Friday, September 29, 2006

Slate ripped me off!

Slate wrote this article about Spinach and E. coli, may I add, days after I wrote mine! ;-) It has some good arguments about the state of food production and safety in our world.


Friday Food Round-up

Hi and welcome to the Friday Food Round-up, everyone! This is where I gather up the notable (or notably strange) cooking and eating adventures of the previous week into one long post. Enjoy!

[click on any photo to enlarge]

The week started off with me coming down with a horrible flu-like sickness on Friday night. To help heal me, Daiku decided to cook me soup, and what he ended up creating would kick any chicken soup's butt.

Here are some of the fixins for Daiku's Thai-style cold buster soup:
  • ginger
  • lemongrass
  • scallions
  • daikon
  • choy sum (an Asian green that almost resembles baby bok choy)
  • carrots
  • baked tofu
  • cilantro
  • dried shittake mushrooms
  • tamari
  • chilli paste
  • fresh red chillis
  • veggie/miso broth
  • noodles
  • and more...
So you take a bowl of noodly goodness

And some hot life-giving broth

And pour the latter over the former

... top with some fresh chopped cilantro and lime juice, and you get one of the best soups ever! It actually worked to soothe my throat and bring me back to life- for a little while that is!

The next day, we took a little harvest from our garden (with the cold weather, its days are numbered).

We got an orange heirloom tomato, 2 large jalapeno peppers, 2 purple bell peppers, a handful of yellow grape tomatoes, a stubby little cucumber, a red chilli and a yellow banana pepper.

With so many peppers, the choice for dinner was obvious: fajitas!

Only one problem, we did not have any tortillas in the house... unless you counted...

Purple corn taco shells! The shells are a total rip-off of the ones Leslie had used a little while back (click here to see) but our filling was different. We call these... fajitacos.

We pressure cooked a big batch of black beans, then used some to make refried beans with a bunch of spices.

For the fajitas, we sauteed purple and jalapeno peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes.

We topped these with fresh avocado and cilantro.

Yes, yes, but you went apple-picking- what did you do with the apples? You might be asking yourself right now.

Well on Tuesday, I decided to cook a celebration dinner in honor of the season premiere of the Gilmore Girls. [side note: Daiku and I are Gilmore Girl nerds. This all goes back to the time, in 2001-2002 that we lived in Florida. We knew noone and had nothing to do, so we took a friend's advice and watched the Gilmore Girls. Soon, this became a weekly ritual with us. We started ordering pizzas every Tuesday night while watching this show. Even for the 3 years we lived apart while I was in graduate school, we continued to watch the show religiously. Now that we live together again, the season premiere is something of a celebration. I know, I know, pretty lame, but what are you going to do?]

So for dinner I concocted a pasta dish with whole wheat spaghetti, black beans (the pressure cooker cooked up a huge batch), Swiss chard, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and lots and lots of garlic and olive oil.

For our salad, I made the sesame orange cole slaw from Fat-free Vegan. This time, unlike last week, I did not mangle her recipe at all! All I changed was using a yellow pepper instead of red, and adding a chopped up APPLE.

Next, for the piece de resistance, I thought it would be really fun to bake an apple upside down cake. This is what I love about the Internet: you search "vegan apple upside down cake recipe" and you get tons of results- yes!

I chose this recipe for caramel-apple upside down cake, which came from a blog I'd never seen before, the Penguin Chef. I made it a lot more rustic than the recipe directed (I cooked the apples with the caramel and baked the whole thing in a cast iron pan instead of a cake pan) but the results were magnificent. Please try this recipe!

Here is the cake when it came out of the oven:

And here it is when I turned it upside down:

FUN!! I'd never made an upside-down anything before, but this was so easy. It tasted very spicy and comforting. It came out of the pan effortlessly. And the cake part stood up so well to the caramel. I thought that it would get soaked and mushy after a while, but it didn't, it had a great texture.

Here are the slices that we ate for dessert on Tuesday

You can see from the top slice that the cake itself has little slices of apple in the batter. I tell you, if you're going to try just one recipe from this post, try this one!

One of my favorite easy dinners involves little Chinese buns. I find these in the Asian grocery store (I used to get them in California, too, so they must be pretty common).

Their texture is doughier than gyoza or potstickers, and that's why they are so comforting for me. (Like little carb pillows of love. ;-)

Daiku and I like to steam these and have them with a side of veggies- this time we had a stir-fry of broccoli, choy sum (a really tasty green, try it if you haven't), carrots, garlic, ginger, and tons of black bean paste.

A great go-to dinner for when you don't have a lot of energy.

Next up, I had a lot of baking to do. This Saturday is my mom's birthday, and I decided to send her cookies. My mom is not a big chocolate person, so I set about choosing cookies with different flavors to make. I decided on

They all turned out great after a test-run or two, and I especially want to thank Dreena for the Chloe cookies. Hazelnut is one of my favorite flavors, but I don't have it very often. Daiku and I both loved these cookies and I'm even going to bake another batch for a party we are going to tonight. I'm also so proud of myself for actually attempting a recipe from the Artful Vegan, but this recipe was honestly very simple.

Here are the cookies I sent to my mom, who lives in Virginia:

The coconut-lime cookies

Look how you can see little bits of lime zest!

The Chloe cookies with hazelnuts on top

The spicy ginger cookies topped with candied ginger (boy, were they really spicy. The recipe even called for pepper! They are decidedly adult, pretty complex ginger snaps)

Here is how we used up our heirloom tomato, sliced with avocado, drizzled with a modified Caesar dressing from Don't Get Mad Get Vegan. (I didn't have lemon juice, so I used red wine vinegar and left out the worcestershire sauce) This really is a great dressing.

Finally, I leave you with a shot of a typical breakfast from this past week. A fruit salad heavy on the apples, with bananas, raspberries, strawberries, and grapes, mixed with a little bit of orange juice. Instead of baking with the apples, we have pretty much been eating them fresh.

I hope you all enjoyed this week's food round-up!


Thursday, September 28, 2006

VegFest, anyone?

Hi everybody,

First of all, thank you all so much for your visits and comments. I really enjoy reading everyone's reactions to this blog, and of course I love reading all of yours, too!

I haven't been blogging much lately because of some continued tiredness from my cold/flu and also because the start of the school year has meant lots of deadlines!

I just wanted to know if any east coast bloggers are going to go to the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival this year? (Saturday Oct. 21) Click here for the webpage and more information.

Daiku and I are probably going to go. If we both meet all our work deadlines, it will be our reward, but Boston is a bit of a drive from where we are. But seeing all the speakers, eating tons of free food, and meeting interesting people is too much to resist! If any of you are going to be there, we would love to meet you- bloggers unite! Let me know.

See you all tomorrow for the Friday Food Round-up!


Tuesday, September 26, 2006


(an image of E. coli O157:H7)

For a while now, I've had a simmering resentment I can't put my finger on about this whole spinach/E. coli recall thing. What can it be? Let's see...

Tons of spinach and mesclun mix, much of it organic, getting tossed into the trash.

An air of bad publicity and suspicion surrounding spinach that might not be gone for years.

FACT: E. coli O157:H7, the strain associated with the latest spinach recall can be killed by cooking at 160 degrees for 15 seconds (Source: New York Times 9/20/2006)

FACT: The FDA's own words: "
E. coli O157:H7 is easily destroyed by thorough cooking." (Source: Well, when you search "beef safety" on the FDA website, you mysteriously get transported to the USDA beef "fact" sheet

FACT: The FDA did not tell people to stop eating beef or to throw millions of dollars worth of it away a few years ago when there was an E. coli outbreak associated with tainted beef, merely to cook it more thoroughly

FACT: The FDA did tell people to stop eating spinach and to throw away all spinach, because it "wants to maintain a simple cosumer message" and "not confuse people by saying which circumstances are appropriate for eating uncooked spinach." (New York Times 9/20/2006)

FACT: eating spinach = good

FACT: eating beef = bad

FACT: Cattle lobby: rich, well connected, holds FDA in palm of hand

FACT: Spinach lobby: ???

So all this food is going to waste, when the problem could be taken care of by locating the source of the outbreak and in the meantime, buying locally grown spinach from trusted farmers and cooking it well. Meanwhile, people are told that it is all right to go around eating beef which is the source of E. coli contamination because major lobbies such as the cattle lobby financially control the public health mechanisms in this country.

So go ahead Jimmy, eat that burger- just make sure there's no organic spinach on it!

= Evil...?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

apple pickin' + Oktoberfest

Well, wouldn't you know it, as soon as I posted the Friday food round-up, I fell deathly ill! Ok, not deathly, but a pretty bad cold/flu thing that had me miserable and comatose all of Friday and Saturday. Today, however, I miraculously woke up feeling better, so we decided to celebrate by going apple picking. We found O'Neill's Farm, and it looked like they had many different varieties of apples, so we went for it.

To our great surprise, O'Neill's Farm also has pick your own raspberries- for only $1.50 a pint, and who can resist that?

Even though the farm warned that it was a "slow picking day" we had no problem finding enough to fill our pint- and they were so sweet. I realized today that I'd never had a raspberry that hadn't come from a market!

On to the apples...

The trees were literally bending from the weight of all the apples.

We decided to go for Cortland apples, because we were told they were the best for baking.

Daiku and I realized that we have very different preferences when it comes to apple picking. He likes to pick ones from way up high on the trees...

While I prefer small and unusual looking apples. I'm convinced that apples with funny marks or patterns on them taste better- go figure.

Our loot!

The peck of apples cost $4.50. We picked Cortlands, Crispins, and McIntosh.

I can never keep all the different varieties straight. I do know that my favorites are Pippins, which I almost never see in New York. Check out this website for an extensive list of apples.

So the apples, the raspberries, and the 2 apple fritters Daiku picked up

...came to $8.50. Not bad for a morning of fun.

On the way home, we swung by downtown, where this weekend's Oktoberfest celebrations were coming to an end. Was I the last person on earth to realize that Oktoberfest is actually in September?...

(Wait... isn't that a west German flag...?)

It was fun to listen to a German band and watch people dance and polka

But the smell of all the food made us really hungry, so we rushed home and ate a vegan German meal of Tofurky dogs with mustard and sauerkraut. A delicious end to a great day- but then again, everything tasted better when you're recovering from sickness! Watch out for lots of apple goodies in next Friday's food round-up...


Friday, September 22, 2006

First Fall Friday Food Round-up

Welcome to the first day of Fall!

When it comes to blogging about food, I'm very undisciplined. Even when I remember to photograph the food that we cook and eat, I never get around to blogging about it. So I've decided to create a new feature on this blog called "Friday Food Round-up" where I will share any notable food from the previous week with you guys.

*Warning* Long post ahead!

First, I had a fig frenzy day. Daiku and I had had dried figs sitting around for a long time, and hadn't done anything with them. I know how good dried figs are, with loads of calcium and iron, but I just don't like munching on them the way I like fresh figs. So I soaked them in water for a couple of days to soften them up, and made the following:

1. Moroccan spiced "meatballs" with figs

I saw this recipe on the blog What do Vegans Eat? posted by Shelly. You can see her recipe in the comments section of the post. These came out so good! Not only did the figs and the Moroccan spices give it a fabulous sweet & savory flavor, but the texture was so great. The secret was using wheat gluten, which made them chewy and easy to form. I modified Shelly's recipe by using soaked dried figs instead of fresh, by adding some oats because I didn't have as much TVP as the recipe called for, by using Vegemite instead of Marmite (because otherwise, my Aussie friends wouldn't forgive me!) and by not making the sauce, eating the meatballs with BBQ sauce, instead. I tell you, try this recipe, it's the most successful meatballs I've made yet-thanks, Shelly!

The "secret" ingredient.

What to do with the rest of the figs? I had seen this recipe for skinny fig bars on Fatfree Vegan's blog, and set about making it. Have you ever taken a recipe and mangled it so bad that the end result doesn't really bear any resemblance to the original? This is what I kind of did, but not on purpose. It's just that I didn't read the recipe all the way through, so I'd realize that I didn't have the correct ingredients when I was already in the middle of making it. So I modified the recipe, and it doesn't really qualify as fat-free anymore, but it turned out really delicious! So with thanks to Susan V. for inspiration, here is my recipe for:

Bazu's not too figgy fig bars:


8 ounces dried figs (soaked overnight in water to soften)

4 ounces date pieces

1 handful almonds, silvered or chopped

1 tbsp. Just Like Honey (you can find this at other vegan liquid sweetener)
2 tbsp. water (use liquid from soaking figs)

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ginger


1 cup steel-cut oats, ground into flour (I used my Magic Bullet blender)
1/2 cup walnuts, ground into fine meal
handful almonds, roughly ground/chopped
3 TB Earth Balance margarine
2 TB Just Like Honey (or other vegan liquid sweetener)


3 TB powdered sugar
1-2 drops vanilla extract
enough water to make a thick paste

Preheat oven to 375. Blend all the ingredients for the filling. Set aside. Blend all the ingredients for the crust, making sure margarine is well incorporated. Take 1/2 of crust and press into the bottom of a lightly oiled baking dish. (I used an oval, but any dish around 8x8 in.) Pour filling over that and smooth down. Pour rest of crust and press down to cover the filling. Bake for 30-35 minutes. You may want to broil for the last 1-2 minuts to brown the top crust. Remove from oven. Wait until completely cooled to spoon swirls of icing on top and cut into bars.

These were great! The cinnamon and ginger are such good counterparts for the fig. I had one bar for breakfast one morning and was full until 3 or 4 p.m. Thanks again to Susan V. for the original recipe which I so badly mangled.

Next, some marinated tofu. I drained extra firm tofu and marinated in a mixture of:

fresh ginger
fresh garlic
rice vinegar
sesame oil
chilli oil
chilli paste
maple syrup
dry rose wine (any dry wine would do)

After marinating for several hours, I browned them in the cast iron skillet:

We ate these over a bed of grated cucumber, carrots, daikon, and scallions dressed with the tofu marinade. Very light and refreshing dinner.

Here's an interesting sandwich filling I came up with:

I mashed leftover steamed tempeh with chilli paste, avocado, chopped onion and cilantro and ate on whole wheat toast. I loved this, but warning, you have to love tempeh and love cilantro to like this sandwich!

Every week, when I go to the market, I go to the organic section and see which greens look best. This week, the prize definitely went to the gorgeous and enormous bunch of red swiss chard.

Daiku made his famous beans & greans.

This is the red chard in some water with chopped onion, which we ate on a bed of cannelini beans cooked with a lot of garlic and fresh rosemary.

This is one of our all-time favorite dinners, and you can use any bean and any green. Mmmm.

Here's a gratuitous shot of a gorgeous red avocado. I had to have it when I saw it, but I don't know if the red skin means the inside looks or tastes any different.

I'd seen so many bloggers lately post about ice cream, so one morning, I really craved this "breakfast ice cream" made in the magic bullet by combining some frozen banana, frozen mixed berries, flax meal, and a smidge of soymilk:

The texture was so great- surely this is too decadent for brekkie?...

But what I was most proud of this week was my trio of pestos, inspired by Crystal, the Vivacious Vegan and her creativity with pestos.

The weather has been so cold lately, that we moved all our potted herbs inside.

Here are our tree-like Italian and purple basil plants:

From left to right, I made sun-dried tomato pesto with walnuts, cilantro pesto with walnuts and walnut oil (I found a big bunch of organic locally grown cilantro at the food co-op and just couldn't resist!) and Pesto Genoese with pine-nuts and olive oil.

And I froze them so here are at least 3 nights worth of dinners-hooray!

Here is just one last recent meal that I haven't gotten around to blogging about:

Possibly my all-time favorite meal: black-eyed peas warmed up with cumin and coriander, roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary, collard greens topped with a garden heirloom tomato and onions, and a corn muffin topped with Earth Balance. I could eat this every single night.

I hope some of these things inspired you, because reading all of your blogs inspires us to cook almost every day!

Have a great first day of Fall, everyone!