Monday, February 25, 2008

Sick kid

One week later, the midget is still a little under the weather. She's had a bit of an earache and her nose just doesn't stop running. She says her ear doesn't hurt today, but that may be because I had John give her a classic ear ache treatment: a hot onion in a sock, pressed to the ear.

We're just enjoying the beautiful weather and trying to nurse our little loveling back to health. It's been a quiet week!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No-Bake Vegan Cheesecake (Creamy Meyer Lemon Pie)

I made this for John's birthday last week. I wanted to make a raw cheesecake in a graham cracker crust (John loves graham crackers), but the raw cheesecake recipes all sounded too fatty, so I compromised and used a container of soy yogurt to reduce the fat content. The results were amazing--creamy, tangy, delicious, with the solidity of a good New York Cheesecake. The raspberry sauce on top elevated it to celebration status!
No-Bake Vegan Cheesecake (aka Creamy Meyer Lemon Pie)
If you substituted rice yogurt for soy yogurt, this could easily be made soy-free. It's very important to use organic lemons, because the skin of citrus fruits really soaks up pesticides. Make sure you wash them well to remove any wax, or all the flavor will not come through.
1 prepared 9-in graham cracker crust (see Better-For-Ya Graham Cracker Crust, bottom)
zest, pulp, and juice of 1 1/2 lemons (I used Meyer lemons, because they are in season)
6 oz container of vanilla soy yogurt
2 C raw cashews, ground to a fine powder (I used a coffee grinder)
1/4 C coconut oil
dash of salt
3 Tb agave nectar (or sugar or lightly colored honey)
Pour the lemon zest, pulp and juice into a blender and add the yogurt. Blend on low to combine. In three batches, add the cashew powder. When combined, add the coconut oil, salt and sugar. The mixture should be quite thick. Pour mixture into prepared graham cracker crust, cover tightly, and refrigerate two to three hours until firm. Serve with fresh fruit or Raspberry Glaze.
Raspberry Glaze
1 1/4 C frozen raspberries
3 Tb sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Stir all ingredients together in a small saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook until sauce coats a spoon. Thoroughly cool before using, but do not refrigerate, or it will not spread nicely over the cheesecake.
Better For Ya Graham Cracker Crust
Sometimes you just want a graham cracker crust, but when you read the recipe, your arteries begin crying. This is the fix for you. It is particularly thick and hearty, with a tasty, grahamy flavor.
1 Tb ground flax seeds
1/4 C water
1/2 tsp corn or sunflower oil
1/4 tsp salt
10 crushed graham crackers (they should be about the texture of sand)
2 Tb brown rice syrup, at room temperature
Mix the ground flax seeds with the water and let it rest while you crush the graham crackers. The flax seeds should turn into a thick and gooey paste. Stir in the oil. In a large bowl, sprinkle the salt over the crushed graham crackers, then stir in the flax seeds. Add the brown rice syrup. Stir until the brown rice syrup is evenly distributed and the mixture begins to come together in one big lump. Put the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan or springform and pat into place. Bake at 325 degrees until browned and firm, about 12 minutes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Old favorites, new colors

Today was a great day in Garden Club. We played a smelling game where everybody sniffed different samples of food with their eyes closed and then had to guess what the food was. All the kids were astounded when they saw the blood oranges--their noses had the thing pegged, but their eyeballs were confused.

We had the same experience for dinner. When Fi and I were at New Seasons, they had a beautiful arrangement of cauliflowers in white, orange and purple. Fiona really wanted to try the purple kind. She actually begged for it, and since I'm a sucker for kids who beg for veggies, I totally bought a head. Tonight I decided to cook it up.

We had an Indian-themed dinner, with rice and lentils, and then I toasted some cumin seeds in a dab of olive oil (a lot more than I usually cook with, but I had a hunch the cauliflower would appreciate it), with a little salt and a dash of curry powder. The cauliflower soaked up the delicious cumin flavor as I tossed it around in the pan, and the curry powder gave it a well-rounded flavor profile. The best thing, and the thing I'd been most nervous about, is that the cauliflower stayed purple when cooked! I was very, very pleased, since I thought I remembered that purple cauliflower cooked to green. Maybe that's broccoli ...

As a little accompaniment to the cauliflower, I tried a veggie mentioned in Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian (which is probably my favorite cookbook for its treatment of vegetables, including many obscure varieties of veggies I can't wait to dig into): garbanzo fronds. To prepare for this experiment, I began growing some garbanzo plants in January. They are very beautiful plants, and I got a little teary-eyed cuttng them for dinner. I don't know if I could have done it I hadn't just planted some more out in the garden this afternoon! I cut back the entire plant, which was still very young and tender, and quickly stir-fried it in a little garlic, olive oil, and salt. Wow! They have a flavor reminiscent of asparagus, and were tender and lovely. Wow. Run out and buy some dried garbanzo beans today so you can try the fronds soon!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cuminy Greens and Tofu (Vegan Saag Paneer)

I made this one night when I was craving saag paneer. It recreates some of my favorite elements of the dish--mellow cuminy spinach goodness--without the dairy and long-term commitment of traditional recipes. I can't say it's an exact match, but when I found myself craving it today at work, I knew I'd done something good. We were too hungry to find the camera and take a picture--you'll have to picture the beautiful greens and little tofu cubes.

Cuminy Greens and Tofu (evocative of Saag Paneer)
1 package firm tofu
1/2 C kombucha (or 2 Tb apple cider vinegar with enough apple juice to make 1/2C)
1 tsp miso soup base (I used yellow)

1 tsp olive oil
1 Tb cumin seeds, whole
2 tsp coriander seeds, whole
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 box of frozen spinach, thawed
2 1/2 C shredded cabbage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 carrot, shredded

Press tofu for 10-20 minutes. While pressing, stir together miso and kombucha (1/2 an inch of grated ginger would be a nice addition here). Cut tofu into cubes and toss with marinade. Allow to sit as long as you can.

Rub olive oil all over a non-stick pan; bring pan to medium-high heat. Add seeds and allow to toast about thirty seconds, or until they start smelling good. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion and cook until onions are translucent. Add the tofu and garlic.

When the tofu is beginning to get golden, add remaining ingredients and cook until cabbage is tender. Serve over rice.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bird brained

I needed a little adventure today, and since I've been really interested in birds lately, I took Fiona to the Portland Audubon Society. They have a really beautiful visitors' center with a wildlife health care center, and there is beautiful hiking to enjoy in the surrounding sancturary.

Today was great. There were volunteers taking the education birds around to visit with people. We got to meet Julio, a great horned owl, and Finnegan, a peregrine falcon. They are both unable to live in the wild and make the wildlife care center their full-time home. It feels really special to get up close to these really quite dangerous predators and see them moving. Hear them talking. Even just watching them blink is pretty darn cool.

Another really cool thing about the care center is that the hospital window is mostly glass on one side, so you can watch the volunteers at work. They had a number of birds resting in cages and aquariums, including a robin snuggled up in a towel and a little brown bird pecking at some seeds. These guys were so close to the viewing window that I could see the glass fogging up as the robin breathed in and out!

After we saw all the creatures, we hiked down the Macleay trail, following Balch Creek down into the city. It was a truly lovely day, warm and sunny, the perfect day to be out enjoying the forest and the water. The kind of day that makes you glad to be alive!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hot, hot vegetable love!

Around our house, Valentine's Day is practically forgotten. You see, my sweetie-pie's birthday happens to fall on February 14th, changing the day from a pink-and-red holiday to "Let's Celebrate John!" day. (And have I mentioned that he hates chocolate?) I don't really mind. It's still romantic and loving to celebrate my guy.

The Fatfree Vegan blog is holding a recipe contest for Valentine's Day called Vegetable Love. Since I was already planning to make John a super-healthy and romantic sort of dinner, I thought I'd go the extra mile and make an entry for Vegetable Love.
I thought long and hard about what I'd make. It needed to be comforting and rich. It needed to be earthy, but still vibrant and flavorful. And since it was for John, it needed to have a spicy component--he loves spicy food, and let's face it: he's a hot guy. I spent the last couple of days wracking my brain and tried a glamorous take on mashed potatoes and gravy, with herbs and sherry and shallots. It should have been good.

Ummn. No. I learned something in the process though--I don't like tarragon nearly as much as I thought I did. And I also learned that sometimes mysterious magic happens in the kitchen. I just happened to throw this carrot dish together as a side dish, and it turned out delicious, spicy, tangy, sweet, rich. John really liked it! So here's my tribute to love this February:

Hot Love Carrots

3 large carrots, cut in matchsticks (about 2 cups)
3/4 C orange juice
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tb pepper jelly*

Scrub carrots and remove tops. Cut into matchsticks and place in saucepan with orange juice and salt. Cover and simmer until tender. Remove cover and allow orange juice to reduce by half. Stir in pepper jelly.

*Obviously different brands of pepper are spicier than others. Use one you like, and if it's not spicy enough for your hot love, give it a sexy swirl of Rooster sauce!
Sorry the photo is grainy--I have no idea why, but Blogger keeps making all my pictures funky!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Uno & Jerusalem artichokes

Sorry the last couple of days have been so quiet, but my brother has been in town, and I've been busy playing Uno like a fiend. Uno is a great family game--we play it with evil rules when we play at night, and easy rules when we play with Fi. She's getting pretty good at it, too!

It's pretty hard to get worked up about gardening while it's pouring torrentially, but I found some Jerusalem artichokes at New Seasons the other day, and I am going to plant them tomorrow. I tried in the fall, but something kept digging them up, and then one day they were just gone. Darn squirrels! I hope these do a little better, because Jerusalem artichokes are pretty tasty in their own weird way.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes!

Let me preface this story by explaining that in our house, when you pee, you use a toilet hankie instead of toilet paper. They're reusable fabric wipies that are really handy for a kid who's just learning to wipe. We just toss them in a bin under the sink and throw them in the washing machine when we are doing laundry.


Last night Fiona's cousin Amelia came over for a sleep-over. Fiona was instructing Amelia in the fine art of toilet hankie usage, and she said, "the great thing about toilet hankies is that you don't waste trees."

What a great kid!