Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Salad, Sally, Snow, and Soup

Wow.  I mean, wow.  The Mofo postings overwhelm me.  How the heck do people have time to cook and photograph and write every day like that?  I'm impressed.  I'm also now officially obsessed with this blog.  But I digress.

We hit the road, literally going over the river and through the woods to "grandmother"s" house (BF's mom), where Thanksgiving was definitely not vegan but had many delicious elements, like this:

My main course

and this (Angus was just so exhausted waiting for his food!):

Wake up, Angus--dinner is almost ready and you should really be helping!

and of course, "Grandma" in the kitchen.

Ann at the stove

It was also Sally's birthday.  She's 12.  We made her a little turkey cake.

Happy Birthday Miss Dog!

So, while there was turkey on the table and I could only drool and dream about the amazing vegan creations I saw on Mofo this week (Tofurken, I have my eye on you for next year...or Christmas!), I had plenty of good salad and corn and sweet potatoes and I ravished the relish tray--and we had serious happy-family time, unplugged from computers and blackberries and televisions.

Now we are home, and it's snowing!  In fact, I believe it's the first snow of the season.  That means soup weather, so I'm cooking up delicata squash, kale, and green chilies in mushroom broth, for pureeing:


I plan to sip it from a big mug.  With a side of toast.  Topped with pumpkin butter.  Because it may not be winter yet, but it feels like winter, so who am I to behave otherwise?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Squash Saturday...Sunday...Monday...

I may occasionally be late on deadlines, but I would never fail to honor a commitment--especially to a squash.  Therefore, I felt it my sacred duty to spend the day cooking my beautiful bunch of squashes and making them into squash truffles (and do it right this time), roasted stripetti squash (I owe it to my CSA--second half of this post explains why), pumpkin spice syrup (but with homemade pumpkin puree instead of canned, because I've got it) and pumpkin butter (I'll just make it up as I go).

They've been waiting so patiently.  See?  See how long-suffering they are?  Just waiting, waiting to be made into something delicious?  Because they just know they have it in them? 

First, I roasted them for about 15 minutes so they would soften up enough to cut and scoop.  Then, I returned them to the oven to get nice and soft.

After they were fork-tender, I scooped all the squash to make 4 cups, and scooped the pumpkin separately, to make the pumpkin recipes.  I pureed everything in the VitaMix to make a beautiful, silky, creamy squash puree and pumpkin puree, respectively.  I am here to tell you, the VitaMix truly makes a complete puree--no straining necessary.  It's beautiful.

For the squash truffles, I heated the squash puree on low heat, as instructed in the recipe--but two hours later, it will wasn't "very dry."  I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but it just doesn't want to firm up into anything I could possibly roll. Maybe it's the weather.  I added the almond butter, syrup, vanilla, and salt.  I tried to drop a few onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.  They weren't very round.  Finally I gave up and stirred in a bunch of grated coconut.  This made it shape-able, so I rolled it into balls, put a few chocolate chips in the middle of each one, and put them on parchment on a baking sheet.  Put them in the refrigerator to see if they will firm up any further.  More on that later.

For the pumpkin syrup, I measured out 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1-1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup Florida crystals, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice.  Boiled the heck out of it, and yum!  I've been scooping the stuff into my coffee cup ever since. 

For the pumpkin butter, I combined the remaining pumpkin puree with 1 cup of orange juice, 1/2 cup apple syrup (I used up all my maple syrup and I happened to have apple syrup from a local farm), and another tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice (I'm going to need more of this!).  I boiled it until it was thick and yummy.  I've been spooning the stuff onto toast ever since.

Finally, I "roasted the heck" out of the stripetti squash (as instructed).  The shells, blackened, contained the most delicious carmelized squash!  Wow.  I take it back, I take it all back, what I said about stripetti squash before!  I've been eating it all by itself all weekend, and also put some into my lentils. 

I spent most of Sunday and most of today so far eyeing those unfinished squash truffles in the refrigerator--with suspicion.  I'll finish them before I leave for Thanksgiving--which will not be vegan so I guess I'd better bring something--something more substantial than squash truffles, but they might make it into the car, too. 

Anyway, the squash and I had fun.  We laughed.  We cried.  It was better than cats.  Now I'm ready to have a great holiday--you do, too! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, Christmas recipes are fair game--and I just saw a recipe in Better Homes & Gardens for coconut and grapefruit gumdrops...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pizza, salad, pears

I didn't have a lot of time to cook tonight.  After working out with one teenager at the gym and then picking up the other teenager at the bowling alley (bowling is an actual high school sport now--who knew?), I had to pick up my local CSA share.  Fortunately, my local food co-op makes excellent pizza.  Therefore, dinner:  Vegan pizza from NewPi, big salad with local CSA lettuces (three kinds) and breakfast radishes plus red peppers, hearts of palm, and peas. I was a sesame vinaigrette girl until I discovered Goddess Dressing.  And then of course the pears--because everybody should eat more fruit.  There are days when I am thankful for how far convenience food has come.

While picking up my produce, I was dutifully chided by one of the farmers, who was apparently angry to see my less-than-enthusiastic opinions of stripetti squash published for the world to see.  Apparently, I am doing a disservice to CSAs and stripetti squashes everywhere!  Oops.  I'm sorry stripetti squash (and CSAs everywhere).  I didn't mean to diss you.  The farmer gave me specific instructions on how to cook them so they will be irresistible, and requested that I try it and publish that.   Um...OK!  I was also recently informed by the author of the squash article in Hobby Farm Home magazine that when I tried to make her recipe for squash truffles, I skipped a crucial step. Oops!  Sorry, Adrianne!

Apparently, squash and I have some making up to do.  And I have every opportunity, as this is what I now have on my table.  I will do better, squashes.  I promise, I will do better.  This weekend.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Samosa potatoes, lentil curry, and basmati rice

After those cookies I couldn't stop cooking, so for dinner I cracked open Veganomicon again and made the samosa baked potatoes.  I also found a recipe for spicy Indian lentils on allrecipes.com, but used the brown lentils I had instead of the red lentils it demanded.  Added brown basmati rice, a side of the remaining peas that didn't go in the potatoes, and some spinach salad with Annie's Goddess dressing.  Finally...time to stop cooking and start eating.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

White chocolate cranberry almond cookies

All I want to do on Sundays is cook--or, in this case, bake.  There's a chill in the air so it seems like the right thing to do.  Why wait for the holidays?  Certain kinds of weather simply demand certain kinds of cooking.  I didn't make the rules.

As usual, I searched Veganomicon for inspiration, and found the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  I substituted whole wheat flour for the cocoa.  Instead of chocolate chips etc., I added 2 cups of the white chocolate/almond/cranberry trail mix nobody has been eating.  Voila!  This is some serious good--it's amazing I got two dozen cookies out of this experience because I ate so much cookie dough. Now maybe some hot cocoa...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Velvety Potato Soup

We are messy soup eaters in my house
After gazing at my new VitaMix for a long time, I decided that perhaps the baked potato fries I had in the oven that were falling apart might make a nice soup.  I took them out, scraped them off the pan and into the VitaMix, added some unsweetened soy milk, a splash of soy creamer, the rest of a carton of veg broth, and about half of the onions, peppers, and garlic I was sauteeing in evo/EB for the vegloaf.

A little tamari, a small handful of radish greens, and then I pureed according to the directions for soup. Wow--this thing doesn't just blend, it actually heats up the soup!  I blended for 5 minutes and when I turned off the blender, the soup was steaming hot and as smooth as velvet.  Sprinkled with some daiya and croutons, my teenage son (who likes to complain, "Why is every single thing to eat in this house made out of soy beans?" Which, by the way, is totally not true) ate it right up.  See?

Angus is always hungry

Meanwhile, I added the rest of the peppers, onions, and garlic to a roll of GimmeLean ground "meat", added tamari, bread crumbs, chili powder, garlic powder, ketchup, mustard--mixed it all up, baked for 30 minutes at 375 in a mini loaf pan, then turned out and glazed with ketchup, mustard, brown-sugar mix and baked 15 minutes more.  Served over fettucine, with salad.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

VitaMix Worship

Look what a certain special someone just sent me in the mail as a special thank-you for a special book we might just have coming out in special 2012!  When she heard about my plight--my burned-out food processor, which I killed making raw brownies--this arrived soon after. Wow.  I've been staring at it all day, with lust in my heart.  This bad boy has power.  Authority.  Prestige.  And potential.  What  should I make first???

Monday, November 8, 2010

Procrastination Stew & It-Can-Wait Kale Chips

When I'm starting a new book, it can be hard to...well...hard to start.  So I often procrastinate by cooking in the middle of the day.  That's right.  I can do that.  I work at home.

So today, I stood in front of my refrigerator with the door open (I scold all others for doing this) and looked at all that CSA produce.  This stuff must be eaten, and soon.  I'm sorry, but work is just going to have to wait.  Clearly, this is an emergency. 

And the obvious remedy?  Kale chips and veg stew.

First I tore up the kale, tossed with olive oil and a bit of sesame oil, and baked at 350 for 25 mins.  Sprinkled with salt.  It was almost too easy.

While kale chips crisped in the oven, I put the rest of cooked pinto beans I made last week in a saucepan, added some veg broth, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and a big handful of chopped greens (collards and radish leaves).  Boiled for 20 mins. Topped with crumbled tortilla chips and avocado cubes.  Because everything's better with avocado.

I'm afraid it didn't take very long.  I'm already back at my desk with no more excuses not to get down to work.  Although I do think I need to give my full attention to eating.  For at least, say...an hour? Darn it, I think my co-author is calling...

Candy at Last (for a price)

You would think I've never cooked before.  Seriously.  I've been cooking for years.  *Successfully.*  Until this week.

Yesterday, I put dates, walnuts, cacao nibs, and cinnamon in the food processor.  Processed--my first clue should have been that the food processor seemed to be having a hard time, but I was determined to make my candy so I kept going.  I added agave, then tried to process some more, and that's when I smelled the smoke.  I seem to have blown out the motor on my food processor.

I guess maybe it's time to ask for that Vita Mix for Christmas...who has one?  Worth the exorbitant price?

In any case, although the walnuts and cacao nibs didn't get a chance to be ground up as finely as I intended, and although the squares of candy are a bit irregular, I'm enjoying the crunchiness of the cacao, and the candy is pretty freakin delicious. Good breakfast.

R.I.P., Cuisinart!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Carnival Squash Candy Improv

Finished!  Finished!  A certain celebrity someone's third book is finally finished!  After I have a good stiff celebratory drink, and maybe sleep for 12 hours, it will be time to start the next book, for the next person who has hired me.

Said latest book's exact emphasis is not yet to be revealed, but in essence, it's about raising children naturally, organically, peacefully, gently...and vegan-ly.

That means it's time to turn my attention to all things kiddo--especially foods they would like, and foods that can help them be healthier, happier, calmer, etc.  This applies to both those raised vegan and those whose parents decide to make the switch.

So, about that squash candy I mentioned in my last post...

Yeah, it didn't really work at all. 

This is what I did:  First, I roasted a panful of Carnival squashes--actually, two Carnival squashes and one Sweet Dumpling squash. (Will roast seeds later, with salt, to aid in coming down off candy high.)  I scooped out the cooked flesh, and put it in the blender--about 4 cups-ful.   Added 1/4 cup almond butter, 1/4 cup brown rice syrup, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, pinch cinnamon, pinch salt.  Pureed.

At this point you are supposed to form balls and chill it, but it was more like a very fluffy pudding.  There was no forming it into anything.  I stirred in a cup of unsweetened coconut, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, some maple syrup to sweeten it up a little more--still not roll-able.

So I spread it in a pan, sprinkled more chocolate chips on it, and put it in the freezer.  We'll see how it looks tomorrow.  If it's not good frozen, maybe it will end up getting spread on toast.

Post script:  It's not good frozen.  It's not even that good on toast.  It's more light, like a mousse.  I think I'll just defrost the rest of it, and eat it with a spoon!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vegan Mofo

I haven't blogged for a long...long...long time. Ever since I started working on book #3 with a certain celebrity someone, my life has been hijacked. I used to love throwing parties...cooking elaborate dinners...writing about things for no reason...all that seems a distant memory.

But we threw a party last night, of sorts--some good friends who also happen to be current and former neighbors, with kids of similar age who all shared a strong desire to trick-or-treat and/or wander around in the dark pretending to wreak havoc. So we cleaned. I cooked (vinaigrette coleslaw with black sesame seeds, crockpot pinto beans with onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, etc., pico de gallo). We even fired up the grill. We dressed like Joan Wilder and Jack T. Colton, complete with big green glass stone and homemade map of El Diablo. I even pre-made pitchers of homemade mix for making bloody margaritas and black martinis.

And if I'm going to do all that, despite the not-quite-finished status of somebody's book, then surely I can muster a daily blog post in the spirit of Vegan Mofo.

So, let's move on from Halloween, since it's now officially November. Let's embrace Vegan Month of Food (aka Vegan MoFo). Let's talk about squash.

Last year, I couldn't eat all the winter squash from my CSA. I got tired of it, frankly. It didn't charm the children. And although I love a good winter squash curry as much as the next girl, I couldn't get inspired by the Stripetti squash everybody always raves about. I thought it tasted watery and stringy. I had two-or-three-too-many butternut squashes--I was tapped out. And all those pretty little colorful squashes so perfect for stuffing with quinoa or chili or whatever ended up drying out and going bad (sin!). Many of those beautiful squashes, I'm sorry to say, ended up in the compost pile.

This year, I vowed to do a better job, and so far, so good. I've hidden the spaghetti squash in lasagna, I've dumped big forkfuls of the acorn squash puree into my oatmeal, etc. etc. But just the other day, I found a truly inspired idea in Hobby Farm Home. The article is "The Gourd Gourmet" by Adrianne L. Shtop, and although all the recipes look good and are almost effortlessly veganized, including Basic Baked Squash and Seeds, Squash-parsnip Bisque, Squash Poriyal, and Three Sisters Polenta, the recipe I'm most excited about is: Squash Truffles.

Squash...made into *candy*? Oh yeah. I've always loved squash most in its incarnation as a dessert, and this is an idea for squash I can really get behind. It brings back fond memories of the mashed potato candy I made years ago. I get a little weepy just thinking about it, the kind of weepy where I want to sit in a big armchair and stare out the window for a few hours while listening to Billie Holiday and smoking a cigarette. Except that I don't smoke.

So instead, today I'm going to make squash truffles. It requires an egg, but I'll try the flax route instead, or maybe the banana route, whichever seems in the moment like it will work the best. I'll post the results tomorrow.