Saturday, April 30, 2011

Breakfast Benedicts Florentine

I will blog about our holiday weekend soon, but our Easter Sunday was pretty relaxing and laid back after a very busy Saturday. We started out our Sunday with Breakfast Benedicts Florentine from Vegan Diner. We ran out of spinach after eating a few of these babies so we subbed beet greens with awesome results.
Food for Life's sprouted English muffins are the base we used, yum! I've made the Herbed Breakfast Patties several times now to mix with collards, in Easter Pie (tomorrow's post) and just to eat in sandwiches, but we finally used them for the Breakfast Benedicts Florentine. These breakfast bundles of tastiness were quite good, but maybe a little healthier than Common Market's version and similar to the Tofu Florentine in Veganomicon. I never had Eggs Benedict as a carnist, but I adore the vegan ones.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Flavors of Dinners Past

The best meals, in my opinion, are often just thrown together on the fly. Tonight I wanted to get supper on the table and snuggle in bed with Rob and The Lacuna. Rob came down from his attic office (oh how nice it is to have him working from home) ready to chat and help me cook. I looked at the produce drawer and decided we needed to use the produce from our local farmer, Greg; oyster mushrooms, beet greens, and asparagus. I had been thumbing through Raising Vegetarian Children earlier in the day because that is the kind of nutrition geek I am. Rob does calculus when he is bored and I research nutrition information. We are a fun couple. As we chatted, we sauteed the beet greens, roasted the asparagus and mushrooms together with a bit of olive oil and tamari in the oven (sprinkled with Gomasio upon serving), fried up some tofu, boiled some whole wheat spaghetti, and I made my version of the Nutti Sauce from Raising Vegetarian Children. I don't think I've had it before and I'm no big fan of making sauces with ketchup, but after I made a few changes it ended up quite good. In fact, it took me back to 1995 and my first date with Rob at the Bermuda Onion (a local restaurant where they served vegan food before most restaurants in town even knew the word, sadly it closed not long after our first date). I don't know if I ate this dish on that date, but I remember a pasta dish with a succulent sauce, seitan, and maybe some mushrooms. I have often thought of the dish over the years, but never tried to recreate it. Tonight, I came close enough to take me back 17 years, without even trying.The entire dinner was just superb, especially with a glass of Chardonnay. I'm guessing the sauce served at the Bermuda Onion had white wine. An orange and bit of dark chocolate for dessert. Now I'm listening to the rain and the heavy breathing of my sleeping family. Now back to snuggling in bed with my book.
Nearly Bermuda Onion Sauce
1/2 cup raw unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup unsweetened or fruit sweetened ketchup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic
1 Tablespoon tamari
1/2 cup water
Blend all ingredients together (I used my immersion blender).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ginger and Ganesh

The little book club has read some great books over the last several months; Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, and now we are The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. Don't tell, but I haven't even started the last one because I've been reading three or four other books. One of them, I tried to convince the gals to read because we've read some longish books and we're all super busy right now (them more than me). I grabbed Ginger and Ganesh at the library the other day because how could a I pass up a book with a subtitle of "Adventures in Indian Cooking, Culture and Love"? I thought we could read and bring dishes from the book to the discussion. I figured the Indian theme would work well with all the past books we covered, but my dedicated group was not willing to slack off and take on a fluff book even if it meant Indian food. I love them! We have some of the best discussions I've ever had in any group so I honestly appreciate the time everyone puts into reading and the thoughtful conversations which come about. I did go ahead and read Ginger and Ganesh on my own and while I'm glad I did, it is really not little book club worthy. However, if you are looking for a light read and some really great vegetarian Indian recipes, but don't mind some pretty sub-par editing (I know, I'm one to complain, but reading my blog is free) then get your hands on Ginger and Ganesh. The recipes are fun to read because they aren't very precise and leave timing up to interpretation, which I like. I would rather have clues to how the dish is supposed to be progressing, like "saute until brown", instead of "saute for two minutes". One or two recipes suggest vegan versions, but all of them seem vegan or easy to veganize. It is a tad paneer heavy, but I've always thought of tofu and paneer as cousins. (I've never tasted paneer, but it is supposed to take on the flavor of the dish much like tofu.)
The story around the recipes was also interesting to me. I'm an Indiaphile. My love of India started years back even before I became vegan. Then becoming vegan made my love for Indian food grow, which made my interest in all things Indian expand even more. Working in tech jobs meant I had lots of opportunities to make friends from India. Rob and we planned a trip to India twelve years ago, around that time I became pregnant with our first child. Then we had a scare with the pregnancy (long story), although my yoga instructor (in Maryland) at the time was super supportive and great in aiding me to relax during that very trying time, she also suggested we postpone our thoughts of traveling around the world until after my son's birth. Throw a move to Illinois in there and a new job for my husband, even before Parker was born, and India was pushed out of our minds, if not our hearts. You know how life has a way of moving on. Nani Power, the author of Ginger and Ganesh, does something I've always wanted to do and learns to cook Indian food from several Indian women from various parts of India. Power lives in Northern Virginia which is a great part of the country to get to know people from almost anywhere, but the fact that she was able to enter so many strangers' kitchens to learn their cooking secrets is next to amazing. She also talks about attending a festival which makes me miss the Hare Krishna temple in Potomac. Power is divorced and her way of finding love, seeking spiritually, and enjoying food reminded me of the movie Eat, Pray, Love, which I watched recently on Netflix and Emily dropped off her copy of the book last weekend so it is something else I'm reading. I agree with Power's admonishing of the way Americans eat. She is vegetarian, but does not proselytize, for better or worse. She covers how Americans have lost the art of cooking. We rarely touch food with our hands. The act of picking out produce, chopping, adding spices, smelling when to add the next ingredient, sensing our food, infusing the food with nutrition and love are essentially lost in our culture. We prefer to use jarred sauces and bagged salads for the sake of convenience, but are we truly gaining time and if so, what are we spending this time on once we have it?
Josie begged me to buy a couple heads of cauliflower at Common Ground Co-op last week so Ujala's Gobi Fry (Spiced Cauliflower) on page 113 was an obvious choice. Josie couldn't wait to eat the cauliflower so she ate some at every stage of cooking. We roasted the cauliflower in the oven, per Power's optional instructions, instead of deep frying. It was a perfect balance of spices and not too oily.
Jasmin's Mattar Pulao from page 97 also caught my eye since we didn't have to substitute anything to make the dish vegan and we had all the ingredients on hand. It makes a lot of rice (four cups uncooked basmati) and is a great accompaniment for any Indian meal. Josie is a fan of anything with peas (mattar). The kids could not get enough of the layers of flavor in this rice dish. It was all gone within twenty-four hours. Rob and I had ours with Indian pickled mango.
We added roasted asparagus to the meal, but Josie ate a lot of asparagus raw (just the stems, not the tops, crazy kid!) and all the kids stole some cooked stalks before it made it to the table. I can't wait to try out another recipe from Ginger and Ganesh. Vegan Indian potluck anyone?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wee Ones Wednesday - Spring Walks

One thing I adore about homeschooling* is taking advantage of beautiful weather. We take breaks during the day to walk around the neighborhood or enjoy a local park. Often we learn a lot on these walks, but really it is about getting out and living. My sister, Karen, joined us for a couple walks last week.
"Mystery flower" in a neighbor's shady yard. (Thanks to Karen Linder for the link when I posted the picture on FB . I think we'll go with Checkered Lily.)
No they aren't peeking into our neighbor's yard, they are watching a very friendly squirrel who watched us for a while and then scurried away. (Oh and just for the record, Josie was on my back for most of the walk in the Ergo, but Aunt Karen is sweet and gave into her request to ride on Karen's shoulders.)
Josie checking out the "baby pine cones" on a neighbor's big tree.
Big pine cone on a little tree.
First snake sighting this year, spring is here!
We haven't spotted any snakes in our yard yet, but we have plenty to explore in our own yard. Josie loves this flower growing out of our compost bin.
Josie is a girl who knows the benefits of taking time to spell the flowers (don't look at the neglected raised beds in the background.)
We also met some friends at Anita Purves last week. My sister, Karen, met us there too.
Here is Josie "I want to be the leader, wait which way do I go?" Evans.
After hiking a bit, the gang breaks for goofing around, eating carrots.
Parker's dragon shirt from our neighbor/friends, Vicky and Greg. It turns colors in the sunlight.
Dema's pirate shirt from Vicky and Greg. They know the kids so well. Parker loves dragons and Dema is into pirates and Josie has a mermaid shirt (she didn't wear it this day).
Queen of the log and meditating brother.

I hope we get out to Anita Purves and Busey Woods more this Spring. *Parker is thinking about going to public school this fall so I feel the need to make the most of the flexible time we have with him. I have mixed feelings since I strongly believe homeschooling is best for our family, but I also trust him to make this decision. I understand his desire to see what public school is like and have some of the middle school experience. I'm excited for Parker and hope to blog, during the school year, about fun vegan lunchbox lunches.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Two Brunch Weekend

Last weekend was a two brunch weekend. Saturday was a lovely all female adult brunch to celebrate a dear friend's third baby (due in a few short weeks). I can't help thinking back to when Kit and Emily were dating and they had dinner at our place. In the early days of their romance, the love they had for each other just radiated from them in a magical way and it still does now that they are married and expecting their third child. I am so so excited for them! I didn't get a picture of all the yummy food (which was all vegan, although most of the attendees are not vegan...lovely people!) because I was too busy chatting and eating. It was so nice to be able to visit without interruptions. We were going to talk about birthing, but talked more about mating practices of non-human animals. Trust me, it was a lot of fun!
The second brunch was at Loretta's house (with a lot of the same people from the first). We met her friend, Steve, from college and his family. They are vegan and living a few hours away now. Steve was gracious enough to come on my radio show and he did a fantastic job. Thanks, Steve! The food was great, as usual. Shown is quiche (I think based on the one in Vegan Brunch, but Loretta always adds yummy things to make it even better), roasted veggies, Rob's collards with Vegan Diner sausage I made the day before, and a blueberry muffin.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Back in Black

What is better than brown rice? Black! Josie calls it purple and many people call it "forbidden rice". You can see already how kid friendly this rice can be. Have a child who likes to go against the grain, how could they resist "forbidden rice"? Have a child who loves purple, what could be more fun than purple rice? One of the reasons I love our food buying club is being able to try new foods which my friends already like. I've been wanting to buy black rice for a while and then my friend, Sarah, bought some through our buying club and I went in on a few pounds. We finally cooked it this weekend. I put it off because we don't have a rice cooker and I wasn't sure how long to put it in the pressure cooker, but we just did the longer stove top way without the pressure cooker while we were out at the park. I'm hooked and the kids ate it up. We served the rice with sauteed beet greens from our friendly local farmer, Greg. Baked tofu, tahini sauce, and Cholula topped it all off.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lunches Lately

With the weather finally heating up, we want to spend more time outside so lunches have to be easy breezy. Lately, lunches are made-over leftovers from simple, but satisfying dinners. One day this week I added some olive oil to a pan and "fried" up some leftover spaghetti with tomato sauce and tempeh sausage crumbles. I also mixed basmati rice (leftover from Sunday night's channa masala), peas, and a Tofurky sausage with Vegan Diner's Great Smokey Mountain Cheeze (if you go to the link, this cheese is what she uses for the Grilled Cheezy Sandwiches) thinned with water and a splash of tamari in a wok. One dish on its own wasn't enough for the family (with Rob working from home, he's around for lunch too), but both together was great and cleared out the refrigerator for something new for dinner.
While I was at the gym the other night, Rob made one of our favorite meals; brown rice, sauteed kale, tofu, and tahini sauce. The next day for lunch all that was left was brown rice and the sauce. I thinned out the sauce with some water and used it to cook frozen peas and carrots. I threw in some chickpeas we just cooked that morning, cashews, the cooked brown rice, and my sister's package of seitan (Sorry, Karen! You know nothing is safe in our refrigerator. I prefer homemade seitan, but the pre-packaged seitan was just sitting there begging to be used.) and voila a lunch everyone loves.

For me, I've been eating salads for lunch; some combo of mixed greens with beans, dried fruit, nuts, and dressing. This particular one has chickpeas, raisins, pecans, and tahini dressing. Josie joins in with the salad eating while the boys prefer their greens cooked or raw in smoothies.. She will mooch off of my salad and eat half then I'll give her a bowl of her own, she'll finish and ask for more. She takes salad eating very seriously.
I think the salad dressing is the main draw for her (she calls it salad hummus). It took me well into my 20's before I liked dressing. I always preferred my salads naked, but knowing fat helps one's body absorb the nutrients from the greens has turned me into a dressing lover. I grew up on my mom's dressing of Miracle Whip, ketchup, and sugar...give her a break, it was the 70's/80's. So it is perhaps a blessing that I didn't eat dressing often. Do you have a favorite homemade salad dressing?

You might also notice what I used some of my current reading material for props in the pictures. I bought our friend/neighbor, Gita, The Wild Vegan Cookbook, a few months ago and I finally saw it at the library and decided to check it out myself. I haven't made anything from it yet, but I enjoy flipping through the recipes. I'm reading Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows aloud to Parker. I was going to give him the book as a homeschooling assignment, then decided it might be best to read and discuss together. I'll have him guest blog when we're through with it.

Oh and speaking of books, I cherish a little book club we have going. It really is the highlight of my month. One of my friends/fellow book club member wrote a wonderful review of the last book we read, The Glass Palace. I read it while we were in Charlotte and could not put it down. I was very moved by the book and could not put it down until I was finished and then I wanted more. Check out Erin's review and then check out the book.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Vegan Diner

Diner food reminds me of my grandfather Clifford. He loved "greasy spoons", as my mother called them with a hint of disapproval and a slight shake of her head. On my childhood visits to see my maternal grandparents, we would always make at least one trip to a diner. The staff knew my grandfather and I think this was the allure of diners as much or more than the food. I don't remember what he ordered, but as I remember he always ended a meal with a slice of pie. Although I was nothing close to vegan back then, I don't have any taste memories of the food which I can't recall if I liked or not. What comes to mind is the happy feeling exuding from my grandfather. People smiling at Clifford and enjoying him, my soft-spoken and funny grandfather in his element. Everyone has, or should have, at least one special place where they feel welcome, comfortable, and nourished. I think if my kids felt that way about a restaurant, it would probably be a Thai restaurant. This makes me smile to think how different the two experiences are, but maybe not so much. It really isn't the food, but the feel. Knowing the staff and/or the owner, being served something you like to eat just the way you like it, someone knowing you enough to guess what you might want before you order. Someone who takes the time out from serving tables, or cooking in the busy restaurant kitchen, to come and chat as if you were someone special. Someone who remembers your family members, who only come to visit a couple times a year, and even what they usually order. Someone who asks about your family and offers sympathy, encouragement, or congratulations when appropriate. Sure, there is probably a good tip at the end of the meal, but that is only fitting for good service. What has passed between people is more than food and the check, a connection is made. It is made over food and that makes it even more nourishing to the soul.
So it is no wonder that diner food is often called "comfort" food. It is also usually not the healthiest fare in the world, but as I said there is nourishment that is not just the sum of nutrients. Clifford died just a few months ago, well into his 90's. I was by his bedside in his last day and he visited our house for a meal just weeks prior to his death. He was ready to go, or so he said, so I celebrate his life and the time we had with him. Mourning doesn't seem appropriate for a life that is not wasted or cut too short. I think of him often and while I was cooking from a new cookbook, Vegan Diner, I smiled at the "greasy spoon" lunches I had forgotten .
Vegan Diner's Pastrami-Style Seitan Roast, mashed potatoes with carrots, garlicky kale, kiwi
Grilled Cheezy Sandwiches from Vegan Diner
Vegan Diner's Cheezy Mac with peas and carrots, Vegan Diner's Pastrami-Style Seitan Roast on Strawberry Fields' Veggie Seed Bread, strawberries and blueberries

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pancakes Three Ways

Lately I've been making pancakes with three different "fillings" each time I make them. On this particular morning it was fresh organic blueberries from Common Ground Co-op, organic bananas (also from the co-op) and organic pecans (I'm out of walnuts and yes the pecans are from the co-op too), and vegan organic fair-trade chocolate chips (from the co-op). The banana walnut/pecan ones are FABULOUS, my absolute favorite and the kids' favorite too, but they like to have variety. A day or two later we used up the rest of the organic strawberries shown (they were on sale at the co-op and we bought eight pints and the kids gobbled them up au naturel before I could freeze some) sliced in the pancakes with shredded coconut. We've tried kiwi, tangerines, and oranges in pancakes in the past. They always have new ideas for pancakes. Dema's birthday is coming up and he asked if I could make pancakes for his party, but I thought that might not work well. He could eat pancakes every day. I usually double the Vegan Brunch Perfect Pancakes, but make them with white whole wheat flour and just a bit of black strap molasses instead of maple syrup for a hint of sweetness (especially with fruit, they don't need to be sweet). I usually serve them with a green smoothie (this day the smoothie was kale, mango, banana, Brazil nuts, flax seeds, and soy milk).
What is your favorite pancake?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Busy Weekend Brunch

This was Rob's first real weekend back in our little town after a few months away. Our friend, Todd, came down from Chicago to hang out with us, we had a journalism student come "observe" us for a project, and the usual weekend stuff (my radio show, the gym, etc. ). I thought Saturday brunch would be the best time for the journalism student to come over, but I hadn't heard back from her so I invited Loretta and her family over for brunch. If the student showed up, it would be even more to observe with another veg family of four in the house and if she didn't show up, we'd have brunch with some of our favorite people. (The student came on Sunday at the time I asked her to be here Saturday so all she got was blueberry pancakes, but it worked out well and we chatted for hours at the park. She is very sweet and it was great getting to know her. I feel bad about just feeding her pancakes though.) Todd arrived at the end of brunch and took the above picture (not fair of me to ask him to take a picture before he was allowed to eat). We made an enchilada bake (inspired by Good Good Things, but I'll post a recipe after I tweak it some more), collards and tofu (my favorite), cheesey grits, and Loretta brought fresh mango (yum!!!). Brunch turned into hanging out at the park, then watching basketball on our computer, and the next thing we knew we were all ordering Thara Thai dinner (we had lots of noochy popcorn, olive chips, pb&j wraps, carrots, and apples during the day and I made some brown rice and steamed some broccoli to add to our Thai take-out). The guys, joined by our neighbor/friend, Seth, topped the evening off by going to a movie while Loretta and I stayed with the kids and picked up a million Legos. After the movie, Rob and I enjoyed drinking wine and chatting with Todd until 2am Sunday morning. I love it when brunch ends at 2am the next day!

Friday, April 1, 2011

I Could Have Had a V8!

While we were in North Carolina, I was craving veggies. It happens when we eat out too much. So I became addicted to low-sodium vegetable juice. I would have a couple iced glasses a day with a shot or two of hot sauce (some vodka would have been nice, but I refrained). I was wondering if anyone has a favorite brand of organic low-sodium vegetable juice or, even better, a tried and true recipe for making it at home. We love and consume a lot of green smoothies, but none with a tomato base.

*My 3.5 year old came in while I was watching the video above. She gasped in horror and said, "Why did the baby hit her mama?!" then, "Oh, her mom is eating French fries...that explains it." and she walks out of the room. I just want to stress that we believe in non-violence for every living creature, even French fry munching moms and that violence is never the path to take.