Wednesday, September 28, 2011

bring on October!

October is my favorite month for so many reasons.  I think it may also be Amy Lee's favorite month, because she released the second Evanescence album in October 2006 and now, after an agonizing 5-year hiatus, she is releasing a new Evanescence album with an almost completely new line-up on October 11, and yes, I have it pre-ordered through iTunes.

That's only part of the reason I can't wait for October to start.  Yes, I've been eagerly awaiting this album while covering my ears with my hands and singing "LA LA LA LA LA" any time someone gossiped about the band breaking up for the last 5 years or so, and the rumors were not helped by the fact that we actually know one of the former band members and were aware that he had moved on to another band.  However, I refused to believe a talent like Amy Lee's could be squandered, so I'm glad I was right.

There are a few other reasons I'm psyched for October - two can be found on, one will remain a surprise a little longer.  I mentioned before that Isa has a new book, Vegan Pie in the Sky, and I couldn't be more on the edge of my seat waiting for Dynise's book, tested in part by yours truly, Celebrate Vegan.  It was due to come out the week after the new Evanescence album, but when I visited Amazon, they're saying it isn't being released until November now and that makes me a little sad.

The point of all that really is this: tonight we ate the last meal on the menu, which meant I had to construct the new menu tonight.  Did you catch that?  I had to construct the menu?  Isn't this something I have raved about in the past as one of my favorite parts of each week?  Haven't I reveled in flipping through pages of countless cookbooks to find the perfect combination of meals to get through this next week?  Had to?

I realized after dinner that I was not at all excited about menu-planning this week and wasn't terribly psyched for it last week either.  It shouldn't take a brain surgeon to figure out why - I'm bored of my current cookbook collection.  To my credit, I've been a very good (=frugal = freakishly cheap) girl this year and I haven't bought a new cookbook all year.  Considering we're nearing the tenth month of the year, I'd say I'm doing pretty good.  Yet, it couldn't last forever.  I had a little help with variety in the beginning of the year, when I had just gotten Appetite for Reduction and had a constantly renewing source of recipes I actually had to cook for recipe-testing for Dynise.  I've been slowly stagnating since then, and just recently I've realized that I've been through my cookbooks so many times, I can't even look at them with fresh eyes anymore.

Lucky for all of us, there's a surprise ending, but let's talk about dinner first:

I will probably always think it's funny to call this "Hooker Dinner," but that doesn't change my love for the sweet-salty blend of flavors and textures that makes up Pasta Puttanesca from Vegan Express.  I served it with garlic bread so we could scoop up the leftover tomatoes and olives from our bowls after the pasta was in our bellies.

Mister has been kindly picking up the Superfresh leg of my usual shopping adventures ever since I've been hitting up Trader Joe's on the way home from work.  As you can imagine, some interesting things have been finding their way into our home.  He's been shopping with me enough times to know that the goal is almost always to find the lowest price on a product, unless to do so would compromise its quality.  I can only imagine that some kind of pang of pride for his adolescent home, New Jersey, pulled the jar of New Jersey tomato sauce into the basket by his heart strings.

It wasn't very good.  I shouldn't say that.  It was clearly very fresh and made from real ingredients.  I would liken it to making a batch of homemade tomato sauce, from the dicing of the the part where you make a kind of weak, watery gazpacho with them, rather than a thick, chunky sauce.  I had to let the sauce simmer a little more lively and longer than the recipe said to allow it to reduce acceptably, and I also felt inclined to add some savory flavors to complement the olives.

It worked out well enough - both our bowls went into the sink pretty clean.

Now for the happy part of menu planning.  When I went over to my bookshelf, half-heartedly looking to see if there was a book from which I haven't cooked in a while and which interested my palate, I noticed something I've been keeping in the corner of my eye for months:

When Mister and I moved in February, we got rid of a ton of stuff - we moved just as much to have a good reason to purge as to get away from that apartment.  We ended up taking a bunch of books to a used book dealer who was happy to write up a credit slip for us to use to buy "new" books from them.  We started out with nearly $100 worth of credit (which means we gave them a lot of books and that they are generous with their appraisals).  One afternoon I went browsing in there and found the gem pictured above.

I already had two Moosewood cookbooks and one of the things I like to make the most from them are the slow-cooking stews and soups, so I scooped this up.  Unfortunately, it was not soup weather, so I just put it aside on the shelf to wait for cooler times.  Well, Saturday greets October with a chilly, chilly day and even the rest of this week isn't supposed to see temperatures out of the low to mid 70s, so I think I'm safe to start investigating that new treasure.  And so, my first adventures will be....

1. Autumn Minestrone from Moosewood Restaurant Soups & Stews Deck.  I plan to serve it with a long, crusty loaf of Italian bread and a bowl of olives.  (Would anyone have found it completely offensive had I written "a long, hard loaf" of bread?  Sorry, too much Anne Rice - she gets a little carried away sometimes.)

2. Mediterranean Stew, also from the card deck.  This chunky pottage will be accompanied by Roasted Cauliflower and Olives from Vegetarian Times Fast & Easy, because I figure Mister will respond better to the first week with not just one but two soup dinners on the menu if cauliflower is involved.

3. Warm Chickpea Ragout with Swiss Chard, Carrots and Harissa, also from Vegetarian Times Fast & Easy because hey, I had the book open!

4. Hoisin-Braised Tempeh Tofu and Chinese Vegetables, also from VTF&E, but the twist here is that I've never actually made this one before.  The reason is because I usually employ this book when I'm either anticipating being brain-dead or already am brain-dead.  As such, I've managed to complete avoid the logic that would make a person say, "well, yes, my husband is deathly allergic to tempeh, but I can substitute tofu."  I'm kind of excited about this one so I'll let you know how it turns out.

5. Vegetable and "Sausage" Skillet from an old issue of Eating Well magazine.

6. Seitan and Broccoli with Pantry BBQ Sauce from  I had an incredible experience with the recipe here, so I thought it was worth another go.


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