This is my "No Fail" meal. I probably make it once a week and I will not hear a single complaint from my husband or my daughter. I don't complain about it either! Why? Because it takes ten minutes to prepare, uses only one pan and costs about eight bucks to fill three hungry bellies.
What is this miracle? Spinach and white beans!
This is my family fallback. I always try to keep a giant salad container of organic baby spinach in the fridge and some canned white beans in the pantry. The baby spinach is awesome because you can toss it in just about anything so it never has the chance to go bad. I do spice it up from time to time. As you can see, I threw in some Tofurkey Italian Sausages. Sometimes I use arugula or broccoli raab.
It's simple to make: Saute some garlic in olive oil and then toss in the spinach and let it cook down. I add two cans of drained white beans afterwards and it seems to be the perfect amount. There is never any leftover. Top it off with salt and pepper to taste. If I have some homemade breadcrumbs, I might use that as well. I usually add fresh parmesan cheese.
As a rule, I always use fresh parmesan! When I was in high school, I worked at a pizza place and one of my side jobs at the end of the night was to take this massive plastic bucket of powdered parmesan and fill up the shakers on the tables. When you deal with large amounts of the powdered stuff, you cannot help but notice that it smells like puke! I am basically scarred for life now! For a while, I wouldn't even touch fresh parmesan but I realized eventually that it tastes (and smells) nothing like the powdered version! It is way better! It may seem like a lot of money to buy the block but it does last for quite a while.
Since I already played this card for the week, I now have to think of what to prepare for dinner tonight and for the next few days!
This is from an email my mom sent me today about my sister. She is eleven years old.
Andrea has not eat meat in 2 weeks. She is trying not to eat meat and you know how she loves chicken. I got some veggie dogs yesterday and she liked those. I even liked them.
As I sat and watched my husband and daughter devour a huge plate of bacon while we were out to breakfast on Sunday, I wondered to myself why I didn't join them. I love bacon and I haven't had it in years. I am not one of those vegetarians who will go on about how they don't like meat and how they find it disgusting. I miss it like crazy sometimes. I do find my stomach turning over it much more than I used to though. I was watching someone eat fried chicken on Saturday and it didn't look like it had been completely cooked near the bone and I could see what looked like blood. All of a sudden, it didn't look so appealing anymore. Chicken has been the easiest thing to give up for me. I also would have a difficult time handling raw meat of any kind. I would love a steak though. Or a burger. Not a "veggie burger" or a "portobello burger" either. For me, being a vegetarian is a real sacrifice and although it has gotten easier, I don't think it will ever be easy. Not just because of the restricted diet but also because there is always going to be wank and ridicule from people who don't understand the choice not to eat meat. There is also the crap we get from vegans. I rarely ever read VegNews anymore because there are always cheap shots directed at those of us who chose to consume dairy. Even if we make conscious efforts to only purchase local and humanely raised products. I know I'm no saint but I think that anyone who choses to make even the slightest curb in their meat consumption is cool. If everyone gave it up just for one day a week, it would make an amazing difference in environmental impact and personal health. People have eaten meat for thousands of years and I am not going to hold my breath that they are suddenly going to stop because of some crazy PETA stunt. I think they mean well but for the most part, PETA embarrasses me. I don't eat meat because I am protesting the overall ethics and cruelty behind the production of it as well as the environmental impact. It's negligent and wrong and we will continue to face dire consequences in our health and our planet if we don't do something about it. It frustrates me that people don't seem to understand this and sometimes I do deal with temptation to throw in the towel.
My little sister really made my day and that email was just what I needed.
This weekend is the annual Shad Festival in Lambertville, NJ. I met up with some friends and the Mollster tagged along with me. The festival drew a huge crowd and let me tell you, parking sucked. I finally gave in and parked on the side of Rt 29 along with a bunch of other cars. There was a no parking sign but I figured there was enough of us there that hopefully it would be a while before they got around to ticketing.
Once we trekked into downtown Lambertville, we took a few minutes to find Laura and Harry. It wasn't difficult. We were both able to see the giant, inflatable Geico gecko and we met in front of it. Molly and I were starving so I bought her the very first funnel cake she'd had in her life. I didn't bring my camera with me to the event but I don't think I'll ever forget her sitting on the curb and shoveling the sugar coated fried batter into her mouth like it was going to grow legs and walk away. This is what she was wearing so you can get a better mental image...
My biggest regret is that we saw this huge root beer stand and they were selling frosty beverages in metal mugs....we didn't get any. I thought about it all day yesterday and even part of today. I did find one bit of treasure though! Last year, the same group of friends and I went to the Harvest Festival in Yardley (which was way better than the Shad Fest IMHO). This was the same festival that I had the amazing plantains. Trust me, I looked for that guy yesterday. On that fateful day, I was checking out a swatch that a craft tent had of some vintage brooches. The person who ran the booth was not anywhere to be found. I saw an awesome owl brooch and I really wanted it but I moved on since I didn't see anyone to inquire about it and I figured it was probably overpriced. Well, yesterday I didn't find the plantain guy....but I DID find the same craft tent. They still had him too.
Five bucks for this guy! :-) Almost a year later! I was so happy!
Even though the festival was sort of a dud, I did manage to score that awesome brooch. Molly also got to shake hands with the governor.
Later on, we met up with Chris (he was working) and drove back over towards the same area we'd been to earlier. This time, we crossed the bridge into Pennsylvania and went to Doylestown. I'd heard about it before but never been. It's too bad it was almost 8:30 by the time we got there because a lot of stuff was closed. The downtown was really animated and had a lot of neat looking stores I'd love to check out. We had dinner with Shannon and Eliezer and all of us want to go back when we can spend the whole day exploring. We actually have a bunch of cool things we'd like to do and see in the near future so that should make for some inspired blogging.
BTW: I didn't get a parking ticket yesterday.
Right now, I need to do a little less blogging and a lot more laundry.
This is why all of the nutritionists and diet gurus will advise you not to go long periods of time without eating. I had a delicious and nutritious wrap for lunch and had an equally healthy meal planned for dinner but unfortunately, I let about six hours pass between the two events.
I am emerging from what I call Food Zombie Possession. I get so ravenous that I just grab and shove. What did I eat?
My daughter's leftover french fries from dinner....three days old...still cold. Oh, and three pieces of delectable Belgian chocolate.
WEST WINDSOR — The prayers of local Trader Joe’s fanatics have been answered. The specialty grocery chain will be opening a new store this summer in the Square at West Windsor shopping center off Route 1, a company spokesman confirmed.
Renovations are already under way in the former Sleepy’s mattress store that will become the new Trader Joe’s, in the Meadow Road complex that also includes a Lowe’s and a Pier 1. Sleepy’s has moved to another storefront in the center.
Recently listed by Consumer Reports as the second best grocery store in the country —behind Wegmans— Trader Joe’s is a privately owned, California-based company. It has more than 300 stores in 25 states and the District of Columbia, including seven locations in New Jersey. The nearest, in Westfield, is about 37 miles away.
West Windsor Township land use manager Sam Surtees said the company applied for permits for exterior and major interior renovations earlier this year. The new store will occupy about 10,000 square feet, which is within the normal range for a Trader Joe’s, company spokesperson Alison Mochizuki said.
About 80 percent of the items sold in the store will be from the Trader Joe’s private label, which sells a wide range of products, she said.
”We sell everyday items, such as cheese, eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit, and we also sell unique one of a kind items that you can only get at Trader Joe’s,” she said.
But that’ doesn’t mean the products will be expensive, she said.
”We consider ourselves a neighborhood grocery store... so we have very high quality food items at a very good value,” she said.
The Princeton-area location was selected because there are “lots of foodies,” she said.
There were at least two campaigns to bring the store to the area. A Facebook group called “Bring Trader Joe’s to Princeton, NJ!!!” has 374 members.
West Windsor resident Ann Summer said she worked with friends to try to encourage the company through its Web site to open a store in the area.
”It’s just a different kind of shopping experience, and I like their whole philosophy,” she said.
She’s shopped at other Trader Joe’s locations for years, even mapping store locations while on vacation to stop by, she said.
”I really like so many of their products, and they’re reasonably priced,” she said.
But customers will have to wait to find out if they’ll be able to get the store’s famous Two Buck Chuck wine at the new location. Ms. Mochizuki said she could not comment on whether the store would apply for a liquor license.
Only one of Trader Joe’s seven locations in the state holds a liquor license, according to the company’s Web site.
News of Trader Joe’s coming to West Windsor comes on the heels of the announcement that another township grocery store, the Princeton Junction Acme Markets, will close next month.
My family and I regularly shop at the Whole Foods on Route 1 here in Princeton. One of my favorite things to do is to swoop past the hot bar to see if they have roasted plantains. I realized last year that I effing love these things! The best I've had so far was a food stand at a festival last summer from a restaurant in Trenton that I don't know the name of. I still dream about those plantains! Whole Foods has pretty good ones though! I pumped one of their cooks for information on how to make them along with searching the internet and reading the list of ingredients that they post on the bar (which isn't long at all). I finally got up the courage to give them a go yesterday.
These are my roasted plantains. My biggest shortcoming is the texture. The ones from WF are shiny and glistening. Mine were kinda dry on the outside. As far as taste was concerned though, they were pretty darn close! I guess that is all that really matters, right? Here's how I did it (for future reference!)
*I roasted them at 375 but I might try 400 next time. They took about 20-25 minutes before they had that nice color.
*I used really ripe plantains. Since the peel was almost black all over, it was really easy to take off. When they are still greenish, I usually have to have a peeler.
*Drizzle them with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and cayenne pepper and toss them in the oven.
I'm still going to do some tweaking and see if I can improve the texture but I'm pretty happy that I don't have to pay $8.99 a pound for roasted plantains now!
Thrift store finds from yesterday. I have a wicked soft spot for vintage buttons. I have quite the collection! These aren't even all of the ones I found! I also love old Pyrex dishes so double score! I got a UK copy of Fast Food Nation as well.
I took three bags of clothing to donate. It was difficult to part with some of it but I hardly ever wear any of it anymore so I have to stop thinking about what I paid for it. As I have gotten older, I've learned to make better choices when it comes to clothing. I pretty much wear only dresses anyways so that makes it easier. I took a bunch of stuff to a new consignment store in Princeton a few weeks ago. Hopefully I'll get a small payback from that. Any money that I make is going towards the Paris trip this summer! I have a ridiculous amount of clothing, shoes and purses and I'm really trying hard to simplify and declutter. It's a long process but I think I am slowly gaining the upper hand. I'm really bad about holding on to various pieces because of some sort of fantasy I have in my head about wearing it to a certain event or place that is probably never going to happen in real life. I have been picking up a few odd and end things to wear to Europe this summer and that has been much more fulfilling than hoarding a bunch of daydream pieces.
I didn't want to give the wrong impression about this blog by posting all of that kale yesterday! Ha!
These bad boys are my Easter weakness. I usually allow myself two per year and I cashed my last one in yesterday. We still have plenty of chocolate in the house! My husband brought a ton of it back from Germany! It blows Cadbury out of the water (surprise?) but I still enjoyed my Cream Egg very much.
I was fortunate enough to receive a subscription to Vegetarian Times magazine as a gift last year. For those of you who don't know, I am a magazine junkie! Each issue had bunches of recipes and inspiration and I loved getting it in the mail every month! One recipe in particular has become almost like a crutch. I fall back on it constantly for a quick jolt either for breakfast or a midday snack.
It's a chocolate banana smoothie that uses soymilk. Who doesn't need the occasional soy protein boost? Your heart will love you for it! (as long as you're not allergic). The 'brain boosting' part is from the cinnamon.
1 cup of chocolate soymilk
1 tsp of cinnamon
1 Tbsp of cocoa powder
8 ice cubes (optional---I never use them)
*I've used bananas in varying stages of ripeness and they all work fine. When they still have a bit of green, I've noticed that the smoothie will be a bit on the thick side probably due to the extra starch. It's a great way to use up some bananas that are either not ripe enough or too ripe. My sister still eats them when they're really green and I can't stand them like that. I like a little stank on a banana.
I have been wanting to try my hand at making kale chips for a while now. It's no secret that I love salty and crispy things. Especially when they come in the form of nontraditional crisps! The last time I was at Trader Joes, I bought a bag of their green bean chips and ate them in an entire sitting. In my defense, the bag was on the small side.
I have seen several different recipes and such concerning kale chips. Evidently, there have been many failed attempts. I am happy to report that this was NOT one of them! My only modification when it comes to future batches will be to cut back on the salt. I was reminded of a Seinfeld episode while I was munching away on the fruits (or should I say 'veggies'?) of my labor because I kept thinking
Man! These kale chips are making me thirsty!
These were beyond easy to make! As you can see, I used the curly kale. I've never had kale I didn't like but my family complains about the curly kind because they say it's too chewy. The crisps, however, were light and whispy. Here's what you need...
One bunch of curly kale
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (F) and tear the kale away from the stems. Spread it out on a cookie sheet and spray it. I used sea salt but I am willing to bet that any seasoning would work here! Masala seasoning is next up on my list! Also, I'd love to see if I can churn out some salt and vinegar chips! That would rule!
I baked mine for 20 minutes. Check them at 15 to make sure they are alright. When they are light and crispy to the touch, they are done. You don't have to wait for them to cool either! The entire batch was history within 15 minutes of them coming out of the oven. I have a feeling, this recipe is going to become my new best friend.
So despite the fact that it started out looking gloomy and damp, today turned out to be absolutely gorgeous! I went over to the garden and rolled back the plastic coverings. I still have them secured to the edges so all I have to do now is unroll them and secure the other ends. It will be a much easier operation if I have to protect the seeds again! I is smart.
I haven't seen any sign of green peeking out yet from the ones I started in the house last week. I watered them with leftover blue tea (from San Francisco) this morning. Can't hurt, right? I am sure they appreciated the antioxidants.*
Last night we had 13 bean soup for dinner. This is twice in one week that I have remembered to soak my beans overnight! When I was younger, I used to marvel at freshly cooked beans. I know I am not the only one who has ever been intimidated by the process. I used canned beans for the longest time and still do for the sake of convenience. Especially if I am throwing something together at the last minute. However, I've become reasonably proficient in cooking them from scratch. Unless I am following a particularly ethnic recipe that calls for specific seasonings, I usually flavor them all the same way.
I use: sea salt, bay leaves (about four), bruised garlic**, an onion and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.
Beans and Greens. A match made in Heaven.
Depending on the type of bean, the cooking time will vary. Lentils usually don't take longer than an hour or so but anything larger (pintos and such) tends to take at least three. My trusty Le Creuset Dutch oven cooks them up real nice. About half of the time, my attention turns to other things and the beans will scorch at the bottom because I forget to add additional water but even then, they are still good. I can admit this now because I've gotten over the shame of buring my beans. It happens to the best of us.
*Edit: We saw some kale and spinach peeking out just now!!!!
**Using the flat side of a chopping knife to smash a garlic clove.
Just when I make the grand announcement that spring is here.....today it is 48 degrees and raining. The low temps are actually not a terrible thing because my greens will like it but the fact that it is supposed to rain for the next three days worried me so I took some giant trash bags out to our plot and secured them over our seeds. I didn't have enough for the radishes and leeks so hopefully they will be okay. If it gets really bad, I'll go back tomorrow and cover them.
Despite the nastiness, I'm still thankful for the fact that we actually have four seasons here in New Jersey. In the south, it goes from cold to hot. The transition is to be savored.
I thought my brother-in-law Brian was coming over for dinner tonight but he is coming over tomorrow instead. He has his own buisness with a focus on freelance hardscape, landscape and other odd jobs and does excellent work. We have a few home improvement things we need done around here so he's going to come and give us an estimate. I wasn't sure about dinner. I am making 13 bean soup so we can use up the rest of the crappy cornbread from McCaffrey's. I have one more day to contemplate how to feed Brian. Let me put it this way: If there is no meat, I do not eat. That's a direct quote.
There's an ice cream truck outside my house!!! I haven't heard one of those in ages! I also got my first sunburn of the year this weekend so I'd say that spring is definitely here!
We spent all day gardening in our plot! We weeded, tilled and planted lots of seeds! I read that if you bury strips of newspaper in between the rows of seeds that it helps slow down weeds. I tried it and we'll see if it works.
What did we plant?
Kale - Italian and Red Russian
French breakfast radishes
French baby leeks
A blend of colored carrots (white, orange, red, purple...)
My friend Shannon and I went on a Wild Edibles Hike over at the Watershed Nature Reserve in Pennington yesterday morning. The guide's name was Jeff and he is such an experienced and knowledgeable naturist! He told us about so many different things that we encountered on the trail yesterday from plants to insects (along with his experiments in eating them) and the animals we encountered along the way. He has been associated with the Watershed for over 20 years. If I had to be stuck in the wilderness with someone, it'd be this guy for sure!
I'd say there were about ten people in the group. This was organized by the Princeton Adult School program which is also where I attended the Africa lecture series that just ended last week. If any of you are looking for some additional outside educational enrichment, I cannot recommend PAS enough. They don't have anything in the summer but they will be back full throttle in the fall. The lecture series will be touching on modern day events in the various countries that were explored by Marco Polo. I'm so there! The Africa lectures were delivered by Princeton professors on campus and I took so much away from them. They were bargain priced at about $90 for 9 lectures. I'll make a note when registration starts for the fall because I know several people who are interested.
The hike itself was fun and very informative. It lasted about 4 hours with lots of stopping and talking about various species of plants. We had to navigate through some pretty swampy areas and my shoes are coated in mud! After a while, I didn't mind the fact that my socks were soaked and squishy. He identified various seeds, blossoms, roots and leaves that we could pick right up and eat. We did too! A few were bitter but most of them were very good! I've been interested in learning more about wild edibles for about a year and a half now (ever since reading Wild Fermentation) and so I was delighted when I saw this walk in the PAS catalogue. It was really worth the $35. The last thing he helped us to identify was a definite crowning moment. Wild leeks, also known as ramps. I LOVE leeks. I am excited because I could readily identify them if I were to spot a patch now. Shannon and I picked several of these gems and then she cooked them up for us last night for dinner. She used this recipe from Molto Mario. It was awesome.
Once a month, I have a craft night here at our place. This is only the second meet up but I think we definitely have the ball rolling.
Tonight's menu has a simple southern flair. What do I mean by simple? A pot of pinto beans served with greens, a slice of onion and cornbread. It's easy to make (especially since I'm buying the cornbread! :-p) yet still, it's my version of bliss in a bowl. I love a wide variety of foods but this will always be one of my favorites. We're also having sweet potato casserole. Mmmmm! I'm smiling just thinking about it.
I'm really proud of myself because I actually remembered to soak the beans overnight! I rarely manage to do this. Half of the battle is already behind me! That's great because I will need to dedicate most of my time to cleaning today! Messy family is messy.
EDIT: Okay....I just wanted to make a note for the locals. I bought my cornbread from McCaffery's and I didn't really care for it. Too sweet and I didn't particularly like the texture. I recommend the cornbread at Wegmans. It's WAY better!
Also, here is a picture from Friday of my friend Alice and her massive knitting needles!
Dinner tonight was brought to us by Trader Joe's. The rice, the curry...not the brussels sprouts but I have bought them there before.
I have heard from multiple sources that we are FINALLY getting a TJ's here in the Princeton area. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me! I drive about every four to six weeks down to Marlton to hit it. It's worth it just for the money I save on maple syrup alone! My girl goes through the flax waffles and maple syrup like they are going out of style. A bottle of organic maple syrup costs about $17. At Whole Foods, said amount will get you 16 ounces of syrup. At Trader Joe's the same amount will get you 32.5 ounces.
Another Molly favorite is the frozen blintzes. I can put them out to defrost overnight and then pop open the box for breakfast the next morning. That's all it takes and my kid is ready to throw me a parade. She used to live off of their cereal bars but she must have burned herself out on them because she hasn't asked for them in a while. I don't particularly care for the blintzes but I do have my own list of TJ Faves.
1. The chipotle pepper hummus. Nothing else can make celery and carrot sticks feel like such a party! Seriously!
2. The goat cheese brie. Two of my favorite types of cheese rolled in to one for a ridiculously low price.
3. The organic cocoa powder. Unfortunately this is a seasonal item so I stock up at Christmas time for the year. It's excellent quality and even has a good punch of iron. I use it mostly for smoothies.
4. The curries! They come in a box. Inside of that box is a foilesque pouch. Boil the pouch for about 5-7 minutes and then cut it open. Pour it on anything (I prefer the brown basmati rice but I'm boring that way) and you have an instant and amazing dinner.
5. Virgil's Root Beer is less than $4 for a four pack. It's a little over $6 anywhere else I see it.
6. 99 cent cans of organic beans.
7. R.I.P. parsnip chips. I haven't seen them in forever. It's probably for the best that they're gone. I'd be up to about 500 pounds now.
8. The masala veggie burgers! They are some of the best meatless burgers I've ever had.
9. The steel cut oats that only take seven minutes to cook served up with some pumpkin butter. The buttah is also seasonal.
10. I'm a big fan of several of their toiletry items such as the lavender body oil, the citrus body wash, the tea tree oil and the bottles of jojoba oil. The eye makeup removal cloths are also great.
I hear that our Princeton store will be open before the end of the year. If this is a cruel rumor, I will cry all the way to Marlton.
Well, I know I've been lax....which is pretty sad considering this is only my second post! Ha!
It's not like I don't have stuff to talk about either. I just haven't been in much of a blogging mood I guess.
I did some seed shopping this weekend. I hit up Smith and Hawken because my friend Shannon recommended it. The only other time I've been in that store was with her, actually! I really love going in there but I don't actually have the budget to shop there very often! Luckily, seeds aren't that expensive! Okay, one packet of seeds was $11 (shhhh, don't tell my husband!) but the rest were $3 or less. The swanky $11 seeds are edible flowers and I'm really excited about them! I'm trying to figure out the best place to plant them! I will probably have space in our public garden plot. I suppose I can just block a small section off just for these bloomers.
We're planning on tilling and stuff this weekend. The Easter Bunny brought my whole family some gardening tools! That rabbit is pretty smart!
Today I started some seedlings that will (hopefully) sprout and grow over the next few weeks. I am using some old egg cartons. I have four so that means that I planted 48 seeds! Once I finish this current dozen from our friends over at Silver Forge Farm, I'll use it as well. What did I plant?
Three varieties of kale (I LOVE me some leafy greens)
TWELVE varieties of heirloom tomatoes (most of them were from seeds I saved from last year)
Three varieties of eggplants
Four varieties of bell peppers
Zucchini (just one kind!)
That's it for now. I have some baby leeks, carrots and radishes waiting to go in the ground!
Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers “Grow, grow”. The Talmud