Friday, August 23, 2013

From Ontario to Erie and home

Last week I spent six days with Thich Nhat Hanh (and 1,399 other people) in Ontario, Canada. Five days spent mindfully, including mindful eating for every meal, in silence, bowing to the group before and after eating, no distractions, enjoying vegan versions of college cafeteria meals. On my way home I drove through Erie and looked on line in advance for somewhere to stop for a casual meal. I came across the Whole Foods Co-op (which I assume predates the grocery chain). They make sandwiches and pizzas, mostly with dairy, and coming at 12:30 pm, the line was long, so I helped myself to a couple of items from the cold case, and enjoyed a lunch of tempeh bacon mini-wraps with cashew cheese, and a kale salad. Yum. They hadn't heard of either tempeh or kale in the college cafeteria.

Now back home again and I am slowly resuming cooking mind. This was my CSA box for this week:

It included: lettuce, celery, lots of tomatoes, TWO eggplants, two peaches (luscious, already eaten chopped up in cereal), one green pepper, one zucchini, potatoes, a bunch of rosemary, and some green beans.

I think I'm being tested with the eggplant. It was NEVER a food that I bought of my own volition before the CSA. I've finally discovered one recipe I like with them (roasted eggplants with mushrooms and onions) but I already made that this week with last week's leftover eggplant, and now I get TWO more? On top of that, Bruce is out of town for another week and can't help me eat any of this.

My plans for cooking are:

1. Stir fry string beans with ginger and sriracha sauce
2. Zucchini banana bread (recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen web site)
3. Eggplant tomato, chickpea soup from

The celery and the rosemary are the two items that I foresee going bad before I get to them. I have trouble using the fresh herbs I get, as they go bad so fast, and whenever I find a recipe that uses them, there is inevitably at least one or two more herbs that I need to go with it. Any ideas for rosemary?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

In Which I Rediscover Nutritional Yeast

Cabbage, cabbage, cabbage -- and some fennel. Last week I made sauteed cabbage with fennel from the recipe that came with our box. Here it is:

"Saute ½ c. thinly sliced fennel, 4 c. shredded cabbage, ¼ c. minced onions and 2-3 cloves minced garlic in 1 tbs olive oil 5 min. or until cabbage is just slightly crunchy. Sprinkle with 2 tbs grated Parmesan cheese or sesame seeds and serve."

Of course, the ancient sesame seeds in my cupboard had long since gone rancid, and cheese from cows is not something I'm eating these days (if you're curious about why, check out this link). So, I rediscovered a similarly ancient yogurt container full of nutritional yeast from the back of the cupboard, and sprinkled it on the finished cabbage, with some salt and paper. Mmmm, nutritional yeast, food of the gods, and one of the most poorly named foods ever, guaranteed to make sure that no one but dedicated food co-op dwellers who went to Oberlin in the 1980s ever eats it.... all the more for me! Here is a picture of the final product:

That was last week. Now I'm currently in my THIRD week of getting fennel in the box (are they trying to see how many times they can repeat a vegetable that I NEVER cook with???). Here was the haul:

The box included:

1. Green onions
2. An eggplant
3. Red cabbage
4. The above-mentioned fennel
5. A yellow crookneck squash (I had to google "knobby yellow squash" to find out what it was)
6. Lettuce
7. Blueberries
8. Zucchini
9. A tomato

When I got the box, I chopped up the zucchini and some red cabbage, with some broccoli, and made some lovely roasted veggies. I chopped the fennel too (another lesson learned -- chop up the fennel when you get it and put in a CONTAINER, no point getting fennel-fronds all over the inside of the fridge). I have learned to use fennel in salads, also found a smoothie recipe with it, involving kale, ginger, celery, half an apple, and a quarter of a honeydew melon. Yum. I have to remember to keep chopping up the green onions and put in dishes I eat, so they don't shrivel away before I get to them. The tomato was chopped up and used to top veggie burgers. The eggplant I may use in a chili recipe that I found in Crescent Dragonwagon's Passionate Vegetarian. And the crookneck squash???? Ideas?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Inappropropriate Fennel Tomato Soup

They say it's 91 degrees outside, with a heat index of 95. Cooper is enjoying a black dog sauna outside in the backyard, but I've spent most of the day indoors, cleaning and then cooking.

This was my CSA haul this week:

It included:

one eggplant
a fennel bulb
more spring onions
new potatoes
two zucchini

The potatoes and zucchini were easy. That night I coated them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted them: the red potatoes separately, and then a roasted vegetable melange with zucchini, broccoli, and red cabbage. Roasted is about the only way I can like zucchini.

Speaking of roasting, as I go through this season, I'm developing some guidelines for how to use my CSA produce. Here they are so far:

1. Any firm vegetable will taste good roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. This is a good way to deal with many veggies I don't particularly care for. Last night I roasted the eggplant with mushrooms and red onions and served it over rice with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Yum.

2. Swiss chard should be used immediately - even one day later it will have wilted. It's good sauteed with garlic and olive oil, and you can throw in olives and/or sundried tomatoes

3. Beets should be peeled and grated early in the week, and put in the fridge to use on salads. These I do not like much roasted.

Now I need a rule to deal with all the garlic scapes!

Tonight I finally used the fennel, making a fennel tomato soup with vegan sausage (the Tofurky sausage from Trader Joe's):

Totally inappropriate, a winter tomato soup in 95 degree weather. Thank goodness for air conditioning!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Week one completed

I finished week one of the CSA challenge with only some green onions remaining. I made some wonderful things this week, and am finding ways to incorporate a little cooking into my evenings. Two of my favorite things were Hoisin-Glazed Collard Greens and Sweet Potatoes, from Nava Atlas's book, and stir fried pea shoots. Bruce even deemed the sweet potato dish "good" without prompting (high praise from him!) and ate a second portion. The thrilling thing was that I was able to make both of these without going out to the grocery store! (Using up what I have on hand is my other challenge).

Here are the Hoisin-Glazed Collard Greens and Sweet Potatoes:

The pea shoots had little purple flowers. I took those off, and removed some of the bigger stems. The stems that remained gave the dish a slight crunchiness. I didn't expect to like them, but....I ended up deciding to eat the entire pan (Bruce wasn't home to help).

Stir-fried pea shoots (found on

2 T. white cooking wine
1/4 C. broth
3 t. soy sauce
1/4 t. sugar
2 T. canola oil
2 T. garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. pea shoots
2 t. cornstarch, dissolved in 4 t. water

In a small bowl, combine the wine, broth, soy sauce, and sugar. Set near the stove.
In a wok or large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil.
Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
Add the pea shoots and toss to coat with oil and garlic.
Raise heat to high and add sauce mixture.
Stir-fry pea shoots 15 seconds, then cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until well wilted.
Uncover, add the cornstarch mixture, and stir-fry another 30 seconds, or until the sauce has thickened and the shoots acquire a shiny, almost "glazed" look.

This week, my challenge is the following:

More big green onions
Garlic scapes (I think - they look like thin green snakes)
Swiss chard
Huge head of romaine lettuce

This is easier than last week. I already sauteed the chard with the beet greens with some garlic and olive oil, and served them with some sun-dried tomatoes. I've grated the beets for use in salads. Strawberries almost gone for cereal. But I seem unable to find a recipe that uses parsley without going to the grocery store (again). I plan to try out a quinoa and parsley salad that I found on the Cooking Light website, but have to stop by Trader Joe's for a cucumber, some celery, and some dried apricots. Luckily the recipe also has green onions in it in abundance. Now .... what to do with the thin green snakes?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CSA haul: Julie and Julia challenge

My second eating challenge of eating this year is my CSA (that stands for Community Supported Agriculture). I picked up the lovely wooden box from Kretschmann's farm, dropped off on the porch of a house three blocks away. Here's a picture:

The box contained:

One large head of romaine lettuce
About a pound of spinach
About a pound of mixed greens, mostly arugula
One bunch of collard greens
A quart of strawberries
A bag of pea shoots (little greens with flowers that last week Bruce said tasted "like grass")
Green onions

Is that all? It filled up most of my refrigerator! And all for me and one vegetarian who doesn't cook.

This is my challenge, a la the movie Julie and Julia. In the movie, Julie cooked her way through Julia Child's classic cookbook, one recipe per day, and blogged about it, without missing a day. For me, I will challenge myself to use up all the produce my CSA brings without throwing anything out, and preferably without unscheduled mid-week trips to the grocery store for extra ingredients to be used for one recipe only. This challenge will require time, ingenuity, and flexibility (the latter not my strong point). Thank goodness that I bought a copy of Nava Atlas's new cookbook Wild About Greens a couple of weeks ago!

Here's what I plan to make with some of these items.

Collard greens: Hoisin-Glazed Collard Greens & Sweet Potatoes (From Wild About Greens, with sweet potatoes and hoisin sauce that I have on hand)

Arugula: Pizza topped with arugula on Saturday night, with a Trader Joe's whole wheat crust to be purchased Saturday morning, and vegan cheese that I have on hand

Fresh spinach: Sauteed with garlic and red peppers, and in the green smoothie from Eat to Live

Pea shoots: How about #4 on this list: Vietnamese Stir-Fried Pea Shoots?

I have everything on hand but oyster sauce, which is not vegetarian anyway. Looks like soy sauce may be substituted.

Strawberries - no problem there! Half will go in my cereal tomorrow, and half the next day

The oregano is currently drying on my counter. I can put some on my pizza and some away to make roasted chickpeas.

Romaine lettuce? I have been eating a salad almost every day, making two portions at night and then then eating half for dinner and bringing half to work the next day for lunch.

And ... Basil? It's good on a hummus sandwich, but how will I use a whole bunch? Green onions? Still working on radishes from last week. More to come....

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City was where we began and ended our trip. Since my last visit there thirteen years ago, vegetarian restaurants have bloomed. We only got a chance to try two of the new ones, plus a visit to one a veg-friendly establishment that we had enjoyed on our last trip there. My favorite was the entirely plant-based Vertical Diner. Our GPS led us to this little building which popped up unexpectedly in what otherwise seemed to be a warehouse district. I had the jalepeno burger, made with black beans, grains, and spices, topped with guacamole and jalepeno peppers on a delicious whole grain roll. We looked longingly at the dessert list (including a root beer float, peanut butter brownie sundae, and a Shoofly cake) but I ultimately had to yield to my rule of not having dessert until after dinner (kind of like Mark Bittman's Vegan Before Six). We also tried the sister restaurant Sage's Cafe, again all vegan, , and there I did get dessert, a luscious raspberry brownie sundae, which was the high point there.

At Oasis Cafe, the vegan options were more limited. I chose the eggplant steak over risotto, and realized once again that risotto is far too creamy for my taste. And it was another dish that would have tasted better with the cheese left on:

When will plant-based cheeses become as widely available as nondairy milks?

The tomato fennel soup was wonderful, carroty and creamy without dairy. But the real reason we chose Oasis for dinner was the vegan chocolate cake served with soy ice cream. Yuuummmm. Dessert is entirely not worth it unless it's chocolate, and chocolate cake is not worth it without ice cream.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bryce Canyon

Traveling to our second national park of the week, I've discovered a happy trend. National Park lodge restaurants seem to be planning for vegans. At the Bryce Canyon Lodge restaurant, I enjoyed the Vernal Vegetable plate for dinner, a lovely platter of roasted zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers with a side of rice:

Bruce got the quinoa plate which seemed to have cheese scattered only on top, so might have been veganizable. On Day Two for lunch I had the first BLT I've had in many years the, with a veggi e bacon product that I'm sure was out of a commercially-available box, but nonetheless welcome. The cole slaw was made with mayonnaise, unfortunately, and Bruce said it was nothing special (where were the cactus jelly and pine nuts that were supposed to be in it?), so I got the side salad, just some iceberg lettuce with a few shreds red cabbage and carrots, but dressed up a little with balsamic vinagrette.

Outside the park was a little dicier. They clearly had never heard of quinoa in the nearby town. We drove all the way to Panguitch, 11 miles away, and I wandered into a 'homestyle' restaurant to find nothing at all on the menu for vegetarians, much less vegans. Coming back to the national park vicinity, about to give up and either go back to the lodge for dinner, or the nearby Subway, I found the Canyon Ranch restaurant which seemed to have taken a page from the Lodge restaurant - amongst the burgers, they had one vegan item on the menu, roasted veggies served with pita, hummus, and unflavored white rice. Could have used twice as many vegetables and half as much pita bread, but I felt victorious. I can survive as a vegan in southern Utah -- in the tourist areas anyway. Here it is: