Archive for July, 2010

Blogs I Read

As much as I enjoy writing this blog I am often inspired by other blogs.  Some I find entertaining, some offer great advice, or simply a glimpse into other people’s lives.  I have them all listed on Google Reader which makes it very easy to access. Often at work when I need a quick break from my day I’ll go to my Reader page and read through either a post or a few paragraphs of one.  Here are a few of my favorites:

This one I’m brand new to but it offers some great health and wellness advice: http://www.livestrong.com/blog/

Here’s one written by a retired couple living mine and my husband’s dream of RV’ing across the country.  They’ve share some great photo’s as well as their experiences: http://2takinga5th.blogspot.com/

This author is an American living with her husband in France.  She doesn’t post often but I always find them to be good reads: http://adventuresintoulouse.blogspot.com/

I’m stealing a quote from this one’s “About” page: Consume This First gives you the information you need to make the best decisions possible for the food your family consumes.  http://www.consumethisfirst.com/

What blogs are you reading and how do you access them?

Have a peaceful day, Lin

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Vegetarian Pad Thai

Have you ever tried finding a recipe for a decent vegetarian pad thai? The results are dismal at best.  Several recipes call for the traditional fish sauce.  Fish is not a vegetable, it is not vegetarian, nor is their sauce.  I saw a recipe that was considered veg but had shrimp in it.  There we go again.  Another recipe called for 1.5 cups of peanut butter!  I don’t think I use that much when making cold sesame noodles and peanut butter is the main ingredient for that!  Another called for the juice of several limes and got great reviews.  I tried a similar version awhile ago thinking it odd but figuring my family enjoys lime so how bad could it be?  We all dumped our plates down the disposal and ordered pizza that night.

With all that failure I pretty much gave up on pad thai but recently found myself really craving it.  I googled it and reviewed several recipes and as always came up with my own version.  This one had quite a bit of heat and good overall flavor.  It is certainly the first recipe I’ve made that I would share with anyone.  My one mistake I knew in advance.  I couldn’t get the appropriate rice noodles for pad thai and used rice spaghetti instead.  I haven’t cooked that particular pasta in a while and realized too late that it tends to be either too chewy or overcooked with no happy medium.  The right pasta does make all the difference.

I cooked the pasta in advance, made a bowl of wet ingredients and a bowl of chopped ingredients.  This way I was able to have everything at hand and toss them into the pan quickly as needed.  Once again I messed up my attempts at being gluten-free.  I used gf tamari instead of soy sauce but the hoisin sauce contains wheat products.  Oh well, I do the best I can.   My version was vegan but feel free to scramble an egg or 2 and cook it in the pan flat like a pancake.    Once removed from heat slice the egg and add it to the finished recipe.  For my husband I grilled a piece of tilapia in an Asian sauce.

Don’t let the amount of ingredients scare you away.  This was pretty simple to cook and took no time at all.  I bought sliced mushrooms and julienned carrots to make it go quickly.  This recipe is pretty true to how I cooked it and found the heat level to be just right for me.  My only descriptive is to say that it was the hot enough to affect my sinuses and almost gave me a runny nose but not quite.  Please adjust the heat to your personal taste.

Ingredients

8 oz thin flat rice pasta often called pad thai pasta

1 vegetable bouillon in 1/2 cup hot water

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot chili sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1-2 tablespoons brown sugar

up to 1/3 cup peanut oil

1 block extra firm tofu cubed and blotted to remove water

8 oz sliced mushrooms

4 scallions sliced, greens separated from whites

1/2 cup julienned carrots

1/2 cup julienned pepper jalapeno for more heat (I used small sweet peppers, it’s what I had)

2-3 minced garlic cloves

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)

1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Directions

Cook pasta according to directions, drain and put aside,

Mix all wet ingredients  except peanut oil in a bowl adding the brown sugar

Place peanuts and scallion greens in a bowl and set aside for garnish

In a large pan heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil and add tofu and vegetables except garlic and scallion whites, saute for several minutes letting the tofu start to brown a little but don’t over cook the veggies, when they look almost done add garlic and scallion whites, saute another minute

Add the wet ingredients and then the pasta, mix until everything is well coated, top with peanuts and scallion greens.

Have a peacful day, Lin

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Gratitude

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.Denis Waitley

I love that quote.  It says so much with such simplicity.  Gratitude seems to be such a buzz word these days that sometimes I put it in the back of my mind with other buzz words.  When a word is overused I tend to tune it out.  Like the word “green.” Every large company is slapping a “green” label on every possible product these days that the original meaning of the word has become so diluted.  The same with “friend” which has come to mean something totally different than it did a few years ago thanks to the wonders of Facebook.

Today I’m taking a few minutes to share a couple of things I am grateful for.  I’d love it if you’d respond and share some of your gratitude with me.

  • My husband who I have so little in common with but after more than 24 years is still my best friend.
  • My children who are no longer children but amazing young adults with far more courage and sense of adventure than I was ever capable of.  I am very grateful for whatever part of their lives they are willing to share with me.
  • Thought provoking books, I feel lost without a good book to read.
  • A nighttime lightning storm, they can be truly spectacular
  • Farm fresh produce that feels and tastes like nature intended
  • Forgiveness, offered and accepted is so incredibly cathartic
  • My dogs who always are willing to share a quiet moment with me

I leave you with one last quote:

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  ~William Arthur Ward

Have a peaceful day, Lin


Climate Change

After watching the movie No Impact Man I added Colin Beavan’s blog to my Google Reader.  Today he wrote an interesting post on our government’s failure to pass a climate control bill that would actually endorse climate change.

Ultimately once again our government has caved in and handed all control over to large corporations who care far more about their profit margin that the havoc they are creating on our planet.  Colin provided links to 1Sky which is trying to get people to inform our government that we will not tolerate these weak bills that do little to support our planet.

In Colin’s words: It’s time to show Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, our senators and President Obama the full extent of our outrage at their failure to take on the greatest crisis of our time.

Click on this link and send them a message and tell them two simple things:

Please take a few moments and send an email to your local politicians.  I just finished and it took moments.  The emails are all filled out, you just need to enter your zip code and add a little personal information.  Maybe if enough people share their passion on the subject we can make a difference.

Thanks and have a peaceful day!  Lin

Fried Plantains with Cilantro Pesto

Did you know that cilantro has some really great health benefits?  I didn’t know just how healthy it is until this morning.  It is rich in phytonutrients and flavonoids.  It’s also very high in vitamin A and lutein.  Cilantro has some excellent health benefits which include:

  • Powerful anti-inflammatory capacities that may help symptoms of arthritis
  • Protective agents against bacterial infection from Salmonella in food products
  • Acts to increase HDL cholesterol (good), and reduces LDL cholesterol (bad)
  • Relief for stomach gas, prevention of flatulence and an overall digestive aid
  • Wards off urinary tract infections
  • Helps reduce feelings of nausea
  • Eases hormonal mood swings associated with menstruation & reduces cramping
  • Adds fiber to the digestive tract
  • Helps promote healthy liver function
  • Disinfects and helps detoxify the body
  • Helps with insulin secretion and lowers blood sugar

The other day I watched Food Networks $10 Dinners where host Melissa D’Arabian.  She made a Quinoa Lentil salad and Cilantro Pesto Shrimp.  As soon as I see a protein like shrimp I think it will be easy to substitute with some grilled or baked tofu and turn it into a veg meal.  Since I had tofu with black bean sauce at a local restaurant Sunday night I decided to switch it up and try this with some fried plantains instead.

I’ve been meaning to cook with plantains and this gave me a great opportunity to do so.  Both plantains and cilantro and well known ingredients in Latin cooking so I was sure they’d compliment each other very well.  For my husband I grilled a few shrimp so he had a version closer to the original recipe.

Melissa D.’s Lentil Quinoa salad looks very similar to my Summer Quinoa Salad so I made an adaptation of that and added some lentils to the original recipe.  This complimented the plantains very well and was a super healthy protein rich dinner.  It is also vegan and gluten free! This can easily double as an appetizer and will  be a delicious meal to pack up and take to work for lunch today.

Ingredients for Fried Plantains

2 ripe plantains cut into 1″ rounds

Oil for frying

Salt, Pepper

Bowl of cold water with several ice cubes

Directions

Heat oil in a skillet and fry plantain rounds for 2-3 minutes per side, remove from the pan and flatten each round with a glass or wooden spatula, place then in the icy water for 1 minute, towel dry to remove excess water and then return to the pan and fry for 1 more minute on each side, remove from heat and season

Cilantro Pesto Ingredients

1 large bunch of cilantro rinsed, dried, with stems removed

1/3- 1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 white onion

1 large or 2 small garlic cloves

juice from 1/2- 1 whole lime

1/4- 1/2 cup oil, I used a mix of olive and canola

salt, pepper

Directions

Place nuts in food processor and chop, add in all other ingredients including 1/2 the oil and pulse, scrape down the bowl  as needed, and add the rest of the oil until desired consistency

Inspirations for this post:

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/cilantro.html

http://www.foodnetwork.com/ten-dollar-dinners-with-melissa-darabian/shrimpy-spending/index.html

Have a peaceful day, Lin

Grape Salad

Grape salad is a favorite menu item at our local Greek restaurant Acropolis.  Often my husband and I will go there and share an order of their very filling stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and then I’ll have a grape salad as my main course.

Today my mom brought her dog Mitzi over for a swim in the pool and my rendition of grape salad seemed like the perfect lunch to serve.  Just remember, grapes are bad for dogs so this salad is not for them!  While Mitzi swam and boated, my Casey and Rocki spent most of the time sitting out of the sun or hiding under the table as they do not care for the water at all.

Rocki hiding under the table, away from the pool

Casey running from the very scary pool!

The salad is really a simple spinach salad with some toppings that all work well together.  I haven’t made this recipe before because I was spending too much time trying to figure out what is in the restaurant’s dressing.  I’m still not sure but this Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette was very complimentary to the basic recipe.  This is a very rough recipe because I’m really not good at measuring salad stuff.  Use what looks good to you.

Ingredients

A few handfuls of organic spinach leaves

1- 1.5 cups red grapes (green would do but won’t look as pretty)

Gorgonzola or feta cheese sprinkled on top

1 red pepper or a few baby peppers julienned

1 small red or vidalia onion sliced thin

1/2 cup chopped walnuts lightly toasted

Celery either chopped or left in strips for dipping

Salt, Pepper and some Italian seasoning to taste

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette for dressing

Directions

Either toast walnuts on a baking dish at 350 for 10 minutes, or toss in a frying pan with v very little oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes turning every minute.  Just be careful they burn quickly

Wash all produce, layer in a bowl starting with spinach, add pepper, onion, grapes, cheese, and top with walnuts, season lightly and add dressing

Have a peaceful day, Lin

No Impact Man

This morning I finally got to watch the documentary, by Colin Beaven. A reader gmomj recommended it to me in a comment on my post titled My Carbon Footprint.  In my own desire for non consumerism I placed the dvd on hold at my local library and waited about 10 days for it to come in.  Due to my busy schedule I had to renew it once prior to my viewing but that’s ok.  I found the movie to be interesting with some great tips and ideas to incorporate in my every day life.  During the movie Colin read and showed comments made by his critics calling it nothing short of self promotion.  Most everything we view these days is self promotion in one form or another so I’m going to opt for the version that is actually doing some good for our society and planet rather than the many other versions out there.  If you’d like a preview, here’s the trailer: http://youtu.be/Z9Ctt7FGFBo?hd=1

Planet Green recently had a short series called the 100 Day Challenge where people signed up to eat only local food for 100 days.  I really enjoyed this series and it made me more aware of where my produce comes from.  The Beaven family also went local as far as foods and products they consumed.  Once they turned off their electricity they also shopped for just a few days at a time, buying only what they would use.  I think of this and look at my pantry and the cans of food just sitting there.  I’m also cognizant of the produce I buy with good intention and end up throwing out.  It’s definitely a work in progress for myself.  I am working on using what I have for the time being and have made minimal trips to the grocery store the last month.

Major lifestyle changes for the Colin Beaven’s family was also interesting to view.  They stopped using all public modes of transportation including elevators.  Living in NYC this is quite a feat.  Their young child was taken out of disposable diapers and placed in the cloth variety.  I actually used cloth diapers with my son 20 years ago because of his sensitive skin.  Within 12 hours a terrible rash that lasted months virtually disappeared.  I bought these wonderful diaper wraps that held the diaper in place and was able to contain a lot of moisture.  It was far easier than people think.  I would absolutely do it again.


In place of cleaning their house, clothes, and selves with harsh chemical soaps (even those who claim to be environmentally friendly often aren’t) they used a few simple products from a grocery store to wash everything.  You can clean pretty much anything with white vinegar, baking soda, borax, and castile soap.  I was glad to see borax made his list.  I’ve used it for years for both cleaning and pest control.  It’s a great product. I personally also love powdered Bon Ami which I clean much of my house with.  It’s a great product.

What I loved was his statement that:  It’s not about using as little as we can possibly use but finding the way to get what I need in a sustainable way.” That’s really what we should be focusing on.  Experiments and trial phases of giving up everything is good but very few people will be wiling to do that for the long-term.  At one point his wife Michelle Conlin stated that she would be happy when the experiment is over and she can read to her daughter with ample illumination.  That made me laugh because I used to be the person who read in a dark or barely lit room and as my eyes age (I’m not!) I am finding myself needing more and brighter lights in order to read anything.  I can totally relate to her statement.

My favorite thing about this documentary is that Colin mentioned that living in an apartment without basic utilities forced them to live outside their space and experience more of what NYC had to offer.  This resonated with me.  The biggest thing I got out of the book 1×12 by William Powers was that his experience wasn’t about living in that small space  but his life outside of that space.  I mentioned then that my biggest takeaway from my husband’s and my camping experience was that living in a 300 sf camper with many of the luxuries of home still forced me outside in a very positive way.  All the site seeing was great but my favorite daily ritual was sitting outside the camper with my feet up on a rock reading and while watching and listening to the stream water rolling by.  Life doesn’t get much better than that.

I really enjoyed this documentary and although I now know the story I went online and placed the book on hold.  Personally I am  always interested in seeing what people are doing to lower their impact or simply live a more sustainable life.  What are you doing?

Have a peaceful day! Lin