Monday, April 20, 2009

Join me on Ms. Veggie's Review!

To my friends who follow Cyn's Journal: I hope you'll join me on my new blog, Ms. Veggie's Review ( On Ms. Veggie's Review, I'll be showcasing new books, products, restaurants, and other items of interest both to vegetarians and to others interested in healthy living. I won't be posting on Cyn's Journal anymore, but will keep the site open to redirect interested readers. See you on!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Smit'n with Chik'n for Passover

I might not make any friends by saying it, but I love fake meat. I get a giggle from it and enjoy the taste, the texture, and the variety it adds to my meals. I understand that some faux meat foes feel that it's junk food, as highly processed as Velveeta, Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches, or house-brand hot dogs.

Still, I must respectfully submit my fondness for it. I put Italian 'sausages' in my spaghetti sauce, make chili with Gimme Lean, and most recently, cooked up some un-chicken soup with vegetarian chik'n tenders.

Chik'n tenders are made by a British company called Quorn that has been selling meat substitutes in this country since 2002. Personally, I discovered the stuff only last month in a health-food store in Hawaii (of all places). I was impressed with how nicely it worked in a simple stir-fry and thought it would be fun to put it in an un-chicken soup for Passover.

First, I assembled my ingredients, sticking to what I understand to be the traditional
ingredients: carrots, celery, fresh dill, matzoh balls, egg noodles, no-chicken broth, and Quorn's chik'n tenders.

Such a soup -- you would not believe! Had I been told it was the real thing, I would have believed it without thinking twice.  The broth, from Imagine Foods, was remarkably realistic. The 'meat' -- be still my beating heart -- had all the taste and the same bite and texture as chicken.

I was surprised to learn that Quorn's chik'n is made from mushroom protein, a.k.a. mycoprotein. Who knew that mushrooms have protein and can be made to taste like chicken?

Whatever the case, I expect to be eating more of Quorn's pseudo-meat and Imagine's un-chicken broth.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Des asperges?

The hallmark of spring in California is the arrival of the year's first asparagus. I love the early-season crop with its bright green, pencil-thin stalks that are tender tip-to-tip. Our CSA, Full Belly Farm, has already sent asparagus several times and I can never get enough. For a beautiful, willowy bunch, no price is too high -- which is good, because even at season's peak, it isn't cheap.

For the most part, I believe that asparagus is best served au naturel, simply steamed in the microwave and served with a little Earth Balance, salt, and pepper. If your asparagus stems are on the thick side, pare them down with a vegetable peeler to expose the tender flesh underneath. (This is also a good way to handle broccoli stalks that you might otherwise throw away.)

When I was growing up in Michigan, I don't recall ever having eaten asparagus. Though I knew what it was, my depression-era grandparents, with whom I lived, almost never purchased fresh food because they saw it as an unnecessary luxury. Really. To their way of thinking, asparagus would probably have been the ring leader of superfluous vegetables.

When I was in college, I might have bought asparagus, but I don't remember it being available. 'Turns out that while Michigan is the third-largest producing state, only 25 percent of the crop is sold fresh. Processors buy the rest.

California, on the other hand, is the nation's top asparagus grower and it's available for nine glorious months each year. Springtime, though, is definitely the best time for it.

Question: Which fruit or vegetable signifies the end of winter for you?