Nuts can be an excellent addition to one’s diet, providing healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, minerals and phytonutrients. They add richness and crunch to many types of dishes and can be used in almost any meal. Cashews are amazing when blended into a wonderful cream sauce or soup. Nuts provide texture to vegan main dishes and are a natural in breakfast with fruit and whole grains to help keep you going until lunchtime. Walnuts are great in salads and, of course, all nuts can be used in healthy desserts and snacks.

Summer, however, is perhaps not the best time for nuts. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and others are harvested from August through October and when you buy them in summer, you are getting a crop that is almost a year old. The healthful polyunsaturated oils contained in nuts do not hold up well and go rancid when exposed to heat, oxygen and light.

Everyone has tasted rancid nuts in baked goods, or actually purchased a bag of nuts with the date not yet expired only to have it taste and smell terrible. That bad smell is rancid oil and if you discover it in nuts or other oil-containing foods take it back to the store. To safely store nuts and other oil-containing foods at home keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or, better yet, the freezer.

A pressure cooker is a gadget that most people stay away from, usually citing a story about Grandma’s stew on the ceiling. I am probably spacier than most cooks, and I can tell you that in all the years I have used a pressure cooker there has never been an accident. And now they are much safer than in Grandma’s day.

What a pressure cooker provides is a cheap and healthy way to cook slow-cooking foods such as beans, potatoes and certain whole grains fast. It is also great for soups, stews and vegetables that take a while to cook, such as collard greens, kale, beets and artichokes. People who swear they don’t like collards love them when I cook them under pressure. (Go to the "recipe" tab to learn how.) This old-fashioned gadget can be more useful than ever in today’s busy world, so give it a try.

Pressure Cooker Tips

- Use about half the amount of water that you would use for conventional cooking.

- Don’t use a pressure cooker to cook split peas or lentils because they may foam up and clog the vent.

- For most foods, bring the pressure up over high heat, take the cooker off the heat and let it cool off naturally and your food will be cooked.

- For vegetable soups or faster cooking for vegetables bring it up to pressure and then cool it down quickly under running water.

This is my funky old rice cooker. I bought it around 15 years ago online for around 60 dollars and use it almost daily. It is the only stainless steel one available that I know of, at least at that kind of price.
Kitchen gadgets can make preparing healthful food easier. One of my favorites is an inexpensive, stainless-steel rice cooker that I use almost daily. Whole grains are an important part of a balanced diet and a rice cooker breezes through brown rice, quinoa, millet, rolled oats, whole oat grains and more. Place the grain directly in the rice cooker, add water, turn it on and go off and do something else without worrying about it boiling over or burning. If there are leftovers, they can stay in the stainless-steel bowl and go straight to the refrigerator. To heat it up, just add a little water and plug in. 

Rice cooker tips:

- Add a diced apple or two, a handful of raisins and spices such as cardamom, a cinnamon stick or a few cloves to leftover brown rice. Pour in a cup or more of water and cook until the water is absorbed. This makes a delicious breakfast with fresh fruit and vegan milk or yogurt.

- Forget the microwave—cook your morning oatmeal in the rice cooker. Throw in an apple, raisins and spices, adjusting the water to give it your favorite consistency.

- Try brown rice cooked with kale or collard greens. The greens come out tender and perfectly cooked. 

- Cook brown rice and lentils together, two parts rice to one part lentils. Add about ½ cup extra water.

- Cook quinoa in your rice cooker with large chunks of sweet potato or winter squash.

Vicki Chelf, Pulp Kitchen

Sea salt, especially the wonderful grey varieties, seems to add a more complex flavor to foods than regular table salt. The trace minerals from sea salt are a valuable addition to one's diet too, so like many health enthusiasts, I gave up iodized table salt for sea salt years ago.

A while back, a doctor had me do a patch test for iodine. This is when you paint a patch of iodine on your forearm or abdomen and see how fast it is absorbed. Mine was absorbed almost immediately, which supposedly indicates a lack of iodine in the body. This test is not considered an accurate diagnostic tool, but does seem to be somewhat indicative of one’s iodine level.

This got me thinking about iodized salt. Iodine is a micronutrient required for thyroid hormone production and it has been added to table salt since the 1920’s. Sea salt does not contain iodine naturally, so vegans, or others who do not eat fish or iodized salt may become iodine deficient. With all the thyroid problems we see today, I can’t help but wonder if the avoidance of iodized salt may be a factor. For the past few years I have been buying iodized sea salt instead of the grey or pink salts that are so popular.

One of the best food sources of iodine is sea vegetables. There are many varieties available and lots of ways to use them. Today, I make a point of getting sea vegetables from Maine rather than Japan, because of the horrible Fukushima disaster. You can Google Maine seaweeds and buy them online. In Vicki’s Vegan Kitchen there is a whole section on sea vegetables and how to use them.

Two easy seaweeds to use are dulse and kombu. A strip of kombu can be rinsed and thrown into a pot of beans or rice to enrich it. It is said that it helps make beans more digestible and to also be a flavor enhancer.

My favorite way to eat dulse is to make a delicious DLT sandwich – dulse, lettuce and tomato. See how to make it on my recipe page.

  •                                 Dulse from the Maine Sea Vegetable Co. 

With a little creativity you can always make a quick lunch (or even breakfast) with the previous night's leftovers. It is easy to always make a little more than you need at dinner, so you can have a homemade organic and vegan lunch without much fuss.
For example, this dinner was short grain brown rice, topped with a puree of red lentils seasoned with miso and garlic, garnished with parsley from the garden. It was served with one of my staple dishes of collard greens cooked with caramelized onions, (You can see how to do this under "recipes." Just substitute collards for mustard.) and beets cooked in waterless cookware, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and orange olive oil.

We ate all the beets, but there was 1 serving of leftover rice which I kept in the rice cooker container and placed in the fridge, so I didn't have to wash the pan! The leftover lentils, parsley and greens were put together in one container.

The next morning, I put some water in the rice cooker. There was about 2/3 cup of rice, so I added about 1 1/2-2 cups water.  We needed two servings of porridge for breakfast so I added a handful of cornmeal, a handful of dried coconut, some raisins, and cut up a ripe plantain along with some vanilla and nutmeg. Then I plugged in the rice cooker and let it cook while I was busy doing other things.
Topped with ripe mulberries from our tree and served with unsweetened soy milk, last night's leftover rice was the base for a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

When it was time for lunch. I transferred the leftover lentils and greens into a pan with enough water to make a soup. It was heated it up, but not boiled because of the miso. Garnished with a dollop of leftover spinach pesto from the Pulp Kitchen book, and served with some toast, it made for an almost instant and delicious lunch.
So here are three meals with basically one prep. Had there been leftover beets, they would have been wonderful served cold with salad greens and a vinaigrette.

This is the soy cappuccino that I go to sleep at night dreaming about! it is made from unsweetened soy milk that I buy in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe's, which is one of the few places around here it can still be purchased. About 15 years ago, soy was all the rage. It was heart-healthy, lactose-free, and provided a phytoestrogen that helped women with hormonal problems. Today, health conscious people prefer almond, coconut or even dairy milk. 

In this article I am going to explore some of the myths about soy and why it has fallen out of favor. At the peak of its popularity soy was eaten by many vegans and vegetarians 3 times a day seven days a week. Soy milk for breakfast, burgers for lunch, tofu for dinner and soy ice cream for dessert. To top it off people made soy smoothies, and took soy supplements. Why? 

Leave it to Americans to over do any good thing. It was easy, it tasted pretty good, when processed into burgers and well-seasoned. It provided a good source of plant protein in a protein obsessed nation. This must have given a bit of a scare to the dairy and meat industries. It also created a perfect niche for soy bashing. In fact, there are professed health experts, advocating diets high in animal protein, who have practically built their careers on soy bashing. 

Common sense will tell you that, when given a choice, using any food to the degree that many people were using soy is not optimal. But somehow, when it comes to food, we are not all that rational. There are so many food products and marketing ploys  that choices can be confusing. 

In the 30-plus years that I have been writing and teaching about healthy plant-based foods I have learned how to tell truth from hype. There are a few questions I ask when choosing what to eat - how long has it been used for food, how was it grown, and how was it processed?

Soy is relatively new in the U.S.  In fact, the first time it was written about in this country was in 1804. This may explain why many Americans tend to be leery of soy. In China however, it can be traced to the eleventh century B.C. It was probably discovered early on that cooked dried soybeans are somewhat difficult to digest and not all that tasty. Thus the invent of soy foods and it is speculated that soy milk, because it is so simple to make, was  one of the earliest soy foods. In 1500 AD soy milk was first referenced in China in a poem titled “Ode to Tofu.”

Making soy milk is a little more trouble than making almond milk, but it is still quite simple. To make soy milk, simply soak some soybeans overnight and drain off the soaking water. Grind the soaked beans into a slurry with water. Strain and press the slurry through a cloth. The resulting milk is then cooked for about 9 minutes and voila soy milk! That's it. Years ago, before it was available at the store, I used to make it at home from scratch with just a blender, a pan and some cheesecloth.

Soy milk is not a highly processed food. Of course, the food industry can spoil any good thing to make it more "appealing" and profitable. Many soy milks are very sweet and some contain unnecessary ingredients, nonetheless, it is possible to buy healthy unsweetened soy milk.

For the Love of Soy
It was a young American named William Surtleff and his Japanese wife Akiko Aoyagi who popularized soy in the U.S. back in the 1970's.  Surtleff, like many of us was influenced by Frances Moore Lappe's  groundbreaking book Diet for a Small Planet. Forty years before Cowspiracy, Lappe wrote about the inefficiency of feeding grain to animals, and reasoned that world hunger would not exist if all the grains and legumes we grow were eaten directly by humans. Surtleff was introduced to soy in Japan and saw the need for a cheap non-meat source of protein in the west. Today, with drought, hunger and global warming howling at our door, healthy, good tasting, non-meat sources of protein are more needed than ever. 

When I quit eating meat 42 years ago, I knew it was for life, and today I think I can say that it has served me well. This is partly because I took the time to learn about nutrition, growing food and food preparation. I find it sad when someone tells me that they were once vegan or vegetarian, but now eat meat because a plant-based diet did not work for them. Protein and other nutrients are not all that difficult to get on a vegan diet, but it is something that I have seen many vegetarians and vegans neglect to their detriment. Without good nutrition people who try a plant-based diet often go back to eating meat and fish because they become deficient. 

Most of us grew up eating a very high protein diet. According to Paul Pitchford in Healing with Whole Foods, the average American man overeats protein by 100 percent. The word protein means primary substance. We need it for growth and repair, and soy is a great source of protein. Traditional soy foods like, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, tamari and miso have been used for centuries, not as a sole source of protein like many vegans were trying to do years ago, but as an easy, practical and healthy source of protein used to compliment grains and vegetables as part of a fresh and varied diet. 

"More Insidious Than Hemlock."
Soy is an easy target - as a good friend once told me "There's no foo like a tofu." Tofu is a square, white, rather tasteless, lump with absolutely no  means of protecting itself. At the same time it is a culinary wizard and nutritional powerhouse that can drastically reduce global energy consumption when used to replace meat and dairy. 

The controversy over soy seemed to begin somewhere around 1999 when a soy-slamming article which, in spite of a plethora of false claims, somehow began to be taken as valid nutrition information. In reaction to this article, and the hype that stemmed from it, breast cancer patients were even being told by their doctors to avoid soy because of it's "high estrogen" content. This is truly a shame because it has been repeatedly proven that the the phytoestrogen in soy is actually protective against breast cancer, especially when it has been consumed from an early age. 

The most absurd claim in the article was that "soy was more insidious than hemlock." That quote alone is enough for me to discredit everything else it said, but if you need footnoted proof, the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients wrote a well-researched rebuttal in 2000 that you can read at  Since then, almost everything claimed by this author about soy being a hormone disruptor has been shown to be false. Nonetheless, the myths still persist

Endocrine Disruption
Just the other day a photographer friend jokingly told me that he avoided soy because he didn't want to start growing breasts. "Soy is bad for men," he claimed. I tried to explain how soy actually protects from the hormone disruptors that we are all exposed to on a daily basis, regardless of what we eat. 

 In the 1996 book, Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival? A Scientific Detective Story , Theo ColbornDianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers wrote how components in plastics, pesticides and industrial chemicals called xenoestrogens actually mimic estrogen in our bodies, and how there is not a man, woman or child, even in the most remote reaches of the earth free from these contaminants. Xenoestrogens, lock into our estrogen receptors. They act like estrogen but are more potent.

Phytoestrogens, or estrogen-like compounds from plants also lock into our estrogen receptors, but they are much milder than xenoestrogen, or the estrogen our bodies make, and can be protective against having too much estorgen. Phytoestrogens, by the way, are not only in soy. They are also found in many other plants, including herbs and seasonings, flax, grains , vegetables, fruits and even coffee.

Soy Formula and Infants
It is true that infants, when given soy formula get a much larger dose of phytoestrogens from soy than an adult would. Infants also absorb higher concentrations of pesticides and other environmental pollutants than adults, due to their their small size and higher metabolic rate. 

In a 2006 article in the Harvard Gazette, Environmental scientist, Ganmaa Davaasambu was quoted as saying  "Among the routes of human exposure to estrogen, we are mostly concerned about cow's milk, which contains considerable amounts of female sex hormones,"  The article went on to say that Gamma says that cow's milk accounts for 60 to 80 percent of estrogens consumed. 

Experts agree that human breast milk, not formula, is the best food for infants. Studies have shown that breast milk from vegan or vegetarian mom's is lower in contaminants that that of mom's who eat a diet high in animal products. Soy formula is not ideal for an infant, but when breast milk is not an option, it would be certainly worth comparing it to cows milk and taking into consideration all the facts before making a judgement. 

More to Come
GMO's and other controversies surrounding soy will be covered in the coming weeks.
Spring has sprung here in Florida, and Chem Lawn signs are popping up like little flowers all over town. My garden provides and abundance of beauty and food, for us and for wildlife without using anything stronger than soap for pests.
These are squash blossoms from seeds that sprouted from our compost. I planted the volunteer vine in a grow bucket and is flourishing! 
Pesticide spraying in home gardens, kills indiscriminately! Beneficial  insects, like these bees pollinating the squash suffer, as well as ladybugs, songbirds, and every other living creature - including us. Why spend money to fabricate a sterile lifeless environment, when all you need to do is cooperate with nature to create a paradise? 
3 Weeks Later
Look what these beautiful volunteer blossoms are producing! I believe it will turn into one of those dark orange, and lusciously sweet and dense Hubbard winter squashes. I will keep you posted and provide a recipe when it is ready.
Chris Worden from Worden Farm taught me how to do this. To make bigger and better Brussels sprouts. When the Brussels sprouts are about the size you see in the photo below, strip off the bottom leaves. Keep about 12" or so of leaves on the top to keep the plant going. You can cook these leaves like collard greens and no one will know the difference!
Then break off the top crown of the plant. You can eat that too. Soon you will will have nice, plump Brussels sprouts.

Here in Sarasota there are loquat trees all over town heavy with delicious ripe fruit, but it seems that most people don't even know they are edible! When they are ripe, loquats are sweeter and more flavorful than any apricot that you can buy in a store, and although they are a bit like apricots they have their own wonderful unique flavor.

How to Use:
Just rinse them and cut out any bad spots. Remove the seeds and the rest is juicy sweet and deliciously edible. You can cut them up in your morning cereal, or just eat them as they are for a delicious and healthy snack.

Ask to Pick:
If you see a tree in your neighborhood that doesn't appear to be used, just ask the owner to let you pick them and they will more than likely oblige. I haven't tried dehydrating them, but I bet if you cut them in half, remove the seeds and put them in a dehydrator that they would be a lot like dried apricots.
A few weeks ago I was saving some vintage LP's from going into a landfill (actually, I think you may call it trash picking) when the owner of the house comes out and says, 'Hey, do you want more stuff? I've got this pie maker that is brand new in its box and I'll give it to you." What's a cook to say but "of course!" 

This seemed like one of the dumbest gadgets I have ever heard of - a pie maker! Well, I couldn't resist trying it, dumb or not, and I was in love! The pies it makes are a amazing! The crust is the crispest I have ever tasted and the filling turns out perfect every time. It makes 4 mini pies, which seems to be about equal to 1/2 of a 9-inch pie, and they just take about 7 minutes to bake. I have made savory tempeh pies, pumpkin, apple and berry.

 Last night I made pies out of a mixture of the mulberries and blackberries from my garden and OMG they were so good! 
It is easy too, especially if you know how to easily make a pie crust, which I will talk about at another time. For now, you can use a purchased crust.

Berry Mini Pies for Pie Maker

1 single pie crust recipe (I made mine with freshly ground spelt flour and coconut oil)
2 cups berries
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

1. Roll out pie dough and cut it using the template that comes with the pie maker. Place them in the pie maker.
2. Mix together the berries, arrowroot and maple syrup. Use this mixture to fill the mini-pies. Place a couple of strips of dough on top.
3. Plug in the pie makerlose the pie maker and let it cook until the crust is golden, about 7-8 minutes.

Just in case you can't resist silly kitchen gadgets, you can click here to order one from Amazon!