My Place at the Table

Sweet Cherry Pie | Veggie and the Beast

Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. As a vegetarian, I know that Thanksgiving traditions aren’t exactly geared towards me. In past years I’ve tried to make my own contribution to the big dinner with a vegetarian entrée that everyone would enjoy. With a highly carnivorous father, a mother who is a vegetarian but doesn’t like anything too “flavorful,” a skeptical brother who hates beans, and a sister whose food aversions seem to change with every season, a vegetarian crowd-pleaser is a tall order. One year I made spanakopita (spinach pie), another year I made tiropita (cheese pie), and more recently I made a mushroom tart. All were vaguely accepted, but with the traditional Thanksgiving fare competing for attention, I felt as though I was making an entrée just for little old me. For a fleeting moment I thought I’d stay strong and make another entrée this year in the name of vegetarianism, but as I was leafing through recipes for lentil-stuffed swiss chard and whole grain pasta with chopped brussels sprouts, I remembered my cooking motto that started when the boy and I began compromising in the kitchen. It grounds me, forces me to branch out, and best of all, it only asks for a simple “yes” or “no” answer: Would a dude eat this?

With the decisive direction from my motto, I decided to step away from the main course and move into an area where my efforts are usually more widely appreciated (read: by more than myself). Cherry pie is something I’ve only had a handful of times, but love more and more with every plate given to me. I had never made my own pie crust, or a double-crusted pie for that matter. Since I knew my mom, ever the stickler for tradition, would have the usual spread of pumpkin and french silk pies available at our Thanksgiving, I figured it wouldn’t matter if I botched this one up. With a little piecing together of cherry pie recipes, and two brave grocery trips on the day before Thanksgiving (tip: AVOID this is possible), I grabbed my mother’s pie pans and dove into the unknown. Or the slightly known, if you will. And I think you will.

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Eggplant and Zucchini Bake

When I’m not busy at work I tend to daydream. Sometimes the subject matter includes beaches and frozen drinks decorated with umbrellas, sometimes it involves frolicking in a winter wonderland type of scenario, and other times it’s as simple as picturing myself a few hours later, listening to music, and making whatever the heck I want for dinner. Such was the case this past week, when around 3:00 I finished a task and found myself free to be with my thoughts. I was feeling adventurous, and the boy was at deer camp again, so I knew I could go with the random vegetarian flow and try something new without disappointing anyone other than little old me.

The Minnesotan tundra had started freezing over, so I wanted something warm and cheesy, but after a weekend of eating my weight in cookies and hydrating myself with wine, I thought I should try to fit in some wholesomeness too. At the grocery store that evening I decided to venture outside of my usual vegetable choices and wandered over to the pile of eggplants. So pretty, so exotic, and so confusing to me. I had a rough go of eggplant failure a couple years ago when, blinded by size and price, I grabbed two extra large ones at $.99 each thinking, “These will feed me for DAYS!” Unfortunately, despite several recipe attempts, I only got a couple bites in each time before deciding the spongy, chewy texture was more than I could handle. Two years older and wiser, I figured I wouldn’t let the eggplant win again, so I grabbed one and headed out to make…something.

After looking at the available assets in my fridge, I decided to do my own take on lasagna, but with layers of vegetables in lieu of noodles (stay with me here). I thought back to my days studying abroad in Greece, when my classmates indulged in creamy, mysterious Moussaka while I, the sole vegetarian, was given a slab of flaky Spanakopita. Although Spanakopita is one of my favorite foods because of this routine, I was always curious about the lasagna-esque Greek creation. I couldn’t see any reason why lasagna couldn’t be one with moussaka, and vice versa, for just one evening, so I decided to bring the two cultures together in an 8 x 8-inch pan.

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Chow Mein Stew

At the ripe old age of 25, I like to think that I know myself pretty well. For instance, some known facts are: my favorite color is purple, I like dry humor, I have no sense of direction, and I fall into ruts. Not the kind of ruts the Boy loves, where deer are running around seducing each other and people like him are creeping up in a tree. No, the kind of rut I’m talking about is the one of routine: I like what I like and I don’t venture very well. I’m also a bit of a masochist, which is why I’m writing a blog where, for interest’s sake, I’ll need to go ahead and embrace the new and unfamiliar.

Which brings me to my next point: Asian food. Don’t get me wrong, I love picking up some greasy chow mein, and just destroying it right out of the perplexing little box. Unfortunately, much like my Asian Studies course in college, it intimidates me. I have no idea what’s in it, how they fit such an absurd amount of food in what appears to be a tiny little package, and what could possibly make it taste so. damn. good.

In addition to me stretching outside my comfort(food) zone, this blog is about compromise, so I said, “Hey [Boy], what kind of Asian food do you like?” He said stir fry with beef. I corrected him and said that he probably meant to tell me that he likes vegetable chow mein better, and we were off.

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Sibling Rivalry, With Love (and Chocolate)

I’m a cookie girl. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some cake, ice cream, brownies and the like, but when I want a dessert, I usually want a big, thick, soft-yet chewy cookie. I’ve been baking cookies since I was a little girl, helping my grandma gently mix the dough, then fold in the chips. As they were baking, I’d standing in the kitchen for what seemed like the longest ten minutes any six-year-old had ever been forced to suffer. At the ding of the kitchen timer I’d get the first soft, right-outta-the-oven cookie, and walk into the living room with melted, delicious evidence all over my face and hands that proved I was faster than my older sister.

When my sister and I bake together these days things are pretty much the same. We take the pan out and both grab for the most appealing cookie to take a chunk out of. We also have both been on a mission to make THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE imaginable. My sister may have been the first to discover the power of using cake flour in cookie batter, but this week I must [not-so] humbly admit that the stakes have been raised, dear sister. How so, you ask? Because I feel like I’ve evened the playing field with a little discovery I’d venture to say resulted in a contender for THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE. Jokes aside, I can’t contain it any longer, I have to share it, so here it is…

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A SOUPer Start

Hi. Hello! I’m so glad you’re here. This is my first post and feels like an awkward blind date, which has never been my strong suite, but ahh hell I’ll make the best of it (ironically, this is also how I’ve always approached blind dates. Hopefully this goes better).

You should read my “About Me” page, but if you don’t here’s the jist: I love food. I love making food, I love eating food, and I love talking about food. My boyfriend loves food too, but in a different way…actually several different ways than I do. I’m a vegetarian, he’s a bow hunter, I never stop thinking about my next meal, he tends to forget to eat meals, I’m all about natural ingredients, he’s all about the most economically sound purchase (read: cheap). So, as you may guess, we tend to come up with some creative ways to find culinary bliss.

Which brings me to my first recipe. During one particularly blustery midwestern day a couple weeks ago, the boy and I were talking about soup. While he likes meaty soup and I like chunky tomato soup, we came to the conclusion that we both like barley soup (and really, who doesn’t? If you don’t you should really start embracing good things in life). So, being the creative compromiser that I am, I decided to make the best Beef(like) Barley Vegetable Soup possible. This soup of champions would taste meaty, have chunks of tomatoes, and barley. Am I SOUPer woman or what? (okay fine, I like puns. The jig is up).

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