Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Peanut Sesame Hummus


Music: Margaret Whiting

Well, I had to toss the lilac clipping as it finally wilted yesterday. It still had a lovely scent to it; I thought it would smell sickly sweet but it didn’t.

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I made this super easy recipe yesterday, from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan:

2 C cooked chickpeas
1/4 C fresh lime juice
3 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp (dark) toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic, sliced
bit of fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
1 tsp tamari
1/2 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1-3 tbsp water to thin dip as desired

Combine all in a food processor (except water, which you will add if needed to thin the dip) & puree until smooth and creamy. So easy and so good!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Brief glimpse of spring is over

Music: Andrew Bird

Here’s a small clipping from my lilac (I call her Lucie) outside of my dining room window, that I snipped yesterday. It was smashed up against the front porch awning and couldn’t be seen, so I brought it inside. Today it is smelling ever so fragrant as I wash my dishes.

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This shrub usually blooms just before my birthday so it’s a little weird to actually have some before May. Even though lilacs only bloom for barely two weeks, I love them and their scent. Mine is over ten feet tall in a little over four years!

It’s back to the normal April weather here in Michigan today. I’m also looking for some sunshine but it hasn’t yet come through.

I work at the library tonight and Jim is off today, so we made some lentil soup for lunch because the weather just seemed to call for it. This recipe is adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook:

1/2 tbsp olive oil
several small cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, chopped in small chunks
2 stalks celery hearts, diced
1 1/2 C dry lentils, picked through (for stones) and rinsed
3 C vegetable stock

In a large soup pot, sauté garlic & onion in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are softened. We ate it with some leftover bean salad with all the fixings.

I also made some chocolate chip muffins, adapted from a carob chip muffin recipe from Vive Le Vegan:

2 C barley flour
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C chocolate chips
1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 C soy milk
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 C vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, sifting in the baking powder & soda. In another small bowl, combine all the liquids. Add wet ingredients to the dry mixture and stir until just mixed. Spoon into a muffin tin lined with cupcake liners or lightly oiled. Bake about 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out squeaky clean. My batch made 12 muffins. Absolutely delicious; I ate mine still warm with some herbal tea.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Happy Accidents

Music: Queen

I’m always changing things in the recipes I “follow.” Usually it’s because I don’t have all the ingredients required, so often I’ll either leave it out or substitute with something else. Sometimes I just don’t like the way the recipe is written to be followed, other times I might not like certain ingredients. (Note: if I’m baking, I’m usually much stricter with myself because baking is more like a science project where exact measurements are crucial but I am beginning to experiment with baking as well, such as reducing sugar).

The other day I made my usual salsa recipe but didn’t look at the can of organic tomatoes very carefully until after I had poured it into my food processor. It was a can of pre-seasoned tomatoes with basil and garlic spices. I try to be very careful when I buy diced canned tomatoes because I don’t like pre-seasoned flavors, preferring to season it myself. I decided to go ahead and make the salsa anyway since I had already opened it. The result was something I called pizza salsa. It really tasted like salsa with a slight pizza sauce flavor! It wasn’t fabulous, but it was good enough to eat, which is the important thing. Taste matters the most.

Yesterday I had a taste for the salad I usually eat at Steve’s Backroom so I made this with beans I had on hand: homemade chickpeas (yes, I made them), beluga lentils (they look just like caviar!), black beans, and kidney beans. There’s also onions, some fresh parsley from the garden, dash of Tabasco, dash of cayenne pepper, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, the juice of one lemon, avocado, walnuts, almonds, green pepper, and dried cranberries. There is no oil in this salad at all, nor salt or pepper.

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When I served it, I also added some baby greens and arugula Jim picked up at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday while I was at the library. It came out really good, but I need to find the recipe for a pomegranate dressing, which is how they serve it at Steve’s.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nature Hike

We visited Indian Springs Metro Park today, out near Clarkston, and bought our annual pass. We usually go to Kensington but thought we’d try someplace different this time.

We hiked a 3 mile trail around the entire nature area, which is blissfully free of bikes, joggers, and noise. There were actually signs saying we were entering a “quiet area.” We avoided all the shortcuts on the trail and just meandered around, observing the pretty flowers, listening to the water in the tiny streams, and actually got caught in some rain. There were no pines or evergreens anywhere so we ducked under tree stumps or curved trees. Thankfully, it was warm and we didn’t get soaked. The sun finally came out later; we were out there almost three hours! Here are some highlights:

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Marsh marigolds

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Trillium

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That’s me walking toward Timberland Lake.

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An old abandoned saw leftover from a possible logging camp.

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Just some pretty flowers growing out of the water in the lake.

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It looks so weird without green on the trees.

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This chipmunk stood stock still for us (terrified, probably)!

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Part of an old abandoned woodstove…

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that says “Peninsula Stove Co. Detroit Chicago Buffalo.”

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This was a barn we saw on the way out.

It was a very nice way to start the week.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Found:

Locally grown flour I can buy at the Farmer’s Market! I had just been thinking that I liked the Anson Mills flour that Jim purchased online a few months ago (and that I promptly used up in my regular homemade baking) and I had just used up the last of my grocery store mass-produced flour, when Jim went to the Farmer’s Market today and picked this up:

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Jim said they were a new vendor we hadn’t seen before at the Farmer’s Market. This is Jennings’ Bros. home grown (and milled) flour from Nashville, Michigan (wherever the heck that is). Wait, let me get my map out: on the southwest side of the state in Barry County. Jim said the guy was in his 60s and was alternating his Royal Oak Farmer’s Market visits every other week with the Kerrytown Farmer’s Market in Ann Arbor. So, if I like this flour, I plan to buy more from him. Too cool!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sunny Skies

Music: Joni Mitchell

I was off yesterday so I made an apricot-almond loaf to share at work today with my awesome co-workers. I posted the recipe here last week on April 16th. I also made another batch of biscotti, substituting the 1/4 tsp lemon extract that I didn’t have with 1/2 tsp almond extract. I also tried something a little different: I reduced the sugar by 2 tablespoons. Jim is trying to lose some weight so I thought I’d try reducing the sugar in my recipes, just like I’ve been doing with oil. I’ll see how it tastes tomorrow morning with my coffee, but I have a feeling it will be just fine because the biscotti also has some chocolate chips.

I used up my baking powder while baking so made some more, which I make homemade from a super easy recipe from Super Natural Cooking:

In a resealable container, combine 1 part baking soda to 2 parts arrowroot and 2 parts cream of tartar. That’s it! No aluminum in your baking powder.

For lunch I cooked the last of the frozen falafel I bought several weeks ago and, in a warmed pita, stuffed in the falafel along with some mixed greens, raw onion, and a bit of Vegenaise. We also ate the rest of the potatoes & beets from yesterday, reheated in the oven (I was already making biscotti, so just put in everything at once while the oven was hot).

We made this delicious dish last night for dinner, using a garlic sauce recipe adapted from How It All Vegan:

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 C water
2 tsp Braggs
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground pepper (I just eyeballed it with my grinder because I'm so not going to grind it into a bowl, then spoon it into a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon, thus probably leaving some left over)
1/4 tsp salt
dash of cayenne pepper

In a skillet, sauté garlic carefully in the oil on medium-low heat until softened. Be careful not to brown it. Then add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes. When it was almost done, we tossed in chopped zucchini and Portobello mushrooms, then tossed all that with some soba noodles. In the future, I might try grating the zucchini and just serve the mushrooms in slabs on the side.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oh, Boy

Well, it has begun. I heard my first lawn service today. It’s not even 50 degrees! Grrrr….

We are quiet people. I’ve only had a brief period in my life where I went out dancing almost every weekend at Clubland (remember that?!) in Detroit. Now my “going out” usually means hearing live music at the Taste Fest or Jazz Festival downtown, art fairs in the summer, hiking at Kensington Metro park, attending friends’ recitals or classical music concerts, and occasionally some live rock at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. Other than that, we pretty much like to be home, reading, gardening, cooking, playing music, and enjoying the nature and wildlife in our own yard. We have several bird houses and feeders so we get all kinds of colorful & beautiful-sounding birds and butterflies. We even get the occasional bunny. Amazingly, they do not even mess with the vegetables.

But noise is becoming more and more of a problem. I’m trying to ignore it but Jim is very averse to it. It has gotten worse since we moved back here to Royal Oak. Come to think of it, it got bad when we lived in Detroit for three years. Kind of made us more aware of how loud the world is. Loud, thumping music from cars passing by and dogs left out barking were our main annoyances.

I’ve always hated the sound of power equipment, especially lawn equipment. And since moving back to Royal Oak in 2004, we seem to have moved into a slightly wealthier neighborhood than we used to live in. I say this because almost every household on my street has a lawn service; this means that there’s a different service almost every day of the week in the summer. Unfortunately, I want to be outside in the summer, so this noise forces me inside not only because it’s ridiculously loud, but also because of the noxious fumes spewed about. I end up blasting my stereo to drown out the noise or trying to figure out where I can go for some quiet.

If that wasn’t bad enough, we seem to be in a direct flight path to Metro Airport. I’m sure it’s like this all over the metro Detroit area, but it seems really pronounced here. In fact, I remember my neighbor telling us this soon after we moved in. Hmmm…maybe that should have been a red flag?

Monday night, around 11:30pm, as we lay in bed trying to sleep, a plane flew over our house about every 20 minutes, making it difficult to fall asleep. I’d be almost there (you know that feeling) and then I’d hear a plane. So I pulled out our sound machine and plugged it in the kitchen so we could have some white noise.

I hate doing this but it’s the only thing that works.

Jim wants to move but I love my job and don’t want a long commute. If we move someplace very quiet in the “country” or “up north,” I either have to quit my job or drive far to another job in a small town that pays peanuts and isn’t busy at all. So I don’t think this will work.

I sometimes wonder that until we moved to Detroit, I didn’t notice the noise so much. I hate that this might make me sound old but it really bothers me. Does anyone else feel this way? I’d love to hear from you.

Anyway, this is what I ate for lunch yesterday. A Boca Chik patty on a whole wheat bun with a smear of Vegenaise & mixed greens, along with the roasted beets, potatoes, & some baby spinach. Yum!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cooking Against the Clock

music: doris day

We went to the Farmer’s Market last Saturday and got some new potatoes and beets from the organic farmers. There are both farmers that use pesticides and those who don’t and you already know which ones I buy from! It’s so exciting to see food again at the market instead of just dried flowers, flea market furniture & collectibles, or homemade soap which prevail during the winter months. This is a sign that summer and some great Michigan produce are coming! I can’t wait for strawberries (only for about 2 weeks—then poof! they’re gone), blueberries, and brussel sprouts! There were bunches of seed packets and little seedlings for sale, too, but Jim gets his seeds from Seeds of Change. I’m thinking he should maybe look into what’s for sale locally for next year.

So when I get this stuff home, sometimes I think, I’ve got to do something with all these potatoes and beets before they aren’t good anymore. So,when I have some time on my mornings off before I go to the library, like today, I will roast them all in the oven in a little olive oil with sea salt & ground pepper. This way, they can either be warmed later as side dishes, used in other recipes, or (and I really love them this way) at room temperature to toss into salads.

Yesterday I roasted a few beets with some onions & minced garlic and later ate them with baby spinach in a salad, like so:

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It was so good I decided to cook the rest of them the same way and the new potatoes, too, in a separate roasting pan. The only real work is scrubbing, washing, & chopping. After that, the oven does the work for you.

An easy, quick, way to enjoy some whole foods.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

In My Kitchen

Music: Bee Gees

I don’t own many of the typical appliances or cookware that most people have in their kitchens. I believe in less clutter, for one, and I also like to find the best way to do things that works for me. For example, when I moved to this house in 2004, my microwave oven didn’t fit anywhere on my limited countertop space and I didn’t want to remodel the kitchen nor change anything just so that I could keep it. Also, I never really liked how microwave ovens cooked or reheated my food; it didn’t taste the same anymore (kind of unnatural in both taste & texture) and it also heated unevenly and cooled quickly. Finally, you have to kind of wonder about the safety factor when even experts don’t know the long-term implications of using them. So I donated mine to Vietnam Veterans of America. I now use my toaster oven to make toast as well as to reheat food or else I reheat on my stove top. I don’t miss the microwave at all. Another friend of mine (in Portland, OR) doesn’t like them either and yet another just doesn’t want one. But most people have them in their kitchens and think nothing of using them. And I know the “green” experts say they save energy but I just don’t think they’re safe. And, when you think about it most people only really use it to reheat food, not cook it.

Non-stick cookware is another kitchen item I decided to get rid of when I began reading about food and health. Yes, they might make cooking and cleanup easier but did you know that you should only be using wood or plastic utensils when cooking on them (not metal)? My mother & Jim’s grandmother both own non-stick pans and they have used metal on them; as a result, the pans are all scratched up. I ask you, where did the scraped off coating go? Into the food, that’s where, which you ate! So I’d just rather not use them. Instead, I use plain old stainless steel. I find that if I cook at lower temperatures, the food is less likely to stick. Try it sometime. I’m looking into some cast iron cookware as I have heard they are wonderful, but I need to do some research as I have a smooth top electric range and those are believed to sometimes scratch the cook tops.

A few years ago, Jim started a worm compost for our food scraps. In the winter, he brings the worms inside so they don’t freeze to death & we keep them in the basement until spring. This has been a great way to use up vegetable/fruit scraps & coffee grounds. It also makes a great fertilizer when mixed with water for all the plants, too.

I bought this at the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market last Saturday at the Dirty Girl Farm stand. Laundry is my next step for going more natural and using less chemicals.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Look How Good I Eat

For lunch on Friday before I went to the library, I made a sandwich on toasted French bread with the rest of the tempeh salad and some baby spinach. Oh, and one Clausen dill pickle!

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For dinner Friday night, we made some kidney beans with basmati rice. We prepared the beans the same way I prepare my black beans. That’s also the rest of the raw green pepper we didn’t use in the bean recipe as well as some French bread toasted & spread with some Earth Balance Buttery Spread.

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This is my usual breakfast muesli, served with dried apricots, flaxseed meal, a tsp of sugar, and sliced almonds. This keeps me going for almost four hours without being hungry.

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For lunch on Saturday, since we were on the east side, we ate at the Sprout House in Grosse Pointe Park. It was so nice we ate outside! Very exciting! I ate half of a tofu veggie sandwich filled with tomato pesto, herbed Vegenaise, sprouts, and lettuce and served on whole wheat bread. I saved the rest to eat at work tomorrow. I also had a side of some delicious roasted carrots with olive oil, fresh parsley, sea salt, & pepper.

And tonight we ate this wonderful meal. A vegetable stir-fry with carrots, celery, onions, baby spinach, and tofu with brown rice. That’s arugula from the Farmer’s Market with avocado on the side; I used a squeeze of a slice of fresh lime with sea salt & pepper as my dressing. This was outstanding! Look at those wonderful colors!

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Homemade Beauty

When I was a teenager, like most young girls, I loved strong fragrances. I loved the fruity and exotic smelling soaps, candles, and lotions at Victoria’s Secret and I even wore perfume. By the time I graduated from college, though, something changed. I noticed that these products were starting to irritate my skin, give me headaches, and even make my nose itch. I also noticed that most brand name makeup was really bothering my skin; I’d try a new concealer or foundation and I’d get red patches on my face that were dry, itchy, and swollen! I even went to a wonderfully inquisitive dermatologist who asked me questions about what I had used on my skin or what I had been exposed to. This was what started me really thinking about how things that we expose ourselves to or put on our skin (or in our bodies) affect us. So being the librarian that I am, I started researching.

I discovered that I have very sensitive skin. About the only thing I can do is tan extremely easily. In fact, ten minutes in the sun and I have some color, so I have to be careful to not get too dark. As a child, I used to get so dark that a girl in my swimming class when I was about eight actually asked me what color I was! I had no idea what in the world she was talking about.

So I started buying the sensitive skin care and makeup products by Neutrogena, Almay, or Aveeno. But when I became vegan, I became wary of buying products when I wasn’t sure what the ingredients were. And when I found some good recipes in Natural Beauty at Home, I tried them. I haven’t bought facial cleanser, shampoo, or body lotion for over a year now.

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Today I made a batch of facial cleanser. In a blender, I combine the following until smooth and creamy:

1 cup warm distilled water
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp vegetable glycerin (I find this at Nutri Foods)
1-2 drops vitamin E oil (ditto)

I fill several small travel bottles with them and store in the refrigerator. I find it stays thicker stored in the refrigerator. I use this blend in the mornings to wash my face. This recipe usually lasts me about 2 months.

I also made some rosewater toner. When I found out how easy this is to make, I cringed that I didn’t make it sooner! It smells so good and feels wonderful on my skin:

4 tbsp rosewater
2 tbsp orange flower water
2 tbsp witch hazel (I love this name)

Combine all in a bottle. To use it, just wet a cotton ball and stroke on the face and neck. It’s very gentle to the skin. In the summer I keep it in the refrigerator but it doesn’t have to be refrigerated.

I find the rosewater and orange flower water in either the baking section or the liquor section (they keep changing it!) at Holiday Market, but I think I will look for a bulk place online since I use them in so many things. And, since I don’t shop at Holiday much, the last time I was there I bought them out of both (about 15 bottles)!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Salads, Wraps & Other Good Things

I’m filling up the refrigerator with some good salads this week. On Tuesday morning, I made two. The first is a Tempeh Salad, adapted from How It All Vegan:

1 package tempeh, cubed
1/2 C Vegenaise
2 stalks celery hearts, diced
1 medium dill pickle, diced (I like Clausen brand)
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp fresh parsley (use 1 tsp dried if you don't have fresh)
2 tsp mustard
2 tsp Braggs or soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced

In a skillet, steam the tempeh for about 15 minutes on medium heat. I added a few slices of lemon to it as well. This helps not only to cook the tempeh but also to remove some of the bitter taste it can have. I don’t taste it but some people do (like Jim). Remove from heat to cool. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, then add the tempeh & toss lightly. Serve alone, on a bed of greens, or as a sandwich filling. Jim really enjoyed the tempeh prepared this way. We’re amazed and how much it looks and tastes like chicken salad.

The second was an adaptation of the Rice and Bean Salad from Feb. 16. Instead of rice, I used cooked pearl barley instead. The wonderful thing about barley is that 1/4 C raw (which expands to about 1/2 C cooked) has 8 grams of fiber! According to one web site, it has 50% more fiber & 50% less fat than oatmeal. So this whole food salad not only tastes wonderful but is very healthy, too.

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That’s the barley salad on the left and some of the Tempeh salad (for my lunch) on the right.

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For lunch before I went to work yesterday, I made a sandwich with the chickpea spread, lettuce, & avocado and a side of the barley salad.

Years ago, a very good friend gave me the book Wraps: Easy Recipes for Handheld Meals by Mary Corpening Barber, Sara Corpening, and Lori Lyn Narlock. The recipes are wonderful but they are not vegan. So now we’re trying to “veganize” them.

One favorite is the p b & g. It’s so good and comes together really well without the dairy or honey. This recipe serves 2.

peanut butter (we like Parker's Natural--sold both at Hollywood & Whole Foods in the refrigerated organic/vegan section)
2 10 inch flour tortillas (we like Mission)
1 sliced organic banana (cut about 1/4 inch thick)
1 C granola (we use our homemade, of course)
1/4 vanilla yogurt (we use So Delicious made with coconut milk from Whole Foods)
2 tsp agave nectar

Spread the peanut butter on warmed tortillas. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl then spoon the filling into each tortilla. Wrap and enjoy this delicious breakfast!

Finally, a good friend of mine stopped by for tea this morning. Since I know he loves apricots, I made this Apricot-Almond Loaf from Vive Le Vegan:

1/2 C ground oats
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C + 1/4 C toasted almond slivers (reserve the 1/4 C for garnish)
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 C soy or rice milk
1 tbsp ground flaxseed meal
1/2 C applesauce
1/3-1/2 C dried apricots, chopped
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 tbsp oil (I used vegetable)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees & lightly oil bread pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, sugar, 1/3 C almonds, nutmeg, & salt, then sift in flour, baking powder & baking soda. In a small bowl, combine milk with flaxseed meal & stir to combine. Add applesauce, apricots, extracts, & oil then mix well. Add wet mixture to dry then stir until just mixed. Pour into bread pan then sprinkle remaining 1/4 C almonds on top down the center. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown & toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Since his birthday is Sunday, I let him take the rest of it home!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fried Tofu Sandwich

One of my favorite quick sandwiches is a Fried Tofu Sandwich. I cut about 3 thin slices of firm tofu, then pat them dry with a dish towel. In a fry pan, I add 2 tsp of toasted sesame oil and 4 tsp of Braggs. I then sprinkle a little All Purpose Spice on one side then, on medium low heat, I sauté the tofu on both sides until lightly browned and slightly firm.

Meanwhile, I toast some bread. I like the Breadsmith’s French Peasant bread for this since it toasts up nice and firm for this sandwich, but I have also used Trader Joe’s Sprouted Bread as well. I spread some Vegenaise on one slice of the toasted bread, then add greens, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocadoes—essentially whatever I seem to have on hand. This is a delicious sandwich! I usually eat it with a dill pickle and some potato chips.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Sandwich Spread for the Week

Well, at least for the next few days. It never lasts that long. This time its Tamari Tease Chickpea Spread adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan:

1 15-16 oz can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
4 tbsp Vegenaise (cookbook says you may also substitute with 3 tbsp olive oil though I’ve never tried it)
3 tbsp tamari (sometimes I use Bragg's, sometimes I use soy sauce)
2 tsp rice vinegar

Blend all in a food processor. It's lunch.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Ostara

Today we visited my in-laws for the holiday. That means, of course, that we had to bring something to eat but, surprise, surprise! My mother-in-law made a vegan potato salad (that she found from reading my blog)! It was delicious, made with fingerling potatoes (blue potatoes, too, in there!) and Kalamata olives, along with artichokes. And my sister-in-law brought some fresh asparagus with olive oil and lemon juice. As you can see, my lunch was outstanding! I even brought along some multigrain bread made by the Sprout House in Grosse Pointe Park and also my Earth Balance Buttery Spread. Both were a big hit, even with the meat eaters.

We brought Spring Minestrone adapted from Super Natural Cooking:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 C brown basmati rice, rinsed
6 C vegetable stock
1 C sugar snap or snow peas, trimmed & cut in half
8 spears asparagus, trimmed & diagonally sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 C green peas, fresh or frozen
Sea salt & ground pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat then add shallots & garlic & saute until soft.

2. Add the rice & cook, stirring for one minute, then add the stock & bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, & simmer until rice is tender about 35-40 minutes.

3. Add vegetables & spices to taste. Simmer a few minutes more then serve immediately. You want to add the vegetables just before serving so they stay green & crisp.


It was so nice to be thought of; the meal choices are definitely improving when I’m eating with family. Thank you. xo

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eating Out in Ann Arbor

We attended a wonderful flute recital this afternoon at the Kerrytown Concert House, a very neat old house turned concert venue. A flutist I know had a recital “just for fun.” I hadn’t been there before even though I lived in Ann Arbor for a year and a half back in 1990-91. I was charmed by the old house, its art gallery-intimate atmosphere, the red brick streets, and the beautiful architecture of the businesses in the neighborhood.

Afterwards, we walked six blocks to Seva, a vegetarian restaurant that I hadn’t been to in years. I ate a half portion of a Thai spicy peanut salad, with mixed greens, roasted peanuts, shredded carrots, mung bean sprouts, & cucumbers with a peanut cilantro lime dressing. I also ordered a side of sautéed tofu to add to my salad. Jim ordered a penne pasta dish with soy “sausage,” portabella mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, & red pepper along with a side salad. I also had a cup of hibiscus herbal tea afterwards, unfortunately served in an ugly dark blue mug. You’ll laugh but these things matter to me.

While the food was very good, I still think the Inn Season in Royal Oak is much better in that its menu is more unique, its atmosphere quiet and calming. Also, the ambiance is charming with its natural light, light-colored walls, real wood furniture, & beautiful cups and tea pots. For me, presentation and atmosphere matters as much as the food itself and the Inn Season meets those requirements.

One thing I will say about eating vegan (either at home or in a restaurant) is that after I eat, I don’t feel the heaviness I used to feel when I ate animal products. I feel satisfied, not stuffed. I feel good.

Afterwards, we visited the People’s Food Co-op, a small local natural foods market. We bought an odd mix of strawberry jam, some dark chocolate (for Jim) and rice milk chocolate (for me), some locally made lip balm, and Eco Dent dental floss.

It was a great date!

It Doesn’t Take Long

As a vegan, I acknowledge that I have to cook to eat well and that I have to bring food to eat with me when I’m away from home because I eat in a meat & dairy lover’s world. But for many people, they think cooking every day takes hours to get a good home-cooked meal. Thursday’s lunch proves that this isn’t true. In about 45 minutes, I had a complete lunch.

I made some polenta from scratch following the instructions on the Bob’s Red Mill bag (cook for 30 minutes in boiling water, spoon into a lightly oiled Pyrex bowl, cover & let sit for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate where it forms a cake of sorts that you can slice like a pie). I thought I had some leftover Josie Sauce still in the fridge from the other day but found that Jim had eaten the last of it the day before. So…

I decided to make my usual black bean recipe (posted on Feb. 10) & use that as a sauce for the polenta. Finally, I sautéed some chopped zucchini in olive oil, black pepper, & sea salt. Voila! I’ve got my greens, my grains, & my legumes all in one meal.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Leftovers are Great Lunches

Even though I love to cook, the whole idea behind it is to have food for several days so that I’m not cooking from scratch every single day. That’s why I make a different sandwich spread every week and extra amounts of my recipes.

For lunch today before I went to the library, I warmed a whole wheat pita in the toaster oven at 200 degrees for about 3 minutes, then spread the black bean/artichoke spread on it, added baby greens & slices of avocado, then rolled it up. The toothpick is Jim’s trick to keep it together, just like in a restaurant. And that’s the last of the wonderful chickpea toss from the other night, served at room temperature. Delicious!

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And, of course, my double shot of espresso with a scone.

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It’s Still Cold Here

…in Michigan. Spring is teasing us very, very slowly. Last Saturday it was nonstop sun and in the fifties; Monday night it dipped into the thirties with snow flurries yesterday. So I felt like soup. Something to warm me up completely, right to my bones. Soup does that (so does herbal tea).

This is the Tomato Chickpea Soup with Tiny Pasta and (Fresh) Herbs (I used dried from my garden), adapted from Vegan Express:

2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 C water
1 C tiny pasta (I used ditalini)
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes (I used diced)
1 15-16-oz can of chick peas, drained & rinsed
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried dill
sea salt & ground pepper to taste
1 tsp of sugar

1. In a soup pot, heat the oil & add the garlic. Sauté until golden (be careful not to burn).

2. Add 4 C water, bring to a boil, then add pasta & cook until al dente. I actually cooked it until it was not quite done, since it would cook with the rest of the ingredients later.

3. Add the remaining ingredients, except salt & pepper. Return to a boil, then cover, lower heat & simmer gently about 10 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

And because soup is so good with homemade biscuits, I made these Basic Baking Powder Biscuits, adapted from La Dolce Vegan:

2 C flour
3 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 C vegan margarine
3/4 C soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, & salt. Stir in margarine (I cut it in with a fork), then add soy milk & vinegar until well blended. Knead dough lightly. I HATE rolling out & cutting biscuits (or cookies for that matter), so for fun today I took a muffin tin, lightly sprayed it with Pam Cooking Spray, then rolled the dough into little balls placing 3 in each muffin tin. When they cooked, the balls formed together to make little cloverleaf rolls. So cute. They were the perfect accompaniment to the hot soup! See for yourself.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Few Quick Meals

On Sunday I made a batch of Artichoke & Black Bean Dip for sandwiches, adapted from The Garden of Vegan:

1 15 oz can of black beans, drained & rinsed
1 clove garlic
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
1 6 oz jar marinated artichokes, drained (I eyeball this, I don't use the whole jar)

Combine all (except artichokes) ingredients in a food processor & blend till smooth. Add artichokes & pulse briefly to incorporate.

For dinner last night, Jim made spaghetti with his Neapolitan grandmother’s sauce (aka Josie’s Tomato Sauce) while I made a quick Chickpea Toss adapted from The Garden of Vegan:

1 15 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
2 tsp dark (toasted) sesame oil
1/4 C olives (your choice; I use Spanish w/pimientos stuffed in them), chopped (but I just leave them whole)
1/2 tsp sea salt
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp curry powder

In a large pan on medium-high heat, sauté the onions & garlic in oil until onions are translucent. Reduce heat to medium & add olives, chickpeas, & spices & simmer for a few more minutes.

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Josie’s Tomato Sauce

1 large can (28 oz) of high quality tomato puree or crushed tomatoes, preferably organic
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp dried basil (or 1/2 C fresh in summer)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tbsp olive oil , plus another 1/2 tbsp for finishing

In a saucepan, sauté garlic at very low temperature in the olive oil, until softened but make sure you don’t brown it. The idea is to release the aroma not burn it. Add the basil & sauté a bit longer, then the tomato puree & sugar & bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low then simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add water if you want a thinner sauce during this time. You can even use the pasta water that you use to cook your spaghetti so it has a little bit of starch in it. Salt to taste, or even pepper, too. Just before serving, add 1/2 tbsp more olive oil & stir.

Other variations on this sauce include, onion & oregano (instead of garlic & basil) or olives & oregano, whatever you like! But Jim says never combine basil & oregano together because their very different tastes will cancel each other out.

P4060191 Scrumptious w/some crusty Italian bread!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jim’s Granola

My husband makes the best granola I’ve ever had. We eat this for breakfast or a snack sometimes as a change from muesli. We’ve experimented over the last few years with different recipes, but since becoming vegan, he’s the one who has taken the time to really come up with the best recipe. Here it is:

5 C rolled oats
1/2 C raw sunflower seeds
1/4 C whole flax seeds
1 C coarsely chopped walnuts
1 C chopped pecans
1/2 C unsweetened medium shredded coconut
1/2 C pure maple syrup, grade B (cheaper than A, good for baking)
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients & stir well. Combine wet ingredients & stir well then add wet to dry & stir to coat. On jelly roll pans, spread out the granola. The thinner you spread it out the crunchier the granola, the thicker the chewier. Jim uses one 9 x 12 inch pan & then another 10 x 7 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes, remove & stir well. Then bake for another 10 minutes, remove from oven, & stir again. Let cool then store in closed containers. Jim uses old oatmeal cans or large glass jars. Enjoy with soymilk for breakfast or a snack. If you want at this point (or even later when you’re ready to eat it), add any dried fruit like cherries, cranberries, or chopped apricots. In the summer, this is wonderful with fresh blueberries or strawberries, sprinkled on fruit or even on ice cream!

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sharing Kitchen Memories

I’m really into this book right now: image

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of the addictive food blog, Orangette.

Wizenberg is not vegan by any means (in fact, her recipes make me almost cringe with their enormous amounts of butter, milk, eggs, and cream), but it’s her stories & reminiscences that are so beautifully written, they make me nod my head in complete agreement and understanding. As someone who also loves to cook and eat well, I associate many of the recipes I make with my own memories of family, situations, and childhood. This book perfectly captures that.

I first heard about this book on another blog I read, The Angry Chicken. That blogger is a stay-at-home mom/crafter/artist who lives in Oregon.

A Homemade Life would be the perfect gift for that cook you know who is in love with food.

Today I made some more biscotti (recipe posted on Feb. 7). Here are some pics of what the process looks like:

P4050160 the dough as I form the “logs” pre-baking

P4050163 cutting them after they’ve cooled for 10 minutes

P4050167 And the finished delectable-ness of it all as they cool on the pan!

I also made a batch of scones (recipe also posted on Feb. 7):

P4050178 The recipe made 12 scones in all.

Here’s my original 1951 kitchen—many people would be horrified but I find it charming in a June Cleaver/Donna Reed sort of way:

Kitchen

Friday, April 3, 2009

A New Kind of Pizza

Look what was waiting for me when I got home from work today:

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Jim gets home earlier than I do and he was apparently in a cooking mood! And I thought I was going to have to come up with my own dinner. As it was, I only had to do the dishes.

Like most recipes in Dreena Burton’s cookbooks, this one takes a few steps to put together but, hey, if Jim wanted to, hooray for me!

This recipe is adapted from the Brown Rice Pizza from Vive Le Vegan:

After cooking 3/4 C brown rice and 1/2 C millet in 3 1/4 C water, he mixed it with some olive oil, oregano, basil, marjoram, sea salt, & black pepper. He then spread the mixture on a lightly oiled baking sheet until it stuck together like dough, even up the rim of the pan. He then baked it for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. He made a quick tomato sauce and smoothed that over the rice “dough.” Earlier, while the grains were cooking, he roasted some mushrooms & onions spiced with sea salt, olive oil, & balsamic vinegar on a parchment paper covered baking sheet, then cut them up & added them to the pizza, along with some roasted red peppers, martichokes, & Spanish olives. Then he baked it once again for another 15 minutes.

It was delicious & very different. The vegetables were the perfect complement on top of the sticky, firm grains underneath. This isn’t like bread dough pizza, however, and it isn’t supposed to be. If you try to pick it up with your hands it will fall apart. You eat it with a fork and knife.

As you can see, this would be a great recipe for any leftover rice you might have & tomato sauce. It would come together a lot quicker.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This Salad Looks Like Spring

I wouldn’t call it a spring salad, though, since it doesn’t have any seasonal vegetables in it. It’s not quite the growing season here in Michigan. But soon the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market will be filled with the farmers & all their delicious produce. I can’t wait. I’m starting to get impatient. I really miss the taste of a fresh tomato. I hate grocery store tomatoes out of season so I haven’t had one since the fall. Cucumbers, too. Jim’s got his seeds started under grow lights in our dining room & they’re already getting their secondary leaves. We’ve got lemon cucumbers (I swear they’re shaped like lemons but they are cucumbers), Riverside onions, Arkansas Traveler & Ropreco Paste tomatoes, & Fino Verde & Greek basils. He also plans to grow lettuce, potatoes, & beets.

In the kitchen garden outside my side door, I see the parsley popping up & the chives are already several inches tall (& very green). And our mints are poking up so it will soon be time to put them in pots again for the summer (otherwise they will take over the gardens).

I decided to make this salad because I had some soft wheat berries I want to use. Wheat berries are yet another grain out there in the big wide world of grains. I first heard about wheat berries in this wonderful cookbook I own called Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. It’s a gorgeous soft cover cookbook filled with recipes made from whole foods. She talks about so many different grains—I can’t wait to try them all. They have beautiful names like amaranth, teff, & farro. And they look so pretty in salads & soups. Best of all, they are very high in fiber so when added to recipes, they can be very filling.

For this salad I used a recipe on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill bag that looked really good. I’m usually not a fan of package recipes and, as always, I didn’t follow it exactly, mostly because I didn’t have all of the ingredients. The important thing is that it came out pretty and it tastes good.

Wheat berries take forever to cook so I thought I’d save some time by soaking them overnight; well, let me tell you that that didn’t help much. They still took about 45 minutes to soften completely. They look like fat rice-shaped pasta & are kind of chewy like pasta, too. I like the color & different look they give to this salad.

While the wheat berries were simmering, I made the dressing (or “vinaigrette” as the package called it). It specified 1/2 cup of olive oil which I always think is too much, so I used a 1/3 cup instead. Then I added 2 tbsp fresh lime juice, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, some dried parsley (because I didn’t have fresh—not yet anyway), 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (it called for honey mustard but I didn’t have), a sprinkling of minced onion (it called for 1 tbsp minced shallot—now that I think of it, I could have used garlic), 1/4 tsp sea salt, & ground black pepper to taste, & whisked it with a fork.

When the wheat berries were cooked, I drained them then put them in a large bowl. I then took 1 15-oz can of white kidney (cannellini) beans & drained & rinsed them. I added the beans to the bowl, as well as 1/2 cup of chopped onion & 1/2 cup chopped celery. I then poured the dressing all over the salad & tossed to combine. I chilled it in the refrigerator for a few hours to blend the flavors. Isn’t it beautiful?

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See? It does look spring-like, doesn’t it?

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I served it on a bed of mixed greens.