Palmetto Cheese and Stuff

I am back in the South. Christmas break went too fast and now I need to refocus and reorganize for the semester.  I picked up a third part time job as a work study assistant in the dance department at USC, plus my other jobs and babysitting…TMI; add that to my academics and dancing… get ready for a roller coaster semester again. I really look forward to the day when can have just one job and it pay the bills… but I am too spastic and like to have spread interests, so that will probably never happen. I hope that at least means I’ll never be boring.

Well, I am sitting in my living room waiting for baked potatoes to come out of the oven and trying to remember what I put into this pseudo-pimento cheese dip I made so I can write it down, and I keep getting side-tracked. (What was the name of the waltz in the Edward Scissor hands film score again?) Anyway, in my attempt to get back on track with my new year’s resolution (yes I know it’s only January 8 and I screwed it already. So what?!), I am cooking and planning “real food” to have in my kitchen this coming week so I don’t eat any sugar-laden crap. At the grocery store the other day I bought some very tasty and very expensive pimento cheese as a treat, since it is, after all, the only South Carolina food item I actually like. It’s pretty good stuff, and that’s because it laden with all sorts of secret fat stuffs. Mmm… so I set out to make my own tonight in the empty container labeled, appropriately, “Palmetto Cheese” (because Palmetto is the state tree and you would have a sticker of one on the back of your car if you lived here if you were one of the cool people). I love to attempt to create or recreate lighter versions of my favorite foods, or make them vegetarian, although the below is not vegan. As my sister will attest, my “creations” don’t always work out so well, but they’re always edible. There’s pretty much no way you could mess up something with this much cheese in it, so go ahead, give it a try, and feel free to amend my recipe as you wish. (If I had a camera I would upload pictures of each recipe I post, but alas, mine died in Spain last year and I haven’t been able to replace it, so Google images will have to do.)

 

My “Palmetto Cheese”

  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup full fat plain yogurt or sour cream
  • ¼ cup diced roasted red bell peppers or pimentos
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Splash of white vinegar
  • Some garlic powder
  • A little paprika to give it color
  • Salt to taste
  • Plenty of crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 boiled egg (special ingredient)

Peel the egg and set aside white (it will taste good later filled with a little of the dip). Mash egg yoke and all ingredients with a fork. Eat it with crackers or chips, as a topping on scrambled eggs, in grilled cheese sandwhich, or as the Southerners do, over grits (I haven’t tried this last one, so don’t take my word for it).


Easy-peasy Spinach Quiche

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk or leftover creamy soup
  • 1-2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • Little white cooking wine if you have some
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Optional: crushed pita chips or crackers
  • Garlic
  • Frozen spinach

Beat eggs with milk, mustard, cheese and pepper. Stir partially thawed spinach. Pour into greased glass pan, or if you want a crust, layer bottom of pan with chips/crackers and garlic powder and pour egg mixture over it. Sprinkle with a little more parmesan. Bake at 400 F until browned on top, about 15-20 minutes.

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Pink Tights Count Down Day 26

Well it’s Monday again. I was surprised to find I lost 2 lb after all the festivities of the weekend. It was so good to spend time with Rachel Monigan and her new husband Ethan – well, new to me. Once I ever settle down and buy a house, I would like to get some art work from the two of them to hang on my walls…and paintings from my own mother too, of course.

I love this time of year: cooler weather, the colors of the changing leaves, gatherings with friends, playing Scrabble inside with a hot cup of coffee and Bailey’s, flannel shirts and sweaters coming out of the closet, a glass of good brandy, orange pumpkins and squashes, golden apples baking with cinnamon… and the quickly approaching holiday season. I love any food with the color orange, and they’re good for you too- all that carotene and vitamin C. This snack/trail mix is my most recent attempt to pacify the health-nut with the candy-whore in me:

(Great for using those seeds from the jack-o-lantern and left-over Halloween candy)

Roasted Pepita Energy Mix

  • raw pumpkin seeds
  • teaspoon of olive oil
  • salt
  • mini M&M’s candies
  • dried, sweetened cranberries

Heat oil in a large stainless-steel skillet over medium heat. Toast the pumpkin seeds, turning to coat. Sprinkle with salt and continue to turn constantly until pepitas began to pop. remove from heat and let cool (or mix in chocolate now to melt). Transfer to a bowl and mix in M&M’s and cranberries if desired. Try to limit yourself to 1/4 cup serving if you’re working on weight control!

Student/Starving Artist Recipes, Round 3: Super Simple Summer Snacks

I’m taking advantage of staying at my parents’ house this summer and them paying for all the fresh produce that I like to eat! All but the last one are vegan friendly.

PBB spread, July 2010

  • 2 bananas, very ripe
  • ¼ cup peanut butter (I like the chunky natural kind)
  • Lemon juice
  • Molasses (optional)

Quash the bananas with a fork until they’re as soft as you can make them and stir in a few drops of lemon juice so they don’t brown. Stir in the pb. You can add molasses for lots of iron and a little more bitter-sweetness. Refrigerate and use to spread on toast, bagels, celery…

Garlicky Hummus, Ancient recipe read off the back of a tin can

  • 2 cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Paprika
  • Garlic cloves, 2 or 3 minced
  • Salt (sea salt is best)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor, retaining a little of the bean juice. Blend and slowly add evoo and lemon juice until it’s the right consistency. Add spices and salt to taste. Makes a lot, so divide it into two Tupperware and refrigerate. Great with carrots, veggie sandwich, or pita bread

Alternatives: try adding kalmata olives, roasted red bell peppers, or Chile pepper to the hummus.

Frozen fruit ‘pops’

  • Kiwis
  • bananas
  • Bing cherries
  • Apricots, peaches, nectarines
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes

Take any of the above ripe fruit, and do exactly what the title suggests: slice them up and freeze them. Lay out slices on a baking tray to freeze before removing them to a ziplock bag for when you come in from the heat and want something sweet!

Fried Mushrooms, Credited to my friend Rachel who first made mushrooms in a way that I could eat them back in spring 2009. After that, I have been converted!

  • Cremlini mushrooms
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Rinse and dry mushrooms, halve them. Heat evoo in pan over medium-high heat and sauté until soft. Add salt to taste and eat for to breakfast, lunch or dinner! They’re a great accompaniment to wild rice or hash browns and eggs.

Spinach Poached Eggs with Chips, created July 5, 2010 when I was leaving my flat and had to use up the rest of the food in my fridge and freezer:

  • Yellow onion, chopped
  • Frozen spinach
  • Frozen chips (potato wedges)
  • Eggs (however many you have left to get rid of, or however many you can eat)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

In a large frying pan, sauté the onion over medium-high heat until golden. Add spinach and cook until it’s not frozen anymore and begins to simmer and bubble. Meanwhile, turn the oven to broil and bake the chips on a baking sheet (or not, if you don’t have one left like me). Make little wells in the spinach with a slotted spoon and crack an egg into each one. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid until eggs are fully poached. Layer chips on a plate and transfer spinach and an egg on top with the slotted spoon. MMM!

Vegan and Christian?

Yes, I am a vegetarian, and I soon want to be vegan. This may come as a shock to many of my Christian friends, especially you Americans who cannot live without meat, but it was actually easy for me to give up meat at the beginning of this year, because I don’t like to eat it anyway. My family knows this about me. I always tell them I don’t cook meat for myself; that I only previously ate it when I came home and they cooked it. Even then, I knew it was ethically treated because it was home-raised. I don’t claim to be as animal rights activist, an environmentalist, or anything of the sort, but I don’t think it was God’s initial plan for us to eat meat, or anything that was once breathing. I haven’t completely given up eating dairy and eggs yet, but I am on my way there, because I think it will be healthier. I am not quite sure where I stand on that yet.

I grew up in an agricultural area, and my family raised most of our own meat and bought fresh milk off friends’ dairy cows and ate eggs from our own chickens. I raised dairy heifers 4 months out of each year. I have seen animals grow up, I have played with them, and I have witnessed and helped butcher them. I know where my meat comes from. But I never liked it. I never liked plucking or gutting a chicken. I love seafood, but I can’t eat shrimp that have heads on them or anything that still has eyes staring up at me.

Farm-style butchering is just as wretched as factory farming slaughter houses for the animals, although we know they had a good life up to that point. Need I mention the chemicals and preservatives and who-knows-what the meat packing industry puts in your meat on the grocery store shelves… I used to cry when mom would take the rabbits to be butchered. To kill them they knock their neck with a mallet. I’ve watched as a knife is jammed up a chicken’s throat to scramble its brain. It may be the fastest way to kill them apart from cutting their head off, but it still makes me retch. Maybe I’m just not the farm and ranch kind of girl my parents thought they raised me to be. My brother and sister have raised market lambs, pigs, goats, and steers. I used to raise market rabbits in 4-H when I was young; however, I loved the rabbits for the white furry creatures they were, not for how good their white meat tasted.

I didn’t know I had a decision to not eat meat until after I had moved out when I was 17. While I still lived at home during high school, I rebelled against my family’s eating meat in my own way, by trying to control what I ate, mostly avoiding high-fat foods, which included a lot of meat. But I was not concerned with meat then, so much as maintaining a thin physique for ballet. I will not blame my obsession with food on my family’s carnivorousness. In fact, my mom provided us three kids with very healthful eating regime from the time we were young, filled with home-made bread and canned goods, lots of produce, and few processed foods. My mom taught me to cook. She also taught me to love vegetables and fruits, whole-grains, organic gardening, health food stores, red wine, organic beauty products and tooth paste. I cannot blame my eating disorder on my family, or meat, nor will I; I admit that was mostly a product of my determination for my ballet career. This post however, is not the place to discuss it, and I can assure you that through prayer and professional help I am free from it.

In that light, many would worry that my extremism, wanting to be restrictive in what I can eat as a vegetarian, is a dangerous line to tread for someone with a past eating disorder. Although I do want to lose weight now, after gaining weight from so long a leave from the dance world, it could only aid my health now, even my doctor said. Not only do I feel better on a vegan diet, but I don’t have to worry about watching my cholesterol as my Dad does, and worry about heart disease that is so prevalent in my family. I would like to focus on cutting down or out sugar, which is my weakness, to lower my risk of getting diabetes, which also runs in my family and I have been warned to watch out for. Dairy doesn’t always do good for my digestive system, apart from yogurt, which I love, but the soy kind tastes just as good. There have been studies lately that link milk consumption to cancer as well, and vegetarians are advised not to drink milk because it inhibits your body’s iron absorption. Mind you, this is coming from the same little girl who won best dairy heifer showmanship at the County Fair back in the day. I like milk. But fortunately for me, I like the taste of soy milk even more. I used to drink mom’s soy milk that she bought because she was lactose-intolerant. If you think about it, it doesn’t make sense for us humans to be drinking milk that was created for calves. How many of us still drink our mother’s milk? I won’t even go into the horrors of the way dairy cows are treated and forced to lactate 4 times the amount of milk they would normally produce in a year just so we can have it by the gallon in the grocery store aisle. (Yes, there are dangers to eating too much soy products as well, and I plan to look into that.)With each sentence I jot down, I am becoming increasingly more convinced I am ready to go vegan. I haven’t even started laying out my biblical grounds for doing so yet.

God created us to be vegetarians in his perfect world, before the fall. In Genesis 1:29-30 God gives Adam and Eve ‘every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.’ He also intended the animals to be herbivores, in verse 30, ‘to every beast of the field and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ Romans 14:17-21 talks about the kingdom of God not being a kingdom of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy. Paul tells the Romans to avoid dissension in their arguments over what foods to eat:

‘Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.’

There are Daniel and his friends, who asked the Babylonians only to give them vegetables and fruit and water (also known as the Daniel fast) and after ten days they were found to be healthier and better in appearance than the Babylonians who ate rich food.

I don’t think it is wrong for Christians to eat meat. I think that since it bothers me I should look into it myself and not try to impose my convictions on others.

I suppose I am writing this to lay out my reasons for myself, but also so that you my friends will know why I decided to do this. I am prepared for everyone to think I am crazy, even my own family, but after all, it is just food. With my student and young working person budget, this may prove difficult and inconvenient at times, but I am prepared to give it a go. I’ll keep you updated with tried-and-true veggie recipes! Don’t worry; my blog will never be taken over by an environmental foodie, but I think we were given a charge to take care of God’s earth and his creatures placed under our care from the beginning, and that has not changed.

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Another wordpress blog article on being Vegan Christians: http://joyfulvegan.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/christian-vegan-%E2%80%93-not-an-oxymoron/

Another blog article about a recent book about the horrors of factory farming: http://laboriousliving.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/eating-animals/

Michael Pollan’s books give adequately researched evidence for vegetarianism and simple rules for avoiding processed foods that have made our country fat and given over to “Western diseases”. I have read In Defense of Food and would like to read Food Rules. I have heard high recommendations for the Omnivore’s Dilemma.

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Cheers and God bless you all!

Ode to Cheese

Because the cheeses available in England (and I’m certain the all of Europe) are to die for, and they’re cheap! Even considering the exchange rate, one round (200g) of brie or Camembert from the local grocer costs about £1. That’s $1.60 for the quality and amount of cheese that would in America cost me $5 to $8 for an equivalent amount (1/2 lb). American cheeses like cheddar are cheap to produce, and our dairy costs have actually gone down in the last 2 years, but the high quality molded cheeses are imported and usually only available in health food or specialty grocery stores in the US.

I am enjoying grocery shopping and cooking for myself in England, can you tell?! It’s probably because I’m still in vacation mode and have plenty of time to cook. I made a couple batches of cookies for my flat mates already and they were a big hit. I think that any type of cookies will score high compared to plain ol’ “biscuits”. The boys are thrilled that I like to bake and share. They are all pretty good cooks too, actually. I was surprised to see all my male flat mates cook – and I mean really cook, like getting out potatoes and olive oil and pesto and tomatoes and mushrooms and cheese and some sort of pork patté stuff, and onions and garlic and basil and oregano and creating something out of it. And they do this for most all meals! I was impressed. Also popular among my flat mates is making coffee in a cafetiérre (french press) each morning. I’m sticking to my tea, and yes, I drank tea before I came to England.

This is becoming the break I needed to get my eating habits back on track, plus the walk to the grocery store is a bonus for not having a gym. I already found ways to make some vegetarian dishes in our little kitchen like stuffed courgettes (zucchini), spinach quiche, sweet potato and split pea soup. Jack made some sort of mushroom pancakes or fritters… anyway, they were good. I ate one without thinking about it being mushrooms. I still need to make aubergine lasagna (eggplant). I’m learning some fun new names the British use for vegetables! The main food groups in my diet are quickly transforming into these: Nutella, fine cheeses, fruits and vegetables, olive oil and legumes, tea and coffee.

Cheers mates!