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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Substitute


The day I saw the video (see last post), and realized that I wanted zero part in the abuse and slaughter of animals, is also the day that I had taken out.......ground beef....for supper. What was I going to do? Since that post, I have been able to reduce my meat consumption, but I cannot lie, and tell you that I will ever be completely vegetarian, or vegan. I did decide, however, to buy humanely produced products whenever possible. Back to the ground beef.  There was NO way I was eating meat loaf that night - so I had to make a creative substitution for myself, that was tasty, satisfying, and did not raise Dear Husbands' eyebrows .....e.g., what on EARTH are you eating over there?  So I started with getting the regular meat loaves done - I could not very well waste it, after all. 


The ground beef - to which I added Panko bread crumbs, one egg, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce. Now, it was time to lightly saute some celery, onion and garlic in olive oil to mix into the meat for the loaves. I figured I would just save some of this mixture for my "meat" loaf....


I then put some split yellow peas into water, and boiled them until tender...


I also put on some fresh corn to simmer...



And rolled some baking potatoes in extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and got them into a 350 degree oven to bake.


I then mixed the tender veggies with the meat mixture (completely forgetting to save some for my loaf)....


And made it into miniature loaves, so that I could freeze some for Dear Husband...


I quickly sauteed some green onions, garlic and celery in olive oil, while the regular meat loaves were going into the oven (covered with the usual mixture of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar), and got my split yellow peas ready for a good mashing...





I added salt, pepper, garlic powder, and parsley to the mash....


 
Then, mixed in my own saute of green onion, garlic, and celery....


 
Now, to the fun part! I made this mixture into a loaf approximately the same size and shape as the actual meat loaves....


Then, covered it with the same ketchup mixture that I had used on the meat loaves. This went into the oven with about 15 minutes left until the meat loaves and baked potatoes were done! Here's what they looked like when all emerged from the oven...


The results? My plate is on the left in the next photo...



Here is Dear Husbands' serving....


And here is mine....


My absolute favorite part was the crispy, crunchy bottom of my loaf ! The texture and taste were absolutely fantastic! In fact, I never actually told Dear Husband about what I had seen earlier that day, and my anti-meat mood at the moment....and most interestingly - he never.....even.....noticed, that my loaf was different than his!

The moral of the story is that - I was able to serve a completely average-looking and tasting meal, cook my "special" loaf simultaneously, and have a tasty and guilt-free supper.  I went three nights without meat last week, and aim to consistently reduce my animal protein consumption.  There was only one um, teeny......weenie.....little problem. It was, well, ah.....let's put it this way.....if a certain company that has a product that rhymes with "mean-o" has a truckload of the items back up to my door, I will not argue with them.....if you get my drift, and I know you do. :)

Eat well, my friends, stay tuned for our next Something From Nothing post, and the Kitchen Angels' Spring surprise!

Love and kindness to all,

Pixie

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Something From Nothing ~ Week 15


Although not one to pontificate - nor tell people how they should be living their lives, I recently ran into something that has completely altered mine.  Since I'm on a Spring health-food kick, I cruise the vegan cooking sites, to find recipes that are free of all animal products, since I know it is good for the human body.  Then, I went here: http://living-vegan.blogspot.com/

What I saw about the way the animals who are raised for our consumption are treated, changed me.  I've always been an advocate of healthy eating, and an animal lover, and I seriously do not know what to do with this information. Reading the famous "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson when I was growing up - subscribing to Organic Gardening Magazine by the time I was sixteen - being a horse groom, a dog groom, a veterinary assistant and life-long animal lover - is all this coming together for a reason? I also firmly believe that cows milk is for baby calves - read "Fit for Life" by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, and see what I'm talking about.

Can I give up meat, cheese and eggs? I gave up cows milk a very long time ago, but I honestly don't know the answer to that question. I can start by trying, though. So, I found this in the cupboard....



And decided that I was going to stretch that can of beans like a rubber band! After all, I'm trying to eat well, too! I think I will make that famous Israeli street food; felafel, AND some hummus. Today, though - it simply HAD to be the felafel - mainly because I bought some whole-wheat pita bread that I must use up....so the gathering of ingredients went as follows;


Clockwise from left to right...flour pita bread, onion, the garbanzo beans, cumin, ground coriander baking powder, dried pepper flakes, salt, pepper, garlic, parsley and cilantro, and one half an onion.

Now, we put everything except for the flour, baking powder, and a little of the onion into the food processor.


Blitz this until it is well blended...


Now add about 3 Tablespoons of flour, and a half teaspoon of baking powder. (I loosely went by this recipe, but cut it in half, and made some minor modifications).



Now, scoop that mixture into a small bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge while you make the fake tahini sauce...



Why do I make fake tahini sauce? Well, to be honest, I don't use tahini in much, and I'm sure that it would go bad awaiting use. So - easy (and tasty) fix. Take the following...


About 3 Tablespoons water, about 1/4 cup peanut butter, and a Tablespoon and a half of sesame oil, and whip together with a fork until light and fluffy...


It is a great substitute for tahini, and the sesame oil overpowers the taste of the peanut butter!

Get ye some fixin's for your pita bread - because it's almost felafel time!


Now, take your mixture out of the refrigerator (after about 20 to 30 minutes) and, using floured hands, make into little balls, and smoosh (that's the technical term....why yes, yes it is) onto some plastic wrap...



Get some extra-virgin olive oil to medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet, and start shallow frying the felafel's..



Turn and fry on the other side until GB and D. That's right, golden brown and delicious! About 4 minutes per side.


The results?



And....



I popped in some of our fake tahini sauce, and of course, some hot sauce....and absolutely devoured it! It was so good! I don't miss having meat in a sandwich that is this good - and I know I'm saving an animals' life.....and potentially mine, too. This was/is so good, my mouth is watering while I'm writing this post, and as soon as I am done, I'm going to have another one!

Eat well, my friends, and if you get the nerve to watch Gary Yourofsky's mind-blowing video - congratulations. At least we can all go forward making an informed and intelligent decision for ourselves. I don't know what the future holds for my own diet and choices, but I can tell you this....I'm going to try.....for our friends, the animals of our wonderful earth.

Love and kindness to all,

Pixie


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Seafood Diet

It's the old joke - I'm on the seafood diet....I see food, I eat it! Yes, very funny....but, seriously, now that the warmer weather is upon us, it is time to lighten up our meals, eat healthier than in winter, and shed those "winter leg warmers", ahem. So, although I did not have a recipe for this, I was reminded of a lovely fish with Cajun shrimp sauce that Dear Husband and I devoured on a sightseeing trip to Nevada. Here is my version of that dish. I thawed some individually-wrapped tilapia fillets in the refrigerator all day....



Then, began a roux. Now, I do not play by the "roux rules" - I refuse to stand there and stir the entire time, in other words. What I do, is begin with equal parts of flour and vegetable oil in a skillet....


Whisk this together, and simply cook on very low heat, until dark roux has formed. We will check on the roux in a moment....I also thawed about 1/2 dozen shrimp, removed the shells, and tails, deveined them, and put them back in the fridge for our shrimp sauce.


As I continued to prep the supper, I returned to the roux and gave it a whisk about every five minutes or so.....see, getting darker all the time!


Then, I took a wee bit of celery and onion...


And cut it into very small dice, for our shrimp sauce. Yes, I know I'm supposed to have bell pepper in there, to achieve the true "trinity" of New Orleans cooking...but, guess what? I simply did not have any in the house! Rather than throw my hands up in the air and give up on making the dish at all, I just proceeded without it. I think we'll live. On to the very small dice...


When we add this to the roux, we want it to cook until tender, so these vegetables just melt into the sauce. Now, for a nice, fresh accompaniment, I took a large, beefsteak-type tomato, sliced it, and added salt, pepper, some extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I then finely chopped a little basil and parsley over the top for our healthy side dish.


Then, I took the thawed tilapia fillets, patted them dry with paper towels, and seasoned on both sides with some Cajun seasoning. Not too heavy, now - we want flavor, we don't want our heads to spontaneously combust! Bring some water to a boil, and cook some pasta to serve the fish on...I chose tiny rice-shaped orzo, but any short pasta will do. Drain your pasta, and keep it ready...because the fish cooks quickly...


Let's go back and see how dark our roux is.....remember, in between steps, and whilst on extremely low heat, I'm whisking the oil and flour about every five minutes..


Yes, there it is, a nice, dark, caramel-colored roux. Time to add the celery and onion, and keep cooking until tender...


Once the vegetables are tender, add the shrimp, chopped...


Then, add the following; about a tablespoon of butter, two tablespoons of half and half, a quarter cup of water, some paprika, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, (just a dash), and a little tarragon or parsley for color - presto! We have a Cajun shrimp sauce!


Turn the sauce back to a very low temperature, and let it rest, whisking every once in a while. In the meantime, brush a little extra-virgin olive oil on to a grill pan or skillet,  get it to medium high heat, and grill your tilapia fillets....


Grill them, presentation-side down, so that when you flip them, the side that is up, is also the side that will be facing up when you plate them. Flip them after about three minutes, and grill for about three minutes longer...


Now, slice up your tomato salad, so that serving is easy, spoon your pasta down on to the plate,  place a tilapia fillet on the pasta, add your tomato salad, and ladle the shrimp sauce over the top.....the results?


Let me put it this way, when I was clearing the dishes from supper, I went to put the third piece of fish into the refrigerator - thinking that perhaps I would make fish tacos or something as leftovers......and it was gone! Dear Husband went back and finished it off! Although I did not use an actual recipe for this, you can email me at allymv@yahoo.com and I will create one, and send it to you.

The moral of this fish tale is that although the shrimp sauce was rich - it's richness did not come from a lot of high-fat, or unhealthy ingredients, the dish tasted fantastic, and we felt light and healthy enough after consuming it, to go work in the Pixie-patch...which is shaping up quite nicely this year! See?


Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for our next "Something From Nothing", and a visit from those fun sisters, the Kitchen Angels. 

Love and kindness to all,

Pixie


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Something From Nothing ~ Week 14

The tuna casserole is a lost art. Why? Because, in this fast-paced, fast (and inferior) food environment, one hardly ever sees a simple can of tuna turned into something absolutely delicious!  Many moons ago, while a thrifty military wife, I subscribed to a newsletter called "The Tightwad Gazette". The author, Amy Dacyczyn, was able to raise a large family, pay off her home, and have her husband retire from the military early! This.....had my attention.  In addition to all the useful and frugal tips and tricks, there were many recipes that I still use to this day. 

There was a problem, however. Dear Husband does not eat cheese, nor mayonnaise, and he's not that fond of frozen peas (my addition to the casserole), either. One Sunday lunchtime, after multiple discussions with lovely Daughter S, I could not take it any longer. I HAD to make it.  By now, you know me well enough to know that the craving monster must be adhered to - because if one does not obey the craving monster, he will stalk you until said craving is satisfied.  Here is the recipe (with my modifications). Thank you to all the frugal homemakers whom I have crossed paths with. You have made our road to financial freedom a little less bumpy. Hang on, here's the tuna casserole (that you'll actually like!)...


Oh ye humble can of tuna....

Seafood Casserole
4 to 5 oz. pasta
1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/2 cup milk or dry white wine
1 can condensed cream soup (mushroom or celery)
1 cup shredded American Cheese (4 oz.)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard or dill
6 to 8 oz. drained canned seafood (shrimp, crab, tuna or salmon)
1 recipe crunchy topping/French fried onions
1 cup of frozen peas

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. Combine mayonnaise with milk or white wine. Stir in soup, cheese and seasonings. Gently stir in cooked pasta or noodles and drained fish or seafood. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole. Cover and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with Crunch Topping. Bake 5 minutes more. Makes 6 servings

Crunchy Topping: Combine 1 cup soft bread crumbs and 2 tablespoons melted butter or use 1 cup of either crushed potato chips, chow mein noodles or French-fried onions or ½ cup slivered almonds.

As per usual, I scoured the pixie pantry, fridge and freezer, and found that of course, I had everything to make this - another wonderful part of this dish is that it is filled with items we typically keep on hand.


Clockwise from bottom left; sharp cheddar, the rest of a can of French fried onions, mayonnaise, white wine, the tuna, some dill weed, egg noodles and mushrooms.
Not shown, milk, butter, and frozen peas.  Now before I get into my lecture mode, and tell you why I will not spend over a dollar on those awful, sodium-heavy cans of soup, I will show you how incredibly easy it is to simply make your own - for probably twenty cents worth of ingredients!

Simply chop the mushrooms and saute over medium heat in two Tablespoons butter.


Add two Tablespoons flour


Then, whisk in two cups liquid. I used one cup milk, and one cup chicken stock...


Add salt, pepper and garlic powder, and bring up to a good simmer, until thick and rich.


This is how you make cream-of-ANYTHING soup. Simply use the two-two-two rule (2 Tb. butter, 2 Tb. flour, and two cups of liquid), and you've got cream of mushroom, asparagus, celery, or anything else that you now don't have to spend over a dollar on! Oh, and this whole process takes under ten minutes. Set your gloriously home-made soup aside, and cook whichever pasta you like for your tuna casserole, drain, and place into your serving dish.Incidentally, this can be made with canned salmon, or crab meat as well.


Mix in some frozen peas....


Then, add all of the other ingredients, except for the French fried onions, or your crispy topping...that part comes later. Mix well, and place into a 350 degree oven..


Note: you can certainly use the dry mustard called for in the recipe, but I have simply always
gone with the dried dill (and a lot more than the recipe calls for)...it is the perfect herb with seafood. Bake for about thirty minutes...then, add your crispy topping of choice..


Bake for another five minutes or so, until your topping gets nice and golden brown on top. The results? Honestly, I am SO sorry I waited so long to make this again, it was, and is...absolutely fantastic! I'm not sure if it's the wine, or the dill in this....but, even Dear Husband ate it - enthusiastically! Now, that's an endorsement!


Seriously, I would serve this to guests! So, after a thrifty Sunday lunch, as we dozed in front of a good movie, the newly-reunited Kitchen Angels asked me if they could go outdoors, and see if they could spot any pretty birdies - it being Spring and all, and I thought; "why not"? Well, I neglected to inform the young ladies that in order to SEE any birds, one has to be well away from the feeder.....not this..... 


Whatever am I going to DO with those two? Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for a seafood specialty straight from Nevada, and week 15 of Something From Nothing.

Love and kindness to all,

Pixie