Cabbage potato soup

Purple soup! Simple, yet satisfying for cold, rainy nights. Hidden cannellini beans provide protein and some body to the broth. I suppose you could use green cabbage, but that wouldn't be as fun.

Cabbage potato soup
2 tbs. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 c. diced potato
1/2 small head of cabbage, sliced (about 3 1/2 - 4 c.)
2 bay leaves
4 c. + 1/3 c. vegetable stock
1 c. cannellini beans
1/2 tsp. salt
1 ts. lemon juice
black pepper

In a 3 1/2 qt. (or larger) pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onions, and sweat for about 6-8 minutes until they become translucent. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the potatoes. Stirring occasionally, let the potatoes get some color for about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage and bay leaves and stir until the cabbage begins to wilt. Add the 4 c. of vegetable stock and salt and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree the beans and 1/3 c. stock. Pour into the soup along with the lemon juice and let simmer for a couple more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cabbage lentil sesame slaw

I'm not usually a huge cabbage fan, but a nice purple head from our CSA made me concoct up a couple tasty recipes. This salad tasted even better the next day for lunch.

Cabbage lentil sesame slaw
1/2 c. French green lentils
1 c. water
3.5 oz. fried tofu, sliced
1/2 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced (about 3 1/2 - 4 c.)
3 small carrots, shredded (about 1 3/4 c.)
1 1/2 tbs. soy sauce
1 1/2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 tbs. agave nectar
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 tbs. coarsely chopped cilantro
2 tbs. sesame seeds

In a small sauce pan, bring the lentils and water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, until lentils are tender. Meanwhile, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, oil, agave, and pepper in a large bowl.

Drain the lentils, then while still hot, pour into the dressing mixture. Add the tofu, cabbage, and carrots and toss until evenly coated. Add the cilantro and sesame seeds and toss some more. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before eating.

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Lemon-blueberry bread pudding

We got some Meyer lemons in last week's CSA box and I thought they'd be great in bread pudding. According to shane, bread puddings are supposed to be semi-soggy masses of unrecognizable mush, so I guess I like my bread puddings a bit on the drier side - still nice a creamy inside, but with some tooth left, and a crisp crust. If you prefer a moister version, I recommend increasing the milks by a 1/4 c. or more and baking the dish in a water bath.

Lemon-blueberry bread pudding
6 1/2 c. cubed bread (slightly stale is good and a crusty variety - I used a sourdough batard)
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. soymilk
1/2 c. unrefined cane sugar
3 tbs. garbanzo flour
1 tbs. cornstarch
1 tbs. lemon zest, lightly packed
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. blueberries (I used frozen)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine the milks, sugar, flour, starch, zest, and extract. Whisk for a minute or two until all of the starches are completely incorporated. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the mixture and let sit for a couple minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Scoop the mixture into a 1.5 qt souffle dish, or similarly sized baking dish (ex. a 9" loaf pan). Sprinkle the top of the bread pudding with about 1 tsp. of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and an inserted knife comes out clean.

Best eaten immediately! (Which I did, about 4 servings worth.)

Tofu two ways

I'll admit it: sometimes a big, greasy bowl of lo mein sounds really good. I don't however, love the heartattack on a plate that Occidentals like to turn everything into. Here are two super easy versions of take-out classics that rely on fresh ingredients for plenty of flavor. No disgustingly sweet sauces or fluorescent coloring here!

Lemon tofu with pea sprouts

Lemon Tofu
12 oz. super firm tofu
2 1/2 tbs. cornstarch
canola oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced (about 3/4 c.)
2 tsp. minced ginger
3/4 c. sliced bell pepper (any color will do)
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tbs. agave nectar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. mirin
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp sriracha
salt, to taste
zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp.)

Chop the tofu into bite-sized pieces and toss in the cornstarch until evenly coated. Fry (in batches, if necessary) in a lightly oiled pan until golden brown. Drain and set aside.

Heat about 1 tbs. of oil in a large pan, then add the onion, ginger, and bell pepper. Saute over medium heat until just soft, but not caramelized. Meanwhile, combine the water through sriracha in a small bowl and stir well.

Add the tofu back into the pan and stir for a couple minutes to reheat. Pour the sauce mixture in and gently stir until it begins to thicken. Add a pinch of salt, if needed. Turn off the heat, toss in the lemon zest, and serve immediately.

Sweet and sour tofu with brown rice

Sweet and sour tofu
12 oz. super firm tofu
2 1/2 tbs. cornstarch
canola oil
1/2 c. sliced yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 c. chopped tomato
3/4 c. pineapple chunks
1/2 c. sliced bell pepper
3 tbs. water
2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
2 tbs. agave nectar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. sriracha
salt, to taste

Prepare the tofu as in the previous recipe.

Heat about 1 tbs. of oil in a large pan, then add the onion and garlic and sweat over medium-low heat until softened. Turn the heat to medium-high, then add the tomato, pineapple, and pepper. Saute for a few minutes until they begin to caramelize. Meanwhile, combine the water through sriracha in a small bowl and stir well.

Add the tofu back into the pan and stir for a couple minutes to reheat. Pour the sauce mixture in and gently stir until it begins to thicken. Add a pinch of salt, if needed, and serve immediately.

chef shane

When I first met shane he had already been vegan for almost ten years, and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure how he managed to survive like that for so long. His diet seemed to consist mainly of seitan, tempeh, meat analogs, and baked goods. Only seitan, tempeh, meat analogs, and baked goods. Not too surprising from someone who begged for Bacos sandwiches as a child (Bacos + white bread, and nothing else).

Back in the early days of courting, he offered to make me dinner, which consisted of a large bowl filled with pan-fried tempeh coated in Bragg's and garlic. On the second occasion, I think I was given the exact same fare with maybe a Layonna's drumstick thrown into the mix. For several years he ate nothing but 2 plain, microwaved Tofurkey Beer Brats, and then later Field Roast sausages, for lunch every day at work. I even had trouble cooking my own food in his kitchen because he didn't keep much else other than garlic, Bragg's, and sriracha in stock. And for someone who didn't own salt, somehow his dishes managed to become extremely salty. He liked to argue that his diet was aligned with his proletarian values, and that only bougies needed to be appeased with variety.

I knew he liked vegetables, because he would eat them at restaurants, but because of his weight lifting regimen, he decided that he should budget most of his calories and money toward protein. At some point I managed to convince him that fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates are absolutely vital to a healthy diet, and in the beginning that consisted of 3-5 green beans, chopped into tiny pieces, and pan-fried with the tempeh or seitan. Eventually a small side of quinoa was added. Everything was still flavored with garlic, Bragg's, and sriracha.

Somewhere along the way, I think he actually started to enjoy cooking.

Note the sriracha and soy sauce (I despise Bragg's). Some things don't change, and almost everything is still pan-fried. However, now his dinners are often seasoned with ingredients as varied as vegetarian oyster sauce, bouillon, tumeric, lime juice, mirin, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, basil, and marinades/sauces. He even makes use of cornstarch slurries! Quinoa and lentils have become a staple. He'll also often include multiple types of vegetables in a dish and in more reasonable portion sizes:

(Though he still makes fun of "Mel and her House of Vegetables." We usually cook separate meals and mine are often vegetable-heavy.)

He also shows inventiveness and has created new dishes like his beloved chocolate seitan or yuba-wrapped sausages. He also makes his own big batch of seitan every week to eat for lunch and often brings hummus, mustard, or other items to dip it in.

Last night I had to work late and shane offered to make me dinner. I hesitated at first, but then agreed to let him do it. I came home to find him finishing up some sauteed pea sprouts to be served with tofu and lentils. And it was delicious! Not over-salted, not charred to death, and not super spicy from gallons of sriracha. The only garlic I smelled was on his breath because he just ate a raw clove to ward off a cold.

I'm proud of him!

Happy New Year!

shane and I invited some friends over for a New Year's Day brunch, and while I completely underestimated the amount of work it would take, it was totally worth it! Unfortunately, with so many things going on, I completely forgot to get any pictures of the food. (Sorry, Suzy!) Melisser of The Urban Housewife managed to get one of her plate:

I spent most of Monday baking and prepping, and Tuesday morning running around cooking, cleaning, and making last minute grocery runs. I was worried there wouldn't be enough food, but I think it ended up being the perfect amount. While incredibly delicious, our get-togethers tend to be very decadent, sugar-coated, and frosting-filled (ex. the 50 latkes and cookies I ate at Sunday's White Elephant), and I wanted to create a meal that would be satisfying and not leave us feeling ridiculously stuffed in the end.

The Menu:
- Cherry coconut mini-muffins (based off the raspberry coconuts)
- Peanut butter coffee cake with chocolate chips
- Fruit salad made with 7 varieties of apples and pears, and dressed with lemon zest/juice, agave, fresh sage, pomegranate seeds, candied pecans, and a dash of nutmeg
- Lettuce Wraps made with tofu, eggplant, shiitake, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, green beans, and corn
- Roasted new potatoes
- Roasted portobellos, brussel sprouts, and figs, with a fig-balsamic glaze
- shane's chocolate seitan (recipe coming soon!)
- Hot apple cider and cranberry-lime-mint juice

I also had a whole sheet of roasted Italian red onions, asparagus, zucchini, and carrots in the oven that didn't get finished in time and seemed like too much food, so I've been eating a pasta primavera concoction all week.

Somehow we managed to squeeze 25ish people into our apartment.

It was so great to see everyone and just eat and hang out. Thank you to everyone who came!

Community Supported Agriculture

I’ve gotten about couple emails asking me about Community Supported Agriculture, so I thought I’d put the information here.

Here’s a good description of what CSA’s are and how they work: Wiki

Basically, CSA members pay a designated fee (weekly/monthly/yearly/etc.) to a local farm in exchange for a selection of that farm's crops. It benefits the farm because they lower their risk by using membership numbers to determine how much and when to plant/harvest/etc. In return, members receive fresh, organic, sustainably grown produce, often picked a day before. It's a great relationship that keeps small, independent farms alive and healthy, seasonal produce on my table. Most CSA’s will have members who host a pick-up location for their neighborhood, and some will even deliver to your door for an extra fee.

One of the downsides is that you don't usually get a say in what your box will contain. When searching for a farm, they will often provide a list of the crops they grow and a sample list of what a box might contain, which will help you select a good match. I like the challenge of receiving produce I would not otherwise notice at the market, and I'm also learning to enjoy new things. Sometimes I do get items I don't like, but I just give them to friends or coworkers. The box I receive is a little less than enough to feed 2 vegans for a week (we rarely eat out), which I think is a steal for about $20. That way I can also still supplement with items from the store or farmers market when I have a craving for a certain dish or ingredient.

Some people don't like the limitations of having someone else (or the season!) determine their refrigerator contents for them, and that was something I worried about at first, but I really love how much time it saves me. I no longer spend forever wandering aimlessly through markets trying to decide what is going to sound good 5 days from now. And in the end, I know it's healthier to mainly eat local, seasonal produce, for me and the environment. Plus it’s going to taste better than the out-of -season tomato from Chile or orange from South Africa, picked completely green and shipped thousands of miles. If you're someone who loves farmer's market visits or menu planning, it might not be the best option for you, though some farms offer box size or biweekly options.

My farm is Terra Firma Farm in Winters, California. I chose them for several reasons: cost, crop variety, pick-up locations, and that they only grow produce and nuts. Many farms also sell meat, wool, eggs, etc. and I was happy to find a farm that did not. I also liked the idea that I could actually point to Winters on a map, having lived nearby for 4 years while in college. These past two weeks have been their annual vacation time and I can't wait until deliveries begin again next week.

The Wiki entry above can lead you in the direction of a few sites that can help you locate a CSA farm in your area.