Becoming Vegetarian { My Story }

As sent to my niece in 2012 when she was making a serious go at it. Edited lightly for privacy/blogability. Much of my story has evolved since then, and the article could stand further polishing ~ but it is still a decent primer.

If choosing to become a vegetarian seems to be your trending direction, it may take a few seeming “false” starts before you’re solidly there, even if you wind up going just mostly veggie and/or sometimes/most of the time. This is long but gives colour vis-a-vis my story { along with the theory/facts aspect }, which may also help you gain some perspective. In short, don’t give up. Your body still has to adapt from a diet fairly high in meat, and that may take a few years of going back and forth. And you have to find what foods give you whole nutrition that you also like for a longer term. AND your body has to “detox” from meat to some extent i.e., in that, it is a chemical shift for your body and might contribute to you feeling a bit rotten from time to time. The perennial question of, “are you getting enough protein?” notwithstanding.

I should add that I’ve also discovered the so-called “super foods” that make a good addition to most meals, taste-wise but especially supplying trace nutrients — like some of the powders or ground seeds that you find in the health food stores. Some taste better than others, or are more suited for smoothies etc. I’ve started adding chia seeds to one meal a day and it seems like it is making a difference in my energy level. They add kind of a nutty flavour so go well in juices or on pasta etc.

This comes from my experience, but once you’ve read through you’ll have a pretty good framework for various decisions. It’s as accurate as I know how to make it, and is a good working approach that has served me well for a lot of years.

I am what you might call “mostly vegetarian” which means I can survive just fine without meat, but I enjoy fish and shellfish now and then. Strict vegetarians could call me a “pescatarian” because of that… but whatever… The reason I eat fish is partly because it’s the only meat I actually like { although only some kinds }, and partly because some of the trace minerals and oils and such that are found in fish, especially salmon, are really good for women’s health. But plop a salmon steak in front of me and I might only eat 1/4 of it, if that much…

OK… in a nut shell:


The reason I won’t eat that whole salmon steak: we have diff enzymes and “friendly flora” [probiotics, more or less] in our digestive systems for breaking down different kinds of foods. the enzymes and other chemistry that are needed for beef are very different from the ones called for digesting beans. that is why most people get gas when they eat beans, if they don’t usually eat them: their bodies don’t have enough of the goods at the ready, and consequently over-produce on the fly. in the case of flora, that causes gas [I won’t tell you why unless you really want to know.. :)]. So on the other side of that, if, say I had some chicken or beef as things stand for me now, I would have trouble digesting it and feel sick and bogged down for a while, maybe a week or more. But if I introduced it back into my diet slowly, my body would get the clue by degrees, and I’d feel better every time I had some.

So that said, unless there is a really good reason to go all-out, I would advise easing into being vegetarian, to give your body a chance to adapt to the new regime. eat “mostly” vegetarian, but if you crave and have some meat, don’t think it’s caving in or some kind of failure. the last meat I gave up [fish excepted] was Big Mac [don’t tell anyone 😉 , but in all fairness there may not actually be a lot of meat in them..] and bacon […]. actually I fell for a hot dog a few years into my veggie diet and it was goood, -it didn’t seem to do me any lasting harm 🙂 -anyway I did this [partly] to make sure my body was getting what it needed -I’d have some meat maybe once a week for a while, and then later on once a month -and finally I decided just to give it all up.


Actually I “went vegetarian” a few times in different ways in my life before it stuck -First when I was in my early 20s [@college], but then I moved to Austria for a semester [same year as Al!!] where at the time it was almost impossible to be vegetarian, so I gave in -if you are ever in Salzburg you have to try bosna  [slavic sausage sandwich] -unless you are vegetarian by then 🙂 -Second when I moved in with a close friend G. who is an /excellent/ cook [she makes her living as a personal chef…] and she and her husband had given up all but fish for health reasons. I basically learned to cook vegetarian from her, in ways that can be really yummy. -Next, right after that, my ex-b.f. L. is a “total” vegetarian for ethical reasons -“nothing with parents” is his motto. I took the personal challenge of removing all meat from my diet so that I would get better at cooking complete vegetarian meals, and partly because I don’t agree with the way we as a general society treat animals, and especially animals that we consider “ours” for food. that is a whole sticky subject, and I am on the moderate part of the scale, recognizing that people have eaten meat for a long long time, and it is really our attitude and energy about it that is most important -the native peoples have it right there [and incidentally traditional judeo-christians], where gratitude and thanks is /always/ given.

Sidebar to the Sidebar:

Blessing your food raises its energy, and also prepares your body to merge with the food, making it functionally healthier for you. However who remembers to do this? -my sister’s ex used to say “bless the food that’s already in my stomach…”

Anyway when I moved in with my ex-husband J. in ’06 I reverted to the sometimes-fish routine and that works really well for me all things considered. So that was a whole span of 20 years; I don’t expect your journey to be that long and varied, but I just threw this part in for variety’s sake. For the record, I have always eaten eggs and dairy.


This is a common stumbling block for many people who “try out” being a vegetarian. Protein, complete protein that is, that you can get by eating meat, is composed of nine essential amino acids - -So just eating rice, or just eating beans, or just bread, or just milk, although they “contain protein,” is not going to give you that complete protein [all 9 essential amino acids] and your body may start to crave meat, because that is what is it familiar with for getting that need met.

The solution is food combining -I am familiar with the basic combos and they explain some of the older “folk” recipes/staple dishes: -rice + beans eaten together form a complete protein, and lots of other goodies besides. You don’t need to have that many beans in your rice to get the right formula, but I don’t know the exact ratio. I was also told bread + milk [or cheese I guess, -or pasta + milk] form another combo of complete protein. I’m sure there are others. The parts don’t have to be eaten at the same time! If you have a bean soup one day and rice with veggies the next day, the body is smart enough to grab and store what it needs!

And, some veggies, such as soy and other beans, have more protein than others. looking at traditional food combos will eliminate the need for a lot of tedious research on your part. But googling protein content of vegetables can be an interesting journey -Nobody is really sure how much protein we need at different ages or at all- Nothing wrong with erring on the “lots” side -You will have to eat more quantity also, to get all the stuff that is crammed into meat.

Taste [and Salt]:

An interesting aside -once I’d mostly made the switch to veggie, I found that the flavour of vegetables and fruits changed [improved] for me, and I also was less interested in salt. -and I started to became really aware of the heavier smell and taste of meat, which ultimately masks the more subtle flavours of veggies. so: more flavour experienced, less salt needed 🙂 -Also, in spite of really missing bacon at first, now after 10 or 20 years, I have tried it recently and don’t really like it. I like the “fakin bakin” much better…


it is harder to get B-vitamins on a veggie diet -dark greens are loaded with them -the darker and more bitter, unfortunately, generally speaking, the more vitamins, including B. Other veg’s have lots of B -you can google for that “vitamin b content of vegetables kale spinach collard beans” will probably pull up several pertinent lists/essays -A good “balanced b-complex’ [which means there are varied %s of the different B’s in the pill, balanced in a way that is most natural and helpful for the body -health food store] is a good thing to take on a fairly regular basis. If you are stressed or feel really tired, it can be a B-deficiency. Taking it with C is good for rebuilding tissue

It is also harder to get iron -not as important for guys but of course for the ladies we need to be aware of this as we lose some on a regular basis. Iron is a key component of red-blood-cell building. You /can/ take a multi-+-iron, but I don’t do that … Some veggies and eggs and fish have enough iron as well. This article, though written for “kidz” looks really good. Actually I learned a lot just glancing at it  . And Also, one reason for cooking with [non-enameled] cast-iron cookware, is that in the process some [/enough] iron is transferred to the food that you can get some iron this way. That is one of the reasons I prefer that kind of cookware, because I don’t take supplements for that.


especially the dark, is loaded with trace minerals such as magnesium. you know this already, but while you are being veggie, it is also one other way to get some of these into your diet 🙂


that’s about all I can think of for the basics -I know it’s quite the essay.. it is not that simple to eat healthy vegetarian -but it is certainly doable -One thing I told another friend of ours who is thinking about this: is you can study the regular foods of any traditionally vegetarian culture, such as some middle-eastern cultures or Indian [India], or any mostly-vegetarian culture anywhere [generally the poorer part of the cultures.. Italian also..], and you will start to see the logic in their food combos. Also most of them have had hundreds or thousands of years to experiment with flavour and spice combos, so you [I :)] can learn to make the essentials tasty

Hope this helps!

Ghee is easy

I gained the confidence for making Ghee from this great post from 2008 at { published 9 years ago minus 2 days, in fact! } Until I get photos of my own for posting, go take a look at Anjuli’s recipe. { This one from the Lip Smacking Chef is also good. } She also shares lore and extolls the virtues and purpose of ghee much better than I ever could. I will indulge in one quote:

It’s wicked easy once you understand how butter cooks. You’re basically clarifying butter, then letting it cook longer until the milk solids caramelize, giving it the unique nutty flavor and sweet aroma only found in ghee.

That said, even if all you wind up with is clarified butter, that’s half the battle. It lasts forever in the fridge { common-sense translation: a long time } , and has health benefits beyond having a higher smoke point than butter. Added to an oil that also has a high smoke point seems to improve the cooking qualities of both, whether that is scientifically substantiated or not. For my high-heat-griddle buckwheat galette/crêpes, I use ghee in combination with Avocado oil { now that one of our big grocery chains carries it for a pretty reasonable price, that is } .

So: Take 1/2 or 1 pound unsalted butter, and cut into cubes. Plop in a medium saucepan, preferably with a heavy bottom. Put on low-to-medium heat, and keep an eye on it. After 40+ minutes or so the butter will melt, then form a foam of tiny bubbles, and finally get cloudy. You’re getting close! 

In the mean time, prepare a large-enough glass jar or measuring cup with a strainer inserted that is lined with several layers of cotton cheese cloth — 4 layers at least. Experience has taught me to be careful that the cloth lays smooth and is not bunched up { looking forward to the clean-up } .

Clarified butter happens when the butter solids start clumping and drop to the bottom. At this point, you can use a wooden spoon { best with a flat bottom edge } and stir the bottom cracklings, but it’s not really necessary. The main point is to watch like a hawk as they slowly and then more swiftly turn brown. How brown you want them is up to you, after you have made a few batches. The trick will be to not let the brownings burn. I love caramelized foods { onions particularly, but also roasted garlic } so I let it get as close to the burn limit as I dare.

When you like the looks of it, remove from the heat and pour into the glass container. A large-mouthed funnel helps, but I’ve done it without. The aim of this step is to trap all the browned butter-fat solids on the cheesecloth and let the caramelized-flavoured ghee into the container.

Take a look once you’re done — if there are any pieces or any cloudiness in the ghee, it will need to be restrained or go back on the stove, respectively.

Once it’s no longer hot, but still liquid, transfer it to any tight-seal container of your choice for the fridge. { A note on later usage: it helps to bring it out about a half hour before you need it, otherwise refrigerator-temperature ghee can be tough to get out with a knife. }

The browned bits are absolutely delicious. Put them in whatever you’re cooking, you won’t be sorry. Be sure to scrape the rest from the saucepan and add it to your stash.

For tips on cleaning the cheesecloth — if you reuse — see this post


Curried Egg Salad with Avocado

Now officially gluten-free, I’ve been expanding my recipe repertoire — and to keep everything in the healthier-than-not category, I generally prefer to avoid things like mayo. Here is my variant on this inspirational post by Clean Cuisine: How to Make Egg Salad Without Mayo.

Tried this mixed into my new-standard Pilau Rice with Rose Petals and Saffron last night, and applied the same concept to Deviled Eggs for this morning’s breakfast — both were yums. Flavour fusions delight the subtle senses.

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon hummus { I have been eating the roasted red-pepper variety so I can add my own custom heat and/or garlic without conflict }
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • dollop maple syrup { really! I know..! }
  • 1/2 or 1 avocado, cubed { For the deviled eggs, these were on the side sprinkled with lime juice and salt }

Enjoy with a dill pickle and whatever your pleasure. Pictures to follow when I think of it.

Yummy Goat Cheese Onion Soup

Gluten-free with Veggie Stock

per one serving :

ingredients :

  • 1 caramelized vidalia/sweet onion — med/large, sliced thin
  • olive oil — a generous full coating, cold-pressed extra virgin 100%
  • 1 pat butter — about 1 Tablespoon
  • thyme — the fresher the better
  • 1 veggie bouillon cube — read the ingredients re: salt content and chemical junk, I buy low-sodium HarvestSun brand at the health food store
  • 1 c boiling water
  • ~1/3 teaspoon tamari — wheat-free “soy sauce”
  • optional mustard — I forgot to bring mine to where I was cooking, and the soup was yummy without it
  • soft goat cheese
  • fresh cracked pepper & salt — Himalayan rock salt is very healthy
  • about a slice of sprouted wheat bread — it’s not wheat-free, but unless you are allergic to gluten, the sprouting process seems to be comfortable for gluten-sensitives such as myself. Plus it’s yummy. Food For Life “Ezekiel” original, gone a bit dry in the fridge
  • oven-safe bowl — I don’t have fancy oven soup bowls [yet?], so used some glazed stoneware ones the family has

prep :

  1. Slice onions thin and cut in two lengthwise. Add a generous amount of olive oil to coat, and butter to melt/mix in. Slow sauté, mixing occasionally until they are well caramelized.

  2. As long as they’re not burning/browning from the outside, you can go “overboard” and it only improves the soup. You want them to break down quite a bit. I prefer cast iron for onions [and everything else, for that matter], since it will maintain an even heat. I cooked three onions together when I made this soup and the combined mass seemed to help the process. If you are only cooking one, try a smaller pan or keep them pushed up in a pile.

  3. Add thyme about 1/2 way through. I buy fresh thyme in the grocery but don’t use it up quickly, so I dry them on the stalks in the fridge [a great place to dehydrate things].

  4. Boil water, and stir to dissolve bouillon. Add to onions. Add Tamari.

  5. Separate into oven-safe bowls [or for one serving, “dump into..” ].

  6. Break bread into smallish pieces and place on top of soup.

  7. Crumble/distribute/grate/place the cheese on top of the bread pieces. I think I covered about 1/3 of the surface area.

  8. Generous cracked pepper and moderate cracked salt on top of everything.

  9. Broil. Our convection oven read out “450°F” for this setting, if that helps anyone.

  10. Probably 10 minutes, though I didn’t time it. It was hot enough that I had to let it cool. Goat cheese doesn’t brown, but it sort of melds into the bread and soup.

  11. Sir a bit before DEVOURING. 🙂


thanks to : Joy of Cooking, Moosewood Cookbook, and friends who love onions and have taught me ways to cook them 🙂



Optimizing Scanner-Side Colour Settings

Especially useful when archiving poor quality originals

I have been scanning for 20–25 years and just clued into the value of this concept a couple years ago. I have gone so far as to go back and rescan a lot of my old images since. Some are much improved, and others hardly seem different. A poor original is still going to elicit some frustration. Basically it will depend on the depth of colour in the originals I think, and how much data there is in the light/dark “ends” — or something of that nature. I am aiming for Good Enough, with minor steps taken to optimize results.

Naturally I can only show you what the settings look like on my setup, so you will be applying these concepts to your own scanner’s software.

* * *

First, make sure your scanner has been calibrated, with nothing on the platen. It is not necessary to do this every time, just once each time scanning software is installed or reinstalled, or if it accidentally gets recalibrated with something on, which would throw it off. It expects white/blank for calibration {or if more sophisticated with a specific colour chart and third-party calibration software}.

Then adjust for a specific colour balance for each scan. If there is an “auto tone” setting that might blow out whites etc, so a manual method gives better control. It is worth the time per scan, for me.

Your scan software will likely look different from these screen shots, but the information can be extrapolated and you will need to find your colour level settings. My software is the Epson Scan that came bundled with my now ancient Epson Perfection 4870. If you have a choice between curves and levels, I recommend levels. I find curves control better for touchup after the fact, there is more nuance for each channel. For scanning settings I find levels more straightforward. Of course you may want to experiment a bit and find what works best for you.

Here is the setting I get when default settings are “Reset” {in my software’s terminology}. This is different from an auto-tone setting. In this example, the marquee has been drawn around the whole thing, with a little room outside the photo edge to reveal the platen. {Incidentally, I just concentrate on the Channel portion of the levels adjustments — grey balance etc. all gets ignored. This tutorial outlines a fairly quick method. There is a lot of room for getting very fussy, and I say, more power to you if you want to do so.}


Straight result — I’ve posted a touched-up version of this at the end for comparison.

Pull in the marquee so it is only reading the image portion. This cleans up the shoulders in the levels histogram. This marquee action is for setting input colour levels only, you’ll pull them back out to where you want them before actual scan. Platen colour and “white” edges, or slide casing would be off the chart for some images, and give a compromised histogram reading, in relative terms.


I adjust the RGB first and then tweak each channel individually. Probably I might be wasting time with the first step [RGB] but it’s an old habit now…


This gets it closer but the individual channels are not clean — not in my software, and so far not in any that I’ve seen. The best piece of this-level scanning software I know of is Silverfast, but even at ~50$ it is too rich for my blood, and the percentage of improvement is not enough over what I have using a free bundled software. Your capture software that comes with the scanner is usually robust enough and just fine. {If my operating system ever boots the Epson Scan software out, I will probably purchase the lowest-end version of Silverfast, presuming I am still physically able to hook up the old workhorse…}

You can see here the red channel would lose detail at the white point. This is what typically happens in one-touch auto-tone settings, but perhaps a bit finer per channel. Needless to say you can’t get back detail that was never captured.





Lather, rinse and repeat for each channel.

With all three channels adjusted individually, as above:


The straight scan with these settings — no touchup:

Original {default or “Reset” spectrum}, touched up:

Scanned with manually adjusted settings, and touched up lightly. I can go bananas and really fine-tune the touch-up, but this gives a good idea. This original is pretty blown out, which is why I picked it as an example. So the above {“default”} looks more yellow and the greenery is very green — The adjusted scan is a little lighter but the colours are quite a bit more natural. This one is never going to look that good with virtually no detail in some of the channels, but touching up a pre-adjusted scan is a lot less maddening, allows for finer control, and yields more natural colours.


Full disclosure: I added detail to the black channel for both of these {I touch up in CMYK and then re-output RGB, it is just a throwback to preparing scans for 4c printing}.

* * *

“Refried” Beans

frijoles pintos refritos : “refried” is a misleading translation, as “refritos” actually means “{they were} fried” — they are not fried twice! 🙂

makes : a couple or three servings { ~half original recipe }

ingredients :

  • ~2–3 cups cooked pinto beans {=1 cup dry, see below}
  • healthy oil : olive is my choice if the sautée temperature is kept low; + butter
  • 1/2 or 1 chopped/diced onion : sweet or Vidalia; amount depends on size and your taste
  • ~5 cloves or 1 head roasted garlic : first +crush @ knife to release anti-oxidants +chop a bit
  • 1 diced/chopped tomato
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp hungarian or spanish paprika
  • ~1 tsp ancho and/or blended chili powder
  • dash or more cayenne
  • water or the juice from cooking the beans

to taste :

  • cracked black pepper & milled rock salt or sea salt
  • milk {optional} : beans keep longer without; can be added @ dish

prep :

  1. Freshly roasted garlic {0:20–0:35@325°F, crushed + oil + s+p in cast iron or roaster}
  2. In large cast-iron skillet, slow sauté onions in oil + butter until caramelized. {1:20?}
  3. Add tomato & garlic, heat to sweating, then beans, + water if needed. Spices except S&P.
  4. Make sure there is enough liquid so they can “bubble.” Keep an eye on this.
  5. Bring to a slow simmer and allow it all to cook on low heat for 10–20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash :: add water if needed :: and repeat. An immersion blender > smoother.
  6. Salt & pepper to taste, serve with fragrant rice, salsa, avocado, and tortillas or chips

How to Cold-Soak Pinto Beans

makes : ~2 cups soaked beans

Soak time will reduce how long you need to cook them. Cold soaking also breaks down the starches that cause gas, and brings out more flavour. Soaking ratio is two to three cups of water per cup of beans. Do not reuse the water the beans were soaked in! it is full of the leached starches.

ingredients :

  • 1 cup dry pinto beans

prep :

  1. To prepare dry beans, place the beans in a large bowl, cover with an ample amount of water and a plate or lid allow to soak overnight or longer. I have been soaking as many as three days, changing the water once per, as I find it does not release the telltale “foam” until then.
  2. When fully soaked {=one overnight after the starch is visible in the soak water}, drain and rinse the beans. Cover them generously with fresh water and simmer for a few hours or until tender/crushable. A dutch oven or slow cooker works great.

thanks to : &



Obscurity Knocks

One of my favourite songs, by The Trashcan Sinatras, from their album cake { 1990 }.

I’ve modified the WordPress plugin Hello, Dolly! to feed song lines to my admin pages from “Obscurity Knocks” instead. Although I’d like to publish the code here, the Universe wiped it out yesterday in a frustrating series of errors — related to a Chrome bug..? gah! — and necessitated reloading my WP from a backup, over and over, late into the night. Naturally I didn’t save first { :/ }, so my test posts from yesterday were blown out. . . But I learned a lot!


Google the lyrics — One reason I really like these guys : “ huh..? ”

Perhaps I’ll still publish it,  but only after I’ve had a chance to thank the author and ask for his OK.

In the mean time, check the song for yourself !

E 🙂

Cram Tea

Thanks to Krista, who is writing her scientific thesis paper today

“ Green tea, skullcap, peppermint, lavender and jasmine is the perfect blend to keep you alert without causing anxiety when you’re up against a deadline… 🙂 ”

Plus Rosemary for memory, thanks to Joanne. And/or Nettles, Rosemary, Peppermint and Lemonbalm

remedy & wisdom for kidney stones

As forwarded to a person on a healing & prayers list

most kidney stones are from lack of citric acid in the system. I had them _once_ a few years back. Never again. This tea served my health and sanity and possibly saved me another trip to emerg. I also learned from my experience to detect the subtle feelings in my body that might have indicated “sludge” leading up to stones —they felt like cramps but were located more to the sides or across the lower back

The emerg doctor told me that the stones are trying to pass into the ureter to go from the kidney into the bladder, but because it is not what the ureters are designed for, so the approach causes the ureter to spasm. This is what the pain is from. Just for information — I always like to understand things 🙂

I know from other understanding that kidneys are the “seat” of fear. If old fears have been processing, or a fright has been experienced, it puts a load of service on the kidneys, and if they haven’t been getting what they need in terms of water or whatever, they will not be able to keep stones from forming.


  • per 1 c. hot water:
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or other healthful oil
  • 1/2 lemon juice, squeezed in -RealLemon would probably also be fine but doesn’t taste as good IMO
  • at least 1 Tablespoon parsley -I used the dried herb as for cooking and went somewhat overboard
  • -to make it taste quite a bit better I also add 1 teaspoon or more of dried thyme leaves

put all the ingredients in the mug, then the boiled water into. let it cool a few minutes so the oil is not so hot. It and some of the citrus will gather on the top along with the leaves, so once it is cool enough, drinking the concoction is masked and it doesn’t feel too strange to be drinking oil. Drinking the rest after the oil and leaves are ingested is just a mildly herb-y lemon-y drink and is quite pleasant.

the oil tonifies both the kidneys and also the liver. parsley is the healing herb for kidneys [cilantro is the one for liver and also chelates, ie removes heavy metals from the body -fyi]. thyme is for taste but of course has its healing properties as well. leaves are better off swallowed as the body will use their qualities to help in healing. drinking just tea is better than nothing — but I find the leaves helps me ignore the oil

citrus supplies the necessary nutrients to prevent stones from forming, and also dissolves existing ones. lemon is the cure, rather than orange tangerine, etc. Lime might be fine but I found it tasted best with lemon

drink this once or twice a day for two weeks, then maybe once a week for three or four weeks. after that, I will drink it maybe once or twice a year if I feel nervous that it might be recurring

I got this wisdom from different articles on the web, combined with my personal gift of intuitive herbal wisdom that has served me well most all my life to discern what remedies will have good effect.