Aloo Gobhi

I am a big fan of British chef Jamie Oliver, who carved out a niche for himself as the man calling for a “Food Revolution” in the UK and US.  Jamie’s goal is to change the way we think about what we eat, as we continue to rely more and more on processed foods or takeout meals.  He is especially concerned with how many children today are growing up far less healthy than their parents, with higher obesity rates and early onset diabetes than ever before.  His efforts have included shining a light on some of the unplesant truths of school lunch programs across the UK and the US (can you believe the US government classifies french fries as a vegetable?), but he has also shown that packed lunches from home can be just as bad (if not worse) nutritionally. 

In the first season of his show “Food Revolution” set in Huntington, WV, he walked around an elementary school cafeteria so the kids could show him their home packed lunches.  Only one girl in the room had apples…and she was ignoring them to eat a neon-colored gelatin snack!  In another episode a class of six-year olds couldn’t correctly identify common fruits and vegetables.  That is just not right!

Learning about nutrition and getting comfortable with cooking tasty, healthy, affordable meals using fresh produce, meats, grains, and spices is the first step for all children, adults, and families in leading a much healthier lifestyle.  With dessert and cheese in moderation, of course.

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“Hot Doggities” Veggie Dog Bites

I love food ads in mom magazines from the 60s and 70s.  How could I not when it means I encounter things like these Kellog’s/Reynolds “Hot Doggities”?

I eat a lot of veggie dogs.  On the grill or sautéed in a skillet, I eat them in buns and add them to omlettes and batches of veggie chili.  Hot dogs aren’t gross if you know they contain zero mysterious “meats”. 

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French Onion Soup

Three French Hens French Onion Soup

What could be cozier while watching a holiday movie, playing Scrabble by the fire, or after coming in from sledding than a steaming crock of soup?

Besides a pair of fleecy sweatpants, not much else.

I should tell you that I love onions.  I love them a LOT.  They make a world a tastier, more fragrant place.

Unfortunately, the delicious soup dedicated to my favorite vegetable is often made with beef stock, meaning I can look and smell, but not taste.  The solution was clearly just to make my own.  And keep it healthier by omitting the traditional enormous baguette crouton smothered in melted gruyère (delicious as it is).

When I realized how easy it was to make this soup, I kicked myself for not trying it earlier.

First, place a mess of thinly-sliced onions in a stockpot, along with 2 tbsp. of oil.  Make sure to get your reflection in the teapot.

Move the teapot and sautee, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until soft and translucent, but not browned.  Add sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper and keep sauteeing.

After another 20 – 30 minutes the onions are a lovely golden brown in color and taste very sweet.  At this point you can continue to sautee them to deepen the flavor, or add the broth.  Just don’t let the onions burn!

Add 2 quarts of vegetable broth, and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and simmer for another 15 minutes.

I added a pinch of grated swiss to my bowl in homage to the gruyère. 

All of my dishes this month will have their photo taken with something that comes out only at Christmas.

Today’s featured Christmas item is an ornament – a wooden heart with a hand-painted poinsettia.  It was given to me in 1996 by my oldest and dearest friend Lauren and her family to commemorate an annual summer weekend in Ogunquit, Maine.  I spent the majority of my most awkward years with Lauren and her parents, but I never felt awkward with them.  They made me a member of their family, always supported and encouraged me to go for whatever my heart was calling for.  I don’t get to visit with them nearly as much as I want to …but there are many ornaments from them on my tree to help remind me of how awesome they are, and there always will be. 

And finally, in honor of Ogunquit and the great state of Maine in general, here is your Cup of Cheer.

Image from Kportimages via Flickr.  Click on the image to see more great Kennebunkport, Maine holiday images!

I have never seen a Christmas tree of lobster traps in real life, but it’s on my list.

Hope you have a fun and festive weekend!

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Veggie Burgers

 

The veggie burger has come a long way, baby.  No doubt its debut must have raised a few eyebrows and wrinkled a few noses when early versions of it appeared as part of the “natural food” movement that began in the late 1960s, but the VB is now a grocery store and BBQ staple popular with vegetarians…and many others looking for a tasty, healthy, and humane burger option.

The term veggie burger was first coined in 1982 with the introduction of the “VegeBurger” by Greg Sams, longtime London natural food advocate and restaurant owner.  Beating out names such as greenburger, earthburger, sesame burger, and plantburger (yum…) the VegeBurger went on to become one of the bestselling health food products ever, quickly reaching sales of 250,000 burgers per week.  Its popularity helped prove that there was an eager market for vegetarian food products, and added the prefix “veggie” to describe all things vegetarian.

Since then the veggie burger market has grown steadily.  You can now choose from several well-known national brands such as Gardenburger, Morningstar Farms, and Boca…as well as countless other smaller labels.  Variety of products has also expanded greatly.  Burgers come in more than one flavor (my favorites are portabella mushroom and spicy black bean), and vegetarian chicken patties, chicken nuggets, deli slices, hamburger-style crumbles, and even ribs are all widely available in both refrigerated and frozen form.  You can get a veggie burger at Burger King (I have had exactly one of these in my life and it was fast food veggie heaven).

As a nearly 10 year vegetarian, veggie burgers in their many forms and flavors are an absolute staple in my diet, and after years of buying them I have recently begun experimenting with making them myself at home. It’s so satisfying to start with a pile of ingredients and end up with an actual burger….and 10 of them for the price of a normal box of 4 is even more rewarding!

My absolute favorite variety is spicy black bean, so that’s what I tackled first. Getting the texture right so they don’t fall apart is a challenge, but they are certainly a flavor success and I know I will be making these for…probably the rest of my life.

This isn’t the place for a soap box, but I sure do love looking a cow (or a pig or chicken) in the eye and saying “Hello friend. I respect your spirit and I will not eat you. Even though you are pooping on the ground right now…and then stepping in it.”

PS… Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian. Enough already.