Thursday, September 30, 2010

Another Delicious Gizmo Salad

For those of you unfamiliar with the famous gizmo, please see archives, August, "What a Fun Gizmo". I recently found a good price on summer squash, so I loaded up on them. They can be fixed in so many ways, of course, but I love to eat raw veggies whenever I can figure out a way to make them fabulous, so I again put my little gizmo to work.  Here's the recipe:

Summer Squash Gizmo Salad

3 small zucchini gizmoed or julienned
2 small yellow squash, gizmoed or julienned
1 celery stalk, diced
1Tbsp. purple onion, small dice
a large handful of raw spinach, chopped up a little bit.
a small handful of pine nuts

2 Tbsp. veganaise
1 Tbsp. grainy dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Combine and whisk the dressing ingredients, and pour over the veggies, mixing well.
Serves at least 4

The first night I served this as a salad, alongside oven potato fries and some of my Mushroom and Bean Melange for me, and alongside a steak my husband grilled for himself. The next day I had some of this squash salad atop a whole wheat flatbread spread with garlic hummus -- so very yum. I meant for this to be a wrap, but I was so darn hungry by the time I made this lunch that I way overfilled the flatbread, which made this more of a ginormous taco than a wrap. It was amazingly delicious. I still had more leftovers for the next evening's dinner, so they were added to a new green salad. Leftovers, once again, the gift that keeps on giving! I miss them already.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Does This Look Like Breakfast to You?

Does this look like breakfast to you? A year ago it wouldn't have looked like breakfast to me, but now it does -- particularly on certain days when my body is pining for it. You know those days, when you crave the fresh, clean energy that only collard greens can provide, the morning after a stressful day, or after overindulgence in fatty or otherwise nutritionally unsound foods. As a vegan, I have learned to pay attention to cravings, and my body is now very clear about communicating its needs. Are you still unconvinced about the beautiful breakfast I had yesterday? Well take a look at it five minutes later:

Mmm -- just looking at it again is making me hungry! I cooked the collards and onions very quickly at high heat in olive oil. See that caramelization? Delicious! Sharing plate space are leftovers from the day before, an updated version of Mushroom and Bean Melange (see Archives, September, "Gourmet at Home" for my recipe). For this update, I only had button mushrooms, not the oyster mushrooms, so instead I added a can of quartered artichoke hearts (not marinated). This made the dish taste quite different. Both are fabulously filling and elegant.

I had gone hungry all morning before creating this, as I was tending to my poor, almost-six-foot-tall baby boy who was suffering from a migraine headache. Incidentally, I fixed him a bowl of miso soup which did provide him some relief. By the time I got Hans all tucked back into bed to sleep off the headache, I was able to tend to my own needs, and the above breakfast, er, brunch, was created. As a mom, I worry more about my kids than anything else. It'll be a life sentence, I can see. Staying nutritionally balanced in times of stress is the best thing I can do for all of us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Little Black Dress Night!

Looking back on Saturday, it seems unbelievable I was able to rally after being so exhausted from the garage sale, but I was. All it took was the little nutritious late lunch of gnocchi with tomatoes, spinach, olives and garlic and my body got happy again. Oh, the power of food!

So later in the evening, with our children nestled all snug in their beds, --nah, they're teenagers, they were watching tv and chatting with friends. Anyhoo, my husband and I went out to dinner at our fave, Bistro V.G. I love dressing up and going to this place. My tried and true selections were chosen, since I cannot get them anywhere else, and I love them so. We started at the bar, with a top shelf vodka martini, up with olives, no, not the blue cheese ones, thank you very much. It was prepared expertly, which is important with a drink like that. Tiny ice chips floated on the surface, mmmm.

I know I have blogged about the rest of this food before, but I had not managed to get very good photos heretofore, so I'm going to risk boring you by mentioning the selections again. I can't get enough of this food, so hopefully you won't mind my nattering on . . .  The Simple Arugula salad is amazing, and really can be replicated very easily at home, but it is the best on the menu among many delicious choices, so I keep getting it. It is just a tangle of fresh arugula, topped with sauteed shallots, lemon juice and olive oil. It is normally served with shaved parmesan, but not for me. Simple is stunning!

Next was the Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille with Chick Pea Frites. Sublime. Look at how gorgeous it is! I can still almost taste it! This "small plate" dish is normally served with "cheese buds" which are capers rolled in cheese. Again, not for me. I have never had trouble at this establishment getting my food exactly the way I want it. I appreciate that. This perfectly cooked selection features a mild hummusy-mustardy sauce, and lord knows how they make the chick pea frites, but I know for sure there is no dairy in them. I am so sensitive to dairy now I get ill within minutes if I accidentally eat some. I love this dish!

We had a bit of an unusual incident while dining at Bistro the other night. We like to sit at a four-top by the window, which is set at a diagonal to the room. we sit side by side at a corner of the table. The four- top next to us was seated with a couple slightly younger than we, along with the parents of one of them, I am guessing the young man, since the young woman hardly spoke all night, and I know if I am out with my parents, I chat up a storm. When our food arrived, the young man, a loud-talker, pointed it out to his parents in amusement. I guess they were laughing at my husband's large plate of steak and potatoes, juxtaposed with my tiny little veggie-jewel of a plate. I must still be slightly defensive, after all, about my choice, because seeing that overweight older gentleman turn around and basically laugh in my face did rankle my nerves a tad. Mindfully aware of karma as I willfully suppressed my own feelings of superiority, I luxuriated privately in my healthy feeling of fullness, without that seam-busting feeling the loud-talker's family was about to experience.

My husband and I really enjoy going to our favorite haunts, to actually be able to get a word in with each other, but also to enjoy the company of other folks, the staff, who know us by name, and also other diners. This time, when I was in the restroom, two darling, beautiful white-haired ladies were leaving the stalls. I quickly said, "You two have GOT to be related,"

"We're twins!" They chimed together, with a smile. So sweet!

When I got back to the table, I told my husband about them, and we noticed where they were sitting, at a table we would be passing on our way out. They were sitting with several family members. "Oh, I want to meet them!" my husband said.

So, still in my light-karma state after the loud-talker's family incident, I introduced myself to the twins' family members and my husband to everyone. We got into a fun animated discussion where they asked how long we had been together. "Married eighteen years," elicited surprise. One of the men at the table said to me, "Well, I guess there's no chance of me getting in on that?"

Without having to think, I quipped, "No, but thanks anyway, I'll take it as a compliment!"

Ego boost -- nice. I thank my vegan karma-glow. It was a great evening!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Now, That's More Like It . . .

Remember how I needed more VEGGIES? Well, I was actually exhausted from our latest adventures, and lack of good, balanced nutrition. I couldn't motivate to shop for food, nor could I think straight to come up with a plan. But I could stand in front of my open refrigerator and wait a moment for inspiration to strike. And strike it did, in the form of leftover gnocchi, which were as hard as little pebbles until I reboiled them for a couple of minutes. That's all it took to revive the gnocchi's pillowy, springy, comforting tenderness. To this I added some marinara sauce from a jar, warmed with a couple of big spoonfuls of olive tapenade, also from a jar, a minced garlic clove and a gigantic handful of raw spinach. This delicious, spur of the moment creation nourished body and soul so completely that I had to sit there and eat most of it with my eyes closed, in gratitude. Much better. Let's hear it for veggies!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Tale of Two Garages, Chapter 2

Day one of the big garage sale is done. It was advertised in the local newspaper as being from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. but I didn't make it back from feeding and scooping for all the cats until 8:30. By then there were already customers so I had to hustle to put my signs and balloons up. I made only $48 today, but it's been a good experience so far. I really enjoyed shooting the breeze with perfect strangers and I love the good feeling of charging a little less if someone has chosen a few items. I gave away a couple of yards of fabric to a nice lady who makes tote bags for foster children. I wanted her to take more, but she wouldn't. She was very grateful. Today I sold four chairs, one table and some costume jewelry. This is stuff that has just been sitting around our home or in our basement, unused, and feeling heavy. Just clearing out has been worth this exercise.

Still for sale for tomorrow are lots of designer fabric remnants, video and DVD movies, books, exercise equipment, TV's, more jewelry, and gobs of knick knacks. The effect of the bad economy is apparent. Nobody seems interested in a 15" TV for $20. The most popular items have been necklaces for $2. I sold a lot of those. We shall see what sells on a Saturday.

As for the other garage, no drama since my last bloody escape. The cats are all good, although I think it looks like they are ready for a change of scenery. They are stalking the garage door as I open it, ready to slink into the forbidden parts of their home. Their mom and dad will be home on Sunday so they will be able to cut loose soon enough.

I regret not having a food photo for you today, my camera ran out of battery charge this morning. But I can tell you about what I had for lunch. As I sat out under my umbrella in the front yard, overseeing the sale, I nibbled a delicious salad I threw together in about three minutes. I had some cold leftover cabbage and leeks with lemon and balsamic vinegar, and the vinegar was a bit too strong (I guess I had used too much) so I got the bright idea to turn it into more of a cole slaw. I added a couple of tablespoons of veganaise and stirred it up. I then put the cabbage slaw on top of some lettuce and raw spinach and finished it off with a handful of mixed nuts -- peanuts, walnuts, pistachios and almonds. I enjoyed this salad while working on a sudoku puzzle as I waited for the next customers. All in all, a good day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Great Sandwich - plus - A Tale of Two Garages

I want to keep my toes in the water of the blogging world because I enjoy it so, but I am still in my mini-season of busy, so not much organized food creating is going on. I can, however,  take a few minutes and whip out a post, since you might be interested in what I've been up to.

First, check out the yummy lunch I had with my friend C.J. recently. We went to Panera. I had sewn a bedspread for C.J. and she wanted to thank me by taking me out to lunch. I got to choose the venue, and I LOVE Panera's breads, so that is what I chose. If you look closely, you can see that I couldn't resist taking a bite of that pickle before remembering to pull out my camera. The sandwich is on wholewheat sundried tomato bread (sorry, I didn't check about the egg content, but it was extremely yum) The sandwich is called the Mediterranean Veggie. I just ordered it without the feta cheese. The meal comes with chips or an apple. The apples at Panera are so good! I don't know why I love them so much more than the ones at the supermarket, but I do. The lunch and the conversation were lovely.

In other news, I am having a garage sale Friday and Saturday of this week. I really do not have time to go through all our belongings, but we have accrued so much in 18 years of marriage and parenthood that there is plenty to put up for sale without really trying too hard. This is mainly an exercise in cleaning out and eventually donating whatever doesn't sell, so I will be pricing very fairly, which will take me a bit of low-level brainwork today, and high-level brawnwork moving it all out to the garage. would you believe we have 3 tv's to sell? And so much more . . .

Besides the garage sale prep, I have been helping my 16 year old son with a couple of pet-sitting jobs. The main purpose of encouraging the jobs is to teach him responsibility, of course, so one would think I am defeating this purpose by helping him, but when it comes right down to it, the poor guy cannot practically be in two places at once, and being a stay-at-home mom I am the default parent, so I'm stepping in where needed. We are not going to let the kitties starve. Also, I just want to oversee what he is doing a little bit -- I want the clients to come back from vacation pleased with a clean, odor-free home and happy cats. Hans doesn't really know how to effect the clean-odor-free part of that equation.

In two homes, a few miles apart, Hans is caring for a total of 8 cats -- 6 in one home and 2 in the other. He is also collecting the mail and tidying up after the cats. This whole job, with driving time, takes an hour to complete, twice a day, and school starts for him at 8:30, so I am doing the mornings after he gets to school. As I have been overseeing these jobs I impress upon Hans practical advice such as "Make sure you keep the housekey in your pocket. It would be awful if you locked yourself out,"

Well, I did just that yesterday morning! In the house with the 6 cats, all rescue, the cats are separated according to temperament. The little ole' lady cat, Butter, gets to go wherever she wants in the main part of the house (she is soooo sweet! I love her) Hunter, Romeo and Little Debbie Snack Cakes (yes that is really her name) stay in the laundry room -- which is really very nice, roomy, with a window and three cozy beds, water, food and toys. Finally, Dick and Jane stay in the garage -- also roomy, with the cars moved outside with windows and fans, food, toys etc. Yesterday I was wearing workout clothes with no pockets, so I left the housekeys on the kitchen counter. And sure enough, when I stepped stealthily into the garage so Dick and Jane couldn't slip out, I failed to check the bottom lock which was, LOCKED! So I locked myself into the garage, and out of the house! While feeding, watering and scooping for Dick and Jane, I simultaneously panicked and brainstormed what to do. I searched high and low for an extra key, to no avail. I considered opening the large garage door, but decided against it since Dick and Jane would then officially be out in the wild. Finally, I decided to climb on top of an upturned plastic tub and out the window of the garage. "Is the window painted shut?" I thought to myself,

No, it wasn't, phew! I perched my middle-aged self on the brick window ledge and, as I closed the window behind me, sort of slid/fell into a 5 foot tall pricker bush. Then, carefully pulling the branches of the bush aside, I escaped further injury. I say "further" because I could already feel the blood trickling down my left leg from where I had torn it on the bricks.

"Now -- am I locked out of the house itself?" I pondered. No, thank goodness, I wasn't!  I went back in, collected the keys, re-locked the garage window, paper towel-bathed my leg and counted my blessings.

This has been chapter one in my sandwich eating-cat-sitting-garage-sale-week odyssey. If there is a chapter two, it will appear in a future post!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Leftovers Beget Leftovers Which Beget . . .

The last few days have been atypical for me, and it'll be this way through the weekend, so I will apologize in advance for a little season of "Midlife Vegan Lite". In other words, I have been running from obligation to obligation (mostly Mom stuff so it's all good) So I've barely found time to throw together fabulous, nutritious vegan meals and certainly haven't had time to measure and taste and jot down an organized recipe. Nevertheless, I have been able to whip up a few miracles in no time at all, and the photos are helping me to remember just how I pulled them off, though you will have to guess for now about measurements. When my life is less jam-packed I will take the time to recreate these in an actual recipe format. I have been so busy, I've not been able to get to the store, so these meals also utilize leftovers from former meals. I love not wasting, and I love saving money!

The first of these three dishes -- last night's dinner -- was born of the need to use up this weekend's broiled tofu and last week's green tomato salsa.  So . . tacos! My tacos included corn tortillas, romaine lettuce, leftover wild rice, leftover broiled tofu, frozen corn, warmed with homegrown tomatoes, sauteed onion and bell pepper, and my leftover green tomato salsa with white beans. Three leftovers in one new meal! If I had tofutti sour cream, daiya cheese and avocado I would have added them, but I didn't. The tacos were still great! I served my husband leftover beef chili and cheese for his, and my daughter had vegetarian tacos, only cheese, lettuce, rice, corn and tomatoes. My son opted for pasta since he had just bought himself Chipotle for lunch. From fridge to table I spent 15 minutes on this.

Another meal inspired by leftovers was a veggie curry I threw together using this weekend's noochy cauliflower. I only had half an hour before I needed to drive Wynne's friend home, and then show up at Hans' lacrosse game. I made and ate this within that timeframe. It includes: sauteed zucchini and onion, a can of chickpeas, the leftover cauliflower, rice milk (about 3/4 cup I guess) lots of curry, cumin and turmeric, salt and pepper. Once this was cooked, I topped it with mixed nuts, golden raisins, coconut and spinach. Raw chopped celery, raw chopped tomato and crumbled lightlife bac'n would have also been great with this, along with a dollop of mango chutney, but it didn't happen. Next time! This was seriously very delicious though. I finished these leftovers of leftovers today for lunch, along with this salad:

I didn't even have time for breakfast this morning, so by the time I got back home I was starving! And for what? Dark leafy greens of course! So I grabbed a giant handful of arugula, threw the leftover peppers and onions from taco night on top, then added pine nuts, italian parsley and Annie's goddess dressing shaken up with balsamic vinegar. Very satisfying, and I believe I just may finally be out of leftovers -- oh, I still have the wild rice, but there's no harm in keeping a pot of that in the 'fridge at all times!

This leftover led to that leftover, which led to the next one, oh what a tangled web I weave -- but I'm eating good!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another Reinvention

I was organizing my blog photos today and came across this one from last week. It's not a new creation, but just another example of how easy it is to reinvent an oldie but a goody before it loses that lovin' feelin'. Not yet ready to surrender the wonderful gizmo quinoa salad to the pups, I had let it have one last hurrah on top of a bed of arugula, with half an avocado and Annie's goddess dressing that I thinned with Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar.  It was delicious, fresh and satisfying! I sure love a fridge-full of leftovers!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gourmet at Home!

If you have been following A Midlife Vegan for a while, you will have noticed my husband and I go out . . . a lot. When the kids were small, we NEVER went out. My husband always wanted to, party boy, but I would not leave my babies. It was 6 months before I left my son with my own mom, who I trust with the lives of all I hold dear. Looking back, it was a bit of an unbalanced approach, but you know what? I don't regret it. Those sweet little babies grew up so fast, I am so happy I didn't miss a minute.

So now, the pendulum has swung and we go out once or twice a week. Last night, however, the kids were happily occupied here, Wynne with two friends who slept over, and Hans in the gameroom playing the latest video game with about 20 of his best friends online. My husband and I were enjoying the beautiful weather and decided to spend some time on our patio out back instead of rallying for yet another outing. The man grilled himself a steak and I invented some new recipes. He didn't try the tofu, but he did enjoy the noochy roasted cauliflower and the mushroom and bean melange. We put on some good music, opened a bottle of wine and got to work in the kitchen, and back patio, the dogs following us back and forth, hoping we would drop something luscious. We set our little patio table with a candle, loaded up our plates and declared our food was every bit as good as what we could find at a fine restaurant! After dinner we lingered in the fresh air and candlelight, and it was nice, on one of my trips to the bathroom,  to be able to quickly whip up a facemask for the girls as they indulged in "spa night" in Wynne's bathroom -- mashed avocado, banana and oatmeal, cucumber slices for their eyes. It took a couple of seconds and then I was back outside on my date! Incidentally, at one point I overheard Wynne saying to her friends, "Aren't my parents adorable?" That sure warms my heart!

The tofu and cauliflower were easy dishes, I wouldn't even call them recipes, but here's how I made them:

Tofu -- cubed and marinated in lemon juice, shoyu, minced garlic and salt and pepper, then broiled about 3 minutes, turned and broiled 3 more minutes.

Cauliflower -- Rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 400 degrees for half an hour, and then sprinkled with nutritional yeast (I finally found some -- YAY!) then returned to the warm oven on the lower shelf while the broiling was going on up top.

These were both techniques I came up with not directly from any recipes, but just from my leisure reading of many recipes in Veganomicon which is an amazing cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. What I came up with here was pretty good. The tofu was just okay as it was, but I know I will enjoy the leftovers more in a wrap or a salad.

The real star of the show last night was a recipe I created that I call Mushroom and Bean Melange. I am using this french word because the finished product was so delicious and rich and very much reminded me of something we could have found at one of our favorite restaurants from our Washington D.C. era -- Le Gaulois on King Street in Old Town Alexandria. What an amazing, authentic and rustic French restaurant that place was (I hope it is still there!) My Mushroom and Bean Melange is definitely reminiscent of that time and place.  Here's the recipe:

Mushroom and Bean Melange

1/4 lb. oyster mushrooms
1/2 lb. button mushrooms
1 celery stalk, diced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 can beans -- I used pinto and canellini -- rinsed well
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance, divided
salt and pepper

Over medium heat, saute celery and shallot in the oil and 1 Tbsp. of Earth Balance for 3-4 minutes.  Add button mushrooms and saute an additional 3 minutes. Add oyster mushrooms, thyme and a tablespoon more of earth balance, and saute for just one minute more, then add beans and turn off the burner. Stir and cover, letting the beans warm  through. Season with salt and pepper.
Serves 4

This recipe turned out to be so delicious, it knocked my socks off!  I would even venture to say it is my favorite original Midlife Vegan recipe. My only regret is that I didn't make more of it.  I had some, cold, on a piece of sourdough bread (Oh My Lord how YUM!) and now it is almost gone.  So you may want to double it. Vegans and non-vegans alike will devour it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wynne's Favorite Barley!

No stranger to carbs, my daughter, Wynne, (pronounced Winnie) really adores the vegan carbs I make. I've mentioned before how special Morgan's Herbed Mashed Potatoes are to her (from, and she also loves anything with bread and especially the way I make barley! This last one came as a surprise to me, since she doesn't care for rice. Scratch that -- as I am writing this it occurs to me that she doesn't care for my kind of rice, long grain and wild. She does like the plain white rice that comes with the chinese food. So I guess a homogenous look and texture appeal to her.

In any case, she does love this barley. It makes me feel so good to be able to provide something so much healthier for my sweet girl than what she would be microwaving for herself.  Here's my recipe:

Wynne's Favorite Barley

1 c. pearl barley
3 c. vegetable broth
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped
2 Tbsp. cream sherry
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme

Bring barley and broth to a boil, then stir, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 1 hour. After an hour, add shallot, garlic, thyme and sherry and stir, then cover. This is the point where you need to watch the barley, only for 15 minutes. This is sort of a risotto treatment. Every few minutes, as you watch most of the liquid become absorbed, add very small amounts of warm water, stir and cover again, then repeat until 15 minutes have passed. Most of the liquid should be absorbed at this point.  Turn off the burner and let sit on the warm surface until the liquid is fully absorbed. The barley will eventually absorb whatever liquid you put into it.

This is not a quick way to prepare barley, but the little bit of extra effort is worth it, in our opinion because the texture is so satisfying -- the infused grains are still slightly al dente, creamy and chewy. Oh, and the flavor is addictive. The sherry is a perfect foil to the slightly salty veggie broth, and of course everything tastes better with garlic and shallots!

To accompany my wonderful barley I also fixed Alicia Silverstone's Baby Bok Choy with Ume Vinaigrette from her book, The Kind Diet. You've got to check this book out if you haven't yet. The Baby Bok Choy recipe is so simple and basic, and easy! The result is really just the vegetable, prepared authentically, minimally. The Ume vinegar and olive oil, along with the black sesame seeds and salt, is all it needs. I sure am looking forward to eating the leftovers of this meal!

Of the three human family members in our home, I vote Wynne most likely to become vegan someday. I am not saying she will, and if she does it will be 100% her choice, which is the way it should be. But I do appreciate her openness about trying new things and her interest in what healthy foods do to her energy level and mood. Also, the girl has such a cool little bohemian vibe about her.  She's a piece of work!

I hope you enjoy the barley as much as we do!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gizmo Salad with Red Quinoa

Inspired by Tasha's latest post on The Voracious Vegan (, I pulled exactly the same little box of quinoa out of my pantry. Coincidentally I had bought it recently without a plan. Tasha presents a couple of awesome looking recipes for the red quinoa, and I will definitely try them out soon. But last night I didn't have time to go to the store, so I pulled out my trusty little gizmo from my friend, Sherri, (see "What a Fun Gizmo!", Archives) and a few veggies from the crisper I could push through it to make a salad. This was so easy, healthy, sustaining and delicious! I'm craving the leftovers already!

Gizmo Salad with Red Quinoa
2 cups of cooked red quinoa (prepared according to package directions, but I used vegetable broth instead of water)
4 small zucchini, julienned
1/2 large cucumber, julienned
1 medium carrot, slivered with a peeler
1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper, small dice
3 Tbsp. purple onion, small dice

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. grainy dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp. vegannaise
salt and pepper

Prepare the quinoa and allow it to cool. Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Combine quinoa, vegetables and dressing and mix well.

That's it. Very easy. I learned more about my gadget's capabilities. It doesn't really work with veggies that have a peel. But it sure does make short work of turning zucchini into pasta-like shreds! I enjoyed this delicious salad beside another of my tofurky italian sausages (I know, I know . . . but I don't want to waste them!) Yum!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Roasted Green Tomato Salsa with White Beans

As you all know, I  have a surplus of green tomatoes on the vine in my garden, which I see as an opportunity.  Instead of doing fried green tomatoes, (I never was very good at keeping the cornmeal coating on those slippery slices) I decided to try something new.  This is what I came up with:

Roasted Green Tomato Salsa with White Beans
4-5 small green or under-ripe tomatoes 3/4" - 1" dice
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 poblano chile
a large handful cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 can great northern or pinto beans
2 Tbsp. purple onion, finely diced

Broil the chile, turning it with tongs, until blistered on all sides. Allow it to cool. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the tomatoes with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer in a baking pan with sides. This gets juicy. Roast the tomatoes for 30 minutes. 

While tomatoes are roasting, peel and seed the chile and put it in a food processor or blender with lime juice, 1-2 Tbsp. more olive oil and beans. After the tomatoes are done roasting, allow them to cool for a couple of minutes and then carefully add them to the food processor. Process until fairly smooth. Once the mixture is no longer hot, add the cilantro and process again until smooth. Finally, pour the salsa into a bowl and stir in the onions. They are too pretty to mush up. Adjust seasoning to your liking.

This recipe may seem like a lot of effort for a salsa, but since I was working in the kitchen anyway on some other dishes, It was easy enough, and I think it was worth it for the unique flavor and the vitamin-protein punch of the ingredients. The poblano chile has a smoky richness that is not as sharp as a jalapeno chile, and it goes well with the tart flavor of the green tomatoes, which are slightly mellowed by their roasting, and further mellowed by the inclusion of the smooth, soft-skinned beans. This salsa would be great with any type of quesadilla or wrap, or just as a dip. Ole!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Oh, Yeah I Did!

In the last post, I mentioned that I might use the remainder of my green tomato and onion relish for a quesadilla, and indeed I did!  Here it is!  No recipe, this time, it was just two corn tortillas, daiya, half an avocado and the hot dog relish cooked over medium heat, flipped a couple of times.  It was delicious and messy and wonderful dipped bite by bite in the tofutti sour cream. I love reinventing fabulous vegan leftovers! I will be coming up with a new recipe soon -- roasted green tomato salsa -- stay tuned!

From a discussion thread on the Kind Life, I found a fun new blog to follow, Green Beans and Yam ( I had to check it based on the name alone. The authors are such a cute vegan/eco couple. I enjoyed reading about how Melissa decided to google the name of their blog out of curiosity, and was happy to see it had been written about in a magazine! So, visions of someone noticing my writing dancing in my head, I did the same with A Midlife Vegan.

What did I find? I discovered another Midlife Vegan already exists!  Ugh!  How did this happen?  Duh --well, I guess I should have done a search before choosing the name, my 16 year old kid could have told me that, but hey, I am just joining this brave new world. The other blog is of the same name, but carried by WordPress instead of Blogger.  I am sure WordPress' midlifevegan is a lovely person, but she is not me! I am very disconcerted. I have enjoyed writing this blog so much, and meeting and being inspired by so many of you wonderful readers and followers. You experienced young 'uns out there -- do you have any suggestions for me?  Thanks!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

All Better Now

This morning, after a very good night's sleep, finally, I feel back to normal. Sleep is so important to our health, and anything that gets in the way of it, like my second cup of coffee a couple of days ago, should be avoided. Here's a pretty, healthy smoothie I made myself yesterday to get a little boost.

Protein Boost Smoothie
1 c. coconut milk (or other plant milk)
2 frozen bananas
1 Tbs. almond butter
a handful of raw spinach or other greens
a stick of cinnamon
Just blend this in a high-powered blender

Yes, there is some fat in here, but I needed the calorie and protein boost, and it did the trick, giving me the right kind of focus and energy for a couple of hours. I like taking my time drinking this. The little pieces of cinnamon become a little softer and more flavorful the more they soak. It may have been my imagination, but the cinnamon felt warming and healthy in a vascular way.

After I got a bit of my groove back yesterday, I was able to focus on mindless but necessary chores, but also on a little creating in the kitchen.  I made a tuna casserole for the carnivore and I did a new recipe I had seen on the Health Seeker's Kitchen ( The recipe is called Tender Green Bean with Mushroom and Lemon Peel.  I highly recommend this dish!  Incidentally, the author of The Health Seeker's Kitchen is the Mom of Morgan, of Little House of Veggies fame! ( What a talented family! Do check out this green bean dish -- you won't be sorry!

Of course I have miles of green beans to use from my chinese long bean patch, so no trip to the store was necessary. Luckily I also had the other ingredients on hand. I used the white button mushrooms that were in the crisper, and I actually used a whole lemon, instead of the half that is called for, only because I know myself well enough that the rest of it would be lost in the fridge and wasted anyway. So my version of this wonderful dish was VERY lemony, but my husband and I really loved it! I get so happy when something special I am making for myself is also very much enjoyed by the carnivore -- he raved about it!

Since my husband's casserole had been made long before I tended to my own food, I had time to make myself exactly what I felt like eating. So, in addition to the Health Seeker's Kitchen's fabulous bean dish, I started to think of all those pretty green tomatoes hanging out in my garden. I came up with a simple onion/tomato relish, and then decided to serve it atop a Tofurky Italian Sausage!  Omigosh my mouth is watering as I type this! It was so easy, I hardly feel like it should be a recipe, but it was so very fabulously delicious, that I should probably honor it by presenting it as one.  Here's what I did:

Gourmet Ball Park Dog
2 whole wheat hot dog buns
2 Tofurky Italian Sausages
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1 medium green or underripe tomato, sliced thinly
extra virgin olive oil
grainy dijon mustard

Heat some olive oil in a pan, medium-high, and saute the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically, but allowing them to sit a little bit so they will carmelize. Add the tomato, and saute for another minute, stirring more often. Remove the relish from the pan. In the same pan, at a lower heat (medium) cook the sausage for about 5 minutes, turning often with tongs. Meanwhile, briefly warm the hotdog bun in a 350 degree oven, about 2-3 minutes. Assemble the dog in the bun, schmeer with a bit of mustard to your liking, then smother it in the tart, oniony relish. Yum.
Serves 2.

This dish was so easy to fix while I was cooking the green bean dish, there were a few minutes of waiting with each, so I got to stay busy with two burners.  Also the oven was already hot with the casserole, so I didn't have to heat the oven just for the bun. Otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to warm it. I actually only fixed one dog for myself, so I do have some relish left over for another use.  Maybe part of a quesadilla today?  I will keep you posted.

I had my first tofurky sausage over the weekend, when we had our impromptu cookout. I just gave it to my husband to fix on the grill next to the shish-ke-babs at that time, since I was just a busy, hungry, vegan girl then. I wasn't expecting much, since I heretofore haven't liked the idea of fake meats and cheeses, opting for a more bean-and-grain-based vegan experience instead. Well, 8 months into veganhood, I am here to tell you that opening one's mind can be a very good thing!  These tofurky sausages are amazing!

Last night's dinner was one of my favorites! Enjoy your luscious plateful, whatever you choose!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Season of Change

Yes, the season is changing! I am wearing a light jacket this morning. We expect a high of 91 degrees today, but these cool evenings and mornings are such a welcome change. My garden has abruptly changed as well. This weekend, as we threw together a cookout here at the last minute, when folks were asking what they could bring, I told them I had the tomatoes covered. I based this statement on the fact that every day for as long as I can remember I have harvested 4-5 ripe beauties. So imagine my surprise when I, still clad in my bathing suit from the prior party, went out to get the tomatoes I needed and found them still green.

"Okay -- got it," I thought to myself, "-- tomato season is over now,"

 I will be inventing something delicious soon with the green variety. Some of the finished vines are still useful in other ways. Take a look here at my "bean tree" which is really the familiar black tomato plant of "Heimlich the worm" fame. The chinese long bean tendril that had found this structure has now transformed it into a full-fledged bean trellis, with two-plus-foot legumes dripping from many branches. The bean season has obviously not ended.

I have really been enjoying experimenting in a culinary vein lately, and feel the urge to go there again, but find it is probably not happening today. The other night I was in the emergency room with my son, who had sharp stomach pains. I just wanted to be sure it wasn't something serious. Thank goodness it wasn't. X-ray and bloodwork were all good, so it was likely a little too much fun party food from the weekend, a little too little sleep from sleepovers, and mostly not enough water. I was grateful to be able to take care of my big boy by spending these hours making sure he was okay. I love motherhood. But you know how it is at the E.R. -- we got home at 4:00 a.m. So yesterday I was, needless to say, dragging, and I tossed my usual self-care out the window.  I just needed to function. I had two cups of coffee!

I used to be able to drink coffee throughout the day, and indeed needed it pre-vegan, as I used to have so much less energy. Now, without the masking dairy sludge that used to be in my system, and with so much more energy, usually, from a cleaner diet, I have found that I cannot tolerate stimulants such as coffee very well. One little cup in the very early morning has turned out to be fine, but I am always sorry if I have more. After being up all night, I threw caution to the wind yesterday and thus sealed my fate for today, dragging out this out-of-sorts phase a little longer. I again didn't sleep much last night. Phooey, I knew better!

Now, I am considering three courses of action for my morning: 1. Enjoy the cool weather and take a brisk walk, 2. Skip the walk and have breakfast, preferably something with chocolate, and 3. Go back to bed. I could tell you which my body is choosing right now, but no, my head's in charge this morning, albeit foggily. A walk it will be. The sooner I break the bad habits and snap back to a healthy routine, the better. After that I will baby myself a bit, spending some time resting with "Veg News" before diving into laundry and paying the bills.

Stay tuned for some fun new recipes once I can think straight. Until then, enjoy your new season!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Party Food

The point of these ad hoc healthy food creations was not so much making food to provide to partygoers, but rather to find something to fortify myself as I hopped from party to party yesterday. The family and I attended three parties and finished the evening hosting 3 girls and 1 boy to sleep over with our kids in our home. Today we are up for round two, but only have one pool party to attend. In planning for the first party yesterday and short on time, I ran out and bought a dip to contribute. Then I came home and put on my glasses and discovered the Baba Ghanoosh I had bought was made with eggs and mayonnaise. (I've got to start bringing my glasses to the store with me -- now that I am middle aged I cannot see well enough to read food labels!) Already late for the first party, I had to come up with something for me to eat. I knew the hosts were providing pulled pork barbeque and I was providing a non-vegan dip, I had to make something else up in a hurry! So I created a chickpea salad.  Here it is:

Improvised Chickpea Salad
1 can of chickpeas
2 sundried tomatoes in olive oil, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp. olive tapenade, or olives, chopped roughly
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. vegannaise
Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients.
Serves one person (me) twice

Yep, that's right, I am the only one who ate this, at and between the parties. Someone at the first party said it looked pretty though.

As I have said, the first party, college football, featured pork. The second party, more college football, featured buffalo chicken dip and pretzels (I did enjoy one of those). The third party featured Boston butt and ribs (pork and pork). In between I fortified myself with my chickpeas until they were gone.  We have an amazing neighborhood, and I had a lot of fun with all my friends and kids. This morning my husband felt very bloated, filled as he was with pork. I felt fine, but hungry! So here's what I made for myself this morning. It is based on something Alicia Silverstone's husband, Chris, made which she mentioned on The Kind Life, but I added a few more things.

Nourishing Cabbage and Beans
half a head of cabbage, sliced thinly 
2 leeks, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
juice from half a lemon
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

in a tablespoon of oil, at medium high heat, saute cabbage, leeks and garlic until wilted but still bright in color. Stir often. add the vinegar, lemon and remaining oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir and cook another minute. Remove from heat and stir in the beans, then cover and let stand for a minute or so as the beans are warmed.
Serves 4.

This dish turned out to be just what my body wanted this morning after going all day yesterday with not too much sustenance. This veggie and bean combo was indeed wonderfully nourishing and reminded me of something available in a cafe in Italy. This rustic, simple dish turned out to be a little elegant.

On to the next party!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Very Best Tabbouleh

If you are vegan, you are almost certain to have eaten tabbouleh, the middle eastern herb and couscous salad. My father, a world traveller for his profession when I was a child, and also an amazing self-taught chef, could make some darn good tabbouleh! For my own tabbouleh, I started with what I learned from him, then pushed the envelope further, choosing my favorite parts and amplifying them. I was so pleased with the result, I have to share it with you. This was so good I ate it twice in one day -- once for lunch atop a piece of Eziekiel toast spread with storebought hummus (hummus and tabbouleh were made for each other!) and later, for dinner, topping a pile of Morgan's Herbed Mashed Potatoes ( that my daughter had been begging for days for me to make her. I featured these delicious potatoes recently on A Midlife Vegan, along with Morgan's Seitan Piccata. The tabbouleh on the potatoes was heavenly, especially since I had my fave -- collard greens sauteed with garlic on the side. Lord have mercy!

Incidentally, my daughter ate her fill of "her" potatoes, then went back for seconds an hour later! My carnivore husband loved all of this, and I also fixed him a piece of tilapia sauteed with vegan butter and lemon.

Back to the tabbouleh -- here's the recipe:

The Very Best Tabbouleh
3/4 c. couscous (I used tricolor)
1 c. veggie broth
juice of 2 lemons
1 c. or more curly parsley, well chopped
1/2 c. fresh mint, well chopped
2-3 small tomatoes, small dice
1 medium cucumber, small dice
3 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, or more
kosher salt to taste.

Bring the broth to a boil, then combine it with the couscous in a mixing bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add lemon juice, then let sit for 5 more minutes. Meanwhile prepare the other ingredients. Fluff the couscous with a fork, and stir in the other ingredients, tasting before adding the salt. 
Serves at least 4 for a side dish.

I find that the couscous will continue to absorb whatever liquid you give it. The bright flavors of lemon and mint are what sets this version of tabbouleh apart. More olive oil would mellow the acid a bit if you prefer. The tomatoes and cucumber were from my garden.

After I chopped enough mint for the salad, I had only three beautiful sprigs left that I knew would be forgotten if I threw them back into the crisper. So I washed them, trimmed the ends and shoved them into my glass of drinking water.

Have you tried this? YUM! What a surprise! At first the flavor was very subtle and pleasant, but within fifteen minutes or so I realized that I was actually drinking, not water, but an unbrewed, LIVING iced tea! I just keep filling the jar up with more cold, filtered water, and drinking jarful after jarful. This is all the mint I have left, so I put the whole jar in the fridge overnight and started over with a fresh jar this morning and fresh water. I will be re-using this mint until it begins to show signs of rot!  This "tea" is that good!

I avoided growing mint in the garden this year, knowing it can be a bully to the other plants, but you can bet I will be growing it next year in a pot!

Please try the tabbouleh -- I know you will love it!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mmm! Coconut Fudge Brownies!

Wow!  I'm baking!  And making up my own recipes! I never would'a thunk it! I am very happy with how these brownies turned out.

Loving the vegan ice cream made from coconut milk, I assumed I would love the coconut milk itself, so I bought some. In the glass, it did not appeal to me at all, tasting like melted lard because of the high fat content. So I had to find something to do with the rest of the carton of coconut milk. That's how this idea started. I checked a few brownie recipes to get an idea of liquid-to-dry ingredient ratios and cooking times, but then I changed everything. I didn't include oil since the coconut milk is fatty -- and I didn't miss it. The brownies are deliciously moist. I didn't use sugar -- I used date sugar instead, which is really only finely crushed dates. These brownies turned out to be subtly sweet which lets the sweetness of the ghirardelli chocolate shine! Here's the recipe:

Coconut Fudge Brownies
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. date sugar
1 3/4 c. unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 c. applesauce
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes (I used large flakes but you could use small instead)
3/4 c. ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8" square glass pan with earth balance. Combine all dry ingredients except chocolate chips and coconut flakes and stir well. Combine coconut milk and applesauce separately and stir well, then add the mixture to the dry ingredients, incorporating completely. Stir in the chocolate and coconut. Spread the mixture in the pan and bake for 30 minutes, then raise heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 5 minutes to crisp the top. While the brownies are baking, have fun licking the mixing bowl. It's vegan! No salmonella risk from eggs! Cool completely on a wire rack.

In this blog I want to periodically feature little snippets of my midlife vegan life around here if it seems you readers might get a kick out of them. As vegans, we are animal lovers. Here are my lovely animals!

This is a pretty funky photo of Emma (right) and Ellie (left) which would benefit from an explanation. My daughter alerted me to check out the dogs, who were lounging in an amazing pattern, head to tail, with rounded backs, looking very much like a yin yang symbol. As I snuck up on them with my camera and focused, in one spastic move, Ellie, ready for her close up, apparently, leaped over Emma and landed dramatically thus, in a frozen position. She is voguing here, Miss drama. Emma never budged. This is a perfect example of their personalities.

Enjoy the brownies!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You Are Going to Love This One!

Yes, I am actually going out on a limb to say that I am pretty sure you will love this.  I suspected it would be amazing, and was actually surprised by the luxurious, multidimensional flavors of this cold soup.  What makes this a cold soup and not just a spinach smoothie? . . . The flavors!

Once again, this recipe was born of necessity. I had a large tub of raw baby spinach for the family that nobody wanted to eat. It was not expired, it wasn't bad, it was just a bit strong in flavor, like it had been grown post-season. My son has nut allergies, the deadly kind, and his allergist confirmed that it is not uncommon for kids allergic to nuts to also have reactions to certain fruits and vegetables. It has to do with the type of protein in the seed of the plant. It is problematic in a way that is similar to the nut issue. With a limited range of fruits and veggies to eat, my son thankfully always enjoyed a simple spinach salad. But the other day his mouth began to itch after eating one bite of this spinach (red flag!). My husband got heartburn and my daughter wouldn't even touch it. I tasted it and was reminded of the way spinach tastes when it is too old.  I decided it needed to be cooked! Then I came up with a glorious treatment for the spinach that I had high hopes for. I was not disappointed, and you won't be either!

Cold Spinach Bisque
16 oz. raw spinach
1 cup roughly chopped onion (I used purple)
3 cloves chopped garlic
extra virgin olive oil for sauteeing
1 c. rice milk
6 Tbsp. tofutti "sour cream"
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. nutmeg, plus more for garnish

Saute onion in olive oil in a large pan for 3 minutes on medium heat. add garlic and saute an additional 2 minutes. Add spinach to the pan and cook just until wilted, stirring a few times.

In a blender, combine the spinach mixture and the other ingredients except the salt and pepper. Blend until homogenous, taste, then season as you like, adding more nutmeg if you want. Chill for a couple of hours.
Serves 4.

You can add a dollop of the "sour cream" to each bowl, but I think this soup would be just as luxurious without it. It sunk to the bottom of the bowl anyway. The flavors are multilayered here, hints of cream, hints of butter and broth, none of which are actually in the soup. I love what the nutmeg does to emphasize the richness of this soup. It is so nice to serve it cold in the summer. This is an elegant dish and would work well as a first course for a sit-down dinner. Just think how easy it would be to pull it out of the fridge already made and ladle it out into bowls on the table. I'm happy with this effort!

My daughter wanted to contribute to the blog and so she did a little sketch of me holding a couple of my chinese long beans from the garden. Here it is:

Though my daughter still enjoys cheese and occasionally chicken, she has given up hamburgers and is opening her mind to my vegan food. She loves my vegan mashed potatoes! My daughter also has a friend at school who is vegan. Her mother told her she might contact me to find out what to feed her daughter, who has been vegan for only two months so far! It would be fun to meet Wynne's friend. I've never met another vegan in real life!

Hope you like the soup!

A New Recipe for Leftovers!

My cooking ideas so far have been born of necessity, namely needing to find a way to combine or reinvent delicious foods already in my larder. This approach, with economy and creativity in mind, has been one way I have managed to make being vegan easy. There are fewer trips to the supermarket and there is less waste. But economy needn't trump flavor and variety. Here, I only had a cup of cooked brown rice left over, and I wanted to honor its goodness with more goodness.  So, necessity being the mother of invention, this fits the bill. In making this salad, I would encourage you to follow the spirit in which I have invented the recipe. Use whatever you have. If you have a bit of quinoa or barley, try that. If you have mushrooms or leeks, try those. If you have more or less of any ingredient, go on and use it up. Then taste it and adjust the dressing and seasonings accordingly. This is just what I used.

"Second Chance" Brown Rice Salad
1 c. cooked brown rice (mine was cooked in veggie broth)
1/4 c. purple onion, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 carrot, diced small
1/4 c. chopped italian parsley
a small handful black olives, chopped
1/2 avocado, diced small
2 Tbsp. Veganaise
1 Tsp. dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. shoyu
salt and pepper

In olive oil, saute the onion for about 4 minutes, just long enough to lessen its "bite" a bit. Then combine it with the rice, cold from the refrigerator. Allow the onions to cool. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the other ingredients. Once the onions have cooled, add them and the rice to the other ingredients. 

I mixed the dressing in an old jar with a lid. Just combine all the ingredients except the salt and pepper, shake it up and taste it and then season with salt and pepper to taste. If you don't have a jar, you can mix it in a bowl with a whisk. I just like the jar because I prefer to dress the salad lightly and keep the rest of the dressing for a later use. Dress the salad and stir it up.
Serves 4.

I ate the salad plain in a bowl, and then I decided to try some of it wrapped in a sheet of nori. This really changed the flavor, bringing more of a sushi-like flavor which went nicely with the hint of shoyu in the dressing. Such a large amount of seaweed, however, did increase the saltiness a bit, so adjust the seasoning of the dressing if you are planning on eating it this way.  Also, the moisture quickly saturates the nori so just fill the roll right before you eat it. This salad was so healthful and sustaining. Have fun with it!

I took a few shots of some of my garden blossoms that I want to share with you. The flowers are so pretty and looking at them feels like just another way to consume the bounty of the garden!

A zucchini blossom . . .

A chinese longbean blossom . . .

This gorgeous morning glory was not in my garden. I found it along the edge of the woods in my backyard. What a happy surprise! Have a wonderful day!