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Secrets: Cooking With the Lepperts

by Mary & Michael Leppert

When a family develops the home-centered lifestyle known as homeschooling, two of the main things to occur are: (1) They learn to live on one or one-and-a-half incomes and (2) They become more conscious of home-based living in general. When one parent (at least) stays at home along with the children, it does not take long for cooking to become part of everyday life that the entire family shares. Most children love to help in the kitchen and cooking provides a laundry list of advantages to parents and kids alike.

Practicing the culinary arts can be used as a real-life math-teaching supplement, what with calculating measurements and then actually measuring ingredients. It can also serve as a way to teach one’s child how to follow instructions. (Even great “vibe” chefs have to refer to books or recipes from time to time.) Of course, other advantages are that home-fashioned foods are more flavorful, healthy and economical to eat. These last three elements are the reason for us to write this column.

What you will find in our cooking column will reflect who we are. Michael worked as a professional cook for over 10 years in many restaurants in Southern California. Through this experience, he learned basic food theory -- which includes preparation as well as actual techniques of cooking. Mary learned to cook first from her paternal grandmother and mother, each of whom had a different ethnic background and produced very different dishes. As an adult, she attended many cooking classes and food lectures in the natural/vegetarian food field. We both love to cook and to eat; we also know about many aspects of healthy and economical eating that we would like to share with you. When our son, Lennon, was born in 1987, we were strict vegetarians. We followed this way of eating for many years and then at one point, Mary and Michael went back to the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). Lennon, however, has remained a strict vegetarian. Mary and Michael are returning to a more healthful way of life and this column is a personal journey for our family, as we restore a more healthful diet. We look forward to sharing our Secrets with you.

With all of the animal diseases rampant today, deciding to forego eating meat is a wise decision and the healthful benefits of eating a grain-and-vegetable based diet (with meat or without) are well established by Western nutritional experts. In this issue, we will begin with a number of dishes that we find economical, healthy and that we enjoy. From time to time we will include chicken and fish dishes, but during the life of this column, we will probably eliminate them as well – for health and economic reasons.

You will notice that we are using a number of brand name products in our recipes this issue, including Eden ™ Foods. Throughout the life of Secrets ® , you will see many of our favorite food companies mentioned. In the healthy, natural food world, brand actually can make a difference. We have used the products of these companies for many, many years and want our readers to know more about them as well. When we use a product, we like it to meet certain criteria:

To be able to understand the ingredients without a chemical dictionary.

To know exactly what we are cooking, serving and how it will taste.

To be honest in its labeling definitions, such as the use of the word “natural.”

We suggest using the products mentioned in the recipes, but if you have another favorite, overall, substitutions will produce similar results. If there is ever an exception to this basic rule, we will mention it in the recipe.

MULTI-COLORED SUMMER PASTA SALAD

W/VEGETARIAN RANCH DRESSING

Ingredients :

1 bag Eden ™ vegetable spirals

¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil

¼ teaspoon Black pepper

1/8 teaspoon White pepper (optional)

1/8 teaspoon  Si ™ salt (regular salt may be substituted)

¼ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

¼ cup vegetarian mayonnaise (regular may be substituted)

¾ cup diced red radish

½ cup finely-diced celery

¼ cup chopped celantro

1 cup finely-chopped romaine hearts

1 can Eden ™ garbanzo beans

1 head baby butter lettuce

Procedure :

STEP 1:          Boil 3 carrots in a medium pot of water. I boil them long enough to make them easy to cut and to chew in the salad. This also gives a nice variety of textures.

STEP 2:          Dice the carrots, radish and celery and romaine and combine in a large bowl.

STEP 3:          Pour the garbanzo beans into the large bowl, add the ingredients from Step 2.

STEP 4:          Cook pasta per package instructions. Cool with cold water to keep aldante. Pat dry with paper towels or cotton cloth.

STEP 5:          Add cooled and dried pasta to the garbanzo bean/vegetable mixture.

STEP 6:          Add olive oil, spices and mayonnaise to the bowl and mix well.

STEP 7:          Add dressing (see procedure for dressing, below) and garnish with nasturiums or similar edible flower.

Dressing:

1 12-oz. Package Mori-nu ™ soft tofu

¼ cup Eden ™ umeboshi vinegar

1 tablespoon Chopped dill – fresh or dried

1/8 cup olive oil

            Procedure:

Pour tofu into a blender. Blend for 2 minutes, then add vinegar and olive oil. Blend until dressing is creamy and has no lumps. Turn off blender, add dill and fold -- NOT BLEND -- the dill into the dressing. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.

MARY’S SUGAR-FREE WALNUT POUND CAKE

            Ingredients:

2 cups Arrowhead Mills ™ organic whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup Arrowhead Mills ™ organic brown rice flour

½ cup Arrowhead Mills ™ organic white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon Si ™ salt

1 cup Lundberg ™ organic brown rice syrup

¼ cup Eden ™ organic barley malt

Topping:

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup brown rice syrup

1/8 cup Spectrum ™ organic corn oil

1/16 Si ™ salt

            Procedure:

When I bake, I always preheat the oven to 500 degrees and then turn it down to the desired temperature when I put my food in to cook.

When I make a cake, I always mix it by hand. You can mix it with a blender, if you like. I prefer the quality of a thicker, more abundant cake.

STEP 1:  Begin with two bowls, one with all the “wet” ingredients, one with all the “dry” ingredients, combined.

STEP 2:  Begin by slowly adding a small amount (less than one cup) of the dry ingredients to the wet bowl as you hand whisk or blend until all lumps are removed. It will take a few minutes to mix in all of the dry ingredients; your patience will pay off.  When you are finished with the combining of the wet and dry you should have a very creamy, pourable mixture.  [When Lennon was little we would play a game that was similar to “Simon Says”: I would say “Only add dry ingredients to my bowl when I say a word that begins with the letter ‘P’”, for example.  I would mix slowly and say, “Cat, Dog, Bird, Pencil”, and on “pencil” he would add a half a cup or so of dry mixture to the bowl.  It was a lot of fun and we changed the game as he got older.]

STEP 3:

Oil and dust with flour, an oblong poundcake type pan and place cake in oven.

Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees and cook for 30 minutes

Decrease oven temperature to 250 degrees and cook for an hour or so.  [Cooking time may vary depending upon your oven.  I cook with gas, so adjust for electricity.]

Cake is finished when a fork pushed into the middle comes out “clean.” Let cake cool and turn upside-down on a cutting board. Serve with walnut topping.

Topping Procedure :

Place corn oil and salt in a pan on medium heat.

Heat oil and salt for approximately 1-1/2 minutes and add walnuts.

Lower heat to slightly less than medium and cook slowly, turning often to coat each walnut with oil. [Don’t leave the stove!]

When walnuts are brown, increase temperature to medium and add the brown rice syrup

DON’T LEAVE THE STOVE, AS BROWN RICE SYRUP BURNS VERY VERY QUICKLY!

Stir often until all ingredients are mixed and liquidy.

Pour over sliced cake and serve.

One of my (Mary) favorite things to make is Soup. I love the fact that one can start with a pot of water and make it into a tasteful, healthful, delicious meal!! Soup can be very economical and quick to prepare. I invite you to send in your soup recipes for possible use in this column.

SPLIT-PEA SOUP

Ingredients :

10 cups water

2 cups split peas

½ cup shoyu* or high-quality soy sauce

1 strip of kombu* sea vegetable or 2 bay leaves (Remember to remove bay leaves before serving.)

2 medium carrots, sliced;

1 medium brown onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

Procedure:

STEP 1 :  Slice carrots, dice onion and celery and place all in a bowl.

STEP 2 :  Place water, split peas, kombu or bay leaf, diced vegetables and shoyu in a large pot. Place on high heat, cover and bring to a boil for 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with bread (to be covered in a later column) or crackers.

MY MOM’S CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

Large pot (8-10 qt.)

1 whole chicken, 5-7 lbs, depending upon your family size

1 cup celery (leaves as well as stalk), diced

1 cup onion, cut in half, then quarter each half

1 whole cabbage, core removed, diced into medium pieces

4 medium carrots, sliced

1 medium tomato

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped, or 2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 teaspoon coarse ground Black pepper

1 tablespoon high quality Si ™ sea salt

Procedure:

STEP 1:          Dice the celery and onion; place them in a bowl.

Slice carrots, dice cabbage and place in separate bowl

STEP 2:          Fill pot to the handle rivets with water, add salt and pepper.

Place whole chicken in pot

Add the celery, onion and whole tomato

Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour

STEP 3:          Carefully remove chicken from pot, place on cutting board, remove skin and discard. Remove meat from bones and return meat to the pot. (Mary prefers to return only the white meat to the pot. However, the dark meat has good flavor for soup. Suit your family’s taste.)

STEP 4:          Add carrots, cabbage and parsley and continue cooking for another hour on medium heat.

Glossary :   In this column, we will use a variety of ingredients that may not be familiar to most people. The reason we use them is because of their healthful value; they contain vitamins, minerals and trace elements essential to health. They also have an appealing taste once you eat them for a time.

For instance, there are many varieties of sea vegetable (also called seaweeds). They are rich in minerals and other important nutritional elements. One of these is

Kombu – which is high in calcium. (A bay leaf may be used instead.)

Shoyu – is a chemical-free, more healthful version of regular soy sauce
 
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