Friday, April 30, 2010

like a well tuned instrument

So, last night I took another go-around with making Monk Bowls from 30 Minute Vegan.  I also made the Tahini Mustard Dressing from another part of the book.  I'm not a big fan of mustard at all, but since it was actually one of the smallest quantities in the ingredient list, I figured I was pretty safe.  It was a unique, surprising, and very tasty sauce, once you adjusted to....something.  Honestly, I'm still not sure what.  There is an unexpected tanginess which probably comes from the vinegar, but the tahini (sesame paste, for the uninitiated) has a stronger flavor than I anticipated.  By the way - does anyone know if you have to refrigerate tahini after you open it?  Mine is still sitting in the cupboard at room temperature, so if I need to move it, please tell me sooner than later!

Anyway, this adventure with the Monk Bowls ended up being a far more harmonious experience than the first one, which I had expected.  I made it a lot easier on myself.  I re-steamed some of the Coconut Rice that was leftover from our Jerk Seitan dinner in place of the quinoa in the recipe.  I am somewhat ambivalent about quinoa, but Mister straight up hates it, so I usually avoid it if I can.  I also used frozen vegetables because I thought I was slick.  Maybe I was, but being slick does not always result in making tasty food.  When I was at Whole Foods, I picked up the "California Organic Blend" of frozen vegetables - how could I go wrong with broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots?

I think the combination of little bitty ice crystals on the surface of the frozen veggies and the method of cooking (steaming) might have been to blame for the waterlogged nature of my vegetables.  They weren't horrible, but I think it was a mistake to make that shortcut and I won't do it in the future.  It really doesn't take long enough to chop 8 cups worth of fresh vegetables to make it worth sacrificing flavor and texture for the ease of just cutting open a bag of mixed frozen vegetables, especially when so many good things are coming into season soon!

I had intended to make the last meal on our menu, Pasta with Beans and Chard for dinner tonight, but Mister's belly wasn't behaving so he didn't want to eat.  I actually didn't mind, because I wasn't in the mood for pasta.  I also was not in the mood for the few bites of rotting leftovers still in the fridge, so I poked around my cabinets and the freezer to see what I could muster.  It didn't take long for an idea to form in my head. 

I missed One-Serving Wednesday this week because I was out with a colleague, drinking Malbec and eating hummus.  Oh, by the way - there is no faster way to dehydrate yourself, in case you were wondering.  Anyway, when I'm cooking for just me, I make my best attempts to cook food Mister wouldn't eat but I like, so I decided to make myself a little risotto.  My recipe (shared below the picture) makes enough for one large or two smaller appropriate portions, but you could very easily double or triple the recipe to accommodate dinner guests (and I would be flattered as heck if you not only made this, but also served it to people you care about!):

Pea & Pepper Risotto
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup arborio rice
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Earth Balance margarine, divided
the juice of half a lemon
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 tsp dried organic basil (using organic makes a huge difference here)
1/4 tsp sea salt
dash or two of ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/3 cup frozen peas

In a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil.  Add rice, cover, and lower heat as low as possible.  Simmer about 15 minutes, stirring 2-3 times, then remove from heat - the liquid will not be fully absorbed.

Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp Earth Balance in a large skillet, swirling pan to coat evenly.  Lower heat to medium-low and add garlic.  Saute 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Stir in chopped peppers and cook, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle on basil, salt, and pepper, then stir in peas.  Cook, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.  Stir in rice and cook on low heat until liquid is almost absorbed.  Stir in lemon juice and 1 tsp Earth Balance and cook, stirring constantly, until all liquid is absorbed, about 3-5 minutes.

Start to finish, the recipe probably takes about a half an hour and it's very tasty.  Arborio is quick-cooking and has a very toothsome texture, unlike lighter rices like Jasmine or Basmati.  It really hit the spot for me and took very little effort to prepare.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

why is the rum gone?

It is rare that I find dinner and dessert in the same cookbook, for some reason, but Dynise came through for me tonight.  Despite my temper tantrum polite request, Angst would not trot down to the Spirits store and get me a bottle of Malbec.  For Christmas, my father had given me a slightly unusual stocking stuffer - a airline-sized bottle of Sailor Jerry spiced rum.  This is a bit bizarre because I don't actually drink rum, so it's just been hanging out.  Tonight, I tried to make a deal with Angst but he can't really be reasoned with.  I told him he could have the little Angst-sized bottle of rum if he went out and got me a Natalie-sized bottle of Malbec.  I then threatened him, explaining that I would drink his rum if he didn't get me wine.  Stay tuned for the end of the story, kids.

For dinner tonight, I made Modular Pakistani Kima from The Urban Vegan.  I knew it would be spicy, since it called for 3-5 tablespoons of my Muchi Curry of Doom.  Instead, I did one tablespoon of the MCoD, 1 tbsp of Garam Masala, and a generous sprinkling of cumin and coriander.  It was still almost unbearable - I think I just can't stand tomato-based curries.  Maybe the acid in the tomatoes somehow enhances the Power of the Peppers, but it just doesn't work well for me.

It's very pretty and Mister enjoyed it greatly.  It caught my mouth on fire. 

Almost a decade ago, I spent a long weekend in Cancun with my best friend/sister-in-law:

We had a blast and were rarely without a banana daiquiri in hand.  If we were without daiquiri, it was only because a nice Mexican man had delivered a glass of outstanding red wine to us on his head.  Or, my favorite - our complimentary bottle of Moet Chandon Blue Star, from which our server carefully removed the silver foil and crafted a flower from it, which he then anchored in the cork.  I wonder if my SIL still has it.

Anyway, it occurred to me that a banana daiquiri would probably be the perfect way to calm the fire on my tongue...and I just happened to have this little bitty bottle of rum....

I roughly followed the recipe from the Happy Hour chapter at the end of The Urban Vegan for Spiked Banana Smoothies.  It is delightful.  And almost gone.  To quote dear Captain Jack, "Why is the rum gone?"

Isa as Pie

Okay, wow, that was horrible, but I couldn't help myself.  I feel only slightly better knowing she pokes fun at herself when naming her rhyming "Isa Pizza," but I will make every attempt to avoid being that punny again.

Completely by accident, I ended up making my two Isa-authored meals back to back.  I guess her recipes are just that irresistible! Last night, I made Jerk Seitan on Coconut Rice and it was fabulous, just as I remembered it.  I really do love the flavor combo of the tangy, yet savory and very intense jerk spices with the subtly sweet coconut rice.

It smelled so good when it was just sizzling away in my saute pan and I love that the seitan browned and became crisp around the edges, though you can't really see that in the picture.  I used a new kind of seitan from White Wave and it was okay, but a little gummy - it felt as though I had overcooked it.

Tonight, I made Orecchiette with Cherry Tomatoes and Kalamata Tapenade from VwaV for the first time ever.  I have passed over this recipe countless times because the tapenade just seemed like too much work.  I have learned, though, from similar mistakes in the past, so I decided to give it a go.  Just like my last experience, I could kick myself for not making the effort sooner - it was not difficult at all (thus the wretchedly punny title for tonight's post) and smelled magnificent.  The flavor combination of the winey but salty kalamatas and the sweetness of newly ripe grape tomatoes, sauteed in just a bit of olive oil and garlic was nothing short of outstanding and resulted in unashamed second helpings for Mister and I.

The more observant of you might notice that I managed to find the most unique looking orecchiette on the market.  Or, you could be snickering behind your hand and saying, "Doesn't she know that's farfalle?" 

Actually, while I am still surprised that Superfresh even stocks orecchiette, I am not at all surprised that they hid it on the second to top shelf, just far enough behind the farfalle to exceed my reach.  Because the staff is about as helpful as they are skilled at stocking shelves, I decided it would be easier and less aggravating to just choose a different pasta.  So there you go - farfalle-shaped orecchiette.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sarah Kramer: Queen of Chili

Sarah Kramer, author of the trilogy of vegan cookbooks that introduced me to veganism in a healthier (read: less violent and in-your-face) way than PETA, shares her experiences in relating to food throughout her life.  The introductions to her cookbooks are always personal and in that way, edifying to the reader.  She was raised as a vegetarian, but healthy food became increasingly scarce after her mother died, and eventually she ventured into "experimenting" with meat.  After she realized how unhealthy she had made herself (not necessarily because she ate meat, but rather due to alternately stuffing herself with junkfood and starving herself so she would weigh a magical number under 100 lbs), she went back to her vegetarian roots and then some, becoming vegan and restoring her health.

Before she went vegan, though, I think she developed quite a taste for chili, because it seems like she is constantly tweaking recipes to make the perfect vegan chili.  Mister and I think she might have found it with the recipe I made for dinner last night:

Baked Chili with Cornbread Biscuit Topping is in the third and final book of the set, and the only book she authored alone - La Dolce Vegan.  Mister and I really enjoy two of her other chili recipes, but we both agree that this is her finest work (chili-wise anyway).

It looked like so much fun while it was cooking, I couldn't help taking a picture.  I can't believe I geek out over how attractive chili is, but there were just so many colorful ingredients (and ingredients in general) that I got happier with every addition.

getting ready for the topping and then the oven

I am always amazed when I can plop something sloppy (and flour-based, to clear up any confusion) on top of something I'm about to bake, and it actually turns into whatever bready product it's supposed to be.  I have never actually made cornbread before, so I was even more excited that I could make it on top of something!

Finally, I do feel the need to highlight our salads:

Those gorgeous, vivid, red bits on top?  A huge strawberry at the peak of ripeness that I chopped and sprinkled over top.  When I was at Whole Foods yesterday, I gawked at the $5 cartons of not-quite-in-season strawberries and passed them by to get my veggies.  As I was leaving the produce section, a sweet, heavenly scent reached by nose.  Turning, I was greeted by a smiling young lady in a headscarf who was stocking a table with little plastic baskets of strawberries.  These berries were much less expensive and much more ripe - perfectly so.  She cleaned one and gave it to me to taste and I was sold.  These are among the best strawberries I have ever eaten.

For this week's menu, I actually paged through a few cookbooks.  As easy as it is to just go through one cookbook for each menu, it does lack diversity at times, especially when all the recipes take an hour or more or have similar ingredients/tastes.  Also, I wanted to sample just a few old favorites while continuing my quest to constantly expand my culinary repertoire.

1. Modular Pakistani Kima from The Urban Vegan.  I skipped this the first couple of times I scanned the book.  It looks fascinating and I am very much looking forward to making it, but it took me a few read-throughs to realize the structure of this dish.  It's kind of a Choose Your Own Adventure kind of dish, where Dynise provides a few different choices you get to make, so the results could very well be different each time you make it.  There appears to be a space missing in the cookbook between the last choice and the continuing list of Same-Every-Time ingredients, which is one of the things that kept me moving on to the next page, but I think I've figured it out and I'm willing to be wrong if I haven't.

2. Orecchiette with Cherry Tomatoes and Kalamata Tapenade from Vegan With A VengeanceI really wanted to make some old-school Isa recipes, so I bypassed Veganomicon in favor of her first cookbook.  This is another recipes I have looked at and then away from almost every time I've looked through this cookbook.  I don't know the source of my sudden bravado (it might have been this), but I have decided that this week will be the week I finally make this.

3. Jerk Seitan on Coconut Rice, also from VwaV.  I've made this before and Mister loves it.  It is pretty darn tasty and I love the way the coconut rice complements and calms the jerk marinade.

4. Monk Bowls with Tahini-Mustard Dressing, both from The 30 Minute Vegan.  I am pretty sure this is going to be a pretty regular meal in our rotation.  It is refreshingly tasty and extremely easy to make, even if the Zen of the experience escaped me the first time I made it.  I am determined to get this to the point where it is so simple I don't even have to think as I dance the food-prep-ballet around my feng shui-compliant future kitchen.

5. Pasta with Beans and Chard from my beloved Vegan Express.  This is also very simple, almost to the point it's a shame there's an actual recipe.  Nevertheless, it's a good recipe and one that takes little thought and less effort to prepare.  I also have a new bunch of dried cranberries burning a hole in my cupboard and I think it's fun that they're in the recipe.

Friday, April 23, 2010

you people = meat-hating mutants

Happy belated Earth Day!

I could go into a big discussion on how meat consumption is destroying the planet we call home, but I'll let PETA handle that for me.  We'll let it go at this - hot dogs are not earth-friendly (and just barely meat, anyway).

Before I go any further, I would like to make it clear that I am completely grateful for everything my workplace does to recognize the efforts of the employees and reward those efforts in any large or small way.  That being said, I also want to say that we're good at anti-holidays where I work.  I've already shared about the meat-loving extravaganza on World Vegetarian Day, so it really shouldn't have surprised me that we had Hot Dog Day on Earth Day.  Nothing says, "I love Mother Earth," like one of the most artificial and preservative-laden mixtures of meat ever molded into a little pink tube and boiled...mmmm....tasty.

A very thoughtful colleague brought in Tofu Pups, presumably because she doesn't eat beef (if you can really call hot dogs "beef"), but also because she recognized that I would not be able to partake of the meaty festivities.  I was touched!  I was astonished, though, when I found that the Hot Dog Man actually already had veggie dogs - well done, workplace fun organizers!  I did express my thanks as adamantly as I could because I think it's important to recognize little efforts like this (I must take after my company).  I also had an amazing interaction with the Hot Dog Man:

He actually said this - true quote: 

Yeah, we had to special order 'em for you people.

You people?  Really? We people who don't exploit animals or stuff their mutilated flesh into my mouth like I'm at the Wing Bowl?  We people who don't scarf nitrate-loaded tubes of mashed "meat?"  We people who don't have a significant weight problem and who can proudly show off all of our teeth (in our mouths)?  

I still can't believe he actually said that, but he did - I have witnesses.  They also had the pleasure of witnessing my response, which was a very mildly toned down version of what I wrote above before pointing out that my Tofu Pup was probably the closest thing to "real" food he had in his Cart of Death.  Happy Earth Day!

Moving along, then, Mister and I enjoyed a very Earth-friendly and tasty dinner.  It was also extraordinarily fast, though it did take quite a bit more effort than the recipe appeared to have.  I made the Pita Quesadillas from the latest issue of Vegetarian Times.  It was very very good, and although I had originally intended to serve it with Crash Hot Potatoes, I will save those for another time and I served it with leftover stew.

They looked nothing at all like the pretty picture in the magazine, but tasted fabulous.  Rather than making my own hummus from the recipe in the magazine, I actually used up the red pepper hummus that my mother sent home with us at Easter.  I think it worked out better that way.

Tonight, I made Spicy Tomato Peanut and Kale Pasta from La Dolce Vegan for dinner, with the can of V8 Mister procured from the local corner store.  I love Philadelphia.  V8 is not hard to find, but I love all the independent stores around here, rather than heading over to Wawa or down to Rite Aid.

I somehow managed to skip right over the part where the recipe called for only 2 cups of chopped kale, so I just chopped up the whole bunch and threw it into the sauce.  It came out okay, but I'm not completely sure it needed an entire bunch of kale.  The sauce would be a little more outstanding if I had added the splashes of tamari and red wine vinegar I wanted to add.  I believe I will make this again, but I will probably add about a tablespoon of tamari, a generous splash of red wine vinegar, maybe a teaspoon of vegan worcestershire sauce and increase the harissa to half a tablespoon.  I was still a little "gun-shy" after the huge amount of trouble I got into with the spicier items on the menu, so I was conservative with the harissa (in place of the chili oil called for in the recipe).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

a rose by any other name

There are a great many things I like about living in the city.  One of those things is the diversity of both population and cuisine.  Because there are so many different cultures represented even in my small corner of Philadelphia, making a simple statement like "I'm a vegetarian," is commonplace enough that the server smiles and skips the meat specials and no one thinks to ask what you DO eat.  I think it is something of a blessing (though I commonly find it a curse) that I have been unable to find suitable work in the city because it allows me to see how fortunate I am to make my home here.  When I travel outside of the city lines, I find myself in a land where the word Vegetarian may as well be part of another language and the concept of not eating ANY kind of animal is beyond some people's weak grasp.

I shared previously about the new hire who didn't realize poultry was considered "off limits" to vegetarians.  Today, another new hire seemed equally surprised that seafood didn't make the cut.  It was then that I decided to start calling all meats by their animal names, hoping to bring clarity to what is apparently a fuzzy gray area (not unlike the cat).

To my surprise, I think I actually managed to offend a colleague in doing so!  I was explaining what happened in class and she reacted with quite a bit more animation than I had expected and I flashed back to an article that I read in the latest VegNews (it just jumped right in with my groceries the other day...).   Colleen Patrick-Goudreau contributed this article about how uncomfortable people get with the reality of what they are eating if you bring it to their attention - although it made sense to me, I didn't think it would actually elicit the response I got from my new drinking buddy colleague today.

I tried to find it in a linkable format, but failing to do so, I will just type it in for your reading pleasure, thought-provocation, and pondering:

In our everyday use of language, we choose words that ease our discomfort and inure us to that which might be ugly, dirty, violent, or just discomforting.  We speak of "friendly fire" and "collateral damage" to refer to victims of war.  Dumps are now "transfer stations," and "used cars" are "previously owned vehicles."  Similarly, we tend to sugarcoat what we eat with language that conceals what we're actually putting in our mouths.  The euphemisms we use to refer to meat, dairy, and eggs contribute to our disconnection with the source of these products: the animals themselves.

For example, the word "meat" is preferred over "flesh" or even "animal," and it's generally discouraged to refer to the pigs, cows, and deer offered up for our gustatory pleasure.  Instead, we order pork, beef, and venison.  When an animal lays dead on the side of the road, we call it a carcass, but when an animal lays dead on our plate, we call it dinner.

Many of the words we use to refer to animals' body parts are equally innocuous, such as bacon, ribs, steak, hamburger, meatball, ham, pepperoni, roast, ground beef, sirloin, and chuck.  We don't say "prime cuts of pig" or "thin slices of calves."  As the result of successful desensitization, we seem to be able to refer to specific body parts without squeamishness, such as leg, breast, rib, wings, rump, loin, and flank, though we arbitrarily draw the line at tongues, feet, heads, intestines, and stomachs.

Of course, words from other languages make animal parts seem even more edible: caviar, foie gras, pate - menu items that many people might not order if they were in English.  "Escargot" certainly sounds more appetizing than "snails."

Strangely, we can order without compunction "chicken," "turkey," "duck," and "goose," but the slightest alteration makes people squirm.  Try asking someone if they eat "chickens," "ducks," and "geese," and it's as if they're recognizing the animals for the first time.  People have no problem eating "chicken," but they'll writhe when you ask them if they eat "chickens."

Using euphemisms to refer to the anonymous victims of our appetites not only belittles and commodifies animals, minimizes their suffering, and legitimizes and conceals our institutionalized use and abuse of them, it also desensitizes us to our own truth, our own values, and our own compassion.  That's a pretty high price to pay for a few old habits that can easily be replaced with just a little effort.

One of the joys of becoming vegetarian is that there is no need to euphemize, assuage, pretend, or romanticize.  You can look at the truth squarely in the face and, well, call a carrot a carrot.

It's true - as the vegan lifestyle becomes more visible and as those who abstain from at least meat-eating raise our voices, the consumer-driven marketplace responds and supplies what we demand.  If you live anywhere even remotely diverse or metropolitan, it takes so little effort to live ethically and compassionately that it's embarrassing to think others might believe we're making a sacrifice.  People wonder constantly what I eat, but I have to follow Dynise on this one - I have a long list of things I still want to try - I am at no loss for tasty and varying food choices.

Let's look at things through a new lens:






Just some food for thought...

goes 60 to 0 in 24 hours

One of the best phrases for laissez-faire I-don't-care attitudes toward anything is,

You win some, you lose some.

While I don't like to overuse that phrase and I certainly wouldn't want to be accused of cliche, it's probably the best way to summarize the last two nights of dinners.  I'm noticing a theme - first I did my curry dinners back to back, and now I've done my brothy dinners right in a row - both times with mixed reviews.

Last night, well yesterday in general, was kind of cold and miserable.  Although it seems to me that just about every Winter evening is the perfect one for a soup/stew dinner, in the Spring one must really grasp for justification.  Most of the time this involves cold rain, but yesterday I pulled it off with just wind.  I made Classic Lentil Stew and it was hearty and warm and just what I wanted after an afternoon of clothes-shopping-failure.

{Quick aside: Does anyone remember that horrid Britney Spears song, "Not a Girl"?  That's kind of how clothes shopping makes me feel, despite my age and growing smushiness proving I am very much a woman.  When I go to Macy's, the size 4 pants are just a little too big for me, but when I go to H&M I can't even pull the "same" size over my womanly hips.  Talk about knocking the wind out of your thirtysomething the way, I never looked like Britney does in that video, and if I did, I still would have worn more clothing.}  

Back to the soup/stew.  It was delightful!  The potatoes made it nice and hearty = substantial and the herbs added a nice earthiness to the French lentils I used (I actually didn't have any of the $.79/lb brown lentils you can get at SuperFresh).  I think the two bay leaves also added a depth of flavor that might have otherwise been missing.

That was 60.  Now for the Zero.

This is one of those times you really can judge a "book" by it's "cover" (or a star by her implants) - the Quick Moroccan Tagine was exactly as bland as it looked.  I had no idea you could actually simmer all of the excitement out of kalamata olives and nothing else tasted like anything either.  This is the first time in a long time (that I can remember with my old lady brain, anyway) that I actually added salt at table.  I had to - it didn't taste like anything!  That was really disappointing.  It smelled so good when it was cooking, but it was really not very good.  Fortunately for Vegetarian Times I have two cookbooks that prove they do actually know their stuff.

Who knows?  Maybe my tastebuds are still burnt out. Stay tuned, kids - this old dog has some new tricks coming soon.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

too muchi curry powder

No, I did not actually make a typo in my title - that "i" is on purpose.  I believe I've mentioned how much I love Frontier Brand Curry Powder - it smells great and has a savory flavor, packing just enough heat but not too much for my little Irish tongue.  Unfortunately, the last time I needed to buy curry powder, I was not the only one who had run out of it.  I ended up buying the Whole Pantry Muchi Curry Powder, thinking, "how different could it be?"  In a word? Very.

To be fair, it smells very similar to my regular curry powder and even looks somewhat similar.  Actually, because of it's milder yellowy-orange color, I thought it might actually be milder than the Frontier brand.  While I wasn't looking for that, I'll take it over make-my-lips-hurt hot.  Because I was actually in Whole Foods when I was confronted with this "decision," and because I am not [yet] addicted to an internet-wielding smartphone (primarily because I am unwilling to pay for the plan), I could not look up what "muchi" might mean so I went on looks alone.  As many hollywood-starlets-turned-trainwrecks (Britney, Lindsay, Amy, Robert Downey, Jr, I can go on) show, that isn't always a safe bet.

It turns out Muchi Curry is a very hot curry, sometimes referred to in Indian cooking as "the" hot curry because it contains in its mix not one, not two, but three ground peppers: black, red (cayenne), and white, in that order.  Silly me, I used the whole amount dictated by my recipe for Rice Noodle with Curried Tofu and Vegetables.   Another error in my thinking was that even if it was hotter than it smelled (it was, and no, I didn't think to read the ingredients before I bought it and even if I had, I wouldn't have recognized how hot they would make the mix), surely the coconut milk would mellow it know, as opposed to spreading it around the entire dish so there were no safe bites.

It was extraordinarily flavorful, and prior to losing all sensation in my mouth, the cayenne did its job and absolutely enhanced all other flavors around it, not the least of which was a wine my friend recommended to me: Francis Coppola Celestial Blue Malbec.  As she promised, it was very easy to drink, which was very helpful last night.  It is smooth and very dark - I would recommend it to any everyone.  Ultimately, no matter how wonderful dinner was, I could barely finish my portion - it was just too hot.

So tonight, when I made Curried Bulghur Casserole with Garbanzo Beans, I cut the curry portion in half, more or less.  It worked, in terms of me being able to eat all of my dinner and it was delicious, but I should have made up for the other half of the portion by adding other curry spices ad hoc (cumin, coriander, maybe a dash of ginger). 

There really weren't many ingredients involved and I did make some minor changes.  I'm not a big fan of onions (actually, I hate them), so in place of the green onions (which are certainly the least offensive), I added about 4 cloves of garlic and a generous sprinkling of freeze-dried chives.  While the chives were instantly reconstituting, I had a little daydream which involved my generous colleague sharing the bounty of his herb garden with me again as he prepares to move in a month and a half.  I knew the veggies wouldn't look as good after baking as they do right here:

So anyway, it is high time to get to bed - I have a baby birthday party tomorrow afternoon!  Let me show you my menu (though I've already shared one part above) before that, though:

1. Pita Quesadillas with Hummus and Crash Hot Potatoes - The first recipe comes from the newest Vegetarian Times magazine, which sang its siren song when I was standing in line at Whole Foods.  The potatoes are courtesy of Vegan Yum Yum (the blog - I haven't bought the book...yet).

2. Quick Moroccan Tagine also from the latest Veg. Times, because I have yet to meet a tagine I didn't like, and this one looks like a fun variation from the ones I normally make.  Someday - that great someday when I have a huge chef's kitchen - I would like to have an actual clay tagine and make these things authentically.

3. Classic Lentil Stew from The Complete Vegan Cookbook.  Why not?

4. Curried Bulghur Casserole with Garbanzo Beans - done. 

5. Spicy Tomato Peanut and Kale Pasta from La Dolce Vegan - I missed this cookbook, and though I originally set out to repeat a couple of favorites (like Punjabi Peppers & Tofu), I saw this and wanted to try it.  I am growing quite fond of kale.

6. Baked Chili with Cornbread Biscuit Topping also from La Dolce Vegan and also something I haven't tried before.  Yes, I did get the tortilla chips ahead of time.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Sorry - I got a little more excited than I anticipated about the fact that tonight's dinner, though selected from The Complete Vegan Cookbook, did not contain even a dash, not even a conservative sprinkle of oregano.  It was a great dinner:

Tonight, I made Bulghur and Red Lentil Pilaf with Kale and Olives.  It was spectacular, honestly, and not just because oregano was conspicuously absent.  I love everything about the ingredients.
Bulghur has a fabulous texture and an overall pleasant flavor.
Red Lentils subtly provide the missing amino acids to create a complete protein in combination with the bulghur, meanwhile also acting as a thickening and binding agent, holding the whole mess together.
Kale is a delightful "dark leafy green" with a heartiness to it I haven't found in other greens.  I'll admit - this vegetable is so strong the idea of eating it raw is both stimulating and terrifying.  Not planning to try it anytime soon, but if I ever work up the courage, you can trust you'll hear about it.
Kalamata olives are among the most amazing edible treasures my husband and his crazy Greek family have brought into my life and for that, I will always be grateful.  The only thing I can think of that would not be improved by their flavor is ice cream (maybe oatmeal, too).

glamour shot - not as pretty as it was tasty

So, speaking of ice cream, I do believe Tempt hempmilk "ice cream" has earned a more or less permanent place in our freezer.  I picked up the Coffee Biscotti flavor at Essene last week and we tried it the other night.  It was just as creamy as the Mint Chip was, but the coffee flavor was much richer than the mint was.  The chunks of chocolate cookie were a little dry, but I figure, so is biscotti, being all twice-baked and whatnot.

I don't care if you are vegetarian, vegan, or if you think chicken is a fruit - find this somewhere, buy it, and then eat it very slowly, savoring every moment.  Then, once you've placed your spoon in the empty bowl, realize that this is a product that is better in every way than ice cream made with cow's milk and chicken's eggs.
It tastes better.
It is lower in calories (140 for a half cup versus 270*)
It is lower in fat (7g with 1g of sat. fat versus 18g with 11g of sat. fat)
It is lower in cholesterol (NONE versus 120 mg)
It is cruelty free - nothing that breathes and has a heartbeat was hooked up to a metal machine to be milked electronically and run the risk of being cut by the clamps on the udders, resulting in infection, which ultimately leads to:
It is pus free.  Yes.  That's what I said - pus free.  With no infected cow udders anywhere near it, there is no chance that there was a government-guidelines-acceptable amount of pus in the milk that became the ice cream.
It is allergen free - my sister could eat it and not break into hives or have trouble breathing.
(all nutritional comparisons made to Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream)

Have I convinced you to try it yet?  You don't want to miss out on this - go!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

dried oregano = pencil shavings

This could be another case of "stop being so cheap and invest in quality ingredients," but am I the only person who has noticed the remarkable similarity between the smell of dried oregano and of the pencil shavings leftover in those oooooolllllllldddddd school grindy pencil sharpeners?  You know the ones - the big metal guys they attached to the walls of elementary school classrooms when everyone used those huge blue pencils and could just barely spell your name, much less try to write it in fancy looped letters.  I noticed that both last night and tonight, although I was only able to put a name to that familiar smell when I opened my Big Ol' Jar of Oregano tonight.

I think I need to invest in better oregano - buying organic dried basil showed an astonishing amount of difference between generic or even McCormick brand basil.  As I've alluded to in the past, it seems like all cookbook authors/pro-chefs have their "pet" ingredient.  Rachael Ray has EVOO (oh so cute! *gag*), Robin Robertson has soy crumbles, Nava Atlas has sun-dried tomatoes, and though I haven't nailed it down yet, I think Dynise Balcavage's pet is paprika, possibly nutritional yeast ("nooch").  Having made exactly two whole recipes from The Complete Vegan Cookbook, it seems they include oregano frequently.  This is a shame, between the unfortunate smell association and the fact that Mister and I favor basil hands down.  I don't think either of us truly grasped our growing hatred of oregano, though, until last night's dinner.

It looks tasty and innocuous enough, sure, but we ended up having quite a time of the Southwestern Corn, Chard, and Potato Soup.  I was shocked when I presented the week's menu to Mister and he actually chose the only soup on there for dinner last night.  I learned two things about oregano:

1. 2 teaspoons is absolutely too much for any recipe.  If I had doubled everything else in this recipe, it still would have been too much.

2. Dried oregano doesn't actually EVER reconstitute or soften, even if you simmer it in very hot soup for 30 minutes.  It will be just as dry and throat-prickly after steeping for 30 minutes as it would be if you just emptied the jar into your opened mouth; either way you're going to choke.

Without the oregano, I'm pretty sure this would be a great soup.  The chard kind of stuck together and I'm not sure what, if anything, can be done about that, but the oregano has got to go.  I don't mean, let's cut it down a little - no, it's got to GO.

Tonight, I made Pasta with Adzuki Beans, Tomatoes, Spinach, and Olives.  At least the authors of this cookbook have the same pattern of naming that Colleen seems to follow - which means there should be no mistaking the main ingredients of any dish!  This was very good, although the beans made it just a little chalky and the olives didn't stand out as much as I would have liked.

Despite that, the flavor combination came together just as I thought it would and it was a very easy dinner to make after an exhausting day.  I'm pretty darn impressed with myself for making sense so far, but I may lose it at any moment.  If I'm not as coherent as I think I am, just ignore me - I'll be better tomorrow...or this weekend.

Anyway, there was considerably less oregano in this dish, fortunately, but it was still dreadful and I almost didn't add it but then I thought "What if it's actually important?" and I couldn't think of an adequate substitute.  I did refrain from adding the full cup of vegetable broth the recipe calls for because I really think that it would have contributed more soupiness than flavor.  Perhaps if I make this in the future, I will just add a bouillon cube to the tomato juices and see how that goes.

Speaking of going, I have an important date with Madame White, so ta-ta for now!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

just one word is all it takes

Oftentimes, I find that the hardest part about writing here is figuring out how I want to start a post.  One of the most valuable lessons I've learned, both from Creative Writing class in high school and from my own affinities in the written word is this: you win or lose with the first paragraph.  As a result of that sage understanding, I strive to always start my posts with something that will make anyone who happened to stumble upon my humble blog actually want to read it.

I should also realize, though, that some people will read this anyway, just as I read blogs with uninteresting beginnings simply because I know it will get better.  I say all of this to excuse my silence over the past few days - I wouldn't say I've had writers' block, though I might have, I just didn't have anything interesting to say.  Blogging is self-indulgent enough without thinking people will read about my kitchen adventures and product opinions without writing them in a fun and captivating manner.

A few days ago, I made the Tunisian Soup - it must have been Friday because the weather certainly warranted soup - rainy, windy, and colder than Wednesday by 30 degrees (have I mentioned I hate Spring?).  I hurried it a little because I didn't really see any need for it to simmer for 40 minutes and because Mister was growing impatient.  We were both completely impressed with two elements of the soup:

1. how quickly cappellini noodles cook (the package says 4-5 minutes and it's absolutely true)
2. how steady the heat of harissa is - it builds a little bit, bite by bite, but there isn't that delayed reaction you get from cayenne or hot sauce made from habaneros. 

It was just as delicious as it looks and the tomato base, combined with the generous helping of harissa, will make this a very satisfying mid-winter's eve dinner.  Go buy The Urban Vegan so you can make it.  Hurry - Winter's just around the corner!

Last night I made our final dinner (this week) from TUV - Orecchiette con Broccoli accompanied by Tuscan Braised Beans.

It was fun using the "little ears" pasta for the first time in a long time - it's very sturdy pasta!  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the frozen broccoli I used.  I don't know exactly if it's the broccoli or the length of time I cooked it (though I'd put my money on option B), but it tasted about as good as it looks...  I was a little disappointed in this dish - I expected something with 10 cloves of garlic sauteed in a good bit of high-quality olive oil to be a bit more flavorful, but this was downright bland.  The beans made a good accompaniment by adding some flavor, which is fortunate since I don't think you could really just eat them by themselves.  Dynise really talks these beans up in her cookbook, but I'm not following her on this one - maybe it's me (and Mister), but 2 tsp powdered sage seemed very overpowering in addition to the white wine vinegar and lemon juice.  Once again, I would have thought that the garlic would have been more pronounced, considering I baked the beans with 7 whole cloves, but it really didn't stand out.  The whole melange smelled amazing, but it just didn't deliver taste-wise.

Before I move on to this week's menu, I want to share a couple of links I found on other blogs that made me gawk a little and then shake my head at the sad state of the world:

 Because the other fare they peddle obviously isn't revolting enough, KFC is putting this baby out tomorrow: bacon and cheese with "special sauce" served between two slabs of fried or grilled chicken instead of a bun.  Besides how gross that is by itself, let's not forget how "ideal" this sandwich is for people still on that Carbs-Will-Kill-Me kick.  The justifications will never end.  I'm sure it packs a lot of high-quality protein along with its 32 grams of fat and more than half the RDA of sodium. [sarcasm, if you missed it]

This book about how to talk to your children about optional cosmetic surgery was brought to my attention by The Cutie Tip of the Day by Touch of Blush.  This vapid and useless helpful book provides tips from a real-life cosmetic surgeon on how to help your children/family cope with the fact that you won't look like the person they know presently after you go under the knife.  Hopefully, it also covers how to cope with the loss of Mommy if something should go wrong.  I hate this book for everything it represents.  I hate the website because it has a completely addicting online jigsaw puzzle.

So, I've planned my last menu before that tummy tuck.  Hey!  I need it after all the skin left over from my liposuction.  Anyway...

1. Southwest Corn, Chard, and Potato Soup- yes, I know I am completely pushing my luck, but we have a couple of cool-ish evenings coming up.

2. Pasta with Adzuki Beans, Tomatoes, Spinach, and Olives

3. Rice Noodles with Curried Tofu and Veggies

4. Bulghur and Red Lentil Pilaf with Kale and Olives - I love the combination of bulghur and red lentils because it creates a complete protein without me having to think about it.  I love the combination of kale and kalamata olives because the wine notes in the olives bring out the sweetness hiding in the kale.  Bizarre, but true.

This entire menu comes from my other new cookbook:
The Complete Vegan Cookbook.  I haven't had a chance to give it a thorough looking over, but I plan to review it as I go along - there appears to be a well-written introduction as well as helpful tidbits interspersed with the recipes.  Also, the cover art is awesome.  Bon appetit!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

don't forget to spit out the chicken seeds

Every once in a while, I am completely impressed by a question or statement made in my presence.  Today, I had that privilege.  I was training a new group of sales reps and explaining the difference in the Vegetarian menu we offer.  One of the trainees raised his hand and this is what came out of his mouth:

"I am getting the impression that poultry is considered meat on this program.  Is that correct?"

I have to be honest - it takes a lot to stun me.  That more or less did it.  I think my initial silence was my attempt to prevent myself from gawking at him and saying, "wow - really?" but after I caught my breath and recovered, I smiled and explained that "anything which used to move of its own volition would be considered meat."  Fortunately, the class found this very amusing and moved to the [apparently] obvious conclusion that I was, in fact, a vegetarian.

But really?  I shouldn't make fun of my new hires, and I'm really not, but it amazes me that in this age of hyper-awareness of every alternative lifestyle out there, something as relatively normal as vegetarianism would be such a mystery.  Is chicken considered meat?  No, only dead cows.  Really?  Is chicken a vegetable, then?  Perhaps a legume?  No, I think it's just a really loud fruit.

So, for dinner tonight, I covered The Urban Vegan with plastic wrap so I wouldn't get any asparagus blood on it when I plucked out the feathers and removed the innards.  I actually made the Cauliflower-Chickpea Tagine tonight, but since it was simmering for about 45 minutes, I decided to roast my asparagus, too, in place of a salad tonight.  Ironic, perhaps, since Philadelphia broke a heat record today - 87 degrees!  If that's not salad, it's crank-the-oven-to-450 weather.  Anyway, after I finished chasing the cauliflower around the kitchen, I severed its extremities from the thick core and added it to the sliced carrots I had already de-veined.

Our lovely and cruelty-free dinner - the table just looked so pretty (and symmetrical).  Then, as a reward for not dying in this early-April heat, I pulled out a special dessert:

I happened into Essene on a day they were giving out samples of this stuff, as well as coupons, so I figured, why not give it a try.  I've heard some good things about it and it was on sale!  I was pretty sure I would like it, but I knew the real test would be Mister.

We both agreed that Tempt's "ice cream" is much creamier than any soy cream we've tried.  Also, the slight aftertaste (which only Mister minds) that accompanies soy is conspicuously absent.  The flavor is subtle - it's not overly sweet.  I wouldn't mind if the mint chips were a little bigger, but the overall texture was delightful.  Living Harvest has 5 flavors of Tempt: Vanilla, Mint Chip, Coffee Biscotti, Chocolate Fudge, and Coconut Lime.  I'm not a huge fan of Vanilla, but I am absolutely intrigued by the others.  I wonder how likely it is that I can score some more coupons...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

my big fat greek vegan

A rare thing that has happened only twice in the nearly nine years my husband and I have been a couple is the coincidence of Protestant Easter and Greek [Orthodox] Easter.  The planets (or calendars, at least) aligned this year and made for a glorious Easter celebration after church, involving extended family and a very nice Greek restaurant in Center City, Estia.  They offered an authentic celebration (food and tradition-wise) of the Orthodox holiday, complete with eggs dyed bright red (for smashing) and koulourakia for eating.  What makes that as funny as it is thoughtful is this: Yiayia always brings the red eggs and cookies to the restaurant, because we've never gone to a Greek restaurant for Easter.  So, much confusion ensued as we tried to figure out how the waiter got Yiayia's eggs and he was nearly apologizing as he presented the koulourakia.  Yiayia was gracious, telling him the restaurant did a much better job than she did anyway.

After a lot of fun and even more food, we kissed our Greek coffee goodbye along with our relatives and headed out to my parents' home, 35 strenuous miles outside of the city.  I had gotten up early in the morning, while the rest of the world was still asleep (not my nature) so I could pile pink goop on my hair and then try to cook with a towel around my neck.  Miraculously, I did manage to color my hair while I made the two sauces and boiled the pasta for what would become my Pastitsio, from The Urban Vegan, of course.  While the dish baked away in the oven, I had time to wash the goop out of my hair (and turn the tub a gorgeous shade of pink just in time for Easter!), get dressed and made up, and even rouse my husband from his coma in time to get to church.

Anyway, the Pastitsio was absolutely a hit, especially with my tiniest cousin, who kept pulling his mommy's fork away from her mouth and towards his!  My adult cousins loved it and asked for the recipe.  It was actually very attractive when I pulled it out of the oven, but my brain doesn't function on all of its cylinders in the AM hours, so I forgot to photograph it.  That's really too bad, because despite being tasty, the Cameroon Mafe that was our dinner tonight was absolutely nothing short of repulsive. 

I wish it didn't look like vomit, because it was actually quite good.  I was a little fearful of using harissa as a condiment, rather than being mixed in during the cooking, but in the future, I will try this recipe at least one more time with the following changes:

I will stir in a moderate helping of harissa - the mafe was good but a little bland.  The subtleties of the flavors were just that: subtle.  Part of the recipe involves making a kind of paste/sauce from tomatoes, ginger, and a good deal of garlic.  Because of the 10 cloves of garlic and 2" fresh ginger, I really expected those flavors to be more pronounced, but they were not.  The PB was good and not overwhelming, but it needs something.

I will cut the recipe in half.  It occurred to me while I was cooking that there would not be room for leftovers in the fridge...and that there would invariably be leftovers.  I let My Mind wander down the little tangent paths she likes so much and realized that if I halved more of the recipes I make I could accomplish two things (it seems wrong to use a turn of speech involving birds and stones here) at once:  I could prevent our refrigerator from housing so many science-projects-in-waiting and I could actually save a little money, which I guess is always a good thing, right?  I just can't count the number of times I have remarked on this humble blog about the overwhelming volume some of these recipes produce.  I think when I make up the new menu, I will just automatically halve any recipe that yields 6+ servings.

Speaking of altering recipes, I'll leave you with a link and a final thought.  In this post, Dynise explains what she calls the "tyranny of the recipe," describing how everyone who isn't Rachael Ray feels bound to follow recipes just as they are written.  If you look through her post, you'll see pictures of her writing all over her cookbooks.  That almost feels like blasphemy to me!  I think I have been out of school too long, because there was a time I would think nothing of putting my pen/pencil to a book and making a quick note here or there.  I sometimes attach a post-it note to remind myself of some substitution for eggplant or mushrooms or sweet potatoes, or the other myriad things my husband won't eat and I have to creatively replace.  I think I need to sharpen my pencil and let myself make notes, though - they are my cookbooks, after all.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'm a city mouse

In the introduction to The Urban Vegan, Dynise recounts the children's story about the country mouse and the city mouse and proclaims herself a city mouse.  As I read more into the book and remember posts from her blog that I've read in the past, I realize that she is my neighbor, geographically - I was out walking today and passed this tree.  In any case, I can identify with so many things she references, but more so, just her love of the city I also call my own.

I must admit, when I went through the book the second time, one of the things that stood out to me is how frequently she refers to the "boondockian coal-mining region" of her childhood, as well as how much more frequently she makes reference to being an urbanite, a city girl, an urban vegan, etc.  I think she mentions city life in every recipe intro, which makes sense since the book is about being urban and vegan, but there were times I thought, "do we really need another reference to what a busy city girl you are?"  I realized, though, that I am the same way - I relish that I am a city girl now, as I also grew up in what is just barely suburban Philadelphia.  When I returned to my hometown for my friend's father's viewing, I couldn't help gaping as I drove through what used to be a very under-developed area.  To put it another way - one reason I moved to Philadelphia in my early 20s was because my hometown was about as exciting as watching snails race one another.

Although I was off from work today, I had to get up and out early so I could move my car from the metered space it occupied (one of the less delightful aspects of city life).  This afforded me the time in the day to get a great deal done - I was astonishingly productive.  I can only guess that the sparkling weather was what invigorated me, because I very often have days like today planned only to see my to-do list half undone at the end of it.  Even though all the things I did today were pleasant, even enjoyable, I just haven't been able to get myself to do them until today. 

The point of all this is just to say that I am more in love with my city now than I have been in a while.  I think after a while you get used to things and start to take them for granted, but then a day like today comes along and I realized at every turn how much I love where I live and how fortunate that makes me.  I came into contact with a lot of truly pleasant people - people kind and courteous enough to make me forget all of the other kinds I usually seem to encounter.  Sometimes it's all in your mood and mindset, though - I had a couple of good encounters early today and that colored my perception for the rest of it, generally.

There was the friendly bank teller
And the quirky, spiky-haired man who sold me some hair dye
The enthusiastic cashier at Essene who wished me a happy day and called me by the name my receipt printed out for him
The grateful fellow customer who thanked me profusely for helping her find Vital Wheat Gluten
The warm gentleman who sold me my amazing new pair of Carlos Santana sandals and gave me a flower
The helpful salesman at Williams-Sonoma who helped me find the one thing I couldn't locate on my own, despite the very demanding, newly-married couple who apparently wanted him to find every item on their registry that their guests hadn't given them
The numerous complete strangers who complimented me on my hair and/or makeup today

I could go on, but you get the point.  It was just a great day and I love being a "city mouse."

So, back to my adventures with The Urban Vegan - so far I have made two of my dinners and both were fantastic.  I think Dynise just might have something here.  Honestly, the only fault I find so far is that for all her mention of being a busy city girl, it seems like most of her recipes take well over an hour from chopping to serving.  That being said, she has managed to provide me with the only paella recipe (using rice) that doesn't involve 2 hours of simmering only to still bite down on uncooked kernels of rice.

I made her Granada Paella and it was sublime.  It really doesn't look very exciting and I was a little concerned about that since I seem to have convinced myself that food must look interested to be interesting, but it was quite flavorful and surprisingly creamy.  I used Basmati rice, instead of Arborio, and I left out the saffron because I'm still a little scarred from my last (first) experience with it.  To my extreme surprise (and ineffable delight), the rice fully cooked in the broth in the 30 minutes I gave it.

Actually, let me share the introduction to this recipe, as it provides a perfect example of why this book is such a pleasure to own:
Granada, Spain is one of my favorite cities in the world - especially at night.  Wandering through the silent, curving streets after midnight feels just slightly dangerous, as if you are peeking in someone else's window.  Except in this case, the window is an entire city with a culture all its own.  The silence is inevitably shattered, at some point, by an angry flamenco guitar and the loud, off-key singing of some bar patron who's had too much sangria.
Tonight, I made Balsamic-Roasted Vegetables.  It was very tasty, though I made some mental notes of changes I would like to make next time.

It's very pretty, yes?  For the four peppers the recipe calls for, I used two red, one orange, and one yellow pepper.  There are also three Yukon Gold potatoes in there, and I substituted broccoli for the eggplant.  To make it a more substantial dinner, I added the left over Tofurkey sausage from last night's paella.  The only things I will do differently in the future are these: use a bigger roasting pan and roast the potatoes for about 15 minutes before adding the other vegetables.

I'll leave you with that tasty image.  I need to get to bed so I can wake up early and make food before we go to church and lunch with my in-laws.  I also need to touch up my hair with the aforementioned dye.  I am becoming more Greek with every passing year - by the time I have my own house in which to host holidays, I'll just stay up all night preparing the food.

Friday, April 2, 2010

masters in english + world traveler = awesome cookbook

Anyone who owns the cookbook I'm about to rave about probably knows which one it is from the title of this post.  For anyone who has not yet experienced the wonder of a cookbook elegantly written about a diverse collection of edible treasures by a self-proclaimed food hedonist who relies on both her childhood in the coal-mining, rural region of Pennsylvania and her adulthood in the bustling mini-metropolis that is Philadelphia, I'll fill you in.

We're talking about The Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage.

I wanted this book because I follow her blog and wanted to support her in this venture.  I really wanted this book after reading about Jess (from Get Sconed)'s adventures with her copy of the book.  I love the very varied aspects of this book - she covers everything from replications of Philadelphia street cart fare to diner favorites to unpronounceable (by non-world-travelers) haute cuisine. 

Not only are there enough dissident recipes to keep a foodie on their toes and in the kitchen, the tidbits she adds throughout the book are a pleasure to read - introductions to recipes, reminiscences of her childhood Polish food, strategies for making a dinner party as hostess-friendly as it is guest-friendly.  In one such tidbit, she reveals seeking a Masters degree in English, which really ties everything together and explains why the book uses such elegant language with obvious ease.  Reading some of her descriptions made my mouth water and I had to take a dinner break...and then a dessert break.  I haven't had the privilege of cooking anything from this cookbook yet, but I have read it cover to cover (I'm not kidding) twice in the last 2 days and have constructed my entire extended-week-plus-special-Easter-dinner menu from those precious pages.

1. Cameroon Mafe which looks to be a slightly more exotic peanut-based stew than others I've made.
2. Granada Paella - I will admit, I hesitated for quite a while before allowing myself to add this to the menu.  I haven't had the greatest luck with these rice-cooking-simmerers, and I have gotten terribly spoiled with my growing collection of blink-and-dinner's-done cookbooks.
3. Orecchiette con Broccoli accompanied by Tuscan Braised Beans.  Orecchiette is such an awesome and sometimes difficult to locate pasta shape.  When I found that SuperFresh (of all places) regularly stocks it, I found a growing desire to use it whenever possible.  I'm actually really excited about the beans - when I saw the recipe, I thought, "I must find a reason to make these."  Neither pasta (generally) nor broccoli packs much of a protein punch, so I figured this was a good combination, culturally and nutritionally.
4. Balsamic-Roasted Vegetables because seriously, what part of that doesn't sound great?  I hate to tweak recipes I haven't made yet, but because she actually invites variation throughout the book and because the things I am adding are actually suggested at the end of the recipe, I don't feel so bad.
5. Tunisian Soup - I was a lot hesitant to include this.  Don't get me wrong - when I saw the recipe, I thought it looks amazing and like something that belongs in my belly.  However, it is not only officially Springtime, but the weather in Philadelphia is supposed to be gorgeous this week - not terribly conducive to soup slurping.  Ultimately, I stared at until I found a rainy day, so there's my justification.
6. Cauliflower-Chickpea Tagine - this ought to make it up to Mister that I'm going to feed him soup in 70-some-degree weather.

I also found the dish(es?) I will be sharing with my family on Easter, but I like surprising my family so my lips/fingers are sealed for now.

By the way, I was so excited about that Spicy Stirfry with Clementines, Asparagus, and Tofu that I made it twice in the same month - I can't remember the last time I did that [heating up leftovers does not count].  As I mentioned in the menu for last week, I planned to use mandarin oranges instead of Clementines.  Let me leave you with a word of advice:  don't do that.
It turns out canned mandarin oranges do not appreciate being cooked at stirfry temperatures and promptly became one with the sauce.  Sometimes you just can't be that lazy.  Observe the difference a little effort makes:
And one last note, as I'm looking at that amazing, healthy sized asparagus - for anyone local, Whole Foods is selling asparagus now for $1.99/lb!  And so, it will find its way into one of those meals, probably roasted because that's amazing.