patricium's Profile

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Menu Planning

Long lost computer-geek cousin here - mine is a 3 column 7 row table in a Google Doc. That way I can look at it from anywhere (at work, when I'm wondering what's for dinner, while shopping in case of last minute changes, etc). Partner can look if he decides to care about what's for dinner. ;-)
The extra row is for notes like "saute extra onions for tomorrow", or "getting home late - make something easy".

Apr 01, 2014
patricium in Home Cooking
1

Cashew cream - to freeze or not to freeze

Good to know it can be made with an immersion blender. I don't have a high-speed blender, and have trouble getting it smooth in my regular 10-year old blender. I'll try small batches with the immersion next time.

Mar 17, 2014
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

Weekly meal planning for the indecisive

I have been doing a weekly menu plan for a few years now. I mostly stick to it, except when I unexpectedly get home late, or something else comes up. And in those cases, I often just shuffle the planned menu items to a later day. My first step is to look at my calendar and decide if there's anything that might affect dinner - home-arrival time early or late, or a dentist appointment so we'll want something soft and comforting. ;-) Weather too - very hot days call for a salad dinner. I mostly just stick to the plan - I know what we like, and don't feel cramped that I don't change it up at the last minute. It does make it easier to try out those recipes you've saved. If something's not already in your rotation, you probably won't think to try it when you get home and are hungry.
During the 20 minutes or so it takes to come up with a plan, I hate spending the time. But the rest of the week, I'm grateful for it, so I don't have to think about it on the drive home, or improvise while hungry.

Feb 14, 2014
patricium in General Topics
4

Going vegan

Yes, I agree about stocks too. I tend to cheat and use Better-than-Bouillon concentrates when a recipe calls for stock. I was totally creeped out the first time I tried their not-chicken stock, because it tastes exactly like the with-chicken version.

Feb 13, 2014
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan
1

Going vegan

I am vegetarian and getting close to vegan. My partner is mostly vegetarian. (Cheese is our most difficult thing to give up, though we have drastically reduced our consumption.) We changed over to vegetarianism gradually, and if your conscience allows, that's a much easier way to transition. When you first start out, it can be an overwhelming task to re-think your approach to meals. You may be used to planning "protein, carb, veg", and feel lost without that structure. I started with Meatless Mondays, and found more and more recipes that we liked, so expanded to 3, then 5, then all meatless meals. Over time, you find out that nothing bad happens if you don't have a protein centerpiece (meat or otherwise), and you get more comfortable serving two vegetable dishes side by side. I discovered that if you make a long-simmered sauce without the meat, it tastes pretty much the same. And the appeal of a lot of meat dishes is more about the sauce than the chunk of meat.

It also helps to have some no-brainer meals on file for those nights when you are mentally exhausted. I do a weekly meal plan that really helps out - no trying to put together dinner ideas on the drive home. This is also useful so you can balance nutritional needs across the week - maybe a quick pasta one night, then a more protein-rich legume the next. Make a list of basic dinner ideas, and vegetables you like, so you have a menu to choose from. And if you have a bread machine, remember that everything's better with a slice of fresh bread next to it.

I went lacto-vegetarian because I got some backyard chickens. Once I spent time with them, it was obvious that they seek love and attention just as much as a dog or cat. And once the compassion meme gets turned on in your brain, there's no reason it should exclude any other animals. (Which can be inconvenient if you raise bees, and thus object to the way bees are treated by the commercial pollination process.) It absolutely makes me feel better as a participant in the world, and has become a major influence in my life. I don't necessarily feel healthier, but I have lost a few pounds. We rarely eat in restaurants anymore, due to a number of factors not all related to diet choice. But this does mean I can follow our somewhat quirky food rules in the meals I make at home, and avoid the angst of ordering in a restaurant.

One thing I've learned to avoid - don't label something as a substitute if you can avoid it. (Cashew cheese sauce, I'm talking to you.) If you're thinking of it as a nice smooth cashew sauce, it's just fine. But if you attach a label like cheese to it, it changes your expectations, and you are likely to be disappointed. This is especially true if you are serving it to non-vegans.

Feb 12, 2014
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan
1

Serious question about vegans and bees.

Yes, commercial beekeeping is the equivalent of a factory farm. And the big money these days is in pollination not honey, which leads people further down the road of treating them like little machines not animals. What's interesting about bee genetics is because of their short lifespans, their characteristics can change fairly rapidly. We have some who have hybridized with local feral bees, and now produce lots and lots of propolis, for example. I think I'm going to have to come up with a different name than beekeeping - for us, swarming is a good thing, since it means the hive is healthy and reproducing.

Jan 11, 2014
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

Serious question about vegans and bees.

Small ("hobbyist") beekeepers generally don't do the migratory pollination. Most hives do make an excess of honey over the course of a season, and there's no reason honey harvesting has to harm individual bees. Some people leave all the honey in the hive until after winter, then take what's left as the harvest. The amount of honey in the hive is not directly related to swarming behavior, but that's a subject for a beekeeping forum. ;-)

There are other things you could ask about if you are concerned about compassionate treatment of bees. It's hard to know where the beekeeper draws the line, and where you want to draw the line for yourself. For example, many beekeepers don't take care not to squash bees while working on the hives. Others don't check on their hives during the winter, and sometimes the bees starve because they run out of food even if they started out with a lot of honey. I'd like to think there are other beekeepers like me who go out on cold days and warm up individual bees who have gotten too cold to move.

Jan 11, 2014
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

Serious question about vegans and bees.

I am a vegan-ish beekeeper. We harbor our bees not for honey, but because of the declining bee populations. And we treat our bees with a great deal of respect, not like many commercial beekeepers who seem like the equivalent of meat factory farms. Every life matters.

The hives that are transported in for pollination spend many days closed up on bumping along on trucks, and sit in the desert eating sugar syrup, waiting for the bloom time. I try to avoid almonds and the like because of that - I take bee exploitation closer to heart than other vegans might.

It's a complicated issue with no easy answers - you quickly run out of things to eat if you go too far down that road. But like other commenters have said, you do what you can.

Jan 10, 2014
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan
1

tofu shelf life once opened?

Probably a little late for this particular package of tofu, but I've kept opened tofu for about a week in the fridge, in various stages of pressed, or unpressed and submerged in water. They tell you to change the water every day if you store it, but I usually forget.

Dec 26, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

CHOW Reviews: OXO Good Grips 3 Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set

I have the 2-cup and the micro-sized 1/4 cup Oxo, and have many of the same problems as wineguy7. I found they are much more of a pain to clean up than standard shaped cups, so only use them for thin, non-oily liquids like vinegar or water. The angles inside mean you can't reach the bottom corners well with a sponge or spatula. Mine hasn't cracked, but gets very light use because if the above issues. Definitely never microwave them - I learned that lesson with my PerfectBeaker. It really makes the material degrade quickly.

Aug 31, 2013
patricium in Cookware

Any good vegetarian gravy recipies or mixes?

Here's a simplified version of the one I use:
Chop an onion and a rib of celery, saute in 3 Tbsp oil til slightly browned. Add 1/4 cup flour, and cook, stirring, until the flour is peanut-butter colored. (you are making a roux here) Add 2 cups water and a teaspoon of vegetable bouillon (I use the Better Than Bouillon pastes, but a bouillon cube would probably be fine too.) Stir over medium heat until thickened, then season with some pepper.

Aug 13, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

Cultured Nut Cheese?

Has anyone tried making the cultured nut cheeses a la "Artisan Vegan Cheese"? As a vegetarian-wannabe-vegan, these seem like they have real promise to simulate cheese flavor. I have some cheese making experience, and wonder if you could use packaged cheese cultures rather than the rejuvelac to help get more reliable results.

Aug 01, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

Meals in your regular rotation

- Pasta with a barely-cooked fresh tomato sauce and basil leaves
- "Rice with stuff" - basically chirashi sushi with what's on hand- cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, avocado, sometimes poached eggs, bamboo shoots in chili oil.
- "Pick three" salad: corn, beans, avocado, cucumber, mango, tomato, edamame, jicama; in whatever dressing seems appropriate
- panzanella - mostly tomato, bread, olives, sometimes with homemade mozzarella
- summer squash, onions, tomatoes sauteed til soft, over rice or grains or pasta

Jul 21, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

CSA box item uses

I like to add garlic scapes to stir fries. Cut them into chunks an inch or so long, and saute til crisp-tender. They turn out a lot like slightly garlicky green beans.

Jul 16, 2013
patricium in Home Cooking
1

When you're invited to a BBQ

When I helped plan a company picnic, we had veggie burgers for a couple vegetarians in the group. We learned to keep a close eye on them so they weren't all snarfed up by the meat-eaters. I think the omnivores were eager to try them out where they didn't have to take a chance on buying a whole package themselves. Now I just plan on extras for the samplers.

Jun 28, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan
2

Egg pan

My current non-stick pan for eggs is one of the ceramic (ie teflon/PTFE free) coated ones. (I have pet birds in the house, and PTFE releases vapors that are toxic to them if accidentally overheated.) These don't seem quite as stick-free as the teflon versions, but they're pretty good. I've had this one for about 3 years, and it's starting to be sticky-er, so it's probably time to get a new one. So if you try this route, same rules apply - don't spend a lot because you'll want to replace it in a few years anyway.

Jun 28, 2013
patricium in Cookware

V&V What's for Dinner? - Spring!

A few from this past week:
Shelled edamame & carrots cooked with sweet soy sauce & sesame oil over jasmine rice.
Pasta with avocado and snap peas, white wine & lime juice-based sauce.
Sauteed yellow squash, tomatoes, onions over polenta.

May 28, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

V&V What's for Dinner? - Spring!

Corn, tomatillo, & avocado salad with grilled zucchini & grilled pita (first grillin' of the year!)
Panzanella (bread salad with tomatoes, olives, etc)
Pasta with cabbage, carrots, soy sauce & sesame oil

May 02, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

How did you become vegan?

Thanks for that recommendation too!

Mar 18, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

Do Sunchokes Give You Gas? Meet the Fartichoke

I have noticed a variable effect. Perhaps related to variety of sunchoke, or age. The roots I get from my dad's garden are fine. Storebought ones are more risky.

Feb 20, 2013
patricium in Features

V&V What's for dinner, January-February 2013

Garbanzos and sauteed onions in balsamic-soy sauce over wilted spinach.
Last night was sweet peppers & broccoli in peanut sauce on jasmine rice.

Jan 25, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

How did you become vegan?

I haven't, but I will definitely look that up. I'm coming up with some strategies that ease the organizational load. Having meal-sized portions of various protein and carb units stashed in the freezer helps, so I can mix-and-match and fill in the gaps. And I've found some good pairings that use the same sauce on a meat for him and veggies for me. Thanks for the pointer!

Jan 22, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

How did you become vegan?

My vegetarianism/veganism is still under construction. I got some chickens a couple years ago. They became pets, and I spend a lot of time with them. They show emotions and seek affection just like any other pet, so me and my partner stopped eating chicken, and eggs other than from our own hens. For me, there's not really a reason to feel that pigs/cows/etc are different, so I became vegetarian recently. My partner still eats meat, so I'm in the process of working out how to make divergent meals. I like a lot of vegetables my partner doesn't, so a bonus is that I can eat those things.

We'd been doing vegetarian meals about half the time before, so it's a gradual change. Cheese and yogurt are tough to give up for me, so we buy milk from a local farmer that verifiably treats her animals well, and I make my own. We don't avoid honey because we keep our own bees to help increase the bee population, and you sometimes end up with honey even when that's not your goal. Over time, I'm eating more vegan meals as I find recipes I like.

I think giving yourself permission to have an occasional non-vegan meal helps a lot when you're first starting out. There are a lot of bad recipes out there, and having an occasional fallback in the plan makes it seem like it's not a failure on your part. It gives you breathing room to experiment with substitutions and let your body get over cravings so they don't push you back and make you give up.

Jan 01, 2013
patricium in Vegetarian & Vegan

Your favorite savory winter squash recipes

For a change of pace, I like to make squash curry soup. There are quite a few recipes available on the web, and mine's a mashup of several. Cook the peeled squash chunks in broth. Saute some chopped onions til soft, adding thai red curry paste, garlic, and ginger paste at the last minute. Add this to the squash along with some coconut milk, and puree with an immersion blender. Adjust the amount of liquid until it's like soup not baby food. My husband who does not like squash likes this one. A small cup of it could be a good first course for a holiday meal.

Oct 16, 2012
patricium in Home Cooking

Dinner suggestions for a hot day for hungry, outdoor-working husband

For the really hot days where you don't even want to eat warm food - how about potato or pasta salads? Add a protein like tuna or cooked salmon, or salami. I have a "pick 3" salad idea I use frequently in the summer. Corn kernels, canned beans, avocado, tomato, cucumber, cubed cheese, etc - toss together in a bowl, dress with your favorite salad dressing (or just mayo/vinegar).

Jun 18, 2012
patricium in Home Cooking

Simple Recipes that are Incredibly Delicious!

Cook some pasta, drain most of the water off, and stir in a couple spoonfuls of cream cheese (the whipped spreadable kind). When it's melted into a sauce, add chopped smoked salmon and a few frozen peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I recommend you season after adding the smoked salmon, as some is pretty salty.

Mar 26, 2012
patricium in Home Cooking

SodaStream vs. Twist & Sparkle

I have a Twist-n-Sparkle. You don't have to hold the top on for a minute - you insert the gas cartridge in the top, then screw it on to the container. This pierces the cartridge, releasing the carbonation. You leave it screwed on for about a minute, while the excess gas slowly hisses out. Then you unscrew the carbonation top, and put the "storage" cap on.
I like having the ability to carbonate juices, though I don't do that as much as I thought I would. Mostly these days, I carbonate water, and add a dash of bitters for slight flavoring without sweetening.
A note about the cartridges - the Leland brand are sometimes too short to work well in the T&S. They have a warning note on the Amazon product page about this now. I get around it by using a thin shim in the carbonation head - works fine.

Feb 20, 2012
patricium in Cookware

Ideas for precooked shrimp that is not just a shrimp cocktail for NYE side dish/app

Dust the shrimp with cayenne and lime juice, & put them on toothpicks with mango or avocado chunks.

Dec 30, 2011
patricium in Home Cooking

Excess cranberry orange relish -- ideas to repurpose?

I like to use the extra cranberry sauce in a sweet bread. If you google for "cranberry sauce bread", you'll find a variety of them. Some are yeast breads, some quick breads. Warning - if you put cranberries and walnuts in the same bread, it can turn a weird bluish color.

Nov 25, 2011
patricium in Home Cooking

Reusable food scraps - Things that other's might view as food waste

An enthusiastic second on the shrimp shells - I make a quick 5 minute stock with them, then use it to cook rice. If you could solve the problem of how to strain out the little leg bits, you could probably just toss them into the pot with the rice.

Nov 11, 2011
patricium in Home Cooking