A sneaky vegetable – Spaghetti squah

This past week I snuck a vegetable in on my six year old daughter for dinner. I replaced her ordinary noodles in a pasta dish with spaghetti squash.

It looks uncannily like angel hair pasta, though it has a different texture. If you put sauce on the spaghetti squash before you serve it to a child they may not realize the difference, at least not by sight.

I did make one mistake. I used an Alfredo sauce that was milder than a tomato sauce. So about half way through her dinner my daughter realized what I had done. Had I used a stronger sauce she may not have noticed, or at least gotten further along before she noticed.

Of course when she realized it wasn’t “real pasta” she didn’t “like it” anymore (though she had already eaten half of it ;-)). But it leaves me hopeful for spaghetti squash in the future. Think I just need to use it in a different dish.

If you’re unfamiliar with what spaghetti squash is I’ll try to add a link or picture later. Blogging from my mobile today, which is somewhat limiting.

Vegetarian Fondue – Great meal and a lot of fun

First, I should apologize for my absence.  Over the last three weeks I’ve been teaching some certification courses in my diocese.  I had a great time doing it, but it has pretty much consumed my life.

So, I thought I come back with probably the most successful meal I think I’ve ever done when I had company over.  And, that was a fondue dinner I did with my folks and my wife a while back.  The food was great and we all had a blast sitting around the fondue pot and enjoying one another’s company.

That night I didn’t go vegetarian.  We had seafood fondue, but shortly after that I tried a vegetarian version with my wife that was very good too.  (Not to mention we once again had an enjoyable time ;-))

The meal requires that you have a fondue pot.  It is also helpful if you have an insert for the fondue pot for the cheese and chocolate, so that you don’t have to clean your fondue pot between each course (perhaps like this one – luckily we had an insert from another set of pots that fit right into our electric fondue pot).

The fondue meal I’m going to suggest does have a good bit of dairy in it.  So, I’ll leave you to decide on that as it’s been a matter of discussion on this blog.  Otherwise, I think you’ll enjoy it.

[One of our favorite restaurants is a fondue restaurant called the Melting Pot.  You can find a significant number of their recipes scattered over the internet or in this cookbook.  Each of the recipes below are from the restaurant.]

First course

For the first course, I’d recommend starting with a spinach and artichoke cheese fondue.  The recipe can be found here.  Rather than waste space reproducing that, I’ll just give a couple of pointers.

The recipe calls for cheddar, but the current one that they are doing at the Melting Pot uses a mix of Fontina and Butterkäse cheeses.  I think this mixture probably works better, as we’ve had it at the restaurant.  However, I’ve not been able to find Butterkäse locally, so we’ve stuck with the cheddar, which is still very good.

In addition, for the dipping the recipe suggests cubed bread and raw vegetables.  I’d suggest that tortilla chips work well too, perhaps even better.

You’ll want to use an insert to cook the cheese at this stage if you have one, so that for the next course you can simply remove the insert and cook your broth in the large pot.

Second Course

The second course I did was the entree, but if you wanted to throw in a salad you could easily turn this into a four course meal.

For the entree, the first thing that you will want to do is get a broth going in the fondue pot. You can just turn the heat up to high and add the broth ingredients.  Or you can get the broth going on a stove top and then add it to the pot.  Our personal favorite by far is the mojo broth.  It is very citrusy and has a bit of a kick.  But, if you are looking for something a bit more savory you can try the coq au vin.  The coq au vin is also great because whatever wine you don’t cook with you can then drink ;-).

While you are getting the broth going, you can bring everyone a selection of items that they will use their fondue forks to cook in the broth.  For a vegetarian meal, I’d suggest giving everyone a selection of portabello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and vegetable dumplings.  I used wonton wraps and stuffed them with shredded cabbage and carrots.  If you wanted to add a bit of meat you might want to add a bit of pork.

Once, the broth is going throw in some broccoli florets and small size potatoes (or larger ones cut up).  The longer you let these cook in the broth the better they will be.  (The broccoli is probably my favorite part of the meal because the tips of it soak up the broth so well).

While those vegetables are cooking everyone can begin sticking their main entree selections (i.e. mushrooms, artichokes and dumplings) with their fondue forks and cooking them in the broth.  They shouldn’t take too long to cook, but you may want to check the cook times and give everyone an idea of what to expect.

You will also want to make a dipping sauce ahead of time.  Since you are using vegetables, I would recommend a Green Goddess dipping sauce.  I used this recipe once, but I did it a second time substituting cream cheese for the sour cream.  It was much better the second go round.  You can let everyone dip out the sauce on to their own plates.

One good thing, since you are using vegetables, those who are dining can eat from the same plate that you served them with their selection of vegetables.  When using meat for the fondue you’d have to use separate plate.

Don’t forget to enjoy your conversation while everyone is cooking their vegetables.  And, maybe even share some of the wine you used for your coq au vin 😉

Third Course

The third course was the most simple.  I just threw some fondue chocolate into the insert (which my wonderful wife cleaned while I was getting the broth ready for the second course) that we place into the fondue pot.  I served out strawberries and bananas for everyone to dip in the chocolate.  Though this was the easiest, it is probably everyone’s favorite part of the meal.  Once you melt the chocolate you can cut off the heat and let everyone use their hands to dip the strawberries and bananas if you’re okay with that.  Otherwise, you may need to clean some of the fondue forks.

I’m sure I may have left out some details in such a long post.  Feel free to shoot out your questions or suggestions in the comments section below.

In my opinion, fondue isn’t all that hard to do.  You could even take the cheese or chocolate fondue recipes and add them to a course for any meal that you are cooking for friends, even if you do something else for the entree.  The upshot is a lot of fun and some really good food.  The down side is the clean up afterwards.  🙁  But, it’s worth it if you’ve got good friends and family coming over.

Falafel Fail

Last night I had my family over for dinner and I decided to do a vegetarian style Greek dinner.  The menu was falafel sandwich with hummus and salad.  I used this recipe for a greek yogurt dressing for the salad, which I thought was very good.  The hint of fresh mint was a very nice touch.  For the hummus I used my usual recipe which I think is fairly standard and is usually a hit.  But, when it came to the falafel sandwiches, they were …. well, just okay.  And okay is fine, but usually when I invite people, especially family, over for dinner I hope for better.

For one, I baked the falafel not wanting to deal with the mess of frying.  I suppose that may have been the bigger of my mistakes.  But, I used this recipe and just found it to be a bit lacking.  In addition, I pulled another recipe for the tahini sauce and it was simply too overpowering.  It was very thick unlike the tahini sauce I am accustomed to seeing in my local Greek restaurant.  I was almost wondering what would have happened had I inverted the quantities of tahini and lemon juice.

At any rate, everyone ate their meal with no complaints and said that everything was good.  But, I know it could have been better.   So, my questions for you … has anyone got a good falafel recipe?  I love falafel and definitely want to try again.  Also, do I have to fry it to get the real deal at home?  What about a good tahini sauce?

Milk without Money

Well perhaps not, but I thought that quote from Isaiah 55.1 was appropriate since that’s what it can seem like when trying to eat less meat and animal products.  It seems like there is dairy everywhere, flowing with milk and honey indeed!

Just after Tim’s most recent post about dairy and its relationship to being a repentant carnivore, I realized just how big of a deal dairy is. Over this past week I’ve been out and about a lot. I’ve been at family and church gatherings and also been caught having to eat at restaurants a number of times. When it comes to family and church gatherings I think these situations are probably most difficult for meat avoidance.  At one family gathering this past week, it was either eat meat or virtually nothing at all (my wife’s family had a crawfish boil, though I’m not sure about the ecology of eating crawfish).

In the case of eating out, I am realizing that vegetarian eating decisions are sometimes fairly easy to make while vegan ones often are not (There are no restaurants that I know of with vegan offerings anywhere within about a 45 minute drive from my home).  The reason for this is that many of the vegetarian dishes that I have seen, at least at the restaurants I have eaten at recently, contain cheese or some other dairy product as a primary ingredient.

One meal that I ate was at a microbrewery that is also a restaurant.  I mainly go there for the beer 😉 (and please no one tell me that beer is ecologicially bad, I’m not sure I could bear that this early on in trying to make a change), but my wife likes the food.  Oddly enough, there they had several vegetarian style offerings (Based on past experiences I would normally not expect a brewhouse to be so sensitive).  Yet in each case the vegetarian offerings had cheese as one of the primary ingredients.  So, I did the best I could.  I ordered the personal size vegetarian pizza.  I suppose I could have asked them to hold the cheese, but I’m not sure how appetizing that would have been.

In another case, my wife and I ate at our local Greek and Lebanese restaurant called Albasha.  I like Albasha’s fare because many of the dishes that I like are devoid of meat.  However, once again everything usually comes with some sort of yogurt sauce or dressing.  I ordered the falafel sandwich.  It had a bit of a creamy tahini sauce on it and it came with feta salad, but I did feel better about it than the vegetarian pizza.

I guess these experiences just reinforced that one’s decision about dairy can be a really important one and one that I have been thinking a great deal about…

Trying faux meat

Today was a bit of a hectic day.  I know Tim has elsewhere expressed his consternation toward “faux meat.”  😉 But, we are, in fact, working through this issue separately, though we are co-blogging our experiences.  So, I gave the stuff a try today.

For one thing, I was a bit intrigued.  For another thing, I thought it might be easy to try faux meat with my kids one day since it at least looks like food that they are accustomed to rather than reducing meat altogether.  As to that, we may see …

My faux meat experience was in the form of a Boca Chik’n Patty.  I suppose this is a bit of what the American diet is about.  We have been raised on fast and easy.  And, this certainly was on a bit of a hectic day.  Our oldest is in ballet camp and my wife is in midst of rearranging the house while I’m working (no summer off for me – my wife works as a school librarian).  On top of that I think the two year old is teething.

My impression was this – it wasn’t so bad, but certainly not the kind of thing you could live on.  Also, it is the kind of thing that is fine on a bun, but taken on its own I don’t imagine it would have been quite as palatable.  No wonder most of the faux meat offerings are burger shaped.  I realize that’s not quite a stellar review, but I realize not every meal is going to be ideal.

I’ll probably make use of the patties again if in a pinch, but I don’t think I could make a habit of it.  My next project is going to be trying to work my way through some recipes in The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen.  I actually bought the book a while back, but it lead to a fairly frustrating experience that I do not wish to detail.  But, I wanted to pick it up and give it another shot.  There are some really tasty looking pictures in there at least.  I’ll let you know if any of those work out.

Removing the Beam?

I suppose I should begin with an introduction.  My name is Jeremy. I normally blog here and, if you’re interested, you can learn a bit more about me here (though now that I’ve just looked I need to update some of that info ;-)).  After commenting on Tim’s post on being a repentant carnivore, he asked me if I’d be interested in co-blogging with him on this topic.  I thought this would be a worthwhile project so here I write.

I, like Tim, have become increasingly concerned about my own consumption of meat both from the standpoint of health and ecology, though I think Tim’s concern is primarily in terms of resources.  For me at least, it is not a matter of abstinence, as I don’t see any problems inherent in eating meat, but rather one of moderation.  If my meat consumption is at the expense of others, or if it is deteriorating my own health, then this failure to practice self-control is wrong, and I should amend my diet.

One issue that I will try to bring to the fore is one that Tim alluded to in his first post, namely that of trying to reduce meat consumption as well as the consumption of animal products with children in my home.  Not only children, but children who have been raised on an American diet.  They like pizza, macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and … well, that’s about it.  They will both eat fruit if that is all we have to offer, but balk at vegetables.

The matter that I have been thinking about the most from the outset is what approach I should take with my children.  My wife is fully on board with reducing meant consumption; however, attempts at getting our children to make changes to their diet often lead to a great deal of frustration.

My dilemma is whether my wife and I should attempt to model a more meat-less diet for a time first and then attempt to bring the children along; something analogous to removing the beam from our own eyes first before we can try to help them.  Or should we attempt to have the children participating from the start?  I suppose the first option may seem a bit cowardly, but the initial frustration that may result from option two oftentimes leads to failure that can seem like a serious setback.

For the time being, I have started by trying to reduce my own meat consumption.  Today was entirely devoid of animal products for me.  And, I suppose that’s a start.

Has anyone ever tried this or something analogous with their children?  What has worked for you?  I’d be glad to hear your thoughts, and I’m looking forward to dialoguing through this experience with you.