Monday, August 31, 2009

wheat is out to get you

Shhh...don't make any noise or sudden movements - it will find you.

I made Mediterranean Risotto for dinner tonight, but I'm not posting any pictures because it didn't look any different than it did when I made it with barley. Here are the main changes:
1 cup of arborio rice (vs. 1 cup pearled barley), cooked in 2.5 cups broth added 1/2 cup at a time and allowed to absorb before adding more. 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed dry, no oil, vs. 3/4 cup) added with the third addition of broth. I also completely left out the white pepper and didn't add the chopped peppers and olives until the last addition of broth.

The thing about wheat is this: Despite my alterations, this risotto is still way too intensely flavored, so we ate it with bread as scoops. Wheat bread. But we might not have known that wheat bread contains wheat if it weren't for the very helpful label on the back, letting us know that there is wheat in the wheat bread.
It's blurry, but the little white tag at the bottom says:
"Allergan Information: This product contains wheat."

What I want to know is this: are there really people that stupid? What did you think would be in wheat bread?

In other news... today I gave in to myself and ate my beloved Clif Nectar bar, flavor: lemon, vanilla & cashew. Again, the packaging itself makes me happy - it's a very mellow shade of I can imagine painting a future kitchen.

This bar is absolutely sublime. I could just sniff it (and normally do, just before nibbling tenderly at it) and be happy because it smells SO good. All 5 ingredients (dates, cashews, goji berries, lemon juice concentrate, and vanilla) are certified organic. That may or may not mean something, but it makes me feel more like I'm ingesting pure sunshine.

Nutritionally, the price is right for a snack - 160 calories, only 6g fat, yet providing an equal 6g of dietary fiber and 4g protein (which isn't much, but you look for stuff like this after too many people ask how on earth you can possibly get enough protein without eating animal corpses *gasp!*). Also, this little 1.6 oz bar claims to provide 2 fruit servings in its delectable little self. The thing that really gets me about this bar is how creamy it is in texture, which I think is primarily owed to the velvety cashews. The ratio of vanilla to lemon is also perfect. I can't recommend this bar enough - I love, love, love it!

But here is my puzzle:
A Nectar bar is 1.6 oz.
A Larabar is also 1.6 oz.
A Nectar bar lays claim to 2 servings of fruit,
but A Larabar only claims 1 serving of fruit.
Both bars are made up of fruits and nuts.
All I can come up with so far is that Nectar bars are more concentrated on the fruit aspect of the bar, where Larabars depend heavily on nuts to texture their bars, therefore leaving less room for fruit. If you have a better answer, though, I'd love to know it - leave me a comment!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

salt and strong spice make everything nice

Maybe. They certainly make everything pungent and made my tongue numb by the end of dinner. The leftovers have become Mister's responsibility to finish.

First things first: today's bar was the Larabar Coconut Cream Pie. It smelled SO GOOD and fortunately enough, it tasted pretty good, too. In fact, if I ever truly went vegan, these bars would be a phenomenal replacement for Almond Joy bars (which I also love). The interesting thing about that is that there is no chocolate in this bar, but it really does taste like Almond Joy.

Again, my only grievance against this bar is the high calorie content and fat - 200 calories with 10g fat, of which a whopping 7g are saturated fat! In any case, I'm currently justifying future purchases of this bar with the knowledge that it still has a better nutritional profile than Almond Joy does, though just barely. The ingredients are much cleaner, of course, and as I thought more about the whole situation, I thought "Lara wouldn't put something that bad in her bars...there must be a reason for the saturated fat."

I knew already that the source of the saturated fat was the coconut and extra virgin coconut oil listed 2nd and 5th in the ingredients, and I have heard rumors that the saturated fat in coconut oil is not the unhealthy, cholesterol-raising, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen saturated fat in animal flesh. Never content with rumors, I did some research.

As it turns out, coconut oil, and the saturated fat it contains, may have a host of health benefits. A theme among many articles I read was that the reason Palm and Coconut oils have such a bad reputation is because American oil-producing farmers (ironically, soy farmers) were feeling threatened by these "tropical oils," so they got together and launched a massive PR mudslinging to dirty their names. It worked, coupled with the knowledge that the sat-fat in animal products has very negative health effects when eaten to excess (in America? NEVER!) There have even been some studies touting the medical possibilities of coconut oil to cure cancer and a host of immunodeficiency diseases, but I'm not willing to go there just yet.

Granted, the folks at are probably more than a little biased in their research, but after reading through several articles by several authors and finding a lot of similar thought, I feel like it's at least worth a read if you'd like to get some info and form your own opinion about coconut oil. I just think it's cool that it's solid when stored under 76 degrees.

Actually, I have a second grievance against my bar today: it did not keep me feeling full as long as the other bars did. I don't know if it was because I was much more active at work today than I sometimes am, running from one end of the building and back again several times, but I was definitely feeling hungry again within about 2 hours of eating it. Fortunately, I also had an apple. Maybe today is just a hungry day, though.

Back to our title, though - dinner narrowly averted complete disaster tonight, saved only by my nose and my (at times) very strange husband. I've been struggling to make the Five-Spice Vegetables and Tofu on Coffee Rice for a little more than a week now. Every time I start to make it, I get distracted by something on my list I'd rather make. Well, I knew from my last look in the crisper that if I didn't use the broccoli tonight, it might sprout legs and run away tomorrow, so I made up my mind that tonight was the night.

I put on my new apron (yay!) and set about chopping the vegetables, changed my mind about the Coffee Rice, opting instead to cook the rice in green tea (resulting in an amazing aroma!), and actually almost managed to accidentally make black-bottomed tofu. Everything was going well and when I started stirfrying the vegetables, I realized I had left out the Five Spice powder for which the recipe is named. Still stirfrying (is that a word?), I opened the cabinet above my head, grabbed a bag of spice and a measuring spoon and upon opening the bag decided the one tablespoon I had written into the recipe would be WAY too much. So I did a teaspoon instead, sprinkled it on and added the salt, stirred it up really good and smelled the weirdest thing ever... So I looked at the bag of Five Spice again and realized that in my hurry I had accidentally added a teaspoon of ground cloves to my vegetables. I turned off the heat and stood there pondering my wok, trying to discern if I had actually ruined dinner.

I figured Mister would let me know.

So I put everything out on the table like we were really going to eat it and then waited for my dear husband's reaction. In a nutshell: he liked it a lot (he likes weird food anyway) and because of the clove scent he kept expecting the tofus to be ham and kept being surprised that they weren't. When he went back for seconds (braver than I), he tried to add some spices to enhance the ham taste. I never cared much for ham myself, or any piglet product for that matter (except bacon, now and then), so though I managed to eat everything in my bowl, the idea of eating the leftovers is positively revolting.

Mister suggested renaming the recipe Chai Spice Veggies. Adorable. I think I'd rather leave the Chai spices to teas and baked goods (the Chai Luna Bar is one of my favorites and out of this world!) and try this again in a week or so with the Five Spice Powder already meted out in a prep bowl. I like the idea of Five Spice - it contains all 5 tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory (umami). I love the Chinese for their (apparent) serenity and sense of balance in life.

So, no recipe tonight - I have never been a fan of works-in-progress. I'll share the recipe when it's right, hopefully sometime next week, if I haven't tofu-ed Mister out by the end of this week...I kind of overdid the tofrequency of our tofu dinners this week. Pictures, though!

cloven veggies and tofus in the (massive) wok

Oh, there is a happy ending (if you ignore the nutritional information - sometimes I wish I was illiterate)! When we finished dinner, my tongue was numb from all the cloves (thus their medicinal uses), so Mister got me a dessert present! I knew if I read the package before I ate it that I simply wouldn't eat it so I ate it first, then looked at the ingredients and calories and fat content so I would understand why I was never going to eat it again. Like they say, it's easier to ask forgiveness than permission...

It was a Mint Brownie sandwich by Nestle Tollhouse. It was so good, even though I knew that shade of green doesn't exist in nature. So I ate it all up and I will worry about the 380 calories, 18g fat with 9g saturated fat (probably not the "good" kind in coconut oil) some other time...actually, I'll probably forget all about it when I go to sleep tonight. Sweet dreams are made of this!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

kind of like toys, but better

What a great day! It was bright and sunny all day, right up until I got cocky enough to leave my umbrella in the which time it commenced to pour. But in all seriousness, I did have a good day. Due to a truncated work schedule, I spent a little bit of time (and money) at the 2nd largest mall in America. I'm not a big mall person, but I will admit they have their purpose in the wilds of Suburbia: containing a solution to just about any need a person could have under one (skylighted) roof.

I would like to preface my shopping conquest with this short justification: inasmuch as a person can actually "need" the following things, I did - I don't make frivolous purchases. In fact, I had already spent way more time than was probably necessary mulling over two of these three things. So let me show you my booty!
I have a not-so-secret crush on Martha Stewart.
I also hate her because she's always right.
I can't remember what I was trying to crush/grind/obliterate, but Mister was appalled to learn we did not own a mortar & pestle. We do now!
I am so in love with this apron. I have never had an apron before, because as I mentioned a few posts ago, I could barely boil water (and had little desire to) 5 years ago. I think this is a great first apron.

I absolutely love that Macy's has an entire section of their housewares department devoted to Martha. I just stand in the middle and look all around me at that familiar robin's egg blue and know how much green paper I could lose if I don't move soon. Nevertheless, I always take a moment to savor the Domestic Goddess Heaven I snuck into. (I got the mortar & pestle and apron at Kitchen Kapers, though.)

Angst absolutely loves to lick the Macy's bags.

Moving on... tonight was Peppered Pasta night. I didn't realize how hungry I was until I started gathering my bounty of rainbow-colored veggies, so I grabbed a little Gala apple while I was in the crisper and added it to the pile in need of scrubbing. I wish I had gotten a picture of the peppers all sliced up before I started cooking them - they were beautiful and so vibrant! I'm about to give you the recipe, but let me just say that I used one of each color pepper available (green, red, orange, and yellow) and I couldn't be happier with the way it looked. It's purely aesthetic, though - once you cook all the peppers together, they pretty much taste the same.
I did get a shot of the tomatoes because they were so red I couldn't get over myself.
the peppers sizzling away, just before adding the tomatoes
(I think the blurriness is from the steam)
Dinner! So tasty.

Peppered Pasta
about 8 servings
12 oz pasta (I used a mixture of cavatelli and mostaccioli)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, pressed/minced
4 multi-colored bell peppers, seeded, cored, and thinly sliced
3 plum tomatoes,
seeded, cored, and thinly sliced
28 oz can of Italian Stewed tomatoes
19 oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
splash of white wine vinegar

Cook pasta in large pot of water, according to package directions.
Core and seed peppers and tomatoes, then cut into narrow strips.
Heat olive oil on medium-high. Saute garlic and peppers, covered, 7-12 minutes, until very tender and wilted, stirring occasionally.
Uncover and add tomato slices. Saute 2-3 more minutes, uncovered, until tomatoes start to break down. Remove from heat.
Drain pasta and return to pot. Stir in pepper mixture and cover.
Combine stewed tomatoes (with juices), rinsed cannellini beans, garlic powder, salt, and vinegar in a blender/food processor and pulse 8-10 times until mostly smooth, but a little chunky.
Add to pasta and toss to coat.

Friday, August 28, 2009

bitter, like me

I cannot remember which holiday it was, though I'm thinking Christmas, that my father-in-law sent us home with some terrific leftovers, including rapini/broccoli raab/whatever you call it. I had never had it before, but it looked fun and tasty with a verdant green coloring. Besides, I love broccoli, so how different could it be? Pretty different, actually, but I was right about it being tasty.

Quite by accident, I incorporated it into dinner tonight and had forgotten that it is infamous for being bitter and an "acquired taste." Forgotten, that is, until we started eating and Mister asked what the greens were, specifically, what was so bitter. Admittedly, it is a bitter vegetable, but in kind of a latent way. You don't taste the bitterness until the second time you bite down to chew it, and by the time you've chewed 3-4 times, you realize it's actually a delightful bitterness that brings out all of the flavors around it.

If you haven't guessed yet, tonight's dinner was Curried Tofu with Mixed Baby Greens. First some action shots, then the recipe:
I was so impressed by my thorny pile of rapini I had to take a picture
Here is a much-wilted bowl full of rapini, bok choy, and spinach.
After cooking, all 3 greens took up less room than the rapini did before cooking!
currying the tofus!
Dinner (recipe now...)
Curried Tofu with Mixed Baby Greens
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz extra firm silken tofu (Mori-Nu)
2 Tbsp oil
3 large cloves of garlic, pressed/minced
1" of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce mixed with 2 Tbsp water
1 bunch of rapini, chopped (also known as broccoli raab)
2 heads of baby bok choy, chopped
5 oz baby spinach
1 cup jasmine rice
scant 2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/8-1/4 tsp white pepper

Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Stir in rice, cover and simmer on lowest heat 20-25 minutes, until all water is absorbed.
Combine curry spices and salt in a small bowl. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a saute pan or large skillet. Sprinkle in the spice mixture and stir until smooth and fragrant. Add tofu and stir gently to coat, then cook over medium-low heat 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a deep pot, heat 2 Tbsp oil on medium. Add garlic and ginger and saute on low heat 2-3 minutes, until tender. Add rapini and cover - cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bok choy and cook until wilter. Sprinkle in water and soy sauce, then pile spinach on top and cover to steam 2-3 minutes; stir in to greens to wilt. Remove from heat and cover.
Stir salt and white pepper into rice just before serving.
To serve, lay a bed of rice, then a layer of greens (using tongs) and top with curried tofu.
serves about 4 generously.

back in black

See? The title's funny because I more or less always wear black.

Anyway...I can't believe I haven't blogged since Tuesday - it's been a very busy and crazy week...I've had time to make and photograph food, but no time to tell stories about it.

Well, that changes now. I'm off from work today, so I can catch you up. Grab a (large) cup of coffee or tea and maybe a small snack and get comfy - this might take a while. I'm not going to go in chronological order, necessarily, but there will be order. First, the bar crawl...

On Wednesday, I had my Larabar Banana Bread Bar, and it was amazing. I am in love. From my taste-testing so far, if someone told me I could eat only one (Lara)bar for the rest of my life, this would be the one.
First of all, I have to admit, the packaging made me happy. Yes, I wear black all the time, but red is my favorite color and yellow just makes me happy (it reminds me of my sister).
It has 3 ingredients: almonds, dates, and unsweetened bananas. That's awesome in my world, and it made for a very intense bar - it was very banana-y but the nuts gave it this fabulous texture - it wasn't chewy the way a Snickers bar would be chewy, but rather the way a good bagel would be.
My only objection to this otherwise perfect bar is that I wish it were lower in calories: 220 to be exact, of which 100 come from the 11g fat in the bar (from the almonds). I understand it's good fat; I'm more focused on the 220 calories - it seems a little high for a snack bar, but there isn't enough substance for it to be a "meal replacement" bar. We'll put it on the Sometimes Foods list.

After work on Wednesday, I had to pick up a few items before heading home and I saw three boxes of Soyjoy bars. I've seen advertisements for these odd little bars in some magazines and they are so off-the-wall, it makes me curious. That's probably the point. At any rate, it worked! My choices were Strawberry, Apple Walnut, and Berry - I thought Apple Walnut was probably the safest bet.

I cracked this baby open at work on Thursday and was immediately taken aback by two things: it was teeny-tiny and so thoroughly baked it almost looked burnt. I wondered if I had purchased a biscotti instead of a bar and pondered my coffee for a moment before just biting off a reasonable chunk. I think it gave me TMJ because my jaw was making some horrible noises while I tried to chew it. The pieces of dried fruit were more like licorice you let sit out too long, and there was way too much flour/batter going on. I nearly threw it in my trashcan after that first bite, but I have a much bigger issue with throwing food away than I do with the possibility of that food disconnecting my lower jaw from my skull, so I finished it, hoping for a similar ending as the Jocalat story. No go, but fortunately, it only took me three more jaw-cracking bites to finish this itty bitty bar.

But hold onto your hats - I do have some positive things to say about the bar (but I still do not EVER plan to put one in my mouth again). One bar has only 140 calories, which makes it a more appropriately portioned snack bar in my world. The truly astounding thing, though, is that it might have been the most effective bar yet at helping me get through to my lunch break. I still won't get it again, especially due to the positively wretched list of ingredients that I should have checked before I bought it but I didn't because I was just so stupidly curious about the hype: Whole Soybean Powder, Raisin, Butter (from milk), Sugar, Walnut, Eggs, Dried Apple, Maltodextrin (natural fiber source), Dried Pineapple, Salt, Parmesan Cheese (from skim milk), Natural Flavors.
Butter? Really? And of course, my favorite: Natural Flavors. This is obviously not a vegan bar, but what really blew my mind was that in the Apple Walnut bar, they had the need to include Parmesan Cheese??? Color me boggled.

Alright, enough bitching about bars. I got a few more when I went food shopping today, so my review is far from complete. We still have the Coconut Cream Larabar and the Nectar bar. Today I added:
Apple Pie Larabar
Chocolate Coffee Jocalat bar
Cinnamon Roll Larabar
I could drool just looking at those names. Let's move on!

On No-Cook Wednesday (and thank heavens - I was in no mood), I came home and reheated the single serving left from the Farro Pasta with Sunshine Sauce and after I had gracefully dumped it into a pretty bowl (my days of eating right from the pot are over), I remembered that I had never really gotten a good picture of it when I made it originally. So here you go:
Still not great, but better than the way it looked hanging out at the bottom of the pot in which it was born.

Finally, last night I made Chickpea Stew with Fried Polenta from my Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook. It was everything it promised to be. It was a near-existential experience, because what I imagined it would taste like was exactly what it DID taste like. I was craving something comforting - I still can't find the words to describe how much garbage this week dumped on me - and when I looked at the recipe, I knew this was what would do it. It was hearty and rich, and as Mister pointed out, much more than met the eye. Not that it isn't nice to look at, but there is a lot of good, savory flavor and a very robust texture hiding in the stew. The chunks of fried polenta were the perfect final touch, even if I did manage to accidentally throw two chunks on the floor instead of into the pot. I think I over-processed the saucy part of the stew as well, because when I looked more closely at the recipe, it seemed to indicate a chunkier stew.
A couple of notes about some background items in ^this^ happy still life: Aside from my unfortunate experience with the Soyjoy bar, I have been almost accidentally vegan the past few weeks. It all started with that exciting journey through Vegan Express (which I will reprise briefly in this week's menu) and kept going. I realized that almost all of the recipes I have created have been vegan and that when I use a recipe from my cookbooks, I have been reaching for my vegan cookbooks more. The exceptions are that I do normally have yogurt and berries for breakfast and a couple of times I have finished the "broken" cereal Mister won't eat and have (against my own better taste) used his milk out of sheer morning laziness. I say all of this to lead up to this: The little bowl of parmesan cheese you see was for Mister. It actually didn't even occur to me to use it, and I think that is because of the primarily vegan way I've been eating lately.
The second note is about the wine: it's Cavit Pinot Noir and I would like to take an opportunity to give it a little review. It's the most gorgeous shade of red I've seen in ages! That's where the good part stops. I hate this wine - I'm not going to beat around the bush. I bought the little 4-pack bottles because I don't like what happens to a bottle of red wine if it sits open more than a few hours and I'm not enough of a lush to finish a bottle alone (Mister doesn't drink). I tried the little bottles in 4 different contexts because I couldn't believe how much it sucked - I like Cavit Cabernet, so I couldn't grasp that the Pinot Noir could be this bad. The final bottle tried really hard to work with last night's dinner...but like all the others, I got 2 sips in before I just couldn't convince myself to drink more.
I am at least somewhat convinced, though, that this would be a good choice to accompany filet mignon (for those of you who eat it) because it has the same woody, buttery taste to it as Beringer Cabernet, which is excellent with filet mignon (or was 10 years ago). This wine cannot be consumed by just can't. It has to go with something, and I have come to the conclusion that vegetarians don't eat anything that it complements.

This is the longest post ever. I'm almost done, so thanks for sticking with me if you're still there. Is your coffee gone yet? I can wait for you to refill if you need to. Seriously, though, all that is left is the new menu and a brief explanation of why it, too, is longer than usual.

1. Five-Spice Vegetables and Tofu on Coffee Rice
2. Peppered Pasta
3. Curried Tofu with Mixed Baby Greens
4. Minty Moroccan Mishmash
5. Red Rice and Beans
6. Mediterranean Risotto
7. BBQ Pomegranate Tofu on Coconut Rice (from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa)
8. BBQ-Flavored White Beans with Sausage and Spinach (from Vegan Express by Nava Atlas)

#1 is a repeat from last week's menu and this menu is 8 items long because of a recent change to my work schedule, resulting in alternating long and shorter weeks. I had forgotten that last week was shorter, so I ran over by one recipe which should start this "week." This coming week is longer, so I had to plan my menu to run from Tonight until next Saturday, because next Sunday is the next opportunity I will have to do serious food shopping. I'm giving Red Rice and Beans another try - I did a little troubleshooting and feel pretty confident I can cut the cooking time in half and actually have fully cooked rice this time! Similarly, I have made a few changes to the Mediterranean Risotto which I would like to try out (one is using Arborio rice to make a real risotto, thereby not making Mister eat "squishy wheat"). To be completely honest, when I decided to make Isa's Pomegranate Tofu (one of my all-time favorite recipes), I immediately thought to reprise Nava's "beans and franks" so I could use up the leftover BBQ sauce. Plus it's tasty and ultra-fast to make.

Despite your inevitable protests, I will return later to post about tonight's dinner!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

nom nom nom the spinach

First, though, tales of today's bar. Today I had the thinkFruit Chocolate Pomegranate Power bar. It left a much more favorable first impression than the Jocalat bar yesterday, though I think that if I had to choose between the two, I would actually choose the Jocalat bar.
First of all, there's just something about me that cherishes the simplicity of 3-5 ingredients. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the thinkFruit bar had the most ingredients - granted, only ten, but they included things like added pectin and the ever-enigmatic "natural flavor." Also, I don't care for the trickery of using pineapple and pomegranate flavored cranberries to flesh out the bar. I would not have been less inclined to purchase the bar if it had said Chocolate Cranberry Power or something like that because honestly, I was more excited about the chocolate. Speaking of chocolate - the chocolate taste was subtle...possibly even more so than the Jocalat bar, which surprised me for some reason. On the plus side, this bar is lower in fat than other fruit & nut bars, with the added bonus of being enriched with omega-3s despite the lower fat. Also, there were a couple of times when I could swear I tasted figs, but there were none on the label...unless they are the "natural flavor." I guess we'll never know.
Anyway, it wasn't a bad bar at all. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about thinkProducts in general, but as it goes, I wouldn't turn my nose up if this was offered to me. I just wish pomegranate wasn't dead last on the ingredients list since it's part of the bar's name.

For dinner tonight, I made the Chamomile Couscous with Savory Spinach (but there was actually only one piece of spinach - the rest was spinach-flavored basil*). It was fun and different. I think it'll take a little tweaking, but all in all it came out well. Also, when you are absolutely certain you have an abundance of chamomile tea in your tea chest, please check before you arrogantly write it into a recipe as though you'll never run out. You can also read that as: My dumb butt didn't realize I only had 1 of the 2 tea bags I had written into the recipe, so I substituted one chamomile tea bag with Stash Sandman tea, which contains chamomile...and spearmint, which way overpowered both that chamomile and the pure chamomile tea bag. Also, in an effort to draw out the flavors of the tea and not just the scents, I think I overdid the honey. Below you will find the amended recipe, with less honey.
Chamomile Couscous with Savory Spinach
serves 6
a little more than 2 cups water
2 chamomile tea bags
2 cups plain couscous
1/2 Tbsp (1 1/2 tsps) honey
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp yellow mustard seeds
1 Tbsp garam masala**
1/2 tsp salt
28 oz (petite) diced tomatoes
15 oz chickpeas, rinsed and drained
9 oz fresh baby spinach

Boil the water, then place the two tea bags in the pot and cover - allow to steep at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, stir in honey until dissolved, then add couscous. Cover and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep pot. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When mustard seeds begin to dance, sprinkle in the garam masala, then stir in the undrained tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, stir in chickpeas and salt and simmer a few minutes. Add about 1/3 of the bag of spinach, cover to steam 1-2 minutes, then stir into tomatoes and chickpeas to wilt. Repeat with second 1/3 and final 1/3. If your cat enjoys spinach, share some with him (or her) before you destroy it all in your dinner. Once all spinach is added and has wilted, uncover and allow to simmer about 5 minutes.
Fluff couscous. Serve spinach mixture over a fluffy white cloud of couscous!

*this was a about the pomegranate-flavored cranberries again if you didn't get it.

**Garam Masala is merely a mixture of popular spices used in Indian cooking. One brand will have one mixture and another will have a completely different mixture. For this recipe, I used Whole Pantry brand - a.k.a. the Whole Foods store brand - which ended up being much heavier on cardamom than I would have preferred. Cardamom is one of those very pungent and peculiar spices that is better seen but not heard, so to speak. Whole Pantry Garam Masala has the following spices: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander. To balance out the pungency of the cardamom and cloves, I added just a pinch of cumin for its savory and a generous pinch of turmeric for its bitterness. You'll be able to smell if it needs something. For the record, my favorite Garam Masala (so far) is McCormick brand.

Finally, I got Angst to dance for his spinach. I tried to get some action shots to share:"mmm... is that my spinach?"
"nom nom nom"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jocalat on one shoulder, Seitan on the other...

I decided to start sampling my treasure trove of bars today. Ordinarily, this is how my day goes, eating-wise:
morning snack
afternoon snack (sometimes)
The morning snack is usually a piece of fruit - grapes, an apple, a pear. However, I've found that they don't hold me over very long. Usually, I have my snack about two hours into my work day, but today I knew I was going to be too busy to eat something then, so I would have to go at 1 hour into work and make it last until a few hours later when I got lunchtime. I figured a 180 calorie fruit, nut, and chocolate bar would do a better job than my grapes, so I just grabbed the first one I could reach and it was my Larabar Jocalat Chocolate Mint bar.

I have to be honest: when I opened it up and smelled it, I thought, 'I don't know about this..." and when I took the first bite, every impulse in me wanted to be completely unladylike and spit it out in my trashcan. I fought the urge to be utterly uncouth and managed to chew it up and swallow. Upon doing so, there came this kind of nice aftertaste that made me pause and say, "let's try another bite." I realized about halfway through the bar that sometimes you just need to give your tastebuds a moment to shift their paradigm. If you are expecting something chocolatey the way that a Hershey's bar or (ooohh) a Dove bar is chocolatey, you will be sorely disappointed. Once I realized that something that had dates as a first ingredient wasn't going to be creamy, it was actually a delightfully dark and bitter chocolate taste on my tongue.

By the way, that little bar got me through four and a half hours of training before I could have my lunch (leftover "black bottom" tofu).

Tonight, I had more fun with gloppy sauces and once again marvelled that I can make them without gobs of some fatty substance. None at all, actually! I made Pineapple-Tamari Braised Seitan for dinner tonight. Tamari is a japanese version of soy sauce - a little sweeter, a little more piquant, if you will. If you cannot find it (though it is widely available where I live anyway), regular soy sauce will be an adequate substitute. It didn't turn out completely as I imagined, but it was really good, and could be a great noodle dish if I made 3 times as much sauce...and with the huge can of pineapple juice I got (because apparently they don't make single servings anymore), I very easily could have!

Pineapple-Tamari Braised Seitan with Vegetables
2 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
8 oz seitan
1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
3 Tbsp tamari/soy sauce
2 Tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 Tbsp warm water
4 cloves garlic, pressed/minced
1 bunch of asparagus*, ends trimmed and bias-cut
2 medium carrots, bias-cut
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
cooked brown rice

Tear seitan into bite-sized chunks with your hands. Heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil in a large saute pan; add seitan and saute 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until edges start to brown. Combine pineapple juice and tamari, pour into seitan and stir to coat. Bring to simmer, then cover and reduce heat slightly. Braise, stirring once or twice, 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the garlic and vegetables by pressing all garlic into a small bowl and placing all cut vegetables in another bowl. Heat 1 Tbsp peanut oil and 1 tsp sesame oil on high heat in a large wok or a very large pan - it is ready when the oil shimmers. Add garlic all at once and stirfry rapidly for about 15 seconds. Add vegetables and stir constantly for the first minute, and very frequently for another 2-3 minutes.
Dissolve the cornstarch in water and add to seitan mixture, then pour seitan and sauce into wok to thicken with vegetables. Stirfry one more minute until sauce is thick and gloppy. Remove from heat and serve over rice.
* Note:
Asparagus has an early and short season - usually around early- to mid-springtime. I was absolutely astonished to find not-rotten/rotting asparagus at Whole Foods so I bought it because it competes only with cauliflower for Mister's affections.
Asparagus is "ripe" when it is colorful and closed up - the tips should be tight and pointy, nothing should be "blooming," so to speak. If the heads are opening, you're better off skipping it. Also, always eat asparagus as soon after you buy it as possible - it's a finicky little vegetable without a great deal of stamina.
If you cannot find an appetizing bunch of asparagus, broccoli would make a very close substitute - as far as the stems are concerned, I can't taste a big difference in flavor, only texture.
final note: bias-cut means to slice crosswise diagonally.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

what makes a curry famous, anyway?

Today was very food-centered. I started the day with a tasty and very clean-feeling breakfast. I would almost say "pure" but I'm not sure how that can be applied when a butter substitute is involved. It was quite simple, really - I had run out of blueberries, but still wanted fruit in my first meal of the day. I remembered I had pluots, a hybrid of a plum and apricot, and I just couldn't see how my Stonyfield yogurt would fit, so I left it out in favor of two slices of my favorite multigrain bread (Whole Foods store brand) with just a little bit of Earth Balance spread on top for some fat. So my carbalicious breakfast was: two breads and a pluot (Mister is insisting on calling them plumpricots and I think I like that better - it's much more fun to say!). The reason I got the plumpricots to begin with was that I thought they had a fun shape - when you cut them open and pit them, they kind of look like hearts:

A few hours (and cups of coffee) after breakfast, I ate the last Tomato Rosemary Scone and headed out to buy the week's groceries. I confess, I was influenced in my decisions could almost call it peer pressure, but the pressure was self-inflicted after looking at product reviews on a couple of my new favorite blogs: Chocolate Covered Katie and Vegan Eats & Treats. If you go to those blogs, it probably will not come as a surprise to you that my off-the-beaten-path additions to my grocery basket were:
Larabar Coconut Cream Bar
Larabar Banana Bread Bar

Larabar Jocalat Chocolate Mint Bar

Think Fruit Chocolate Pomegranate Bar

Clif Nectar Vanilla, Lemon, Cashew Bar

I have been known to get the Nectar bars in the past - in fact, that one is my favorite flavor...subtly sweet with the most sublime aftertaste of vanilla. What I love about the Larabars and the Nectar bar is that they each have between 3 and 5 ingredients. That's it! I'm not of the opinion that the fewer ingredients a meal has, the healthier it is, but when it comes to prepackaged "processed" foods, it's nice to see not everything has to have unpronouceable ingredients that sound more like chemicals than food. There's something beautifully ironic about turning over a Banana Bread bar and seeing these ingredients: almonds, dates, and bananas. Seriously. No (added) sugar, no flour, no corn syrup, rice syrup, etc....just fruit and nuts. I'm totally psyched. The Think Fruit bar had the most ingredients, tipping the scales at a mighty TEN. Anyway, I'll let you know what I think of the bars as I eat them.

Upon returning from grocery shopping, I ate the other plumpricot as a snack to hold me over until dinner. Just as I was getting ready to start dinner, my phone rang - because my mother has had and still has amazing timing for calling me. For Christmas last year, I had compiled some of my favorite recipes from my ever-growing collection of cookbooks and recipe websites in a small splatter-proof book for her. Tomorrow night she plans to make this amazing recipe for plum tomatoes with fresh basil and garlic over pasta and wanted to ask me a few prep questions. We talked about other stuff, too, but it just amuses the heck out of me that when people in my family have cooking questions, they come to me - 5 years ago I could barely boil water. Now my sister-in-law calls me for a zucchini recipe, my sister calls me about pomegranate molasses, and my mother wants to know if I really slice the garlic or if she can just press it.

So anyway, when I finally got to cooking, I made Satyamma's Famous Cauliflower Curry. It was very good and I got to make a crazy paste/sauce in my food processor, but it really wasn't anything all that it makes me wonder what makes a curry famous? Is it one of those things where you and all your friends are planning a potluck and someone says, "Hey, Satyamma, can you make that famous curry of yours?" because you've made it so damn many times that people know you as "Satyamma with the curry?"

Anyway, the curry comes from The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. It's a charming book, written in the author's own penmanship and illustrated throughout with funny little ink sketches of food. There's even a picture of a pear with angel wings! I don't like to share other people's recipes (I hope I do a good enough job plugging for their books that you go and buy a copy to support their hard and hungry work!), but I want to give you a basic idea of what was in this nutty sauce I made in the food processor, so here are the ingredients without quantities:
shredded coconut
roasted peanuts
mustard seeds
toasted cumin seeds
ground cloves/allspice
toasted sesame seeds

Anyway, it was a good little curry, though surprisingly bland for everything that went into the sauce! Mister actually added salt to his food...we never have a salt shaker at the table.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

peanut butter makes everything taste better

Well, probably not everything but it sure does make a lot of things taste better. It kind of saved dinner tonight! Here's a quick story...

When I was doing my normal morning routine, I checked to see whether I would be able to go food shopping upon returning from work this evening. According to, it was going to pour buckets of rain all I took my umbrella with me, but needed my sunglasses instead. However, as I drove home, the sky over my beautiful city was ominous and growing more gray with each passing moment. I checked the weather again when I got home (5:30ish) and this time told me I had enough time to run to Whole Foods, speed-shop, and run home again before the downpours started around 7:15 PM. Moments later, just as I was preparing to run out the door, Mister arrived home from what was apparently a pretty craptastic day at his job and proceeded to bend my ear with his tales of woe. He noticed I was only half paying attention, while I glanced out the window for some sign of the rain holding off, and asked what was up. I told him I wanted to go to Whole Foods and he said, "I don't think that's going to happen," just as the skies opened up and tons of rain began to drench the streets, cars, and unfortunate outside-people.

I had just about despaired of dinner and was starting to think of what flavor Chinese food I would order when Mister said "I have faith in you." That more or less sealed my determination to find something to turn into our dinner (this would also keep me more dry that running down the street for Chinese take-out). I looked in the miserably empty freezer, then in an eclectic but nearly empty cabinet, and finally in the crisper drawer and refrigerator. Slowly, a bizarre plot hatched itself in my mind and I thought, "Really? I hope this doesn't suck..."

To my ineffable surprise (and delight), dinner was an absolute triumph! I still can't believe how well it came out... I'm starting to think I might actually know a thing or two about this cooking game! Out of nowhere, stringing together what was, in my mind, a completely bizarre combination of ingredients, I have produced one of my favorite dinners in a while. It was also really easy to make, and only took about 45-50 minutes start to finish. Without further ado, I give you...
(okay, it's not very pretty, but it tastes good)
Peanut Butter Peas & Cabbage on Curried Rice
serves about 6
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 Tbsp curry powder*
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup red lentils
salt & pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp oil
2 cups shredded red cabbage
8 oz green peas
4 oz apple juice
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup peanut butter**

1. Combine 2 cups water, curry powder, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in rice, cover and reduce heat to lowest setting. Simmer 45 minutes.
2. In a smaller saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Stir in lentils, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 10-15 minutes, then uncover and simmer until rice is done cooking. The lentils will be mushy and resemble a chunky sauce.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan or large pot. Saute cabbage, covered, 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Combine apple juice, vinegar, and soy sauce and pour into cabbage. Bring to boiling, then stir in peanut butter until smooth. Stir in peas, cover and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes, until heated through.
4. Remove from heat and stir in lentils. Serve over rice.
* I use Frontier brand curry powder - it's the best I've found. It smells great and has a really bold taste - it's made up of: Turmeric, paprika, fenugreek, coriander, black pepper, cumin, ginger, celery seed, cloves, caraway, and cayenne. If your local food-selling establishments do not offer Frontier products and you cannot persuade them to start, you can order online at .
** You can use creamy or chunky peanut butter - I can't see how it would make a difference. If you care, I used chunky peanut butter because that's what we have. No brand, just the store's generic "brand." I think the chunky is more fun because then there are little peanuts in the food, too.

sneak preview

Last night's ramblings about my tiny abode got me thinking, so until I write tonight about dinner, I will give you two lists to ponder.

List #1 - What I will do when I have a bigger home
get a huge saute pan
finally have an adequate home for my huge wok
have a tea party
host a ladies' night
have a normal sized Christmas tree
host a holiday celebration
decorate (if I try to decorate now, it just crowds the place more)

Okay, that's it for now. If I think about it any longer, I'll start being bitter that I don't already have a larger home. Then I'll get all depressed and hopeless, then I'll stress about money. We don't want that, do we? On to the second happy list, then:

List #2 - new menu!
1. Chamomile Couscous with Savory Spinach
2. Five-Spice Vegetables and Tofu on Coffee Rice
3. Pineapple-Tamari Braised Seitan
4. Chickpea Stew with Fried Polenta (mmm.....polenta....)
5. Satyamma's Famous Cauliflower Curry (because cauliflower is cheap right now and because it's one of Mister's favorite veggies)

#4 comes from the Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook which I think is a funny title, since Veg. Times (magazine) is still in production, so there have been hundreds of new recipes since that book came out and my mother so wonderfully gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago.
#5 comes from the New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I believe I've mentioned Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant earlier as one of my favorite cookbooks, given to me by my mother-in-law. This book is a 30-years-later follow-up.

Hopefully the rain will hold off long enough for me to get groceries tonight, but for now, it's off to work!

Friday, August 21, 2009

two days, two dinners

Last night was a bit of a busy one - dinner came out slightly better than expected, but between cleaning up and then doing some housecleaning in order to take full advantage of trash night, I ran out of time to share my cooking adventures. So tonight you get a double dose of delightful dinners!

Last night I made Farro pasta with Sunshine Sauce. I enhanced our fun little meal with Isa's Tomato Rosemary Scones (from Vegan Brunch). They were soooooo good. Mister had three with dinner! They were super simple to make, too, as scones go. I have to admit - mine ended up being more in the likeness of drop biscuits because I don't have enough counter space to knead dough, so I just stirred it up really well (but not too much) in the bowl, and then put 12 scoops of the dough on baking sheets and tried to form them into something more interesting than blobs of orange dough.
The farro pasta was one of the gifts from my father-in-law and that (seemingly) long ago visit to DiBruno Bros. I've seen recipes for farro (the whole grain) but I've stayed away from it, primarily due to my impatience for slow-cooking grains. I believe I read that farro is the longest cooking grain and there were even recommendations of soaking it overnight. However, the package of farro-flour pasta said it only needed to cook for 6-8 minutes. I cooked it for 8 minutes and it was most definitely "al dente" if ever a pasta was! Anyway, I had been trying to think of a fun way to use this pasta since we got it and the package recommended a light sauce to let the farro's flavor shine through. I may have failed at the "light" part due to the overpowering amount of garlic I included (I amended the recipe below), but at least I was able to appreciate the texture of the pasta, if not the actual taste. The focal point of this recipe is the sauce, but I will give you the whole of our dinner (sorry for the crappy picture - we were too hungry to take pictures before dinner, so I just got a shot of the leftovers).
Farro Pasta with Sunshine Sauce
about 6 servings
8 oz Farro pasta (spaghetti)
16 oz roasted yellow peppers
30 oz cannellini beans (two 15 oz cans), rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp garlic powder (originally 1 tsp, but that was really too much)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable broth

2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, pressed/minced
large head of broccoli, cut into florets

Cook pasta according to package directions.
Heat oil on medium heat in a large saute pan, add garlic and saute 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broccoli and cook 3-5 minutes, until broccoli is a vibrant green and still crisp, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, combine cannellini beans, roasted yellow peppers, salt, and garlic powder in a food processor/blender; pour in vegetable broth in a steady stream while the food processor is running. Drain pasta and return to pot, stir in cooked broccoli. When sauce is completely combined and smooth, pour over pasta and broccoli and stir well to coat.

Chapter (dinner) two
Tonight I made Black Bottom Pineapple Tofu with Coconut Cashew Rice from Vegetarian Times Fast & Easy. This is a family favorite (well, Mister and me anyway, not so much Angst) and while it was cooking I had a few compliments on the delightful scent wafting into our living room. Okay, I'm really making our home sound better than it is - the only separation between our kitchen and living room is that the tile floor stops and the carpeting starts. We have had conversations from one end of the apartment to the other without raising our voices.

Anyway, enough about my itty bitty home - it has four walls (with no more holes) and the a/c works. I can't remember when I got the aforementioned cookbook, but this recipe was one of the first ones I tried and has endured to become a regular in whatever rotation we may have. I don't really have any stories - it's one of those recipes I've made so many times I'm only about one or two more times away from not needing the book. However, I will say this, and it is actually related to my mini-vent about our tight quarters.

When you don't have much space, you can't have big things. You also don't really want to accumulate more things, because you (we) barely have room for what you (we) already have. That being said, one of the very first things I am going to do when we DO have more room is get a huge saute pan. The one I have now is great, but it's not very big, so there isn't much room for the food to spread out. I have come to the conclusion that until I have a huge (hopefully All-Clad) stainless steel or copper saute pan, I will never have tofu with a black bottom. There just isn't enough space to allow the syrup to form...what ends up happening is more like brown-braised tofu. It tastes great, but I really feel like we're missing something by not having the black bottom...nevertheless, here is our tasty tofu dinner:
Coconut Cashew Rice (so good)
"black bottom" tofu with pineapple chunks, red bell pepper, and carrots
such a pretty dinner!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lebanese red is akin to Chianti (but not quite as good)

In celebration of our final night off together, Mister and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner at our favorite Lebanese restaurant, Cedars, and a movie: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.

We had intended to see Underworld in the theater, but to be honest, I'm glad we rented it - I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy other crappy films noir (for example, my unreasonable love for The Crow: City of Angels), but Mister seemed quite underwhelmed. Whatever - Rhona Mitra was astonishingly beautiful, so I was able to overlook Kate Beckinsale's absence. There were also a lot of great one-liners, primarily delivered by Bill Nighy's character, Viktor.

Our dinner at Cedars was delightful, as it always is. The service there cannot be beat - friendly, intimate, accommodating. Also, the food you get is worth far more than what they charge (don't tell them I said that!). I had mentioned wanting to try the Lebanese red wine they offered, and I decided Monday would be the night I finally made good on my intention. It was dry, had some of the sparkle of Chianti but the darker flavors of was okay, but nothing special and I probably won't get it again. As is our custom, we started with a mixed appetizer plate of falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, baba ganoush, and pita. Mister also got fries with peppers & onions, and for his entree he ordered spanakopita with a side of rice. I believe I have become incapable of ordering something other than the Imam Baldi. It is just so good - roasted eggplant with other roasted/braised veggies - acorn squash, carrots, zucchini, celery, potatoes - sprinkled with raisins and feta good. Appropriate, since "Imam Baldi" translates to "the Imam fainted." Legend goes that an Imam visited some folks who prepared this roasted eggplant dish, and the scent of the food alone knocked him out. I would agree!

Today was a long and tiring day, and being a Wednesday, I had a peanut butter sandwich for "dinner" tonight (I finished my cheerios on Monday, too). However, I did make the Mediterranean (Mock) Risotto for dinner last night:Let me tell you - the flavors were very intense. I might even say too intense, and I believe I would have Mister's support in making that statement. He did his best to get through it with the help of some bread to calm the flavors. Honestly, I think there was too much of two ingredients: white pepper and sun-dried tomatoes. I will attempt this again in the future and cut down on those things to see how it turns out, but I will share it with you now. One more note, before I give you my recipe: although I have cooked barley on several occasions now, Mister revealed to me just last night that he doesn't like "squishy wheat."

Mediterranean (mock) Risotto
about 6 servings
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup pearled barley

1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup sliced roasted peppers
1/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 generous tsp dried basil
pinch of white pepper

Bring vegetable broth to a boil. Stir in barley and basil, cover and simmer on lowest heat 45 minutes. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and add them with the white pepper in the last 15 minutes of cooking. After 45 minutes, stir in roasted peppers and olives, cook until heated through and most liquid is absorbed - about 5 more minutes.

It's actually pretty simple and doesn't require a whole lot of hands-on time. The recipe above contains the revisions I will make next time regarding the amounts of white pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, so if you want to give it a try, just tell me how yours ended up!

Monday, August 17, 2009

magical talking devices

Every once in a while, I have this moment of clarity where I find the time to truly appreciate something that I take for granted every other day/hour. A couple of days ago, I was driving and suddenly I realized how cool that was. Now, I drive every day, just about, and there are times my 60 mile roundtrip for work everyday makes me want to sell my car, but a few days ago I realized how amazing it really is that this piece of machinery yields to my every whim. With just a tug this way of the steering wheel and some gentle (or sometimes quite abrupt) pressure on a pedal at my feet, I control the way the vehicle operates and it does what I command (this was not always so with my last car).

I had another one of those moments earlier today. This one is not nearly so deep and philosophical - actually, I think it's more comical than anything else, but I still appreciate it. Today's amazing moment was when my sister called me from a grocery store in Arizona. Here I am in Pennsylvania and my cellphone rings and connects me instantly with my sister, wandering the aisles of a grocery store thousands of miles away, asking me where to find pomegranate molasses (because she's such a wonderful sister that she is going to make a modified version of the Pomegranate Saute for a potluck). I know, you think I'm crazy, but that's because you're taking this moment for granted.

Stop and reflect on that story for a moment. Cellphones, though invasive at times, are magical!

Today was a fun day. First, Mister and I went to the spice store to get red lentils (and ground cloves, crystallized ginger, and black licorice, because I really did marry a man just like my father), then we went to a diner for breakfast at 3:30 PM. We're still celebrating his birthday, and if breakfast at 3 (after we'd been up for hours) was what he wanted, that's what we were doing. After stuffing ourselves full of omelets and potatoes (and craptastic coffee), we waddled home in the 95 degree heat and were thrilled by the still-working a/c in our home.

For dinner, we had Red Lentil Coconut Curry (thus the trip to get more red lentils):
Red Lentil Coconut Curry
serves 6-8
Spice mixture:
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp canola or olive oil
2 cups water, divided
3/4 cup jasmine rice
2 large carrots
1 small head cauliflower
14.5 oz petite diced tomatoes
1 cup peas
1 cup red lentils
15 oz lite coconut milk
1/2 tsp honey

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add rice, lower heat to lowest possible setting, cover and simmer 20-25 minutes, until all water is absorbed.
Meanwhile, mix together all the spices and salt in a small bowl. Quarter and cube the carrots and cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets.
Heat the oil in a large, deep pot and add the spices, stirring continuously for one minute. Add carrots and cauliflower and stir to coat with spices. Allow to cook for a minute or two, then add the undrained tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water. Stir well to dissolve spices, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in peas, lentils, coconut milk and honey. Cover and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve over rice.

It was a nice tasty birthday curry. Now I'm ready for leftover birthday cake!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

while I bake a birthday cake...

I'll tell you about dinner! Bananas and their cousins, Plaintains, attract fruit flies faster than any food I've seen, so I wanted to get them out of my kitchen as quickly as possible. I would have made the Cuban-Style Black Beans with Rice and Plaintains for dinner last night but I had my heart set on doing one of my own recipes in order to redeem myself for the Red Rice and Beans disaster.

So, tonight I rescued the plaintains from the microwave prison in which I've been hiding them in an ardent attempt to prevent the aforementioned fruit flies from invading my home. By the way - it appears to have worked. Shows you how frequently I use my microwave, though. Anyway, I "topped and tailed" them, skinned them and cubed them, then sauteed them until they were just a little browned and crispy. I discovered that the 1 cup of broth I was cooking the black beans and peppers in reduces to a nice thick sauce in the time it takes me to (once again) completely underestimate the amount of time it will take to cook brown rice.

I have a love-hate relationship with brown rice but we'll save that tale of woe for another time.

Anyway, it was a tasty and different little dinner. I was looking for something a little more piquant, but then again, I left out the three different members of the onion family written into the recipe in favor of a dash of onion powder. I more or less have a hate-hate more relationship with onions, but we'll definitely save that rant for later. I felt like I had been quite liberal with my salting, especially considering that I was using canned black beans and vegetable broth, but it tasted just a little too bland. I think, though, the bland may have been coming from the cooked-in-water brown rice and the dish just wasn't powerful enough to overcome that.

In other news, I am currently baking the Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer. It smells so good. Mister and I are not big fans of cake, but that seems to be attributed mainly to the lack of good icings out there. Have you noticed that? How a too sweet icing can absolutely ruin a perfectly good cake? So I'm trying to decide if I really feel like risking the corruption of what presently smells like a great cake to coat it with Maple Icing from How It All Vegan (it's just a Sarah Kramer kind of night!).

The part of me that hates cakes with icing is battling with a long-ago memory of Mister making me a cake for my birthday and stating that birthday cakes require icing...and it is his birthday...

post script: the cake is way too pretty to ice: