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.