Monday, March 29, 2010

Food Revolution and Life

Have you ever had so much on your to do list that you just want to sit down and give up?  That is how life has felt the last few weeks.  I think we all go through times like this and the good thing is that there's usually a light at the end of the tunnel and we just cross our fingers hoping it isn't a train.  It's not a train, right?

I've got lots of great recipes and food related posts waiting to be shared but so little time to get them up here.  I hope you will hang in there till I get myself better organized.  In the time that I haven't posted as often I have also been doing some soul searching.  What do I want out of this and my other blogs?  Who do I want to reach?  What do I hope to accomplish?  The answers to these questions are many but ultimately I want to bring some joy into people life and also inspire them.  Inspire people to think outside the box, to make changes that are good for them, their families, their communities and this earth.  On a food blog that's going to be about doing all those things in relation to - well, food.  Preaching to the choir isn't what it's all about.  It's great, it lovely, it's nice to have at least a few people that don't get all weirded out or defensive or think you're whacked because you care about what you put into your body and what others put into theirs.  But the real change happens when people see what you're doing and get excited about it and maybe try it little by little themselves.  That little by little can add up and the next thing you know big changes are happening around you, in your own life, in your families lives an in your community.

That's exactly the kind of thing that Jamie Oliver is after in Food Revolution and he's up against some pretty big barriers.  But he cares, he's got an audience and he's going to make a difference.  If you haven't seen the shows yet, please give yourself the time to sit down and watch them.  It's worth it.  Really it is.

And I'll be back soon, a little more organized and full of stuff to share.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CSA Shares and Simple Navy Bean Soup

I just finished a wonderful lunch of left over navy bean soup that was whipped up yesterday and I'm still nibbling on the sweet and juicy pear from our last CSA box from Full Circle Farm.

And I'm mentally jumping for joy to hear that my sister in-law and brother in-law are signing up for a share from Full Circle Farm as well!

All this thinking about CSAs has me eagerly awaiting tomorrow's box.  I've been dreaming up what I will do with all that delicious produce since I finalized my selections this weekend.  I'm especially excited about getting a double order of eggplant this week - completely out of season, but something I've been craving for a few weeks now.  I want to make the simple oven roasted eggplant with anchovy that I found in my mother in-law's Silver Spoon cookbook and I want to try my hands at a recipe I came across online for eggplant "bacon" that gets marinated and then put on the dehydrator for a while.  It sounds very intriguing.  If I'm lucky enough to have any eggplant left (doubtful) I might make up a batch of Baba Ganoush to go with the Chipotle Garlic Hummus recipe I'm planning on making.  I found that recipe in the Tassajara Cookbook I've got checked out from the library (I really want a copy of this one for my collections!).  That would give us some good picnic foods for the weekend.  Something to take along for our outing to the Seattle Tilth Spring Plant Sale that we are going to with some friends.

For tonight though I'm roasting up some parsnips and cabbage for a veggie St. Patrick's Day dinner.  Yum!

Here's the Simple Navy Bean Soup recipe:

In the morning:

2 cups dry small white navy beans
8 cups water
1 Bay or Myrtle Leaf

Put all of the above in a slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on low setting.

When it's getting closer to dinner time:

2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
1-2 tsp earth balance or butter or olive oil

Saute all of the above in a large stock pot till slightly softened.  Add the beans and their broth, discarding the bay leaf.  Add smoked sea salt to taste (that's my secret ingredient!).  Bring to a simmer to blend flavors.  Right before serving stir in a 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley.

We served this with garlic bread  - the perfect thing to sop up the last of the bean broth in your bowl.  This soup tastes even better the next day!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Covetous Coconut Creations

Pirates made from coconuts - so funny!  I could be a coconut pirate, but for now I'll just share some other coconut creations to covet.

I opened the fridge yesterday to grab a scone when I noticed a leftover container with something in white in it.  Not recalling what it could be I cautiously opened the lid and peeked inside.  It looked like whipped cream.  Had Mark been holding out on me?  When did we get and whip up any whipped cream?  Then I sniffed.  The whipped cream smelled like coconut.  Next I stuck my finger into it (it felt like whipped cream) and tasted it and...


Then I remembered.  Mark had told me he couldn't get the coconut milk to blend so he had stuck it in the blender for a few seconds.  What he didn't know was that when he stuck the blended coconut milk into the fridge it set.  It set into a frothy whipped yummy goodness and became whipped coconut milk - any day rival to the real deal.  It was like whipped cream and creme frache all mixed up in one but with the light taste of, well, coconut.  

You know what I did, right?  I mean I WAS grabbing a scone from the fridge, and what goes with scones like nothing else?  Creme Frache, of course.  And I had this perfect creme frache look-a-like right there in front of me, complete with finger marks.  I couldn't resist.  I plopped a heaping dollop on both sides of the scone got the coffee that my cat, Jazz, made me make (really - she was running between the coffee maker and the fridge and looking at me intently - she knew it was "time for a little something" and she wanted to make sure I made coffee and not some fruit smoothy thing, 'cus those fruit smoothy things do not contain milk - her favorite thing on earth!) Anyway, I grabbed the now glorified scone and that milky coffee and headed back to my studio to relish in this new found accidental creation all the while thinking, "My husband is a genius!"  I was so engrossed I forgot to take a picture.

Later that night, however, I introduced my husband to his geniusness by taking a slice of his carrot cake and putting a big heap of whipped coconut goodness onto it.  He agrees, he's a genius.  This time I got a picture.

But wait there's more!  Not only did we have this homemade coconut adventure we've also been continuing to test out more products from Luna and Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss.  Remember I blogged about their Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars?  Well we couldn't help but try one of their ice-cream creations as well.  Still non-dairy, still organic, still fair trade, still magnificent!  The flavor we picked up was the Cappuccino - we love our coffee flavored frozen desserts - so it had to be the first one for us to try.  You know what we discovered?  Coffee and coconut, together, rock!  Wow, this was delicious.  I highly recommend it - but beware, it is rather addictive and disappears far to quickly.  They need to work on that - maybe the miraculously refilling coconut ice cream container could be their next endeavor.  Or maybe my genius of a husband will figure it out - I can dream can't I?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Carrot and Parsnip Bisque and Vegetarian Dishes in the Slow Cooker

Aw, the slow cooker, that ingenious invention that lets you cook dinner all day while you get everything else done.  I was l aways taught never to leave the oven on while you are away from the house, I think most of us were. In comes the slow cooker to the rescue, an appliance that can safely be plugged in while we're away or otherwise preoccupied.

Thing is, most people consider the slow cooker as a way to cook chucks of meat in various sauces, it is not commonly connected to vegetarian cooking.  That becomes even more obvious when you glance through most any of the slow cooker cookbooks at a bookstore.  They are meat centric to the core, you'll be lucky if you find maybe one or two vegetarian main dishes.  Those are usually lentil soups or some other bean dish.

Then I discovered Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.  Since then I've adapted any number of the recipes in this cookbook.  I've made stocks, and soups and the list goes on.  I still have several recipes to try and several that spark my imagination for winging it.  If you like the convenience of a slow cooker but are vegetarian or would like to weave a few more vegetarian dishes into your meal plans I highly recommend picking this cookbook up.  My copy belongs to the library and keeps getting checked out over and over again - eventually I hope to find a used copy to keep.

The following recipe was adapted from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.
It was really delicious.  This was also the first time I had ever made a carrot based bisque before - and I was really impressed.  I think I'll be trying a lot of variations on that theme in the future.

Carrot and Parsnip Bisque

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion
4-5 cups sliced carrots
3-4 cups peeled and sliced parsnips
2 small to medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
5 cups water or light vegetable stock (I used water and it was very full flavored)
salt to taste
1 Tablespoon dried dill or 2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill and more for garnish

Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, parsnips, potato, and garlic.  Cover the pan and cook until the vegetables have slightly softened, about 10 minutes.  When softened transfer them to the slow cooker (4-6 quart), add the water or broth and a little salt, cover and cook on low for about 7 to 7 1/2 hours.

After the 7 to 7 1/2 hours stir in the dill.  Then puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor  until completely smooth.  Pour it all back into the slow cooker to keep it more before serving.

Serve with a little more dill sprinkled on top.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Bottom of the Box

Tuesday night found me pulling out the final few items of last weeks CSA, the bottom of the box so to speak. I was down to spinach, sweet potatoes and an onion.  I added to this some garlic and a package of whole grain tempeh that I had in the freezer.  These would need to become dinner.

I knew the flavors were right.  I love both tempeh and sweet potato sandwiches with greens.  Why not all together, minus the sandwich part?  So I peeled and diced the sweet potatoes, diced and cried over the red onion, thawed the tempeh in hot water in the sink and rinsed the spinach a thousand times (well, it felt like it!). I trimmed the stem ends off the spinach and spun them in the salad spinner to get some of the water off, diced up the thawed tempeh, peeled the garlic, pulled out the garlic press and grabbed the olive oil.

First a good coating of olive oil went into the pan.  I heated that over medium heat and added the sweet potato.  I covered it and let it saute-steam, occasionally stirring.  Then the onion went in and was cooked till it was translucent.  I added the garlic, stirred it around a couple times and threw the spinach in, once again covering it to help it start to wilt.  I stirred it around and pulled it off the heat before the spinach was over-cooked, wilted but still solid.  I added about a tablespoon of soy sauce, stirred the whole mess to blend and called it done.

We served it up into our bowls and chowed down.  It was absolutely delicious!  I am certain that I will have to make sweet potato, tempeh and spinach sandwich now - this combination of ingredients is too good to ignore!  I also have a feeling some variation of this will be made fairly often in this house from now on.  I love it when great recipes are discovered this way, when you're to the dredges of the fridge and pantry and it's as if the ingredients have just been waiting to meet - like it was meant to be.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Peanut Butter Ball Improv

I needed a little something this afternoon (this is a common trait of mine, no?) to go with my cup of decaf cafe au lait.  So I got the food processor down and started pulling ingredients that sounded good.  No recipe, just improv for food.  The results are delicious!  Very peanut buttery with a base of oats and almond meal, a touch of chocolate -two ways- and coconut just because.

Here's what went into them:

1/2 cup oats, ground to a coarse meal in the food processor
1/2 cup peanut butter, crunchy
1 Tablespoon almond meal
1 Tablespoon unsweetened coconut
1 Tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons almond milk
1 teaspoon agave syrup

All the above blended up in the food processor and then molded into little balls. This made 14 Tablespoon size goodies.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Coconut Bliss Bars - A New Addiction

Finding an honest and true certified organic non-dairy treat is nearly impossible and that keeps me from trying the ones I hear about, for me Organic is paramount.  So when I peeked into the freezer at the local PCC and saw these, I snagged them up super duper quick!

And oh my goodness am I glad I did!  Not only were they made from certified organic ingredients, fair trade chocolate and sweetened with agave - THEY WERE DELICIOUS!!!!!

Coconut Milk, Cocoa, Agave and Vanilla  = YUM!

I highly suggest you run on out and pick yourself up a box of these, gobble them all up, go get more, gobble those up and then maybe send me a couple boxes so I can gobble some up too!  Just use the super fast shipping option or they'll melt! ; )

Here's a link to their website.