Monday, June 29, 2009

Colorful Eats

This past weekend brought a gorgeous bouquet of colorful food into our household. My mango finally ripened enough to give us this Quinoa-Black Bean-Mango Salad, from Veganomicon. With cilantro straight from my garden, I didn't even bother serving it atop lettuce. I cut down on the quinoa, too, although it was perfectly cooked in the rice cooker (the best appliance ever! well, next to my immersion blender...).Three and a half, maybe even four stars **** for this dish. Great flavors, textures, and colors.
Speaking of colors, check out the bold red and brilliant green on this plate! It looks like Christmas except for the heat and humidity (OK, so it has been beautiful these past few days, really). The BBQ Tofu from Veganomicon was even baked, so no one had to stand in front of a hot grill. Except Mr. PLV did, even though it was just for those crispy, tender, grilled rosemary-olive oil new potatoes. No recipe. Just scrub 'em clean, quarter them, toss them with olive oil (extra virgin, as always), grill them for about 20 minutes, then toss them with fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. The best part about this meal? The beans (barely steamed) and potatoes were from CSA pickup #6! Yum, yum, yum. The tofu came out pretty good. You bake it first, then add the sauce and bake a little while longer. The sauce itself (from the recipe) was too spicy for us, and could've been a little sweeter, but while we could add more sugar or molasses, we couldn't extract the spice. We're hoping to use this sauce recipe on some seitan for our cookout on the 4th. Three solid stars for the tofu, four for the whole plate ****.

A day earlier, we (meaning, I) spent some time chopping and then threw this dish together: Basmati-Dill Chickpea-Chard Bake or some equally long name, from, Veganomicon. It was really easy, once you chopped everything, and we used jasmine rice instead of the basmati, with a little extra water, and it came out just fine. In fact, the flavors reminded us both of stuffed grape leaves! The lemon and the greens and the rice and even the occasional chickpeas were like eating grape leaves that had been unraveled. Delish. Three, maybe three and a half stars - needed some help in the heat-spice department. (Did I change to a five stars rating a while back? Because I'm still using the four star rating here.... oh well).
And, of course, the token garden picture, this time of my beautiful orange-yellow flowering zucchini plants. Unfortunately, I must be the only person on the entire continent who has a hard time growing these things. Last year, the mildew took them. This year, the flowers are opening, but then just dropping clean off the stems! I wonder if they're not being pollinated. I think I might move them near my back garden, although I saw a bee in one flower today. Advice from fellow zucchini growers would be great!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What's in the (CSA) Bag?

What's in that over-stuffed bag?, my kitty was wondering last Thursday, as I hauled our 5th weekly CSA pickup into the house. Although we get a day's heads up of what to expect, opening our weekly bag is still like opening your stocking at Christmas. Well, we made a slew of great meals this week, courtesy of this weekly haul of local, organic veggies!

Here's everything out on the table including: fennel, cabbage, broccoli, 4 huge cucumbers, kohlrabi (purple this time!), onions, chard, salad greens, dill, and some big stalky green leaf veggie that I have yet to name (it's the one at the top, with the long white stem and big green leaves). It wasn't on the list, and while I thought it might be collard greens, I'm not sure that's what it was.

At any rate, last week's greens (chard) went into Fat Free Vegan's Savory Swiss Chard Pie. It was pretty easy and quick, and looked tantalizing as it came out of the oven, a few minutes early...

Turns out, it was delicious as well! The spices were rockin' and the chard was great, but the silken tofu was just a little too mushy for our taste. I think that regular firm tofu (the Chinese, water-packed kind) would have made for a firmer pie/quiche thing. At any rate, it was edible, and Mr. PLV even went back for seconds. Yeah! Three stars for flavor, two for texture **.

Alongside that, was this awesome Summer Corn Salad, from Rawvolution. This was easily my favorite recipe from the week - it was so sweet and fresh and even had some spice (curry powder)! It did get a little over-saturated with the dressing as the days went by, but it was a great, quick lunch. The corn wasn't in our CSA bag, but at least it was local and fresh from the farmers' market!

We also had some zucchini kicking around from last week's pickup, so I put my new Spiralizer to use! Yeah! So much fun!! This would be an awesome way to get kids to eat their veggies - just make these great, long, curly "noodles" out of them! Or fry or bake or dehydrate them for snacking on! Machine was easy to use and quick to put together/clean. Got a great deal on it through Amazon.

Here's a closeup of the zucchini pasta with a raw tomato sauce, from Rawvolution. Actually, the noodles were kind of crunchy - not watery as suggested in the book, so they didn't have to sit out. I wonder if I could have softened them up by letting them sit in the sauce for a while? The sauce was only OK- needed some herbs and spices to kick it up a notch. Three stars for the pasta (and only because it was fun - it was too crunchy to fool pasta lovers) and two stars for the sauce **.

Here are the noodles with our favorite jarred sauce, along with some Red Star nutritional yeast. Yum!

Last week also brought us some bok choy, and this Crunchy Bok Choy Salad from Cooking Light was refreshing and yummy and quick. Mr. PLV even commented how good it tasted and how good he felt, eating something so fresh and recently picked! No kidding! He really said that...I ate this as part of lunch leftover this week, and it was great except of course the Ramen noodles got soggy... Three stars and a half for sure, for this dish! ***.

Finally, we were ready to start cooking up this week's produce! First up, Roasted Fennel Salad with Roasted Shallot Dressing, Hazelnuts and Cranberries from Veganomicon. I'm too lazy to go check my recipe notebook for the exact title of this dish, but that's basically what was in it...except, I added LOTS of other veggies, to make it a well-rounded salad meal. I was just in the mood for salad that night! So, summer squash, radish, tomatoes, yellow bell pepper, and baby carrots filled up my bowl along wide the greens and roasted fennel (which was amazing!) and the roasted shallot dressing which was superb!!! Four stars for this dish ****. I loved, loved the warm dressing.
Three of those huge cucumbers ended up in a Cucumber Dill Salad from Rawvolution for lunch this coming week. I didn't have enough garlic and didn't have any red onion at all for this dish, so I think the yellow onion I had to use was a factor in my low rating of this recipe. I only give it two and a half stars. It was fresh and fun (I used a crinkle-cutter tool from Pampered Chef to cut the cukes), and a great way to use up the ginormous bunch of dill from the CSA bag, but I wasn't blown away.

Since I was up with the cats (and a head cold) this morning, I also whipped up a raw Eggless Salad, also from Rawvolution. This was way better than the cuke dish - and pretty, too! The creamy texture didn't taste like real egg salad, but I am years past trying to make meat-like meals. This was just plain good! Three solid stars ***.

I was blown away, however, by the BBQ Seitan with Crispy Coleslaw from Veganomicon, though. We made this just tonight, and wow! I served it up alongside sauteed chard and those mystery greens with a light agave-mustard dressing, and brown rice. The coleslaw was the perfect cool, tangy accompaniment to the sweet, hot BBQ seitan. A pretty quick recipe, too! Three and a half stars ***1/2.

Mr. PLV had his on a non-vegan sandwich bun, and it looked darn good!

The rest of the week looks to be leftovers and a Quinoa-Black Bean-Mango salad that has nothing to do with local produce and everything to do with just plain cravings. Who knows? Maybe I'll work some kohlrabi into it.

Only four more days till our next CSA pick up, but who's counting!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back in the (Kitchen) Saddle Again

Alas, last week was really a wash for me and food. With three days of what could only have been food poisoning, and then more days with residual effects such as heartburn that were only solved by bland, white foods, last week's CSA pick up really was a wash (compost - yeah!). I literally hugged my salad bowl the first night I had a little salad of fresh, organic, local greens & snap peas with a raw macadamia nut dill dressing. And my first glass of OJ - heaven!! So, I'm back in the "kitchen saddle" again this week, and deliriously happy. I really feel freaky sometimes, with how happy I feel just preparing good food.
My favorite dish this week so far has got to be this Stir Un-Fry from Rawvolution. I used all local, fresh ingredients (pretty much, anyway), and only found the dressing to be a little too salty (the book tends to call for far too much soy sauce in all its recipes). What was amazing, was that despite the mediocre dressing, I loved this dish (4 stars ****) more than the "real" stir-fry I made alongside it!

This cooked stir-fry was based loosely on the Ginger-Miso Stir-Fry from The Candle Cafe Cookbook, with diced, browned tofu and all the same veggies as the Stir Un-Fry. Although I liked this sauce (and Mr. PLV, back from his trip liked it, too! We both gave the dish 3 1/2 stars) I liked the crisp texture, brighter colors and overall more vibrant-tasting veggies in the Stir Un-Fry better!! I was amazed that a raw dish could taste better, right alongside a cooked one. I challenge you to try a raw un-fry today! Next time, I would just use this ginger-miso cooked stir-fry dressing (watered down) on the stir un-fry.
Meanwhile, I was able to save the zucchini and summer squash from last week's CSA pickup, in the form of (what else?) these two Zucchini Breads from The Joy of Vegan Baking. Although a little too sweet, health-wise... taste-wise they kicked ass! Moist and flavorful (I added both walnuts and raisins), the crisp, chewy crust was the best!! I always loved the end slices & "crust" best :) Four stars for these beauties... **** I'll be making zucchini pasta later this week with my new Spiralizer :)

Meanwhile, my own zucchini plants are growing like crazy, even in my patio pots, and are actually doing better (knock on wood!) than last year's ones in the garden!
Here's a shout-out to Lindy Loo over at Yeah that Vegan Shit, who recently pointed out how many people post photos to brag about their...plants...I laughed my ass off and then I thought, well, it is a miracle to me, still, that I can stuff some seeds into soil and they turn into these! And hey - MY ZUCCHINI PLANTS ARE BIGGER THAN YOURS! (not even sure she has any). But seriously, you have to read her blog - it's had me in (laughing) tears more than once...
And last but not least, my yummy little lettuce heads (first time I ever grew these!) were just calling Mr. Bunny or Mrs. Groundhog to come feast, so I yanked one out of the ground and plopped into my smoothie at lunch yesterday. Yummmm....I really am a freak with food ....and proud of it!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Raw-Full Week

Not Raw-Full like, "awful," but "full" of "raw" foods! With hubby out of town (welcome back, Mr. PLV!), I spent the week concocting raw dishes that appeal to me, me, me. It's amazing how much more "alive" and wholesome I feel, eating these foods. I almost feel like I'm ruining plants by cooking them!

Anyway, let's start with these Cinnamon Girls, from Rawvolution, for my monthly Veg Group potluck (more about that, later). They were really very sweet. They called for 3/4 cup agave nectar, but I ran out so I used part brown rice syrup. I was dissapointed in these only because they were just too sweet for me. Either I'm losing my sweet tooth (hardly) or there is a limit even for one as sweet-dependent as me. I prefer raw dessert balls such as these to be made purely from wholesome ingredients such as raisins, nuts, oats, etc. They also required freezing and/or refrigeration, otherwise they tended to get runny. Overall, though, three stars ***for being a great dessert!

Now that I have overcome my fear of the dehydrator, I set to work making these Strawberry-Coconut Macaroons, this time from,
Ani's Raw Food Desserts,
my newest procurement. I was also overwhelmed with the amount of sweetener this called for -or at least how sweet it tasted. But, there are plenty of other great recipes in this new book that are fresh and naturally sweet.

Still, these were a big hit at the Veg Group, earning a four-star rating **** or at least three and a half. I used a melon baller to scoop out the mixture (fresh strawberries, vanilla extract, unsweetened coconut and agave nectar) and dehydrated it for about 6 hours.

Not all of my meals this week were raw. I found this amazing fresh, local, handmade artisan bread at the farmers market: black olive sourdough! It made the rather blah Tuscan White Bean Pate from The Candle Cafe Cookbook literally sing, along with fresh tomatoes and greens from the CSA. Yum! I couldn't get enough of this "sammich" - ate it all week, just about. The pate was a two, but the bread was a four, so overall, this was a three star meal ***.

Meanwhile, my longest dehydration ever (over 32 hours) made these Veggie Cakes with Creamy Dill Sauce something to treasure! Rawvolution came to the rescue with this dish, providing me with plenty to nibble on and the rest sent to the freezer. The color comes from fresh (and local/organic!) beets. Most of the rest of the mixture is raw sunflower seeds, celery, and spices.

They were umm, umm, good, warm and straight from the dehydrator! I felt so full and satisfied!

The creamy dill sauce was also good as a regular salad dressing, on a CSA bed of greens, snap peas, carrots and fresh beets! I always hated beets, mostly because they came from a can growing up, but now that I've had them raw, they even rival roasted ones! This came about because I had leftover beets from the veggie cakes and no time to roast them. Three and a half stars ***1/2 for the veggie cakes, three for the salad (I prefer more stuff in my salad).

These Super Asparagus Wraps from Rawvolution weren't all that super, because I didn't have the super food powder to put in them, but they were still really good! They also weren't completely raw, as I didn't have a cabbage leaf to eat them and needed to use up some whole wheat tortillas instead. The filling is avocado mashed with various spices, onion, celery and chopped, raw asparagus and tomatoes. Very, very good, filling (all that good fat!), and energizing for a lunch! Three and a half stars ***1/2.
To say thank you to some very kind friends, I tried two non-raw cookie recipes this week: Butterscotch Blondies from My Sweet Vegan, and Chocolate Crinkles from, The Joy of Vegan Baking.

Like a similar recipe I tried from My Sweet Vegan, these blondies were strangely "doughy" tasting, even when fully cooked. The butterscotch flavor wasn't as pronounced as I'd like - mostly in the crust which was great, but the middle had that strange flavor that I associate with being underdone. Needless to say, I managed to eat several of these in one sitting. Three stars and very easy to make! ***.

The Chocolate Crinkles, however, were pure bliss. I'm not a big chocolate fan (white chocolate doesn't count, which is my all-time fav!) but these were still amazing. Light and soft and simply beautiful. Four stars, easy! ****. They do require some prep work - chilling the dough overnight, and only made 1 1/2 dozen, not three dozen (I swear, I couldn't have made them any smaller!).

So, I leave you with this ginormous Chinese cabbage from my weekly CSA bag o' produce. I think I'll make a coleslaw out of it. Or, since I just got a solid case of food poisoning yesterday (yes, you can get it from veggies, not just meat and dairy!), I think it may end up in my compost heap, sadly, as my stomach is doing flips right now at the end of the post, after viewing all these rich and sweet foods. Ugh.