Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More like SlowFo, am I right?

Ah! Where did Monday go? We had an exciting outing... I took the Emperor on the bus for the very first time. This is a big thing, as I don't drive (at all) so once my husband is back at work full time, we'll be taking the bus basically anywhere we want to go other than the grocery store that's in walking distance. We were only out for about four hours total (maybe five) but it felt like about a century.

Today we went out AGAIN-- this time for about eight hours (!) while my husband went to work for a day. Excitement all around. I'm kind of fried now, though, so... no real post until tomorrow.

My plans for the rest of the week involve staying home all day (Thursday and Friday) and going to the farmer's market (tomorrow). Really. I don't think I'm going to do anything else. We need to rest.

That should give me ample time to catch up on MoFo posts! My goal was to get 20 done during October, and that's only four more to go.

I think that they'll be:

My favorite vegan beers
Something to do with persimmons
A post about whatever I bring home from the farmer's market tomorrow
A whirlwind tour of my favorite vegan-friendly food places in Santa Cruz

But we'll see!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MoFo Day 16: Simple delicious peanut sauce

So we've discovered that Emperor Babykins seems to be sensitive to almonds. Every time I eat almonds, he gets super fussy, and then he gets a rash in an unpleasant place. I stop eating almonds, he goes back to normal, rash goes away.

This is extremely sad for me, as I put almond milk in virtually everything and almonds are one of my all time favorite snacks. (Interestingly, I don't like almond butter.)

I was casting about yesterday, trying to think of things that I like to eat that are made with soy milk rather than almond milk. My mind must have been in total nut mode, because what came to mind was udon with peanut sauce. Mmm.

Now, I don't like peanuts. I think I've told you this before. They're the only nut I can think of that I'm not particularly thrilled by. (Eh, I can go either way on Brazil nuts, actually. Sometimes I really like them, sometimes I think they're very boring.) They're... dull. Insipid. There's nothing wrong with them exactly. There's just nothing right, either.

So you might think it's weird to hear that I like peanut sauce a LOT. My husband called me on this the other day after I posted peanuts as a food dislike, and I had to stop and think about it. You know why peanut sauce is good? Because peanuts are just a base. They contribute a little to the flavor and a lot to the texture. Most of the flavor actually comes from what you put in your peanut sauce!

My basic peanut goes something like this:

~1c soy milk
1/4c peanut butter
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
several cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1-2 tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
a single squeeze (maybe 2 tsps?) agave nectar

Mix it all together over low heat, then taste. It should be creamy in texture... not so thick that it forms clumps on your noodles, not so thin that it just slides off. If it's too thin, add more peanut butter OR let it simmer to reduce. If it's too thick, add more soy milk.

See! Super easy. We made this last night (swapping off mincing duties and Emperor-watching) and served it over udon, swiss chard, and plain broiled tofu.

Mmmm. Tastes like lazy!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Too tired for a real post today...

Instead, here's a picture of the Emperor!

I'll MoFo sometime this weekend.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

MoFo Day 15: Why I'm still cooking, blogging, etc

So this is a post I've been turning over in my head for about a week now. (It feels like forever. Boy, days seem really long lately.) A lot of people keep saying things to me like "wow! I can't believe you're cooking with a newborn!" or "wow! I can't believe you're already leaving the house with your two week old!" or "wow! You must be some sort of superlady to still be blogging!"

The truth is that I'm not any sort of superlady. What I actually am is terrified of succumbing to post partum depression.

In my day to day life, I suffer from more or less permanent low level depression. The way I like to explain it to people is that it's like my "normal" is on par with the average person's "sorta low." My baseline starts out lower. This doesn't mean I'm super depressed all the time. I'm not. But it means that I'm a lot closer to seriously depressed than the average person is on a day to day basis. It takes less to push me into a major depression than it would for many people, and it's harder for me to climb back out of such a depression.

When I hit upon this way of thinking about it many many years ago, it changed my life. I realized that I don't HAVE to be seriously depressed all the time... but I have to make a concerted effort to keep my mood from getting too low. I need to be proactive. It's like how when you start to get a migraine, you need to take painkillers right away, before the headache gets really bad. I have to do that with my emotions, if that makes any sense.

(As an aside, it doesn't always work, of course. Depression isn't JUST a matter of will. I firmly believe in the chemical/physical nature of it, and I really dislike people who imply that depression is just some sort of excuse or something.)

My pattern of depression often goes like this: I stop doing little tasks because I'm depressed and that makes them difficult or unappealing. Then, because I stop doing the little things, they start piling up. I get anxious because of how many piles of little stuff I have waiting to get done. Then I start to feel totally incapable, like I _can't_ do these little things. Then I feel like a useless person. This makes my depression worse, so I stop doing even MORE things. And it just spirals on and on until I'm basically hiding alone in the house in bed all day.

So it's extremely important for me to NOT STOP doing the little things. I need to keep washing the dishes. I need to keep showering. I need to go see my friends in town. I need to pick up the phone when it rings. I need to brush my hair. Because if I stop doing any of these things, I'm that much closer to losing my grip on my real life.

Cooking is an important part of all of this. It's important because it meets basic needs, y'know, eating and all that. It's also important because it's something I genuinely enjoy doing. It's also something that I know that I do well, which is also an important part of the staying not depressed strategy... I need to do things that make me feel like I have some worth and like I'm good at something.

Does that make sense? This is a lot longer and more rambling than I expected it to be.

So far I think I'm doing a pretty good job of fighting off the depression. Do I feel lower than usual? Yes. I'm stressed out. I'm not sleeping well. (Well, duh.) I cry more or less every day, and more of these tearfests feature hysterical wailing than I really care to admit. I spend a significant amount of time feeling hopeless and stressing out about all of my effing medical bills. (Anyone who thinks the health care/insurance system in the US isn't broken should talk to me about my current insurance debacle, seriously.) I'm really, really unhappy with the state of my body and have settled on basically just trying not to look at myself where possible. And I periodically think that Emperor Babykins hates me, for no reason I can pinpoint.

This is doing well? Yeah, this is doing well. I'm still bathing. I get out of bed. I'm eating. I'm talking to people as much as I can. I'm trying not to shut down and get reclusive.

I'm doing what I can. I'm still cooking. And that's all I can do. I just need to ride the rest of this out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MoFo Day 14: Autumn Vegetables and Tofu Roast

Towards the end of last year, I had the awesome opportunity to be a tester for Joanna Vaught, the author of Yellow Rose Recipes, one of my all time very favorite cookbooks. Joanna was working on a book that's now going to be a zine instead and I just happened to be in the first x number of people on the PPK to post in the testing thread. I tried out a lot of the recipes she posted at the time and mostly had great success with them. When the zine comes out, you better believe I will be pimping it out left and right and pointing out all the delicious things in it that I've tried before!

All this is just backstory to tell you how I came across the awesome dinner that I put together tonight. Autumn Vegetables and Tofu Roast was one of the test recipes. I'm not sure when I actually made it, if it was the end of 2008 or if it was 2009 already. But the sad fact of the matter is that I made it once and then aside from reheating frozen portions of it, I never made it again. Wah! I have thought about it a lot and recommended it to a lot of people, though, and finally tonight I got around to making it a second time!

Tonight I used parsnips, butternut squash, and yams as my fall vegetables, and fresh sage and oregano as my spices. I doubled the recipe, making roughly a metric butt ton of deliciousness. It's just finishing cooking now and let me tell you, my house smells delicious.

Anyway, you should follow the link to the recipe above and consider making this yourself! It's very easy. I managed to put it together while my gentleman entertained Emperor Babykins for about half an hour. If a lady with a crabby baby can make it, you can too! (Unless you're a lady with two or more crabby babies, in which case, sorry!) Not only is it fast and easy... it's also delicious... filling... and healthy.

And if you use all in-season produce from your local farmer's market or other source of cheap vegetables, it's cheap, too! A double batch (which is eight VERY generous adult portions) cost me about $12 in supplies, and $6 of that was the tofu.

Basically a perfect dinner in every way. Highly recommended!

MoFo Day 13: Tofu Yu Garlic Pepper Tofu

This is my Tuesday post... on Wednesday. Sheesh, I can't believe October is 2/3rds of the way over already! Sure has been a busy month around my house. It is sort of amazing that I have even managed 13 blog posts so far!

The Emperor continues to do well. He's about 12 pounds now. We took him to a new parents group at the birth center he was born at yesterday. The group is for 0-3 month old babies. Most of the other babies there were at the 3 month end of the spectrum... and he was bigger than most of them! Oh my! See, you can be vegan and have a healthy roly poly vegan baby.

Anyway, that's all the baby talk for the moment. Today's real topic: Tofu Yu Garlic Pepper Tofu! Tofu Yu is a tofu company up in Berkeley. I saw their tofu at the store yesterday morning. It was labelled a bit erroneously as a local product. Berkeley's not really local to us. I mean, it's closer than Colorado or Mozambique but it's still not exactly local.

Local or no, their stuff seems to be a new entry into the tofusphere around here and you know I'm a sucker for trying new things. I actually don't usually buy flavored tofu, because I am extremely cheap and it's not like I don't know how to marinate tofu. (Smoked tofu, though... I'd buy it more if I wasn't so cheap, because I _don't_ smoke my own.) What caught my eye was a package of tofu balls by Tofu Yu that looked really tasty. Plus, ball shaped! But they cost like $6 a package so I started casting around to see if there was anything else interesting in the tofu case.

And that's when my eyes hit on the Garlic Black Pepper tofu. Ooooh. I've only just recently started to be able to eat garlic again-- it made me horribly horribly ill throughout my entire pregnancy. Very sad. Garlic is one of my very favorite things on earth, as is black pepper, so this tofu sounded pretty tasty to me. The package was fairly small, maybe 12 ounces? It cost around $3, which is as much as I usually pay for 20oz of plain firm tofu. Not impossibly expensive, but still a bit of a treat.

The tofu is heavily flecked with black pepper. It's got a pretty thick layer on top, and then more pepper distributed throughout the rest of the block. The tofu has a pleasant smell right off the bat... you get a nice whiff of garlic. Not overwhelming, but enticing. Since I usually use the super extra firm (or whatever) Wildwood tofu these days, I was a little surprised by how much liquid the Tofu Yu tofu had and how crumbly the texture of the tofu was. I had a little trouble slicing it up without accidentally crumbling it, but managed to do okay in the end.

I prepared it by broiling it, because broiled tofu is the best. (No arguments!) I brushed it with a very small amount of soy sauce ahead of time, broiled one side for 7 minutes, flipped, brushed, broiled the other side for 7 minutes. Then I served it on top of a bed of plain quinoa and broccoli.

On its own, the tofu is surprisingly salty. Like, I would argue that this should really be called Garlic, Salt & Pepper Tofu. Not that that's a bad thing-- on the contrary, it's tasty. But I was kicking myself for not tasting it raw. The brush of soy sauce was absolutely not necessary and made the crunchy skin of the broiled tofu just a tiny bit too salty. Aside from the saltiness, the tofu has a really great flavor that's more or less exactly what you'd expect from something labeled Garlic Pepper Tofu. Fairly mild but delicious level of garlic, lots and lots of zesty black pepper.

Mixed with the plain quinoa and broccoli, the tofu was transformative. It managed to flavor the entire dish, which was pleasantly surprising considering how little tofu there was relative to grain and veg. The tofu made the meal excellent rather than enh, which is great, because I had to do just about zero work and got something awesomely delicious out of the deal. Woo!

Overall, I really enjoyed the Tofu Yu Garlic Pepper Tofu. I'll probably buy it again next time I see it. One thing I'd like to do is try the salt & pepper tofu recipe that's in Veganomicon (I think? maybe it's just on the PPK somewhere? It's Terry's recipe, I think) and see how that compares. Again, cheapness. But I'm also really lazy and this stuff is not prohibitively expensive, so I expect it will make future appearances in my shopping cart. Mmmm.

Monday, October 19, 2009

MoFo Day 12: Five awesome food related songs

Okay, I am ripping off Vegan Eats & Treats here directly because  1)  I was at her house yesterday!  and 2) she's had a great idea!  Here are some songs about food that I love:

The Mountain Goats - Jam Eater Blues

Life's too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar. It's true.

The Mountain Goats - Golden Boy Peanuts
There are no pan-Asian supermarkets down in hell, so you can't buy Golden Boy peanuts there. What's not to love about a song that encourages you to be on your good behavior so that you can eat your favorite treat for all eternity?

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - The Candyman Can
The candy man can, because he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good. I think a lot of us equate cooking with love on at least some level. I certainly do. This is a big childhood nostalgia song for me too. I swear I can picture most of the video footage in this song with my eyes closed.

The Cure - Friday I'm in Love
Okay, not an entire song about food, but you've got to like a song that includes a passage about liking to watch your loved one eat a midnight snack.

Iron and Wine - Bird Stealing Bread
And a sweet sad song to end this list with.

Boy, this is hard! I don't seem to KNOW that many songs about food. Baby requires snuggling (one of the better tasks of parenthood) so I'll have to leave it here and keep thinking about food songs.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

MoFo Day 11: A Food Meme

I'm too tired to think of anything thoughtful to write about, so instead!  How about a food meme or two?  Everyone likes answering questions!

Favorite food to crunch:  nuts, potato chips, celery
Favorite comfort food: soup!  Or a baked potato.
Favorite picnic lunch:  sushi makes a surprisingly good picnic food.
Favorite food scene in a movie:  it's weird, but I honestly can't think of any food scenes in any movies!
Favorite food related lyrics:  "life is too short to let it go to waste like this/but I never tasted jam before that tastes like this/yeah, life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar." - Jam Eater Blues, by the Mountain Goats
Best food smell memory:  the smell of hot apple cider always reminds me of winter trips to the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA when I was a kid.
Favorite summer snack:  tomatoes (which I like to eat whole, like candy!), nectarines, pluots, beer
Favorite winter snack:  persimmons!  cookies!
Food that reminds me of the ocean:  Seaweed salad.
Most likely to eat for lunch:  Nothing.  I am a terrible, terrible lunch skipper.
Least likely to eat for lunch:  Anything that involves significant preparation.
Makes me literally gag:  Uncooked onions.
Food tradition I love:  Pies on Thanksgiving.  My family gets a little crazy about the pies.  I remember being a kid and helping make Thanksgiving pies... we had maybe (maybe!) 20 people present and there were always at LEAST six pies.  You do the math people!
Food tradition I loathe:  Turkey on Thanksgiving.  Really, any meatcentric holiday traditions.  But that's no surprise!
Favorite wild food:  Berries!  Of more or less any variety.
Favorite medicinal food:  Licorice root tea.  It's really good with a little bit of lime juice added.  I know that sounds crazy, but try it some time!
Food that reflects my heritage:  Potatoes, I guess.  I'm descended from Irish people on my mother's side and Germans on my dad's side, and well, both of these nationalities are famous for their love of potatoes.  And I DO love potatoes.  But when you think about it, who doesn't love potatoes?  
Food most like me:  Parsnips.  A little bit weird, maybe a little bit of an acquired taste, but very sweet when you get down to it.
Favorite raw food smell:  Guava fruit!  
Soup or salad?:   Always soup!  Fun fact:  I hate most salads, because I hate lettuce.  Yes, really!
Favorite breakfast food:  Bagels.  Sometimes I waver on what kind, but probably salt bagels with sliced tomato on top.
Favorite ethnic cuisine:  Southeast Asian.
Favorite vegan ice cream flavor:  Mudslinger's mint flavor is really good.
Favorite type of chocolate:  Dark!
Favorite beverage:  Fizzy water, Diet Dr. Hansen's ginger ale, good beer, red wine
Smooth or crunchy peanut butter?:  Mostly I don't like peanut butter.  If I eat it, it HAS to be crunchy.  Smooth peanut butter is an abomination.
Food I hated as a child but like now:  The only things I hated as a kid and grew to like are onions.  And I still can't eat them if they have even a little bit of onion texture to them.  They HAVE to be cooked to a point of melty softness. 
Food I liked as a child but hate now:  I think I liked peanut butter as a child.
Weird food habits:  I like to eat many frozen foods frozen.  Like... frozen pizza?  I'll eat it right out of the package if there's no one there to stop me.  Also, I often prefer eating food components over eating composed dishes.  When eating anything that comes in small pieces (nuts, chips, pieces of candy, etc), I like to eat them one at a time.  Dressing put directly ON salad freaks me out-- I like to have it on the side (if at all) and dip.  Boy, I could go on for a long time about my weird food habits!

While writing this, I had to stop to feed the baby twice and to comfort him once.  Now you see why I'm behind on posts!

Friday, October 16, 2009

MoFo Day 10: Foods I Actually Don't Like

Sheesh, this hasn't been my week for blogging.  We had a rough evening with the Emperor last night... after exhausting me totally by eating every 30 minutes to an hour from 9 a.m. onward, he started fussing up a storm around 6 or so.  The fussing is so hard to deal with-- as a parent, you obviously want to meet your kid's needs and comfort him when he's freaking out.  So when nothing seems to comfort him and there doesn't seem to be anything he wants or needs other than a good yell, it's very draining.  I am getting better at not sobbing hysterically when he's sobbing hysterically but it's difficult.

We did eventually get him calmed down via a ride in the car (yay for babies who like cars!) but oy.  It was a long night.  We went to bed at 9 p.m. and it was STILL a long night.

I was thinking about what I could write about today and for some reason, foods I don't like popped into my head.  It's fairly rare for me to meet a vegan food that I don't like.  My palate's pretty accepting, and let's face it, I just plain love eating.  My husband likes to say that EVERYTHING is my favorite.  That's not quite true, but I DO have a lot of favorite everythings.  What can I say?  I'm easy to please!

Here are some things I genuinely dislike, though:

- uncooked onion!  Uncooked onion makes me want to die.  I can't handle the texture at all.  I recently learned that my dad feels exactly the same way about uncooked onion.

- lima beans!  Okay, I haven't had lima beans in a long, long time.  But I really used to hate them.  It comes down to the texture again... they're so... paste-like.

- sundried tomatoes!  I always forget that I don't like sundried tomatoes.  They sound like a good idea to me.  But they have that odd chewy texture and they're so sweet.  Yuck.

- pomegranate-flavored things!  I like straight up pomegranate juice.  I've never had pomegranate seeds.  But pomegranate-flavored things never fail to displease me.  They always end up tasting like this liquid amoxicillin that I had to take all the time for ear infections as a kid.

- lambics and other fruit flavored beers!  No, just no.  Beer != candy, people.  If I want candy, I will eat candy.  Heaven knows, I will eat candy.

- maple syrup!  THERE, I SAID IT.  I feel like a traitor to veganism because it seems like all vegan chefs love maple syrup.  But I feel like the only good place for maple syrup is on pancakes and even then, only sometimes.  I almost always sub agave nectar for maple syrup in recipes.

- peaches!  How can I dislike peaches when I love nectarines so much?  Peaches are fuzzy.  The fuzz freaks me out.  It touches my upper lip and then my lip is itchy all day and ugh.

- fresh apricots!  Dried apricots are delicious.  But I had fresh apricots for the first time lately and discovered that I really don't like them.  Bad texture, weird taste.

- peanut butter!  Yes, really.  Peanuts overall don't do a lot for me.  They're definitely my least favorite nuts.

- beets!  Fresh beets aren't that bad.  Roasted, they're actually okay, if a bit too sweet for me.  But every time I see a beet I have flashbacks to my grandmother feeding me those awful awful canned beets as a kid.  Yuck yuck yuck.

- canned corn!  It just has this SMELL.

- canned any vegetable really.  Canned vegetables make me so sad.  They were basically the only vegetables I ate until I was a teenager, because that's what my family had.  Canned vegetables are salty, mushy, and flavorless, by and large.  Yuck.

- white beans!  Other than that, I've never met a bean I didn't like.  (Okay, lima beans, but I always forget that they're legumes.)

And that's it!  That's all the vegan foods I can think of that I don't like.  Now you can see why I'm the ideal dinner guest:  I will definitely like whatever you're making!  (Unless it's some sort of canned corn-lima bean-beet casserole, in which case, I'll see you some other time.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

MoFo Day 9: Kabocha squash and saag

This is my post for yesterday (Wednesday)!  Things got busy in the evening, with E. Babykins fussing for a very long time.  So I ended up not actually having the time to write it up then.

After my squash fail the other evening, I really wanted some fresh squash.  It's getting to be that season, so I headed to the farmer's market to see what I could find.  There was a lot to choose from, including some of my favorites-- big creamy-skinned butternut squashes, Thelma Sanders squashes, bright-skinned pumpkins, big and burly spaghetti squashes.  But I ended up going with something I can't remember ever preparing for myself before:  a big blue-green kabocha squash.

These squashes never fail to catch my eye at the market.  Their color is a bit offputting to me.  They don't look like something you should eat.  They look like... evil pumpkins or something.  What pumpkins would look like in the netherworld.  But one of my favorite farms (Thomas Farm, just outside Watsonville) was selling them and had a little card describing their deliciousness so I thought what the hell!  Creepy nethersquash it is!

I was quite relieved to find that they're totally normal looking on the inside.  The texture of the roasted flesh is a little odd-- a bit drier and more waxy than most squashes.  Really very creamy and delicious once it hits the mouth, though.

I used the kabocha squash and two bunches of swiss chard (one green, one red) to make a batch of Pumpkin Saag from Veganomicon.  Very very easy, and tasty even with the substitutions.

In last night's excitement, however, I left the leftover saag out on the counter.  We had eaten probably 2/3rds of the batch, so it's not the biggest loss ever, but I would have liked to have eaten that for lunch today.  Sigh.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My dog ate my MoFo...

Oh my, have we had an exciting 24 or so hours since I spoke to you last!  Emperor Babykins was awake and feisty most of yesterday, and then through some miracle (I consider it miraculous, anyway) he slept for TWO 3 hour chunks back to back.  I had to wake him in the middle to eat.  W-e-i-r-d, but sheesh, I needed that sleep.

There's a big rain storm going on in our neck of the woods.  Around here, every time there's a big rain, power goes out.  So our power was out most of last night and all of today up until about half an hour ago.  

We had our two week pediatrician appointment.  Emperor Babykins has gained 13.5 ounces since last Thursday.  Yes!  13.5 ounces in FIVE DAYS.  He's now up to nearly 11 pounds.  I know that's not really indicative of anything (other than his powerful appetite) but it feels gratifying to know that, well, I'm definitely feeding him adequately.  

While we were at the doctor, the power went out!  They only have emergency backup lighting in the hallways, so our exam room went pitch black.  Can't say I've ever had that happen to me before.

Anyway, the whole point of this is that we had a busy day AND no internet for most of it, so I don't have a MoFo post.  Aaah!  I'll do one this weekend to make up for it.  Pinky swear!

Monday, October 12, 2009

MoFo Day 8: Lazy Curry Lentils & Quinoa

Hello out there in internet land.  Today's another half-assed post, I'm afraid.  Emperor Babykins decided to take last night (early this morning really) to demonstrate his new found staying awake skill to me.  We were up from 1 a.m. until a little after 6, just hangin' out and occasionally eating.  (Breastmilk for him, leftover sweet potato fries for me.)  Every time I'd put him down or stop moving, he'd cry.  But otherwise, he was a happy little baby bundle.  So, I held him and we moved around.

You would think all this staying awake would have made him REALLY SLEEPY today (you know, like it did to me), but no.  He's had periodic naps, and I did manage to snag an hour long nap for myself, but overall, oy.  So tired!

Then I nearly had a kitchen meltdown.  I've had these squash sitting around waiting to be eaten for... I don't know.  A long time.  Squash keeps, you know?  I thought I'd finally crack them open and eat them.  They looked fine on the outside, and the flesh seemed fine, but the seeds/guts looked really weird.  Oddly dried and desiccated.  No strange smell, but... jeez, I don't want to get some sort of foodborne illness from squash!  So after hemming and hawing and shedding a few squash tears, I decided to chuck them.  Sigh.

After all of this, I really needed an easy, easy, easy dinner.  So I fished in the freezer for some of my frozen lentils and quinoa, and threw together the recipe below.  It's pretty good, though I wish it had some vegetables in it-- at least some tomato or something.  Oh well.

Lazy Curry Lentils & Quinoa
serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
2c lentils, cooked
1c quinoa, cooked
3-6 tsp curry powder (less if hot curry, more if mild curry)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4c MimicCreme, almond milk, or other non-dairy milk
salt to taste

Heat a skillet over medium.  Add the oil.
Add the lentils and quinoa.  Mix well.  If frozen, cook til thawed, stirring often.  If freshly cooked, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add curry powder, cinnamon, and cardamom.  Mix well.
Add MimiCreme (or whatever), mix well.
Taste.  Add salt as necessary.

Bam.  It's not out of this world, but it certainly is food.  I used MimiCreme because we have an open container of it and I really am not sure what else to use it for at this point.  Except hot chocolate.  Oh man, if I am up in the middle of the night tonight, I am SO having some hot chocolate with MimiCreme.

Over and out.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

MoFo Day 7: Mighty Potato-Leek Soup

Guest post by my husband!  Things have been crazy over here.  Back to normal blogging tomorrow, but for now, have this in lieu of a Friday post.

Mighty Soup

...more or less as made on October 8th, 2009.

This is based on a soup I was taught how to make a long time ago. It's
pretty basic, with lots of things to do differently based on what you happen
to have kicking around the kitchen. I decided to modify this version based
on having watched several seasons of Top Chef and on a quick skim of some
soup recipes in Anthony Bourdain's "Le Halles Cookbook." 

- 1 good-sized leek. Sing a Finnish folksong as you pick it out.
- 2 good-sized onions.
- 2 heads worth of peeled garlic. 
- A small pile of little potatoes.
- Some kind of veggie broth.
- 1 block of some kind of tofu. Press out as much liquid as you can. Firmer
is definitely
better. More on this later. 
- Some kind of fake bacon. 
- 2 cups of some kind of cream substitute.
- Pepper, salt, turmeric, spices.
- Earth Balance or your favorite thing for sauteeing.
- One bottle of some kind of red wine. I used a Two Buck Chuck cabernet. 

Open the wine. It'll need to breathe, right? Keep telling yourself that and
pour yourself a glass to make sure it's palatable. Big pointy knives and hot
surfaces go much better with alcoholic beverages. 

Thinly slice the white part of the leek. 

Chop the onions and garlic into little bits. 

Cut the potatoes into roughly 1/2" pieces too. Don't cut yourself! Knives
are sharp!

Heat up some Earth Balance (which I will probably accidentally refer to as
"butter," but it could be whatever) in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. 

Throw in most of the onion and garlic (reserve about 1/4 of the total amount
of each for later). Sautee until the onions are nice and soft and clear.
Don't burn them like I usually do on our crappy stove because it will taste

When the onions are ready, throw in the sliced leeks and turn the heat down
a little. You're going to just kinda stir them around with the onions and
garlic but mostly just let them hang out in there getting soft. You don't
want them to get any color here, just be squishy and nice. Yum. Set a timer
for 5 minutes (or more, whatever. I think I had them in there for closer to
10. This is the part I borrowed from Chef Tony B, who is my total food hero
even though he eats pigs by the sty-full). 

Meanwhile, in a sautee pan, heat up some more Earth Balance and start
sauteeing the rest of the onions and garlic. If you think I am being a
wanker by doing this separately you could probably do the tofu part in the
main pot but I think it would break up too much and my goal here was to have
chunks of sauteed tofu floating around in the soup. This might also be lame,
but I have no idea since all we had was some kind of very soft silken tofu [ed:  it was just "soft" tofu packed in water] that I thought I could press enough to get firm. It ended 
up more like kind of squidgey custard. 

So, yeah. If you have decent firm tofu, cut it into 1/2" cubes and sautee
with the onions and garlic until it's kind of, well, little toughish cubes
that will stand up to being thrown into soup. I don't know if this will
actually work since I ended up with a weird tofu scramble instead. Chop up
the fake bacon into little bits and add it here to taste. Too much and it'll
make the whole soup really smokey, but maybe you like that. I do! Yum!

When the timer on the leeks goes off, turn the heat up a bit so it's sizzly
and pour in a cup or so of the wine. Stir it around some more and pretend
you're an awesome chef deglazing things. Yeah! Top Chef, whoo! Then pour
in the broth and stir it around. Throw in the tofu/onion/bacony business
here too. (Deglaze that pan with some wine too if you want! Badass!) Pour
in some more wine, but save enough for another glass or two for yourself!
Now put in the potatoes. Also put in, oh, a couple of cups of water. And
some salt and pepper to taste. And a little turmeric. I dunno, do what you
think is a good idea here. 

Now heat the whole mess to a boil, stirring. Once it's boiling, turn down
the heat to simmer. Go read some web pages or a book or something for a
while while it cooks down. Stir occasionally. Give it, oh, half an hour or
so and check. The potatoes should be soft by then, so squish some pieces to
release the starch.

Taste it. How is it? Add salt and pepper to taste. (I had to add some salt
here.) Add other things if they seem like a good idea. Make sure the
potatoes are edible. 

Cook it down some more. It should thicken up. Taste it. Good? Throw in a cup
of the cream-like substance, let it simmer for a couple of minutes, and
serve with toast. 

That's basically it. 

It made for some pretty delicious soup.  And hey!  After nine months of garlic abstinence, I can finally handle garlic again.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

MoFo Day 6: Smoky things I enjoy

Brief post today.  Boy, am I TIRED.  I know, I know, you have an infant, what do you expect, lady?  Doesn't change matters.  I'm beat.

Since my brain can barely string words together at this point, I'm going to sort of half-ass it today and just give you a list of smoked foods that I love.  Some people probably think "aaah!  vegans never get any smoky goodness!" but those people are wrong.

Smoked things I love:

- smoked almonds
- really any smoked nuts
- smoked tofu
- smoked tomatoes 
- smoked portabellos-- actually one of the only ways I can stand portabellos
- Cheezly cheddar-bacon flavor
- smoky cheezy sauce
- homemade tempeh bacon  (one of the only forms of tempeh that I like!)
- Laphroaig - whiskey that tastes like bacon
- lapsang souchong - smoked tea
- pu-erh - not smoked, but often smoky in flavor
- smoked salt
- smoked paprika... oh, smoked paprika

I'm probably forgetting lots of things, but really, there is no reason to ever have to go without smokiness in your diet.

Real post tomorrow.  The mister made an excellent potato leek soup tonight and promised to either write it up or dictate it to me tomorrow.

By the way, we took E. Babykins to the doctor for his thrush, and they weighed him again.  In ten days, he's gained an entire pound!  He's added more than 10% to his starting body weight!  I wish weight gain was as exciting for adults as it is for babies.  It's good to see him thriving.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

MoFo Day 5: Santa Cruz Farmers' Markets, a brief lovefest

So remember how I was writing about pluots the other day and bemoaning the end of the pluot season?  (Maybe I didn't have enough time to properly bemoan... just imagine I was doing it though, okay?)  Well, I was at the Felton Farmer's Market yesterday and decided to pick up a few from my favorite pluot vendor anyway.  My husband was with me and bought a BUNCH of flavored almonds from the same guys.  I think we spent almost $20 at one stand!  When I go by myself, I usually spend about $20 at the whole market, so this is kind of remarkable.

Anyway, either as a thank you for buying all the almonds or because he fell under Emperor Babykins' thrall or just because it's the end of the season and he has to move these things fast, the pluot guy gave us a BUNCH of extra pluots and plums.  Like... I had picked out maybe three pluots and two plums.  We came away with 25 or so pieces of fruit.  Sheesh!  Awesome, though now I'm going to have to figure out something to do with the extra pluots/plums before they spoil.  Maybe pie...

I just want to take a brief minute here and say how awesome the local farmer's markets are to vegankind.  First of all, there's the produce.  Cheap, fresh, delicious. That goes without saying, right?  Oh, and the variety.  It seems like EVERYTHING grows around here.  If I look hard enough, I can ALWAYS find something I haven't tried before.  Yesterday I had a lemon cucumber!  (Tasty, like a normal cucumber with a slight extra tang to it.)  Almost bought a pomegranate.  Can you believe I've never eaten fresh pomegranate seeds?  Oh, I digress... back to the farmer's market.

Also, I like the haggling aspect of it.  There are a lot of vendors who will give you discounts if it makes the math easier (3.50 vs 3.67, for instance) or cut you deals they don't have signs up for.  The pluot guy's not the first vendor who has given me extra produce for free, either.  And I know that there are a bunch of vendors who save certain things (carrot tops, for instance) and give them away to people who feed them to their pets.  

And boy, do the local markets have a lot of tasty vegan crap!  At the main market in Santa Cruz on Wednesdays, you can get the following food stuffs:

vegan crepes
vegan samosas
vegan sorbet
vegan fresh raviolis and other pastas
fresh almond milk
fresh local bread
locally roasted coffee
fresh sauerkraut (I haven't quite worked up to this yet, but every week I get closer!)
unpasteurized fresh pomegranate juice
local tofu and other soy treats

And that's just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head.  Not all of it's at the other smaller markets, but they have various delicious stuff too.  Felton has kettle corn and shave ice!  Let me tell you, had I not been going home with a sack of pluots already, there would have been some serious snack going down.

The trouble with how wonderful the local farmers markets are is that I don't know how I'll ever be able to live anywhere else if I ever want to move.  I am really, really, really spoiled as far as fruit and vegetables and fresh vegan treats go these days.

Speaking of trouble, it seems like the Emperor has contracted thrush.  Oy vey.  I'm still fine so far, but the little man is pretty miserable.  We're taking him to the doctor tomorrow so hopefully he'll be getting better soon, but if I miss a day or two of MoFo, it's probably because I'm consoling my poor little gross-tongued guy.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

MoFo Day 4: Cooking with babies

Today's subject:  cooking with babies!  "But that's not vegan!"  you say.  No no no, I mean cooking alongside babies, not cooking with babies as a component.  Phew.

It turns out it's pretty easy to cook with a newborn, at least if you catch him at the right time of day.  Emperor Babykins was sort of fussy after he had his first daylight meal around 7:30 this morning, and I decided that rather than trying to go back to sleep (my original plan), I'd get up, put him in the Moby Wrap, and make waffles.

The Moby Wrap is an awesome item.  It's essentially just a really, really long piece of stretchy fabric.  You wrap it around yourself in a sort of x shape, tie it around your waist, and stuff the baby in.  Suddenly you have hands-free baby action!  GENIUS!  As an added bonus, the Moby seems to make Emperor Babykins pass out almost instantly.

And so it is that my son and I cooked our first meal together.  We made the Chocolate Beer Waffles out of Vegan Brunch.  Okay, his main contribution to this process was snoring cutely while I did stuff, but that's all right.  He'll get more kitchen responsibility when he's older.  I should have my own little sous chef by the time he's six or seven.  Mwahahahaha.

So, the Chocolate Beer Waffles.  I've made two other waffle recipes out of Vegan Brunch, Cornmeal Waffles and Gingerbread Waffles.  I've also had the Old-Fashioned Chelsea Waffles at a PPK brunch party.  (We need to do this again sometime, guys.)  

Out of the four, I think these are my least favorite so far.  They have a GREAT texture-- really crispy and yum-- but something about the flavor tasted off to me.  They were just a little too bitter.  I don't know, maybe I accidentally put in the wrong amount of sugar?  My husband really liked them, though, so... maybe the problem is just me!

I also had a bit of trouble with my waffle iron this morning.  Usually, I mess up the first waffle.  It pulls apart into two.  Then all the rest of the waffles are fine.  Today, the first waffle was fine... and all the rest pulled apart.  Argh.  I didn't actually finish using all of the batter because it was just too frustrating.  The upside of this?  We have batter for waffles again tomorrow.

Monday, October 5, 2009

MoFo Day 3: Fruit of the year

Just a quick post today.  We went out and about for our first lengthy outing since Emperor Babykins' birth last Monday.  My husband went to the doctor, and E. Babykins and I went to have coffee with my friend who was also my doula.  That was good fun.  Her eight month old baby was fascinated by our little guy and kept touching him and bursting into this huge grin.  Very cute.

Sometime soon I want to do a post about pre-made vegan things that I love.  Peet's Coffee will be on there.  I have to tell you, of the 55 pounds (!) I gained while pregnant, like 15 of that had to be soy freddos.  

Now that I'm trying to decrease my fat stores again, though, it's time for lighter treats.  This brings me to the subject of the post:  my favorite fruit this year.  See, I'm from the east coast originally.  Not a lot of good fruit comes from my area-- we have some tasty apples, and that's about it.  Between the lack of deliciousness and the high cost of east coast produce, I never really got into fresh fruit until I moved to California.

Every year since we moved here, I've had some new fruit that I become obsessed with.  The first summer we were here, it was nectarines.  Last year, I had a lengthy affair with guavas and persimmons.  (Okay, that's two fruits.)

This year's fruit?  Pluots!

There's so much to love about pluots.  They're so little, just the perfect size for a snack.  In general, they're soft-skinned enough that I can eat them without cutting them into pieces.  (I can't eat things with hard skins without cutting them into pieces or else I shred my gums.  Yes, I am like an old person.)  And I love that way that they're kind of crispy when you bite into them, but so juicy too... I'm going to go ahead and say that eating a pluot is a truly sensual mouth experience.  

I think pluots captured my fancy in part because there are so many freaking varieties around here.  You've got your Flavor Hearts, your Flavor Kings and Queens, your Flavor Supremes, your Flavor Grenades... and that's just the ones I can think of that start with "flavor."  And they're all different!  Aaah!  There's no way I can possibly remember which ones I like best!  (Okay, not true.  The Flavor Supremes are my favorite, and not just because they're yellow/green on the outside and deep purple on the inside, which is awesome.)

So just about every week this summer, I've been picking out an assortment of different pluots every week at the farmer's market.  It's sad to see that they're all but out of season now.  I got a couple at the grocery store last time we were there and they're okay, but not in their prime.

Thanks, pluots, you've been good to me.  I'll see you again next year!

Friday, October 2, 2009

MoFo Day 2: Citrus curd and vanilla rum custard pie

Adventures continue over here in babyland.  Emperor Babykins is settling into a sort of routine:  he sleeps for about two hours, wakes up and eats on one side, gets his diaper changed, eats on the other side, goes back to sleep.  Rinse and repeat all day and night long.  Really not so bad, huh?

Anyway, I have no time to think about original content so I'm just going to post a recipe for the pie that I made right before I went into labor.  The one that I made right before labor was with grapefruit, but really, you can use any kind of fresh citrus.

Citrus Curd and Vanilla-Rum Custard Pie
makes 2 9-inch pies

Use whatever citrus you feel like.  Mixing and matching is fun.  Meyer lemon and lime make for a good pairing but I'm sure you can think of something even more exciting, right?

2c graham cracker crumbs 
6 tbsps canola oil
4 tbsps brown sugar
1 tbsp citrus zest 
2 tbsps rum

2 boxes of vegan vanilla pudding mix (Jello pudding is vegan, but ONLY the full fat/full sugar cook'n'serve variety!)
4c almond milk
2 tbsps corn starch
2-4 tbsps rum

Citrus curd:
1 c fresh-squeezed citrus juice
1/2c water
1/2c brown sugar
1c white sugar
4 tbsps corn starch
zest of the citrus fruits you juiced
6 tbsps almond milk
2 tbsps Earth Balance or other vegan butter

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Mix all crust ingredients in a bowl.
3.  Divide the crust mix into two 9 inch pie pans and press the crust into the pans.
4.  Bake the crusts for 10 minutes, until nice and golden but not burnt.

5.  Stir together the pudding mix, almond milk, and corn starch in a sauce pan.
6.  Heat on medium-high, stirring constantly, until the custard mix reaches a boil.
7.  Allow the custard to boil for a minute WITHOUT stirring.
8.  Stir in the rum, then allow custard to cool for five minutes.
9.  Pour half the custard into one crust and half into the other.  Smooth out with a spatula.

10.  Combine citrus juice, water, sugars, corn starch and zest in a sauce pan.
11.  Bring to a boil over medium-high, stirring constantly, until curd reaches a boil.
12.  Boil for a minute WITHOUT stirring.
13.  Stir in the almond milk and the earth balance.
14.  Let the curd cool for five minutes.
15.  Pour half the curd into one crust (on top of custard) and half into the other.  Smooth out with a spatula.

16.  Put the completed pies in the fridge.  They need at least 2 hours to set right, and I've found that the longer you cool them, the tastier they get.

16 sounds like a lot of steps, but I assure you, this is insanely easy and delicious pie.  And I guess it'll always be special to me now.  Aww.

By the way, the citrus curd is more or less Bryanna Clark-Grogan's incredibly excellent lemon curd from this post with a few little tweaks.  Oh, how I wish someone would make me a cake like that wedding cake!  Still... the curd is delicious in this pie.  Make it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Vegan MoFo Day 1: IT BEGINS! Also, lasagna and babies.

Ah!  I am using the computer for the first time since we got home from the birth center.  (For those playing along at home, I had a baby on Monday!)  So I'm reading the PPK and what do I see but a bunch of threads about Vegan MoFo starting.  "SHIITAKE!" shouts I, "IT IS OCTOBER ALREADY!"

Well, as you can expect, I'm not up and cooking anything really at this point.  Actually, my new life consists of napping, eating, feeding my new little creature, and napping while feeding my new little creature.  It is a pretty good life.

Wisely, we froze a LOT of food before the baby was born, so there's a lot of deliciousness hanging around waiting to be eaten.  Including THREE Epic Lasagnas!

What is Epic Lasagna?  Well, I don't have the time/energy to retype it entirely, but here's what I said about it on Facebook when I originally cooked it:

Cut the tops off 5 lbs of tomatoes, drizzle with oil, and roast with whatever tasty crap you have around for about an hour. Fish out anything non-edible (rosemary stems primarily) and discard.

Caramelize a gigantic onion or two, with lots of garlic if you're not suffering from fetus-induced garlic intolerance. 

Pour onions/garlic into a stock pot and deglaze the onion pan with a generous amount of red wine. 

Add three or so jars of store bought sauce to stock pot, stir, then pour in the roasted tomatoes et al from earlier.

Take a potato masher or a big fork and mash gently, so that the baked tomatoes aren't pulverized entirely and your sauce is kinda chunky. 

Add more chopped rosemary or other fresh herbs. Bring to a simmer and mix in a butt ton of chopped basil.

Taste for seasoning... add more salt and pepper as necessary, and maybe a little more wine if it's not quite right yet. Congrats, you've finished the sauce!

Prepare your "cheese" mixture. If you are vegan as hell, this entails making a delicious cashew ricotta that is a bit of an adventure in and of itself. Anyway, make sure your cheese or equivalent is ready and put it in the fridge while you do other stuff.  (Note:  this is the Veganomicon cashew ricotta, of course!)

Boil lasagna noodles according to package so that they're just al dente (mushy lasagna BAD) and set aside to cool.

Figure out what other vegetables you're going to put in here and separate into vegetables that need to be cooked first and ones you can put in uncooked.

In my case, I am using eggplant which is sometimes tough if you don't cook it on its own first! So I will brush it with oil and roast it and then let it sit while I do other stuff.

Other than that, I am just chopping up a ton of zucchini and swiss chard.

So then you are finally to assembly! You get one gigantic pan or a couple of smaller pans. Depth is good but if you don't have any deep pans, it's okay, you will just get shorter lasagna.

Cover the bottom of your pan(s) with sauce. Then a layer of noodles, then one of cheese equivalent, then one of vegetables, then another of sauce. Continue until you are at the top of your pan. It doesn't really matter what order you put these four things in, but the top and bottom layer should always be sauce.

Cover the pans in foil or use glass lids if you have something awesome like that on hand. Put them in a pretty hot oven (maybe 425?) for a while. Like, forty minutes maybe. Then take the covering off, drop the temperature to something cooler like 350, and bake for another twenty to thirty minutes. It should be bubbly as hell and have crispy bits around the edges.

Then it's all over except cooling and eating!

That's it!  Happy MoFo everyone!