Thursday, February 28, 2008

blah time food

I have not been inspired in the food department as of late. Perhaps it is because it is the Stressful Time at work (month-end: too much month, not enough end), or perhaps it's horomones or the fact that I am more focused on moving at the end of March (getting rid of stuff, packing stuff, finding stuff, finding a place to live...). Whatever it is, I find things go a lot better when I have a plan for the coming week or so of what I want to eat. I'm not an on-the-fly kind of girl.

So here is a brief idea of what I hope to come up with in the next week of foody yumyums:

*Polenta Casserole from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan

*Stewed Tofu and Potatoes in Miso Gravy from VwaV (which I've made before, but it was so yummy I really want to make again at least once before the weather gets too warm)

*Teryaki Quinoa from ED&BV, which I will probably pair with some nice steamed broccoli. This sounds like a good weeknight meal for sure.

*A stir-fry, of some kind. The pomegrantate stir fry on Get Sconed looks so good! Want! I don't know that I'll make that exact one, but the stir fry craving is present and accounted for.

Note that all of these are dinnery things. For my lunches I generally like to bring veggie sandwiches or just leftovers of whatever I made the previous night(s). Being a single person, I always, always have leftovers when I make a recipe, which is great because it makes lunch easy as long as it can be nuked. Yeah, I'm not anti-microwave.

I did manage to make a couple of yummy things this week. Tuesday I made up some Tamari Roasted Chickpeas from ED&BV which were so good! But I think next time I'll try to achieve a crispiness to them. I don't know, maybe they were supposed to be crispy originally. I've been snacking on them at work and now I crave them in a pita with some tomato and cucumber. Yum! Last night in a fit of "I don't want to make something but I have to make something because I am hungry" I made some Merciful Miso Gravy from La Dolce Vegan!, sauteed some mushrooms in garlic and olive oil, and put it all on top of some lightly fried polenta. It was very comforting, indeed. And I have leftover gravy which is super good on ribbon noodles.

My aim as we get into spring and summer is to make up more recipes on my own. I'm seriously considering taking a cooking class or two, because I can follow recipes just fine, but I'd like to build some skills in the usage of herbs and spices, and perhaps just a more rounded understanding of what I can do with veggies and food in general. PCC offers lots of classes, very few of them vegan (though some have the option to become so, so that's good.) After I get myself situated in a new place, it's definitely something I'll be looking into.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

a cookbook review, and a recipe! yay!

Today I received a new cookbook, because I needed one so badly, you know how it is. Yeah. This one is called Please Feed Me: A Punk Vegan Cookbook by Niall McGuirk. It's part cookbook, part memoir of his days running punk venue The Hope Collective in Dublin, Ireland. The recipes aren't indexed and the organization is not by kind of recipe but a chronology of shows put on by Hope, which given the memoir part of the book is the perfect way to put the recipes together. Recipes were submitted by bands and there are all kinds from the complex to the whimsical (bread sandwich, anyone?). It's a great book to flip through and read. The introductions to recipes are longer versions of the introduction at the beginning of the book so might be a bit redundant but no less interesting. If you like the look of any recipe, you'd best mark that page or it might take quite awhile to find it again.

Tonight for dinner, I made something inspired by the Chickpea Pasta recipe in the book. It's pretty simple, but also pretty tasty. Mondays just don't seem like the day for challenges. Especially when I just realized it's Tuesday. That said, I now give you my interpretation of

Chickpea Pasta

1/2 pound pasta (the shell kind are best, like the book says, but I didn't have any)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup frozen peas
1 can garbanzo beans (or 1-1/2 cups soaked and cooked beans)
large pinch dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Boil water and add the pasta. While that's cooking heat the oil over medium heat and cook the garlic until fragrant. Add peas and cook until defrosted and any water has evaporated. Add chickpeas and cook until they're hot. Some of the chickpeas may take on a goldenish color, this is good stuff. Add salt and pepper and thyme. Drain the pasta when it's done, then mix everything together. Add more olive oil if it's too dry. Top with vegan parmesan cheeze. Yum!

chickpea pasta and new cookbook, cuddling

This here is a picture of my breakfast from Sunday, scrambled eggless eggs from How It All Vegan! and tempeh bacon from Vegan w/a Vengeance and toast. So good! So unhealthy but worth it. :)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

the week in food...the weak in food?

At least once a week (but usually twice), I stop at the deli for dinner on the way home instead of making my own food. This isn't good for my health, my wallet, or my attempts at learning to cook, tasty as the Tofu in Spicy Sunrice Sauce may be. Even when I'm planning to make something at home, I will sometimes stop at the PCC deli and buy a "back-up" meal, and if someone told me they did that I would think they were ridiculous. So I set out this week to make my own dinner all five days and eat it, even if I didn't like it. I did have to stop at the store for a couple of things near the end of the week, but the ultimate goal was to not have anything that would be ready in only 2 minutes in the microwave. There were hits, there were misses, but that's just the story of my life.

For dinner on Monday I made up some chiocciole pasta and tossed it with sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, artichoke hearts (from frozen simmered in some water), and a bit of dried basil, salt, and black pepper. It came out looking really pretty and tasting really bland, which was disappointing to say the least. The artichokes had almost no flavor, and it only got better by eating around the artichoke hearts and adding a lot of salt and vegan parm.

But I don't think it's a total wash, there are areas where I think this dish could be improved. I mean look at it! It looks appetizing, and as they say we eat with our eyes, I just need to tweak it so that my mouth will want to eat too. Next time I make this, I'll use water packed artichoke hearts, or at least do some seasoning on the frozen ones to boost their flavor independently of the whole dish. I think fresh basil would be amazing, and as I write this I'm thinking maybe the sun-dried tomatoes whizzed up with basil and a little olive oil and tossed around would be really good. It can be made good! I know it can! I'm not giving up just yet.

After Monday I just wanted something simple, something that would be a sure thing. So I marinated some tofu that I had pressed for almost an hour in a concoction I made up* and keep in the fridge and re-use over and over (one of the many nice things about not working with meat). After marinating I fried the tofu in a little bit of olive oil until it was crispy and paired with brown rice with a little bit of soy sauce and peas. It was delicious! The tofu was nice and chewy, and I felt nice and full like you only can after a good yummy meal. And for lunch the next day, I put more rice and peas and cut up the other piece of tofu I had made into cubes and put soy sauce all over the whole thing. The meat-eaters at my office commented on how good my lunch smelled.

*My Marinade is a loose combination of ginger tamari (you can use ginger and tamari if you can't find ginger tamari), soy sauce, a couple of smashed-up cloves of garlic, some sesame oil, and some water to carry it. Nothing fancy but oh-so yummy on *everything*.

By the time Wednesday rolled around I realized that my craving for simple, comforty food was in my horomones, if you know what I mean, and since I still had a little chiocciole left I decided mac and cheeze sauce was the way to go. Instead of going back to the cheezy sauce from V-con I decided to see if any of the other cheezy sauces from my cookbooks would be any good. I decided to make the Wolfie's Nutritional Yeast "Cheese" Sauce from La Dolce Vegan! It only has 7 ingredients and took maybe 10 minutes. It was just the recipe I was looking for. It came out tangy and cheesy and creamy and so many other good things. I'd like to try the other recipes I have, but this is looking like a front-runner for my go-to cheeze sauce recipe. I tossed the pasta with the sauce and a little black pepper and some salt and at it just like that. It was as comforty as comfort food gets. It wasn't anything fancy but it hit the spot.

Thursday this week was also known as Valentine's day. Since I am in a committed relationship with myself I wanted to do something a little special for myself. After reading Lindyloo's post about V-con's chickpea cutlest I decided it was finally time to try them out, what better time to give myself a little food love? Ho. Ly. Crap! They're so good! Crispy and packed with flavor that left me craving them even after I was completely stuffed (2 is really the maximum anyone should have, seriously.) I'm not sure if I made them as flat as intended, but I also don't really care because they were so delicious and that's what matters. I went with the suggestion Lindyloo posted to just dip them in a little bit of agave nectar and it was wonderful, savory and sweet together and letting the cutlet remain the star. I hope she goes through with her plan to make the cutlets into little dippable nuggets because I plan to copy her. I paired them with a bowl of corn and for dessert I indulged in a pint of Purely Decadent Turtle Trails vegan ice cream. I totally loved myself up right, food-wise with this meal.

Friday I didn't have a lot of time before I went bowling with the local vegan group, so I decided to toast some bread and make a sandwich with a leftover cutlet and some grapeseed vegenaise, lettuce and tomato. Oh, but you know what? It would have been phenomenal with the addition of some fake bacon. Oh! I must do that! Yum! I'm on a woefully beginner level but I'm going to declare this week a total success food-wise and I'm motivated to keep it going. I can't wait to see what I come up with next week. I definitely see more chickpea cutlets on the menu.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mac Daddy'll Make Ya Jump! Jump!

Yesterday I got a flat tire at work. Actually, it appears I drove to work on my flat tire. Without noticing. Let's move on. At my job this sort of thing is considered an occupational hazard and as common as it might be, it is no less a pain in the rear to deal with. Luckily at my job we also have on-site mechanics and understanding supervisors so I was able to get my tire pumped with enough air to get me to the tire place and then a nice coworker drove me back to work (and then back to the tire place to pick up my car). Things that are a pain to deal with alway call for comfort food, and when the call for comfort food is made, I turn to macaroni and cheese. And as if some force had pre-knowledge of how my day would go, I was already planning to make v-con's Mac Daddy. The title of this recipe makes me remember that song "Jump" by Kriss Kross. So then I remember how much I unabashedly LOVED that song when I was 13. Umm...and I think I may have had a crush on Mac Daddy. Or was it Daddy Mac?

What was I thinking???

The recipe calls for elbow macaroni, but I couldn't find that at the co-op but I did find this pasta on sale for $1.99 so I bought two. I have no idea how to pronounce chiocciole, but I have the feeling that if I ever did learn I would repeat it endlessly to myself.

See how the pasta up close kind of looks like the mask from the Scream movies? Doesn't that make it so tempting? Mmmm...scary pasta.

And here's the finished casserole, ready to go in my face! It was pretty damn good, good enough for a second happy helping, but it did not make my head explode with joy. It wasn't as creamy and saucy as I would have liked, but I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to call it "dry", just not creamylicious, and I've identified why that is my fault. 1) I used too much pasta, and this kind of pasta swallows up a lot of sauce in those mouth-looking holes it has. 2) I squeezed too much water out of my tofu and never got that ricotta cheese-like texture I was looking for. Plus the brand of tofu I used seems to be firmer than all other brands based on previous usage. With only that going against it, I would still call this dish and unqualified success and it's still the best vegan mac'n cheeze I've ever had. The cheezy sauce was ridiculously good and I had the idea while I was making it that I would just make it all the time and have batches around the house to put on *everything*, veggies, pasta, my cat, everything.

Dinner was followed up with a smallish container of vegan chocolate mousse from the co-op, and after all was said and done, my goad of comfort through food was smashingly successful. Mission accomplished!

(and I apologize if I got that song stuck in your head. you can come over for leftover mac if you need some comforting)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Tiny Whisk, Cheap Wine, and FOOOOOOOOD!!!

(Sorry about the crappy photos in advance)

I covet kitchen utensils of all kinds. I stare at the food processor I want on Amazon when I should be working. I marvel at the sharpness of fancy knives on TV. Saddest of all, I lay in bed and imagine just the tiny whisk that would make my life 75% better by all measurable standards.

Today my tiny whisk dreams came true! I already have a whisk, but the problem is that it is ridonculously huge and when I am whisking a small amount of stuff, splashing ensues and if I try to rest the whisk on the bowl, it flips and FLOOP! sauce/dressing/broth/whatever all over the place. Not fun. Behold, tiny whisk!

See what I mean? Do other people get excited enough about kitchen utensils to take pictures of them and then post them on their blog? I didn't think so. That's fine. No, really that's fine.

Moving on! I had to buy a bottle of wine to make dinner with this evening, so I searched high and lo at PCC for the cheapest sale on white wine they had. And then I saw it. My destiny in fermented grapes was there on the second shelf from the floor, nestled humbly amongst the $13 bottles of wine. A 2006 Torres Vina Sol. Doesn't it just oooooze class?

And do you want to know what the final deciding factor was in choosing this wine? What made me exclaim out loud "Yay! This one!" (Outbursts at the fancy food co-op are frowned upon, it seems). Well I'll tell you. It was the TINY PLASTIC BULL. Like I was going to choose any other wine. Pss.

Finally, the main event! I decided 2 things today. 1) That just because I am single and eat most of my meals alone does not mean that they don't deserve to be fancy and delicious instead of quick and digestible. 2) What I would finally make from V-con. Because I have been on a severe mushroom kick lately I decided to make the Sauteed Seitan with Mushrooms and Spinach and serve it over quinoa. I loves me some quinoa. HOLY CRAP SO GOOD!!! It is just involved enough to make you feel like you're treating yourself like the awesome person you are, yet easy enough that you don't feel too tired to eat when it's done. Even when just the onions and seitan are in the pan it smells amazing, and then it's like a whole other level once you add the garlic and seasonings. Even if you don't like food, just make it for the smells that will fill your kitchen, that's enough reason. For serious. To conclude, it was really yummy. :-) See how yummy it looks? You want to make it so bad.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

a simple hello

Hello there! My name is Bea and this is a sample of my cookbooks.

From left-to-right they are:
Eat, Drink & Be Vegan
Vegan on a Shoestring
How it all Vegan
Vegan with a Vengeance
La Dolce Vegan!
The Garden of Vegan
Veganomicon (!!!)
Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (it was a Christmas gift)
Please Don't Feed the Bears
Hot Damn & Hell Yeah!
Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker
Vegetarian Planet
Vegan Planet

I've been collecting cookbooks for several years, I got it from my mom, and serves only to feed my addiction. My two most recent cookbook acquisitions are Veganomicon and Vegan on a Shoestring. I'm 28 now, I was a vegetarian for 2 or 3 years in high school, and then I reverted back to eating meat until almost a year ago. Some other post I will talk about what brought about that change. I calculate that I eat about 99.7% vegan now, I am strict at home and working on being stricter when the time comes. I started this blog to motivate and encourage myself to branch out into fancier foods more often, not just every once every few weeks while eating various grain/salad/prepared deli stuff the rest of the time. Being a single person it's not always easy to feel like it's worth the trouble to make something awesome just for yourself but if I'm going to be taking pictures of it that's a whole different beast.

I'm also hoping in the future my posts will have a little better writing/focus/point/direction to them but this is good for now. If this blog was the experience of making a recipe, this is the part where you go to the store for the stuff you need I think. Possibly it's the part where you're bringing it home, possibly.

My most notable food experience of late was making the Stewed Tofu and Potatoes in Miso Gravy from VwaV. It was the most ambitious thing I've ever made but so worth it. The gravy was savory and thick, I pressed my tofu for over an hour so it was super chewy, as were the potatoes (I used dutch yellows, so buttery). I ate it for the next week and literally said goodbye and that I would miss it when it was all gone. I am deciding between making it again or actually branching out and trying something from one of my new cookbooks or one of the older books I haven't used much. It's so very hard to decide.

Something else I made recently with only half-success was stuffed peppers. My friend told me her recipe for stuffed delicata squash which was shallots, quinoa, and pine nuts in lots of Earth Balance. I took it from there and added sauteed mushrooms and thyme and bits from the tops of the green peppers I was using. The pepper part turned out not so hot because I didn't parboil them, I think. But the stuffing itself was just fine on it's own, so it wasn't a complete loss. This is the sort-of recipe:

1 cup quinoa
big tablespoon Earth Balance
1 shallot, finely diced
6-8 crimini mushrooms, sliced
handful of pine nuts
1/4 cup or so of diced green pepper (or whatever pepper, I think red would be nice)
dried thyme, black pepper, salt to taste

Cook the quinoa with 2 cups water as you would rice, either on the stove top or rice cooker. I use my food steamer's rice bowl thing. This part is really up to you.

In a pan, melt the EB and when that's hot add your shallots and mushrooms, sautee until the mushrooms are browned and have almost released all their moisture. Then add the diced pepper and thyme, black pepper, and salt, however much you like is fine. I learned from Isa to crush the thyme before adding and have never looked back. Cook all that together until it's done, combine it with the quinoa. Add more seasonings if need be. At this point you can either stuff it into peppers (if you do, parboil the peppers in salted water for five minutes first) and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. OR! You can just eat the quinoa mixture with a nice salad on the side, it is up to you.

I am off to make breakfast and figure out what my next food adventure will be. Thanks for reading!