Comfort and Pasta

My workplace had a Halloween potluck earlier this week and were planning a chili competition.  I thought I’d bring something different and decided to make a corn chowder.  An added inducement to the corn chowder was that I could make it with ingredients I had on hand and any time I can avoid the grocery store I will choose to do so.

I used the recipe in The Part Time Vegan as a template, adding a few tweaks of my own, and ended up with a chowder that wasn’t bad.  Wasn’t bad isn’t usually what I go for so my corn chowder recipe needs work before it can be posted.  Having a recipe not turn out as I’d hoped is always a little bit of a downer so I decided to drown my sorrows in comfort food.  Enter pasta and, fortunately, the McDougall diet allows me to eat as much as I like.

With both comfort and temperance in mind, I decided to try a new pasta.  I got sucked into one of those sample stands at Costco which introduced me to Explore Cuisine’s Chickpea Pasta (which is not on the website but other tasty products are).  The woman at the sample stand assured me the pasta kept a chewy texture despite re-heating and I was persuaded to buy a box.

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I have tried other gluten-free pastas.  I like quinoa pasta but have found brown rice pasta ends up too mushy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I boiled water and measured out the pasta.  I was concerned with taste as the pasta smelled well, beany, as it cooked but all my worries were for naught.  The pasta has a slight flavor that didn’t remind me too much of chickpeas and kept a perfect al dente texture.  My family liked it as well.  Though I don’t know this will replace quinoa pasta for me, I’m definitely interested in trying more of Enjoy Cuisine’s products.

Wondering what to eat with the pasta?  Here’s my Mom’s recipe for chunky vegan pasta sauce.  Neither she nor my step-father are vegan and they both choose this one over sauces laden with meat.  Let me know if you give it a try.

Sue’s Spaghetti Sauce

1 cup minced onion

1 TBSP minced garlic

1 jar Classico Traditional Favorites Pasta Sauce, Tomato & Basil

1 jar Prego Light Smart Traditional Italian Sauce

2 TBSP Hunts Tomato Paste

1 14oz can Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes, Diced, No Salt Added

1 15 oz can Tomato Sauce

1 15 oz can Simple Truth Organic Tri-Bean Blend beans, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can Organic Canned Black Beans, drained and rinsed

6 oz Boca Veggie Ground Crumbles

Cook onions and garlic until onions begin to sweat.  All all other ingredients except beans and crumbles.  Cook 1 hour.  Add beans and crumbles and cook 15 minutes.  Pour over cooked spaghetti.

Prep and Cook time = 75 min

Serving Size = 2 cups

Serves = 8

What’s In This?

My diet contains all sorts of tasty foods based on vegetables, grains, and beans but, sometimes, all I want is dessert.  In an attempt to stick to my way of eating, I’m always looking for healthier forms of desserts: ones based on whole fruits, high fiber grains, and beans.  Yes, that’s right, beans.  I didn’t believe it either but having tried desserts based with beans, I’m becoming a convert.

My first bean based dessert was black bean brownies.  I was skeptical but the result is a dense, fudge-like brownie that’s well worth blowing a diet on.  True, they do have to be eaten within a few days or they get really dry but a pan of brownies doesn’t last all that long around my house anyway.

My second bean based dessert was chocolate chip cookies that had tofu as the secret ingredient.  I’d had some bad luck with tofu-based desserts, was again skeptical, and was again proven wrong.  I prefer chewy cookies and these were perfect.

With both experiments going so well, I was ready to try something new.  I found a recipe for a Great Northern Apple Cake in my Vegan on the Cheap cookbook and the secret ingredient is in the title: Great Northern Beans.

Great Northern Beans are not my favorite.  I find them rather tasteless which I suppose is desirable trait when they’re being used in dessert.  Beans don’t contain a great deal of liquid so I couldn’t help wondering if any cake made with them was be too dry.  There was no way to know but to make it so I gathered the ingredients, hauled out my food processor, and got started.

This cake might be cheap but it’s definitely not quick.  Walnuts must be toasted and chopped; apples cored, peeled, and sauteed in vegan butter, brown sugar, and lemon juice; oats ground to flour, the pan to be lined with apples…there’s a lot of steps, setting bowls aside, reserving liquid…it’s not a recipe I would recommend unless you have a great deal of time and energy.

So…I made this cake twice.  The first time I made it, I got the baking powder out of the cupboard and completely forgot to add it.  I thought the cake looked a little flat when I got it out of the oven but, what did I know?  Maybe a cake made with beans doesn’t rise.  Well, one without baking powder doesn’t and is certainly dense.  I don’t want to say the cake was inedible but it certainly isn’t a dessert I’d crave.  I knew I wanted to try it again but, with the amount of prep time, I put it off.

Then there was a snow storm here and and the weather was perfect for baking.  I dug a can of Great Northern Beans out of the cupboard, collected everything else, and mixed the cake making sure to include the baking powder.

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The cake already looks better than my first attempt

The cake rose!  Who knew!  This one looked much better than the first.  The real test was taste and it isn’t bad.  The apples, brown sugar, and walnuts make a nice caramel-apple topping and the cake is nice and moist.  However, it is missing something.  I don’t know what it is but the cake itself is missing a layer of taste: it’s subtle but it’s missing.  If I’m going to continue to make this cake, some experimenting is necessary.  Maybe cardamom, or chili pepper, or ginger…

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An upside-down apple/white bean cake

On a health note: I ate a piece of this cake with a scoop of cashew milk salted caramel ice cream and woke up with a weird headache the next morning.  I’ve been reading about sugar sensitivity and, while there are a myriad of reasons why I could have a headache; I wondered it was because I’ve been cutting way back on my sugar intake and cake and ice cream were a bit much.  Perhaps, indulging in dessert isn’t such a great idea after all.

Cake and Ice Cream
Is “healthy dessert” an oxymoron?

I’ll Give it a Miss

I tried a new vegan product his week:  Jackfruit.  BBQ Jackfruit, to be precise.

I first heard of jackfruit in Jenn Shagrin’s cookbook, Veganize This!.  Ms. Shagrin had a recipe making a canned tuna substitute out of jackfruit.  I purchased this cookbook when I first made the decision to become a vegan and, as I was already overwhelmed with new ingredients, I did not run out and purchase jackfruit.  I knew H Mart, a lovely Asian market not far from where I live, carried canned as well as fresh jackfruit so it was always in the back of my mind to use but I developed a taste for not-tuna salad made with chickpeas and nori so…years passed…

And then, I saw jackfruit for sale at my local Vitamin Cottage.  Ah!  Jackfruit!  I always wanted to try that, I told myself and purchased the package.  I didn’t have a plan when I brought the jackfruit home so I put it in the freezer and forgot about it until I needed something to go with mashed potatoes and gravy and peas.  In my pre-vegan days, I’d have had pulled pork so BBQ jackfruit seemed like a optimal alternative.

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It Almost Looks Like Pulled Pork…

So…

This was not one of my favorite things.  I liked the BBQ sauce but the texture of the jackfruit definitely takes some getting used to.  The taste reminded me of BBQ artichoke hearts; something I can make a lot cheaper should I be seized by the impulse.  I can’t imagine it will.

My verdict?  It isn’t bad but I don’t see jackfruit becoming a staple in my vegan diet.

Cold Comfort Food

Does every meal I make turn out a celebration of wonderful vegan options?  No!  In fact, I’ve been having a week.  Recipes aren’t turning out or I’m forgetting important ingredients (a cake fiasco post is forthcoming): it’s enough to drive a person back to eating canned chili beans which just so happen to be on the menu tonight with baked potatoes and steamed broccoli.  I need a break.

My week of ruined recipes started with an attempt at making tempeh with potatoes and cabbage.  I didn’t start out wanting to make this.  I first intended to make a tempeh recipe from my Macrobiotic cookbook but then Julianna Hever posted a health benefits of cabbage photo (which I can’t find again) so I decided to try sweet and sour cabbage with tempeh and fried rice-substitute the rice with barley.  Then a blizzard hit and sweet and sour cabbage didn’t sound comfort foody enough so I perused my cookbooks and found the afore mentioned recipe in 1000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson.  The dish was supposed to be reminiscent of Hungarian goulash and I thought that sounded like it would bring comfort while I was buried under 2 feet of snow.

I gathered my ingredients, found I didn’t have Hungarian sweet paprika, and subbed Spanish paprika.  I cooked the dish according to instructions and, after 30 minutes, my potatoes hadn’t cooked.  At all.  They remained raw.  What happened?  Did I not cut them small enough?  Had I used some kind of mutant potato that refused to cook?  I stirred my meal and let it cook another ten minutes.  No softening of the potatoes.  Another ten minutes and nothing.  Meanwhile, the carrots and cabbage were cooking into mush.  I threw in the towel, turned off the fire, clapped a lid on the pan to keep the heat in, and made myself a sandwich.

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Why aren’t the potatoes cooking?!

 

I left my meal to cool, hoping the potatoes would soften and found they did so.  Now what?  The meal didn’t taste bad.  There weren’t a ton of flavor layers in it but it wasn’t unpleasant and, while I only had a few dollars of ingredients in it, I hate wasting food.  What could I do with it beyond scraping it out of the pan into the trash?  I wasn’t sure but I decided to save it and come at it another day.  Once I had it in a refrigerator dish, I had the thought that it looked like filling for something.  What, I wasn’t sure but I decided to let that thought mull.

A couple of days later, I had it.  Runzas.  I hadn’t had a Runza in years.  For one, they’re made with ground beef and, two, I don’t think the restaurant exists outside the state of Nebraska. My meal already had cabbage and the tempeh had cooked up soft enough it could almost substitute for ground beef.  All I needed was a dough recipe.

I found one, veganized it, and put my Runzas together.  They didn’t look too bad when I pulled them out of the oven: while the  dough seams had separated in places I didn’t have any filling explosions.  The recipe I’d veganized wanted me to make 16 squares with 3/4 of the dough.  I was using all the dough so decided to separate it in half and make large hand pies with half the dough and smaller hand pies with the other half to see which I preferred.  I chose one of each and was ready to see whether I’d salvaged my tempeh meal or not.

I think I did.  The larger pie had (of course) a large dough to filling ratio.  The dough baked up a bit sweet so, with the larger pie, the filling needed more spice.  If I’d planned on making Runzas from the beginning, I’d have used smoked paprika and cumin.  With the smaller pie, the taste contrast wasn’t as strong.

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Not the best picture, but I was tired 🙂

All in all, I think I did manage to salvage this meal.  I ended up making enough Runzas to freeze for work lunches; something that makes me happy because it saves me money in the long run.  Still, they weren’t amazing so my vegan Runzas still need work.

The dough doesn’t though.  The dough is fabulous.  While I was eating my cabbage stuffed hand pie, I couldn’t help thinking the filling should be dark chocolate, cherry, and a touch of cayenne.  An idea for the next blizzard.

Need a recipe for vegan runza dough?  This the original recipe I found: my veganized version is below.

Vegan Runza Dough

3 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tsp yeast (or 2 packets)

1/3 cup sugar

1 stick Earth Balance

2 flax eggs

2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Mix together 2 TBSP flax meal (I use Bob’s Red Mill Organic Golden Flax Meal) and 6 TBSP water.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the 2 cups milk and heat to lukewarm (105 degrees).  Pour the liquid into the dry mixture.  Beat with a mixer until a soft dough forms.
  5. Add the flax eggs and the remaining flour.  Mix with a dough hook or knead by hand (great to vent frustration!) until all the flour is incorporated.  The dough will be a bit sticky.
  6. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Divide dough in half and roll out onto a floured surface.  Cut into squares.  Spoon filling onto the center of each square and fold the dough around the filling, pinching the edges to seal.
  8. Place on the cookie sheets and let raise in a warm place for 25 minutes.
  9. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes.  The large squares did best at 30 minutes-the smaller ones were done after 25.
  10. Let cool and enjoy.

The Go-To Restaurant

My family seems to find go-to restaurants on the trips we take together.  As none of my family are vegan, the places don’t always have a great deal of vegan options but there’s always something and the staff at these places bend over backwards to help me out.  The go-to restaurant on our Utah trip was Denny’s.  On our Nebraska trip, it was Perkins.

I used to frequent Perkins a great deal when I was in high school.  I remember meeting there with my thespian friends and indulging in Perkins’ baked goods.  I don’t indulge in the baked goods anymore.  Instead, I scour the menu looking for something that doesn’t contain eggs, meat, or dairy.

I didn’t find many but Perkins does serve oatmeal (made with water-I asked) for breakfast and the side menu is fairly extensive.  I had the oatmeal at the Perkins in North Platte: our waiter was willing to leave off the milk and the raisins and brown sugar were served on the side so I could decide how sweet I wanted my breakfast: something I appreciate.

Our next meal at Perkins was dinner in Kearney, NE.  It had been a long drive, we were tired, and our waiter was so nice.  Dr. McDougall would be thrilled with my meal: I ordered the baked potato plain-no butter-the steamed broccoli, and fresh fruit.  I reiterated no butter on the broccoli and and everything arrived butter-less.  The jacket of the potato didn’t look or taste like it had been buttered during the baking process.  I cut the potato into chucks, scooped my broccoli over the top, and added salt and pepper.  It sounds dry but it wasn’t.  The steamed broccoli was still a bit crisp and wonderfully flavorful.  The fresh fruit was a dish of  (a) grape, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon: a sweet finish to my meal.

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Don’t let its looks fool you-it’s tasty.

It’s an odd thing to not add a bean or other vegan “protein” to a meal.  It’s taken me years to be comfortable with the thought that all plants contain protein and that a meal of nothing but vegetables can be both filling and nutritious.  This meal was completely filling and yet not heavy.  I was comfortable but not stuffed when I went to bed.  My experience was so pleasant, I didn’t quibble when my Mother suggested Perkins for breakfast the next morning.

The next morning was Valentine’s Day and Perkins was PACKED.  No worries.  I was prepared.  I had a couple packets of peanut butter (a staple in my vegan survival kits) and planned to order dry toast and the oatmeal.  That is, until the waitress told me they were out of oatmeal.  Did I panic?  I think not.  I had my peanut butter, after all.  But then, my mother suggested I go to the car and get a packet of the instant oatmeal I’d purchased before beginning the road trip.  I felt a little weird about bringing an entire breakfast in for myself but the waitress said if I wanted to go get a packet, she’d be happy to prepare it for me.

Talk about service!  I retrieved a packet of blueberry-chia-quinoa oatmeal and the waitress was true to her word.  She cooked it up and served it in one of Perkins’ square plates.  She even brought me raisins just in case I wanted them.  Did I?! I am ever so grateful to her for being so kind.

My trip to Nebraska was definitely an adventure.  I’m never sure what I’m going to find in restaurants food-wise but I always find the nicest, most accommodating staff.  My thanks to everyone I met during this quick trip and especially the staff at the Kearney Perkins.

 

Nacho Typical Lunch

Do any of my fellow Nebraskans remember those old Romeo’s adds?  Nacho typical menu, nacho typical food…It will take days for me to get that song out of my head.

After a night spent in Norfolk celebrating the graduation, my family and I headed to Omaha to visit with my step-father’s sister and, as always, my family was wondering where can Kate eat?  I’d done some research and had found this helpful website.  My mom and I were reading off options when my stepfather suggested Romeo’s.  That wasn’t on the list but we googled the menu and found that there were a few bean options.  Romeo’s was a go.

Again, I found myself ordering off the side menu.  I ordered Frijoles, Spanish rice, and guacamole from the side dish menu and chips and salsa from the appetizer menu.  My family and I found it strange the chips and salsa weren’t complimentary but that didn’t end up being cause for complaint: we were given tubs of chips; enough my step auntie took some home for her grandsons.  Out of my various tubs of food, I made my own nachos.  A crispy chip, a spoonful of beans, another of rice, top with salsa and a smear of guac and chow down.  They were quite satisfying.  The chips weren’t overly salty or greasy and neither were the beans.  Not bad, though I say it myself.

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Creating Vegan Nachos

The beans were smushed rather than re-fried.  I asked the waitress and she said the beans are made fresh every day.  Since they aren’t canned, I’m fairly certain they don’t contain lard but I can’t be sure and I find there are limits to what I’m comfortable asking.  I can’t be that vegan that grills the waitstaff on how something is cooked, what oils are used, and whether or not something is completely vegan.  Knowing that about myself, I agree with Christina Pirello, Alicia Silverstone, and Sassy Knudson who all say “do the best you can”.  I did ask how the beans were prepared (hence my knowledge that they were pinto beans smushed together) and the waitress did say they would come with cheese on the top but she could ask them to leave it off.  I thanked her graciously, didn’t ask any more questions, and set to enjoying my meal.

I have never encountered unpleasant waitstaff.  People have always been willing to accommodate me and answer my questions and perhaps they wouldn’t mind more in-depth questions.  Perhaps I’ll get over my fear of being a pain.  Perhaps not.  Until then, I’ll do the best I can and enjoy nachos.

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I know it’s blurry: I have to practice taking a picture with one hand while holding food with the other.

 

 

 

Back at Bad Daddy’s

It’s another birthday dinner for my nephew and another visit to Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar.  I visited Bad Daddy’s for the same nephew’s birthday last year and had the veggie burger.  A helpful reader pointed out the burger is not vegan (thanks, vegan community!) so, even if I still weren’t off veggie burgers, the black bean burger at Bad Daddy’s is off the table.  Ha Ha.  I’d have to avoid it anyway, as I’m avoiding fried foods, so what is there for me to eat?  I perused the menu online and saw Bad Daddy’s has a create-your-own salad option.  My entire family thought that sounded good and so we braved the cold and drove to the Southlands’ Mall.

I claimed a tiny pencil and menu and began ticking boxes.  I chuckled a little to find black beans and chickpeas as options for the salad but they were NOT listed under the add-a-protein section.  Five years as a vegan and it still amazes me that no one seems to realize how protein packed beans are.  However, I didn’t have to pay an extra $3.00 to add my black beans so I kept my mouth shut and ticked my box.

With the ability to check seven boxes plus the choice of greens, I thought I could build a filling salad.  The options at the top of the menu are Small and Giant and, while I winced at the thought of paying close to $9.00 for a salad, I figured a giant salad would fill me up and maybe even have some left over to take home.

Salad Menu
The Create-Your-Own Menu

Let me preface my next statements by saying I have no complaints about Bad Daddy’s service.  The staff are friendly and willing to answer questions.  I asked our waitress about the Greek Orange-Oregano Vinaigrette and was told it contains feta cheese.  I thanked her and chose a different dressing.  Midway through our meal, a manager visited our table and asked how everything was.  So, no complaints about the staff.  Everything else about my visit was disappointing.

The first disappointment was the size of the salad.  I paid $9.00 for a bowl of greens.  I had to poke through them in order to find my seven ingredients and I discovered my definition of “giant” and Bad Daddy’s differed.  Second, my mother got the wrong salad.  She’d ordered strawberries and avocado on hers and added chicken (she’s not vegan) none of which she received.  The waitress was apologetic and kind and hurried off to make the order right.  I was tired or I would have realized my order was wrong as well.  As you can see from the above photo, I checked the box next to avocado.  My salad arrived avocado-less.  Like I said, I was tired and halfway through my salad before I noticed and even then couldn’t be sure I’d really ordered it.  Perhaps I’d only meant to and hadn’t checked the box.  My receipt arrived with my salad ingredients listed and, sure enough, I was supposed to have avocado.  Should I return a third time to this restaurant, I’ll make a note of what I ordered, or fill out two menus, so I can be sure I get all my ingredients.

A weird happening was the gnats.  Us salad eaters were all grouped at the end of the table and were forced to wave away these tiny light brown bugs.  I couldn’t see anyone else at the table with a bug problem.  This amused me a bit.  Why? Because I cannot recommend anyone eat at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, even if they aren’t vegan.  My nephew and his mother ordered 10oz burgers that were piled with buttermilk dipped and fried bacon.  The whole thing looked like a heart attack on a plate.  The rest of the meal choices weren’t any healthier.  I suppose no one goes to a place named Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar looking for health food but I was horrified and then amused as I saw none of those plates seemed to attract the gnats.  It’s not that I enjoy fighting off gnats but not even minuscule bugs will eat that stuff.

Ultimately, I found this visit disappointing.  And expensive.  My $9.00 salad wasn’t accurate or filling: I had to eat a supplementary dinner when I got home.  Fortunately, it isn’t a favorite with my family and I only have to go when my nephew has his birthday dinner.

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My “giant” salad. $9.00.

Did the salad tick my diet boxes?  Let me see:

Vegan?  Yes.

Macrobiotic?  This is up in the air.  I’m not sure how balanced my salad ingredients were and I was a little leery of the bowl.  Was it aluminum or stainless steel?  I just wanted a glass bowl.  Or to be eating at home.  Or both.

Raw?  Again, yes and no.  Raw greens and unprocessed nuts but the oranges were canned and the beans necessarily cooked.

McDougall Approved?  Yes and No.  The dressing contained oil.  I should have asked for it on the side because my greens got a little slimy.

Vegiterranean?  Again, the oil is a problem.  Instead of the dressing, I should have asked for half a lemon.

My disappointing experience was mostly my fault.  How do people know something is wrong unless I tell them?  Also, I considered rounding out my salad with a side dish order of fresh fruit but the side dish menu I saw online wasn’t printed on the restaurant menu.  I didn’t ask about the fruit so, again, can’t really complain that I left the restaurant hungry.  Maybe I’ll do better next year.  Or, maybe my nephew will choose to go somewhere else.

 

Turning Over a New Leafy Green

It’s the first day of 2016 and I’m making a New Year Resolution; one I have to keep.  2015 wasn’t the healthiest year for me.  I’d intended for it to be as I’d had my fibroids diagnosis late in 2014 and knew I needed to make more dietary changes to avoid surgery.  Not all of them happened in 2015.  The main reason…or excuse?  The job I worked at got steadily more stressful as third quarter 2014 became 2015 and 2015 progressed: the more stressed out I got, the more junk food I ate.  Stress eating doesn’t mean carrots and celery for me: more like potato chips and various forms of sugar.  I may be in worse health now than I was at the beginning of 2015.

All that changes for 2016.  2015 wasn’t a total loss as it did prepare me for the commitment I have to make.  I did research on what I ought to be eating, I just didn’t eat it.  I took another look at The McDougall Diet and read Julianna Hever’s The Vegiterranean Diet, Virginia Messina and JL Fields’ Vegan for Her, and Jessica Porter’s The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics.  I gleaned a great deal of information from all of these books and, combined with recipes I found in Rawsomely Vegan, have built a diet I am certain I can commit to in 2016.  I call it Vegemacrawdougarranean.  Sounds tasty, right?!  Who’s with me?

I did make an important change in 2015.  I gave up coffee and I don’t have words to describe how difficult that was for me.  I still dream of coffee but haven’t yet resorted to lurking around coffee shops merely to inhale the coffee fumes.  Giving up coffee was a process: I’d give it up one month and pick it up the next so it took most of 2015 to wean myself off caffeine.  I’ve done it and it’s a big step towards reclaiming my health.

I’ve run out of time and excuses.  I admitted I couldn’t manage the stress of my job and resigned: I’m now looking for something challenging rather than stressful and I know my body will thank me.  My resolutions from previous years still stand.  I don’t want to have to resort to surgery.  I believe it’s possible to heal myself with food and that is my goal for 2016.

A new resolution has prompted changes to the blog.  I plan to add more recipes in 2016 as the dietary changes will mean less eating out.  Eating out will be more of a challenge and I look forward to including those adventures on my blog.

I thank you all for following me these past few years and I hope you’ll join me for my new adventures in 2016.

Happy New Year!

My first recipe?  Kale Pizza!

Kale Pizza

Kate’s Kale Pizza

2 pieces flatbread, any kind

4 TBSP tomato sauce

2 TBSP Italian Seasoning

1/4 cup onion, minced

1 tsp garlic, minced

2 cups chopped kale, I like curly kale for this recipe

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes

2 artichoke hearts, chopped

1 cup Daiya Mozzarella Cheese shreds, if desired

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Saute onions and garlic until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Place flatbread on a baking sheet and brush each piece with 2 TBSP tomato sauce.  Sprinkle each piece with 1 TBSP Italian Seasoning and divide the onion and garlic mix among each piece.

Divide the rest of the ingredients in half and top each piece of flatbread with the sundried tomatoes, olives, and artichoke hearts.  Sprinkle each pizza with the cheese shreds, if using, and top with the kale*.

Bake until cheese has melted and kale has wilted, about 20 minutes.

This pizza is messy but extremely tasty.  The kale bakes crispy so it’s a bit like having a kale chip topping for pizza.  It’s a nice contrast with the melted cheese and rich sundried tomatoes.

Enjoy!

*placing the shreds between layers on ingredients allows it to melt a little easier; a tip I learned from Vegan Coach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relish the Holidays

This is my favorite time of year.  Cold and snow make me long to be indoors in fuzzy socks, firing up the oven, and experimenting with recipes.  This Thanksgiving was my third as a vegan and I’m still trying to come up with vegan versions of old staples.  I did another green bean casserole this year and it ended up being meh which caused me to have a realization about green bean casserole: why am I trying to come up with a vegan version of something I never liked in the first place?  It’s true.  I love green beans and hate mushrooms.

It’s sounds almost sacrilegious to say I hate mushrooms.  They’re so healthy.  They’re a rare vegetable source of Vitamin D.  I don’t mind how they smell cooking but the texture makes me gag.  I’ve tried everything I could conceive to make myself like mushrooms and have to admit failure.  I used to pick the green beans out of my non-vegan mushroom casserole, leaving the mushrooms and mushroom soup behind.  I picked the green beans out of my vegan casserole, leaving the mushrooms and gravy behind.  Next year, I’m making awesome green beans: no mushrooms at all.

One recipe was a failure but another was a success.  I tried my hand at making cranberry relish and it was greeted with resounding applause.  Cranberry sauce has always been one of my favorites and it doesn’t matter if it’s canned or not; I’ll eat it.  Knowing I was going to make my own, I didn’t purchase the canned sauce this year and knew a momentary qualm.  What if my sauce didn’t turn out?  I’d end up with no cranberries at all.  Perish the thought.  My mom made sauce with the rest of the frozen cranberries and, certain that cranberry something would be on the table, I set about experimenting.

I’ve had a bottle of cherry wine, made here in Colorado!, since September.  I’ve been hoarding it in order to use it in experiments and I thought cranberry relish was a perfect time to crack the bottle open.  My original recipe called for fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, cranberry juice, lemon zest, and white sugar.  I used fresh cranberries, dried cherries as I didn’t have any dried cranberries, cherry wine, lemon zest, and agave nectar.

It is well worth making food from scratch.  Chilling a can of cranberry sauce and plopping it on a plate right before dinner can never compare to the sight and smell of cooking your own from scratch.  The bright cranberries and dark cherries were beautiful cooking together in the pot.  The cranberries pop as they cook so three of your senses are engaged.  Nothing canned can compare.

My Beautiful Relish
My Beautiful Relish

I was worried I hadn’t added enough sugar.  I’d done a substitution comparison of agave nectar for white sugar.  I should have put in 1/3 cup but I thought I’d err on the side of caution and put in 1/4 cup instead.  My original recipe said to cook the relish 20 to 25 minutes until the sauce thickened but my sauce cooked away; probably a result of using wine instead of juice.  I turned off my relish and let it cool before tasting.

It was amazing.  I tasted the tart cranberries first and they were very tart.  But, just as my mouth started to tell me the relish was too tart and I needed to stop eating it, the sweet cherries kicked in.  I thought the relish was wonderful and my family agreed.  My step-father said twice how much he liked it and I use him as a measuring stick for my recipes.  If he says he likes it without being asked and goes back for seconds, I know I have a winner.

I’ll definitely make the relish again and don’t think I’d add more agave nectar.  I would make it with the wine again but would add a bit of juice to keep a little sauce with it.  My mom and I mixed our sauces together and the extra liquid made the relish perfect.  I’ve got more cherry wine.  I’m planning to make more cranberry relish for Christmas but I’m thinking apples or pears braised in cherry wine with a little cinnamon and ginger will be my next experiment.  Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Cranberry/cherry relish
Cranberry/cherry relish

Cranberry Cherry Relish

1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries

1 cup sweetened dried cherries

1/2 cup cherry wine*

2/3 cup sugar **

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.  Set aside to cool to room temperature, then transfer to a bowl to serve warm.  If serving chilled, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until needed.  Properly stored, this relish will keep for 3 to 4 days (assuming it lasts that long!)

*Perhaps a little more wine should be used or a mix of wine and juice

**I used 1/4 cup agave nectar instead of white sugar but I find it sweet-use as little or as much as you like!

 

 

 

 

I Made A Hash of Dinner

Or rather, for dinner.

I don’t always buy my dinner at the grocery store whenever I have errands to run.  Every once in a while, I plan ahead.  I will say the planning process is easier when I don’t have to work but I am endeavoring to change all my bad habits.  Yesterday (being Sunday) I prepared dinner ahead of time and thus was able to avoid the tasty pre-made options in the grocery store’s freezer section.  I knew I was making hash for dinner so scrubbed potatoes, pierced them with a fork, and popped them in the oven so they’d cook while I did other things.

I was excited to try hash because, before my becoming vegan, I used to eat a great deal of corned beef hash.  Worse, I ate the canned hash.  I shudder when I think of the amount of salt in that stuff but the fact remains I still like hash.  It is possible to have vegan versions of old favorites and I was looking forward to coming up with a go-to hash recipe.  As all hashes must, in my opinion; mine started with the a fore mentioned potatoes.

With the onset of cold weather, I am less inclined to have a smoothie for breakfast and desire things like hot oatmeal and miso soup.  I like my miso soup with a little diced tofu so I had the remnant of a block of tofu in the fridge.  A little soy sauce and turmeric and I had “egg” for my hash.

My last hash component was a Tofurky Italian Sausage link.  The links had made an appearance in a dirty rice recipe a few days ago and I still had one I needed to use.  I am following a modified McDougall diet-I say modified because I’m eating an English muffin with almond butter and fig jam as I write this-and so do not cook with oil.  With no oil in the pan, I was concerned my hash would either stick to the pan or turn out too dry but, since I wouldn’t know until I tried, I set to work.

I cooked the Tofurky link first, thinking it had enough oil in the marinade to glaze the pan.  While that cooked, I chopped my potato. I read somewhere that a potato has most of its nutrients directly under the skin.  I have also read that this isn’t true but I figure it’s best to eat a vegetable in its entirety whenever possible so I left the skin on.  When my sausage link was done, I transferred it to the cutting board to cool and crumbled my tofu into the same pan.  A splash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of turmeric and my “eggs” were officially cooking.  I let that heat through then added the potato to the pan along with a little fresh cracked pepper, fresh ground sea salt (not too much because of the soy sauce), and some red pepper flakes.  While that heated through I diced the sausage link and added then added the pieces to the pan.  I moved my hash around with a wooden spatula and, when I thought it was cooked through enough, I scooped the lot onto a plate.

Now, the verdict.  Was it too dry?  Did I need to use a little oil in order to make things edible?  The answer?  No! Part of my concern stemmed from the fact that I’d used a russet potato and I find those are always a little dry.  Not this time.  My hash had no sauce but it wasn’t dry at all and I’m finding the lack of oil in my food refreshing.  The taste is lighter and my tongue can distinguish more spices when the food isn’t drenched in oil.  There wasn’t a great deal of subtle spice in this recipe but my red pepper flakes made it tongue-tingling.  My sausage and tofu eggs rounded out the hash, making it a satisfying and filling meal.  Best of all, it was quick.  The potatoes baked themselves requiring only my looking in on them from time to time.  The hash itself was done in ten minutes.  Healthy fast food!

Another Quick Meal
Another Quick Meal

Forgive my photos: I’m working on getting different lights.  The yellow overhead lights in the kitchen aren’t the best choice for photos.