Friday, June 23, 2006


You Are an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

On the surface, you're a little plain - but you have many subtle dimensions to your personality.
Sometimes you're down to earth and crunchy. Other times, you're sweet and a little gooey.

You Are a Boston Creme Donut

You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.
But on the inside, you're a total pushover and completely soft.
You're a traditionalist, and you don't change easily.
You're likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it's sold out.

Veggie Pizza

Upscale and trendy.
You're the most likely to go for a gourmet pizza.
You have impeccable taste in everything.
You truly enjoy the finer things in life.

You Are Pumpkin Pie

You're the perfect combo of uniqueness and quality
Those who like you are looking for something (someone!) special

You Are Tofu

Okay, so you aren't exactly meat. And that's fine with you. Even if people think you're a bit bland.
There's a good chance you're veg - and even if you aren't, you secretly think meat is gross.

You Are a Martini

There's no other way to say it: you're a total lush.
You hold your liquor well, and you hold a lot of it!

I was trying to keep it food related...but I couldn't resist this one...
Your Stripper Song Is

I'm a Slave 4 U by Britney Spears

"I'm a slave for you. I cannot hold it; I cannot control it.
I'm a slave for you. I won't deny it; I'm not trying to hide it."

You may seem shy, but you can let your wild side out when you want to!

Thanks, Megan! Whoa, those things are addicting!

"The Best Dogs Ever"

That is what my husband said after eating his dinner in near silence (a few moans, groans, and occassional mumbles leaked out). Man, it was heavenly. When he suggested "hot dogs!" for dinner, I don't think he was imagining these beauties. I was in the mood to cook, and I knew we were out of buns, so I looked around for something to put the dogs in. While researching online, I came across information on traditional Chicago-style hot dogs, and I knew we had to give them a try.

Since we were not going to be able to find particularly good poppy seed buns in Bloomington, I decided that the buns would be where I would work my magic (it usually is.....bu-dum-ching!). Although I swore off baking yeast breads just a week and a half ago after a disasterous pretzel-dog incident, I thought I would give it one last go. This time, I would not substitute whole wheat flour for white flour - and I would not buy the Hodgson Mill yeast that did not rise last time (even though it is specifically made for whole wheat doughs). The result was beautiful! The dough was great - it behaved just as it should have - it was not sticky, did not require a lot of flour while I was working with it, could be kneaded in my mixer, and produced really great tasting, tender results. It was definitely worth the minimal effort. I got the recipe at the King Arthur Flour website, which I will be using in the future - they have an enormous recipe collection!

OK - so on to the dogs. Chicago-style dogs are Vienna beef franks in natural casings, which obviously doesn't fly in my household. We LOVE Quorn dogs, which Chris tried with this, and loved (all Quorn products are made from a fungi-derived protein, and the products are fantastic - I cannot say enough about them). I tried a Boca Bratwurst on mine, which was delicious, of course. When I discovered the joy of soy sausage (which I have coined "soysage") my life changed, what can I say? Either way, it's great - the dogs leave more room for you to pile on the toppings, while the brats add their own spicy flavor to the mix.
The two links that we used contain egg whites and are not vegan, but there are obviously vegan options out there. The discovery that my favorite soysages contain egg whites is one of the reasons that I know I can't go all the way vegan anytime soon.

After you have your dog tucked into a warm, soft poppyseed roll, ready to be stuffed, get your assembly line ready. From what I have read, the traditional Chicago-style dog needs to be "dragged through the garden" of 7 toppings, added to the dog in this very particular order:

1. Yellow Mustard (I had brown on hand, which worked great for me)
2. Sweet Pickle Relish
3. Chopped White Onions
4. 1 Kosher Dill Pickle Spear
5. Fresh Tomato Slices (I found that romas were a great size for this)
6. 2 Serrano Sport Peppers (a little too hot for me, so I opted for hot banana peppers instead)
7. Celery Salt sprinkled on top
8. Crack open an ice cold Miller Lite tallboy, spoon some beans and slaw onto that plate, and enjoy your food-gasm :)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Apple Walnut Spice Muffins

I wanted a nutritious muffin to have around the house for breakfasts this week, so I worked out this uber healthy solution. They are vegan and oil free, so there are no added fats. This, of course, means that they are a bit more dense than their buttery cousins...but for breakfast, I would rather skip the fatty bakery items to know I am putting good things into my body (at least most of the time). If you want a fluffier muffin, you could try substituting some of the whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose flour, or adding oil in lieu of some of the applesauce - but of course, these work for me just the way they are.

Apple Walnut Spice Muffins
Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

Wet Ingredients:
2 heaping T. ground flax meal
1/4 c. soymilk
1 c. applesauce
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4. c. maple syrup (or up the brown sugar to 1/2 c.)
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced or grated

1/2 c. chopped walnuts (if not using walnuts, you could add a second diced or grated apple)

Strudel Topping:
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift or whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flax meal and soymilk until combined, then add the applesauce, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Mix well, then add the apple. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients until just combined, then fold in the chopped walnuts (if using). Divide the batter evenly among 12 lined muffin cups. Stir the brown sugar and oats together to make the strudel topping, and sprinkle over the filled muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.

p.s. Happy Anniversary C!

Monday, June 19, 2006

a lil' trip to Chi-town...

This past week, my husband was participating in the Steans Institute for Young Artists jazz program at Ravinia, so my parents and I headed up to Chicago to see him over the weekend. We had a great time...and I thought I would share some of the culinary highlights here. There was one restaurant in particular, called Russian Tea Time, that just made the trip for me. My mother's family is Polish, and although the cuisine is different, there are certainly similar flavors in Polish and Russian cooking. For that reason, we were all just reeling from the cabbage and beets and potato was so good and very reminiscent of some of our family favorites.

We started out the right way - with vodka shots. They serve them ICY cold with a piece of black bread, a slice of pickle, and very specific instructions on how to take the shots. I won't go into all the details (it is on their website), but they were the best shots I have ever had. With over 60 different vodkas to choose from, it was a lot of fun, and something you could do all night if you were up for it. Among those tasted at our table were the house-flavored Stoli coriander, lime, horseradish, ginger, and black currant tea (pictured below).

Then, I warmed up with a cup of Ukranian borscht, which is very different from the cold beet-based variety that I was expecting. It was a delectable vegetable stew of beets, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes, served with just a little bit of sour cream. The vegetables were chunky and substantial, and the flavors were robust with Ukranian goodness. As good as it was, I can't lie - it didn't compare with the vodka. After that, my mom and I split a combination of potato and pumpkin vareniky, which are half-moon shaped dumplings (similar to pierogis) that are boiled. The pumpkin dumplings were filled with a mixture of pumpkin, farmer's cheese, garlic, onion, and then sauteed lightly in a cinnamon butter; the potato had a very simple potato filling and were also sauteed lightly with butter. We also split a kartofelnik, which is a baked potato patty that was stuffed with cabbage, onions, and was good. My dad had golbtsi, which is a traditional stuffed cabbage with ground beef and vegetables. My mom used to make a similar dish for us when I was younger, so I think I might try to come up with a vegetarian version sometime soon. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of any of the entrees - we just dug right in and devoured everything in a frenzy before we knew it. I think I even might have blacked out.

Considering the restaurant is named Russian Tea Time, we had to get tea and their pastry sampler after dinner. I had the house Russian tea, which is a combination of ceylon, darjeeling, and black currant teas, served in the glass on the left. It was delicious - a perfect end to the meal - and it helped that the wait staff was constantly keeping it warm and filling it to the top. My mom ordered a pot of the citron green, which was served in a super-cute English teapot. We sat for a while, sipping our tea, and noshing on cookies and pastries until we had reached our absolute maximum intake levels - it was fabulous.
Although I don't think much can compare to the experience we had at Russian Tea Time, I did have a really spectacular brunch on my way out of town on Sunday at Wishbone in the West Loop area. They describe their style of food as "southern reconstruction cooking," and they had a wide selection of appetizing and affordable selections on their brunch menu. I got the Corn Cakes, pictured here, which were soft and fluffy cornmeal pancakes with fresh corn and scallions baked into the batter. They were served with a sweet red pepper sauce which complimented it really nicely. The cheese grits that my husband ordered were really fantastic as well, obviously made with a lot of great-tasting, sharp cheddar cheese. Being from North Carolina, grits are a breakfast staple that we don't see much of in Indiana.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


The other night, I was looking for something, quick, easy, vegetable-filled, and healthy - this fit the bill. It is a vegan moussaka out of Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, which she adapted from Nada Saleh's Fragrance of the Earth. Unlike the layered Greek moussaka most commonly found in the U.S., this is adapted from a Lebanese recipe that is sans cheesy white sauce, and is more like a vegetable stew or capponata. I served it over bulgur wheat (to cook, pour 2 1/2 c. boiling water over 1 c. bulgur wheat and let sit until all of the water is absorbed) that I tossed with the juice of one lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper and chopped mint and Italian parsley. I think the moussaka would be fantastic over whole-wheat pasta, couscous, brown rice, or just served with "lots of bread" as Nigella suggests. It can also be served hot or cold, and I think it would be great with the addition of other vegetables if you have them on hand (traditional veggies include green peppers, zucchini, carrots, and potatoes). This is a great chop-and-add to the pan kind of meal, so aside from the time needed to simmer, you can put this together in 20 minutes with time in between sautes to clean up.

slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat
Preheat 3 T. olive oil over medium heat in a wide-rimmed saute pan. Cut a 1 lb. eggplant into 1-inch pieces and saute in the pan for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until golden brown. Remove the eggplant and reserve for later use. Add 2 T. olive oil to the pan, and then add 1 thinly sliced medium onion, and 1 head of garlic, with the cloves peeled and roughly chopped. Saute the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes, until softened and pale in color. Add 1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes. Then, as an optional step, add 1 1/2 T. pomegranate molasses to the pan (I had pomegranate juice, and so I added 3 T. and could not really taste it - I would suggest upping the measurement even further if you are using juice). Return the reserved eggplant to the pan along with 1 lb. peeled, seeded, and quartered tomatoes (I used canned), 1 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. allspice, 1/4 t. black pepper, and 1 c. of water. Bring the ingredients to a boil, and quickly reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Season to taste and top with chopped fresh parsley, coriander, and/or mint.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Johnnycakes for Vito

I spent all day yesterday sick on the couch, and was able to catch up on some episodes of The Sopranos that I have been missing. Vito left New Jersey to hide out in small-town New Hampshire, and ended up settling down temporarily with a hot cook at a diner that makes him johnnycakes for breakfast. Watching Vito get served tall stacks of these cornmeal beauties every morning got me hungry for some. I have never had johnnycakes before, but I just sort of winged it after reading several recipes. The result was a really nice treat - more dense than a typical pancake, crispy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. It is essentially a cornbread pancake - traditionally made with white cornmeal (I think) but I only had yellow cornmeal on hand, which worked nicely. I also had some frozen raspberries, which I defrosted and served on the johnnycakes along with my favorite Morningstar Farms Veggie Breakfast Sausage Patties (not Vegan) and plenty of maple syrup. R.I.P. Vito.
Vito's Johnnycakes
Mix 2/3 c. cornmeal, 1/3 c. flour, 1/2 T. salt, and 1 T. sugar in a bowl with a fork. Add 1 c. boiling water to the bowl, stir until combined, and let rest for about 10 minutes while the cornmeal absorbs the water and softens. Preheat griddle to medium heat with oil or butter/margarine. Slowly add soymilk to the cornmeal mixture until it is thinned to batter consistancy. Stir until batter is smooth and soymilk is mixed in. Add to the hot griddle as you would a pancake, and cook on each side until firm and golden brown. Makes 7-8 four-inch cakes.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sesame-Ginger Tofu

I love cooking tofu - it's such a miracle food that is quick and easy to cook by almost any cooking method, and it doesn't leave you with a bacteria-laden meat ooze to clean up. This is a super simple dinner that can be put together in about 20 minutes. It has a great light flavor throughout (I know the tofu looks like sesame candy in this picture, but it is not super-sweet) that works so well with the accompanying veggies. I recommend tasting and adjusting the sauce to your liking - I like to add a dash of this or that to balance it out at the end.

Sesame-Ginger Tofu
Drain the liquid from 1 lb. of tofu, turn on its side and slice into 3 layers, then cut the layers into quarters (you will have 12 square-ish pieces). Lay the tofu on a baking sheet lined with 3 layers of paper towels and top with 3 layers of paper towels. Press the tofu between the paper towels with your hands, then leave the tofu dry on the towels while you prep the other ingredients.

Pour 2/3 c. sesame seeds into a small dish. Coat each piece of tofu with the seeds, pressing to coat each side. Heat 1 1/2 T. peanut or sesame oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add tofu slices to the pan. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until the seeds are starting to brown and the edges of the tofu become crisp. When the tofu is done, remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe any stray sesame seeds from the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and add 2 T. peanut or sesame oil to the pan. Peel and mince 3-4 cloves of garlic and a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger and add to the pan until beginning to turn golden brown. Add 1/2 c. Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce), 3 T. rice wine vinegar, the juice from one orange, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (optional) and 4 T. light brown sugar to the pan. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is starting to bubble. Add the tofu pieces to the pan until coated in the liquid and heated through. Remove the warm tofu from the pan and reserve the remaining sauce.

Amino-Glazed Broiled Carrots

Peel and trim the ends from 1 lb. of carrots. Cut each carrot into 3 sections, and slice the bigger pieces lengthwise into 2 smaller pieces. You want substantial chunks, as they will shrink in size under the broiler. Toss with 2 T. sesame or peanut oil, 2 T. Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce), and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and broil for 5-7 minutes until softened and beginning to brown and caramelize from the heat.

To serve, cook one package of udon noodles according to package instructions and toss with the remaining tofu sauce. Top the dressed noodles with the broiled carrots, freshly steamed broccoli, and tofu. Garnish with thinly sliced scallions and lime slices, if desired.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Decadent, eh? Everything in the bowl is vegan - gooey, fudgy, brownies....So Delicious Mint Marble Fudge...and my make-it-up-as-you-go chocolate sauce. I thought it was great. could tell that the brownies didn't have eggs in them...I suppose. But really, they held their own. The top was kind of fudgy with a little crispy bite to it, and the inside was fairly cakey and moist, but also very rich and oozey. There are chocolate chips mixed into the batter (and I sprinkled some on top), but they kind of sank to the bottom and created a lava-like base for the brownie. I'm looking forward to trying them cooled when the chocolate chips are no longer warm and will most likely add some texture to the brownies. I think these would be very good with the crunch of some added nuts, too. I got the recipe here, but I'll go ahead and rewrite it in the post. Enjoy!

Rusty's Chocolate Vegan Brownies

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and generously oil a 9"x12" glass baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 c. sugar, 3/4 t. baking powder, 1 1/2 t. baking soda and 1 t. salt. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 c. chocolate soy milk and 1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and thoroughly mix. Fold in 1/3 - 1/2 c. chocolate chips (and/or nuts). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (mine baked for almost 45 minutes, so just watch it). Makes 12 generous servings.

Erin's make-it-up-as-you-go Chocolate Sauce

In a small saucepan, bring 2/3 c. filtered water and 1/3 c. sugar to a quick simmer until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder until dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add 1 c. chocolate chips, stirring until chips are melted. If needed, place pan over low heat to aid in the melting process. Add 1/2 - 1 t. corn starch (depending on desired thickness) and whisk until dissolved. Serve warm over a decadent dessert.

Monday, June 05, 2006


I don't know if there is much I enjoy more in life than hearty, whole-grain breakfast breads. There is something pleasantly carb-y about breakfast, and I just love filling the house with toasty whole wheat smells on weekend mornings. I recently made a vegan coconut orange muffin recipe that I absolutely loved, and since I had oranges and shredded coconut on hand, I decided to make orange-coconut-pecan waffles. Mmm....they were really delicious. Not as light as my mom's favorite waffle recipe (which requires beating and folding egg whites into the batter)...but very good, hearty, and fiber-rich.

Orange-Coconut-Pecan Waffles

In a large bowl, whisk together:
2 c. whole wheat pastry flour, 3 T. baking powder, 1/2 t. salt, and 1 t. cinnamon.

In a blender, puree the following until smooth:
1/2 c. orange juice, 1 c. soy milk, 1/2 c. applesauce, 1 t. orange zest, the segments from one orange (don't worry about the pith - just remove the peel and any seeds), 2 T. melted margarine, 1 heaping T. ground flax meal, 1/2 t. vanilla, 3 T. brown sugar (these are not very sweet - add more brown sugar if you like)

Add the blended ingredients to the dry ingredients in the bowl, and stir until just combined. Add 1/2 c. sweetened or unsweetened coconut (I used unsweetened) and 1/3 c. chopped pecans. If the mixture is too dry, add a touch of soy milk or applesauce. Cook on a waffle iron brushed with vegetable oil and serve warm topped with coconut, pecans and syrup!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Resurrection

Left with very few crepes and lots of spinach-basil sauce and tofu "cheese" from the chickpea crepe incident, I decided to resurrect the leftovers into a simple one-pot meal. It was a no-brainer, really, pesto + "feta" = mediterranean pasta. So, I tossed some whole-wheat rotini with the pesto, some chopped sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, kalamata olives, and the tofu cheese from the night before. I was very pleased with the results - super simple, tasty, protein-filled pasta, and I did not miss the cheese at all. And, it made a fantastic lunch today served cold over mixed greens. I am particularly happy with the pesto, because it is mainly comprised of spinach, not basil. Because there is still a generous amount of basil in the pesto, the flavor is still there, while the spinach provides extra vitamins, antioxidents, folic acid, etc. that would otherwise not be present in the basil pesto (right?). Also, the recipe calls for 1/2 c. of water, which liquifies the pesto without using large amounts of oil.

Spinach-Basil Sauce
from The Voluptuous Vegan
Prep and wash 3/4 lb. fresh spinach and using only the water on the leaves, cook down in a skillet until wilted and bright green (OR use a defrosted 10 oz. package of frozen spinach) and transfer to a blender. Saute 1 finely chopped medium onion and 3 minced garlic cloves in 2 T. olive oil until softened and lightly browned, and transfer to the blender with the spinach. Add 1 c. fresh basil leaves, 1 chopped scallion, 1 t. mellow barley miso, 1 jalapeno (stem and seeds removed), 1/2 c. water, 2 T. pine nuts, 2 T. olive oil, and 1 t. sea or kosher salt to the blender and blend until smooth. If desired, add stir in 2 T. chopped fresh oregano by hand after blending. Add 2 T. lemon juice no more than one hour before serving (or just before serving if using pesto on more than one occassion), and be sure to heat gently, so as not to discolor it.
This was my first attempt at tofu "cheese" and I was quite excited to give it a try. Don't get me wrong, I do love cheese, but in moderation. For me, a little goes a long way, and that is just my personal taste preference. I love the idea of using tofu instead, because I get all those soy-licious qualities without even the risk of getting an upset stomach (tmi?). So, Chris likened this to "feta" although it does not have that strong of a flavor, so it could be very versatile. The tarragon adds a nice fresh flavor that would be good on salads, sandwiches, or of course, pasta dishes, among other things.

Tofu "Cheese"
from The Voluptuous Vegan
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Drain and cut 1 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu into 1-inch cubes and place in a pot of simmering, lightly salted water for 5 minutes. Remove tofu from water, drain, pat dry and place in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk 3 T. olive oil, 2 T. fresh lemon juice, 1 minced garlic clove, 2 t. mellow barley miso, and salt and pepper to taste until combined, and pour over the tofu. Mash the mixture with a fork or potato masher until the liquid has been absorbed and curds have formed, and stir in 1 T. chopped fresh tarragon and 1 T. chopped fresh chives (I used scallion). Place the mixture in a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tofu starts to brown.