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

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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.