Healthful Fast Food

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I really like Mark Bittman. His cookbook  How To Cook Everything Vegetarian taught me how to make eggplant that is not too chewy, slimy, mushy, or oily (dry fry it whole until the flesh collapses!); applesauce ideas (add savory flavor like garlic, cumin, or pepper!); and so much more. I regularly refer to his 2009 article “101 Simple Salads”. So of course I was happy to read his current NY Times Magazine article  “Yes, Healthful Fast Food is Possible. But Edible?”.

I’ve been thinking about the differences in fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, which I never go to, and places like Chipotle, Potbelly’s, or Panera Bread, which I go to on occasion. I don’t have the illusion that the latter restaurants are healthful, but they do seem to be better than the former. (Plus they have vegetarian options on the menu). It was interesting to read the categories these restaurants fall into- quick serve, fast casual, premium fast casual…

I agree that food does not have to be vegetarian to be healthful, and that minimally processed foods are better options than imitation meats. I disagree, though, with his vegan friends’ argument that Americans aren’t ready for rice and beans, or chickpea and spinach stew. I think that a fast food restaurant, I mean, a fast casual or premium fast casual restaurant, that served quick lunches like that would be a hit! I would much rather have a stew, salad, or casserole made with vegetables, beans, and grains over an imitation meat product.

What are your thoughts?

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Knitting in Iceland

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The reason I went to Iceland was because I received a grant to help me improve my teaching by incorporating art and physical education in the classroom. I found a program through Knitting Iceland that had knitting workshops, design workshops, and yoga and dance classes. Perfect.

Turns out the sheep population in Iceland is larger than the human population, so I was able to visit with lots of the fuzzy creatures.

sheep

I also had the opportunity to learn about dyeing yarn with natural, plant-based dyes.

dyeing

I spent a lot of time knitting and admiring the pieces that others made.

knitting

Traditional Icelandic sweaters, or lopapeysa, are a solid color for most of the sleeves and body, but have a multi-colored, intricately designed yoke. Like this one, that was for sale at the Handknitting Association of Iceland.

lopapeysa

I got to learn how to make one of these by creating a tiny version in a workshop that taught top-down sweater construction.

minisweater

For this project, I did my one and only steek (for you non-knitters, this means cutting into knit fabric, which also strikes fear into the hearts of many knitters) in order to make the front opening on this mini-sweater. I knit it in the round, then reinforced the edges in order for it to get cut open without unraveling. I conquered that fear, but it would still be nerve wracking for me to do this to a full-sized garment.

Overall, the trip was great. The grant was valuable. I learned new techniques, and I got inspired. What more can you ask for?

Icelandicish Vintage Modern Sweater

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I fell in love with the cover design of Vintage Modern Knits, called Adelaide Yoke Pullover, designed by Kate Gagnon Osborn.

yarn

This was  before I knew it was pretty much a lopapeysa, or traditional Icelandic sweater design. I started the project right around when I found out I would be going to Iceland, and didn’t finish it until a few months after I was back.

Instead of the recommended yarn, I used Malabrigo, one of my favorites.

One thing I liked about this pattern is that it has you start with the sleeves, then start the body once the sleeves are finished.

sleeve

That works for me because usually I’m all excited about a project at first, then lose interest or it gets boring partway through. With this one, it was still all exciting to start the main part of the sweater, and when I finished that, it was like, surprise! sleeves are done, all you need to do is attach them.

sweaterback

It was also knit bottom-up. In Iceland, I learned about the benefits of knitting sweaters top-down (you can try them on as you go and ensure proper length, you get the tricky parts out of the way first) but for me I liked knitting this bottom-up. The reason is that again, once I started losing interest in the pattern from all the plain, solid color knitting, the colorwork  started and I regained interest in the pattern.

yoke

The sweater is super warm and cozy. I’m happy with the turnout. What do you think?

Yes, sir, it’s a geyser

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The word geyser comes from the Icelandic word geysir, which means to gush, and is the name of one of the first discovered and recorded geysers.

geysir

Unfortunately, Geysir doesn’t erupt much any more, but Strokkur, which is nearby, still erupts frequently. I was there for only about 25 minutes, and got to see it happen four times!

geyser

It was impressive, to say the least.

geyser2

There are pools and puddles of near-boiling water all around the area. This geothermal heat is a huge energy source throughout Iceland. It smells a bit like sulfur, but it warms homes, provides hot water for showers, pools, and hot tubs, and melts snow when its pumped under roads. Pretty cool, er, warm.

Kohlrabi Mushroom Quiche

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Kohlrabi is kind of crazy looking, so when it showed up at the farmers market, I had to buy it. I also buy mushrooms every week. I had to decide what to make before all my spoils spoiled, so I chose a simple quiche.

kohlrabi

Quiche might seem difficult, I guess because its French, but it really isn’t. I just cleaned and chopped the kohlrabi and mushrooms, then cooked them in the cast iron for a few minutes. I also made a pie crust, which can be hit or miss for me. This one turned out well, but I didn’t roll it out quite thin enough to make a decorative edge. To make an even quicker quiche, buy a crust. (Though really, crust doesn’t take long aside from the chill the dough at least an hour step).

Then, I put the cooked veggies into the crusts, shredded a little cheddar cheese, sliced a tomato, and whisked some eggs with soy milk.

preparing

After that, I poured the eggs in, sprinkled the cheese on and laid the tomatoes on top. I baked it for about 35 minutes, then had delicious quiche.

quiche

Thing 1 and Thing 2

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I learned two lessons during my trip to Iceland. First, camera batteries sometimes need to be recharged- BRING YOUR CHARGER. When I went to the place I was most looking forward to, Thingvellir (Þingvellir), the tectonic plate boundaries, where the North American and Eurasian plates meet, my camera battery died. I had realized a few days earlier that I forgot the charger. I’m sure someone at Kex Hostel would have had one I could have used, but I was unable to locate that person. Luckily I could still use my cell phone camera, but the quality is clearly lacking. Trying to capture Thingvellir with a cell phone camera would be equivalent to listening to a symphony as a ring tone. Even my fancy camera wouldn’t be up to the task.

Here comes the second thing I learned. I teach 5th grade science. I have over 40 college hours in science classes, and much more than that in education classes. It’s important for teachers to find out where students’ misconceptions are, then work on addressing those misconceptions. So my big misconception, clearly earth science isn’t my forte: I thought that where the plates collided would be one crack in the earth. I was not expecting there to be numerous rock formations, cracks and crevices, some dry, some full of water. I wasn’t expecting the area to stretch nearly as far as I could see in all directions. I wasn’t expecting it to be so jaw-droppingly beautiful.

So I leave you with some images.

thing1

 

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thing2

 

thing4

 

 

Jamaican-Style Curry Shepherd’s Pie

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The key to being a great cook is being able to read and follow directions. And occasionally improvise.

Just like all my best meals, this recipe came from the cookbook Veganomicon. Shepherd’s Pie is traditionally meat and veggies in some sort of sauce topped with mashed potatoes and baked. This one is veggies and beans in a curry/coconut milk sauce topped with mashed yucca. Yeah.

I’d never cooked yucca before, and had really only eaten it in the form of Terra Chips. But it was much easier than I expected. You just have to cut it down and peel the skin.

Then I boiled it while I prepared everything else. Once the other stuff was all done, the yucca was soft enough to be mashed. When I make this again, I’ll add more soy milk or coconut milk to the yucca while mashing it. It was a little too stiff to spread on top of the veggie mixture.

The preparing everything else part consisted of cooking several vegetables including sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, bell peppers, plantains, and more along with a couple types of beans and of course spices and coconut milk. Once all the veggies were cooked, I loaded them into a casserole dish and topped it with the mashed yucca. Then, I baked it for a short time, took it out, let it cool, and indulged.

 

Vegan comfort food at its finest.