Friday, July 8, 2011

A Vegetarian 4th of July (It's Possible!)

As good, patriotic Americans, it is our duty on the 4th of July to drink beer, barbeque meat, and set off illegal explosives in the name of freedom. But as a vegetarian, I, much like many of you out there I’m sure, find the barbeque part of the equation to be a source of a little stress. I want to eat things cooked over open fire and too much lighter fluid too! Isn’t that my right? Well I’m here to say,: IT IS.

Once we decided that my backyard would be the center for the 4th of July festivities this year, I had two immediate thoughts:

1. I need to find a table so we can play beer pong. And,
2. I want this to be a barbeque that represents the hell out of vegetarians.

I decided that first order of business was to create the worlds best homemade veggie burger recipe. Now to me, I mean veggie burgers in the ‘attempts to tastes like meat’ sense, and not the ‘vegetable patty’ sense, although I think the latter has its place in my diet as well. If we’re barbequing, this thing needs to taste like meat. Frozen Boca patties, as much as I like them cooked on a stove stop, do not grill properly due to their frozeness, so I wanted to make patties from scratch in order to cook better. I knew my first place to turn, Gimme Lean: Ground Beef Style. It’s the meat in a tube you can make into other stuff; it’s awesome. After that I looked up real burger recipes, and took bits and pieces I liked from each to concoct, what turned out to be, The Ultimate Fake Burger*. After that I made sure to marinade lots of vegetables overnight for grilling the next day, have a lot of Southern Corn* on hand, and got my own separate charcoal grill so us veggies could cook in peace.

The highlight of my evening, aside from winning every game of beer pong I played, was the compliment I received from a vegetarian guest whom I had not met before. When the burgers where ready, I made sure to announce that any vegetarian present got first dibs, since there were only 8 to go around. A girl came up to me and said “Wow, a vegetarian getting priority at a barbeque. I’ve never had that before.”

Yeah, that’s what I was hoping for.


(Boston Fireworks, as seen from my roof. Pretty baller, right?)

*Recipes featured in this meeting

The Ultimate Fake Burger (Makes about 8 patties)

You will need:

2 tubes of Gimme Lean: Ground Beef Style
1 small Vidalia onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 egg
1 can of chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce (the brand I see most often in regular grocery stores is Embassa)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cut beef into cubes to make for easier mixing later. Put in a large bowl.

2. Mince onion as small as possible, add to bowl. Ditto for garlic. Then add egg.

3. Chop 3 large peppers and add to bowl, as well as most or all of the sauce in the can.

4. Mix with your hands. Your hands are going to get messy, believe me. I've been there.

See? Proof. It may be gross, but it was definitely fun, and the most efficient want to go about it, so suck it up. It all washes off in the end.

4. Mold mixture into patties, and get fabulous burgers that look like this:

5. Grill, away from the center, for about 5-7 minutes on each side. If they get a little crispy it's ok, it actually adds a good flavor.

And in no time you'll have happy vegetarians eating them, like this:

*Southern Corn

You will need:

12 ears of corn
1 stick of butter, softened
1 tablespoon hot sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Peel the corn, but DO NOT remove the husk. You can get rid of the white stringy stuff though.

2. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, and spread on corn.

3. Cover back up with the husk. You can even use a stray piece to tie around the middle, so the husk stays closed while cooking.

4. Grill for about 10-15 minutes, turning often.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

eating for one

So as you may have picked up from previous recent(ish) posts, there have been some changes in the group dynamic of the club, mostly geographic. And this sad little picture pretty much sums up what I have been re-learning in the past months: eating for one. There just aren't as many people around to cook for these days, and let's face it, without a partner in cooking crime it can feel less like a party and more like a chore to be in the kitchen pulling together a meal fit to feed a small village.
The way I cook changes when it's just me eating. I find that the 2 pitfalls of cooking for one are
a. I just don't put in as much effort
b. when I do, I have no sense of scale since I am used to there being many willing mouths to help consume. So I am left with a week of the same leftovers.

Therefore I have compiled my top tips for cooking--and eating-- alone.

1. you can build a meal around something that takes very little effort, but which with a bit of effort is way better for you. If you are making a sandwich, make yourself some sweet potato fries to go with them. Honestly, it's just a matter of turning on the oven and slicing up a spud, but feels way fancier when you have 2 things on your plate instead of one. Another such favorite combination is boxed mac and cheese paired with roasted brussels sprouts. I find that cooking where you just put something in the oven and can walk away to do other things is a nice trait in a meal when the social aspect of hanging around the kitchen isn't there.

2. if you're going the route of making an actual meal that will yield 7 days of leftovers, make sure it is something that, like Sean Connery, will just get better with age. I suggest soup. The flavors blend together nicely when it sits for a few days, it doesn't get dried out or rubbery or weird, you can freeze it, and it reheats well in any quantity. Also if you get sick of it by the end of the week you can usually find someone to foist a jar of soup off on. I save my empty peanutbutter jars for just this purpose so you don't even need to worry about getting your bowls or tupperware back. You just need to worry about making sure none of your friends have peanut allergies so you don't accidentally kill them with your deadly friendship soup.

3. On the etiquette of eating alone-- why yes, it is easy to put on a show and plunk down on the futon and eat with a bowl in your lap. But where this activity may be fun for a group feed, alone it can feel dangerously close to crazy cat lady territory, especially if you actually have cats, are wearing slippers, and are watching something on Masterpiece Theater. Given that all of these are apt to be true of myself, I have been trying to sit at a real table when I eat. I find it can be a good time to flip through a magazine, which also ensures that I don't inhale my food in 15 seconds. Because without conversation or anything to distract me from the act of eating, this is also quite likely to happen to me.

4. Baked potato, in any form, is your friend. I love me a baked potato. And if there is one thing that is convenient about cooking for one, it sure is economical. A bag of potatoes goes a long way. It took me a while to realize this after The Great Exodus of 2011, and I kept doing groceries like maybe some Vikings were going to drop by for an impromptu banquet and I should be prepared. Moral of the story: wasted money, wasted food, interesting science projects to discover in your fridge.

5. Cooking for 1 is a great time to try out a new recipe, because if it fails you don't have to admit it to anyone, and no one has to pretend to like your Cabbage, Noodle, And Banana Surprise casserole.

6. Don't forget that you lose nothing by inviting other people to come eat at your place. After getting out of the habit of cooking for many and having built-in eaters, I found that I was forgetting to beam my Bat Signal into the sky when I actually did cook. Maybe I even fell into the trap of thinking that the stomachs I was used to filling were the only ones out there. But food has always been the pathway to friendship; it's the fundamental creed that the Stoned Soup club was built on.

Maybe all this change has served to remind us to go back to our roots.
And our root vegetables.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy 4/20!

Happy holidays loyal readers! Hope your day is filled with much laughter, many friends, and tons of good things to eat. Can't figure out exactly what your munchies are calling out for? Here's a few easy ideas to feed the beast within:

-Toast with butter and cinnamon
-Nachos with Soy Chorizo
-Strawberries dipped in melted dark chocolate
-Ruffled potato chips with Helluva Good French Onion Dip
-Graham crackers with peanut butter
-Macaroni and cheese

Lastly, I would like to pay homage to what I consider to be the mother of all munchie food, the food which all other junk food tremble before, and that is:

In and Out Animal Style Fries. I cry a little inside every day that I no longer live in California and have access to this beacon of deliciousness. But if you ever in your life get a chance to eat this, The Stoned Soup Club HIGHLY recommends it.

Until next time...
SS Club

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Kitchens, New Lives

As the SS Club convened on New Years Eve to drink champagne on the streets on Northampton and watch the disappointing town glass ball RISE, we decide to make a club resolution: Blog posts every week! We're responsible adults, right? There are 2 of us, we should easily be able to assign ourselves the task of writing once every 2 weeks, right? Well, as you can see by the dates between this post and the last, we were shooting a bit too high. But don't you worry, we have excuses! One of them being the main topic of today's post: Moving.

As of mid January, 50% of The SS Club has picked up and moved East in search of better jobs and big city livin'. We refused to look at this as the club disbanding, but instead as us branching out and starting individual chapters; you are currently looking at the President of SS Club: Boston. Moving wasn't easy. Not being a stones throw away from my other SS President, and our band of loyal followers who would show up to an impromptu dinner at the drop of a hat, has been a hard adjustment. But another bump in the road I was not expecting was the concept of relocating to a brand new kitchen.

In my old house, my kitchen was MINE. No one else that lived there really cooked, so I pretty much ran the show. I bought and cooked the majority of the food, I controlled what items were found where, what times things happened, and operated under the overall assumption that the kitchen was my domain, and anyone else there was merely a visitor (other SS Presidents excluded). Then I arrived in Boston, and I had to learn how to, ::gasp::, share! I quickly noticed that I was living in a house where all the people cooked at least a little, and that this was now a shared space. Also, that this kitchen setup was established long before I arrived, and it was my job to find my place in it. Lastly, I was the only vegetarian, so if I wanted to keep my cookware animal free, I had to wash and put away everything immediately after eating, in a separate place that was established to be only mine.

Things weren't easy right away; it took a long while to feel comfortable. The new roommates didn't always eat what I made, so my normal habits of cooking for 4+ people had to be scaled down. My pride took a bit of a blow there too. (What's wrong with the dinner I'm making? Not good enough for ya?) They didn't always eat at the same time either, so dining with at least a few people on a regular basis changed as well; sometimes, it was just me. I didn't always know what was in the refrigerator, because I was not the only person putting food in or taking it out of there. It made me long for the days for a kitchen all to my very own.

It wasn't until the night that I made the lasagna that things all changed. It was my first serious dinner attempt in my new apartment, after living off frozen crap and Chipotle while I finished the daunting task of unpacking and generally getting used to life in a completely different location. I decided it was finally time to find my place in the kitchen that was partly mine, whether I was ready for it or not. I gathered my ingredients and made the 'Peace Offering Lasagna' and garlic bread.*

Lasagna is one of the easiest things I know how to make, and is often the most impressive. It was actually the first real dinner I ever cooked by myself, after I dragged an unopened cookbook off my bookshelf in college, went to my kitchen and said "I am going to do this". The good thing about lasagna is that once you get the basic idea of how to do it, you can put whatever the heck you want in it: for example some asparagus and summer squash in the warmer months, sweet potatoes and cauliflower in the colder ones (the recipe I include at the bottom is for a more Spring version).

The lasagna was a big hit and was enjoyed by all the new roommates, and even some visiting friends. I'd like to think that it was a big step in our relationship with each other, the experience leading us to a point where we realized that we were people who we in fact actually wanted to spend time with, and not just people who all happened to live in the same place. They've eaten a lot more of my food since, and we've spent a lot more time together. To that I ponder, maybe sharing is caring.


*Recipes featured in this meeting

Peace Offering Lasagna (Spring version) with Garlic Bread

You will need-

Box of lasagna noodles
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 large sweet onion
3 large carrots
1 green pepper
1 package Tofurkey Spicy Italian Sausage
Bunch of asparagus
1 Portobello mushroom cap
1/2 bag of fresh spinach
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 bag shredded mozzarella cheese

1 loaf of french bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon parsley

1. Set oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil, and cook 10 lasagna noodles (3 for each of the 3 layers, plus 1 extra in case one breaks) for 2 minutes less than stated on the package. I suggest chopping vegetables while the whole boiling/cooking process is happening, so the noodles aren't sitting around for too long. When they are finished drain all the hot water and fill the pot with cold, so the noodles stop cooking and keep from sticking together.

2. In a large frying pan (biggest you got) heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and add chopped garlic. Add chopped onions and carrots, cook for 3 minutes uncovered. Next add chopped green pepper, asparagus (about 6-10 shoots, depending on the size) and Tofurkey sausage (I suggest cutting each sausage lengthwise first, then into half moon shapes); cook 3 more minutes. Lastly add chopped mushroom and spinach, cooking for about 3 more minutes. Sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. It's ok if vegetables are still crunchy when they are done, as this is going in the oven.

3. In a 9x13 pan, cover the bottom in a thin layer of sauce to prevent sticking. Lay down 3 noodles side by side. In your frying pan, mix veggies and sauce together, leaving about 1/3 of the jar left for the top. Scoop half of veggie mixture and spread evenly over noodles. Cover in a layer of cheese. Lay down 3 more noodles and repeat. Lay down the last 3 noodles, cover with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, until edges are brown and cheese is fully melted.

4. For garlic bread, mix butter, garlic and parsley in a bowl. Cut 1 inch thick slices in the garlic bread, but stop before you cut through the bottom so that all pieces are connected. Spread butter mixture on each side of the slice. Wrap the loaf in tin foil, and heat in 350 oven for 10 minutes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friendsgiving is coming!

Hello Loyal Readers, Friendsgiving is almost here! We can't wait!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grow Your Own summer

Last summer I had an ill-advised plot in the local community garden. I never got there often enough and every time I returned for a guilt-induced weeding fest it looked like the set of a Tim Burton movie. Long story short, you could call it the opposite of a victory garden. It in fact inspired my new year's resolution to take more advantage of the farmer's markets around here and pick-your-own places because my energy is apparently much better spent in harvesting and cooking than in cultivating.
But with the return of spring weather a craziness comes over me, and this year I decided that a more manageable idea would be to grow the basics: just tomatoes and some herbs in pots on my porch. It was also part of my mission to festoon and enjoy the porch for all the precious months that New England weather allows.
I started off with 6 tomato plants (one yellow, the rest "beef" acquired as starts from the farmer's market) and saddly got going a little late in the season, maybe the first week in june?
I also got some rosemary, basil, lavender, and mint.
My next tragic error was getting pots that were a size too small, but because of this I ended up making a friend.
One night my across the street neighbor, the sweetest older gentleman you ever met, called across and told me it looked like my pots were too small. When I went across to chat he revealed that pretty much he is a tomato-growing guru. There were dozens of plants all around the perimeter of his house and yard, camouflaged behind sunflowers, all grown in buckets and containers. He told me that his wife, who had passed away, used to call him a "pot farmer" because of how he grew them in pots! Ha, as if you weren't a Stoned Soup Club hero already!
As the summer went on he continued to give me pointers (and tomatoes, and sunflowers) and promised me seeds from his patch next summer-- he dries and saves his own, of course.
I spent a lot of time on the porch, the herbs did pretty well and adorned many a summer drink, and I added some mini zinnias and snapdragons in the too-small containers. We got about a dozen small tomatoes from the plants (all except the yellow ones, which tanked) and a lot of know-how for next year.
Further pictures and adventures in green thumbs to come!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Surprising Appearance of Fall, or, "Where Have You Been All Summer?"

As I sit here at my computer with a glass of my favorite $5-a-bottle Pinot Noir, I feel a chill coming from my window. School is back in session, we've all busted out the sweaters for the nightly dip in temperatures, and I wonder to myself, "Where the hell did summer go?" And then I remember. It went to parties, sleeping late, weekend trips to New York, dancing, swimming, Cape Cod vacations, short shorts, and general heat-induced laziness. This is our first post since the start of summer, but who can blame us when there are so many other fun things to do? But now it's fall and we're back on track, dedicating ourselves to bringing you tasty recipes, crafty projects, and Stoned Secrets every week. Starting....NOW!

Personally, I love summer, and wish it would stick around forever. I mean seriously, what's not to love? But if there is one positive that I can find in cooler temperatures, it's that it makes me really want to cook again. When it's a bit chilly, I don't mind leaning over a hot frying pan, or increasing my house temperature 10 degrees by turning on the oven. So, I embraced the recent crisp breezes by whipping up my first real fall meal. The idea was inspired by one night in a local bar, where the dinner special happened to be Shepherds Pie. The guy next to me ordered it as we watched the first football game of the season, and after it was delivered to him, I could not take my eyes off it. Maybe it was the 3 Steel Rails I had before that, but I wanted to eat it, bad, and I cursed my vegetarian morals harder than ever for not allowing myself the satisfaction of ingesting the savory meaty goodness. But then I realized that this recipe would be a cinch to make veggie-friendly, and I vowed to appease my hunger the very next night.

If you already know how to make regular Shepherds Pie, then making Vegetarian Shepherds Pie* is quite simple. Take out the real meat, put in fake meat, and enjoy. But for all of those who have never tackled this entree, I'll list my full recipe at the bottom. My roommate and I ate the whole pan up REAL quick, even just between the two of us. It makes great leftovers, and keeps you full for quite some time.

As we sat in our living room, eating our piping hot meal in our nice and toasty house, I could not help but feel extremely satisfied. I got the meal that I wanted, the way that I wanted it, and was back in my apron once again. And then I realized, maybe fall aint so bad.


*Recipes featured in this meeting:

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

You will need-

4 large White, Red, or Yukon Gold potatoes (or any mixture therein)
1 large Sweet Potato
1/3 cup Soy milk (or regular, if not making vegan)
1/4 cup of margarine or butter
1 Tube of Gimme Lean Meat-Free Beef, or 1 package of Morning Star Vegetarian Burger Crumbles
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Several cloves of garlic (depending on how much you like garlic)
1 small onion
1 large carrot
1 can of peas, drained
1 can of corn, drained
2 Tablespoons of soy sauce (Did you know that 1 packet of soy sauce leftover from the last time you ordered Chinese take-out equals 1 tablespoon? Really freaking convenient!)
1 cup vegetable stock
Spices (I suggest rosemary, ground mustard, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper)
1/4 cup flour

1. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil. Peel potatoes (take as much or as little as you want off, sometimes skin is good!) and cut into small cubes. Cook for about 15 minutes. Drain, mash the potatoes, mix in milk and butter, and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2. Dice garlic, and cook in olive oil for about 2 minutes. Add diced onions, cook for 2 more minutes. Add carrots, cook for 2 more minutes. Add fake beef (if you're using Gimme Lean, my personal favorite, you are going to need to dice it up really well first. Once it starts coooking you can even crumble it further with your spatula) and cook for 5-7 minutes, until meat starts to brown. Add peas and corn, stir for 1 minute. Add vegetable stock and soy sauce, and let simmer for a few minutes on low. I like to add the liquids closer to the end, as it can make the beef a little mushy. As it simmers add spices to your preference; I used an equivalent of about a half a tablespoon of each. Lastly, sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir. This will thicken up your mixture and make it much more hearty.

3. In a 9x12 baking pan, spread vegetable mixture into a flat layer. Spread potatoes on top, and then sprinkle with cayenne pepper (mostly for looks). Cook pie for 30 minutes, allow to cool, slice, and enjoy!

In case you've been living under a rock and don't know what Shepherd's Pie looks like, here it is:

And cut up: