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On Sunday I wrapped up my 40+ days of vegetarianism with some french toast and bacon, but I thought I ought to do a wrap up of sorts.

Over the course of this year’s experiment I got a lot of questions about it from people, mostly the real vegetarians in my life, so while I don’t really have any new photos for this post, I do have a Vegetarian Q&A.

Q: Did you miss meat?

A: Yes and no. No, in that I never at any point was craving meat, as in “man, I need a burger,” but I did miss it when substitutions were less tasty to me. Like my attempt at making falafel was less successful than my ability to make chicken gyros, or when my substitution of veggie stock in risotto made for a very odd tasting meal. But in other cases, the vegetarian option was just as good or better (like restaurant-made falafel). I also missed meat when some restaurants had a limited/poor selection of vegetarian options (Ri-Ras, I’m looking at you!)

Q: Did you feel better/healthier?

A: I didn’t feel better, or less sluggish or anything physically, but mentally I did feel that I was introducing better food choices into my world.

Q: What was the hardest part?

A: Cooking without a doubt. I’m not a great and/or particularly enthusiastic cook to begin with, so there’s that. But mostly when I started this whole thing I didn’t have a much of a vegetarian cooking repertoire. So there was a big shift in having to change the way I grocery shop, and find recipes, and trying out 2-3 new recipes a week, with mixed results.  Though I wouldn’t say my repertoire is huge now (I had more failures than successes methinks), but I do have more options, as well as an ever expanding Pinterest board of recipes to try and an expanding feed-reader full of vegetarian cooking blogs, so I expect that to continue to grow. I did find that when all else fails, make a pizza.

Q: What was the best part?

A: Discovering new foods. I’m particularly a fan of quinoa now, which I’d never had before, and I forgot how much I like spinach. I like veggie-burgers. And I’m surprised at the number of recipes that called for parsley, which I had always thought of more as a garnish, but no more!  It also made me look beyond the same old some old at the grocery store and on menus. I could still expand my range of vegetables though.

Q: Would you consider staying a vegetarian/doing it again?

A: I don’t think that I will permanently be a vegetarian, I like keeping my options open, and for me, it’s about health more than any moral imperative. But I would like to continue to incorporate more vegetarian eating into my diet going forward.

Q: Any favorite recipes?

A: Yep! Here’s a few I’m definitely be making again (or already have):

There’s also a few improvisations, like the aforementioned pizzas and some veggie masala that was quite tasty.

There you have it!

 

 

 

 

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The light in the evening is coming back in spades theses day, for which this California transplant is grateful. It makes me feel so much for active and productive in the evenings, which is great, because it’s been a busy week and it’s going to be a busy spring.

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Because with all the bright happy sunniness of spring comes new responsibility – probably a day a late and a dollar short, but I’ve started thinking about all the stuff I need to do to get  vegetable garden in the ground this year, not to mention spring cleaning, repainting the peeling deck, and all that sewing I want to do as soon as it starts getting warmer.

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But for today, I’m taking it easy (as much as that’s possible on a work day) and not worrying about all the work that’s to come.

Deep breaths, and one day at a time.

All photos of Barley Herb Salad from Martha Stewart Living. Which is totally delicious, especially if you add extra mustard.

Mr. Cleaver and I tried quinoa for the first time this morning, we used the Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa Recipe from Chef MD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine via 101 Cookbooks and it was definitely tasty and filling. I’m looking forward to trying quinoa in more savory and salad dishes too.

In other news, it looks like spring is finally making it’s way to Maine!

While I failed at my last cookie baking attempt, I’ve had a bit more luck in the vegetarian cooking department. First off I wanted to thank everyone for their recipe suggestions, I’m still looking through some of the ones posted last week, but there are several I can’t wait to try – keep ’em coming!

Two things I’ve learned quickly, chickpeas (and beans in general) are my veggie-cooking friends and that taking pictures of food in my kitchen lighting at night is less than ideal.

Also, not specifically related to the vegetarian-eating thing, but banana and nutella on toast may be my new favorite breakfast.

Recipes used this week:

  • Chilaquiles vegetarianos! (first photo). I’d definitely make this one again. It was delicious, it reheated well and I’m a sucker for avocados.
  • Baked falafel (second photo). This one I’m a little less enthused by, the falafel seemed  bit too mushy, but it could be because I under baked it or that I’m just more used to the fried version.

Also made (not-photograghed) Chana Masala, which I improvised with a bunch of veggies, chickpeas and a jar of Masala sauce from Trader Joes.

Back to work today in something a bit more subtle pink than yesterday’s outfit.

Lent Day #15

Lent Day #15 Detail

Necklace: Cameo locket, gift

Tank: Express, gift

Cardigan: Express Outlet, purchased a bazillion years ago.

Skirt: Granny skirt, drafted and made by me.

Wool Tights: Warmlegwear.com

Red Shoes: Clarks

Lent Day #15

I’d also like to give shout-out to Mr. Cleaver for being super helpful in this Lent challenge, from taking photos minutes before work, to giving second opinions on shoe choices. (You’re right, the red is better here).

Risotto with Prosciutto and Peas

In other pink-related activities, inspired by a how-to article in the April 2011 issue of Everyday Food, I cooked my first risotto tonight. I added about two slices of shredded prosciutto and about a cup to 2 cups of frozen peas to their basic recipe. It was delicious, if a tad salty (when Martha says low-sodium chicken broth, Martha means it!)

Risotto with Prosciutto and Peas

Both Mr. Cleaver and I really enjoyed this dish and are thinking of countless other ways to enjoy it (shrimp and asparagus anyone?)

When Mr. Cleaver and  I went apple picking a few weeks back, we came home with 21 pounds of apples. For two people.

What did we do with them all?

2 Quarts Apple Sauce and 1.5 Pints Apple Butter;
Applesauce

3 Fat Apple Pies;
Three Fat Pies

3 apples for my mother-in-law and 3 apples for my lunch.

All in all not a bad haul! It took one day to do all the canning and another day for the pies. It was a lot of work, but I’ll happily be eating apples until next September!

Though this is my fourth year making apple pies, this is the first year I worked out a recipe that I was totally happy with. In the past, my pies had ended up too watery, but with a few tweaks to some recipes from family and friends, I think we’ve ended up with something delicious!

Slice of Fall

Streusel Apple Pie

Crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 6 full Tbl cold water

Filling:

  • 6 apples of choice ( I love jonagolds and rome beauties best – but any firm and tart apple will do).
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbl lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup flour

Streusel

  • 3 Tbl butter (softened)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F

Make crust by mixing together flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or some forks.  Add cold water until dough holds together. Form dough into two flattened balls, wrap in plastic wrap and store in fridge until filling is prepared.

Peel, core, and slice apples. In a large bowl, mix apples, lemon juice, sugar and spices. Add flour until a thin sauce is formed from the juices. Set filling aside.

Removed chilled dough from fridge and roll out into a top and bottom crust.

Place bottom crust in  9 inch round pie pan (metal or glass) and fill with apples, heaping up in center. Cover apples with top crust. Top can be latticed or vented with several cuts through the top.

For streusel, cut together softened butter, flour and brown sugar with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle streusel over top of pie.

Bake pie at for 40-50 or until filling bubbles and top is brown.

Cool, slice and enjoy!

Mac 'n' Cheese

So good, if we weren’t already married, my husband would marry me for it.

Like pretty much all of America, I grew up on the Kraft “Blue Box” Mac ‘n’ Cheese. My first taste of the homemade stuff was when my brother attempted to make some while I was in high school. I not sure what happened, but it was notthe best, shall we say. I retrospect, I think it needed salt. 

Years later, I came across this recipe in Real Simple Magazine and thought I’d give it ago, but I was a little put off by the called for 6 cups (!) of milk, and using the full quarter cup of oil on the bread make my crackers waaaay too greasy, so I did a few mild changes, as listed below.

And its really good. This is maybe one of Mr. Cleaver’s favorite things I cook, and every so often (as with the Cherry Pie), he’ll just “happen” to the buy the ingredients and if I just “happen” to want to make it, it would “happen” to be swell. I love it too, so it’s not too hard to convince me.  

Mac 'n' Cheese Ingredients

Mac ‘n’ Cheese, adapted from Real Simple, Nov. 200. 

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter (plus some to grease dish)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 cups whole or low-fat milk (I use 1% it turns out plenty rich and creamy)
  • 14 oz.-16oz.  cheese of choice (I like cheddar or you could do a mix.)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt 

Herbed-Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup or about ½ a sleeve of your favorite butter crackers (Ritz, Keebler Club) smashed
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • oregano and thyme to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Heat oven to 400°F and grease a 9×13 baking dish.
 
Cook the macaroni for slightly less time than the package says, so it’s still a little firm. Drain and rinse.
 
While the mac is boiling, combine cracker crumbs, oil, herbs, salt and pepper. The oil should be just enough to coat and make the crumbs slightly stick together. 
 
In a saucepan, melt butter. While whisking constantly, add the flour and cook for about 3 minutes. The mixture will clump. Still stirring, add the milk and cook for another 7 minutes, the mixture will start to get thick.  Add the cheese and salt and stir until all the cheese is evenly melted.
 
Mix together the mac and the cheese, pour into the prepared dish and sprinkle with the crumbs.
 
Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and delicious.
 
It’ll sit like the brick of cheese and pasta it is in your stomach, but it’ll be so worth it. 
 
Reheats really well in the oven too! 

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