Sunday, November 18, 2012

Decadent Dishes for Dreary Days


Oh my, has it really been eight months since my last post? Yikes! I don't know where the time went. Other things just sort of took over my life lo' these past few months. I've been trying to keep up with all the blogs, and I apologize if I haven't been as consistent at that as I would have liked.  To top it all off, my camera broke! So, I don't have any pics of recent eats to post. These were the last shots I took before my camera died, back in September.

These were taken on a particular weekend when we got our first rain in quite some time. As a good Pacific Northwest native, I was really looking forward to a cozy, rainy weekend after a long stretch of dry weather. It put me in the mood for staying in, lighting candles, drinking a bit of wine, and most of all...cooking! I decided to make some butternut squash ravioli. Sometimes, you just need ravioli. It's in the same class as lasagne: an imperative of nature that just has to be satisfied.

For the dough, I used my standby pasta recipe from Vegan Dad. It's a great recipe: easy to make, easy to roll out, no bother. I don't have a pasta machine, so I roll the dough out by hand. If you let the dough relax for about 30 - 40 minutes after you combine it, the dough becomes very workable. A granite pastry board or similar is very handy  too, in order to keep the dough from sticking when you roll it out. I also have one of these ravioli molds, which turns ravioli-making into a breeze. If you're inclined to make ravioli, I highly recommend getting one of these:



Here's how it works: 


For the filling, I roasted a butternut squash, peeled it, and then mashed it with sauteed shallot, a bit of vegan margarine, and salt and pepper. It was a simple mixture, but I wanted it that way to highlight the flavor of the roasted squash, which is simply delicious on its own.

What's your favorite winter squash? I'm torn between butternut and delicata, although I like each one for different things.

For the sauce, I sauteed  garlic and diced yellow pepper in olive oil and tossed in some roasted garlic. Then to serve, I topped it with pine nuts, fresh parsley, and a drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil. We also had wilted kale and big green salad...yummy food for a rainy September evening.


I'm not big on desserts, but on this particular weekend, I decided to go all out and bake a pie. I really like to bake; I spent many years working in bakeries while I was in college and afterwards, but these days, I very rarely bake anything. Making a batch of something just seems like too much for two people to eat.

This was a blueberry pie with coconut crumble topping. The dough is your basic 2:1 pastry; two parts flour (by weight) to one part vegan shortening, a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of cold water to bring it together. After sifting the flour, I like to rub the shortening in with my fingers. This however, warms up the shortening and is not strictly desirable. So, after I've rubbed the shortening into the flour, I put the mixture in the fridge for a while, so it can become nice and cool again before I add the cold water to combine...just my own quirky way of doing things.  Making sure the shortening is cold when you add the water helps produce a tender, flaky crust. Or, at least that's what I've always heard.

The filling was blueberries that I had frozen from the summer, about 1/4 cup sugar, and some corn starch. Then for the topping, I combined coconut spread, rolled oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, and some brown sugar. It had a mild coco-nutty taste from the coconut butter and the dessicated coconut...it was ok, but I wanted it to turn out crunchier somehow.

Before and after shots:


I thought it would take us a week to polish it off, but we were a bit greedy; it lasted two days. No magical, everlasting desserts around here, I'm afraid.


And finally, meet our newest family member, Gianni the Bunny:


He's from the animal shelter, and he's been with us for about three months. He's only about nine months old, he's neutered and he's quite a tidy bunny with good litter box habits. He free roams in the kitchen and living room when we're home, and lives in the kitchen at night and when we're not home.

He's very clever, and has learned to come when I call for him.  I got him used to it by giving him a bit of carrot, apple, or strawberry whenever he came into the kitchen. So now, all I have to do is call out "kitchen bunny" and he comes running.

He's really a little darling and sits with us on the futon at night when we're watching a video and soaks up pets and gives us bunny kisses. The kitties were afraid of him at first, but now, they've gotten used to him. They still get a little spooked if he comes hopping up to them too quickly, but I'm sure eventually, they'll all snuggle together.

Whenever I open the fridge or bring in the groceries, he runs over to raid the veggies.




Rabbits are the third most surrendered animal at shelters after cats and dogs. Our municipal shelter is full of rabbits right now.  If you're in the Seattle area, and think a rabbit might be a good new addition to your family, head down to the Seattle Animal Shelter and check it out!  And, if you're interested, there's lots of good info about living with house rabbits at the House Rabbit Society.

Sorry, this turned into sort of a long post!

I hope to start posting again soon, whenever I can get my camera situation sorted out, until then...

Ciao for now

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Homemade Taco Shells, Walnut Filling, and Shoes


I've always been under the impression that soft tacos are more traditional than the hard shell variety, which I have a feeling came about in this country as some sort of fast-foody invention. I've never been to Mexico though, so I don't really know what I'm talking about. However, I do know there are those of you who won't countenance a hard shell when it comes to tacos, and though I think that shows taste and distinction, personally, I can go either way.

I've never fancied buying those hard shells in the stores though...there's too much packaging so they won't break and they seem stale and unwholesome somehow. So, I came up with a way of making them at home. The title says homemade taco shells, which is a little misleading. I don't make the tortillas; I buy the Food for Life Organic Sprouted Corn Tortillas,  then make the shells by using an upside down muffin tin and baking them in the oven:


For best results, I  warm them up in a pan so they soften before folding them into the tin. I don't use oil or anything, I just throw them in a warm pan for a 30-40 seconds until they become soft and more pliable. Once they're in the tin, I bake them for about 8-10 minutes in a 375 F oven. If you check them periodically, you'll be able to tell when they've stiffened up enough. Sometimes, I brush them with a mixture of Bragg's Aminos and lime juice before hand, which makes them extra tasty. 


Onto the filling, which is the best part. To be honest, I rarely (like never) made tacos before I found the recipe for this filling.  I've posted about it before, but I'm posting about it again because it's just that good. (If you're interested, see this post for a better picture of the filling and a link to the original recipe.)

walnut taco filling; great for nachos too
The filling consists of raw walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes (I use dry ones reconstituted in some warm veggie broth until they're soft), a few black olives, ground cumin, nutritional yeast, a dash of hot sauce, black pepper, and a dash of sea salt. I used those old school kind of black olives...you know the ones you used to put on your finger tips at holiday parties...they're very mild tasting and not too salty. Any kind of olive you prefer would work great; if they're more salty, like say a kalamata, you'll want to taste the filling before adding more salt. Jalapeños would be nice addition too. EDIT not in original publication: I also add garlic! And just for clarification...you mix everything in a food processor and that's it, you're done. :) It's also really good on nachos!!!

As you might imagine, this filling is enormously versatile; you can add spices and other ingredients of your choice in order  to tailor it to the desired flavor profile. I've used it for many different dishes from moussaka to lasagne, but it really makes tacos shine in my opinion.

In addition to the walnut filling, these particular tacos also had a layer of drunken black beans and garlic,  and were topped off with the usual suspects: tomato, spring onion, avocado, black olives, shredded carrots and daikon, etc. I took the pics before piling on the salsa and hot sauce...truly, mouthfuls of deliciousness.


Now for shoes! People often think that being vegan must be difficult, but I know all you vegans out there will agree, that food-wise at least, it's not difficult at all. In fact, it's a true joy that non-vegans are really missing out on. But when it come to shoes...that has always been the hardest part of the vegan lifestyle for me. I can never find any shoes that I like!

Everyone's tastes are different of course, and some might find loads of vegan shoes that suit their tastes, but I rarely see any that catch my fancy. I often peruse the vegan shoe sites, and there's even a vegan shoe shop near my house, but I'm always disappointed in the selection. Buying shoes has become an infrequent activity for me, except in the case of running shoes and sandals, which I think are easier to find then other dress and casual shoes.

So, I was truly excited when recently, I scored a pair that I really like:


They look cute with trousers and skirts, and while they may not be everyone's cup of tea, if you're short like me, you'll probably understand the appeal of wedges; they give you a good few inches of height. The trick is finding ones that are actually comfortable too. If they're well made, a pair of wedges can be very comfortable indeed. These particular ones don't fair too badly on that count; I can be on my feet in them for about 7 hours before my feet start to complain.


I found them on a teeny-bopper site called ModCloth, where you'll find lots of funky teen glamour stuff, but I mainly look at the shoes. In the "More Details" section of the product description, they tell you what all the shoes are made from, and many of them are from all man made materials. Most of their stuff is imported of course (read outsourced), which I don't like, but finding anything made here a chore in itself. Here's hoping that there's enough impetus to make that change in the coming years. 




Molly in a Cupboard
That's all I got for now. I do have several other meals that I feel like posting about, but I'm thinking of switching over to Wordpress, so not sure whether I'll post much more here or just post them on the new blog when I have it set up. It all depends on how lazy I end up being about doing the blog transition. It sounds like a heinous project--precisely the sort of thing that I personally loathe, but I find myself wanting to move away from Google services, so I'm looking into it with fairly serious intent.

Ciao for now! :D

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Stuff I Never Posted


Season's Greetings everyone! I haven't been too active here lately, so I thought I'd shake off my blog paralysis with some blasts from the recent past, some stuff I never posted. All the way from August, this was a white gazpacho: lemon cucumber, fennel, garlic, white onion, celery and blanched almonds. Seasoned with salt and white pepper and topped with smoked paprika and basil oil, it was very summery and refreshing, but I prefer tomato gazpacho.


From not quite so long ago, this was the main course I made for our Thanksgiving dinner. We were at my bro's house, and I brought these along for our vegan dinner. My niece, who's vegetarian ate them too. What are they you ask? 


Why, they're cashew, leek, and mushroom stacks of course. These were inspired by a recipe from a vegetarian cafe I worked at back in 03/04. The base is sprouted bread crumbs and cashews sauteed with garlic, onion, and herbs. The filling is the part I tweaked. I don't remember exactly what went into the filling at the restaurant, but I made this one by blending tofu, white miso, ume vinegar, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and some mushroom powder. The powder I made by grinding up some dried forest mushrooms; it imparted a great umami flavor, but a little goes a long way.  Then I stirred in some sauteed crimini and maitake mushrooms, shallots, and parsley to the tofu mix, and topped off the stacks with sherry-braised leeks and raw cranberries.


Once the cashew crust, tofu, and toppings were layered in these nifty open-bottom molds, they went into a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes. The cranberries cooked down, and once out of the oven, garnished with some ground hazelnuts or walnuts, these make a flavorful and festive little main course.

We also had some vegan stuffing: herbed walnut baguette, sourdough baquette, walnuts, apples, and wild rice along with the usual stuffing seasonings: onion, celery, thyme, parsley, veggie broth and Earth Balance. I served in a baked buttercup squash, which turned out kind of cute:


On to a quick mid-week lunch: one of MeloMeal's 3-ingredient bean burgers in an eggplant "bun" with sweet onion and ginger-tomato chutney.


The next item is truly a blast from the past: spaghetti squash casserole, based on the recipe from one of the first Moosewood cookbooks. One of my college roommates and I used to love this recipe and made it a lot. We were vegetarian back then, not vegan, but the recipe was easy to veganize by using olive oil instead of butter and cashew cream and tofu ricotta instead of the cheeses. 


It totally looks like a piece of carrot cake, especially with the extra cashew cream and ground walnuts on top. 

Finally, this was a fairly recent meal. I started of by sauteeing loads of sliced garlic, (like a full heads-worth) some red pepper flakes and oregano, then added collard greens, crushed tomatoes, and oven-fried tofu and let it simmer for about 40 minutes.


 It was simple, but so tasty.  Next time I make it, I'll use two bunches of collards instead of just one, just can't get enough of it! 


Happy holiday season to all! 

 
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