“So now you don’t eat meat?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about what being a vegetarian will mean for me. What are the boundary lines? Why am I doing this? What will this mean for my children?

While I will admit that the whole eating meat thing has always bothered me a little bit – that I have had to try to disassociate that chicken on my plate from the chickens in my father’s coop (yes, my father raises chickens) that really has little to do with my choice to stop eating (or really buying) meat. My beef has more to do with the meat industry in general. The way the animals we eat are treated on their way to our dinner plate. I liken it to torture.

Humans have been eating meat pretty much as long as we’ve been around. At one point it was a hunt for survival and generally, from what I understand, we tried to make that kill worth it. We used their skins to make clothing and blankets, the teeth and bones were put to use also I think. We didn’t waste for our wants and those animals had a somewhat fair shot at a good life before their end. It was, you could say, the circle of life.

Now money is involved. And ethics, in my opinion, aren’t being met. And there are the hormones and drugs being pumped into the animals. And the diets they are being fed that are unnatural and unhealthy for the poor things (But cheaper!) is just another bullet on the list of why I decided to say no more to the whole thing. Because we do live in a society with other options. The sheer popularity of the veggie / vegan lifestyle has given us a lot of options, entire aisles devote themselves to it in your grocery store and entire grocery stores have cropped up to give even more choices. It’s out there man.

Which is not to say it will be easy. It’s not to say it will be inexpensive (it might be, I’ll let you know). But I think like any diet, there will be more expensive and less expensive options depending on your price range and cooking skills.

And then of course there is what to do when we’re at a restaurant or a friend or family members house. I know several vegetarians of several different varieties (because not all vegetarians follow the same rules). Anyway here are the rules I am establishing (at the moment) and the protocols we will follow.

  • If I’m paying, it won’t be meat. So if we are at a restaurant or the grocery store, it’s vegetarian.
  • However, for the time being we will still eat fish as long as we are mostly sure it’s wild caught.
  • And if we ever find a good deal on meat that was raised in much better circumstances (think your idea of a family farm) I might splurge for it, for the sake of my poor carnivorous husband.
  • When we are at a friend’s house or a family member’s I will probably eat whatever they put in front of me. It was their money and their choice – their house, their rules. If they want to cook vegetarian for me, I’ll be honored – but this isn’t about “the very idea of eating meat disgusts me” so I won’t pretend it does. It’s a choice I’m making. End of discussion.
  • The same goes for my kids.
  • We will also not be going vegan. Eggs, dairy, all that jazz – it’s still in the mix. I have switched to organic milk for the time being and I can tell you if we were still in New England, I’d be buying my eggs from my father whose chickens are seriously living the good life.

All of this, of course, is subject to change. But that’s how I see it going down for now.

Also, in case your curious here are some resources I’ve read, watched, etc. that ultimately led to all of this for me:

Confused about terminology?

  • Vegan: A person who does not eat or use animal products of any kind (including meat, dairy and leather items).
  • Vegetarian: A person who does not eat meat products.
  • Pescetarian: A person who eats no meat products with the exception of fish. A lot of people will use this as a bridge to convert to vegetarianism.
  • Tofu: A soft, high-protein food made from soybean milk.
  • Tempeh: A food that originated in Indonesia, made from cultured soybeans. Since it retains the whole soybean (unlike tofu), it is a source of higher protein, fiber and vitamins. It also has firmer texture and stronger flavor, and is a widely used meat substitute.
  • Seitan: A meat substitute made entirely of wheat gluten. It is an alternative to soybean-based substitutes like tofu, and has texture and consistency very similar to meat.

Read more: http://ellen.warnerbros.com/thoughts/#ixzz0WZjeojPM

Recipe: World’s Best Banana Bread (with added cute pictures of my kids)

What do you do when your bananas are a little too mushy to eat? When you know what’s good for you, you make banana bread – or freeze them until you have time to make banana bread. My stepmother (who gave me this recipe) gave me the great tip to just put the bananas, skin and all, in the freezer. When you thaw them and slice the banana open it will be perfectly mushy for your banana bread purposes.

To celebrate the end of Letter B Week we made her homemade banana bread because of the great Double B’s and because it’s delicious. The best banana bread I’ve ever had and you all need to try it.

So my husband made MM a paper chefs hat and we pulled out the little apron and oven mitt that we got him for Christmas a couple years back and we all went in the kitchen and baked banana bread together. We don’t do this very often but maybe we should because it was spectacular. Dan was in charge of documenting the occasion so that I could put some pictures in the ABC scrapbook I’m making MM when this is all done. There are a ton of pictures from Banana Bread night and I made a little collage of some of the best for the book but I wanted to post a bunch of them individually here because there are some real gems. I’ll post the recipe at the bottom of the post.

what I get when I ask for a smile

These days when I ask MM to smile for the camera, I get strange looks like this one. Little does he know, I think it’s hilarious and adorable and it will not stop me from taking his picture. By the way, please notice that he’s wearing an all-blue outfit because The Color Of The Day was Blue and Blue starts with the Letter B. Thanks. Moving on.

in our respective aprons

This is just a quick shot to show off our respective aprons. We got MM’s at the Christmas Tree Shop way back when. Mine was made by my amazing friend Amanda @ Funkepunkemonke.

the camera man and his beautiful assistant

Dan the Man wrapped up little miss Baby Blueberry in our Moby Wrap so she could face out and watch all the festivities and his hands could be free to document everything, including the two of them being cute.

MM using the electric mixer

I did let him use the mixer to help me cream the shortening, but I did not personally let go of the mixer. I’m not crazy.

in charge of clean up

little does he know this is grunt work

I put him to work on clean up, throwing egg shells in the sink, putting things away and throwing away any empty packages. Because I’m smart and he thought it was fun.

sifting the flour is harder than it looks

I also let him help me sift flour and other dry ingredients. This turned out to be difficult for him because you have to squeeze pretty hard and he has small hands but he was a trooper and kept trying for a while. Although eventually I finished it, he seemed more impressed with my sifting skills when he saw how hard it was. :OP

MASH MASH MASH

Of course he loved mashing the bananas for me and did a great job on this part. He’s a natural masher of mush.

all together now, all together now...

Stirring it all together at the end…

mix it, stir it, put it in a pan...

then pouring the whole thing into the pan…

baking a cake as fast as we can

Of course we had to turn on the light so he could watch it bake.

It came out fantastic and we’ve been eating it for breakfast each morning since. Delicious. Alright, here’s the recipe for anyone who wants in on the world’s best banana bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream shortening and add sugar gradually.
  3. Then add the well beaten eggs.
  4. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. Add this alternately with milk and bananas. Then add vanilla.
  6. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan and bake for 45-75 minutes or until a toothpick can come out of bread clean.
  7. Enjoy!

Calorie Info: If you divide this into 16 servings there will be 210 calories in each slice. Smear it with some peanut butter (about 5 grams should do it, this is an added 30 calories if you use JIF creamy regular) and you are good to go.

Aloha Friday: What’s Cooking?

It’s time for another Aloha Friday, the day that you take it easy and look forward to the weekend, in Hawaii and blog land anyway. As you should know by now, over at An Island Life, Kailani decided that on Fridays she would take it easy on posting and ask a simple question for you to answer. Nothing that requires a lengthy response.

If you’d like to participate, just post your own question on your blog and leave your link at An Island Life’s blog. Don’t forget to visit the other participants! It’s a great way to make new bloggy friends!

My husband has gotten REALLY into cooking lately. At this point I’ve pretty much given into the obvious and accepted that he is a much better cook than me – and he LIKES it. These days he does all the cooking for dinner, yes even on week nights. Don’t hate me because I hit the marriage jack pot. 🙂 Anyway, he loves to cook and does a great job but he still asks me to plan the menu for the week / month – as in, give him an idea and let him run with it. It’s the laborious task of deciding WHAT to cook that he doesn’t like, at least not on a daily basis and he loves my monthly menu plans. So I’ve continued making the menus and he cooks the ideas I come up with, occasionally changing things up entirely when he gets inspired.

But… I’m running low on ideas and I’d really love to give him some new recipes to try. So my questions for you are…

  • What is your favorite dinner recipe? (Feel free to include a link if it’s online)
  • Do you like to cook? How about your spouse / significant other?
  • Who does what in your household (I’m guessing my grandmother and I aren’t the only ones with aspiring chefs for husbands)?
  • What’s for dinner tonight in your household?

t13: Thirteen Sweet Recipes I’m Coveting

Between being hugely pregnant and prone to craving sweet treats and having access to Food Network again for the first time in like two years, my sweet tooth coveting tendencies have been kicked into overdrive lately. Here are thirteen desserts and assorted sweet treats that I have a hankering to make right now and the people responsible.

  1. Wanted: Chocolate Ricotta PiePerson To Blame: Giada De Laurentiis – The first thing that struck me about this recipe was, “holy cow I want a food processor.” Watching her make it had me drooling for her appliances just as much as the dessert, which I mean – what’s not to love about chocolate pie?
  2. Wanted: Key Lime PiePerson to Blame: The Pioneer Woman – I’m not sure if she knows this but right now lemons and limes are like my favorite thing in the world, which is weird because before pregnancy they were kind of a take it or leave it thing with me. I’m guessing this little baby of mine is a citrus fiend, and I’m anxious to make something along these lines soon.
  3. Wanted: Hazelnut & Chocolate Pie w/ Vanilla Whipped CreamPerson To Blame: Giada De Laurentiis – This just looks decadent – she compared it to flourless chocolate cake which is one of my other new favorite things and um yeah, me wants it.
  4. Wanted: Lemon BarsPerson To Blame: Bakerella – Again with the lemon and me obsessively craving it – these bars look absolutely delicious and her pictures weren’t helping matters (see left). She even cooked these with her kids which had me feeling all, “I should be a super mommy and cook with my son, too,” but the truth is I just really want to eat a lemon bar.
  5. Wanted: Earl Grey Shortbread CookiesPerson To Blame: Claire Robinson – Claire hosts a show on Food Network called 5 Ingredient Fix – I love the idea of the show and her food looks really good. Some of her recipes I think I’d add a couple more things to and spice them up but I like the idea of keeping it simple and letting a few stellar ingredients really stand out and shine in a recipe. And I like cookies.
  6. Wanted: Biscotti Gelato Sandwiches and EspressoPerson To Blame: Giada De Laurentiis – I’m not the biggest fan of biscotti but I love ice cream cookies and espresso and I’m supremely tempted to give this “recipe” a try – Giada certainly made it look delicious, but then she does that, doesn’t she?
  7. Wanted: Chocolate Peanut Butter PiePerson To Blame: The Pioneer Woman – I love chocolate peanut butter pie but I’ve only had it a couple times and I’ve been on the hunt for a good recipe for it – this looks like the recipe – it’s perfect and I plan to make this in the near future or at least by Thanksgiving.
  8. Wanted: French Toast with Strawberries and CreamPerson To Blame: Claire Robinson – Another thing I recently discovered that I like is French Toast. I know – these are things normal people learn at like infancy or something – but I swear I never liked it until a couple weekends ago when Dan made some and I suddenly wanted them, too. And they were delicious. Claire’s recipe is of course super easy and the strawberries on top are genius. I’ve actually made this one already and will definitely make it again.
  9. Wanted: Limoncello Cheesecake Squares – Person To Blame: Giada De Laurentiis – As soon as I pop this baby out and I’m either not nursing or can take a couple hours off from nursing, I want to try some Limoncello (a lemon liquor) or some equivalent thereof. And I want to make these cheesecake squares for sure – they look delicious and you might have noticed that I’m infatuated with all things lemon, so yeah. This one needs to be made for sure.
  10. Wanted: Cream Puffs With Lemon Mousse and Blueberry SaucePerson To Blame: Martha Stewart – I’m not sure how Martha Stewart ended up on my list – I don’t watch her show, at least not normally – but this looks fantastic and I definitely want to try it sometime.
  11. Wanted: Strawberry Peach DipPerson To Blame: My Wooden Spoon – Honestly it was the picture (see left) that made me start craving this recipe. It sounds (and looks) perfect for the summer – what could be better than a tray full of fresh fruits and a delicious dip to eat with them? I’m thinking nothing unless I can have that and the other twelve desserts on this list also. That might be better. Also – can I have her serving dishes because they are adorable (speaking of coveting).
  12. Wanted: Individual Orange and Chocolate CheesecakesPerson To Blame: Giada De Laurentiis – These look so cute and I love the idea of making individual servings – with such a small family somehow this feels like less of a waste of baking because they are so grab and go and I bet you could freeze half of them or something. Or just eat like five at a time.
  13. Wanted: White Chocolate MoussePerson To Blame: Claire Robinson – This sounds so easy to make and delicious. I’d love to make this when my mother-in-law comes to visit as she’s allergic to chocolate and the blackberries to go with it? Heavenly.

Check out the new home of Thursday 13 for more Thursday 13 participants!

Six Dishes I Wouldn’t Kick Off My Breakfast Table

Today’s Small Talk Six topic is “6 breakfast foods that you love or hate.” You can answer this with a list of 6 words, 6 phrases, 6 sentences, 6 paragraphs, 6 photos, 6 videos, etc . . .

  1. Pancakes – I grew up on Bisquick pancakes and love them dearly, but we just tried this simple recipe from scratch and yeah, they might be better. Dan will tell you they are a ton better. I love pancakes – so versatile, you can put blueberries, chocolate chips, whatever in the batter, top with fruits or syrup, etc. No two pancake dishes need be alike.
  2. Waffles – I know, I’m copping out right off the bat by separating pancakes and waffles, but I’m a bit worried I’m going to run out of steam shortly after this, so I’m covering all my bases. We especially love making waffles with our new Calphalon waffle maker – makes the whole waffle making process a breeze. For the most part, I like my waffles plain – no mix ins, but I do love topping them with fresh fruit, especially if it’s a whole wheat waffle, which I don’t like as much as the regular less healthy stuff.
  3. Southern Biscuits and Gravy – It doesn’t get much better than this for me and I don’t get to eat it often. There is a small little breakfast place near the college I went to that makes the world’s greatest southern biscuits and gravy, at least the best I’ve tried. And I am picky – I’ve had a lot of people’s lame attempts at this dish and it’s not always pretty. But a good southern biscuit and gravy breakfast will have me on cloud nine. Dan has made it for me at home a few times and has pretty much mastered the recipe, but it’s a bit of work, so we don’t do it often.
  4. Corn Bread – I’m even pickier about my corn bread than I am southern biscuits and gravy. Go figure, that breakfast place I mentioned in #3 makes a killer corn bread, too (there isn’t anything there that I’ve tried that wasn’t amazing though). I don’t like it too dry or too crumbly. It should be moist and sweet and hold up at least fairly well. “Bad” corn bread (i.e. not moist and sweet) is pretty much disgusting so it’s a bit of a crap shoot.
  5. Cinnamon Rolls – Pillsbury pretty much has the market on cinnamon rolls and I don’t deviate with that much – it’s good, it’s easy, it’s so horrible on my diet – but it’s always worth it.
  6. Muffins – I think blueberry is probably my favorite, but I like most basic muffins. I like baking them myself especially so that I get a normal serving size muffin and not some gigantic 1,000 calorie muffin. I don’t like that hardened sugar stuff on my muffins and none of that bran junk. I do love chocolate chip muffins and apple streusel muffins, etc. but for the most part I like to stick to blueberry.

Serve me any of these dishes with a bowl of fresh fruit and some delicious breakfast sausage or bacon and I am one happy woman. Thankfully for my diet, I rarely eat any of these things, although with Dan home from work, we have had pancakes and waffles a bit more often than normal. Such sacrifices… ::sigh::

What are your favorite breakfast foods?

Recipe: Easy Shepherd’s Pie

This is another recipe adopted from one found at KraftFoods.com. You can find the original recipe here.

Prep Time: 10 minutes   Total Time: 30 minutes   Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 cups hot mashed potatoes (I used 2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed them, adding no ingredients yet)
  • 4 oz (1/2 of an 8 oz package) Neufchatel cheese (less fat and calories than cream cheese)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheese you like, really)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 cups frozen corn, thawed (you can substitute for vegetable of your choice)
  • 1 cup beef gravy

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Brown meat in large skillet; drain.
  3. Mix potatoes (cooked and mashed) with Neufchatel, 1/2 cup of cheese, and garlic, until well blended.
  4. Combine meat, vegetables and gravy; Spoon into 9 inch square baking dish.
  5. Cover with potato mixture and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake 20 minutes or until heated through.

Recipe: Smoky Mac & Cheese

I adopted this recipe from one I found in Family Circle’s January 2009 issue. I only made a few modifications to suit our tastes and it came out wonderfully, so per usual I’m going to post the recipe to share with you all. Just a warning, this recipe as prepared has about 500 in a not terribly humongous serving. So if you are counting your calories make sure you do this one on a night when you have the room for that size meal. We served it with some slices of French Baguette – we should have served it with a salad, but we were feeling lazy and pretended not to notice. I don’t have any pictures of this one yet because it was so delicious that the entire thing got eaten before I remembered to grab my camera. But we’ll probably make it again in a month or two and if I remember I’ll grab some pictures then. Anyhow, recipe…

Makes: 4 servings | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 7 minutes | Microwave Time: 3 minutes at 50% power

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of pasta of your choice (you could save 100 calories per serving by reducing this to 4 ounces)
  • 4 ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 ounces of Trader Joe’s Quattro Formagio shredded cheese (parmesan, provolone, asiago and fontina cheeses – I love this blend but you could try any good cheese blend)
  • 1/4 teaspoon McCormick’s Mesquite Marinade seasoning packet
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick’s Smoked Paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon McCormick’s Smoked Sweet Pepper seasoning
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk
  • 3 slices of bacon, crisply fried and broken into pieces

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni in a large pot of slightly salted water according to package directions. Drain and place pasta into square baking dish.
  2. Mix in the shredded cheeses, mesquite flavoring, paprika and sweet pepper seasoning blend. Stir until cheese melts, adding milk for desired creaminess.
  3. Sprinkle bacon on top. Cover and vent the corners of the baking dish. Microwave for 3 minutes at 50% power. Serve warm.

The result is a cheesy, sweet BBQ style macaroni and cheese that smells fabulous and couldn’t be easier to make. We’re planning to use the rest of our mesquite marinade packet to make hamburgers on Wednesday and MM and I finished the leftover macaroni and cheese for lunch today. Next time I will plan to make a big salad to serve alongside this and probably reduce the pasta in the dish by half, saving us each 100 calories.

Recipe: Kiddie Mac’n’Cheese

I made this delicious macaroni and cheese last night for dinner – it was so easy, with hardly any ingredients at all. I found the recipe in the January 2009 issue of Family Circle. Since I couldn’t find it online I decided to post the recipe here so that anyone else who wants to make it can, and so that I’ve got it in a “safe place” for the next time I decide to make it again.

The recipe below feeds 4 people and can easily be altered to feed more or less.

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of pasta (any kind, macaroni or a shell pasta will work well)
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 4 ounces sliced American cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Heat large pot of water to boiling. Add pasta and cook as directed according to package. Drain.
  2. Add milk to saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in American cheese, Cheddar cheese and salt. Whisk until melted and smooth.
  3. Return macaroni to pot with cheese sauce and stir to combine. Serve warm.

Each serving has 388 calories, 14 grams of fat (8 grams saturated), 18 grams of protein, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 379 mg of sodium and 36 mg of cholesterol