Books · CSA

The vegetarian cookbook I can’t wait to buy

 I’m obsessed with Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy.

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

In it, vegetarian authority Deborah Madison is taking a new tack: admitting she now incorporates meat stock, bacon, eggs and more into her recipes, and suggesting that we do the same. This book is focused on knowing and appreciating vegetables — their origin, their botanical family, their natural food pairings — not plugging vegetarianism.

I saw a lot of myself in this book. It is geared toward flexible vegetarians and newcomers to meatless living. Though it came out last year, this cookbook was mentioned in a recent New Yorker piece about the shift toward “quasi-vegetarianism” overtaking restaurants, chefs, foodies and books (and, I suppose, magazine writers). From one-time purists forced into greater flexibility after life changes (like me), to those seeking simply to reduce their meat consumption a small fraction based on health or environmental concerns, the trend is clear: modern vegetarianism has evolved into a wide spectrum with Meatless Monday at one end and all-out veganism at the other … with ample room for customization between.

I think this is a good thing. It makes vegetarian cooking more accessible, and will go a long way toward dispelling the myths surrounding vegetarianism: that it’s expensive, that it’s for hippies or yuppies, that you have to shop at Whole Foods, that you can’t get enough protein, that you can’t safely raise children/be pregnant/exercise, that you can only eat out at special restaurants, that you’ll be Calcium deficient, that you’ll only eat beans, salads and tofu, and so on.

Vegetable Literacy inspires creativity, encourages experimentation, and is invaluable to anyone with a garden, CSA or farmer’s marketnearby. It’s as much a reference book as a cookbook, just like my other favorite, The Silver Spoon. It makes me all the more eager to pick up Deborah Madison’s update to the classic New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which was just released with 300 new recipes, bringing the grand total to 1,600 (!!) No wonder it’s considered the Bible of vegetarian cooking!

And, because I know you’re wondering, Georgia finally decided to feed herself this weekend! The food of choice was naan bread. She also drank water from a regular cup (having rejected sippy cups repeatedly, not that I’m going to stop trying) and took a few tentative steps holding onto the sofa and coffee table with just one hand (her left). She’s so big, and later today I’m going to be sending out her first birthday invitations. SOB!!!

 

 

Recipes

Chicken & Rice

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Chicken & Rice: Pretty classic. Made with white meat, it’s healthful and delicious — with the added bonus of being simple to prepare. Uncooked rice, spices and water go in the bottom of a casserole dish, and you nest the chicken on top for 45 minutes to an hour and it all comes out moist and tender. (My preferred meat is Trader Joe’s organic breasts, but they do tend to sell out quickly, so what you see here is the manager’s special $2 off Purdue).

Doesn’t chicken just have an unfortunate way of looking pink when photographed? Presumably, if you know what you’re doing, this problem doesn’t arise.

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This is adapted from a good old fashioned Campbell’s Kitchen recipe. One reason I like it? It’s great for kids, and with my little one eating more and more of the table food we adults are having for dinner, it’s more important than ever for me to find recipes that all of us can enjoy.

Chicken & Rice

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can condensed mushroom soup (can be Campbell’s or an organic brand, such as Pacific or Amy’s)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked long-grain white rice (I used Jasmine)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I cut mine smaller)
  • 1 packet onion soup mix (OR a mix of paprika and black pepper)

DIRECTIONS

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the dry rice, the seasonings, the water and the soup until well combined.

Pour into a glass baking dish and nestle the chicken pieces on top of the rice mixture. Cover and bake at 375F for 45 minutes (or until the chicken is cooked through; mine took 45 mins on the nose).

Uncover and let sit and cool for 10 minutes, stirring and fluffing the rice. Serve with a side of vegetables and enjoy!

A few tips:

You can customize the seasonings to be anything you like here. I also like to pound chicken breasts flat and cut them into smaller pieces for easier portioning, but you can also leave them whole. You can also use frozen chicken but just adjust the cooking time up a little.

If you don’t like mushrooms or mushroom soup, you can substitute any other condensed “cream of” variety, like celery or chicken. Mark hates mushrooms and he really likes this!

Online, I saw a few people suggest steaming vegetables such as asparagus directly on top of the chicken during the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking. I’d love to try that idea. If you do, let me know how it goes.

Others suggested subbing chicken or veggie stock for the water, but I’m not sure it needs more saltiness, which would be my only concern with that idea.

Several cooks added chopped onions to the rice mix, and others amped up the seasonings to have a little more kick, which sounds like it could be very tasty. You could even throw in some green chilis.

You can substitute brown rice as well, but I’d recommend either pre-cooking it a bit or extending the baking time.

If you like the flavor of onion soup mix and just can’t live without more recipe ideas, check out my onion roasted potatoes (good for breakfast OR dinner) and my easy apricot chicken. Warning: some babies really, um, respond to apricots in the diaper department! Of course that might be helpful advice for some parents. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Have I mentioned that I love this child?
Have I mentioned that I love this child?
Baby · Holidays

Baby’s First Father’s Day

For this afternoon, just some photos from our first Father’s Day with Georgia. And a shout-out to my husband on his birthday today! You are the best dad and husband we could ever ask for.

Baby · Restaurant Reviews

Baby Shower Tea @ The Four Seasons Boston

My friend Chelsea had her baby shower last weekend at the Four Seasons. It was about 90 degrees out in Boston — kind of a harsh transition from all that cold and rain last week! — so I totally melted on the walk there, but once inside I had a Kir Royale in my hand within 5 minutes and all was right with the world.

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Here’s the best part. Five days later, Chelsea had her baby! It was definitely a surprise, but little Eloise decided 33 weeks inside mum was just long enough, and she made her entrance on Friday the 13th in the wee hours of the morning. My kind of kiddo! She’s also the second baby named Eloise that we know of this month alone, so we may have a sleeper hit on our hands for baby girl names in Boston! Our next door neighbors also chose Eloise, but they’re going to call her “Louie,” which I just love 🙂

Eloise the book: baby name inspiration for well-read parents?
Eloise, the book: baby name inspiration for well-read parents?

Before the drama of baby’s early entrance, we feted Chelsea with a classy afternoon tea, complete with fresh fruit, scones, clotted cream, miniature cupcakes, tiny sandwiches, cakes and more:

Gotta love fresh fruit served in a martini glass.
Gotta love fresh fruit served in a martini glass.
Delightful scones!
Delightful scones!
Mint and hydrangeas on every table. I got to take one home!
Mint and hydrangeas on every table. I got to take one home!

She got some great gifts for her little one (which, at the time, was a mystery gender) including a few of Georgia’s favorites: these blankets, these soft blocks, a Sophie the Giraffe teether, and all kinds of accessories for her stroller. Miss Eloise is going to be traveling in style!

We got her a starter set from the Honest Company, including newborn and size 1 diapers, baby wash, the all-essential stain remover (critical for getting diaper blowouts, throw-up and nose bleeds out of cute fabrics), along with wipes and diaper cream. I was nervous about gifting such small diapers, even though she specifically requested them, but obviously I needn’t have worried, since she ended up having a 4 1/2-pound preemie:)

I thought I wrapped this up good, no?
I thought I wrapped this up good, no?

We can’t wait to meet the little gal. Georgia is so excited to have a new playmate! As for the tea, I still think my trip to the Boston Harbor Hotel tea time wins out for experience and deliciousness (plus, that view!) but this was a really festive shower idea and I’d definitely go back. Next up: afternoon tea at The Langham; the French Room at the Taj Boston (formerly the Ritz), where they also do a Teddy Bear Tea and a traditional Holiday Tea at Christmas time; and finally The Courtyard at the Boston Public Library, which hosts a weekday afternoon tea that is supposed to be excellent. Then, I’ll have hit all the tea times Boston has to offer!

How about you — do you like afternoon tea? It’s definitely not for those short on time or money, as a typical afternoon tea costs between $35 and $55 per person before gratuity, and can last two hours or more. But I think it’s an elegant diversion from regular life, and you’ll leave surprisingly satisfied despite the daintiness of the menu. I know my mom is dying to take Georgia for tea when she gets big enough. Sounds like something really special for them to enjoy together!

As we head into that season of summer babies and the baby showers that precede them, here’s to health and happiness for all the new little ones coming into the world, and rest for their parents. I can’t believe how fast a year goes by, and that I’m soon to have a 10-month-old on my hands! Time really does fly with these babes 🙂 seems like just yesterday …

Looking for gifts for a shower this summer? Check out my list of newborn essentials, plus my guide to eco-friendly baby gifts and the wish list of things I would have bought myself just after having Georgia.

Baby · Holidays · News

Summer Food Fun

It finally feels like summer around here! Only took until June. Given the short warm season in New England, we are already making the most of it. Mark, in addition to his stage work, spends most of his daytime hours working as a costumed historic character offering guided tours of Boston’s Freedom Trail. I’d never taken one of his tours, so a couple weeks ago we rounded up some friends and went! Georgia seemed confused at first and didn’t really recognize him, but as soon as he took off his hat, she was ecstatic and insisted on being picked up 🙂

Last week we also went to the Scooper Bowl, an ice cream fundraiser for The Jimmy Fund, which my dad has been taking my brother and I to for probably 20 years. At some point we pulled Mark into the tradition, and last year I ate half my weight in ice cream because I was 7 months pregnant. So naturally this year we had to take Georgia! She gave ice cream a try (chocolate) but was not a fan. I can’t say I was that upset; I don’t really like to give her anything with sugar. I’m sure she’ll take to it eventually, if she’s anything like me! But she enjoyed being out on City Hall Plaza and boogie-ing to the music in her stroller while people watching. That kid just loves being in the city. And she gives my dad a captive new audience for his West End stories (“they tore down our whole neighborhood”) which is an inevitable rite of passage for anyone who accompanies him into town.

It’s almost time for Mark’s first Father’s Day. What are we doing to celebrate? Well, his birthday is just a few days later, so I’m rolling everything into one super celebration, kind of like what he did with my birthday and Mother’s Day. His show opens the same weekend (today, actually!) so he won’t exactly be around much to celebrate, but we will do the best we can to make him feel special. I’m going to make him cupcakes (maybe these?) with vanilla frosting, his favorite. He is literally a plain vanilla kind of guy when it comes to cupcakes.

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A rare Saturday morning off for daddy to snuggle his Georgia.

Speaking of dads…..did you know the number of stay-at-home dads nationwide has doubled over the last 25 years? I read that last week and was surprised! Mark isn’t home with Georgia full time, but as a dad who cares for her at least one full day every week, he definitely gets a lot of odd comments and looks when they’re out running errands together. He counts himself lucky to be able to have that one-on-one time with her. After all, they are best buds.

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We are taking my dad up to Woodman’s, “the inventor of the fried clam,” in Essex this weekend. That’s another tradition that we haven’t deviated from in years for Father’s Day. We go to Bearskin Neck in nearby Rockport, and then we load up with  fried seafood. What can I say, my dad likes his predictable routines! Speaking personally, this is pretty much the one time every year I allow myself a big ol’ plate of fried food, so it’s a noteworthy occasion in my book, too. I’m not sure what we’ll be able to have Georgia try, but whatever it is, we’ll take pictures! And if you’re ever visiting New England, Woodman’s really is the only place to go for a good fried clam plate or a buttery hot boiled lobster.

Dad in Rockport. Happy Father's Day! Photo by Brenton Mantone.
Dad in Rockport sporting his trademark corny sense of humor. Happy Father’s Day, everyone! (Photo by my brother, the talented Brenton Mantone)
Recipes

Nutella Cookies

Nutella freaks, beware: this recipe has only three ingredients, takes almost no time to pull together, and results in a chewy, hazlenut-y, sweet-yet-salty cookie that will be IMPOSSIBLE for you to resist.

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I love the simplicity of this recipe, which has no added sugar or oil. Don’t let that fool you, though — there’s plenty of sugar and oil in Nutella itself, so it’s a little disingenuous to call these a reduced-guilt option.

And if you’ve never tried Nutella (clearly you never studied abroad in Italy, where you might have eaten this every day for breakfast?) it’s time to get acquainted. Made with hazlenuts, cocoa and skim milk, Nutella is a super tasty spread enjoyed on toast, crackers or fruit, particularly popular in Europe, and which American companies are just now starting to copycat. (I don’t know what took them so long, either.) It’s not health food, but it’s delicious and a little bit goes a long way. I’ve had a huge tub hanging around in my cupboard for a couple years, so I started to poke around online for ways to make baked goods out of it.

If you’re on Pinterest, I know you’ve seen the type of pin that gave me this recipe — Make cookies! Using just two unexpected ingredients! They’re probably already in your kitchen right now! How can you not go make them? I’m even guilty of posting some of this stuff myself.

Well, I decided I’m going to tackle a few of these recipes, and I started here. I hope you enjoy them!

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Nutella Cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of Nutella (a little less than one small jar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • Good quality sea salt, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350.

Blend all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl, adding a dash of water if the batter seems too dry when you’re done.

Roll small balls of dough by hand and bake on a cookie sheet, flattening slightly by hand before placing in the oven, for 6-8 minutes or until set.

Optional but exciting: sprinkle with sea salt before baking. (HOLY MOLY YUM)

Let cool and serve.

These keep well in a storage container or plastic bag for up to a week.

I had some help in making these (but not eating them, not just yet) from my two sous chefs. What a team!

Have a great weekend everyone 🙂

Recipes

Meatball Pizza

I made this one up to use all of the leftovers from our Baked Ziti dinner the previous weekend.

And it worked out perfectly: I had mozzarella, extra sauce and an odd handful of meatballs left over, just all hanging out homeless together in the fridge. I even had some fresh spinach because I convinced Mark to make me one of those amazing Greek Omelettes again!

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So toss it together with garlic, which I’ll assume you have hanging around BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T, and pretty much any seasonings or cheeses you feel like throwing in there. I figured, what the heck, I’ll finish off the feta and fresh oregano from said omelette too, and you know what? It was damn tasty. I suspect it would be just as good if you used frozen spinach, vegetarian meatballs, another type of green, any cheese, and so on. Customize to your heart’s content.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pre-bought pizza crust (or a ball of fresh dough)*
  • 1 cup (max) tomato sauce, canned or homemade
  • 2 or 3 cooked meatballs, broken up/crumbled into pieces**
  • 1 cup any cheese, such as mozzarella
  • 1 handful of fresh spinach
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced or diced
  • fresh oregano (optional)
  • feta cheese crumbles (optional)

* I get fresh dough at Trader Joe’s, packaged individually in plastic bags in the fresh produce section, or at a pizza shop. They will usually sell a ball very cheap if you ask nicely. I get pre-made Archer Farms crusts at Target.

** This recipe really comes in handy if you have a leftover ingredients from a pasta dinner like my baked ziti to use up, but if you don’t, you could always buy frozen meatballs and heat them in the microwave or stovetop. My favorite frozen meatballs also come from Trader Joe’s.

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven per the pizza crust package directions, or a good rule of thumb is about 400F.

Place your crust on a round pizza baker (or a square pan if that’s easier, particularly if you’re rolling out fresh dough. In which case, brush the pan with olive oil and dust the ball of dough with flour so you can work with it more easily. No need to coat a non-stick pizza pan).

Assemble the pizza: sauce on bottom, followed by garlic, then meat, then greens and then finally cheese.

Pop in the oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is just starting to brown and crisp.

Let cool, then cut with kitchen shears and serve. Enjoy!

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Did you like this pizza recipe? There are lots more where that came from!

Plus this handy tip for working easily with pizza dough.

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I hope you enjoyed this one and that you’re all enjoying the summer weather as it unfolds. Get out and plant your garden — I’ll live vicariously through you, since we’ve been too busy (or plagued by day care viruses) to get ours in the ground! 

By the way, I’m going to be moving the blog to a new server soon — hosting myself through WordPress.org instead of using the free WordPress.com domain. While I’m still finalizing the details, it shouldn’t cause any interruptions to readers, and may eventually include a new design. But I am wondering if you can help me with one thing: what’s the one thing you would change about this blog if you had a chance? Where can I improve — is it the name? Making it easier to print recipes? Better topics? Tell me! I’m all ears, and I really want to know.