Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Many Meals?

If you asked me in the past how many meals I eat per day, I probably would have said, "About 4."  That's not true, though.  Apparently, I eat about 10 times a day.

I started writing down everything I ate over this past weekend because I was trying to figure out a pattern to why I've been getting headaches and a few other weird symptoms lately.  I thought maybe I wasn't eating a balanced diet and was getting too much sugar and my blood sugar levels were crashing and making me feel bad.  While I've been making a conscious effort to eat better this past week, I know that writing things down skews it even further.  But I've been eating when I'm hungry and trying to eat better.  And that means eating 10 times a day, I guess.  

Here are some of my mini-meals over the past weekend:

Apple and whole grain toast with 1/2 avocado
4 Gardein strips and 1 bunch kale chips
Wild rice salad
Peanut and dulse snack mix and an applesauce cookie
Polenta/black bean bowl
Fattoush salad
Wasa crackers with white bean spread
Pea Soup and wild rice salad

Pretty good, huh?!  I'm not consciously trying to NOT eat anything, just trying to eat more fruits and veggies and while grains.  So far, no headache!

How often do you eat?

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Kitchen

I'm feeling really grateful for my kitchen today.  I love having a space to cook that I'm so familiar with, I barely had to open my eyes to prepare the soup tonight.  My hands knew my knife, my counter, my stove so well that they didn't even have to ask my brain if it was time to crush the garlic.

I started thinking about this a couple weeks ago when making dinner at my friend Morgen's house.  I was chopping shallots and was going soooo slow.  Something that normally would take me a few seconds was taking forever because the knife was unfamiliar and the countertop a different height.  I realized then that I take my kitchen for granted-

I'm so grateful to have this space to cook in and the time to cook and the energy and passion for it.  So many problems in our culture are linked to not taking the time to cook at home- I think it's on my mind because of that Jamie Oliver show that premiered last Friday (oh, yeah and because that what I'm trying to promote everyday  at work).  Cooking might not solve all of our society's problems, but it can certainly help with a good number of the environmental and health ones. Oh heck.  It can help with the emotional and familial ones, too.

So here's a tour of my kitchen. It's not perfect, but I love it.   I hope you have a kitchen that you love, too.

"The pantry"
Home to the chest freezer, all the dry goods in cute canning jars, salvaged soap display shelf from the co-op, recycling station,  chile ristra and the KitchenAid that has broken 4 times.

My main prep space
Home to my Fiestaware, my favorite knife, the ledge that I can never get totally clean, a juicer starting to gather dust, and of course, the beloved dishwasher. Off to the left is the office part of the pantry, a.k.a. cookbook storage area.

Fridge and cooking central
Home of the oven that's 50 degrees off its gauge, my super awesome commercial fridge, Whirly Pop popcorn maker, pressure cooker and the condiment lazy susan.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Toast Toppings

I love toast.  But, like many things, it's really what goes on top of the toast that makes it so wonderful.  This morning I had the most lovely darkly toasted whole grain bread with tahini and some of the first local hydroponic tomatoes of the season.  With a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, this was perfection.

Other mornings I want a sweeter toast, though.  So sometimes I prefer homemade jam.  There's always something delicious to serve on toast!

Anyone else read Nigel Slater's book entitled Toast?  A great book of food memories, including plenty about toast!

Here's a list of some of my favorites:
Mashed avocado with lemon, salt and pepper (plain guacamole)
Baked beans
Peanut butter and jelly
Tahini and kim chi
Earth Balance margarine and miso
Earth Balance, cinnamon and sugar

What's your favorite toast topping?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Gardein Strips and Kale Chips

Sometimes I need food really fast (but not fast food).  Today I was famished after grocery shopping, so I headed home and popped some of these Gardein strips into the toaster oven.  I first heard about these strips in The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen.   These are pretty new at the co-op and so far I've only moderately enjoyed their products.  I thought the buffalo style nuggets were weird and the sauce was like overly spiced ketchup.  

These strips are really tasty, though!  While not organic, they do use non-GMO soy and I can recognize and pronounce every single ingredient listed on the package! These are great when you need some serious protein really quickly.

I served them with homemade ketchup and kale chips.  If you haven't made kale chips before, then go get a bunch of kale right now and preheat your oven to about 450.  Rip off the stem of the kale and lay it in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Spray with olive oil and drizzle with tamari, Bragg's or umeboshi plum vinegar.  Or sprinkle with salt.  Then bake for about 6-10 minutes or until the kale is crispy.  Then sit yourself down and eat an entire bunch of kale.  This is so quick and so easy.  I think even kale-haters would love these chips.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Birthday Update

Sorry for the serious blogging hiatus.  I think I'm ready to resume writing about food now that my appetite is back.  I've felt really weird for the past week- Not hungry, not thirsty.  Not full blown sick, but sick feeling at times.  No, I'm not pregnant.  I can read your thoughts, Mom.

Since my last post I celebrated my birthday!  Now I'm 29 and oh-so-much wiser.  I ate some seriously good food on my birthday.  Mike woke me up with hash browns and tofu scramble and chocolate cake for breakfast. Then Brandon brought me treats from Wisconsin (including a grasshopper brownie from Willy Street Co-op and his magical seasoned pumpkin seeds).  Then we had lunch at Everest on Grand (jackfruit curry and fried okra!). Then we feasted on these goodies at night:

There were homemade crackers and cashew cheese, salsa and Whole Grain Milling Co. chips, pickled asparagus, black olives and cupcakes.  Not pictured: home canned tomatillo salsa and 7-layer dip from 2 friends!

Okay, now let's talk about the cupcakes in more detail.  You didn't really think I'd just leave it at "cupcakes" did you?
Brandon combined 2 of my loves: chocolate and Irish cream into a vegan cupcake.  He made vegan Bailey's Irish cream (recipe from the ppk.com) and then incorporated it into both the cupcake and the frosting.  The result was ridiculously good.  He also made vanilla cupcakes with strawberry frosting- also amazing!

And I got to sip this lovely Irish cream all night.  Literally sip, though, because I don't normally drink straight up coconut milk.  You might be guessing why my belly felt all messed up by now...

But there's more.  

The next morning Brandon and I met up with my friend Sarah for brunch at Pizza Luce- Yum!  I had the Portobello Florentine (as usual) and Sarah surprised me with a cupcake that she brought back from her Chicago trip the previous day- An Irish Car Bomb cupcake from the Chicago Diner!  Now I can say I've had one of their famous desserts, even if I've never been to the Diner :)

Later in the day I stuck with veggies and grilled up some mushrooms.  My birthday present is going to be a new grill because right now we have the little tiny kind that only fits about 4 veggie burgers- no room for corn or onions or mushrooms, etc.  I know I want a charcoal grill, but haven't decided between the classic Weber or the big cast iron smoker/grill.  I'll let ya'll know what I end up getting.  And you know there's going to be some serious grillin' happening this summer!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Momos at Everest on Grand!

Perfect birthday food!
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Inspiration...But No Proof

So I found inspiration yesterday- I flipped through Bryanna Clark Grogan's Nonna's Italian Kitchen and Jae Steele's Get It Ripe and was ready for something different.  I'm glad I prepped nearly everything for tonight's dinner in advance, because I didn't count on waking up and feeling really crappy.  After spending most (all) of the day on the couch, it was a relief to have dinner practically already made.  Otherwise it would have been a pizza night for sure.

Here's what I did yesterday:

  • I marinated some tofu overnight in wine, tomato paste, garlic and Italian herbs.  
  • I cut the broccoli and mixed up a lemon, Earth Balance and salt sauce.
  • I mixed up the "No-fredo" sauce for the pasta (I added a cornstarch slurry to thicken it- Thought it was a bit thin prepared according to the recipe).

So tonight all that was left was:

  • Put the tofu in the oven to bake.
  • Steam the broccoli over the boiling water for the pasta, cook the pasta.
  • Heat the sauce.
  • Pour lemon-butter sauce on broccoli and no-fredo sauce on pasta.  
  • Serve.

Super easy!  I didn't even have to get out my cutting board.  I wish I had photos, but after this little bit of off-the-couch-effort, I was pretty beat.  The kids kept saying, "Are you sure you don't want to take a picture of this?"   I think another night of rest and I'll be back in business.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dinner at Morgen's 2

Homemade pasta puttanesca
Brussels sprouts, carrots, kale and celeriac

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Dinner at Morgen's

Local sourdough garlic bread
Home-canned pickled beets

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I need some inspiration in the kitchen.  I'm feeling a little ho-hum about my usual meals and I need something new.  This week I plan on making Jae Steele's Fettuccini No-Fredo and Sesame Kale Soba (from Get it Ripe) to switch it up a bit.

Things have been kinda stressful lately and food has been more of an obligation and necessity than a "hobbery".  I don't do too well with making big decisions because I think about things from too many angles and over-analyze my instincts.  And even after making a decision I dwell on whether it was the right one or not.  I'm transitioning to a new position at my co-op at the end of the month and I'm pretty excited about the change.  Instead of Education and Special Projects Manager, I'll be the Education and Consumer Affairs Manager (or something like similar).  

I know, I know.  You still have no freakin' clue what that means, right?  Basically I'll get to do more big picture work- Making sure the consumers have a good experience in our stores and learn something about food and/or the co-op's values while they're there.  And I'll have fewer random projects.  And I'll get to be in charge of the previously separate Education/Marketing/Demo departments, so I think it'll be pretty awesome to coordinate this work to have a bigger impact.  A big impetus for this switcheroo is that my buddy Darci is leaving the co-op to go to school in San Fran and we'll have to get someone new to take her position (sad for us, happy for her!).  I love change, but it still stresses me out a bit!

Anyways, I taught a couple classes this week: Homebrew sodas and Gluten Free Baking. Got a big surprise with the GF Baking class: My registration was 8 people two days before the class, but the class got listed in the paper and jumped up to 16 the day of the class!  Surprise!  Luckily, we still had enough food and the brownies were a seriously big hit!  I'll post the recipe soon!  

I'll leave you with a photo of some biscuit pinwheels that I made last week.  I just prepared the Baking Powder Biscuits from Vegan with a Vengeance, spread one side with fun toppings and then cut into thin strips and rolled them up.  I tried sun-dried tomato pesto, salt & pepper, and cinnamon-walnut (not together).  These were pretty fun, but I think I still like plain biscuits better.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thai-Inspired Popcorn

I have a popcorn hangover today.  Last night I went to a popcorn party, which is exactly what it sounds like: A party where there's lots of popcorn.  This idea deserves to be stolen!

There was air popped and stove popped corn.  Popcorn in paper bags, in bowls, in soup pots.  Popcorn with butter, popcorn with margarine, popcorn with coconut oil, popcorn with sesame oil, popcorn with lemongrass-infused olive oil.  Popcorn balls and candied popcorn shaped like cupcakes.  And there was plenty of nutritional yeast, garlic, cayenne, and every other popcorn topping you can think of!  I'm feeling a bit dehydrated today.

Apologies for the dark, little picture.  

My contribution was a Thai-inspired popcorn.  Here's how you can make it...Approximately.  I didn't measure, so I won't pretend like I did.  I'll give you some proportions, though.

Thai-Inspired Popcorn
Popped corn (Try popping in coconut oil!)
Olive oil (I had some lemongrass-infused olive oil, which was very nice.  You can infuse some oil and make this popcorn much later when it's done or just do it with regular olive oil now).
Lime juice
Garlic-chile sauce (Rooster sauce would work)
Sea salt
Dried powdered ginger
Dried galangal (optional)

 Put your popped corn in a big bowl with room to toss it around.  In a little cup, whisk together equal parts of olive oil and lime juice.  Add in a generous splash of chile sauce, depending on your tastes.  I only had about 1/3 of a cup of this total mixture for about 1.5 gallons of popped corn.  Don't overdo it!  Whisk again and drizzle over popcorn, tossing frequently to evenly distribute.  With a mortar and pestle, grind together equal parts of ginger and sea salt.  Add about 1/2 as much galangal and grind again.  You want the salt to be very fine so that it will stick to the corn well.  Sprinkle over the popcorn and toss until distributed evenly.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rogue Pudding

When I think of pudding, I think of that boring, gelatinous goo in plastic cups that gets thrown into kids' lunch boxes.  Yuck.  I haven't had pudding in years because of this.

But this past week I went to a cooking class at Cooks of Crocus Hill with Robin Asbell.  She did a vegan desserts class with some really tasty treats, including a napoleon filled with chocolate pudding and topped with raspberries.  After tasting that rich chocolate pudding (she made hers with coconut milk and soy creamer, I believe), I knew I had to give pudding another chance.

So today I paired one of my favorite chocolates, Rogue Chocolatier's Rio Caribe, with your basic cooked pudding recipe.  Rogue Chocolate is unique chocolate- It's made on a very small scale in Minneapolis.  The owner does basically everything except harvest the cacao beans himself.  Pretty amazing and ridiculously delicious.  The bars are not cheap and you get what you pay for.

Here's my version:

Rogue Pudding
1 1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla paste
1 tsp. hazelnut extract
pinch salt
5 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup almond milk
1 bar of Rio Caribe Rogue Chocolate (or other pure, barely sweetened eating chocolate), chopped

Heat 1 1/2 cup almond milk and sugar in a saucepan.  Whisk until sugar is dissolved and milk is almost simmering.  Add vanilla paste, hazelnut extract and salt.  In a little cup, whisk together the cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold almond milk until smooth.  Add cornstarch slurry to the simmering almond milk and whisk continually until very thick.  Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate.  Whisk until melted.  Pour pudding into little cups or glasses and refrigerate until set.

***Edited to add: This makes a very firm pudding.  If you like more of a soft-set, reduce the cornstarch to 4 Tbsp. and add an extra 1/2 cup of milk or creamer.

I can't wait for dessert!