Sunday, September 13, 2009

I want an IKEA kitchen

I've been spending way too much time in the 2010 IKEA catalog, but seriously - every kitchen looks so efficient, organized, and downright clean. My kitchen is actually pretty well organized for how little space I have, and I have been quite creative in adding storage space and effectively using the decently large cupboards. However, my space is far from efficient. There are times I have to move Mister's bike in order to open a door to an extra cabinet and extract the electric mixer, immersion blender, or 8x8 baking pan. My spices have long since spread out from the 3-tiered wall-affixed spice rack, as well as the pan into which I corralled the extras, and are now about to push each other off of the edge of the counter they have taken over. I have all but given up on trying to better organize my kitchen (and my home) because I recognize that there comes a point where no amount of organization, nifty gadgets, or extra shelving will conquer the unnecessary amount of stuff we have crammed into our home.

I can't wait until that fabulous day that we move. Oh, the purging that will occur along with the will be glorious!

Anyway, I probably should have checked the 10 day forecast on prior to planning this week's menu, though it probably wouldn't have done much good since I'm convinced they're just guessing. It appears (from the gorgeous 80-degree day we enjoyed today) that we have shaken the first cool-down of September and the first part of this week will be summer-like and wholly inappropriate weather for soup dinners. Fortunately (for me), another cold front is supposed to amble in mid-week, making the second half much more amenable to warming-from-within meals. While I wouldn't mind having soup for dinner just about every night of the cooler months, I think Mister would appreciate not having the three soup dinners I planned for this week three nights in a row, so we'll see how I can work that out.

I wanted to enjoy the day a bit because it really was beautiful out (and because sometimes I think if I stay in our tiny, dark apartment too long I'll scream or lose my crackers or something) and when I went to Whole Foods yesterday I saw that the bookstore across the street was having a "buy 2 get 1 free" sale. Also, I needed to try to find black beluga lentils. Having searched the dried and canned bean areas of 4 separate stores, I have come to the conclusion that only restaurants and Nava Atlas are able to purchase these tiny little legumes. The Spice Corner in the Italian Market alleges to carry them, but all I found where they were purported to be were French green lentils (which I also needed). Perhaps I will check back in later in the week. On to the bookstore!

Not surprisingly, my three books are cookbooks - here's the haul:
1. The Accidental Vegan by Devra Gartenstein - My eyes were drawn to this book because of reasons I mentioned previously about accidentally consuming an almost completely vegan diet. I will not say I am Vegan because I still eat yogurt and honey and occasionally cheese, and even if I forsake those things I will still say only that I follow a vegan diet. The reason is this: Presently, at least, I find the entire vegan lifestyle to be too extreme. I have already "deprived myself" of a lot of things in the best interest of human beings: I strive to purchase fair trade goods, I do not purchase clothing from stores or labels that have been confirmed users of sweatshop labor, I sponsor a little girl named Ruth in Zambia, blah blah blah. My reasons for becoming a vegetarian do not now and never did have anything to do with the animals. I think it's terrible how they are treated but I care much more for the impact of the meat industry on the environment and its greed-induced starvation of the hungry in our nation and others. It is my compassion for milk-cows and disgust with the unsanitary guidelines for milk-harvesting that have caused me to (generally) forsake dairy. On the rare occasion we purchase eggs, they are organic and free-range.

That was way longer than I intended it to be. The point I was getting to is this: my diet has been growing slowly more vegan than ovo-lacto vegetarian, so I thought I would give this book a look. As it turns out, not only is it thought-provoking, but it also has some really fun and inventive recipes (which is why I love vegan cookbooks) and an entire section of savory-sounding seitan recipes - in fact, they were the clincher.

2. The Vegetarian Cook's Bible by Pat Crocker - I loved this book because the first 130 pages are a comprehensive discussion of the various health benefits of vegetables and fruits, as well as some grains. The author shares how your diet affects each of your body's main systems (Cardiovascular, Endocrine, Digestive, Immune, Musculoskeletal, Nervous, and Respiratory) and then goes through whole foods from apples to zucchini, including grains, herbs, and spices along the way, sharing each food's health benefits (actions), uses, how to buy/store, culinary uses, and then points to several recipes in the book that use that particular food. It appears to also have some great recipes along with some killer food photos, but that is really an added bonus - I bought it for the first 130 pages.

3. The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau - Honestly, this one won my heart because I'm a sucker for entertaining and for entertaining page layouts. The subtitle, if you will, is "200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion." I figure it might help catapult me to my destiny as a less pastel, more animal/human-friendly Martha Stewart. The structure of the book is slightly confusing for my categorizing mind - there is no Soup chapter or Dessert section - it is arranged by menu, and therefore goes from the appetizer to the dessert of a specifically-themed menu meant for, well, entertaining. As I've mentioned before, I really do appreciate it when cookbook authors take the guesswork out of meal construction and just tell me what to serve with the main course. Each page is a pleasure to behold; in addition to the recipe, the author provides nutritional information, serving suggestions and variations, informational tidbits, and Compassionate Cooks' tips (how to get ham flavor without the pig) and Food Lore (like fennel and pomegranate seeds as ancient viagra). That was just randomly flipped to, by the way, and not the reason I bought the book.

I always make the same mistake, though: I buy new cookbooks the day after planning and shopping for the week's menu. Oh well, it will give me at least a week to carefully dwell on each one before making selections for next week's menu. I'm really excited about those first 130 pages of book #2, though, because of my fascination with nutrition and holistic health, so I plan to use it in bringing a bit more depth of thought to future posts.

In case you were wondering, we had Pasta Jambalaya tonight. It was very good and came together faster than my other two Jambalaya recipes, probably owing to the use of pasta in place of rice. I probably should have let the celery saute a little longer - it was a little too crunchy - it seemed out of place. It was tasty and fun but definitely higher in fat than my other recipes (due to the delightful Tofurky Kielbasa) and not quite as stick-to-your-ribs hearty. In the end, it was nothing to spend a lot of time babbling about (especially after how long this post is already), but I'll probably make it again. It's pretty, too!

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