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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Easy Single-Dish Dinners

The University District Farmers Market has been bustling with activity.  Each time I visit, I plan on getting to the market when it opens at 9. Ultimately, I fall a little short of my goal and arrive no earlier than 9:30. Parking can be interesting in Seattle at any time of day, so I inevitably park a few blocks away and carry enough produce to last me several days, but not enough to leave me overburdened and stumbling along the sidewalks. This week, I fell a little short of the latter and ended up looking like a pack mule.

This week's selections included beets, mustard greens, scallions, kale, cauliflower, kohlrabi, peaches, and yellow squash. There are always many organic farmers in attendance and most of them will accept credit cards now, which is great for those of us who don't like carrying much cash. There are also a number of farmers with organic, antibiotic free, grass fed meats.  It takes me a little longer to shop for those items because I'm not used to the pricing or cuts.

I love shopping at the farmers market because it lets me do a little meal planning in my mind as I wander through the stalls. There's nothing like the freshest produce; I never go to the market with a set list of items with the expectation that I will just select what looks to be at the peak of its season. We have had an unusually pleasant summer, and standing in front of a stove-top is something I have been avoiding, so I look for vegetables that are good fresh or roasted.

My husband and I both work full time, so I try to fix meals that take very little prep time. Lately, I've been feeling lazy, so I've been making as many one-dish meals as possible.  They are very simple and prep time only entails the amount of time it takes to peel and chop the vegetables.

The following are some vegetable combinations we have enjoyed.  All are cooked at 375 degrees F for about 45 minutes.  We are both eating meat now, so I'll put pork, beef, or chicken over the top of the vegetables and cover the dish with aluminum foil.  Some time may need to be added for the meat - go by whether the vegetables are fork tender and the meat is at temperature.

Roasted Veggies 1
4 beets, peeled and chopped into 1/2" to 1" cubes
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1" segments
1/2 an onion, rough chopped
1 medium zucchini, halved and chopped
2 Tb parsley, minced
1-2 Tb apple cider vinegar
2 Tb olive oil - optional
salt and pepper to taste

Ideally, the vegetables (except onion and parsley) should be cut to about the same size for even cooking.  These vegetables are robust and handle red meats well. If the dish is combined with a meat that isn't lean, I don't find the olive oil to be necessary. Substituting apple cider vinegar with balsamic vinegar is especially tasty with pork.

Roasted Veggies 2
1/2 a medium head of cabbage, sliced
2 peeled zucchini, halved and sliced into 1/2" lengths
 1 onion, sliced
3 Tb cilantro, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tb olive oil
salt to taste

This dish pairs well with lean proteins like chicken and fish. If I cook fish, it is baked in a separate dish to reduce the risk of bones getting lost in the vegetables.

Roasted Veggies 3
1/2 cauliflower head, 1" pieces
2 carrots, 1/2" lengths
2-3 potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1/2" pieces
1 cup peas, thawed if frozen
1/2 onion, rough chopped
2 Tb cilantro
1 T cumin
1 t coriander
1 t mustard seeds
1/2 t turmeric
1/4 t cayenne
1 T vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

I personally don't eat potatoes or cayenne because they are not good for people with autoimmune/inflammatory issues.  Usually I cook this meal in a frying pan, but it works roasted - just be sure to toss all of the ingredients evenly.  This is a great vegetarian dish, especially if you want to add some chickpeas and cook some quinoa on the side.  It also combines well with lamb dusted with salt, pepper, cumin, and a little cinnamon.

Today's Farmers Market Inspired Meals
Sliced peach with hemp milk
Fruit smoothie with fresh berries

Home-made guacamole
Peeled and sliced cucumbers, cauliflower, and jicama


Roasted beets, carrots, onion, and yellow squash with a hint of vinegar, salt, and pepper
Mustard greens sauteed with onions, lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt
Fresh green salad
Lamb shoulder chops with cumin, salt, and pepper

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Difficult Decision Has Been Made...

It seems fitting that this post comes nearly a year after my last. I've done a lot of reflecting and have made a difficult decision. This blog will no longer be vegan. I will be going through all historical posts and removing vegan tags, although the content will not change. This was not an easy decision, but I want this blog to be representative of the food choices I make, and lately this means including animal protein.

Why did I make this change? My health was not at an optimal level for the last year, with a marked decline since December in particular. I woke up one day and couldn't turn my head. After a lot of testing, it became apparent that my inflammation levels were quite high. I didn't understand it at first because my diet contained a lot of vegetable sources of omega fatty acids.  Unfortunately, further testing showed that my body is unable to process essential fatty acids properly and break them into the correct ratios. Most vegetarians have plenty of options and can balance this intake. My situation is abnormal.

After making a tough decision to include fish oil supplements, my health continued to deteriorate.  I discovered that I had anemia, hypothyroidism, and a few other issues. Although we found issues with my health that we continued to address, I still was not well. My doctor decided to do additional allergy testing and it was bad news.  I am allergic to all grains, anything in the grass family (including rice, cane sugar, etc.), quinoa, amaranth, spinach, all legumes, all tree nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, garlic, spinach, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, any form of yeast, and of course dairy and eggs. I believe that it is possible to have a healthy vegan diet with food allergies, but I have thrown in the towel. I refuse to compromise my health any more than it already is, and cutting out so many sources of protein and a lot of variety was devastating to my diet.

Previously, the majority of my diet was vegetables and fruit with nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains making up the remainder and my main sources of fat and protein. Without any of those items, I didn't feel it was safe to continue on the path I was on. I have to say that I feel much better and have improved to the point that I can work out daily again. A big improvement from not being able to support a full time work schedule and hospital visits! This was the right decision for me.

It it what it is. I am very thankful I had the opportunity to experience a vegan lifestyle and I met several wonderful people in that community. I will understand if people discontinue this blog. I will be posting recipes that contain animal proteins, although the majority of the recipes will focus on fruits and vegetables.  Fresh vegetables and fruit are essential for good health, and I believe people don't give those life giving foods the attention they should. The majority of my meals are meatless and I try to stick to leaner protein sources.

Now it is time for me to find joy in food again and focus on creating some tasty, health conscious recipes.