Your pathway to healthy food, ethics, beer, and how these things can (and should!) come together in daily life.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's been a long time...

Oh. My. Goodness. It's been a long time since I've written on here! So... What have I been up to lately?

Well, a decent amount. Job Searching (Fun! not really), belly dance class with my cousin (really fun), seeing an therapist who is helping me learn to take joy and pride in the process of life instead of just the results, dieting and going to the gym (and losing 12 #'s!), and finished up my garden!

Here's some good gardening pics:

Those zucchinis were HUGE!
My cherry tomatoes were as tall as me! The neighbors said they were the best on the block!
There are those monstrous zucchinis again!
I remember walking out to the garden one day after working about 5 days in a row. I didn't have time over those days tend to my garden, and to my amazement/horror, BOTH of these zucchinis were in there! they were about the size of my forearm.... Obviously smaller zucchinis are better, and this was INSANE, but it was fun to see how quickly these buggers grew!

My boyfriend and I also went up north this summer and had a lot of fun! We went to Tettegouche State Park and Palisade Head.
This is me at Palisade Head with a blueberry. This morning we had camped out on the beach on the lake and woke up to a beautiful sunrise. We drove up to Palisade Head after breakfast, ascended a narrow, one lane road that wound through a thick forest and climbed monstrous hills and slopes that bulged out of the side of the headland. Palisade Head is basically a giant rock that hangs out over Lake Superior. On this particular day, the hillsides were much warmer than the lake, and in the distance of this picture, you can see the dense fog over the lake. Gusts of wind brought the cool fog up onto the hillside, quietly bringing a refreshing relief from the oppressing heat.
It was absolutely breathtaking.

I also went to a Twins/Detroit Tigers Game at the new Twins Stadium. That was a fantastic experience! I loved the new stadium.
And my man and I both cut all of our hair off. He had dreds half way down his back, and my hair was about the same length, though normal...It was muuuuch longer before...
Well, I think that's all for now, but tomorrow I will have a new recipe for you!
Peace Out!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Tomato Tempeh and Pasta

Frantically searching through the fridge for dinner, I discovered that I only had a few slightly strange ingredients. What was I supposed to do with tempeh, sun-dried tomatoes and regular tomatoes, mustard, rosemary, and lemon? Though it sounds weird, this dish turned out to be fantastic.

So what exactly is Tempeh? To, it is an Indonesian food "made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form". To me, it's manna sent down by God himself, soft bean curds with a nutty taste. To my boyfriend, it's a weirdly-textured fermented soy bean cake. Okay, maybe to some it does have a weird texture. But when sliced and sauteed in butter, it's awesome.

So here's what went down:

I started off with a package of tempeh. Since this meal was only for me (read: would feed two normal people) I only sliced up about half of the tempeh.

Oh, look at all that bean-curdy goodness...

So I dumped all my tempeh in a cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter.

I also had some pasta going. I really like rotinis!!
Anyway, cook those babies until they're a little browned and remove them.
Chop 1/2 cup tomato, de-seeded, 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, either from oil or reconstituted with some vegetable stock, 2 cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon both thyme (I grabbed this from the garden) and rosemary and kosher salt to taste. We'll also use about 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard. You can obviously change up the proportions, but I was working with what I had. And I can only take so many sun dried tomatoes.

Add everybody to the skillet, except for the regular tomatoes. Let them saute for a minute, and add the tempeh and tomatoes.
Saute everyone together until the tomatoes and garlic are cooked through and soft. Serve atop some pasta with a little sprig of thyme, just for aesthetics.

Marley's watching somebody get pulled over. Oh, lyn-lake neighborhood, I love you almost as much as I love tempeh.

This could have probably fed two people, but I devoured it. Don't judge me. I have a lot of love for this wonderful soy bean cake...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Easy Mac 'n Cheesy with Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cherry Tomato

For the final speech of my college career, I am discussing healthy food habits and America. Through this speech, I assert that to spread the knowledge of healthy eating to the American population, changes need to be made on the National, Organizational, and individual levels. So, to end my speech with a fun twist, I decided to share with my class one of my favorite recipes: homemade mac 'n cheese. This is a healthy twist on a college staple, one that is MUCH tastier than the Blue Box... And doesn't take much longer at all!! I put a high priority on cooking skills, since I cook every day of my life. Cooking gives me a chance to relax, put my creative mind to work, and control exactly what I'm eating.

PS People who know how to cook a REAL meal are pretty hot!!!

Now you can make infinite variations on this dish, adding chorizo sausage, bell peppers, and jalapenos to make a Tex-Mex Mac, or Artichokes, spinach, red onion and feta for a Greek style Mac, pretty much the combinations are endless. All this takes is a little passion and excitement about learning something new!

This particular meal incorporates three of Michael Pollan's food policy guidelines from Food Rules:
1. Never eat anything advertised on TV
- this rule is meant to wean out processed food from your diet. Obviously, if Dairy Farmers of America a commercial, you can still eat cheese. Use your discretion
2. Eat Your Colors- A variety of colors in a dish means a variety of nutrients.
3. If it came from a Plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't- Once again, this is just taking processed food out of the equation.

So here's the main event!
Mac 'n Cheese with Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cherry Tomatoes

First off, start a pot of water boiling on the stove. When the water comes to a boil, start cooking the pasta. I usually use about 2/3 of a 1 lb. box of pasta. Pasta styles depend on your preference, you could either go with the traditional macaroni noodle, but I really like rotinis.

Start out with a cup each of Broccoli and Cauliflower. Cut into florets, or about bite-sized pieces. Put broccoli and cauliflower into microwave safe bowl.

Steam for about 2 1/2 minutes on high, or until a fork can pierce the stem of one of the veggies easily
Wash about 1/2 cup of Cherry Tomatoes. If you have extra large "grape" tomatoes, halve them. Add to cooked broccoli and cauliflower and set aside.
Now is the important part that takes a little bit of attention and skill. This next step involves making a Roux. A roux is basically a mixture of butter and flour, cooked together, and then the addition of a liquid to make a thick sauce. The flour acts as thickener, and the butter is used to cook out the floury taste. This particular roux will be a thinner one, so that the sauce can spread throughout the noodles but still thick enough to stick to them.

Don't let this cooking technique deter you. It doesn't take very long and it's pretty easy. It takes about 7-8 minutes to make and can be made while the noodles are cooking. Just to help y'all out a little, I'll break it down for you.
First, melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When the butter is completely melted, add 2 tablespoons flour. Immediately start whisking with a fork. Continue whisking for about 1 minute.
It's kinda hard to make a roux and take pictures at the same time.
It'll start to look like this after you've whisked it enough. I do not recommend walking away from this, you will most likely burn the roux.

Next, add 1 1/2 cups milk. Continue whisking to fully integrate the butter/flour mixture into the milk.
Keep stirring, bring milk to a boil, and it will eventually (3-4 minutes on medium-low heat) start to thicken up.
Now, add 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, or any other kind of mustard you like, to the sauce.
And then add 1 cup of shredded cheese.
You'll know this sauce is done when you the fork leaves a line in the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now, dump the pasta into a casserole dish. I always use a 9 inch round casserole dish.
Dump the veggies in with the noodles.
Mix the veggies into the noodles a little.
Now, add the cheese sauce.
Now, put 1 cup of cheese on top of the noodles and veggies.
I added a little salt and pepper, and a little Parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. It'll look like this....
Yeah, this was devoured pretty quickly. There wasn't even any for seconds!

Make cooking a priority in your life. It's fun, not too time consuming, and a lot better for your health!

Easy Mac 'n Cheesy with Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cherry Tomato

Cooking time: Est. 40 minutes

1 cup broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
2/3 lb. rotini pasta
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

Start water boiling, when water is at a boil, add pasta. Cook until al dente.

Microwave cauliflower and broccoli in a microwave safe bowl on high for 2 1/2 minutes or until stem is pierced easily with a fork. Add washed cherry tomatoes, set aside.

Melt butter in sauce pan. Whisk flour into butter, continue whisking as it cooks for 1 minute. Whisk in milk a little at a time. Bring to a boil. Continue whisking.

When milk/butter/flour mixture thickens up, add 1/2 the cheese, dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

Place pasta and veggies in 9 inch casserole dish. Mix pasta and veggies together. Add cheese sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Add salt, pepper, and parmesan to taste.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted, bubbly, and slightly brown.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Service industry in America

So I've been in the service industry, mostly hostessing and waiting tables, for about, mmmm, 4-5 years. I refuse to work in corporate-owned restaurants after my first job (disaster!) so now I only work in family owned restaurants. And let me tell you, without seeing the absolute worst treatment of servers (which occurs in corporate restaurants, unsurprisingly), I have some pretty horrific stories.

We'll just disregard what happened this weekend at work.

What I want to talk about is the treatment of service industry folks in the US. These people work long hours dealing directly with other people, do not get health insurance, and are rarely paid over minimum wage. I am obviously biased because I work in the industry, as do almost all of my friends and room mates, but just take a moment to think about all the work that these people do. Think of it in a Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club-esque way... these people wash your car, take care of children, prepare and serve your food, help you find things in the store, ... and guard you while you sleep! (I couldn't help it...)

The typical attitude that managers... and sadly, the ever present asshole customers (of course not all of them are...), hold is that the customer is ALWAYS right. Now, this is good business practice, but to a point. When your employees are barely being paid a living wage and have to deal with all of this anxiety, well, does this seem like a good way for people to live?

I'm starting to think that this is why people "go postal" and come to work "and then stalk from office to office with an Armalite AR-10 carbine gas-powered semi-automatic weapon, pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers." (sorry, I felt this reference really proved my point).

I just think we need to change the way we treat the service industry employees, I mean, they're the largest body of workers in the country, right? The problem is that Capitalism needs some party to externalize its costs to... and that goes to the service industry people. So that everyone can get cheap goods, the service people are treated horribly and hardly make any money.

So I am writing this post after talking to my favorite cousin about life in America. It seems like we have to go through a lot of crap to get to the all important "American Dream". This high anxiety, time-poor lifestyle we all endure seems to blind us from what is important. We want money, power, things... but at what cost? I, for one, am sick of selling lamb chops and beef kabobs. I am going to change this as soon as I can... and work in a job where people actually give their employees a voice.

Speaking of giving employees a voice, right now I am eating at "Hard Times Cafe", a restaurant that treats its employees right with healthcare and vacation time. It's an all vegetarian/vegan cafe, and I am enjoying one of my *favorite* sandwiches: the Tempeh Reuben. All you non vegetarians may scoff at tempeh (my man being one of them), but all you other veggies know what I'm talking about.
I ate half the sandwich before I realized I was going to take a picture of it. That's what Tempeh does to me.

*For anyone who doesn't know, tempeh is a fermented soybean cake. It's a little like tofu, with a much nuttier taste and a strange texture, which is kind of like softened soybeans. For those of us who can understand textures... its amazing.

So tip your servers right, only complain to managers when you really mean it, and take a moment to look at situations from the service industry employee's perspective: they take a lot of crap, and do the jobs that no one else wants to do. A lot of them are in this country illegally trying to make a living to support their families. They have the same dreams and ambitions as you at a deep level, and they're human beings. Shouldn't we all be treated with equal consideration and respect?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Why Ethics?

So obviously I am a philosophy student, I'm getting a minor in ethics. I think that ethics are really important to think about. Having an ethical framework helps you make decisions about moral things every day.

Every day?

Yep. Every single day. I think that just about everything we do has an impact on other people. If you sat in a closet all day, maybe you wouldn't need to think about ethical behavior, because you aren't in contact with others. Everything we do, buy a coffee, go to work, buy and read the newspaper, and especially, EAT, has far reaching implications that effect other people, animals, and the environment.

That's why cooking with ethical implications in mind is important. Eating is another thing we do EVERY DAY. So, as Michael Pollan would say, that's three votes a day with your fork. You could choose to conform to the status quo of the typical American: processed food, meat, added sugar, added fat, and chemical enhancers and sweeteners.

Or, if you don't like the fact that we dump all kinds of fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides into our fields and food (some which have the potential to cause cancer and disrupt ecosystems), or that both farmers and field laborers hardly make enough of a living to feed their families, or that our nation's waistlines are growing considerably (Mrs. Obama said 1 in 3 kids are obese or overweight) and the rates of diet related disease are skyrocketing, or that farm animals are treated as commodities instead of sentient beings....

These are the reasons I eat conscientiously. I eat mostly plants, which are mostly organic, and I do the best I can to buy local products, even though on a waitress' salary, it's kind of tough. When we get meat for my man, I insist on no hormone, preferably organic and local.

So keep your values in mind when you eat. If everyone did it, the world would be a different place.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Potato Curry, Raita, and Naan: An Indian Feast.

It has been ridiculously snowy this week, and I thought that it was prime time for some heat in the kitchen. And while, in retrospect, it would have been a smarter idea to turn the oven on, we made some pretty awesome potato curry. This recipe was from Practical Cooking: Vegetarian, my favorite cook book because of all the different interesting recipes it contains. From Thai Noodles to Veggie Wellington, these recipes are seriously amazing. I'll make sure try new ones, but I'll definitely give credit where it's due! So potato curry came from this cook book, the Raita recipe came from All Recipes, and we bought some Naan at the store.

The Raita is really creamy and kind of cleanses the palate between bites of the thick, spicy potato curry. If you don't like too much spice, just leave out some of the pepper.

Potato Curry and Raita with Naan

Like all the best dishes, start out with some potatoes.
Three to be exact.
Two Onions
For some reason, the cats LOVE smashing my groceries.
Three giant cloves of garlic, crushed
Four tomatoes...
1 cup Cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons cilantro
... and also 3/4 cup peas. I used canned.
Cut the Onion into quarters.
Crush the garlic
Cut the potatoes into equal pieces. Next time I make this, I will definitely cut these into smaller pieces. Like half the size of these. It took forever to cook... and I even nuked them in the microwave first!

Peel the tomatoes. I thought this step was ridiculous... but the result was great and apparently I'm pretty good at peeling tomatoes. I'm still toying with the idea of using stewed tomatoes next time.
Next, cut the tomatoes into quarters.

Now heat some vegetable oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or skillet. I used my trusty, not-so-rusty-anymore cast iron skillet.
Add the potatoes, onions, and crushed garlic, and fry, stirring frequently, over low heat for a couple minutes.
Add 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. ginger
Chilies... the recipe recommends 1 fresh chili but I used 3 dried ones.
But I really like spice.
The first on the left is garam masala, next is coriander, then cumin. The little container is ginger, then turmeric, and finally, a giant container of chillies.
Now fry for about a minute at low heat, stirring constantly.
Next add the cauliflower florets, tomatoes, peas, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and 1 and 1/4 cups stock (I just used water).
Cook this on a low heat for 30-40 minutes or until potatoes are cooked all the way through and but still tender.

This is gonna take a loooong time. Now it's time to make the Raita.

I kind of changed the recipe from to suit my liking.

start out with 2 cucumbers, and seed and chop them.

Don't worry. I was being very careful and I moved my hand right after the picture.
Next, seed and dice one tomato.
My peeler is pretty awesome.
Now add about 2 cloves of garlic, minced.

And add 2 cups of unsweetened yogurt and 1 tsp. cumin
Add salt and pepper to taste. Done with that!

This is taking forever.
Seriously, next time I will make smaller pieces.
It's so close to being done... I also made rice to go along with this meal, as you can see...
It's done!
It smelled so good!!!
Now I heated up the naan over the stove in a skillet so it was nice and pliable.

And serve the curry with cilantro as a garnish (or pretty much all over it) with some Raita and rice on the side with naan! I wish we had more.
I love how the cauliflower turned into this light yellowy color.