Monday, July 25, 2011

A Bit of Wisdom

In describing how her life used to revolve around doing a Martha-Stewart-type holiday season, Emily Boller shared some wit and wisdom I should keep in mind as the school year approaches:

Overachievers need a lot of food to keep them going! 
I like to focus on 'being' now instead. It removes the overachieving insanity.

How about you?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Today's Salad

I have a mixing-bowl-sized salad almost every day for lunch, and though it's pretty similar most days, I try to make interesting variations.  In general I start with about the equivalent of a romaine heart in quantity of two or three different dark lettuces, then add a half cup to one-and-a-half cups chopped other vegetables, a cup of beans, and often a fruit of some sort, then I top it with a nut- or seed-based homemade salad dressing.  Here is today's:

Torn-up green leaf lettuce and romaine
Handful of broccoli slaw (convenience item)
snipped scallion
1/2 small bell pepper
1/3 chopped cucumber
1 cup rinsed canned black beans
chopped white-flesh nectarine
1/2 cup Creamy Asian Dressing

The ingredients are pretty specialized to my kitchen, but use it for inspiration from yours!

2 T. natural peanut butter solids*
2 T. roasted sesame seeds (the kind sold in big spice containers in Asian groceries -- equivalent tahini is fine)
1 clove garlic
flesh and zest from a small lime
1/2 to 1 tsp. soy sauce or equivalent
2 T. spiced peach preserves or chutney or similar sweet fruit concoction
about 1 cup warm water
(1 T. or to-taste amount of tarragon or other vinegar)

Blend all ingredients in Vita-Mix until the seeds are incorporated and smooth.  Taste and adjust ingredients as needed. This is the point at which I added the vinegar.  Makes about 1-1/2 cups, a half cup a good amount for a giant salad.

Verdict: Very Good.  The toasted sesame seeds and the preserves and the lime and vinegar as well as the garlic create that great marriage of flavors I like in a nut-based dressing--fresh, deep, peppery, and--this time--sweet.  I'm enjoying this whole salad as I create this post.

*The stuff left at the bottom of the jar when all the oil is gone, the stuff that won't spread and seems pretty useless. Use it for this!  Of course regular-consistency peanut butter would be fine, too.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cabbage Part 2

After the cabbage rolls (see last post), today I had the partly-cooked inner portion of my gorgeous giant green cabbage to work with, plus the fresh small red potatoes from the produce place. Vegans will have to think "veggie stock" when reading this recipe.  We loved it!


1 chopped onion
2 chopped stalks celery
1 large clove garlic, minced or mashed
1 small cabbage (or the inside of a giant one left over after making cabbage rolls), raw or blanched, roughly chopped
4 oz chopped mushrooms (optional)
4-8 plum-sized new potatoes, chopped bite-size
2 turnips, chopped (optional)
2 quarts quality stock (I used defatted chicken and turkey, but veggie stock is fine!)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
garlic powder and dehydrated onion flakes, if desired, and to taste
black pepper to taste
1-3 cups packed chopped or torn kale leaves
salt if you must

Dry- or water- or stock-saute the onion and celery until softened a bit, then add the garlic and cook a bit more, then dump in the cabbage, optional mushrooms, potatoes, and optional turnips as you get them chopped, topping off with the stock and enough water to cover all the veggies in the pot.  (Mine was up to the tippy-top of a 6.5-quart pot.) Add the fennel and some pepper and garlic powder and dried onion if desired, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 20 - 50 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, adding the kale near the end of cooking time, depending on how wilted or fully-cooked you like it, and correct seasoning.

Verdict: Excellent. It helps that I started with an excellent stock, and I confess that it had some salt in it, but I usually cook with no additional salt, and my tastes have acclimated to it--it happens!  The family loved this, too, and the cold leftovers smell great this morning.

I added turnips only because I had two completely dried-out ones in my onion bowl and wondered if I could rehydrate them -- worked great!  I fished them out of the pot near the end of cooking and snipped them up (still a bit tough) and added them back into the pot. Turnip greens could easily be substituted for the kale, and carrots would be another nice addition, but I wanted to have the green color more prominent.

I served this with a gorgeous fruit salad of watermelon chunks, black raspberries, blueberries, and chopped mango with a little squeeze of lime. Lovely.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Moosewood Mutation

Sometimes cooking is such a creative adventure!  This morning I accepted a friend's invitation to visit The Apple Castle in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, a local produce store that celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.  Even out of season their Melrose apples are excellent, and I got several interesting items to try, including Skinner's Vaporizing Salve and "No-Bite-Me," as well as some Three-Pepper Lemon hot sauce, pickles, licorice all-sorts, sorghum molasses, local dark honey, red potatoes, a few tomatoes, and a GORGEOUS giant green cabbage.  That cabbage was my inspiration for supper.

UPDATE: The "No-Bite-Me" doesn't seem to be very effective. I put some on before going out about 10 p.m. for some fireworks, and I swatted at least three mosquitoes from my arms in the first five minutes. Now perhaps the stuff slows them down so they're swattable?  I'm willing to try again . . . but as Lifehacker says, DEET is pretty much the only way to go.

I was thinking of a soup using the potatoes and cabbage, but then I came across "Stuffed Cabbage" in the 1992 Moosewood Cookbook. That recipe, p. 155, calls for ricotta cheese, so I decided to play with it a bit and try to use some leftover hummus and kidney beans, plus diced zucchini, to approximate the substance of ricotta for the filling.  I also wanted to cut down on the fat and left out the butter (for the veggie saute) and the 3/4 cup minced cashews (optional) in the original recipe, but I increased the carrot and celery.  I also reduced the soy sauce substantially. So this is a nutritarian improvement on what was originally a great recipe. (I seem to remember making it years ago.) If you need help with techniques, please refer to the original recipe.


1 large head green cabbage
1 medium onion,  chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, or combination
1-1/2 cups mashed beans (white are probably best--I had a combination of leftover dry hummus and kidney beans)
1 small apple, chopped
1/4 cup raisins or currants
juice of one lime or lemon
1-2 tsp soy sauce (or tamari)
fresh-ground black pepper

Core the cabbage and boil it for about 10 minutes in a big pot of water, then carefully pull off 12 of the outer leaves.  While the cabbage is boiling, prepare the filling:  dry-saute or water-saute the onion, celery, and carrot, then zucchini and garlic. When tender, add the seeds or nuts and the beans, then the apple, raisins, citrus juice, and soy sauce and pepper. Taste and correct the seasoning.

When the cabbage leaves are cooled (keep the remainder of the cabbage for another purpose), divide the filling into 12 portions and roll it up in the leaves, beginning at the base and folding in the sides, then place the rolled pieces into a 9x13 dish you have sprayed with cooking spray or a light smear of oil. Bake covered* at 325 for about 30 minutes.

*I forgot to cover them and they came out fine--plenty moist.

The original recipe calls for a cashew-ginger sauce (with honey, vinegar, and garlic, to make two cups) on top of the rolls. I substituted a similar sauce thrown together from an existing mustard-tahini sauce with the addition of maple syrup, ginger, and peanut butter, to make about a cup, and my husband said he'd prefer the cabbage rolls without the sauce, or with just a dab.

Verdict: Very Good.  I really enjoyed these and am thrilled I have leftovers for another day.  I think the mashed beans and zucchini replaced the ricotta very nicely, and I'm glad I left out the original recipe's honey and used half the amount of sauce called for. The filling seemed a little skimpy for the size of the leaves I had, but the final product is fine in proportions of cabbage and filling.  I did use a sauce but did not cover these while they baked, and I think I had mine in the oven shy of the 30 minutes, though they heated through nicely. Without sauce two of these equal 1/6 oz. nuts/seeds, 1/4 fruit, 1/4 cup beans, and about a cup of cooked veggies. You MIGHT want to try a traditional tomato sauce on these, but not too much, and probably sweetened with a date or raisins in the food processor.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Real-Life Survival and Celebration on Vacation

Hubby and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary (today!) last week with a wonderful trip to the Boston area. We had five full days of eating out in one form or another, and I thought I'd cover some things that worked well for me without mentioning too much about getting off-track from nutritarian eating.

In my carry-on I had two clementines, two apples, a sandwich bag of almonds, and a sandwich bag of several types of dried fruit, plus a small bag of green grapes.  When I returned I had one of the apples in the car on the way home from the airport, and the other is still withering in the bag.  We had the citrus the first day, and most of the grapes (discarded the others), and a few pieces of the nuts and dried fruit through the days.  I liked the feeling of knowing I had these things for when other choices weren't good ones.

We found a grocery the first evening and I bought some nice peaches and a box of Hodgson Mill muesli, plus some strawberries, I think, plus a little jar of peanut butter and I think some crackers to put it on (we had such a good time I've forgotten!). I also got sugar snap peas and carrots combined in a little bag, and I kept them on ice. Even without a fridge in our room we had a little coffee maker, and for breakfast three days I added hot water to a little muesli and a cut-up peach and was good to go for many hours. The fourth morning our hotel (Best Western Plus Plymouth) provided breakfast (and I was out of peaches), so I had their lovely untreated melon fruit bowl with a boiled egg and a slice of whole wheat toast.

Don't trust the waitress or the chef. In one family-type Italian restaurant I ordered a veggie-strong chicken dish (and it did have a lot of veggies) but asked that it be prepared with as little additional oil as possible. No go. It was covered with sauce (kind of a garlicky one, but not an Alfredo). On the other hand, at Sam Diego's Plymouth I ordered a vegetarian burrito and asked that they omit the cream cheese inside and the cheese on the outside, and the chef took the clue and also left off the sour cream, giving me extra guacamole, I think. A nice touch!

Fish is often the best choice in a restaurant, if you can get it without added oil or as little as possible for the recipe.  At Legal Sea Foods at Long Wharf in Boston I had a deliciously light luncheon-portion Cajun-spiced pollock with diced mango, pineapple, and jicama, alongside asparagus and some jasmine rice.   Yes, I noticed that Legal Sea Foods had a "vegetarian box," but I was at Long Wharf in Boston on the first day of my anniversary trip! :-)  At The Franklin Cape Ann (which we kind of stumbled into when another great restaurant we'd enjoyed 18 months ago seemed to have disappeared) we shared the amazing Grilled Asparagus Salad and I got the Pan Seared Atlantic Haddock.  Only now as I look at the website do I see that they have a vegetarian menu, too.  If I were visiting again, I might try anything on that menu (though skipping the mozzarella salad).  On the other hand, they have an English pea soup listed there with both crispy bacon and creme fraiche!  So perhaps they don't know what they're talking about when they say "vegetarian."  Probably my favorite find as a nutritarian from the sticks (and an hour from the nearest Whole Foods Market) was the WF directly next door to the Cambridge church we visited on Sunday morning, so I experienced the "Whole Paycheck" phenomenon with a big salad bar container that cost me $15!  I couldn't finish it, but it was delicious and about 95% nutritarian.  That was nice. Now that I've mentioned just about every other place we ate, I have to mention Rang Indian Bistro in Stoneham. Gorgeous, delicious food, including Aloo Tikka Chat for an appetizer, and I think I got the Dal Makhani.

I'm glad I'm not a "drinker."  Hubby and I shared a glass of wine at one dinner and a glass of sparkling wine at another, and we even had a first for us and each had a mixed drink in a hotel lounge one late afternoon. I'm glad to have enjoyed these drinks but also glad to have them be so special and not a routine part of life. I have enough challenges with other calorie options out there!  Weight Maven has a good post on this idea of specialness here.

My eating degenerates over the days of a trip.  I start with the best of intentions and practices, and the availability of amazing fun foods and the celebration mentality kind of get to me.  So I had a wrap (grilled veggies with some cheese) sandwich in the airport on the way home, and a donut from the airport Dunkin Donuts afterwards, then both a Diet Coke (my first of the trip!) and salty packaged snacks on the plane. My last hurrah, I guess.  The scale was up a few pounds the first day home, but I'm thankful that just a week later I'm down a pound from when I left.  I'm especially thankful that because I eat mostly nutritarian I didn't have a lot of detox to go through upon my return to nutritarian eating.

It was fun, but it's good to be home!  Our grocery stores (even in the sticks) are paradises of produce compared to what's "out there" on city streets and in restaurants and airports!

Salad Dressing Variation, Banana-Raspberry Soft Serve

With a giant salad my usual lunchtime centerpiece of the day, I like to find easy and delicious variations.  I keep coming back to a combination of a nut or seed or butter thereof, citrus juice, and garlic.  Today I made a new dressing inspired partly by "Hail to the Kale" in Chef A.J.'s and Julieanna Hever's video, linked here


2 dates
clove of garlic
2 oz. almonds
grape-sized piece of ginger
zest and flesh of half a small lime
1 to 1-1/2 cups water

Combine all ingredients and whirl them in the Vita-Mix. A 1/4-cup serving made with 1-1/2 cups water is 1/3 oz. nuts. 

Verdict: Excellent. Creamy and yet with full coverage of the salad when made with the larger amount of water suggested.  Is it strange that I like the garlic aftertaste?  I had this on a salad of artisan lettuces and green leaf lettuce, chopped cucumber, red bell pepper, and scallion, with 3/4 cup home-cooked pinto beans, and a fruit cup on the side.



We are blessed to have black raspberries growing on the side of an old barn adjacent to our property, and hubby and kids have gathered a couple of gallons of them so far, I think.  For Sunday dinner I made a coulis (1 pint raspberries, 3 T. sugar, 2 tsp. lemon juice blended in the blender and then pushed through a sieve) to serve on vanilla ice cream.  For me I just added to the coulis-coated blender container 1-1/2 bananas and a little water (and, I confess, a dollop of ice cream) to get the consistency right.  I got a beautifully rosy product very similar to soft-serve ice cream (or facsimile thereof) and every bit as satisfying as what the rest of the family were having.  That helps make nutritarian eating more workable.  (By the way, I think it would have worked better with more banana, as there wasn't enough to form up correctly around the blades, necessitating the water and possibly justifying the ice cream addition.)

Bananas are magic in the Vita-Mix.  With a chocolate craving last week I put a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder and a little instant decaf coffee into a quarter cup or so of hot water to dissolve, then added them into the blender with 1-1/2 bananas, for a completely satisfying dessert treat.

Verdict: Excellent on both of these, as well as a toasted-walnut variation I've tried in the past.