Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pre-Hawaii Post

Yes, we're going to Hawaii for a week! Woo-hoo! To the Big Island and Kauai, because I know you were wondering. I've never been to either island, so I'm really looking forward to it. We're going with my parents, so we'll have a bit of granny-nannying help, which is such a blessing! Since we all anticipate fairly limited vegan options on both islands, we chose to stay in condos with kitchens, so we can at least cook up our own healthy meals and pack them for day trips.

Anyway, back to what we've been eating lately.

Crazy-Good Balsamic Glazed Tomato Sauce, Brown Rice Spirals, and lightly salted Cucumber Slices
Seriously, this tomato sauce was out of this world!!! It's from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison...I think it was supposed to be a tomato side dish, but mine turned completely saucy (which was good since I wanted to toss it with pasta anyway!)

Basically, it's:
1 1/2 lbs tomatoes (ours were half backyard and half CSA tomatoes!)
2 T butter (EB, of course)
3 T balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, minced (I subbed 3-4 local cloves garlic)
(I added a handful of torn basil leaves from the backyard for kicks).

Slice/chop tomatoes in wedges. Melt the butter over highish heat until foamy. Add the tomatoes and cook for @ 3 minutes, flipping a few times. Add the shallot/garlic, balsamic and cook for a few minutes, shaking the pan over the heat until glazy. I added the basil at the end and seasoned with s&p to taste. OMGYUM!

Stuffed Eggplant with Salad and Citrus-Mint Vinaigrette
So, this was a major disappointment in flavor. But I will say this: I LOVE my pressure cooker. It is so handy. I cooked the brown rice in it in 12 minutes (probably 20 minutes total with depressurizing). Same with the lentils: 5 minutes of cooking and probably 5-8 more of depressurizing. STILL. So freaking fast, it is the bomb.

This recipe was from Local Bounty, which I've had luck with in the past, so I'm not sure what happened here. It was just totally flavorless. Basically, it was baked eggplant (scraped out of the shell), brown rice, brown lentils, mint, basil, oregano, lemon juice...and I think that's it. I added some salt to try to salvage, but nosuchluck. The leftovers were salvaged by adding balsamic vinegar and some flax oil, so it wasn't a total loss. But it was kind of a lot of work for very little flavor. The salad was great though!

Tempeh Piccata
So I LOVE piccata. And I also love coming home from my meditation group to a dinner of piccata that my husband cooked! So he used green garlic stuffed olives instead of kalamata - who's counting, right?! It was soo good. Local tempeh "breaded" in brown rice flour and fried, served over local mashed yukon gold potatoes (with way too much EB, it was decadent), and steamed local green, purple and wax beans. Oh, and of course with lemony, capery, olivy piccata over the whole thing. OMGLUV.

Oatmeal Pancakes with Celestial Cream and Fresh Local Fruit
This was a yummy summer breakfast treat! The pancake recipe is adapted from Vive Le Vegan and it's so simple: quick oats blended into flour in the food processor, some baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, vanilla soymilk, and canola oil. It needs to stand a bit longer than normal pancake batter, because the oat flour needs a while to soak up the liquid. But they are simple and tasty and cook up just like normal pancakes. The Celestial Cream is out of Eat, Drink and Be Vegan and is soooo good and a fun, more protein-filled alternative to just plain maple syrup (since it has silken tofu in it).

A Few Tostadas

I've been loving these tostadas lately! We have them weekly with whatever bean we've pressure cooked that week (chickpeas above) or sometimes leftover tofu scramble (pictured below). I usually use this recipe from Happy Herbivore for chickpea tacos to season the beans, and we top them with homemade guacamole, shredded lettuce, salsa, and my secret ingredient: Hot and Cool Drizzle. All it is is Wildwood Garlic Aioli mixed with some pureed canned Chipotle in adobo! It is so delicious though and kicks up the whole thing (idea stolen from Taco Bell, although theirs wasn't vegan.) Oh, and the whole thing resides on a corn tortilla.

Chickpea Ragout over Brown Rice
I used this recipe as a jumpling off point, and it was really good! I think almost everything (minus the mushrooms and rice) was local for this dish.

CSA Cucumber Salad with Citrus-Mint Vinaigrette

CSA Lettuce and Backyard Tomato Salad

Let me just say that if you have Vive Le Vegan you HAVE to try this vinaigrette! I ate it on everything for a week at least. It's so fabulous and summery.

Crunchy Tempeh Crumbles, Brown Rice and Green Beans with Miso-Walnut Sauce
This was a Mark Bittman bastardization from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. But it was SO good. We ate it on one of the hottest days of this year, when Seattle was over 100F and we all thought we were in hell because no one has a/c? Yeah, then. Thank the pressure cooker for not heating up the kitchen too too much. The green beans are CSA and the tempeh is local. The Miso-Walnut sauce is AWESOME and I will most certainly be making it again (possibly without ginger next time, but it was nice, too).

Backyard Garden Update

We've been kind of bad about our backyard garden, but it's still providing us with some yummy produce, like fresh herbs (basil, oregano, chives, thyme and rosemary) and tomatoes. There's broccoli that's actually flowering and really delicious tiny strawberries.

Cherry Tomatoes
Late Bloomer Basil
Giant Basil
We pulled three other plants just like this and left them at my mom's in a vase.

Tiger-y Tomato
These guys kind of stay dark green on top. They're smallish and tasty!

Orange Tomato

Have you gathered yet that I have no idea what any of the tomato varieties actually are?! :) These guys are totally orange when ripe and super firm.

3 Broccolis, 3 Strawberries

Quinalt Strawberries
Silas Sampling Strawberries
I think about 5 have made it in the house. We just can't wait to eat them!

Hope everyone is enjoying the fabulous produce that August brings! We are off to pick up a CSA box of Corn, Yukon and Fingerling Potatoes, Garlic, Broccoli, Cherry Tomatoes and Collard Greens, along with Blueberries, Strawberries, Purple Plums and Peaches. Yum!!! And we have to eat all of it before Sunday. Wish us luck!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Long Overdue, Super Productive Update!

So, it's been two months and I haven't updated. Nor have I probably commented much on my fellow food bloggers' comings and goings lately. Sorry 'bout that. I have a pretty good excuse this time, though:


Yes, if all goes well, we'll be welcoming our new addition sometime in Mid-February. Woo-hoo!

I'm into the second trimester now, so I'm starting to feel A LOT better. I wasn't terribly sick like some ladies get (I'm lucky, I know) but I had NO interest in cooking or really in eating or looking at food. Which was ironic, since I needed to eat at least every two hours or I would feel nauseated. Fun times. I was also Exhausted with a capital E. I'm sooooo glad to be in the wonderful world of the second trimester. Where I can eat as much as I want (because my stomach isn't the size of a tic tac like it will be in the 3rd trimester). No heartburn yet. It's all golden until November!!!

Silas is very excited about it all and has named the baby "Cheese." Strange, since we're vegan, but hey, 3 year olds have their own logic. He's requested a sister, and we told him we'd see what we could do. (Aside: the boy LOVES older ladies. By that, I'm talking 4 1/2 or so. LOVES THEM. It's so funny/cute/nervewracking - we have to keep talking about personal space. ;) We'll be trying to see the gender at the 18-20 wk ultrasound, probably in late September.

Anyway, now that I actually can look at food again without crying, I should be able to make it on here a little more frequently.

We're in the height of lovely CSA season. I'm really loving our CSA this year - it's one that allows you to choose what's in your box every week, which was seriously a lifesaver the past few months. I can't imagine all the greens I would have wasted from the standard CSA box. Shudder. We also get a small fruit share, which is the bomb! We've been diggin' on fresh local organic blueberries, apricots, peaches, and rainier cherries (the BEST EVER!!!) for the past few weeks. I've also been really into cold cucumber salads lately, and we get some pretty awesome cucumbers from the farm. They make Chad blush, to be honest.

The gardens have done remarkably well for the first year! Our OR garden has produced quite a bit of turnips (who knew?). We thinned them out several weeks ago and enjoyed a huge bumper crop of turnip greens - had to foist some on my grandmother! We also thinned out our heirloom lettuce and had some great salads! We thinned the pac choi, but I was through with greens at that point, and unfortunately those just got composted. Damn pregnancy aversions!

We also got quite a few snap peas and shelling peas and several tomatoes so far! The tomatoes are doing MUCH better than anyone thought; they're not the easiest crop to grow in the Pacific NW, but they've surprised everyone.

Our single most prolific vegetable so far though? You guessed it, zucchini!
We've had a heat wave last week (really, really hot - in Seattle, we had the highest recorded temperature OF ALL TIME. Yeah. And we have no a/c.) Anyway, the zucchini LOVED IT. My mom picked these from 4 plants yesterday!!! I swear they grow a foot a day, it is crazy.

Still coming up: green bush beans, corn (not sure this will actually be productive, but it's growing!), possibly head lettuce, maybe a second sowing of broccoli, possibly cilantro, but I'm not holding my breath on that one. Oh, and maybe pumpkin? Oh, and green cabbage! And carrots!!!

We've had our share of failures, including spinach, kale, swiss chard, broccoli, and cucumbers that failed to germinate. Better luck next time, right? And it might not have been too bad of a thing, seeing how I had a total greens aversion for the past 3 months!

Our Seattle soil-bag and container garden is growing pretty well - we were away for 10 days so it suffered a little without water, but still doing remarkably well. I think the lettuce is done (it looks burnt, but it never bolted...weird?). We are actually getting some real broccoli!!! Strawberries are still growing, amazingly. Tomatoes and basil still pretty good, although the basil is trying it's hardest to flower. Must make boatload of pesto SOON!

Our plum tree is also super productive this year and I think the plums are just about ready. I have no idea what to do with them all! I think we might donate some to the food bank. I wish I had my sh*t together enough to can some jam, but I'm not sure I have the motivation now. Fingers crossed!

Here's what's on the menu for the week. I'm not assigning days because I'm not feeling like nailing it down. Note: Chad's been feeling wonky lately and had some allergy testing done (suspected it was wheat/gluten). The test results look kind of inconclusive to us, but he'll discuss them with the naturopath on Wednesday. For now, we're trying to avoid wheat. :)

Bean of the Week: Pinto
Grain of the Week: Brown Jasmine Rice

-Green Beans and Crunchy Crumbled Tempeh with Walnut-Miso Sauce, over brown rice (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

-Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger Peanut Sauce (current issue of Vegetarian Times)

-Brown Rice Pasta Bake (incorporating leftover ratatouille, cashew ricotta), salad

-Gimme Chimis using the pintos and brown rice tortillas(Eat, Drink and Be Vegan), salad

Hope you all are staying cool and eating well! XO

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Garden Update 5/31/09

Today was a pretty productive day in the OR garden - we got Jubilee corn planted (a little late perhaps, but we've got our fingers collectively crossed), bush beans, cucumbers and summer squash. We also mulched all the paths with cut grass to try to keep weeds down, and we mulched the strawberry plants and peas with it, too. (Read about it in Mother Earth News).

Pictorial updates:
Jubilee corn, 4 seeds per hill

4 hills of cucumbers (far), 4 hills of summer squash

Green bush beans; 1/3rd of row planted. Planting next third in 2 weeks, and the final third the following 2 weeks.

What is eating our Pac Choi? Any ideas on how to handle it appreciated.

Peas! We mulched them today and thinned them a bit (and ate the thinned plants in our salad!)

Turnips! I can't believe these guys are already germinated. They share a row with carrots, although we've got no carrots sprouting yet. :(

One of my dad's 3 peach trees! See the cute tiny furry peaches?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Growing Challenge: Check-in!

So, it seems I kind of can't have a challenge to work on. Actually, this isn't true! When I was reading Melinda's great blog, One Green Generation the other day, I saw her two challenges that she is running: The Growing Challenge and The Growing Challenge: Seed to Seed. Go there now and read about them!

I just signed up for the main challenge, although it would be cool to commit to saving seeds - so we just might do that, too! I'm excited to have a reason to document this and share it with others.

I wanted to update on our Oregon garden, which we're doing mostly from seed. With photos!!!

Overview: Right half of garden
Left Half of Garden
Right side, row 1: From left to right, Leeks, Scallions, Spinach (all almost invisible!) I'm a little worried about this row, it's not looking too active at this point.

Here's some spinach, I think...
Right side, row 2: Heirloom Lettuce, Pac Choi, Cabbage

Pac Choi!
Right side, row 3 (inside half): Snap Peas, Shelling Peas
Peas, glorious peas!
Left half (just planted yesterday, first 2.5 rows). First row is chard, kale, head lettuce (my dad requested it); second row is 2/3rds carrots, 1/3rd turnips; 3rd row (the wet half) is broccoli. :)
The back row:

Tomatoes! Three plants that we purchased as starts:

Strawberries! We have six plants, purchased as starts.

The tiller/waterer/toddler wrangler, extraordinaire.

So we still have LOT of work to do. Some of it I worry can't go in yet because the soil's not warm enough (note to self: buy a thermometer to check). Things like cucumber, summer squash, winter squash, bush beans, corn (all from seed). Silas and I are actually here in Oregon this week, so I might get some more planting done (if I can con my dad into re-tilling some of the rows). The dirt is SO freaking clumpy - it's like dirt rocks. There are a LOT of earthworms though, so I'm hoping that's a good sign. We did work a few bags of compost into the rows, so I'm hoping that will help a tiny bit. But I know this first year will probably be pretty rough because of the lack of organic matter in the soil. But we had to start somewhere!

Oh, and PLEASE! We are new at this, so if you have any pointers for us, we'd love to hear it!

Monday, May 18, 2009

What's on the Menu

My menu is abbreviated this week, because we're going out of town starting Thursday afternoon through Monday. Part of the time we'll be staying with my parents and cooking there, but we'll also be attending our first Unschooling Conference, Life is Good - we're so excited! So we'll be staying at the hotel two of those nights for the fully steeped con experience.

Monday: Tofu Pineapple Curry over Brown Basmati Rice (recipe from Vegan Express - new!)

: Gimme Chimis (out of Eat, Drink and Be Vegan - one of our faves!) and Mashed Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

: African Peanut Soup (from Local Bounty - new specific recipe, though we've had versions of this soup before)

Thursday: Leftover smorgasboard

What I've Been Up To...

I just took that bad boy out of the oven a few minutes ago. Yay, bread! It's half whole wheat and half (local!) white. I made some last week and it was really, really good and probably cost me less than $2 to make.

Farmer's Market, Revisited
This weekend we made it to the local farmer's market, and boy howdy has it picked up since the last time I was there! I was there probably a month or maybe a month and a half ago (it's year-round) but man, was I disappointed. There were so few veggies and they were SO expensive! And tiny. I can't even remember what I bought, but I walked away quite a bit poorer and much more down-trodden than when I arrived. Not so yesterday! Yesterday it was positively bustling with fresh food fervor - people lined up for local organic plant starts, veggies were piled high and inspiring, there was a band playing...and it didn't hurt that it was a gorgeous, sunny day! So I stuck to my meal plan and only bought a few food items, namely, some fresh asparagus, some spring carrots, an awesome mix of salad greens, including baby spinach and pea shoots (!!!), and some spring onions and garlic.

For lunch, I made Asparagus Leek Curry out of Local Bounty.
It was crazy good! I made a few substitutions: instead of leeks I used some of the spring onions and garlic, and I didn't want to open a can of coconut milk (it only called for 1 cup) so I used one of the plain coconut milk yogurts that have been haunting my fridge for a while now. The results were really, really good! I would probably use regular coconut milk next time (the yogurt has a sweetness to it, despite being labeled "plain). The spice combo of this recipe is off the hook - turmeric, cumin, cardamom, cayenne - really really amazing. We ate this over white Jasmine rice. And I was super proud of myself for using some previously frozen homecooked chickpeas instead of opening a new can. Bonus!

Leftover Transformation Shenanigans
I didn't get a picture of this meal, but I gotta say I *LOVE* transforming leftovers (that nobody wants) into new meals that we all do a little dance for! Last night for dinner I was poking around the fridge trying to figure out what we would eat then and what we would be eating for lunch today. The leftover Rustic Black-Eyed Peas and Mushrooms were glaring at me - I knew it was time to eat them or freeze them, and I honestly didn't think that I liked them enough to freeze them. So, to the cookbooks I went. I dug out Passionate Vegetarian and found a recipe for Hillbilly Hummus - and it saved the day!!! I threw my beans, some peanut butter, some of the spring garlic, salt, apple cider vinegar and some sage in the food processor, and voila! Totally new meal. We had the hummus in whole wheat pita pockets with some Chow Chow (also been haunting my fridge forever) and some of the fresh salad mix. What hummus was left over was devoured with the aid of tortilla chips. And my fridge is haunted no more!

Crazy Container and Topsoil-Bag Garden
On our farmer's market extravaganza we also purchased a bunch of plant starts (6 alpine strawberry, 3 (or 9?!?) broccoli starts, and 6 basil). Yay! We planted the strawberries and broccoli in bags of topsoil.

After we transplanted the broccoli, we started to wonder if there were more than one plant in each's a close-up, can anyone weigh in? We think there might have actually been 3 starts in each be continued.

We also had three tomato starts that we planted and I transplanted my perennial herbs (rosemary, oregano, chives) to bigger pots. (The thyme looks bad, but I think it's going to rally!)

Some of the basil went in the tomato containers, others are on their own in other containers.

We even planted some lettuce seed in two bags of topsoil. Oh, and some nasturtium seeds in a weird container left by the former tenants (trellis included!). So we're on our way with our goofy garden. Next up: peas! We just need more dirtbags. Heh heh.

Super Duper Bonus Points to anyone who can tell me what kind of flowers are growing behind the lettuce bags (the red ones). Peonies? I'll get a close up soon. There are a lot of mystery flowers on this property. Bless the former owner, she had a green thumb and we now we are lucky enough to reap the rewards.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Meal Planning: Wicked Awesome

So I have stuck to the meal plan all week, and I have to say that it pretty much rocks! Here are some (subpar) photos to chronicle our culinary delights this week:

Rustic Black-Eyed Peas and Mushrooms over (Leftover) Biscuits, with Simple Sauteed Kale

This was adapted from Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms from Vcon. I had planned to make it and then when I went to soak my white beans the night before I came to find that I had none. But I did have B-E Peas, so I figured, why not? I always leave the carrots in this dish, because we are big fans of cooked carrots. I had planned on serving this over the leftover Coconut Rice, but biscuits from Sunday were glaring at me from their place on the counter, so I dutifully heeded their call.

Silas had his beans earlier, and enjoyed some apple slices on the side.
Nearly Instant Thai Coconut Corn Soup
This is from Vegan Express, which I checked out the library recently, and it was AWESOME. I was kind of freaked by how much coconut milk was in it, but then I just got over it and enjoyed it. Plus it makes a lot - we froze 3 cups. Oh, and heres a mama tip: I knew Silas would turn his nose up at this because of the sliced scallions and red pepper, so I broke out my favorite kitchen utensil: the immersion blender. I blended his portion up and it was so pretty and orangey pink. He thoroughly enojoyed his "chowder."

Two Grilled Pizzas

I officially love my bread machine. It's so easy to dump in the ingredients for dough and come back an hour and a half later to make it into something delicious. In this case, I divided the dough in what I thought was half but turned out to be more like 1/3 & 2/3rds. I threw the dough on the hot grill while I prepped the toppings. One was leftover pesto (taken out of the freezer earlier this week), local sun-dried tomatoes and sliced kalamata olives. The other was jarred marinara, with sauteed onion, garlic, mushrooms, kale and a touch of white wine. OMGYUM! They were both sooooo good.

Silas kept saying, "'Hank you mama, for the dewishus food!" You're welcome, little buddy.
In other news, I took a Thai cooking class last night with Pranee at PCC - so fun! The food was so good - grilled shiitakes, homemade red curry paste made into Phanang Portabello Curry which was served over Grilled Eggplant, Stir-Fried Lemongrass Rice with Tofu and Edamame, some delicious Prik See Ew (a spicy soy sauce condiment - my new love!), and a delicious Pineapple-Lemongrass punch. Pranee was a really fun instructor with lots of good stories. She kept saying, "See? It's so easy," while we looked on in total bewilderment. I mean, it was great to demystify techniques (like how to deal with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves!) but it also looked pretty complicated to the Thai cooking novice. So I had to giggle every time she said that. But I'm sure, like everything, that with practice it will become easy. Just not quite yet. I predict that these recipes will appear on a menu plan soon!

Mindful Home Goals: Update!

So this week I've been really successful at sticking to some new goals. Here's what I decided to officially concentrate on this past week:

1. Keep the kitchen sink empty and shiny - this means dealing with dishes immediately. What a great one this is. It's so simple, and yet so profoundly affects my mood. It's so wonderful to go into the kitchen and have no guilt-inducing dirty dishes staring back at me. It's amazing to have every tool I could need to prepare the next meal ready and clean and waiting. It's just plain groovy to have a clean kitchen. And, like anything, it's easy to do if you stay on top of it. A few times I've wanted to leave a dish or pot in there to deal with later, but I forced myself to just deal with it now. And it only takes a few minutes! Really! Cleaning as you go is so much faster - 2 or 3 minutes here and there over the day instead of 30 minutes at once, where I stand feeling resentful and grumbly. I really thing that this goal (combined with meal planning) can save me a ton of money, because when I have a sinkful of dirty dishes, many times my mind has screamed "GET TAKE OUT!" instead of dealing with them.

2. Make the Beds Daily - another weird one, but like the clean sink, it greatly improves the overall feel of the house. It just feels more peaceful and streamlined to have made beds. And it takes like 2 minutes. It's a good psychic investment.

3. Meal Plan - This has been great. It's so nice not to have to worry what I'm going to make every day, because it's all planned out. It's a great way to use up the stores of frozen food and pantry staples that I have in the house instead of buying more. And I'm tracking my grocery budget really closely to see if we're saving money. I don't see how we won't, since nothing is wasted.

4. Keep the Dining Room Table Clear - we're REALLY bad at cluttering up every surface in the house. To cut down on this, I've implemented a new Inbox for incoming mail - now Chad and I both know where to go to deal with it. I also have to watch my piles of cookbooks and meal planning notecards (more on that another day). But I've been really good about keeping it clear and clean. Another psychic boost.

5. Get on Top of Laundry - sure I do laundry. But I almost always have a backlog. This week I've reduced the backlog significantly. I only do full loads, but this week, I've probably done 8 loads of laundry. I KNOW, right? But the plan is to get on top of it, and stay on top. Take the dirty clothes down every morning, assess to see if there is enough for a full load of anything, and do it. Fold and put away the same day, no excuses. We have been known to dress out of laundry baskets for weeks, so again, this might seem like a no-brainer, but not so much in our case. By next week I predict that we'll be down to laundry 2-4 times a week. And THEN I want to get my clothesline up! Bwahaahahaa!

At first I felt really boring and lame posting all this stuff, but then I reminded myself, "Hey! This is YOUR blog! You can put whatever you want on it!" And it's true, it's not like I'm trying to make money from this thing! So I hope I didn't bore you to tears.

Stay tuned to see if my dedication to a clean house flags! And what will be on the menu for next week! Hugs to all.