Archive for the 'cooking' Category

Recipe: Apple and Onion Pierogies

I used frozen pierogies, but if you know how to make your own, please do!  Then tell me how.  They’re pasta shells stuffed with potatoes and sometimes onions or cheese- tasty eastern european ravioli, basically.



An onion

1.5 or 2 apples

If your pierogies are frozen, boil them until they float then transfer them to a big frying pan.  If they’re fresh, congratulations, now cook them until they’re almost done, then stick them in the frying pan.  Chop up the apples and onions to roughly similar size.  Dump them in the frying pan with the pierogies, add a little olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil) to the pan to lubricate things, then turn it on medium heat, toss the ingredients so the oil distributes evenly, and let it fry a bit. toss every 30s or so again, to let the pierogies brown, but not too much.  You’re done when the peirogies are looking pretty good to you.

Eyeball the amounts of onions and apples you put in with the pierogies.  I used big thin slices of both, which I think added a lot to the flavor and texture.


Progress: It’s Been A While

Hey there!  I moved.  It took a while, because there was also a wedding and a class project in there too.  But the composter is humming away on my new balcony, my herbs are sitting in the window of my new kitchen, and I’ve got my very own separate gas and electricity bills are coming in, so pretty soon I can follow EcoCheap’s excellent example, and switch to wind power!

So, good start- I’ll post photos of the seedlings, which I expect any minute now.  I have checked three times in the past day- nothing yet.

Oh, also!  Biking to work?  I can, as soon as I mentally prepare myself to carry the bike down two flights every morning, then up the same stairs each night.  I’ll be in the weight room tomorrow morning, working on that part.  I imagine this will build me more character than muscle, really.

But the eating-my vegetables thing has been going really well.  I cooked a big vegetarian meal for the folks who came by to help me move- cheaper than pizza.  After the move, I’ve been living off of, well, cheese and crackers, but I’ve cooked two or three other big meals too.  I’ll post the recipe for my most recent tomorrow- pierogies with onions and apples.  Actually, that pretty much is the recipe, but I’ll flesh it out a bit for you, I guess.

The most important thing is, I haven’t purchased meat in a couple weeks.  And I still eat it when I eat out, and when other people cook, but I’m not missing it in my own food prep.  You can thank me later, environment!  Just make my plants grow.

New goals:  definitely gardening, this month.  I might also start harassing my apartment complex to working on the truly pitiful recycling options here.  They have three normal garbage bins for the hundreds of people who live in this complex, and they’re hidden in the back.  Now, I’d like them to fix a few things in my apartment before I get annoying, but maybe I can convince them to at least get recycling depositories in each building, or maybe even bins in each apartment!

Gonna dream big.

Vegetables I Have Known

Specifically, known this last week:

Tuesday: V baked sweet potatoes and steamed some broccoli.

Wednesday: Something tofu-full leftover from a Monday lunch at a Thai place.  There were a ton of vegetables.

Thursday: Vegetarian sushi for lunch.  It saves me both the “sustainable fish?” “raw fish from the work cafeteria?” worries.  I tossed a pepper and onion into the pasta for dinner.  The pepper was aging and a bit soft, but tasted way better fried in a little olive oil with a little sausage and onion.  I learned to not give up on odd-looking vegetables.

Friday: Oops.

Saturday: EcoCheap and his wife had people over for corned beef and cabbage, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day- cabbage!  And I liked it!  They cooked it with potatoes, carrots, and something else- but it was tasty as anything.  Thanks, guys!

Sunday: Is not over yet.  I remain hopeful, but it’s likely I’ll put off cooking anything- too tired to wait for the potatoes.

So far, not terrible.  I haven’t varied my vegetable consumption yet, and I’m still eating meat with most meals.  This is a much easier project when you have a cooking partner, and make enough for leftovers.  I packed lunch twice last week, which is a start.

In other news, I’m moving again.  Yeah, I know, every six months like clockwork, hunh?  I’m hoping this is the last for a long time.  It goes down Friday, so I might not have much time to cook from now to then, so it looks like a good week for raw veggies.  After that, I have a kitchen all to myself, so let the games begin.

I Wish This Was A Review

A thoughtful commenter on this blog tipped me off to Restaurant Eve earlier this year.  Not that it’s a secret, it’s got four stars from the Washington Post and was featured in Food & Wine magazine.  I was obviously too busy making myself (organic!) mac and cheese to pay attention, oops.

But now I know!  I know, and I desire.  This place is run by a lovely chef/manager couple, is named after one of their kids, and has lunch and dinner and prix fixe menus I’d like to drool on.  Topically, though, they buy local, cook seasonal, grow vegetables, and compost!  They even want to start selling you cooking oil for biofuels. Yeah, doesn’t it sound wonderful?

Anyway, this is not a review because it’s anniversary-after-you-win-the-lottery expensive.  They have a really inexpensive lunch menu, actually, but that’s only Monday-Friday, when I work.

I am saving up for you, Restaurant Eve.  I hope to dribble red wine on your organic cotton napkins one day soon.

Check out the profile on the place and their new garden in the Washington Post today.

Recipe: Potato Chunks and Cucumber Wheels

To wrap up the eat-vegetables-more month, here are two fast snacks I like to fall back on.

Salted Cucumbers

I will not sport with your intelligence by providing the ingredient list.  Peel the cucumbers, slice them into wheels (or logs if you’re feeling daring, but wheels are so lovely on a plate), and lightly salt them.  The taste is oddly refreshing.  Try different kinds of salt (The GF prefers Lawry’s Salt to just salt) and add slices of cheeses to mix it up.  Thinly sliced sharp cheddar, or chunks of something nutty like Parrano do very well.

It’s hard to not feel elegant whilst eating cucumber.

Baked Potato Chunks


Baking Potatoes (the big brown suckers)

Vegetable/Olive oil



Other Spices to taste- I tried out Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Something Or Another.  It was ok.

Wash the potatoes and poke fork holes in them.  Nuke them for 3-4 minutes (turn over at half-time) to precook them a little- not to edible consistency yet, though.  Cut the potato up into big rectangular chunks (or dinosaurs of Circles, whatever you like, just make them thick as a thumb, at least).  Stick chunks in a bowl or bag with oil oil and spices, jiggle them about until they’re evenly coated.  Put them on a baking sheet in an oven at about 300, and leave them alone until they brown.  This browning may take longer than you think, depending on pre-cooking time.  Cool, and eat.

Good for a light meal or fast side dish.

Recipe: Good Mustard Potato Salad

Potato salad is my favorite food, in my head.  I love it in a very specific, theoretical incarnation, and I haven’t found a source that makes it that way.  (How do I know how I like my potato salad then?  Maybe I was served the Right Kind when I was young once?  Maybe my brain’s chef took the mayonnaise and potato idea and whipped up an imaginary taste?)

Thanks to this month’s cooking challenge, I finally made the potato salad that I’ve coveted last night, and it’s every bit as wonderful as I was hoping.  It’s based around a spicy brown mustard and rosemary from my garden.  No dill or tarragon, though I know those are typical flavorings- I don’t like dill, and I had some awkward encounters with a tarragon-based soda in Russia, so I avoid that also.  The most important part of this is the mustard.  Don’t use that flavorless yellow junk: get a serious, tasty mustard.  I used a half-bottle of Gulden’s, which costs less than the yellow stuff and tastes ten times better.


small red potatoes, chopped to bite-size

onion, chopped small

good mustard





Wash and chop the potatoes, then set them to boil until they’re soft- don’t let them get to mashed potato consistency, unless you’re actually secretly hoping to make mashed potatoes instead.  Meanwhile, pick and wash some rosemary (or take out the bottle of it) and chop it and the onions up.  When the potatoes are ready, put them in a big bowl.  Cover them with enough mustard to get a thin coat on each potato.  Toss in the onions.  Add a small glop of mayonnaise, and stir around.  Toss in rosemary, salt, and pepper to taste.

I bet the mayo is optional, but even a little of it makes everything so creamy.


Who Is This Mark Bittman?

The first information I encountered about the toll of livestock production on the environment was written by Bittman, and he seems to be writing more about it these days, so he’s all sorts of timely for this month’s eat-less-meat goal.  He writes a weekly column called “The Minimalist” on cooking and food for the New York Times.  He also writes their blog “Bitten”, which is more foodieish, as far as I can tell.  He wrote “How To Cook Everything”, and he’s done other book and a few TV series on how to cook good food, easily. He’s not a chef, though: he’s a journalist, which accounts for his penchant to get into the politics of food. You can see his TED talk about the environmental impact of eating meat here (it starts playing as soon as the page loads, which is a bit annoying, but that’s why we invented “pause”).

In this week’s Minimalist column, he gives a list of ways to shift meat from dietary prominence.  The FDA guidelines recommend 4oz. of meat a day, and while some people think that’s high, people eat, on average, twice as much as that.   Some of his ideas to shift that pattern are pretty simple- buy less meat and more vegetables- and one is pretty important.  Think about your food differently.  Don’t think about what you’re going to eat with your meat, think about how you might add some meat to what you’re going to eat.  Have the baked potato for dinner, and if you want meat, put a little bacon on top.  Make beans or stir-fry, and throw in a little meat.  Sounds all sorts of obvious, but his reassurance that it can be done simply- and that you won’t die of protein deficiency, or whatever happens because of protein deficiency- is comforting reading.

For this month’s goal, I’ve developed my own strategies to eat less meat.  Mostly, these strategies involve pasta.  Sometimes I mix it up by buying frozen pasta.  But even I’m starting to get bored by a dearth of culinary adventures.  I’ve been very good about eating a small amount of meat, no more than once a day.  About once a week, I wind up eating no meat at all.  And I’ve probably used up my red meat for the month, since I had a little beef carpaccio at a restaurant the other day, and a little sausage last night, and I have no idea what was in that sausage.

But I haven’t been very good about investigating exciting new meatless ways of eating. I’m succeeding in letter, but not in spirit.  So, new rule:  once a week, I will cook something exciting, new, and vegetarian.


Progress: Activism

I haven’t attended any protests, or signed any petitions, or called my congressperson.  Yet.  That Climate Bill is before the Senate, and John Warner’s a sponsor- but the bill’s pretty weak, not going to go anywhere, and Warner’s retiring this year anyway (go go new Warner!).  So, no federal agitation here for now.  But I’ve been better about local stuff.  I now know who the mayor of Alexandria is, for instance, and I think I could recognize a couple of the members of the Environmental Planning Commission.  I’ll stay involved with the Eco-City planning.  And I’m on the lookout for local activities and organizations that advocate things.  I’d like to check out a CCAN meeting, if they have them. 

I’ve been looking for other local sustainability/earthluv blogs, too, and you’ve seen the new links go up.  The Green Miles is particularly close and topical- he’s over in Arlington, blogging the good fight.  If you know of any other region-specific pages I haven’t found yet, I’d love a link.

So, I didn’t become a serious activist this month.  But I’ve got an inkling of what kinds of activism I’d like to engage in, and a better understanding of who around here is setting a good example.  Fortunately, I’ve got the rest of my life to build on my tiny foundation, and eventually I’ll be waving signs and writing to the editor like the best of them.  And of course, voting Really Hard.

This month has been very effective in giving me a sense of shared place, though.  I’ve lived in Alexandria for two years, but I’ve felt like a squatter.  I work here, I go to school here, and I’m planning to go to graduate school here.  I’m hoping to buy a little place someday.  But only in the past month have I considered seriously taking root, connecting to Alexandria actively, and being that engaged citizen that the Founders were so on about.  Not that the Founders were huge fans of the concept of landless females as citizens, but as the world turns and all.

So I’ve at least wrapped my head around being an active member of the community, and that’s all right for now.  Maybe I’ll find a petition to sign soon.

For June, I’m going to get serious about eating less meat.  I’ve discussed it before, and I’ve made my rules: meat once a day, and red meat twice a month.  Last month, I was good about having meat once a day, but I broke the red meat twice a month rule.  I mean to say, I deliciously broke the red meat twice a month rule at a Memorial Day cookout.  And there was one iffy day, when I had seafood at lunch and chicken for dinner.  I’m not going to worry about seafood right now, though- I rarely eat it to begin with- and it’s got a whole different set of sustainability issues I need to examine carefully.

To kick off the month, here’s what I ate today:

Breakfast:  peanut butter sandwich

Lunch: Pasta with tomato sauce and some tofu fauxsage bits I was hoping to disguise the taste of

Late Lunch:  Ham Sandwich (with lots of vegetables and mustard), because I didn’t finish the pasta- tofu was not disguised well.

Dinner: Peanut butter sandwich, apple, cookies

Oh, goodness.  It would appear that records of my eating habits are most likely to make me appalled at myself, and to worry my mother.  Here’s hoping the month gets better.


Recipe: Potatoes and Peas in a Delicious Sauce

I am not a vegetarian.  I do not know anything about “vegetarian cooking”, except you can’t use meat.  But I’m trying to eat less flesh, and I’m trying to figure out how to make it simple, because I don’t like to spend time cooking even delicious, meaty foods.  So here are my more successful experiments at creating stupidly easy, tasty vegetarian dishes.

All the recipes in this series will be tested, however sloppily, in my own kitchen, and will require fairly easy-to-find ingredients, taste pretty good, scale easily, pack as lunches well, and reqire minimal effort to throw together.

Potatoes and Peas in a Delicious Sauce


2 medium potatoes

1 bag frozen peas (or unfrozen, whatever)

1 jar Korma Sauce (or other spicy sauce.  I got my Korma sauce from Whole Foods, but you may have a local Indian grocery or just another favorite spicyish, creamy sauce.  Try what you like, I’m no Food Fuehrer.)

Wash the potatoes and cut them into bite-size chunks.  Dump chunks into a frying pan.  Dump peas into the frying pan until the proportion of peas to potatoes look delicious to you.  If you’re using canned peas, drain them first.  Dump the sauce onto the veggies until all the veggies have sauce on them- mix while you’re dumping, so you don’t add too much.  Add some water to the pan- enough the cover the bottom, at least.  It should say to do this on the side of the Korma jar.  Turn on the heat to medium, and cover the pan.  Let everything simmer until the potatoes are soft.  While it’s simmering, continue to stir the food so nothing sticks to the pan, and add water if it all boils away so none of the veggies burn.  If you can mush a potato chunk with your stirrer, it’s done.

You’ll have time to do some dishes or futz around while it’s simmering, also, which is good for me, since I like to read while I cook.  I’m not a good cook, did I mention?  And if you use frozen peas, the mix might need to sit for a day or so for the delicious sauce taste to blend with the peas.

Enjoy, and let me know what kind of spin you’d like to put on it.  A different sauce?  Different vegetables?  Let me know how to make it better.


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