Monday, February 27, 2012

Vegan Mac and Cheese with pan roasted Brussels sprouts

In late 2006, I was diagnosed with two food allergies: dairy and egg whites.  For about three years, I ate exactly what I was supposed to - no cheating at all.  But really, eating dairy and egg free can be a challenge for two reasons.  One is that living in rural areas, it can be hard to find ingredients to cook without dairy and eggs.  The other is that as a priest, I am often not in charge of my own food.  Potlucks, visits to people in their homes, and other church events, often leave me eating what others have cooked.  It just feels ungrateful to turn things down, or to start asking probing questions about what's in everything.

So, in 2010, I started taking medication that would allow me to eat whatever I want.  Frankly, the results have been mixed, and I was recently forced to admit that I don't feel as well as I did when I was not eating what my body did not want me to be eating.  So, I am back to eating more like a vegan.

My first experiment with vegan "Mac and Cheese" was really grim.  It was gloppy and tasted horrible.  This new recipe is truly amazing.  It has much of the consistency of Mac and Cheese, but doesn't leave you with a greasy feeling in your mouth like regular Mac and Cheese.  I did some adapting of the original recipe, based on what I had on hand - and we loved it.

Macaroni and "Cheese" [adapted from V Cuisine by Angeline Linardis, Whitecap Books, 2010].
3 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T flour
1/4 c cooked carrot (I used a whole carrot, which was probably closer to a cup)
2 heaping T nutritional yeast
1 T chopped parsley (didn't have any, so I used about a T of dried tarragon, since I love it)
about 1/2 c unsweetened soy milk
1/2 t tumeric
1 t paprika (plus some for the top)
2 c cooked pasta (I had closer to 4 c on hand, so just used that, and the dish had a thinner sauce)

1. Cook the onions and garlic in the olive oil until softened.  Use the flour to make a roux, and then stir in the soy milk, stirring as you go.
2. Combine the onion-garlic-soy mixture with all of the other ingredients in a blender until smooth.  You may have to add more soy milk (I'm guessing I did because I used more carrot than the recipe called for).  Stop blending when you like the consistency that you get.
3. Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta.
4. Put it into large pie plate (I have a deep dish one) or 9x9 baking dish, sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika.
5. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes.  The sauce should be bubbling and the topping golden brown.

We ate this with a side of pan roasted Brussels sprouts.  This recipe's a keeper!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday, February 24: Buffing up the Pantry

The other thing that we did today was cook beans.  I know in my heart of hearts that using dried beans is cheaper and better than using canned ones.  My problem is that I don't usually have (or make) the time.  I knew I'd be home all day working at the dining room table, so that I could swing cooking and freezing bunches of beans.

Last night, I set 2 pounds of dried black beans, 2 pounds of dried kidney beans, and about 2.25 pounds of dried pinto beans to soak.  Over the course of the day, I cooked them up, one batch a time.  Tonight, we put them in ziplock freezer bags, in quantities of 3 cups per bag.

The economics of using dried versus canned are pretty clear.  If memory serves, we bagged 12 cups of black beans and 15 cups of kidney beans and pinto beans.  These beans were organic - and we paid (per pound) 3.86 for the black beans, 3.82 for the kidney beans, and about 2.00 for the pinto beans.  That means that rather than paying somewhere between $1.00 and $1.50 for a can of beans, our cost was .97 for the black beans, .76 for the kidney beans, and .40 for the pintos!  Hooray.  

Friday, February 24: Marinated tofu, pan roasted brussels sprouts, rice

David and I decided we would dedicate as much of today as we could to working on our taxes.  On some Fridays, I cook something more involved, just because I can.  Today, taxes got our attention, so I made a simple supper.  Tonight's dishes came (mostly) out of my own head.  I would, however, be remiss not to thank my friend Lynne, who first introduced me to the idea of pressing and marinating tofu.

Lynne's tofu - adapted
roughly 7oz tofu, pressed to remove most of the liquid, cut into thin slices
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 cooking sherry
about 1/8 cup olive oil
1 T ginger, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
about 1 t red pepper flakes
1. Mix together the marinade ingredients.
2. Marinate the tofu.  I kept mine in a tupperware on the counter all day and periodically turned it over, so that both sides of the tofu were soaked in the marinade.
3. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray (or you could use olive oil).  Cook the tofu over medium high heat, flipping it once.  You want it to brown and develop a light crust.
4. I turned the marinade into a sauce - you couldn't get away with doing this if you marinated meat but you can with tofu.  Add a bit more soy and sherry to the marinade.  Place in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat.  Add 1t cornstarch, dissolved in some cool water.  Stir until thick.  Use to top the tofu and the rice.

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped or sliced
8 brussels sprouts, washed, ends trimmed off, and loose leaves removed
1/8 cup olive oil
1. Slice the brussels sprouts in half (top to bottom).
2. Heat the oil in a pan, over medium heat.  Add garlic.
3. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan, cut side down.  Cover the pan with a lid.  Roast until the cut sides are dark brown and the sprouts are cooked through.  Probably about 12 minutes.

We served the tofu and brussels sprouts with a side of white rice topped with the soy-sherry sauce.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday February 23, 2012: Refried Beans and Guacamole

          Two years ago today, David and I met in the International Departures area of Dulles Airport.  We were both part of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia's pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and were awaiting the first leg of our trip - a flight to London.  Memories of that meeting are very clear for both of us.
          I was starving (this will surprise no one who knows me!) and decided I'd go find a snack.  I came back to my friend Anne with two tacos, along with some chips and guacamole.  There I was, up to my elbows in dripping tacos, when David came by to say hello to our little group and introduce himself.  After greeting us, he took one look at me and said, "You look like a girl who could use some napkins," and went off to find me some.  When he returned, I replied, "You look like a boy who could use some guacamole," and shared my snack with him (and the others around us).
         Neither of us had any inkling in that moment that less than three weeks later, we would be talking about a future together.  Our love for one another developed as we walked, talked and prayed together around the holy sites of the Holy Land.
          Last year, we decided that we should always commemorate this day with Mexican food of some kind.  There's not a Mexican restaurant in Coos County, so we opted to cook at home tonight.  Our menu - soft tacos with homemade refried pinto beans, guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes.  Perhaps not the simplest (or cheapest) vegetarian meal, but true to our tradition!

Refried Beans [From How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Wiley (c) 2007.]
1/4 C olive oil
3 C cooked pinto beans (I used 1 can, drained and rinsed - I planned to cook dried beans, but I simply ran out of time this week.)
1 C chopped onion
1 T cumin
salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste
1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2. Add the onions, and cook about 10 minutes, until they are golden brown.
3. Stir in the cumin and cook 1 minute longer.
4. Add the beans.  Mash them with a fork or potato masher.  They will heat through as you mash.
5. Top with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste.

Guacamole [Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Wiley (c) 2007, based on what I actually had in the house.]
2 avocados, sliced in half, and pitted
1 lime
approx 1/3 cup chopped onion (I used the rest of the onion from the refried beans)
cilantro (about 1/4 fresh - I only have cilantro in a tube)
1. Scoop the flesh of the avocado into a bowl or mortar and pestle.  Mash well.
2. Add onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt.  Mix well.
3. Taste. Add more of whatever you need to enhance the flavor.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

I love Ash Wednesday.  I've been reading differing views about this day during quiet moments throughout the day.  Some love it - others hate it - finding it too gloomy and depressing.  As I said in my sermon this morning, I need this yearly reminder of how to live.  Ash Wednesday resets my internal compass and re-orients me back towards God.

I feared the busyness of this day might prevent my from actually cooking - but I was able to get home for a few hours.  David responded to the question, "Rice and Beans or Pad Thai?" with an enthusiastic "Pad Thai!"  Lacking a few ingredients, this isn't authentic Pad Thai, but it is a simple way to cook rice noodles and tofu.  (And, for the purists, isn't strictly vegetarian, as it contains 2 tablespoons of fish sauce).

Adapted Pad Thai (feeds 4) - [Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Wiley, (c) 2007.]

12 oz flat rice noodles
boiling water
peanut oil (or other neutral oil)
8 oz pressed tofu, cut into small cubes (pressing the tofu helps it to absorb flavor - you can do this by putting a plate on it, and a can on top of the plate - best done in the sink or with drainage!)
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small pieces

For the Sauce
2 T fish sauce
2 t ketchup
2 t sugar

For the Topping
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 c fresh cilantro (I only had cilantro in a tube, so I added it to the sauce!)
1 lime, cut into wedges

1. Place the rice noodles in a bowl and cover them with boiling water.  Leave to soak for 15 minutes, or so.  Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
2. Stir fry the tofu and broccoli in oil - start the tofu and add the broccoli after 3-4 minutes.  You want the to tofu to begin turning a lovely golden brown before putting in the tofu.
3. When the broccoli is bright green, remove the tofu and broccoli to a bowl.
4. Put the softened rice noodles into the hot pan, with a bit more oil (less than a T) then add the sauce ingredients.  (I mixed them together ahead of time, but the recipe did not call for doing so.)
5. When the noodles are heated through, add the tofu and broccoli back in.
6. Serve topped with chopped peanuts and a squeeze of lime juice.

Authentic Pad Thai would have some lightly scrambled egg and some bean sprouts, and would not have broccoli.  I can't eat eggs and we had no bean sprouts, so I changed it up.  Verdict - worth repeating.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Eating More Simply for Lent

          The alternative Old Testament passage for Ash Wednesday is from the prophet Isaiah (58:1-12, if you'd like to read the whole thing).  The passage that I've been meditating on for the last couple of weeks reads as follows: 
6Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 
          It's preceded by a collection of verses where God (speaking through Isaiah) chastises the people for fasting to suit their own purposes, all the while oppressing others in their midst.  This year, we want our Lenten discipline to make a difference.  This year, it's not enough for us to simply give up something we care about.  
          This year during Lent, David and I have decided to eat more simply.  For us, that means eating less food and mostly vegetarian.  We're going to try to cook at home more, to eat smaller portions, and to have the meals we prepare for ourselves be vegetarian. 
          We'll use this blog space to share what we do, to post pictures of the food we prepare, and to list the recipes we make, in case you'd like to join us periodically.  
          At the end of Lent, we plan to make a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development, using the money we saved from eating in our usual way, to essentially share our bread with those who are hungry.  We hope you'll join us.