Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spiced Sweet Potatoes with Dried Cherries

Our generous friends, Erin and Brian, have a sour cherry tree in their yard and they sweetly offered the bountiful tree up to us to come and pick.  We only were able to make it over once, but we did manage to walk away with a huge bowl full before the malicious mosquitoes drank all our blood.  Brian suggested we try dehydrating some of the cherries and he said freezing them first might help since dehydrating cherries can take a while.  I immediately came home and pitted them all and stuck them in the freezer.  I had dreams of pie in my head and maybe some muffins for the dehydrated cherries.  I should have know better.  My kids love pies (not that I ever make them, but our friend Gita is famous in our house for her delicious pies), muffins, and all things vegan and desserty, but they also can't help themselves from enjoying nature at its best.  Thus, some of the cherries were eaten before they were frozen, more were eaten right out of the freezer, and then many of the dried sour cherries disappeared right out of Ex before I could even put them in a container.  Who I am I to argue with this?  Why add sugar and crust to something which already tastes so good?
I did have a few dehydrated cherries squirreled away from little hands and I needed to come up with dinner (it was already 7:30pm and we were playing at the park with nothing in mind for supper).  I came inside, opened my 1,000 Vegan Recipes cookbook and voila.  Spiced Sweet Potatoes with Dried Cherries popped off the page.  Sure, Robin called for sweetened dried cherries not unsweetened sour cherries, but I was sure it would work out fine.  I also subbed a yellow onion for the red onion, blackstrap molasses for the maple syrup/agave nectar, but the result was still quite good.  I can't wait to make this unique side dish again.  The sour cherries added a nice tang with went well with the sweet and slightly spiced potatoes.  It is something I never would have come up with on my own.  The kids agreed that cashews or walnuts would make a nice addition as well.  I made BBQ tempeh (didn't use the BBQ sauce from 1,000 Vegan Recipes this time, just jarred barbeque sauce we've had in the cabinet for literally years since I was in a hurry).  Of course, I sauteed some garlicky kale from the garden to complete the meal.  We also had the last of the salad greens from Vicky's yard.  I swear they are the best salad greens we've had in a while, but they are about end of life.  Rob made tahini dressing and I added raisins and cashews.  Another delicious, nutritious summer meal.  Done and done.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Indian Double Chickpea Noodles

During our crazy monsoon-like weather, we were cooking up an storm of Indian food.  I found Indian Double Chickpea Noodles in 1,000 Vegan Recipes and quickly whipped up a batch.  I used whole wheat spaghetti and we picked some cilantro from our neighbor's garden.  Don't forget the cilantro, it really pulls all the flavors together.  This dish was really awesome for how simple and quick it was to prepare.  I doubled the recipe and the leftovers tasted even better.

We tried out a "new to us" Indian grocery store in town, Mirsung, looking for chickpea noodles since I wanted to repeat this dish, but with the noodles Robin called for.  I didn't find the noodles, but I did find a very helpful and friendly staff.  We stocked up on other necessities for Indian cooking at home.  Then we scored big eating in the little restaurant attached.  Samosas, idlis, vadas, and dosas...mmmmm.  We also tried a couple curries, but I can make curries at home.  I love Indian snack foods and will be going back again.

Perfect Pesto vs. Basil Blight

I'm sure you heard the story on basil blight on NPR recently.  Knock on compost bins, our gifted basil plants from our friend/neighbor Vicky have been growing like crazy.  Last year we had more plants, but didn't get a huge bounty of basil.  This year they look beautiful!  It might be our new raised beds, it might be the timing, it might be the amazing amount of rain, it might be Vicky's touch, but the basil is happy and healthy.  It really was so pretty the other night that it caught my eye as walked home hungry and tired from a late afternoon/evening swim.  I know most people look at basil growing in the garden and they automatically think "pesto!", but not me.  I'm more likely to think Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta which I blogged about all last summer.  It is not that I'm a pesto hater, it just tends to be a little heavy or too basil-y, a little goes a long way in my book.  One dinner of pesto a summer and I'm set.  Rob loves pesto though and I had some pine nuts left over so I decided to do pesto.  I went to my book of magic, 1000 Vegan Recipes, and Robin Robertson has a whole section devoted to pesto.  I went with Pesto Presto which was just what the family called for.  Quick, easy, and the tastes were so perfectly balanced, I was in pesto paradise.  I highly suggest using the optional white miso because it is the secret key ingredient.  I added shredded carrots to mine, left over from more of Rob's uttapams (he is really getting the hang of them and is soaking more ingredients to make dosas and uttapams in a couple days).  Parker and Dema made shredded carrot and salad green sandwiches to go along with their whole wheat past and pesto.  I will be eating Pesto Presto all summer.  Pesto Presto 1, Basil Blight 0!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When Life Gives You Monsoons, Make Indian Food

So, we haven't actually been having a monsoon here in my part of the world, but heat and humidity then thunderstorms with a brief cool off before heat and humidity then thunderstorms and repeat has been our weather pattern for the last several days.  Nothing puts me in the mood for Indian food more than hot steamy weather.  Okay, if the truth be told, I would eat Indian pretty much any time.

Channa masala over brown rice and whole wheat roti and a farmer's market peach.  Eaten on the porch during a light rain which was a calm before another storm.

Uttapam Rob made a while ago, but I don't think I ever got around to blogging about it.  Uttapams are hard to come by in my neck of the woods.  I desperately miss the days in Maryland when we had our pick of several completely veg Indian restaurants and we would stuff ourselves silly.  These days we prefer to eat at home and feel much better for it, but we still have a long, long way to go before our food comes close to the homemade fare of our Indian friends.  I served a red lentil curry soup to act as sambar.  I don't remember which cookbook or site we used for the recipes, but I've been wanting to make the recipe on Vegan Planet for a while so check it out.  While I'm talking about Robin Robertson's recipes, you must make the Spicy Indian Cauliflower, but didn't take a picture.  See Cooking From 1,000 Vegan Recipes for their review of this recipe.  It is spot on, I tell you!  I added white potatoes, but stayed pretty true to the recipe and it was excellent.  I can't wait to buy more cauliflower to make this again.

Sometimes I talk about things on the radio program and feel like I've blogged about it and vice versa.  I reviewed several Chicagoland restaurants, for Food for Thought, last time we were in the Windy City, but I don't think I mentioned them on this blog.  Since the topic is Indian food, I have to give big thumbs up to India House.  Sorry the picture is so "artsy" of Josie, but we were tired and hungry so photos didn't take priority.  We felt like things were crazy that night, but we had two diners from separate tables come up and compliment our children for their lovely behavior and one mentioned how great it was to see children enjoy Indian cuisine.  Definitely, check this place out the next time you are in the area and craving excellent Indian food.

I hope you've been keeping dry or you're happy when it rains.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dehydrator Action - Figgie Nut'ins

One of the many things which I have failed to blog about lately is my "new to me" dehydrator.  My friend, April, went on a raw journey which didn't turn out the way she hoped and was looking for a good home for her new kitchen appliances.  I was happy to take the Excalibur in.  We had a dehydrator before which an old friend of Rob's gave us.  Which in turn we gave to another friend.  See a trend here?

When Excalibur (nine tray, baby!) arrived (I have to admit, I am in love with the name and it looks pretty cool too, not that I'm into that type of thing, but it doesn't hurt) I was giddy and eager to try something from the most underutilized cookbook on my shelf, The Raw Food Revolution Diet (a Christmas present to myself).  I didn't have a lot in the pantry, but I found all the ingredients for Figgie Nut'ins so I started the process.  I think the process is what turns some people off from raw foods.  What made me chuckle ironically to myself was the soaking for 8 hours some of the ingredients I was then going to dehydrate.  Makes me smile even now just thinking of it.  Anyway, soak I did for 8 hours, dehydrated for 4-24 hours (I can't remember how many I actually did, but I know it was much closer to 4 than 24).  After all the anticipation, I was...not impressed, nut'in special.  They were okay, but not wow and I felt like they weren't worth the work.  I made a double batch and knew it would take days to consume them.  A slight disappointment.  Later in the day, I went to my radio show, talked about the dehydrator and other food related things, and walked home to see my sister and her boyfriend on the porch chatting with my family.  I thought this would be a good way to get rid of some of the Figgie Nut'ins so I brought them out.  Too my surprise, they had turned from okay to quite good.  I don't know if they just grew on me or needed more time in the dehydrator or what, but they disappeared pretty quickly.  I had some for breakfast the next morning with tea and they really hit the spot.
I haven't used Ex (the dehydrator's nickname) a lot, but I look forward to drying herbs, tomatoes, etc. from the garden, trying out tofu jerky, and many recipes from my raw cookbooks and the blogosphere. The Excalibur is not going anywhere.  It is a permanent part of the family.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

First Kale From Our Garden or Curse You Cabbage Worms

We've been busy working on projects, having parties, birthdays (Rob turned 48 since my last post and my sister's birthday was between then and now as well), working in the garden, moving my sister into our house, enjoying our neighbor's pool, reading books, chilling on the porch, pottery, painting, playing at the park, and so much more.  In between it all, we have been cooking and I do have some pictures.

Our "smoothie" bed (front - kale, beets, carrots, chard, etc.) and "sauce" bed (back - peppers, herbs, onions) while I still had time to weed and mulch.  Rob built three of these raised beds this spring and the strawberries are in a raised bed without the wood.  We have another raised bed in the front yard with blocks instead of wood, but we only have weeds growing in it at the moment.
The same beds after a week of neglect.  If the cabbage worms didn't hit soon after this picture, we'd have an awesome kale haul, but as it is the worms got their share and we are trying to eat ours as fast as we can.  I have to say the cabbage worms have me a little down.  I hate to kill them, but I almost cry when I see how much of my kale they eat in a such a short time.  I put them in the compost bin alive.

Breakfast during the week:  Green smoothie (kale, mangoes, shredded coconut, flax seeds, apples, almond milk), tempeh marinated in peanut sauce, garlicky kale.  The kids also added Ezekiel sprouted grain cereal and blueberries to their breakfast.  The kids are eating more and I'm eating less, but I rarely get a picture before they dig in to their meal so you get to see mine.  We've been eating most meals on our porch lately and it has been heavenly.  We do some after meal reading and relaxing on the porch as well since our house tends to be hot and humid.  Big old porches are one of the best things about this time of year.

Dinner last night:  Kale and Potato Soup (This was going to be the Cheeze Please Soup from Raising Vegetarian Children.  I don't know why it caught my eye, but it did and I was going to make it with sweet potatoes instead of white and I ended up with no sweet potatoes and some white potatoes and no carrots, as the recipe called for, so I went all off recipe and added kale and cashews.  It was darn yummy and not much like the original recipe so I'll post what I did.)  The kids also had grapes and baked tofu sandwiches with mixed greens, green onions, and vegenaise on a whole wheat bun.
Kale Potato Soup

2 medium potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 bunch kale, washed deveined and coarsely chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 cups water
1 package silken tofu, crumbled
1 cup nooch (we like nooch so you may try a 1/2 - 1 cup)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon onion powder or granules
1 1/2 - 2 cups nondairy milk

Cook the potatoes, kale, onion, garlic, and cashews in a large soup pot with the water until potatoes are tender.  Add the other ingredients except the nondairy milk and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Puree with an immersion blender (the one Rob bought for Mother's Day a few weeks ago broke last night, grrrr).   Add the nondairy milk, stir until completely mixed in and serve.  We dunked olive rosemary bread in ours.

Breakfast this morning:  my version of Vegan Brunch's Perfect Pancakes (white whole wheat, blackstrap molasses instead of maple syrup), grapes, garlicky kale, and tempeh marinated in peanut sauce.

A caterpillar friend recently started his/her transformation into a Monarch butterfly.  Here is the chrysalis on a milkweed plant in our yard.  We've had a great time checking a dozen times a day on this little one.
Several weeks ago our neighbor, Jeff, brought us snakes from our other neighbor, Cynthia's garden.  They are pretty elusive so I haven't snapped a picture yet, but they look a lot like this snake friend from a few blocks away.  This garden is what made me long for my own garden snakes, but now that we have them, I do watch where I step a lot more.

Josie having fun sitting in the Go Cart at the Taste of Champaign today. My kids are suckers for festivals.  They don't care what the occasion is, they just love the crowds and fun.  She LOVED watching the guys on the BMX bikes, but I didn't get a picture.  It was her absolute favorite part of the day.   It was hot and muggy and then rainy and stormy all weekend, but we had a fun filled time anyway.

Josie, Rob, and Dema watching the US vs England World Cup soccer game at Esquire, Saturday.
Parker is much more into watching soccer these days after playing soccer in the park district league this spring.  Josie loves to cheer and yell, but at the end of the game she was done with soccer.

I hope you are all having a great summer, staying cool, and your gardens are growing well.