Sunday, May 31, 2009

quick and easy

No, I'm not talking about that girl or guy you met at the bar last night.  I'm talking food here.  Summertime food.  Food that says, 'Hey, it's hot outside and you're hungry, but tired and sweaty...  come eat me.'  Because, if you're like me (but not, necessarily, like Michael, who remains relatively ambitious in the food department year-round), you get a little lazy when the temperature goes up and there are things to be done outside and the kitchen just loses its draw on you...a bit.

Hence, you shall now be submitted to some of our solutions to this problem.  Creative and tasty solutions, methinks.

First up is the ever popular summer salad.
not just your gramma's iceburg

This, my friends, is the Greek salad from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking (henceforth so named the idiot cookbook, because this is another one I hate typing out).  It's chock full of radtastic veggies to fill you up, but not weigh you down when you're ready to go out for a nice bike ride after dinner.  As a former Greek salad addict, I fully approve of this rendition, right down to the dressing.  Add some tofu feta from the same book, and you've got a winner:
my first tofu feta attempt

Here I will admit: feta cheese was the last thing I gave up when I made the transition from vegetarian to vegan.  I snubbed my nose at all tofu feta recipes this past year (because, in fact, this past week was my veganversary!).  However, when Michael brought up the idea this time around, I thought, 'What the hell, lets give it a go'.  Ok, so it didn't taste like feta.  But it was tasty!  I have a feeling that if we'd cut it into smaller cubes and let it marinate for a day rather than half an hour, it would be even better.  In fact, I used some of the leftovers to make a weird breakfast one morning, and it was pretty awesome.

This next meal was made forever ago, but it's also a nice quick staple, and a bit heartier (but not too much) than a salad.
easy peasy baked tofu

Originally, I got this idea from The Accidental Vegan cookbook, but their recipe was so salty it made me gag.  Still, I liked the simplicity of the recipe, and decided to adapt it to better suit my needs.  Basically, just cut some extra firm tofu really thin, mix together tahini with whatever else is around (my usuals: nutritional yeast, a little soy sauce, hot sauce, garlic powder, etc), dip tofu in, put on a baking sheet, and bake it at 350F for about 30 minutes.  It gets this nice brown crust on it, and it's nice and chewy.  Plus, you don't have to press and marinate your tofu.  Plus, it's really versatile to whatever spices you have on hand or want to incorporate to a side dish you have a craving for that night.  

Oooooh, I'm excited about this one: 
fabulously easy tempeh and roasted veggies

Ok, so roasting veggies may not be something you feel like doing when it's hot out and your kitchen gets to be about 5 million degrees...  But you have to admit it's easy.  And you don't have to be in the kitchen the whole time they're roasting.  Go out and drink some lemonade on your porch or water your plants or play with your cat.  Then, just hop on into the kitchen when the buzzer goes off, fill your plate, and get the hell outta there.  See?  Not so bad.  So the roasted veggies here were super good, especially with that gravy Michael mixed up.  But what I'm really excited about is the tempeh.  Michael's mom brought us some wild rice tempeh the last time she came in from Evansville, and we've been trying to figure out how to use it so that the flavors shine through, but still doesn't taste like plain old tempeh.  The solution came, oddly enough (ha) with the recipe on the package.  That I didn't use, but did base my own recipe from it.  It's so excitingly yummy and easy, I'm even going to share it in its entirety with you.

Dill Macadamia Crusted Tempeh

1 package of tempeh (prefferably wild rice, but any will do)
1.5 ounces macadamia nuts (about an 1/8 cup, chopped)
1 heaping tsp dried dill
1 scallion, white and green parts, minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs water
spray oil for the baking sheet

First up, cut and simmer your tempeh.  We cut ours so that we get 14 pieces out of it...  So 7 pieces (that's six cuts you'll make) widthwise, and then cut each of those in half, lengthwise, so they're pretty darned thin.  Toss it in some boiling water, reduce heat, and cover for 12 minutes, then drain.  While all that's going on, preheat your oven to 350F and make the macadamia crust.  For that, place the nuts in your food processor or good blender and process until they are super fine crumbs.  They'll look oily and kinda clumpy, that's good.  Place them in a small bowl and add the rest of the ingredients (except for the spray oil, obviously).  Mix it all should be like a paste.  Spray a baking sheet with the oil and arrange your tempeh in one layer.  Spoon an equal amount of the paste onto each slice and spread it out so that it's completely covering the top.  Put in the oven for 15 minutes, and it's done!  

It's so good.  The dill adds a nice summery flavor and it's just salty enough.  I suppose if you wanted to coat the whole pieces of tempeh, just double the recipe.  But there's enough flavor in just the top coating, that it's really not necessary.

Lastly today, is this lovely chickpea stew from some Turkish cookbook that I got at Borders about a million years ago: 
simple, nutritious, and delicious

Ok, well, it turned into a chickpea and white bean stew because we only had one can of chickpeas on hand, but it was still super fabulous.  It's mainly 2 red onions sauteed in oil and margarine with cumin and coriander and fennel seeds and paprika (except we didn't have enough red onion, so we added a bunch of scallions in a later step), add a can of drained diced tomatoes and a teeny bit of sugar, add the chickpeas (and scallions, if you're us) and some cashews (not in the recipe, but a nice addition), and a whole bunch (the literal sense here) of chopped parsley.  Garnish with lemon wedges and salt to taste.  The lemon makes this meal.  You really need that burst of acid to bring out the flavors in the spices.  You could serve this over rice, but we were lazy and just ate bowls of it, as is.  It all came together in about 20 minutes.  I know that's not really a recipe, but I don't remember exact measurements.  Just add spices to taste and whatnot, if you'd like to try it out.  Oh, it also called for whole spices, but we didn't have cumin or coriander seeds, so we just used the ground versions of both, and it turned out fine!

I have more to catch up on (like commenting on all your lovely blogs, I know, I know!), but it's noon and I'm getting hungry now...  Time for a quick and easy meal! 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

West Virginia Strawberry Festival

Last weekend I went home to see my mom and celebrate the amazingness that are strawberries.  We mainly avoided the festival itself, though the craft fair and quilt show were pretty darned awesome.  I got some West Virginia made foodstuffs like hot mustard relish and hot pepper sauce and tomato basil garlic pasta and garlic fettucine.  Hell to the yeah.  Anywho, the real and true main event was the strawberry feast that we created once we got home from town.  

Mom and I spent most of the afternoon picking, prepping and cooking.  The first thing we churned out was this wonderful strawberry avocado salsa:
wouldn't you like a bite?

This was basically salsa with the tomatoes replaced by strawberries.  It was so easy!  Strawberries, avocado, red onion, garlic, cilantro, and lime juice and zest.  The avocado added a nice creaminess to the whole deal and it was a lovely combination of tart and sweet.  There's nothing like a fun variation on salsa.  Plus, it's tricky because the strawberries look just like tomatoes.  Go make it and trick someone.  They'll love you for it.

Meanwhile, a pizza crust needed to be made up for this pizza my mom found a recipe for...  strawberry goat cheese pizza.  Obviously, goat cheese is not an option for me, so I made the cashew goat cheese from this past issue of Vegetarian Times.  Normally, I'm not a huge fan of that magazine, but I picked it up specifically for the vegan cheese section.  The cheese itself turned out pretty tasty.  I'd say it was really awesome, if not for the fact that it was a greasy mess.  It's dangerous to have in your fridge, guys.  It's yummy (though not really spectacular), but for a one ounce serving...  well, you probably don't even want to know how fatty it is.  However, it's a nice treat and yummy and just fine in moderation.  Anyway!  Rant and review aside, look how freaking awesome my pizza crust turned out.
just call me papa jessica

I found this crust recipe in Mom's Moosewood New Classics cookbook.  It was really simple and had a nice flavor and good texture.  Now, time for toppings!
strawberry strawberry strawberry

The pizza was topped with dollops of the cashew cheese, sliced strawberries, spinach from Mom's garden, and pistachios.  It was a good pizza, in theory, but Mom and I both thought something was missing.  The original recipe called for arugula instead of spinach, which would probably add a much needed peppery aspect.  Then, I rinsed the pistachios because the cheese I made was so salty, but that made them a little soggy instead of crunchy.  Still, I enjoyed it, and when I had a slice for lunch the next day, I added more of the cashew cheese and it was truly delicious.  Sometimes you just can't skimp on the awesomeness factor, even if it isn't that good for you.
prettiest pizza contest winner

We ate the pizza with some fresh picked asparagus from the yard, which we tragically overcooked until it was a complete mushy mess, but still the best tasting asparagus I've had all season.  Oh, and daquiris.  Strawberry, of course.  And a salad all made from stuff from their garden.  
spring garden bounty

Mom's radishes, green onions, and lettuce are all ready and roaring so far.  Which is more than I can say for our own garden!  If only there was direct sunlight on the porch.  Sigh.  Anyway, I enjoyed our lovely little salad of home grown veggies and greens.

For dessert, Mom whipped up these lovely little poppyseed shortcakes.
scones in disguise

They really were very scone-like.  Not that I'm complaining.  I love scones.  Aren't they pretty though?  Naturally, we piled them high with loads of sliced strawberries so I got to have strawberry shortcake after all (since I couldn't get any downtown this year at any of the sales).
...i didn't eat the ice cream.

Have you guys ever had Rice Dream Organic ice cream?  It sucks.  But the shortcakes were lovely with the strawberries and the perfect end to our meal and day!

In the morning, we took a break from strawberries and made blueberry pancakes.
a quiet respite

Blueberry cornmeal pancakes from Veganomicon, to be exact.  Because honestly, I think we were both strawberried out.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

i live, kind of.

So, I got the flu.  It knocked me on my ass.  'Nuff said.  

As a form of apology, please accept these delicious meals, in electronic form:
all kinds of rad

These are the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Isa's blog.  They are pretty much the bee's knees.  Wait, is that vegan?  Regardless, is it too 1925?  Oh well.  You should make them.  As you can see, I burned mine slightly, but all in all, I'm pretty damned proud of my frying skills.  Cause I made this all by my lonesome one night.  I substituted tahini everywhere that the recipe called for Veganaise because I was all out of my trusty Nayonaise.  Still was totally awesome.  That remoulade on top is key, as well.  Make it all together when (not if) you do.  That soup in the background is the asparagus and spinach soup from Nava Atlas' Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for all Seasons (here on out called 'the soup book' because I gaurantee I will not want to type all that out every time I use the book).  It was a nice and simple soup, very fresh tasting and mighty easy to pull together.  I'm pretty smitten with this soup book.  You'll see.
giada pasta

Giada basically makes me want to vomit.  I hate most things about her.  She's too gorgeous and skinny to be this chef who makes all this fattening food.  She smiles too much and her teeth are too white.  Her shirts are too low cut.  And tight.  Which is probably why Michael was watching her show one day and got the idea for this pasta she was making (jk, but seriously).  It's cherry tomatoes roasted with garlic and capers and lemon juice (um, hello) and breadcrumbs on top of all that.  Then you mix it in with some pasta that you coated with parmesan (we've got a stockpile of vegan parmesan, it rules).  I got to pick out that fun pasta...I think it was called 'Wacky Mac'.  I could not resist.  Could you resist wagon wheels in your pasta?  Really though, this pasta was amazing.  So rich and creamy, somehow.  It had a lot of oil in it.  And it was wonderful.  Before the pasta, we ate this:
ceasar spectacular

As always, dressing recipe from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.  It's so fabulous.  I keep wanting to make the ceasar dressing from Veganomicon, but...I never have silken tofu.  Ever.  I kind of loathe it.  Plus, what is up with it needing to be fresh and not vacuum packed?  Really?  I love that cookbook, but so many ingredients just will not ever be found in West Virginia.  Ever.  Not to say I don't sub stuff in all the time.  It's just kind of a pain when I'm hungry and grouchy.  Anyway, that's all fine and well because the uncheese recipe is a favorite.  We added red bell peppers to our salad for some color and sweetness.  It ruled.
black bean quinoa mango etc

Ah...speaking of Veganomicon...  I made these two salads from it for a book club meeting I had a while back.  This one was a hit, but thank goodness the girls like cilantro.  A cup of cilantro?  Are you freaking kidding me?  I didn't add that much.  I mean, it tasted good.  I liked it.  But I think I just have a moral dillemna about adding that much cilantro to anything.  

This one was good too:
brooklyn deli pasta salad

I've never had pasta salad from a Brooklyn deli.  I get it though.  It's simple.  It doesn't need to have all kinds of complicated ingredients because the beauty is in the simple flavors shining through.  It was yummy.  I did think it was a little bland though, and added about a tablespoon of some mustard that Michael had made (I know!) to spice it up and add another dimension.  Because, no matter how important simplicity is, I am always up for fucking it up haha...  Oh well.

While we're on the subject of cold salads...
lunch perfection

I made a big pot of quinoa when I made that salad for the book club so I could have a base for some lunches the following week.  So on Monday when I came home for lunch hungry and in a hurry, this came together fairly quickly.  It's diced mango, sliced radishes, the quinoa, and green onions in my favorite poppyseed dressing.  It was light, but filling and darn tasty.  

On Cinco de Mayo, I went to a party and needed to bring food.  My taste buds had not yet bounced back from the flu (I feel like I missed a lot of good food during this time)...  So Michael made the food for it!  Coconut black beans with mango and avocado.
not really that mexican, but whatever

People went apeshit over this stuff.  It is good, though, I've had it many times before.  The beans get so creamy when you cook them with coconut milk, and the avocado only adds to that effect.  Then the mangos add the perfect amount of sweet...  Add some cayenne, cumin, and salt (and maybe some lime juice) and you're in business.  It's seriously the easiest and tastiest little meal to make.  I like to just eat it with a spoon, but it would be good wrapped in tortillas or eaten as a dip with chips, even.  And evidently, it is good party food.

So I don't know about where you live, but it's been raining pretty much nonstop here for the past 10 days.  Well, as I write that, the sun is shining, but it did rain earlier today, I swear.  Rain's cool and all, but sometimes you just get sick of it.  And what better way to chase away the rainy day blues than with a giant bowl of soup and some fresh bread?
bread-like, anyway

Those up there are the Onion-Rye Scones from the soup book.  It was serendipitous because Michael and I had just broken our pantry challenge (finally) and had bought some rye flour on a whim.  This was perfect also because you don't have to wait for it to rise.  That's another thing I like about that book, the breads are all quick breads that can be made in the time it takes to make the soup you're making to go with it.  Nifty!  These came together sort of quickly (it took the longest to saute the onions) and ended up being quite delicious.  My taste buds were in and out during this meal, but they were sort of sweet and salty and generally awesome.  I thought they'd rise more... and I would not really call these 'scones' per se, but... whatever.  Call 'em what you like, I just call them tasty.  And good for dipping into soup.
rainy meals are the best

mock clam chowder

We ate the 'scones' with the clam chowder recipe from the same book.  Now, I must tell you that I used to be quite the eater of clam chowder.  Creamy, salty, sweet, chewy...  I couldn't get enough.  We're talking New England here, not Manhattan.  Don't you dare put tomatoes in my clam chowder.  Or mock clam chowder, that is.  It's just wrong.  Anyway, if you didn't know it already, oyster mushrooms are the best substitute for clams out there.  The recipe calls for baked tofu, but we had oyster mushrooms in the fridge and used those instead.  And it was good.  Michael also added some dried veggie flakes to the soup for some color.  My only complaint is that there was way too much frigging corn in this soup.  It calls for 3 cups.  Next time I'd only put in 2 or 1 1/2 cups, because by the time you got to the bottom of your bowl, it was like you were forcing yourself to eat all this damned corn and it got kind of more filling than I would have liked.  Regardless, this is the best mock clam chowder I've had since becoming vegan.  Highly reccommended.

When you're on a pantry challenge, you find yourself making some interesting stuff.  Flavor combinations that never occured to you before suddenly sound like the most genius ideas ever.  Mostly because you're starving and detoxing from having your regular ingredients on hand.  What?  I'm out of turmeric?  I'm sure mustard powder will be fine in this, then.  At least it'll be yellow.  Huh?  No more nayonaise?  Well, tahini's creamy.  I'm sure that'll be great.  And in this case, no frozen blueberries for those muffins you are craving?  Who needs 'em when you've got strawberry jam?
aren't they purty?

This is a creation that apparently tasted amazing, but I didn't really taste much of it...  Stupid taste buds, and all.  But I was hungry on a weekend morning and we had no oatmeal or cereal or fruit.  Muffins are a generally good catch-all for random ingredients.  And I had strawberry jam and lemons.  The general idea (i.e., the measurements for flour/liquid/baking soda and powder) came from the Blueberry Lemon Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking.  They would probably be great with blueberries.  But they were damned fine with strawberry jam, too.  I also added some fresh minced basil to the batter, but no one could taste it.  Next time I'd add more, because I bet it would add an awesome flavor dimension.  Anyway, basically I just made the recipe without the blueberries and put them in the muffin cups, then went back and put a teaspoon of straberry jam on the top and swirled it around with a toothpick.  I thought this would fully integrate the jam, but as you will notice, it did not.
lovely little things though

It all stayed on the tops of the muffins, so there was this division of rich, lemony bottom half and sweet, sticky strawberry tops.  What I'm saying here is that these were awesome.  Michael ate like 8 of them in one afternoon.  And my friend Becca ate one when we went to the movies and said they ruled.  So.  Even without properly working tastebuds or a pantry stocked to the brim with fabulous ingredients, I (and you) can make stuff work that will blow people away.  Skip your next grocery trip and get creative.  

I have more to show you from the pantry challenge and all that, but I'm kind of tired from all this thinking and typing and remembering.  Plus, I don't want to spoil you with too much awesomeness at once.