Sunday, August 8, 2010

Crock-Pot Mac & Cheese Florentine

This was originally a vegan recipe with no cheese (despite the title) but being that it's silly to have mac and cheese minus the cheese I have, of course, since altered the recipe to fit my style and tastes.  The guy has admitted, since I've perfected the recipe, that he likes this one almost better than the baked traditional version made with loads of cheese, milk and butter.  I find this to be much more tummy friendly and I can do the prep work, stick it in the crock-pot and only four hours later dinner is served.  The only problem is that this is not a recipe that can be used if when one wants to throw it together before their eight hour work day and have it ready when they get home.  It's more of a weekend meal or a week night where a quick stop home allows one to start it, run off to all the extra curricular activities and come home to a warm meal.  However one feels they can best work it, this is a really yummy meal that is really easy and is a great alternative for vegans as it's easy to subtract the cheese and can also be easily converted to a gluten-free dish as well.  I also love that it's a full meal, with a protein, starch and green vegetable, though a little salad goes really well on the side too.

So here is the recipe, though please see below for the usual tips and suggestions.  
So this photo was taken the time I used spinach.  Peas are yummier.....
 Crock-pot Mac, Cheese & Peas
Makes enough to serve two and have enough left over for lunch or dinner a couple days after.
Crock-pot Size: 4 quart or larger
Cooking Time: 3-4 hours
Low setting


8 ounces elbow macaroni (or smaller noodle rice pasta for a gluten free version)
10 ounces give or take of frozen or fresh, sweet peas
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 c. cashews (unsalted and raw preferred but whatever you've got or can find will work
1 3/4 c. soy milk (or water, rice or regular milk if you don't have soy milk)
1 1/2 c. slow cooked or one 15.5-ounce can of white beans (I usually use chickpeas)
1 T miso paste (optional)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder
 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1-2 c. Shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or whatever you've got)
 1-2 pieces of artisan or homemade bread cut into small cubes

1. cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water.  Cook al dente as it will cook further in the pot and you don't want it to turn to mush.  Drain and place in crock. 
2.  Cook peas by steaming (preferred method) or by boiling for 3 minutes once water is boiling.  Remove from heat, drain and add to pasta.  
3.  Heat 1 T oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened and set aside.
4.  Using a food processor, grind the cashews to a powder in a blender or food processor.  Add 1 cup of the liquid (milk/water) and blend until smooth.  Add the onions, beans, miso, remaining liquid (3/4 c.), lemon juice and spices.  (Only add salt if not using miso, you can always add salt but the miso is quite high in sodium as it is).  Blend until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Pour sauce over macaroni and peas and mix well.  Stir in 1-1.5 c. shredded cheese. 
5.  Cover crock and cook on low for 3-4 hours.
6.  Just before serving time, in a small bowl, pour 1 T melted butter (or oil) over bread cubes.  Sprinkle with garlic powder and mix well with wooden spoon.  Heat skillet over medium heat and add bread cubes, stirring until lightly toasted and smelling of garlic.  Remove from heat. 
7.  Put finished casserole in bowls and sprinkle with any remaining shredded cheese and croutons. 

Tips and suggestions: To make this dish vegan, leave out the cheese and stick to oil rather than butter.  When it comes to gluten free, leave out the crouton topping and be sure to find a good gluten free pasta substitute.  Tinkyada Brown Rice Fusilli Pasta is really great for this and won't get all mushy and sticky.  Tastes pretty darn good too! 
You can buy Tinkyada here
This recipe is really easy to do even if you don't have all the specific ingredients, you can adapt it to what you have in your kitchen and change it to your liking. 
Please let me know what you think!  


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Here's a terrific recipe for pickles.  It's really easy and makes a bunch at a time so have some canning jars ready.  If the jars and vinegar are pretty warm when you put the lids on they should seal up without having to go through the process of boiling the jars.  Though they may need to go in the fridge overnight to finish sealing.  I also use smaller jars so I get more of them and can use them as gifts when I need a quick host gift.  Though I still do a couple of larger jars to keep in the fridge and for those serious pickle fans who I know will go through them.  My last batch was 3/4 of the recipe and it made six - 8 ounce, two - 16 ounce and two - 24 ounce jars and a little bit left over.  I probably would have had more if I hadn't spilled so much of it on the counter when I was trying to fill the jars while talking on the phone.... oh and also, they should deffinately sit for at least 48 hours before eating as they need time to marinate.  The longer they sit in that deliciously garlicky juice the better they will taste.

So here it is. 

Delectable Dill Pickles
~A couple pounds of cucumbers or green beans
(would suggest steaming the beans for a just a minute or two before hand as they will soak up the flavors much better and faster than completely raw beans)

~1 large bunch of fresh dill
~1/2 cup garlic
(I usually do a clove or two, depending on jar size, per jar, cut into 4 or 6 pieces)

~4 cups white vinegar
~4 cups cider vinegar
~4 cups water
~1 cup salt (kosher or sea)
~1/2 cup sugar
~1/2 Tablespoon pickling spice

Cut cucumbers into spears (or ovals, or whatever shape you'd like your pickles to take).
Stuff them into the jars with dill and garlic, dividing evenly between jars.  Be sure not to fill the jars past the bottom of the lid rings.  

In a non-reacting pot, bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and let simmer 5 minutes.  Pour liquid into warmed jars.  Put lids on and refrigerate.  

Again, it's best to let them soak for at least 48 hours before popping that lid.  I know, it's hard, but it'll be worth the wait.  

Suggestions:  If you prefer an even less sweet pickle cut back on the amount of sugar.  I prefer a more garlicky pickle so I put more chunks in to each jar than others so feel free to adjust to you're liking.  After a couple of batches (maybe smaller ones, it's an easy recipe to half) you'll know just how you like and you'll have your very own special pickle recipe unique to your own taste.  Good luck!

Some Like It Hot

Some like it hot, ya know?  I do my best not to complain seeing how I'm one month shy of despising winter, how could someone hate winter and summer too?  People would start to assume that person were a Canadian with all that griping.  So I force myself to sit in the sun, dripping with crystal beads forming on my nose (because everyone knows, ladies don't sweat, they glisten).  Oh you've never heard?  Well then you are certainly unaware that neither do we do such a disgraceful thing as fart like an old man who ate too many beans for dinner last night.  On the contrary, we 'pass gas' and of course, you guessed it, it smells nothing less than a fresh bouquet of roses.  All right all right, so it's a hoax.  As a vegetarian (who eats lots of beans) and with a possible gluten and dairy intolerance, I know full well that a little lady like myself can let em rip and by golly you better roll down the window.  I'm still sticking to my glistening beads of crystal theory though.
      Holy awkward blog post batman!  How did all this talk about the happenings of my digestive system become the topic of conversation?!  Oh, right, the weather....

      So, yes, we've had two beautiful, cool and comfortable days now seeming to be sandwiched in between a bona fide heat wave of the Green Mountains (though it's more like the east in general).  I think, the last time I remember it being this hot was when we had a Slip and Slide on the lawn next to our house and I wasn't self conscious enough to wear shorts over my bathing suit bottoms or a top much too small.  I was probably eight or nine.  Being that it's been (according to my highly reliable memory...) a bit over 15 years since Vermont has seen this kind of summer, we obviously don't know how to handle such heat.  You'd think that (as I did when in Vietnam) after a week of low 90's and high humidity, one would become accustomed to the feeling of being sweaty (or glistening) and stop whining about it.  But no, everyday in Vermont is a day to complain.  Too cold, too snowy, not enough snow, too much rain, too dry, too humid, you get the gist.  So I've made a decision to enjoy whatever is thrown our way this summer.  95 with 120% humidity? Great!  I needed to loose a few pounds anyway.  Gale force winds and monsoon rain that flattens corn fields and leaves remains of trees littered in every yard, road and driveway in a ten mile radius?  Perfect!  No shortage on firewood this winter!

      I've made this decision because I know that it's impossible to keep from whining like a little girl about her tights on Easter Sunday when winter rolls around so whether my perfect temperature of 73.6 degrees or a sweltering 98 degrees, I will enjoy the warmth of my bones while it lasts, because I know all too well that the icy grips of winter will be holding us hostage soon enough.  Until then, I will relish in the lush green of my surroundings and the sweet smell of sunshine on my browned skin.
What is there to hate if we choose to love instead.
      Nothing says sunshine and warm weather like a delicious glass of sun tea and lemonade and a jar of fresh pickles....Ok, maybe those don't go so well, but they both are tasty and as I've just made my first batch from our very own, homegrown cucumbers, I'm excited to share my favorite pickle recipe with you.  Stay tuned for that recipe to hit the air waves...well you know...

mmm bickles

Weather Forecast photo courtesy of:

Slip and Slide photo courtesy of:

Pickle photo courtesy of yours truly. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bike Commute, Day 1: A Bust

        I've taken on a challenge to greenify my daily commute and cut down on my overall emissions.  To aid me in giving my car a break my hand-me-down bike has become my new best friend.  A few other reasons I've decided to take on this new mode of transportation includes a strange, expensive sounding noise coming from my car, that not driving it for a while could only aid in not worsening the problem.  My physical health is another large factor.  I'm out of shape.  I didn't make it up to the mountain to snowboard even once this winter and I'm no longer doing the stair stepper workout that had become routine at Harvest.  In addition to the trek back and forth to work, I've also been diligently practicing yoga.  Just ask my shoulders, ribs and back!  
        My new workout/commute started today and the ride there, aside from burning quads and wearing too many layers, went relatively smoothly.  I took the bike path like a friend had suggested and it took me about 35 minutes.  I'll try the road I usually drive tomorrow to compare time.  I felt great when I got to work!  I was energized and ready to get moving on my daily projects.  

You can join me in this week of eco-commuting by signing up at
           or find an organization hosting such an event in your state!

        I really looked forward to the ride home.  As I was getting ready to leave, I ditched the shoes I brought with  me and my top layer shirt with the hope that a loaf of bread would fit in my pint sized Camelback when I stopped at the store.  Otherwise I'd have to go home then ride back out with a larger pack.  I really need bread.  I've been craving fresh croutons on my salads for a week now.  It fit, by the way, barely.  So I locked up shop, threw my pack on, adjusted and fastened my helmet and was ready to be on my way.  I jump on, start to pedal out of the driveway and POP! Eff!  I'm still in front of the building!  Nate's out of town and I have no tools (actual tools or brain tools) to fix whatever just broke.  It's my back tire/tube.  Again.  Today was my first time riding since Nate replaced the tube on Friday.  After a brief unqualified inspection, I find a crack in the tire.  Blast.  That's not a simple tube replacement.  I'm really surprised Nate didn't notice the crack before.  Hmmm.  What to do seven plus miles from home with a flattened tire.  I'm certainly not carrying the bike, as mentioned earlier, my arms are just short of useless since this weeks intense yoga sessions. It'll have to tough it out and just roll with me.  OK.  I'll walk it the four (plus or minus) miles down into town and with my fresh pay, fix myself up with a fancy new hybrid tire.  Not what I had in mind when I tucked it into my wallet before leaving (3 minutes ago) but what else can I do?  Walk I suppose.
        I make my way down the road and about a quarter mile down, as I'm crossing a driveway, a jeep cuts right in front of me.  WTF?  He gets out, pops his trunk and insists on taking me to where I need to go.  Oh.  Really though?  Get in some strangers car when I wasn't even looking for a ride?  Again, hmmm.  Making a mental note of his license plate I accept.  Turns out he's neighbors with my bikes previous owners and he's got his own bike shoes in the front seat.  
        It was an uneventful, very much appreciated act of generosity and I hopefully would be home within an hour or so than if I had just ridden straight there.  I thanked him a third (maybe fourth) time as he pulled my bike out of his car and told him next time I saw him around, I owed him a jar of PB.  
        I walked into the shop and was instantly asked what could be done to help me.  Fifteen minutes and thirty bucks later I was pulling out into the street good as new.  Though thirty bucks more determined to make my new tire worth the trouble and every penny it's predecessor cost me.  This will not be a week long novelty project.  
        So I made my way home and got there half an hour later than planned and my patience tested.  That bread that barely fit into my bag?  It tasted mighty fine with some peanut butter and a green apple (and fluff...shhh).  A well deserved snack.  Let's hope tomorrow proves to be less eventful.  I do have to say that the experience of slowing down and actually living the ride is miles from riding sealed off from the world with the radio blaring.  Biking allows one to smell the blossoms of spring, the dirt and sweat on the skin of the horses I pass everyday.  To see the other bikers as they wave an initiation to me, welcoming me into their club of slow travelers who get to feel the roads we travel.  
        I may just be hooked.  Tune in tomorrow for day 2. 

Pic of my new tire and Stella wanting some of my pb and fluff sandwich.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Project Garage Sale

As spring is finally showing it's face to the northern world, the itch is back.  No it's nothing contagious, I mean the spring clean and purge itch.  It's just the two of us and we have enough stuff to fill a two bedroom house and a quarter of my mom's basement {which she would like me to take back home with me after a cleaning session there this weekend!!}.  Sure if we had our own place (by that I mean own) that wouldn't require us to move all of said shit from one place to the next until we "settle down" it wouldn't be such an agent of stress, but until that time, I feel the need to 'simplify'.  I'm also very tempted to sell all our belongs to pay for the wedding....might regret that in the end.  On second thought, maybe not.  With this growing disgust of our cluttered lives and the appeal of a little extra cash, I've decided to undertake the venture of going through ALL our belongings and sort it into two piles; keep and sell.  Whatever continues to hinder us with it's presence after several attempts in the sell category, will be donated.  This venture has lovingly been labeled Project Garage Sale.     

        The tasks will range from sorting through ALL our clothing, books, dishes, and we can't forget the dreaded 'storage closet' and the very garage itself.  Everything we didn't immediately need went into the garage or the 'storage closet'.  Once in a while we'll have to go dig through one of these spaces to find a lost object but for the most part, aside from the usual garage contents (lawn and gardening tools, sports equipment, camping gear), we don't need any of the crap that is currently getting eaten, lived in and shit on by the small rodents that the dog would love to get her teeth on.  So I keep telling myself, Simplify, Simplify, SIMPLIFY!!  And that's what I intend to do.  Wish me luck!

And Happy Cinco De Mayo!  I'm celebrating with a tasty cranberry margarita and some Kale and Potato Enchilada's!  Oh and of course, homemade tortillas and chips!  MMMM!

Ps.  Was going to post a pic of the closet or the garage but you people don't want to see that, especially this close to dinner time.  Really, it's pretty gross, and a little overwhelming.  

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Anything and Everything Au Gratin

I found the base for this recipe last summer when we were members of a local farm CSA.  We were getting a ton of cauliflower in all shapes and sizes and I was looking for something a little different from the traditional au gratin that I had known for potatoes.  Not only do I love the simplicity of this recipe but how it can so easily be tampered with to create numerous yummy variations.  Although I think it's best with cauliflower, it can be substituted for potatoes, celery root, kohlrabi or any combination of root vegetables.  Hope you like it!

1 large head of cauliflower  (or sub for any of the above veggies that would be about the same amount as a cauliflower head)

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 c. diced onions
3/4 c. shredded cheddar 
3/4 c. shredded swiss
1 c. sour cream
1/4 tsp. salt

1.  Section cauliflower and boil 10 minutes then drain. 
If using other root veggies, peel and thinly slice and skip the pre-cooking step.  It will take a little longer in the oven but it's worth the wait. 
2.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl then mix in the cauliflower. 
3.  Transfer to a greased casserole dish.

4.  Melt 2 Tbsp of butter and toss with approx 1/2 c. bread crumbs or tiny squares of bread.
5.  Sprinkle bread over casserole.

6.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.  Root veggies: start with 45 minutes and check with a fork adding an additional 10 minutes at a time.  Shouldn't take longer than 1 hour. 

serving suggestion:  Serve with a small spinach salad or some other green vegetable to give a little color to your plate.  Maybe even some lentils.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crockpot Week

So this week has, unintentionally become the week of the crock-pot in my house.  This past weekend we had the tastiest baked beans that have ever come out of my kitchen with veggie burgers on homemade honey oat buns and something else that I've forgotten at the moment...oh right, baked cajun potato wedges.  Last night we had Mushroom and Green Bean Stroganoff and tonight we're having Potpie with a biscuit crust (recipe can be found below).

Until about a year and a half ago, I think I maybe used the crock-pot twice.  I had been talking about my lack of crock-pot knowledge and how I would really like to use it more often but don't know how to go about using while still depriving it of fleshy stews.  So for my birthday last year a foodie friend of my gave me the book Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.  Since then I've been utilizing the lovely contraption at least once a month and like this week, sometimes much more.

I think the reason I don't use it more is because I'm, most of the time, a last minute cook.  I wait until 3 or 4 hours before dinner to think about what we're going to have, sometime having to run to the store before the meal is able to be made or on most occasions, the boy calls on his way home from work to ask if we need anything for the nights meal.  So this plan ahead, cook all day so I don't have to concept that I love, has been hard for me to grasp.  The most difficult being the dried beans.  I have really had to work to think far enough in advance to look through the cookbook and decide on a recipe in case I may need to spend the day before soaking beans, the night before cooking beans then the day of the meal, cooking the actual recipe.  I love the idea of spending a dollar or two on a bag of beans (or better yet, buying them in bulk from the co-op) but have the hardest time with "I want it now" syndrome.  I want three bean chili tonight not two days from now. 

So I suppose, spending some quality time with my crock pot is a lesson in patience and planning ahead.  Two virtues that I am glad for the practice to work on but also two virtues that the rest of the country really needs to look at a little closer as well.  Maybe Crock-pot week should be a national holiday, like earth day or grandparents day.  As far as my yearly calender goes, it's official January 11-16th is Crock-pot week and I will enjoy every evening that my crock-pot is cooking and I'm not, relaxing and taking a breather from the past two months of craziness and enjoying some quality time with the boy. 

Here's to Crock-pot week! (and if we're giving toasts, to local beer)!!