(Rachel, the daughter)
I’m heading out to drop Jackson off with his Mimi (Jared’s mom) for a couple of hours this afternoon. This is the third day in a row that she has offered to help out with Jackson so I can work on the book. Although she insists it is all her pleasure, I’d like to let her know how much I appreciate her help.
In my husband’s family, steak is probably the most revered food item… followed closely by chips and salsa. They aren’t into chocolates or sweets. I know, GASP! Their idea of dessert is a bowl of salty popcorn. But they love their meat and potatoes and their chips and salsa. Since steak is an awkward gift for a vegan to give, I often jar up my love and appreciation for them in the form of salsa. Occasionally, Rhonda will show up at my door with an empty jar, “In case you or Jared plan on making salsa anytime soon,” she’ll wink.
Last weekend I stumbled upon an amazing salsa recipe by chance. I was out of a few of my staple salsa ingredients and just started throwing things in the food processor to try and whip up a make-do salsa for our Mexican-themed dinner. I was bummed when the food processor stopped spinning and I opened it up to see a thin almost watery salsa. I grabbed a can of pumpkin and added it to the salsa, then found some chipotles in Adobo sauce in my freezer. I gave it another spin and voila, I had a thick, creamy, smoky salsa with a touch of sweetness, a hint of pumpkin, and a nice kick of spice. I was smitten.
I liked it so much I made another batch today (some for us and some to share with Jared’s parents). It conveniently makes enough to fill two 32 oz spaghetti sauce or mason jars–one for you and one to share with a friend. Don’t be surprised when they show up at your door step with the empty jar and a little wink and a nudge, though.
Chipotle Pumpkin Salsa
Makes 4 cups
2 cups of frozen corn (or 1 can drained and patted dry)
2 small jalapenos
4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt
1 14.5 oz can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 chipotles in Adobo Sauce (slice open and remove seeds from two of them)
1 can of pumpkin
1/2 c. cilantro (use it if you like it, but it’s optional)
1/2 t. sugar
1 t. onion powder
1/4 t. salt
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Pour corn kernels on one half of pan. On the other side, put the jalapenos, garlic (wrap unpeeled garlic in foil to prevent them from burning–not like shown below), and tomatoes sliced in half with cut side up. Use a pastry brush to put a small amount of olive oil on the tomatoes and corn. Sprinkle tomatoes with a touch of sea salt. Roast for 20 minutes.
In a food processor, add all the remaining ingredients except the corn, plus the tomatoes and jalapenos (you may want to seed the jalapenos if you don’t like a lot of spice–you can always add the seeds back in if it’s not spicy enough). Squeeze the garlic from its peel into the food processor bowl. Process until everything is chopped and blended to the desired texture. I went for a smooth texture on mine. Stir in corn. Serve with chips.
(Rachel, the daughter)
Jared, Jackson and I went to the Texas State Veggie Fair this weekend. I’m a terrible blogger and didn’t take any pictures of my food. I blame my hungry toddler. We scoped out all the food trucks and booths and contemplated fresh squeezed juice or mac-n-cheese and a barbeque sandwich, but our eyes kept venturing to the long line behind the Corn Dogs and Fried Cinnamon Rolls. When in Rome, right? What’s a fair without fried food? I stood in the 20 minute line while Jared took Jackson to play on the playground.
Finally, I returned to my boys juggling two corn dogs, a fried cinnamon roll and a handcrafted root beer. We sat on the lawn and indulged. If you’re having trouble imagining how good it was, here’s Jackson’s face after his first bite of fried fair food.
I think this picture says it all. Yum.
That deep fried cinnamon roll was worth every glorious calorie, but as soon as I got home, I whipped up a big kale salad for dinner. My body felt like it was shutting down from all the grease, sugar, and processed fake-meat products I had consumed. Sometimes you just have to give your body what it wants and then deal with the consequences.
For months after going vegan, I continued to crave eggs. I couldn’t get them off my mind. One night, after a wedding with nothing vegan on the menu, we went with some friends to a bar with a midnight breakfast burrito buffet. I was so hungry and finally caved and ate an egg and potato breakfast burrito. My stomach was in knots for two days, proving wrong the myth that if we are craving something our body must need it.
Lucky for me, I finally discovered a breakfast burrito that satisfied my craving for eggs without sacrificing my vegan diet or my stomach lining. Tofu scramble looks and feels just like pale scrambled eggs and with a little seasoning tastes eerily similar. Jared has been nagging me to make this all week. It’s truly crave-worthy. If you’re curious about tofu or have had bad experiences with it before, try out tofu scramble.
Tofu Scramble Tacos
2-4 T. Olive Oil
2 small red potatoes, diced (or any veggies of your your choice — onions, bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini…)
1 clove of garlic, minced or chopped
1/2 c. frozen corn
1/2 block of tofu
1 t. salt (divided)
1/2 t. pepper
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. onion powder
2 c. baby spinach
8 tortillas (I really like the new Artisan Corn & Whole Wheat Blend by Mission)
16 oz Black Beans
1 avocado, sliced or diced (optional garnish)
salsa (optional garnish)
cilantro (optional garnish)
Heat oil in a non-stick skillet, use enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Pan-fry potatoes (or any other veggies) with 1/2 t of salt on medium heat until they are tender, stirring often. I covered the potatoes to help them cook quicker, other veggies may not need to be covered though. Bring heat down and add the garlic. Stir continuously to keep garlic from burning.
As soon as the garlic is translucent, crumble the tofu into the pan (just squish it up in your hands and break into little crumbles). Add smoked paprika, onion powder, pepper, and remaining salt. Return heat to medium and stir and cook for about five minutes. Add corn and cook until corn is heated through ( a few more minutes). Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted.
Serve in tortillas with black beans, avocados, cilantro, and salsa.
I gave my mom and dad the DVDs to Downton Abbey, which they apparently enjoyed as much as Greg and I did. (Though she calls it Downtown Abbey, which I think is adorable so I’m not going to correct her.) The PBS Masterpiece Theater upper crust soap opera has taken America by storm. But it should come with a warning, one that my mother put so well in an email the other night. “Your father and I can hardly speak plain English anymore.” Alas, ’tis true.
Greg and I also got bit by the Downton Vocal Bug as we watched two hours of the DVD series night after night. It grew apparent as we were readying for bed one evening and I heard a loud “whack” in the walk-in closet followed by my husband announcing, in a victorious British accent, “I have vanquished a moth!” I paused in the middle of applying my night cream to comment dramatically, “How terribly brave of you, Darling.”
We are fascinated with the servants from the show, called valets (“t” is pronounced), whose sole job it was to help rich people get into and out of their clothes, shoes, and jewelry, along with keeping the garments washed, pressed and ready to wear at a whim. How I would love a valet, if only to keep my clothes off the closet floor and clean underwear in our drawers.
My father asked about our 4th of July plans yesterday and I told him, “We are just enjoying down time today. Or as we like to call it, ‘Downtime Becky.'” And I have to say, the meal I produced for the two of us was worthy of royalty. Especially the steak.
I am not a big ‘hunk of meat’ fan, as a general rule. I prefer meat as an appetizer with veggies and fruits taking up the bulk of my plate. But a petite tenderloin steak, cooked to medium rare perfection and topped with bar-b-que sauce and green chilis, a tender cut of meat that is incredibly juicy and slices like butter… well, this is hard not to love.
So I bequeath this recipe to you, to be cooked and served and savored on special occasions when you want to feel rich, and pampered and spoiled. And if you haven’t seen the two seasons of Downton Abbey, do yourself a favor and beg, borrow or buy them. You are in for a royal treat.
BBQ Tenderloin Steaks with Green Chilis
Two tenderloin steaks, about 1 1/2 inches thick, brought to room temperature
1 T. grill or steak seasoning
2 t. Worchestershire sauce
2 T. olive oil
2 T Bar-b-que sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
2 T. chopped green chilis
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour oil into an oven proof skillet, or preferably, a grill pan. Let the pan and oil get “screaming hot.” In the meantime, pierce one side of the steaks with a fork in several places; turn the steaks over and pierce the other side as well. Sprinkle both sides generously with steak seasoning and Worcestershire sauce, rubbing it in a little with your hands.
Put the steaks into the grill pan on high, and sear until the meat is golden brown with dark grill marks, just a few minutes. Turn the steaks over and repeat.
Put a tablespoon of bbq sauce and a tablespoon of green chilis on top of each steak, then put the skillet of steaks in the oven for five minutes to let finish cooking in the middle.
I like our steaks medium rare so this amount of time is usually perfect for us, but of course, cook the steaks to your desired temperature. A digital meat thermometer is a wonderful thing for this job. Pull the pan out of the oven and tent the steaks loosely with foil for at least three minutes to let them sit and juices distribute. Serve to oohs and ahhs and applause.
What would you do if given the gift of one uninterrupted day, a day where your kids, your husband, your friends and your boss gave your their blessing to walk away and create your own perfect 12 hours? A day to refill your soul?
Some seasons of my life are busier than others and the last two months has been filled to overflowing with people, appointments and a list of “to-dos” that seemed endless. Seeing his wife was in a state of overwhelm, Greg hugged me on Friday night and said, “Honey, tomorrow I want you to take the whole Saturday just do anything you want at any given minute, all day long. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll even make my own meals.”
It may have been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. (True to his word, Greg made his own lunch: two pieces of leftover corn on the cob, a piece of leftover blueberry pie and some leftover salad. Yes, he missed the protein food group, but it was a great improvement over his usual “bachelor diet” when I am away: potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and cereal.)
Saturday dawned with the song “Saturday in the Park” playing in my mind, and the line, “I’ve been waiting such a long time, for Sat-ur-day” echoing again and again. The feeling of unencumbered space stretched out for the next 12 hours left me near euphoric.
I spent the day writing on our new book in uninterrupted bliss at Denver’s famous Tattered Cover Bookstore, then lunched and wrote some more at The Corner Bakery, over-looking a gorgeous outline of the Rocky Mountains. When I walked in the house that evening there was a vase of sunny yellow flowers and a loving card from Greg, “Just because.” I wrote in my Facebook status: I feel like a wilted flower that has been put in the fresh water of creative work, healing solitude, and the benevolent blessing of a good man who wants little in this life but for me to be happy. I may yet live!
After I opened the card, Greg and I went to the back porch for our Summertime Happy Hour, a ritual we started in early June to make sure we have a little time to connect before dinner. One of the things that centenarians the world over have in common is “joyful rituals.” This has become one of our favorites. I made us clementine mojitos using the mint from my herb garden, perfectly refreshing.
The day of rest and writing left me infused with creative energy as I cooked supper a little later. I grabbed a crisp jicama, a vine-ripe tomato, an avocado and a mango out of the crisper. In my mind’s eye I saw this recipe appear: a pretty salad of orange, green and red nestled in a bed of white grated jicama, drizzled with a fresh lime dressing and served in margarita glasses. It would be our “salad course.” Let me tell you, it was every bit as tasty as it is beautiful! So cold and refreshing after a 100 degree summer day.
I am delighted to share this recipe with you, along with encouragement to take time out for “Fill the Well Day” for your body, mind and soul as soon as you can!
Avocado Mango Salad “Cocktail” in Jicama Nests
2 cups peeled, grated fresh jicama
1 fresh tomato
1 fresh mango
1 T. chopped cilantro or parsley or mint
2 T. chopped green onion
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 t. salt
4 t. honey
4 T. crushed corn or tortilla chips
Cajun seasoning or Tajin chili-lime seasoning to sprinkle on top
Lime slices for garnish
Place 1/2 cup grated jicama in each of 4 margarita glasses or pretty glass bowls to create a white “nest.” Mix avocado, tomato, mango, herb of your choice and green onion together in a bowl and gently toss. Place this mixture on top of the grated jicama, dividing evenly in to the four glasses. In a small bowl mix the dressing of lime juice, salt and honey. Drizzle evenly over each of the salads. Top each salad with 1 T. crushed chips and a nice sprinkling of Cajun or Tajin seasoning. Serve with long teaspoons if you have them and put a slice of lime on each rim. Have guests stir and toss their salads once they are served to make sure everything gets coated with the lime dressing.