Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baked Triple-Decker Open-Faced Enchidillas

The swelling in the fridge has come down a bit. My three day cooking fest had left us with a lot of odds and ends that I've cleverly used up over the past days. Tonight I had to kill the remainder of the items in the fridge and I knew just how to do it.

This idea came to me as if in a dream or a vision. A dream or vision apparently inspired by some large American chain of Tex-Mex themed restaurants with a name like Poblano or Cancun Boon!

I took the leftover salsa-baked chicken and deboned it layering it with slices of baked potato,steamed kale, and queso fresco between flour tortillas. Then I baked it in the oven until the queso browned up a bit.

And there you have it.

I cut this bizarre triple-decker open-faced enchi-dilla into wedges like some kind of unholy Tex-Mex pie and served it with a little avocado, salsa, and sour cream.

If my tacky American Tex-Mex restaurant ever opens this is going to be a featured item on the "Sombrero Sizzlers" menu. You might want to start off with some Empanada Sliders or a Captain's Ransom Margarita before you order the Triple-Decker Open-Faced Enchidilla. Or, perhaps if you are not adventurous enough to try foods that are pretending to be ethnic, you can just stick to our Gringo Menu. I hear the Gringo Burger is a good option even though it still has that exotic Monterey Jack cheese on it.

Oh, man. Cancun Boon is going to be such an amazing restaurant.

And so tastefully done.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sittin' in a Snowy Perch

As we went to bed last night we were looking forward to waking up to another rainy day. Instead we woke up to a foot of snow and a car that was completely encased in solid ice. Turning on the TV we were blasted with news of Snowmageddonpocalypse 2010! This has been standard for the past nine Nor'Easters which totaled more than 1.5 inches of snow. Information about this morning's unexpected accumulation would have been greatly handy last night when I could have set my alarm a half an hour earlier so that I could chisel and pry my car door open.

In the afternoon I enjoyed a leftover salad of spinach, kale, char, lemon, peppadew, olive oil, and golden beets.

For dinner I started off by finding a use for the fourth in my series of fantastic sea salts from Gustomundial.

I tossed some potato wedges with olive oil, pepper, and the olive salt and roasted them at high heat until nice and golden. I find this salt is outstanding but probably better used in an uncooked state. Sprinkling additional salt on the potatoes after they came out of the oven seemed to work.

I used a seasonal substitution for the traditional orange slice with Belgian beer by using these delicious Murcott Tangerines. I also used a year-round substitution for Belgian beer with this Blue Moon.

I cleared out a tremendous amount of items from the fridge by making this one pan roast with onion, garlic, and pepper. I marinated some perch fillets and shrimp with peppadews, lemon, and white wine which I roasted in the oven on top of the sauteed onion and pepper mixture.

It was a relaxing snowy evening with friends, good food, and the soothing sound of a German slalom skier sobbing hysterically on a snowy mountain outside of Vancouver. What can I say? I love a sporting event where nations compete!

And perch.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Off The Charts

Tonight's dinner was an arguably light and more arguably healthy dinner low in starch and high in fun. This is what I would serve the emperor of Japan if he were to come over for dinner. However, I have never cooked dinner for the emperor of Japan. I have cooked dinner for Hugo Chavez and Bill Clinton though. I don't really remember what they ate. It wasn't char. Let's face it, they're not really worth char. Char is for people decidedly more imperial.

I marinated the char in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted it in the oven. I did the same with some eggplant coins (minus the lemon), and boiled some golden beets before tossing them in a little olive oil, butter, salt, and pepper. Then I sauteed the golden beet greens with some baby spinach, garlic, and olive oil.

I'm a big fan of char. I know salmon is a little resentful because char only really showed up (in this country) about ten years ago and started eating its lunch. Salmon are notoriously bitter and resentful fish who would stab a trout or grouper in the back simply to be able to work their way onto your plate.

They're just sour because they missed their opportunity to be eaten by Hugo Chavez.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Salsa "Baked" Chicken and the Perils of Raw Kale

Why? Because people like to say, "Salsa."

GourMom is a salsa made from local, organic ingredients in Fairfield, Connecticut. It is labeled as a salas and simmer sauce. I would not have actually thought of using this as a simmer sauce had it not been written on the label

I quartered up a chicken and seared it, skin side down, with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then flipped it over, deglazed with white wine and topped it with jar of salsa and baked it in the oven.

As someone who has interviewed and hired hundreds of cooks and chefs over the years I have something against baked chicken. Firstly, I was taught in culinary school that chicken can only be roasted, not baked. Now I realize that this may just be semantics but this was beaten into me pretty hard. Secondly, it seems to be the surefire mark of someone who doesn't actually know or like cooking to say that their signature dish is baked chicken. I can't even tell you how many times I've asked a job candidate what their favorite dish is, or what would they make for the President if he came over, or what they like to cook the most is and they've responded with, "Baked chicken."

Not only does this exhibit no specificity but it's not even technically accurate. I try to not let this oddity cloud by judgment but if you are being interviewed by me and you mention "baked chicken" you had better have some great answers to the rest of the questions because you're already starting off at a disadvantage.

I accompanied the chicken with an avocado wedge, baked potato, sour cream, and steamed kale with lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I think I've figured out the real difficulty behind people eating truly healthy. According to most nutrient information the key to a healthy diet involves making about 40% of your diet be in the form of kale. The problem with that is that this small amount of kale I made for dinner took up about 25% of my fridge. That's just enough for a side dish in one meal. If I had to compliment this with all sorts of other greens, beans, and legumes, I may be forced to rent a second apartment for all of my other belongings and maintain this apartment strictly for kale storage.

Perhaps if you had the luxury of four acres of farmland in your backyard to grow (and more importantly to store) this kale you might be okay. Another option would be if you steam it as you acquire it you can dramatically reduce its volume.

Assuming you had a car with a very large trunk.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You Can't Beet the Canadians

As the winter nears its end it's a bit of a struggle for anything truly interesting to cook. It's also a struggle to find any Canadian ingredients to work into the meal in celebration of the snoozefest that is ice dancing. With ice dancing finally over I felt an enormous sense of national pride in knowing that it would be four more years before I'd have to struggle through watching any of that again.

In honor of the Canadians beeting the competition to win gold last night I made this salad with beets, beet greens, pine nuts, blue cheese, lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. It was also in honor of beets being on sale and the fact that I think beet greens are the most delicious of all the greens.

But mostly because of that ice dancing thing. I love those ice dancers! [INSERT THEIR NAMES HERE] are awesome!

In honor of the American defeat I made this pasta. I roasted the broccoli with a little olive oil and bread crumbs then put it on top of some whole wheat fettuccine.

George H. W. Bush hated broccoli. Therefore this is just adding a little more salt to America's wounds. Go Team Canada!

In honor of Argentina's zero (0) athletes at 2010's winter games we had this torrontes wine. It went well with the light pasta and represented its country with great pride. It was so good I think it earned itself a platinum medal in the 5km wine-pairing event.

I just love an Olympic-themed meal!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Olympic Pizza

Portugal only has one participant in the 2010 Winter Games. That man is Danny Silva. They also only have one sausage participant in my fridge. That sausage is: Linguica.

Along with some garlic, onion, peppers, eggplant, mozzarella, sauce, and multigrain dough this made for a fantastic pizza.

I used multicolored peppers (and a ring of eggplant) to decorate the pizza in a fashion that would bring Danny Silva an enormous amount of pride for his country. I imagine that he would eat this pizza whilst cross-country skiing across British Columbia. The Linguica would serve a dual purpose of keeping him warm and reminding him of his homeland.

For beer I had a Victory Old Horizontal Barleywine Style Ale from The Brewmasters of Victory in Downington, PA. The beer was good but I wish I'd realized a little sooner through the bottle that it was 11% alcohol. I thought it was a little on the strong side but it was only after seeing that that I realized why it was called "Horizontal." The label even features the moon wearing a sleeping cap and sleeping. I have significantly less mass than the Earth's satellite and I'm surprised that I'm still vertical after consuming this with dinner.

I imagine this beer would be a good substitute for brandy should any St. Bernards find Danny Silva in a snowbank somewhere. My only fear would be that they may further incapacitate him.

Brandy may be a milder option.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Sole of the Olympics

It was Friday night so that meant we had two options: we could go out for a dinner out on the town or we could stay home and make dinner to eat while we watch the Olympics. I think you know how this story ends.

I used the second salt in my arsenal of seasoned salts from, the Mediterranean herbed salt which has summer savory, marjoram, oregano, thyme, and rosemary.

I used the salt with some of the last of the Kent, Connecticut potatoes, simply boiled in salt water. This salt was outstanding with potatoes. The remaining two salts are olive and hibiscus flavored. The olive salt I can think of a number of uses for. The hibiscus salt poses a little more of a challenge. I'll have something coming up for it soon. Perhaps a salty tea.

For the main course I made stuffed sole. The stuffing was made with garlic, onion, celery, bacon, crab, scallops, shrimp, panko, butter, and a little egg. I then baked it in the oven with a little panko and Old Bay on top. I don't think I've made stuffed sole since the late 90's so it was a nice change up. Not exactly in the spirit of our recent healthy eating kick. I was originally going to stuff it with kale but I looked high and low and was unable to find any in the fridge. For that reason I substituted with delicious items instead.

In the spirit of the Olympics I made five pieces, one for each of the Olympic rings. I thought about dying them red, yellow, green, blue, and black with food coloring but decided against it at the last minute. Largely because we don't have any food coloring.

Also because it is a horrible idea.

Now tonight we've been enjoying the skiing for about twenty minutes so I guess that means we're in store for about six hours of ice dancing starting any minute now.

Just like they did during ancient Greek times.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Canadian "Bacon"

Tonight had a promising start. The Olympics were on and we got a chance to watch some slalom and snowboard half-pipe skiing. In honor of the event I even made a Canadian-themed meal!

I got some beautiful organic pork tenderloin from Canada to celebrate. Unfortunately for Vancouver it was from their least favorite province but still Canadian nonetheless. I pan seared it and served it with sweet and Idaho potatoes which I baked with some thyme, chili, and maple until they developed a nice crispy crust. I then threw some spinach in to the pan after I removed the pork for a minute and served it on the side.

It was a great use of the left over potatoes from Tuesday and the fresh spinach I had in the fridge. Unfortunately the night took a turn for the worst.

After about ten minutes of good events the remainder of my evening was taken up by figure skating. I could totally deal with figure skating if it were doled out in similar doses to the other events. However, after the first hour my interest started to wane. After four straight hours I was thinking unsavory thoughts about this bizarre buzzard-man pictured above.

Maybe tonight they'd be kind enough to sacrifice a tiny amount of their insane coverage to show me some curling, skiing, or even a documentary about how they paint the lines on the snow for downhill skiing. Anything to get me a minute's reprieve from this horrible, cringe-inducing "sport."

Thankfully there's only five days of ice dancing and woman's figure skating left. It's almost over.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pork Fat Tuesday

With Jen and I coming from distinctly French-Canadian backgrounds we both have some sort of rudimentary knowledge of Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or whatever you want to call it. With that happening today it was time to celebrate!

Traditionally one is supposed to use up items from their fridge that they are going to give up for Lent such as eggs, butter, and meats for a Shrove Tuesday meal. This developed into the traditional eating of pancakes (which are generally more like a cross between a pancake and a crepe) to use up these ingredients. In the United Kingdom it was a common Anglican custom to celebrate with pancakes.

Our own tradition has morphed this into becoming a day to have breakfast for dinner. This kind of contradicts the original point of the holiday because it generally involves us purchasing things and bringing them into our fridge rather than trying to clear them out. Also there is the fact that we have no intention of giving anything up for Lent. Except possibly cucumbers. I could give up cucumbers for Lent.

I made some silver dollar pancakes, eggs (which actually was to get them out of the fridge) with spinach and Gruyere Surchoix, bacon, sausage, sweet potato home fries, and Cara Cara orange slices.

Jen likes her bacon extra crispy (or as I call it "ruined") so I generally have to stick a few strips in the microwave for ten or twenty minutes before serving them to her. I, on the other hand, prefer mine to be cooked to a nice medium rare.

We are both disgusted by the other's taste in bacon cooking procedures.

The scrambled eggs were a triumph. I used up some almond milk and skim milk, a seasoned them only with salt, pepper, and shredded Gruyere Surchoix.

I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I make the world's best pancakes. (Also used a half and half almond/skim milk combo in this).

The home fries were in the spirit of the Shrove Tuesday (sort of) in that they did clean something out of the fridge -- an excess of potatoes and sweet potatoes that have been hanging around for some time now. It turned out well. I cooked them in the rendered bacon fat which generally adds +10 goodness to just about anything.

I tried something new this year: beer for breakfast! I wanted to have the perfect beer with breakfast and it turns out the Hoegaarden works pretty well. Of course if you're having "breakfast" at 8:00pm you have a little more leeway in this area. I'm probably not going to crack another open tomorrow morning when I make my oatmeal.

Also, another tradition, is to watch the US Olympic Woman's Hockey Team soundly defeat their Russian adversaries. It's like the miracle on ice except without any of the suspense.

And thus a Shrove Tuesday tradition was born. One that we will repeat every four years on Shrove Tuesday. Assuming the Olympic schedule stays exactly the same. And that we remember.

Which we most certainly won't.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chi Fan Le Mei You?

With so many holidays sandwiched all together in such a short span of time it really takes some planning to get all of them in. Last night Jen prepared herself a traditional Valentine's Day meal, thus ignoring the Chinese New Year.

However, since the Chinese New Year is really a week celebration, tonight it was my job to try to encapsulate the new year with an incredibly unstudied collection of dishes that encapsulate the rich tradition of the holiday and (more importantly) require no additional grocery buying. That's a tradition we can all get behind.

The second day of the Chinese New Year is called the "Day of Commencement" and it is traditional to prepare a commencement lunch. I tried to take the day off of work explaining to them that it was customary for me to do this as a part of my heritage but, sadly, it was not to be. Traditionally this is a lavish meal to celebrate a prosperous year and is rich with oysters, duck, chicken, carp, and braised seaweed. I scoured the pantry and, unfortunately, did not find any of this.

What I did find was a full pound of spinach which I sauteed with some fresh ginger, Mirin, pine nuts, and a little rice wine vinegar.

I also quickly boiled some baby bok choy and marinated it (though I suppose that's a stretch of the definition if the marinating time is less than ten minutes) in a little sweet chili sauce.

I also made some rice noodles with ginger, miso, teriyaki, celery, peppers, shrimp, tofu, and sliced tomato. This used up a good amount of miscellaneous Asian condiments from the fridge with this dish which made it taste all that more delicious.

Jen had also made these dumplings and frozen them so I steamed up a small handful with a soy dipping sauce that Jen made.

Not exactly traditional but fitting for the late nineties Pan-Asian-Fusion area that we live in. This dinner would have soothed any number of locals into feeling assured that they were, in fact, safe and sound in Westchester County.

There are a lot of more traditional things we could have done for dinner but that would have required doing research, buying ingredients, and spending more than a half an hour making dinner! I'm like Rachael Ray, baby. I make 30 minute meals!

Tomorrow is the third day of the Chinese New Year. It is known as the "Day of Squabbles." On this day people find it best to stay home and avoid any social interaction. Now that's my kind of holiday!

Unfortunately for me tomorrow is also another holiday for us as well. And by holiday I mean: something that doesn't actually mean anything to me other than an excuse to make something specific for dinner. While the food will be all but traditional Chinese we will still celebrate it by staying home and avoiding social interactions so that's a major bonus for me.

Man . . . The Day of Squabbles. What a great day!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sniffles and Salmon

Today is Valentine's Day, and it is also Chinese New Year.

Dinner tonight pays homage to neither of those occasions.

Dinner tonight pays homage to an oft-neglected category: sick food.

Sick food is an art form -- and a personal one, at that.

Tea and toast, sometimes with peanut butter? That's a mainstay, no matter what ails you. For the flu, maybe some crackers. For a bad head cold, chicken noodle soup and other broths and soups can help clear the sinuses, and almost no one would disagree. But after that, it's to taste. My dad has said he thinks eggnog is a great sickbed drink. I disagree, but if it makes him feel better, more power to it. Some friends swear by eye-poppingly spicy curries to clear the sinuses. I happen to think that for that first meal post-sickness -- the one where you're not fully better yet but you definitely can't stomach yet another bowl of chicken noodle and you have some appetite back -- nothing can beat takeout Moo Shu pork, sweet and sour chicken AND wonton soup, but I realize I might be alone in that.

Something else I am often alone in? My love for what I made for tonight's repast: creamed salmon on toast. It's my favorite for a very specific circumstance: when you're hungry, sick enough to feel like dung but not so sick that you can't bear the thought of really making anything. (In that case, your best option: beans on toast.) Anyhow, I've spent four of the 11 hours I've been awake lying in bed, and the bulk of the remaining seven hours lying on the couch surrounded by a constantly growing mountain of used Kleenex, so I had built up enough strength to stand in front of the stove and stir the white sauce that makes up the base of the meal. I added some Old Bay seasoning this time in addition to cayenne, Worchester sauce, mustard powder and salt and pepper -- my nose is super stuffed, so I was looking for something I could taste. And with some frozen peas and canned sockeye, dinner was complete.

This is something Nate (who is working the overnight inventory shift on this Valentine's Day) will always make for me, but every roommate I have ever had has looked at its preparation with suspicion, if not downright horror. However, I feel markedly better having had it for dinner, so who's the winner now? Now, for yet another pot of tea and some more of the Olympics, and I plan to be well on the path to healing -- just in time for a seasonally appropriate Chinese feast tomorrow, is my devout hope.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Break From Salad

Jen and I both seem to have reached an important decision. We both came to the decision at the exact same moment. It happened about halfway through our salad last night. The decision was this: we now hate salad.

As the healthy tone of January fades into our memories the immense amount of salad consumed doesn't. Instead it sits there in our frontal lobes like a compost heap in the mid-July sun. Even if we could allow ourselves to forget it by closing our eyes, the dizzying aromas will not allow us to.

Since the healthy people of the world believe that leafy greens are the best thing that anyone can consume I made this "salad" of steamed kale, lemon, pine nuts, and blue cheese for Jen. I did no make one for myself.

Jen ate half. I'll take that as a major triumph after the dread I feel just looking at this picture. It's like looking at a picture of your saddest childhood memory.

The main course was another great round of cleaning out the fridge. I made some tacos out of the remaining salad greens (by cleverly not making them into salad), the remaining mango salsa from the Superbowl, black beans, remaining avocado, some chicken breast, and some sour cream.

They were pretty tasty for something that required no real planning or preparation. The tastiest part of it all: emptying portions of the fridge to make way for a new crop of vegetables to come into the world and serve their time before one day getting a chance to see "Avatar" for $7.50.

Oh the vegetables of today. They don't know how good they have it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Tale of Two Pastas

Tuesday saw a return to work for me. Tuesday found me at work later than I'd expected. Jen beat me home and put together the first round of pasta dishes:

Spaghetti with Alfredo sauce, broccoli, broccoli rabe, and zucchini. Some of the vegetables in our crisper were about ready to begin getting the senior citizen discount at local cinemas so it was time that they saw some sort of noble end. And what better way than in a pasta dish that gets enjoyed over the latest episode of Psych?

Since Jen's pasta did not finish off all the leftovers, I tossed the remainder in a pan with the crumbled sausage from our Superbowl pizza and made this pipe rigate with vodka sauce tonight. We even had some of the leftover garlic bread.

It was the pasta of belief, it was the pasta of incredulity.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Using All The Parts of the Buffalo Wings

Hey, be a pal and follow our blog, won't ya? If you do you'll be eligible for all sorts of prizes, coupons, and free stuff*!

After last night's Super Bowl dinner we had a few odds and ends lying around that we needed to use up tonight. Some may say that the amount of things we made for last night's dinner may have been a little bit on the excessive side. However, it was a rewarding experience to have Buffalo wings again and I don't regret any of it. Not for an instant!

Most of what we had for dinner was leftover but for the salad I used all of the leftover bits we had lying around. I marinated some tofu with the remaining Buffalo sauce then roasted it. I served it over a halved avocado with mixed greens and arugula which were tossed in lemon and olive oil.

I also accompanied it with some celery which I foolishly forgot to include with last night's Buffalo wings. I don't even like celery but it's kind of a mandatory accompaniment to all things Buffalo. If nothing else it makes for an attractive garnish. Even if it's the only thing left on my plate afterward.

Tomorrow things may start anew as leftovers are dwindling. Either that or it'll be a particularly uninspired dinner of celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

Laziness, like always, will dictate the final outcome.

* Your results may vary.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Sure Like Those Sports Games!

Are you ready for some footbaaaaaaaaaall?

Well, me neither. However, it is an excellent excuse to prepare a bunch of unhealthy "game time" foods! Now, are you ready for some football? Alright, let's get reaaaaaaaaady to ruuuuuuuuuumble!

I started off by making potato skins with sweet Italian sausage, Gruyere Surchoix, and some crispy bacon. The Gruyere Surchoix may be a little too nice to melt over a potato with bacon and sausage but the end result was well worth the price of potentially wasting a fine cheese.

For the second course I made Buffalo wings. They say marriage improves your memory because the other half of the partnership is able to recall things that you cannot and vice versa. This was proven tonight when I could not remember the last time I'd had Buffalo wings. Jen reminded me that the last time we'd had Buffalo wings was a few years ago and coincidentally the last time we'd had Papa John's pizza (or any takeout pizza for that matter). The result was us both feeling quite sick, likely because the pizza (75% cheese, 25% sauce and dough) was truly heinous. It was a moment that turned us both off to takeout pizza for, apparently, the rest of our lives.

I prepared the sauce for the Buffalo wings in the same pan that I used to cook the crumbled sausage and render the bacon because I'm lazy which nicely deglazed the pan of all the pork flavor and infused the wings with a little extra pizazz.

Yes, pizazz.

Which brings us to the pizza that I made for the final course. I used some more sausage, mozzarella, Gruyere Surchoix, broccoli rabe, and Peppadews. At least I think Peppadews is the plural for Peppadew. This is not one of the words that they go over in English class like shrimp or ox.

Incidentally, shrimp and ox are both underutilized game time foods.

Are you ready for some footbaaaaaaaaaall?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Black Garlic . . . If You Please

Black garlic is something I've been trying to get my hands on for a few months now. Sure you can order black garlic online but that's only if you want to pay $3.99 (plus $7.49 shipping) to receive two bulbs. Listen, folks, I'm not made out of money! Of course you could donate money to me. That way I'd be able to afford such luxuries!

That said, I am more of a thrifty chef. A "frugal gourmet" if you will.

I heard rumors of a shop in town that sometimes had black garlic. When I asked the man who was toiling amongst the shallots, white garlic, and onions he knew nothing of this. He asked someone else who told me of a man. This man could be found at the other end of the store, far past the green onions, prepared sandwiches, and salmon fillets. It was said, in legend, that he would be the man to ask about this ancient relic.

He reached under the counter and took out a ratty old paper bag from which he removed two bulbs of garlic, one slightly moldy. "One dollar," he said.

Just one dollar! I took two. Mostly because I needed to throw away the moldy one.

I had some remaining Malfadine noodles from Severino as well as some dried porcini mushrooms which have held a mailing address in our cupboard for some time now. I'm not even quite sure why I purchased them in the first place.

Typically I will crush these up with a mortar and pestle to make a flavorful crust for veal or pork. Instead, to keep with this recent vegan-cooking phase I'm going through, I coated some cubed tofu which I'd pressed for ten hours in the fridge under the crushing weight of some sesame seeds and a quart of vegetable stock. I fried up the cubed tofu in a little olive oil/sunflower oil mix.

I carmelized some whole shallots with a little olive oil and black garlic then tossed in some whole shiitake caps with some fresh time and white wine. After simmering for a bit I added almond milk, reduced down, then tossed in some cubed sweet potato (which I'd previously par-cooked), some of the remaining porcini dust, and the cooked malfadine. I even put one more ingredient that's secret that I need to keep secret until Jen eats it first because she'll be super skeptical. To see what the ingredient is click and drag your mouse down over the white space below.

Nutritional yeast! Jen is very leery of this ingredient. It's a little bizarre but it can lend a certain type of cheesiness to a dish. That is when it's not just reminding you of fish food.

I laid down a bed of sauteed garlic and Swiss chard mixed with baby spinach, topped with the pasta mixture, then topped the pasta with bits of the fried porcini-crusted tofu.

To accompany the dinner, some white wine from Sharpe Hill Vinegard in Pomfret, CT. Connecticut makes wine! Who knew?

The result was interesting. I think Jen might have actually liked it more than I did despite the fact that she immediately identified the nutritional yeast!

I think I might have flown a little close to the vegan sun with this one.

I think my wax wings are starting to melt.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Vegan Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack

Jen was kind enough to prepare tonight's dinner on Sunday. My only instructions: put the enchiladas in the oven. As of late Jen has been wondering what it would be like to have something different for breakfast. Unlike me she does not possess an endless tolerance to eat the same exact thing for breakfast every day until the end of time.

How sad for her.

Based on her strong suggestion I took some inspiration from this recipe and made a spiced oatmeal for breakfast using steel cut oats, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, vanilla, brown sugar, currants, and raisins. I also drizzled a small amount of coconut milk over the top along with some sliced almonds and ground flax seed.

I used to make steel cut oats all the time. I generally don't make them at home because A) until I moved in with Jen I didn't even have breakfast at all and B) now that I do have breakfast I just use it as a vehicle to get something in my stomach in the morning. I certainly don't care to spend 30 minutes on cooking breakfast. Particularly when I need to leave the house by 6:00 A.M. most mornings to go to work.

Steel cut oats are remarkable in that you wonder how they are at all connected to the instant oatmeal flakes that we all grew up eating. I'm not knocking instant oatmeal, it's what I have for breakfast most mornings. It's good in its own right but it bears little to no resemblance to its original form, something that makes fans on both sides a little uneasy at tasting the other.

With all this free time, what as I to do with the rest of my day? Well, I had big plans. I downloaded Le Voyage dans la Lune and got ready for an incredible viewing experience. What I failed to realize is that this film is only 14 minutes long. With that over I decided it was time to make some lunch.

I made a sandwich with some day old whole wheat bread, red pepper hummus, spinach, avocado, tomato, and sliced almonds. I also tossed some more spinach in some remaining fig, sesame, and dijon dressing as a side salad.

Then I read this article on about high bacteria levels being found in packaged greens and was saddened. Washing salad greens has, for unknown reasons, long been one of my least favorite culinary tasks. The prospect of having to start washing my pre-packaged salad greens from now on may be even more or a deal breaker than possibly getting salmonella every so often.

For a mid-day snack with my tea I decided to try this new cake-making technique I heard about (though I can't remember where). The idea goes something like this: take a cake mix and, instead of using the ingredients listed on the back of the box, just combine the dry mix with one can of canned pumpkin. Then bake it following the cake mix's instructions. This turns a 260 calorie slice of cake with oil, milk, and eggs into a vegan cake slice which is fat free and only 170 calories.

The result was not bad. Because of the lack of eggs you can't underbake this cake. In the future I would probably bake it a little less. I'd strongly recommend playing around with this technique for all you vegans out there.

I found some interesting discussions about this techniques on some recipe sites where people were suggesting alterations to this recipe. The most common alteration, suggested by multiple people, was to add some eggs to the recipe. I'm not quite sure what their goal was in trying this recipe int he first place.

However, this is a great suggestion if you are looking for a tastier cake. I'd also recommend slathering on a nice chocolate ganache over the top. My suggestion: 1 cup dark Belgian chocolate, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons of high-fat European butter (e.g. Plugra).

Also, replace the canned pumpkin with 6 ounces of coconut oil and 6 ounces of 6 ounces of peanut butter.