Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dog friends

Sunday night Brandy demanded that we take her to "Bark in the Park". Held twice a season, our local baseball stadium opens the grounds to dogs and their companions for a home game. At first I was a little annoyed; we sat out on the grounds waaaay past third base where you got a crick in your neck if you wanted to see anything baseball related (you know, like a player, trying to hit the ball)

Very quickly, though, I forgot I was annoyed because I was too busy meeting all my new doggie friends.

My personal favorite was the college-age couple next to us, and their dog, Keggers. Seriously, Keggers. Keggers was awesome and very chill. There was a prissy poodle named Dougherty that was very keen on Keggers. Keggers was disinterested and a little aloof. That's Brandy in the corner watching a hot dog.

There was the most beautiful Great Dane you ever saw. I want one. Every time I say I want one I feel like I'm Violet in Willy Wonka and the Chocololate Factory..."Daddy, I want one. I want a pony." Seriously though, one day we'll have a rescue Great Dane. Just not quite yet. Apparently they go through a 30 pound bag of food a week.

Here's the most chill scene at the park; an elderly basset hound with his parents. None of the trio moved very much during the game. The most action occurred during beer retrievals. The basset looked bored, as if to say "Young-uns, you are tiresome with your hoopla and shenanigans. I think this might be my last year to come to the game. It's just been overrun with hormones."

I forget the name of this wee one, but we all renamed him Cujo. Cujo had several costume changes throughout the 2 hour game. He must have a lot of laundry.

Here's Brandy the Boxer taking it all in, and then running the bases with Dakota afterwards.

This morning Brandy asked me if I was taking her to a soccer game or football next. She's ready for her next adventure.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Crack tempeh

To think that I never used to be a fan of tempeh. It just tasted oddly nutty, with a slight fermentation. Ew. Now, you can't keep me away from it. I usually have 4 or 5 packages sitting in my fridge waiting to be cooked up. My favorite things to do with the cultured bean? Slice it up and pan fry it in garlic, soy sauce and maple syrup to make tempeh bacon. Or, marinate it in apple cider, tomato paste, garlic, worcerstershire sauce and whatever else I have lying around, pan fry it and serve it up in tempeh reubens. Mmm...tempeh reubens.

These were my two favorite ways to make tempeh...until now. For lunch yesterday I made the most simple and addicting tempeh salad. Seriously, I don't know what makes it so good; it's one of those things were the whole is greater than the parts. I fondly refer to it as Crack Tempeh.

The recipe came from the Native Foods Restaurant cookbook, which as usual I tweaked to fit what was in my lil cupboard.

Crack Tempeh

1 package (8 oz) tempeh, sliced widthwise and lengthwise into 4 pieces
2-3 Tbs olive oil
2Tbs soy sauce
4 Tbs water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup Vegenaise
Scallions, herbs or whatever your heart desires to throw in


1. Heat oil in pan over med-high. Add tempeh patties and cook a couple of minutes each side until golden and crispy, adding more oil if needed.

2. Mix the soy sauce, water and garlic in a bowl and add to the pan.

3. Lower heat and cook til the liquid has been absorbed.

4. Allow tempeh to cool slightly, and chop roughly into chunks.

5. Combine tempeh, vegenaise and whatever herbs you're using in a bowl.

That's it! I served my tempeh crack on a bed of romaine lettuce with basmati rice and the most delicious balsamic dressing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Raw foodism and Macrobiotics - How to Reconcile!

I did some research today on raw foodism and macrobiotics; two things I've been very interested in learning more about, but haven't had the time to research. I bought and read cover to cover "The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics" and then did a bunch of research about raw foodism on the internet. It's hard to reconcile the two, and my head is swimming a little bit.

Raw foodism is based on the premise that cooking food destroys beneficial enzymes and that nutrients are supercharged when not cooked. Because of this, foods are not heated to above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprouting and dehydrating are two common forms of preparations for things that can not be consumed raw (i.e. beans) or to have variety.

A macrobiotic diet is more about balancing "yin" foods with "yang" foods and eating foods on a spectrum. Yin foods are those that are considered stimulating; overstimulating yin foods like sugar, alcohol, coffee, and chocolate are to be avoided, or at least only eaten in moderation. Yang foods are considered grounding and strengthening. Consuming too much of the edgy yang- meat, eggs, salt, are harmful and cause you to feel sludgy. At the base of a macrobiotic meal are cooked grains, steamed veggies, and pickles to help aid in digestion.

So here's the conundrum; Eat raw and worry about being too harsh on the body, or eat macrobiotic and worry about destroying all the beneficial enzymes. (For some reason I have this weird visual of the cute little enzymes baking in the sun to a burnt crisp.)

As with any diet, I think it's most important to listen to your body's intuition. For example, I've been feeling very sludgy lately, so I was craving raw foods earlier today. I made a delicious raw wrap that consisted of a sunflower seed pate with sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes and cilantro and a tahini dressing (ok, not 100% raw, but good enough for my first attempt.) I wrapped it all in an ezekial wrap (sprouted grains) and thought it was absolutely delicious!

Later on today, though, the thought of consuming more seeds about sent my stomach into a tailspin. NO, THANK YOU. So, I took a page out of the macrobiotic book and had brown rice, pan seared swiss chard, seitan and a nutritional yeast gravy. Again, not completely macrobiotic, but it was grounding, comforting and seemed the perfect mix of that elusive yin/yang balance. One of my twitter friends eats raw every day until dinner; not something I'd do every day, but definitely a good way of looking at it...

It will be interesting to see my journey into these new philosophies. To me, food philosophy has always been a life philosophy; how I eat is indicative of how I move through the world. I'm excited to take what I'll learn from both raw foodism and macrobiotics, put my own spin on it, and continue to move through the world consciously.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Staycation Bucket List

Two weeks of staycation is a glorious thing. No plans, no schedule to keep to, no alarm clock, no owing people all kinds of work and being stressed out about it. I could do everything or nothing, and that suits me just fine. Being an INFP Meyers Briggs type of gal, I truly like to dwell in possibilities; not nailing anything down til the last minute.

We did have tentative plans to go to either Key West - visiting Sublime Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale along the way, or to North Carolina for hiking, tubing and mountain biking fun, but it seems that the hurricane season would have other plans, as both KW and NC are going to be affected.

Ah, well, then, I will stay home and putter. What's on the list to do? Here's my staycation bucket list:

1. Cook as many recipes from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen cookbook as I possibly can. It's Florida, it's August and it's flippin hot. Mangos, avocados, coconut anyone?

2. Go through the house and purge; I used to pride myself on being a minimalist. I slept on an air mattress on the floor for many years and moved around so many times; each time selling what couldn't be packed in the car. Now, I've stayed put in Jacksonville for so many years, I've accumulated enough stuff for umm....probably 4, yes 4, households. Too. Much. Stuff!

3. Shop for organic produce, making sure to include intimidating painful looking veggies like celeriac and sunchoke. What the hell do you do with sunchoke, anyway?

4. Read all my favorite cookbooks again, including Cookin Southern Vegetarian Style, Nonna's Italian Cookbook, and new friends, Tropical Vegan Kitchen, Vegan Brunch, and the Native Foods Cookbook. Actually, who am I kidding? My kitchen bookshelf will probably be empty due to all the cookbooks being next to my bed, stacked up precariously.

5. Do things to make the house cheery, like how I just hung up sweetly adorable kitchen curtains. With three teenagers living here, this house can use all the cheer it can get. Whose idea was it to have kids, anyway?

6. Drink wine in the afternoon, preferably chardonnay, most definitely buttery. Or perhaps, a nice bloody mary in the morning?

7. Pick up the crochet hook and start to knit a cheery (there's that word again) shawl, to beckon Fall. There's a great one from The Happy Hooker that I've been wanting to make; it's lovely and pink.

8. Take walks, ride the bike on the river walk, go swim in the ocean.

9. Consider the future.

10. Visit a Greek Orthodox, Episcopal or Catholic church. It's been a long time, and I love the smell of insense. It's so serene.

11. Take long breaks from the computer, or anything technological. I get so out of balance, so fast.

What else? What would you do with 2 weeks off and no plans??

Monday, August 17, 2009

Family Dinner 1 : I shall never eat again

To paraphrase and change the words of a famous quote from The Princess Bride, (which is only the best movie in the entire world), I Shall Never Eat Again.

This is what I always say after family dinners. The plethora of vegan delights my mom makes is enough to stuff me for a lifetime; or at least until my next meal. Last night was my belated birthday dinner, since mom had gone to Texas to visit her best friend, my Aunt Lynn, for a couple of weeks.

The preparation for the meal began on Wednesday, when my mom called to see if I had any special requests. Oh shoot, I wasn't prepared. Ummmm either Gigi Seitan, which is a a hazelnut encrusted seitan that I got off the internet somewhere, which somehow was renamed to my mom's nickname, Gigi, or seitan stroganoff. What else? VEGAN MASHED POTATOES. I can not live without vegan mashed potatoes. For dessert, something either lemony, coconuty or peanut banana buttery; cook's choice! Chocolate could show up, but only in a supporting role; I'm not a huge chocolate fan. I typically shoo it aside.

Fast forward to Sunday at 2:30pm, and the whole lot of us (3 teenagers, Stephanie and me) were barreling down I95 towards mi mama's ready for an afternoon of cooking, eating and family revelry. Puff Kitty tried to sneak in the car to come too (he heard there would be fish on the menu) but we booted him out, as there weren't enough seat belts.

Vegan items on the menu:

Seitan Stroganoff: So, seriously, stroganoff has got to be one of the most comforting foods in the world, next to mashed potatoes and mac n cheese. This version starts with portabello mushrooms, onions and flour-dusted seitan chunks sauteed in a goodly amount of oil, til done, about 5-10 minutes. About half way through, add sherry (about half cup?) and cook til reduced. Add several go-rounds (go-rounds are travels around the pot) of vegan beef powder, add a few more splashes of sherry, and saute some more. Add as much vegan sour cream as you want, stirring in to create a creamalicious sauce. Season to taste.

Roasted beets with chopped herbs, red pepper, red onion and balsamic: I truly don't think I've ever met a beet I didn't like. Raw beets, roasted beets, cooked beets. They taste like the earth to me, which is in a weird way, serves as a very spiritual eating experience. My favorite way to eat beets is to roast 'em, slice 'em, and slather them up in a horseradish vegenaise dressing. YUM. PS, mom I might have gotten the ingredients wrong on this one.

Stuffed pan-fried rice packets: My mom got this recipe from a blog somewhere. She didn't print it off, but she remembered enough of it to mom-ize it. Here's the deal: Savory asian filling , stuffed into a softened rice paper wrapper (easily obtained from an Asian grocery store), folded into little rice paper packet jewels, and pan-fried. My mom stir fried coconut-ginger tempeh (store-bought) with a chopped onion. I softened the large rice paper sheets one at a time in a shallow pan of water. You put a few tablespoons of filling in the center of the rice paper sheet, and fold burrito style; sides in, top side over, and then bottom side under. Heat some vegetable oil (we used Grapeseed Oil), add the packets and pan-fry until golden on each side. We made some wasabi-mayonnaise dressing as a creamy topping. Delicious!

Sour Cream 'n Chives Mashed Potatoes: Mashed potatoes are heavenly and divine. All the clouds in heaven will be made of mashed potatoes, I am certain. I have a direct line to God, and I was informed as much. These were simple: boiled, drained and mashed with a goodly sized amount of vegan sour cream, some Vegenaise for good measure, (because everything is better with Vegenaise) and a generous handful of chopped organic chives. I could really eat these mashed potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, forever. Except that I shall never eat again, so there's no need.

Bunny Carrots roasted in mustard oil: So this is truly a Gigi special; 3 bunches of baby carrots with tops (she sent the tops home with me so I can make my newest favorite side dish; Sesame miso carrot tops!)

Macaroni Salad: Cold squiggly noodles of your choice, tossed with cans of peas and kidney beans, drained and rinsed, chopped celery and red onion, with a Vegenaise dressing. Very simple, very fast and makes a ton! I had the leftovers for breakfast this morning.

Braided rustic bread: My mom makes the best homemade bread. It is always the best complement of textures: crusty on the outside, warm and chewy on the inside. This was delicious! Boy child finished it off as a snack tonight. (Eschewing the bhagala polo, which will be tomorrow's blog)

Banana bundt cake with peanut butter frosting: One of my favorite cupcakes, turned into a cake! Very moist, with a faint touch of chocolate in the batter and studded with chocolate chips. Great birthday cake! Unfortunately, I had to shovel the bites in and coax them down, since I ate probably the equivalent of 3 pounds of food before dessert. Still, it was worth the mild discomfort.

All in all, an amazing family dinner. Thanks mom; can't wait til the next one!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad with Brown Rice

Sunday night's dinner unexpectedly took me 3 hours to make (homemade grilled arugula pizza and Mediterranean chopped salad) and ended in the kitchen looking like a bomb had occurred, so this week I decided to be a tad less industrious in my cooking.

For dinner growing up, my mother often "whomped" things together to create some delicious concoction. Once she whomped together an african-style coconut curry with pigeon peas. I think that was about 10 years ago, and ever since, I've wanted to cook with pigeon peas.

This weekend at Barnes and Noble I bought The Tropical Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. It's hotter than the hinges of hades here in the August Florida heat, so I've been wanting lighter dishes that whip up fast. I flipped through The Vegan Mediterranean Kitchen and found an easy dozen or so recipes that I want to try, one of them being the Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad with Brown Rice.

Here's the recipe, which is modified to fit what I had in my fridge :)

Caribbean Pigeon Pea Salad with Brown Rice (modified from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, Donna Klein)

1 can pigeon peas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice, cooked according to directions, with 1/2 Tablespoon garlic salt and some fresh or dried thyme added to the water.
1 Tablespoon Jerk seasoning (I didn't have any, so had to make some of my own)
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp dried thyme


1. Set cooked rice aside to cool

2. Meanwhile, combine lemon juice, oil, thyme, garlic, salt, jerk seasoning, and sugar in large bowl.

3. Add peas, tomatoes and celery and mix to coat. Set aside for flavors to blend for 10-15 minutes.

4. Combine peas with rice and mix to fluff. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Caribbean Pea Salad

The verdict: Delicious! Everyone wants this again, and it was such a relief to only be in the kitchen for about a half hour. Half hour recipes are sounding great right about now! This recipe would also be great with other veggies added: the original recipe calls for chopped bell peppers and scallions.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Garlic Spaghetti with Cannellini and Basil

Part of my score at the farmer's market over the weekend was the most plump quart of grape tomatoes you ever saw in your life! They've been sitting on my counter taunting me since Saturday, and I couldn't take it a second longer. That's the problem with buying from the farmer's market on the weekend; you know that every day off the plants is a day of wasted flavor! It's a race to cook your veggies as close to picking as possible.

I found a recipe in Cooking Light that looked like it would do just the trick, with a little vegan tweaking - Garlic Spaghetti with Greens and Beans. The original recipe called for arugula, which would have been divine, but I had a bunch of Thai basil that was calling to me from the vegetable drawer.

The recipe is simple and quick and, best of all, cooks in one pot! Hope you enjoy!

Garlic Spaghetti with Cannellini and Basil


1 lb spaghetti or your favorite pasta
1 bunch of fresh basil, chopped
1 quart cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic (or more, depending on how garlicky you like your pasta!)
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Juice from 2 lemons
1/2 tsp - 1 tsp crushed red pepper, to taste
1 tsp kosher salt


1. Cook pasta in boiling water, per directions on box.
2. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water
3. In same pot, heat olive oil. Saute garlic and crushed red pepper for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned.
4. Add tomatoes and beans and cook for 3-4 minutes
6. Add pasta and salt, tossing and stirring in reserved pasta water, as needed
7. Add chopped basil and lemon juice and toss to coat.

The verdict:

Everyone loved this! It was uber-easy, and very tasty. The simplicity of the sauce was perfect in that it allowed the flavor of the grape tomatoes to shine through. This will definitely become a staple for my family.

Tonight for dinner: Polenta torte with puttanesca and Garlic-glazed green beans. I got the green beans at the Farmer's Market on Saturday and they're sitting in my drawer impatiently!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rescuing Eggplant alla Norma - Vegan Style

The title staring back at me from the Cooks Illustrated magazine captured me from the get-go. "Rescuing Pasta alla Norma." Well, seriously. If eggplant needs rescuing, then who am I to resist?

I fell in love with Pasta alla Norma 3 years ago at Enoteca - a Mario Batali restaurant in Las Vegas. One bite of the thick rigatoni, bathed in a spicy tomato eggplant sauce, chocked full of garlic and fresh basil , sold me that this would be one of my all time favorite dishes. I travel to Las Vegas for work once a year, and so have engaged in Eggplant Alla Norma gluttony yearly for the past 3 years. Still....a girl's gotta have a DIY attitude, so when I saw the "Rescuing Pasta alla Norma" article on the recent issue of Cooks Illustrated , I knew I had to give it a try.

As an aside, Cooks Illustrated, though a most decidedly un-vegan magazine, is a secret love of mine. I haven't found anyone who takes the nuances of cooking as seriously as they do. I remember a recipe for Potato Wedges one year. They were waxing about the role of salt in the baking of the wedges. The salt, they proclaimed, act as little ball bearings, gently supporting the potato wedge from the slick coolness of the cookie sheet. Wow. Little ball bearings. I've been a loyal reader ever since.

But I digress. Pasta alla Norma, we are informed by Cooks Illustrated (CI), was named for a 19th century opera that featured a druid priestess named Norma. A smashing success, a Silician chef decided to immortalize Norma by creating a dish in her honor. Thank God for the Druids!

Not one to be outdone by CI, I started with the freshest ingredients. If Pasta Alla Norma's rescue was to be unsuccessful, it wouldn't be under my watch. Starting with fresh eggplant picked from my garden, I dove into the recipe.

One of the reasons why the dish needs rescuing in the first place is that eggplant, notororious for soaking up irreverant amounts of oil when cooked, is tricky to work with. Often, the dish ends up a royal mess of mushy eggplant. The CI technique was to chop it into 1/2 inch chunks, salt it and layer it in a plate layered with coffee filters (I'm a little unclear about the coffee filters, but I don't argue with the CI Gods). Then you nuke the hell out of it for 10 minutes, until the eggplant is dry and shrively. After 10 minutes, my eggplant was neither dry nor shrively, so I nuked it for another 5 minutes. Eh. Still not dry, but I decided I couldn't in good conscience nuke it any more. It was starting to liquefy.

Post-nuke, I pranfried the eggplant with olive oil, and then set aside to finish the sauce. Sauteed garlic, a spoonful of miso paste to replace anchovies, hot pepper flakes, salt to taste and a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes finished it out, and I folded the eggplant back in the sauce.

The recipe called for ricotta salata; that salty firm ricotta that is uber-shreddable. There's an awesome looking recipe for vegan ricotta salata in Nonna's Italian Kitchen that I've always wanted to try, but it calls for agar, and I was fresh out of agar, go figure. No mind; the cashew ricotta from Veganomicon never fails me. It's so easy, and only calls for a handful of ingredients - cashews, tofu, lemons, garlic, salt, basil and olive oil.

With the sauce simmering gently and the cashew cream deafening the members of my family as it whirled in the food processor, I turned to the sides - asparagus and baby potatoes. No time for tom-foolery, I dressed them in olive oil and smoked sea salt and popped them in the oven for baking at 375. I figured baking them would be the most reasonable method of cooking, since it's only about 96 degrees on average here in Jacksonville. I hollered for the air to be cranked down under the auspices of "It's my birthday tomorrow; damn the electric bill!" and plunged the whole wheat rigatoni into the boiling salt water.

The verdict?

I'm not sure that I successfully rescued Eggplant alla Norma in it's entirety. It was tasty, to be sure. The scattering of basil, fresh from the garden gave it a bright crispness. The whole wheat pasta, something I typically shy away from, had a heft that stood up against the eggplant. With a dollop of cashew cream, it was a step shy of dreamy. I kept adding more cashew cream each time I took a bite.

The eggplant still turned out mushy, which was one of the main things the microwaving with coffee filters technique was supposed to solve. My guess is that I had too much eggplant with too little surface space on the plate; next time I won't be lazy and will cook it in two batches. Also, my dice was more like 1/4 inch than 1/2 inch. The 1/2 inch would definitely help the eggplant nuggets hold up their shape better.

The sauce was delicious, though! The original recipe called for anchovy fillets to give it a salty heft. A quick google told me that miso was a good substitute for anchovies. The modified recipe for the sauce from CI appears below:

Pasta alla Norma

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1tsp Kosher salt
2-3 TBS olive oil
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (more if you're fiery)
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1TBS miso paste
salt to taste

Eggplant prep: In large bowl, toss egpplant with salt. Transfer to (LARGE) plate lined with coffee filters and spread out evenly. Cook in the microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir, cook another 5 minutes, until eggplant is dry and shriveled. Transfer back to bowl, coat with 1 TBS olive oil. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in non-stick pan, add eggplant and cook til brown, stirring minimally for about 10 minutes. Transfer back to bowl.

Sauce: Saute your garlic in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes and miso paste for a few minutes, being careful not to burn. Stir gently to break up the miso. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, add eggplant, and simmer while you cook your pasta of choice. When pasta is ready, season sauce with salt to taste (it probably won't need too much, since the miso is salty) and gently stir in chopped basil.

While sauce is cooking, cook 1 lb penne, rigatoni, etc. When done, drain, and serve with the sauce and cashew cream.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Phantom menu at Sublime

Considering I'm obsessed with food, it really should come as no surprise that one of my hobbies is making phantom menu selections. Last night it was Sublime, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Frankly, I'm a little smitten with Sublime, since it holds the distinction of being one of the only upscale vegan restaurants I haven't been to in the good ole US of A. (I'm spoiled!) I probably have won an award by the webmaster as being the IP address who has hit their website the most. "Who is this 11.234.76459 in Jacksonville, Florida anyway?" they must say to themselves. It is I, the phantom menu peruser.

Often done while laying in bed, I'll go to the website of the restaurant that pops in my mind and plan my menu. I choose one from each category, regardless of the fact that I'd have a big ole tofu belly if I ate that much (actually I do have a tofu belly and I don't eat that much) Appetizer, soup, salad, entree, pre-dinner tasty beverage, wine, dessert and post dinner tasty aperatif beverage. It's almost as good as being there, I swear. It's a whole lot cheaper, that's for sure.

Last night's selections from the Sublime menu?

Tasty Beverage: Berry Bluetini Muddled fresh blueberries, fresh lemon, Stoli Blueberi 10.00

App: Crispy Eggplant Rollatini tofu, “ricotta,” “mozzarella,” garlic “butter” 11.00

Sushi: Florasian tempura avocado, vegenaise, mango, toasted coconut 11.00

Salad: Sublime Chopped Salad romaine lettuce, garbanzo beans, bell peppers, cucumbers, onion, kalamata olives, scallions, red wine vinaigrette 9.00

Entree: Sublime Picatta gardein cutlets, grilled asparagus, olive oil whipped mashed potatoes, lemon caper sauce 19.00

Dessert: Coconut Cake yellow cake, coconut "buttercream," almond tuile 11.00

After dinner tasty beverage just because: Caipirinha Lebion Cachaca sugarcane rum, juice of whole lime, simple syrup, sour mix 9.00

Mmmm.....take me to Sublime right now and tell me which bank to rob along the way! Ft. Lauderdale's only 5 hours away; if I left now I could be there in time for dinner tonight. Then, I'd spend the night at this tres cute vegan-friendly Bed and Breakfast that I've always wanted to go to:


Check out their beach cam. It's fun to do at work when you're feeling just a little bit...uninspired.

Back to work for the time being! Trying to figure out where my next wanna be vegan meal will be...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Channeling Barbara Kingsolver

Whenever I go to Farmers Markets I feel like I'm channeling Barbara Kingsolver. Her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made for some of the most deliciously contemplative reading I've ever done. In the book, she and her family take a one year challenge to eat only locally produced foods. And by foods, I don't just mean your standard veggies and fruit; I mean all the grains, sugar, oils, spices and goodies that you go through in order to eat well. I'll cut to the end of my Reading Rainbow book review; if you haven't read it, you must run to your local library's website and reserve it today! I give it two very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Saturday was Farmers Market day in lazy Fernandina Beach; a beach town about 45 minutes away from Jacksonville. I scored some Zesty sprouts from a cheeky husband and wife team, a basket of the largest tomatoes you'll ever see in your life, 4 humongoid squash, 2 baskets of plump okra at $1 a basket, and a basket of peaches for good measure. Oh! And dare I not forget a basket of zipper creams from a farmer who had pink-eye. My choices from him were Zipper Creams and Pink Eye peas. I swear to God I'm not making this up. I chose the Zipper Creams. It just seemed...wrong to buy the pink eye peas. I also scored some hot boiled peanuts and a Cheerwine, but that's another story.

My bag o' farmers market loot stayed in the fridge (except for the tomatoes, of course) til last night. Fresh from tubing down Itchetuknee Springs, we were blissed out on nature, and hungry from spending a day in the 87 degree heat!

The master plan? Squash and tomato casserole, fried okra, white rice, field greens with vegan ranch dressing and zipper creams boiled up with some onions and a couple splashes of umeboshi vinegar (supposedly a fine substitute for hog jowl.

Verdict? The squash casserole; layers of sliced yellow squash, onion and tomatoes, and topped with bread crumbs with dots of Earth Balance scattered throughout, just really didn't do it for me. It was pretty, but the squash dried out and after I baked the hell out of it for an hour and a half, it still wasn't ready. Next time, I'll cover it with tin foil. That oughta show it.

The fried okra is always a hit, but that's a no-brainer. You can't have the word "fried" in a recipe, without it being good. Duh. That's just an oxymoron. Fried okra to me is just little green speckled nuggets of heaven. I sprinkle it with hot pepper vinegar and oh lawd, serve me up two pounds. I did all the work and sliced up all those buggers, anyway.

The zipper creams were buttery and sweet. Although I didn't do a good job of creating any pot liqueur; that glorious sauce left in the bowl when your peas are gone. Next time I'll have to bust open a traditional southern cookbook and follow the recipe to a t.

I'm off to read Barbara Kingsolver...er to get ready for work.

Happy Monday!


Friday, July 17, 2009

The Inaugural Address...I Mean Post

Who am I, and what is my intent with your time? There's this phenomenon called "media overload" that has likely caused a good 80% of our population to exhibit signs of ADD, so why would I want to add to the information overload by adding more words to the page? I've always believed if you're passionate about something, it's critical to share. How you share doesn't much matter, but being passionate helps fight apathy in my book. It makes the world a kinder, livelier, more fascinating place. I love to write, so here I am. It also doesn't hurt that I'm a Leo, and, well, I love an audience. It doesn't have to be big, and it can certainly disagree with me, but a listening ear makes me feel charmed.

What am I passionate about that I would like to share with you? Food, in all it's many forms and purvues. I love, and this is just stream of consciousness......cooking, planning to cook, devouring cookbooks, going to restaurants, checking out cookbooks from libraries or spending inordinate amounts of dollars at Barnes and Noble. I love planning menus, planning fake menus (more on this later), gazing at food, perusing farmers markets, grocery stores, and ethnic food stores that smell like a weird combination of feet and meat, reminescing about food, etc etc. If it has the "f" word, I heart it. Food is my friend; and not in an overeaters anonymous sort of way. It pretty much rocks my world. A creative heart at my core, the planning for my and my family's daily food allows me to participate in utilitarian art: artistic expression with a purpose; nourishment.

Enter in being vegan, which is a challenge that just makes things spicier and requires more creativity from me. I can't count on things being served to me on a golden plate. I have to depend on others who have paved the vegan road, constantly reinvent and call upon my creative self daily to make sure I don't end up dining off of the shrubbery outside my house. I love it. I really, really do. One of my last Facebook updates said these exact words: "Can somebody please pay me lots of money to just read cookbooks, cook and eat all day? Please?" I didn't get any takers, but I'm still trying to figure out how I can make that happen.

Thanks for reading, and here's what I hope will end up being a long, luxurious conversation in food....


PS. Why Vegan Deluxe for the title? Mostly because I love the word "deluxe". What's not to love about this word:
de⋅luxe  /dəˈlʌks, -ˈlʊks/ (adjective) special elegance, sumptuousness, or fineness; high or highest in quality, luxury, etc.

And Vegan Deluxe sounded a little less pretentious than The Sumptuous Vegan, or Fine Vegan, so....there.