Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My-So-Called Vegetarian Life - Part Two

Part two of the vegetarian experiment has concluded, and this researcher is for one, glad. Attempting to cut out (ok, lets be honest--- pretty much just limit) my meat intake did make me feel better in many ways. It did however, have some slightly unhealthy backlash, most prominently would be the discovery of this:

Lucky Charms was--and is--my favorite unhealthy kids cereal. Whenever I'm feeling rather personally indulgent, I usually end up buying a box. The only reason I sometimes stop myself is honestly just cost--its hard to justify spending the breakfast fund on something I know has pretty limited nutritional value, and which I know will probably be gone in under two days. Mike Birbilgia, a comedian after my own stomach,  commented on this phenomenon once---essentially, to the effect that (sugar cereal) is like crack, and you don't buy crack for some time in the future---you buy it for right now.

At any rate, I fear that I have basically found the equivalent of rocks -- Hy-Vee's own generic Magic Stars. It's as good as Lucky Charms, and probably a third the price. Yes, I ate this entire bag, for more meals than I care to admit. Hey, it says it includes calcium right on the bag. It's ok then, right?

Then of course, there were other deliciously unhealthy discoveries, such as my mock cookie dough.

I've seen a number of other recipes for healthy-ish eat-alone cookie doughs, usually made with protein powders, and the like. This way, you can sort of feel like there is some health value to what you're eating.

Not this, baby. It's just a scaled down version of everything that goes in cookie dough---minus the egg. Its laughably easy, and completely unhealthy. All you can really say for this, health-wise, is that it WON'T give you salmonella poisoning.

Lonely Girl Cookie Dough

1-2 tbs softened butter
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs white sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla

1/8 c flour (give or take)
dash salt, baking powder and baking soda
As many chocolate chips as you can handle

Mix first four ingredients. Add the rest. Eat in one sitting and then hide all the evidence.

So, in conclusion, vegetarian does NOT necessarily mean healthy, especially when I am left to my own devices. That's an entirely different conscious choice--and one which I am clearly not making at the moment.

But that's a whole 'nother blog.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My-So-Called Vegetarian Life - Part One

Some of you may have remembered some sort of previous claim about trying to go vegetarian this week, due to the absence of a certain meat eater.

We're four days in, and I'm discovering certain things, some of them surprising, some of them less so.

1. Veggies make me miss friends
While I've perfected and honed many a meat-laden dish with my husband and family, most of the vegetarian meals that I make are permanently associated for me with a few friends---who I miss very much.

Grilled Cheese sandwich with sauteed zucchini and tomato, a la Erica. This meal makes me think of chatting in her kitchen, drinking wine, making food, and making plans for our husbandless honeymoon (Scotland/Venice/around the world extravaganza without sig. others).

Later this week, I'll be make a squash curry--which I've never been able to make as well as my friend Josie---which makes me think of cooking at our college apartment, where there was always someone to talk to, and probably someone doing something interesting in the kitchen with vegetables, exotic fruits, or brownies. 

2. There no substitute for a good blender.

Well, I suppose there would be, if I also had a food processor or an immersion blender--possibly the only kitchen appliances I lack. A few months ago, you see, our blender died---or perhaps attempted to destroy itself, I'm not sure. All I know is, there was smoke, and so it went in the garbage. Since then, I've been discovering that there are a few key recipes that are nearly impossible to make without it. Smoothies for one. Hummus for another.

I'm not even going to tell you how long it took me to make the hummus on this plate. Suffice to say, it was ridiculous, and it never really reached the consistency I prefer.  But still, it was better than anything store bought this side of the Atlantic. Seriously guys---make your own hummus. Here's a basic recipe I like:

Rebecca's Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans, liquid reserved
1-2 cloves mashed garlic
3 tbs tahini paste
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin
dash cayenne
approx. 2 tbs olive oil
 salt to taste
paprika to garnish

Mix it all up in a blender, using the garbanzo liquid to reach the right consistency you want, and the olive oil to add silkiness. This is basically what I do, although it always varies a little. Like when I am lacking a blender, and have to mash up the garbanzos with a pastry blender by hand.

3. Bacon does not fix all veggies

This was definitely a surprise to me, but bacon, as it turns out, did not do a lot for Brussels sprouts. I used this recipe from Senor Tyler Florence of the Food Network, for Bacon-Braised Brussels Sprouts, and was shockingly underwhelmed.

It was just unnecessarily busy, as if attempting to hide the sprouts and failing---because lets face it, Brussels Sprouts with always be Brussels Sprouts. It was a sad waste of bacon. Although, full disclosure, some of the failure of this dish may me due to the fact that I basically quartered it, based on the amount of sprouts I had, and I'm not sure how accurate I was (what is a fourth of a dash? A touch?). Next time, I'm just going to steam or roast these with some garlic and douse them in butter. Because that combination never went wrong, right?

Tomorrow, since I have the day off, I'll be working on my curry and possibly diving into a baking project. Any suggestions, fair readers? Note: I have to be able to either eat it myself, or pawn it off at work on Thursday. So I'm thinking not an English Trifle.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Local Best: the Coffee Travesty

So, I realize that I've been holding out on you guys. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was looking for the best coffee shop in Sioux Falls--and I believe I have found it.

Coffea Roasterie - Staffed with a collection of passionate baristas, Coffea is part of this back-to-basics trend in coffee, that's just as concerned with producing a high quality cup of coffee as it is with making beautiful latte art. And their latte art is pretty darn good.

Get a large latte to go through their drive thru, or come in and select from an array of drinks and brewing methods ( I think they have five or so, from French press to Chemex.). They roast their own beans in house, and even have one roast Ethiopia Nekisse, that earned them a 96 rating on coffeereview.com.

The environment at Coffea is perfect as well: The business shares a common seating space with the Little Cellar Wine Company next door (selling, of course, wines), so you can meet someone for coffee...AND wine. I love the meeting of my two favorite beverages in one--it reminds me of Barriques in Madison.

But now, on to the part about the travesty. Like many cities, Sioux Falls has a yearly contest in which residents vote on their favorite businesses in Sioux Falls, from hair salons to Chinese restaurants. Here, its called the Local Best.

After visiting Coffea, and discovering its wonder, I of course wondered how it rated on the Local Best. Drinking a caffeinated circle around this city, I expected it to be rated fairly highly---nothing else really seemed close. And it WAS in the top five...but what it was behind made me sad: The list.

STARBUCKS is #1? REALLY? Look, nothing against Starbucks, because I definitely appreciate its presence in airports and would even acknowledge that it deserves to be on this list somewhere in Sioux Falls, but #1? Saying that Starbucks is your favorite coffee is like saying that McDonald's makes your favorite burger. It might be true, but its also sort of sad.

Looking at more categories on the list makes me even sadder for the people of this city, because it reads like pin-the-tail-on-the-chain-store.

Best Pizza...Papa Murphy's

Best Steak...Texas Roadhouse

Best Chinese (saddest of all)...Hy-Vee. Its not even a restaurant, its a grocery store cafeteria.

But then, it isn't  like I've had very good luck with local restaurants --- comparatively, a reliable chain begins to sound appetizing.

Not that I'm giving up. I've got a birthday coming up, and damn it, I'm going to find a restaurant worth going to, or get food poisoning in the process! Wish me luck.