Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vegan Party on a Plate

My daughter use to eat at Chipolte everyday. She tells me the meal cost her $10.00, though I'm not sure I believe her. In all honesty, it was probably a ploy to extract more money from me. Anyway, there is a Chipolte Mexican Grill right at the heart of Michigan State University's campus, so it was easy to get to, and it didn't hurt that her roommate worked there either.

Interestingly, I recently learned that Chipolte is known for using the best local, fresh and organic ingredients available. So no matter what the cost was to me, it was worth it. You should really check out this article on the founder Steve Ells and this restaurant. It's impressive.
The following recipe is based on what my daughter loved to eat at Chipolte during her college years, and now that I've eaten this dish, I realize why she ate it daily. It's delicious. Serve it with Baked Tostitos and a margarita! Your entire family will love it. Yum!

Serves 4

1 cup brown rice, cooked according to instructions
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
olive oil
2 peppers, red and green
1 large onion
1 large cob of corn
Freshly made guacamole using 2 avocados
Hearts of romaine

Begin by cooking the rice. As the rice cooks, slice the corn off the cob and the onion into wide rings. Chop the lettuce. Rinse and drain the black beans. Put them into a sauce pan with a little water and warm them on the stove. Make the guacamole to your taste. Lightly oil the peppers and onion and lay them on the grill until slightly black and soft. Once the peppers have cooled to the touch, slice into long strips. When the rice is done you can begin assembling the plates. Lay the rice down first, then the beans, peppers, onions, corn, guacamole and romaine. Dive in!

As a side note, we made it vegetarian by adding cheese for the non-vegan family members.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Greek Panzanella

This recipe comes from Ina Garten. She uses feta cheese in her recipe, which I omitted. Also, I added capers to the dressing for a little more flavor. It's a perfect summer salad, especially when using fresh vegetables from the garden. My family loved it and I will definitely make it again!



  • Good olive oil
  • 1 small French baguette, cut into 1/2-inch slices (approx. 6 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 red bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or one large tomato large diced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1 teaspoon capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil


Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. 

Heat a grill or grill pan. Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, lightly brush olive oil onto each piece of bread. Grill the bread turning as they brown. Once they are nicely browned remove and add to the salad.

Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the olives and grilled bread and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Roasted Squash with Pasta

Where is all the squash? Normally this time of year you can't run into someone without them offering up zucchini from their garden. Usually neighbors and co-workers are so overrun with summer squash they can’t bare it... and I always look forward to this overabundance.

I love the roasted flavors of squash so much I've been buying it to satisfy my cravings. Oh well... The following recipe is my latest creation. It's easy and yummy! I think you'll like it. Try it and let me know what you think.

Roasted Vegetables
1 large ripe tomato cored and sliced
2 lbs. zucchini and yellow summer squash, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the sliced squash in a large bowl and pour a little oil over the squash. Using your hands, toss the squash to coat with the oil. Lay the squash out on a sheet pan. Lay the tomatoes on the sheet pan and pour just  a little oil over the  tops of the tomatoes. Sprinkle the veggies with garlic, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons Earth Balance
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 shallot, diced
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
roasted vegetables and juices from the pan
one package of whole grain linguine

As the vegetables roast, boil the noodles as directed on the package. For the sauce, heat a large saute pan. Add the olive oil and Earth Balance warming until blended. Add the garlic, shallot, thyme and oregano to the pan. Saute until the shallot becomes translucent, about 5 minutes over medium low heat. Remove the sprigs of fresh herbs. Once the vegetables are done, add them to the saute pan with all the juices stirring until combined. Drain the pasta reserving some pasta water and add  the pasta to the saute pan mixing well. If the sauce needs more liquid, add enough pasta water or olive oil to achieve the desired consistency. Serve!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ethics Applied to…Aging (written by my Uncle Gene)

“But at my back I always hear….
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…”
The English poet Marvell was actually trying to encourage his girlfriend to move a little faster in their relationship, but the poem applies quite well to life’s larger issues, like how we use our time, from day to day, and that brings up “The Ethics of Aging”
Ethics is a discussion of what one “ought” to do. The ethics of aging is fairly simple. There are a few easy guidelines everyone ought to follow. The tricky part comes in putting them into practice. Everyone ought to be physically active. Physiologists say that bodily organs deteriorate at about the rate of 1% per year, beginning around age thirty. While some degree of deterioration is inevitable, appropriate exercise can condition everything from heart and lungs and brain to bones, muscles and joints. While too much exercise can be as harmful than too little, relatively few people are in danger from too much exercise.
     The best exercises for most people of mature years turn out to be walking, bicycling, and swimming. Exercise as a chore is no fun at all, and if you are to persist, you must develop routines that are enjoyable. Walking the same area repeatedly must become a meditation exercise, lest it become boring. Some form of resistance training (weight-lifting) is good for the body: it might save you from a hernia lifting groceries, or some other heavy object, like income tax forms. Evidence shows that that weight-lifting exercises not only ward off osteoporosis, but also may help in preventing heart disease and cancer. You don’t have to join a gym: keep a couple small dumbbells around the house and lift them while watching TV, or waiting for a brilliant insight into the world’s political problems.  Another important physical activity is stretching: just standing up and stretching from time to time is good for you, and many books illustrate positions anyone can learn. (“The only thing most people stretch is the truth.”) Stretching does  good things for your body, and perhaps, yoga practitioners maintain, for your mind. The beneficial effects of Tai Chi are well documented in the scientific literature.
      Everyone “ought” to be mentally active. It’s surprising how much education you can get just from reading the newspapers well. The art of journalism is to popularize big ideas, and the best newspapers and magazines do this very well. Scientific breakthroughs, great philosophic concerns, matters of political urgency, all are thought-provokingly profiled in the popular press. Conference centers, Elderhostels, and institutions of higher learning all present golden opportunities for intellectual stimulation. Books and magazines can be sources of challenging ideas; studies show decreased brain wave activity after two hours of watching television. For most people, the greatest intellectual stimulation comes from conversation, and the people you talk to may do more than you realize to keep your mind sharp. It is not a bad idea to have a conversation partner somewhere who persistently disagrees with you: that keeps you thinking!
      Social connections are an important “ought” in terms of aging well. Human beings need other human beings: we need personal contact and touch. We all need to feel we are of some service to others. Families are built-in social devices, but most of us build “voluntary” families of those friends with whom we most closely associate. More than anything else, the social network we establish is what keeps us human. Among the friends whose contacts I value highly are family members, neighbors, students stretching back many years, a wide range of university colleagues, people I exercise with, and others whose perceptions of reality are so different from mine, they might make me doubt my sanity, if I didn’t already have some clear convictions along these lines.
     Aging ethically also demands the continuing acquisition of virtues. The older you are, the more likely you are to experience cancer, heart disease, and other life-threatening illnesses. It is only by developing the appropriate virtues that you have any chance of taking such large challenges in stride. Part of the wonder of being alive is the development of character, which comes by facing and overcoming challenges. Scott Peck once facetiously remarked: “people live longer these days because it takes longer to become virtuous.”
     While the body may deteriorate with time, the capacity for achieving a whole range of “excellences” does not diminish. As the poet might have said: “Grow old with me: the most interesting is yet to be....” Aging is an ethical challenge, and all of the virtues you acquire throughout your life may have their most serious challenges in your later years. Aging is something we are all doing, all the time. Doing it well is the real ethical challenge.
“Knowing when to be aggressive, and when to step back and admit defeat, is the better part of valor.” So said a political commentator recently about the situation in Afghanistan. I know nothing of politics or military strategy, but that comment applies to accepting life’s vicissitudes. There is a time to build our resources, and there is a time to relax and let go. The Chinese had it right: there is a yin and yang to things, a time to advance, and a time to accept what comes our way. Learning to go with the flow is one of life’s most challenging lessons.