Honey Blueberry Polenta

23 Jan

My immune system is terrible.  2014 barely begins and I get another cold when I just had one last month.  Granted, my roommate was sick and I had just hung out with a bunch of children as part of a volunteer event shortly before I started feeling off.  Luckily, it was nothing major.  Just annoying congestion and coughing.  I self-medicated with a lot of rest and liquids, including some tea that caught my eye at the grocery store.

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Something else that made me feel better was getting a package of some things I left behind at my parents’ house.  Mom also sent some fun, random little extras including a tiny jar of some local honey and the cutest smiley face I’ve ever seen.  (And The Kite Runner, which I read all day on Sunday.  It was amazing.)

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One morning the polar vortex had me craving something warm and comforting for breakfast but I was sick of oatmeal.  I had just bought polenta a few days ago for a dinner so I figured some grits would be a great partner for the honey Mom sent.  (Let’s be real…I just wanted an excuse to eat a lot of honey for breakfast.  Might have put it in my tea too…) Thus, the incredibly simple honey blueberry polenta was created.

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1/4 cup polenta
3/4 cups of milk (I used coconut milk.)
Frozen or fresh blueberries
Honey

I brought the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.  I added the polenta and lowered the heat, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes until it thickened and grits absorbed most of the milk.  Then I removed it from heat, added the blueberries with a stir, and let it rest for a couple minutes. (My frozen blueberries defrosted by just hanging out in there.) Finally I scooped some into a bowl and doused it in honey.  This probably makes about 2 small servings but for me it was one generous helping.

Just a note: In the pic above, I didn’t stir in the blueberries to make it prettier. ;)

What I’ve Been Cooking Up

5 Jan

A lot has changed since I last wrote.  Well, really one thing has changed but it’s a big thing:  I adopted a dog!  He’s retired racing greyhound named Dreamer, to be exact. I adopted him through a great organization called Greyhounds Only that rescues retired racers from tracks in Florida.  I had been thinking about adopting a dog for about a year; then I finally went to a Meet & Greet and fell in love with this guy.  It’s been 2 and a half months and I already can’t imagine life without him.  He’s a big sweetheart who just wants to nap and be friends with everyone.

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I can’t believe that it’s already 2014.  What’s harder to believe is that I only wrote 2 blog posts last year.  When WordPress sent my 2013 stats and I read that, I was horrified.  I thought, how did I let this happen? I swear I cooked in 2013!

This jolted me to revive this blog as part of my 2014 resolution to get back into writing.  I’ve neglected my creative side too long, and this is the year to change that.

So as a little warm-up, here’s a few recipes that I’ve had on repeat the past few months, as well as a creation of my own:

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Vegan Chocolate Chip Pancake for One from Food.com.  I went through a pancake phase, indulging myself in a different kind of pancake every Sunday, and it escalated to me finding a single-serving recipe I could quickly make during the week.  I just omitted all the optional ingredients in this recipe including the sugar and added chocolate chips.  It is really simple; I had the recipe memorized by my 3rd personal pancake breakfast.

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Vegan Black-Bean Quesadillas from Love My Vegan Life.  This quesadilla recipe has chipotle hummus instead of cheese and, strangely enough, it’s an perfect substitute!  The hummus lends it the creaminess you’d get from the cheese so you don’t even miss it.  I didn’t have pre-made chipotle hummus so I pureed a couple of chipotle peppers in adobo with red pepper hummus.

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 Tofu Popcorn “Chicken” from The Vedge.  This.  Just…this.  I made this quite a bit towards the end of 2013.  I never got it to look quite as “chicken-y” as she does in the blog, but I loved the flavor.  The coating is spot-on and when you have these the next day, they’re so close in texture (and almost taste!) to the animal version, it’s scary.  (I added a little hot sauce droplets to mine and dipped them in soy sauce.)

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BBQ Seitan Stuffed Sweet Potato with Mojo-Marinated Kale from ME!  I love sauce.  When I wasn’t a vegetarian, I loved barbecue and wings so much simply because the meat was a receptacle for delicious tangy, spicy sauces.  Once I learned how to make my own seitan, it wasn’t long before I started dressing it up in my favorite sauces.

Making seitan is actually not too intense of a process.  I use Terry Romero’s recipe from Viva Vegan, my go-to cookbook, but there are countless recipes out there.  You can also just buy ready-made seitan at some grocery stores.  I try to have some loaves on hand to make throwing together recipes, like BBQ stuffed potatoes, very quick and easy.

First I poked holes in my sweet potato and put it in the microwave to “bake” it.  Then I heated a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and sauteed the seitan until it was browned.  Then I turned the heat off, added barbecue sauce, and sauteed it for a few more minutes so that the seitan absorbed some of the sauce.  Next I split open my sweet potato and used a fork to mash the insides up a bit.  Finally I stuffed the seitan inside the potato and swooned over the delicious smell of slightly caramelized bbq sauce.

The mojo-marinated kale is also easy if you have the pre-made marinade.  Mojo is a citrusy garlic marinade used in Cuban cooking, and you can sometimes find it in the Latin section of the grocery store.  While I’d prefer to make my own to control the salt content, I had Goya brand marinade in the fridge so I put it to use.  I heated a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and then added some shredded kale.  I sauteed that for a couple minutes til it cooked down slightly.  Then I added a few splashes of mojo, put the heat on the lowest setting, covered the pot, and let it simmer for a few more minutes.  The citric bite of the marinade made kale way more exciting and tasty than I’ve ever experienced, and it seemed to pair well with the smoky bbq stuffed sweet potato.

…Now I realize that I haven’t really written a recipe.  Since this is something I just threw together a few times, I don’t quite have exact measurements to share; but I’ll definitely be eating this probably another 5 times, so I’ll be sure to update this blog sometime with an actual recipe.  Nevertheless, I hope it’ll inspire someone to do a culinary experiment of their own.  :)

Cheers to a new year!

 

 

The First of Fall

10 Oct

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I’m winding down for the night, sitting in the burnt orange armchair in the corner of my bedroom with a halo of lantern lights.  Thankfully I’m on the downward slope of a sugar rush caused by a recent baking bug that produced pumpkin pecan tea cookies yesterday and salted caramel pretzel blondies this evening.

The blondies were inspired by Damn Delicious’s recipe, but I attempted a vegan version, replacing butter with coconut cream and egg with a flax “egg.”  I also made a vegan caramel, based off Fork & Beans’ recipe.  The result was more like a soft caramel soaked cake than a blondie, which really is not at all bad.  It was a sweet and salty combo made for this season.  I’ll have to give it another shot someday to make it more like blondies.

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I’ve been quite the hermit this week–working from home, staying up late.  I’ve binged through three seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix so I suppose you could say I’ve been productive.  Working from home with random foods in my fridge and pantry also forces me to get a little creative in the kitchen. My lunch this week has been a kale, lentil, and wild rice stew with pan-fried falafel patties.

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Once again, I had bought kale over the weekend for the sole reason of having some healthy greens in my fridge and once again I was not really psyched about eating it.  I also had some dried lentils that had been sitting on my pantry shelf for too long and some wild rice.  Fighting the temptation to walk down the street for some tamales, I decided to whip together a stew.  One pot dishes really are a wonderful thing.  The lentils, the rice, water, some vegan bullion cubes, spices and herbs, and kale thrown in towards the end–and bam, a vegan protein-packed stew.  I also had some Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo bean flour that happened to have an insanely easy falafel recipe on the package so I thought, why not have a side?

Then later on in the day, I thought, why not have a dessert.? I happened to have all the stuff for Cookie + Kate’s pumpkin pecan polvorones and they were heavenly little bites of soft pumpkin spicy goodness.

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They were just the thing to nurse a sweet tooth for a fall afternoon at home.

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Summertime for Vegetarians: Vegan Scrambler

19 Aug

Being a vegetarian in the summer is great.  Aside from having to avoid most of the traditional grilled fare at barbecues, nature’s bounty blesses our plates with fresh foods from bursting farmer’s markets.  Admittedly I haven’t been to the farmer’s market nearly as much as I would have liked this summer, but I did get the chance to go recently.  For this particular trip, I decided to run down to the market, which isn’t too far, but the sun was hot and the run was tortuous.  I picked up some  berries, small super-sweet tomatoes, kale, and something called garlic scapes, and I paid with a very damp $20 bill that I pulled from my armband.

First of all, I don’t know why I persist in buying kale when I don’t even like it that much.  Perhaps it’s because it seems uber trendy these days, but I do like that it lasts much longer in my fridge than any other greens, and I do like that it’s good for me.  So I keep buying it and I keep making kale chips or tossing it into whatever I can, such as a vegan scrambler!  (What a winning segue.)

Vegan scramblers, for those that don’t know, are scrambled “eggs” but it’s really scrambled tofu.  I never buy eggs and I’m not a fan of milk, so I usually eat vegan at home and vegetarian when I’m out.  Vegan in the sheets, vegetarian in the streets, if you will.  (This is actually pretty accurate considering the number of times I’ve eaten meals in my bed.)

Vegan scramblers sound a little odd but they are easy to make and really delicious.  It’s one of those “kitchen sink” dishes; whatever you got in your fridge, you can just chop it up and stick it in the scrambler.

This particular scrambler was tex-mex inspired.  I happened to have some vegan “soyrizo” so I cooked that in a little oil.  I chopped up the tomatoes, kale, and garlic scapes.  Garlic scapes were new to me before this dish, but they are essentially the green onions of garlic; they have a grassy, subtle garlic taste.  I added the garlic scapes and kale to the dish and sautéed with the soyrizo.

Then I added the crumbled tofu with a little water and some spices (turmeric for color, pepper, and this spicy mix from The Spice House called “Vulcan Fire Salt,” a mix of cayenne, salt, and various other fiery flavors.)  Finally I added the tomatoes and sautéed a minute or so longer, and then I served it to myself on a bed of blue corn tortilla chips.  I also happened to have some vegan cheese, which I don’t buy very often because it can be kind of weird, but sprinkled on top of this, it was amazing.  (not shown)

The sweet tomatoes were an interesting contrast to the spicy soyrizo and tofu and the subtle undercurrent of garlic brought it together.  It was so good I was compelled to make it again the very next day, and the pic below is of that scrambler.  I “forgot” to add kale to it that time.

Unfortunately summer is almost at an end but with fall comes a new prospects for the plate and an urge to buy school supplies.  Pumpkin butter and fresh notebooks, mmmm…can’t wait.

Vegan Scrambler

All the Small Things: Pupusas Stuffed w/ Vegan Chorizo & Platanos Maduros

30 Dec

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Sometimes in a small moment, I wonder if I am creating a lasting memory.  I did this upon my first visit to Chicago almost two years ago, standing with my little brother in his first apartment kitchen eating slices of deep dish pizza from around the corner.  I asked myself, will I remember this years from now?

Yesterday I sat at my brother’s table sharing a giant cinnamon bun we got from Whole Foods because the frigid day gave us a craving for one and Ann Sather’s was closed.  We listened to a Nina Simone record and he taught me about Wong Kar Wai’s films and sure enough I turned inward at one point not only to remember that time in the kitchen, but also to wonder if my brain would randomly call upon this current moment sometime in the far future.

Because of this strange self-awareness, I inevitably make memories out of many small moments.  These moments don’t really have much significance.  There’s really no reason for me to remember that the post office clerk yesterday answered my question of “How are you doing today?” with the cool, smooth enthusiasm of an old jazz radio DJ. “I’m supercalifragilistic!” And how he bid me a farewell as if signing off his show. “Have a great day, a great weekend, and a Happy New Year.  I’ll see you on the flip-side.”

There’s no reason for me to remember that on my personal brunch at 3rd Coast Cafe today, while enjoying my coffee and magazines, my thoughts were interrupted by the punching and ringing of an old-fashioned register I hadn’t noticed before.

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These are small moments with little significance, but pausing to ask myself if I will remember them, while makes me an observer of my own life for a second, forces me to appreciate the present.  And appreciation allows me to enjoy laid-back lovely weekends such as this one when I can just do whatever my whims call me to do without the pressure of what a fun weekend for a 20-something is supposed to be–whether that’s buying myself brunch and magazines, or making vegan chorizo and frying up the plantains that are finally ripe enough for maduros.

Because I’m trying to use up what’s in my fridge so I can start fresh for the new year, I had to get creative with dinner.  I fried ripe plantains in a little vegetable oil to make plátanos maduros and afterwards the vegan chorizo I made a couple days ago using Terry Romero‘s recipe from Viva Vegan.  Then I chopped it into smaller pieces and used them to stuff them into pupusas.

Pupusas, a traditional Salvadorean dish, are essentially fat corn tortillas stuffed with various fillings.  They’re simple to make since you just add water to Maseca (which is a maize flour you can usually find in the Latin foods section of the grocery store) until it forms a damp dough that you can shape into patties, stuff with whatever you want, and pan fry.  Shaping them is a little tricky, but this is a good step-by-step tutorial.

I haven’t made them in the traditional Salvadorean way quite yet; I have been opting to fill them with whatever I have on hand–in this case, chorizo and plantains!  Since I didn’t have the customary tomato salsa or slaw (curtido), I opted to blend a couple chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with a little vegan mayonnaise, slather it on top, and garnish them with some extra chorizo and plátanos maduros.

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It wasn’t the healthiest of meals, but it was pretty delicious for an iron-cheffed dinner.  I also made some hot chocolate with a bar of Olive & Sinclair (a Nashville-based artisan chocolate company) for dessert, just to make extra damn certain that I would spend the rest of the night in food coma.  Highly effective.

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Banana Coconut Oat Pancakes (vegan)

22 Dec

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I woke up this morning stressed.  For my entire dream, I was in an airport–which alone would be stressful–but the whole time I was constantly running to catch flights that I always missed.  Shortly before I woke up, I went to a vending machine to get a drink and it wouldn’t take my $5 (damn airport prices.)  When it finally did, it jammed and exploded into monopoly money.

Who wants to analyze that for me?

So I woke up annoyed, but also with an inexplicable craving for pancakes so I whipped up these vegan banana coconut oat pancakes with the stuff I had in my kitchen and pantry, which is how a lot of my experiments start.

These aren’t the fluffy kind of pancakes–they’re actually quite dense (with deliciousness), more like a moist quick bread.  They also happened to have a little protein boost from the garbanzo flour and if I would have thought to put slivered almonds on it (damn it) it would have been pushed over the top.  I gobbled down a plate of two of these and I really hope it don’t regret it when I go to the gym in 30 minutes.

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Banana Coconut Oat Pancakes

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of oats (you can use gluten-free oats)

1/3 cup garbanzo/chickpea flour

1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 ripe banana
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut or olive oil
2 tsps. coconut nectar or maple syrup
2/3 cup coconut milk
Topping:
More maple syrup or coconut nectar
Grated or shredded coconut

In a food processor, grate the oats until they form a powder.  Pour into a bowl and mix with the garbanzo flour, baking soda, and salt.  In the food processor, blend the banana, vanilla, oil, syrup, and milk.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix.  Heat a little coconut oil in the skillet on medium low.  Pour 2-3 heaping spoonfuls of batter to form a pancake (spread it out with the spoon a little if you have to.)  Cook on low until the edges are cooked and the bottom is browned.  Flip and cook until the other side is browned.  Repeat for more pancakes!

While the skillet is still hot, pour in some shredded coconut.  Stir and toss until browned and crispy.  Top pancakes with the shredded coconut and maple syrup.

This makes probably around 4-5 medium pancakes.

Orange Food: Spicy Butternut Squash Risotto & Pumpkin Scones

11 Dec

Tis the season for orange food. Pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato flamboyantly make their yearly debut.  This started, of course, back in September, or whenever Starbucks started selling their pumpkin spice latte again.  I’m just a little late in the game.  In fact, I’ve barely been in the game when it comes to cooking.  My relationship with food has been attacked by the over-stimulation of diverse choices, inconsistent lifestyle resolutions, and a semi-nomadic profession.  I’ve been cooking less and eating out more.  I don’t eat meat, again.  I’ve been in and out of Chicago for weeks and weeks. I won’t say again that I’m re-committing to cooking more and writing about it because I always am.

In spite of all that, the past week has been a good week and one with the orange food.  Last Saturday morning, I baked–something I hadn’t done and a while and realized that I missed it (in addition to missing a normal sized stove that can fit a standard baking sheet.)  I made vegan pumpkin scones with a chai buttercream frosting.

Vegan Pumpkin Scones

I just played with this recipe, adding some cinnamon and nutmeg.  All I had was gluten-free flour, so I think that made them a bit softer but they turned out all right.  I’d like to try them with regular flour again, or a different basic vegan scone recipe. (Ideas?)  For the chai buttercream I just used a basic vegan buttercream frosting recipe and added chai powder that I got a while ago from the spice shop down the street.  It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Today, because I was too lazy to brave the dark cold to go grocery shopping, I dug some pureed butternut squash out of the freezer and made a spicy butternut squash risotto.  I just used brown rice since I didn’t have arborio rice.  In fact, you could probably call it more of a savory rice pudding.

Spicy Butternut Squash Risotto

I’ll have to add the recipe later because I just iron-cheffed it from what I had so I don’t have exact measurements.  I essentially just made a basic risotto and stirred in the pureed butternut squash at the end with chili powder, cinnamon, pepper, a little bit of agave nectar then topped with crushed red pepper and pumpkin seeds.  It was a comforting delight eaten next to my radiator in my pjs. Winter hermit bliss.

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