Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Livestock uses 30 percent of the Earth's land surface (this includes land used to produced feed) and contributes 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report issued by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is largely due to land clearing for the purpose of creating grazing land for cattle.  For these and other environmental reasons, we will best serve the Earth by reducing our consumption of animal products.  Luckily, this guacamole recipe uses no animal products!  This makes a really big bowl, suitable for a party, so if you want to serve only a small group of people, you might consider dividing the recipe in half.  Put the avocado pits in the bowl to help keep it from turning brown.  In case you are worried about something so delicious being bad for you, rest assured that avocados are listed as one of the "Top Twelve Foods" in The Family Nutrition Book by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, RN.  Avocados provide B vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin E.  So enjoy, eat green, be healthy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mango Berry Smoothie

As I have said in previous posts, I make smoothies just about every day.  I never follow a recipe.  I try to keep plenty of frozen fruit in my freezer, as I have discovered that it is cheaper to buy frozen fruit than to buy fresh fruit, at least in the winter.  I intend to buy fresh local fruit as soon as it is available this spring.  But for now, all the fresh fruit comes from somewhere far away, so it might as well be frozen.  Since we make smoothies so frequently in my household, I can take several bags of fruit out of the freezer and defrost them in the refrigerator, which makes them easier to blend.  It is always nice to have at least a few pieces of fruit still frozen, though, to make the drink ice cold and thick.  Kind of like a slushee, but better for you.  I like to include mango in the smoothie whenever possible, as I think smoothies with some mango taste better than those without.  I also like a few strawberries, but not too many.  Too many strawberries overpowers, in my opinion.  This morning's version had an especially nice balance of flavors:

1 cup mango
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup pineapple
4 large strawberries
1 1/2 cup orange juice
2 TBS chia seeds

Blend in a blender until smooth.  Pulse several times to help blend it all.  Makes about 3 servings.

The chia seeds do not add any flavor, but they add another dimension of nutrition to the drink.  They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber.  They also provide manganese, phosphorous, calcium, potassium and sodium.  They will help you stay healthy!  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

High Protein Maple Syrup Breadmaker Bread

It's always better for the planet to make something from scratch, rather than buy something produced by a factory.  It is better for your health, as well, to eat something made with wholesome ingredients rather than a similar food loaded with preservatives, fillers, and whatever else those factories put into their products.  With a trusty bread machine, you can quickly and easily make bread for all your eating needs.  This recipe is especially high in protein, as it contains soy flour and wheat germ, two high-protein ingredients.  The maple syrup adds a sweetness which makes this suitable for eating plain, as well as using for sandwiches and savory meals.  Use as many ingredients sourced locally as you can, for green planet eating!  We are lucky in the Northeastern U.S. to have local sources of maple syrup, even though it is becoming less plentiful as the yearly weather patterns are changing from previous years.  I am also able to procure local eggs.  You might have a source for local grains and buttermilk, as well.  Do what you can!

1 ½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup maple syrup
2 TBS olive oil
1 egg
2 tsp salt
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup soy flour
1/3 cup rye flour
2 TBS raw wheat germ
3 ½ tsp vital wheat gluten
2 ½ tsp yeast

Put all ingredients into bread machine pan in the order recommended by your machine’s manufacturer.  Set crust on medium and bake in basic setting.  If possible, check while it is mixing as the dough was really sticky and benefited from my sticking a plastic spoon in to help it mix before entering the baking cycle!  It turned out yummy, though!  The maple syrup created a dark brown crust.  Makes a 2 lb. loaf.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ground Lamb with Spinach and Barley

This is a one-dish simple meal.  I had a pound of local ground lamb in my refrigerator and some beautiful fresh spinach, and I wanted to make a quick and easy meal that also incorporated whole grains.  I thought about "hamburger helper," a package of stuff that was supposed to transform a pound of hamburger into an easy complete meal when I was a child.  I thought I could do something more wholesome and just as easy using things I have in my cupboard, plus my trusty onion and garlic that go into most dinners I cook.  Use local lamb and spinach for green planet eating.  Maybe you have a local source for the other ingredients, but unfortunately I could only get the lamb and spinach from local farms.  You might want to think about planting some seeds for some of your own vegetables too!  This past week, I planted peas, spinach, kale and leeks.  We'll see how they grow.  I don't have a great track record for growing plants.  I put the seeds in year after year, but my harvests are not bountiful.  That's ok, because it allows me to keep the other farmers nearby in business!

1 lb. ground lamb
1 onion
2 TBS olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 TBS cumin
1 tsp coriander
½ cup barley
2 cups water
about 4 cups spinach, cut up
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (Reggiano Parmigiano)

Brown chopped onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add pressed garlic clove and stir quickly.  Add ground lamb, sprinkle salt and pepper over it and stir with a fork as you brown it.  Spoon off excess fat.  (I put the fat into a small bowl and then scoop it into the trash after it cools and hardens.)  Sprinkle cumin and coriander over browned meat and cook a few minutes more, stirring.  Add rinsed barley and stir into meat mixture.  Add water.  Cover and cook until barley is tender, about  40 minutes.  Stir spinach and parmesan cheese into the mixture, cover and cook a few minutes more, until spinach is wilted.  Serves 4.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Coconut Lentils with Indian Spices

About a week ago, I ate lunch at the Bennington College dining hall in Vermont.  The vegetarian hot lunch choice that day was coconut lentils.  I like coconut, and I like lentils, and I preferred to have a vegetarian lunch, so I took a small portion.  I did not expect to like it very much, as it looked a bit bland and mushy.  Hence the small portion.  I found it, however, mouth-wateringly delicious, and I went back for seconds.  I thought about it several times this week, so I decided to take a stab at it for tonight's dinner.  I did not know exactly what was in the dish I had last week.  I only knew it had coconut, lentils and carrots.  But I followed my intuition and came up with something that, while not exactly like what I ate at Bennington, was very delicious.  I had (I am blushing now) four helpings this evening.  I found the taste to be addictive and kept wanting more!  I really, really enjoyed this combination of flavors.  I hope you do, too!

Serves 4

2 TBS coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 cup red lentils
1 can coconut milk
2 cups water
½ tsp garam masala (an Indian spice blend.  If you cannot find it, substitute curry powder.)
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
½ tsp coarse sea salt

Saute chopped onion in coconut oil.  Cook until onions are translucent.  Add carrots, stir and cook for a few more minutes.  Add coconut milk, water, coconut flakes, rinsed lentils, and garam masala.  Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Add salt and continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender.  Serve over brown rice.   

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Kait's Grilled Greek Lamb Burgers with Feta

Yesterday, I was driving through Vermont and stopped at this fabulous local food grocery store called "W.A.A.W.W.E. Family Farms Market."  It stands for "We Are All What We Eat."   You'll find it at the corner of Rte. 10 and Rte. 102 in Chester, Vermont .  If you happen to live near there or have a reason to drive near there, you should check it out!  They sell all kinds of local foods, including various meats, dairy products, produce, cheese, and many other things.  It is the most expansive selection of local food products I have ever seen in a single store. I was in heaven!  The woman who worked there, Kait, suggested a way to cook a lamb meatloaf or burger.  Since my oven is not working, we decided to go for the burger form and cook them on the grill.  She told me the ingredients to use, and approximate proportions, but I measured out what I used so that you could have a real recipe here.  They were delicious!  And I used ground lamb, feta, and eggs that were locally sourced!  Local ingredients are better for the planet because a) you eliminate the oil consumption that is part of the transportation cost to the planet and b) food produced on a small, local farm is likely to cause less environmental stress.  My husband whipped up a dip to serve with it using a packaged lemon spinach dip blend that we purchased at this market.  The dip mix was produced by Halladay's Harvest Barn in Bellows Falls, VT (package says you can order online at www.halladays.com or call 802-463-3471).  The ingredients include spinach, lemon, onion, pepper and spices; you could buy another lemon spinach dip that you might see in your local market or experiment by mixing together the listed ingredients (you'll have to guess which "spices" would taste good).  Anyway, my husband mixed 2 TBS of this dip blend with 1/2 cup local organic plain yogurt and 1/2 cup mayonnaise, plus added a little wilted fresh spinach that I had cooked in a frying pan with olive oil, garlic and salt.  It made a delicious spread that made the perfect condiment to serve with these burgers.

3 lbs. ground lamb
3 eggs
1 c. breadcrumbs (take stale bread and process in a food processor to make crumbs)
5 TBS red wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 TBS oregano
1/4 tsp cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 oz. feta cheese, diced finely

Combine all ingredients except feta in a bowl and mix together with your hands.  Add feta and mix as minimally as possible.  You want the feta to be mixed throughout the meat mixture but remain in pieces.  Form into patties.  Sear patties on hot grill for about 2 1/2 - 3 minutes on each side, then grill covered on lower temperature for about 10 additional minutes on each side.  Serve with lemon spinach dip/spread.  Makes about 11 large burgers (most people eat one, but some people might eat two).
Dice the feta into small squares.
This is what the patties looked like before we grilled them.
Lemon Spinach Dip goes really well with these burgers.  Use local ingredients if possible!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Creamy Oatmeal

Recently I have been making this just about every morning for my kids.  They love it.  It is kind of like Cream of Wheat, but more wholesome and better for the planet because it is made from raw oats that I purchase in bulk at my health food store.  Buying oatmeal in bulk cuts out the processing and packaging performed by a factory.  If everyone bought their oatmeal this way there would be at least one less factory polluting the enviroment !

I put 3/4 cup raw oats in a blender and blend until they are powdery.  Then I add about 3 cups of milk to the blender and blend for a few seconds.  Pour this mixture into a pan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until it thickens.  This takes about 20 minutes.  Turn the heat down to low if it starts to boil.  If desired, you can add a sweetener while it is cooking.  I like to add a spoonful of brown sugar.  My mother-in-law taught me about this way of cooking oatmeal.  Very warm and comforting!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Guide to Grains

Some people have told me that they are unfamiliar with all the different grains out there.  We are becoming more aware of how important it is for us to eat whole grains, but it can get confusing to understand them all.  And what to do with them?   Consuming whole grains is green planet eating because they fill us up, and they provide nutrients that can allow us to reduce or eliminate meat in our diets.  Growing plants to eat (which would include grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms) is better for the planet than growing livestock, in general.  Organic grains, are of course, ideal.  Eliminating those toxic pesticides from our environment would be a very good thing to do.  And if you can buy locally grown grains, all the better!

As a general rule of thumb, you should rinse grains before cooking them.  I usually measure the grain and then put it in a fine mesh strainer to rinse it.  Sometimes I measure it into the pot, then use my hands to push the grains around in the pot under cold running water, and drain the water out through my fingers, using my hands to hold the grain in the pot.  I learned to rinse rice this way when I lived in Japan.   

It is better for the Earth if we buy our grains in bulk.  Health food stores sometimes carry bulk grains.  If I think it through enough ahead of time, I take an empty container with me to the store, weigh it at the cashier, fill it with the bulk grain, then subtract the weight of the empty container to figure out how much I owe the store.  This is the greenest way to shop, as it eliminates the packaging that you would throw away.

More and more, I am finding unusual grains at my regular grocery store.  Some unusual specialty grains, such as black barley, I buy at a grocery store that carries gourmet products.  One of my favorite places for such products is Bishop's Orchard, in Guilford, CT.  If you happen to live in Connecticut, check it out!

You can cook all these grains in water, but you can use other liquids, too.  Substituting broth for water with any of these grains (except a bowl of breakfast oatmeal) makes them tastier and is super-easy.  You can use canned vegetable or meat broth, make your own, or even use a bouillon cube with water (though check the ingredients to see what exactly is in those bouillon cubes, please).

Wheat berries – “hard red winter wheat berries” – whole kernels of wheat. Sometimes parboiled, which reduces cooking time.  This is the least processed form of wheat.  You can soak them the night before or not.  If you do not soak them, they will have a chewier texture.  If you soak them, drain them after soaking and use fresh water to cook them.  Boil 3 ½ cups salted water with 1 cup wheatberries, covered, for about an hour and a half – to – two hours, or until wheat berries are tender.  Drain if water is not all absorbed.
Cracked Wheat – wheat berries that have been milled or cracked into smaller pieces.  Boil 2 cups salted water and 1 cup cracked wheat.  Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.  Then remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes, covered.
Bulgur Wheat – wheat berries that have been cooked, dried and then cracked into smaller pieces; basically cooked cracked wheat.  Boil 2 cups salted water and 1 cup bulgur wheat.  Simmer covered for 12-15 minutes.
Spelt – a high-quality grain, related to wheat.  Like wheat berries, can be soaked overnight before cooking in order to make them more tender.  Boil 3 ½ cups water with 1 cup spelt.  Simmer covered for about 60 minutes if soaked, 90 minutes if not soaked, until soft. Rich in fiber, protein, iron.  Also a source of calcium.
Farro- a pure form of wheat with the husk intact.  An “ancient grain.”  Boil 1 cup of faro with 3 cups of water, covered, for about 50 minutes.  Can be used like Arborio rice for risotto.  Rich in fiber, magnesium, protein, and iron.  Also a source of calcium.
Oats – microwave ½ cup raw oats with 1 cup water on high for 3 minutes for a single serving.
Barley - Boil 5-6 cups water with 1 cup barley.  Simmer for about 1 ¼ hours, covered.  Drain.
Pearled Barley is not a whole grain, as it has been refined to remove the bran and the germ or “embryo” of the barley
White Rice-gluten-free; not a whole grain.  Use 2 cups water for 1 cup rice; simmer for about 20 minutes.
Brown Rice gluten-free.  High in protein, fiber, zinc, folic acid, vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium.  Use 3 cups of water for one cup of rice.  Boil for 40-45 minutes, covered, until rice is absorbed.
Wild Rice – technically not a grain, but rather a grass.  Higher than brown rice in protein, zinc, folic acid, and vitamin E. Use 2-3 cups water for 1 cup wild rice.  Simmer covered for about 30 minutes.  Drain if there is excess water after cooking.
Black Barley – high in protein and iron, also a source of calcium.  1 cup to 3 cups boiling water.  Simmer covered for 35-40 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.
Israeli Couscous-actually a pasta, not a grain.
Couscous/Whole Wheat Couscous -actually a pasta, not a grain.  For whole wheat couscous, boil 1 cup water, stir in 1 cup couscous, turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes or so.  Fluff with fork.
Amaranth – technically a seed, but with the nutritional profile of a grain:  high in folic acid, calcium and vitamin E.  Also has some vitamin C.  One of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.  Cook it in a dry cast iron frying pan, stirring, until it pops like popcorn before cooking. So far, I have only used this in bread, but I will try to develop some other recipes in the future which I will post on this blog. 
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) – technically a vegetable, but used as a grain and has the nutritional profile of a grain:  very high in protein and iron, also has folic acid and B vitamins. Use 2 cups water for 1 cup quinoa.  Cook covered for 10-15 minutes.
Millet – good source of B vitamins and metals.  Gluten-free.  Use 3 cups water for 1 cup millet.  Cook for about 30 minutes in a covered pan.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vegetarian Farro Risotto with Wild Mushroom Broth and Saffron

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this dish before it got eaten up (the photo shows uncooked farro).  But it was very tasty.  It takes a while to cook, but you can do other things in between stirring the farro.  Farro is a highly nutritious ancient whole grain, used in Mediterranean cooking.  It is very high in protein and fiber, and is related to wheat.  You can buy it in health food stores or grocery stores that carry gourmet items.  I bought some at Bishop's Orchard, in Guilford, CT, for those of you who live on the Connecticut Shoreline.  I made the mushroom broth a few weeks ago, when I made the wild mushroom pasta sauce, and froze the leftover broth.  I thawed and heated it in the microwave for this dish.  Typically, recipes ask you to boil the broth for risotto in a separate pan, which you can also do.  I just found it easier to do it all in the microwave because the broth was already in a Pyrex bowl that I had frozen it in.  If you make the broth fresh, it would probably be easier to use it straight from the pan you make it in.  Also, if you are pressed for time and don't have mushroom broth on hand, you could just use vegetable bouiilon or, if you don't care about keeping the dish vegetarian, you could use chicken or beef broth.  The wild mushroom broth lends the dish a delicious flavor, though, which will be changed with a variation in broth. Make sure the white wine you use is of a quality you would want to drink straight.  It makes a difference!

5 TBS butter
3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 cup farro
¾ cup white wine
6 cups wild mushroom broth, heated (recipe previously posted with a mushroom sauce for pasta, but I have posted it again below)
pinch saffron
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter and olive oil in wide deep pan over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until translucent.  Add farro and stir for a couple of minutes, trying to make sure the grains are coated with the butter and oil.  Pour in white wine and stir until wine is mostly absorbed by the grains.  Add warm mushroom broth ½ cup at a time, stirring.  Allow grains to absorb most of broth before adding the next half cup.  This will take a pretty long time (maybe more than an hour).  You should stir it every once in a while while it is cooking.  When you get to the last bit of broth, dissolve saffron in it before adding to the risotto.  At the end, the consistency should be moist, like porridge, and the farro should be tender.  Add more liquid (broth or water) if necessary to bring dish to the right consistency.  Add parmesan cheese and pepper to taste and stir.  Cover and let rest for a few minutes until cheese is melted.  Taste for salt (I did not need to add any, as there was enough salt in the broth and cheese, but you might want to add some if you think it needs it).  Serve warm.

Wild Mushroom Broth:

about 1 cup mixed dried mushrooms (porcini, wild forest, shiitake)
enough boiling water to cover in bowl (about 2 cups)
about 3 TBS olive oil
½ large Vidalia onion, chopped into chunks
2 garlic cloves, pressed
green top and bottom stem of 1 leek
3 carrots, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 TBS herbs de Provence
1 ½ tsp cabernet sauvignon-infused sea salt (or plain sea salt, if unavailable)

Soak dried mushrooms in bowl with boiling water to cover for about an hour.
Heat olive oil in large pot and sauté Vidalia onion until just beginning to brown.  Add garlic cloves, then leeks and carrots.  Pour in 10 cups water and dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid.  Add rest of herbs and vegetables.  Bring to boil.  Simmer for 2 hours.  Strain.  Freeze what you don’t use today.  You can use it for sauces, soups and to flavor simple grain dishes.