Are you looking for Melomeals recipes?

Blog post coming about this amazing feast I cooked for The Boyfriend!
Blog post coming up all about this amazing feast I cooked for The Boyfriend!

Since my Melomeals blog was hacked recently, I have thought long and hard about what I want to do with my content.

Over the years, I have freely given away several cookbooks worth of recipes; which was great, because I love creating flavorful plant-based food and sharing it with people.

Most of my content is backed up, but that doesn’t mean it’s simple to access. Some recipes are on disk, many have been salvaged from several computers that crashed and now live on The Boyfriend’s external server.

I was notoriously not very organized with my files, so recipes and pictures are all over the place. I recently had to reinstall my OS (after the situation with my blog) and have created a strict system for myself so I can organize my files in a more logical sense.

Every single day, I get numerous requests for recipes. I have spent a lot of time digging for recipes and copying them for people, but I realized that it is taking too much of my time to respond to every request.

I have decided I will start offering customized E-Books. I am going to spend the next several weeks creating a recipe directory so people can pick and choose:

  • 5 recipes for $10
  • 10 recipes for $15
  • 20 recipes for $30.

I will also offer customized recipes. The price for this service will be determined by the recipe.

I know I have played around with E-book ideas for a while, and I have actually written the content, but I just can’t justify selling them for the small amount of money that people are charging for E-books.

I value my time and creativity too much to do that.

I think that we are doing each other a disservice by giving away content for free or nearly free because everyone else is and it has become expected.

I want to enjoy blogging again, because I do love creating amazing food. I love talking about it, writing about it and photographing it!

I haven’t felt enjoyment for a long time, and I will touch more on that in future writings as I reclaim this blog for myself.

There seems to have been a slow descent into insanity online, and every post, no matter what I content I put forward was subject to judgment, scrutiny and more importantly, I have noticed a very disturbing trend towards Orthorexia within the online food blogging community. This concerns me greatly and I do not want to be associated with any of that.

So, from this day forward, this blog is going to be my home. I have never really felt comfortable expressing my opinions and writing authentically because of the backlash, but that stops today.

I may write about the meal I lovingly prepared for my boyfriend which contains meat. I do it as an act of service because I love him dearly and it makes me so happy to take care of him. (I don’t eat meat and never will.)

I will probably talk more about the methods I use to create food and the food itself instead of writing recipes. I don’t cook that way. I just create, so stopping to write recipes constantly takes the joy out of it for me. It makes it feel like a job, and if I’m going to “work”, then I’m going to get paid.

This doesn’t mean I won’t ever post recipes, but I certainly am not going to post recipes for everything I want to talk about!

I am also going to write quite a bit about my opinions on food and health related matters, because they have been a very important factor in my life and I have had to come to terms with a lot of brainwashing regarding food and health.

I realize this will alienate many of you, but I’m OK with that. There are thousands of blogs out there to choose from.

This is MY home now.

You are welcome in my home, but DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE!

If I sound like I have a chip on my shoulder, I do!

When my blog was hacked recently, I completely broke down. YEARS of my work were gone.

HOURS. UPON HOURS. UPON HOURS.

Do you have idea how much time, money and creative passion went into Melomeals? Probably not, especially if you are just stopping by for a recipe you pinned.

To have it just taken away like that made me feel like the last 8 YEARS of my creative and frankly, my PROFESSIONAL life (It was really the best online resume to showcase my cooking style!) was stolen from me.

It almost broke me. It didn’t help that it was just after my second foot surgery in a year. The last 2 years of my life has been extremely difficult, and everything I loved doing both socially and professionally has been compromised and diminished due to health problems.

I am now, finally, on the road to recovery. The last foot surgery I had, has fixed my foot, but I still have months of recovery to go before I can hopefully work on my feet again full time.

I now see things in a new light. This is a turning point for me and it has made me very clear on my feelings. For those of you still with me, WELCOME!

I hope you enjoy my new blog.

Homemade Coconut Milk

coconut milk Canned coconut  milk is so decadent and delicious in curries and desserts, but in my day to day life, I don’t really want all of the fat, so I like to make my own alternative.

I use unsweetened, dried coconut flakes. I like to make big batches and freeze them in 1-2 cup containers. The milk goes bad after a couple days, so the freezer is my friend for sure! I have a Vita Mix; I have never done this in a normal blender, so I don’t know if it will work. My intuition tells me it will, as long as you let the coconut steep.

This makes 8 cups.

1.5 cups dried, unsweetened coconut flakes (I use Bob’s Red Mill)

7 cups boiling water

Pinch salt, sweetener and vanilla are optional , depending on what you are using it for. You can definitely divide it into two quart mason jars and make one sweet and one plain.

Method: Pour boiling water over coconut in glass or metal bowl. Let steep until mixture is room temperature. Blend until it is very smooth, then strain through cheesecloth or a paint straining bag. Add pinch salt and vanilla/sweetener if desired.

1 cup milk has around 75 calories, 7 grams of fat and 1 gram of protein.

You can use the leftover pulp in baking or veggie burgers.

30 Minute Supermarket Chana Masala (Vegan)

chanamasalaThank you so much for the support on my last post.

I love Indian food! We are lucky to have some really good Indian restaurants in the Boston area and take advantage of them at least several times a month, but the food can be really heavy, so I love to make my own interpretations at home.

Click HERE for my amazing Spicy Tomato Onion Chutney recipe!

This is a super fast dish that will taste like it’s been simmering for a while. I purposely picked ingredients that are available in a regular supermarket. Traditional Chana Masala uses amchor to give it a lovely sour kick. I have replaced the amchor with lemon juice and added lemon zest for a lovely little explosion of flavor in your mouth. When you are cooking food fast, little things like lemon zest and cumin seeds dance around on your palate, which is very satisfying.

To make this a one pot stew, increase the curry powder to 2 tbsp., the salsa to 3 cups, the soy sauce to 3 tbsp., and add a 16 oz. bag of frozen cauliflower when you add the chickpeas. Serve over rice for a full meal. This dish also freezes very well, so feel free to double it and freeze the second batch! Cook once, eat twice! I like to portion my second batch into 1.5 cup servings so I can pull one out whenever I want a fast meal.

30 Minute Supermarket Chana Masala- serves 4

  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp. curry powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 serrano chili pepper, minced, seeds removed if you don’t want heat (omit or add more depending on personal taste.)
  • 8 cloves garlic, pressed
  • Several pinches salt/freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chopped, fresh ginger
  • 2 cups salsa*
  • 1 cup light canned coconut milk (or half cup regular coconut milk mixed with ½ cup water, you can also use full fat if you want)
  •  1 29 oz. can chickpeas (or around 3 cups cooked chickpeas) **
  • Water or vegetable broth as needed
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest (optional) Tip: peel lemon zest with a peeler, making sure not to get any of the white pith and keep in the freezer.
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Method:

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat add the oil and spices. Toast spices for 20 seconds or so, then add the onion, serrano and garlic along with a good pinch salt and pepper.
  2. Cook for around 10 minutes, then add the ginger, salsa and coconut milk and chickpeas.
  3. If the mixture looks dry, add some water or broth as needed
  4. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring several times, and adding broth as needed.
  5. Take off heat, stir in soy sauce, lemon juice/zest and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning.

*The salsa brings all of the flavors together; allowing the dish to taste like it’s been cooked longer. If you don’t have salsa, you can use canned, crushed tomatoes.

**You can choose to drain the chickpeas or not based on personal preference.

Serve over rice.

When the food you love makes you sick.

This is a very long, personal post. I debated whether to share this level of personal information, but decided to in hopes that I can help someone else who might be having issues like this. Keep in mind, this is MY particular set of circumstances which happened to create a “perfect storm” of events in my digestive track.

high fiber foods

When the food you love makes you sick.

I have had to change my entire way of eating over the last six month. Don’t worry, I am not eating meat, but I am eating dairy on a regular basis.

Just to get this out of the way, this is MY story based on MY body. I am in no way suggesting that anyone change their diet based on what I’m writing. I am not a nutritionist, nor am I a doctor. I am just someone who loves eating a high fiber, plant-based diet.

Unfortunately, this made me very sick. I look back and can see the events that shaped this. I have always eaten high fiber and been able to digest it well. I never had “bathroom issues.” In fact, I had an amazing digestion!

I moved to Boston and lost 90 lbs. in around 9 months. I walked everywhere, ate tons of healthy food. For those who read Melomeals, you know that I based my entire diet around legumes and veggies. I never missed an opportunity to insert beans into my food. I made green smoothies out of ½ cup of white beans and water instead of packaged plant-based milks. I put beans into baked good, along with veggies. I probably ate between 1-3 cups of cooked legume every single day, in addition to huge amounts of raw veggies. It was not uncommon for me to have 4 cups of cabbage, 2 cups of kale (raw) and ½ or even 1 cup of cooked beans as a salad. I made dressing out of flax meal and chia seeds and have been doing this for years, way before it became trendy. I used my leftover bean liquid in place of oil for the dressing and in baking.

My cholesterol and other medical numbers were great! I felt on top of the world and loved what I ate. I cradle greens and talk to them like they are babies. Ethnic curries and stews based on beans and vegetables were a favorite of mine. I would even reduce the fat by adding a tablespoon of flax meal to the stews to thicken them up. I used raw collards in place of bread to wrap up my favorite sandwich fillings (often bean based burgers, hummus).

Then I got a nasty ear infection in December of 2012. I waited too long to go to the doctor (which is another topic I am going to address in another post.) I was convinced that it would go away on its own, especially since I was eating such a “healthy diet.” It didn’t, and I ended up having to take antibiotics. I was prescribed Erythromycin.  Fast forward 10 days or so and I was not getting better, I was getting worse. I ended up going to the ENT hospital in Boston and they were concerned I might have a MRSA. Both my inner and outer ear was infected and it was very painful. I was then put on Clindamycin because it was not responding to the first antibiotic. I broke out the big guns and ate lots of pro-biotic foods and took a very strong pro-biotic to help guard my gut. I kept this up after I was done with the antibiotics as well.  The Clindamycin finally worked and got rid of the ear infection, but unfortunately, it also made me extremely sick.  I was literally having watery diarrhea 30 times a day for over a month. Again, I waited too long to go to the doctor because I was convinced that my probiotic use would cure me, I attempted to get as much fiber as possible into my system (which wasn’t that much at this point because I was eating a lot of rice and potatoes.) I was struggling to get to work every day because the diarrhea was CONSTANT. I could barely leave the house. I couldn’t plan anything because I couldn’t be away from the bathroom for very long. I finally went to the doctor, and he did a stool sample and diagnosed me with C-Diff.

C-diff is a serious infection that actually kills around 14 thousand people a year in the USA.  Clindamycin use causes C-diff and it sure did a number on me. The treatment for C-diff is MORE antibiotics. I couldn’t believe it. I took three rounds of two different antibiotics and finally was “cured.´ During this time, I was working in Boston and walking between 3-6 miles a day to get to/from work. (I don’t have a car and live 1.5 miles from the commuter rail and it was another 1.5 mile walk when I got into Boston.)  I started experiencing pain in my right side. Serious pain. It would wake me up at night and spasm really bad. It was the type of pain you can’t ignore, and one that sent me to the ER several times within a 3 week period. The ER people thought it was gallstones, but when they did the ultrasound, they didn’t see any. This happened 3 times and on the third time, they admitted me because I was in such intense pain.

I’m not going to lie; I was starting to think I was crazy and was making this pain up in my head. They finally did a test called a HIDA scan, which showed that my gallbladder was not functioning. They removed my gallbladder 2 days later. It was becoming necrotic. (I never had gallstones.)  The doctor told me that losing a large amount of weight really fast (I lost 90 lbs. in around 9 months) was the cause of this. I hadn’t intended on losing weight that fast, it just happened because I was walking up to 12 miles a day and working on my feet.

After the surgery, my digestion really took a turn for the worse. I could not eat any fruit at all (I still can’t really eat much fruit) without getting REALLY sick to my stomach with severe heartburn. I was still trying to rebuild with probiotics and homemade sauerkraut and kefir and other probiotic foods and supplements.  Diarrhea continued to plague me daily.  Slowly, it was getting a little better, but it was still happening 10-20 times a day.  Fast forward 6 months, and I was pretty much resigned to the fact that this was my new normal.

I had my first foot surgery a year ago which did not fix my foot. I was not only in a lot of pain from my foot never getting better; I was also experiencing the gastro issues. Through all of this, I was GAINING WEIGHT. I felt ravenous all the time. Every time I ate, I had to run to the bath room.  In late January of 2014, I was feeling awful. My stomach was super bloated and I was always in the bathroom. I decided to begin Weight Watchers, both to lose weight, but also to feel like I had *some* control over my body.

Unfortunately, that was the beginning of the end. When I do weight watchers, I eat very little fat, tons of veggies and beans. My salads were EPIC!  I’m sure many of you who are familiar with Dr. Fuhrman and other vegan/health gurus are familiar with the epic salads! I love(d) eating this way. I started to lose weight in the beginning, but after around 10 days, I started getting sicker and sicker. The diarrhea was back with a vengeance, along with major bloating and stomach aches.  I was so demoralized. I never ate anything outside of the house out of fear of having to use the restroom. I couldn’t go anywhere. I wasn’t able to work because of my foot not getting better, but in reality, I don’t think I could have worked due to the diarrhea.

Around this time, we went to Costa Rica. I was terrified of the plane ride. I didn’t eat anything the night before or anything in the morning out of fear of having an episode. In Costa Rica, I always had to be near by a bathroom. Between that and my foot, it’s amazing we had a great time, but looking back, I see how much of our life has been affected, and I say OUR life, because my poor boyfriend has had to deal with this and be my caretaker throughout.  I ended up in the ER (again) for stomach pain, constant diarrhea and severe bloating. They did a CT scan and the doctor came back and told me I was incredibly CONSTIPATED!

WHAT? How can that be? I am having constant diarrhea. It was explained that you can be very constipated and all that can get through is water and no waste.  I was just at a loss.  I went to a Gastro doc who did a stool sample to see if the Cdiff was back (it wasn’t) and was told to “eat more fiber.” I was told that by several doctors. They did not believe me when I told them how I ate. It was so frustrating. I finally sought out a nutritionist in hopes I could get some concrete ideas of what to eat, because I KNEW in my gut that it was not possible to “eat more fiber.” I was consuming an average of 70 grams of fiber a day.

Fortunately, the nutritionist was AMAZING. She really “got” me and listened to me. She also believed me when I told her how I ate. (Hell, I showed her my blog.).. and she gave me the shock of my life. She told me to stop eating RAW VEGETABLES and fruit. To especially stop drinking green smoothies with psyllium. To stop eating beans and legumes. To stop eating cruciferous veggies.  I was dumfounded.

I was also desperate, so I did what was suggested. I started food logs, tracking the diarrhea and the foods I was eating, and within 4 days, I was at least 50% better.

That was around 6 months ago. I am pretty much better as long as I seriously limit my fiber intake. I have very slowly been adding in more raw veggies. I can eat cooked cruciferous veggies as long as I’m also eating white rice with them or white bread or white pasta. I am also slowly adding in legumes. Again, if I eat them with white foods, I can digest them much better. Potatoes were literally my best friend for a while, but even those I had to be careful with because the skin has fiber and I just can’t bring myself to peel a potato. (All the nutrients are in the skin, or so they say.)

Looking back, both my boyfriend and I remember that I would feel a lot better when I would eat pizza or white bread, but I didn’t make the connection , or should I say, BELIEVE the connection until I got so sick I felt like I was dying.

This has not been easy for me. I CRAVE raw veggies and beans. It is also very difficult getting the nutrients I need when I have to limit so many beans and veggies from my diet.

I had another foot surgery around 6 weeks ago, which further stressed my body. In the past 18 months, I have had 3 surgeries and constant diarrhea. My body has been dehydrated and starved of nutrients. My hair has been falling out and my skin looks like shit. I am feeling MUCH better on the digestive front. I am pretty much normal unless I throw caution to the wind and chow down on a huge head of cabbage. And yes, I do sometimes stuff cabbage and kale and collards in my mouth. I can’t really have collard greens in the house, because I want to eat them raw so bad.

I am hoping that with time, I will be able to go back to eating more veggies and beans. Since I have had to change my diet, I feel like I am lacking nutrients. My protein sources are mainly tofu, dairy and a small amount of legumes and nuts.  Oh, and peanut butter. Natural peanut butter with rice cakes. I would be lost without it.

Since I’ve been eating this way, I’m slowly losing weight (which is amazing since my activity has been very limited recovering from the foot surgery.) I’m trying to eat as heathy as possible. I still can’t eat fruit unless it’s blended in a smoothie. Even a raw banana makes me sick. (But frozen and blended it’s OK). This morning, I cooked the hell out of some broccoli and white beans and added mushrooms and veggie broth, along with garlic and fresh thyme. I pureed it and topped it with some parmesan cheese.  For lunch, I have to make sure not to eat much fiber at all.  All in all, I am getting around 20-30 grams of fiber a day, which to me *is* low fiber.

Going through this has led to the revelation that I am a bit messed up in the head when it comes to food and medical care. I believed if I just ate healthy enough, I could cure medical problems. I let myself get sicker and sicker while trying to treat conditions with food. I definitely know that healthy food is very important, but so is moderation and medical care. I hope that I have not contributed to anyone getting sick based on my old recipes.  I have realized that I am someone who goes to the extreme with things in my life and that I need to start living in the grey area.  That being said, I don’t think this would have happened if the perfect storm of medical problems didn’t happen like they did. I think that most people can benefit from incorporating more raw veggies and beans into their lives.

What I have learned from this experience is not to get too hung up on what you *think* is the right thing. Life changes. Health changes. What worked in the past won’t necessarily work in the future and holding onto rigid ideas of what you have to eat in order to be healthy can actually *hurt* you.

You will probably notice that I might be using more “white” foods in my recipes. This is why. It is my reality. I still make my own bread, but instead of adding psyllium husk and using whole wheat flour, I am using great quality King Arthur special patent flour. I am eating basmati rice instead of brown rice at least half of the time and if I eat the whole grains, I make sure to eat them with tofu or dairy instead of beans. I’m trying to find the balance that will work for me and keep me out of the bath room. I am relying on vitamins right now because I know that I am not getting the nutrients my body craves. I wasn’t getting them while eating the veggies and beans either, so at least now, I know my body is actually absorbing nutrients.

If you have made it this far and have any questions, feel free to ask me anything.

Roasted Garlic Marinara

marinara2

OK, so I am cheating here. I am not using real roasted garlic, because who has an hour of time to spare and if you do, do you want to turn your oven on for an hour *just* to roast garlic?

This simple marinara is rich with the taste of roasted garlic. The key is to start with COLD olive oil.  This recipe makes enough for around 2 quarts of sauce. You can freeze half of it, or keep it in the fridge for 2 weeks.

paasta 014Roasted Garlic Marinara

  • 12 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like it spicy, more if you want it spicier.)
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes and their liquid
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt/Pepper to taste (this will definitely vary depending on the brand of canned tomatoes.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil or parsley

Method:

  1. In a heavy bottomed 3 (or larger) qt. saucepan, add the garlic and oil, along with the dried spices and a pinch of salt to a cold pan.
  2. Turn the heat to medium low and wait until the garlic is sizzling and brown (this will take around 15 minutes.) Turn the garlic over a couple of times.
  3. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir, then add the canned tomatoes and a couple pinches of salt.
  4. Cover and increase heat to medium; cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Turn heat off, add the salt/pepper to taste and stir in fresh herbs. Let the sauce sit for 1o minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings again if needed.

This is one of my “Master Sauces” I keep on hand at all times. Master Sauces allow me to create 30 minute meals that taste like they have been cooking all day long. Stay tuned for more information!

Spicy Tomato Onion Chutney

spicy tomato onion chutneyIt’s no secret that I love spicy food, and Indian is definitely one of my favorites. This chutney is a great staple to have on hand. The recipe makes around 3-4 cups and it will keep for around 2-3 weeks in the fridge. I like to store mine in glass mason jars. If you store it in plastic, the plastic will take on not only the flavor, but the color of the chutney. For a mild version, omit or reduce the Serrano peppers depending on your taste preference. Make sure you remove the seeds and stems if you don’t like heat!

I know that many of the ingredients here are not available at a local supermarket. I am fortunate to live with 30 minutes of two great Indian grocers. If you love Indian food, and want to start cooking it, you can easily order these ingredients online. A little of each goes a long way.

Spicy Onion Chutney

Indian Feast! Mutter Paneer, Coconut Basmati Rice, Veggie and Chickpea Curry, Home-made Chapati, Cilantro-Mint Sauce, and Tomato-Onion Chutney.
Indian Feast! Mattar Paneer, Coconut Basmati Rice, Veggie and Chickpea Curry, Home-made Chapati, Cilantro-Mint Sauce, and Tomato-Onion Chutney.
  • 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp asafetida
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 Serrano chilies, diced (omit or reduce for a milder chutney)
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained; reserve liquid
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
  • 1 large onion, diced (around 3 cups)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 3 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp salt (more or less depending on your personal taste.)

Method

  1. Heat ghee in a very hot skillet; add the mustard seeds and curry leaves.
  2. When the seeds pop, add the rest of the spices along with the tomato and tamarind.  Bring to strong simmer , cover and cook for 5 minutes
  3. In a glass or ceramic bowl, place the raw onion, raw ginger, cilantro,onion and garlic along with the salt, mix well and pour the HOT (this means temperature and it is very important that it is  hot!)  mixture over the onion mixture.
  4. Take the reserved liquid, and reduce by half in a saucepan (this is an optional step, but gives the chutney a much better depth of flavor, if you don’t do this please reserve the liquid and use it in place of some of the water when you cook rice.)
  5. Pour reduced tomato mixture into the hot onion mix, let cool completely and season to taste with salt and pepper if desired.

This chutney lends a beautiful, authentic taste to your Indian feast! You can also use it in place of salsa, if you want to give fusion food a try! I love to mix Mexican and Indian flavors!