Thursday, July 30, 2009

Canning the Harvest

Well, it's here. Canning season. I know, I know, most who read this know that I am more a city-gal in country sheep's clothing, sitting here in my semi-rural digs. But I cannot resist the temptation for canning. I love the idea of sharing and enjoying this summer's bounty throughout the fall and winter months. Now, the question is, well. . . just how much does a two-member household need? The answer: as much as I feel like. There is no science to how much. The "science" to this is found in the pages of the Ball Canning Blue Book. I was let in on this secret at my recent canning and preserving class. I just finished prepping my veggies for my first batch today--'ancho chile salsa'. The large pot of vegetables--garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and chiles--cooking is sending aromas through the house that make my mouth water. Here are the photos of my process so far!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vegan Raspberry Blondies

Being a blonde myself, I cannot resist trying something named after my hair pigment!
These were fabulous--had them today with the ladies from my garden club.
Raspberries are cheap right now, so go out and grab a bunch and find something to do with them! The inspiration for these came from Martha Stewart's Cookies cookbook (which I keep checking out from my library!). I guess I should just buy it, but it keeps the doors open at the lovely library!

Raspberry Almond Blondies
Inspired by Martha Stewart's Cookies

9 tablespoons of Earth Balance or non-hydrogenated butter
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon course salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
4 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon soy milk
1 cup sliced almonds
2 1/2 cups raspberries (or two packages of raspberries--rinsed)
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325. Line an 8 inch pan with parchment up both sides. Spray parchment.
Mix your Ener-G Egg Replacer and water mix together and set aside--really whisk it well. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Put butter, brown sugar in bowl of food processor or mixer. Mix until pale and fluffy. Add egg replacer and vanilla and soy milk until combined. Add flour in 1/4 cup increments, then add 3/4 cup almonds. Press the batter into the pan. Spread berries over it. Then spread remaining 1/4 cup almonds over it. Then spread 1 cup of chips over that. Bake for about 45 minutes, rotate pan 1/2 way. Let cool and then cut into 2 inch squares.

Panini with Avacado, Roasted Pepper and Zuke

Vegan Thyme: Panini with Avacado, Roasted Pepper and Zuke
Ah, an ode to the "fast" days. You know, the ones where there are just enough items on your to-do list that you think you will make it home in time for picking out what to eat--peruse the shelves and all. Thank goodness for good bread--quick stuff on hand, like a jar of roasted red peppers. Yesterday, I spent a considerable amount of time prepping for the arrival of more veggies by comparing prices on food dehydrators and canning equipment. More on that later, but for now--yummy sammich!

For sandwich:
1 loaf of bread or ciabattas
1 avocado--sliced
roasted red peppers--about 2 (drain if in a jar)
zucchini, sliced to about 3/4 thickness
half of an onion, sliced to about 3/4 thickness
a dash of balsamic vinegar
olive oil
vegan mayo
For pesto
2 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons of olive oil
dash of onion powder (can omit)
dash of Mrs. Dash
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Make pesto by processing everything in a blender or food processor. I roasted the veggies on my stove top grill. I brushed olive oil on the grill first. Grill the veggies to your desired doneness. I like mine to still be crisp, not mushy. Spread pesto on sammie sides, then some mayo, then add your veggies, then sprinkle with balsamic vinegar. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil before setting on grill. Press the sammie down a bit with a spatula. Leave on one side for about three minutes--on medium heat. Then, flip over, press again (I used my wooden chopping board).
It should only need another two minutes or so. Serve with a side salad and you are good to go!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Husband's Vegan Orange Ginger Stir Fry

Ummmm, the husband took over the kitch for a bit while I went to a canning and preserving master gardener class out in the country--I mean way out. Our teacher had her own "canning kitchen" built separate from her home, it was fabulous and made us all lust for one of our own. There was a brief rain storm and still, we made homemade concord grape jelly and peach jam, the filling for apple and green tomato pie--who knew? But I digress, when I got home, this is what I had waiting for me! Yum--he likes the zen of cutting the veggies--I think they look lovely!

The Husband's Orange Ginger Stir Fry

For Rice
2 cups veggie broth
1 cup rice

Prepare according to package directions. Set aside while you make the stir fry.

For the veggies
1 red bell pepper long strips
1 green bell pepper long strips
1 carrot chopped into julienne strips
1 onion chopped
1 package shitake mushrooms
2 cups snow peas
3 tablespoons of sesame oil and safflower oil--use either or both

*chopped green onions for garnishing

For the sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3/4 orange juice
1/2 orange zest
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove minced
2 teaspoons arrowroot
1/4 cup water

In medium sauce pan, bring all ingredients up to the arrowroot and water to a boil. Then, in a separate small bowl, make a slurry of the arrowroot and water, slowly add this to the sauce pan until desired thickness.

Heat oil for veggies in large pan or wok. Toss veggies in and stir fry to desired tenderness (you still want the veggies crispy!). Remove from heat. Pour sauce over veggies and place in a bowl with rice--this was very tasty!

Bambi and Tomatoes

I have been in complete denial about the disappearance of my tomatoes--and BTW, my plants look amazingly healthy--but lack an important element: the fruit. I thought rabbit, squirrel, giant rabbit, I don't know. Until last night. . .

Vegan Lemon Bars

I had lemons and a friend coming over in about two hours for lunch. I know you're thinking--hey, no eggs for you--how can you make this? Well, there are miracles in vegan baking that I encounter every week--this is one of them. I will attempt a vegan lemon meringue pie in the near future, too! This came together in about a half hour (after coffee), fixing it at nine in the morning. I love lemon in summer. I love the shortbread crust. I love vegan sweets. Be sure to check the pantry for powdered sugar--it is a must for these!

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease an 8 or 9 inch baking pan.

3/4 cup non-dairy sticks of butter / Earth Balance
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour

Place crust ingredients in food processor and pulse until this binds together in a ball. Press into baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes. While this is baking, begin the filling.

1/2 box silken tofu--the vacuum packed kind
3/4 cup sugar or Florida Crystals
Juice from 3 lemons--about 1/3-1/2 cup
Zest from 3 lemons
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon arrowroot
sifted powdered sugar

Add tofu to food processor and pulse to get it to thin out a bit. Add remaining ingredients and blend for about another minute--it should appear smooth. Pour into a crust and bake for 25 minutes (keep an eye on this--watch for bubbles on the top, that is going to be fine--they settle down and will be covered with the powdered sugar)! Let cool before sprinkling with the sugar. Slice and serve!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Swiss Chard Tofu Frittata with Mushroom Crust

I knew the day would come when I'd be writing about a frittata and my Swiss chard. First, about the chard, it is a perennial. Didn't know this until planting it myself this year. I came across an article about it when I was panicked over the fact that I had just laid out three plots of eight foot areas in my backyard and simply dropped seeds, of which many I had absolutely no clue as to how or what I might see once they peeped out of the ground. Certainly, I have seen the chard before and have also cooked with it. It is an entirely different thing to pluck it from your own dirt, from the fruits of your own labor. I had no idea how easy this little vegetable is to grow. Shamelessly, I shared one of my chard plants with my girlfriend--put it in a pot without a leaf on it, and took it to her with a note saying, trust me, this will produce foliage for your eating pleasure--seriously, it was just fuscia stalks! But it is growing. Chard asks so little and gives so much, I think I am in love.

So we had this awesome frittata last night--with the Swiss chard--it turned out amazing. Let me tell you how I became inspired to create this. The book, Vegan Brunch, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz sits on my self along with two other vegan cookbooks she wrote: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and most notably, Veganomicon. As the title says, here you have a cookbook on brunch stuffs. It is filled with tasty, new ideas on vegan cooking--a recipe for making your own vegan sausage--and this is sausage you will want to know how to make. I will make is again and post shortly. But for dinner last night, I went for my Swiss chard. Then, I had an old bed and breakfast book from Missouri and I came across an amazing idea--make the crust of the quiche or whatever out of sauteed mushrooms and onions with a little cracker thrown in to help with binding. It was a delightful and tasty meal if I don't say so myself. Accompanying the frittata--we had diner taters, complements of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook--they were so easy. These potatoes are now my fall back, go-to item for feeding my husband something I am not "quite" sure he will like/love--he's of some Irish, so any potato-type food stuffs works, right?

Swiss Chard Frittata with Tofu and Mushroom Crust

Make the crust first:
1 package of button mushrooms or little portobellos
1 onion diced
5 or six saltines--crushed
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 teaspoons of your favorite seasoning--just to spice it up

Heat a medium pan with the oil. Add the onion, let cook for about three minutes. Then add the mushrooms, step away from the stove now and let those babies cook a bit. No turning and tossing--they will release their juices and that is what you want. They will shrink a bit, too.
When the mushrooms are browned a bit, remove from heat. Add crushed crackers.
Toss around a bit to make sure you have a nice stickiness.

Now make the frittata:
Preheat oven to 400. Lightly oil a pie plate--8 or 9 inch. (Your crust will not likely reach the top or sides, this is okay, you will see why.) Take your cooked mushroom crust mixture and pat it down into the pie plate. It's okay if it does not make it to the rim.

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
4 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, chopped--about 15 leaves
fresh oregano--like two stems, chopped up
fresh basil--about one stem, leaves chopped
1 package tofu, drained over the sink
1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Amino or Shoyu
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 nutritional yeast
vegan Parmesan cheese (for topping)
2 green onions, chopped up (for garnish)
1 tomato chopped up (for garnish)
Season to taste--won't need much salt at all

Heat oil in a medium pan. Add garlic and cook for about two minutes over medium heat. Then add the chopped chard. Watch the pan so the chard does not burn, but lightly toss the chard. It will begin to wilt. Once all of the chard looks nice and wilted, remove from heat. Take the drained tofu and squeeze that water out of it. Now crumble it over a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients through the nutritional yeast. Mix well. Take the chard mixture and add it to the bowl. Pour into the pie plate--top the chard with a couple of shakes of the vegan Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes or so. Take it out of the oven and let it cool, or set for about five minutes. Top your slices with chopped green onions and some tomato. It will be awesome!

Diner Taters
2 russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3/4 cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
Add the potatoes to a large pot of water, bring to a boil--for about five minutes, not too much longer. Drain. Now, heat oil in a pan with high sides. I even just add oil to the pot I just drained the potatoes in--AFTER I dry it! Add the potatoes to the pan--enough to cover the bottom. Watch heat level, but get the oil hot--with your setting on medium high. Do not move the potatoes or turn them over for about seven minutes per side, they should be nice and golden.
Drain on paper towel. Sprinkle with chili powder and serve.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vegan BBQ Tofu with Mac and Cheese and Zuke Slaw

Vegan Thyme: Vegan BBQ Tofu with Mac and Cheese and Zuke Slaw
It seemed like a great night for comfort food in July--it was a cool and cloudy evening. Next to mashed potatoes this is my husband's favorite: mac and cheese. Being a vegan does not mean sacrificing mac and cheese. There is this amazing product called "nutritional yeast" which has all of these magical properties. I had never heard of this before I became a vegan. I had to really hunt for it at Whole Foods until I finally capitulated (I am a little shy like that) and asked a dread-locked, friendly employee for help and found it in the bulk food section. Aha--this yellow substance is what I've been missing all my life? Google it for more information. So with comfort food, I have found anything with "bread" in the menu is a sure winner around here--be it under, on top, or with our meal. Same holds true for dining while "holding" food in your hand--always a winner. I decided on BBQ Tofu (so easy to make) and two natural sides: Vegan Mac and Cheese and, viola, a new use for my zukes--slaw! This is a quicker than it looks type of meal to prepare--you just have to have a system of prepping--I began with the mac and cheese since it had to bake, and I could remove from oven and then place the BBQ in the oven to bake. The M and C--it just cooled a bit and tasted even better after sitting a while. While baking the BBQ--the slaw came together in a jif--so yummy!
Vegan Mac and Cheese
2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (can omit)
3 1/2 cup soy milk or other non-dairy milk
3 tablespoons corn starch
1/2 cup canola or olive oil
1/4 cup light miso paste
1/4 cup Tofutti cream cheese
1/4 cup soy cheese
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup bread crumbs (preferably from homemade bread that you ground in food processor)
2 tablespoons of veggie stick spread
12-16 oz. elbow macaroni

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil an 8 or 9 inch casserole dish. Bring large pot of water with about a teaspoon of salt to a boil. Add the macaroni and cook per package directions (I like mine at about six minutes--not too mushy as you will bake this). Drain and set aside.
Then, in a food processor, add the raw cashews and pulse three or four times. Then let the processor run an additional two minutes or so--being careful to not let them turn to paste--powdery, not pastey. Then add the remaining ingredients up to the soy milk and pulse a few more times. You still may taste some cashew pieces in this--but not to worry, this will all bake and still come out fabulous. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot with soy milk to a low boil. Add the corn starch and whisk until cornstarch is dissolved--about ten minutes or so. Remove from heat and let cool for about five minutes. Carefully--one ladle at a time, add to the milk mixture to the food processor being careful to not let this over flow--you may not be able to fit the entire milk mixture in--depending upon the size of your processor--it's okay, you can pour the remaining on top of the mac and cheese before you bake it. Then add the miso and lemon juice to this and pulse around five or six times. Take the macaroni and place in a bowl and pour the cheese mixture over it. Mix to coat. You may have left over cheese mix--it can be saved and used on veggies within two days. Add the cream cheese and the soy cheese and mix well. Pour macaroni mixture into your baking dish and add bread crumbs on top with pieces of the veggie spread sprinkled over it. Bake uncovered for about 25-30 minutes--just until the top begins to brown. Remove and let cool while you prep your BBQ.

Vegan BBQ Tofu
1 package extra firm tofu in water
2 tablespoons of canola oil

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray an 8 or 9 inch baking or casserole dish. Remove tofu from package and gently squeeze to remove excess water. Then cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. In a medium pan with oil, add the tofu and cook on medium heat. Cook about five minutes per side--you want it to turn golden brown. Carefully turn over with a set of tongs being careful to not splash around too much. If pieces fall off, not a problem. Remove from heat and set the pieces of cooked tofu on a plate with paper towel to drain.

Vegan BBQ Sauce
1 onion diced
2 tablespoons of canola oil
3 tablespoons of white vinegar
3 tablespoons of brown sugar
1/8 cup of lemon juice
1/8 cup of orange juice (use all orange juice if you are out of lemons)
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Amino or Shoyu or Light Soy Sauce
1/2 cup water
2 dashes of hot sauce (be sure to taste as you go along--I like more heat)
1 hoagie roll split in half and toasted (or whole wheat sub roll)

Add the diced onion to a medium cooking pan and medium heat until onion is translucent. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the remaining ingredients, mix well. Once onion is done, add the ingredients from the bowl to the pan--heat on medium heat for an additional 10-15 minutes--let it come to a low boil.

Take the cooked tofu and place in baking dish. When BBQ Sauce has cooked long enough--it will not thicken a ton, but just a bit as more thickening will happen while it bakes--pour over tofu and bake uncovered for approximately 20-25 minutes.

Zuke Slaw
This comes together based upon what you have on hand--as long as veggies used are "julienned." I used zucchini, of course!
All julienned:
1/2 red bell pepper
3 green onions plus green parts chopped
2 medium zukes
1 carrot
1/4 cabbage--slice thin
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 teaspoons Spike or Mrs. Dash

Place all in a bowl. Now, make the dressing.
1/3 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons of Florida Crystals or white sugar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons hot sauce
dash of ground pepper
1/4 cup canola oil or olive oil

Mix ingredients up to the olive oil together in a bowl. Pour over your veggies. Now, in a small sauce pan, heat canola or olive oil for about two minutes--don't let it smoke. Pour warm oil over slaw and toss well to coat.
To serve this meal:
Toast halves of your bread on one side. Remove from pan and place on plate with toasted side up. Add a spoonful of Tofu BBQ and sauce on top of bread. Then take a spoonful of the slaw and place on top. Add a big scoop of mac and cheese on the side--the husband gave this a five out of five rating!--Again, the bread factor!

The Mysterious Zucchini

The crazy thing about living in the Midwest is that you can count on one thing--hot summers. Well . . . not so fast while I eat my words after saying this (yesterday it barely made 80). The meals we eat in this house are drastically impacted by weather. So, a craving for comfort food kicked in when the rain showers began and a cool breeze ran through the house mid-afternoon. I am grateful for this turn of events in the middle of July--as I stated before, I am ready for long sleeves, hand knits, the first snow, the first frost and the first fire in the fireplace. However, I had work to do in the not-so-large-to-overwhelm veggie garden first. I walk my yard every morning--sometimes in PJs with coffee in hand (so as not to fall or trip in my mid-life, hard-to- wake-from-a-dead-sleep state). I looked down at my zucchini plant and noticed something I had not seen yesterday--a huge zucchini! Where did this come from--it was a blossom yesterday, or so it seemed. If you've never grown zucchini (I highly recommend you do) you will find it so easy, but plan a good space for them in the corner of your veggie plot--they like to show off with their huge fan-like leaves and creeping, almost bowl shaped spread. I looked more closely and saw peeking from under one of the leaves zuke number two--again, large and missed the day before. Hmmm. (Zuke plants are magical really--and the more you cut from them, the more zukes they produce--amazing, really). On the rest of the tour I plucked cucumbers, tomatoes--though, sadly, not as many as I'd like thanks to Bambi hitting me, peppers and tomatillos and picked a few herbs up, too. It was a great picking morning!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vegan Mushroom Tomato Miso Soup

I love soup! It has the feeling of home and health like no other food I can think of. I grew up with soups from the can, a few from the stove--but they usually had a ham bone or some other carcass thrown in--ick. I like food pictures--vegan cookbooks with food pictures are usually going to end up in my hands. But somehow, I have a ton of cookbooks with no pictures. One cookbook even has over 600 recipes--not one picture--that book is a challenge for me (but I guess at the time, I just had to have it we've all been there). So, I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks--a Moosewood cookbook, New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, for inspiration. No pictures. However, I do love Moosewood cookbooks. (Note--they are not all vegan, but are vegetarian, and so easy to convert to vegan given a bit of thought.) Mollie Katzen , the founder of Moosewood, has been around awhile--on the vegetrian scene, that is. She is a true hero of vegetarian cooking and an inspiration to me. Cooking heroes are important. So as I was thumbing through the print, I found a soup I had to try. It was only 78 degrees yesterday, and only going to reach 70 something today--this is July in the semi-south and it's perfect soup weather! Cannot believe I just wrote that! I modified the Mushroom-Sesame-Tofu Soup and with it served a wonderful side of Vegan Mock Crab Wontons (recipe below). Another few words about "mock" meats--there is a local company here called Match Meats. Their mock meats are sold in only a few local grocers and Whole Foods. I mentioned before that I am a supporter of cooking with these, but not every single day. In this case, I had a yen for a really good, crunchy side to accompany this somewhat Asian soup. And then, my craving turned to an old favorite: crab rangoon! I think my Vegan Baked Mock Crab Wontons are a nice homage to the original. Remember to taste this soup as you go along--nothing is worse than finishing a lovely soup only to put your spoon in and discover you've made something "without" taste--so have that spoon ready! Enjoy!
Vegan Mushroon Tomato Miso Soup
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 1/2 onion chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, grated (leave the skin on it--it is fine)
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 celery stalks chooped
1 8 oz. package mushrooms sliced
1/4 cup celery leaves chopped (can omit)
1 stem fresh basil chopped (can use 1/2 teaspoon dry)
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or a couple squirts of hot sauce, up to you)
1/2 teaspoon salt or Spike or Mrs. Dash
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 24 oz. can of whole tomatoes with juice
1 cup veggie stock (or water)
2 teaspoons tahini
2 teaspoons miso (light or dark is fine--I used dark)
1 cake of marinated tofu chopped into 1/2 cubes (I used marinated Five-Spice)
2 or 3 green onions chopped (with green parts)
1-2 teaspoons of sesame oil
Heat the oil in a soup pot on medium. Saute the onion and ginger for about three minutes. Add the celery and garlic and saute about another four or five minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cover and let heat for about another 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, celery leaves, chopped basil, about 2 tablespoons of green onion (save the rest to sprinkle on top), cayenne pepper, salt, and veggie stock. Cover and simmer on medium-low for about 2o minutes. Reduce heat and add the tahini and then miso--to taste--I love miso but you cannot let miso boil--it will turn bitter if boiled, so give it a nice stir until both the tahini and miso are dissolved--keeping on low heat, but serving as soon as possible. Add the chopped tofu--but not all of it--I like to save some for dressing it at the end. At the very, very end of cooking, I drizzled some sesame oil into the soup-it really took the flavor to another level in a very nice way--taste this as you go. I serve a ladle full with topping of chopped green onions and chopped marinated tofu.
Baked Vegan Mock Crab Wontons
1 package wonton wrappers
1 package Match Meats Crab flavor (thawed)
1/2 cup Tofutti Cream Cheese
3 tablespoons Vegan Mayo
1/2 red pepper diced
3 green onions chopped thin plus green parts (reserve green parts for topping after baking)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a dash of hot sauce
1 teaspoon Spike or Mrs. Dash
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a muffin tin. Place wontons in tins. Bake for 5 or 6 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, place mock crab in a medium sized bowl. Add cream cheese, mayo, pepper, green onions, dijon, dry mustard, Old Bay, cayenne and Spike or Mrs. Dash. Mix with a spoon. Add by tablespoon full to wontons. Bake for 18-20 minutes until just beginning to brown on top. Remove from oven. Top with remaining chopped green onions and serve!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mid-July Veggie and Herb Garden

This year I planted my first vegetable garden. I wanted to write about my garden as well as my vegan cooking. Hopefully I can help you in your veggie planting down the road. Technically, this is not my first veggie planting endeavor. I have grown veggies in pots on my deck previously. And I consider myself a gardener--plus I am a certified Master Gardener! I highly recommend doing this! Check you local university extension offices for more information on becoming a Master Gardener. I also joined a garden club. This, too, has helped me in my knowledge of all things planted.

A little history. I reside in the heartland--in Missouri to be exact. I grew up in the North--in a Lake Michigan town that is famous for two things: steel mills and the now deceased Michael Jackson. I live in the middle of my state--on a major river. Overall, this is a beautiful part of the country. We are in the hills of the Ozarks--and some of the most scenic views in the country are right out our back door. But here is what I struggle with most in living in the semi-south: summers are hot, and very humid, mosquitoes are rampant and by and large--you really don't want to step outside after dusk without your long pants, long sleeves and a high fan blowing right at you--it can be real fun. I notice, too, that the air is more still in summer--but as we all know, wind does like to show up--in the form of tornadoes, no less! My fear of thunder storms is almost too much for my husband to handle sometimes. I also find that some here think we are in Dixie, some even sound like they live in Dixie--the twangs and y'alls (I'm as guilty as the next for doing so--you just fall into it, like a march or something)--and some, well they are just as plain spoken as Tom Brokaw--bless his Nebraska heart. I can put my southern out there with all its charm, and just as quickly, give a cold, hard Northern stare. I like my Northern roots that way. We are polite, but are skeptics. Contemplative and weary of strangers. (Well, at least I am.) We are moody and get irritable when the temperature is above, say, 78--did I say "we", well, mostly just me. Summer is not my favorite time of year by a long shot. However, it IS beautiful and lush at its summer peak--honestly, look at the pictures--in mid-July, no less. But I prefer snow and cold. Maybe that's what makes it so easy to criticize and love it at the same time--we are fully immersed in the cycle of life here--four full seasons--never quite given a short cut on any single one. Fall, well, it is just gorgeous--and then winter--again, the snow for me is what does it. And spring is not only beautiful, it sometimes lasts well into July as it feels like it is doing so now with the cool spell we are in. So to pass the time and enjoy nature--I plant my veggies and tend to the plants as they bring on their bounty, but I won't shed tears when this all dies on our first freeze--I'll look forward to replanting the plants, picking up the seeds and starting all over again.

So--back to gardening and vegetables. In loving this place, I wanted to have an organic garden, sans pesticides and no tilling, if possible. I am highly in favor of "less is more" type of gardening and farming. As luck would have it, I found a used book called, Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza. This book is amazing! I followed her directions to the letter and began my garden in March. I laid out three 8'x 4' plots. I decided what I'd start from seed and what I'd transplant. I had help from my husband, of course--this was a pretty big undertaking to start out. You can see "green acres" in the photos here. I also want to add that we are growing pumpkins this year, too--how cute will that be--even cuter when they are covered in frost and I have a nice mug of hot chocolate in my hands and a fire in the fireplace--I can't wait for y'all to see it!

*In one of the photos, see if you can find the tomato plant--hidden among the perennials (no prize for this, but cool nonetheless!).

Quickly Vegan Fajitas

So, after plodding through my new blog yesterday, I turned around and it was nearly six! Five hours had just walked away--how could that have happened? I had not planned our dinner yet (this is highly unusual and has the propensity to cause super anxiety). Well, shortcut and from the hip moment was needed, thus, I love vegan "meat" substitutes--not always, but for moments just like this. I had a package of Westsoy Seitan ("say-tan"--yes, like the devil) Strips in the fridge--fresh peppers and tomatoes and tomatillos from the garden--and lucky for me, tortillas, too. Even more lucky, veggie refried beans and an avacado (for guacamole). YUM! This all came together in a snap.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 or 2 bell peppers sliced thin
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tomatillo diced
1 avacado diced
2 or 3 tomatoes, diced--save one tomatoe for quartering and serving on fajitas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package Westsoy Seitan Strips
2 teaspoons Spike or Mrs. Dash
1 teaspoon cilantro (or use some fresh cilantro or fresh parsley)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 lime (about a tablespoon of juice is all)
1 package tortillas
Tofutti Sour Cream--for topping
Salsa--for topping
Soy Cheddar Cheese--for topping

Prep your veggies from onions through garlic, then add 3 T. of olive oil to skillet. Warm oil a bit, then add veggies--on medium heat. In another pan, warm 2 T. of olive oil. Add seitan strips to medium heat. Meanwhile, as veggies are cooking, season with some of the Spike, cilantro and cumin. Now the kitchen is smelling good! Let the seitan cook until edges are a bit brown--you can add a dash of Spike to this, too. Once browned, remove from heat. Watching veggies so as not to be overcooked, remove from heat when slightly browned. Now, make your quacamole. Half the avacado, carefully remove the pit--chop up avacado. Add some of the tomatillos and tomatoes and seasonings if you'd like. Be sure to add lime juice as well. Place tortillas on the plate and fill with veggies making it look as appetizing as possible! Here are some pictures to help. *My husband was not in a tortilla mood, so he decided to opt for a fajita salad--still, a very good presentation on both our parts, if I don't say so myself!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cookbook Collection

Cookbooks line one wall of my kitchen. I have a hard time leaving my house and not stopping in a bookstore to see what I might be missing or what might be on sale. Yes, the internet, stupid. . . I know, I know. You are on a blog, yourself. What better way to search for recipes than to let your fingers dance on the keys. Well, mainly, I love bookstores and libraries. Please support your independent book sellers and peruse the shelves--the cookbook sections are amazing--honestly, they can certainly use the business. If you must shop big box book sellers, I recommend joining their member clubs. And don't forget your local libraries and their yearly sales. I love used books as much as new. Plus, guess what, you can check cookbooks out of your library for free! And of course you know that the most used pages in the cookbook are really the best, right? It is rare to find a used vegan cookbook. Vegetarian, yes. Vegan, rarely. So, here is my collection so far--some new, some used. Waiting for fall to come, more book sales and yes, more new vegan and vegetarian cookbooks sure to be found and published! On one shelf, my three-ring binders--every cook has one, or two, or three--all indexed, of course.

Vegan Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

So many chocolate chip cookie recipes and so little time! I have been baking chocolate chip cookies since Tollhouse was a baby. So, let's get down to the facts about baking vegan cookies. You can really mess up on vegan cookie baking. Cookies are a rare, beloved breed of baking--vegan or not. We've all seen co-workers bring trays of cookies into the break room only to look disbelievingly at the plate and think: 1) Did she forget to register at Target--where did that dish come from, and 2) What is that shiny middle going to taste like? --but taste we do, as anyone who looks at a cookie will tell you, it's like looking at a box of chocolates--you just have to have one! This is my third recipe of chocolate chip cookies I've made this month. I like the chewy, not hard cookies. I like them to retain their chewiness the following day--and later on, as well. And dunkability is important--I like to dunk my cookies with soy or rice milk while watching our latest DVD addiction (like we are now on season two of Mad Men). Enjoy!

3/4 cup granulated sugar (try Florida Crystals)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
14 tablespoons of Earth Balance or other veggie spread sticks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs (3 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer with 4 tablespoons of warm water)
2 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. With vegan baking it is essential to have your oven temperature as accurate as possible. They are like eight dollars. (I discovered my "new" oven was off by ten degrees, so I preheat mine to 360. Knowing this has saved me countless tears!) Prep two cookies sheets with parchment paper to fit--parchment is my best friend in baking--you'll like her, too! Just lay the sheet across to just fit the cookie sheet you are using, and rip off and lay on the cookie sheet face down so the paper doesn't curl up on you.

Now, prep your Egg Replacer. I use a whisk and a small bowl and vigorously stir the water into the powder until the replacer looks foamy--taking an extra minute to do this saves you more tears, trust me!). Using a food processor (I like time saving--especially at 6 in the evening when I really crave sweets)--add the Earth Balance pieces, then pulse a few times. Add both sugars. Pulse 4-6 times, the let her run for a half minute or so--the fluffy factor should now be evident. Then add your Egg Replacer and vanilla. Pulse a few more times, then let her whirl for another half minute--it should be quite a bit more smooth looking. In a medium sized bowl, add the flour, baking soda and sea salt. Use a fork and mix this dry mixture well. Then, take the wet ingredients from food processor and add to the dry. I know folks will tell you to add the dry to wet, you have to pick your battles. I just add it to the dry in this case. Important to NOT over mix cookie dough, so that hand blender should not be near you right now. And do not be tempted to add the dry mix into the food processor, you will have cookie logs--it's chemistry--more later. Okay, so mix by hand--just until incorporated. Now fold in the chips. If you use larger chocolate chips, use maybe a cup of chips--your call, your preference. Drop by tablespoon full onto the parchment paper about 2 inches apart. Bake for around 9 minutes--watch them. I rotate my cookie sheets half way through their baking time. Remove from oven and let sit on cookie sheets for two minutes. Remove from cookie sheet onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. If you take to work, check the display factor first!

Welcome to Vegan Thyme

There are things I do every day no matter what: age (really, who isn't--and part of becoming a vegan. . . well, it has to do with this crazy thing called aging), sleep (for beauty), kiss my husband (for eternity), love our kids (the canine kids--they need us, we need them), run or walk (for health and sanity), knit (for small motor skill and cool fashion), read (for the love of books and my local library), check the mail (for new friends--banks and utilities really like us), watch the bees (for their discipline--please no emails about bees and honey), garden (for serenity), and eat (for more than anything else--to fill the yen for food).

This blog is mostly about food and being a vegan. I became a vegan this past year--after ten years of being a vegetarian. I am not going to slam anyone for being anything related to food--if you love food, I hope you find some inspiration here. I certainly have been inspired in my cooking by many--both vegans and non. Simply defined, "vegan" is only eating plants--(that will not appear in the OED, for those of you into definitions). I cook every day--I am not a fan of eating out at restaurants--I got very ill and ended up in the hospital with a "food borne" illness six years ago. That's not to say I never eat out, I do, but rarely. Next to being about food, there is gardening. I garden. I grow some of the food we eat. I am not a farmer. This has not been a life long pursuit, but rather an exploration of the "live off the land" and eat local phenomenon taking place. I will share more on my home grown food and its place in our menu as this blog evolves. I love to run--it is a sanity saver. I am a race director for a fundraiser--a 5k/10k and fun walk. I'll talk more about that later. Then there is the reading part. I love to read. I love book stores and my local library. We subscribe to two local newspapers--but I check the New York Times online, too. I knit--fun and frustrating pursuit. If you knit, you get it.

Now, onto food, and my first post officially is on the subject vegan chocolate chip cookies. I love sweets and love to bake--what better place to start!


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