Category Archives: Cooking

Renaissance Girl’s Recipe Corner – Chili and Salad

I had friends over to play games yesterday and made the chili and salad below. Both of these recipes make a LOT, so a) invite lots of people or b) reconcile yourself to leftovers for the next week. Fortunately, you won’t mind the leftovers.

Renaissance Girl’s Vegetarian Chili

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 16-ounce jar salsa (mild, medium or hot; the chunkier the better)

5 cans diced chili-style tomatoes or tomatoes with green chilies

5 cans mixed beans (I used a can each of light red kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, Great Northern beans, and chickpeas)

2 1-pound bags of stew vegetables (should contain carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery)

1/2 bag of seasoning mix (contains onions, bell peppers, and celery)

Tabasco or other hot sauce to taste

Mix all together in LARGE stockpot. Cook on medium heat till bubbling; reduce heat and cook for at least one hour. Serve with oyster crackers, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Sunshine Salad (adapted from a recipe in the Vegetarian Times cookbook)

2 bags julienne carrots

4 Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced

1 1-pound can crushed pineapple, with juice

juice from 2 oranges

3 containers raspberry or strawberry yogurt (or mix them)

1/4 cup lemon juice

Mix all ingredients except yogurt. Chill. Just before serving, mix in yogurt, or serve on the side.



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Renaissance Girl’s Recipe Corner – New Year’s edition

There are at least as many beliefs about how to bring yourself luck on New Year’s Day as there are cultures in the world, and many of these traditions involve food. According to, the most commonly referenced auspicious foods are grapes, cooked greens, legumes, pork, fish, and sweets, particularly cakes. Lobster and winged fowl, particularly chicken, are considered unlucky.

In my part of the U.S., the usual New Year’s meal is pork cooked with sauerkraut. Since I’m vegetarian, I’m offering an alternative that makes use of two of the foods on’s list: cooked greens and legumes. I came up with this recipe during a very brief relationship with a man from the South, where blackeyed peas and collard greens are common fare on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day Lucky Stew

2 15-ounce cans black-eyed peas (or equivalent amount cooked dried black-eyed peas)

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped greens (collard, mustard, turnip, kale, chard, or spinach; can use fresh but you’ll need to use a *lot*, as they shrink during cooking)

2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes with green chilies (can substitute diced stewed tomatoes for one or both)

any other vegetables you like, diced (onion, celery and bell pepper would all be good)

water or vegetable stock

Liquid Smoke to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste

Drain the cans of black-eyed peas; *don’t* drain the cans of tomatoes. Put black-eyed peas, tomatoes with juice, greens, and vegetables in large Crock-Pot with water or vegetable stock to cover. Add Liquid Smoke and Tabasco. Cook on low for several hours. Check seasoning and add more if needed (I like it spicy but know not everyone does.) Serve over cooked rice, with corn bread, or with Irish soda bread. I like Bob’s Red Mill’s mix.

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Renaissance Girl’s Recipe Corner

I’m making these cookies for our church’s cookie walk this weekend.

Flourless PB&J Cookies (original recipe from a 1970s church cookbook; the spices and jam are my additions)

Makes 2 dozen; easily doubled or tripled

1 cup peanut butter (This is *not* the time to use the natural variety; can use either chunky or creamy. I prefer chunky.)

1 cup sugar (Can use either white or brown; I actually like them better with brown sugar.)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ginger

(The spices are optional but delicious.)

Mix all ingredients. Drop with teaspoon on *greased* cookie sheet. (I had to fix that. Sorry for any inconvenience.) Bake at 325 degrees no longer than 15 minutes. Immediately after removing from oven, make small depression with a teaspoon or the end of a wooden spoon. Fill with your favorite jam or jelly or with Nutella. Let cool.

The next two recipes I’ll be making for my family.

My Mom’s Favorite Cookies (original recipe from a Diane Mott Davidson mystery)

Makes 3 dozen (give or take, depends on how big you make them)

2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup baking cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

Optional: 1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (can substitute Blue Bonnet or Imperial margarine)

¾ cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chunks or chips

1 8-ounce package dried cranberries (craisins) or dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt (and cinnamon, if you’re using it) in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Gradually beat in flour mixture. (You may have to switch from a mixer to a wooden spoon.) Stir in chocolate chips or chunks and cranberries/cherries. Drop by well-rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 9-11 minutes or until centers are set. Cool on baking sheets.

Mocha-Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen

2 ¼ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

2 T. instant coffee (the only appropriate use for instant coffee, IMHO)

½ cup + 1 T. unsweetened cocoa

Optional: cinnamon to taste, up to 1 tsp.

2 sticks butter, softened (can substitute Blue Bonnet or Imperial margarine)

¾ cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 package white chocolate/semisweet chocolate swirled chips (You can use all white or all semisweet, or even milk chocolate chips if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, instant coffee, and cinnamon. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter/sugar mixture. (At some point you’ll want to switch from the mixer to a wooden spoon or spatula. This is a really heavy dough.) Add chips. Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. They’re not going to look “done” when they come out; don’t worry about that. Let cool on cookie sheet. If you make the cookies smaller, decrease your baking time by 1-2 minutes.


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What do you mean, “She don’t eat no meat”?

Earlier this week, I accompanied my client Mrs. A (not her real initial) to lunch at the local senior center. The special of the day was roast chicken, which was pretty but turned out to be too dry for Mrs. A’s taste. I ended up boxing it up and taking it home. Mrs. A insisted that either her evening caregiver or I needed to take it home with us. Technically, we’re not allowed to eat a client’s food, but our boss has told us that we’re also not to argue with a client who requests that we take food, for example, if it’s something the client doesn’t like and is never going to eat.

Mrs. A asked me first. “RG, you’re taking the chicken home with you.”

Me: “Thank you for offering, Mrs. A, but I don’t eat meat.”

Mrs. A: [Gives me a look like I’ve just told her that I’m an alien writing my doctoral thesis on geriatric female humans]

My relief: “Well, some people don’t like meat . . .”

Mrs. A: [Still looking completely dumbfounded. ]

Mrs. A has turkey bacon every morning for breakfast (she prefers the real stuff but is under doctor’s orders to limit salt) and has a salad with lunch meat every day for either lunch or dinner. I knew explaining that I’m vegetarian was going to be an exhausting conversation.

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In which my vegan BFF is somewhat vindicated

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an ovo-lacto-vegetarian 90 percent of the time. My parents – particularly my father, a salt-of-the-earth, meat-and-potatoes man – willingly accommodate my desire not to eat red meat or poultry, so when they prepare fish, I eat it, in the interest of being a filial daughter and a good guest. I have on occasion flirted with being vegan, but I’m too fond of cheese and butter, and I have yet to master the art of baking without eggs.

Whatever my food choices on any given day, I am not militant about being vegetarian. I will happily educate people who ask why I don’t eat meat. I also offer friends, family, and acquaintances the chance to try good vegetarian food, whether my cooking or someone else’s. But generally, my thinking toward other people’s diets is “Live and let live.”

That said, I do wonder if my associates who hold the Western diet accountable for many of society’s ills might well be on to something. Case in point: I had three different fifth-grade classes in my room yesterday. Before lunch, they were challenging, but mostly exhibiting age-appropriate misbehavior – talking excessively, having trouble staying on task. After lunch – a turkey hot dog, baked beans, and apple slices – they were suddenly insane. One girl pushed a boy she said was annoying her. A boy accused one of his male classmates of calling another girl “a stripper.” (They’re in FIFTH grade. They don’t even know who a stripper IS, or they shouldn’t.) I began to wonder if maybe one of my close friends – a very outspoken vegan – might be right about eating meat.

School lunches often revolve around meat: hamburgers, sloppy Joes, hot dogs, chicken fingers or nuggets, pepperoni pizza, etc. Many schools offer a meatless option on Fridays, and some will offer one every day. Typically, those options are limited, though: peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, cheese pizza, tomato soup, macaroni and cheese.

My thoughts, for what they’re worth:

  1. The reason many kids claim not to like vegetables is not because of the vegetables themselves but because of the preparation. If you offer a seven-year-old canned Veg-All that’s still floating in God-knows-what or mushy, overcooked broccoli that smells like dirty laundry, can you blame the child for turning up his or her nose? Offer the same child cut-up raw broccoli and cauliflower with a dip, or steamed baby carrots and sugar snap peas, and he or she just might polish it off and ask for more.
  2. Try breakfast for lunch. Many breakfast foods – eggs, French toast, yogurt, fruit – are healthy and kid-friendly.
  3. If a child had a role in picking or possibly even growing the vegetables, he or she will probably be more interested in eating them. When I took Big Sister, Little One, and a friend of theirs to my cousins’ farm this summer, they enjoyed helping pick the broccoli, kale, garlic, and other goodies we took home, and they were even willing to try them when I prepared them the next day. (This from kids who typically pass on vegetables prepared in the Western way.)
  4. Don’t get me wrong. I love cheese and peanut butter. Love, love, love them. But that’s only the start of eating vegetarian. Don’t overlook beans, whole grains, and even (gasp!) tofu. The girls enjoyed the bean tacos I prepared a few times during the summer. Messy, but delicious.

I realize that with limited budgets, institutional kitchens, and multiple 20-30 minute lunch shifts, these present challenges. But I think the cafeteria staffs I have encountered can rise to the occasion.

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