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Friday, July 30, 2010

Lunch for the Week

Sometimes you can get by on leftovers from the night before for lunch; other times you're busy and want to save your leftovers to avoid cooking again! Enter my solution for lunch for the entire week.

Lunch for the Week Sandwiches
Serves 5

Here's what you need:

- Lots of grill-able veggies (I used about 4 pieces of squash, 1 onion, and 1 pepper)
- 2 blocks tofu or (sustainable) meat
- Cream cheese (I used veggie cream cheese - great flavor!), humus, bean puree, or other condiments that you like
- 5 Whole grain bagels or 10 slices thick bread
- Cheese (optional - you can omit this if you're using cream cheese)
- Lettuce

And here's what you do:

1) On Sunday evening, fire up your grill and let it get hot. If you don't have a grill, you can fire up the broiler in your oven instead.

2) If you're using tofu, drain and slice it into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Place a lint-free towel on a plate and lay the slices individually on it. Place another lint-free towel over top, and set another plate over it to push out the moisture. Let sit for 15 minutes.

3) If you're using other meat, prepare it however you like, just be sure it's thin enough to fit on a sandwich.

4) Wash and slice your veggies to be about 1/2 inch thick. (If you use eggplant or squash, salt the slices and let the moisture drain out for about 15 minutes. Pat dry).

5) You can get all fancy, if you want, with grill sauces and spice rubs, but I just used olive oil, salt, and pepper on my veggies.

6) I used the same on my tofu slices.

7) Lay the veggies and tofu on the grill in shifts. For the tofu, be sure to lightly rub the grill with oil so it doesn't stick. Grill for 5-10 minutes on each side until it's done. (If you're broiling, lay the veggies on a pan and broil on each side for a few minutes. I recommend pan-frying the tofu -- I've never tried broiling it before).

8) Package the veggies, tofu, lettuce, and everything else into containers. If you have the fridge space at work, you can bring everything in on Monday and just build your sandwich each day. To build my sandwich, I toasted my bagel, added the cream cheese, then added the veggies, tofu, and lettuce. All you need to add is a piece of fruit, and you got a complete meal.

Delicious! What combination of veggies and protein do you think you'll try? What's your favorite easy lunch idea for work?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What I Ate For Dinner Last Night

I just love summer produce! My food co-op has been providing me with some very tasty veggies. I've been using dependable recipes lately that had been previously posted on my blog, but I figured it's time for something new.

My husband says that cottage cheese is good on baked potatoes. Given my recent discovery of the versatility of cottage cheese, I decided to give it a try, along with sauteed mustard greens and cumin carrots. The beauty of these recipes is that I made them up as I went along, so you can too! If you don't have a certain herb or vegetable, substitute something else. It might even be better than the original.

If you aren't part of a food co-op (or community supported agriculture) I highly recommend it. You get to eat seasonally, eat fresh, and your menu is planned for you each week. You just choose how to prepare it.

In the summer, with so much bounty, I don't worry about choosing recipes ahead of time. As long as you make sure to have staples of dairy, sustainable meat, whole grains, olive oil, and seasonings on hand, you can make pretty much anything. I just pulled stuff out of the fridge and cabinets last night, and it turned out so well.

Baked Potatoes with Herbed Cottage Cheese
Serves about 4

A bunch of small to medium potatoes
3-4 whole cloves of garlic
About 1 cup cottage cheese
About 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

1) Preheat the toaster oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil pan. Scrub potatoes and prick a few times with fork. Arrange potatoes and whole garlic cloves on pan and cover with foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

2) Choose your favorite herbs. From my garden I picked basil, rosemary, and lemon thyme. Anything you like would work well. Rinse, dry, and chop. Mix together with cottage cheese, lemon, salt, and pepper. If you choose to use dry herbs instead, use 2-3 teaspoons instead of tablespoons.

3) Remove potatoes from toaster oven. Mash garlic and either mix into cottage cheese or spread directly onto potatoes. Top potatoes with herbed cottage cheese.

Sauteed Mustard Greens
Serves 3-4

Huge bunch of mustard greens, rinsed and roughly chopped (about 8 cups or more)
1 red onion, sliced
1 heaping teaspoon whole peppercorns (or 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper)
3 small beets, scrubbed, peeled, and thinly sliced
Beet greens, rinsed and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt

1) Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add peppercorns, red onion, and beets. Saute until almost tender, less than 10 minutes.

2) Add greens in batches. Cover to speed up the wilting process. Keep adding greens until all are wilted down. Add sea salt to taste.

Cumin Carrots
Serves 3-4

About 2 cups carrots, sliced diagonally 1/2" thick
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin)
1 tablespoon butter

1) Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and saute for a few minutes. Add carrots, cover until firm-tender, about 5 minutes.

There you go, you did it! A seasonal meal with fresh ingredients and pantry staples. Do you feel exhilarated? What is the tastiest way you've prepared veggies recently?

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Dream of a Bakery

When I was in Ludington, Michigan a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of visiting a bakery/cafe that was absolutely charming. The owner, John, started it years ago on a shoestring budget, using a credit card for funding. He was kind enough to show me his kitchen and tell me how he got started.

John made a few things really well and established a customer base. His customers liked his baked goods so much, and they wanted to see the business succeed, that they started donating mugs, tables, chairs, anything they could to help him out. A local artist painted the floor with unique designs for free. He couldn't afford wallpaper, so he used old cookbooks to cover the walls of the bathrooms. He found used baking equipment and ovens to expand his menu. (He didn't even have an oven when he first started out!!)

Little by little, John's business grew and is now a local hangout and tourist destination in Ludington. He makes really good carrot muffins (I included a similar recipe below, though not his) and multi-grain bread. I didn't have a chance to have breakfast there, but I definitely will next time I visit Ludington. John was very encouraging toward my own dreams of starting a bakery.

My life goal is to open a bakery/cafe, using locally grown organic food, and run it as a social business. I have a heart for homeless people, and I want to hire and train homeless people to work in the bakery, and then eventually move on to other jobs, so that I could continue to train people. I would also use some of the profits to keep the bakery open a couple of weeknights and have it be a glorified soup kitchen. Homeless and hungry people could come in, sit at a table with others, and order from a fixed menu. Then, volunteers would serve them what they ordered. It would be a more dignified approach to feeding the hungry.

This is my dream, and I've come across quite a few bakery-owners and business people who have absolutely exuded confidence, making me hopeful that my dream will someday become a reality. Even though I have no business background and only have about five recipes that are truly menu-worthy, I'm working towards this dream.

What do you think? Will I succeed? What is your life passion, or are you still searching?

Carrot Muffins
Adapted from a Gourmet 1998 recipe

1 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt (or 1/2 cup canola oil)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Granny Smith apple, shredded

Preheat oven to 350°F. and oil a 12-muffin pan.

Into a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and whisk in sugar. Coarsely shred enough carrots to measure 2 cups and chop pecans. Add shredded carrots and pecans to flour mixture with raisins and coconut and toss well.

In a bowl whisk together eggs, yogurt, and vanilla. Coarsely shred the apple, omitting the core. Stir shredded apple into egg mixture and add to flour mixture, stirring until batter is just combined well. Divide batter among muffin cups, filling them almost full, and bake in middle of oven until puffed and a tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

Cool muffins in cups on racks 5 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely. Muffins keep in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Food Hospitality

Have you ever stayed at someone's house, been grateful for a free bed, but were blown away by how thoughtful your host was to your food needs? I'd like to introduce the concept of food hospitality.

A couple of weeks ago, Justin and I went on vacation in Michigan and Ohio. For the first part of it, we camped on South Manitou island on Lake Michigan. The weather was pristine, our campsite was perfect, and the food was...good. You know, camping food. After a few nights of camping, we visited Justin's parents in Ludington, MI. They went out of their way to make tasty meals and even buy sustainable chicken and seafood, since they know our qualms about not eating sustainably. They prepared such delicious food, as if just being with them wasn't enough. It meant so much to us that they respected our food decisions and helped us to follow them.

Then we stopped at a friend's wedding in Ohio on our way home. Before we had left, a friend of ours heard where the wedding was and offered to contact his parents (who we had never met) to see if we could stay with them, since they were close to the wedding. They welcomed us wholeheartedly into their home and we had a blast getting to know them. We were touched by their food hospitality of omelets, fresh fruit, and even buying us fresh roasted nuts at the local peanut shop.

When have you experienced food hospitality? What did you eat, and what touched you about it?