Monday, August 30, 2010

sloppy joe and snobby jane

Snobby Joes from Veganomicon seemed a fitting way to celebrate the end of Monday.

I served them open-faced on freshly baked kaiser rolls.  Mister trudged through the heat with me to get them at Superfresh tonight.  I rewarded him by not making him put back the Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Bread he swiped off the shelf when he thought I wasn't looking.

They were just as thick and flavorful as they appear and lived up to my memory of the last time I made them.  At the end of our meal, Mister's napkin was a disaster and as one might expect, there were bits of peppers, tomato, and lentils gooped here and there on his plate.

I am the only person I know who can eat open-faced sloppy joes and not have to wash the plate afterward:

The napkin is clean, too.

Brunch at Supper

Even though the date on this post will say Monday, August 30, it is merely after midnight and I haven't slept, so according to Mister (and me), it is still today.  Today was a wonderful (if not a bit hot) day.  I woke to find a hungry kitty waiting for me to get up and feed him - days like today are one reason we sleep with the bedroom door closed.  He barely allowed me to start my tea and was following me around, singing the "feed me" song.  Once he had his breakfast, he retired to his newly found Favorite Spot - the window.

I left him on the window and Mister in bed and joined my parents and sister for a lovely Sunday brunch at Supper.  I chose this restaurant for a couple of reasons, the most outstanding being the ironic humor of eating brunch at a place called Supper.  Also, it provided a venue where my father's and my differing culinary desires could meet in relative harmony, ensuring a peaceful family gathering.  My dear dad, of course, ordered the eggs 'n' meat fritatta, while I opted for cornmeal johnnycakes and a bowl of fruit to share with my sister.  After a perfectly portioned brunch, we wandered down the Italian Market to see the sights and digest a little.  I snuck in a short trip to the Spice Corner, which smelled wonderful and seemed to amuse my parents.

I spent the hotter part of the afternoon doing laundry and once the sun started to dip below the highest parts of the skyline, I headed over to Whole Foods to shop for this week's menu:

1. Mediterranean Chopped Salad from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, which reminds me, I also gave my sister a little present this afternoon: the Farmer's Market cookbook issue of Vegetarian Times magazine, chock full of blended and chilled soups (her new thing).  This led to a very entertaining discussion of immersion blenders as we walked to Supper for Brunch.

2. TLC Sandwiches, clipped from the coupon magazine they have at Whole Foods.  They sound simple and fun.  I will serve them alongside Mediterranean Mashed Potatoes.

3. Snobby Joes from Veganomicon.  For reasons I may never know, I was craving this specific recipe out of all the Joes recipes I have.

4. Curried Tofu with Mixed Baby Greens from my own twisted imagination.  I was inspired to make this again when I saw all the perfect rows of baby bok choy waiting to be taken home on last week's market day.  That might be foreshadowing...just sayin'.

5. Moroccan Mishmash, because mishmash is a great way to describe the state of my brain by the time I get home from work most days recently.  And because it tastes good.

6. Thai Pineapple Stir-Fried Rice from Vegan Express.  I can't remember if I've made this before.  If I have, it's high time I repeat it.  If I haven't, I'm sure I'm about to kick myself.

Last night, however, I made the Herbed Ragu Bolognese from the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of VegNews.

I did deviate slightly from the recipe.  The recipe called for tempeh, so I substituted tofu to prevent a war in Mister's belly.  Although I like tempeh, I think I was happier with the tofu than I would have imagine its texture with tempeh.  Also, I didn't simmer it for a full hour - I simply ran out of patience, to be honest.  It was very good - the sauce was delightfully thick and meaty, as a bolognese sauce should be.  There was only one thing I can honestly say did not go well: the Brazil Nut Cream.  It never turned into a cream, despite following all the directions.  I wonder if I need a high-speed blender to make it thick and creamy, but the nuts remained in chunks.  Fortunately, its vague grittiness added to the illusion of "meatiness."

Tonight's dinner was Curried Tofu with Mixed Baby Greens, although it ended up a little differently than planned.

I've made this previously with silken tofu and found that I didn't like the way the curry spices sat on top of it, rather than melding into the nooks and crannies of water-packed tofu.  I used that this time and found it absorbed the spices far better, resulting in a much better tofu experience.  In an ironic twist of fate, all those perfect little baby bok choy that caused me to choose this recipe?  Gone.  There was not a single baby bok choy in all of Whole Foods.  I elected to replace them with what remained of the chard from Friday's dinner.  It came out well and somehow seemed faster than other times I've made it.  I'm hoping I can say the same about this week upon arriving at Friday again!

Friday, August 27, 2010

IKEA and Black-eyed Peas

This week has just been crazy.  I just realized I haven't posted anything since Tuesday and that I can't really remember Wednesday or yesterday.  I am so relieved it's Friday night that I could barely cook!  I have actually just barely reclaimed my ability to form sentences in English, so hopefully they're coherent.

Sometimes, dinner does come in a box.  Mister had a busy day yesterday, too, and ate lunch so late that he wasn't hungry for dinner.  I popped over to Essene because I absolutely had lost my ability to be creative by this time in the week.  Besides, the arrival of the new IKEA catalog is always a happy time of year for me.  I could think of no better way to spend last night than drinking a glass (or two...maybe three) of Chateau Ste Michelle Select Harvest Riesling while munching on tasty food prepared by someone else and perusing the 2011 IKEA catalog.  So that's what I did.

Spring mix greens, grilled eggplant, peppers, and summer squash, baked tofu, marinated/grilled seitan, harvard beets, and braised broccoli rabe.  Aside from one tofu that was a little too spicy (I probably should have stayed away from the one coated with a habanero-based sauce), it really hit the spot and allowed for super simple clean-up.  It also afforded me plenty of time to drool all over the IKEA catalog and employ my remaining brain cells in scheming about our future home and how it will be organized adorned.

Tonight, I made Satisfying Sleek from the latest issue of VegNews (Sept/Oct 2010), the first issue of my official subscription. 

I swear I have a hundred pictures that look like this - a dark, leafy green wilted with beans and a grain.  However, this Sleek was unlike anything I've made/eaten before for two reasons:

First, despite my inability to locate ground fenugreek, I mixed my own blend of Baharat.  I was a little nervous that the majority ingredient was black pepper but went ahead with it anyway.  It was an intriguing combination of pepper, cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom.  It certainly made the dish spicy-hot, but not unbearably so.

Second, this marks my first experience with black-eyed peas.  I'm not sure why they're called peas, other than that they are very small beans; smaller than I expected them to be.  They have a mild taste that went well with the kale as well as the bulghur, although they smelled a bit funny.

As much as I would love to regale you with tales of black-eyed peas and/or my unhealthy affection for IKEA, I'm going to leave you with a link to a giveaway instead.

Kind Boutique is giving away a beautiful vegan "leather" satchel worth over $80!  Visit their site and check out their other clothing, shoes, and accessories - some of it is on sale.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

drive-by recipe: my pet ingredient

It seems as people develop their skills and as their tastebuds "sharpen," they are better able to isolate specific tastes and manipulate those flavors to their advantage.  I am no different.  Over the past year, I've noticed trends in specific cookbooks - ingredients that make their way into more than their fair share of a cook's recipes: Nava and her sun-dried tomatoes, Isa and her mushrooms, Robin and her soy crumbles, et cetera, et cetera.

Although garlic seems to find its way (in copious amounts) into almost all of my non-dessert recipes, it is far too common a base to be considered my signature ingredient.  My signature scent, perhaps, but not the ingredient by which people will someday recognize my recipes.  No, I believe I have discovered what ingredient (besides garlic and olive oil) finds its way into a disproportionate number of my recipes in recent months:  kale.

I love kale.  It is undeniably my favorite "dark leafy green."

Carrot and Kale Noodle Bowl
4 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp minced ginger
2 Tbsp tamari (soy sauce)
2 cups vegetable broth
2-3 cups chopped kale
1 large carrot, julienne
2 oz capellini pasta, broken in thirds

Heat oil in a deep skillet and saute garlic and ginger on medium heat, 1-2 minutes.  Pour in broth and tamari and bring to boiling.  Stir in capellini and boil for 1 minute.  Stir in carrots and lay kale on top.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove lid, stir and increase simmer to a light boil for 2-3 minutes to reduce liquid.


Monday, August 23, 2010

a sweater in august?

It is presently 66 degrees in Philadelphia.  That is a mere three degrees short of tomorrow's anticipated high.  Now, this happens every year - the minute the temperature falls below 70, everyone I freak out and put on a sweater.  Then I laugh at myself because the minute it hits the mid-60s in the spring, everyone is peeling off their clothes.  It's amazing how the context can change our perceptions of heat and cold.  After weeks and weeks of 90-degree days, the 60s are an unexpected and not entirely welcome change.  After all, it is August still.

Along those same lines, last night I started to make Cousin Natasha's Bean and Rice Salad from How It All Vegan.  As I gathered everything together, I realized that I just couldn't tolerate the idea of a cold dinner, so I converted it to "Cousin" Natalie's Bean and Rice Skillet.

It was fun, if not a little vinegary, though that probably works much better in the cooler context.  My avocado was pretty angry with me by the time I diced him, considering he was already ripe when I got him and in order to firm up the flesh, I put him in the fridge for a couple of days, and then the freezer for a few minutes before I cut him up.

I don't think I've composed that good of a run-on sentence since high school.

Anyway, it's a fun mixture of peppers, beans, avocado, and rice.  If I made it again as a skillet dinner, I would change the "vinaigrette" into a more savory simmer.

It was a heck of a Monday and the rain didn't help anyone's mood.  There's something in the artistry of slicing cabbage that will almost always center and soothe me, so I made Braised Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Kidney Beans from Vegan ItalianoI also made it because it was the only thing left to make.

It's very pretty in a bizarre, beet-like way, don't you think?  Despite the vivid coloring of the dish, it was disappointingly unremarkable when it came to taste.  It had the crunch of cabbage, but despite being braised in a mixture of savory broth and a sugared vinegar, it tasted like I had braised all the flavor out of it.  I thought this was a weird entree, so I wanted to try it to see what would happen...but I won't be trying to tweak it.  Once was enough for me.

When I was picking up my fruit at Whole Foods, I saw this little carton of adorable yellow pear tomatoes and picked up a pack.  I've never had them before, so I wanted to bring them home and make them into something.  That something involved halving them lengthwise, then arranging them cut-side-up in a pie plate.  I then sprayed them with olive oil and sprinkled liberally with salt, pepper, and basil, before spraying them again.  I roasted them for about 7 minutes at 400, which might have been either too long or too hot.  They were good, but barely held together.

I don't know what will happen for tomorrow's dinner... stay tuned!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

tofeta (pronounced toe-feh-tah)

Today was just full of bizarre encounters.  If you'll recall, I mentioned last night (right before my etiquette PSA) that it took me 45 minutes to find parking when I got home from work.  You can probably imagine that by that time, I was going to park anywhere that would not involve my car being towed, so I ended up in a metered spot.  By the time I parked there, the timeframe was no longer applicable, but I would need to move my car by 10 am this morning or risk getting a ticket.

If I wanted to pay to park my car, I'd use a lot and not circle my neighborhood for 45 minutes.

So, I got up with Mister today and moved my car when he left for work.  Since I was up and showered and dressed, I decided to be as productive as possible before I had to go teach in the afternoon.  I browsed through a few bookstores but came out empty-handed.  I did not leave The House of Tea empty-handed, though!

I have now come into possession of my very own ounce of matcha!  It was very exciting.  What will be even more exciting will be the horrendous "trial and error" method I will use to learn how to make my own cups of matcha.  I hope it won't matter that I didn't invest in the cute little bamboo whisk.  I already have four, so unless there is some kind of awful chemical reaction that results from using a metal whisk, there is no reason to buy another whisk right now.

After I had secured my matcha (the tea store is only open three days a week), I wandered down to one last bookstore and then thought I would check out the Craft Fair on Headhouse Square.  There is a lot of beautiful jewelry.  It's a shame Mister works on Saturdays.  After a short bit of "window" shopping, I headed over to Whole Foods and picked up some fruit.  I don't actually need to go grocery shopping until Wednesday, but I've been going through 3-5 pieces of fruit a day for the past week or so, and I ate my last pear and 2 kiwis for breakfast this morning, so tomorrow's breakfast would have been sad/nonexistent.

Actually, let me interrupt my generally pointless rambling for a moment to bring you a True Story About Breakfast.

You heard me.  Breakfast.

We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, although we've also probably each heard a few different reasons why that is so.  In Skinny Bitch, Rory and Kim assert that what you eat for breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day.  This makes sense to my brain and I've read that before.  If you eat crap, you'll crave crap - Lucky Charms for breakfast = Big Mac for lunch, so to speak.  On the other hand, if you start your day with something pure, clean, and completely natural, can probably follow the thread.  They explain that their Perfect Breakfast consists of three pieces (or servings) of fruit, consumed slowly, and one at a time - not like a fruit salad.  They explain that this is the perfect "skinny bitch" breakfast because fruit, when consumed alone, moves quickly through the digestive process, leaving your body free to work off stored fat once you've finished digesting your breakfast.  My thoughts?

Give me a break!  You must be kidding me!  I thought they were mad for even suggesting something like that - why would I want a breakfast that digests quickly?  Doesn't it have to carry me through, energy-wise and hunger-prevention-wise until lunchtime?  They even admit that not everyone can get into an exclusively fruit breakfast, and in their 4-week "diet" menu they do include a protein source and/or a bread/grain with breakfast each day.  I'll tell you what, though - my curiosity got the better of me, so one day last weekend (when I would be home to shove more food in my face if I became as overwhelmingly hungry as I anticipated I would become), I tried it.  First, I had a nectarine.  Then, I had a kiwi, and a second kiwi after that.  I felt sated, clean, and most importantly, energized.  I felt pure!  So, I kept doing it, and every day I am still surprised when I'm not starving within an hour of breakfast.

Speaking of kiwi, I have recently discovered that I really like that bizarre little fruit.  Fortunately for me, SuperFresh is selling them for $.50 apiece right now.  When I stopped in to get some kiwi, I also picked up three nectarines.  As I was placing the third in my bag, some random woman who had snuck up beside me said with disbelief, "Now, you don't really think you're going to eat all of those, do you?"  I started to explain that I ate a lot of fruit and that these were in addition to a big bag full of apples, pears, bananas already at home, but she had already launched into her tale of woe.  Apparently, she thought she was being a good mom/wife and bought a bunch of fruit for her family, but most of it went rotten because her children didn't eat it, "what a waste.  Where is the broccoli?"  I pointed it out to her and then picked out my kiwis while wondering why she hadn't eaten the fruit before it went to waste.

When I got home from teaching and had a much easier time finding parking (under one minute), I started dinner.  Yes, it was a little early, but that was because my tofu needed to marinate for at least an hour, but I wanted to give it more time.  Tonight's dinner was Gourmet Greek Salad from How It All Vegan, complete with Faux Feta.

Look how pretty and multicolored it is!  Also, it is my opinion that the average person would not know that is tofu if I hadn't already revealed my secret.  The taste was very close - it needed to be a little saltier, but also, part of the texture of the feta Mister is used to is that it is a drier cheese.  Texturally, there was no way this would pass for feta.  Taste-wise, he didn't appear to mind, since he ate it all up!  Victory for the ToFeta!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday, I'm in love

TGIF times infinity.

Did you ever do that as a kid?  Argue with someone about how much more of an idiot they are than you, until one of you finally said, "You're retarded times infinity!" (To which the other party would obnoxiously respond, "Fine.  But you're retarded times infinity plus one."  Game over - you lose.)

No?  Okay, then let's just move on to yet another joyful post about how great it feels to arrive at the end of a long and harrowing work day to find that the weekend has begun.  It's starting to feel like each Friday is more exciting, necessary, and rewarding than the last, while Monday continues to become more and more dreadful, in every sense of the word.  I'm pretty sure I will be even more excited to greet next Friday.

So far, I've greeted the weekend by opening my new bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz-Grenache (AKA fuchsia) and making Italian-Style Rice Casserole from Vegan Italiano.  It wasn't the most ideal wine pairing as there is really nothing Italian about this wine at all... Yellow Tail is an Australian company, all good Shiraz is from Australia, and Grenache is from northern Spain/southern France.  I guess Spain is close to Italy, just across the Mediterranean and whatnot.

It was tasty, though a little muted in flavor, and the veggies were a bit mushy.  I was supposed to simmer it for half the time and bake it for the other, but I just couldn't make myself go through all that trouble, especially after I looked for parking for forty-five minutes (no joke).

In fact, let me interrupt this post with a Public Service Announcement from your friendly, disgruntled local.  When you come to spend your time (and money, hopefully) in my community on Friday and Saturday nights, please keep the following things in mind:
  • No one wants to hear your music but you.
  • Honking your horn will not turn the red light green
  • Holding your horn down will not help the person trying to park their car accomplish this any faster.
  • If your car alarm is sensitive enough to go off every time someone so much as looks at your car, don't be surprised if you return to find a screwdriver stabbed through the hood of your car.
  • Revving your motorcycle in order to set off car alarms is not actually funny.
  • I don't care how drunk you are.  I'm trying to sleep.  Go away.
  • People live everywhere in the city.  There is nowhere that you can hang out on the corner at 4am, laughing loudly and/or yelling at each other where you will not be disturbing the sleep, nocturnal activities, or general peace of a resident.  Go home and be inconsiderate in your own neighborhood.
  • Pedestrians in a crosswalk have the right of way.
  • Pedestrians crossing the street at random places do not.  If you don't want to get hit, cross at a crosswalk.
  • You are under no obligation to park in the lots.  However, please bear in mind that the streets outside our homes are generally the places that residents would prefer to park their cars.  Without looping around their neighborhood for 45 minutes after a long day ending a long week at work.  How would you like it if I park in your driveway the next time I head out to the suburbs for fireworks or a party?
Thank you for your attention.  Now back to your regularly scheduled foodie blog:

Last night, I made Penne with Cannellini Beans and Escarole, also from Vegan Italiano.  Actually, it ended up being Penne with Cannellini Beans and ... mixed baby greens... since apparently Whole Foods and SuperFresh were all out of escarole.  To be honest, I can't say I've ever seen escarole in either store.  I've also never really looked.

Speaking of looking, isn't it attractive?  I think my favorite part, besides how savory the whole thing was and how well everything went together, was that the penne was perfectly al dente, even though I accidentally cooked it about 2 minutes longer than the package said.  I used Rienzi brand - I don't think I've ever used their pasta, though I do avail myself of their artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers frequently.  If it's all so toothsome, I may have just developed a pasta brand loyalty for the first time ever.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

observations on a new friend

I’ve mentioned my recent detox efforts a few times; something that has become an unfortunately expensive part of those efforts is my daily matcha from Cups & Chairs.  I can’t seem to stop myself from going, though, so I have reduced my spending in other areas so I don’t feel so bad about spending over $3 a day for tea.  One of the reasons I continually make my morning stop in there is that I have noticed my matcha tea habit seems to be calming me down and making me feel lighter.  I didn’t realize quite how agro coffee had been making me until I gave it a few days off, but now I let things go much more easily.  Although it’s still a struggle to go to work sometimes, I don’t waste the whole time getting there being in a bad mood.  Even when something annoys me, it doesn’t stay with me as long, which is a fantastic way to cut down on my road rage during my 30-mile, hour-long commute each morning.

I have been thinking my change in demeanor was due to the tea, and in some ways it probably is, but there is something else: The daily conversations with Kylie while she prepares the tea.  She is always ready to smile and exudes peacefulness.  I have wondered from the beginning if she is saying some kind of prayer during the preparation of the tea, some way of infusing it further with goodness and happiness.  Regardless, just the conversation slows me down and gives me a better start to my day than pouring coffee into a travel mug and having all that extra solitude to be grouchy.

Another thing that completely eluded me until this morning’s matcha fix reminded me how ignorant I can be at times to other people’s culture.  Something I was already aware of, but that I had forgotten, is that in a lot of Asian cultures, respect is shown to a person (in situations where money changes hands) by handing the money to the other person (or accepting it) with two hands and a small bow.  I already knew this, but somehow have completely missed that Kylie does this every time I carelessly hand her my money with one hand, while the other hand holds my wallet and/or keys.  Ironically, I started thinking about this while she was ceremoniously preparing my tea, but I still handed her my bills with one hand, feeling only slightly uncouth when she bowed almost imperceptibly and accepted the bills with both of her hands.  I really felt like a jerk when I realized she was trying to figure out a way to give me my coins with both of her hands, while I stood there, boorishly, with my one hand cupped to receive my change.

Tomorrow, I will go in prepared to show her the same respect she has shown me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

would you like some dichotomy with your detox?

I've been trying to detox a little since last weekend.  Every now and then I find myself feeling weighed down by crap that somehow infiltrated my diet (and by proxy, my body) and mind.  Generally, I eat very well, but just like everyone else, I have moments when I just want something completely unhealthy.  In an effort to clean myself up, I have abstained from coffee almost all week, choosing instead to wake up with a steamy cup of herbal peppermint tea, then popping over to Cups & Chairs for a Detox Tea (matcha and lemon juice) to take to work.  Throughout the day, I've been drinking water like it was going out of style from my pretty, new, blue water bottle and I've renewed my interest in eating fresh fruit, rather than trying to get my fruit servings in a conveniently wrapped bar

Finally, I abstained from alcohol through the entire work week, aside from Mr Boss and his Montepulciano on Monday.  That may sound like a pitiful thing to be proud of, but sometimes a girl copes with negative feelings in negative ways.  I felt like I could "cheat" a bit by Thursday, having been so "good" all week, so I had coffee (which I have recently come to take black) in the morning and was amazed.  Something I noticed almost immediately on Monday was how much lighter, more energetic, and more laid back I felt.  I started to wonder if coffee was having an affect on me that I hadn't thought of before - I wondered if it increased my aggravation as well as my alertness.  For lack of a better word, I was completely agro on Thursday, so I decided to see what exactly made my Detox Tea detoxy - in addition to a host of other benefits, there is something in matcha that actually makes a person feel happier and more peaceful.  I need to buy this stuff in bulk.  By the way, that is a very expensive undertaking.

In my curiosity, I found this great website about Matcha and its various health benefits.  I wanted to make sure I wasn't just swallowing a big green, lemony sugar pill and believing until I was happy.  That wouldn't be a bad thing by itself, but my morning matcha is not cheap, so if I can fool myself into thinking a less expensive tea would make me feel the way I described above, I was happy to let that happen.

Anyway, according to, matcha tea can benefit the body and mind in more ways than one; the website also allows you to link to information on these things:
  • antioxidant protection
  • detoxification
  • weight loss
  • cancer-fighting EGCg
  • disease prevention
  • mood enhancement
  • energy
I am completely on board with all of those things, so I figure that [unlike milk] Matcha does a body (and mind) good.  I strongly encourage you all to spend about 5 minutes of your busy lives checking out the website (just ignore the high prices!).

So, in addition to feeling lighter of body and soul, my mind has been freer to wander.  That could also be the effect of a liberating four-day weekend (that I really really really don't want to end), but either way, I feel like I'm paying better attention and thinking more critically, but with less criticism (only slightly less, but it's progress).  That leads to the dichotomy.

I am more disgusted than ever about the state of nutrition in this country: two-thirds of the adult population in this country is overweight or obese.  Our standards for seeing someone as "fat" have become so screwed up that a person has to be well over 50lbs above their ideal body weight for anyone to feel comfortable admitting they are overweight, but by now, they're actually entering obesity!  I am appalled (thanks, Rory and Kim) that people eat gobs of meat, packing their guts with unnecessary calories, protein*, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and that this is considered acceptable behavior.  It is so "acceptable" that people like me look like freaks when we pass on 12 different kinds of meat.
*according to the American Dietetic Association, eating a vegetarian diet will provide a person with twice as much protein as a person needs in a day.  "Where do you get your protein?"  blinkblink.

My newly wide-open eyes observed two things within minutes of each other - one inspiring, the other horrifying:
  • A woman at SuperFresh, pushing a double stroller (don't get me started on how bad an idea that is in tiny urban supermarkets), stopped near me to pick up some of the perfectly ripe stone fruits for her little family.  Her children couldn't have been more excited - every time she picked up a fruit to sniff it or examine it for flaws, her little ones reached toward her and asked, "bite?  bite?"  That woman is raising her children right.
  • Walking home, I passed a horrific scene - there were so many things wrong with it, I can barely figure out where to start.  On the side of the street, just behind a parked vehicle, there was a "styrofoam" carry-out container, open, with its leftover contents spilling out on the ground.  Because ghetto-trash is classy like that (I'm sure you can imagine the residents of my neighborhood would not throw litter on the road), it was a bunch of half-eaten chicken wings, sauce, bones, and all.  Here is the really gross part.  You may need to read it twice to understand the full extent to which this is wrong:  a pigeon was pecking up the remains and eating them.
Did you catch that?  The pigeon (bird) was eating chicken (bird).  Avian flu, anyone?

My review of Skinny Bitch will be along shortly, along with yet another exhortation to buy or borrow a copy and read the heck out of it.  You need to know what you're eating.  Speaking of eating, here's my new menu!

1. Penne with Cannellini Beans and Escarole from Vegan Italiano.  Turns out neither Whole Foods nor SuperFresh felt inclined to stock fresh escarole, so it will actually be an odd mix of greens, but close enough.

2. Italian-Style Rice Casserole also from Vegan Italiano.  It's been a while since I've made this, due to my lack of confidence in my ability to cook rice in an oven, but the flavors came together in my mind and formed a mutiny, so I was really quite powerless to prevent this from being scribbled on my menu.

3. Braised Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Kidney Beans also from Vegan Italiano.

4. Gourmet Greek Salad from How It All Vegan.  Ssshhhhh!  Don't tell Mister, I have some [more] tricks up my sleeve.

5. Cousin Natasha's Rice and Bean Salad also from HIAV.  Something quirky and charming about Sarah Kramer is her bizarre way of crediting people who helped her with recipes.  I don't know this Cousin Natasha, and I would bet most people who have this cookbook also don't know her, but you just can't call it "Rice and Bean Salad."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

chickpeas and chocolate

Before you ask (in case your memory is super-sharp), No, I have not made chocolate hummus yet.  It is most definitely still on my imaginary To Do list, but it is yet unmade.

Why don't we back up to last night's dinner then?  We took a second go-around with Colleen's Saffron-Spiked Moroccan Stew, but this time I left off the saffron.  Despite that exclusion, when I tasted the simmering broth halfway through, it was undeniably sweeter than I thought it should be.  I held off on adding a glug of tamari like I really really wanted to and instead doused it with a healthy shake of salt.

It's really a very attractive dish - bright and colorful, just brimming with the colors you can imagine as scarves tied to the poles holding up tents at a Moroccan bazaar.  I served it over top of Israeli couscous, and I would like to record here, for future reference (most likely my own), that it takes about 7 minutes of boiling for Israeli couscous to be al dente.  Israeli couscous is delightfully light, so it felt like I was eating a fluffy white cloud.

Mister had picked up something I consider utterly revolting at the corner store because he thought it would help him sleep.  We've been having another fun bout of insomnia, so at this point, I was pretty on board with almost anything non-habitforming that would help him get some much-needed sleep, but I really wasn't expecting this:

Drank is formulated to thoroughly relax the person drinking (dranking?) it.  On the back, where it touts the chillaxing ingredients, such as melatonin, valerian root, and rose hips, it also carries the following "pieces of advice."  It is not advised to have more than 2 servings in a 24 hour period - mind you, there are two servings in one can.  Also, it is advised that the user drinker not drive while drinking it.  I read a review of this magical beverage and became a little doubtful that it was anything more than some genius attempt to make a dime off my husband's inability to sleep soundly.

He wanted to drink it right after dinner, because he was thirsty.  I had to beg him to hold off until later,  "just in case" it worked and knocked him out.  Meanwhile, I was hurrying to get a batch of cupcakes done by Midnight - Mister's birthday.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, frosted with melted Dark Chocolate Dreams.  These are absolutely the richest baked treats I have ever made.  They are so good, but holy cow!  These are the first cupcakes I have ever made that were so intense, Mister and I could both only handle one heaven-sent cupcake each. 

I just realized how gluttonous that sounded.  Unfortunately, I'll take this moment to confess - normally, if I make cupcakes or muffins, we each have 2 right out of the oven, and if I make cookies, we usually have between 5-6 the night I make them.

Anyway, Mister made it to Midnight, I said "Happy Birthday" and presented him with a frosted cupcake (since birthday cakes always have icing), and then I let him drink his Drank.  I tried a sip, and ironically, it tasted like a watered-down energy drink.  I prefer the bite of Red Bull, as well as its effects, but I will say one thing:  Mister slept like the dead last night.

We had a pretty relaxed day in celebration of Mister's Birthday as well as his first day off since last week.  We slept until about 11:30, which is more and more rare these days, and after a leisurely time waking up, we took a little field trip to Mister's Toy Store: Radio Shack.  He was like a child, rifling gleefully through bins to find the strange little things he will stick together to create a sound-making apparatus (some people call them amplifiers).  About 30 minutes later and a bit lighter of purse, we left with Mister's Bag O' Goodies in tow and he's been playing with them pretty much all day.

Meanwhile, I made Curried Cauliflower, Garbanzo, and Tomato Salad from The Complete Vegan Cookbook.  It had to marinate for a few hours, so I started my chopping, mixing, and marinating during the rainy afternoon.  By dinner time, all I had to do was tear up the butter lettuce and scoop the vegetables over top of it.

In addition to being pretty, it tasted pretty good.  Although the cauliflower was steamed before I marinated it, it was still pretty crunchy and it took me a while to chew my way through dinner.  Nevertheless, it was filling but not bloating and now I am relaxing with a few squares of dark chocolate and a glass (or two) of Montepulciano.

Friday, August 13, 2010

gotta keep you guessing

There are no words to describe the euphoria I felt walking out of work last night, knowing that I was taking a little mini-staycation.  I took today and Monday off, which gave me two four day work weeks with a nice, restorative, and hopefully productive four day weekend in between.

The first thing I did when I got home was to open my brand new bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling and pour a conservative glass while I prepared dinner.  No.  Actually, the very first thing I did when I got home was stand in the kitchen for about ten minutes being confused and saying "duuuuuh" a few times.  After I got over the Stupid I caught at work yesterday, I was able to use the brain with which I was blessed and improvise a little.

See, I was a little caught between the last two items on my menu and I was missing one ingredient from each of them.  I really had very little desire to walk the 2-3 blocks necessary to procure the missing pineapple juice or cauliflower, so I had to think, which only took a little tiny bit less effort.

I decided to make Pineapple-Tamari Braised Seitan, regardless that I didn't have pineapple juice.  In its place, I combined pure apple juice with 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses and then stirred in the tamari.  It came out pretty well, although I'm not sure I needed quite that much pom-molasses.  It was a little too sweet-tart and there was a little too much sauce anyway.

I was looking forward to today all week.  In addition to waking up at precisely the moment I would ordinarily scan my badge three times to get through three doors before arriving at my desk (come on - the employees don't even want to get in badly enough to require three levels of security...), I had big plans for the day.

There is a great little eco-chic boutique in Northern Liberties that just happens to be owned by my friend's sister.  Arcadia is the only place in Philadelphia that I know of where a person can purchase Matt & Nat handbags and OlsenHaus shoes.   They are having a huge sale right now - mark-downs so severe I couldn't even figure out a percentage or how they're making money in the deal.  I tried on a few things, including a nearly $300 dress they were willing to sell me for $50 (I didn't buy it, though - it was poking my ribs), and ended up leaving with a soft, comfy, flowy, mid-length skirt for $25 (original price: $90).  The sale is on through Sunday, so if you're local, please do yourself a huge favor and check it out.

I walked there and back, so in addition to some detoxing I've been trying to do this past week, I also found myself at quite an energy (calorie) deficit.  My shopping trip resulted in about 4 miles of walking and I naturally walk quickly.  Because that was apparently not enough activity, I also went to Superfresh and Whole Foods to shop for my mini-menu.  By the time I was paying for my treasures at Whole Foods, I was actually feeling fatigued, so I ate my banana on the way home, then opened up one of my treats and slathered it all over a piece of multigrain bread:

You cannot tell me that doesn't look amazing.  It tastes amazing!  This is the very same guacamole Mr Boss supplied at his BBQ the other night, and though it was awesome with charred veggie patties, it was great all by itself, too!

Dinner tonight was Red Lentil Coconut Curry.  Ironically, it has been almost exactly a year since I made this for Mister's birthday.


I served it with a culturally diverse appetizer/side dish type thing.  I cut two pitas into wedges, scooped the remaining Cava Mezze Kalamata Hummus into a small bowl and plunked down a nice mix of olives.  Each was tasty by itself, but I won't mix Indian and Mediterranean cuisine again because the tastes really are not complementary.  In retrospect, I probably should have done a little fruit plate, but it's too late now - Mister and I have already decimated the hummus.


Two Coming Soon features for you to look forward to (I can't make you guess ALL the time): 

First, I'm on my second reading of Skinny Bitch because it's just that great and because I'm trying to memorize it.  There have been so many times I've wanted to share specific paragraphs or sections that I've realized that what I really need to do instead is give such a thorough and enticing review of the book that each one of you goes out and gets a copy.  Once you finish reading it and know more than you ever really wanted to, you can pass it along to another blissfully ignorant soul.  Anyway, review and reaction coming soon.

Second, my mini-menu.  Part of my recent detox efforts have put me on a Second-Wind Fresh Kick, so I figured, if I'll have a four day weekend, why not shop on day one for a few meals and then again on Monday, for the week?  So, here is the current plan for the next three days:

1. "Saffron-Spiked" Moroccan Stew on Israeli Couscous from The Vegan Table.  There I go mixing world cuisines again, but Morocco and Israel are a little closer together (flavor-wise, at least) than India and Greece.  I made this before, to disastrous results, but this time I'm going to leave out the offending ingredient and see what a difference that makes.

2. Curried Cauliflower, Garbanzo and Tomato Salad from The Complete Vegan Cookbook

3. Bulghur and Red Lentil Pilaf with Kale and Olives, also from The Complete Vegan Cookbook.  I feel like I've made this before, but I can't escape how tasty it sounds.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

it's the thought that counts (great guac doesn't hurt, though)

I didn't even know I liked guacamole until this year, so imagine my delight when it improved what could have been a less-than-pleasurable "dining experience."  Let's throw this puppy in reverse and back up to Monday.

After a relatively unremarkable day at work, I was driving home, excited to see my dear husband, already thinking about dinner.  As I sang along with Lady Gaga, I was picking through the menu in my mind and alternately thinking about whether I wanted to try to convince my well-rested Mister to take me on a date.  Upon arriving home and climbing the stairs to the apartment, I was quite surprised to open the door on a dark and empty home.  As I entered, I did a quick scan of the place:

cat? check
Mister? missing
Mister's bike?  also missing
note on the table in Mister's chickenscratch?  check.  It read something to the effect of:
hanging out with the guys at C____'s, took the phone, call me when you get home pls.
Ah, yes - Mister's cellphone/our home phone? also missing.  So, I pulled out my cellphone and called "home," but no one answered.  Mister called back a few minutes later, apparently having a little trouble answering the flip-phone.  Apparently, the boss was having a little BBQ on his roofdeck; although Mister was just going to stop by, Boss presented veggie burgers, thereby making Mister feel compelled to stay...and invite the Missus.

He had me at "roofdeck," so I checked the status of Angst's food (adequate) and headed back out the door, to Angst's dismay and disapproval.  I walked the four and a half blocks to the BBQ reminding myself how fortunate I am to live somewhere I feel comfortable walking around alone after dark (and how glad I am I found flat sandals I can live with), and then climbed four flights of stairs to the Boss's apartment and adjoined spectacular jungle roofdeck.

I was not seated for even a moment before Boss parked himself across the table from me and commenced to showing me the Super Awesome Antique Campagnolo Corkscrew some of the guys got him for Christmas a year or two ago.

Of course, he couldn't just show me this super-cool corkscrew - he had to demonstrate how awesome it opening a bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and pouring me a glass.  I don't remember the label - it was kind of dark and I was kind of starving by now - but it was light and sparkly and well-suited to black veggie burgers.  Or hockey pucks.  Couldn't quite tell from a distance.

It was really sweet of Mr Boss to get veggie burgers and fire them up on the grill for us.  I think he got a little overzealous over the size of the flames, which resulted in the veggie burgers being a little crunchier than they are when you cook them on a skillet.  Regardless, Mr Boss had also supplied a little tub of the most amazing guacamole to date.  It was just Whole Foods homemade guac, but it was so good - creamy, but with decent-sized chunks of unmashed avocado and a healthy amount of raw garlic.  I slathered the bottom of the bun with about a half inch of guacamole (it's "healthy" fat) and the top with a generous squirt of ketchup.  It worked like a charm - between the wine and the condiments, I could barely tell the veggie burger had been burnt almost beyond recognition.  It was nice, though, to not have to cook dinner, because I really wasn't feeling it.

Last night, then, we had what I would have made on Monday if we hadn't gone to a little party: Cajun Red Beans and Rice from The Accidental Vegan.  It was just as good as it was the first time I made it, and it didn't look any different either, so I didn't take pictures.

Tonight is One-Serving Wednesday.  I took a different way home from work tonight on a colleague's suggestion and got a little turned around twice (literally, actually), so to say I was ravenous by the time I walked in the door would be an understatement.  I munched on some SnapeaCrisps while I formed a plan in my brain because I really did want to cook something.  I knew this: I was in a savory mood.  A glance in the fridge made my plans complete.  I grabbed the leftover kale, "leftover" Tofurky sausage, and leftover rice and came up with....

Kale and Sausage Skillet
(makes 2 scant servings)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tofurky kielbasa (or your preferred vegan sausage), halved lengthwise and sliced
2-3 cups of chopped kale
3/4 cup cooked rice
1/2 cup V8 Spicy Hot (or regular V8/tomato juice + a pinch of black and red peppers)

Heat oil on medium-high heat; add sausage and stir to coat with oil.  Saute on medium heat 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sausage begins to brown.  Stir in garlic and kale.  Cook, stirring constantly, until kale is slightly wilted and bright green.  Stir in rice and V8.  Cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring, until liquid is absorbed and rice is heated through.

As you can probably tell from the recipe, it is a quick-cooking recipe, which is always a helpful thing to have in your back pocket.  It's also very tasty and green.  I have really fallen quite in love with kale and I hope Essene finds and stocks those kale chips.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

b*tches love food

And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Before my mother has a heart attack, let me explain that the title of this post is part book review and part personal experience; so it's only halfway offensive now.

I consider myself to be a relatively well-read young woman (please let me still be young!).  In addition to having the ability to form words from the random letters spewed in semi-organized fashion onto the pages of magazines, books, and websites, I also have the gift of critical thinking.  This sometimes leads to fun experiments or moments of food zen.  I read about food or lifestyles or the combination of those two (for example, veganism) and I feel inspired.  I don't always feel inspired to make any kind of permanent life change, but I usually feel provoked to at least try new things.

Between the 10th Anniversary edition of VegNews magazine and one of the girls at work lending me her censored copy of Skinny Bitch (she taped paper over the word Bitch on the cover and the spine so it wouldn't offend anyone who saw it on her desk), I have had a weekend of inspired food experiences.

In addition to fulfilling its usual quota of awesome (which led me to finally subscribe to it), the VegNews 10th Anniversary issue features an article on Summertime Drinks by Dynise Balcavage (of The Urban Vegan fame).  I'm way too lazy to make cocktails for myself, but that article may come in handy someday when I have a home large enough to entertain.  However, the article reminded me of a fun snack I wanted to pick up and try:

Dynise mentioned these in a post of hers a couple of months ago and I've been distractedly obsessed with trying them ever since.  They're just so weird!  I got some today at Essene and they are as delightful and addicting as she said in her post.  The best part, though, is how affordable and guilt-free they are - even if you ate the whole bag (which you could easily do if you aren't paying attention), you would only have eaten 450 calories of pure veggie goodness - I mean, they're baked pea fries for heaven's sake! 

They could be mistaken for bland if you aren't in the habit of taking a moment to taste your food.  The flavor definitely develops as you munch, so if you eat them too quickly, you won't recognize the subtle flavors lurking behind the fun, crunchy outside.  That's fine.  More for me.

Yesterday, I ran down to the Spice Corner (may I say again how happy I am that they are open again?) to restock some herbs and spices.  After I completely underestimated how much marjoram = 2 oz (roughly 2.5 cups, if I had to guess), had to have an employee help me find the bright orange turmeric that was right next to my head, and paid for my treasures, I had an irresistible craving for fruit salad.  I'm such a devil.  As luck would have it, the Golden Donut shop (on the corner that more or less marks the northernmost point of the Italian Market) had a nice big plastic cup full of fruit just waiting for my $2 of ransom cash.

As I strolled home, bag of herbs and spices swinging from my arm, eating my fruit salad with a plastic fork, I reflected on just how much I love where I live.  It's magical and it never gets old!  I have lived in my specific neighborhood for over five years now and I still cannot take it for granted - it's just an amazing place to live.

Today, Mister was puttering around and making me crazy with his doom-doom-doom music and talk radio podcasts, so I packed up Skinny Bitch and one of my growing collection of reusable canvas bags and headed over to the new tea cafe next to Salon Sugar: Cups and Chairs.  Since I had just gotten to the chapter of SB that discusses fasting, and since the parts I had already read more or less berated the reader for filling her body with crap and minced no words about the need to detox, the Detox iced tea looked pretty promising - Matcha green tea with lemon juice and a squirt of honey that I didn't feel like disputing.  I had never had matcha before and didn't realize how much lemon juice she had added until my first shocking sip.  Again with that whole "tasting your food" thing, after the initial shock of sour-bitter wore off, I found the tea very refreshing and I could see it becoming an expensive addiction.

After I finished the book and my tea, I headed around the corner to my bastion of weird gourmet treasures - Essene Market.  I was on a mission to find Kaia Kale Chips, which were featured in VegNews, but a thorough study of the snack foods section only turned up my SnapeaCrisps and falafel chips, which, although they looked fascinating, they were just a little too expensive for natural junkfood.  I also ended up with some Mediterranean flatbread to accompany the most amazing thing I think I have ever found at Whole Foods (from my earlier shopping adventure): Cava Kalamata Hummus.

I tried it earlier on a slice of multigrain bread and it is amazing.  Very possibly the best food ever.  I mean, hummus and kalamatas?  How could it not be perfect?

Anyway, I also got a banana for tomorrow's breakfast and because I'm suddenly on a fresh fruit kick.  Then I picked up some Endangered Species chocolate because I needed some quality dark chocolate.  Okay, maybe I don't need it, but my foodie tastebuds were crying out for the bittersweetness of serious dark chocolate.  As I approached checkout, I decided Mister would enjoy the Primal Strips vegan jerky they had hanging out by the Vegetarian Times magazine I picked up.


An hour and a half has passed since I put the period on that last sentence.  Just as I finished typing that, Mister decided he was hungry, so I started making dinner.  Dinner is simmering as we speak, and Mister and I just finished our appetizer:

First, you'll notice Mister replaced the burnt-out lightbulb.  If you didn't notice that, please back up a few posts and observe the very poor quality of the photos.  

You're back?  Good - let's continue.

I cut some multigrain flatbread into triangles, then did the same (okay, wedges) with a perfectly ripe nectarine.  I filled one little bowl with kalamata hummus and the other with a mix of olives I put together at WF today.

Mister and I destroyed that plate.  

So, while dinner simmers away, I'll share this week's short menu (because I'm taking a long weekend next weekend, so I only need to think through Thursday).

1. Modular Pakistani Kima from The Urban Vegan.  That's dinner tonight, and it just quit simmering (in other words, I was able to smush a potato against the side of the pot, which is my way to figure out if the potatoes are done cooking).  

2. Red Lentil Coconut Curry which has escaped my attention for nearly a year.  I created this recipe for Mister's birthday...last August 15th.  I think we're due to make it again, don't you think?

3. Pineapple-Tamari Braised Seitan

4. Cajun Red Beans and Rice from The Accidental Vegan.

Friday, August 6, 2010

oh holy hotness

Once again, I am not talking about me here.

Tonight's dinner was Veggie Goulash from La Dolce Vegan.  Mister and I felt that the best way to chose between the final two dinners on the menu was to evaluate which veggies were closest to becoming science experiments in the crisper - the shriveling zucchini won.

I got about the gathering and prepping of ingredients and realized that I was missing a couple of ingredients.  It isn't a very far stretch to substitute basil for marjoram, but I will admit, it took me a moment or two to figure out what to do about the vegetable bouillon cube I didn't have because I used it to recreate my Sayadia on Wednesday.  I decided to use the maximum paprika - 2 teaspoons - as well as a sprinkling of curry powder, along with 1 scant cup of water.  It came out well, even if it made my mouth into a fireball and my face began to sweat and my nose threatened to run while Mister laughed at what a weenie I am and I thanked God for how effective dry red wine is at putting out mouth-fires.

One of these days I should have Mister take a picture of what happens to my face if I eat something my Irish tastebuds perceive to be "too spicy."

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to mix up the paprika a little - 1 tsp of Spanish paprika (mild) and 1 tsp of Hot Hungarian paprika.  I really, truly did not expect it to pack that much fire.  It's a gorgeous shade of red, yes, but so is "normal" paprika - the kind that doesn't make me think the Coconut Bliss in my freezer would be a good intermezzo to my dinner. 

Remember Operation Gratitude Attitude?
1. I am grateful that I had the foresight and self-knowledge to start with just one tsp of the hot stuff.
2. I am grateful that SuperTuscans are dry enough to partially smother the fire that had dominated my mouth by the time Mister helped his Hot Greek Self to seconds.
3. I am grateful that I have a tasty pint of Coconut Bliss in my freezer (talk about intense chocolate - you need to try this!).
4. I'm grateful that it is Friday night.  That actually has nothing at all to do with dinner.  I'm just glad as heck these past two weeks finally ended.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

breath-freshener or dinner?

Sometimes I run on auto-pilot when I start cooking.  Even if it's a recipe I've never made before, sometimes I just gather the ingredients and engage in the chopping, skinning, dicing, scooping, measuring, mixing, saute-ing or baking without pausing to examine the melange of ingredients I'm assembling and manipulating.  Sometimes I forget to be mindful of what I'm eating until I'm halfway through it and wondering exactly what it is that is causing this or that taste to stand above the rest. 


Then, some other times, I pay very close attention to every detail, somehow just knowing that I will want to remember this later.  Sometimes I sniff or taste the ingredients as I add them, savoring my self-education and the opportunity to reflect on why this flavor goes with this one or why that scent is so enticing (or nauseating).

Sometimes, just as I stir in the last ingredient, a small handful of dried mint, and its scent wafts upwards into my increasingly sensitive and observant nostrils, I remember that one of the first ingredients was cinnamon and I think to myself:

"Really?  Cinnamon and mint?  Is this a good idea?  Is dinner going to taste and smell like I just gargled with Scope and then popped a piece of Big Red in my mouth?"

Tonight I made Vegetable Biryani from La Dolce Vegan.  It was almost nothing like my other recipe.  It was far faster, since it cooks on the stovetop, not in the oven.  It was a little more integrated and a little creamier - my Moosewood recipe doesn't have red lentils and the rice is cooked separately, and then a little rice-vegetable-rice Oreo situation occurs in the construction.  There is also no mint in my other recipe.  I had really mixed feelings about adding it, but in the end, I wanted to be faithful to the recipe.

Although mint and cinnamon co-existing in this recipe still strikes me as bizarre, and although I still have a little trouble smelling mint as I draw the forkful of savory Biryani to my mouth, it was actually quite outstanding.  I will absolutely make this again, but I will add a little more variety (and nutrition) to the table by serving a side dish or two.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

fresh never tasted so good

My appetite is constantly looking at the "grass" on the other side of the "fence" and seeing how much more lush and verdant it is.  In the dead of winter, sometime in February, my need for fresh, raw vegetables is insatiable and overwhelming.  After months of frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes, my tastebuds yearn for something crunchy and green.  And yes, I believe you can taste "green."

On the other hand, in the midst of the hottest (and most consistently hot) summer in a long, long time, I am already looking forward to starting my day with steamy, creamy oatmeal, dressed with dried/frozen fruit, maple syrup, or the occasional diced apple.  I am dreaming of syrupy, squishy fruit crisps and thick, hearty soups and yearning for the warmth that spreads from your innards to your outtards (yes, I know that's not a word, but it's funny, isn't it?) when you eat a slow-stewed dinner.

Nevertheless, I am not taking a single moment of summer's freshness for granted.  I love that I bought my dinner veggies immediately before washing them and cooking them.  I know they were picked days ago and traveled a small distance to end up in the produce bins, but it's still a happy special moment - that moment when the bag I carried them home in was hardly necessary, except that my juggling skills aren't quite up to par and my hands may be larger than the average woman's, but they're not monstrous.

A couple of days ago, I made Warm Chickpea Ragout with Chard, Carrots, and Harissa from Vegetarian Times: Fast and Easy.  I had a bundle of huge Swiss Chard.  Not a huge bundle of chard, mind you - the chard leaves themselves were absurdly large.  They were so big that I had to slice them crosswise in half or into thirds, just so they would fit on my tiny-counter-sized cutting board so I could slice the stem out and shred the rest into uniform ribbons of dark greens.

Last night, I made Pasta with Fresh 5-Minute Basil Tomato Sauce from La Dolce Vegan.  I have such a ton of quick-cooking recipes in my repertoire at this point that I cannot understand, for the life of me, why it still surprises me to find recipes that cook up this quickly.  It can easily be prepared in as much time as it takes you to boil the water and cook the pasta.  The sauce will actually be ready well before the pasta.  I didn't take pictures because Mister and I were starving (thus the speed) and it really didn't look like anything special, but it sure tasted special - impeccably fresh.  The sauce isn't even cooked; it's merely warmed through by being tossed with just-drained pasta.

Tonight was One-Serving Wednesday.  I got some ideas spinning around in my brain as I was driving home from work, some hearkening back to my dinner date with my long-lost friend a month or so ago.  We are certainly due for some more QT, but in the meantime, I set my mind to recreating the Vegetable Sayadia I had at Cedars, sans mushrooms.

When I had parked the car, petted the cat, and unloaded my empty travel mug and tupperware from my bag, I strolled up to Superfresh to get a few things: garlic, a bell pepper, and...something.  Something turned out to be a zucchini and a nectarine.  I chopped up the nectarine to snack on while I chopped up my veggies to do a little "sunbathing."  Someone else might call it "saute-ing."  Details, details.  Anyway, the finished product was actually a great deal better than I thought it would be, and aside from my grain of choice (quinoa), it was pretty darn close to my dinner at Cedars.

Quinoa Sayadia
serves 4 with side dishes/salads

1 cup quinoa
2 cups broth/stock
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 narrow carrots, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut in a 1" dice
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin

Boil broth, stir in quinoa and lower heat as low as it will go.  Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until quinoa has absorbed all the liquid and the germ has spiraled out.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil on medium heat and saute carrot slices for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add diced pepper and garlic, lower heat to medium-low and saute 3-5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  Stir in zucchini, salt & pepper, cumin, and coriander.  Cook about 2 more minutes, then stir in quinoa and cook, stirring almost constantly, about 2 minutes, until heated through.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"well, there's a first time for everything"

That's the quote of the evening and it slipped from my uncle's lips within minutes of his arrival at my parents' home.  It was immediately preceded by this short vignette:

Him, swooping into the living room and eyeing the hors d'oeuvres table:  "Ooh!" as he picks up a tasty pan-seared treat and bites a chunk off.

Mom, laughing but a little trepidatious: "Do you know what that is?"

Him, pausing: "No..."

Mom, laughing more: "Italian-marinated tofu."

Him, chewing his second bite: "Well, there's a first time for everything!"

This morning, I awakened a little later than I had intended, so I gave myself a little less time to wake up so I could get going on my pre-game activities.  After a short breakfast, I hopped in the shower, threw on a dress and a quick coat of mascara and headed down to Whole Foods.  Fortunately, it was a light shopping week, so I was able to gather what I needed and get out of there pretty quickly.

The reason that is fortunate is because I completely underestimated how long it would take me to:
juice 4 lemons
peel 4 cucumbers
quarter, seed, and dice 4 cucumbers
core, seed, and dice about 8 Roma tomatoes
chop a cup of parsley

I made the tomato-cucumber salad from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook that accompanied a meal not long ago, as well as a fingerfood version of the pan-seared Italian Tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance.

The tofu was actually way bigger a hit than I expected it to be.  I doubled the recipe because I figured, it if did go over well, I would have enough and if it didn't, at least I would happily munch my way through it this week in various contexts. 

My cousin and his wonderful wife love everything I make.  Although they shared nicely with everyone else (my mom had a piece, my dad had two, I think my other cousin had one, as did my uncle and his wife), it was my cousin, his wife, and I who "licked the platter clean," so to speak.  There was not one speck of tofu or marinade left when we were through.  I sent the salad home with them as well.  I could very happily cook dinner for them (in my home) for the rest of our lives - that would be a fun little foursome for dinner each night!

With that, I bid welcome to August and adieu to you!