Thursday, June 23, 2011

Potato Chip Pizza and Other Ridiculosities

Well, dear readers, at the end of my last post I promised a scrumptious new recipe with spelt flour and potatoes and all sorts of delights. Except, it turns out that when you put fifteen things together that taste good, it doesn't always make it 15 X better (or even 0.015 X better). The whole wheat flour and spelt flour combined to make a brick of a crust, despite some all-purpose flour added to "lighten it up." The rosemary was hidden, in appearance and taste, beneath the thin slices of Yukon Gold potatoes, and the eggs cracked on top turned into a mess resembling a rubber tire. I'm not sure I could have told the difference between the two.

I probably seem a little cracked myself, putting eggs on a pizza, but I promise other people do it. In fancy places. Only, they do it in a supah hot oven where the crust can cook up in a just a few minutes and the egg can stay soft and delightful. Oh well.

Perhaps this failure is what has kept me from posting something new recently, but I can assure you I've still been busy with food. I've even taken pictures when I had the self-control to keep myself from chowing down right away.

So here we have some beet greens. Well, really, lots of beet stems with some leafy stuff thrown in. After stopping by the farmer's market I picked up a lovely bundle of beets -with the greens attached. Could they not have spared me the trouble of removing them, so I wouldn't have had to suffer the emotional trauma of throwing away something green and edible? Of course, I had to at least try to cook them up, so I threw them in a skillet with some garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. They tasted like bitter beets, but I did manage to eat most of them - probably because of what I learned reading Color Me Vegan (a total favorite by the way).  Were you aware that greens are such a storagehouse of phytonutrients because they encompass every other color? She explained it this way: think of the green tree leaves of summer compared to those in the fall - the green merely "covers" the colors, and nutrients, held within the other colors. I simply couldn't throw away my plate of carotenoids without a mental fight with myself.

Later in the week I whipped up a wonderful bean and kale ragu with a friend. Well, "whipped up" isn't exactly the right term, considering how long the kale simmers for, but I promise you it's worth it in the end - yummm! Cook it in some low-sodium vegetable broth for maximum flavor, and pair it with some crunchy whole-grain bread.

So a repeat on the pizza is a no, the beet greens, maybe, and the ragu, a definite. I won't count out the beet greens just yet, but next time I'll be sure to try them without the stems - I'll let you know how it goes!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

But what do you eat?

Invariably, once I tell someone about my dietary choice to not eat meat and many other animal products, the second thing asked is, "But what do you eat!?" (First is the necessary "I could never do that!" Which, by the way, you could.) To me, this question is as ridiculous as suggesting that I don't breathe or sleep. Why, I eat food - and lots of it. In fact, the longer I have been a vegetarian, the more open I became to trying delicious new foods that I never would have imagined eating before.

So with that said, I would like to introduce just a simple example of what I eat and what I look for in a meal. So no recipe today, because like any "regular" cook, it's often faster to use ingredients on hand and your own imagination rather than search for something suitable that already exists.

Without further ado, yesterday's lunch:

Indian Green Lentils and Onions on a bed of Spinach

This was simple to prepare, if not very quick. I simmered half a cup of organic green lentils for forty minutes or so, caramelizing half of a medium onion at the same time. When tender, I added some garam masala seasoning and combined the lentils and onions over a handful of spinach. Some sprinkled cubes of a local cheddar cheese on top finished the dish.

Would you believe this meal has over 20 grams of protein? That's roughly equivalent to the amount in a hamburger, yet rich in fiber and vegetable nutrients, and without the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol. Consider replacing just one meal a week to one focused solely on plant foods. Meatless Mondays, anyone? :)

Common criticism says that it's impossible to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet - this simply isn't true. By incorporating a source of protein into every meal, just as you likely did on any standard American diet, it is nearly impossible to suffer from a deficiency in protein. And your choices are endless! Seek out whole foods as much as possible; tempeh, edamame, lentils (there are at least brown, red, green, and French varieties!), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans of all sorts add variety to everyday meals. Paired with vegetables and fruits, these foods form the backbone of my diet.

On a separate note, I am particularly excited for dinner tomorrow - I'll give you a sneak peek: *Yukon Gold potatoes, onions, and tempeh crumbles on an olive oil-infused rosemary spelt-whole-wheat crust.* How's that for a long name? Heads up for pictures, and a recipe, soon!


Let's mix it up today:

Jerome's sister, Got Milk?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Nuggets

Finally - a real recipe! I had these tasty little nuggets for lunch today with some raspberries and leftover green beans. Not the ideal food combination, but each was wonderful in it's own way. Now I'm sure that some of you, despite the punny blog title, still have no clue what tempeh is - and I'll be honest, after describing it, I can already imagine the looks of dismay that will cross your face. But have faith!

In short, tempeh is a fermented soybean cake. You can normally purchase it in the same region of the store you would find tofu. Some have likened it to have a nutty taste, but personally I think it's all its own. Truth be told, the first time I had tempeh, I hated it. But as days passed, I craved the taste and went in for another try, only to be disappointed again. This cycle went on for quite a few recipes until I discovered that it's always delicious fried in lots and lots of oil, but that's a pretty poor way to jazz up a food with such nutritional prowess. So instead, I remained on the constant lookout for ways to impart flavor without the burden of excess fat - and I think this recipe does just that!

Tempeh Nuggets!

I'm sure when you look at the recipe you might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of spices that go into this dish, but thankfully they are all kitchen staples. My recommendation is to make a larger batch of it to keep in an old spice container after you've made it once and know how it suits your palate.

Here's how I made my larger batch, with a few alterations from the original:

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons evaporated cane juice sugar
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

just a portion of the spices involved

I find it unnecessary to simmer the tempeh for a full thirty minutes, a mere ten minutes of steaming or simmering should suffice, but don't skip this step - it cuts out any bitter flavor in the tempeh and plumps it up for pan-frying. I also used about half of the oil called for in the original recipe, to lighten it up a bit.

And great news! If you've read my last post, you know about my recent disappointment with my little cast iron skillet. I am happy to say she has redeemed herself with this recipe :) . Not one delightful nugget stuck to her surface. I couldn't be more proud.


Jerome in the winter

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cast Iron Catastrophe

You know that feeling when you spend tons of time preparing your children for a big test, or your employees for a vital presentation, and you let go and put your trust in the preparations you've made - just to find them fall through and result in catastrophe?

Well I don't.

But I imagine if I did, it would feel kind of like how I feel right now - burnt (-out emotionally) and hungry (for another chance at success). I must admit, however, that these feelings are currently more physical than emotional.

As I type this, I have but one useful finger on my right hand, the remainder holding a dripping icecube to the fingerpad of my index finger. Hence the burn in my life. The hunger results from the failure of my latest dinner attempt - a chickpea farinata that was anything but fair. And the recipient of the blame? My adorable six inch cast iron skillet that I spent the past days lovingly seasoning, only to have my chickpea pancake burn to the very surface.

To be fair, I can't put all the blame on the little skillet. After all, I pulled her out of a 450 degree oven with no more than a kitchen towel; I knew that chickpea flour tastes (to me) like rotten soap; I had no desire to spend a small fortune on linseed oil to create the slickest, strongest seasoning possible. I guess it isn't all the skillet's fault after all.

And as I'm sure you would do with your children or employees, I'll stick it out with her. We'll head back to the oven with another coat of oil, another good long bake, and an additional chance at success.

But first I'm going to eat.


a younger Jerome

Friday, June 3, 2011

Tuscan-Style Baked White Beans

I wish I could start out my first real blog post with a bang, but I must say this dish was just eh. Last night I was looking through a cookbook that had been on the shelf too long, the Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. Italian food is my sort of comfort food, the type of food I primarily lived off of before becoming vegetarian and exploring the food of other cultures out of necessity. (Don't we all wish we could live off bread and pasta? :) ) I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who eats a lot of eggs and cheese, but many recipes can be veganized as well or are already vegan.

Last night, as I glanced through for a lunch recipe for today, my heart became set on the Tuscan-Style Baked Cannelini Beans with Rosemary and Garlic. The instructions informed me that the dish would be done when a white sauce had formed around the beans, about one and a half hours. Mmmmm. Saucy beans.

Now, a white bean is a white bean, right? Wrong. Having no dried cannelini beans and no time to go shopping around for them (read: lazy), I set out some Great Northern Beans to soak overnight. I also substituted dried rosemary for the fresh rosemary called for in the recipe - why I thought I could get away with that when it's such a vital ingredient, I'm not sure. As I'm sure you can realize by now, the dish didn't turn out too great - the beans were dry and had an unpleasant texture, and little taste. Regardless, if you happen to have the book, I still think this would taste fantastic with the right ingredients - just learn from my mistake.

Baked Great Northern Beans
I paired the beans with some cooked-down spinach with added sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Nothing too exciting, but pictures are fun, soo...

 I think I'll make a simple white sauce for the remaining beans to make them a bit tastier leftover.

While I can't post the recipe for this meal (you'll just have to buy the book :) ), I will be certain to prepare recipes from online sources I can direct you to in the future, so I won't cruelly taunt your tastebuds without a chance for you to make it yourself.

And just because, Jerome:

Because who wouldn't love a cat this cool?


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why hi there!

Sharing food is fun - especially wholesome, vegetarian foods that nourish and taste wonderful. In my personal quest to expand my own cooking and baking horizons, I aim to spend this summer experimenting with new recipes and new foods. I encourage you to follow along and inspire your own tastebuds!

All of the recipes I make are vegetarian, and most frequently vegan as well (no animal meats or byproducts whatsoever). Of the non-vegan ingredients I use - eggs, cheese, and honey - all are local and come from animals treated lovingly and allowed to roam freely. I strive to buy organic whenever possible, for my own health and that of the Earth, and use no processed faux meats.

I'm looking forward to sharing my kitchen creations with you!