Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A little something on the side

I got a phone call out of the blue today from a woman who is looking for someone to cook meals for her elderly friend that lives nearby.  

Two years ago (almost exactly!) I started a small, short-lived personal chef job for another elderly woman.  It was at a time when I really needed some extra money for student loans and it fit perfectly with my schedule.  A few months later when my schedule became more demanding, her son came back home and they stopped my services- perfect!

And now, when I'm wishing for a little more money for extra yoga classes and miscellaneous expenses that aren't in my budget, I get this call.  I'm working on my pricing right now and will probably know tomorrow if she agrees to my proposal.  She's a-okay with only vegan cooking and it sounds like a pretty good arrangement.  Hopefully everything works out and her friend likes my cooking!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Breakfast

Since most of our celebrating was done this past weekend, I'm really enjoying my time off  of work with no pressure to entertain or really do much of anything.  

But I needed to do something special this morning- even if we weren't opening presents or anything.  So of course, that something special was breakfast!

We had wheat free corn pancakes with cranberry-maple syrup, bacon-y baked tofu, and homemade apple cider.  The pancakes were fluffy with little bursts of (MN grown) sweet corn.  

Let me tell you, though- this was not a good meal for blood sugar levels.  With the super sweet cider and maple syrup, both Mike and I quickly zoned out and went back to bed to hibernate.  

I'm thinking about using this corn pancake for an upcoming spot our co-op has on Kare11.  I get to demonstrate a recipe that shows how you can eat locally in the dead of winter!  Fun!  I figure I can demonstrate this easy corn pancake recipe with local cornmeal, corn, soymilk, and barley flour and then talk about the local eggs and sausages without actually having to cook with them.

It can be a little tricky to stay honest and true to my beliefs while still doing my job to promote ALL of our local farmers and products at the co-op.  I have to draw the line at actually cooking with ingredients I wouldn't use myself- But I'm perfectly fine talking about production methods and quality standards for the egg, dairy, and meat farmers we endorse.  I figure I'll give people the info (with plenty of vegan options!) and let them choose what is right for themselves.  

So anyways, I'm glad these pancakes turned out really tasty.  I'll probably test them out a few more times before I have to make them on camera, though!  

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Early Celebration

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas/Solstice with Mike's family in our usual tradition: 
With Pizza!

Every year we make way too much pizza topped with all the toppings that we usually try not to splurge on (artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, 3 kinds of olives, etc.).  We had 8 people at our gathering and we made 5 pizzas...You do the math.

How do we keep things vegan in an omni kitchen?  Mike's mom had the super smart idea to label her big wooden cutting board with a vegan side and a meat side!  See the fuzzy picture below:

That's veggie side up with 2 kinds of olives and veggie pepperoni.  Mike and I shared a gluten free pizza this year  (Last year I accidentally left the GF free crust at home on accident).  Usually the crust is perfect, but I must have done something different this time because it stuck to the pan like crazy.  Luckily, with all these toppings, it tasted just fine- Even if it was the ugliest pizza!

Trouble cat was being super duper cute yesterday (begging for some of grandma's gluten free sugar cookies, maybe?).  This is her peeking out of the big pickling crock.  

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Less Junk

I think it might be time to cut back on my junk food a little bit.  

Not that this hotdog wasn't wonderful, with its homemade bun, homemade sausage, homemade pickle relish.  It was delicious.  The cookies I baked nearly every night this week were also delicious.  And the tortilla chips with salsa.  And the fried tofu.  Gee whiz- we even bought Ginger Brews this week.  I think I need more vegetables in my life.

So today I made a really basic lentil soup that kept me warm as I shoveled the half a foot of snow that fell today.  And it's good I have leftovers because we're supposed to have a -30 windchill tomorrow!

Classic Lentil Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
2 celery ribs, cut into large chunks
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup green lentils (not the little French ones)
6 cups water
black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in your soup pot over medium high heat.  Throw in the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and spices and saute for about 3-5 minutes, or until fragrant and just starting to brown. Pour in the red wine, lentils, and water and bring to a simmer.  Simmer about 40-45 minutes (without a lid) or until lentils are tender.  Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekend Update

Gosh- I can't believe I didn't post anything all weekend!  I guess that just goes along with the cleaning, laundry, and baking that I didn't get around to...

But I did get my new canning pantry set up.  I know I already posted a picture- But this one is better!

Here's the naked stairway area with the reinforced shelves.

Here it is all painted!  Yes, allularpunk, I painted them yellow!
And here's a better look at all the canned goodies.  I had to make some jam-print cookies last night after I realized just how many jars of jam I had.  It might be a bit excessive.
And here's the yellow paint in my hair.
It feels great to have this project done.  Now it's time to do that baking I didn't do this weekend.  

It's so insanely cold today that I can't bring myself to go back to the store, but I promised the kids that they'd get to have vegan hotdogs while the rest of the kids ate meaty hotdogs at the zoo fieldtrip tomorrow.  So sorry, gluten free folks.  I'm busting out the wheat gluten sausages tonight!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Beer Battered Jackfruit Taccos

I don't fry food too often.  I might pan fry some tofu occasionally or make some fried okra in the summer, but I don't deep fry things unless I have a really good reason (Like Sarah's fried foods game night with fried cheeze and corndogs!)

This was a good reason, though.  For about 3 weeks I've been trying to figure out how I wanted to make something like a fish taco.  The Baja Tempeh tacos in Veganomicon sound really good, but I wanted a fishier filling and I wanted to involve beer batter and lime juice.  So I dug out the can of jackfruit from my cupboard, simmered it in lime juice, beer, kelp, and spices and then coated it in a wheat free beer batter and fried it up. This picture is bad, but you get the idea.  Lots of fried jackfruit.  
My whole house smells like beer and oil.  And I like it.

Next I toasted up some hard taco shells and topped the fried jackfruit "fish" with creamy coleslaw and served it with guacamole on the side ... because this meal needed a little more fat. 

I want to tweek the recipe just slightly before sharing, but I'll post it someday.

I'll make something else with beer soon because my one bottle of locally brewed beer didn't meet the minimum credit card requirement at the liquor store across from my yoga class.  So I was practically forced to buy 2 bottles.  

The recipe for my coleslaw dressing is here.  Mom- I think this will look pretty familiar except for a few veganizing substitutions.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Burger of My Dreams

I've been waiting for this burger for days.

A few days ago I started seeing burgers everywhere.  Liz at Kamutflake Girl made an awesome looking burger with a homemade poppyseed roll.  And Joni's book will be coming out before too long.  And then there are the countless images of burgers on TV, in magazines, and on billboards. It's only natural that I should crave one, right?

But I'm really disappointed with most hamburger buns.  Plus, Mike can't eat them.  So I started the process of tonight's dinner LAST night by making burger buns out of Vegan Dad's farm-style whole wheat bread recipe.  That's my usual recipe for the kids' sandwich bread.  Usually I halve it, but this time I made one loaf and 4 huge burger buns.

For my wheat free sweetie, I used Mary Frances' gluten free drop biscuit recipe to make GIANT biscuits to use as burger buns.  Except I didn't "drop" them as much as I used wet hands to shape them into rounds.  Jeez- if I had a nickel for everytime I used this recipe i'd be rich.  And very full of biscuits.

It's ironic that I used homemade buns, home canned pickles from homegrown cucumbers, local organic onions, local hydroponic lettuce and ... totally processed, convienent frozen burgers and presliced American style "cheese".  Oh well, a girl's gotta have time to blog.  We really enjoyed the new (to us) Amy's Bistro Burgers.  They're gluten free, vegan, are non-GMO, and use organic ingredients.  And the Galaxy rice "cheese" slices actually melted over the burgers and tasted kinda waxy like American cheese usually tastes.  Perfect!

On the side were some oven fries with garlic, salt, pepper, and paprika and my usual coleslaw.  

Sometime when I anticipate something for a while I end up being disappointed when I actually experience it...This was not the case with the burger.  It was everything I wanted it to be.  And more, because I didn't know how rockin' my hot n spicy pickles would be.

I am TOTALLY looking forward to the leftover burger in my lunch tomorrow.  

Monday, December 8, 2008

Problem Solved!

Since this summer my kitchen has been cluttered with canning jars filled with peaches, pickles, tomato sauce and jalapenos.  It's a delicious problem, but a problem nevertheless!

Until today...

My super handy, amazing step-father-not-quite-in-law just built me these shelves in our basement stairway.  Now I am the proud owner of a canning storage shelf!!!

Tonight I put a few jars on the shelves to see how they fit.  Don't they look great?!  Plus, there's space for my water bath and pressure canners.  

Of course, I still need to paint them and he's going to reinforce the shelves so they are extra strong.  But I'm already planning what I'm going to do with all the empty space in my kitchen now.  Perhaps some more appliances... Or I might just enjoy not having an overflowing kitchen.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winter food

Eating a tomato in the winter isn't that big of a deal- people do it all the time.  But eating a homegrown garden heirloom tomato in the during a snowstorm in Minnesota is a pretty special thing. 

Our green garden tomatoes ripened very slowly this year (probably because we did nothing to speed them up and kept them near the window where it's cool).  This pineappple tomato was the last of the big tomatoes to ripen.  We'll enjoy a few more cherry tomatoes (we had a TON), but that's it for the garden tomatoes!  Except, of course, for the ones I canned...

We enjoyed thick slices of this tomato on top of gluten free biscuits with tofu-kale scramble and cheezy gravy for breakfast.

By the way- cheezy gravy is what you get when you combine leftover gravy and leftover mac 'n cheeze sauce.  

Last night I wanted some really good grounding food.  What better than root vegetables?

I roasted a small butternut squash, beets, a turnip, a carrot,  2 portobello mushrooms, an onion, and garlic cloves with a sauce of maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and Bragg's.  By the time the veggies were tender, the sauce was a thick and sticky glaze.  Yum!

On the side I slathered some Dr. Kracker crackers with guacamole.  I could eat this every day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fringe Benefits

One of the many perks that goes along with working at a natural foods co-op is the never ending supply of sample products that show up on the break table or in my mail box.  I have a really handy agreement with our purchasing manager that I'll help her with computer problems if she gives me samples of chocolates.  It's the perfect symbiotic relationship.  I also get a lot of seaweed and raw foods that lots of folks don't want to sample!  

I remember one of my first days working at the co-op (in 2001?).  I was getting the tour of our backroom and had just met my future partner Mike (he was busy "singing" along to some crazy death metal- how memorable).  Mike said, "Hey, if you want some, there's some free carob Rice Dream back here".  And I was like, "Hell, yeah, I want some free rice milk!"  He looked a little confused later when he found out I wasn't vegan because he'd, "Never seen someone who wasn't vegan get so excited about rice milk".  What can I say...I love free food.  

But carob Rice Dream doesn't even compare to my latest sample.

Yesterday I had the distinct pleasure of trying two types of nut butters from Naturally Nutty in Traverse City, Michigan.  Their nut butters are made with organic flax and hemp seeds so they pack healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids- always a good thing.  

The peanut butter has a super strong roasted peanut taste.  Like just roasted peanuts from the farmer's market in Texas.  Yum!  And 2 Tbsp. of this stuff has 670 mg of omega-3's.  

My real favorite is the Vanilla Almond Butter, though.  Yeah, it's just as amazing as it sounds.  It reminds me of clouds and pillows and sleepy-time things.  I know that sounds weird, but it's true.  It's really comforting and ideal for a bed time snack or dessert.  Or breakfast.  Or lunch.

I happened to have a couple of Peanut Butter Oatmeal cookies laying around (from Vegan with a Vengeance, but made gluten free) and couldn't resist turning them into sandwich cookies with that almond butter.  I know.  It's totally sinfully indulgent to smear almond butter between two cookies already packed with peanut butter.  But it is so worth it.

Note that not all of their nut butters are vegan.  Most importantly, though, the Chocolate Cherry Peanut Butter is.  Someday it will be mine.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Let's Talk About Soup, Baby...

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE soup?  I could eat soup every day and not get sick of it.  There are so many different kinds, for each of the seasons and for different meals.  Since I've been sick this week, I've been eating more soup than usual...Which in my case means for every meal rather than just for one or two meals per day.  I'm a serious soup eater.  I've even thought of writing a soup cookbook since my recipe files in that category are overflowing.  Except...

Soup has sort of a boring reputation.  Everytime I think about how much I love soup I'm reminded of the line from Best in Show where "Sherri Ann Cabot" is describing how much she has in common with her very elderly husband and says, "We have so much in common, we both love soup and snow peas..."  Like soup is something only old people like?!  Or people who don't have any teeth left?!

Anyways, I love soup.  It keeps me hydrated.  It makes my sinuses feel better.  It keep me warm.  It's easy.  The kids hate it, so there's more for me.  It's the best breakfast ever.  It's the best nearly midnight snack ever.

I'm going to go eat some soup right now.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pineapple Punch for a Totally Sick Party!

I'm taking it easy today because I got hit hard with a cold last night.  I was sitting in a class at the co-op when I realized that all of a sudden I was breathing with my mouth gaping open and I could actually HEAR all the snot rushing to my sinuses.  I thought, "Wow, I'm really allergic to something in here".  But by the time I got home, my body hurt, I had a sinus headache, and my ears were throbbing.  

My first reaction?  Get out the microplane grater, because we're gonna need some ginger up in here!  I combined lots of ginger, big hunks of smashed garlic, cayenne pepper, and fresh squeezed lime juice with some broth and sipped it until bed time.  

I'm really lucky to have sick time available and a job flexible enough that I can take care of any urgent business from home.  I know many folks don't have the luxury of taking a day to heal, watch The Learning Channel, and sip herbal remedies.  I know my methods will support my immune system enough so that I will heal, but it's not instantaneious.  And I'm not a fan of symptom suppression.

I visited the {conventional Western} Dr.'s office a few weeks ago because I had a bad headache and fluid in my ears.  The Dr.'s first suggestion was to take pain killers and squirt Affrin up my nose.  She apologized that she didn't see a need to give me antibiotics.  I explained to her that all I needed to know is that I don't have an ear infection and I'd be on my way.  She looked confused, then looked at my file and said, "Oh, you're into homeopathy."  

Sort of.  Homeopathy is one modality within natural or complementary and alternative medicine, but it's not my favorite.  I'm more of a Western herb, food, and yoga type gal.  But she's right, I don't like taking drugs, especially over the counter and prescription ones.  And I don't like masking my symptoms with drugs so that I can't feel what my body is doing.  

After explaining that I wanted to feel anything going on in my ears and head so that I would know if my body was in balance, my Dr. said, "Hm.  I never thought about it that way before.  I like that."

Please, please, please tell me that most Dr.'s have at least considered this perspective. Alternating Dayquil and Nyquil will not cure my cold.  It'll make me feel great so that I can ignore what my body is telling me.  This habit can be dangerous, encourages disconnection from one's body, and should be reserved for those days when a person absolutely HAS to do something despite needing to heal.  Why is that not the norm?

Anyways, enough with the soapbox stuff.  I feel yucky and have watched too much "What Not to Wear" and "A Baby Story" with cold medicine commercials in between.  I had to get that out of my system.  

My drink of choice today is way too delicious to be medicinal- But it is!  The lovely Chelsea at the co-op suggested I pick up some Lakewood organic pineapple juice that is on sale since it is packed with vitamin C and minerals.  Great idea- This ginger will clear anything up!

Pineapple Ginger Drink

1 inch ginger root, peeled with the side of a spoon
1 cup organic pineapple juice
1 cup filtered water

Finely grate the ginger (add as much as you want!) and add to the pinneapple juice and water. Heat until steaming hot.  Drink up!