Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Reading (and listening)

In a departure from normal I won't talk about a specific meal but I will offer you a few links I've found interesting. (Lately we've been eating a lot of things we've already posted about - pasta, soups, maybe spring rolls tonight.)

So first up is this article in the New York Times about the world's (and especially the United States') insatiable appetite for meat. Bittman doesn't necessarily advocate a vegan diet but I think he at least makes a convincing argument for reducing meat consumption.

I've spent most of this weekend painting what will be our baby's room and while I was painting this morning I listened to the latest Compassionate Cooks podcast, "In Defense of Chickens". Coleen always makes a convincing argument for eliminating meat and dairy consumption and she certainly does so in this episode. The most haunting argument is her reading excerpts from the blog of the late activist Virgil Butler, who was a former Tyson slaughterhouse worker before he became an outspoken activist against factory farming. This post is just a sampling but it's not for the faint of heart.

I'll leave you with something a lot less intense. A while ago Erik Marcus pointed out this article about making your own vanilla extract and I think we're about to order some vanilla beans and give it a shot. A little over a year ago we posted about splurging on vanilla beans when we won a gift card to Whole Foods. We had no idea then that you could buy vanilla beans on-line that are actually somewhat affordable. For about what we paid for those two lonely vanilla beans you can get a quarter pound (about 30 beans) from one of the ebay sellers linked to in the article. If we do get some we'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Potato Pancakes

This past year we did a bit of canning - mostly pickles and jam. We ended up with some peach and strawberry jam and enough apple jam that we brought some to my parents when we saw them a couple months ago. But what does this have to do with pancakes? Well I talked to my mom recently and she told me they had just finished up the apple jam with some potato pancakes my dad made for dinner. That sounded like a good idea so I filed it away and took it out last night.

I winged it on the pancake recipe and they came out pretty good but they could've been better. I found it a little tricky to get just the right consistency in the batter. Too thin and the pancakes are all over the place but too thick and they don't cook all the way through. Here's what I settled on for the batter if you want to experiment - your results may vary depending on the consistency of your mashed potatoes:

1 c. mashed potatoes
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. + 1 Tbs. rice milk
2 Tbs. canola oil
pinch salt

We served these with peach jam, greens and Tamari-Roasted Chickpeas from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. The chickpeas were an afterthought but they were super quick to make and super tasty to eat. If you have this book and you have yet to try this recipe, go do it now! I'd recommend you take Dreena's suggestion and use parchment paper on your baking sheet. I was lazy and didn't bother with the parchment and I ended up with a baked-on mess on the baking sheet (which fortunately came off after a good soaking). Either way, them's some good chickpeas!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Moros y Cristianos

For those of us in the good 'ol U.S. of A. this might also be called Cuban black beans and rice. I got the idea from the recent Compassionate Cooks podcast episode about beans. I didn't write down the recipe or even measure anything but if you Google moros y cristianos recipe you'll find a lot of ideas from which to choose. Often with beans and rice, the two are cooked separately. That is, some sort of bean dish is served on top of cooked rice. With this dish the beans and rice are cooked together.

I started by cooking onion and bell pepper in olive oil. Then I added garlic, cumin, oregano and a bay leaf. Next in went vegetable broth, crushed tomatoes and brown rice. That came to a boil and then I covered it and simmered until the rice was almost done. In the last 5-10 minutes of cooking the rice I added cooked black beans and a couple tablespoons of red wine vinegar (plus salt & pepper). We served it topped with avocado, scallions and hot sauce.

Speaking of avocado - how's this for a ripoff:
I bought this nice looking avocado then when I sliced it open... Look at the size of that pit! There was enough avocado flesh to accent our beans and rice nicely but I'm glad I didn't plan on making guacamole out of this thing because there wouldn't have been very much.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tangerine Sesame Tempeh

Here's another winner from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan - with a little change up. The recipe in the book is Orange Sesame Tofu, but instead of orange juice and zest we used up the last of the Florida tangerines my parents sent. And as the title suggests we used tempeh instead of tofu. The beauty of this recipe is in how quickly it comes together. Just throw the tofu or tempeh in with some marinade ingredients, then you can bake it immediately or wait a while. When you're ready to bake it just pop the whole thing in the oven for 20 minutes or so and out comes a delicious glaze (thanks to the arrowroot or cornstarch in the marinade). Sprinkle some sesame seeds and scallions on top and that's it. A little kale on the side was good in our case.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Eat, Drink and Be Vegan

Our cookbook budget ran out before we got a copy of Dreena Burton's latest, but we're fortunate to have quite a nice library system here and when we asked the library to buy a copy they did. So now we need to try whatever recipes we can before the book is due back in three weeks. We started with the Broccoli Cashew Teriyaki Tofu Stir-Fry - kind of a mouthful but an apt description. We didn't have the bell pepper called for in the recipe but we did have some leftover red cabbage so we used that instead. You could really use any vegetables because the sauce is where it's at. Lots of agave, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and of course soy sauce made it perfect for drowning our vegetables and brown rice.

Last night we made the Lemon Garlic Pasta, and a big salad with Creamy Basil Dressing started the meal. I decided neither of those looked extremely interesting (or maybe I was just in too much of a hurry to eat), so there's no picture, but the pasta was delicious and quick to prepare and the dressing was excellent as well and a nice change up from the standard vinaigrette.

Tonight for dinner we had the Savory French Lentils, also a snap to prepare, and very tasty with a simple baked sweet potato on the side and a small salad for starters. Next time I'd use less water in the lentils but that's an easy adjustment.

Another recipe we tried that has been great for snacking on the last few days is the Super Charge Me Cookies. So I think that's 5 recipes and 5 winners so far - I imagine we'll have to pick up our own copy of this book one day soon but for now we're enjoying the borrowed copy.

Switching gears now for a bonus picture, here's something from My Sweet Vegan that I made for Darlene's birthday over the weekend - Mini Icebox Cheesecakes! Our little heart pans worked perfectly in place of a springform pan for this recipe. I also couldn't find good vegan graham crackers so I did the crust with walnuts and quick oats, and we put the leftover blueberry sauce and tofu cream from our pancake breakfast on top. This isn't the best winter time dessert since it's frozen, but still it was quite a treat.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ginger Sesame Noodles with Broccoli

This was a fast-to-throw-together weeknight meal from a couple nights ago. And when we're looking for fast and easy recipe ideas these days we often open up Quick Fix Vegetarian. Our very slightly modified version of this recipe involved whisking together a sauce of tahini, brown sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce and water. We got some whole wheat spaghetti cooking and while that was happening we cooked garlic and lots of ginger in a little peanut oil. The sauce was added to that, and then in went the cooked spaghetti, along with broccoli that was added to the spaghetti pot for the last few minutes of cooking. Everything was tossed together along with a little sesame oil, and then it was sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds at the end. Delicious and done in 30 minutes flat (and that includes some time for washing a few dishes).

For dinner tonight we went out for some great Ethiopian food since it was Darlene's birthday, but I still spent some time in the kitchen this morning whipping up a special breakfast - pancakes with blueberry sauce and lemon tofu cream. The birthday girl was quite happy with this treat.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


We got a big bag of black-eyed peas before our New Year's dinner and this recipe from Alternative Vegan looked like a good way to use what was left. Erissey (also spelled Erissery) is a traditional dish from the Kerala region of India. In addition to the black-eyed peas, Dino's version has yellow squash, coconut and lots of curry leaves. We're fortunate enough to have small Indian market here and they always have fresh curry leaves in stock for that authentic southern Indian flavor. But I'm sure this stew would still be good without the curry leaves and it was pretty easy to throw together. It takes a while for the black-eyed peas to cook through but you can be doing other things during that time. Once everything is done you've got a hearty stew that's wonderful served piping hot over rice.

And now for some baby news since we had an ultrasound last week. Everything looked great and we found out we're having a boy! We'd be equally thrilled either way but it was exciting for us to find out.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Pumpkin Baked Ziti

I forget now where I've seen it, but somewhere in the blogosphere there was a post (or maybe several posts) about the Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping from Veganomicon. So that recipe caught my eye as I was poking around the other day trying to come up with dinner ideas. It was a little involved, but not overly so and it was so worth it. We love pasta, especially baked pasta, and this recipe takes things up to another level. The Cashew Ricotta is good in its own right, and adding pumpkin and a few other choice ingredients brings the yum-factor up even more. But the pièce de résistance was the topping: homemade bread crumbs mixed with walnuts, margarine, sage, oregano and paprika. Quite a step up from the standard pasta marinara topped with plain bread crumbs.

I made the bread crumbs for the pasta by grinding up part of a large baguette, but what to do with the rest of the baguette? I already posted about French toast with Chocoreale, but I decided what's even better that that is French toast with Chocoreale and tangerines.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

We've been in Virginia long enough now that we figured we should adhere to the Southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day. Such a meal is supposed to bring good luck and/or financial success in the year ahead and we certainly could use a bit of both. We didn't do the traditional Hoppin' John, opting instead to just cook the black-eyed peas in vegetable broth with onions and carrots and other yumminess. And speaking of yum, we also had some excellent cornbread and collard greens on the side.

Working backwards now, for breakfast this morning were the Zesty Cranberry Crumb Muffins from My Sweet Vegan. Only instead of cranberries we used dried cherries and instead of orange juice and zest we used some beautiful tangerines sent to us by my parents in Florida. I'll have to agree with Hannah that the streusel topping just makes everything better.

And backing up further, for our New Year's Eve dinner we had the White Bean Tartines from the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. They were a snap to throw together and they looked quite festive to boot. We used baby spinach instead of watercress and red cabbage instead of red onion. Those two items mixed with roasted red pepper went on top of a white bean/garlic/lemon juice puree, and it all went on top of toasted baguette slices.

We hope everyone out there has a great 2008! We're certainly looking forward to it ;-)