Friday, January 29, 2010

Inspiration from Others

I've been reading blogs for a long time now. I enjoy the variety that's out there and I especially enjoy those that inspire others to live life to the fullest by mixing things up and encouraging folks to try to knew things. Among those kinds of blogs are a few that inspire me to keep exploring the deliciousness of cooking and eating in all its wondrous variety. Some focus more on local cuisine like one of my old favorites Mixed Greens Blog. I've been reading this blog off and on for several years and I always found it amazing when I would visit to catch up on their beautiful posts that many of my posts were along similar lines. Maybe it's because we both live in the Northwest and are tied to the local, sustainable and seasonable way of life. It happened again recently when checking in from a longer than usual absence. Though this blog is not specifically vegetarian it features many foods that are and if you don't come away envying their food photography, I'll know something is wrong with you. A recent post of there's also reminded me of why I can only claim to be 98% vegetarian and not an absolute purist. But maybe only someone who grew up on local shellfish would understand.
A blog I more recently came upon that inspires me is The Voracious Vegan. I'm not a vegan, though many of the meals I prepare are, but this nice lady makes veganism very approachable through her wonderful and creative food posts. And if anyone is inspiring others - she is. You should read all about The Great Vegan Challenge of 2010 where her dad (a very open-minded fellow I might add) had some amazing breakthroughs while eating vegan for three weeks - all meals lovingly prepared by his awesome daughter. I think most people would wish they had such open-minded and willing family and friends when it comes to trying out new ways of eating and living. I for one am very eager to try The Voracious Vegan's Chicken Fried Seitan. Nearly all pre-packaged mock meats out there have yeast in them and since my intolerance to yeast is still alive and vicious having some recipes to try home-made versions is very welcome. I've had seitan before and really liked it and this recipe sounds great. I would love to try it in a vegan version of "Chicken" Marsala - loaded with mushrooms and gravy over mashed potatoes. Oh yum!

Another blog I've been reading regularly these days is Love Veggies and Yoga. And it was a recipe from this blog that I recently tried for myself. My own variation of Averies No Bake Vegan Choc Chip Protein Bars. Now I'm constantly making muffins for Mark - he loves them. But I only feel so-so about muffins and much prefer something that doesn't have any leavening for a snack - like chewy granola bars. Well these are like that, only raw. Though Averie does mention that they could be dehydrated and I may just do that for future backpacking trips. Her recipe (scroll down the page of the above link to find it) suggests, no promises, success no matter what combination of ingredients you put in these. So far she seems to be keeping that promise. I replaced coconut with slivered almonds, didn't add chia seeds since I didn't have any, used chopped dried apricots in place of raisins and cut the sweetener (in my case that was agave syrup) from 1/2 cup to a 1/3 cup. And for my tastes I would cut the sweetener even more the next time I make these. I'd also like to use a more sustainable option for individually wrapping them in the future - I hate throwing away saran wrap - even the non-toxic recycled stuff I use - and wrapping up these bars takes quite a bit of it. The bars were definitely worth making and very simple. I love anything with oats and the banana makes a great addition I wouldn't have thought of on my own. In the future I would enjoy trying these with other nut butters, seeds, nuts and fruits - the combinations are endless as are the adventures for the taste buds.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Smokey Lentil Soup

I'm still working my way through all the delicious recipes of the recent copy of Vegetarian Times Magazine. I wrote about making the Apple Custard Pie with Oatmeal Crust and how any issue of a magazine that devotes a whole section to oats is one well worth its weight in paper and ink. And now I have another recipe to rave about - the Smoky Split Pea Soup which became Smoky Lentil Soup because that's what I had in my pantry. I love versatile recipes and thankfully with a bit of creativity most recipes are just that. This was no different. Here's my version.

Smoky Lentil Soup

1 cup brown lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon bitter smoked paprika
1 heaping teaspoon chipotle puree (blend chipotle in adobo sauce till you have a puree)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium onion
3 ribs celery, diced, including leaves
4 cloves garlic
6 cups water
1 small can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt (optional, but it was a nice final touch and brought out the smokiness of the soup all the more)

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the chipotle puree and the smoked paprika, let cook for a minute or so. Then add the sweet potato, onion and celery. Cover and cook until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, let cook for a couple more minutes. Add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil then turn down to medium low and simmer for about 50 minutes or until the lentils are done. Add the salt and tomatoes and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes longer.

This soup was sweet, savory, smoky and so good I almost let it all disappear before getting a picture.

Now I have to decide what to try next, the Vegetables Korma or the Garlic Kale Soup. Decisions, decisions.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Roasted Parsnips and Cabbage

This is my ultimate comfort food. I've done this dish with a wide variety and many combinations of root vegis, but this is my all time favorite. Mark and I make this a meal often enough - it's so simple and soooo delicious!

Roasted Parsnips and Cabbage

2+ pounds of parsnips, pealed and cut into chunks
1/2 head savoy cabbage (I've used other cabbages but this is the best)
olive oil to coat
sea salt to taste

Place all the ingredients in a covered baking dish and mix well. Cover and bake at 375-400 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking for another 30-40 minutes or until parsnips are very tender and cabbage has started to caramelize in the parsnip juices.

I've added carrots to this when I didn't have enough parsnips. I've also done it with rutabegas, parsnips, and carrots - when Mark said he wanted to try rutabegas since he'd never had them before. It was yummy too. But if I had my way it would be just parsnips and cabbage all the way!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wild Rice Salad

This recipe is based off of a tear-out recipe from one of the Vegetarian Times Magazine subscription inserts. It called for way too much oil and too much dressing overall. I realized this after making the whole batch of dressing and ended up using only a portion of it. The rest of the dressing is waiting for me to come up with something else to dress. In the mean time this rice salad turned out quite tasty. I've altered the original recipe to accommodate the changes that I would make in the future.

I used Lundberg Farms Wild Blend my favorite wild rice blend for most anything. It has a very nutty flavor and great texture.

Wild Rice Salad

1 16 oz package wild rice or blend , cooked according to package directions and allowed to cool.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 c orange juice (I used a fresh squeezed cara cara orange)
2 tablespoons fresh orange zest
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard

Whisk the above ingredients in a large bowl.

1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Combine the wild rice blend, pine nuts, dried cranberries, mint and green onions with the dressing in the large bowl. Refrigerate to let flavors blend.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tofu Baked in Coconut Milk

One of Mark and my favorite items from natural food store delis are the various flavors of baked tofu. These along with a one of the many salad options and we have a very satisfying meal.

I've tried to create a good baked tofu before but with little success. Lately though I've been getting better with sauces and dressing and marinades and decided to give this baked tofu thing another try. The results? Delicious! We served this tofu along side the Quinoa Mango Salad - they were a perfect match!

Tofu Baked in Coconut Milk

1 block firm tofu, well drained and cut into half inch slices

Blend together the following ingredients in an 8X8 baking dish.

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 fruit juice (I used Knudsen's Morning Blend)
1 tablespoon shoyu soysauce
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 t agave syrup

Place the tofu in the sauce in a single layer. Spoon sauce over the tops to coat well. Refrigerate for two hours or more.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35-45 minutes. Serve the slices with the extra sauce drizzled over them.

This is just as good, if not better, served cold the next day.

Quinoa Mango Salad

This was one of the best meals from last week. Mark raved about it while praising me for my diverse cooking abilities. What a good man!

The Quinoa Mango Salad was inspired by Curried Quinoa Salad with Mango from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen. Once again I tweaked it to fit what I had on hand.

Quinoa Mango Salad

1 cup quinoa

In a large saucepan bring salted water o a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for about 12 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain and let cool.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon fruit juice (I used Knudsen's Morning Blend)
1/2 teaspoon agave
1/2 teaspoon stone ground mustard
1/16 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (white pepper would be even better)

Whisk the above ingredients in a medium to large bowl and set aside.

1 mango, peeled and diced
1 medium cucumber, pealed and diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced

Once the quinoa is cool, add it, the mango, cucumber and scallions to the dressing. Toss well to blend.

I loved this salad and I have to admit, I bought more mango and cucumber to make another batch sometime this week. I might add some chopped mint this time just to try something a little different.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Celery Root Bisque with Homemade Garlic Croutons

On one of the recent sunny Seattle winter days (love it!) I was cleaning out the last of the plants from our old p-patch. I had to dig out some enormous parsley plants that had gone to seed and built a root system that meant business. I got my exercise pulling those buggers out! The scent of the broken parsley roots smelled so much like celery root that it lead to a craving for celery root bisque - which I eagerly indulged in.

Celery Root Bisque

3 small to medium celery roots, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium to large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup chopped celery, including leaves
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (I would have used white if I had it on hand)
salt to taste
4 cups homemade vegi stock
4 cups water
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 cup half and half

Melt the butter in a large soup pot/sauce pan. Add the celery and onion and saute till soft, about 8-10 minutes, over medium heat. Add the celery root, potato, stock, water, vinegar and spices. Bring to a boil over high and then turn heat back down to medium/low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the celery root and potato are soft. Puree the soup in a blender in batches. Return to the pan and add the half and half and warm through. Taste for seasonings. Serve with homemade croutons (recipe follows).

Homemade Garlic Croutons

2 cups 1-inch cubes of your favorite bread
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic granules
pinch of salt

Turn on your broiler.

Mix the olive oil, garlic and salt in a medium bowl. Add the bread cubes and toss till well coated.

Place the seasoned bread cubes into a roasting pan and place under the broiler till crisp, being careful to keep them from burning.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Homemade Pumpkin Ravioli with Fried Sage Butter

This post should really be titled, "What NOT to do When Making Pumpkin Ravioli".
What a fiasco. With the disastrous part being discovered upon returning home from a movie after 9:30 on a week night and still needing to have dinner. We THOUGHT we had this taken care of by making the ravioli ahead and refrigerating it until we got home. That turned out to be a bad idea. (We think.)

Here's the whole story:

It's a couple days before our anniversary and we've decided to celebrate early so as to have a whole day instead of just the few evening hours allowed us on week nights. We wanted to make a special dinner, something we could have fun with in the kitchen and yet be done in stages so we could go see a movie (something we rarely do). We set our sights on home made ravioli, something we've made several times before and always enjoy.

This time it was pumpkin ravioli, one I had seen various recipes for and articles about recently. We didn't really follow any one recipe, but made up the filling ourselves inspired from various recipes.

For the Filling:

1 can pumpkin
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of salt

This was blended up and set aside while we made the pasta dough in the Cuisinart and then rolled it out with our pasta maker. We made a double batch of pasta thinking we could freeze the extra ravioli to have on hand for later. In the end we were glad for that extra ravioli, but not for the reason we had planned.

For the Pasta Dough:
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 large egg
warm water as needed

Place the flour and egg in the Cuisinart and blend for 30 seconds. If the dough comes together into a ball that does not stick to the sides of the bowl, then there is no need to add any water. If the mixture is more of a crumb, then add a small amount of warm water while the machine is still going, until a ball forms. At this point run the Cuisinart for about 45 seconds longer. This kneads the dough.

We then used our pasta maker to roll out the dough. And here is were we may have started on the path of disaster. We went one level thinner on the dough than perhaps we should of, wanting a more tender ravioli. However the moisture level in the filling may have been too much for this thin of dough.

We filled and pinched closed the raviolis and then layered them on floured parchment paper and placed them in the refrigerator. This may be the other place where things went wrong. We've never made our ravioli and then put off boiling them for several hours. The combination of the very moist filling, the thinness of the dough and the refrigeration process resulted in very fragile sticky raviolis that would not come loose from the floured paper. We lost over a third of them while trying to get them off the paper and into the boiling water. We lost the filling of several more while they were being boiled.

We still managed to get enough to have a filling dinner, thus the reason we were grateful for making a double batch. The filling itself was only so-so. I would either add some sweetener, perhaps maple syrup or agave syrup, or cut the nutmeg out and use a touch of sage to the filling.

The Fried Sage Butter that we dressed the pasta with was amazing and I plan on using it again for other pasta dishes in the future.

For the Fried Sage Butter:

1/4 cup butter
1 T olive oil
6 sage leaves cut into small strips

Melt the butter in a pan with the olive oil, then add the sage and fry till crisp.

I might even add more sage next time. Sage can be an overwhelming herb, but fried this way it was mellowed signifigantly. And oh so delicious.

We had a side of asparagus roasted in the oven with a little oilve oil and salt to complete the meal and dispite the meal not coming out as planned, it was still tasty and well enjoyed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Vegetables in Coconut Milk

This dish was inspired by a recipe from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, a cookbook that has so many recipes in it that make me hungry, I will eventually have to get my own copy and give up the one from the library.
I was looking for a quick and simple recipe that used several ingredients I had in the house, including coconut milk and vegetables. The Thai-Style Spicy Mixed Vegetables in Coconut Milk over Rice on page 104 came close enough to give me a starting point for what turned out to be a very tasty dinner.

Here's how I made it:

1 1/2 cups coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
2 inch chunk lemongrass, chopped roughly
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons shoyu soysauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
pinch of salt

Place all of the above ingredients into a large pan and simmer gently for several minutes.

Add the following (or whatever combination of vegetables you have on hand):

1 1/2 cups frozen green bean pieces
3 cups of savoy cabbage, shredded
1 large carrot, shredded

Stir the vegetables into the coconut milk mixture, cover and let cook until the vegetables are done to your liking.

Serve over jasmine rice.

One thing that I would do in the future, that the recipe does not call for, is to pick out the shredded kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass chunks after they simmer in the coconut milk and before adding the vegetables. This would make the overall texture of the dish more pleasant.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Apple Custard Pie

The recent issue of Vegetarian Times got me drooling. (A whole section on oats - I love oats!) And the recipe for their Apple Custard Pie with Oatmeal Crust sounded delicious. So I made it. Well my own tweaked version of it,that is. I rarely follow a recipe exactly. This time it had to do with not having some of the exact ingredients on hand - like oat milk and oat flour. I got creative and used some almond milk (that has been in the pantry waiting to be used in some recipe ever since I discovered I don't like to drink straight almond milk.) Whole wheat pastry flour had to take the place of the oat flour. Butter took the place vegan margarine, since that is what I have and tend to use if not using oil. To top it off, literally, I doubled the cinnamon and halved the sugar in the topping.

The Verdict: It came out beautifully in the presentation category. The crust was the highlight of this pie in my opinion and I am looking forward to using it for other pies in the future. The custard was nice and light with a slightly nutty taste, most likely imparted by the almond milk. The main thing I would change in the future is to slice the apples very thin and layer them in stead of using the larger wedges the original recipe called for. I think this would give the pie a more delicate texture, allowing the custard and apple to be appreciated together more thoroughly.

Here's the final recipe as I would do it.

For the crust:

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup oat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup water

For the filling:

2 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup oat or almond milk
3 small apples, peeled, cored, and sliced very thinly.

For the topping:

1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees F. Coat an 8 or nine inch pie plate (I used a 9.5 but the crust would go up higher on the edges with a slightly smaller pie plate) with cooking spray or oil.

2. For the crust: Mix together oats, flour, brown sugar, salt, and the cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in melted butter and water until the mixture forms into a crumbly dough. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust looks dry.

3. For the filling: Whisk together eggs, sugar, and the vanilla. Whisk in the oat or almond milk until smooth.

4. In the bottom of the pre-baked crust, arrange the apple slices. Pour the filling over the apples and return the pie to the oven. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the custard has set.

5. For the topping: Blend the cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the hot pie. Cool on a wrack until serving.