“Bucking the current trend, I eat whole grains, fruit and veggies in liberal quantities. My weight is constant and my heart is healthy,” she says.

“Learning how to eat right has been a slow process,” she admits. “I could eat anything without punishment until college, where I proved cafeteria desserts could grind even my metabolism to a halt.” After discovering she had developed high cholesterol, Toby started eating a vegetarian diet, and her LDL cholesterol level quickly went down significantly.

“I read ‘The Food Bible’ and learned which preservatives and mystery ingredients to avoid,” she says. Upon learning how chemicals are used in livestock, she gave up cheese in favor of organic and soy products.

Over the years, Toby has developed a set of standard meals and basic ingredients to keep in stock. “There are lots of resources right here. In Auburn, I get all my produce from Blackie’s and shop at Axis for TSP (textured soy protein) and spices for my veggie chili. I may drive up to Nezinscot Farm for organic milk and cheese. In Portland, we shop at the Thai grocery at ‘C’ and St. John streets for fresh tofu, greens and noodles (thin rice noodles and wide udon). We also go to the Whole Grocer for bulk grains and nuts.”

Blackie’s produce stands are in Lewiston and Auburn; Axis Natural Foods is in Auburn; Nezinscot Farm is in Turner; and the Whole Grocer is in Portland.

Toby stresses the importance of a good food processor because “chopping and grating can take forever.” She grows a little herb garden in the summer, and she recommends buying sesame oil.

“You can put it in the water with rice and noodles – it’s so fragrant!” She also recommends buying real butter over margarine, but using it sparingly. Other essentials: brown rice, lemons, limes, garlic and ginger. “Avoid anything packaged, precooked, processed, low fat, fat-free or sugar-free,” she says. “Just eat whole foods whenever you can.”

Toby, who lives in Auburn with her husband, Michel, works in Gray as a reading teacher. When they’re not driving their daughters, Renee and Elise, around, Toby and her husband enjoy theater, dance, music and doing volunteer work.

Lukshen kugel (noodle pudding)
1 pound of egg noodles or spaghetti

2 tablespoons safflower oil

1 pint ricotta cheese (part skim is OK; if using fat-free, add an extra egg)

2 eggs (use organic eggs)

½ cup raisins

1 cup mandarin oranges, peaches or both
½ teaspoon each: salt, nutmeg, ground ginger and anything else you like
While you boil the noodles (al dente, please), heat a 9-by-12 inch glass pan in the oven with 2 tablespoons of safflower oil at 375 degrees. Beat the eggs and fold in the ricotta and spices (you can use a blender). Drain the noodles well and fold them into the ricotta mixture. Add the fruit. Test the pan by flicking water in it (It should sizzle, to ensure the oil won’t soak in, but will cook the bottom layer.). Scoop the noodle-ricotta mixture into the glass pan and bake for 20 minutes until the top is browned. Then cover it, so it won’t get too crispy, and continue to bake another 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool. When you cut a piece, it should lift out on the spatula intact.
Carrot salad
1 pound carrots, coarsely grated

1 pound parsnips, coarsely grated

½ cup cilantro, chopped coarsely

1 cup almonds, walnuts or green sunflower seeds

½ cup raisins, dates or dried currants

½ cup shredded red cabbage (optional)
½ cup chopped mandarin oranges (optional)

4 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, chopped
1/3 to 2/3 cup olive, safflower or sunflower oil, to suit
Cousin Barb’s rice noodles

1 cuke, peeled and seeded (seeds water down the sauce)

1 red and 1 green pepper, seeded and sliced

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

5 red radishes, cut into chunks

1 cup chopped bean sprouts (1-inch is short enough to get in your mouth)

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves (wash well, leaves can be sandy)

1 cup raw or dry roasted cashews (you may want to smash ‘em)

Rice stick noodles (do not buy bean threads – see below)
1 pound cubed firm tofu, drained

Juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons chopped chives, preferably Chinese

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

2 cloves chopped garlic

3 tablespoons soy sauce (comes in a low-sodium variety)

½ cup rice or white vinegar

1 tablespoon hot pepper oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Whisk the dressing ingredients together. Soak the drained tofu cubes in dressing. Boil noodles only 3 minutes and drain thoroughly. Toss together first seven salad ingredients, up to and including the cashews. Serve a scoop of salad over noodles. Douse with dressing.

Toby’s notes:

Use chopsticks. If your nose runs when you enjoy this, you did it right! Clears congestion and puts you in good spirits, they say.

My mother’s cousins have had a fascinating life working in exotic locales like Morocco and Bangladesh. Barb shared this recipe, which has become a summer staple for us. You can get the noodles in the grocery store, but look in an Asian market, just for “fun” (Get it? That’s Chinese for noodles.). The girls like to eat just rice noodles and dressing.

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