Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saying Goodbye to My Father

Michael Panich: January 2, 1941--February 23, 2008. Michael collapsed and left us very suddenly and quickly, in the manner he would have chosen to make his final exit. Mike was everyone's favorite "social chemist" in Clearlake, Hidden Valley and the Triple S in Calistoga. He enjoyed playing golf with his buddies and in retirement became a very artistic creator of wood crafts. His workshop was his haven where he watched the food channels while building his unique birdhouses. He loved testing the various recipes and added his special touch to many delicious meals.

Losing someone once is hard. Losing them twice is even harder. I want to remember how this happened.

My father left my mother and I when I was about two. I don't know the rest of the story except for the bits and pieces my mother shared when she was alive (she was pretty mum about it for the most part--and not happy to discuss it when I did ask). Finally, my dad and I had a reunion of sorts (certainly a plan my mom had agreed to, I'm sure). Our first meeting was when I was barely out of high school--questions were asked, answers were given. Then, our second was about twenty years ago (much later)-- however, I was still young. I have some vivid memories of that time together and some hazy ones. My life came along and so did his and we moved in our own currents through life. For the last several years, I have tried to find him--my searches usually taking place around my birthday--entering the name in Google, out with the search results. Lots of results, which way to go was always my question. So last week, it was cold and rainy outside, and I had the sense that maybe my search would finally be successful. I hoped--I was persistent. Well. . .be careful what you wish for.
Long and short of this moment is, after about an hour, I found a link that took me to a list on legacy.com--an archival site of obituaries. I thought it had to be coincidence, same name, right age, right geography, but honestly hoped I was wrong. My gut told me otherwise. When I saw his picture, that was it. I had found him.

I emailed everyone on his memorial page that had left a comment. I received a reply telling me the name of his best friend and a phone number, with condolences. I called this gentleman. He answered, I began to stutter. It had, after all, been over a year now since my father's passing. I don't even remember half of the conversation. He listened, I talked, then I talked and he listened. It was all surreal. Then he said he'd let my father's partner, his girlfriend, know about this call. I received a lovely email from her that night. It broke my heart all over again. This has all been so hard.

I will get back to cooking and posting eventually. Grief stays a while, and it does strange things to you, like the appetite (gone), like getting mad, like being sad, depressed and walking around like you're in shock, like running away. All of the above and more. Thank god for my husband and my friends and my running.

I want anyone out there who has lost touch with someone in their life to never give up--especially daughters. Every little girl--grown up or not--needs her father.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three-Grain Croquettes with Carrot Lemon Sauce

For those of you who are into some really tasty and healthy food, this fits the bill perfectly! Plus, these are baked not fried. I love anything served with a sauce. I mean, slab a tofu. . . and some sauce, I'm good. When I picked up Peter Bereley's amazing cookbook: The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen, I was pleasantly surprised with his palate and assortment of entrees as well as very insightful instruction and suggestions. I highly recommend this cookbook for both its versatility and creative bend. The book has won the James Beard Foundation Book Award as well as the IACP Cookbook Award. It sticks to a mainly vegan design in its recipe offerings. So last night, again, a "five-o'clock" frenzy evening, I was recovering from working in the yard all day and needed something not too heavy and a dish that would accompany my leftover soup plus, would be quick. These croquettes were perfect. If you are averse to some of the grains mentioned, or have your own ideas about what to add, this lends itself nicely to improvising with ingredients. I think what won me over though was the Carrot Sauce--which I renamed Carrot Lemon Sauce because I got this heavenly bottle of lemon olive oil for my birthday and will use it in almost anything right now!

Three Grain Croquettes with Carrot Lemon Sauce
3/4 cup sushi rice (jasmine rice would work, too)
3 tablespoons quinoa
3 tablespoons millet
1 cup veggie stock
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion diced
1/2 cup diced red pepper
2 cloves garlic minced
1 celery stalk diced
1 teaspoon paprika
S and P to taste
For the croquettes--preheat oven to 375 and lightly oil a baking sheet. Next, place the grains in a strainer and run cold water over them. Then place them in a medium sauce pan and add the broth and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the liquid evaporates--about 20 minutes. Meantime, cook the veggies and seasonings in the olive oil until they are soft. Place the cooked grains into a bowl and add the cooked veggies. Toss well to incorporate. When cool enough to handle, form into about 2 inch balls and place on cookie sheet, flatten with your palm. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Carrot Lemon Sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 green onions sliced thin--white parts only, save green parts
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Spike seasoning or S and P to taste
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (can use cornstarch)
2 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons lemon flavored olive oil

In a small sauce pan, cook the green onions in olive oil until soft--don't let them burn. Then add remaining ingredients and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add any other seasonings you'd like at this point. In a separate bowl, mix the arrowroot powder and water and add to saucepan. Whisk well, let come to a boil, then turn off the heat. It should be a little thicker. Serve over warm croquettes!

Nearly October Garden Harvest

How hard is it to have your own fresh food--nearly into fall--uh--it's not, if I can do it, anyone can. . . seriously. All this as a result of getting spring fever, stopping by the local Home Depot, grabbing some soil and seeds and laying down a few layers of newspaper, some compost and some potting soil and other detritus layered again--I did not till the ground once! We live in a rocky, clay soil part of the the state--so much fun to stick a shovel in the ground and hit a rock every-single-time. I thought I'd share some shots of what the garden looks like now as we "eek" into October. I am amazed at this output! Check out the size of the green onions! And my Swiss chard (I have not been in a chard mood--no worry, these girls will be there when I am ready for some--the plant is amazing!). Plus for winter crops I've planted some cabbage, broccoli, purple cabbage, some romaine lettuces and sugar snap peas. I am not an experienced veggie gardener by any stretch of the imagination--even after completing a Master Gardener training program. This year was my first launch into experimenting with growing my own grub in the ground. (I've worked the soil, don't get me wrong--potting many veggies in the past--growing herbs year round as well--very easy!). My learning curve has been huge! I dedicated myself to growing organic--no pesticides--which is why you see some bug bites on my chard, and a squash bug on the pumpkins! I am eagerly anticipating next spring where our lawn will become even more overtaken by veggies. Less mowing for me! As for the green beans, well, I am not a green bean fan, though I planted about six plants (why??)--from bush beans to pole beans. This plant is always full of beans! (Maybe that's where the saying "a hill of beans" comes from, because that is what I have right now!) What I don't harvest, the deer quickly consume--but still, there are many a beans to be had. This last harvest provided me with some very long beans, larger than I have ever encountered in the grocery store. I have had to construct this crazy maze to keep most of the deer away, but somehow, their little heads fit in between these structures leaving me the dead tips of new bean vine growth and yet, I still find myself going to the local "Y'all Come Back" outdoor supply store for corn feed for the deer and recently, a salt lick--a great big giant square of salt that almost killed me to lift! The deer love it! I love watching them, too.
My tomatoes are still on the vine, very slow to turn. If we don't have a freeze by mid October, I am sure I will still have fresh tomatoes at Christmas. How cool will that be. I read that if you simply remove the green tomatoes from the vine--as the weather cools, you can place the greenies in a box, cover with newspaper and set in the basement--which could keep you stocked with fresh tomatoes maybe through February (better known as the "hungry" month). Then, there are my pumpkins! I loved growing these! It was a no-brainer--these things are the easiest squash to grow--it is a sin to pay for them at any price--seriously! Look at mine--from three seeds--I yielded five pumpkins, not bad. As you can see in the photo, I do have a "squash bug" problem, but hey, that is the cycle of life, it's not like they are going to consume an entire pumpkin, now is it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vegan Tibetan Burritos with Pepper and Paprika Potatoes

Vegan Tibetan Burritos with Pepper and Paprika Potatoes
I was looking in the fridge and combing through my cookbooks--my "five o'clock frenzy!"--trying to come up with something for the first official day of fall! More and more I realize I will never be a 30-minute queen of cooking. I may make it to the "how about 45-minutes--a bit more, maybe" level. Have I mentioned this is my favorite time of year? It's so easy to be happy when the temperature hovers around sixty and then fifty and then, forty. . . then snow! I love to run in this, I love to cook in this and I love to EAT in this kind of weather. So, I have been busy finishing off my cake--by myself for the most part. I discovered that most people do not have a love of white cake with coconut and lemon as I do--too bad for them. (In lieu of my having to consume this cake all by myself, I have increased my running!--only makes sense--calories in, calories out--but don't forget that cake!) I picked up Moosewood Celebrates and thumbed through this wonderful cookbook. It has chapters devoted to most all seasons and holidays--I just love this cookbook! I found what I wanted, these yummy vegan burritos. As the story is told, a Tibetan feast was put in place as one of the Moosewood employees suggested a Tibetan-style burrito--incorporating ginger, garlic, and cabbage. Love the cabbage--good old cruciferous veggie. So, I kept pretty much to the recipe, only I added a green enchilada sauce and some shredded cheese for baking. You could modify this recipe to fit a multitude of tastes--adding garbanzo beans instead of seitan (for protein), you could add green pepper to the mixture, or celery, or any other fridge veg staple. Nonetheless, these were awesome and served up very nicely as a re-heated delight the next day!

Vegan Tibetan Burritos

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large white or yellow onion sliced thin
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 inch fresh ginger minced
1/2 head of medium-sized cabbage sliced thin
3 medium carrots shredded
1/2 teaspoon of Thai chili paste
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
Spike seasoning or S and P to taste
1 package seitan, drained and cut thin
6 whole wheat tortillas (medium-sized)
1 can green enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded vegan white cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil an 11x7 glass baking dish. Warm the oil in a large pan and add onion. Let cook for about five minutes--till soft. Next, add garlic and ginger, cook for a few minutes more--be sure to incorporate well. Now, add shredded cabbage, carrots, seitan (*for seitan, I like to brown it a bit in a separate saute pan in a bit of oil--just my preference) and rest of seasonings. Toss the cabbage until it is wilted. You can let this cook for a bit longer--it won't hurt a thing. I like a little carmelization to take place. Your call. Fill the tortillas about a third with the mixture, roll up and place in baking dish seam side down. Pour sauce over them. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, add shredded cheese and bake uncovered for about five minutes. Remove and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Pepper and Paprika Potatoes
2 russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1" dice
1 medium onion chopped
1 red pepper chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 teaspoon paprika
Spike seasoning or S and P to taste

Boil the peeled and chopped potatoes in water for about five minutes, rinse with cold water and set aside. Warm about 2 tablespoons of oil in pan. Add onion and cook for about five minutes. Next add pepper and garlic and seasonings, then add drained potatoes. Let cook for about 15 minutes, trying not to disturb the potatoes too much--just let them get a bit brown. Toss them around, then leave alone again. If it looks like you need water to keep them from sticking, that's fine--add a tablespoon at a time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Vegan Coconut Lemon Layer Cake

Vegan Thyme: Vegan Coconut Lemon Layer Cake

Cake makes me very happy! Cake for any occasion--I just love cake! This vegan coconut lemon cake has everything a non-vegan cake could offer: buttery cream frosting, lemon curd layer (yes, you can make lemon curd without eggs) and a super moist white crumb cake base--all without egg or real butter. I had this cake on my top ten favorites list and was skeptical about its reappearance in my vegan world. This past weekend was cause for celebration, so I just had to give it a try, but oh-so-carefully recreating this classic favorite. It turned out beautifully, exactly as I had remembered it and lacking none of the exquisite taste of its non-vegan counterpart--this gives me hope and encouragement in the face of my brownie dilemma--that, yes, I can bake vegan and make a spectacular dessert even better! I used the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts cookbook for inspiration. (I highly recommend this jewel--I love it!) I know many might wonder why not chocolate cake, well. . . sometimes a girl has to satisfy her good old white cake desire. This is a very moist cake, keeps well in the fridge for a week or so. It uses coconut milk in its base and I believe this lends itself nicely to the wonderful density and moistness of it. My lemon curd came together perfectly--I simply omitted the egg yolk--ewww, and used cornstarch and some soy margarine instead--YUM!

Vegan Coconut Lemon Layer Cake
1 cup vegan butter (2 sticks)--at room temp.
2 cups sugar
1 cup coconut milk (I used low fat)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites (used Ener-G Egg Replacer)
1/2 cup shredded coconut for topping
6 lemons (for making lemon curd and for frosting)
Preheat oven to 350. Spray 2 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper--it is important to use parchment paper on the bottom! Cream the butter and sugar together. In a separate bowl, add the coconut milk and vanilla extract. Now, add 1/2 of the milk mixture to the sugar/butter mixture. Now, prep your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add this sifted
mixture to the butter/sugar--using the hand mixer, mix well until fully blended. Then add the remaining milk mixture, blend well. Now, for the egg whites. You need to have Ener-G Egg Replacer on hand to make this work. According to package directions, measure out the equivalent of the amount for 6 eggs. Using the hand blender, beat the egg mixture until it begins to form peaks. This took me about 10 minutes of blending. It will come together, just give it time. You then carefully, and with a spatula, fold the egg white mixture into the batter until you can no longer see the egg white mixture. Don't over blend--just "fold" in! Now, pour the batter evenly into your two pans and bake for approximately 35 minutes. Check for doneness with a knife inserted in the middle, if it comes out clean, it will be done. I found that my cake was perfect and that the edges began to pull a bit away from the sides. Just don't over bake it or under bake it. Remove from oven and let cool for about an hour or more before frosting.
Lemon Curd
In a small sauce pan over medium heat add 3/4 cup of sugar plus 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of about 4 lemons) and about 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon zest to the pan. Stirring constantly, add 3 tablespoons of corn starch. Keep stirring and add 1 tablespoon of soy margarine. Bring to a boil and whisk the whole time. Keep watching it--it will begin to thicken.
Remove from heat. Pour into a non-reactive bowl as this mixture will be hot! Set aside to cool. Then, after about ten minutes, place in fridge to complete the cooling process--about 1 hour.
Lemon Cream Frosting
1/2 cup soy butter sticks--1 stick
1/2 cup soy vegetable sticks--1 stick
5 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix all ingredients well--just look for it to be smooth--keep tasting until you get there!
Place the bottom level of the cake on your cake plate. Frost the sides, and then place a thin layer of frosting across the top of the bottom tier of the cake--this keeps the lemon curd from soaking into the bottom of the cake. Next, take the completely cooled lemon curd and frost over the thin layer of buttercream frosting. You should be able to use all of the lemon curd between layers. Now, place the top layer over this. Finish frosting the cake--tops and sides. Sprinkle the top with coconut. Place in fridge! Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Smoky Portabello and Roasted Purple Fingerling Potato Soup

Soup. . .mmmmm. I love soup--doesn't matter what time of year. So simple, yet also, so elusive. So, I was sneaking a peak at Paula Deen (I am sure it is against some sort of law to have her name on a vegan blog, but it is only fair to give credit) and caught the tail end of a shot of this super-yummy looking soup (yes there was bacon on it--and lots of cream, but not in this version)--and had to try my hand at it. I had everything you needed to make a great big bowl of it, y'all. Lucky for me, I just so happened to also have some purple fingerlings that were begging to be used--so I roasted them at 400 for about 20 minutes (the eyes were just beginning to show)--so in the soup for you! This soup is rich, and smoky with a hint of heat from my friends at the Louisiana Hot Sauce company. I took a couple of pieces of sourdough bread, grilled them with olive oil, then rubbed them with a head of peeled garlic--they served up as the croutons for the soup. This came together fairly quickly, just prep the stuff first and y'all have your soup in no time!

Smoky Portabello and Purple Fingerling Potato Soup

1 package portabello mushrooms (six reserved whole, the rest chopped)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 onion chopped
2 celery stalks sliced thin
3 purple fingerling potatoes quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
lots of fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil, plus a bit more for the roux
5 cups veggie stock
1/4 cup white cooking wine
pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 cup Silk Soy Creamer
chopped green onion for garnish
Preheat oven to 400. Mix 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke. Toss the mushrooms with it. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes. In a separate bowl, toss the fingerlings with oil and spread on another baking sheet--roast for about 25 minutes or longer--test them with a knife. Meanwhile, add the onions, celery, garlic and remaining mushrooms to a large soup pot and saute until mushrooms release their juices--about 15 minutes. When baked mushrooms are finished, chop them up a bit, add to soup. Make the roux in a small saucepan by adding 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup flour. Whisk and at the same time, add 1 cup of veggie stock to this, so there are no lumps. Add this mixture to the soup. Now add the remaining seasonings, remaining veggie stock and silk creamer. Take a hand blender to it--to your own liking--I did not blend every single ounce, but just gave it a couple of runs. (I also recommend that you decide whether or not this roux amount works for you--I added another 1/8 cup of flour and oil with stock again). Remove the fingerlings from the oven and add to the soup. Add the soy creamer--lots of fresh pepper, maybe a dash of cayenne--taste test and be sure it meets with your approval! Top with toasted sourdough croutons--enjoy!

Vegan Baked Romaine with Caesar

Yesterday on Martha Stewart was guest chef Eric Ripert (he will soon have his own PBS cooking show--Rock On!) and he made this amazing looking baked Caesar gratin! I just had to try it, and make it vegan (of course!). He took a head of romaine lettuce, sliced it in half and brilliantly poured his version of Caesar dressing on top, added some Parmesan, set it in the oven for about 3 minutes at 400--just to warm the lettuce and to let the ends brown a bit. I made my own dressing, with some help from the The Candle Cafe Cookbook. To make this, simply scour your cabinets for the fixins needed for your favorite Caesar dressing (please, please, please--no bottled versions!)--and follow the above directions. Use some common sense and sort of keep an eye on the cooking time. Trust me, though, this tasted delicious as a warmed side. I served it with tossed pasta and some fresh tomatoes, basil, a dash of olive oil and balsamic to taste--dinner for one, it was perfect!
Vegan Caesar Dressing
1/2 package of Nori Soft Tofu (the kind in the vacuum packed box)
1 sheet of nori seaweed (crumbled)
1 tablespoon vegan mayo (Veganaise)
2 teaspoons drained capers
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Spike all purpose seasoning
some shredded vegan cheese for topping the romaine lettuce wedge
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Vegan Brownie Chronicles (or how to really get angry in the kitchen)

Okay, so I am now officially NOT baking tonight. There. I spent last night making two more batches of vegan brownies, plus, while I was at it, also tried my hand at my own vegan chocolate chip cookies. I am not a scientist. My subject was English. Numbers, measurements--exact things--making me nuts. So, I am reading this book called, Ratios: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman. Great read, except for the parts when I have to ask my scientist husband to help me with the math in figuring out the weight measurement conversions into cups and how, BTW, do ratios work--1 part, to two part to three part. What if I know I need only 1 stick of butter for, say, cookies--that is, the ratio for cookies as outlined in the book: 1 part sugar, 2 part fat, 3 part flour. According to Ruhlman (who is very much the trained chef and good with math) this is all you need to know to make ANY cookie. Uh, in case you were wondering, there is no section dedicated to the creation of The Brownie--I looked. However, I am not completely finished, maybe he "briefly notes" something down the line. I have no final recipe to share, just some shots of three very different looking chocolate square delights. Notice the crust in the one, vs. the other. Interesting. Oh, and the cookie--that, too. Oh, and my kitchen, as it looked last night--before I turned everything off and watched Top Chef.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vegan Buffalo Wing-less Cornbread Casserole

Louisiana. Hot. Sauce. Mmmmmm. Need I say more? What is it about this amazing condiment that so inspires? And please know that this photo just does not do it justice. It's a bit of a challenge for me to get a great shot of a casserole--but it IS tasty! I had a craving--wanted something spicy, not too time-consuming, and yummy as a leftover. And comfort food--was weighing the mashed potato, too--but this won me over. Of course, anything that comes from the oven for this girl works every time. This recipe idea originally came from Rachael Ray--I would love to veganize all of her recipes. Folks seem to have a love hate relationship with her--but for the most part, she can, and does, throw down some tasty food. So, I dug this out of my three-ring binder and looked at the ingredients. Of course the recipe called for chicken. Not a problem. I simply substituted with my good friend seitan. (If you say that out loud, it sort of sounds sinister--"My good friend say-tan")--anywho. On the cornbread topping--it has been a household classic since childhood, and my husband loves it--Jiffy Cornbread. Not any longer. It contains animal fat in its ingredients--why? Maybe I'll write and ask. Meantime, I am pretty picky when it comes to a good cornbread. Some will claim this or that in their recipe is amazing, and when you taste it, it's too crumbly, too dry and plain old bland. I like a moist bread, a little sweet, and a bit of corn pieces in it doesn't hurt. So, I turned to The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick Goudreau for inspiration. Sure enough, she had a great recipe, but I didn't like the fact that it used all-purpose flour and switched out some of it for whole wheat pastry flour, plus added some Tofutti Sour Cream. YUM!

Vegan Buffalo Wing-less Cornbread Casserole

1 package seitan drained
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Spike
2 teaspoons Jamaican Jerk Spice blend
fresh black pepper

First--add cornstarch to a plastic container with the seasonings and then add the seitan pieces. Be sure to chop your seitan up into "bite-sized" chunks. Add seasonings. Place lid on container and shake to coat seitan. Add oil to pan and on medium heat, saute the seitan until it is browned a bit. Remove seitan from pan and set on a plate. You can use the same pan to cook the veggies.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 celery stalks cut thin
3 cloves garlic
2 medium carrots chopped
Spike seasoning (Or Mrs. Dash)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Add oil to pan you just cooked seitan in. Add chopped veggies. Saute until begins to soften, but not too soft--the veggies will bake later. Add cooked seitan pieces and set aside. Prepare the cornbread mixture.

1 1/2 cups soy milk
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons Tofutti Sour Cream
1/2 cup frozen corn

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a casserole dish. Place the soy milk and vinegar in a bowl and stir then set aside while the milk curdles. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and sift together.
Add the milk, oil and sour cream and fold in corn. Set aside. Now prepare the sauce.

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups veggie stock--a bit more if mixture is too thick
1/3 cup Louisiana Hot sauce
Add oil to saucepan, then sprinkle in flour and whisk at the same time until all blended. Add veggie stock. Then add hot sauce. Let this come to a boil, remove from heat and set aside.
Add sauce to cooked veggies pan. Mix well. If the sauce seems thick, add more veggie stock about a 1/4 cup at a time. I would have liked more sauce with this, so if you want to make it a bit thinner, I think that would work--but be sure to taste to keep the hot sauce in proportion. Add the cornbread mixture on top. Bake uncovered for 35 minutes--keeping an eye on it, because nothing is worse than over-cooked, dried out corn bread!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Animals and Unconditional Love (Dog Fighting Raid Punishment)

This post is not typical of me. I weighed whether or not I should comment. I decided that I should indeed comment--it is a result of my visceral response to what I saw first thing this morning when I opened the paper. I was stopped in my tracks as I looked over the lead story with photo and saw what appeared to be a growling pit bull--baring its teeth, missing part of its nose: Dogs Show Scars from The Ring. No, that is not a growl, that is her face--lips missing as a result of her being a "fight" dog in a dog fighting ring. This summer the Missouri Humane Society along with several other states seized over 400 dogs in one of the country's largest dog fighting ring busts in history. The dogs are being kept in a secret location, being tended to by some very caring folks who I would call saints. I will not print what I feel in my heart should happen to these individuals but rather hope this very public case assists us in passing legislation that puts a stop to the inhumanity of the practice of dog fighting. While we're at it, let's shut down puppy mills as well. I do hope justice prevails for the individuals charged in this heinous act. I do hope that these lovely creatures--those that can be rehabilitated, find loving homes and rediscover hope in their fellow humans.

My girl in this picture is one of the dogs we rescued when, at the time, I was volunteering at the city animal shelter. It was not a good volunteer fit for me: intensely emotional, and always heartbreaking. I could hardly take it. I ended up adding four additional rescues to our home. I had to get a kennel license. I had to stop. But this girl here--she came home with us so battered, so scarred and filthy. I knew from looking at her (and from my time involved with rescues), she had been some sort of bait dog. For those of you unfamiliar, this is that dog who is used to test the "fight" dog's aggression. Not really put in for a fight itself, but rather--baiting. She had teeth marks from the top of her skull to her rear haunches--some were fresh, some were beginning to scar. She was filthy. She had an incredibly awful ear infection. She came home with me. We have loved her unconditionally ever since. She is now our oldest, and our dearest member of the family. She reminds me every day of why I am here--she gives us strength, we call her our Buddha Bear. She made it out of that hell she was in. I cannot volunteer in shelters any longer. It took its toll on me. Instead I help raise money for spaying and neutering through OpSpot (Operation Stop Pet Overpopulation Today--opspot.org)--a wonderful organization.

Below is information to make donations to help with the care of the rescued pit bulls:

Those who wish to donate to the care of the rescued pit bulls, or other animals, are asked to call 314-951-1542 or go to www.hsmo.org/donate.

Animal rescue groups are asked to call 314-802-5712.

To report animal abuse, call 314-647-4400.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Vegan Save-The-Clam Chowder

Yesterday seemed like a chowder day. The days are getting shorter, my husband and I had spent most of our day outside, tending to the homestead and all of the "fall chores" one must accomplish before the first freeze (according to the Farmer's Almanac, usually around October 10th). When I am tired, it is difficult for me to think about more than one pot meals. I can do the prep, I cannot do the dishes after--oh, he'll help, but still . . .

I whipped this up based upon two different recipes in two books: New England Soup Factory Book, by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein and The 30-Minute Vegan by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray. This clam-less chowder was incredible if I don't say so myself. Big thanks to the vegan book for making the cream sauce a very bold, and very tasty cream. Big thanks to the New England cookbook for offering a few twists on the seasonings to try. We both loved this!

Vegan Save-The-Clam Chowder

1/2 cup arame seaweed
3 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 russett potatoes diced
1 portobello cap, diced
5 garlic cloves minced
1 carrot diced
1 onion diced
2 celery stalks sliced thin
2 teaspoons Spike seasoning
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons Braggs Liquid Amino Acids or low-sodium soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon taragon
1 teaspoon celery seed
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup macadamia nuts (*or Silk Soy Creamer--2 cups)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Soak the arame (sold in the seaweed section at Whole Foods) in 3 cups water, set aside. Chop all veggies add to soup pot with oil. As this cooks, don't forget to stir, the mushroom needs to release its juices. Also, the potatoes need to soften a bit. Meanwhile, place the macadamia nuts in a blender and pulse a few times by themselves. Then, slowly add 2 cups of the water the arame was sitting in--not the seaweed, then blend it until the nuts are smooth--it will be creamy looking. Add the nutritional yeast and Braggs to this. Then pour the cream mixture and the rest of the arame with its water into the soup pot. Add the remaining seasonings and let sit on low heat for about fifteen minutes. Turn off heat and serve with crackers!--look for the bay leaves and remove them!

*I would think that if you had no macadamia nuts on hand, you could easily sub the soy creamer here--just watch the consistency--and be sure to add the nutritional yeast to the creamer then add to the soup.


A little diversion today. A run for me is a sacred thing. I began competitive running in high school--and was good at it--well, it was good for me, so I felt "good" at it! I first started in cross country. I loved that because, for women then--at least at my high school, there was not a separate training accordance, we ran with the boys. A fond memory of running "with the boys" was when they all gathered around me and tossed me into a pond we used to have to run around--it was not funny when I came up and my head was bleeding from hitting a rock. Don't get me wrong, they were all very kind--this was not a mean act, I think it was my birthday or something--thankfully, I was fine, my uniform was not. The girls and guys who ran were cool, we were great friends who helped motivate each other along the way--a very team spirit attitude, though a very solitude-type of sport. We had a tough coach--a man. He made us drink pure salt water (yuck, right, NO-we loved it!) to quench our thirst--but what was even greater is that this cold salt water always came with crushed ice: pre-Gatorade. The girls I ran with all had their own personal strategies for having great finish times--I just wanted to beat the first place senior--I was then a sophomore--she was my inspiration for always trying harder. I was lucky in that anytime I could see her head in front of me during a cross country race, I knew my finish time was going to be a good one. Our CC wins made the papers a few times. In the off season, I ran track (or is it in the off season, I ran CC)--anyway, it kept me in shape--not that I needed a weight management program back then--(different story today), I really did not--eating a box of Twinkies after school was nothing to me--plus I had my part time job scooping ice cream--wow, I was a lucky kid. My track season helped my cross country time. I was a 2 mile relay racer--passing the baton--not an easy thing. I tried hurdles, it hurt. I quit. I kept the two-mile in place. I loved running. I kept running through my 20s, dropped off a bit in my 30s and picked it back up. I am a runner today.

I feel that running has saved my life in so many ways. When I picked it up in high school, I was literally a newbie to our town. I had moved from pretty far away, and I did not have a southern accent--I really needed to belong, to start with something. My race times helped me fit in. I wish I had stuck with it, that is, the competitive part, I may have been well-trained enough to have received a scholarship. Or not, but still. . .

Nine years ago I ran my first and only marathon. It was the biggest accomplishment of my life--and it was amazing. I could not believe I had carried my body for 26 miles--or it carried me. I had barely trained for it, was logging about six miles four times a week, ten on some weekends, but I never stretched to that thirteen miler you are supposed to do, then the 20 miler, etc. I just never did it. I showed up the Saturday before the run, and signed up--I don't recommend anyone ever do this. I had all I needed: my husband's support and our good friend in attendance the day of the marathon. It rained the whole run--I finished in less than five hours, I was quite pleased, wet and sore. Then, seven years ago I had knee surgery on both knees and learned I had plica band syndrome and that my knee caps were crooked and full of cartilage. (I so wanted prettier knees in high school, NOW I know why they looked so odd!) I put my orthopedic surgeon through quite a grilling--I made a special appointment just to interview HIM! I stressed that I had, HAD to run again, no questions. He understood, paid attention, and here I am today, still a runner. BTW, I did not need one single day of physical therapy, I did it all by myself. I am sort of a "type-A" if you will, I don't like being sick or being "down" and unable to run. I went in for my post visit and his nurse actually called him out from another room to see this amazing woman dancing in the hall--I think it made his day! I wish my fellow runners all of the same luck should this "surgery" thing ever come to pass--you will get through it!

So, this morning I went on my run and where I live it is fairly hilly. I like morning runs the most and I like to run this time of year more than any other time. It is just perfect running weather right now. (I began a fundraiser that is a run and it just so happens to take place in the fall--I'll talk more about it the closer it gets.) Anyway, on my run this morning, I was hitting "dread hill"--it is exactly as it sounds--I dread it. Well, as I was dragging myself up, head down, (No looking the hill straight on--my coach used to say)--I glance to the side and there in a doorway is a man with a cup of coffee in his hands watching all of this take place--panting, very tired, bent over, NOT looking up. Very disconcerting. Just sipping his coffee, as calm and relaxed as can be. I thought, what if I collapsed right here--what would happen, I run past this house all the time. I rarely see folks out when I run--I try to book it that way--I don't like all the stares, I like the solitude and quiet. It shocked me is all, you run in the peace and quiet of the morning--a deer may dash in front of you--that happened this morning and it was so cool! But Mr. Coffee at the screen door? Yikes--I picked up my pace and cleared the hill pretty quickly--did not look back. That's the other thing--never look back--always in front. I love racing with groups and then have someone in front looking back--that's when I take them, well, most of the time I do--or they laugh at me, and then move even farther ahead. I guess they didn't have the coach I had.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Vegan Brownies: How I Have Loved Thee (Sweet Art St. Louis)

If you are a vegan--you know that the old brownie recipes that were the go-to favorites are just a mess when "veganized". My poor Kathryn Hepburn brownie--no way, not edible, even with the egg replacer. My old Moosewood brownie recipe, not this either. They just turn into this glob. I look on horrified as they bake. I am talking a bubbly, mushy, oily mass of ICK. Yes, I have tried several recipes in cookbooks, but nothing comes close to what I want in a brownie--thick, moist, very dark, chewy edges and chips inside-with that nice crust on top.

Recently I visited a St. Louis Vegan Eatery called Sweet Art--mmmm. I loved it! If you can stop by--you will not be disappointed, what a joyful place, what a wonderful assortment of baked goods, what a lovely couple! Her bakery case made my mouth water--all of which she will make into a vegan treat if you'd like. My husband and I had a delicious vegan burger made with, what else, my favorite: Match Meats--these were flavored with a bit of a kick--and served with a wonderful sauce, a slice of orange and watermelon--YUM!--We loved it! And then, there were the vegan brownies--they stopped me in my tracks! I was in love with the brownies I had. Now, being a curious vegan, I asked the owner's husband what binder his wife was using--and I listed several and shaking his head he said I'd have to talk to his wife. When I spoke to her, I was just a bubble of energy! I asked would she please tell me, not the recipe (as I respect the code of baking), but what main ingredients she had used to create this luscious treat--especially the "binders". She knew where I was coming from--she, too, apparently had had the failed vegan brownie experience, but somehow, she got it perfect! She said she'd used maple syrup and canola oil--two very common ingredients in the vegan baking canon. I so appreciated this insight. I thanked her and even took pictures (which did not turn out--so I will be going back--with great anticipation and joy!). Sweet Art St. Louis--go check them out.

So, this weekend, I am having my own kitchen challenge in that I am trying to create from scratch the Best Vegan Brownie ever--my own recipe! I have never "baked" from scratch my own creation--I find it terrifying and meeting with that whole psychology of "Do something that scares you everyday"--well, this scares me. It's daunting really, notes everywhere, cocoa powder everywhere. It is crazy! Meanwhile, eating the dough before I bake it! I am going to be making several trips to the store to replenish my chocolate. This photo is my first attempt--we have a ways to go, my second will happen today. No recipe yet to share.

But soon. . .

Vegan Asian Lasagna

So, keeping with my challenge of having Asian this week, it was Friday and I was stumped. What can I do next? I am sure that if an entire culture of people can eat this way year round, a fourth night for me could not be that impossible. So I thought about pasta, not noodles, but a baked dish. . . and I came up with the idea of an Asian Lasagna. What a great idea, I thought! Wow, I wonder if anyone has ever made an Asian Lasagna--well, thanks to Google, I learned that quite a few folks have thought of this before--darn. I skimmed a few places. Decided on what I'd do. I really wanted a good sauce, however, not tomato-based (read the previous post) that wasn't going to cut it. So, I have a jar of miso in the fridge--I love miso--I love it! I combined a few ideas together and came up with this sauce--modified to fit my taste. The veggies, again, came from: What Do I Have in The Fridge/Garden? I will give a short rundown on this because to me, making a lasagna is one of the easiest things in the world to do--you just can't mess them up. This picture is sort of ugly, but trust me, it tasted delicious--really!

Asian Vegan Lasagna

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 red onion sliced thin
3 garlic cloves minced
1 large portobello chopped
1/2 red pepper diced
2 inches fresh ginger chopped
1 broccoli head chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh Thai basil
1 teaspoon Spike or your favorite low-sodium seasoning
1 tablespoon Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 medium carrot julienned
1 cup spinach packed
1 bunch Swiss chard red stems removed and chopped
1 jar roasted red peppers drained--*reserved for layering within the lasagna
1 package of no-boil lasagna noodles

Heat oil in pan, add mushrooms, onions and garlic. Cook until mushrooms have released their juices and have begun to brown. Add remaining ingredients--but not the roasted red peppers, tossing the greens/broccoli and carrots to insure they are being warmed and begin to wilt. Remove from heat.

2 tablespoons sesame oil
5 garlic cloves minced
1 shallot diced
1 inch fresh ginger minced
1 14 oz. can lowfat coconut milk
2 cups veggie broth
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Spike seasoning
3 tablespoons brown rice flour
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon miso

Preheat oven to 425. Oil a 9x13 baking dish. Heat the garlic and ginger in oil for about 15 seconds. Don't let the ginger and garlic burn. Then add the coconut milk and veggie broth. Add the tahini and in a separate bowl, measure out the brown rice flour. Slowly pour the flour into the sauce stirring constantly. Keep heat to a medium low. The sauce will begin to thicken. Take about 1/3 of cup of the broth and place in a separate bowl. Add the miso to this and whisk until blended. Then add this back to the pot. Add remaining seasonings. If sauce seems too thin, add another teaspoon of brown rice flour. If sauce seems too thick, add more broth or water a tablespoon at a time.
To assemble the lasagna: Ladle about 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of dish. Add layer of noodles. The noodles do not need to be touching, they will expand as they cook. Add a layer of veggies, a layer of roasted red peppers on top of this. Repeat layers. You will have a bit of sauce left over--keep this warm and use it to plate the dish and ladle some over the finished lasagna. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, then remove foil and let bake uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1o minutes before slicing. YUM!


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