Thistle - You have to listen to Thistle. It’s two identical twin brothers who live in the woods, and each morning, they chop down a single tree, whittle two ukeleles from it, then record a song inspired by that particular wood. Their music is haunting.
Mike requested a “lighter” blueberry muffin earlier this week. So, I obliged this morning.
I decided to make them gluten-free and use an alternative sweetener as well. I’m sure they’d work with regular sugar and regular flour, I looked at a few recipes to get ideas and most of them use regular granulated sugar and all purpose flour.
Here’s what I did:
2 cups gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line or grease a muffin pan.
In medium bowl, combine flour, flaxmeal, baking powder, and salt. Mix.
In larger bowl, whisk together the sugar, about 1/2 of the nondairy milk, melted coconut oil and vanilla, until smooth. Add the flour and the remaining nondairy milk, alternating, until mixture is just mixed. Taste the batter and decide if it needs the maple syrup. I decided mine did :-) At this point, you can add already zested lemon peel or you can zest a lemon directly into the large mixing bowl. Add the blueberries and stir until combined. Scoop the batter into the muffin pan - about 3/4 of the way full.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Mike and I ate ours with a little bit of Earth Balance. Mike says they are lighter than traditional blueberry muffins and a little less sweet. The lemon zest and vanilla bean are a great combination.
Delicata squash, where have you been all my life? I mean, I’ve tasted you a few times, but never have I realized how easy you are to prepare, how your skin is totally edible and how you taste so delectable!
Tonight’s dinner was simple roasted delicata squash, smoky oyster mushrooms, caramelized onions on a bed of massaged lacinato kale and red cabbage.
The squash was sliced in half, seeds scraped out and sliced into little half moons, then coated lightly in coconut oil and sprinkled with salt. I roasted it for about 20 minutes (flipping once) at 500 degrees on a metal baking sheet to get the maximum caramelization.
I also sauteed some oyster mushrooms with a bit of minced garlic and about 1/2 tsp of liquid smoke.
Basically, it was a completely scrumptious plate of food.
For some reason, I haven’t been drinking enough water lately. My already dry skin is drier than normal and I’ve been constantly reminding myself to drink more water (when I remember).
In the midst of thinking about how to be nicer to myself today, I thought “Why not make some spa water?” It reminded me of a children’s book that my niece used to love and, if you have a daughter under the age of 10, you are probably familiar with: Fancy Nancy.
The child in the book, Nancy, likes to make everything in her life fancy. The book follows the adventures of her “fanciness” and her family being taken along for the ride.
I woke up today feeling a bit blue. But the simple act of making something “fancy” in the form of spa water, has shifted my perspective and lifted my spirits.
Do something nice for yourself: Make spa water today!
My pitcher contains a sliced lemon, a sliced lime and thinly sliced cucumber. You could jazz it up even more with oranges or mint leaves, too.
I know you’re wondering “What else can I do with roasted pumpkin besides baked goods, desserts and delicious hot cereal?” Here’s what:
Lately, I’ve been using pumpkin as a canvas of sorts for dinner bowls. I use it in the same way you’d use a grain like quinoa or rice or polenta. I season very lightly with salt, pepper and nutmeg and top with sauteed veggies and a sauce of some sort. The bowl above has pumpkin on the bottom, and a mix of garden fresh zucchini (thank Angie!), caramelized onions, kale, homemade enchilada sauce and avocado.
Last’s night bowl was similar: pumpkin, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic, kale, topped with marinara sauce from a jar and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.
Super comforting and delicious.
One note about the kale: you don’t even need to add it to the pan of sauteed veggies. Kale (and other greens) get steamed simply by adding them to already hot, cooked food and the less we cook greens, the more nutrition we get. I sometimes add mine to the pan after the fire is already off and then just stir with the veggies. They get slightly cooked this way. You can also chop them first, sprinkle salt and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and massage with your hands to get a steaming effect.
However, 2 loaves sounded like way too much, and I thought I could probably halve the recipe to make muffins instead of a quickbread. The original recipe sounded somewhat sugar and oil heavy as well, so I decided to cut those ingredients a bit and replace some of the all-purpose flour with spelt flour. I was curious about what would happen with all spelt flour or even whole wheat pastry flour, so maybe I’ll try that next time.
Here’s what I did this morning:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup cooked pumpkin
6 Tbsp coconut oil, melted (a little more than 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray a nonstick muffin pan, or use muffin liners. Put walnuts in dry frying pan and toast over medium heat, watching closely to make sure they don’t get burned. They are ready when you can smell them. (A tip I learned from Rachael Ray!) Remove the walnuts from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add the pumpkin, oil and coconut milk and mix until all the flour is absorbed. Fold in the shredded coconut and walnuts. Spoon mixture into muffin pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
We ate these right out of the oven and they were fabulous. The coconut gives them sort of a crispy texture, and the walnuts add a richness. The cake is not too heavy and not too light. And the level of sugar was also just right in my book. They are sweet, but not cloyingly so. The pumpkin has a natural sweetness which is one of the reasons I didn’t think they needed the white sugar that the original recipe calls for.
For anyone who cares about this stuff - despite reducing the sugar and oil and using some whole grain flour - these are not low calorie, low-fat or low sugar. For me, it’s a small indulgence that I’d rather make myself than purchase at a coffee shop (where I can’t control the ingredients). I calculated the nutritional info:
Per muffin: 248 calories, 13.5 grams of fat, 2.3 grams of fiber, 30.2 grams of carbohydrate, 3.5 grams of protein.
Do you remember Magic Shell? I think of it as a product that doesn’t exist anymore because I last ate it in childhood. I’ve seen a homemade version of the blogosphere and decided to try it the other night. It’s basically just 3 parts chocolate (I used semi sweet chocolate chips) to 2 parts coconut oil. Melt it together on the stove or in the microwave and stir. If you are a salty sweet person like me, I highly recommend mixing in a sprinkle of sea salt.
Pour over your favorite frozen dessert (photo above is banana soft serve). It hardens and cracks just like the storebought variety.
Tonight, I made Terry’s Masala Potato Soup, and it turned out quite nicely. As I was eating it, I was thinking, it would be awesome to be such a talented cook that you could make up something like this soup. So, as Mike said “This one’s going in the rotation.”
With an onion, a pile of kale, cooked quinoa and leftover homemade enchilada sauce, this bowl was born.
I didn’t have much in the fridge because it’s grocery shopping day, but I knew I wanted something cooked and semi-hearty for lunch today. Didn’t feel like a smoothie. Quinoa cooks up so quickly, so I got that underway, and then chopped an onion into rings and caramelized that over medium low heat.
I then chopped up a boatload of kale and put it in a large mixing bowl with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of sea salt. I massaged the kale for about 30 seconds and then transferred that into another bowl.
When the quinoa was done (about 15 minutes cooking time), I heated up some leftover enchilada sauce, and layered the kale first, then the quinoa, then the onions and poured the sauce over the whole thing. A quick toss and lunch was served! What I liked about this dish, in particular, was how the kale got slightly steamed by the hot quinoa and onions. Sometimes raw kale can be a bit much for some people, but by massaging it and then putting in a bowl with other hot ingredients, you can still reap the benefits of eating it raw without overcooking the nutrients out of it.
I love candy corn. There, I said it. This is somewhat difficult for me to admit, as a self-described kale worshipper. I know it’s horrible for you and that many people find it vile, but I love it. For the last several weeks, I’ve been craving it. I’m sure I’m not the only one, as it is the season of candy corn!
I haven’t caved in and bought any though, because commercial, store-bought candy corn contains gelatin (derived from animal skin and bones), egg whites and confectioner’s glaze (derived from bugs). All very un-vegan.
I KNOW that I can make it myself OR order it online, but for some reason neither of these options appeals to me, in part because I am not sure that it would taste the same as the candy corn I love. The truth is, all I want is a handful. It’s not something that I can eat in large quantities and after a handful I’d be done. But, yet, I can’t bring myself to buy even a small bag. So, I’ve been forgoing the candy corn even though it seems to beckon me every day.
This may not sound like a big sacrifice - and of course it isn’t - but it’s a small example of why being vegan is, sometimes, kind of hard. There, I said it (again). I’m coming up on my second “vegan-versary” - I decided to go vegan Thanksgiving weekend 2009 - and for the first year of my vegan adventures, I was determined to show everyone I encountered how easy veganism is.
I realize now that it’s probably more genuine to admit that sometimes it IS hard. My honest opinion after almost two years is that it gets both harder and easier. It gets harder because of little candy corn situations that crop up and sometimes I have to remind myself why I am doing this. And, it also gets easier because of all the amazing, varied food I make and eat, all the new things I discover, and experiences that I have that reaffirm my decision.
One of those experiences was my spontaneous visit to Gentle Barn today. Gentle Barn’s mission is “To rescue, rehabilitate and give sanctuary to abused animals. Through the interaction with our animals people learn reverence for all life.” I met some adorable and sweet animals today, including:
Buttercup. It’s hard to tell from this photo, but Buttercup is a beautiful cow who was resting her head on my knee as I pet her!
This was exactly what I needed today. It was heartwarming to see so many animals in a healing, nurturing environment. And at the same time, sad to remember that droves of similar animals undergo torture and mistreatment so that humans can eat or use them somehow. All I need is to look at this photo of Buttercup and be reminded why I don’t really need the handful of candy corn.
Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Walnut Kale Pesto (+ special dessert!)
Tonight’s dinner was deceptively easy. And rich. And delicious. First, I made pumpkin gnocchi using this recipe (with very slight tweaks). That didn’t take very long because I had already roasted pumpkin ready to go.
I decided to wing it and make a sage, walnut, kale pesto instead of sage browned olive oil (or butter) sauce as the recipe suggests. For the pesto:
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 2 small lemons
1 cup walnuts
2 packed cups kale
7 large sage leaves
2 teaspoons light yellow miso paste
Put everything in food processor and process until smooth. I like my pesto on the chunky side but you could add water or oil if you like it more saucy.
Here’s my plate. Of course, it was necessary to serve it alongside some simple massaged kale:
The pesto came out really delicious. I was concerned that the sage would be overpowering, which is part of the reason I added kale (also just because kale rules), but it wasn’t at all. You could taste it, and the flavors were just perfect.
The gnocchi was very hearty and rich but with subtle flavors, which worked well with the brighter pesto. I added just a tsp of dried sage to the original recipe and I think that was a good call.
Here’s Mike’s last bite:
I also made something I’ve been wanting to try for ages, and now that Halloween candy is beckoning me at every turn, I decided to go for it today. Homemade peanut butter cups!
I used Averie’s recipe, and they came out SO GOOD. And they are also very easy and quick to make. Mike isn’t even a chocolate person and he loved them.
There are vegan peanut butter cups on the market (I’m partial to these) but after making them today, I may never purchase store bought varieties again. These are just too easy and delicious.
Another thing I’ve been obsessed with lately is seaweed salad. I love the kind you get at Japanese restaurants or in prepared foods sections of grocery stores. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to start making it myself.
My first attempt was ill-fated. I went to an Asian market near my house and bought what I thought was the right kind of wakame to make the salad. I soaked the dry wakame first. Let’s just say that in addition to increasing exponentially in size it also smelled extremely unappetizing. While I normally hate wasting food, this just had to be dumped in the compost bin.
After asking around, I went to a Japanese market and asked an employee who worked there for recommendations (based on that restaurant quality I was looking for). On a side note, one thing I learned is that places like Whole Foods get their seaweed from distributors, who often have it shipped from Japan. I bought a few packaged seaweed mixes from the Japanese market and the salads I made with those were much better.
Recently, I discovered a brand by SeaSnax called “Sea Vegi.” They sell it at Whole Foods. It’s a little more expensive than the kind I bought at the Japanese market, but includes wakame, agar, suginori, tsunomata, and mafunori (not really sure which is which except for the wakame and agar). The combo of all these sea veggies most approximates the seaweed salad I love from restaurants.
Today I made a dressing of miso, sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, coconut crystals, water and black sesame seeds. I soaked the Sea Vegi mix for about 10 minutes in cold water. The package say is serves 5, but I ate the whole thing. I sprinkled with some dulse flakes. Delicious, with a multitude of flavors and textures: sweet, salty, umami, sour, tangy, bitter, chewy, soft, and just a bit crispy (from the sesame seeds).
To continue with my pumpkin theme (still not sick of it!), I saved my pumpkin seeds from all the sugar pumpkins I’ve been using over the last couple of weeks.
I’ve never made roasted pumpkin seeds before. I think I was intimidated by the amount of seeds in a carving (big) pumpkin, but the truth is, it’s much easier when you use a cute little sugar (pie) pumpkin.
After scraping all the seeds out of the roasted pumpkins and rinsing them, I found an easy way to dry them out: spread them on a baking sheet and then stick the sheet in the oven for a few hours (or overnight, like I did). The seeds come out nice and dry and ready for roasting.
Then, I just melted a couple tablespoons of Earth Balance, and added the seeds to the bowl to coat. Putting the seeds back on the baking sheet, I sprinkled them liberally with sea salt and baked at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. I meant to stir them once, but forgot about them (!) until almost 30 minutes later. They turned out fine. No need to stir. They remind me of movie theater popcorn.
I’m sure these would be great spiced up (cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, etc.) but I wanted to keep it simple this time.
There may or may not be yet another pumpkin-related post tomorrow…stay tuned.
Over the weekend I made these and peanut butter and jelly cupcakes from this cookbook. I brought the first ones to some friends and the second to a birthday party. I highly recommend both!
Today, the pumpkin obsession continued…It was an overcast drizzly morning and I wanted a comforting breakfast. Naturally, pumpkin pie in a bowl was in order:
Trader Joe’s oat bran, almond milk, water, canned pumpkin, a dash of stevia, vanilla extract, sea salt, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon. After cooking, added a scant scoop of pea and rice protein powder and stirred well. Finished with a sprinkle of coconut crystals and chopped pecans.
Dinner was kale and sweet potato enchiladas from Veganomicon. These were amazing.
The original recipe calls for regular potatoes, but I think sweet potatoes pair so nicely with the yummy ingredients of these enchiladas which include lime juice and pepitas. The enchilada sauce was so good when I made it the first time that I knew I needed to make a double batch - and Mike and I like things extra saucy!
I served it with a romaine, cabbage and carrot salad (and a dollop of guac on top of the enchiladas). Snapped a photo after I had already started chowing down:
And lastly, I felt the need to bookend the day with more pumpkin:
This was very simple: 1 package of Mori-Nu silken firm tofu, 1 package of the vanilla Mori-Nu Pudding Mates, about 2/3 cup of canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and 3 Tbsp of water - whirred in the Vitamix. 4 servings. I chopped up a date on top.
I just made some delicious veggie burgers from Peas and Thank You. These are Thai Veggie Burgers and as you can imagine have thai flavors including peanut and lime juice. Without giving away the recipe, I will say that I didn’t have cilantro so I used fresh mint (which worked beautifully)…
Here they are in the pan:
Here’s Mike’s plate:
He ate his open faced style on a spelt english muffin with avocado and sriracha.
Here’s my plate:
I made a salad of kale, romaine, broccoli slaw, fresh mint and spicy peanut dressing topped with my burger.
These were some of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever made. While the flavors were totally scrumptious, the standout feature of these burgers is definitely the amazing texture. They held together beautifully and were not the least bit mushy when done, which is a tough thing to achieve when you make a veggie burger.
From what I gather, I’m not the only one in the blogosphere with this obsession. This bowl contains: ice, roasted pumpkin, Trader Joe’s coconut beverage, pumpkin pie spice, sea salt, stevia and a pinch of xanthan and guar gum (for thickening and making creamier). I cinnamon’ed it up a bit more and topped it with a bit of granola before diving in.
This morning I roasted a mini sugar pumpkin so that I could make some pumpkin pie in a bowl, inspired by a recipe from this delicious cookbook. There is leftover pumpkin in the fridge, so this recipe will likely be re-visited later in the week.
Then, I proceeded to peel, chop and roast 2 large butternut squash that are going to be used for another Autumn Pasta Bake that am bringing to a potluck tomorrow night.
There are two drawbacks with the peeling, chopping and roasting of a butternut squash:
1) ”butternut squash hands” - I have this wierd orange film every time I chop up a squash. It doesn’t come off very easily…
2) when I roast a squash for a recipe, it’s very challenging to not eat the delectable caramelized chunks of squash straight from the baking sheet.
But because of the yumminess you will experience, the drawbacks are totally worth it. If you have never roasted a squash, you must try it. I deeply implore you to buy a squash and peel and chop yourself. The pre-cut squash (in my opinion) does not taste the same or get that delicious caramelization in the same way.
My method is to coat the chopped squash in a bit of coconut oil and sea salt (you can use pepper too and/or whatever spices you like) and roast on a metal baking sheet at 500 degrees for about 40 minutes tossing the squash at the halfway mark. You can throw it in salads, add it to a pasta dish, blend it into grains like quinoa or brown rice or even use it in tacos .
I love making food for people I love. Most notably, cooking for the person I live with is a total pleasure because he’s such a fan of most things I make. I had already eaten, but Mike hadn’t and I asked him “Can I make you something?”
Mike: “Like what?”
Me: ”What are you in the mood for?”
I looked in the cupboard, fridge and spice drawer thinking about the flavors that Mike generally likes. Here’s what I came up with:
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, grated (or minced)
dash of chipotle chili powder and smoked paprika
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 can of kidney beans
1 can of chickpeas
1 vegetable bouillon cube
tomato paste (from a tube)
dash of liquid smoke
2-3 cups of chopped kale or other dark green veggie (chard, collards, spinach)
Saute the chopped onion in the coconut oil over medium heat. Add spices, salt, pepper. Then add carrot, celery and cook for a few minutes. Grate garlic directly into pot (or use minced). Add a few squirts of tomato paste and the rinsed and drained beans. Meanwhile, dissolve the bouillon cube in about 2 cups of boiling water (or use boxed or homemade veggie broth or plain water). Add liquid to soup pot, dash of liquid smoke and bring to boil. Cook for several minutes, until veggies are softer. Turn heat off and use immersion blender to partially blend. (Mike liked this somewhat chunky). After a “rough” blend, Add chopped kale to pot, it will wilt on its own in the hot soup, no need to turn on the stove. Serve garnished with chopped avocado if desired.
P.S This took less than 30 minutes. I think the key to making a rich, comforting soup in a short amount of time = the immersion blender. Blending the ingredients melds all the flavors together so it tastes like it’s been cooking for a much longer period of time.
Just had my first green smoothie in about 10 days. It was thoroughly enjoyed. I thought, just for fun, I’d take a photo of everything that goes in it:
In the big silver salad bowl is: black kale, fresh mint, red leaf lettuce, cucumber, celery, parsley (hidden), spinach (hidden), and 1 lemon. 1 cup of Trader Joe’s unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1 scoop of pea and rice protein powder, frozen mango and 1/2 a frozen banana cut into chunks, cinnamon, stevia, and ice.
This was dinner last night. I made up recipe using some leftovers so I don’t have exact measurements, but here are the approximations:
1 package pasta shells (I used gluten free)
1 T coconut oil
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2-3 cups cooked (roasted) cubed butternut squash
1-2 cups cooked (roasted) cauliflower
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used full fat, but lite is probably fine)
2 cups unflavored almond milk
1/4 - 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 large bag organic baby spinach
Saute two chopped carrots in the coconut oil and spices over medium heat. Meanwhile, boil pasta according to package directions. Then add roasted cauliflower and butternut squash (ours was leftover, but you could add those ingredients steamed for a little while before and then just cook longer in the liquid) Add the coconut milk and almond milk and bring to a boil, then simmer for a bit until veggies get softer, about 15 minutes. Add nutritional yeast and salt and pepper to taste. After veggies are very soft, turn heat off and use immersion blender to blend into smooth consistency.
In casserole dish, combine pasta, sauce and spinach and stir until pasta is evenly coated.
OK, this is why I love being vegan even in places where it’s not a common thing…because you have low expectations and then you are seriously BLOWN AWAY by some of the best vegan food - anywhere!
The entire state of Rhode Island has only one vegetarian restaurant (where much of the menu is vegan) and it is absolutely fantastic food.
We I went a little crazy with ordering… but here’s what we got:
Because I wanted to try most things on their creative menu, we ordered three small plates and one side (in addition to two entrees). On my plate above is the raw celery root ravioli (sunflower seed ricotta, pinenut gremolata, basil miso emulsion), a Maryland style tempeh cake (chickpea coat, smoked paprika aioli), ginger-miso broiled white eggplant (a special) and collard greens with garlic, roasted peanuts and sesame. Everything on this plate was delectable. The “ravioli” (which I think was jicama) was fresh and bright and a nice contrast to the other items on the plate. The tempeh cake was Mike’s favorite, the eggplant had a melt in your mouth quality and the greens were both hearty and light. They had very little oil, but rather a savory sauce that suggested blanching versus sauteeing.
Not a great photo, but this entree was outstanding. The top layer is red-wine braised oyster, maitake and portabella mushrooms. Underneath that, not visible in the photo is a millet polenta “cake” which was divine. And beneath that are tasty creamed collards.
But wait, there’s more! Yes, we got another entree. I need to mention that there were three of us dining, but one person decided to eat very lightly for reasons I do not pretend to understand…
OK, so here we have one of the specials: Pecan-crusted tofu with smoked maple mustard, sweet potato mash and a spinach and oyster mushroom sautee. The tofu was cooked perfectly and reminded me of nut-crusted fish from my fish eating days.
You might think that we then abstained from dessert. But, you’d be wrong! We ordered our dessert to go since it was not possible to eat one more bite at that table.
One guess about what we ordered for dessert? If you said carrot cake, you’d be correct :-) I saw carrot cake on the menu and I felt it was only fair to compare vegan carrot cakes two nights in a row.
We ate the cake several hours later, hence no photo (The frosting sort of melted and it just wasn’t a picture perfect slice of cake unlike the night before). It’s a tough call, but Mike thinks the Garden Grille carrot cake beat the Crazy Burger carrot cake. It was a sweeter cake with raisins, but was slightly lighter and less dense. I think both cakes were amazing, but tonight’s slightly more desserty - smaller slice, sweeter and more decadent tasting.
Just topped off a lovely day in Rhode Island (visiting Newport and Jamestown) with a delicious dinner in Naragansett.
We went to Crazy Burger, which has an extremely vegan friendly menu. Here’s what we got:
Vegan Corn Sweet Potato Chowder - Mike said it reminded him of a “red” chowder. I tasted it and thought it was just decent.
The Birdie May Burger: Grilled Tempeh, purple sticky rice, sweet potato, roasted sunflower seeds, and rosemary-pumpkin pesto grilled into a tomato tortilla. Served alongside a slightly sweet cabbage slaw with soy, ginger and lime. I thought this burger was very tasty, although Mike found it a bit sweet at the end. We also enjoyed their house made ketchup with it.
Side order of “Poundies”: Irish mashed potatoes with spinach, basil and carrots pounded in. YUM (four thumbs up)
West Coast Vegan Enchiladas: Roasted tempeh, pinto beans, olives, peppers, eggplant, and medium hot spices in a black bean mole and baked into a tomato tortilla. Served with salsa and spinach-corn rice. Again - delicious. The mole had a yummy smoky undertone. Both of us concurred that the only drawback was that the enchiladas had a few too many bell peppers.
And last but not least…
Vegan carrot cake: A super dense, moist, creme cheese frosted carrot cake with a good balance of nuts, carrot and coconut, but no raisins (bonus for Mike). The cake itself reminded me of a top-notch zucchini bread - not super sweet. The frosting tasted like real cream cheese to Mike. The ratio of frosting to cake was also perfect, which I appreciated. This cake reminded me again of why carrot cake cannot be beat. <3 to Mike for sharing this enormous piece of cake with me even though he was already pretty full.
We ate this delicious soup for dinner tonight. I have made this soup many times since it’s Mike’s absolute favorite thing I make. I’m also pretty fond of it. I found the recipe here.
I like to double the chickpeas, blend 1/2 in the soup and saute the other half in a bit of coconut oil, minced garlic and freshly ground pepper and sea salt. When the soup is ready to eat, I garnish with the crispy garlicky chickpeas, diced avocado and chopped fresh cilantro. I am especially happy that Mike’s 12 year old niece, (who is known to be a “selective” eater) really liked it. :-)
I feel pretty lucky that a delicious all-vegan restaurant opened in my neighborhood recently. Mike and I both love Sage Organic Bistro and we hadn’t eaten there in a while, so decided to go last night.
Even though I was tempted to get the Soul Bowl again, which I’ve enjoyed greatly in the past, there are so many scrumptious items on the menu, which is also somewhat seasonal. Mike and I split an order of the brussel sprouts with summer squash and tempeh bacon hor d’ouevres. It was delicious. Mike did get two brussels that tasted “soapy” but I did not.
Mike got the black and green beans breaded seitan casserole for his entree and I got the raw tacos. When my entree came, it was enormous. We could have split it easily. To give you an idea, here’s what it looked like after I ate 1/2 of my plate:
This was so delicious. So many flavors. A fresh lettuce leaf was on the bottom and then there was walnut & sundried tomato taco “meat” with cashew cheeze, a generous portion of guacamole, pico de gallo, and chili spiced jicama julienned on top. Garnished with some micro greens, perfectly ripe spiced mango, pomegranate seeds and lime.
I will definitely be getting this again and splitting it with someone! I also got a Babycakes chocolate chip cookie to go which was good, but tasted oddly like garlic in certain bites. I think the cookie might’ve been sitting too close to the kitchen.
Despite the soapy sprouts and garlicky cookie, Sage is still a favorite. I can’t wait to try more of their yummy menu items.
I eat salads almost every day. I eat a carrot (or two or three) almost every day. One of those carrots usually goes in my salad. I really don’t know why, but eating carrot “strings” is so much more fun than eating them chopped up.
So, this recipe is not for garlic mashed potatoes. In fact, there is nary a potato within it. However, after tasting this Roasted Cauliflower soup, people have been known to comment that it tastes just like mashed potatoes (with garlic). My most recent version prompted two omnivores to comment that it tasted like it had chicken stock in it. And another person to ask how I got it to be so creamy without any cream. Rest assured, this soup is 100% animal product free. This is one of my go-to easy recipes (and it’s inspired by my grandmother’s “Snow White Soup”) because it pleases palates young and old. I mean – who doesn’t like garlic mashed potatoes???
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Chop up cauliflower into bite size pieces and place in large mixing bowl. Cut off the end of the garlic head and place in same bowl. Coat with 1 Tbsp of coconut oil (or oil of choosing), and sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried rosemary. Place mixture on cookie sheet covered in foil. Roast for about 10-15 minutes, then toss and roast another 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower is browned and slightly tender.
While cauliflower and garlic is roasting, chop up the celery, carrot and onion and sauté in 1 tbsp oil until veggies are tender and soft.
Add cauliflower, roasted garlic (which has been peeled and released from the skin) to the pot with the celery, carrot and onion. Add 1 quart of vegetable broth or water and 2 quarts of nondairy milk and bring to boil. Turn off heat and use an immersion blender to blend the vegetables and create a smooth consistency.
Sometimes, when I’m in need of a little pick me up, I just open this cabinet and gaze at the glass jars, lined up and filled with grains, beans, flours, cocoa powder, nooch, etc. It was one of the first things I set up when Mike and I moved here last spring. I found a website where you can order glass jars in bulk, and went to town. I can’t explain exactly why, (other than I am my mother’s daughter), but this set-up makes me really happy. It makes me feel like even though there might be chaos everywhere else, things are exactly as they should be within this kitchen cabinet.
Not to mention, it’s really nice to have a pantry full of nutritious and cheap food that you can use for many different meal combinations.
Before I became vegan, I had never tried millet or nutritional yeast or even making my own beans from dried (I always used canned). It also helps to have lot of cabinet space! If I didn’t have the cabinet space, I’d be happy to place the jars on open shelves, as I’ve seen a lot of food bloggers do. I buy a lot of this stuff in bulk (usually at Whole Foods) and organic, if that option is available.
In my happy pantry right now:
-Fair Trade Cocoa Powder
-Trader Joe’s Oat Bran
-Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
-Cream of Wheat
-Brown Basmati Rice
-Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
-Brown Rice Flour
I keep some other items like sugars, baking powder and soda in an entirely different cabinet. There’s only so much room…
When I have omnivore friends over for dinner (which is basically all my friends!) I usually think about what to feed them based on how similar their way of eating is to mine. I’m not naive enough to think that everyone loves raw kale or quinoa as much as I do. Saturday night’s menu was designed in part to make sure my friend Greg wouldn’t miss the meat or think all I eat and make is raw salads. (Nothing wrong with raw salads, but it’s a harder sell to a guy who eats carnitas burritos several times a week).
Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon atop a sweet potato coconut milk mash, drizzled with a creamy soy ginger garlic gravy, red cabbage and carrot relish and sauteed ginger garlic kale.
You know that intro to the Chickpea Cutlet recipe where it says “You might want to double the recipe if you’re having guests?” Point taken, Isa and Terry. I doubled it, and Mike is thankful for that.
Oh, and for dessert, I made the lemon bars from VDIYCJ for the first time. Every recipe in that book delivers. Though totally different than my mom’s lemon bars (which I love), Greg actually asked me how I got the crust to be so buttery…
First off, welcome to Day 1 of Vegan Month of Food! (Vegan MoFo for short). Since it’s my first year, my theme is simple - just write about and take photos of a lot of the delicious vegan food that I eat and make.
I don’t know what came over me this morning afternoon, but I suddenly decided to make crackers for no reason. The back story is that lately I have been attempting to minimize buying packaged foods: crackers, cookies, cereal in boxes. All the stuff that everyone knows should be minimized anyway. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get the hankering for that stuff. It just means I have to make it myself if I want it. (That’s my rule, at least, not Mike’s)
Hands down, wheat thins are my favorite store bought cracker. Mike bought some Trader Joe’s wheat thin crackers yesterday (he and I can decimate one of those puppies pretty quickly) and I had a memory of a homemade wheat thin cracker recipe that looked fairly straightforward. It’s from Angela’s blog and I only changed it up slightly by using whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular whole wheat flour, just because that’s what I had on hand.
Here is a photo of the unbaked crackers:
And here are the baked ones:
(Excuse the blurriness. One day in the future maybe I will have more beautiful food photos)
Verdict? These are/were both yummy and simple. Seriously. The dough takes about 5 minutes to throw together and they take 10 minutes to bake. And I felt like a 1950s housewife bringing Mike the plate as he was lying on the couch watching ESPN. And you might stop yourself from eating the entire batch in one sitting, just because they’re homemade. But, if you end up doing just that, another batch can be yours in under 20 minutes ;-)
A couple years ago, when I started reading vegan blogs, I kept seeing something called “Vegan MoFo” or Vegan Month of Food.
What is Vegan Month of Food, you ask?
“VeganMoFo was originally created on the Post Punk Kitchen, as an homage to NaNoWriMo. Because we do want to write novels, but sometimes cooking gets in the way. So why not combine them!
The idea is to write as much as you can all month, about vegan food. The blog entries can be about anything food related – your love of tongs, your top secret tofu pressing techniques, the first time your mom cooked vegan for you, vegan options in Timbuktu – you get the idea, right?”
I signed up - so stay tuned for lots of yummy vegan recipes, stories, and other fun stuff like vegan restaurant reviews in Rhode Island…
Today is the second to last day of my September project: “30 days of yoga.” I was inspired to practice yoga every day for a month because of Mike’s “30 Days, 30 Wolves” project. I also have always considered yoga a way for me to accomplish two things at one time: physical exercise as well as meditation, but all too often I get out of the habit of regular practice.
The first yoga class I ever took was in an Equinox gym in Manhattan in 1997 with a soft-spoken teacher named Zoe, who had studied Ashtanga yoga in Mysore, India. I have practiced yoga on and off for 14 years, with the height of my practice being when I enrolled in a teacher training course at Yoga Works in Santa Monica. I loved the course and completed part of an apprenticeship towards my certification.
To be honest, I am not the most flexible yogini you’ll meet, nor can I achieve many classical yoga postures. But, yoga has always been a way for me to achieve mental and emotional clarity at times when those things seem fleeting. Paradoxically, sometimes it’s hard to convince myself to practice yoga when I’m not feeling great. But, I am always better for practicing, even if it’s just for five minutes, even if it’s just laying in savasana (corpse pose).
One of my teachers, Chuck Miller, used to say “Make the easy poses hard and the hard poses easy.” I think of this every time I practice, as it helps me focus on my breath in each posture. But, it also resonates with me in a broader sense. Many yoga teachers talk about how practicing yoga helps you sharpen other skills that are helpful in life – patience, compassion for yourself and others, determination, a sense of calm. Making the hard poses easy – that is the challenge of life, right? To approach a challenge with a sense of calm, with breath, with perspective. Make the easy poses hard – to me, this means to make simple moments or things meaningful by appreciating them. A sunset, a Sunday picnic with your niece on the front lawn, the gorgeous organic romaine lettuce bought on sale at Whole Foods.
I didn’t really have an expectation about what would come out of 30 days of yoga for me. I went to many classes. Most of them were excellent; a few of them were not my favorites, but I always found something I liked in every class and I always made it my own practice. I also practiced at home several times. The sheer act of practicing every day, whether at home or in a yoga studio, strengthened my home practice tremendously. Physically, I feel a bit stronger in my core, and my shoulders look slightly more defined (all those chaturangas). What I didn’t expect was the profound reminder, especially today - on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), that yoga is a way for me to come home to myself. It’s like a big bowl of homemade popcorn on the couch or a warm bath with Epsom salts and a fragrant candle. It’s a familiar comfort that will always soothe my body and soul. And all I need to do is unroll my mat.
I just made this vegan cheesecake by looking at two recipes and improvising a bit. I used Julie Hasson’s Lemon Diner Cheesecake recipe (from her book Vegan Diner) as a starting point, and also borrowed from Elise’s recipe. This will be served as dessert on Saturday night. One of our friends who is coming over is allergic to nuts, so no cashews allowed (lots of vegan recipes, including cheesecake include cashews for their creamy texture). My special tweak was to use Trader Joe’s Bistro Biscuit crumbs - which are the same as Biscoff cookies that you can get on Delta airlines. The couple who is coming over (hope they’re not reading this as that will ruin my surprise!) loves Biscoff cookies so much they had them as appetizers at their wedding!
I am posting the recipe - but please note that I haven’t tasted this yet! I do have a feeling it will be good, so it’s not too much of a risk if you decide to make it. I can tell you that my kitchen smells really good right now.
8 oz (1 tub) vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese)
8 oz vegan sour cream (I used the Follow Your Heart brand)
14 oz silken tofu (I used Wildwood Sprotofu)
1 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
zest from 1 - 1/2 lemons
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 vanilla beans, scraped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9.5 inch deep dish glass or ceramic pie plate if you have it or a brownie pan like me, if you don’t. Grease with Earth Balance or shortening.
Pulse the cookies in a food processor until they form crumbs. Melt the Earth Balance and combine cookie crumbs with margarine in large bowl. Press mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan or plate. (Since I used a square brownie pan, I didn’t make the crust go up the sides, but if you have a good pie plate, you can do this)
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the rest of the ingredients. Process until the mixture is very smooth, about 1 minute or so.
Pour the cheesecake mixture into the prepared cookie crust. Place in the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until lightly golden.
Let the pie cool completely before refrigerating overnight.
It’s grocery shopping day at our place. So, we’re out of a lot of staples, including all the greens and veggies that typically go in my daily green smoothie. But, we still had a few carrots…hence, the carrot cake smoothie. Into the Vitamix went:
I made a couple of things this afternoon: Chickpeas (soaked overnight and boiled today with a strip of kombu and salt) and Maple Vanilla Almond Butter. The almond butter recipe was based on Ashley’s. I’ve tried several of her recipes, nut butters and others, and they always turn out great.
It’s so much cheaper and satisfying to make your own things. It can be time consuming, but honestly - the nut butter total time took about an hour (including toasting the nuts in the oven - I made a double batch) and the time spent on boiling the chickpeas was minimal (less than an hour). For the beans, a bit of pre-planning is required to remember to soak them overnight. They are tastier and have a superior texture to canned beans, and now we have the equivalent of about 4 cans of beans in our refrigerator ready to eat as is and/or toss into salad, soups and sautes. For less than a dollar.
I love cats. Let me rephrase that. I love my cats. I am still getting used to saying “my cats” because up until a few months ago, I didn’t have cats.
Frank and Dave are brothers that Mike found on the doorstep of his former apartment a few years ago (when they were tiny kittens). They have slowly warmed up to me. During the warming up process, I realized what cat-love is all about.
These two play a bit hard to get. When they come over and snuggle, it feels like a total triumph, especially Frank who is scared of air. They do hilarious and cute things like freak out at shadows, hide under blankets and play in empty bathtubs.
And yes, they sometimes vomit under chairs and on doormats, and I’ve now become comfortable with cleaning up some errant poo that didn’t stay in the litter box (most likely because they got scared of a sound). But, they do other cool things like blink at you to show you that you are in their “pride” and…
They let you know that something might be amok in your house. Earlier tonight, I walked into the kitchen and saw the brothers crouched in front of the narrow space between the oven and the kitchen counter. It was clear that they saw something. And, unfortunately, as Mike discovered, that something was a cockroach. Mike swiftly took care of the roach as I wiped down our kitchen counters and finished washing the remaining dirty dishes in the sink.
I lived alone for many years before moving in with Mike. Now, I have two furry creatures and one tall one to take care of other creatures I’d rather not encounter. I’m pretty grateful for that.
Green smoothies. They have been all the rage for the last few years. I go through phases of loving them and right now I’m in the middle of one. The mix I’m loving now consists of: kale, romaine, spinach, parsley, fresh mint, cucumber, celery, apple, frozen mango, fresh lemon juice, this protein powder, water and ice. I blend it in my Vitamix and pour it in a bowl and eat it like soup.
The Vitamix is something that I read about for a while and coveted. I’m not going to lie - it’s a very expensive small kitchen appliance. You know when you get something you think you will use in your kitchen and then you just don’t? This is not one of those things. If you decide that a Vitamix is something you need (and I debated this for several months), I highly doubt you’ll regret it. I purchased mine at Costco which offered a deep discount (in fact, it was the same price posted on the Vitamix site for a refurbished model - only mine was brand new). Since I purchased it, I’ve pretty much used it every day. For things like Green Smoothies, but also for other, not so veggie-filled concoctions…
I’m on a bender with this soft-servey ice creme recipe: (inspired by The Fitnessista)
1 cup Trader Joe’s unsweetened vanilla almond milk
5 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
20 grams Trader Joe’s peanut flour (I have heard this is out of stock in some areas)
sweetener to taste (I used Sweet Leaf brand English Toffee flavor liquid stevia)
Blend all ingredients together except the ice. Add ice to Vitamix. Blend until consistency of soft serve or frozen yogurt. It may take a little tamping with a spoon or your tamper (Don’t do this when the machine is running!!!)
*Xanthan and guar gum is really essential for the texture. You only need a little, though. It can get gummy if you add too much.
For a couple of years, I saw this poster around my neighborhood. I loved it immediately. I take walks most days of the week around my neighborhood and when I came across this poster, whether I was feeling melancholy or happy – it just kind of spoke to me. It’s an all occasions poster. Except when it isn’t.
In the middle of July, my dear friends suddenly lost their 9 month old baby. He was a particularly joyful little boy and they are very devoted parents. It is devastating to watch them deal with the unimaginable pain of their loss every day. And, frankly, they don’t have everything they need. They have wonderful family, friends and love for each other, but they don’t have their beloved baby boy anymore.
Mike knew I liked the poster and found the artist, Deedee Cheriel, and bought me a copy for my birthday in August. And I still love it.
And I choose to believe that what it means is that You Have Everything You Need – in you. I’ve never liked the phrase “Everything happens for a reason” because there are things that happen that I can’t think of a very good reason for. But, I know that even if life throws you horrific curveballs, you have what you need in a particular moment – it may be pain, grief, or sorrow – but maybe that IS what you need in that moment. That’s how I choose to see it, at least.
We were playing a game of “Would You Rather.” One thing you should know about me: I have a strange sense of humor as does Mike, my adorable boyfriend. So, in this particular game of WYR, the dichotomy involved eating a cat. But, after choosing to NOT eat the cat (duh), Mike said “Here’s the Curveball…” and then offered up something that might’ve changed my initial choice if I’d known it was coming: once you cut open the cat it was filled with pure avocado. (Thus, the “avocado cat” was born. We even made up a song about it, that there are two kinds of cats: the ones who taste like avocados, and the other ones. But I digress…)
Avocados are one of my favorite foods. I love cutting into them and seeing that unmarred light green flesh and then mashing up with a fork, and spreading on toast with lots of Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper. That is my idea of a perfect snack.
But, I didn’t like them until about 3 years ago. I am told I ate them as a baby because my parents had a tree in the backyard, but my entire adult life I thought they were gross. I even used to poke the avocado bits out of sushi rolls. I came around to realizing that I’d been missing out for so many years when my mom asked me to make guacamole one Passover. I thought it wierd, since I didn’t eat the stuff, but then, because you have to taste everything you make in order to make sure it’s good, I actually tasted the guac. And it was delicious! And now avos are a true staple in my diet.
In the summer of 2009, I traveled to India for a trek in the Himalayan mountains. It was a life-changing trip, not just because I endured the most daunting physical challenges of my life, but also because I didn’t think I’d ever go to India, and I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to. But, the opportunity fell in my lap and I took it.
In the fall of 2009, I read an excerpt from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals in the New York Times Magazine. I was compelled to read the entire book and then about a dozen more on similar topics (veganism, animal rights). I decided to give veganism a try - for 30 days. I used up the remaining half and half in my fridge and eggs and phased out meat immediately. It stuck beyond the 30 days.
Being vegan is something I NEVER thought I’d want to do earlier in my life. I, like many others, thought about vegans in a very stereotypical way. But I was compelled. Everything I read and learned helped me realize that I didn’t really want to eat animals anymore, nor did I need to.
Avocados, India, Veganism: Three curveballs in my life. Three things I never expected. Three things that, albeit in very different ways, have affected my life greatly.
So, what I’m trying to get at here is that curveballs = metaphor for life. Life gives you things you never expected. Some great and welcome and some not so much. Becoming vegan opened me up to also becoming much more creative and skilled in my kitchen. In the last two years, my culinary world has completely expanded. I have developed a new passion for cooking and showing my friends and family that plant-based eating is DELISH and makes you feel fabulous.
And yet, I am often inspired by unlikely sources. Exhibit A: I was watching Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals on the Food Network the other day. She was making a restaurant style steakhouse meal at home. One of her side dishes was creamed corn with spinach. I thought “That sounds good, but what if I made a creamed corn with kale? Using coconut milk…” That took me to “No, maybe a corn chowder with kale, coconut milk and…sweet potatoes!” The following recipe was born. Amounts are somewhat malleable since this was a first time/made up recipe. Corn, kale and sweet potato chowder (Makes about 8-10 servings)
1 T coconut oil
4-5 shallots, diced
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, pressed or minced
4-5 ears of corn
2 large sweet potatoes, diced (I used the Japanese variety with a light flesh and purplish skin)
2 cans of light coconut milk
32 oz container of vegetable broth (you can use homemade or bouillon cubes too, you will just need 4 cups of liquid)
2 bunches of lacinato kale, washed and destemmed
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Saute the shallots in the coconut oil for a few minutes over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for several minutes. Add corn, sweet potato, salt, pepper, nutmeg, chili powder or cayenne and stir to blend spices for about 30 seconds. Add coconut milk and vegetable broth and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer and let cook, covered for about 45 minutes or until sweet potatoes are very tender. Add kale and cook, uncovered for a few minutes until kale wilts and turns a brighter shade of green. When kale is wilted completely, turn heat off. Use an immersion blender to blend soup (if you don’t have one of these you should get one. They are about $20 and make blending soups so easy and then you don’t have to worry about messing up your kitchen or burning yourself when your blender accidentally explodes, splashing scalding soup everywhere). It’s okay if you still have a few chunks of kale, corn and/or sweet potato here and there, it’s a chowder so it can be sorta chunky.
I served it with minced green onion on top. The soup is a nice greenish color (I meant to take a photo but it got eaten so quickly!) so if you buy a couple extra ears of corn, it would also be nice to top with some roasted or oven-caramelized corn. Or sweet potato. Or whatever you think would be yummy. Maybe it’s something you wouldn’t expect.