Archive for the 'vegetarian' Category

Recipe: Sweet Potatoes Without Marshmallows

I do not like marshmallows.  This kept me from sweet potatoes for years, since they were always buried under the goo.  My folks invaded my first apartment for Thanksgiving the year I was fresh out of school, though, so I got a chance to influence the meal.  This recipe is lifted straight from a good friend, who gave it to me when I realized I had no idea even what to do with sweet potatoes after all those marshmallows.


Sweet Potatoes, washed


Brown Sugar


Aluminum Foil

Find a baking pan big enough for your group (be sure to have enough potatoes to fill it).  Rub it with butter, sprinkle in some brown sugar.  Slice the sweet potatoes into discs, about 1/2 inch thick.  Cover the bottom of the pan with a lawyer of flat sweet potato discs.  Cover that layer with plenty of butter and brown sugar- I like “lots”.  Add a layer of sweet potato discs on top.  Cover the second layer with plenty of butter and brown sugar.  Repeat until the pan is full.  Add a bit more butter and sugar on top.  Pour a little water in the bottom of the pan (~1/4 in.) so the potatoes steam a bit, cover the pan with foil, and bake it at about 400 until they’re soft (this is probably more than 30 minutes).

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving recipe?

Progress: Eat Less Meat

I did alright this month.  I started off with a relatively poor diet and lazy cooking habits, and I ended the month a little more excited about cooking, and slightly more likely to eat my vegetables.  I had a little red meat twice, just as I planned, and stuck to eating meat at one meal a day, generally.  Sometimes visiting or lack of planning lead me to eat it more frequently, but there were plenty of vegetarian-only days, too.  Overall, I ate much less meat than last month, both by frequency and serving size.  I cooked much more, and I’m now in a pattern of planning vegetable-laden meals and plotting things to cook.

So it was a very good start for me, and I’ll be trying to keep up with it from now on.

A few strategies that helped:  First, I stopped by a grocery on the way home from work every few days and bought a few fresh vegetables, with no real plan for how to eat them.  This forced me to think of ways to eat things before they went bad.  Second, when I cooked, I made a ridiculous amount of whatever I was preparing, so that I could have vegetarian leftovers for a few days.  Third, if I cooked with meat, I shorted the ratio of meat to veggies- two peppers to one sausage, for instance.

For this next month, I’m going to focus on water issues.  Using too much, and putting gross stuff in, specifically.  It’s likely I’ll even be timing my showers.

Just so you know, shower time is very important for me.  Regulating it is going to be very difficult for me, and I am going to resent it.  But maybe with a timer and practice, I can balance the time and the relaxation.

For the next week, showering won’t even be much of an issue.  In WI, we bathe in the lake.  There is a shower, though- a tarp on a wooden frame, with a pump in a trash can of water.  We sunk a well (yes, by hand) a while back, so we can shower in pump water now- and with a few tea kettles of boiling water, it’s comfy.  Scrubbing under the pines!  It’s the best way to shower.  But prep time for carrying and heating the water is prohibitively long, so mostly we lake it, or rely on deodorant and breezes to keep us from smelling too human.

Considering how closely our fun and cleanliness are linked to the quality of water in the lake then, we’re careful about what we put in it.  I need to consider the toiletries I take up, and how well they’ll break down into non-harmful materials in the lake.  Same with toothpaste and dish soap up there- we discard it a few meters from the lake, so it all gets back there pretty quickly.  My showers and soap use should be similar at home, so here’s the toiletry rule:  if I wouldn’t want to stick it in the family lake (how would this shampoo effect that sunfish?), I’m not sticking it in my water at home.  I’ll fill you in on what those are when I get back.

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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