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.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Of Healing and a Hiatus-- and My 100th post!

 Thank you for your kind wishes and good thoughts, all. My surgery in May went exceptionally well, I began healing quickly, and I'm starting to feel close to normal in some ways, as of this month.

 Nowadays I'm into other kinds of healing too, having begun the creative recovery program known as The Artist's Way, from the book and class by Julia Cameron (with Mark Bryan). I recommend this program to anyone wanting to wake up their senses and creative life, not just artists of all types.

 I wasn't fully asleep, mind you; but being sick for years throws you into vast realms of mental sludge, and I felt I could use the help in climbing out. It was begun on a whim, sidelined by obligations for a couple of months, and now I have begun again. I'm enjoying the challenges set.  each day, you must write several pages of longhand whatever-comes-out, and each week, there are tasks and a date with your inner artist, to help you restock your creative koi pond with fresh wiggly delights.

Jellyfish! Dangerous, like all art-- but pretty.

 To dedicate myself more fully, and to help get my emotional juju with food back, I am taking a hiatus here on this blog, for a full year. A Full Year.

 Yes! I will return in January 2015, to reinvent this place for food writing and exploration. Friends, even when my health issues were getting better, my life had become a little static, a little too contained to feel I had something of use to offer food-wise. And I recently left my long-time food community, the CLBB, due to a growing lack of inspiration there, and some unpleasant forum conversations. C'est la vie-- we can but be who we are, and if we are not valued for that in a certain place, then why stay? Anyway, I have left behind many things in the last year, but I'm not going to leave this blog swinging in the wind. I never let sleeping blogs lie... I kill 'em off or rejuvenate them instead.

 So-- till next year, I thank you, and I have appreciated your interest, care and comments. Feel free to check back in a few months, as new roads may lead me to a new blog, a new focus. I will surely be checking in on the blogs linked here, and I suggest you do the same, because they're awesome, creative and well-written.

 And seeing as this is my 100th post, may I suggest that if you haven't read me from the beginning (and no one, I believe, has) you may want to go back there and read some older posts. Some good stuff there, and hopefully, thought-provoking work.

 Peace, joy, discovery, tastiness, and a very happy new year to you--


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Healing Foods and Retro Cheesecake.

 At the end of May, I had my baby-making equipment forcibly removed for my health-- on Wednesday, May 29-- and didn't get to eat anything but broth and juice until late Friday morning. In fact I went for over 35 hours on nothing but a few ice chips towards the end of that time frame. Though I'd been told the food at Sisters Hospital on Main was good even if you were vegetarian, I didn't feel like sticking around long enough to really find out.

 Instead, since I was doing amazingly well for a person with an auto-immune disease after a major operation, I came home and had half a veggie sub. And my family has been bringing me food ever since-- sprouted quinoa and roasted vegetables with a tub of peach sorbet from my niece, soup and some burgers for the hubby-man from my mom, lasagna and chili and muffins and more from my big sister, pretty and tasty chive heads from my younger sis (and I'm looking forward to her spicy black bean burgers soon).

 I've felt so much better for these meals, made with love and forethought, brought as needed and given with care.  My body began to try to act normally pretty quick under the influence of such good stuff. Every day has brought more movement, less discomfort. And it's healing just to know that I don't have to rely on takeout when I'm too tired to cook, which happens at least every other day. Knowing that the hubby-man has food to get him through the worst of it helps too-- I can take a nap during the day without worrying that he'll starve through his workweek because I was resting like I'm supposed to. I can shop the fridge instead of making him go shopping when he's had a full day.

 Both family and friends have done other wonderful things for me: brought me books to read and magazines to enjoy, flowers to scent the house. They've run errands and done laundry and  it's overwhelming. I've gotten visits and cards and gifts in the mail, a pedicure while I was in the hospital and a pot of fully mature herbs to use when I feel up to cooking. All of this, bolstered by the food, had made a giant difference. You wouldn't believe how short a time it's been since the surgery, if you saw me walking around doing dishes today. That's how lucky I am in my choice of surgeons and my bounty of loved ones. That's how powerful a gift of healthful food can be.

 I felt so well and good yesterday, I cooked a whole meal-- sloppy lentils (okay, they're super easy), veg in sauce, baked potatoes and a retro cheesecake, the soft creamy kind I never had in childhood. This is the kind that starts with a can of sweetened condensed milk, an item rarely found in my kitchen; but I remembered having bought one some time back as I was leafing through a recently acquired dessert cookbook, and there was a recipe for that creamy, fluffy unbaked cheesecake, topped with cherry pie filling. For once, it sounded good. Maybe that's a natural side effect of reading four dessert cookbooks in a row.

 It was not a success but not a total failure. Being so easy, you'd wonder how it could get screwed up, and I'll tell you: I used a food processor to mix the whole thing, instead of a mixer as specified. Even using less liquid and more chill time, I ended up with more a cheesecake-flavored spoon pudding than a cheesecake. The upside is, it tastes good, and I've found out now that the Baker's Corner cherry pie filling, sold at Aldi's, is the best canned filling ever. Not too sweet, it seems to be made from sour cherries and has a deep, tart fruity flavor. Worth the cost of the cheesecake experiment for sure! Though I'm putting the failure all on myself and my use of modern methods, the cookbook/recipe was so old I can't be certain that the relative leanness of our contemporary dairy products isn't partly to blame, so I won't share this recipe until I've tried it again as written and had more success.

 Not to be satisfied with a pudding, I've stuck the bulk of the cheesecake mess in the freezer, and we'll see if we get a cheesecake-y frozen dessert** for the effort.

 Because sometimes sweets are healing, too.

Thanks to all my family, here and in Indiana, and my friends all over the world, for your gifts, help, and kind thoughts-- it's working!

  Have a delicious week. Peace,


**Yes, we did. Freezing this baby made it so good, I might do that every time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Heat of the Moment-- Red Sangria

 In my office, there's a sweet breeze. I'm at the table that serves as a desk having red beans and rice, and chilling a gift of raspberry vodka to make one twisted, perfect Cosmo.

 You have to have some way to beat the heat. Mine is throwing some easy food in the mini-crockpot and looking forward to a great cocktail in the yard later. In hot weather, a single, wonderful chilled drink does it for me better than a pitcher of cheap beer; but a pitcher of Sangria is not to be spurned.
 Below is one we tried recently, and enjoyed.

 I've always preferred Sangria made without soda of any sort, and this one fills the bill. It does require a simple syrup, which I made in the cool of morning, which is the best time to get any cooking done these days even if you, unlike us, have AC.

 By the end of a hot day, no one really wants to cook. Do all your chopping and such as soon as you get up, and by evening you'll feel like a genius for having made your own life so easy. You'll also love having a glass of this fruity Sangria with your easy dinner. If you need something stronger, hop over to the Cocktail Lady's blog, and look through her past year's cocktail recipe entries-- there's sure to be something you'll enjoy. Just reading through a week's worth of cocktails has a mellowing effect.

I have, of course, tweaked the original recipe a bit, just to suit my taste. It was overly sweet for me otherwise, and I like lots of fruit.

Red Sangria