Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Treats!

Every year for Halloween we take the boys trick or treating and let them gather up big bags of candy that we don't eat. Then when we get back to the house they trade in their artificially colored, high fructose corn syrup for a Haloween goodie bag. This year there's some seriously good stuff in these bags!

Fast and Furless in Minneapolis had Sjaak's Organic, vegan, fair trade extra dark chocolate bites filled with peanut butter. This is the kind of chocolate where you can really taste the cocoa because it's not gobbed up with tons of sugar. I don't even need to tell you how good these are. It'll just make you cry.

I also picked up some Yummy Earth organic lollipops, a Panda raspberry licorice, a chocolate coconut fair trade Larabar, organic strawberry Stretch Island fruit leather, Endangered Species dark chocolate bite, dark chocolate "earth balls", and some Yummy Earth organic peppermint drops for each boy.
Oh, and there's some for the parents, too!

What do we do with all the unwanted candy? We bring it into the Co-op and give it to our coworkers or sometimes we "regift" it to other trick or treaters who come to our door (along with a little organic chocolate, of course)!

Well, this is it- My 31st Vegan MoFo posting. While I did miss a day or two, I made sure to post extra on a couple of days to make up for it. Yay! I did better than last year!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's the Cheeziest

While visiting my mom I always have to scope out her magazines- This time I was hooked on a "Soups, Stews, and Chilies" issue from Cuisine at Home. The very first recipe in the magazine is for Mac 'n Cheese Soup. Yeah. I know. In my head it alternates between sounding disgusting and like the best thing ever. I had to make it.

Now, I love pulling down the big mixing bowl and slurping up massive amounts of vegetable soup, but this isn't the type of soup you guzzle, oh, no. One cup of this soup is plenty- It's really rich. Of course, it's not nearly as rich as the original version that calls for 4 cups of shredded cheddar...

Vegan Mac 'n Cheese Soup

1 1/2 cups dry elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/2 cup celery, minced
1 Tbsp. arrowroot powder
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 heaping tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. turmeric
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 Tbsp. vegan cream cheese, Veganaise, or other fat-laden vegan substance*

Cook macaroni according to package directions (I used a gluten-free one so that my sweetie can enjoy this). Sweat onion and garlic in the Earth Balance in a large saucepan over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Mix together the cornstarch, arrowroot, mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, turmeric, salt, and garlic powder until no lumps remain. Then whisk the spice/thickner mixture into the onions and celery. Stir to coat. Then deglaze the pan with the vegetable broth and whisk until no lumps remain. Simmer about 5 minutes or until broth is thickened. Then whisk in the almond milk, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and cream cheese or veganaise keep stirring until the soup is smooth and creamy. Add the cooked macaroni and serve immediately. I like this with lots of freshly ground black pepper.

*I know it seems weird to add these to the soup, but it gives it that extra richness that the soup needs. I tried it with cream cheeze, with veganaise, and with both. They were all good! Using a little of both the cream cheeze and the veganaise made for a super-awesome Paula Deen type of indulgence that you don't want to go overboard on or you'll get a tummyache. That one was my favorite- Duh.

Here are my kitties sitting on the bushel of green tomatoes. I will certainly be making fried green tomatoes with some of them and maybe I'll make some more pickles, too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Green Tomatoes

What am I going to do with a bushel of green tomatoes?

Hopefully most of them will ripen! It started freezing at night, so Mike had to harvest all the tomatoes while I was in Texas. Now we have a bushel of them sitting in a crate on our kitchen table.

What's your favorite thing to do with green tomatoes?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fried Rice

Somehow this stirfry and rice ended up taking a whole hour to cook.  I cooked some white basmati rice and added fresh grated ginger to the water.  Then I mixed up my usual tofu scramble but fried up the tofu in sesame oil along with the rice for something like fried rice.  

We had a ton of garden veggies and veggies from the Co-op, so I mixed up purple green beans, carrots, celery, broccoli, onions, and garlic and coated them with a orange-ginger glaze.  

All in all, a pretty tasty dinner.  No one thought the rice tasted like "real" fried rice, though.  Darn.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Back from the land of fajitas

I'm back from Texas, home of fajitas nearly every day and my sweet family.  

I'm back to the land of hot dish and snow.  Mike welcomed me back with one of his signature dishes: pasta with rice and potatoes.  It was carb-tastic.

I promise I'll start cooking again now.  

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Not the best ice cream

When my mom and I get together, you know there's going to be ice cream involved.  So when we stopped at Whole Foods last night (don't worry co-op folks, I'm no traitor.  There are no natural foods co-ops in Dallas that I know of) I had to pick up a pint... or two.  

I couldn't resist choosing these two flavors.  I'm a sucker for a new flavor of Purely Decadent and key lime sounded divine!  The NadaMoo ice cream intrigued me not because of the mint chip flavor, but because it is made with coconut milk and sweetened only with agave nectar and malted grains.  Unfortunately, neither of these really lived up to my high hopes.

The NadaMoo ice cream was missing something- but I don't think it was the sugar. The sweetness of the agave was fine, but the ice cream wasn't rich like I expected after having had other coconut milk ice creams.  The chocolate chips were few and far between and didn't have that characteristic "snap" that frozen chocolate pieces usually have.  They were more...chewy.  I wanted to love this ice cream, I really did.  I shouldn't give up on it, though.  The first time I tried Oatscreme I hated it, and now it's one of my favorites.

The Key Lime Pie flavor sounded perfect in every way.  But I expected a very tart ice cream and lots of graham cracker crumbs.  Sadly, the ice cream was pretty flat- decent lime flavor but none of the acidity that you'd expect from a key lime ice cream.  It reminded me of Silk key lime yogurt in that it was a bit too sweet.  The graham cracker crust pieces were definitely my favorite part- I ended up fishing out all 4 pieces that were in the pint.  My recommendation?  Add citric acid for tartness and do an actual graham cracker crust swirl rather than a "graham flavored sauce" swirl.  

Honestly, I ate a good bit of both ice creams for the purposes of this research.  And since they were the only ice cream I had- they were okay.  But up against Purely Decadent Peanut Butter Zigzag, Coconut Craze, or Cookies and Cream or Coconut Milk Cookie Dough ice cream, these two wouldn't be in my top 10.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Spiral Diner

I'm having a great time with my family in Texas- so getting to visit the Spiral Diner in Dallas was icing on the cake.  I'm sorry my pictures aren't in chronological order or even right-side up.  I'm not used to my mom's computer!

Here's what my friend Brandon and I ate:

Cookie Sundae: A warm chocolate chip cookie with homemade chocolate ice cream, whipped "cream" and chocolate syrup.  

This is me trying to get my mouth around the giant sandwich I ordered!

This is Brandon's sandwich- I think it was the chopped seitan sandwich- it had pickles on it.  Hot pickles.  

This is my "Texas style" steak sandwich.  Seitan, peppers, onions, barbecue sauce- yum!
We started the meal off with Blue Sky sodas on tap (I had Dr. Becker) and chips and guacamole.  This was the first of the many guacamoles I've had on this visit.

Tomorrow I'll review a couple of new (to me) vegan ice creams!

Friday, October 24, 2008

So sleepy

Too sleepy to blog.
Rehearsal dinner included vegetable wellington, fresh berries and crispy lavash bread. Yum!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Culture Shock

It's been a long time since I've shopped in a conventional grocery store. And like visiting a foreign country, I had a bit of culture shock.

You know I'm a food snob and my colors really shined today as my dad and I wandered through the aisles at Tom Thumb (a chain owned by Safeway). All those packages of sugar, artificial flavors, and fat in various forms just grossed me out. These big chains talk a lot about all the great natural foods they carry, but there were pretty slim pickin's and everything was super expensive! If our little co-op can afford to pass on good deals to customers, you'd think Safeway could charge less than $4.99 per pound for organic apples!

I was lucky enough to find a few good items, though. I found organic avocados, organic peanut butter, whole wheat/sunflower seed bread, kidney bean curry, and some organic potato soup. I usually don't go for those Morningstar products, as they don't use organic soy. But, what the hey, I'm letting loose a little while I'm on vacation and I picked up some fake chicken strips.

I couldn't get any canned goods, because my dad's super fancy new house doesn't have a can opener. He has granite countertops and timer-controlled pool cleaning system, but no can opener. My new stepmom will be moving in after their wedding (this weekend) and honeymoon and she has a can my dad's frugality doesn't allow him to purchase one now.

Today I'm visiting the Spiral Diner- I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things I Want to Eat on my Vacation

I'm visiting my family in Texas right now, so blogging is definitely not my priority. But eating awesome food with my family is!

Here are some things I'd like to eat while in Texas:
On the Border Salsa and fresh chips
El Fenix salsa, guacamole, and corn tortilla
Some local Texas produce (TX grapefruit?)
Something vegan at my dad's wedding (I'll have a Cliff bar just in case, though)
Lots of goodies from the Spiral Diner!

I'll do my best to keep up with posts and take pictures of all the awesome food- but family definitely comes before VeganMoFo, so we'll see...

Nothing Homemade

The Saint Paul school district (like many others) has a policy of not allowing homemade treats in the classroom.  In years past I've blatantly ignored this rule in favor of homemade cupcakes, "indoors s'mores", and such.  But this year I heard there were a lot of allergies in the boys' classes, so I had to check in with the teachers.  And I just couldn't bring myself to break the teachers' rules (big surprise, huh?).

Now, if I could have baked a treat for the kids' classes, this would have been a snap.  {Plus it goes against every inch of my soul to buy store bought baked goods.}  Finding store bought birthday treats without dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, peanuts, treenuts, or kiwi limits things somewhat.  All the gluten-free vegan cookies and sweets I could find were processed on equipment that touched peanuts.  And the boys did NOT like the idea of bringing carrot sticks or grapes.  

My initial proposal to the kids was popsicles- but they actually decided on Whole Grain Milling organic corn tortilla chips!  I'm really surprised they chose something savory over something sweet, but chips were easy, relatively inexpensive, and definitely free of all the necessary allergens.  

Monday, October 20, 2008

Birthday Cheesecake

About 6, maybe 8, months ago I was testing cheesecake recipes for a wedding and my boys were really bummed that they couldn't eat the cheesecake.  I would have been upset, too. 

A peanut butter cheesecake with a pretzel crust?  It's like heaven.  So they made me promise that for their 9th birthday I'd make them a peanut buttter cheesecake.  And I totally forgot.

So last week when I asked what kind of cake they wanted for their birthday, they both immediately responded that they wanted "that different kind of cake that has peanut butter that they didn't get to eat last time I made it".  My suggestion: let's add a layer of chocolate!

Of course, promptly after suggesting this idea I realized that it was not a new one- Lori from Quirky Cupcake make a cheesecake like this just last month that looked incredible.  It must have been lurking in the back of my mind.  But this one will be vegan and I'm pretty partial to my recipe.

First the crust:
2 cups of pretzel crumbs (if you can find gluten free pretzels, then everyone can eat it!)
1/2 tsp salt (reduce if PB is salted)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. peanut butter

I usually start with a clean food processor and make the pretzel crumbs by whizzing the pretzels in there for a while.  Then I add the remaining crust ingredients right in there and pulse until it starts to clump together slightly.  The little bit of PB with the pretzels tastes like a Butterfinger bar.  Don't leave it out!

Press the crust into the bottom of a springform or tart pan.  Mine is a 10" size and this is plenty of crust.  
Then make the chocolate layer:
In a double boiler-type set up, melt 1 cup of chocolate chips and 3 Tbsp non-dairy milk together, stirring frequently.  Then pour over crust and smooth evenly.
For the cheesecake:

12 oz. silken tofu
2 x 8 oz packages non-dairy cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 250F.  You'll need to clean out that food processor for this part.  Whiz together the tofu and cream cheese until completely smooth.  Really, don't settle for ANY lumps!  Add sugar, vanilla, and peanut butter and process until fully incorporated.  I think this is plenty sweet, but feel free to add a little more sugar if you want.

Pour cheesecake batter over the chocolate-covered crust and smooth with a spatula.  I like to place my cheesecake pan on a baking sheet to make it easier to handle.  Then put the pans in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  The cheesecake should be moderately firm when it is done.  It will still juggle slightly if you shake it, but it should be definitely solid.  Chill completely before serving.  Really.  Like overnight.

And now I'm not even going to post the inside shot becaust it turned out really blurry and bad.  But you can imagine it, right?  And, yeah, it's as good as you imagine.

PB Sliders?

I didn't have time to bake any bread on Sunday and don't want to break my "no buying any bread that I could bake at home" streak.  So tonight I whipped up my favorite Sunflower Seed Rolls from the Moosewood New Classics cookbook.  I love these because they only have to rise once and only for aboout 40 minutes.  If you have this book, look for the "Three Seed Rolls" recipe.  I just left out the other 2 seeds.   They bake up in about 12 minutes- Super quick!

So the boys will have little sunflower seed rolls with peanut butter and homemade jam in their lunches tomorrow.  I think I'll call them PB sliders because they look like mini burger buns!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Frosty the Snow Freezer

It's been a while since I've taken an inventory of our freezer... So things aren't so organized in there.  And the frost has built up to the point that it's affecting the amount of space available for food.  But folks have been circulating around the task of showing the inside of their freezer and I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.  So here it is:

I know the angle is really weird, but you get the idea.  It's a chest freezer and stuff is buried in there.  Here's a list of what you might find if you dug around in my freezer:

Half-used bags of frozen organic fruit
A can of coconut milk that I was chilling and forgot about
A big bag of frozen locally grown strawberries
A couple of loaves of bread for breadcrumbs
A couple of bags of homegrown kale
A bag of chopped homegrown pasilla chiles
A bag of homegrown whole jalapeno chiles
A bag of sliced homegrown bell peppers
A couple of quarts of homemade veggie broth
A gluten free pizza crust from Cooqi
Spud Puppies! {tator tots}
Bags of flaked coconut
The bowl to my ice cream maker
Several 1/2 eaten pints of ice cream
A quart of freezer pickles

Down it the real depths of this beast are packages of seitan, tofu, and various things that were free from the Co-op because they were past their date.  I'm scared to even guess how long they've been down there.  But a full freezer is an efficient freezer, so it's okay, right!?!

Before we harvest and freeze our garden's collards and kale this year, I'll have to clean out the freezer.  Maybe I'll have a big feast and cook it all up.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Playing in the Dirt

Uh oh.  I forgot to post yesterday.  You'll forgive me, though, right?  I mean, I think I've blogged every day in October except for my one weekend day off.  VeganMoFo is tough! 

It was so nice to sleep in this morning.  I switched pillows about a week ago and since then I've been sleeping better and been dreaming more (or at least remembering them).  After waking up I headed out to the garden for some harvesting.  I've been avoiding thinking about it, but pretty soon it'll be time to prepare the garden for winter :(  

I figured I'd better get started harvesting and preserving more food.  Although carrots will do just fine in cold weather, they are much harder to harvest when the ground is hard!  So I picked about 1/3 of them.

Aren't they gorgeous!?!

There's nothing like a fresh carrot.  I didn't even have to taste them to know they were flavorful.  As soon as I pulled one from the earth, the sweet smell of carrots filled the air.  Sure, some of them have 3 legs or odd lumps- but that's the beauty of homegrown carrots.  They are WAY more interesting than carrots from the grocery store.  I have about 5 pounds of them tucked away in my crisper now.

I also dug up the potato bed and 1/2 of the remaining beets.  I was a bit disappointed that I only got about 7 pounds of potatoes from the bed I planted.  I really should have dug them in deeper, but I was kinda lazy about planting them.  Oh well.  Now that I know how perfect and well drained the soil is in that part of the yard, I'll do better next year.

Today I got about 2 pounds of beets and greens- I'll harvest the rest later.  Since I'm the only one in the family who likes beets, I don't want to harvest too much!  I sauteed the greens with garlic and lemon and the beet roots are roasting with some of the little carrots as I type. 

Billie likes how the beets smell.

Of course, there were also more tomatoes, tomatillos, and peppers to harvest.  Seven pounds of tomatoes, 1 pound of tomatillos, and just shy of 1 pound of chiles/peppers to be exact.  

I'm starting to worry about how many green tomatoes I still have on the vine and how cool the weather is getting.  I still have pickled green tomatoes from 2 years ago, so I'm not sure I can preserve any more!  Perhaps a fried green tomato party?  Last year we were able to ripen most of our green ones in the kitchen...until Mike tripped and fell on the box and squished them all!  I was sad to lose the tomatoes, but it was really funny, too.

Overall it was a great harvest today, but there is a lot of work to be done in the next few weeks to make sure we get the most out of the garden.  I'll be sure to keep posting about it!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Post-Yoga Comfort Food

I hadn't really planned on writing again about the food I eat after yoga.  But as I stepped out of my yoga class tonight into the crisp Fall air and felt the chill on my bare legs, I was instantly brought back to a pretty common scenario back home in Texas.  I felt the same feeling I used to get when walking with my mom to On the Border (Tex Mex restaurant) to get tortilla soup.  

For a long time I ordered tortilla soup every time we went to this restaurant. {And that was sometimes a couple of times a week} But once I became vegetarian I couldn't order the tortilla soup anymore.  

I'm not sure exactly what triggered this memory.  Perhaps it was the cold air on my legs, like I used to feel when I insisted on wearing shorts even though the Texas air had turned chilly (you know, like, in January).  Maybe those intense side extensions tapped into some memory stored in my solar plexus chakra.  Or maybe, just maybe, it was the tortilla factory that is across the street from the yoga class.

It was instantaneous:  I NEEDED tortilla soup.  Hot steaming tomatoey broth with tons of onions and spicy peppers.  Crispy fried tortilla strips.  Cool avocado chunks.  Oh. Yes.

Tortilla Soup
Serves 3

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 large tomatoes, peeled
3 cups water
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 chile (I used a dried Aji Cereza chile without the seeds)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 avocado
3 corn tortillas 
canola oil for frying 

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add sliced onions and fry until onions are lightly browned.  Add tomatoes, chile, tomato paste, water, cumin, salt, and lime juice.  Reduce heat so soup is simmering.  

Meanwhile, heat 1/4 inch of canola oil in a skillet.  Cut torillas into thin strips.  When the oil sizzles around a tortilla strip, it is ready for frying.  Add the strips to the oil in batches and fry until lightly browned.  Rescue them from the oil and let them drain on a paper towel.  I like to sprinkle them with salt.  

Cut the avocado into slices or chunks.  Taste the soup- if it has been simmering about 10-15 minutes then the onions should be tender.  

Assemble bowls with soup, avocado, and tortilla strips.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Post Yoga Comfort Foods

Those who practice yoga asanas know that you really shouldn't eat for at least 2-3 hours before your practice.  This is a REAL challenge for me.  I usually eat something every 3 hours!  

Eating before practice can lead to queasiness when doing inverted poses and can interfere with other poses that cause abdominal compression, like forward bends.  Many yoga poses bring great benefit to the digestive system by stimulating perisalysis in the intestines or by toning the abdominal muscles- but you really don't want a full belly for this!

So I try to plan my meals so that they don't interfere with yoga- if I have a plan to practice at a certain time.  Tonight I had plans to practice with my friend Crystal, so I ate a late lunch that would tide me over until our dinnertime practice.  

It ended up being late before we finished, but all the while I had a big pot of soup simmering on the stove.  The scent of sage and thyme wafting through the air was more relaxing than a lavendar eye pillow could dream of being.  

So as soon as we were done I dropped the homemade dumplings into the simmering vegetable soup.  

{If you're used to dumplings that look like biscuits, you might be confused by my picture.  In my family, dumplings are essentially very thick, buttery fresh pasta.  And I must insist that this is the BEST way.}

If you're looking for the recipe, visit my page on Seitan and Dumplings.  I used nearly the same recipe, except omitted the seitan, used 1/2 whole wheat flour in the dumplings, and added bigger veggie chunks and ginger to the broth.  By the way, this is an adaptation of my Meemaw's recipe, so it pretty much guaranteed to be good.

The best part about this soup is that it is so simple- just vegetables, herbs, and dumplings simmered together.  I find that after gaining a calm, focused, meditative mind during practice I don't crave strong flavors, salt, sugar, or other stimulating foods.  

Here are some other great snacks I enjoy after yoga:
Fresh fruit
Toast with nut butters
Hot tea
Really simple steamed or roasted squash or potatoes
Nearly any kind of soup
Yogurt with granola

Do you have a favorite post-yoga snack?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Serious Lasagna

I needed to have lasagna tonight.  Not my usual lasagna either- No squash snuck in between the layers.  No carrots pureed into the sauce.  No skimping on the cheese.  I needed some seriously rich lasagna- And that's what I made.

I used a double batch of Cashew Ricotta (Veganomicon), Tinkyada rice pasta lasagna noodles, homemade tomato sauce, sauteed kale, and Vegan Gourmet mozzarella shredded all over the top.  Sure, the kale was healthy...but the ridiculous quantity of cashew ricotta and cheese on top with the rich wine sauce made this lasagna something really indulgent.

I'm about to end my evening with some Ginger Apple Cider sorbet.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fun with Friends

Tonight we had some friends over for another potluck and the food was amazing.  Sadly, I didn't get my act together and take pictures of anything because we were busy corraling the dog and finishing up the refried beans.

My contribution was some homemade corn tortillas and refried-style pinto beans.  We also had pot pie, seitan stew, coleslaw with red cabbage, grilled tempeh, creamy tomato soup, coffee-chocolate ice cream, apple-buckwheat crust pie, popcorn balls, pluot juice, and fun with friends.  Yippee!

I'm really looking forward to having Tony's leftover tomato soup with toast in the morning!

I promise I'll post some more actual food tomorrow- I'm too pooped tonight.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Way Too Much Cuteness...

I started changing some colors on my blog and ended up totally redoing how it looks.  I really do have better things to do, I swear.  
Like stick my head in a wooden cutout of a hayride!
Today was a really fun day!  I went apple and pumpkin picking with some friends about an hour away from the Cities. I scored a huge bag of Haralson apples ($14) and 3 beautiful pumpkins ($8.50).  Plus, look how pretty the trees are and how cute my friend's stepdaughter is:

Okay, now for more cuteness- Look at this bunny!  Isn't she perfect?

Cuteness overload!  Now look at this goat chillin' up on his/her climbing contraption:

 This trip reminded me how much I love goats and bunnies, reminded me how much I love hanging out with my friends, and reminded me that I NEED to make some apple donuts sometime.  

I didn't do much cooking this weekend- Mostly I ate leftovers and cleaned out the fridge.  I did harvest from the garden and freeze about 8 bell peppers and a pound of pasilla chiles.  Oh, and made 2 kinds of salsa.  And baked bread and granola.  But oddly, all these things didn't really feel like cooking.  Or rather, they didn't feel like cooking for fun.  They felt more like chores today.

It's true that I really did need to bake bread for lunches this week and I needed to make granola for breakfasts.  And I had to preserve the peppers and use up some tomatillos and tomatoes in salsa.  But usually it is more fun.  I think that I was a bit tired after attending two social events this weekend and all I really wanted to do was knit and read and zone out. I think I'll go do that right now...

Friday, October 10, 2008

After a long day...

After a long day, I love a good bowl of soup and some ice cream for dessert.  And I love it when the kids rub my feet while I read them Nancy Drew.  I got all of these things tonight!

I did a fun "Fall Soups and Salads" private class tonight at the co-op for the Junior League.  It was a great group of ladies!  I made Chipotle Squash-Apple Bisque, Black-Eyed Pea-Nut Stew, Beet Salad with Creamy Maple-Balsamic Dressing, and the kale salad I posted yesterday.  Yum!  I'm eating the leftover bisque right now.

Teaching cooking classes is so satisfying.  I think that when we get a better teaching kitchen at the co-op, I'd like to teach a lot more classes.  I'm usually a pretty shy person, but somehow when I'm talking about the food I just can't shut up.  

For dessert I picked up a pint of So Decadent Peanut Butter Zigzag ice cream.  I'm about to dig into that right now!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Great Day for a Massage

I wish I had gotten a massage today, but instead I gave one.  To my kale.
Kale is probably my favorite green veggie.  The texture is so versatile- It can stand up to long cooking in a soup or can be eaten raw.  [Not to brag, but...] The kale we grow in the garden is the sweetest I've ever tasted.  So we grow a lot.  Enough to fill out chest freezer with kale to use from November through March.  

There are plenty of different kinds of kale, but these are the ones I see most often: Green curly, Red Russian, and Lacinato or dinosaur kale.  We like to grow all of these in our garden, but the lacinato and curly varieties are my favorite.

Kale doesn't need much added to it to be delicious.  Usually I just add it to a hot pan with a little olive oil and garlic, then sprinkle a bit of tamari over top.  Sometimes I add other ingredients, but this is the simplest recipe I know for amazing greens.  

When it comes to eating kale raw, it's nice to have young tender kale.  I like to chop it very finely and drizzle a little ranch or goddess dressing over it.  Yum!  

If your kale is a bit older, you can just let the raw, chopped kale marinate with the dressing for a few minutes or a few hours to help tenderize it.  Sandor Elix Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, recommends "massaging" chopped kale to help break it down.  While the idea of massaging kale might not be an appealing one, it really does tenderize it.  It turns a bright green and gets a similar texture to very lightly cooked kale as the cells are broken down.  

Oh, and kale is super good for you, too.  It has plenty of iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin K, beta carotene, and all that good stuff.  You don't need me to tell you that, though.  Start eating kale and you'll feel how healthy it is for you.  Your body knows.

Kale is in season right now and only gets sweeter as the weather turns cooler.  It will grow right into the frosty season, so keep eating it all winter long!

Sesame Almond Kale Salad

6 leaves of kale (about 1 bunch)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1-2 Tbsp. grated ginger
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp. tamari
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar

Remove the thick center stems from the kale and chop into fairly small pieces.  Using your (clean) hands, massage and rub the kale together.  There's no need to be gentle- give it a good deep rub.  When kale is bright green and wilted slightly, set the kale aside in your salad bowl.  

In a small dry skillet, heat the sliced almonds over medium heat.  You want them to slightly toast, but NOT burn.  When lightly toasted, add the grated ginger, sesame oil, tamari, and vinegar.  Stir to combine and heat through.  

Pour hot dressing over the kale and toss to coat.  You can let this salad sit at room temperature to further tenderize the kale, but it'd delicious while the dressing is still warm!

If you like some heat, add red pepper flakes to the salad for additional flavor.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Peach Fizz

Mike got a big bag of free Michigan peaches from the co-op a few days ago.  Actually a co-worker was going to take them home, but suggested that maybe Mike could take them and make soda out of them (and bring bottles back to the co-op, of course!).  So he cooked up a batch of peach soda- no spices or frills, just straight up peaches, sugar, and yeast.  

We sort of forgot about it after setting it aside in a box to ferment.  Usually 36 hours is plenty for a soda and I think this one got 2-3 days.  The carbonation is out of control!

As you can see, the glass is completely filled with foam.  What you can't see is my deck covered in peach soda.  

Despite its over-carbonated-ness, the flavor is amazing.  It's just as fruity and fizzy as that cheap Boone's Strawberry Hill you drank in 10th grade, but hopefully with less alcohol.  I love the simple peachiness of it and the color is beautiful!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Beanie Weanies

I don't know about everyone else, but I seriously loved Beanie Weanies when I was growing up.  And it's been way too long since I've eaten any.
This version is ever-so-slightly more grown up, but still pleased my favorite 8 year olds tonight.  At first they said, "Oh no. [insert sad face] Are those carrots?"  Then a quick, "No!  Those are hotdogs!  Yes!"  

I cooked the navy beans in the crock pot overnight with ketchup, molasses, maple syrup, mustard, a chopped onion, salt, and (my secret ingredient) sun-dried tomatoes.  The sun-dried tomatoes make a good rich and salty substitute for the bacon usually found in this dish.  I started off my day with these beans over toast with tons of Earth Balance.  

Then at dinner time I fried up some tofu pups (wheat free!) and added them to the reheated beans.  On the side we had some gluten free biscuits that I had stashed in the freezer and some quickly roasted onions, carrots, and green beans.  And the glowing beam of light on the plate is an heirloom tomato from the garden drizzled with garlic vinaigrette.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Carmelized Onion, Morel, and Wild Rice Soup

A few weeks ago I made my first batch of broth.  I know, I know.  That's just inexcusable.  Who makes their own tofu, granola, miso, seitan, canned soups, and root beer but DOESN'T make their own broth?  That's just silly.

But since this broth was such a long time coming, I wanted to use it in a really special soup.  

I've also been saving up some dried morel mushrooms that my friend Sarah gave to me. She picked them up at the farmer's market in Redwing, MN.  The combination of vegetable broth and rich morel mushrooms just screams for carmelized onions!  And the wild rice makes this soup into something that'll fill you up for more than 15 minutes.

Carmelized Onion, Morel, and Wild Rice Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 medium onions, sliced thinly
1/2 cup dried morel mushrooms (or porcinis would be nice)
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
4 Tbsp. tamari
1/2 cup red wine
3 cups broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat a large, wide pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and the sliced onions.  Reduce heat to low and slowly cook, about 40 minutes or until onions are sweet, carmelized, and limp.

Meanwhile, boil 2 cups of water.  Pour 1 cup of the boiling water over the dried mushrooms in a little bowl.  Add the wild rice to the remaining boiling water and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes or until rice is tender.

When the rice and onions are both done, add the wild rice to the onion pan.  Then add the tamari, red wine, and broth to deglaze the pan.  Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid.  Chop the mushrooms and add them to the soup.  Slowly pour the mushroom soaking liquid into the soup, letting any solids or grit remain behind.

Simmer for a few minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Then taste and adjust salt.  Add plenty of fresh ground black pepper and serve with crusty French bread!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ginger Honeycrisp Sorbet

Katie at Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk is hosting a Vegan MoFo Iron Chef Challenge!  The "secret ingredients" are apples and ginger.  

I should be modest and say that this sorbet is nice or good, but really- It's totally freakin' amazing!  Some credit should go to the Hoch Orchard apple cider and the super fresh Honeycrisp apples from the same orchard (in La Crescent, MN).  The ginger gives a nice bite to the cut the sweetness and the whiskey keeps the texture just right.  I like some actual fruit in my sorbet, but if you want it really smooth, you can leave out the apples and simmer the cider with ginger, chill, and then make the sorbet.
Ginger Honeycrisp Sorbet
Makes 3 cups of sorbet

2 honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored, and diced
4 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2.5 cups apple cider
1 cup evaporated cane juice
1 Tbsp. whiskey

In a small saucepan, combine apples, lemon juice, and ginger.  Simmer on low heat until apples are tender enough to be smashed with a spoon (6-8 minutes).  Then put apple-ginger mixture in a food processor or blender with 1 cup of the apple cider.  Puree until smooth.  Then add the remaining cider, 1/2 cup of the evaporated cane juice, and whiskey.  Process for about 20 seconds.  Taste the sorbet and see if it needs more sugar.  Add sugar as needed and process until dissolved.  Then add to your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.  

This would go perfect with Michelle's Apple Ginger Donuts!

Vegan MoFo Survey #3

If you like writing about yourself and the food you eat (which I think most Vegan MoFo bloggers do), then you should take this survey.  Just copy the questions to your own blog and link back to my blog, please.  Have fun!!!

1.  Name a song that involves food in some way.
That peaches song by the Presidents of the US of A

2.  What criteria do you use when choosing a new cookbook to buy?
Must have creative recipes that are different from the usual stuff I cook

3.  What did you eat today? 
So far: Lemon Rasam and fresh-pressed peach juice

4.  Name a vegan food that you know exists but you have never tried.
fresh donuts

5.  The Food Network just called and needs you to start your new show tomorrow.  What will the title of the show be?

6.  Favorite hot sauce or other spicy condiment?
Green tabasco or Melissa's habanero sauce

7.  How old were you when you became vegetarian/vegan?
11- vegetarian and 21- vegan

8.  Favorite vegan cheeze? 
Shreese blue cheeze

9.  Cutest baby animal?
baby piglets 

10.  Favorite type of jam/jelly/marmalade/preserves?
homemade concord grape jelly

11.  Do you take any vitamins/supplements?
borage oil, B6, calcium, magnesium

12.  What food/dish most embodies the Fall season?
Squash soup, definitely

13.  What food would you have a hard time living without?

14.  Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?
hot chocolate

15.  It's 10PM and you're starving.  What do you eat?
popcorn or ice cream!

16.  If you have an animal companion, what is his/her favorite food?
the dog and the cats all eat Iam's "natural" food.  The kitten loves licking water out of the dirty dishes.  Billie cat loves popcorn and catnip.  Hannah loves all fruits and vegetable peels and cores.

17.  Worst injury you've gotten in the kitchen?
Just got a nasty little burn on my thumb.

18.  When you have a food-related question, who do you call?
Morgen, Sarah, or my mom

19.  Summer is ending- What food will you miss most?
Sweet corn and local green beans

20.  What snacks do you keep in your purse/backpack/desk at work?
granola, apples, chocolate, tea bags

21.  Favorite soup to make on a rainy day?
seitan and dumplings!

22.  What's your favorite combination of fresh vegetable and/or fruit juices?
apple, lemon, ginger, parsley

23.  Favorite brand of root beer?
Blue sky.  It's cheap as hell and doesn't have too much wintergreen.

24.  Make up your own question!
I already made up a bunch- this one's for the rest of you.

Hop on the Granola Gondola

For the past 3-4 weeks the kids and I have been on this granola kick.  It all started with a bag of granola from the Birchwood Cafe.  This granola was stellar- big hunks of oats, maple syrup, and almonds with a hint of cinnamon.  The bag was gone before you could say "hippie".  

We wanted more, lots more.  But at $6.99 per pound (on sale) it was an expensive habit.  So I tried my hand at making my own granola.

Now, I know that making granola is easy.  I'd made it a few times in high school and it was pretty good.  But somehow I'd forgotten about making granola and resorted to paying for it.  And I feel like a total dufus for this.

Granola is super cheap!  And super good!  The kids want nothing else for breakfast and snacks (probably dinner, too, if I let them).  I just mix a little maple syrup in with some plain soy yogurt, top it with tons of granola, and usually give them a bit of fruit, too.  Me?  I always have a bag of it in my purse for those blood sugar emergencies that plague me.  The maple syrup and dried fruit give me the boost I need, but the protein and fat in the nuts keep me going strong without a crash later.

Here's the basic recipe I've been using- but be creative and add new ingredients!

Cinnamon-Nut Granola
Adapted from the Kind Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Cookbook

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup maple syrup
Up to 2 cups of dried fruit of your choice

Preheat oven to 300F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl.  Melt Earth Balance and stir in the maple syrup (I melt it in a little pyrex dish in the preheating oven).  Pour EB and maple mixture over the oats and mix until thoroughly moistened.  

Pour granola out onto the 2 baking sheets.  Bake the granola for 15 minutes.  Stir.  Bake another 15-20 minutes or until it is fragrant and lightly toasted- not brown.  It might seem a bit soft, but it will crisp up as it cools.  Allow to cool completely!

Then you can stir in some dried fruit if you'd like.  I leave it out because over yogurt I prefer fresh fruit, but in my purse stash I like raisins and cranberries.  So I just throw in some dried fruit as needed.  Store in an airtight container.  

Repeat every 5 days to feed your family's new addiction.

Friday, October 3, 2008

If you can wait...

Vegan MoFo Post #3

I tried Celine's Butterscotch Bars last night.  I was pretty darn sure they'd be good, so I made a double recipe.  They are now gone.  Is it excessive that I ate at least 3 full bars today, starting with breakfast?  Gosh, I hope not.  Because I wanted even more.
Check out the link above for the original recipe.  If you want to make them gluten-free, then look below:

Butterscotch Pecan Bars, Version 2.1 (Slightly modified from the original)

preheat oven to 350F, coat 8×4 inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

in a small saucepan, melt:

1/3 cup vegan margarine

remove from heat. stir in:

scant 3/4 cups brown sugar

set aside and let cool a little.
in a large bowl, sift together:

1/2 cup brown rice flour

1/2 cup oat flour (or more rice flour if you can't do oats)

1 tsp. xanthan gum

1/2 t baking powder

1/8 t baking soda
1/2 t fine sea salt

stir in:

1/3 cup pecan bits
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

place margarine prep in the bowl of your stand mixer, add:

1/4 cup vanilla soy yogurt
1 t pure vanilla extract

and stir until well blended.
add flour mixture, scraping sides once to make sure nothing gets ignored.

bake for 23 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan.
let cool in pan on top of a cooling rack.

While it is very tempting to eat these while they are hot, it's best for the texture to let them cool.  And really, the texture of most gluten free baked goods seems to improve after resting for a day.  I know it's ridiculous to ask you to not eat them for 12 hours, but after sitting the grains absorb more of the moisture and you get a softer crumb.  

Good things really do come to those that wait.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rasam for the Soul

Forget chicken soup!  When it's chilly outside and I want a comforting bowl of brothy soup, I turn to Rasam.  Sometimes I follow a recipe and sometimes I just wing it, but it never fails me.  Spicy, savory, and sour, this soup is bursting with flavor and feels like it could kill any cold that might be trying to move in.

I've tried Nupur's Ginger Lemon Rasam before and LOVED IT.  I tried Vaishali's Screaming Hot Garlic and Lemon Rasam and LOVED IT.  Now I've also tried Latha's Lemon Rasam, or at least pretty close to her recipe.  I used little red lentils instead of toor dal because that's what I had and they cook up super fast.  And I added some green onions and ginger, too.  
Guess what...I LOVED this one, too!

For those who are participating in Vegan MoFo: Yes, I'll do another Vegan MoFo survey.  If you haven't done last year's, go ahead and take the survey.  And if you missed survey #2, go ahead and do that one, too.  It's fun and makes for a quick post!  Look for a third survey this weekend!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oh my, Oh mi. I love Banh Mi!

I had my first Banh Mi sandwich only a few weeks ago.  How I've lived my whole life without this amazing Vietnamese sandwich topped with pickled daikon, carrot, cilantro, jalapeno, & mayo is beyond me.

Traditional Banh Mi sandwiches are filled with anything from pork to liver pate to tofu.  And with all those amazing toppings, I'm not too picky about the long as it's vegan.

My first Banh Mi was at The Hard Times.  It was filled greasy fried seitan- in true Hard Times style.  The cilantro-jalapeno mayo was so good I wished for more to dip my tortilla chips in!

The first Banh Mi I ate today was at work.  Our juice bar has monthly specials on panini sandwiches and this month's vegetarian sandwich is a vegan Banh Mi!  The tofu is slathered in peanut sauce and topped with shredded carrot and cilantro.  The whole sandwich is smashed in the panini grill until the bread is hot and crusty.  I was super impressed at how spicy the sandwich was- we usually err on the side of mild.  My only complaint about the sandwich is that it was missing the mayo/Veganaise that I so enjoy.

So after a crazy busy day at work filled with point of sale system failures, inventory report difficulties, and new-month-updates that had to get done...I needed ANOTHER Banh Mi.  This time, though, I wanted to make one myself.  

I couldn't decide if I wanted to use seitan or portobello mushrooms in my sandwich, so I used both!  

First step: Marinate the "meat" of the sandwich
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
OR 1 lb. seitan, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 Tbsp. tamari
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 jalapeno, minced

Second Step: Prepare the veggies
1 carrot, julienned
1 daikon radish (carrot-sized), julienned
1/4 cup very thinly sliced cabbage
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
2-3 green onions, sliced
4-5 mint leaves, minced
3-4 Tbsp. rice vinegar 

Third Step: Prepare the mayo
1/4 cup Veganaise
1/2 jalapeno, minced
2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced

Fourth Step: Cook 
Heat about 2-3 Tbsp canola oil in a skillet.  Strain off the marinade and add the seitan or portabellos to the pan and fry until browned.  

Fifth Step: Assemble
Slice a 1/2 of a baguette lengthwise
Toast baguette
Slather the inside of the baguette with mayo
Top with seitan or mushrooms
Top with veggies
Smash the sandwich together
Wrap in waxed paper so it doesn't spill all over you while you eat

Seitan Banh Mi
Portabello Banh Mi
While both the seitan and mushroom versions were great, I thought the portabellos held the marinade flavor better.  Next time I'll increase the spice a bit and rig up a panini press with some bricks.  

Need a gluten-free option?  
Just skip the bread and make a Portabello Banh Mi Salad!  
Thinly slice 1 cup of cabbage along with the veggies described above.  Serve veggies and fried portabellos over the cabbage.  Thin the Cilantro-Jalapeno Mayo with a bit of wheat-free tamari marinade left over from the portabellos.  This is your dressing.  
While the sandwich version is really awesome, this is a super way to get a lot of antioxidant rich raw cabbage in your diet.  So even if you're not gluten-free, you might want to give it a go!