Thursday, July 31, 2008

An Award!!!

Well, I'm so flabbergasted that I'm afraid I don't have a speech prepared and quoting Sally Field just makes me feel old. I would, however, like to thank Bianca over at Vegan Crunk for passing on the award. Her food looks amazing, so I guess I keep good company. At least on the internets, anyway.

**Um, I don't know how to make the award smaller. I tried so as to not look so ostentatious. Really, I did.

Calabacitas Wraps

There are many, many things I don't miss about Tucson--mostly the sheer variety of things that can kill you--but there is one thing I miss: La Indita. As a Southern California native, it took me some time to get used to the Tucson brand of Mexican food, which is Sonoran as opposed to Baja, but I came around to it eventually. I was lucky enough to live exactly two blocks from La Indita, which is the best Mexican food that town has to offer. It is, more precisely, a Tohono Tarascan Mexican restaurant. The food is cheap, plentiful, and vegan friendly. They even have vegan tamales (made by la abuela) that are to die for. But, it's not the tamales I went there for most days; it was the calabacitas. I made every effort to fill myself up with their home made chips and excellent salsa, but somehow I always found room for the main course. One tortilla, when unfolded, takes up half the table and is dangerously thin, so I'd fold it in half in a lame attempt at reinforcement and fill it with refried beans, calabacitas, the cabbage salad that decorated the plate, and some salsa. While I attempted to eat it before it fell apart and I had to lick it off my hands, I never succeeded. I did, however, succeed at gaining 30 pounds.

2 crookneck squash, sliced into rounds
2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 onion diced
1 can of corn (you can also use frozen or fresh, but I like the canned for this)
1 jalapeno, finely diced (use your judgment--for instance, the jalapenos are hot right now so I used half)
4 sprigs of cilantro

For the wrap:
Refried beans
Shredded Cabbage

Heat a small amount of oil in a cast iron dutch oven or similar pan. Saute the onion for about five minutes. Add both kinds of squash and let cook for couple of minutes. Add water. You don't need to cover the squash, but there needs to be enough to cook in for a while. Add tomatoes, corn, jalapeno, and cilantro. Next, add salt and garlic to taste. I usually like things garlicky, but I like to let the flavor of the squash shine through on this dish--especially this time of year. So, I add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of granulated garlic and closer to a teaspoon of salt. Keep stirring occasionally so all the squash gets cooked through. When the squash is cooked and the liquid has thickened a bit, it is done. Roll the calabacitas in a tortilla with refried beans, shredded cabbage, and a little bit of salsa.

If your burrito has a blowout, you're on the right track.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Krispy Peanut Butter Balls

Aspen had an additional cooking request for her visit: Krispy Peanut Butter Balls. They're simple, delicious, unphotogenic, and oh so bad for you.
1 stick of earth balance, room temperature
2 cups peanut butter
2-3 cups powdered sugar (can't remember, but this is just like the myriad 'buckeye' recipes online)
3 cups rice krispies
1 bag of vegan semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix together all ingredients except for chocolate chips. As gross as it sounds, I find it easier to mix well by using my hands. Shape into balls and refrigerate for an hour or so. Once chilled, melt chocolate chips in a double boiler (or, if you're like us and don't have one, use a pyrex bowl that sits inside a pan of water). Dip each ball into melted chocolate. We found that it was easier to accomplish this with less chocolate, so you might want to melt the chocolate chips in batches. Then refrigerate again until the chocolate hardens.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cold Brewed Minty Iced Coffee

Despite the attendant heat, I look forward to summer for many reasons. However, perhaps the best thing about summer (besides mojitos) is this drink: Minty Iced Coffee. I sometimes go to the local coffee shop for one, where it seems I've started a trend. The last time I was there 3 other people were also drinking coffee that looked strangely radioactive. But, most of the time I make it at home since finding a coffee shop that carries the right syrup can be hard. In fact, this summer I've taken to cold brewing the coffee, which produces coffee that is smoother than coffee brewed with hot water, and buying the syrup in bulk so I don't run out (I get mine at a gourmet kitchen shop but you can find it at some coffee shops and online). Getting up at 5:45 to get Aspen to swim practice at 6:30 requires sufficient caffeine. This ensures that I get her to practice on time and gives me the oomph to go for a run at such an ungodly hour.
Cold Brewed Coffee
2/3 cup medium ground coffee
a large mason jar
enough filtered water to fill the jar
Coffee filter or cheesecloth

I actually don't measure the coffee. I fill my grinder up with beans, grind them, transfer them to the mason jar, and repeat. I think it's around 2/3 cup. Fill jar with water, put the lid on, and shake. Let the jar sit overnight--unrefrigerated. Filter coffee into a pitcher. I use a mesh strainer lined with a a coffee filter. Then add some water to the coffee if you like. It'll be quite strong--depending on how big your jar is and how much coffee you used. I get a full pitcher of coffee out of this recipe.

For Minty Iced Coffee:
Fill a glass with ice cubes and 3/4 of the way with cold brewed coffee. Add soy creamer (about 3/4 inch), then pour in Torani Creme de Menthe syrup (you can use peppermint, which is easier to find, but I think it's too harsh) for a 2 second count. Mix and enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Raw Cashew Cheesecake (from July/August Vegetarian Times)

Two cups of macademia nuts in the crust + a cup and half of cashews in the filling + 3 cups of berries for the top=EXPENSIVE

Plus, the recipe makes more crust than filling, so I pureed the berries to fill out the crust.

Overall, not really worth it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Vegan Cream Cheese Wontons

I grew up in a house that had a bar which had, in turn, a view of the kitchen. As a kid, I used to watch my mom cook and talk about whatever monumental event that occurred in my 8 year old life. However, I also sat at that bar when we made wontons. Back then, the wontons were filled with ground turkey, spices, and water chestnuts and pan fried to perfection. But, what I loved about making wontons wasn't what they were filled with, it was getting to take part in the process. I couldn't be trusted with kitchen utensils for the most part (particularly knives and my parents were sure I would fail miserably on dates when I got older since I was utterly inept with a steak knife), but I could be trusted with wonton wrappers, plates, a spoon, and a bowl full of water. I happily sat through the tedium of filling and folding wontons.

I still think of making wontons as a bonding experience of sorts and I've passed on the tradition (at least that what it seems to be becoming) to my daughter. Truth be told, I've mostly passed on the work of making wontons but I don't tell her that. The first thing Aspen said when she got here was that she wanted to make wontons. In fact, when pressed about what she wanted to do for 3 weeks in Colorado, making wontons was usually her first--and sometimes only--response. So, that's what we did. And they were perfect.

I only wish we had a bar.
Vegan Cream Cheese Wontons

1 package of wonton wrappers (Twin Dragon brand is vegan)
2 containers of Tofutti cream cheese
6 green onion, white and green parts chopped
water chestnuts, chopped (about the same size pile as the green onions or about 1/3 can)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
oil for deep frying

Mix cream cheese, green onions, water chestnuts, and garlic in a bowl. Individually fill the wonton wrappers with a spoonful of filling by dipping your finger into a small bowl of water, tracing the edge of the wrapper, and folding it in half tightly pinching the edges. Be careful not to overfill. Once they are all filled, deep fry at 340 degrees, keeping them submerged until brown. Remove from fryer and let cool on a paper towel.

Makes a lot--and yet not nearly enough.

Monday, July 7, 2008

$14 Baked Tofu

When I finished coursework, I got the hell out of Dodge. Ok, it was actually Tucson, but it felt like hell and I skeedaddled. While once again residing in my parents garage, I started studying for comprehensive exams and, in order to not go bat-shit crazy, I got a job at a local coffee shop so I'd have contact with people. Said coffee shop was owned by a couple of vegans and they had a baked tofu wrap with the most delicious tofu in it. While I was eventually fired from that job--for reasons that still elude me though there was a veiled suggestion that I took $14 and I suppose a 30 year old grad student might look like the likeliest culprit--I do have fond memories of the tofu. Fond enough that I tried to recreate it despite the heat.
$14 Baked Tofu

2 lbs. extra firm tofu, sliced
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. white pepper

Whisk together all the ingredients--except tofu, of course--and pour into a flat bottom pan. The pan should be big enough to hold the tofu, but not so big that the liquid doesn't cover the tofu. Submerge tofu in liquid, cover, and marinate overnight (I put mine in the fridge). The next day, lay tofu out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes on each side (time depends on thickness of your tofu). Let cool and enjoy in a wrap or munch on them all on their own.