Sunday, November 30, 2008

Meatless Monday: Falafel Pita

You know . . . sometimes, the best meals aren't elaborately orchestrated events involving complicated recipes that require trips to specialty food stores. Simple, quick, and inexpensive can be tasty and satisfying too. I know that's usually what I'm looking for when I throw together lunch most days.

Up until now, I've shared recipes that were mostly intended as dinner dishes and that require at least a little prep. Since Meatless Monday is all about going meatless all day though, I thought I'd mix things up a bit and offer some of my favorite ideas for simple meatless breakfast and lunch dishes too. This next one is one I really like for lunch.

Falafel Pita
It is often difficult to find decent falafel or hummus in a restaurant, so I was downright shocked to find absolutely delicious falafel and hummus in - of all places (!) - Costco. Yes, Costco! I know. The falafel comes in a two-pack by Veggie Patch and the hummus comes in a big ol' tub by Sabra. I freeze one pack of the falafel and my husband and I easily go through the other in a few days.

While the chickpea balls heat up nicely in a conventional oven, I slather some of the hummus inside a pita pocket and then add some freshed, diced tomatos and a leafy green like spinach or arugala. Once the falafel is done, you pop them in the pocket and voila! Yum!

Of course, some people will think this dish is chickpea overkill (since hummus and falafel are both made of it). If it's too much chickpea for you, you might consider making it with raita instead of hummus. (Trader Joe's makes a nice raita, or you can make it yourself easily enough.) Yes, you'll be mixing cuisine types - let yourself be a little creative, people! Experimenting is fun and the results can be fantastic (in the kitchen, too)! ;)

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meatless Monday: Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Spinach & Goat Cheese

As many of you ponder recipes for stuffing various types of birds this week for your Thanksgiving feast, I thought I would offer up a recipe for a different type of stuffed edible that is perfect for this time of year:

(Along with the recipe, this site also has a great little video of the whole process for making it.)

I've always loved stuffed mushrooms. In fact, one of the first things I ever cooked for my husband when we first started dating was stuffed mushrooms. The button variety make such a great, satisfying hors d'oeuvre because you can just pick one up with your fingers and pop it whole, just like a sushi roll, and just like the description I once saw on a sushi menu, "you will have heaven in mouth!" Of course, you should wait until they cool a bit before doing that . . . a warning my husband unfortunately disregarded when I served him one that first time. As his tongue came close to feeling like it would ignite and he oh-so-suavely spit the whole thing out into a napkin, he wondered if he'd ever be asked over for dinner again.

Of course, button mushrooms aren't the only kind you can stuff. Portobello mushrooms are also ideal for stuffing, as this recipe proves. It's a much nicer choice if you're looking for something to plate and serve as an appetizer. You lose the convenience of being able to pop it into your mouth whole, . . . but maybe that's better for some people anyway. ;) The variety of things with which you can stuff them is endless too. Naturally, I would suggest a recipe involving cheese. The goat cheese in this recipe complements the earthy flavors of the mushroom and walnuts remarkably well.

Bon appetit & Happy Thanksgiving!

Got any favorite vegetarian recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fitness File: My Health '401K' & the Holiday Crisis

It's been a while since I wrote a "Fitness File" post because, well, to be honest, I've been a shiftless slug the past couple of months. What's caused this? Crazy work load? Lack of motivation? Yes and, um, yes . . . because it certainly isn't because I love the complete lack of energy I seem to have all the time, and it definitely isn't a desire to see the squishiness around my midsection morph into a belt-camouflaging muffin top - the former being the current result and the latter being the imminent future result of my not exercising.

I've still been fencing off and on, and that's really great exercise . . . but doing it for a couple of hours on the occasional weekend isn't exactly going to counteract making short order of an entire 16-oz. bag of Trader Joe's Tempting Trail Mix over the course of just three days. People! It said "Tempting" right on the package! How was I to resist?

In all honesty, I'm not that upset with myself though. Why? Because, this time around, I think I started out with the right attitude. I acknowledged upfront that there would be ups and downs, progress and setbacks. Just because I've stumbled doesn't mean I'm down for the count. Granted, it's going to be quite the challenge with heavyweight hitters like Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner ready to land their TKOs, but I think I'll be okay if I continue to think about my investment in my health like an investment in a 401K and the upcoming holidays like the current financial crisis. Just because I don't see immediate results, doesn't mean I should stop investing. Just because the numbers don't seem to be going in the right direction at this very moment doesn't mean they won't. Things may improve slowly, but they will with time, and I'll be happy later in life that I weathered the setbacks and continued to invest when I could, even if it's not always a lot.

Other Fitness File Posts

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meatless Monday: Baked Goat Cheese & Roasted Winter Squash Over Garlicky Fettuccine

I have been known to say, "Put cheese on a pile of $h!t and I'll eat it." Am I proud of that statement? No. Is it true? You betcha. (Sorry if that last phrase caused any traumatic flashbacks to the presidential election campaign.) Okay, okay. It is a bit of an exaggeration, . . . but I do love me some cheese. One of my favorites? Goat cheese. It's just so tasty and so versatile. I love it hot, cold, spread on a piece of nice crusty bread, sprinkled throughout a salad, "in the rain, on a train" . . . and, in today's recipe - breaded, baked, and served on a bed of fettuccine!

Baked Goat Cheese & Roasted Winter Squash Over Garlicky Fettuccine

Recommendation: When a recipe calls for peppers, I typically like to roast them and take the skin off. The body doesn't digest pepper skins that well and the texture and flavor of the roasted pepper is just nicer anyway. Not sure how to get that pesky skin off? It's actually easier than you might think. Or, easier yet, you can pick up a jar of roasted and peeled red peppers at most any run-of-the-mill grocery store.

Got any favorite vegetarian recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday Posts

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"My Papa's Waltz"

I came across this poem by Theodore Roethke called "My Papa's Waltz" the other day on The Academy of Poets' website and couldn't help but think of my Pappy. It reminded me of a picture I have of him dancing with my cousin at his 50th anniversary party. And it also reminded me of sitting in his lap as a child and feeling his rough "whiskers" when I stole hugs and kisses. His face was often scruffy and he often smelled of wood shavings because he'd usually just come upstairs from his workshop in the basement when we came to visit. He was always tinkering with or building something. In fact, the house he lived in he built all by himself. And one of my prized possessions is a sturdy little stool he built for my mother.

When Pappy wasn't tinkering and building, he was typically puttering around town on his moped, out on his boat, or salvaging things from the dump (like the first bike I learned to ride). Easy to see where I get the penchant for all things aquatic and thrifty.

Pappy was sweet and silly with us grandchildren, often singing us short, funny little songs like "Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy wuzzy had not hair. Fuzzy wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?" My favorite is one that I can't do justice to in writing because the refrain involved snorting, razzing your tongue, and then saying "wheedle-ee-ay." We'd always beg him to sing it, and he always would. We'd plead "Faster! Faster!" and he'd sing it faster and faster until we were pretty much peeing our pants.

This same guy who was such a softy was also quite the tough, no-nonsense "man's man" too though. I remember a fishing accident in which a rather large, thick fishing hook went in one side of his thumb and out the other, straight through the nail. It wasn't as dramatic and life-threatening as the scene where John C. Reilly's character gets hooked and goes overboard in The Perfect Storm, but it was pretty gruesome nonetheless. My grandfather? He just grabbed a pair of wire cutters, clipped the hook end, took a deep breath, yanked it out, and stuck it in some hydrogen peroxide for a bit (that last part at my grandmother's stern behest). You know, mythic Chuck Norris-style. When he had appendicitis, he held off going to the hospital for way too long. When my family finally figured out something was wrong and brought him to the emergency room, my mother told the nurse that his appendix may have already burst. The nurse condescendingly told my mother, "Ohh dear, if his appendix had burst we'd know. He'd be screaming in pain right now." His appendix had burst.

Avoiding the doctor had nothing to do with being able to pay for the care. He had good health insurance. It was just that old-school machismo mixed with an earnest desire not to draw attention to himself or put anyone out. And, unfortunately, it was because of this that none of us really knew when he was suffering from cancer-related pain. He'd just grin and bear it. When it got really bad, he'd just go in the kitchen and take a belt of whiskey when no one was looking. When my grandmother would smell it on his breath later, she'd cluck at him annoyed. It wasn't until far too late that he was diagnosed. And we lost him.

It's twenty-three years later and I still miss him very much. Today is his birthday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fight the H8

To protest the recent results of the Proposition 8 vote in California (denying the rights of gays and lesbians to legally marry), the Human Rights Campaign is urging people to participate in a nationwide protest this Saturday, November 15 at their local city halls. To find out details about the protest happening near you and how you can participate, visit HRC's website.

"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. That ripple builds others. Those ripples - crossing each other from a million different centers of energy - build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and injustice." - Senator Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Goodreads - Compare Prices

I like Goodreads' site for lots of reasons - seeing what my friends are reading, reading book reviews, keeping track of books I want to read in the future, finding out about author readings in my area - and now this:

"Find the best book prices!
Does the global financial crisis have you down? Goodreads just made book buying so much smarter and cheaper. Now you can find the best price for a book with one click! Search for any title and then click "compare prices" on that book's page. We are working hard to help you find new, used, and collectible editions of the books you want. You can also prioritize your preferred booksellers!"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash Lasagna

Any chef would agree the best ingredients for your recipes are always the freshest ingredients, so trying to plan your meal menus according to whatever produce is in its peak season in your local area is usually a good idea. To the right here is a chart that shows the availability of fresh produce in California. (If you hunt around online, you should be able to find one of these for your vicinity too).

I know, my east coast friends, you're jealous - we're extremely lucky because so many fruits and vegetables are available fresh year-round. You'll notice that squash is one them. Even though I can pretty much get it any time I have a hankering for it, I tend to eat it more in the fall because it's something I associate with this time of year - particularly Thanksgiving. In the past, that's always meant mashed squash and squash pie, but in recent years, it's meant delicious pasta dishes too. For instance, this next dish . . .

Butternut Squash Lasagna

This is a great meal for entertaining because 1) you can make it ahead of time and 2) it's all contained in one dish. You just build the lasagna layers and put the dish in your refrigerator or freezer until you're ready to cook it. No big mess to clean up while you've got guests over. While it's baking, it doesn't require a lot of your attention either, so you can focus on more important things - like your friends and a tasty hot toddy! As a single-dish meal, it is easy to transport if you're invited to a potluck, seems to be toddler-friendly (our friends' one-year-old loved it), is really good as leftovers, keeps well in the freezer, and will clean your gutters for you. (Okay, maybe not that last part, . . . but it is pretty great.)

Got any favorite vegetarian recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday Posts

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

American Diabetes Month

Now that we're finally beyond November 4th and folks can fit thoughts in their heads that don't have to do with the presidential election again, I thought I'd post a quick note to remind everyone that November is American Diabetes Month.

The American Diabetes Association is a cause near and dear to my heart because my grandmother died of Diabetes complications nearly ten years ago. Her birthday was in November. Why should you care? Check out the ADA's website and see for yourself!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sweet Victory

Most people don't need any more encouragement to get out and vote, BUT . . . just in case you did -

Ben & Jerry's is offering free scoops tomorrow!

Visit their website to find a participating location near you.

I can't think of a better way to start celebrating an Obama victory early, can you?


Meatless Monday: Curried Lentil Soup

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm a big fan of soups - most anytime, but especially during the fall. Plenty of soups are hearty and can help warm you right up, but on those particularly blustery, chill-you-to-the-bone types of days, nothing hits the spot better than a soup with an extra punch in the heat department - spicy heat, that is. This next soup fits that bill.

Curried Lentil Soup

Recipe modifications I would recommend:
  • Use 6 cups of water (or, better yet, vegetable stock) instead of 7 cups.
  • Use twice as much curry (and this is a suggestion from someone who tends to be a big wimp when it comes to eating spicy foods).
  • Use a can of roasted diced tomatoes; it adds a nice smokey flavor that compliments the curry. BUT only use half as much as the recipe calls for.

Got any favorite vegetarian recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday Posts

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Brewery Art Walk - Nov. 1 - 2

I've mentioned the Brewery Art Walk on this blog once or twice before. Why? Because it's a great event. It takes place twice annually, in the spring and the fall, and this fall's event is happening this weekend. (Meant to blog about this sooner, but I've been pretty busy with work.)

It's a little overcast and rainy in many parts of L.A., but that shouldn't stop you from going and checking it out. The less than ideal weather might even be advantageous - a smaller crowd would mean that you won't have to park twelve blocks away or wait in lines to squeeze into the more popular studio spaces.