Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately I do not have pictures of my lovely vegan spread to share with you, because I did not have a vegan spread. This year was the first time I have ever hosted Thanksgiving. I never have because of the turkey thing. I have never cooked one, nor will I ever in the future. So someone else always hosts. Usually we all drive to New Jersey to visit my sister-in-law and her family. No one wanted to go this year, so we got elected to host. The Carn-in-laws brought the turkey and all the sides. So I made appetizers and desserts.

I made the Pumpin Cheezecake from Just the Food, which I can highly recommend. It was delicious - perfectly spiced, creamy, and fluffy. I also made the Gingerbread Apple Pie from VWAV. I didn't like it at all. I'm not sure why this one didn't work. I did enjoy the flavor from the gingerbread spices, but the crust was the wrong texture and the apples were dried out instead of juicy. I know it was not my oven, as I have a thermometer to check the temp. Oh well, by the time everyone gets to dessert, they are too stuffed to eat anyway! I guess it was a good holiday to be thankful for the people and forget about the food!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Old Friend

The other day my daughter asked for pasta with artichokes. I'd forgotten about a dish I used to make many years ago - kind of a sweet and savory sauce. I thought about it a while and it gradually came back to me (I think). Sorry the measurements are vague. It is really quick and easy, and tastes pretty good, too!

Pasta with Artichokes

olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 can artichokes, sliced
handful of sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
half a handful currents or raisins
dried basil, Frank's Red Hot Sauce, s & p to taste

Saute onion in oil until soft. Add remaining ingredients and cook 10-15 minutes. Serve over ziti. In the old days we topped it with grated Romano, and the contrast was yummy. If anyone knows a good vegan version, let me know.

The tomatoes are topped with bread crumbs mixed with Italian spices and olive oil, and broiled until browned.

Thanks to River of Wing it Vegan for giving me a butterfly award! Check out her blog- it's fabulous (especially all those Halloween posts!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Soup and Bread

Is there anything more comforting on a cold day? We having been having temps in the low 30's. It was actually snowing a few flakes this morning! This is what I remember November being like when I was a kid. It was winter - no 70 degree days like we have been having the past few years.

Anyway, I had planned to make the Samosa Soup that Krys had sent me awhile back. Then I saw that Diann had made the same thing this week! The recipe she printed is very similar to what I have. It is delicious, although I don't think it tastes like samosas. Krys said she doubled the spices - that sounds like a good idea in retrospect (not the cayenne, though - I halved it and it was enough!)

I have seen "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" mentioned on a few blogs. I got it from the library and tried the standard loaf. The premise is to make a big batch of extra wet dough and store it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, breaking off pieces and baking as you need. You really can mix up the dough quickly, and on baking day all you have to do is shape it (also very fast). Of course there is still rising and resting time. But if you fit it into your schedule when you are just hanging out anyway, it can work. I think this book will go on my wish list!
The dough rising.........
Shaped loaves resting.........
The finished loaves of ciabatta. Nice crust, and nice airy crumb.
I also made a baguette from the same dough. French and Italian bread from the same dough? I don't know if it's authentic, but it sure tastes good!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Bowl of Mush

Yes, it really is a bowl of mush! Well, some of us who should know better would rather eat deep fried tofu (and bags of chocolate chips)than healthy whole grains. SO, here is a relatively painless way to eat those whole grains (and no, those famous o's are not whole grains, even though the box alludes to it - don't you love when people tell you this?)
This is a bowl of cooked amaranth. I made it after reading about it in The Passionate Vegetarian (this is a great read even though not vegan - most of the 1000+ recipes have vegan suggestions). I didn't follow the directions exactly, but changed them to fit into my morning schedule. I toasted the raw grain for a few minutes as directed (some of the grains pop just like teeny tiny popcorn!). Then I added water and brought to a boil (ratio is 1 1/3 water to 1 grain). I turned off the heat, covered it, and when I was ready to eat a while later, it was ready for me! No stirring, boiling over, crusty pot, etc. Plus, it tasted great with flax, vanilla Silk, cinnamon, and a few walnuts. For those of you who don't hang around the house in the morning like me, make it the night before and reheat in the micro. Now if only I could find a way to like quinoa!

Monday, November 17, 2008

All You Never Wanted to Know About Me

Hey, I've been tagged by River to share random facts about myself. I actually love these things because it helps you to get to know people. Since most of you have already done this I won't tag anyone specifically, but if you haven't, please join in so we can get to know you, too!

1. I have moved around a lot in my adult life (for my husband's job). I'm now living here on Long Island where I grew up, but spent 7 years in the midwest (Chicago suburbs and city of Milwaukee) and 1 year upstate NY. Well, actually in Sloatsburg, NY (home of the thruway rest stop and not much else), where if you say upstate they get mad. But to us, anything north of Manhattan is upstate. My favorite was Milwaukee, where they have festivals all summer long (they even have a special park to hold the festivals), in the winter when there is too much snow, you can just walk to the bars, and they allow open beers in the street (do you see a theme here?)

2. We had our children late in life (mostly because of #1 above). Assumed after three years of trying that we couldn't have any, bought myself a Mustang convertible, and promptly found myself pregnant. Proceeded to have 3 babies in 4 1/2 years (Mustang long since traded for a mini-van).

3. Decided at age 26 to learn to play the violin. Took lessons for 4 years, played in community orchestras, and had lots of fun. Never got very good, but it doesn't matter much as long as you can blend in with everyone who's better than you.

4. I love to travel and have been fortunate enough to do a fair amount. Even visiting local cities and visiting their tourist attractions and going on all-around tours is so much fun. I love to drive through neighborhoods and eat in the restaurants that the locals enjoy. And when you are a fan of classical music as I am, it is pretty awesome and humbling to actually stand in a house where Mozart wrote music.

5. I am a total sugar junkie. Especially chocolate. Dark, dark, chocolate. After having my kids, I would buy the extra large bags of chocolate chips and consume at least one a week. Fortunately, nursing a baby burns lots of calories, and super fortunately, they were not bothered by anything I ate.

6. I am also an exercise video junkie. This helps with number 5. Please recommend your favorites to me.

7. I love Disney World. I never went a a kid, and it was one of the first places I visited when I could travel on my own. I thought it was a magical place even before I had kids. Everyone said don't bring your kids there when they are young, because it is too overwhelming for them. But we did, and they loved it. It is the best when you have a picture of Mickey Mouse rocking your baby to sleep. My husband hates the place! But I want to bring my own little princesses there one more time when they are a little older so they will remember it.

So, that's me! How about you?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Untraditional Mexican Food

We love Mexican food! We have been obsessed with it ever since we were teenagers. We have a restaurant in town that has been there since then. There was only one other Mexican restaurant on all of Long Island at the time (well, there were probably some in Queens and Brooklyn, which is technically LI, but we in the suburbs don't count it as such.) When we were first married, we would pinch pennies that we didn't have in order to be able to go there. At that time, we could eat a huge meal there for under $20, including sangria, appetizers, entrees, and tip. Being young, we could fit all that in, along with many bowls of chips and salsa.
Nowadays, the tab at that restaurant is over $70! And we can't eat nearly as much. Why is it that you can eat less as you age? That, along with the complications three young children bring, means that we have our Mexican at home more often than not.
My guacamole is very simple. Just avocado, salt, minced onion, coriander, Frank's hot sauce and the secret ingredient. I discovered it once when I mistook it for coriander - it is ground cloves! Just the slightest pinch. I know it sounds improbable, and traditionalists will scoff, but everyone loves it and asks "what's different?" And please, no lime juice!
The refried beans also have an unusual ingredient - cinnamon. This recipe comes from "the Best of Jenny's Kitchen." Jenny writes that these are the best refried beans she has ever eaten, and I have to agree. This book is ancient and I'm sure out of print, so I feel safe in offering the recipe, with full credit to Jenny, of course!
1 1/2 c dried pinto beans
5-6 c water
1 1/2 onions
1/4 c olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
1/4 c diced mild green chilies
2 T lemon juice
2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground cloves
Cook beans with water and 1/2 chopped onion until tender, 2 1/2 - 3 hours. When beans are tender, heat olive oil in a large sillet. Chop the remaining onion and saute with the garlic until golden. Add tomatoes, peppers, lemon juice, salt and spices. Begin adding beans, a cup at a time, and mash, adding liquid as necessary. Cook over very low heat until very thick, an hour or more.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's Wrong with our Health Care System

What do you think the price tag was for this work of art? The doctor charged $300 to look at the cut, which was separate from the $400 to stitch the cut. Plus a few other miscellaneous charges for a total of over $700. Meanwhile, the doctor was sitting on the sidelines eating a sandwich, while it was actually a PA that stitched me up. Outrageous, right?

But wait, that was only the doctor's bill. I also received a bill from the hospital for over $1,500! This included $1,044 to occupy the bed for 20 minutes, $280 for the needle and thread, plus a few other charges for antiseptic, tetanus shot, etc.

Maybe the new guy can fix this mess.

P.S. If your cabinet doors are not shutting properly, don't try jamming them closed, and then when they don't shut, open them up. That's when all the plates fall out on your tile floor, smash, and slice open your bare feet (duh)!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Simplest Soup of All

This is so easy, yet so tasty. It is from Diane Kochilas's Greek Vegetarian. It's just chickpeas (dried are a must), sauteed onion, bay leaf, rosemary, olive oil, lemon, and salt (add lemon and salt after chickpeas are cooked, and drizzle olive oil on top to serve). I don't know how such a simple combination of ingredients can be so good, but it is perfect. Even better the next day (and I am not a fan of leftovers!)