Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Day at the Vineyard & Brown Rice Risotto

Hello, friends! Happy holidays to you all. I hope you are all enjoying a long vacation with close friends and family.

It's been too long since I posted. Although my goal is to post at least once a week, I got caught up in the end-of-the-year chaos. It happens. Aside from the usual Christmas shopping and travel-planning, the end of the semester is a busy time for college instructors (my day job). Final grades are due, and then there is the never-ending stream of emails from students who never really came to class all semester but are suddenly interested in passing. So, once the emails were ignored and the grades submitted, Geoff and I packed up our stuff and our "special needs" dog Tommy, and headed to Tallahassee for a week of Christmas festivities. 

That went by in a flash, and now we are about 600 miles north in Geoff's hometown in Central Virginia - a beautiful part of the country home to many local vineyards and breweries. If you read any of my traveling blog posts, you probably know that I have a serious love for wine, and lately my husband has gotten into it at a much higher level than myself. So, the fact that his parents live in a town surrounded by lots local vineyards is pretty freaking cool. 

I also love that we get to spend our summers here (we run a summer theatre festival) because it allows me to take advantage of the amazing Virginia produce.

OK love note to Virginia section is now officially over. <3

This week, we were fortunate enough to spend the afternoon at Ankida Ridge Vineyards, the newest local vineyard in Amherst County. We met the owners, Christine Vrooman and her son, Nathan, last summer when we invited them to pour their newly bottled wine at our outdoor production of Twelfth Night. We later found out that this event would be their public debut, which made us feel super special. Their wine was a hit with the audience, and more importantly (well to me, anyway), I loved it. 

They are currently selling two varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are not necessarily considered to be the norm in Central Virginia. Almost all of the vineyards in the area focus on sweeter wines - Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Rosé . The reds tend to either be Cabernet Franc (not my fav) or a some sort of blend that includes Cab Franc. Ankida is doing things their way, and I like it. They have already been given rave reviews by a number of wine enthusiasts, including Dave MnIntyre of The Washington Post. In other words, they are makin' it happen.

Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Savignon, and Chardonnary fermented in french oak barrels
2010 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ready for tasting
On Wednesday, we drove the windy mountain roads up to their tucked-away winery. It is a beautiful location, even in the dead of winter. I can only imagine what it must look like in the fall.

The view from the vineyard
Young Chardonnay planted in rows
Christine and Nathan walked us through their process, from growing and picking the grapes, to fermenting and bottling. It was informative and super interesting, and it didn't hurt that we were able to taste some wine while we were there. Also, they had cheese. I love cheese. 

Christine. She knows her wine.
Geoff and his parents. It's a very serious moment.
Geoff smelling the Cabernet as it ferments
Cab Franc made with grapes from Donald Trump's vineyard
We left there with some bottles of chardonnay, so I decided that a creamy risotto would make a perfect pairing to the crisp, dry white wine. 

Before I move on to the recipe for today, a quick disclaimer. Risotto purists, stop reading now. I do not stir this risotto constantly, I do not add the broth a thumb-full at a time, and I use BROWN RICE. I know, it's a crime. But I like it, and it's healthier, so deal with it. 

Risotto can be made with a number of different vegetables and protein, but I went with what I already had in the refrigerator. A big, sturdy head of winter radicchio added a pop of color and a lot of flavor, and topping it all with a poached egg made it a meal. Although I don't usually eat eggs, I have been reading one of my new Christmas books, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. She worked with Alice Waters for years, and writes her book more as a narrative than a series of recipes. She, like Alice, promotes simple, local, seasonal food, and somehow she makes a poached, local egg sounds absolutely delicious. I still have no desire to eat a factory farmed, genetically modified egg, but a local brown egg from Horse and Buggy Produce with a bight golden yolk will do just fine.
Enjoy this risotto as a main dish with a small green salad, and feel free to top it with whatever protein you have on hand.

Brown Rice Risotto with Radicchio & Poached Egg
Serves 4
2 tablespoons butter 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups short-grain brown rice
1 small head radicchio, minced
3/4 cups dry white wine
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (good quality)
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
black pepper
4 teaspoons white vinegar
4 local free-range eggs

1. In saucepan, heat vegetable stock to slow boil.
2. In large, wide-sided skillet, heat oil and butter over medium. Add onions, saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and radicchio, saute for 3-4 more minutes. Add brown rice, stir to combine, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until rice starts to toast - about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in wine and cook until liquid has evaporated.
4. Stir in 4 cups vegetable stock, cover, and let cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring frequently. When liquid as evaporated, and rice is still chewy, add more broth. Continue to do this until rice is soft. If 6 cups of broth is not enough, begin to add hot water.
5. When rice is almost done, boil water and vinegar in a saucepan and poach eggs for 3 minutes.
6. Season the risotto liberally with black pepper, and taste. Depending on the broth, you may not need to add salt, but adjust as needed. Add parmesan and parsley to risotto and stir to combine. Pour into individual serving dishes, top with a poached egg, a garnish with a sprig of parsley or additional grated parmesan.

New Burg Article - Chestnuts!

Check out my latest Burg article on chestnuts. Includes chestnut history, a how-to guide (roasting on an open fire may not be the best idea), and yummy recipes for Linguini with Chestnuts, Porcinis, and Marscapone  - perfect holiday meal for entertaining a small group.

Click here to read my article on The Burg website. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Burg Article: Tasty Turnips!

My article in The Burg this week focused on the tasty turnip. Not a common vegetable on American tables, but one that deserves a second look. Check out my recipes for Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Turnip Remoulade & Creamy Turnips with Horseradish. 

Read the article here. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Detox/Beans & Greens Soup

I don't know about you guys, but I am feeling a little...bloated.

That may be little too much information, but I can't imagine I am the only one. After a holiday centered around food followed by 1-2 days of leftovers and multiple dinners out with the family, I am stuffed. And I look it, too.

I always need a little post-holiday detox to get my body back in balance. I am not talking "going on a diet," although I am not sure I even know what that means anymore. I just like to take a week to eat things that are really good for my body to make up for all the things that were not. Like that second piece of pecan pie.

My recipe for Beans and Greens Soup is the perfect post-holiday meal. It is made from lots of super healthy ingredients, including collard greens, olive oil, cannellini beans, and a whole lot of garlic. Plus, it also happens to be incredibly cheap (which is great for those of you who held Thanksgiving at your place), and very easy (once you get past that whole soaking the beans thing).

A quick note before we get to the recipe. I have been trying to find a good vegetable soup base for a little while now. I know homemade broth is the best, but let's be real, it doesn't always happen. Some of the organic store-bought broths are pretty good, but they can also be expensive. When I am on the road, I often buy dinner from the Whole Foods hot bar, and every time I read the ingredient list for one of their soups or even grain dishes, it starts with a vegetable base. If it's good enough for Whole Foods, it's good enough for me.

In this recipe, I tried out Vegebase by Vogue Cuisine. I thought it was pretty delicious, and it was both vegan and organic. However, you are welcome to substitute homemade or store-bought vegetable broth for the water in this recipe, and omit the base. It will be just as delicious!

Enjoy your healthy, nutritious soup.

Beans and Greens Soup
Serves 5-7

3/4 cup dry cannellini beans*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
4-8 cloves garlic, minced (I like a lot)
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
3 tablespoons vegetable base**
2 teaspoons tomato paste
6-7 cups water**
4 cups collard greens, finely shredded
fresh parsley to garnish (optional)
grated parmesan to garnish (optional non-vegan garnish)

1. Cover beans with about 3 cups of cold water. Cover and let soak overnight.
2. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. (skip steps 1&2 if using canned beans)
3. In large stockpot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic, and saute until mixture starts to turn golden brown. Add salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and vegetable base. Stir, cooking for one more minute.
4. Add tomato paste, water, and beans. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
5. Add greens, and continue to cook for 20 minutes or until beans are soft. Add water if soup becomes too thick.
5. Remove bay leaves. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and grated parmesan. Serve with crusty bread.

*Canned Bean Option: To make this soup with canned cannellini beans, replace 3/4 cups dry beans with 1 cup canned beans. Drain and rinse beans. Skip instructions steps 1 & 2. In step 4, add all remaining ingredients (including greens) and cook soup for 20-30 minutes total.
**Vegetable Broth Option: To use vegetable broth instead of base, substitute 6-7 cups broth for base and water. Add in step 3.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

New Burg Article: Vegetarian Thanksgiving!!!

Check out my new article in The Burg's Thanksgiving edition. Lots of vegetarian and vegan recipes to satisfy everyone at the table. Plus, ideas on how to veganize your traditional dishes!

View the article online here. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quick Recipe: Homestyle Tempeh "Chicken" Salad

A friend of mine recently called upon me to recreate a couple of his favorite foods, a "chicken" salad and a Carolina bbq from a green market in Richmond, VA. He brought them over, we tasted, we examined the ingredients, we tasted, then we tasted some more. It was a really, really hard day.

But in the end, we cracked the code, and came up with some super delicious vegan delights. So now I will share with you this recipe for Homestyle "Chicken" Salad that is super easy, delicious, and really satisfying. 


Homestyle "Chicken" Salad
1 block tempeh
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup red onion, grated
1/3 cup vegan mayo
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

1. Cut tempeh in half. Steam for 10 minutes to reduce bitterness. Let cool.
2. Cut tempeh into bite-size cubes and combine with remaining ingredients in medium bowl.
3. Refrigerate for at least one hour and serve.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Forks Over Knives: Hell Yes.

Late last week, I watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives, and I have been unable to stop thinking about it since. I think it is one of the most important films that has been made this year, and that every person in our country should watch it.

A quick synopsis: Forks Over Knives examines the claim that most degenerative diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and obesity, can be reversed by following a whole foods, plant-based diet. The film follows the lives and careers of the pioneers in plant-based cuisine research,  Dr. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (two super cool 70-year-old dudes who look pretty awesome). These two guys discovered the links between animal protein and disease, then went on to solidify their findings with groundbreaking medical trials in many parts of the world. The film also features patients with various ailments including hypertension, insomnia, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. These patients are followed during their treatment, which consisted of a whole foods, plant-based diet alone. In fact, they were asked to discontinue the plethora of medications they were already using. In all cases, the patients reversed their illnesses within 12 weeks.

I have been trying to decide why this film had such a big impact on me. I mean, I am already a vegetarian and I promote healthy eating. I eat a vegan diet probably 95% of the time, occasionally eating some cheese or a piece of fish when I want. Don't I already know this stuff? Why did this film hit me so hard?

There are a couple different answers to this, but here is the first. I had no idea that the connection between meat and cancer had been so clearly established. The film features a number of studies showing that countries who consume the least amount of meat have the least number of cancer-related deaths, and countries with the highest meat consumption have the highest rate of cancer-related deaths. So basically, eat lots of meat, get lots of cancer.

Why is this not public? Why is this not a huge story on every news program? "We Now Know How to Prevent Cancer!" is a pretty big freaking deal, right? And yet, we hear nothing. The promotion of veganism (a word carefully avoiding in the film to avert negative connotations) is still considered to be a "fringe' idea and associated with terms like hippie, liberal, animal-lover, and tree-hugger. When in reality, we should be associating veganism with cancer-hating, heart health-loving people. Why do people get so mad when you suggest that we should consider eating less meat?

Another reason this film shocked me was the proven concept that a plant-based, whole foods diet can actually reverse many chronic illnesses. Major dietary reform can reverse the progression of type II diabetes and heart disease in many cases, which means less pills, less surgeries, and less repeat patients. In a country that is struggling to health pay for the healthcare of a sick and aging population, isn't this a ridiculously important finding?

I rarely get this worked up, and I usually keep my dietary convictions to myself. I like the way I eat, and when people ask me about it, I tell them and help them eat better. But this film pissed me off. We are a smarter people than this. Currently, over 1/3 of our children are obese. Who can honestly say that we do not have a problem here?

Before I move on, I do need to mention the criticism of this film. Some reviewers call into question the conclusions drawn by these studies, saying that there were not enough factors tested, causality and correlation aren't the same, etc. Some also have a problem with the film interchangeable talking about meat and processed foods as part of the problem.

In short, the film is not perfect, and that's ok with me. What is impossible NOT to determine from all the information gathered is that a choosing plant-based, whole foods diet is one of the best health decisions you can make in your lifetime.

This film re-energized my own health goals. As I said, I have been a vegetarian for about 4 years now; however, sometimes I forget the simple fact that whole = better.  . While I already have a healthy diet, I have a tendency to rely on vegan mayo, non-whole-grain breads and tortillas, chips, crackers, and some other pantry items that are not quite in their natural state. I also tend to use as much oil as I want in every single dish. Don't get me wrong, I will still treat myself to deliciously sinful vegan sandwiches once in a while (and blog about them), but when I'm not getting fancy, I'm gonna keep it clean.

So, to conclude this epic blog post...
I am not suggesting that everyone in this country needs to be vegan. I'm not even vegan. I don't think that choosing a healthy lifestyle has to be about absolutes. It's about what comprises the majority of your diet that counts. What I hope is that we, as a country, can acknowledge the fact that we are in bad health, that our diets are to blame, and that we have the power to change it.

I encourage all of you, vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, carnivores, junk-food-junkies alike - to watch this movie and share your thoughts. 

I will leave you with a recipe adapted from the companion book to the film. I made some changes and the result was pretty scrumptious. Enjoy!

Easy Quesadillas (Adapted from Forks over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health)
Cheese Filling Ingredients
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon water
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon miso
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Quesadilla Ingredients
Ten large whole-wheat tortillas
1 jar salsa
1 can vegan refried beans
1 cup cooked greens (i used collard)
1 bunch scallions

1. Combine cheese filling in food processor and blend until smooth. Add a little more water if neccessary. Consistency should be thick but spreadable (like hummus).
2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
3. Spread a thin later of "cheese filling" on one tortilla. Top with a thin layer of refried beans, sprinkle with greens, spread with a few drops of salsa and cover with green onions.
4. Top with the second tortilla and gently place in heated skillet. Dry fry for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Flip carefully.
5. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
6. Serve hot topped with additional salsa if desired.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Burg Article: Perfect Pumkpin

Here is my latest article in The Burg featuring the quintessential autumn vegetable, pumkpin. They're not just for carving! The article features my recipes for Thai Pumpkin Curry and Classic Pumkpin Butter.

Click here to view the online version of the article. 
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Love Note to Julio and Baby Bok Choy

Dear Julio,
Thank you for leaving a basket of baby bok choy, white sweet potatoes, and zucchini on my doorstep this weekend. It was very sweet of you to think of me. Yes, I do understand that it is your job, and I pay the company that employs you to get me those vegetables, but I still think it's pretty cool of you.You're alright.


PS...I'm sorry my dog hates you.

I'm pretty stoked about finding a CSA in my area. Let's be real. Daytona Beach is not the agricultural capital of the world. Although Florida grows a variety of different crops, there isn't really a huge market for local, exciting produce in my community. The farmer's markets in the area feature a couple local growers who offer traditional southern crops, but most of the venders there are selling produce straight from a grocery store boxes. Not local at all. As a person who gets more excited about heirloom variety vegetales than about diamonds, this lack of variety in my community bums me out. Plenty of jewelry stores, incidentally.

SO, I was really excited to find Front Porch Pickins, a local CSA.

Let's talk about CSAs for a second. If you aren't familiar with them, CSA stands for "community supported agriculture," and is a system in which consumers recieved produce directly from the farmers who grow it. While this is similar to a farmer's market, a CSA differs in that you, as a subscriber, pay in advance for the goods you are receiving. This helps fund the farmers in advance, and you reap the delicious benefits throughout the growing season.

Helping your local farmers is one benefit of a CSA, but there are a couple more. When you become a subscriber, you are paying for a different basket weekly produce, but you don't necessarily know exactly what that basket will contain.  Although many CSA's will post seasonal charts on their website to give you an idea of what may come in, your basket may contain a few surpises, and often items that you have never seen or eaten before. While some might consider this a disadvantage, I like to think of it as a benefit and a challenge! Learning about and adding new vegetables to your diet is a great thing, and it can be such a fun adventure to learn how to prepare and cook them.

Yet another benefit of a CSA is the direct path of the vegetables from the farmer to you. They are not packed into crates, loaded onto a giant semi, and driven across the country just to sit in a grocery store for a week before you get to it. They are picked, and within a week they are in your fridge and ready to be eaten. You will never find produce as fresh as you will when you get it from the grower. The flavor is better, and they are some of the most beautiful veggies you will ever get.

I've been a member of my CSA for about three weeks, and have been pleased with the variety of produce I have gotten. If you are in the area, check them out.

I know I have a lot of Virginia readers, so if you haven't found Horse & Buggy Produce yet, it's time. They are the bomb-diggity. And yes, people do still say that. People = me.

For my Tallahassee friends out there, I have been told that Orchard Pond Organics is pretty awesome as well.

So, with my case for CSAs completed, here is a recipe using the baby bok choy I got in my basket this week. It is simple, but really delicious. It is in season in the south right now, so try to get your hands on some.

A note about washing this vegetable: it can be tricky. The key is to cut it up first (everything but the base, which should be removed), submerge in a bowl of cold water, swish it around, and then remove the bok choy by hand into a strainer. Do not pour the whole bowl of water and bok choy into the strainer, or you will get all the dirt with the vegetables. Dry completely before using with either a lettuce spinner or a kitchen towel.


Spicy Stir-Fried Bok Choy
1.5 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1lb baby bok choy, cut into bite-sized pieces, stems and leaves separated
1/2 cup green onions, diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

1. Heat canola oil in wok or large skillet over high heat.
2. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute for 1 minute.
3. Add bok choy stems and cook for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add bok choy leaves, green onions, and salt. Stir-fry for 2-3 more minutes, or until vegetables are tender but not mushy.
5. Remove from heat, transfer to serving dish. Drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with sesame seeds.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cleaning Out the Fridge and Fried Rice

One of the things I hate, most of all, is throwing food away. My contempt for this activity exists on many levels. 

First is the obvious fact that there are millions of people in this world that don't have enough to eat. To throw away my food while they have none, well, it hurts. Rationally, I understand that I can't exactly box-up my old leftover butternut squash soup and send it to Liberia, but it still sucks.

The second, less powerful but still significant reason is the small fact that I paid for that food. With my money. So essentially, I am throwing my cash in the trash. And that ain't cool.

Lastly, throwing away food makes me feel like a failure in the kitchen - like I didn't plan enough, wasn't resourceful enough, or creative enough to put it to use.

Did I mention that I hate throwing away food?

Luckily, I am able to prevent this from happening the majority of the time by throwing together some "clean out the pantry" dishes. These are meals that have a multitude of interchangeable ingredients centered around a few kitchen staples and usually include the use of leftovers from previous meals. Things like grain salads, pizzas (using any leftover roasted/cooked veggies), and soups can usually be thrown together from whatever you have sitting in your fridge.

To make room for my produce delivery today, I wanted to clean out all the veggies I bought this week, along with the big container of cooked brown rice I made on Monday. I always make a big pot of grains in the beginning of the week to throw in lunches, but I didn't end up using it all this week. So, I decided today was a perfect day for my Easy Fried Rice. Awesome name, huh?  It is what it is.

You start with cooking your protein. I prefer to use tofu for this. It has a similar texture to egg, which is used in traditional fried rice. I go vegan as often as possible, but if you want to use egg, fry it up first in a little oil and set aside before starting the rest of your dish. Or, use a little tofu and a little egg - it's delicious.

Then you cut up whatever veggies you have on hand - and I really do mean whatever you have. Today I used carrots, turnip greens, bean sprouts, mushrooms, peas, anaheim peppers, garlic, ginger, and green onion, but I have used all kinds of veggies in the past, including zucchini, spinach, corn, summer squash, bell pepper, red onion, arugula, cabbage, bok choy, kale, chard, broccoli, green beans, you name it!

The few ingredients I always like to have in there are garlic, scallions, peas, and greens of some kind. The first three add a lot of flavor, and the greens up the health factor of this dish significantly.

Ok, so you cook your vegetables on high in a little oil, starting with the sturdiest vegetables first (carrot, onion, green beans) and then adding the quicker cooking vegetables a little later. You want them to cook evenly. Add your minced garlic and ginger, then you throw in your rice, scallions, tofu, and soy sauce, cook a little longer, and serve.

The key is to make small batches at a time and to cook on high, to get the "stir-fried" taste and to keep the texture of the vegetables and the rice firm. Big batches will yield a big pile of mush.

This is a perfect weeknight dinner, because it is a complete meal in a bowl, AND because it only uses one cutting board and one wok. For those of you out there without a dishwasher, like me, you know the value of a one-pot meal. The task of doing the dishes by hand after a completely homemade meal can be a daunting one.

This is also a good dish if you are trying to introduce tofu to a non-believer. It plays a minor role here, but tastes good as part of the whole package.

The recipe below is an approximate one. No need to bust out the measuring cups here. For the veggies, "handfuls" will work just find. Enjoy!

Easy Fried Rice
Tofu Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 block extra firm tofu, diced
sea salt
black pepper

Rice Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup shredded turnip greens (or any green)
1/2 cup anaheim peppers, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup bean sprouts
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
3 cups cooked brown rice
3/4 cup green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
cilantro for garnish (optional)
chili sauce for garnish (optional)

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large wok on medium/high heat. Swirl oil around the bottom of the pan, and immediately add tofu and season with salt and pepper. Cook tofu on medium high until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

2. Heat another tablespoon of oil in wok and turn heat to high. Add carrots, greens, and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. Add mushrooms, bean sprouts and frozen peas, cooking for 3 more minutes.

3. Create a well in the middle of your pan by pushing vegetables aside. Put a small amount of oil in the middle, and place your garlic and ginger in the oil. Fry for 1 minute. Stir in rice and 1/2 cup green onions. Cook for 3-4 more minutes, stirring when needed to prevent burning. Rice should get a little crispy.

4. Add soy sauce, stir to combine, and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Transfer to serving bowl immediately and garnish with cilantro and chili sauce.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Parmesan Garlic Dressing

A friend asked me to make some parmesan garlic dressing. An assignment you say? Yes please!
I am going to take a break from my usually verbose writing method and just give you the recipe for this super delicious dressing without fanfare. Here it is. Super yummy. Use it on salad, meat, vegetables, ok anything.

Enjoy Krista!

Parmesan Garlic Dressing
1 head roasted garlic*
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 shallots
1/4 cup chives, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 chunk parmgiano-reggiano (roughly the size of a golf ball)

Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Drink directly from blender. Just kidding. But you might want to.

For a creamier variation, replace 1/4 cup olive oil with vegan or regular mayo.

*For notes on roasting garlic, see my grilled corn bruschetta post. Scroll to the bottom for a how-to.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kid-Friendly Week: Sweet Potato Fries w/Lemon, Rosemary, & Thyme

I love sweet potatoes.

I am hoping you have yet to notice that most of my blog posts begin with the statement "I love (insert vegetable here)." While the writer in me feels the need to change this and create more innovative, attention-grabbing opening lines, I am also inclined to embrace the repetition and call it my "signature phrase." It's completely intentional and endearing. Right?

Anyway, I DO love sweet potatoes. I have been known, on occasion, to make an entire dinner out of a baked sweet potato with whole lot of Earth Balance, and a little salt. Completely satisfying.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kid-Friendly Week: Mashed Cauliflower

This week, a friend asked me if I had an kid-friendly vegetable ideas. I don't actually have kids unless you count our new dog Tommy who acts very much like a small child minus the talking part.

However, I do have a young brother who was one of those picky kids - the kind who has a very specific list of foods he deems to be edible, and a long, long list of foods that will never pass his lips. It can be a challenge, especially if your kids didn't grow up trying all kinds of food.
The good news is, there are a number of healthy, veg-centered dishes that help fill vegetable quota for the day, and can hopefully increase the variety your kids are eating without them necessarily knowing it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Guest Post: Tempeh Reubens

Check out my guest post on the fabulous Peas in a Blog with a new recipe for Tempeh Reubens.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

YESSSS!!!!! There is a chill in the air. You know the feeling.
Yesterday was the type of morning when you can actually feel the seasons change. Here in Florida, I wait and wait for that day. While the rest of the country is going to apple orchards and putting up Halloween decorations, I wait. It feels wrong to drink cider or bust out the candy corn when it is 80 degrees. Very, very wrong.

But October is here and it has happened! The air has changed and all of a sudden it is autumn, and a flood of nostalgia rushes in. It happens every year. I am overwhelmed with the desire to bake cookies with cinnamon and nutmeg, roast brussels sprouts with sage, and fill my kitchen with the aromas of the fall.

Today, though, I want chili. A cool Saturday morning with college football on TV calls for chili, and I am almost positive it is some sort of sense memory that makes me feel this way. The chili of my youth was a meaty and mild one, so today I came up with a meat-free chili filled with vegetables and fresh peppers for a special kick. Chili is one of those easily veganized foods. You can just omit the meat and fill your chili with veggies and beans, or you can start with some savory mushrooms to add a beefy flavor. I was looking for an authentic chili taste, so I opted for some Boca crumbles.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves with Brown Rice & Cinnamon

You know how you can go to a market for 1 particular item and end up with 10 unrelated ingredients with no plan as to how to use them? I had one of those moments this week. In my local Indian Market. It is a glorious place with more spices than I could ever hope to use, bulk bins of okra, and a whole lot of naan. Enough said.

But today is not about Indian food. One of the items I walked out with with was a GIANT jar of grape leaves. I think it must have been an unconscious desire for the cool, bright flavors of Greek food. I have always loved the Mediterranean stuffed grape leaves (dolma or dolmathes) but had yet to try them myself, so this weekend I went for it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Veggies and Tailgating. Yes they can happen at the same time.

It is mid-september and that means one thing to my husband and my family: football. Yes that's right, college football season is well underway, so 3 weekends in a row, husband and I have been packing it up and heading to Tallahassee for the Florida State Seminole games. I have to be honest up front, football itself isn't really my thing, but the 4-8 hours of socializing beforehand is ok by me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Last Call for Tomatoes in THE BURG

Hang on to those last summer tomatoes as long as you can! Read my tomato article in the Burg with cooking tips, pretty pics, and some delicious recipes.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chipotle BBQ Seitan Tacos with Jicama Slaw

Have I mentioned my love for tacos? Not just traditional Mexican tacos, but tacos of all variety. I discovered while working in a restaurant that almost anything tastes good in a grilled flour tortilla. Anything. Also, tacos are a great way to make any food portable. There was no time for a fork and a plate during dinner service. The forks were for the customers.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Feel Good Soup

I am sick.

It rarely happens, but this week I came down with the flu. All feverish and achy, I didn't each much on the first day. You know that feeling. But then I needed nourishment, and I kept thinking about this soup I had once while working at the restaurant in Philly. It was one of those cold, rainy days, and half the kitchen staff had a cold. Our boss had it waiting for us when we came in - his "feel good" soup, he called it. It was chock full of healing ingredients - garlic, ginger, seaweed, chiles, etc. These ingredients are said to increase circulation, build up immune systems, and reduce inflammation. The fresh chilis also opened up my sinuses, and the hot broth felt great on my throat. It didn't hurt that it was delicious.

So, I decided to make this soup for myself at home, but wasn't sure how to go about it. I found a recipe for "long life soup" in my Candle Cafe Cookbook, which seemed to have many of the same ingredients I was looking for. It was simple enough to make, and didn't take too long, which was important so that I didn't pass out in-process. It turned out to be hot, delicious, and just what I needed.

We all get sick sometimes, and I want to share this recipe with you all for when you or someone you love comes down with the "crud," as my grandmother would say. I made a couple changes to the original recipe, and added some frozen asian dumplings in at the end.

A note on the Candle Cafe Cookbook: I recommend this one for any vegan cooks our there looking for some really special dishes. Candle Cafe and Candle 79 are two of the best vegan restaurants out there, and they know what they are doing.

Enjoy, and feel better.

Feel Better Soup (Adapted from Candle Cafe)

1 oz. dried shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup arame seaweed*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup peeled and minced ginger
1/2 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 fresh chilis, cayenne or jalepeno, minced
2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced
10-12 frozen vegetarian dumplings (optional)

1. Place the dried shitake mushrooms and the arame in 2 separate bowls and pour 4 1/2 cups of hot water over each. Let sit for 20 minutes each. Drain the mushrooms and reserve the water. Thinly slice the mushrooms. Drain and rinse the arame and discard the water. Coarsely chop the arame.

2. Heath the oil in a saute pan and cook the onion, garlic, and ginger until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a soup pot and add the tamari, cayenne, vinegar, and sesame oil. Add the reserved mushroom water, mushrooms, arame, and an additional 4 1/2 cups to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered, for 10 minutes.

3. Place 3-4 dumplings in your bowl. Pour soup over dumplings and let sit for 1 minute. Top with sliced green onion and additional chilis if desired.

*Note: Arame is an ingredient you may not have worked with before. It is a certain type of sea vegetable that has a mild, sweet flavor, and a bunch of health benefits. One serving of arame contains 50% of your daily calcium needs, which is great for vegans. You can find arame at your local asian market, or at a health food store. I prefer the asian market because it is much more affordable. Don't be intimidated by sea vegetables - they are incredibly easy to work with, and so very good for you.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grilled Corn Bruchetta with Tarragon

Will travel for food.

Last week, at the end of our summer in Virginia, my husband Geoff and I took a little trip to NYC for theatre (Geoff) and food (me). I have a habit of traveling to specific locations based solely on the food they offer, and as you might guess, the big apple is no exception to that. New York restaurants offer more amazing vegan food and local, organic produce than any other city I have been to. Ok, maybe the super-crunchy Asheville rivals their vegan options, but only NY has this variety of high-end, gourmet vegan cuisine. Since this is a food blog I will spare you the details of the vacation (and the pics!), but let me hit some high points of the food before moving on to today's post. My favorites include chimichurri seitan and grilled kale salad at Candle 79, kimchi pancakes at the vegan Korean spot Hangawi, and the best damn grilled cheese I have ever had at the Chelsea market (clearly not vegan or healthy in any way but soooooo amazing).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Simple Grain Salad with Cashews & Mint

Hello friends. It's been a while. I've been away for the summer, in a place where the chance to cook a meal is a rare occurrence, and the chance to cook one well is non-existent. So, I am happy to be home and to refocus on cooking healthy, veg-focused food. I can't wait to try new things, perfect old recipes, and to take advantage of the local summer produce while it lasts.

This morning I was looking through my fridge, and seeing a bunch of leftovers that didn't call to me. How can I accumulate this many leftovers in only 4 days? Not entirely sure. Is there a leftover fairy that visits my home in the night and leaves half-eaten dishes in my fridge? Possibly. Anyway, I won't get a chance to hit the farmer's market until Saturday anyway, so today's recipe is one of those "clean out the fridge" ones. However, I can tell you, sometimes those can be the best, and it is a great feeling to re-purpose something into a new, tasty dish. Also, I hate throwing away food. I am morally opposed to it. Not really, but it does hurt my heart a little.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Bowl & Ginger Dressing

One of my favorite easy meals is a giant bowl of brown rice (or other whole grain) topped with fresh veggies, tofu or tempeh, nuts, herbs, and some sort of tasty dressing. This is a formula that is hard to screw up, and can be easily adjusted to what you have sitting in your pantry/fridge at the time. Brown rice can be replaced with quinoa, bulgar, kasha, or even whole-wheat couscous. You can throw really any veggies in here - this is a great way to use leftover grilled or roasted veggies from the night before. Then, I like to add in some raw, easy veggies like crated carrot, green onion, bean sprouts, grated zuchinni, spinach, or kale. I am big on texture so I always add a little crunch in the form of nuts or seeds. Tonight I used almonds because I had them, but you can use anything from walnuts and pecans to sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Then - throw on a handful of whatever fresh herbs you have - parsley, basil, cilantro, mint - and top it all off with a dressing that works for what you have created. It can be as simple as lemon juice and olive oil, vinaigarette, soy sauce - whatever sounds good.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Perfect gift.

Simplicity can be beautiful, but my table loves color! Beautiful place mats made with love by my friend, Luisa.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Herbs & Hors d'oeuvres

The farmer's market on Saturday was an herby delight! Although it is only Spring, the summer vegetables are in full-force here in Florida. I left the market with beautiful bunches of dill, parsley, mint, cilantro and basil. I got so excited about my bounty that I decided to use all of them in one dinner.

Luckily, I was having some friends over to eat some of these herby creations. I already had curried tofu marinating in the fridge, and some beautiful butter lettuce from the market as well. Indian was the obvious thought, but that cuisine alone wouldn't allow me to use all my goodies. So, i decided an international appetizer night was needed. Please excuse the picture quality - I hope to get a better camera soon!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Southern Comfort - Vegan Style

It's been a while, my friends. I hope you have been eating some great food!

I took a little time off. When the metaphorical plate gets too full, its best to rank the items in order of importance and say goodbye to the potatoes. Just came up with that, but I think it makes sense. The past couple months, my plate was overflowing with activity, so I decided, with some sadness, that cooking would have to be put on hold. So, while I taught my classes, planned my wedding, trained for a half marathon, and organized a fundraiser, I subsisted mainly on microwaved sweet potatoes and peanut butter. Not at the same time.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Greens and beans! Oh, and pasta too.

Hello all. After quite a long and restful holiday break, I am back in my kitchen with a renewed culinary appetite. The new year is a time for new beginnings, and for many, a resolution to live a healthier lifestyle. While it is true that many resolutions can be half-hearted and short-lived, I believe any day that makes Americans re-think the way they eat is a good day, and should be embraced.