Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Baracktober!

Hahahahaha! I'm now going to be referring to October as "Baracktober," hope you guys don't mind. ;) Anyway, I've been a little under the weather for the last week. I have a nasty chest cold, and even had a fever for a couple of days. I hadn't had a fever for like ten years! The fever seems to be gone now, but I've got a really nasty-sounding cough that just won't let up. I swear, it looks as if I haven't been doing much cooking in the last week and a half. I have, though. I guess I forgot to take pics, and now I can't even remember what I've made!

So, we're heading off to Canaan Valley this afternoon. Seems as if it's becoming a tradition to celebrate my birthday that way. I love, love, love Canaan Valley so I hope it's a tradition that will continue. I made myself a b-day cake. Gingerbread with a lemon glaze. I used the gingerbread cupcake recipe from The PPK. I multiplied it by 1.5, but probably should've doubled it for a taller cake (I did a bundt cake and baked it at 350 for about 45 min. Don't forget to grease and flour the pan!). I didn't want to frost it, so I used this recipe from Giada DeLaurentis for the glaze.

Last week at some point I made the Pumpkin Baked Ziti from V-con. It was quite tasty. To go with it I made a variation of my old honey-baked lentils. I subbed maple syrup for the honey and also added a chopped carrot. I use red lentils for this, and it has a nice, mush consistency. LOL Really, I think the consistency is great for this particular dish.

This week I wanted to use up the last of my frozen black beans, so I did the Black Beans with Chipotle Sauce from V-con. I tried my hand a vegan cornbread (Skillet Cornbread from V-con), and I have to say that I wasn't disappointed. Just to make sure I went overboard on chipotles, I made some chipotle-glazed green beans. So easy. Just brown up a chopped onion in a skillet, add fresh green beans and cook until they're almost done. Then add the glaze, which is a little brown sugar, a chopped chipotle, a little scoop of the adobo sauce from the canned chipotles, and a splash of water. Turn up the heat before adding so it gets nice and sticky. YUM!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lots of Lentils, Chickpea Cutlets and A Pizza

I've really been doing some cooking the past several days. I enjoy cooking so much more when it isn't hot outside. I'd say we're full-on into fall at this point. Last Thursday, some friends invited us over for a big pot-luck party. I decided to take two dishes because I didn't know what vegan options would be available there. I decided on Carrie's sweet and savory lentils and some simple, mashed sweet-potatoes. The lentils were a HUGE hit. Talk about a good pot-luck dish! Easy to make and just perfect for this time of year.

Friday I decided to make some chickpea cutlets. They're a favorite around here for sure, and it had been quite a while since I'd made them. I wanted something a little different this time, so I made the Sweet Vidalia Onion Sauce, which is also in V-con. I also cooked some brown rice, and since I had a bunch of parsley from the CSA, I chopped it and added it to the cooked rice with some Earth Balance and salt. I steamed a bunch of kale and onions, which I seasoned with a dressing of red wine vinegar, sugar and a few drops of liquid smoke. The sweet onion sauce is soooo good. We used it for the cutlets and also to drizzle over the rice. What a fantastic dinner!

On Saturday, I made pizza because the kids just can't get enough of "Mama's homemade pizza". They're so sweet! Anyway, I made the kids their ususal cheese pizza. For Sleek and myself, I lightly sauteed a few cloves of minced garlic in some olive oil and brushed that over the dough. Then I added some Oliverio's Sweet Italian Peppers. (I can't believe they don't have a website!) They're kind of a local specialty item that Sleek grew up eating often and loving dearly. It was fantastic. There are really so many different things you can do with pizza to change it up and make it interesting.

I've been wanting to make some naan since I seem to make Indian food quite often. A while back, Carrie had posted aboutmaking naan. I swore I'd give it a try. Then I came across what I think is the same recipe via the forums over at The PPK. I decided to give it a try. I needed to find a good substitute for the yogurt, and we can't get plain soy yogurt around here. I decided to go with Better Than Sour Cream. I brushed it with Earth Balance after baking. It was phenomenal! I used my pizza stone as recommended, but I guess my "high" broiler setting is hotter than most because my stone ended up cracking and breaking. I'll have to be getting a new one ASAP! I set the broiler to low for the next batch (I was still able to use the stone to finish) and the naan came out much better. So, I look forward to making it often. It went perfectly with the Tamarind Lentils from V-con. They are so good and extemely easy to make. For a quick and easy dinner, it sure was delicious.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm Back!

Wow! It's been a while, eh? My dad and I had a fantastic time in Colorado. It was very beautiful there, and we had wonderful weather. We did lots and lots of hiking, which I seem to have developed a passion for over the last year or so. I'm glad I live in West Virginia. Lots of hiking here, and mostly in places I haven't yet explored. I have a lot to look forward to. Chez Mama will now be a vegan cooking blog, as I've finally fully committed to living a vegan lifestyle. It's been a rather slow transformation for me, starting four years ago when I stopped eating land animals. Over the last year, I ate fish a handful of times. Over the last few months, I've barely eaten any eggs of dairy. A couple of weeks ago, I ate something with dairy in it, and it just didn't seem right to me. So here I am. Vegan. I feel really good about it.

So, when I got back from Colorado I was ready to start cooking. When I'm gone for a few days, eating at restaurants, I realize how much I miss cooking and eating my own food. Restaurant food seems to wreak havoc on my digestive system. Even if it's relatively healthy stuff. It kinda sucks.

So, I got back and cooked up a big batch of black beans. It's always nice to have lots of beans on hand and ready to go. And with some of those beans, I made one of the best things I've made in a while. Sort of a "Huevos" Rancheros. Or, you could call it "Tofu Rancheros". I made up some tofu scramble, loosely using the recipe from VWaV. I add whatever veggies I have on hand. This time it was onion, various peppers from the CSA, and a bag of spinach. I also warmed up some of my black beans in a pan with a can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, chile powder and diced onions. I had some corn tortillas which I heated on the griddle, then topped with the tofu, black beans, salsa and Better Than Sour Cream. It was so good that I think I'm going to be making it again this weekend. YUM!

I also made some black bean burgers this week. The same ones as usual from V-con. To go with those, I made some sweet potato fries. It's getting to be sweet potato time again, and I'm so ready for it. I can't get enough sweet potatoes.

Oh, and I made the Peanut-Butter Oatmeal Cookies from VWaV. I used whole wheat flour, and reduced the amount of sugar by 1/2 cup. They aren't really sweet, and they're soooo peanut-buttery. So good. I don't think I'm going to miss anything by going vegan! As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to enjoy baking more than ever. I mean, check out some of the cupcakes that Carrie (Adventures in Vegetarianism) whips up!

Sleek and I had the oppourtunity to check out a really fantastic concert last Sunday. We saw The Swell Season perform in Pittsburgh at the Byham Theatre. We've wanted to see them since last spring, so it was a real treat. We were introduced to them through the Irish, indie film Once. I highly reccommend checking out the film, and their music. They did lots of new stuff at the show, so I'm hoping for a new album from them sometime soon! It's not a show to be missed, so if they're coming to your area, check them out for sure!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Heading Out.

Hey, faithful readers! LOL I'm heading out for a little vacation in Colorado with my dad. We'll be gone for 5 nights. My longest without the kids. I hope I don't miss them too much. We're going to be doing lots of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Staying at the Stanley Hotel (in a villa on the hotel grounds, thank goodness!) where Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining. It's haunted, for sure. I know that because I saw it on Ghost Hunters. ;) We're finishing up the trip going to the WVU game in Boulder on Thursday night. Let's gooooo Mountaineers!

I hope there's some good food there!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Busy, Busy

Damn. And here I thought that when school started I'd have so much extra time on my hands. I feel like I've been running myself to death. It seems I've barely had a minute to sit down. Our computer was also invaded by some nasty spyware, so it was out of commission for several days. Sleek copied our photos and iTunes, and we wiped the whole thing out and started fresh. The upside is that our computer is now smokin' fast!

I also thought when school started, I'd have more time for cooking. However, this year Annelies's piano lessons are later in the evening, and Julian has soccer late once a week as well. So, I have two nights each week that make it difficult to put a full-on meal together. Tonight is one of those nights, so it's going to be SmartDogs. I can handle one totally junk meal/week.

Anyway, since I've last posted, I've made some interesting and tasty things. One was a Southeast Asian Coconut Zucchini. That one is from Moosewood Restaurants Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. (I don't think I told y'all that we ate at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca when we were on vacation, did I? We did, and it was tasty. The kids were having a tough time that day. It was the last day of vacation and Annelies was tired, and Julian had a cold coming on and had a fever. Doesn't make for the most pleasant of meals, eh? It was still a cool experience, though. Doesn't every vegetarian want to eat there?) Okay, back to the zucchini. It was very easy and quite tasty. I served it over jasmine rice. There are lots of good-looking recipes in that cookbook. I need to put it to good use.

I also made another green pizza somewhere along the way. Some falafel too. Also, the best damn banana bread ever. I kind of improvised the recipe from one I found online somewhere. Here goes:

3 ripe bananas
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup canola oil and unsweetened applesauce mixed (you could do either all oil or all applesauce, but I decided to go half and half.)
1/2 cup sucanat

1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sucanat (This needs adjusted to suit the ripeness of the bananas. If they're really, really ripe, I would omit it completely.)
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 cup coconut (I used unsweetened, flaked)

Mash bananas and add lemon juice, oil and applesauce mixture and sucanat.

Mix together flour and other dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until just moistened and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

One evening, I made some tofu scramble. I just use the recipe from VWaV for the seasonings, then add whichever veggies I have on hand. So easy and tasty. A side of roasted potatoes makes it a "breakfast for dinner" meal. I love that.

Last night, I made a batch of channa masala. It's easy to throw together quickly. Yum. Julian discovered that he loves it too. I've also been keeping some chickpea salad on hand for an easy lunch or dinner. I'm addicted to that stuff. This time I did add some chopped celery. It definitely made it even better. Mmmm. On toasted whole-wheat bread with some perfectly fresh, ripe sliced tomato? Insane. I've decided that instead of a mock tuna salad, it's much more like a mock chicken salad.

Oh, and I also made up a batch of the best granola ever. Same recipe as always, and for nuts I used cashews. I chopped up about a cup of dried papaya to throw in after baking. I also added a few drops of coconut extract for some extra tropical flavor. Mmmm. It's really good with So Delicious coconut milk yogurt.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chickpeas and More Granola

I cooked up another massive batch of chickpeas on Tuesday. Crazy, I know, but it's so comforting to me when I have a freezer full of chickpeas waiting for me to use. They are my favorite legume, by far.

I'd heard of "mock tuna-salad" before, and people online just seem to rave about it. So, I thought I'd give it a try. I'm going to just call it "chickpea salad," though. To me, that's a much more appealing name. I was skeptical about it being so tasty, but it truly is. I can see it being my go-to meal for the evenings when I just can't manage to cook a full-on meal. Here's how I made it:

Cooked chickpeas (I'm not sure how much, maybe a cup and a half? Doesn't really matter, as all
the other ingredients can be adjusted to suit the amount of chickpeas used.)
A little minced onion
Diced pickles

Mix it all together, and there ya go. I had it on some toasted whole-wheat bread with some fresh tomatoes. So. Freaking. Good. I've had one for lunch the last three days. I already can't wait to make more.

Last night, I made one of our favorites here. The Chickpeas Romesco from V-con. As usual, I made the Garlic-Saffron Rice to go with it. It's so easy to make, and it's one of those dishes that upon tasting it, you'd think I'd slaved over the stove all evening.

I've still been making granola like crazy. I've finally tweaked the recipe enough that I think I can call it my own. This is it:

1/8 cup wheat germ, toasted
1/8 cup flax meal, toasted
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds, toasted
1 cup of nuts, chopped and yes, toasted
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup of unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1-1.5 cups of dried fruit

Mix all the dry ingredients (except dried fruit) in a large bowl. Add oil and brown rice syrup and mix well. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 10 or so minutes.

You can get really creative with this, and make pretty much any kind you can dream up. So far, I've made it using raisins, dried apples and walnuts. I think my favorite so far is blueberry hazelnut. This week I made cherry almond. I added a bit of almond extract to it to give it a little extra flavor. Next week, I'm either going to do either tropical or peanut chocolate chip. Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pasta and Zucchini Cake

A couple weeks ago, Carrie posted about a pasta dish she had made using some of her CSA veggies. It had a maple-dijon sauce, which I thought sounded like something different and delicious. I knew I would have to try that one. I did, and it was fantastic. I doubled the recipe and we had a dinner plus two days of leftovers. YUM!

We've been getting so much zucchini, and I have had a hard time finding a zucchini bread recipe that I love. So, I came across this recipe for zucchini cake. It's actually very much like zucchini bread, but baked in a bundt pan. The chocolate chips give some extra yum-factor. I followed the recipe from The Post Punk Kitchen (authors of VWaV and V-con), but I made the following substitutions: For half the flour, I used whole-wheat pastry. For half the sugar, I used sucanat. For half the oil, I used unsweetened applesauce. This cake is so good. I have to highly recommend it as a really yummy way to use zucchini.

Today is Annelies's first day of first grade. I can't believe my little girl is in first grade. I can't believe that summer break is over. I am, however, looking forward to autumn and all that it brings. Crisp weather, soups and stews, pumpkin bread, football. My favorite season.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tofu Scramble, Sloppy Joes and A Lost Camera

We had a nice weekend in Deep Creek Lake with the kids and my friend Olives and her kids. The weather was nice, just a bit chilly. Yep, chilly in mid-August. We had a nice hike at Swallow Falls State Park, and also enjoyed the beach at Deep Creek Lake State Park. Unfortunately, I lost our camera at Swallow Falls. Obviously, that means no photos of the food I've made the last couple of days. That's okay, though. One of them is a repeat.

Last night I made some tofu scramble. I used the recipe from V-con as a guide, but kind of made it my own way too. The only vegetables I used were onion and green pepper since that's what I had on hand. It was the first time I've ever made tofu scramble (unbelievable!), but it won't be the last. I decided that it would be good in a wrap, so I also cooked some black beans, onion and fire-roasted tomatoes to go in them too. I had some potatoes left from last week's CSA, so I diced them and roasted them to make some easy home-fries to go with the burritos. Very tasty. I think Sleek was pleasantly surprised by how good the tofu scramble burritos were. I think the scramble will be making regular breakfast/brunch appearances here. Especially when cooler weather hits and I actually feel like cooking something that early in the day!

This evening, I went with Snobby Joes (also from V-con). I've made them many times before, so I'm sure y'all know how much we love those around here! Hopefully we'll be getting a new camera in the next few days or so. Then I can post a photo of the awesome new (used) piano we just bought!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lots of Fresh Veggies, A Green Pizza, and A Bit of Advice

I've been cooking a lot, but not posting everything. I've found that with our fresh CSA veggies, I kind of like keeping it simple to enjoy the fresh flavors. I usually steam or saute the veggies and season with garlic, salt and pepper. It's perfect. It's easy too. I'll give just a few highlights from the last week...

A while back, I made the black beans with chipotle sauce from V-con. We loved them, and I swore they'd become a regular on the menu. I finally just got around to making them again. They are so tasty and super-easy. I made Mexican millet (also from V-con) to go with them. I also steamed some kale, then tossed it with caramelized onion.

I also made a bean stir-fry one night using a couple of different varieties of beans. Yellow wax-beans and purple beans (unfortunately, they turn green when cooked). I made a light sauce for them using shoyu, brown sugar, a bit of Thai chili paste and a splash of water. I also steamed some chard and made a dressing of red wine vinegar, sugar and a couple of drops of liquid smoke. I thinly sliced some potatoes, blanched them, then fried them up with a chopped green pepper. OMG. They were so good! Let's see...I also made some baked chili-lime tofu that evening.

Tonight I made possibly the best pizza I've ever made before. It was a green pizza. I made the usual dough, of course, from VWaV. I topped it with pesto which I made from a bunch of fresh basil, some toasted pine-nuts, salt, a couple cloves of garlic, and a decent amount of olive oil. On top of the pesto, I added some zucchini slices which I had lightly pan-fried to soften them up. Also some onions which I also sauteed before using. Holy smokes. It was just off the hook. I'll probably make it every single week that we get CSA basil. It's seriously that good. Oh, and I'm totally convinced that pesto absolutely does not need parmesan cheese to be tasty.

Okay, now for that bit of advice I promised in the title...Never, ever, ever clean out the end of your immersion blender with your finger while the damn thing is plugged in. I did it while making the pesto, and somehow turned it on with my other hand. Of course, it sliced into my finger and then my finger was stuck between the blade and the inside of the mixer part for about 10 seconds before I managed to wiggle it out. It cut the f*#k out of my finger. Not very deep, but one of those "skin-flap" cuts. I've got a gash that's about an inch long, and I think it would lift up at least a half an inch of skin. I immediately ran it under water and applied forceful pressure until Sleek could get home with some bandaids. It's freaking sore. Really freaking sore. So, I'll never clean out my hand blender with my finger again. Maybe not even if it's unplugged.

Oh, and I made another batch of granola. This time I used hazelnuts and dried blueberries. It's the best yet!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Radiohead Etc.

Well, it happened. It was a dream come true. Seeing my favorite band from just a few feet away. I can't even describe how freaking awesome it was. Totally surreal. Perfect setlist. I loved every second of it and never wanted it to end. It will happen again. I look forward to it. I feel myself becoming Radiohead-obsessed for a while. I'll probably be mostly listening to In Rainbows for the next year or so, with a little Kid A, Amnesiac, OK Computer, The Bends and Hail to the Thief thrown in for good measure. (I'm kidding, people! Kind of.)

Now for the food...The swimming lessons every evening have been killing me. Some days, I spend the morning/early afternoon in the kitchen preparing the dinner we will eat at 8 p.m. It's exhausting. I've been doing mostly really simple things. Last week, I did a really cool stir-fry with vegetables from the CSA. (Note the really cool carrots. Red/purple on the outside, orange inside.) I also added some black beans just because I had them in the fridge and needed to use them. I got all the veggies stir-fried, and at the end I cranked up the heat and added this:

1 TBS brown sugar
3 TBS shoyu
1/2 tsp Thai chili sauce
tiny pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
splash of water

Whisk until combined.

It was exceptionally tasty. Maybe the best stir-fry I've ever made. Great way to use up all the CSA veggies.

Instead of making rice to go with the stir-fry, I made the Soba Salad with Soy-Wasabi Vinaigrette from the July issue of Cooking Light. I subbed sugar snaps for snow peas, and left out the radishes. It was really good, but the wasabi nearly lit my nasal passages on fire. It wasn't spicy to my mouth at all, but boy my nose felt it! Didn't stop me from eating nearly the whole batch, though. (Not all in one day. I had lots of leftovers. Sleek thought the wasabi was a bit much.) So, if you're sensitive to wasabi-type heat, you may want to cut back the amount of paste you use.

Another thing I'm really into these days is making homemade granola. I made my first batch last Saturday, using this recipe. I subbed brown rice syrup for the honey, and used almonds instead of peanuts. I also used some chopped, dried apples as well as raisins. It's so good just to grab a handful as a snack, but it's extra-good in a bowl with some vanilla hempmilk. (I ordered a case of the Living Harvest vanilla hempmilk, by the way. That stuff is so good!) We finished that batch off, so today I made another. This time I used pecans instead of almonds, and dried cranberries instead of apples. I just can't wait to experiment more and make lots of different kinds of granola.

This evening for dinner, I made a zucchini orzo dish. (I left out the parmesan and used whole wheat orzo.) The recipe was given to me by Kathy Evans, of Evans Knob Farm, which is where our lovely CSA veggies come from. She had printed it out from the Animal Vegetable Miracle website. I've looked at that book many times in the bookstore, thought about getting it, and haven't done it yet. Have any of you all read that? I'm curious. I also made some beans from the CSA. They're a lovely heirloom bean. Light green/yellow in color with lots of purple stripes. Unfortunately the stripes fade when the beans are cooked, but holy smokes! They were absolutely delicious. I really wanted to get the full-flavor of the beans, so I cooked them simply. I started by sauteeing a chopped onion in just a little canola oil. After the onion was soft, I added the beans. I lowered the heat and covered the pan. After about 10 minutes, I added two cloves of minced garlic to the pan. I put the cover back on and let them steam for about 15 more minutes. I seasoned them with salt and pepper. They were nice and crisp, but not too crisp. Just incredible. I hate thinking back to the fresh beans my grandmothers would cook. They cooked the hell out of them and they were mushy and bacon-y flavored. I've found that fresh beans are so much more flavorful when they're nice and crisp. They also seem so much healthier.

For dessert, I made a batch of the oatmeal-raisin cookies from V-con. They are so freaking good. So chewy. They were a little difficult to remove from the baking sheets. The recipe advises a lightly greased sheet. I always use parchment, so I decided to go ahead with it as usual. It was not easy removing them from the sheets. So, I decided to lightly grease the sheets for the next round. It still wasn't easy getting them off. I think the parchment was actually easier. It just took some patience. They didn't tear or get destroyed in the process, at least. I'll definitely be making these again. They're really easy, and they're whole wheat and full of oats and raisins. They also contain brown rice syrup, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite ingredients! I think it's what gives these cookies the gooey-chewy texture. YUM!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

So busy! The kids have swimming lessons at 6:30 every evening, and Annelies also has a singing class at 10 every morning this week. Today she also has piano lessons at 4. That leaves little time for cooking. I've been doing a little cooking late-night for the next night's dinner. Really easy stuff, like a massive batch of black beans with tomatoes and brown rice. (I know I've posted about these black beans before, but I can't find the damn post. It was a long time ago. It's essentially onion, garlic, however many black beans you want, however many cans of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes you want, and whatever seasonings you like. Simmer for a while and serve over rice.)

This week's CSA pick-up was insane. I've got lots of vegetables to cook, and not much time to cook them. Maybe I should get off the computer and get in the kitchen!

Oh, I have a new favorite thing to rave about for a minute. It's Living Harvest Vanilla Hempmilk. It is so, so, so much better than soy or rice milk. I had a cup of it poured over some fresh blueberries for breakfast this morning. YUM!

Posting is going to be dodgy with all the activities this week, but I'll do the best I can!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Veggie Feast

I cooked up a huge veggie feast this evening, nearly using up this week's CSA bounty. Guess what? I forgot to take photos of everything! I'll describe it as best as I can, and you'll have to use your imagination for a visual. I'll add some random vacation photos throughout the post for your viewing pleasure. :) We were in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It was beautiful, and there were organic farms everywhere! How awesome is that?

This is our view of Skaneateles Lake from the dock at the cabin were we stayed. Skaneateles Lake is the cleanest lake in the world! Cool, huh?

When going through my Grandma's recipes this past week, I found a recipe for baked squash. It was my Aunt Phyllis's recipe which she got from the Battletown Inn. It looked so easy that I knew it would be a great way to use the squash from the CSA. Here's the recipe:

Slice 6 squash and boil until done. Saute and onion in 2 TBS butter until soft, and combine with cooked squash and 1 cup crushed Saltines in a baking dish. Top with lots of butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 degrees for half an hour. (I used Earth Balance in place of butter, and probably didn't use as much as the original recipe called for. The squash was fantastic, but I think using more butter would've given it a crunchier topping.)

The kids posing with statues at the Women's rights museum in Seneca Falls, NY. It was really cool, and I actually felt a little emotional there. It kind of took me by surprise.

I also made some pesto using fresh basil, olive oil, toasted pine nuts, garlic and almesan. (Almesan is a vegan substitute for parmesan cheese. The recipe is in V-con.) It was really tasty spread on some great bread that Olives brought over.

What else? Oh, yeah. The Garlicky Kale with Tahini Dressing from VWaV. Very easy and really good. A nice change from plain sauteed of steamed kale. From the CSA we also had a nice bag of Rose Gold potatoes and also some white carrots. I chopped them up and tossed them in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and agave nectar then sprinkled with salt and some thyme. I roasted them at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. YUM! The rose golds were crisp on the outside, but very soft inside. A little sweet too.

This is the gorge in Watkins Glen state park. It took us just over an hour to hike through, and was probably some of the most impressive natural scenery I've experienced.

I think my favorite thing I made was the chipotle glazed haricots vert. Last summer, we got so many beans that I started creating new ways to cook them. This may have been the best way I came up with. I start by sauteeing half of an onion, finely chopped, until it's soft. Then, I add in the beans. When they're nearly done, but still nice and crisp, I turn the heat up a bit and add the glaze. The glaze is just a chipotle pepper, chopped fine, and about 1/4 cup brown sugar. To that I add a splash or two of water. Turning the heat up before adding the glaze makes the glaze really syrup-y and it clings to the beans better.

So, I'm guessing with that meal, we exceeded our daily recommendation of vegetables. We probably doubled it!

Fresh, organic vegetables at the Ithaca, NY farmer's market. All items there must be produced within 30 miles of Ithaca. It was the best farmer's market I've ever seen.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Sad Note...

Hello, all. I just wanted to let you all know that I probably won't be posting for the next week and a half to two weeks. I found out this evening that my Gram passed away. We're heading home to be with my dad for a couple of days, then going on a vacation with him to the Finger Lakes in New York. We're all very sad, although my Gram's death wasn't completely unexpected. She'll certainly be missed by all of us, and I'm so glad that my kids got the chance to really know her and form a great relationship with her before she became sick. I just wanted to let everyone know that I'll be on hiatus for a while.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Slip N' Slide

I got the kids a really cool slip n' slide from Magic Cabin. They've been having a ball with it. It's much better that the slip n' slides of my youth. It has an inflatable runway, which leads into a nice pool at the end. I remember the slip n' slides of my day as being a long, narrow tarp-like thing that was on the ground. You'd feel every hole, gravel or branch you slid over. So, I'm happy to say that they are now much improved for a smoother ride.

I guess it's been a while since I've posted. Summer always gets away from me. So, I'll get started with last week's chickpea cutlet salad. I made the chickpea cutlets my usual way (that means that I reduce the wheat gluten and increase the breadcrumbs a little.) After frying them up, I cut them into strips, let them cool slightly, then put them on top of the salad greens. I topped that with some oven-fries. They're the garlic oven-fries which I found in Cooking Light. I made a creamy maple-dijon dressing for the salad. In a bowl, I whisked together:

approximately 2 TBS dijon mustard
approximately 2 TBS maple syrup
a good scoop of Vegenaise
a splash of cider vinegar
enough soy milk to thin it to a nice texture

It was such a good dressing. Perfect for this type of salad, which is basically your veggie take on a chicken-strip salad you'd get at a restaurant. Yum! It really turned out great. I can't wait to do it with black bean burgers and a chipotle ranch dressing.

I kind of took a couple of days off from cooking over the weekend. I'm much more into cooking when the weather is more moderate. I hate standing in front of a hot stove when it's steamy outside. Yuck! So, for the 4th of July, I made some BBQ baked beans with some leftover Backyard BBQ sauce (V-con) that I had left over. I threw it in a pot with some cooked pintos, a jar of pineapple salsa, a few squirts of ketchup and mustard, and a drizzle of maple syrup. I baked them at 375 for a couple hours. That BBQ sauce really makes some good baked beans! I also made some coleslaw with a nice, fresh head of cabbage from the farmer's market. I diced some onion, grated some carrots and made a standard coleslaw dressing using: Vegenaise, soymilk, sugar, cider vinegar, black pepper and a good pinch of cumin. We had typical holiday fare (except it was vegetarian) with Olives and her family. We watched the fireworks in the pouring rain later that evening. Olives made an awesome nectarine and peach cobbler. I think it was this recipe from Cooking Light.

Last night, I needed to use up some cooked pinto beans. I found this recipe for chipotle bean-burgers from Vegetarian Times. I had made them several times before, but it's been at least two years ago. They're really tasty, but as I made them I remembered that they always fall apart during the frying process. I managed to keep them together reasonably well, but it's really a PitA, and leaves a big mess in my beloved cast-iron skillet. They really did taste great stuffed in a pita with the cilantro, adobo sour cream sauce though. I just mixed up some Better Than Sour Cream with some adobo sauce from the can of chipotles and some chopped cilantro. Perfect! To go with them, I cooked up some beet greens from the CSA. I didn't really know what to do with them, so I found this recipe. Obviously, I left out the bacon and instead added a few drops of liquid smoke at the end. They were awesome! Really, really tasty. So, if anyone out there is looking to cook up some beet greens, I'd highly suggest this recipe.

Tonight, in an effort to use up the rest of my cilantro from last week's CSA delivery, I made linguine with basil-cilantro pesto and artichoke hearts. The recipe is from V-con, and actually calls for spinach linguine, which I couldn't find. I went with plain linguine. I have to say, it is a very easy, flavorful pasta dish that is dinner-party worthy. I also had a bag of sugar snap peas form last week's delivery. I steamed them and then tossed them in just a tad of Earth Balance and spinkled them with salt. They may be my new favorite vegetable. I could easily make a meal of them.

We've been getting lots of garlic scapes from our CSA. To ensure that I use them all up, I use them just as I would garlic in recipes. Maybe use more scapes than you would use garlic since they have a milder taste. I've never been able to use them all up in years past, but this year I've used every one of them.

I've really been digging the new Coldplay album, Viva la Vida. It could be on it's way to becoming my favorite Coldplay album. (Do you love it, Carrie?) You can check out some songs from Viva la Vida on their myspace page. It's really excellent stuff. I'll be playing the hell out of it for a while, I think.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy Birthday, P!

Who is "P," you ask? "P" is what my husband (aka Sleekpelt, or Sleek) call each other. It's derived from sweet-pea. Over the years, we've shortened it to just "P." We pretty much exclusively call each other that. So, that's who "P" is, and yesterday was his 36th b-day. For his 35th I threw him a big party. This year I just made him a nice dinner.

I decided to go with Indian food, because he really liked the Indian veggie burgers and Roasted Manchurian Cauliflower. Both recipes are from Cooking Light. To go with the burgers, I made a spicy mango chutney mayo (using Vegenaise). I served them with pita, red onions and lettuce. So good. I decided to try something different since it was a special occasion. I made some homemade vegetable pakoras. I found this recipe, and used it for the flour/seasoning/water measurements. Then I added shredded carrot, chopped kale, minced onion and a chopped garlic scape to the batter. I can't remember the last time I deep-fried something, so I was a little nervous about that. They actually turned out great! I mean, really, really great. Wow! I'll definitely be making those again. I couldn't come up with a good dip for them. At the Indian restaurant, they have a spicy onion chutney and a tamarind sauce to dip them in. I tried making a tamarind sauce, but I only have tamarind concentrate. I couldn't get it mild enough and still retain a non-watery texture. I also played around with some ketchup and mango chutney, but I thought it still tasted to ketchup-y. So, we had them without dip. The recipe does use quite a bit of seasoning, so they were absolutely fine without the dip.

For dessert, I made a blueberry crisp. I kind of just winged this one, and let me tell you, it may have been the best crisp I've ever had. Seriously. It was crazy-good. Here's what I did (these are estimations. I didn't measure anything):

4-6 cups fresh blueberries
juice from half a lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TBS cornstarch

Mix all of above ingredients in a reasonably large baking dish.


1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 TBS Earth Balance (in small-ish pieces)

Mix oats, flour and brown sugar in a bowl. With fingers, mix in Earth Balance until it's all crumbly.

Then, spread topping evenly over blueberries and bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes until it's golden brown and blueberries are bubbling at the edges.

We had the crisp with a big scoop of vanilla Rice Dream. We have decided to strictly limit our use of dairy products. The commercial dairy industry is absolutely horrible. We have no good local source for dairy (We can get few local cheeses, but not much variety. The kids are the big cheese-eaters, so it's mainly cheddar and mozzerella around here.), as West Virginia has very strict laws pertaining to that. We did find this group in Wisconsin, who sells cheeses online for very reasonable prices. The cows are treated humanely, and it's a co-op of farmers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chickpeas, Chickpeas Everywhere!

I cooked up a big batch of chickpeas on Saturday. I didn't feel like freezing them, so I just put them all in the fridge and decided to use them all this week. A little ridiculous eating chickpeas everyday, so I found some recipes where they aren't too dominant. Just used as more of a filler, really.

Saturday evening, I decided to make some chickpea gravy. It's a favorite around here, and although I view as more of a fall/winter dish, I decided to make it anyway. It's so good, I could really just eat it plain with a spoon. I'm telling you, I think anyone would love this gravy. Even the most enthusiastic meat-eater. I made some mashed potatoes to go with it. I also had a large head of Chinese cabbage from the CSA. I stir-fried it with some onions, and made a little sauce with some shoyu, mirin, sugar, Thai chile paste, sesame oil and water. It was very, very good.

As some of you may know, my previous attempt at falafel fell apart (literally). Fellow blogger, Carrie, posted about her success at making falafel a few weeks ago. She used a recipe she found online, which used un-cooked (soaked) chickpeas. I had reserved enough chickpeas for the recipe before I cooked my big batch. I can't thank you enough, Carrie, for finding that recipe and posting about your success with it! It will certainly become a regular around here. It was just so good. Like Carrie, I used fresh cilantro and mint in it instead of the parsley. I already had them on hand, so that was the deal. I even made the vegan Tzatziki sauce to go with it. I didn't have any cucumber (I went to the store to get pita, and picked up a cuke too, and just sliced it onto the sandwich), so I just used Tofutti sour cream, a little soy milk, chopped mint and chopped cilantro. Yum, yum, yum. Maybe the best falafel ever!

Last night, I made one of our favorites: Chickpeas Romesco over garlic saffron rice. It's from V-con. This one never gets old. I think I could eat it once a week. I had some sugar snap peas that I picked up at the farmers market. I lightly sauteed them and sprinkled with a little sea salt. What a great meal. The recipe really makes a lot, so there's always plenty of leftovers with this one. Okay, mentioning "leftovers" has made my tummy start to rumble. Think I'll go eat them...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Big Salad of the Week and Lentils &Rice

I think as long as we're getting so many salad greens from the CSA, I'll do a "Big Salad of the Week" post each week. I think it's fun! Hmmmm. I was thinking they would always involve tofu, but I just started thinking of making some chickpea cutlets, but cutting them into strips and making a "chick'n salad." One like you'd get in a restaurant with chicken tenders on it. I may do that at some point. Or, making some black bean burgers and doing something similar. With a homemade chipotle ranch dressing. I may have to do one of those this week. Okay, enough of the daydreaming and on to food that I've already made.

So, this week's big salad was a barbeque tofu salad with homemade croutons. I made the Backyard BBQ sauce from V-con, and just used the Baked BBQ Tofu from the same cookbook. It's a fantastic BBQ sauce. Much better than your run-of-the mill bottled, store-bought kind. So easy to make too. For the croutons, I bought a loaf of french bread from the supermarket deli. I sliced the bread, peeled off the crust, and cut the bread slices into cubes. I put them in a large bowl and drizzled just a little oil on them, sprinkled with sea salt and garlic powder, and baked them at 350 degrees until lightly brown. I'm guessing it was 20-25 minutes? They were very good croutons. Usually the croutons you get in a restaurant or store are a little greasy, but not these. Perfectly crisp without too much oil. For the dressing...I didn't have everything I needed to make my homemade ranch, so I cheated and used Newman's Own ranch. I mixed it with a little bbq sauce to make a tasty BBQ ranch.

The next night, I made the Lentils & Rice recipe from V-con. It's a really easy, one-pot meal. Pretty much toss the water, lentils rice and seasonings into the pot and cook them. At the end, you fold in some onions which have roasted in the oven and become very brown/black and caramelized. I was worried that it would be a bit bland, but it was perfectly spiced and one of my favorite things I've made recently. To go with it, I threw together a simple side salad with a honey-dijon dressing. I mixed about a TBS of honey, a TBS dijon mustard, a dollop of Vegenaise and a splash of cider vinegar. Whisk it together, and you have a very tasty dressing. You can make it according to your taste too. For a sweeter dressing, just add a little extra honey. If you like it spicier, just add some more dijon. You could even make it extra creamy by adding some extra mayo.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Six Penn Kitchen

As I mentioned in my previous post, Sleek, the kids and I headed to Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon to check out the Three Rivers Arts Festival. As part of the festival, The Avett Brothers played a free concert in downtown Pittsburgh that evening. We're fans, so there's no way we could turn down a free show!

I searched the internet for a good, kid-friendly restaurant downtown. I finally found Six Penn Kitchen. The menu looked fantastic, and the prices were very reasonable. They also focus on fresh, local ingredients, and you know I'm always impressed by that. They recommend reservations, and even have an online reservation form that makes it so easy. No phone call required, and instant confirmation. If the time you want isn't available, it instantly gives you other times to choose from.

We got to the restaurant, and it really has a nice atmosphere. Not too fancy, but very nice, with an open kitchen. We were seated in a large booth with a window looking out onto the street. The kids really liked being able to look out at a city street from our table. We decided to get some onion rings to share for an appetizer. Julian loves onion rings, and he knew they were on the menu. We didn't really have a choice in the matter! When the onion rings were brought out, we about fell over. It was the biggest pile of onion rings I've ever seen! They were very thinly sliced, and served with a mango ketchup. Best onion rings ever! They also brought out their house-made foccacia and crackers along with some herbed butter. These were also fantastic.

For my entree, I decided on the beet salad and skillet cornbread with molasses butter. The beet salad had fresh greens, orange sections, spiced pecans, and feta. Oh, and beets of course. The dressing was an orange-y vinaigrette. I managed to eat the entire salad, but the skillet of cornbread was much larger than I expected. I ate a small wedge, and had to get the rest boxed up to bring home. The cornbread was some of the best I've had. It had some jalepenos which gave it a little kick, and the top had a few sprinkles of brown sugar which added a nice sweetness. I told Sleek that I didn't think it would be the last time we ate at Six Penn! He agreed.

Sleek ordered the lobster mac n' cheese, which he loved. He was able to eat the entire thing, even after all the onion rings! Julian had a grilled cheese, which was served with a stack of fries that was nearly as large as the stack of onion rings. Annelies had pasta (their house-made pasta) with marinara. The portions were HUGE compared to the price. When you go to a restaurant like that, you just don't expect the portions to be that big. You could easily make a meal from just a salad and appetizer. I'm already thinking about what I'll order next time!

The Avett Brothers show was really cool. There was a good-sized crowd there, but everyone was very mellow. Lots of babies and kids. Julian totally rocked out, and had a bit of an audience himself. More concerts for him! I would like to check out more of the festival activities next year. I know they have lots of great kids' activities that mine would enjoy.