Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Clearing the Cupboards

With the new year approaching I am quite hooked on the idea of simplifying my life. My kitchen is full of random ingredients that I don't use regularly or bought and never tried. I'm also trying to spend as little money as possible. Using ingredients I already have on hand accomplishes both goals. Hopefully in the coming weeks I will be able to post tasty money saving recipes.

Now, of course, I understand that not everyone has the same random assortment of ingredients to use in their pantry but the following two options are made of rather cost effective ingredients whether you already have them or not. They also have the added bonus of being quite quick when all is said and done. Little prep work and not long cooking times.

After a little Google search through my trusted blogs I came across my first victim, err recipe.

Red Gold Black and Green Chili (adapted from Fat Free Vegan)
1 cup hulled barley, soaked overnight, cooked in 4 cups water and drained, cooking time is reduced by soaking
2 14oz cans canned diced tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoons water or oil (optional)
3 medium chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
1 heaping teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon hot sauce (we have an atomic hot sauce so I used only 1 tsp)
2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
1 1/2 cups (1 can) cooked black beans, drained
1 1/2 cups (1 can) cooked red kidney beans, drained
salt to taste

Heat a large saucepan adding
the 3 tbsp. water or oil if using (I was using a cast iron pot and did not need additional moisture to prevent sticking). Sauté the onions until they are soft; then stir in the garlic, cumin, chili powder, hot sauce, and bell peppers and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and beans to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the corn and the drained barley. Cover and simmer for a few minutes for the flavors to meld. Add salt to taste.

This ended up filling my 3 qt pot to the brim and I used all my barley. Pearl barley will work just fine in this recipe but hulled is more nutritious. I have noticed that canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and canned beans go on sale frequently so it's best to grab them when they are reduced so you always have a quick easy dinner in your kitchen ready to be thrown together. I also pounce on dried beans when they go on sale and then cook and freeze them as needed to have beans ready for use in my freezer. Once they are cooked you only need to run them under hot water for a bit to slightly thaw and separate them. Drain and toss them in the pot.

Tonight's dinner made me feel super clever but I can't be the first person to think of this. I'm not a fan of split pea soup. I am also not a fan of canned soup. Now I like soup in general, just not the split pea variety and not canned. Canned is ok in pinch but there is also too much salt. So how three cans of split pea soup made it into my pantry I have no idea. Well I do have an idea and it wasn't mine but I never turn down free vegan food. I figured we would find a use for it and if not we would donate it to the food shelf. Anyway, while at work today I had the bright idea of adding currying the soup. That might actually make it palatable. Ok but what to do with all that extra salt. Potatoes! Potatoes can suck up a lot of salt flavor so once I got home I set out to make mashed potatoes with

Chick & Split Pea Curried Gravy
1 can split pea soup (ours was Muir Glen Organic)
2-3 cloves garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder (start with this and add more to taste)
1 Tb curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1 1/2 cups (or 1 can) cooked chickpeas

Heat sauce pan over medium heat. If you are using fresh garlic then add this to the pan with a splash of water and heat gently for 1-2 minutes. Empty in can of soup. Continue to heat, stiring occationally until simmering. Reduce heat slightly to keep from burning and add spices (including powdered garlic if using). Mix in well then add chickpeas. Let mixture simmer for 5-10 minutes. The timing isn't important but simmering it will allow some of the excess liquid to evaporate off and naturally thicken the mixture and also allows the flavors to blend. Serve over potatoes, rice, veggies, couscous, whatever you can find in your cupboards!
As much as I say I do not like canned soups, they do go on sale frequently and there are so many varieties you can always think of something to add to them to make them a more hearty meal (and to spread out the salt a bit). I didn't measure how much this made. I would guess about 3-4 cups which is easily 4 servings. Since the soup is a fairly blank palate, add whatever your heart desires (and what you have on hand).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Well it's Christmas day at last. After weeks of working the buns off the shopping season has come to a close pretty much. All my plans for Christmas, as usual, went by the wayside. The holidays kicked my tuccas. My family and friends will be receiving their gifts late and I hope they don't mind. Most of my friends understand because I see them often and they know Christmas in retail is insane, especially for those in charge. My family, well that remains to be seen. None of them are here. My husband's family is in Europe and our jobs prohibit us from being with them during the holidays. I'm sure they get that we work a lot. And they must know by now we are crap at organization and timing. As long as everyone knows we think of them often, that's all that matters during this time of year or any time and we do think of them often.

So anyway, on with my Christmas. We've been pretty low key these last few years. Since it's just us and we don't really want for much stuff it's mostly a day of resting, good food, each other's company and A Christmas Story (the only Christmas movie I could seriously watch over and over again each Christmas without getting sick of it and it's the only Christmas movie I own).

For first breakfast we had our usual fruit, a couple bananas and cranberry juice. As I was preparing second breakfast, Lex juiced some oranges on our new kitchen aid juicer attachment and we drank that as preparations continued.

Second breakfast or maybe brunch looked like this
and consisted of Sweet Potato with Cinnamon Drizzle (my drizzle is more of a blob but it was damn good) and Tofu Scram from Get it Ripe and tempeh bacon from VWAV. This was delicious. It's only the 2nd and 3rd recipes I have made from Get it Ripe and both are winners.

One delicious meal is not enough. Not for the first day off I have had in two weeks so on with lunch.

Even though I did not get to prep like I wanted to for all this things came together in time for a late lunch at about 2:30. I was pretty proud of myself.
Dinner is served
We have some teriyaki baked tofu (I used a teriyaki marinade that Lex brought me from the tip top of Vermont), cranberry sauce, Poppy Seed Pull Apart Rolls from the Vegan Brunch testing, the famous green bean casserole, mashed taters with a touch of garlic and loads of chives, on top we have GIR recipe #4- Miso Gravy, and simple mashed rutabaga. This was all awesome and there is plenty of leftovers for later tummy grumblings.

I'm so glad everything turned out so nice. So on to the treats.
There was chocolate of course.
I found the Terra Nostra bars at Healthy Living. We've tried their chocolate before from City Market. They had carried them for a hot minute before they decided not to because they didn't sell fast enough or something. This is what happened with the So Delicious Coconut Yogurt and the Temptation Ice Cream but I'm not bitter (read here, I am bitter but I put up with it because they do still have some good stuff they just irritate me sometimes with their half efforts). The Lindt Dark Santa was a given as it's a delicious chocolate vegan Santa but what made this Santa even more special was my friend Dave adding a filling to this once hollow chocolate figure. Dave makes the most delicious vegan ganache, this one spiked with a little Amaretto. He penetrated Santa's wimpy aluminum foil defences topped it up with insanely good ganache. I mean really, this stuff is easily $3 a truffle good.

For my own homemade goodies I managed to make these ahead of time.
Peanut Brittle
Fudge from Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs. This was rockin' awesome. Lex used some expletives in a good way to describe it's tastiness.

After all this chocolate craziness you'd think I'd be passed out on the floor in a puddle of my own drool but I do have an unusually high chocolate tolerance which I attribute to my mother who was also a chocoholic.

The only present actually open on this Christmas day was a gift from the inlaws. They definitely get that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and wish me to do it in style.
If you can't tell from the worlds worst picture there we have an apron and oven mitts. This apron is much appreciated as it fits better then the BBQ man style one we currently have. Now we have a more his and hers apron set up. I am especially enjoying this apron for it's kind of vintage look even though it's new. Pretty neato.

I've rambled on enough I think for one post. Now that the holidays are over I hope to get more regular posts in. Even if they all aren't as exciting as this one.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Oh and just in case you were wondering how Ralphie (Peter Billingsley)
is lookin' these days.
Photo courtesy of A Christmas Story House

Thursday, December 11, 2008

and from Austin, TX!

I received my care package (swap organized by Lindsay) from Diann full of awesome Texas-ness. Actually I received this on Friday but am only now sitting my butt down to write about it. I just love care package swaps!
I don't know if you can tell from the picture but this box was big. It's a Zappos box, we're talking boot sized. Just opening it up was lovely. Everthing packed so nicely, a note & post card and a lovely scent. I figured I'd have to dig a bit to get to the bottom of the lovely scent.
A wonderful box of Texas goodness:
Agave Nectar
Blueberry Jam
Cranberry Habenero Jam
Soap (this was the aroma)
Corn Tortillas
Mexican Oregano
Texas Shaped Corn chips
Whole Foods shopping bag
Laura's Wholesome Junkfood cookies

Shortly after opening the box Lex ran off with one of the grapefruits.

I got a kick out of the cornships
They really are Texas shaped! Neato!

Mac got something out of the package too. Remember that ribbon tying it all together from the first pic?
Yup, that is the best thing ever!
The cookies are super yummy. Probably a good thing I can't get them around here or I'd be broke buying them all the time. Lex has already started in on the corn tortillas so if I want one I'd better get in there now. The stolen grapefruit was delicious, the other probably won't be around for much longer. Some oregano has found it's way into some tester chili to be posted at a later date. Mac is still loving the ribbon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's the T-giving

A couple days late but I still gotta share. This was the most stress free Thanksgiving I can remember that I have cooked for. I now understand the beauty of advance prep.

So here's the line up:
Seitan stuffing roulade, Kittee's totally awesome seitan and a bread/lentil/herb stuffing
Green Bean Casserole with home made fried onions from VeganYumYum
Mashed Potatoes
Cranberry Sauce
Chocolate Pumpkin Pie, from Eat Drink Be Vegan by Dreena Burton

So the night before, after work I made the green bean casserole, made the fried onions, cut up the potatoes (store those in water in the fridge), cranberry sauce, the stuffing, caramelized onions for the seitan and the pumpkin pie. It helped that Lex had to go out for a bit so while he was out I just kept cooking. It worked out well as I had very little to do the next day. So we went to beddy bye at around midnightish which is actually pretty normal for us anyway.

Next morning we had a relaxing coffee and a little fruit. Then a killer tofu scramble (tofu, veggie sausage, tomato, avocado, hells yeah. Oh, and some oven home fries. I've found that I really like making home fries in the oven. Cut up chunks of potato, toss them in just enough oil to coat and bake in oven at 400F for 10-15 minutes until they are golden. You can add any herbs you want to the oil as you toss them. The cook just right and have much less oil then pan fried ones. I do accept that classic homefries are an awesome comfort food, no denying that but with all the calories of the holidays I didn't think I'd miss them here. Cooking them in the oven allows you to multitask better as well.

Case and point, while my breakies was cooking away (it only took 10-15 mins) I whipped up the seitan dough, pressed it out into a rectangle on my Silpat and spread the stuffing mixture on top leaving a little border and rolled it up into a frikin huge roast. I set up my biggest soup pot into a steamer. Wrapped the roast in foil and set it to steaming for about an hour and a half. Then we set to eating breakfast. No pictures of that. Sorry.

Around 2ish we headed to our friend's (Megan & Dave) apartment to complete our killer vegan feast. They were just finishing up so we added our green bean casserole to be heated and the roast to finish cooking in the oven with the casserole to their rosemary batard. On the stove some more magic was happening. Home made pumpkin ravioli, a red wine broccoli rabe saute, the potatoes I had prepped boiling away and a bechamel sauce.

While these bits finished up we noshed some super awesome black bean dip (Megan made that).
That's Lex snagging some more dippage.

So dinner is almost ready. Let's meet Megan & Dave's fur babies before we fill our plates and bellies.

Aspen puppy (she loves having his picture taken. She loves love really).
Chloe cat
Poppy cat (Poppy is actually Mac's brother)
Tiger kitty
Ok, enough! Let's eat. Just look at this spread!
And my crazy full plate!
After such a feast we were all pretty much zombies. Then crammed in some pie.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sugar Sugar

This month's challenge is Shuna Fish Lydon’s recipe for Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting hosted by Dolores of Culinary Curiosity, Alex of Blondie and Brownie, and Jenny of Foray into Food. I managed a good result the first try which is great because these days I'm not finding myself with a lot of time (read here retail and holiday season) but I can't let that keep me from a potentially delicious Daring Bakers Challenge. Well I say potentially delicious but I have yet to experience a not delicious challenge so it's pretty much a sure thing at this point.
I followed the recipe pretty closely. First, I halved the recipe just to save the calories during this season of excess. My modifications to vegandom were:
-Earth Balance for the butter in both the cake and frosting
-1 Tb flax meal and 3-4 Tb water for the egg (remember I halved this recipe so you may want to double this for the original recipe which calls for 2 eggs)
-vanilla soy milk for the milk and I also omitted the vanilla since the soy milk already had this
-doubled the baking powder
-a little Mimic Cream in the frosting instead of the heavy cream

So as you can see the substitutions were fairly straight forward. I made mini cupcakes because I haven't made them in ages and they are super cute. To get into the holiday spirit I used gingerbread print ones. Aren't they adorable. I had to eat them right up. The cake came out very nice actually. Quite light in density as well as flavor. The frosting piled on the sugar but that's to be expected from frosting. I give this cake two frosting covered thumbs up.

Happy baking everyone!