The Thanksgiving Post

I told Susan the other day that since Noah was spending Thanksgiving Day with his father, I was going to roast a Tofurky and watch The Godfather movies on AMC. She laughed and said, “Lisa, that’s the saddest thing I ever heard.” Chuckling, I insisted that it wasn’t, and it’s not.  (AMC, by the way, is the new HBO. The Walking Dead–win! ).

It will be the first time I have sat down to watch The Godfather films in years. I love marathons, too. Back when Syfy was The SciFi Channel and ran the Twilight Zone marathon on New Year’s, I was the girl who fought sleep until 3:00am and woke up mid-morning with my head in a bowl of popcorn. I love Rod Serling, even if there have been times in my life when I had experienced something so bizarre that I was afraid that I would turn around to find him chain-smoking in a dark corner. I digress. . .

Thanksgiving does allow me to pause and consider all the things for which I am grateful: supportive friends and family; a good job; a super intelligent, witty son; and the time to do the things that I enjoy, such as cooking, which brings me back to the meal that I am going to prepare tomorrow.

Every Thanksgiving I make creamed onions. And they rock. I realize that most of you have already planned your meals and have valiantly fought your way through the grocery store, but if you love onions and have the ingredients and the time, here’s one last recipe:

Creamed Onions

1 bag of Melissa’s Sweet Pearl Onions
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance Whipped (or margarine of choice)
1 Tbsp. unbleached flour
¼ tsp sea salt
1 c. unsweetened soy milk (or milk of choice)
Cracked pepper to taste

1. Boil onions according to package directions, strain, and allow them to cool enough to peel.

2. In a saucepan, melt margarine over low heat. Blend in flour and salt. Add milk.

3. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and bubbles. Once it bubbles, remove from heat and add peeled onions and cracked pepper.

I don’t have a photo of this recipe, but I do have one of my Tofurky roast, which will accompany green beans from my garden (fresh from the freezer), strawberry pie, mashed potatoes, veggie gravy, cranberry sauce (recipe on this page), and of course, the onions.

Delectable Bagel Spreads

Susan mentioned Panera Bread’s orange cream cheese spread the other day, and my first reaction was a delightful, “Ooooh!” which was immediately followed by a thoughtful, “I bet I can make that and put it on the blog.”

But why limit it to just orange? So I came up with some other ideas that I hope you can use as well. Note that I used Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese for these recipes but regular cream cheese works just as well.

Savory Spinach Spread

8 oz. Tofutti or regular cream cheese
½ c. cooked chopped spinach
¼ tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. chopped pimentos, drained

1. Spoon out 8 oz. of cream cheese into a small mixing bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to soften.
2. Remove from the microwave and stir.
3. Thoroughly blend in salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.
4. Stir in spinach and then pimentos.
5. Store in the refrigerator until ready to spread on a bagel.

Embarrassingly Simple Orange Spread

4 oz. Tofutti or regular cream cheese
1 Tbsp. HFCS-free marmalade

1. Spoon out 4 oz. of cream cheese into a small mixing bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to soften.
2. Remove from the microwave and stir.
3. Thoroughly blend in marmalade.
4. Store in the refrigerator until ready to spread on a bagel.

Cranberry Spread
Great for all of the leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving or just because you like cranberries, which are high in antioxidants, by the way. Below is a recipe for cranberry sauce if you like to avoid the canned variety.

4 oz. Tofutti or regular cream cheese
1 Tbsp. cranberry sauce

1. Spoon out 4 oz. of cream cheese into a small mixing bowl and microwave for 30 seconds to soften.
2. Remove from the microwave and stir.
3. Thoroughly blend in cranberry sauce.
4. Store in the refrigerator until ready to spread on a bagel.

Lisa’s Cranberry Sauce Recipe

1 c. water
1 c. organic sugar or Sucanat
1-12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
nutmeg to taste
cinnamon to taste
ground cloves to taste
orange zest to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil.
2. Add cranberries and reduce heat.
3. Gently boil for about 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Pour into bowl, stir in spices and zest, cover, and let it cool at room temperature.
5. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Variations: You can use allspice in lieu of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Finely ground walnuts are also a great addition for taste and texture.

Savory Spinach Spread

Embarrassingly Simple Orange Spread

Embarrassingly Large Quantity of Bagels

 

The Slow Cookin’ Tagine

This is a beautiful handmade tagine from Morocco. Embarrassingly, I have to admit I’ve never used it for anything other than an ornate decoration.

The tagine is like an Old World crock pot. It’s popular in North Africa because it needs so little water, which is scarce in that region. Ingeniously designed, its conical shaped lid circulates steam, keeping food moist while infusing it with lush oils and fragrant spices.

And in case you’re wondering, the most popular dish cooked in a tagine is. . .well, tagine or tajine, named after the vessel in which it’s heated. It’s a slow-simmered stew that often includes meat, fruit, nuts, and vegetables.

Sometime, I’d like to learn how to use one, but I will probably invest in a more utilitarian version from Amazon.com. Of course, if I do, I will be posting it on the blog along with the vegetarian recipe that I create. In the interim, I will interrogate Chef David about everything he knows concerning tagine cooking.

Zucchini Pie…oh my!

I have a terrible habit of saving recipes I never get around to trying. They come from all over – the internet, magazines, friends, the newspaper, the backs of boxes – you name it, I’ve saved a recipe from it. But as I was looking through my recipe binder for a side dish recently, I found a recipe for Zucchini Pie that had come to my email inbox from Real Simple magazine and I purposed to make it that weekend.

Didn’t happen. But it did happen tonight, and it was so savory and delicious that I’m going to share it with you.  Just be sure you don’t stash it away in your binder, never to be seen again. It’s super easy and I promise it will make your kitchen smell like heaven. Perfect with a salad and a glass of pinot grigio, try it this week!

  • ZUCCHINI PIE
  • 3 c. grated zucchini
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour (I used self-rising and left out the baking powder.)
  • 1 c. grated provolone cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil (I used canola oil.)
  • 4 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, reserving 1 Tbs. of Parmesan. Spoon the zucchini mixture into a 10-inch round glass pie plate or metal pie pan that has been coated with vegetable cooking spray. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan. Cool 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Zucchini Pie

Tip: Buy firm zucchini with vibrantly colored skins. Choose smaller ones; they have fewer seeds and more flavor.

Fire-King Kimberly Bowl

Often called Fire-King’s “most homely” pattern, the 1960s Kimberly collection was named after the Kimberly Diamond Mines in South Africa. Its rough hewn exterior was designed to represent raw diamond ore.

I, for one, love this pattern because it’s irregular, rather coarse, and misunderstood. Like me.

The Pumpkin Power Smoothie

GUEST POST! Waylon posted this recipe on our Facebook page recently. We liked it and encouraged him to write more about its inception for the blog. –Lisa

My friend Susan called me a “walking contradiction” yesterday. You see, I’m the guy who wrote the haiku honoring the offensive McRib, has a standing date every Saturday with the Burger Bar, drinks energy drinks like they are going to be banned at any moment, and devours any kind of cheese dip I can get onto a tortilla chip. But here’s a secret—In between satisfying my epic cravings and trekking to Chinese buffets, I’m also trying to eat clean at least 60% of the time by limiting processed foods, simple carbs, and enriched flour and sneaking as many fruits and vegetables into my system as it will allow me to before it revolts. Every meal involving bacon, cheese sauce, The McRib, burgers, fries, or any other food porn has to be followed with at least two healthy ones.  Most of the time I fail. Last week was such a fail that it turned into my breaking point for gluttony.

After two 90-day cycles of high intensity training coupled with poor eating habits left me with zero results, I am starting a new program. This time around I have to figure out how incorporate fall comfort foods into a cleaner program. Fall and winter are when I really have to eat everything. Seriously, everything. The time changes, the leaves fall, and whatever results I have from the summer run away faster than you can say, “cheese in a can!”

The Pumpkin Power Smoothie was a desperate shot in the dark, born out of a serious pumpkin pie craving and Dairy Queen’s ingenious Pumpkin Pie Blizzard commercial. Somehow, it worked. This post-workout shake tastes almost sort of like pumpkin pie. You should try it–it’s so easy that even I can do it:

3/4 cup canned pumpkin (The one with only 1 ingredient on the can; you can get about 3 shakes from it.)
1 scoop chocolate flavor whey protein powder
4 to 6 oz. milk of your choice (I like Stoneyfield Organic because I’m trying to avoid added hormones, antibiotics, and moobs, but you can use almond, rice, or soy milk. Obviously, add more for a thinner smoothie. I use 4, and the end result is almost the consistency of a milkshake.)
2/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (If you have pumpkin pie spice on hand, you could use that instead of the cinnamon and nutmeg.)

Blend on high for about a minute. I add the milk first for better blending since my blender is as lame as my nutrition plan.

Seriously, this shake turns out pretty tasty, but it also packs a lot of calories. I use it as a combo post-workout shake/dinner/dessert in one. The pumpkin adds sweetness without adding sugar and has minimal carbohydrates; it also brings lutein, fiber, and alpha and beta carotene to the party. We’re looking at a protein count of almost 40 grams, depending on the milk. Plus, the polyphenols in cinnamon are rumored to help regulate those tricky blood sugar levels.

That said, my dinner of choice would still be pizza. Everyday…if I was 22 again. But I’m teetering on the edge of retirement age here, single, striving not to become another heart disease statistic, and trying my best to get jacked without the Daniels.

Maybe if I haven’t turned many visitors away, next time they’ll let me share my Monster Energy Spinach/Strawberry Powerbomb.

South of the Border Coffee Mug

If you’ve ever traveled along I-95 through South Carolina, you have seen South of the Border billboards. There are approximately 175 of them strategically placed along main highways in the Southeast (Virginia through Georgia) beckoning weary travelers to buy fireworks, have a meal, and shop in the gift shops.

South of the Border was established in 1949 as a beer shack, just south of the North Carolina border and its dry counties. It was later expanded into a drive-in. Over the years, restaurants, gift shops, a hotel, campgrounds, miniature golf courses, and a reptile lagoon were added, all of which are overshadowed by a 200’ high sombrero tower and a smiling 97’ high Pedro (SotB’s official mascot). This once tiny roadside stand is now a multi-million dollar a year business. It was also voted #8 in Travel + Leisure’s Kitschiest Roadside Attractions in America, which also includes the likes of Vent Haven Museum (home to 750 retired ventriloquist dummies) and Foamhenge (an exact replica of Stonehenge made entirely from Styrofoam).  

When I left home for college in 1992, I drove all the way from Florida (where I grew up) to North Carolina. Worn out, bored, and lonely from a long drive, I gave into Pedro’s black and neon signage and stopped there to stretch my legs. I’m a big fan of kitsch from way back, so I was mesmerized by all of the garish goods in the gift shop. It was at that time I bought the coffee cup along with a deck of playing cards.

This mug symbolizes both youthful independence and a weird fondness for the spectacular.  A few years ago, I accidently dropped it on tile and the handle broke. After a brief meltdown that included sobbing and expletives, I pulled myself together and fixed it with Super Glue.  Voila! Almost as good as new.

I still love tacky gift shops, by the way, and I suppose I should’ve added that to my list of idiosyncrasies on the authors page, but why provide more fodder for friends and co-workers?

My Top 5 Favorite Cookbooks

The cabinet above my stove is overflowing with cookbooks. In fact, it’s downright crammed. I’d show you a photo, but I’m too embarrassed.

I generally have about five cookbooks that I go to when I want to look something up, make a favorite recipe, or cook a special dish. These are my favorites, above all others, and while I’m a vegetarian, most of these cookbooks are vegan.

The first four cookbooks listed here are very unpretentious. I’m a busy single mother on a tight income, so the last thing I want is an author lecturing me about not using a microwave or listing ingredients that I cannot find or afford.

1. Simply Heavenly: The Monastery Vegetarian Cookbook by Abbot George Burke
Don’t let the title fool you, it’s actually vegan. This is my all-time favorite. As I indicate in a reference from a previous post, it’s out of print and many years of use have rendered its pages wrinkled, worn, and loose. There is a recipe for everything, from “Barbecue ‘Spare Ribs’” to “Garlic Olives” to “Parsley Dressing”.

Stand-by recipe: “Garbanzo Bean Salad-2” on page 17. An easy, yummy recipe for potluck gatherings.

2. Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Not only are the recipes simple, but most are accompanied by great cooking tips. The reason I love Moskowitz is that she’s genuine. You won’t find any loftiness or sanctimonious messaging in her delivery—she’s witty and refreshingly colloquial. Sample recipes include “Garden Herb Spread”, Tomato Rosemary Scones”, and “Jalapeño Garlic Grits”.

Stand-by recipe: “Pumpkin Pancakes” on page 85 with “Ginger Cranberry Sauce” on page 200.

3. Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry
I love soul food, but most of it is laden with animal fat. But not in this cookbook! Again, genuine, honest. Terry pairs his recipes with soundtracks, art, and books—what an imaginative concept, but it makes total sense: Cooking is art too. Sample recipes include “Baked BBQ Black-Eyed Peas”, “Quinoa-Quinoa Cornbread”, and “Balsamic Syrup-Sweetened Watermelon Sorbet”.

Stand-by recipe: “Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux” on page 4. Mmmm!

4. Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
The fact that it references Evil Dead II should be reason enough for me to include this one in my Top 5, but it also has great variety.  I also like that it explains how to stock your pantry and which kitchen equipment you should keep on hand. It also provides culinary 101 terminology. Sample recipes include “Pistachio-Rose Water Cookies”, “Salsa Verde”, and “Asparagus Quiche with Tomatoes and Tarragon”.

Stand-by recipe: “Maple-Mustard Dressing” on page 93.

5. Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta by Deborah Szekely and Deborah Schneider with Chef Jesús González, Chef of La Cocina Que Canta
For special occasions. I actually bought this one while visiting Rancho La Puerta on a business trip. After sampling all of the wonderful vegetarian cuisine that this beautiful place had to offer, I had to recreate some of the recipes at home. Divided by the seasons, most of the recipes are surprisingly easy and matched with gorgeous photographs. Sample recipes include “Butternut Squash Gnocchi”, “New Potato Salad with Chervil and Shallots”, and “Mexican Red Rice”. Oh, and it also features natural homemade skin care regimes in the back of the book.

Stand-by recipe: “Aztec Guacamole” on page 90. It’s a lower-fat version of the original. The secret is frozen peas!

*NEW * cookbooks that excite me:

Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but I have my eye on the raspberry pie one on page 60.

The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry
I can’t wait! What can I say—I love Terry’s economical recipes and food justice activism.

“I yam what I yam.”

If you expected this post to be about yams I apologize, because it’s not.  It’s about fresh, deep green spinach from my local farmer’s market. I like to sauté it with garlic or shallots in olive oil, but for the sweetest taste, boil it to leach the acids out. Then squeeze it to remove the water and use it in any recipe as you wish.

A healthy foods super hero, spinach is a good source of niacin, zinc, protein, vitamins A, C, E (Alpha Tocopherol), K, and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. What more could you want…other than a haiku?

Autumn Spinach

Super food spinach!

No wonder Popeye loved you…

Good health on my fork.