31 January 2010

Curry Delight

Indian cuisine is always a favorite, and this Chickpea and Spinach Curry did not disappoint. From the "popped" mustard seeds to the cardamom pods, everything was fabulous. I didn't find the asafoetida powder (that was listed as optional), but I'm determined to track it down for the next attempt. Even without it, the flavor combinations were delightful. I spiced it up with more than it called for (of course), and it could handle even more.

One thing I'll definitely do differently is not "hand tear" the canned tomatoes (it was a mess and didn't taste any better than cutting them). I'd also like to experiment with soaking the lentils in the spices ahead of time - because today the curry flavor was absorbed even more, and is twice as yummy.

Tomorrow is a new month, and I'm excited to increase the cooking!

26 January 2010

Lentils for Lunch

I have been experimenting with red lentils this week, and wanted to make some dishes with them being soaked (not cooked). Today's lunch experiment was Mediterranean Lentil Salad. Red lentils, spinach, carrots, lemon, and garlic - simple but delicious!

Hash Bash

I'm loving sweet potatoes this season. I'm trying them in all sorts of stuff, and this morning's breakfast it was Sweet Potato Hash. Toss in some yellow onions and rosemary, and you don't want to go back to regular potatoes again!

18 January 2010

Backyard BBQ

Time for another family dinner... so I decided to tackle another meat-heavy tradition for Brett's sake: BBQ. I've never made my own BBQ sauce, and this was as good of time as any.

I'm officially hooked on Rosewood tofu, and it was great for the Baked BBQ Tofu. Peanut oil and tamari crisped up the tofu to perfection. Then the Backyard BBQ Sauce I made from scratch added the final smoky touch. It was sweeter and less spicy than I'd prefer, so there is a lot of room for improvement next round. (More red pepper, less sugar, puree it?)

Sandwiched between fresh country wheat bread, this is probably my favorite tofu dish so far. Everyone was as impressed as I was. (It didn't really fly with Brett, but I think it had to do with the chunky, tomato-heavy BBQ sauce.) Pressing, then baking, the tofu is definitely the secret to firm and flavorful tofu...

I served the BBQ sandwiches with shoestring Sweet Potato Fries. I tried to get creative with my spiralizer accessories, and failed... Wedges or slices are the better way to go.

The leftover BBQ tofu was even better the next day... so giving it more time to soak up the BBQ flavor is the plan for the next run.

17 January 2010

Winter Feast

The past few years, I've been the queen of the one-dish meal. Sometimes for the money, sometimes for the convenience, sometimes for the lack of combining skills. Yet this project has gotten me so excited that I can't help but make a few recipes each meal. Especially seasonal dishes! During Summer it is so easy to make salads, but Winter comfort food is a totally different ball game. At least once you venture away from pasta and potatoes.

The big event was Ginger Roasted Winter Vegetables. The sweet and gingery vegetables (parsnips, carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes) were delicious! This would make a great Holiday dish... though I'll probably omit the butternut squash next run. It was high risk cutting that into cubes! I'm curious about using parsnips more often after this dish.

Lentils and Rice With Caramelized Onions was the next step this meal. Once again, the flavors were too weak for my tastes. Although the combination of cloves, cumin, and allspice was perfect with the caramelized onions. I was disappointed the dish turned out so mushy, but the recipe calls it a "golden mash", so I realized it wasn't an accident.

The final step was Garlicky Kale with Tahini Dressing. YUM. I'm totally in love with kale now, so this recipe is an instant favorite. Ridiculously easy, the crunchy greens were perfectly balanced with the lemon infused tahini. Plus, there is a ton of dressing leftover for some great salads this week.

Overall, this Winter feast was a hit!

16 January 2010


I could survive on a diet of avocados, tomatoes, spinach, and corn tortillas. Combine it all with Giardiniera Hummus (an idea I stole from Earl's), and you have a quick & easy lunch!

The spicy vinegar blend of Giardiniera vegetables has always been a favorite... especially because it reminds me of Croatia and European markets. It is something I should be adding to the shopping cart more often.

15 January 2010

Citrus State

I didn't realize how much I missed Florida citrus until I got these delicious oranges. The best citrus I've had in the 2 years since moving back! I've been eating them nonstop, and adding orange essence to pretty much every meal I can...

Dollar Store

$1 Mangos - a deal good enough to make me forget they make my lips itch every time I eat them. And, it's January, so I could really use a bit of the tropics right now.

Plus... GIANT yellow onions for $1/lb. Who knows what recipe I'll use them for, but it was a kitchen must have.

Super Brownies

I'm not above using natural product "mixes" and making them healthier or fancier. Or, in this case, making them Vegan. So I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Brownie Mix and whipped up these Pumpkin Brownies. Pumpkin, flax, coconut oil, turbinado... all things most people would stay away from in a brownie.

Not only were they high fiber, Vegan and gluten-free... but they were rich and delicious. Pumpkin still remains my favorite add-in for rich flavor and nutrients!

14 January 2010

Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast is my favorite meal. One thing I never understood about Vegans is how they could convince themselves that tofu tasted like eggs. Similar texture, maybe, but I was never happy with the substitute.

I thought I'd try it out for myself, so I made Tofu Florentine. The Broiled Tofu was amazing, and made so much I had leftovers for salads all week. It wasn't crispy, but the combination of lemon and soy sauce was delicious. And even the Cheezy Sauce surprised me. I've been a lifelong cheese addict, but now I know why Vegans love nutritional yeast. (The recipe was light on the margarine, so a lot healthier than many variations... but also a lot less rich. I think it'd be great on pasta but don't think I'd go for it with nachos.)

Overall, a win. I used a slice of bread, but I think an english muffin would be a better choice. (Both for looks and texture.) And this definitely left me wanting to experiment with Vegan breakfasts a whole lot more.

12 January 2010

Asian Fusion: Family Style

There is nothing like family dinner to put the pressure on. I love my family, they got me ready for Vegetarianism by avoiding meat most of my life. But we all have very different tastes, and when it comes to my meat-loving brother, opinions. So I never know how they'll respond! This time I threw together Thai/Chinese/Japanese for an Asian Fusion night.

My favorite fallback recipe is spring rolls. I love love love them - the flavors, how tedious they are to make, how easy it is to switch up the recipe. For some reason, making them (when I have time) is stress relief for me! So the main event this night was Thai Peanut Spring Rolls. Rice paper wraps are amazing - you can pretty much put anything in them, they are gluten-free, and they don't require cooking.

I'd been craving the lettuce wraps from P.F. Changs, so I tried my hand at making my own. I took a few online recipes and made my own Cashew Lettuce Wraps, and they turned out pretty decent. Iceberg lettuce was the wrong choice to wrap the crunchy mix in, and the cashews should be added in last next time... but overall it worked.

Lastly we had Miso Soup. I just planned to throw it together with a bit of tofu and wakame, but was lucky enough to get Maki's expertise. She was definitely the miso professional, as she added in kale and mushrooms for a far superior miso.

I liked all 3 parts of the meal, but definitely need to practice the execution... keeping similar flavors together would be a better bet for next time.

05 January 2010

Vegan Soul Food

My shopping trip a few days ago prepped me for a lot of firsts. Practicing the art of cooking greens, perfecting tempeh, experimenting with smoke flavor. Soul food is something I never cooked, probably because I barely ate meat as a kid. But this was the execution of the Vegan variety - and it was worth leaving the comfort zone.

So I picked my first three recipes from Veganomicon and started the cookbook fun. Officially. Cheater Baked Beans were a snap. And, like everything else I cook, they were easy to spice up a bit. I definitely have a higher threshold for spiciness than the average person, but I'm amazed how weak most recipes in EVERY cookbook are. The combinations and flavors can be amazing (and this recipe was the same), but I've been in the habit of doubling most spices for a little more kick.

For the main course, Smoky Grilled Tempeh was the challenge. I guess I like smoke flavor more than I realized, because this stuff was good. It was my first time steaming the tempeh before cooking it, which (once again) made me ask what I'd been doing all these years. I broiled it after that, as the recipe gave option for, but I'd definitely grill or pan fry it next time. Good (yet mild) flavor but a bit too soft under the broiler.

Sauteed Collards were last, and although the name sounds boring, they were the opposite. I used the rainbow chard I bought instead of collards, thanks to a recommendation from my produce buddies. They used the marinade from the tempeh, yet managed to have a totally different flavor. Chard definitely takes less time to cook than chewy collards, so a few minutes less next time and they'll be perfect.

Add in some fresh sourdough bread and some tequila martinis, and this Monday night meal is complete!

04 January 2010

Green is my favorite color

Greens are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet - and they are something I don't use nearly enough. So I need to find a way to eat leafy greens every day. Real leafy greens, not just lettuce or spinach.

This is what I picked up on today's shopping trip. Look how lovely this rainbow chard is! You almost don't want to eat it...

02 January 2010

First dinner: The non-recipe

As excited as I was to start the cookbook countdown, I threw a dinner together one last time. Ok, twice. Sometimes I repeat a really delicious recipe just days after trying it - and this creation was the same way.

One of my favorite recipes ever is Polenta Stuffed Poblanos... so I hijacked the original recipe, subtracted the goat cheese, added nutritional yeast. It really DOES have a cheesy flavor - and it was a hit! Combined with Southwest Tofu Tacos, it was tex-mex comfort food.

So easy AND so delicious - how did it take me a decade to create what is now a staple meal? (Plus it includes my two new obsessions, Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory corn tortillas and Rosewood Tofu. I can honestly say my Vegetarian happiness has increased thanks to these local companies and their amazing goods!)

I'm also thinking I need some practice photo-documenting my cooking adventures. But everything has to start somewhere!

Step 1: Inspiration!

Happy New Year!

Everyone knows I'm a cookbook freak. I have at least a dozen veg-friendly varieties, and I always want to buy more. I was 13 when I became a Vegetarian and learned I love to cook - and receiving a Moosewood cookbook from my friend Nancy when I was 21 sealed the deal. Nancy is a culinary guru - I've never seen a larger cookbook collection nor met a better self-taught chef. She's an inspiration. So, the last 7 years has been an adventure in Vegetarian cuisine, and have left me inspired to learn more.

The latest health goal was to eat as close to Vegan as possible. You can imagine my excitement when a lovely friend Dawn gave me Veganomicon AND Vegan With A Vengeance over the holidays. What a doll! I took it as a sign.

Turns out Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero are amazing. I LOVE the Post Punk Kitchen. How did I live without these cookbooks? I think my head might explode from all the deliciousness... but I've resolved to try to cook through both books in as little time as possible. It's 2010, what do I have to lose?!

So that is how this fun started. I just finished my first shopping trip - including several first time purchases! Liquid smoke, vital wheat gluten, non-blackstrap molasses. I thought I was a pretty good veg-chef, but I'm getting a reality check with these books and ingredients!

I can't wait to get started.