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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Well, well, well....


Skating at Yosemite Posted by Hello

This month has flown by - and actually I've been doing a lot of cooking and entertaining. Just haven't had time to sit down and think or write about any of it.

We went to Yosemite last weekend and had a great time. Ate way too much, played in the snow, watched tv. Perfect way to spend the long weekend. We went ice skating at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. I was feeling every one of my 41 years by the time we got off the ice but it was fun. I even remembered how to do a spin and my daughter took video of it with her digital camera. And then showed her friends at school. I hope she enjoys the military school we are sending her to.

Actually she is leaving tomorrow - for Reno not military school - her bass group is performing at the American String Teachers Association national conference. I'm so grateful I didn't sign up to chaperone this trip and am so appreciative of the people who did. They are saints (or extremely easy going people who are hard-of-hearing).

I haven't really been grocery shopping since we got back. So, tonight we are going to have bean and cheese burritos - primarily because it's stuff we have on hand. I had tortillas in the freezer, dried beans in the pantry, salsa, guacamole, vegan monterey jack and sour cream in the fridge. Voila - dinner.

Here is my favorite recipe for pinto beans:

Drunken Beans for the crockpot
1 large white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 cups dried pinto beans, picked over (soaked in cold water at least 4 hours and up to 12, then drained - if you remember the night before, I rarely do and they turn out fine)
1 ½ quarts water plus additional if necessary
½ cup sliced pickled jalapeƱo chiles (I include some of the liquid too - makes it spicier)
a 12-ounce bottle dark Mexican beer such as Negra Modelo or Dos Equis
2 teaspoons salt plus ½ teaspoon if necessary

Dump it all in the crockpot and cook on high all day. Easy and good.

Off to help daughter pack...must confiscate skating video...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Milestones

So we've had a couple of milestones around here lately. My older daughter, who is 15 1/2, had her first date. It wasn't a car date - they met up at the movies and I gave them both a ride home afterward. I remember when my kids were little and I couldn't imagine ever letting them walk anywhere by themselves, or go to the mall with their friends and no chaperone. And dating? Well our policy was always "no dating until you're 21 and no sex until I'm dead." Of course this was always said in jest but I think there was a part of us that believed it wasn't such a bad idea. But alas, real life prevailed. I always tell them I can't control what they do when they aren't with me - all I can do is provide them with the tools and knowledge to make their own good decisions. So much easier said than done. sigh.

Since I'm trying to keep this blog on topic I'll bring it around to another recent milestone - one that has to do with food. My younger daughter recently said to me "Mom, I really like asparagus now." Let me tell you - that's a string of words I never thought I'd hear together (that, and "Arnold Schwarzenegger is now the Governor of California" but that's another story...). The kid is always asking for asparagus. I couldn't stand it when I was growing up but I also grew up in a household where vegetables were almost always boiled. Not steamed, not sauteed nor roasted but boiled. To death. I like to toss the asparagus with olive oil and line it up on a baking sheet (and being a Virgo it's always a very neat line - a little row of asparagus soldiers). Then I sprinkle it with garlic, sea salt and fresh ground pepper and pop it under the broiler.

Roasted vegetables are one of my favorite things in the world and here is one of my favorite recipes. I got it from a neighbor so I don't know who to credit but it is a good one:

Caramelized Roasted Vegetables.

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 russet potato, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 green zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
2 yellow zucchini or summer squash, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
1 eggplant, cubed, salted, allowed to drain for 30 minutes in a colander, and patted dry
1 head garlic, unpeeled and broken into cloves
2 yellow onions, cut into 8 wedges each
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into wedges
1 or more red bell peppers, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I don't use anywhere near this much!)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F. Arrange all the vegetables in 3 or more pans, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss the vegetables so that all of them are evenly coated. Break up 1 of the rosemary sprigs and distribute it over the vegetables, or sprinkle the dried rosemary over them. Roast until the vegetables are brown and tender (this will depend on your pan and the size and variety of the vegetables but probably an hour). Transfer to a large platter and serve immediately with a sprig of rosemary on top.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pizza Pizza

Last night we had pizza - pizzas that were at first viewed with skepticism by the kids but quickly consumed once they tried them. Pizza for vegetarians is easy - there are a ton of toppings that don't have meat. But vegan pizza is a little more difficult. While I'm not officially a vegan, my daughter is, so typically our household is a vegan one. When she first became vegan I tried all kinds of recipes for pizzas trying to find something that would replicate a regular cheese pizza. She'd never been a big pizza fan so the most adventurous she'd ever gotten was a regular pizza with tomato sauce and cheese. Occasionally some basil. What I've discovered since trying all these new pizzas is that her willingness to expand her horizons has increased a lot. Last night we had two different pizzas - one had caramelized onions, grilled pears (I used some balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan), homemade "faux feta" and vegan mozzarella cheese. One of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco is Scala's Bistro and they have a pizza on the menu very much like this one. Actually I've seen it on the menu a lot of places but this is the first place I ever tried it. The homemade version was quite a success:



The other pizza had sauteed mushrooms (cooked until they were golden then splashed with some balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper), sliced green olives and some veggie sausage that had been cooked and then crumbled. Instead of a red sauce I used a garden-herb salad dressing on both of them. Years ago I'd tried finding out what the "creamy garlic sauce" was that so many pizza restaurants use on their veggie pizzas and read somewhere that they use ranch dressing. It makes a nice change of pace from the usual pizza sauce. I use to always make my own pizza dough but since Trader Joe's now sells fresh pizza dough for 99 cents I take the easy way out and use theirs. I buy just one package though and make two pizzas with very thin crust. The vegan mozzarella I use is by a company called Follow Your Heart. There are many soy cheeses on the market but most of them contain casein which is a dairy product so they aren't vegan. I get people telling me all the time "but would your daughter know if you used something with an animal product in it?" and of course, I don't believe she would. But she is trusting me to help her stick to being vegan and I wouldn't feel very good about knowingly serving her something that wasn't vegan. I can well remember as a child eating something and then afterwards having someone tell me "did you like that? It had [insert name of something I didn't like here] in it. And you ate it. See, you must like it." All that does is make you suspicious, not grateful. Teenagers are suspicious enough.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Burgers and Fries



Thursday nights are usually soup or sandwich night in our household (and yes, every night does have some sort "theme" and no I don't have OCD it just helps me plan meals). We had awesome veggie burgers (Garden Burger "flame grilled" are the best), fries, baked beans and asparagus. I don't miss "real" burgers at all - after all it was always the stuff that went on top that I liked - avocado, pickles, onions, etc. And I really like the peace of mind of knowing what I'm eating. I mean, have you ever heard of Mad Tofu?

Speaking of...I had the privilege of meeting Howard Lyman, The Mad Cowboy, at a food festival last fall. This is the guy who was on Oprah Winfrey and was then sued by Texas ranchers under the "Texas Food Disparagement Act." He is quite a speaker. He told a funny story about his mother-in-law and her reaction to the fact that he and his wife had become vegan. She was complaining about having Thanksgiving at his house so he said "Come to our house for Thanksgiving and I promise you there will be turkey." So she shows up and looks in the oven - no turkey. Looks in the fridge - no turkey. Looks everywhere - no turkey. He takes her to the backyard and there, fully alive, is the turkey. He says to her "if you can kill it, I'll cook it." He ended with the quip "I'm happy to say that turkey is still alive. Unfortunately, so is my mother-in-law." Ba-da-bing. But he made a very good point. When it's sitting on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic wrap we really don't have to think much about it. Just because we don't have to doesn't mean we shouldn't. So if you're looking for the perfect gift for the person who has everything how about a turkey? My dad got one for his 82nd birthday (okay, just a picture of one) and loved it. Or at least he said he did. Maybe he was just being nice. Oh well, it's better than a tie.