A Food Manifesto

‘Ello eaters!

I hope you enjoyed my pictures from last night. As you can tell, I’ve very proud.

Hell, I’m very proud anytime I can do something on the computer. I’m a bit of a Luddite, don’t ya know.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about my views on food. They’ve obviously changed over the years, especially since I’ve had this blog. And while I’m absolutely positive they will change more over the years, I figured it was worth tacking them down as they as now.

Kind of like a manifesto time capsule, if that makes sense.

So, without further ado, here’s my food manifesto as it stands today, December 11, 2012.

Sprinkles don’t have calories. Or carbs.

Eat one serving of fruits or vegetables at every meal.

Bacon should be thick cut and crispy.

Food becomes exponentially better when you eat it with your hands.

Condiments make food exponentially better.

Any cut of BBQ pork is the right cut as long as it’s saucy.

The more colorful the food the healthier it is, with regards to fruits and vegetables.

Tofu is not just for vegetarians.

Salads are the best packed lunches.

Eat at least one snack a day.

Dessert isn’t healthy. If it’s healthy than it’s not dessert, it’s an after dinner snack.

Never skip meals.

Nuts should be roasted and salted.

Donuts are a perfect food.

When you don’t know what to say, bake a cake.

Smoked paprika is the best spice, second only to pepper.

Cheese.

Strawberry banana is a very over used flavor combination.

It’s always worth it to make it from scratch. At least once in your life.

Eat locally and seasonally; it’s cheaper, among other things.

Never turn down crusty bread.

Pizza is also a perfect food.

Sausage is not just for ball games and barbeques.

Wine should be dry and shared.

I’m sure there are plenty of other things that I have lots of other views on food, those are all I can think of.

Your turn, eaters:

What are some of your views on food?

Any of my views that you disagree with?

G’night eaters! 

WIAW: Spoiler

Hello eaters!

Sorry I didn’t post anything last night. I got so caught up in watching the election results. I seriously did not expect it to get called so fast.

But now that the election is over I look forward seeing less tweets and statuses about politics and more about high school girls posting passive aggressive things about their frenemies.

Because seriously, those are hilarious!

Alright, time to get down to business.


Breakfast #1:

You know what a few apple slices and some pb look like, right? If not, see here, here, here, or below.

Crossfit:

Class on Tuesday was so freaking frustrating. We did the benchmark “Cindy:”

20 minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds as Possible)

5 pull ups

10 push ups

15 squats

I’d done this WOD before and got 14 full rounds plus 5 pull ups (which were jump assisted for me then) and 5 push ups.

The idea with these benchmarks is to see how much you’ve improved. Ya know, improve your time/score and the weight/skill level of what you’re doing.

So logically I should have gotten more than 14+5,5 rounds and been able to do the workout with kipping pull ups.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, I got 12+5,7 with kipping pull ups the first 3 rounds and then a more difficult than before jump assisted pull up.

I know I could have done a lot better had my back not made kipping pull ups really painful and that once my injury is all healed up that I’ll be back to beasting benchmarks like before, but it doesn’t make this any less frustrating.

End whine.

Breakfast #2:

Rotisserie chicken, lettuce, and avocado on Great Harvest higher protein Dakota.

I really need to work on taking faster showers so that I actually have time to make breakfast. Instead, I eat things like this while running around the house trying to leave on time. (Spoiler: I still never leave on time.)

Chiropractor:

During this appointment we went over my x-rays, planned out my treatment, and then I got an adjustment.

I’m going to go into all the details tomorrow, I promise. (And tomorrow I’ll have copies of my x-rays, which will be really cool. Right?)

Homework:

It’s really not amusing when professors think that you not only don’t have other classes, but that their class is your full time job.

Lunch:

Ghetto fried rice.

Here’s a recipe: almost completely scramble an egg, add in leftover rice and stir fry, drizzle a bit of oil, and mix everything together over medium-low heat. And then you have ghetto fried rice.

Snack #1:

Please don’t try to get how many mini packets of Whoppers I ate yesterday. (Spoiler: the bag is empty.)

Snack #2:

Apple and pb.

While I was eating this in class it came up that one of my friends had only ever eaten Granny Smith apples. He even asked if pb and cinnamon were good on apples besides Granny Smith.

I was blown away.

Dinner:

Moo shu vegetables time 2 plus a few bites of sweet and sour chicken.

Chinese twice in one day? Yup, it was take out night for the week and I was craving moo shu vegetables. (Spoiler: I ate that for breakfast today.)

Dessert:

Wine while I watched the election results. And then some more Whoppers.

What do you think, eaters:

What’s one food/cuisine that you could eat almost every day?

How do you deal with being injured?

G’night eaters!

WIAW: Stressed and Soup

Hi eaters!

I’m procrastinating some last minute exam studying, so I figured I’m do something productive with my procrastination and share this week’s WIAW with you.


Breakfast #1:

Fruit n’ fat in the form of a plum and sunflower seed butter. I’ll save you the boring picture.

6 am Crossfit:

My trainer made a variation on the benchmark WOD “Amanda.”

WOD:

Jump assisted pull ups

Push ups

27-21-15

Deadlift -> snatch pull -> snatch

9-7-5

Time: 18:16.

This was one of those WODs where I never felt like I got into a groove and instead was constantly struggling with motivation. Oh well, I finished.

Breakfast #2:

Two scrambled eggs with spinach and a blue corn tortilla with sunflower seed butter.

Are you getting tired of seeing this breakfast every week? I’m starting to get tired of eating it, but I can’t think of anything else that’s super fast, hot, and full of protein. Got any ideas?

Annoyance:

I started pressing some Whole Foods 365 brand tofu the night before. I noticed the tofu was a bit weird and came off on my fingers as I was putting it in the press, but it wasn’t expired so I pressed on. (Pun intended.)

Boo crappy tofu.

But when I opened the press to start marinating it, it looked all kinds of funky. It was like I was trying to press silken tofu instead of extra firm. So it went directly in the trash (maybe it had expired way before its October date) and pressed some good old Nasoya.

I think they’ll be my tofu of choice from now on.

Stress:

Charlie had a vet appointment for what I thought was an ear infection. I figured they would clean his ears and the hot spot he scratched just below his ear (which I thought was a symptom of an ear infection), he’d get some meds, and we’d be good to go.

Unfortunately, during them shaving the hot spot (and me having to listen to him cry from down the hall), they noticed he had a broken nail. I’d noticed it last week when it happened, but aside from a little extra licking, he didn’t see bothered by it so I didn’t think anything of it.

Yeah…apparently it was a big deal. It was a big enough deal that the vet said the entire nail would have to be removed, which required me to leave him so he could be sedated.

I was freaking the fuck out. But I’m a big girl, so I sucked it up, gave Charlie a few last pats, and waited until I got to the parking lot to cry.

Call me a baby, but he’s my sweet baby puppy and I don’t ever want him to be in pain or unhappy, and I could tell he was very much of both.

Luckily, I wasn’t home for more than an hour before the vet called that Charlie was wide awake and ready to go home. After rushing back to the vet, Charlie was very happy to see me (I was worried he would be mad at me or scared of me because I’m the one who took him there). He then proceeded to show his anger at the vet by leaving a really large poop on their front lawn.

Not being one to get in between a dog and his emotions, I left it there.

Nap:

Both of us had a slightly traumatizing morning, so we took an hour nap. It was awesome.

Lunch:

Chicken and vegetable soup with half a dumpling.

It’s definitely getting to be soup weather, which I’m pretty darn excited about. And I was also pretty excited when I found that Leon had not only left me a dumpling, but that they kept well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Snack 1:

Chicken and mustard, and a pear with sunflower seed butter.

Buying that rotisserie chicken is already shaping up to be a pretty brilliant idea.

Snack 2:

Follow me on Instagram: Kara_Hadley

I’ve never hid the fact that I often use food for comfort. Some of those uses are better than others. I consider this a very acceptable form of food comfort, especially considering that I really did need a snack.

Dinner:

Tomato soup with extra crispy tofu "croutons."

This soup is a slight variation of Mama Pea’s recent recipe.

A grilled cheese (Cabot extra sharp cheddar) on Great Harvest higher protein Dakota.

Have I mentioned that I think she’s awesome? And that I want to be her friends? We could drink coffee, paint toenails, and pretend to be graceful while doing yoga.

(Side note — Have I mentioned I’m creepy?)

So for once, eaters, not only do I feel like I’m kind of living up to the WIAW theme for the month (it’s Fall into Good Habits this month), but I’m showing you a pretty balanced and typical day of food.

That almost never happens, so don’t get your hopes up for next week.

Your turn, eaters:

What’s something warm, easy, cheap, and protein filled I can eat for breakfast?

What blogger do you wish you could be friends with in real life? (You don’t have to say me, even though I’m super fun and am always up for going out for a beer and surprise you with random food and always tell you the truth about what you’re wearing.)

G’night eaters!

All Over Sunday

Hellooo eaters!

It’s Sunday and unfortunately I don’t have tomorrow off.

Oh the joys of going to a Quaker school where they believe celebrating holidays is favoring one day over another.

Oh well. I really don’t mind Mondays because I kind of love getting back to my routine. And I also can’t complain about starting a new week when the old one ended like mine did.

As I’ve mentioned before, Sundays are my day. I am guaranteed to have them off (and so is Leon). It’s a lazy day where most places are closed, so I can’t really waste it doing annoying errands. And as of recently, Sundays also include zoning out in front of some Law & Order while clipping coupons.

Yup, it’s a lazy, yet oddly productive, and overall wonderful day.

And this Sunday was no different.

I started the day with a complete balanced breakfast.

Half a Devil's food cake donut with sprinkles and eggs with spinach and Texas Pete.

FYI, I blame Holly for the intense donut craving that set in on Saturday, prompting a nighttime trip to Donut World (on West Market St by Guilford College Rd for all you Greensboro/Triad people), where I can never ever get just one.

(This time I got three. Don’t judge. They have an amazing variety.)

I then proceeded to laze around the house, hanging out with Leon and Charlie, and wasting time on Pinterest.

It’s amazing how much time you can spend looking and pinning and how many ideas for things you can’t possibly do/eat/own/see you’ll find.

Once I had my fill of dreaming, I got to doing. And today that “doing” included buying picture frames from Goodwill for a decorating project, buying fabric and a few other supplies for a pillow project, and going to the gym for the first time since I started Crossfit.

FYI, the gym is super boring.

Once I got home I got down to business. And in no time flat I had two pillow covers sewn and filled.

My plan was to then iron on a black deer head silhouette to make something akin to these pillows. Except for the fact that the couch is new so I remembered the upholstery wrong when I was buying fabric and ended up with pillows that just don’t look right.

These two fabrics just don't work, right?

I can move the pillows to another room in the house and make new ones with new fabric, but I’m bad at picking colors. The living room has the couch, a Kelly green/avocado green vinyl recliner, and a couple of gold accents. The living room is openly connected to the dining room, which has dark blue walls and light pink chairs. There’s also lots of dark stained wood. And I’m locked in with the black deer heads.

Thoughts?

While mulling over new fabric colors and discussion options for what to do with Charlie while Leon and I are at a wedding in Vermont in a few weeks (we don’t want to board him for fear of him having Vietnam flashbacks of being in the shelter), we ate an easy stir fry.

Sunday night always used to be “brown rice and vegetables” night growing up — a scoop of brown rice and a scoop of stir fried vegetables and chicken in some brown sauce while we watched “60 Minutes.” As I got older the two scoops were allowed to touch and eventually the stir fry was served on top of the rice.

That’s a sign of maturity, right?

Anyway, this post has been all over the place tonight, but it’s kind of been a segmented, all over the place day. I hope you don’t mind.

What do you think, eaters:

 PleasepleasePLEASE tell me what color fabric I should choose. I don’t know if you can tell, but the couch is grey with threads of brown running through.

Did you/do you have any set meals based on days of the week?

G’night eaters!

WIAW: Not Balanced At All

G’day eaters!

So I’m going to be honest — this whole Leon being out of town thing isn’t super awesome.

Sure, I am enjoying the independence and productivity (I never realized how much time I spent hanging out with Leon that could have been spent on thinking about but deciding not to clean), but I would like him to come home.

Does that make me a pansy?

Because Charlie definitely misses Leon, and he may squat when he pees, but he’s no pansy.

Anyway, enough personal talk.


Breakfast:

Scrambled eggs with mushrooms, spinach, and salsa, and a peach with sunflower seed butter and nutmeg.

I had every intention of waking up for the 6am Crossfit, but I went out for laundry drinks on Monday night, so Crossfit got canceled for me. And instead, I made a delicious breakfast.

Exercise:

I decided to kill two birds with one stone by taking Charlie to the woods trail on campus with m’friend Peach. We walked and sniffed for 2 slow, hilly miles. And now I really need to find more ways to incorporate exercise and socializing.

Lunch #1:

Reduced sodium Spam, a carrot, a spoonful of pb.

I needed a little something before my haircut, especially since I had big plans to spend some time at the coffee shop across the street trying to make a dent in my summer reading.

Lunch #2:

Snicker cheesecake with extra chocolate and caramel sauce and a small coffee.

Oh yeah, I went there. But I kind of justified it by saying that cheesecake had more fat and protein and fewer carbs than regular cake. So it was almost healthy, right?

Don’t tell me if that logic is wrong. I don’t want to know. (And in my head I said that in a Liz Lemon voice.)

Dinner:

Shock Top's WIPA.

Leon may be gone, but that doesn’t mean I have to take a break from pizza and beer.

Mehh pizza.

Unfortunately, the flax-almond crust wasn’t too great. It had the same texture (and even kind of the same taste) as when my mother used to accidentally burn banana bread.

Blehhh.

Dessert:

An unpictured spoon of pb.

Yup, that about wraps up a day of weird, not very balanced, sporadic eating. It certainly could have been better. And it probably would have been better had I exercised or had some semblance of structure to my day.

But I’m okay with that.

Your turn, eaters:

How does your eating change when your day is structure-less?

Cheesecake/tortes or regular cake?

Later eaters!

Anti-Label Mac N’Cheese

Hello eaters!

Aside from a last minute doctor visit (because my leg stitches/wound is healing weird), this weekend has been lovely.

And I have tomorrow off, so my weekend is still going.

What more could you ask for from a weekend, really?

Nothing. Well, maybe except some of these leftovers.

Mac n'cheese.

Yup, I’m at it again — making unseasonal recipes.

And not only is this unseasonal, it’s not vegan, paleo, Zone-friendly, gluten-free, low fat, soy-free, low carb, or raw.

There has been so freaking much talk around the blogosphere lately about Paleo this and low carb that. Every recipe (and person!) seems to need to have a half dozen labels attached. And then if — deities forbid — they change something in some way they have to go all out and explain why suddenly they’re eating meat or eating less bread.

And then there’s the “loyalty” that people have for other people that share their labels and how quickly that loyalty fades when those labels change.

It’s tiring — keeping up with it all, figuring out your labels. And frankly, I’m getting beyond sick of it.

This may seem like a weighty topic to breach with a mac n’cheese recipe, but really, I think it’s very fitting. Because this recipe is so label-free — so almost anti-label, if you will — that I bet a bunch of people aren’t going to read this post after seeing the above picture.

But for those people that are brave enough to venture outside their labels and keep reading despite the carb-tastic, dairy-filled, visible protein source-free picture above, they will be rewarded.

With mac n’cheese.

Almost Dairy-Free, Anti-Paleo Mac N’Cheese

4 c (~1/2 lbs) whole wheat mini pasta shells, spirals, or elbows (plus water)

8 oz silken tofu

8 oz SHARP cheddar cheese*

¼ c nutritional yeast

2 cloves garlic

~1/2 T whole peppercorns

½ leek, chopped**

1 ½ c broccoli, chopped**

~2 T almond meal/bread crumbs***

salt, to taste

oil

*This is the only cheese you’re adding, so you don’t want to go weak on the flavor. Sharp is the only way to go.

**You can really use any green vegetable you want. I love leeks and broccoli, so that’s what I went with, but choose as you wish. Anything covered in cheese is good, right?

***This is for sprinkling on top if you want to bake it for a few minutes. You can leave this off if you don’t intend to bake it.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and then add the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, add the tofu, cheese, nutritional yeast, garlic, and peppercorns to a food processor. Pulse until everything is well combined and there are no visible large chunks of garlic or pepper. Taste and add salt, if needed.

A few minutes before the pasta is al dente add the broccoli directly to the pot. Once the pasta is done, drain it off in a colander.

Leave the pasta and broccoli in the colander for a few minutes while you drizzle a little oil in the bottom of the pasta pot. Once the oil is warm add the leeks and sauté for just a couple of minutes. Once the leeks are soft add the pasta and broccoli back into the pot.

Dump the cheese sauce into the pot and stir until everything is coated in delicious, creamy, cheesy, goodness. If you’re going to bake the mac, scoop it into a pan, sprinkle with almond meal/bread crumbs, and bake it in a 350F oven for 5-15 minutes, depending on how baked you like things.

Leftovers!

If you’re not going to bake the mac, dig in.

I sure as heck did.

And I enjoyed every label-less bite. Don’t even pretend you wouldn’t.

Your turn, eaters:

What labels do you use to define yourself?

Do you like baked or non-baked mac n’cheese?

G’night eaters!

WIAW: Fatty

Hiya eaters!

It’s been a bit of a doozy day for me, so please excuse me if not everything I saw makes sense.

Breakfast #1:

1 1/2 smaller carrots and Trader Joe's sunflower seed butter.

I kinda messed up my early morning workout fuel. For the 6am Crossfit class I wake up at 5:15 so I have time to drink my usual ½ liter of pre-food water, digest it a bit, and each a little something before going. I’m not hungry by the time I eat, but I know I need just a little bit to get me through.

For some reason, though, when I was setting my alarm for the 8:30am Crossfit class, I set it for 7:15. I immediately woke up and chugged my water without thinking, so I actually started to get hungry 15 minutes before I had to leave. The extra half a block (as in the food blocks used by The Zone, which I’m loosely following) helped, but I still wasn’t 100%.

Crossfit:

Because I wasn’t totally with it, my experience with the benchmark workout “Linda” wasn’t all that great.

If you don’t know, “Linda” is deadlifts, floor presses, and hang cleans done in a pyramid fashion for 10 rounds. So the first round is 10 reps, then 9 reps, then 8 reps, so on and so forth until you finish. I finished in 29:17 (which is slooooow) using 95# for the deadlift, 50# for the clean (because I had a huge knot in my shoulder), and 55# for the floor press.

Breakfast #2:

2 scrambled eggs with onions, lettuce, salsa, and avocado on a Whole Foods' blue corn tortilla.

Leon and I both had the morning off, so I made us breakfast.

Note to self — those tortillas don’t hold two scrambled eggs.

Lunch:

A quick curry made from a bell pepper, baked tofu, and TJ's simmer sauce with the last cherries.

I’m trying to get into the habit of prepping some kind of plant protein to eat throughout the week. So I used a bit of soy-coconut marinated tofu and some really awesome Trader Joe’s Thai Green Curry simmer sauce to make this quick little curry-type thing.

Sidenote — I want more cherries.

Snack:

Luna Protein bar in chocolate cherry almond.

I ended up filling in for someone at work yesterday, so I grabbed this bar and ate half while there.

Sunflower seed butter.

I also ate a spoon of sunflower seed butter before leaving for work.

Dinner:

Thai pork meatball hoagie.

If I can remember the exact ingredients and measurements to this I’ll post the recipe. If not, I’ll try to remake it sooner rather than later.

It was that good.

Dessert:

I finished the other half of that Luna bar. The flavor was good, but a bit too sweet and the texture was definitely too nougat-y.

And that’s it, eaters. I probably should have worked more vegetables into my day, but I generally say that every day. I’ve also noticed that in order for me to feel really satiated I need to eat some solid form of fat.

Example: I thought the fat from the coconut milk in the simmer sauce would be enough, but I still needed that spoon of seed butter not too long later. And when I forget the avocado from my eggs, I don’t feel as full, despite eggs having a good bit of fat in them.

So I need to work on getting some hardcore fat in (and finding more sources of fat, so I don’t burn out on avocado and nut/seed butter).

What do you think, eaters:

Do you eat before a morning workout? If so, what?

What are some good sources of dense, healthy fat?

Later eaters!

WIAW: Ya Know

G’morning eaters!

Today I’m putting my money where my mouth is by going to the 6am Crossfit class and working from 9-5. Ya know, without a nap like a normal adult.

It’s going to be an interesting day.

But first, let’s talk about my interesting day yesterday.

Ya know, where I researched and wrote a 9 page paper in less than four hours without any study drugs, not like a normal college student.

Breakfast:

Scrambled eggs with kale and avocado, and a few slices of bread.

This wasn’t exactly Zone-tastic, but when there’s half a loaf of Leon’s homemade Italian bread chock full’o rosemary and oregano, the Zone can be damned.

Workout:

I’m an idiot and got sucked into chores and ended up missing my chance at Crossfit for the day so I went to my school gym and did a quick warm up (3 rounds of 20 mountain climbers, 10 g’mornings, 10 push-ups) and then worked on clean & jerks and back squats.

A couple of the other guys in the weight room were giving me weird looks, but they were lifting big dumbbells a few inches off the stands and then shrugging their shoulders, so I don’t really think I qualify as the weird one.

Oddly calm heart attack:

Leaving the gym I ran into a friend who’s taking a similar class as mine, taught by the same professor, but held on Monday and Wednesday (mine’s Tuesday and Thursday). She asked how I did on my final paper.

We chatted and she mentioned that her paper was due yesterday even though there’s still a class session left. I started wondering if my paper was due yesterday or Thursday, the last day of class.

I got to my car and decided that I should probably postpone my errands to go home and check the syllabus. Just in case.

And so that’s how at 1pm I found out that my 8-10 page research paper was due yesterday, not Thursday, which gave me 5 hours.

So for the next 4 hours I frantically read, wrote, and cited 9 ½ pages of hopefully not pure dribble.

5pm:

A hardboiled egg with mustard, miscellaneous tofu and veg, a slice of carrot cake.

I finished my paper by pure magic. And then, despite the fact that I felt stupid hyped up and nauseous, I ate some food.

I also grabbed some coffee on the ay to class because I knew that my slight mania would wear off quickly and then I’d be dead tired.

Dinner:

Grilled porkchop topped with cherry-fig jam-thing, and grilled squash.

I loved everything about this.

Dessert:

S'mores made with Trader Joe's cocoa almond spread instead of chocolate.

And I’d be lying if I said that one of my favorite parts of grilling wasn’t that there are usually coals hot enough to make dessert.

And then I went to bed early. Ya know, like your grandma.

What do you think, eaters:

How do you work under pressure?

What food will you ditch any diet or restriction for?

Later eaters!

I Heart Grilling

Hiya eaters!

So, it’s July.

This probably should have hit me a week ago, but I only really realized this fact a couple of days ago. And when I did, it was a little unnerving.

Where has half my summer gone? What have I been doing with my time? Why was I so behind on schoolwork and picture hanging?

And why haven’t Leon and I grilled more?

Yes eaters, grilling food is by far one of my favorite summer pastimes.

We set up the grill in the yard and bring the dog out. We sit on the steps and drink good beer while the coals heat up. Sometimes we sneak in a bit of reading. Sometimes we just people watch and wonder what the heck our neighbors do in their house all day.

When the coals are ready we throw something that’s probably been marinating all day on the grill and drink a bit more. By the time I’m done with my beer the food is usually about ready. I go inside and stir something on the stove or chop up a salad. Leon slices the meat. We open more beers and dinner is served.

It doesn’t get much better than that to me. And while there are few things in the world better than a well grilled piece of chicken, all summer Leon and I have been talking about playing with vegetables and tofu and marinades.

So the other night we did just that.

I sliced a zucchini into planks and marinated it in 1 t oil, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1 t smoked paprika, 1 ½ t chili powder, salt, and pepper.

I pressed the heck out of a block of (black soybean) tofu and cut it into planks. I added a few splashes of soy sauce, a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper. I then baked them in a 375F oven for 5 minutes, to insure they didn’t fall apart on the grill.

Like a burst of freshness.

I chopped off two quarters from a head of romaine lettuce. I brushed it with a bit of oil and cracked pepper.

Then everything hit the grill.

The tofu for ~ 5minutes/side. The zucchini for ~3minutes/side. The romaine for ~2minutes.

The tofu got finished off with a schmear of Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (with eggplant and garlic) and the romaine got a drizzle of Annie’s balsamic vinaigrette.

And to drink we cracked open a bottle of Rogue Chipotle Ale (which was lacking almost any hint of spice and was thus severely disappointing).

So promising, but so disappointing.

It was a pretty perfect meal and a pretty perfect night. Made only more perfect by the after dinner s’mores we made on the barely hot coals.

Can you tell why I like grilling so much?

Your turn, eaters:

What’s your favorite thing to grill?

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever grilled?

G’night eaters!

Almost Dairy-Free Manicotti

G’day eaters!

I hope you enjoyed my snapshots from the beach yesterday.

And while it was a much-needed vacation for both Leon and I, it’s definitely good to be back home. And…back to regular blog posting.

So who wants some pasta?

(Talk about a segue, huh?)

Pasta with marinara sauce is a go-to meal for so many people.

Add a side of steamed broccoli and you have a staple of my childhood. If the marinara isn’t too chunky you have a common restaurant kiddie meal. And as long as the sauce is meat (and dairy) free you have a simple vegetarian (or vegan) meal. The options go on.

And as I struggle to find ways to reduce the meat intake at dinner, I might be tempted to just boil some noodles and open a jar.

But really, what kind of a food blogger would I be if I did that?

No, I decided to pull out “the big guns,” and in this house “the big guns” means hidden tofu.

Not what you were expecting, huh?

But since Leon isn’t a huge fan of tofu and since I’m not a huge fan of solely tofu parading as something else, I relied on a little nutritional yeast and a few spoonfuls of cheese to hide the heavy artillery this pasta dish is packing.

And believe it or not, it worked!

But don’t just take my word for it…

Almost Dairy-Free Manicotti

Adapted from this recipe, which is adapted from these two.

1 block extra firm tofu, pressed

~1/4 c soft cheese*

3 T nutritional yeast

~2 T fresh rosemary

~1/4 c fresh parsley

2 T olive oil

1 handful fresh spinach/~1/2 c frozen spinach, chopped**

1 clove garlic

1 package manicotti shells***

1 jar marinara sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parmigianino cheese for garnish, optional

*I used 3 Laughing Cow cheese wedges, but goat cheese, ricotta, or something of the sort would work well, too.

**I REALLY recommend using fresh spinach.

***I didn’t end up using the whole package because I ran out of filling and space in my pan. Depending on how big your shells are (there isn’t a standard size) and how much you fill them, you may or may not use them all. Boil them all to be safe, because you can always use the leftovers for something else.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the shells. Give them a stir and then loosely cover for the package-designated cooking time. Drain the water and place the shells in a single layer on a (paper) towel to dry and cool.

Add to a food processor everything else except marinara sauce. Blend until everything is evenly distributed and there are no noticeable chunks of whole tofu. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag or a quart-sized plastic bag.

Pour enough marinara sauce in the pan to just cover the bottom. If you’re using a plastic bag for the filling, snip off a corner. Grab a shell, insert the tip of the filling bag, and squeeze as you slowly pull the bag out. Turn the shell around and squeeze some filling into the other side. Place the shell in the pan and repeat with each shell, until you run out of filling.

Pour the rest of the marinara sauce evenly over the shells and bake at 350F for roughly 25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the shells have been heated all the way through.

Garnish with some Parmigianino and dig in.

I like this recipe so much more than the original. That could be entirely because I hand mixed the tofu in the original instead of using a food processor.

Or it could be because the little bit of cheese gives this a much more authentic flavor, and makes it feel just that much more indulgent and comforting.

Or it could be because I had so much more fun stuffing shells than layering lasagna.

Whatever the reason, this recipe was a winner. (The original is a winner, too, if you really don’t want dairy.)

What do you think, eaters:

What are your culinary “big guns”?

Do you prefer manicotti, shells, or lasagna?

G’night eaters!