Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chew on this

While there are a handful of blogs I read throughout the week, I use the weekends to catch up with all the food blogs I've got on my list. In the midst of my reading, I stumbled across this on Michael Bauer's blog: a post and following discussion about foie gras, meat-eating, and the ethics of both.

Since the post focuses on a discussion that Bauer had with a vice-president at PETA, the comments go around and around about PETA's methods. I personally have some problems with the organization. While I'll happily "honk if you hate animal cruelty" when there are protesters outside the local KFC, I find PETA is often too preachy or too in-your-face. I don't know if the best way to convince others not to wear leather is to throw animal blood on them and their leather jackets. I also sometimes think the logic they use when making pro-vegetarian statements is faulty.

To be honest, I'm not a fan of anyone who tries to push their point of view on me. I have a problem with meat-eaters who are over the top, too (ever seen the website VegetariansAreEvil. com?). After reading all the comments on Bauer's post, I just wanted to put my hands over my ears and go, "La la la la!" I didn't want to hear any of it anymore: "There is just no physiological reason to eat plants if you don't want to." "You cannot 'respect' an animal by killing it and eating it." Seriously, people, just shut up, do some research, and eat based on informed decisions. There is no point in arguing or beating each other over the head with your opinions.

The post makes for interesting reading, though.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Meeting Molly

I left class early (on the very first day, no less) to make the hour-long drive to Capitola to see Molly of Orangette read from her new book at the Capitola Book Cafe. I went because her blog is one of the handful I read fairly regularly. I also went because I was hoping to find inspiration. I wanted to meet someone who had started a blog and was writing about food and had managed to find her way to writing for magazines and then to writing a book. Kind of like what I hope to do.

Her writing is very real, and what I mean by that is that you can actually envision someone — an actual person — who is sitting down at her computer, thinking about the food she makes and writing it all down for others to read. Molly as a person is very real, too. Just a woman in jeans and a ponytail. Maybe she's the person who you walk by on your way to the mail box. Maybe she works down the street from you and takes the same bus. I know it sounds silly, but I always think of authors as super people, like they have special abilities that elevate them above all of us normal humans.

So it was inspirational to go and meet her, to have her tell me to keep writing and keep blogging. That even though I feel, as she described, "like I'm just shouting into an empty room," it's good practice to write about what interests me and to keep at it.

So here I am, writing. And having a fine time of it, too. Thanks, Molly.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Bring on the casserole

There has been little cooking happening in the Not From a Box household in the past couple weeks. This is due to a combination of two factors: As a result of tightening my money belt, I've been eating at work a lot more (read: free food). I also started a new medication recently which has almost entirely eliminated my appetite.

Despite that, I still managed to whip up a vegetable noodle casserole last weekend — because when I'm not at work, I have to eat something, right? It has all the elements of a traditional tuna noodle casserole, which is one of my favorite comfort foods, with broccoli in place of the tuna.

I don't know when I started to make tuna noodle casserole. It wasn't something I grew up with, though I have a vague memory of maybe eating it for dinner as a child. The recipe is included in one of my favorite cookbooks from my college years: Clueless in the Kitchen, and I think that when I discovered how easy and how good this casserole was, I added it my repertoire of go-to dinner entrees. It's very similar to a meal I would whip up for kids when I was doing in-home child care: macaroni and cheese (from a box) with tuna and peas. Also a good go-to meal.

Tip: If you want to buy organic and by-pass the Campbell's condensed soup for this recipe, make sure you get an organic soup brand that's thick enough for the casserole so as not to make it too watery. I opted for the Whole Food's 365 brand, which is lovely because it's full of chunky pieces of mushrooms and carrots, but it's not condensed, so my casserole had a lot more liquid in it than I would have liked. I should have sprung for the Amy's brand (at a whole $1.50 more per can!).

Vegetable noodle casserole

2 c whole wheat noodles, like penne or rigatoni
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c frozen peas
1 c French fried onions (yes, from a can — you can also use 1 c bread crumbs mixed with a little olive oil)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook noodles until just done. Add broccoli in the last couple minutes to parboil. Drain.

In a casserole dish, combine noodles, broccoli, soup, and peas. Sprinkle fried onions or breadcrumbs over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbly. (If the topping starts to burn, put a piece of aluminum foil over the top.)

Serves 2 or 3.