Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fruity Deliciousness!

I have been on a bit of a smoothie kick lately. A few years back, my mom bought Brett and I a juicer for Christmas, but for some reason, we didn't really take to it until recently. It's a small Black & Decker and we like it well enough, it does the job and we give the pulp to our worms to make compost.

I think the real reason we didn't use it much is because it takes a lot of fruit/veg to juice and I assumed it would be too expensive. What I've found since I've "revived" the juicer is that by using a "base" of carrot and pear juice or carrot and apple juice, the smoothies weren't too expensive at all and the base lends itself to pretty much any fruit additions I have tried as of yet.

I really enjoy having smoothies for breakfast. Not only are they a good way to get in the fruit and veg you need, but I find that I feel all around better after drinking one. Another odd thing I noticed was that when I have a smoothie for breakfast, I don't end up snacking a bunch throughout the day. I don't quite understand this, but it how they effect me, so I'm not going to complain!

I don't exactly know that these would technically be "smoothies" - I don't know the nomenclature of the juicing/puréeing world. I first juice my base ingredients, then I blend in solids using a blender - things like banana, frozen fruit, or ice.

Anyway, I don't think the Juice Nomenclature Police are going to come after me if I use the wrong terminology so let's get to the food! Well, um, drink!

Carrot-Pear-Banana-Peach Smoothie
Makes 3 large drinks.

8 carrots, peeled and juiced
3 d'anjou pears, juiced
2 bananas
1/2 bag of frozen peaches

Pour the prepared juice into a blender and slowly add the remaining ingredients. Blend until very smooth.

Carrot-Pear-Banana-Mixed Berry-Extra Strawberry Smoothie
Makes 3 large drinks

10 carrots, peeled and juiced
3 d'anjou pears, juiced
1 banana
1/2 bag frozen mixed berries
1/2 bag frozen whole strawberries

Pour the prepared juice into a blender and slowly add the remaining ingredients. Blend until very smooth.

I used some of my homegrown wheatgrass for this booger.

Carrot-Apple-Wheatgrass-Banana-Mango Smoothie
Makes about 3 drinks

8 carrots, peeled and juiced
3 pink lady apples, juiced
1 bunch of wheatgrass, juiced
2 bananas
1 bag frozen mangoes

Pour the prepared juice into a blender and slowly add the remaining ingredients. Blend until very smooth.

Carrot-Pear-Banana-Strawberry Smoothie
Makes 3 large drinks

10 carrots, peeled and juiced
3 d'anjou pears (or fuji apples), juiced
1 banana
1 bag frozen whole strawberries

Pour the prepared juice into a blender and slowly add the remaining ingredients. Blend until very smooth.

I know it doesn't seem like too much variation, but I don't need much variety so it works for me. And how else would I ever get Brett to eat that many carrots raw any other way? :-)

Anywho, that's all for now. Enjoy the spring like weather that is hopefully gracing you wherever you are!

'Til next time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cranberry Bean and Veggie Burgers

Howdy, howdy, howdy.

Cranberry Bean and Veggie Burgers
Makes about 4 large patties

3 tbsp canola oil
1 small potato, scrubbed, and diced small
1 onion, diced small
1 carrot, peeled and diced small
1/2 zucchini, diced small
2 anaheim chiles, seeded and diced
1/4 cup sweet corn
6 cloves of garlic, minced
salt, to taste
2 cups cranberry beans, cooked
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup regular rolled oats
1/4 cup flour

Preheat oven to 375.

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the potato and fry for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the onion, carrot, zucchini, chiles, and corn. Fry for an additional 5-10 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

Add the garlic and fry for about 2-3 minutes until the garlic gets fragrant. Remove veggies from heat.

In a large bowl, using your hands, mash up the beans and veggie mixture. Then slowly add the dry ingredients.

Form into four equal parts and roll into balls.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Place the balls on the paper and flatten.

Bake for ten minutes, then flip the burgers. Bake for an additional ten minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Top burger buns with your desired fixin's and enjoy!

Well, that's all for now.

'Til next time.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lots of Tasty Goodness

Wow, so there has been a lot going on around here lately. I won't bore you all with the details, but I will say it has been work-related - though not my being busy with work. Other than that, Brett and I have been doing just dandy. I have been cooking up a storm as I haven't been working so have had plenty of time to make more involved meals.

I have been having a lot of fun in the kitchen, though I admit, it looks like a disaster area much of the time. :-) It seems that just as I finish one pile of dishes, it is time to eat again. And, while cooking at home is certainly more nourishing and even cost-effective, and well, damn better tasting, it does mean that there will be yet more dishes. I think that dishes and aphids in my garden are going to be my lifelong "Newman" to use a Seinfeld colloquialism.

Anywho, enough of my complaining and onto the goods!

My mom bought us a juicer for Christmas a few years ago, and for whatever reason, we used it once or twice and then it was relegated to the top of the cabinet that I like to refer to as the "Land of Misfit Appliances". Well, I have been wanting to incorporate more raw fruit and veg into my diet, because, well, I like them, and I decided to bust it out again. It has been making up for lost time! We use it all the time now.

One of my favorite juices is nothing special and something I'm sure most of you are already familiar with: Carrot Apple Juice. It is so simple. I just juice 6 apples (my favorite to use are Pink Lady or Honeycrisp, they are tart but also still plenty sweet) and about 8-10 peeled carrots. Stir it up and you are set. Brett even likes these and I got to tell you, there is no way in hell I would get Brett to eat 8-10 raw carrots, but I learned he will drink them. :-)

Wanting something a little different, I came up with this lovely algae looking concoction. I made the Carrot Apple Juice as described above. I them transferred the juice to a blender where I added two bananas, 1 tbsp. spirulina powder, and about 12 ice cubes. Then I just whirred it up! It makes enough for three meal-sized glasses. I know it doesn't look that good, but it certainly doesn't taste how it looks.

There is a blog I really enjoy called Herbivoracious. The author provides mostly authentic Latin/Mexican recipes that have been "vegetarianized". I find that I go there and not only want to try some of his recipes, but I get ideas for my own. You should seriously check out his blog, it is really cool.

I saw a recipe on his blog awhile back for Bocoles. Bocoles are bean and corn masa patties that are then fried. They are a popular Latin street food and don't they look damn tasty? Well they are. I adapted his recipe a little bit using refried pinto beans instead of black and using carrots instead of sweet potatoes for the spicy topping.

I also made a nice spicy table chile sauce to go with it. It is really spicy so use sparingly.

de Arbol-New Mexico Table Sauce
6 de arbol chiles, wiped clean
4 New Mexico chiles, wiped clean
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
salt (to taste)

Heat up a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the chiles on both sides being careful not to burn them. This should take less than 20-30 seconds on each side. You can often see the color being intensified and this is a good sign that they are ready to be flipped.

Once the chiles are toasted, let cool for a few minutes. Then remove stem, seeds and ribs. Transfer to a blender or bowl and pour the boiling water over the chiles and cover. Let the chiles reconstitute for about 15-20 minutes.

Then add the garlic, citrus juice, and salt and blend.

Now you have yourself a basic table chile sauce. You can use whatever dried chiles you want for this recipe. Making a basic table sauce is also a good way to get to know the different flavors and subtleties of each chile.

I had lots of refried beans left over from the Bocoles, so I decided to turn the remaining beans into a nice soup. And it sure was tasty!

Refried Bean Bisque
2-4 tbsp safflower oil
2 red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
2 pimento sweet peppers, seeded and chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup refried pinto beans
4-6 cups water
salt to taste

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat, as though you were stir-frying veggies.

Add the potatoes, chiles, and onion, and fry for about 10 minutes until they start to get a little color. By caramelizing the veg, we will get a much deeper array of flavors than if you simply boiled them.

Add the garlic and fry for about 5 minutes, until the garlic begins to get fragrant.

Add the refried beans and water and simmer, covered, for about an hour or until all the veggies are nice and soft.

Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and blend until very smooth.

Using a wire mesh strainer, begin to strain the soup over the soup pot in batches.

Once done, heat thoroughly and add salt to taste.

Side Note: If you have a vermicomposting system as we do (a worm farm), the left over veggie pulp from both soup making and juice making is the perfect food for a hungry worm. This also means that there is absolutely no waste. That I dig. Pun intended. ;-)

I don't know how everyone else feels about this, but I think that soup on it's own is just not going to cut it. I needs bread to make it a complete and satisfying meal.

Now, I will be the first to admit that breadmaking is not my forte. I am more of a punk in the kitchen, I like to let things happen organically and with breadmaking, you can't really do that. Let's just say I have had a lot of messy failures in my attempts at breadmaking.

This was one of my more successful attempts and I even managed to "punk it up" a little.

I used this recipe for Whole Wheat Rolls, but instead of the herbs used in the recipe, I kneaded in ten jalapenos, ten cloves of minced garlic, 1 tbsp cumin, and 1 tbsp Mexican oregano. Instead of making small rolls, I made six large-ish loaves. After they were baked, I brushed the tops with butter and sliced them into breadsticks, which we dipped in that tasty soup.

And finally, though it doesn't look like much, this is the gem of this post. This is the best soup I have ever made/had. It was an idea I had when I wanted to be lazy, but still have something tasty and healthy and I never imagined it to be as amazing as it really is.

This is like the Mexican equivalent to Chicken Noodle Soup, except without the icky meat. It is comforting like you wouldn't believe and it has perhaps the most amazing smell I have ever had the pleasure of smelling. And it is EASY TO MAKE.

I am not one to toot my own horn but this really is an amazing soup. I encourage you all to try this and let me know what you think. Maybe I'm just crazy, but it seems like the perfect comfort food to me.

Black Bean-Tomatillo Soup
1 onion, chopped
4 jalapenos, seeded and minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can tomatillos, chopped
2 cups black beans, cooked
4-6 cups water
a couple dashes of cumin
salt to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine

In a large soup pot, combine all the ingredients except the cilantro. Simmer, covered for 2-3 hours or until the veggies are soft.

Right before serving, stir in cilantro.

Serve with saltine crackers and enjoy!

That really is all you do. It is such a clear soup, it tastes and smells so clean. The cilantro added at the end gives it the crisp brightness and the tomatillos add an almost lime like flavor.

Brett and I were talking and thought that if you removed the beans, added cucumber, and pureed the whole mess that it would also make a nice cold soup for summer. Very refreshing.

Well, that's all for now.

'Til next time!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things To Stuff In A Tortilla (and some other random things)

Check out the new blog layout! I was doing some other "administrative" tasks and decided I wanted to make a little change. I hope it is still easy to read and navigate - comments are welcome.

I also re-did the recipe index. It was quite hard to navigate and required lots of scrolling. Some funky things also happened with the HTML and it would have been a pain in the ass to try to fix manually, so I just started fresh and created a new index. I hope this one is easier to manage.

And finally, I also updated the J's Recommended Reads post, it was out-of-date and also needed a bit of editing.

Needless to say, lots of work has been going on behind the scenes here at Veg*n Cooking.

It has been quite a week or so too with the arrival of Butters. Things are slowly moving along, but the "peace" between the cats is tentative. And Butters is a kitten - all he wants to do is play and whenever the other cats come to try to sniff him, he bats at them and changes the whole mood entirely. He is kind of a punk though - he has a tendency to bite, which we are hoping we can discourage him from doing (it hurts, the little shit!) and he bothers the other kitties when they try to go to the bathroom and that is frustrating too. But he's also really sweet. He likes t have his belly and chin rubbed, he lets you hold him and get in his face, and he is really soft.

Admittedly, he has been far more interested in Gabby and Nermal than Brett or I and I am just having to deal with that at the moment and try not to smother him in love like I want to. :-)

When Butters was found, he was starving in a dumpster - on his vet forms they called him "Orange Dumpster Kitty" at first. When I read that on the papers the first day we had him, it made me tear up a little bit - it is pretty sad, BUT he was lucky. In the little over a week he has been here, he has put on weight, his coat looks shiner and thicker, his coloring is brighter, and he is active and playing. Hopefully things stay on the up and up and the little guy is okay. He was found during an unreasonably cold time here in Missouri - it is hard to believe her survived. But he made friends at the vets office, they sent him with food, bowls, a bed, toys, medicine, all sorts of stuff. It is amazing what a cute kitten can do to a person. :-) He is gaining weight incredibly quickly. I had taken to calling him "Butter Bean", but I might have to start calling him "Butter Ball". :-)

Check out some recent pictures.

I love the tongue!

Brett did buy this giant stuffed elephant (we call him Packie) for me, but both Nermal and Butters have claimed him and I don't have the heart to take him from them. I mean, see?

So cute when he isn't biting you...

Gabby doesn't realize that Butters is sleeping with her. :-)

Though this picture is blurry, it is my favorite we have of Gabby - it captures her essence - curious and super sweet.

Alright, enough with the kitties and onto the food!

What follows are three simple meals - 30 minutes or less, that are tasty when stuffed into a tortilla or taco shell. We really like our tortillas and taco shells...

Option #1
2 tbsp safflower oil
2 red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 red New Mexican chiles, chopped
1/4 cup sweet corn
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup black beans

Heat oil in a large skilled and add the potatoes and cover, stirring often, for about ten minutes or until they begin to soften a little bit.

Add the onion, chiles, and corn. Cook for an additional ten minutes.

Add the garlic and beans and cook for an additional five to ten minutes.

Stuff ingredients in a warmed tortilla and serve with super hot salsa!

If you eat cheese, Manchego is a good addition to this option.

Option #2
2 tbsp safflower oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup sweet corn
1/2 cup black beans
chipotle chile powder
New Mexican oregano

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the sweet potato and cook for about ten to fifteen minutes until the begin to caramelize and soften.

Add the corn and black beans and season to taste. Cook until heated through.

Again, you just need to stuff your ingredients into a warmed tortilla and serve.

If you eat cheese, Cotija is a good pairing with this option.

Option #3 (Vegetarian)
2 tbsp safflower oil
2 small red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
5-6 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1/4 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 eggs, scrambled

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the potatoes, mushrooms, and onions and cook for about fifteen minutes or until potatoes begin to brown and soften. Stir often.

Add the garlic and season with salt to taste. Cook for an additional five to ten minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Layer potato mixture in a warmed tortilla and top with some scrambled egg. Enjoy!

If you eat cheese/dairy - shredded Mexican cheese blend and/or sour cream are a nice addition to this option.

And now for something completely different...

Doesn't that just look so darn appetizing? Well, it might not look good, but it sure tastes good.

J's Pink Egg Salad
1 egg, hardboiled and chopped
2 tbsp yellow onion, chopped
1/2 small carrot, peeled and microplaned (hence the pink color)
2 tbsp hot pepper relish (instead of the cucumber kind, I like spicy, that's just how I roll)
2-3 tbsp mayo or Veganaise
1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
a few dashes of cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and adjust ingredients to your liking.

I serve this on toasted Jewish rye bread with lots of baby spinach.

And finally, here are a couple of other things I've made as of late...

Banana cake! I had some bananas on the counter I've been using for smoothies get a little too ripe on me, so what to do? Make banana bread! Brett and I prefer it to be more "cakelike" than "breadlike", so I just used my Banana Bread recipe but put it in an 8x8 pan and cooked it for an hour instead of an hour and fifteen minutes or more.

I also used all whole wheat pastry flour instead of just part.

When Brett was at the store the other day, they were out of his beloved cookies. I have been in a bit of a baking mood so I decided I would make him some. I just used my Super Yummy Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and subbed in a mixture of M&M's and Reese's Pieces for the chocolate chips. He hasn't missed his store bought cookies after all...

AND - I was able to get at least something semi-wholesome into his cookies but using whole wheat pastry flour. :-)

'Til next time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Peanut Butter Kitty (a.k.a Butters)

I don't feel too much like blogging today - I'm pretty tired. We've been staying up late and have had family visiting each of the last few days and it has caught up with me. But I DID wan to make sure that I got some pictures of our new kitty Butters up for everyone to see. He is quite the sweetie and we've had a blast with him so far.

I hope to be back in a day or so - I have some recipes to post!

Hope you enjoy the pictures.

If you look closely, you can see a kitty snuggled up in the blanket. Of course, it's Gabby, not Butters, but it is so cute I couldn't help but share. She is such a photogenic kitty.

And now introducing Butters, 5 pounds of orange kitty goodness!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Black Bean Shepherd's Pie and a New Addition to the J&B Household

Yes, um, I actually made this quite some time ago, but seeing as I've been afflicted with that horrible Lazy Syndrome, I'm only getting around to it now. Many, many moons ago, Jessy from the oh so awesome blog, Happy Vegan Face, posted about a Shepherd's Pie recipe she had made.

I'd never had Shepherd's Pie before vegetarian or otherwise, but who doesn't like mashed potatoes, veggies, and beans? Why not put them together? I know! Great idea! So I decided to make up my own recipe based on what I had around and it was pretty darn good. I think I'm going to try using green lentils in place of beans next time I make this.

Black Bean Shepherd's Pie

The Taters:
4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and cubed (leave the skins on for some excellent fiber!)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup milk
2-3 tbsp butter or Earth Balance
1/2 cup gouda or non-dairy cheese shreds

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the potatoes and garlic. Boil until potatoes are tender and drain.

Combine all the ingredients with a mixer or potato masher, seasoning with salt to taste.

Rest of the Stuff:
2 tbsp safflower oil
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup sweet corn
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small can tomato sauce
2 cups black beans

Preheat oven to 350.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the veggies and cook for 10-15 minutes or until soft. Add the tomato sauce and black beans and cook until heated through.

In an 8x8 pan, spread the bean/veggie mixture and top with the potatoes.

Place, uncovered, in the oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until top is nice and golden.


Yum, just posting about it makes me want this again, it was hearty, filling, and super tasty. I just wish I had had some green beans or peas to add to the mix. Or broccoli like Jessy used. Mmmmmm, green veggies...

So, in some exciting but completely off topic news - Brett and I are getting ready to welcome a new addition to our home.

A couple of weeks ago, Brett and I went to St. Louis for the weekend to celebrate (belatedly) the holidays with my parents and brothers. I met my first little nephew - Gabriel - and he seemed as scared of me as I was of him. Perhaps when he is older we will both be more comfortable...

Anyway, while we were up there, my parents took our Cocker Spaniel, Sadie, to the vet to have something checked out. While there, they discovered that a kitty had been found very sick in a trash can and was brought to the vet by a daughter of one of the nurses who found him. He was this tiny little orange puff ball who was scared, thin, malnourished, and in need of love and food. Stacey fell in love but was torn - she might have an infant in the house soon and a little kitty and babies don't usually mix. But the kitty was so sweet and unless someone took him, he would be taken to an animal shelter and likely put down because he was a runt and they couldn't guarantee his long-term health. So she asked Brett and I if we might want to take him.

Now, as a little aside, I would love to take ALL animals in need of a home. But we cannot. We live in an apartment and are limited in both funds and space, so we can only have so many critters and still be able to provide a good home with plenty of love. There is a shelter here in Columbia called Second Chance. They don't have a facility, rather, all the animals are put in "foster homes" where they live until they are either adopted or, well, they've lived out their days. They are no-kill. I think this is one of the most amazing organizations I've heard of and I would love to be able to help foster one days.

Anyway, back on topic. While we can't have all the animals that need a home, the more I got to thinking about it, the more it seemed like we had more than enough room for another kitty. I spoke to Brett about it and he agreed that we could go see the kitty at the vet. He knew (as I did) that as soon as he agreed to go see it, we were going to be adopting the cat, whether it had three legs and one eye, it didn't matter, we were going to give this unwanted kitty a home.

So we went to the vet and the nurse brought out this tiny orange fluff ball. He is so cute! He was very shy but took to me instantly. He let me love on him and didn't cower as he usually did. He was just the sweetest little thing. We decided we would call him Peanut Butter (we will call him Butters for short, like South Park :-)) and that he would definitely be welcome in our home.

Since he was so thin and was having some problems with his kidneys, they kept him at the vet to fatten him up and get his insides working a little better. Oh, and they are also going to fix him. EEEEEEK! Word from the vet is that he is really coming out of his shell and is starting to play a lot. They think he is 10-11 months old. He will be ready to come home on Saturday and my parents will be bringing him down. We can't wait!

Except...we have to introduce a new cat into our home and though I've only had to do it once before, it was not fun and was quite a stressful time. So while we are looking forward to him coming home, we are not looking forward to the introduction process. Yuk.

Anyway, that's about all the news I have for now. I'll get some pictures of Butters this weekend and post them for all to see.

'Til next time.