Saturday, September 23, 2006

drinks...more drinks...and chili

It all started last weekend with my friend Mandy's bachelorette party in Chicago. It was a great time. I went up early with some of the girls and had a great day of super shopping with my partner in crime, Emily, and hung out with her family a bit. Then, Saturday night came where the sangria, mango margaritas, tequila shots, dirty martinis, beer, blow job shots and whiskey flowed like honey. It was wild n' crazy and so much fun...especially because the bars stay open and bumping so late in the city, so me and the 2 other wildest ladies stayed out until 5:30 our time...something that happened without our realizing it, which is the best part. How often can you party so effortlessly for 12 hours straight? Anyways, I blame it all on Mandy, a true top-notch bachelorette:Then, we all awoke tenderly...and slowly made our way out to a superb hangover breakfast at Glenn's Diner (in Ravenswood, I believe). I ordered the scrambled eggs with parmesan and chives along with a tasty potato pancake and some slammin' thick, soft, raisin toast with butter. It also happened to be my birthday, so the sneaky gals ordered me a short stack with a candle:That night, Chris made some Ghirardelli brownies with added peanut butter chips, and sang to me.Fast forward through one busy week of school, and we are ready for another weekend made for partying. Last night we had another wine gathering at our house, this time in honor of Chez Megane's return to Bloomington for a visit. Beforehand, a couple of fine ladies came over for a vegan dinner - Mandy clearly loves Tofutti sour cream :) I made this chili after hearing so much about it from my friend Emily, and then seeing it posted on Chez Megane's blog...I used the same spice combination, but veganized it and used a different combination of beans. It was delicious! I think in terms of texture at least, the results were fairly different, considering mine was really super thick, and the original seems to be a tad more soupy. The ladies brought over yummy bread and cheese, and made a beautiful salad of mache, radishes, yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, and (avocado). It was really good, and made me realize that I need to use mache and radishes more in salads. Quinoa and Three Bean Chili
adapted from this Epicurious recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onions chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 c. quinoa (for a thinner chili, try 1 c.)
1/4 cup chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 cups vegetable stock (or 3 c. water and one vegetarian bouillon cube)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
3 15-ounce cans of beans (I used black, garbanzo, and kidney), rinsed & drained
chopped fresh cilantro, parsley, chives, or green onions
soy sour cream

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Add quinoa; stir 1 minute. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves (which I didn't have, but would be delicious I'm sure), cocoa powder, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, stock and tomato sauce. Mix and bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. Ladle chili into bowls. Top with fresh herbs and sour cream. Serves 8.

After our delicious dinner, the wine started to flow, and although it was raining, we managed to find a point in the evening to start a modest fire and make s'mores as promised...and then we danced for the rest of the night to the tunes of D.J. Ninja RumbleKid. Now I have a couple of really pooped out kitties on my hands...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

i <3 new cookbooks :)

I FINALLY bought Vegan with a Vengeance the other night, and was so excited to cook from it. It looks like it is going to be a good book - nice flavors, new ingredients, and simple, straightforward recipes. Chris picked out a stuffed pepper recipe to start with, which I liked a lot. I guess the recipe is inspired by one that was found on the back of a box of veggie crumbles - - but because the cookbook is made without the use of prepackaged faux meat ingredients, she used quinoa and black beans instead - yum! The quinoa/black bean combination is not only a great source of protein, but it also tastes really good together, it's fast and easy to cook, and provides a nice textural appeal. As Giada would say, "...oooh....the beans are so smooooth and chrrreamy....and the toasted quinoa gives a little crrunch in your mouth." (that's for you, EBM)

Black Bean, Mushroom, and Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
slightly adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance

4 large bell peppers (any color)
2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 minced cloves of garlic
2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
1 T. chile powder
1 t. salt
1/4 c. water
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

1/2 c. quinoa
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
(optional) 1 t. maple syrup
(optional) fresh cilantro or parsley

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove the stems, seeds, and ribs. Decide if you would like to stuff the peppers whole standing up (nice presentation but not practical) or in halves laying down (not quite as pretty but much more practical) and slice or not slice accordingly. Place the peppers in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, remove, drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the onions and saute until the onions are becoming transluscent. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and saute for about 5 minutes more. Stir in the chile powder and salt, then add the quinoa, water, and 1 c. of the tomato sauce. Stir well to combine, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover for about 20 minutes, stirring once. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the beans and optional syrup to the quinoa mixture, then taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. At this time, you can also add a small handful of chopped fresh herbs
to the mixture if you would like. Stuff the peppers, top with the remaining sauce and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and top with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

Curried Carrot Bisque
I had to pick out a quick side to go with the peppers, and since it has been so grey lately, I was drawn to this sunny soup. It's got an amazing flavor, vegan or not - I just LOVE anything made with coconut milk and curry powder. It's really easy to make - if you want to be super lazy you can even just buy grated bagged carrots and use those with barely any prep work. You can get this recipe at the Post Punk Kitchen site, which has a lot of other recipes from the book (and elsewhere). I highly recommend this, so go right now.

In other news, in case you haven't read the Dining Out section of today's NYTimes, I just wanted to draw your attention to these great articles on tea (yay for new and improved tea bags!), coffee (yay for artisinal latte patterns!), and the Eating Well section (yay for spraying viruses on cold cuts instead of cleaning the factories!).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

a winey weekend...

This weekend, we ended up having a little last minute wine gathering at our house (which was so much fun!). My time window to cook and eat dinner beforehand was really small, and I hadn't planned anything, so I just picked up some veggies at the grocery store to throw in the oven. It made me remember how much I love having plates of just vegetables for meals - it's simple, really tasty, and super healthy, of course.
With the oven at 400 degrees, I put two sweet potatoes (cut into 4 wedges each) in the oven for about 20 minutes, then added a bunch of asaparagus (with the ends trimmed) and 2 sliced shallots to the oven, tossed with a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Everything will finish roasting in about 10-15 minutes. I put the asparagus on a bed of mixed greens, topped the sweet potato wedges with butter, lime, chili, salt and pepper, and enjoyed it quickly before my peeps arrived for an evening of fun...

Then, I woke up in the morning, one fire pit, 8 bottles of wine, several crown and cokes, lots of s'mores, and a few beers later...and headed off to....Oliver Winery. Yes, Chris and I were both feeling semi-nasty in the morning, but it was worth it. Some of the girls in the Arts Administration program organized a tasting and pitch-in picnic, and it was lots of fun. We chose super-fruity light wines to taste, because I simply couldn't handle drinking anything too heavy...and then settled on a bottle of Savignon Blanc, which was really good. I decided to bring this white bean dip to share, which has sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and a bit of heat to keep it interesting. It was really tasty and easy to make, and the leftovers will make an excellent filling with veggies in pita pockets.
Provencal White Bean Dip
adapted from The Foster's Market Cookbook

2 15 oz. cans of cannelini beans, rinsed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 jalapeno pepper
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes (I used those packed in oil, if dried, plump in hot water before using)
2 T. drained capers
juice of 1 lime
1 t. hot sauce
1/2 T. dried oregano (or 2 T. fresh oregano)
1 t. salt
1/2. t. freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the onion to 400 degrees. Toss garlic cloves and whole jalapeno pepper with 2 T. of the oil and place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until soft and light golden brown. Slice jalapeno in half and remove the stem, seeds, and skin. Fit a food processer with the metal blade attachment, add all of the ingredients to the bowl of the processer, and puree until smooth. Serve with crostini, pita, or crudites or use on sandwiches.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Gonna Go Back in Tiiieeeme

Yes, I have been a horrible blogger. The truth is, now that I am back in school, and no longer chained to a desk chair, suckling on internet pop culture to survive each day (yes, part of me misses that)...I find it more difficult to sit down and do this when I know I have hundreds of pages to be reading and papers to be writing. So, I thank you for your patience. Stay with me, you few readers of mine, and I will strive to post more often than I have been. Also, my fellow classmates and I are looking into speed-reading techniques, so that should help...if it works out.

With that out of the way, let's get this time travel thing off the ground. Starting from this week and going backwards, I present to you (didillidilldoo, didillidilldoo, didillidilldoo, didillidilldoo, didillidilldoo,.....):

Macaroni n' Sneeze
I got a really nasty cold this week, and this super simple feast of deliciousness hit the spot. The best part is that it reminds me of my family's potato and onion pierogis, without the hours of intensive labor. It's from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and consisted of just a few simple ingredients...
- 2 sliced onions sauteed until beginning to brown in 2-3 T. of the oil/butter of your choice
- 4 potatoes (I used Yukon which was fantastic) diced up and boiled until just fork-tender
- a pound of macaroni (I used whole wheat - also fantastic) boiled in the potato water after they are fished out
- a cup or two of grated Gruyere (I used a .4 lb chunk)
- a big 'ol handful of chopped parsley
- salt n' pepper
It's super easy - saute onions, boil potatoes, boil macaroni, toss in bowl with everything.

I do have a couple of
- Deborah suggested pouring the onions on top of the other mixed ingredients, but I say mix it all, so your leftovers will also have onions.
- When the potatoes are done, and the pasta is boiling, cover those potatoes in the bowl with plastic wrap - "keep 'em hot"
- Definitely eat this with a salad, preferably one with apples on it, or better yet, saute apples with your onions. Believe me, the apple combo is one you will not regret.
- Also better yet, why not add green beans, or peas, or broccoli, or....? (but not with the apples)
- A pat of butter or drizzle of oil won't hurt the mixture either :)

Nut Butter French Toast
In my quest to use less eggs, I haven't actually bought eggs in a while. So, when I decided to whip up a batch of french toast the other day, I just looked at a few recipes online and made up my own conconction with what I had. A lot of vegan recipes use tofu (which I didn't have) or bananas (which I hate), so I used peanut butter. Although not exactly a substitute for eggy french toast, the peanut butter worked nicely and was a good twist on the breakfast classic. It works well in terms of texture, but it does stick to the pan more than regular french toast does, so prepare the pan accordingly. Next time, I think I'll top it with jam and crushed peanuts.
Place the following ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth:
- 1/4 c. nut butter
- 2/3 c. soy milk

- 1 t. cinnamon
- 1/2 t. nutmeg
- 1/2 t. vanilla
That's it! I think you know the drill from there...

Coconut-Crusted Tofu Salad
I went out to dinner with my friend Emily at Upland Brewing Company a couple of weeks ago, and we split an amazing combo of the tofu salad (coconut-breaded deep fried tofu on salad greens with tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts and cucumbers) and the famous mac n' cheese. I love coconut-crusted I whipped up my own version of the salad. I think I need to do some research into the best way to coat tofu to get maximum coconut coverage, but other than that - this was really tasty. The salad at Upland was served with their amazing homemeade orange-ginger vineagrette. Since I had a bottle of sesame orange dressing on hand, I just used that, but any sweet-ish asian inspitred dressing would do. Enjoy!

- 1 package of extra firm tofu, drained, cut into pieces, and rolled in soy milk and sweetened dried coconut, and toasted to a golden brown in a non-stick pan with a tablespoon or two of oil
- salad greens
- sliced red bell pepper

- shredded carrots
- bean sprouts
- sugar snap peas
- dry roasted peanuts
- thinly sliced scallions

Double Berry Smoothie
So, there is not much to this - strawberries, blueberries (thanks E & A!), soy milk and ice in a blender. I made this when it was still officially August in celebration of the fleeting days of summer...which are almost gone now. I decided after making this that I need to make more smoothies with fun recipes, so let me know if you have any good ones.

Giada's Sausage, Peppers, and Onions
I made this after watching the Everyday Italian episode, "Italian Street Food," so this recipe was intended to be served on sandwiches. For dinner, I decided some whole wheat pasta was a better fit. I know a lot of us like to poke fun at poor Giada, but every time I have made a recipe of hers, I have liked it. Granted, she makes a LOT of meat, much of it being roasts and shoulders and the like that isn't easily replicated with soy or gluten, so I can't speak for that. Anyways, I encourage you all to have this recipe for sausage, peppers, and onions at the very least. She has a tendency to do things that are so simple, but that I might not have thought of if I were attempting the same thing from scratch - like tomato paste (which I find I LOVE in dishes like this) and wine. Simple, inexpensive ingredients....but she usually layers a lot of flavors for good depth of flavor in the final product. One note about the substitute meat that I used here - they were out of my favorite Boca Italian Sausage, so I tried Tofurkey Italian Sausage...and I don't recommend. The flavor was good and spicy, but the texture was like a damp kitchen sponge. Me no likey. Use something else (unless you like that damp kitchen sponge feel in your mouth).

I hope you have enjoyed this trip going back in tiiiieeeme (didillidilldoo,
didillidilldoo, didillidilldoo, didillidilldoo, didillidilldoo,.....).

Saturday, September 02, 2006