Friday, January 29, 2010

Blueberry Hot Toddy (Vegetarian)



INGREDIENTS
2 oz blueberry juice (or another real fruit juice)
2 oz brandy
1 tbsp honey (optional for vegans)
1 tsp lime juice

After having been away for work earlier this week, I caught a nasty cold on my return home. Yesterday was bad, and after much whining a Twitter friend (@CplPuni5hment) suggested I make a hot toddy. I've never had much luck with hot toddies. The recipes I've been given in the past involve a million ingredients, including some sort of crushed fruit, which only makes me angry when I attempt to drink the concoction and get slapped in the lip with some nastified half-mutilated raspberry. So this time I decided to replace the actual fruit with some fruit juice I had lying around!



QUICK & DIRTY
1. Place juice in a mug and microwave until very hot.
2. Add brandy, honey, and lime juice.
3. Stir.
4. Sip slowly to let the citrus and honey (if you used it) soothe your throat.

ROOKIE COOKIES
This is a simple enough recipe that you should be able to follow the quick and dirty instructions, however the one rookie mistake that could be made here is your microwaving the brandy - don't do that! A hot toddy includes alcohol, because the alcohol makes you relaxed and sleepy, but if you cook alcohol at too high a temperature, the alcohol evaporates. Don't worry about adding the brandy to a steaming hot beverage, just don't cook it itself.

TIPS & JUSTIFICATIONS
A hot toddy is supposed to be soothing - it's supposed to make you feel better, however it also makes you dehydrated because of the alcohol content, and dehydration will only make any cold you have worse. This isn't to say you can't drink one. Just use common sense and make sure you've drank plenty of liquids that day. Maybe to be extra sure you're not doing more harm than good, chug a glass of water after you've finished your toddy. That's what I did.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mister Pistol’s Party Poppers (Vegetarian)



INGREDIENTS
1 cup real mayonnaise
2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1 8-oz can black olives, sliced
2-3 tbsp onion, diced
1 loaf tiny rye bread (cocktail rye)

Ahhh… Mr. Pistol’s Party Poppers – they’ve got to be good with a name like that, right?! But who, you ask, is Mr. Pistol, and why does this gun-slinging mystery man make party poppers? These are all good questions, dear Watson! Why, Mr. Pistol is a friend of mine, my former roller derby bench coach, and husband of my former teammate, Pistol Whip. Confused? All you really need to know is that when there’s a party, Mr. Pistol does the cooking, because he’s the shit. Over the years I’ve asked him for several of his recipes, and although I got this one straight from the horse’s mouth, I think he may have held a little something back from me, because I swear his party poppers taste better than mine did!

I made this recipe last weekend for what turned out to be a devastating end-of-season playoff run for the Ravens. In doing so, I made the mixture at home and then brought it and the bread to bake at the party. So the Ravens played like shit – at least the food was good, right?













QUICK & DIRTY
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine mayo, cheese, olives, and onion. Place a tablespoon dollop of Mister Pistol’s mixture onto each slice of tiny rye. Bake for 15 minutes.

ROOKIE COOKIES
See Quick & Dirty, above, cause this is the EASIEST recipe ever – you don’t need to know how to cook to make it!

TIPS & JUSTIFICATIONS
Even though I got a TON of compliments on these little buggers, they didn’t come out exactly like they do when Mr. Pistol cooks them, as I mentioned above. Although I can’t really pinpoint why, I do suspect the consistency of the popper topping would have been better had it been mixed in a food processer. I, however, got frustrated when cleaning my food processor several years ago and threw the damn thing out, so I hand-mixed the popper topping. Oh, well.


Vegans, how does Vegenaise bake? Does it hold up? I think I’m gonna score some from my local health-food store, The Health Concern, and see how it does when warmed. Of course, you’d need veggie cheese too, but I know some good veggie cheese that melt better than others (Veggie Slices).

If you’re from Baltimore or ever in the area, look out for Mr. Pistol cruising the streets of Hampden with his and Pistol Whip’s new burrito truck. Word is they’ll be open after all other dining choices close. So before stumbling home, stumble to the burrito truck for some good treats – I even hear there will be vegetarian and vegan options available!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mexican Super Salad with Creamy Chipotle Vinaigrette (vegan)




SALAD INGREDIENTS
1 head romaine lettuce (about 9 oz)
8 ¾ oz corn, canned, drained
2 avocado
2-4 jalapenos
½ cucumber
½ red onion
1 tomato

SALAD DRESSING INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp Vegenaise (or regular mayo for the non-vegans)
½ tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cilantro
¼ tsp cumin
1 dried chipotle pepper, deseeded, finely diced

There’s a certain amount of predictability in life, and as a kid, one of the more predictable things in our house was what we would be eating for Sunday dinner. Unlike the tradition of many families to cook a huge meal on Sunday, I can only guess my dad saw Sunday evenings much like I do today: the beginning of the work week. For that reason, we always ate something simple on Sundays, and on many a Sunday evening I recall sitting in front of 60 Minutes and eating something my dad called the “super salad”. The super salad was always different, but the concept the same – it was a big-ass salad that filled you up just as much as pork chops and potatoes would. Today, I make a super salad once a month or so in the colder months and more often in the summer.

The inspiration for this super salad is a salad I often order at Chipotle. I love Chipotle for many reasons, but at the top of the list is their use of fresh organic vegetables that they prepare by hand daily (their meat is all hormone-free and free-range too!). At times, eating a burrito from Chipotle is like trying to eat a compact car – they’re huge! This is why when I go Chipotle I have them make a salad.

Though incredibly quick and easy to make, this salad is far from boring. Full of crunch and heat and spice, the avocado and creamy vinaigrette dressing with the smoky essence from the chipotle pepper work to cool down your palate just enough so you can take another bite.

Make this recipe on a night when you really wanna just order out or sit on the sofa with your hand in the cereal box. This salad’s delicious, nutritious, and you’ll be done making it so fast you’ll think you’re Speedy Gonzales.

QUICK AND DIRTY

Wash, dry, and chop romaine and place in a large salad bowl. Dice tomato, cucumber, and red onion and add to salad.

Top with sliced jalapeno, removing none, some, or all of the seeds to control the degree of heat you want in your salad.

Add drained corn, and top with avocado, sliced lengthwise.

For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and whisk until blended.



ROOKIE COOKIES

The difficulty in this salad is all about learning how to cut and prepare different types of fresh vegetables, something that you might not have learned how to do unless you’ve been in food service or really spent some time watching someone in the kitchen. Below I’ll explain how to prepare each vegetable for this salad, using different techniques.

Wash, dry, and chop romaine and place in a large salad bowl.

How to wash & chop lettuce:
There’s many different ways you can buy romaine lettuce – from its most natural form, a head of lettuce, to washed and trimmed hearts of romaine, to a bag of pre-cut and pre-washed romaine. IMO, bagged lettuce is cheating, but that’s just me ;)


When preparing “real” lettuce, you’re going to want to give it a wash and dry before cutting it. Why dry? Because if you don’t, your salad dressing won’t stick, it will be watered down, and the salad won’t keep even if sealed in the fridge because of the high moisture content (moisture breaks down organic material). To give your lettuce a proper wash, you can either:


1. Detach the leaves at the base, rinse under cold water, gently rubbing each leaf to dislodge dirt, and place in a salad spinner to dry; or
2. Detach the leaves at the base, dampen a clean towel, and gently wipe each leaf to rid it of dirt and debris. This method doesn’t require drying.


After washed and dried, chop the lettuce into 2-3” strips by grasping a whole handful of leaves (all facing the same direction) and beginning at the tip of the leaves. The tighter you grasp the lettuce, the easier and cleaner of a cut you will make through all the leaves.

Dice tomato, cucumber, and red onion and add to salad.

Prior to any cutting or dicing, rinse all vegetables under cold water and lightly scrub with a vegetable brush. Pat dry.


How to dice cucumber:
1. To dice a cucumber, first cut it in half lengthwise with a large chef’s knife. You should now have two halves that look like canoes.
2. Next, run your knife down the center of each half, again lengthwise, so the cucumber is cut into 4 quarters. If you want your slices smaller, do this again.
3. Reconstruct the cucumber (putting the pieces back together), and hold tightly while chopping width-wise into half-inch pieces.


How to dice tomato:
For this salad we’re going to use a single large tomato, but you could just as easily use grape tomatoes or sliced Roma tomatoes.


1. First, slice off the tomato stem and discard.
2. Next, slice the tomato in half width-wise (at what would be its equator).
3. Hold over a bowl or the trash and gently squeeze each half, removing the seeds and any extra liquid.
4. Holding your hand over the dome of one half of the tomato, slice the tomato from left to right into half-inch strips, keeping the slices together so even when sliced it forms a dome.
5. Then, repeat this slicing from top to bottom – your tomato is now diced in semi-uniform pieces.
6. Repeat horizontal and vertical slicing with the other half.


As you get more confident with this, you can also cut the tomato on its tropic of cancer and tropic of capricorn prior to cutting each half into strips. This will make your diced pieces even smaller.


How to dice onion:
Dicing an onion can be tricky at first but really satisfying once you get the hang of it:


1. First, with the peel intact, slice off the stem and make another similarly-sized slice at the opposite end of the onion. Discard.
2. Next, chop the onion in half lengthwise (your knife’s cut should connect both ends you just removed). Remove the peel (how easy was that?!).
3. With one half of the onion, place on chopping board so that the cut-off ends are to your left and right. Slice the onion from left to right into half-inch strips, keeping the slices together so even when sliced it forms a dome.
4. Then, repeat this slicing from top to bottom.
5. Repeat horizontal and vertical slicing with the other half.

Top with sliced jalapeno, removing none, some, or all of the seeds to control the degree of heat you want in your salad.

How to cut jalapeno:
1. Cut the stems off the jalapeno.
2. Cut each jalapeno width-wise into quarter-inch “rings”.

Add drained corn, and top with avocado, sliced lengthwise.

How to de-seed & slice avocado:
An avocado contains a large seed the size of a golf ball in the center of the most bulbous part of the fruit.


1. Remove the seed by slicing the avocado in half, length-wise. When your knife hits the pit, rotate the avocado to continue the cut all the way around the pit until you reach where you began the slice.
2. Hold each length-wise half in a hand, and twist the halves until they separate. The seed will remain in one half of the avocado.
3. To remove the seed, either use a spoon to scoop it out or slightly whack it with a sharp knife so that the blade becomes stuck and leverage the knife to twist the seed out. Discard the seed.
4. With a half on the cutting board (flesh-side up), make 3 lengthwise slices. Repeat with other half.
5. Gently remove the sliced flesh from the skin.



For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and whisk until blended.



TIPS & JUSTIFICATIONS

I love spice, and this salad is certainly a reflection of that. It’s been said that eating spicy foods is good for weight control. While some claim it raises the metabolism (I don’t know about all that), others indicate that the “full” signal is triggered faster when you eat spicy foods, which causes you to eat less volume and still be satisfied.

For me, it’s all about the combination of hot and cold. While I put all four jalapenos (with all their seeds) in this salad, I include the creamy dressing (instead of a typical vinaigrette) and avocado to cool down the spice. The addition of these two ingredients doesn’t really make the salad any less spicy, but the coolness of the ingredients tricks your taste buds into somehow being okay with it.

Avocado is one of my favorite fruits to use in salads! It has a creamy, buttery taste and is full of “good” fat. Before using an avocado, you’ll want to ensure the fruit is ripe. Under-ripe, an avocado will be very firm and have little taste. Over-ripe, the flesh of an avocado will start to turn from green to brown and be very mushy. To find out if your avocado is ripe, give it a gentle squeeze. When an avocado is ripe, you should be able to leave a slight indentation with your thumb, but the avocado should still be firm.

When buying an avocado, it’s more than likely not going to be ripe. Letting it sit in a fruit bowl for a few days should do the trick, or if you need it to ripen quicker (in a day), place it in a brown paper bag that’s been folded shut and place on the counter. Conversely, if you have a ripe avocado you’re not going to use for a few days, toss it on the fridge, where it should keep for up to a week.

While I wrote this recipe vegan, I actually ate it vegetarian – adding a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese. Adding these two ingredients makes me feel like I’m truly eating a burrito in salad form. Plus, I really could have gone with the seeds of two jalapenos instead of four (aye-yi-yi!), so the sour cream and cheese helped cool down the spice even more.




I hope you enjoy this super salad - olay!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baked Acorn Squash with Chipotle Rice & Beans (vegan)



Acorn squash has a nutty flavor that pairs wonderfully with the smoky flavor of the chipotle pepper, making this a perfect dish for winter.

INGREDIENTS
½ cup brown basmati rice
1 cup water
15 oz cooked black beans, drained
15 oz cooked garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
1 dried chipotle pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch sea salt
2 acorn squash
1 ½ tbsp EVOO
1tbsp raw granulated sugar
½ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

QUICK AND DIRTY

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine ½ cup brown basmati rice with 1 c water and ½ tbsp EVOO. Chop 1 dried chipotle pepper very fine and add to rice. Add 1 tsp cayenne pepper. Turn heat on high and bring to a boil. Stir, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 50 minutes. Set aside covered for 5-10 minutes.

Cut acorn squash in half and remove seeds. Brush with 1 tbsp EVOO. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp raw granulated sugar, and place in 450-degree oven – bake for 40 minutes. Remove, and cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

When squash is cool to the touch, scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Mash with the tiniest pinch of sea salt, and place in bottom of a baking dish.

Combine rice, black beans, and garbanzo beans. Spread over squash. Top with shredded coconut, and place in 350-degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until coconut is toasted but not burnt.

Remove and cool for 5 minutes before serving.



ROOKIE COOKIES

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

How to cook rice:

You don’t need a fancy Hello Kitty rice cooker to cook rice – it’s just as easy to prepare it on the stove, but there are a few things to keep in mind when cooking rice:

1. In general, the proportions for cooking most rice are 1 part rice to 2 parts water (or broth). If you want to end up with 1-1½ cups of rice, you will cook ½ cup rice in 1 cup liquid.

2. Always add a little fat, preferably EVOO, so the rice doesn’t stick to itself or the bottom of the pot (which will cause it to burn into a pot-shaped plastic-looking mess).

3. The most important thing to remember with cooking rice is that once you put the lid on the pot, don’t you dare take it off until the timer goes off! Removing the lid releases steam, which would have otherwise absorbed into your rice, making your rice hard – and if you remove the lid more than once accidentally, the rice simply won’t cook. DON’T TOUCH THE TRIM! And by “trim”, I mean lid.

Combine ½ cup brown basmati rice with 1 c water and ½ tbsp EVOO. Chop 1 dried chipotle pepper very fine and add to rice. Add 1 tsp cayenne pepper. Turn heat on high and bring to a boil. Stir, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 50 minutes. Set aside covered for 5-10 minutes.



How to prepare acorn squash:

Squash can be intimidating, but it’s a wonderfully fleshy vegetable that’s hearty and can be prepared many ways and take on many textures. When preparing to bake acorn squash, you need the right tools:

1. A large, sharp chef’s knife; and

2. A spoon

**Read this part first to learn how to cut squash, but perform the actions in the paragraph below this one first.** Squash is hard, and when attempting to cut a squash in half for the first time, you may swear you’ve stuck your knife into a rock. Instead of sawing back and forth, it’s easiest to wiggle the knife in the center (separating the squash horizontally) and then apply pressure downward in a swift motion to make a clean cut, separating the squash in half.

Prior to cutting the squash in half, you’re going to want to slice a thin amount of the squash off at each of pole so that when you are laying the halved squash on the baking sheet it sits still and doesn’t roll around (think of the stem as the North Pole).



When squash is cut, remove seeds with a spoon.



Cut acorn squash in half and remove seeds. Brush with 1 tbsp EVOO. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp raw granulated sugar, and place in 450-degree oven – bake for 40 minutes.



Remove, and cool on a rack for 10 minutes.



Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

When squash is cool to the touch, scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Mash with the tiniest pinch of sea salt, and place in bottom of a baking dish.



Combine rice, black beans, and garbanzo beans. Spread over squash. Top with shredded coconut, and place in 350-degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until coconut is toasted but not burnt.

Remove and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

TIPS & JUSTIFICATIONS
I’ve been playing around with several incarnations of this recipe for the past two years. The first incarnation of this recipe was stuffed acorn squash with black beans and rice that I made for Thanksgiving when I was hosting several vegetarians and a vegan. In that version, after baked, the squash is left intact, stuffed with a mixture of red beans and rice, and baked again.

This recipe is vegan as it’s listed, but it can be done in many different ways, including a favorite of mine where you swap out the current acorn “wash” (raw granulated sugar and EVOO) for butter and honey. Mmmm…

Acorn squash has a nutty flavor that pairs wonderfully with the smoky flavor of the chipotle pepper, making this a perfect dish for winter. You can also make this recipe without the chipotle pepper, or you can play around with different types of peppers. You can also try different types of squash. Be creative!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spinach Pie with Double Pale Ale Crust (vegetarian)

Oh, the holidays – how I both love and hate them. Eleven days off work were spent pigging out on home-made mac-n-cheese and Ghirardelli peppermint bark. After that, I knew I needed to get back on the wagon and prepare something healthy that I could eat from during my first (long) week back at work.

It’s been freakishly cold here in Baltimore this winter, so I was in the mood for something dense and hearty to eat for dinner – kinda like quiche, hot and filling, but less eggy. Tonight I finished the second to last piece of what I came up with: spinach pie.




PIE INGREDIENTS:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 10-oz bags fresh spinach
2 tablespoons Trader Joe’s Crushed Garlic (in a jar)
1 small yellow (cooking) onion
½ cup vegetable broth
½ cup sour cream
1 16-oz container low-fat ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

CRUST INGREDIENTS:
3 to 3 ½ cups all-purpose wheat flour
1 stick butter, melted (or ¼ cup ghee)
¼ bottle Flying Dog Double Dog beer

INSTRUCTIONS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the beer crust, add melted butter to flour. Slowly add enough beer to make dough that’s firm and somewhat dry. Roll the dough and place in a pie plate. Set aside.

To make the filling, add 2 tbsp EVOO to a wok or other large frying pan and turn heat to medium (I’m a sloppy bitch, so using a wok makes cleanup easier for me). Add chopped onion and garlic paste, sautéing until onion just turns clear and being careful not to burn garlic. Add several tablespoons veggie stock and cover with several handfuls of spinach. Using tongs, toss, turning over wilted spinach and adding more fresh spinach and enough veggie stock to create steam (which wilts the spinach) until both bags of spinach have been wilted and mixed will with the onions and garlic. Turn off heat and place spinach in a strainer, getting rid of the excess liquid (don’t smoosh the spinach – just allow the liquid to drain naturally).

Return spinach to the wok and add a pinch of salt and pepper, each. Fold in sour cream and ricotta cheese. Next, beat eggs and add to spinach mixture. Mix that thoroughly and place in pie crust. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, checking center of pie at 45 minutes and every 5 minutes after until a toothpick comes out clear.

Cool for 5 minutes before serving.



TIPS AND JUSTIFICATIONS:
Even without adding much veggie stock, wilted spinach can get watery, which is disastrous for a pie like this. I actually forgot to drain my spinach before adding the sour cream and cheese, so I added two handfuls of breadcrumbs to soak up some of the moisture while the pie cooked. I could have also added another egg in an attempt to hold the mixture together, but like I said earlier, I wasn’t looking to make spinach quiche – I was looking to make spinach pie.

I got the idea for this crust from my friend, John, who had me make something similar (with ghee) to be used as the dough for samosas we were preparing for his annual Indian dinner feast. Ghee is used in Indian cooking – it’s simply liquefied clarified butter. The hoppy flavor of the pale ale John had me add to the dough really brought out the flavor of the vegetables in the samosas, which gave me the idea to use it in this pie. Since my fridge is always stocked with Flying Dog, I grabbed one of their hoppiest brews: Double Dog – a double-the-hops dark pale ale. Flying Dog Ales is a mid-size brewery about 2 hours outside Baltimore. Not only are their beers amazingly flavorful and plastered in very cool Ralph Steadman art, but they’re also the exclusive beer sponsor of my roller derby league (for which I manage sponsorship). And since this pie was made with Flying Dog beer, I guess you could say this pie was made with the Gonzo spirit!

This pie should keep in the fridge, covered, for one week. Pies like this tend to absorb the flavors of other items in your fridge more than some other foods might, so be sure the pie is as airtight as possible to retain the integrity of the flavors.

Not only is spinach the third richest source for beta carotene, but it also contains many of the B vitamins that keep us ladies sane during PMS time, vitamin E, and vitamin K. And as if that isn’t enough of a reason to eat the green leafy stuff, maybe you’ll take a hint from a hot sailor: “I’m strong to the finish when I eats me spinach – I Popeye the sailor man!”

The Meat & Potatoes Vegetarian

My name is Tara (aka, Cindy Lop-her, OG rollergirl from Charm City). Playing a competitive sport as an adult has changed the way I think and feel about my body. It’s not just an outside reflection of who I am, but it’s also a machine for life, for laughter, and for love. Most people take better care of their car than they do themselves, and it’s not surprising given our upbringing. We live in a society of mass consumption, where we treat our bodies as poorly as we treat our credit scores (and where we check our credit scores more often than our health!).

After years of dieting, I gave up, and against what I thought was my better judgment at the time, I decided to sit down and look at food in a way I never had before. I’m part of the margarine generation - if it was labeled low-fat my parents bought it - yet fake spray butter scares the hell out of me. The only thing that seemed “right” to me (aka, the least detrimental to my quitting dieting) was eating whole foods and limiting my consumption of processed foods to one item per day. Surprisingly, I lost 20 pounds when I quit dieting. Go figure.

I love to cook. As a kid I grew up watching my dad make dinner every night, my mom asking him if he wrote down what he did this time so he’d remember to do it again, and him explaining once more how cooking’s an art and no two recipes should ever be followed twice. This daddy’s girl has followed in her father’s footsteps, and with an outright refusal to follow recipes, I’ve relied on my taste buds and instinct to create hundreds of delicious meals and dishes over the past 12 years.

Previously a whatevertarian, I’ve recently become disappointed with the quality meat and fish at all my local stores and markets, and I refuse to pay through the nose at those specialty grocers, so I thought I’d give more alternative sources of protein a whirl: beans and the like. This paired with my increased inability to ignore where my food comes from and how the animals are treated gave me the idea to challenge myself by learning to cook vegetarian or vegan (without my partner noticing or complaining he isn’t eating meat).

A die-hard meat and potatoes girl, I became frustrated with the vegetarian and vegan cookbooks at my local bookstores – the meals were either not substantive enough for my taste or the ingredients were impossible to find. This is when I decided I’d again say “Fuck it” to the manuals and take the principles of cooking I’ve learned through trial and error and apply them to making clean vegetarian or vegan meals, hence The Meat & Potatoes Vegetarian.

We live in a society that values fast over slow, quantity over quality, and now over later, and the results we get from living this lifestyle through food perpetuate the cycle of our wanting a quick fix that doesn’t exist. It’s time to get back to basics, people. Use your head and think about the consequences of your actions – they not only impact others and future generations, but they also impact your quality of life every minute of every day. What would you do if you had more energy? What dreams could you make a reality if you’re not always fixated on feeling like crap? What would you be free to do if you were satisfied with your body?

This blog combines my seething disgust with consumerism and my presence of mind with my love of cooking (and eating!). Every recipe I post on this site will be proprietary, in that I put the ingredients together because I thought they would taste good, not because I read that they should be put together from a book or the internet. Some dishes will be good, some will be bad. Such is life. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I’m sure I will, and I hope you can find the time and the presence of mind to do something good for yourself as well. LET’S EAT!