Saturday, July 31, 2010

Indian Food!

When we used to live in NYC, J and I had a favorite place on Houston Street for Indian food. It was called Punjabi, a little hole-in-the wall that catered mostly to cab drivers. It was dirt cheap and everything served was vegetarian.

Since moving to Pittsburgh, we've gone to quite a few Indian restaurants, some of them good, some of them just okay. But there was nothing that could compare to Punjabi. Until we tried Sree's. This is another little hole in the wall, and like Punjabi, the portions are big and shockingly cheap. It's $6 for the vegetarian/vegan special, which includes rice, four dal or curry dishes, and half a pita bread (also vegan). The portions are enough for both dinner and lunch, at least for me.

Here's a picture. I ate quite a bit before I remembered to snap the shot, so this isn't an accurate indication of how much food they actually give you. There was a chickpea curry, a tomato dal, and a black-eyed pea and spinach dish.
So good! If you're ever in the Pittsburgh area, you must try Sree's. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010


We had zuccanoes from The New Moosewood Cookbook tonight. Zucchinis stuffed with mushrooms, brown rice, onion, garlic, and minced almonds, and topped with daiya "cheese." It was relatively easy to make, and has a nice retro vibe going on.
I made a side dish of mushrooms, snap peas, and ginger sauteed in Trader Joe's black pepper sauce. I love the stuff! I strongly encourage everyone to go out and get a bottle.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What We Eat on a Typical Weeknight

So, I haven't posted a lot lately because I've been doing quite a few "repeat" meals. When I like a particular entree, I tend to make it pretty frequently. But I did take pictures of what we have to eat on a typical night.

I've been brewing up the Nabeyaki Udon from The Kind Diet every other week or so. It's a great, fast meal, and really healthy as well. Also, this may sound strange, but preparing the udon is a very calming activity for me. There is something peaceful about watching the vegetables simmer in the shiitake mushroom broth. It's an equally peaceful meal to eat -- all subtle, earthy, warming flavors, even with the soy sauce mixed in. The Kind Diet features a lot of macrobiotic dishes, the nabeyaki udon being one, and from what little I've read, macrobiotic food is supposed to make you feel more balanced.
I don't normally take pictures of what we eat with our entrees, which is normally a salad or some kind of vegetable dish side dish. On this particular night, I was feeling the need for some kale. I have a kale chip recipe from the June 2010 issue of Veg News that I make a lot.
I also filled a couple of soy sauce dishes with the great cabbage kimchi I made from Ani's Essential Raw Food Essentials. J told me that this is now his favorite pickle of all time. I love it too. So much that I went out and bought Korean red pepper seasoning (instead of the red pepper flakes used for pizza and pasta) for a more authentic taste the next time I make kimchi.

But that doesn't mean I have to stop making other pickles. There's a great recipe for Radish Umeboshi Pickles in The Kind Diet. I have no great love for radishes, but this pickle is pretty amazing. Here it is, pickling away in the umeboshi vinegar.
And sometimes, we have to have our cake and eat it too. Or in this instance, cupcakes. I haven't had a cupcake since becoming a vegan, which is kind of odd, because I have always been a certifiable cupcake fiend. I borrowed a copy of Isa and Terry's Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World from the library and thought about making a batch, but it never happened. But yesterday, I decided: it was time to have a cupcake. I knew our local Dozen Bake Shop had a different vegan offering every day, so J and I stopped there on the way home. I was so excited to see that the flavor (written on a cute little blackboard) was red velvet! But there was a line drawn it -- they had run out!

J could tell by the look on my face that I was determined to have a cupcake. We drove to a cupcake shop in Shadyside called CoCo's that also sold vegan cupcakes, but it looked like the place had shut down. Instead of driving around to another place that might disappoint me, I dialed 411 and called the Lawrenceville branch of Dozen Bake Shop. They have five locations, because that's how good their pastries are! Anyway, I'd never been to the Lawrenceville store, but knew that it was the most-expanded of the stores, selling sandwiches and even offering brunch on the weekends.

Did they have any vegan cupcakes left? Yes, they did! The guy on the phone actually counted them out for me. They had 14 vegan cupcakes. 14!!! I bought two, one for me and one for J, for driving us around for an hour on a mad vegan cupcake hunt.

Here's the cute bag they were bundled in, featuring Dozen's logo.

And here it is, the prettiest cupcake ever.
Here's a closer view.

It was a great cupcake. I'd had the non-vegan cupcakes from Dozen before, and the vegan red velvet did not disappoint. I could have eaten the frosting alone with a spoon, it was that good.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Happy Birthday J!

We were in upstate New York this weekend, celebrating J's birthday with his relatives. Of course I made a special birthday spread -- Arroz Con Seitan from Viva Vegan!which is one of J's favorites dishes, and a Strawberry Bundt Cake from 500 Vegan Recipes 
I bought a bundt cake pan specifically for this recipe, and was concerned about flipping it out of the mold, but it went very smoothly. The cake itself had a very subtle strawberry taste that mingled nicely with the cardamom. But it was nowhere near as sweet as I like my desserts! Maybe I should have sprinkled it with powdered sugar and sliced strawberries as the cookbook suggested. Anyway, J, his mom, aunt and uncle all seemed to enjoy it, so that's all that matters.

Here's a picture of everyone having drinks and chips before the cake was served.
On Sunday we had lunch at my father-in-law's house. He's been very supportive of my switch to veganism, and made a huge vegan lunch for us: steamed carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, red and green peppers cooked with onions and garlic, a big bowl of cherry tomatoes, and a navy bean and onion salad. Everything was great!

Other highlights included a big pot of borscht I made for J and his mother, but the camera's been acting up again and every picture I took was blurry. Believe me, the next big purchase I plan on making is a new camera.

Before we left Pittsburgh for the weekend, I did manage to prepare some Napa Cabbage Kimchi from Ani's Raw Food Essentials. Kimchi is a traditional Korean pickle, usually made from cabbage or cucumber. Growing up in Hawaii, kimchi was practically a staple for most local famililes I knew -- mine included. I rarely buy kimchi anymore, especially after I discovered that some kimchi contain brined seafood, but I am always up to the challenge of making my own!
It takes 2-3 days for the cabbage to properly ferment, which meant we were able to try some of it tonight. Wow, this is good! Salty, spicy, and tangy, everything kimchi should be. I imagine it'll be even better tomorrow.

I'm interested in trying a few raw food recipes, especially now that it's so hot out, and Ani's Raw Food Essentials looks like the perfect place to start. Of course I'll take lots of pictures of what I make.

I'll end with a picture of my great husband, enjoying a beer at a restaurant patio on the lake. Happy birthday, J!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quesadillas and Doctor Appointments

Here's what we had for dinner tonight: Tuscan-Style White Bean Quesadillas with Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. This was from Supermarket Vegan, and it was a great, quick week day meal. I added a handful of baby bella mushrooms to the quesadilla filling, and topped the quesadillas with our homemade salsa instead of the suggested spaghetti or pizza sauce.
And now, a tiny rant. I went to the doctor last night for my three month check-up. My blood sugar level went down a whopping 22 points, which was fantastic. But it dawned on me that I basically go to the doctor to have him read out the results of the blood test. The rest of the visit was spent with him trying to find things that might possibly be wrong with me. This time it was a referral to a nutritionist, despite the fact that I am still losing weight and am eating more fruits and vegetables than I have in years. And then a referral to a endocrinologist so he/she can stick a needle in my throat to determine if I have a goiter! Um, no thanks. I have never had anything wrong with my throat, and don't feel the need to pay a costly co-pay and whatever my insurance doesn't cover just to have a procedure done that frankly isn't necessary.

I very clearly told the doctor that I felt "great," but I suspect that he doesn't feel an appointment is complete unless he hands his patients at least two or three referrals. Maybe there are kick-backs involved? I don't know. But I left the office feeling very disillusioned. There's something wrong with a medical system that encourages doctors to rush in and out of rooms, barely reading patient charts, and writing up a storm of prescriptions and referrals. There is so little emphasis on preventive medicine, and such an eagerness to prescribe bottles and bottles of medication, many of which have alarming side effects that need to be treated by more medication.

The American people (myself included) would like to believe that our country, in the form of both private corporations and government-run safeguards like the FDA, ultimately wants what is best for us. The medicine on the market is supposed to heal us, the food (even the heavily processed stuff) is supposed to nourish us. It took me a long time to realize that things like soda and candy are not only not innocuous, but the corporations that manufacture them and the administrations that regulate them are fully aware of how dangerous they are. These entities just don't care, not when there is an ungodly profit to turn.

In the meantime, there is skyrocketing levels of child obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease. We go to our doctor, and instead of suggesting we stop eating the chips or lunch meats or soda, we are given bottles of medication. Medication that in turn, (like Avandia is suspected of doing) expose us to even more health risks.

Oops. I guess this wasn't exactly a "tiny" rant after all. Sorry, guys. I promise my next blog post will be about the yummy vegan food again, no soap-boxing!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer's Bounty

I've been addicted to fruit lately. There's strawberries, black cherries, raspberries, and blueberries in my refrigerator as I write this. I slice some of the fruit to eat with toasted buckwheat groat or oatmeal in the mornings, and eat handfuls as a snack, but that still leaves quite a bit of fruit just lying around. And as J has pointed out, the refrigerator is pretty much stuffed to capacity.

With that in mind, I decided to use up the blueberries for our Sunday brunch: Blueberry Breakfast Polenta from Get it Ripe. This took 30 minutes of diligent stirring, most of it done by J, the best husband in the world. The polenta tasted great with a little maple syrup drizzled over it.
Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that I've been obsessed with canning and preserving lately? Well, that wasn't an exaggeration. I've already canned salsa and pickles this summer, so decided to switch things up a little and try jams and preserves. J and I both love marmalade, so I was really excited to make the "Down South" Orange Marmalade from Lip Smackin' Jams & Jellies.

This involved two lemons, two valencia oranges, and a dubious amount of sugar. Also, an insane amount of time spent soaking and boiling fruit (lots of stirring happened in our kitchen today). Now, I've never tried a southern-style marmalade before, so I have no point of reference. But the marmalade I made turned out to be bitter instead of sweet. Also, I couldn't get the right jelly consistency. There's a spoon test to see if the jelly is done, but no matter how long I boiled the marmalade, I couldn't get it to do anything other than fall off the spoon in clumps. Sigh. I think I must have done something wrong, but I'm not sure what it was.

Here's a picture of it in the glass jar. It's pretty, but I'm reluctant to eat it if it has a ton of white sugar and doesn't taste great. J claims to really like the marmalade, however, and has taken full responsibility for making sure it doesn't go to waste. 
I felt really discouraged by the whole marmalade experience. This made me more determined than ever to make a successful fruit spread. And hmm, I had both cherries and strawberries in surplus, so I made a batch of strawberry and cherry preserves from Lip Smackin' Jams & Jellies.

Isn't it beautiful? And it tastes delicious, the kind of delicious that makes you say "mmm" out loud. I definitely want to make this recipe a few more times before cherries go out of season, just so we'll be able to have sweet cherry and strawberry goodness in January and February.

Okay, enough with the fruit already!! Yesterday I had a bowl of groats (with a dollop of peanut butter) for dinner, but tonight I decided to cook a proper meal.

It has occured to me that my cooking habits are very odd. In the winter I use my slow cooker all the time, and now that it's summer, I'm either simmering a soup or two, or baking a casserole. And our kitchen gets very hot in the summertime. So after the long hours of boiling fruit and stirring polenta, I thought: why not break out the slow cooker?

I made the Braised Seitan with Red Wine and Mushrooms from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. When I was an omnivore, I used to make beef burgundy a lot, and this is a tasty, healthier vegan substitute. The wine, thyme and a bit of Gravy Master gave the stew a nice depth of flavor.  I served it over brown rice, with kale chips and a tossed salad.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Last night I made the Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits from Veganomicon. I'd never even had a cassoulet before in my life, but it is pure deliciousness. Perhaps a little more suited for the winter than the 90+ degree temperatures we've been having lately ... but delicious just the same. The biscuits alone are gold-star worthy.

Here's a picture of the cassoulet, just out of the oven:
And here's a picture of the cassoulet served up.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Making Bread in the Middle of the Night

I'm lucky and usually don't have any trouble sleeping, but last night I just couldn't fall asleep. I lay awake for hours before finally deciding to get up and do something useful ... I baked.

After looking through my cookbook collection, I found a recipe for Ginger Bread in How It All Vegan. It was perfect, as I always have a stash of fresh ginger, and even had a little container of crystallized ginger. The only ingredient I didn't have was molasses, but figured it would be okay to use brown rice syrup instead.
I haven't baked anything for a long time (trying to limit my intake of white flour and sugar), but reasoned with myself that brown rice syrup made this a healthy-ish baked good. Still lots of white flour, but oh well. At three o'clock in the morning, it seems almost obscene to cook a pasta dish or make a big pot of soup, but baking felt right somehow. And the ginger bread is seriously good. It's moist and mildly sweet. I might add another 1/4 cup of crystallized ginger next time I make this, but otherwise I think this recipe was perfect. 
On a side note, I am now completely obsessed with canning. I want to go to an U-pick berry farm sometime very soon and try making preserves or jelly. I envision a pantry filled with homemade jars of fruit and veggies -- seriously, how wonderful would that be??

Anyway, I'll probably post again tonight, as I'm about to go into the kitchen to make some cassoulet for dinner!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Soup for the Fourth of July

No grilling out for us today. We decided to do things a little differently, and made a batch of Roasted Yellow Pepper and Corn Bisque from Veganomicon instead.
Now, here is soup done right. The sweetness of the bell peppers, corn, coconut milk, and maple syrup is a wonderful contrast against the hot peppers and limes. The maple syrup and lime combo worried me a little, but I knew from past experience that Isa and Terry (the Veganomicon authors) would never leave a vegan cook astray. How right I was.

I've been going through phases with cookbooks lately -- maybe you noticed my recent infatuation with The Vegan Table? Anyway, this week will be very Veganomicon-centric. Just to let you know.  

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Week in Review

Because it's been so long since my last post, I have a smorgasboard of food pics to share!
First off is Zesty Za'atar Pan Pizzas from the June 2010 issue of Veg News (and contributed by the super-fantastic Terry Hope Romero). J and I used to have za'atar bread at Zaytoons, this great Middle Eastern restaurant around the corner from my Brooklyn apartment. It was one of the foods I missed the most when we moved to Pittsburgh. So when I found za'atar spice at Whole Foods, I was so excited. And let me tell you, these za'atar pizzas did not disappoint.
I don't have a cast-iron skillet, so could not make cute little personal pan pizzas, just one large sheet of pizza. The pizza crust tasted great, and the kalamata olives, red olives made for very vibrant toppings. Yum! And it tasted even better the next day.

Needless to say, I will make these again.

Chili-Oil-Infused Soba Noodles from The Vegan Table was my next culinary challenge of the week. I loved how easy it was to throw the ingredients together, marinate the noodles (I substituted the soba noodles for mung bean noodles, which worked great) overnight, and toss in some grated carrots, sliced bell peppers, and scallions.  
Sesame oil and chili oil make a wonderful combination. The noodles looked simple, but tasted so flavorful. J and I both agreed that this dish was another keeper.

I get kinda ambitious over the weekends. Last Sunday I got it into my head to make homemade pickles. I bought a little baggie of spice mix from the store, but decided to leave it in the cabinet for now and made Dutch Lunch Spears from The Joy of Pickling.
I purchased two and a half pounds of cucumbers from the Farmer's Market, which made two quarts of pickles. Unfortunately, I can't tell you how these taste yet, because they need to sit for at least two more DAYS!!! So in the meantime, we can admire how pretty the cucumbers, sliced onions, garlic cloves, and dill sprigs look floating about in the vinegar mixture.

UPDATE: These pickles are great! They taste slightly sweet and crisp, in no way resembling the sickly sweet stuff you can get at the grocery stores. My copy of The Joy of Pickling belongs to the library and is due back soon, so I need to get my own copy ASAP for more pickling adventures!

I'm really into quick and easy summertime meals, and Orzo Salad with Lemon, Corn, Olives, and Basil fit into this category nicely. This recipe is from Supermarket Vegan, the cookbook I decided to get after making a great strawberry cobbler (and blogged about in an earlier post). I'm so glad I did. The orzo salad had a perfect summery taste, not too heavy, the corn adding a surprisingly complimentary sweetness to the olives.

There is some talk about having a pot luck at work, and if there is one, this is the pasta salad I'll bring in. It's perfect for vegans and non-vegans alike.

And now ... what happens when you don't carefully read through a recipe. I wasn't feeling very well a few days but was intent on having homemade soup. Specifically, the Rustic Tomato Lentil Soup from How it All Vegan. I love any soup made of fresh tomatoes, and was way too excited about the box of alphabet noodles I bought from the store. So anyway -- J and I did the veggie prep together, and then, because I was going to go lie down, I gave him the recipe and told him how long the soup should simmer, when to throw in the noodles, that kind of thing. Only -- I told him to use the whole box of alphabet noodles instead of the one cup the recipe specified. And what happens when you add too many noodles to a soup?
It ceases to be soup! I heard J shouting, "All the liquid disappeared!" from the kitchen. Ack! Poor J, this was his first attempt at making soup. I hope I haven't scared him away from a second try. Not that it didn't taste good. It did, but frankly, our version was pasta with a bit of soup added to it.

And now, for an endorsement: seaweed is good for you. Everyone should eat a lot more of it. Especially when it's mixed into a great side dish like Gingered Green Beans with Hijiki, from The Kind Diet. At this point, I think I've tried half of the recipes from the KD. I loved every single one of them.  

Anyway, back to the green beans. This was so good, I ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning. And I'm pretty traditional about my breakfast foods, so that tells you something.

Here's a picture of it, served with a nicely grilled soy cheese sandwich. Unfortunately, the cheese didn't melt, but it still tasted pretty good. And hey, who needs melted cheese when you have hijiki?