunned by my arrival as was the small town where we lived. The guys at the local diner called me "Ms Make-up" and one of the first women I met explained to me that steal toed boots would serve me better than my Italian strappy sandals. I learned that one could not hail a cab and that no one delivered anything by maybe a soggy pizza.

Yet, my dear mother-in-law learned that my favorite dinner (at that time -- I was not a vegan nor a veggie -- and my favorite dinner was not colorful or stunningly plated) was:
roasted chicken breast
mashed potatoes
and corn.

She often made it for me as a treat. New to the family, I used manners when I ate, (can you even imagine!) but clandestinely, when I thought absolutely no one was looking, I would stir a little chicken, in a little potato and gravy and mix in a little corn. The stirred up bite was heavenly in my mouth. Ms Manners be damned. I do know it is rude to stir up your food, but boy, do I love to do it. I figured, the food just gets mixed up in my stomach anyway -- why not start at the mouth?

My wise and loving mother-in-law quietly noticed and one time, when I was getting ready for the secret stir, and looking around to see if anyone was paying attention, she caught my eye and whispered to me, "go ahead -- I know you like to eat that way -- go ahead and stir it all up."

Whoa! That opened the floodgates -- and from that moment on, whenever she made me "my special meal," and we sat down to eat, I would look at her, she would nod, and I would mix up the whole batch: chicken, potatoes, gravy and corn, into one glorious mixture and I would just luxuriate in my meal and in the feeling of love, family and acceptance.

This is a long, but special, way for me to introduce the meal du jour a la Garden of Eden Vegan.

After the veggie burgers (see previous post), I still had extra Yukon Gold potatoes. And I remembered those family times with the Trudeau's in Connecticut and "my special meal."


I made a batch of mashed potatoes and put them in a large pasta bowl.
Then I caramelized my Valdalia onions and added cabbage, a bit of water and a shake of Nama Shoyu and steamed the mixture until the cabbage was wilted.
To the mashed potatoes, I added the onion/cabbage mixture, and a can of white corn and chipolte peppers.
Then I stirred it up and mixed it up to my heart's content.

This was my lunch and my supper -- and since as usual, I had more cabbage than potato, I served the mixture on a bed of cabbage.

I bet this is darn healthy -- think of all the good that cabbage does for our bodies; and think of how yummy Yukon Gold Potatoes taste and add in the pop of a kernel of corn as you chew --- heavenly.

AND NEWS FLASH -- I returned home six days ago -- and today, I weighed in on the Toledoes and lost the three pounds I gained on the cruise.


my body feels so much better back to my vegan lifestyle. The cheese was yummy -- but it just feels so much better to me to be vegan.

I even like the IDEA of it!

Wishing you happy mixtures of all of your favorite things - in life and on your plate.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rainy Days and Lentils

I must have some sort of atavistic throw back gene. The minute it starts to rain (or snow if I lived north), I have this incredible urge to put a pot on the stove and start some stew/soup/chili/chowder. Does this happen to any of you?

It is Monday morning in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida, and the first inkling I have that it will be a stormy day is an airborne chihuahua who blew in from her food dish on the porch, onto the kitchen floor. She lives for her feedings, and tromped back out to the porch, and within seconds, blew in again as if shot by a cannon.

Still foggy and pre-caffeinated, I stepped on the the porch to investigate and saw that a storm was brewing. Maddie Sue, the airborne chihuahua is storm phobic, and somewhere, miles away, there must have been some thunder.

Thinking little of it, I sat with her on the sofa as I drank my coffee and started reading to prepare for a class I am teaching in a few days. She perched on the back of the sofa behind my head. My evil twin wondered if lightening could somehow come through the glass window and fry her to a crisp -- but I doubted it, so I let her stay where she thought she was safe. Heck - who am I to doubt a Chi?

As the rain began to pour into a deluge, my thoughts turned to the stove,
and the soup pot,
and the pantry: what did I have to toss in the pot on this rainy day?

Soon, I was no longer reading, but imagining my concoction.

As my atavistic gene pool pulled me like a giant magnet into the kitchen -- this is what resulted:


Green lentils
Yukon gold potatoes
white corn
diced tomatoes
diced sun dried tomatoes
green chillies
Penzy's Mural of Flavor containing: spices, shallots, onion, garlic, lemon peel, citric acid, chives, and orange peel.
Penzy's Northwoods Fire containing: salt, chipotle pepper, Hungarian paprika, garlic, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, and cayenne.
The Fresh Marked Herbed Sea Salt Blend containing: sea salt, thyme, rosemary and basil.

Now the SECRET, in my humble opinion, to this hodge podge -- and of course, you can make your own hodge podge pot of ingredients, is how you treat the onions.

You can be careless after you get your onions going, but if you mess up this step, you have messed up -- trust me, I know.....because I have.

Start with your pan -- whether it is a saute pan or your soup kettle and toss in your chopped onion, turning on the heat medium to high.

Let the onions start to wilt. Skootch them around a bit until you notice some brown forming on your pan's surface and then add the tiniest bit of water -- voila -- it turns juicy brown and so do the onions. Skootch them some more, and again, the tiniest bit of water -- more yummy brown.
Do this a few times until your onions are nice and tender and wilted, and sweet, and brown and delicious.

NOW, and only now -- you can begin. Gather ingredients you like; toss as you wish; stir as you desire.

The ingredients I chose above actually turned out to blend well and made for a tasty stew. I stopped after the corn and liked it;
added the diced tomatoes -- and it still tasted good.
then the sun dried -- yep, still good.
but I wanted a little kick -- so for me, the green chilies were the coup de grace of this concoction.

The secret of the onions is like starting with a good roux -- it just has to be or everything fails and pales after that.

It reminds me of a story when I was first a rabbi and my adult son came to synagogue this particular week. As a young boy, he always had trouble remembering to say "thank you" at appropriate times, so we had this signal: whenever I pulled my earlobe, he would say "thank you." It worked well through the years.

For some reason, during my sermon, I was alluding to gratitude and with absolutely no warning to him, I said, "Son, of all the things I taught you as a young boy, what was the most important?"

(As a former trial lawyer I should have remembered the penultimate rule: Never ask a question when you are unsure of how it will be answered.)

There was an awkward silence.

And then Jack said, "How to make a good roux????"

Yes, that was true too.
After the service -- he said, "If you ever want me to be your shill again -- give me warning first!"

amen to that
amen to rainy days
amen to a pot of soup on the stove
may your day be blessed with good food and good health

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Petite Dejeuner in Honfleur

Still Vegetarian, but savored the flavor of a croissant with my espresso!

Vacationing Vegan

As you know, I just returned from three weeks of a transatlantic crossing to Europe with stops in the Azores, Portugal, Spain, France, Brugge and London. Here are some thoughts I wanted to share with you.

I began my Garden of Eden Vegan experience in January of this year. For the first six weeks, I was enjoying my veganhood.

For the next six weeks, I was living my veganhood -- it was easy and it felt good to not kill animals for my survival and to not eat chemicals and toxins. I became healthier.

From then on, I was and am LOVING my veganhood.

(Bear with me -- I am getting to why it was easy to be vegan on vacation.)

I am LOVING it because:

I feel better
I am healthier
I have more energy
I no longer have IBS, which I suffered with all my life
I feel closer to the Source of All Being by living consciously on this planet
my tastebuds have changed sufficiently that it just tastes better vegan!

That being said, it was easy to be vegan on the cruise ship. Every night the menu in the dining room had a Vegetarian entree. If it had cheese in it, I would just ask the waiter to have the chef make a plate of grilled or steamed veggies and I was never disappointed.

The buffet line offered lots of opportunities to be vegan:

bowls of veggies,
rice (often Indian style),
a wok station where you could choose your stirfry ingredients,
a pizza station where I could have a pizza with no cheese,
a pasta station where I could choose my ingredients -- often mushrooms, onion, and broccoli.

Many of the passengers were fussing about the food on the ship -- I was lucky: it is hard to mess up a vegetable!

When we got to Portugal and Spain, we visited tapas bars. Again - easy to be vegan: olives and roasted vegetables were common. In my Garden of Eden Vegan lifestyle, I try not to have any/much oil, so I had to bend the "rule" with tapas, but the food was still healthy and clean.

In France (Honfleur) -- I am making a confession: I did have a croissant (made with butter of course) and a baguette on which I decided to indulge in using one pat of French beurre - and was it good? YES. But for me, let it be France. If I move to France, I will have a problem. In SW Florida -- I can live without the petite dejeuner.

In Brugge -- see the blogpost below -- I encountered a homemade veggie burger to live for.

In London, where we had two days, I admit to a challenge. We were on the run and had 5 meals:
1. vegan Indian (awesome!)
2. vegan Chinese (not bad -- should have ordered it spicer)
3, 4, 5: mozzarella and tomato and basil panani sandwiches at a healthy, natural fast food place: pret a manger.

You see, in 3, 4, and 5, it was easy, and yummy, to be vegetarian, but not vegan. And, and, and:
although my mouth did honestly enjoy the cheese - my body did not.

It is great to be back in my own kitchen making my own healthy vegan meals.

Moral of the story -- I had my cruising plan down pat and it worked; I needed a more thought out vegan plan for visiting cities on the run. If I were meandering through cities -- it would be easier to ask a chef to make a vegetable dish, but when on the go -- I needed a better plan.

Did I gain or lose weight?
Who won the coveted CONTEST PRIZE?

I honestly gained 3 pounds. How? you might and should ask: enjoying the wines and martinis.
Back home, I have wine only at Shabbat dinner (Friday night).

And DRUMROLL>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Jan Small, see is the winner of the contest and has selected the Grand Prize of a Raw/Live Meal prepared in her home by none other than moi. Details to follow when I present the meal.

It's all good. It's all healthy. It's all delicious. Enjoy and be blessed.

Recipe below. The awesome, yet healthy veggie burger from Brugge direct to you!

Direct from Brugge (Belgium) -- The Awesome, But Healthy VEGGIE BURGER

And just in time! A friend who got me started on commercial veggie burgers just sent me this link this very morning:

about veggie burgers containing junk chemicals. And this was the day I was going to post the news of the awesome veggie burger from Brugge.

First -- here is a photo from Brugge just to set the scene of this medieval village. Now picture a day just walking and sightseeing, taking a canal trip and savoring all the beauty of this town. And just when we decided to sit down at a local cafe for lunch, we realized that we had dallied too long and we were short of time.

We went into a tiny fast food type restaurant, where you ordered at the counter - lots of burgers and fries. As I looked at the menu with chagrin, the counter chef person asked if there was a problem. I said, "I'm a vegan and I was just looking for something to eat."

She said, "Oh, try our veggie burger." Since a line was behind me, and we were short of time, I gave her the thumbs up and sat to wait for what I figured was the "traditional veggie burger" tasting like ground mushrooms or sawdust.

You can imagine my surprise when she brought out a homemade veggie burger made with yummy veggies in a mashed potato base, on a grain bun with a sauce and lettuce. I was moaning with delight as I savored the flavors (almost to my embarrassment -- someone could have shouted, "I'll have what she's having!" if I kept it up.)

The recipe is simple -- I made up a batch yesterday (photo above) and froze the rest for later:

I made a bowl of Yukon Gold mashed potatoes -- skins and all, using a little vegetable broth to smooth them a bit.

In a large saute pan, I added some of my favorites:

vidalia onion, chopped
green cabbage, chopped
red cabbage, chopped
matchstick carrots and broccoli

and sauteed this mixture until slightly wilted in vegetable broth
then I added:
sun dried tomato bits

All I did was add a good portion of the veggies to my potato mash (I made more veggies than I needed, but can use them later as a meal in and of themselves).

I formed potato pancakes and breaded them in panko breadcrumbs (not necessary, but a nice touch) and cooked them in my frying pan with just a spritz of olive oil.

Photo above --- the taste is great. Add the veggies you love. I ate mine without a bun, but that option is available.

And the bonus: No chemicals. No additives. You control the mixture and you enjoy the taste.

Make up a batch and thaw them when you need them. I had one without the crumbs from breakfast today with a spritz of nouveau catsup.

The Story Behind the Garden of Eden Vegan Blog

For those of you who knew me prior to December 30, 2009, I was a veteran of the fast food culinary institute. My son, when he lived with me would ask if I had ordered the "Shabbat pizza" yet as the sun was setting Friday nights.

My idea of a good meal was a McFish sandwich, fries with extra salt, and a medium diet coke.

Everything was better covered in a rich creamy sauce and the idea of a naked baked potato was as foreign to me as walking naked in Manhattan.

In June of 2009 I decided to formally become a vegetarian. Although I had dabbled with this, it was not until I read Skinny Bitch that the gauntlet was thrown.

Now being a vegetarian does not sign you up for good health. I was proof of that. Chubby when I started, I indulged in pizza, french fries, cheese, cheese, butter, cheese, pizza......and became very over weight, tipping the Toledos at 200 pounds at 5'4". And taking an assortment of meds for cholesterol and GERD and who knows what else.

As the decade was waning, and with my 60th birthday approaching in the year 2010, there was a perfect storm that snapped my beak and got me in gear. The same friend who gave me Skinny Bitch, turned me on to the John McDougall website. At the same time, there was a Grand Round lecture at the hospital where I work on the book Eat to Live, and at the same time, I was tired of how I looked and felt and needed to make a change.

I regret that I did not start this blog when I changed my lifestyle, but it is better late than never.

My weight is down about 35 pounds, my size has gone from a tight 16 to a loose 12. And I am on no meds, although my vegetarian doctor and I will review my blood work within this month to see if I need anything (like b12) boosted.

I began as a Vegan Minus. Or what I call a Garden of Eden Vegan.

As you know, a Vegan eats no animals nor animal products - none. But then I subtracted oil, sugar, and processed foods.

That is a big subtraction -- but it is this subtraction that helped with weight loss, lack of cravings, increased energy, health, and vibrancy.

Now I am dabbling in raw foods and have signed up to learn with Russell James (google him).

I like the taste and health aspect of raw foods, but worry about the increased calories. So I will (hopefully) use the raw creations as a supplement to my Gan (Hebrew for Garden -- I am in a Hebrew mood today) Eden Vegan lifestyle.

My doctor said that I should write a book about this since most of her patients need it. I said, "Who, or how many, would want to do this?" We shall see. It has been easy (no cravings) and exciting as life and energy unfold before me, just as it was meant to be. (It didn't unfold over a fried fish sandwich, extra tarter sauce.)

Join me or not. Walk with me the whole journey, day trips, part of it, or not. This is my 60th year -- buckle up life, here I come.