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TODAY

Monday, October 21

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Airbags

This week marked the first time in quite some time that I whole-heartedly got excited about making a meal. I had been leafing through vegetarian cookbooks for awhile, trying to find something that didn't sound absolutely horrifying ala Apple Tofu Bean Confetti but also wasn't a weak substitution for a meat dish I know like vegetarian chili with TVP. (Of course both of these are probably quite good, but I just wasn't quite ready for TVP yet.)

While searching for this meal, I had a moment that was the cooking equivalent of a lightbulb going off and a heavenly voice speaking to me. It happened innoculously enough -- I was sweating in a crowded PACE bus on my way to Metra skimming through recipes about tofu mayonnaise and Jim's Great Garden of Salad in a vegetarian cookbook. I went back and read one of the opening essays when I happened upon, for me, amazing Words of Wisdom, The Truth and The Light:

1. Read the whole recipe first.
2. Chop all the vegetables before you begin cooking.

This seems completely self-explanatory and basic, but then again, so does a wheel or underwear and someone had to go and invent those things too.

Reading the whole recipe before cooking was something that I usually did, but didn't always do, and absolutely rarely did well. I would often miss ingredients until the end, misunderstand the steps, and just generally mess up.

Same goes for chopping the vegetables. My frustration with cooking was always that the first step finished before the second step, so (for example) the onions had to sit while I finished peeling potatoes. Not so any more. Chopping before cooking and reading before starting, both known probably as Following The Directions, are my new cooking mantra. Namaste.

Namaste is appropriate because our food this week is Indian-influenced. Taken from a random cookbook we had laying about the house, it took about an hour to make and less than $8 to get the ingredients -- not bad for two or three meals for two people.

At the time of cooking I prepared the soup with brownies, which was perfect. (Note: The No Pudge brownie mix from Trader Joe's rules.) When I take the soup to lunch tomorrow, I'm going to make a wheaty quickbread (including butter) to go with it, because I found that I really craved bread with my meal.

If I were making these together, I'd whip together the bread and then prepare the soup while the bread is baking. The times should be just about right.

Wheat-Germless Loaf

I took this recipe that called for whole wheat flour and wheat germ to make a wholesome quickbread. I do have wheat germ, but simply forgot to add it. It turned out dandy, so I'm leaving it out in the recipe below.

2 tbsp. molasses
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 c. oil
1 egg
1 1/2 c. yogurt or buttermilk
1 3/4 c. wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Some wheat germ

1. Preheat oven to a comfortable 375 and grease loaf pan.

2. Mix all the wet stuff together in this order: oil, honey, molasses, egg, yoghurt. You should have a pleasant looking brown goo.

3. Mix all the dry stuff together in a different bowl. You should have a pleasant looking pile of dry brown stuff.

4. Mix together. Do not over-beat. The mixture shouldn't have lumps, but as soon as the ingredients are completely mixed together, pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake. I counted 30 strokes on my mixing; more than 50 and you'll likely have a nice brick.

5. Bake for 45 min. to 1 hour.

6. Serve with butter and soup below.

Garlic, Chick-pea and Spinach Soup

Some olive oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion 2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
5 c. vegetable stock (any ol' stock will do)
2 medium-sized potatoes
1 can chick-peas, drained
2/3 c. yogurt (or cream, or milk)
2 tbsp. tahini
7 oz spinach, roughly chopped (frozen will do, fresh is better)
Spicy pepper (cayenne, chili, etc)'
Salt and pepper

1. Prepare all ingredients -- chop, drain, mince, and crush!

2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and toss in the garlic and onion. Cook for roughly five minutes or until soft.

3. Stir in cumin and coriander.

4. Add the stock to the saucepan. Add the pototoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Add the chick-peas and simmer for another five. The potatoes and chickpeas should be soft enough to eat.

6. Blend the dairy and tahini. I used lowfat yogurt to reduce the fat which tasted fine. Milk would probably be ok, but the original calls for cream in case you're feeling authentic.

7. Add to soup along with the spinach. Bring to a boil and simmer again for a minute or two. Season until it's just right, and serve.

For variation, skip the pototoes and add other vegetables in the last two minutes that add color: corn, red pepper, green beans, or just about any decent vegetable you have hanging around.

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