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Lactose is my enemy, but vegan food is not

Over the past few years I have become increasingly lactose intolerant.  This is unfortunate as I habitually consume large amounts of cheese, and often other dairy products, at every meal…and between meals…and as midnight snacks.

However, I’m determined not to let this get me down, and I’m using it as an opportunity to try new recipes and especially as a way to delve into vegan cooking and baking.

Maybe this is my body’s way of forcing me into reluctant compliance with my morals.

I started posting a few things on Facebook that I will put here for completeness:

Facebook 29 August 2012 –
I know you’re all dying to hear about my experiments with semi-vegan food, so here’s what was on tonight’s menu:

Salad – Lettuce, hearts of palm, kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, carrot, cucumbers (from garden), sweet red peppers (from garden), avocado, walnuts, dried cranberries, salt, pepper. Dressing: red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, sugar.

Dessert – Coconut milk chocolate mousse. Amazing. I added a tiny bit of salt and a little almond extract to her ingredient list. http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2012/01/16/chocolate-frosting-shots/

Beverage – Fresh squeezed lime with sugar and sparkling water

Facebook 31 August 2012 –
Semi-vegan dinner last night:
Scalloped potatoes – made with this vegan bechamel recipe (I used olive oil and almond milk): http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2010/04/swiss_chard_gratin_with_vegan_bechamel.php
Loosely based on this scalloped potatoes recipe, since I had never made them before:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/scalloped-potato-gratin-recipe/index.html
I did top it with parmesan, but I think it would also be really good with homemade herb breadcrumbs instead.
White bean soup (great northern beans cooked from dried in a crockpot with a bay leaf, garlic, s&p) served with crispy fried sage
Simple salad with lettuce, raw zucchini (from garden), raw carrots, dried cranberries, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Dessert: Peach smoothie with leftover coconut liquid from the night before and (non-vegan) zucchini muffins from a thoughtful friend with too much zucchini in her CSA share 🙂

My mandolin is my new best-kitchen friend, but I really should get a protective glove…

What vegan food have you been cooking lately? I need more ideas!

I took a break from cataloging food while I was visiting my parents, but now that I’m home I’ll hopefully find the time to post a few things now and then.
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Books of 2011

This is a food blog, but I thought I’d post about one of my other passions: books.  Here is the list of books I read in 2011 with links to Amazon.  I was going to write reviews saying which ones I recommend, but I would recommend them all!

I received a Kindle for the holidays in 2010, so in 2011 I revisited a number of childhood favorites that were available for free on the Kindle.  I also read a few other out-of-copyright books that I hadn’t gotten around to reading before.

As you can see, I reread and re-listened to a lot of books.  My goal in 2012 is to read more new books, since I have a habit of always going back to ones I love.  How will I discover new books to love if I keep recycling the old ones, right?  In that spirit, I would appreciate any suggestions you have for my 2012 reading list.  Thanks!

Currently reading (Carrying over from 2011)
Piccole Donne (Little Women in Italian)

Jane Eyre (Italian Edition) – Charlotte Bronte
In those days we danced ’til dawn – Ray A Schaefer
Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad – Firoozeh Dumas
The Lord God Made Them All – James Herriot
Shadows Bright as Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Man’s Journey from Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph – Amy Ellis Nutt
Salt: A World History – Mark Kurlansky

New books I read in 2011 (non-book club)
The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Always the Baker, Never the Bride – Sandra D. Bricker
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life – Barbara Kingsolver
An Old-Fashioned Girl – Louisa May Alcott
Colman – Monica Furlong
Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany – Bill Buford
The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure – William Goldman
Emily, Alone: A Novel – Stewart O’Nan
Cooking for Gracie: The Making of a Parent from Scratch – Keith Dixon
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

Book club books I read in 2011
Middlesex: A Novel – Jeffrey Eugenides
True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart – Thich Nhat Hanh
No Biking in the House Without a Helmet – Melissa Fay Greene
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal – Christopher Moore
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down – Anne Fadiman

Books I reread/relistened to in 2011
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
Understood Betsy – Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – Kate Douglas Wiggin
In a Sunburned Country – Bill Bryson
Juniper – Monica Furlong
Wise Child – Monica Furlong
Ramayana – William Buck
Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad, No 1) – David Eddings
Queen of Sorcery (The Belgariad, Book 2)- David Eddings
Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad, Book 3) – David Eddings
Castle of Wizardry (The Belgariad, Book 4) – David Eddings
Enchanters’ End Game (The Belgariad, Book 5) – David Eddings
Guardians of the West (The Malloreon, Book 1) – David Eddings
King of the Murgos (The Malloreon, Book 2) – David Eddings
Demon Lord of Karanda (The Malloreon, Book 3) – David Eddings
Sorceress of Darshiva (The Malloreon, Book 4)
The Seeress of Kell (The Malloreon, Book 5) – David Eddings
Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles 1 – Patricia C Wrede
Searching for Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles 2 – Patricia C Wrede
The Railway Children – E. Nesbit
A Little Princess – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Sorry about the blue links!  I may need to change my theme in order to fix that.

Charoses for Rosh Hashanah?

My favorite thing about Passover is getting to eat massive quantities of charoses (also charoset or haroset).  I always wonder though, why do we eat a dish made with apples in the spring when apples aren’t even in season?

With Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) coming up, I started thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be too sacrilegious to make charoses now, when there are lots of gorgeous local apples just waiting to be enjoyed.  After all, you’re supposed to eat apples during Rosh Hashanah too.  So if you would like to make charoses Rosh Hashanah-style, I recommend substituting honey for the sugar; that way you get in both the apples and the honey.

In April, when I realized I wasn’t going to have the opportunity to attend a Seder, I decided I still needed my yearly quota of charoses.  I called my grandma for a little help and she provided me with the general quantities and ingredients.  I list her recipe first and then the version I made, which has more exact measurements.

Whether you make this for Passover, Rosh Hashanah, or just a snack, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Grandma Gerry’s recipe:
2-3 apples (Jonathan, fuji, or gala apples)
Pecans
Cinnamon
A little sugar
Wine (sweet, red, like Manischewitz)

My version:
3 apples (I used fuji at the time, but now I’d use something local, like a honeycrisp)
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup red grape juice
1 Tablespoon sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

I believe my grandma blends hers in the food processor, but since I prefer mine a bit chunkier, I cut the apples to the size I like.  I used an OXO Good Grips Mini Chopper to chop up the walnuts, but you could also chop them with a knife.

Mix all of the ingredients together.  You’ll want to adjust the amount of sugar you add based on the sweetness of the apples you use.

Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours to let the flavors meld.

Do you have a favorite charoses recipe you’d be willing to share?  Please leave it in the comments!

Helpful equipment:
OXO Good Grips Mini Chopper I don’t use this very often, but when I do, I find it very useful.  I mostly use it for chopping nuts.

Back to the Blog

It’s been quite a while since I’ve made any new blog posts.  Our baby, Ariella, was born on May 19th and with her birth the blog really went out of my mind.  I can’t believe she is almost four months old now.  The individual days seem long, but the weeks keep flying by.

This morning I saw the blog of a new mother-friend (Simply Bike), and I remembered how much I enjoyed telling friends and family about the things going on in our kitchen.  Honestly, I don’t cook too many exciting things these days, we seem to eat a lot of lentil soup and pasta with zucchini, but if I do make something a little more interesting I will try to capture it here.

In the meantime, I have a number of entries that I didn’t get around to creating at the end of the pregnancy, so you can expect a few more pre-baby recipes to be coming your way.

Ariella loves her stuffed carrot.  Hopefully this will transfer to a love of real food sometime in the coming year.  I can’t wait to feed my baby!

I’ve been reading this great book called Cooking for Gracie: The Making of a Parent from Scratch by Keith Dixon.  A foodie writing about the birth and growth of his first child is a perfect combination, and speaks to me particularly at this period in my life.

Now to figure out what to call my blog now that I’m not pregnant.  Any suggestions?

Stay tuned, and please keep the comments coming!

Crepes with chard, chickpeas and a creamy curry sauce

Curry sauce:
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Curry powder, to taste (I used a curry powder that I like from the bulk section of our local coop.)

In a pot, over medium-low heat, melt the butter and then add the flour.  Stir constantly and wait for butter to turn golden, but not brown.  Should take about 2-3 minutes.

Add a very small amount of milk at a time, whisking well so that no lumps form.  Continue adding milk in a very slow stream and whisking constantly.

Return sauce to a boil and then reduce heat and continue to cook for about two minutes, stirring constantly.  Add salt and curry powder to taste.


Wash and dry the chard and remove chard leaves from stems, reserving the stems for a later dish or broth.  Roughly chop the chard leaves.  Add to pot containing the sauce, along with cooked chickpeas.  I didn’t measure these quantities;  just add however much of the two you like.  Return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, just until chard is cooked.

Crepes:
Here you can use your favorite crepe batter recipe or look one up online or in a cookbook.  I used a recipe from the cookbook Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking by Michael Ruhlman.

I cooked my crepes in a cast-iron pan and they came out perfectly.

I filled the crepes with the chard, chickpea, and curry sauce mixture and then added some on top.

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Many thanks to Barbara Wacknov for the outline of the gravy recipe and to my mom for teaching me to make mashed potatoes last Thanksgiving.  You’d think mashed potatoes would be one of those things you would just know how to make, but I obviously missed that bit of common sense.  If you missed it too, then here is the recipe my mom and I came up with to help you out.

 

Mashed Potatoes

8 potatoes (8 cups of potatoes sliced)
1 Tablespoon salt in water
4 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1 tsp. salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Peel the potatoes and slice them in half and then cut again into half inch pieces. Put the sliced potatoes into a large pot and fill with water to cover the potatoes. Add 1 Tablespoon of salt to the water, then turn to high and bring to a boil. Continue cooking until potatoes are tender. Drain the water and put the potatoes back on a medium heat. Add the butter, cream, and milk and mash the potatoes using a potato masher. Add 1 tsp. salt and fresh ground pepper.

 

Gravy

3 Tablespoons smooth, roasted almond butter
3 Tablespoons butter
Plenty of fresh chopped herbs: sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, etc.
5 Tablespoons flour
4 cups vegetable broth
Salt
Pepper

Melt the butter and almond butter in a pot over medium-low heat.  Allow almost to brown and add plenty of fresh chopped herbs.  Stir for a few minutes then add the 5 Tablespoons of flour and continue stirring for another minute or two.  Start adding the broth a very little bit at a time, whisking quickly all the while to prevent lumps from forming.  Bring to a boil and continue cooking until it cooks down a bit.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Avocado on Toast

Simple and delicious.  The perfect lunch or snack for when you are busy.

If I have been having a pregnancy craving, then this is it.  I’ve had avocado as part of my lunch three days in the last week.  Today I ate two on two pieces of toast.  It was great.

Ingredients:
1 piece of toast
1 avocado
Butter
Salt
Pepper

Cut the avocado in half by running your knife long-ways around the avocado without cutting through the seed.  Pull the two halves apart and remove the seed.  Scoop out the halves with a spoon and then mash the avocado with a fork.  Stir in salt and pepper to taste.
Toast and lightly butter the bread.  Spread the avocado mixture on the toast and enjoy.