January 31, 2010

Simple foods

Me in my new apron.
To be honest, I prefer simple foods. I would rather have a peach than a piece of peach pie. I don't like extremes of saltiness or sweetness, or heavy flavoring and spicing. But you know, I'm playing at a food blog, and no one wants to read about steamed cauliflower. So although most of what I eat is much simpler than you might think, my blog posts don't always reflect that. I blog about the more interesting or unusual dishes we eat, or restaurant food we've consumed, or vegan items I'm asked to review. But normally, we don't go out of our way to cook fancy gourmet meals or recreate elaborate meat or dairy dishes in vegan form, nor do we regularly use non-dairy cheese other than occasionally on pizza. So you see, our gustatory lives are quite boring.

Daiya cheese pizza with "pepperoni" (tester recipe)
In my last post I included a recipe for a kale soup typical of what we might consider a fine meal. Along with a salad or a crusty loaf of bread or maybe just some rice, that would be it. My husband will eat an apple for dessert, and I might have a small orange or a few dates. I'm telling you this because I've received a number of inquiries from new or aspiring vegans asking how difficult it will be to be vegan, or how expensive it might be. New vegans are more likely to try to recreate familiar foods as they transition to a new way of life. But I don't want anyone to think we depend on fake foods or complicated preparations for our meals. Nope. We love our veggies.

Salted caramel wheat treats. Yum. (tester recipe)
Lately I've been testing recipes for a cookbook being developed by Celine and Joni. The cookbook is about substitutions — vegan for omnivorous. So, you've been seeing lots of, well, substitutions. Some are things I would make anyway, like chickpea salad, and some not so much, like baby back ribz. It's fun to make stuff like this, or to serve it to company, and we've been enjoying our testing a lot. Besides, it's never a bad idea to have a few good seitan recipes on hand. (Seitan was used by Buddhist monks in the 7th century so it's not a weird "new" vegan food.) I usually cut back on the salt used in the recipes because I'm pretty health conscious and excess salt can cause health issues. But also, because I don't eat a lot of processed foods, I've become very sensitive to the intense natural flavors of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, and it takes very little additional salt or sugar to make things taste perfectly seasoned. I'm not saying we only eat barely seasoned food — sometimes we make things very spicy — but usually our foods are less seasoned than what might be considered average.

Baby back ribz try #2 (tester recipe) Still not sticky and gooey but closer!
I enjoy some very salty things like olives, as an accent to a meal, but if everything is salty, I find it distasteful. It almost burns my tongue. The same is true of very sweet things; they don't taste good to me. When I bake for others, I usually use more sweetener so my baked goods will be more like what other people enjoy. I'm always surprised, when I think I've made something much too sweet, to hear someone say, "I really like this. It's not too sweet." Oh well.

Just so you can see how truly boring our eating can be, here's a soup I made for lunch on Saturday. But really, it was delicious. And so simple. You can flavor it any way you like to suit your own palate.

Simple cauliflower, carrot, potato soup
  • 1/2 large head of cauliflower, cut in large pieces
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut in small dice
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut in small dice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons mellow white miso (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • low sodium vegetable broth
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sliced scallion
  • minced parsley
  • fresh or dried herbs
  1. Place the vegetables and water in a pressure cooker. Bring to pressure and cook 5 minutes. Release pressure.
  2. Use a hand-blender in the pot or add cooked veggies and cooking water to a blender bowl along with miso, onion powder and vinegar, and blend until creamy. Add broth to desired consistency, and blend. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  3. Return to pot and gently reheat if needed. Place in bowls and add a grind of pepper. Add garnishes as desired.
Along with the soup we had leftover polenta which I sautéed in the wok, and a salad, and our adorable granddaughter who was visiting, had tofu fingers. She used the soup as a dip for the tofu, which had been dredged in potato starch and sautéed.

My new cupcake apron up close.

We went to our son and d-i-l's house for dinner Saturday night, and our dil made a delicious Caribbean stew called Island Gumbo from "The Urban Vegan" cookbook. It was just right for a cold, damp winter evening. I brought some cookies and bars culled from the stash that went to the bake sale on Sunday.

Now here's something my husband made all on his own. He's not really into plating, so it's a little hard to see what it is, but it's a stacked portobella mushroom dish he adapted from "Real Food Daily." It had a layer of baked polenta on the bottom, and portobella, carrots, red pepper, onions and a light tomato sauce on the top. It was amazingly delicious.


Bake sale for Haiti

Today there was a vegan bake sale for Haiti and I contributed some baked goods. Yes, genuinely sweet ones! I made Chewy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies, and one of the tester recipes from the cookbook. Instead of just packaging the goodies in plastic baggies like I usually do for bake sales, I made cellophane packages tied with ribbon. They looked very cute if I do say so myself.


Valentine's Day idea
Meredith from Farm Sanctuary asked me to post this, and I'm happy to do so. Sponsoring an animal is a gift of love that fits well with Valentine's Day — or any day.

This Valentine’s Day, open your heart to the rescued animals at Farm Sanctuary. Each of these individuals has a huge capacity for love and a story to share that will fill you with hope and inspiration.
Sponsor an animal for yourself and share your Valentine’s Day spirit with one of the sweet animals at our shelters. Or, give a sponsorship as a gift because there’s no better way to show that someone special in your life how much you care. All of our sanctuary residents depend on sponsors to provide them with nourishing food, safe refuge, veterinary care, and everything else they need for a happy and healthy life.
Sponsors receive an adoption certificate with a color photograph of their adopted friend, an adoption card, an invitation to schedule a VIP tour to meet their sponsored animal, and other benefits depending on the animal selected. Click here to see a list of our sponsorship packages.
In the name of love for all beings, sponsor one of the farm animals below this Valentine’s Day! Or, sponsor them all to receive or share a whole barnyard full of love! You can also make a special one-time gift to the animals.


  1. Great post, Andrea! We eat a lot of siimple meals over here too and the special things are always documented on the food blog. Your new apron looks beautiful. I hope your bake sale was a success.

  2. Love the apron! I think most of us eat a little more plainly day-to-day than what we post on our blog (well, I do, anyway). But it IS fun to try some new things to post. Your baby back ribz look great to me (and oh, how I wish I could still eat seitan!). And your baked goods look so professional, just lovely.

    Love the soup recipe--perfect for a cold night like tonight. I may have to put my original idea on hold and try this instead!

  3. You look great in your apron! I love simple food, too. I often post about trickier recipes, but I can seriously enjoy a piece of fruit... I've written songs about oranges.

    Your bake sale sweets look great. I would have had to try them if I was there!

  4. That Island Gumbo looks awesome. I love a good twist on a solid soul-food staple.

    I enjoy simple food too. For me, beans and rice are comfort food. But I love seasoning -- I think it's my cajun blood -- gotta have my spicy!

  5. MIHL- Thnks! I haven't heard the results of the bake sale but there was an astounding variety of beautiful vegan treats.

    RICKI- I know most people probably eat more plainly than their blogs imply, but there are some people who probably imagine it's really hard to be vegan, based on what shows up on the blogs. While we don't exactly spoon beans out of a can, we really make daily cooking as easy as possible.

    If you could eat seitan, you'd love those ribz. They were GOOD! And thanks for mentioning the baked goods' appearance. I've never been the best wrapper in the world, but I mean to improve!

    TRINITY- Thank you. I was very happy with this batch of baked goods and their wrapping!~

    VEGEATER- Beans and rice with a side of kale and some chipotle in adobo! mmmmm. Thanks for commenting.

  6. I am the same way, Andrea. I just finished eating some steamed cabbage with some lemon juice squeezed on top and nutritional yeast sprinkled over it--yum. Simple is better, if you ask me :-) I often find things WAY too salty when I am testing, and have to be careful not to sound like a broken record about it. I need to remind myself that while it may be too salty for me, for most people it will probably be fine...but I can't resist commenting on it just the same :-)

    Your soup looks great!

  7. We always enjoy simple foods here too! We've never spent a lot of time cooking except when we have company or when I want to blog about certain dish!

    I love your new apron, you look very nice! And your soup sounds so simple to make, I love that you added miso paste in your soup, YUM!

    Your bake sale goods look absolutely beautiful! It was so nice of you to do this for Haiti! And what a wonderful Valentine's Day idea!

  8. Yup! We like simple food, too! But we also like SPICY!!! :) Sometimes we just have (vegan, obviously!) sausages, mashed potato, cabbage and gravy. Your food looks good, as always, both plain and fancy. And that's a great photo of you!

  9. Definitely saving the recipes for some of these. And the wheat treats were exactly what I was looking for to grab n go for breakfast. Thanks.

  10. Sometimes simple is the best, especially when using good ingredients and the natural flavors shine through. Your food always looks good and interesting to me. :-)

  11. COURTNEY- I'm glad I'm not alone on the salt thing. There are two broken records in the test kitchen. I always at least halve the salt and it's still too salty! Even my husband finds it salty and he loves salt.

    ORAPHAN- We have regular old miso soup a lot around here. In fact, we had some last night. I'd had such a big lunch I wasn't very hungry for dinner so a bowl of soup and an apple was all I wanted.

    PENNY- You've just reminded me there's a cabbage in the fridge that needs to be used. I'd forgotten all about it.

    CHOW VEGAN- Good, fresh ingredients definately make foods taste better. Thanks for your comment!

  12. Andrea that's a great photo of you in the cute apron. I was looking at the cauliflower sitting in my fridge and thinking I should make some soup and then I read your post and you've got the perfect recipe for me! I tend to eat alot like you- good, simple, real food:)

  13. Andrea, thank you for all the great ideas! I can't wait to make the cauliflower/carrot/potato soup. I've been following this new program Mind Body FX with Melonie Dodaro and your recipes will help make it easy to follow as a vegan.

  14. I totally agree with you. Most of our meals are simple (some would say boring) but are just perfect for us. This evening we had plain steamed broccoli on the side.... of leftovers.... :)

  15. Thanks Andrea! With your recipes, it will be tasty and fun.

  16. I love simple foods too. It's really very easy to be vegan. Now I want to dig out my RFD and check out that portobello stack!

  17. JANET- Thanks! Good, simple and real -that sums up the way I like my food MOST of the time. :)

    KATE- Good luck with your new program!

    CLAIRE- We had the exact same thing except we put the steamed broccoli IN the leftovers!

    DIANN- Trust me, Diann, that portobella dish was much better than it looks in the photo!


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