Thursday, July 29, 2010

Refrigerator Pickles

I bought some little pickling cucumbers a while ago.

DSC_0130 Right after I brought them home, I scrubbed off the dirt and sliced them up.

003Then boiled some white vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt and poured this over the cucumbers and red onions in a jar, along with some coriander seeds.

012Then I hid them in the back of the fridge, planning to pull them out in a week.

Now, a week and a half later, I remembered about them. At first, I couldn’t get the lid off the jar; I think the temperature change affected the pressure. This isn’t official canning, folks. This was my first attempt at anything like this.

I don’t really like sweet pickles, so I can only be surprised that I chose to make these.

I don’t know what I was thinking putting in red onion – I must have had my wires crossed between following an online recipe and having recently read about how popular red onion pickles are in town. I’ve always been a sucker for peer pressure, but I sometimes get it wrong.

Next time, I’ll make red onion pickle if that’s what I want, and I’ll figure out how to make dill or garlic pickles and make those. Or just keep buying them semi-homemade from the farmers’ market when I want something not-Vlasic.

For now, though, my sweet man will get his fill of absolutely fine (but not my flavor) refrigerator pickles.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Tomato and Corn Soup

I bought lots of tomatoes to make another batch of my beloved smothered okra. Instead, Alex told me he would try some fried okra. So, I fried the okra, along with some green tomatoes. It’s easy enough once you go through the work of heating up a whole skillet of canola.

013Fried okra; fried green tomatoes with creamy tofu-celeriac sauce from Vegan Soul Kitchen

But what to do with all my tomatoes? Tomato soup! Soup in the summer? Even if you don’t want a hot soup in the summer, there’s no doubt that’s when you get the best tomatoes. So, I made tomato soup. And I enjoyed it.

I compared recipes from both Veganomicon and Vegan Soul Kitchen, did a bit of combining, and ended up mostly following Terry Bryant’s recipe from Vegan Soul Kitchen for Charred Plum Tomato and Sweet Corn Soup with a Kick, without the crispy okra strips he includes (I’d used up my okra!). It was time consuming, but not difficult, and it was well worth the time. This made a large batch of soup that’s good cold, straight from the fridge, or even better warmed slightly to just below room temperature.

2010-07-22 Before and after photos of my corn to corn broth and tomato halves to oven-roasted tomatoes.

This soup starts with a corn stock, made from corn cobs in water. I boiled this down while the tomatoes roasted in the oven. In my photos, you’ll see that I did not take off the tops of the tomatoes before they roasted because I figured I would remove them after they cooked. This was a mistake I hope to only make once. It was messy work getting those tops off!

The whole recipe is so simple: corn stock, roasted tomatoes with their juices, roasted garlic, onion, and the corn reserved from the cobs. It’s so fresh and delicious. The kick is from red pepper flakes and it was just spicy enough and the even the roasted tomatoes taste fresh and summery. I enjoyed mine with some cilantro.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Homemade Pasta Success

I have a confession. There is a steak house I’ve eaten at twice, and I’ve had the best pasta primavera in my life there, twice. What was so great about this pasta? Sure, it was a steak house, but it was also a restaurant that serves high-quality dishes, so the pasta, vegetables, and sauce were all fresh. I wonder if anyone else even orders this delicious dish, but they still put together a good meal. Maybe people who are trying to save a buck order it; at $20, it’s the cheapest dish on the menu. (I am trying to save a buck. The first time was during restaurant week, and the second time was after I had purchased a gift certificate at a discount.)


Homemade pasta with eggplant and tomato sauce, and broccoli.

I love pasta, and fresh pasta is much better than dried noodles. This was my second attempt at making my own fresh pasta, and it came out really well. I can certainly see that my practice is paying off, and it can only get better from here. I feel like I should put this gifted pasta roller attachment for my mixer to work more often.


Cut noodles drying. Not the prettiest arrangement, but I’m happy I had so many good noodles.

I used a recipe from Vegan Dad that is simply semolina, white flour, oil, and water. Most homemade pasta recipes include eggs, so what I liked about this one is that it simply omits them rather than trying to replace them. If you have the right equipment, this isn’t too difficult and is certainly a nice switch from dried pasta.

I’m putting more fresh pasta on my ever-growing, unwritten list of things to make again. Ravoli, maybe?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Restaurant: Melt, for vegan supper sandwiches

I’ve recently realized that I have plenty of options for dining out in Cincinnati, so I’ve started taking my camera with me more often again. I’ve posted on Melt before, but for brunch. We recently went for dinner – keeping in mind they close at 8:00 p.m. I remember that closing time because we missed it once. If you find yourself there between 8 and 9, head next door to Picnic & Pantry, their new micromarket and specialty foods shop that also stocks Melt’s pre-made sandwiches and salads. While we waited for our meals, I wandered over to see what they have to offer and wasn’t impressed, but if I lived closer I could imagine myself dropping in for items not available at the typical supermarket.

Alex is a big eater and has mentioned before that he sometimes feels hungry after getting a just sandwich at Melt. I’m typically satisfied with the portions, but I agreed to split a salad. We chose the Spring Roll Toss, made with baby spinach, shredded carrots, cilantro, bean sprouts, red bell pepper, cucumber, and toasted almonds. The house-made dressing was a delicious ginger-hoisin vinaigrette. Even with all the toppings, this salad didn’t feel remarkable. The dressing was good, but this wasn’t our main event anyway.

I chose a sandwich that I’ve never ordered before, but I’ve tried a bite of it because it’s one of Alex’s favorites. They call it the Yee Haw Barbecue and it’s actually hidden in the “super-clean meats” section of the menu, but you can get it with seitan and vegan cheese. This is a whole wheat hoagie stuffed with seitan and their delicious barbecue sauce, plus yellow banana peppers. In my photo you can hardly see the barbecue sauce, but there’s plenty of it and it’s really tasty and adds tons of flavor, truly making this a barbecue sandwich.

Each of their sandwiches comes with a choice of a side, and I selected the ginger rainbow slaw. I’m accustomed to getting slaw with my barbecue. It was pretty good. They have many sides to choose from (and all are vegan), including rosemary redskin potatoes, mixed green salad, Sun Chips, fruit salad, hummus and chips, and tabouli. Alex likes the rosemary redskins, and I usually try different things depending on my mood. Plus it’s been a very long time since we’ve been to Melt for any meal besides brunch.

Alex’s sandwich looks strikingly similar to mine: he chose the Veggie Cheesesteak. This is also seitan on a whole wheat hoagie, but topped with grilled onions and mushrooms. You can see the rosemary redskins behind the sandwich. He likes both items doused with the curry catsup they have on tables. (Yes, they spell it catsup but they draw special attention to it being HFCS-free.)

002 Melt is one of my favorite places in Cincinnati. Their menu has expanded several times since I started visiting. It’s the first place I ever tried tofu scramble, even though I prefer my own scramble these days.

I’m very happy that they make vegan and vegetarian food so accessible and visible. The menu is divided half and half (meat and not) so unlike an all-veg restaurant, they attract all kinds of diners. Melt was voted one of Cincinnati’s top-ten overall restaurants in the latest City Beat readers’ poll and snagged the top vegetarian spot for several years running. These piggy recognition certificates were posted right by my table.

If you go, be sure to check out the patio out back if the weather’s nice and keep in mind there is a second indoor dining room in the back.

Melt on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Grilled Pizza and Homemade Pesto


In the summer heat, I decided to grill a pizza so I could have homemade pizza without having to turn on the oven. I adapted Ina Garten’s recipe and used only whole-wheat flour, yeast, warm water, and olive oil and rolled it into two pies. I followed her directions and cooked the dough on the grill first, a few minutes per side, then Alex and I each topped our own.

I think next time (and yes, there will be a next time!) I would start with the toppings on the crusts. The only drawback I can see is that it might be too difficult to transport the fully topped raw dough to the grill. The dough puffed up, and by the time I was trying to heat my toppings, the bottom was close to burning.


I pre-cooked my toppings on the stovetop: red bell pepper, onion, and cremini mushrooms. I also made a pesto from my homegrown basil plus almonds, olive oil, roasted garlic, and salt. This was a delicious base for the pizza. Finally, I topped it with some pitted calmata olives.

This was a delicious pizza, and I think you can see in my photo how crisp the dough was. I rolled it out thinly, but I am still perfecting my circle formation. Tastes the same, though.

I’m ready to grill pizzas again, and soon! What are your favorite toppings? I think I want to do one with black beans and salsa next.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quick & Easy Cheater’s Chili


I’m all for convenience foods, on occasion. As much as cooking can be relaxing, I often feel pressured to get a good meal on the table. The more I cook, the more often I’ve heard Alex (meaning well) tell me that he’d rather have whatever I make over whatever we can buy going out.

There’s other reasons to eat at home, too, though. It’s often cheaper than going out. I do have some restaurant reviews coming up, and I go out sometimes even when I don’t post – like last night, I went to Lavomatic with some friends after a discussion group. I’d already eaten supper before I went out, and I spent $20 on a glass of wine, a bowl of gazpacho, and tip. I don’t know that I’ll ever be at a point in my life when I can do that regularly.

This is cheap, easy, and tasty. I threw all these ingredients into a slow cooker during a break from work: Bush’s chili magic chili starter, Boca crumbles, chopped onion, and canned crushed tomatoes. After this had cooked a while, I added frozen corn. Serve with leftover cornbread. I like it with Fritos, too.

This warm meal is good even in the summer, and it’s one of Alex’s favorites all year round. We compromise: one night okra, one night chili.

Here’s a shout out for something I’ve read on a few different blogs: blueberry smoothies! I’ve been having smoothies all summer but I normally stick to strawberry or spinach with my banana. I used some of my farmers’ market blueberries to make a delicious smoothie this afternoon.

025 Blueberry smoothie in my blue glass: banana, ice, blueberries, soymilk. Simple and delicious!

I love stepping outside and enjoying a nice smoothie and a break from work. Everyone have a great Friday and a better weekend! I hope I didn’t sound too tired in this post, it’s been a bear of a week for me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Smothered Okra Success

Remember the smothered okra I had at DeJaVu? I tried it at home. I searched for recipes and ended up winging it, but I did consult a recipe from Emeril Lagasse. I started by making a half-batch of his Essence spice blend. I made a mess on the table, but it reminded me of making a sand art jar when I was a kid. I loved those, you filled in your jar with layers of colored sand. And yes, I got myself a label maker when I started buying in bulk. I’m a nerd like that.

DSC_0068 Essence: paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne, oregano, and thyme

I didn’t follow the recipe for the smothered okra exactly because I didn’t consult the recipe prior to shopping. I made this with chopped onion and garlic, which I cooked for a few minutes in olive oil while I prepared my tomatoes and okra.

I used two large tomatoes and cut them into large pieces, and I cut my okra into thirds. I’m really glad I used fresh tomatoes over canned, even though I was worried at first whether this would work. But fret not, you can stew fresh tomatoes! I didn’t buy a lot of okra since Alex doesn’t like it. In fact, he refused to try the okra in this dish and ate some tomatoes while carefully avoiding the okra!

I added my tomatoes, okra, and a cup of vegetable broth and cooked for a long time, along with a healthy dose of the Emeril’s Essence seasoning. I let this cook for close to two hours. The tomatoes no longer resembled fresh tomatoes, but were indeed like the stewed tomatoes I’ve had oftentimes from a can. The okra wasn’t slimy after all this cooking, either, and the heat from the cayenne really kicked in. I enjoyed this very much. It’s fine that I ate every bit of it, and Alex doesn’t believe what he was missing.

DSC_0084 Summer veggie plate: mashed sweet potatoes, summer squash, green beans, smothered okra, and cornbread

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garlic-Cardamom Grilled Vegetables

Is anybody else out there a huge NPR nerd? I listen frequently, and although I don’t always find time to listen to The Splendid Table, I heard it this past Sunday. They discussed a recipe I found so intriguing that I tried it just a few days later. I made Julie Sanhi’s Grilled Vegetables in Garlic-Cardamom Marinade. When I heard the story, I already had an eggplant and zucchini that I planned to grill, and this marinade sounded so tasty that I got a few extra ingredients and put it all together.

Several of the ingredients here are foods I’ve never used before, including fennel and cardamom. I’m so excited to try new things. One other new thing I’ve done this week is to pull out my serving dishes and use those (some for the first time, ever) even when it’s just two of us.

007 Eggplant, zucchini, red and green bell peppers, red onion, fennel, and scallions

The marinade was light, but bright and fresh because it was mostly lime juice, cilantro, and garlic, plus some other spices and oil. I put in a whole chopped jalapeno, but I didn’t get any heat at all. I was a little worried that I’d find all the jalapeno bits in one bite, but thankfully I didn’t!

These vegetables were delicious. While I grilled, Alex went to our neighborhood Indian place and got a takeout dish and rice to go along with the vegetables.

So far, I’m doing pretty well on my pledge to use the grill more frequently. Up next? Grilled pizzas!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Minted Tomato Salad


This is a recipe straight from The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas. I made this last summer with some fresh tomatoes and was hungry for it again, and this is better when the tomatoes are really good and ripe. I made this yesterday afternoon right after my trip to the farmers’ market.

The recipe includes feta, but it’s just as good (better!) without the cheese. I planned to use the leftovers on pasta, but alas, there were no leftovers.

This is a simple salad of tomatoes, red onion, garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh mint and basil.


We gobbled this up on baguette slices. I love piling the little slices high and getting the bread soggy with the tomato juice and balsamic.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Weekend Update


I hope everyone is having a great weekend! I just wanted to post a few photos here, the first being the goodies I picked up from the farmers’ market this morning. Lots of good things are coming this week! But the heat is back; I was shopping at 9:30 this morning and it was already hot. I think being in an asphalt parking lot didn’t help. No wonder we need air conditioning when we replace our trees with black pavement! I’m headed to an outdoor concert tonight, and I’m already dreading the heat.


I also saw a deer in our backyard this morning and took a few photos. Here she is in our neighbor’s yard (we don’t have a fence on this side). Now, I do live in Ohio but I live in the city and I always get uncomfortable when I see the deer out here.

If you don’t already read Vegan Crunk, you should. Check it out now and enter a giveaway for soap nuts. Once you find out what they are, you’ll want them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dessert! Blueberry crumble

Maybe I should have given more thought to naming my blog. I rarely make desserts. I don’t crave them. I enjoy a sweet treat every now and then, but I don’t go nuts for brownies or chocolates. My favorite dessert is a nut-laden oatmeal cookie.

Lately, the market has been overloaded with blueberries, and the farmers are just trying to sell their stock. I picked some up and went debated the merits of muffins over pancakes, but I decided to give the crumble a try. I’ve made something like this before with rhubarb (which was a bit tart for my taste) – but the crumble part of that dessert was delish.


To make this, I adapted and combined a bunch of recipes. I was looking for something that contained oats, walnuts, and sugar. My crumble was like a chewy granola bar, and the blueberry flavor really shined through. Here’s what I did:

Toss the blueberries with some orange juice, a little sugar, and some corn starch (this will help soak up some of the liquid ooze).

For the crumble, combine with your fingers or a fork

  • 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons cold Earth Balance
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
  • A pinch of salt

Crumble the crumble (get it?) over the berries. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes. Enjoy warm.

The crumble mix may seem a little dry, but when the berries bake their juices ’splode, so it’ll all turn out okay. Then again, I mentioned that I liked this because it was like a chewy granola bar, so you don’t have to take my word for it.

Turning on the oven for a summer treat with these fresh blueberries was well worth it.


The weather here has cooled down some (hence the oven recipes lately!), and two nights ago it was cool enough to open the windows. The cats loved this, and my tabby cat I’ve had for seven years was nice enough to share the window with one of our new cats. This is a big deal, folks. She’s been a mean old lady ever since I brought in the two kittens in March. Front and center: a Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan beer I found in the grocery store in Memphis.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Black Bean and Portabella Enchiladas

I love enchiladas. I used to be turned off by the texture of the sauce-logged tortillas, but somehow it’s grown on me. That might be a product of what I’m putting in them these days, though. I used a recipe I found online a while ago and that I’ve reworked and adapted so many times that this time I cooked from memory.

DSC_0037 Not the most photogenic meal, but a good one!

Although they fell apart when I served them, these enchiladas are corn tortillas stuffed with onion, green bell pepper, portabella, and black beans, and topped with enchilada sauce. I used a whole (small) can of diced green chiles. Yikes, this was hot – I just about halved the recipe but I used the whole amount of chiles. What was I going to do, save them? Next time, yes! I had to cool my plate with shredded iceberg and more Tofutti Better than Sour Cream than I’d like to admit.


I cut the recipe in half because it makes enough for a 13x9 full of enchiladas just using one onion, 1-2 portabellas, and 1 can of black beans, with enough filling left over to scatter across the top. That means I still have leftovers. And these guys get hotter in the refrigerator! I find this heat so much harder to handle than sriracha or red pepper flakes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hot & Cold Lettuce Wraps

Do you like P.F. Chang's? I like having a restaurant to suggest when the occasion arises for group dining and no one has any ideas that will accommodate me. I rediscovered this restaurant chain when I was living in Philadelphia, and (at the time) the only location was way in the ‘burbs. Way, way, out. An hour out. But I made the trek once or twice, usually coupled with a visit to the Brandywine River Museum. (Andrew Wyeth, anyone?)

Here in Cincinnati, I’m pretty close to a P. F. Chang’s store, but I still decided to try their signature lettuce wrap appetizer at home. This wasn’t an exact replica, but it was still tasty!


I started by pressing my tofu, about 1/3 of the block, diced small. I marinated it in soy sauce, fresh grated ginger and garlic, and lime juice. I broiled it. I used the rest of the tofu in a stir fry.

Separately, I cooked chopped onion, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. I cut everything small to be roughly the same size in the wraps. Then I tossed in the broiled tofu so it could soak up some of the mushroom juice.

I made a sauce of hoisin, ginger, pepper paste (Sambal Oelek), rice vinegar, and soy sauce. This was nice and hot!

Serve this mix up scooped generously in iceberg lettuce cups along with some fresh cilantro and bean sprouts, if you have any. I promise if I ever decide to make a cookbook, I’ll be more specific with my measurements – but for now, do everything to taste!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Patty cookout: Bulgur Burgers


My series of trying different burgers has been on pause, but I brought it back with what I consider the most delicious one yet: bulgur burgers from Epicurious. I found these when searching for a new recipe to use some bulgur I had on hand and I couldn’t resist.

These patties are formed from cooked bulgur, pinto beans, and walnuts and seasoned with onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and cayenne. I ended up throwing in some wheat gluten, too, to try to hold them together but I wound up just stuffing them in foil pouches before throwing them on the grill.


I also grilled some corn on the cob. This is my favorite way to eat corn.

You just have to be sure to trim the ears so no silk tempts the flame, and then soak them in ice water for at least 20-30 minutes. After you grill them in the husks, the silk falls away and the corn is tender and moist.

We only ate two of the four ears and the leftovers were great later, too. I cut them off the cob for storing in the fridge.

You can hardly see my sides, but I served this with cole slaw I made from Vegan Soul Kitchen. It’s a dressing of tofu and vinegar poured over thinly sliced raw cabbage. I made this the night before so it would be ready to eat the night we grilled out.


I know I’ve talked about the slow cooker being a way to keep the kitchen cool in the summertime, but grilling out is the obvious option! With so many vegetables at their peak now, I think I’ll be grilling out again, soon. What is your favorite grilled food? I am ready to put this to use!

As soon as I left apartment living and moved into a house, I bought a grill. Seriously, it was a housewarming gift for us.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Creole Soul in Memphis

I tried a new restaurant on my recent trip to Memphis! I’m excited because I typically find my myself going back to the same favorites each time I visit. DeJaVu has a vegan section on their menu, plus lots of non-vegan stuff people are raving about on Yelp and Urbanspoon. My folks each ate a chicken dish and weren’t impressed, but Alex and I both enjoyed our meals.

DeJaVu has two locations in Memphis, one downtown and the other newly opened in Hickory Hill. We visited the Hickory Hill location. It’s the larger location and even has space for live music on the weekend. Our visit was for a late lunch on Saturday and the place had a few leisurely diners scattered, televisions mounted on the wall showing ESPN bowling, and music playing over the speakers. The place felt cool, clean, and bright.

They brought out glasses of ice water, a bowl of lemon wedges, and corn muffins. The corn muffins are not vegan, but I hear they’re good. The restaurant has traditional New Orleans food (gator stew, anyone?) as well as Southern Soul standards and a handful of vegan entrees.

All of the vegetable side dishes are vegan. If you’re not familiar with Southern cooking, that may sound confusing. I think it’s remarkable, because it can be tough to even get vegetarian vegetables when everything is “seasoned” with ham hock, fat back, bacon grease, or chicken stock. All unnecessary – diners at DeJaVu may not even notice that the meat is missing in their sides. All the ones I tried were good, too, and I think if I go back I’ll get a 4-veggie plate. And I’ll be sure to try the grilled cabbage.

I chose the mock chicken salad. This was good, but messy. That can’t be a complaint. The salad was tasty and the portion was generous. I chose collard greens and smothered okra for my sides. The greens were good, tender and salty. The smothered okra was my favorite, though, even though it was a little on the sweet side (pictured above, under the sweet potatoes). I love okra, but I don’t eat it much since it scares Alex. And as I found out during lunch, my mom doesn’t like it with tomatoes, so this dish was unlike anything I’ve had before, even though it’s not uncommon. Given different circumstances, this could be a staple. I think I’m going to make something like this at home.

Alex chose the veggie rolls. These were delicious, if heavy, deep fried eggroll style. They were stuffed with curried cabbage, carrots, and raisins and served with a spicy-sweet sauce. The cabbage and carrots were delicious together. He chose spinach and sweet potatoes for his sides. These were both good, and the sweet potatoes were sweeter than most desserts, but he has a sweet tooth and cleaned his bowl.

The only other side I tried was the red beans and rice, which was good and even got the stamp of approval from my mom. These red beans were just spicy enough and in red gravy, topped with fluffy white rice. She also got collard greens, like me, and my father only chose one side: spinach. He liked that so much it was gone before he offered a bite to my mom.

The good news for me is that this place is right around the corner from my grandparents, so I’ll plan to drop in whenever I visit them. That’s not the only reason, convenient as it is, so even after they “leave town” as Papa says, I’ll stop by when I’m in town.

DeJaVu New Orleans Creole Soul Food & Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Gigantic Zucchini

I mentioned before that my father gave me a gigantic zucchini. I know that some vegetables lose their flavor the larger they become, and my father seemed to be thinking along the same lines when he asked if the zucchini tasted okay. The answer? A resounding YES.

I did a quick Google search for gigantic zucchini and found many, many images and recipes for zucchinis larger than mine, but this one is still five times bigger than any I’ve seen in the store. I cooked this up yesterday in two recipes, thankfully using only ingredients I had on hand as I haven't been shopping since my return from my trip.

Zucchini The gigantic zucchini in a 13x9 pan. I need to ask how much it cost.

This is half the zucchini in a 13x9 pan. I used the other half to make spelt zucchini bread from Vegan Brunch, a great success I’ve already told you about. Yes, this zucchini made two full recipes.

Prior to my trip, I’d been perusing Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, a cookbook my mom gave my for Christmas (along with a slow cooker!). I figured slow-cooking was perfect for summer as a way to cook with little energy and not to heat up the kitchen. Plus, I was hoping to find some recipes that I could prepare ahead of time so I didn’t have to bother with cooking supper after work. This stuffed zucchini recipe had already caught my eye. One of the things I love most about cooking more is getting a feel for what flavors I like most and what recipes are likely to turn out well.

This recipe turned out really well. So, so good. How can I tell? I ate the leftovers for lunch, and I’d be ready to eat another helping now. Seriously. We divided the giant zucchini in to thirds and each had a third for supper, plus my third for lunch today. And if there was another piece, I can guarantee it would be gone now that I’m hungry once again.

This is a hollowed zucchini stuffed with onions, garlic, cannellini beans, diced tomato, the zucchini I scooped out, basil, and pine nuts. Plus salt and pepper and a bit of olive oil. I baked this in the oven while my zucchini bread baked and served with a side of whole wheat penne with jarred Newman’s sauce and Upton’s Naturals Italian-sausage style seitan.

My only complaint is really my fault: because this was a slow cooker recipe, some of the beans dried out in the oven. Maybe next time I’ll make a real pesto from the basil and pine nuts to add some moisture, or if my zucchini are smaller, I’ll throw all this in the slow cooker. I know that’s a really energy-efficient way to cook, so I hope to do more of that soon.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A little about me, and a little about food

I’m back home. After a hectic first day back at work, looking back at the photos from my visit home makes me want to go back. I used home twice, but it’s not really like that even though it’s nice to go back and visit my hometown. I grew up in Memphis, a small city. When I meet people and told them I’m from Tennessee, they usually assume I’m a country girl. Well, I don’t like to wear shoes, but I’m not really a small town girl. Now, though, my parents have moved north of the city and indeed have their own little country paradise.

The backyard, with a wandering cat they call PawPaw drinking from the bird bath.

Here, we have three cats, but I’ve always considered myself more of a dog person. Alex said that I needed to get all my doggy desires out of the way during this visit. My mom has a sweet, playful tugging dog named Mac.

My father holding the dog, holding his beloved stick.

During the visit, I cooked with my mom. We even ate a stir fry with peanut sauce and tofu one night, a super-quick meal with tacos made from Boca crumbles, and barbecue-sauced tempeh. All these things went really well with fresh local corn (about 20 minutes of the drive to their house is through cornfields), the reddest tomatoes I’ve seen all year, and fresh red and green bell peppers. Oh yeah, and watermelon and strawberries. There were produce stands everywhere along the roadside headed out to my parents home, and Memphis, like Cincinnati, is buzzing with talk of farmers’ markets. My father brought home a gigantic zucchini that I’ll tell you about later, he gave it to me to take home and cook. I conquered the beast!

My mom also made a key lime cake, which Alex was particularly excited about because I almost never make desserts – and on the same page was a recipe for a pinto bean pound cake. I think I may have to try that. I love beans.

I also went out for a few meals, which I'll also tell you about soon. I had the pleasure of meeting Bianca from Vegan Crunk for lunch and got some good tips on where to eat while I’m in town. I had fun, and if anyone reading happens across Cincinnati, I’d love to meet you and have a good meal. (When I mention this, eyes usually roll just before a polite smile is forced, but I tell you – people underestimate the ’Nati!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Rita’s Water Ice, in Tennessee!

One hot night last week, Alex mentioned that he wanted some water ice. In Philadelphia, where he’s from, this stuff is everywhere. Water ice is, as far as I can tell, the same thing as Italian ice, but it’s not a sno-cone or shaved ice. I searched the web to find our nearest ice location and discovered that Rita’s is a national chain with a few stores scattered through several states in addition to the plentiful stores around Philly.

The nearest shop to Cincinnati is in Kettering, but I found that there’s a shop in Collierville, Tennessee, and we were out that way visiting my grandparents. A perfect excuse for an icy treat!

I got a Sweet Tea flavored ice. It was delicious! I typically like the fruity flavors but I couldn’t pass up trying the tea flavored ice. Every flavor I’ve tried at Rita’s has been very close to what it claims to be, and this was right on target. Alex chose a cherry gelati, which is ice sandwiched between frozen custard. He guessed his ice had both real cherries and artificial coloring. He also mentioned that compared to the ice, the custard almost tasted warm! So this is a real hot summertime treat that is colder than ice cream.

As far as I can tell, the ice is HFCS-free and they do offer sugar-free ice flavors, but I prefer real sugar over both HFCS and calorie free sweeteners when I want a treat. If you find yourself near a Rita’s, stop in – I know I will!

I hope everyone is enjoying your weekend at the 4th, if you’re so inclined. The sun is headed down, so I’m out for some fireworks.