Friday, March 26, 2010

Week 12: Vegetarian Week (recipe: Tomato and Black Bean Quinoa)

So, we're going (sort of) vegetarian. At least for a while. Kind of. We've been steadily decreasing the amount of meat in our diets anyway, so it's not that big a leap into trying to go meatless, at least at home. It'll be a fun experiment, and I have no intention of being a permanent vegetarian. We'll see what happens. If someone drops a source of locally grown ethically treated low cost chickens in my lap, I'll probably change the plan!

Sunday was our first official night, so I did a spread of pita, hummus, falafal, tzatziki, all that good stuff. I did make two delightful discoveries: my homemade pita bread makes amazing pita chips (just cut into chips, brush lightly with melted butter, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 3-4 minutes until crisp), and you can make an awesome dip just by tossing a can of (drained) white beans into the food processor with a head of roasted garlic, a couple of tablespoons of melted butter, and enough water/bean cooking liquid to thin it. Super yummy, and also great warm.

Monday's dinner:

Pita chips with the white bean dip, a small green salad topped with leftover falafal and tzatziki, and the back bean and tomato quinoa you can find here. Delicious, although the cooking method for the quinoa is insanely complicated. Just cook it like rice, it'll come out just as well. Also, it makes an absolutely enormous amount, way more than the four servings the recipe claims.

More pita chips (what can I say, they are SO good) topped with bruschetta-type mix and some balsamic vinegar, asparagus, and a mushroom patty that I made out of mushrooms, onions, and a generous scoop of the leftover quinoa from Monday. Added a bit of flour to help bind it together, fried it up, and topped with some crumbled blue cheese and a poached egg. Delicious! Since the husband type person doesn't like mushrooms, for his I mixed together some quinoa and some white bean dip. He said it was good.


Stuck pot brown rice with ginger, sesame seeds, and almonds (good, but I put in too much ginger), and pita chips (again!) topped with a chick pea/tomato/cucumber/bean sprout salad that was tossed in a basic vinaigrette. Then I chucked some feta on top, just because.

Thursday was pasta with tomato sauce and cheese, and tonight is our usual Friday night pizza night.

All in all, I did not miss meat at all this week. I think Mark Bittman is right, when he says in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian that the secret to a good vegetarian meal is to stop thinking about having a main dish - instead, think about every part of the meal as equally important. So you have a few bites of this, a few bites of that, and the next thing you know you are full, satisfied, and you haven't missed meat at all. So, in addition to the food above, every meal also included a veggie tray with dip and usually fruit as well, just to add that little bit of extra variety (and get more fruit and veggies into the kids!).

Speaking of the kids, they did great. The baby just eats anything anyway, and the 4 year old was surprisingly willing to try almost everything, although I did save her plain portions of things like the quinoa, and I made a big batch of plain brown rice that she worked through over the week. I do have to do a bit of research on getting them both adequate B12 and iron, and I'm sure they will both eat meat at grandma's house and when we go out to restaurants, so I'm not particularly worried about them getting enough nutrition.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Week 11: Cavatappi with Sundried Tomatoes & Cannellini Beans

Recipe from the lovely Elly Says Opa!

Review: eh. Not something I think I'll make again, although we ate it and it was certainly filling, with the addition of the beans. But alas, the recipe does not win a coveted place in my recipe binder. It was just kind of bland. I think some caramelized onions and a handful of feta would have been called for. Or maybe I didn't put in enough parmesan.

I did have an amusing moment in the grocery store, where I couldn't locate cannellini beans, and remembering that in the pictures they looked like kidney beans, I bought white kidney beans.

It turns out white kidney beans ARE cannellini beans. So I learned something!

So overall, this week's recipe was a bit of a dud.

Next week, however, I'm getting excited about. I have unilaterally declared it vegetarian week (hey, when you do all the cooking, you get to do stuff like that), and I'm going to be trying something a little different. Rather than thinking about each meal independently, I'm planning to set out 5-6 dishes every night and let people choose what they want. So I'll make a bunch of stuff on Sunday (pita, hummus, tzatziki, falafel, dal, that sort of thing), then the leftovers will continue to reappear all week and new dishes will be added. And the money I would normally spend on meat will most likely go on fancy cheese, because lord do I love cheese.

Should be fun, and I have a whole bunch of recipes I want to try. I will try and take pictures of each night's meal and do a big wrap up post next Friday.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More little people

Black outer, rainbow batik inner.
Rainbow outer and rainbow inner:

Red cord outer, rainbow inner:

Rainbow paster inner, black outer:

Yep, those are little people rolls!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

In Defense of Food

I've been ruminating over this book for a week or so now. I'm not going to get into a whole lot of specifics about the book itself (it's been out long enough there's a zillion better reviews out there and easy enough to find!), but I'm finding I just can't stop thinking about it and it's having a pretty profound effect on how I feel about food.

Which is kind of strange, because in this book (In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan), he doesn't say anything I didn't already know. Really, it's like he went into my head, extracted everything I know and believe about nutrition, and put it down on paper. But somehow having it all laid out coherently was absolutely mind blowing.

Or rather, it wasn't particularly mind blowing, initially. Frankly, I was reading it and feeling rather smug. Nutrition science doesn't really know jack? I knew that. I've known that since the time I was a gym rat and discovered this whole subculture of people who weren't buying the low fat dogma - and they were making sense. Avoid processed foods? Hell yeah, we've been eating like that for years. Fruits and vegetables as the basis of your diet? Yeah, I knew that. And so on and so forth.

So, I'd just finished the section of the book where he talks about how you should 'Eat Food', meaning avoiding processed food. Seems simple enough, but he argues that the problem is a lot of the stuff you might think is 'food' is really more a food type substance (ever looked at the ingredient list on a standard loaf of supermarket bread?). And yeah, feeling smug, I went to the fridge to get myself a snack.

And what should catch my eye:

That's the ingredients on the sour cream (full fat, thank you!) I've been buying for years. All that time, I never looked at the ingredients. I assumed, because I was buying, you know, sour cream, that it contained, say, milk, cream, bacteria.

WHAT THE HELL IS ALL THAT STUFF?? Why is there corn starch in sour cream? Guar gum? Carrageenan??

Now, this stuff may all be completely harmless. But it's not sour cream.

This was where my mind got totally blown. And I started reading ingredient labels of everything in my kitchen (cottage cheese? basically the same ingredient list as the alleged sour cream). And man, there's a hell of a lot more processed food in my kitchen than I thought.

What am I going to do with this? Well, for starters, I'm reading ingredient lists. I've found a brand of sour cream that contains only cream and bacteria, and a brand of cottage cheese that's the same. I'm going to be making some other changes, here and there, and focusing on keeping a wide assortment of fruit and vegetables available at all times.

But to be honest, I'm kind of pissed off about this. When and how did it become okay to say something is sour cream when it really isn't? Why should I have to obsessively read ingredient lists just to make sure that the sour cream I'm buying is, in fact, sour cream?


guar gum, carob bean gum, and carrageenan are thickeners, as is corn starch, of course. Sodium citrate is a preservative, as far as I can tell, as is, I assume, the citric acid. is this stuff bad for you? I don't know, but one of Pollan's arguments is if you have to start adding this kind of stuff to food, what have you taken out that makes them necessary? Processed food is often processed in ways that wind up removing a lot of the stuff that is good for us, which then has to be added back in. Frankly, I want my sour cream to be thick on its own, not because it's had a quartet of thickeners added to it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

No, this is not a food blog

I do still sew! This isn't a food blog, even if it's sort of turned into one recently. Ha. I have another food related post planned, too.

Older daughter had a birthday party to go to last weekend, so I put together a crayon case to give the birthday girl.

It came out really nicely, I have to say. I need to order more of the batik fabric I used, I love the way it coordinates together with the solid cord.

I also put together this one, with a black outer and red inner, for the Etsy shop:

Buy it here!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week 10: Butternut Squash Ravioli

I really like butternut squash ravioli, so decided to try it this week. Butternut squash ravioli tossed in sage browned butter with spinach, pumpkin seeds, and blue cheese. Yum!

I want to try making pasta, but wasn't up to that this week (also, I want to get a pasta roller, since rolling out pasta isn't something I really want to do by hand). So I found a recipe that uses, of all things, wonton wrappers. (recipe is here)

Basically just cut eat wrapper in half, top with filling, fold in half, and crimp with the tines of a fork:

They were good, although the wrappers aren't exactly pasta like. I want to make these again with a proper pasta dough, once I get myself a pasta roller! I actually think these would be fantastic fried rather than boiled - I have leftover uncooked ones, I may try that tomorrow, with some sort of dipping sauce, maybe.

The brown sage butter/spinach/pumpkinseed/blue cheese combination is fantastic. Although I'm afraid I'm the only one who liked these! Next time I'll probably make a couple of different fillings, like a ricotta and cheese filling, which I think my family will enjoy more.

This picture is making me hungry.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Week 9: White Chicken Enchiladas

This is probably cheating, since I have, technically, made these before. However, the first time I made this I couldn't get the key ingredient, the canned chiles, and so I declare this to be a new recipe.

What? It's my blog project, I can get away with that. And, frankly, the chiles do rather change the dish completely.

The recipe is from The Pioneer Woman (find it here), and the results are very good. I used homemade flour tortillas instead of corn, which was the only substantial change. Oh, and milk instead of cream, which works OK but the resulting filling was a bit on the dry side. They were still pretty damn tasty!

One other change - I used cheddar instead of Monteray Jack cheese, because I accidentally bought WAY too much cheddar. I think these would be better with the Jack cheese, so next time I make them hopefully I won't have a kilo and a half of cheddar in the fridge. Just couldn't justify buying even more cheese when there was already over a kilogram there!

(the homemade salsa is key - just finely diced tomatos, onions, some crush garlic, salt, and cilantro. and a bit of diced up canned chile).