Sunday, June 12, 2011


Hi! Thought you might like to see a school lunch I'm really proud of from last week. Right now we're using up a lot of the ingredients in the kitchen, since we are soon to be taking summer break. There was enough quinoa on hand to use as a main dish, and I made a citrus dressing with some orange juice and olive oil.

Quinoa salad with pear, golden raisins & walnuts, roasted red pepper hummus, mixed greens, Dave's Killer Bread

The kids LOVE fruit, any kind of fruit, and they always eat all the salad! After my heart, they are....

Ready to serve!!
We bought these greens, but Trillium also has a garden program that needs saving, too, so we're starting to figure out to make the garden program be our supplier, and how to make the garden program make money to support itself. Getting involved in a school you love is dangerous...there is always more work to be done, help that is needed, etc. It's okay, gardening and plant foods for kids are activities I can get behind!

Another simple salad. This one just had tomato & sunflower seeds.
It's funny - the days I am at the school I'm rushing to get the lunch prepped and everything under control so I can dash out and get to work, and I wind up leaving hungry. Of course. Just made food for about 100 other people and I'm famished!! So I whipped up some edamame "hummus" (from La Dolce Vegan) when I got home, toasted up some Dave's Killer Bread and cut up some cukes. This hummus is not really hummus, because hummus is by definition made with garbanzos, but now everything is called hummus when it's a bean puree. But really, who cares? This version is made with edamame, spinach, tahini and some other stuff, but it's so fresh and vibrant it is addictive. We also spread it on corn on the cob the other night, like we do with pesto, and it was AMAZING.

My lunch. Edamame hummus, Dave's Bread & Cukes.
Yeah. My table has a bird on it. This is Portland, put a bird on it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Food, Farm, Fun

Hi, I'm Ruby. Child floral arranger extraordinaire!
Yeah, I'm her mom, so I know I'm bragging. But please look at this gorgeous flower arrangement she made from what she found in our yard! The girl is an artist, I tell you. Watch out world.

fern, maple leaf, bleeding heart, stones....
Let's talk about FOOD! My oh my, there has been a LOT of food going on lately. Between cooking at home, working on recipes for my book and cooking and arranging recipes, etc. for the school lunch program, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night thinking, "I can use the walnuts with the quinoa!" or some such nonsense like that. It's splendid, I tell you!

Some highlights from the lunch program the past two weeks, for those that are interested:

1. The lentil veggie soup and garlic bread meal was a hit!
2. I got the freezer fixed that wasn't freezing. Thanks to Chad at Food Fight! and Lisa at Sweetpea for the refrigeration reference. We were able to get three refrigerators and one freezer in perfect order.
3. Texas Caviar & Tortillas - a big hit with the upper school kids! Next time I'll mash some and roll burritos for the lower school kids.
4. Tofurky, the most generous company ON THE PLANET -- in addition to the donated pizza for our last day of school party, donated Tofurky roasts and deli slices galore. Now we can freeze them & have TLT sammies all fall long! Seriously, go buy some Tofurky products because they are good and the people who work there are amazing.
5. Trillium kids love hummus, cucumbers and salad. Woo!

For fun, here's this week's menu!
Monday: Texas Caviar, tortillas, salad, fruit
Tuesday: Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, bread, tomato & cucumber salad, fruit
Wednesday: Fruity Quinoa Pilaf, salad, fruit
Thursday: Tofurky, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches, PB & J, fruit, veggies

I am going to leave a camera at the school so I can have pics of everything to share with you! It's all super simple with minimal cooking, but this summer we are having a FOOD SUMMIT and the program will be more sophisticated and varied.

This was a post-run meal for me. Leftover seitan sausage, sweet potato & mache.

I feel like I need to show you what I'm eating. This was something I whipped up from whatever was in the fridge the other day after a run. I'm always looking for green, protein and veggie all together post-run and this totally hit the spot. I probably also ate some peanut butter toast while this was cooking up, and then some fruit for dessert. I'm kind of simple that way.

We went on a whirlwind trip to CA last weekend to Farm Sanctuary, for the annual Hoe Down. I love the animals, the people, and usually the sun that is there. This time, it was rainy as Portland. Ick. We still had a blast. I only have a few pics here, and none of animals...Josh was armed with his camera so I'll share some of those when he gets 'em to me!
Me & my pal Melissa. That's Cupid behind us, he is a lovely bovine.
We spent some time with the cattle herd in the rain on Saturday. Then, we took a break from the wet in the barn. The two newest members of the herd, Oliver and Elliott, were in there. They could not have cared less about any of us. Ruby & her buddy were desperately trying to get their attention, but it didn't work....

Will you look at that smile? Somebody loves Farm Sanctuary.
SO - I saw a recipe on a friends FB page that I knew needed veganizing. I also felt like I needed to share the recipe and method because it was so dang delicious and easy! Just a bit of chopping and slicing, the typical vegan duties. Heh heh.

Yukon Gold & Zucchini Gratin. OH YES.

Just a bit of Teese or Daiya cheese & you're golden!

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup grated vegan mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper
4-6 medium sized yukon gold potatoes
2 large yellow crookneck squash or regular yellow or green summer squash, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Spray a 12 inch cast iron skillet or an 8" square baking dish. Set aside 1/4 cup sliced green onions. Toss remaining green onions, cheese, flour, thyme, salt and pepper in medium bowl to blend.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes in concentric circles in bottom of prepared pan, overlapping slightly. Spray lightly with oil. Layer 1/2 of the squash in concentric circles over potatoes. Spray lightly with oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the cheese mixture. Repeat with rest of potatoes, spray lightly with oil. Then finish with rest of squash and spray lightly with oil. Sprinkle remaining cheese mixture on top. Spray lightly with oil.

Cover pan with foil. Bake until potatoes are almost tender, about 40 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until potatoes begin to brown and are tender, about 25 minutes longer.

This is adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Gourmet Magazine. Such is life! Enjoy! This version is BEST!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meat is SO superfluous

BBQ Tofu Sandwich with carrot & mixed greens. Can't see the avocado, but it's there.
It's so easy to forget that people eat animals. Really. When you eat like we do, and when you think about food as much as I do - Real Whole Plant Foods that are yummy - it's kind of sad when you're reminded there are folks out there who just have some chicken or a hamburger and think they're getting a good meal. *sigh*. This sandwich was lunch last Thursday. It was so filling and delicious. Whole grain bun, a tons of vegetables layered in there, and two little slices of BBQ tofu. I love this kind of sandwich.

So yes, we began the BBQ season last week. What a lovely, lovely day it was!
Please pardon this image. It was my second plate when I remembered to take a pic. Sue me.
I rode my bike home from work last Wednesday, and we whipped up some BBQ fast & furious. Boy, was it ever good! BBQ tofu on the grill, asparagus, pineapple, and a big salad with brown rice, tomato, greens, shredded carrot, walnuts, and probably some other vegetables I'm forgetting. It was warm enough to eat outside and we all chowed down. You can see Ruby diving into her seconds behind my plate!

Trillium school lunch last Wednesday!
I'm a bit behind keeping you posted on the lunches. It's going GREAT! Today (Monday the 23rd) we did "hot lunch". Lentil marinara with macaroni, organic greens & cucumer salad, and apples. Sorry I don't have a photo! We served 115 kids!!! There were several who came back for seconds, thirds, and a couple for fourths. I am not kidding. It was awesome.

This pic is from last week. Hummus, veggies, pita, fruit, and leftover chickpea salad sammies. The kids are gobbling up yummy plant foods and loving it. It's so exciting!!

Here's to giving a damn my lovelies!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Day in the Life

Last week, Ruby had a sleepover at her school ( I KNOW!!! ) so cool, huh? Her class voted on an activity they would do as a group and sleepover won. There was to be a pizza party, a talent sharing show, lots of play in the "purpose room" which is the multi-purpose room, pizza dinner, movie, and sleep. I am happy to report that she made it through the night, as did we. I sent her with a calzone since the pizza wasn't vegan. We made some pizza, then, for ourselves.

Shredded zucchini, Teese Mozzarella, walnuts, my red sauce, Yellow Rose vegan parm.
I'm always trying to make something different for breakfast - I adore my peanut butter toast, but it doesn't really fill me up too much if I've gone for a run and then plan to ride my bike to work. I need the toast AND something else. heheheh. I often like to make a big pot of rice to just have around, and so I've incorporated it into breakfast. Check this out!

It's the perfect blend of savory and sweet.
First, I put a bunch of baby spinach in the bottom of a bowl. Way more than you think since it wilts down to nothing. Then i pile on the rice (always brown, never white, this time red & brown combo!). I nuke that for a couple of minutes to get it hot. Then I toss in walnuts, cranberries, and this time some leftover carrot from making Ruby's lunch. I dress it with a bit of flax oil, braggs, nooch (or vegan parm). Toss it all together and it is divine. The cranberries make it a bit sweet and the walnuts & brown rice are nutty good. The green is a great way to start the day and to me, it isn't a meal without green. This would be great any time of day, really!

I will leave you with a pic of my little lady enjoying our Saturday morning scramble. We were also eating this crazy good melon I bought at Fubonn, one of the international markets in Portland. It was a cross between a honeydew & a watermelon. I have no idea what it was called, but I must get more! We all loved it. The scramble was a bit of this and that, and we had our favorite, Dave's Killer Bread. Good Morning Portland!

She is one happy kid. "You are such a good cooker, mom!"
More reports from Lunch Lady Land, coming soon!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cue the Lunch Lady Song

I am Vegan & I Do Love YOU!

Oh Boy - I've done it now. I'm the new lunch lady at Ruby's school. Hairnet jokes aside, I am thrilled beyond belief and ready to dive in for some serious happy healthy lunch making. The time this takes will work itself out, right? YES it will!

SO - Yesterday was a big deal - we turned on the stove and made beans & rice. WOO! The school smelled delicious as the onion and garlic paved way for the refried beans....the rice was gussied up with some tomato paste and garlic, it was downright "Spanish." There were some corn chips, salsa, bananas and carrots, too. Eighty kids ate yesterday, a record number since the change in the program. Super amazing volunteers are making this happen, giving their mornings for prep and driving to pick up donations or buy food. People are amazing. They care. They make things happen! And, they want their kids to eat a healthy veg lunch which means I am stoked.

I have all kinds of hopes about this food program. I want the kids to eat a healthy lunch. I want to help them feel good and feed their brains. I am so excited to work with amazing Portland people to learn and create recipes, inspire the kids and build awareness about plant based nutrition. I feel like there are so many possibilities and so many ways to make kids lives better. WOO!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Veggie Burger Breakfast

I like savory breakfast most of the time.
Howdy! That pic up there was my breakfast this morning. I am super into making veggie/bean burgers right now. Using all different vegetables, beans, grains and spices, I mix it all up, grill it in a pan and make it a burger or a loaf. This lovely combo was bulgur, kidney beans, sun-dried tomatoes, leeks, garlic, parsley, rutabaga, spices and some gluten flour to bind it all up. I'm working out the recipe because the first batch I made was HUGE. Oops.

This has been a busy and great week for me and food activism. A mom at my daughter's aerial dance class needed help bringing a vegan and gluten free birthday treat to a school party. The mom and her family aren't vegan, but her daughters have all gone to a vegan school. (hello, portland!) So I referred her to the book Health By Chocolate and she made a chocolate avocado mousse that was a huge hit! She told me this as I ran into her at Foodfight  - and I'd never seen her around the mini mall before, so that was a cool coincidence. I coax them into my web and transform them... Mmmwwaaaaaa......

Other super cool news! Josh and I are getting involved in the food program at Ruby's school. The school is in financial straits, like all schools are, and they quit the national school lunch program. It's good they quit, since the program is expensive and laborious, and it was difficult for us to meet the wonky requirements because the meals were vegetarian. It's sad though, because the wonderful hot lunches are no more, but the school is now offering free cold lunch. For the first week it was primarily cheese sandwiches everyday....but this week I got my food handlers card and we added carrot sticks, hummus and pita, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches to the mix. I went in there and made 6 pounds of hummus yesterday morning and they ate it all! So it's getting better! And I have plans/dreams of creating a plant based food program over the summer and bringing back hot lunch. Any ideas you have would be welcome. Here's to giving a damn!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life is a side dish

Hey there! So much going on lately. Bursts of sun in Portland, involvement in the kiddos school, the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, random dinners where I forget to take pictures of the finished product....but here is a fun assortment of things we've been eating, making, selling and doing.

If you're so damn smart, why ain't you rich? It's a weird plate. I know.
These little chocolate chippers are from Julie Hasson's new book, Vegan Diner. Julie is an amazing lady. She's got two fabulous vegan kids, a hilarious vegan husband, a fantastic vegan food cart in Portland called Native Bowl, and she just wrote a beautiful new cookbook! We sell it at Herbivore. The first thing I made were these awesome cookies. They were perfectly soft in the middle and just the right amount of sugar, and I used white whole wheat flour, as usual. Plus, GASP, they are actually low fat. 'Cause honestly, if it has a stick of Earth Balance in it, I'm never making it.

Jackfruit is the equivalent of shredded pork for vegans.
 A couple of years ago, there was a huge jackfruit craze amongst vegan bloggers. At most Asian Groceries you can get canned jackfruit in brine (NOT SYRUP!). Rinse it, shred it, marinate it, cook it up. You can have BBQ, or carnitas style tacos, or any shredded meat flavor. It is an amazing texture and is probably the "meatiest" vegan meat out there. We made both BBQ and tacos the in past few weeks!

Some of the makings of my yellow split pea soup.
A friend of mine who has been moving towards a vegan diet made the comment that there is a lot more prep work when you're vegan. I don't like to think that being vegan is harder to accommodate, or more expensive, or not convenient, etc. But it is undeniable that vegetables take a bit more elbow grease than a slab of meat. They must be washed, chopped or sliced, sometimes peeled, and there are herbs to mince and garlic to chop. So that means you spend more time prepping. Well, okay. To me, that's a small price to pay to eat real, fresh food. It's an investment of time but the payoff is worth it. I like knowing what I'm eating.

Here the sweet potatoes are hanging out with some russets.
At least 2 times a week we eat sweet potatoes. Always skins on, usually baked fries with paprika or chili powder or chopped garlic. Sometimes I use all three spices. I know, crazy!

Brussels sprouts and onions, ready to be roasted.
We like Brussel sprouts - or as my daughter Ruby used to call them, "sprussels brouts"  - an awful lot. Usually I roast 'em up and that's exactly what happened here. I believe this time around, I went with some lemon and garlic to flavor 'em up.

More sides and whole meals soon! Promise! xo

Friday, April 15, 2011

Much ado about stew

Hey ho! 
Yesterday I started construction on my arc. We are seriously going to float away up here in Portland, and all I can say is that we better float somewhere warm and sunny.

It's a bit silly, this supposed Spring we're having. people who never talk about the weather can't stop talking about the weather (it sucks!) and wondering when Spring will start (never!). Personally, I am lamenting that my little seedlings that were coming up in my raised garden beds are going to DROWN, but I am re-visiting the arc design to include window planters. Maybe we'll save kale as a species. Or chard, cabbage, fancy lettuce and bok choy. Those are planted, too. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, all I want to eat is soup, stew and bread. Full of vegetables, of course! This persistent cold doesn't make me think about salad rolls or getting the grill fired up. I'm still firmly in the land of hearty and warming foods and hey, that's all right. So I made a creamy seitan stew and cornbread, which brightened up everyone's night.

Cornbread with extra corn and peas!

 I love cornbread. It's so versatile; can be spicy, sweet, plain, yellow, white, blue! Here I went for a little sweet and corny, and then threw in the end of a bag of peas so we had a few little green flecks. I really wanted to put in a bunch of jalapenos but opted to leave them out - the child also likes cornbread but not super spicy. Then I whipped up some stew.

Seitan stew, veggies, creamy, warm.
I almost always have home made vegan sausages in the fridge or freezer, so I used some beer brat ones I experimented with earlier in the week. A use for flat beer, if you've got it laying around. Add tons of vegetables, a little flour and spices and water, and BAM. Creamy seitan stew.

You can make this stew with just about any combo of vegetables you have in your fridge. Broccoli stalks, broccoli, brussels, chard, arugula, cauliflower, peppers, you name it. Just aim for about 4-6 cups of raw vegetables, since they’ll cook down. It is super flexible. The whole point is to warm up and fill up on lots of yummy vegetables.

Serves 4

olive oil spray
1 medium red onion, chopped fine
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium potatoes, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2.5 cups water
1 bouillon cube
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 bunch kale, tough stems removed & leaves chopped
1/4 head of cabbage, chopped (but not too small)
1 cup bite sized green beans
1 cup cubed seitan / or about two vegan sausages
¼ cup flour
1 cup water, plus more to achieve desired thickness
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice or balsamic vinegar

Spray a large soup pot with olive oil and warm over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic for couple minutes, then add in the potatoes, carrots, water, bouillion and spices, stir it well and let it simmer for 15 minutes, covered. Add in the kale, cabbage, and green beans, stirring well. Simmer for another 10 minutes, covered. The greens should be collapsed and cooked, just test a little bit of everything to see if it’s done to your liking. Add in the seitan now, as it just needs to warm up.
Add the flour to a measuring cup, then the water. Stir to remove any lumps, then pour the slurry into the stew. It will thicken as it heats, and you’ll need to add more water if you want the stew thinner. Salt and pepper to taste, then add the lemon juice or balsamic right before serving. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Make Children Happy

Eating muffins in the rain. They are SOOOO Portland.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of two little boys and my little girl, for an entire Saturday. Of course, we all played like mad between rainstorms, silly games like "throw the rag in the tree and get it out with a stick" and "dirty birdbath water soup". Naturally, it necessitated the making of some muffins.

Believe it or not, two chocolate chunks were all this muffin needed.
I'm in the midst of my plant based nutrition class, and we just covered the evils of oil and fat. So I tried these with no oil - and I swear, I never missed it. Sweet enough and perfect texture. I really wanted the kids to be super stoked on the treat, so I put two chocolate chunks in each muffin. It didn't seem cheap or like I was running out of chocolate - it was seriously just enough to make the muffin seem like a real treat. Even Josh said so, and he is way tougher to please than a bunch of cute & spazzy kids.

2 Cups white whole wheat flour (or 1 cup WW & 1 cup AP)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup apple sauce
1 cup mashed banana
1 cup non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 375º. Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Add the wet ingredients and combine until they are just mixed. Pour into muffin tins. Bake in your preheated oven for about 20 - 22 minutes (test with a toothpick until toothpick comes out clean). Let the muffins cool for a bit in the muffin pan, then twist them out to cool on racks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Whole Food Plant Based Vegan = Herbivore, or, I'm too sexy for this diet

A few months ago I read about this book:
Yes, that says Good Housekeeping. I KNOW - CRAZY!!
At first I thought it was a joke, but then I remembered how the world works. Veganism is now popular enough that Good Housekeeping wants a piece of our vegan pie. Fine by me. It won't clog any arteries and no animal will die for it. Perfecto!
The book looks great, actually. It is perfect for a new vegan, especially one who is approaching this from a health perspective and has access to a basic grocery store. Lots of color photos and simple preparations. The recipes are creative and seriously, I'm gonna make some of them. 

In other news, I am in the process of taking a class through eCornell, the online arm of Cornell University. It's based on Colin Campbell's research including The China Study, plus the work of lots of other influential people who want to use plants as medicine to help cure the woes caused by the standard American diet. It's three classes, two weeks each, for a certificate in plant-based nutrition. I hope to be able to more effectively advocate for a vegan diet, or a more cruelty-free diet, or as it's known in the health circles - a plant-based diet.

So far, I have completed one of the three classes and I am deep into my second. It's eye opening. It's scary what our food choices can mean for our health. I am super motivated and am evaluating much of what I eat and feed my daughter. We do pretty darn well, but there is always room for improvement. The start she is getting will hopefully develop her palate to be one that won't fall victim to mcnuggets, ever. I hope for that so much.

Something that has started to bother me, though, is the simple word "diet." Really, it means "manner of living" but the word has become synonymous with weight loss, fads, pills and exclusionary ways of eating, a la the Atkins diet, South Beach diet, etc. We all know, the word diet has been co-opted & ruined. Today's "diets" are well-executed marketing plans to sell products and make lots of money. That's why there are so many of them. And none of 'em work.

Yet there aren't any vegan / plant-based diets I can think of that come with pre-packaged foods you are required to purchase. You shouldn't have to buy anything in a package, really.  Real food doesn't come in a box that requires you to add water. It comes with roots and is often leafy and green. And those of us encouraging veganism or a plant-based diet don't have any reason to lie to you, we don't even have a product to sell you! On the contrary, we can help you keep your money in your pocket and help you save your own life. So very sexy, indeed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

hey, hello!

Solidarity in Key West. I was so happy to see the word vegan.
Hello! Long time no blog. Family vacation and the ensuing recovery are the culprits. And I'm just not the type to have my camera ready to photograph every meal...I'm old fashioned. Heh heh.

We took a lovely visit with my entire family to the Florida Keys, where for many folks, it's all fish seafood fish fish seafood & fried fish! Not so vegan friendly, or even vegetarian, for that matter. But I did lots of cooking to keep us nourished, and we found one restaurant where we got some yummy sushi and seaweed salads. Plus, a day trip to Key West took us to The Green Republic, which was fun. There we enjoyed a Cuban sammy with Teese - and I love Teese, so that was cool. Otherwise it was tofu scrambles, lots of veggies, simple pastas, beans & rice, mango, pineapple, oranges, apples and peanut butter & jelly. Tasty basics that won't kill ya. You know it.

My little bit of tan is fading, and I've been cooking up a storm. More food to come, but in the meantime, Eat Your Greens. Only Kale Can Save Us Now. xo

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quick Dinner: Rice, Beans, Greens & More

Pardon my poor photography. We can't all be as good as Josh Hooten.
I'm not interested in getting food on the table in 10 minutes every night. Quick just isn't a big priority to me, eating real food is - which is why I like to make everything from scratch. It's always better tasting, sometimes cheaper and always more fun. Yeah, our society is now so accustomed to fast food, fast everything, but we've compromised so much to have it quick. Just reading the labels on packaged foods, I automatically put just about everything back on the shelf and make it myself. I don't need all those additives and hydrogenated oils, etc. Just 'cause it's vegan, doesn't mean it's healthy!

So, I relax at the end of the day by chopping vegetables and hosting a dance party in the kitchen, tripping over the dog and enjoying an adult beverage.

But sometimes you need to have dinner, like, NOW. You realize it's 7:30, the kid has school in the morning and hasn't had a bath yet, and the dog has already gone to bed. We had this happen the other night. I was making beans from scratch but they weren't done cooking, and I'd already made the mango salsa I wanted to recipe test. But the kid couldn't wait for those beans! Time for some improv.

We had some leftover homemade guacamole and the baja queso from the Bandito Pizza night, and a bunch of brown rice in the fridge ('causes we always do). Add some of Ruby's favorite salsa from Trader Joe's, some salad greens, some canned refried beans, and dinner was born. We sprinkled some corn chip crumbs on top which made it crunchy good.

This took all of 10 minutes to throw together. And even if the guac had not been made, avocado chunks would have been perfect. Everything is pretty much something we have laying around, except the mango salsa. That can be the item you make "special" and the rest is fast and easy. There were lots of colors and flavors - and we all scraped our bowls clean.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bandito Pizza

We never tire of pizza. We fight over the leftovers, if there are any. But the other night I went for some different flavors in our pie, and it was a success!
Some background. I went to college in Lawrence, KS, and the best pizza in town was Rudy's. Rudy's Pizza makes a Taco Pizza, and I'd get it every now and then. I remember refried beans and lettuce on it...not sure what else, but even with the cooked romaine on top, it was good. Rudy's is still in Lawrence, and now has Daiya cheese, even. Vegans are everywhere. So if you're driving across I-70, you can get a vegan pie in Lawrence. Just so you know.

For this lovely pie, I wanted a creamy cheesy topping, but it couldn't be the classic tofu ricotta style. Instead I used a basic firm tofu (not super firm), cilantro, garlic, jalapenos, lime juice, salt...there was some other stuff too but it's written down at was so creamy good, with a tint of green from all the cilantro. It was thick but melted perfectly in the oven.

Baja crema or Vegan matter what it's called, it was good!
 I started with a cornmeal crust, and cooked the pie in my largest cast iron skillet. The bottom gets perfectly crunchy and everything cooks evenly. It's honestly my favorite way to cook pizza indoors. Grilled is the best, but not this time of year!

The sauce is enchilada sauce, which is ridiculously easy to make. I'll share a recipe soon. We had some leftover, so it was a perfect choice. Next I layered some simple canned refried beans, and some onions, garlic and zucchini that I'd sauteed quickly in a pan.

Sprinkling on those vegetables....
 Big bites of tofu cheese and some cherry tomatoes topped it off. There was a good amount of color, whew! Corn would be a natural addition, or any color pepper, fresh jalapenos, mushrooms, or jicama....

I just fold the top of the crust down & spray it with olive oil. It's perfect.

Heading into the 475º preheated oven.

The pie slides right out of the cast iron. I love that.

See how that cheese melts just so?
Full disclosure. Josh ate the last piece the next day, but it was supposed to be mine. I'll get him next time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Middle East Feast

A couple of Friday's ago we were craving middle eastern food, and we decided to make falafel from scratch. Honest to goodness falafel. So I did some reading in my Middle Eastern cookbooks, comparing recipes and conducting important falafel research, and discovered...real falafel is made with soaked, but NOT COOKED, garbanzos! Did you know that? I felt like I cracked some kind of secret code or something. And I'm ashamed I hadn't sat down and done the reading earlier in life!

Falafel is full of green. Green and bean. That's why I love it!

It's so very easy to whip this up, actually. It's basically soaked beans, parsley, cilantro, and various spices. I diverged from tradition though, in the cooking department.

Though they don't puff  up when fried this way, they are still delicious.
 I didn't deep fry my falafel - instead I opted for little patties that we sauteed in a spray of olive oil. I wanted to save my calories for the rest of the tahini-laden feast. And I'm afraid of deep frying....

Dear dolma, you are in my heart.

Tahini sauce, or tahini dressing, or tahini drink. I love tahini!
Tahini is made from sesame seed paste. Available both raw and roasted, I always opt for roasted tahini. I buy mine in gigantic jars from Barbur World Foods, because I find the quality of Lebanese tahini to be consistently tastier, and also much more affordable. Why pay $7.99 for a 16 oz. jar at Whole Foods when I can get a 48 oz. jar for $11.99? Right.

Tahini sauce is barely a recipe. Tahini, garlic, salt, lemon juice, water. Tahini is very bitter on it's own - it's not the kind of seed or nut butter you spread on toast by itself. It requires a few other ingredients to make it amazing. But once you get it in your rotation of sauces and dressings, you will be dipping or spreading everything in iron-packed tahini. Here's a rough guide to amounts for you:

Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 large clove garlic
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/4 - 1/2 cup water

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, beginning with the lesser amounts of salt and water and adjusting to your taste. You can make this thinner or thicker as you like, depending on the amount of water you use. The sauce will thicken in the fridge, just thin it out with water!

Amazing Arabic bread!
Another fun thing about international markets...You won't find this amazing bread at your local Fred Meyer, eh? Plus, there are amazing delights in the deli to be had.....

Veggie Kibbeh from Barbur. Get it there or at Ya Hala!

Simple fava bean salad with bell peppers & olive oil
Every Middle East Feast had better be served with a garnish plate. Pink pickled turnips, olives, mint, tomato slices, pita bread, cucumbers, taboulleh, pickled jalapenos or carrots if you like it spicy. Plus, you can make hummus, baba ganouj, and be sure to have plenty of tahini sauce to dip or pour on everything. Dessert should be simple, some little oranges or maybe a date or two. If you have room in your belly, that is.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kale Taboulleh Yahooey!

One of our new lines and future shirts, etc. at Herbivore is "Only Kale Can Save Us Now" because if you haven't heard, kale is like, REALLY good for you!

Anyway, months ago I thought about making this taboulleh - and I had either just used my kale or didn't have any bulgur. Or the dog ate my bulgar, you know how it is.

There was some coffee bit into, but barely spilled. whew.

Bulgar and nutritional yeast mixing it up ON THE FLOOR.
Yeah, Sassy ate the damn bulgar! ARGHHHH!!!!! And funny thing is I think she used the step stool to get up to the counter.

Anyway - KALE!!!
Kale is something of a darling these days, which is a really fun thing to type. It seems like every vegan I know is always eating kale, there are bars that serve kale now (probably just in Portland, but still!) and people are munching away on kale chips and sipping kale smoothies....and I felt like my boring steamed kale or sauteed kale was just getting OLD.
Hello, Mr. Taboulleh!

Step aside Mr. Parsley, Ms. Kale is in town.

I have had a love affair with the middle east for years now, and have been to Beirut, Lebanon a couple times (not the Oregon town of Lebanon, though. hmmm....). I admit I've got a snooty palate for typical middle eastern food. Thankfully, Portland is home to some seriously good traditional homestyle Lebanese food, but I don't partake as often as I probably should. So I make do with trips to Barbur World Foods and make my own crazy versions, which now I will share with you.

Kale Taboulleh
1/2 cup bulgar
1 bunch curly kale, deveined & torn into smaller pieces
2 small (like in a plastic container but avoid this b/c it's a ripoff!) or 1 regular bunch fresh mint, leaves only
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped (green, white, red, whatever you have!)
2 small or 1 big clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 to 1/3 cup lemon juice (to taste, about 2 lemons)
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil (your choice, really)
1 teaspoon salt

Measure bulgar into a bowl or cup and pour boiling water to cover about an inch above grains. It will be absorbed & ready in about 20 minutes. Put some kale leaves into the bowl of your food processor, and pulse a few times. Add leaves until all the kale is chopped super fine, like the picture above. Add in the mint and pulse a bit more. You want this all chopped super fine! Scrape greens into a large bowl, and add fluffed bulgar on top. Add remaining ingredients (start with lesser amounts of lemon and oil) and taste for adjustments. You might like more salt, more lemon, etc. Stir it up really well, making sure to get everything all mushed up together. You can eat it now, but honestly, it's best if you wait a while, and it's even better the next day!

This is so easy it's obvious why people have made it for centuries.
Stir it up, stir it up!
The more kale you eat, the more vegan you are.
We ate this in a bowl after it was finished. We ate some the next day, with leftover falafel and just by itself. It obviously could play a lovely part in a mezze spread, with hummus, olives, eggplant, etc. You could put it in a sandwich! Add it to a greens salad, or, if you really want to be adventurous and eat like a true Beiruter -- put some of this lovely taboulleh in a bowl and top it with lentil soup. Usually that is done with fattoush (bread salad) but it works beautifully with a hearty salad like this, too.