March 29, 2009

Potato, green bean, kidney bean curry

Whenever my son announces he wants to cook dinner I'm delighted because I know we'll be having great food. He doesn't use recipes in a conventional way or measure ingredients, so it's usually hard to pin him down on just what he's added; but this time he was inspired by a recipe from one of my favorite Indian cookbooks, and I grilled him on what he did, so I could share his interpretation of the recipe.

He started with "Spiced Green Beans" from Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi and David Baird." With this recipe as inspiration, he changed spices and added ingredients to come up with a truly delicious main course dish.

Potato-green bean-kidney bean curry
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons oil (or half oil and half Earth Balance margarine)
  • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 12 ounces fresh green beans, stems trimmed
  • 12 ounces canned chopped tomatoes in their juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 small potatoes, cubed and steamed until half cooked
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • handful chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt to taste
  1. Heat the oil and fry the cumin seeds and mustard seeds until the cumin seeds darken and the mustard pops and turns gray, about a minute.
  2. Add the onion and saute until it softens, about a minute or two. Add the green beans and cook about 2–3 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and simmer about a minute.
  4. Add the water, potatoes, turmeric and kidney beans, cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  5. Add the sugar, some cilantro and salt to taste, cover and simmer about 10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the sauce reduces and thickens.
  6. Garnish and serve with brown basmati rice.

March 27, 2009

Quick post on my continuing affair with granola

Affair? Yes. I've fallen in love with granola. I've been making granola pretty regularly - I'm obsessed, actually - ever since I posted a recipe. I've revised the recipe slightly by adding a cup of raw walnuts, which toast up to crunchy perfection. I also mostly use regular rolled oats instead of instant (or a mix of both) and I've changed my mind about the chocolate chips. The first time I added them I thought it was daring — now I think it's necessary! Sometimes I add an extra cup of oats (7 instead of 6) so it will last a little longer, and I tried using dried apples instead of dates. Dates are better. I've gotten lazy about the stirring, too. I recommend stirring in from the edges every 10 minutes, but I only did it every 20 last time. I actually look forward to getting up and eating breakfast when the granola is in the cupboard. Who knew that was all it would take...

Buffy says hi

March 25, 2009

Vegan Pad Thai

We went to another cooking class last weekend but this one wasn't vegan. It was a Chinese spring roll, scallion pancake and won ton soup class. I checked with the instructor beforehand, and he promised to include some vegan friendly versions. He did make a vegan (and a shrimp and a chicken) spring roll, and the pancakes were vegan, but our samples were pretty meager compared to the rest of the class, who got to sample everything, including pork won tons and soup. Oh well. It was great to watch his technique for rolling up spring rolls and folding won tons. And the pancakes were excellent. I admit that I find it incredibly exciting to watch a professional chef mince garlic and ginger, whether I get to taste the results or not, and our teacher minced the garlic so fast you could barely see the knife move. (Is my life too sheltered?) He gave us recipes but he didn't actually measure anything himself as he cooked. He said he had a "feeling" about how much to add, which makes perfect sense to me. I know that feeling. I'm itching to go make scallion pancakes right now without a recipe, but then I won't be able to post about it. (We had scallion pancakes in Seattle but they were much greasier than these.) I'm sorry to say I didn't take any pictures. Honestly, the food didn't stay on the plates long enough to photograph it - there were some very hungry people in that class! The teacher will be doing a vegan Chinese class in May. Woohoo.

I don't have anything to post yet from the class (I may make the pancakes), but I do have something from the last class we took. I'm finally going to post a recipe for vegan pad thai, but first a few words about tamarind. I've been reading about the tamarind fruit and I can't quite figure out how to describe this ingredient correctly - there are so many versions. I've only experienced two of the forms, so I'm limiting myself to those. The tamarind in our class came in a can and was pre-mixed. It was a "cooking" tamarind rather than the sweeter dessert kind of tamarind. We just opened the can and poured
it out. That seemed to work. At our house we have a small jar of something called tamarind concentrate. It is actually from India, not Thailand, and is quite thick and tart with a little jab of sweet. If this is what you have, I'm recommending you mix a teaspoon into 1/4 cup of water and the juice of a lime for a little extra tang. Add judiciously, until it seems right to you. You may need all of it or not, depending on personal preference.

Pad Thai (adapted and printed with permission)
  • 2 limes, one juiced and one cut into wedges or half moons
  • 1/2 cup canned tamarind paste (look for "cooking tamarind" rather than sweet tamarind) or 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate in 1/4 cup water and the juice of one lime
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground dried chilies (more to taste)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/3 cup agavé syrup
  • 3 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 package Thai rice noodles (1/4"-wide flat noodles)
  • 2 tablespoons veg. oil
  • 8 green onions, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 2/3 cups bean sprouts (half will be cooked and half used for garnish)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1" x 1/2" x 1/8" thick (or whatever small size you want)
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut small (I'm sure I used much more than 2 cups. Who measures broccoli?)
  • 8 ounces firm tofu, small cubes (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chopped peanuts, toasted (best if you toast them yourself but pre-toasted will do)
  1. Soak the rice noodles covered with warm water in a large bowl until they are limp and white, about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook until golder, about 1 minute. Add the carrots, broccoli and tofu (if using) and stir-fry about 4 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles and add to the wok. Add bean sprouts, green onions, shallots, tamari, tamarind, agave and chilies. Toss until the noodles are heated through and the veggies are cooked.
  4. Sprinkle with peanuts, bean sprouts and raw green onions and serve immediately with a slice of lime.

March 21, 2009

Spinach and tempeh pie from Celine

Not exactly pie-shaped pie a la Mr. X (read on...)

I printed out Celine's recipe for spinach and tempeh pie because it looked so delicious, and imagine my surprise to pass by the kitchen to find "Mr. X" (identity protected due to content) preparing to make it for dinner. Seeing mutilated oranges on the counter top, I paused to observe. "Is orange zest the white stuff inside the skin?", he inquired. "No, it's the orange stuff on the outside — not the white stuff," I replied. I returned a short time later to observe Mr X trying to scrape off the zest with a pastry crimper. "Here, use this zester, it will be easier," I suggested, offering a quick zesting demo. Everything under control, I was off again, expecting to be called back for the crust-making. Mr. X had never made any sort of pie before. The next time I passed by the kitchen, Mr. X could be seen intently scraping dough out of the food processor with his fingers. "Be sure to use a light touch with the dough," I said. Mr. X is lacking the "light-touch" gene when it comes to baking. He's been known to produce cake with the texture of a yoga mat. But I went away, thinking it was probably too late anyway. And I'd had such high hopes for making this savory pie.

The next time I saw the pie was when it came out of the oven. Mr. X baked it on a piece of waxed paper instead of parchment paper, as called for in the recipe (which could account for the burning smell in the kitchen). He also shaped it kind of like a loaf of bread instead of a pie, but in spite of everything, IT WAS GOOD! And the crust, though perhaps a little harder than intended, was delicious in texture and taste. You should definitely go to this blog and get the recipe so you can make it, too. But don't use waxed paper!

p.s. The crust is made with spelt and tahini.

Be sure to visit Ricki's brand new blog location (Diet, Dessert and Dogs), and enter her contest to win a bottle of wonderful maple syrup! If you live in the Toronto area, you can also win a fabulous custom made chocolate layer cake. Click here.

March 19, 2009

Vegan Thai recipes (Tom kha, Thai apple salad)

Tom kha as prepared at the cooking class

You know how when you go to a Thai restaurant and ask about the fish sauce they say, "We don't put fish sauce in that." If you're like me, you're probably always kind of wondering if that's really true. We recently attended a vegan Thai cooking class and one of the instructors said when he was offered that "no fish sauce in here" assurance at a restaurant recently, he added that he was extremely allergic to fish and would become very sick very fast if he ate any. The waitress went off to the kitchen, engaged in a long conversation, and returned to inform him that all the sauces were created from pre-made mixes, and they all contained fish sauce and MSG. She added that all Thai restaurants use these sauces and anyone who tells you differently is lying. I'm not saying that's an absolute fact, but it makes me wonder.

It reminds me of a similar conversation I had a few years ago with my son. He had a friend working at a popular and esteemed Thai restaurant whose staff had assured us many times that we were not eating fish sauce. This friend said that all the sauces were made from mixes that contained not only fish sauce, but many other items that we would certainly not want to eat. I know when I go to a restaurant that all may not be as it appears, and I'm making a choice to trust the restaurant to tell me the truth about the food they serve. But I'm feeling a bit uneasy. We don't have any vegetarian-only restaurant choices where we live (this will change when we move) and if we want a night out without cooking, we have to take our chances.

Pad Thai photographed at the cooking class

Most of the time we cook our own food, and we just took a cooking class at Willy Street Coop to get some pointers on making Thai food, one of our favorite cuisines (except for the fish sauce!) at home. In the cooking class, taught by holistic health counselor Carrell Casey, we learned to make three very easy and delicious Thai dishes. We made Tom Kha, Pad Thai and Thai apple salad. The soup (tom kha) and pad thai were too salty for me, though they really tasted good. I'm making a few changes to get the sodium level down. The original soup recipe had 1/2 cup tamari, and regular vegetable broth. There was also red curry paste which contains salt. I'm using low-sodium vegetable broth, and much less tamari. I also added a green vegetable (bok choy) to the tom kha. I'm going to print my slightly revised recipes, and you can further revise them to suit your personal preference. The salad was tangy, refreshing and so simple to make. I'm not changing that at all!

I'm going to start with the soup and dessert and post the pad thai later, as we still have a few kinks to work out of the recipe. Although the pad thai worked perfectly in class, it hasn't worked so well at home. The first try was horrible looking and not so great tasting. I think we had a little problem with the tamarind. The second version tasted and looked fine, but was not very authentic, as several of the ingredients were missing. When we get it right, I'll post it. In the meantime, try the tom kha and the surprising apple dessert. (You can control the spiciness of the soup by adding more or less chili and curry paste.)

Tom kha (adapted and printed with permission)
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons red or green curry paste (Thai Kitchen makes a vegan version)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • 2 fresh green chilies, minced (less if you don't like spicy food)
  • about 10 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced into half moons
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 cups low-sodium veggie broth
  • 1 package firm tofu (16 oz.), sliced into thin triangles or cubes
  • 1 bunch bok choy, shredded roughly
  1. Saute onions and carrots in a soup pot or wok. When soft, add mushrooms and saute for a minute or two. Add bok choy and saute about 1 minute.
  2. Add veggie broth and coconut milk (Keep heat medium so milk doesn't burn.)
  3. Add curry paste, lime juice, tamari, agave, tofu and chilies. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Thai apple salad from the cooking class

Thai apple salad (printed with permission)
  • 4 large apples, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon agavé syrup
  • 1 green chili pepper, chopped fine
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 cups torn leaf lettuce or whole romaine leaves
  1. Mix lime juice, agavé, chili and salt in a bowl.
  2. Cut apples, add to bowl and toss to coat.
  3. Serve over a bed of lettuce.
Think "dairy-free" means "no dairy?" Think again. Our cooking class included information on food labeling from a vegan perspective. Here's a link to how to interpret food labeling terms.

March 15, 2009

Take time for tea

One of the sad things about leaving the place I've called home for so long is knowing that I won't be able to spend time with old friends whenever I want. We'll soon be 2,000 miles apart. So, the last two weekends have included time just to relax and talk with friends I don't see enough of because we're always so busy. Now that time is limited, we're trying to catch up. I live two blocks from a beautiful tea house and it has been our meeting spot of choice. It's a converted old house with many intriguingly decorated rooms on two floors. The tea house is also an art gallery so there are changing exhibits on the walls, and unique jewelry in the cases.

I often choose rooibus tea since it's high in anti-oxidants, has no caffeine and tastes really good, but this time we both had a mint blend. Below you can see the cozy corner where we sat, and the photo below that is one of the other, somewhat more exotic, rooms. If you ever find yourself in the Madison, Wis. area, I recommend Ma Cha Tea House for a soothing spot to sip tea and relax.

March 10, 2009

What's cooking? Udon, veggies, Vietnamese soup

It's been a stressful week as we're trying to find a place to live in the city where two of our our kids and their families live, nearly 2,000 miles away from where we live now. We've got our kids helping by visiting in person the places we find online, but it's still confusing to know what to do. We found what seemed like a perfect house to rent, but the kids think it might be a little too urban and not "neighborly" enough, and also too far from one of their homes. They looked at another one tonight they think would be good, but it's only for one year, which means we'd have to move again in a year. One minute I'm excited to be moving near the kids, and the next I'm upset about leaving our home and friends, and freaked out over how complicated the whole thing is. Not much of my energy has been going towards creative cooking, but that doesn't mean we haven't been eating well. We've been depending on old (and newer) favorites that we don't have to think about. I'm posting a meal my son made (he doesn't use recipes, and I walked in to late to see what he did) and a great soup we've been eating ever since I saw it on Vegan Feast Kitchen. Bryanna has graciously allowed me to reprint her recipe, and I've noted the changes we made to suit our tastes.

Here's a delicious udon, tofu and green pea stir fry created by my son.

The udon was accompanied by a red pepper, bok choy and mushroom dish, plus rice.

Make soup!
The following great recipe, which we recently tried and loved, comes from Notes From the Vegan Feast Kitchen written by Bryanna Clark Grogan, and is reprinted with permission. I loved it so much I wanted to share it with my readers.

Vegan Vietnamese Fisherman's soup
Servings: 6

The fresh-tasting soup, despite the long list of ingredients, is easy to put together. (If you are really in a hurry, you can use chopped garlic and ginger from jars, and already-shredded cabbage in a bag.) It's very low in calories and fat, but filling and spicy. You can use authentic Vietnamese ingredients, or substitute more common North American ones, still with good results. Bean sprouts are a must, though!

  • 6 large dried shiitake (or Chinese black forest) mushrooms
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 3 cups good-tasting vegetarian "chicken-style" broth
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (I use savoy)
  • 1 can (19 ounces) pineapple tidbits, unsweetened, with juice
  • 1 large onion, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, in matchstick pieces
  • 1 cup canned or fresh diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 stalks lemon grass OR 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped (1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon Asian (fish-free) red pepper sauce (or to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces medium-firm tofu OR extra-firm silken tofu, cut into small cubes (can be reduced-fat)
  • OPTIONAL: 2 tablespoons dulse flakes or nori flakes OR a small piece of kombu seaweed
    Last-minute additions:
    • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint, basil, or cilantro (or 2 teaspoons dried)
    • 2 tablespoons tamarind concentrate or paste OR 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
    • 2 pinches salt
      Garnish: fresh bean sprouts, and chopped or slivered green onions for garnish
      1. Soak the dried mushrooms for 30 minutes in the 2 cups boiling water, covered. After 30 minutes, drain them, saving the soaking broth. Trim off the tough stems, which you can discard. Slice the mushroom caps thinly. While the mushrooms soak, prepare all the other ingredients.
      2. In a large pot, mix the broth, cabbage, pineapple and juice, onion, carrot, sliced mushrooms, mushroom soaking water, tomatoes, soy sauce, lemon grass or lemon peel, sugar, ginger, optional seaweed, garlic, red pepper sauce, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium-low and simmer, covered, just until the cabbage and carrots are crisp-tender-- about 15 minutes. Add the tofu, stirring gently, and simmer about 5 more minutes.
      3. Add the herbs, tamarind concentrate or lemon or lime juice, and salt.
      4. Taste for seasoning. Serve each bowl topped with fresh bean sprouts and slivered green onions.
        Our changes: We used low sodium vegetable broth, bok choy instead of cabbage, only 2 tablespoons of tamari soy sauce and no extra salt. We added fine rice vermicelli and yuba. (Yuba is Chinese, not Vietnamese, but we really like it.) We didn't have bean sprouts this time.

        March 07, 2009

        Lentils with linguine

        I had a friend who could only make one vegan dish. Whenever we went to his house for dinner or he came to ours for a potluck, he prepared that recipe. It was a lentil and elbow macaroni casserole and it was delicious, so I truly looked forward to our dining together. We didn't get together that much, and I decided I wanted to have the casserole more often, so I asked for the recipe. Imagine my shock when I saw that the casserole contained a half cup of olive oil. No wonder it tasted so good! I felt like I'd been stuffed and marinated. I tried to make a slimmer version but it just wasn't the same, and eventually the recipe disappeared from my collection.

        Recently my husband found a recipe for lentils and pasta in the New York Times, and he's made it a couple of times. It's easy to make, has lots of flavor and reminds me of that yummy but rather high-fat version we enjoyed years ago. We like to make it with Whole Foods whole wheat linguine, our favorite whole wheat pasta of the moment. It would also be especially great with some nice thick udon or with rice pasta.

        Lentils with linguine (adapted from a recipe in the NY Times)
        • 1 cup brown or green lentils, washed and picked over
        • water (or half water and half low-sodium vegetable broth)
        • 2 onions, one cut in half, the other finely chopped
        • 1 red bell pepper, cut in small dice
        • 1 zucchini, in small dice
        • 4 large garlic cloves, 2 cut in half, 2 minced
        • 1 bay leaf
        • Salt to taste
        • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
        • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
        • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
        • Pinch of cayenne (or more to taste)
        • Freshly ground pepper
        • 12 ounces whole wheat pasta (especially linguine or udon)
        • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
        1. In a heavy saucepan, place the lentils, halved onion, halved garlic cloves and the bay leaf, and add enough water (or water and vegetable broth) to come 1 1/2 inches above the lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 to 45 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still whole. Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the lentils, reserving the broth.
        2. Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta.
        3. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes, and add the red pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is beginning to color, another 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook a few minutes more. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the garlic, coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Continue to cook, stirring, for a minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the broth left over from cooking the lentils. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid slightly, then stir in the lentils. Add pepper, taste and adjust salt, if needed. Keep warm while you cook the pasta.
        4. Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente. Check a few minutes before the end of the suggested cooking time. Drain and toss with the lentils. Add the cilantro, and serve.

        Buffy, the reluctant model

        March 04, 2009


        I love a good breakfast, but I always seem to get stuck in a breakfast rut of repetition. There's never enough time during the week to to do much besides slurp a bowl of dry cereal, and none of my imagined breakfasts for the weekend ever seem to happen. The most I ever manage is a bowl of oatmeal.
        After basically eating the same cereal for about the last five years, a couple of weeks ago I finally burned out on dry cereal and couldn't seem to find one that tasted good. My husband brought home a box of super healthy (according to the box) granola but it tasted like it was made from the box with the addition of rock bits.
        I decided it was time to make granola. That sounds so 70s, doesn't it? I miss those 70s granola days. As my husband went off to do food shopping at the coop, I asked him to get stuff that could go into granola. I didn't specify anything, so I ended up with some pretty basic ingredients, but granola is a very open-ended performance art, so it's hard to go wrong.

        About to go into the oven

        Ken brought home organic quick oats. Though I've only used regular rolled oats in the past, these worked just fine. He also brought dates, sunflower seeds, apple juice and wheat germ. Everything else was stuff I had in the pantry. You could use rolled barley, spelt or wheat instead of some of the oats. You could use walnuts, peanuts, etc., instead of all or some of the cashews. You could use sesame seeds for half of the sunflower seeds. You could use all dried apples,pears or other dried fruit instead of dates. (Use a clean kitchen scissors to cut the dried dates or other fruit into small pieces.) You could use peanut butter or cashew butter instead of almond butter. You can add chocolate chips. I added some Ghirardelli 72% cacao extra bittersweet chocolate chips for baking. Yikes. Anyway, this is the granola as I made it. (Just want to mention that the granola is mildly sweet — not sweet sweet like most commercial granolas. I don't like food to be extra sweet, so if you do, you may want to up the sweetener.)

        Crunchy granola
        • 6-7 cups quick oats or regular rolled oats, GF if needed
        • 1 cup raw wheat germ, or GF hemp seeds
        • 1 cup raw cashews
        • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
        • 1 cup raw walnuts, in halves or pieces
        • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
        • 3/4 cup apple juice
        • 1/4 cup agave syrup (or maple syrup, or sorghum, or 1/2 cup rice syrup)
        • 1/3 cup almond butter
        • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
        • 1 cup chopped dates
        • 1 cup raisins
        • 1 cup non-dairy dark chocolate chips (optional)
        1. Mix together the oats, wheat germ or hemp seeds, cashews, sunflower seeds and coconut in a large bowl.
        2. Mix the apple juice, sweetener and almond butter in a small pot and warm over low heat, mixing to dissolve the almond butter. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.
        3. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. I used my hands for this because the spoon was too slow.
        4. Divide between two large baking pans and bake in a 325˚F oven for ABOUT 45 minutes. While it's baking, stir about every 10 minutes to toast evenly and to prevent burning.
        5. When it turns golden brown, turn off the heat and allow to sit in the oven about 20–30 minutes to continue drying.
        6. Remove from the oven and stir in the fruit. Let cool and stir in the chocolate chips if you dare. (It's breakfast, after all. Be sensible!) If you do add chocolate chips, really let the granola cool well before stirring in any chocolate or the chocolate will melt. Yes, it will.
        7. When completely cool, store in an airtight container. 

        Dog pretending to be asleep
        This is a dog with attitude. She knows perfectly well I'm there but she's refusing to look at me because somehow she knows I'm trying to practice using my new camera. And no, I'm not using a flash. She hates to have her picture taken, always has, and never smiles for the camera. But I love her anyway.

        March 01, 2009

        Seattle diary: delicious home cooked Indian dinner, Carmelita and contra dancing

        After college our middle son spent a year doing internships in D.C. At the end of the year he decided to come home for a few months, save some money and figure out what to do next. Since he wasn't paying rent, he decided his contribution to the household would be to cook dinner. This was fantastic. Every night we'd come home to a delectable meal. Aaron is an exceptional cook — the kind who grinds his own spices in a mortar and pestle so they'll be fresh and exactly as he wants them to be. The day he announced he was leaving town, my husband and I looked at each other in panic and whimpered, "but what will we eat?" It wasn't that we didn't want him to move on with his life, or that we weren't capable of cooking, but we'd become accustomed to really good food magically appearing every night, and were panicked at the thought of this luxury coming to an end.

        Recently, on our visit to Seattle, we had the pleasure of dining on Aaron's elegant cooking again, as he whipped up a simple but wonderful Indian-inspired meal of cauliflower-rice pilaf and kidney bean stew. These dishes were served with tamarind chutney and coriander chutney, both made by Aaron. Aaron found the pilaf recipe in the Seattle Times and it's a great recipe, easily veganized by using Earth Balance instead of butter. It's from "Vij's: Elegant and Inspired Indian Cuisine" by Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala. Vij's is a restaurant in Vancouver. It's not a vegetarian restaurant, nor is the book vegetarian. Aaron says the kidney bean stew is very similar to Madhur Jaffrey's Punjabi kidney bean stew in "World Vegetarian."

        Cauliflower pilaf

        Tamarind chutney and cilantro chutney

        Kidney bean stew

        The Seattle trip was winding down. Our oldest son left after our dinner on Thursday evening for a teacher conference in Vancouver, and the rest of his family plus our middle son and his gf, Erica, were heading to Vancouver after work on Friday. So, after a Friday morning of childcare for Miss 1-year old, we were left behind in Seattle. We decided to splurge on a special vegan dinner at Carmelita, a charming and well-regarded upscale but light-hearted vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. Our waitress was just about the most cheerful person I've encountered in a long time.

        We started with an antipasti plate containing muhumara (roasted red pepper dip), marinated olives, roasted garlic, chickpea salad, grilled flatbread, rosemary-white bean spread and spiced marcona almonds. It was huge, and we ate about half, leaving the rest for the airplane trip home the next day. The dips and spreads were so great — and the roasted garlic was an entire enormous head.

        For our entrées I chose the artisanal polenta cake, apple/sweet potato hash, foraged mushroom sauce, fried parsnip, and my husband selected the farro tagine, spicy walnut pesto, braised squash and Swiss chard, pomegranate molasses. We were both more than pleased with our choices, though I thought the fried parsnip threads were a bit too fried.

        I wish I could have taken photos of the gorgeous food but it was so dark in the room, I knew they wouldn't turn out with my little point and shoot. Just go there and see for yourself!

        After dinner we went contra dancing at the Phinney Ridge Community Center where we had a chance to work off some of the calories we'd just consumed. Or, I should say, I worked off some of the calories. My husband botched his knee a few days before on a steepish walk at Carkeek Park, and he sat out most of the dances.

        note: I learned something about carrying food in a cardboard container. Call me naive, but I popped the cardboard container from the restaurant into a plastic bag and took it to the airport. By the time I took it out for lunch, it had become a soggy, weeping mess. It was only quick action that prevented me from also becoming a soggy, weeping mess in the confines of my airplane seat! The food was still fantastic, but next time I'll repack it into something a bit more rigid, like plastic.