Face plant with the eggplant

This week I received my first order from the produce delivery service I’ve been excited about (see the two previous posts). It worked out well–arrived well before dinner–which is not necessarily guaranteed in their delivery time frames. Everything appeared to be of the utmost quality…and most of it has been. The only disappointment was the broccoli–it looked excellent at first glance. I went to wash and prepare it the next night and one of the two stalks had quite the bug infestation. I am fine with finding a bug or two, especially in organic fruits and veggies, as long as the quality of the food item is still good. After all, we need insects in general and I am most grateful to not have pesticides in my food! I had to pitch that one. The other stalk looked ok, but after I steamed it and the tops loosened a bit, it was obvious there were cities of tiny little guys hidden up there. Darn!This company is great and will credit for any bad produce. I just don’t think I want to complain-it is understandable that this can happen, but hopefully not often. And I got a discount on my first order anyways. I’ll call them next time if needed.

However, I really met my match with the eggplant. Such a beautiful veggie! Maybe I will just get a fake one to keep on my counter because I love the look of them! I consulted Veganomicon, as usual, and decided to slice and roast, thinking I’d enjoy slices that day and sandwiches after that. Keep in mind, the skin was still on…Somehow eating the sliced eggplant with skin just did not work for me. Ever since I have had children, I truly have a stronger gag reflex. Did my hair go straight with pregnancy…no, of course not! But I can now gag on a vitamin! Although I did not physically gag in this scenario, it was exceedingly close. And it was too late to pull the skin off and enjoy it that way. When an appropriate amount of time has gone by (maybe next month summer) I will definitely try again with skin-removed eggplant in a yummy ratatouille.

I had been contemplating a blog post about my new favorite summer lunch (ok-sometimes it’s dinner), so this seems like a good time for it. I call it “All-in Mexican Salad”. It’s quick, easy, and flexible…

All-in Mexican Salad

serves 1-2 depending on appetite

Ingredients:

Romaine hearts, chopped (I typically use one stalk and end up with a little leftover, maybe enough for one small side salad later)

Muir Glen Organic Salsa (feel free to use any salsa, but this makes it for me. I love this salsa!)

Shredded cheddar cheese or cheese alternative

Plain Greek yogurt or nondairy substitute

Broken tortilla chips

Anything else you want, or want to use up! This included for me today-chopped cucumber and grape tomatoes. Other possible additions: avocado slices (awesome), onion, olives, squeezed fresh lime juice over the top, fresh cilantro-either mixed in with the greens or on top, beans, or chopped up veggie burgers. I don’t need a dressing with this, but that could be another addition.

This is my favorite salsa-very natural, and if you are counting calories, the whole jar is only 140 calories. It’s my “dressing” for the salad.

I have found Romaine hearts (I have tried a few brands and all were good) to be the key to really fresh salads in general. They last a long time in the fridge. You do have to wash them, but I think that keeps them fresher (the fact they were not already washed and cut, as in prewashed bagged salads). They are more costly than buying a regular head of romaine, but you don’t end up discarding any leaves. Quick and easy to wash and chop. Even after washing and chopping, they last many days in a sealed container. If you have not tried them, I respectfully recommend you give them a try!

I have become more comfortable with less worry over protein. All veggies have protein (after all how does a cow become a protein source…by eating veggie matter!), so if I feel I need even more protein in this meal, it really is easy to add a higher protein food to help meet the daily requirements. Examples include: the Greek yogurt, beans, leftover quinoa, or veggie burger. But I don’t feel it’s absolutely necessary to add it to this salad every time.

I hope you enjoy this quick and adaptable idea!

Lastly, I am excited that I am going to have a giveaway of a new copy of one of my favorite cookbooks in the next month. I can’t wait to share a terrific meat-free cookbook with someone; so stay tuned.

Have a great weekend! And I am curious, how do you feel about insects on your produce? Do you overlook a few?Note added later: Just to be clear, I am asking if you are ok keeping the produce if you removed the insects from the produce as you washed it…not advocating eating them.

Can’t Wait!

I am so pumped! I got my first email from Green Bean Ohio-a produce/natural groceries company that delivers your order. I signed up for a once per week delivery which starts next week. Tuesday is my delivery day and from Thursday afternoon until Monday at noon I can look at what my order will contain and make changes/substitutions! I can also add other items they carry, including eggs, dairy, even frozen items like Amy’s brand frozen foods. This flexibility is such a great feature-unlike a CSA, where it’s always a surprise. I can be looking up recipes and  be ready to incorporate my fresh produce. I’m also very pumped because at least for my first bin, the produce is all marked as organic or sustainably grown, which includes grown without pesticides…which is exactly what my goal is 🙂 If you are interested, here is the list of what is coming: grape tomatoes, nectarines, green peppers, red grapes, broccoli, cucumber, blackberries, potatoes, green leaf lettuce, cantaloupe, and eggplant–All welcomed, at least by me!!

As far as not wasting food, I am happy with my progress so far. I can see the whole key for us is to have a meal plan for the week and to stick to it at the store. Obvious, but not something I excel at… I also played a mind game with myself at the store–to reduce impulsive and unhealthy purchases– where I repeated (inside, luckily!) “I eat real food”. I tried very hard to not buy processed stuff in the “middle aisles”. Now was I perfect? No, not at all. I picked up cookies, breakfast squares for my husband to eat at work and several other items along those lines. But the mantra helped me keep focused.

I stuck to the meal plan also, so I am thrilled that I don’t think I will be throwing anything out, leftovers or otherwise!! The one exception will probably be the bunch of cilantro–hard to use that up fully when I am the only one who likes it.

Along the reducing waste theme, here are napkins I ordered from Etsy. If you don’t sew, like me, Etsy is so fun! This was only my second order from the site, but I do love to look! I have been very happy with my purchases. No more buying paper napkins, I hope. I bought 8, so I should be able to keep clean ones in stock. But 7.00 for 4 (small but large enough) napkins which are well made from organic cotton is worth it to me, and I would not mind ordering more. A sophisticated print and a fun print with fruits and veggies…

Lastly, I cooked a new veggie-red swiss chard. I made a soup from “Quick-Fix Vegan” by Robin Robertson. The recipe is named chard and red lentil soup. Basically just a veggie broth based soup with some canned diced tomato as the other primary flavor. I left out several ingredients that I did not think I needed or wanted to buy. The chard is added at the end for a few minutes to wilt. Very good! I like the texture of the chard-seems a little firmer than spinach in a soup. And with the lentils, this soup is protein packed! Although I can’t just reprint the recipe, I would say you could just wilt chard in some hot vegetable or tomato soup for an even easier recipe. There may also be similar recipes online. Here is a picture–on a new napkin of course–

(PS–I checked and if you google chard and red lentil soup, very similar recipes will be found)

See you next week-I will try to use some online recipes so I can link you to them!

Simply…a nice getaway

I’m back from our trip to Colorado and refreshed with the insights and “fun” of a trip away. We were up in the Rockies, in ski country, staying at about 9200 feet elevation in Dillon, Colorado. Thin air up there! We picked the right time-it was over 100 degrees in Ohio several days while we were away and record highs were set! We had highs in the lower 70’s and lows in the high 40’s and 50’s. When we arrived, the state was still battling severe drought and wildfires. During our stay, the weather did provide rain, and apparently in the mountains the monsoon season was kicking in. No big deal, it just means storms come in almost every afternoon. Thus, we spent many afternoons hiking down or out of a hike just ahead or during storms! My favorite place was probably the Continental Divide at Loveland Pass. We approached from the non-freeway side and it was scary and exhilarating. It felt like your car was driving vertically upward and we were driving to the top of the world! I loved the views-expansive on every side. We got to 12,300 or so feet elevation in our hike right on the divide and noticed a storm approaching and headed down. This picture does not do it justice…the clouds were getting thick.

During our down time (read: rain), I did a lot of reading. I read some blog posts and the ensuing comments and debate–not sure where–about food waste. I have to admit, I waste food. Learning to cook as a vegetarian has probably increased my waste. If I am buying rather expensive vegetables and ingredients and not using them, I am wasting so many resources, even beyond the money I wasted. The labor, the gas and water, the effort someone put into that food is wasted. And so many people all over the world are hungry…

Therefore, here is the new plan. I am going to subscribe to a local delivery service (in multiple cities here in the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky region), which focuses on providing organic or sustainably grown produce from local farmers whenever possible. Everything I read about this company is positive. I will be challenged to use whatever comes and to not waste! I know this will reduce my shopping trips, where I tend to add more than I can realistically take the time to cook. I know I will end up eating and serving more organic and fresh ingredients in season, and support local farmers. The truth is, when I buy organic in Ohio (which is not readily available near my home-often means a trip across town to Whole Foods for healthy appearing organic produce), it usually comes from California!! Why not support the people here, of course. My grandfather was a determined Ohio farmer, and our state is full of farms. It’s kind of crazy, really.

I am starting with the minimum order of a 35.00 produce bin each week. With a family of four, this fits quite well in the budget because I will shop at the store less often. I like the fact that I can review what is coming a few days before and make changes if I want. I can also add artisan/local foods, farm fresh eggs and dairy, and other foods I would have to drive across town for (Rudi’s breads and tortillas for example). This sounds like a great company and concept for the midwest.

My living more simply and less wastefully goals include keeping the refrigerator neater, cleaned out regularly-at least once per week, and more bare to keep track of what I have and reduce waste. Meal planning and following the plan for the full week are also in the works.These are lofty goals for me! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Just wondering, have  you  ever tried a CSA or a service like this? How did it work for you?

Pressing issues–my new “press”

Yay! My tofu press arrived yesterday. I was hoping to try it out prior to leaving for a week’s trip to cooler temperatures! (Colorado). Hooray for highs in the 70’s!!

Note: If you want more information on why to press tofu, look in the archives of my blog for a part 1 and part 2 post about tofu.

The packaging by Amazon of this press cracked me up. I opened the plain cardboard box and literally the press was all that was in there! Not one sheet of instructions, tips, or anything else. I shook the box and one little laminated card about 2 inches square came out from the bottom folds of the box. It just shows different measurements…maybe some recipes call for tofu pressed to a specific thickness? Who knows…But the press does seem well made. Everything seems secure and unable to come loose and be lost.

So I pulled out a tub of organic sprouted tofu and drained the water it was packaged in. After a bit of fumbling around and one dropped block of tofu onto the counter (the two sides do not actually come fully apart, making it a coordination challenge to slide it in there, at least for me), I got it pressing! After 45 minutes, I was not sure whether it was done–again no instructions–I decided to add more pressure by turning the black dials. I pressed 15 minutes more and produced a bit more moisture. Truthfully, I think most of the moisture probably came out in the first 15 minutes. All in all, I pressed a little over 1/3 cup of moisture out. It was definitely a more pressed block than tofu I have done by the heavy book/can method. I will have to learn the optimal “force” and time of pressing.

Here are the before and after:

I followed a recipe from this book, for Teriyaki Tofu. I can’t reprint without permission, so I am sorry about that. If I learn to make it look nearly as good as the cookbook, I will see if I can get permission! You can click on the link to check it out and read reviews. I still need to perfect my execution of the recipe (my sauce did not harden up to form a crispy outside) like hers does in the picture. I think it has something to do with my broiling skills. But it was a tasty, sweet, gingery sauce with rather firm tofu. Delicious! I served the tofu with broccoli and extra sauce poured on.

Here is my finished product! Yummy, with a firmer texture than any tofu I have made before. After one pressing, I feel like I can tentatively recommend this product, although I cannot speak for its longevity. It will be easy to store and was easy to wash in a tub of soapy water. When pressing, the water drained into a pan and did not waste any trees/paper towels. All good!

So, what are you cooking during this hot weather??

I’ll be back in a week and a half, cooled off! Happy Fourth to the good ol’ USA!