Friday, May 15, 2015

A day for the blues... and Cashew Cocoa.

 What a sad day today-- BB King has left the world, and my car's transmission has done the same. Neither of them are coming back, and that calls for some comfort, which I have chosen to imbibe, in the form of cocoa.

 I do buy cocoa mix during the winter, because my hubby-man likes to have it handy, but most of the time I'd rather make it myself. Today, I made a combo-- sort of semi-homemade, in that I used prepared Cashew milk and so added no other sweetener. Silk brand has hit a home run with this product, which I have yet to find in the unsweetened version. It makes a nice, rich cocoa that is only slightly nutty. Lately I've been using carob powder to make our cocoa, because I happened to find it on sale-- and it was love at first taste. In brownies, in coffee, or any way I'd use unsweetened cocoa, this stuff gives a nice twist.

 My comfort cocoa method is simple-- put a smallish saucepan on medium-low heat, add the amount of milk you like, and heat till it begins to get steamy. Add carob powder to taste-- I scoop out a quarter cup, and add it slowly till the liquid is as dark as I'd like (and I like it dark!), then whisk it till blended. Heat a little longer on low, add a drop of almond or vanilla extract (or mint), and taste for sweetness. We like ours less sweet, but good partners for carob are brown sugar or maple syrup, though it takes well to honey, agave or sugar too. I like the dark golden tinge of flavor that maple gives it, best.

 Carob is sweet in itself, so you won't need much if your milk is pre-sweetened-- add your sweetener of choice a tsp at a time, stirring and tasting.

 Then you have a wonderful little pot of comfort, Carob Cashew Cocoa. I often make it by the mugful in the microwave for my hubby-man, with naturally smaller amounts of milk and carob. A mini-whisk keeps it from being lumpy, rather than merely stirring. It takes all of two and a half minutes, at most. The full pot made on the stove doesn't take much longer.

 Dark Carob Cocoa




Monday, May 11, 2015

Corn in the Crock

 Today is the third day I've used my crockpot to make dinner a painless task, and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon!

 Whether I'm throwing asparagus in there with a drop of oil and some sliced peppers, or cooking potatoes, green beans, lemon, zucchini and wine into an easy stew that makes its own sauce, I'm happy to have a way to cook a main dish vegetable that doesn't make my kitchen hot. It's early May, but our temps here in Buffalo, NY have climbed into the high 80's already, and that makes me lose all interest in the stove. But now that I'm in slow-cooker mode, the ideas for more fuss-free, veg-centric dishes just keep coming, and that keeps me interested in cooking, and eating, well.

 When I cooked asparagus yesterday, I had thought at first of just letting it roast awhile, and then making a salad and putting the roast veg on top. As the day wore down, I no longer felt like making a salad, but what about throwing some red pepper chunks in with the asparagus just long enough to soften a little? Then, at the last minute, I stirred in several cups of baby spinach leaves, which made a tasty blend. I'd seasoned the whole with celery salt (I have a weakness for that stuff), and some orange peel, but you could use rosemary and fennel, fennel and lemon, thyme and garlic, or any combo you like. Put it right in with the asparagus, so that you can use less and have it infuse the vegetables with flavor as they slowly cook. Put it on high for two hours, checking in after an hour, or on low for several hours. I like mine just done, barely cooked, but you can make it as tender as you like.

 The day before, I was just in a green veg mode, so first I had to use my fresh green beans, then chunked zuke. I parboiled some potatoes, as I hadn't thought to put them in first, as would have been the smart way; but I added lemon wedges, salt and fennel with the beans, a splash of wine when the potatoes went in, and by the time it was all cooked to the right tenderness, that salty lemon and wine had melded with the potato to make a creamy lemon sauce that we were happy to sop up with some French bread. The next time round, I may add artichoke hearts and garbanzos to the mix.

 Today I'm putting corn on the cob into the same crock (washing the insert every night makes it easier to think about cooking the night morning!) and I think I'll use my favorite flavor duo from last year's corn feasts-- orange peel and basil, with a tsp of oil in the pot. You just pile it all in there, add a tiny splash of water or broth, and cook on high for a couple of hours, or on low for four-five, though when I make straight-up veg in the crock, I like to start it on high no matter what, turning to low for longer cooking after the first 25 minutes. The best part is, no stirring is required. You can turn and rearrange the cobs if you like, but it isn't critical as they'll cook through no matter what, given enough time; and they'll be juicy, not soggy, bursting with intense flavor from your seasonings. They won't need salt or butter, either. With a green salad and veggie burgers plus corn, we'll be living the good life tonight.

   I don't know, yet, what vegetable blend will be cooking tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure, it's going to be made in the slow-cooker.

  Peace, Mari

Friday, May 8, 2015

Tasty Tidbits From All Over!

 Here's some vegan food for thought (and mealtime inspiration) I've been enjoying through the week. It might be a little heavy on the salad side, as WNY has gone from Winter to Summer with barely a few days of Spring's soft transition, and I'm already over the idea of hot food for a while: --a nice assortment of super salads that have far more than greens and dressing. --Kid (and Mom) friendly, Sweet Pink Strawberry Milk, from the Queen of Vegan Soul, whose easy-going videos I have been digging lately. --a fantastic play of flavors from BlissfulBasil. --Cool, crisp and filling, from Gena Hamshaw. --Breakfast in a glass, from that crazy funny gal at Healthful Pursuit.

 Those are my quick picks from the week, and I hope you find something new and interesting to try among them. I'd love to see what blogs or websites you've been peeking in on, anytime, too.

 Here's to a great weekend! Peace, Mari

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Back to a Beginning, with a side of Pickled Radish.

 As always, my timing is off a bit-- it's been a few months over a year since I took a year's hiatus, and no doubt I've lost any momentum this blog might have had. But in the words of Stuart Smalley, "that's-- okay," because I'm ready for taking on challenges, and I'm also thinking of altering this blog, in future; perhaps changing the location, and somewhat of the outlook as well.

 My goal for this blog was always just to share foodie experiences, past and present, through the lens of my eclectic, home-based vegetarianism-- for me, that means recipes, along with ideas about food and eating and their importance in our lives. Family related food issues, seasonal and daily rituals, tweaking recipes, restaurant visits, all rolled into one blog that is sometimes a straight ahead review, sometimes more meditative, but always focused on telling the story in words, and hopefully, in graceful prose.

 As I've been told, this is not to everyone's taste. I am not a photographer, do not have a model kitchen, and those are two reasons I have generally eschewed the common practice of documenting each step of a recipe with a picture here, but there are other reasons. For one, words & thinking are my thing, the part of blogging that truly excites me; for another, if I never see another blog pic of KitchenAid beaters dripping beige batter into a big blue pottery bowl, it'll be too soon.

 I'm not meaning to put down those who blog out of sparkling, gorgeous kitchens and like to show a step-by-step process of every single blessed recipe they make, but I frankly don't need it, and I'm not interested in being another such blogger. There are plenty of them, some who do it so wonderfully (and with fantastic writing, too) that I would be ashamed to try, even if I had the will, the time, the camera and the kitchen. I would rather emulate their enthusiasm, their attention to detail as cooks, than to bother flooding this space with pictures of my odd little throwback kitchen and its contents.

 For those who have never read about it before, my kitchen is just retro enough (circa 1968) to be a pain in the ass without having any magnificent fun vintage qualities, unless you think that silver & gold reflective wall paper on every kitchen wall is charming. What the hell, it goes with the Harvest Gold appliances that are all more or less dysfunctional at this point, though they were clearly top-of- the-line when first installed 40+ years ago; and the wavy gilt stuff gives off a vaguely hep Hugh Hefner vibe in the early summer evenings. I'm serious-- you can't look at it too long without getting dizzy.

 That's what I cook out of, until I can afford to redo the lot, but trust me, you don't want to see it often. Right now, the dishwasher pipes need major repair, and the sinks and countertops have hit critical mass, laden with extra bowls and glasses I haven't bothered to do more to than rinse out and stack-- my dryer is also unwell, I've been sick a lot in the last year, and I just can't keep up, with two important appliances down until who knows when.

 Still, I'm determined to eat well, better than well, but more simply for a while. I've taken on the Vegan challenge that starts today, May 3rd, hosted by the VT through sponsorship of the Ancient Grains brand. Vegan is not necessarily more simple, but for us it will be this month, as I'm using the challenge as a great way to lower our sodium intake (no cheese!) and also incorporate more raw fruit and veg into our everyday diet.

 If you've read this blog in the past, you may know that I've been trying to get up to 50-60% raw for some years. Family life has gotten in the way, as has being a sickly chief-cook-and-bottle-washer. If you're the one chopping all the food, you can't be ill for weeks on end and still get it done. To this end, dropping the cost of our few remaining animal foods has had the added benefit of allowing me to buy the occasional pre-chopped squash or pineapple, and some frozen entrees for emergencies. Thank goodness we have a Trader Joe's here now!

(If you haven't read this blog in the past, here are some posts to start with:

 So, I'm taking the household into Veganist territory (having read Veganist some months back), partly in order to go more raw for good. I received a couple of lovely new vegan books last year, too: Vegan on $4/Day, and The Veggie Lover's Sriracha Cookbook. Last year, while on hiatus, I read at least a dozen raw or vegan cookbooks, learning the modes, methods and ideas that make for a successful transition. And as I've been leaning towards the change for ages, now seems a good time to experiment more fully, as we head into Spring, assured of finding more local fresh veg in the markets. I'm looking forward to eating more fruit than usual, and making my own soymilk yoghurt in the crockpot, and I'm going into it all with a sense of adventure and a light heart, not a veil of judgment. It's my hope the blog will reflect these sentiments.

 Today has been a good, gentle warm day so far. Our breakfast was old-fashioned oatmeal with many nuts and seeds, some sliced banana, a sprinkle of chocolate, and our usual unsweetened coconut milk. Lunch was a hummus sandwich with some quick-pickled radish** and grilled arugula on whole wheat Tuscan pane bread, and organic strawberries. Dinner will be red sauce and pasta with field roast sausage, and a many-greens salad. We have Soy Creamy mini nice-cream sandwiches in the freezer, for a sweet. A good balance of whole food and time-savers, for this first day of the challenge, and the screen door of my office is letting in the light breeze and sunshine.

 Not exactly deprivation, is it?

 Have a delicious Sunday evening. Peace,

**The easiest pickled radishes you can find-- just thinly slice cleaned radishes into a jar of your favorite pickle liquid after the last pickle is gone, add a couple of extra tsp. of salt and a shot of extra vinegar ( I like red wine vinegar for this but any type will do), stir, cover, and refrigerate as usual. In an hour or two, you will have nice radish pickles, and by the next day, they'll be addictively delicious.