Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Casserole

I feel I would be remiss if I let the Thanksgiving season slip away without mentioning some things that I am grateful for. It is, after all, my favorite holiday: four days off, lots of vegetables and many opportunities to get together with family and friends. When I think back over the last many months, there have been many causes to smile. One is learning about baby loons. As we were sitting on the screened-in porch of Todd's parents' camp house in Maine looking over the lake, I found out that a baby loon rides around on their mother's back for the beginning of their life! I have yet to see this in person, but hope to be up there at the right time of year to see this in action. I have for a long time thought it would be a nice vacation to spend a week on a quiet lake, taking long, meandering walks, reading and writing. It's certainly not a difficult to accomplish this, so I should consider it as a vacation option this year.
Also on the list of things that have made me smile was the Ruby Rose Tea I bought at the Belmont Farmers' Market to make iced tea and the Lola Highball glasses I bought at Crate and Barrel. The tea is perfect for sitting on your porch reading a book on a nice summer day. The glasses were a luxury purchase for me. After having lived in a very small apartment for a few years and moving many times over my lifetime, I have gotten into a mindset of buying only the necessities and very utilitarian kitchenware. But, when I'm at a friend's house eating out of a nice pottery bowl, or drinking from a fun glass, I have to admit, it brings me a bit of joy. So, I've decided to intersperse some fun into my kitchen. Together, the iced tea made from this special combination of leaves and fruit and the etched glass make a nice combination:

There were many great moments and things I saw during our trip to Oregon, but one that stands out is a very old, large tree in front of a house in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. Of course, as luck would have it, the woman who lives in the house came home as I was photographing it, but she didn't seem to mind. I'm guessing it's happened before. I tried to imagine the tree in it's spot well over a hundred years ago, and all the people who must have sat under for some shade or a picnic, climbed it, swung from it. It must have been shelter or a resting spot for many a bird and squirrel. And, I wondered what it's seen watching over this neighborhood and land before the neighborhood existed.

Somewhat related are the hand made bird complexes that were scattered about the outside eating area of Merriweather's. We had seen one in a yard in the neighborhood we stayed in as well. I believe it was the father of the restaurant owner who made them. What a great hobby!

This year, I didn't make anything exciting for the Thanksgiving Day dinner. I had tested out this casserole the week before and while it was OK, I didn't end up making another and bringing it to dinner. I think it has potential. It's like a stuffing. I found it on vegweb. If you feel like something carby and comforting, it's worth a try. The recipe called for brown rice OR lentils. I did a blend of both.

Thanksgiving Casserole
1 cup cooked brown rice (this would be a 1/2 cup raw)
1 cup cooked lentils
1/2 cup walnuts or cashews, chopped
2 slices whole wheat bread, cut into cubes
1 cup veggie broth
1/2 cup rice milk (or soy)
2 tblsns nutritional yeast
1 rib celery, diced small
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tblsns of olive or canola oil
herbs to taste: sage, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, pepper (or poultry seasoning)

1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8 inch casserole dish (I ended up using a bigger baking dish)
2. While rice is cooking, saute the onions and celery in the oil.
3. When rice is done, mix all ingredients in bowl, pour into baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes. This is good with some veg gravy.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mexican Rice Bowl

We returned from our vacation to Portland a little later than planned (due to a hurricane on the east coast), but well-fed and rested. We ate and drank so many good things, I don't even know where to begin. I'll just give a few of the highlights for me:
  • Khao Soi Kai soup made vegan at Pok Pok
  • Beer battered giant onion rings at Brix Tavern
  • The Por Que salad at Porque No
  • Maggie Cassidy cocktail at the Sapphire Hotel
  • Quinoa, veggie and bean bowl from some rice and noodle joint on Hawthorne
  • Dirty Farro Curry at Meriweather's (sitting on their fantastic outdoor patio)
  • French Pear cocktail from Meriweather's
  • The rice bowl at the Korean BBQ food cart on Belmont St. (rice, kimchee, sesame spinach, cucumber and peanut sauce)
That list is in no particular order and is not exhaustive. Just some memorable items that struck a chord with my tastebuds. Portland is teeming with great cafes, coffeehouses, restaurants and food carts. It is also a vegetarian or vegan's Heaven. Every place you go caters to the non-meat eating and gluten-free crowd. While there are many many great restaurants to enjoy, I hold a special place in my heart for the food carts. I think it must be the variety I like or the casual nature of it. But, also I like that someone can have their own little food business for not a lot of overhead. It's a great concept.

We visited the Oregon Coast, which is beautiful to look at and hike near, but not much for swimming as it's too cold. We also did a nice hike along Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge area which included some waterfalls as a visual reward for your hiking efforts. We got to experience Sunday Parkways where certain streets are closed to cars for several hours as many many cyclists and pedestrians make their way around the route. We watched a movie at Laurelwood Park, hiked around Mt. Tabor and Forest Park. We took a bike tour to see what makes the city so bikeable and then we rode to an amusement park that sits alongside the River Path via the floating pedestrian bridge (in photo above). I did some yoga and went to Saturday Market. I logged time in my favorite coffee shop: The Common Ground. And, of course, we got to spend time with good friends. Paul, Tricia, Grace and Abby were excellent hosts and took good care of us in exchange for iPad usage (these terms were set by Grace and Abby who are big fans of the Talking Tom app). I felt sad leaving and will look forward to returning.
Having been inspired by some of the food I experienced in Portland, I've tried a couple of new things since I've been home. I attempted a soup similar to the one we had at Pok Pok and didn't get it quite right. I've also been making more grain and veggie bowls. I've always enjoyed this type of thing -- noodle and veggies with a sauce or grains with veggies and beans, and I've been making them more often. One of the most simple ones is the Mexican Rice Bowl, which is essentially rice and beans but the ingredients are prepared separately. It's versatile and a fun thing to do for a casual dinner with friends, since everyone can prepare their own the way they like it.

Mexican Rice Bowl
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tblsp canola oil
1 cup of rice (brown or white)
2 cups of water (or a little less)
1 can black beans (mostly rinsed, but you can keep a little of their juice for flavor)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
salt to taste
grated cheese (cheddar or whatever you like)
fresh cilantro, chopped
salsa of your choice
1 avocado, diced

1. Put rice on to cook.
2. Heat oil in a sautee pan. Add garlic, onions and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, then add oregano, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cook until soft and then add a dash of salt.
3. Heat black beans lightly either in a small pan or the microwave.
4. Once rice is cooked, lay out all ingredients (rice, sauteed veggies, cheese, salsa, cilantro, avocado) and let people prepare their own bowl. This is probably enough for about 4 servings. Adjust amounts according to needs.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Summer Squash Pasta Sautee

When I met up with Caroline yesterday, I was already soaked to the skin from the 5 minutes it took me to ride to Arlington Center to meet her for our planned jaunt through trails on our cyclocross bikes. I greeted her by asking, "Are we dedicated, adventurous or stupid?" To this, she replied, "Yes." Then off we went for 3 hours out in the pouring rain through foot deep puddles and small rivers cascading through the trails. It was, indeed, fun.
I am not what I'd describe as a "hard-core" athlete. When I say "hard-core" I think of someone who is very dedicated, sticks to their training no matter what the conditions, is competitive, and takes some risks in the spirit of getting better at what they do (there's probably some more criteria there, but you get the gist). I'm more of what I'd classify as a "weenie". I do things, and I do them consistently, but I don't push myself often enough. And, if the weather is lousy, I'll often just go to a yoga class instead. I'm also not very competitive. I like to partake in races here or there, but I don't have the competitive drive to work really hard. I mostly do these things because I like the social aspect of it, it gives me a goal, and it pushes me out of my comfort zone.
I fear as I get older, I am becoming more of a weenie. I'm pushing myself less. I can't remember the last time I've done an epic, long road ride. I'm not even sure I could do a 75 or 100 mile ride in the near future. Perhaps I could, but it would hurt. A lot. So this makes me kind of sad and I do plan to work towards a century ride for this Fall.
But, yesterday, when I was returning home from my ride and I passed a runner, also out in the pouring rain, he gave me a sly smile which I promptly returned. It's the smile that says, "I'm just a little crazy, and so are you." This made me happy. Perhaps I haven't completely lost my ability to live just a little on the edge.
Then, I came home and made this recipe from Super Natural Every Day (the recipe is Summer Linguine) by Heidi Swanson, also the author of 101 Cookbooks. It's the perfect recipe for this time of year when there are piles of summer squash to be eaten. I was so eager to eat I forgot to take a photo, so I'll have to make it again soon.

Summer Squash Pasta Sautee
2 medium large yellow summer squash or zucchini, coarsely grated
Fine grain sea salt
4 oz whole wheat linguine
4 oz durum wheat linguine
2 tblspns olive oil
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tspn red pepper flakes
1 tblspn unsalted butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh ground black pepper

1. Grate the squash and place it in a colander with a few big pinches of sea salt to drain. Press the water out a couple of times.
2. Boil the water and cook the pastas in 2 separate pots or cook in one big pot, but check the cooking times and add them at the appropriate intervals. Reserve a bit of the cooking water when you drain it.
3. Just before you're ready to eat, heat the olive oil in the pan on medium heat and add the garlic and red chile pepper. Let cook for a minute or two until fragrant but before the garlic browns.
4. Squeeze the squash with your hands into the sink to get out remaining water. Add to pan. Cook until tender, stirring frequently, about 2-3 minutes.
5. Add the pasta and toss to distribute the zucchini. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if it seems dry.
6. Add the butter and the cheese. Toss again and serve immediately.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Black Bean Burgers - Pan Fried

Recently I read an article on BBC News Magazine listing Americanisms that are becoming more mainstream in the UK, but that the Brits find annoying. I wonder if there are any of our colloquialisms they welcome? Having spent some time living in London when I was in college and now having business colleagues in the UK, I've often thought I'd like to adopt certain British words and phrases. Some I like because they're just a bit more snarky, but some I find appealing because they seem to capture the essence of the mood or idea a bit better than our American words do. Take, for instance, one of my favorites - "sacked" instead of "fired". In a recent example of this, I was reading in a newspaper about the Murdoch scandal where they reported that Rebekah Brooks got "sacked" from News of the World. For me, thinking of someone being sacked creates a vision for me of them being cast aside, perhaps into a trash can. Being fired makes me think of someone going up in flames. Going up in flames is much more damaging or permanent. Being tossed into a trash can is demeaning and unpleasant, but you can bounce back.
Another one on the top of my list: Going to the loo (instead of the bathroom/restroom). Maybe it's me, but going to the loo is more discreet sounding and somehow even cheery. It doesn't seem to scream, "I'm going to perform bodily functions!"
Some other faves:
  • Bloody -it's so versatile, yet doesn't sound nearly as offensive as the "f" word. "That's bloody fantastic!" "Put down that bloody cell phone while you're behind the wheel!" "What the bloody heck does he think he's doing?"
  • Cheers - as a greeting, not just prior to drinking a pint
  • Wanker - as in jerk. "That guy is such a wanker. Don't pay any attention to him."
  • Smashing - meaning fantastic. "You look smashing in that dress!"
  • Bollocks - as in rubbish or no good. "That Fox News reporter is talking bollocks."
  • Ring -as in call someone. "I'll give you a ring when I'm ready to go this evening."
  • Sod - also versatile - "Sod off" or "Sod it" - again, another lighter sound version of the "f word"
Those are just a few that come to mind. If you have any you especially like, please let me know.

Please don't take this as complaining, because I'm very much enjoying the heat of the summer, but it's been so bloody hot, it's not very conducive to turning on the oven. So, as always, I'm looking for things to make for dinner that are tasty, yet don't require much heat to prepare. I've made a very similar black bean burger recipe in the past, but baked them in the oven. This recipe was taken and adapted from who adapted it from Veganomicon. I didn't have any wheat gluten, so I used an egg instead, therefore rendering it no longer vegan, but will try it that way next time. These are tasty, a nice texture and cook up quickly. If you've made some fun summer salads and need a protein based accompaniment this is a perfect solution.

Black Bean Burgers - pan fried

2 cups of cooked black beans or 1 15 oz can (rinsed)
1 egg (or go to Meaux's site, listed above for both vegan and gluten free variations)
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tspn chile powder
1/2 tspn cumin
1/4 cup water
1 tbspn tomato paste or ketchup
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 small onion, diced

1. Mash the beans with a fork until there are no full beans left (I've also used a hand potato mashing utensil).
2. Add everything else and mix with a wooden spoon. Then knead with your hands until well mixed and firm.
3. In 4 equal parts make the patties - form a ball and then flatten.
4. In a frying pan, heat up some oil on medium heat. Cook the patties for about 5-7 minutes on each side.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Salad With a Fried Egg

What came first - the vegan or the vegetarian? This isn't a philosophical mindbender like the chicken or the egg question, and now, in the days of Google, it's fairly easy to find an answer to it. While I figured the vegetarian came first, I didn't know by how much. According to Wikipedia, the first records of vegetarianism date back to 6th century BC! The term "vegan" was coined in 1944. I'm sure there were vegans prior to the label becoming official. But, still, that's a pretty big gap in time.
In more than 2 decades of not eating meat, I have tried a couple of times to go vegan. I found it much harder to sustain that diet. It's not so challenging to do at home, especially when I was living alone, but I find eating socially and eating out to be far more of a burden as a vegan. For a period of time, I ate mostly vegan at home, but would be open to eating dairy and eggs when I ate elsewhere. When I moved in with Todd I found it much more difficult to find lots of options of menus he would enjoy sans cheese. I felt I was already imposing my non-meat ways on him, since I do all the cooking, so I should compromise on dairy. Now, if you look in my fridge you would find feta, chevre, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses at any given time. You would also find yogurt and eggs. I still use non-dairy milk and I still enjoy eating vegan meals, especially when I'm flying solo for dinner.
Tonight, I was on my own for dinner, but did not choose the vegan route. I had a mish mosh of vegetables from both the farmers market and the grocer, and I needed to pull together something quick since I didn't get home until 9:00. Heidi from 101 Cookbooks, a vegetarian cooking blog I read regularly, often throws a fried egg on top a salad or a simple veg dish. I finally decided to try this tonight. I have to say the results were tasty, albeit it an ecclectic combination. I used pea tendrils (big score from the Belmont FM last week) as the greens. Then, I added some steamed sweet potatoes, toasted walnuts, goat cheese, chickpeas and a balsamic dijon vinaigrette.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

English peas and Israeli Couscous

When I was young, maybe middle school or even a bit older, I remember thinking dimes were adorable. No, that's not a typo. Dimes. I liked their small roundness, so I saved them. Then, at some point, I realized I could exchange one cute small two-dimensional round thing for an even cuter three-dimensional round thing: superballs from the gumball machine at the local supermarket. So each week when I went to the store with my parents I'd make the exchange and pretty soon much of my dime collection was turned into a superball collection. I wonder what landfill those colorful plastic orbs are sitting in right now, still perfectly in tact?
I still am attracted to small round objects, but now that I'm older and far more sophisticated, the objects of my affection have also matured. Much of the jewelry I tend to like include little circles. I find patterns on clothing or upholstery that include round shapes in them appealing. And, I think peas are just the most charming vegetable - a bunch of tiny prettily colored green pearls hanging out inside of their own comfy pod. I really can't think of anything in the produce arena that beats them. I bought some English peas during my first visit to the Arlington farmers market today. Even though I only bought a small amount, it took me forever to shell them all because I wanted to stop and study each one and take pictures of my favorites.
Please indulge me in a quick, yet somewhat related tangent. It has to be at least 15 years ago now that I attended, for the first time, the Boston Vegetarian Festival. There was a t-shirt on sale there with a bunch of animals standing around Planet Earth with the caption "All that we're asking is to give peas a chance." It was such a clever little play on John Lennon's song as a plea to vegetarianism. I somehow talked myself out of buying it, probably thinking I shouldn't spend the money on it, but I think about it every so often. I've never seen one again and if I do, I'll certainly buy it.
Once I finally finished shelling the peas, I pulled together a quick and fairly tasty dinner with them. I had mushrooms to use up, so I included those. I think next time I would probably put in some sauteed tofu instead of the mushrooms.

English peas with Israeli couscous
1/2 cup or more of shelled fresh peas, blanched for a half a minute in boiling water
1 cup Israeli couscous, cooked in broth or water with vegetable boullion
small handful of chives or fresh parsley or fresh basil
l cup sliced mushrooms
goat cheese to taste
small handful pine nuts, toasted
oil or bit of butter
salt and pepper

1. Cook couscous while shelling the peas. Put on some water to boil in a small pan.
2. Blanch the peas in the boiling water for no more than a half a minute so they don't get mushy.
3. When the peas are done, strain them and put the same pan back on the heat (medium low). Add the mushrooms and chives (or parsely or basil). Sautee and add salt and pepper.
4. Mix together the couscous, peas and mushrooms. Top with pine nuts and goat cheese.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Marinated Cauliflower Salad

Admittedly, I've craved some strange foods in my day. Most people crave things like chocolate cake or Doritos. I get a hankering for lima beans. Lately, I find myself wanting cauliflower. A lot. Perhaps I'm making up for lost time. Cauliflower is not something I tended to buy much - very rarely actually. I'm trying to recall making anything with it in the past. I've never disliked it, just never gravitated towards it in the grocery store. And, it's not something I recall coming upon in restaurants, with the exception of Indian. I love it in curries. I had it in the form of Gobi Manchurian recently which was delectable. It's tasty when it's roasted. But now that we have the summer heat upon us, I need to find some simple summer dishes to incorporate my cauliflower fix. I found this recipe on-line that is a Spanish tapas dish. I just had some for lunch. It's very tangy and I would make it again. Marinated Cauliflower Salad
1 small head cauliflower
2 tspns lemon juice
1 hard boiled egg
1 tblspn minced parsely

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
2 tblspns red wine vinegar
1 clove mashed or pressed garlic
1 tblspn capers (I did not have on hand, so did not use)
1 tspn paprika
1 dash cayenne pepper
salt to taste

1. Cut the large stems off of the cauliflower and break into florets. Place cauliflower in a half inch of boiling salted water and the lemon juice. Simmer, covered, for 10-12 minutes until just barely tender (do not overcook or it will fall apart).
2. Remove from the water, drain well, rinse and cool. Cut the cauliflower into more manageable bite-sized pieces if necessary. Cover with marinade and gently fold cauliflower into the marinade with a rubber spatula. Let sit for a few hours or overnight.
3. When ready to serve, crumble hard-boiled egg and parsley on top.

Grilled Tofu

Aaaaaaaaah - vacation. I needed that.
It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I was very tired and could use some time away from work. I have this bad habit of taking vacation in the summer and then realizing at the beginning of May that I have not taken any significant time off since August. You'd think I would've caught onto this by now, but it seems to happen year after year. Adding to my tiredness was the relentless dreary gray, rainy, 50 degree stretch of weather we were having. It was sapping what little energy I had left. I was craving light and relaxation. After some deliberation, I decided to partake in a yoga vacation on an island off the coast of South Carolina. I'd never been to the state before and when I saw the extended forecast was showing sunshine and heat for days on end, it was the extra incentive I needed to purchase a plane ticket. There were no direct flight options and the path I chose ended up cutting my vacation short by a half day due to mechanical and weather-related problems, but all that aggravation was washed away when I woke up my first morning there to sunshine, 90 degrees and wild deer roaming around the yard. The island is a nature preserve so the deer and other wildlife, pleasantly, have the run of the place.
The vacation included a place to stay in rented homes on Fripp Island, 2 yoga classes and 2 macrobiotic meals each day. There were also options for massage, ginger compress and reflexology treatments. The food was delicious and while I know I couldn't eat a strict macro diet all the time, I was very happy to do it for the week, especially with someone else cooking. I had a great massage in a room at the top floor of the house, next to windows that overlooked the beach. I listened to waves crashing and the sea breeze blowing while getting all the tension worked out of my neck and shoulders. The highlight of the yoga classes for me was that I was finally able to do Wheel pose (putting yourself up into a backbend). I became frustrated recently when I realized I was struggling with this pose, and set a goal for myself to try to do it by my birthday. I made it without much time to spare!
While all these components of the trip were great, the best part was the people I met there. It was a thoughtful, intelligent, creative and friendly group of people - Tara, Linda, Connie, Cecily, Amy, Jean, Frankie, Kevin, Tara #2, Keith, Janet, and, of course, Karin. I very much enjoyed chatting with them at each of our meals. A favorite moment of mine was when we celebrated Jean's 88th birthday not long after she had done a headstand. Go, Jean!
One of the dishes I liked best was a simple baked tofu. But, that was not the only delicious tofu I ate this week. Upon my return home, the sun had come out and it was the non-astronomical start of summer- Memorial Day weekend. We kicked it off with a smorgasbord cookout at Nate and Sarah Joy's place. SJ kindly marinated some tofu for me which was grilled and absolutely delicious. She threw together a marinade and told me the ingredients, but not amounts, so I'll make this and come back with more specifics.
(Thank you, Linda, for some of the photos. The one at the table is the only photographic evidence I was on Fripp Island!)
Grilled Tofu
1 container of firm extra firm tofu, pressed
lemon juice
a little cider vinegar

1. Slice the pressed tofu into 1/2 inch slabs and pour the marinade over it. Marinate for several hours.
2. Grill until lightly browned on each side.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Veggie Pot Pie(s)

Yesterday I faced a moral dilemma. Allow me to provide some background prior to presenting my recent quandary. Susan, who is a long time friend, cycling buddy, confidante, fashion consultant, concert date, advice giver and overall mood lifter is going on her 4th year (or could it be 5th year? where does the time go?) of participating in the Pan Mass Challenge. Those of you in the area will know this is a cycling event fundraiser benefiting Dana Farber cancer research. This event is no easy feat. It requires riding 190 miles over 2 days. But, even more difficult, it requires each rider to raise at least $4,000. You can only acquire so much money from friends and family, so fundraisers need to get creative. Susan and her team, Forza G work hard throughout a large part of the year to acquire donations and bring awareness to the cause. Each spring they kick-off the season at Harpoon brewery with a party and raffle. One of Susan's teammates, Jamie, is a master brewer at Harpoon. He also has taken part in competition barbequeing (Yes, he is a good friend to have, but not only for these reasons. He also happens to be an outstanding person.) Then, their major fundraising effort kicks in - pulled pork sandwich selling. Large amounts of pork are prepared and frozen, then brought to mountain bike events throughout the season to be sold for a donation as sandwiches to hungry riders.
So, here's where my dilemma comes into play. The past two days were the big pulled pork production weekend. Many team members and friends showed up to help out. I went by on Sunday to see what I could do to contribute. I was quite impressed with the operation. They've nailed the process down over the last few years and it runs very smoothly. However, there are not, as it turns out, any "vegetarian friendly" jobs to do. So, I had to make a decision: play with meat, or do nothing. I rolled up my sleeves, pulled on some rubber gloves, dug into a bin of pork butts and began to separate the mounds into smaller pieces. I'm sure I'd offend many fellow veggies with this gesture, but the way I look at it, the meat is going to get "pulled" either way and I am helping out a good friend for a good cause. Then, when the work was done, we kicked back, ate (I had a veggie burger, for the record), chatted and played games.
To repent for my vegetarian sins, I came home and made vegetable pot pie. I haven't made pot pie in quite some time, and I had the idea to make individual pies. I bought 4 small ceramic pie plates, and while I still like the idea of doing this, I went wrong was with the dough. I bought some filo dough, folded a couple of sheets for each pie in half, laid them in the pan, and folded the tops over the mixture. I also brushed oil on so they would brown. The tops were very awkward and also overcooked. I'm not sure if I could've used the filo dough differently to yield better results, or if I should just try a different crust next time. I did like the inside mixture though, so would use that again. This made exactly enough for my four pies.

Veggie Pot Pie Mixture
2 tblspns oil
1 small onion, diced
8 0z mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced (I left these out and added peas since I was also having mashed potatoes)
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups cauliflower, florets
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups vegetable broth (the recipe called for 3, but that seemed like too much to me)
1 tspn salt
1 tspn black pepper
2 tblspns arrowroot
2 tblspns soy sauce
crust of your choice

1. Pre-heat oven to 425F
2. Heat oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add onions, mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add carrots, potatoes and celery. Cook another few minutes. Add cauliflower, green beans and broth. Stir. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook til veggies are barely tender. Season with salt and pepper.
3. In small bowl, mix arrowroot, 1/4 cup of water and soy sauce. Stir until arrowroot is dissolved. Add to the veggie mixture.
4. Pour into dough lined pan(s). Cover with dough and bake for 30 minutes.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vegetarian Bog

A vegetarian and non-vegetarian living together can have its challenges. Todd is a pretty open-minded eater so he'll typically try and/ or eat nearly everything I make, but he just doesn't get too excited about much of it. Left to my own desires, I'd probably cook and eat a bit differently, but I often try to make things that I think Todd will enjoy, even if only a little bit. If he shows interest in something particular I will usually try my best to make it. The recent post of tofu quiche was an example of this. Todd had mentioned he had tofu quiche a while back and actually preferred it to egg quiche.
Last year my friend Catherine had some friends over for dinner, but I was unable to make it due to work travel. Todd went, representing the male race and I heard he did a good job of participating in "girl talk". He came home pretty excited about a rice dish Catherine had made called Chicken Bog. She is from the South so will often make dishes representative of her homeland. On New Year's Day, she brought Hoppin' John, a recipe which I had tried to vegetarianize many years ago. Catherine sent us her Bogrecipe and I did a little poking around on line. This dish is a culmination of what I found and my best attempt to make a vegetarian version. It's a good comfort food type rice dish for a chilly evening. You can keep the spices pretty mellow or give it some heat to suit your tastes.

Cajun Spice Mix

This will make a lot. I scaled it down in proportion. You can scale it according to your own tastes.
2 tspns salt
2 tspns garlic powder
2 1/2 tspns parika
1 tspn ground black pepper
1 tspn onion powder (I left this out)
1 tspn cayenne pepper
1 1/4 tspns dried oregano
1/4 tspns dried thyme
1/2 tspn red chili flakes
(This mixture is quite spicy. Tone it down if you don't like so much heat.)


1 tblspn canola oil
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 small red pepper. diced
2 veggie sausages, chopped (I used Field Roast brand, apple and sage flavor)
cajun spice to taste (the 2nd time I made it, it was a little too kicky. I will just use a little bit next time)

1 small onion, diced
1 large stalk celery, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tblspns butter
2 cups veg broth or 2 cups water and a bouillon cube
1 cup basmati rice

1. In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Sautee for 5 minutes, then add rice and mix. Add broth or water and bouillion. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. In a skillet, heat canola oil. Sautee mushrooms, peppers and sausages in as little or much of the spice as you like.
3. When rice is cooked, add to sausage mixture.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tofu Quiche

Currently there are many UFIs that seem to have invaded my pantry. You may want to check because you could have some yourself - Unidentified Food Items. If you shop the bulk food section of your grocery store, you probably know what I mean. There are the staple items I use regularly, and those don't cause problems. It's the foods that look similar or are some obscure dried thing that seemed interesting in that moment that cause the problems. Is this chickpea flour, nutritional yeast or some other wheat colored finely ground powder? Barley or farro? TVP or bulghur wheat? And what are these puny dark red pellets? Sometimes I remember to label things, but, more often, I think I'll remember what it is. I just went through my drawer and found several bags of UFIs. Now, I have to decide what to do with them. Do I make my best guess and use them in a recipe only to potentially end up with an inedible meal? In some cases, it won't matter that much - barley or farro are fairly interchangeable. And, if I start tasting things I might be able to narrow down the possibilities. In the past, I know I've thrown some things away, yet I'd prefer to not take the wasteful route. The bottom line is, all of this annoyance could have been avoided with a pen and a few strokes of the hand. Lesson learned.
Tonight's dinner did not involve the pantry. I made an eggless quiche. I considered making it vegan, but once I had the mixture prepared and tasted it prior to baking, I knew it would be too bland, so out came the cheese grater. The tofu really does provide a good replacement for the eggs. The texture and consistency works. Maybe next time I could experiment some nutritional yeast (or chickpea flour or whatever that is) in place of the cheese and find out how that would work. This is a reliable recipe and at least cuts down on some of the dairy.

Tofu Quiche
1 prepared pie crust
8 0z frozen spinach, thawed or 1 lb fresh steamed and water pressed out
1 tblspn oil for sauteeing
1 medium onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz mushrooms sliced (I used baby bella)
1 16 oz container firm tofu
1 tspn dijon mustard
splash of some kind of milk (rice, soy, almond)
1 tspn dried parsley
a few pinches of red pepper flakes
1/4 tspn nutmeg
salt and pepper
cheese to taste (I used sharp cheddar and Parmesan)

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Bake the pie crust for about 5 minutes and remove.
2. Either steam or defrost the spinach.
3. Heat the oil in a sautee pan and cook the onions, garlic, and mushroom over medium high heat until much of the water is cooked off and they are starting to brown. You can add some salt to draw out the water. Add the spinach and blend.
4. Meanwhile, in a blender, mix the tofu, mustard, milk and spices.
5. In a large bowl, blend the tofu and veggie mixtures. Grate in some cheese to taste. Then pour into the pie crusts. I ended up having enough to make almost two quiches, but I added extra veggies.
6. Cook for about 35-40 minutes. Let set for 5 minutes before cutting.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spicy Kidney Bean and Lentil Loaf

Recently when I was out to dinner with a couple of friends, they asked if it was difficult for me to find vegetarian options when eating out. In general, the answer is "no", but I also gravitate towards places I know will have something interesting for me to eat. And, by "interesting", I do not mean pasta primavera. In more than 20 years of not eating meat, I can't count how many times the vegetarian option at a restaurant or event has been pasta. I have nothing against pasta and love me a good red sauce, but will usually opt for something else if it's available. It's one thing if I'm in the North End and I know it will be exceptional, but in your average run of the mill restaurant, I don't want to waste a meal on it.
When I find myself in Restaurant Americana, I do have a fallback meal. I will often get the most acceptable salad I can find on the menu, hopefully with something other than iceberg lettuce, and a side of potato (mashed potato, baked potato or French fries). And while we're at it, let's discuss Caesar Salad. I just don't get it. It's lettuce, cheese, croutons usually slathered in an extremely high fat creamy dressing. This is not a salad in my book and I am perplexed as to why people seem to get so excited about it.
Restaurants have come a long way over the years, and I find myself with many more options as I did back in my vegetarian blooming years. And, again, I've also learned where to eat and my palette has become much more ethnically broad. My favorites include Thai, Indian and Vietnamese. Last week I finally visited Red Lentil, a vegetarian restaurant that recently opened in the area. In those situations, I find myself completely overwhelmed since I can eat every single thing on the menu. Typically, I scan the menu for the items I can eat as is, then look to see if any of the others are appealing and could be modified, then narrow my selections from there.
An option I think would be easy for restaurants to offer, yet I never see on a menu is some sort of
veggie grain loaf. This particular one is good because besides the bread crumbs, it doesn't have any starch in it, so you can have potato or rice on the side. I've posted another one in the past that's also tasty, but does include rice. Tonight we are having this with sides of mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. The leftovers are great served over salad.

Spicy Bean and Lentil Loaf
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 14 oz can red kidney beans
1 14 oz can lentils (I usually just cook some from dried)
1 egg
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/2 cup aged cheddar, finely grated
1 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tspn tomato paste
1 tblspn ketchup
1 tspn each: ground cumin; ground coriander; chili powder
salt and fresh black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9x5x3 in loaf pan.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. When the oil heats, add the onion, garlic and celery and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly.
3. Rinse and drain the beans and lentils. Place in a blender or food processor with the onion mixture and egg and process til smooth.
4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon the mixture in the prepared pan and level the surface. Bake for about 1 hour, then cool and remove from pan.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Comfort Chickenless Soup

Recently, I took another yoga retreat getaway to Kripalu for some R&R (Reatreat and Renewal). I came back with one major complaint: it was too short. Two of my co-workers and I headed out to the Berkshires with the intention of staying 3 nights. Due to one of the previously mentioned slew of snowstorms we have been having, we were forced to leave early. This made me sad because I was having such a nice time. To give you an idea of the kinds of things you can do there, the following is the schedule of events I chose to take part in on one of the days I was there:

6:30-7:45: Intermediate Morning Yoga
8:00-9:00: Silent breakfast
9:00-10:30: Workshop on Core Stabilization
10:30-12:00: Reading time in the Solarium
12:00-1:00: Yoga dance
1:00-2:00: Lunch
2:00-3:00: Hula Hooping: Flowing through Life class
3:00-4:15: Bought cute yoga dress in gift shop and more reading time
4:15-5:45: Intermediate afternoon Yoga
5:45-7:30: Dinner and hang out
7:30-9:00: Cooking demonstration

During our stay we also did a meditation workshop and took part in a drumming circle. I realize this type of thing may not be everybody's cup of tea, and you might be thinking "that sounds awful", but I really did come back rejuvenated. I find that yoga can do that for me in similar, yet different ways that running or riding perk me up. Last night, for instance, I left work feeling completely droopy and wilted. I could've gone straight to bed to put an end to the day. I had wanted to run, but I just didn't have it in me. I opted instead for a candlelight yoga class. I left with more energy and focus and felt more positive. It's not the same as an exhilarating run or ride when you get that endorphin high. Instead, it's both calming and energizing at the same time.
I recently read an article in the NYT about meditation and how some recent research is showing that it may actually change the brain by increasing the gray matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. I've been wanting to add a regular meditating routine to my day, anyway, and hearing that is good incentive for me. I've talked to many people who have had noticeable behavioral differences from regular meditation. I'll keep you posted on my own routine.
I'd like to share with you one of the recipes I learned at Kripalu, but I haven't made it yet, so instead I'll share this comforting brothy soup, Kriste, a vegan co-worker passed onto me and I've made a couple of times. It's provides comfort very quickly since it's so simple to put together. The original intent by the author, oliviabeans, was to create a Lipton like cup of soup that was vegan friendly. It really works!

Comfort Chickenless Cup of Soup
2 tblspns grapeseed oil
1 small onion, chopped up small
5 cups of water
2 vegetarian bouillon cubes (or 5 cups of broth instead of cubes and water)
3 to 5 tblspns nutritional yeast flakes
1 stalk of celery, sliced thin
Leaves from celery stalk, chopped finely (optional)
1 small carrot sliced thinly
1/4-1/2 cup of small pasta (I used orzo)
1/2 tblspn garlic powder
pinch of celery salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 tspn turmeric
1/2 14 oz can chickpeas (or more to taste). You could also cook your preferred chix substitute like Quorn naked cutlets and chop one of those up and add it at the end.
Pepper to taste

1. In medium pot, heat oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook until starting to brown.
2. Add: 5 cups of water and bouillon cubes. Let dissolve.
3. Add everything else except for pasta and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 7 or so minutes, until carrot is partially tender.
4. Add pasta and simmer until pasta is cooked. Add chickpeas and let heat for a few minutes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sauteed Cabbage With a Kick

Could the birthday song be any more boring?
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear xxx
Happy birthday to you.
Really? That's all we could come up with? No mention of the year past or well wishes for the coming year? I just had a quick look on Wikipedia and found that the song originates from the late 180os and is based on the melody of another song, "Good Morning to You" written by a kindergarten principal. I understand that kids are most excited by birthdays and so the song should be something easy for them to learn, but it could be a tad more thought provoking. It's gotten to the point that I can hardly sing it because I find it so lame.
I cannot possibly be the only person that feels this way. And, so therefore, I hope to someday leave behind as my legacy, a new birthday song. I've done a bit of work on this, trying out some new lyrics and/ or melodies and leaving them on friends' voicemail. I have not found the winner yet, but I'll keep working on it.

If I could do this and get more people to enjoy cabbage, I think my life would be well lived. Ok, I do have a few other things in mind I'd like to accomplish, but these two things are on the list. I have brought different variations of cabbage dishes to family holidays because I figure I should start this endeavor close to home. Plus, traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meals tend to be very startchy, so I like to bring something crisp and light to counter that. This year on Thanksgiving I had brought this dish and wanted to make sure I recorded it, since it's a quick and tasty way to enjoy some shredded cabbage.

Shredded Spiced Cabbage
1 medium onion sliced
1 tblspn grapeseed oil (or another oil good at high heat)
1 tomato chopped, or a big handful of grape tomatoes cut into quarters
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
big pinch of red pepper chile flakes
1 small head of cabbage, cored and sliced
1 tspn of sea or himalayan salt

1. In sautee pan, heat oil, add onion and let cook for a few minutes. Then add tomato, ginger and pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes to take some of the moisture out of the tomatoes.
2. Add cabbage (it will seem like a lot) and salt. Stir it together with the other ingredients in the pan. Cover and let cook down. You'll want to cook for 10 to 13 minutes. Do not overcook. If the pan seems dry add a couple of teaspoons of water here and there.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Creamy Potato Garlic Soup (sans cream)

The last time I can recall snowbanks of this grandeur was the infamous Blizzard of '78. Of course, at 9 years old, I was much smaller so perhaps my perspective is skewed. Snowstorm after rainstorm after sleetstorm and more snow on top of that has brought messy conditions, weekly school cancellations, laborious commutes to the office, difficulty walking on sidewalks and lots of shoveling. It's gotten to the point I've noticed, that us New Englanders who are usually eager to discuss the weather as small talk on elevators or as we pass a neighbor by in the street, can no longer even bear to discuss the elements. People are just exhausted by it and it's only the beginning of February. I heard one psychologist refer to it as "snow fatigue". The relentlessness of Mother Nature is wearing people down and making them irritable. I forget what grass looks like and Spring seems an eternity away.
I often think I should approach this scene as Zuree does. As we head out for our walk three times daily, she is equally enthusiastic each time, as if it's the first. She takes in the scene for a moment and then charges ahead. She takes any conditions in stride and inhales everything there is to see and smell. It reminds me of a Zen-type approach: being in the moment and taking things for what they are. There's nothing I can do to control the weather, so getting upset about it is just an energy drain. I've just got to do the best with what is presented to me. And, often, even though I'm dreading going out in the frigid temps to brave the icy sidewalks, once I get out it can be pleasant and peaceful. It's nice to get some air and move around a bit. So, I'll be keeping this all in mind as I head out, especially for the pre-bedtime walk which is the one I look forward to the least.
I'm guessing the soup intake in this area has gone up considerably over past winters. Here's one I concocted tonight since I was limited to ingredients I had on hand.

Creamy Potato Soup
1 head of garlic, roasted (or more if you like garlic, the flavor was very subtle with the one head)
1 tblspn grapeseed oil
1 medium to large onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 tblspn all purpose flour
4 cups of veggie broth or 4 cups of water and 2 boullion cubes
3 medium potatoes, cut into cubes
1 bay leaf
some dried or fresh parsley
1 14 oz can of cannelini beans
the juice of 1 lemon

1. In a toaster oven or oven, roast the garlic for about 40 minutes on 425. Let cool
2. Meanwhile chop veggies. Then, heat oil in a soup pan. Add onions and carrots and saute until just softening.
3. Add flour and stir constantly for a minute. Do not let brown.
4. Add broth or water and boullion, potatoes, bay leaf and parsley if using dried. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
5. Add cannelini beans, parsley if using fresh, and salt to taste. Let heat for about 5 to 7 minutes.
6. Add lemon juice (up to one lemon depending on your taste)
7. Puree soup. You may find you need to add more water to get it to a consistency you like.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chickpea and Potato Curry

It seems I've taken a bit of a break from sharing my thoughts and cooking activity with the internet for the last many weeks. Upon reflection, there were a few reasons for this. There were, of course, the usual holiday related distractions. But also, I hadn't cooked anything I felt excited about, and then a nasty stomach bug got thrown into the mix rendering me completely uninterested in food. At one point, I found myself worried: "What if I never crave any kind of food again and I become satisfied with just eating white rice and with edammame beans and ginger everyday?" But, alas, my appetite returned and I am happily cooking, eating and perusing the several new cookbooks I acquired over the holidays.
I would be remiss in writing this first post of January without reflecting on the past year and speculating about the year to come. 2010 wasn't an outright bad year, but I was left feeling like I wanted more. I didn't achieve anything memorable or grow significantly in any aspect of my life. I'll provide a few of the less personal examples. Athletically speaking, I couldn't do much because of the structural issues I am having with my body. In my worklife, I was busy and got things done, but there was no one big accomplishment that stands out in my mind nor did I feel I learned much to help me grow professionally. And socially, I didn't see enough of my friends. There were some highlights: attending the Children's Book Writing and Publishing class; I finally found a yoga studio I liked and got into a regular yoga practice, and two trips to Colorado after not having been for a while. Luckily, I'm not one of those people who has my memories cataloged by year (It was back in the summer of 1992...) For me, things blend in and I recollect in segments of life, so it's not like 2010 will be burned in my memory as the Year of the Uneventful.
I also don't make New Year Resolutions. It seems a bit trite and resolutions don't have a good reputation. I think read one statistic that 95% of resolutions are given up on by the third week in January. I do have some intentions for 2011. I won't share them all, but I do intend to spend more time with certain friends (i.e. Susan), and I've already gotten a good start on this one. I plan to do something with the knowledge I gained at the above mentioned class from 2010. I have a love affair to re-kindle with my bike(s). I also plan to branch out with my cooking and perhaps take a Thai or curry class.
In the colder weather I find myself craving curries and foods with a heat and "heaviness" in general. After having a vegetable korma at a local Indian restaurant, I found myself wanting more for days after. I tried making one, and it was fine, but it didn't satisfy me in the way the restaurant one did. I also made some curry flavored lentil burgers and those were also ok, if a bit dry. Then I made a lentil loaf with some heat to it, and that was fairly nice. Last night, I finally made a Curried Potato and Chickpea Soup that I found pretty satisfying for the amount of time and effort it took. My friend, Lauri, had sent me a recipe to which I made a few modifications. It's less a soup and more a curry to pour over rice. This batch had a lot of potatoes in it since I was wanting to use up the stash in my pantry that was approaching the end of its little veggie life, so I would want to use less next time, but I do think there will be a next time.

Chickpea and Potato Curry
2 Tblspns olive oil
1 small onion, diced
4 tspns (at least) curry powder
1/2 pound small red skin potatoes cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup veggie broth
1 14 oz can light coconut milk
1 14 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1/2 14 oz can diced tomatoes or a big handful of chopped fresh tomatoes
1 cup packed spinach leaves, chopped, or about a cup of frozen spinach thawed
salt to taste

1. Heat oil in heavy medium soup pot over medium heat. Add onions. Cook until just starting to brown. Add curry powder and stir for a minute.
2. Add broth, coconut milk, potatoes, chickpeas, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then turn to a simmer and cook for 2o minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
3. Add spinach and salt. Let spinach blend or wilt. Serve over basmati rice.