Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Love-Hate Relationships

I'm not a picky eater, per se. I love most all types of food and cuisine. I am however picky about how like my food. For example, I love stone fruit - peaches, nectarines, plums - but they have to be soft and juicy, if they are too hard or mealy I just can't eat them. I'm like that with most produce (you will notice that I frequently write my recipes so as to avoid mushy vegetables).

I have made progress since I was a kid. I now like, or at least don't hate a few foods I used to refuse to eat (I still hate mayonnaise however. Also, I still don't like tabbouleh or succotash.) Two foods that I have worked on liking as an adult are mushrooms and olives. I still have a bit of a love-hate relationship with both, but I usually like them more often as not. The first rule of my pickyness still applies however, and I still can't stand raw mushrooms. It's a texture thing - they squeak against your teeth - it makes my skin crawl. But put those babies over high heat with a little oil and I'm the first one in line.

B and I went down to have lunch with my mom last Friday and we went to this awesome Japanese market that had several different lunch counters inside. I, of course, could not pass up the chance to check out the grocery section because I love love love ethnic markets which actually cater to that nationality's local population. Their prices are always fantastic and I can find spices and ingredients that even a well stocked mega-mart and my natural foods stores just don't carry. Predictably, I had to make efforts to restrain myself :o) I loaded up on a variety of sea vegetables (frankly, I can't guarantee that I didn't buy 3 of the exact same thing in slightly different packaging, since not everything had English translations!). I also picked up four packages of gorgeous mushrooms: buna shimeji, eringii shimiji, enoki (a 3 pack) and oyster. I didn't know what I wanted to do with them, but I knew it had to be something that would let them really shine. I finally decided to try the vegan alfredo sauce I saw on several blogs awhile back and thought the mushrooms, sauteed of course, would pair nicely.

Vegan Alfredo Linguine with Sauteed Mushrooms

First, for the pasta sauce. I was, unsurprisingly, unable to leave well enough alone and made some modifications to the recipe. Except for cutting the margarine in half (I could not bring myself to put in a half cup) I pretty much left everything else the same and simply added to the original. You can find the original at any of the above links. Another tip: I decided to try to do the whole thing in my BlendTec to avoid an additional dish (if you leave stuff in there long enough it will get hot, the blades spin that fast). Next time I will only blend it in there and not try to actually cook it, it ended up working way to much air into the sauce. I liked it a lot, and B really liked it, but it was a tad too oniony for me (although that was a lot more pronounced before I added the nooch and miso). It does taste even better the next day, and the texture is spot on. I'd like to try a roasted garlic version at some point. Additionally, this definitely makes enough for at least a pound of pasta, maybe more, depending on how saucy you like it.

- 1/4 cup margarine
- 2 cups plain soymilk
- 1 pkg extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 2 tbsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder

- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp light miso paste (provides the "aged" flavor of parmesan)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- pinch nutmeg
- 2 1/2 tbsp arrowroot powder dissolved in 2 tbsp cold soymilk

Combine everything but the arrowroot in a blender and wiz until completely smooth, add in arrowroot slurry and wiz just to combine. Pour into a saucepan and heat over low, stirring occasionally, while you cook the pasta. If it hasn't come to a slow bubble and thickened by they time the pasta is almost done cooking, crank up the heat just until bubbles come up and it thickens a bit. Serve over your favorite noodles.

These mushrooms were so delicious! And for cooked mushrooms, I thought they were awfully pretty to boot.

- 1 lb(ish) mixed mushrooms, chopped rough if very large (hold back any very small ones until the larger ones have cooked down some so they don't over cook)
- 1 tbsp earth balance
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- olive oil spray
- 1/4 - 1/3 c dry white wine
- 1 tsp finely minced fresh thyme
- salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a 3qt saute pan over medium-high until good and hot. Add the oil and margarine then the mushrooms as soon as the margarine melts. Toss to coat and then let cook undisturbed 1-2 minutes until the bottom layer gets some nice color. Toss, spraying with olive oil spray to lightly coat the rest of the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, then stir only occasionally to allow mushrooms to develop some color and release their water. When the pan starts to dry out and the mushrooms are getting golden add the white wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up any brown bits. Remove from heat and stir in thyme.

Serve immediately!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Making Over Nostalgia

Growing up my favorite dinner was a saucy chicken bake served with rice. It was simply chicken pieces thrown in a casserole dish, covered with cream of mushroom soup and baked until the chicken was done. I almost always requested this dish when my mom would ask me what I wanted for dinner. It is one of my top 5 comfort foods of all time.

At first glance it would seem I would have to forgo this favorite of mine with my choice to eat vegan. Even before I swore off meat I had stopped using pretty much all canned soups. I realize I am horrifying all my non-existent Midwestern readers in saying this, but goopy, coagulated glue is not my idea of delicious. But one of my favorite things about being vegan is the challenge of making what I want to eat out of things I will eat. And so I give you:

Chicken-y Mushroom Casserole

I really like soy curls as they are a whole soy product with all the fiber and protein, and for this dish their texture worked perfectly for me, but you could use seitan if you wish (that would also make it soy-free if you have sensitivities). I added broccoli to get some more greens in us.

2 c soy curls
1 tbs chicken flavor bouillon (I like Better than Bouillon "No-Chicken Base" and they recommend 1 tsp/cup of liquid, so you can use that to convert to what ever you use)
1 c roughly chopped mushrooms, cremini or button
1/2 sm yellow onion, diced fine
1/4 c dry white wine
1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c nutritional yeast
2 c plain hemp milk
1tsp fresh thyme, minced
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium head broccoli, cut into bite size floret and steamed just until bright green and slightly tender (it will continue to cook in the oven and I don't like smushy broccoli!)
2 tbs panko bread crumbs tossed with 1 tsp olive oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8 or 9 in pan (a pie plate will work if you don't have a small baker) with non-stick cooking spray.

Dissolve bouillon in water (in at least a 4 cup capacity bowl) and add soy curls. Mix to ensure they are all as submerged as possible and rehydrate 10 minutes. Remove curls from soaking liquid and set aside, reserve remaining liquid.

Spray a medium pan with non-stick spray and heat over medium-high. Add mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until they release their liquid and begin to brown. Lower heat to medium, add onions and cook another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until onions are softened. Pour in white wine and cook until almost evaporated. Sprinkle in flour and nutritional yeast, stir to coat entire pan and cook 30 seconds (this helps cook off the "raw" taste of the flour). Switch to a whisk and whisking constantly slowly pour in soaking liquid reserved from soy curls. Work it in until smooth, it will start to thicken immediately. Work in hemp milk the same way. Bring to a bubble and cook 30 seconds. It should be thick but pourable and easily coat the back of a spoon as shown. Remove from heat and stir in thyme and black pepper. Fold in soy curls and broccoli until evenly coated and pour into prepared dish. Top with panko crumbs, if using.

Place in oven and bake until bubbly and top is lightly golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let reset 5-10 minutes to set up (roast your other veggie now!)

Serve with brown rice and another veggie - we enjoyed it with roasted asparagus. Yum!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Catch-Up: Part Two

Green Smoothie

In the spirit of being a joiner I present my favorite green smoothie (these measurements are approximate):

1 whole small orange, peeled and cut in half
1/4 c hemp milk (optional)
1/3-1/2 banana (depends on size of fruit)
2 big handfuls fresh baby spinach
1/3 c frozen pineapple
1/3 c frozen mango
1/2 c frozen strawberries
1/4-1/2 c water
2-4 tbsp raw organic hemp powder

Place in blender in order listed and whirl about 30 seconds, until pretty well blended. Stop blender and add:
2 more handfuls baby spinach (optional if you are a green smoothie virgin).
Blend another 45 seconds or so until completely smooth. If you have a Blendtech I actually use the "whole juice" button for this and not the "smoothie" button, I think it works much better. If you don't have a high powered blender your results will not be as smooth. It does taste rather "green" but not unpleasantly so. If you are a sissy you can start with less spinach and work your way up - but you won't get the vibrant green color if you don't put much in. If it's the green color that's putting you off swap out the pineapple and mango for a cup of mixed berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries). It will be deep purple and you won't see a bit of green. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of agave as the berries have less sugar than the tropical fruit; I also like this version with a splash of vanilla.
I figure I get about 1/4 pound of spinach in me this way. I've started buying it at the warehouse stores like Costco and Sam's (organic!) because I'm going through so much! This is gluten and soy free and if you omit the hemp milk (or make your own) it is totally raw. And totally yum!

More Gratuitous Pictures of Obscene Quantities of Boysenberries. Again, Jealously is a Completely Understandable Reaction ...

Super Veggie Stir-Fry with Broiled Tofu

For the Tofu:
1/4 c soy sauce
splash mirin
squirt of sriracha
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 block extra firm tofu, cut into medium triangles (about 12)

Place first 5 ingredients into a quart size plastic bag and smush around to mix. Add tofu, seal, and shake to coat. Set aside for at least 1/2 hour, or up to overnight. When ready to cook put your oven on broil and cover a baking sheet with aluminium foil (trust me - saves your pan and makes clean up a breeze). Spray with non-stick cooking spray and place tofu slices on sheet, not touching. Broil 3-5 minutes until good and browned. Flip and broil on other side another 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the Stir Fry:
1/2 lg sweet onion, sliced
1 lg carrot, sliced lengthwise into large sticks
1 red bell pepper, " " " " "
1 c lg white mushrooms, sliced
1 handful green beans, cut in half
1 sm head broccoli, cut into florets
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into long strips
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
soy sauce, 1 turn of pan
mirin, 1/2 turn of pan
sriracha, couple squirts
hoisin, couple squirts
toasted sesame oil, small splash

Stir frying is extremely quick and requires your almost constant attention once you begin so it is most important that you have all the veggies chopped and ready to go (I loaded them up on 2 plates to maximize efficiency) and all your sauce components next to the stove and lids off.

Heat your largest skillet over high heat until good and hot. Spray with non-stick spray and add onions, carrots, and bell pepper. Toss almost constantly until you start seeing some color on the veggies and they begin to soften. Remove to plate, respray pan, and added mushrooms. You can leave these alone for a minute to develop some color. Stir/flip mushrooms and continue to cook until they shrink and brown. Remove to plate with first veggies. Respray pan and add green beans, cook stirring constantly until spotty brown and bright green. Add broccoli and cook 1 minute more then add zucchini. Cook, tossing constantly 1 minute more. Add in onions, carrots, peppers, and mushrooms and toss to incorporate evenly. Add tofu and toss to combine. Make a small space in the middle of the pan and add garlic and ginger. Add soy sauce, mirin, sriracha, hoisin, and sesame oil and stir quickly to incorporate all sauce ingredients. Cook 1 minute more just to coat all pan contents evenly and allow sauce to thicken slightly. You don't want the veggies to over cook!
Serve immediately with brown rice. Serves 2-4.

Surprisingly Unhealthy Veggie Dinner ... aka Veggies and Earth Balance
This was last night's dinner. It was very delicious, and entirely less healthy than a plate of veggies should be.
For the Broccoli:
Preheat oven to 500. Line a sheet pan with foil, spray with non-stick spray and spread a head of broccoli cut into bite size florets evenly on pan. Spray again with non-stick spray, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast 10-15 minutes. You want the tops to be deep brown but the stems to still be a bit al dente.
For the Zucchini:
Just a couple table spoons of Earth Balance melted in a pan over high heat, add squash and cooked until well browned on each side, salt and pepper to taste. I did this in two batches so there was only one layer of zucchini in the pan at a time for even, quick cooking. The high heat allows for the great color and texture without over cooking the zucchini.
For the Peas:
Melt a tablespoon of Earth Balance in a skillet, dump in 1/3 bag frozen peas and cook tossing occasionally until warmed through. Salt and pepper to taste.

The Corn (aka the Crowning Glory of the Meal)
This is my absolute most favorite way to eat corn. B said he liked this, not once, but 3 times while eating dinner.
I cut the kernels off 5 ears of corn, but you can also use a 16oz bag of frozen corn.
Melt a couple tablespoons of Earth Balance in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn, sprinkle with salt, stir lightly and then leave it alone! When it starts smelling toasty (a couple minutes) stir thoroughly, scrapping the bottom of the pan well and then leave it alone! You are going to do this several times. You want the corn to look like the picture and that takes at least 20 minutes. You will likely have to add another tablespoon or two of Earth Balance after 5-10 minutes if the corn is looking dry. After about 15 minutes add fresh ground pepper and then taste the corn and add more salt if needed (it probably will - corn is a salt hore). If it still tastes kind of flat, or like nothing in particular add a couple pinches of sugar (yes sugar) and stir well.
Serve and enjoy. Mmmmmmmm.

I Buy Love with Cupcakes
B and I hosted a party for 50 guests for B's grandpa's 90th birthday a few months back. As a stand of defiance to the fact that no one in his family would tell me what kind of cake they wanted I made 5 different kinds of cupcakes instead of one large cake. It worked out really well. All the cupcakes were from VCTOtW, but I changed the carrot cupcake recipe significantly, so I'll post that soon.

From top left, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, mint chocolate cupcakes with mint buttercream and ganache drizzle, coconut cupcake with coconut frosting and toasted coconut, and chocolate stout cupcakes with chocolate buttercream.
The fifth cupcake was a freaking delicious key lime cupcake with key lime pudding center and key lime glaze. It was the Orange Pudding cupcake recipe, but substitute lime juice and lime zest for all things orange and omit the orange extract. And no frosting, just a simple glaze of confectioners sugar, lime juice, and lime zest.
My dad, who adores all things lime, was over the moon for these.
TIP: that recipe lists tapioca starch as the first choice for the pudding. I do not recommend you use it. I made the pudding with it and we discarded it because it was the consistency of snot. As a rule I avoid serving snot to my guests, so I had to redo it. (However if you need a good snotty recipe for say, Halloween, this is definitely the way to go!)

All done for now! Peace.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

So Healthy It'll Make You... Healthy

I love love love greens! This is actually something I discovered after becoming veggie. We ate our fair amount of veggies growing up, but my family never really ate greens. Well, I am doing what I can to make up for lost time!

Sauteed Greens

This is simply white chard from my CSA sauteed over high heat with a few squirts of non-stick spray and tossed around. It is my favorite way to cook leafy greens. Get your skillet good and hot, spray with non-stick spray or a little bit of oil and pile in the greens. The key is to press the greens down a bit at first to maximize contact with the pan and get the wilting action going. I like doing it over high heat because the liquid the greens give off doesn't hang around, and I get some spotty color on them (the only thing I can think of to describe the taste is popcorn, but that's not quite right). I sprinkle a bit of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper over right at the end.

While I am perfectly happy to eat them just like that, I also enjoy them with the Tahini Miso Citrus sauce from Veganomicon, which is what you see here. It keeps really well in the fridge and is an excellent foil for the slightly bitter greens. Yum yum yum. And totally healthy (especially when I cut the amount of tahini in half).

My Favorite Chopped Salad

I make this salad at least once a week in summer. I absolutely love it and it could not be better for you.
The best part is - you can totally customize it. Do you have veggies coming out of your ears? Make this.
The key is to chop everything pretty small so you are getting lots of different flavors in each bite, and make sure you use some "wet" ingredients. Those would include cucumber, tomato, avocado, etc and a good handful or two of your favorite chopped herbs. These almost create a dressing for the salad. In fact, I only sprinkle this with salt and pepper and maybe a little lemon juice just before serving. I never eat it with any other dressing, it doesn't need it.
This one had lettuce, cabbage, zucchini, tomatoes, red bell pepper, carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, avocado, cucumbers, rinsed and drained kidney beans, shallots, Italian parsley, cilantro, and thyme.
Other things I regularly add: frozen corn kernels (straight from freezer), spinach, chickpeas, anything I have on hand really.
You want to use more or less equal amounts of each veggie except lettuce, so nothing dominates. Salt and pepper and sprinkle lemon juice on each serving individually just before eating. As long as you do that this salad keeps exceptionally well in the fridge for several days. I make a huge one and then take really big portions (guilt free!) to work for lunch.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Playing Catch-Up: Part 1

Good-For-You Salad

Here is the picture I promised of that Quinoa Salad I reviewed a few weeks ago. It was yummy!

My First Cupcakes from VCTOTW

A couple months ago we had a going away party for one of B's friends. I made cupcakes for the first time from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (henceforth: VCTOTW). I thought alcohol would be an appropiate theme in this case, and so I made the Chocolate Stout and the Rum Raisin cupcakes.

They were both good, but I would caution you to make sure you minimize your stirring on the Rum Raisin, mine came out a bit tough (but the stout cupcakes can definately take the stirring called for in the recipe).

More cupcakes to follow in upcoming posts!

Beans in my Brownies?!? - You Crazy!

This is the Blackbean Brownie I promised last week (yeah yeah yeah, so I'm a bit tardy). I used this recipe as a guide but, as usual, made some changes. I only used 1 banana, because I knew it would be too bananan-y otherwise, and added 1/2 cup of prune puree instead. I also doubled the amount of cocoa. Additionally, I added 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour because I thought the batter was too loose, and cut back the sugar to 1/2 cup since there is so much fruit sugar in the recipe already. I baked it in an 8 inch round pan and ended up almost doubling the time in the oven.

Verdict: This was about 1/14th of the "pie" and it was so rich I didn't even finish it. Also, I could taste the banana, which I was trying to avoid, and it tasted fruity in general (in a weird, out of place kind of way). Turns out doubling the chocolate was unnecessary, it was too much with double. It was okay with the chunky strawberry sauce (fresh strawberries, washed and stemmed, pulsed in the blender with a little sugar to desired consistency) to cut through the richness, but we didn't come close to finishing the leftovers. After day two of it I couldn't even rally a positive thought toward eating it any more even though I knew it was a dessert that is practically good for me! On the other hand, as long as you drain and rinse your beans you won't taste them at all. Maybe I'll tinker with it more in the future... but it's going to be awhile.

Teese and Appetizers for Dinner

When I read about Teese on the PPK blog I knew I had to try it. So I ordered 3 pounds (yes 3) from Chicago Soy Dairy. Silly me - I expected it to come in 1/2 or 1 pound packages. Nope - I got one 3 pound log - doesn't that look appetizing?

I decided first thing first - we need to test it in an (almost) stand alone way. So I made appetizers for dinner that night including :

Teesey Bread (hahah... what a nerd). Bread lighly buttered, sprinkled with garlic powder and salt and lightly toasted, then covered with teese and toasted again until melty.

B liked it - I think because it reminded him of the *delicious* processed cheese flavored food product he grew up with (although it's really not that bad - I promise). If you are used to the flavor of vegan cheese you will probably enjoy this. I appreciate that it melts, but I doubt I'll be eating it in this form again anytime soon. However, I look foward to having a melty thing to put on pizza and use in sauces.

Along with the Teesey Bread we had Roasted Green Beans (olive oil, salt, pepper, roasted at 450 until spotty brown and delicious, 10-15 minutes, it will depend on how big the beans are) and Italian Stuffed Mushrooms (finely chopped creminis, shallots, and garlic sauteed until browned, splash of white wine, italian seasoning, salt and pepper and finely chopped tomatoes mixed with enough panko bread crumbs to bind. Pile in to stemmed button mushrooms and bake at 350 about 20 minutes until toasty brown on top).

The Yummiest, Biggest Boysenberries You've Ever Seen - It's Okay - Go Ahead and be Jealous.

I discovered my neighbors have a huge boysenberry bush. These are my absolute favorite berry and this bush puts out massive ones. They made the mistake of telling me to come over when ever I want for more (I told them that they didn't really mean that...). We've gone through 3, quart bowls in the past week. I think I might turn purple...
(and clearly I'm having formatting issues...)

Obviously Uncomfortable Cats

They had a rough day, can you tell?

The Sweetest Baby ever (okay, except for the almost 2 year old part...)

This is my neice. BooBoo just learned how to say "mine." Super.

She is very fun though, I just love her!

Monday, May 5, 2008


I am so excited - I was informed late last week that I officially passed my comprehensive exams - annnnd I don't have to do an oral defense! Yay yay yay!

So I get to graduate, which is a very happy thing.

This means, as my mom and I were discussing, that I will be educationally overqualified for most jobs, but not educated enough (or in the right way) to actually get a title to add to my name. I'll have to do 4-6 more years in a Ph.D. program for that benefit. Congratulations to me :D

Happy Monday!