Friday, April 30, 2010

My favorite easy meal means lots of dishes

I’ve been busy with the kinds of things that keep me from eating like I want to. I was out of town over the weekend and spent half my time being hungry and politely declining food I didn’t want, and the other half eating pizza (which, after a few slices, I didn’t want).

So when I got home, I was hungry, and hungry for something green. I had the night to myself and cooked up a three-pot supper that hardly required any attention or effort, until it’s time to do the dishes.

Menu: 1/2 bag of frozen black eyed peas, boiled in just water and salt, for about an hour. I think these guys taste just fine without any pork fat, thank you. Next: brown basmati rice, left to simmer on its own for about 40 minutes. Finally, collard greens cook for about 20 minutes in vegetable broth and finish with a splash of vinegar.

Nothing needs much attention, and it’s tasty. Funny, though, that this is the kind of food I eat alone. I used up the last of my sweet & hot pepper and onion relish, though, so I’ll have to find some more.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beet & Jicama Salad

I’ve been having so much fun trying lots of new foods. I also like to read about them and see what they look like while they’re growing, too.

005 My new kitchen has about one square foot of counter space, so I usually set up shop on the dining room table.

Now beets, I know, but only in one way: pickled, jarred, and sweet. And just like these raw ones did, staining everything red.

Jicama is something I found by accident by eating some and loving it. There’s a Mexican restaurant here that garnishes guacamole with radishes and jicama, and I love it and asked what it was. Like they say, there’s no stupid question, and I’m glad to have found this tasty treat. I also read about eating it raw in this article from Care2 and saved half of the jicama to eat by itself.

I read several recipes that combined raw beets and jicama in a salad and came up with a pretty good dish. I can see now why many suggest shredding the beets, as they were pretty hard to eat raw in the little chips I cut them into. I used half the jicama and two beets.

I chipped veggies dressed was made with lime juice, orange juice, cumin, coriander, and cilantro.


The jicama chips are actually white, but the beets tinted them red. It has a crunchy texture similar to a really firm apple, and it’s slightly sweet and really watery and refreshing. Peeling and cutting them was a lot of work, but it’s kept for several days in the fridge and I’m still enjoying both the jicama chips and the salad.

I think I’ve found two good ways to eat jicama, but I’m going to have to cook my beets going forward.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Broccoli, just broccoli

Broccoli is a popular vegetable in this house. I’ll admit that I never much liked it growing up, but it’s something Alex really likes. The fresh stuff is much, much better than frozen I grew up on. Plus, it’s so easy to cook. Typically I’ll steam it in a small amount of water, but I decided to oven-roast this batch to go along with some whole-wheat penne and tomato sauce.

I left on more stem than I’d usually eat (typically I’ll save the stems for making veggie broth) and dressed only with oil, salt, and garlic. I was putting together a meal quickly, otherwise I might have left the broccoli in the oven longer. It was done, but not really browned. Still good.

I like broccoli, really, but one of my favorite vegetables is green beans. I make those less frequently as a compromise with Alex who doesn’t care for them. He doesn’t even like the skinny haricot vert. What’s your favorite vegetable?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tofu Tacos, Imitation, and Terrene

You caught me. I didn’t get through all those recaps of places we ate in Saint Louis. I covered my favorite, though, Sweet Art, and I’ve been thinking about how to address Terrene. I’m going to go with imitation as highest flattery.

I went to Terrene on Saturday night, and I chose it ahead of time from great blog reviews and a good website showing their menu with vegetarian choices. This page shows their “small plates” and the two dishes photographed are the two we ordered: tofu tacos and veggie “sausage” flatbread. I’m not going into detail about the restaurant because I don’t think there’s any reason to. I want to show what great variety of vegetarian food is available and some of what I eat and cook – not to get the most posts on Urbanspoon or to encourage anyone to go to certain restaurants.

When I start to write about Terrene, I can’t decide what to say. It was a nice place, and the price reflects that, and when we got there it was dimly lit and noisy with a few babies, and large tables of packs of YPs (is that what we’re calling yuppies these days?). By the time we were finishing our meal, the atmosphere had quieted and a few tables were scattered with diners lingering over drink and dessert, and it was no longer busy with hurried waiters and patrons. Or maybe the wine I had was mellowing my perception. Saint Louis, like my own Midwestern city Cincinnati, seems full of young parents and restaurants that empty by 9 o’clock. The only thing I really want to say about Terrene is that I loved their tofu tacos.

The tacos were made with chipotle-rubbed tofu, shredded lettuce, pico, and pepitas layered in corn tortillas and served with a side of salsa verde. I don’t normally use corn tortillas, but they were delicious, and the pepitas added a wonderful texture to the soft tofu. At the time, I realized this was an exceptional combination, but it’s only been in the few weeks since I’ve been home that I can’t stop thinking about them and wanted to try tofu tacos at home.


I started with my old standby, Trader Joe’s extra-firm organic tofu, and I froze it, thawed it, pressed it, and cubed it. For seasoning, I made a paste of dry seasonings* and a little canola oil , then tossed in the cubed tofu and let it wait in the fridge all afternoon. I simply baked the cubes and was really pleased with the texture and flavor of the tofu.

I served this in corn tortillas along with some sliced grape tomatoes, diced onion, and cilantro for the pico, drizzled on some salsa verde, and substituted pine nuts for the pepitas. (I know. I couldn’t find pepitas after scouring two grocery stores.) On the side? Some mashed pintos, made from dry beans, and mushrooms. And yes, I incorporated a recipe from Vegan Brunch here too – the cashew cream to cool the heat of the spicy tofu, made from cashews, vinegar, and onion. Perfect!

*3 parts paprika; 2 parts each: cumin, onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, and chili powder; 1 part each: thyme and oregano. I keep this on hand as a spice blend.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Be-bop-a-re-bop Rhubarb Pie

024 I have never cooked with rhubarb before.

I can only remember one time I’ve even eaten it.

My strongest association is be-bop-a-re-bop rhubarb pie from A Prairie Home Companion. “Yes, nothing gets the taste of shame and humiliation out of your mouth quite like Be-Bop-A-Re-Bop Rhubarb Pie.”

So when it was scheduled to arrive in my Farm Fresh Delivery bin, I considered removing it and getting something else. Instead, I decided to keep it and figure out what to do. The difficulty in using a new ingredient is trying to make sense of recipes. For example, when I read the recipe for tofu scramble with green and yams, I knew immediately that it would be good. However, I looked at dozens of rhubarb recipes online and had no idea what to choose. I went with one from a reliable source (FoodTV) and adapted it slightly for the amount of rhubarb I had and reduced the sugar. I think it turned out pretty well.

I sliced my rhubarb and used some sliced strawberries as well, both to sweeten it and add more fruit, placed them in a baking dish and topped with orange zest. I just zested the whole orange and then ate it while this crumble was in the oven. I didn’t use the rest of the ingredients in the fruit part.

For the topping, I used 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup walnuts. I like walnuts, and I had them on hand, but I think the hazelnuts the recipe calls for would be good too. I mixed that with about 1/2 cup melted Earth Balance and plopped it in crumbles on top of my fruit.

I think it turned out pretty well. I’m not sure that I’d go out of my way to make this, but I did enjoy it, even though it was crumble-heavy and light on the fruit.

What do you think? Am I missing out on rhubarb? What’s your favorite way to eat it?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Patty Cake: Tempeh Cakes

After my middling success with tempeh bacon, I was ready to try a different method of cooking this stuff I’ve only had a few times. I turned to my trusty new cookbook, Vegan Brunch, and selected the recipe for Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes. I didn’t mention to Alex that they are inspired by crab cakes, as he vowed never to eat mock fish again after some pungent fake shrimp from a meat-out buffet at Loving Cafe. I can’t say I blame him, and I’ll make it clear now that these patties aren’t mock anything.


This is what the tempeh looked like after I crumbled and steamed it with some seasoning, including the soy sauce that gives it the brown color.

Once cooled, the tempeh is mixed with bell peppers, Vegenaise, mustard, vinegar, ginger, nori, and panko. You’re probably familiar with nori, even if you don’t know the name – it’s the black seaweed used in some sushi. This flavors the cakes without making them fishy. Panko is a kind of Japanese breadcrumb. The way the bread is ground leaves it more like flakes than powder or crumbs, so it makes a nice filler for the cake mix, and from what I read, panko absorbs flavor better than other breadcrumbs and absorbs less grease than breadcrumbs. Go figure.

The tempeh mixture is then formed into cakes (or patties, in keeping with my theme), dredged in more panko, and then pan fried.



To top, I made the recipe’s remoulade from Vegenaise, mustard, hot sauce, and capers. We ate these patties with fresh green beans and a salad.

I’ve mentioned over and over again that this cookbook is quickly becoming a favorite, and I’ve also mentioned over and over again one of my favorite bloggers, Vegan Crunk. Go over and check out her giveaway for American Vegan Kitchen cookbook – but hurry, the contest closes Thursday at 10:00 CST!

Monday, April 19, 2010

What I Ate: Pizza

Alex, sweetheart that he is, does not actually read my little blog anymore, but he does always remind me to take photos of the food we eat, even when I don’t plan to write about it.


Here you go: I made pizza dough, and we had pizzas. We made individual ones to top as we wished. Yes, I only wanted one slice with green peppers.

I think next time I’m in the mood for homemade pizza, I’m going to try to plan ahead and refrigerate the dough overnight first. From what I’ve read, that should help make it chewy.

I'm still looking for my go-to pizza dough recipe. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Actual Vegan Brunch: Peanut Butter Waffles

I’m not usually one for sweets, especially in the morning, but I do love pancakes and waffles. Especially in the afternoon, with beer. But I decided to make waffles for breakfast, and as I’m trying to break away from using the boxed mixes, I chose a recipe from Vegan Brunch.*


I halved the recipe and made four big waffles, and especially with the peanut butter, they were thick and filling. I could hardly finish one, let along the two in the photograph. These were good, though, with maple syrup in the batter as well as on top. The recipe called for chunky peanut butter, and I only had creamy, but I think the addition of some nuts (peanuts or another kind) would have been a welcome addition.

*I’ve written about this book so frequently now that Windows Live Writer automatically put that link there for me. Woo!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Polenta, Spinach, Onion, and Cranberry

In addition to my infatuation with my new cookbook (you’ll keep hearing more about that, I promise), I’ve been bookmarking recipes online and waiting for the right time to try them. I had a really good polenta salad at Honey and was eager to try this recipe I found for Fried Polenta with Sweet Garlic Greens.


This was a really quick and simple recipe, but one that requires two pans. I actually made it as a lunch, so that shows how quick and easy it is with a prepared “tube” of polenta and some bagged baby spinach. In one pan, cook sliced red onions and garlic, then add the spinach, cranberries, and pine nuts. In the other skillet, brown slices of polenta.

I think I’m going to try cooking with polenta again. I can’t say that I really liked this mixture. The cranberry and garlic were overpowering. I think I might have to find a way to imitate one of my favorite frozen meals from Trader Joe’s – the polenta with peas and spinach. And if I can’t get the polenta to work the way I want to, I’ll at least have some yellow grits.

Can anyone suggest a good way to try polenta?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vegan Sausages, Remix: Red beans and rice

Okay, so remember when I tried making vegan sausages by writing down the recipe from Vegan Crunk’s cooking demonstration? And they were a little gummy but the flavor was right?

Well, I now own the cookbook she used: Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. And the cookbook says you might want to cook them in a skillet prior to eating them.

So I thawed the two big sausages I’ve had in my freezer for a couple of weeks and sliced them, then browned them on each side to go in some red beans and rice. Success!

049 Look in the window for my newly adopted black cat!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sesame Scrambled Tofu with Greens and Yams

My copy of Vegan Brunch arrived, and as I flipped through, many many recipes caught my eye. I like that there are so many recipes with foods I like to use and very few ingredients I wouldn’t use more than once.

For my first recipe, I wanted to try making a tofu scramble, which I’ve had in restaurants but have never cooked. Because I was cooking for supper, I decided to try the tofu scramble with greens and yams to make a complete meal. Well, that and I love sweet potatoes and greens. Yes, I used sweet potatoes instead of yams. I used Swiss chard for the greens because they were the best looking greens available at my market when I shopped.

For this recipe, I wanted to make sure I had really firm tofu, so I froze, thawed, and then pressed a block of Trader Joe’s extra firm tofu. Isa Chandra Moskowitz, the cookbook author, has wonderful notes throughout the book and addresses the question of cubed vs. torn tofu in tofu scrambles. In the end, it doesn’t matter, but I like my tofu torn (or crumbled, but leaving larger chunks). I feel like the ragged edges make it easier for it to soak up seasonings. I don’t think there’s any evidence for that, though.


Besides planning ahead to thaw and press the tofu, this was pretty easy. Garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes are sautéed in sesame oil, then the tofu and soy sauce are added, then the greens, and finally the (baked, peeled, and chunked) sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Voila! And yum.

I alternate between grabbing recipes from the web, throwing things together from memory or based on what’s available, and using cookbooks. I’m really impressed with this cookbook, and I can’t believe it took me so long to cough up the $9 I spent – shipping included – to get it used from Amazon. I know I’ll be trying more cookbook recipes soon. What are your favorite cookbooks?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Savory Zucchini Pie

After a preview of hot summer, the weather cooled down enough to turn on the oven again, and I was eager try a new recipe. I still had a frozen pie crust (from way back last fall, I’ll admit it, I even moved it from house to house) and made this cheesy zucchini pie with mushrooms.



8oz package of mushrooms, sliced
3 zucchini, sliced thinly
diced onion

Let the vegetables cool and drain any water the zucchini let off. It’s important to cool them at least slightly so they don’t melt the cheese and cook the egg on contact. I peppered the vegetables but didn’t salt them as the cheese is already very salty.

Shred some Reggiano (I eyeballed it, maybe just under a cup) and a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Beat two eggs and combine the eggs, cheese, and vegetables. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until set.


This was good. Rich, but good.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tempeh Facon Bacon

This really isn’t fake meat: it’s seasoned and baked tempeh. Tempeh, like tofu and setian, has been around for centuries, and originated in Indonesia. Tempeh is a soy product made from whole soybeans and the varieties you’ll find in available now are usually also made with other grains as well. I used Soy Boy 5-grain tempeh for this recipe. The soybeans and other grains are hulled and cooked, then pressed together in a cake along with some sort of a starter to allow them to slightly ferment. Unlike tofu, tempeh has a chewy texture that makes it perfect for facon bacon.

The most difficult part for me was cutting the tempeh thinly enough without having it fall apart. The thinnest pieces tasted the best, but because it’s pressed grains, it fell to pieces when sliced too thinly. You can see that I have thick and thin pieces in my marinade tray here:

There are tempeh bacon recipes all over the web, so I decided to use one from a reliable source: The Vegetarian Times. The marinade was perfectly flavored, and like I mentioned, my only difficulty with the recipe was slicing the tempeh. Soak the slices overnight in a mixture of soy sauce, cider vinegar, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder, and liquid smoke. Then bake them after brushing on some canola oil and sprinkling on some paprika.


I’ve used tempeh a few times in the past and had it once at a restaurant, but I think this re-introduction has inspired me to give it another try in different recipes. Do you have a favorite way to enjoy tempeh?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ebony & Ivory Salad

I’m in yet another lull between trips, guests, and holidays, so I perused some cookbooks in search of new recipes to try. I’ve been looking for new salads because I love cold salad greens, but I’m always interested in new ways to eat them. For this, I made my own dressing and topped lettuce with beans, bell pepper, celery, and onion.


I adapted this recipe from The Passionate Vegetarian, a gigantic book my mother gave me a while ago. The dressing is called “Simple Vinaigrette with a Bite .” It has a kick, but I found it very pleasant. I blended cider vinegar, garlic, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil (I left out the basil as I don’t have anything but teeny-tiny sprouts right now).

I marinated the black beans, cannellini beans, red onion, and celery in the dressing and then mixed with the salad greens and red bell pepper just before serving. I used raw bell pepper for two reasons. Honestly, I didn't read the recipe closely and didn't notice that it called for it to be charred. I think I prefer it raw anyway.

I have a lot of left over beans, but I don’t think that’s a problem in this case because it’s so delicious.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Patty Interlude: Upton’s Naturals Seitan

When I heard that Park + Vine started carrying a much-lauded brand of seitan, I couldn’t wait to try it. It’s from Upton’s Naturals, a Chicago-based company that makes two flavors of seitan for retail sale and other products for food service. Park + Vine carries both the Italian sausage style as well as the chorizo style, and both come in 8-ounce packages of crumbles for $3.75.


This seitan, unlike the Morningstar frozen crumbles I’m known to use, are much more like food than imitation meat. These crumbles are made from wheat, spices, water, and soy sauce. There’s no overly processed soy protein(isolated, defatted, or extruded) that’s part of the soy controversy.

I was a little concerned at first that both packages are pre-flavored. One of my favorite things about the West Soy Seitan I buy from the major grocery store is that it’s just wheat meat, and I add my own flavoring, whether it’s sweet, buffalo, or barbecue. I wasn’t disappointed in the Upton’s flavors, though. Both of these varieties were really good.

I heated the chorizo-style with some onions and mushrooms, then served in a tortilla with lettuce, tomato, and guacamole. Yum!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Asparagus, just asparagus

Sometimes, I eat fruits and vegetables without knowing too much about them. I may be a step ahead of the kids on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution who couldn’t distinguish potatoes from tomatoes, but I’ll admit that I don’t know what much of my food looks like as it grows. Apple tree? Yes. Corn stalk? Most definitely. Asparagus? Nope.

Thanks to the web, I can now find a host of answers at my fingertips. I especially liked the post from the Whole Foods blog from about this time last year, which shows some fields of asparagus.

I’ve gotten asparagus twice recently, and both times I roasted it in the oven. The first time, I ate it with only olive oil and salt. The second time, I dressed it with 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar. I think I prefer the olive oil and salt.

036 Roasted balsamic asparagus with saffron brown basmati rice, black eyed peas, and mushrooms. On a small plate. Yes, I like to cook it until it's really, really tender.

Oh, if you’re wondering why asparagus makes your pee smell funny, here you go. And is it a quality of life issue?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Restaurant: City Coffeehouse and Creperie

I looked up restaurants before leaving to choose a lunch and two dinners for us while we were in Saint Louis, along with backups.

I did not choose breakfast.

stl 019

stl 016Saturday morning, I did a search on Google maps for “breakfast” near our hotel. We went to City Coffeehouse & Creperie and it was really good. Looking at the website, I got the idea it would be fancier. Inside, the atmosphere was comfortable and the food was good. Nothing too fancy about it. I’ve talked about crepes twice on this blog, and I have two additional places I get crepes. I’d never eaten many crepes until the last few years, but now they are “in the rotation.”

Boy, am I glad we did. We were in a town called Clayton, which seemed to be a business district that was pretty quiet over the weekend. We walked a few blocks to City Coffeehouse, and it was hopping! By the time we left, people were waiting for tables. (We were there early, even after sleeping in, as we were coming from a different time zone.) We ordered at the counter and took an Eiffel-tower shaped number holder to our table.

They have a coffeehouse board of drink selections and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

We split a Belgian waffle with pecans and bananas and a veggie crepe. There were actually several vegetarian selections, including The Provence, which is brie with apples, grapes, and walnuts. That sounds really good. The Veggie had broccoli, carrots, mushroom, spinach, tomatoes, and green onions.

Waffle with two toppings, $6.95 : Veggie crepe, $7.25

I wonder where the other diners were coming from. Maybe there is a nearby residential neighborhood, maybe they are working on Saturday, or maybe they find it worth the drive. We seriously considered going again Sunday morning, but we chose to visit the Gateway Arch instead. I can’t decide if that was a good decision or not.

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