Mother Earth Living

Food Matters

All about fresh, flavorful food

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12/23/2015

If you've ever noticed that you feel a little rundown when you don't get enough water, or that sugary snacks only make you hungrier later, you already know how important it is to make good choices about what you eat and put into your body. Making mindful decisions about food is just as important as exercising, managing your stress levels, and getting in touch with your emotions. Smart eating is the practice of following a balanced and nutritious diet, and it can guide you on your path to a healthier and happier life. To get on that path, just follow these simple steps.

proper nutrition
Chart by Juliette Borda.

Understanding What Is and Isn't Good for Your Body

Every body is different, and some people who respond well to diets high in protein will feel their energy levels start to flag if they switch to, say, an entirely raw food diet. That's perfectly natural, and it's your body's way of telling you what it does and doesn't need. When you first start making smart decisions about food, take note of how your body responds. Keep in mind that nutritionists no longer recommend a diet based on the traditional food pyramid. Instead, aim for a diet that includes the following:

• 25 percent protein: organic meat, fish, nuts, beans, full-fat dairy, and certain grains
• 35 percent green vegetables: peas, kale, green beans, broccoli, cucumber, asparagus, etc.
• 20 percent antioxidants: fruits like apples and berries, sweet potatoes, beets, and eggplants
• 13 percent whole grains: quinoa, corn, brown rice, bulgur wheat, oats, etc.
• 5 percent fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt
• 2 percent healthy fats: olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, organic butter

Notice that fruits and vegetables account for the majority (55 percent) of this updated diet, whereas the old food pyramid was focused primarily on grains. This new diet can seem tough, particularly for people who don't like eating kimchi every day, but once you start eating smart, you'll notice what an amazing effect it can have on your body. You'll have more energy, feel less stressed, and have fewer cravings for unhealthy food, and that will go a long way toward helping you achieve a happy, healthy life.

Snack Smarter

Whether you're on the move or just sitting at home watching TV, don't reach for that bag of chips when you're feeling peckish. Instead reach for a bowl of fruit, raw mixed nuts, or even kale chips to satisfy your craving. We know it's hard to eat smart when you're super busy, but simple tricks like carrying healthy snacks or opting for wraps instead of burgers can make a world of difference for busy people on the go. But remember, portion control. Your snack doesn't need to become a full-fledged meal.

Stay Hydrated

This can’t be stressed enough. Among the many benefits of staying hydrated are lower blood pressure, reduced fatigue and clearer skin, because when you get enough water all of your body's systems start working better. Many people even report that proper hydration helps to manage their allergies and digestive problems. But these benefits are counteracted by sugar, salt and caffeine, so stay away from coffee, tea and sugary drinks as much as possible.

Incorporate Probiotics

Studies prove that cultivating good gut bacteria can improve your health, weight and mood. That 5 percent of your diet devoted to fermented foods is aimed precisely at this phenomenon: The better our gut feels, the better we feel. Next time you're in the grocery store consider trying probiotic supplements or picking up some kimchi or sauerkraut to serve as a side dish. It's the best way to keep your gut healthy.

With these simple steps you can put yourself on the path to a happier and healthier life. By eating smart, making mindful choices about food, and listening to what your body says, you can reduce stress, boost energy, and give your body the fuel it needs for the long life ahead.



12/23/2015

Here’s a festive and fabulous way to serve a first course salad, any time of the year. Spooned into tiny parfait or champagne glasses, this tasty combo provides a refreshing change to a standard green salad.

avocado salad parfait 

Avocado Salad Parfaits Recipe

Makes 4 to 5 servings | Ease Factor 1

Ingredients

Dressing:
• Juice from half a medium lemon
• 1 small clove garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil (see note)
• 1⁄8 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed

Salad:
• 10 to 14 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
• 1 medium-to-large avocado, pit removed, peeled and diced

Insructions

1. Put all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk briskly to emulsify.

2. Put all of the salad ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Pour in the dressing and gently stir to combine. Season with more salt, to taste. Cover and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before serving.

3. To serve as a fancy first course, spoon into pretty glasses, displayed on a decorative plate.

Chef’s Note: For an oil-free dressing, omit the olive oil and proceed with the recipe as directed.

Amount per serving, based on 5 servings: 54 Calories; 4g Fat; 1g Saturated fat; 1g Protein; 4mg Sodium; 5g Total Carbohydrate; 1g Sugars; 2g Fiber

Recipe from Laura Theodore’s Vegan-Ease, © 2015 Laura Theodore, reprinted by permission.


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio. Visit Laura on Facebook and follow her on Twitter for daily recipes and tips for serving delicious, plant-based meals.



12/18/2015

My husband always complained that I did not make our veggie burgers BIG enough! So the “Hungry Guy” Burger was born. Packed with hearty black beans, spicy salsa and rolled oats, these five-ingredient wonders are filling and super-quick to prepare. Now everyone’s happy!

hungry guy burger 

“Hungry Guy” Black Bean Burger Recipe

Makes 6 burgers | Ease Factor 1

Ingredients

• 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
• 2⁄3 cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons prepared salsa, plus more as needed (see note)
• 3 slices whole-grain bread, torn into chunks
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
• 2⁄3 cup rolled oats

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large, rimmed baking pan with unbleached parchment paper.

2. Put the black beans and salsa in a medium-sized bowl and mash using a potato masher or large fork until well combined. Put the bread chunks and cumin in a blender and process into coarse crumbs. Add the bread crumbs to the black bean mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the rolled oats and mix to combine. If the mixture seems dry, stir in another heaping tablespoon of salsa and mix to combine.

3. Scoop up a generous 1⁄2 cup of the black bean mixture and put it on the prepared pan. Form it into a burger, shaping it with clean hands, then flattening it slightly. Continue in this manner to make five more burgers (see note). Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the burgers and bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until golden.

Chef’s Notes:
• You may use mild, medium or hot salsa in this recipe.
• Once formed, the burgers may be covered and refrigerated for 2 to 6 hours before cooking. Add 5 to 7 minutes to the baking time.

Amount per serving, based on 6 servings/burgers: 170 Calories; 2g Fat; 0g Saturated fat; 10g Protein; 241mg Sodium; 30g Total Carbohydrate; 1g Sugars; 8g Fiber

Recipe from Laura Theodore's Vegan-Ease, © 2015 Laura Theodore, reprinted by permission. Photo courtesy of Annie Oliverio.


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio. Visit Laura on Facebook and follow her on Twitter for daily recipes and tips for serving delicious, plant-based meals.



12/16/2015


Photo by Fotolia

This is a glorious holiday variation of my Raspberry & Cardamom Jam recipe published in my quick refrigerator jam article, Jams in a Jiffy.  I’ve featured the popular holiday spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove instead of cardamom – use whatever appeals to you and adjust to your taste. This naturally-sweetened jam is without refined sugar or artificial sweeteners and preservatives.

You can serve this recipe warm or chilled on holiday breads, crackers or spread on top of soft, spreadable cheeses such as Brie. It’s also wonderful topping for vanilla ice cream or frozen dessert. Be sure to refrigerate this recipe and consume with a week or two. No canning or special equipment required.

Ingredients

• 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ¼ teaspoon ground clove
• 2 to 3 tablespoons apple juice concentrate thawed
• 2 to 3 tablespoons honey or light agave sweetener (to taste)
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions

1. Rinse raspberries. If using frozen, completely thaw before jamming.

2. Combine raspberries, spices, apple juice concentrate and lemon juice in a large nonstick skillet.

3. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly and mashing berries with the back of a spoon, 5 to 15 minutes, or until mixture reaches the consistency of jam.

4. Refrigerate jam in a bowl for about 1 hour.

Herb & Spice Buying Sources:

Simply Organic 

Mountain Rose Herbs 

Quick Jam Reader Q&A:

1. Can you process and can these recipes?  No, it’s important to keep these quick jams refrigerated and eaten within a week or two. Please do not can them and store on the shelf. However, because these super-simple recipes take 10 to 20 minutes to make, it’s easy to whip up a new batch.

2. Are these recipes OK for diabetics? I wasn’t sure about the honey. Most likely, if you’re a type 2 diabetic and consuming store-bought fruit spreads (in small amounts) as part of your approved food plan. These recipes are without refined sugar or artificial sweeteners; however, they do contain natural fruit sugars.

You can substitute agave nectar for the honey, or omit any sweetener entirely except the fruit and apple juice concentrate. If you’re a person with any type of diabetes or pre-diabetes, be sure to discuss your diet, including naturally-sweetened recipes, with your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.  

3. A reader shared these thoughts regarding quick summer jamming: "I'm going to try the lavender-peach jam with vanilla recipe using fresh, local peaches. It sounds delicious and the simpler, the better!"

My comment: Even if you don't have access to fresh peaches during the colder months, you can still make great-tasting peach-lavender jam using frozen or canned peaches, preferably organic.


Letitia L. Star has written for Mother Earth Living and GRIT since 2005. To date, she's written more than 1,100 published articles, including features on green living, travel and food. Reach her at LetitiaStarwriter@gmail.com. 


12/11/2015

I first made these delicious peppers for a holiday party and they were a huge hit! Featuring a meaty-tasting seitan and hearty brown rice stuffing, these beautiful bells satiate omnivores and vegans alike. Ready for the oven in under 20 minutes, these six-ingredient wonders are equally ideal for a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party, or weeknight supper.

stuffed green pepper topped with marinara 

Seitan & Brown Rice Stuffed Green Peppers Recipe

Makes 6 servings | Ease Factor: 2

Ingredients:

• 6 medium green bell peppers
• 1 jar (about 28 ounces) vegan marinara sauce
• 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
• 2 packages (16 ounces) Italian flavored crumbled or ground seitan (see note)
• 2 cups cooked and cooled long-grain brown rice (see note)
• 2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning blend

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice about one inch off the top of each pepper. Seed the peppers.

2. Spread 1-1/2 cups of the marinara sauce and the 2 teaspoons of olive oil (optional) evenly over the bottom of a casserole that’s large and deep enough to hold all the peppers snugly so they remain upright during baking.

3. Put the seitan, brown rice and all-purpose seasoning in a large bowl and stir well until combined. Stir in 2⁄3 cup marinara sauce and mix to combine. Spoon one-sixth of the seitan mixture into each pepper, mounding it, if necessary. Spoon 2 heaping teaspoons of the marinara sauce over each pepper. Carefully position the peppers in the casserole so they will remain upright while baking.

4. Cover and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the peppers are tender but not mushy. Let cool for 7 to 10 minutes before serving.

5. Serve the peppers with tricolor pasta on the side and topped with some of the sauce that has accumulated at the bottom of the casserole. Put the remaining sauce in a gravy boat or small bowl to pass around at the table.

Chef’s Notes: You may use unflavored, ground seitan in place of the Italian flavored variety. If using unflavored seitan, add an additional heaping teaspoon of all-purpose seasoning or Italian seasoning blend to the filling mixture before stuffing the peppers.

You may pre-cook the rice up to 48 hours ahead of making this recipe. Store it tightly covered in the refrigerator until use.

Amount per serving, based on 6 servings: 307 Calories; 6g Fat; 0g Saturated fat; 24g Protein; 868mg Sodium; 40g Total Carbohydrate; 2g Sugars; 2g Fiber

Recipe from Laura Theodore's Vegan-Ease, © 2015 Laura Theodore, reprinted by permission.


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio. Visit Laura on Facebook and follow her on Twitter for daily recipes and tips for serving delicious, plant-based meals.



12/4/2015

This delicate yet rich-tasting cake makes the perfect dessert for your festive holiday table or any winter event. Creamy, smooth and oh-so-pumpkiny, this pie will surely become a tradition, year after year!

vegan pumpkin cheesecake

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Recipe

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

Crust:
• 1-3/4 cups cookie crumbs (ginger cookies work well)
• 1/4 cup vegan margarine, melted

Filling:
• 2 tablespoons rolled oats
• 14 to 16 ounces firm regular tofu
• 1 can (about 16 ounces) unsweetened pumpkin purée
• 2⁄3 cup dark brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Topping:
• 3 tablespoons cookie crumbs

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Liberally coat a 10-inch round springform pan with vegan margarine.

2. To make the crust, put 1-3⁄4 cups cookie crumbs and the melted margarine in a medium-sized bowl and mix with a fork until well combined. Pat the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes.

3. To make the filling, put the rolled oats in a blender and process into coarse crumbs. Add the tofu, pumpkin purée, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and allspice and process until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a wire rack. Cool for 15 minutes, then carefully run a table knife around the perimeter of the cake to ensure it does not stick to the side of the pan.

5. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of cookie crumbs evenly over the top of the cake, gently pressing them into the top, so the crumbs adhere. Release the side of the springform pan to unmold.

6. Cover the cake very loosely and refrigerate 3 to 24 hours before serving. Covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator, leftover cheesecake will keep for about 2 days.

Amount per serving, based on 10 servings: 154 Calories; 7g Fat; 1g Saturated fat; 5g Protein; 62mg Sodium; 20g Total Carbohydrate; 15g Sugars; 2g Fiber

Recipe taken from Laura Theodore’s Vegan-Ease. Reproduced by kind permission of Laura Theodore.


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio. Visit Laura on Facebook and follow her on Twitter for daily recipes and tips for serving delicious, plant-based meals.



11/27/2015

I tried for years to create a tasty vegan omelet, so I was super excited when I came up with this oven-baked version. Because a tofu-based omelet is more delicate than the classic egg version, I have developed a jazzy method for helping it to stay together when serving. It takes a little bit of extra fuss, but is well worth the effort.

vegan spinach tomato omelet

Spinach and Tomato Omelet Recipe

Makes 2 servings | Ease Factor: 3

Ingredients

Tomato Layer:
• 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• Several grinds of freshly ground pepper

Spinach Layer:
• 5 to 6 cups very lightly packed baby spinach, washed and dried

Tofu “Egg” Layer:
• 1 block (14 to 16 ounces) firm regular tofu
• 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
• 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
• 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Additional Ingredients:
• 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (for dusting top)
• 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese (optional)
• Sea salt, to taste
• Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat with vegan margarine a heavy, ovenproof 10-inch round sauté pan or skillet with tight fitting lid.

2. Arrange the tomatoes in the prepared skillet by overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle the thyme, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper evenly over the top of the tomatoes. Top the tomato layer with all of the baby spinach, pressing it down slightly.

3. Put all of the tofu “egg” layer ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Spread the tofu mixture evenly over the spinach, smoothing the top as you go.

4. Dust the top of the tofu layer with the additional 1⁄4 teaspoon smoked paprika. Cover tightly and bake for 45 minutes. Put the pan on a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

5. Carefully cut the omelet into two servings, by slicing down the middle. Gently lift one-half of the omelet out of the pan, using two very large, flat spatulas. Place it tomato side down onto a rimmed dinner plate. Place a second rimmed dinner plate of the same size firmly over top of the omelet and quickly flip it over to invert the omelet so the tomatoes will now be facing upward. Sprinkle the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the vegan cheese, if desired. Then, use the spatula to gently fold the omelet over. Proceed plating up the second half of the omelet in the same manner.

6. Spoon the sauce that remains in the bottom of the pan over each omelet. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Serve warm.

Amount per serving, based on 2 servings: 188 Calories; 11g Fat; 2g Saturated fat; 21g Protein; 107mg Sodium; 7g Total Carbohydrate; 2g Sugars; 4g Fiber

Recipe from Laura Theodore's Vegan-Ease, © 2015 Laura Theodore, reprinted by permission.


Laura Theodore is a 2014 TASTE award-winning television personality, radio host, vegan chef, cookbook author and recording artist. She is author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites and Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine Made Easy and Delicious. Laura is the on-camera host, writer and co-producer of the popular cooking show, Jazzy Vegetarian and hosts the weekly podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio.





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