Try, try again.

June 12, 2009

We caved. Again. We went out to eat last night, too. June is really sticking it to us.

I worked from home this afternoon, which has many advantages, one of which is that I had time to do some really quick prep work for dinner on my lunch break. Another bonus? No 1/8 mile round trip to the bathroom. That can really start to wear on you if, like me, you drink approximately a gallon of water every hour or two. At home, I think I’d have to take a few laps around the outside of the house to get in 1/8 mile. And that would require getting off the couch.

Anyway, during lunch, I mixed up a quick marinade (1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil, garlic) for some sliced portobello mushrooms and put them in the refrigerator for a few hours. When it was time for dinner, I just seared them in a hot pan with a little more olive oil, and served them with quinoa and some double garlic swiss chard. Now I have room for more large-stemmed green vegetables, which is great because I saw some serious looking bok choy at the farmer’s market last Saturday, and I fully intend to get in on that action tomorrow.

this looks disturbingly like steak to me

this looks disturbingly like steak to me

the breakdown

.37 lbs portobello mushrooms @ $4.99/lb = $1.85
2/3 bunch swiss chard = $1.34
3/4 cup quinoa @ $4.43/lb = $1.66
and some pantry staples (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic)

grand total = $4.85

At 3 servings, this comes out at $1.62. Not bad. Not bad at all.


Grilling in

May 25, 2009

Even if Memorial Day wasn’t the unofficial start of summer, the fact that it was 88 degrees in our apartment at 7:00 this morning would have tipped me off to the change in seasons. Over the past few nights, I’ve learned my lesson about seasonally inappropriate cooking. First, it is not the most awesome idea to make a spinach ricotta quiche when it is 90+ in the kitchen, however delightful it ended up being.

And  then there was this black bean soup and sauteed asparagus with cilantro pesto and lime cream…

delicious, if ill-advised

delicious, if ill-advised

It’s just too hot for soup now. It’s time for me to get real with my menu planning.

Last night’s curried beans and greens were a little better, as they required only some stovetop simmering.

basically everything I like to eat in a single bowl.

basically everything I like to eat in a single bowl.

Tonight, in honor of the holiday, we grilled in. We don’t grill out because 1) we don’t have a grill, 2) we don’t have a yard or really even anything resembling one (as much as I’d love to call the alley next to us a yard, it’s just not realistic) and 3) I’m really more of an indoors person.

What we do have is the will to grill. Also, a grill pan, a stove, and a bulk bag of bamboo skewers. Bring it.

These were pretty basic extra firm tofu, pepper, and mushrooms skewers, marinated for a few hours in a mix of soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and sriracha. Apparently the reason I’m constantly disappointed by tofu is that I’ve been buying that silken stuff, which is the only kind they usually have at Dillon’s. When they have tofu at all. I got this at the coop and it’s like a new world of tofu. Substantial tofu. Now I know why restaurant tofu always tastes better than mine. Because it is.

on the grill

on the grill

In the grill pan over medium for 2 minutes or so per side.

all done

all done

And what’s a cook-in without slaw? I made a mix of broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, mixed bean sprouts, and a dressing of rice vinegar, honey, ginger, and oil.

and I never even had to leave the house.

and I never even had to leave the house.

Okay, I’m off to sit in the sweat lodge that is my living room.

Same difference

April 4, 2009

Have you ever noticed that 85% of the meals I cook look the same?

Be honest.

This is not an exception, but it still tasted pretty good.

Bengali-style black-eyed peas with mushrooms and rice

Bengali-style black-eyed peas with mushrooms and rice

I have no idea what makes this “Bengali-style,” but I’m assuming it was the spices. If you can’t tell from the yellow, I went a little turmeric-happy. Mostly because I wanted to balance out the ground cumin, which I accidentally dumped in the pot in a moment of confusion between the sifting side and the pouring side of the bottle. Oops. The recipe also called for cinnamon, which was an interesting addition. It warmed it up without spicing it up.

This was from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, the most recent Donna Klein (of PDQ fame) cookbook that I checked out from the library. For the first time ever, I actually preserved the vegan-ness of a vegan recipe, though it was only because cheese didn’t seem like it would taste right with it (I know) and I’m out of plain Greek yogurt, which would have been the perfect addition to balance out the spice overload.

I’m sorry for the lack of posting. I’ve been doing a horrible job of sticking to my “don’t eat out during the week” rule for the past few weeks. Or months.

Okay, time to focus my attention on basketball.

One pot, three meals, and reflections on a month of no meat

January 31, 2009

I love few things more than I do a one-pot meal. Considering that Matt is our designated dishwasher, I think this is a sign of my true and pure selflessness. I just want to make things easier on him.

Even better than a one-pot meal is a one-pot meal that I stretch out over three days. As was the case with this winner:

pasta and mushrooms marsala, Pretty Darn Quick style

pasta and mushrooms marsala, Pretty Darn Quick style

I’m really into this cookbook, in case you haven’t been paying attention. Now, I’ve never actually had a marsala dish of any kind, so I didn’t know what to expect beyond a pretty darn quick meal. And I got a little nervous while reading the recipe, which warns against using “cheap Marsala cooking wine found in most supermarkets,” as what I had in my hand at that moment was cheap Marsala cooking wine found in my supermarket. But I went with it because, hey, it was there. We can’t buy regular wine in the grocery store, so without dragging out my already overly complex weekly shopping trip, I went with cooking wine. And, guess what? It turned out fine.

More than fine, in fact. This meal was amazing and very rich-tasting, without actually being rich. Which means I was able to eat more. Which always scores points with me. I was especially a big fan of their method of cooking the pasta and mushrooms in just enough broth that it all got absorbed and there was no draining involved. This also helped the pasta get humongous, which is how I stretched it out for so many days. It also helped that Matt didn’t eat any of it until tonight.

And now for a lot of musing about meat

This little experiment was harder than I thought and easier than I thought. The easy part, which I’ll cover first, was finding good vegetarian recipes, trying new dishes, and keeping the grocery budget on the low side. The hard part was shifting my lifestyle. Duh, right, but I really thought that this would be easy since we don’t eat much meat to begin with. What I didn’t really consider was that I tend to cook with chicken broth several times a week, that I sometimes like turkey sandwiches for lunch, and that, oh yeah, I really like sushi and other varieties of seafood. And poultry. I do. And so, while meatless January was actually a great experience, and it’s not like I’m waiting for the clock to strike twelve so that I can scarf down a turkey burger, I’m just not sure that I’m ready to completely commit to a vegetarian lifestyle.

I’m kind of torn on the whole thing and I already planned our meals for next week and they are all vegetarian out of habit and blah blah blah, but the truth is that we’re going out to dinner tomorrow night specifically so that I can order the shrimp fajitas I’ve been avoiding this month. Also, there’s apparently a big football game or something, so it’ll be an ideal time to go out on the town.

Am I really still talking about this?

I’ll just leave it at “we’ll see what happens.” And we’ll see what happens.

Pretty darn quick

January 23, 2009

I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but we stayed completely on track with our meal plan for this entire week. I can’t remember the last time that happened. It usually falls apart around, oh, Tuesday.

I think the trick to this week’s success was that I carefully planned a menu of dinners that were super quick. Cookbooks like Vegetarian Times Fast and Easy and The PDQ (Pretty Darn Quick) Vegetarian Cookbook pretty much did my planning for me.

Last night, we had the greatest food on earth.

quinoa and mushroom skillet

quinoa and mushroom skillet

The recipe can be found here, and I highly recommend that you make it immediately and then again every day from now on. I even took some leftovers for lunch today and I never interrupt my peanut butter sandwich / hummus sandwich rotation.

Tonight’s meal was from PDQ.

hearty minestrone

hearty minestrone

Part of the reason this was pretty darn quick was that it called for frozen peas and carrots. Well, I couldn’t find a bag of just plain peas and carrots, so I picked up one that had carrots, peas, green beans, corn, and limas. Basically: even better. Add vegetable broth, a can of red kidney beans, and some acini de pepe, and you’ve got a pot of soup that will last at least a few meals. Brilliant.

And now, as a reward for how well we’ve stayed on track this week, we’re bundling up and going out in the freezing cold for dessert. That’s how committed I am to cake.

I am a loser

July 31, 2008

Well, last night we went out for dinner, and tonight I’m having leftovers cleverly disguised as a different meal:

That’s a tempeh melt with grilled veggies on the side. I polished off the veggies no problem, but I’ve only had half of the sandwich so far. I had a bigger lunch than usual, and I’m having a lot of trouble with my hunger cues today.

The AC is still broken at the gym, and yet they still keep opening and then (BIG SURPRISE) having to close early due to “extreme heat.” Today they opened up at 5:30 and then had to close at 9:00am. This is really throwing me off my routine, and I’m all agitated and I feel like I could just start yelling at any moment. I’m hoping to take a walk later, but the heat index is still 100 and it’s already 7:00pm, so yeah. We’ll see. I did some yoga this morning, and I would do another round, but it would require 1) getting off the couch and 2) moving things out of the way. That feels like so much effort.

In which I persevere in the face of adversity.

July 29, 2008

The stars were aligned against my workout today. Somehow, I powered through in spite of:

  1. Knee pain the morning that ruined my 5:30 workout plan.
  2. The AC being broken at the gym. Again.
  3. Yoga being canceled due to #3.
  4. My iPod crapping out 12 minutes into my workout.
  5. Did I mention the AC was broken?

They had two floor fans. Two. Floor. Fans. Yeah. That helped. When I was leaving, I think I may have noticed a slight change for the better, but at that point, the damage was done. My kicky green workout top may never be the same again. I also heard one of the kids working there, who was walking around with some sort of temperature gauge, say that it was 88 degrees.

So, I somehow made it through 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer. Seriously, I think I already blocked it out, because I know it happened, but I can’t really recall it.

I was pretty wiped out when I got home, so I wanted a nice, replenishing meal. And I came up with grilled veggie and tempeh fajitas.

I marinated the tempeh in a tapatio/honey/paprika/garlic/black pepper mix and grilled it. I left the veggies plain and just grilled those, too. You probably can’t tell, but there’s also zucchini, yellow squash, a green pepper, and some mushrooms under there. And, of course, cheese.

I really love tempeh, but I’m always hungry an hour after I eat it. I’m waiting for that so I can have another snack. You know how I love my snacks.