Category Archives: Family

Tofu Success!

Despite not feeling well, TPE wanted dinner last night. Perusing the ingredients in the fridge and taking TPEs request for something light into account, I settled on a stir fry. Since become vegetarians, these are the moments where I have attempted to make tofu edible. These moments have not turned out well, both for different reasons.

In search of a recipe that would appeal to TPEs palate, I settled on one in Deborah Madison’s cookbook (what a godsend this book is!) that called for fried tofu that was then glazed in soy sauce and brown sugar. Let me tell you…this was the way to make tofu. I’m not crazy about the idea of frying it all the time, but this gives it some very nice texture and the glaze gives it a nice flavor. When its hot its a little crunchy, a little chewy, and almost a little gooey on the inside. I won’t be messing with tofu anymore because this is how I’m going to cook it (perhaps with other glazes however).

It it occurs to me while writing it that there is no reason why tofu must be used almost exclusively with Asian cuisines. I know that’s tradition because the roots of tofu are Asian, but with my new insight on frying and flavoring it I can see applications for it. Some time in the next couple of weeks, I think I’m going to experiment with it in Mexican cuisine. Properly fried and seasoned, I could see it in a burrito. Whatcha think?

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No Cooking for Me!

TPE surprised me tonight by having dinner ready by the time I got home, even though I got home early!  Its always a nice surprise when you don’t have to make dinner, but what was really nice about this is that it was pretty good.

Oh, I know that sounds insulting.  I really don’t mean it to be; TPE can cook and cook well.  She especially makes a mean cookie.  Where her and I diverge on food really has to do with what to make.  I’m adventurous; she’s not.  I like cheese and sugar; she triples those in recipes and halves everything that’s good for you.  I kid…sort of.

What was nice about tonight was this was the first time she decided to make a meal since she became a vegetarian…and she wasn’t trying to pretend that she wasn’t.  See, a lot of “vegetarian” recipes spend their time apologizing for the lack of meat and looking for substitutes.  The problem is that vegetables can’t replace meat and vice versa.  And many of the options — e.g., tofu — just really come across as a rite of passage for the newly meat-free.

Well…let’s just say that TPEs appetites will often lend themselves to recipes of that type and, not surprisingly, we’re both usually less than satisfied with the results.  Tonight she resisted that normal impulse and really thought about the meal from the vegetarian point of view — what would fit her dietary needs (we hadn’t had much protein this week), would fit into her schedule, and would satisfy her snooty husband (if she’s The Picky Eater, I’m clearly The Snobby Cook).  She hit the nail on the head with a white bean salad.

While this salad was very similar to what I’ll serve her, she had an inspired use of garlic to really beef up the flavor (pun intended).  She also accidentally pureed the tomatoes.  Though I was skeptical of that, it made the dressing very close to a tomato vinaigrette.  That was a serendipitous moment that I plan on using in the future.  Of course, I’ll have to do it my way…the TSC way.

The End of the Hiatus

I hadn’t planned on taking two weeks (or so) off from the blog, but its what happened.  Life intervened.  We were so busy that I was hardly doing any cooking at all and I’m sure that you’d be bored to tears by me extolling the virtues of Little Ceasar’s pizza (there are none).  Do have some ideas for blog posts bouncing around my jumbled head, so stay tuned.  Here’s a preview

  • The Vegetarian “Option”
  • What the Heck is CVS (The Disease, Not the Pharmacy)
  • Why Do Insist on Not Making Quick Dinners?
  • Is Macaroni and Cheese Really a Vegetarian Dinner, Or Does She-Who-Hums Run Our Household?
  • Eat Out is Hard to Do
  • I’m Thinking About Being Less Fat

So stay tuned!

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.

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.

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.

Father’s Day Respite

One of the many wonders of Father’s Day is that I’m not expected to do anything.  That includes cooking, even though I keep telling them that I actually enjoy that.  However, my female family members really outdid themselves today.  I consider it one of my favorite days since She-Who-Hums graced us with her presence almost eight years ago.

  • A three course breakfast “cooked” by SWHs.  Scrambled eggs, followed by a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and capped off by yogurt sprinkled with fresh blackberries.  She’s no Thomas Keller, but she loves doing this and its very sweet.  I ate every bite.
  • A lot of gifts, even though I told them not to give me any.  Included were a freezable mug that said “King of the Castle”, a World Cup T-shirt, and some nice coffee.
  • A short (2 hour) trip to the local beach.  Its really more a hill with a little bit of sand and lake water, but its what we have to work with.  We saw many of SWHs friends there, which means we saw some of our friends.  Always fun!
  • An hour of quiet time.
  • Lunch, also prepared by SWHs.  This was a special “double decker” ham sandwich (I’m not personally a whole vegetarian yet).  Again, every bite was eaten.
  • About three hours of games, including a very competitive game of UNO and a number of rounds of Boggle (a great game for younger kids by the way).
  • While SWHs got her shower, I read about 40 pages of Bob Shurm’s (self-serving) memoir of running Kerry and Gore’s failed presidential campaigns.
  • A dinner of spinach filled lasagna made by TPE, a lovely salad with greens, and a fresh berry mixture.
  • A movie with SWHs, while TPE took her shower and performed her endless post-shower ritual.  (Note: I can only do the ritual justice if you can watch the full-feature action I have to go with it.)  The move was The Fabulous Mr. Fox and it was fabulous!
  • A vanilla ice cream cake (neither of them eat chocolate, if you can believe that) followed by three rounds of Double Shutter, a counting game also good for kids.  Fun too.

In the midst of all that, I got no whining, very little crying, and over an hour of World Cup action.  There were no children’s shows and very few claims of “I’m bored.”

What a perfect day.

What did you for your Father’s today?  And if you’re interested, here is an article in today’s New York Times that suggests men are now feeling more stress than women in families.  Maybe, maybe not but it shows that many of us do care.

She almost ate a potato!

Tonight was another “3 people, 3 dinners” thing, but it wasn’t really that bad.  The Kid had some sort of pre-packaged corn dog thing; TPE had leftovers from last night along with a leafy salad.

In other words, I only needed to feed myself.  That’s fine by me because I like everything and this gives me a chance to try out new things.  My mind immediately focused in on “Indian food,” so I decided to dig into my now-trusty copy of Deborah Madison’s book for a recipe.  The recipe is more “Indian-like” than Indian, but it had the added appeal of not being too spicy (which meant TPE would at least try it).  The recipe itself is simple enough — some potatoes, cauliflower, onion, greens, and shredded carrots, all of which was covered with a fairly basic spice mixture.

Anyway, after the ladies sat down and began to enjoy their various dinners, I told TPE that she should check my dish and see if it was something she might like.  Her immediate reaction was…a disgusted face and a “what is in it?”  (This isn’t personal…I don’t think).  My dilemma…lead with the cauliflower, onion, or the dreaded potatoes?

You see, TPE doesn’t eat potatoes.  Well, that’s not quite right.  She eats french fries and tolerates a new recipe I’ve used for potato croquettes, but she will not under any other circumstances eat a POTATO! (Or, so she thinks…if you catch my drift.)

Given these circumstances, I led with onion and then cauliflower.  And she didn’t blow chunks, spit on me, or hand over the divorce papers.  She even offered a, “I could eat that…not bad” comment!  But then I blew it by saying, “Hey, maybe you’ll like potatoes in this!”  She tried.  She really did.  But it was a failure.  Let’s just say that the poor piece of potato that I gave her came back gnarled with its soul no longer in tact. I was…THIS…CLOSE!

But, I live to fight another day.

The week ahead

Obviously — I think — I like to cook. When I first got interested in really cooking, I tied myself pretty clearly to a handful of cookbooks early in the week, made a menu, and then stuck to it religiously.  As I got more comfortable with my favorite ingredients and was less befuddled about how to adjust on the fly, I got out of that practice and mainly asked that we had a handful of things around that I could always use in a pinch (things like plain yogurt and cream, which are not really “standards” in most homes).  With the switch to vegetarian for TPE, I think I’m going to get back into that habit.

That means I need to spend some time today looking up recipes I like (I always like the comfort of a trusted author nearby as I cook).  I also have to figure out what I need to start keeping in the pantry/fridge for those days where I don’t have time to plan like I’d like.  Anyway, here is a short list of ingredients that I’m sure I’ll use this week: tofu (second attempt), another round with quinoa, an avocado (second attempt for TPE), some edamame , carrots, red onion, summer squash, and maybe some flaxseed (we’ll see).

How do you do your menu planning?  Do you stick to it? What are your go-to-ingredients in your veggie, or not, pantry?

Salt

A four pager from the New York Times about salt and the politics behind its regulation.