Monthly Archives: January 2007

West African Peanut Stew

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Oh my goodness, was this a yummy recipe! I ate too much, because it was too good to stop.

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil (I think; I just swirled some in the bottom of the pot)
1 red onion, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, diced (I used a lot more)
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 medium large sweet potatoes, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (or more, if you like it a little spicier–I used more)
3 cups water
1 10 oz. bag frozen okra
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (again, more if you like it hotter)

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until golden; add cabbage, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until the cabbage and potatoes are staring to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the okra (my Trader Joe’s didn’t have okra, so I used green beans instead), and then add the peanut butter a small amount at a time. Stir to melt the peanut butter before adding more. Add the cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes and then cover and cook until all of the veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. If needed, add water to keep it moist, but you don’t want to let it get thin like soup.

I served over plain red cargo rice, and I had an apple on the side. It was so delicious and nutritious! You know, I cook a lot, and I can usually tell when I read a recipe if it will be good or not, but I am always surprised when new recipes turn out well. This, even though the vast majority of the time, new recipes turn out well for me; I know my abilities in the kitchen pretty accurately. This time, I had fairly high hopes, but they were still surpassed. This is one of the best new recipes I have tried in a while. I will have to make a blander version for the kids some time–I think they will like the idea of peanut butter in their stew.

Eating Out

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I really like eating out. I like the food you can get out at a restaurant, where someone can spend more time making food than I have time to prepare at 6 PM. But I really like the fact that eating out doesn’t involve any dishes to wash!

This week has been crazy with kid activities, which started a trend of eating out. On Tuesday, I had to pick up the boy, feed us all dinner and take the girl to basketball practice very close to the boy’s school in about 45 minutes. It didn’t make sense to go all the way home in between the daycare pickup and the basketball practice, so eating out it was. Even better, there is a coffee shop with a vegetarian cafe just down the street from the school where practice was taking place. It was fantastic! I had a Greek pita with hummus, baked falafel, tomatoes and onions, and a tahini viniagrette, the boy had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chips and grapes, and even a little toy, and the girl had a bagel and cream cheese. After running the girl down the street for practice, the boy and I came back to eat little treats and drink pink lemonade and a caramel latte. I was really excited to find a place that is totally vegetarian, although not at all vegan (I had to ignore the feta cheese on the side of my pita, and the boy had chips instead of the cheese stick that came with his boxed lunch).

Wednesday the girl had tumbling half an hour after I picked her up. Last week I made peanut butter and banana tortillas to eat in the car on the way to the center, but this week we were out of bananas, so we ate at the Subway in the lobby, at least for a snack. I had a veggie sandwich, and the kids had chips. When we got home, we supplemented with soy yogurts and fruit, and peanut butter sandwiches for the kids.

Thursday, the kids were at their dad’s and I was feeling lonely and sorry for myself, so I went to my favorite Greek restaurant and had hummus and stewed Mediterranean Vegetables. Yumm! Last night, the kids were still at their dad’s, and I got off work late, so it was out again, this time to a local brewery, Schlafly Bottleworks, for salad and veggie curry, which was amazing! Last time I had it (over a year ago at least), it was kind of bland, and the veggies were too crunchy. Last night the veggies were perfect, the spice was much more assertive–I added some Tabasco sauce, but to supplement the heat, not to add all the flavor–and the rice had some kind of garbanzo beans and daikon seeds that made it more textured and flavorful. I think I have a new favorite dish! This restaurant is so fantastic, with lots of vegetarian choices.

Tonight I am going to a trivia night, and everyone is bringing food. I am planning on bringing hummus and guacamole with chips, and I am sure there will be other things I can eat, so I think I will be skipping dinner. Tomorrow, I am scrubbing my kitchen and getting back to cooking!

Yoga

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I suspect that yelling at my daughter to be quiet because I am doing yoga, and damnit, it’s supposed to be relaxing, is missing the point somewhat. Okay, I didn’t add the damnit part, and it was mostly crying out in surprise because some music very suddenly came on the computer loudly, but I still think I was missing the point. However, when I got to the last part where you are supposed to just relax and she started to talk, I was able to very calmly say “Not now,” and, amazingly, she waited. The boy did the yoga with me, (and much better, I might add–limber little 4 year old bodies do these things better than mommy bodies!). He told his sister that she should do it too, because it is healthy. He even asked if we could do it again sometime!

I did yoga tonight for a couple of reasons. First, I have been doing well with cardio and weight-training, but I don’t have much flexibility training in my workouts. Also, because of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I had the kids tonight, which I normally wouldn’t on a Monday, so I couldn’t go to the gym as easily. I have been doing so well with my working out lately that I didn’t want to skip tonight entirely and it gets dark too early to go for a walk after work, so yoga seemed like the best choice.

I am really surprised by how difficult it is. Because people say that it helps them to relax, I always have this image of yoga being calm and relatively easy. It isn’t really very easy at all. I found myself having a lot of difficulty with the slow breaths I was supposed to be taking at a few points, because the poses were very challenging. I am already sore, and I even took a nice warm shower when I was done. Oh well, that must mean the exercise is having a good effect on my body and I am sure it will get easier as I keep practicing.

The last reason I wanted to make sure to get some exercising in is the terrible eating I did at my parents’ house tonight. My grandmother had cooked cabbage in some water, which was fine, but she had also added ham hocks. I love cooked cabbage, and my grandmother is so happy when I eat her cooking, but all the ham grease was a bit heavy on my stomach. I also ate a light caesar salad, which had cheese, egg yolk and anchovies in the dressing. Not a lot, but still. And if this all wasn’t non-vegan enough, I ate chocolate chip cookies (made by the girl and my grandmother) AND a couple of mini-Twix bars. See what I mean about the junk food mecca? So, not a vegan night at all, but it could have been much worse. I didn’t eat any actual chunks of meat, and the salad really was the best of a lot of bad options. The candy and cookies were just weakness. Still, one not so great night is not the end of the world, and at least I did the yoga to make up for it, right?

The girl makes dinner

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I don’t have a dishwasher. Like most people, I hate washing dishes. I have been cooking a lot more lately. All of these things came together tonight into a huge pile of dishes and no desire to cook a whole meal.

I had Curried Noodles with Veggies on the menu tonight, but I also had a lot of leftover Curried Fruited Couscous from my vegetarian potluck at work today. I mean, a LOT of leftover couscous. We have not had a huge group lately, so I made a bunch so that we would be sure to have plenty of food for those of us who did come. We did have a relatively big group of people show up today, though–a total of 9 people, and everyone brought a lot of good food. I didn’t think another curried pasta dish would be a good thing to make, even though they are pretty different recipes. They are too close for a lot of leftovers at once.

So, when we got home, I asked the kids what they wanted for dinner. Predictably, they both said pizza. This sounded like a good plan to me, since it didn’t involve the stove top, which was disturbingly full of dirty dishes (I am short on counter space in my kitchen, so the stove top does double duty). Even better, the girl volunteered the information that she could make the pizza herself. I started on the mound of dishes, and she got to work. Our shredded soy cheese was no good, but I had slices of Tofutti cheese in mozzarella and American flavors, and she was thrilled to be given a knife to cut the cheese to scatter on the pizza. The boy snacked on golden raisins, and both kids had extra slices of cheese during the prep time. After the pizza went in the oven, I had an appetizer of the couscous. I watched over the baking while working on the dish mountain as the girl impressed her brother with her Spiderman video game playing skills.

The pizza turned out really yummy. We all really enjoyed it, and I think we could have made a significant dent in a second one if it had been available. It was really nice to have my daughter make the dinner tonight, mostly. I need to go tell her how much I appreciate it before she goes to sleep.

Grocery shopping

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On Sunday, after the rib incident on Saturday, the girl told me that she is still a vegetarian, she just succumbed to temptation at Grandpa’s house. Well, it’s an adjustment, and I want her to want to do it, so I am certainly not going to criticise her efforts. We are back to making lunches and eating almost vegan food this week. She even told her dad and stepmom while at their house last night, so I think she is serious.

I made my menu on Sunday, but my children were running around like little wild children, so I decided I couldn’t face the crowded grocery store, and shopping would have to wait for Monday night. This resulted in me eating out for both breakfast and lunch at work on Monday, but I think it was worth it. I hate feeling stressed out at the grocery store.

I went shopping at Trader Joe’s, which is such a great store. My cart was mostly filled with produce, which makes me feel so healthy. But, although I love Trader Joe’s for all the healthy choices they have, even including healthy convenience food, they don’t have everything I need when I am making recipes. So, tonight while the girl was at basketball practice, I went to another store to finish off my list. I couldn’t find a bag of shredded cabbage at either store, though. What’s up with that? I must have just overlooked it at the big store–I can’t believe people have developed a sudden passion for shredding cabbage at home. I am going to find out just how much of a pain it can be this week, because I finally just grabbed a small head of cabbage. I don’t have a food processor or a big grater, so I will be doing this with a knife. How bad can it be?

Tonight for dinner we had the Sloppy Lentils from the crockpot. They were really good! I am so glad I got the vegetarian slow cooker book–it is so nice to come home to a main dish that is ready to go. I just threw the fingerling potatoes and veggies in the microwave, helped the kids clear off the table and we all sat down to a good, healthy dinner in about 15 minutes after we got home. I even had enough leftover to put some in the freezer and take lunch tomorrow. I will also bring leftver potatoes and veggies, and grapes and an apple. Sabrina will take some leftover veggies, grapes, an individual chocolate soy milk, and either mini-bagels with tofutti cream cheese or chickenless nuggets. Woohoo!

The Parent Trap

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We went to dinner at my parents’ house on Saturday. While this wasn’t a problem for me, the girl succumbed to the lure of BBQ’d ribs. We had discussed what we might have for dinner at Grandpa’s, since my dad asked what he should cook (my mom doesn’t cook at all). We decided to ask for spaghetti, and we would bring some soy Italian sausage, but my dad said that he didn’t want to heat up the kitchen. Yes, I know, it’s January, but he gets hot easily. So, I asked Sabrina what she wanted and she said she didn’t want to be a vegetarian. I told her that was up to her, but what did she want, and she said ribs.

This was not a problem for me, because eating meat off of the bone has always kind of grossed me out. I went to Trader Joe’s and got some supplies for the night–veggie samosas for my main course, fingerling potatoes (which are awesome, by the way) and broccoli, cauliflower and baby carrots for the side dishes for everyone, and soy ice cream–mango/vanilla and very cherry with chocolate chips. Before dinner, we had some guacamole leftover from Christmas–in a pouch, not fresh made, which would have been bad by now! I ate a lot of food, but I didn’t really get into all the candy and junk they have there. I did try some mini-Pringles and I had one caramel Hershey’s kiss. That is excellent for me going over to my parents’ house, the junk-food mecca of our family.

Today I made a menu plan for the coming week. I didn’t make it to the grocery store, but I will go tomorrow night while the kids are at their dad’s. It is much less stressful that way. Trader Joe’s is always so crowded, and they are wild children!

Monday: Something easy from Trader Joe’s–either the Mediterraean feast, or something frozen.

Tuesday: Sloppy Lentils in the crockpot (kind of like sloppy joes, but with lentils instead of meat), fingerling potatoes (did I mention these are awesome? Also, you can microwave the little bag for 5 minutes and be ready!), steamed cauliflower and broccoli

Wednesday: The girl has tumbling class at 6:30, so we will eat dinner late. I am thinking I will bring whole wheat tortillas spread with peanut butter and wrapped around bananas for us all before the class/workout for me. After class, we will either have leftovers or fruit and yogurt. I also need to make something for my monthly vegetarian potluck at work, probably chili, unless I get really inspired before then, and I happen to have all the ingredients for my inspiration dish.

Thursday: Curried Stir-Fried Noodles with Veggies, salad, some kind of fruit, maybe mangoes.

Friday: Seitan “Meat and Potatoes” Stew, Cabbage, Apple and Raisin Slaw, steamed green beans.

Saturday: I think I am going out with friends.

The recipes for Seitan “Meat and Potatoes” Stew and the Cabbage, Apple and Raisin Slaw on Friday come from Nava Atlas’ The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, which is a fantastic resource. I was paging through it today writing down recipes I would like to make, and after about 160 pages, I already have 19 recipes noted. I think there are others I saw that I would like to make, too, I was only noting the ones I want to make as soon as I can work them into my menu plan. I don’t want to out too many brand new recipes into one week, though. It’s not like I have never been a vegetarian before and I am having to come up with all new recipes.

I am pretty sure I will follow this menu plan as long as I make it to the store tomorrow. Menu planning is something I need to get used to again, but once I have a menu, I am good about following it. It makes my life so much easier to come home from work and know what I am cooking, and that I have all the necessary ingredients, so I don’t go changing it up all that often.

On a final note for this entry, I did succeed in bringing a lunch every day last week, but Friday was payday, and a friend convinced me to go out to eat. I had a vegetarian curry dish that they said they were going to make spicy, but it was pretty bland. Fortunately they had sriracha hot sauce, so it was pretty good. I have some leftovers from tonight (whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce, mashed tofu, and spinach) in the fridge for tomorrow, and I have various sides to take with me. Hopefully this will be a good week, too.

Planning

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I have been obsessively reading vegetarian websites, vegetarian magazines, vegetarian blogs and vegetarian cookbooks for over a week now. I have been to the grocery store twice to buy foods to make the switch back to vegetarianism easier. Unfortunately, these things were not united by planning. I checked my pantry, fridge and freezer to make sure I had the ingredients I needed for a couple of recipes and then just bought a bunch of food. Tuesday and Wednesday went really well. I knew what I was going to make, so I came home and just made it. They were good meals, too. Tonight, however, I came home with no plan.

Fortunately I had picked up a couple of cans of red beans, so I was able to pull together red beans and rice, some baked potato wedges and green beans for a yummy dinner, but I see a definite menu and grocery shopping list in my future for next week.

Lunch today was good. I remembered the salsa, but I still ended up foraging in my cubicle at 3:30. I found some caramel rice cakes, and I spread one with a bit of peanut butter, which really hit the spot. I know what my afternoon snack will be tomorrow! I was impressed, too, because the rice cakes were actually dairy free. They did have some honey, but I am so happy that it wasn’t high fructose corn syrup. I have my lunch mostly made for tomorrow, so that will make my first week at work this year complete with lunch brought every day! It’s a short week, but only 1 day short. I am feeling pretty good about this.

We didn’t make a lunch for the girl tonight, but we have been heating the chik’n patty or nuggets in the morning anyway. She brought her lunchbox home from school today (who knows how long it has been there…), so we can throw an ice pack in and she can bring a soy pudding and a Silk Alive yogurt smoothie. Her lunch should come together pretty quickly. This was only a three day week for her, but we made it through her first week, too.

One week down, well, let’s not think about how many to go. I prefer to dwell on the success of this week completed, not the many weeks, months and years to come.