Friday, December 31, 2010

Slow-Simmered Black Eyed Peas & Crispy Cornbread


Slow-Simmered Black-Eyed Peas
Olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
5 cloves garlic, diced
1-2 Tbsp red pepper flakes
leaves from 1 bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
1 bag pre-soaked black-eyed peas (I soaked mine for 2 hours)
1 quart water (or more, if the peas absorb too much)
2 vegetable bullion cubes
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 small carrot, chopped
3 Tbsp tomato paste
salt & pepper

1. Heat a little olive oil in an enameled cast iron pot on medium-low. Add the shallot to the hot oil, season with salt, and cook until translucent.
2. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and bay leaves and cook about 1 minute.
3. Add the peas, water, bullion, tomatoes, carrot, tomato paste, salt and pepper and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to just above low, cover with a heavy lid and simmer for several hours, stirring occasionally.
4. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, check the water level in the peas. If the peas seem too soupy, you may want to remove the lid so more water evaporates. Likewise, you may need to add water if the mixture is too thick.  Remember that when the peas cool, they will thicken considerably.  They should be like stew.
Laurene’s Cornbread Recipe
1 egg
2 cups cornmeal mix
1 ½ cup milk
pat of salted butter

Preheat the oven and a six-inch cast iron skillet to 400 degrees F. Whisk the egg, cornmeal, and milk in a bowl until combined.  Add a pat of butter to the skillet to coat the bottom and sides (for a crisp crust), as well as a sprinkle of cornmeal (for easy removal, later).  Pour in the batter.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

Both of these recipes are everything you could hope for in black-eyed peas and cornbread.  Crumble the cornbread and top with the peas... and if you're lucky enough to have tomato relish, top it all off with that.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vegan Dad's Scalloped Potatoes & Butternut Squash with Roasted Chestnuts

I've been eating out a lot lately, which is actually a welcome change, but that eating out combined with all the holiday sweets and family get-together meals which aren't exactly catered towards vegans... and I'm looking forward to the New Year and all the healthy resolutions that go along with it.

That said, if you don't own The Kind Diet, and you have any interest at all in simultaneously delicious and healthy food, you should buy a copy ASAP.

I gave my own copy away, and took too long to replace it.  I finally bought myself another, and am once again inspired and sooooo ready to get back to simple, yummy, really good-for-me food.

And that second thing said, a couple nights ago I made scalloped potatoes and butternut squash with roasted chestnuts, recipe courtesy Vegan Dad.  Not exactly the lowest in calories, but obviously healthier than its dairy-laden, all-potato counterpart.

Honestly, I was underwhelmed.  And I am a big fan of many of Vegan Dad's recipes.  It could be I messed up the recipe, but either way, I think I prefer all potatoes in my scalloped dishes.  I felt confused; was I eating scalloped potatoes or sweet potato souffle (not that squash is sweet potatoes but you see the resemblance)?

Still, I definitely recommend his blog for a plethora of good vegan recipes and ideas.  In particular, I LOVE the tempeh meatballs.

Alright... enough rambling from me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Skillet Carrots from Orangette

I guess I was in the mood for rainbow root vegetables, because last week we had roasted fingerling potatoes in all colors, and this carrot recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, Orangette.

The recipe is called Skillet Carrots, and Molly's host mother in Paris used to make them all the time as an easy side dish.  Molly makes them with those beautiful rainbow-colored carrots, so I did too.  Despite my picture, they really end up so pretty.

If you're looking for an easy, yet impressive way to cook carrots, this is definitely as good as a recipe gets for cooked carrots.  It will probably become my go-to for cooked carrots from now on.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Birthday Night - Vegetarians, Shield Your Eyes.

Fancy atmosphere...
Celebratory drinks...
and more drinks.
Forbidden food (sorry vegetarians, it wasn't my birthday :-)...
Dessert with a birthday candle (I just wanted the cookie; it was the perfect chewiness)!
Cirque du Soleil... Happy Birthday, Birthday Boy.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chocolate Birthday Cake With Peanut Butter Frosting

Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Yum. I used sugar instead of agave this time, for the cake.  I've decided that from now on, whenever possible, I'll use agave.  Something about agave makes me not miss eggs in the cake.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe agave makes the cake more delicate, and sugar makes it a little... tougher?  Not that I'd describe this cake as tough.  It's moist and satisfying.  But agave creates a more tender crumb, I think.

Oh... for the recipe, just use Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook... or this recipe reprint. And increase the ingredients by one half.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Split Pea Soup Taken Up a Notch So It Becomes Delicious Plus Has Extra Veggies

Made some really really yummy split pea soup tonight.  I'm too lazy to write the recipe right now - sorry!  But basically, you start out by sauteeing onions, garlic, celery, green peppers, and mushrooms with fresh thyme and salt.

Once good and cooked down, you add some halved cherry tomatoes, carrots, split peas, and vegetable broth, as well as some smoked paprika, more salt, and pepper.

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to low, and simmer for about an hour, adding a whole bunch of chopped swiss chard during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

And you have something crazy flavorful and crazy healthy, especially if you add some garlic croutons as a garnish.

Salad With Glazed Tofu and Cilantro-Lime Dressing

This is the salad I calmly stood in the kitchen and assembled the night we came home to find our Christmas tree lying on the floor in a pool of its own water surrounded by broken candy canes.

I dry-fried tofu (crispy without the fat) while Chris cursed and bemoaned the wet wood floors.

I whisked a glaze of soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, and maple syrup while Chris lay under the tree like a mechanic, trying to secure the bastard.

I pureed herbs and lime juice and olive oil while he mopped, vacuumed, and rehung the ornaments one by one.

I dumped one of those little plastic containers full of goodies from the grocery store olive bar onto the salad, and we sat down and ate.  You may wonder why I wasn't in the living room helping, and that is because, like Meeks must have known as the tree began its decent, I, too, knew to stand clear.

Vegan Alfredo Pasta With Broccoli... and Ballerinas

I've been thinking.  I feel my blog has gotten a little stale, for me at least.  I continue to adore cooking and eating and anything food and nutrition-related.  But I'm not feeling as fulfilled in writing these posts.  I like posting the pictures, but I'm not talking about anything that truly matters to me... it seems I'm repeating myself now.

Yet, there is so much that does matter to me, that I'd love to talk about!  It just seems some things are more personal and difficult to share; yet I believe those things worth sharing.

I'm going to make a real effort to get out of this rut and offer something fresh and authentic, meaning, what I really feel and want to say.  And when I say offer, I don't know to whom I'm offering this information; maybe just to myself.

Anyway. I had one of those sweet dreams last night, after which I woke up resolved to take ballet lessons.  I’ve wished I were a ballerina my entire life, and while mine isn’t the least cliché of childish dreams, my longing will not go away.  Whenever I see a ballet or a modern dance show, my heart literally aches, as if I’m watching the love of my life marry someone else.  Why I didn’t take ballet lessons when I was younger?  Now I’ll never get to be a ballerina! :-/  Okay, maybe I am a very cliché case of ballerina regret, after all.

But that won’t stop me from taking lessons!  I can at least learn a proper pirouette, get in shape, and regain my high school flexibility, right?

And that brings me to vegan alfredo pasta with broccoli.  Vegan or not, we all crave something creamy and comforting occasionally, and moreso during the wintertime.  Vegans can have something just as rich, creamy, salty, and satisfying as traditional alfredo made with cream, butter, and cheese.  I actually think this vegan alfredo recipe has more flavor than regular alfredo.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cozy Happy Wonderfulness

Is spending a weekend dancing and celebrating the marriage of friends, shopping at the mall for new sweaters (and thanking God I'm not in that long line to see Santa), eating white chili and brownies and chips and salsa, and decorating the house until it's red and green and glowing.

Comparing Brownie Recipes

Ina Garten's recipe for fudge brownies with peanut butter swirls is not the best... I've got to be honest; when it comes to desserts, I love to get ideas and inspiration from Ina, but her actual recipes are way too buttery and sugary for me.  The cloyingness takes away from the taste of the food.  I like my pie crust to taste buttery, for example, but not like butter.  And I like my brownies to be rich and deeply chocolaty, not syrupy sweet and oily.

A MUCH better brownie recipe is Alton Brown's recipe for cocoa brownies.  His brownies are decadent, velvety, and somehow densely delicate - insanity.

My old roommate Bianca also makes a fantastic, chewy brownie that I love.

I've decided that cocoa powder works better for brownies than chocolate.  However, I will be adding a peanut butter swirl from now on to whatever brownie recipe I use.
P.S. Let's not forget about healthy brownies.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hanging Out with a Healthy Supper and a Sweet Dog and a Cute Man

What more does one need, really? I'm off to watch several episodes of The Office on Netflix, then fall asleep.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scenes from the Cooking Process, and Incorporating More Raw Roods Into Our Diets

I would guess that at least half of our meals begin with caramelized onions.  Soups, sauces, rice dishes, etc. all seem to taste better with a base of onions that have become sweet and yummy.

I couldn't decide between eggplant parmesan (without the parmesan - I can't take any more cheese) and spaghetti squash, so I made both.
My co-worker, Jenn, shared some of her amazing eggplant parmesan with me last week.  I tried to re-create it, but I used wayyy to much sauce. Now I know, so next time I'll use two eggplants in the dish instead of one.
I've always thought you can never have enough marinara, because it is so delicious, but in this case I was wrong! The eggplant deserves center stage here.
Last night I watched this movie called Food Matters.  I highly recommend it. After watching it, I was reminded to incorporate more raw foods into our my diet.  It isn't as hard as it seems; sometimes I just forget that not everything must be cooked.  So for the spaghetti squash, I created a raw sauce made from red bell pepper, garlic, onion, basil, parsley, coriander seeds, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and a little olive oil.
Here's the eggplant parmesan-less out of the oven.
And, voila, Vitamin C and lycopene galore (can you believe that's squash, and not pasta? what an interesting vegetable)!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Instant Blah

Today, yesterday, and Sunday I have felt exhausted, drained, lethargic, achy, and sick to my stomach.  I will tell you why.

It’s because I ate shit unhealthy food this weekend. [sorry, I should try to cut down on my swearing]

Yes, I created an antipasti spread for a bachelor party (which I of course did not attend), and when the party was over I helped clean up, with my stomach.  I also ate lots of chocolate, and a cranberry crostata with enough Earth Balance butter in it to kill a cow (no pun intended).  (You see, this is what happens when you follow Ina Garten’s pastry instructions; I love her savory dishes but her pastry and pie crusts are overkill on the butter for me.)

I ate cheese.

Yes, cheese, which I haven’t had in almost a year.  I ate several of those gross little Vienna sausages that cook in a crockpot for hours with beer and ketchup and brown sugar.

I asked for it.  Take this gross food, add some cold rainy weather, and a pinch of PMS (okay, more like a gallon), and voila!  Instant Blah!

The good thing is, Blah is a reversible condition.  It requires lots of sleep, lots of green leafy vegetables, lots of water, and once you get past the worst part, you can add the exercise part back in, too.

I like this kitchen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vitamin Soup

I needed something healthy and detoxiful.

Soup tonight was made from spinach, swiss chard, parsley, basil, broccoliflower (only because Kroger was out of broccoli), potato and onion.

Texture was actually dead on, better than I expected, kind of silky and rich without having to add any tofu or cream... I think the potatoes and broccoliflower helped with that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chocolate Bark With Apricots and Sea Salt

1. Melt some semisweet and bittersweet chocolate over a double broiler, then pour it onto wax paper and spread it out with a wooden spoon to the desired thickness.

2. Sprinkle generously with chopped dried fruit, nuts, and sea salt.

3. Let harden (depending on the humidity where you live, you may [probably] need to put it in the refrigerator).

4. Break into pieces, arrange on a plate, and impress party guests with a pretty treat.

Appetizer Party Fare... and an "I wish"

The more people who know about my blog, the more I feel the need to censor myself. But then, I lose what makes writing, and everything else, good - authenticity.

I tried starting another blog, a secret blog, where I could tell the truth about things, but I missed this little blog, which feels like home.  I'm sorry I abandoned you for a while, little blog!
Plus, if I stuck strictly to recipes, or tried to avoid alienating any readers I may have, then this blog would become something I never intended it to be.

Food was always secondary (to what, is difficult to articulate).
Some things I love: 1. Surprising people. 2. Cooking. 3. Feeding people. 4. Surprising people with food. 5. Color. 6. Natural light (not the beer, for God's sake). 7. Writing.

There are other things of course. Some People, and Certain Dogs.
As lucky as I feel, I cannot help but feel astonishingly emotional during certain times of the month, and today and yesterday I listened to Taylor Swift (thank you, Taylor, for understanding the eternal vulnerability that exists in even grown up girls) and felt lonely and sorry for myself.

I want things I don't have.

And that how you came to read this post.

Green and Black Bean Soft Tacos

I love when the colors of food compliment each other. A tangled mess of color is alright, but when you end up with just a couple of complimentary colors in a dish, it really stands out.  Such was the case with tonight's super quick dinner of black bean soft tacos, with fresh cilantro, avocado, and cucumber (plus some olives).

Green and Black Bean Soft Tacos
1. Heat a little oil between medium and med-low.  When it's hot, drop in a small diced onion, and don't touch it until it's good and burned brown on the bottom. That's when you give it a stir so the other side of the little onion pieces can caramelize, too.

2. Add one or two cloves of chopped garlic, some red pepper flakes, and dried oregano.  Let it cook for a minute, but don't let it burn!

3. Deglaze the pan with a good can of black beans and their juices.  I like Goya.  Season the beans with salt, garlic and onion powders, and cumin.  Let cook and thicken for a few minutes, using your wooden spoon to mash some of the beans.

4. Toss in a big handful of chopped cilantro.

5. Serve in a warm flour tortilla with sliced avocado, shredded lettuce and/or julienned cucumber, and some sliced olives. Simple, pretty, and tasty.

Brandon Wizenburg's Cabbage With Hot Sauce

I definitely messed this up.  Because it was nothing to write home about.  But the reason I know I messed it up is because this is my new favorite food blog, and the tomatoes filled with rice I made from it were delicious, and I trust its author, Molly, and if she says her husband Brandon's cabbage with hot sauce is a staple for them, I know it's good, when prepared properly! So I'll attempt it again sometime, and this time actually follow the recipe instead of being lazy and guessing.

We ate the cabbage along with steamed broccoli and roasted potato slices with cilantro pesto.

Friday, November 12, 2010

little kitchen window with fall outside.

Something about this little kitchen window with orange autumn leaves outside appeals to me.  I like things with character, and this window has it.  It makes me wonder where it is, who lives there, what the rest of the apartment looks like.  Really, what it does is inspire a story in my head.
Okay, maybe the window is pretty ordinary, in a way.  I still like it.

I can't live in the suburbs.

Not everyone understands this.  I deeply, profoundly, cannot survive in the suburbs.  I would whither away and I know it.  Do not try to make me.

Black Hummus (for a change)

If you get tired of regular-colored hummus, you can use black garbanzo beans (or chickpeas), follow this recipe, and make hummus that looks like wet beach sand, the color you find on St. Simon's Island, close to where I grew up.

So I guess it isn't really black, because the insides of the beans are cream-colored. Only their skins are black.  But I think it's an exotic little change.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Would Love

I would love to cook a simple but delicious breakfast for friends and family in this little kitchen, with my dog Meeks hanging out on the sofa watching.

Isn't it so cheerful and sweet?

Of course, soon it would need a Christmas tree and maybe a warm rug and some big red throw pillows and festive dish towels and candles to make it all cozy for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Roasted tomatoes filled with rice (and a side of sliced roasted potatoes)

Make this.  Just… make this (despite my bad photos).  Please.  You’ll be so glad.

You are like me, and right now you are thinking “oh, come on, how much flavor can come from a tomato and some Arborio rice and herbs and breadcrumbs?”
LOTS.  Oh, trust me, LOTS.  You will want to eat the whole pan, including the roast potato slices, which are crispy and salty on the outside, and melty soft on the inside.

Meanwhile, the tomatoes have roasted until their skins split, and you’ve got this delicious, creamy herbed risotto inside, topped with crispy breadcrumbs.
So go now, and make this recipe.  I made a couple of changes, and I’ll only tell you about the ones I recommend you make as well.

First, I season the potato slices pre-bake with chili powder, as well as salt and pepper.  I like the extra flavor and kick.

Second, I definitely suggest you deglaze the toasted risotto and onion pan with 1/3 cup of red wine, and leave out the 1/3 cup of water the recipe calls for.  Wine deepens the flavor of any dish, so deglaze with it as often as possible, is my advice!

Third, I seasoned my breadcrumbs (which are from homemade whole wheat bread I keep in the freezer) with garlic salt, herbs, and truffle oil.  Because seasoning each ingredient of every layer in a dish is the key to the most flavorful end result!

That’s it!

I truly hope you make this dish – its awesome!

Just an Idea

Why not have a Middle Eastern / Greek-Mediterranean-ish night?

Roast some eggplant in the oven with salt, pepper, and olive oil (if you have time, salt and press it first for at least 30 minutes to achieve a creamier and more caramelized end result, according to my Italian co-worker).

While the eggplant is roasting, make Ina Garten's perfect recipe for hummus (there's a secret ingredient!).

Chop up whatever vegetables you want. I used tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, parsley, kalamata olives, and those sweet and spicy papadu red peppers.

Layer it all on an open face toasted pita, tostada-style (now we've officially covered at least four food cultures in this post).

Make this when you want a meal with TONS of flavor, but nothing too heavy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spaghetti and Tempeh Meatballs with Sweet Simmered Marinara

I hate when it gets dark at 6:00pm.  I do not like working until six, Monday through Friday, and leaving work to step out into the dark. I would much prefer to get up super early, knock out my work, and have a couple of hours to enjoy the day time before going home.  It honestly makes me depressed and pissed off.

So I don't plan to do it forever.

For now, little things like spaghetti and meatballs are a nice thing to look forward to, and I can make them day or night.

This recipe is yummy and so full of all the satisfying flavor you want in an Italian-American dish.  Sweet, savory, succulent, yummy.

Meatballs (I don't steam the tempeh; there's no need).
Marinara (definitely skip the fresh tomatoes and use crushed canned; it makes the sauce richer)

Hope you make it and like it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vegetable Soup and Jalapeño Cornbread

It was cold and cloudy, so I made soup and cornbread.

Vegetable soup, with cabbage and red potatoes and carrots and tomatoes and whatever else I had in the fridge.
The cornbread is a recipe I make all the time, with several modifications, but this time I wasn't thinking and I forgot to nix the flour (I HATE flour in cornbread! It is no longer cornbread, but a hush puppy, in my opinion) in favor of all cornmeal. So the cornbread didn't turn out.  But normally, it does.

Anyway, I like to add caramelized onions and fresh jalapeños and corn (sometimes cream corn, in which case I use less milk, other times frozen corn kernels).