Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sweet Potato Lentil Chili

Music: Sarah McLachlan on shuffle on my iPod

Many times, I'll look through my refrigerator or pantry and decide to make something from that. Last week, it was tabbouleh (made with bulgur). And the week before that was Blueberry Bounty Buns (made with a bunch of frozen blueberries I had on hand). This week, I had some wonderful local sweet potatoes from The East End Food Co-op, so I found this delicious (& unusual) recipe in Dreena Burton's
Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 3/4 C onions, diced
1 C celery, diced
2 1/2 C sweet potatoes, cubed about 1-inch (peel if you want but I skipped this since they were organic, I scrubbed them well, & they were just too uneven to peel)
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (or 1/2 tsp fresh grated)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 1/4 C dry red lentils, rinsed
2 1/2 C water
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes (crushed is okay, too)
1 14-oz. can black beans or kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add oil, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, and all the spices and stir to combine. Cover & cook, stirring occasionally, 6-8 minutes. Add lentils, water, tomatoes, beans, & bay leaf, stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer/low, and cook about 25-30 minutes until lentils and potatoes are softened. Stir occasionally. Stir in lime or lemon juice and adjust salt/pepper if necessary. That's it!

Serve with a grain of your choice, such as brown rice or quinoa and fresh, warm crusty bread.

Sorry, but my picture did not come out well for this post. So you'll just have to make the recipe & taste for yourself how good it is!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Living With (Even) Less

Note: this post is not about veganism, however, since veganism is about being more aware, it is related.

We're back to using our original marble table, purchased
17 years ago when we first married.

A few weeks ago, I interloaned a wonderful little book by minimalist blogger Francine Jay, called The Joy of Less (thank you, Carnegie Library). Jay is an expatriate who writes a blog called Miss Minimalist. What sets her book apart from so many of the other so-called organizing books out there is that she introduces a philosophy about our attachment to stuff including how it overburdens us and doesn't make us any happier. She even had a funny section asking how you would feel if, after you died, people had to go through your stuff? Would you be embarrassed by what they might find? It was eye-opening to say the least.

When I moved here, even though the movers were thrilled by our smaller (compared to most people's) stash of possessions, unpacking it all was a real pain that really hit home to me. I mean, my goodness, our household is just two adults and a tiny cat. So, do we really need 3 tables & (8 chairs) to eat off of? Or fourteen dinner plates? Am I really going to read all of my books again (especially when they're so easy to get from the library)? Do I need five black purses? Am I going to be able to use up all 63 of my old stash of pens before I (or they) die? I don't think so.

True, before we moved, I did have Vietnam Veterans stopping by almost weekly for stuff since we'd be moving to a much smaller place, but still.

I'm going through everything, including the hidden stuff: sewing supplies, craft supplies (the "Ghost of Activities Past" Jay calls them), office/scrapbook/school supplies, tools. We haven't even looked into the boxes we moved into the garage last July so you know what we'll be doing this spring, don't you?

The other tip that Jay had was, when organizing/decluttering, completely empty out that drawer or room. Decide what to keep instead of what to remove. Sometimes removing things from where they've always been gives you a new perspective. All of a sudden, that broken piece of furniture looks awful when it's no longer in the same corner of your living room where it has been forever.

So, after painting our entire first floor (kitchen, dining room, & living room) a few weekends ago, this looks so much better. We gave away a huge pine cabinet that used to store our television, VCR, & stereo equipment years ago. We no longer own a television & my small tabletop stereo has replaced all the long-gone separate stereo components.

Just to give you a little example. To date, since we sold our house in Michigan, we have donated the following furniture via the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, Vietnam Veterans of America, family, & Freecycle:

2 wicker chairs
1 buffet
1 twin bed (frame & mattress)
1 dresser
3 bookcases
2 desks
3 end tables
3 plant stands
1 daybed
2 outdoor garden benches
1 large (entertainment center) cabinet
1 dining room table with 4 chairs
1 desk chair
1 filing cabinet
1 small wooden cabinet

That's over half of our furniture! I think it's just crazy that we had accumulated that much! And our last house was tiny (1100 square feet) compared to most houses! It's so true you expand to fill your space and now I'm going in reverse: reducing my possessions to better fit into my new smaller space. It's kind of addicting, but in a good way.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fiesta Pasta Salad

Music: Stevie Wonder, The Original Musiquarium I

Here's a new and delicious variation on macaroni salad. I used fusili and added celery. From Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan.

3 C uncooked smallish pasta (your choice: fusili, bow ties, penne, elbows, etc.)

3/4 C Vegenaise
2 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 large stalk celery (or 2 celery hearts), diced small
1 large carrot, diced fine (or grated)
1 small onion (sweet or red), diced superfine
1 19-oz. can kidney beans, drained & rinsed

Cook pasta according to package directions then rinse in cold water and drain. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Divine!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Walnut Raisin (Cranberry) Bread

Note: to prepare & bake this, follow the method explained here. Only the ingredients are different.

This recipe is adapted from the book, My Bread, by Jim Lahey.

Jim usually makes this with just raisins and walnuts but one time he didn't have enough raisins so he supplemented with some dried cranberries. It was beautiful as well as delicious. Sometimes he makes these into rolls (which I prefer) or a round loaf (which he prefers).

3 C bread flour (sometimes Jim uses 1/2 C whole wheat flour & 2 1/2 C bread flour for extra fiber)
1/2 C raisins (OR 1/4 C raisins and 1/4 C dried cranberries)
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 C cool water
Additional flour for dusting

Combine all in a large mixing bowl until you have a wet sticky dough. If not sticky enough, add another tablespoon of water. Cover & let sit at room temperature for 18-24 hours until dough is more than double in size & bubbles appear.

After first rise, dust a cutting board with flour. Remove dough and lightly knead. At this point, make 6-8 equal portion balls OR (for a round loaf) form into a loose rectangle, then fold like an envelope with seam side down. If making rolls, place formed balls on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper & lightly floured; you don't want the rolls to stick to the parchment paper. If making the round loaf, place on a well-floured cotton or linen tea towel (NOT terry cloth) and cover loosely and completely. Let rise another 2 hours.

Bake at 450 degrees following instructions of the basic bread. For the rolls, just bake 30 minutes until golden. Let cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour before cutting into it (even though you'll be dying to taste it with some Earth Balance Buttery Spread!).

I prefer this warmed and enjoy it with my afternoon Teeccino.

This bread freeze really well if wrapped well in plastic (i.e., twice to avoid freezer burn). Hmm...since we're reducing use of plastic bags, I suppose you could also place into a plastic storage container.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Vegan Sampler V

Music: Ambrosia on shuffle on iTunes

Today's smoothie: spinach, pineapple, frozen strawberries, banana, bit o'avocado

I love to eat really, really, good food; can you tell?

Tempeh salad spread on Jim's bread with raw cucumbers, Norm's Christmas pickles (made by Jim's good friend in Petoskey), and a variation of Bean & Rice Salad (from Sarah Kramer's How It All Vegan) using short-grain brown rice.

Jim's walnut, raisin, and cranberry bread with Earth Balance Buttery Spread. I consulted his notebook of recipes and I see that he hasn't yet written it down, so I will post the recipe later. If I forget, though, please remind me as it is sooo good. Sometimes he makes it into a round loaf, other times he makes buns.

Oat sage patty (from LuAnn Bermeo's Amazing Meals) on a Food for Life sprouted grain bun, with lettuce, Vegenaise, raw onion, with a side of the rice salad & raw cucumbers.

A variation of Tempeh, Kale, & Sweet Potato Skillet from Nava Atlas' Vegan Express. Instead of cooking the sweet potatoes in the microwave* as she suggests, I used Alicia Silverstone's delicious recipe from her book, The Kind Diet. I also steamed the sliced tempeh first for 20 minutes in a skillet with water and slices of lemon.This removes some of the bitterness that tempeh can have; it doesn't bother me, though. I do it for Jim.

*I don't trust microwaves & don't use mine, except as extra storage.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Holiday Roast

Music: Iron & Wine on shuffle on iTunes

Sometimes, for special occasions, such as holiday dinners, Jim will make us a delicious Field Roast with vegetables. I prefer this brand to Tofurky (which is made with soy). Field Roast is made with grains so those who are allergic to soy can eat this (although those with gluten allergies should probably avoid).

In a roasting pan (about 9 x 13 inches), pour 2 C vegan broth. We use one cube of Rapunzel brand bouillon with 2 C hot water and stir until dissolved. To the pan, add chopped carrots, potatoes (your choice), and quartered onions. We don't use measurements so just add as much as you want. Remember, vegetables tend to shrink a little while cooking.

Set oven to about 400 degrees and cook about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and add Field Roast to the center of the pan with the vegetables all around it. Lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue cooking until vegetables are tender and roast is hot, about 30 minutes. The roast is already cooked, you're just heating it with the broth and vegetables.

We enjoyed it with some broccoli rabe and fresh salad. The secret to the preparation of this dish is the broth, which makes it very juicy. And what's a "roast" without lots of vegetables?

Even my meat eater father ate two servings of this. And the leftovers, if any, are delicious in sandwiches the next day with lots of greens and some Vegenaise.