Friday, March 1, 2013

Change is good

This morning I heard a golden cheek warbler in the back yard and Tu said he heard one on Bliss Haven yesterday -- the first of the season! The weather is lovely and I'm feeling anxious about getting my herbs transplanted there. 

We have a contract pending on a manufactured home and the timeline looks good for moving in, in a month or so. The details are slightly overwhelming, but welcomed.

There is much to do in preparation for the move with packing and storing, gargae sale, downsizing... but my thoughts are primarily about the oregano, thyme, and rosemary. If I put things out now, will the deer eat it? Will the peas in the back yard make before we move?

You are what you eat... and think, and do...

This will be a fresh start in many ways-- more activity outdoors and big steps toward self-sufficiency with food production. I ate a vegetarian diet for about six months a long time ago, and seems now is a good time to resume the practice. Because we don't eat much meat in the first place, it should be a fairly easy transition. Except for tuna salad. And bacon. 

Bacon. That's going to be tough. I see that some folks use liquid smoke to trick the taste buds... well, I might have to resort to that for leafy greens and stews.

This time we can broaden our menu and food selections. Ten years ago it was difficult to find much variety in our local grocery -- but people's tastes have changed, the demand is high and the supply is better, plus now we live in Austin. One thing I'd like to try is nutritional yeast. Also might give tahini another shot, but so far every dish I've tried tastes extremely bitter/acrid to me. 

Vegetarian Main Dish Ideas

In the beginning, vegetarian meals and meal planning can be difficult unless one has a good idea of what to prepare and has the ingredients close at hand.

Here are some main dish ideas for quick and easy vegetarian meals; some are already on our family menu, some are new. I provided a couple of links to sites with recipes and provided one of our own at the end. Don't worry about whether it's fried, has oil, or is low calorie, just enjoy it!

Tofu Crumbles -  for any dish that uses ground meat

  • Tacos and Chili
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Spicy fried rice
  • Spaghetti or lasagna

Tofu or Tempeh Dishes

  • Coconut curry- Thai or Indian style
  • Stir fry with vegetables - too many possibilities, with rice or noodles
  • Soup or stew (tempeh chunks are good substitute for chicken)
  • Tempura battered, with tempura vegetables and sauce
  • Balls or loaf (use everything same as meatballs or meatloaf)
  • Tofu hot dogs, bologna, burgers - readily available in frozen or dairy section

Cheese and/or Egg Dishes

  • Veggie & cheese pizza, anything goes
  • Veggie & cheese pasta, tomato or cream sauces
  • Fried rice with egg, soy sauce is principle seasoning
  • Risotto variations
  • Egg & cheese quiche, omelets, or frittata
  • Deviled eggs
  • Egg & cheese tacos
  • Sandwiches – egg salad, grilled cheese, etc

Vegetables, Grain, and Bean Dishes

  • Cauliflower: buffalo wings; "riced" for a paleo substitute for grains 
  • Eggplant dishes: parmesan or lasagna; sweet sour; grilled with cheese on top
  •  Hummus & other garbanzo bean dishes
  •  Kale - more vitamins and iron than any other vegetable, use as a meat
  •  Grain kugels: NY Times link for some crazy no-noodle kugels
  •  Lentil soup; other bean soups - every nationality and style possible
  •  Mushroom dishes: stroganoff, cream soup, portabella steaks, pasta, stir fry
  •  Polenta, grits, other ground corn or maize
  •  Quinoa (love this sauteed with savory onion, dried apricot, herbs, chopped almonds)
  •  Squash - can be stuffed, added to sweet potato, and many more uses
  •  Sweet potato - many choices from soups to pies         
  •  White bean, artichoke and kale soup (from the PETA Celebrity Cookbook)         

Spicey Tofu Fried Rice
this is a Do family favorite, pungent & green with herbs
serves 4 - 6
  • Put 2 cup jasmine rice into the steamer and cook it while preparing the following:
  • Sautee 1 pack Crumbles or crumbled firm tofu in 2 tablespoons of your choice of olive or peanut oil with:
    • 4 - 6 cloves fresh garlic
    • Minced chili peppers (you add to taste from 1 - 5 stars)
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh peppermint (be generous)
    • 1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • up to 2 tbsps additional chopped fresh herbs (dill, basil, oregano, thyme, and/or marjoram)
  • Fluff the jasmine rice and allow it to 'dry out' for about 5 minutes, releasing steam
  • Add it to the wok while hot with additional oil and toss all ingredients over medium-high heat until the rice is well separated and coated with a sheen of oil and herbs are well distributed
  • Increase the heat until the ingredients begin to stick to the pan and brown a little bit
  • Add a tablespoon of soy sauce and sprinkle fish sauce* (about 2 tbsps) over the ingredients, turn off the heat and allow the sauces to steam and soften the crisped rice at the bottom of the work, stirring all together and tossing it quickly
  • Serve with lemon wedges, thinly sliced fresh cucumber, toasted peanuts (chopped, optional), and extra nuoc cham sauce
  • Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup frozen peas; fresh green beans chopped into 1 inch pieces; 


Our Vegetarian Pantry

It can take months of careful budgeting to stock up on these ingredients but dollar for dollar you will get many more delicious meals, once you've accumulated the basics. Dried foods and many condiments will last a long time without spoiling. Even a few items from each non-perishable category is sufficient to start.

Also consider shopping for fresh foods at local farmer's markets, but in general don't be fooled that "raw", "all natural", or "organic" will be the best use of your money. Be practical and strive for variety.  The best are food and herbs are growing out in the yard or on the patio, worth the investment of time and money.


  Vegetarian Shopping List

Dairy, meat substitutes, quick eats
Milk products (goat and cow)
Free range eggs
Goat cheese; any basic cheese (ie not processed, no additives)
Tofu, Tempeh,Tofu Crumbles
Veggie bologna, hot dogs, patties, sausages
Veggie cheese slices
Yogurt (cream top)

Nuts and Seeds
Raw cashews, walnuts, almonds, etc
Flax, sesame, pumpkin, pine
Nut butters
Roasted nuts (pistachio, almond, brazil, etc)

Dried & canned beans
garbanzo, black,
white northern, pinto, etc
Polenta or coarse grits
Risotto rice, Thai jasmine rice, brown rice

“Main Dish” Vegetables
Portabella mushroom, specialty fresh mushrooms
Sweet potato

Special Vegetables & Fruit
Bamboo and water chestnuts
Banana leaves - wrap & steam sticky rice and vegetables
Edamame/ soy pods
Grape leaves - for dolma
Assorted dried mushrooms
Purple potatoes

In Season Fruits & Veggies
Every local plus:
Citrus (mandarins, grapefruit)
Green beans
Snow Peas, snap peas
Squash varieties

Veggie & Fruit Staples
Black olives, green olives
Cabbage varieties
Cilantro, other herbs
Dried fruit
          Figs & Dates
Lemon and lime
Onion, green onion
Pepper varieties (sweet and hot)
Seaweed varieties
Other staples
Agar-agar (a vegetable thickening agent like gelatin)
Boullion - vegan of course
Bread (sandwich and baguette), pita and other flat bread
Coconut milk
Condiments* - sky is the limit, but unless you use it a lot, get very small jar or bottle
Egg roll and wonton wraps
Honey, molasses, agave
Olive, coconut, hemp, and peanut oil(smoke chart here)
Spices - sky is the limit. Fresh herbs, whole seeds and pieces are preferred
Various pasta
Vinegar and cooking wine selection
*not vegetarian, but fish sauce and oyster sauce are indispensable for Asian dishes

Special considerations for people who make kidney stones

Dietary Changes to Help Prevent Kidney Stones

People can help prevent kidney stones by making changes in fluid intake and, depending on the type of kidney stone, changes in consumption of sodium, animal protein, calcium, and oxalate.

Drinking enough fluids each day is the best way to help prevent most types of kidney stones. Health care providers recommend that a person drink 2 to 3 liters of fluid a day. People with cystine stones may need to drink even more. Though water is best, other fluids may also help prevent kidney stones, such as citrus drinks.

Recommendations based on the specific type of kidney stone include the following:

Calcium Oxalate Stones

  • reducing sodium
  • reducing animal protein, such as meat, eggs, and fish
  • getting enough calcium from food or taking calcium supplements with food
  • avoiding foods high in oxalate, such as spinach, rhubarb, nuts, and wheat bran

Calcium Phosphate Stones

  • reducing sodium
  • reducing animal protein
  • getting enough calcium from food or taking calcium supplements with food

Uric Acid Stones

  • limiting animal protein
taken from


On the horizon

Once we get moved in and have the garden fenced, one of many next steps is building a raccoon proof chicken coup. Fresh eggs! Just the thought makes me very happy. I have names picked out for a rooster and 6 girls. 

If it goes well with chickens, and if we are really brave, we want a nanny goat to milk. Maybe a pair of sisters and their little ones? 

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