Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How I used up my last can of artichokes

I made pizza last night, and I wanted to top it with artichokes. Unfortunately, I could not do this. Why? I already used my last can on a random last-ditch pasta dinner a few months ago. I forgot about the pasta dish afterwards, and the fact that in my pantry, there is an artichoke vacancy. That is, until last night, when my lack of artichokes jogged my memory and it hit me, I never did blog about that pasta dish either.

It was in the frenzy of last semester's end. I boiled up a box of whole wheat linguine and heated up a can of sauce into which I dumped the contents of my cupboards and freezer: mushrooms, peppers, kale, tomatoes, and of course, one can of quarted artichoke hearts, diced. It was a quick and easy Italian pasta meal, one that managed to bulk up my vegetable intake while still being low-key enough to evade the alarm of my seven-year-old. We ate well that night, and had plenty of sauce left over.

And so, a little less than a week later, I made pizza dough and threw the leftover pasta sauce on top with a smattering of cheese.

This is not the pizza I had last night. Last night's pizza had no artichokes, but this pizza--made in December, I believe--was delicious and proved the rule, in the same way my miso soup from Saturday did, that sometimes the leftover meal plan, with forethought, can be even better than the original meal.

Now, please excuse me. I really need to go find a sale on artichokes.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Braised Tofu and Mushrooms and Noodles with Asparagus (Sort of)

And so yesterday, it was my night to cook. I busted out my library cookbooks and set to work making something delicious, vegetarian, and of course, thai/chinese, as the month is still March, though nowhere near the Ides anymore.

I found just the thing, or rather things, in a cookbook entitled 350 Thai and Chinese Low-Fat Recipes for Healthy Living. I would have been quite satisfied with just the asian part, but heck, I'm always up for healthy living, unless it takes away from my ability to eat chocolate cake. I had tofu on hand, as well as a newly purchased cellophaned package of sliced button mushrooms, and so the main course went a little something like this:

Get out a large skillet and boil 1/2 a package of noodles, then drain and hold in reserve in a colander for later. You'll see why in a bit.

Braised Tofu with Mushrooms
-adjusted from 350 Thai and Chinese Low-Fat Recipes...

What you need:
-one package of tofu
-1/2 t sesame oil, lacking that, I used flax/sunflower oil. I don't like sesame oil anyway.
-1 T and 2 t soy sauce
-1 T veggie oil
-2 minced garlic cloves
-1/2 t grated ginger, lacking that, I used a generous sprinkling of powdered ginger from my spice rack
-roughly 5 c. of various asian-y mushrooms, lacking that, I used my package of button
-1 T dry sherry, lacking that, I used 1 T of two-week-old white reisling from the frig
-6 T veggie stock
-1 t cornstarch
-1 T cold water
-salt and pepper

1. Put tofu in a bowl and sprinkle with the flax/sunflower oil and 2 t of the soy sauce, along with a generous dose of pepper. Marinate for 10 minutes and then drain and cut into 1 inch squares

2. Heat oil in that large skillet. When hot, fry garlic for a few seconds. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with ginger. Cook about 2 minutes.

3. Stir in the wine, the rest of the soy sauce, and the stock, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Simmer 4 minutes.

4. Mix cornstarch with water to make a paste and add that into the pan, stirring to thicken. Add tofu and toss. Cook another 2 minutes before serving, or in my case, putting all of the pan's contents back in the bowl and covering it to keep it warm while I cook the side dish.

Side dish: Noodles with carrot and asparagus
-also adjusted from 350 Thai Chinese Low-Fat Recipes...

What you need:
-1/2 package of cooked egg noodles, lacking that, I used Ronzoni's Garden Delight Linguini
-1 T veggie oil
-1 small onion, chopped, lacking that, a fourth of a bag of frozen chopped onion, celery, and green pepper
-1 inch of fresh grated ginger, lacking that, back to the ole powdered ginger from the spice rack
-2 garlic cloves, crushed
-6 oz. young asparagus, lacking that a can of whole asparagus, drained
-2 c. bean sprouts, lacking that, 2 julienned carrots
-3 T soy sauce
-salt and pepper

1. Heat oil in skillet and add onion mix and carrots sprinkled with a liberal amount of ginger and the garlic. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add asparagus and cook another 2-3 minutes.

In theory, canned asparagus would work the same as fresh, but alas, by the end of the first minute, I had asparagus mush with a few stems still intact. Honestly, I picked asian countries in the spring, because asian recipes tend to call for spring veggies. However, in this part of the globe, March is not spring, even when it's supposed to be. Here in Ohio, the asparagus are still hiding in the ground. Maybe if I make this again, I'll get to use the real deal.

2. You should be adding the noodle at this step, except that carrots do not substitute especially well cook-time wise for bean sprouts. Thus, instead, you will be adding an asparagus can-worth of water to the pan and boiling some carrots. It's okay. The asparagus is mush already anyway.

3. Add the noodles and reheat for 2 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce and mix well. Season to taste, using salt only sparingly. Stir fry another minute and then plate.

Despite, disintegrating asparagus, the side dish turned out well, the carrot cooked just long enough to retain a slight crunch that paired well with the mush of the asparagus and the soft bite of the noodles. It was very light and also tasted quite authentic, real ginger be darned. As for the main course, I remain a fan of pre-baking tofu with flavoring to take out the excess water and give it some extra flavor. The 10 minutes of marinade just wasn't enough. It was still good, being tofu, but I didn't taste the oil or soy sauce at all. It was just tofu-tasting and a little chalky because not enough water got out in the quick-cook method of this recipe. The mushrooms, however, were divine.

And the two dishes paired well together,

whether kept on separate sides of a plate 

or mixed all together in one bowl of glorious Chinese/Thai soy sauce bliss.

The Next Day's Leftovers.

We ended up eating about half of the food and put the rest in tupperware in the frig. Tonight, I made up 4 cups of Miso soup, using instant miso. Then, I got out all of last night's leftovers and plopped them all into the soup and boiled it up nice and hot. The miso did wonders, as it always does, for the chalky tofu and the veggies and noodles made for a nice miso surprise. Best miso soup I've ever had and possibly the best miso soup I've ever tasted.

So if nothing else, make the meal for the next day's miso. It's worth it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paht si-yu and vegan chocolate chip cookies

Last month, we slacked. It was rush rush rush and there just wasn't any time for a country of the month from which to prepare country-inspired dishes. That's why this month, we're combining two. Welcome to Chinese Thai month. It works well because there are a lot of chinese/thai cookbooks in the library, and now they're on our bookshelves.

Giant Eagle had buy one, get one broccoli, so I searched through said cookbooks for one that would use up some of the broccoli aging in our refrigerator and here it was: Paht si-yu, a thai rice noodle dish with eggs, broccoli, and dark sweet soy sauce. Added bonus, to make the soy sauce dark and sweet, you just add our own new kitchen staple, molasses!

For lack of rice noodles, we used whole wheat linguine. For lack of mushrooms, we used tofu crusted in sesame seeds, but then, by now it should be clear, this recipe, like all recipes in my kitchen, it needed to be Kate-ified.

Paht si-yu
(adapted from Real Vegetarian Thai)

1 package firm tofu
sesame seeds
all spice
teriyaki sauce
3 T soy sauce
1 T molasses
2 T veggie stock
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
3 T veggie oil
4-6 cloves fresh chopped garlic
3 cups bite-sized broccoli florets
1/2 a red pepper, thinly sliced
8 oz. dried whole wheat linguine, cooked according to package instructions
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350. Take tofu from package and cut slab into four equal rectangles. Press each rectangle into a paper towel to drain excess water and place on a tin-foiled baking sheet. Sprinkle each with allspice and teriyaki and then coat top in a layer of sesame seeds. Bake about 15 minutes per side, give or take, until tofu is slightly browned and much less soggy. Then dice the rectangles and set aside. Also, at this point, it would be good to cook those noodles.

2. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce and molasses, veggie stock (or, as I did, 2 T water and a pinch of better than bouillon), salt and pepper. Stir and set aside.

3. Heat large skillet to med-high. Add 1 T oil and coat pan. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add the tofu cubes and toss. Add the broccoli and red pepper and stir fry about 2 minutes, until broccoli is even shiny and bright green. Dump all into a bowl.

4. Add 2 T oil to the skillet. Add cooked noodles and toss. Then, push the noodles to one side and add the eggs to the vacancy. Cook eggs about 30 seconds and then toss everything together, scrambling the eggs as you do.

5. Stir in the soy sauce mixture (si-yu) and then the veggies. Toss everything together and voila, a lovely vegetarian thai meal. For an extra kick, after you spoon your helping into your bowl, sprinkle on some red pepper flakes. For a vegan version, just nix the eggs. The tofu can carry this protein train solo.

Paht si-yu is delicious. The molasses gives the whole meal a delicate but rich sweetness that a teriyaki just can't match. That sweetness pairs very well with the bitterness of the broccoli and my addition of the sesame crusted tofu gives it a little nutty flair. And of course, it's still a stir fry, so not only is it healthy and delicious, you can easily eat it with chopsticks. And I'm a sucker for chopsticks.

And for dessert, why not some vegan chocolate chip cookies? I was not brave enough for substitutes, so I won't list the recipe, as it would be verbatim, but consider this my first of many recipe reviews from the Vegan Cookies Invade You Cookie Jar cookbook, and if this first recipe in their book is any indication of the quality to come, I made a very smart used bookstore purchase.

These fine women have the vegan cookie down to an art. A lengthy introduction explains how you can accurately make substitutes for more specialized diets, like diabetics and people allergic to say, gluten. Then, we get to that first recipe, the original staple cookie recipe for anyone to have and share: the chocolate chip cookie.

And their version is the single best vegan cookie I have ever made. It's moist and full of flavor (perhaps moreso do to my extra vanilla addition since all I had was vanilla soy milk). Humorously, I almost made an unnecessary substitution right off the bat. These cookies call for tapioca flour (cornstarch can be substituted).

So there I was in my kitchen wondering where one even gets tapioca flour when I had a thought: I have Egg Replacer from that one month I tried to be vegan and couldn't afford it. Sure enough, egg replacer is essentially a big old box of tapioca flour.

Tapioca aside, these cookies are brilliant. And from the looks of it, more brilliance follows in the pages that come after. If you want some good vegan cookies, get your hands on a copy of this cookbook. Vegan cookies really will invade your cookie jar... and your stomach.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Molasses Pumpkin Muffins, vegan and glutenless

I discovered a lost recipe this week. I was in poetry class on tuesday, and one of my classmates referenced molasses syrup in her workshop poem. This, of course, led to  a discussion on molasses. How it's great but not eaten alone straight from the bottle. Then it occurred to me: I have a molasses recipe I never blogged.

Picture this: the saturday meeting of my internship class last semester. My prof suggested we make a buffet of it. Each of us could bring a dish to pass. In the class with me was a chick named Megan. She's actually the first person I ever met in my grad program, and we carpooled to Youngstown every week my first semester in Cleveland. Megan can't have gluten and I had an open sack of millet flour just sitting in my freezer, waiting to get used up. So I told Megan I'd make something even she could eat.

Vegan Gluten-free Molasses Pumpkin Muffins
(adjusted from

1 1/2 c. oat flour (grind gluten-free oats in a blender)
1/2 c. millet four
1/2 c. molasses
1 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t clove
1 15 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
1/2 c water
1/2 c raisins

1. Heat oven to 375. Mix flours, powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg in large bowl. Add pumpkin, water, molasses, and raisins. Stir until just mixed.

2. Spoon batter into sprayed muffin tin, filling 3/4 full.

3. Bake 25-30 minutes. When the muffin tops bounce back when you press them lightly with your finger, you know they're done. Stand 5 minutes before removing muffins from the tin.

I added a bit of orange frosting to the tops to give it a little extra sweetness.

Not only is this a tasty treat, its a tasty treat that anyone in the room can enjoy. Now that I think of it, there are some vegans in my poetry class this semester. Perhaps I should make them some muffins...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In this apartment, it's Chinese month.

In this apartment, it's Chinese month. We have, in fact, deemed spring the season of Asian food. It will be Chinese and then Japanese and Vietnamese. In honor of that fact, here's a lovely bok choy stir fry, which tastes quite good in sesame pancakes. It's bok choy, a bag of frozen asian veggies, and some extra mushroom. Throw in a little teriyaki sauce and you've got yourself a stir fry.

I'm sure more Chinese adventures are too come and hey, spring break next week. I'm hoping to do a lot of baking with my many bags of recently acquired reduced-price Bob's Red Mill products. Joy.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chickenless stew with dumplings

In my childhood home, each of us got to pick our special birthday meal. My brother and sister would waver year to year: pizza, lasagne, no this year I want hoagies. For me, though, I knew exactly what I wanted. Every year, it was the same thing, my favorite meal, unfailingly, I insisted be on the menu every June 10th. My favorite meal was my mom's chicken and dumpling stew. Of course, this thrilled my mother to no end, because there is nothing she enjoyed so much as filling the kitchen with the hot air of cooking stew in the middle of June. Boy did she hate it. She would suggest other things, but I wouldn't budge. She didn't make stew often and it was what I wanted.

Of course, since I turned veggie, she has never had to make me that sauna-like birthday meal. And when she has made stew while I'm at my parent's house (always in the winter), I admit to looking at their bowls with envy as I eat my salad greens. Because I remember loving chicken and dumpling stew. I remember how I used to wait for it, watch my mother chop the vegetables, and just when I thought it was finally done, I would realize that no, it was merely time to add the dumplings.

I have to envy no more, for I have found a way to enjoy my childhood favorite without the chicken. The solution: chickpeas.

Chickpea and Dumpling Stew
What you need:
4 T olive oil
2-3 c. chopped onion and celery
1 large carrot, chopped
1 1/2 c. + 2 T flour
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 15.5 oz cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
half a small bag frozen veggies
3 c. veggie stock
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t rosemary or savory
salt and pepper
3 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 c milk

1. Heat 1 T oil in a large pot over med heat. Add onion/celery and carrot, cover, and cook to soft, 5 min. Stir in 2 T flour. Add potatoes, chickpeas, and frozen veggies. Stir in veggie stock, soy sauce, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low for an hour, checking to make sure it stays moist. Add water as needed.

2. Now, it's take for dumplings! Make sure, again, that there is some extra water in the stew before continuing. Also, make sure the carrots and potatoes are cooked through. Then, in a bowl, combine the 1 1/2 c. flour, baking powder, and baking soda, plus 1 t. salt. Quickly stir in the milk and remaining 3 T oil to just blended.

3. Spoon dumpling mix over the surface of the veggies. It should look a bit like gathered clouds in a pot.

4. Put the whole pot into an oven set on 350 degrees. Bake until dumplings are cooked through, probably 25-30 minutes.

5. Take the pot out of the oven. Don't forget your oven mitts. Make sure to serve plenty of stew with each spoonful of dumpling. And if there's a lot of dumpling in your bowl untouched by stew, go ahead and squeeze some honey on it and eat it separately, as though it were a biscuit.

At the end of it all, the stew ended up a little dry. Keep in mind that all the things that comprise this stew like to soak up water, unlike chicken, which adds water. Keep adding that water, folks. I might even try own a reprised version of this that includes a can of cream of celery, just to give it more liquid and more softness.

As for the taste, it was delicious. Chickpeas, honestly, have always creeped me out a bit because they taste and smell so much like poultry. And that only benefits the stew. I could hardly tell it wasn't the stew I always insisted upon in the heat of mid-June.