Friday, March 25, 2011

Fast Food Friday/What I Cooked

Here I am again with a Fast Food Friday/What I Cooked combo edition.  If you see something on any of my what I ate posts that you'd like to see the recipe for Fast Food Friday, let me know.

Sunday: We had dinner at church after Great Vespers for the Triumph of Orthodoxy.

Monday: Quick and easy burritos with spinach tortillas, refried beans, avocado, salsa, and rice.

Tuesday: Banana French toast and scrambled tofu.  Breakfast for dinner is always a hit at our house.  The french toast is really good and uses simple ingredients that we usually have on hand, so we make this pretty often.

Banana French Toast
1 ripe (good size) banana
3/4 cup orange juice or non-dairy milk of your choice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
Sliced bread
vegetable oil

Blend the banana, liquid and cinnamon (if using) in a blender until smooth. Pour it into a bowl or pan. Coat the bread on both sides with liquid.  This will do 8-10 slices of french bread or 4-5 slices sandwich bread. Unlike with regular french toast, it doesn't really have to be soaked through. Oil a nonstick or cast iron pan, and heat over medium. When hot, arrange slices of bread in one even layer in your pan. Cook on each side for 2 minutes. I actually use a timer. Flipping too soon or too late doesn't turn out as well. Basically you're caramelizing the sugar from the banana, and since you're dealing with sugars, it sticks more than regular French toast. You need to give it a firm scrape underneath with the spatula when you flip it, because you want make sure you keep the yummy coating on the bread and not leave it on the pan.  Add oil to the pan for each new batch. Top with maple syrup and/or fruit.

This is adapted from Student's Vegetarian Cookbook by Carole Raymond.

Wednesday: I took chips and salsa for the pitch-in, so no cooking. I had planned to take 17 bean & barley soup, but I forgot to turn on the crockpot. Guess what we had for dinner Thursday?

Thursday: 17 bean and barley soup. I know, big surprise, right?  This actually worked out well, because I had a meeting Thursday night, and dinner was all set. I got the 17 beans and barley in a bag from Trader Joe's. I'd been eyeing it for a while. I'm glad I tried it, but I think I'll just go with my own mix in the future.

Friday: Ate at church

Saturday: Sushi! Yum :)  Some of these have red bell pepper, carrot, and avocado, and some have avocado and marinated mushroom.

I hope everyone on the new calendar has has a Blessed Feast of the Annunciation today!

Monday, March 21, 2011

8. Plant more bulbs--check

When I added number eight to the list, I envisioned planting more bulbs in our yard. When we moved in there were a few tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils in the yard, if I recall correctly. Our second fall here, when we had lived here a little over a year, we planted a lot of crocuses, and more tulips and daffodils. I had wanted to add some more last fall, but I didn't get around to it. So I feel very blessed this spring to see that they multiplying on their own. The crocuses (croci?) and daffodils are naturalizing beautifully. I do still want to plant more tulips this coming fall. I love bulbs--for one thing because spring is my favorite time of year. I am unfailingly joyful when I see those green tips start to emerge from the ground, sturdily resisting the snow, and then bursting into colorful bloom even when everything else is still brown and gloomy. Also, I am a very lazy gardener (as my weeds will attest). All it takes is a few hours of effort to plant the bulbs, and I get beautiful flowers every spring for years and years.  In fact, I think I need to choose some summer blooming bulbs and plant those, too.

I'm not giving myself a check mark for the natural multiplication of the bulbs in my yard, however. I planted some in the house, so I'm going to count that.  I was given a few paperwhite bulbs at Christmas, and while I didn't plant those, I did tend them. They had only sprouted when I received them, and they all successfully went on to bloom. Given my deplorable track record with houseplants, that's significant. And the one pictured below I did, in fact, plant.  I have loved having these beauties around over the winter. I would definitely plant some again next year, but we found that James doesn't really care for the smell. Paperwhites have a very strong scent. I do plan to try my hand at some other forced bulbs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fast Food Friday/What I Cooked

Wow, I can't believe we're almost 2 weeks into the Fast already!  This is what I cooked during the first week of Lent.

Cheesefare Sunday: Leftovers :)

Monday: James found out he had gotten a new job, so we celebrated by going out for Q-doba.

Tuesday: Curried Lentils

Wednesday: I took this Chickpea and Tahini casserole to the post Pre-Sanctified pitch-in.

Thursday: We had a fend for yourself kind of night. James had burritos with refried beans and salsa. I had a baked potato topped with broccoli, chickpeas, barbecue sauce, and some nutritional yeast.

Friday: Each week a different family or church group hosts a dinner before the Akathist to the Theotokos.

Saturday: I made this Black Bean Coconut Soup.  Easy and so delicious. It also happens to be oil-free. Another recipe adapted from Okay, So Now You're a Vegetarian by Lauren Butts.

2 14.5 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed (or equivalent cooked dried)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups water
1  4 oz. can diced green chiles
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 14.5 oz can coconut milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cooked rice (I use brown)

Add beans, tomatoes, water and chiles to a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15-30 minutes.  It's even better the next day. The original recipe calls for a seeded and minced fresh jalapeno pepper instead of the green chiles. That's even tastier, I think, since it adds a fresh note, but that's not something I keep on hand. I often make it this way since it is entirely from pantry items. My guess is that shrimp would go well in this, since it's got a lot of Caribbean flavors, but I never tried that before I stopped eating seafood.

I hope to be in this space next week with some non-food related stuff. It's hard to tell from the blog, but I actually do think about other things during Lent. At the moment I'm finding the opportunity to spend so much time in corporate prayer a great comfort in the face of so much suffering around the world. May God grant comfort to all those suffering as well, and may He bless the efforts of all who give aid.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fast Food Friday: Red beans and rice (belated)

I had totally forgotten how exhausting the first week of Lent is. I mean that in a completely good way. It's kind of exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. We don't even do the Canon of St. Andrew in my parish, but still church is occupying a whole lot more of my time. And I like that. I love Lent. I know that weak as I am, I could not keep up this pace of church-going and praying all the time, but it is my favorite time of year. I've promised to post Lenten recipes on Fridays, and I thought I was going to get this in under the wire. I got a phone call from one of my best friends and spent a few hours catching up instead, so it's a little late. This is oil-free, and is slightly adapted from Okay, So Now You're a Vegetarian by Lauren Butts.

2 cans dark red kidney beans--or any other red beans you like. I also sometimes use cooked dried beans instead.
1 cup vegetable broth--I use water plus vegetable bullion.
1 cup water
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned or fresh) I often use a little more than this, because I like tomatoes.
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic

Place all ingredients in a large pot. Cover and simmer about 45 minutes. The broth will thicken and beans will get more tender. Serve with cooked rice.  I serve it with brown rice, which takes about an hour to cook in my steamer, so I start the rice, and then start the beans.  

Note that most Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovies. If you want to avoid that, you can often purchase vegetarian Worcestershire at health food stores. I buy the Kroger store brand, which is one of those "accidentally" vegan products.  You might look at other store brands, if you don't have Kroger in your area. Also, for years before I discovered Kroger brand is vegetarian, I just substituted 1 tsp. molasses and 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce for the Worcestershire sauce, which I think is just as tasty.

As I've mentioned, we love this with greens, like kale or collards.  We usually just layer it all in a bowl.  Also, as a person with southern roots, I think red beans and rice require cornbread on the side, and I still haven't settled on Lenten recipe for it. However, I recently found this recipe. I haven't had a chance to try it, but I thought I'd share it now.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What I Cooked: Cheesefare edition

I thought I'd share what I cooked for Cheesefare week today, rather than after the fast has begun. It was quite a week! I did make a fair amount of soup for my flu-fighter. He's on the mend now, thanks be to God, and even went to work on Friday. 

Sunday: Leftovers for me, canned chicken and rice soup for James--not his best Meatfare Sunday.

Monday: Egg drop soup. I'd never made this before, but it was really simple. I thought this would be the perfect thing for someone with a sore throat. Nourishing, tasty, and easy to swallow. Well, it was very nourishing and tasty, and I thought the leftovers made a terrific breakfast. Unfortunately, it didn't work out so great for James. Let's just say that the texture didn't bring the best thoughts to mind for someone having sinus issues.  

Tuesday: Tortellini soup. This was a big hit.

Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese, corn "soufflĂ©," and roasted vegetables--for twenty.  I've mentioned before that most Wednesday nights we have prayer, adult study, and dinner at church. Usually that means I don't cook on Wednesdays, but occasionally I take my turn to cook for the whole group. I had volunteered for this week. So, on my way home from work on Tuesday I stopped and bought groceries. Then I whipped up a batch of tortellini soup for my poor sick guy, who ate it and went to sleep.

I proceeded to spend the rest of the evening cooking. I really enjoy cooking, so I had a good time making some of my favorite foods, listening to music, and hoping everyone would enjoy the meal I was preparing.  About midnight the mac and cheese was almost finished baking, and the other two dishes were done. I was contemplating whether to push on through and make a batch of brownies before going to bed, or to get up early to make them the next day. I'd almost decided to go ahead and make them (I'm not a morning person) when James came groggily into the room. "Are you cooking for church tomorrow?" he asked me. "Uh-huh," I replied. "It was canceled," he told me. "Father sent an email earlier today."


Needless to say, I did not make the brownies, and we have been eating macaroni and cheese, corn casserole, and roasted vegetables ever since. I wasn't quite sure whether to feel relieved or sorry that I hadn't made the brownies yet. I am very thankful that I had cooked a meal that we really like!

By Friday evening we were getting a little tired of this meal, and James was still craving soup. Per his request, I made another batch of the tortellini soup. As I said, it was a big hit. I also mixed up some desperation chili which gave a whole new spin to the mac and cheese. Normally, I would have asked some friends over to help us eat all that food, but company isn't really the best idea when part of your household is miserable and possibly still contagious. By dint of eating it for lunch and dinner pretty much every day, we've actually managed to polish off most of the Wednesday dinner. Whatever macaroni we don't finish today will go in the freezer. I think I accomplished my goal of going into Lent feeling really good about saying farewell to cheese, and I also think this is going to be a Cheesefare week to remember!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Books I Read in July

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
This is a modern gothic horror, and it is in fact rather horrifying. The premise is of a mysterious fiction writer finally revealing her true life story to a biographer.There is no wonder that a character would never tell anyone the truth about her life and prefer to create fictional worlds. Families don't get more dysfunctional than this one.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
This book moves back and forth between the narrator a present day nursing home, and his memories of his time with a traveling circus in the Depression-era.The writing is elementary, and the dialog doesn't seem to fit the time period, but the stories about life on a circus train are entertaining. In the afterward the writer explains that many of them are based on historical events. I also found the character in the present day very sympathetic.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This was a fun read, and I can see why this epistolary novel has been so popular. It piqued my interest in Guernsey in general and the German occupation in particular.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
This was a re-read. I read it first shortly after it came out, and my brother raved about it. It's totally fascinating to me, and I could (and probably will) read it over and over. In many ways it's a fantasy novel, but it doesn't fit with generic convention. Usually in fantasy novels, the hero is a type of Christ. Instead, this hero is a type of Adam. He is a fallen man who has eaten the apple and mucked up the garden.The book is well-written, and is filled with allusions to other fantasy novels, particularly the Narnia books, which is fun. It shows the main character as a young guy who loves fantasy novels, but then he finds himself in that world. He discovers it's far more complicated than he imagined, and that being able to do magic doesn't make him a better person. So good. I highly recommend it, but it's definitely for adults. 

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
I had never before read anything by this author, who also wrote Chocolat. I picked it up off a display of food-related novels at my library.  It deals with the German occupation of France in WWII. I definitely was engaged by the foodie aspects of the book, but the characters are mostly unlikable. It really took reading the whole book to connect with and understand the motivations of any of them. 

The $64 Tomato by William Alexander
This is a gardening memoir, and it's very amusingly written. The only caveat I have about the book is the author has an extremely adversarial view towards the wildlife that eat the fruits of his labor. His efforts in deterring them sometimes seem inhumane, but that could partially be him trying to spin it in a "humorous" way. For the most part I really enjoyed the book.

Ecological Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
I expected to really like this book, because I'm usually intrigued by analysis of consumer behavior. I'm also highly interested in the life cycles of the products we buy and how to make them more sustainable. Unfortunately, I was completely bored by this book. It just never engaged me, and it didn't really present anything that was new to me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What I Cooked

Sunday: Nachos with re-fried beans, corn and tomato salsas, guacamole

Monday: Penne with TVP "Bolognese" sauce, pea salad, garlic cheese bread

Tuesday: Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese sauce

Wednesday: Ate at church

Thursday: Evening meeting, leftovers

Friday: We had friends over for a fondue party. When we made the plans a month ago, we thought it was for the week of the Publican and the Pharisee, but we miscalculated. When we realized the mistake it was too late to reschedule to another day before Lent. We had a delicious dinner and a lot of fun playing cards. I didn't even think to take any pictures, so here's some of the fondue I ate as leftovers. Definitely doesn't do it justice.

Saturday: The plan was to go to Five Guys so James could get his cheeseburger fix before Cheesefare week, but the poor guy had a terrible sore throat. All he wanted was soup. I made this gypsy soup from The New Moosewood Cookbook, which is one of my favorites. It has a delicious broth and lots of immune boosting ingredients. Turns out James has the flu, so probably lots of soup will be eaten at our house this week.