Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big Sur Peppers

You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you. - Heraclitus

Life happens. It can happen to or with you. My delightful host was telling me about a recent trip to California and how she lost some personal items in the Big Sur River. After fishing them out, what was a bummer turned into some inspiration for last night's dinner. The other inspiration was some leftover frozen Amy's Kitchen California Veggie Burgers.

Big Sur Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Toasted Pepitas
Makes 4

4 poblano peppers
4 Amy California Burgers
1 pkg oyster mushrooms
4 garlic cloves
28 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1/2 c. red wine
1 bay leaf
2 pinches sugar
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Tal Ronnen's Chipotle Cream recipe
Pumpkin seeds recipe

Core peppers. Saute burgers with garlic and oyster mushrooms and add chipotle cream to bind. Stuff peppers with mixture and place in dutch oven, pour tomatoes, red wine, water over peppers. Add salt, pepper, sugar, crushed bay leaves and crushed garlic. Cover and cook the peppers for 30 minutes. If you have fresh herbs, basil and oregano would be nice additions. Plate peppers with tomato sauce, top with a dollop of chipotle cream and sprinkle with pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds).

Seriously, good eats!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I hit the ground running and the weekend mornings have been a nice respite from work. On Saturday, we checked out Eastern Market which features everything imaginable from locally prepared kimchi to fresh pineapples. I had the most fun looking at the local Detroit farms and craftsman. There was a school teacher who sold mesclun lettuce mixes and the stand served as both a classroom in growing your own food and business and a booming business in a busy marketplace. With the colder months settling in, the prevalence of pickles was noted with saurkraut, pickled beets, green beans, you name it and someone pickled it. Raw food, vegan food, fresh veggies, baked goods, this place was bustling and making my mouth water. Having to keep it rather simple because I was going in to the office, I opted for the heavy garlic hummus from a stand offering several different flavors of hummus. This was truth in advertising :)

Sunday morning, I woke up late and my host had the idea to make a hash for brunch. To waken up the senses and my sleepy mind, we had some green smoothie which was a refreshing and zippy blend of pineapple, grapes and spinach. Yum!

For the hash, she combined sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, onions, garlic and bell peppers. I never think to use it but she added in and quick sauted some fennel seeds when the veggies were about done which led a great aroma and flavor to the dish. She also used a mix of shortening and olive oil to help crisp up the vegetables. At Eastern Market, we stopped at a stand that sells sunflower and pea shoots that they transport by bike to the market. Those pea shoots were a fresh note of sweetness on top of the hash this morning.

Woot! Woot! I did it! This is my 20th blog entry in the month of October for Vegan Month of Food. Yes!

Preparing for a Storm

My work trip schedule is pretty packed. Today I had about 8 hours of work commitments and the rest of the week promises to be late nights, so I need to plan ahead. Thanks to the help of my host we have some meal ideas in the queue. She's got a big bowl of rice and veggies salad recipe that is light and fresh and easy to grab and go. Multi-color peppers, onions and celery mingled with kidney and navy beans. This is one of those prepare on Sunday and have lunch through Wednesday kind of dishes that travels well. Perfect!

Recipe (via my host):
2 C Brown Rice Cooked
mix the following and pour over warm rice:
1/2 C olive oil  ( I usually don't use this much)
1/4 red wine vinegar
1t salt
1 t pepper
1t sugar
1/4t dry mustard
1/4t cayenne pepper
1/4t garlic powder
Add 1 can kidney beans
1/4C peppers chopped, colors of your choice (I usually add more)
1/2C red onion, chopped
6 green onions chopped
2T chopped parsley
1T chopped tarragon
1C chopped celery

Tip from my Tal Ronnen (via my host): To create a non-stick effect in your frying pan, heat it up, then add salt followed by oil and the ingredients you're sauteing.

Be safe East Coasters!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Inn Season In Michigan

Nestled in Royal Oak, a suburb not far from Detroit, is a small wunderkind of a restaurant: Inn Season Cafe. I got the tip from my gracious host that it had options for vegetarians and vegans and used local organic ingredients. I didn't realize though that when I opened the multiple page menu that almost everything in its pages would be vegan. The menu notes: All of our food is prepared without the use of animal products unless otherwise noted on the menu. Aw yeah!

Now that the world (i.e. menu) was my oyster I set to the task of narrowing down what to order. Did I want something uber-healthy and "granola" sounding like the macro combo with brown rice, kale, adzuki beans and sea vegetables in a shiitake miso sauce? Maybe Mexican or a stir-fry? A burger or soup and salad? The menu seems to have it all.

I decided to go with the Harvest Squash Risotto from the specials menu which featured squash, kale, leeks, onions, roasted garlic, arborio rice in a white wine and squash sauce and topped with a cheddar/mozarella daiya blend. The flavors melded nicely with the sweet richness of the carmelized garlic and the al dente rice was perfect. Also, the dish was massive, easily enough risotto for two people.

Not realizing I was going to be served such a large entree and eager to try one of the 6 vegan salad dressings  Inn Season Cafe offers, I ordered their basic Cafe Salad which featured a mesclun mix with marinated onions, grape tomatoes, cucumber and sunflower shoots with a side of thousand island. 

When I was looking up directions, I came across a review online that raved about the chai tea and its fragrance. Intrigued, I ordered a pot and wow did it fill my senses with warm, sweet and slightly spicy aroma  and flavor.

I ended up getting a to-go box for my leftover risotto and silently wept that I couldn't possibly eat dessert and passed up on even looking at the dessert menu for fear of not being able to say no. I'm hoping to go back before I leave with a smarter game plan that gets me to dessert because their opera cake looks amazing!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Good Food Fast

In the land of "how lucky am I?", I was treated to a multi-course dinner which was as beautiful as it was delicious. I thought I'd be leaning heavy on my work travel survival list of subway sandwiches and carrots and hummus, but luck be a lady I stumbled on a gracious and experienced maker of vegan delights! Here's just a sample of the divine things she's whipped up:

Starter super green salad with radish and a homemade Parisian dressing.

The main course was a sun-dried tomato cashew cream alfredo with chiffonade fresh basil and olive oil.

One of the things I'm most impressed with is the elegance of the dishes, but that they're pretty fast to prepare. The sun-dried tomato cashew alfredo sauce only took her minutes to whip up in the blender. A great meal with great company is a good way to spend a Friday no matter where you are.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cool Hand Cuke

Well, I'm officially in Michigan "surviving on the road", but I have a secret. I lucked out and got a gourmet cook with vegan knowledge as my host. Seriously, what are the chances? I explained to her my predicament about working insanely long hours and wanting to meet my Vegan MoFo challenge of posting 20 blogs in the month of October, and she's helping make it happen. I definitely have to pay this forward.

Tonight, I got back to her place with a lukewarm bag of Taco Bell (they have some vegan stuff). She came to the rescue before I even unpacked the food, by presenting this little gem of a side dish (and by far my favorite part of tonight's dinner.) 

It was simple; yet refined... and made my taco bell purchase weep. This Persian Cucumber Salad is made with sweet vidalia onions, lemon juice, olive oil, plum white balsamic vinegar, himalayan pink salt and black pepper. The name comes from the type of cucumbers used. Apparently, Persian cucumbers are prized for the "trifecta of qualities" defined by Speciality Produce as: 1) smooth, perfectly textured thin skin; 2) crisp, sweet and succulent flesh devoid of developed seeds and 3) they're able to stay cooler than the average cuke. Get this, according to Speciality Produce, their flesh can be 20 degrees cooler than their skin. That's one cool hand cuke (yes, I get punny when I'm sleepy.)

On Saturday, we're going to check out Detroit's Eastern Market where apparently as many as 40,000 people gather to peruse 250 local food vendors selling everything from mushrooms to homemade jams and maple syrup. Then after I put in a few hours at the office, I'm hoping to catch up with a friend to check out Detroit's halloween weekend scene.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Vegan on the road - work trips

Tips for Work Trips:

1) Plan to stock the office or lodging with carrots, hummus, peanut butter, jelly, multigrain bread, bananas (don't let them spoil and attract fruit flies or you will be uninvited from staff outings), and make it so you can't possibly be stranded without at least basic good food. It's not good news to be away from home, working long hours and hungry.

2) Scope out your environs. Guides like www.vegguide.org are great for finding gems and just plain options when you're unfamiliar with your surroundings. Have fun on those brief breaks.

3) Tried and True. You're not going to want to blog about it, but you can get vegan meals at fast food chains.  Don't trust me, see what PETA's saying about fast food chains.  If you're near a Whole Foods Market they'll have prepared vegan options too.

4) Be friendly. There's a lot of buzz around vegetarian and vegan lifestyles these days and a lot of people who were maybe not before are now considering or taking part in this lifestyle (myself included). Before you get to hunger or real food desperation, ask people if they know of a place and see where that takes you :)

Earlier this year, I did the Engine 2 challenge which includes no-oil, low-salt vegan foods during a road trip.

Because I'm on the road, and my photo of dinner really didn't turn out. I'm substituting my adorable cat, Bubs, who I miss, along with my fiance.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

It'll Be Okra

When I started the Vegan Month of Food challenge,  I had hoped to focus on Fall classics; however, life happens and that's changed. On Monday, I'm going on the road for two weeks of work and will need to be really flexible, so I won't be cooking much. Rather, I'll be "surviving on the road- vegan style."

Until then, I've been splurging on some tried and true favorite restaurants. Last night, we went to the Himalayan in Minneapolis that serves insanely tasty vegan Nepalese food with a friendly smile. This is a staple restaurant for us because there are so many, high quality vegan options (that are clearly labeled on the menu) and the lunch buffet always has multiple vegan offerings. Another reason is the owner is super friendly and makes you feel at home.

My favorite entree is the Ram-Toria-Aaloo, or as I prefer to refer to it "the okra dish." Okra, like brussel sprouts, gets a bum rap from improper preparation. If you use fresh okra and pat it dry after washing it, you won't get the sticky mush people sometimes associate with okra.  In this dish, you get a hearty combination of vegetables (okra, tomato, onion) melding with Nepalese spices (ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander) that make your mouth and stomach happy. If you don't have the option to go to Minneapolis's Himalayan, you could make a version of the dish from Jyoti Pathak's Taste of Nepal.
Ram-Toria-Aaloo from Himalayan Restaurant

My go to measure of a Nepalese restaurant is the momos. There are only two foods I have the uncontrollable urge to start singing about upon mere mention: enchiladas and momos. Momos are steamed dumplings with a succulent filling. In the case of the Himalayan, the veggie momos are filled with onions, garlic, ginger, and I think scallions (or spinach?) and served with a bright tomato-cilantro dipping sauce. If you're adventuresome in the kitchen, Yowangdu offers a vegan momo recipe (note: this website also mentions a meat version.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cooking with Trader Joe

That cliche idea of the guy on the couch with the empty pizza boxes and bag of doritos (spicy sweet chili are vegan) pretty much sums me up if it were a woman. I can aspire to great cooking feats, but when I'm looking to feed only me I land more in the land of convenience. Enter Trader Joe's which offers a really convenient list of all the vegan items sold in their stores (not to mention having the vegan symbol easy to spot on most of the items which I really appreciate.)

Monday night I was on my own for dinner. I fought the urge to order a pizza, and decided it was time to go to my secret stash of prepared foods I keep in the freezer for times like this. It took me 15 minutes to make this meal: Stir-fried some cabbage and onions (leftovers from tacos) with a microwaved bag of Trader Joe's kimchi fried rice (would be great in a cabbage roll recipe.) Cut up some fresh red bell pepper (gotta have some veggies!) and baked some gardein 7-grain crispy tenders. Now this is weird, but it worked... I made some dipping sauce with leftover tofutti sour cream, chili garlic paste, whole foods' carrot ginger dressing  and a couple drops of soy sauce. It wasn't a 5-star dining experience, but it tasted good and was quick.

My fiance stir-fried up some veggies, so I took my convenience eating to a little higher ground for lunch today mixing the Trader Joe's kimchi fried rice with mushrooms, anaheims, red bell peppers, onions, garlic and something way spicier than I usually make food. It was good and got me drinking plenty of water.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fed Well

Truth is I did some serious damage to my thumb on the chopped challenge. I always think those contestants who cut themselves are foolish, but I didn't even have the time constraint and managed to take the idea of chopped and apply it to my thumb. Five stitches later, I've got all of my thumb and it's just a matter of healing. Typing is slow going and  hurts a little, so I'm going to keep this short.

Thanks to my generous fiance I've been well fed on the mend. He cooked up a full blown Thanksgiving feast Sunday evening and I've been enjoying the leftovers ever since. We bought a couple tofurky celebration packs after thanksgiving last year when they were on sale, so he roasted one of those with carrots, russet potatoes and onions. Even though, the tofurky roast comes with a tasty wild rice dressing as stuffing, he kindly made additional dressing per my request. The real stars though were our first of the season brussel sprouts. Man, it must be a conspiracy the bad rap these tasty little gems get. Buy them fresh (they don't need to be on the stalk, just not frozen) and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 mins with salt, pepper, garlic  and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Chopped Fall Parfait

Vegan Mofo issued the Chopped challenge: Make a brunch dish using our secret ingredients. I present to you my offering: Chopped Fall Parfait.

What were the secret ingredients? Butternut squash, fresh rosemary, apricot preserves and popcorn.

How'd I make them work? I thought introducing candied ginger and the sweet smokiness of ancho chili  would pair well with the secret ingredients. I knew I didn't want to just toss the popcorn on as a garnish, so I started to play around with the idea of using all of the secret ingredients in a brittle or granola. The granola is my crowning achievement mixing butternut squash seeds, walnuts, popped white kernel popcorn with a glaze of apricot preserves, honee (vegan), candied ginger and rosemary. I didn't want to sell the butternut squash short by only using the seeds, but I knew I wanted something to brighten up roasted ancho chili spiced squash as the parfait filling.  Pear's sweet yet bright notes mellowed by some roasting seemed just right. Finally, the "yogurt" cream had to balance the richness of coconut milk with the subtle sweet flavors of the apricot preserve, so I added in lemon juice/zest and some candied ginger and cut the coconut with some silken tofu.

Check out the recipes below (recognize I was winging this, so the amounts are my best estimates.)

Chopped Fall Granola
This stuff has all the secret ingredients in it by itself and it's mighty flavorful!

1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1 T peanut oil (any oil will do)
Seeds from the squash, rinsed and dried
3 T walnuts, chopped
1 T candied ginger, minced
1 T rosemary, minced
2 T honee
1 T vegetable oil
1 T apricot preserves
salt to taste

Heat your oven to 300 (if you're making this after the squash filling (recommended) turn down the heat.) Heat up the honee in the microwave for 10 seconds, add in the oil and apricot preserves and stir until mixed in a medium size bowl. Add in butternut squash seeds, walnut, candied ginger and rosemary and stir. Add the peanut oil to a cold medium-sized pan with a lid, toss in the popcorn and coat with the oil. Spread the kernels out across the base of the pan turn the heat on to medium and put the lid on. It'll take 3-4 minutes for the popcorn to start popping, you can shake the pan to help share the heat-love with the other kernels. Remove from heat when the popping slows or the smell is too good to wait, and remove the lid cautiously. Add the freshly popped popcorn to the granola mixture and coat. Reuse your squash cookie sheet with parchment/tinfoil and spread out the granola. Check on it after 5 minutes, but it could take as long as 15 minutes to get toasty brown. It will harden as it cools, but I liked mine warm and a little gooey.

Chopped "yogurt" cream
I took the challenge to do homemade to the yogurt and whipped this up. You could save time (5 minutes) and buy store bought vegan yogurt, but it won't be as tasty :)

1 can coconut milk, use the cream only (about half the can)
1/3 package silken tofu
1/4 c apricot preserves
2 T candied ginger, minced
2 T lemon juice
zest from half a lemon

Add coconut milk cream, silken tofu candied ginger and half the apricot preserves into a blender and blend on high until you stop hearing the ginger hit the blades. Pour into a container and stir in lemon zest, juice and remaining preserves. Refrigerate for a couple hours at least to let it thicken.

Chopped "fruit" filling 
Pairing the butternut squash with roasted pear works really well and the spices are light but enhance the flavors.

1 medium sized butternut squash, blueberry size diced (save the seeds)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger (can use ginger powder or candied ginger)
1/4 tsp ancho chili (you can use more)
olive oil to coat squash
salt to taste
1 bartlett pear, diced like squash
zest from 1/2 lemon

Heat the oven to 400. Toss diced squash in olive oil, ancho chili, ginger and salt. Spread on parchment or tinfoil lined cookie sheet and cook for 15 minutes, stirring once. Add diced pear to the pan and cook for another 7 minutes, stirring once. Add the remaining lemon zest (from the other half of the lemon you used for the "yogurt" cream.  Let cool before assembling the parfait.

I really like the way the parfait turned out and the presentation, but I was reading this blog about the difference between reality and pinterest photos (it's really cute and funny.) So I thought in honor of reality, I'd share the back story that led to that pretty looking parfait.

EPIC FAIL #1: Put the butternut squash in the oven to roast and promptly left for a dinner party. Remembering 2 hours later, I called my roommate who saved both the house and cat from an impending fire. Saving the day was my roommate and the fact I bought 2 squash. Whew!

NEAR EPIC FAIL #2: I had this idea for a butternut squash bread trifle that I couldn't shake despite reading how people in past years were disqualified for not following the instructions ... and making desserts. Thankfully, I read up on the difference between trifles (clearly a dessert) and parfaits (clearly suitable for brunch). Stumped at first, I think I ultimately came up with a better dish for catching this potential pitfall.

EPIC FAIL #3: Lazily attempting to cut the second butternut squash into cubes with too small of a knife, I nearly sliced my thumb fingerprint off. Ow! Don't worry the area was not contaminated, and I am alive. My generous fiance, who is prone to cutting himself while prepping food, valiantly stepped in and finished the knife work for me.

And... we made up 2 servings, not wanting to be wasteful if the dish totally didn't work, and only one was in a wine glass (I gave that one to the fiance for his help). The other one? I just used the tupperware that I stored the "yogurt" cream in... made clean up easier and tasted just as good.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Friends and Food

This weekend, we had the opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked meal by our friends on both Friday and Saturday night. It's night like this that remind me just how fortunate I am to have met the people in the life that I have...both because they're generous, intelligent and kind people and because they cook some really good food.

Mind you, our friends aren't vegans. They're just charming omnivores willing to prepare food we can all enjoy which is very appreciated. On Friday night, we were treated to an Indian dinner by friends recently transplanted to Minnesota from the East coast. They made saag and Punjabi curried kidney beans with basmati rice from Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla which was tasty despite nervousness by the cooks that it may be too spicy. They also reintroduced me to my love of green mango pickles which are a fun way to add that slightly acidic/sour, salty kick that makes food sing. The food was definitely comforting and filling. It was delightful not unlike the hosts who had me laughing through almost a whole bottle of wine :)

Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans 
 The Indian dishes reminded me of my college years when I was fortunate to share a duplex with two sisters from the Punjabi region who were wonderful human beings and good cooks willing to share with me some of their mother's recipes (and pickles..her mango pickles were out of this world.) The kidney dish reminded me of the Minnesotan roommate who lived with us too and this dish (or one similar) was her go to for our potlucks. Now the three of them live in California and are raising families and thanks to facebook not too far away...though I do miss breaking bread with them and laughing together.

Tonight, we were treated to a smorgasbord of appetizers and a multi-course vegan meal prepared by some other friends. I should have taken pictures, but I was too busy stuffing my face. Sorry. They made a variety of spreads; including, homemade hummus and a spinach with chickpeas and garlic thing that would have made Popeye go gaga. One of my favorite appetizers was a heirloom cherry tomato bruschetta with fresh basil and passionfruit balsamic vinegar they found at the farmers' market.  So, I could have happily ended the feast at these apps, but that was just getting the meal started. They also offered a chilled avocado and arugula soup (am I at a michelin star rated household or what?!) and for the main course a curried lentil and rice loaf with carmelized onions. It was all delicious, but again the food had to share the limelight with the friends who again had us laughing.

Good food. Good laughs. Good life.

Good night.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

MN Wants Native Foods

This summer, we went to Oregon to visit my fiance's family. One night we went out to eat at Native Foods, an all vegan cafe with homemade delictable comfort foods. Since then, I've been dreaming of them opening up shop on the green line in Midway St. Paul. So far, no such luck. However, they're very generous with their recipes, so we opened up shop at our house tonight and made Native Foods' Chile Verde Vegan.

The verde (green) comes from anaheim peppers and tomatillos. Anaheim peppers are the long, lime green peppers (a little smaller than a banana) usually by the jalapenos in the grocery. They're a pretty mild "chili" pepper with some of the sweetness of the bell pepper. Tomatillos come in a papery husk and are a relative of the gooseberry with similar tartness and thickening properties when cooked down into a sauce. Raw tomatillos have a very citrusy tartness that mellows and sweetens as you roast or cook them.  We decided to omit the seitan and opted for pinto and black beans instead.

 It's a really flavorful, mild chili that's great in a bowl or a burrito. As usual, we served it with a ton of toppings options (we had guests over or this would all be on the cutting board for scooping into our bowls.)

I realize it might be awhile before Minnesota sees its first Native Foods, so as I wait patiently persistent I'll flip through Tanya Petronova's Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook. We recently had another house party where we served chili and I made Native Foods' cornbread....and the people...they went wild for it. :) 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Buy me Banh mi

We ate dinner on the go tonight, so that we could check out a talk by Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle on the bond people share with animals and the work that needs to be done to end animal cruelty and improve animal welfare. I was excited to try the vegan banh mi being offered by a new entrepeneur (Bunbob Chhun of Dumpling (a yet to be opened restaurant)) at my local coffee shop, Groundswell Coffee.
Dumpling's vegan banh mi featured a great french bread with grilled peanut sauce marinated tofu, pickled veggies, flavorful basil and a hoison srichachi spread. It's a little pricey compared to some banh mi you can get on University Avenue. Half (typical size banh mi) is $5.95 versus $3 and a whole (see pic below it's a solid foot!) is $9.95. I'm willing to pay more to help a guy who is making really good tasting food hopefully realize his dream of opening a restaurant. I also love banh mi enough that I can continue to eat at the other places too, but maybe this will encourage them to up their game and offer better tasting vegan options!

If you're not familiar with banh mi, you should definitely try it. It's a Vietnamese sandwich, usually on a airy french bread, featuring fresh herbs (basil or cilantro), pickled vegetables and a balance of flavors including some heat. Typically, banh mi includes meat or soy and mayo.

Want to try making your own banh mi? Banh Mi Battle's Lemongrass Tofu looks like it would be tasty with earth balance mindful mayo , jalapeno slices, cilantro, Viet World Kitchen's daikon/carrot pickles, and cucumber on a light and tasty french roll. Yum!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hit in the Ribs

I found out I'm going to be on the road for work for two weeks this month on Friday, and it kind of threw my whole weekend into a funk. I'll be missing my friend and fiance's birthdays and Halloween . . . and I have to figure out how to absentee vote. It'll all be good, but I got it in my head I was going to be around and now I'm not. It will also probably change the theme of my vegan mofo blogs for the last half of October to eating vegan on the go.

But enough whining. Tonight, I threw together dinner on the fly and these are definitely recipes in progress. First, I tried Sol Cuisine organic BBQ tofu ribs for the first time. I had them frozen and defrosted them in the microwave before baking them. I wasn't satisfied with the amount of sauce, so I added some store bought BBQ (turns out quite a few are vegan.) They were good, but not great. I didn't get the "chewy" texture they advertise, but the texture was better than simply baking some extra firm tofu. I also think I'd like them better with a less sweet BBQ sauce, something with heat or vinegar.  It's squash season in Minnesota, so I served them over some simple baked spaghetti squash letting the BBQ sauce be the seasoning.

Here's the recipe that's still in the works, but tasty:

Wilted Swiss Chard w/ Celeriac, Walnuts and Raisins

1 small celeriac (celery root) - peel and dice
2 large garlic cloves
2 shallots (or half a small onion)
1/4 c walnuts
3 T raisins
1 large bunch swiss chard
2 T red wine (or water)

Heat a cast iron pan on high. Add diced celeriac and shallots/onions and let brown. Add in crushed walnuts and raisins and heat briefly. Cut the swiss chard leaves off the stems (it's okay if the smaller ones get in) and cut in bite size strips/squares. Layer the leaves on top of the cooked ingredients and stir. Turn down to medium and let the leaves wilt (they'll end up 1/3 the size they start). If the pan starts to stick, add the red wine or water and let it cook off. The wilting will take 5-7 minutes.  

We usually make wilted greens with a ton of garlic and some salt (or soy sauce) and pepper...maybe red pepper flakes or almonds. I wanted to explore the option of making something with a sweeter and homey taste. I think it's missing some brightness, maybe orange zest or balsamic vinegar? Check out these other swiss chard recipes.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Taco Takeover

They're quick and easy and ever-so-tasty...they're tacos! Tonight, I needed to burn through some of the veggies we've got leftover from the garden and farm box, but I wanted something quick and easy. Enter the ol' standby, but never unwelcome: tacos. I like the versatility and simplicity of tacos. You really can construct just what you want. Load up the filling or nix it for a salad of fixings. I prefer to balance the two and squeeze on some lime juice.

Taco filling

1 pkg Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo
1 med onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 tomato
2 peppers (your choice)
olive oil (optional)

Heat a cast iron pan on medium high. Add oil if you choose. Add diced onions and let brown while you dice the tomato. Dice peppers and garlic while you add the tomato. Add in peppers and garlic and let the onions carmelize and the tomatoes break down until they barely exist. Add in soy chorizo and turn down to medium. Heat and let the chorizo brown a little. Serve with corn tortillas and fixings.

If you're like me, you could eat Mexican food alot. Why not make it convenient on yourself by prepping a container in your fridge with the fixings you like? For instance, we have cilantro, onions, cabbage and lime wedges in a container ready to go at a moments notice. Who cares if they get mixed up a little? They're just going on the taco where they'll get mixed up anyway. Add in some tomatoes, avocado, hot sauce and tortillas and you're in business.

Other taco filling inspirations:

Post Punk Kitchen's Ancho Lentil Tacos - SO GOOD (one of the only ways I like lentils)!
My vegetable enchilada (with swiss chard and black beans) - deconstruct it into tacos.

What's your favorite taco filling or fixing?


Friday, October 5, 2012

Thai Me Up

Not sure how I feel about going across the river (to Minneapolis) to visit Krungthep Thai - an outpost of St. Paul's own Bangkok Thai Deli located on University Avenue (home of light rail construction.) Alas, I did it because that's where Compassionate Action for Animals was hosting their "Dine Out" for Veg Week.

I was happy to see a Thai place featured because I love the balance of flavors often present: sour, sweet, creamy and salty. The main thing to watch out for if you're sticking to a 100% plant-based meal at a Thai restaurant is the use of shrimp paste or fish sauce, sometimes they can just omit or substitute with soy sauce. Other times they can't, and it can sometimes be a challenge to know exactly what you're getting.

That said, Krungthep Thai was able to make almost everything on the menu vegan...AWESOME! My fiance shared a spring roll with me and the basil and mint freshness was uber-tasty.

But the piece de resistance was the green curry! Good green curry is that perfect balance of the four flavors with just the right amount of heat. There's a lot of not so good green curries out there; either too bland or sweet. The stuff I had tonight was really, insanely good. It featured tofu, thai eggplant, red bell peppers, thai chilis, basil and kaffir lime leaves. The bowl was huge; thankfully, allowing me to share with friends while still eating my fill.

If you can't get to a Thai restaurant, you could always try making the New York Times' vegan Thai Green Curry Vegetables yourself. :)

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Aw, Pumpkin

Don't tell my fiance, but I have had a lifelong serious crush on ... pumpkin.

No, I don't have strange boundary issues and a ridiculous pet name that would have me revealing an affair on my food blog. My crush is on pumpkin itself and stops at liking to consume it in a myriad of forms. Okay, and carve it, but that's where I draw the line.

For the last couple years, I've carved a jack o' lantern for two reasons: 1) it's something artistic and fun to do and 2) I have a reason to make toasted pumpkin seeds. Simply Recipes' Roasted Pumpkin Seeds clued me in to the secret: boiling the seeds in salted water before toasting! Salt and pepper is my favorite, but it's fun to play with other spice combos like chili pepper and lime juice or pumpkin spice.

Pumpkin spiced things have that warm cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger combination that harmonizes with the sweet richness of the pumpkin itself. So good.

Alas, I thought pumpkin in the form of pumpkin spiced lattes and I were going to have to divorce because the Starbucks version has some sneaky dairy in it; however, per the usual, some savvy vegan swooped in and saved the day with this vegan pumpkin spiced latte recipe.

Lastly, Isa Chandra Moskowitz once again knocks my socks off with her pumpkin cheesecake with pecan crunch topping.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Comfort Foods

I've flirted with vegetarianism since I was a teenager, but thanks to the support of my fiance-turned-vegan-fiance I've been meatless since January of this year. Despite being meatless, I still sometimes crave "comfort" foods from my childhood - some of which included meat. Thankfully, the faux meat industry has revolutionized since I was a kid, and one of my favorite brands is gardein. They're 100% plant-based (vegan), offer a lot of variety, and are pretty tasty.

Tonight, I tried one of their newer products: turk'y cutlets. The crispy oven-baked breading makes it heavier than I'd like, but at 250 calories for two cutlets they're still reasonable for an indulgent comfort food meal. I paired the cutlet with some baked delicata squash, mashed potatoes and fresh tomato slices. Gardein's homestyle gravy is insanely good (and I'm not a huge gravy fan), but it also packs on the calories, fat and sodium. True of typical "comfort food."

Food being tied to a feeling like comfort is at once obvious and strange. Why is it that food elicits in us emotional responses instead of just providing us the energy we need?  I have no clue, you should tell me in the comments if you know. :)

One of the biggest challenges I've had over the years to maintaining a meatless lifestyle is that emotional response to food in the form of family holidays. It's really kind of fascinating when you think about how seeped our family traditions are with food. For my family, holiday meals gravitate around meat. Luckily, I've got open-minded parents and extended family and an inspiring fiance who have helped transform the traditional holiday meals into vegan friendly tables recently. Check out our fun vegan easter brunch or thanksgiving

You can take comfort in knowing a plant-based, meatless meal is not only comforting to you, but also to the animals. Now, that's real comfort food.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stuff It

What to do when you're up to your ears in vegetables? Regardless if they're from your garden or the farmers' market, tis the season to be inundated with vegetables. There's worse problems to have.

So, what do you do with all these veggies? I know! Stuff them . . . with more veggies! Below are some of my favorite stuffed creations:

Growing up in Northern Minnesota, I love wild rice hot dish. I also love squash. So, despite my state currently debating whether or not to limit the freedom to marry (vote no!), I married the two. I introduce to you: Wild Rice Stuffed Squash.

If squash isn't your thing, you could stuff ... Peppers with Italian-style Quinoa. Learn from my mistakes, spray a little oil on the bread crumbs to get them toasty brown.

Maybe, you're stubbornly refusing to turn on your oven or need a quick and tasty hors d'ouevre for a social gathering. Or maybe you're swimming in tomatoes (romas work best)...try Nava Atlas's deviled tomatoes. Yes, I know chickpeas are legumes and not technically vegetables, but there's chives too :)

Need more stuffed inspiration?

Naked Kitchen's Paella Stuffed Eggplant (omit or sub on the optional cheese)
Daily Garnish's Creamy Vegan Kale Stuffed Mushrooms 
Epicurean Vegan's Cabbage Rolls

If you've got stuffed inspiration, share in the comments!

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Soup-er Fall Classics

I just got home from a trip up North to visit my parents and the fall colors are at their peak. The season screams of cool breezes, warm hues and coziness. All this says to me: soup. In the summer, it's too hot. In the winter, not hearty enough. In the spring, too time consuming. In the fall, it's just right.

Here's some classic soups to get your fall off to a good start:

1. Borscht

2.  Stew-alicious Stew

3. Squash Bisque with Cashew Cream

4. Chili

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