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Archive for May, 2009

There’s pretentious food, and experimental food, and food you make to show off…but Macaroni and Cheese is none of these.  I think I’d call it nostalgic, comforting face-stuffing food.  You know what I’m talking about–food that takes you back, makes you feel young and low-maintenance again.  Like peanut butter and jelly, for instance.  Hot dogs and chips.  A pile of pierogies (okay…maybe that one has less universal appeal).  Yes, Macaroni and Cheese takes its place among all these most American (minus the pierogies) of food icons.  Unfortunately, vegans and lactards and all manner of non-cheese-eaters are frequently left with poor substitutes.  DAMN SHAME.

What happens to a person who is denied comfort food?  Sure, for a while you scrape by…but I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.  Sometimes you needses your feel good foods.

Yesterday was one of those times.

After working from dawn’s buttcrack until 9 PM, your BMG wanted a shower, a manicure, some food, a tall beer, a therapy session, a massage, a helicopter ride over some volcanos, a bigger backyard, a personal assistant to deal with my family for me, a new wardrobe, shoes that didn’t hurt, some orphans like Angelina’s, and why not, a motherfucking pony, too.

But, hey, I was willing to settle for food.

It was a “blue box” moment if I’d ever seen one.  I frantically began slapping together food, much to the dismay of the Boy, who felt that my nonsensical ranting was probably incompatible with boiling water and santoku knives.  He promptly steered me to the shower, and ten minutes later, I emerged ready to handle big girl tools again.

This recipe is cheap and easy, just like you like me.  Fact is, most dairy-free mac and cheese recipes tell you to make your own cheese using cashews and agar flakes and all other manner of ridiculous processes that I’ll admit to having done but hey listen let’s save that shit for days when we aren’t feeling homicidal, shall we?  Still other recipes instruct you to use a storebought soy cheese that’s packed full of preservatives, soy, and even milk-based products, which, again, I’ll admit to having done, but OH HELLZ BELLZ sometimes you don’t want that compromise.  So sweet, great, awesomesauce, this is not one of those recipes.  If you can boil water, you can do this.  And I’m not saying that to make you feel better about your cooking skills, like a lot of food people do….I really mean it.  Yeah, no problem.  You’re welcome.

Thank God we develop irrational attachments to our food.  Now I don’t have to go to therapy, take a helicopter trip, adopt orphans, or find that goddamned pony.  I can just fill up a bowl, grab a spoon, and eat those feelings away! Mmm, refreshing!

**Want another low-effort wonder of a meal while you’re at it?  Check my Vegan Spinach Lentil Soup.**

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
Makes 4-6 Servings

Go Get:
1/2 cup flour
1 cup nutritional yeast
3/4-1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. onion powder (not onion salt)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt)
2 1/2 cups almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
3 Tablespoons olive oil
12 oz. fun pasta (you can use a whole pound, but it’ll be less “saucy”)

Go Do:
Cook your pasta in salted water until it’s al dente, then drain. In your large pasta pot, whisk together all remaining ingredients (told you this would be easy). Turn the heat onto medium and whisk constantly to keep things smooth. When you have a thick sauce, toss the pasta back in, and use a large wooden spoon to fold it all together. When the pasta’s thoroughly coated and the sauce is the as thick as you like it, take the pot off the heat, and you’re done!  I like to serve this with Southern greens and a stiff drink, but feel free to experiment.

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Now that I’m outta there, I could fill volumes with thoughts on New York living.  But I won’t.  For now.  Be grateful.  All that matters at the moment is a story about how I came to appreciate sunshine more.

The Boy and I lived in a small studio in New York City for a while.  At first, I didn’t even notice how little sunlight I was getting from the two small windows we had–both of which faced brick walls.  In fact, it probably took about six months for the reality of our dark existence to hit me, when I decided it might be nice to have a few plants to supplement our other unmet need–FUCKING OXYGEN.

Before long I came to realize that I couldn’t support as much plant life as I like to (which, granted, is a METRIC SHIT TON), and then I had to wonder if The Boy and I would one day crumple up  in disappointing heaps just like so many seedlings.  Dramatic, I know, but you’ve come to expect that from me by this point.  I’d hope.

Well anyhow, when we moved into our new place in Chicago–an apartment with real windows and air that doesn’t feel like a biohazard–I just couldn’t wait to get back to growing serious amounts of my own food.  Have a look at this year’s results so far…

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The other day I had to wonder if I was getting out of hand (“Oh, hee hee, haha OH HONEY THAT SHIP HAS SAILED.”) As I was passing by the windows, I spun to face The Boy and oozed, “You’re so cute–I love you!”  He thanked me but then turned pink and said, “Wait…were you talking to me or the plants?”

Okay, so occasionally we talk.  I mean, I talk to them.

When they’ve done something cool, I fluff their leaves like I’m ruffling up the messy head of a mischievous five-year-old.  When one of them looks worse for the wear, I drop everything, apply organic fertilizer, and organize a pagan vigil.  And when I feed them, I’ve been known to ask, “Which of my wittle misfit plant babies wants some bat guano and earthworm castings todaaaay?  Hmmmmm?”

But really, it’s not the plants that I love so much–it’s what gardening represents.  Self-sufficiency.  Diligence.  Give-and-take.  Efforts that actually pay off.  Working with nature for spectacular results.  When I garden, I feel like I’m privy to a special form of mysticism.  Exotic knowledge.  I feel powerful.  But more often than not, I feel humbled.

When I stand before something I’ve planted that’s approaching my height (and which will probably eclipse me entirely in one sunny week’s time), I have a sense of smallness that makes me feel, of all things, safe.  We think we have so much control–and we do, to an extent.  But really, we just help things along, manipulate them a bit to our liking–the potential for greatness has always been there.  It will show itself whether or not we make a move.  And even if we act against it, cut it down, it will come back.  Not to defy us–just to be itself, as we all should be.  Its only purpose is life.

Except maybe for the tomato plant–its other purpose might be destruction.  But that’s another post.

So I guess we would’ve been okay even if we’d stayed in that New York apartment.  Significantly paler, more cramped, and perhaps a little worse for the wear, but we would’ve made it.  Still, I’m glad to be here.  Glad to be able to stretch out.  Glad to be able to take a deep, clean breath.  And glad to look over at the windowsill with pride and say,

“OMFG THE BOY RUN FOR YOUR LIFE THE TOMATO’S BECOME SENTIENT AArggHH-GAAAAA!”

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Your Bad Mama Genny is now on Twitter, misfits!  @genevievecharet

Follow me for some ill-advised fun!

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Sometimes you’re in the mood to impress everyone with a big show.  You’re willing to caramelize the onions, braise the roast, thinly slice the prosciutto, neatly fan the tomato slices, massage the chicken until it feels good and ready, sweet-talk the turnips until they’re almost there, and commit other forms of foodie foreplay, all in the name of a meal that makes a name for you.

But sometimes, you want to throw some stuff in a pot, heat it ’til it’s done, slosh it in a bowl, swig straight from the bottle, chuck a roll at your loved one’s face, and call it dinner.  You don’t care if it doesn’t make a name for you.  Hell, it could give you a reputation for all you care.

This recipe falls into that second category, and it deserves to be posted here because it will, despite your lack of emotional attachment and the damage inflicted by a day-old roll, earn you praise and adulation.  Or something.

Which naturally makes me think about the concept of “good enough.”  Naturally.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.”  Something about that phrase always bothered Bad Mama Genny, even when she was WBMG (Wee Bad Mama Genny).  There I sat with my BMGC’s (Bad Mama Genny Crayons) wondering if the BMGF (Bad Mama Genny Flower) I had drawn was “well” enough to please the proverbial taskmasters.

Oh, how many pursuits I would have dropped, how much fun I would have lost out on, if I’d waited alongside the well-behaved girls for everything to be perfect (risotto, for one).

The Boy and I ate this soup, enjoyed it thoroughly, and then, because we weren’t trying to be all exact about things, ended up with an extra hour to sit on the couch and cuddle while I massaged the dent that roll made in his head.  I wouldn’t have traded that extra hour for anything–not even a soup that would make my good name.

An interesting reputation is good enough for me.

Spinach Lentil Soup
Makes 4 main-dish servings

Go Get:
16 oz. package frozen, chopped spinach
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 cups broth or stock (any kind)
2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (Trader Joe’s has a great vacuum-sealed lentils pack that provides just that amount; canned beans will work, too)
2 generous pinches nutmeg
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

Go Do:
In a Dutch Oven, heat the stock over medium-high heat until it’s about to boil. Add in all the other ingredients and stir well to incorporate. Turn the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is cooked through and translucent. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
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