Friday, April 25, 2008

Chipotle Black Beans With Mexican Millet, Veggie Reubens and More

I've taken a few days off from the world of Blogger. With the weather getting really nice, I find my evenings being consumed with other activities. We've had a 10-day run on nice weather, it seems. We're trying to get outside as much as possible. Oh, and Sleek started a new blog called Picture West Virginia. It's really cool, so I'll be participating there for sure. If you're a West Virginian, or are just interested about what life is like in the Mountain State, come on over.

Okay, cooking...Tuesday evening, I decided to make use of some of the black beans I have in the freezer. I noticed a really interesting-looking recipe in V-con for chipotle black-beans. It was really easy with just a few ingredients, so I was game. The recipe intro mentioned that the Mexican millet (also from V-con, obviously) would accompany the beans nicely. The millet also was very easy with few ingredients. I'd never had millet before, so I decided to give it a try. Well, let me just say (and Sleek agrees), that the beans and millet completely blow my regular black beans and Mexican rice out of the water. Wow. This is the way it's going to be from now on. The millet is very interesting. Soft, but crunchy. A nice change from the usual rice. And the chipotle sauce for the beans. Yaaaaa-hoooo! Look out! That is some spicy stuff. So freaking good. This meal would be absolutely perfect with some cornbread.

Wednesday evening I made one of our favorite sandwiches, veggie reubens. These are just killer. Even just the veggie filling with some of the dressing drizzled over is good. You don't even need the bread and cheese! (I ate them as leftovers that way.) Last night, Sleek requested the tried and true chickpea gravy from WaVV. It's always awesome. This time I served it over some whole-wheat egg noodles for a change. Definitely comfort food.

I've made muffins a couple times this month. After the first batch, Annelies asked me to make her some blueberry muffins. (They're the only kind she likes.) Last week when I had over-ripe bananas and had to make muffins, she was crestfallen when she asked what kind they were. The poor kid just wants some blueberry muffins. So, I decided that I would make her some today. I scoured the internet for the perfect recipe. I had to find something that would be suitable for her. (Read: not uber-healthy.) I finally found a recipe from Ina Garten. It's loaded with butter, sugar and eggs. I knew I couldn't go wrong with these. I did use dried blueberries instead of fresh. I poured some hot water over them so they would plump up a bit. I followed the rest of directions perfectly. (Including a stick and a half of butter!) The recipe made 16 good-sized muffins. Let me just go ahead and say it: They are the perfect muffin. The best blueberry muffin I've ever had in my whole entire life. Incredible! Sleek is out of town for the weekend, so I made sure to put several in the freezer just so he'll get to try them. I have a feeling these will go fast!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lemongrass and Aspargus Risotto and Lots of Other Things

Wow. Seems I haven't posted in a while, eh? I feel like I've barely used the computer in the last week. The kids were at their grandparents' over the weekend, and I took a nice long break from cooking. I got back into the groove this evening, though, with lemongrass and asparagus risotto from V-con. While labor-intensive (lots of adding broth and stirring constantly) it was delicious. Crazy-good. Must make more risotto. To go with it, I made a sort-of crustless spanakopita. Jessica made it during our winter-fun weekend at Canaan Valley. I think she did hers like a casserole. I copied the recipe from her, and it called for making it in a pie-plate. I decided to try it that way and cut it into slices. Mmmmmm. So good. Jessica originally found the recipe in Health magazine. It was a really good meal, and the risotto was worth every second of preparation.

Now, back to last week...Wednesday evening, I made a really interesting lentil-kidney bean loaf. The recipe came from my Vegetarian cookbook. It turned out really good, and was especially good as leftovers on a sandwich. Cold with a little ketchup. Very reminiscent of a traditional meatloaf sandwich. I had a mandarin-pecan spinach salad with it. I made the dressing with some spicy pecan vinegar (Thanks, c-drums!), mandarin orange sections, olive oil, salt and pepper. I topped it with some toasted pecans.

Thursday I made the zucchini-chickpea-tomato curry from ED&BV. It was pretty good, but the recipe called for whole coriander seeds. Every few bites, Sleek and I would bite into one of the seeds. It was quite unpleasant. If I make it again, I'll definitely use ground coriander. First time I've thrown away leftovers in many, many months.

My absolute favorite thing I made last week was vegan, no-bake cookies. Yu-hum. Why hadn't I made these before? This is roughly the recipe I came up with:

4 TBS Earth Balance
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup turbinado sugar
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBS peanut butter
3 cups oatmeal

Melt EB and cocoa powder. Add sugar and soy milk and bring to a boil. Let boil for a few minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, pb, and oatmeal. Drop spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets, or just start eating it out of the pot! So good! I'll definitely be making these again. Next time, I'm going to reduce the cocoa to 1/3 cup, and increase the pb by a TBS or two. They were a little too chocolate-y, and not quite peanut butter-y. Still freaking good, though.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Black-Bean Cutlets With Jalepeno-Corn Gravy

Oh. My. God. I know the photo is a little dark, and the corn gravy looks super-yellow, but this was one of my favorite meals in a long time. I have a bunch of black beans in the freezer, and was skimming V-con to try to figure out something to do with them. I've made the black-bean burgers from there before, but I was wanting something slightly different this time. That's when I happened upon the recipe for jalepeno-corn gravy. Sounded very interesting. I thought it may be good with a thinner bean burger, more like the chickpea cutlets. So, I thought I'd just do the burger recipe and make them thinner. I also decreased the wheat gluten to 1/4 cup. I don't like the chewy texture that 1/2 cup gives the patty. It grosses me out a little. So, I added in a little extra breadcrumbs to make up for it. Then I pan-fried them just like I do the chickpea cutlets. I made mashed potatoes to go with them, and poured the gravy over everything. It was out-of-control! I swear! So freaking good. This will be in regular rotation, I'm sure. It's all so easy to make too.

I had some bananas that were getting way over-ripe, so yesterday afternoon I decided to make some banana bread and muffins. My favorite recipe, from a Southern Living cookbook, isn't the healthiest. So I modified the recipe to make it as healthy as possible while also making it vegan. Here's what I did:

3.5 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup of turbinado sugar
2 1/4 cups mashed banana (about 4 large bananas)
1 cup soy milk
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the rest of ingredients in a medium bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix until everything is moist. For muffins, spoon batter into greased muffin pan, filling 3/4 of the way full. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Makes a dozen muffins. For the bread, spoon batter into a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 for an hour. I added some organic, dark-chocolate chips to the loaf batter. YUM!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sunday Brunch and Cafe of India

Sunday, Sleek and I invited some friends (crusselldrums and family) over for brunch. I always enjoy getting together with friends over a great meal. Brunches often work better than dinners for us because by evening, the kids are starting to get tired and grumpy. (At least during the school-year when they get up early. In the summer, they can go all night!) At brunch time, they're well-rested and can actually hang out for several hours without completely melting down. Much more enjoyable.

Anyway, I made a broccoli cheddar quiche using my typical pie-crust recipe (4 cups flour and 1 tsp. salt with 1 3/4 cups trans-fat-free shortening cut in. Add in 1/2 cup water, an egg and 1 TBS vinegar) along with my usual quiche-filling recipe. The milk-egg ratio always stays the same, but I like to experiment with the veggies/cheese that I use. It turned out very good, I think. Sleek thought it was the best quiche ever. Every time I make a quiche he says that! To go along with it, I made some oven-roasted potatoes. I diced the potatoes (russets), and spread them onto a baking sheet coated with canola oil cooking spray. Then I gave them another spray of the oil, sprinkled with salt and garlic powder, and roasted at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes. I stirred them about every 10 minutes. They were really good, and much healthier than pan-frying.

I also made a strawberry spinach salad, which Becky had posted on her blog last month. I thought about that salad for a month before I could get strawberries worthy of it. Like Becky, I also reduced the amount of olive oil called for. I probably used 1/3 cup. It was so good! I have lots of the dressing left over, so I can't wait to buy more spinach tomorrow and finish it off. I made some tropical muffins from the current issue of Cooking Light as well. Honestly, they were some of the best muffins ever. How could they not be? They're packed with pineapple, banana, coconut and macadamia nuts! I'll be making them again for sure. Probably sooner rather than later.

Saturday evening, Sleek and I decided to try our luck with Cafe of India once again. This time we opted for take-out. I had some vegetable pakoras, garlic naan, Shahi paneer masala, rice, and kheer for dessert. It was so good that I ate until I felt miserable. We're already talking about eating there again this coming weekend. We just can't help ourselves.

I'm still digging the new Joseph Arthur EP, Could We Survive. He's released a second one, which I'm putting on my iPod tonight. I can't wait to check it out. Y'all should check him out. I'll predict that anyone reading this would love him! Check out this video of Joseph discussing his new art gallery in Brooklyn. Very cool.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Olive Oyl Pasta and Thai Coconut Corn Stew

Last week, I made the Popeye Pasta from ED&BV. I figured it was only fair to give the Olive Oyl Pasta a shot this week. I love olives, so I knew I'd love this dish. It was so easy! The sauce was made with shallots, lots of garlic (8-10 cloves!), olive oil, oregano, basil and a can of diced tomatoes. To that, just add your cooked pasta and the chopped olives. I opted for Kalamata olives and a green olive. (Can't remember the name of the green olive, but it was a Greek olive as well.) It was so good. Anything this easy is bound to become a regular around here.

Tonight I made the Thai Coconut Corn Stew, also from ED&BV. It required me to make my first trip to the local Asian market. I had to get some lemongrass and Thai basil. It was a really neat place. A bit overwhelming too, since I couldn't read any of the packaging. They had so many items! It was great, and I look forward to doing more shopping there. I didn't even try to pretend I knew what I was doing in there. I went straight to the counter and asked for help! I didn't even know what lemongrass looked like! The stew was amazing. Just amazing. Made with garlic, ginger, celery, onion, coconut milk, veggie broth, lemongrass, red pepper and corn. With lime zest, lime juice and Thai basil added at the end. Just amazing. It would be perfect for a Thai-themed dinner party.

Sleek and I decided that tomorrow we're going to order take-out from Cafe of India. I think my anger has abated. Whew!

Oh, you may notice I did two posts in a row here. I explained that in the post below!

Tofu-Veggie Lettuce Wraps and Leek and Bean Cassoulet

Yippy-yay! I finally got my new computer cord. That means computer time is on again! The worst was not being able to check every few hours to see what weather to anticipate in the coming hours, days and weeks. A couple times, I actually called Sleek at work and asked him to check accuweather for me. That's plain crazy! Good lord, not being able to check several times/day was no picnic either. Tuning in on the tele just doesn't cut it. One morning, I just didn't get up in time to read my favorite thing ever in the Gazette. Sleek was out the door so fast with his computer that all day I anticipated reading it! A day not started with the "Reader's Voice" is an unhappy day indeed. It provides much comic relief when I'm barely awake at 6:30 a.m.

Okay, enough blabbering and on with the food! I'm breaking this down into two posts because I just can't put four meals in one post. Something in me (OCD, anyone?) just won't let me. So, I'll start with the tofu-veggie lettuce wraps that I made on Tuesday. It was one of those things that just came to me, and I decided to make it. I love it when that happens! So, I started by pressing my tofu for a good hour. Then I crumbled it into a pan that had been heated up with some olive oil. I sort of sauteed it until it browned up a little. Then I added in onion, carrots, red pepper and broccoli. I had very finely chopped the veggies up in my food processor. I let them cook for just a few minutes because I wanted them to have some crunch to them. I made a little sauce with some garlic, shoyu, agave nectar, Chinese five-spice powder, Thai chile paste, salt and pepper. I had washed and dried some large romaine leaves, which I served the veggie mixture in, taco style. They were really good, and I look forward to experimenting with other flavors of veggie wraps. A Mexican, taco-style seasoning would work very well with the tofu and veggies. Anyway, as a side, I made some veggie fried rice the usual way.

Wednesday night, I made a new recipe from V-con. The Leek and Bean Cassoulet. I had heard good things about it, so I really looked forward to trying it. It's topped with biscuits, and it's as damn close to a store-bought pot-pie as a vegan-version gets. It's seriously good. A little time-consuming to make, but seriously worth it. I might make the filling some time and do a real-deal, double-crust pot-pie with it. Damn! Good stuff.

So, get this: As I've posted before, Sleek and I are going to a Radiohead show next month. We kind of missed out on the pre-sale tickets and got stuck with lawn seats. No biggie. I was super-stoked anyway. Well...Last week Radiohead announced the dates for the second leg of their North American tour that will start later this summer. Sleek was all over the pre-sale (thanks to me jumping up mid-blow dry and calling him at work to remind him at 7:45 a.m.), and got us pit tickets. Yes, I said pit tickets. What are pit tickets, you ask? Oh, the pit is just that little area between the stage and the first row of seats. My heart is pounding with excitement just thinking about it. I hope I don't pull a teenage-girl-at-a-Beatles-show and cry hysterically or faint or something! Woooooo-freakin'-Hooooooo!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Potato-Kale Enchiladas, Tamarind Lentils, a Picnic and a Rant

Hey y'all. I've been MIA for the last few days. The power-cord to my computer broke, so I have very limited computer time until the new cord gets here. It's interesting, the things I can get done when I have no computer access. The laundry is done, the house is clean, and I'm left twiddling my thumbs wondering what the hell to do. We've had some good weather, so we've been able to play outside a lot. I got a new mountain bike, so I look forward to riding it often.

Anyway, I've done a good bit of cooking since my last post. Last week, I made the Potato-Kale enchiladas from V-con. I'd heard good things about these, and the didn't disappoint. However, the recipe made LOTS of enchiladas. So many that we had them leftover for dinner the next evening, and lunch for three days! They look a little funky in the photo, and I think my enchiladas turn out that way because I don't like them completely drowned in sauce. They were quite tasty, and for a new side-dish I made some re-fried black beans. I made them the same way I make re-frieds with pinto beans. Sleek says they're better than the pinto ones.

Saturday night, I made tamarind lentils (also from V-con). Wow! They were so good. They will certainly be a staple around here. They also take less than an hour including prep and cooking time. They were perfect over jasmine rice.

Sunday, we spent the day at Chestnut Ridge Park. The kids had been wanting to have a "real" picnic for a long, long time. ( "Real" means using the actual picnic basket, not just eating their meal out in the yard. LOL) So, we headed out to CRP, where we met moneytastesbad, who has posted here on Chez Mama and RTN too. We had met before, but didn't figure out who each other was until last week. He has a sweet little girl, and the kids all enjoyed playing and spending the day outdoors. Anyway, I made some "cold-slaw" (that's what Julian calls it), bought some hummus at the co-op, and a good loaf of bread from the bakery. We had sandwiches with the hummus, roasted red-peppers, cucumbers and red onions. They were quite tasty. Oh, and for the slaw, I just chopped up my cabbage and a little red onion. And peeled some carrots into it. For the dressing, I mixed up some "light" mayo, sugar, apple cider vinegar, water and a touch of cumin. I think I'm going to get some Vegenaise on my next trip to the store. I really just use mayo for dressings and such. Anyone here use Vegenaise? Think I'll like it?

Okay, now it's rant time...So, after a two-year hiatus, Cafe of India re-opened here in Mo-town. It used to be one of our favorite restaurants. We had decided we would go there for dinner this evening. Sleek and the kids got there at 5:30, and I joined them ten minutes later. The restaurant was crowded, but not every table was taken. We sat there...and sat there...and sat there some more. No acknowledgement, no drink order taken. Sleek went to the register at one point and asked if maybe we should just order some take-out since it was taking so long. The waiter said he'd be right over to take our order. He walked past us at least three times in the next 15 minutes. After sitting there for an hour with two young children (who behaved exceptionally) we got up and left. I mean, I get that they just opened the restaurant, but they operated the former Cafe of India for many years. I never had poor service there. I mean, when they seated us, they could've explained that it may be a while before someone could wait on us. They could've brought out some naan for the kids at least! Hell, they could've frisbee-thrown it out from the kitchen. I would've caught it! I promise! We finally decided to leave when Annelies started crying from hunger pains! So, at this point, I'm thinking I'll never set foot in that place again.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Popeye Pasta

With Sleek's arrival home this evening, I was back in the kitchen. I tried another recipe from ED&BV, Popeye Pasta. It was very easy to make, and so tasty. A nice change from the typical pasta dish. The sauce is made from crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, Italian seasonings and agave nectar. At the end, you add a bunch of spinach. Again, so easy. I garnished mine with some chopped sun-dried tomatoes. I can eat those right out of the jar, if I'm feeling particularly naughty. I'll definitely be making this one again, but I really can't wait to try out the Olive Oyl pasta from the same cookbook. Carrie made it once, and when I saw that was when I knew I had to have ED&BV!

While Sleek was away, I pretty much stayed out of the kitchen. I cooked a few little things for the kids, but I pretty much lived on smoothies. Generally, one meal each day is a smoothie. They're so good! Here's how I make mine: I put a mixture of orange juice and pineapple juice equaling six ounces into the blender cup. Then I add several chunks of frozen mango and a small handful of frozen blueberries. Next, I add a TBS of flax oil, a massive handful of fresh spinach, and a sliced banana. Then I mix it all up using an immersion blender. It's so easy. I know people think the spinach is weird, but honestly, you can't even taste it. It just tastes sweet and fruity. When we get kale from the CSA, I use it instead of spinach.

Before Sleek left, he loaded up my iPod with the new Joseph Arthur EP and the second disc from In Rainbows. The Joseph Arthur is just off the hook. Apparently he's releasing several EPs this spring before releasing his new LP this summer. He's back to doing solo stuff, and it's a nice change. You really get a good feel for just how good his voice is. I really, really hope he does a solo tour. The second disc from In Rainbows is awesome too, as expected. Just over a month until the Radiohead show. WooooHoooo!