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!