Saturday, January 31, 2009
I can’t talk about cutting out meat 5 days a week and not talk about the other two days. The days that I do opt for the bacon on my salad, a burger, steak or chicken. I try and only eat meat that comes from organically farm raised animals that are grass fed and not given hormones. Animals that are raised on pastures with room to move and have access to fresh air. I find it interesting that this seems to be trendy or some new concept. And that wanting my meat to have these qualities can label me a foodie, a snob, or a typical Californian. When in fact up until about 50 years ago this was how our farm animals lived. This was the kind of meat that everyone ate.
Okay, so this meat can be significantly more expensive but the financial justification is that buying about 70% less meat means I can afford to spend more. I’m still coming out ahead. And so is the planet, so are the animals and so is the local economy and small family owned farms .
So next time you buy meat, make sure it’s organic, free range and hormone free. Look for stores in your area that sell meat from smaller local family farms. Choose restaurants that serve local, grass fed or organic meat. It is a simple matter of supply and demand, if people are asking for it and buying, they’ll sell it.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I realized that what I miss most about cutting down on dairy is the texture. Dairy adds that creamy richness that is so satisfying. I thought that I would really miss the cheese and the sour cream that I usually add to tostadas. But the creaminess of the avocado and beans are enough by themselves.
Tostadas are one of those meals that you can assemble in under 15 minutes or make from scratch in just about an hour depending on how many items that you want to make from scratch. The super fast way is to buy pre-made fresh salsa (the kind you get in the refrigerated section), pre-made tortillas and canned beans. However with just a bit of planning and a little more time you can make this all from scratch allowing you to control the source and freshness of the ingredients and the amount of salt. I like to serve the tostadas with a side of spicy brown rice pilaf.
The recipe proportions below are for 2 tostadas. Adjust according to the amount of people you are serving.
Corn tortillas, 1 or 2 per person. package or homemade (recipe below)
3 tbs vegetarian refried beans canned or homemade beans (recipe below)
1/4 cup fresh salsa, pre-made or homemade (recipe below)
1/4 cup shredded red or green cabbage
5 slices of avocado
3 or 4 slices of radish
Fresh lime slices
Thinly shred cabbage. Toss with some apple cider vinegar and oil. Set aside. Warm the beans in a pan. The texture should be very creamy so add additional water to get the beans to a creamy consistency. Heat about ½ tbs olive oil in a cast iron or non stick frying pan to med high. Fry tortillas for about a minute on each side or until crispy. Transfer to plate.
Top each tortilla with beans, avocado slices, salsa, cabbage slaw and radish slices. Squeeze fresh limes on top. If you want to add a bit of extra heat, top with Tabasco or Cholula.
These are so easy and so full of flavor this will become a weeknight favorite. If you are lucky enough to have a tortilla maker, then use that- my brother makes tortillas several times a week and uses his electric tortilla maker. If you don't one follow the steps below for making them on the stove.
Start with fresh or dried Masa. Fresh Masa can be found in Mexican markets and grocery stores. If you can’t find fresh, use dried Masa and mix about 2 parts Masa to 1 part water.
Once you mix the Masa keep in covered with a damp clean cloth and immediately form into 1 ½ balls.
Flatten balls between 2 sheets of parchment paper using a medium size plate.
The tortillas should be about 1/8th of an inch thick, use a rolling pin (while the tortillas are still in between the parchment paper) to get them to the right thickness.
Peel the parchment paper back and place tortilla on an un-oiled cast iron or non stick pan.
Cook on med-high for about 30 seconds, flip tortilla and cook an additional 1 ½ minutes.
Remove and place on a plate.
Cover to keep warm. Repeat process until you have made the desired amount of tortillas.
Use immediately or wrap tightly in the parchment paper and store in the refrigerator.
2 medium size tomatoes, finely diced
1/4 cup onion finely diced (I like white, but yellow or red work well too)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 medium jalapeno pepper, finely diced (remove the ribs and seeds for a milder salsa)
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste.
Mix all ingredients. Store leftover salsa in the refrigerator for several days.
Makes about 6 cups
2 cups dried pinto beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white or yellow onion, diced
Salt, about 1 teaspoon
Measure beans into a colander, pick out any dirt or pebbles, rinse and place in a 4 quart pan. Add 6 cups water, make sure to remove any beans that float, soak 4 - 8 hours. To make sure that the beans are soft enough to cook break one open and check to see that there is no dry core. You can also quick soak beans by boiling them for one minute then let them stand off the heat for 1 hour. Drain beans completely and follow the steps below.
Cover beans with 6 cups fresh water in olla or pan, add olive oil and onion and slowly bring to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are fully tender, 1 to 2 hours. Occasional check on the beans to make sure they are always covered with about ½ of water, if not they will not cook evenly and may stick.
Once the beans are done, season with salt and cook an additional 15 minutes.
The beans are ready to eat at this point. Or you can mash and refry. For refried bean, heat a heavy bottomed or cast iron skillet to med-high and sauté some chopped onion in olive oil until they are tender and just starting to brown. Place desired amount of cooked beans and some of the liquid in the pan with the oil and onions. Mash the beans with a fork or potato masher until they are creamy.
Left over beans can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.
Monday, January 26, 2009
"Chicken" Nuggets and Baked Fries
I admit it, I love Chicken McNuggets. Although I have not eaten them in years, I still think about them occasionally. The Quorn Chik’n Nuggets are perfect when you get that fast food craving. This is such a great fake out, it will even fool kids. These do contain a bit of egg product so they are not vegan, but they are completely meat free. You can find these at Whole Foods in the frozen fake meat section.
When I really want to go all out to duplicate that fast food experience, I serve this with BBQ sauce or I make homemade honey mustard dip and baked fries. And this whole meal from start to finish takes about 40 minutes. The actual prep time is actually only about 15 however the fries take about 30-40 minutes, depending on how thick you cut them.
Honey Mustard Dip
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon corn starch
Heat the honey and the mustard in a small sauce pan. Wisk in the cornstarch and let the sauce simmer for about a minute.
Oven Baked French Fries
About 1 small potato russet potato per person
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes with a vegetable brush. Trim the sides and edges of the potatoes so they are slightly flattened. Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch sticks. Toss well with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Toss gently a few times to make sure they brown on all sides. Season with salt and pepper to taste.