Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memorial Day and Comfort Food

We had great plans for Memorial Day: ride into Boulder, hang out at the Boulder Creek Festival, watch the Duck Race, grab some dinner at the new Mexican joint in town, and then catch a relatively early showing of Indiana Jones before riding home. That was the plan. Instead it went something like this: ride into Boulder as it starts to sprinkle, walk around the festival as it continues to rain harder, get so cold and hungry that we decide to get some lunch and skip the ducks, dash out of lunch in time to get the bus that already has two bikes on the rack, figure when the next bus is (one hour!), ride to the bus station as our shoes get ever squishier with water, wait for a different bus in the rain, get home, take shower, jump around in pain as hands and feet feel like they're on fire, and collapse on the couch to watch American Fliers.

Needless to say, I was too cold and tired to make dinner. And, yesterday the weather continued--more rain and 40 some-odd degree nastiness. So, I decided that it might be one of the last times a casserole is in order for quite some time and decided to try making a baked fettucinni casserole with asparagus and garlic bread. It tasted really good, but the color leaves a lot to be desired. It turned a strange shade of gray somewhere in the process. Gray isn't the best color for food.
Baked Fettucinni Casserole
1 1/2 cups soy milk
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbsp. cornstarch, mixed with a little bit of water
1/3 cup faux parmesan

Asparagus mixture:
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 bunch of green onions, whites and greens finely chopped
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon

1 lb. fettucinni
Bread crumbs for topping

Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to sauce pan, add cornstarch, and cook over low heat stirring until it thickens. Take off heat and fold in the faux parmesan. Meanwhile, blanch asparagus in a bog pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon and run cold water over asparagus. Cook fettucinni in leftover water leaving it slightly under done. In a frying pan, saute green onions for a minute, ass asparagus and saute for another minute, then take off heat and add lemon zest and juice. Combine the noodles, sauce, and asparagus mixture (mixed well) in a baking dish, cover with bread crumbs and cook for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Roasted Garlic Oil and Puree:
Several heads of garlic, cut horizontally
Olive oil
1 tsp. peppercorns
Several sprigs of fresh thyme

Arrange cut garlic flat side down in a baking dish and cover with olive oil (it should be at least half an inch deep). Add peppercorns and thyme. Bake at 300 degree for around 50 minutes.

There are several things you can do at this point: I think it would be lovely served straight from the oven as a dip for a party. You can also strain the oil and use it in toasted bread as I did to go with the casserole. And, I also removed all the cloves and pureed them for future use.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Potato Spinach Soup with Stuff

I spent a good part of the evening Friday making up three different batches of sausages (apple sage, spicy pinto bean, and pepperoni) and, by the time I'd finished that, I didn't want to make dinner. But, I did. Somehow despite my apathy, I ended up elbow deep in the midst of a culinary experiment. It started out simple enough--as these things are wont to do--and ended with a potato spinach soup topped with white beans, zucchini, and apple sage sausage. It was tasty, if a little schizophrenic, but I think it could be fabulous with a few tweaks.

But, as I said it started out simple enough. I sauteed an onion and three cloves of garlic and then threw in 3 cubed Yukon gold potatoes and covered them with water. Then I remembered the half head of cauliflower in the fridge, so I cut that up and threw it in too (with fresh ground salt and a good amount of pepper). When those were done cooking, I added 2 cups of spinach. Then, I remembered the bag of basil we have sitting in the fridge. Since our basil seedlings are just starting to sprout, we bought a huge bag at Sunflower for some other recipe. So I added a half cup of basil to the soup.

As I was slaving away over potatoes and sausages, Josh was in garage playing with a bike he dumpstered. As the greens are wilting, I am momentarily dismayed by our traditional gender roles. Then I notice how dirty the kitchen floor is under my bare feet. Someone should really sweep.

Finally, I turned off the heat altogether and pureed it with a hand blender. It was really good, but I really never find smooth soups satisfying no matter how good they are. I need chunks. My sausages finished steaming. I glanced at the leftover white beans I had from the apple sage sausages. I shrugged and went for it. I sauteed the white beans, two cut up apple sage sausages, and a zucchini in some olive oil with crushed red pepper and tossed that into the center of the bowl of soup.
I think I would make this again, but I'd definitely make the soup a mash/puree instead. I would also leave the basil out of the puree and saute it with the stuff on top and use a sausage that is just generically spicy as opposed to having such a strong specific herb flavor. So, while this was good, I think the changes would make it great.

And, for the record, Josh did the dishes--though the floor is still dirty.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Burrito con Applesauce

In her youthful rebellion against meatloaf Thursday's and canned vegetables, my mom developed a taste for Mexican food--the spicier, the better--as soon as she left home. In Southern California, this mostly took the form of quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, and chile rellenos. However, she had her hands full with a husband, a full-time job, and a particular child with a love of semantics. As a result, she usually made what was easy: burritos. These particular burritos were nothing more than ground turkey, refried beans, a taco seasoning packet, and a jar of hot salsa mixed together and stuffed in a tortilla with cheese. I ate these burritos for dinner several times a week and they often doubled as my latchkey kid after school snack. The only problem for me was that they were very, very spicy--at least, they were for a 7 year old kid--and my mom had no sympathy whatsoever. So, I learned to adapt (it was either that or, as my mom made clear on many occasions, starve). But as much as I loved burritos, I think I may have loved applesauce even more. Combining them seemed like a natural solution, especially since the sweetness of the applesauce cut the tear-inducing spiciness of my mom's rebellion.

Perhaps it was the stormy weather or the fact that I haven't been home in a while (though I will be in 2 weeks!), but today I was craving comfort food. And, for me, there's nothing more comforting than my mom's burritos smothered in applesauce. I know, I know, it sounds disgusting and maybe it is...but, I love it. So, I decided to replicate it in a way that's a little more sophisticated (but not too much) than the burritos I loved so much as a 7 year old.
Burrito Filling:
1 cup TVP
2 cups water, boiling
1 onion diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 handful sweet corn, frozen
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
2-3 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne (adjust to your likeness if omitting applesauce)
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 can refried beans

Combine TVP and 1 cup of boiling water in a small bowl. Set aside. In a medium size sauce pan, saute onion and garlic until onion starts to get translucent. Add green bell pepper and corn and cook for a few minutes more. Next, add the rest of the ingredients, except refried beans, and bring to a boil. Then reduce to simmer and cook until the liquid is pretty much gone. Add refried beans, mixing well, and heat through. Put some of the burrito mix in a tortilla and and top with unsweetened applesauce.

Josh likes this burrito filling on top of chips with nacho cheeze. There's no accounting for taste.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Roasted Polenta and Sausages

Yesterday was another beautiful day and I managed to fit in both a run and a short bike ride. The reason for doubling-up was that I felt super crappy on my run and ended up only going about 2.5 miles. I blame the weekend diet of chips and salsa, though running at high noon probably didn't help. Anyway, I did make this wonderful pomegranate green tea with lemon and mint to stave off the heat of the day and try to rejuvenate myself. I certainly needed it after that lame attempt at exercise.
After the bike ride (an easy 12 miles that felt much better than the run and alleviated my guilt), I finally got around to making some more sausages. I decided that I wanted to make a black bean chipotle sausage and the end result is pretty good, though I think it still needs some tinkering. This is simply a variation on the seitan sausages making the rounds:

1/2 cup black beans
1 cup veggie broth
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. tamari
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp. adobo
1 tbsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. onion powder
pinch of salt
fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. I find that kneading the mixture with my hands is the most effective--and most messy--way. Divide into 4 equal portions and wrap each portion in foil like a tootsie roll. Steam for 40 minutes.
For dinner, I roasted some polenta, green pepper, purple potatoes, and zucchini which I sprayed with olive oil and sprinkled with chili powder (425 degrees). I then added the cut up sausage and topped with leftover enchilada sauce from the other night. Attempting to clean out the fridge never tasted so good.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend Eats

It was a long, busy, beautiful weekend. Saturday, Josh was tabling at a Community Cycles event where I joined him later in the day after a leisurely ride. There's nothing more indulgent than 30 miles on your bike through rolling pastures on an 80 degree day. Since we missed the farmer's market, we decided to go to Sunflower. We managed to spend $50 on produce which, if you're familiar with Sunflower, is a lot of produce. Luckily, Josh is the only one with a trailer hitch on his bike, so he got to lug the watermelon, honeydew, and other assorted heavy produce, including these potatoes who vigorously mock their humble reputation, 12 miles home.
And yesterday we basically worked on the yard all day. I'm pretty sure the last tenants completely ignored it and we easily have as much grass as weeds. In retrospect, it doesn't actually seems like that much (and most of it was enjoyable), but it felt like it. As a result, both Friday and Saturday night we had chips and salsa for dinner. The salsa was straight from a jar. From Costco. It was one of those nights--or, actually, several of those nights.

So, last night I decided to carry on the theme in a more sophisticated manner and do a test recipe from Happy Herbivore's upcoming cookbook. I even got to play with some of the produce Josh was nice enough to haul home. Granted, Josh likes anything that includes using chips as a shovel, but we both really liked this festive dip. It was good and filling.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I don't know why I don't cook with quinoa more often. It's easy, relatively cheap, and always good. Oh, and its hard to screw up. It cooks pretty fast, but is easy to keep from overcooking. "Forgiving" is a good word to describe it, if you've never used it.

Tonight's dish is from Veganomicon. It's the Pineapple Cashew Quinoa:

There's quite a bit of prep, since there's a bunch of ingredients, but it's pretty straight forward once you've got it all chopped and sorted, like Isa recommends. The few times I've spent some decent time prepping the food before I get to the cooking part, it's always much more enjoyable, as I can just dump little prep bowls filled with measured ingredients into the pan as I need them, instead of hunting down and measuring spices while things that cook fast um...cook fast. I should remember that next time I'm cooking.

The dark green stringy things might be my favorite part of the dish. The one-two punch of basil and mint taste amazing, and the way they cooked down after chopped added something to the look of the plate.

The one thing I'll do differently next time is make more of it. I'll probably double it, so as to have leftovers. There just wasn't enough.

Soundtrack: Destroy Their Future by American Steel

Moroccan Phyllo Rolls

I've been eying these moroccan phyllo rolls for quite some time. Somehow--mostly due my own fear of phyllo in all honesty--I've managed to put them off and now it's just about past the roasted vegetable time of year. So despite my very legitimate fear of phyllo, they came out good. I didn't even mind the fennel which, as it turns out, is the stuff that grew in the fields behind my house growing up and we used to punish kids by making them sit in big batches of it when they were tagged out. But, the seasoning was perfect and they mostly stayed together despite the fact that I forgot to protect the phyllo and ended up cobbling pieces together with olive oil to make frankenphyllo.
The balsamic maple sauce was a different beast altogether, but I blame the balsamic. When we moved into together, I entered this sinful situation without balsamic in my pantry. I'd finally run out of the fancy stuff I bought for far too much money at a tasting and was steadfastly refusing to replenish my stores at the *gasp* grocery store. Josh, however, came with some. I quizzed him on the quality, which he guaranteed was good, but it wasn't. It smelled like 7 week old opened wine. I don't know why I believed him, though. The man doesn't even like balsamic. Great.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Red Bean Dal and Freezing Broth

I was looking for something easy today after taking a nap that intruded way into my cooking time (I think seeing multiple snakes today on my run wore me out) and I came across Robin Robertson's recipes on the Humane Society website. The quick red bean dal is quick and delicious and doesn't photograph worth a damn.

Oh, and I made a convenient discovery today. I made a batch of veggie broth in the slow cooker and have been experimenting with various ways to freeze it (our muffin tin finally gave up the ghost--or the rust actually). It dawned on me that the Tofutti cream cheese containers are perfect. I go through tons of cream cheese and have ended up with more empty contianers than I know what to do with. Now I know: the 8 ounce size is perfect for freezing broth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Enchinachos; Or, Enchiladas Gone Terribly Wrong

I wasn't going to post this, but what the hell. I started off trying to make the veggie enchiladas from Skinny Bitch but, honestly, the sauce turned out terrible; in fact, I fed it to the compost worms. I used different mild chiles than the recipe called for, but I'm not sure what went wrong since it said any mild chile would do. So, instead, I ended up making the enchilada sauce from Veganomicon which turned out great as usual (it's the only enchilada sauce I really like). Since we were out of chile powder, I decided to go ahead and make some with the leftover anchos from the sauce disaster.
Unfortunately, the disaster continued past the initial attempt at sauce. The enchilada filling came out fine, but no matter how long I soaked the corn tortillas in the new sauce, they didn't want to stay in one piece. So, frustrated and totally over enchiladas, I gave Polly the dog three broken enchiladas for dinner, threw the rest of the filling on a pile of chips with FYH cheddar, baked it, and topped it off with the rest of the good enchilada sauce and green onions. Hence, enchinachos.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Grapefruit Spoons

A little while back, Patty and I were discussing the extinction of grapefruit spoons (is it just me or did everyone have grapefruit spoons in the 80's?*) and she took it upon herself to bring them back singlehandedly by getting me two as a moving out gift. I've finally gotten around to using them. And, they are absolutely as cool as I remember.
*I wrote this blog while eating wheat thins (albeit an organic/whole foods version of them) and listening to the Go Gos. Alas, I am not drinking Tab.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Chickpea Tacos

Since I spent the entire day completing the training for my summer gig (when I really should have been at our program retreat), I had absolutely no desire to cook anything that required work. Having now seen/heard/come across several references to these chickpea tacos, I thought they sounded like the perfect ending to a tedious/warm/ rainy day. And, they were.
Soundtrack: Breakfast at Tiffany's (The Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Skinny Bitch Goodness

I was inspired by Happy Herbivore's attempt at Pad Thai recently; and, I was also inspired by our conversation about Skinny Bitch. The first result of such inspiration was a batch of 'egg' salad (the umpteenth batch I've made in the past few months). It now officially gets more requests than my spinach artichoke dip and, since it'd been about 3 weeks, I decided that it was time for another batch. So, I made a double batch which will probably make it about 3 days knowing Josh. He doesn't eat it in these dainty bite-sized portions.
On the other hand, the Pad Thai is something I've never even considered. Unlike the rest of the population, I don't like peanuts in my food. It's just wrong. (I also don't like chocolate, but that's a different blog.) I think it actually came out pretty good and the mint garnish really made it worthwhile. But, I'd totally leave the peanuts off next time.
Soundtrack: Give 'Em Enough Rope by The Clash

Monday, May 5, 2008

Grilled Corn

The market also had fresh corn on sale, which I couldn't resist. I also couldn't resist dressing it up just a little. So, after cleaning the corn, I brushed it with melted Soy Garden butter, lemon juice, and fresh cilantro and mint. Then, I threw it on the top shelf of the grill for about 20 minutes. The flavor was pure summer, though I'd probably brush on the Soy Garden mixture after it cooks next time.
Soundtrack: Dap Dippin by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings


Finally. Finally, the weather is nice and looks like it might just stay that way for a while. Though, given that this is Colorado, I've learned--ok, more like I'm learning--that it's not likely. This past weekend was beautiful though, and we decided to put the grill left at the house by the last tenants to use.
The market was having a fantastic sale on peppers and we needed to get rid of some of the produce we had on hand, so we decided to skewer it along with the last of the frozen sausages and call it a day. It was simple and tasty and healthy.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Josh emailed me before the day was even halfway over: "I just want to crawl back under the blankets..perhaps with some soup." Given that we had several warm beautiful days in a row only to awaken to a day covered in snow, I knew exactly how he felt. So, I thought I'd make some soup for dinner to make the day just a bit nicer. Since I haven't made mulligatawny in just about forever (and it's one of my go-to recipes), I picked up the goods for that. And it really did start out as mulligatawny, but I'm not sure it ended up that way. Somehow, it grew to unnatural proportions, though it did maintain its deliciousness.
A Whole Lotta Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 sweet potato, diced
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. flour
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. curry
1 tsp. fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
4 cups water
1/2 cup chutney
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup of red lentils, rinsed
2 cups seitan, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 large handfuls of spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces

In a large soup pot, saute onions in a small amount of coconut oil until they start to turn translucent. Add sweet potato, carrot, bell pepper, and celery and cook until veggies start to soften. Then add flour and all the spices, coating veggies. Cook two more minutes. Add water, chutney, tomato paste, and lentils. You may need to add a little extra water as lentils cook. When lentils are almost soft, add seitan and continue cooking until lentils are fully soft. Add coconut milk, lemon juice, and spinach. Stir, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. It's particularly good garnished with cilantro.

Soundtrack: International Pop Overthrow by Material Issue