May 2009

The one drawback about scoring a new job is waiting for the paychecks.  While it’s wonderful that I will have money in a few weeks, for the moment it is a little scary.  And that’s where my pantry comes in handy!

I have this normally bad habit of keeping my “pantry” (it’s actually spread around several kitchen cabinets and my kitchen cart) overstocked–who knows when I’ll need green lentils, red lentils, brown lentils, etc?  And it’s true that I have over 50 different spices.  And cans of coconut milk and beans.  And every weird Korean or Thai condiment you could desire.  But this bad habit comes in handy when I don’t have the money to go out and buy anything!

This post, short-and-sweet is the first installment of RWF–Recession Worthy Food.  It’s how I (and you) can stretch your dollars into tasty, filling, nutritious meals.  While I am lucky to have a weird assortment of items already in my home, you can always substitute ingredients, every recipe is essentially a build-your-own.

Today’s recipe features Bulgur, rutabaga greens, tofu, and one of Ricki’s amazing sauces.  It’s a grain bowl and it’s to die for.  Bulgur Wheat typically features in Mid-East cuisine and is extraordinarily nutritious.  100 grams of uncooked Bulgur contains 8 grams of fiber and 12.5 grams of protein.  Or rutabaga greens.  I’ll admit that I’ve never had them before (not a rutabaga fan), but my Vegetable Husband basket sent them my way and I needed to use them.  The instructions said they cook like kale or collards, so all I did was saute them in a little olive oil and water and they turned out great.  You can substitute any leafy green vegetable (kale, spinach, collards, etc) for the rutabaga greens.  Overall, I loved the bowls.  They were filling and delicious and the sauce really goes a long way–I think I got 9 servings out of one recipe!

Bulgur Bowl

For the bulgur wheat & greens
from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites:

2.5 c chopped onions (I used vidalia because they’re in season)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch rutabega greens
2 tbsp lemon juice
1.5 c bulgur wheat
1 tsp salt
2.5 c water
black pepper to taste

In a skillet, saute the onions and garlic in the oil for about 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent.  Add the greens and lemon juice, cover, and cook until the greens have just wilted.  Stir in the bulgur and salt.  Add the water, cover, and cook on medium-low for 15 minutes, until the bulgur is tender and most of the water has been absorbed.  Sprinkle with pepper and lemon juice to taste.

For the tofu:

1 lb firm tofu

In a frying pan, dry-fry the tofu until golden on both sides.  Set aside.

For the Orange Fig sauce
from Ricki:

1/2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
one 2″ (5 cm) piece of ginger, peeled and minced (I used 1 tsp dried ginger)
1 tsp (5 ml) light miso
2 tsp (10 ml) tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp (5 ml) agave nectar
2 large dried figs, stems removed, chopped

Whir all ingredients in a blender until perfectly smooth.  Drizzle over your bowl as desired. Makes enough for 3-4 bowls (It made 9 for me–this stuff goes a long way!).

To assemble the bowl:

Put some bulgur & greens in the bowl, and tofu, then drizzle with the sauce!  Makes 5-6 bowls.

Whew.  Life moves fast!  Thank you thank you thank you for all of the encouraging notes and crossed fingers, it was lovely to read all of the comments and messages you guys sent.  And not to leave you in suspense, I have a job!  A real honest-to-god job that pays real-I-can-live-off-of-it money.  It’s seriously a miracle.  The job market doesn’t like people who can only work for 2.5-3 months; even the smoothie-making job I interviewed at wouldn’t hire me for that short of a time.  Needless to say, I was pretty depressed about it, and every day I didn’t get hired was one less day that I could put on my “availability.”  Then, after applying for at least 20 jobs, I shut my computer, said I needed a break, grabbed my laundry, and decided to drive to my mom’s house for a breather.  After loading up my car, I sit in the seat, turn the key, and what?  The car is dead.  Deader than a doornail.  Deader than the roaches I stalk in my apartment.  Dead.

Now this is the part where I’m going to back up and give a play-by-play of the last seven ten days or so.

Mother’s Day Cook-Out Plate of Goodness

Day One, May 10.  Not only was May 10 Mother’s Day, it was also the start of my commencement activities.  I was required to attend the honors ceremony to receive my badge and cords (whatever it’s called, there was a fancy French word for it) from my thesis advisor.  That part was fun actually, I love Bill Gruber, and the ceremony wasn’t too long.  Afterwards we convened at the Poet’s new place for a cook-out.  My uncle, who is a chef, flew into town the night before to come to graduation and my brother, his wife, and their new kid came down.  My mom, my uncle, and I cooked a feast!  It was super fun and the weather was awesome.  I made Isa’s Perfect Grilled Portobellos and a spicy potato salad.  My mom made me a vegan sweet-and-sour slaw and a salad with corn, black beans, avocado, mangoes, and some super awesome vinaigrette.  My uncle just grilled meat.  But I’m sure it was good.

My mom and me

Day Two, May 11: Graduation.  Hooray, I did it.  The best part was the weather–it wasn’t swelteringly hot!  My mom didn’t almost die of heat stroke!

Day Four, May 13: First day on in-person training for my literacy job.  Horribly long.  We were trained (aka brainwashed) from 9-6:30 with only a 30 minute lunch break.  And there were not other breaks, just hours upon hours of listening to lectures, watching videos, and modeling the lesson plans to groups.  I loved the teaching part, I have to admit.  I’m darn good at it and it was fun.

Day Five, May 14: More in-person training.  Except that after lunch my contract to work for this program was terminated.  No real reason given, just that “you don’t look like you’re having fun.”  I was left with the impression that they hired too many teachers for the summer and given the economy and all not enough students signed up.  Let’s just say it was a bad day.

Day Nine, May 18: After not getting the smoothie-making job, the Poet and I headed over to East Atlanta for volunteer orientation for the East Atlanta Beer Festival.  After becoming oriented, we walk back to my car, I get in the driver’s seat, turn the ignition, and nothing happens.  I say “fuck” a lot at this point.  Luckily, the guy stuck behind us in the tight parallel parking situation was really nice and offered to jump the car after we directed him out of his spot.  He also knew a lot about Hondas and gave me some tips, and after five minutes or so the car finally started.  I drive down to the nearest auto parts place, pay for a new battery (79 bucks I, of course, don’t have since I’m jobless), and the car works.  Stellar.

Tofu Tacos!

Day Ten, May 19: This is the day I decided to go to my mom’s house.  The car won’t turn on again.  After trying five or six times, the car turns on, and I drive up to meet my mom at her car repair place.  The really nice guys up there agree to look it over and I go back to my mom’s house to do laundry, cook her some food, and sit on her awesome porch and look out at her gorgeous garden.  Several hours into this, I check my mail and lo and behold there’s an interview offer with my new job!  To celebrate I cook spicy, crunchy, tofu tacos.  Then I drink waaaay too much wine and my friend’s house.  But at least I wasn’t driving, my car was dead.

Day Eleven, May 20: The guys at the repair shop say they can’t find anything wrong with my car.  The alternator is ok, the battery is obviously fine.  They cleaned up the wires, unplugged and replugged a few things, and now the car starts every time.  And then they don’t charge me for it because they felt for my situation.  Awwww.  Nice people still exist!  After calling about the car, I walk in to my interview, am greeted by an old friend who co-owns No Brakes ATL, the local track bike boutique, talk with my interviewer about Samuel Beckett, and am hired on the spot.  Exactly one week after I was fired/laid off I had a job!

But hey, let’s get on to the recipe.  I’ve rambled too much.  Not much to say about it, besides that it was good!  I’m a sucker for potato salad, and although I’ve been in a no-veganaise salad kick lately, this one was pretty durn good, especially with the thai chili pepper kick.  It was definitely a great addition to our graduation cook-out!

Spicy Potato Salad

From My Vegan Planet

2 lb new potatoes
2 red bell peppers
2 celery stalks
1 shallot
2 – 3 green onions
1 fresh green chilli (I used 2 thai chilis, seeds included)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 t freshly chopped chives
2 t freshly chopped fresh basil (finely chopped)
1 T finely chopped fresh parsley
1 T soy milk
3 T vegan mayo
1 t spicy mustard
1/2 t raw sugar, fine

First, in a pot of boiling salted water, cook the potatoes until tender but still a bit firm and drain them. Cool them off and then cut into small cubes and set in a large salad bowl.

Cut the red peppers in half, take the seeds and extra parts away and dice the pepper into small pieces. Chip the celery in the same fashion, mince the shallot, and finely chop the green onions. Finely mince the chilli as well, and place it all into the bowl with the potatoes. Remember, if you leave the seeds from the chilli in, it will be much more spicy. If you leave them out, it should only be mildly spicy.

Add the garlic and herbs to the veggie mixture as well.

Mix the soy milk, mayo, mustard, and sugar together in a small bowl. Stir until well combined. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and veggies and toss until everything is coated. Add a little lemon juice and fresh chives for garnish if you like. Best served cold! Enjoy!

I need a few days to recuperate from the events of last week.  Two days in to in-person training, I was laid off by my teaching job.  No real reasons were given and I expect that it is a result of them hiring too many teachers and looking for any excuse to eliminate someone, and I, being one of the younger teachers, was therefore determined dispensable.  So I’ve been running around applying for minimum wage jobs hoping that I’ll find something that will cover my rent and bills for the following months.  I’m scared.  I need to admit it.  But, although I’m not very spiritual or religious anymore, I need to believe that everything works out for the better.

When I do return to the blogging world, in a few days at most, you can expect a recap of that lovely plate of food!  It’s from our Mother’s Day/my graduation weekend cook-out and my mom and I threw together some taaaasty treats.  Ironic that the two women being honored cooked most of the food, but hey, it tasted great!  And yes, you read right, I did graduate from college, magna cum laude at that.  Like I said, it’s been a long week.  Graduation on the Monday, laid off on the Thursday.  Ah, well.  I’m thinking about you all and when I have some blogging stamina I’ll be back in full form!

Loosing the links sidebar was a real adventure, folks.  Luckily someone on the WordPress message boards was able to help me out.  Turns out the coconut milk dinner rolls did me in!  Thankfully it’s fixed and I have most of the links back up.  The nature ones and “other” I’ve yet to reenter though.  Soon enough!

This is going to be a quick post–it’s been a long week for me, first six days of teacher training and all–but I just have to share a recipe that helped me get through the madness: Dark Chocolate Macadamia Cookies.

When I was up in Roanoke I attended the graduating students’ reading.  It was great to hear the graduating MFA students read (not so great to hear the college seniors read–I mean, some were good, but the majority read too long) and great to meet the current 1st years I’ll be studying with next year and the faculty members I hadn’t met before.  Even better is the fact that after every reading the department holds a reception with hummus, nuts, beer, and wine.  My ice cold Yuengling and macadamia nut popping kept me going after a day of 7 hours of driving coupled with a 2 hour long reading (my butt was so sore!!!).  A fellow I’ll call Leschenberg, a 1st year, gave me the leftover can of macadamia nuts and thus became my new favorite person.

While the nuts have kept me going this week, the nuts in a dark chocolate cookie were the real nourishment factor.  Ok, maybe just the happiness factor.  But I think that counts for a lot when one’s not happy because of certain circumstances.  Imagine a super dark, super moist, super rich chocolate cakey cookie topped with a large, salty, luscious macadamia nut.  Exactly.  You’re on the same page as me, right?

Dark Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

adapted from Vegan Cookies

1/6 c canola oil
1/3 c sugar
1/8 c soy milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
2/3 c flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/14 tsp salt
a couple of macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the oil, sugar, soy milk, and extracts.

Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and stir until completely mixed. Add a bit more flour if the dough looks wet.

Shape into tablespoon-sized balls and place on a lightly oiled or parchment-lined baking sheet. Press a macadamia nut into the center of each cookie and bake for 9 minutes.

Makes 6-8 cookies depending on how big you make them.

::Edit:: FIXED!  My sidebar is back & the links will be up later today.  Woohoo!  Oh, and I think my issue with the crab cakes is the use of hot sauce–I just don’t want hot sauce in my “crab” cakes, but that’s just me.  🙂

Moving on! Remember when Isa posted her recipe for Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from her forthcoming cookbook Vegan Brunch?  Ever since Vegan Brunch was announced with its crab cake recipe, I was stoked.  I’ve made a version before, and they’re pretty good, but I figured Isa, being the vegan goddess she is, would have a superior recipe.  Needless to say, when she posted the recipe on the PPK Blog, I freaked out (in a good way).

I finally got around to making them this week, and yup, they’re pretty good.  I have a not-so-great relationship with tempeh and this recipe certainly helped me like it a bit more.  The texture is certainly more crabby than my tofu version and I love the addition of nori to add something “fishy,” but there’s still a taste I don’t like.  I’m blaming it on the tempeh, but it could be the remoulade (I’m not a fan of the hot sauce in it).  The poet loves them and thinks I’m nuts for not, and it’s not that I think they’re bad or inedible, but I’m not bowled over.  The search for the perfect vegan crab cake is still on!

Isa’s Tempeh Crab Cakes

from The PPK blog

For the cakes:
8 oz tempeh
1 c water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf

3 tbsp Vegenaisse
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 c very finely chopped red bell pepper
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
fresh black pepper
1 1/2 c panko/rice breadcrumbs, plus extra for dredging
1 finely chopped nori sheet

Oil for pan frying

For the remoulade:
2 tbsp Vegenaise
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
1 tbsp hot sauce
2 tsp capers (try not to get too much brine)

Crumble the tempeh into a small pan. Add the water, soy sauce, oil and bay leaf. The tempeh won’t be fully submerged, but that’s fine. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let boil for 12 to 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated. Stir once during boiling.

Transfer contents to a mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and mash with a fork. Let cool for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to hasten the cooling process. Make sure the tempeh is barely warm before you proceed, or the cakes may fall apart when you cook them. Add the mayo, mustard, hot sauce, vinegar, chopped bell pepper, spices salt and pepper, and mix well. Add the bread crumbs and nori and use your hands to incorporate.

Once you are ready to form the cakes, preheat a thin layer of oil in a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet (cast iron is great) over medium heat. Pour a few tablespoons of panko into a bowl. Scoop a little less than 1/4 cup batter into your hands and form into a ball. Flatten between your palms and then roll the sides gently with your hands cupped to smooth them. You should have ten 2 1/2 to 3- inch patties. I do them in batches of five. Press them into the panko to lightly coat (CP note: I didn’t have any extra panko, so I fried them without it.  I also only make up 1-2 at a time and store the rest of the mixture in the fridge). They don’t need to be thoroughly covered, just a little bit for some texture.

Fry a batch of five cakes for 4 minutes on one side and flip when dark golden brown. Fry for 2 minutes on the other side and transfer to a paper towel or paper bag to drain. Do your second batch and in the meantime make your remoulade by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Oops, I disappeared for a bit, didn’t I? Sorry about that! I forgot to mention last week that I was going to be in Roanoke for a few days last week visiting my soon-to-be grad school. I was able to hear the graduating students read, meet some faculty members I hadn’t met yet (Richard Dillard is a hoot!), hang out with the current students, and check out the town. Thankfully, finding vegan meals wasn’t too hard, and the town is big enough to have a Kroger, a Fresh Market, and a whole foods coop (comparable to the one we have here in Atlanta!). I’m very stoked to move there in August–seems like I started a new life up there and now it’s on hold for the next three months. But! This too shall pass, or so they say. (smile)

In other news, I started teacher training today for my summer teaching job with the Institute for Reading Development (aka bootcamp for reading teachers). It’s…long. And redundant. But pays well. And I think the actual classroom experience will be great in the long run.

Needless to say, with life being so busy, I haven’t had much time to cook anything interesting, but last week before I left (because one needs sustenance for the road!) I whipped up some of Bee’s Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies. I made a few changes, but not many, and oh my goodness can I say that these cookies are awesome?! On a first thought, ginger and chocolate don’t seem like the best pair–two very strong flavors. But the end result was perfectly spicy and sweet, rich but not too rich. Plus they’re so wholesome that it feels wrong not to include them as part of my regular diet. 😀

Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

From Jugalbandi

1 c whole wheat flour
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c wheat germ
1/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 tsps baking soda
1/4 tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
2.5 tsps ground ginger
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup + one tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 .5 tsps fresh ginger chopped and ground to a paste in a mortar and pestle
1/2 c chocolate chips.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix together in a large bowl the dry ingredients. Pour in the oil, then using the same measuring cup pour in the molasses (this way the molasses won’t stick to the measuring cup). Add the vanilla and fresh ginger and chocolate chips. Mix everything together with your fingers and slowly add water until the dough forms a ball.

Roll a tablespoon or so of the dough into a ball, place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Let cool as long as you can wait!