Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maple Sunchokes, Lotus Root & Leeks

Sorry for the picture.  It's the best I could do considering the finished product didn't look so pretty in real life, either.  These tasted delicious, but so does anything tossed in olive oil, salt, and seasoning and baked on low in the oven for a while.  Think, roasted potatoes!  Yum.

To make these "maple," you just drizzle a little maple syrup over them the last 10 minutes of baking.

This recipe is an example of what I enjoy about The Kind Diet. Roasting veggies in the oven isn't a new concept.  But roasting sunchokes (jerusalem artichokes) and lotus root is new for me.  I'm discovering new vegetables I previously ignored. Jerusalem artichokes taste very similar to regular artichokes, which I LOVE.  So I'll be eating these more often.

Alicia's Cornbread

This cornbread has a sweeter taste and finer texture than I'm accustomed to, due to the addition of molasses and whole wheat pastry flour.  Chris liked it.  I liked it but I prefer a more crumbly, crispy cornbread with all cornmeal.  I also love to put a little cream corn in the batter, as well as chopped jalapenos and sometimes bell pepper.

Sorry Alicia, it's just personal preference! But this is my favorite vegan cornbread recipe so far.  Only - replace the flour with all cornmeal, omit the sugar and instead add a little agave nectar, and add a little cream corn and peppers...

Oh! And don't forget to melt some butter in a cast iron skillet in the oven before adding the batter to the skillet.  I learned this trick from Lorene, who has been making cornbread for much longer than you or I have been around.  Melting the butter in the cast-iron makes the crust crispier.

Daikon Simmered in Shoyu & Mirin

Another recipe from The Kind Diet. I have to post them all whether they turned out well or not just to prove I tried it!  I was supposed to simmer these until all the liquid evaporated but I got hungry.

Daikon is a root that to me tastes and crunches like a cross between a radish and a rutabaga.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Watch it.

From kindergarten all the way through high school, I always knew the school cafeteria was serving crap.  I barely ate anything on my tray.  I wondered why we were served such unhealthy stuff.  Now, someone is finally talking about it.

Jamie Oliver would get a lot more done if he knew how to validate others' points of view. He's like a brick wall. Ugh.

Beans with Rice, Barley & Quinoa

Why you need a rice maker.  I put handfuls of brown rice, hulled barley, and quinoa (soaked and drained) in the rice maker with water and left it alone for about 30 minutes.

I heated a can of black beans on the stove, and added cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt.

Stir them together with some fresh cilantro and you're done.

Collard Greens

I went to Sevananda this morning and bought every collard green in the store.
I think vegetables are so pretty, and I tried to take some good pictures to show you how a collard green is attractive... :) but I've been having some lighting trouble.  I need more natural light in my life.
Does anyone else feel the way I do about natural light?  I need a house with lots of windows and plenty of direct sunlight.  Even on cloudy days, I open the windows so that my whole apartment is flooding with natural light - cloud-filtered or otherwise.  I know that not everyone needs natural light the way that I and others like me do.  Why is this?

Another recipe from The Kind Diet that has become a staple. Though I kinda messed it up this time, last time it was divine.  And it only takes 10 minutes of sauteing for tender, flavorful collards, contrary to everything I've been taught since childhood about greens.  Saute garlic, add greens and a splash of water and cover for a few minutes. Add nuts and raisins and cover for a couple minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and cover for a few minutes.  Done.

The key here - and the reason I ruined this second batch of sauteed greens - is keeping the greens damp as they're sauteing.  Thus the covering of the pot.  Don't let them dry out! Whether that means adding splashes of water and then the balsamic, do what you have to do to keep it all moist, post-garlic saute.

Salsa and Guacamole

Okay, I'm finally posting on my own recipe.  Actually, it isn't my own recipe, I'm pretty sure they've been doing something similar in Mexico for centuries.

Start with the things you see here. Roast one of the jalapenos; leave the other one or two jalapenos raw. DO NOT OMIT THE SEEDS as I mistakenly did, because you want this salsa to have a little kick.
Do you see how truly lazy I am about recipes? I can't even bear to measure so I take a picture and hope you get the gist.  I wonder... if I ever want to be a real chef or write a cookbook, if I'll have to be exact with my recipes.  They tell me, on NPR, that a good recipe must be very detailed.  I've got to admit something - The highly respected and celebrated Lynn Rosetto Casper from The Splendid Table gets on my nerves.  You know why?  Because I believe no matter how trained a person is, no matter how knowledgeable and experienced and justifiably opinionated about a subject - that person should never be a snob about it!  And Lynn Rosetto Casper is a damn snob!  She thinks she is an authority on all things food, meaning she knows better than you and I, and it comes through on her podcasts.  I've learned a great deal from her, but lately found myself not able to listen because I get turned off.

I can't help my rants.  Back to the salsa.  I don't like pico de gallo.  So, while you can chop all this and combine, I like mine pureed.  Blend all of the above in a food processor.  That's plum tomatoes, cilantro, onion, garlic, red bell pepper, jalapenos (one roasted, the others raw), and the juice from one or two limes.  The spices you see are salt, pepper, and chili powder.  I use cherry or plum tomatoes, especially in the winter, because they have better flavor than regular, out-of-season tomatoes.

If you make the salsa the day before you want to eat it, the flavor will be better.

...On to guacamole.  I've made guacamole a million times.  I was busy the other night, so I asked Chris to make the guac.  Granted, I set out all the ingredients for him.  But I am the expert, right?  So I thought I might have to tinker a little with his finished product.

Wrong.  His was better than when I make it.  I think it was because he only had one task, which was to make guacamole, while I am usually juggling several dishes.  :)

Guacamole - mash together the following ingredients:
lime juice
chopped jalapenos
ground cumin (essential)
onion powder
garlic powder
salt and pepper
chopped onion, tomatoes, and garlic (totally optional)

Tofu Cream

I promise I'm not paid to promote The Kind Diet. But for now, I'm obviously obsessed with this book, so there'll be many more of Alicia Silverstone's recipes to follow.

Tofu cream.  Sounds weird.  But think, excellent sour cream/Greek yogurt substitute.

That means tofu cream is delicious in burritos, falafel wraps, pita sandwiches, taco salads, dolloped on top of spicy chili or vegetable purees, or anywhere you want a cool, tangy contrast.

I haven't included detailed recipes for these dishes, because The Kind Diet isn't mine to reproduce.  But I get the feeling its author cares more about getting you this information that she is truly passionate about, than forcing everyone to buy her book.  So to make the tofu cream, simmer a block of rinsed tofu in water for about 10 minutes.  Process it with a couple tablespoons of umeboshi paste, juice from one or two lemons, and a couple tablespoons of Vegenaise.  You won't miss sour cream or yogurt.  You also won't miss the calories!

Black-Eyed Pea Falafel

It seems I'm working my way through The Kind Diet.  The recipes are so good, and just what I crave, that I've no incentive to try anyone else's recipes right now.  When summer comes, I'll start branching out.  Alicia Silverstone follows a macrobiotic diet, thus she eats alot of winter-friendly root vegetables, greens, dried beans, and rice.  When summer gets here, you better believe I'll be taking advantage of all the gorgeous tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, and strawberries!

I should say that while I never intended to eat "macrobiotically," I naturally eat this way because a macrobiotic diet is largely about eating what is fresh and in season.  I've also found that the macrobiotic recipes in The Kind Diet have made me feel really good in every way.  They comfort, calm, and replenish.  They seem to soothe both physical and mental anxiety.  I may sound wacky here, but I bet you understand what I mean whether you realize it or not.  It isn't a crazy concept, anyhow, that the most natural thing to do is eat what's in season.

I mean, for you Southerners out there, who know what it's like to grow, harvest, and cook your own food - when you eat a big plate of cream corn, collards, zipper peas, and cornbread, don't you feel nourished?  That feeling is what I'm trying to describe.

On to the black-eyed pea croquettes, or as I call them, falafel.  That's really what they are, just ground up black-eyed pea patties instead of chickpea patties.  They were pretty tasty, but could have been better since I'm not the best fryer.  I didn't check the temperature of the oil, so I burned the croquettes before they could cook sufficiently on the inside.  They weren't rendered inedible, though. :-)  Alicia serves hers with a malt barley syrup and dijon mustard dressing, seen in the background of the picture.  Personally, I recommend these stuffed in a pita with tahini sauce, cucumbers, and tomato.  Just like falafel!

To make the pea patties, grind raw, overnight-soaked peas in the food processor with cilantro and a couple teaspoons of soy sauce.  Form into croquettes and fry.  That's it!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Black-Eyed Peas Soaking

These black-eyed peas are so beautiful, I couldn't post just one picture.  I'm planning to make black-eyed pea croquettes tomorrow, so stay tuned.  Gosh, what is it about pretty food?  Does anyone else ever feel this way about a bean?  That's not a rhetorical question, please comment and tell me if you get excited about beans too. :-p

Bok Choy with Ume Vinaigrette

Take this.
Steam it until it just starts to wilt.

Take it out, plate it, and drizzle it with a mixture of this:

and this (it's olive oil, but you could use flax oil).

Then sprinkle it with this:

and you have a perfect combination of flavors inspired by the Thai food philosophy which says we must balance Salty, Sweet, Sour, and Spicy in every dish.  Okay, that's not really true because this dish is just salty and sour and ever-so-subtly sweet. :-)  And Japanese.

You can do this with many vegetables, including cabbage and leeks.  Yet another recipe from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet, and this one has become a staple for me.  I've made it several times already.

Healthy is anything but bland!

Who Am I?

I've been instructed to write an "About Me" blurb for my resume.  How do I sum me up in a few short sentences?

I guess I'll start by saying I’m an artist.  That doesn't mean I paint or draw.  It means I see the world through an artist's eyes, which means I see the subtle nuances of a thing that make it what it is.  It means I'm driven to surround myself with those things that have achieved perfection, meaning they are as close to their essence as possible (and the best essences are often messy!).  It means I'm driven to create, and I'm inspired by colors, textures, words, or lack thereof, and the messages they convey.  I'm a philosopher, and my philosophy is that we strive to appreciate, create, and be art.

What are my skills, though?  I'm a skilled recognizer of the difference between art and not-art.  I'm a skilled runner.  I'm a skilled cook.  Above all else, I'm a skilled writer of the English language.  That doesn't mean I'm a great writer.  It means I'm better at writing anything, than I am at doing anything else.

What makes me happy?  My niece.  My sisters, parents, family, friends, and dog.  Nurturing others and the flow of communication between them, no matter who, where, or what they are.  Writing something that says what it needed to say.  And at the end of the day, barbecued tofu satay.

Coconut Oil

I can tell a difference between drugstore moisturizers and boutique moisturizers.  I like the ones that realllly sink in and give my skin and hair that deep, moisturized glow.  But some of those products - quality conditioners, body lotions, and facial moisturizers - can be expensive.  Even more expensive if you buy the ones not loaded down with chemicals.  If you haven't seen the documentary America the Beautiful, add it to your Netflix list ASAP.

But I recently discovered coconut oil.  First and foremost, it DOES NOT make you smell strongly of coconut!  You only smell the subtle, yummy coconut while you apply it.  Then the smell dissipates and you're left with glowing - not greasy - skin.  This huge jar of organic coconut oil cost me $6.00 at Whole Foods.  How's that for chemical free and highly effective?  Isn't it great when we find little ways around paying a company $50.00 for a little tube of something? Don't you feel good when you get the same thing in bulk for six bucks?!?

I use it on my body, as a weekly hair conditioning treatment, and around my eyes and on my cheeks.  It doesn't clog my pores or make my face break out like I would have thought.  It seems to make my skin better, and work better than any moisturizer I've previously used!  I wouldn't have guessed this.

And, of course, you can cook with coconut oil.  Here are some ideas.
1. Use it instead of butter on your cinnamon toast.
2. Toss popcorn in this instead of butter. Yum! (btw, this is what movie theaters do)
3. Use coconut oil instead of butter/veg oil in coconut cake or cookies.
4. Saute your veggie base for curries, soups, rice dishes, etc in coconut oil.
5. Use it for stir fries.
6. Fry shredded coconut-battered veggies in coconut oil.
7. Basically, you can use coconut oil in place of butter or oil in most recipes.

Yay! I LOVE cheap things that work like the expensive things.  You don't always get what you pay for.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Adzuki Beans & Kabocha with Fried Rice & Barley

These are the pretty adzuki beans I soaked last night, along with my own fried rice creation.

This is Alicia Silverstone's recipe for adzuki beans with kabocha, which is a squash with a velvety, pumpkin-like texture.  You can find the recipe in her book, The Kind Diet.

The dish is simple, healthy, and comforting. There's nothing fancy about this dish.  The beautiful beans and velvety squash stand on their own, flavored only with the sea vegetable kombu.  I simmered mine in collard green pot liqueur from when I made collards, instead of water. Sprinkle the dish with cilantro, shoyu (soy sauce), pan-toasted seeds, and/or croutons.
Fried rice is easier than I thought. You don't need a recipe! I used leftover rice and hulled barley, which I cooked yesterday in the rice maker (this involves dumping in rice and barley and water, switching the maker to "on" and waiting 30 minutes or so until it turns itself off).

So, take your leftover rice or grain.  Heat some sesame oil or any oil on medium.  Toss in some garlic and stir so it doesn't burn.  Toss in the rice and keep stirring, coating it with oil and lightly frying it for a few minutes.  Add shoyu or soy sauce to your taste, stirring to coat. Finally, toss in any veggies you want.  I used sliced radishes, carrot peels, and parsley.  Top with toasted pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.  Voila!

Adzuki Beans and The Kind Diet

These are the things I get so, so passionate about!  I know it's such a simple thing, beans soaking in a bowl, but the colors are so pretty and unique, and to think that tomorrow these beans will make a yummy stew is somehow amazing to me.

These are adzuki beans, and the green leafy thing you see is kombu, a sea vegetable.  You can buy it dried in the Asian food section of supermarkets.  Kombu is used to flavor soups and stews and bean dishes, kind of like a bay leaf.  It is supposed to improve flavor and digestibility, among other things.

I wouldn't know; this is my first time cooking adzuki beans or kombu.

I've been trying recipes from Alicia Silverstone's new book, The Kind Diet.  Several people, upon seeing the book, have scoffed at the idea of a "skinny bitch" telling the world what to eat.  Well, I say she looks healthy and glowing and I want to know what that girl is eating!! :-)

But really.  I've tried many, many recipes.  And the ones in this book that I've tried so far are good.  How many ways can you say delicious/yummy/tasty?  I'm searching for the right words to describe these recipes... I think the thing is this.  The recipes in The Kind Diet are extremely healthy.  And you feel that, when you eat it.  But, they're so unique, and most importantly, so pleasurable to eat.  So as you eat them, you feel good in every way.  And, being so different, they're a fun experience.  A culinary adventure, for me anyway, and probably for most of us.

I don't think Alicia Silverstone is making any claims to have all the answers.  Nor is she judging anyone. She's simply made available to us some cool information to enhance our lives and treat our tastebuds.

So, thank-you, Alicia!  From what I can see, you're beautiful inside and out!

Dekalb Farmers Market

I went to the Dekalb Farmers Market yesterday to pick up some produce.  I bought a couple of items I've never tried before.  I read about these foods in The Kind Diet.  If there's one thing I love, it's trying new food.  I've loved this from the time I was born, I think.  I never met a food I couldn't at least appreciate.  Except for this seafood eyeball salad I mistakenly ordered in Paris once.

I took a few photos of the veggies.  Man, how cheap!  Does anyone know where I can get locally grown produce, though??  It seems most of the food at the Dekalb market is from California or abroad.

Here's an unfamiliar veggie I bought.  It's called Daikon.  I'll let you know what I think when I cook it.
And here's another, kabocha squash.  I didn't realize I'd tried this before, but I have and let me tell you, it is a melt-in-your-mouth, under-publicized vegetable.  I once had a squash risotto in San Francisco, and I wondered how they got the squash so luxuriously silky.  Well, I now know they were using kabocha squash.
Here's the fermented soy and bean curd section. Ha.  I'm trying to navigate the miso.
And finally, the following vegetables are staples when I go to the grocery store. Here's bok choy.
And parsley.
The pictures aren't great for two reasons.  First, the market is a madhouse on Sunday.  Second, I was being secretive because I saw a sign that said no photos in the Cashier Area, and mistakenly thought that meant the entire market.  So I was walking around being all sketchy and sleuth-like with my camera, hiding it in my back pocket and slipping it out when no employees were around.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Treat Your Belly Well

If you read my first post, you'll understand why I named my blog "Why I Consume Art."  And if you understand that, you'll get why I'm writing about Belly General Store.

As Belly's tagline - Simple Decadence - suggests, the store is a fun study in contrasts.

Belly is both old and new.  The marble counter, rustic benches, and even the logo, at once early 20th century and retro, pay homage to the original, 1914 soda fountain pharmacy that inhabited the little corner space.  Yet, Belly bursts with fresh, cheerful colors that change with the seasons and pop against those time-faded antiques.  The aesthetics feel old-fashioned, yet current.
Belly makes its own pesto, peanut butter, pickles, preserves, and pretty much everything else including the unquestionably best bagels in Georgia.  The vegetables are organic, the award-winning cupcakes are as beautiful as they are delicious, and the orange juice is fresh-squeezed.  But this is lunch food.  And it's served in a small sunny space where most patrons purchase their sandwiches to go, biting into them on their way out the door and off to the office, park, or pool.  My own Belly bagels are usually eaten on someone's doorstep.  Belly is serving something special, yet unpretentious.
Beyond the tangible contrasts, Belly understands the importance of intangible contrasts.  Belly learned from its predecessor.  The original Fleeman's Pharmacy was, literally, a cornerstone of the little Virginia Highlands community.  It brought people together to sit and socialize at its little soda fountain, sometimes for an hour, sometimes, in the case of couples who met there and married, for life.  Belly respects the tradition of community and quality, but does so in a forward-thinking manner, providing the most thoughtful experience in sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste it can.  So, Belly General Store is art.  Go enjoy it!

Yucky, Gluten-Free Chocolate Pumpkin Tofu Tarts

Don't try this at home or anywhere else.  Prebake...
Note the gluten-free crusts and the chocolate sauce under the pumpkin/silken tofu puree.

And here lies the finished product.
I haven't figured out how to bake gluten-free food.  The gluten-free flour mixes I've tried have a bitter taste and a strange, heavy texture.  I haven't been able to achieve the light, flaky, buttery pastry I get with wheat flour.

I've made gluten-free cookies, biscuits,  pie crusts, and wonton wrapper dough, and none of them turned out right.

Does anyone have any suggestions?  Until then I'll stick with wheat flour for baking.
Sigh... poor babies. :-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Soul Food

Forgive the picture; I still haven't figured out how to take a good picture of food at night.  If you click on it, you can get a better idea of the texture.  This is the sort of food I grew up on.  Fresh vegetables and grains that all run together on your plate and taste delicious that way!

Okay, so this isn't the most balanced meal.  Usually I'd have a bigger veggie-starch ratio.  But this is still a very healthy meal.

Southern food is NOT by definition unhealthy.  My mom, grandmother, and aunts are all southern woman who cooked their children nutritious, flavorful meals using fresh vegetables from their own gardens, or their neighbors' gardens.  Our dinner was never loaded down with butter or lard.  Usually, a little salt and pepper, and maybe some hot green pepper sauce, was all that was needed.

For the collard greens, I caramelize some onions with garlic, red pepper flakes, and black pepper, deglaze with basalmic vinegar, add the greens and saute those for a minute.  Then add broth to cover, and simmer covered for around an hour.  Serve with a splash of vinegar - you can use red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, umeboshi, hot pepper sauce, whatever - and some sesame seeds and that's it.

Here's the recipe for the cornbread I made.  I'm very happy with this recipe and will use it from now on.  The only difference is, I added a few tablespoons of creamed corn and some chopped fresh jalapeno peppers. You could also add green onions and/or bell pepper.  I also substituted the sugar for a little agave nectar.  Finally, I used all cornmeal and no flour. Because of this change, you may need to add more soy milk until the batter is just pourable. Make sure you use a cast iron skillet greased with melted Earth Balance butter for a crispy crust.

The quinoa with lentils is an alternative to beans and rice.  Simply soak the quinoa in warm water for about 30 minutes to wash away the bitter coating.  Simmer every cup of quinoa in two cups of water or broth for about 20 minutes, tossing in a handful of lentils the last ten minutes.  When the quinoa is done, stir in a little olive oil, sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, olives, roasted pumpkin seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, and crunchy chopped veggies like peppers and celery.

Put all this on your plate and use your fork to crumble the cornbread.  Let the juice from the greens run all over the plate.  Yummy, comforting, and so very good for your soul and your body!

As soon as tomatoes are in season, I would definitely add some tomato slices to this!

Peanut Butter Sandwich

Every once in a while I crave peanut butter.  I was craving it for lunch today, and I had a loaf of homemade bread, so I decided to make a peanut butter sandwich.  There was one problem.  Chris likes to put peanut butter in his protein shakes, and when he used up all of the peanut butter, he replaced it with this:
Seems harmless enough, right?  I mean it's fancy peanut butter with flaxseed and no hydrogenated oils or added sugar or anything.  But look closer:
Blast!  I wanted peanut butter but not this peanut butter with eggs in it just so Chris can have his muscles.

A friend of a friend has one of those Blendtec blenders that blends everything under the sun to mush.  I have a normal Cuisinart food processor, but I figured I'd give it a try.  So I added some raw peanuts and a little olive oil and... I had crushed peanuts, not peanut butter.
Oh well.  I decided to make the sandwich anyway.  It wasn't as good as peanut butter would have been, but it definitely wasn't bad!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lettuce Wraps & Crostini Lunch

I used the leftover bean dip, red pepper ketchup, and veggies from last night's appetizer dinner to make crostini.
Chris flipped over these tofu wraps.  They're just leftover wonton filling (minus the egg) from the dumplings, topped with plum sauce.  Napa cabbage is actually better than lettuce for wraps.  It has more crunch than lettuce but, unlike other cabbages, has a mild, sweet taste. Make sure you use napa cabbage or lettuce, for the wraps as well as for the filling - not ordinary cabbage! :-)

My Souvenirs

Chris travels alot for work.  He always brings something back for me.  Yesterday, he got back from a night in NYC and look at these cute little things he brought me!

Appetizer & Dip Party

Sometimes I get tired of one-pot dinners, or main dishes with three sides, or big dinner salads... basically, I just want things to be fun and different.  I think making several appetizers and having that for dinner - whether you're having people over, you have a family with kids to feed, or it's just two of you, like in my case last night - is a really fun change.  It makes things feel special and more interesting.  So last night we had three dishes with dip.  The first is a simple veggie platter with white bean dip:
I discovered that Chris loves radishes, as he ate them all immediately before he ate any of the other veggies! Who knew?

The second dish was fingerling potato fries with the roasted red pepper ketchup I made the day before.  All you do is toss these in olive oil, onions, and herbs and bake them on 350 for around an hour.  Roasted potatoes are one of our favorite dishes and I make them alot (whoever still wants to deny that "alot" is a word is out of his mind!).
Yes, that is indeed a John Deer tray.  I find that bringing this tray to parties is a great way to make things awkward in a fun way.

Okay, and the final dish was steamed veggie dumplings floating in miso soup with a plum dipping sauce.  Now that I know how easy wonton wrappers are to use, I'll be making these all the time and filling them with everything under the sun.

I made a plum sauce to accompany the dumplings, boiling down prunes because I had no plums with soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic, fresh ginger, lemongrass, and tons of fresh and dried chilies.  I then needed to add a little water to thin it out, and even more chilies.  Let it sit over night in the fridge and that stuff is delicious.