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The True Meaning of Clean

True story: when my parents were newlyweds, my father used to put on a white glove to check for dust in their apartment. No wonder she only made him Swanson’s TV dinners. She was too busy cleaning! Fortunately, that dynamic has changed and now my father even does his own laundry. My mother and I share a similar approach to housework. We surface clean, which means that our drawers are stuffed, our closets are overflowing, and we would  prefer that you not use a magnifying glass on any of our surfaces – you won’t like what you see.

During the dating phase of our relationship, Ryan and I split our time between his apartment in the city and my one bedroom plus den condo in the suburbs. One night I fell asleep on the couch and woke up to find him scrubbing the inside of my refrigerator. I pretended to be asleep probably because I was too mortified to acknowledge it. According to my mother, this one act sealed our relationship. She could stop worrying. Someone was going to marry me.

I didn’t do a lot of cooking in that kitchen and when I did it usually ended in mayhem. I recall one time where I tried to make a cauliflower mash (South Beach Diet days) for dinner only to have half it land on my ceiling where it stayed for years. Thank god Ryan didn’t look up.

The other night I decided to remake the Cauliflower Mash without the mishaps.  I thought it would go well with my Seitan Shake & Bake (seitan mixed with a cup of whole wheat bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Shake and saute in olive oil; serve over Cauliflower Mash).

Cauliflower Mash (from Eating Well.com)

Ingredients

  • 8 cups bite-size cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
  • 1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk (see Tip)
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Place cauliflower florets and garlic in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, place florets and garlic in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/4 cup water, cover and microwave on High for 3 to 5 minutes.)

Place the cooked cauliflower and garlic in a food processor. Add buttermilk, 2 teaspoons oil, butter, salt and pepper; pulse several times, then process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garnish with chives, if desired. Serve hot.

Tips & Notes

  • Tip: No buttermilk? You can use buttermilk powder prepared according to package directions. Or make “sour milk”: mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup milk.

The Art of Eating In

 

Sometimes a challenge finds you just at the right time. I’m an avid reader of Huffington Post and recently came across an interesting article about one of its bloggers, Cathy Erway, who last year decided not to eat out in restaurants for two full years and embrace the value of home cooking instead. She started a popular blog about her adventures, Not Eating Out in New York and just wrote a book, “The Art of Eating In: How I Learned To Stop Spending and Love The Stove”, about her time in the kitchen. Now, the Huffington Post is inviting all of us to participate in the Art of Eating Challenge.

So what is the Art of Eating In Challenge?

What: A week-long experiment in cooking your own food. Huffington Post will provide commentary and how-to’s on everything from how to not waste food to great winter recipes. Participants will be invited to share their experiences with the HuffPost Community.

When:
 February 22-28th, 2010.

Who: Anyone from eco-warriors to average Joes, from to accomplished gourmands to first-time novices are invited to participate. i.e. – ALL OF US!

Why: This will save you money and get you eating healthier food and it is a fun consciousness-raising activity in better understanding where your food comes from. If you know what you are eating, that’s the first step in making good food decisions for you AND the planet.

Where: Everywhere! There are no restrictions — anyone and everyone can participate.

How:
Just sign up and take the pledge to tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter what you’re up to. The more people you get to Eat In with you, the more people you could cook with, have potlucks with, or invite over to dinner!

The Rules:

  • Use basic, whole food ingredients to prepare food, avoiding pre-packaged, pre-made food, like frozen dinners and ready-to-eat canned goods, but there are no strict rules.
  • Eat all the junk food you want — as long as you make it yourself.  

Get Started:

Click on this awesome slideshow explaining the most important and common food buzzwords and why they are important. In addition to exploring the environmental costs of eating out and where our food comes from, Cathy will be sharing everything from tasty winter dishes to kitchen must-haves.

I’m in and I’d love to share the challenge with all of you. If you are interested, post a comment here and send your ideas, experiences and recipes to Not My Mother’s Kitchen and our dedicated, faithful and small group of readers (again, thanks Mom!)

Cooking on a Budget

Budget. My least favorite word of all time. And here I am on a budget. With a husband who will keep me on the budget. This should be good news, but I’m like my mother in this respect. I like to spend freely. When I was little, she used to send me out to her trunk to collect all of her purchases after my father had fallen asleep. I grew up thinking this type of spending/hoarding behavior was normal. 

We all need to cut costs from time to time and the food budget is a good place to start. Our pantry is packed with enough food to last us for months, yet we are always buying more and more. While we don’t go out to dinner often, we enjoy our overpriced coffees, take-out lunches and weekend brunches. So my goal is to cook my way through our pantry and only buy what is absolutely necessary like fresh fruits and vegetables. Turns out I have a robust supply of dried beans, dried soups, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, peanut butter, jam, seitan, fish, vegan sausages, tempeh, spices, oils, and oatmeal so it is time to put them to good use.

I found a great website called Frugal Living Now (www.frugal-living-now.com) that helps you live better on less. I’m bypassing the email subscription requirement for the information and providing you with direct links to:

As it turns out, some of my favorite foods actually cost less than $1 per serving: rice, oatmeal, potatoes, eggs, popcorn, apples, watermelon, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, bananas, carrots, lentils, nuts, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapefruit and WATER!

As I start to my budget cuisine adventure, I made brown rice, red beans and vegan sausage this weekend and it turned out quite well. The meal lasted three days and cost less than $10. I bought the rice and beans in bulk at Whole Foods, which is a great way to cut grocery costs.

Red Beans & Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups dried small red or kidney beans, picked over and rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained
  • 6 1/2 cups water
  • 3 bay leaves                                                                                                                                                                                                         
  • 2-3 links Field Roast Mexican Chipolte sausage
  • 1 1/4 cups brown rice, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 tomato, cored and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro  

Directions

In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the beans, 4 cups of the water and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer until the beans are tender, 60 to 70 minutes. Drain and discard the bay leaves.

While the beans are cooking, combine the rice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the remaining 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Saute the sausage and onions until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the allspice, cayenne, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cooked beans, the vegetable stock, tomato, thyme and hot-pepper sauce. Cook until the vegetable mixture is heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. Divide the rice among warmed individual bowls. Top each serving with beans and sprinkle with the cilantro.

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