Habanero chili experiment

Scrambled eggsI had leftover mushrooms from making last night’s dinner, so I decided to make scrambled eggs with spinach, Morning Star veggie sausage patties and mushrooms.

This is probably the closest thing I have to a signature dish, so I am always experimenting with new ingredients in an attempt to make the meal uniquely mine.

Habanero chiliToday, I decided to add a habanero chili to my scrambled eggs.

I knew this pepper was really hot and I wasn’t sure how much to add.

I cut the pepper in half and tasted a small piece. As you would expect, the habanero was extremely hot. My mouth was burning for at least five minutes. Wiping my eyes before I washed my hands didn’t help either.

I have a low tolerance for really hot food, so I added only 1/4 of the pepper. For most people, half a pepper would be perfect, but I have no desire to feel the burn.

Lessons learned:

– Don’t underestimate the heat of a habanero chili.

– Habanero is often misspelled as habañero.

A delicious and healthy kale salad

 

kale salad

Kale is a bitter cabbage rich with antioxidants

Until recently, Kale was not a food option for me. It looked more like a garnish than food to be eaten, but I decided to make a salad with cabbage in an effort to eat healthier.

To my surprise, the bitter taste of the kale, combined with the sweet apple and the crunchy texture of the almond, made a savory salad.

Kale is often referred to as a super food because it is rich in antioxidants, but the tough leaves of the plant need to be prepared properly to break down the fibers to make it edible.

This recipe is simple to make and will make a convert out of event the most hard-core carnivores.

Enjoy

Kale, apple and almond salad

Incredients:

1 bunch curly kale (washed, stemmed and cut into chiffonade)

1/3 cup toasted almonds (chopped)

1 apple (julienned and tossed with lemon juice)

Dressing:

1/8 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Blend all the dressing ingredients. Place kale in a bowl and pour the dressing over the kale. With your hands, massage the kale and dressing for about two minutes. The kale will darken in color and reduce in size by about on half. Toss with almonds and apples.

Be aggressive when you are massaging the kale, otherwise the fiber in the cabbage leaves won’t break down.

 

Choose your eggs wisely

Vital Farms offer a good choice for eggs from ethically raised Chickens.

Vital Farms eggs are Certified Humane.

Egg carton labels are confusing, misleading and almost useless.

Terms such as cage-free, free-range, free-roaming and pasture-raised have no legal standards and have little relevance to the quality of life for the chickens.

Most labeling and packaging conjures up the image of leisurely existence of a hen living out its life in a comfortable setting, With a little research, the vision of the luxury life of a free-range chicken is dashed by the reality of lives spend in cramped spaces where the birds can’t walk or even flap their wings. The nightmare scenario is made worse by the common practice of beak cutting and forced molting through starvation.
The official government labeling on eggs won’t help buyers find chickens raised in a more humane fashion, but there are five third-party certifications to help rate the welfare condition of the hens.

I have divided these into four categories: best choice, good choice, bad choice and avoid-at-all-cost choice. Most of these descriptions come from the Humane Society website

cleoBest choice

Animal Welfare Approved

Pros:
The highest welfare standard for any third-party auditing program
Forced molting through starvation and beak cutting is prohibited
Birds must be able to nest, perch and take dust-baths
All birds are cage-free with at least 1.8 square feet of floor space
Hens must have continuous access to outdoor areas for ranging and foraging
Outdoor areas must be covered with growing vegetation
Feed can’t come from any animal byproducts
Cons:
The certification is only valid for flocks of fewer than 500 birds.

IMG_6296Good Choice

Certified Humane

Pros:
Forced molting through starvation is prohibited
Cons:
Beak cutting is allowed

Three levels of certification

Cage-free
Chickens are uncaged inside a barn
Birds must be able to nest, perch and take dust-baths
Each hen must have at least 1.5 square feet of space

Free-range
Birds must have access to outside area for at least six hours a day
Outdoor areas must be covered with growing vegetation
Each hen must have at least 2 square feet of outdoor space

Pasture-raised
Birds must be place on a pasture for at least six hours every day.
Pasture must be covered mainly with growing vegetation
Each hen must have at least 108 square feet of pasture

Food alliance Certified

Pros:
All birds are cage-free with at least 1. 23 square feet of floor space
Forced molting through starvation is prohibited
Access to outdoors or natural daylight required for at least 8 hours a day
If provided, outdoor area my have growing vegetation
Chickens must be able to nest, perch and take dust-baths
Cons:
Beak cutting is allowed

Bad Choice

American Humane Certified

Pros:
Forced molting through starvation is prohibited
Cons:
Beak cutting is allowed

Four levels of certification

Enriched colony
Hens are confined in 0.8 square feet of space in conditions considered detrimental to animal welfare.
Enriched colony, also called furnished cages, is a misleading description for chickens being raised in inhumane conditions.

Cage-free
Chickens are uncaged inside a barn with 1.25 square feet of floor space
Hens have access to perches and nesting boxes

Free-Range
Each hen provide with 21.8 square feet of outdoor space
No minimum amount of time specified for outdoor access

Pasture
Each hen is provided with 108 square feet outdoor space
Pasture must be covered mainly with growing vegetation
No minimum amount of time specified for pasture access

Avoid-At-All-Cost Choice

United Egg producers certified

Pros:
Forced molting through starvation is prohibited
Cons:
Beak cutting is allowed
Permits cruel and inhumane factory farming practices

Two levels of certification

Caged
Hens have 0.46 square feet of cage space
Chickens are confined in restrictive, barren battery cages and cannot perform natural behaviors such as perching, nesting, foraging or spreading their wings

Cage-free
Hens are uncaged in a barn with 1 square foot of floor space
Access to perching and nesting

 

 

A lacto-ovo vegetarian makes scrambled eggs and sausage

 

unnamed-5Before I go any further, there needs to be full disclosure about my form of vegetarianism. I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian and a pescetarian.

Lacto-ovo vegetarian means I eat eggs and dairy products and pescetarian means I eat fish. I am connected to PETA on Facebook, so I know the horrible living conditions for the typical chicken and cow. I buy locally from organic farms when possible and I get eggs from my mom’s backyard chickens. (She owns three shockingly cute chickens named Arya, Ginger and Cleo.)

There are a lot of reasons not to each fish, starting with overfishing, high mercury levels and the problem with bycatch, which kills dolphins, marine turtles and sea birds that get tangled in the nets. I struggle with my fish consumption, but I will save that topic for another entry.

Today, I am going to write about my favorite breakfast that tastes great and takes less than 10 minutes to make.

MSThis may start out sounding like an ad for MorningStar Farms, but in my opinion, they make the best-tasting vegetarian sausage patties and I particularly like their Hot & Spicy version.

Here is my list of ingredients to make enough food for two people

  • 4 MorningStar Farms sausage patties
  • 6 farm fresh organic eggs
  • salt (1/8 teaspoon or to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 1/8 cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pepper jack cheese (or cheese of your choice)

Microwave sausages for one minute to thaw the frozen patties. (Remove them from the oven and fry them in a 10-inch skillet for about three minutes or until hot.

While the sausages are cooking, break the eggs into a bowl, add the salt, pepper and cayenne and whisk together.

Poor the egg mixture over the sausage patties and stir together. Just before the eggs start to firm up, add the jack cheese and scramble for another 30 to 60 seconds.

eggandcheeseVoila, scrambled eggs with vegetarian sausage that can rival the flavor and texture of the carnivorous version.

Bon appetit!

The quest for a vegetarian version of Cincinnati chili begins

Cincinnati Chili

I spent about 10 years of my childhood living in the Greater Cincinnati area and developed a deep love for Cincinnati chili. I know it is an acquired taste and many people are turned off by the addition of cocoa and cinnamon to a chili dish, but I was addicted to two restaurants that specialized in Cincinnati chili: Skyline Chili and Gold Star Chili.

When I became a vegetarian, I thought my chili days were over. I avoided the temptation to visit my old haunts. I didn’t contemplate the possibility of a vegetarian version until I stumbled upon a recipe on PETA’s website.

My parents and siblings are all hardcore carnivores, so they love to taunt me every time they eat a five-way (spaghetti, Cincinnati chili, cheese, onions and beans) or a coney (a chili dog with Cincinnati chili).

Salvation is at hand. After a quick Google search, I discovered dozens of vegetarian and vegan recipes for Cincinnati chili.

My new mission, along with baking birthday cakes for friends and family, is to find the perfect vegetarian chili recipe.

I am going to start with the PETA recipe and will continue trying out recipes until I find the best one.

Stay tuned.

Herbs vs. spices

I always thought herbs and spices were the same and the two words could be used interchangeably.

It was brought to my attention after my previous post that herbs and spices are different.

Both are obtained from plants and are used to add flavor and aroma to foods.

Herbs are obtained from the leaves of herbaceous plants and spices are obtained from roots, flowers, fruits, seeds or bark.

The herb wheel I wrote about earlier does not differentiate between herbs and spices and refers to both as an herb.

Just in case you are wondering, salt is not a spice or an herb. It is a mineral.

Clueless about spices

A big challenge I need to face this year is my lack of knowledge about spices.

I honestly don’t know the difference between parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I have started tasting the spices I am using when I am cooking, but I have a long way to go.

WheelDiagram1_largeTo compensate for my ignorance, my wife was kind enough to buy me an herb wheel.

It is a pretty simple device. You pick a dish that you want to prepare such as shrimp. The wheel lists several spices that work well with the selection you are about to prepare. In this example, cayenne, garlic, parsely, oregano and cilantro are suggested.

The wheel does not give advice on the amount of spice to use or the best way to apply the spices. This would be helpful for me, but the list is a great start.

WheelDiagram2_largeMy only complaint with the wheel is it is constructed out of flimsy cardboard, so don’t expect to have it forever. The wheel does have a coating on it to make it easier to wipe off any spills.

For $10, it is a good learning device or gift for experienced and inexperienced chefs wanting to spice up their cooking skills.

After I have used the wheel for a few weeks, I will let you know if I change my opinion.

Here is a review of the herb wheel on Youtube.