August 25, 2009

A dedication...

I came to the computer early yesterday morning to write a post about our first week in Seattle, but instead, I received heartbreakingly sad news that a dear, old friend had died in a bicycle accident in Colorado. Everything suddenly became trivial compared to this. I can barely process this information and understand it. He was so full of life and adventure that it's impossible to imagine he's not kayaking a wild river, running a marathon somewhere, playing his violin in the community orchestra or tending his extensive gardens.

I'm going to put up a short post that I wrote previously but never used, and dedicate it to Stanley, a wonderful and compassionate man who enjoyed life, and who will be terribly missed by everyone who knew him.

We used to have a great Ethiopian restaurant within walking distance of our house. We were really disappointed when it closed, as it was so convenient and delicious and had lots of great vegetarian food. Plus the restaurant emphasized healthy cooking, which was a real bonus. Thinking about this restaurant recently, my husband started craving Ethiopian food and decided to make some. His first attempt was, shall we say, forgettable, but his second try was really good.

Berberé Stew (Ethiopian Lentil Stew)
He made a lentil dish and a green bean and potato dish and served them with brown rice. Both were excellent and not too difficult. If you'd like to try these recipes, they can be found here. The link will take you to the lentil recipe, and you will find the link to the green beans and potatoes on the same page.

Ethiopian Green Beans and Potatoes

August 20, 2009

Madison vegetarian meet-up dinner

Just before we left for Seattle, we attended another Madison vegetarian meet-up dinner. This one was catered by Jennie Capellaro, who makes vegan/vegetarian soups for two local cafés, and who is soon to open a vegetarian/vegan restaurant on Madison's east side. (She also has a law degree - you just can't be too prepared in these times.) I'm sure all 50 people who attended the dinner will be lining up at the restaurant's doors, the second it opens. Jennie prepared a four course vegan meal plus hors d'ouvres and beverages for our group, and both the presentation and taste were beautiful.

This was the menu:
"Crab" cakes with chipotle remoulade, fresh vegetable tray
First Course (Salad)
Tossed mixed greens with roasted beets, caramelized pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette
Second Course (Soup)
Creamy zucchini and spinach soup with garlic croutons and chives
Main Course
Vegan schnitzel cutlet topped with creamy mushroom sauce
Sautéed green beans and red peppers
Key lime tarts with vegan whipped cream and fresh fruit
Rosewater lemonade

We indulged in this lovely meal at the very elegant Kennedy Manor. There were formal white cloth table coverings and napkins, and everything you'd expect as a backdrop to fine dining. It also was quite dark and not conducive to my preferred style of natural light photography, but I did my best under the circumstances. (I also was anxious to eat so I only took two or three shots of each item.)

The salad (shown above) was perfectly gorgeous and delicious with just the right amount of tangy dressing, but the highlight for me were the pecans. Each one was a perfect burst of flavor and crunchy texture. They were incredibly delicious. How do you caramelize pecans?

OK. I admit I was halfway finished my soup, marveling at the taste and texture, trying to figure out how to make it myself, when I remembered to take a photo. There were three fabulous garlic croutons floating elegantly on top, and the cup looked so much prettier before I dug in. I could barely restrain myself from eating the rest long enough to snap a shot. I'm going to try to make this as soon as we're settled in Seattle.

I'm not usually a big fan of meat analogs in restaurants, but what the heck. It tasted just like...chicken? Or would schnitzel be veal? Someone asked what it was, and Jennie said it was a soy product, but didn't elaborate on that. In any case, it was really good both in taste and texture. And the green beans were crisp, fresh and full of flavor. (Jennie purchased all the vegetables and fruits at the Saturday farmers' market.)

For dessert we had individual key lime pies. I've never actually had key lime pie before so I can't compare the flavor of this one to a past memory. All I can say is this adorable little pie was creamy, tangy and delicious. If I didn't know for a fact it was vegan, I wouldn't have believed it. And the whipped cream tasted like real whipped cream. How did she do that?

I don't have photos of the crab cake hors d'oeuvres or lemonade, but trust me, they were excellent, just like everything else!

© 2009 Andrea's easy vegan cooking

August 16, 2009

Flaxseed brownies (two versions)

© 2009 Andrea's easy vegan cooking

(We are on the road between Madison and Seattle. This post was written before we left is is posting automatically.)

I remember visiting my next door neighbor's house as a nine-year-old child and receiving a glass of orangeade. I'd never had orangeade before, and when I got home I told my mother of this wonderful discovery, and asked if she could please, please, please buy some. "Orangeade is nothing but a little orange juice diluted with water and sweetened with sugar. They add cheap ingredients, make an unhealthy drink and charge a lot of money for it. Why should I pay for something like that?" she said. She then suggested that if I really wanted orangeade I should make my own, using the real oj in the fridge. This was not what I wanted to hear. I was sure that if I did, it wouldn't taste as refreshing as the kind you could buy in a store.

Growing up, I never thought of my mother as a health food promoter. We ate a pretty standard meat-based diet. Except for fresh salad, which we had every night, our vegetables consisted mainly of canned peas and frozen green beans. But thinking back, when I was very young, we had very little junk food around the house. We didn't have candy, chips or soda on a regular basis. Those things might make an appearance as a special treat (TastyKake, anyone?), but I never developed much of a snacking habit or a sweet tooth. My mother had a strict and limited food budget and she spent her dollars on what she considered "real" food, so maybe that has something to do with why my sweet tooth is underdeveloped.

Nevertheless, every so often I can appreciate a really good dessert!

Recently I posted about the wonderful catered dinner we enjoyed with our veg meet-up group. It was a four course meal catered by Jen Gaber of Nutshell Catering, and we loved it. My recipe for edamame hummus was inspired by one of the appetizers, and now I have Jen's recipe for one of the desserts. These were very fudgy brownies and maybe the best brownies I've ever had. I altered the recipe slightly when I made these and needed more baking pan space than the original recipe called for. Don't be too alarmed by the ingredient quantities, this recipe makes brownies for a crowd. (Or maybe you REALLY like brownies and it's only enough for you! Could be.) I think I made about 40, using a 12" x 18" and about 3/4 of an 8" x 8" pan. They were cut more or less 2-1/2" square. I'm going to give you (with permission) the original recipe for very dense and fudgy brownies, and then my slightly altered one. I made changes to accommodate cost, texture, and ingredients on hand.

© 2009 Andrea's easy vegan cooking

Flaxseed brownies from Jen Gaber, Nutshell Catering
  • 1 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup soy or rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • vegan dark chocolate chips
  1. Mix the flaxseed, sugar, maple syrup, oil, milk, vanilla and espresso powder together in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. After the wet ingredients have had their 10 minute sit, sift the flour, cocoa powder and sea salt into the wet ingredients and mix.
  3. Spread into a lightly oiled 12" x 18" sheet pan.
  4. Sprinkle with semi-sweet or bittersweet vegan chocolate chips.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.
  6. Jen says, "I pull them out before they look entirely done, since the residual heat keeps cooking them, then they won't be dry."
  7. Andrea says, "let them cool at least one hour before cutting. If you let them cool completely, the chocolate chips will harden and make a crunchy topping. If you cut while still warm, the chips will turn into frosting. Your choice. You can see in the photo what my choice was." :D
Notes and changes: When I made the brownies, I used one cup of maple syrup and 3/4 cup of agave syrup. I didn't have enough maple syrup on hand, and it seemed too expensive to use 2 cups, anyway. (I will probably reduce the maple syrup even farther next time I make these.) I also added one level tablespoon of baking powder with the flour and cocoa because I wanted a less dense, softer brownie. Because I expected the brownies to rise a bit, the 12 x 18 pan wasn't quite large enough, so I also used about 3/4 of an 8" square pan. Without the baking powder, they would probably be fine in the one large pan. I used white whole wheat flour and it worked great. (I actually meant to use whole wheat pastry flour but someone switched my bins and I didn't notice until all the flour was in!) I didn't have espresso powder so I used freeze-dried coffee crystals. I baked my brownies for 20 minutes but I think the big pan could have used at least five minutes more. The small pan was just right.

Flaxseed brownies (with changes)
  • 1 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup agave
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup soy or rice milk
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 6 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • vegan dark chocolate chips
  1. Mix the flaxseed, sugar, maple syrup, oil, milk, vanilla and espresso powder together in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. After the wet ingredients have had their 10 minute sit, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and sea salt into the wet ingredients and mix.
  3. Spread into a lightly oiled 12" x 18" sheet pan. (see notes, above)
  4. Sprinkle with semi-sweet or bittersweet vegan chocolate chips.
  5. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes. (check at 20 minutes)
    (see notes, above)
  6. Let them cool at least one hour before cutting. If you let them cool completely, the chocolate chips will harden and make a crunchy topping. If you cut while still warm, the chips will turn into frosting. Your choice.

August 13, 2009

Random meals

From our garden!
I work on a mac, and until I cleverly spilled a mug of peppermint tea onto and thoroughly into my mac keyboard, I had an un-noteworthy typing experience. When the keyboard became toast, so to speak, my husband handed over a keyboard that had come with one of his PCs, and had been lying around the house unused because he preferred his old keyboard. The letters and numbers on this keyboard type out just as you would expect, but the symbols are all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. When I type an ampersand or quotation marks, I never know what to expect. I've had to learn a whole new system of finding the right keys. I've learned to type the right parenthesis when I want the left, and the equal sign when I want the right. If I want a "@" I have to type "a." This is all OK as long as I'm using symbols that I use a lot, and have memorized the correct keys, but when I have to type something that I don't type often, like a "&," I have to type all the upper keys until I find it! The "&" looks like "/." Now I find when I use a normal keyboard, I get confused and type the wrong symbols.

This is kind of how I feel in our house right now as everything gets packed up. I go to the spot where something I want should be, and of course it's not there anymore. And I can't remember where it is. Like my favorite shorts. Did they get packed or accidentally donated? Or did they go to the attic? They were supposed to be available to wear on the trip but I haven't seen them in quite a while. Tsk.

Anyway, even when I'm not posting recipes, we're still eating around here. It's just that we're not being especially creative, or we're being creatively repetitive or whatever. Plus, we're in the midst of preparing to move nearly 2,000 miles away, and have a lot on our minds. So, here's some stuff we've been eating with links back to where the food appears on this blog, if it does.

Red lentil soup with cauliflower, green beans and cracked pepper
Pad Thai

Fabulous wax beans from Claire's gard
I think planting wax beans instead of green ones was an excellent idea that I wish had occurred to me. The green ones are almost impossible to see on the garden plants but the yellow ones stand right out, making them a lot easier to harvest. These wax beans were served with enchiladas.

Tofu and Swiss chard burritos
We usually make these with kale but the garden is overflowing with Swiss chard. In either case, they are really delicious. I first had the kale version in a café in Santa Fe, and immediately tried to recreate them when we returned home. I left it unrolled for the photo, but of course I rolled it up to eat.

Saturday is our scheduled date of departure when we head to Seattle. Through the miracle of modern technology (scheduled posting), blog posts will continue to appear while we're en route. I'll be taking photos along the way as we head west from Wisconsin and will post about our trip (if there's anything to say!) when we get set up in our new digs. Hopefully I won't be too grumpy! It's not too late to offer last minute tips on places to eat in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. We'll have a laptop with us.

August 09, 2009

Vegan potluck / caipirinha

Key lime cupcakes (VCTOTW)
What could be more charming than a bountiful vegan potluck on a gorgeous summer day. The Madison vegetarian meet-up group had such a gathering last month, and more than 40 people showed up with lots of beautiful and delicious vegan food. It makes me so happy to see so many people embracing a vegetarian diet. Although not everyone is vegan, all the food is. The event was held in a pretty park with a splash pad where the kids could enjoy the sprinklers while their parents sat dry and well-fed on the grass. It's a very congenial group of people and we've had a great time at all the events we've attended. If you are in the Madison area, check out this group.

Here are a few of the dishes I managed to photograph. Even though circumstances caused us to be an hour late, there was still plenty of food to enjoy.


Flax-seed brownies (made by me). Recipe coming soon.

Curried carrot salad

Bean salad; Chips and salsa


Travel help
So, any suggestions for great places to eat or visit as we pass through the wilds of S. Dakota (Sioux Falls), Iowa, Wyoming and Montana on our way to Seattle from Wisconsin?


 Did you say caipirinha?

I'm not much of a drinker. I might have a glass of wine or a beer very occasionally, but if I do indulge in a mixed drink, I have a few favorites. I'm most likely to order a mojito, margarita or a caipirinha. A friend from work recently indulged me by making us delicious caipirinhas! In case you don't know, caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil, and is made with cachaça, a fermented sugar cane beverage. In addition to cachaça, there is lime, sugar and cracked ice. Perfect. We sipped them in lawn chairs on a high hill, watching the world go by. Thank you Sue!

August 06, 2009

Dinner treat from Vegan Yum Yum

Three of my husband's graduate students hosted us for dinner recently, with Katie doing most of the cooking. She was the one brave enough to tackle a vegan dinner, and she did a fabulous job. The food was so wonderful I asked her where she got the recipe. She answered that she had gotten it on a vegan blog - Vegan Yum Yum - had I heard of that? Well, let's just say I own mini-doughnut pans (used) and a gnocchi board (still unused) as a result of knowing that blog.

The recipe is called Sweet Chili Lime Tofu With Wok Steamed Collards and Quinoa. Katie used half regular and half red quinoa for a particularly attractive look and a great taste. We were unable to get red quinoa, so the dish in the photo doesn't contain any. If you're looking for a delicious way to get some vitamin packed greens, healthful quinoa and tasty tofu on the table, go here.

My husband has become so enamored of this recipe he makes it again and again, improving a little each time. The last time he made it (not pictured here) he got the tofu nice and crispy, and it was really great. For some reason, though, the quinoa comes out wet instead of dry, and I prefer it dry.


Tweet tweet

It seems like just yesterday my son was declaring twitter to be stupid and a waste of time. Now suddenly, he's tweeting, and telling me I need to be on twitter. He says if I have a blog, I should be tweeting about it. What? I declined, but he was emphatic and set up my account. "But I don't have anything to tweet about," I protested, "all I do is sort and pack." "Then just tweet when you post something," says he. "But who will read it?," I asked? So here I am with a twitter account and I'm tweeting.. For now. I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to say or why, but I'm going to try it out for a while. If you want to follow me, and I understand perfectly if you don't, you can click here.

August 02, 2009

Gotham bagel / farmers' market / blog issues

If you've been reading this blog for a while you may remember I've talked about our upcoming move to Seattle. My husband has a new job there, and I seem to be retired - for the moment, anyway. We're renting our house to visiting professors from Norway, and renting a house in Seattle, just to make sure we really want to stay there. (If we decide to come back, we want to come back to our house!) It's a continuing effort to sort through all our stuff and save only what we really need (or REALLY want) and clear out the house for the renters. It's horrible, really, and sometimes it feels like we'll never get done.

The date that we'll leave here is coming up fast, and there are so many people to spend one more hour with, and places to visit one more time. On a recent Saturday we went downtown to meet a friend at the Farmers Market, to shop and get something to eat at a favorite breakfast spot. Because of car trouble and then a traffic jam, the friend never made it, but my husband and I proceeded without her, grateful that she'd lured us out of the house.

One of our favorite places to eat breakfast is Gotham Bagel. It was started by a transplanted New Yorker who couldn't find a real East Coast bagel here in the Midwest. There are those that say New York bagels are the best because of the water, but NYC water was brought here and bagels made with it were compared to bagels made with local water to check that theory. Disproved! There are plenty of bagel shops here, but anyone looking for the dense, chewy bite of deliciousness that we East Coasters know as a genuine, hand-rolled, boiled bagel, were bound to be disappointed. And because Gotham Bagel's founder was strongly influenced by his veg aunt and uncle, he provides delicious vegan alternatives to the usual bagel toppings. There are three choices of vegan artisan cream cheese as well as various vegan salads. My favorite breakfast is the "V." I usually get it on pumpernickel bagel, but sometimes I go for sesame. It's a hard choice! The "V" I had recently (pictured above on sesame with a thin cinnamon-raisin bagel chip) contains scallion tofu cream cheese, roasted poblano peppers, tomato, arugula and avocado, and I never get tired of it. I've never even tried the other vegan breakfast. When we leave Madison, this is one of the places I'll miss.

Gotham Bagel is just a step away from the downtown Madison Farmers' Market so we visited out favorite farm stand, Harmony Valley Farm, just after we ate. Good timing, right?


Blog goes berserk - attempts to dismantle computer

One of my wonderful readers has informed me that when she tries to leave this blog, dozens of windows start opening, and her Internet Explorer crashes! She uses a pc, and when I tried to reproduce this effect on my husband's pc, I was unable to do so. I've made blogger inquiries to see if there's some problem with my blog but so far no one has been able to view this phenomenon. It was suggested to me that she may have malware on her computer or may have a corrupted version of IE that needs replacement. Since this only happens with my blog, I'm not sure what to think. Is anyone experiencing a similar problem, or have insight as to why this is happening? If there's a problem on my end I certainly want to correct it. Can you help?