Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cozy Veggies

Here are a couple of warm, veggie-full photos perfect for our cooler, wetter weather these last few days. This one is my take on Veganomicon's gumbo recipe. Mine has more liquid smoke, more veggies that were in my larder and garden (Chinese longbeans), plus extra fresh greens and quinoa, with which one can never go wrong. Delish!

This turmeric drink was just right while sitting by the fire the other evening. I wanted something a little sweet and this fit the bill. I just grated about a tablespoon of fresh turmeric root and warmed it with almond milk.  I spooned up the pulpy goodness at the bottom too. Give it a try!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

'Tis the Season

For applesauce, that is! Truly I'm indulging in a bit of wishful thinking, pretending that Autumn is in full swing down here in the deep south. Still, temps in the 70's are so much better than the 95 degree weather of a couple of weeks ago, so we are counting our blessings.

Back to my wishful thinking:  I wish you could smell it in here. The photo doesn't do it justice. This is a labor of love, as it's a bit labor-intensive for the output which is always gone in a flash, but it's still worth doing.  Here's my recipe:

Cheryl's Favorite Applesauce

10-12 apples, peeled and cored -- make sure at least one is a Granny Smith

1Tbsp. "butter" of your choice

a splash of water or cider if you have it

1tsp. Allspice

1 tsp. Nutmeg

a pinch of kosher or Himalayan salt

Really, the only effort here is the apple prep. Chop the apples roughly and warm them in a pan on medium/low heat with all other ingredients. Make sure there is enough liquid on the bottom that the apples won't burn. Stir periodically so the apples warm and break down evenly. After all the apples seem to have softened and they begin to simmer, turn the heat to low and cover. I usually cook the applesauce for a total of about 45 minutes. Enjoy warm or cold.

I always have big bags of organic apples around for school lunches and juicing. When they begin looking a little soft I know it's time to make the sauce. The bulk of the apples can be any variety, but I find the tastiest sauce includes the tart flavor of the granny smith. A little squeeze of lemon or some citric acid may be good alternatives if you find yourself grannysmithless. Obviously, this recipe responds well to personalization. You may like cinnamon or ginger. Add more "butter" if you want a more silky, rich sauce. If you want it sweeter you could add some brown sugar or, even better, a tablespoon of molasses! I'm not a big sweets fan myself, preferring the natural sugars in the apples. This is amazing warm or cold. I really love it on a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning. It tastes like apple pie in your bowl. Hope you like it!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Two Pods of Okra

My lone okra plant has become the star of the garden this year. Undeterred by the little green grasshoppers who feast upon it's splayed leaves, it keeps producing large, pale yellow hibiscus-like flowers and one or two pods at a time. I've tried letting more of the pods ripen before harvesting, but have found that the very large ones become a bit dry and woody. Still, those were well utilized finely diced in the gumbo. Since I have a penchant for the juicier okra pods, I pick 'em when they are about four inches long now.

Not wanting this sparse but constant harvest to languish in the crisper, I've been adding one or two pods of okra to foods one wouldn't normally pair with the southern staple. You wouldn't believe how delicious these pods were with my chinese vegetables last night! I roughly chopped four baby bok choy heads and baby portobellos, sauteed them briefly in coconut oil, added thinly sliced okra, fresh garlic, a shake of tamari and a splash of white wine, then covered the whole thing and took it off the heat. The result was perfectly tender-crisp, flavorful, mild, slippery and luscious! The sliminess of the okra creates such a lovely sauce texture. All the flavors were delicious together.

Typically paired with bold spices, okra fared well here in a milder presentation. The okra plant is originally from the continent of Africa, but is used widely in Creole, Cajun, Caribbean, Indian and Turkish cuisines, among others. I loved this world fusion experiment. As for the garden, I'll be adding a few more dramatic, towering, resilient okra plants next spring.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Where We've Been

I'm not talking much about food in this post, although most of what I ate on vacation did turn out to be vegan. I just have some pretty photos I want to share of one of the most beautiful spots I've seen -- St. John. For several years now our family has been regrouping on this tiny island. There are only a couple of hotels on the island and thus far we have opted to rent villas. We go on the off-season to make it affordable (hot) so being on top of a mountain makes it much more pleasant -- there's plenty of cooling breeze up there! This first photo is sort of an artsy shot through the funky spindles of the lower terrace of our villa. The Westin complex and it's dock in Great Cruz Bay is below. We rent a dinghy from the Westin each year so we can check out isolated beaches and coves which have no other access.
My favorite time of day on the island is the early morning, before the sun has risen over the hills when it's still quiet except for a few cockadoodledos. This is a shot from our upper terrace next to our pool. All the tilework and blown glass in our villa, The Sapphire Breeze, was created by the professional artists who own the house. Not much of it is featured in these photos, but it's stunning.

The island is in a drought currently, so you can see that the verdant tropical isle of years past features more shades of brown. Still, the more muted palette reveals some interesting things I may have otherwise missed. This tree is seriously struggling -- appearing basically dead, but yet . . . it blooms! This immediately reminded me of [spoiler] the white tree of Gondor in the "Return of the King" LOTR fans will understand. I am rooting for this stalwart little tree which, while fighting for its life, also plays host to AIR PLANTS! This is a real world, full grown version of my own fairly recent obsession -- see this old photo of one on my kitchen table:

This healthy little guy is what the wild tilisandria would look like if not enduring a drought. I know this because my little house plant looked like the wild one after I'd been away a week.

Back to the villa -- sometimes it really was too hot to hang outside, but look at the view from my bed! That's the infinity pool right outside the french doors, and Great Cruz Bay beyond.

Finally, my week in paradise was not all play and no work (though my work is actually a form of play too!) I brought supplies for a few prayer beads that I made for InspireDesigns, the wonderful company where I work. I noticed how pretty the beads looked draped around a conch shell up on our veranda. What do you think? I love my job!

Oh -- I almost forgot to follow up on the food I mentioned earlier, and with good reason. Life on St. John is very active with snorkeling and hiking and boating and jeeping all over steep and narrow mountain roads. By the time we returned to our villa each day we normally just boiled a batch of pasta  and ate it with a bunch of vegetables -- vegan but not gluten-free. The gluten does not bother me as much as cheese would have, but I'm back on the gluten-free plan at home now, no worse for the wear.