02 January 2016

Sports Day Nachos

Sometimes you just need a meal you can put together in almost no time at all. Something that will work when you're focused on something other than the food, but still need something that will fill your tummy and taste great. I think Sports Day Nachos are just the meal for times like that.

This particular iteration of Sports Day Nachos was enjoyed with The Bests (what Shana and I call our best friends), who are visiting over the New Year holiday from Pennsylvania. Since Shana and The Bests went to Penn State for their undergrad degrees and that's where my PhD is from, we're spending the afternoon watching Penn State in their football bowl game (well, they are watching and I'm posting here, but I am on the couch in the same room). We decided that Sports Day Nachos would be a perfect meal for us to eat while we watch.

In addition to the speed of this meal, the other nice thing about Sports Day Nachos is that you can add whatever you'd like to make them your own. Whatever you choose to add, everything comes together in no time and you've got a great meal.

24 December 2015

Vegan Viands #18: Christmas Spritz Cookies


Shana, my culturally Jewish wife, had no idea what Christmas was like the first year she joined my family at Christmas. The second year, the words above were her refrain; she had the excitement of a 6-year old. The third year, we'd set rules about what time she was allowed to wake everyone else.

If you've been an even somewhat-regular reader of this blog, you'll already know that I love traditions. Although sometimes traditions can stifle, when there's room to take them or leave them or change them to suit your needs/life, they can be wonderful, providing things to anticipate and/or structure in a chaotic world. No matter what (if any) religious faith you follow or grew up with, religious holidays are filled with tradition. One of the Christmas traditions at my house has been spritz cookies. Spritz Christmas cookies come from a long history in Germany or Sweden. Given that Germans and Swedes are two of the major immigrant groups who settled Minnesota, it's no surprise that these cookies make an appearance at Christmas time. They are a sweet, buttery cookie that is squeezed* out of a tube through a disk with a shape cut into it.

Therein lies the difficulty, you can't make these cookies without a spritz cookie machine. Machine isn't a really accurate word for the tool, as the machine is kind of a glorified plunger. But anyway, you need the tool! Although the one I use at my family's house is ancient, one of the more highly rated ones can be found here. After you have the spritz cookie tool, you're on your way to quick, easy, and tradition-filled cookies.

12 December 2015

Killer Kale Salad

This is the weekend in between the last week of classes and finals week.  I've assigned final papers in two of my classes and an exam in one of them. If the lapse between my last post and this one is any indication, it's safe to say this has been a busy semester for me, as well as for my students. I'm a bit behind on grading, though I think that most faculty members are at this point in the semester. Although I'm behind, I am feeling remarkably okay about it. I know it will all get done, and have the perspective-taking abilities to recognize that this is where I am at the end of every semester. In contrast, for most of my students, this is the point of the semester where their "stuffing begins to show," as one of my colleagues says. I think if my students were eating this kale salad, their stuffing wouldn't be showing at all.

This is another recipe that came from our monthly vegan potlucks, which I mentioned in my last post. Shana and I have eaten it a ton and fed it to numerous friends, including one who has never found a way to eat kale that she's enjoyed. This salad has been a hit with everyone. It's so simple, yet there is something magical about it. In all seriousness, the magic is real enough that we've had this twice in the past three days. Once you eat it, you'll believe in its magic.

04 November 2015

J & L's West African Peanut Stew

There is a big vegan event occurring in our small mid-western town: I've started a monthly vegan potluck! September was our first and was a great success. Although I knew many of the people who came the first night, there were still some folks new to me, and many of the people who came didn't really know each other. Regardless, we all laughed, shared feelings about how amazing it was to be able to eat everything on the table, and joked that it was nice to be in a place where we didn't have to explain our food choices or be "jokingly" offered a bit of someone's steak/burger/bacon. Our second potluck went as well as the first and November's gathering is just around the corner! We're building a little community of vegans, which is just so awesome.

For me, one of the most fun parts of these monthly gatherings (aside from feeling less isolated) is the ability to try and share new recipes with other vegans. After every potluck, we've compiled our recipes and shared them with the others on the email list. I've eaten some amazing new things and even my food neophobic wife has tried (and enjoyed) everything. The recipe below arrived at our first vegan potluck from our new vegan friends J & L (I'm not sure if they would want me to post their names, so I'm refraining). This dish was SO good that Shana and I have made it twice since our first potluck, which is more than we've made anything - aside from soup, because soup - since then. This really is a winner of a dish - delicious, easy, and inexpensive! You may even have all of the ingredients in your pantry already, so what are you waiting for?!

20 October 2015

Maggie's Vegan Kugel

It's funny how sometimes you just don't realize how impactful some element of your life actually is. For example, my wife didn't realize how much growing up in a predominantly Jewish community affected her world view, including the foods she eats. Although I've written about making foods that honor Shana's Jewish heritage, such as frisket and matzo ball soup, there was one food we lamented that I'd never be able to make: a sweet noodle kugel.

Shana used to love her Mommom's sweet kugel, which was built around egg noodles, cottage cheese, and apricot preserves. Not a lot there that is vegan-friendly. Although I've been thinking about kugel for years, I kept getting stuck on cottage cheese, as there's no vegan equivalent. But then, when looking around the internet for recipes for a Shabbot dinner we were invited to* with some of Earlham's Jewish students, I found a recipe for kugel that looked like it might work for my purposes! Using a combination of sour cream and mashed tofu, I was hoping for a cottage cheese like texture. After a couple of attempts, where every time Shana would get excited and nostalgic all at one, I finally stumbled upon a recipe that replicates Shana's Mommom's sweet kugel.

04 October 2015

Vegan Stuffed Shells

This semester has started off at a run and I'm not sure I'm catching up. Thus, I haven't had a lot of time to make new meals. Well, that's not quite true. I've made two, both of which were delicious, I just haven't had time to post them. This particular dinner we ate weeks ago. And wow, was it good! The mellow flavor of the garlic is just wonderful and the texture of the tofu mixture is perfect. Shana also thought that flavor developed even more in leftovers.

I will say that this is not a meal you can make in a hurry. There are a lot of different parts that need to come together and you use a ton of dishes. But for a dinner party or something like that, this would a great option! It's something that non-vegans would find familiar, but not necessary miss the cheese due to the consistency of the tofu and the roundness of the flavors from garlic, miso, and nutritional yeast.

23 August 2015

Maggie's Wild Rice Salad

A new semester of classes starts next week for me. I've met my incoming first-year advisees. Shana's new job has started. We have had the windows open more regularly because the weather has been cooler and less humid. My dad was talking about the ripening acorn squash in his garden. All of this indicates that summer is winding down. However, if you're not quite ready to let go of summer, with its hot days and more relaxed schedule, have I got a recipe for you.

I've been meaning to make this wild rice salad all summer (what can I say, Minnesotans love wild rice), but never got around to it for one reason or another. But yesterday we went to a pot-luck for a colleague's birthday and I needed something I didn't have to prepare immediately ahead of time. This was just occasion for wild rice salad, as it can chill for a few hours before you serve it.

We arrived to the pot luck, salad in hand, and it was gobbled up in short order. I did get a serving of it for myself, but I also wondered why I didn't make more of it. It made me realize why my mom often doubled the recipe when she brought it places. In any event, this salad is a wonderful warm-weather food and an excellent vegan option for a pot luck!