No time to be a vegetarian?

Dinner Salad with Pumpkin Seeds

Dinner Salad with Pumpkin Seeds

Spare time is one of those things we never seem to have in abundance. We always have somewhere to go, people to meet, planes to catch. The pile of work never seems to get smaller and the phone never seems to stop ringing. Maybe that’s why we have grown to love our fast food restaurants. Drive up, speak into a microphone on a pole, pay a few dollars and then have your “meal” handed to you as you keep on driving.

“I know,” you say, “fruits and vegetables are more nutritious. The school nurses have been telling me that since I started school as a little tyke.”

“But I just don’t have the time to prepare all of that healthy stuff.”  That’s what many of us say, at least.

I used to say the same thing. However, today we spent about 30 minutes in the grocery store, shopping for mangoes, bananas, apples, and all of their friends in the produce section. Then I spent another 30 minutes or so washing, chopping and bagging the vegetables. The result? My wife and I had two very nice dinner salads, and I still have six more bags of romaine lettuce, a package of fresh spinach,individual bags of red onion and broccoli, plus a super-sized bag of my vegetable medley. This is a mix of carrots, yellow squash, green zucchini, celery and yellow and green bell peppers.

Now, to make a salad I just grab a bag of romaine, a handful or two of medley, and a little bit from each individual bag. Add a few cherry tomatoes from the fridge and a quarter cup of seeds from the pantry and I am all set for a huge (a delicious) salad. Dressing? A little balsamic vinaigrette works wonders. Crack some pepper on top and I am set.

I spend about 5 minutes in the morning putting my lunch salad together before I get in the car for the drive to work. Think you don’t have 5 minutes to spare in the morning? Time yourself next time you go through the drive through at your local burger joint.

Think of it this way: with one hour of work on a Sunday, and 5 minutes a day, you can have a great salad every day for the next week!

And for those who are worried about protein – many vegetables have protein in abundance. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds has 9 grams of protein! Who needs a chicken breast when you can have the flavor and crunch of pumpkin seeds on top of your healthy salad?

And for another layer of flavor and texture, add some cooked quinoa or brown rice seasoned with Bragg’s Amino Sauce!

Try this meal planning technique and see how you like it!

It’s working for me – it can work for you, too.

 

 

 

Artichoke Lentil Loaf

Artichoke Lentil Loaf

Artichoke Lentil Loaf

22 days into the vegan diet and the good food just keeps on coming. Who knew? Aside from the health benefits (which I started noticing a few days into it) it is just plain fun to cook some of this stuff. I am planning two big entrees a week and tonight was my foray into the world of artichokes and lentils.

Courtesy of Chef Christine Waltermyer, who graciously gave her recipe for Artichoke Lentil Loaf to the book, Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, we now have a savory meat(less) loaf for dinner. The aroma of the sautéed onions, garlic, and celery, mixed in with the seasonings has kept the kitchen a happy place.

Here’s my version:

Ingredients

½ cup onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup celery, diced

3 cups mushrooms, finely chopped (I used a variety package)

1 tablespoon, dried parsley

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (don’t freak out about the name. No chicken byproducts allowed)

2 1/2 – 3 cups of cooked lentils

4 artichoke hearts, chopped (I used the kind in the small bottle)

1/2 cup raw pecans, finely chopped

1/4 cup rolled oats

2 tablespoons of wheat flour

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of Bragg’s Amino Sauce

Cracked black pepper to taste

1 small can of low salt tomato paste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté the onions, celery and garlic in a dash of olive oil until the onions start to become translucent. Add the mushrooms (and a little water if needed) then stir, cover and wait 5 minutes. Uncover and stir again. Add the parsley and the poultry seasoning, mix and remove from heat.

Get a large bowl. Put the seasoned vegetables in, then mix in the cooked lentils.

Now, mixing as you go, add the artichoke hearts, pecans, oats, flour, lemon juice, and Bragg’s sauce.

Add some black pepper as you go; if you want. I wanted. So I did.

Now – after you are done enjoying the awesome smell, get a loaf pan and spray it / lightly grease it.

Spoon the whole mixture into the loaf pan and press it down.

To finish the task, spoon a thin layer of the tomato paste on top. Some would say this is optional.

I didn’t.

Bake for 1 hour. Once done, let rest for 30 minutes before slicing. Good luck on the waiting part.

Now slice a slice and eat up!

Wine is vegetarian, right?

Power Berry Smoothie

Who knew blenders could make something besides margaritas?

Power Berry Smoothie in progress!

Power Berry Smoothie in progress!

This morning, day 6 on my new vegetarian meal plan, I decided to try a smoothie. I know what you are thinking – where’s this guy been? Smoothies have been popular for years! Well, remember my middle name up to this point has been bacon, and on occasion I go by scrapple or sausage. Breakfast? The norm has been a cup of coffee and Starbuck’s version of the Egg McMuffin. Fruit that wasn’t baked in a pie never entered my diet.

So today, instead of a bowl of fresh fruit – my “new normal” breakfast since last Monday, I gave my best attempt at making a smoothie. Based somewhat on a recipe from Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live, here is my own recipe:

Ingredients

3 full leaves of Romaine lettuce

1 cup of frozen raspberries

1 banana

1 teaspoon of sunflower seeds

1/2 cup of almond soy milk

Directions

Put everything in the blender and liquify. Easy! Don’t skimp on the time; the seeds (both sunflower and those from the raspberries) will need time to grind up. If you want, you could always grind up the sunflower seeds in a coffee grinder first.

When done, pour into a glass and drink it right down. The frozen raspberries will help give your drink just enough chill. And the banana? Not too overpowering, a common complaint from friends who have imbibed prior at local smoothie establishments. The sunflower seeds, and I was somewhat skeptical on this one beforehand, gave the fruit drink just enough hint of nut flavor. I wouldn’t add or subtract from the teaspoon amount.

Overall – a winner!

DJ's Power Berry Smoothie - ready to drink!

DJ’s Power Berry Smoothie – ready to drink!

8 pounds down. 40 more to go!

 

The Last Cheeseburger?

I guess it’s only appropriate to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by going “green,” as in starting my 6 week vegetarian food plan. Thankfully, today is only March 16th. I still have a few hours before meat gets replaced by beans, sprouts and tofu. What caused this insanity foray into better nutrition? A long story that you don’t want to hear, I’m sure. Regardless, earlier today I had one more opportunity to enjoy a good cheeseburger so I could.not.pass.it.up.

photo 1 (7)

Where the locals eat – and you should, too.

Stingray’s, known locally as the Cape Center, is the diner of choice when on the southernmost end of the DelMarVa Peninsula, just across the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Locally sourced seafood, deep fried almost everything – wine by the bottle available for purchase (with a small corking fee) all inside the back of a gas station/trinket store on Highway 13.  You can’t miss it. Look for the 18 wheelers, pickup trucks and boats on trailers in the parking lot.

You won’t find Hollandaise sauce here; nor will you see a plate decorated with a spoon push of colorful reduction. Garnish of any type? Not really. This is just good old diner food. A fitting end to my carnivorous meal habit, at least for the next 6 weeks.

photo 2 (2)Mine was a great basic burger, more meat than bun. I opted for the plain version: meat, cheese and bun, but you can get it loaded if you want. And the onion rings? Beer battered, not too greasy and the onions just melted in my mouth. No pulling the onion out and leaving an empty shell of batter on the plate.

The staff was pleasant. They treat you like you’re a “from here” even if you are just passing through. Stingray’s is a fun place to go. You’ll see farmers, watermen, tourists, sometimes even the preacher stops by to get her usual tuna sandwich on wheat toast.

I was offered dessert. I had to pass. Too full from the burger!

Oh, cheeseburger – how I will miss thee.

You, however, should stop by Stingray’s the next time you are in the area. Check your cholesterol at the door and indulge!

Is the Souffle Done?

Stirring the pot, here.

In an effort to consolidate my “brand” as a culinary mystery writer & epicurean about town – and to give myself some more spare time to write instead of managing two blogs, I will be posting on my “other” blog, which can be found here!

I will still maintain this food blog, however, for a while. Probably six months or so. After all, the recipes are still good; the restaurants, still worth the wait for a good table.

Thanks to all who have stopped by over the past few years. A big shout out to the folks who knew “Cold Mac & Cheese” my first blog. And I lift a glass to the Writernubbin, wherever you are. She was my very first blogging “friend.”

So – stop on by the new kitchen (found here) and sign up for updates, if you like.

Things to look forward to:

`  February’s chocolate special. Four weeks of choco-goodness in a glass.

-  Watch as my culinary mystery, The Apple Pie Alibi, moves from the coffee shop to the unsuspecting public.

-  An ode to baseball, featuring ballpark food taken up a notch.

And it can all be found…here!  The souffle is done – stop on by for dinner!

 

 

A Quick Chicken Dinner for One

And I’m the sole carnivore in the house right now, so I know. Here’s the gouge: It was time to eat some dinner and I had one baked chicken breast left over from yesterdays salsa-nated chicken dinner, some leftover rice, and no desire to play like I was on Food Network’s “Chopped.” What to do? We have no chain restaurants in our area, save the Mickey D on the highway. The local places had all closed for the night. Then it hit me.

Here’s what you need:

You know that jar of Mandarin oranges that has been sitting in the back of your refrigerator for a while? Yeah, that one. Take that, and the canned pineapple slices next to it, too. Now, while no one is looking, nick the bowl of leftover rice on the bottom shelf. Before you close the door, pull the low-salt soy sauce bottle out from behind the old Worcestershire sauce. On the way back to your work area, stop by the pantry spice rack and find the cayenne pepper. Really. Do it.

Here’s what you do:

Chop the backed chicken breast into bite sized portions. Add to the bowl of cooked rice and dab in a few shakes of the soy sauce, to taste. Now add the cayenne pepper to give the dinner a little zing. Want more zing? Add more pepper!

Cover the bowl with some cling wrap and reheat in the microwave oven for a minute or two. The exact time will depend on the strength of your microwave.

Once heated to your specification, remove from the microwave and discard the cling wrap. Be careful, there will be steam – AND STEAM IS HOT – IT CAN BURN YOU. (There, the lawyers should be happy now.)

Mix in a few spoonfuls of Mandarin oranges and top with a slice or two of the pineapple.

Not something you will find at a five-star, Zagat-rated restaurant, but it beats the heck out of plain old baked chicken. Try it!

Happy eating from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and have a happy, prosperous New Year!

2014 – the year in review

TARDIS Mk VII

TARDIS Mk VII (Photo credit: Rooners Toy Photography)

(Sans a TARDIS, I have mentally jumped ahead one year to see what has happened to this blog. Kind of like making your New Year’s Resolution after the fact. Hmmm. This may merit further investigation.)

Well, 2014 was a heck of a lot better than 2013. And 2013 wasn’t too bad. This past year, the culinary-themed mystery novel (The Apple Pie Alibi) was completed, as was the sequel (Burger Bytes and Jail Breaks.)  And the newest cookbook is almost on the shelf (“Time to Pray – The Pastor’s Husband is Cooking Again”.)

It took some doing, but there was a new blog post every week. And the blogger himself actually interacted with other bloggers and food professionals, moving beyond the nice interview in the Dallas Morning News in late 2013. Exploding Potatoes has, in 2014, put more social in the social media construct.

And we had healthier recipes, smaller carbon footprints, less to no genetically modified anythings and greater emphasis on locally sourced, renewable fare. And wine. More wine.

Thanks for reading these past few years. WordPress tells me Exploding Potatoes has been read by people in over 90 countries. That tells me we all like to eat. And there’s nothing wrong with talking about that.

I can’t wait until 2015!

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