26 July 2014

Vegan Blueberry Tart

Earlier this week I asked Shana to go to the store to pick up an ingredient we'd forgotten for that night's dinner. While she was there, I called and asked if she would bring home some blueberries (I planned to make some overnight oats). Shortly thereafter, Shana walks into the kitchen carrying a giant 5 pound box of blueberries! Since 5 pounds was just a bit more than I'd been anticipating. I had to figure out how to use all of those blueberries.

As I thought, I kept popping blueberries into my mouth. As ideas began to form, I looked down, certain I'd eaten at least a pound of them already. HA - not even close. Here's what I've done so far. We gave some to our neighbors. We ate some. I made a blueberry buckle. Then I decided I wanted to make a tart. I've never made a tart before, so I was nervous. However, I invited some friends over and the seven of us polished it off. It was delicious!

This recipe wasn't particularly hard, but it has multiple steps and is a production. You need to plan ahead, as many of the steps take multiple hours (or overnight). But don't let the steps and planning deter you! The result was awesome. My friends literally licked their plates clean!

18 July 2014

Pasta Della California

I am sorry for my absence, dear blog readers. After my May Term ended, I had about a week to finalize grades (and sleep!) before Shana and I embarked on our summer travels. Since we both teach, we've got 5-6 weeks in the summer when we are both free of scheduled commitments and head off to visit family and friends in various parts of the country. It's a lot of driving, but the laughter and hugs and good memories more than make up for the long drives.

Because we've been traveling, we've been relying on staple recipes (e.g., grilled foil packets, risotto, etc.), convenience items like store-bought vegan burgers/hot-dogs, or restaurants. We're now back from our travels. Shana's school starts up in about two weeks. I've got about a month, but in about two weeks I'm heading off on a trip with some other faculty members. While I'm home, however, I plan to cook up a storm! I've got a couple of few other posts in the works, but I'd really like to focus on some great warm-weather recipes. The recipe below is a great warm-weather recipe. It's not too heavy and it includes a great blend of textures and flavors.

04 June 2014

Vegan Viands #17: Caramel Puffcorn

This morning was the last day for my May Term; it's bittersweet for me. During class today, my students gave presentations about the memoirs they chose to read. In related news, I've got my summer reading all planned out! Anyway, since I wasn't preparing for class, I told them I would bring them snacks. I tried to make things that were good but not overly decadent (e.g., Ambrosia Grapes, Grape Nut Bars, and cut up pineapple), but I couldn't resist something a little decadent. This puffcorn is decadent. It's not even a little bit healthy and it's addictive like whoa. However, it's delicious and a fun, occasional treat.

Wait, you don't know what puffcorn is?! Remember back when you would eat those kind of crunchy cheeseballs as a kid? Or, maybe you didn't like cheetos, but you like cheese puffs? Essentially, puffcorn is like that stuff - fluffy corn something - but without the cheese. It's billed as popcorn without hulls, but it's not even close to that. Whatever it is, it's awesome.

The big problem with this recipe is that it can be hard to find puffcorn in a grocery store. When we were out eat (PA and NY), there was no puffcorn to be found. We would bring some back with us from the Midwest. For those of you in the Midwest, look for the following brands: Old Dutch (used when I'm in Minnesota) or Mike-Sell's (used when I'm in Indiana). In both cases, grab the "original" flavor. After you've secured the puffcorn, the rest of this recipe is super easy and uses easily found ingredients. Pretty soon, you won't be able to tear yourself away from the bowl of puffy, caramely, decadent goodness. Here's closeup.

28 May 2014

Lazy Dinner "Turkey" Club

I'm teaching a May Term class for the first time right now (May Terms are a single class taught over 16 days). Since I've never taught a class like this, I had no idea how much work it would be. Don't get me wrong, I'm loving the class and my students (they are such a great bunch!), I'm just more busy and tired than I anticipated I would be after the semester ended. In addition, my busyness is overlapping with an increase in temperatures, which always makes me not want to eat any of the things we've been eating over the winter. Hot weather foods are hard.

Tonight, we opted to deviate from our meal plan, as neither one of us was interested in cooking or eating our planned dinner. Instead, we had Shana's all time favorite food from her college dining hall: "turkey" clubs. We actually started eating these sandwiches a while ago when Shana suddenly realized that we had all the vegan ingredients to make this sandwich. Most likely, it was Shana's discovery that vegan mayonnaise is delicious. In fact, I was admonished to tell you all that Shana has "very strong feelings" about vegan mayo. Actually, most people who try it think it's as good (or better) than non-vegan mayo. I don't feel as strongly as she does, but then again, I never really ate mayo in my pre-vegan days.

This is the ultimate in Lazy Dinners because the only cooking you need to do is the "bacon" and toasting the bread. Other than that, you just slap stuff together. Anyway, since I said I was busy, enough blabbering, here's the food!

08 May 2014

Maggie's Vegan Pad Thai

It's finals week. I'm trying to wrap up what has been, almost certainly, the most difficult semester of my life (just in time to start a new course for May Term, a summer of personal and professional travel, and a whole bunch of work to prepare for this next year). In the mean time, I'm procrastinating by working on a new recipe: vegan Pad Thai.

I'm not sure how Shana started eating Pad Thai. I do know that when I met Shana, she ate taquitos and beer; she's come a long way. Surely somewhere in our past I convinced her that Thai food was a relative of her beloved Chinese food and wore her down enough to try a Thai restaurant. Now that she recognizes the awesomeness that is Thai food, it was only natural that I try to figure out how to make my own version of her favorite dish at home. The problem with a lot of Pad Thai recipes is that the sauce includes fish, making it unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans alike.  

The beauty of Pad Thai is that there are about a many versions of it as there are people who cook it, so I was certain I could come up with something just as delicious but without any fish! Success!

Unfortunately, in order to succeed, I've used some "specialty" ingredients that may be hard to get at your local grocery store, such as tamarind. But if you're serious about making your own Pad Thai, tamarind is a cornerstone in the flavor profile you'll want. Thus, it might be worth searching for some (see Helpful Hints). 

04 May 2014

Lazy Dinner Fancy Ramen

I am just finishing up what has been one of the most overwhelming semesters I've ever had. Answering a friend the other day who inquired about how I was feeling, I responded with "ultrawhelmed." (And to be honest, I'm not really done, but next week is finals week and prepping for other things, so I have new/different tasks in which to engage.) This semester is the main reason for my major absence from this blog. To be honest, we've not even been sticking to out meal plan as much as we would normally, as there have been a number of nights where I've just been too busy or tired or both to cook (and Shana gets home too late usually).

In addition to this semester, Shana and I drove home from Chicago today after a 40-hour visit (I was there for a conference) and we had to clean up our house because tomorrow night is the semi-annual Minion Dinner. We've got 7 students coming over tomorrow night for a dinner of soups, salads, and breads (and cookies!!). So, when we got home, we had to clean and go grocery shopping to prepare for tomorrow, which didn't leave a lot of time for dinner. 

Because of all of that, tonight's dinner was another perfect lazy dinner: fancy ramen. The only reason we call this "fancy" ramen is because we put something other than just the ramen noodles in the pot. Because it's ramen, this dinner is SUPER fast and easy, plus it's pretty cheap even with the added ingredients. As I've talked about before (see the Helpful Hints), there is only one easily obtainable brand and flavor of ramen that has a vegan flavor packet.

10 April 2014

Crockpot Drunken Beans

This recipe was the first of three new dinners I had planned after I got bored with everything we have been eating. We started out with a winner! There are two reasons that I'm glad this meal was successful. First, YAY a new recipe! Second, given that three new meals planned for one week is a stretch for Shana, since the first one went well, that make her more open to other new meals. In retrospect, I think I get bored with our food options every spring after a winter of heavy flavors and warming meals. Whatever the reason, I'm glad I felt like that because it made me look beyond our normal fare.

This bean dish was simply amazing. I made some slight modifications to a recipe by one of the pillars of vegan food and cooking, Bryanna Clark Grogan. And although it does take a bit more effort than your standard crockpot meal, it's all worth it in the end! The pinto beans are so creamy and the subtle heat and smokiness of the broth/sauce is a perfect complement. What's more, the leftovers the next day are even better! The flavors matured overnight (even more than after a day full of cooking) and a small dish of beans was great as part of my lunch.