Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Slim Shocker Garden Stalker Smoothie (A Prayer to The Pink Sisters of St. Louis)

I've had a love/hate relationship with my garden lately. Honestly, more of the hate sort has taken hold. My first vegetable harvest was nothing short of brilliant! I carefully plucked the tomatoes, gypsy peppers (I love this pepper by the way) and cucumbers (god love the cukes, when will they EVER stop coming)--snipped my chard and yanked my munchkin carrots and radishes from the ground--all to the delight of my proud green thumb. Then this ridiculous heat and humidity left my little piece of the veggie world in tatters. I even took down my "deer prevention" wall because I figure if I can't eat from it, the least I could do was release its last remnants to the fauna of my back woods. Sigh. You could call it veggie depression. I've felt like a "stalker" in the mornings when I walk out to inspect for new blossoms, growth spurts of any kind, h-e-l-l-o, can I get a tomato? Even my zucchini has lapsed this year--only produced blossoms--not a one zuke to my name. It shames me. It really does. 

Veggie harvest hey-day. Three weeks ago.
Veggie harvest left overs from this week--for my Slim Shocker Garden Stalker Smoothie.
Vitamix Blender to the rescue.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vegan Lemon Bundt Cake with Zested Lemony Frosting (Dear Fall: Please Come Quickly. . . I'm Melting. Convection Cooking to The Rescue!)

Was it too hot to bake a cake? Yes. Did I bake one anyway? Yes. A home without cake is sad. Summer is not kind to me. I am a child of snow. Lemon to the rescue! I cherished this cake for over a week--nibbling some as a lite afternoon snack, placing a slice along side a bowl of vegan coconut vanilla ice cream in the evening after dinner. Mmmm. I shared this cake with friends, neighbors and my husband. There is just a smidge of cake left for tonight. This lemon bundt cake took the sad right out of me. It's an old recipe made vegan!
Your cake will need about an hour to bake, but just look at this? I could have easily turned the cake out onto my cake keeper and drizzled a lemon glaze over it, but that seemed wrong. I wanted my cake slathered in lemony-buttercream frosing!

Monday, July 19, 2010

One Year Ago Today (Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cookbooks and Me)

It was a Sunday afternoon last July when I brought my laptop over to my husband and said, "I think I want to blog." About what, was the next question. I said, "Food, vegan food." And then I added, "And about my life." He cautioned to not get too broad in my quest, but to try to keep it narrower and more focused. Then he put on his "tech support" badge and like an angel, helped me set this baby up. Well, for any of you who've stumbled across my ditherings, you must have figured out by now--"focus" for me. . . not as easy as it may be for someone else.

First things first. I have had a bucket load of "stuff" hit me since first laying claim to my little place in the blog world a year ago. I won't re-live any of it here again, but just in case you want the Cliff's Notes on the matter--here's a bullet point list:
  • Lost my dad
  • Lost a friend
  • Lost part of my face
  • Lost someone to addiction. . . but got them back
There you have it in a nutshell, my past year. A lot of "stuff" happens in a year. It doesn't feel like a year's gone by. (For us Old People, or folks Almost Fifty--time starts to literally fly, trust me young folks out there, just trust me on this one.) The vegan food stuff has been my saving grace through it all. I cannot tell you the amount of relief and distraction (in times of GREAT stress) my kitchen and my blog have been for me. (My husband helps, too--but he also has to leave to go to work). Much of my "pick yourself up by the boot straps" motivation must occur during the ten or so hours he's away. I'm not complaining. I was the one that decided at this stage in my life it was time to step off the corporate role and into a much quieter, homemaker sort of life. I have no regrets, and neither do my gray roots, thank you very much. We have no children on two feet, however, we have many kids on four feet--my posse--they keep me quite busy. My life would be so empty without them.

The impetus for my blog started with a somewhat compulsive collection of cookbooks sitting on my shelves in my kitchen. (And also in the shelves in my basement.) I love cookbooks: old, new, used, borrowed--I just love them. I love their smell, their heft, their typeface, their paper weight, their colorful photos (or not in the case of MOST of my vegan cookbooks--which I think is sad and wrong and if I EVER publish a cookbook, by god, there will be a lot of good looking photos in between its pages). I have never really counted them all. I sort of round up by tens. So last rounding I landed at near two-hundred, but not quite. Though I'm still not sure. I refuse to take accurate inventory. I just know I like the ones I have--be them vegan or not. I donate those that have an "annoying" quality--those that just send me to the moon when I try to cook from them but can't find a blasted thing to even attempt--after about a year of this search and "not find" recipe stuff--a few will end up in the donate-to-the-library pile.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vegan Pastrami on Homemade Rye (Now Open: Kelly's Jewish Deli!)

When a craving calls: feed it! This pile of pastrami-look-alike would fool even your most dedicated deli devotee. I took on the sacred and created what I believe is the MOST incredible pastrami sammich eatin' this side of Brooklyn (made vegan, of course!). We loved, I mean LOVED this dinner last night. How pray tell did this come to pass? Well, I personally think it started with our house smelling like a Jewish Deli for at least a week when I began my pickle experimentation (not once, but twice) because if you read my last post you know darn good and well that I totally had a canning meltdown after slaving over the hot steam canning process trying to create pickles from my "regular old cukes" which I had coming out the you know what! And which turned out to taste like "pickled ick". Okay. Live and learn. Never one to be out done by failure, I re-pickled again this weekend using pickling cucumbers. Like manna from heaven--these second round babies are keepers.
Lunch today! Like an hour ago--mmmm, mmmm good! With, of course, a homemade pickle on the side, piled with a ton of stone ground mustard, some sliced onion and my totally amazing fresh rye bread (from the bread machine) because who in their right mind is turning on an oven when it's 100 degrees outside? (Well I might because I have a jones for cake really bad right now. . .stay tuned!)
So I had this dill or was it fennel plant that sort of "let itself go." I decided I'd let it go--to seed, that is. I have some other dill that is so chipper and yellow--I think I could make some money off it if I took it to a farmer's market because the woman at my local market asked if I had dill at home when I bought my pickling cucumbers and I said, "Only a ton." She was like, "Oh, I have people coming in daily looking for fresh dill for pickling right now!" Well, too bad. This dill stays here, and succombs to my many failed pickling experiments.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Summertime Corn, Avacado And Pinto Bean Soup (Pressure Cooking: I'm Dreaming of Less Time to Cook!)

This ain't your grandma's pressure cooking here, okay? So if you are all like--Oh, what is this cooking with a pressure cooker nonesense? Can't those kill you? Uh, welcome to the twenty-first century, and no--they can't harm you if you read the directions. I was the same way until I had my first homemade soup and first risotto from this wonder-gadget. Let me add--PERFECT risotto in seven minutes--yes, I said seven minutes. This cumin and orange-scented, fresh whole pinto bean soup you see here--went from hard beans-in-a-bag to soup in about thirty minutes--and flavors out of this world! No pre-soaking required. (And don't worry, I'm not going all pressure cooking on you and only giving recipes for that type of cooking--the recipe I wrote up for the soup requires no pressure cooker!)
My cooking life has been changed forever. (Well, at least until I feel another kitchen must-have-it-now urge swallows me whole.) The best thing about summer that I can think of right now is that cooking has become something completely centered around "What Can I Make in Twenty Minutes or Less And Not Break Out into A Major Sweat?" Then, of course. . . what can I make for dessert with all that extra time! Before I continue--this is not an advertisement. I simply have to share how lovely it is to cook in 100 degree heat using less energy and less heat (thus helping ease my mind over my own "carbon footprint" and how much LESS oil/energy I expend creating my meals. Thank you BP Oil for bringing this to the forefront of my culinary life.)

When I told a friend I was interested in a pressure cooker, she looked at me with a sideways glance then laughed. I said, What's so funny? Turns out her own mother "way back when" would use the pressure cooker for nearly everything--all dinners basically. All veggies, too. (Toss out the idea "if ten minutes is good, fifteen must be better!" when cooking with a pressure cooker--just stick to the rules with this one--follow the cooking guidelines). Sadly for my friend, her first memory of how broccoli really looked (green) and tasted (crunchy) wasn't until she left home, having it served sans brown and mushy--declaring only then that she loved it!
My first pickle canning experiment was a disaster. I had no idea how icky a pickle could be until I tried canning my regular garden cucumbers--OH MY! Save those for relish. I repeat--garden cucumbers are not to be pickled! Who knew? I didn't. I just had so many darn cucumbers, I didn't know what else to do! They were just awful. So, I re-canned  pickling cucumbers I had to go purchase at my local farmer's market this weekend (shown here) for my second go-round pickling adventure. Much better--at least in looks so far. Sitting next to the pickles are spiced peaches and blueberry preserves. Yum!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blackberry "Zinger" Coconut Lemon Cream Cupcakes

Somehow I found myself stuck in a "taste" moment. This particular moment my mind locked onto was the Zinger snack cake by Dolly Madison. If you've never had the pleasure of one of these, let me describe what I recall: red raspberry coated yellow cake rolled in coconut, filled with yummy white creamy frosting. Got it? I used to be able to consume, well, A LOT of these in my very-skinny-track-running-metabolism-of-a hummingbird-always-on-the-move younger days. If someone were to ask me, What are your earliest taste memories?--I'd have to say, the grape jelly my grandmother made, the marachino cherries from my grandmother's martinis and the Zinger would probably top the list. (Oh. . . and powdered donuts--my mother's number one go-to for a fortified nourishment snack.) I swear, it's a wonder I've lived as long as I have without collapsing suddenly. Anyhow, my vegan sweet tooth demanded I make these now. And so, I got busy trying to collect all of my memories together to whittle down the basic necessities of what I might need to re-create said snack: vegan. I also spent a considerable amount of time researching what I could of other people's interpretation of this delightful treat. Apparently, I am not the only one who longed for this memorable snack treat!
I have some blackberry preserves left over from my canning frenzy last summer. I needed to use them up quickly. About a year of shelf life is all that is recommended in all things "canning". I didn't imagine I'd be eating a PB&J sammich for lunch for the next two weeks straight, so why not put my preserves to good use?  Grant it, I believe the jammy coating that encased my Zinger memory was probably not of the homemade goodness my version contains, but I was not about to try anything too crazy here. I knew I needed fruit jam, some coconut, and a terrific yellow cake base--that's when I decided a lemon-flavored cupcake would suffice--and in truth, made this even better!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Vegan Curried Chicken Salad on Homemade Four-Seed Bread (My Garden in July And Peter Piper Picked Pickles--But I Had to Can My Own!)

I was desperate for an old favorite: chicken salad--with a kick of curry powder: YUM! I'm sorry, but I am a mayo freak and really, of all mayo bites, this one classic was something I'd eat a dozen or more times before summer ran out--like the beloved BLT (come on tomatoes, ripen up already darlings). Grant it--vegan-izing this baby was not rocket science with the advent of Vegenaise. You have your tempeh--boiled first, then cubed--which makes nice with the rest of the chicken salad regulars: apple, celery, grapes, some kalamata olives, a few green onions and pecans plus the fresh lettuce and tomato wedges, sitting beautifully atop a slice of homemade, bread machine four-seed bread--it's all I could think about a few nights ago. An easy, easy recipe for anyone on the vegan summer blahs wagon. 


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