Monday, December 28, 2009

Cranberry Orange Marmalade

Cranberries Jeff and I got some cranberries in our produce shipment about a month or so ago. I had never cooked with real cranberries before - the only cranberries I ate were the dried kind or the jellied ones that come in a can completely pureed. (Yep, the kind that takes the shape of the can so you can see the little ridges on the side as it's displayed on Thanksgiving day.)

Needless to say I had no idea what to do with them, but that was the whole idea of getting a produce shipment in the first place. We also had a few oranges sitting around, so I instantly thought of marmalade. I did a quick google search and came up with a recipe for cranberry marmalade.

Cranberry-Orange MarmaladeIt came out enough to fill 9 half-pint jars, with a little bit left over for taste testing. Jeff and I ate ours at least a month after canning, and the taste had settled in by then, very sweet and delicious. I think I ate most of the marmalade in two sittings. They are superb on this Vegalicious biscuit recipe.

This was also the first time I canned using a canning funnel, and I can say that it's definitely worth purchasing. You don't have to clean up nearly as many messes when you're not messing around with spooning stuff in to jars!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Creamy Sausage, Broccoli, and Pepper Pasta

When people think of lasagna or baked ziti, they think of tomato sauce.

Nothing against tomatoes, but I get really tired of the acidity, especially in the winter. Still, baked pasta dishes are easy to put together, delicious, and versatile. And they make great leftovers. That's why I came up with this creamy baked "ziti" recipe. It's perfect when you know you need to eat vegetables, but you're more in the mood for comfort food.

The Gimme Lean sausage offsets the sweetness of the red pepper and broccoli, and the peppery cream sauce ties them together nicely. I use unsweetened soymilk for this cream sauce recipe, because the sugar in other soymilk is really noticeable in savory dishes.

When you pour the pasta into the roasting pan, a lot of the sauce is going to sink to the bottom. Don't worry. While serving you can spoon it over the pasta, and after it's refrigerated, it turns solid, making it easy to scoop up as much as you like for your lunch later that week. It melts right away in the microwave.

Creamy Sausage, Broccoli, and Pepper Pasta
(8 servings)

1 lb penne or ziti or other small pasta
1 package Gimme Lean - Sausage Style
2 crowns of broccoli, florets cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large red bell pepper, diced
your favorite soy cheese

Cream Sauce: 
3 Tbl olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
Black pepper and salt to taste
2-3 cups unsweetened plain soymilk
2 Tbl onion powder
1 8 oz. package Better Than Cream Cheese

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

2. Lightly oil a large frying pan (I like non-stick cooking spray in a wok). While the pasta is cooking, break up the Gimme Lean sausage into small pieces over the pan and cook until browned over medium heat, turning over regularly. Remove from pan and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. In the same large pan, add the oil, garlic, pepper, and salt and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Add the soymilk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the Better Than Cream Cheese. Break it up in the pot to help it melt. Add the pasta, red pepper, and broccoli and toss to coat in the sauce. Add the sausage. Cook for 8 minutes over medium heat.

4. Pour the pasta into a large roasting pan, sprinkle with soy cheese and bake for 10 minutes.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I've been saving a lot of blog posts in my bookmarks lately about fish. There is a lot of buzz these days about sustainable fishing, over-fishing, toxins in fish, fish farming and aquaponics. The bottom line of most of these blog posts is that fish are being over-fished at obscene rates and many of them are facing complete eradication. However, most of these blog posts also point out that there are plenty of fish in the sea, so why not just stop eating bluefish tuna and switch to something else?

The way I see it is different. The way corporate fisheries work is that they pretty much hunt fish down to extinction. This is how corporate fishing has always worked, including whale hunters driving many species to extinction (for example, grey whales in the 1700s). Once there is demand for a new type of fish, that type of fish will be over-fished until it too is driven to near extinction. And it's not only different species of fish to worry about. These days with giant trawlers and nets, commercial fishing operations catch more than just fish. Many other marine animals get trapped and killed as well.

Once people decide on a new "sustainable" type of fish, it will be only a matter of time before it's no longer sustainable. If you think about what the word sustainable means (of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged - according to Merriam-Webster), unless people switch to extremely small scale fishing (which isn't going to happen as long as profit can be made from catching huge amounts of fish), the finite amount of fish available will eventually disappear. It happened to the passenger pigeons not so long ago.

And over-fishing isn't the only problem. Methylmercury, DDT and PCBs are prevalent in salmon, carp, trout and tuna those three toxins are only the tip of the iceberg. When pollutants are found in the majority of our lakes, rivers and streams, why would you want to eat any of the creatures that have been absorbing those toxins? (For a great take on which fish contain toxins and why, I recommend Marion Nestle's What to Eat.)

The simple solution seems to be, don't eat fish.

This is why I particularly enjoyed reading The Face on Your Plate by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson this past weekend. There is an entire chapter dedicated to why not to eat fish. Masson takes not only an animal-rights standpoint in why people should give up fish, but also tackles the notion of fish farming as well. With all of the problems with factory farming of cows, pigs and chicken, why do we think the farming of fish will be any different? And it turns out it's not. Fish farming leads to pollution, the fish are given feed that a wild fish would never eat as well as mountains of antibiotics, and interbreeding with wild fish is a big problem.

With all of the evidence out there, why continue to eat fish? It just doesn't make any sense, and it's not fair for the fish who are currently being decimated, not to mention future generations who will think that fish exist only within disgusting factory farms.