Riin's Rants

Food

Well, what can I say? Like everyone, I like to eat. I'm a very picky eater though. There are a lot of foods I don't like. And I'm extremely lazy about cooking. I'm a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I don't like beans, peas, lentils, mushrooms, nuts, or tofu though. That eliminates about two-thirds of the vegetarian recipes I've found. So I tend to eat very simple food. I figure out things to make with about three ingredients. Or I eat things all by themselves and enjoy them on their own. So I buy good quality ingredients. I buy organic food as much as possible. I believe there shouldn't even be food that isn't organic. The idea of putting poison on something that people are going to be eating is absolutely insane, just more proof that our culture is mentally ill.

This page is about some of the food I've found that I really like, and some things I've come up with to eat. In other words, food that makes me drool...

Zingerman's Bread

There's a deli here in Ann Arbor called Zingerman's. When people have guests from out of town, they take them there, and ten years later, they're still raving about how good the food was. It's not just a deli; it's an institution.

For years they bought their bread from a local baker, but then they started baking their own. They sell it at the deli, the bakehouse, and at a few grocery stores around town (as well as on their website, http://www.zingermans.com/). It's the best bread in the world! My favorite is the Rustic Italian loaf. I'm also fond of the Farm loaf. The pumpernickel is very good. The raisin bread...oh, the raisin bread...

But the Rustic Italian loaf is what I eat every day. It's the bread I have to have or all is not right with the world. It's good for sandwiches, and it's good just by itself. I like to eat it just by itself, with nothing on it at all. I like to just taste the bread. It's so good!

Pesto

I was at a meeting of my voluntary simplicity group a few years ago when we took a short break to eat the snacks people had brought. Someone had brought some pasta with some green stuff on it that looked yummy. I tried it and decided I wasn't leaving the meeting until I knew what that stuff was! If I didn't know what it was called, there'd be no way I could be sure to have it again! I asked what it was. "Pesto" came the response. That was pesto? I'd heard of pesto, and I had some vague idea what the ingredients were, but I had no idea it tasted like that! If I'd known, I would've started eating it years earlier!

The odd thing about me loving pesto so much is one of the ingredients is nuts, and I hate nuts. But I figured out the thing I hate about nuts is the texture. I don't like little bits of wood in my food! With pesto, the nuts are just sawdust. I've discovered that with food in general, texture is very important to me (that's what I don't like about tofu. It's like hot Jello).

Since I'm very lazy about cooking, I'm much too lazy to make my own pesto. I buy it. I buy Cibo Naturals Classic Basil Pesto. It's all organic, and it's very good (I tried some other brand once, and I didn't like it). I've been using it on sandwiches.

Monterey Jack Cheese

Cheddar used to be my favorite kind of cheese, but then the store was out of rBGH-free cheddar for several weeks (I refuse to support factory farming. The animals are ill-treated to the point of torture, and fed routine doses of antibiotics because of the inevitable diseases caused by the unhealthy living conditions. Cows given rBGH, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, a genetically modified hormone to make them produce more milk than they would otherwise, invariably suffer from mastitis, a painful inflammation of their udders. I don't want to be responsible for animals' suffering, and I don't want to eat genetically modified hormones and antibiotics). I tried some other varieties instead, including Monterey jack. I found I actually liked Monterey jack better than cheddar.

The way I eat Monterey jack cheese most often is with the above two ingredients, i.e., a sandwich consisting of Zingerman's Rustic Italian loaf, pesto, and Monterey jack cheese. I lightly toast the bread, spread pesto on one slice, place thick pieces of cheese on top of the pesto, put the other piece of bread (it's too lightly toasted to call it toast, really) on top of that, and then microwave the sandwich for 14 seconds. Strange amount of time, but that's worked out to be just right. I don't want to melt the cheese to the point where it's liquid. I just want to warm it up, as well as the pesto. This sandwich is delicious.

Another way I eat Monterey jack cheese is along with tortilla chips and salsa. They seem to go well together.

Dried Cherries

Such a simple pleasure. They're expensive, so they're a bit of a splurge, but they're a good way to eat fruit when fresh fruit isn't in season, and more sustainable than eating fresh fruit flown in from the other side of the world (marinated in petroleum, as they say). Other dried fruit is cheaper, such as raisins, but I really love dried cherries, so I find I eat a lot of them. They make me happy.

Broccoli & Cheese Potatoes

Something yummy I figured out how to make with only three ingredients. I make these in bulk and freeze them, then take them for lunch every day. Everyone always smells what I'm eating and tells me how good it smells.

I put 9 large russet potatoes in the oven to bake (because that's as many as will fit. I have a very small kitchen, so there's only room for a 24" stove). While those are baking, I get the broccoli and cheese ready. I cut up two 12-ounce bricks of sharp cheddar into small pieces. Essentially, this is like shredding the cheese, but the pieces don't need to be that small (they're going to end up melted anyway), and a knife is a lot easier to clean than a cheese grater. Then I wash the two large bunches of broccoli and cut those up. I just use the florets. I set aside the leaves and chopped up stalks for my rabbits. I put the florets in a pot with about half an inch of water in the bottom and put a lid on it. When the potatoes are done, I turn on the burner with the broccoli on it for 5 minutes on high.

After 5 minutes, the broccoli is done, and I pour out the water into a cup to drink later. I used to just pour it down the drain, but my friend Ken pointed out that it was rich in nutrients. He said any time he cooked rice or any vegetables, he saved the leftover vitamin-rich water to drink. When I thought about it, that made perfect sense, so I started doing the same. Since I always dilute my orange juice with water (otherwise it's too acidic, and it makes my stomach hurt. I've done this for so long, I'm just used to diluted orange juice, and if it isn't diluted, it tastes strange to me), I just mix the leftover water with my orange juice.

The rest isn't too hard to figure out. Put the three ingredients together. I generally eat one of the broccoli and cheese potatoes for dinner that night and freeze the rest in individual Rubbermaid containers. The ones made for sandwiches are the right size, and their shape uses space efficiently in the freezer. I do actually put some salt on these, so ok, that's technically a fourth ingredient, but potatoes need salt in my mind.

After I assemble the ingredients for the one I plan to eat that night, I have to microwave it for about 2 minutes to melt the cheese. Even though the potato and broccoli are both hot, they're not hot enough to melt the cheese. Your microwave may vary, of course. When microwaving it from a frozen state, I nuke it for 4:44 (laziness again), then stir things around a bit, then give it another 2:00 or 2:22, depending on how cold things still seem.

Curried Seitan and Broccoli

This has a lot of ingredients so I don't make it very often, but it's so good. I started with a recipe I found in a cookbook, but I made so many substitutions and modifications that I guess it's actually my recipe now. The first time I made it, I took a bite, and I had the sensation that I wanted to ask the food to marry me. Ok, I never claimed to be sane. Here's the recipe:

2 packages White Wave chicken-style seitan
¼ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 Tablespoons canola oil
2 Tablespoons (slightly heaping) curry powder
2 medium-large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetarian chicken broth
1 cup raisins
12 oz can tomato paste
1 lb broccoli florets (or florets from 2 large bunches of broccoli)
½ cup-1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
½ cup-1 cup low fat sour cream

Drain the seitan and cut into bite size pieces. Combine the flour, salt and cayenne pepper in a plastic bag. Put the seitan in the bag, hold it closed and shake it to coat the pieces. Heat the oil in a large pot on medium. Add the seitan and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir so the seitan pieces are coated. Add the onion and garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the broth, raisins and tomato paste and stir to evenly distribute the paste. Add the broccoli and stir. Cover and simmer for 8 minutes. Garnish each serving with generous amounts of cilantro and sour cream. Serves 8. This goes well served over brown rice, in which case you can stretch it out to 10 or 12 servings. It freezes well (so it makes a good lunch to take to work), though the cilantro and sour cream get kind of weird if they're exposed when frozen, so it's best to stir those in before you put them in the freezer.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (vegan)

Though I'm not a vegan, I don't use many animal products. I'll eat baked goods made with eggs if they're given to me, but I don't eat eggs by themselves, and I don't use them when I bake. It's partly an ethical choice, but it's also a matter of practicality. I so seldom bake, that if I buy the smallest quantity of eggs possible -- a half dozen -- and use one egg, it could be six months before I have an occasion to use another one. Buying eggs was simply wasteful in addition to being unethical. When I found out one could substitute flaxseeds and water for eggs in baking, I saw no reason to buy eggs ever again.

Like the curried seitan, this was also originally a recipe in a cookbook, but I have made several substitutions. And like the curried seitan, since it has more than three ingredients, I can't be bothered to make it very often. I'm lazy. But whenever I have to go to something where I'm expected to bring food, this is what I make.

1½ cups whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon (slightly heaping) cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons flaxseeds
2 Tablespoons warm water
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup margarine (I use Earth Balance "natural buttery spread." It's non-hydrogenated, 100% vegan and doesn't contain any genetically modified organisms. It actually tastes good too!)
1 Tablespoon molasses
¼ cup soy milk (another thing I don't go through very fast since I don't cook much, but it freezes well. I pour it in the ice cube tray to freeze cubes of it and then remove to store in a container. I know that 3 cubes = ¼ cup.)
1¾ cups uncooked oatmeal
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the flaxseeds in a blender. Put the lid on and turn the blender on until the seeds are ground into a powder. Tap the sides so the powder falls to the bottom. Remove the lid and pour in the water. Replace the lid and turn on again to mix for about 20 seconds. Set aside to thicken. (Warning: Do not add water before you grind the flaxseeds, thinking you'll combine steps! If you do, you'll have a bunch of unground flaxseeds glued to the inside of your blender!)

In a large bowl, melt the margarine. Add the brown sugar, molasses, soy milk and flaxseed/water mixture. Stir. Add about half the flour and stir. Add the remaining flour and the baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and stir. Add the oatmeal and stir. Add the raisins and stir.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. Makes 3-4 dozen.

Spinach Lasagna (or cheese lasagna)

Yet another recipe that started as someone else's, but I got my copy out because my husband wanted to make it for our Winter Solstice dinner, and I had to explain to him that I left this and this out, and I used twice as much of that and way more of this, and I substituted this for that, and I didn't do this the way they said... Oh. I guess I made my own recipe. So here's my recipe (note: my husband left out the spinach, so he actually made cheese lasagna instead of spinach lasagna. They're both good, though of course it's healthier with the spinach).

2 10-ounce packages of frozen spinach, thawed and drained (optional)
2 pounds low fat ricotta cheese
approx. ¼ cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (leave this out if you leave the spinach out)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
9 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
1 pound Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1½ jars Newman's Own marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix first seven ingredients. Cover the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" cake pan with just a slight amount of the sauce to act as a lubricant, then put down three of the noodles side by side. Next put down a more substantial layer of sauce. Next comes half the spinach/ricotta mix, a third of the Monterey jack, a third of the parmesan, another layer of noodles, another layer of sauce, the rest of the spinach/ricotta mix, another third of the Monterey jack, another third of the parmesan, the rest of the noodles, more sauce, the rest of the Monterey jack, and the rest of the parmesan. Bake for about 40 minutes. You should let it cool for a little while before cutting it or the cheese will ooze out, but I never have the patience. When it comes out of the oven, I'm hungry!

Since this has way more than three ingredients, I don't make it very often, alas. Pete did a good job with it on the Solstice, and he said he'd make it again for the Equinox. I'd like to have it with spinach sometime though, and he's veggie-phobic, so I'll have to make it myself. I really like it with spinach! Ah, curse my laziness.

Chocolate

Ah, chocolate. Food of the gods. Yes. Chocolate is a wonderful thing.

There are a zillion and three varieties of chocolate to choose from, of course. Some of them are crap. Some of them are divine, but out of my price range. Some of them are very good chocolate, but have other ingredients as well, and in general, I don't like other things in my chocolate. I just like chocolate, just on its own. There is one exception. And the exception is very, very good.

When I was in high school, for various fundraisers we sold Kathryn Beich's candybars. One of the varieties was a chocolate bar filled with a sweet creamy caramel. It was divine. I bought most of them myself. When I was out of school, whenever I encountered someone selling these, I bought a few. I hardly ever ran into anyone selling them though. Years passed. Then someone was selling Nestle-Beich's candybars. Apparently Nestle had bought out the company. It had been a long time since I had had one of the caramel bars. I bought several.

More years passed. People would often come to my door selling candy for various fundraisers, but it was never the right kind. One day a girl finally did come to my door selling them, and I was so excited, I bought all she had. All 27 bars. She was surprised. I had to force myself to ration them and not eat more than two bars a day. I didn't want to eat so many in one sitting that I got sick of them and never wanted to eat them ever again. And plus I just didn't want to get sick. I ate them at a reasonable pace and enjoyed them very much. But eventually they were gone.

More years passed until I found someone selling them again, but he had just a few. By this time, they were just Nestle.

And then I had to run to the store because I was out of curry powder. While I was there I stopped in the candy aisle to pick up some more Dove milk chocolate squares, which I also like, and which I had been addicted to until I discovered...Nestle Signatures Treasures Creamy Caramel! Gasp! Could it be? I bought a bag and confirmed what I had hoped. It was milk chocolate filled with the same sweet creamy caramel as in the bars! It was just in bite size pieces! I was no longer at the mercy of a bunch of fundraising organizers! For years I had been telling the people at my door, "Look, if you come back selling Nestle-Beich caramel bars, I'll buy all you have," but it never worked. Now I could finally just get my stash at the grocery store, like any respectable addict, er, connoisseur.

I confess that in my joy at finally discovering these I made no effort to ration them. I figured since I ride my bike every day I can eat whatever I want. But while the bag was sitting next to my computer one day I happened to notice it claimed there were 9 servings per container. Uh oh. I thought there were 2. The nutrition information was a little scary. So I've tried to actually limit myself and not go nuts. Generally I only have 2 real servings a day now, and some days I don't have any. When I eat it, I enjoy it very much. I actually enjoy it just as much as if I ate way more, so there's no need to eat way more. And because I'm not depriving myself, there is no psychological need to eat all there is. This isn't the last bag in the world, and someone isn't about to grab it away from me. I can relax now.

Other Foods

The above foods aren't the only things I eat, of course, just the things I could get longwinded about. I also eat a lot of apples (gala and Fuji are my favorite varieties), spinach, corn, pasta (I'm fond of tri-color fusilli with Newman's Own marinara sauce), macaroni and cheese (Annie's is good), salads (mixed greens, some green pepper, a little shredded carrot, some Monterey jack or cheddar cheese. When tomatoes aren't in season, I use dried tomatoes. I cut them up into small pieces with scissors. Ranch dressing. Croutons are a necessity), bagels with cream cheese, white cheddar cheese popcorn, brown rice with mixed vegetables and San-J Hot & Spicy Szechuan Sauce...

Hmmm...maybe this page is long enough. I'm getting hungry.

| Home | Bikes are better than cars | Our culture is mentally ill | Knitting & Spinning | Misc. happy good things | Email me |
Copyright © 2003 Riin Gill | December 25, 2003