Adventureland

May 17, 2009

I’ve had quite the adventurous few days, at least compared to my usual homebound-except-for-errands weekends. I trace it all back to Friday night, when my urge for cookies became so overwhelming that I actually baked some. This never happens, as I mostly hate baking, or more accurately, I’m afraid of it. But at least I’m woman enough to admit it. It’s the science, really. The ratios and the measuring and all of that stuff that I can manage to completely ignore when I’m cooking, but which are important when you’re trying to bake things so that they don’t taste weird or fall in on themselves or explode and set fire to the kitchen.

I made a variation of some cookies from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan, which didn’t involve many normal baking ingredients, like sugar, or eggs, or butter. Perfect.

in the oven; no shots of the finished cookies because, well, I ate them all.

in the oven; no shots of the finished cookies because, well, I ate them all.

Even though I don’t really bake, we do tend to have a few baking staples on hand. Flour (for pancakes and roux), baking soda (also for pancakes), and various vegetable-based oils. These had whole wheat flour, baking soda, oats, ground flaxseed, chocolate chips, honey, peanut butter, cinnamon, and some canola oil. Bonus of vegan baking? You can eat the dough with no nagging fear of salmonella.

That’s fairly low key on the adventure front, though I was quite proud of myself that they turned out well. And were also, I bet, better for me than the cupcakes with 87 ingredients in the frosting alone that I almost sent Matt out to buy.

More adventurous was the trip to Lincoln, Nebraska that we took yesterday. After two years of living here, we finally took the plunge and drove the two hours it takes to cross the Nebraska border and make our way towards Lincoln. We were planning to go in a few weeks, but I got back from the gym yesterday and Matt had directions and was ready to drive.

Lincoln was awesome, with lots of restaurants and places to walk and see (why I wanted to go) and a good comic store (why Matt wanted to go). We didn’t have that much time to explore it, and I forgot to bring the list of all the things Livia suggested that we should check out, so we’re planning to go back again later this summer. We ate at Lazlo’s, which had good food, really good fries, and seriously good beer. The special was a black lager, which was amazing, but what really got me was the vanilla porter. It was like someone opened up a vanilla bean and dumped the seeds in an already good beer. To make it The Best Beer. All of the beers are brewed locally by Empyream, and if you’re ever in Lincoln you have to drink some.

My main problem when confronted with really good restaurants is that I can’t stop eating. I eat way beyond my full point and then I spend hours feeling like I’m going to explode. Which happened. I even asked them to bring me an extra basket of fries after I had finished my meal and had two and a half beers. And yet, somehow I found it in me to enjoy some ice cream from Ivanna Cone, which is apparently famous if the line out the door was any indication. I had butter cashew. I almost wept into the cup, it was so good.

Now we’re home again, but I’m jetsetting again tomorrow, this time to Lawrence for the day for work. To get Matt all set up for the week, I made a batch of black-eyed pea and corn patties from Vegetarian Times.

It’s odd to me how often I want something in burger format, considering that I stopped eating beef many years ago. I used to eat turkey burgers before I stopped eating poultry, and I probably eat veggie burgers that someone else has made, lovingly packaged, frozen, and made available to stores for consumers like me at least once a week. And then there are the black bean burgers, and the chickpea cutlets, and the significantly less successful chickpea patties (I still blame Bittman). And I just keep going back.

These were actually successful. They stayed together fairly well and had nice flavor.

up close and personal, with some salsa

up close and personal, with some salsa

We almost had an incident with these. Let’s just say that even if the recipe indicates that it’s totally cool to put three cups of frozen corn in a food processor and just puree away, it is totally not cool. But I’m a better person for knowing.

I served it up alongside some Bobby Flay-inspired jicama slaw and some chips and salsa.

again with the poor plating

again with the poor plating

I realized about ten minutes ago that I was exhausted. I bet you couldn’t tell. I used my rambling to hide the truth.


Same difference

April 4, 2009

Have you ever noticed that 85% of the meals I cook look the same?

Be honest.

This is not an exception, but it still tasted pretty good.

Bengali-style black-eyed peas with mushrooms and rice

Bengali-style black-eyed peas with mushrooms and rice

I have no idea what makes this “Bengali-style,” but I’m assuming it was the spices. If you can’t tell from the yellow, I went a little turmeric-happy. Mostly because I wanted to balance out the ground cumin, which I accidentally dumped in the pot in a moment of confusion between the sifting side and the pouring side of the bottle. Oops. The recipe also called for cinnamon, which was an interesting addition. It warmed it up without spicing it up.

This was from The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, the most recent Donna Klein (of PDQ fame) cookbook that I checked out from the library. For the first time ever, I actually preserved the vegan-ness of a vegan recipe, though it was only because cheese didn’t seem like it would taste right with it (I know) and I’m out of plain Greek yogurt, which would have been the perfect addition to balance out the spice overload.

I’m sorry for the lack of posting. I’ve been doing a horrible job of sticking to my “don’t eat out during the week” rule for the past few weeks. Or months.

Okay, time to focus my attention on basketball.


Beans and greens

February 2, 2009

So, the whole experience of eating animal flesh again after a month off was kind of anti-climactic. I secretly expected to bite into a little shrimp and keel over, but I didn’t. And I’m happy to report that shrimp fajitas are still good. They probably would have been even better if I hadn’t ruined the experience by eating fried ice cream for the first time in three years, bolstered by a sense of accomplishment from doing a super intense 75-minute power yoga session. Anyway, I ordered the ice cream, which was sizable enough to prompt a little girl to say “Is it her birthday? It’s someone’s birthday!” loudly enough for the four other people in our entire town who weren’t watching the super bowl to hear. And then I ate it. That’s when I keeled over. The shrimp seemed to have very little to do with it.

After all that, it was kind of nice to go back to a comfortable, low-maintenance, and meatless diet today. Tonight was another PDQ meal.

I know. But I just can’t help myself. I love it. Plus, I went to kickboxing after work and I really wanted to eat before midnight.

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toasted barley and orzo salad with black-eyed peas

This was accompanied by some kale (double garlic greens from How to Cook Everything), because I just can’t separate black-eyed peas from greens in my mind. I loved both parts of this meal – garlicky greens just seem right no matter what, and the barley and orzo salad was really chewy and warm and filling.

Okay, time for the sleeps.


Better late than never

January 2, 2009

I had every intention of making a traditional Southern New Years meal last night, but it didn’t work out that way. In the name of being more flexible (one of my 2009 goals), I decided to make it tonight instead.

brown rice, collard greens, and blackeye peas

brown rice, collard greens, and black-eyed peas

I used canned black-eyed peas, because they were out of dried, so I just rinsed them and heated them with a little vegetable broth. For the greens, I used Mark Bittman’s “Double Garlic Collards” from How to Cook Everything. And for the rice, I used the method recommend by Uncle Ben on the back of the box. Even a day late, this was really tasty and filling and I’m sure it put us right on track to having an excellent 2009. Still not as good as my grandmother or mom would have made, but I’m learning.

Speaking of fresh starts, we’ve decided to do a food experiment to keep things interesting. We’re going to attempt to go meatless for the entire month of January. We don’t eat a lot of meat around here, but I can’t remember the last time I went more than a week or so without poultry or seafood of some kind, so this should be interesting. More than anything, I’m hoping it pushes me out of my comfort zone and gives me the chance to get more use out of all of the cookbooks I’ve accumulated over the past year.

Luckily, desserts tend to be meatless, so I’m off to enjoy one.


Soul food

October 17, 2008

Last night before our class event, I had dinner at Donna’s with a few other teachers. She had the day off work and slaved over a hot stove for hours to prepare this delightful meal for us:

Black-eyed peas with spinach and mustard greens, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat cornbread. It as awesome – I’m already planning to make that cornbread for Thanksgiving. She also made an experimental fruit salad with a spicy dressing:

It was really good had quite the kick from some of those seeds you see there. I have to recommend Tara’s interpretation of the meal, which is far more impressive than mine, I must say.

It was just what I needed to power me through a two and a half hour musical. Maybe Donna will post some recipes for us in the comments.

I would share a picture of tonight’s dinner, which is cooking as I write this, but I bet you know what a frozen pizza and salad bar salad look like. We’re about to head out to our first basketball event of the season, so I opted out of cooking. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get the inspiration back.

Okay, it’s hoops time!