Sunday, September 26, 2010

Case in Point

Regarding my previous two posts - behold dinner last night.  Looks tasty enough, a taco of some sort, right?  Well,  this taco epitomizes "cooker's block."

I whisked four different marinades for the tofu, and none of them tasted right, so finally I grabbed some of Chris's caribbean jerk marinade from the fridge and doused my tofu triangles in that.

Then, I proceeded to stir fry a little nappa cabbage in place of iceberg lettuce... but I prepared it as I normally would, asian-style (in sesame oil) with no regard to how it would complement the caribbean jerk tofu.

Also, I simmered a can of black beans with corn, onion, and green chilies... Mexican-style.

Oh, and don't forget the guacamole.

"Lots of interesting flavor combinations going on here," was Chris's good-humored comment.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cooking and Me.

I don't know what to do - for so long my evenings have been largely spent in a totally blissful state, being creative and concocting fun meals.  It was the thing I looked forward to all day.  I've loved food since I was little, and that hasn't changed.  But suddenly I've found myself fed up with cooking.

I want to be cooked for.  Or, catered to in some fashion, I suppose.

So, instead of a meal, I leave you with a picture of my beautiful niece Abby.  I love her so much!  We were at the Atlanta Zoo, and I have to say it was sad seeing those animals locked up in spaces like that.  Time spent with Abby, though, is always cherished.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cooking Strike

You see?  I will only go so far as to steam veggies.  I have gone on cooking strike.  Why?  I don't know exactly, probably a combination of reasons, but I do know it's only temporary. :-)

P.S. I know that "lettuce" looks a little wilted, but it's actually nappa cabbage, stir fried lightly in a few drops of sesame oil, and we like it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tomato Soup

I was totally in the mood for chili tonight - FINALLY, I had a craving!  I've been very uninspired in the kitchen lately. :-(  I think it's due to me being ready for fall foods and sick of summer foods - but ended up not being hungry and too tired after my run to go to the grocery store for chili beans.  So... here's a recipe for tomato soup that I made a few weeks ago.

Soup is not just for winter, and there is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of tomato soup and a toasted sandwich.  We eat canned tomato soup sometimes, but there’s just no excuse for it during tomato season.  My tomato soup takes a few minutes to make, and if you want to add a few extra minutes and steps to remove the peeling and seeds, you will have a smooth, velvety bowl of tomato soup.  But you can leave the seeds in and it will still taste delicious!

Tomato Soup (best served with a toasted sandwich for dipping!)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 small stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, diced
6-8 large tomatoes (Optional: concassed, meaning blanched, peeled, deseeded, chopped - except keep the juice cause this is soup, not sauce!)
fresh parsley, chopped (plus more for garnish)

1. Heat oil over medium-low. When the oil is hot, add the onions.  Allow them to caramelize, about 5-10 minutes.  Towards the end, add the garlic and stir to prevent burning, about 1 minute.
2. Add the celery, carrots, tomatoes and parsley.
3. Cover and simmer until carrots and celery are cooked through. Depending on your tomatoes, you may need to add a small amount of vegetable broth if the soup is too thick.  At the end of cooking, add more parsley, salt, and pepper.
4. Puree in a food processor, return to pot, then serve, garnished with more fresh parsley.

Scuppernong-Glazed Tempeh Meatballs @ Earth Eats

Southerners, remember those fancy, sweet and sour meatball appetizers our moms used to make?  These are yummy!  Check out the recipe at Earth Eats.

Thanks to Vegan Dad for the tempeh meatball inspiration.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownies

I made these brownies for my lovely sweetie-pie niece using Dreena Burton's recipe.  It seems all the vegan bloggers are doing it - Morgan from Little House of Veggies has chocolate truffles and Chocolate-Covered Katie has fudge babies and Dreena from Eat Drink and Be Vegan has fudge brawnies (cuz all the ingredients are raw).

Basically, you blend 3:4 parts nuts to dates.  (Popular nut choices are walnuts, almonds, cashews... or a blend).  Add cocoa powder and vanilla extract, and you've got something that tastes sinful - I do not exaggerate - but is actually healthy.  Dreena's brownies have a rich, fudgy frosting made from coconut butter, cocoa powder, and agave.

1 3/4 cup nuts (walnuts, almonds, and cashews)
2 cups medjool dates (sub 1/4 cup with dried cherries if you like!)
1/3 cup cocoa powder (I used dark chocolate)
2 tsp vanilla (she calls for vanilla bean - even better! but I didn't have it)
1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 cup coconut butter
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch sea salt

Blend the nuts in the food processor, add the remaining ingredients, and process until mixture forms a ball.  Remove and press in a pan.  Blend the frosting ingredients in the food processor as well, then spread the frosting over the brownies. Done! No need to bake these babies.

Lunch and Art

An open-faced veggie burger, and in the background, a piece of Chris's art. Talented, yes?  I think so.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

boring old supper that was just what I needed.

I went a little crazy with the red pepper flakes.  Sometimes I have no desire to cook and I don't crave anything in particular, so I just mindlessly steam some veggies and grains.  I did bother to saute this napa cabbage in a little sesame oil, mirin, and shoyu (yum).

Turns out though, a big plate of simple, wholesome broccoli, cabbage, and barley hit the spot tonight (though I wished my barley were quinoa, because I got it in my head I'd put quinoa in the rice cooker, and was looking forward to those tiny, yummy little grains, then opened the lid to find barley!).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pizza and Salad Night

This took a matter of minutes to throw together, using homemade pizza dough I'd taken out of the freezer yesterday, some leftover marinara from a pasta dish the other night, and the veggies I happened to have in the fridge: mushrooms and peppers.

While the oven pre-heated, I stretched out the dough on my poor little broken pizza stone, and sauteed the veggies in Earth Balance with dried thyme, oregano, onion powder, garlic salt, and red pepper flakes.

Once the pizza was assembled and in the oven, I threw together a salad and whisked a dressing of white miso, salt, pepper, orange juice, brown rice vinegar, and hemp oil.
Light, easy, yummy dinner.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Future Kitchen

When I imagine my future life, I see little kids running through this kitchen, or one very similar, while I make them french toast for breakfast. :-)

I came across this picture here, and she got it from here.  The second here is my new favorite Flickr photo stream.  I love white, bright, sunny, minimal, yet imperfect.

Only thing is, I'd prefer a natural stain instead of white paint on the hardwood floors.  I'd also like a little more traditional mixed in with the contemporary.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Thai Coconut Soup with Tofu... and Do-It-Yourself California Rolls

Thai Coconut Soup With Tofu:
1 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 cups vegetable broth
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed into several pieces
2 tsps ginger, minced
2 lime leaves, torn
1-2 tsp agave
1 tbsp shoyu
2 tsp red curry paste
red pepper flakes (optional)
firm tofu, pressed (to remove water) and cubed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
sliced mushrooms
1 tbsp ume vinegar
fresh lime juice

Bring milk, broth, lemongrass, ginger, lime leaves, agave, shoyu, curry paste, pepper flakes, and tofu to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add bell pepper and mushrooms, and simmer covered until just tender. Add ume vinegar, salt and pepper, and a good squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve with lime wedges.

We also had a tray of "roll-it-yourself" california roll ingredients.  I surprised Chris with his beloved fake crab sticks.  Which I do realize are made from fish and who knows what else - but he was so excited to see the package!  We aren't perfect vegans around here.

I love making do-it-yourself platters and appetizers for dinner.  Anything to spice things up and make food fun!
I have sushi rice, but we used brown rice and it worked just fine for our little amateur rolls. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Creamy White Root Vegetable Soup

I created this soup my first winter in my very own apartment.  I wanted a creamy, white soup made from root vegetables.  Everything had to be white; I even used white pepper.  I used rutabegas, turnips, and parsnips for that first soup.  It turned out creamy and delicious.  I remember sitting on my sofa watching something on tv, with Meeks (my dog) snuggled up next to me, eating two big bowls of the soup.  I also lost weight, unintentionally, that week, because I was on a soup kick (other soups that week included a sweet potato and peanut butter soup, and minestrone).

Thinking of the soup, I bought turnips, rutabegas, and celery root the other day (the only white root vegetables Sevenanda had).  Yeah, I know it isn't winter, but I wanted some roots!  We had the soup today, and Chris LOVED it.  It's only made with vegetable broth and veggies, but tastes like cream and butter.

Creamy White Root Vegetable Soup:
white root vegetables, diced (be sure to balance the soup with sweeter ones, like rutabegas; too many turnips and the soup may taste slightly bitter)
vegetable broth, to cover (I find that if you don't have homemade, then veggie bullion cubes do your seasoning for you)
lots of white pepper

Add veggies and broth to pot, simmer until tender.  Puree in a blender.  Garnish with toasted seeds, as above (our lunch), or even better, with garlicy croutons (our dinner), made from homemade whole wheat bread.

Your Sweet Tooth Solution!

OOOOOOOkay.  These are exactly like eating fudge brownie batter... except they fit right in to the strictest of  diet plans.

All you need are 1 1/3 cup dates, 1 cup nuts, 4 tbps cocoa powder, and 1-2 tsp vanilla extract (I customized a few with peanut butter, coconut, marshmellow cream, etc), plus a food processor. Process until the mixture forms a ball, then shape into mini balls and freeze.

Thanks to Chocolate Covered Katie for this idea.

Sunday Breakfast for Two

Scrambled tofu, crispy tempeh bacon, raspberries, and banana berry smoothies (you can't have too many berries).

My smoothie is the larger one. :-)

Scrambled Tofu:
1. Saute some veggies (i used onions & peppers)
2. Crumble in tofu.
3. Sprinkle with chili powder, cumin, garlic salt, oregano, and a little tumeric for egg-like color (for tradition's sake).
4. Let saute on med-low until the water cooks out and the tofu starts to brown, stirring occasionally.
5. Sprinkle in fresh cilantro at the end. Accompany with hot sauce.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It's Comin' on Fall... and Cupcake Time!

Pretty photo from Michelle My Belle.

Randomly thinking of Joni Mitchell this morning.  It's been a while since I listened to her songs, but she might be tied with Counting Crows for favorite songwriter.  She's one of the most poetic lyricists ever to exist.  Her lyrics are poetry, and her melodies seem odd at first because they're designed around the words, in order to deliver them properly.  (Most songwriters prefer their words conform to the melody, which is the reason for often trite lyrics or awkwardly stretched syllabols).

Some of my favorites:

I remember that time you told me, you said
Love is touching souls
Surely you touched mine
Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time


Oh the jealousy, the greed is unraveling
And it undoes all the joy that could be
I want to have fun, I want to shine like the sun
I want to be the one you want to see
I want to knit you a sweater
Want to write you a love letter
I want to make you feel better
I want to make you feel free


I met a redneck on a Grecian Isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue, the red red rogue
He cooked good omelets and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you

Anyway, so Fall... and cupcakes.
This pretty cupcake is from Cupcakes Take the Cake.

Why is it cupcake time?  Because I have long been thinking of the day when I don't have to send my boyfriend to work with all the cupcakes I baked, but can instead share them them with my very own co-workers.

It's kinda hard to do that when you A) are a freelancer and B) work in a bakery.

But - in a couple weeks, my Fall will be off to a great start with a new job as a content strategist for Artagrafik.  I am SO excited.

Hello Fall, hello Awesome Job, and hello Joni Mitchell.  I didn't realize how much I'd missed you!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Labor Day Weekend

I forgot to tell you about Labor Day Weekend!  It was my favorite weekend of the entire summer.  I couldn't have been happier, surrounded by the people I love, - minus my Daddy, who was in Hong Kong of all places! how cool!  - in my favorite spot on Earth: the water (any water will do).

We did things we wouldn't have done before little Abby came along!  We created an entire sand sculpted sea creature scene, including a boat!
We buried each other in the sand.
We ate our snacks with sand in them.
One thing did remain the same, and that is that we drank margaritas.  I was one happy girl, surrounded by my favorite things, and most importantly, people.

Have I mentioned before that I will live by the water's edge someday?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lentil Sloppy Joes with Radish Coleslaw Relish

Here's an example of a recipe that was ALMOST there, but not quite.  Flavor? Dead on. Texture? Wrong. Problem?  The type of lentils I used.  I should have used a more tender lentil, that fell apart during cooking, so I could turn my sloppy joe mixture into a more congealed mush.  I didn't like the bite of the French lentils, and I wanted the hot lentil mixture to contrast with the crisp, cold relish I made.  Instead, the textures were too similar and the lentils heated the relish. Boo.

Fix? Use red lentils, which get mushier during cooking, and cook down until every so lightly paste-like - but still "sloppy!"  Or, use tempeh - better texture for this I think.  OR, use the food processor and pulse a few times. That could have helped.

As for my coleslaw relish? YUMMMMMMM!  I would recommend it on ANY burger or sandwich. It had everything you could ask for in a condiment / accompaniment.  It's crispy, tangy, salty, raw, and refreshing.  I created it tonight because I wanted to use up these little guys.
See - here is what I want anyone who reads this to come away with.  I had no cabbage tonight to make my coleslaw.  BUT, once you learn that you aren't craving simply "coleslaw," or "relish," but that you're craving "crispy-crunchy-cold-mayo-celery salt-salty-tangy-refreshing-familiarity-nice contrast to something hot" then you are a liberated and empowered cook! That's when you can create gold out of an old potato.

Okay, maybe I haven't gotten that far yet.

Radish Relish:
1/2 large daikon root, finely diced
5 red radishes, finely diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup spinach, chifonnaded
1/4 cup cilantro, chifonnaded
10 dill pickle slices, diced
1 tsp celery salt
1 tbsp vegenaise
1-2 tsp ume vinegar
3 tbsp pistachios
fresh ground black pepper

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Aloo Gobi Masala

Disclaimer: I make no claims to know what I'm talking about when it comes to Indian food. Except it is delicious. No, really - I have no idea what I'm talking about (except for the delicious part).

Today, I craved massive amounts of mushy - yet well-seasoned! - vegetables. (It's one thing I love about southern cuisine - huge plates full of mashed turnips, potatoes, creamed corn, and peas with relish, all running together on the plate!).

See, the thing about well cooked vegetables is you can get tons of that tasty nourishment in your belly for ultimate satisfaction and fullness - the good kind of fullness, that goes right through you (sorry if that caused an unwanted mental picture!) after it's given you all its vitamins and yummy taste, instead of sticking around on your hips!

I know lots of women, including my sister, who craved this sort of hot, savory vegetable smoothie of a meal when they were pregnant.  I myself crave it most often when I'm training for a triathlon.  Which tells me that our bodies are begging for lots of nutrients, as soon as possible.

A big plate of mushy, well-seasoned vegetables ranks above even macaroni and cheese on the comfort food scale.

I also saw a big plate of curry on this fun blog I discovered.  It's called Chocolate-Covered Katie.  I like it because her diet is, indeed, different, but in a good way!  She eats massive amounts of delicious, good-for-you food.  I tried her idea for adding chocolate to my steel cut oatmeal today. Oh my gosh.  Just a few chocolate chips turned my big bowl of oatmeal with blueberries into a dessert for breakfast!  Brilliant!

Anyway, so I saw the curry and it definitely fit the bill.  Here's my recipe.

Aloo Gobi Masala (serves 6):
5 yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 large Vidalia onion, diced
1 container plum tomatoes, finely diced
1 head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
2 bunches chard, kale, or other leafy green, chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk, sour cream, or yogurt
1 tbsp nut butter
Salt to taste

Spice Blend:
4 tsp chili powder
4 tsp tumeric
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp fresh-ground coriander seed

10 cloves garlic
4 green chilis (I de-seed 3, to cut down on the heat!)
a few chunks of fresh ginger
big handful of fresh cilantro
a little oil (optional, but helps to blend into a paste in the food processor; otherwise the ingredients stick to the side)

First, toss your potatoes and onions in a generous amount of olive oil, chili powder, sea salt, and pepper (this is seperate from the spice blend; I'm assuming these ingredients are a given in your pantry).  Place them in a foil-lined pan, put them in a 400-degree oven, and forget about them, except to stir them occasionally, while you tend to chopping the other vegetables.  They'll need about an hour or so, after which you can turn off them oven and leave them in there to stay warm and toasty until you require their delicious services.

As soon as your potatoes and onions are in the oven, chop all your vegetables and place them in bowls to wait.  Grind and blend your spices, and set aside in a bowl.  Grind your paste in the food processor, and set aside in a small bowl.  Clean up your kitchen (it's much more fun to cook in a clean kitchen).  By now, your potatoes are probably ready and it's time to cook! Dinner will be ready in a matter of minutes!

Begin by heating a little sesame, peanut, or olive oil on the stove on medium.  Add the paste, and cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the spice blend, and stir to combine.  Allow this mixture to heat and smell delicious, but don't let it burn.  Add the tomatoes, and stir to combine.  Add the nut butter and milk, and stir to combine.  Add the cauliflower, and stir until well coated.  Add the chard, about 1 cup of water, a generous amount of salt, and stir. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked, adding more water if needed, and removing the lid if you need the sauce to reduce a little more.

When the cauliflower is cooked, stir in the roasted potatoes and onions, remove from heat, and let sit covered for about 15 minutes.  Season to taste with additional chili powder and garlic salt.

Garnish - and this is important - with fresh lime slices.  The fresh lime at the end really makes the dish!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spaghetti With Kale and Marinara

Ahh. It's my favorite time of day. :) My cook, eat, and write about it time.  Such simple pleasures are the key to happiness!

Nothing crazy for dinner tonight, just a simple marinara sauce, with a whole bunch of chopped kale simmered in towards the end - plus, about a half cup of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor and some vitamin B-12!  Served over whole wheat spaghetti.

I didn't cook last night.  I was undergoing forced relaxation - by Chris. Sick people are supposed to rest, but 1) I have never considered a cold a reason to change plans and 2) It's so hard to sit still.

I wonder - what are other people's simple pleasures?  The tiny little things that don't require tons of money or elaborate planning.  Other simple pleasures of mine include:

1. seeing my dog Meeks wag his tail and perk his ears up when I talk to him
2. hurrying home because a storm is brewing outside - I love the gusts of wind and the sort of ominous dark, knowing I'll be safe inside soon!
3. sitting with my mom early in the morning having coffee and watching CNN - we're the two early birds in my family
4. My neice - don't get me started!! :-)

There are tons more, but that's enough for now.  What are your simple pleasures?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Nice Thing About Home

The nice thing about home - and by home, I mean my childhood home - is that I can go outside barefoot, like I used to when I was little... and see pretty things like this...
and eat yummy things like scuppernongs, right off the vine.