Monday, July 17, 2017

Refreshing Diced Salad

Refreshing Diced Salad
This is, hands down, my favorite Veggie Salad. I've been eating it pretty much every day lately - I
keep a big container of it in the fridge for convenience.

I like it because it is simple, yet unique. Refreshing and special without the addition of unhealthy ingredients like bacon, cheese, oil or heavy dressings. Because the vegetables are diced, the flavors of all of the vegetables marry in a remarkable way that produces a different flavor than each vegetable has when served alone. And that means that simply a bit of salt brings out the flavor, without requiring the addition of the heavy ingredients that so many veggie salads use.

I try to chop an equal amount of each of the three vegetables, so the proportions below are just a guideline. 

In this salad - the vegetables themselves provide the flavor - and it's great!

This is a perfect side dish for any legume and rice dish, as well as a great side dish to add a splash of color and flavor to a typical meat and potatoes meal. 

Here's the recipe:

Refreshing Diced Salad
Mix together
2 Cups Cucumber, Diced in 1 cm cubes (about 1 Large)
2 Cups Tomatoes, Diced in 1 cm cubes (about 3 Romas)
2 Cups of Celery, Diced in 3 cm cubes (about 3 Stalks)
At this point, the salad can be stored in the refrigerator or served

At serving time, add to each portion
Salt to Taste
Caper Buds to taste (about 1 teaspoon for 1 1/2 cups of salad is my preference)


Monday, July 10, 2017

July Vegan Meals for a Week

July Vegan Meals
In the heat of the summer, it's nice to have quick, easy meals that avoid turning on the oven. Here are a few of my favorites for serving in July. I'm offering a week's worth of ideas - you decide which day to serve which one : )











Day 1

In the heat of summer, if the weather is good, I make this on the porch in a slow cooker, so the house is not heated by the cooking : )

Greek Stuffed Veggies ( Gemista )

Day 2

Kale & Tomatoes with Tahini Sauce





Day 3


Hummus with Capers and Veggie Dippers


Breadsticks, Stove top for dipping in Hummus


Day 4

Curried Chickpeas over Rice




Day 5 (for that day that there's no time to cook)

Vacation Soup




Day 6

White Bean Salad




Vegan Mock Crab Cakes





Day 7

Mediterranean Chickpeas & Vegetables





This Week's Dessert Idea:

Monday, July 3, 2017

Why Xtra Math Didn't Work for Us . . . and What Did

Math Drill is incredibly important to Math Success!
I'm a firm believer in Math drill. 

My Mom was an Elementary School teacher who specialized in Math. She said that the secret of elementary math success lay in mastering drill - especially of addition - so that there was no hesitation, and the answers were automatic.

I, on the other hand, was taught "New Math." It was an educational catastrophe - and I'm pretty sure that Common Core math is the same thing with a new name. The focus was on math logic - which was good, but drill was considered unimportant. The theory was that if you knew the "why" behind the math, you could always calculate the answer - by counting, doubling, or some other "work around."

As a result, I became one of those students who tested well in math logic, but horribly in computation. Which meant that eventually I could do a formula perfectly, but still get the wrong answer because I made mistakes when doing simple tasks like adding 7+3, or multiplying 8x6!

By the time my Mom realized what had happened and tried to fix it, my math anxiety had become way too severe. 

Of course, when I decided what to study at University, half of the options were closed to me because, like so many American kids of my generation, I was "bad at math." I thought it was a condition, like dyslexia, that was simply the result of bad genes or whatever. I know of no great mathematician who made a habit of counting on his fingers while calculating multi-page equations!

I didn't realize that it was something I could fix!

Then, I started teaching my daughter, and learned that

I wasn't a victim of a "learning disability" but rather a victim of bad teaching.

When I began teaching my daughter, I also mastered those facts that I had never been able to master before.

I was determined that my daughter would have a better math education than I had, and better than what modern traditional schools offer.

She would learn her facts thoroughly, though drill, as well as learning the logic behind math.

She mastered number concepts, counting, and became fairly proficient - but a bit slow - at flash card early on.

So, we started a long relationship with Xtra Math to drill those math facts. We spent years trying. And it was VERY slow going, and proving to be very frustrating for both of us, too.

Every wrong answer, or slow answer brought instant negative feedback from the computer, intensifying her anxiety.

The more anxious she became, the more mistakes she made - and the more frustrated I got with her for not doing a good job! I remembered my Mom getting frustrated with MY math anxiety - and I forgave Mom for it all! I understood how she felt! ; ) And, I asked my daughter's forgiveness for my frustration. But, I still didn't know how to fix it.

Although my daughter was ahead of the curve on math logic, she was lagging in math drill (sound familiar?).

I thought that Xtra Math was ideal because it timed every question, and made sure that a child could not compensate for not knowing 8+3 by being really fast at 2+0. It seemed perfect.

At long last, after much difficulty and years of trying, she mastered Xtra Math addition.

Subtraction should have been easy - after all, subtraction is reverse addition - and she KNEW all the facts. But it wasn't. It, too, was taking months because of the anxiety produced by the program, and the temptation to guess in order to meet the time requirement.

Finally, I began to think about what my Mom, the math educator, had told me about Educational Psychology.
1) Children should ALWAYS give the right answer - never the wrong one. Otherwise the wrong one gets "stuck" in their heads! Repeating the RIGHT answer is the key to successful memorization.

2) Pressure is counter-productive, as it produces anxiety.

But, Xtra Math focused on speed before accuracy. Since the questions were timed for a 3 second response from the first day, the temptation was to guess and get a wrong answer. And answers that weren't speedy enough were "wrong." And, if a child got frustrated and guessed too many times, their scores were set back for several days, making it take even longer to overcome the hurdle (which has a good side, in teaching children not to throw a temper tantrum when frustrated - but still made the frustration even worse).

Finally, I went back to the age-old method of printing out drill pages - those pages of 100 questions that have to be done in 5 minutes. 

I told her to first focus on getting EVERY QUESTION RIGHT - no matter how long it took - and then we'd work on speed.

And I discovered that while on Xtra Math she had only been getting about 50% correct, on paper, she was getting a pretty consistent 100%

Then we worked on speed.

And, we bought a little prize to look forward to 

 - - from the thrift store (there has ALWAYS been a prize on offer for finishing a level - so that wasn't much of a change, but having the prize purchased and in the house was a great motivator!).

After getting the prize (a mechanical dog named Creampuff) it only took her 1 1/2 days to finish it!

And, in about 2 weeks - she beat the subtraction time!
100 questions - ALL correct - in well under 5 minutes!

The same SPEED as required by Xtra Math -but without the negatives.

So, while Xtra Math does work great for some kids (I'm not meaning to insult the program here, just offer my own experience) try some old fashioned paper drill pages if Xtra Math isn't a good fit for your kid.  You can find them at this link.

It just might be the secret to success for your child

So, to find some great FREE worksheets that WORKED FOR US - check out this link Great Math Worksheet Site

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Greek Souvlaki at Home

Greek Souvlaki
Greek Souvlaki - THE Greek Feasting Dish of summer - or perhaps of any season.


Souvlaki is traditionally made over charcoals outdoors, and requires advance marinating and threading onto skewers - so it can be a wee bit of extra work.

I've simplified this just about as much as anyone can simplify it!

I don't relish dealing with raw meat. So, I usually buy "Country Style Ribs" for this dish - or else the pre-cubed and sliced varieties (depending on prices). If I buy the "Country Style Ribs" - I only have to make a few cuts to turn them from strips into the traditional cubes. If it's pre-cubed, all the work is already done : )

Once I have the cubes, I put them in a Zippered Freezer Bag with the Marinade, and toss them in the freezer (unless I'm using them the next day - in that case I toss them in the fridge, in a plastic box to prevent drips)

Then, the day before I want to use them, I bring them down to the Fridge and thaw 24 hours. Then, I remove the meat from the marinade and discard the marinade. I thread the cubes onto skewers, and then I grill on an electric indoor grill till well-done, about 20 minutes on my grill. (We live in a neighborhood where charcoal grilling is illegal - if you are able to charcoal grill, you can use the same recipe, just grill over your charcoals!)

Souvlaki Marinade
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt (or to taste)
3/4 teaspoon Dried Oregano
A Few Dashes of Pepper

Souvlaki may be served with the following: 
Salad Made of Shredded Cabbage, Cilantro, perhaps some Lettuce, and Tomato
Tzatziki Sauce (Greek Yogurt Sauce)
Onion Wedges
Lemon Wedges
Pickled Peppers
French Fries  (or Greek Style Oven Fries)





Pita Bread (purchased or Homemade)


Tip for Dining with Vegans or Vegetarians:
Make Manitarakia for Vegans!



Greek Tahini Sauce:




For Vegetarians, Halloumi Cheese, Sliced 1/4" thick (1 cm) and grilled is a great option.


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Monday, June 12, 2017

Lentil Spaghetti

Lentil Spaghetti
We LOVE this recipe! It's the epitome of frugal, healthy comfort food.

It was originally recommended to me by a friend who had a VERY tight budget and a family of 7 - including several teenagers! She said it got an extra meal out of the leftovers from Lentil Soup - for just the price of some Spaghetti.

But, once we tried it, we liked it for how it tasted - more than how frugal it was!

It's the ultimate Lenten Dining, too - Oil free even : )

Just make the soup, make the Spaghetti, and put them together. I particularly enjoy this dish with Salad, and Green Olives and/or Capers. Avocados are also nice. Garlic Toast is also nice on the side.

My Lentil Soup
Doubles well, but needs very large pot

There are about 20 kinds of Lentils! This recipe uses the standard
Grocery Store lentil - sometimes called "Green Lentils" despite
the Brown color.
1 (12oz) bag mirepoix mix OR 1/2 c diced onion, 1/2 c sliced celery, 1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 spoon garlic (about 3 cloves)
Add
2 1/2 cups sorted and  rinsed lentils (1 1# bag)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 package (10 to 12oz) frozen chopped spinach
Water to cover, plus some (to equal 4 quarts total soup)
1 tsp dry mustard*
1 tsp dry ginger (or fresh)*
1/2 T salt
Boil 45 minutes, till lentils are tender
OR, cook in slow cooker on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Freezes very well. This is a great recipe to double and freeze half for later.

Tip for Dining with Omnivores: This dish is also good with Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese over the top.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Easy Asian Noodles

Easy Asian Noodles
This is a delicious noodle dish that can be made in about 10 minutes. Cooking time for this kind of noodles is only 3 minutes - so the time includes the amount of time it takes to bring the water to a boil!


It's so easy - and delightful - and frugal - and vegan : )

It uses a kind of noodles that some people refer to as "real" Ramen - not to be confused with Instant Ramen that college students are known to live on!

I identify these noodles more by how they look in the package than by any writing outside the package - and by the ingredients. Wheat Flour. Water. Salt. (and sometimes Sodium Carbonate). That's all! When you look at the noodles, they're flat instead of curly, and are dried in a sort of "fan" shape.

These are the noodles you're looking for - notice they're not curly and have a characteristic fan shape fold.


"Instant Ramen" in contrast is often packed with chemicals and is usually deep fried before its dried and packaged. They're curly noodles. They're not what you want!

My usual brands are Wei-Chuan Guan Miao Ramen Noodles, made in Taiwan


This is a good brand

or Yih Noodles by Fu Cheng Noodle Mill/Qiao Wei Food Co. - Also from Taiwan.

This is another good brand.


So, this is how you prepare this amazing - and amazingly easy dish.

Easy Asian Noodles

Fill a pot of water

Add to the water your favorite veggies with an Asian theme (authenticity is up to you). I use what I have on hand, selecting from the following: Broccoli, Green Beans, Peas, Carrots, Baby Corn, Bok Choy, Water Chestnuts . .  . well - you get the idea.

While you're waiting for the boil, make the sauce:
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sherry or other Dry Wine (whatever you've got on hand!)
1 Tablespoon Dark Sesame Oil
2 teaspoons Ginger Paste
2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
2 teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper


When the water boils  (if you like your veggies more tender, let them boil till they're how you like them before adding the noodles), add the noodles to the water and vegetables and boil 3 minutes, till done.

Drain

Toss with sauce.

Place into bowls.

Top with Sriracha and your Choice of Peanuts or Cashews, if desired.

Enjoy!

Tip for dining with Omnivores: This dish can also be topped with a sliced boiled egg, or with some sliced beef, pork, or chicken. If you have leftover meat from a recent Asian meal just slice it and toss it on top : )

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