Sunday, 11 November 2007

Briami and Manestra

Wow, it's been awhile since I posted on my food blog! I've been so busy I haven't even been cooking all that much. The week our church was made a cathedral, I realized that it was a whole *week* that I went without cooking a "real" meal, if you don't count fixing a quick-style huevos rancheros with store-bought refried beans, which I don't. :-)

One thing that's making me busy is the cooking class we're doing at church, though. And it's been so great! I am teaching it tomorrow. I figured I'd better test the recipes tonight. Honestly, though I've eaten it and enjoyed it and knew it'd be very easy, I've never before made either of these recipes. They're just which ones fit best with my vegetarian night. And let me tell you--they were *so tasty.* Hibi was very impressed as well! (That's all who are home tonight to enjoy it, though I know Paul will enjoy some later.)

A note about the vegetables: I know it's beyond eggplant season, just barely but still. And zucchini too. Though when I went to pull out my zuke plant yesterday, I found it still had little tiny zukes on it, and I didn't have the heart! So I left it. Anyway, I do plan to tell the folks that, and that they should really make this in late summer or early fall. But this was scrumptious all the same.

You could substitute other vegetables for the out-of-season peppers or carrots, and in season you could use green beans. I also used rosemary, even though the recipe I was following said to use dill. I don't have dill, and I do have rosemary growing in my garden. This recipe is very conducive to adaptation.

Briami (Roasted Vegetable Casserole)

3 zucchini, cut into 1" rounds
5 large potatoes, cut into 1" rounds
1 eggplant, cut into 1" rounds
1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
4 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons mint
2 tablespoons parsley
1 small piece of rosemary
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and place in a large baking pan. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until all vegetables are tender. Check frequently and add water if vegetables seem dry. Liquid should be absorbed when done.

Manestra (Orzo with cheese)

1 16 oz. package orzo
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup olive oil
mizithra, feta, or parmesan to taste

Cook orzo in boiling water until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water. Heat butter and olive oil in a skillet until butter is melted, and add orzo. Stir for a couple of minutes. Add cheese to taste.


Friday, 28 September 2007

We heard recently that there's a new restaurant in our area of town called Nutshell, and that it's all vegan. Now, I probably wouldn't have tried it if we didn't have a vegan in the family, but we did tonight. And I have a message for non-vegans and non-vegetarians: if you love good food, go to Nutshell! It was amazing food. The only complaint I have is the very slow service. And I do mean *very slow*. Don't arrive very hungry. Though we perhaps should have expected to wait for awhile because we did get there at 7:15 on a Friday evening, but I've seen lots of other reviews saying the place has very slow service.

Anyway, three of the four of us loved the place. Zachary did not love the place, but even he had things he liked about it. He didn't like waiting so long--we got there at 7:15 and put our name on the waiting list. I don't know how long we waited, but it was a long time. We were finally seated, and then quickly ordered, but it was again a long time before our food came. We were in our car driving home at 9:30. That's slow service!

One word about the price: some would consider the price to be a negative. It was a bit pricey. My entree was $14. But I say it was worth every penny, plus the wait....well, I could really get rid of the wait and be much happier!

But on to the good stuff. After we ordered, I saw the olive oil menu sitting on the table and remembered that I'd seen a review that talked about their olive oil menu. So we ordered some. You can select from about 5 different breads or an assortment, about 6 or 7 olive oils from all over the world, and a ton of different salts. We chose the assortment of bread, the Chilean olive oil, and a volcanic salt. Well, I know what good olive oil and salt and bread taste like. But we were all blown away by how good it tasted! "Like and explosion of flavor in my mouth!" were the words uttered by my jaded 13 year old. I'd like to go sometime and just have something simple like soup, along with a variety of breads and olive oils and salts.

After the long wait, our entrees finally came. Zachary didn't like his spaghetti, but the rest of us did! It was spaghetti with a creamy porcini and truffle sauce. It was just how you'd imagine it to taste, with the very pungeant truffle flavor throughout the spaghetti. It was delicious. I've got the leftovers in my fridge for my lunch tomorrow. :-)

Hibi had a grilled pineapple and avocado sandwich, which came with bamboo fries. She really loved it. I was interested to try those fries, but I have to admit, I was expecting them to be...well, woody. Not at all! Very interesting flavors and we all enjoyed some.

Paul had the potato pancakes, which he also enjoyed. They were very interesting, too--they were basically like puffs of mashed potatoes, with interesting toppings. I don't remember much about them because I was so focused on my own and the kids' meals.

I had the Jamaican BBQ and it was all delicious. It had lots of different things in beans and rice, corn fritters that were SPICY!, something like a hash browns but I'm not sure it was potatoes. Boy, I sure wish I'd remembered what all was supposed to be in it! Then there was an orange half that was hollowed out a bit and stuffed with a mixture that could have been potatoes or yucca or something like that....but it definitely had coconut in it, and it was nicely sweet but not overly. Oh, and grilled squash and onions.

We did not stay for dessert, as we'd already been there a long time! Though it's just a half block from Pix Pattiserie, which I was thinking of going to after....but after I did not give a second thought to this idea. I was already sated with some of the best food I've eaten in a long time.

The Citysearch review we looked at for Nutshell says it's a good place for kids. I'd have to disagree, unfortunately. Though it's probably fine for kids to make noise, as it's a pretty noisy place, there's not much that's kid-friendly on the menu. They did offer to make Zac plain spaghetti with vegetables, but he chose the truffle spaghetti because I told him that truffles are very expensive. ;-) But really, I felt a bit out of place there, myself, and not just because I had kids along (they were the only kids in the restaurant). It is a very trendy, hip place where it's cool to be in your 20s and hanging out with friends.

But don't let that stop any of you non-twenty-somethings from trying it! Because why should the twenty-somethings get all the good vegan food?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Doughnuts at Patrick's Point!

Here is the promised doughnut recipe that I used when we went to Patrick's Point. It was pretty easy to make these while camping, even if it did take forever because of the cool weather. But they're just as easy to make at home.

Here's the recipe, just as I sent it to the campers' email list.

Hey doughnut-eaters,

So, here's the recipe I used for the doughnuts. I don't think I'd
used this recipe before, and when I looked at it originally I thought
"no milk? I'm not so sure..." But Joy of Cooking was the only
cookbook I brought with me, so that was it. And they were
scrumptious, no? I had to make more when we got home, since I didn't
get my doughnut binge in at PP (the real reason for making doughnuts...)

Yeast Doughnuts ala Joy of Cooking

JoC notes that these would be perfect for filling with jelly,
especially how I made them with no holes. It also notes that as you
add the eggs, the dough will fall apart and then come together. (So
don't be alarmed.)
Also, this recipe does best if all ingredients are at room temp, and
especially the butter.

Stir together in a medium bowl:
1 cup warm (105-115 degree) water
2 envelopes active dry yeast (for heavens sake, buy bulk Bob's Red
Mill yeast and save yourself the trouble of yeast that doesn't work
right, and use 4 teaspoons)

Let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add and
stir until the mixture is smooth:
1 cup all-purpose flour
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (I just use a dinner plate)
and let rise in a warm place until bubbly, 30-60 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat until creamy, about 30 seconds (if you're using
a mixer...):
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
Gradually add and beat until light and fluffy:
2/3 cup sugar
Add, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition:
3 large eggs
Add and beat until blended:
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange (optional; I didn't use it at PP)

Add the yeast mixture along with:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (at home, I'd run out of white flour,
and use whole wheat pastry flour. No one knew any different!)
Mix until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough, which will
be very soft and golden, wraps around the dough hook or paddle and
comes away from the sides of the bowl. (If you do not have a heavy-
duty mixer, the batter can be beaten by hand with a wooden spoon.)
(Here the book says to butter a large bowl and then add the dough,
but I just leave the dough in the same bowl to fine results.) Cover
the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (again I use a dinner plate) and
let rise in a warm place (warm place at PP? Yeah, right. That's why
it took all day) until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch
the dough down, wrap tightly in plastic (I just left in the same
bowl) and then a large plastic bag (just the bowl and plate) and
refrigerate (leave out on the camp table) for at least 3 hours (until
it doubles) or overnight.

Working on a lightly floured surface with half of the dough at a
time, pat or roll the dough out 1/2 inch think. Cut with a well-
floured doughnut cutter (or biscuit cutter, for no holes) and place
the doughnuts and holes on wax paper. Repeat with remaining half of
dough. Let rise, uncovered, in a warm place (ha) until soft and
puffy to the touch (until you can't stand it anymore), about 30 minutes.

Heat vegetable oil or shortening (I use Spectrum shortening) in a
deep pot at least a couple inches deep to a temp of 365. Drop in 3
or 4 doughnuts at a time and fry until golden, turning to fry on both
sides. Drain on paper towels (I used an overturned cardboard box
that I'd wiped pretty clean, and at home I used paper bags) and dust
with powdered sugar or shake in a bag with sugar. (Actually,
shaking in a small paper bag with either one works quite well. You
can also make a glaze if you wish, by mixing powdered sugar with
water. Or use cinnamon sugar. Or honey. Possibilities are endless!)

Make sure and eat these within a few hours, or a day at most. They
won't be good for too much longer than that.


Thursday, 6 September 2007

Egg Custard for One

No, I don't live alone, but my family doesn't always share my food obsessions. :-) I've been enjoying this one solo. A nice little dessert that uses an egg from my huge supply from my hens. :-) It's pretty quick to make in the microwave. I'm not a big fan of microwave cooking, and most of the time would be content without one. But custard is a perfect dish to make in the microwave--no bain marie required.

Egg Custard for One

Use a microwave-safe cereal or soup bowl. Crack one egg into it and beat with a fork. Add two tablespoons sugar and a tiny pinch of salt and stir well. Add 3/4 cup milk, a tiny pinch of nutmeg, and a few drops of vanilla. Stir very well, making sure the egg is incorporated. Put in the microwave for 15 minutes, power level 3. (Make sure not to cook this on high!) It should be set, with just a bit of jiggle in the middle.

I suppose you could top this with fresh fruit. But I enjoy it as is in all it's eggy glory. And you can wait until it cools, but I eat it--carefully!--right after it comes out of the microwave.

One added thing I've been using with this recipe that's really delicious--a little luxury--I bought some vanilla salt at The Meadow on Mississippi and it is *perfect* for this use! I top the finished custard with a small pinch before eating it. Yum!

Pasta with Pesto

I realize that most of my readers probably already know how to make this dish. But I thought I'd post it, because it's my favorite dish for a quick summer dinner. I usually make it on marketing day, for two reasons: one, it's easy to make for the end of a long day, and two, when I'm using basil from the farmer's market I want to use it as soon as possible to preserve the good flavor and freshness.

A food processor works best here. You don't have to have one of those big fancy ones--a simple mini-processor can be had for $50 new, or find one at a consignment shop or garage sale. If you don't have a food processor, a blender will do in a pinch. You could try the old-fashioned method--a mortar and pestle, but I've never had that work for me.

Pasta with Pesto

Start a pot of water to boil for one pound of pasta. We like angel hair, but you could use any kind of pasta. Angel hair cooks very quickly.

Use a colander full of fresh basil from your garden, or one bunch of basil from the farmer's market. Pull the leaves off the stems after you wash it and place in the bowl of your food processor. Add two cloves of garlic and a small handful of pine nuts or other nuts. I sometimes toast the nuts before I add them--be careful not to burn pine nuts! They are very small and burn easily. I have become quite the pine nut burning expert. :-P Process these together for just a few pulses, then add olive oil through the feeder, about 1/4 cup. If you aren't serving a vegan, you can add about 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese now.

Remove the pesto to a large pasta bowl.

Cook the pasta until al dente. When it's almost done, remove about half a cup of the cooking water. Add some to the pesto and stir. You want it to be a nice, spreadable consistency. When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the pesto. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the top, then drizzle a bit of the cooking water over that. Then toss the pasta and pesto together.

I love to top this with halved cherry tomatoes, but I also serve it with roasted zucchini when the cherry tomatoes aren't in season yet. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Fudge Truffle Cheesecake

Or as we call it, simply Chocolate Cheesecake. I clipped this recipe from a magazine many years ago, and I don't even remember which one or when. Maybe it was even from one of those promotional cookbooklets? I don't remember.

I used to make this during Cheesefare Week**, but it rarely gets done anymore at that time of year. We're just so focused on so many different rich foods, and it's just too much to eat a whole cheesecake by ourselves, along with all that other stuff. So, when Paul recently mysteriously found my recipe on the dining room table (not sure how it got there...) and he asked, "oh, are you planning to make chocolate cheesecake?" I said no, but when he said, "could you?" I said, okay.

And I meant to get a picture of it! But I didn't remember to do so until I was on my last bite of it. I was going to snap one of that, but the camera's battery was depleted. So you'll just have to take my word for it: this cheesecake is utterly dark and lovely. It's not too hard to make, either.

Oh and sorry--no vegan alternatives for this one. :-)

Fudge Truffle Cheesecake

First, make the Chocolate Crumb Crust:
In a medium bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 15 wafers), 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa and 1/3 cup melted butter. Press firmly on bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.

Note on the crust: I sometimes use chocolate wafers, or even chocolate sandwich-type cookies, and omit the cocoa and some of the sugar, to good results. Maybe use a bit more crumbs. It's easiest to make cookie crumbs in a blender or food processor.


3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened (I *love* the Gina Marie cream cheese, from the Sierra Nevada Cheese Company; you can buy it at New Seasons or Food Front locally. Non-locally, you're on your own!)
1 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour and 5 minutes or until center is set. Cool. Chill. Garnish as desired (garnish? Who needs garnish?) and refrigerate the leftovers.

**Cheesefare Week, also called Butter Week in the Russian church, is the time in the Orthodox church right before Lent begins. It's the equivalent to Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday in the Catholic Church. Except, of course, that fasting is null and void (practically) in the Catholic church during Lent. In the Orthodox church we really know how to *fast.* :-)

Monday, 20 August 2007

Caldo Verde

So simple, so good, so good for you!

I had an infestation in my kale, which had grown to a huge bush, of bugs just before we left on vacation. So I cut it down to the roots, and when we returned, it was all ready to harvest again! I love greens that do that. Anyway, I hadn't gotten around to making anything with it until tonight. This morning Hibi reminded me that it was there, definitely ready to cook with. So I made her favorite--Caldo Verde, or Portuguese Greens Soup. I have adapted it from the Joy of Cooking cookbook, where it originally called for sausage. It is delicious without! And the kale has never tasted better--so tender! I think this was the best kale I've ever eaten.

You can, of course, use other greens in this soup. I've tried chard, collard greens, I think I even used rapini once. But kale is the best, in my humble opinion.

Caldo Verde

Chop one onion and two cloves of garlic and saute them in a soup pot in one tablespoon of olive oil, until softened and golden brown. Add 4 thinly sliced potatoes OR 2 potatoes and 2 turnips or rutabegas (I used turnips from my garden tonight), 8 cups of vegetable broth or water or a combo, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat; lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, until potatoes are very soft. Use a potato masher to coarsely mash the potatoes, or use a stick blender to lightly puree.

Chop one bunch of kale coarsely (about 4 cups chopped) and add to the soup. Stir it in, then turn off the heat. Add a half a lemon's worth of juice and serve with lemon wedges and parmesan cheese. Serve alongside some freshly baked raisin bread!

Red Vegetarian Pozole

A friend of mine makes a wonderful Green Vegetarian Pozole (we first found out the difference while in Mexico) and I love it. But I was first introduced to Pozole by my friend Lisa in San Francisco. I'd been to gatherings where pozole was served before, but it always had pork in it and so I never tried it. Lisa's red pozole was so good I had to email her after I got home and ask her to send me the recipe! She says it's from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook. Recently I made it using all produce from my garden. Well, not the avocadoes! I don't think those will grow anywhere close to Portland, unfortunately! Oh, yeah, not the limes either. But the tomatoes, squash, peppers and cilantro were from my garden.

Vegetarian Pozole

4 tsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
1/8 plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups canned tomatoes with juice, chopped
3-4 cups peeled, seeded and cubed delicata squash (Lisa notes that she uses whatever orange squash she has on hand...however, I think delicata is absolutely the easiest and tastiest to work with)
4 cups coarsely chopped green or red bell pepper (I used the sweet peppers I have growing in my garden)
4 cups drained hominy (2 15 oz. cans)
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
2-3 tbsp. minced chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, sage, or epazote
Grated Monterey Jack cheese, avocado cubes, crushed tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded lettuce, sour cream, and/or fresh lime wedges for garnishing

Warm the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions and saute on medium high heat for 5-7 minutes until golden. Stir in the garlic and 1/8 teaspoon of salt and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and squash and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the bell peppers, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the squash is tender. Stir in the hominy, lime juice, chipotles, remaining salt, and the oregano, sage or epazote. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with your favorite garnishes.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Garden Produce

We've all been at church camp this week, but I've been coming home to pay attention to all the things around here that need attention. Like the garden! Wow, here's the harvest from *just today.* I didn't even plant those pumpkins--they're volunteers, presumably from last year's compost. And there are more out in the garden, some that are just getting started! And I finally realized that the eggplant varieties I have won't get any bigger, and picked them. One is light purple streaked with white, and then there's the three white ones. The big white one, I think, is two that grew together. And lots of tomatoes! That haven't even been added to the tomatoes in the windowsill yet....did I say we were keeping up with the tomatoes? Well, maybe when we're not at camp! I'm thinking perhaps making tomato soup and freezing it for winter would be a good option for tomato excess.

I have to commend the hard-working stupice for the second year in a row! Much as I love heirlooms, and could be happy with nothing but heirlooms on my table, I also am pragmatic and like to have tomatoes consistently. Stupice is the one for that. I pick at least 3 or 4 every other day, sometimes significantly more, and they're early and go late. Pretty tasty too! They're small, but that's okay for just about any use. They're the ones in the front left.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Eggplant Parmesan

One of my favorite summertime dishes! Though I'm disappointed that my garden eggplant are still not ready. But the tomatoes and basil came from my garden. The original recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking; the vegan version is my adaptation. Though really, the "original" I've adapted as well because I don't think the proportions for the coating are correct.

Eggplant Parmesan

Slice two medium eggplants into 1/2 inch thick rounds. (Make sure to trim both ends; they can be tough and overly chewy.) Set up three dishes: the first, a small plate with flour on it, the second 3 eggs beaten with a tablespoon of olive oil, the third a mound of bread crumbs, processed from about 4 slices of bread. First dredge the slices in the flour, then soak in egg, then coat with the breadcrumbs. Lay each slice on a rack and let them dry for 10 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, dice 5 large-ish tomatoes and put into a colander. Let them drain for 20 minutes. Then toss with 1/2 cup chopped basil, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for up to 30 minutes, or until you're ready to start layering.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat, in a large skillet, until the oil is shimmering. Add eggplant in one layer and cook in batches. Turn after about 4 minutes, when golden brown. When golden brown on both sides, remove to a plate. Add more olive oil if needed and finish frying the remaining eggplant in batches. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425.

Coat a 9X12 baking pan with half the tomato sauce. Layer the eggplant, overlapping them as needed, or use an 11X17 pan for less overlapping. Top with the remaining sauce and then dust with 2 teaspoons of oregano and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Combine and sprinkle over the top: 1 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese and 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese. Optionally, you can sprinkle over the top a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley. Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly and browned in spots.

We like this with pasta.

Now for the vegan version:
When you're coating the eggplant slices, dredge with flour, then dip in soy milk, then in vegan breadcrumbs. Instead of cheese, use crumbled tofu. That's it!

Monday, 6 August 2007


I've never grown winter squash before, but this year I tried out Delicata squash. It's my favorite winter squash, because it's tasty, yes, but it's also a lot easier to deal with than lots of other squashes. It's small, small enough to serve two or even just one per piece, and it's skin is a lot thinner and easier to peel than types like pumpkin or butternut squash. (I'm cringing just thinking of the time when I was trying to peel a big winter squash using a dull-ish knife....thinking about how many ways I could injure myself while trying to do so!)

I didn't realize it would be ready so soon, though. I just brought these in from the garden today. I thought I had read that winter squash was planted at the same time as summer squash, and they grew for longer to develop the tougher skins. But these were just about as quick as the summer squash. Does anyone have any more info for me on that?

I've also got pumpkins growing out there that I didn't plant! They must have survived our compost pile and planted themselves. There's quite a few of them, and two quite large ones. I don't know if these ones will last until Halloween....that's why it's good that pumpkin can be used for more than just jack-o-lanterns! One very easy way to use pumpkin is just slice it and fry it in oil. Season with salt and pepper, and add other spices that sound good to you if you wish.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

How I began gardening

While watering the garden, I was realizing that in the time since we got home from vacation, almost a week, we've eaten tomatoes every single day. The day we got home it was eggplant parmesan, on Saturday it was a zucchini-tomato bake with fresh basil and oregano, Sunday we made a zucchini tomato frittata, Monday it was Greek green beans (with fresh tomatoes instead of canned sauce), yummy tomato soup on Tuesday, which I had to make sure I had plenty of tomatoes for because it takes three pounds of them, and last night we had a small tomato basil salad along with our white beans and chard. Tonight we'll have pasta with pesto and cherry tomatoes. In fact, I've bought no produce since we returned home except for fruit and onions.

It's so satisfying to be able to provide such delicious food for my family, all home-grown. Especially when it comes to tomatoes! We'd get sick of zucchini when it keeps giving and giving (though, sadly, I think my zucchini plant has died!) but we will always be hungry for tomatoes. The satisfying feeling is akin the feeling I got when I realized, after Hibiscus was born, that I could feed her completely from my own body, no formula needed. My body was made to make and feed babies. Nothing short of amazing!

I told about how I started gardening on Deb's blog, and I thought I'd share it here, because it's kind of funny! It's really Hibi's fault, or perhaps it's really Robert McCloskey's fault. Here's the very roundabout story of how I began gardening:

My parents always had a vegetable garden when I was growing up, but to be honest it always seemed so utilitarian, and very standard. I never even liked tomatoes until I tried heirlooms. I don't remember going out to the garden to harvest anything myself, like my kids go and eat cherry tomatoes and peas off the plant. And all those straight rows! (I never garden in straight rows...)

One book that we loved to read together when Hibi was five and six was Robert McCloskey's _One Morning in Maine_. It's the long, meandering story of a little girl's day, starting in when she woke and found that she had a loose tooth. When she lost it later that day, she is told that she should make a wish on the lost tooth and she will get it. Lots of things happen in between, but in the end she gets her wish when one of the village storekeepers offers her a chocolate ice cream cone.

Hibi was taken with this idea, and when it came time for her first tooth to come out, she was very excited about a wish being given. At this point, I was worried--the book didn't come with instructions for parents as to how to find out that wish in order to fulfill it! So I convinced her that the tooth fairy (we merged the "wish" idea with the tooth fairy that we'd grown up with) needed her to whisper her wish just as she was laying down in her bed at night. And what I heard that night was a whispered "a turtle!" (I'd been kind of hoping her wish would be the same chocolate ice cream cone...)

Oh, boy. No way a turtle was going to appear under her pillow! So I left a note from the tooth fairy saying that she had charged her parents with taking care of the acquisition of the turtle. A trip to the pet store ensued, and a tortoise was obtained named Torty. (We decided after that that the *first* tooth lost got a special wish; the following ones just got ordinary money!)

After we had Torty in her aquarium, we really felt kind of bad that she didn't have more room to crawl around. So, in front of our apartment, we created a space that was fenced in where she could crawl around. It was Paul's idea to make it a little garden with plants that she would like to eat. So, we especially for her planted petunias (she loved petunias!) and chard and aloe vera. (No tomatoes or basil back then--this was the fog belt of San Francisco!) And not only did Torty have a beautiful little world to crawl around in, but a gardener was born: me. That tiny space was perfect for a beginner gardener as it wasn't overwhelming, but just the right amount of space to figure out how to grow things.

Fellow gardeners, how did you begin your gardening venture? Please leave a comment, and if you blog about it let me know!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Paul cooks!

Yes, he did! I was going to offer that he could do a guest post on my cooking blog, but he just told me that he's almost ready to send his book manuscript in if the preface comes in tonight, and he's all ready to start on his *next project.* So, I suppose he's not interested in blogging right now. So I'll do the honors.

This post is to try to inspire others to garden and raise chickens, because almost everything in the frittata came from our garden or chickens!

Here's how this came down: Paul is still on vacation until tomorrow, and we wanted to attend a different church on this last day. So Paul had energy and time to say, hey, after church why don't we make a frittata with zucchini and cherry tomatoes? Ooh, that sounded good. So we found a recipe for zucchini frittata in Joy of Cooking, and adapted it. Here's how he did it:

First, he sauteed one cup of thinly sliced onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet, until golden brown. We added one large-ish zucchini, thinly sliced, and a small basket-full of cherry tomatoes, halved, and cooked it about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, we beat 5 eggs in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper.

Once the vegetables were finished cooking, Paul put them in a bowl to cool. Then I convinced him that even though that broth (oh, he had a Greek word to describe it....probably got it from one of our bishops who love to cook) looked very tasty, it should be drained off before adding to the eggs, so they wouldn't be runny. He saved the broth, however, so I can use it in soup.

So then he added the veggies to the egg mixture, along with 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese and about 1/4 cup combined fresh parsley and basil. He heated two tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet and then poured in the egg mixture and reduced the heat. He cooked it until the bottom was set and then put it in the broiler until it was nice and golden brown. He cut it in wedges and served it. Yum!

I sure hope it isn't next year's vacation before he cooks again!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Summer Garden Stew

Hot! Hot! Hot! It was 104 today! Yesterday it was only 86, and this is the first time this summer it's gotten anywhere close to 104. I couldn't quite think about cooking what I had planned, which was scallion crepes and bok choy from Local Flavors cookbook (which I haven't made before...hopefully I'll be able to make it sometime, as I do have plenty of bok choy in my garden!). Somehow standing over a hot griddle cooking crepes just didn't appeal.

So, I went out in my garden with colander and knife in hand. I went through and picked everything that I could. That turned out to be: one zucchini, a handful of basil, bunch of chives, 5 cherry tomatoes, 2 slightly larger tomatoes, the last of the peas, the first of the green beans, a big bunch bok choy, and one short, fat carrot.

I chopped the scallions I'd planned for the crepes and three cloves of garlic and sauteed them lightly in olive oil. Then I threw in all the other veggies, chopped if appropriate, except the basil and chives. Cooked that for a while and then added a bit of vegetable broth, not to cover, just enough to get them good and wet. I cooked them until the broth was reduced and everything was tender, then threw in the basil and chives.

I cooked a pot of pasta then served the stew over the pasta, and topped it with a dab of butter, ricotta, and parmesan.

It was delicious!

Saturday, 9 June 2007


We have a new, cool restaurant in our neighborhood! Okay, technically it's in the next neighborhood over, but just barely. We walked to Trebol, a Oaxacan restaurant, last night, on a gorgeous June evening, past the beautiful rose garden (which we stopped to browse after). We found Trebol to be a place that's more spendy than we'd like to go to frequently, but for a once-in-awhile treat, it's marvelous.

We started out with the guacamole and fresh corn tortillas. We all thought we'd died and gone to heaven. It's studded with carmelized garlic, and is just fabulous! They also bring out a plate of corn tortillas and two kinds of sauces--tamarind and serrano chile.

Paul and I both had the enchilada with spinach and mushrooms and is topped with an over-easy egg--delicious! They made a special dinner for Zac, because nothing on the menu appealed to him. They made him a black bean and cheese burrito. Hibi ordered a vegan soup but didn't like it, so they took it off the bill and brought another order of guacamole for her. She was happy! I had a tamarind margarita, and the kids both had a lavender lemonade. They had all kinds of flavors of lemonade--tamarind, mango, lavender....I can't remember them all.

We enjoyed our meal very much. But we'd really like them to offer a greater choice for vegetarians, especially vegans. The owner/chef is a former chef at Higgins, and he is following the tradition there of using only fresh, seasonal, local ingredients, which is wonderful! However, Higgins also only offers limited dishes for vegetarians. We've never brought Hibi there, so I don't know what they have for vegans.

I do hope they're able to settle into the neighborhood, and provide what this neighborhood needs. I think Trebol has great potential!

Friday, 8 June 2007

Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens

I recently saw this book at a friend's house and I knew instantly that I had to have it. But I decided to take the prudent approach: I first got it out of the library. After it has to go back, *then* I will buy it. ;-)

Super Natural Cooking is written by a San Francisco author. And it is visually so appealing, as well as having wonderful recipes and information about the virtues of different ingredients.
Today I am taking dinner to a friend from church who is ailing. This dish seems to purr lovingly, "comfort food" to me. It came out so scrumptious! (Yes, of course I had to taste it! I had to make sure it's good, didn't I?) 1/2 pound medium or large dried white beans, cooked
3 tablespoons clarified butter or olive oil (since I wasn't cooking for a vegan, I used the butter! And I used more than 3 tablespoons...)
Fine-grain sea salt
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 or 7 big leaves chard, preferably rainbow chard, cut into wide ribbons
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
Drain the beans, then heat the butter over medium-high heat in the widest skillet you've got. Add the beans to the hot pan in a single layer. Stir to coat the beans with butter, then let them sit long enough to brown on one side, about 3 or 4 minutes. The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Salt to taste, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the onion softens. Stir in the chard and cook until just beginning to wilt. Remove from the heat and season to taste with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of top-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan.
I'll bring it over with a loaf of bread from Di Prima Dolci.

Garden Stir-Fry

I made a meal with vegetables completely from my garden last night! It was a simple stir-fry with peas--the edible pod kind, radishes, and broccoli rabe. I even added some fresh oregano though that doesn't seem very authentically Asian! In not too long I can add cilantro, as that's about ready to cut. I used sesame oil to stir-fry and started out by frying cubes of tofu. Then I took out the tofu and fried the veggies. Next came a couple of tablespoons of bean paste, and then 16 oz. of cooked soba noodles, then the tofu came back in. It was delicious!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

What the World Eats

I found the link to this interesting photo gallery on my cousin's blog. It is an interesting look at what families eat all around the world. I found it fascinating to look at the amount of junk food compared to vegetables, processed foods compared to primary-source foods, and how much each family spends on food per week. And how much soda some families consume! Wow. I'm thinking of doing the same for our family, but I'd have to carefully document what we ate in a week to get an honest picture. Now that we don't live way out I can just run to the store that's just a mile away to pick up ice cream, or a forgotten ingredient, or whatever.,29307,1626519_1373664,00.html

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Gratin of Cherry Tomatoes with Ricotta and Basil

Cherry tomatoes are in the farmer's market now! Whoohoo! My own tomato plants are still weeks away from producing ripe, delicious tomatoes (some of which are cherry tomatoes) but they somehow have them in the market. On the upside: some of my plants have little tomatoes on them, and one has a tomato the size of a small egg!

This dish is one of my favorite summer dishes. But then I have so many favorite summer dishes! Summer is my favorite time to cook, because the ripe, flavorful vegetables of summer need so little in the way of preparation to be absolutely wonderful.

This is not veganizable. So I used the rest of the bunch of basil to make pesto for Hibi, and she ate cherry tomatoes along with ciabatta, which I served alongside the gratin to sop up the yummy juices, and pesto. She was happy! You could, I suppose, make it with a vegan ricotta, but I think you'd have to make it yourself because I know of no commercial vegan ricotta. Or just bake tomatoes with the other ingredients.

Gratin of Cherry Tomatoes with Ricotta and Basil

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds cherry tomatoes, preferably a mix of red and yellow
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ricotta
2 eggs
2 tabelspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425.
Choose a shallow baking dish that is just large enough to hold the tomatoes snugly packed in a single layer. (I used a 9X13 pan.) Using 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, grease the bottom and sides of the dish. Add the tomatoes, rolling them around to coat with oil.
In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, 5 tablespoons of the basil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Sprinkle half of the mixture over the oiled tomatoes.
In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, the remaining 3 tablespoons basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt, the eggs, flour, and cream. Stir until well blended and creamy. Pour this mixture over the crumb-topped tomatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining bread crumb mixture and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Place in the oven and bake until the cheese is slightly browned and the tomatoes have not yet burst, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature, spooned onto individual plates.

This served the three of us non-vegans with just a smidge left over, and I'll bet when I go back to the kitchen I'll find that it's gone. :-) It would, of course, serve more if it was served as a side-dish.

From The Vegetarian Table: France by Georganne Brennan

Friday, 1 June 2007

Scandinavian Comfort Food

This is one of my favorite recipes from Laurel's Kitchen, excluding their bread recipes, of course. I am part Swedish, and my Swedish grandmother used to make Swedish Meatballs for us. That was the only Swedish food I remember eating....ever! So, after I went veg and I found this recipe, I had to try it.

This recipe is not veganizable. Though I did try. I made Hibi some bean balls, without any gravy. She took one bite and said "yuck." So I won't tell you how I made those--if you want to try, let me know how it goes, and the recipe if it's good!

I almost always serve these with mashed potatoes, though noodles are good too (and easier). Serve alongside a green salad, or cooked kale or chard.

Swedish Bean Balls

1 1/2 cups cooked, well-drained beans (you could buy canned, but they're *so* much better if you cook them yourself! You can even cook them the day before and then put them in the fridge, which is what I did this week)
1 cup chopped onion
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 slice whole wheat bread, soaked in milk or water
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon thyme
dash nutmeg
dash cardamom
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs or cooked brown rice, if needed

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups milk
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350.

Mash beans with potato masher, processor, or meat grinder. Saute onion and bay leaf in oil in a large skillet until the onion is golden. Remove about 1/4 cup of the sauteed onion with a slotted spoon and add it to the beans along with lemon peel and lemon juice. Squeeze all the liquid out of the bread (save it for the gravy) and work the bread into the mashed beans along with egg, thyme, spices, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. (Omit salt if beans were already salted.)

If you have time, chill the mixture; it's easier to shape the balls when cold. If it seems too loose, add the dry bread crumbs or rice to stiffen it. Form 1 1/2 inch balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, until balls are dry and firm.

Meanwhile, make the gravy. Stir flour into reserved sauteed onions and cook, stirring, until flour starts to brown. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and milk and water. Cook over medium-high flame, stirring frequently, until mixture begins to boil and thickens. Reduce heat to low and simmer another 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently.

Remove bean balls from baking sheet and place in the skillet, spooning gravy over them. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before serving; they need time to soak up some gravy. Serve with mashed potatoes or ribbon noodles.

Makes 12 balls, to serve 4.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Vegetable "Patty Melts"

The Oregonian doesn't pay me to say nice things about their recipes, but maybe they should! I've been finding all kinds of good recipes in the food section lately. I tried this one on Thursday when we went to the Dorothy Day House to serve as "dorm parents" for the evening. Everyone said how tasty it was! It really was very flavorful and very easy as well. Also, it was easy to veganize: I "grilled" them in olive oil rather than butter, and I just left the feta out of Hibi's.

Alas, it's not so easy to cut and paste the recipe here, because I'm not finding the recipe on the Oregonlive website. There's a link for it, but when you click it, no recipe. Well, here comes some typing because it's *that good.*

1 cup canned artichoke hearts drained and halved (make sure it's canned, *not* marinated)
1 cup grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved (I used bitty ones and didn't bother halving them)
2 roasted bell peppers thinly sliced
6 pepperoncini peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or Italian parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 pita breads, cut into 8 half-moons
2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
4 ounces feta, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used olive oil)

Combine artichoke hearts, tomatoes, red peppers, pepperoncini, onion, oregano and garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle the vegetables with the olive oil and vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Place pita halves on a work surface with the opening facing you. Scatter about 1/4 cup of spinach leaves on the bottom of each pita. Divide the vegetable mixture evenly among the sandwiches and lay the feta cheese slices on top of the vegetables.

To grill the sandwiches melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and heat it until sizzling. Place 2 pita halves in the skillet to cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until they're slightly brown and the cheese begins to melt. Repeat with remaining butter and sandwiches.

Monday, 30 April 2007

Two Desserts

Wow, the Oregonian has had some real winners in the food section recently! Here are two yummy desserts I've made from recipes found there.

Versatile and Delicious Flourless Chocolate Cake
(yeah, that's the name the Oregonian gave it)

Makes one 10-inch cake (8 to 12 servings)
7 ounces semisweet or
bittersweet chocolate, broken into chunks
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
4 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar (divided)
1/2 cup
unsweetened cocoa (such as Hershey's)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to
350 degrees. Grease the sides and bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Use the
pan to trace a circle of parchment or wax paper, cut it out and line the bottom
of the pan; grease the paper.

Put the chocolate and butter together in the top of a double boiler and
melt over simmering water. (You can make a double boiler by setting a
stainless-steel bowl over a saucepan; the two should fit snugly and the bottom
of the bowl should not touch the water in the saucepan.) Stir to blend and let
cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks into a medium bowl, add about half the sugar and,
with an electric mixer, beat until the mixture is light and thick and it forms a
ribbon when you lift the beater, 3 to 4 minutes.

Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then sprinkle the
cocoa powder and salt over the mixture and fold gently until well-blended.

In a separate -- and grease-free -- bowl, beat the egg whites until
they form soft peaks; gradually add the remaining sugar, beating until firm,
glossy peaks form.

Add about a quarter of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate-yolk
mixture and gently fold until blended; carefully fold in the remaining whites,
trying to preserve as much volume as possible.
Gently slide the batter into
the prepared cake pan. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out
almost clean (you will still see a few moist crumbs), approximately 40 minutes.
Let the cake cool, in the pan, on a rack for about 10 minutes. Then, run a thin
knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake, and unlatch and remove
the side of the pan. Let the cake cool completely before cutting; it will be
fragile while still warm. As the cake cools, it will collapse like a fallen
souffle -- that's fine.

Serve wedges of the cake plain, or garnish with the topping of your
choice. I like whipped cream, creme frache or even very good sour cream, such as
Nancy's brand. You could also try custard sauce (creme anglaise), either plain
vanilla or flavored with fresh mint; a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, coffee
ice cream, fiore di latte gelato or passion fruit sorbet. I'm not a huge
fruit-and-chocolate person, but if you are, raspberries or raspberry sauce would
be just fine, too. We enjoyed this with freshly whipped cream, with a bit of sugar added.

Here's the second. I have not eaten rhubarb in my adult life before tonight. I think I had rhubarb pie one time as a kid and decided from that that I didn't like rhubarb. I can't believe I let one incident keep me from such a delicious thing! This was almost like having fresh peach pie, but much earlier than you'll see good peaches.

I made two changes to this recipe: first, I didn't add the butter you're supposed to dot on the top of the filling before you put the top crust on, and it was plenty rich. And the second thing is that I didn't do the lattice-top, just a utilitarian plain pie crust. And it worked fine. And is delicious!

Rhubarb Custard Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie
Midwesterners love their rhubarb pie straight up (strawberries are better left for shortcake), and if you try this recipe, we think you'll agree. The secret is eggs, which make a delicate custard that's the perfect counterpoint to the sweet-tart rhubarb. For an 8-inch pie plate, use less rhubarb, about 4 to 5 cups.
1 to 11/2 cups granulated sugar (depending on tartness desired)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
Pinch salt (optional)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
6 to 8 cups chopped rhubarb, about 2 to 3 pounds untrimmed (6 cups for 9-inch pie plate, 8 cups for 91/2-inch deep-dish pie plate)
Pastry for 1 double-crust pie (see accompanying recipe)
1 to 2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, if desired. Add beaten eggs and rhubarb, tossing to coat. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with butter and top with lattice crust. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown.

Flaky All-Butter Pastry

Makes two 9-inch crusts, enough for 1 double-crust pie
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes (2 sticks)
6 tablespoons ice water

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Add the butter and process until well-blended, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water and process until the mixture just begins to form a ball, about 10 seconds.

Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and, with the palm of your hand, smear it 2 or 3 times across the work surface until it is smooth and the flour and butter are well-blended. (Do not overhandle it or it will become tough.) Cut the dough in half and form into 2 round disks about 5 inches across. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours before rolling out for use. Use half to line the pie plate, the other for the lattice.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Restaurant Review

Hello from Corvallis! Were here for the Life is Good Unschooling Conference, which is great so far! But I wanted to write right away about the terrific breakfast we had before leaving Portland this morning. We went to Helsers which is on NE Alberta. I read a great review on their breakfasts in the Oregonian awhile back, and wanted to go there for awhile. But we don�t often make it out for breakfast. This morning was a perfect opportunity! As soon as we looked at the menu and I saw the Pear Havarti Pie, with creme fraiche and a crumpet and fresh fruit, Paul and Zac and I decided that we all *must* have that. It did not disappoint! So very tasty. It reminded Paul of the apple pankuchen that I make (heres another version of it, with huckleberries instead of apples) but with cheese, and creme fraiche, and very flavorful and complex.

Hibi had the Yukon Gold Potatoes, which she says had a whole bunch of onions. :-) It smelled good and she was very happy about it, but I can�t get any more info out of her than that! When she asked for a vegan version of the dish, which the menu lists as having eggs with it, not only were they willing to omit the eggs but also offered veggie sausages to replace them.

We will definitely be back!

When we got into Corvallis, we went to the local co-op, which we were pleased to find a tasty lunch menu at, as well as being able to fill up our mini-fridge at the hotel with stuff for lunch and munchies. And we�re also very happy with the locally-owned hotel we were lucky enough to find a room at (after they were sold out--today when we got in we asked if they�d had any cancellations and happily for us, they had!). Its Salbasgeon, which I�ve been thinking is an awfully weird name...I found out today that its name is after three Oregon fish: SALmon, BASs, and and sturGEON. Cute, eh? I do wish they�d chosen a different name. But cool hotel. :-)

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Pasta with Asparagus, Leeks, and Ricotta

Well, here's another spring-time pasta with no picture! Sorry about that. I *thought* about taking a picture this time....

Hibi doesn't like asparagus so I didn't bother to make a vegan version of this one.

Anyway, during the last week in Lent I was craving a pasta dish with ricotta. Then this week, I bought some asparagus at the farmer's market. So I put this dish together like this.

Prepare two bunches of asparagus by snapping off tough ends (save for making vegetable broth!) and then break or cut asparagus into bite-sized pieces. Trim the dark green leaves from one big leek or two small ones, trim the root, and then slice in half lengthwise. Chop into 1/4 inch pieces and then rinse like crazy to get all the grit and dirt out.

Start a big pot of water for pasta boiling. Cook one pound of penne (or whatever pasta you want).

In a saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter. Add asparagus and leek and saute until nice and tender, but not mushy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg. When the veggies are tender, turn the heat off and add one cup of ricotta and two tablespoons of butter, cut up. Stir until the butter is melted. Toss with pasta and pass the parmesan!

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Holy Thursday Artichoke Pasta

In the Orthodox church, we fast from all meat, dairy, and eggs during Lent and Holy Week. On weekdays, there's even a restriction on using oil and wine. While I no longer follow the oil restriction strictly, I do wait until weekends in Lent to cook anything overtly oily. During Holy Week, we pretty much go down to two meals a day, since we have Presanctified Liturgy on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Divine Liturgy to commemorate the first Holy Supper that Jesus instituted with his disciples. Before liturgies we don't eat anything. So lunch and dinner is all we eat during Holy Week, except for Friday. So, it seems like quite a feast when, on Thursday, because of the commemoration, we are allowed wine and oil. I made this special and tasty, but pretty easy dinner tonight.

Artichoke Pasta

Hopefully you can find the little baby artichokes, because they are the easiest to use in this pasta. The baby ones don't have a choke, so you don't have to scrape one out. Artichokes are kind of needy in the way of preparation, but they're worth it!

Buy about 6-8 baby artichokes to feed a family of four. Trim as usual---taking off all the outer leaves, until you get to light green leaves. Trim off the pointy ends, and trim the stem. Cut into quarters and if there is a choke, scrape it out. Plunge each piece into cold water with lemon juice as you work.

Saute four sliced cloves of garlic in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the artichokes and a big sprig of rosemary, cut into pieces small enough to fit into your pan. Stir and cook for a few minutes, then add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of white wine. Cover and cook on low heat for half and hour to 45 minutes, until very tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook a pound of pasta--angel hair is my favorite--and toss with olive oil. Combine with artichokes and serve.

Delicious. This is one dish that there's never leftovers of. We were all fighting for the last bit!

Pascha Bread and Pascha Cheese

I've been getting lots of hits on my regular blog for google searches for these, so I thought I'd re-post the recipes for those preparing for this Sunday's big feast! I make a Pascha bread (Easter bread) every year, along with the cheese spread. We always eat every crumb.

Paska Bread (from the Lenten cookbook Food for Paradise, adapted for home use)
2 packages dry yeast (or 4 teaspoons)
� cup lukewarm water
1 cup melted butter
� cup milk
5 cups unbleached white flour
� cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
diluted egg

Dissolve yeast in water and set aside. Combine in a large bowl butter and milk. Sift together white flour, sugar, and salt. Add the yeast mixture to the cooled wet ingredients. Beat eggs and add alternately with the dry ingredients. Knead until smooth, adding flour as needed. Let rise until doubled in bulk; it rises quite quickly and high. Punch down, knead and put into prepared greased pans (use a big round pan, or a couple of smaller pans). Allow to rise until doubled in bulk. Decorate the tops with crosses made from rolled dough. Brush the tops with diluted egg. Bake in preheated 350 oven for about an hour. Remove from the pan while hot, running a knife around the edges if necessary. Gently tip loaves out onto towels and cool on racks. This traditionally is not frosted or baked with fruit.Delicious slathered with the Pascha cheese.

Cream Cheese Paskha (also adapted from Food for Paradise)
1 pound softened cream cheese
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 sticks softened butter
2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
golden raisins (optional)
slivered almonds (optional)

Cream the butter and add the cheese, continuing to cream them both. Add sugar and vanilla. Next stir in the sour cream and raisins and almonds in desired quantities (I never use the raisins or almonds). Spoon into bowls and decorate the top. This will keep for about a week in the fridge....I think. Our supply usually peters out about 5 days after Pascha. It is delicious as a spread on Pascha bread or bagels.

Kali Anastasi! (A Good Resurrection!)

Friday, 16 March 2007

Restaurant Review

The famous and wonderful Jennifer passed through Portland today, along with her mom, and met Hibi and me for lunch at Veganopolis. I'm so glad Jennifer wanted to go there because I have never been there before, though I keep meaning to. I think that when I'm not fasting for Lent (which entails a vegan diet) I think, eh, vegan food...I want cheese. But I don't think it was just that I've been deprived of cheese for several weeks with no end in sight yet that I absolutely *loved* the food at Veganopolis! It was scrumptious. I had the Mediterranean Sandwich, which was a cashew ricotta blended with sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil pesto, artichoke hearts, all inside a ciabbata roll. The ciabatta seemed kind of like a cross between ciabatta and a croissant, as it was full of layers and was very crispy on the outside. I couldn't believe how good it was! Along with it (for a small extra fee) I had roasted potatoes with gravy in one side bowl and garlic ketchup in another. Yum! Now, hours later, I still have a wonderful taste in my mouth. I had a tasty lavender lemonade with it. Jennifer had the lasagna, which was a white lasagna. She said it had some kind of cream sauce, and lots of zucchini and spinach, and that it was very flavorful. Hibi had the Canadian sandwich which she also reported to be good.

A slice of oreo cake was shared by some at our table (I won't tell who!) but it looked awfully good. I had a couple of slurps of a chocolate milkshake that was also very good and chocolatey.

They have a buffet at Veganopolis, and they have a great idea for it. You can take whatever you want from the buffet, and then you pay by the pound. Isn't that a great idea? Then less food is going to be wasted, because if people know they are going to have to pay for it, they're less likely to take food they're not going to eat.

I will definitely be back, and next time I'm taking my whole family!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Late Winter Bruschetta

Tonight it was just the kids and me at dinner, as Paul was in Eugene with the university students from our parish, serving liturgy and having a catch-up time with them. So I chose something easy and tasty that we all like, Bruschetta. That entailed picking up a baguette from Di Prima Dolci, along with greens and jarred roasted red peppers and a can of Great Northern Beans from New Seasons. The little bit of shopping time was offset by the quickness of the recipe--I even had time to run to the library to get Hibi, who had forgotten that we had choir practice tonight and would have been there until 9 pm if I hadn't reminded her to come home.
Late Winter Bruschetta
Cut one baguette into slices or, make long pieces by cutting it in half horizontally and then into pieces with crust on the bottom of each. (Does that make sense?) Toast the pieces in the oven at 450 degrees, or use your broiler. When they are toasted, brush each with olive oil. I didn't rub them with garlic as I do most bruschetta, because there is garlic in the bean paste, which is plenty of garlic.
Meanwhile, process one or two cans (I used one for the three of us) of Great Northern beans or other white beans in a food processor, along with one clove of garlic. Drizzle the juice of one lemon in during processing. Scrape into a bowl.
Saute one bunch of the greens of your choice (I used rapini, also known as broccoli rabe) in a bit of oil.
To serve, make each piece of bruschetta with a smear of bean paste, some roasted red pepper, and greens on top. Enjoy!

Saturday, 10 March 2007


My friend Jennifer told me a long time ago that I should try making sushi. She sent me her recipe for it, and I had good intentions of doing so. Now, her cookbook is out and I still hadn't made sushi....along with that, someone on the Patrick's Point campout, a fellow vegetarian, made sushi while camping! And she said to me in astonishment, "you've never made sushi???" So, I knew I had to try it someday. Jennifer had told me it was easy, but I didn't really believe her. :-) Now I know it's easy, though just a tad the same way as it's time-consuming to cook dried beans, it just takes a while to cook. Well worth the effort, though!

Anyway, I'm not going to try to duplicate her recipe here. It's a process that needs some attention, and Jennifer explains it all in her book. Sadly, I'm not finding a recipe on her website for sushi, but if you like sushi it's well worth the price of the book just for this recipe. (Plus you get all the rest of the recipes included!)
So, in the picture above you see sushi, in the top middle. The fillings I used were avocado slices, grated carrot and fried tofu strips. Clockwise, there's pickled ginger which was recommended with the sushi and it has a very interesting flavor. Next is edamame which you can buy in frozen packages--it just needs a quick boil and then you can pop the beans out into your mouth. Then there is a tiny bit of wasabi, which is spicy enough that you don't need any more than that! I put a tiny dab on my plate and just barely touched the sushi to it before dipping it in soy sauce, which is what's in the bottle and what the empty ramekins are for. Paul liked the wasabi in great smears, though, and I had to mix up extra for him.
I bought the tools I'd need at Uwajimaya. If you live in the Northwest you can get everything you need there. The only thing I'd do differently is that I bought a kit that included the wooden tub for mixing and cooling the rice in, along with three wooden rice paddles and a bamboo mat. Though I already had a mat, the extra one did come in handy, as Hibi helped me roll sushi. The paddles, however, were too small and after much tossing and cooling of rice my hands were ready to call it quits. Before I make sushi again I will buy longer-handled paddles.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Raisin Bread

Yum! The first day of Lent is a good day to make raisin bread. This is one of my two Laurel's Kitchen staple recipes--the other being Buttermilk Bread. When I want totally vegan bread I make this. It's so good that when I went to take a picture of it, I found that *somebody* had pulled raisins right out of the top to eat them, after being told that we must wait until the bread is cooled to cut it. It's really better that way--if you cut more than just the heel off while it's warm, it just flattens the bread. So, the one on the right has no heel on its backside. :-)

Tuesday, 13 February 2007


Here's another recipe we make almost every year during Cheesefare Week (see post below for explanation of Cheesefare). It's from the Russian Orthodox tradition. We like to eat blini with sour cream, melted butter, beets and beet greens, cheese, etc. Hibi can eat the veggies, but other than that, she's really on her own this week! That's okay--she's looking forward to next week, when we'll be eating nothing but vegan food. For 7 weeks! She'll love it.

My favorite memory of blini....oh, I have two memories of eating blini. The first was the first time I ever made them. It was with the help of our friend Matthew Duskas (Matthew, are you out there somewhere? Drop me a line!) who had eaten them before and had an interest in cooking but didn't have a kitchen, as he lived in the dorms at Holy Cross seminary. So he came over and we cooked together. We invited other people from our building over to eat blini, and we served it with beets, which I also had not eaten up until that time (mainly because my mother did not like beets. Isn't it crazy the inherited food dislikes we have?). We stuffed ourselves on the delicious food and the great company. I was so full! And then I waited for the fullness to subside and it didn't. Eventually I realized I had the stomach flu. I'll spare you the details. Fortunately for me, I'm not one of those people who associates food so strongly with sickness that I couldn't enjoy the food again. I still love blini!

My second memory was when my step-grandfather, whom I just called Grandpa even though he didn't marry my grandmother until I was 17, and my children called Great Grandpa, died. He was 98, and he lived a wonderful, full, long life. I was there with him when he died--the only person I've ever witnessed pass away, and it was a beautiful, tragic, very poignant experience. Lots of family came for the funeral, including family from my grandmother's second marriage (this was her third). I decided that while everyone was in town I'd like to invite them all over and have a family meal at our house. I always enjoyed cooking.....but I had two strikes against me: one, that it was on short notice, and I was busy with the funeral and all that, and two, we lived way out an hour from Fresno and shopping for food would have taken time away from the actual cooking. So, I decided to not make one unified menu, but just to take all the dinners I'd planned for that week and make them all. It was a lot of delicious, very diverse food and everyone enjoyed learning about the Russian Orthodox tradition of blini, which was one of the things I served. It was so much fun and I'd definitely do it again!

So, with no further ado, here's the recipe for Blini. Oh, one further ado: I have played around with the rising times a lot. It can take a lot. Today, I did the first two steps and then I'm going to leave it all afternoon. I think you could probably shave off some time from one rising and add it to another rising. You can even make it one day and put it in the fridge for the next day.

Buckwheat Blini (for cheesefare week)


2 � teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
� teaspoon salt
1 cup buckwheat flour (note: buckwheat flour, if not available from your supermarket, can be obtained at most natural foods stores)
2 cups lukewarm milk
1� cups all-purpose flour
� cup sour cream
3 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
� cup heavy cream
Melted butter for cooking
Choice of garnishes (i.e. melted butter, caviar, sour cream, chopped hard boiled eggs, saut�ed mushrooms, onions and scallions, etc. I like them with butter and sugar.)

Mix the yeast, sugar, salt, and buckwheat flour together in a large bowl. Stir in the milk. Cover and leave to rise until bubbly, 1 to 1 � hours.
Stir in the all-purpose flour, the sour cream, egg yolks, and butter, mixing well. Cover again and leave to rise for 2 hours.
Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold the egg whites and cream into the batter. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
Heat one or more crepe pans or small skillets. Brush with melted butter. Take about 2 tablespoons of batter and pour in onto a hot pan, swirling with the back of the spoon to make a pancake that�s about 5 inches in diameter. Cook over medium heat until bubbles appear on the surface and the underside is brown, approximately 1 minute. Turn and cook briefly on the other side (the second side should not be as brown). Repeat this procedure for each pancake, greasing the skillet beforehand.
Serve immediately. Right off the griddle is the best way to eat them!

Cheese Soup in Breadbowls

It's Cheesefare week in the Orthodox church once again. That's one of the weeks in preparation for Lent to begin (next Monday) where we have already said goodbye to meat on Sunday (though in this household we said goodbye long ago) and we focus on getting our fill of cheese, milk, eggs, and other goodies that we will not be partaking of during Lent.
I posted this recipe last year on my regular blog, and as I was preparing to make it this week I thought I'd post it again here. It is one of our favorites--all of us except Hibi, who never liked it anyway!

This recipe is one of our traditional Cheese Fare week's recipes. I now use a recipe for bread dough from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, an all whole wheat bread (I recommend the Buttermilk Bread recipe), and just use about a half a loaf's worth for each bread bowl. Shape into a tight round and place on a greased cookie sheet to rise and bake. After it's baked and cooled, cut off the top and scoop out the inside, being careful not to get too close to the outside wall. But you can, if you wish, use white bread dough, even the store-bought kind. We all think the whole wheat bread stands up nicely to the strong cheesy/beery flavor of the soup.
Here's the soup recipe:
Cheese Soup
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup beer
2 teaspoons worchestershire sauce (a vegetarian version is available at natural foods stores)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon tabasco sauce
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and saute vegetables until tender. Add flour, stirring constantly until flour is no longer raw. Reduce heat; stir in beer, worchestershire sauce, salt, mustard, and tabasco. Simmer 10 minutes. Add cheddar and parmesan cheese and stir until melted; do not boil. Ladle into bread bowls and serve.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

Yum! I tried a new recipe today, from last Tuesday's Food section of the Oregonian. They were even Vegan if you use vegan mayo (or don't have any)! I'm trying to write it fast here, because somehow, after we got the burgers in the oven (and before I had the mayo whipped up) the article disappeared. The kids say it's a single-use recipe. :-) I'm assuming it'll eventually turn up, but then we did take out the recycling, and who knows where it ended up? I looked on the Oregonian's website, but alas, the Oregonian doesn't list *all* of it's recipes online. Stupid Oregonian. Oh, yeah, they did bring us a great recipe--I won't complain too much.

So, here's what I can reconstruct:

Sweet Potato Veggie Burgers

2 cups diced garnet sweet potatoes
1 cup rolled oats (I used 1/2 cup oat flour instead)
1/2 cup ground roasted peanuts
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 minced cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the sweet potatoes in a saucepan, covered with water, for about 10 minutes until they are tender. Drain and let cool for 10 minutes or so. Put all ingredients into a bowl and squish the mixture together with your hands. The recipe said to form 4 patties, but we recommend 6--they were too big and squashy. (But awfully tasty!)

I cannot reconstruct the mayo since I didn't make it. Instead, I made homemade mayonnaise and made it into aioli by adding two cloves of garlic that I'd ground in my mortar and pestle.

I served this on homemade whole wheat buns. You don't have to make them homemade....but if you have the desire to, it sure did add to it! I'd definitely use whole wheat even if they are store bought. Oh, and lettuce, and everyone else in my family used ketchup. But I did not.

If I remember any ingredients I forgot to list, I'll add them. I hope this is right! Hey, if anyone has last weeks' Food section, let me know if I got all the ingredients right!

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Two dinners and a breakfast

Wow, what a last couple of weeks I've had! A week ago Thursday, the kids and I went on the road and headed south to California. It was the Metropolis' annual Presvyteres Retreat (Presvytera is the title for a priest's wife in the Greek Orthodox Church). I had the great idea of adding on some things to do while we were in California: first, of course, was to visit my 101 year old grandmother. She lives close to St. Nicholas Ranch, where the retreat would be held. I decided to drive instead of fly because my parents are out of town and wouldn't be able to drive me over to see Grandma. Also, then I could take the kids and they could see her too. Then, I also had the great idea of picking up Zac's best-friend-in-the-whole-world, Isaiah, in San Francisco, and he could spend the weekend with us, which is just what Zac's been craving. While in San Francisco, I went out to breakfast with my brother Bruce and sister-in-law LaDonna. We went to Crepevine, one place I'd always meant to make it to in San Francisco but never did until now. Wow, was it good! I had their Santorini crepe, as I was in the mood for a sweet crepe, and was a little taken aback that it came with not only whipped cream, but also ice cream! For breakfast! Okay, I'm cool with that. Yum, it was so good.

So! After we got done with all that wonderfulness and got home on Monday, we were ready for a break (but weren't to get too long of one right away). We got home at around 3 pm on Monday, and I sure didn't feel like going to the grocery store and doing a whole lot of cooking. So, I took stock of what we had in the house and just whipped up a little stew.

Lentil Vegetable Stew

Saute one onion
and a couple of cloves of
, chopped, in a tablespoon
of olive
. Add 1 1/2 cups lentils and a handful of sun-dried tomatoes,
chopped or torn,
and stir for a minute or so. Add one quart of water or
vegetable stock
. Bring to a boil and then lower
heat. Cook for 15

Add two
cubed potatoes
(I left the skin on), half a head of
shredded, and 4-5 carrots,
sliced. Pour in enough water and/or stock to
just cover everything. Toss in a couple of sprigs of thyme and a teaspoon
of salt and pepper to
taste. Cook until everything is tender. Serve
with parmesan cheese.

We then headed to Seattle the next day (we're suckers for punishment) adding up to 2300 miles the kids and I were in the car, over three states, in 7 days. Yikes! This time the drive was for a regional clergy family dinner with our bishop. It was nice, and we had good food--a rarity at these things!

Recently we went to Pambiche--a Cuban restaurant. We all just loved it! So, I knew I had to try to replicate the black beans we had there, and especially the frituras names (I don't know how to put the little squiggly line over the n to make it an "enyay"). Yam fritters--we liked them so much, we ordered a second plate, and would have ordered more but we were all full by then. So, while perusing my Jack Bishop cookbook A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen (one of my favorites, and the one I'm using most these days) I found a recipe for Caribbean Sauteed Plantains and Black Beans. So, I made that, along with a recipe I found on the web for yam fritters. I served these dishes along with a chunked mango, and though it was different from what we ate at Pambiche, it was so good! I didn't realize, though, until I was slicing the plantains that the recipe called for almost black plantains, and the ripest ones I found at New Seasons were dark green. It was still good, and they are cooked this way as well, but I think I would have sliced them into skinnier bits and cooked them like french fries.

Everything was vegan, except that the fritters call for an egg. I just took a portion out before I added the egg, and they seemed to fry up just fine. Maybe the egg is superfluous.


Cut off the pointy ends of two almost black
. Cut into two inch slices. Make slits in the
skin, and peel off with your fingers. Saute in 2 tablespoons
olive oil
. Turn once, and cook until brown but not
blackened. Remove from pan and add salt to
taste. Cover to keep warm.

Black Beans:

Saute four cloves garlic, minced, and one jalepeno, minced, in 1 tablespoon
olive oil
. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add two 15 oz. cans rinsed and drained black beans (I used
the equivalent of home-cooked beans), 2/3 cup orange
, and two tablespoons lime
Cook for about 5 minutes, until the juices are nearly
absorbed. Add 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
and salt to taste.

Serve plantains over the black beans. Serve Black Beans, Plantains,
Frituras, and Mango with slices of lime for

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

"Home Sick" Soup

Paul is sick today. So when he finally felt like eating something, I offered to make him the soup I like when I'm sick. It's very quick and easy to make, and you can leave out or substitute a lot of the ingredients in it if you don't have them, because who wants to go anywhere when they're sick? As long as you have flavorful broth and an egg or two, you can make this soup.

Italian Parmesan Egg Soup

Bring 3 cups of vegetable broth to a simmer. While it's heating, stir together one or two eggs, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, a tablespoon of dry bread crumbs, one tablespoon chopped parsley (I subbed green onion today), and one minced garlic clove.

When the broth is simmering, add the beaten egg mixture and stir vigorously until the egg is set, about a minute or less. Ladle into a bowl (or bowls) and sprinkle a bit of nutmeg on the top.