Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweet Chili Sauce

I recently made Coconut Curry Polenta which was pleasing, but missing something: the sweet chili sauce. I even mentioned it in the blogpost, but it didn't occur to me to make my own until the next day.

Here's how simple it was:
Rice Vinegar
Tamari Soy sauce
Chili flakes

After finding a recipe online, I put all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and let it reduce by half. I had my sugar jar on hand so that I could add more if needed. This is a perfect compliment to my polenta and I am excited to use it for salad rolls, stir fries and whatever else I can imagine. Below, I put it on the last of the polenta with some freshly roasted peppers and onion:
So easy, I can't believe I've never made it before!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Coconut Curry Polenta and Chop Salad

A couple of days ago I had an amazing meal at a bar during happy hour. My mind was blown when I ate the coconut curry polenta with sesame sauteed veggies and sweet chili sauce. I've never had a more tasty polenta!

As I tend to do, I then tried to make my own version of this dish. Since I didn't have a recipe for the curried polenta I made one up, substituting half the cooking water with coconut milk and various other spices (Thai hot sauce, tamari soy sauce, curry powder, grated ginger).

I cooked the polenta until it was a thick and hard to stir, then spread it in a pyrex dish to cool. As it cools, the polenta hardens and can be handled easily and prepared for any recipe. However, this batch is probably limited by its dominant curry flavor.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Plant Update

So, it's been a little while since Bree and I replanted some overgrown (read: neglected) houseplants of mine. After some tough times (mostly for me) it seems that many of the transplants will survive. Some, however, are still looking week and pale. The plant in the front pot of this picture is having a hard time:
Below; To the plant on the left: goodbye. To the plants on the right: hello long, happy life.

This was the first time that I have ever grown houseplants that needed to be transplanted. While I am especially critical of myself in most parts of my life, I feel particularly bad for these little plants that are dying. When my bread doesn't rise properly I am disappointed, but I don't have to look at it every day as it wilts and turns colors.

I guess I still have some stuff to learn about plants. And I'll try to not let this discolor my future of plant-friendly homes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meatball Subs

An easy go-to meal that I have had recently is the Meatball Sub. It's pretty basic, very fast and decidedly satisfying. Lately I've been getting a meatless alternative in the frozen aisle of my grocery outlet. I even stocked up this time around because you never know when the outlet won't have them for cheap anymore. Note: I get crazy about food reserves from the food outlet... you should see my canned goods!

My sub only has three main components: bread, meatballs, pasta sauce. Easy! Though, because I think I'm fancy, I usually make a nutritional yeast cheese sauce to add to it. I have no idea what measurements I use, but here's what always goes in the sauce: nutritional yeast, water, garlic, oil (to cook the garlic a little), salt and pepper. Other variants are: chili flakes, soy sauce, flour (to thicken). I usually cook everything until it gets warm (with a baguette sliced and put in the oven to brown) and then throw it all together.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cheating with Soup

Making handmade and homemade meals is one of my favorite things to do. But I'm not always in the mood for a long cooking session (especially with my new jobs all starting soon!) or don't have lots of stuff to work with. Pre-made soups are perfect because they allow me to have the majority of the cooking already done, and I can just add some stuff to it and and feel like a champion chef. And I like that!

Things I do with canned/boxed soups:
-Add a can of beans. Probably something that I think goes with the soup.
-Add a grain. Some of my favorites are brown rice, barley, and buckwheat.
-Garnish the heck out of them. Bread, cilantro, spices!
-Pour a soup over some cooked pasta; I like thicker and more creamy soups for this, but I am sure it can work for whatever
-Cook my own veggies and add them

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Smoked Apple Sage sausage

Not too long ago I declared that the best veggie sausage in the market is made by Field Roast. I still think this is true, but I no longer feel like I'll spend so much money on them because I can make them at home! In true form, I constructed a recipe from multiple online sources so that I could pick and choose which ingredients I wanted (read: had) and which I didn't.

The dominant flavors were these:

Fresh Braeburn apple
Rubbed sage leaf
Liquid hickory smoke

Ohter things that my delicate palate may or may not have been able to taste: cayenne pepper, sea salt, ground pepper, thyme, Tamari soy sauce, garlic

The end result was firm, flavorful and fun to look at! They tasted great with Patatas Bravas, in a sammie with veggies and all by themselves (browned in a little olive oil).

After getting to know a little about gluten and how it behaves, I am excited to experiment. Once the liquid to vital wheat gluten ratio is set up, the seasonings seem limitless. Any ideas on good sausage flavors out there? Spicey Italian is one I always like. Perhaps something with orange?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Leftovers + Spices = Stuffing

I had many meals with the seitan I made a couple of days ago and, honestly, I am ready to move on. However, I hate to throw food away. I decided to attempt a vegan stuffing because it is a taste that is very different from the other meals I've made lately. I have some of a baguette leftover from a dinner the other night, seitan, some fresh veggies, and a cupboard full of spices.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Seitan: the wheat meat

(You might want to sit down for this post, it's a long one)

Seitan is one of a handful of mock-meats that can be interchanged easily for meat in a recipe. I find it desirable because of its density and texture, which sets it apart from tofu which can be softer and more fragile. Seitan is just wheat gluten that is seasoned and cooked. It's made by washing away the starch of wheat flour with water until just the insoluble, elastic gluten is left. It is often hidden as a thickener in your food and you don't even think of it (I'm looking at you ice cream!).

In my world, Seitan takes a back seat to more accessible, less expensive, and more healthful meat substitutes like tempeh and tofu. Even the biggest grocery chains carry tofu readily. And I hesitate using the word "substitutes" because I am not looking for seitan to replace the void of a piece of meat. I appreciate seitan, for what it is, how it tastes and how it can be used in different recipes; not because of how closely it comes to beef.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Doorstep surprise

I stumbled into this cute little guy the other morning. He was waiting for me at my doorstep and I can only assume he came from the the lobby of my apartment. There was once a small action figure that I was very much planning on adopting (or rather, adopting on behalf of a friend) but was convinced otherwise. Perhaps it belonged to someone, right?These two make a great pair.

People will give anything away. Or maybe, people will take anything when it's free; I sure do.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crafting small things

In the past 5 months I've taken to crafting in a small way. Literally: I like to make little collages on wood sample flooring squares that are about 2 x 3 inches in size. I've decided, or maybe discovered, that this is a good outlet for my overly observant nature and attention to detail.
As the months go on I am learning new ways to be creative with the squares. At first it was just magazine clippings applied with rubber cement then glossed with Mod Podge (the Decoupager's best friend). Then I found some small bottles of paint for free in the lobby of my apartment, and again at a local non-profit called SCRAP where there is a lot of random, donated, craft-like materials and supplies. Now I've decided to get fancy (yet again!) and buy some light weight beading wire and crimp beads to make the collages hang from anywhere.

My ideas for surfaces to hang from are: a wooden door (i have one in my living room that was free on craigslist), scrap wood from the side of the road, find something at SCRAP that I can nail into, or use push-pins in the wall. I don't want to do that last one because I am really not supposed to put holes in the walls of my apartment.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Peanut Sauce goes with everything, right?

Well, I sure think so. I even licked this right off of my spoon after mixing it altogether.

The List:
1/2 C crunchy peanut butter
1/2 C coconut milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Tbsp Tamari soy sauce
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
juice of 1/2 good sized lime (probably optional)
1 Tbsp Thai Siracha Chili sauce added slowly to taste
1/2 water

In a small sauce pan I sauteed the ginger and garlic in a tiny drop of oil on medium for a couple of minutes to cut their spiciness. Then I added everything else and mixed. Easy! With the chili sauce, I added it little by little so that I didn't overshoot my spice level. I feel like with peppers, one minute you can't taste anything and the next your sinuses are completely cleared and running uncontrollably.

Next time I won't let the sauce heat for so long. I dilly-dallied while adding the chili sauce and the peanut butter started separating. I don't mind stiring it (or heating it) before eating, though, because it still tastes wonderful.

I also dipped Rye crackers into this sauce. And it was, predictably, very good with rice noddles, baked tofu and fresh cilantro.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pasta Salad (with beet water)

After boiling some beets the other day I saved the dark pink water on a hunch that I could use it for something else.

The internet yields many useful and everyday ideas for beet water, most of which take advantage of the tendency of beet juice to stain anything it touches: egg dye, facial toner, hair dye, colorant for various foods, a liquid addition to soups. And there was one weird one: Faux grape jelly. Bleh.

I decided to make a pasta salad, cooking the pasta in the beet water. I thought it would be pink, but not this pink! The pasta even gained a very slight, sweet taste of beets.
What I had on hand: white onion, green onion, diced olives, pepperoncinis. I almost added some fake sausage but was really into the flavors of the raw onions and didn't want that to be overshadowed. Pasta salad always has this distinct flavor and I realized this flavor is vinegar. So I added white wine vinegar (to taste) with olive oil and salt and pepper. As a pasta salad, it is middle of the road. Visually though, I am a very happy camper.A completely non-related note to those who comment on the blog: I love it! And I want to respond to each post but I cannot, yet, figure out how. Sad. This is my blog and I don't know how to work it. Hopefully I'll make some breakthroughs soon.