(non-breaking news): Cast Iron Skillets are Magic

I realize that this is not new information. My grandmother was loyal to her cast iron skillet and would talk about things like "seasoning the pan" and other cryptic phrases that scared me off. I had found many a recipe that recommended using a cast iron skillet, and as long as it wasn't one of the stovetop to oven ones, I ignored the advice thinking, "how different can it be, I have a skillet that works fine". Oh. It's different. I stumbled into using one when we went camping last year and I got one for campfire cooking. I brought a bag of the dry ingredients for The Compassionate Cook pancakes pre-mixed in a ziploc. I had the soy milk, water, oil and vanilla along and mixed it up there in the woods. Those were the best mother f-ing pancakes that I ever had. At the time, I thought it was because we were cooking and eating pancakes at a campsite in the middle of Yosemite valley, and I'm sure that was a bit part of it. However, when I got home, I made stovetop pancakes with the same recipe on that same skillet, and there, in the middle of my apartment in Los Angeles- were the 2nd most amazing pancakes that I ever had. Which proved beyond a doubt that it was the skillet's doing. I have used it since for stir fries, it's particularly amazing at browning tofu (for particularly wet tofu, I have baked it in the skillet and it is to die for). It comes in handy for most everything (though I read that tomato based dishes are a no-no in it). I seasoned it once, and it could use another round of that when it cools off enough to put the oven on (I followed the Martha god's instructions from her Cooking School book, but she has instructions here). To convince you of the magic of it, I challenge you to try this potato recipe. It's great with a tofu scramble or savory breakfast. I would even go as far as to serve it on the side of a comfort food dish like Salsbury Seitan. It is insanely good! Like eyes into the back of your head good. There are crispy pieces of potato that are as crunchy as chips, and then the softer centers that are so creamy and good that any condiment just gets in the way. Also, it's quite easy, you'll need: • 1 bag (use about 9*) of the small tri-color potatoes at Trader Joes. If you don't have one close by, most stores have something like this, it has the small variety of white, yellow and purple potatoes. • Salt and Pepper to taste • Butter or vegan margarine (one of the bi-products of going back to vegetarian vs vegan is that I started to use butter, I'm not proud, but it may be what makes these so amazing). • your magic cast iron skillet Wash potatoes well and slice about 9 of them width wise depending on size varying from paper thin to about 1/8" thick max. There's a magic combo of how many you can use without crowding the pan and making it too hard to get the right consistency and crunchy parts that you're after- too many potatoes in the pan and it won't get there. I mix the colors up after slicing because it's prettier that way Heat the skillet on medium heat, put a few pats of butter or margarine in the pan and then layer the slices all along the bottom. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the first layer and put 3-4 more pats of butter or margarine on top. Repeat for 2 more layers of potatoes. I haven't timed how long this takes, but it's awhile- at least 30 minutes. What you'll need to do it let those taters sizzle away in the pan and flip when you have some browning and crunchiness on them. They will start to clump, fall apart a bit, there will be some stuck together, free those up from time to time to get everyone some quality skillet time. you'll know they're done when they've shrunk down a bit and there are some curled up crunchy bits in there coupled with what looks like scalloped potatoes. Test for salt and pepper, season if necessary and serve immediately. These re-heat okay, but there's nothing like them when they're fresh out of the amazing wonderous cast iron skillet!

Mexicali Scramble

I have fallen into a bit of a brekkie rut. I have the most fantastic waffle maker on the planet, coupled with the best recipe for waffles (modified from Vegan Brunch- it's the Buckwheat one but since I didn't have buckwheat flour, I used 1/2 wheat, 1/2 unbleached, and it makes for waffle greatness). I have my fave tofu scramble recipe from http://www.powells.com/biblio/17-9781551521879-0, there's the crepes from Vegan Brunch, but that requires thought before hand to get a couple pints of berries or bananas (worth it when I remember), but also not a brunch to have weekly. Pancakes (which, actually, my faves are from The Compassionate Cook, but I seem to have never blogged about those). And if I am low on ingredients, lazy, or in a hurry to get someplace- it's just cereal. So, next week, I pledge to delve further into vegan brunch and do the benedict or the puff pastry tempeh thing, something jazzy. For this week, I needed to work with what was in the kitchen and created this iteration of a scramble. It was good, I would like to experiment and use the extra ultra firm and kind of dry tofu- as this was a bit moist but the flavors were spot on, and it was a great way to start the day! I recommend a cast iron skillet as I do for a lot of dishes these days, since it's a short cut to amazingness. 1 package extra firm tofu 1 can black beans, drained and well rinsed 1/2 onion, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic- smooshed through a press 1 med-large tomato, finely chopped 1T tamari 1t dijon mustard 1/8 t smoked paprika (secret ingredient, don't skip it, it adds a lot of smoky goodness) 1t nutritional yeast 1T sun dried tomato-infused oil salt and pepper to taste Sautee the onion in 1/2 the oil. Combine spices, garlic, tamari, mustard and nutritional yeast and whisk around with a fork until well combined. When the onions are soft approaching translucent, crumble the tofu into the pan. Add in the spice mix, I use tofu bits to get every last bit out (saves washing a spatula). Let that cook until the color is bright yellow-gold and the tofu is drying out. Add tomatoes and well rinsed black beans. Add the sun dried oil as needed to keep the dish from sticking too much. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until dish is dry enough and some tofu is browning. Serve with toast or corn tortillas- I wouldn't kick some potatoes out of bed with it either.

Simple Lentil Soup, by me.

Last week I came home and had nothing really planned or available for dinner. Since I have a pretty well stocked kitchen with dry legumes, canned stuff, spices, and the basics for produce (onion, garlic, carrot, celery), I decided to make a lentil salad. I found one recipe that suggested boiling the lentils in broth instead of water, which I started to do. Then I went to start chopping the carrots, onion, celery, etc., and I realized- I'm making soup. So soup, it was (100+ degree day notwithstanding), it was good too! I kept it very simple, which despite my love of complicated recipes and flavors, is sometimes not only necessary but a really welcome change. A few basic ingredients let their individual flavors stand out a bit more. Here's the recipe: 1.5 c green lentils, well rinsed 5c broth (I use Better Than Bouillon not Chicken veg broth), more if needed 1 c water (could add more liquid if you like) 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped 3 stalks celery, finely chopped 1/2 white onion, finely chopped 4 cloves garlic, minced 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped 1/2 t marjoram 1t ground black pepper 1t thyme 1T oil salt to taste (that recommended broth is pretty salty, you don't need to add much salt) Boil the lentils in 2-3 c broth. Chop all veg, and put carrots, celery and onion in the oil in a stockpot. Sautee until they're soft but still somewhat firm (onions will be getting translucent). Add garlic and tomatoes until tomatoes start to soften. Pour the lentils and broth in with the onions and others. Add remaining broth, water and spices. Cook for 20-30 minutes until lentils are soft (being careful not to go too long and let them get mushy). Salt to taste, serve with crackers or bread.

Jackfruit Tacos

Vegans are so clever. Making mock meat from canned jackfruit- it's just bananas. There are a few places in town that I've had jackfruit tacos- both Golden Road and Sage have really good ones. I was looking to replicate theirs at home (as I do), and found an archived Quarrygirl blog post pointing to this recipe for Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos. You'll need a crockpot for this recipe, but it's insanely simple to put together (essentially throwing everything into the pot- the only "work" is chopping an onion and mincing the garlic). After my first try at it, I'm not 100% that it's exactly what I was going for. It's really good, but I think I'd like to alter the flavors a bit. I suspect that my 'meh' feeling has to do with the tomatillo salsa. I think it's a bit bright and I'd like a deeper flavor to these, so maybe I'll experiment with salsas first and then spices if that still wasn't it. Overall, though, it's very good, and kind of a miraculous transformation from what you take out of the can to the end product!

Stone Fruit Compote

I found this recipe online while perusing for something to make a food swap that a co-worker and I organized at work. I was telling her about the LA Food Swap at Reform School that I had gone to, and she suggested that we do one at work. Months later (I've mentioned that we're pretty busy there)- we finally did! To digress a tad, it was super fun and a total success. We had 13 rsvps and ended up with 10 participants. I have a photo of the loot here, which was all fantastic. So, back to what I made here (and for the swap)- Stone Fruit Compote. The recipe is from the trusty Martha (here.) Say what you will about her, but her peoples do the legwork and test all the recipes well. I have only made a few of hers (mostly boozy drinks), but they were all amazing. For the compote, I made a few variations, and I think that the mixed one was best. I had made; pluot only, and a mix of pluot, nectarine and the "dinosaur egg" mystery fruit that they have at the farmer's market. Todays' was recreated with the previous pluot/ nectarine mix and the addition of plums added in. These photos are both the beautiful ingredients (texted to a friend who said it looked like potpourri), and the finished compote. This photo shows it over greek yogurt (sorry, I'm back to vegetarian vs vegan again), though you could serve it on pancakes, coconut ice cream, etc. It has a slight wintery feel with the cinnamon, allspice and anise flavors, but still utilizes all the tasty stone fruits in season right now. Also, as a side note, if you look closely, you'll see a Ginger Lemon Cordial in the center of the swap photo. That was also mine, and was a HUGE hit. Partially because I brought bourbon and made a cocktail with it, but it was also great in club soda as a light summer soda. That recipe is here. It also has the side benefit of making your house smell like you live inside a lemon when you make it (win/win!)

Chickpea Salad Sammies

Hey stranger! Yeah, it's been awhile. I think I mentioned last time how all-consuming my job is. So much so that I rarely cook now and when I do, I never think of photographing or talking about it anymore. Until today :) I'm home sick, and had to get up and feed myself. I had seen Isa Chandra's post about Chickpea Salad Sammies the other day and decided to try them. It's a super simple, fast recipe (here: http://www.theppk.com/2013/07/chickpea-salad-sammiches/) that made for a darn fine lunch. I would like to experiment with other mayos (I used Veganaise) and spices/ flavors. This is pretty clean and simple- but still, tasty. Hope to see you again soon!

Ginger limeade

I made this on Easter Sunday to have "drinks" with friends (b/c I was still suffering from cocktails with friends on Friday night). It's your basic lemonade/ limeade with a load of ginger for a kick/ healthy boost.

- 1 cup sugar
- 6 cups water
- 4-5 limes
- 2 lemons
- about 4-5" of ginger, peeled and chopped

Dissolve the sugar in 1 cup of the water over medium heat in a saucepan, set aside to cool. Juice the lemons and limes, you should have about 1 1/2 cups of juice. Blend the juice with the ginger, strain into your pitcher. Add the simple syrup (sugar water) and the other 5 cups of water. The brilliant part of this, is that all components can be adjusted to taste- add more ginger for kick, limes for tart or sugar for sweet- the stuff is goood (and won't give you a hangover- as long as you don't add booze!)

Roasted Tomato Jalapeño Salsa

I was going for Frontera's Roasted Tomato/ Jalapeño Salsa here. This didn't come close at all, but is still a solid salsa, so I shall share:

1 lb tomatoes (mine were on the vine)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lg jalapeño pepper, chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 cup broth (I used Better than Bouillon no chicken flavor)
1t salt
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 lg lime, juiced

Heat oven to 350, roast tomatoes for 1/2 hour turning once or twice. I broiled them for a few minutes after to blacken them. Sautée onions until tender, add garlic and jalapeño and sautée for a few more minutes. Chop roasted tomatoes and discard cores. Add tomatoes to onion mix with paste, broth and salt. Simmer at least 1/2 hour. Add cilantro and blend. Stir in lime juice and serve.

*Here's my notes for next time: Though this salsa is super good (better the next day too after flavors have had a chance to get married), It wasn't as blackened and roasted as I was hoping for. I think that next time, I shall roast the onions, Jalapeños and garlic as well and really char the bejeezus out of everything. Also, I didn't leave the jalapeño seeds in, next time they stay to spice things up, as well as probably using 2 vs 1 to up that flavor in the salsa.

Naan Pizza

This is a fast, fast weeknight dinner, and is cheat cooking (jarred sauce and pre-made naan), but it really makes for a tasty, good meal. This is my take on the Naan Pizzas at "Cowboys and Turbans"- the Indian/ Mexican fusion place on the east side (that looks like it may be closed now, but...?) It's a place as weird as their name, but the food is really good. They have these Masala fries that are ridiculously good, as well as these Naan Pizzas, which is essentially an Indian dish piled on top of naan (like a pizza!)

The recipe requires that you're near a Trader Joe's too- as their masala sauce is awesome!

- 4-6 pieces naan (TJ's has it frozen, but that's not vegan- it's kind of hard to find vegan naan, but possible if you hunt for it)
- 1 large bag spinach, stems removed
- 1 brick tofu (TJ's shrink wrapped organic super firm is great for this), cubed small
- 1-2 jars of TJ's jarred Masala sauce (we use about 1 1/2 usually)
- 1 cup peas
-1-2T canola oil

(Preheat the oven if your naan requires baking) Heat the oil in a large sautée (or sauce) pan, add the tofu and cook until slightly golden brown, add sauce and peas to the tofu, cook until peas are cooked through. Throw your naan in the oven. Add spinach by the fist fulls until it wilts down, add more, etc until you've added the whole bag.

Now, I'm not a dunker with cookies and I don't like soggy food, so my preference is to cook the naan a bit crunchier than usual, and pile the spinach/ tofu masala mix on top just before eating. I wouldn't assemble and wait at all before diving in or your naan will get soggy. I also recommend a fork and knife vs pizza slice-style eating unless you happen to be wearing a rain poncho.

Red Curry- HUZZAH!

I re-did it, and... It. Is. Perfect. (if I do say so myself). I should start by saying that I'm actually not a huge Thai curry fan. For one, I know that every spoonful has about 400 calories. Also, they're generally too coconut-milk-soupy-creamy for my taste. So, this recipe has 2 cans of coconut milk, but it ends up being the amount of a nice sauce versus a soupy curry, which is what it usually looks like when Davey orders it at restaurants.

In L.A., there is a massive proliferation of Vegan Thai restaurants. Literally it seems that every strip mall has one. Our favorites are Bulan in Silverlake (they have a second location in Hollywood), and now the brand new EA Station on Ventura in the stinking valley where we live now (and have a fantastic apartment- I'm not complaining). All of these places have the same faux meat. Though I've become accustomed to making my own marinated tempeh, tofu, seitan, etc- it is nice to buy an easy pre-made faux meat once in awhile. This Taiwanese brand, though, is not at any normal grocery or health food store. It always made me a bit nervous at restaurants to not know where the fake chicken drumsticks on wood dowels came from, but you do have to relinquish control a bit to act like a normal person and eat out. Enter a weirdo vitamin/ health food store by my house called, "Healthy Vitamin" (?!)- this place actually sells the crazy Thai fake meat that is served at restaurants here. Ergo, I can buy the veggie peppersteak that they probably use at Bulan in the Panang Curry (yay!). I do have to warn strict vegans, that this stuff lists "whey" in the ingredients, so it is not vegan. I am a bit of a crap vegan, though, and for the right product will look the other way at whey or a bit of honey buried in an ingredient list of a food that I love (I know, hypocrisy). I just look at it like this- I do my best to live in line with my beliefs 99% of the time, I think that's doing alright. Anyway, the curry would be great with tofu as well, so if you're a better vegan than me, feel free to go that route.

I do think that I utterly nailed the Panang Curry from Bulan- this is creamy, a hint spicy, the veg comes through... it was fantastic, and I'm totally making it again (and again, and again!)

Red Curry:

½ onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell, chopped
1 red bell, chopped
5-7 good sized basil leaves, chiffonier sliced
1 c peas
3 carrots, coined
2 bags thai pepper steak (or one extra firm tofu to be vegan)
1-2” ginger, grated
2 cans coconut milk
½ jar red curry paste
½ t harrissa
½ c water
1 lime (juiced)
1t lemongrass (tube- fresh would be a bit more minced)
1 c rice for serving

Sautee onion and carrots until onions are near translucent. Add the bell peppers, garlic, ginger and lemongrass, and cook until they’re getting tender. Mix the paste into some of the coconut milk to dissolve and add all coconut milk and the paste/ milk mixture.

Sautee peppersteak or tofu until it’s seared a bit on the outside.

Add peppersteak or tofu, lime juice and peas to curry and veg. Taste and adjust (more paste, more lime, etc). Cook until just about done and then add the basil. Cook until basil is wilted, serve over rice.

Italian Vegan Sausage Ravioli with Fresh Pasta and Mama Sauce

I have to apologize for the pic- the lighting makes the food look like hell. Which is tragic, because this is one of the best eyes-rolling-back-into-my-head meals that I've made in awhile. It was for my Valentine, so it was a bit more all-out than ... who am I kidding, I'm always cooking all out :)

So- for starts, I made the Italian Sausage from Vegan Brunch. You'll recall that her Chorizo is amazing from the same book, and this is equally so. I had actually made these before and we ate them on buns and they were kind of meh (nothing fantastically exceptional). But pairing these with the pasta sauce turns out to be the trick. Literally, Davey and I were taking sausage slices and just dunking them into the sauce ala chips and dip and it was amazing! For the ravioli filling, I minced the sausage and we just went with it alone. It would be great with cheese too, but I'm not wild about vegan cheeses, so for us, the sausage plain was great.

I then made the pasta dough. I got the recipe online HERE. It was good. I am a bit of a pasta making amateur. We did it a few times in Chicago years ago when we first got our handy Kitchenaid pasta attachments for the stand mixer, but we used egg in those days. This was a really stiff dough that was a bit hard to work with at first, but it turned out alright. It was also pretty heavy, I think that had to do with thickness, but, it was fine. I did find the most fantastic trick for ravioli making, though! I looked up how to seal them up without egg online and found a fella who did the following; you lay the dough down over a mini muffin tin loosely, push the dough down gently into the muffin cups, fill the divots with your filling, top with another dough sheet, roll over the whole thing with a rolling pin (which seals and gets bubbles out), flip the whole thing over, cut your squares out, and voila! It was so flipping easy, and such a great trick. I highly recommend that (versus laying the stuffing on top, then sealing- which I remember to be a bit of a pain).

The ravioli just gets boiled like normal and that bit is done. Meanwhile, I was simmering mama sauce all day. I'm posting my recipe below, which, like chili, gets altered depending on what's in the house. On Valentines, I used about 1/4 c of fresh herbs (oregano, sage and rosemary), then added dried thyme, oregano, marjoram and such. That was absolutely delicious, but this is too. The key, I think, is to simmer for 4+ hours and also to go with what the sauce is doing. It never seems identical to me, throughout the day, I taste and add sugar if it's too acidic, oregano and pepper if it's too bright, etc. Go with what tastes good for you. But, by all means, make that sausage with it because, holy amazing!

Mama’s Sauce

1 roma or small tomato
2 28 oz can tomato sauce
1 lil (8oz?) can tomato paste
1 small palm full (2T or so) dried basil
1 small palm full dried parsley
¾ onion
6 cloves garlic
1 ½- 2 cups veg stock
3 T dried oregano
1 T ground sage
½ t thyme
shake-a shake-a cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 t sea salt
1 t ground black pepper
2-3T sugar

Sauteé onions until translucent, add garlic, sauteé a bit more, add basil (or save for the last hour- if it's fresh, I wait, but I've added dry at the start) and parsley, add 1 28 oz can of tomato sauce, paste, broth and all spices- no sugar.

Mix well, bring to a rapid simmer, turn heat down to low, simmer- stirring somewhat often for about 4-5 hours, tasting and adjusting every hour or so. Add sugar if it’s too acidic. Blend with an immersion blender, add 28 oz can of sauce, mix well, heat until warmed again, stir and serve.

Nancy Minestrone + crackers

This is my very own minestrone that I made up tonight! I had a bunch of soup/ chili things around and didn't want such a heavy beany chili as I usually make, but still wanted a main course soup. This totally did the trick. It's a tomato-y version of minestrone, but it's really good and has to be super healthy with all the veg in here.

Also, because we had no bread or cracker element, I made some! Davey was bananas for them, I think they're good but could use a little tinkering. It's a seriously modified recipe from a magazine (I veganized it and changed some of the flavors). They're a hint floury, but all in all, it's pretty awesome to have soup and homemade crackers, so I'm not gonna complain. If you want to make them together, the crackers took about a 1/2 hour or so, I started them after the hour simmer phase on the soup.

Here's the soup recipe:


1/2 large onion, diced
2 carrots, coined
2 stalks celery, chopped (I think I'd do 3 next time, the celery bites were primo)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
2 c spinach, roughly chopped
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1 c. cavatappi pasta
1/3 c bulgur wheat
6 c Better Than Bouillon no chicken flavor
1 little can (8oz, I think) tomato paste
2T olive oil
1t oregano
1t parsley
1t basil
1/4 t sage
1/2 t thyme
1/4 t marjoram
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t sugar (optional)
1 bay leaf

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat, add onion, carrots and celery. Sautée until carrots are softened and onion is translucent. Add garlic for a minute or two being careful not to burn it. Add broth, tomato paste, tomatoes, all spices except basil and sugar. Once the soup starts bubbling, reduce the heat to low, partially cover and simmer for 60 minutes or so. Over the hour, stir every 15 minutes or so and taste after 45. If it's too acidic from the tomatoes, add the sugar and the beans. If not, fugget the sugar- just add the beans.

After the hour of simmering, add pasta, turn heat up to medium and cover pot. Let that go about 10-15 minutes until pasta is tender but not fully cooked. Add basil and bulgur wheat, cover and continue to cook for 10-15 more minutes until pasta is done. Add spinach and stir until it wilts, remove from heat and serve.

...And the Cracker Recipe:

1c unbleached all purpose flour
1t thyme
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
3 T earth balance margarine
Egg Replacer equivilant of 1 egg
1/4 c cold water
2T of olive oil for brushing the tops
salt for the tops

Preheat oven to 350. Pulse flour, salt, pepper & thyme in food processor to combine. Add margarine, pulse until it's a course meal. With machine running, add egg replacer and water, process just until dough is combined.

Roll dough out on a floured surface (it may help to divide it into 2 for rolling space), roll until dough is about 1/8" thick, err on the side of a bit thinner if you're not sure. Cut with a biscuit cutter (just like cookies, combine the scraps, re-roll, cut crackers, etc till you're out of dough). Place crackers on ungreased baking sheet.

Brush oil over crackers and dust with salt (sparingly- I love salt, but oversalted). Bake until firm to the touch, 20-25 minutes. Check on these after about 15, though, 1/2 my batch cooked way faster than the other 1/2 (uneven oven, I guess).

Cool on a cooling rack, store in an airtight container. Bask in the pride of having made a flipping cracker.

Banana Muffins

These are great! We had some overripe nanas, and I thought I'd explore a new recipe vs my go-to Banana Bread one. It's a good recipe, but I don't want to be caught in a banana shaped rut.

These were great- totally moist with a really great flavor. I would cut down on the baking time, though (depending on your oven)- I baked for the recommended time and they were a bit overdone on the bottom (you may be able to see the color difference between the bottom and the top on the photo). Even with that, though, they weren't dried out or anything- which is saying something (that they're good!)

You can get the recipe HERE

Eggplant Bolognese

This recipe came from Whole Foods website. Not sure what rabbit hole got me there, but I thought I'd try it (we had a spare eggplant). It had great flavor for sure. It wasn't very saucy- the chopped veg is just chunky and the sauce was pretty runny (vs a nice thick, stick to your noodle sauce). We ate it over spaghetti noodles the first night and then took the leftovers and used them as a pizza topping the next day. Davey (who eats cheese) did; crust, pizza sauce, Bolognese and covered it with cheese for his 1/2. My 1/2 had; crust, olive oil, shredded FYH "mozzerella" and Bolognese on top. It was so-so. Davey said his was great. I doubt I'd make it again because it's not really my thing. But, if you're into chunky veg, this may be the sauce for you.

The recipe is HERE.

My hybrid granola!

So, I have been a bit like goldilocks with my homemade granola and tonight came close to "just right". My standby recipe was Neysa's, though I had long ago ditched the flax and sunflower seeds- I know that they have great nutritional benefits, but I really am not in to the taste of seeds in the granola. Particularly the flavor of flax. Whenever I've used it for an egg replacer (ground) in baking, if I can pick up the taste of the flax- it totally ruins it for me. I digress- this is supposed to be all about granola. This standby recipe was also a bit dry for me and didn't have the clumping that some store bought granola has (I like food in clump form).

I also tried the granola from Vegan Family Meals- she cracked the code of the clump, but mine came out far too sweet, I over cooked it and it tasted like candy, really. Which is great for a sweet snack, but not as much for brekkie.

Tonight I sat down with both recipes to suss out a happy medium. There were similarities, but also huge differences (4 c of flakes difference, and- the magic clumping ingredient- brown rice syrup is in the cookbook). So, I took my favorite parts of each and made my own hybrid or franken version that I think came out pretty good.

It has a huge crunch raw, and holds up without getting soggy in soymilk (while I took this photo). You could bake it for less time to cut back on the crunch. There's no real huge clumps, but I'm not sure that I mind too much, there's a few small ones about which makes me happy. Also, this is a really good sweet level for me. It's not very sweet, but still with the dried cranberries and blueberries, it's as sweet as I'd want to go. I may try reducing the maple syrup and agave next time for 1/8 c more rice syrup to try to get those elusive clusters, though.

1 cup rye flakes
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2T Cinnamon
1/2 t salt

1/4 c brown rice syrup
1/4 c maple syrup
1/4 c agave nectar
2 T melted coconut oil
2 T water
1T vanilla

Dried cranberries
Fresh Blueberries

Preheat oven to 275. mix all dry ingredients together. Melt coconut oil and wisk wet ingredients together in a second bowl. Combine wet into dry and mix until all dry ingredients are coated. Do not add toppings before baking. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and stir up and rotate. Bake for another 10-20 minutes depending on crunch preference (more time = more crunch).

You can add about 1/2 c dried cran into the cooled granola. I just put in a handful of cran and a handful of fresh blueberries before eating it. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Cranberry Clementine Cocktail

We had a super lucky new year. I tried two new recipes and they were both over the moon fantastic. One was the PB Cups and the other was this- a Clementine, Cranberry, Rosemary cocktail. Whoa, this was amazing!

First- freshly squeezed clementine juice is the nectar of the gods. It's sooooo good, you could probably use it as a base for any drink and come up with perfect. I used unsweetened cran juice which is, I think, intolerable on it's own. I also used Reed's Ginger Brew (the hard core stuff that's way more ginger and way less sweet than Ginger Ale), and Piper Sonoma Brut sparkling wine- which I had not tried first before adding to the cocktail. After having two of these delicious, amazing drinks, I tried the wine alone and it was vile. It was $15 wine (sale price), but tasted like $3 wine- it was just grodie. Which I think is a testament to how amazing the juice combo is because the cocktail was delicious.

I also tried an n/a version and mixed the juice combo with club soda instead of wine, which was also great. The juice on its own was even good too, but it all need to be consumed the night that you mix it. I tried it the next day and the rosemary had elbowed out all of the other flavors. You can find the recipe HERE

Neysa's Granola

This granola recipe is courtesy of my former boss Neysa! I don't remember how this came about, I know that she had made it and became addicted to eating it with homemade yogurt and I think that the smell of deliciousness wafted from her office to mine and then I stole her purse and said sent her an anonymous ransom note (I loooove cutting individual letters out of magazines!) and then she turned in the ransom (the recipe) and I put her purse in one of those barrels around a St. Bernards neck and sent him to her office to return it. Then I went home, made it and basked in the tastiness.

It also makes a great gift for people who have everything (since they'll consume it).

here's her recipe and my modifications in parenthesis:

3 cups large flake oats (bulk section of whole foods or a natural foods store)
1 1/2 cups barley or rye flakes
1/2 cup oat bran (bulk or sometimes boxed by cereal isle)
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 t salt
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans or almonds- I loooove it with sliced almonds)
1/2 c pumpkin seeds (I don't add this much, but it is good)
1/2 c flax seeds (I'm iffy on these, I know that they're great for you, but I'm not huge on the taste- I still use some though)
1/2 c veg oil
1/4 c water
2/3 c honey, maple syrup (or agave)
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c dried berries (cherries, cran, raisins, etc)
(2 T cinnamon)

In a large bowl, combine all dried ingredients except berries. In smaller bowl, whisk, oil, water, liquid sweetener and vanilla. Combine wet and dry together. I add 1 T of cinnamon into the batter and then sprinkle more on top (I likes me some cinnamon).

Spread mixture onto two baking sheets and bake at 250 degrees for 10 minutes, stir and cook for another 10 minutes. If you like it crunchy, bake another 10 (I end up baking for an hour and stirring every 15 minutes or so- I either like it really crunchy or Neysa has a warp speed oven!)

Cool and stir in berries. Sealed it keeps for up to a month.

Thanks again, Neysa!

A note about the blog

This pic is from Veg Nosh's heyday. When I didn't have a day job (10-7or 8 daily) and could cook elaborate meals a few times a week and then photo them in daylight (it's dark by the time dinner is done now). It's been really challenging. Coupled with the fact that I need to bring a lunch despite working as a designer for a restaurant (they have pretty much zero vegan food). Also, there's no refrigerator or microwave there, so it's pretty much a set of circumstances set up to test my veganhood. And, so far- so good. I found that if I wrap a cold dish in reuseable ice cube sheets that it stays cold until lunch. I got a hot food container and can heat things up in the morning and they stay pretty much warm until lunch (I don't want to think about food safety issues with this).

What I did find is that a few meals are good for this newfound lifestyle of not a lot of cooking time at night and the stupid lunch situation. They are:

Mexican Quinoa Salad
Seitan Enchiladas (cooked on Sunday, when I had some time!)
Hummus Wrap (that was a great one)
Cold Penne Salad
Peanut Noodle Salad
and Seitan Tacos (for quick home dinners)

No one ever said that being vegan wasn't a pain in the bum at times (or if they did- they're probably trying to convert someone or they have a personal chef).

Still, despite the inconvenience, I'm not rethinking it. I do long for the days when I could labor over dinners for hours on end multiple times during the week. But, the steady income is a good trade off!

Chipotle Mexican Chili

I made this up. I rarely do that unless I'm aiming to replicate something amazing that I've eaten elsewhere. But, I was drawing on deadline and didn't have the time to go get groceries. We had a lot of bits of good things in the house, and I figured that they had to amount to something.

This was testing the theory that any combo of protein, onions and spices, and broth and/or tomatoes will make a good chili. Turns out, I think that's true. This recipe came out amazing! It was intensely flavorful, has great textures and a nice smoky aftertaste. If you adore chipotle, I would add an extra pepper in. The flavor is there as-is, but it's not overwhelming or overpoweringly chipotle flavored.

1/2 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1T cumin seed
2 small tomatoes, diced
2.5 cups vegetable broth
1 chipotle chili (in Adobo sauce), de-seeded and diced
2T chipotle/ Adobo sauce from the can
1 1/2 t oregano
1T chili powder
1 16oz can pinto beans
1 green bell pepper, diced
5T tomato paste
1/2 cup TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)
2 bay leaves
1t salt
1/4-1/2t cayenne pepper
1T canola oil

Heat oil in a large stock pot. Sautée onions until translucent, add garlic and cumin seeds and sautée another two minutes or so until fragrant. Add the broth, tomatoes and all other ingredients except the can of beans. Simmer 1 hour. Add rinsed beans and simmer another 1/2 hour.

This is great with crumbled tortilla chips on top.

Native Foods "Moon Dahl"

Yum. I found this on the Native Foods blog, and dug and dug to find it again to no avail. You'll have to trust me, I got it from them. I'll retype it since they had published it. I did change a few things, I'll list it as they listed it and then tell you what I did differently after.

This came about because I had bought a bag of Mung Dal at India Sweets and Spice. I love yellow lentils at restaurants, but can never find them, so I got the Mung Dal first then dug around for a recipe after. This is a good one too. The yellow lentils (not sure if that's technically what they are, but ?) are intensely creamy. Also, I used spinach as a green, which gets pretty creamy too. It was a great dish, and excellent along side the Creamed Lentils with a bit of naan. Divine nosh.

Native Foods Moon Dahl

1 c Split Moong Dahl (mind was spelled Mung Dal on the bag)
1-1 1/2 cups water (I used 2)
1/4 c olive oil
1 T coconut oil (cool stuff!)
1 1/2 t cumin seed
1 1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 t turmeric
1 t salt
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 jalapeno, chopped
1/2 bunch swiss chard, chopped into 1/2" pieces (I used baby spinach)
1 t lemon juice
4 T cilantro, chopped (didn't have this, skipped it)
1 pinch finely ground nutmeg ( I know that I should have trusted this, but it sounded weird so I skipped it)

Rinse beans well and sort through for stones. Add water and bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes, set aside.

Heat olive and coconut oils and roast cumin seeds for 30 seconds. Add coriander, turmeric, salt, tomato and jalapeno and saute for approximately 3 minutes.

Add swiss chard and saute for another five minutes

Add chard mixture to dahl

Add lemon juice, chopped cilantro and nutmeg