Sunday, January 31, 2010

Roast Your Veggies - Quickies

There are so many great things to do when your vegetables start to get "really ripe." Obviously, you always want your vegetables to be in good shape, with no moldy or mushy spots. But, when they have past the point that the salad seems their most viable option, consider roasting them.

Yesterday I found 2 baby eggplants in my vegetable bin that I'd forgotten about. They weren't blemished or bruised in anyway, and likely would have made great parmesan, but I wasn't that hungry. By mixing them with a few other vegetable friends and roasting, I soon had something I could use for several different meals.

I love roasted vegetable pizza. But, because I'll be flying this week, these veggies will find themselves atop a schmere of hummus, which is then all rolled in a flower tortilla. I'm always the envy of my fellow airline passengers when I whip out my roll-ups!

Grilled vegetables are great on pasta, great to grind up in a soup, mixed with a bit of mushroom broth, and great on top of some grilled polenta. Here is my basic recipe for vegetable grilling. Get comfortable with it, then add your own mix. Remember that onions are great, as is squash, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and fennel. Just go crazy.

Roasted Vegetables 101

Preheat the oven to 300. I usually use a larger baking dish, but used a small one this time as I wanted the veggies to stay soft, and not crunch up at all.

1 medium eggplant, sliced to 1/2" rounds (I used 2 small eggplants)
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced in strips
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced in half
1/3 chunked onion
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. cheep balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. capers

Place all vegetables in your baking dish. Mix olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together and toss with vegetables. Place uncovered in the oven, and let roast for about 2 hours. About every 30 minutes I flip the veggies around a little, and make sure there is still some liquid. In a smaller pan this isn't usually a problem as their juices pool in the bottom. In the last 30 minutes of roasting, fold the capers in the mix. If ever things start to get too brown, you can cover with foil.

These vegetables will keep for a week refrigerated, in a covered glass container.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I Feel Pretty....Tea and Cookies

I can’t seem to get enough sugar lately. And with the Chicago winter come gray skies and snowy (or cold rainy) days. The best thing to do is curl up with tea and cookies and a good book. As I work my way through the Harvard Classics, nibbling on one of these cookies gives me my sugar fix, but also gives me a hit of spring with the use of herbs and flowers.

Rosewater Cookies
Makes about 2 dozens

¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup almond meal
3 oz unsalted Earth Balance, at room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar, sifted
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp rose water
1 ½ tsp. Ener-G (egg replacer) mixed with 2 Tbsp. water

About 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350F. Sift together the flour and almond meal into a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the Earth Balance until pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar, salt, vanilla, and rose water. Cream on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. Add the egg-substitute and beat on low speed for 15 seconds, until fully incorporated. Do not overbeat. On low speed, add the flour mixture. Mix and then form into a log. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can keep the dough in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for a month.
Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or silicone mat.

Break off a piece of dough, and roll into 1-inch balls. Place the balls about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the cookies for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until just golden.
As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, cover them completely with sifted powdered sugar. Store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.

Cornmeal Rosemary Cookies
(makes about 2 dozen cookies)

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
¾ c. Earth Balance, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ tsp. Ener-G mixed with 2 Tbsp. water
2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry ingredients with a whisk in a medium bowl. Using a mixer, beat Earth Balance and sugar until fluffy. Add egg substitute and vanilla, and beat until smooth. With mixer on low speed, slowly add dry ingredients, mixing just until ingredients are combined. Using a spoon, scoop dough and roll into balls, then place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten each ball of dough slightly with your thumb, and sprinkle rosemary on top. Bake for about 14 minutes, then remove immediately to a cooling rack..

Lemon Lavender Cookies
(makes about 4 dozen)

¾ c. sugar
2 T. grated lemon zest + 2 T. juice from 1-2 lemons
2 t. dried lavender (optional, but then they’d just be lemon cookies)
1¾ c. flour
¼ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
12 Tbsp. cold Earth Balance, cut into ½” cubes
1 ½ tsp. Ener-G, mixed with 2 Tbsp. water
½ t. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375

In a mixer, process the sugar, lemon zest and lavender until the sugar looks damp and the zest and lavender are fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt, then add to the sugar mixture; mix well.

Scatter the butter pieces over and mix until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal. In a measuring cup, beat together the lemon juice, egg substitute and vanilla in a separate, small bowl. With the mixer running, add the juice mixture in a slow stream into the dry mix, and blen until the dough forms. Stop blending and start to form ball with your hands.

Turn your dough onto a work surface and form the dough into a cylinder about 12″ long and 1½” in diameter. Form the dough into a cylinder, and place in the middle of parchment or wax paper, roll up, and twist at the ends. Either chill in fridge or freeze.

Prepare cookie sheet, either with cooking spray or a silicon sheet or parchment. It’s really important to make this non-stick. Slice the dough into 3/8″ thick rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1″ apart. Bake about 10-12 minutes or until they start to turn golden. Cool on sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

If you want to ice them, mix a half fresh lemon with powdered sugar until a loose past forms. Drizzle this over the cooled cookies and let set.

Earl Gray Cookies
(makes about 4 dozen)

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp. earl grey tea leaves, from approximately 6 tea bags
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. water
1 c. Earth Balance, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 375°F

Mix all the dry ingredients until the tea leaves are pulverized. This works especially well if you have a food processor. Add vanilla, water, and Earth Balance; blend together until dough is formed. Divide the dough in half, placing each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll each half into a 12-inch log. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Slice each log into 1/3 inch thick pieces. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or foil, 2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

No Bull Steak Sandwiches

Ok, that’s a pretty bad blog title, right. Sorry.

But look at this sandwich. It looks good, right? It was another inspiration from Tal Ronnen’s fantastic cookbook, The Conscious Cook. I’m not going to give you the recipe as #1, I think it’s illegal, and #2, I want him to sell a ton of cookbooks because he should.

What I will share are a few tips and modifications I made to the recipe, based on personal taste and product availability. These sandwiches are going to be a perfect lunch staple for football season, and anytime you have meat-lovers in the vicinity.

The sandwich recipe lists Gardein’s beef-style strips, but after searching their website and calling a few groceries, I learned these strips aren’t available except for commercial use. So, I got the beefless tips, thawed them, and sliced them in ½. They worked perfectly well, and cooked up perfectly. I would definitely stress thawing the tips, and not putting them in the skillet while frozen. To get the best texture you want the water to evaporate, the outside to crisp and the interior to be firm.

Next, I don’t like mayonnaise, as a rule. I don’t like it because it consists of raw eggs and oil. That being said, I love homemade aioli, made with olive oil and garlic, and paired with thick French fries. I haven’t tasted Vegenaise, or any of the other vegan alternatives, but instead of creating the horseradish sauce this sandwich calls for, I found amazing horseradish mustard by Stonewall Kitchen, that is vegan, and tastes wonderful on this sandwich.

Lastly, I had a bag of challah on hand that needed to be used, so this served as a “bun” for the sandwich. I grilled this in my iron skillet and it worked perfectly.

Oh, I don’t like raw onions either. But, I don’t mind them if they’re marinated. So, I sliced a red onion paper-thin, placed them in a container, and added ½ cup cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of agave nectar, 1 tablespoon of both cloves and pepper corns and 1 tablespoon of salt. I covered this and let it hang out in the fridge for 2 hours before assembly. It would only get better with age…kind of like me!

I bought several different Gardein products, and am so excited to try out different recipes. I’ll share as I go along. The thing is, there really is no need to do without. And yes, it’s great if you do everything the “whole” way, opting for no meat substitutes. But, I really like these products on their own merit and am thrilled for anything that makes cooking more exciting for me. I feel better when I have a high-ish amount of protein, so many of these products fit the bill.

North African Cuisine: A Bazaar of Flavors

What visions pop into your mind when you think of North Africa? I see brightly colored tents lines with tables of hammered bracelets, dramatic textiles, and every hue of vegetables. The smells are musty saffron, briny olive oil, and speckled with cloves and nutmeg. Merchants wrapped in white layers on linen, looking at you with dark, smiling eyes… encouraging you to take a nibble from the fat, ripe figs, or sample some honey-dripping pastry. Here the call to prayer, layered with different languages, all talking at once, and peppered with the calls of chickens and goats and children. Are you seeing it? I’m not sure the reality is quite this romantic, but I’d like to do further investigation.

Last night I joined a group of friends for a North African pot-luck. I love these little soirees for both the great company, and the creative dishes I’m introduced to. Although I’m the only one who avoids animal products, since we all bring something to the table, I’ll at least have one thing I can eat. These gatherings are as much about the conversation, wine-sipping and talking about food as about eating.

I was not familiar with North African dishes at all. My only experience had been a couscous salad I’d had at the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, and it was OK, but I don’t love dried fruit in my grains, typically. Last night was different.

Because so many different cultures have, at one time or another, inhabited the countries that make up North Africa, there are many different influences on the food. You’ll find olives and olive oil, wheat and other grains, preserved fruits and relishes, and of course, the spices.

Though lamb and other meats are widely used in cooking, there are many vegetarian options. I made a type of “Mediterranean Lasagna” with a grain called freekeh (or farik). It was amazing, and would be perfect as a main-course, served with a big citrus salad and some flat bread.

Mediterranean Polenta with Farik

1 8oz. tube of prepared polenta, sliced into ¼” rounds
1 8oz. package of farik (it’s a roasted grain)
1 16 oz. container of some roasted vegetable (I went to the olive bar and got 8 oz roasted eggplant and 8 oz. roasted zucchini strips)
1 jar Trader Joe’s red pepper spread with eggplant and garlic
8 oz. tomato sauce
½ c. grated mozzarella cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spread a bit of the red pepper spread over the bottom of a 8x12 baking dish. Place slices of polenta to cover the bottom of the pan and kind of mash it out with your fingers. It’s ok if some bits of the pan are showing through, as it will “melt” a bit as it bakes. For your next layer, place one type of roasted vegetables. Dab a bit of the red pepper spread on each vegetable then sprinkle ½ the package of freekeh on top of the vegetables. Repeat with a layer of polenta, followed by the other vegetable, the red pepper spread. But, before you put the freekeh on, pour the entire can of the tomato sauce, and then the last ½ of freekeh. Bake the dish for 20-25 minutes. If you are adding the cheese, back 15 minutes, then sprinkle with cheese and finish off, uncovered.

This serves about 6-8 people as a main course, and 10-12 as a side.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Complexion Potions

I’m lucky. I’m lucky for many reasons, but today I remember how lucky I am to have good skin. By that I mean, I’ve never had extensive acne problems, my coloration is fairly consistent, and there were no real wrinkles or texture issues to deal with. I say “were,” because the times, they are a changing’.

Last Friday I had a facial. Because I have sensitive, combination skin, I only visit estheticians who offer Dermalogica products. The facial went well, and I had no immediate concerns. I went out that evening to a dinner party, came home, took off make-up and went to bed.

Saturday I woke, and though I didn’t see anything that would lead me to believe I had any reaction to the facial, upon closer inspection I saw a good deal of peeling. Also, I noticed the skin under my eyes looking slightly “creapy.” During my facial the esthetician mentioned my skin was very dry, but I’d not noticed it being quite this bad.

Every since Friday I’ve been consistently peeling and noticing my skin looking thinner somehow. Could it be that I’m aging overnight? Or, is it the combination of the bitter, Chicago wind, combined with the drying effect of central heat? The answer is probably both, but mostly the later. Central heat (and flying) is no friend to your skin!

So, what can I do? I am what I eat, right? So….I looked at all kinds of resources. Here’s what I found to be unanimously recommended for good skin:

Vitamin A – carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and dark greens
Antioxidants – green tea, berries
Fatty Acids – walnuts, avocado, flax
Selenium – brazil nuts, molasses, sunflower seeds, whole wheat
Vitamin C – oranges, grapefruit, lemons
Water - well, you know what water is

These are the key elements that are supposed to fight off free radicals, encourage cell reproduction, act as anti-inflammatories, keep collagen strong and resistant to gravity, and help digestion and detoxification.

After reading all of this, I decided to juice my lunch. I got out the old juicer and popped in:

½” peeled ginger
2 c. fresh, de-ribbed, kale
½ grapefruit, skin and seeds removed
1 small lemon, skin removed
1 apple, seeds removed
3 carrots

This made a lot of juice, and could have been breakfast for 3 people. Also, it was a terrible color – like a dark, Texas orange. The taste wasn’t bad at all. Ginger and apple juice can cover a lot!

Tonight I’m going to make a pasta with a tomato sauce including lots of mushrooms (I’ve heard shitakes have some special skin redeemers) and a salad with walnuts and lemon and olive oil dressing.

On Gwenyth Paltrow’s site, there is a post with great juice and purification ideas. I also flipped through my copy of Dr. Perricone’s books, thus the information about mushrooms and essential fatty acids.

Here are a couple of juice recipes I got off the web, and which include many of the items mentioned above. I often add some ground flax seed to any juice or smoothie, along with a little wheat germ.

For healing, protecting and cleansing your face, from the inside, try:

1/2 Tomato
1/4 Cucumber
1 Carrot
1 Celery stalk
Handful Spinach
1/2 Red Pepper
1/2-Cup Cabbage
1 Green Onion

This one is actually better in the summer, and I go easy on the garlic and add ¼ lemon:

1 Cucumber
2 Sticks of Celery
1 Small to medium clove of Garlic
Root Ginger - 1 inch

Cucumber juice is beneficial for skin care as it is rich in the mineral silica, which is good for the complexion and skin elasticity.

And this one is great for winter, as citrus is typically more available (although, this may change soon!)

2 Cups spinach
1 Cup of parsley
4 Oranges

Spinach is rich in iron and orange juice is full of vitamin C, which work wonders for a clear complexion.

One of the things you must remember, if you’re new to juicing, don’t expect this to taste like Sunny D or V8. Those have a great deal of sodium and sugar. Celery really helps add the sodium you’ll be missing in a tomato juice, but it’s not as intense as salt, so be warned. Ginger also really helps bump the spice up, and is also great for digestion and clearing your lungs.

And it’s better to juice a little at a time, as fresh juice tastes better, and supposedly has more accessible vitamins and minerals than juice that’s left in the fridge overnight.

Juicing isn’t inexpensive, and certainly it is better to eat the whole vegetable and/or fruit with all the fiber included. However, when you’re not feeling well, or, you find your face peeling off, then juice offers a quick-absorbing alternative. I actually put some of the pulp spit out from my juicer and mix it back in. Some hate the texture, but I don’t mind a bit. I’ve also been known to add pulp to my banana breads, soups and smoothies, for fiber and as a thickener. Just a though!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Love Chocolate

I do. I love it. I love dark, unadorned chocolate. I also like it with frills. I love Naga bars, and they're all fluffed up with curry and coconut. I also like to make truffles with cinnamon and cheyenne. But, I am about to share a very special recipe, involving chocolate, that will make your head spin around. So, you might want to take the first bite away from the view of the know, just so they aren't startled.

What makes this recipe extra-special is it comes from one of my favorite spots, Cafe Agri, which sadly is no longer with us. I've had the recipe since my last visit in October, and I believe they closed in November. I've sat on this gem, but now in sharing it I feel I'm keeping the dream alive.

So, here you go, my friends. Remember: first bite to be taken outside the view of bystanders.

Cafe Agri's Vegan Chocolate Cake with Orange Sauce
serves 12-16

Mixer (this kind of acts as the eggs):

2 Tbsp. flax seed + 4 Tbsp. water, let soak for 1 hour prior
1 banana, smashed
2-3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 c. canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 F. Then mix these things together in a bowl.

In another bowl:

1 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbsp. orange juice
3/4-1 cup coffee brewed

Combine all ingredients until coffee dissolves.

In a large bowl (yeah, I know we've got 3 bowls going here now):

1 cup rice flour
1 cup tapioca starch flour
1 1/2 cup almond flour
2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt

Mix all dry ingredients, then add contents of second bowl, mix well and then throw in contents of first bowl. Mix well, but not overly...make sure well combines, but don't use a mixer. Pour into 2 8" round cake pans. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until center is firm.

Orange Sauce

1 block tofu
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
juice and zest from 1 orange
pinch of salt

Blend this, with a mixer, 3-5 minutes. I chilled this and let it thicken a little, and then frosted the whole cake with it, but at the restaurant they just served the cake with the sauce on the side.

This is so lovely and perfect for chocolate cake cravings. I hope you love it. I loved it. I loved a lot of things about Cafe Agri and I'm sad it's gone.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I've Got a Feeling....

Can I use that line as my title? Do the Blackeyed Peas own it? If so, I'm really sorry....but I do have a feeling. I'm not just saying it.

Today I woke up, and started right in on my morning pages. Is anyone but me engaging in The Artists Way? Anyway, just like the past two times I started TAW (but didn't finish) I initially dread writing aimlessly for 30 minutes, as I like a little structure in my writing (believe it or not.) But, inevitably things start bubbling up. And boy howdy! Today was a gusher. Like CRAZY, life-changing, flood waters, and it feels amazing. An epiphany, to be sure.

I know this is a crazy way to start a post that is supposed to be about food, but here's the thing: Bunny-Bites is cute, and hopefully relates to the concept of "rabbit food," which is often what people call vegetables and grains. And it is what my diet consists of, and what I encourage those I care about to consider. However, it's a little too cutsie for some. Ok, for me. For me it's a little too cutsie, and I've been wishing I could change it. And I'm not sure I can, and if it's too big a deal I won't, but I'm just saying, I have something better.

After learning my Sweetheartache was eating some haute cuisine, which consisted of creatures throats, the phrase “you are what you eat,” popped into my head. I also thought of that nursery rhyme, What Are Little Boys Made Of. So, if I am what I eat I’m made of kale and cupcakes, predominately. That’s great, right? Kale and Cupcakes would be a much better blog title, and even though it bugs me that cupcakes are now really “hip,” because I’ve ALWAYS eaten cupcakes, kale and cupcakes really do make up a disproportionate amount of my diet.

So, for anyone who finds my blog of some value, and you think you might tell a friend or acquaintance, but you feel silly saying "Bunny Bites," I get that, and I'm working on it. And if I can't change the name, hopefully this new lease on life I got this morning will make my writing and culinary insight so stammering no one will care that it has such a stupid name. Sort of like Moons Over My Hammy? Did you ever eat that? It is HORRIBLE for you, but I really loved it. I loved it so much that I had no problem walking into a Denny's (sweet Jesus) and proudly declaring, "I would like a coffee, black, and an Eggs Over My Hammy please. Unbelievable, but I swear, I remember doing it.

Today is Friday. Friday is my favorite day of the week. It has promise, and potential. For now I'm digging my oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts and a slice of warm banana bread (thank you Dino at Alternative Vegan), and today is going to be a great day!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Sad to See You Go....

If you haven't noticed, food makes me crazy-happy. Someone in my building asked me the other day, "do you ever eat," to which I replied, "As often as I can." It's the truth. I would eat more if time and my tummy capacity would allow it, but I do pretty well with what I've got!

Since starting Bunny Bites I have found so many amazing restaurants, chefs, and resources for keeping my tongue very happy, as well as a lot of animals! And in the places I frequent (St. Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Columbus)I have my favorite restaurant gems. I've been so fortunate to dine at places like Dragonfly, Red Avocado, The Vegiterranean, and of course, in my home-town, Green Zebra and Chicago Diner. But one of my favorites...not only for eating, but for drinking and for stealing culinary inspiration, I adored Cafe Agri in Minneapolis. See my post on Minneapolis.

Last week, while making my quarterly pilgrimage to the twin cities, I didn't even think about the snow, or bomb scares...all I wanted was to find out what wonderfulness Cafe Agri was serving up. While having a quick lunch at another favorite, Spoonriver, I was given the bad news that Cafe Agri closed just after Thanksgiving.

My face must have revealed my disappointment, as my server tried to explain and did her best to console me. What happened? So sad.

But, I do have something....I have his amazing chocolate cake recipe with orange cream sauce. I don't have it here in K.C., but it is on my desk at home and it's perfection. I think now, that this wonderful restaurant has run it's course, it is appropriate to share this delicious momento.

I was also sad to learn, after over 30 years, Cafe Brenda (Spoonriver's big sister) closed it's doors. The good news is, Spoonriver has incorporated some of Cafe Brenda's super-stars, and I have Brenda's amazing cookbook, so the legacy goes on.

One of my favorite things about dining at Brenda---- restaurants are her croquettes. And her cookbooks are full of all kinds of variations. After you get a few down you'll get the knack and be able to create a few of your own. Her cookbook really inspired me to not be scared of trying new things.

So, let's mourn the losses of our heroes, but take their legacy and go brave and conquer!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Quicky Breakfast

I hate making multiple posts on one day, but I hadn't written this week, and there are several things I need to get out before I forget. So, first off, as I eat this wonderful brunch I've prepared, I'm going to give you a really quick breakfast you can make, that will make you feel amazing, and tastes great.

Before I give it up, I want to say: I'm not a big tofu fan. There are some very specific things I really like, but it's not my go-to protein source. I have a great tofu salad recipe that actually got me through a lot of college. And now that I've learned the slicing and freezing trick, I appreciate the texture much more in a stir fry. However, this recipe is really great. I never really ate eggs growing up, but I imagine this recipe is very similar to egg white? Maybe?

I'm writing these ingredients down, but use what you have on hand. I didn't have bell peppers to spare, and would have liked a little cilantro and avocado, but use what you have. This should be easy and stress-free. Please forgive these terrible picks, but I can't find my camera, so used my Blackberry. I just wanted you to get the idea. you go

Morning Tofu Scramble

1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
pinch of kosher salt
1/4 c. diced onion
1/4 c. diced bell pepper
1/4 c. black beans, drained
1/4 block silk, extra firm tofu
1/2 Tbsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/4 c. prepared salsa, plus more for garnish
tortilla chips or soft tortillas or nothing
garnish with a few pickled jalapenos, fresh cilantro, avocado, more salsa or even pepitos!

Turn burning on medium under a medium skillet. When the skillet is warm add oil and the salt (I learned this trick from Tal Ronnen for non-stick). Add the onions and cook them until their opaque. If you wanted fresh garlic, this would also be the time to add. Next throw in peppers and cook until soft. While these are cooking, slice tofu and place in a bowl. Sprinkle tofu with turmeric and yeast and mash a little, until it resembles a scrambled egg. Back at the skillet, add your black beans (again, you could use any bean) and tofu. The turmeric will give everything a slightly gold color, and a slight earthy taste. It's good and good for you. After everything is well mixed and warm you add the salsa.

This morning, I didn't have tortillas, so warmed up some chips and piled 1/2 the tofu mixture on top. I dabbed a little more salsa on top, and some pickled jalapeno, and then had this with sliced pears. I can save the other 1/2 of the tofu in a glass container for tomorrow morning. Excellent!

P.S. If you want to really cheat, Amy's has a wonderful frozen tofu scramble, and they also put it with yummy roasted potatoes!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This is going to be CRAZY fun! I can tell...

Tonight I took my first stab at creating a meal from Tal Ronnen's cookbook, The Conscious Cook. If you're not familiar with Mr. Ronnen, please read up on him. He not only has done a great job of providing established vegans with the yummy, artful, culinary gems many long for, but for those "in transition," this book will prove, you will not miss the animal protein. I promise.

Tonight I made pine-nut and basil seared gardein "chicken," with lobster mushroom beurre blanc, braised kale and roasted fingerling potatoes. It was a huge success! And though my photos aren't exactly as pretty as those in his lovely book, the taste was complex, and was just so yummy!

I have to disclose a couple of things; I couldn't find lobster mushrooms, so substituted chanterelles. Also, I don't love pine nuts, and didn't want to spend the money on an entire bag...I used walnuts instead. What else? Oh, I couldn't get the nut-flour to stick to the uncooked gardein, so I dampened them with a little water. Worked like a charm.

I'll keep posting my conquests, but this was not nearly as difficult as I'd feared. And the best bit is, I think this will be just as yummy tomorrow...especially those roasted potatoes with the rich, creamy sauce.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Good Luck and Wishes for 2010

I spent a wonderful and productive New Year's Eve painting my condo and eating cookies. See the bottom of the post for paint smuge, and to the left for plate o' cookies. Wonderful! I hope everyone had a fun, memorable and safe New Year. And for those of you who may have celebrated a little outside your normal parameters, I hope your hangovers were light.

This was a difficult year for many people. All the more reason to be hopeful for 2010, and to take every measure to ensure luck, prosperity and good health for the coming days.

Growing up in the South, every New Year's day was sure to bring a meal that included greens (for money) and black-eyed peas (for luck). As I grew older and started learning about other regions and cultures I realized many folks have certain foods that are traditionally eaten on the first day of the year to ensure good fortune.

Holland - They eat doughnuts, which symbolize coming full-circle
Spain - Grapes are eaten for each strike of the midnight clock, so 12 grapes
Germany - They dine on split pea soup with bits of pork
Norway and Sweden - a rice pudding is made with a hidden almond. The recipient of the almond is ensured good luck

For me it was roasted red chard with beets for New Year's eve (Ok, I know that's kind of lame...I went all "crazy" with the red food!), and for New Years day my kale soup and a black-eyed pea salad.

Black-eyed peas used to be a rare culinary treat north of the Mason-Dixon line, but more and more I find black-eyed peas listed on the menus of restaurants that feature American cuisine.

If you decided to give one of these yummy black-eyed peas a try, I suggest buying the dried variety and soaking them overnight. This method makes for much quicker cooking time, and I think the dried taste so much better than the canned.

My Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Serves 6-8

2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight, picked over and drained
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup salsa (just use your favorite brand)
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup pickled jalapenos, chopped
1/4 cup scallions, chopped (use green and white bits, if you like)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance, divided into 6-8 dollops
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar, or a little more, if you like...I do
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

So, you've soaked the black-eyed peas. Heat a medium pan over medium heat and add the tablespoon of olive oil, then the chopped onion. After the onion becomes a bit opaque, pour in the beans and add water that goes about 1" over the peas. Bring to a simmer, and skim off any foam that forms. Then turn fire down to low, cover your peas, and let cook until tender. This takes about 45-60 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 F. While the peas are cooking you can mix salsa, bell pepper, jalapenos and scallions in a glass or non-metallic serving container. On a baking sheet, spread frozen corn evenly, sprinkle with chili powder, then dab with Earth Balance. Place corn in the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, stirring half-way through. I like the corn a little "toasty," so I turn the broiler on at the end, just for crunch.

Drain your peas and add to the other chopped veggies. After the roasted corn has cooled, add that in too. Lastly, add the vinegar, oil and salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, garnish with chopped cilantro, if you like.

Black-Eyed Pea and Potato Tacos
Serves 4

12 crisp or soft taco shells
4 yukon potatoes, med. sized yellow, cubed (sweet potatoes are good too!)
2 1/2 cups black eye peas, soaked, sorted, cooked and drained
½ onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper chopped
1 clove garlic minced.
1 Tbsp. chili powder, salt and Cheyenne to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Garnish: chopped tomatoes, avocado
shredded lettuce, black olives
sliced radishes, cilantro
your favorite salsa or taco sauce

Preheat oven to 400 F. Toss potatoes with a little olive oil, then scatter on a baking sheet and put in oven. In a skillet heat olive oil, add garlic, and soften, but don’t let it brown. To this, add onion and cook until golden. Add black eyed peas, then add spices. When brown, add enough water to keep them from burning. Cover, turn heat to low. When potatoes are soft, add them to peas, stir, cover, keep heat low for 10 minutes.

Toast the shells, or, if you’re using soft you can zap them in the microwave, but I like to toast them over a flame. Fill each shell with potato-pea mix, then garnish. This may sound odd, but I actually like to drizzle a little Catalina dressing over my taco. Mouth is watering!

Blogging is just one of the new adventures I embarked on in 2009. Through writing and reading blogs I've found a place to share my passions and truth. It's all VERY exciting and I look forward to continuing and developing my posts for 2010.

My wish for all my like-minded friends, followers and potential followers, is for us all to maintain the enthusiasm, hope and optimism found in the early days of the new year. "Momentum," is my word for 2010; movement, energy, motivation...all things we need to get us to a higher level, which provides a better view.

If everyone who is excited about food and drink would make tiny shifts, making vegetables a more prominent part of their life...well, big things would happen. BIG big things. I'm so crazy about the innovative restaurants, chefs and creators of new vegan products. I'm committed to share more of my favorite products that help make life easier. I'm a huge fan of the fine products that are being made available to those of us committed to a vegetable based diet.

Again, the best to you and all you love! xo, SA