Posted in Room and Board

Holier Than Chow

Diet and nutrition have been elevated to a passion equal to that of religion.  People don’t just share recipes for fun anymore.  They share recipes the way they pass out propaganda listing the benefits of a virtuous life.  The recipes include organic, locally grown ingredients, with instructions for storing it in an environmentally friendly method.  Cooking anything else for your family will guilt you down to a loathsome, uncaring, gluttonous scum of the earth.

lunch bagBack when Mom packed my lunch she bought white bread, spread on Miracle Whip, slapped a piece of bologna in it, then packed it up with Fritos and a pop.  (Read “soda” if you live outside Minnesota.)

That’s right.  My bread was not whole grain, my sandwich spread had lots of ingredients she couldn’t pronounce, and the lunchmeat — well, we don’t want to know.  The sandwich sat in a brown paper bag until it’s internal temperature was 87 degrees.  But boy, was it good with those Fritos tucked between the doughy-white slabs of Wonderbread!  To top it off, the packaging all got tossed in the trash because there was no such thing as recycling.

I’m not saying I want to go back to that, but eating food was fun.  You had to go to church if you wanted to feel guilty.  Not anymore.  There are food priests among us, folks.  These are people with deep-rooted beliefs who feel that if you are not eating what they are eating, you are doing yourself — NAY! The WORLD a grave disservice.

It is the food priest’s mission in life to save your nutritional soul, and lead you (kicking and screaming) to health.  But wait!  There is no eternal life, here.  We’re all dying in the end.  The goal is to die as healthily as possible — perhaps biking to Whole Foods.

saladThe rite of worship is the meal.  It is in the planning, buying, preparation and consumption.  Oblivious to other shoppers, meditation of labels takes place smack in the center of each isle.  Children are indoctrinated in front of the bananas, blocking all access from other food clergy and heathen alike.  Trips to organic farms are carried out like pilgrimages to the holy land.  The meal is consumed in solemn reverence of the plants that sacrificed their life.

Yummm . . . animal secretions . . .
Yummm . . . animal secretions . . .

The food priest also hears confession.  They use scary phrases such as “animal secretions” as euphemisms for wholesome sounding ingredients like eggs, milk, and honey.  “Refined sugar” equals cookies and muffins.

MMmmm . . . FLESH!
MMmmm . . . FLESH!

“Flesh” is the definition for roast beef or turkey breast.  The cuisine of our mothers is smugly called “Comfort Food” like a poisonous secret.  Sins are encouraged to be confessed using these terms, the worst of which is pink slime, and punishable by up to a full month of liquid detox diet.

Unsought counseling is very often the first indication that you have encountered a food priest.  You may experience unwelcome scrutiny over your cheeseburger with grilled onions and fries.  The evangelist may laughingly toss out the nickname of “foodie” as if adding an “e” to a word makes it harmless.  Druggy.  Achey breaky.  Owie.

In severe cases, you may be required to refrain from eating food prepared in certain establishments.  If it is suggested that you discard of kitchen utensils that have ever touched prohibited edibles, it is very possible you have encountered an actual nutritional cult.  This is dangerous, as you may never enjoy eating again, leading to any of a multitude of eating disorders.

Ellen

Look, I’m glad we all have our religion, democracy, and plenty of nutritional models to choose from.  I’m not picking on anyone.  Personally, I tend to be nutritionally non-denominational.  I love my congregation, as we welcome vegans, ovo-lacto vegetarians, omnivores, Aktins followers, and anything in between.  We “pin” recipes, listen to each other rave about menus, and share samples.  When faced with a meal, we EAT it, ENJOY it, and share in each other’s company.  No one is moping, or preaching, or judging.

I try to do what I think is right for the world, my family, and my body . . . most of the time.  Admittedly, I sometimes feed my disposition (which is often a pepperoni pizza with chocolate chip cookies for dessert).  pepperoni pizzaHow very lucky for me that I have that choice.  You may choose to indulge in pomegranate.  Some people can only choose from rice or beans.  Some can choose from thirst or unclean water.  I’m pretty sure some would choose GM corn over starvation.

Which brings me to corn, and anyone who knows me well has heard me say, “Don’t get me started on corn!”  So yes, I know the sermon.  You’re preaching to the choir.  And sometimes the choir is fed up (literally).  I’m just asking the food priests to please stop trying to shove their communion down my throat.  If I want it, I know where to find it.

Posted in Fun

From the Watery Depths

diverThat feeling when the high-diver misses his mark, his body rotating juuuust a fraction of a degree too far, and his body contacts the surface of the water with an audible slap . . . you lean forward, willing him to surface . . . not daring to breathe . . . and he POPS out of the water with a wave, gifting you with a sigh of relief . . .

This is how I know you must feel upon seeing my post!  I am here waving and telling you I have emerged from:

  • Black Thursday (known to some as Thanksgiving), Black Friday, Cyber Monday
  • The germ-laden shopping crowds
  • The Apocalypse
  • The near-loss of my to-do list
  • Burning my left hand on the turkey roaster
  • Multiple high-fructose corn syrup crashes
  • Blunt trauma to the instep
  • Over-consumption of animal secretions

*If that isn’t enough, we remodeled the basement family room.  It wasn’t a huge renovation, but in involved paint, entertainment-center cables, and the blending of his and her decor.

I’d like to spend the next few posts elaborating on these points, gradually ascending the ladder to the bloggers 30-meter platform.  For now . . . APPLAUD! . . . I have broken the surface of my watery peril.  Waving, I smile, ready to dive in again.

*No animals were harmed in the making of this holiday. 

. . . oh wait . . . there was that 20-pound Honeysuckle White . .
Posted in Room and Board

Scandalous Black Bean Soup

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In my search to find the perfect black bean soup recipe, I ended up creating my own.  I have at least ten in my collection, but nothing was . . . quite right.  So it was a little less like this recipe, more like that one, OH! let’s add that . . and the next thing you know I had exactly what I was looking for.  Just in time for Autumn!  The weather channel is talking possible frost in St. Paul this week, but I’ll be warm and toasty, and yes — a little spicy with my black bean soup.

The next task, after creating a recipe, is coming up with a name.  Would you listen to me?  Suddenly I’m a how-to expert on creating recipes!  If you do a search on black bean soup you’re going to find a million options.  Try narrowing your search with spicy black bean soup.  You’re now down to half a million.  Ok, I didn’t really count.  The point is, I needed something to set it apart from the crowd.  Enter the thesaurus!  Synonyms for spicy came up as zesty, tasty, seasoned, blah, blah, blah . . . boring!  Working further down the list I found the word scandalous!  Perfect!

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For starters, I use the crock-pot to cook my beans, as touted in The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester.  The beans are rinsed, covered with water by a few inches, and cooked on low until they are done.  Kathy also mentions that beans can be frozen in 1-1/2 cup portions to use later in recipes that call for a can of beans.  Am I the only one who didn’t know all this?  This book has changed my life!

Scandalous Black Bean Soupdscn0535

1 T. Olive Oil
2 Stalk Celery, diced
1 large Onion, chopped
2 Carrot, diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Jalepeno Pepper, finely chopped
1/2 t. Chili Powder
1/4 t. Paprika
1/2 t. Cumin
1-1/2 t. Salt
3/4 t. Pepper
1 pound dry, cooked Black Beans
or 4 cans rinsed and drained Black Beans
1 can diced Tomatoes with Mild Green Chilies
2 c. Vegetable Broth
2 c. Whole Kernel Corn
2 Bay Leaves
2 T. Lime Juice
1/4 t. Cayenne
1 c. chopped Cilantro

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Heat olive oil in a stock pot.  Saute celery, onion, and carrot in the oil for 1 minute.  Add garlic, jalapeno pepper, chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.  Stir until well blended and heated through.

Add beans, tomatoes, vegetable broth, corn, and bay leaf.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove soup from heat, discard bay leaves.  Stir in lime juice, cayenne and cilantro.

If desired, serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, or fresh cilantro.  Of course you can lower the intensity by decreasing the amount of spices you add, but then you are serving up Spirited Black Bean Soup, or Lively Black Bean Soup.

dscn0559Serves 8

Calories 222, Fat 3 g, Carbs 39 g, Fiber 13 g, Pro 13 g

Posted in Room and Board

Seitan. The Other Non-Meat.

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Seitan

This was bound to happen.  Hang around me long enough and eventually I talk about food.  I made seitan (pronounced SAY-tahn) last weekend.  Prepared primarily from wheat flour, it really has little in common with bread.  Traditionally, the wheat dough is rinsed repeatedly until only the gluten is remaining.  It is a good source of protein and low in fat.  Like everything else, if you make it at home you have more control over what goes into it.

bookThe recipe I used is from The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester which calls for vital wheat gluten, and no rinsing is required.  The little dough patties are thrown into a broth and slow-cooked for a few hours.  Simple!  If you are looking for something similar, check out this post by Cathe’s Kitchen.

Because everyone seems to need a label these days, some call people like me flexitarians.  The seitan was made not out of a necessity for a meat alternative, but out of curiosity.  Generally speaking, I really don’t go for fake foods.  I never order chicken “nuggets.”  I don’t like “mock” crab.  I’m not keen on anything “I Can’t Believe It’s Not.”  When I go without meat for a meal it’s because I really prefer the taste of meatless menus.  In my opinion, stir fry doesn’t need meat.  Sandwiches or salads don’t need meat.  Chili doesn’t need meat.  Even burgers don’t need meat.  But if I want a real hamburger, I certainly will eat one.  And if I want crab, by golly I will eat crab and dunk it in real butter!

7888564968_ce51e7acdd1Last night I made nachos with my homemade “Chick’N Seitan.  I pulled out the little patty.  It looked eerily like a real cooked chicken breast.  I sliced it.  It sliced so much like a real chicken breast, that I almost forgot it wasn’t!

I sauteed the seitan with cayenne, cumin, chili powder and paprika and layered it with cheese on some really great tortilla chips.  All the other fixin’s were added, like peppers, onions, and jalapenos before melting the cheese in the microwave.  Lastly, I added shredded red lettuce leaves.7888563478_458a2372161

If I hadn’t been so hungry, I would have remembered to add black beans, corn and salsa.  It was all I could do to take these quick pictures before devouring it all!  I would have added tomatoes and avocados too, but I was fresh out.  I take my nachos seriously.

The verdict?  All in all, the nachos were tasty.  The seitan texture was curiously like chicken.  I still say nachos don’t need meat.  If I happen to want chicken nachos, I will probably make real chicken nachos in the future.

7888562498_f159b453e61Seitan might just be one of those things I have to get used to.  Like tofu.  I used to think of tofu as a meat substitute, and I’ve told you how I feel about substitute food.  But now I think of tofu as . . . TOFU!  I even crave it.  Maybe someday I will say, “You know I could really go for a nice big juicy piece of seitan right now!”