Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Banana curry with cashews

I saw an episode of Next Iron Chef: The Redemption recently where one of the contestants had to make a main dish using banana as the challenge ingredient.  The chef, to everyone's surprise, made a banana curry dish that turned out really well and kept him on the show for at least one more episode.  I've been inspired to make one ever since, but I decided to wait until after Thanksgiving to make something completely different once I'd had enough of Thanksgiving food.  Today, with all the Thanksgiving leftovers gone, I decided to see if I could figure it out without consulting any recipes online.  (Actually, I already had but didn't like how any of them sounded.)  I managed to pleasantly surprise myself!

1 ripe banana, cut into chunks
1/2 large bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
8 oz. coconut milk
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sriracha
2 tbsp canola oil
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1 tbsp yellow curry paste (I like the Sun Luck brand)
2 green bell peppers, sliced lengthwise
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
2 lemongrass stalks
4 Thai bird chiles, crushed
1/2 cup raw cashews

Place first five ingredients in a food processor and blend until thoroughly combined and no banana chunks remain.  Set aside.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Add carrots and curry paste and saute for 3 minutes.  Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup water as needed to keep curry paste from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Add peppers and onion and saute until vegetables are tender, another 3-5 minutes.  Pour banana mixture into saucepan.  Add cashews, stir well and continue stirring until sauce begins to thicken, another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve over rice or rice noodles.  (I served it over black heirloom rice, available at Rosewood Market and Whole Foods.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Vegan Shepherd's Pie, Take Two

I was supposed to work at the hospital on Saturday, but with it being a holiday week, the patient census was low on the surgical unit and the charge nurse called early in the morning to say I could stay home.  Yay for not having to work on Saturday! 

With nine hours of time on hand that I did not expect to have, I shopped for lights and ornaments, decorated the Christmas (er, non-denominational holiday) tree, chopped veggies for a shepherd's pie and then cozied up with Steve to continue the Twin Peaks marathon that's been happening here since Steve brought home the complete series on DVD from the library on Monday or Tuesday.  After three episodes from season two, I was finally able to break away from the TV and start putting together the layers of the shepherd's pie. 

We had an unopened package of mushrooms, about a third of a pound of haricots verts that I didn't throw in the oven on Thursday and a cup or so of chopped carrots that I ended up leaving out of the stuffing, plus about four cups of leftover mashed potatoes.  With everything chopped ahead of time (I had some time on my hands earlier this afternoon when Steve made a trip to the store), putting this together was as simple as:

Vegan Shepherd's Pie with Mushrooms
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 cup diced haricots verts
1 cup diced carrots
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper
8 oz package of mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1-2 tsp sage
4 cups mashed potatoes
1 tbsp Earth Balance, shaved

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat vegetable broth in a wide saucepan over medium heat.  Add green beans, carrots, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper to taste and cook until vegetables have softened, about 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease an 8x8" or 9x9" casserole dish and set aside.  Add salt, pepper and sage to mushrooms and stir well to combine.  Add breadcrumbs and stir well. 

Pour mushroom mixture into the bottom of the casserole dish and smooth out into an even layer.  Add green bean and carrot mixture and smooth out into another even layer.  Top with an even layer of mashed potatoes.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, remove from oven.  Smooth shaved Earth Balance over the top until it melts.  Place back in the oven and bake 10 more minutes or until a crust has begun to form on top of the mashed potatoes.
Delicious.  Like with the stuffing, the sage made all the difference in the layer of mushrooms.  To my surprise, Steve ate more of this than I did!  No words of praise say as much as him eating more than me of anything!

Enjoy (or endure) your first day back to work if you had a nice, long weekend.  Spend judiciously online if you must.  Maybe I'll see some of you this evening at 701 Whaley?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Part 2: My First-Ever Vegan Thanksgiving!

Well, it was a busy 2 or 3 hours of chopping plus actual cooking, but another Thanksgiving dinner is now in the books.  I have to say, the absence of a bird made this thing a whole lot easier - even easier than last year, when I made that giant pot pie with seitan, which I kinda thought afterwards was a lot of trouble for what I ended up with.  On the other hand, the pot pie might be a good idea for some of the leftovers.  Anyway...

Seitan with Herbes de Provence and Citrus

This year I decided that, rather than making one of those awkward vegetarian "roasts" or "bakes" like Whole Foods sells pre-made in the frozen section, I would consider what flavors Steve and I like and what has worked well in the past. That meant veganizing the turkey I made four years in a row before going vegetarian. I pretty much went by intuition with this and most of the other dishes, but here are the ingredients and approximate measurements:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Earth Balance
Half of one large yellow onion, sliced lengthwise
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp freshly grated orange zest
2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 one-pound packages of chicken-flavored seitan, drained
(broth reserved)
1/2 cup reserved seitan broth
juice of 1/2 orange
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil and Earth Balance over medium heat.  Add onion, bay leaves and garlic and saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add zests and herbs, stir well and cook for one minute.  Add seitan, broth and juices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until liquid has reduced by half, about 10 more minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

While that was cooking, I made a similarly-flavored gravy by melting 2-3 tbsp Earth Balance, stirring in the same amount of flour, browning it a little and then adding in 1/2 cup of the seitan broth and the juice of the remaining orange half and lemon half.  It came out a little tangier than I'd planned, but it was still yummy over the potatoes and especially the seitan.

Basic Breadcube Stuffing

I had scanned the Interwebs a few weeks in advance to find vegan recipes for stuffing and other side dishes and vaguely remember finding a breadcube stuffing that I liked that called for mushrooms, celery and carrots, so I made my shopping list accordingly.  But lo and behold, when I went to my list of bookmarked recipes, the only one I could find for Thanksgiving was for dessert (below).  So I pretty much threw this stuffing together from memory of how my veganized spicy andouille cornbread stuffing came together.

2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 cup diced carrots
1.5 cups chopped celery
1 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sliced mushrooms
6 cups toasted bread cubes
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 tsp ground sage
2.5 cups veggie broth
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add garlic, carrots, celery and onion and cook until carrots and celery have begun to soften, about 5 minutes, adding salt to help veggies release more liquid.  Add mushrooms and cook another 3-5 minutes.

Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and add hot vegetable mixture plus parsley, thyme and sage and stir well.  Add broth, one cup at a time, then half a cup at a time, stirring very well to ensure that bread cubes are all moistened (they don't take up the liquid as readily as fresh cornbread) without making them soggy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Grease a 9x13" baking dish, then pour in stuffing mixture and smooth down the top with a spatula or a big spoon.  Bake for 30 minutes or until cubes on top have browned slightly.

Steve's review: this stuffing has "more complexity and depth" than the cornbread and sausage stuffing from last weekend (probably owing to the sage).  And he liked it, yay!

Mashed pertaters!

The first fresh vegetable I ever learned to cook and still easy peasy: 4 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-1.5" chunks, boiled in salted water until fork tender, then hand-mashed and seasoned with about 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder and ground white pepper, 1/4 cup of Earth Balance, about a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs and 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg.  Done.  They were tasty fresh, but for the leftovers I might work in a little bit of soymilk so they don't seem too dry.

Haricots verts with walnuts and rosemary

"Haricots verts" is French for green beans, but when you see the French term, they're referring to French green beans, which are the same as regular long green beans only thinner.  (I'm sure this recipe would be just as good with the regular kind.)  I came across a similarly-titled recipe somewhere that literally called for these three ingredients plus olive oil - just mix it all together, spread the beans with walnuts out on a baking sheet and roast for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  (These went in the oven a few minutes after the stuffing.)  It sounded good except that I knew that we'd enjoy them more with a little salt and pepper, so that's how I made them.  Yum!

Garlicky Kale
(Not pictured; all the photos came out too blurry.)  I had planned on making these with radishes again like I did a couple of years ago, but for some reason Whole Foods didn't have any radishes on the day I made my big Thanksgiving shopping trip and I never got around to buying them elsewhere.  No matter - this was another equally easy and delicious veggie side like the green beans with walnuts and rosemary.  Just melt 2 tbsp Earth Balance over medium heat, add a bunch of chopped kale (I think I had 6-7 big leaves' worth) and stir occasionally until they're slightly more than wilted.  Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Yum yum yum yum yum!

Crustless pumpkin pie

For dessert, I relied completely on this recipe by the Happy Herbivore.  I made this the day before so it would be completely chilled by the time it was ready to be served.  After blending all the ingredients per the recipe instructions, I tasted the mix and...holy crap, that was good!  Just like a pumpkin spice latte!  I'll have to figure out how to tweak this recipe so that it will work as a smoothie.  (Maybe just leave out the flour or substitute wheat germ or flax?  Hmm...)  Anyway, the end result turned out well, although perhaps not as firm underneath as the recipe suggested.  Next time I may make it with a crust - and there will most definitely be a next time!  I was especially glad that this turned out well because, after a lifetime of not being able to eat regular pumpkin pie due to my egg allergy, being able to eat a Thanksgiving sweet that was not apple pie made me feel like I was finally getting my just desserts.  Get it?  (Rimshot)  Thank you, I'll be here all week...

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful Thanksgiving and will enjoy the rest of the weekend!  If you're Black Friday shopping, try not to get trampled underfoot!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Part One: Brunch

Good afternoon, and happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

I wasn't hungry when I got up this morning, so Steve and I just lounged over tea and coffee as we often do on weekends and holidays.  However, after an hour or so of housecleaning, I couldn't help but notice that lunchtime was approaching and I still hadn't eaten.

We're not big breakfast people, and things like brunch and Breakfast for Dinner never, ever happen here.  Breakfast beyond hot or cold cereal doesn't even happen for breakfast.  The inspiration for the brunch we ended up having this morning was the "Brunch Village" episode of Portlandia.  In the opening scene, Fred and Carrie are reading in the paper about a new pancake place that serves, among other things, Marionberry pancakes.  (Those of you who are too young to remember can click here to learn more about why that's funny.)  Apparently, soon after the episode first aired, Bobby Flay even got in on the fun.  Anyway, while watching it I found myself thinking, "hey - my name's Marian, I have berries in the freezer and everything else we need to make pancakes.  One of these days I have to make this!"

Marianberry Pancakes

For the pancakes themselves, I used this recipe, ignoring the glaring typo about the baking powder.  For the berry topping, I just thawed a cup and a half of frozen berries (raspberries, blueberries and blackberries), heated them on the stove over medium heat and then added between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of sugar (I eyeballed it) and then let them cook for another 10-15 minutes before reducing the heat until everything else was done.  Once I was ready to start dropping pancake batter into the nonstick pan, I sliced a Tofurky vegan kielbasa and browned it in another pan.  Everything was done at about the same time, and it wasn't as much trouble as I'd expected.  Plus, since we're not big breakfast eaters, Steve and I got to enjoy a smaller "special" meal before the big one to come!

I hope everyone's having a nice Thanksgiving, wherever you are.  Stay tuned to find out what meat- and dairy-free goodness I turn out for Thanksgiving dinner this evening!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

And she's back...in time for Thanksgiving!

Well, after several months of cooking and not blogging, I've finally come back to my blog.  Why was I away so long?  Well...it's been a busy and stressful time for a variety of reasons that aren't really worth going into.  Thankfully, none of those reasons has stopped me from cooking.  Not cooking's not an option, since Steve still brings home all the produce he sees and likes. 

I guess I'd also been in a funk as far as the "Clock-Racing" part of my blog title goes, since injuries seem to be my lot in life.  Two of them this calendar year, and the first one (a recurring case of metatarsalgia) actually forced me to break down and join a gym.  The second one was a case of IT band syndrome with which I came away from the Columbia, SC Marathon in March.  I really didn't lose that much fitness (since I could still work out at the gym) or time away from running, but I still wasn't sure, two years into the blog, if I'd ever get back in the shape I was in before all the injuries started.  Well, in early October I ran the Habitat for Humanity 15K, on a wicked hilly course, and finished in 1:09:14...first overall female!  Two weeks ago I ran the Governor's Cup Half Marathon and finished in 1:38:29 (second in my age group), just four and a half minutes off my PR!  And just yesterday I ran the Runway 5K at Columbia Metro Airport in 21:39, which is about how fast I ran 5Ks in years past without having trained for one.  (Windiest.  Race.  Ever.)  They say it's not nice to brag, but I'm so happy to feel like I'm finally getting back to where I want to be as someone who races the clock for fun!

Here's a picture of the snazzy wicking socks that all of us age group winners got at the Runway Run.

Once the race was over, Steve and I enjoyed the rest of the day by having lunch at the Good Life Cafe and then going to a vegan Thanksgiving potluck that was put on by the Columbia Veg Meetup group.  We've belonged to the group since last summer, and if you live in the Columbia area you should check them out on their Meetup site and/or Facebook page!  They're a diverse and generally great group of people of all ages.  Last night was Steve's and my first vegan Thanksgiving experience (I was still lacto this time last year), and it did not disappoint!  Rosemary, the hostess, made a wonderful seitan dish as well as a nice chunky mushroom gravy for mashed potatoes, and someone else made a vegan macaroni and cheese that was absolutely divine.  If you brought the vegan mac and are reading this now, *please* email me the recipe!

My contribution to the affair was a vegan do-over of Emeril's cornbread and andouille sausage dressing.  This was pretty easy to veganize, since I've been making vegan cornbread for a while now using soy flour paste in place of the eggs, soy milk in place of dairy milk and an extra pinch of salt to help balance the flavors and keep it from being too soy-ey.  The only other substitutions I needed to make were to replace the andouille with vegan kielbasa and the chicken broth with veggie broth.  The dressing itself didn't need the eggs for binding; for that, all I did was moisten the mixture with a little extra veggie broth before putting it in the oven. 

How did it go over?  Well, despite arriving nearly an hour late and after most guests had already filled their plates, about two-thirds of it was gone by the time we left!  I'm also happy to report that the leftovers made a nice meal all by themselves for lunch today, after Steve and I spent nearly two hours raking pine straw.  It's amazing how much can accumulate in two weeks' time...

It was nice seeing a few of you yesterday, whether at the race or the potluck.  I've already planned Thanksgiving at home and bought everything I need, so expect to see another post come Thursday or Friday.  Until then...vegan, vegetarian or traditional omnivore, I hope all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember to count your blessings - not the least of which is every day you get on this Earth!