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Friday food round-up & Food links

Posted Dec 03 2008 12:16am
Hello everyone, and welcome to this week's Friday food round-up! Can you believe this is the fourth food round-up? It has been a hectic week around here, with deadlines, writing, applications, bills, and visits to the vet competing for our time. We have managed to eat well, but this post might be a bit shorter than others. What I thought I would do is use this post to let you know about some of our favorite websites. Most of these are food-related, and I'm sure many of you already are familiar with at least some, but I thought this would be a good way to have all the links together in one place. Click here to skip the food photos and go directly to the links below.

And now, on to the food.
[click on images to enlarge]

During the weekend, we had a fabulous run to the farmer's market and the food co-op, and you can see what we bought above. From left to right: a pumpkin [Emmy, I finally found a pie pumpkin for $1!], a bunch of kale, a butternut squash, an acorn squash, a canteloupe, a bunch of arugula, a whole box of green peppers for only $3, a big bunch of spinach, baby potatoes, zucchini, chilli powder, Tofurky bratwurst, turnips, little chocolates, silken tofu, Gimme Lean Smart Round meat crumbles, onions, and a huge bunch of fresh dill. It felt so good to buy some fresh spinach! After getting home, I immediately washed and trimmed the spinach, then dried it in a salad spinner and stored it in a plastic dish lined with paper towels. This way, it was easy for an entire week to just reach in there for a handful of spinach to throw into the pot or make into a salad.

You will also notice on the lower left-hand corner of the picture a couple of bags of bulbs. Our neighborhood has a free bulb giveaway every Fall, and we got a bunch of hyacinths, daffodils, and other perennials to plant for free. In Syracuse, nothing beats the feeling of seeing the first buds peeking out in April after a long hard winter. Judging from the 2 feet of snow that fell in Buffalo yesterday, Winter is already here..?!...

One of the first meals we had was this German-style one, courtesy of Daiku. It is simple, but oh-so-satisfying. Potatoes are cooked together with sauerkraut, and then mixed with chunks of bratwurst. Notice the spinach salad and my favorite cow glass. I like to eat this meal with a lot of mustard, but Daiku wanted horseradish, and since we didn't have any, he substituted some wasabi for a kick.

Next... what to do with the ton of green peppers that we had bought? I had been having a craving for stuffed vegetables for a long time, so I thought I'd make a big batch of stuffed peppers. At first the plan was to freeze some of them, but I read that they don't freeze well, so we only ended up freezing 3 uncooked ones to see how they would come out.

For the recipe, I decided to veganize my mom's Iranian recipe, substituting Gimme Lean for the ground beef and brown rice for white.

Here are the peppers cut and hollowed and ready for stuffing. (We didn't even end up using all of the peppers we bought! There were some little ones left for salads.)

Bazu's Iranian-style Stuffed Peppers (Dolme)
[this recipe makes a huge batch, so feel free to cut it in half]

  • canola oil for sauteeing
  • one large yellow onion, diced small
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsp. turmeric
  • about 2/3 of a package of Smart Life Gimme Lean ground round crumbles
  • 1 TB. powdered sour grape (can be found in Iranian or Middle Eastern groceries) [I talk more about powdered sour grape in this previous post ]
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice (I used medium grain brown rice, cooked until al dente, not mushy)
  • 1 cup split peas, cooked until just tender (You can use green, yellow, or a mixture of the two)
  • large handful of flat leaf parsely, chopped
  • 1 large lemon
  • Several medium to large bell peppers, all one color or a combination. Carefully cut off the tops with knife at an angle (so they will fit back snugly as caps) and hollow out seeds and rinds.
  • Tomato paste or sauce
  • Cook rice, set aside. Cook split peas, drain if necessary, and set aside.
  • In a large pan, sautee onions in canola oil. Add turmeric and salt and pepper, and sautee until golden brown.
  • Add the crumbles, make sure that there are no large chunks, and they are well incorporated with the onion mixture.
  • Add the powdered sour grapes and stir to incorporate.
  • Gently incorporate rice and split peas into the mixture. Add most of your parsley (save some for garnish) and the juice and zest of half the lemon. Adjust seasonings as necessary.
  • Let mixture cool down slightly before stuffing the peppers. You want to stuff them generously, but not so packed down that the peppers will crack or burst during cooking.
  • Meanwhile, combine equal parts water and tomato sauce or paste with remaining lemon juice to make a liquid enough to cover an inch on the bottom of a large pot. Gently place stuffed peppers into this mixture.
  • Cook at a low heat, making sure that the liquid never comes above a very gentle simmer. You want to be steaming these peppers rather than boiling them to insure they don't burst or discolor.
  • The peppers are done when they are tender, anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes. Serve garnished with lemon and parsley.

Here are the stuffed peppers being placed into the pot with the tomato mixture.

And here they are when they are done. These hit the spot, but since we didn't freeze most of them, we had leftovers to last a while! This recipe would also work perfectly for stuffing grape leaves, cabbage, tomatoes, or eggplants.

Have you ever had mochi? Mochi is the Japanese word for rice flour, and it also refers to little concoctions made with rice flour. It comes in many forms- you can make it yourself, of course, or buy it as a candy or an ice cream. It also comes in ready-to-bake sheets that I have seen at Whole Foods and health food stores, the package looks like this:

It comes in many flavors ranging from plain to chocolate walnut brownie. It is an extremely healthy, macrobiotic, low calorie food, and it is fun to make and eat.

Here's my latest batch (I used cinnamon flavored mochi). It looks a little obscene, I know! The cool thing is, you cut it into small squares and as they bake they puff up, creating a hollow space in the middle. (They are not supposed to combine together the way mine did!) Fill the hollow space with some creamy, or fruity (or any combination) filling, and voila- you have vegan cream puffs. Try these, they are fun, and I think kids would get a kick out of them.

Since this was such a busy week, it was the perfect time to whip out one of the pestos I had frozen earlier. (Click this link to see the pesto in an earlier post.)

We tossed pasta with the pesto and mixed it with a mixture of sauteed sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms. Garnished with some fresh basil, it was a light and satisfying dinner.

We had it with a romaine salad with turnips and tomatoes. It's a pity I don't photograph our salads more often, because they are not an afterthought or a side dish with me- I can't live without them! If I go more than a day without salad, I get cranky.

Here's another quick dinner for a busy night: sloppy pitas. Daiku picked up these fresh baked pitas (they are something like 50 cents for a package of 6 from our favorite Egyptian grocery store, Jerusalem). The filling was onions and bell peppers sauteed with turmeric, red pepper flakes, fresh oregano and fennel seeds. To this mixture was added leftover meat crumbles and crushed tomato, finished up with some minced garlic.

The fennel seeds really add that authentic kick. Try adding a few next time you make pasta or pizza sauce.

This week's baking project was tahini bread. This bread, called Tahinopita in Greek, is consumed by Orthodox Christians during Lent when not just meat, but eggs and dairy are also forbidden. (Vegan score!) There are many variations, but my favorite recipe comes from the Cat-Tea Corner website which specializes in Eastern European vegan recipes (more information below). Click here for the recipe. I modifed by using 1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour, dried cranberries instead of raisins, and 1/2 cup sugar instead of 2/3 cup.

Served with extra dried cranberries and cashew cream. This bread is already low in sugar, and you can safely decrease it even more. The tahini flavor permeates the whole bread and gives it a tender, crumbly texture. If you like tahini, you will LOVE this recipe, try it! It almost had the texture of a cake baked with buttermilk or sour cream-it's rich! I have successfully cut this recipe in half in the past.

* * *
Now for the links, some of my favorite websites.
  • The Natural Grocery Company. This is the informative website of a Northern California food store. You can find natural healing tips, an ingredient glossary and so much more, but my favorite part is the healthy recipe pages. You can search by ingredient or type of recipe (for example vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, etc.) The funnest way to browse the recipes, though is randomly. On the right-hand side of the page, there is a button that says "what's cooking." You click on it to be taken to that recipe site. And then you can keep clicking on it to be transported to the next random recipe. So fun! Such a good way to accidentally waste an hour! Not all the recipes are veg., but there is an abundance of them. Here is an amazing and amazingly simple recipe to try: broccoli with squash sauce. The best part is that every recipe comes with detailed nutritional data on the side, so you can feel extra good about what you're eating!
  • Cat-Tea Corner. This charming and extensive website is dedicated to the love of tea, and has much specialized information for tea connoisseurs. But the added bonus is the huge collection of vegan recipes, with many Eastern European ones. Whether you want tea-time treats, sweets, or main courses, you will be overwhelmed with the number of choices and some of the recipes are very unique. Added bonus: most recipes come with a tea recommendation- if you always wondered about what tea to pair with your snack, here's where to find out!
  • Whole Foods Recipe Collection. I have already mentioned this website, but it bears repeating. Not only do they have an entire section devoted to vegetarian/vegan recipes, but many of their other recipes are vegetarian or easily modified. In addition, these recipes are very international in scope and health-conscious. Try the tofu quiche or the chickpea and broccoli salad with flax-tahini dressing. Yum!
  • Uncaged UK. Here is a British animal rescue organization that just happens to have a great selection of vegan recipes, with a British accent. Have you always wanted to make rashers or sherry trifle? Here is where to find the recipes. I used their recipe for cashew cream to go with my tahini bread, above. You can also read about their various campaigns on behalf of animals and donate money to their cause.
  • BBC Food Vegetarian and Vegan Page. To continue the British theme, here is a website with really useful information on issues such as dietary concerns and menu planning as well as some fun recipes.
  • VeganChef: Beverly Lynn Bennett. Here is an incredibly useful and extensive collection of vegan recipes, with a distinct Cajun accent. It's never tooo early to start planning your Mardi Gras feast. Eggplant poor boys with remoulade sauce anyone? How about bourbon, pumpkin and spiced pecan tart?
  • Vegetarians in Paradise. Another charming site, this time based in Southern California. An excellent database of restaurant, market, and farmer's market reviews, vegan recipes, and nutrition information. But my favorite part of this site is "Ask the Vegan Athlete" where Brendan Brazier talks sports and nutrition. Now I'm far from the marathon champion that he is, but you can become so informed on nutritional issues: P.H. balance, the calcium question, recovery foods, what to eat before/after a workout. This is the place to go to become a confident, well-informed vegan, because Brazier shatters so many myths that are so prevalent in our culture. And maybe you'll become really really buff as a result- who knows?
  • Path to Freedom. The final stop on our tour around the world is this Canadian website. You will not regret checking it out. It is all about the environment, sustainability, making wise product choices, and the information and advice you need to make it all happen. The D.I.Y. section is awesome- for example, have you always wanted to know how to make your own compost? This is the place for the urban, the rural, and the in-between to come together and learn how to make small and large changes to make the world a better place. A fantastic resource.
I hope you have enjoyed this Friday's food round-up and I hope you will find something useful to you in these links, which are among my favorites. Have a great weekend, everybody!

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