23 December 2009

Two of My Favorite Greens

Before my inevitable return to southern California, I managed to make some use of my sister's kitchen while introducing her to two of my favorite leafy greens: swiss chard and kale.  I was slightly surprised that despite having easy access to several farmers' markets--including one held each Sunday a few short blocks from my sister's house--she had never eaten either vegetable.  However, my sister and her boyfriend are meat-eaters and cannot have it any other way, so animal protein takes priority in meal-planning, sometimes leaving vegetables off the table entirely.

If I recall correctly, my sister enjoys spinach.  I didn't think it much of a gamble to replace the spinach with organic rainbow chard in a basic saute of greens with onion and garlic.  Sauteed greens fit well with nearly any savory meal, and my hosts seemed to agree that it was a nice element to complete their holiday dinner.

I knew that getting my hosts to enjoy kale would be more difficult, but fortunately, one of my favorite ways of eating the dark, leafy green--as kale chips--has already been approved by several other non-veg family members.  Kale chips are not only easy to make, but addictively delicious.  All I did was to clean, dry, and de-stem a small bunch of organic dinosaur kale, tear the leaves into small pieces, and toss them with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  I spread them on a baking tray and placed them in the oven, preheated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and baked the kale until the leaves were crisp but not too brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.  Despite looking and tasting nothing like chips as we traditionally know them, the kale was quite popular.  Even my sister's boyfriend, who is a meat-and-potatoes type of guy, couldn't stop snacking on them.
I never try to force vegan ideals on anyone, just as my non-vegan family and friends never push their dietary lifestyles on me, but I admit that it was nice to have been able to successfully introduce something tasty and new into my hosts' diets.  While it's not certain that they'll continue to eat those leafy greens regularly, I hope they will at least consider picking up some chard, kale, or other veggies on future farmers' market trips, because those greens are wonderful in so many ways.

17 December 2009

Eating at My Home Away From Home

For the next few days, I'll be taking a much-needed break from the disarray that is my normal life in southern California to visit Dear Big Sister and her boyfriend in Oakland.  It's always nice staying here with them.  And it's so much easier to eat well without necessarily having to cook for myself; there are either clearly-labeled (or more importantly, available) vegan dining options at many eating establishments in the area as well as actual completely vegetarian or vegan restaurants--a stark contrast to the food situation where I normally reside.  Despite the comparative ease I have with being able to lazily locate something good and filling to eat around here, my approach to this little trip has so far been very casual. This essentially means that I have foolishly not prepared for potential in-house meals, including this morning's breakfast situation, and have concluded that although I have half a grilled tempeh sandwich (tasty) leftover from last night's Herbivore outing, I'd rather go for the deliciously vegan Double Chocolate Cookie acquired yesterday from Nabolom Bakery.  Yum.
As it turns out, I baked up some cookies to bring to my gracious hosts, consulting Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (2009) for a holiday-appropriate recipe that also happens to work out for breakfast with a cup of hot coffee or tea.  Gingerbread Biscotti, anyone?  So maybe it's not really breakfast, but I consider anything I eat in the morning "breakfast."  There's nothing like an unhealthy dose of cookies to start the day.
The plan is to eventually cook something during my time up north, which should be interesting for my non-vegan hosts, and fun, as always.  We'll see how it turns out.

12 December 2009

Baking Kit Giveaway at Diet, Dessert and Dogs

You know that the holiday season is in full swing when mountains of cookies and other baked sweets start popping up everywhere.  For those of you who are interested in the gluten-free route, check out the lovely giveaway posted at the Diet, Dessert and Dogs blog.  Click through for details on the products involved (I'm excited about the teff flour) and how to enter.  Happy baking!

11 December 2009

Another Week, Another Cookbook, and More Good Food

You may or may not remember mention of my cookbook fixation.  I suppose anyone who loves to cook would have some feelings of attachment to cookbooks, and increasingly, online recipe databases and food blogs.  But there is nothing like setting a mighty tome of recipes atop the kitchen counter to procure good, old-fashioned marathon sessions in the kitchen.  I recently won a free copy of Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman's new cookbook, 500 Vegan Recipes (2009), and giddy with excitement for the the seemingly endless edible creations presented in it and the fact that I actually won something (very rare for me, indeed--thanks, Celine and Joni!), I very quickly realized that my kitchen fate for the week was sealed.  Although there were no marathon kitchen sessions to speak of, I did, of course, have to try at least a few dishes from yet another magnificent book.

Considering the volume of recipes provided, it will take quite awhile to get through all of them.  Here's what I've made from 500 Vegan Recipes so far:

Apple Sage Fauxsage
Not only was this very easy to make, its unique sweet-savory flavors were also quite tasty.  The apple-sage combination would work perfectly for an autumn feast.  I sliced some of the Fauxsage to serve with dill potatoes and sauteed chard.

Peanut Butter Pancakes
I don't know why I had never thought to make peanut butter pancakes until seeing this recipe; they were rich, nutty, and addictive.  Crunchy peanut butter would add lovely texture, as would semisweet chocolate chunks or chips (the peanut butter-chocolate combination is so deliciously classic).  This time around, I cooked up a quick batch of blackberry syrup to serve with the pancakes to give them that PB&J sandwich type of nostalgia.

Potato Bread
Two weeks after Thanksgiving, and there is still sweet potato puree lingering about.  I do love both sweet potatoes and bread, so combining the two to make a couple of soft, slightly sweet loaves of walnut-studded deliciousness was no issue at all.  I may consider using this recipe to make rolls in the very near future; in any case, I will be making this bread again.

There are so many recipes to try, I'm not even sure where to go from here.  I've marked quite a few of the recipes I want to try most urgently, so it looks like the most sensible thing to do is to approach them one at a time.  Undoubtedly, you'll see glimpses of my attempts at various recipes from Celine and Joni's book here in the future.

05 December 2009

A Cookie Invasion--Just in Time for the Holidays

Unable to wait any longer for a copy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero's Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (2009), I recently found myself yet again at the book shop with the sole purpose of purchasing another vegan cookbook.  As the cashier completed my transaction, he inquired in typical small-talk fashion how I'd be spending the rest of my particularly sunny afternoon.  "Baking vegan cookies?" he asked.  "No, not today," I replied.  I was in between engagements and would likely have neither time nor energy for any kitchen activity that day.  But soon, I thought.  December is, after all, the heart of the winter holiday season and the month for cookies and all things sweet.  I plan to make a short visit up north in a couple of weeks as well, so cookie gifts are definitely on the horizon.

It turns out that I didn't bake anything that day, but in the past week I did try out a few Vegan Cookies recipes.  I have to test a few before giving any cookies out, right?  That was my excuse for all of the baking that's been going on in the kitchen this week, despite being pretty much certain that I would like them all from the start.  And so far, I have enjoyed all that I've tried (consumed in moderation, of course).  Once really cannot go wrong with cookies.  Here are the results of my week of cookies:

Sweet Potato Blondies
This recipe was perfect for using up leftover Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.  I used toasted pecans rather than walnuts.

Big Fat Crispy Rice Squares
They were a bit crumbly--maybe next time I'll make more of the syrup mixture to glue the rice together--but the taste was indeed reminscient of the non-vegan favorites from childhood.

Tahini Lime Cookies
I really enjoy the flavor of sesame and the limes I had on hand were about to take a turn for the worst, so I figured it was time to make these sesame-lime morsels of goodness.  In addition to the sesame seeds called for in the recipe, I sprinkled lime sugar on top of the cookies before baking for that extra sparkle and kiss of lime.

Deluxe Cocoa Brownies
I'm a sucker for a fudgy brownie.  These were indeed fudgy, rich, and perfect with a hot cup of strong coffee.

I seem to have gravitated toward the bar cookie section of the book, and Vegan Cookies has not disappointed me.  The cookbook also has plenty of drop (the Tahini Lime Cookies being one tasty example), filled, and cut varieties, which I'll probably stick to when diving into official holiday baking next week, for the practical purposes of packaging and travel.

01 December 2009

Anyone Like Free Stuff?

December might be the season of both giving and giveaways.  (The season of giving really should be year-round, and also meaningful, rather than the beacon of commercialism we have come to associate with the winter holidays.  But I digress.)  Chocolate-Covered Katie just posted an Artisana giveaway that is worth checking out.  You can find out more about it here.