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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vegetarian week

After buying tons of meat at Basha's (they were doing some mega sale, and we ended up getting it basically half off) I decided to do a vegetarian week. For the girls and hubby it was just for dinner, but for myself it would have been all week long. I started by making my own vegetable bouillon. Before you start writing me off as some crazy homemaker, it's easy! You toss veggies and some salt into a food processor (or in our case the vitamix blender) and just pulverize it! Mine ended up a lot less grainy than the ones I saw pictures of, but it was tasty. Next time I think I'm going to leave the cilantro out. Here's the recipe:

5 ounces / 150 g leeks, sliced and well-washed
7 ounces / 200g fennel bulb, chopped
7 ounces / 200g carrot, well scrubbed and chopped
3.5 ounces / 100 g celery
3.5 ounces / 100g celery root (celeriac), peeled and chopped
1 ounce / 30g sun-dried tomatoes
3.5 ounces / 100g shallots, peeled
3 medium garlic cloves
9 ounces / 250g fine grain sea salt
1.5 ounces / 40 g flat-leaf parsley, loosely chopped
2 ounces / 60g cilantro (coriander), loosely chopped

Place the first four ingredients in your food processor and pulse about twenty times. Add the next four ingredients, and pulse again. Add the salt, pulse some more. Then add the parsley and cilantro. You may need to scoop some of the chopped vegetables on top of the herbs, so they get chopped. Mine tended to want to stay on top of everything else, initially escaping the blades.

You should end up with a moist, loose paste of sorts. Keep 1/4th of it in a jar in the refrigerator for easy access in the coming days, and freeze the remaining 3/4 for use in the next month. Because of all the salt it barely solidifies making it easy to spoon directly from the freezer into the pot before boiling.

Start by using 1 teaspoon of bouillon per 1 cup (250 ml), and adjust from there based on your personal preference.
Makes roughly 3 1/2 cups.

I used the veggie bouillon to make Asian Vegetable Soup. Here's the recipe:

6 cups vegetable broth (I used 6 cups water and 6 tsp of the veggie bouillon)

2 cups bok choy, chopped
2 cups Chinese/Napa cabbage, chopped
4 oyster mushrooms, sliced thin (I used regular old button mushrooms)
2 cups scallions / green onions
8 ounce can of sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 red pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced (I probably did way more than 3, it's just not enough!)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I added these right before I would eat a bowl)

2 cups snow peas (I used frozen like the recipe maker suggested, and they were NOT stringed. Color me upset!)
1 cup fresh bean sprouts

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used reduced sodium soy sauce)

OPTIONAL BUT TIME-SAVING TIP Bring the vegetable broth (or water for bouillon) to a boil in an electric tea kettle or in the microwave while prepping the vegetables.

Collect all the vegetables except the snow peas and bean sprouts in a cold large pot or Dutch oven. When those vegetables are prepped, add the hot water, cover and bring to a boil on MEDIUM HIGH. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the bean sprouts and snow peas, cook another 5 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and cilantro.

(And I just want to say that this soup is so tasty, I can barely contain myself to just one bowl!)

Monday night we had "chicken" and broccoli stir-fry. The "chicken" was Morningstar Farms meal starters "chicken" strips. I used PETA's recipe for "beef" and broccoli stir-fry when I couldn't find the "steak" strips. The "chicken" is an interesting flavor, it's not bad. The texture is what did it in though, it's somewhere between chicken fat and chicken meat, and your mouth (and brain) are going, "WTF is this? Spit it out stupid, you shouldn't be eating it!) Served over brown rice, I didn't think it was too bad, but the hubby and kids hated it. Hubby flat out asked me to never make it again (and he usually plays nice when he doesn't care for something.) I liked the vegetables, so I think I might make a smaller batch for myself, and use tofu instead of the "chicken". Here's the recipe:

2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 lb. veggie beef strips (try Morningstar Farms Steak Strips)
1 small bunch broccoli
2 tsp. vegetable oil, divided
2 carrots, sliced diagonally 1/8-inch thick
1 bunch green onions
3/4 cup vegetable broth

• In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, cornstarch, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Whisk until combined.
• Toss in the veggie beef and let stand for 10 to 20 minutes.
• Cut the broccoli florets from the stem and slice the stems into 1/4-inch-thick pieces.
• Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 1 tsp. of the oil. When almost smoking, add the “beef” mixture and stir-fry for 1 minute. Remove from the wok. Add the remaining oil and the vegetables, stir-frying for 1 minute. Add the broth and cook, scraping the bottom, until the vegetables are tender.
• Return the “beef” to the wok and heat through.

Tuesday night we had veggie tacos. Using Morningstar Farms veggie crumbles, they were fantastic! I used the leftover brown rice from the night before, added a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and a can of drained and rinsed black beans as a side. Everyone was happy.

Wednesday night we had curried rice and lentils. Now, nutritionally, it's fantastic, but it looked like slop, and had texture issues. For the most part, I love when something is supposed to be soft, that it's soft. I don't really care for brownies with chocolate chips in them, I'm a brownie purist, but this recipe really could have done with some textural differences! The flavor was good (left out the onions), but it was too mushy. I think next time we'll cook it for a shorter time. Everyone liked the flavor, just not how mushy it was (and the fact that when it got cold, you could hold your fork up and it wouldn't slide down.) Here's the recipe:

1 cup long-grained rice
1 Tbsp. curry powder
3 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup lentils
3 vegetable bouillon cubes
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly sliced

• Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday we had black bean chili. When cooked, it looked like cat food, which wasn't very appetizing. The girls loved it though, Emily asked if I could make it every day. Kevin said the mushrooms really threw off the texture, and asked that I leave them out next time (which is better than Monday's, "Please don't ever make this again!") I used a red bell pepper instead of green, no jalapenos, and no onions. Here's the recipe:

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
450g mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 green chilli pepper or jalapeño, chopped
450g can black beans
450g can crushed tomatoes
50g textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Chilli powder and salt, to taste

• In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until the onions become soft.
• Add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes.
• Add the peppers and sauté for a few more minutes.
• Add the black beans, tomatoes, TVP, chilli powder and salt and simmer for 30 minutes.

Makes 6 Servings

On Friday I made sloppy lentils, a recipe that was shared with me by my friend Dedi. Everyone liked it, Kevin said it would probably be great for homemade pinto beans (which we have a TON of!) Here's the recipe:

2 cups water (the original recipe uses 3 cups, so notice the change for crockpot preparation!)
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
salt to taste (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
15 oz can diced tomatoes (drained), tomato sauce or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste, optional (as needed to thicken – especially if using tomato sauce)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
3 tablespoons rapadura, molasses, or honey
1 Tbsp white vinegar
salt and ground black pepper to taste
4 hamburger buns, split
cheddar cheese, grated (to top your lentils when serving)

Combine all your ingredients in the crockpot (besides the buns and cheese!). Turn on low and cook for approximately 5 hours, until lentils are tender and the mixture has thickened and absorbed most of the liquids. Serve on open faced hamburger buns and top with melted cheese, as desired.

Saturday we just ordered cheese pizza. Of course everyone loved that ;) I know it wasn't technically a whole week, but that's what we had for dinner. I ate mostly oatmeal for breakfast and the Asian soup for lunch.

Good Hair

I saw this documentary and I have to say I never knew so much work went into a black woman's hair to look the way that most black women have their hair. I have to say I look at hair a little differently. I wonder if some women look at my hair, usually pulled back into a ponytail, and think it's unfair that I have hair that they spend so much money on to get, and don't appreciate it? I remember when I was in elementary school, a black girl named Erica came up to me and started playing with my ponytail. She told me she thought I had nice hair and I didn't think anything of it, but shortly after I realized she'd put glue in my hair! At the time, I was upset, but not super upset. I had thought about doing it back to her, but decided against it, looking back now I'm glad I didn't because I suspect that act would have meant way more to her than it did to me (I just washed my hair in the sink in the bathroom and let it air dry, getting the glue out of her hair would have been a bit more labor intensive since her hair was relaxed.)

I have to say, I was pretty shocked by some of the things in the documentary. Relaxer in kids as young as 3, and then seeing the scientists show what relaxer can do to an aluminum can? Oh my stars! Also, the way weaves are attained? Devout, poor Indians going to temples and giving their hair up to their deity as a purging of vanity, only to have it sold by the temple so it could be processed into a weave. Poor being basically being robbed of a commodity they didn't even know they had! Men stealing hair from women, cutting it while they slept or watched movies. It's awful! Weaves on lay away and credit. It's so sad, you see fair trade products popping up, wonder if you'll ever see fair trade weaves?

That said, I was looking at Perez Hilton today and saw a video of Solange Knowles on Yo Gabba Gabba. She has no wig or weave on, and I'm not sure if she's just opted not to do that anymore or if she just didn't want to wear anything that day. The comments on it are disgusting! Saying she looks like a boy, that she looks ugly, one person said she looks "African"!!! WTF is that about? I don't care what anyone does to their hair, but I have to say, if she's made the decision to stop having wigs and weave, then I applaud her. She's a lovely woman. Tracie Thoms was in Good Hair talking about how revolutionary it is for her to leave her hair alone, the texture it comes out of her head. I don't know if you've seen her, but she's gorgeous! Here's a pic of Tracie (she was in "The Devil Wears Prada" as Lily, Andie's friend, and has a role on Cold Case.)

From the looks of the picture, she's braided it, but that's about it. I think she looks lovely!

Here's the link for the Solange Knowles video. You'll see what I mean about the comments.