Monthly Archives: April 2012

Menu: April 21 week

Here’s what we ate last week!

Sunday: usually, like a lot of folks, I’ll make something more complicated for the weekend, but the family wanted simple broccoli pasta. This might be one of the world’s easiest dishes to make, taking all of five ingredients and maybe 20 minutes from beginning to end. And, even more fun, it’s from the Delicious Memories cookbook, which was written by the grand-niece of Hector Boiardi, aka Chef Boy-ar-dee. Husband added leftover chicken from Saturday.

Monday: I don’t know, I have zero memory of eating on Monday night. I have no idea why! Sorry.

Tuesday: Spinach Potato Soup with Roasted Red Pepper. This one I make in the pressure cooker, which I just love as everyone in the world knows. The kid helped peel potatoes, I chopped up the rest of the veggies and soup was on in no time. Another beaut from Lorna Sass that has become a favorite. And, to avoid heating up the entire oven, I just roast the pepper in the toaster oven.

Wednesday: leftovers! I love leftovers! Family had kuk sool, which makes for a late night, so I did a bunch of stuff around the house, goofed around, finally divvied the leftover broccoli pasta across three plates and … well that wasn’t going to feed anyone. So, I put the pasta on two plates and made an emergency meal for myself. I heated some water, peeled and chopped a sweet potato and boiled it for 7 minutes. Mashed that while adding some cumin, some cayenne and some garlic salt. Dumped that in a tortilla with cilantro and salsa and MMMM so delicious. A side of chips for me.

Thursday: went out to eat with the parents at Sidetracked. Cute little restaurant with a whopping seven tables in it, a couple outside. The menu changes every week and they tend to be very meat-centric, so we have to pick our weeks. Still, very family-oriented, so much so that the family is all in the kitchen cooking. They’re like southern cooking, if the cook is a little adventurous with the flavoring. I had the tomato basil soup and the key lime pie. Kid had the mahi with a great rice pilaf (secret ingredient: tarragon) and she split an Almond Joy Cake that was the size of a small state.

Friday: husband isn’t a fan of couscous (well he is but he was avoiding more pasta), so he had the leftover soup and we had Moroccan Couscous from Alicia Silverstone. Oh man this is one scrumptious dish. Here’s what I did: I chopped the butternut and the zucchini in the veggie chopper. Chopped the carrots and onion separately. Put those in a tray with olive oil and a little salt and pepper and sat in the hot tub for 20 minutes. The previous owners had a hot tub that they kept attempting to use as a bargaining chip. The problem was that they were having to bargain with me, and I didn’t care about the hot tub. In the end, they left it because it was expensive to move it and since then, we are in the hot tub ALL THE TIME. They also left their fridge, so the beer is near the hot tub. Anyway, I digress. While the veggies roasted, I hung out in the hot tub. Then, I came upstairs, made the couscous, mixed the veggies in and YUM. Note: I’m too cheap to buy saffron, so I just use smoked paprika (my current favorite spice) and tumeric.

Saturday: we were going to go out to eat again, but I picked up my first farm share from the Student Organic Farm. Not a cheap thing to do, but I’m happy to support these guys. My first week filled two bags with greens. When I say bags, they were big bags. I got: a small bag of arugula, two different things of kale, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, radishes and something called tatsoi. That one I had to look up. It’s a dish used in Asian dishes, so we made Salmon with Red Onions and Tatsoi. I chopped up the red onion and soaked it in sugar and vinegar, then went to the Central Railroad Festival with my dad. (Note: the festival was kind of lame this year, but the band was quite good, so if you get the chance to see the Flying Saucers, they were a lot of fun. Bonus: trains went behind the band while they were playing.) Husband grilled the salmon, I stir fried the onions and tatsoi in the marinade and a bit of salt and that was a success as well. The onions were quite sweet and tasty. I also made kale chips, which were pretty good! Someone warned me they wouldn’t be very good the next day and indeed, that is true. You get a lot of chips. In fact, I only used a fraction of the kale.

So, for next week, anticipate meals that use a lot of greens. I wondered if I was wasting money buying a salad spinner. Turns out if you get a farm share, a salad spinner is a necessity!

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Fish Taco Night

Had my dad and my aunt over, so it seemed like a good time to break out the fish tacos. There’s two reasons for this: first, we make a ton of sides, so it makes a ton of food. Second, when my parents visited us in Dallas, we took them to our favorite restaurant. My dad went on an on about the fish tacos on the menu, having never heard of them. Who would order that? he asked? Then … HE ORDERED THEM. My head nearly snapped off I turned so quickly. He loved them too.

So, here’s a list of the kinds of things you can serve with fish tacos.

Fish tacos (required)

Here we try to buy good tilapia, and as always, fresh caught, not farm raised. Then, we simply sprinkle Adobo on it, which is just basically a garlic salt. Then we grill them, about 4 minutes a side. That’s it. Done. Tonight’s fish came from Whole Foods, since I was in Greenville anyway to see Les Miz (WOW) and they had a deal: if you bought 2 pounds of tilapia or catfish, you got it for $2 off a pound. So, 2 pounds it was!

The kid also saw ceviche on the seafood bar, so we picked up some of that. That was a huge hit at the table.

The family uses regular tortillas, but I prefer the whole wheat ones.

Toppings

The extras here includes: chopped tomato, grilled onions (I saute those up in a pan), grilled peppers (with the onions), avocado (enjoy those great fats in avocados!), salsa, mixed greens, cilantro and Mexican cheese.

Pico de Gallo

If you’re not racing around town and squeezing in a Broadway show in your day, then making pico is awesome. Take about 4 tomatoes, peel and seed them and chop them up. (Tip: you can make an x in the bottom with a knife, boil for about 15-20 seconds, let cool and the skins will peel off with your hands.) Add: chopped onion, chopped jalapeno, lime juice, a little bit of olive oil, some cumin and some salt. Maybe a splash of balsamic. Or some cayenne pepper why not.

Black Beans

We all remember that if I wasn’t already married, I’d marry my pressure cooker, right? And again, it served me well tonight. I soaked some beans mid-morning, then went about my day, which included seeing Les Miz. Turns out Les Miz is a longer show (worth it), and so we didn’t get out until 5. (Yeah, yeah we see the matinee so it’s us and the retirees, but otherwise, the kid falls asleep.) This meant that I had about an hour and a half to get to Whole Foods on the other side of town, get my groceries and return 35 miles home. They showed up around 6:50 and I had JUST gotten the beans going in the pressure cooker. Dinner was on the table by 7:15. Try that with dried beans the regular way. You’ll enjoy those bad boys around 9 pm.

SO … here’s what I do: soak the black beans for 6-8 hours. Dump them in the pressure cooker (I do drain the water, but there’s discussion as to the pros and cons on that), add 3 cups of water to every one cup of soaked beans. (So, 6 cups.) Get up to pressure, turn down to simmer and time for 3 minutes. That’s right folks, 3 minutes. Take off the heat and wait for the pressure to come down (about 10) and open the lid and BAM, cooked beans. Then I add a handful of chopped cilantro, a chopped jalapeno, some chopped garlic and a bunch of lime juice and some salt.

Red Rice

This, my husband makes, so I can’t help you there. I know he adds corn and tomato paste and he cooks it so you get the crust on the bottom. Saw the recipe this morning and you sauté onions, garlic and rice (1.5 cups) in oil, then add a cup of tomato sauce and 2.5 cups of broth. He also likes to use arborio rice. It’s something like this, except I know he also adds corn to it.

Chips

You can be lazy and buy a bag OR if you want to turn on the oven, you can buy corn tortillas, cut them up into 6ths and spread them on a baking sheet. Spray with olive oil, sprinkle with the spice of your choice and bake for about 6 minutes a side. (Actually tonight, we did NEITHER.)

And so, there you have it: fish taco night. About 1.5 filets left, so looks like I’ll make a sweet potato filling and the other two can split the rest of that yummy fish. (The sweet potatoes are easy: boil chopped up potatoes for about 6 minutes, drain, mash, add some green chili peppers, some cumin and some salt, maybe some cayenne. Wrap in a tortilla with the black beans and eat.)

One Year of Veggies

One year ago today, my daughter insisted that she be a vegetarian. Now I know this is pretty common among the pre-teen girl set, but she was dead set on doing it. I’ve seen other mothers let their kids flounder with it, give up after a month, just because it makes dinner so much easier. I don’t blame them at all. In fact, I would have done the very same thing, except it seemed like it might not be such a bad idea.

I had flirted with this idea several decades earlier, but it really was just that. I bought a book, read it and then decided that I probably wouldn’t eat about 80% of the stuff in there. But I was older, wiser, so I thought it was worth a try. My excuse was that if my kid was to be a vegetarian, then, well, I’d go too, to make sure she did it right.

For the record: we are vegetarian, not vegan. I limit dairy. We also eat some fish. Not a lot. Husband has to avoid shellfish, for one. Maybe once every week or so, unless at the beach. Then it’s like once a day.

So, a year later, I present, the Top Ten Things I’ve Learned Being a Vegetarian.

  1. You can be a vegetarian while living with a carnivore. OK, he prefers omnivore and rightly so. My husband does eat all sorts of food and he’s much better about the sweets than me or my daughter. Still, he does like to have a slab of meat at dinner. To say he was angry one year ago today would be an understatement. He was upset that I even entertained the idea. He was concerned that going vegetarian would not give my daughter the nutrients she needed to get through puberty. To be fair, she was going through puberty, growing 6 inches in the past 3 years. But, a quick visit to the doctor (who introduced me to the China Study) assured us that if we ate smart, we’d be just fine. And, the husband found out that we started to eat a lot of vegetables he had always loved and I just never made. So, we might have roasted root vegetables, and he does too, along with a little pork chop he makes. Or not. Sometimes he’ll go meatless too.
  2. There’s a big bad world beyond tofu. I read a post today talking about the pitfalls of going vegan. (I haven’t gone that far yet, although I do try to limit dairy if possible.) One of the problems was all the meat substitutes and that they were really expensive. Most meat substitutes are, of course, made of soy. Soy’s a great source of protein, but really, if you go vegetarian, why would you want to eat fake meat? It’d almost be better to just eat good quality meat, wouldn’t it? In fact, we eat tofu maybe once a month. It’s processed soy, and it’s processed food that’s really the biggest problem in our food supply. (Well, ok maybe it’s corn subsidies that give us this overabundance of hybrid corn that can’t be eaten by humans in its native form, but I digress.) And, soy is in everything, so you can get too much soy. (Note: I am not saying do not eat soy, but to vary your diet. And, eat it and anything else as unprocessed as possible.) Just eat vegetables, grains and nuts, folks. That’s the basis of your diet. And guess what? Things like oatmeal, beans, turnips, carrots … they’re all pretty dang cheap. Heck, even nuts, deemed so expensive, can be purchased for about $4.99 a pound. How much does a pound of meat cost? And I mean a good pound of meat? Be smart about it, examine local sources, shop around. Remember, those processed foods are being subsidized by your government, which is why they are cheap. They’re also really not good for you, no matter if you’re vegetarian or not.
  3. Most restaurants don’t get it. Here’s an example: joined a group of friends down at a new local restaurant that remains unnamed because I’m hoping they improve. They get a fair amount of their supplies locally and try to go organic. Vegetarian would be a slam dunk, wouldn’t it? Wrong. Their sandwiches included: chicken, turkey, ham, burger. They had six different omelets: one was vegetarian. Their spinach salad: spinach, onions, bacon, hard boiled egg. I tried to order the oatmeal (made with milk); no longer served. If I was vegan, there really would be absolutely nothing I could eat here. And places like Chick-Fil-A live up to their name: NO vegetarian options. The good news is that most places like this you don’t want to frequent anyway. (Don’t get me started about the anti-gay policies at Chick-Fil-A.) Most places will kind of work with you. Some (like my local Mexican place) you will have to give up. I’d also add that you just need to be flexible. You might eat soup made with chicken broth. Guess what? For the first 46 years of life, I ate chicken broth. A little bit here and there isn’t going to be what kills me. Flexibility, people. Flexibility and baby steps. Still, it doesn’t hurt to develop a love of cooking. (And chopping. Lots of chopping. But I like chopping, so it’s all OK.)
  4. Pressure cookers ROCK. I finally got wise enough to buy a pressure cooker. I say I’d marry it if I wasn’t already. Much more here and here.
  5. Protein? No problem! Again, if you eat right, you’re gold! Nuts, beans and whole grains are all good sources of protein. Vegetables, even, have protein. You get in trouble when you eat like the average American and just leave the meat portion off the plate. Then you’re unbalanced. You’re going to have to eat greens, and beans and nuts. But then again, MMM! Greens, beans and nuts! (And if you get your protein from cheese, think again. All you’ve done is swap a lean protein source (most meats) for a saturated fat one. Not a good idea.)
  6. It won’t make you skinny. If you’re going vegetarian to lose weight, it’s for the wrong reason. You aren’t going to get as much protein (you’ll get enough), but you’re going to need to graze most of the day. I’ll hear people say “I haven’t eaten all day” and I think “Mon dieu, HOW?!?!” Here’s the short story to my path here: terrible eater –> Weight Watchers (great program) –> SparkPeople.com (I still use this from time to time, love it) –> vegetarian. By the time I got to that last step, I was already eating a lot of vegetables anyway.
  7. It does make the holidays weird. My husband warned my mother-in-law that we would bring a dish and that we wouldn’t eat the turkey. “Not even a slice? For Thanksgiving??” She was very sweet about it, but definitely baffled. And I was grateful that I brought this lovely casserole, because the sides wouldn’t have been enough. (And to be fair, I do the same thing with my mother as well. Not fair to expect them to adapt to a different eating style and that’s totally OK.) With a little adapting, you can keep the holidays very fun.
  8. Resources galore. There’s an endless supply of resources. Good grief, it never ends! Just look at what I’ve linked to in this post alone. Cookbooks, apps, blogs (great advice for runners), more blogs (where I learned about pressure cookers), even more blogs (yummy bean and nut burger here) … google what you need and you will find it. It’s really incredible.
  9. Cooking is easier. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s actually kind of easier. Sure, you gotta remember to soak the beans in the morning, but that takes a minute and then it’s 15 minutes with a pressure cooker and they are done. I don’t miss all that having to be careful with the meat juices or the cleaning up after the cheese stuck to everything. And when I do (because someone in the house still loves cheese), I think “ugh that is in my stomach??” You will be chopping. But, I like that. OK, not so much rutabagas, but the rest can be fun.
  10. There are more out us out there than you think. You’d be surprised who is following this same diet as yourself. Proof that you can be a vegetarian and not be an arrogant prick about the whole thing.

What did I miss, folks? I’m sure I missed something. It’s only been one year, after all!

Menu for April 15

I tweeted the plan for this week’s menu and a twitter follower suggested I blog about it. Even though these recipes aren’t necessarily mine, I’m following her suggestion.

Almond Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Almond Butter Oatmeal CookiesSO, first up are the cookies made for church. We have a new minister coming in and we had a social afterwards to meet her. It went well and the cookies were a big hit, at least in my family. VERY easy to make. I woke up thinking “oh yeah I said I’d bring something,” scrounged around in the kitchen, found I had these ingredients and whipped up a batch. They were done within an hour. My changes: a little more cinnamon and dried cranberries, not chocolate. Certainly not because I don’t like chocolate. In fact, I had no chips in the house because I ate them all. And, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t actually mix all my dry ingredients together beforehand. This might make me a horrible, terrible baker, but I don’t. If there’s a reason why I should that will make my cookies turn out like Martha Stewart, please enlighten me. Otherwise, I’m going to stick to washing one bowl. Secret number two: I totally use parchment paper. This was another “you’ll have to convince me” type of thing but I am SOLD. I do buy the hippie version of the stuff, but man I adore it. (And to those that say “use the silicon,” there’s just something about heating up silicon that I don’t trust.) My cookies DO brown more evenly and the pans are much easier to clean. So, if you have to pick between mixing dry ingredients and parchment paper, it’s a landslide: parchment paper. Oh, and the cookies themselves were gone by 4 pm.

Vegetable Tien

Vegetable TienTonight’s dinner was leftovers. My parents don’t actually believe in leftovers but without them, I think I just would not cook. If a meal doesn’t last two nights, I’m seriously depressed. My friend Jeannie suggested this recipe when I was wondering what I’d make for Easter dinner as a vegetarian (answer: quiche, duh. See the tomatos feta cheese recipe in Joy of Cooking.) So, I saved it and made it on Saturday. Plenty left, so we had it again on Sunday. This one is easy to make, but if I made it again, I’d say one less potato, one more tomato. The second night, I added more cheese when we reheated and that helped a lot. Potatoes can be so bland. They really need a lot of help, which is why I tend to prefer the sweet potato. This recipe, I made as they called for EXCEPT I added smoked paprika. Smoked paprika just makes everything better. Also, the picture in the sample, everything is much smaller. So, I’m thinking next time, I choose a different potato than your standard baking potato and smaller zucchinis. Also, I’d consider adding a grain. It’s missing something, not sure what.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Quinoa

Roasted Root VeggiesTomorrow, the kid and the husband have a late workout. Normally, I jazzercise, but I’m sidelined with a heel injury, grr. So, I’ll probably do some Wii Fit yoga and get the rest of my workout chopping root vegetables. Now, I do not believe I ever ate a turnip or a rutabaga until I went vegetarian. Now, I love them. And, to add to the fun, I like to buy them at my favorite local grocery store, because inevitably I get a young cashier or bag boy (or bonus: both) and they pick these things up and go “what are these??” and I’ll say “oh those are parsnips and they are DELICIOUS and you should totally buy them and roast them” and their eyes eventually roll around to the back of their heads. So, it’s worth making just to watch the cashier pick up a turnip and ask me if it’s a radish. This recipe is a total mashup of the one from Whole Foods and the one from Kind Diet. (BTW, Whole Foods has rocking recipes and I adore their app. And Alicia Silverstone has a great book!) Basically, I cut up:

  • A couple small turnips
  • A bunch of carrots
  • A sweet potato or two (husband actually doesn’t like sweet potatoes! I will cut up two tomorrow because they were on sale at Ingles AND bonus also organic)
  • Beets (about 4, since I have to buy in batches)
  • Rutabaga
  • Parsnips (they looked good this week, bought 3)
  • Onion (gotta have an onion)
  • Garlic
  • Then cover the whole mess with some olive oil and salt and paprika and thyme and roast for about 40 minutes at 400, then add some chopped up dried apricots and serve with quinoa. Or barley. Or bulgur, which is what it’s with in the photo. Or heck, rice!

Peanut Soba Noodles

Tofu Peanut NoodlesThis one, believe it or not, was in my Runner’s World magazine. Uber-easy to make and a big hit with me and my kid. AND, a massive protein bomb. Who says vegetarians don’t get protein? We skip the chicken and go with tofu, which I bake after marinating in the same sort of sauce listed. And, I usually skip the peanuts (kid has braces and nuts are a problem), and the cilantro (unless I’m using for another meal that week, I hate to spend money on a big batch and not use it.)

Sweet Potato Burgers

This one has been on my radar for a while, but we’ll see if I get around to making it this week or not. So, nothing new to add here. When we finally make it, seems like we HAVE to have it with corn on the cob.

Thoughts? Any way I can make these meals better? (Besides adding meat, which is always my husband’s answer.)