Monthly Archives: July 2010

Veggie Friendly Cities

A list from PETA of the ten most vegetarian friendly cities, passed on by a Facebook friend.


How Are We Doing Here at VPE?

So I’ve been blogging now for about a months, give or take, and thought the readers might be interested in how we’re doing.  So, some statistics for you:

  • 41 posts (really?)
  • 1,511 views (with 151 on one particular day)
  • On any day I post, I get about 30 views.

So I’m not Mark Bittman or whatever, but its fun and some of you seem to enjoy it.

Pesto! With a Twist!

We’ve had an uneventful couple of days, marked by one night where we just sort of picked at food from the fridge and a second night of an OK quiona salad.  You know, that’s all well and good but its not really blog material.  And believe it or not, I really don’t plan the meals with this blog in mind.

My inspirations often come from elsewhere.  In my most cliche’ moments, I’d say my inspiration often comes from the local Farmers Market.  That is certainly true of this week’s meal.

Usually our Farmers Market trip is fairly routine.  The selection here isn’t overwhelming compared to other parts of the country, so we usually get the things that I know I like to cook with.  This week there was — as usual — a lot of herbs.  I don’t often pay much attention to those because I have a small selection of fresh herbs in pots in the back.  But this week TPE was asking for “something with dill” (I have no idea why…stay tuned), which I don’t have.  I didn’t really find the dill I was looking for, but there was one organic stand with a lot of nice looking basil at a good price ($3 for a large bunch).  So I decided that pesto would be one of the meals of the week.

Pesto is easy enough but, honestly, I’ve been avoiding pasta since TPE became a vegetarian.  Not only is it “too easy” but I’m worried that it will become so much of a crutch that eating it becomes unhealthy.  The basil was just too much to pass up in that quantity at that price to not eat it this week.  That challenge is to do something interesting with it though.

I used a fairly basic recipe for starters.  About a 1/2 cup of cheese, a couple of cups of basil, 1/2 of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, and some butter.  “No pine nuts?,” you must be asking Faithful Reader.  Nothing is that easy.  TPE doesn’t like pine nuts and generally doesn’t do well with nuts at all.  Yet pesto without the nuts… what thickens it and helps it cling to the pasta and not be too oily?  My solution was to replace the pine nuts with chickpeas.  And that worked great with respect to flavor and texture.  I’m a big fan of this now, if only because it means I can feel ok about the protein thing.  Yeah, I know that’s not as much of a worry as people think.  Still.

But how to spice it up?  How to make it better than the normal pesto?  She-Who-Hums has been begging me to make caramelized onions lately.  She got hooked when I made some for the lentil croquettes that are becoming as stable of our family cuisine.  TPE calls them “lentil balls.”  That makes me giggle.  Anyway, I decided to caramelize onions and put them in with the pesto.  I could get a veggie into She-Who-Hums that wasn’t an olive or pickle, plus it would be a nice little twist in our relatively simple meal.

It worked wonderfully!  I even called them “a revelation,” but that was probably hyperbole.  But the sweetness of the onions, the saltiness of the cheese, and the slightly bitter garlic in the sauce made for some pretty darned good eating.  In retrospect I need to pay a little more attention to how much garlic goes in there and just how pungent it is (dinner was a touch bitter), but it was great.  And She-Who-Hums had a nice meal to boot, with onions, pickles, cucumbers, and onions to match her bologna sandwich (cut into the shape of a star).

I miss my grill

I miss my grill.

I consider myself fairly handy over both charcoal and gas, especially when it comes to getting a nice crust and appropriately cooked bird to appear from under its hood.  I love keeping the heat from cooking outside, where it belongs in summer, and the exhilaration of coming inside to the air conditioning after standing in the humid pressure cooker outside.  Yet, I’ve not touched my grill even once this summer for a spot of cooking.

I know you can grill vegetables.  However, TPE is not a fan of vegetables in chunks.  She prefers her vegetables in nearly invisible form, so that she can’t possibly know what she’s eating (until I tell her) and that its impossible for her to pick it out.  That’s hardly a demand that fits well with the needs of grilling.  Although it tends to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables, small chunks obviously don’t do well on the grill.  Plus, the vegetables that really do best on the grill — namely things like eggplant — are on the list of “things to give TPE when I’m feeling like being disappointed after cooking for two hours.”  Its scary to someone like her.

So I miss the flavor, the experience, and the grill.  Once Fall gets here, I guess I’ll overcome that feeling with roasted vegetables.  This is one sacrifice I hadn’t planned on making.

A Week in the Life…

Any of you want to take a stab at this for a guest stint?  It might be kind of fun to read the musings of other vegetarians, experienced or not.  Think about it and if you’re interested, let me know and we’ll do a one-week, post-as-much-as-little as you like guest gig.  Could be fun, so don’t be chicken.

Guest Recipe: Corn-Tomato Scramble

Looks yummy, from

Of Kitchen Floors, Take-Out, and Simple Food

Has it really been eleven days?  It has to be, as that’s what the blog calendar tells me.  And the block calendar can’t be wrong.

I wasn’t taking a hiatus.  At least not on purpose anyway.  We had an out of town guest who was here to work with me, which meant I wasn’t home cooking (I did enjoy some of the best BBQ in the world though).  Then I was working on installing a new kitchen floor.  It looks like…I’ll put some pictures up later.

All of that added up to lots of take-out and no food at home.  Taking out and eating out isn’t easy for vegetarians.  But that’s another post.

Tonight I cooked.  And I want to talk about the cooking.  I wanted something simple, but different because we’ve started to get into too much of a routine.  We didn’t have a whole lot of food, however, so options were limited. At the end of the day, I went with two different things in the entree:

  1. Stuffed mushrooms.  You’re supposed to use big portabella caps, but I found that the small ones worked just fine.  Leeks, green onions, green peppers, mushroom stems, garlic, and mozzarella cheese.  Yum.
  2. Lentil sandwiches.  The smashed lentils have squash, tomato and green onions.  I flavored it with just salt and pepper, then fried it (some egg and breadcrumbs in there too).  I put it on a wheat wrap, finished it off with balsamic, feta, and olive oil.  TPE said it was her favorite thing yet.

All in all, it was a great return to normalcy.  You don’t really know how much cooking for yourself — especially vegetarian — contributes to healthy living, until its gone.  I’ve felt sluggish, greasy (yes, greasy), and cranky.  Some of that was because of the long hours and hard work, but its more than that.  Its the food.  And…its more than that.  Its the release I get from cooking it.  The creativity, the sheer pleasure of doing something without knowing the result and getting validation from a hungry audience.

I’m glad to be back, at least until the next trip or project.


Interesting little blog I stumbled upon.  I’ll add it to the blog roll.

Vegetarian for Busy Eaters

Given how little I’ve posted this week, its evident that its been a crazy week in our household.  It was nothing specific really, just a whole bunch of late afternoon early evening activities that made making dinner challenging.  I suppose that’s good news for the blog though, because someone had just asked for most posts on quick cooking on busy days.

The answer?  Grilled cheese.

Not really, but kind of.  I was intent on not cooking pasta just because I was busy.  Not only does it seem like that is low hanging fruit, but I’m pretty sure its a good way to be fat.  I am trying not to be fat.  In the past on busy days, I could count on a backup of sandwiches and soup/salad.  So at least once this week, I succumbed to that temptation and made a stellar grilled cheese with a nice little side salad.

Well, that gets you through one meal.  What if you have to make it through two, three, or even four meals in a row like this?  For a committed cook like myself, that’s annoying because I enjoy eating well.  However, for a busy parents like myself sometimes I need to just get by.  So what to do…(DAMN YOU PASTA…I WILL NOT EAT YOU AT EVERY MEAL!)

One night I decided to cook some burritos.  Those were quick, easy, and delicious.  We had a fruit salad to accompany it, as well as another salad.  Salad has been a bit hit this week.  The nice thing about these is that you can usually put them together with just about anything that is on hand.  For example, we had no black beans but the red kidney beans we did have worked just fine.  As long as you have some onions and peppers — and if you’re me, you avoid putting anything to hot in them because TPE will start the mouth-waving dance — you can pretty much pull these off.  For this reason, I will forever be keeping burrito wrappers on my “must have” list along with plain yogurt, vegetable stock, and lentils.

Another night I made lentil croquettes.  These are quickly becoming my go-to recipe.  You cook some French lentils with celery, carrots, and salt until they’re done.  You then put them through a food processor (you could mash them as well).  Combine the mashed lentils with egg, bread crumbs, roll them, and fry them.   They’re tasty, generally healthy and a nice vehicle for lots of other things.  I’ve been following Deborah Madison’s suggestion of caramelized onions.  Oh yeah, I also made macaroni and cheese. (OK pasta, you got me this time.  Until we meet again!) What was I going to do, She-Who-Hums was insistent.  TPE did graciously suggest that I clean up and bathe the kid after I worked on this meal for like an hour.  (Maybe I’ll put red pepper flakes in her ice cream as retribution.)  The nice thing about this meal is that you can freeze your croquettes and use them at another meal.

Tonight we did a bean salad and a mixed green salad.  I also made a version of grilled cheese for myself with thinly sliced onion, tomato, and zucchini.  It was so yummy that I’m inspired to start planning on making more vegetarian sandwiches (e.g., pan bagnat), so that I have more of these go-to recipes in the future.  Mark Bittman has some nice, inspirational suggestions in his book How To Cook Everything Vegetarian.

The other meal this week was stir fry with tofu.  That deserves a post of its own.

All in all, I think that this was a challenging week.  TPE had one meal that caused her to literally gag and the rest of the week was busy, busy, busy.  But I learned some things that will help going forward, like the value of the burrito and the need to figure out how to replace sandwich meat without just making grilled cheese.

But if you have to, I recommend the grilled cheese.  Just try to use good cheese.