Monday, January 31, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 13 A Warm Kiss from Mexico

Last night I was multi-tasking.  I was walking the dog; it was rather brisk, and talking on the phone.  While I was talking my friend said, seemingly out of the blue to me, “what is it with you and Chinese food?”  “What do you mean?” I responded.  She then said, every time I look you are talking about going to this Chinese restaurant or that Chinese restaurant.  I just kind of laughed.

Nope, my heart is stuck in Mazatlan, and I still haven't gotten enough avocado, pico de gallo, salsa, beans, Mexican Coke, and corn tortillas.  So I guess I better send this post to my buddy because nothing fortifies one for the Snowpocalypse like pico de gallo.  You can put it on eggs, chips, salad, or perhaps you are like me and would rather put a spoon into it and then place it in your mouth.

I kid you not, even with tomatoes that aren’t from my garden, this feels like summer.


3 lbs of ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if you want it on the milder, minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
¼ c. cilantro, chopped with stems removed
2 T. pickling salt, plus more to taste
Place all ingredients, except the cilantro in a bowl. Mix the salt through.  Drain the vegetables in a colander (yes you do want to get some of the water out), let set for 15 minutes.  Place drained vegetables back into bowl, stir in cilantro. Add lime first and then more pickling salt to taste.

Forget Snowpocalypse! Seed Exchanges Are a Balm to Gardeners in Winter

I’m not really big on driving anymore.  It stems from driving back and forth to Champaign for school.  So it’s a pretty big deal that my first seed exchange required a trek out to Des Plaines yesterday.

Whoops, I promised no fancy gardening terms without explanation.  A seed exchange is just that.  You bring seeds, only the legal kind, and you take seeds.  It’s kind of cool because most gardeners have more than they want.  I’ve been struggling because in addition to my shared community garden plots, I still haven’t decided what I want to plant at our home garden.  I figured this seed exchange would at least get me to think about it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 12 Warming Up in Chicago

Last week I was in Mazatlan, Mexico for a conference.

Most breakfasts included a green smoothie; a new favorite is celery, parsley, pineapple, banana, and orange. Lunch and dinner would repeat variations of guacamole and pico de gallo, cheese, tortillas, beans, and mushrooms.  You would think I was sick of Mexican but I think I’ve got at least one more Mexican inspired meal in me this week.

This week’s meal, yep the first meal I made upon my return from Mexico, was inspired by Eating Well Magazine again.  It’s even perfect for a weeknight/quick meal.

Quesadillas con Frijoles Refritos

1 c vegetarian refried beans
2 tablespoons salsa
12 6-inch corn tortillas
1 c corn
1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 c diced onion
3/4 c finely grated cheese (I used a smoky swiss and cheddar),

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Mix refried beans and 2 tablespoons salsa in a small bowl.

Place a tortilla directly on a stovetop burner (gas or electric), set at medium, and toast, turning frequently with tongs, until softened, about 45 seconds. Wrap in a kitchen towel to keep warm while you soften the remaining tortillas in the same manner.

Lay 6 of the softened tortillas on the prepared baking sheet. Divide the bean mixture among these tortillas, spreading evenly. Sprinkle each with corn, cilantro and scallions, then cheese. Top with the remaining softened tortillas and press to seal.

Bake until lightly crisped and browned, about 8 minutes

I served these with some delicious balsamic onions that I got from the LTH Forum’s Canning Exchange.  I’m definitely going to make, and process, these onions myself.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 11 So You've Got the Day Off, Have You?

So this week is hard.  It isn’t because I couldn’t come up with something that tastes fantastic, it’s because the pictures don’t do this humble classic justice.

This is a perfect dish for a holiday Monday, assuming you didn’t have to go to work today.  It does have more steps than I would want for a regular weeknight meal.

Today’s dish is stuffed peppers.  Yep, you can indeed stuff red peppers, colored peppers, or yellow peppers but these green peppers were all that I could get at the local farmers market and this time, darn it, that was going to suffice.  No fancy, imported peppers for this meal.  Our season of local beautiful peppers had already ceased.  I have no doubt that this recipe would be delicious with non-local grocery store peppers in eye-popping colors.

Sometimes meat sounds like a good idea to me.  No, it’s not what you think.  How I recall the texture of meat can seem like a tastier option than a dish filled with grains or legumes.  You already know how much I love them.  This is one of those recipes where you can help your meat-loving friends and family understand all of the opportunities you have when you go meatless.  In this version of stuffed peppers, I simply substituted meat with a vegetarian ground. 

Once again, Cook’s Illustrated served as the springboard for this recipe.  If you don’t already have a subscription, you can get a free trial and see the recipe here. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday, Volume 10: Happy, Homey, and Healthy Soup

Easy Peasy, that’s what my Mum-in-Law would say. 

The gardening season is back up and going.  Some of you would ask did it ever stop?  It just slows down as is appropriate for the season.  One of the things you learn about growing plants is that a period of rest is required.  More gearing up posts to come, in the meantime you still need to fortify your body.

This year, like so many folks, I’ve decided there was no reason I couldn’t enjoy delicious food, that’s also nutritious, and shhhh, don’t tell anyone, relatively low-calorie (insert maniacal laughter here). 

This has been less difficult than you would imagine thanks to an array of cook books and websites.  This one I took to a recent household exchange. 

Don’t worry, it’s not like a lot of butternut squash dishes, it has a hefty savory profile.  It’s also refreshing because it lacks the heft you may be familiar with that often comes with butter and/or cream.

Butternut Baja Soup, slightly adapted from Eating Well: (Look Ma, It’s Vegan!), Serves 5 as a Main Course

1 ½      pounds butternut squash
1t.        vegetable oil (I used grape seed)
2          stalks of celery (leaves included), chopped
1          onion, chopped
1t.        cumin
½ t.      ground chipotle chile
1⁄8 t.      ground cloves
6 c.        vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Cut squash in half, vertically, and remove seeds.  Place the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Roast until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, approximately 30 minutes.  Allow squash to cool.  Then scrape flesh away from outer skin.  Set aside.

Heat oil in a dutch oven, or other large saucepan, over medium heat until it's shimmering.  Add celery and onion.  Cover and sweat until soft, stirring occasionally 8 to 10 minutes.  Add the squash, cumin, chipotle, and cloves.  Add broth and simmer until the vegetables are quite soft, about 15 minutes.

Puree the soup until smooth.

Okay, you can be fancy and make some nice bread to go with it. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Just Say No to Eating Animals Monday: Volume 9, Happy New Year!

I’m from the south.  Even as a vegetarian, New Years Day is generally candied yams, Hoppin’ John, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens.  I love this stuff.  The problem stems from the rest of my family here in Chicago. They are from across the pond.  They don't like many meatless southern foods.  They do, however, love Indian food.

I stumbled across a recipe for a meatless curry that had sweet potatoes in it.  I then flipped it by adding black-eyed peas and collard greens.

 I ground my own spices for the garam masala

I think they were pleasantly surprised.

Vegetable Curry (Yippee this is Vegan!) Serves 6

2 T                   curry powder
1 ½ t                garam masala
1 large              onion (diced)
1 lb.                 sweet potato, diced
3                      cloves of garlic minced
1 T                   fresh ginger root, grated
2                      Rooster Spur (or other hot pepper)
1 T                   tomato paste
1                      bunch of collards, washed, chopped, stemmed, and blanched
1 can                diced tomatoes, chopped
12 oz.               fresh black-eyed peas (remember these)
¼ c                  coconut milk

Boil 2 quarts of water in a large pot.  Add salt and collards.  Cook for seven minutes.  Drain.  Squeeze all of the excess water out.  Rough chop.  Set aside.

Heat small skillet over medium heat.  Add dry spices to hot skillet.  Shake pan to make sure spices don’t burn.  Adjust heat, if necessary.  Spices should darken and your kitchen should smell like a market place (about 2 minutes).  Remove skillet from heat.

In large pot, use the same one you used for the collards, heat 3 T. of oil until glistening.  Add sweet potatoes and onions, stir to avoid them sticking to the pan.  Cook until everything is golden and there are crunchy bits on the sweet potato apx. 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium.  Make a well in the center of the pan and add the rest of the oil, garlic, ginger, rooster spur peppers, and tomato paste.  Stir the ingredients.  Add curry powder and garam masala and cook an additional minute (you want the flavors to bind).  Add collards and stir until all items in the pot are incorporated with spice.

Finally, add diced tomatoes, 1 cup of water, black eyed peas, and salt to taste.  Raise heat to a boil, stir the bottom of the pan and loosen all of the browned spices and seasonings from the bottom (this takes a bit of elbow grease).  Cook an additional 10 minutes.  Add coconut cream and heat through.  Serve with rice, or if you are lucky, some home made lime pickle.