Apr 24, 2009

Mango Salsa

More often than not I don't have any particular meal in mind when I go food shopping. I like to let the fresh produce availability inspire me. This week, I walked into Whole Foods and they had a lovely display of organic mangoes on sale. Mango Salsa was my first thought. Ok, that's great, but what do I serve that with? Hmmmm... mangoes make me think of South America and that made me think of corn, so... Polenta! And black beans. Now that's a healthy meal, and a fairly simple one at that. Here's my mango salsa recipe for your enjoyment. I can tell you, after snacking on it at lunch today, its even better two days later.

I used:
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed (How to cut a mango)
  • 4 tbs of chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 2/3 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • diced green chiles- I used 1 small can
  • a dash of salt to taste
  • 2 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice, or to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve- its that simple. I also topped it on the plate with fresh, cubed avocado and served it with chopped lettuce. If you plan on making this to scoop with tortilla chips, cut the mango smaller.

I do highly recommend making this salsa ahead of time as well, although it was quite delicious fresh.

For the polenta, they were out of bulk polenta grain, so I got an organic, pre-packaged tube. I sliced it in 1/2" slices, sprayed a baking sheet with canola oil, cooked both sides for 10 minutes at 400 degrees (or until slightly brown on both sides). For the last 2 minutes I sprinkled a little shredded cheddar on top and on slice of jalapeno.

*I apologize for the poor quality photo, although I am grateful to Jim for quickly snapping a pic of his plate with his iPhone before we ate it all up.

Apr 21, 2009

Pledge to Be Veg for 'Meat's Not Green' Week

One of the many reasons I don't eat meat is the environmental toll the meat industry has on the planet. Hopefully other concerned environmentalists will consider vegetarianism, not only for personal health, but for the health of the earth. PETA claims that each year you are a vegetarian you save 100 animals. Hmmmm. That would mean that I have saved 1900 animals. I'm not sure about those figures, but they have a good idea with their "Meat's Not Green" week.

From Peta's website...

Help reduce climate change during PETA's first-ever "Meat's Not Green" week! A United Nations report found that the meat industry is responsible for producing more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined. These greenhouse gases cause climate change, which studies show will increasingly lead to devastating disasters—like droughts, floods, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and disease outbreaks—unless we drastically reduce the amounts emitted into the atmosphere. One of the most effective ways that you can help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions—and help reduce pollution and habitat destruction too—is by switching to a vegetarian diet. Celebrate "Meat's Not Green" week by pledging to try a vegetarian diet for 30 days. In addition to helping the environment, your change to a vegetarian diet will save 100 animals each year that you stick with it.

By taking the Pledge to Be Veg for 30 Days, you will be helping animals and the environment.

Apr 11, 2009

Vegetarian Pizza Gain - aka Easter Pie

Every Easter, my grandmother would make what we called "pizza gain", a type of southern Italian savory pie. Pizza Gain, know by many other names such as pizza gaina, pizza rustica, Italian Easter pie, is a traditional Italian dish, with ingredients that vary regionally. Unfortunately, pizza gain traditionally contains a lot of meat- ham, prosciutto, salami, capicola, pepperoni, etc. I have decided to make the pie this year, substituting meatless products in our family recipe.

The Salerno family recipe is as follows:

4 cups flour (I used 2 cups unbleached flour and 2 cups whole wheat flour)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
1/3 cup olive/veg oil
1/2 cup water

combine dry ingredients first and then add moist ingredients. Combine in food processor until it forms a ball. chill for 1 hour. roll out to make dough. line pans with dough.

My dad uses round spring form pans, my grandmother used rectangular loaf pans. I favor the loaf pans, but it's your choice.

1 lb - 1.5 lb Fresh Basket Cheese* (I actually used a mixture of farmers cheese, ricotta strained in cheesecloth to firm up, and queso fresco, a whole milk Spanish cheese)
Romano cheese to taste (I used 1/4 cup)
meat substitute- I used 1 package veggie pepperoni and 1 package veggie ham slices cubed.
enough eggs to bind ingredients (4-6 eggs?) so the mixture is firm, but not dry.

Mix all ingredients and fill dough-lined pan. Cover with top layer of dough. Bake 1 hour in oven at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and cool. Refrigerate. This is best served at room temperature.

*Basket Cheese is a traditional cheese that can be found in delis around Easter. It is also know as Farmers Cheese or Easter cheese. It is the consistency of Tofu, which can be used instead.

I ended up making two pies. I ran out of filling for the second one, so I added tofu. Both are delicious. My husband and I enjoyed this with hot sauce, but you could also add red pepper flakes to the cheese mixture for spice.

A slice of the pizza gain loaf.

Here is a link for a vegan version at ChooseVeg.com: Vegan Easter Pie

Apr 8, 2009

My Favorite Cookbooks - vegetarian and otherwise

I'm the type of cook that usually does not follow a recipe, unless I'm baking. I've been cooking for so long that I have a good sense of timing and what will work together. That doesn't mean I don't use cookbooks for inspiration or follow a complete recipe from time to time. I also found cookbooks necessary when I first stopped eating meat, as I was clueless to many of the endless vegetarian food options.

Here are a few of my favorite cookbooks. Not all of them are 100% vegetarian, but these are the ones I refer to the most. Each title links to a page on Amazon so you can get the full info. If you have any favorite cookbooks you would like to recommend, please comment.

1. Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello. I love this macrobiotic cooking book and I love Christina's kooky, cheerful spirit. If you ever get a chance to catch her PBS show "Christina Cooks" you will see what I mean. Apparently Christina cured herself of Leukemia by changing to a whole foods diet. I would highly recommend watching her show to complement the book, as she is not really an "exact measurement" type of cook. I think some of her measurements in the book can be adjusted to your taste.

2. Vegetarian Times Cookbook by the editors of the Vegetarian Times. I have quite an old version of this book, so I'm not sure what the updated version is like. I also haven't used this cookbook in a while, but it was invaluable when I first became vegetarian.

3. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael T. Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, Lara Pizzorno. I looked at this book for years at Wild Oats and finally bought it during their going out of business sale. I don't know what I was waiting for. This book thoroughly explains the nutritional value and medical properties of every type edible food imaginable. It provides cooking and storage methods as well as a history of the food itself. It also includes sections on common ailments and food recommendations. This is a must have for everyone.

4. From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce by Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. I picked this up from my local food co-op and found it to be a nice collection of recipes you might not find in a larger cookbook. This is not strictly vegetarian, but the recipes with meat could be easily adapted as the focus is on the produce.

5. How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman. This book does not, by far, tell you how to cook everything, but it is a great resource for preparation and cooking of many of the most common ingredients. For example, I learned how to properly cut a mango and the proper time for cooking a hard boiled egg from this book. The recipes are truly simple, which is great as a basis for your own creations.

6. The Kripalu Cookbook by Atma JoAnn Levitt. Recipes from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, a retreat center in Western MA. I haven't cooked one bad dish from this book and I'm hooked on the Oat Flour Waffle/Pancake recipe. If you are interested in healthy versions of classic dishes, buy this book.

Some other books I own and refer to occasionally for inspiration:

Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen - not "The New Moosewood Cookbook", although I'm sure that's just as good and possibly less fattening.

Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin

Hot & Spicy Meatless 2 by Dave Dewitt, Mary Jane Wilan, and Melissa T. Stock

Apr 3, 2009

Marblehead Lunch Spots

I work in Marblehead and, while there are no vegetarian restaurants in town, there are several decent places to get a vegetarian lunch. These are my recommendations in order of preference.

1. Atomic Cafe - many vegetarian sandwich options, salads and smoothies. The also offer at least one vegetarian soup option. My favorite lunch is the Cucumber Deluxe sandwich with a Chai Velvet smoothie. Vegans can choose from a few salads, but most sandwich options include cheese, although they are very good about custom orders. It can get pretty crowded during lunchtime and right after school gets out.

2. Foodie's Feast - Despite the slightly pretentious name, Foodies employees are always very friendly and welcoming. They have vegetarian sandwich options, soup/salad combos. Again, vegans may have a harder time. Breakfast options are delicious, as is the daily quiche selection. There website leaves something to be desired and they never seem to have a printed take-away menu. I love their egg salad sandwich and the hummus and veggie wrap is a good summer option. On a nice day get the sandwich to go and walk down to the waterfront to watch the boats go by.

3. Shubie's - upscale market you would expect to find in a town like Marblehead. I was hesitant to go in, figuring the prices would be too high for me, but they have a fantastic wine selection, awesome wine tasting events each week and a delightful $10 and under wine section. As far as lunch, I was craving a salad and decided to bite the bullet and go in for a $9 salad, but was so excited to see that they now have a lunch bar (or maybe I missed it before) with very reasonable sandwich/soup/salad options. There were two vegan soup options, so I decided on a cup of white bean soup with a house salad. The salad came with your choice of greens (I choose arugula), dressing (low fat basil blue cheese-yummy!), cucumber and grape tomato. All for $7. I have a feeling I will be eating here quite a lot from now on.

4. Fen Yang House - There are two places to get sushi in Marblehead. I've tried both and I wont even mention the other. Fen Yang is never full at lunch, the waitstaff is super attentive and the sushi is decent. I wouldn't say its the best I've ever had, but at least they have Inari sushi (rice filled tofu). Fen Yang is primarily a Chinese restaurant, but I've only ordered the scallion pancakes from that part of the menu, as I'm not a big fan of Chinese food. no website, 40 Atlantic Ave.

5. Marblehead Chowder Company - A little pricey, but they always have a vegetarian soup option. They also offer salads and panini sandwiches. I'm not sure how vegans would do here. I think the carrot artichoke soup is vegan and they do have a nice beet salad. One issue I do have is that the soup is often served too cold, but they will apologetically reheat it for you.
***(Update 11/21/09) It appears that the Chowder Company is under new management. There are different food options and there seems to be less vegetarian soup choices. I tried the "Mulligatawny" soup, which wasn't at all like the authentic Indian version. It was ok, but I most likely won't return because of the lack of vegetarian options.***

Well, that's about it. Many days I will venture to Whole Foods in Swampscott for their salad bar or meet my husband in Salem, which will be the topic of another post.

Apr 2, 2009

Best Tofu Ever - The Bridge

I discovered The Bridge tofu last year, when I was looking for all natural tofu, and it is the tastiest tofu I have ever eaten. Their seitan and prepared tofu salad are both really good as well. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find it at my local Whole Foods for a few weeks and I am freaking out. I just emailed the company, so hopefully I can find another local source. If you haven't tried this brand, you must! The package says that it is made by hand in the traditional kettle style. I'm not sure what that entails, but the result is so yummy. I can't even describe how delicious their tofu is. Here is a blurb from their website:

"The quality of hand made freshness that is the hallmark of our products continues to inspire many in their search for high quality natural foods. Each product is made from outstanding ingredients in a richly restored tradition; slowly by hand, fresh to order, by people - not machines. When you eat products made by The Bridge, you'll notice they taste different from others you may have tried. They possess a remarkable and delicious depth of flavor. There is a difference in how you feel as well, because all of the food we make is alive. That is the most important thing we do."

I'll keep you posted on local sources, if any.

*update- Stephen, the company president emailed me back right away and supposedly the Swampscott Whole Foods orders every week, so I'm going to have to inquire at the store. Maybe they moved the product to a different section.
*4/8/09 - Swampscott Whole Foods has The Bridge in stock again. Yippee.


Hello, and welcome to my vegetarian food and lifestyle guide. As a vegetarian, I am constantly searching for good, healthy veggie choices, not only in my local area, but wherever my travels take me. This blog will highlight some of my favorite local choices, interesting finds around the world, vegetarian related articles, and some great vegetarian recipes.

I have been a vegetarian since 1990 and remember when my only choice at most restaurants was the "pasta primavera" or a side salad if I was lucky. My sister and I used to take the blue line to the GNC in downtown crossing to buy our veggie burgers as the "regular" grocery stores didn't carry them. Luckily times have changed, and increased awareness of the link between health and diet have brought many more options to the table, so to speak.

While my initial reasons for going veggie were based on animal rights, I have come to discover the many health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. I don't intend to convert anyone or suggest any choice is wrong, I simply want to provide another resource for vegetarians and vegetarian sympathizers. Make sure you check out some of the recommended links and blogs.