Saturday, April 26, 2008

Leftovers Three Ways. Way #2: Roasted Vegetable and Grain Enchiladas


I've gotta say, after trying this recipe, I may never again pay $5 for fake meat based on TVP, tofu, or weird fungi. This was good. And natural. And cheap. And it used up these leftovers.


I'm not actually a fan of fake meat. I'd usually rather have vegetables, or occasionally have the real thing. Yet every once and a while, the craving for nachos or meatballs hits me, and I just find myself not wanting to spend $15 for a bowl of free range chili (for that price, I'll take the ribs).


This does the trick and it's all natural and homemade. This time, I used a pre-mixed taco seasoning for flavor (I wanted something salty!). Next time, I'd keep things simple to let the vegetable flavor shine through. I could imagine a variety of light seasonings: a little lemon juice, salt and pepper, maybe a little sage or coriander, cayenne, chili powder, or curry powder. I absolutely loved what the ground up pecans did to this dish. Greg is allergic to walnuts, but I imagine those would work just as well. Next time I'll up it to a full cup of nuts, and I'll toast them beforehand. I also happened to toss in some of the braised tofu as well, although I'm not sure that it added anything, so I left tofu out of this recipe.


Roasted Vegetable and Grain Enchiladas

Serves 2-4


Substitute any vegetables and any grain (except white rice, which might get mushy...) and any nuts you wish. Toasting the nuts before hand might be tasty. This particular set of roasted veggies included carrots, zucchini, asparagus and green peas - but of course, anything would work quite well. You could assemble the filling ahead of time.


In a blender or cuisenart, puree, or finely chop by hand:

~1 cup mixed roasted vegetables and Quinoa

1 egg

Generous 1/2 cup pecans

In a medium bowl, combine the veggie/grain mixture with:

Another 1/2 cup roasted vegetables and Quinoa

Seasonings of choice

Set aside the veggie/grain mixture. Chop:

1/2 sweet onion

1 red pepper

To a large fry pan, add:

1 tbsp olive oil

and saute the onions and peppers on medium-high heat until soft (~10 minutes). Add the veggie/grain mixture and continue sauteeing until cooked through (~10 minutes). Add a splash of olive oil to the bottom of  a large casserole dish and assemble the enchiladas with:

6 10-12" flour tortillas

Add ~1/3 cup enchilada filling to each tortilla. Wrap the tortilla around the filling and place, seam side down, in casserole dish. Once assembled, pour over the top of the enchiladas:

1 cup simple red salsa, with a few shots of hot sauce if you wish

1/4 cup chopped pickled jalepenos or green chilis

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until everything is bubbling. Sprinkle over the top of the enchiladas:

1 cup grated cheese

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve with sour cream. and extra salsa.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Leftovers Three Ways. Way #1: Roasted Vegetablesand Quinoa Soup

Passover is a symbolic and ritualistic event. The Passover seder and subsequent meal includes many different foods - all of which have meaning. Among other traditions, Passover should include roasted meat (to commemorate the lamb blood that the Jewish slaves smeared over their doors), fresh peas or other springtime vegetables (renewal), and, of course, no wheat is permitted (to remind ourselves that upon escape, the Jewish slaves were not able to wait for their bread dough to rise, or, to remind ourselves that the Jewish slaves ate poor, unenriched bread, depending on your tradition).

Since our house is mostly veggie, I chose to roast springtime vegetables (asparagus, peas, carrots, zucchini), braise tofu, and serve it all over quinoa drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

This Passover was a sad event for me. I was rushing through an animal experiment whose timing was out of my control; it could not be postponed no matter what. I spent my entire weekend in lab, hunched over a bench-top with a sterile mask covering my mouth so that I could do something that I hate and find engrossing all at the same time: do brain surgery on 40 rats. For a cultural holiday designed to make you aware of the how you are enslaved in your own life - and remind you that your ancestors have, on more than one occasion, escaped from what opressed them, and that cultures (and animals) across the world experience slavery even today- this was a travesty. I felt terrible. I was both the one doing the enslaving and feeling enslaved. I felt denied the one yearly event that is important to me.

Yet, somehow it all worked. I finished my surgeries at 5pm on Sunday and raced home to assemble a small seder dinner by 7pm. Greg, myself, my officemate Audrey (who had never been to a seder before), and our Jewish friend Josh sat down to a lovely evening where we swapped stories of religion, discussed the symbolic importance of everything we ate, and had more than a glass of wine or two.

When we finished our meal, there was enough leftover roasted vegetables and quinoa (among other dishes!) to feed a small army. I used these roasted vegetables in three ways this week, and I thought I'd share the ideas with you. These are, of course, all very loose recipes.

Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Soup

Serves 4

Certainly this recipe calls for improvisation. This is a kitchen soup sort of soup! What I like best is the contrasting flavor of lemon and Quinoa

Combine the following ingredients in a medium sized soup pot:

2 cups mixed ratio of roasted vegetables and Quinoa, with tofu if you prefer

4 cups good vegetable stock

2 cups water

Cover, turn the heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the stock thickens slightly. Add

The juice of half a lemon (or, lemon juice to taste)

Sprinkle with

A handful of chopped cilantro

And serve!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Abortion Art and Our Neighbor With Furry Boots

Several months ago, our neighbor told Greg that she would be graduating soon and was to have a senior project exhibited in April. When Greg said he'd like to see it, she said, I hope we can still be friends afterwards. Later, we both shrugged and figured her nervousness was an oddity, like the furry boots she wears even when it's 90 degrees outside.

The story broke several days ago. Aliza Shvarts repeatedly inseminated herself, herbally induced abortions in her home every month for nine months, collected the blood each time, and smeared this evidence with Vaseline across plastic sheeting that was wrapped around a cube to serve as a projection screen for videos she took of herself performing the act. Wow. As Greg put it, "Gross. We know her."

Anyone who knows me for more than a few minutes probably picks up on the fact that I am an opinionated person. It's just in me. I don't know why. Sometimes the opinions drive me nuts - they never go away - and sometimes they drive other people nuts - for the same reason. Opinions are neither right or wrong, they just are, and I equally enjoy giving and hearing them. So it's funny, when I think about this necessary aspect of my own personality, that I've never really offered up an opinion on this blog about something other than food. Well, this particular story might be quite a leap off topic, but I find it impossible to ignore - especially since Aliza Shvarts is our next door neighbor, a passing friend that we long ago nicknamed "Boots" who waves to our dogs and parks behind my Camry.

When the story first broke, I was horrified. Obsessed might be more like it. Despite the fact that I am quite firmly pro-choice, this (apparently) flagrant disregard for life - originating from a truly lovely woman who likes funky footwear - floored me. Perhaps even more shocking was the fact that Greg was cheering her on. This surprised me for two reasons: (1) although Greg himself could win a prize for being opinionated, it's usually not about philosophical life vs. non-life debates (more often it's about the correct way to put silverware in the dishwasher, but I digress) and (2) how on earth could he be cheering her on? I argued that it's not right to use "life" (no matter how small or cellular that life may be) as a political tool. He argued that anti-choicers have been using this tool to ruin female lives for the entire history of anti-choice. These continuing conversations took a rather interesting turn when it came out that Aliza's "pregnancies" probably didn't take place, that the blood was just menstrual fluid, that there are no true abortion herbs available online (if there were why bother with RU 486!), and that, indeed, Aliza had pulled off an incredible hoax on liberal and conservative America alike. Furthermore, although science requires, necessarily, that this is a hoax - Aliza denies that it was any kind of hoax. She insists that she regularly inseminated herself and induced bleeding at the end of the month.

Aliza didn't actually list her reasons explicitly, although many people have put these words in her mouth: free speech, art, political discourse, necessary controversy, useful discussion. Equally, the other side argued their reasons: disregard for life, fuel for the anti-choicers, attention grabbing stunt, danger to her own health, pointless, no-good-discussion-can-come-of-this. Several days of "do you think she did it?" discussion followed these events. The controversy which surrounded this topic made our conversations on it inexhaustible: the parents, the adviser, Yale, her... how, why, and what did this all mean?

I sat on my rigid, anti-what-she-did opinion for a while, and then I felt it ... strangely... melt away. Because what Aliza did or didn't do was exactly the point of her piece. Anti-choicers have argued, for long while, that conception begins at fertilization as opposed to implantation. This concept strikes many (myself included) as absurd - eggs are commonly fertilized and then lost in menstrual fluid. It's quite a normal process, and if indeed personhood begins at fertilization, I will have killed somewhere nearing 70 "people" in my adult, female, menstruating life. When we all thought that Aliza became pregnant and aborted those pregnancies, it was horrifying. When we realized that it was just normal menstruation that she chose to make into an attention grabbing piece of art, we rolled our eyes and turned our backs.

Yet what's the real difference? Why is it different for a sexually active woman on the pill to routinely engage in sex and have a fertilized, non-implanted egg go down the toilet every month, and for an art student to engage in the same act (minus the romance) and pretend that some herbal remedy (as opposed to the pill) was involved?

The difference is that it is a moral judgment, not a medical one, which determines the reaction. As a sexually active woman on the pill, I am no different than Aliza Shvarts. She could have yelled this fact on the top of her lungs and I never would have heard it - but 4 days of agonizing over this controversy, and it finally just hit home in a rather satisfying and permanent way. Aliza couldn't have said what she wanted to say. She needed to do what she did and allow other people to say it, personally, individually, publicly, softly and loudly to each other. She needed to do what she did to allow people to come to their own conclusions.

So now, we don't see Boots tromping around our street. In fact, when we did see her once, she revealed that Yale was planning to expel her, that she's received death threats, that her parents are terrified and flew in from California to stay with her, she's worried that her landlord is angry with her, and that she's upset about her future. All of these fears were revealed to Greg in only several shy sentences. Her father called her on the cell phone that very minute. She replied that she was okay, that the bus just dropped her off and she'd be inside right away.

All this over menstrual blood. Job well done, Aliza. Your work was brilliant.

Some links

The Story

Yale's Rebuttal

An excellent commentary

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Some things are just primal

Look what I did:

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My first ribs in 7 years, and they were outstandingly, mouth-wateringly spectacular. I remember enough of my last rib sampling to know that these ribs were worth the high premium ($2.50 a rib bone!) for more than just the relatively happy pasture-based life that my extra dollars afforded this animal - they were also complex in flavor with well distributed fat. There wasn't a speck of gristle on this rack.

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The slow roast in the oven idea comes straight from Greg's dad (thanks, Jim). The ribs are liberally seasoned, placed over a rack of simmering water in the oven and slowly steamed over the course of the afternoon. The salt acts as a brine (keeping moisture in). The longer the ribs steam, the more tender and fall-off-the-bone the meat becomes. In the last 20 minutes of cooking, the ribs are placed on a low fire grill and basted several times with barbeque sauce. This last step on the grill built up a mouth watering crust of savory, sweet, tangy barbeque sauce. These ribs were, in a word: awesome. There are some human activities, like pulling melt-in-your-mouth roasted meat off the bone, that are just so primal, and...I want more.

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Awesome Pork Ribs

I chose a very simple dry rub and used store bought barbeque sauce (I used "Bone Sucking Sauce" brand - I couldn't not try it, with that title - watch out, the link has music). You could put anything in the rub you like, so long as there is a good amount of salt in the first step. I'm not sure if a one hour brine actually tenderizes, but I found warnings, online, that brining overnight "might" make the meat too salty - so, extend the brining time at your own risk.

Combine the ingredients for the dry rub:

1 tbsp sea salt or kosher salt

1 tsp celery salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp garlic powder


4-5 lb humanely raised pork ribs, ~2 servings (trimmed of fat if necessary - mine did not require this step)

in cool water and drain for a moment. Place the ribs in a deep baking dish and rub with seasonings. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to several hours. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Remove the ribs from the fridge and place them on a grate or cooling rack. Cover the bottom of the roasting pan in silver foil and place the grate or rack with the ribs on top. Form a tent out of aluminum foil and place in the oven. Pour in:

3 cups water

After the first hour, remove the ribs with tongs onto a plate or cutting board. Smear both sides liberally with

3-5 tbsp mustard

Continue cooking, turning the ribs every hour, for 3-4 hours. You can cook the ribs for up to 6-7 hours, so long as the heat is low and you keep an eye on them. Make sure the internal temperature has reached at least 160 degrees (but don't stop there! the ribs get tender from prolonged cooking). Get the grill preheated to medium-low heat and place

1 cup good barbeque sauce

in a small dish. Transfer the ribs to the grill and baste each side. Grill on low or medium heat, basting every 5 minutes, for about 20 minutes, or until a good thick barbeque crust has formed. If necessary, turn the flame up to high for a moment to char the meat - but make sure to keep an eye on it so that it won't burn. Serve and enjoy!

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The ultimate, perfectly textured bran muffin.

I happen to love bran muffins - actually, I love bran. It adds a nice texture to baked goods, and the nutty flavor and healthy omega three's are added bonuses. But, good muffin recipes are hard to find, and I've been looking for a long time. Traditional muffins are easy to toughen by over-mixing; bran muffins are almost always flat and heavy. Sometimes you can rescue a bran muffin's texture but adding lots of oil to the batter or butter to the final product. But what's the point of making a muffin out of something healthy if the flavor and texture is completely overwhelmed by oil? I'm not opposed to full fat bran muffins - they're delicious - but that's not that recipe I'm looking for.

That is, the recipe I was looking for... see, I found the bran muffin recipe of my dreams. It's basic. The flavor is the teensiest bit bland, but in a good way, because the muffins call you to play with all sorts of exciting add-ins. If you're anything like me, the ingredient list is going to strike you as fussy and when you mix it all together the batter will just see too liquidy. You might scoff at the idea of 1.5 tbsp in 12 muffins. But when you watch these glorious - repeat, glorious - muffins puff up into golden domes as they bake, your mouth will start to water. And then when they've cooled down and you take your first bite - you will be happy and saitsfied: healthy, tasty, perfectly textured bran muffin at long last.

This recipe is dead on for texture. I made some slight flavor modifications based on what I had in the pantry and epicurious recipe suggestions. Here are some ideas for what you could add to it:

Fresh or Dried fruit, like blueberries, cranberries, bananas, apples, raisins, figs, etc

Grated zucchini or carrot

Chocolate chips, toasted walnuts, pecans

Coconut flakes, shredded coconut or coconut milk to replace the oil

A variety of flavored jams, preserves or sweet things to tuck inside

Spices... cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, something spicy


I have made this recipe four times already. Twice, I used a mixture of yogurt and milk (turned out fine), once I used buttermilk (turned out better - the butermilk regulates the acidity and moisture level perfectly), and a fourth time I tried using all whole wheat flour (too sour). I have also played around with the sweetener part of the recipe and decided on a mix of sugar, honey and molasses. As I said, fussy! But tasty. My suggestion to simplify the sweetener step is to take a 1/2 c. measuring cup and fill it with whatever sweetener you want to. Just make it a 1/2 cup and you'll be fine. I tried both oat bran and wheat bran and do not have a preference; use whatever you wish (wheat bran is lighter).

Ultimate Buttermilk Bran Muffins

Adapted from the Healthy Oven Baking Book by Sarah Phillips, recipe here

Makes 12 muffins or 1 loaf

In my favorite batch, I chose to add chunked (chunked, not mashed) banana and coconut flakes. It was a wonderfully moist, barely sweet breakfast treat.

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a muffin tin or loaf pan. If using the loaf pan, cut parchment to fit the bottom, and butter that too. Sift together:

1 cup wheat bran

2/3 cup (80g) unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup (90g) whole wheat flour

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

In a medium bowl, blend together:

1 1/4 low-fat, cultured buttermilk (can substitute yogurt with milk or soy milk)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp molasses (see, 1/2 cup total)

1/4 unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in:

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

A banana, sliced into 1/2" chunks

Pour into prepared muffin tin or loaf pan. Bake until the tops spring back when pressed gently in the center, about 20 minutes for the muffins and about 30 minutes for the loaf. Do not overbake. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.




This may very well be the best$33.47 I've spent in a while:


Greg and I will know in a few hours. It has been 7 years since I last tasted ribs, and I think, with this insanely expensive pasture-grazed Pork, it's gunna be good...

Monday, April 07, 2008

Busy Bear

I am calling myself a busy bear instead of a busy bee, because "busy bee" seems to imply something happily buzzing around a pretty flower, and that's not at all how I've been feeling lately.

Work and life are keeping me stressed and hectic these days. I haven't even glanced at a news story in the last two weeks, let alone all of my favorite blogs. Here's a big "sorry" to the e-world for not keeping up with your recipes and stories. I guess I'm going to put my head back down and continue pursuing these projects. I've got a huge experiment coming up next week, so it might be a while... In the words of our favorite CA governator, I'll be back. Err, eventually