Vegetarian Un-Stuffed Collard Greens


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I recently read an NPR article that explored the American relationship with meat consumption.  According to the article, many say that they want to eat less meat–largely due to health concerns–but actual habits are slow to change. 

Jeremiah and I are vegetarian; we have been for a while.  (Actually, I’m a pescetarian; he’s a vegetarian.  I still occasionally eat fish.)  For us, it was mostly an ethical decision (driven by the fact that we have made friends with all the freaking farm animals).  For others, its a decision driven by environmental factors or health concerns. 

I thought the article was interesting; for me, it proved a point I have long suspected.  That is, sounding the alarms against meat consumption doesn’t do that much good on it’s own.  Rather than spur actual change, they just make people consider the fact that they should maybe think about changing…and then they don’t.

Honestly, I’m not the sort to just go around sounding those alarms.  If you are interested in why I eat this way, I’ll happily discuss it.  I may even write about it, but I’m not a “belligerent vegetarian.”  I’m not going to argue with you about it.  I’m not going to shame or guilt trip you.  (In fact, in my experience, it generally works the other way around; there are meat eaters who get genuinely ANGRY with me when they find out I don’t eat meat.  I still don’t understand that.)

Personally, I think that we’re going about this all wrong anyway.  Vegetarianism (even on a “one meal a week” basis) is still being framed as a sacrifice, and, for the majority, that’s never going to fly.  If it’s going to be embraced, people have to see how positive it can be for them: the positive outcome on their pocketbook, waistline, and health are good places to start.


Guys, it’s delicious.

I’ve found that you seldom have to convince people to eat delicious food.  Cupcakes, for example.  You don’t have to lay on heavy handed emotional arguments to make someone want to eat a cupcake.   All I have to do is put them out, and they get eaten.  Forget arguing over meat-free meals.  Just offer delicious meat free options and walk away.

They will get eaten…because that’s what happens to delicious food.

This one is one of my favorites.

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I’ve been told that collard greens are a staple in the southern states, but up here, they’re one of those weird ingredients that most people don’t know what to do with.  They are best suited for cooking, with a thicker texture and heft that doesn’t lend itself to salad.  My first experience with them was pre-vegetarian, stuffed like cabbage rolls.  However, shortly after we transitioned to a vegetarian diet, I found myself staring at a beautiful, fresh bunch of collard greens at the grocery store.  I needed a vegetarian collard green recipe in my life, so I came up with this.

***As an aside, this will make your kitchen smell amazing, like a fancy Italian restaurant.  I recommend making this meal to “Mambo Italiano” radio on Pandora, dancing to Rosemary Clooney singing “Lola” while chopping veggies and drinking red wine.  (It worked for me…)

Unstuffed Collard Greens – Ingredients

  •  8-12 collard green leaves
  • 1/2 small clove of garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 onion (roughly chopped)
  • 1 pkg of mushrooms (roughly chopped)
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 2-3 tbls olive oil
  • splash of red wine (optional)
  • mozzarella cheese
  • 4 cups cooked rice

First, a word on rice.  I went with a black pearl medley, setting it to cook while I made everything else.  This times well with non-instant rice, which you can set up to cook while you prepare the rest of the meal.  The texture will be better if you steer clear of instant rice on this one.

  1. Combine garlic, onion, and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. While the onion and garlic soften (about 5 minutes), de-rib your collard greens by cutting the coarse center stem away, and cut the remaining leaves into “ribbons” by rolling them and slicing the roll.
  3.   Add the collard greens and mushrooms to the garlic/onion, adding additional olive oil if necessary.  Cook an additional 4-5 minutes until both the greens and the mushrooms are cooked through.
  4. Pour in the jar of pasta sauce. Cook through and simmer for 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to combine.  (This is where I added a splash of red wine…because wine is good.)
  • Serves the greens and sauce over rice.  Top with mozzarella cheese to taste.

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Cooking as an Act of Love

Recipes are coming down the line on Almost Farmgirl.  I thought I would let you know why…

I never thought I’d be the sort of person who cooks.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, back in college, I could microwave an INSANE cup of Ramen, but something about cooking, actually cooking, rubbed me the wrong way.  Continue reading “Cooking as an Act of Love”

Scalloped Corn, Thanksgiving, and Drastic, Scary Changes.

Our first night back at the ranch, neither Jeremiah nor I got very much sleep.  The house noises were all wrong; the room was chilly; our house critters were (and still are) staying with my dad at our old place.  I woke up nearly hourly, and I felt no desire to climb out of bed in the morning, but I did.  That first full day, Jeremiah and I moved through the house and barn and pastures like turtles stuck in molasses in December.

The second night at the ranch I felt terribly exhausted but still couldn’t sleep.  I laid in bed next to my husband trying to will myself to feel at ease.  I tossed and turned, hoping that some bodily position would magically fix my nerves.  Jeremiah, kept awake by my constant motion, eventually spoke.

“Something wrong honey?”

Words exploded rapid fire.  “The house noises are all wrong, and I’m so tired, and I can’t sleep.  My brain won’t shut off.”

“Me either.  This just isn’t home yet.”

And that was it.  The floodgates opened, and I started to sob.  Through those deep breathes in between, I responded.

“It’s not home!  I miss home.”

Desperately homesick in my own bed, I cried myself to sleep, Jeremiah cuddled next to me, rubbing my back and telling me that he wished he could make it ok.

I felt somewhat better the next morning.  (It’s amazing how well tears work to dissolve nervous and negative energy.)  The house didn’t magically feel like home, but somehow that’s easier to deal with when the sun is up.  And it wasn’t that I regretted our decision to move here, not for a second, but I felt like we built home in that little, drafty, near 100 year old house in the Heights.  And this big old farm house was starting over from scratch with just as many new projects to start as we had completed.

My mother-in-law came over that morning, and she helped me clean my new kitchen.  (We were still cleaning up after a one-time significant mouse population…)  And I’m pretty sure that Jeremiah told her everything about how his silly wife cried herself to sleep, which is fine.  She stayed for hours, helping me clean and looking at me like she wanted to hug me.  And when we were done the kitchen was clean, meaning one small corner of my world was settled, and my outlook was better.

It took a week or so to settle in.  When we first moved in, the stove was unconnected.  Most of our dishes were still packed.  Also, the outlet in our bathroom was wallpapered; it literally took me a week to see it, and before then I dried my hair on the bedroom floor.  (All the while I wondered why on earth one would fail to put an outlet in a bathroom.  It made no sense whatsoever.)  As time went by and little things came together, this place started to make some sense to me.

Of course, it helps that I have always viewed this ranch as a sort of second home.  Even when the house felt so very foreign, the barns and the fields felt familiar and right.

Yesterday, I ran errands like mad, including a stop at the Heights house.  I heard myself, in my head, referring to the place as “Dad’s” and the ranch as “home.”  That was weird for me, but I guess I will consider it a step in the right direction, because every day, this place feels a little more like home.  It feels a little more right.

The sunroom after the snow.
The view out my window in our new home.

Today I made scalloped corn for Thanksgiving Dinner at my in-laws’ place.  It’s my grandmother’s recipe, as much a part of our holiday traditions as the Macy’s parade or pumpkin pie…maybe even more so.  I opened the oven to check the progress of the dish.

Scientists says that smell gives us our closest tie to memory of all the senses.  I believe them.  In that moment, I felt like I was back at grandma’s as a little girl, trudging through their cold porch on the way into the kitchen; scalloped corn was usually the first dish you could smell.  And, in that moment, it didn’t matter that I was in a new home in a new town, because there was scalloped corn in the oven, and it was Thanksgiving, and it felt good and familiar and homey.

This year, I am thankful for change, no matter how drastic or scary or huge, because, as they say, change is the only way you grow.