Sunday, December 26, 2010

meals . . .

Sorry for my lack of energy, here . . . can't tell if my body is having a stress-induced meltdown, or I have the flu! Regardless, I barely did anything today -- a little laundry and a sinkfull of dishes zapped all of my energy. Frying an egg and toasting some bread for dinner was WORK, I tell you!

BUT, I did make a few tasty things over the past few days . . .

First, chili:

One of my favorite recipes is the "Very Veggie Chili" from Vegan Planet -- I use black beans and something else (this time, black-eyed peas) instead of the chickpeas, and also add some TVP for heartiness. Always a winner!

More pizza:

It was good at the time, but I don't even want to think about pizza right now -- ugh! Hopefully Dan will eat up all of the leftovers for me. :)

And blessed miso soup:

Perfect cold-weather, feeling-icky food. I would have made more tonight, except that chopping veggies sounded too hard today! :(

Time for more tea . . . !!

Oh yes . . . and Merry Christmas! Mine wasn't terribly merry, (eh sick,) but at least I had lots of fun singing at church before the sickness set in!

I promise a much better New Year's post . . . hopefully I'll be healthy by then!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Supermarket" Success!

I checked The Supermarket Vegan out from the library a week or so ago, and have just gotten around to cooking from it a little bit this week. What a great little gem of a cookbook! All of the recipes seem simple and relatively quick to prepare, which is a plus in my house on busy weeknights! Too bad it's too late to let Santa know about this one! :)

I made . . .
Hummus Soup:

Now, I liked how EASY this recipe sounded, but I was wowwed by how tasty the finished product was! I ended up using about a teaspoon of harissa in the soup (instead of the suggested cayenne,) and finished the soup with some of the harissa-infused oil Anna and Langdon shared with us when we were in Milwaukee. MMMMMM! This was an incredibly satisfying lunch on my snow day yesterday, with a crisp green salad and some lightly toasted pita. Yum yum yum!

Next, we have Lentil Tacos:

This was another winner with both Dan and I -- we agreed that neither of us really cares much for ordinary lentils, but we like this recipe! (I ended up adding the juice of one lime to the filling, to counteract the over-saltiness I tasted in the finished product -- it helped!) We spooned the fillng into corn tortillas and topped with diced red onion, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, sour cream, some of the salsa verde I made last weekend, and shredded cabbage.

Now, my only complaint about these two recipes is that both tasted over-salted to me, and I didn't even add any salt at all to the first recipe! I'm wondering if it's because I used commercial veggie broth base -- has anyone ever tried "Better than Boullion" before? I picked it up because it was both cheaper and yielded more than the Rapunzel brand, which I used to buy all the time. (I have been making my own veggie broth base for years now, but needed broth and didn't have time to make more base last weekend.) Maybe I'm so used to my own version, (which probably has less salt,) that my tastebuds are just overwhelmed? What do you think?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

it's cookie time!

As I wrote over the weekend, I finished all of my holiday baking! Wahoo! I ended up making six cookies and one candy, which was a significantly reduced amount from my original plan, but still plenty of variety and tons of fun! Here's the spread that I took to work yesterday:

From left to right . . .
Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels
I first stumbled into this recipe as part of a Daring Baker's Challenge, and although I've never made the caramel cake since, (the main part of the challenge,) these caramels were such a hit with friends and family (and me!) that they are a MUST at holiday time. I recommend sprinkling the hot caramel with coarse sea salt after pouring into the pan -- it turns the already fantastic treat into something other-worldly. I also recommend purchasing a package of "confectionery waxed paper" for wrapping, since it makes your life SO much easier when you are wrapping almost 100 caramels -- those pre-cut rectangles are a lifesaver! Additionally, I have veganized these in the past using Earth Balance and full-fat coconut milk (in place of the heavy cream,) with no noticeable difference in flavor or texture. The best review came from Dan, while chomping on one of my salted caramels: "now, I REALLY don't like caramel . . . but I LOVE these!"

Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti Straws
I go back and forth on including biscotti in my holiday cookie tray, because, although I LOVE biscotti and find them ridiculously easy to make, they are often the "bastard stepchild" of holiday cookies -- two or three are left lingering on the tray with a heap of crumbs, whilst everything else has been gobbled down. However, I don't know what it is about this recipe -- perhaps the simple yet satisfying flavor combinations, or the long, thin, crispy-but-not-tooth-shattering shape -- but these guys are a winner! I would definitely recommend making biscotti long and skinny in general -- they are fancier to eat, for some odd reason, and they have a simple, pleasant crunchiness, instead of the dry, gnaw-off-a-chunk of traditional biscotti. I will definitely make this recipe again, and will perhaps play around with flavor combinations in the future! (Lemon-Ginger? Coconut-Lime? YES!)

Pine Nut Wedding Cookies
There is something about these cookies that screams "CHRISTMAS!" to me, and although practically everyone and his next-door-neighbor makes these, I wanted to make some this year, too. (Plus, my mom requested them -- who knew? I don't ever remember her making wedding cookies for her Christmas tray!) Now, this recipe as written is NOT budget-friendly -- hello, 2 cups of pine nuts? Yowza. BUT, I could easily see substituting a cheaper nut in the future with delicious results. These are nutty and buttery and sweetly satisfying, with that traditional, melt-in-your-mouth wedding cookie texture. Yum yum butter, nuts, and sugar! What's not to like? :)

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies
I'm so glad I stumbled upon this recipe when looking for gingerbread cookies to make with my students a few years ago, (we had both a dairy and an egg allergy among the group, so vegan baking was required,) because this is the easiest, SPICIEST, tastiest gingerbread cookie ever! The cookies mix togeher in minutes, are a breeze to roll out, bake up soft yet sturdy, and store well over the Christmas week. (That is, if they last that long! Dan loves these guys, too.) I love the intense, spicy flavor using the full amount of spices, but I would definitely recommend cutting back on all of the spices if you are baking for conservative palates. (The cookies as is have a gentle heat to them, but that might be too much for very young children or picky adults -- I'd cut all of the spices down to 1/4 teaspoon, and the cookies will still be delicious!) I also love that the cookies are made with healthy canola oil, and suggest whole-wheat flour as a possibility, too. Additionally, the size of this recipe is quite modest, which I like -- nobody wants to get carpal-tunnel from the pastry bag after decorating 10 dozen gingerbread people!

Peppermint Merengue Kisses
Merengues and I have had a long and sordid history . . . let's just say we don't get along well! :) Anyhow, I confess to being a lazy baker and didn't completely follow the mixing directions in this recipe; consequently, I really couldn't get my merengue to whip to stiff enough peaks that they could be piped beautifully. Oh well! That's what spoons are for, right? My rustic merengues taste fantastic, and are being quickly disappeared by Dan -- I think he could eat a double-batch of this cookie all on his own if allowed! The basic recipe is simple enough to adapt to a variety of flavors, which I may choose to play around with in the future.

Basic Sugar Cookies
I posted at length about these cookies already; let's just say that they are one of my favorites, and I look forward each year to decorating cookies!

Salted Nut Roll Bars
I found vegetarian marshmallows! (My co-op has started carrying "Dandies!" Wahoo!) A church choir friend introduced me to these bars, and I'm totally hooked -- the Salted Nut Roll (made in St. Paul, Minnesota,) is my favorite candy bar EVER, and this simple, sweet-and-salty bar so closely mocks the original, I'm hooked! I did make a few changes to the recipe/directions, which seemed to work well for me -- I didn't combine the marshmallows with the peanut butter caramel layer, instead just layered the marshmallows over the salted peanuts and poured/spread the sticky stuff on top. This seemed to work REALLY well for me, and avoided the messy, gooey spreading job described to me by my choir colleague. (Also, the recipe I used did not call for any butter, and it worked just fine.) I would recommend chilling these bars before cutting, otherwise you'll have a very sticky knife and globby shapes instead of "bars." Globby or not, these are fantastic!

Well . . . merry what have you to all! I'm off work again today due to 8 more inches of snow and general horrible weather, (woot snow day!), and I'm absolutely delighted to have a "free day" to finish preparing for the holidays. I definitely need to get a little more cooking done, and our apartment could use a quick clean before hosting guests. I'm off!

Monday, December 20, 2010

a couple of meals

Since I was so busy this weekend baking and cooking for the coming week, I ate mostly leftovers, breakfast burritos, (nothing else fills me up quite like one of those!), smoothies, and hummus all weekend long. (What a good little vegetarian I am!) :) Plus, I tend to get so wrapped up in what I'm doing, I kind of forget to eat . . . so having healthy snacks available is a plus!

I did manage a couple of healthy meals over the course of the weekend, though! Friday night, I threw together this awesome tofu scramble after we got home from grocery shopping:

I did pick up a little bit of fresh produce to supplement, but this was mostly a "clean-out-the-fridge" meal, finishing up a half-block of tofu, a few potatoes, about a cup of refried beans, some leftover guacamole, a teenise bit of queso fresco, etc. Thrifty AND tasty!

And last night, I made pizza:

Both pies are made with half-whole wheat Artisan Bread dough, but that's about where the similarities end. The slice on the left is topped with organic pizza sauce, parmesan and mozzarella, red onion, cremini mushroom, fresh tomatoes, green pepper, sliced fresh garlic, and dried oregano. (My goal was to mock the "fresh veggie" pizza from Pizza Luce, sans canned olives, since we didn't have any on hand. It worked!) The slice on the right is topped with olive oil, minced fresh garlic, plenty of spinach (from my freezer, squeezed as dry as humanly possible using a dish towel,) mozzarella and feta, kalamata olives, dried tomatoes, artichokes, and roasted red peppers. Oh pizza, how I love thee! (We had a delightful green salad on the side, with some of the fig balsamic vinegar we bought over Thanksgiving.)

Must give credit to Dan, here -- I nicknamed him "savior of the pizza" last night, since he happily walked to the co-op to pick up a can of artichoke hearts while I prepped the rest of the ingredients. We had artichokes on hand, but they were pushed WAY to the back of our fridge, and were, um, NASTY. (Who knows how long they'd been there?) Now, as you can see, we had plenty of pizza toppings in the house and didn't NEED artichokes, but I was wanting them badly, and Dan was happy to run off and pick some up! Thank you, savior of the pizza! ;)

Saturday, December 18, 2010



I. Am. Tired! Today was baking day, and boy, was it a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work! I finished the last five batches of Christmas cookies/candies today, including all of the packing, wrapping, decorating, and dish-washing involved. I somehow managed to run a couple of errands, too, and then found myself with more time to spare after dinner. Time to "get saucy!" (Ha, ha.)

My parents are coming up for Christmas this year, and I decided on tamales for Christmas dinner! Now, we can't have plain ol' jarred salsa on our tamales, and I wanted to mimic the three sauces Mexican restaurants offer with their tamales, so it was time for a sauce-a-thon. On the left is Melody's recipe for homemade salsa, with a few modifications of my own. (I cut back on the spices she calls for, since I really prefer a strong tomato flavor with an undertone of spices, used 4 jalapenos, cut down the salt, and used a can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes. The crushed tomatoes allowed me to skip pureeing the salsa, which is a good thing -- I like my salsa chunky!) Middle, Tomatillo Salsa Verde, and on the right, Three Sisters Black Mole. Holy "mole," did that recipe yield a lot of mole! Good thing we're having tacos this week . . . and tamales next week . . . and tamales again for New Year's . . . and good thing, too, that the sauce freezes well! I got about nine cups of sauce from the recipe . . . whew! I think I'll send a jar home with my Dad. :)

I'll post a photo of the cookies soon -- I just don't want to plate a whole trayfull for no reason, other than to snap a picture. (You understand, right?) I plan to take cookies to work on Monday, though, so expect full disclosure later in the day!

Hope you are having a nice weekend!

Friday, December 17, 2010


Just a quick check-in here -- no cooking or food photos to speak of, because even though it's been a short week, it's been a BUSY one. Wednesday night, I grabbed a quick slice at Pizza Luce before running into church choir practice (late,) and last night I grabbed a sandwich from the Mississippi Market deli for dinner, since I had training after work until 8:30. Ugh. I miss my kitchen! Never fear, though -- Dan's picking me up from work tonight and we're hitting up the co-op, (desperately needed -- we have one apple, two lemons, and some carrots in our produce drawer,) so I'll have plenty of supplies for cooking (and baking!) this weekend! :)

I don't feel too bad about all of the take-out, either -- at least I'm supporting local businesses, right?

What places/products do you rely on when you have an extremely busy week? Me, it's definitely Chipotle, the slice counter at Pizza Luce, and the deli counter at the co-op.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I have pretty much always worked for non-profit preshool/child care programs in my career, which means, we NEVER get snow days. Typically, policy has been we don't close unless the public schools close, and the public schools never close!

Well, that is, until this week! Seriously, this is the first time I've remembered Minneapolis and/or St. Paul Public Schools closing in well over ten years. (I remember the University of Minnesota shut down one day during my freshman year because the air temperature was a high of -20 Farenheight, with even scarier wind chills. I'm sure the schools were closed that day, too!) It was such a surprise, receiving a call from my coteacher on Sunday night, with the message "SNOW DAY" loud and clear! THEN, last night, my boss called, stating, "another snow day tomorrow!" Wow! (The reasoning? I guess we got such a dumping of snow over the weekend, the city has not yet been fully plowed, so the school busses can't get through.)

Well, really, the reason doesn't matter -- snow days are the BEST! Of course, my favorite thing to do on a snow day is BAKE! Now, I've drastically changed my Christmas cookie plans for this year, since my parents have decided to come up. My mom does a ton of baking most years, and I didn't want to duplicate anything she's making, so my list has been cut from a dozen different things to about five. I wasn't even planning on making roll-out cookies this year, (since my mom already makes them,) but yesterday, I just couldn't help it! Snow days require frosting and sprinkles, in my opinion!

No offense to my grandma, whose "Christmas Cookie" dough I almost always make, but I decided to do something simpler this year, with a smaller yield. I settled on Real Simple's Basic Sugar Cookie Dough, which was just right. I ended up getting 40 cookies from this recipe, (the suggested yield is 18,) likely because I rolled the dough a little thinner and used smaller cookie cutters than they did. (I also believe strongly in re-rolling scraps. If I hadn't, I would have wasted at least half of the dough!) My cookies only took about 9 minutes, too, instead of their suggested 12 to 15. After cooling, I whipped up a super-simple buttercream, (1/2 cup butter, 4 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and about 3 tbsp milk, or until the frosting held together but was still creamy and spreadable,) and attacked my stash of sprinkles. Wahoo! Dan didn't feel like helping with the decorating this year, and that was just fine -- the recipe was manageable enough, I finished the decorating before I was sick of it. :)

AND, since we cannot survive on cookies alone, (although it would be fun to try,) I did some actual cooking these past couple of days, too.

First, "Saucy Hungarian Eggplant," from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers:

For some reason, seeing bulgur in the cupboard made me think to make this dish! Really, though, it is spectacular and easy, and one of my favorites from this cookbook. I couldn't believe the prices on decent-looking artichokes from California this week, so I decided to pick up two for us to enjoy alongside. (We also had salad! It was a veggie-full meal.)

Last night was an incredibly simple miso soup supper:

Here's my recipe, which serves two:

1. Combine 6 cups of water, 2 strips of kombu, 2 dried shiitake mushrooms, and 4 "coins" of fresh ginger. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover your dashi. This can steep basically as long as you'd like, but for at least a half-hour. Remove and discard the kombu, shiitakes, and ginger.

2. Return the broth to a boil. Add 1/2 package firm tofu, pressed and cubed small, about 12 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced, and 1 "bundle" of soba noodles, broken into about 1-inch pieces. Boil for five minutes, or however long your noodles take to cook, stirring frequently.

3. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 bunch of green onions, sliced, and 2 tablespoons of miso. Enjoy!

We had a small bowl of leftover soup, which I wasn't expecting, but because we had barely done anything all day long, I guess our appetites weren't at their normal level! Alas, I guess I'll just have to have the leftovers for breakfast this morning!

Off to enjoy snow day #2, here -- if I feel like getting out to buy more flour, I'll definitely be doing more baking! Wee!

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Today is one of those days that I'm really glad, no, ecstatic, that I do NOT own a car.


We've had something like 15 inches of snow today, and will probably get more tonight. MetroTransit pulled the busses off the roads this afternoon because they were getting stuck, and Hennepin County actually pulled the PLOWS off the roads this afternoon because the conditions were so terrible!

I have been watching my poor neighbors out my window, desperately trying to shovel themselves out, all afternoon. There is so much snow, and it's drifted so severely, you can barely see some cars! What I wonder is, how do you get inside your car to get your shovel and snow brush when you can't SEE your car?

Ah, winter.

recap of the week

Sorry for the long absence . . . it has been one hell of a long, stressful week. And now we are allegedly going to get over a foot of snow today! Boo-hoo. (I wouldn't care, except that I have PLANS, people! Drat.)

OK, enough complaining. Even though I still kind of feel like a crazy person, I did manage to cook/bake a little bit this week! Results:

First, it's been so long since we've done something for the bake-a-long, I thought it about time for some bread!

Even though I've made the "Broa" before, (page 82,) I was more than happy to make it again. I love the subtle flavor the cornmeal brings to the loaf, and the wonderful, crispy crust against the slightly dense, chewy bread. I heart bread!

Bread goes so well with soup, doesn't it?

Melody had requested I make my "Sweet Potato-Coconut Curry Soup" and post about it again, and I was happy to oblige! Years ago, when I still thought I was writing a cookbook, this was one of my recipes I was proudest of -- but it's amazing how our tastes change, isn't it? As I was reviewing the recipe, I had several thoughts about the recipe, and made a few subtle changes as I went along. Here's the revised list of ingredients -- I figure most can figure out how to make soup, so I'm not going to post directions. This can be done either in a soup pot or Crock Pot, depending on your preference and time available! Here are the ingredients:
2 teaspoons canola or coconut oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry paste (I usually use red, but whatever you have on hand should be fine!)
3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
4 heaping cups peeled, cubed sweet potato
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (depending on how salty your broth is)
1 15-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
minced fresh cilantro (for garnish)

I also managed to make some stir-fry the other night:

Tempeh, red bell pepper, sweet potato, red onion, broccoli, and some mixed mushrooms combined for a delightful topping for some plain brown rice. I kept this one fairly simple, and appreciated the hefty dose of veggies, whole grains, and healthy protein.

Happy weekend, all!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

getting up early

Dan and I got up pretty early yesterday and did the grocery shopping, despite the snow, in an attempt to beat the Saturday crowds. It worked! We were in and out of two stores in an hour, and came home with the following:

We picked up almost everything this week at the co-op, but did grab a few items at our local Asian market, Shuang Hur. (Those items are marked with a "SH" below.) Here's the list:

locally-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee

local queso fresco
local part-skim mozzarella

low-sodium soy sauce (SH)
organic refried black beans
organic coconut milk
organic low-sodium vegetable broth (between sales and a coupon, I saved $5 on these! Whoa!)

persimmons (SH)
mango (SH)
oyster mushrooms (SH)
organic broccoli
organic cucumber
organic bananas
organic eggplant
organic Italian parsley
local, organic cremini mushrooms
organic portobella mushroom
organic red onion
organic green onions
local, organic Yukon gold potatoes
local hydroponic lettuce
red bell pepper
organic sweet potatoes
local hydroponic tomatoes
organic Pink Lady apples
organic yellow onions
organic cilantro

local butter
organic, whole-wheat tortillas
whole-wheat English muffins
local sour cream
organic, unsweetened coconut milk beverage (another great buy, between a sale and a coupon -- I saved $3!)
local, organic, plain low-fat yogurt
local, organic eggs

I was very happy with our budget-consciousness this week -- we managed to come in $35 under budget, and still pick up everything on our list! (Plus, Dan picked up a newspaper, which wasn't on the list.) Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of our local purchases -- almost half of our spending! Given that it is already the dead of winter in MN, I think that's pretty good, if you ask me!

Now, on to the cooking!

Dinner last night was protein-packed, which was a good thing, since Dan and I ended up walking several miles in the cold to the movies! (Traffic was majorly backed up downtown, and essentially, we were walking faster than the bus. Tragedy!) Anyhow, we had plenty of fuel in our bellies during the journey:

Dan's comment about this dinner -- "you really like breakfast burritos, don't you?" Heck YEAH! They are just as good for dinner, and especially fantastic with a side of kale, which we had last night.

Lunch today was cooked, but relatively uneventful.

I've made seitan and dumplings many times in the past, but it's never turned out this monochromatic before! Sigh. At least it tasted good!

Dinner was much more visually appealing:

PIZZA! How we've missed you, pizza. Half whole-wheat Artisan Bread dough, topped with mozzarella and parmesan. The pie on the left also had caramelized onions, 4 kinds of mushrooms, (portabella, oyster, shiitake, and cremini,) tons of sliced garlic, dried thyme, black pepper, and a pinch of salt. The pie on the right had organic tomato sauce, red onion, green olives, roasted red peppers, broccoli, some Yves pepperoni, and dried oregano. Both were fantastic, but something about the phony pepperoni pie stole my heart this week! Mmmmmmmmm! (We did have a green salad on the side.)

Hope you all enjoyed your weekends! I put up a few Christmas decorations today, (not the tree, but a few other things,) and spent some time downtown with my friend Christine, window shopping and eating ice cream. :) It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Christmas Cookies 2010

Truthfully, I'm not really in the "holiday spirit" much this year -- I don't think we'll have time to put our tree up, and shopping for Christmas presents on a tight budget will be challenging. (I'm sure you can all relate!) However . . . there is still one holiday tradition I have been planning and looking forward to for over a month now -- baking cookies! I picked up Fine Cooking's holiday cookie issue back in October, and I have been dog-earing the pages for weeks. I think I've finally settled on a list! Here's my baking plan for this year!

Traditional Peanut Brittle
Toffee-Chocolate Candy
Sea Salt Caramels (I have made these several years in a row, now)

My Grandma's butter cookies with frosting and sprinkles
Peppermint Meringue Kisses
Chocolate Brownie Cookies
Pine Nut Wedding Cookies
Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti Straws

Apricot Coconut Bars
Ginger Bars
Gingered Lemon Bars
Fig Bars with Thyme

Um yes, that is a DOZEN different treats that I'm planning on making! Oh dear! My only consolation is that every year, I feel like I've chosen way too many things, block myself out a whole weekend in which to bake like a maniac, and always seem to finish baking (and washing all of those dishes!) far ahead of schedule. :) I still feel compelled to cut out two things, though -- ten treats seems like a more manageable amount than twelve, for some reason. What would you cut?

Friday, December 03, 2010

white rice to the rescue!

Now, we really do try to eat as healthfully as possible at our house, but sometimes, you just gotta enjoy white rice with dinner! (Especially when your normally 1-hour bus commute takes TWO hours due to snow! Waa!)

"Seasoned Tempeh," from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, (the simplest tempeh marinade EVER, and one of the tastiest, in my opinion!), steamed broccoli, and Basmati rice. Yum! The whole meal was ready in twenty minutes, and as Liz kindly reminded me when we were shopping at the Indian grocery a few weeks ago, Basmati rice still has a lower glycemic index than regular white long-grain rice, so there!

While I was suffering in the cold waiting for the bus, Dan kindly did a bunch of dishes, did ALL of the laundry, took out the recycling, and cleaned the apartment! Woo! We are going to have one kick-ass lazy weekend! Almost all of the work is already done -- happy Friday night to all!