Sometime on Saturday afternoon, a book about which I had heard a great deal arrived. Thanks to the advent of Amazon Prime, it seems that FedEx knows our address intimately.  Nowadays, it is not uncommon for Matthew to ask, what did we order now Elizabeth. I am finding it highly addictive. I waited until the end of the weekend to give the book my full diligence. I actually learned of it thanks to an Instagram photograph posted by the renown Food Babe. Her blog is terrifically informative. So come Sunday afternoon, following the gym, enjoyable grocery rotation with Matthew, perfunctory cleaning of the house, recycling, laundry and all the other associated gibberish that comes with preparing for the work week, I dove in. The End of Dieting: How to Live for Life effectively outlines what a lot of us already do and if not, perhaps should know. Medically speaking, adhering to a diet comprised mostly of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds seems to be the way to go. Stop dieting, stop obsessing. Fuel your body with the good and you will no longer crave the bad. Your body will return the favor in kind. The book then goes on to share a generous assortment of recipes and food tips. Yesterday morning, I made their salad dressing recipe that calls for balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, almond butter, golden sultanas, garlic and mustard. I was a bit skeptical about preparing dressing sans olive oil but it is dynamite. We enjoyed it drizzled over roasted beets as a snack. 

I am not saying that this is the diet that I will adhere to for the rest of time because simply stated, I enjoy meat, eggs and certain cheeses too much. This said, I am a proponent of incorporating vegetarian meals into one’s repertoire, even if for only a night or two. Give the digestive tract a break, do your part to help save the planet and minimize carbon footprints. Save some money at the grocers too. The list of benefits goes on. Last week already, I prepared exclusively meatless meals Monday through Wednesday. I must admit, neither of us felt a lick deprived. Thursday evening we had wild Alaskan sockeye salmon with a jalapeño vinaigrette, paprika toasted garbanzo beans and steamed broccoli. In true form, our Friday night was one on the town toasted with sushi. Saturday, after yoga, we stayed on the wagon thanks to lunch at a local vegetarian haunt in Plaza Midwood. In my book, they make the most phenomenal bean burgers I have ever eaten. I order mine on a large bed of greens complete with zucchini ribbons, raw cashews and for good measure, I like to add soft goat cheese. Sourced locally of course. Matthew likes his burger in a kale wrap and prefers roasted sweet potatoes on the side. If you have yet to venture to Fern, do go. Contingent upon timing, you can score a charming table and benches al fresco. The restaurant serves the most amazing water infused with cucumber and their libations selection is equally terrific. On this most recent visit, we sat a stone’s throw from one of the head brewers of Fonta Flora Brewery. Nothing like a Charlotte celebrity sighting. Later that evening, we enjoyed makeshift Thai for dinner. Matthew’s liking for tofu simplifies things greatly. I plan to start incorporating it more one of these soon days.

I think we toasted our commitment to six days without meat come Sunday. Two beautiful New York Strips picked up on Saturday afternoon were chilling, kosher salted up in the fridge and begging to be grilled. When it comes to meat, I can always happily oblige. I really love steak. I am a Breyer after all but as my mother likes to say, everything in moderation. So come Monday of this week, it was back to the grindstone. I had a craving for my mother’s shepherd’s pie that she makes with beef or lamb, roasted carrots and peas. Some recipes call for marmite to give the dish a lovely bite. I have made a similar version but with ground turkey meat. As it was Monday and in turn, a meatless one, I decided we could emulate said with a cup or two of the bounty of lentils in the pantry. When you have fresh herbs on hand, the sky is the limit in the flavor department. So I laid the foundation with anchovy, leeks, onions, garlic, Portobello mushrooms, spinach, tomato paste, carrots, herbs and spices. From here, we added a couple of other goodies to the mix. On the side, I whipped up the cauliflower mash that I can now make with my eyes closed. You should commit the recipe to memory too. Thanksgiving aside, you will never eat mashed potatoes again. Once married together and broiled in the oven for twenty minutes, I served our grub piping hot with a squeeze of Sriracha on top. Matthew, the resident carnivore, approved. The end result was as the Germans like to say, ausgezeichnet. Guten appétit.

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

Please Procure

½ TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 onion – chopped
1 leek – chopped
4 large carrots – chopped
1 rib of celery – chopped
Fresh thyme – you say when enough is enough
Fresh rosemary – again, you say when enough is enough
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 anchovy
1 TBS tomato paste
3 cups of spinach
2 large Portobello mushrooms – chopped
2 cups of cooked lentils – French lentils made our meal
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 head of cauliflower
½ of light coconut milk
½ cup of broth
1 tsp ground nutmeg
Kosher salt
*Optional, add 1 cup of corn or 1 cup of peas to the “lentil” medley

Do Your Thing

1. Roughly chop a head of cauliflower. Remember to save the stalk for later as it gives marvelous life to chicken broth. Steam your cauliflower for approximately 12 minutes or until it is tender with a fork. Once it is cooked, add to the Cuisinart along with the coconut milk, nutmeg, a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Puree until creamy.

2. In a large pot, warm your olive oil on medium high heat. Now add the anchovy and cook until it dissolves. Next up are the onions, garlic, leek, carrots and herbs. You want the leaves from two stalks of rosemary and multiple legs of thyme. If you want more herbs, go for it. Cook for around 5 to 7 minutes. Now add the mushrooms and spinach. Cook for around 5 to 7 minutes or until the greens are wilted and the mushrooms have begun to sweat.

3. Add your two cups of cooked lentils along with the broth. Now would also be a good time to add the corn or peas should you like. Raise the heat to high to boil and then lower to simmer. On low heat, let your mix sit for around 10 minutes. Give everything a generous stir and season to taste. Transfer the vegetarian “meat” medley to a baking dish. Evenly spread the cauliflower mash on top. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. I sprinkled some rosemary on top.  It was the last of the bunch. Waste not, want not. We served ours with Sriracha but I suspect that a heavy handed grating of hard cheese would be equally splendid though no longer vegan.


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