Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Winning! – A Week in Review

In American, Beans, Breakfast, Chinese, Fruit, Indian, Lentils, Mexican, Oats, Pasta, Pizza, Rice, Salad, Saving Money, Shopping, Uncategorized, Vegetables on May 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Last week (Saturday-Friday) was incredibly busy and successful.  I accomplished a lot on the road, in the field, at home, and in the kitchen.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Saturday – Why I Love Brooklyn, Part I

Unfortunately one of the more photogenic race images. At least the Cyclone is in the background.

Starting near the Brooklyn Museum, circling through the familiar Prospect Park, and heading down Ocean Parkway to the Coney Island Boardwalk:  I dazed through my third half marathon.  The first one was so exciting because it was my first, whereas the second was an exciting opportunity to actually achieve a decent time.  This third one felt more like a chore than an achievement.  The first few miles were slow and steady.  I just wasn’t feeling like myself.  And the familiar routes gave me little site-seeing material.  However, the second half perked up!  We got to run down the usually bumper-to-bumper Ocean Parkway, only completely open for the weekend warriors.  The best part was around mile 11, when my hubby came to cheer me on and run with me for a block to push me to speed up for those last 2 awful miles.  I managed to not only finish, but beat my previous time by almost a minute!  Many people rewarded themselves with a Nathan’s hotdog, but I made the trip to Buschenschank for a mustardy bloody mary, some beet salad, and a pizza di verde, which was like a regular pizza topped with bruschetta tomatoes and pesto.  Hey, I deserved it after the extra 1300+ calories burned running through Brooklyn.  And then it was nap time.

Sunday – Why I love Brooklyn, Part II

Both Saturday and Sunday were extra special in my borough, not just for me but for the community at large.  Foodies and music lovers alike flocked to Prospect Park for The [Partially Not so] Great Googa Mooga.  Apparently, Saturday was a mess.  Luckily for me I had Sunday tickets, and I learned from the mistakes of Saturday’s Past.  Slathered in sunscreen, with blanket and water bottle in tow, I made sure to get to the park just after they opened at 11:00 AM.  My strategy was to a) avoid lines, b) find a spot to park and c) make sure I got my fill before my impending football playoffs.  I was pleasantly surprised to show up, enter without a bag check, and see so many food stands sans lines.

Calexico is one of my hubby’s favorites. Can you say Crack sauce?

I grabbed a beer, spread out my blanket and enjoyed some tunes while basking in all the googa glory.

Before heading out, I procured a mango chili popsicle, and watched an air guitar competition on the Hamagaddeon Stage.

Hamageddon, of course, was adjacent to BaconLand.

If only I consumed pork, I would be in heaven.

All in all, I personally had a great experience.  I really hope the festival becomes annual!

It was on to Fort Greene, to compete for the Zog 2-hand-touch coed football championship.  This meant wining the playoff game against Pink Socks, and immediately playing The Parents in the championship game.  Of course, we won, and we’re number one!

Go buttonholes! Not to be confused with button hooks.

We celebrated at a nearby bar called Hot Bird, which is next door to a super good bbq place.  They actually have several vegetarian/vegan dishes.  I got some mac, collard greens, and baked beans.  And beer.

Delicious food covered by even more delicious beer.

Such a great weekend!  Full of fun, food, and fantastic accomplishments.  And then there’s the workweek…

Monday – It’s “Business” Time

Luckily my schedule at work has been more flexible.  I can actually take Mondays off most of the time.  This makes for great chore-doing, grocery shopping scheduling.  Monday is not only laundry day, but it’s also supposed to be my blogging, recipe writing, and creative brainstorming day.  Unfortunately,  I haven’t had a real workspace of my own at home.  I usually work at the dining table, or sitting on the couch, which isn’t great for productivity.  Then this past Monday, between laundry and grocery shopping, I stopped at Ikea to pick out a small desk and chair.  Let me say, going to Ikea at 1:00 PM on a rainy Monday is the best time to go.  Nobody was there, and I could just navigate to the workspace station and try out the desks and chairs.  I picked out a fun black/white desk with a red swivel chair, brought it home, and even put the chair together myself!  The desk is conveniently placed near our “bar”.  How very Mad Men of me.

I love this chair!  It’s so bright and will hopefully pull me to the desk to write some more.

Dinner that night was my baked falafel with Israel salad, which was also lunch for Tueday.

Tuesday – Thursday – Back in the Groove

After a long weekend filled with events, it becomes really hard to feel rejuvenated for the week.  I often find that weekends like those lead to workweeks of takeout.  I was determined to complete the week with homemade breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and coffee for myself and Nick.  My usual breakfast was my oatmeal/fruit combo and egg whites with spinach and salsa, whereas Nick preferred cereal with strawberry yogurt.  I tend to eat yogurt for my snack, whereas nick likes actual “snacks” of pretzels and the sort.  His lunches were egg salad, mine were leftovers from dinner.  Here’s what we ate each night:

Tuesday: Chili relleno, rice, and black beans

Wednesday: Cheddar and Broccoli brown rice macaroni and cheese with a slide of beet slaw

Thursday: Chicken and veggie “fried” brown rice.  I was pretty exhausted and didn’t eat any official “dinner”.  This is also due to gorging on Trader Joe’s triple cream brie with wild mushrooms on crackers.  OMG.  You must try this cheese.

A pretty good variety for the week.  Middle Eastern Monday, Mexican Tuesday, American Wednesday, and Chinese Thursday.  And not an extra penny spent, even on coffee!

Friday – Working for the Weekend

We continued to have some nutritious meals for most of Friday.  I worked so hard all week, in the office, at the gym, and in the kitchen, and I didn’t want to lose my momentum.  Since I hadn’t made myself any dinner the night before, I was left to MacGyver me some lunch.  I did have some leftover plain rice from the night before, so I put together my new favorite quick lunch!  It is kind of Indian inspired, and is quick, easy, delicious, and uber healthy!  It includes:

1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup lentils or chickpeas (I used lentils this time)
1.5-2 cups fresh chopped kale
1/2 bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp chopped red onion
1 plum or two campari tomatoes, diced
Fresh Cilantro or parsley
Sprinkle each of cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, salt, and pepper

Combine everything in a microwaveable bowl or tupperware bottom.  Microwave on high for 2 minutes with the lid on top but not sealed (or you can use a paper towel).  Mix to combine, and enjoy!

 You can also add some raita or avocado after cooking for a yummy cooling affect.

Once the day was over, it was definitely time for some 3-day weekend Happy Hour fun!  A stein of beer was exactly what I needed to end this very successful week.  Hope you all enjoyed your holiday weekend, I know I surely did!


Hump Day, Shmump Day – I’m Here to Please with Mac ‘n Cheese

In American, Pasta, Salad, Vegetables on May 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

It’s one of my favorite comfort dishes.  From the blue box, to truffled reinventions, and everything in between (except Velveeta), I can’t say no to Mac ‘n Cheese.  I love it plain, with chilli, with hot sauce, with veggies, even with fruit!  However, too much cheese, cream, and butter paired with white pasta are often the culprits for a diet-busting catastrophe!  Yes, one should indulge in moderation, but I could probably eat this every day.  Hence, I’ve had a lot of experience with mac-makeovers.  Whether it’s using lower fat milk, or adding veggies to bulk up the portions, there are many healthy and delicious ways to slim down a plate of mac.  I’ve even successfully replicated the Amy’s brand Gluten/Dairy/Soy free version, and managed to even thin it out.  My man, however, would never eat that.  He’d say “what the hell is this?  Where’s the cheese?”  He will, however, eat a version with plenty of veggies in it (which I suppose means I’ve done a good job in molding his produce palate).

Mac ingredients on the left; beet salad on the right.

I decided last Wednesday to marry two recipes: a whole grain/low fat cheddar and broccoli version with the gluten free/vegan version.  Basically, the latter version of  brown rice pasta wanted to get married,  so she had to convert to non-veganism and become step-mom to some broccoli.  NBD.  I also wanted to add a salad of some sort to the side, and based on what I had on hand I was to create a raw beat slaw.  Not only would it be purty, but it would be a crisp, light contrast to the slightly richer and chewier mac.  Here’s the list of ingredients.  You could sub the brown rice products for whole wheat or any other grain pasta/flour if desired.

Broccoli Cheddar Brac ‘n Cheese

Serves 4

8 oz brown rice elbow macaroni
1 bunch broccoli, florets and stems, chopped
1 tbsp safflower oil
2 tbsp brown rice flour
1 cup 1% milk
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp dijon mustard (don’t know if that’s gluten free because of the vinegar they use)
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 oz reduced fat/sodium cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (about 2.5 cups)
1 tbsp parmesano reggiano, shredded

I preheated the oven to 375°, and put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta.  During that time, I measured out 220 grams of the brown rice pasta (which is roughly 8 oz).  I really like this pasta, as it has an interestingly gummy/chewy texture without being mush.  Kind of like chewing brown rice.  Who would have thought?

Then I washed and chopped up the broccoli.

The water was boiling, so I added some salt, the pasta, and put my timer on for 8 minutes.  Half way through, I added the broccoli to the pot to cook out some.  In the first 4 minutes, I had enough time to get my roux started.  Basically, that’s a mix of flour with fat (usually butter).  It is used as a thickening agent, usually for a béchamel, which is a standard white sauce.  In my version, I used high oleic safflower oil, which is low in saturated fat (even lower than EVOO) and has a very high smoke point.  I added 1 tbsp to a saucepan with 2 tbsp of brown rice flour on medium high heat.

Using a whisk, I combined the two ingredients for 2 minutes.

Then the roux looked like this.  Kind of reminds me of coconut water.

At this point, it’s time to create the white sauce.  Traditionally, you’d add full fat milk.  I used 1%, and I also cut half the liquid with vegetable broth.  It’s a neat lil trick 🙂  Then you whisk away for a minute to incorporate everything.

After a minute, I switched to a wooden spoon, and stirred in a figure 8 motion until the sauce was thick enough to coat the back of the spoon (about 5 minutes).  My camera was not cooperating, so this was the best image I could capture.

Then it was time to flavor the sauce.  Salt, pepper, mustard, and minced garlic.

After mixing that up, I turned off the heat and added 4 oz (about 2 cups) of the shredded cheddar, combining until velvety (not to be confusing with Velveety) smooth.

At this point, the pasta/broccoli pot is ready to be drained.  The contents are added to the pot to combine.

After a couple of folds, I poured the mac batter into a square nonstick pan.  Just a tip, which I will use next time, you should probably grease/spray the bottom just in case it decides to stick.

The finishing touches include the last ounce of cheddar (about 1/2 cup) and a sprinkled tablespoon of parm.  That’s another great trick.  It packs a lot of flavor in just a little sprinkle, and it also toasts up on top, which helps avoid using breadcrumbs.

Here’s a close up.

Pop the pan into the oven uncovered for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  It will look like this.

Another close up.

That 25-30 minutes of cooking time was more than enough to prep the beet slaw.  I know beets are not usually eaten raw, but they can be, and are delicious!  Just think about all those juice bars with their carrot/beet/celery mixtures.  Only this actually tastes good.

Raw Beet ‘Slaw

8 side dish servings

1 bunch red beets (about 3 medium sized), peeled
2 carrots, washed well
2 stalks celery
1/2 medium onion (1/4 of a very large one)

3 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar (more if sweeter taste desired)
salt and pepper to taste

When cooking beets, you can usually leave the skin on and peel after cooking.  However, that doesn’t work with raw consumption.  I opted to use gloves to peel my beets, to avoid red all over my hands.  Beets dye EVERYTHING red, but they do easily wash off.

Using my handy dandy food processor, I shredded the bulbs with the shredding attachment.  Another fuzzy photo, yet still so purty.

Then I added the carrots, celery, and onion to the processor for shredding.

At the bottom of the serving bowl, I whisked together the mustard, vinegar, agave, salt and pepper.  It made a lot of dressing, so you could probably reduce the recipe slightly.

Then I added in the shredded veg, mixed to combine, and tada!  Ruby goodness in a bowl.

Time to serve!  Some mac and a side of slaw.

Sorry the photo is kind of dark, but it was certainly bright and cheery in person!  It was also uber delish, and much healthier and nourishing than the kind you’d find at a bbq joint.  You could add any veggie really, but broccoli is Nick’s favorite.  He absolutely loved this dish.  In fact, he took a bite and basically had a foodgasm.  Enough said.

Chili Relleno es Bueno; Pero Me Gusta Esto, Por Supuesto!

In Beans, Mexican, Quick Meal, Rice, Vegetables on May 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

¡Hola, Amigos! As I’ve mentioned before, my two favorite cuisines are Mexican and Italian.  I love nothing more than a delicious combination of tacos, tostadas, fajitas, beans, guac, you name it.  However, my digestion and waistline prefer a lighter version of cantina style comidas.  This is especially true with chili relleno, aka stuffed/batter/fried peppers.  Although it tastes amazing as I chew, my tummy suffers as I clench into a ball on the couch the rest of the evening.  I mean really, what else do I expect eating globs of cheese stuffed in a spicy pepper and then fried with batter?  And eating the entire chip basket beforehand usually doesn’t help, either.

While grocery shopping for this week, I saw some bright yellowish-orange cubanel peppers calling my name…”Lauren…buy us…stuff us with delicious things…you won’t regret it.”  Believe me when I say that call of inspiration was the best decision I made at the store (aside from the pound of chocolate hazelnut coffee).   Typically poblano peppers are used for a chili relleno, but I thought these slightly milder and much smaller cousins would offer just a nice twist to my Tuesday night dinner.  I selected some “meaty” portobello for the vegetarian option, and a rotisserie chicken for the flesh version (time and e-coli saver!), along with all the other fix’ins.


Lauren’s Chilis Rellenos

Serves 2-3

2 portobello mushrooms OR 4 oz shredded chicken OR half and half
Olive oil Spray
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
Dash cayanne pepper
4 Cubanel peppers, sliced lengthwise and seeded
4 tbsp thin salsa (optional)
2 ounces reduced fat/sodium cheddar cheese

Black beans, rice, and guacamole to serve


The night before, I soaked some black beans.  That morning, I rinsed/drained and cooked them in the slow cooker to be ready for din din later on.  I made sure to add a lot of extra water so that they had that velvety frijoles consistency.

Now on to night-of prep.  I preheated the oven to 375°, and lined a baking sheet with foil and olive oil spray.  Then I got to chopping the mushroom into 1/2″ pieces.  Since I was doing half and half, I only used 1 large cap.

I added the ‘shrooms to an olive oil sprayed nonstick pan, and sauteed until nicely brown (about 7 minutes).  Then I added the minced garlic and other spices and cooked another 2 minutes.

I cut and cleaned the peppers, lining the halves up on the prepared tray.  Then I started to shred some rotisserie chicken.

I filled 5 halves with the mushroom mixture, and 3 with the chicken (Nick wanted 1 veg version of his own).  The latter variety needed some extra oomph, so I sprinkled some of the same spices as on the mushrooms, and dolloped some salsa.

I sprinkled on the shredded cheese, and baked them open-faced for 20 minutes.

Here’s a close-up.

Chicken on the left, Mushroom on the right.

While those baked away, I prepped the rice and guac side dishes.  I finely chopped some cilantro (for both) and red onion (for guac).

I had made some brown rice a few days ago, so I used the leftovers.  I added half the cilantro and a tsp of butter.

In another bowl, I tossed in the remaining cilantro, the red onion, one avocado, and one small tomato with some salt and lemon juice.

Then the chilis were done!

Those cheesy bits on the sides make yummy cheddar crisps!

Here’s another close-up.

Nick’s plate had all the components.  ¡Muy delicioso!

My vegetarian plata, sin arroz.

My attempt at creative plating. To no avail.

Everything was delish!  Nick said I knocked it out of the park and gave it between a 9.5 and 10.  Hey, I’ll take it.  And without the added tummy-ache.

Faux-lognese, Purple Haze, and Golden Beets

In Italian, Lentils, Nuts, Pasta, Salad, Vegetables on May 7, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I’ve been a very good girl since my last post.  Last Saturday I cleaned out my fridge, wiped the counters, and finally did enough dish-washing to have an empty machine!  Taking inventory of a very empty fridge, I made a shopping list and headed to Fairway.

Pretty much sticking to my list, I only selected a few extras to add to the cart.  One of those items were some golden beets.

I’ve been pretty obsessed lately with roasted beet and goat cheese salads, both on a plate and in a wrap.  Unfortunately, these dishes cost a pretty penny to buy premade, which is why I vowed last week to make a version at home.  Although they are usually made with red beets, the store was fresh out of the ruby variety, so I opted to use the golden kind that were available.

The one item I did forget – which is probably the most important for this recipe – was soft goat cheese.  I got caught up tasting 12 kinds of cheeses at the cheese monger station, and I completely forgot what I needed for this salad.  This is why I need to be better at writing and following my lists!  Anyway, on Monday I went to a cheese/meat shop near my office (It used to be called Grab, but I think they changed it to The Ploughman) and I asked for a soft goat cheese to complement the beets for my salad.  The guy recommended one called “Purple Haze”, which I’m assuming garners its name from the lavender surrounding the mound of cheese.  I don’t think any of the other Hazy herb variety were used for this product :).

I came home with such great intentions of making this salad.  However, for reasons I cannot recall at the moment, I think we ended up eating leftovers or freezer items instead.  This pattern had ensued for the next 2 nights, each day with the promise that “I’ll make that salad tomorrow.”  Well, what do you know – tomorrow finally came on Thursday.  I told Nick “I’m finally gonna make the salad tonight!” – but what to make as an accompanyment?  In case you don’t know, men don’t really eat just salad for dinner.  I ended the dinner message with “and some sort of pasta dish,” which is usually a satisfactory plan.

I mentally went through my catalog of pasta recipes, debating between a primavera, fagiole, or plain old marinara.  Then I remembered a recipe I had made several times from Giada that was a vegetarian version of bolognese made with mushrooms instead of beef.  I definitely had some mushrooms at home, as well as the other veggies required for the dish.  The only downside to the recipe was that it incorporated a lot of both parm and marscapone cheese, which would be cheese overload paired with the salad.  Instead of cheese, I would use some lentils – to bump up the protein, reduce the fat, and give a meatier texture to the sauce.  I’ll start with the pasta, and then show you how to assemble the salad.  Great; now it’s party time!

Whole Wheat Penne Rigatti Faux-lognese
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

Serves 4-6

1 tbsp EVOO
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 small or 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 colored bell pepper (not green), finely chopped
10 oz mushrooms (I used white), chopped
2 tsbp tomato paste
Salt, pepper, and oregano to taste
2/3 cup red wine
1.5 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup broth (or residual liquid from cooked lentils)
1 cup water
8 oz whole wheat penne rigatti (or any short cut pasta with ridges)
Parmesano or Pecorino cheese for garnish (optional)

First of all, I want to warn all of you that this dish is surprisingly filling.  That is why (especially paired with a salad) I budgeted this recipe as 4-6 servings.  Even if you wanted to eat a lot of it, you’re digestive system will thank you later if you have just a primi sized portion.

To get the party started, make sure to chop the veggies up nice and fine!  I am not really an expert at differentiating between a dice, fine chop, mince, etc.  Here’s a photo of how they were all cut up.

I sauteed them in the EVOO for about 10 minutes on medium heat, just until they were tender.  During that time, I chopped up the mushrooms.

Then those mushrooms joined the party.  Woohoo!

During their big dance, they create a lot of brown bits that stuck to the pan.

Those brown bits ended up messing around with some tomato paste, salt, pepper, and oregano…

…but the bits were stubborn and still stuck to the pan.  Grr.  Just needed to get them drunk with the red wine, and then they were ready to go with the flow.

They kind of sobered up after 2 minutes, and then it was time for the lentils to arrive.  If you don’t already have cooked lying around, better to cook them before starting with the veggie chopping.

Once they mingled, they were all very thirsty and needed some water.

Okay, now enough party talk.  It’s time to get serious…so I lowered the pan to a simmer, and boiled the pasta water.  I cooked it for about 9-10 minutes, until al dente.  I scooped some pasta in a bowl, and mixed with the fauxlognese, topping with some shredded cheese.

Kinda looks like meat.  And by kinda, I mean it is brown and chunky.  Awesome.

Okay, so now we can review how to make the salad.  It really is very simple.  Lettuce, beets, goat cheese.  You can add dried cranberries/blueberries, some nuts, even some sliced apple!  Whatever you have lying around is great.  Just as long as you have those first three ingredients, you are good to go.

To roast the beets (which you kind of do in advance, since they take about an hour to cook and some cool off time in the fridge), you have to wash them and scrub them first.  Beets are very dirty.

You wrap them individually in tin foil, and then roast them at 400 degrees for an hour, rotating half way through.

I don’t know about you, but to me that image reminds me of sci-fi movies, the ones on a space ship with alien tentacles all over the place.  Weird.

Once roasting is over, take those suckers out of the oven, and place the tray in a cool place (i.e. not on top of the stove, which is on top of a probably still 375 degree oven).  A couple of minutes pass, and you can try (preferably wearing oven mitts) to unwrap each beet.

After a few minutes, they should probably be cool enough to handle.  They will still be warm, but you won’t incur any scars to your precious paws.  You can rub the beets with your fingers to start peeling off the skin (similar to the process of peeling a boiled potato).

Look at the difference between the original and peeled version.  Big difference.  Now you can see why they are called golden beets.

You can slice them up before or after refrigeration, but doing it before will help it chill even faster.

Before assembling, you can whip together some dressing.  Any classic vinaigrette will do, but I prefer a very mustardy style dressing, especially for offsetting the earthiness of the beets and tartness of the goat cheese.  I’m not sure if it would classify as a true vinaigrette, but I like it.

Agave, Champagne, and Dijon Salad Dressing

Makes 5 servings of 1 tbsp each

2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp champage vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbsp EVOO

In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except the oil.  Whisk together with a fork or whisk.  Slowly stream in the olive oil.  Tada!

To assemble: Add the dressing to the greens (about 1 tbsp per person).  Mix them in a bowl (or directly on the plate) and create a bed for the other veggies.  Spread the beet slices around the edges of the plate, place 1 ounce of soft goat cheese in the center, and sprinkle some chopped walnuts and dried blueberries all around.  Beautiful!

This salad is also surprisingly filling, so you may want to have only half of what I suggested along with the pasta.  It is super delish though, so if you feel like having your fill of it, go right ahead!

I really do love this salad.  Not only is it super flavorful, but it also has loads of colors – especially purples when using the more reddish colored beets.  I love purple!  I am also reminded of my alma matter, using both purple and gold hued veggies for this dish.  Now if I only I cared enough to share that with the alumi association.

Hooray! It’s May! And I Completely Passed Over April

In Greek, Holiday, Jewish, Quinoa, Salad, Shopping, Soup, Sweet Potato, Vegetables on May 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm

It’s been a while.  I think that’s mostly because the thought of how long it’s been since my last post made me even less inclined to want to write, even though I have PLENTY of reserved material to use.  It’s probably the perfectionist in me, trying to do everything right or not at all.  Looks like I better realize it’s better to chip away or do something partially, lest risking my momentum to keep on keeping on.

Anyway…a quick synopsis of the past 5 weeks or so.  I went with Nick to Aruba for a very necessary vacation.  I only took photos of food, especially because nobody wants to see me in a bikini after all the drinks and crap I ate.

The day after we got back, it was cleaning and prepping for Passover, followed by cooking the day after.  And what do you know, I got sick (probably from the plane ride) and had to do all of that work while feeling pretty crumby.  Instead of taking it easy, I opted to run a 10k race, which made me even worse, keeping me out of commission from exercise and cooking for over a week.  I was even sick on my birthday ( April 9th – in case you need to send me a belated gift).  Instead of birthday cake (even the Passover kind), I was eating whole wheat matzah with avocado, tomato, and cucumbers.  Even though it was tasty, it wasn’t exactly how I wanted to celebrate.

I barely make it through half a box of matzah usually, but since I was feeling so awful all week, I ate my fare share.  It was all whole wheat, of course .  Matzah gets a bad rap from the white flour kind, which causes some “irregularity”, especially combined with the mass quantities of meat, eggs, and processed passover convenience products most observers consume.  I treat Passover as a time of rebirth; it is known as Mezeg Ha’Aviv, which means holiday of the Spring.  This season is synonymous with trees blooming, crops growing, and getting a fresh start on reinvigorating your routine after a winter of hibernation.  Thus, I like to use the dietary restrictions of Passover as an excuse for a “cleanse” or “detox”.  I don’t buy any boxed or packaged processed products, and eat mostly fruits, veggies, some dairy/eggs, nuts, and quinoa (which I know is controversial, but as a vegetarian and sometimes vegan ashkenaz Jew, I have to put my foot down somewhere against the semantics of modern rulings).  There was even one year when the only matzah I ingested was at the seder, and it was literally a bite.  The rest of the week was very clean, and I dropped the last few lbs stored up from the winter.

This year, I had such low energy.  My muscles ached, my head was hot, my nose was stuffed, my nose was running, I sneezed all over everything.  I felt (and looked) AWFUL.  Thus, my surrender to everything matzah.  I even made what I call matzahkopita, a version of spanikopita using whole wheat matzah instead of filo or pastry dough.  At least I made it with salad :).

I did end up making a lot of soup.  The lack of vegetable broth available for the holiday made that a smidge challenging in the flavor department.  I was perfectly happy to eat bland soup, but that’s not really fun for anyone else joining me.  I made a pureed butternut squash soup, similar to this one, except using water instead of broth.  I also added more sweet potato and carrots, which helped the flavor a lot.  When it came time to puree, I realized I didn’t have a blender for Passover, so I had to mash everything up with a wooden spoon.  That was not so much fun.

Another soup I made with a twist on a roasted mushroom recipe with garlic and fennel.  I figured it was a good base with lots of flavor.  I actually took some photos…

I used white mushroom because they were on sale for 99 cents.  For those of you who don’t shop for groceries, that is a super good price!  I rubbed them with a wet towel, and then sliced them up to saute in EVOO in a pot until nice and brown.  Just an FYI, all EVOO is kosher for Passover, so no need for the often marketed cottonseed oil, which is AWFUL for you.

Another note, my kitchenware for Passover is rather collegiate – most pieces are from a cheap set from Target.  I just wanted to point that out because if anyone reads my blog and wonders how to cook without fancy equipment (which I do have year round), it is definitely possible.  I also have to hand wash everything, which makes it challenging for the cleanup process, so I completely empathize with those who don’t have a dish washer.

While the mushrooms cooked, I cut up the fennel bulb, onion and some garlic.  I took all these photos with my phone, so not all came out so clear.  Here’s the fennel.

The mushrooms browned up, and I added the other veggies.

After mixing for a few minutes, I added about 7 or 8 cups of water, salt and pepper, and let it boil, then reduced to simmer for an hour.

That night, I paired the soup with a take on Israeli salad, which included tomato, cucumber, red onion, carrots, avocado, and pickles.  I squeezed some fresh lime, and used salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder.

This photo doesn’t do it justice, but the soup was really good.  I know it appears a lil “oily”, but I only used about 2 tbsp for the whole pot, which made about 6 servings.

The soup was better the next day, and even better the day after that.  Nick added some feta to his to bump up the protein, but I was perfectly happy with my surprising vegan Passover meals.  Even my salads weren’t boring this year.  My favorite was this one, which is the most prismatic I’ve ever made.  Ain’t it purty?

Now that that’s all out of the way, I can trace back on my tangent and continue the rest of my synopsis.  Once Passover was over, it was time to celebrate Nick’s birthday and my birthday, both with friends and family.  This turned into a week long celebration, which meant no cooking for moi!  That leaves one more week, which also rendered no cooking because I was lazy.  By the end of the week, I had to buckle down and go food shopping.   And there you have it.  Here’s to chipping away at the month of May and getting back into the groove – both cooking and writing!