Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let There Be Pumpkins!

We took a trip to the pumpkin patch on the weekend and loaded up with lots of orangey goodness. Here is Son #3 checking out the huge pile of pumpkins at the farm, scoping out the best one. So, while I figure out what to do with this year's batch, let's not forget about these great recipes from past years. First, start off your day with Hearty Autumn Muffins. For lunch, try my personal favourite: Pumpkin Soup. And, of course, what is soup without scones (or Rustic Pumpkin Bread)? For dinner, try Fresh Pumpkin Pasta with Sage Alfredo Sauce, or a stew with Savoury Pumpkin Biscuit Topping. If you have more time on your hands, the Roasted Pumpkin and Walnut Manicotti is superb. End it all with Chocolate Pumpkin Pudding Cake, or Pumpkin Spice Sweet Rolls.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fiery Red Thai Curry

If I were like my younger brother I would have titled this "Ring of Fire Thai Curry," but I have always been more couth than him. Back in my days in Kingston I used to frequent a Cambodian/Thai restaurant called Phnom Penh. I usually always got the #15, Pad Thai, but occasionally I would branch out and try different dishes. One night my housemate and I ordered a red curry with whole finger hot chiles in it (I really can't remember the name). He dared me to eat all of the chiles from both dishes, which I promptly did (and rather regretted later). This dish is based on the memory of that dish. The Thai chiles are from my own garden (see pic below)--the only peppers that actually grew in the garden this year. They provide the perfect burst of heat in the spicy sauce.

- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- stems from 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped ginger
- generous tbsp red curry paste (or to taste)
- 1 cup veggie broth
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp vegan oyster sauce (or veggie stir fry sauce)
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 6 green Thai finger chiles, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, cubed (baked or fired, if desired)
- 2 tbsp plain soy milk
- 4 green onion, cut into 2" pieces
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the first nine ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Transfer to a wok or large pot and heat over med-hi heat. Cook for 10 mins, stirring regularly, until sauce has thickened and darkened in colour. Add broth, lime leaves, sugar, sauces, chiles, and tofu and bring to bubbling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 mins, allowing the chiles to cook and the curry to develop its flavour. Add more broth if too dry.
3. Add soy milk, green onions, and cilantro and cook for 5 mins, uncovered. Remove lime leaves, adjust seasoning to taste and serve over rice.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Italian Spinach

I know you are supposed enjoy your tomatoes in the hot and hazy days of late August, but up here in the North it takes until late September to finally get a good crop. It has been a long journey that started with planting seeds all the way back in February. I can't say that we are swimming in tomatoes since not that many ripen at one time. I had all sorts of dreams about canning my own pasta sauce this year but there is no way we have enough tomatoes to do that. Still, this year's crop is a vast improvement over last year's crop of exactly zero. So, with a few extra tomatoes on hand I whipped up this simple but tasty side dish. You could also easily turn this into a sauce to serve over pasta, as I have indicated below.

- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 small sweet onion, halved and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- about 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup dry vermouth
- 1 bunch spinach, washed and drained
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan/pot. Saute onion and garlic for 5-7 mins, until softened and golden. Add cherry tomatoes and vermouth and bring to bubbling. Let simmer for about 10 mins, until tomatoes have reduced into a sauce.
2. Add spinach, cover pan, and cook for a min or so. Once spinach begins to wilt, remove lid and cook, stirring constantly to coat spinach with sauce. Cook for a few mins, until spinach is tender but not overdone. Season to taste and serve, draining off excess liquid if needed.
3. If you want to make a pasta sauce, add about 1 tbsp of tomato paste to thicken, then toss with pasta.
Here is one of our beefstake tomatoes. Mmmmm.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Creamy Chunky Cauliflower Chowder

Say it! Say "chow-dah!" I don't think this is actually a chowder (when does soup become chowder, anyway?), but I wanted to go with an alliterative title. The temperature dipped down to 2 degrees the other night which suddenly put me in the mood for soup. Of course, now it's about 22 degrees, so that mood has passed. If it is still warm where you are, file this recipe away for later. It is creamy and chunky and perfectly satisfying. The boys loved it as well, which is great because they often balk at soups (or any dish where they can't identify the individual components or separate them out). The chowder has a slightly cheesy taste from the nooch and miso that is well-balanced by the leeks and roasted pepper.

- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp margarine
- 1 sweet onion, halved and sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 leeks, white and light green part, thinly sliced
- 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 medium red potatoes, skins on, diced
- 4 cups water
- 1 roasted yellow pepper, skinned, seeded, chopped
- 1 recipe cashew cream
- generous tbsp yellow miso
- generous tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil and margarine in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and leeks and saute for 12-15 mins, or until reduced down and golden.
2. Add cauliflower and potatoes and water (salt the water if you want). Bring to bubbling, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15-20 mins, until cauliflower and is very tender.
3. Remove half of the veggies with a slotted spoon. Add the roasted yellow pepper to the remainder and blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
4. Add removed veggies back to the pot along with the cashew cream. Add miso, mustard, and nutritional yeast and mix well. Season to taste, heat until just bubbling, and serve.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Baked Beans

You can tell that school has started again because the frequency of posts has dropped off dramatically. The boys (two of them, anyway) have already been back for two weeks and I did my first lecture today. I'll be grading essays before I know it! I don't have a real recipe tonight because I think baked beans is one of those dishes you just chuck stuff into. No two batches should ever be the same. I made a huge pot of beans and packed them away in the freezer for the boys' lunches over the next month (just reheat (add sliced veggie dogs if you want) and pack away in a thermos). The basic ingredients I play around with are:
1. Dried navy beans (or northern beans)
2. Tomato juice
3. Ketchup
4. Molasses
5. Brown Sugar
6. Maple Syrup
I soak a large bag of beans overnight, then cook for about 60 mins, until soft but not mushy. Drain and set aside. If you have time you can saute onions and garlic, otherwise you can use onion and garlic powder. I then heat a large can of tomato juice to bubbling along with a few cups of kethcup, about 1 cup each of molasses and brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of maple syrup. Next, the spicing. I like to mess around with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and mustard. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper, and bring back to bubbling. Transfer to a roasting pan and bake at 350 for about 2 hrs, stirring every 30 mins. Add more tomato juice if they get too dry.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tofu Makhani

Ah, Indian food . . . my first culinary love. I was a vegetarian for a few years starting in 1999 when Vegan Mom and I grew bored with the monotony of or diet. It wasn't until I cut out meat that I began to explore the depth and breadth of the culinary universe. Indian food quickly became a staple, and I was amazed at the number of spices I had never heard of before (reminds me of a Simpson's episode where Marge sees a spice rack and decides to check it out, convinced there must be some duplicates. Picking up a jar of oregano, she reads the label and wonders, "Ore-eh-gah-no? What the hell?") I have not made this dish in a while, but pulled out the recipe and tweaked it, much to the family's delight.

- 1/3 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
- 2 medium onions, halved and sliced
- 2/3 cup plain non-dairy yogurt
- 1/2 cup ground almonds
- 2 tsp mild chili powder
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 4 green cardamom pods, cracked open
- 1" piece fresh ginger, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup water, or veggie broth
- 2 finely chopped fresh medium tomatoes
- salt to taste
- 1 pkg tofu, cubed (I baked mine first, but you could add it as is, or fry in a bit of oil)
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup coconut milk, or cashew cream

1. If you are baking the tofu, get baking.
2. Heat margarine over medium heat in a large saucepan. Fry onions for 5-7 mins, until soft but not browned.
3. Add yogurt, almonds, spices, ginger, garlic, water, and tomatoes and mix well. Bring to bubbling, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 mins, stirring regularly. The colour should deepen and the tomatoes should cook down. Add more water or broth if the sauce thickens too much.
4. Add tofu and 1/2 of the cilantro and cook for 5 mins. Season to taste.
5. Mix in coconut milk (or cashew cream), adjust seasonings, top with remaining cilantro and serve over rice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's Almost Like Having an Asian Market

I have a habit of whining about the lack of ethnic food here in northern Ontario, but things just got a little better. For those of you who live in the Bay, TW Foods on Main Street has a respectable Asian food section. They must have expanded it recently because I remember going in there last year and not being too impressed. I thought I would share my finds with you all. Let's go right to left.

Kasoori Methi
Also known as sun dried fenugreek leaves. I could smell their pungent odour right through the packaging and found the claim that they were "hygienic, flavourful, and tasty" to be rather hilarious. I sprinkled some over some dal to boost the dish's flavour. Amazing.

Vegetable Ghee
I thought this was worth a try, but basically it is corn oil. It didn't add much to the dish I made, but the can did assure me it was fine to use for religious observances.

Sweet Soy Bean Paste

Less sweet that hoisin sauce and with a more complex flavour than soy sauce. A great way to thicken a stir fry sauce while adding some flavour.

Tamarind Concentrate

This takes all the work out of soaking dried tamarind (which you can see in the very front, left). Throw some into a Thai dish for a nice tangy flavour.

AROY-D Curry Pastes

These are actually pretty good for pre-fab pastes. I bought red, green and yellow and am happy with all three. The bonus is that they do not have and fish sauce in them. Besides chiles, they are made with galangal, garlic, shallots, kaffir lime peel, and lemongrass.

Black Glutinous Rice
I have yet to use this, but I do have a recipe for Thai rice pudding that I think would be easy to veganize.

Annatto Seeds
These are used in Caribbean dishes, I believe. I remember seeing them in a recipe somehwere, so I bought them on a whim.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bagels Aplenty

In a last hurrah before the kids go back to school, Vegan Mom and I packed up the kids and headed to Ottawa. We booked a suite in a downtown hotel equipped with a kitchen so we could cook our own meals. I am sure Ottawa has some great vegan restaurants, but we wanted to keep costs down and had no desire to cart four kids to an eating establishment and become "that family" that everyone wishes would just leave. To prep for the trip I made a ton of bagels--perfect for lunches, breakfasts, and snacks.

The basic recipe is from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, but made a few changes. Let's go from right to left:

Multi-Grain Mixed Berry Bagels:
I made the sponge out of 5 oz oat bran, 2 oz steel cut oats, 2 oz 12 grain cereal, and 9 oz white flour (plus the yeast and water the recipe calls for). I let it soak for an extra hour. In the final dough I replaced 4 oz of the white flour with vital wheat gluten. In the final minutes of kneading I added 1 1/2 cups of dried berries (I used blueberries, cranberries, and cherries).

Whole Wheat Bagels: Replace white flour with whole wheat flour, but replace 2 oz with vital wheat gluten. I find that bagels need good gluten content to remain that dense and chewy consistency.

New York Bagels: as per the recipe.

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels: as per the note on p. 122.
Here is a pic of the centre block of Parliament that Son#1 took. You can see the Peace Tower, obviously, and down on the lawn are about 100 people doing yoga. Yes, Canada is a hippie paradise.