Sunday, May 28, 2006

Chew on This

So in lieu of cooking a lot lately (it's too darn hot right now for that), I've been reading about food. Here are two of the latest books to grace my shelves:

Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson. At first glance, this seemed like a scaled-down version of Schlosser's 2001 expose, Fast Food Nation. However, this book is more than just an attempt to cash in on the success of the previous title. Several chapters in Chew on This deal with how the fast food industry has affected young people in particular. A twelve-year-old girl in Alaska starts a Stop the Pop" campaign at her school. A teenager in Quebec helps successfully unionize a McDonald's, only to have the restaurant shut its doors soon after. And a young man in Chicago who is morbidly obese must decide whether or not to have gastric bypass surgery. I'm happy to say that our library system's copies have several holds on them (and they're not all from staff members). If you want more info about the book, check out Houghton Mifflin's press release.

I'm just finishing Jane Goodall's Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating. Goodall's tone throughout the book is conversational and she includes many personal anecdotes, which sometimes seems detremental to the book's effectiveness (Her parenthetical asides in particular are distracting - just like this!). However, the chapter on genetically modified organisms is not to be missed. Goodall rails against the misconception perpetuated by large corporations like Monsanto that genetically engineered seeds are the answer to world hunger. Here's an excerpt:

"Even if world hunger could be solved with more food, we haven't seen any solid evidence that genetic engineering is restoring the world's depleted farmlands or increasing food production. Given the speed with which Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and other multinational corporations are buying up the world's seed supply, some suspect that the main incentive for genetic engineering is financial greed, an attempt by corporations to secure, through patents, control of the world's food supply" (p. 52). Go Jane!

Okay, must go and grill veggie burgers and asparagus at Hager Park with some friends.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

They're Alive!

Since Mary asked about my worms, I thought I would give everyone an update on my vermicomposting efforts. Having left them alone for almost two weeks, I ventured down into the basement a few days ago with a small bucket of kitchen scraps (mostly banana peels and coffee grounds, but also asparagus, potato skins, and a few other tasty things) and a feeling of trepidation. Had I managed to kill my worms through neglect, as I am wont to do with the occasional houseplant?

But no! Not only were my worms wiggling away, but the food at the bottom of the bin was black and looked like it was slowly being eaten away. A quick check earlier today, and there's still no noticable smell coming from the bin. However, I did see worm mites at the top of the bin, which means the worms aren't eating quite fast enough (I think). I'm going to try cutting back on how much food I'm adding, and turning what I do put in the bin into compost soup beforehand (this can be accomplished by giving it a quick whirl in the blender).

Bonus: I don't think we've had to put our garbage out for three weeks!

Monday, May 15, 2006


Whenever I work from noon until 8:oo, I end up eating really early in the evening, usually around 4:00. It's not quite lunch, and too early for dinner, I've decided to call this meal linner. Whatever you call it, the result is the same: by the time I get home I'm ready for another meal. But I'm not willing to put much effort into whatever I make, which usually means I end up eating tofu dogs. Tonight, however, having run out of tofu dogs, I took stock of what I had in the fridge - one very small and sad-looking zucchini ("Eat me before I putrify!"), the remainer of a can of vegetarian refried beans, some leftover onion from Sunday, tortillas, and potatoes. Bingo! 15 minutes later I had myself a tasty vegetable quesadilla.

Potato and Zucchini Quesadilla

1 very small potato
1 small zucchini or summer squash
1/2 red onion
2 6-inch flour tortillas
olive oil
chili powder
salt and pepper

Cut potato, zucchini and onion into 1/8-inch slices. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 to 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the potatoes over medium heat until they begin to look a little translucent. Add the zucchini and onion. Season to taste with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cook until vegetables are almost soft. Place veggies in a bowl.

Now spread a layer of refried beans on one of your tortillas. Place it (beans side up, obviously) back in your saucepan. Spread veggies on top of the beans and cover with the other tortilla. Cook until light brown on both sides. Serve with salsa.

Terribly simply to eat well, isn't it? You only need one pan for this recipe, and cooking the tortillas after the veggies means that some of your spices end up on the outside of your quesadilla, which actually looks quite nice. I'll make this again when I finally buy a camera and post pictures.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

To Market

It's a happy time for those of us living in West Michigan, since the Fulton Street Farmers Market opened last week. I decided to stop by on Saturday afternoon, and although there isn't much produce yet, I found a bunch of lovely rhubarb for $1.25.

Now I'd never cooked rhubarb before, even though it grows in my parents' garden. So I decided to make the easiest thing I could think of - rhubarb crisp. Let's face it, you can make a crisp out of almost any fruit (I thought bananas might be an exception, but there are several recipes out there for that as well). Five ingredients (rhubarb, oats, honey, magarine, and cinnamon) and 30 minutes later, my brother and dug in to our still-warm dessert. Mmm!

I live where I do (and deal with my goofy landlord) partly because I'm so near the Farmers Market. Walking or biking to a place where you can buy fresh, local ingredients and even talk to the people who grew them, well, it changes how you think about food. Americans are used to cheap, abundant food, but we don't seem to put much emphasis on quality, or even think about how many miles our food may have traveled before it ends up on our plates. Perhaps rising gas prices will change how we view food and help us put the emphasis back on eating locally and seasonally.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Asparagus de Mayo

What Lovely Presentation!

These fajitas are a staple in our house, and since May is asparagus season, what better dish to bring to my friend Melissa's Cinco de Mayo party? We started making this from a recipe in Kitty Morse's now out-of-print 365 Ways to Cook Vegetarian, but our fajita recipe has undergone a few revisions and is spicier and tastier than the original.

Asparagus Fajitas


1 pound asparagus
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper


1 packet taco seasoning*
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lime

Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Slice bell peppers and onion into 1/4-inch strips. Chop up hot pepper (deseed and depith the pepper if you don't like things too hot). Place the vegetables in a large bowl.

Mix the marinade ingredients together. You may need to add more oil or lime juice if the marinade is too thick. Pour over vegetables, stir, and set aside to marinate for 30 to 60 minutes.

Cook over medium heat in a large frying pan or wok for 6 to 8 minutes. I like my asparagus to be just a little on the crunchy side - yum! Serve in warm flour tortillas.

*Note: If you want to make these vegan, be careful which brand of taco seasoning you choose, as many contain whey solids (Since I like to serve these with cheese, I'm usually not picky about it). According to PETAKiDS accidentally vegan page, Old El Paso makes a vegan taco seasoning mix.

If you're looking for asparagus facts, recipes, and cooking tips, or maybe an answer to the age-old asparagus pee question, check out the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board (yes, there really is such an institution).