Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Sweet Sixteen Birthday Dinner Revisited

For those of you who don't already know, today's my birthday.  Over the weekend, when I was thinking about what I might like to do for dinner tonight (go out or dine in?), it occurred to me that the most memorable birthday dinner I've ever had was for my sweet sixteen, on this date 20 years ago.  (So guess how old I am now?)  I remember that, after a bad day at school, I came home crying about something or other, and when I settled down my dad asked me what I'd like for dinner.  I told him kielbasa, sauerkraut and black-eyed peas, so that's what he made. 

Das ist richtig, y'all.  And when I say my dad "made" it, I mean he heated everything.  The black-eyed peas and sauerkraut were from cans, and the kielbasa was sliced lengthwise and thrown on the skillet just like any other day.  That was how we ate back then, and until I learned to cook it was all good. 

As it happens, we've had frozen black-eyed peas and a package of Tofurky kielbasa in the fridge for a few weeks now, waiting to be used, and tonight seemed like a special opportunity to bring those unlikely flavors together once more and make the most of my vegan cleanse.

I "made" the vegan kielbasa the same as before - sliced and heated in the toaster oven until slightly browned.  Instead of popping open a can of black-eyed peas, I thawed some of the frozen ones and threw them in the pressure cooker along with some chopped bell pepper, onion and broth, adding a couple of teaspoons of chipotle Tabasco sauce at the very end.  In place of the sauerkraut, I picked up a head of cabbage and made the equally flavorful cabbage with coconut poriyal recipe from my Indian cookbook.  Delish! 

On a side note, Steve gave me a copy of Skinny Bitch which I can't wait to read!  But not tonight - after the dishes are washed (also his treat), we'll be settling in front of the TV, indulging our new addiction to Breaking Bad (we just ditched the cable and are Netflixing all the episodes in order) while munching on vegan cupcakes that he also picked up at Earth Fare today!

Hope everyone's having as lovely an evening as me!  Until next time...

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Soup with Broccoli Risotto

Well, I'm back, and happy (belated) 2012.  Hopefully some of you are still sticking to your New Year's Resolutions.  One of mine is to participate officially in the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, which means that, unlike back in September, I've actually signed up to do the full three weeks instead of noncommittally seeing how long I can stand it.  I hung in for three weeks and change a few months ago, so I figure I can do it again.  One of the neat things about participating in the Kickstart is the daily emails from vegan celebrities: until today I assumed that Alicia Silverstone and John Salley (of Bulls, Lakers and Pistons fame) were their best-known celebrity spokespeople, but today's message of encouragement was from none other than Steve-O!  Did anyone else out there know he's a vegan?  I thought that was very surprising and cool.  Anyhoo...

Day 8 is winding down after a thoroughly enjoyable meal of soup and risotto.  The inspiration for the soup was in the current issue of the Vegetarian Times, and the risotto was inspired by the availability of broccoli in the fridge and arborio rice in the cupboard.  After working all weekend and having today off, I was finally able to make this happen, which also means that I have leftovers for later in the week!

Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Soup:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 medium Russet potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
half of one large white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper or to taste
2 red bell peppers, roughly chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Spinach pesto for coulis (recipe follows)

Heat oil in soup pot over medium heat.  Add next three ingredients and stir well to coat with oil.  Saute for 7 minutes.  Add next three ingredients, stir and cook another 3-5 minutes.  Add bell pepper and broth, cover and simmer on medium-low until potatoes and peppers are tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool, then puree in batches and return to pot.  Add salt and cayenne if desired.  Serve hot with a dollop of spinach pesto in the center of the bowl.

Spinach pesto:
2.5-3 packed cups baby spinach
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place first four ingredients in food processor and puree until smooth, pouring in olive oil through chute.  (Alternatively, just throw everything in your food processor or blender and puree until smooth.)  Add salt and pepper to taste and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Broccoli risotto:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/3 cups arborio rice
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 cups broccoli florets, steamed in microwave with salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in saucepan.  Once heated, add rice and bay leaf and stir well.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add broth one cup at the time, stirring often, until all broth is incorporated and rice is creamy.  Turn off heat and stir in nutritional yeast.  Fold in broccoli and serve.