Wednesday, November 26, 2008


While I applaud anyone trying to move toward a more plant-based diet, there is simply no such thing as a "vegetarian who occasionally eats meat." Flexitarian is not and should not be a word. There's already a word for people who eat plants and animals: omnivore.

Vegetarians: don't eat meat
Vegans: don't consume any animal-derived products (for food, clothing, etc).

I happen to be a vegetarian who not only eschews meat, but I also do not internally consume products that contain meat derivatives (stock, gelatin, fish oil, etc). Regardless, I don't have a special name for myself. I'm just a vegetarian.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

I bought what they call a "pie pumpkin" not too long ago. I'd intended on doing this with it but the pumpkin had other ideas. Okay, so the pumpkin didn't have any ideas, but when I attempted to move it the other day by the stem, it separated and fell to the floor. And cracked. So I had to cook it right away.

So I just roasted it as I would any other gourd and stuck the meat in the fridge until I could figure out what to do. I drained and re-drained it, but it was still very wet, so there were a few things I knew would be out of the question.

But this morning I decided to look for a recipe for pumpkin muffins that would easily accommodate my wet pumpkin. I found this lovely vegan pumpkin muffin recipe and got going.

I made a few changes, though. First, I opted out of the yogurt and soymilk and instead used a single egg. In retrospect, I don't think that was necessary given the amount of oil. Or I could have added some ground flax seed. So this wasn't vegan, which is a bit of a disappointment (particularly since it could have been). I also left out the allspice; I'm not a huge fan of it. And I, of course, used whole wheat flour.

As I was preparing the mix, I noticed it was really dry and dense. So I took out some of the pumpkin juice I'd saved and added it in until it reached a consistency I was pleased with. I also grated a little crystallized ginger and mixed it with some (unrefined) sugar and sprinkled it on top. Nice touch, if I do say so myself.

The verdict? These muffins are quite tasty! I'm sure that following the original recipe would produce an almost identical tasting muffin and I'll probably do that next time (with canned pumpkin), but I do recommend adding the ginger sugar on top. It looks pretty and tastes great.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Los Rosales closed until January 12

Sunday evening, the SO and I convinced our friends to make the haul down to Antioch from Inglewood to go to the city's best Mexican restaurant. But when we got there, a sign on the door said that Los Rosales will be closed for maintenance and remodling until January 12. Two months! Two months without Los Rosales! I am beyond disappointed. I am distraught. Bereft.

So this means I won't be having any Mexican food outside my house for the next two months. Guess it's time to figure out how to make Carlos's avocado sauce for my burritoes...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pumpkin Risotto

Until recently, I'd never made risotto. I love it, but the thought of standing over a pot and constantly stirring it for half an hour just seemed daunting. But I finally felt like I had the time and energy and gave it a shot.

I've had pumpkin risotto before. Unfortunately, I only had a bite before I discovered there was bacon in it (at a restaurant). I've been thinking about making it ever since. So I pulled up a stool, got out my wooden spoon and went to work.

So yeah, you gotta start off with some diced onion in olive oil. Then you fry up the rice for a bit in that oil before you start adding the broth...slowly. As in, oh my gosh this is so tedious, so I'll spare you the play-by-play. Anyway, here's the recipe:

Vegetarian Pumpkin Risotto
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 or 2 (to taste) cloves of garlic, chopped (note: I added this to the recipe)
2 cups arborio (risotto) rice
1 cup dry white wine (I used diluted apple cider vinegar--half vinegar, half water)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup canned pumpkin (I used the whole can and I am not ashamed I did not use my own roasted pumpkin puree)
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced (optional)
1 tsp nutmeg (optional--not really recommended)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil (option: garnish with fresh thyme instead)

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat for three to five minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the rice and brown while stirring for a minute or two. Slowly add the wine (or vinegar).

Add the vegetable broth, 1/2 cup at a time. Allow the moisture to cook off before adding the next 1/2 cup. Stir frequently.

Add remaining ingredients, stirring well, and cook for just a few minutes, until heated through.

Many apologies for all the parentheses. I had to make some changes to the original recipe. It wasn't quite savory enough for my taste, but if you add the garlic and be sure to used an entire onion, it's much better. It's also much better to garnish it with some fresh thyme instead of basil (as pictured) and a little grated parmigiano adds a nice punch. If cooked to the original recipe with the nutmeg and the ginger and no garlic, it's just a little too sweet. Of course, that could have been because I spaced out and used the entire can of pumpkin (almost twice what the recipe calls for). But when I added sauteed garlic, more onion and topped it with some parmigiano and thyme, I was really happy with it. The texture (despite all that extra pumpkin) was really good and the taste was savory and yummy.

We ate it as a main dish with a side of green stuff for balance and we still had enough leftover for two more dinners and an afternoon snach. Two cups of rice yields a helluva lotta risotto.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lemon Ginger Snap Pie

In the beginning, it sounded like a simple thing. It was. Simply not right.

The inspiration was a box of ginger snaps that had a recipe for pie crust on the side. The instructions were to put 20 cookies in a blender (four at a time) to make crumbs, add I-can't-remember-how-many tablespoons of melted butter and some sugar and then press into a pie plate and chill. Voila, a ginger snap crumb crust. Sounded delicious.

So I thought about what kind of filling I'd like for my crust and settled on lemon. Naturally, I googled it and found this recipe. Wow, all stuff I had on hand. This will be the easiest and best pie ever!

First, I opted to skip the blender and stick all of those cookies in my bad-ass Cuisinart. I ended up with something akin to cookie dust instead of cookie crumbs. I figured that didn't matter too much, so I added the melted butter and sugar and pressed it into the pie plate. And set it in the fridge to chill. Afterward, I noticed that my brand new food processor has a dull ring in side the bowl from where the ginger snaps scratched it. Perfect. Moving on.

While the crust was chilling, I started cooking up my lemon pie filling. I subbed in ReaLemon for fresh lemon juice and added a couple of drops of lemon extract to make it extra lemony. I cooked and cooked and cooked some more until it started getting thick. A little longer than the recipe called for. Also, I apparently wasn't always hitting the bottom of the pan with my spoon, because I dragged up a couple of clumps here an there. No matter. I just stirred them out.

It seemed a bit runny to me, so I let it cool for a while before pouring it into the pie plate. After an hour or so, I poured it in and then set it back in the fridge.

I checked on it after about 2.5 hours and it was still not setting. The SO was eager for a piece of pie, so I put it in the freezer. That firmed it up a bit but made the crust impossible to cut and remove from the pie plate. Great. I finally scraped a piece out and took a tiny bite.

Yum. This lemon pie filling is delicious. And that ginger snap crust is the perfect complement.


The next day, it was time to have pie again. What I saw in the pie plate was not pretty. Some lemony liquid had separated from the rest of the filling and collected in the place of the missing wedge. Clear, yellow, lemony liquid. And despite being at fridge temperature, the crust was still nearly impossible to cut and scrape out of the plate--hard as the original cookie and firmly attached to the (glass) pie plate. So preparing a piece of this pie to eat is a frustrating and time-consuming ordeal. The taste is wonderful, but the look is nothing like the photo.

I'm still not sure what I did wrong. Could be that the cookie dust was just not the right consistency for crust. Maybe margarine--like Earth Balance--would have been a better binder. But the filling? Except the addition of a couple of drops of lemon extract, I followed the recipe exactly. Did I cook it too long? Not long enough? I don't know that I'll ever find out.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

First trip to Trader Joe's Nashville

The SO and I braved the crowds and made our first trip to the new Trader Joe's this morning, its second day of business.

The same issue that was a problem when Wild Oats was in that location was a problem today--traffic and parking. We drove around the lot just a bit and finally just camped out and waited for a car to leave. I'm sure we annoyed several people, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I'd thought we might park at Grace's Plaza, but there were signs in the lot warning against that. I noticed a few people who parked across Hillsboro and walked over--smart idea.

Once inside, the crowd was just as crazy as the parking lot. But people seemed to be fairly pleasant; I suppose because none of us really knew where anything was and wanted to see everything. And the staff was really polite and pleasant considering they had to navigate the crowds with boxes and such to re-stock the quickly-dwindling supply of food.

I really wasn't too impressed with the TJ's in Las Vegas, but I think it was because I was looking for some particular items. It also just seemed a little dingy. The TJ's in Nashville, though has skylights which really take the edge off the fluorescent lights. Also, I think the key is to go in with an open mind and dig for treasure. Which is how I ended up spending nearly $90. I'm really not sure what all I got, but my refrigerator is bulging. Some broccoli and fancy mushrooms, some fresh pasta, some of those fleur de sel, that accounts for about $12. Oh! some truffled cheese, ginger cookies, soap...let's just say that we started out with one handbasket, got a second and then transferred to a cart. We went a little nuts.

And based on the other overstuffed carts I saw, I'd say we weren't the only ones. So now we've been initiated. We're Trader Joe's fans.

Trader Joe's
3903 Hillsboro Pike
open 9am-9pm every day

And, of course there's plenty of beer including Nashville's own Yazoo, but no wine.

Friday, November 7, 2008


During the course of my workday today, I read about This website, which will go live later this month will feature recipes by well-known chefs.

Another recipe site? Yes. But the cookstr creators believe this will actually help contributors sell more hard copy books.

Hmm...on the one hand, I can see how it can be used as an effective marketing tool. Other types of books have snippets published online in order to entice people to buy them, but I'm not sure if this will be very effective for recipes. I mean, we pretty much know how the book will end.

On the other hand, I have millions of recipes at my fingertips via the internet and I still do love cookbooks. I have a nice collection. Though I have a tendency to scour the internet first when something pops into my head. And certainly if I have one or two ingredients I want to use in a recipe and need a little inspiration. Lately, I have been forcing myself to actually look in the books and, quite frankly I do find it a more satisfying experience. But I still tend to get more inspiration from blogs and restaurants...real experience with a specific dish.

Nonetheless, I plan to see what's up on when it gets up and running. At least I can already tell that there will be photos (very necessary). I hope that they will allow for comments and tips from users as well. Chefs tend to forget that most people following their recipes have little experience or knowledge about how to actually prepare food. So a little user input goes a long way.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Get ready for that first trip to Trader Joe's

The food-lover's community is all abuzz regarding this week's opening of Trader Joe's. And it just so happens that in the course of my usual workday, I read about this cookbook, Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's. A cookbook where all the ingredients come from Trader Joe's.

I find this interesting since I had to be educated on the Trader Joe's concept. That is, that it's a specialty grocery store, not one intended for meeting all your weekly shopping needs. And that they usually choose locations near other groceries so that it's convenient to pop in there to get those items after your regular shopping. Okay, so I can forgive the Las Vegas Trader Joe's for it's lack of selection and general dinginess now. I get it. Though, if you only make the recipes in this cookbook, you don't have to shop anywhere else!

You can buy the cookbook at Borders, Barnes and Noble and online bookstores but, alas, not at Trader Joe's. The authors originally self-published the book independent of the store or any sponsorship. They've got a newsletter and a blog to keep you updated as well. Unfortunately, not all items listed on the website, newsletter, and blog are available at all locations. Given that we're down here in the vast, empty Southeastern region of the country, I suspect that we'll be bereft of cherry clafoutis and some other items that databases indicate might not sell well here. Regardless, I plan to brave the crowds this weekend to pay a visit to the store.