Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

I needed to bring a kosher vegetable dish for Passover Seder tonight, so I figured this was a perfect time to try out my new, larger tagine. I started with this yesterday:

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Most of it is from the farmers markets. Last night, I made the tomato sauce portion from a Moroccan Vegetable Tagine recipe I found. I even made my own Harissa paste.

While I was doing that, I had some wine and made dinner. Breaded-and-baked, stuffed squash blossoms, roasted carrots and asparagus and a little sautéed spinach. Instead of ricotta, I used a fresh, sheep’s milk soft cheese from the Farmer’s Market. They were awesome. I asked if I could bring cheese for the vegetarians tonight but got laughed at. They missed out. ;-)

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Tonight, I chopped up the remaining vegetables, mixed them with the tomato sauce, and threw it all together in the tagine in the oven for an hour and a half at 400°. It took longer because the tomato sauce had been in the fridge instead of already boiling. I walked the dog and folded laundry while waiting.

Late for appetizers, I arrived two minutes to sundown. My car trunk smells a bit, but it was worth it. I forgot to take a photo of the dish when it was finished, but here is what I had left when I got home.

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It was spicy and good. I’ll definitely make this one again.

Pasta with capers, tomatoes and olives

Tonight’s experiment with dinner was Pasta with capers, tomatoes and olives; roasted parsnip, carrots, kale and asparagus; and a side of steamed artichoke with lemon butter. Cooked with white wine.

I drank the wine. That is how I cooked with it.

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Hair Porn Day

Before and after. Just a color touch up and a trim.

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Cutting sugar

A friend asked recently if I had given up sugar completely after posting a link to this article. No, I haven’t. I am fighting just like everyone to cut more of it out of my life.

Over the years, I’ve been slowly doing things to make changes. I do find some of it is easier to do in Cali and because I have no one at home but myself to feed.

I wrote a post a while ago about how I was losing weight. Some of those are good suggestions for cutting sugar, but here is a list of how I got to where I am today.

The important thing to remember is that I made these transitions over years. Don’t try to cut sugar out of your life completely and immediately. Do it gradually and in a way that you can sustain. You will be more likely to succeed.

So pick one of these suggestions and practice it until you are successful at it. Then try another. And another.

Cut out soda

This is a great starting point. Just stop drinking soda. It is carbonated sugar water. Replace it with sparkly water so that you still feel like you are drinking something fun. But not the sparkly water with the fake sugar in it—the kind that is just water, carbonation, and a hint of lemon or lime.

Don’t drink fruit juices

Much of it is natural sugar, but you are missing all the other parts of the fruit. Just eat a piece of fruit instead. Drink water. At this point, the only fruit juice I drink is either a fruit smoothy—as a meal, or wine. I’m not willing to give up fermented grape juice quite yet!

Stop adding sugar

Don’t add sugar to your coffee or cereal. Don’t add it to food you cook. Add half of what a recipe calls for. Keep cutting back. Apple pie is so much better with half the sugar. I just use sweeter apples and less sugar. It will take a while for your taste buds to adjust. Don’t rush them, but continue to challenge them.

Never buy candy yourself

This is one of my random rules. I haven’t bought anything from the candy aisle in years. I will sometimes eat things supplied at the office. I have the same rule with French fries. I can eat leftovers off someone else’s plate, but I can’t get them myself.

Only eat homemade pastries

This is an easy way to cut back on pastries without offending friends. If they made it from scratch, I’ll have some. If it is store bought, I’ll try to avoid it. Homemade, yes. Mass produced, no.

Read package labels

The FDA just announced new package labels this week. Read them. Learn about them. Understand them. You’d be surprised what chemicals you are consuming—and how much sugar. The new labels will make the added sugar more obvious.

Cut out canned tomato sauce

Canned tomato sauce has a ton of sugar and salt in it. My favorite thing to do now is different variations on pasta primavera. Basically, it is a hodgepodge of what is laying around. I start by sautéing garlic and onion in olive oil, then add chopped tomatoes (skin on. Blasphemy!) and other chopped veggies like peppers, zucchini, broccoli, and carrots. Sometimes I use no-salt-or-sugar-added, diced tomatoes from a can. Another favorite is to halve cherry tomatoes, toss the pasta with them, olive oil, spinach or basil and Parmesan. Anything but canned tomato sauce.

Stop rewarding yourself with food

This is one I need to get better at. I had a good week of losing weight and what did I do tonight? Splurge on food. I’ll spend all weekend working it off. Food shouldn’t be a reward. Find another way to reward yourself. And if you figure out how to succeed at this, let me know. I need some pointers.

Shop in the outside aisles

Canned, packaged and frozen foods are notorious for their sugar and salt content. I shop in the outside aisles at the grocery store. That’s where the fresh veggies, bread, cheese and meat are. Everything you need to make dinner. Luckily, the beer and wine is also usually near there. I do have to slip into an aisle occasionally for deodorant and soap though. I’m not that crunchy.

Get a CSA box

For about two years, I purchased a weekly CSA box. I got a half fruit, half veggie box from The Fruit Guys. Sadly, now that I’ve left, they no longer do veggies. It was great though. They did a mix of different things and there were always new plants for me to learn how to eat. It really helped my route to being a vegetarian.

Learn to cook

The CSA box also forced me to learn how to cook. I didn’t want to waste my money, so I had to be creative about what was in my box. Doing so forced me to try a lot of things I never would have tried. That brought me to my next step…

Shop at the farmer’s market

Now that I’m not afraid to try new things and I recognize vegetables in their original form, I now do most of my shopping at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. I thought people were lying about this, but they were right—farm-fresh veggies do taste better. Just like Guinness tastes better in Ireland. Just sayin’.

Don’t replace sugar with fake sugar.

Last but not least, whatever you do, do not replace sugar with fake sugar. It doesn’t stop the cravings and it is just putting chemicals in your body.

Enough of my preaching. I’ll go back to my beer, which yes, has sugar in it. The yeast have to eat something. Like I said, I didn’t cut it out entirely, I’m just trying to cut back. We are all in this together, so let me know if you have suggestions. I need help too!

Good luck!

Butternut squash pasta, take two

In an effort to skip the butter in the browned butter, sage, butternut squash pasta, I went in search of a new butternut squash recipe and landed with this pasta with winter squash and tomatoes recipe. I made spinach as a side dish, but dumped it into the pasta at the last minute.

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Notes for next time: roast the squash in the oven to make it super juicy and tender. Then toss it in with the pasta into the sauce.

First (of many) tagine success!

After reading many tagine recipes, I used a recipe at Vegetarian Times as a base. What I learned is that I can use tagines to empty my fridge, I just need the right mix of vegetables, spice, sweet and savory.

This is what I started with.

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I didn’t have raisins, but I had dried apricot for the sweet. The olives had blue cheese in them, but I pulled that out. I’m missing saffron, which I understand is important, and my ginger and cinnamon were ground. I didn’t have parsley either.

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Regardless of what I was missing, I call this a success! I didn’t make any bread, so I ate it over couscous.

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And there is enough leftover for lunch tomorrow!

I also made homemade hummus from dried garbanzo beans. I made way too much. And it needs a little something, I just need to figure out what.

Best pasta yet!

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The Pasta

Barilla Veggie Rotini pasta made with zucchini and spinach.

The Sauce

Garlic and onion sautéed in olive oil. No-salt, pure tomato sauce with oregano and freshly-ground salt and pepper added. Halved cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, black olives, and fresh basil. Tossed with the pasta. Sprinkled with parmesan. (Less sprinkled, more like a New England snow storm.)

The Veggies

Sweet potato and carrots tossed in olive oil, freshly-ground salt and pepper, baked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

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