Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Spring!

I hope you have the opportunity today to soak up a bit of sunshine, or listen to the birds, or catch a hint of color from a flower, whether it's a glorious red rose, a simple little daisy, or even a dandelion! I'm enjoying all of the above; it's a beautiful day.

I do have the obligatory chores that I must tackle today as well - a few loads of laundry, cleaning a bathroom, maybe running the vacuum. I have a couple of candles lit, some soothing music playing (Diane Arkenstone - thanks Pooh for introducing me to her!). I've spent a couple of hours in the kitchen already, which, honestly, I didn't feel like doing when I started. But it didn't take long to realize how much I've missed it the last few weeks.

I did some experimenting this week too, mostly out of necessity, but with some great results. Since starting a vegetarian diet in late January, I've made an effort to cook as many meals as I can in two batches - with meat and without - so that my husband isn't forced into going meatless if he doesn't want to. I had the makings for some really quick enchiladas for him - frozen rolled tacos topped with a can of enchilada sauce, grated cheese, and sliced olives. Easy! But I didn't have any meatless rolled tacos that I could eat. I did have corn tortillas, though, and knew I could come up with something to fill them. I had several pouches of Uncle Ben's and Seeds of Change brands ready-to-serve rice dishes in the pantry. One of them was a Santa Fe version and included black beans, corn, brown rice, red and white wheat, tomatoes, peppers, and spices. I warmed my corn tortillas in just a few drops of oil in a small skillet, put a couple spoonfuls of rice down the center of each one, and rolled them up. I used a 9" x 13" pan and filled it with half of the frozen rolled tacos, half of my rice filled rolled tacos, topped it all with enchilada sauce and sliced black olives. I used regular grated colby jack cheese on my husband's half, and vegan cheddar flavored grated cheese on my half. I was expecting them to be a little bland and not thoroughly enjoyable, but I was wrong. They were great!

Frozen meatballs are another one of my favorite time savers. I've found turkey meatballs and Veggie Patch brand meatless meatballs. Naturally, they're great in spaghetti, and the leftovers make great meatball sandwiches. Today I got out a recipe for Albondigas, a Mexican meatball soup. It calls for chicken broth, but I use vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, chopped celery and onion, and a sliced zucchini and chopped cilantro. I didn't have the zucchini or cilantro, but I did have carrots and kale. I also added a little bit of orzo. Because the kale cooks pretty quickly, I added it last. When it had wilted just a little bit, I removed half of the soup to another pan, and added turkey meatballs to one, and meatless meatballs to the other. Instead of albondigas, I made more of an Italian wedding soup. It satisfied my craving and is delish!

I'd had a whole bunch of kale in the fridge, but only used half of it in the soup. I usually chop it (after removing the stems) and cook it with a little garlic and onion. I soften the garlic and onion in just a smidgen of oil in a large skillet. I add the kale all at once, and sprinkle it with a few drops of aminos and a drizzle of vinegar, usually apple cider vinegar. Today I only had red onion, so into the pan it went. I softened it with the garlic and added the kale. I sprinkled it with a few drops of aminos, just a splash of ume vinegar and a smattering of rice vinegar. I gave it a little taste and immediately thought of the couple of pineapple spears sitting in my fridge. I chopped them up and added them to the pan. Yummy! A perfect blend of just a little salty and just a little sweet.

I've also cooked a pan of brown rice which I'll just put in a container and stick in the fridge. I can put it in a bowl with some kale and that can be either breakfast or lunch for me. Midway through the week, we'll want a quick and easy dinner. I'll get out the rice, the wok, chop up whatever veggies I have in the fridge that need to be used - broccoli, leeks, celery, green onions, carrots, bok choy - whatever I have. I'll grab the aminos or soy sauce and whatever vinegar happens to sound good at the moment, and we'll enjoy a wonderful fried rice. (I knew I should have grabbed that box of fortune cookies at the store the other day!)

I'm done in the kitchen for the day now. I'm sipping my second or third cup of tea as well as my water bottle with a couple of cucumber slices in it. I'm going to put in my last load of laundry, do a few minutes of yoga, and then have a bowl of soup. I think I might even brew a couple bags of chamomile tea, put it in a big bowl and enjoy a facial steam, perhaps followed by a nap.

Wishing you a peaceful afternoon,