Thursday, November 29, 2007


I'm going to be eating lasagna for quite a while, so in the meantime, if you're interested in such things, Almost Vegetarian is having a contest where you can win some natural face, body and hair care products. She's posting about a different product every day for two weeks. I'm not sure exactly what the contest will entail, but I'm hopeful I'll win. I mean, I'm due up, I say. I might be one of five bloggers who's never won a Dyson.

Speaking of, this post (and its comments) over at Music City Bloggers has got me contemplating the vacuum cleaner issue. I have appealed to the Great Ivy of Shaks and Home-Ec 101 for some help. We'll see what she comes up with. My issues are that I have long hair and I have a cat with short hair. I don't have dry allergies, so I'm not as concerned about the HEPA stuff, but I have an old Kenmore canister vac that just can't handle the long hair. It gets caught in the roller and takes forever to clean. I need a long-hair resistant vacuum with a lot of power than can go from carpet to floor. Because I shed all over the place. Probably more than the cat.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Really Easy Garden Lasagna

When I was a kid, my mother discovered that I'd eat just about anything as long as it had spaghetti sauce on it. She didn't always indulge me, but we were both thankful when broccoli was served on the same night as chicken cacciatore or chicken parmigiana (after my stepfather's first heart attack, it was "chicken something" just about every night). Not much has changed since then except that I no longer eat chicken. I still don't love a whole lot of vegetables that are really good for you, which is why garden lasagna is such an easy way to make things such as broccoli and carrots go down a little easier.

Before I start in on this recipe, let me tell you that it is a heavily modified lasagna recipe. As in (obviously) there's no meat sause and also no ricotta or parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano. Ricotta is a vegetarian cheese, but it's a colossal pain in the ass and I didn't really think it added all that much, so I started leaving it out a few years ago. So here we go. Note: The recipe is meant to be "easy" but I've put some alternatives in parentheses that may make it a little more labor intensive. The easiest part is you let the sauce and water from the vegetables cook the noodles instead of cooking them ahead of time (so this lasagna takes a little longer to cook in the oven).

1 cup chopped summer (yellow) squash
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 or 1 1/2 cups shredded carrot (to taste)
1 medium jar or can of mushrooms pieces and stems, drained (or fresh sliced mushrooms if you prefer)
1 cup thawed and drained frozen chopped broccoli (or fresh, finely chopped)
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
9 lasagna noodles (I use a whole grain noodle)
1 26 ounce-ish jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I use Newman's Own Organic Herb Marinara)
1 15 ounce can or 2 8 ounce cans of plain tomato sauce (I use the 15 ounce can of Contadina Roma Tomato Sauce or the Dole Organic Tomato Sauce)
Chopped garlic (I use the stuff in a jar, because I'm lazy like that)
Dried herbs (whatever you like--my favorite herb is rosemary, so I add it to my sauce).

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sauces into a medium bowl and add the chopped garlic and herbs (to taste) and mix well. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 pan (I use a glass baking dish) and then spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom. Place three noodles on top of the sauce, evenly spaced (they'll expand during cooking). Then spread the chopped broccoli, mushrooms and carrot over the noodles and top with half the cheese. Pour 1 1/2 cups of sauce over the cheese and then place three more noodles on top of the sauce. Sprinkle on the squash and zucchini and the rest of the cheese and cover with 1 cup of sauce. Place three more noodles on top and cover with the remaining sauce (cover it completely to avoid crunchy noodles). Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and (optional) sprinkle some additional cheese on top. Bake (not optional) another 15 minutes.

Notes: You can choose any combination of vegetables you like but note that some vegetables have a higher water content than others. The squash and zucchini in this recipe means that you have to let it set for a while after baking so that the water is absorbed. I usually just turn off the oven and let it sit in there another half an hour before serving. Let it set even longer and re-heat it later, if you like. I don't make lasagna often because there's a lot of it, but the leftovers actually taste better than the first night because the added herbs and garlic have time to really sink in. It's a good thing, because now I have a week's worth of lunches. It ain't pretty, but it sho' is good.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Almost Vegetarian

One of the cookbooks I have in my increasingly-large cookbook collection is entitled "Almost Vegetarian." And considering that nearly eight years into this process, I'm still stumbling over hidden critter bits and juice myself, I was intrigued by a comment on this post at Back in Skinny Jeans that I found via Brittney, she of now-deceased blog, Vegetarian Nashville, seein' as how she has relo'd to the Bay Area and I'm green with jealousy (insert pun here).

What was I saying? Oh, I found this blog, Almost Vegetarian. It's sassy. I like it. I've already found an easy and seemingly tasty recipe I want to try. And I don't yet know her well enough to tell her that Parmesan cheese (and certainly not Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) is not vegetarian. I only found out myself a few months ago (you know, that rennet thing). As I've mentioned, the world is full of little landmines for vegetarians. She is, at least an admitted "almost" vegetarian. I'm sometimes an accidental and ignorant omnivore!

Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas

I have updated this recipe for black bean and corn enchiladas. Previously, I tried to skimp on fat and calories by not re-heating and re-fatting (?) the corn tortillas. Yesterday, I was feeling a bit cheeky and decided to try them the right way. That is, first heat your tortillas before rolling them up. And boy, was it worth it. So, here's the revised recipe:

Corn tortillas
One can of black beans
Frozen whole kernel corn (or drained canned whole kernel corn)
Shredded Mexican cheese (use your favorite cheese here or vegan cheddar)
Tomato sauce (for 8 enchiladas, I use 1 8 oz. can of organic tomato sauce)

To prepare the corn tortillas:
1. Heat a large fry pan on high heat with about a teaspoon of refined peanut oil (or other high smoke point oil; see here for a list of suggested oils). Keep the oil nearby.
2. Place one tortilla on the oil and brown for 3 or 4 seconds (long enough to pick up the next tortilla).
3. With a spatula, lift the first tortilla and put the new one down on the pan and the first on on top of it. Repeat with as many tortillas as you'll want to use. Add oil as necessary (every 2 or 3 tortillas).
4. Lay out on paper towels to absorb excess oil.

While the tortillas are cooling, mix together about half a can of black beans and equal amounts of (thawed or drained) corn with a little bit of your favorite salsa. Put a strip of the mixture in the middle of one tortilla, top it with some shredded cheese (don't overstuff) and roll it up and place it in a baking dish. Repeat until you've filled up your dish. Then cover the enchiladas with the tomato sauce (and salsa, if you like) and top with a little more shredded cheese.

Some recipes will call for all of the enchiladas to be covered with the sauce, but I prefer to keep part of the tortillas sauce-less so they can get crunchy while cooking. Bake at 375 for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted (if you used more cheese inside the enchiladas, they may need to bake longer). This photo is pre-baking, of course since I was starving by the time they were ready to eat. But, hey, I'm getting better.

I serve the enchiladas with a side dish of Mexican rice. Most Mexican rice blends in the groceries have chicken stock, so I buy the small package of saffron rice and stir in some salsa. The leftovers are good filling (along with leftover black beans) for burritoes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Holy cow, I paid three frickin' dollars for a red bell pepper from Nicaraugua at Harris Teeter. I really need to explore this locavore thing more. Though I'm not sure if, like my ancestors, I really want to survive all winter on blackeyed peas, cabbage, potatoes, squash and cornbread. I need a hothouse out back. Can Santa fit one of those on his sleigh?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I won't be eating this Thanksgiving

In just a little while, I'll pack up the car and head home to Memphis for the holiday. Thanksgiving is a little different this year in that I usually host it for my (small) family here in Nashville. Last year's feast was good, but quite heavy on the winter squashes. There was a lot of yellow and orange on the table.

This year, though I will be going to my mother's house and, unfortunately sharing space with a large bird carcass. Thankfully, she doesn't put it on the table and must keep it covered to protect it from the cats. I'll be eating a meal of sweet potato casserole (no marshmallows), homemade craberry sauce, and fruit salad. If I choose to forgo the mac & cheese, it'll be a vegan Thanksgiving feast for me.

I don't step up onto my soapbox often, but a conversation I had recently reminded me that so few people understand or are even willing to understand the processes that result in the meat appearing on their plates. Certainly, I appreciate those who choose local and organic meats over the factory farmed meats that are so cheap and plentiful, but the process (to me) is still quite horrifying. And I'm disturbed that for most of my life I ate meat without any thought or respect for the being that suffered.

That said, I do hope that those who plan to consume a turkey will read this article from The Daily Page in Madison, Wisconsin: "To Kill a Turkey: If you're going to eat animals, shouldn't you be willing to do the deed?". It's an excellent and informative article and is written by a person who is a meat-eater, so it's not "vegetarian rhetoric" or something published by PETA, which has a tendency to alienate rather than engage omnivores these days. And to those of you who will be consuming animals on this day, I hope that even if you don't read the article, that when giving thanks for what you have that you will also honor and respect the animal and the humans who suffered so that you could eat today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In need of a better diet

It's been awful quiet around here, I know. There are a couple of reasons for that:

1. My tonsils are still rebelling against me and my body. I'm now pulling out the equivalent of an atomic bomb on them in hopes of getting them unswollen. And praying I don't have to have a tonsillectomy.

2. There is no number two except to say that side effects from the treatment of my tonsils continues to render most food inedible or unappetizing.

I did manage to go out to dinner last night with some friends to Rumba on West End. It's been a couple of months since I've been there (I used to be a regular), so it was good to indulge on all of my favorites: rosemary naan, roasted red pepper flatbread and the tempura haricot verts. The fried green beans are topped with a little soy sauce and some sesame seeds and, as my dining companions noted, "totally addictive."

Aside from that, I've been doing a lot of thinking about the vegetarian meetup we had Saturday afternoon. We started off with a potluck lunch (I refuse to say what ill-executed dish I took with me--it didn't taste bad, but it didn't taste like it was supposed to) in conjunction with the raw food meetup group. There were several dishes from the raw foods section that I really enjoyed. I hope that they post their recipes for us all. I ate lunch with Yvonne Smith, The Traveling Vegetarian, who has pretty much convinced me that my next road trip must be to Asheville, North Carolina. I spent Sunday catching up on the latest installments of her show. You should check it out, too.

After lunch, we listened to Will Tuttle talk about his new book, The World Peace Diet. What an engaging speaker Dr. Tuttle is. I already knew most of what he said during his talk, but it's good to be reminded of things that are easy and convenient to forget regarding the food choices we make. Though it's hard to imagine that I'll ever go completely vegan, I did at least eat a vegan meal Saturday night.

On a rather amusing side note, one of the friends I had dinner with last night lives in London. She said that since she's been there, she's eaten mostly vegetarian Indian food. She doesn't eat chicken anyway and she said the beef tastes really bad and "gamey"; ostensibly due to the fact that they eat grass instead of corn. I thought that was funny given this post and comment thread over at Music City Bloggers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

How not to cook

It was time to get back into the kitchen last night and I wanted to do something a little special with my pizza (good pizza in Nashville is not terribly convenient for a West-sider). Claudia was kind enough to bestow upon me a few cipollini onions, which I hoped to prepare in some way with balsamic vinegar before plopping them on the pizza. I've had "balsamic marinated cipolline onions" at Memphis's tapas joint (I love to say that), Dish (no link because their site is an irritating flash-only site), but I didn't have time to marinate them. So I looked up some ways to prepare them and settle on this:

Peel and saute onions [whole, apparently] in 1T olive oil until browned on both sides. Add 1 tsp sugar and 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar to pan and reduce until onions are soft. Cool and slice into rings.

Sounds fairly simple, right? First, let me say that one should definitely not put too much oil in the pan (it will pop, but most people know this; I just got carried away). Second, adding the vinegar will create smoke if the pan is too hot (which is inevitable if you're using cast iron). Third, reducing a sugar, oil, vinegar concoction in your beloved cast iron pan will create an unholy mess. Fourth, even with your sharpest ceramic knife, it is impossible to cut those tiny onions into appropriately-sized rings (for pizza). Next time I'll know: cut the onions first, plan ahead and marinate the onions for several hours, cook in a regular saute pan. Regardless of the immense pain in the rear the onions caused, they were quite tasty, but kind of got lost on the pizza because I also had black olives, fresh tomato and white mushrooms on there (along with my own pizza sauces which is fairly heavy on the herbs). The best way to enjoy cipollini onions is really on their own and roasted in a balsamic marinade. This recipe (with some modification to taste) looks like a good one to try.

Next time...

UPDATE: Here's another recipe with cipollini (not onions) that looks scrumptious.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Foodie vs. Eater

I'd tell you about the wonderful dinner I had last night, but Claudia does a much better job. There were a lot of flavors in this dish and the combination really worked. To an extent that every bite tasted slightly different, but in a complementary way.

What's particularly interesting to me about this dish is that it contained red onions that I liked. As I've mentioned before, I'm picky about onions and not a huge fan of red onions, really. But these onions had been roasted and browned with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, so not only did the texture was soft and taste sweet and savory at the same time. I also enjoyed a delicious and simple salad of butter lettuce with (roasted?) walnut oil and a pinch of some special salt that I'd never heard of before.

In fact, Claudia discussed a lot of dishes and ingredients that were new to me, so not only was dinner fun, I learned a lot as well. Claudia is a true foodie--being from New York tends to make one's palate at least slightly more sophisticated than, say a person who's never been outside of Tennessee for more than two weeks at a time--whereas I'm just a person who likes food. An eater, if you will. So it's always nice to get to experience firsthand the fruits of someone else's learned lessons and labor! Count me as a new fan of (among other things) farro, roasted red onions, walnut oil for salads, and live butter lettuce (which should last longer in the fridge than my usual lettuce). And, interestingly, black pepper in pumpkin cake. I'm suddenly regretting not taking a slice of pumpkin cake to go...yum.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pimiento Cheese

I think the first time I realized that there are some distinct differences in cuisine among the various regions of the United States was in 1995 when my roommate had to mail care packages that included boxes of instant grits to her boyfriend who'd gotten transferred to Michigan. He'd gone to the grocery store to get some upon his arrival only to be disappointed that the employees had never heard of such a thing.

Even now, I still get a little surprised by some of the cuisine that I grew up with that's fairly confined to the region. I only recently discovered that pimiento cheese was considered a Southern delicacy. What, Yankees don't know how to mix together some cheese and sweet peppers to make a spread? What's wrong with them? I kid, of course. The funny thing is that my mother does not like pimiento cheese [spread], so we never had it at home. My beloved grandmother loved it, though so it was a real treat for me to get to eat it during visits to my mother's family in Paris, Tennessee. I still remember my mother grimacing at us while we ate pimiento cheese sandwiches (on white bread, naturally). I think it's because my mother hates mayonnaise (she only eats Miracle Whip--yuck).

Its status as a southern delicacy makes pimiento cheese sandwiches a staple at local restaurants that appeal to the "ladies who lunch" crowd. While I am a female and do like to eat lunch, I don't count myself as a lady who lunches, but I sure enjoy their restaurants. Last week, I met a friend at Bridges on White Bridge Road, a cafe that serves breakfast, lunch and takeaway that's inside Belle Meade Drugs (more info here). The pimiento cheese is good, though the consistency is a little different than what I'm used to. The cheese they use is "finely shredded" instead of grated, but the taste of the mix is very good. I like that I could have it on wheat bread as well and with a slice of tomato and some leafy green lettuce. They scored points with the leafy green lettuce; iceberg lettuce has no purpose in this world. It is the cockroach of lettuces. They probably use the finely shredded cheese because it's likely they can't let the cheese sit out for the compulsory half hour to get the mix at room temperature and the cheese at a smoother texture since that's just inviting bacteria and a reprimand from the health department, so I'd say that was a good call on their part.

I'd read some complaints about the service at the cafe, but though the food itself took a while to arrive at our table (my dining companion ordered a Reuben), the server was sweet and earnest and made sure we had water, so I have no complaints about having to wait a bit to get food. Incidentally, I ordered the pasta salad for my side dish with the sandwich and that's the source of my only complaint. I found pepperoni in it. As I've said many times, eating at restaurants can be a bit like walking through a minefield for a vegetarian. You never know when you're going to stumble upon critter bits in your food. Next time, I'll get the fruit salad instead.

All that said, here's a simple pimiento cheese [spread] recipe like my grandmother used to make:
1/2 pound/2 cups/8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup mayonnaise (or less if you don't want it too creamy)
1/4 cup (1 small jar) sliced pimientos with the juice

Mix together all the ingredients and season to taste with salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, and/or black pepper (whatever you like, but my grandmother only used salt). You can even add a little lemon juice for some zest.

I remember very distinctly that one of my grandmother's sisters made pimiento cheese sandwiches (on white bread, cut into quarters) and brought them to the funeral home for me (and, I guess other family members--ahem) to eat during the visitation when my grandmother passed away in 1990. She must've known that it was something my grandmother and I shared. Or maybe it was just because it's a (Southern) comfort food staple. Either way, I really enjoyed those sandwiches.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


It's been quiet around here mostly due to the fact that I haven't cooked or eaten much interesting lately. No one wants to read that I've been subsisting on bananas and whole wheat English muffins, I'm sure. A high dose of penicillin every day taken to rid myself of an ear infection has rendered most food completely unappetizing to me. If not for the implications (ie, superstrains of viruses), I'd recommend penicillin as a weight loss plan.

Though I did go out to dinner at Anatolia over on White Bridge Road this week (despite the recent crime spree at restaurants in the area). The menu is heavily focused on meaty Turkish favorites, but there are quite a few vegetarian options. What I like to do is get an appetizer sampler platter (to share--it's huge) and a side order of veggie kabobs and rice pilaf. It makes for quite a filling meal but is still pretty cheap.

The appetizer platter includes hummus and pita triangles, vegetarian dolmas (still happy that most dolmas in Nashville are vegetarian), and sigara boregi, also known as Turkish cigars. They're cylinders of phyllo dough stuffed with feta cheese and parsley that's been deep fried. And they're the most heavenly sweet and savory thing you can imagine. La Luna over in Berryhill serves them as well with a side of apple chutney for dipping, but Anatolia serves them with rose jam, which perfectly complements the dish. I loved the rose jam so much that I bought some to bring home with me (I bought it from Anatolia, but it's available at most Middle Eastern or international groceries). I love roses in every form--I wear rose perfume, I grow roses in my garden and yes, I even eat them. If you haven't had the rose jam, I highly recommend it. A good place to start is with the sigara boregi at Anatolia. Even when nothing else sounds or tastes good, the Turkish cigars will rescue your appetite.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Vegetarian Meetup

If you're not familiar with, it's a website that lets people with similar interests (usually in the same geographic area) connect with each other. There are tons of meetup groups for every topic you can imagine. I'm a member of the Nashville Vegetarian Meetup Group. I've met some very interesting and wonderful people through this group and learned a lot and it usually gives me an inspiration boost to get back in the kitchen when we have potlucks.

The next meeting, though is not only a potluck, but will also feature a speaker, Will Tuttle, author of "The World Peace Diet."
It's a book that makes, "explicit the invisible connections between our meals and our broad range of problems - psychological, social, spiritual, as well as health and environmental. It offers powerful ways we can all experience healing and peace and contribute to a positive transformation of human consciousness."

If you're a vegetarian (or "veg-curious"--ha!), I recommend signing up with the group and/or attending this event.

Event Info:
Saturday, November 17, 2007, 1:00 PM
First Unity Church of Nashville
5125 Franklin Road Nashville, TN 37220
For more information, call Sharon: 615-556-1152

This event has been listed in other meetup groups as a vegetarian potluck (no meat/fish or animal broth, gelatin, etc) , but I have also seen it written that there will likely be plenty of food, so if you'd like to attend but do not necessarily want to join one of the meetup group or may be a little challenged in the kitchen, if you contact Sharon at the number above, she'll be able to give you more information. More than likely, though I'd say that attendance is open. As long as you're not planning on bringing a rack of lamb or ribs!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Cuisine

Yikes, I haven't posted since Sunday! I've, of course, eaten since Sunday, but nothing particularly noteworthy at home. I did, however, join a friend for lunch yesterday at Woodlands Indian vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant specializes in southern Indian cuisine (as opposed to your typical Indian restaurant that serves northern specialties such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Tandoori whatever, etc.). Their dinner menu is huge but I suggest trying the lunch buffet on your first trip.

Typically, I hate buffets. It brings out the glutton in me who feels the strong need to get her money's worth at the expensive of comfort. And I'm not sure I entirely trust most sneezeguards. Or other buffet patrons. But the buffet is a great way to get acclimated to a different kind of Indian food, find what you like (almost everything!) and go back for seconds, of course. And each person receives a masala dosa--one of my favorites.

The only problem, which really isn't a problem is that the selections change often and you can't always expect your favorites to be set out for the day. And not everything is always labelled, so I have a couple of favorite items (which, incidentally are all fried) that I have no idea how to ask for. One item is this homefry-looking fritter made from lentil flour. It's hard and crunchy like a fry, not soft like a bread. So delicious. They did have on the buffet yesterday some eggplant pakoras, some chickpea curry, and some of those savory lentil pancakes make with tomatoes, onion and cilantro. They do always have white basmati rice as well as a flavored yellow rice with vegetables and seasonings as well as two soups and a variety of sauces for dipping.

The best part for me, of course, is that everything is vegetarian (and much of it vegan), so I can fill my plate with reckless abandon (with a side order of rice pudding). Even better is that the food is so good, that it's a favorite among my non-vegetarian friends, too. So even if you're a committed omnivore, you'll never miss having critters in your food at Woodlands.