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bok and roll

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If you’ve ever read my friend Mandy’s blog, you might know that she actively supports local farming by participating in a CSA. Last year, she bought the Grow Alabama box, but after disappointment regarding some foreign avocados, she decided to make a switch. Lucky for me, she asked me to split a CSA from Snow’s Bend in Tuscaloosa, a farm that my friend Jason also supports.

The first few weeks were a little sparse, but still delicious, with strawberries, lettuce mix, green onions, radishes and greens.

But the last few weeks, the crop has been both bountiful and beautiful. Mandy and I alternate weeks, and for my last few pickups, I’ve received quite the haul.

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Spring onions, carrots, broccoli, radishes, lettuce mix, butter crunch lettuce, baby bok choy and strawberries.

I can’t get over how precious these carrots look! I remembered to follow Sarah’s advice and cut the tops off immediately after I brought them home so as not to let them dry out.

The bok choy really interested me, and Jason informed me that it was one of the best veggies they produce at Snow’s Bend.

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(That’s the bok choy off to the right.)

I wasn’t sure how to cook it, but I was anxious to try it out. My first experience involved stir-fry, but it didn’t turn out quite how I wanted it to. The leaves were a little rough-looking, and I don’t think I chopped it up in the most efficient manner.

From what I recall of the way bok choy tastes, I lump it with celery or cabbage, though I’m sure some would disagree. After a little thinking, I knew just what I wanted to do with it: egg rolls.

In fact, every single thing I put inside these egg rolls, barring the seasoning and the celery, came from the CSA loot.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Egg roll wrappers
1 small baby bok choy
approx 4 medium carrots
one green onion, chopped from tip to almost the base of the root
one rib of celery
finely chopped broccoli, approx one small head
olive oil
ground ginger
soy sauce (I used lower sodium)

Preheat the oven to 350.

To start, make sure all your veggies are chopped and ready to go. For the bok choy, I cut off the base, just enough so that the tender leaves separated.

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It’s the Russian nesting doll of vegetables—at the end is the itty bitty baby bok choy. So cute!

You may need make additional cuts as you get closer to the inside. Inspect for dirt and wash thoroughly. I then cut the leaf from the heavier part, using diagonal cuts, separating the leaves.

2011-05-31 19.01.30On the left, the first cut; on the right, the second cut to strip away the rest of the leaf.

I then stacked several leaves and cut them up into strips; set them aside. You can also roll them up tightly and then slice.

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For the rest of the veggie, dice much like you would celery,and  make a few extra chops so that there aren’t any pieces that are too big.

2011-05-31 19.13.10 Peel the carrots and grate in a food processor (the best time saver EVER). Chop the green onion and celery. (Tip: I cut the celery into strips length wise, making about three cuts, then diced.) Chop the broccoli into small manageable pieces.

Heat about 1-2 tsp olive oil in a skillet or wok (preferably one with an accompanying lid). Toss the bok choy (but not the leaves) in, along with the carrots.

_SC09504Add the celery, then the onions, then the broccoli.  Sprinkle approximately 1 tsp ginger and about 1 tbps soy sauce over the veggies.

When the broccoli is bright green, add the bok choy leaves, remove from heat and cover.

To make the egg rolls, separate one wrapper from the stack. Moisten the edges using your fingers and a little water. (That’s what she said.) Make a small pile of the filling in the center of the wrapper.

2011-05-31 20.42.05(Camera was out of commission for a while; hence the fuzzy cell phone pictures.)

Pull one corner up and over, and fold the edges in (it’ll look like an envelope), then roll upwards. Continue on until you run out of filling.

Spritz a foil-covered pan with some olive oil, then line the egg rolls up. Give the rolls a another mist of oil, then pop in the oven for about…ten minutes? I just kept an eye on them. Then flip over (they should be a crusty brown) and bake a few more minutes.

_SC09510 Served with your favorite dipping sauce or plain, like I did! Soooo good.

I think that spinach and mushrooms would have been a good addition to these. You could even add meat, if that’s your thing. (Please know that amounts are all approximate, and I mostly tried to make sure everything looked balanced in the skillet.)

I suggest you head to your nearest farmers market this weekend and get rollin’!

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Lent and what it meant.

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So as you may remember, I gave up meat for Lent (except for seafood). I had been abstaining from meat for a while, but I decided to try and make the big change over Lent. Verdict? It wasn’t that hard. The worst was going to events/places where there were absolutely no options. And the only real time that was a problem was when I went to a fraternity event with Jonathan and it was allll BBQ. And mayonnaise. (Ick.)

I was able to get all kinds of creative in the kitchen.

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So much good stuff…and recipes to come.

I ate good food at various restaurants…

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The last one would be veggie Chicago-style deep-dish from Tortuga’s. Oh, how I love Tortuga’s. I was able to find good options pretty much everywhere I went. Of course, it helped that I was still eating seafood.

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Oh, and I went to three weddings while I was a vegetarian. Above is a plate from my favorite. So many fresh, delicious options!

The main question now, at least for me, is will I continue on with the vegetarian diet? And my answer is a little tricky. I was considering becoming vegetarian for a while, and for several reasons. I’d felt a strong urge to stop eating meat, and it intensified after watching the movie Food Inc.

The movie doesn’t use scare tactics like some others do, but it basically makes you feel more informed. And it opens your eyes to a lot of dirty practices in the food industry. It made me want to make better choices.

I had thought that when I finished abstaining from meat, I’d go from there. And my thoughts were that if I decided to eat meat, I’d make smart choices.

And I think I still feel that way, but I’d be lying if I said all the meat I’ve eaten since Easter has been organic, grass-fed, and so on. It was really hard to actually get used to eating meat again. I had ham on Easter, and then I think I had it twice that first week. Since then, I’ve not really gone out of my way to order, cook or eat meat.

Well, I did last week, but more on that later.

I think I”m eventually going to transition back into the pescatarian lifestyle. In the end, what you eat is very personal, and it’s nobody’s business how I choose to eat. I don’t want to label myself.

Sooo…as I said, I tried a lot of delicious recipes, and I can’t wait to share them all with you in the coming weeks! Now tell me—have you ever experimented with meatless eating? Thoughts? I know Jaclyn just ended a long-term relationship with vegetarianism, and she couldn’t be happier. One word: bacon!

bean there, done that…

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…ate the burger.

Having been meatless these past few weeks, I’ve been trying to get creative with my meals. One thing I hoped to accomplish over Lent season was not only eliminating meat (save for fish) but also attempting to cut out processed crap. I didn’t want meat-free eatin’ to mean Boca burgers and canned soups (not that those don’t have a place in my diet or my freezer/pantry). I wanted to make more of my own meals and find ways to incorporate more veggies and newer sources of nutrition.

I was able to test out a recipe I’ve had eye on a few weeks ago when I attended a cookout celebrating the engaging of my dear friend Kate. We were roommates in college, and we’ve tried to maintain a good relationship since we’ve both relocated to Bham.

DSC08893 Kate met her lovely match with Alex. In the short amount of time I’ve spent around the two of them together, I can tell that they are perfect for one another. I can’t wait to attend her wedding at the end of the summer!

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I do so love that girl 🙂

The happy couple invited us to come to their house and celebrate with them. The only problem? This was dinner:

DSC08879 Meat, meat, and more meat.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And from what I heard (and smelled) it was delicious. I just knew that if I wanted to eat, I’d need options. (I do have to stop right here and say that Kate was so sweet to pick up some veggie burgers for me to eat! I didn’t realize this before I made my own dinner, but I was very appreciative of her kindness.)

So I took the opportunity to try out a recipe I’ve had my eye on for a while: Vegan Black Bean Burgers from Emily at the Daily Garnish (please take a minute to check out her blog; she’s such a sweetheart AND she’s going to have the healthiest baby around!).

You can check out Daily Garnish for the exact recipe, but here’s the girst of what you’ll need:

    • black beans
    • grated carrots
    • rolled oats
    • pepitas (pumpkin seeds—I bought these on the cheap in the Whole Foods bulk section)

Along with an assortment of seasonings and olive, all of which you will likely have in your cabinet (I did). One thing I didn’t have was ground coriander, which I bought at Whole Foods. Note: A shaker of the spice is kinda pricey, but I found a pretty big tub of it for less than two dollars! And there was way more in the tub that in the shaker. I just put it into a old spice canister when I got home. Score!

Basically, you give it all a whirl in the food processor. Mine is really tiny (that’s hopefully not what she said), so I had to do it in batches.

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Then you form it into patties and bake them up.

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(I just noticed that they don’t look much different “raw” vs. cooked.”)

These were awesome! Very rich and smoky tasting. The cinnamon really came out, but not in a weird way. This made 6 very big “burgers,” and I froze a few of them. I think one of these would be good crumbled up in a wrap, or even in some sort of sauce, maybe? Bonus: These were not only really filling but also good on nutrition information. I don’t have an exact count on hand, but one big burger was 6 Weight Watchers Points Plus.

We also whipped up some quick appetizers. I made some Cowboy Caviar and Rea made guacamole.

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The Cowboy Caviar was super easy and I already had most of things I needed:

  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1  jar chopped pimentos, drained
  • minced black olives
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown  mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt, pepper, sugar and oregano (I used pinches of the first few to taste and about 1/2-1 tsp of oregano)

Dump the first five items into a bowl, then whisk together the remaining ingredients to make a dressing. Pour the dressing over the pea mixture, and stir to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve (with tortilla chips).

While the smell of grilled was distracting, I don’t know that I’d say it was tempting. Not only did my black bean burgers taste awesome, they smelled great, too!

What’s your favorite thing to grill out? I love veggie kabobs, esp when there’s something unexpected hanging out with the veggies, like pineapple. Also…what do you do when you aren’t sure if your tastes/diet will be accommodated at party/cookout? Do you feel awkward BYODinner?

wingin’ it

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I’ve never been particularly partial to hot, spicy things. Whenever we used to go out for wings, I’d have to wade in the kiddie-pool portion of the hot-sauce scale. I don’t like jalapenos, and Tabasco makes me sweat just thinking about it. But in the last year or so, I’ve come to a realization.

I love wing sauce.

The first time I really remember having it was when my sister made a recipe for Buffalo Chicken Dip that consisted of cheddar cheese, chicken, ranch, cream cheese, and a whole heap of buffalo sauce. Those initial bites were too much for me to handle, but I gradually warmed up to it. (Like what I did there?)

I made a Crock-Pot of the dip for a tail-gate style snack session at my office and ended up with a large bottle of hot sauce leftover in my cabinet. It wasn’t long till I started experimenting. Tonight was no different. During The Biggest Loser, I chowed down on a pita pizza topped with tempeh covered in buffalo wing sauce, roasted broccoli, blue cheese and sour cream. It was delicious, and I drank almost 32 ounces of water while eating it. That stuff is no joke.

Do you like spicy things? What’s your favorite combination? I tried to take this down a notch with some sour cream and blue cheese. It helped a little, but mostly they all just complemented one another.