Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lavender Le Creuset

Okay, so the beautiful lavender Le Creuset baking dish you see on the cover of Southern Living? I just splurged - yes, splurged; I don't normally pay that much for a simple baking dish - and now this gorgeous dish is mine.  It is sitting on my counter, earning it's keep with it's perfect shade of purple.  Lovely, lilac ceramic plate, you're worth every penny plus twenty... eh, that's not that much but you get it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Didn't Make It Through Detox.

Maybe I chose the wrong week.  I've done detoxes before and made it through without too much of a problem.  But by day four, I was sick of whole grains, tired of raw and steamed vegetables, salads, and soups.  Cooking felt like a chore, and my options felt limited.

After a long day at work, I excitedly walked to the Kroger with a mental shopping list: frozen veggie burgers, that Tuscan loaf of bread that you buy in the bakery section, take home, and finish baking (yum!), maybe even some tortilla chips!  The theme was - yep - convenience food and processed carbs.  I don't even eat that many processed carbs and prepared food, but something about not having the option really stressed me out!

Then, guess who I ran into.  Chris.  I found him by the bananas.  He already had crackers, tortilla chips, and cherries in his basket (by the way, don't most people start in produce and end by the chips??).  It seems we were on the same page.  We were suffering Detox Burnout.  Too much of a good thing; that is, vegetables and grains, with no junk food to put them in perspective. Kinda like sunshine without the rain. (groan).  Anyway.

Sometimes, life does indeed call for convenience food!

PS. The sweets are another thing altogether.  I'm determined to stop eating them at work for both my mental and physical health.  Plus, if I'm eating cookies every day, it's no fun to have a "cupcakes for dinner" night, once in a while!  The vegan cupcakes I bake at home blow non-vegan bakery cookies out of the water any day!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 4 Supper

Detox burnout...

is delicious.

Day 4 Lunch: Quinoa Tabbouleh With Cannellini Beans

Leftover grains are your friends, because they make great salads for lunch!

Here are the ingredients you'll need for tabbouleh, but keep in mind the ratio of green (parsley and mint) to white (traditionally bulgar wheat, but today quinoa) should be 2:1.  Today, for no rhyme or reason, I didn't chop enough herbs.

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped mint
2 chopped green onion stalks
2 cups sliced plum tomatoes
juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil (I left that out this time, for "detox" :-/)
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (not part of traditional tabbouleh, but great if you want to make the salad more substantial for lunch)

P.S. I didn't post dinner last night, because - and this happens every once in a great while - in the middle of destalking rainbow chard, I threw down the knife and left the kitchen proclaiming I wasn't gonna chop another vegetable that night!  It was time for someone else to take the reins.  Dinner was very simple, just some steamed quinoa and vegetables from my mom's garden: summer squash, baby okra, and zucchini.  Oh, and the beautiful rainbow chard - which someone else chopped.  If you ever wonder how we can eat such simple things like steamed veggies all the time without feeling a little flavor-deprived - well, there's a secret.  First, the vegetables themselves taste delicious because they're at their peak and not overcooked.  Second - we usually drizzle a little ume vinegar and olive oil over the steamed greens and veggies, followed by a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.  Try it; you won't believe how delicious it is and you'll never have a problem eating steamed veggies for dinner again!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Exciting News

Guess what.  I get to be a regular contributer to this amazing, and fairly new NPR podcast, public radio program, and blog - well, specifically, I get to contribute to the blog portion. :-)  I still have to send my biography (what will I say?) and first post (what will I write about?).  Then, the lovely people at Earth Eats have to decide when and where to use my post.  But I hope I can announce my very first Earth Eats contribution soon!

Day 3 Lunch: Carrot Ginger Soup & Side Salad

Delicious, easy recipe (really, I made it in a few minutes this morning) by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau for carrot ginger soup.

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
8 carrots
2 yukon gold potatoes
2-3 tsp fresh diced ginger
4 cups homemade vegetable broth
S&P to taste
scallions or parsley for garnish (or, if you're not doing a stupid detox, garnish with garlic croutons made from the last of the homemade wheat bread which was waiting in the freezer for this moment)

Saute the chopped onion and garlic on medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons of water until translucent, about 5 minutes, adding more water if onions start to stick.  Add the peeled and chopped carrots, potatoes, and ginger, S&P, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium until the vegetables are soft.  Puree, return to pot, reheat, garnish, and serve.
This soup would be enough for lunch, but you'd get hungry later on, so beans are a good way to fix this, added to a small side salad.  I would eat this salad as an afternoon snack.  If you're ever feeling like you're about to attack a bag of chips, eat some beans.  They're an amazing blood sugar stabilizer.  In fact, you know those diet pills and drinks? Many of them use a kidney bean extract called phaseolamin.  So why would you put your money into the pockets of some diet pill manufacturer when you could just eat some beans?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 2 Supper: Broccoli, Mushroom & Tofu Stir Fry

Sauteed mushrooms, broccoli (blanched first), tofu, ginger, and sesame seeds with mirin and shoyu, served over steamed brown rice (PS I broke the rules again and used a couple drops of sesame oil, though I easily could have left it out).

Day 2 Lunch: Chopped Salad & Canned Chili

Salad with lots of crunchy chopped vegetables, with a side of 1/2 cup of Eden Organics canned black bean & quinoa chili, which has a bit of sea salt in it so I already broke "The Rules" of the detox... but only a smidgen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 1 Supper: BLT Salad With Creamy Avocado Lime Dressing

Guess we didn't get our avocado fix for lunch. :)  I LOVE this salad dressing, which I sorta created tonight, but which was inspired by the gorgeous green lime-cilantro vinaigrette I saw on one of my favorite blogs, Little House of Veggies!  Ever since I saw it, I haven't been able to get that vibrant green dressing off my mind; I knew it would be simultaneously tangy and creamy, delicious!

However, I didn't want to use olive oil in the salad dressing, and since avocado tastes great in a BLT sandwich, I decided to use avocado to achieve the creaminess I wanted.

I also made the bacon using a block of tempeh and a recipe I saw in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's cookbook, The Vegan Table.  It's so simple, you simply slice the steamed block of tempeh into strips, marinate it in soy sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and water, then cook it in a pan like bacon.

Creamy Avocado-Lime Salad Dressing:
1 avocado
juice from 1 lime
handful fresh cilantro
few drops of ume vinegar
5-10 fresh ground coriander seeds
1 garlic clove

Blend all ingredients, then use water and/or additional lime juice to thin out to desired consistency.  I had not thought to add coriander seeds, but I think it's brilliant on Morgan's part, since they add a nice, subtle lemony fragrance, and anyway, coriander seeds produce coriander plants, which is another word for cilantro!

The sweet, smoky bacon contrasts nicely with the creamy, tangy dressing.

Day 1 Lunch: Mexican Nori Burritos

I hope you'll forgive the pictures, but I really want to document this week thoroughly, and I won't always be able to get a decent shot.

Nori burritos are an example of a satisfying, yet low-calorie lunch.  You know that stuff sushi is wrapped up in?  That's nori, and it's full of iodine, vitamin K, and tons of other vitamins. In fact, sea vegetables contain the broadest range of minerals of anything found in the sea.  Not only is Nori much richer in nutrients than a tortilla, but it beats tortillas to smithereens in a lowest calorie competition.

I made some homemade salsa in the food processor with the tomatoes my mom brought me from her garden.  I mashed up some canned black beans with a little cumin and lime juice, and made burritos with the beans, salsa, homemade guacamole, onions, and arugula.  Just stuff I had in the fridge; there's no recipe to this.  The main thing is thinking about ways to save calories and get the most nutrient-bang for your calorie buck.

Seven Day Cleanse

My ten-year high school reunion is in seven days (UPDATE: I got a little confused - it's actually in fourteen days:-)).  And I'll be damned if I show up bloated with bad skin.  I grew up with these people, attended every grade, kindergarten through twelfth, with most of them!  And I haven't seen most of them since we graduated.

I've also been eating horribly.  Since I started working in a bakery, I have plenty of alone time with trays and trays of fresh baked cookies, tarts, bars, and other such confections.  My sweet tooth has always been my downfall.  I truly am addicted to sugar, which means when I stay away from it, I'm healthy and happy Helen, but when I eat it, I crave more and more and I turn into tired, moody Helen with Sugar On The Brain! (I'm not talking about occasional agave/honey/maple syrup/molasses-sweetened food; I'm talking about processed cane sugar food).

So, starting today, I'm proclaiming this week Cleanse Week!  (By default, Chris will also be participating in Cleanse Week).

Cleanses are exciting to me.  Because they always, without fail, improve my attitude, confidence, and sense of well being - as well as my skin and the way my jeans fit.

Now, I would never attempt one of those crazy maple syrup or cabbage soup cleanses.  I definitely don't plan on being grouchy, starving, and tired during my cleanse.  And the cleanse I do never leaves me feeling that way, yet still achieves its purpose, perfectly.  What cleanse is this, you ask?  Well, here are

The Rules:

Thou Shall Eat NO:
Sugar (no cane sugar, that is)
Processed Food (Including processed vegan products like soymilk, Tofutti sour cream, Daiya cheese, etc.)
Processed Grains (bread, pasta, crackers, chips)
Dried Fruit (the sugar and calorie content in dried fruit tends to be much higher than in fresh fruit)
Store-bought Fruit Juice (same deal as above)
Nuts (nuts generally have a higher fat content than seeds, which are okay for this cleanse)
Table Salt or Sea Salt
And obviously, No Animal Products (meat, fish, dairy, or eggs)

Thou May Eat:
Vegetables (roots, leaves, fruit, seaweed, etc - raw, baked, or steamed/boiled/water-sauteed)
Whole Grains (like steamed brown rice, quinoa, barley, or millet - no couscous or bread or pasta; those are not whole grain!)
Beans / Lentils (1 cup cooked beans per day at most. If using canned, rinse to remove salt)
Tempeh and Tofu (1 serving per day at most)
Fresh Fruit (1-2 servings per day at most)
Raw Seeds (like pumpkin or sunflower seeds, 1-2 tablespoons per day at most)
Vinegar, Soy Sauce, or Miso (1 tablespoon per day, spread out throughout the day over salads or steamed vegetables or in soup. Miso, soy sauce and some vinegars, like ume, have a high salt content, so these will be your only source of salt this week.)
Maple Syrup, Agave Nectar, or Molasses (1 tsp per day)
Coffee (one cup per day at most)
Green or Herbal Tea (unsweetened of course)
Vodka Cocktail with Lemon/Lime and Basil/Mint (no sense in taking away all guilty pleasures this week)
Water (have a glass or sports bottle with you at all times throughout the day)

Other Details:
No eating past 8:00pm.
Daily run.

Okay, I'm tired of writing about this... and I sure did make it sound all serious but it's really no biggie - the hardest, yet most crucial, part for me personally is cutting out the madness-inducing sweets!

Eating healthfully, even during detox week, can and should be delicious, as long as you take the minimal time and effort required to prepare thoughtful, balanced meals for yourself and those dragged into detox alongside you.  I'll make sure to blog about our "Cleanse" meals, so you can see what sort of dishes are Extreme Health Week-worthy.

Let the countdown begin!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Excuse Me

But, if anyone is reading my blog - do any of you love staring at the colors of the vegetables you're chopping and cooking with?  I mean, when you're making a salad, or a sandwich, or soup, or what have you, do any of you consider how pretty the end result will be?

I get so much pleasure out of taking in the colors and the color combinations of the food I'm preparing.  It seems a little zen, but when I'm chopping celery and carrots and peppers on a big chopping block with the sun streaming in the window, I can't help but soak it all in, and those moments are the simplest pleasures that make up a happy life, if you stop to appreciate them - in my opinion.

But then, I'm a total romantic.  I don't expect everyone to get lost in an insignificant detail like celery green.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vegan Egg Salad from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

Chris and I both agree that this vegan tofu salad is every bit as good as and better than any egg salad we've ever had.  It's only got 1/2 teaspoon of vegenaise, so Chris added a little more to his sandwich to bind it, but I was happy with the amount of vegenaise the recipe called for.

We put it on the whole wheat bread I made today, and Chris said he could eat it every week and be happy.  This has been my experience with all the recipes I've tried in The Kind Diet. Whether you're vegan or not, no matter; spend the fifteen bucks on this cookbook and change your life.  There's no cookbook like it on the market, period!

Homemade Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

You know how homemade whole wheat bread can be heavy? Well, this recipe produces a 100% whole wheat bread that is light and soft enough to host egg salad or cucumbers.  So, if you're looking for an excellent wheat sandwich bread recipe, this recipe from Gourmet magazine is perfect.

2 cups warm water (105°-115°F.)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup molasses, honey or maple syrup
5 to 6 cups whole-wheat flour (I used about half whole wheat pastry flour, and half regular whole wheat flour, because that's what I had - the pastry flour may have accounted for how silky my bread's texture turned out.)
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil

In a small bowl stir together 1 3/4 cups warm water and yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In a measuring cup whisk together remaining 1/4 cup warm water and molasses. 

In a large bowl stir together 2 cups flour, salt, and oil and add molasses and yeast mixtures, stirring until combined well. Stir in enough of remaining 3 to 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, for mixture to form a soft dough and turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Some people don't like to cook, until they see a big ball of dough on the counter and suddenly, they push me out of the way, saying "Let me do it!"
Transfer the ball of kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat, and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch down dough and let rise, covered, another hour.

Transfer dough to either 2 bread pans, one rustic round loaf on a baking stone, or as individual rolls, and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, one more hour.

Bake in a 400-degree oven 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake 25 minutes more, or until golden brown. Turn loaves out onto a rack to cool.

Ahhhhhh The Post-Farmers Market Meals

I finally went to the farmers market and the kitchen is completely stocked.  There are always fresh veggies and fruit, but I'd completely run out of the expensive things, things like mirin and ume plums and tahini and nori and vanilla and agave and so many other things that inspire creativity and, when I open the cabinet door, make me feel like I could survive a long winter, making even old potatoes seem exotic!

Alright, I don't mean to compare myself to Laura Ingalls Wilder, surviving The Long Winter.  What an ungrateful idiot I'd be if I did.  Have I even mentioned that I love Little House on the Prairie, the books and the t.v. series?  There's something so basic and good about that family.  I feel grounded and refreshed each time I watch an episode.

So as I was saying, I finally went, and I bought many yummy things and cooked up a storm this weekend.  Often, when I'm cooking, I think about Laura and her mom, Caroline, cooking.  They made apple pie and cookies and creamed vegetables and things out of animal parts.  I wonder if cooking was fun to them, and if they were able to be creative and take pride in what they cooked and make it a little fancy sometimes.  I bet sometimes they did, and other times they didn't, depending on the season and the day; what food they had available and how much free time they had... guess nothing has changed, unless if relatively speaking.

The photo was lunch.  Red lentil stew with carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, and fresh cherry tomatoes. The little biscuit on the side is a muffin I made with the last of the summer squash from my mom's garden.  I toasted it and spread it with basil-pinenut pesto (the recipe I link calls for walnuts, but you can use almonds, pumpkin seeds, whatever - I think pinenuts might be my favorite for pesto).

I also made a random mezcla salad for dinner, with steamed crunchy beets, chopped poblano peppers from the garden, steamed purple barley, blackberries, fresh mint, and lemon juice.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Homemade Pizzas

Because I'm not sure if it matters whether basil is added before, or after, or before and after the cooking process, I usually go for number three, which is why you see some wilted and some fresh basil leaves on my pizza.  If anyone knows the answer to my question, please comment and let me know so I can possibly eliminate a step. :-)

I got my pizza crust recipe here, and this site is excellent for detailed, yet simple, bread recipes. I used whole wheat flour, though.

I used my go-to tomato sauce recipe, which I usually keep in the freezer for nights like tonight.  The "cheese" is Daiya mozzarella, which does a darn good job of imitating cheese, though not every pizza needs cheese.  Pizza can be pretty delicious with a little white truffle oil and some arugula or radicchio.
Here's some useful information: Oven roasted eggplant becomes very creamy and delicious, and so makes an awesome addition to pizzas and lasagnas, especially cheese-less ones. It adds a creamy richness that truly elevates Italian dishes.  Trust me on this one - slice some eggplant, coat it in olive oil, sprinkle it with salt, and bake it at 400ish for 15ish minutes. Then put it between lasagna layers or on a pizza or in a sandwich.  We're not living in the Depression anymore, people, so you don't need to rely on cheap things like cream cheese and mayonnaise for your creaminess.  Wake up and smell the eggplant and lose some weight while you're at it.  We've got enough of a battle trying to resist the cupcakes, so we might as well make little changes where we can.

Feel free to make fun of my oddly-shaped pizzas.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Buttermilk Biscuits with Stewed Pear-Apples

Sometimes you just want breakfast - a Southern breakfast - for dinner.  There's something so comforting about a Southern breakfast.  I think it has to do with its simplicity, its basic rib-sticking quality, and its salty-sweet familiarity.

Last night, I think I was craving some of that familiarity, because I made squash casserole, tempeh bacon, and buttermilk biscuits with stewed fruit.

I really enjoy listening to my cravings. Not the bad kind, like the cravings that tell me to eat the whole pack of Oreos, but the leaning towards a certain vegetable or spice kind of cravings.  And, I think I enjoy it so much because I've finally learned to cook.  It's a very empowering feeling, being able to feed yourself and others.  Life can be so stressful, but put me in front of a stove and my anxiety melts away.  This is familiar territory; I can succeed here.  Which makes me wonder about what other sorts of things I can become good at, in other aspects of my life and career, to get that same empowering feeling.

Anyway, remember these?
Part of my mom's gift of food.  I've been working hard all week to not waste any veggies or fruit.  I've frozen blueberries, stuffed peppers, simmered tomatoes, baked squash, blended salsa... these little pear-apple hybrids were no exception.  Frankly, they have a tart flavor and pear-like texture and no one really wanted to eat them out of hand.  So I stewed them down with cinnamon, maple syrup, lemon juice, margarine, and vanilla (okay, I was out of vanilla but let's just pretend I wasn't).  The result was something like a cross between pie filling and apple butter.  A perfect Southern biscuit topping!

I've posted on biscuits before.  I think I have the perfect biscuit recipe.  I hope you'll try it sometime!

Classic Summer Squash Casserole

No squash casserole compares to my Momma's squash casserole.  You may think I'm biased, but everyone says it.  I've never tasted a squash casserole as satisfying and delicious and addictive.

Here is my mom's recipe.  (Only difference is, I omitted the egg [I found it wasn't necessary to bind, as you can see from the picture], and used a couple non-dairy substitutes).  Now, this is one of those recipes where you can adjust to your taste, so use your judgement when measuring.

Perfect Squash Casserole:

6 cups squash, sliced and steamed
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced into half-moons, well salted, and caramelized in olive oil and margarine
1/4 cup Vegenaise
1/2 cup slivered almonds (yes! a must!)
1/2 cup Daiya shredded cheddar "cheese"
5 oz cheese nip type crackers, crushed (about 150 crackers) (no, not vegan. But a simple cost-benefit analysis tells me it's okay this time).
1-2 Tbsp margarine

Stir all ingredients together, reserving the margarine and some of the crushed crackers.  Put mixture in a baking dish of your choice.  Top with pats of margarine.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, adding the remainder of the cracker crumbs to the top during the last 10 minutes of baking.

Here's a picture from last night, when it came out of the oven.  My pictures never look as good at night, but I want to show the whole dish.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stuffed Poblano Peppers, Tomatoes, and Squash

Stuffed poblano peppers (chili relleno), tomatoes, and squash, with a side of black beans and rice.

The vegetables are coated in olive oil; stuffed with fresh sweet corn, homemade salsa (tomatoes, onion, garlic, habaneros, lime, cilantro), and tofu seasoned with taco seasoning mix; sprinkled with kosher salt; and baked at 350 for about an hour.

I added fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, and some other stuff I can't remember to canned black beans and cooked brown rice for a very flavorful dish.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Fresh Tomato Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

This is my favorite tomato sauce recipe, period. I don't make it any other way.  Here's what sets it apart.

1. It begins with a base of onion, garlic, carrot, and celery.  You won't notice these veggies in the finished product, but by then they have worked their magic.
2. It simmers for an hour.  The flavors have time to meld and concentrate, for maximum impact.
3. You puree it.  Thus, you've got a thick, consistent, vibrant red sauce that coats whatever you put it on.

1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
5 tomatoes
bay leaf
fresh basil

Add chopped onion and garlic to hot olive oil in a large saucepan. Cook until translucent, 5-10 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic.  Add chopped carrots and celery.  (At this point, you can deglaze the pan with red wine if you like, or not). Add chopped tomatoes, bay leaf, any herbs or spices you like (like red pepper flakes, onion/garlic powder, oregano, thyme, etc), and some fresh basil leaves.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.  Remove bay leaf.  Add more fresh basil, blend in food processor or blender until smooth, then return to the pan.  (You can add a tablespoon of butter, to round out the acidity, if you like).  Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thai Lime Leaf Pesto

In trying to preserve all the vegetables my mom gave me, of course I made pesto with the basil.  Basil pesto is obviously an Italian concept.  But I find myself using lots of Japanese ingredients when I make pesto, like sweet white miso and ume vinegar.  I find these two ingredients take pesto up a couple notches.

As I was making this "fusion" pesto, I suddenly remembered the lime leaves I keep in the freezer for Thai curry.  And I tossed a few in.  The result is delicious!  It really does make the pesto extra unique and extra addictive.  And you can use it for almost anything.  I've been stirring it into rice, since it is fusion pesto after all, and last night I spread it on my Southern tomato and vegenaise sandwich. :-)

Thai Lime Leaf Pesto:
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2-3 lime leaves
1/2 heaping cup pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp sweet white miso
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp ume vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Blend ingredients in the food processor, adding olive oil last, through feeder into already blended ingredients.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Look What I Got!

Wow! When my mom said she was going to bring me some vegetables from her garden, I had no idea she was going to load up my trunk and backseat!  I am so excited about all these delicious, gorgeous, homegrown vegetables I get to eat.

Actually, some of the veggies are from Lorene's garden, which she has been planting almost every year of her life, and she is now in her nineties!

Thank you, Momma and Lorene! :-)

Now I gotta figure out how to preserve these fruits and vegetables. Guess I have some freezing and canning to do.

Some of them are so small and cute!