Monday, November 29, 2010

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday, Volume 4: Yes, Soup for You!

Today is downright balmy, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want delicious soup recipes at the ready.  It’s no different than having salt ready for your front door step in anticipation of the snow and ice to come.

This is the second appearance of my new found friend celery root.  The first thing you should know is this vegetable has an alias.  It’s also known as celeriac.  It is a root vegetable and it has a lemony/herbaceous potato taste.  The kind where folks say, “oh you know, it tastes like celery root”; except you don’t know until you’ve tried it.
It also looks like a monster.  It does not look like it belongs to the plant kingdom at all. 

If you didn’t have it in the pizzoccheri  a few weeks ago, there’s really no way around it in today’s Just Say No to Animals Monday offering.

Mais, Oui—Celery Root, Potato, & Leek Soup (Vegan, but they would never guess it)

4 T.              olive oil
2 lbs.            celery root, peeled and diced
2                  leeks, approximately ¾ lb.
2                  garlic cloves, minced
5 c.              vegetable stock (this should be light on tomato)
1 lb.             Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
1 c.              dry white wine (we use the non-alcoholic kind)
Truffle Oil (optional)

FOR GOODNESS SAKES CLEAN THE LEEKS!  Remove the top green portion from the leeks ( I know, this is the very part that you use for green onions and leeks look like green onions on steroids).  Next take the root off.   Then slice the remaining white portion, vertically, down the center, stopping a bit before the root area.  Have bowl of clean and cool water at the ready.  Fan leek leaves at the top.  Take the leek by the base/root and swish the top in the bowl of water.  This removes the sand/dirt trapped in the layers of the leek.

Once the leeks are cleaned, chop them and set aside.

1.                 Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat until glistening.
2.                 Add leeks and cook until the edges start to curl and turn golden (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic to the pot and stir until fragrant (about a minute), you don’t want the garlic to burn it gets bitter.  Add the non-alcoholic wine and bring to a boil.  Then add the stock and return to a boil.  Add the celery root and potato.  Decrease the heat to a sustained simmer.  Cook until the celery root and potato are tender (about 25 minutes).
3.                 Strain the vegetables and reserve the broth.  Then process the vegetables in a powerful blender (we use a Vitamix), immersion blender, or food processor with ¼ c. of the reserved broth.  You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your processing device.
4.                 Return soup to pot with any remaining broth.  Heat gently and stir to incorporate the pureed vegetables back into the broth.  This soup should look like a bowl of hot heavy whipping cream.
5.                 Ladle into soup bowls and drizzle with truffle oil.

This soup is perfect with a simple green salad and a slice of great bread.  It serves four large/entrée bowl portions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rising to the Challenge of Cranberries

As some readers may know, I’m from the south, where the holiday season means collard greens, not green bean casserole, sweet potato pie, not pumpkin, and cranberries aren’t really food, they are just something you put on the table as a garnish (no one ever eats them, right?).

So how did I find a way to make cranberries palatable?  I wanted to be a good guest, and this was a real challenge.  It would have been far easier had I been asked to come up with a meat-based dessert, and I don’t eat animals!  I’ve been enjoying a monthly dessert exchange since last spring.  Each month we meet at someone’s home; the host serves a light vegetarian meal, and then… it’s on!  Everyone brings a dessert that they made from scratch.  No slice-and- bake, or just add egg, oil, water, and mix would do in this setting.  This Dessert Exchange is an opportunity to share your favorites, or try that dish you’ve been meaning to get around to. The Exchange has been great for me in the latter category especially.  

The Power of Chain Mail to Solve the Disturbing Question: "What's for Dinner?"

You would think with all of the ways to be a part of the world that the old fashioned chain email would have died.  You just don’t know how intrigued we all are with “What’s for Dinner?”  It’s a far more universal problem than one would have imagined.

The other day, my husband forwarded one of those FW chain mails to me.  I was a bit surprised but it was the subject of food and cooking that caused him to send it to me.  It was from a well respected fly fisherman no less.  Here’s what it said:

Sent: Sun, Nov 21, 2010 3:49 pm
Subject: recipes

 I am participating in a collective, constructive, and hopefully TASTY experiment. As such: You have been invited to be part of a recipe exchange concept. I hope you will participate. I've picked those who I think would make this fun. Please send a recipe to the person whose name is in position 1 (even if you don't know him/her) and it should be something quick, easy and without rare ingredients. Actually, the best one is the one you know in your head and can type right now. Don't agonize over it, it is one you make when you are short of time.
After you've sent the recipe to the person in position 1 below and only to that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1 and put your name in position 2. Only mine and your name should show when you send your email. Send to 20 friends BCC (blind copy). If you cannot do this within 5 days, let me know so it will be fair to those participating. You should receive 36 recipes. It's fun to see where they come from! Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas. The turnaround is fast as there are only 2 names on the list and you only have to do it once.

 So my husband sent a recipe for us.  I told him, whatever you do; don’t put me on your list of 20 friends.  Here’s what happened next:

Sent: Mon, Nov 22, 2010 5:49 pm
Subject: Re: recipes

 I like the sound of this recipe, but you sort of "over-adapted" it, i.e., you left out the peas and spinach amounts, and stuff like what kind of peas, is the spinach chopped, etc.  I'd like to make this recipe, but feel I don't have quite enough information.  Plz. respond.  thanks.  
 Whoa! Not only had our recipe been received but there were at least two people who had read it and wanted to prepare it.  So we quickly sent out an updated recipe with the proper amounts of peas and spinach. 

In the meantime, even though this is a short work week and folks are busy preparing for the holidays, my husband got the first recipe back from his own list of 20 folks.  Here it is:

Sent: Mon, Nov 22, 2010 9:34 pm
Subject: Recipes
Sautéed Leeks    Delicious!
2 medium servings
Cooking time 30 minutes
 2 medium leeks, spray olive oil, salt and pepper
Rinse the leeks well. Cut the stem end off and any dried leaf tips of the dark green tops.
Slice in half lengthwise. Rinse again to remove any dirt from the inside of the leeks. Slice the leeks crosswise to separate the dark green tops from the white.
Slice both the tops and the bottom part of the leeks lengthwise into strips 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch wide. Keep the dark green tops and the bottom part of the leeks separate.
Spray a large skillet with olive oil and place the pan over medium-high heat. Add the dark green part of the leeks. Let the strips cook for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. They should brown only slightly. 
After they have wilted somewhat, add the light green-white bottoms. Simply place them on top of the cooking dark green strips. Reduce the heat slightly. Let them cook for about two minutes and they will steam slightly, then begin to toss them to mix together with the dark green tops. 
Add the salt and pepper. As you toss the leeks, adjust the heat to be hot enough to wilt the leeks and brown them only very lightly. They are done when the dark green tops are easily cut with a dinner knife -- about 20 minutes total cooking time.

 Can you believe this?  Feel free to take the text and forward to your own 20 folks, even better, share your go-to recipe here.

Oh, here’s the recipe we sent. 

Pea and Spinach Soup with Coconut Milk
 Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Tome: 15 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
 Adapted from "Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's
Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison
 2 T.     unsalted butter
 2c.      thinly sliced sweet onions
 1 c.     water
 2 T.    white basmati rice
 2 t.     curry powder
 1 1/2 t salt
 1        quart vegetable broth 3/4 c. coconut milk
           2 c.    green peas (fresh or frozen)
          4 c.    rough chopped fresh spinach


 1.     Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat; add onions, water,
 rice, curry powder, 4 cilantro sprigs, salt & pepper to taste. Simmer
 over medium-low heat 12 minutes.
2.     Add spinach, peas, and broth. Heat to a boil; cook 3 minutes.
Turn off heat; add coconut milk. Puree about a cup of the soup in a
blender(optional); return to pot. Season to taste. Puree all of the soup until smooth,
about 1 minute, and pass through a strainer. Or leave completely

This warming soup, with the fantastic scent of coconut milk, reminds me that warmer weather is nearby.  It helps that it is good for you as well.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday, Volume 3: Fast, Good, & Nutritious-- No Way!

So, like many, I’m on a journey.  It’s all about order.  The house, work, food everything needs its rightful place.  What did I do with my time and love for food?  Easy, create menus for dinner for the next several weeks.  We aren’t having any repeats.  No, I didn’t take the easy way out and declare Wednesday Spaghetti night.  I see this as an opportunity to try recipes I always meant to.  So it goes something like this, I look for healthy and relatively uncomplicated/quick recipes during the week for dinner and perhaps something a bit more complex, or longer to prepare on weekends and holidays.

This week’s Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday meal is a North African Stew from Eating Well magazine.  Here’s the beauty of this dish, not only is it “A Keeper” in our household it’s actually good for you and the bonus, features some of our beloved box-ripened tomatoes.  Yep, we had tomatoes for dinner from our garden!

North African Vegetable Stew with Poached Eggs adapted from Eating Well:


·                                 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
·                                 3 cups frozen pepper stir-fry vegetables
·                                 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
·                                 Pinch of salt
·                                 1/4 teaspoon paprika, plus more for sprinkling
·                                 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
·                                 4 cloves garlic, minced
·                                 1 28-ounce can or 2 14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes
·                                 1 19-ounce or 15 1/2-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
·                                 Freshly ground pepper, to taste
·                                 4 large eggs


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add stir-fry vegetables; cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 5
to 7 minutes.

Stir in 1/4 teaspoon paprika and cayenne, and then add the cumin.

Add garlic and the spice mixture to the skillet; cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and chickpeas; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook at a lively simmer until slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with pepper.

Break eggs into separate quadrants of the stew, taking care not to break the yolks. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and cook until the eggs
are set, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle eggs with paprika. Carefully transfer an egg and some stew to each plate.

This was served with warm pita bread and a  salad of carrots, oil-cured olives, greens, with  anan orange- olive oil vinaigrette.  Don't forget the hot mint tea made from fresh mint.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday, Volume 2: Breakfast for Supper

Sometimes we struggle so hard to come up with something exotic for dinner like buckwheat lasagna that we forget the simplicity and goodness of everyday foods.

Talk about Nectar of the Gods

This is especially apt to occur when we are working in addition to trying to answer the age-old question that always causes the blood to roil, “What’s for Dinner?”  As recently noted by a Facebook friend it seems some couples have even successfully turned this into a joke where you can hear the rimshot.

From Facebook:

I'm gonna open a restaurant called “I don't care ". Then we can finally go to the place my wife is always talking about.


So why don’t we just apply KISS—Keep It Sweet and Simple or my preferred version, Keep it Simple, Stupid?


The other day, my husband came out of the blue with it.  He asked if I would make him some pancakes.  I shook my head and said, “Huh?”  He said, “Can you make me some pancakes.”   Here’s what you don’t know.  My husband doesn’t like pancakes.  He doesn’t like American breakfast food.  He doesn’t like sweets, so a request for pancakes is akin to me asking for a “Surf-and Turf” meal as far as I’m concerned.  So of course I said, “Sure, sweetheart.”  So in that great American tradition, they don’t know nothin’ about this over the pond, why not have breakfast for dinner?


When I was growing up every school and church would sponsor a pancake supper, nope, not a pancake breakfast, but pancakes, eggs, grits, sausage, and bacon with orange juice, or maybe tang, and strong black coffee at night.  It was the kind of event where parents and grandparents would attend.  The marrieds, the singles, and the widowed; the well-to-do and the not-so-well would all gather for these suppers.  Sitting in row after row of long tables elbow-to- elbow with plates stacked high with breakfast food. The talk would flow and the food, always so simple, always tasted great.


This is a Meatless Monday that will make everyone in your house happy.  Grab your favorite pancake recipe, call your Mum or Grandmum for hers if you don’t have one.  Make sure you use farm eggs for your side of eggs, I swear they really do taste different and here’s the kicker get real maple syrup or do like we did growing up and serve the pancakes with butter and hot spiced applesauce.

Even if you don't have a huge appetite or you are a small household these freeze beautifully

Seriously, who doesn't love breakfast for supper?

Our friend  Bill taps his own trees to make this stellar Maple Syrup

Everyone in our home loves pancakes for dinner

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Si se Puede: Have Ripe Home-Grown Tomatoes in November

Tomatoes that were ripened in a box!

A few days ago we were delighted to have dinner with other local gardeners and food lovers.

While we talked and admired our host's green tomatoes, I mentioned that I had pulled all of our green tomatoes a couple of weeks ago, the night of the first frost (it only was in the low 30’s for a few hours, but tomatoes can’t take any frost).

Look at all of these green and great-sized tomatoes the night of the frost!

Confession:  While I was born and raised in the south, I don’t care for grits and I just don’t “git” green tomatoes, fried or otherwise.  Green Tomatoes always taste like what they are to me, an under-ripe tomato, blech!

I scoured the internet and discovered you could take perfectly green tomatoes, wrap them in newspaper,  place them in a box in a cool dry place,  and they would take their time...but they would indeed ripen.  You are supposed to check on them once a week.  What I read lead me to believe it would be several weeks before the first one would be ripe.

Hopelessly Green Tomatoes in a box

I shared what I was doing with the guests at dinner and one couple told us they tried it, and all they got was rotten tomatoes. 

Last night made two weeks since picking that last crop, and I had already gone to bed.  Then I recalled that it was time to check the tomatoes and I mournfully got up expecting to find rotten tomatoes, or just green-tomatoes that were beginning to wither.

That’s not what I found. 

That’s right, we are going to enjoy the last of our home grown tomatoes, both heirloom and hybrid Sungold tomatoes in November in Chicago!

Just Say No… To Green Tomatoes!

Coming in from the cold

Fired up and Ready to Go!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Southern delicacy of boiled peanuts

Raw Green Peanuts soaking

Whenever there are peanuts in the house, my husband breaks into a jingle.  "Peanuts, Golden Wonder, “They’re Jungle Fresh! Golden Wonder, They’re Jungle Fresh."

We don’t have peanuts in the house frequently.  I don’t like peanuts in the barked at ball games manner of, Peanuts, get your, Peaaa-Nuts! way at all.

No sir.  I’m a boiled peanut lover.  It makes sense.  I’m from the south.  All of my life I could shell, pop, and drain (actually it's more of a slurping from the shell-- think crawdads) the “juice” out of a peanut.  Sometimes I would bite the shell and the juice would squirt all over before getting to the peanuts.

From my twitter account:

Raw peanuts to boil, fresh pickles to can &Fuji persimmons to ripen. (@ Valli) than a minute ago via foursquare

Still I’ve been meaning to post my recent peanut boiling exploits when I ran across this thread from Ellen Malloy’s trending topic over at Soapbox where the hot chefs weigh in with their even hotter nuts (hmmm, that sounds a bit racy but it is just nuts roasted in fat). 

When I was a kid one of my beloved aunties supplied me with boiled peanuts from the time I was a babe, until her death when I was in college.  One year, she took me out into the “country” to pick peanuts.  I could have died.  It was hot and I had on shorts, sandals, and a little midriff top.  I think I was all of eight.  While I bent down in the neat rows to pick peanuts, I was nearly eaten alive by bugs.  Yep, even then I needed DEET to be safe.  I probably picked fewer than 10 peanuts before caving in to the bugs and rushing for the safety of the indoors that hot day.  Still it was enough for Auntie Mary.  She never had me pick peanuts again.  She always supplied me with boiled peanuts.  It was one of the few foods that I didn’t tire of eating in large quantities.

The same is true today.  I think my husband joins me in eating them because of the sense of nostalgia and joy they give me.  I was right, he says they are mildly appealing, but the main reason he eats them is because I make them.

Classic Southern Boiled Peanuts

4-5 lbs of raw green peanuts

2 c. of salt, more to taste

Rinse in cool water raw peanuts.  Then fill a large bowl or sink with water and soak the peanuts for a bit.  (This is to get some of the travel off of these nuts).

Fill large stock pot with nuts, salt, and water.

Cook until tender, approximately two hours.  Keep in mind that the peanut is not a nut, but a legume, so think of cooking it the way you would a fresh bean.

Ahhh, Perfection-- Two Boiled Peanuts in the shell

Monday, November 1, 2010

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday, Volume 1: Welcome to the Revolution

Yukon Gold Potatoes on the left, Not-so-baby Celery Root on the right

You already know I don’t eat animals. I do eat cheese, eggs, and honey, so if you are a vegan, or allergic to those items, then this recipe may not be for you.

I’m enamored with the concept of Meatless Monday or Meatfree Monday across the pond. The idea being that you can improve your health, and that of the planet, by just saying no to animals on Monday. Some of you are like me, and don’t eat animals any day of the week. Some of you are like my husband, and follow the Pollan Manifesto of “Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants”.

Absolutely delicious, & good for you, Cabbage

Whatever your reason, even if it’s just because you’ve got a family member or friend who is a vegetarian and you want to serve up something that everyone can enjoy, here’s to it.

DISCLAIMER: This recipe is for someone with an awful lot of time on their hands, so you may want to do this on a holiday, day off from work, or in batches. You almost certainly want the aid of a pasta rolling machine. I made these noodles by hand, you may not want to.

Ball dropped in anticipation of snacks since Mommy isn't giving me cabbage

Pizzoccheri Lasagna, by KennyZ (Of course I made Changes!)

Serves 8-9 generously

Buckwheat lasagna noodles:
1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Manual Instructions follow, but I found doing this by hand almost unbearable( buckwheat is a beee-ach!), so: mix and knead the dough in your Vitamix or a food processor.  Buckwheat has practically no gluten which is probably why I found it difficult to knead. You may also need to add a few tablespoons of warm water if you find this dough just won’t come together.

Sift the 2 flours together into a very large bowl. Make a well in the center, and pour in the eggs. Work the eggs in slowly, incorporating from the sides a bit of flour at a time. When it has come together into almost a ball, dump it onto a work surface and continue combining with your fingers.

When the dough has come together enough to be kneaded, give it a good kneading for a solid 8 minutes ( or when the surface is smooth like a flour dough). Then wrap in plastic and let it rest for half an hour.

Roll this dough through your pasta maker using its setting for lasagna (it should be 1/16 in. thick). Remember you don’t want to be me and do it by hand. It ain’t for the faint of heart.

Cut it into strips about 9 inches long and 2 inches wide (I stopped here. Placed the noodles on wax paper, then wrapped the plastic around the wax paper covered noodles and refrigerated them overnight).

Cook until al dente, in the water used for cooking the vegetables below - about 4-5 minutes.


5 baby celery roots, peeled and sliced thin into approximately 2 inch pieces
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, sliced the same as the celery root
½ a large head of cabbage, chopped

Bring lots of heavily salted water to a boil in a large stock pot. Cook the celery root and potato for 8 minutes, then add the cabbage and cook for 4 minutes more. Drain, preserving the cooking water (you will use this flavorful water to cook the pasta), and set aside.


3 1/2 c. of whole milk, hot
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
12-15 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1/4 c. flour
2 bay leaves
1 egg yolk
5 oz grated parmesan
Fresh Sage from our garden

Brown the butter with the sage until it’s a rich and warm brown (like a caramel) over medium heat. You need to watch this like a hawk but it could take up to twenty minutes (don’t increase the heat in order to decrease the time it takes to get there — butter is sensitive).

Add garlic and cook for about 3 minutes (you are letting the flavor of the garlic meld with the browned butter and sage). Add the flour and cook, constantly stirring for 1.5 minutes (DO NOT BROWN). Gradually whisk in the hot milk. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk in bay leaves, salt and pepper; reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally (this should be thick). Remove and toss the Bay leaves.

Beat 1 egg yolk. Add a little of the béchamel to the egg yolk, stirring constantly, then return this mixture to the rest of the sauce and cook until well heated.

Tip: Adding the warm sauce to the yolk prevents curdling.

Then remove sauce from heat and immediately add:
5 oz. grated Parmesan

Grated Parmesan at the bottom of the Vitamix -- 5 oz. is a lot to grate by hand

Stirring to prevent curdling and complete incorporation

Pizzoccheri, All above components plus

5 oz. Emmmental cheese, grated (you can use fontina but this dish has it origins in the Lombardy region of Italy pretty close to the Swiss Alps so why not?)

Butter your favorite lasagna baking pan (these layers are hefty so make sure your pan is deep). Place a layer of cooked noodles at the bottom. Scatter some veggies and sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese, then spoon about 1/3 of the Bechemal/Mornay over the whole thing. Taste the noodles and veggies – if you have salted your cooking water enough, they shouldn’t need more seasoning. If you haven’t, then sprinkle some salt now. Top with another layer of noodles; scatter more veggies, cheese, and Bechemal/Mornay. One last layer of noodles, and top with more cheese and Bechemal/Mornay. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until the top is nicely browned. Let it rest for a few minutes, then slice and serve.

Serve with a green salad.  

They will never miss the meat with this one.  This is definitely a stick-to-your-ribs number.