Thursday, January 31, 2008

Martha

I don't normally admit it, but I love Martha Stewart. Okay, maybe not her...but her website, magazine, TV shows, etc. I'm well aware of all the reasons I shouldn't like her. I can't even eat 99% of the foods she cooks. And I know I will get made fun of to no end for admitting my love for the grand matron of housewifery.

I've tried to resist her, but I finally broke down and bought a subscription to Martha Stewart Living. No more desperately speed reading this magazine in the Dr.'s office, library, or from various "free piles". I will own it without shame. My first issue arrived today!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Adventures. And bulk beans.

So last night I continued my search for the Winter Carnival Medallion. It was the coldest night of the year so far, with wind chills reaching -25 to -35, but I bundled up in lots of long underwear, snow pants, scarves, gloves (multiple pairs), and hats. I got to the park at about 11:30 pm. The area was pitch black, icy, and wooded, with rolling hills and a few cliff drop-offs.

I followed the clues the best I could, waddling in my bundles of clothes and waving my little flashlight. I kept my Blackberry tucked inside my hat so I could talk to Mike and hear the new clues, but I must have looked a bit crazy- like those people who wear their Bluetooth devices in the grocery store and holler (seemingly to themselves) about accounts in China and such. There were hundreds of people there, digging and searching.

By 1:00 am I thought I found the right spot- all the clues seemed to fit, but I didn't see the medallion. As I was peering into the cracked wood of an old telephone pole, my Blackberry fell out of my hat and down a slippery slope that dropped off about 50-60 feet down to a highway below. I heard it get caught in the brush and had to scoot on my rear down the drop-off to retrieve my precious device. Mike, of course, hearing my "NOOOOoooooooooooooooooooo!", thought I had fallen off the cliff.

At this point we received word that the medallion had been found at around 12:30 am and I started my long trek back to the car. Unfortunately, being my father's daughter, I got really lost on the way back. Somehow every single hunter had already left the park, so I was left in this deserted area, in ridiculously cold weather, with only little footpaths to follow. Usually when someone says that they walked uphill "both ways" to someplace, they are lying or at least exaggerating. Well, I'm not. Because I was lost I ended up walking all over the place: uphill, downhill, through hollows, over trees, and eventually back to a street that was only 1/2 mile from where I started.

Luckily Mike was with me on the phone the whole time and could've probably had me located by GPS if I started freezing to death or anything. But I was surprisingly warm (read: sweaty as hell) from all the hiking. Today, though, I'm sore, exhausted, and have no $5,000 medallion to show for it. I was counting on that medallion to equal a new transmission for my car!!!

The hunt was really fun, though, and I'm completely won over. I'm a medallion hunter for life now.

Since this is a food blog, I'll leave you with a pic of the lentil soup I had for dinner tonight. I'm loving the new co-op prepack organic soup starters. It's just onion, carrot, and celery (the holy trinity, if you will) already chopped up. Normally I'd scoff at such shortcuts, but I welcomed it today.
I poured my bulk lentils from the beautiful new/old blue glass mason jars that Tori found in the recycling bins outside of the co-op. What a find! They look so beautiful with all the different beans inside. You know someone's a real friend when they share their dumpster diving bounty.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Homegrown Lasagna

It's days like these that I'm thankful we put up so much of our garden's harvest. Just when the stores have the fewest local veggies, I can pull out our homegrown ones. This lasagna features garden grown squash, collard greens, and pesto- along with olives cured by my co-worker/friend Nick. The Three Olive tomato sauce really is something special. The olive oil, olives, and then sun-dried tomato infused olive oil work together to make rich layers of flavor. Plus, it's a great use for the olive oil left over after I used up my sun-dried tomatoes from last year! I know this recipe has a lot of steps. The good news is that any of these mini recipes are good enough to stand on their own.


Homegrown Lasagna


1 box lasagna noodles

1 batch of Cashew Ricotta from Veganomicon

Roasted Squash

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 6 cups)

4 Tbsp olive oil

6 cloves garlic

1/2 onion, sliced

1 tsp. salt (I like a blend of Hawaiian red clay and French sel gris salts)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss squash, onions, garlic, salt and pepper in the olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, until squash is tender and onions are beginning to brown. (I removed the garlic for another recipe). Lightly mash with a fork, leaving plenty of chunks.


Triple Olive Tomato Sauce

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

6-8 big green olives (I used home-cured garlic olives)

32 oz can tomatoes (I used diced)

1 tsp. salt

dash of cinnamon (just a little!)

2 Tbsp. dried Italian herb blend

2 Tbsp. olive oil from oil packed sun-dried tomatoes

Directions: Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Saute the onions until beginning to get translucent. Add garlic, olives, tomatoes, salt, and herbs. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes with a lid on. If needed, you can add a bit of water to thin out the sauce. Partly puree to form a thick sauce. Stir in the sundried tomato infused olive oil to finish.

Pesto Collards

4 -6 Tbsp. pesto (I used 4 ice cubes worth of frozen pesto)

2 bunches of collard greens (either frozen or still wet from washing)

Salt to taste

Directions: Cram the greens into a large skillet with the pesto. Put a lid on them and steam/cook until bright green and tender, about 5-8 minutes. Salt to taste- depending on the saltiness of your pesto.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook lasagna noodles as directed

In a 9X11 inch baking dish, layer noodles, ricotta, squash, greens, and tomato sauce. End with tomato sauce on top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.


I dropped my lasagna noodles and ended up with little pieces. So I made the lasagna in a 9X9 pan and used the little pieces in a mini lasagna in a lunch sized glass bowl. When I'm at work I can just pop it into the toaster oven or microwave. Yum!

When not searching for treasure...

I've lived in St. Paul for over 9 years now, but until now I've never paid much attention to the St. Paul Winter Carnival Treasure Hunt. Actually, I've made fun of the folks out searching for their precious medallion.

Since Friday night, however, I've been one of the obsessed. When Mike, the kids, and I haven't been out searching (sporting flashlights and compasses) , we've been checking the treasure hunters' message board or discussing the clues. So my culinary adventures have suffered for want of time and motivation to do anything other than find the prize ($5,000 + over $1,000 worth of groceries).

To fuel my searching, I've resorted to things like cold cornbread smeared with Earth Balance or Chocolate chip oat cookies with gobs of peanut butter in between. Obviously food has been an afterthought.

Here are some things I made last week but haven't blogged about yet:

Dreena Burton's Peanut Sesame Hummus from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan
I followed the recipe almost exactly except I drizzled flax oil on top. Very tasty stuff.
This was a pretty quick chili and cornbread dinner. The chili was made in the pressure cooker with kidney beans, red beans, and black beans, canned tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices. Simple, but good.

On top I put the Cilantro Lime Cream from Veganomicon.
Wow! I subbed 1/2 soy yogurt for the silken tofu because I hate silken tofu so much...and I only had 1/2 the amount of cilantro called for. Mine ended up tasting more like Garlic Lime Cream, but it totally rocked. It was great on top of the chili, on tortillas, on cornbread, or on my finger.
The cornbread was a basic recipe changed to use oat flour and cornmeal.

I've been really enjoying using oat flour lately. It tastes so rich and nutty. It's definitely ideal for cookies. Here are the Wheat free chocolate chip cookies from Veganomicon that call for oat flour:

This is what they looked like before we ate them all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Wake Up and Smell the Cupcakes!

I gave up drinking caffeine about 9 years ago for health reasons. Occasionally I'll have a bit of white tea in the morning if I need a little bit of a pick-me-up, but mostly I avoid any caffeinated beverages. The only reliable source of caffeine I've have are the super dark chocolate squares that I keep stashed in my desk drawer at work.

Even decaf coffee will keep me awake if I drink it in the evening.


So when the theme for this month's Cupcake Hero was coffee, I thought I might use coffee flavoring or decaf coffee as my themed ingredient. Instead, I went all out.

I decided to use chocolate covered espresso beans. I figured, hey, this fits with my "I don't drink caffeine" pledge. I had a few ideas for how to use them and ended up testing them all.

After sampling four cupcakes and snacking on I-don't-know-how-many chocolate espresso beans from the bag, I started to feel funny...and very alert. Not just white tea alert. More like all-night-college-caffeine-fest alert. And jittery. And thoughts racing. And heart beating out of my chest.
My racing thoughts and taste buds told me that the winning coffee cupcake would not have crushed beans in the batter, crushed beans on top, or whole beans in the center... It would have all three! Of course!

Then I scrapbooked for, oh, about five hours and worked a ton of sudoku puzzles at lightening speed.

When things started settling down, I realized,"Oh, shit! These cupcakes don't even have frosting!" Normally I wouldn't even consider something this shape to be a cupcake without frosting. I'd call it a muffin.
But don't even think about calling these muffins. With rich, moist vanilla cake and so much chocolate and coffee beans you'll vacuum the stairs twice, these are not muffins. If you're craving a topping, I recommend a classic coffee drink topping, whipped cream (or Soyatoo whipped topping).
So here's the recipe:

Chocolate Espresso Bean Cupcakes
Makes 24 mini cupcakes or 12 regular

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup nondairy milk
1/3 cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 cup chocolate covered espresso beans (I like Sunspire)

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Reserve enough espresso beans to fill each cupcake cup. Put the remaining espresso beans in a baggie and smash them with a rolling pin, hammer, or baseball bat until they are in little pieces, but not powder (I suppose you could use a coffee grinder, but this is great therapy). Divide the smashed beans into two piles. Then combine dry ingredients, including 1/2 of the smashed espresso beans, in a mixing bowl. In a separate jar, combine wet ingredients. Then quickly stir together the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed. Spoon enough batter into each cupcake liner to fill 1/2 full. Then lay an espresso bean on top of the batter. Top each cup with a few more tablespoons of batter so that the beans are covered and cups are 3/4 full. Then top with remaining crushed beans. Bake for 10 minutes (mini cupcakes) or 15 minutes (regular sized cupcakes).

Let cool just a bit and then taste them while still gooey. So good! Let cool fully and then taste the firm chocolate bits and crunchy beans. So good! Top with whipped cream if you like, or serve them just as they are.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Sunday Afternoon Couch Fiesta

I've been wanting to make tamales for a few months now, but somehow it just hasn't happened until today. I had leftover black beans and leftover tempeh & mushrooms that needed to be used up, so that became the filling. To get some veggies in, I used up some leftover agave mustard dressing with shredded cabbage, carrots, and cilantro to make a side of slaw. Of course, it wouldn't be a fiesta without chips and guacamole. This time I threw some pickled jalapenos in the guac and it gave a really nice flavor and plenty of heat.
Here's all the tamales waiting to be steamed:

A close-up:
And the whole (first) plate:
For dessert we had vanilla-maple lattes. Mine had whipped cream!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kitties, Doggie, and Pizza

There's nothing better than snuggling with a couple of kitties and a dog when you're tired, have a cold, and have cramps. Here are all of my animals snuggled up together. As you can see, Hannah Dog likes to protect the kitties from the camera. My favorite pic is the one in the top left where Trouble Kitten has climbed on top of Billie Cat.
A few nights ago I miraculously pulled together dinner in about 30 minutes (I never do that). It was a really creamy polenta topped with an olive-broccoli-tomato sauce and baked cheesy tofu.
Mike made a great pizza last night. The peppers were spicy! He even made homemade cheese. Go Mike!


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Soup and Salad, Tex-Mex style

You never know when inspiration will strike.
We had to feed our dog a "mild" diet for a few days because of a digestive issue, so we bought some cottage cheese for her. It's been years since I've had cottage cheese and I hadn't really missed it at all until then. After smelling it, I immediately craved a thick, creamy cheese-type thing. So I started straining soy yogurt to make some yogurt cheese.

The next day I was driving and vaguely thinking what I would do with this yogurt cheese. Then, out of the blue I had it- I needed to make a soup combo. Two Tex-Mex soups in the same bowl with the yogurt cheese mimicking a creme frache/sour cream type dollop.

I was ready to make the soups today- the yogurt had strained for 2 days and was thick enough to hold its shape. Then when I woke up this morning I remembered a salad that I ate about 13 years ago with my friend Rubann and her mom. We were at Eastern Hills Country Club after work (Rubann and I worked at a Ford dealership with her mom). I had the most fabulous salad ever. (Obviously- I still remember it). It was a huge bowl of spinach with shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, and fried jalapenos, topped with honey mustard dressing.

So tonight it all came together. I made a corn chowder and black bean soup and served them in the same bowl, topped with a dollop of yogurt cheese. The salad was spinach, avocado, green onions, cilantro, and fried pickled jalapenos, topped with agave mustard dressing.
First the yogurt cheese:
This was not a 100% success, but I have more to work with.
I strained 32 oz of Wildwood plain soy yogurt through a coffee/tea filter and a strainer for two days. Then I mixed 1/4 cup of the thickened yogurt with a pinch of salt and about 1 Tbsp. of flax oil. It tastes pretty darn good like this, I think, but Mike thought it was too yogurty still. I added some nutritional yeast to up the cheesy factor, but that didn't do much for him. I thought it tasted like when you're eating nachos and the nacho cheese sauce mixes with the sour cream. Yum! I thought it tasted like a good sour cream before the nutritional yeast, too, though. This needs more work.

Now the soups:

The black bean soup I made in advance, thanks to my handy pressure cooker.

4 cups soaked black beans
16 oz diced, canned tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
the juice of 3 small key limes
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
Enough water to cover
I cooked them for 10 minutes under pressure, cooled slowly, and then seasoned with salt to taste. This makes a ton of beans, so we used about 1/2 on past meals (like the taco salad I posted previously). Tonight I just added a bit of water to the beans, pureed them, and heated them up. Then they were "soup".

The corn chowder was really easy, too.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 ancho chili, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups frozen corn (or fresh if it happens to be warm where you live)
3 cups almond milk (or other milk that you like)
1 tsp. salt

Saute the onion, chilies, and garlic in the olive oil until beginning to brown. Then add everything else and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Then puree half with an immersion blender. You can keep simmering it if you want it thicker.

To assemble:
Fold a piece of aluminum foil to make a little dam that fits across the diameter of your soup bowls. Hold it in the center as you ladle one soup on one side. Keep the bowl slightly tilted to the filled side, then ladle the other soup in the other side. Place the bowl on a level surface and carefully and slowly remove the foil dam. Then play in the soups with the tip of your knife to make designs. Top with some yogurt cheese, sour cream, or just cilantro and green onions.



The
salad:

To make the fried jalapenos, I recommend using homemade escabeche (pickled jalapenos with onions and carrots). If you don't have any handy, you can buy cans of pickled jalapenos at most supermarkets. Find some nice thick slices to use - I fried about 15 slices for 2 salads.

Mix together:
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Toss the jalapeno slices around in the cornmeal mixture until coated.
Heat 1/4 cups (or so) of canola oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. When you drop a bit of cornmeal in the oil and it bubbles up around it, it's time to throw in the jalapenos. But don't throw them in, really. Carefully place them in the oil and don't burn yourself. Flip the slices when they are browned on one side. When the other side looks golden brown, rescue them from the oil onto a landing pad of paper towels, newspaper, or an ugly kitchen towel you don't like that much. Let cool.

The
Dressing:

2 Tbsp. stoneground mustard
2 Tbsp. agave nectar
2 Tbsp. flax oil
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (I used some infused with thyme and it was great)
1/4 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper

Other salad stuff:
a big bunch of spinach, washed and torn
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 couple of green onions, sliced
a small handful of cilantro, chopped

Put it all in a bowl, drizzle with dressing, and pretend you're in country club in Garland, Texas.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What I've been eating

I haven't blogged in a few days, so here's the update on some things I've eaten:

Tonight- Taco Salad. Local hydroponic lettuce with Spanish rice, black beans (from the pressure cooker!), avocado/lime/cilantro, and salsa ranch dressing.
A few days ago I made these lima beans with lemon juice, carrots, tomato paste, and fresh marjoram. I've never had fresh marjoram before I got some slightly too old stuff from work. I love it! I've always dismissed marjoram as inferior or secondary to herbs like oregano and basil. WRONG!
Last weekend I made the Southwestern Corn Pudding from VCon. I love this stuff- and it's a great way to use up a 1/2 can of coconut milk left over from making ice cream.
I made some greens that I really enjoyed, too. I sauteed garlic and onions in some olive oil, then threw in cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and coriander. Then I added 16 oz of canned diced tomatoes and about 1/2 of a gallon baggie worth of chopped, raw frozen collard greens. I simmered them longer than I usually cook greens, about 20 minutes. But even the stems were so tender! On the side is some barbecue tofu cubes.
New kitten, Trouble, seems to be getting along swimmingly with Hannah and Billie. They even snuggle together! (This may be due to necessity since our house never gets above 62 and I think that is a gross over-measurement of the temperature. Yet somehow the heating bill is nearly $300...). At least all the animals have taken to snuggling with us through the night.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Bread and Jam

If I told you that today I ate some bread and jelly (and you know me pretty well), you might picture this:
Me, settled on the couch eating slices of freshly baked baguette with vegan cream cheese and a locally made artisan jalapeƱo jelly, and sipping a white tea with lemongrass.


Or- if you know me really well, you might picture this:
Me slouched in the driver's seat of my car, waiting in line for the car wash that I got free for paying almost $200 in car repairs last week, ripping off hunks of white bread to dip into some jelly I happened to have in my purse that day because I'm totally famished.


Both of these are true. You know me too well.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Like Cinnamon Rolls...only savory. And no cinnamon

I wanted to try the cinnamon rolls on Hannah's blog, but I already had dessert for my New Year's Day party. So, I decided to make a savory version filled with lemon zest, parsley, and garlic. The top is brushed with Earth Balance and a little extra lemon zest. Yum!

I reduced the sugar in the dough recipe by 1/2, but I think it could be reduced by 1/4.

Here's the dough rolled out with Earth Balance slathered all over and a puree of 1 cup parsley, 6 cloves of garlic, the zest of 3 lemons, and 1 tsp salt.

My dough was a bit too soft (I halved the recipe and think I needed >1/2 the amount of flour), so the swirly shape didn't hold so well. But the flavor is rockin' and they were a big hit!
Mmmm! Lemony buttery pillows!
Here's a bonus shot of zested lemons and parsley bathing in the sun on a beautiful (below zero) New Year's Day.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Everything is wonderful

Is it odd that I am so ecstatic about my new pressure cooker? I feel like it has opened new doors for me. Doors that were previously shut due to time constraints, cheapness of canned beans, and {mostly} laziness.

I cooked chickpeas in 8 minutes. I cooked black beans in 4. Now I just put some black eyed peas on to cook...AND SHUT THEM OFF TWO MINUTES LATER!!! This is too good to be true. Why doesn't everyone use a pressure cooker? Why am I just now getting one?!!??
And I haven't even tried cooking grains yet.