Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pumpkin shortage?

I loooove pumpkin and eat it all year round. When I'm not whipping up a pumpkin dessert, muffins, or bread I use it in my oatmeal (recipe follows). It's also terrific tonic for my sweet tooth; when I want something sweet, I microwave a scoop of pumpkin with a splash of maple syrup and a healthy dash of pumpkin pie spice.

Because I'm so enamored of this endearing orange veggie, I have canned pumpkin in my pantry all year long. So I was a little alarmed when I couldn't find it in two different grocery stores recently. Turns out, we have something of a shortage going.

The good news is, it's almost over. Here's the story: Bad weather in 2008 led to a smaller-than-expected pumpkin harvest that year. There was enough pumpkin to get holiday bakers through the season, but not enough to seamlessly carry us through until the 2009 harvest. So if you've been looking for canned pumpkin this summer and come up dry, that's why.

Fortunately, the 2009 pumpkin harvest is underway and appears to be a healthy one. Soon -- hopefully in time for Thanksgiving -- shelves will once again be fully stocked with my favorite source of beta carotene, a substance the body uses to produce Vitamin A.

Oh, and here's my recipe for pumpkin oatmeal. :-)

Pumpkin oats
Serves 1

1/2 c old-fashioned oatmeal
1/4 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c milk of any sort (dairy, soy, almond)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, more to taste
1 T maple syrup or agave nectar, more to taste

Put all ingredients in a large bowl with high walls (I use an eight-cup measuring cup). Cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap and cook for three minutes, watching closely to prevent it from boiling over. Stir, adding more milk if you prefer a thinner consistency. Serve as-is or with applesauce or yogurt.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Brown rice chips at Costco

Costco fascinates me, not so much because of its warehouse setting and outsized-everything for sale, but more because of the unlikely things I find there. My most recent Costco gleaning is Brown Rice Chips with Black Sesame and Sea Salt. They're from Ming Tsai over at Blue Ginger in Massachusetts. You might remember him from his show, East Meets West with Ming Tsai, which ran way back during the Food Network's infancy. Now he hosts a PBS series, Simply Ming. He is also a national spokesperson for The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

So let me tell you about these chips: They're light as a feather! And it really is impossible to eat just one of them. This turns out to be OK because a serving (a whopping 33 chips) has only 110 calories. And if that weren't enough, each serving packs 3 grams of fiber and a mere 3 grams of fat.

My local Costco was selling the chips at $5.49 for a 14-oz. bag. Truthfully, I don't know how this compares to the prices of corn chips or potato chips, because I buy them so infrequently. To me, they felt like a little bit of a splurge but not outrageously so.

For more information, visit Kellogg's or Tsai's web site.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A day in the life

I was talking recently to my dental hygienist and she asked me what a vegetarian actually eats on a typical day. It was a great question, so yesterday, I wrote down everything I ate for your inspection.

1 c oatmeal
1/4 c pumpkin
1/2 c unsweetened almond milk
1/2 c nonfat yogurt
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce

Morning snack:
28 almonds (1 serving, according to the jar)
5 dried apricots
5 dried figs

2 cobs of corn
handful snap peas
1 T spicy hummus

Afternoon snack:
2/3 baked sweet potato
3 mini chocolate pretzels

2 small quesadillas w pepper jack cheese
1 9-oz bag spinach, pan sauteed
12 corn chips w salsa
1/2 mashed avocado

1 c grapes

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Back with J and J and tomato cobbler

Greetings! Life has been busy, but I'm back with lots of inspiration from having seen Julie & Julia last night. I completely identified with Julie: her job frustrations, her discontentment over getting insufficient validation as a writer, her self-absorbed quest for meaning in her life, and most of all, her great romance with food. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I'm now looking for a vegetarian equivalent to Julie's journey, cooking her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, blogging all the while. To me, there's nothing like being completely consumed by a project, losing track of time while taking in every single aspect of it. If you have any suggestions for a J&J-type project, send them along.

Today, I'm sharing a recipe I almost didn't try, which would have been a shame because it's possibly the best thing I've eaten during the Summer '09 harvest. It's a savory tomato cobbler. The dish looks a lot like its fruit-cobbler cousins, but tastes like a compote of sweet tomatoes and basil with a biscuit on the side.

My husband and I ate it as a main dish with freshly picked green beans on the side. It would also be a pot luck show stopper. It's easy to make and, who knows, it could become your signature dish.

The recipe comes from The Full Belly Beet, the newsletter of Full Belly Farm's community sponsored agriculture project in Guinda, California.

Savory Tomato Cobbler

3 c fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 c chopped basil (I used 1/2c pesto)
2 tsp sugar
Dash tabasco
1/2 T balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper

1 T flour
1 c flour
1 c cornmeal
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick chilled butter, cubed
1 1/2 c gruyere cheese, grated (I used regular Swiss)
1/4 c water
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute onions and garlic in butter and let cool.

Mix tomatoes with 2 T flour, sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar, basil, and tabasco. Add onion and garlic mixture, stirring well. Transfer to a casserole dish.

In a large bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, and baking powder. Add butter and cut with a pastry cutter until you get a coarse meal. (I pulsed them in my food processor until I achieved that coarse meal look.) Add water and pulse until mixed, as drop-biscuit dough. Add more water if necessary. Fold in cheese and parsley.

Spoon topping over tomato mixture.

Bake 40 minutes or until crust is brown. Sprinkle parsley on top. Let cool before serving so that tomato juice settles.