Thursday, March 31, 2011

Garden Inspiration

Mid-August Harvest
I didn't write as much last summer as I hoped to about my garden, but it was pretty awesome.

This year, I'm itching to start planting seeds indoors, but I'll be out of town for work next week and between work and school, I'm afraid any seeds I start will be failures! I'm trying to get over the fear and muster up the necessary motivation to bust out the gardening gloves and seed-starting supplies and thought a review of last year's bounty might help inspire me (and maybe you, too!). Planting a garden is one of the easiest ways to get closer to the source of your food. All you need is some space, some dirt, some seeds, some sun, and some water.

Last summer, I grew:

  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • three kinds of eggplant
  • four kinds of peppers
  • corn
  • blue potatoes (so fun to dig out of the ground!)
  • acorn squash
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • Arrugula (Roquette)
  • onions (though they never grew) 
  • celery (neither did they)
  • beets (ok, so they didn't either)
  • basil
  • Thai basil
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • purple sage
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • chamomile 
  • chives
  • garlic chives
  • lavender 
September 1 Harvest
September 19 Harvest

Garden in Mid-August
Garden in Mid-September
October 10 Harvest
October 17 Herb Harvest
This year, I want to grow:

  • Lots more tomatoes (because you can never have too many, and if you do, that just means you have more to can and dry to enjoy all winter long!
  • more varieties of cucumber
  • more zucchini
  • eggplant, but a LOT less than last year
  • more potatoes!
  • yellow squash
  • butternut squash (I like it better than acorn, as I discovered this fall)
  • a lot more parley (freeze leftovers)
  • more lettuces
  • kale
  • all the herbs from last year
  • more spicy peppers (because I kinda want to try to make hot sauce from scratch!)
  • multi-colored heirloom carrots
  • cabbage
  • swiss chard (I've tried in the past, but it's never really thrived)
  • onions (3rd time's a charm)

What are you going to grow to eat this summer?! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vegan Vitamix Butternut Squash Soup Recipe
The Boston Vegetarian Food Festival is held every October and I've gone for the last two years, each time vowing to write a post about it. Well, that never happened, but that's not to say I wasn't inspired by what I learned and tasted! At the 2010 festival, James and I attended a cooking demonstration led by Tal Ronnen, author of The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat. He prepared a delicious Vegan Celery Root soup made with Cashew Cream and as soon as I got my VITAMIX (it's been on my wishlist for at least a year and I finally did it last month!), I ran out and bought like 5 bags of Raw Cashews so I could whip up some delicious CREAMY Vegan Soups. This was my first shot at it and let me tell you... it was delicious!
soaked raw cashews

Here's the recipe: 
1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 large butternut squash, roasted
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 or 2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 - 2 cups vegetable broth (depending on how thick you like your soup) 
Sage, thyme, salt, and pepper 

Rinse the cashews under cold water. Place the cashews in a glass bowl, cover with 1 - 2 inches of water, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Remove from fridge, rinse with cold water, place in
Vitamix and cover with 1 - 2 inches of water. Turn Vitamix on Variable 1, increase to 10, then flip the switch to high and blend until cashew mixture is completely homogeneous. Check out Tal Ronnen's Cashew Cream Recipe here!
cashew cream!
roasted butternut squash
Cut butternut squash in half length-wise. Scrape out seeds with a spoon, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 400 degrees in a pan with 1/2 inch of water for about an hour (until squash begins to brown). Remove from oven, let it cool, and scrape the cooked squash away from the skin with a spoon. Tip: Do this ahead of time, like when you pop the cashews in the fridge to soak, and when you go to make the soup, you'll be able to do everything else in 20 minutes!
you can let them brown a little if you prefer

Saute onion, carrots, and celery, in extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent (about 10 minutes) or golden brown (about 15 minutes).
Add the onion, carrots, celery, veggie broth, and butternut squash to the cashew cream in the Vitamix. Add 2 fresh sage leaves or a tsp of dried sage and about a tsp of dried thyme. Turn the Vitamix on to Variable 1, increase to 10, then flip the switch to high and blend until steam starts to escape from the lid. Pour yourself a bowl, garnish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some freshly ground black pepper, and a sage leaf or 2 and enjoy!

Note: If you don't have a Vitamix, you can still make this soup! You can make the cashew cream in a regular blender, but will have to strain it through cheesecloth for the smooth texture. (See link to Tal Ronnen's recipe above for details). I highly recommend a Vitamix to anyone in the market for a food processor or blender. I've only had mine for about a month and it has literally changed my life. It's so easy to make everything from smoothies to soups to hummus and even peanut butter! But again, if you don't have one and aren't in the position to spring for one, you can simply add all the ingredients to a pot on the stove and use an immersion (stick) blender OR you can just blend the soup in batches in a regular blender on high.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Easy Mexican Soup Recipe for Dinner Tonight

Cook brown rice or quinoa in veggie broth in a pot according to package.

In a large pot, saute the following over medium heat:
1 yellow onion
a handful of shredded or finely chopped carrots
2 cloves garlic
2 finely chopped jalapeƱos

Add a dash of cumin and dash of cayenne.

When the onion is translucent, add:
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 box of low sodium veggie broth
1 can of black, kidney, or pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
Chopped tomatoes (1 can or 2 fresh)

Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and/or cumin (try a dash of each, taste, and add more if you want more kick).

Blend briefly with immersion blender if you like a thicker soup. Ladle into bowls over rice or quinoa. Top with crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheddar, chopped chives or green onions

If you like your dairy, you might also want to top with sour cream (Greek yogurt is a healthier alternative - Fage 2% is my favorite and tastes very similar to sour cream!).  Shredded cheddar and/or jack cheese might also suit your fancy!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Movie Review: Earthlings

Em & Me at Roo!
I first watch Earthlings about a year ago with my friend Em, a like-minded flexetarian (who is now totally veg). Em was my food documentary companion and liked learning about and eating food almost as much as me. She also turned out to be the perfect Bonnaroo buddy! So you can imagine my distress when she left me for the even colder climate of Ottawa!
James helping w/ Blue Potato + Leek Soup
Luckily, James loves documentaries, too. Sometimes, they're the only movies we can actually agree on, so we end up watching a lot of them and I end up watching a few I've already seen. I like the refresher and the act of sharing information about something you care about with someone you care about. James' first food documentary was Food Inc. That was a few months ago and he went veg for a 30-day trial promptly after the images of factory farming. He cracked and had a burger after about a month, which kinda grossed him out even though it was free-range and organic, and hasn't gone back to the beef (or turkey or chicken for that matter) since. (YAY!) Once I knew this wasn't just a passing phase, I suggested we watch Earthlings and we added it to the Netflix queue. My appetite for information is a big part of what keeps me veg and I like that I can cook/eat vegetarian with James and know that he won't be missing anything he would want if he were cooking for himself.
James has even gotten a little evangelical about his new-found vegetarianism and has started spreading the word of animal compassion to his circle of friends. One actually took him up on his offer to come over for dinner the one night last week and watch Earthlings with us! I don't think he had any idea what he was in for, but he took it all in stride and I don't think he's eaten meat since. I made tortilla soup and an apple bake using my brand-new Vita-mix (more on that soon!), and after we devoured dinner and dessert, we watched the documentary from beginning to end, cringing at all the horrific things we do to animals along the way.
Earthlings is narrated by Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix, who shares with us the harsh realities of man's five dependencies on animals. Food is an obvious one of them. The other four are clothing (leather and fur), companionship (cats and dogs), entertainment (zoos and circuses), and scientific experimentation. It's a film we should all watch at least once as it serves as a powerful reminder of the routine abuses of animals. 
The images of factory farming and dolphin slaughtering are disturbing and not for those with weak stomachs. The gas chambers used to euthanize unwanted cats and the skinning of live animals for their fur are shocking. But perhaps most troubling images were those of the people performing the morbid tasks of abusing animals for no other point than entertainment. I've known about the debeaking of chicks and the castration, tail-docking and ear-clipping of pigs for a while and those images are part of what turned me veg, but after seeing what happens behind the scenes at circuses, I can unequivocally say that I will never, under any circumstance, go to a circus ever again. If you care at all about where your food or clothing comes from, please consider spending the 95 minutes to watch this film. What you witness will leave a lasting impression... one that I hope you will appreciate!