Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Horseradish Beet Salad and a Midwest Sundae

Tonight's dinner totally hit the spot for me. I had just finished doing some yoga outside and watering the garden (lovely, except for my first mosquito bites of the year) and I wanted something fresh, cooling, and not overly filling. This avocado toast and Horseradish Beet Salad was exactly what I needed.

The avocado toast is just a mashed avocado, the juice of 1/2 a lime, and salt and pepper spread over very crisp toast. I ended up putting the beet salad on top of the avocado on the toast, which looked really beautiful and tasted even better.

Horseradish Beet Salad
1 large beet, grated (about 1 1/2 cup grated)
1 Tbsp. minced fresh dill
2 green onions, chopped (about 2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. Veganaise
1 tsp. grated horseradish
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. raw sunflower seeds

Stir together all of the ingredients. Take care to make sure the horseradish and Veganaise are well distributed throughout the salad. I like to let this for about 30 minutes before eating to let the flavors meld together and the beets get juicy. Just before serving, sprinkle the sunflower seeds over top of the salad.

I should thank my coworker/friend Nick for the idea for the beet salad, because last week he mentioned trying a flavor of chips called (I thought) "Beet and Horseradish". I thought, "Awesome! Beet chips with horseradish flavoring!". Alas, I misheard him and they were really Beef and Horseradish chips. But the flavor combo is a winner.

Here's the first use of the rhubarb syrup I made on Monday. This is a slab of cornbread topped with Rice Divine Very Vanilla ice cream and rhubarb syrup. This has got to be the most Midwestern ice cream sundae you could make.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Grilling Time!

Tonight we celebrated Memorial day like most Americans- around the grill. I love grilling outside. Ever since I was a little girl, my dad has trained me to cook food properly on the grill. I remember feeling both terrified and thrilled when my dad would douse the charcoal in gasoline and throw in a match. WHoooosh! We would sit and talk or I would play until the flames died down. Then he'd grill some steaks (always marinated in teriyaki sauce) or maybe some red snapper.

Today I was kinda bummed out because we decided not to get the bright and shiny nice new (used) car that I LOVED. I know it was the right (read: frugal) decision, but I still stayed in my pajamas until noon and wallowed in my own pity. So the point of this is that I needed a good cooking assignment to cheer me up. Mike called to say he wanted to grill out and that was all the inspiration I needed.

Let's start with the veggies. I stuffed some button mushrooms with leftover Cashew Ricotta (from Veganomicon) and marinated some locally grown, organic asparagus in lemon juice, olive oil, coarsely ground salt and black pepper. These cooked up really fast on the grill and the mushrooms were the best. This is one case where I was thankful that the kids won't touch any type of fungus. More for us!

I wanted hotdogs, but didn't want to go to the store (although I ended up going anyways to get a great vacuum cleaner that Mike dumpstered at the Co-op), so I made some. These are loosely based on the Spicy Italian Sausages, but I cut the recipe in 1/4 and added a cup of mashed lima beans, omitted anything spicy, and added liquid smoke. They turned out a bit more moist and less dense- just what I was looking for! Since these have wheat, I marinated some tempeh in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, tamari, and maple syrup for Mike.

I also baked some Southern Style GF Cornbread to go with my meal and with everyone else's desserts. You see, the great rift between myself and Mike & the boys is how we like our cornbread. I like mine savory- preferably with jalapeƱos, but I'll settle for green chilies. They like theirs as dessert with maple syrup.

The real star of the dinner was the Rhubarb Lemonade- thanks to my awesome friend Sarah.
She sent me this recipe from Food Network Canada (along with a SIGNED copy of Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan) last year, but I had just used the last of my rhubarb when I got the recipe. Now that the rhubarb is back, this was first on my list! It's really as simple as 6 1/2 cups water, 3/4 cup sugar, and 4 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb boiled until the rhubarb is soft, then strained. Then you add the juice of 1 lemon and chill. The super cute idea that I didn't get a chance to do tonight is to skewer some blueberries and freeze them to use as a garnish/stir stick for the lemonade!

This drink has a really unique flavor that only rhubarb lemonade could have- it's delicious! I also made some plain rhubarb sugar syrup at the same time, so look for that coming up soon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chocolatey Goodness

I'm probably not going to be eating chocolate for a while. No, it's not Lent... or a fast... or a protest in honor of mistreated cacao farmers... or even a new vow of food snobbery. I'm just disgusted.

Today we left the house for about 4 hours to go in search of a new car. The Golf is slowly dying with its bad transmission and is getting really bad gas mileage because of it. We could get a new transmission, but it would cost about as much as the value of the we're pretty sure about a '03 Saturn station wagon. Anyways-

When we returned so that Mike could get ready for work, we opened the door to something like 10 dark brown puddles across our living room and kitchen. The TV remote control was sitting in the middle of one of them. And the place REEKED of chocolate.

After tiptoeing around on the few spots of clean hardwood floor, I discovered 4 empty bags of chocolate chips.

Why yes, so kind of you to ask. Those are the Tropical Source chocolate chips I special ordered a case of. And, yes, they are something like $5 a bag.

Those chocolate chips have been sitting in their cardboard box in our kitchen for weeks and Hannah hasn't so much as sniffed them. For some reason today she decided to open the box and eat half of the remaining bags and then vomit them up all over my house. If you're a bored dog who hasn't had her walk yet today, I can see how this might be appealing.

No need to worry- Hannah has a good gag reflex and tends to either vomit up or poop out all the harmful things she eats (chocolate, ibuprofen, condoms, pens, etc.). By the time we got home she was wagging her tail and prancing around.

She had a slight mishap later tonight when the remaining bit of chocolate ran its course. But what's one more steaming pile of chocolate on the floor after cleaning up ten?

Hannah's doing fine, but I'm not so perky. Our house smells like vinegar sanitizer and chocolate and I can't even imagine wanting to bake brownies.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quick Dinner

Here's a quick posting of our dinner-It received rave reviews from the kids and Mike (and me). But best of all, it was really quick and easy to make and contained tons of veggies.First I started some 100% buckwheat soba noodles cooking (I like the Eden Organic brand). I tossed some cubed tofu with tamarind puree, sesame oil, lime juice, ginger syrup (made by The Ginger People- It's just cane sugar and ginger), and salt. I set the oven to about 450, but didn't preheat it- I just baked the tofu for 20 minutes or so- eventually it made it up to 450.

When the pasta had about 2 minutes left to cook, I threw in about 2 bunches of asparagus (we got some free from the co-op that was wilty on the ends). After 2 minutes, I rinsed the pasta and asparagus in cold water to stop the cooking. Then I heated up our biggest pan and threw in 1/2 a nappa cabbage sliced thinly, 2 grated carrots, the asparagus, the pasta, the tofu, tamari, peanut butter, lime juice, tamarind puree, and ginger syrup. I really just needed to melt the peanut butter and heat the pasta back up after you could just skip this step and make it a cold dish with raw cabbage and carrot.

Yum! I just wish there had been leftovers.

updated: Mike just informed me that there WERE leftovers (I had to rush off to work after dinner). My wish has been granted!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008


Ever since I was a little girl I remember starting the day by thinking of at least one thing to look forward to that day. If we weren't getting back our math tests that day or if it wasn't jump rope day in gym, I'd usually end up looking forward to my lunch. Of course, lunch was usually chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes & gravy, and chocolate milk in those days...

Tomorrow I will be looking forward to a repeat of today's lunch: A nappa cabbage, broccoli, and carrot salad (and lots of almonds, too) with a spicy sesame-flax dressing. For dessert: a gluten free version of the Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes from VCTOtW. The salad is super easy to pull together the night before or in the morning before work. I just thinly slice the cabbage and chop up the carrots and broccoli. In a separate container I splash in flax oil, hot sesame oil, tamari, and rice vinegar for an easy dressing.

The cupcakes are a big hit around here- I don't think the boys even noticed the cayenne pepper in them (and I tend to be heavy handed with the spice in Mexican Chocolate). To make them gluten-free I just subbed rice flour for the wheat flour, corn flour for the almond meal (I didn't have any), and added 1 tsp. of xanthan gum. They turned out great! Oh, yeah. I also added a sprinkle of chocolate chips on top because it sounded awesome- and was.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Thai Eggplant Soup and the Garden

Okay, I'm done complaining now. I broke down and went the Western medicine route for my pink eye and it's already feeling better. Since I couldn't go anywhere today, I spent a lot of time watching TV, cleaning, and did a little cooking.

A week or so ago I splurged at Penzey's and got a ton of spices I've been wanting (ancho chile powder, sumac, and Mexican oregano, for example). I finally broke open the dried galangal and lemongrass tonight with a Thai eggplant soup.

Spicy Thai Eggplant Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried galangal
1 tsp dried lemongrass
1 dried cayenne chili pepper, crumbled
1 tsp ancho chile powder
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
a few grinds of black pepper
2 inches of fresh ginger, finely grated
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
5 cups water
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 veg. bouillon cube
2-3 Tbsp. tamari
2-3 leaves of collards, sliced thinly

Heat olive oil in a soup pan over medium-high heat. Add the spices, fresh ginger, and eggplant and cook for 1 minute or so (don't burn the spices!). Then add water and all remaining ingredients and bring soup to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until eggplant is very tender. Use a spoon to smash the eggplant a bit. I think this soup is awesome- spicy and a little sour and a little salty (but my taste buds are a bit off right now, so you might need to tweek it).

Last weekend I got the garden almost all planted- and most importantly, I laid out our new drip hoses! I am so excited about these.
You can see the rhubarb coming up here and the garlic is going strong!
I do still have to plant the kale and potatoes, but I think everything else is in. I can't wait to start eating from the garden!

Friday, May 16, 2008

On the brighter side...

I suppose not being able to smell isn't all bad. For example, when I go into the basement I can't smell the gross dank smell that usually hovers around the stairs. And I can't smell anyone's body odor, including my own (I'm pretty sure it's rank, though). And I can't smell the dog's cabbage farts or the stinky garbage!

I consider chips and salsa to be medicinal, both for emotional comfort and sinus-clearing capability. Today I ate about 16 oz. of homemade salsa that included 1/2 a raw onion, 6 jalapeƱos, and 4 cloves of garlic. I couldn't taste it, but I'm pretty sure it killed any germs in my body. I also picked up some rue and fennel eye drops that a co-worker recommended for my eyes. The pink eye that was in my left eye (and cleared up yesterday) has spread to my right eye now.
I know this post is already a far deviation from my usual subject of food. And I'm about to take it further. I really love gross stuff. Like I LOVE picking the cat's eye boogers, scratching dandruffy scalps, and picking scabs. So here's a photo for all who share my disgust/love.

I got these after 5 minutes of laying down with my eye shut and a warm compress applied. I can't wait to see how gross it'll be in the morning!


Perhaps one of the most frustrating things for a food-obsessed person is to lose the sense of smell/taste. I ate plain balls of wasabi yesterday and didn't taste a darn thing. I have to remind myself to eat because no good smells prompt my hunger. Mike suggested I challenge someone to an old fashioned habanero-eating contest today. I just might do that.

I'm sick of being sick!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sicky Yuck Yuck

The past few days have included a lovely assortment of cold and sinus symptoms, cramps/PMS, and pink eye. Lovely.

And I had to get pink eye the week I had 3 separate talks planned for parents/children. The group on Monday night agreed to risk it, but the ECFE groups wisely rescheduled. Smart move since by the time I woke up this morning my eye was swollen shut and I looked REALLY scary.

Luckily, I don't have a ton of other work planned this week and have plenty of sick time. But really, I have a tough time staying home. I either need to be
A: Busy with a "to do" list in hand, cooking dinner, and doing laundry while fielding questions from work OR
B: Sprawled out on the couch with a rootbeer and popcorn and hours of Netfix

There is no in between.

So when I'm sick I vacillate between sleeping/relaxing and attempting to accomplish any number of tasks- and really, I suck at both of these when I'm sick.

Except maybe tonight's dinner.

These are Mary Frances' Light and Fluffy Gluten Free Biscuits with some tempeh sausage, kale, and white bean gravy. I didn't write down measurements or ingredients for any of this, but it was darn good. I did, much to Mike's delight, accidentally add too much salt to the gravy. It was way too much for me and I love salt. But I think I can just thin out the leftover gravy to remedy the situation.

Now I'm off to do another turmeric and fennel eye compress. Hopefully, I'll wake up tomorrow miraculously cured.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I love Spring!

Today I worked on 3 recipes for a Spring cooking class that's coming up.

Lemon-Butter Pasta with Fiddlehead Ferns

1/4 lb. Fiddlehead ferns, cleaned and trimmed
6 ramps, chopped (green leaves and all)
12 oz. package pasta
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp agave nectar
1/4 cup pinenuts

Start a pot of water boiling- this will be your water for blanching the fiddleheads and also cooking the pasta. When boiling, drop in your prepped fiddleheads and cook for 2 minutes. Then fish out your ferns and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Return water to a boil and cook your pasta according to package directions. When pasta is done and drained, heat Earth Balance in a large skillet. Add the ramps and cook for about 2 minutes. Then add lemon juice, salt, agave nectar, and ferns. Taste sauce and adjust to your liking- it should taste stronger than you'd want. Add the pasta and toss to coat, removing pan from heat. In a separate dry skillet, toast the pinenuts until lightly brown. Sprinkle over the pasta and serve! This one is also good cold.

Creamy Sun-dried Tomato and Ramp Spread

4 sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1/2 cup very hot or boiling water
5 ramps
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
1/4 cup veganaise

Put the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with the hot water. Soak for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the white portion of the ramps and reserve the leaves. Combine white parts of ramps, tomatoes (reserve the soaking liquid), cream cheese, and veganaise in a small food processor and whiz around until mostly smooth. If texture is too thick, just add a bit of the tomato soaking water and process again. Transfer spread to a serving bowl. Slice about 6 of the ramp leaves very thinly and stir these into the spread. This is great on a baguette, but would also be good thinned out and used as a veggie dip. Want a stronger ramp flavor? Let this spread sit in the fridge for a few hours and you'll be impressed.

Last I made a Spring Sushi. I'm not going to type up a recipe for this one because I'm feeling tired and any old sushi rice recipe will work. These are filled with asparagus, ramps, and red pepper. Some are smeared with wasabi mayo inside, too. Next time I'll add thinly sliced radishes, too. We're all getting these packed in our lunches tomorrow!

After this cooking extravaganza, I worked in the garden for about 3 hours. I did a lot of seed planting, transplanting, and clearing out of old plants. Then I ran soaker hoses throughout the whole garden so that I'll never have to stand there with a hose to water the garden. It works beautifully! I used 3-50 ft. hoses connected together and was able to reach each garden bed and the berry patch out back. I'll post pictures later.

And what does a girl do after cooking all afternoon and gardening all evening? She spends $45 ordering Pizza Luce for the family. How is it that 2 eight-year-olds can eat an entire 16" pizza themselves? And what am I going to do when they are teenagers?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

For Nonnie

The Origins of my Snobbery

I think my mother contributed greatly to my food snobbery, though she will undoubtedly deny it. She never dined on fingerling potatoes with truffle oil or arugula with balsamic vinegar when I was growing up, but she taught me to appreciate the subtleties of flavor and quality. According to my mother, for example, a Dr. Pepper is not always a Dr. Pepper. Go into any restaurant, order a Dr. Pepper, and you will receive a different bubbly beverage (assuming of course, that they offer this variety of soda. If they don’t, well, my mother would simply leave the restaurant as quickly as she came in. The worst possible situation would be to offer Mr. Pibb as a substitute. That is simply unacceptable.).

The ratio of carbonated water to syrup can determine the merit of an entire restaurant. Too much water and your soda is bland and over-carbonated. Too much syrup and the soda is flat and sickly sweet. The perfect ratio was something we continually sought- that perfect burn at the back of the throat and unmistakable Dr. Pepper flavor.

While a truly delicious Dr. Pepper from a fountain is as elusive as a morel hidden amongst the leaves, a bottled Dr. Pepper is a different story. I learned from my mother at a very young age that sodas in glass bottles are always superior to those in cans, plastic, or from a fountain. Period. This early lesson taught me that while flavor and texture are important qualities for food and drink, one must also consider the vehicle and quality of the product. Glass bottled sodas connote past times, classics, purity, and finite quantities. When one has a 8 ounce bottle of soda, each drop is savored. There are no free refills on glass bottles. Any restaurant in its right mind will be charging you full price for each bottle you down- so sipping and appreciating tends to take precedence over guzzling one down.

A glass bottle of soda points to a time when carbonated drinks were a real treat- not the primary source of fluids in one’s day. The way Americans pound down fizzy drinks like they are water makes me wonder how we manage to function at all with that much high fructose corn syrup pulsing through our collective veins. Sometimes I wish I was around when you had to go to a soda fountain shop to get a fizzy drink and there was no such thing as a Super Big Gulp.

Of course, my mother and I both favor water now instead of soda. And I wouldn’t drink more than a sip of a Dr. Pepper, and that only for nostalgic reasons. But the lesson still holds- follow your tastebuds and accept nothing but the best. And it always tastes better out of glass. And it's partially my mom's fault that I'm a food snob.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Scattergories Snacks

Last night we hosted a game night in honor of one of our most favorite work friends- She's moving away to Fargo and will be dearly missed around the co-op and at our game nights. I mean, sometimes the only people who show up at our game nights are her and Mike's best friend!

Unfortunately, she was very ill yesterday and couldn't come to the we mourned the loss of our Sophia over a Mediterranean inspired spread:
Garlicky hummus with carrrot sticks, spicy Tunisian olive mix, green olives with herbes de Provence, and Deglet dates.
Stuffed grape leaves (Dolmades) with lots of extra dill ad lemon, just the way I like them.

And peanut butter chocolate cookies...I know...not fitting with the Mediterranean theme. I tried, though.

I made Pistachio Rosewater Cookies from VCon, but adapted them to be gluten free, oily, sugary, masses. I must have measured something wrong, because my (so far) fool proof method of GF cookie making has failed me. They are hard as solid burnt sugar on the bottom and leave behind oil stains on anything they touch. The flavor is great, though. And the dog knocked them off the counter this morning and ate through the plastic bag to get to about 3 of them. So they can't be that bad, right?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Spring has officially sprung when we get ramps, fresh peas, and sorrel in at the co-op. I really wanted to make a side dish that combined all three of these lovely spring vegetables- so here's my creation:

Spring Sorrel and Peas

1 Tbsp Earth Balance
6 ramps, chopped (green portion discarded)
1/2 cup fresh English peas, shelled
1 bunch sorrel (about 2-3 cups)
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
black pepper
sea salt
1 tsp. Veganaise (optional)

Heat the Earth Balance over medium heat in a small saute pan. Add the ramps and the English peas and cook for about 3 minutes. Then add the sorrel and thyme and cook another 3 minutes, or until sorrel has wilted. Finish with several grinds of black pepper and salt to taste. If the sorrel is too lemony-tart for your taste, try stirring in a tsp. of Veganaise. The creamy texture works well with the peas and cuts some of the tartness of the sorrel.

The surprise standout of the meal, however, was not the sorrel and peas (Duh, Liz, these kids are 8 years old).

But it wasn't the pasta and "meat" balls (made from leftover blackeyed peas and rice) either. It was the roasted green beans and carrots! We all loved these and were so sad when we couldn't have seconds...So I suggest making a lot.

Roasted Green Beans and Carrots

About a pound of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
2 carrots
2 Tbsp. olive oil
coarse sea salt
black pepper
a touch of fennel seed, crushed (optional)
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 400F (perhaps for "meat" balls, too?). Cut carrots crosswise into 3 sections, then thinly slice them lengthwise. Toss the carrots and green beans with the olive oil in a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe dish. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper, and just a pinch of crushed fennel seed. Roast for about 5 minutes- or until carrots and green pepper are just tender. Finish with balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lemon Rosemary Cornmeal Cookies

I know that this flavor combination has been done before for cookies...but I've never tried any myself and I don't recall seeing a gluten-free recipe. So, here's my version of a savory cornmeal cookie. They're soft and a little sweet/a little salty/ a little sour. The crunch of the marcona almonds is a nice surprise, I think.
Lemon Rosemary Cornmeal Cookies
makes 10 cookies

(If you're scared of savory cookies, just call them soft crackers or biscuits)

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. potato or tapioca starch
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 cup finely chopped roasted marcona almonds
1 tsp finely minced fresh rosemary

Wet Ingredients:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Additional fresh rosemary
Coarsely ground sea salt

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together dry ingredients in a mixing bowl until no lumps remain. In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into the dry until thoroughly combined. Take a heaping tablespoon of cookie dough in your palm and roll it into a ball. Place it on the baking sheet and lightly press it to flatten a bit (it should remain fairly fat). Sprinkle cookies with sea salt and press in small rosemary leaves if desired. Bake for 10 minutes and cool before enjoying.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Black Eyed Peas

This weekend was another busy weekend, so I wasn't cooking much at home. We subsisted on giant salads eaten out of mixing bowls and way too much ice cream.

I did have tons of fun cooking tortillas, salsa, and tamales at my Tex-Mex class, though! Everyone was really surprised how easy it can be to make tamales. Hopefully they'll give them a try on their own now...

Tonight I pressure cooked some black eyed peas and brown rice and made ED& BV's Blackened Tofu. Our salad was like coleslaw, but with broccoli added. It was a gorgeous day today, so we ate outside on the deck.

Here's the recipe for the Black-Eyed Peas and Brown Rice:
(This makes enough for about 8 servings)

3 cups brown rice
2 cups dry black eyed peas
3 smashed garlic cloves
1 onion, thickly sliced
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
3 Tbsp. tamari
about 16 drops of liquid smoke
1 tsp. paprika
1.5 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
8 cups water

Combine everything in a pressure cooker over high heat. Bring up to pressure and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slowly. Serve with tons of hot sauce for the adults.