Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Easy weeknight pasta

I make this a lot, especially when I don't have much time. Cook a half cup to a cup of pasta. While that's cooking, put some olive oil in a skillet. Use a garlic press or mortar and pestle to crush 2-3 cloves of garlic. Add that to the oil. Add a 2-4 teaspoons of Italian seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat the skillet over low heat until the garlic just begins to sizzle, and turn it off immediately (remove it from the heat, if you use an electric stove). Pour over the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

You can add tofu, chickpeas, lentils, or meat to make it a more complete meal. You should probably also serve it with salad or add chopped vegetables to it (sautee them together with the garlic until tender -- just be careful to keep the heat low, and keep stirring it so the garlic doesn't burn). It doesn't get old!

Produce is complicated

I was doing my Thanksgiving shopping today at Wal Mart (sorry -- I do have ideals, but I'm also poor) and the girl who checked us out (she was maybe 18, possibly older) didn't recognize fresh ginger, cilantro, romaine lettuce, fresh green chilis, or limes when she saw them, and had to spend a long time hunting through the Wal Mart-issued non-alphabetical pictorial produce chart, with our help, to find them. She also didn't know whether limes were a vegetable or a fruit.

JEEZ LOUISE. This is why there is a nutritional crisis going on in this country.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Review: Blue Diamond Almond Milk

I blame the vegan cookbooks section at the Haunted Bookshop, which I was perusing for ideas this morning, for this impulse purchase. I'm always wishing I could be a vegan, but I love food and eating so much I would hate to cut off such a wide avenue of textures and tastes and smells. Especially cheese. There is absolutely no vegan cheese that is edible. Do not argue with me, vegans, for you have simply forgotten what true culinary bliss tastes like.

So although I know in my heart I could never truly go vegan, I'm always looking for ways I can substitute non-dairy items in my diet. I'm aware of how bad dairy farming is for the environment and I hate that I am a part of that, but at least I can be less huge of a part of it if I find a good milk substitute that I like.

I love soy milk, but the health risks associated with it scare me, especially as a woman. I still drink it once in a while as a treat (imagine!) but these reports have me frightened away from keeping it in my fridge at all times. Plus it's expensive.

Anyway, what I'm leading up to is that that's why I grabbed this carton of Blue Diamond Vanilla Flavored Unsweetened Almond Breeze from the produce aisle of Fareway today. The package made it sound nice. "Luscious Taste!" "Smooth and Creamy!" "The Preferred Taste Alternative!" It's very low in calories, and almonds are supposed to be full of vitamins. Also, since I spent last spring in Mallorca, I have a fond memory of seeing the almond fields blossoming in the sun. There's something so much more foresty and peaceful about an almond field than there is about a vast, deserted stretch of soybeans. They can keep sheep together in the same fields with the almond trees, and it seems to be a much more efficient deal. So if almond milk was as good as soy milk, I thought I might still have a chance at my perfect dairy replacement (it's still expensive, though - $2.49 a carton at Fareway).

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. While there's nothing too unpleasant about the taste, it lacks the substance of soy milk. It's just white, opaque water with a vaguely nutty, slightly bitter flavor. It might be okay on cereal, but for drinking a cool glass of milk or making some nice hot chocolate, I'm going to stick with the regular kind. Also, I hear that the almond content in it is so slight by the time the milk is processed that you'd be better off just eating the almonds if you wanted to get the beneficial vitamins and fats from them. Not worth it to drink this. Almond Breeze is not for meeze.