Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Almost Eggs Benedict

 The pile of veg waiting for me at home
I wasn't all together pleased to be leaving Washington and heading back to the east coast.  I was sad to leave my friends and Bellingham with all it's cafés, friendly people, and glorious produce.  The blow was softened - at least in the produce department - however by the box of fresh vegetables from my family's CSA membership waiting for me when I arrived home.  * I should also perhaps mention that it was wonderful to see my family again too! *
So my first morning home, as I saw it I had two options for breakfast: massive pile of vegetables in a heap OR massive pile of vegetables in the form of a something.  It speaks to the comfortableness of my bed and the 14 hours of sleep I had just gotten that I didn't skip all thought and creativity part all together and go for the former.  It also speaks to the fact that I had been on the road for the past 7 days that this was the best I could come up with... but armed with very little else in the refrigerator I set to work deciding what the something would be that the vegetables would take the form of.
I can't in good conscience call this any kind of eggs benedict because really the only resemblance it shares with a benny is that there are both eggs and english muffins involved.  Most of all, the lack of any kind of hollandaise sauce, disqualifies it entirely from the benedict category, at least in my mind.  It doesn't fit neatly into any other category either though, because its certainly not a sandwich.  It's really more a pile of good things in something of a deliberate order.  Anyway, regardless of what you call it, this is what I made:

Eggs for Benedict's Hippie Cousin

1 medium zucchini/summer squash
a heep of chard or kale
2 egg whites
1 whole wheat english muffin
splash of olive oil

Cut up the summer squash into thick chunks and cook them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil.  When they have gotten soft enough to eat, add a little bit of water to the pan and the add the heep of leafy greens on top. Steam until cooked, mixing it around a little every once and a while.  Meanwhile fry your two egg whites and toast your english muffins.
To assemble, drizzle a little bit of olive oil onto each english muffin.  Pile greens and summer squash on top of each half of the english muffins in any way that seems to work. Cut the egg whites in half and place on top. Add salsa and enjoy!

This could really be done with any vegetables. The more the merrier!  If they had been available I probably would have added chopped tomatos to the mix.  Additionally, if I'm being honest, I think whole eggs would have probably tasted better, I was just trying to counterbalance the road food I had been eating the last couple of days. Next time...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Peanut Butter and Banana French Toast

So I ordered this a couple weeks ago at Kiss Café in Seattle and vowed to recreate it for myself every day for the rest of my life.  Since, the part of my brain that cares if I weigh 300 lbs has found itself again so I have decided to only bring it out only on special occasions.  Today was such an occasion - my roommates birthday!

This recipe is incredibly simple, and horribly difficult to do wrong AND it tastes like heaven and perfection.

World's Best French Toast

2 pieces of wheat bread
2 eggs
Ground cinnamon
1 banana
2 tbsp almond milk
1 tbsp Smooth peanut butter

Whisk together eggs in a shallow bowl wide enough to fit the bread. Add half a teaspoon of honey and 2 tbsp of almond milk to the egg mixture.  Dip bread into egg and place on griddle at low heat.  Sprinkle tops with cinnamon.  Flip several times until both sides are lightly brown.  Turn off heat and spread one piece of toast with peanut butter.  Arrange sliced banana over the peanut butter and put other piece of french toast on top.  Cut into quarters and drizzle with honey.  Enjoy your little slices of heaven!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Raw Beet Salad

A Little Beet Juice to go with Breakfast

Beets, beets, glorious beets!

I have a quasi-religious devotion to beets.  They seem to me to be the very essence of life - their earthy sweet smell, the impossible brightness of their juice, the greens that taste of health in a way only leafy greens can, and the wonderful sweetness of their roots... They are vital and vibrant and earthy.
I have spent the last week in a passionate whirlwind romance with this particular root vegetable - roasting, juicing, consuming them by pound.  This recipe was my favorite invention of the week.  Before I tried this salad I wasn't entirely sure that you could eat beets raw and I was so happily surprised by how sweet, juicy and flavorful they are even before roasting.  This salad is super easy, filled with vitamins, and raw in every sense of the word! You can add grated carrots or chopped celery to suit your fancy.
This Salad will make you Smile from the Inside Out

Raw Beet Salad with Lemon and Tomato

1 red beet with greens
1/2 lemon's worth of juice
1/4 cup of tomato sauce
salt & pepper
1 clove of garlic

Cut the greens off where the stems meet the root.  Grate the root with a cheese grater into a large bowl. Chop the stems into small pieces (1/4 to 1/2inch in length) and the greens into slightly thicker strips and mix in with grated root.  Add salt (you need a goo amount of this to wilt the greens) and pepper to taste and allow to wilt for about 5 minutes.  Squeeze in lemon juice and mix in tomato sauce and crushed or finely chopped garlic clove.  Enjoy! :)

~ Makes one large or two small portions ~

Thursday, July 12, 2012

5 Reasons to Support Small, Local Businesses

Here's why buying from and investing with local independent businesses helps save the world.

1.  Buying Locally is Good for the Environment

To (over)simplify a complex issue: the environmental problems we face today exist because we consume resources and create waste at unsustainable rates.  The cause of this phenomenon is not simply that we consume too many resources - though we do - but also that we consume them in a highly inefficient manner.  Food travels thousands of miles before it reaches the plate; our toys, gadgets, appliances, and clothes are manufactured half way around the world (Did you know that a globally sourced cotton t-shirt can travel over 16,000 miles before it is worn? Ever even considered the carbon footprint of your t-shirt? Check out: Dirt-to-Shirt).
If we were all to consumer more consciously and intelligently we could alleviate much of the environmental strain our consumption pattern puts on the earth.  Local products and food, sourced locally, travel considerably less distance to reach the consumer.  And local products made by small-scale manufacturers are generally of higher quality and need to be replaced less often. Walmart may be cheap but it's for a reason.  Finally, small independent businesses are inextricably linked to the community in which they exist and therefore have a greater responsibility to its local environment than global or national corporations.  Local business owners have strong incentives to act responsibly, and don't have national share-holds to encourage them to consider the bottom-line above all else.
Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and co-founder of, sees the development of vibrant local communities and business networks as the key to preventing a full environmental meltdown in the next century.  So support a local independent business next time you go shopping - the earth will thank you!

2.  Small Businesses Help Create Good Quality Jobs

Small businesses are vitally important to the American economy.  They represent 99.7% of all employer firms in America and in the past 17 years, small businesses have generated 65% of the new jobs nationwide.  Yet, local governments dedicate their resources to attracting big-box stores to their towns because they promise hundreds or thousands of jobs.  While they may seem, on the surface to create employment, these stores - like Walmart, RiteAid, or Target - suck business away from independent family owned businesses and export capital out of the community causing on average the loss of 1.5 jobs for every job they create, and a decrease in the communities wealth. 
Bringing capital and demand back to community-based businesses allows for the employment of more people in higher-quality jobs with better hours, benefits and working conditions.

3.  When you Buy and Invest Locally you Know where your Money is Going

Money is power.  The implications of that statement are many-fold but I wish to discuss just one facet: the power that money gives us, as citizens and consumers.  In some ways this relationship is very obvious and straight forward: we can give money to non-profits or charities that we're passionate about,  and to campaigns we believe in.  However, as consumers, our choices about where we distribute our business is equally important.  Every dollar we spend at a business gives that business another dollar to spend as it chooses.  
Large corporations have complicated convoluted business structures, with their fingers in diverse projects across the globe. This is not to say that these projects are necessarily bad or undeserving of your money, but do you know what they are? -- Did you know that JPMorgan Chase, Citi, and Bank of America have been the leading funders worldwide of coal since 2005? Or that is a founding member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - a group that has funded and backed laws in several states to encourage Global Warming denial in public schools?
Small local businesses are much easier to keep track of. The majority of every dollar spend at an independent business goes right back to the community. It's easy to see the projects that your local businesses are sponsoring, and if you don't like them, move your business elsewhere. Similarly, when you invest in a local bank or credit union, you can be sure that your money is being used to support people and businesses in your community, not being payed as bonuses to executives or invested in oil futures.
The influence that your money has may not seem significant in the grand sceme of things, but it should not be taken lightly. We cannot control other people, we cannot control multi-national corporations, we cannot single handedly pass laws, we don't have the power to being or end wars, but we do control to whom and to what projects our money goes next. Buying and investing local ensures that the power our money gives us is being used for good.

4. Local Businesses are the Laboratories of Capitalism

Small local businesses that are rooted in their communities exist to serve those communities.  Yes, they function to make profit, but their ability to make that profit is directly dependent upon the businesses ability to provide goods and services desired by its community.  For this reason small businesses are sources of great innovation.  In order to compete they must find ways to serve their community in way that the bigger businesses cannot.  This results in creative problem solving.  Whether it be clever new ways to reduce the carbon footprint of lawn-care, or providing a communal space for bakers or chefs without the ability to foot the start-up cost of a professional kitchen - local businesses and entrepreneurs are devising creative manners to serve their communities everyday.
State governments have been called "laboratories of democracy" because they are able to develop localized, creative legislations that solve tricky problems more swiftly and at a lower cost than the nation government could.  These new solutions can then be adopted by other states and sometimes even the nation at large - think Massachusetts health care reform and "ObamaCare".  This is exactly how local businesses serve us.  They are able to experiment with creative and innovative ways to serve social good while still making profit with less risk than large companies could.  By sharing these ideas and solutions, social good can be spread on the coat tails economic prosperity.

5.  Make your Neighborhood, Community, City a Place you, and others, Want to Be

Every community has it's own energy and spirit.  No neighborhood is really a Target, CVS, and Wells Fargot kind-of-place.  Endorse the businesses that make your area special.  Support your cities unique creative minds, and individual irreplaceable people!

*    *    *

So think about where you spend your money - find the unique and innovative independent local businesses near you.  Be a localist and Think Local First.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Sunny Sunday Dinner: Eggplant Parmesan

Delicious vegetable goodness on a hot summer evening
I was able to buy all of these ingredients either at the Saturday farmers market or at the co-op, which made me feel very pleased with myself.  Dinner - and the whole weekend - was a celebration of sunshine and things that grow.
This version of eggplant parmesan is based on the dish they serve at Mario Batali's restaurant, The Tarry Lodge, in Port Chester NY.  It's a lot lighter than most eggplant parmesan's I've tried and the eggplant is left un-breaded, and cut into thick chunks, so it still actually tastes like eggplant. [The Food Network recipe for Mr. Batali's parm is here]  I added extra vegetables and a somewhat improvised tomato sauce recipe for a greater summer to bite ratio.
I decided to make my own tomato sauce for this recipe because I like doing it - though it would still certainly taste delicious with jarred sauce.  I used canned tomatoes because tomatoes aren't in season yet here :(  I once read on the Paupered Chef that using carrots in your tomato sauce makes it twice as good - and it does - so I have included them in my sauces since.  [For a more pulled-together recipe for tomato sauce I recommend Blake Royer's Basic Tomato Sauce]  However here is my version made from what I already had in the kitchen.

Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients for Super Easy Tomato Sauce:
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
 - 28oz can of peeled whole tomatoes
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- about 6 basil leaves
- salt and pepper to taste

All the other Ingredients:
- 2 medium sized egg plants
- 3/4 cup of fresh grated parmesan
- 2 cups of sliced fresh mozzarella
- 1 bunch of basil
- ~3 oz of spinach
- 2 cups of chopped green beans
- 1/2 cup of course bread crumbs
- a couple tbsps of olive oil

For Tomato Sauce: 

Using a cheese grater, grate the onion and the carrot into a large pot.  Sauté until onion becomes transparent.  Add garlic, either finely chopped or crushed.   Add entire can of tomatoes and crush with spatula until in small manageable chunks.  Mix in the tomato paste and let simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Tear up basil leaves and stir in.  Turn down the heat until it is just barely simmering and cover - let cook for about 20 minutes.


Preheat oven to 440°.
Cut eggplant into 3/4 inch thick disks.  Salt both sides and arrange in an oiled baking sheet.  Bake for ten minutes - or until beginning to turn brown; flip pieces and bake for another 5 minutes.  Take the sheet out and set aside.  Meanwhile chop and blanch the green beans until bright green but not squishy.
The final layer, ready to bake.
In a baking dish arrange the largest pieces next to one another until the cover the bottom (I had a large shallow dish so it took 8 pieces to cover the bottom, if your dish is smaller and deeper however you can maker fewer, taller stacks.)  On each disk place some mozzarella, a sprinkle of parmesan and a leaf or two of basil.  Make a layer of spinach that covers all of the eggplant.  Place another disk of eggplant on top of the ones already in the pan.  Repeat the same process until all of the spinach, and eggplant are used up.  Spoon drained green beans into the spaces between the stacks of eggplant and anywhere they will fit.  Then, pour tomato sauce over the stacks of eggplant, cheese, spinach etc.  Distribute remaining cheese, and basil over the top.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Decrease oven temp to 350°.
Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes until cheese is melty and beginning to brown.
Makes 8 servings.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Sunshiny Forth and Dairy-Free Banana Bread

The 4th of July meant a day off of work and a trip down to Seattle with one of my roommates.  It also happily meant the first real warm day I have experienced since arriving in the perhaps excessively temperate North West.  We celebrated the holiday - and the weather - with sunshine, good food, and friends.
The beach at Carkeek Park on July 4th - summer nearly reaches Washington at last
My roommate, whose family's house is in the northern Seattle, and I spent the morning walking around Carkeek Park with her dog.  It felt a little like the first sunny day in April back in Massachusetts, when suddenly everyone sheds their wooly sweaters and enthusiastically shiver their way through the day in their most summery attire.  It seemed all of Seattle was outside, joyously celebrating the forth as though it was 85, rather than 70 degrees. Along the beach children ran to put their feet in the frigid water.  Families spread their blankets on the beach, though were not quite brave enough to strip down to just their bathing suits.   Everywhere people celebrated a summer that had not quite reached this far north. And in every way it was perfect.
Even on the busy holiday, the park was beautiful. I'm consistently amazed by how quickly you feel deep in the woods out here.  The woods on this coast feel old.  100 yards from the road you feel as though you've entered Jurassic Park.  In the northeast you are lucky to find any forest not spiderwebbed with old farm stone walls, and you certainly can't walk directly off of a city street into quiet world of hundred year old pines and impenetrable ferns.  I like the pines, they seem otherworldly and wise compared to my ephemeral friends the maples, oaks, and beeches.
The beach has a view of the Olympic mountains across the water.  I can't believe that people live with this kind of vista everyday, to the point that it becomes mundane. There are plenty of beautiful places in the Northeast but nothing of this scale and grandeur.  Sometimes Washington seems too idyllic to be real.  So much of my life is spent wishing that my world were as beautiful and spacious as it is out here, and that people were as friendly and open-minded as the people I've met in Bellingham, and that muffins and good coffee were available on every street corner.  I'm not sure I would know what to do with myself if I permanently didn't have to wish anymore.

For lunch we headed down to Ballard and went to Kiss Cafe.  While my plan was to get a light meal, I was unsurprisingly wooed by something a little more robust: the Battered Elvis - french toast stuffed with peanut butter, banana, cinnamon, and  honey.  When someone offers to serve you piles of battered bread smothered in fruit, cinnamon and peanut butter, you simply owe it to your soul to accept.  It was perfect in every way - except perhaps it could have benefitted from a little bit of chocolate, but honestly, what can't?  I am certainly going to have to recreate this one this weekend.
The rest of the afternoon was spent baking banana bread and watching some choice day-time programming, followed by an evening of barbecues, beers and general merriment.  The best forth of July I have had in a long time, for sure. 

My roommate and I baked this banana bread to contribute to the barbecue - her mom's recipe. It's simple, incredibly easy to make and delicious!

Dairy-Free Banana Bread:

- 2 bananas
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1-1/4 cups of flour (I prefer it with whole wheat flour)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
-1/2 cup oil
- 1 cup of dark chocolate chips (optional)

1) preheat the oven to 325 degrees
2) butter baking pans - you can do one large loaf pan or multiple smaller ones
3) Mix together the sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt, in a mixing bowl and whisk together.
4) In a separate bowl, mash the bananas into a paste
4) Add the eggs, oil, bananas and chocolate chips to the dry ingredients and mix until smooth
5) Pour into baking pans (batter should not fill the pans over 2/3 of their capacity)
6) Bake for between 45mins to and hour - depending on the size of the pans.  Use a toothpick to test the bread's readiness.