Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Zucchini Pancakes

I have been craving zucchini pancakes ever since I had korean veggie pancakes a few weeks ago. The farmer's markets are overflowing with zucchini right now and this is a great way to use them up and healthier than a potato pancake, but just as delicious!

- 2 large zucchini
- 2 carrots *optional
- 1/4 large onion
- scant 4 tbsp flour
- scant 4 tbsp cornmeal
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- dash of soy sauce
- any other seasonings or herbs you desire
Grate the zucchini and squeeze with papertowels to try to get out as much of the moisture as possible.
Grate the onion and carrots.
Put all the veggies into a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil and stir to mix. In an ideal world you would probably whisk the egg before adding, but I forgot to this time and it turned out fine.
Add the olive oil to a pan and heat over medium high. In batches, usually two at a time, put a dollop of the mixture into the pan and coax it into a relatively flat, relatively round shape. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, flip over to cook the other side and remove to a plate lined with papertowels.
Continue with the rest of the batter. This reipce made about 8 silver dollar sized pancakes. The first couple didn't really brown but the last 6 looked beautiful!

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Last week at the Farmer's Market, besides the basket of hot peppers and the tomatillos, I also bought some beautiful, purple sweet peppers. Two were a light purple and the shape of regular bell peppers, the other two were elongated and a beautiful dark purplish-brown color.

Needing something for dinner tonight and wanting to use up the vegetables I had before they started going bad, I came up with this recipe. Jason really liked it!

- 2 or 3 bell peppers (any color or variety you wish)
- 2/3 cup cooked brown rice
- 2/3 can black beans rinsed
- 1 tomato chopped
- 1/4 sweet onion chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper chopped
- kernels from half of an ear of cooked corn (I had leftover corn in the fridge)
- shredded cheddar cheese
- cumin, coriander and chili powder to taste
- salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the peppers in half.

Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. I used just a bit of cheese to help things stick together.

Stuff the peppers with the rice and bean mixture, sprinkle a little cheese on top and lay in a baking pan. At this point I had leftover stuffing which I decided to just save and eat as a rice salad over the next couple of days.

Cover the pan loosely with foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and keep cooking for another 7 - 10 minutes. Turn on the broiler and let the cheese brown.

Serve with homemade salsa!

Starved Rock

The last few summers I have been saying to myself that I want to go to Starved Rock State Park. It's only an hour and 45 minute drive from the city.

Well, this weekend we made it happen. Up early, stop at Starbucks and off we went. Made great time to Utica and even stopped in town to pick up a couple of sandwiches to eat on the hike.

It's easy hiking and really pretty. The park is full of canyons. We got there early and missed the crowds, but the visitors center was packed as we exited the park around 2pm. The waterfalls the park is also famous for were dried up at this time of year which was too bad but it seems like a park that has a different side to show you every season!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Creating Time

The mantra I've found myself chanting most frequently this last year has been "I don't have time..."

to see the people I want
to read the books I want
to cook the foods I want
to have the quite time with my husband I want
to workout

the list goes on and on.

To be honest, I got tired of listening to myself. The desire to have more time is what really prompted getting rid of the TV in my household.

My husband did some quick calculations while driving home from work one day.

On average let's say we watch 2 hours of TV/day
That's 14 hours/week, which is about the equivalent of 1 full waking day
for 52 weeks/year

In essence, we just bought back 52 waking days

Friday, August 21, 2009


There are two places where I consistently get sucked into impulse buying
1. The bookstore
2. The farmer's market

I managed to combine both of these on Thursday into a delectable salsa adventure!

I walked over to the Daley Plaza Farmer's Market at lunch in search of squash blossoms which I had on good authority could be obtained from Nichols Farm. Unfortunately, because of the rain they had been unable to pick any.

So I started to wander about and was seduced by tomatillos! Turn a corner and a basket full of mixed hot peppers for only $3 were batting their hot little eyes at me. I had been thinking salsa that morning as I tried to imagine what I would eat coming off of my fast. Brown rice, black beans and homemade salsa sounded perfect.

Next Borders. Now, I may have turned off the TV, but I still did manage to learn that Chicago's very own, Rick Bayless, won the Top Chef Masters on Wednesday night. And what did I see while wandering through the store, you guessed it, Rick Bayless' "Mexico, One Plate at a Time". I had to buy it for Jason.

So between the book and his website I combined a couple of recipes to make my own.

- 2 plum tomatoes
- 6 tomatillos
- 3 serrano peppers
- 1 medium onion sliced into 1/4 in rings
- 6 small cloves of garlic
- salt and sugar to taste
- squeeze of lime juice *optional

Husk and rinse the tomatillos. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil** and put the tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers about 4 inches under the broiler. Broil for about 5 minutes and flip over for about another 5. The skins should be getting black, the tomatoes will probably have split. Pull out and let cool.

** this cuts down on clean up and makes it easier to capture the juices

Turn the oven down to 425 and on another pan cook the onions and garlic for about 10-15 minutes or until the onion is just starting to brown.

Put the onion and garlic in a food processor and chop roughly. Scrape into a bowl.

Pull the cores out of the tomatoes and put the tomatoes, tomatillos, serrano peppers and their juices into the food processor and pulse. Add to the bowl with the onions and garlic.

Mix these all together and add sugar (if needed to balance the tart) and salt to taste. I like to end mine with a squeeze of lime juice just because.

I put it in a jar and let it sit overnight to allow the flavors to meld together. This salsa is spicy, not for the faint of heart, but the spice mellowed out overnight.

Fiber Fast Finale

So I finished the fiber fast. 3 days of porridge (plus about 20 almonds, 7 dried apricots, 5 m&ms and a spoonful of leftover farro salad). Jason and Aitor dragged me out to the Orbit Room with them last night where I got to watch them eat pulled pork sandwiches.

I did have a cocktail, the Pama-Jama. They decided since I had made it through dinner I had successfully completed the fast and that I deserved it. I had to agree.

The Verdict: Nothing. No changes. No radical fiber benefits. Nothing other than proving I can hack 3 days of eating the exact same thing all day every day.

I think I'll try a juice fast next...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anniversary Art

Instead of buying eachother gifts for our anniversary, Jason and I decided that we would instead buy a piece of art we both loved.

Here's the first!

Yellow Meets Blue

Jane Michalski

The Great Experiment #2 - No TV

That's right. You heard me. The call was made to Comcast on Monday.

No more cable.

Which means no more TV.

Last night was interesting. Nothing to eat but weird fiber porridge/gruel, nothing to drink but water, no tv and no husband (off at fantasy footbal draft).

Made it much easier to go to the gym. And actually get in bed by 10:30pm.

We'll be coming to your houses for Top Chef and football games if you'll have us!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Great Experiment #1 - Fiber

Well, I don't know if I would call it great, since it's only for 3 days, but I am on Day 1 of a "3 day fiber fast".

For 3 days, I will eat this strange, porridge-like substance and drink water.

That's it.

I got this from the Vegan, Korean, Buddhist restaurant Amitabul where I dined a couple of weeks ago.

I have a little bit of a headache. Wish me luck.

Summer Indeed, Lemonade!

I wasn't kidding when I said I went a little crazy in the kitchen last Friday afternoon.

I love lemons and lemonade, and can you believe I have never made lemonade? Now, with the juicer it's even easier. I used what was described as the "Perfect Lemonade" recipe. The perfect designation seems to be a result of using a simple syrup instead of just dumping in straight sugar

- scant 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup lemon juice (approximately 5 lemons in the juicer)
Heat the sugar and water gently in a sauce pan until the sugar dissolves
Juice the lemons.
Add the simple syrup and lemon juice to a pitcher. Dilute with 3-4 cups water. Add lemon slices to serve.
Summer Indeed!

Summer Indeed, Farro Salad!

Woman cannot survive on vegetable terrine alone! So as I was putting that one together I also brewed up a farro salad. Farro is a fabulous and ancient Italian grain I have been dying to start cooking with.

Our local wine and specialty food shop in the 'hood, Provenance has carried it in the past but didn't have any while I was shopping so I found some at Whole Foods. I'm sure most Italian specialty shops would carry it, but I wanted to travel as little as possible.

To prepare, just add a cup of farro to a sauce pan and cover with water about an inch or so above the grain. Boil for about 30-40 minutes, or until the farro is tender, and drain

I let it cool and added fresh mint, fresh parsley, a little basil, cucumber, olive oil, lemon juice and a dash of salt and pepper.

There are a million variations, but this is a great cold side salad. I plan to start incorporating more farro into our diet!

Summer Indeed, Vegetable Terrine!

It only took until August, but I am in full summer swing these days. I finally feel like I have some free time to do what I want and am really trying to get back into the cooking mode.

Thursday evening I made pickles. The next day I took off the afternoon and went a little crazy with the cooking. I used an obscene amount of our pots and bowls, but it was well worth it!

First off, the vegetable terrine. I've been wanting to make one of these for quite some time, even though I'm not totally sure what defines a terrine. I'm pretty sure its the layering in a loaf and weighing down that does it.

I researched a couple of recipes and then ended up borrowing bits from each and coming up with my own. It is labor intensive but then you just put it in the fridge and eat it the next few days.


- loaf pan & saran wrap
- 3-4 red bell peppers
- 2 zucchini
- 1 eggplant
- 1 lb spinach
- 8oz. log of goat cheese

Peppers: preheat the oven to about 350-375 and roast the red peppers. Put in a covered container until cool enough to handle. Peel off the skins and slice the peppers into long, wide strips.

Eggplant: slice lengthwise, salt and set out in a colander to drain (this helps draw out some of the bitterness). When ready to use, rinse and pat dry. Heat up a grill pan. Brushing each slice with olive oil, grill the slices on both sides and set aside.

Zucchini: slice into rounds. Sautee in a little oil and garlic until softened (I also added some salt and pepper during this step. It was the only seasoning I used). Pull out of the pan and discard the garlic.

Spinach: sautee spinach in a little oil until wilted.

Once all of the veggies are ready, line the loaf pan with saran wrap leaving enough hanging over the sides so that you will be able to wrap it over at the end.

First layer the red peppers. I put 2 down on the bottom and used the rest of the pieces to cover over the long sides of the loaf pan. Leave the short ends free as from this angle you will be able to see all the layers of the finished product. Try to cover all of the spaces as this will be the outside of the finished terrine. Save a pepper slice or two to put on the top (which will be the bottom of the finished terrine). It is important to keep the slices on the sides upright while layering the rest of the veggies.

Next put a layer of eggplant slices followed by a layer of zucchini rounds.

On top of this layer I spread a thin layer of goat cheese (I used about 6oz. of the 8oz.)

Top this with spinach, followed by another layer of zucchini and another layer of eggplant.

Finish it off with the remaining red pepper slices and fold the ends of the side peppers over the top as much as possible. Wrap the saran wrap over all of it tightly.

Put the loaf pan on a plate and weight down the top of the terrine. I used a glass tupperware filled with dried beans that fit just inside the pan. Refrigerate 8 hours to overnight.

To serve, flip the pan over onto a plate lined with arugula or spinach. Pull off the loaf pan and remove the saran wrap. Voila! Cut into slices with a sharp knife. It should hold its shape pretty well.

This dish was simply delicious, clean and simple. I ate it for the next 2 or 3 days and never grew tired of it.


I decided that one thing I wanted to do in my break between summer and fall grad school sessions was start making pickles. I love pickles more than the next person. And reminiscing with my good friend who now lives out of the country about the day, down in Champaign many years ago, we sat on the steps at 1001 on a boiling hot day running the hose over our feet and eating pickles clinched the deal.

Now, we're not talking the kind that can be put up for the winter (although that may be next), I'm just talking about wonderful, delicious refrigerator pickles. No fancy equipment required.

-Mason jars
-white vinegar (5% acidity)
-pickling salt
-white onion
-mustard seeds
-celery seeds
-black peppercorns
-dried red chili peppers

First sterilize the jars. You can run them through the dishwasher, I just handwashed them in really hot, soapy water.

Into each jar (use as many as you want) pack in a bunch of chopped dill, a garlic clove (or two, I can't remember) chopped in half, your sliced pickles (cut any way you like, I did rounds, I have an irrational dislike of spears) one of the sliced red chili peppers and a bunch of thinly sliced onions.

In a non-reactive pan put 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water (for 2 jars I used 1 1/2 cups vinegar and 1/2 cup water). Now, I found my pickles to be a little too vinegary so I may cut this ratio a little bit). Add a hearty does of salt, a tablespoon or two of the seeds, peppercorns and bring just to a boil.

Using a funnel, pour the vinegar solution into the jars and hand tighten. Set out to cool and then refrigerate for up to a week or so.

Now, of course, I only made it until about 3:00pm the next day before I tried one and they were delicious!!! I hit the farmers market this week for more pickles to use. I'm going to keep playing around with the recipe and will let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Frozen Berries

Getting back to blueberries, here's a tip for capturing the farmer's market fruits for the winter.

-- Rinse berries
-- Dry
-- Place in a single layer on a baking pan and freeze (this prevents the berries from sticking
-- Put berries in a freezer safe baggie and voila!

Fresh berries for smoothies, pancakes, muffins or whatever else you desire.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Last night I had the pleasure of dining with some of my ladies and trying out a new-to-me restaurant.

Amitabul, on the far northwest side was a delight. And a dining experience that I can honestly say is in alignment with my quest for physical and spiritual strength.

"Healing Buddhist Spiritual Vegan Cuisine"

Who could resist? With dish descriptions like "energy pumping" and "heavenly" I felt healthier and happier having just sat down.

We had the veggie dumplings, the famous Cure-All Soup, the Soy Pancakes which were divine and the Wolfman's Dream Treats.

The photographer was in last night as well, and the 4 ladies should be immortalized on the wall of pictures you see upon entering the restaurant. A larger photo of the Dalai Lama stands as proof to His Holiness having dined there as well. That's good enough for me.
I'm already looking forward to my next visit. Who's in?

Thursday, August 6, 2009


In an attempt to work on both physical and mental health I've started attending a meditation practice at the Temple of Kriya Yoga. Call it a Spiritual Boot Camp if you will.

I'm amazed at how much I am enjoying it although I have no idea what exactly I'm doing. I think the trick for me is to get over this idea of doing it "right" or "wrong". It's too easy to compartmentalize so many things in our lives as right or wrong. An interesting trap that I fall into since I tend to see the world in so many shades of gray.

I love that it is referred to as a practice. An ongoing, learning and evolving experience. One hour once/week can make quite a difference. And atmoshpere does matter. Wandering barefoot in the mansion that houses the temple is a treat.

My mind has been racing quite a bit recently, and not always in good directions. I'm interested in meditation as a way to try to help slow my mind. I enjoy the focus on breathing especially as I have rediscovered my own clean, clear breath this past year.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blueberry Betty

The blueberry. Or Vaccinium Corymbosum. Whatever you call them, blueberries are quite the rage these days. I see recipes with blueberries everywhere.

This past Saturday making plans to have dinner with friends we were told to bring dessert. Now, dessert is not really my thing. For those of you who have eaten dinner at my house you know that dessert is often a BYO affair.

But looking at all the beautiful blueberries inspired me to try my hand at my mom and aunt's famous Blueberry Betty. Every summer at my aunt and uncle's place in Michigan we would go to the market to great fresh Michigan blueberries for the betty.

Now, there may be a lot of sugar and butter in this recipe, but don't judge me too harshly. It's dessert and it was a dinner party. And it is chock full of all the antioxidant benefits that blueberries impart. And it's always a hit. I bought a 5 pound box of blueberries so there have been 2 betties made for gatherings and some vegan blueberry and raspberry ice cream chilling in the freezer.


-enough blueberries to fill a 9x12 pan
-1 scant tsp cornstarch
-1 stick butter (I pull it out 30 minutes or an hour before to soften on the counter)
-1 cup sugar (I use half brown and half white)

-1 cup flour

Put the berries in the pan, squeeze the juice of one small lemon over them and sprinkle less than a tsp of cornstarch and mix it all up. The cornstarch just helps hold the berries together, you can use tapioca if you have it.

Mix the butter, sugar and flour. Spread this crumble over the top of the berries.

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until the crumble has started to brown. Let cool before serving.

Raw Pasta

A big part of Boot Camp involves taking a long hard look at what I'm eating. It hasn't been pretty people.

However, whenever I start back into my health kicks, I head to the raw food blogs.

The Farmer's Market was a venerable cornucopia this week. Berries, peppers, onions, giant zucchini. And my mint, oregano and basil have barely been put to use.

I decided to try out a "raw pasta with marinara" recipe I've seen many times:

Raw Pasta
-1 large zucchini
using a mandolin with the largest grating setting I grated a zucchini into long thin strands, it really looks like spaghetti!

Raw Marinara
-4 roma tomatoes
-1 red bell pepper
-4 or 5 sundried tomatoes (soaked in water for about 30 minutes)
-half clove garlic (I was going to be bringing this for lunch so I didn't want it to be too strong)
-fresh oregano
-fresh basil

Put in all in a food processor and pulse until it's nice and chunky, kind of an italian pico de gallo or a bruschetta topping. Pour some over the zucchini and enjoy! If you're not going to eat this right away, store the zucchini and marinara separately so the zucchini doesn't get too soggy.

Boot Camp!

Operation Boot Camp is underway. After months of self loathing and not fitting into any of my clothes I am finally being proactive. About this and many other areas of my life. Summer is racing by and I'm determined to slow it down.

Operation Boot Camp at this point involves early morning runs with my "trainer" (aka husband). We're only doing about 20 minutes at this point but he keeps the pace up. Tuesday 7/28 was the official start and I've run every day except Friday.

Ths stomach bloating has started to subside. And I love the feeling of being up early in the morning. My entire outlook has changed. I spent far too much of this summer coming home from work and going straight to the couch depressed. That is no way to spend any day, let alone a summer day! It's time for empowerment.