Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Random North African stew

It was a night for cleaning out the fridge and I knew, this being another dreary afternoon and evening, that soup would be the outcome.  I wasn't starving, having had a pretty substantial breakfast and lunch, but I didn't want to let any of what had been in the fridge for days (especially the celery) go bad.  So, I basically just chopped up everything that I knew had been in there a while, plus a zucchini that Steve brought home from the store this evening, then added some spices and our evening meal was ready by the time Jeopardy came on!

Random North African stew:
2 tbsp Earth Balance
2 tbsp olive oil
6 ribs celery, sliced, including leaves
1 small onion, diced
1 medium or large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1" chunks
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 medium carrots, cut into 1" chunks
2 small red potatoes, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2" pieces
4 cups vegetable broth
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
1 8-oz. package seitan, cubed
2 tbsp ras el hanout (I made mine from a Vegetarian Times recipe, but here's another one)
1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
1 tbsp dried cilantro
black pepper to taste

Heat Earth Balance and olive oil in a 4 quart pot over medium heat.  Add celery, stir and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add onion and cook another 3 minutes.  Add zucchini and tomatoes and cook another 5 minutes.  Add carrots and potatoes and cover with broth and tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.  Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer until potatoes and carrots are cooked, another 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Comfort food for a dreary evening

One thing I've loved about this New Year's Day is that I managed to get a few things done and also had time for a cozy afternoon of reading on the Nook I got for Christmas (Steve always gives great gifts!).  The current selection: Dr. Colin Campbell's The China Study.  Having been vegetarian for two years now and vegan for one, I find it amazing that I'm still learning things from this book even though, with me, he's preaching to the choir.  I'm also dismayed that so few people know of the evidence presented in the book that a plant-based diet is far more effective at preventing and reversing chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc.) than any of the medical or surgical interventions that people think are an inevitability once they're diagnosed.  If you haven't done so already, do yourself a giant favor and read it!

As stated in the title of this post, this was a rather dreary (and rainy, for a short while) New Year's Day - perfect for cozying up with a book and a cute kitty and then making comfort food for dinner.  Like with lunch, I just used what was on hand because I haven't been shopping in a few days and didn't care to leave the house once we got back from out of town.  Normally I like to garnish this cassoulet dish with some fresh parsley, but I was fresh out.  No worries - cooking the dark green parts of the leeks, an idea shunned by many American cooks even though they taste fine cooked, provided ample greenery.  I also normally serve this by itself as a one-dish meal, but tonight I also roasted some red potatoes just because I felt like it.

Cannellini bean cassoulet:
2 tbsp Earth Balance
3 ribs celery, chopped
5 skinny carrots, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
2 leeks, sliced (light and dark green parts)
2 cups black-eyed pea cooking liquid from lunch (veggie broth is good too)
2 cans cannellini beans with their liquid
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

In a wide saucepan, heat Earth Balance over medium heat.  Add celery and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  (Somehow, celery always takes longer for me than carrots.)  Add carrots and cook another 3-5 minutes.  Add leeks and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add broth or bean liquid, plus cannellini beans and their liquid, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook until carrots have softened and liquid has reduced by a third, another 5-7 minutes.  Stir in nutritional yeast until dissolved, then add breadcrumbs and stir well.  (You may only want to use 1/2 to 3/4 cup to achieve desired consistency.)  Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Roasted red potatoes:
10-11 small red potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp regular salt or salt substitute (I used NoSalt)
fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tsp dried Italian herbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and set down potatoes.  Add olive oil and toss potatoes in the pan with your hands.  Sprinkle on salt, pepper and herbs and toss with hands again.  Bake for 30 minutes, remove from oven and serve.

Happy New Year!

Well, 2012 ended on a positive note overall.  My last two runs were the Cold Winter's Day 5K, completed in 21:01 (chip time), and a sub-freezing 13-miler on New Year's Eve in about 1:41 or 1:42.  After partying away the last few moments of 2012 and then sleeping in this morning, I'm happy to say that Steve and I rang in the New Year with some homemade Hoppin' John for lunch!

If you're from the South, you know that this is what you do on New Year's Day to ensure good luck and prosperity in the coming year.  The beans are the color of coins, and the okra (my preference; collards or other greens are the norm) are the color of money.  I like to think that my healthier, bacon-free version will help keep my medical expenses low...

This recipe is simple and comes together in the time it takes to cook the brown rice.  Since we were just getting back to Columbia from an overnight New Year's shindig out of town, it was nice that everything I needed was already on hand, only a few dishes and utensils were used and no chopping was required.

Hoppin' John:
2 cups water
1 cup brown rice
1 pound thawed frozen black-eyed peas
1 tbsp canola oil
2 cups thawed frozen okra
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup thawed frozen onions
3 packets Swanson's vegetable broth concentrate
1 tbsp chipotle hot sauce (or to taste)
2 tbsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add rice, stir well and cook, covered with a tight-fitting lid, until all liquid is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.

In a separate pot, cover black-eyed peas with about 1 inch of water.  Bring to a boil and cook on medium-low until peas are very soft, about 20 minutes.  Drain all but 1/2 cup of bean liquid and reserve for another use (I'll probably use it in tonight's cassoulet).

Heat oil in a wide saucepan over medium heat.  Add okra and garlic, stir well and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add onion and oregano and cook another 3-5 minutes.  (If black-eyed peas haven't finished cooking at this point, turn off heat for veggies and turn heat back up to medium-low once peas are cooked.)

Add black-eyed peas plus 1/2 cup cooking liquid to okra mixture and stir well.  Add veggie broth concentrate and hot sauce and stir well for a few minutes, giving the peas a chance to absorb the flavors.  Add cooked rice to the mixture and stir well.  Turn off heat, let rest on the stovetop for about 5 minutes, then stir again and serve.