“Vegetarian?”…. “Occasionlly.”

Hummus w/ Pita

Healthy eating in my opinion should really be referred to as “healthier eating”. Very few of us are going to hit 100% in our attempts at super-dieting.

While the ultimate goal may be to turn into a lacto-octo-vegan overnight and never stray, I tend to support a gentler, more user-friendly approach.

Instead of cutting out meats entirely, try substituting a veggie meal a few nights each week. You will be leaving less of a carbon footprint…improving your health as well!

This week I made some spicy homemade hummus, paired it with pita and arugula salad, a rich tomato soup + a great Cabernet… and no one noticed that it was a meat-free meal. In fact, I think it was preferred!

 Hummus

Combine:
2 Cups cooked Garbanzo beans (Prepared dried & cooked, or canned) 1/2 cup liquid reserved
3/4 Cup drained Tofu (cubed)
2 Tablespoons Tahini
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Teaspoons Organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
5 cloves freshly pressed garlic
Sea salt to taste ( usually about 2 Teaspoons)
Fresh hot pepper to taste
1/4 Teaspoon Cumin
1/4 Teaspoon Coriander

Top with:
1/4 Cup fresh Parsley
Serve with:
Whole grain pita bread
Fresh vegetables

In food processor, combine ingredients, blending until smooth. Add reserved liquid as needed. Hummus should have a thick, peanut butter-like consistency. Taste, and season accordingly. Serve topped with chopped parsley –  tucked into toasted whole grain pita bread with vegetables of your choice. (English cucumbers and roasted red peppers are especially good!)

Tofu adds a great protein boost to this terrific meat substitute. It is “de-lite-ful” change of pace!

“No meat…still a treat!”

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Heaven awaits…

Plant #12

Everyday is exciting when tomatoes are in my garden. From the moment they enter the soil, until the tragic last day of the season when the final vine is pulled from the ground, life is good. The staking. The tying. Such fun.

I stare at my tomato plants all throughout the day. I worry about them while at work – discussing them incessantly with my co-workers trying to get tips. (Strangely, they seem to share in my obsession…) I lay on the straw mulch beneath them searching for an undiscovered blight or blemish. Sometimes a flashlight is used. On Sundays they are fertilized after  sundown. Suckers removed daily. Weeds obliterated.

The tomatoes are photographed, with each picture dated to chart their progress. The plants are numbered. Number four is presently the weakest and I plan on doing something about that, but can’t figure out what.

I will share their beauty with all who care to look. And everyone should care to look. They are spectacular!

Love me, love my tomatoes.

“Good things come to those who wait.” 

What a Difference a Month (and a little Miracle-Gro) Makes!

Up-Close and Blooming!

Tomatoes at 1-Month

The temperature is hovering around 100 degrees today. My tomato plants are holding  steadfast with their heavy layer of straw mulch, generous watering, and thorough daily dustings.  Miracle-Gro is administered weekly. All suckers removed on sight.

At one month, nine of the twelve plants have marble-sized tomatoes – all ample bloom. So far, no signs of disease or dying.

It will be interesting to hear what the report will be one month from now. Will it be delicious tomato sandwiches, or pulling up the vines?

“Ah, sweet mystery of life…”

Why Today is Good

Newly Planted

Tomatoes, Day 2

It is day two for my tomato garden. After surrendering last year to the urgings of friends and farmers not to plant – that the tomatoes would be attacked by insects, rot, be stolen, shrivel, contract “black bottom” (whatever that is) or “die on the vine”, I said, “What the heck,” and planted them anyway. So what if they get “black bottom”? Nobody is going to die. Hopefully.

As for today, I gaze at my 12 little plants. Better Boy. Big Boy. Bigger, Better Beefy…something. All beautiful. All healthy.

Nothing good comes without struggle. I expect Stinkbugs, and I expect Starlings. Weeds will happen. Drought will occur. And my tomatoes will triumph.

Come August, I’ll be preparing BLT’s.  They will taste a thousand times better while looking at my garden through the kitchen window.

(In the South, every “old-timer,” when speaking of tomatoes, says, “I just sprinkle a little salt on them, and eat ’em just like an apple.”
Most claim to carry a shaker of salt in their pocket during summer months!)

Tomatoes, Bacon, and Spring

The real thing

It’s Spring!

until late July...

Tomorrow is the 1st of March, and while it is not officially the start of Spring – it is a step in the right direction.  I discovered a hatched robin’s egg in my yard last week, the onions in my pantry are sprouting faster than I can use them, and my prized “pet” African Violet is going wild. Something is definitely in the air!

Aside from the bitter temperatures, snow, and ice, the hardest part of  Winter is being deprived of home-grown tomatoes! Even now that it is Spring 🙂 , it’s still a good five months before a decent BLT. What’s a person to do? Well, this is truly one of those problems that  money can’t solve, since only God can make a home-grown tomato, but sometimes we are forced to – of all terrible things – substitute,  when actually there is no substitution.

After years of seeking the next best thing , it’s come down to this – if home-grown is a no-go , you’re better off with tiny tomatoes. Cherry. Grape. Cherry Berry, Sweet Pea… Those little guys pack a powerful punch!

After trying all the “full size” varieties out of season – Holland on the stem (watery and bland), plum or Roma ( mealy), Hydroponic (expensive and no taste whatsoever), imported, exported, red, yellow, varigated…all proved horrible in one way or another. Please, for once I have to admit, less really is more. Bring on a miniature tomato – the smaller the better!

While slicing those itty-bitty tomatoes isn’t easy, their intense flavor and pleasing  texture might carry you through until summer without ruining your hamburger or BLT. Which brings another brilliant idea to mind…

Next time when pan-frying bacon, be sure to place a foil covered brick on top of strips. It will stop all that nasty curling and prevent uneven cooking. Flip when needed and brick (a verb) the other side. It will cook to perfection, flat, crispy and perfect for sandwiches, as a side dish, or by itself!

Brick your bacon!

Tips Not to be Missed!

  • Kitchen shears are a must for every kitchen! When preparing meat, keep a pair handy to snip off any unwanted (and fattening!) fat and skin. Every tablespoon of visible fat trimmed away amounts to 100 less calories and helps keep cholesterol under control!
“Cut”-lery at its best!
Onion etiquette
  • Red onions tend to complement ” heartier” dishes –  those served with red wines, while white and yellow onions combine better with lighter fare; usually accompanied by white wines or Champagnes.
  • Visit you local natural food store, or check around to find where spices can be purchased loosely – by the ounce instead of the pre-prepared bottles in your grocery store. They are loaded with fresh flavor and unbelievably cheaper – plus, you are able to buy just the amount you need. The more control in the kitchen, the better!
  • Don’t throw away the juice or jars from your favorite pickles after eating the last one! Simply slice some English cucumbers extra-thin, drop them into the jar and in a day or two – more pickles!  (Try “pickling” other vegetables, too!)
  • Fresh spinach is a refreshing change from lettuce on sandwiches. It adds a unique, nutty flavor and different texture…makes things just a little more interesting.  Not to mention that extra boost of iron!                                     “Snip, snip, snip the fat!”   

Healthy Tips from the Kitchen

Choose a lighter cream for a step in the right direction

Very few of us use whole milk anymore, but if you do, try 2% for a month or two, then gradually step down to 1%, then 1/2% – who knows, you might end up using skim and not even notice the difference!

Just be careful when cooking – the lower the fat content, the easier milk will curdle. Save the higher fat milks for sauces and “cream” soups.

    1. Deep-fried food actually tends to absorb less fat than slowly pan-fried food. (Food for thought! 🙂 )
    2. For omelettes, use 2 whites for every 1 yolk.
    3. Next time ordering Chinese take-out,  remember these words, “Steamed, with sauce on the side, please.” You can save up to 600+ calories and still enjoy the flavor.
    4. Fast-food isn’t all bad. There are only bad choices. Review the menu options at all your local drive-thrus on the internet. Each and every one seems to offer healthy selections. Learn what they are and order wisely! (Personal suggestion: the Chipolte Chicken Wrap @ McD’s!)
    5. Never buy pre-ground beef. Select the leanest whole cuts you can find (Sirloin, Eye of Round, Top Round, etc….), have your butcher trim away any visible fat and grind to your specifications. You will know what you are getting.

      “Choose to loose…
      unless you’re at the casino!”

       

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