February 2009


My food has been a bit brown lately, so how about some green? Granted, while this soup isn’t the most vibrant green you’ve ever seen, it is hinting towards warmer weather and rainbow colored produce. I cannot wait for spring! But for now I’m stuck indoors with the rainy day blues. Thankfully this bowl of soup will cheer me up!

A few weeks ago, when Barbara of Dish N’ That posted a most delicious-looking broccoli soup, I knew I had to make it. I always buy a head of broccoli at the store for back-up, in case I run out of the fresh, local produce I get in my Vegetable Husband basket, so happily I had all the ingredients on hand!  With the addition of a roux of nutritional yeast I had one cheezy, broccoli, warm and comforting soup.  Tres bon!

But my soon-to-be bowl of soup needed a friend…perhaps a muffin? Who else to turn to but Celine of Have Cake Will Travel?! When she posted her Spicy Chick-Wheat Muffins, I was intrigued.  Since I bought some chickpea flour at a run to our international farmers market, I decided it was time to whip out the muffin pan and give the recipe a whirl.  While I’m not necessarily sold on the muffin by itself, accompanied by the soup the flavors shone through! Mmm soup and bread–what can be better?

Rainy Day Cream of Broccoli Soup

inspired by Barbara of Dish N’ That

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 large celery sticks, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
1 medium head of broccoli, trimmed into florets
1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped
Splash of Tamari/Braggs
1 quart of vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups soy milk
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a small sauce pan, heat 1/4 of vegetable oil over medium-high. Add the nutritional yeast. Whisk continuously for 5-8 minutes, until the oil and yeast form a darkened roux.

Meanwhile, in a soup pot, bring the vegetable broth to a simmer. Add the rough slowly, whisking it into the broth until it is combined. Let simmer.

Steam the broccoli florets until just tender, about 3-5 minutes. Rinse in cold water immediately to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, sauté the onions for 5-7 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic. Sauté for another minute. Add the carrots, celery, and half the broccoli florets. Sauté for another 5-7 minutes.

Add the vegetables to the simmering broth. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the carrots and celery are tender and cooked through.

In a food processor, blend the soup in batches. Add the soy milk little by little with each batch.  Return the blended soup to the pot. Add the remaining broccoli florets and heat through.

Serve with these Spicy Chick-Wheat Muffins!

I somehow missed National Margarita Day on February 22 (and I’m super sad about that), so I’m not about to let International Pancake Day go to waste! Although now I’m thinking that I should have invented the margarita pancake…ohhh I have my next brunch adventure planned! Pancake Day is celebrated around the world on Shrove Tuesday as a way to indulge, early in the morning, in super fatty, not-so-good-for-you, decadent food. It’s also a great way to carb up before the partying later in the day (I would love to be in New Orleans right now, sigh). But since I can’t be in New Orleans right now, I guess I’ll just have to cozy up to a tall stack of pancakes!

The recipe is inspired by the lovely Gail at Pacific Outpost Kitchen. Gail is lucky enough to live on the island of Maui in Hawaii with her boyfriend Dan and her two cats in a cottage with amazing views. I’m incredibly jealous of her life. So, in order to feel as awesome as a Hawaiian, I live vicariously through her blog! When Gail posted a recipe last week for Coconut Lime Macadamia Nut Banana Bread last week, I knew I had to make. Never mind that I’m not a huge fan of coconut and macadamia nuts are expensive as heck here in Georgia–I had to make it. Conveniently I had some frozen bananas in the fridge waiting to be made into banana bread too.

Long story short, I decided to indulge and turn the recipe into a pancake recipe. The end result? Amazing. My mom is anxiously waiting for the recipe as I type. Moist and sweet, without being too sweet, these pancakes make the perfect addition to any brunch. The only things I’d change are rum and lime zest. (i.e. I’d add them.) I mean, what’s better than rum in pancakes? And the lime flavoring wasn’t strong enough just using lime juice, so that’s why I’d add the zest. I don’t want to tell you what to do, but I really do think you ought to make these pancakes for your next brunch. They’re killer!

Aloha Cakes

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 or 3 mashed over-ripe bananas
1 1/2 c soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp lime zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
3 tbsp spiced rum (optional)
½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
½ cup chopped macadamia nuts

In a small bowl, mix the soy milk with the vinegar. Allow it to thicken for 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bananas, soy milk mixture, lime juice, lime zest, vanilla, oil, and rum. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until the batter is smooth. Add the coconut flakes and macadamia nuts. Thin with water as needed.

Heat a large skillet over medium high. Scoop batter into the pan (about 1/4 cup) and cook until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes. Flip the pancakes over and cook until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm (or put the plate in the oven, without the oven turned on!)

Serve with mimosas and your choice of sides!

Sometimes I just want hummus. And fresh bread. And sometimes, just sometimes, I have time to make both. I’m just lazy, and while dried chickpeas are 800x cheaper than canned, and more sustainable (less packaging), I always forget to soak them overnight. But this time I remembered! The past few Vegetable Husband boxes have had super cute bunches of small carrots, and remembering SusanV’s awesome looking carrot hummus, I knew I wanted to make it. But hummus requires bread! D&T posted this recipe for honey oat bread awhile ago and it had me drooling. So, doing what I do best, I snagged the recipes from these talented people’s blogs and whipped up a time-intensive but oh-so-worth it snack.

The poet prefers his hummus to be super garlicy and olive oily, but with the carrot version I wanted to go clean and cool. I didn’t add any oil, just water, and I didn’t add any tahini or spices. Personally, I love the taste. Clean, carroty, and very light and fluffy. I added more water than Susan called for, but it was bit by bit, so I don’t know the total amount. I think that would depend on how watery your carrots are.

Speaking of the poet, he offered to take me to The Hostel In the Forest’s Food, Farming, and Nutritional Healing Retreat in March for my birthday! I’m so stoked–the workshops include vegan cooking, gluten-free baking (something I’ve always wanted to dabble in), fermentation, bread-making, urban gardening, composting, and etc. Too much goodness in one weekend! We’re staying in the “Turtle Room” because the tree houses are full, but how cute is that name?  We’re actually going to spend March 1-3 down there too for Spring break, so I’ll have a recap of those days before the retreat.  How I love good people, good food, and forests!

Agave Oat Bread & Carrot Hummus

Agave Oat Bread

from Wish I Were Baking

To prepare the oatberries:
1 C Oatberries
4 C Filtered Water

For the initial proofing of the yeast:
3 C Filtered Water
1 Tbsp Yeast
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

For the bread itself:
1/4 C Agave Nectar
1 C Oat Bran
1 C Flax Seeds
2 tsp Salt
1/4 C Vital Wheat Gluten
1 tsp vanilla extract
Whole Wheat Flour – have a 5lb sack on hand

For the final forming of the loaves:
Rolled Oats
Olive Oil

Boil your oatberries until they have absorbed all of the water they’re going to. Be careful, as they’ll boil over if covered. You could steam them, if you had a steamer, in which case reduce the amount of water to 2 cups and steam for 45 minutes.

After the oatberries have cooked, remove from heat and let cool while you’re proofing your yeast.

Heat 1 cup of your water until nearly boiling, add 2 cups of cool / room-temperature water, and mix in sugar and yeast. Let this stand until yeast gets nice and bubbly (around 10 minutes or so).

Combine oatberries, yeast ferment, agave, flax seeds, oat bran, and vanilla.

Mix thoroughly, then add in enough flour to get a good dough going, mixing with a spatula until you are able to knead it.

Knead until you feel like your arms will fall off or until the dough won’t easily absorb any more flour. Set aside in a reasonably warm place until more than doubled in size (about 2 hours).

Gently knead for a minute or so, just to distribute the yeast again (it’s been sitting in there, eating, and is probably close to starving by now, and may have reproduced; it doesn’t have any legs, either, so you have to take it to the food).

Separate into 3 equal sized balls. Form into loaves (I only formed one loaf in a bread pan, the other 2/3 of the dough I formed into a free-form loaf on a baking sheet). Oil your pans well. Place loaves into pan. Liberally sprinkle the rolled oats over the tops, and then … perform something of the sort of action one usually performs with an omlette, tossing the loaf pan about so that the bread rotates through the oats.

Let rise until more than doubled in size (1 hour).

Bake at 300F until internal temperature tests to greater than 195F (or until you think it’s done).

Remove to wire racks immediately and let cool thoroughly before slicing.

Carrot Hummus

from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced (about 2 medium carrots)
1/4 cup water (plus more if needed)
3 cloves garlic
1 cup chickpeas, pre-soaked, rinsed and drained
2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

On the stove or in the microwave, cook the carrots in the water, covered, until the carrots are just tender. Put the carrots, water, and garlic into the food processor and puree.

Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, and salt to the processor and puree until smooth.  (I added at least 1/4 cup more of water in order to make it fluffy and light.)

One of the things I love the most about being a vegan is calling my mom and saying “guess what I ate” and her not believing me.  Sauerkraut is definitely one of those things!  I’ve been craving pirogies for years.  Years, I tell you.  The only problem is that I never knew I wanted them until I became a vegan and then couldn’t order them in restaurants.  My friends who had traveled to Poland plied story after story on me about the glories of the potato filled dumpling.  It was cruel and usual punishment.

A few weeks ago, I said enough is enough.  I’d bought sauerkraut for the Russian Soup and had some left over, so I decided to use it half and half with the potatoes as filler.  But then I ran across a recipe for a caramelized onion, sauerkraut, and mushroom base for the pirogies and fell in love with that idea.  I then made the pirogi dough, boiled the potatoes, cooked some onions, threw in some shredded mozzarella teese, filled the wrappers, and voila, delicious out-of-this world lightly fried doughy potatoey creamy goodness.  Everyone was right, they are heaven in a dumpling.

As for the sauerkraut, I had no idea I would love the stuff.  I’d never tried it until the soup–loved it–and then the bread–delish!–and now the onion mushroom base–fabulous!  The tang associated with sauerkraut mellows and the caramelized onions layer well with it.  I like the base because it makes a complete meal and doesn’t rely only on the pirogies and caramelized onions.  The meal was labor intensive, but oh-so-worth it, especially after I froze the leftover pirogies and boiled and fried them on demand when I wanted them.  I’m sure grandmothers are rolling over in their graves for my veganizaton of it all…but that’s good for them, excercise, right?!

Pirogies & Sauerkraut

I used this RecipeZaar recipe and this CookThink recipe, as well as my own genius (smile), to come up with the final dish.

For the Dough:
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm water
2 tbsp warm water
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together in a medium sized mixing bowl, and knead until smooth (it will still be kind of sticky).

Let the dough rest in the bowl (covered with a towel) for 30 minutes.

Separate the dough into 2 parts. Roll each half of the dough until about 1/8″ thick. Cut circles with a cookie cutter (i used a wine glass). Set aside.

For the Filling:
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chunked
pinch of salt
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1/2 c shredded teese (I used mozzarella, although I suppose cheddar would be more traditional)

Boil the potatoes in salted water like you’re making mashed potatoes.

Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the oil until translucent.

In a bowl, mash the potatoes with a fork and mix in the onions and teese. Set aside.

For the Sauerkraut Base:
8 tbsp Earth Balance
2 pounds onions, sliced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 (2-pound) jar sauerkraut, rinsed and drained well
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2/3 c water, plus more if necessary

In heavy, large Dutch oven (I used a stock pot) over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons Earth Balance. Add the onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Mix in the sauerkraut and the flour, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the water. Cover the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer until the sauerkraut is tender and the mixture is thick, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally and add more water by tablespoonfuls if mixture seems dry.

Mix in 2 tablespoons butter. Season generously with pepper.

Meanwhile, to Assemble and Cook the Pirogies:

Add a teaspoon or so of filling to each circle.

Fold the circles in half over the filling, and pinch closed. You can also press the edges with a fork to make sure they are sealed really well.

At this point you can freeze the pirogi for later, or you can cook them.

To cook them, place the pirogies in large pot of salted boiling water until heated through, 6 minutes. Drain.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, swirl a tablespoon of oil. Add the pierogies to the pan and lightly fry each side for 4 or 5 minutes.

Serve over bowls of the sauerkraut, mushroom mixture!

Oh Atlanta, you’re always here for me, whether I want you or not!  But it is good to be home, in some ways.  For instance, I just extended my lease through August (when I’ll be moving for grad school), but because I hate the apartment and I’m not looking forward to staying here longer than I expected, I’ve made a list of little improvements I can work on.  I’m buying a kitchen butcher block/island I found on Craigslist tomorrow, so I’ll have more space for chopping and kneading and storing things, and I’ve got a plan to do laundry in my tub and dry clothes outside on my back porch area.  There aren’t any laundromats in the area, so this, if it works, will hopefully solve some problems.  Anyways, it’s nice to have projects to work on!

View from our hotel window

Chicago was wonderful–the weather was great (not cold at all, in the 30s and 40s!), the food was occasionally great (whenever we managed to get away from the conference district), and the the conference itself was wonderful and exhausting and a fabulous time over all.  But speaking of food, I ate the best meal of my life, yes, my life!, last Wednesday night at Green ZebraBon Appetit was so correct in awarding it a spot, #2!, in their list of great vegetarian restaurants.  The meal exceeded my expectations.  I didn’t take any pictures, but the space itself is incredible–neutral tones of gray with an enveloping architecture, no sharp corners here!  The waiter was phenomenal, and when they didn’t have the vegan chocolate cake like I expected, he poured us complimentary flutes of sparkling white wine!  He also gave us recs for restaurants we didn’t have time to check out, but I loved his personality and over-all smoothness in the dining room.  I’ll leave you with a run-down of the experience at Green Zebra and then come back on Wednesday with a recipe post.  Hope you all had a wonderful Valentines Day!  Coincidentally, we celebrated Valentines on Wednesday night at Green Zebra.  Saturday night we ate Ethiopian goodness with the poet’s friend, wife, and uber cute baby.  So, without further ado, Green Zebra!

Blurry Flashless Picture, post-bar-going

Amuse Bouche: I don’t know what it was, but it included shitakes and eggplant and some other veggies diced into tiny squares and served in the most amazing sauce base EVER.  I swear to god I had 6 different flavors at 6 different times hit 6 different places on my palate.

First Course: I ordered the “Hawaiian heart of palm, grilled shiitakes, scallions kimchee” and the poet ordered veganized “Honey Crisp Apples, fresh horseradish, tarragon, hazelnuts.”  The heart of palm made me so so so happy.  The last time I had it was in Peru, and this was decidedly different than in the rainforest, but absolutely phenomenal.  Taste-wise, everything in the plate was surprising and exciting.  The apples were great too.  I found the tarragon to be a bit overwhelming, but the poet liked the licoricey play with the crisp, sweet apples, crunchy hazelnuts, and the spice of the horseradish.  Again, a surprising, in a great way, combination.

Second Course: “Thai Spiced Carrot Soup” split between us.  So cute, the waiter ordered that the one order of soup be split into two bowls with equal garnish!  The soup boasted a few thin strands of carrots as well as a garnish of cilantro coconut cream.  I normally hate cilantro, but apparently I love it in a liquid, cream form!  The galangal and carrots and coconut cream and everything balanced so well.  Dipped with a bit of the fresh, whole grain bread…oh man, I’m salivating right now!

Third Course: I ordered butternut potstickers (the description isn’t on the website) and the poet ordered the gnocchi (again, the description isn’t available).  The potstickers were great, served with hazzlenuts and mandarin oranges.  They were wrapped in something more substantial than the usual wonton wrappers–maybe puff pastry sheets?–and then baked, not fried.  I liked the play between baked squash and sweet, tangy oranges and garnish.  The gnocchi that the poet ordered was out of this world.  I cheated and sneaked a bite of the buttery gnocchi with broccoli rappini and some other tasty elements.  I managed to not get any cheese on the bite though.  Yums!

Fourth Course: I ordered the “Foraged Mushroom Dumplings, tofu, Thai basil, baby bok choy, star anise broth” and the poet ordered the “Chanterelle Mushroom Popover, cippolini, hazelnuts, blue cheese, browned butter.”  Honestly, this course was a bit of a disappointment to me.  The dumplings were tasty, the bok choy great, the broth wonderful–I loved all of the components of the dish.  But I had no idea how to eat it.  The baby bok choi came whole, which makes sense, but was impossible to cut in the small broth-filled dish.  And the other veggies served with it–carrots and peppers–were sliced big as well.  It was just awkward to eat.  The poet can’t stop raving about the popover though.  I had major food envy.

Fifth Course: Didn’t happen because the chocolate cake was no longer on the menu and I wasn’t keen on a rice pudding.  I’m just not a big fan.  But we drank some bubbly white wine instead.

Even though my last course wasn’t the best, I was blown away by Green Zebra.  They did offer one fish dish on the menu (not needed!!!), but almost every dish could be veganized, at least for the first two courses.  I wish they’d had more vegan options for the last two courses, because, on the last course, my only options were the dumplings or some dates, and even though I’m adventurous, I know that I don’t like dates all that much, so I felt a bit cornered.  As for the other dishes, I have no complaints.  I could tell that the chef, Shawn McClain, loves playing with food and is excited to offer vegans and vegetarians a fine dining experience.  The food was exciting and surprising, refined and playful, comforting and adventurous.  Granted, you have to pay fine dining prices for this experience, but it is so worth it.

It’s ridiculously awesomely warm down south!

I am heading to Chicago tomorrow afternoon for 2009 AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference! Things I’m looking forward to (in no particular order): hearing/meeting Donald Hall, Nick Flynn, Dorothy Allison, Andrew Hudgins, Claudia Emerson, Heather McHugh, Paul Mauldoon, and many more that I don’t know about because I haven’t looked at the schedule read; getting very very drunk with thousands upon thousands of awesome writers; being in Chicago, one of my favorite cities, again; the nicer weather Chicago is having (40 degrees!); eating at Green Zebra for an early Valentine’s Day dinner tomorrow (Vegan Chocolate Cake, crispy peanut butter, banana sorbet, salted caramel!!!!); and probably tons of things that I can’t think of right now that will be beyond wonderful.

Look for a fun recap when I get back!

Just a bit of housekeeping to begin with! In case you haven’t noticed, I now have a “Recipe Box” tab at the top of my page. I’ve tried to categorize my posts as succinctly as possible so that you can search for recipes easier. The WordPress search box just wasn’t working so well. Let me know if you have any suggestions for how to improve it!

Secondly, a little news piece. The NYT ran this article yesterday on unplugging the fridge:

FOR the last two years, Rachel Muston, a 32-year-old information-technology worker for the Canadian government in Ottawa, has been taking steps to reduce her carbon footprint — composting, line-drying clothes, installing an efficient furnace in her three-story house downtown.

About a year ago, though, she decided to “go big” in her effort to be more environmentally responsible, she said. After mulling the idea over for several weeks, she and her husband, Scott Young, did something many would find unthinkable: they unplugged their refrigerator. For good…

As an eco-conscious individual, I’m always looking for good ideas on how to reduce my carbon footprint. I learned a lot of good tricks from the Hrens this past summer (in the summer don’t open the blinds/curtains during the day to keep the house cool, how to grow mushrooms in a spare kitchen cabinet, etc.) and I’m a big fan of local, organic food (hooray for Margie and Vegetable Husband!), but I’m just not sure what I think about this article. I tend to cook big batches of food and refridgerate them so I can eat all week. Since I don’t have a microwave, thawing soups and other food can be hard in a time crunch in my oven or on my stove. The benefits of not having a fridge seem shady too–and why do fridgeless people use a freezer? These are questions I’m going to research, but I’m wondering what you all think!

Now onto the recipe!  Oh look, it’s cabbage soup take 2!  The Russian Cabbage Soup called for 3 cups of cabbage, which worked out to exactly half of the cabbage I had in my possibly ungreen fridge, so I decided to use this recipe from Heidi at 101 cookbooks to use up the other half of the cabbage.  I buy dry beans, so I soaked them overnight and then threw the soup together about one hour before I wanted to eat.  The recipe is so simple, cheap, and quick, especially if you have a can of white beans sitting around, and it’s the perfect fix for a cold night.  Served with a chunk of whole wheat bread, you certainly can’t go wrong.

Rustic Cabbage Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
a big pinch of salt
3 medium potatoes, skin on, cut 1/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup white beans, precooked or canned (drained & rinsed well)
1/2 medium cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch ribbons

Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a bit, about 5 minutes – it’s o.k. to uncover to stir a couple times.

Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for another minute or two. Add the stock and the beans and bring the pot to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage and cook for a couple more minutes, until the cabbage softens up a bit.

Now adjust the seasoning – getting the seasoning right is important or your soup will taste flat and uninteresting. Taste and add more salt if needed, the amount of salt you will need to add will depend on how salty your stock is.

Let simmer for 30-45 minutes. Serve with bread.

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