Tuesday, October 13, 2009

VeganMoFo: First Stew of the Season

The weather is chilly, the days are short, and it's definitely stew time. We've got a farmer's market going til Thanksgiving here, and I'm way too excited for fall veggies. I was able to find some fresh cranberry beans, which are gorgeous:

There's something therapeutic about shelling beans. It's this good ol' hands-on feeling, like I need me a porch, a rocking chair, and some lemonade. That I do.
These, along with the rest of my haul, were destined to become the first stew of the season:

The First Stew

1 Medium yellow onion
2 large garlic cloves
6 carrots
2 bell peppers
2 cups cranberry beans, shelled
1 zucchini
1 tiny jalapeño pepper
2 cups vegetable stock
Shredded fresh basil ( a good fistful)
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 cup reserved cooking liquid from beans
Olive oil for cooking the vegetables
Fresh parsley for garnish

Fill a large stock pot with warm water, and set on high heat to boil. Once it boils, add the 2 cups of shelled cranberry beans- do not add salt! It makes the beans take longer to cook / toughens them. Turn the heat to medium, where you should reach a rolling boil, and let boil for 45 minutes or so. Taste the beans for texture at around 40 minutes, and keep testing. You want them to be soft and creamy- and that can take up to an hour. It's worth the wait. Tough beans, while an awesome comeback, are not very tasty.
Chop the onion, and put your garlic through a garlic press. If you don't have a garlic press, you should get one (but we'll let you chop it this time.) Like a friend of mine said: "it will change your life." It has. It intensifies the garlic flavor, interestingly enough, which is perfect for this application.
Chop your carrots and bell peppers into roughly the same sized pieces- set aside.
Slice your zucchini into rounds, dice your jalapeño and set aside
In a large deep pot, cover the bottom with olive oil, turn to medium heat, and add your onions and garlic.
Once the onions have softened, add the bell pepper and carrots, and let cook until slightly softened, around 7 minutes.
Add the 2 cups veggie stock, marjoram, and salt & pepper to taste. Let the carrots & peppers get tender, about another 5-7 minutes.
Add the cooked beans, zucchini rounds, diced jalapeño, and fresh basil. If the mixture seems on the dry side, add the reserved bean cooking liquid here.
Taste for seasoning and adjust salt/pepper if necessary.
The zucchini takes very little time to cook, and the beans are already done, you want to heat everything through and incorporate the flavors.
Garnish with fresh parsley, the underdog of the herb world, under-rated and delicious.

Cozy up with a big ol' slice of toasted crusty bread and dig in!

Sure it's simple, it's warm, delicious, and it's just what the weather called for. Plus, you can make this recipe even quicker if you use canned cannellini beans, what's not to love?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

VeganMoFo #3 - Fall Quick Fixes

Today was the subtle, yet sudden clicking of: Oh, hello Fall. So nice to see you.

At some point earlier, I went out and bought a bunch of pumpkin butter. Usually, I do crumpets & pumpkin butter, all proper like - But today, a light switch magically flicked on, and I was illuminated. I did two simple, obvious, amazing things- and I have no idea why I'd never done them before.

One: Cold mornings on a work day, I'm an instant oatmeal packet kind of a girl. This time around, I got plain instant oatmeal, prepared it to directions, and added a couple of teaspoons of this deliciousness:

and suddenly, the morning was glorious.

Two: And do you miss those damn famous Pumpkin Spice Lattes?
Yeah, so do I.
You know what?

1 to 2 Tablespoons of Pumpkin butter
Soy or Coconut milk coffee creamer for drip coffee, or Regular soy milk if you are able to steam it
6 to 8 oz hot coffee or espresso shots

In a mug, mix the pumpkin butter with a splash of the creamer, and mix until pumpkin is completely incorporated.
Pour your hot coffee (or espresso shots) into your mug
Top off with creamer, or steamed soy mlik.

I was at work, so I did this with a K-Cup, and it was still fantastic. If you are super sneaky, carry a jar into SB and sneak some into your regular soy latte. I haven't tried that, but believe me, that's my next step. Yes, you should always have a jar of pumpkin butter with you. It's October. Why wouldn't you have one?

And to conclude our pumpkin adventure, on a bit of a tease-y note:

Pumpkin risotto, made by my visiting mother. And it's awesome.

What have we learned? Pumpkin is amazing in just about everything. But we already knew that.

On a fall related note, I picked up a can of this:

and have no idea what to do with it? Chestnut spread... It seems so full of potential- but what to do... I'm thinking cake-y type applications- Has anyone ever worked with this stuff?

Monday, October 5, 2009

VeganMoFo #2 - Some Goals

Well, It is my first VeganMoFo. It's also my 10th year being vegan, my 'Vegaversary', if you will. There should be a tiny party, but instead, I'm going to sit here and drink my lavender hot chocolate, imported from the UK by my friend Laura:

Not too shabby, really. It's flaked chocolate and pretty damned amazing.

Well MoFo of the vegan variety, I'm thinking I'd like to go out of my comfort zone with this challenge. Maybe try over the top things like Tofu Wellington, or even give bread-making another shot. Heck, I've got a vegan turducken idea in my head for a while now. It could be a kitchen disaster lesson for us all...
Or it may be a month of me cooking most nights, and posting about 2 to 3 of said nights. That may be a more fair set of goals, and recipes rather than me blathering on about how there will be recipes.

However, in the meantime, I've made:

Pumpkin spice chocolate chip walnut muffins, what I've affectionately dubbed as 'Forbidden Muffins'.
I sense more pumpkin in our future. I also sense a second attempt at chocolate bread.
You will be mine, chocolate bread. Oh yes, you will be mine...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kale, a love affair.

For my very first:
Allow me tell you about one of my very favorite things: Kale.

I like it. A lot.

If I had to choose only one vegetable- I'd be very sad, and then I'd pick kale. Man, but Brussels sprouts would be a close second. Oh! and butternut squash... Flippancy aside, kale is where it's at. Chock full of iron and vitamins, and what I'm after, deliciousness.
My favorite bits are the super young stems.

They are tender as all get out.

This is a mega simple standby regardless of the time of the year- Although, kale is a winter vegetable, so it's only gonna get better from here on out
More often than not, you see it as a garnish, or hear people say: What the hell am I supposed to do with this?
This. This is what you're supposed to do with it.

Kale is the Best

1 Bunch o' Kale
flat - Lacinato- kale, but curly kale as pictured above)
1-2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
Olive Oil for
Salt to taste
Toasted sesame seeds

Washing the kale is critical. Those oh-so-fun curly leaves hide hordes of the unknown. I've found: lady bugs, caterpillars, cocoons, much dirt, and other fun stuff that you should just go put back outside.
Separate the leaf from the stems. Unless they are very tiny leaves, the stems are too woody for this quick cooking application. I tear them away in bigger chunks.
Let them drain on a tea towel, and slice your garlic.
In a large saucier (you want high sides for this), start the garlic in the oil on medium heat.
The heat for this recipe is going to stay towards the higher end. We want to do this quickly, so that the greens stay vibrant. Keep things moving around with your wooden spoon.
Once the garlic starts to sizzle, add your kale in batches.
Basically, it goes like this:
Fill up the pan with kale.
Toss the kale about until it wilts.
Add more oil if your kale seems dry.
Add more kale and toss about.
Repeat until there's no more kale.
It will sizzle and pop, because water hides really well on the leaves, but the more kale you add, the less space it has to pop.
Once you've got all the kale in the pan and it's wilted down, add salt to taste.
Turn off the heat, and add sesame seeds (a Tablespoon or two)

I get mine at the Asian market because it is a crazy good deal, and I go through these like nobody's business.
I like slightly crispy bits to my kale, so sometimes I let the kale batches brown the slightest bit before I add more.

There have been summers where I've survived solely on this stuff. While that's not exactly the best idea, it is still quite delicious- and if you're hesitant to try this mysterious green, this is a great, simple introduction to it.