Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some More Recipes I Had Laying Around

I didn't get to finish posting the rest of that week I was posting recipes but I am sure you are still interested in the recipes anyway. I took pictures and everything so it would really be a waste if I didn't share. The rest of the week included 2 recipes that I think are rather tasty and interesting. First is:
Potato and Vegetable Blintzes with Mushroom Gravy and Jicima-Watercress Salad

This is not actually watercress in this picture. When I was shopping for the watercress, Whole Foods, (which is the only place I have found it here in NC) was out. I was pretty peeved because the salad really isn't as good without it. I settled for radish sprouts because you really need some kind of green with a kick/spice to it. But you use watercress if you can get your hands on it. I wasn't real happy with the radish sprouts and so I won't be improvising with that aspect again. I'll just be patient until I can find the watercress again.
Blintzes are a fancy name for crepes that you roll up in little packages and pan toast/fry to give them a bit of crispiness. This is adapted from my all time fav cookbook Veganomicon. I use a non-vegan crepe recipe because crepes are hard enough without complicating them by not using eggs. I don't have a whole lot of angst against eggs anyway so I don't feel bad about using them.
For the crepes you'll need:
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Coat a regular sized skillet with a little oil. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into the pan and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan. I won't lie. This is the tricky part and chances are you won't get it right on your first try but keep at it, you'll get better. The point is to make a nice thin layer that will cook through quickly so when you flip it, it's almost if not completely cooked. It should take less than a minute to set and when you flip it over ever so carefully you cook it another 10 seconds or less. You will want a nice thin and broad spatula for the flipping. Once it's set just turn the pan upside down over a plate to avoid handling it too much and having it break. Repeat this process for the rest of the batter. It makes somewhere between 7-10 crepes and you can just stack them on a plate and cover with saran wrap until you are ready to use. I usually make them earlier in the day and then just refrigerate them until I am ready to start dinner. They won't stick together and keep well.
For the filling:
one large or two medium baking potatoes chopped and boiled until tender
1/2 yellow, red, or orange pepper diced
1 small onion diced
1/2 pound mushrooms diced
salt and pepper to taste
Saute everything but the potatoes until tender. Add the potatoes and mash them up a bit to create a lumpy filling. Lay out a crepe and spoon about 1/4-1/3 cup of the filling into the middle of the crepe. Start rolling it up and folding in the sides as you roll to create a nice little package. It looks like this:

Do that with the remaining crepes. Brush a skillet with a little oil and heat to medium-high heat. Place the blintze, seam side down, onto the pan and fry it a couple minutes until it starts to brown. Carefully flip it over and do the same for the other side. Place the finished blintzes on a plate for serving.
The gravy:
2 cups veggie broth
1/4 cup flour
1 medium onion
10 ounces mushrooms
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cooking wine
Comine the 1/2 cup of the broth, wine, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and spices in a blender into a smooth but sorta chunky consistency. In a bowl combine the flour and remaining broth. Put the wine mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered about 10 minutes. Whisk in the flour/broth mixture. Stir until it starts to thicken and then set aside for serving.
Jicima Watercress Salad
Comine it all in a bowl
1/4 cup rice vinegar
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp chile oil (or more if you like it spicy)
2 Tbs soy sauce
3 Tbs sugar
1 tsp sesame oil

1 jicama diced julienne style
1 bunch watercress
1 ripe but not mushy avocado diced
1/2 small red onion sliced thinly
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
Toss to combine then pour the dressing over. This makes a lot of salad. I would recommend cutting it in half your first go round unless you are just serving a lot of people. You don't want a bunch of veggies covered in dressing leftover.

My second recipe is
Chimichurri Seitan Skewers

I served this with potatoes diced and boiled with a little butter and Lawry's Seasoned Salt. I am sure you can figure that one out.
For the skewers you will need to combine the following in a blender:
1 bunch of parsley leaves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
6-8 garlic cloves
red pepper flakes to taste
2 Tbs red onion diced
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1/8 cup packed cilantro
Cut up about 2 seitan patties into skewer-able peices. Do the same with a pepper, and get some whole mushrooms, and a red onion is good too. I have also used peices of red cabbage if I have some on hand. (Yep, there's that red cabbage again!) You can use whatever kind of veggies you like on a kebob. Coat all the veggie peices and the seitan in a bowl and refrigerate overnight or a couple of hours at least. When you are ready to eat skewer them all pretty-like on some metal skewers and arange them on a cookie sheet coated in cooking spray. Bake them about 25 minutes at 375 degrees or until the veggies reach your desired tenderness.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Top 10 Nutritional Boosters: Water

When I first started working at Wal-Mart at 16 years old I would get a Mountain Dew on each break. Most days during the week that was just one but on the weekend that was 2, sometimes 3 Mountain Dews. I look back on that with horror for what I was doing to my body. I rarely drank water because when I wasn't drinking Mountain Dew, it was sweet tea, or some other kind of sugary drink. I was ingesting an awful lot of sugar, caffeine, and tanic acid. None of those are any good for you and I imagine that I spent most of my time being dehydrated. I hardly ever buy soda now, even when I am out to eat. I actually have some Hansen's pomegranate soda in my fridge right now because I was in Charlotte last week and got to go to Trader Joes but that kind of thing rarely happens. Part of that came from realizing that getting anything other than water from a restaurant increases the price of your bill a lot and the other part came from just wanting to change my habits. I drink water almost exclusively and so do my husband and kids.

I feel like the benefits of water have been spelled out numerous times and that you already know about it. For me, drinking water has less to do with the benefits of water and more to do with avoiding the crap in sodas and other sugary drinks. I find that I just prefer it now. The other day while at Wal-Mart I thought, 'hmm, I think I'd like to treat myself to a soda' and so I bought an orange soda (my all time favorite flavor) but when I started drinking it I didn't enjoy it nearly enough to justify the cost and sugar. I would have thrown it out except that seemed wasteful. It's funny how when you avoid things that are bad for you, you start to dislike them, you don't have a taste for them. It becomes easier and easier to avoid them. That's how addiction works. You can be addicted to anything, not just cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol. Behaviors are also addicting and so is drinking soda and eating sugar. 

A few months ago I was driving by myself with the kids and it was several hours of driving and I was exhausted just trying to make it home. I thought I would stop and get something with caffeine in it to keep me going until I made it home. So I got a Mountain Dew and was on my way. I drank about 1/2 of it and started to feel the effects of the caffeine. Let me tell you, those of you who are caffeine addicts, it was not pleasant. Considering I used to drink Moutain Dew daily you would think I would have more tolerance for it. Not only did it make me feel almost nauseous, lightheaded and almost too dizzy it also tasted gross. I could literally taste the bitterness of the caffeine because there is so much of it in Mountain Dew. How grateful I was that I wasn't subjecting myself to these toxins regularly. I was so thankful for the testimony I have of the Word of Wisdom that councils us to avoid substances that can impair us and cause us to fall into addictive behavior. The caffeine did its intended job though and I was quite awake the rest of the drive. 

I suppose my point here is that water is a simple and cost effective means of improving one's health. It may seem boring and it may seem like you can't give up your daily soda but you can and you should. I get so sick of people saying things like "I just want to enjoy my life and eating what I want makes me happy." That is such a load of crap. That is your excuse for avoiding doing the right thing. If you can't do the right thing when it comes to taking care of your body, how will you ever handle the bigger things in life? Doing the right thing by your body brings happiness, it brings better understanding of God's essential truths and makes our minds more pliable to what he would have us know. Taking care of our body is one of many steps in mastering ourselves and proving to Him that we can be responsible with what He has given us.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Beya and the Birdie

I think it must be some kind of rite of passage as a child to find a baby bird fallen out of a nest. It occurred to me today that this must happen an awful lot for us humans to stumble across ailing birds multiple times in our life. This morning while putting some recycling out front I stepped right over a baby bird that was almost on the threshold of my front door. By baby, I mean obviously more of an adolescent but still downy in places indicating its youth. It looked rather distressed panting after a fashion and completely unwilling or unable to move away from me as I stooped down for a closer look.

I immediately took in its fragile nature and considered putting it out of its obvious misery. I wrestled with this thought for a while trying to determine how I could do it that wouldn't give me nightmares later on. I've read about twisting necks in order to end the life quickly and I honestly was having a hard time picturing myself doing that. I also thought about just squashing it under foot but even that made me wince at the thought of hearing/feeling its poor little bones crack. This might sound a little morbid to some but I was really struggling with what the right thing to do was and trying to find a way that I could end its life humanely. I decided I would simply let it be and see what happened. I noticed its body appeared intact and its mouth appeared a little bloody and I thought either it was bleeding internally or it had hurt its beak somehow which would mean its injury would be something it could probably get over.

So I put it in a box next to the door and then began to consider whether I should let my kids in on the secret. I realized if I did then I was going to have to keep my eye on them to make sure they wouldn't touch it or get too close or jostle it. Letting little kids have their way with animals when they don't understand their strength and being unable to empathize with how the creature feels is the epitome of inhumane in my book. I have seen some parents allow their kids to play with the family dog in ways that can certainly be considered abuse thinking that the kids are just being cute. It's irresponsible and unjust not to mention bad parenting to let kids believe that animals in any phylum are just for our enjoyment and their lives are not deserving of respect. Thinking of how I am always trying to impress on Novan and Beya the sanctity of life in all forms I decided I should take the opportunity to teach them how animals should be treated before they find a baby bird without me one day and have their way with it.

I should have known Novan's interest would last about 5 minutes before he got bored with it and went to find something else to do. He was intrigued of course that the bird was hurt and once I explained it wasn't alright to touch it or get it a blanket (as he said the bird looked cold and needed one) he seemed fine with it and went on his way. Beya, on the other hand, showed her nurturing nature in all its glory. She wanted to get it a blanket and then she wanted to get it some food. She asked to touch it of course but I explained the bird didn't feel well and touching it might hurt him. Once I explained that it probably had tried to fly and got separated from its nest and fell down away from its mommy she was in quite a bit of distress. I had gone inside to fold some laundry and she followed me and started crying. I couldn't get her to calm down enough to tell me what the matter was for a bit and finally I was able to make out "but we need to find his nest!" "he needs to go back to his mommy!" Poor thing. She was obviously pretty upset about it and I told her we had no way of knowing where his nest or his mommy was and that if she wanted to we could pray for the bird to get well enough to be able to fly back to his nest. She liked that idea and so she prayed with a little prompting and she seemed much happier.

After about 30 minutes I thought it would be a good idea to get it a cage at least until it started to look a little livelier otherwise I was going to have to keep checking on it to make sure Beya wasn't touching it. However while I was walking toward the front door with the cage I saw it lift off and fly away. Beya was pretty upset then as she was excited to be able to prepare a cage for it. I had to explain again to Beya that birds like to live in trees and that it was much happier and that Heavenly Father had answered her prayer that the bird had gotten well enough to fly back to its nest and to its mommy. I looked in one of the trees in the front yard and saw it perched there. I showed Beya where it was and explained that it was much happier in the trees and she seemed happy that she got to see it one last time.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What's for Dinner: Monday

well, Monday of a few weeks ago anyway.

Chinese Orzo Pasta Salad and Fried Wontons

I like orzo a lot. It seems like I am not really eating pasta and you can soak up more flavor it seems with orzo unlike other pastas. This salad is a loose adaptation from one out of my Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites vegetarian cookbook. The Moosewood series are probably my favorite vegetarian cookbooks that I have found. The low-fat version is especially good because there are a lot of grain based salads and less dairy options. Here is the recipe:
1 1/2 cups uncooked orzo
2 Tbs sesame oil
2-3 cups finely chopped red cabbage
2 finely chopped carrots
2 cups finely chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped or sliced almonds
chopped baby spinach (optional)
4 Tbs rice vinegar
3 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp Asian 5 spice powder (optional)
1-2 Tbs grated ginger root
2 large garlic cloves pressed (you may want to saute the garlic with the veggies to avoid the garlic "bite")
Please do not try to substitute any other vinegar for the rice. Rice vinegar is the most mild of any vinegar and tastes better too. I prefer it over any other. Plus, you can't get the right Asian flavor without it.

Cook the pasta to desired tenderness. Add the drained orzo to the dressing. In a large skillet combine all the veggies except the spinach and almonds with the sesame oil and saute until tender. Add the veggies to the pasta. Then stir in the spinach if using. Finally, top with the almonds.

Fried Wontons
I don't think there are many things you could put in a wonton that wouldn't taste good once you fried them. Brad is in love with my fried wontons but to be honest I don't make them that often as they are tedious to make. I usually make them ahead of time and then fry them up when it's time to eat.
1/3-1/2 package of wonton wrappers
1 package cream cheese
2 cups frozen spinach
2 Tbs worcestershire sauce
1/2-3/4 pound of seitan chopped finely (that's about two patties according to my seitan recipe)
Defrost and drain the spinach well. Combine all the ingredients for the filling. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling in each wonton wrapper and wrap it up pulling all the corners together and pinching to keep the filling from coming out while frying.

Do this over and over until all your filling is gone. This is the tedious part. yuck. Then you fry them in batches. In my fryer I set it about 375 degrees for about 4 minutes, until just golden brown. Set them to drain on a paper towel and serve with soy sauce for dipping.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Racing at the Speed of Life

I have been crazy busy. Like really super crazy busy. Perhaps you've noticed because my blog posts have been few and far between. I have some recipes to post and some nutritional advice to share with no time to do it. I was recently invited to join as a contributor for recipes and other food-related stuff and I haven't even had a chance to log into that blog and introduce myself. It's pretty rude of me but I just can't help it. Life sometimes rearranges your priorities temporarily.

I'll start with the mostly good stuff. I have been working in my garden frequently, trying to get all the weeds pulled and seeds and plants planted and it has taken a lot of my time. I am going to post pictures at some point and talk about my love for the garden and working outside but I just don't have time right now. I WILL though, sometime, soon.
We spent a lot of time trying to dig for our gutter drain pipes a few weeks ago. I worked at organizing the million and one tools and home repair items that have been sitting on my back porch for the last year so that I can start to feel like maybe I can use my porch for something more enjoyable.
I've been caulking. This is something I have put off because it's quite tedious and after having done SO much work to the house with my own two hands I took a break from it, a long break, thinking that when I felt like getting back into home improvement I would do the caulking.
Brad is leaving again on Friday for CA all weekend and I have several obligations to look forward to on Saturday. For one I have to go to Durham to pick up my order from Walton Feed. Apparently not enough people placed orders to warrant a truck comming to Winston or Greensboro to deliver. Hopefully I will have some time to squeeze in to go to a bridal shower and then I am babysitting that evening.
So that, and various administrative tasks have kept me detained these past two weeks and will continue to speed my life along.

Then, on Sunday, we got a phone call from Brad's Dad that his (Brad's) nephew Ryan was killed in a motorcycle accident. Ryan is younger than me but definitely in his 20's and I have only met him once. Still, him being my brother-in-law's son, it came as a shock of course. Furthermore, I can only imagine the pain that Brad's brother Mike, his wife Lora, and Ryan's mom Jan are going through right now. Then there's Ryan's sister Lindsey, Grandparents, and cousins. So many people who are now without this person in their lives. It sucks, and there are really no words, and nothing to say that will change the circumstances and make this easier. I can only pray for the Spirit to give them peace because really, that is the only relief I can imagine that would make a difference.

So we are headed to Pennsylvania on Wednesday for the funeral on Thursday. Then back home and dropping Brad at the airport on Friday. Then Saturday as I mentioned already. It's going to be quite a week. Sometimes life is that way though, you know? The more you have going on the faster it goes and you can't do anything but close your eyes, metaphorically of course, and race on hoping that there's some kind of relief in the near future.