Getting Your Cooking Groove Back

IMG_2519As I mentioned in my last post, I had hit a wall with my cooking. The vegetarian aspect only made it slightly more challenging. I took some time off from fretting about it, then I was ready to move forward. Time to get the cooking mojo back. Like anything you do regularly, it’s easy to get tired of it or frustrated with it. Exercise routines, work, dinner. All things that can quickly run into a rut which makes you want to give in completely. Sometimes you need to take a break or try something new to get your inspiration back.

I combed through these cookbooks, checked blog posts I had liked, and gave some thought to what would taste good to come up with some new dinner ideas.

Here’s the list of what I’ve got on the cooking docket.

Wednesday night I made a (another) tasty rice casserole from the Super Natural Every Day cookbook by Heidi Swanson. It had cottage cheese, wild rice, and chopped mushrooms in it which made it rich and meaty. It was topped with Gruyere cheese which made a crispy, cheesy topping. Everyone liked it, no one knew there were mushrooms in it. Definitely a win.

Coming up next is an Asparagus Quiche with Goat Cheese. I try very hard to stick with in-season, locally grown produce. But I spied some tasty asparagus in the grocery store and couldn’t resist. It will still be a few weeks before we see any asparagus here. And we’ve got to eat. This will make a lovely dinner and I can carry the leftovers to work for lunch. Or breakfast. Goat cheese is good for any meal.

Deborah Madison doesn’t write a bad recipe, so I’m looking forward to trying some Cabbage Parcels with Sweet and Sour Sauce. However, the filling seems a little labor intensive for weeknight cooking and I’ve got several cups of cooked wild rice leftover from the rice casserole. So my plan is to create my own riff on the filling while using her recipe for sauce and cooking method. After I give this a whirl I’ll share the recipe and let you know how it turned out.

Black bean burgers are also on this week’s Must Eat list. I’ll googled around until I found this recipe from Sandra Lee. Based on the comments, the recipe looks pretty solid. I may not make it exactly as written, but I’ll let you know what I do and how it turns out. I like the idea that it comes with instant leftovers for another meal.

In my back pocket for when the weather gets warm (IF the weather ever gets warm!) I’ve got some taco recipes that I’d like to try. And I’ll be so glad when some salads come back into the rotation! Salad is great but I crave hot food in the winter. I’m also looking forward to having this for lunch this week. It definitely looks like one of those meals I could eat many days in a row until I make myself absolutely sick on it.

Here are the cookbooks I’m using for inspiration. Do you have a favorite cookbook? A favorite vegetarian cookbook?

How do you get out of a cooking rut? What are you cooking these days?

See where I began here. Post your ideas on Twitter using #40dayvegetarian. And checkout my other blog, 3oclockproject!

 

Vegetarian Hits & Misses

By jammmick [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Swiss Chard! By jammmick [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 My better half has complained that all he can find on the road is a vegetable plate. I don’t doubt that’s true. But I don’t think that’s what most vegetarians eat on a daily basis. In the summer a plate of tomatoes with mozzarella and basil can certainly make a great meal. But we’re still in the grasp of winter. We need food that is hot and sticks to your ribs.

This weekend I set out to prove that the vegetable plate is not our only option. And most of what I made was great! Not every recipe can be great one, meat or no meat. Here’s what we’ve eaten lately and what we would make again.

Friday night I made a great Broccoli, Cheese, and Wild Rice Casserole from smitten kitchen. It was hot, tasty, easy, and everyone loved it! I served it with a simple green salad. Highly recommend.

Saturday night we celebrated our anniversary with dinner at Bonefish Grill. I hadn’t had any fish since Lent began so I was glad to have the opportunity to enjoy some trout.

Sunday night I rolled out another new recipe. Let’s just say this one won’t be going into the dinner rotation. I had seen this recipe for Tortilla Espanola in the March 2014 issue of Cooking Light.  I chose it because it was a recipe tested by kids, they had rated it very highly, and since Cooking Light is one of my go-to sources for tasty, healthy recipes. We ate and were glad to have it. But, without putting too fine a point on it, it was gross. You can’t win ’em all.

I was hopeful I could redeem myself Tuesday with something tasty and this Healthy Mexican Casserole with Roasted Corn and Peppers from a pinch of yum was definitely a WIN! Yummy and hot, creamy and cheesy, it was perfect on a cold night. It was great Mexican food without being heavy or greasy. While my daughter did pick out all the peppers and assemble a tiny mountain of them to the side of the plate, she also ate it without complaint. It will make great leftovers too! The only thing I would change is the size. The recipe is for a 9×13 baking dish. When I make it again for our little tribe of three I will make two 8×8 pans and freeze one. Then we would have one set aside to eat later or to share with another family when we need to take a meal.

I’m planning to make some tomato soup later this week, but otherwise I think we’ll finish up the few leftovers we have from the last few meals. Sadly, I think the leftover Tortilla Espanola will languish in the back of the fridge unless I get desperate for lunch.

What have you made lately? Any hits? Misses? Where do you find the best new recipes to try?

Check out some other wins here. Use #40dayvegetarian to share your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook. You can also check out my other blog 3oclockproject.tumblr.com on tumblr!

It’s Not Summer Yet Salad and Other Things

Salad!I made Joy the Baker’s  It’s Not Summer Yet Greek Pasta Salad tonight and it is sooooo good! She’s right, it’s not summer yet, but we’ve had a few summery days and this pasta salad is perfect for a light lunch or dinner. Add a few shrimp or a pita sandwich and you’ve got a nice meal.

It’s been fairly crazy around here so there hasn’t been much cooking. I did make Smitten Kitchen’s Stuck Pot Rice Sunday and it was great! I would definitely add the recipe to my regular cooking rotation. I think it would be even better with additional spices. We managed the last five days with that one meal, cheese plates, Qdoba, and leftovers. I’m looking forward to making something new to eat this weekend!

As easy as it has been for us here at home, my other half travels for work most weeks and he has been struggling to find things to eat. Currently he’s staying in a one horse town with very few options for food, much less meatless. Do any of you vegetarians have suggestions for eating on the road? There’s not even a grocery store in the town where he’s staying, so it’s hard to cobble something together in desperation.

If you have trouble finding meatless meals here’s another post you might like from milesforthought!

Check out where I started here. And follow along on Twitter using #40dayvegetarian.

An Avocado A Day . . .

Photo courtesy of the USDA.

Photo courtesy of the USDA.

I’m not planning to bore you with a daily play-by-play of my meals. But in the interest of accountability, I thought I’d share a bit with you. Hopefully as we get further into Lent there’ll be some great new recipes I can share!

I had my usual Avocado Egg Toast for breakfast. Yes, I am dull. Yes, I really do eat this almost every day. It works for me. For lunch, leftover cheesy grits with Swiss chard and leeks, and minestrone for dinner. Normally I would use chicken stock for the minestrone, today I used juice from the tomatoes and water and it turned out just fine. As with most soups, it was easy to make a ton of minestrone. Probably more than we’ll ever eat, so I’ll freeze some for a night when there’s just no time. I don’t use a recipe so if you want to make some here’s a recipe that’s similar to how I make it. It’s a great, easy soup. Feel free to put in or take out anything you want.

I refuse to go to the grocery store on the weekend. It’s crazy town in there. When I went today I had a general idea of what we’d need for the weekend. Here’s what we’re planning to eat.

Friday night – I will probably end up eating alone, but I thawed a spinach lasagna that I had tucked away in the freezer. It’ll be good for me when I’m ready to eat and will hold til the husband-like-person returns. This is the recipe I use. 

Saturday – Leftovers will work for lunch time. Since the weather is supposed to be better we might head to a local winery and take a picnic. We often have a cheese plate for dinner when it’s just the grown-ups, so wine and cheese will do fine for us Saturday evening. I bought some new cheeses to try. If they work out I’ll share the names with you. I’m also planning to make this tasty Greek pasta salad from a recent Joy the Baker post to eat for lunch next week.

Sunday – I’m super excited to try this new recipe for Stuck Pot Rice from Smitten Kitchen. As a young child I lived in Stuttgart, Arkansas, the Rice and Duck Capital of the World. I am not making this up. In that part of Arkansas you eat rice. You LOOOOOVE rice. There are entire cookbooks and festivals devoted to rice. It’s what keeps the town alive. Well, that and duck hunting. Rice immersion worked for me. I loooooove rice. White rice. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the brown stuff is better. That’s not the point.) So any time I see a recipe involving rice I’m down with it. I’ve spent years learning the art of making lovely rice without burning it. The point of this recipe is to kind of burn it. We’ll see if I can hang.

What’s on your weekend menu? Fun, food, both? Do you have weekend food?

Check out where I started here and by using the hashtag #40dayvegetarian!

Also, check out my 3oclockproject! You might also like 3191 miles apart.

Any Day Is A Great Day To Start

Quote courtesy of www.dailyquote.co. Check out other great quotes!

Quote courtesy of http://www.dailyquote.co. Check out other great quotes!

Begin at the beginning.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

There are probably thousands of quotes about starting now or not procrastinating. Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent seems like a great opportunity to do just that. Start. Get started. Do something. Anything. Don’t wait. You don’t need to be part of a religion that observes 40 days of commitment to commit to something.

January 1 has never been a day I liked to use as a starting point. I like to let the Christmas season linger a bit. Decorations are still up. If we’re lucky there are still cookies and fudge to be eaten. It’s dark and cold. Not a time I feel like starting. However, I did participate in the #mileaday running at least one mile a day between Black Friday and New Year’s Day. Knowing that I wouldn’t fell like doing a lot of anything between Christmas and New Year’s was a great motivator.

Having worked a school-year schedule for so long, my natural inclination is to use that as my Day 1 or jumping off point for new habits. New pencils and notebooks will do that for a person.

But beginning doesn’t have to start on a specific day or season. It doesn’t even have to start in the morning! In 2006 I realized that I had bought the largest size pants I could stand to buy. I knew I was a bit too round for my very small frame. I joined Weight Watchers. On a Wednesday. Not a Monday. Not a Sunday. But Wednesday. It’s my Day 1 for keeping my health as a focus. Monday’s are too hard, but Wednesday has worked out wonderfully. I have time to indulge a little over the weekend and still have two days before I weigh to get things back to normal.

The commitment you make doesn’t have to be as big as giving up meat or losing weight. Anything in your life that you want to be different can be changed starting today. Eat dinner with your family. Spend 10 minutes talking to your kids. Take the dog for a walk. Stop posting mean things on Facebook. The 40 days of Lent are a short enough time that it doesn’t seem overwhelming, but a long enough for a new habit to form.

This weekend, as I sat talking with my dear sister who is on the cusp of a major life change, I was thinking how proud I am that she has the guts to change her situation. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that she’s suffered for over 15 years. It would be easy for her to look at the past as time wasted. Or to think that it’s not worth the struggle that this change will be for her. But she’s not quite 33 years old. So young. Maybe you’re reading this and you’re 43, or 63, or even 83 and thinking that you’re not as young or that it’s too late for your change. But that’s not true at all. That’s the point of Lent. None of us is beyond change. Speaking kindly to your spouse is never a waste. Sitting and watching the sun rise, or taking a walk after dinner, or holding a door for someone is never a waste. Perhaps you want to complete a more concrete task. Start a blog, put photos in an album (heck, just getting the photos printed is half the battle!), clean out your spare room. What if today was Day 1? No shame about what state those things are in now. Just progress and no looking back?

Want to tackle clutter? Check out this post from White House Black Shutters.

Read more about #mileaday in Elise Blaha’s post here.

How are others observing Lent? Hear what Tracy Tran has to say. Or read about Olive’s 40 Acts for the 40 days of Lent.

40 Days of Vegetarian

By Anita Martinz from Klagenfurt, Austria (Colorful spring garden) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Anita Martinz from Klagenfurt, Austria (Colorful spring garden) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

We’re going vegetarian for Lent. Or, to be more correct, pescatarian. We’ll still be eating the occasional fish or seafood item. But let’s back up a second. What is Lent?

Generally speaking, Lent is the 40 days before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, the day after Fat Tuesday. During this season, Christians often give up a habit that stands in the way of their relationship with God. They may also add a practice or behavior that would enhance this relationship. We’re kind of doing both. In giving up meat we’re taking on the restraints of an a vegetarian diet. If you want to know all the details about Lent you can read more about it here.

We’ve decided to give up meat for several reasons.

  • It will be good for our bodies and good for the planet. While we’re young and healthy, it can’t hurt to cut down on the meat we eat. I already do Meatless Monday and we generally don’t eat meat for breakfast or lunch. So taking it out of dinner won’t be that much of a stretch. The raising of meat is also hard on the Earth, at least in the case of industrial meat production. God expects us to take care of the planet. While we don’t eat industrial meat, there’s still a need for all of us to consume less. Less in the case of meat and less overall. Just less.
  • It will be good practice for me as a cook. While my kitchen skills are just fine, taking up the practice of eating only vegetables will help me branch out in the kitchen. It’s easy to do in the summer when the market is brimming with tasty vegetables. A bit more difficult when you’re still in the root vegetable purgatory of late winter.
  • There’s some discipline involved. We are fortunate to not have to be very disciplined in what we eat around here. Our grocery budget is generous and I’m unwilling to cut corners on feeding the family. The absence of meat will surely save us money, but it will also force me to focus on real nutrition and a better meal plan than meat + two sides = dinner.

I mentioned that we’re going to keep some fish and seafood in our meals. This is not intend to be a way to wiggle around the commitment. It’s because we need to eat more fish. It’s been a goal of mine to work more seafood into our diet, but I haven’t focused on introducing seafood regularly at the dinner table. Lent is a good opportunity to do this.

Being prepared is half the battle so I’ve already worked up a list of things that I want to cook. I’ve got a menu plan just like any other week.  I’ve checked out several top-rated vegetarian cookbooks from the library and I’ll be sharing information about those as we go through out Lenten journey.

I hope you’ll follow along with me as I work through this season. Use #40dayvegetarian. How are you observing Lent? In the past I’ve given up candy and almost always give up cursing. Who’s with me on that one?

Want to see how others did this? Check out Kristin Schell’s blog!

Looking for more information on Lent?

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