Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Turning vegetarian

E gave up all meat/most dairy products about 4 months ago now, to manage some digestive issues.  It's helped immensely, and he feels much better since then.  We had already been on a low-meat diet for environmental reasons for a long while, so day-to-day the change didn't affect much.  Cutting out meat, though, does require a bit more creativity in the kitchen to prevent us from eating a big bowl of random veggies every day, which is what most of my omnivorous friends assume I do anyway.

When we ate meat, I often felt like we fell into a cooking routine.  Each of our meals would just be meat + starch or grain + vegetable.  Usually, each component complimented the other nicely, and there was some thought behind that, but it was often pretty boring, required a whoooole ton of pots and pans and dishes to accomplish, and left us feeling sluggish and vaguely sick. Once in a while, we fall into a seafood-heavy rotation (fish/shellfish doesn't affect E the way meat does, and it is just so delicious)  and I feel this way all over again.  We also relied a lot more heavily on processed/pre-packaged/frozen foods, which was expensive and not healthy.  Now, we do just about all of our food shopping at the local green grocer, and just about everything that comes into our kitchen is whole, green (or some other nutrient-rich color), and infinitely satisfying to eat.  And a fiber rich diet does help keep the plumbing in working order.

So yes, I can't say enough good things about our new diet, especially about how we each feel to be putting so much good stuff in our bodies.  Our meals are simple, fresh, and fantastic, overall.  There have been a few bumps along the way.  Sometimes it's frustrating that I have to accommodate his dietary needs when other options are cheaper/easier (one evening where I blew up because I was making brown butter gnocchi and we were out of vegan butter and E said I had to use olive oil instead of real butter comes to mind), but I think we're both happy with the switch -- and I'm just glad E's feeling so much better!

And honestly, there aren't many recipes I have to miss -- so many things can be easily made vegetarian.  E can't do fake meat (and I'm not a big fan, either), so we usually just skip those alternatives.  Last night, for instance, I made a vegetarian minestrone because the weather has definitely taken a turn for the autumnal.  Instead of using beef broth or any meat to flavor the soup, vegetable stock and some carefully used spices does the job.  In under an hour we had a giant bowl of hot soup bubbling away on the stove, for under 10 bucks.  We froze about a meal and a half's worth right away, and I am enjoying a leftover bowl right now!  I highly recommend this recipe, which is the first I've made up on my own for minestrone!

Shae's Rough Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed (this can be reduced... we eat a lot of garlic and are desensitized)
  • 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (one of those big guys)
  • 1 can cannellini (white kidney beans)
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 3/4 of a bunch of fresh spinach, chopped (I am not sure how much spinach is in a bunch... probably close to a pound?  Feel free to eyeball this, but don't get too skittish -- spinach cooks down a LOT)
  • 2 pounds zucchini, diced
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (homemade or using bouillon, like I did)
  • a glug of wine, white or red (this is very scientific)
  • oregano, basil, black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 a pound of Ditalini

  1. Heat your oil in a large pot on the stove over medium heat.  Add the crushed garlic and the onion to the oil (Sidenote: to peel garlic easily, cut off the hard tip of the clove and crush it with the side of a knife. The skin will come off in one piece, and then you can prepare the garlic however you want).  Stir to coat, and let cook for about 2 minutes, and then add the carrots and the celery.  Let it cook until the onions are transparent and the garlic is fragrant.
  2. Add the contents of the can of crushed tomatoes.  Let it simmer for a few minutes while you cut up your zucchini and spinach.
  3. Add the vegetable stock to the pot.  Stir well. Once everything is incorporated, add the cut spinach and zucchini to the soup. Stir well, though the spinach won't wilt for a few minutes and might seem to refuse to mix in. It's okay.  Its time will come.
  4. In another pot, start boiling some water for your pasta.  Cook it until it is slightly underdone.
  5. Drain about 3/4 of the liquid out of the cans of beans.  Dump them into the soup pot.  When the pasta is ready, drain it and put it into the soup as well.
  6. At this point, I poured a glug of white wine in, which I think helped bring the flavors in the pot together.  I used some crappy wine we bought for cooking, and it worked great.  I think a red would be even more delicious, but I didn't have any on hand.  I also added a bit of dried oregano, a few leaves of fresh basil, and a healthy shake or two of black pepper to the pot at this point.
  7. Simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes, until the spinach and zucchini are cooked and it smells divine.  Serve with a shake of romano cheese and some crusty white bread. Makes at least 6 servings, depending on how hungry your crew is, and it's a satisfying, inexpensive, healthy meal.

Tessie doesn't even have to wear high heels, ever.

I am tired. The kind of tired that makes me really, really wish that there existed, somewhere, a pillow big enough for me to curl up on. And don't say, "What about your bed?" because that's clearly not the same. If I had a featherbed, I might say, "Oh, you're right, I have this featherbed," but I don't have a featherbed, so it's definitely not like a pillow. I also wish I had a tail so I could cover my nose with it when I sleep for optimum-comfiness, but that, also, is not really possible.

Anyway. Part of my exhaustion stems from my busy schedule, yes, but this weekend was also a doozy. One of my friends from my hometown is getting married in, oh, 11 days or so, and her bachelorette was this weekend. We went to dinner with her family and then went down to lovely New Haven, Connecticut, where we had a hotel room, and went out to a few bars to celebrate her last night out as a single gal impending marriage to a wonderful guy. Abbreviated siderant: I'm actually not a fan at all of the last-night-of-your-life nonsense surrounding America's pre-marriage rituals. That's not the point, guys.

Included in our girls' night out were plastic jewelry, little black dresses, and way too many uncomfortable heels.  We had a long night, and luckily the only one of the group who was really hard hit the next morning was the bride-to-be -- as it should be.  I, myself, felt great, and hopped in the car to drive to Rhode Island for an afternoon with friends.  So, it was a long weekend, but a great one, and in light of that fact I'll try not to complain too much about how gosh-darn tired I am.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I am back in school. Classes started about 2 weeks ago, bringing to a close a very, very hectic summer full of weddings (and their auxiliary events), babies, and the first job I've ever worked that I loved enough to not dick around while on the clock. Hence my general absence from the internets.

But now I'm back in class, with lots of weird little snippets of downtime and a million overlapping activities. And, of course, plenty of time in which I should be doing things I don't feel like doing (not that this is what's going on now. nuh uh, no way, no how). This is my last semester ever (!!!), and it is terrifying and exhilarating and did I mention TERRIFYING? There are basically no jobs out there. But I am trying to distract myself from that frightening reality by making my last semester count. There are the two classes I'm taking:
  1. Interpretation & Architecture: This doesn't sound that cool, but the big project for it is developing programming (interpretation) for this property about an hour upstate! Yay hands-on stuff!
  2. Social Science Approaches to Analyzing Biographical & Life History Information: Okay, that is the longest title ever, but it's a class in the oral history program here, and it seems really great based on the syllabus. Right now, I am taking a break from a reading about how people become Nazis, and generational identities, and biographical versus systemic historiography and IT'S NERDY BUT COOL, OKAY.
I'm also interning at 2 different museums and working at another, and I am writing my thesis, as well. If I ever get the topic finalized and my proposal approved, sigh. It definitely seems like a good set of classes/activities to round out my educational career -- representative of many of my interests and ideas. So yes, this semester looks to be very, very busy, but I'm hoping it will go by quickly and that one of the museums where I work will find me indispensable and decide to start paying me for my awesomeness.

Here's hoping.