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when I was a little girl, there were fewer pleasures more dear to me than my Nanny’s garden. She was British, a war bride, and her gardens were true English Country style – very organized but made to look haphazard, and lush without being overgrown yet still retaining some wildness. She had all the flowers from that song – daffodils and hollyhocks, bluebells, foxgloves, lillies, snowdrops. She also had snapdragons, violets, pansies, a huge lilac bush almost 8 feet tall, geraniums, marigolds, forget-me-nots, crocuses, hyacinths, and a wondrous patch of four-leaf clovers that grew every year. But her true pride and joy were her roses. They were glorious. She used to clip them and put them in her brandy snifters in the house, and when they were almost totally deflated she would take the petals and press them between her fingers to get the oil out, then rub it on her cheeks to make her skin soft. She always smelled like roses in the summer months.

My Nanny had two green thumbs, that’s for sure. She could make anything grow. I used to wander in her garden, sit by the flowers I liked best, daydream and read my books. It was the meaning of peacefulness to my 10 year-old heart.

I did not inherit my Nanny’s ability to grow things. I always loved plants and flowers, but I sure couldn’t grow them. I had catci that I killed for christ sake!

But, I am happy to announce that for almost two months now, I have been growing two plants. One is a gorgeous Aloe Vera plant, and the other is a Beautiful Unidentified Cute Little Green and White Leafy plant. 🙂 I had the Aloe plant in the window, but pretty little mean Kissy cat liked to rub up against its spiky leaves and bite them, so I had to rescue little Aloe and move her to a higher location. Now her teeth mark holes are all gone and she is looking lovely!!! She has already grown two new spiky leaf thingies! My other plant was quite small when I got him, but he is doing very very well now and has probably doubled in size!!!  However, the new growing isn’t entirely flawless – my African Violet isn’t doing as well as the others. Still, though, I haven’t managed to kill her yet, so I’m still counting the whole endeavour as a smashing success!

So, to those of you who know me, and know of my former ineptitude with green leafy chlorophyll producing things, I say – HA! I am now a Plant Growing Goddess!

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It’s International Vegetarian Day! Hard to believe that I became a vegetarian only a few short months ago. It seems like something I’ve been doing all my life. It is no more difficult to make myself a meal than it was before. I don’t miss meat, hardly. (Every now and then, I do drive by a KFC and feel a twang of sadness for the 11 herbs and spices.) I don’t miss it, because I have found great alternatives. TVP – textured vegetable protein, made from soy, is a great example. I’ve also found a host of vegetarian soy and wheat-based products that mimic the texture and consistency of meat almost perfectly – and without the nasty animal fat!

It’s not hard at all to make sure I’m getting enough protein. I am not much of a breakfast person, so I usually have a smoothie in the morning. Here’s my usual:

Breakfast Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup of soy milk
  • 1/3 pkg of silken tofu
  • 1 tbsp of flax seed oil
  • 2 tbsp fibre
  • 1 cup or so of fruit – I usually buy frozen berries or a fruit salad mix

Blend in a blender until very smooth and enjoy!

So as you can see, I’m getting protein right off the bat in the mornings. Good, right?

Then, for lunch of supper, I have more protein, in the form of legumes, or tofu, or sometimes seafood. (Yep, I’m still eating seafood, occasionally. Maybe one day I’ll give that up too. Baby steps.)  So it’s good. I feel great, I don’t get bored, and it’s not any harder than cooking with anything else – in fact, it’s a bit faster to prepare meals, because meat takes so long to cook.

So, here’s another recipe, I made this one last night. Delicious! I love Mexican food, love it love it. Mind you, this one, I made up.

Mexican-ish Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 large bell peppers (green or red, whatever you want)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tomatos
  • 2 cups of beans (I used black beans, but feel free to experiment)
  • 1 pkg of ground meat alternative (I suppose if you are a carnivore, you could substitute real ground meat here, but I’m not advocating that, especially not on International Vegetarian Day!)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • cilantro
  • black pepper – use the stuff you have to grind yourself
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese – use a mix, like cheddar and monteray jack and mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Clean all your veggies. No brainer, I know.
  2. Chop up the onion and fry it up a bit in a large skillet with some olive oil at medium heat. Don’t sautee the onion until it’s totally clear before you add other ingredients – they will be overdone if you do.
  3. Chop up the jalapeno pepper into tiny little itty bitty pieces, and add it to the onion. Please handle jalapenos carefully – they can burn your hands, like happened to me last night. Wear gloves if you can, it really makes a difference. Wash your hands thoroughly – as well as the cutting board – before moving on.
  4. Chop up tomatos and press garlic. Add to the onion-jalapeno mix.
  5. Add beans and meat alternative. You will probably need to add a bit more olive oil at this point.
  6. Add chili powder and cumin and salt, to taste.
  7. Add cilantro, however much you want, but a fair amount or you won’t be able to taste it through the other spices.
  8. Add about a 1/2 cup of water and reduce heat. Simmer until the spices and water have formed something of a sauce.
  9. While everything else is simmering, cut the tops off your bell peppers – make them into lids, not just straight across. Use a small paring knife to cut downward into the top of the pepper as it stands upright – not a large knife cutting into the pepper on its side on the cutting board. Pull on the stem, and the core with all the seeds will come out. Cut off the core and clean out any remaining seeds. Clean out any remaining bits of the core form the inside, you know how it grows down the sides.
  10. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
  11. Once the stuffing mixture is ready,take a spoon and stuff your peppers. Leave about 1/2 an inch at the top for the cheese! Replace the cute little bell pepper lids, place the peppers on a cookie sheet, and bake for about 25-30 minutes. They should be softened but still sturdy.
  12. Once they are finished, they will be juicy inside. Poke the bottom with a fork to drain the fluid out so it’s not messy on the plate.
  13. Serve (a side dish of rice would be nice, or maybe a salad) and enjoy!

I hope you like ’em! If you try them out, let me know what you think!

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so, many of you know that i love to cook. and bake too. since becoming vegetarian, I’ve been doing a lot more cooking so I can ensure I get all the nutrients I’m supposed to have each day. I love cookbooks for inspiration, but mostly, I make things up. I thought I’d start sharing some of my “recipes” – which term I use very loosely as I rarely measure anything! This is what I made for supper today:

Roasted Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried red lentils
  • 2 leeks
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 pkg of silken tofu
  • 4 red bell peppers
  • EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • about a cup of vegetable stock
  • a couple dollops of sour cream (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper (use the stuff you have to grind yourself, it’s so much better)
  • paprika
  • cayenne pepper
  • NB: you’ll need a good blender. a hand blender will do the trick.

Instructions:

  1. Place red peppers on a cookie sheet and place them under the broiler until the skins turn black. Rotate frequently – the whole skin should be black all the way around. This takes about 20 minutes.
  2. Rinse lentils well and drain. They’re usually quite small, so use a small strainer. 2 cups of lentils requires 6 cups of water to cook. Use a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook till they are mushy, about 15-20 minutes. Don’t worry about how it looks. Drain when they’re done and set aside.
  3. While the red peppers are broiling, chop leeks into small pieces. Only use the white part, not the green. Sautee in a bit of EVOO over medium-low heat until translucent. Don’t burn them! Remove from heat and mix with the lentils.
  4. Now your peppers should be done. Take them out and set the oven to 425 F. Let the peppers cool for a few minutes and drain off any liquid. Take a damp paper towel and remove the blackened skins. If that doesn’t work use the back of a spoon. Next, cut them open from stem to bottom and remove the stem and seeds. Cut the peppers into fairly large pieces, lay them in a single layer on the cookie sheet, drizzle with EVOO and place them in the oven to roast for about 15-20 minutes. Check on them to make sure the edges don’t burn, but they don’t need to be turned.
  5. Blend together lentils, leeks, vegetable stock, garlic, and tofu until completely smooth. place this mixture in your large saucepan and heat over medium-low heat. Add spices to taste – easy on the cayenne, you just want to use a little bit to create some warmth in the soup.
  6. When the peppers are finished roasting, blend them in the blender and add this to the soup mixture. If the soup doesn’t look creamy enough for your liking, add a couple dollops of sour cream. cook the whole soup mixture for 10-15 minutes, stirring often.
  7. Enjoy!

try out this yummy soup! roasted red peppers are among my very most favourite things. they take a little while to make, but it’s worth it. This soup has lots of protein, no dairy (unless you use the sour cream), hardly any fat (just in the EVOO, but that’s good fat, right!?) and lots of fibre. Plus, you’ve got at least a couple servings of vegetables in there, with the leeks and the peppers and the vegetable stock.

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so, I made some yummy soup today. I love soup in the winter! I also love to experiment in the kitchen, and disasters are getting much less frequent. This recipe worked really well, so I wrote it down and thought I’d share. I know, two recipes in a week… but hey, at least I’m willing to share them! one of my friends’ mother-in-law won’t share her chocolate chip cookie recipe – but she’ll make you batter. Ridiculous, I say!Here you go – it’s so easy and fast. Even my kitty liked it!

Curried Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

This soup has it all – lots of beta-carotene, a little sweetness, and a bit of spice!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-5 sweet potatoes
  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 small onion
  • 1-2 garlic buds
  • 1 TBSP ginger root
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of applesauce
  • 1 TSP salt
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 2 TSP generic curry powder
  • Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and boil until soft.
  2. Cut the squash in half, and boil in a separate pot until flesh is soft. (This step can be done in the microwave: in a microwave-safe bowl, place about 1 cup of water and the squash. Cover with plastic wrap and cook on high for approximately 5 minutes.)
  3. Chop onion into tiny bits. With about ½ TBSP of cooking oil, sauté on medium-low heat until soft and transparent – do not brown. Stir in pressed garlic when onions are halfway finished.
  4. When squash is finished cooking, scrape the flesh from the peel, and place one can of coconut milk, half the applesauce and the flesh into a blender. Puree until smooth. Place in a large saucepan.
  5. When sweet potatoes are finished cooking, place them in a bowl and mash slightly. Transfer to the blender with the other can of coconut milk and the rest of the applesauce. Puree until smooth. Place in the saucepan with the squash mixture.
  6. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, adding honey, salt, pepper and curry powder. Using garlic press, squeeze the juice of the ginger into the mixture. Place the rest of the ginger in the mixture for extra flavour.
  7. Cook until mixture is smooth and well-blended.
  8. ENJOY!

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baking break

well, this morning, I took a break from my schoolwork – which is coming along pretty well, I must say; I feel pretty well prepared for both exams tomorrow, although I will need to review tonight of course, and one of my four papers is completed, and today I'll be making good headway with another one, so things are shaping up. My break this morning consisted of a Sudoku puzzle, a crossword puzzle, some yoghurt, a cuddle with one of my kitties, and one of my most favourite activites – baking. This morning, I took a look around, and found some bananas that were brown enough that I won't eat them anymore – I like 'em pretty green to just eat, and nice ripened yellow for my breakfast smoothie, but these were even beyond that point. So, I decided to make a batch of Banana Bread. It's baking right now.I think this is my most favourite Banana Bread recipe, so I think I'll share it with you. It's a really nice, light bread, with still enough fat to make it yummy! I got this recipe from one of my former co-workers. She is a baker and cook extraordinaire!

So here you go, try it out – you won't be disappointed. By the way, whenever I bake I use organic flour and fat-free or low-fat ingredients, and often I'll use Splenda instead of sugar. Splenda can be substituted for sugar measure for measure in most recipes without affecting the consistancy or rising factor. Good luck, and enjoy!

TARYL’S BANANA BREAD

This is a deliciously light and moist banana bread, perfect for any occasion!

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter (my best friend tried this recipe and substituted Canola Oil here and said it worked out fine)
  • 1 cup sugar (try it with Splenda!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 or 3)
  • ½ cup sour cream (if you don't have sour cream on hand, plain yoghurt will do the trick)
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts/pecans/chocolate chips/dried cranberries etc. (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan.
  2. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, then vanilla extract.
  3. Add the dry ingredients; mix.
  4. Add the mashed bananas and sour cream. If using optional ingredients, add those now.
  5. Bake for 1 hour – check after 45 minutes by sticking a toothpick in the centre. If the top is browning too much and the middle is still raw, lay some tin foil overtop with a hole cut in the centre. This will allow the cake to continue baking without burning the top.
  6. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. ENJOY!

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