December 24, 2009

Recipe testing / tofu and cabbage /Texas caviar

Where oh where has the week gone? Wherever it went, it went quickly. I can't even remember eating but I've got the photos to prove we did. I tested more recipes and threw together random meals, and I'll share those with you but as far as personal, creative cooking. Ha. Nothing. At the top of the page you see a butternut squash-pasta bake tester recipe.

Above you see a super-fast baked seitan tester. Too bad I can't share this!

Some of the seitan was used to make a seitan and kale stir-fry that was delicious. It was served alongside the baked pasta and squash.

This was a thrown together lunch of humble origins but wonderful taste. I stir-fried extra-firm fresh tofu cubes with a small amount of tamari. When the tofu was sizzling and brown, I added a prodigious amount of grated ginger and some finely sliced green cabbage. The cabbage was cooked to the crisp-tender stage and the the dish was further seasoned with a grind of pepper. You can really pull a lot of flavor out of simple ingredients when necessary.


Texas Caviar: black-eyed pea salsa

Way back back in 2007 when I first started blogging, I ran a recipe for a traditional black-eyed-pea dish that's supposed to bring good luck if you eat it on New Year's. You can find the original post here. I hope the two people who may have read that post will forgive me for posting it again. I love this dish and think everyone should make it!

Texas Caviar 
  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced
  • 3 jalapenos, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil,
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground peppercorns

  1. Rinse and drain the beans and place in a bowl with the scallions, cilantro and peppers. 
  2. Put the oil, vinegar, lime juice and salt in a one cup glass measuring cup and mix together. 
  3. Add the liquid to the beans mixture and combine. Place in a shallow glass (or other non-reactive) dish. Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or a few days. Mix occasionally to distribute the marinade evenly. 
  4. Grind some peppercorns over the top just before serving.
notes: I thought the mix looked a little too green and beige so I went looking in the refrigerator for a few grape tomatoes to chop up. They were gone so I got a few slices of the tomatoes I dried last summer (and keep in a sealed freezer bag in the fridge). I chopped those up and added them for color and tang. I also used jalapenos from last summer's garden. I always freeze bags of whole, hot peppers from the garden to use in cooking during the rest of the year. This was the first time I tried to use them uncooked. Couldn't tell they weren't fresh.

Fresh squeezed lime juice makes a superior salad but I would understand if you kept a bottle of lime juice (like Santa Cruz organic) in your refrigerator for "emergencies." The beans will still taste great.

I like to rinse and drain canned beans in a wire wok skimmer that I got in an Asian market years ago because I liked the way it looked. It's easier to clean than my fine mesh strainers and holds about one can of beans at a time.

Today we're heading south towards warmer and, hopefully, dryer weather. I won't be cooking much but I'll photograph our culinary adventures to share when we return. Until then have the happiest of holidays and remember to share your bounty with those who have less.

Oh, and by the way, we watched the original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I wasn't scared witless. In fact, I slept very well after seeing it. Still, it's a cool, cult classic that you might want to watch.

December 21, 2009

Body snatchers and other testy things

Corn pudding, cauliflower in spicy vinaigrette, Brussels sprouts with carrots

More years ago than I care to admit, I attended an all-girls, all-academic, public magnet school in a large East Coast city. Standards were high and my fellow students, for the most part, were studious and well-behaved. We were such an easy-to-teach bunch of high-achievers I think the school became kind of a last-transfer station for teachers heading towards retirement. Most of the faculty was, from my point of view as a teenager, old. I mean really old. I couldn't believe the school district even let such old people teach. Don't misunderstand, many of the teachers were terrific and well-loved, but some were horribly boring, and even ... unbalanced. And most were, in my opinion, very, very old. (I don't think that now, but what did I know?)

My 10th grade English teacher was one of the oldest in the school. I knew she was intelligent and well-intentioned but her classes could put an insomniac to sleep in five minutes. She always wore a large pendant which she held onto and dragged back and forth along its chain, adding hypnosis to the already powerful narcotic effect of her droning voice. The only thing that could bring some relief to the class was if someone would raise a hand and ask a question about bombs. Then she'd begin to wave her arms, raise her voice, and rant about the dangers of war. What I didn't realize then was she was a nationally known figure in the Quaker anti-war movement of the 60s. Had I known that, I probably would have been far more respectful. All I knew at the time was she was a dreadful teacher making the exciting subject of literature almost unbearable.

On the surface I was quiet and cooperative, but sometimes I got bored, and sought diversions to enliven my own personal educational experience. These diversions were not always of the highest intellectual variety, and usually didn't advance my academic standing, but they did help my boredom. You understand. We had a book review assignment pending, and while pondering what book to read, I came across a "bargain book" display at the drugstore. I wasn't at the drugstore looking for books, but when my eye was captured by a paperback with giant letters screaming "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," I had a sudden inspiration. What if ...? I bought the book, snickering to myself. How could I resist?

facsimile of lost book
I wasn't a science fiction buff at the time, and didn't really know much about the book I was about to read, but it was much better, and MUCH more frightening than I'd anticipated, and I couldn't put it down. This wasn't a problem because after I started reading it, I was afraid to go to sleep. I think I stayed up all night reading the book. I was pretty sure there were pods growing in the basement but was too scared to go into the basement to look; the book completely freaked me out. By the time I wrote my review I was feeling very inspired, and wrote what I considered a fabulous report. To me it sounded professional and polished, and I couldn't wait to see if the teacher would like my writing or punish my book choice. I told a classmate about the book, and she wanted to borrow it, but I was uncomfortable lending it before the book reports were returned, in case I needed it for any reason. This was not the sort of book I usually chose for school reading, and I felt the need to have it nearby. But she begged and badgered me, and agreed to read it quickly and return it before we got the reports back (the teacher was notoriously slow at grading), so I gave her the book. She kept promising to return it but never did.

On the day the book reports were returned I was tense and excited. I just couldn't wait to see my grade. It was an "F." The comments said the writing was "too good" and sounded "too professional" for a student my age, therefore, I must have copied it from the book jacket, and she was failing me for plagiarism. Well, this was an angle I hadn't even considered. I was both thrilled and furiously indignant. I went to see her immediately to protest her accusation, and offered to bring in the book so she could see for herself that the writing was indeed mine. I begged my classmate to return the book but she had lent it to someone else, and said it was lost. I went back to the drugstore without luck. I tried the library. I tried other book stores. There were no computers, Internet, or Amazon to search. I was sunk. With painful effort I finally convinced the teacher to give me a passing grade but that was all I could manage under the circumstances. Even I could see my story sounded fishy. I never gave up hope of finding a copy of the book so I could redeem my reputation but strangely enough, I never found one. So much for being 15 and testing my teachers. I played it straight for the rest of the year — in that class, anyway.

Creamy polenta chili bake
I'm not testing teachers now but am up to a little testing of a different sort — testing recipes for Celine and Joni's newest cook book, and I thought I'd post about some of the things I've tried. At the top of the page, as a teaser, you see a lunch plate of leftovers. The corn pudding is a tester recipe and the cauliflower is from "The Vegan Table" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

The photo immediately above is creamy polenta chili bake. This was so good. It reminded me of a dish I used to make from "Laurel's Kitchen" called Tennessee corn pone. I think we'll be "testing" this again, soon.

This photo is of another excellent corn-based dish called baked corn pudding. This was incredibly rich, delicious, very quiche-like and easy to prepare. We're making it again for family this weekend to see if they like it as much as we do.

The sweet treats above are sweet potato bars — chewy and full of coconut. I could go for one right now.

Above, you can see some French toast my husband tested and served with jam. He made it for me when my back was hurting. It was interesting.

Last but not least, we have creamy eggplant stew. While not much to look at, this was wonderful to eat. There were lots of leftovers and they got better and better each day, making some delectable lunches.

Note: I'm pretty sure everyone by now is familiar with the book I mentioned in this post. It's a sci-fi classic. No fewer than four films have been based on it, and although it may seem slightly hokey now, the original film, which has achieved cult status, is still genuinely scary. You won't want to fall asleep after you see it. Here's a little more background information from Wikipedia:

"The Body Snatchers" is a 1955 science fiction novel by Jack Finney, originally serialized in Colliers Magazine in 1954, which describes a town in Marin County, California, being invaded by seeds that have drifted to Earth from space. The seeds replace sleeping people with perfect physical duplicates grown from plantlike pods, while their human victims turn to dust.

The duplicates live only five years, and they cannot sexually reproduce; consequently, if unstopped, they will quickly turn Earth into a dead planet and move on to the next world.

The novel has been adapted for the screen four times; the first film in 1956, the second in 1978, the third in 1993, and the most recent in 2007. Unlike two of the film adaptations, the novel contains an optimistic ending, with the aliens voluntarily vacating after deciding that they cannot tolerate the type of resistance they see in the main characters.

I want to wish everyone a happy a holiday season, no matter which holiday you may be enjoying. I hope you all have a chance to celebrate special times with family and friends.


For a wonderful holiday giveaway, visit Diet Dessert and Dogs and enter to win a great cookbook! You have until Dec. 24 to add a comment for a chance to win.

December 15, 2009

I'm the winner ... I feel so random / winter fruit salad with pomegranate

"We are happy to let you know that your blog was randomly selected as the winner for this week's Foodie Blogroll "POM Wonderful Comment to Win Giveaway" giveaway!
You will receive a receive a package containing: 1 bottle of each flavor of POM Juice (100%, Blueberry, Mango, Cherry, Kiwi, Nectarine) 1 POMx Tea, 1 POMx Iced Coffee, a POM branded journal, a POM pen and a POM branded tote bag made from recycled goods!"

The Foodie Blog Roll Contests: Winner!

This is the email I recently received with the good news that I won a gift package from Pom Wonderful. I've been feeling kind of unlucky lately with my back and all, and this certainly cheered me up. The package came, and I'm excited to be sampling all the Pom flavors. (The iced coffee and the bars contain dairy so I won't be sampling them. And there wasn't a tote bag.)

First I tried the blueberry-pomegranate juice and it was delicious, though I thought the blueberry flavor was overpowered by the pomegranate. My son thought the opposite so I guess you'll have to taste that one for yourself. The cherry flavor, on the other hand, came through loud and strong. Mostly I just drink the juice rather than use it for cooking, but I did use some of the cherry-pomegranate juice for a fruit salad I was concocting for dessert.

Winter fruit salad with pomegranate
For the salad I used one large org. honey crisp apple, one large org. red bartlett pear, one large org. navel orange, two small org. bananas and one pomegranate. The apple and pear were cut into small cubes, the orange was peeled and each segment cut into thirds, the bananas were sliced. The pomegranate seeds were mixed into the salad except for about 1/3 cup which was held back and placed on top.

Before peeling the orange I zested about a teaspoon of the peel to use in the dressing. First, as the fruit was added to the bowl, it was mixed with the juice of half a small lemon to keep it from browning. When all the fruit was cut and mixed together, I made a simple sauce of about 1/4 cup of cherry POM juice with a small splash of vanilla, and the orange zest. This was mixed with the salad before it was topped with the extra seeds. The juice gave the fruit a mellow, rosy glow and a gentle, undertone of mysterious flavor. Along with small baked goods, it was a very pleasant way to end a casual company dinner.

Now I'm off to sample another POM flavor!

December 11, 2009

Bake sale this weekend

I'm still not "back" to normal so this post will be short. Even though my back is still hurting, I was able to bake all afternoon for a bake sale, test recipes for Celine and Joni's new cookbook, and bake tomorrow night's dessert. Here's some of the results.

I tested Oreo Cookie Cookies (top photo) for the cookbook, and just like the title implies, they have actual pieces of Oreos (well, Newman O's). Some of these will go to the bake sale because they're much too dangerous to have around the house!

I also made Cinn-ful Sweet Potato Cookies from Go Dairy Free. I made them with pumpkin purée, and they're great. I added raisins and dried cranberries. (Thanks, Alicia, for making the recipe available.)

And even though I recently said I would try other recipes from Sweet Freedom, I compulsively made butterscotch blondies, yet again. Sheesh.

If you're in the Seattle area this weekend, stop by Sidecar For Pig's Peace and buy some vegan baked goods. You'll be helping to support the Pigs Peace Animal Sanctuary.

December 05, 2009

Say what?

Taking it easy ...

(I've done something stupid and thrown out my back so no cooking for me for a while. And I can't work at my computer. I'm typing this on my husband's laptop while lying in bed, and it sucks. I just happened to have this "filler post" sitting around in case I ever needed it, and this seems like a pretty good time to cash it in. Hope to be blogging again soon. Until then, I'll keep reading your blogs though I may not be doing much commenting.)
I first heard the expression "say what?" when I moved to the Midwest. Now that I'm in the Pacific Northwest, not so much. I guess it's better than, "huh?" It means, "what did you say?" Anyway, here's what I say to a poll I found during vegan mofo. It's shorter than a similar poll that was also going around, and thus more appropriate to my short attention span. I never used it during vegan mofo, so here it is now.

1. What single thing most inspired you to take the leap from being an omnivore/vegetarian to being a vegan?
I recently posted about this - it was a health thing that triggered the conversion, but it was built on the triumvirate of ethical, planetary and health issues.

2. Are you 100% vegan (food wise at least) or do you sometimes eat non-vegan food, and if do so, under what circumstances does it usually happen?
I never knowingly eat non-vegan food.* I also buy vegan toiletries and household products. I buy vegan shoes and accessories. I don't buy wool or down. But, although I've donated most of my leather shoes, I still have some old leather shoes that I intend to wear out. *I don't buy honey and prefer not to eat it but I can't say I never do. I buy vegan vitamins but medication is a gray area. And my dog isn't vegan. :o(

3. Where do you stand on the whole B12 thing? Do you take supplements, eat fortified foods, do you even care? (not to preach but you really should!)
I take supplements.

4. Which rocks – Tofu, seitan, or that other stuff, what do you call it, Tempeh?
I love tempeh - it's my favorite. But I also love tofu and seitan.

5. What are your top 5 vegan meals?
This is hard. Baked polenta with braised greens and tofu, spicy winter squash soup, chickpea salad, pasta with artichoke hearts and olives, anything with kale

6. Are you vegan and proud, get used to it! Or do you sometimes keep it quiet? You know what I mean!
I'm kind of a live and let live vegan. I'm happy to oblige if asked about veganism, and can be quite persuasive (obnoxious, if you will), but I don't like to force my opinions about food choices on others.

7. What is your all-time favorite vegan cookbook?
I'm very bad at picking favorites. It's probably because I'm a Libra and can't make decisions. I have so many cookbooks, I don't know the answer to this question. Lorna Sass' books are very reliable. Crescent Dragonwagon uses big flavors. Madhur Jaffrey's world Vegetarian is cool.

8. What is your favorite vegan food blog?
Favorite. Favorite. I have lots of favorites - I read so many - but I can't pick just one. See answer number 7.

9. What is the most annoying thing about being vegan? Come on, you can have a good rant if you want, you’re amongst friends!
1. Going to restaurants and having to verify which things are vegan. (As in, "what about the soup stock? So, the vegetable soup is made with chicken broth? Can I get the potatoes without milk and butter?") 2. Having salad be the only vegan choice when it doesn't even include such simple add-ins as chickpeas, sunflower seeds or nuts. 3. Enduring the smug attitudes of so-called "foodies" who think they are somehow more sophisticated than vegans because they eat octopus and foie gras.

10. What food do you really hate (vegan food that is)?
I really HATE the flavor of anise. I HATE it in black licorice - ugh - and in fennel. Strangely enough, when fresh fennel is baked, it tastes good! I dislike slimy okra. I don't like nuts in baked goods or ice cream but will eat them in salads.

November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving has come and gone

My plate from bottom left: stuffed, roasted seitan with mushroom gravy, salad, potato kugel, roasted veggies and figs, herbed orange-cranberry relish

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and most people have moved on, but I'm still dragging my feet about my Thanksgiving post. Please indulge me while I do a little blurb about our feast so I can move on, too. We had the whole family at our home this year which was a unique treat for us since we've not lived in the same city with all our kids in a long time. The guests brought contributions to the meal so the work was spread around a little. I got so caught up in the celebrating that I forgot to photograph some parts of the feast, like the delicious potato kugel brought by our oldest son and daughter-in-law. This is an old family recipe that came to the U.S. with my Russian great-grandmother, and appears at nearly every family holiday event. It just wouldn't be a holiday without it. I forgot to photograph the Thai coconut corn soup based on a recipe in "Vegan Express" by Nava Atlas. I love this soup, and have served it to a LOT of people. (My adapted recipe appears at the end of this post.) And I didn't photograph the mushroom gravy.

The main dish for Thanksgiving at our house is always stuffed seitan. Here you see it (uncooked) in the baking dish with the stuffing. My husband's fingers are keeping the very elastic seitan from shrinking down into the pan while I do a photo shoot. The stuffing is brown rice, wild rice, home-made-bread cubes, mushrooms, celery, shredded carrots, onions, dried cranberries, herbs and spices, and maybe other things, too.

The seitan is first rolled out and then transferred to the dish, where it's filled, and the top folded over and sealed. It's always a stressful and comical process to roll out the stretchy seitan and get it into the dish before it shrinks up, but this year I made a brilliant discovery. I rolled the seitan onto a large sheet of parchment paper, and it seemed to stick in place. My husband and I then lifted the whole thing up and placed it, paper and all, into the dish, to be stuffed. (I also added chickpea flour to the seitan mix which may have made it more pliable.)

After the stuffed seitan was baked, we lifted it out of the baking dish and onto the serving platter using the paper. It was so much easier then trying to un-stick it from the pan! I raised the seitan up a little with a spatula and slid the paper out.

In the photo above you see the vegetables — Brussels sprouts, turnips, carrots and potatoes — before they went into the oven to roast. When they were nearly done, dried figs were mixed in. I forgot to photograph the veggies after they were roasted to perfection with olive oil and herbs.

For starters, we had various raw veggies, olives, pickles, crackers, hummus and Tings. (Yes, that's right, Tings.) We also had bowls of Thai coconut corn soup. This soup takes only minutes to make but tastes like it took hours.

Here's the herbed cranberry-orange relish I blogged about recently. This time I remembered to decorate it.

This is the fabulous salad brought by our middle son and his girlfriend. It was delicious.

We had two desserts. We had almond twilles filled with pumpkin mousse. (Our mini-guest was particularly taken by the mousse and wanted more, more, more...)

And we had a pumpkin chocolate spice cake from this recipe, minus the anise (I HATE anise. Ugh.) and with only 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. (note: The ganache from the recipe didn't work for me — there was way too much liquid and it turned into chocolate milk. Luckily I had extra chocolate on hand and made my own version of ganache using only 1/4 cup of non-dairy milk, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance.)

Because I've made several alterations to the coconut corn soup recipe, and because the original appears in several places on the Web, I'm going to share my version, here. This is the perfect soup to make when you want something that doesn't take much time or effort but tastes great.

Thai coconut corn soup (adapted from a recipe by Nava Atlas)
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 to 5 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into short, narrow strips
  • One 15-ounce can light coconut milk
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1½ cups rice milk
  • One 16-ounce bag frozen corn
  • 2 teaspoons good quality curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste, more or less to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • juice from 1/2 small lime or lemon
  • ½ cup minced fresh cilantro or Italian parsley
  1. Heat the oil in a small soup pot. Add the garlic, the white parts of the scallions, and the bell pepper. Sauté over medium-low heat until softened and golden, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut milk, rice milk, broth, corn, curry powder, the green parts of the scallions. If using the curry paste, dissolve it in a small amount of hot soup before adding to the pot.
  3. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Season with salt and citrus juice, and remove from the heat.
  4. Serve, with cilantro or parsley and fresh ground black pepper.
Yield: 6 servings of spicy soup.
You can substitute two cups of rice milk for the vegetable broth if desired. I've done it both ways and I like the broth version best, but both are good.

November 23, 2009

Cookies and stew

I've been collecting recipes like crazy — actually printing them out instead of just bookmarking them — but have been cooking very little. We've been eating out much more than usual, and that always seems to dampen my cooking urges. Unfortunately, we haven't been very happy with the restaurant food we've been sampling except for one place. We really enjoyed our brunch at Wayward Café, and tried to go there two other times without checking their hours, only to find it closed. You'd think all these unpleasant restaurant experiences would inspire me to cook more, but it's not happening. Maybe I'm saving my food-cooking energy for Thanksgiving, or maybe I'm just in a rut.

Last night there was nothing planned for dinner when our son and daughter-in-law extended a last minute invitation to come to their house.

Our d-i-l was making Buckwheat Stew With Tofu and Kale from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian," which they had just borrowed from the library along with "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar," by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romaro. She didn't have the right kind of buckwheat so she made the stew with farrow, instead, and it was absolutely delicious — rich and satisfying. The white things that look like potato pieces are actually whole cloves of stewed garlic — soft, fragrant, and tasting like it was roasted in the oven. Kale is one of my favorite vegetables, and this recipe really showcased its winning qualities. I wish I had some right now.

For dessert we had Peanut butter oatmeal cookies from the above mentioned cookie-invasion cookbook. These were some of the best peanut butter cookies I've tasted, with excellent texture and crunch. I think I ate four. Tsk.


Animal, Vegetable, Miserable
by Gary Steiner

Have you seen this Op-Ed piece in the Sunday NY Times? It's pretty unusual to see such a blatantly unapologetic essay on the moral wrongness of killing animals for human needs, in the mainstream press. Take a look.



November 19, 2009

Whole baked squash / Bean and corn fritters /microwave popcorn

My son thinks it's amazing and stupid (amazingly stupid?) that I've never made microwave popcorn; it seems perfectly reasonable to me since I've never owned a microwave. This has come up because lately I've been thinking about, and wanting popcorn, and our hot air popper was left at our house in Wisconsin when we came to Seattle. I assume the renters are using it, and we don't have a popper here, nor do we have an appropriate pot to use for popping corn on the stove. I don't think I can use a pot belonging to the people who own the house we're renting as it could get wrecked by popping corn in it. At least that's been my experience. After half-heartedly looking for a used air popper at Goodwill (though truthfully, we don't really want to accumulate more "stuff" since we have to move again in July), my son pointed out we have a microwave, and could make microwave popcorn. But that stuff is expensive and usually has flavorings and chemicals I don't want to eat. After doing a little Internet research, I've learned you can make your own microwave popcorn in a paper bag. I'm curious to try this to see if it works for me. Obviously it works for others but ya never know until you try it yourself. Has anyone tried this?

So I've learned a new trick this week. Actually it was the second new trick. The first was learned by my husband this past weekend — he learned to bake a squash whole. That's right, no grunting, groaning, teeth gnashing or cursing while trying to cut open a winter squash that seems to be made of steel. He just put the whole thing into the oven and took it out an hour later all soft and easy to open. It happened to be a spaghetti squash which we served with artichoke spaghetti sauce and steamed kale. (I think my husband would eat artichoke spaghetti sauce every day, whereas I prefer a little variety.) You can find more complete instructions here. I found this post after my husband had learned the trick elsewhere, and it's a good description of what to do.

Rambling on, I saw a recipe in Vegetarian Times for chickpea croquettes. I was particularly interested in making this recipe because it contained a whole cup of chickpea flour, and I'd just recently purchased a bag. Once in the kitchen, of course, I realized that yes, I had the chickpea flour, but almost none of the remaining ingredients. Since I changed the recipe so much, I think it will be OK to print it.

I didn't love the croquettes the first night I made them — the taste was good but the texture was weird — almost sandy. I cooked a bunch and served them with the leftover artichoke sauce (not a good idea), a wok-full of a bok choy-related greens with garlic, and steamed rice. I wasn't planning to blog about them because they just weren't up to the standard I adhere to for blog posts. I put the leftover, uncooked mix into the refrigerator.

The next day I took the leftover mix, added frozen corn, and fried the fritters in a small amount of oil in the wok. I don't know if it was the overnight rest in the refrigerator or the addition of the corn, but they were FANTASTIC. Perhaps the steam from the frozen corn changed the texture, or maybe the batter just needed more solids in there with all that garbanzo flour. The corn definitely improved the taste and texture. If you make these, eat them hot off the griddle, when they're at their prime. I ate mine unadorned, and they tasted great, but I can see them topped with a sauce of Veganaise and salsa. I'm posting the recipe with the corn included. I know I'll be making these again.

Bean and corn fritters
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (I tend to use less salt)
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 15-ounce can canellini beans, rinsed, drained and partially mashed
  • 4 to 6 green onions, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • a large carrot, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  1. Whisk together the chickpea flour, chili powder, salt, chipotle powder and dehydrated onion. Whisk in the hot water.
  2. Stir in the green onions, carrots, cilantro, corn and beans.
  3. Form into fritters and cook in a small amount of cooking oil on a medium-hot, non-stick pan or griddle. You could also use well-seasoned cast iron. You can use a 1/4-cup measuring cup to mold the fritters, if desired. Fill the measuring cup about halfway. (You don't want them to be too thick.)
  4. Cook until the bottom is brown, about 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook until the fritters feel firm and done, about 3 to 4 minutes. I like to press them down a bit as they cook.
I ate mine plain for breakfast but I can see them rolled into tortillas with lettuce and salsa, or even stuffed into pita for lunch or dinner.


Head over to One Frugal Foodie to enter a one-day only giveaway for "1000 Vegan Recipes" by Robin Robertson. This contest ends at midnight, Nov. 20, 2009.

November 15, 2009

Stuffed squash / squash muffins

Those gorgeous winter squashes are just so hard to resist, sitting there all colorful and shapely in bins and boxes at farmers markets and coops. There's a growing collection of squash at our house that we know we should use, but no one wants to cut up. Cursing to myself is not uncommon whenever I try to open a winter squash, and knives have been known to break in the process. I think the cook's friendliest squash is delicata - it's not only sweet and delicious, it opens without a fight. Delicata doesn't store well, though, and the time had come to use ours. The squashes were all split, cleaned and baked until tender, and several were stuffed with the filling for Harvest-Stuffed Acorn Squash from "The Vegan Table" by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. (I got the cookbook for my birthday.) This dish was just as tasty as the other recipes we've tried from "Vegan Table," but really, this post isn't about stuffed squash. It's about finding a delicious use for leftover squash ...

It's about MUFFINS — soft, spicy, sweet, yummy, warm, fragrant muffins. I hate to brag about my own muffin recipe — it's so unattractive — but these were really irresistible. I've had three, so I should know.

I wanted to base the muffins on a gingerbread recipe I used to make, but when I realized my favorite gingerbread recipe hadn't made it to Seattle and was back in the Midwest, and I wouldn't be able to use it as a guide, I started looking for a replacement. But I couldn't find just what I was looking for. I wanted to make muffins with leftover squash, and spice them with fresh ginger. I also wanted to try the coconut oil I just bought (to make tuilles), but wanted to keep the fat to 1/4 cup. I also wanted to keep the amount of sugar fairly low. I worked out the proportion of liquid to dry and here's the result:

Gingery spice muffins
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (stir well before measuring, spoon into measuring cup and level with knife)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (non-aluminum)
  • 1/4 cup organic virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, finely grated ginger (I used a microplane), don't skimp
  • 1/2 cup mashed leftover squash or canned pumpkin
Preheat oven to 350˚F • lightly oil 12-cup muffin pan
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the flaxseed and 6 tablespoons water. Set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, whisk in (or use a wooden spoon) the orange juice concentrate and additional 1/4 cup water.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda and baking powder.
  3. In a large bowl, with a wooden spoon, beat together the coconut oil, sugar and agave until combined and kind of fluffy. (takes about a minute) Mix in the grated ginger. Add the flax mixture and thoroughly combine.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Gently stir and fold until well-combined. Do not over-mix.
  5. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes or until done. Turn out onto a rack to cool. Enjoy warm or cool.

November 11, 2009

Holiday foods cooking class / herb-infused spiced cranberry-orange relish

Almond tuiles with pumpkin mousse
When I was very young, my family had a habit of going out to dinner on Sunday night — and I don't use the word 'habit' lightly. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia's Chinatown, and then to my cousin's house in West Philly. When I say we went to a Chinese restaurant every Sunday, I mean we went to the SAME restaurant every single week - the exact same one in a neighborhood of hundreds of choices. Not only did we go to the same restaurant each week, we ordered the same food. We didn't need to see a menu because my father ordered won-ton soup, egg rolls, chicken chow mein, pork fried rice, spare ribs, and either egg fu yung or lo mein. When I started going to Chinese restaurants as an adult, before I became a vegetarian, I was overwhelmed to see page after page of food choices. There were an overwhelming number of dishes that had no resemblance to chow mein. Where had I been? I started trying different things. (Now that I'm a vegan, one of the things that bugs me about going out to dinner is the limited choice vegans have at so many restaurants! At normal (as opposed to vegan) Chinese restaurants there are usually about five things.)

Holidays can be kind of like my family's Chinese restaurant habit, when we get locked into a pattern of serving the same favorite foods over and over. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the holiday menu becomes a family tradition that we look forward to. But sometimes it's nice to shake things up a little and try something different — maybe add one new dish to the menu.

This was what my husband and I had in mind when we recently attended another cooking class at PCC Natural Markets. The class was called Vegetarian Holiday Feast and was taught by Birgitte Atonsen N.T.P., nutritional therapy practitioner, professional whole foods chef and culinary instructor. Birgitte, owner of Nature's Way Food, has been developing and refining her recipes since she became a vegetarian at the age of 12.

This was the menu: roasted vegetable nut loaf with mushroom béchamel sauce, mashed yams with rosemary, herb-infused spiced cranberry-orange relish, and the spectacular dessert combo of almond tuilles with pumpkin mousse. This was seriously delicious food, and I wish I could give you all the recipes, but Birgitte is working on a cookbook at the moment. The cookbook is not vegetarian, but rather it will be a cookbook filled with recipes that can be altered to accommodate any dietary need. Birgitte wants to provide people with a way to cook for friends with special diets without having to go out and buy different sets of cookbooks. Need those cookies to be GF? She will tell you how. Are you an omni with veggie friends coming to dinner? Brigitte will offer alternatives in the recipes to make them vegetarian or vegan.

This Thanksgiving I plan to incorporate two of the dishes from the class into my menu. I'm going to serve the cranberry-orange relish instead of my traditional cranberry-apple sauce, and the almond tuiles with pumpkin mousse instead of pumpkin pie. I admit I just can't break my 'holiday habits' enough to change my favorite dishes, and I'm looking forward to seitan stuffed with wild rice, and potato kugel. This will be the first Thanksgiving in a very long time that our entire immediate family will be together, and the first Thanksgiving my husband and I will spend with our little granddaughter, so it should be exciting, fun and delicious.

Herb-infused, spiced cranberry-orange relish
Makes about three cups.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
  • 1/2 organic orange with skin on, cut up for ease of blending
  • 1/2 cup orange juice concentrate
  • 1 cinnamon stick (2-1/2 inches)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Rapidura sugar (or other evaporated cane juice-type sugar)
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1/3 cup port (optional but recommended)
  • 2 (approx. 10-ounce) bags fresh cranberries - mine had 12 ounces each
  1. In a food processor or blender blend orange and orange juice concentrate until smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into a medium pot and add cinnamon, cloves, rosemary or thyme, sugar, water and port (if using).
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes.
  4. Add the cranberries and simmer until the cranberries burst and mixture starts to thicken, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir often to keep from burning.
  5. Place relish into a container and refrigerate.
  6. When chilled, remove the cinnamon stick and rosemary or thyme.
I also added 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract after the sauce was removed from the heat, although it wasn't in the recipe. When I make the cranberries for Thanksgiving, I'm going to slice the leftover half orange, cut the slices into half-moons and make a pinwheel garnish in the center of the dish. Sorry to say I ate the orange before thinking of the garnish when I made the dish for this post.
(recipe © Birgitte Antonsen. Please do not reproduce.)


Try something new
If you'd like to add something new to your holiday celebrations this year, you might consider purchasing the e-cookbook, In a Vegetarian Kitchen: A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving by cookbook author and artist, Nava Atlas. It's filled with recipes, cooking information and tips for holiday meals by the author, and also includes recipes from other well-known cookbook authors and bloggers. It's only $8.95, and profits from this project will be donated to humanitarian charities concerned with hunger, micro-financing for women in developing countries and the alleviation of human trafficking.


Vegetarian alert - What's in that jar of Planter's Dry Roasted Peanuts?
Peanuts, Salt, Sugar, Cornstarch, Monosodium Glutamate (Flavor Enhancer) Gelatin, Corn Syrup Solids, Dried Yeast, Paprika, Onion and Garlic Powders, Spices, Natural Flavor.

Gelatin is an animal-derived product so look elsewhere for your peanuts if you're a vegetarian or inviting vegetarians to your home. You can find other varieties of Planter's peanuts and mixed nuts that are gelatin-free, so READ THE LABEL to know what you're getting!

November 07, 2009

Uwajimaya / tamarind-tofu-cabbage-bowl

My cousin is an only child, and I am one of three siblings - not that any of us are children anymore — but we were. He had a LOT of toys, and he didn't like to share. My cousin lived in a large four bedroom row-house with his parents and our grandparents. That house was a source of seemingly endless entertainment for my brothers and me. For one thing, it had one of those magical double staircases — you could go to the second floor from the living room, travel through the upstairs hallway to the rear of the house, and descend a second staircase into the back pantry. The second-floor area with the second staircase was dark, cluttered and spooky, making it very alluring for games of hide-and-seek or "disappearing cousin." Technically, we weren't allowed to use the rear staircase because it was "too dark," "too dangerous," "too cluttered." All the more reason why we were unstoppable in its use. But, as enticing as this physical aspect of the house was, nothing was as alluring as the toy room.

There was one bedroom in the house dedicated solely to toy storage. The room was stacked, floor to ceiling along all four walls, with every game, puzzle, science kit and general toy that could be imagined. My memory has the stuff stacked three-deep so that there wasn't a lot of walking space left, but that could be time embellishing memory. Or not. My cousin was the ruler of this cache, and it was up to him to decide which toys we could play with. Now, I'm not saying he was selfish, or a tyrant, but he was a little arbitrary about which things we could use. I knew he'd never let us use the chemistry set, but there were certain other things I gravitated towards, and was often frustrated by his iron grip. His parents encouraged him (sort of) to share, but didn't make him.

He'd usually let us play Clue, but not always. Sometimes he'd allow the Lincoln Logs, which was good since I was the only one who liked them. The boys would tire of them quickly and go off to run up and down the staircases while I built farms and housing developments. But the real object of my desire, the Legos, were usually off limits. I'd plead and beg for those Legos, and only rarely would he concede. The cuz had a most remarkable collection of tiny little Legos, including little white window frames and shutters. He had zillions of intricate pieces, and playing with them was heaven. My brothers would soon get bored, and I'd have them all to myself until my cousin required them back in their storage location.

I'd love to go back in time and have a glimpse at that room again to see if it really contained every toy made, or just seemed like it. It was a little daunting to be in the presence of so much stuff I wanted. Kind of like last weekend, actually, when I found myself in the grown-up food equivalent of the toy room.

Part of our stash from Umajiwaya
When we walked into Uwajimaya Inc in Seattle's International District, I literally burst out laughing. Uwajimaya is an Asian supermarket that has everything you could possibly want, from fresh vegetables to the most obscure seasoning AND an entire gift and kitchen tool department. I didn't know which way to turn. You can get one hour of free parking if you spend six dollars, and the minute we walked into the store, it was pretty clear that wouldn't be a problem. We didn't buy any veggies, though they were sorely tempting, having just been to the farmers market the day before, but headed toward the aisles of Asian foods. I had a shopping list that magically expanded as I spied more and more ingredients I suddenly remembered "I just had to have." We found all the expected things like dried mushrooms, brown rice vinegar, rice noodles and yuba, but also unexpected things like an organic mix of brown jasmine-red-black rice from Thailand. We were able to find locally made tofu and tempeh, as well as Shark brand sriracha (without preservatives) in a giant bottle for just $2.99, less than we'd previously paid for a small bottle.

The first things we used from our shopping expedition were the tofu and rice in a recipe from our "Vegan Yum Yum" cookbook. Though not an Asian dish per se, the tamarind tofu cabbage bowl was satisfyingly delicious. It was a simple and tasty last minute dinner solution.

Everything we've made from the cookbook so far has been easy and delectable, and this was no exception.

The rice reminded me of a delicious Thai rice we'd been given as a gift some time ago. When this rice is gone, I think I might make my own three-rice blend from the rice available at the coop. I'll use a jasmine brown rice for the bulk of the mix, a red rice and a black rice.

November 03, 2009

Bread, pizza - fast and delicious / kale salad

Last night I attended a book talk by Zoë François who is on tour promoting her book, "Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which she co-wrote with Jeff Hertzberg. I'm not such a big bread eater but I do love to bake bread. I like to experiment with different flours and methods to create beautiful breads with great texture and flavor. I've made naturally fermented breads (no yeast or starter) as well as made my own sourdough starter to create deli-style rye breads. I've made bagels, pita, tortillas, soft pretzels and naan. I usually make my own pizza dough, and sometimes I make crackers. I've made bread that took days to make from start to finish, and I once even hand-built a large ceramic bowl to mix large batches of dough in because I couldn't find one I liked.

Now I'm having fun making bread that takes almost no effort or time, á la Zoë and Jeff's technique. As I 've mentioned in a previous post, a fairly wet dough is mixed up right in a storage container, and left two hours to rest. A hunk of it is quickly shaped, rested and baked on a stone, and the remaining dough is stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks so it's ready to use anytime. As the dough ages, it develops more character and sourdough flavor. When the dough is used up, a new batch can be made in the container without washing it first, to jump start the sourdough qualities that give the bread its character.

I've got a bread (pictured above) on the counter, and dough for one remaining loaf stored in the refrigerator. A few days before the loaf above was baked, dough from the same batch was used for pizza. I made these things using the master recipe from the book mentioned above. I've been making whole grain breads using this method for quite a while but I had been treating dough meant for pizza a little differently - using more flour in the mix for a firmer dough. It's a lot easier to get the pizza from the peel to the stone when it's got some body. I used the wetter dough for the pizza (shown below), and had some difficulties which I meant to ask Zoë about last night but completely forgot. I sprinkled extra flour when I formed the crust, and lots of cornmeal on the peel so the pizza would slide onto the stone, but when I tried to transfer the pizza to the hot stone in my oven, it wouldn't go without leaving the toppings behind! I finally gave up and cajoled it into a pan.

It seemed to me the extra moisture in the dough steamed the crust in the pan, making the texture a bit more spongy than the crispy, chewy effect I look for in my crust. It was still good, but not perfect. I thought about next time putting the sauce and cheese on the crust, sliding it onto the stone, then quickly adding the bulkier toppings while the pizza is in the oven. I don't like this idea because for one thing, it sounds dangerous, and for another, the oven heat will escape, and the oven should be hot when the pizza first goes in. I've got some more experimenting to do or questions to ask. Or maybe I should just wait for Zoë and Jeff's next book to come out. They're working on one about pizza and flatbread!

The pizza, by the way, had a very thin layer of Follow Your Heart mozzarella topped by a sprinkle of Daiya mozzarella. This combination produced the best tasting pizza I've had in quite a while. The real stars of the topping, though, were broccoli slices and mushrooms. To go with the pizza we had a salad of massaged lacinato kale, shredded carrot, baby salad greens and edamame. The kale was very thinly sliced (roll into a thick wad and slice crosswise) and rubbed with olive oil and a little salt. The edamame was sprinkled with umeboshi vinegar and left at room temperature for a half hour to marinate. The salad was dressed with olive oil and lemon.

You can visit to get more information about making artisan no-knead breads. It really does take about five minutes to mix it up — but there's still the resting and rising that any bread must go through. The big difference is the dough waiting in the refrigerator to be baked into the next great loaf.

note: The seeds on this loaf are black mustard, caraway, dill, and crushed red pepper. The mustard seed was surprisingly delicious in this combination!