February 7, 2013

Sesame Bok Choy with Quinoa

What have I been up to lately?  Reading, yes reading.  I made a personal resolution to finish the eight or so books I have started but not finished.  I began with John Robbins Diet for a New America.  Many vegans I know were vegetarian until they read this book.  I am starting to see why.  John Robbins was one of the first speakers I stopped to listen to when I started really learning about plant based eating.  I remember his talk. He was very interesting, but I hadn't really gotten deep into his book until now.  He really brings home the idea of the suffering animals endure in the name of making money.  Even though I began this journey to improve my health, I am starting to take on a little empathy for the animals. I've heard that there are three main reasons people go to plant based eating:  health, the environment, and the animals.  Once one door was opened the other reasons become clearer and it just all became part of what I think about when it comes to choosing what we eat.

We're going on vacation this year to see my son and meet my newest granddaughter.  We're going to be staying in a small two room dome made from earth and rock in the desert.  There's an outdoor kitchen with a cooler.  I thought I'd spend some time practicing some really easy recipes.  With those kind of meals in mind I can pick up some fruit and veggies, a little quinoa, some dates & nuts, and some beans and we're ready to spend the week eating plant based with a little decadence while camping. I flipped through the Vegan on $4 a Day cookbook I picked up this summer and it didn't take long to find an easy recipe with few ingredients.  It's a great book to practice those quick and easy meals.  I have some fresh locally made tempeh and started looking for a nice tempeh recipe. I found an easy tempeh recipe pretty quickly, but on the opposite page was a recipe for Sesame Bok Choy.  I remembered I picked up a couple nice heads of Bok Choy at People's Coop last weekend.  I'll use the tempeh tomorrow.

This whole meal didn't take longer than 30 minutes to prepare.  I diced an onion, sliced four carrots about an inch thick, chopped three nice cloves of garlic, and thinly sliced up two medium heads of Bok Choy.  I put 1 cup of quinoa on to simmer for 20 minutes in 2 1/2 cups water with a little sea salt.

While the quinoa was simmering I sauteed the onion, garlic, and carrots in 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil until they were tender.  Then I added the bok choy, about a tablespoon of tamari, , a teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger, a teaspoon of maple syrup, and a half a cup of water.  I let that all simmer together about five minutes.

I served that on top of the hot quinoa and sprinkled a few toasted sesame seeds on top.  Lovely meal and quick too.

January 27, 2013

White Bean & Black Rice Soup with Kale

My friend Linda gave me a recipe recently for Chickpea & Rice Soup With a Little Kale.  I made it this weekend for our lunches and dinners this week with some white beans I had on hand and black forbidden rice. That's why mine came out more like a brown sauce stew than soup.  I thickened it with the cashews creme and it came out very nice.  It's a nice hearty stew that will warm the bones in the cold weather this week.  This recipe can be made with just about any beans and your favorite brown rice.

Here's the recipe the way I made it.

White Bean & Black Rice Soup with Kale

I cooked 1 cup and a half of white great northern beans that I soaked for about six hours in a quart of low sodium vegetable broth.  I cooked them until tender and the liquid was most absorbed.  Canned beans may be used - 1 24 ounce can white beans drained and rinsed.

3/4 cup cashews, soaked in 2 hours or overnight
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup forbidden rice
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, diced chunky
5 cups vegetable broth (may need more depending on the desired consistency)

Thinly sliced green onion for garnish

Drain the cashews and place them in a blender with one cup of fresh filtered water.  Blend until completely smooth, scraping the sides of the food processor or blender.

In a large soup pot saute onion in a couple tablespoons water, adding 1 tablespoon at a time to keep from sticking to the pot until translucent.  Add garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper and saute a couple minutes more.

Add rice, celery, and carrots and then pour in the broth.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, bring down to a simmer, add the beans, and let cook for about 20 - 25 minutes until rice is cooked and carrots are tender.

Add the cashew creme and kale, and simmer until kale is wilted, 3 to 5 minutes more.  You may need to add more vegetable broth or water to the soup if it seems to thick.  Serve topped with sliced green onions.

Veggie Potluck & Potato Corn Chowder

It's been a few months since we've had a vegan/vegetarian potluck in Longview.  We had to find a new home, so we ended up skipping a couple months.  The Youth & Family Link building worked out very well, it's almost too big, but we now have room to grow.  We were starting to get a little squeezed in the produce store.  There were about thirty people together for an excellent meal. We had a nice variety of choices of savory dishes, salads, and desserts.  One of my favorites was a potato corn chowder which I promptly recreated today.  It's so creamy and warm, a perfect rainy day meal.  We caught up with some old friends and met a few new people.  Don Merrick from Northwest Veg came and spoke to us about corporate structures of the food industry and filled us in on some of the specifics and progression of the GMO issues.  Everyone seemed to enjoy dinner and a couple of folks were happy to find something like this in town and said they'd be back again.  Our next potluck is March 23.


Potato Corn Chowder
Makes 8 cups
Use 3.5-7 qt. cooker

#1  Blend the following ingredients in a blender 1-2 minutes, until very smooth.  Pour into slow cooker.

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked two hours
1/3 cup pimento
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
3 tablespoons quick or rolled oats
3 tablespoons Vegan chiken seasoning
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

#2  Rinse the blender with 2 1/2 cups water and add to the cooker.

#3  Add the following ingredients to the cooker and cook until the potatoes are tender.  Average cooker about 4-5 hours on lowest setting.

3 cups peeled potatoes cut into 1/2" cubes
2 cups frozen organic corn
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion

Garnish with dried parsley, chopped fresh parsley, or chopped green onions.  Add a little non dairy milk or water if the chowder is too thick.

January 7, 2013

Apple Fig Crisp with Coconut Cashew Vanilla Creme

Last summer my friend Mary told me of a fig tree that was just loaded with ripe figs.  We promptly went to work picking and drying figs that weekend.  I am really glad I did.  I've store my dried figs in the freezer to keep them from molding.  Dried fruit has a shelf life too no matter how well you keep it.  Some fruit seems to do very well when I store it in the freezer.  I took some out and re-hydrated them in filtered water overnight.  They worked out fine, beautiful sweet figs in January.  I made a nice big apple fig crisp.  It was very easy.

Fig and Apple Crisp

1 1/4 cups dried figs, stems removed and diced
1/2 cup apple cider or fresh apple juice
3/4 cup spelt or whole wheat pastry flour + 2 tablespoons
3/4 cup turbinado sugar + 2 tablespoons (your favorite dry sweetener will work)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons vegan margarine, I used Organic Earth Balance
3/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick

Combine the figs and apple cider in a large bowl and let stand 30 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. This will work fine with more moist dried figs, but if they are very dry like mine are, I would soak them for 2 - 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350º

To make the topping, whisk the 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup sugar and spices together in a medium bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingertips, blend in the margarine until the mixture is crumbly and forms moist clumps.  Stir in the pecans.

Mix the apples, 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar into the figs.  Transfer the mixture into a lightly oiled 8 x 8 x 2 baking dish.  Bake for 40 minutes, then cover loosely with foil and continue to bake until the apples are very tender, about 20 minutes longer.

Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

I made a quick vegan cream I like using the solid potion of a can of chilled coconut milk.  I put the coconut creme in my blender with about a half cup of cashews, the seeds from half a vanilla bean, and about a cup of powdered sugar.  I used about 2 tablespoons of the liquid coconut milk to get the desired texture.  Then I chilled it for about an hour to thicken a little.  Very Nice.

Penne Pasta with Mushroom Onion Gravy & Marinated Tofu

Sunday was another warm day inside watching it rain.  I managed to create a couple more items for our meals this week.  I am enjoying the place I've gotten to with vegan cooking.  It's as natural to me now to put together a meal by looking around the kitchen at the supplies on hand as it was when we were not vegan. I remember being able to tell someone how to cook a chicken a hundred different ways off the top of my head or create a fun dessert.  But put together a variety of vegan meals for the whole week was not easy at first.  I had no idea how to satisfy the appetite or how to get the right nutrients.  Very nice we have the internet now, I didn't have it in the beginning of this journey.  I've read so much and been able to attend educational functions by wandering around the vegan websites and blogs. I think that may have been how my husband found the first immersion cooking class I took with Chef Al in 2006.

I looked around the kitchen at what we had.  It didn't take long for an idea to emerge. I put together a nice pasta dish with a mushroom and onion sauce.  I started by sautéing a couple sliced Portabello mushrooms just until they were browned on both sides.  I used just a teaspoon of olive oil in the pan and didn't add salt until I turned them.  Somewhere I learned that the salt would bring out the moisture too much and they don't brown as well. Better to put the salt on after the browning.  I also had some super firm tofu around so I cubed it, marinated it in a little tamari, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar for about 15 minutes and sautéed those cubes as well.  I removed them from the pan and added a couple tablespoons of filtered water to sauté my onions.  I used two large onions, sliced thinly in half moons.  Added to the onions was four cloves of garlic, minced.  I cooked the onions and garlic until they were nicely caramelized adding water 1 tablespoon at a time to keep them from sticking to the pan.

To the onion mixture I added:

1/4 cup wheat free tamari
2 cups filtered water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
about a quarter teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
a dash of cayenne

I let that simmer for a couple minutes and then added a roux I made with 2 tablespoons spelt flour and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  I added the browned mushrooms and tofu cubes back into the pan and let it all simmer and get thick, about 5 minutes.  I also had some organic peas in the freezer, thought that would be a nice touch so I threw them in too. I mixed all the sauce with a pot of hot penne pasta.  An easy vegan meal with everything I need:  protein, grains, and veggies.

And it's really good warmed up today.

January 6, 2013

Warm Winter Saturday

Nice quiet weekend at home on a rainy cold January weekend.  The holidays are behind us and I still have one more weekend in between now and my next cooking class.  Life is somewhat relaxing and there's a quiet feeling around here.  Taking some time to do a little winter cleaning.  Still working on the kitchen organization, the deck is in much need of a recyclable run.  There is no curb pickup where we live. We have to take our recyclables to the bins ourselves, we can save up quite a load in the winter. I managed to fit in quite a few meals while working.

We started the day with a pineapple coconut smoothie.  Scott had noticed some coconut pineapple juice in the market the other day.  Even though it may have been organic, it was still processed juice, and about $5 for a quart.  We always have coconut milk, all we needed was a ripe pineapple.  I chopped half a pineapple, two oranges, and a cucumber, added a handful of soaked and dried cashews, and a couple cups of coconut milk. It made for a really creamy, refreshing breakfast.

While going through the kitchen counter clutter I came upon some treasures, one being a bag of bean and grain soup mix from Bob's Red Mill. I got started with my weekend of cooking for our meals this week. I chopped an onion, some celery, and some carrots. Simmered them in vegetable broth with dried thyme, rosemary, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper.  I added about a pint of my canned tomatoes and the soup mix and simmered for about an hour and a half.  When they were almost done I added a couple tablespoons apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of raw agave.

Bean & Grain Stew

While the beans were cooking I through some little squash I had from the garden that didn't quite make it to regulation size in the oven to roast.  I thought I'd make a cake or soup with them.  There's a couple yellow acorn squash, a couple small pumpkins, and a little sweet meat squash.

I thought I'd fit in a millet loaf. It's pretty easy and very good the next day in a sandwich with dijon mustard. This is an easy recipe from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook by Del Sroufe.

Start by cooking 3/4 cup millet in 2 1/2 cups water until all the liquid is absorbed.  I cooked mine in vegetable broth for a little added flavor.

While the millet is cooking sauté a medium onion and four cloves of garlic in a little water or vegetable broth until tender adding a liquid 1 tablespoon at a time to keep from sticking to the pan.

I added 1 TB sage, 1 TB thyme, a dash of fresh ground nutmeg, freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, 2 TB mellow white miso, and 1/4 cup cup nutritional yeast. I let that all simmer together for a minute or two then added about 3/4 cup of my home canned tomato sauce. Let that simmer about five minutes and then added the cooked millet.

Simmering Sauce

Baked at 350º for 30 Minutes

The squash became winter squash cake. The cake is dark brown due to the raw turbinado sugar and wheat flour I used. We ate it warm and soft. It sure is tasty. Glad those little squash didn't go to waste.

Now with a few items cooked, I can relax a bit today. I did re-hydrate some dried figs. I'm thinking about maybe a fig crisp of some sort. We'll see what happens to them.

Name Change - Likes to Play with Her Food

Yes, I've changed the name of my blog.  I've been wanting to change it for awhile, but was afraid I'd lose my past posts.  One of the reasons I began this blog is so I could remember how I made some of the awesome vegan meals we share at home.  I now have a kind of personal cookbook I can refer to for favorite recipes like the mac & cheese or a good dessert. I hope you can find them again too. I think its time though. I'm not really a flexitarian anymore.  I no longer cook with any animal products or eat them in a restaurant.  I'd rather keep my blog plant based now too. But no matter what I'm cooking with the whole thing started because I do love to play with my food.  My new url is:

I love to find what's available and decide what to make our meals with that.  Recently I've limited the trips to the grocery store.  In the winter I find myself at the grocery store a bit more for our fresh produce. Since I buy nuts, grains, beans, and spices, in bulk and I canned and dried fresh food in the summer, I try to cook with what we have.  Even though I try to stay in the produce section, I am an adventurous cook, I do buy things that aren't on my list when I shop.  Cutting down the trips to the market has saved some money and time.

I'm getting ready for another cooking class soon. I am happy about the local response  to the cooking classes.  When Gayle asked me to do classes in the cafe a couple years ago, I thought it would be fun way to practice, but, I imagined ten people or less.  I thought I'd have to find a place closer to Portland to practice my new skills.  There's been twenty-five people each class and there are already twenty people signed up for the next one on January 19th, plus three or four people volunteering to help out. It's a fun event for us to look forward to.  I begin working on the class a month before, planning the recipes, finding information, and putting it all together in a nice packet.  There's a shopping list to create and spice blends to get together.  I still need to make myself a regular equipment list. I am having fun with it. I feel like I plan a party every other month now.  We have a local vegan potluck coming up too and we haven't met since August.  This should be a fun event.  I'm looking forward to seeing the people who like to come as well as what they've prepared for dinner. The best part about all this is that I'm working from home and doing what I love to do, spending time with friends and cooking, feeding people beautiful food, and share in learning to do it in a healthy and fun way.

I looked around last week and decided it's about time I spent some time finding my counter tops.  I don't see them very often, something always going on.  I shop at the bulk food stores as much as possible so I always have little bags of spices and herbs everywhere.  I try to keep them organized in little bowls, but every once in awhile I notice I have many little bowls.  Before I started my cooking for the weekend, I spent a large part of the morning organizing the herbs & spices and combining the duplicates and triplicates of curry, turmeric, marjoram, and more I've gathered over the last few months.  It looks nice now, but it'll be cluttered with cooking ingredients soon.  I would like to live in a smaller kitchen someday, I've got to learn to condense.  Neat freak I am not, there are more important things in life.  Happy New Year!