Posts Tagged VCON

Piccata, Risotto & Focaccia

Time for some fancy foods!  Piccata, risotto and focaccia are all restauranty-sounding dishes to me, things that a few years ago I would have never thought I’d be making for myself.  They also all have double letters that I have a hard time remembering where to put.

Let’s start with the CSA delivery that brought me some of the ingredients:

leaf lettuce, chard, artichokes, collards, asparagus & rosemary

tangerines, beets, shallots, kiwis & apples

It was a lovely coincidence that I saw Lindsay’s post on piccata the very same week I received asparagus, which everyone knows is good with piccata.  Even those of us who’d never tried it before, like me.  She made hers with her chickpea cakes, which I’m sure are good, but I decided to go with the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, because I love them and it had been a very long time since I made them.  I followed Lindsay’s sauce recipe exactly though.  Like all of her recipes, the sauce is fat-free, so I feel like the end result might have been lacking a little bit of richness you might get from a “normal” piccata.  The sauce was definitely not lacking in flavor though.  In fact, I was quite happy the sauce was fat-free, because I used olive oil on the asparagus and earth balance in the mashed cauliflower.

Yes, I know that mashed potatoes go with piccata and asparagus.  But I like to use cauliflower instead of potatoes sometimes to lighten up a meal.  I chopped up a bit of fresh rosemary to go in the cauliflower, and it lent just the faintest hint of delicious rosemary flavor.  I was suspicious of using fresh rosemary because I’m not a huge fan of dried, but for serious:  fresh is awesome.  And it lasts a lot longer in the fridge than I thought it would.

I have always been intimidated by the thought of making risotto.  You hear about having to stand in front of a pot, stirring forever, and all for some flavored rice?  But I kept seeing risotto pop up on the internets, and it didn’t seem to be such a big deal.  So when the CSA newsletter came with a recipe for Red Chard Risotto, I gave it a whirl.

I had to figure out what “dry white wine” is to make this.  (Google it.)  And I learned that you don’t actually have to stir constantly; just a lot.  It turned out pretty well, but the rice could have been cooked more, and the flavor could use a boost.  So I will rework this soon and have a recipe.  The good news is that I am no longer scared of arborio rice.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the majority of my fresh rosemary, and the only idea that came to mind was focaccia, so I went with it.  I followed the recipe in Veganomicon, subbing half whole wheat flour.

This was very easy to make, and the rosemary flavor is awesome.  I have one question though:  What makes focaccia different from regular ol’ bread just shaped into a disc?  The texture seemed like normal bread.  Not that I’m complaining…I just want to know.

To go with the focaccia, I remade the stuffed collards that I first tried here.

My filling of choice was lentils and tempeh, and the flavor of the filling was great.  It didn’t quite stick together enough to recreate the original though.  I think I have a solution, and I happen to have collards in the fridge, so hopefully with one more tweak I will have a recipe to share.

Speaking of recipes that I’m working on, here’s a sneak peek.

It’s going to be my first recipe contest entry.  It’s fun to be working toward something instead of just cooking whatever I want sometimes.  Can anyone guess what the triangles are?  Hint:  it’s not tofu.

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Superbowl Sunday & Laptop Lunches

I didn’t feel emotionally invested at all in the Superbowl this year, but it IS a once a year event so we still had a few people over to watch.  I’m still trying to eat healthily and drop some pounds, so to keep my hands out of the chip bags I put together a veggie tray with hummus.  I used the hummus recipe in Veganomicon which is a nice, mild hummus.

I knew I wouldn’t get by without something crunchy and munchy, so I made Chex Mix based on the original recipe.  I was all out of vegan worcestershire sauce, so I substituted a mixture of soy sauce, liquid smoke, hot sauce, chili powder and paprika.

Now I have multiple half eaten boxes of Chex in the pantry!

For my entree I kept it simple and just had a veggie burger, but I did come up with a new potato to go on the side.  I was thinking that I hadn’t had enough mustard in my life lately, and the weather was a little yucky, so I went for warm and majorly mustardy.

This recipe makes a boatload – enough for 10 or more, so if it’s just for you or your family I’d suggest halving the recipe.

Warm Mustard & Leek Potato Salad

4 lbs new potatoes, skin on, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 Tbs olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced and washed
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
4 Tbs stone ground mustard
2 Tbs dijon mustard
3 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp fennel seed
1 Tbs sugar

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to medium high, and cook for 6-7 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and transfer to a very large bowl.

In the meantime, heat the 2 Tbs olive oil to medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the leeks and celery and saute 9-10 minutes, until soft.

Add the remaining ingredients (1 Tbs olive oil through sugar) to the saucepan, mix well and cook until heated through. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and carefully stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Serves 10-12.

I was worried that the leftovers would dry out in the fridge overnight, but this salad is equally as good as cold leftovers.

Here be some lunches I’ve taken to work.

1-22 roasted veggie quiche, raw collard & carrot ribbons,
pretzels, gherkins, piece of dark chocolate

1-27 white bean & leek cassoulet, steamed kale
with nutritional yeast, a pear

1-29 fennel-chickpea “tuna” salad sandwich, celery & broccoli, goddess dressing, piece of dark mint chocolate, kiwi & banana

2-2 veggies & hummus, mustard & leek potato salad, chex mix

2-3 cheesy broccoli & rice casserole, raw beet salad over lettuce, vanilla soy yogurt with blueberries, pretzels, piece of dark mint chocolate

2-4 polenta with beet greens, tofurkey italian sausage with caramelized onions & radicchio, baby carrots & hummus, grapes

2-5 cheesy broccoli & rice casserole, raw beet salad over lettuce,
mustard & leek potato salad, baby carrots, grapes

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Presents On My Doorstep

One of the things I was very excited about when moving to the Bay Area was the proliferation of farmers markets and CSA’s.  Ever since I first heard of the CSA concept I knew I wanted in.  There was precisely one option in Gainesville, and I tried to sign up during my last six months in Florida, but there was a long waiting list to contend with.

So as soon as I had the room in my budget, I signed up for one here.  I looked around and compared, and the best choice for me was Farm Fresh To You.  They run their own farm, as well as sourcing from other local farms to round out the seasonal offerings.  You can choose the frequency of your deliveries (every two weeks for me), postpone a delivery if need be, request to not receive certain items if you don’t like ‘em, and best of all – they deliver!  To my door!  A lot of CSA’s around here require you to pick up, or charge for delivery, and with my schedule the way it is right now that wasn’t an option.  They also have different box options, including a smaller delivery, all fruit or all vegetable.  And apparently they have a permanent storefront in the SF Ferry Building, as well as appearing at multiple farmers markets.  And they send a newsletter with recipes.  Oh, and they post the contents of the box at the beginning of the week, so I can plan ahead and spend way too much time at work fantasizing about what I could make.

I think you can see where this is going.  I got my first CSA delivery.  And I love it.  I think I am going to have a long, happy relationship with all this produce.

There were far too many veggies to fit in one picture, so I went with green and not green.

salad greens, collards, bok choy, leeks, napa cabbage and dino kale

navel oranges, pinova apples, red potatoes, the largest butternut squash I have ever seen, and radicchio

I used the collards for my New Year’s Day meal, and the salad greens for…a salad.  Creative, I know.  The salad went with delivery pizza during the College Football National Championship game.  Go Gators!!!

I used the napa cabbage in some more fried quinoa, along with carrots and peas.  This fried quinoa wasn’t quite as good as the first time I made it, it was a little mushy.  I think the secret might be mixing in some rice.

I was interested in grilling the bok choy.  I found some recipes online that all included a sauce, but I wasn’t up for all that extra work, so I just sprayed them with some oil and grilled plain.  It was interesting – it has potential, but I definitely wouldn’t make bok choy again this way.  The leaves got nice and crispy, but the stems were undercooked and still crunchy, which wasn’t what I was going for.  This meal was better as leftovers, reheated in the microwave and cooked through a bit more.

I’m not a big fan of radicchio, especially raw, so I was very happy that the Farm Fresh To You newsletter came with a recipe for Radicchio and Squash Pappardelle.  I adapted it to be vegan, whole grain and lower in fat.  The taste is very simple; the sweetness of the squash, bitterness of the radicchio and heartiness of the pasta play nicely together.  It would be very good topped with toasted pine nuts or vegan parmesan.

Penne with Butternut Squash & Radicchio

2 Tbs Earth Balance
2 Tbs olive oil
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 1/2 cups)
3/4 lb radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
12 oz wholegrain penne

Melt butter and heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add radicchio, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until wilted and just tender, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook penne according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta.  Add pasta to radicchio mixture with 1/2 cup cooking water and toss over low heat until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add more cooking water to moisten if necessary.

Serves 4 to 5.

To go along with the pasta, I made a raw kale salad.  I’ve read about this technique to “wilt” kale without cooking, and when I saw a recipe on the Bauman College website I knew I wanted to try it.  The original recipe was for a main course type dish, so I made it more simple and side dish-like.

Raw Kale Salad with Oranges & Pecans

This would be good with dried cranberries or diced apples instead of oranges, or walnuts or pepitas instead of pecans.

1 bunch kale, cleaned, stemmed and finely sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 oranges, supremed
1 cup pecans

Place kale in a large bowl.  Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle sea salt over kale.  Massage the mixture with your hands, kneading and squeezing until kale begins to wilt.  Add vinegar and lemon juice and toss with tongs to mix.  Divide kale between servings bowls and top with oranges & pecans.

Serves 4.

I knew I wanted to use the leeks and potatoes in a soup, and after searching through all my vegan cookbooks without finding the right recipe, I lucked out with Healthy Life Kitchen by Marilu Henner.  I bought this book on a whim because it was on super sale.  It isn’t exactly my style of cooking, and it includes fish and eggs, but every once in a while I find a nice, simple recipe like this one.

Potato Leek Soup

2 Tbs soy margarine
1 large bunch leeks, julienned
6 new red potatoes, cubed (I left the skins on, or you can peel them)
6 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt
fresh chives

Melt the margarine in a large stockpot over medium-low heat and add the leeks.  Cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until they have softened.

Raise the heat to high, add the potatoes and stock, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, about 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Transfer the solids to a blender or food processor and gradually add broth, pulsing until just pureed.  Return the puree to the pot.  Do not overheat.  Add soy milk, nutmeg, black pepper, and salt to taste.  Serve garnished with chives.

The recipe says it makes 8 servings, but for me it was 4.

To go with the soup I made the Smoky Grilled Tempeh from Veganomicon (the broiled variation) and boy oh boy was it every good.  The most juicy tempeh I have ever had.

As if the CSA goodness wasn’t enough, I got another present – my PPK December swap package!  My partner was Evan of Bjorked Off, and he sent some good stuff.

Homemade truffles, dark chocolate, mini Larabars, a photo, a cupcake postcard, Canadian maple syrup, and a pretty syrup-themed trivet that unfortunately broke in transit.  The truffles were amazing, as well as the one piece of chocolate I’ve eaten so far.  I’m not a huge fan of Larabars (can’t get into dates), but these mini bars were the perfect size for snacking without getting tires of the flavor.  The brownie flavor was good for the first bite, but after that it wasn’t very appealing to me.  The cashew cookie flavor was good all the way through.  I might even consider buying a normal size bar of that flavor.  There are people who are obsessed with Larabars though, so don’t take my word for it if you’ve never tried one!  Thanks Evan!

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Sweet Potato Chili & Thanksgiving

All my posts as of late have an “&” in the title.  I will try to find time to post more often and avoid the “ands”!

Last week I wanted to make a big pot of deliciousness.  It’s definitely chili weather here and it’s been at least a year since I last made chili, so chili it was.  I use this as my basic veggie chili go-to recipe.  If you follow the recipe you’ll have a tasty, meaty omni-friendly chili, and it’s great for variations.  It’ll taste good pretty much no matter what you do to it.  I’m trying to stay away from processed food though, so instead of faux meat I diced a huge sweet potato and tossed it in.

To go with the chili I made my whole wheat cornbread and wilted some arugula.

On to Thanksgiving!  This was my first Thanksgiving with bf’sfamily, so I didn’t want to get to crazy with the “weird” vegan food and I stayed fairly traditional.

When I made the cornbread above I doubled the recipe so that I could make cornbread stuffing, using this recipe from Vegan Chef.

This was very tasty!  Everyone else kind of looked at it funny, but that’s fine – more leftovers for me!  The only thing I might change next time would be to use a little less parsley and green onion, and a bit more broth to make it all mush together.

The best green bean casserole, from Fat Free Vegan.  This was a hit with everyone.  Well, at least everyone who likes green beans.

Robin Robertson’s Cranberry Relish.  I’m not a huge cranberry sauce person, but I got two bags for 99 cents, and this recipe looked really interesting, with additions like shallots and red bell peppers.  I liked it a lot, but it’s still not something I can eat a lot of.

My cashew miso gravy.  So good.

It’s very hard to get a decent picture of just gravy.

My plate.  BF’s mom left some potatoes on the side for me to mash with Earth Balance and soy milk.

For my “entree” I made seitan cutlets from VCON.  I have to say, I’m not digging them very much.  It might just be that I left them too thick, but the texture turned out so rubbery I have a hard time eating them.  For this meal I cut one in half to make it thinner, coated it in flour and pan-fried it.  It was pretty good this way, along with gravy and everything else on the plate.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the rest of them that are currently stashed in my freezer though.

Here’s another view of my plate, just because I think the picture turned out better.

For dessert I made Pumpkin Pie Brownies from The PPK, which I have been wanting to try for over a year.

They were really easy to make and the texture turned out great, but I thought they weren’t sweet enough, which is odd for me.  Normally I think desserts are too sweet!  The recipe called for bittersweet chocolate and I used unsweeted, so I’m sure that took a little sweetness away, but I was very surprised.  They were kind of an “adult” dessert, where the bitterness of the chocolate comes through.  If I make them again I will definitely add more sugar, maybe some chocolate chips in the brownies and whipped cream for the top.  Then I think they will be stellar.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am holding my very first contest!  Well…it’s not really a contest…more like a giveaway.  I am approaching 1000 approved comments, crazy!  To thank you all for continuing to come back and read (even when I’m only posting once a week), I will send a package of sweets to whomever posts the 1000th comment!  I won’t say how close I am – it may not even happen for this post.  But I will announce the winner when it happens.

Lastly, I only took two lunches for last week’s shortened workweek, so here they are.

11-24 better than cream cheese & pumpkin butter sandwich on wheat,
celery & carrots sticks, banana pieces, candy cane jo jo’s

11-25 sweet potato chili, cornbread, wilted arugula, a clementine

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and is getting into the holiday spirit!

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Another Saturday & Laptop Lunches

Another weekend, another excuse to invite everyone to our house for football and the fight.  I’m exhausted, so I’m gonna keep this one as short as possible.

Our guests included two vegan friends (yay!) so I made sure to offer plenty.

Veggie tray with homemade ranch.

Fiesta Macaroni (except not) Bean Salad, one of my favorites from La Dolce Vegan.  This was vegan AND gluten-free and nobody suspected a thing.

Cheater Baked Beans from VCON.  I like to add a bit of sugar, hot sauce and liquid smoke or worcestershire.

All of these dishes were a little routine since I wanted them to be “omni-friendly”, but here was the real winner:  Ricki’s Portobello Steaks.  I grilled the mushrooms after marinating, sauteed some sliced red onion, added the remaining marinade and thickened with cornstarch because I’m impatient.  While the reduced marinade was strongly flavored, it was delicious and I’m glad I took the extra step.

These mushrooms were huge!

Here’s my plate, with some sauce on the mushroom.

I was going to make butterscotch blondies for dessert but I ran out of time, so instead I give you two bonuses…beer and cat.

Here we have Stone Vertical Epic Ale, Anchor 2008 Christmas Ale and Piraat Ale.  The Stone and the Piraat were belgians, and while they were good I don’t remember any specifics other than their high alcohol content.  Belgians aren’t really my thing.  The Anchor was really good.  I highly recommend it, especially since it’s seasonal and you won’t be able to get it for very long.  I mean, look at the bottle!  It was so pretty that I felt bad opening it.

Here’s a shot of Mr. Jake on Saturday in a sun spot.  I thought the shadows of the blinds and his stripes made a really nice pattern.  And he actually stayed still long enough for me to get a good number of shots!

On to last week’s Laptop Lunches.

11-10 pizza & salad w/ carrot, celery & goddess dressing

Tuesday was a holiday!


11-12 cauliflower-millet mash, roasted fall veggies, celery sticks & almond butter, grapes

I took this lunch Thursday but we ended up going out, so I ate it Friday.


11-14 wheat wrap w/ hummus, grilled eggplant & zucchini, lettuce,
tomato & pickle, cucumbers w/ tahini dip, kiwi

That’s it for last week, and it for now.  Bianca from Vegan Crunk tagged me for a meme that I was going to do tonight, but for whatever reason I’m too tired to think about anything, much less seven whole interesting things about myself.

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VeganMoFo: Double Pea Soup with Roasted Red Peppers

A quick post about tonight’s dinner.  It was chilly last night and this morning and I was craving soup, so I perused the list of recipes that fall into my plan.  I decided on Double Pea Soup with Roasted Red Peppers from Veganomicon, which I have been wanting to try for a while.

The soup is very good!  It’s nothing blow-your-mind phenomenal, but it’s a nice twist on split pea soup.  The peas, red pepper and ginger lend a fresh flavor that split pea doesn’t normally have.  Although next time I might try it with fresh bell pepper instead of roasted to make it even more fresh.

I thought about making rolls to eat along with the soup, but wasn’t feeling up to making more than one recipe tonight, so I picked up Trader Joe’s harvest multigrain loaf.  It was a perfect complement to the soup.  It’s not 100% whole grain, but it tastes very hearty and healthy.  It has seeds and crunchy grains throughout, and sopped up the soup really well.

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Fourth of July

Yeah, it’s the ninth of July and I’m posting about the fourth.  That’s how things are going right now.  Applying for jobs, planning the move, getting rid of my stuff and living as cheaply as possible are consuming my mind and there’s not room for much else!  Now I understand when people say “I don’t have time to cook”.

I have an admission to make:  Every fourth of July I get the urge to make a red, white and blue cake a la Family Circle and moms everywhere.  I’m not very patriotic at all, but it’s just the Suzy Homemaker thing that I like to do every now and then.  I’ve had to work on the fourth for the past few years and so thus far had not fulfilled my flag cake dream.

This year I didn’t leave myself a whole lot of time, but managed to come up with an effort I can be proud of.  I made the Lemon Almond Cake from Yellow Rose Recipes, which calls for decorating the top with strawberries.  My friend Janeen, who I’ve mentioned before is allergic to soy, is also allergic to strawberries (the poor thing!), so I took the opportunity to incorporate blueberries into the design.  I needed to leave the glaze off her portion too since it included margarine, so I designated a Janeen corner and went from there.

I think it’s supposed to be stripes and fireworks and American things.  What is was was delicious.  The cake is very moist and almost intensely flavorful, I might even reduce the almond extract a bit the next time I make it.  Janeen made sure to steal her corner first and then we went at it.  If you make this cake, which you should, be sure to eat it within the first two days as it spoils quickly, what with all the freshness on top.  Or you could probably extend the life by putting it in the fridge.

As per usual, we were to spend the day grilling.  I wanted a non-store bought (read:  cheaper) protein to grill, so I made Black Bean Burgers from Veganomicon.  I pan-fried them to fully cook and then grilled later just to reheat.  Heed the instructions when they tell you to press them down in the pan!  Otherwise the middles can be a little undercooked.  Here they are packed up for transport.

I ended up eating pretzels and chips and boiled peanuts all afternoon, and wasn’t hungry for dinner until much later that night.  We fired up some new coals and had a veggie grilling session.  Our friend Amber had brought Tofurkey kielbasas so we cooked those up, along with some corn and zucchini that had been waiting for action all day.  I couldn’t manage all of that, so I just had a kielbasa and a burger.

I love how it looks like a crazy face!  I put lettuce, tomato, grilled red onion, grilled mushrooms, avocado, ketchup, AND mustard on the burger and it was way tall when I piled it up to eat.  It was a task I was willing to undertake.

These burgers are really good!  I’m definitely going to make them again.  I’d recommend eating these within a day or two also, or putting them straight in the freezer.  After a few days the wheat gluten texture got a little funky and freaked me out.

By the next night I was ready to fully enjoy everything we had made, so I did.

My food has been pretty boring lately, as I am trying to eat out of the pantry and freezer and buy as little food as possible.  I should have some decent pantry meals to post about soon.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

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