Why Have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

dsc_00111 In general, life as a vegetarian is really quite easy. Vegetarian corndogs are delicious, my favorite burger joint serves the most beautiful veggie burger, and I am able to get more than enough protein everyday (contrary to popular belief). Ten years ago, it might have been challenging to find vegetarian options at restaurants in the United States. However, these days, we Americans are great at the vegetarian game! Vegetarianism no longer seems to be just a fad or a hippie diet, it’s a way of living, and society, in general, is supportive. Society is supportive of vegetarianism that is, until Thanksgiving. When discussing my family’s vegetarian Thanksgiving with others, there appears to be a lot of confusion and mixed reactions. For example: 5208392 wutimages

Once the initial reaction wears off, the two main questions in regards to a vegetarian Thanksgiving tend to be: 1) Why?, and 2) How?

Some people want to know what we will eat, others want to know what the protein source will be, and still others are curious to know if the meal feels as set apart and celebratory without a full turkey. Those are all legitimate questions, and I cannot blame people for asking. Honestly, I love the questions, because I love sharing my perspective with others, in hopes that it will gently challenge people to think about the impact of traditions. Thus, today, I am here to answer question number 1:

Why would you have a vegetarian Thanksgiving?

(The following words are a repost from my Vegetarian Thanksgiving post last year! These estimates and my opinion still apply here.).

“There are many advantages to a vegetarian thanksgiving. Here are a few….

  1. The environmental impact of going vegetarian is Huge! It is so easy to shop local and organic for fruits and vegetables that are in season, which cuts down on the use of pesticides, food miles traveled, and minimizes waste! In order to plump up the almost 46 million turkeys Americans consume each year, there has to be an enormous amount of grain grown. That means there is unbelievable amounts of energy, water, and land used to produce that grain- food and energy we could just be using and eating ourselves.
  2. A vegetarian thanksgiving can be much healthier! If you sub out the meat, which by the end of being cooked, stuffed, and covered in gravy can be pretty high in calories and fat, and substitute in more vegetables, you will end the meal feeling much better about yourself than you are used to!
  3. A vegetarian thanksgiving is quicker and easier! You may make more casserole dishes than you are used to by eliminating the main entrée (the turkey), however many of those smaller casserole dishes can be conquered a few days in advance. This allows for you to spread out your cooking endeavors, and actually give yourself some time to relax on the holiday- instead of being in the kitchen waiting on that bird to brown all afternoon.

For all these reasons and more, I encourage you to think about a vegetarian thanksgiving. If you absolutely cannot imagine that, try to use an organic or local turkey- it makes a huge environmental difference! Also consider using a smaller turkey than you’re used to. More is not always better, or necessary.”

I share this with you not to guilt anyone into having a vegetarian Thanksgiving, but to encourage you to think about what you can do to minimize envionmental harm. Curious in how to pull off a vegetarian Thanksgiving? Check back tomorrow for my very own “Build Your Own Vegetarian Thanksgiving!,” including some of the delicious recipes pictured above! Until then, thank goodness it’s Friday.

How To: Cut and Deseed a Pomegranate

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I do not know how, but it was not until two years ago that I tried my first pomegranate seed. I saw a friend of mine snacking on these little ruby-looking seeds, and was amazed at the beauty of this strange fruit! The seeds looked like little gems, and tasted just as good.

Pomegranate season in the United States usually lasts from around September to February, however they often show up in grocery stores for a brief month or so. Thus, for the last few years, whenever I have found pomegrante for sale, I have purchased at least one – both for cooking and for snacking purposes!

I hope you find this instructional helpful.  Here’s to delicious fruit, the beauty of nature, trying something new, and healthy eating!

Directions:

  1. Gather your pomegranate, a sharp knife, and a plastic cutting board. (The juice will stain a wooden cutting board). Rinse the pomegranate and remove any food stickers.

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2. Place the pomegranate flat on the cutting board, and cut the fruit directly in half. If the fruit is very wobbly, try shaving a thin layer of skin off of the bottom of the fruit to balance it, and then cut.

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3. Cut each of the halves in two, so that you have a total of four wedges. (Be careful here! The juice will stain you!)

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4. Hold each wedge over a bowl of water, and use your fingers to pull the seeds apart from the white membrane. The seeds can fall into the bowl of water, and will sink to the bottom, while any of the white membrane that falls into the bowl will float on the top.

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5. Drain the seeds of the water, and munch away!

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Notes and Tips!:

  • If you do use a wooden cutting board, and find that the juice has stained the board, you can use lemon juice or vinegar to remove the stain.
  • Can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
  • Don’t forget to check out the other ‘How To’ article from A Rented Kitchen, such as How To: Cut a Butternut Squash, How To: Cut a Pineapple, and How To: Make Chocolate Curls!
  • Love pomegranate seeds? Never tried pomegranate seeds? Try these scrumptious recipes from A Rented Kitchen that use this delicious fruit! (Recipe links below):

How to Cut a Butternut Squash

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It’s fall, which means tis’ the season for butternut squash! This past Saturday I woke up early and made homemade roasted butternut squash soup. It was perfect. The leaves were blowing outside my window.  My beautiful roommates were all asleep, so I sat in silence and sipped on some tea while the squash baked, remembering all the things I am grateful for

As I prepared the soup, I remembered how last summer my post on ‘How to Cut a Pineapple’ got more views than most of my recipe posts! Therefore, I figured there was a need for how to cut specific fruits and vegetables, and thought I’d provide

Thus, here are my step-by-step photographic instructions for how to cut a butternut squash. I hope this helps, and I hope you use this post to make something delicious! I will be posting my new favorite butternut squash recipe soon, so don’t forget to subscribe or come back soon for the delicious recipe!

with love and warmth, a rented kitchen

The Play-By-Play:

Step one: Rinse the butternut squash and place on a steady clean surface.

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Step two: Using a large knife, cut both ends of the butternut squash off (very thin cuts, about ¼ of an inch), creating even surfaces on both ends.

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Step three: Skin the squash with a vegetable peeler.

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Step four: Stand the squash up on one end and cut the squash down the middle with a large knife.

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Step five: Use a spoon to scrape the seeds and additional pulp out of the squash. Save the seeds and set aside if you want to enjoy toasted seeds!

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Step six: Lay each half with the center on the cutting board, and cut each half in two.

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Step seven: Cut the quarters into long 1-inch strips, and then chop each strip into cubes, or whatever size you desire!

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The Finished Product- delicious fresh squash ready for cooking!

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Found this ‘How To’ to be helpful? Check out these other helpful tips from a rented kitchen!

How to: Cut a Pineapple

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All right, so this post is a little different than what I normally post, but considering how much I love pineapple, I thought it worthwhile. Cutting a pineapple can seem more difficult than it really is. For many people, the effort doesn’t seem worth it, so they buy canned pineapple instead. I am here to tell you though, the effort is deeefinitely worth it.  Fresh pineapple tastes dramatically different than canned pineapple, and if you know how to accurately cut it, this delicious reward will come with very little effort. (huzzah!)

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Step 1: Cut the top and bottom off of the pineapple, leveling both ends.

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Step 2: Shave the skin off of the pineapple. If you cut very close to the skin, you will need to go back with a paring knife and remove some of the deeper grooves. If you cut a little deeper into the flesh of the pineapple while removing the skin, you will probably avoid this step. The picture shown was after a shallow shaving of the skin, and then the removal of some of those deeper grooves.

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Step 3: Slicing from top to bottom (long ways), cut the pineapple into 4 triangles.

Step 4: The center most point of the triangle is a thick core that is too hard to chew. Slicing from top to bottom, remove this hard core from each triangle.

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Step 5: Cut the remaining 4 pillars into chunks or bite sized pieces as desired. Enjoy!

Love pineapple? Check out these recipes that utilize this delicious fruit!

 

Have some leftover fresh pineapple? You can store it in an airtight refrigerated container for several days.  Pineapple makes an excellent snack!

How to: Chocolate Curls

Chocolate curls can add a touch of decadence to a dish, yet are extremely simple to make. I used them recently to top off the Chocolate Stout cake,* and they provided both a decorative touch as well as a sweet crumbled topping to the cake. Follow these simple steps below to create your own chocolate curls, and feel free to use them to top of cupcakes, cakes, ice cream dishes, dessert plates, etc. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with more chocolate!

Ingredients:

  • Chocolate
  • Shortening

Directions:

  1. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent the chocolate from getting overcooked. Once melted, remove the chocolate from the heat.
  2. For every 4 ounces of chocolate used, mix in two tablespoons of shortening with a fork, stirring well until the shortening has melted in.
  3. Invert a metal cooking sheet so that the side used for baking on is upside down. Slowly pour the melted chocolate onto the bottom of the cookie sheet (which is now the top!) and spread thin with a spatula.
  4. Place the pan in the refrigerator for five to ten minutes, until the chocolate is solid.
  5. Using a thin metal spatula, slowly scrape the chocolate off of the baking sheet. Place the curls in a container and store in the freezer until needed.*

Notes and Tips:

  • I used 8 ounces of chocolate when making curls for the Chocolate Stout cake and had plenty, with some left over.
  • When selecting a baking sheet to use, make sure to use one that does not have a Teflon coating on the bottom that could be scraped off!
  • Chocolate curls are something that can be made several days in advance and kept in a sealed container in the freezer.
  • If the chocolate begins to flake and not curl, then the chocolate is too hard. Leave the baking sheet out at room temperature for a few minutes and try again. Also, if the chocolate gets too soft it will stop curling. Pay attention to the temperature of the chocolate- at the right temperatures it will curl easily. A few minutes out on the counter or back in the refrigerator will solve the problem!
  • This how-to was originally adapted from food blog ‘goodLife {eats}’