Tag Archives: mushroom

Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.

28 Apr

I am just back from a long Easter weekend in North Carolina. We stayed with my parents for 5 days and had a wonderful time. The warm weather and sunshine were such a welcome change from the cold, rainy days we’ve been dealing with here in Michigan.

I came home refreshed…and inspired.

While in North Carolina, I saw a poster in a store window that said “Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.” I thought it was so perfect. I know it refers to everything consumers spend their money on — not just food. But, of all the things I’ve learned over the last 16 months or so since I started this journey, trying to buy locally-made or locally-grown products as often as possible is the one that’s the easiest for me to incorporate into my daily life. I know it’s not always feasible to buy local goods…hey, I’m on a budget! But when it comes to food, I can’t stress enough how smart it is to really know where your food comes from, know your farmer personally, grow your own vegetables or support your local farmer’s market, and shop at smaller family stores instead of the big box stores whenever you can. Not only does this almost guarantee your food is safer, tastier and healthier, it also provides financial support to your own neighborhood. Now that’s inspiring.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my mom is a fantastic chef. I always enjoy her cooking and our discussions about food, cooking and health. My Easter dinner was SO good. While the omnivores in my family dined on grilled pork, I devoured marinated and grilled portobello mushrooms. The side dishes were all vegan –- oven-roasted vegetables, grilled asparagus and a wonderful chopped salad with toasted almonds and chai vinaigrette.

While in Asheville on Monday, we had a fabulous lunch at Rezaz Mediterranean Restaurant. (I should have taken a picture!) We started with an appetizer of polenta fries with their housemade tomato jam (a sort of chunky sweet catsup). Honestly, I could think of a hundred things to slather that tomato jam onto! It was that good. My meal was a fat little potato cake topped with a green olive tapenade. On one side of this was a fresh arugula salad. On the other side were four thin slices of grilled ahi tuna. Then the whole plate was lightly drizzled with an orange vinaigrette. After lunch, we shopped some more and came home with 3-4 new cookbooks each. That gets me inspired!

Speaking of inspiring…I consider my dad the king of all things house-related. He’s a builder, woodworker, tile layer, painter, wallpaper hanger, upholsterer, deck designer, plumber, and master of just about everything under the sun. Honestly, my dad can do anything! His latest project is a restaurant in downtown Waynesville, NC, where they live. The owner/executive chef bought an existing restaurant building but is basically gutting the whole place and starting fresh — using local products such as reclaimed barn siding, tin panels and other materials. My dad has been working on this project for months. We got to tour the construction site while there and meet the owner/executive chef. His name is Kaighn Raymond and he, too, is an inspiration.

The name of his restaurant is Frogs Leap Public House. It will be a farm-to-table restaurant meaning they will focus on locally-grown, sustainably-farmed organic foods, which will then be transformed into amazing regional dishes. He’s planning to have a seasonal menu that will feature the freshest produce from local farmer’s markets and farms. I got to talk with him as we toured the place and I absolutely cannot wait to eat there! It looks like the grand opening will be in June, but I’m not sure we’ll get back down there before fall.

If you want to know more about Frogs Leap Public House, check out their website at http://frogsleappublichouse.org or “Like” their Facebook page. I left the restaurant…inspired.

So inspired, in fact, that I already have several new recipes on the menu for next week. Recipes and photos to follow, so stay tuned!

Oh, and put your money where your heart is!


That’s what you get for asking.

29 Jan

As we sat down for dinner on Thursday night, I reminded everyone that I would be grocery shopping after Cub Scouts that night. That meant we needed to come up with ideas for dinner for the next week. I always shop from the week’s menu so I’m not wandering aimlessly through Kroger just grabbing random stuff. Without a plan for meals, how do you even know what to buy? Aside from that, not planning ahead means running to the store several more times during the week to pick up miscellaneous items for that night’s dinner.

So I asked for ideas and they all looked at me blankly. “Okay,” I said, “here’s the deal. Everyone gets to choose one complete dinner. Whatever you pick, I will make.” Well, then everyone had an idea! Jason immediately said “brats on the grill.” I said, “Fine.” (Followed by a look of surprise from him!). Next?

Someone said “panini.” I said, “how about a soup with that?” “Tortilla Soup, please.” Done. Next?

“Can we have taco pasta?” Done.

I said, “How about something with fish?” I think in unison they said “Fish Tacos.” They’re kind of time-consuming, but I agreed, since I haven’t made them in forever.

That left one day, and a bunch of blank faces staring at me. I said, “There’s one more day and the first person who comes up with an idea gets it.” Madison immediately said, “Can we have those vegan chicken nuggets from the store?!” And Logan shouted, “with that purple sauce you made one time?!” (the blackberry-mustard dipping sauce from Eating Well magazine.) I said, “what else do you want with those?” And before anyone else could respond, Madison said “mashed potatoes!” Done.

Well, that was easy enough. Only thing is, we’re eating a lot of taco-ish meals this week! I guess that’s what I get for asking, huh? 🙂

Here’s the breakdown:
Sunday – fish tacos, southwestern slaw, fresh pineapple
Monday – grilled brats (portobello mushroom for me), grilled marinated vegetables, applesauce
Tuesday – taco pasta, salad
Wednesday – vegan chicken nuggets with dipping sauce (June 24 post), mashed potatoes, corn
Thursday – tortilla soup (October 26 post), grilled panini

I guess I’ll worry about the weekend when it gets closer.

Regarding the brats, I had planned on buying the same old Johnsonville brats I usually buy in the summer, along with a pack of vegan brats for myself and Madison. When I got to Kroger and went to pick up the brats, I couldn’t bring myself to buy them. I stood there staring at that package…knowing it was 100% factory-farmed meat. I looked at every single package there. Nothing but factory-farmed meat. I contemplated the turkey brats…for about a second…then remembered all I had read about factory-farmed turkey. Disgusting. I put them back and walked over to the health food section again. I considered vegan brats for all of us, but I knew that wasn’t what Jason had in mind when he said he wanted brats. I kept looking. I finally came across a package of Organic Prairie’s Organic Pork Bratwurst. The front of the package says “Pork used is humanely raised on family farms without antibiotics.” I bought them ($6.99 for 4 brats…not too outrageous).

When I got home, I checked out their website. Organic Farms is a co-op of family farms whose owners believe in farming ethically and sustainably, providing their animals with as much pasture time as weather will allow. Here’s the description for the bratwurst I bought:

Ours start with pasture-raised, heirloom-breed hogs that frisk in the fresh air and sun, yielding the big-hearted flavor and gusto that brats are justly famous for.

If you get a chance, and are in the market for ethically/sustainably raised meats, check out their website at www.organicfarms.com. Be sure to read the sections on pasture-fed animals and some of the descriptions of their farmers. Though I’d much rather buy locally-raised meat, I have yet to find pork raised happily. This suits me just fine for the two or three times a year that I make brats on the grill.

I’ll give you a full report on the taste of the brats after dinner on Monday!

Good food and fun exercise… I’m making progress!

17 Jan

It’s been a whirlwind start to 2011 already. Not only have I been busy designing for clients, I’ve really gotten focused on exercise. I’m exercising for 30 minutes, 5-6 days a week and feeling really good!

I guess the big thing these days is to switch up your exercise routine often so your body doesn’t get “comfortable” with it. It’s called muscle confusion. So that’s what I’ve been doing. On our cable programming, under videos on demand, we have a section full of free exercise programs that you can watch whenever you want. So each day, I choose one and go with it — Jillian Michaels’ abs, Leslie Sansone’s 2 mile walk, Disco Abs with Cheryl Burke, Billy Blanks’ Cardioke, and more. They run about 30 minutes. Some days, I put on the kids’ Wii Dance Party and do a half hour of dances. I’m having a blast while working up a big sweat!

I’ve also been eating as clean and whole as possible — lots of veggies, fruit, nuts, and grains like quinoa and brown rice, and the occasional bit of fish or shrimp. For now, I’ve completely ditched the gluten, just to see what that does for me.

Apparently, something’s working. Since January 2, I’ve lost 7 pounds. Woo hoo! I also FINALLY have some energy! And on Friday when I was at Kroger, I checked my blood pressure on the machine in the pharmacy (I check it there every time I’m in the store). BP was 140/90! I’m hoping that wasn’t a lucky low reading; that maybe it’s coming down because of the exercise. Hoping.

Anyway, I don’t have any new recipes to share yet because I’ve been making easy, simple whole foods. I did make the Cauliflower Pesto Soup from Isa’s new book, Appetite for Reduction. Delish! Even the kids went back for seconds. I’ll be making that one a lot. It’s full of flavor despite having only about 4 or 5 ingredients. Plus, it’s quick and easy. I made it a little thicker than her recipe. Yummm…

Other than that, I’ve been making simple stir-fries, steamed veggies, big salads and stuff like that.

Here’s what this week’s dinner menu looks like:
Monday – shrimp & veggie kabobs on the grill + baked sweet potatoes
Tuesday – Popeye Spinach soup + cheesy quesadillas (for Jason & the kids)
Wednesday – GF penne pasta with sauteed mushrooms and onions + a big salad
Thursday – fajitas in corn tortillas (veg for me, locally-raised beef for the fam)
Friday – not sure yet – omelets? leftovers?

This past weekend, we spent a ton of time with our good friends, Kevin and Lisa. It was so much fun! We absolutely adore them — and we laugh a lot when we’re together, which is good for the blood pressure! Lisa is trying to eliminate gluten from her diet, too. She said she feels better when she doesn’t eat it, but it’s a hard diet. I told her I would make her some GF goodies. She asked for doughnuts! You know me…always up for a challenge! They’re on the top of my baking list as soon as I get my new oven (which will, hopefully, be at the end of the month).

Hope everyone’s New Year started out as good as mine. Are you still working on your resolutions?

School’s out. It’s camping time!

16 Jun

You may have noticed it's been a week since I blogged. That's because the last day of school for my kids was Friday, June 11, and we left that afternoon for an extra-long weekend of camping at Pokagon State Park in Indiana. What a fantastic five days! My parents drove up from North Carolina and my sister came down from Romeo, Michigan, and we camped, hiked, biked, canoed, built sand castles, and enjoyed tasty food.

I think I mentioned that my sister and I go all out when it comes to birthday cakes. Well, my family kind of does the same thing when it comes to camping food. We all love to cook, so we don't generally go the burger/hotdog route. We've done everything from ribs to shrimp to crab legs over the campfire. This weekend was not much different.
Because we ate so many delicious things, I'm going to focus on one day's worth of food and recipes each day for the next five days. 
We arrived Friday night right at dinner time, so I brought my vegan cheesy mac and we just popped it in the oven in the camper so we could concentrate on getting the campsites set up and unpacked while it cooked. My mom made a fabulous salad that had tender greens, avocado, sliced radishes, cucumbers and a tangy vinaigrette (recipe to come). We also had a big bowl of mixed fruit. 
After dinner, we spent the evening getting organized while the kids rode bikes. Then we sat around the fire catching up with my parents and enjoying the fresh air. Once the kids had crashed in their beds, we hauled out a few fireside snacks. I brought a new recipe for a vegan cheese spread made with raw cashews, basil and cracked peppercorns. It was similar to goat cheese and pretty good on crackers, but I want to work on that recipe a bit before posting it here.
The other spread I made was Wild Mushroom Pate. It was so yummy! We spread it on sliced French bread and a variety of crackers. My mom had hers with a glass of wine, the guys had beer (of course!) and I sipped on a Zevia.
After stuffing ourselves and scaring off a handful of raccoons, we decided to call it a night and headed to bed. (If you've ever been to Pokagon, you know the raccoons there have no fear of people and love that they live in a campground!) 
makes about 16 servings
1 cup pecans, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
12 ounces mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used 2 ounces morel, 2 ounces shiitake and 8 ounces cremini)
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt substitute
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Place toasted pecans and olive oil in food processor and puree to a thick paste. 
In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onions and minced garlic until translucent. Stir in mushrooms, garlic puree and thyme. Cook until mushrooms are tender and the liquid has evaporated. Stir in parsley and white wine. Allow to cool slightly. Spoon mushroom mixture into the food processor and process to desired texture. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate several overnight for best flavor. Enjoy!

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Five thumbs up!

18 May

I'm on a mission to find the ultimate veggie burger before summer grilling season is here in full swing. I like all kinds of veggie burgers, but I want one I can put on the grill and I want it to give me the same satisfaction as a big, juicy burger. The packaged veggie burgers in the grocery store are over-processed and loaded with sodium…and definitely unappealing in looks and texture!

Last night I made Pecan & Mushroom Burgers from Eating Well magazine. Though they were not grillable (I tried) and they do not mimic the taste of a beef burger, these were outstanding! Very moist, flavorful and really good for the blood pressure. Each burger has 241 mg of potassium and just 282 mg of sodium. 
We put them on kaiser rolls and piled them with all the traditional burger toppings. The kids raved about them. Seriously — how awesome is it when your 5 year old says, "Mom, I LOVE this cheeseburger…especially with the lettuce on it!" Makes me happy.
I served them with (vegan) buttered noodles and fresh strawberries and raspberries on the side. The meal got 5 thumbs up and I dined with smiling faces. 
By the way, the actual recipe calls for one egg, which makes them vegetarian but not vegan. I debated trying to make them with egg replacer, but decided that one egg in a recipe that makes 8 burgers was not worth making a big deal out of. Especially since I used an egg from the dozen we bought at the local farm where the chickens live happy lives.
No, these aren't the ultimate replacement for a beef burger on the grill. But they make for a delicious vegetarian meal. I'm sure this is one we'll make again. You can find the recipe here: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/pecan_mushroom_burgers.html
[post comments below]

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Fast Food My Way

19 Mar

Just a quick blog today as I am off to enjoy this gorgeous weather with my kids.

I'm very fortunate to work from my home, which allows me to make something healthy for lunch. Lunch has to be quick, though, because I only get 2+ hours in the afternoon to work without any kids here. Usually, lunch is leftovers or some kind of soup out of the freezer (leftovers from a previous dinner). Sometimes it's as simple as whole wheat pita and baby carrots dunked in hummus. Yesterday was one of those days where there was nothing "made" in the fridge. I stood there, staring into the vast whiteness, praying for something yummy to just jump out at me. No luck.
After a few minutes of quick brainstorming, I started pulling random things from the fridge — two big portobello mushrooms, a bag of fresh spinach, leftover cooked brown rice, and the leftover vegan Alfredo sauce from earlier in the week. In less than 10 minutes, I had a fabulous hot lunch ready to eat. I'm going to develop this idea a little more and put it together as a real recipe. 
Here's what I did: I turned the broiler on in the oven. I cleaned out the mushroom caps, spritzed them with olive oil, tossed on some grill seasoning, then popped them in the oven. I put the Alfredo sauce in the microwave. Then I took out a small skillet, heated some olive oil and sauteed a bit of fresh garlic. When it was just about done, I stirred in a big handful of the spinach leaves and shut off the stove. By then, the portobellos were done so I put them on a plate, scooped the spinach/garlic on top and drizzled the whole thing with Alfredo sauce and topped it with minced parsley. I took the picture (below). As soon as I took a bite, I realized I had forgotten the brown rice. I microwaved it for a minute and then threw it in, too. The taste was divine! It was meaty, cheesy, creamy and very flavorful. It had a "trendy restaurant" feel, and I was eating in less time than it takes to drive to McNasty and order some junk food. Watch for an upcoming blog with a real, tested recipe in it. It was so good!
Now…we're off to the park!

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“There will come a time when we will sit down to the banquet of our consequences.”

3 Mar

What a wonderful quote by Robert Louis Stevenson. It applies to so many things in this world that we need to work on. But the word "banquet" in the quote makes me think of food. I'm sure you remember being told, as a child, to not waste food because there are starving children in this world. Of course, no one expected you to mail the unwanted crust of your PB&J sandwich to some kid in Africa or something, BUT — there are ways we can make a difference in a starving child's life. Not wasting food is one of them. Check out some statistics on food waste:

Did you know that approximately one-third of the food in America ends up in a landfill every year?
Did you know that a staggering 96 billion pounds of food are estimated to be wasted?
Did you know that if just 5% of this food was reclaimed before making its way into a landfill it would be enough to feed 4 million people an entire day's worth of food?
Shocking, isn't it? As a family on a limited budget, I think we do our fair share of donating food to worthy causes. But more importantly, we don't waste food in our household. Accidentally poured too much juice? Put your cup in the fridge for later. Accidentally took more crackers than you can eat? Back in the box they go. Right now, our only real food waste is that we don't compost. And that's about to change.
For pretty much my entire life, my parents have composted. A bucket sat on the kitchen counter by the sink and scraps of food, egg shells and coffee grounds went in. When full, it went out to the garden to work its magic on our vegetables. But I hated looking at that compost bucket on the counter. Yuck. And it wouldn't last long in our house now because we can't even keep those annoying fruit flies off of our fresh produce all summer. So I gave up long ago on the idea of composting. Then I read this great magazine article. The author mentioned that she keeps her compost bucket in her freezer. She pulls it out when preparing meals and then puts it back in so it never sits on her counter, rotting, smelling, or attracting fruit flies. Brilliant! We have a side-by-side refrigerator and this weekend I'm hoping to find time to reorganize it so I can use the bottom slide-out bin for storing food scraps. When full, out it will go to the garden. I will not be adding my food scraps and coffee grounds to a landfill. I will be nourishing my vegetable garden instead!
Another major waste of good food? Leftovers from a meal. So many people just throw them away! We almost always have food left over after dinner. Generally, it gets boxed up for the next day's lunch. It never gets thrown out unless it's been in the fridge too long. (And now it will get composted!) But last night was the ultimate leftover challenge. I still had filling left from the weekend's stuffed mushrooms. I also had a bowl of the vegan alfredo sauce left. I started thinking about what I could do with these leftovers that weren't really something you could just heat up for lunch. I came up with this rich, delicious soup. It's warm and filling and flat-out divine…and I ate the leftovers for lunch today!

makes about 8 cups
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 of a large onion, chopped
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups leftover Roasted Vegetable Stuffed Mushroom filling
2 tablespoons red wine
3/4 cup leftover Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo sauce
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup water
salt substitute and black pepper
In a stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onions and mushrooms and cook until soft. Sprinkle with thyme and stir. Add the vegetable broth and leftover mushroom filling. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Stir in the red wine and whisk in the leftover Alfredo sauce until well blended. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water until dissolved. Gradually whisk the mixture into the soup. Season to taste with salt substitute and freshly-ground black pepper. Garnish with a dollop of vegan sour cream, if desired. Enjoy!

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