Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Palak Dal

I love Indian food. It may be one of my favorite types of foods. 

Palak means spinach. Dal refers to thick lentil-based stews. So together, they become a lentil-based stew with lots of spinach. I can't think of many things that could be more healthful for you than this dish, with its spices, spinach, lentils, brown basmati rice, and tomatoes. 

I used red lentils. Since lentils are really still a new world to me and maybe are for you too, here's a picture of my red lentils so that you know what you're looking for at the grocery store.

Palak Dal

Serves: 2-4

Time: 45 minutes, 15 minutes active

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 jalapeno, not seeded because you're tough, minced
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon tumeric
2 cups red lentils 
6 cups veggie broth
1 pound spinach
1 large tomato, diced
1 medium eggplant, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup non-dairy unsweetened creamer
Freshly cooked brown basmati rice, for serving

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno. Saute until translucent. Add curry, garam masala, cumin, cardamom, and tumeric and saute for 30 seconds. Add water and lentils. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils they are soft (this took about 20 minutes I believe, but the package suggested up to 45 minutes so leave extra time in case they take longer). 

Once lentils are cooked, stir in spinach, tomato, eggplant, cilantro, and soy creamer. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is cooked through. 

Serve over rice.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Coffee Sometimes Leads to Inspiration, But Today Has Been a Bust.

Oh magnanimous enthusiasm in a cup.... I was depending on you to help me finish my letter of inquiry and begin my grad school admissions essay today. So far, you have only helped me succeed at publishing your photograph online while I apparently should have been in a job interview that I thought had been rescheduled for Friday.

My one accomplishment was running five 7 1/2 minute miles, but that was no thanks to you Soy Latte.

C'est la vie. You were beautiful AND delicious, and I suppose that is enough.

Top of the afternoon to ya.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lavender Hearts for Your Valentine

When I was fifteen years old, I made these cookies for my high school sweetheart. They weren't vegan then, and neither was I, but clearly I was willing to experiment a lot with my food. I mean, how many fifteen year-olds are willing to try making a cookie with dried lavender in it? 

Lavender just seems like such a bizarre ingredient, don't you think? Well, these are some very unique cookies, to be sure. But they are so sweet and flaky and are perfect for February, because the smell and taste of the flowers really touches that little part of your soul that is retaining hope that spring is just around the corner. I would say these cookies begin the transition from the heavy and dark baked goods of winter, you know, pumpkin bread and ginger cookies, the type of foods that remind you of golden leaves and heaps of snow on the ground and that make you feel warm inside. These cookies make me think of little green buds on the tips of tree branches and daffodils and tulips peeking up through cracks in the concrete. Just like a big orange slab of spiced pumpkin bread can send you into hibernation under a mountain of blankets next to a big fireplace, these cookies wake you up out of your hibernation so that you can sit in that warm pocket of air just behind every sunny window and watch the water drip off of the icicles on the other side of the pane.

Ok. Enough imagery. I made these cookies for my sweetheart, every year, until we graduated highschool, and I remember making them several years in college too. I don't remember where I found the original recipe, but I used to keep a little notebook where I wrote down all of my favorite recipes. These cookies are in that notebook next to my other old favorites, such as the Guadalajara Burger, Beef Bulgogi (Korean BBQ), Om Rice with pork, my veggie chile recipe, too many recipes with shrimp, and one loner recipe for marinated tofu with bok choy. I clearly was willing to try anything at that time in my life- not only things with the name Bulgogi, but anything vegan or vegetarian (despite the fact that at this point in my life I scorned vegetarians and especially vegans). So, yes, I was eating tofu long before becoming a vegetarian, albeit alone, because my sweetheart used to have a soy allergy. Its actually really good stuff if you are just willing to have an open mind about it! But anyways...

I was looking through this notebook a few weeks ago, and came across this recipe again. Now that I've married my high school sweetheart, I figure, what better time to bring back these sentimental cookies than our tenth Valentine's Day together? There was only one thing standing in my way. This recipe isn't vegan. Luckily though, since it's a shortbread cookie with no egg, veganizing these cookies was a piece of cake! They came out exactly the way I remember them. All I had to do was sub in some Earth Balance Vegan Buttery sticks, which by the way, taste more like butter than butter itself. 

As far as the lavender goes, you need to try and find culinary lavender. I'm not positive, but if it doesn't say culinary on it, it might have things added to it that are not really intended for humans to eat. It can be difficult to find. After thoroughly searching the herbs and spices at Whole Foods, I couldn't find it. I asked someone for help and after he was gone for about 10 minutes, returned with a bottle of culinary lavender, but I have no idea where in the store it came from! If you can't find it right away just ask for help. 
Lavender Hearts
1/2 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery sticks
1/4 cup sugar + extra for dusting
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried lavender
1/4 cup water

Cream the margarine and sugar together until fluffy (this is what will make the finished cookies have lots of flaky layers so don't skip!).

Stir in flour, salt, and lavender and mix until thoroughly combined. If you cannot form a coherent ball of dough, add water one tablespoon at a time, and combine (I only needed 2 tablespoons of water before mine formed a dough ball). 

Form dough into a disc and refrigerate for 15 minutes

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Roll dough until about 3/8 inch thick and use a little heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out as many hearts as you can.  Place on a greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with extra sugar, pressing the sugar gently into each cookie. 

Bake for 8 minutes, or until the edges turn a golden brown. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Seitan Pot Pie!

It appears my new obsession is savory pies! I really didn't like Chicken Pot Pie as a child, and have had the most "Pot Pies" after becoming vegan, but I tried to make this pie as classic as possible. 

Something that I have found as a vegan and also when I was a vegetarian, is that you associate certain flavors with certain meats, for example: sage or rosemary with chicken. When you use sage or rosemary in a vegan recipe, it is reminiscent enough of the food that used to be there and is really satisfying. That being said, this pie makes use of sage, thyme, marjoram, and mustard, as well as a lot of wine, which, coincidentally is really important to vegan cooking!

This meal is also REALLY filling. You will not. I repeat- You will NOT feel like you just ate something vegan. I have been told by people who briefly tried vegetarianism that they just couldn't "get full" and that they had to go back to eating meat. I had a similar feeling when I became vegan, that is, until I relearned how to cook. Becoming vegan and learning how to cook this way has been really rewarding and has rekindled my interest in cooking, period. This recipe is is a product of that journey, so I hope you enjoy it!

Seitan Pot Pie

Makes: 6 servings

Time: 1 hour


2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal 
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks (12 tablespoons), chopped
2/3 cup water


1 tablespoon buttery sticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 lb seitan, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 medium sized carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas

In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt. Throw in the "butter" and mix with two forks, a pastry mixer, or your two hands, until it resembles coarse sand. Drizzle 1/3 cup water over the mixture and then mix. If a coherent ball of dough does not form, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough coalesces into a ball. Press into a disc, and keep in fridge while making the filling. 

Preheat the oven to 375º.

To make the filling, heat the oil and margarine in a large skillet or dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the flour and mustard powder, and whisk while browning the flour. Once the flour has come to a deep golden color add the onions, potatoes, seitan, celery, and carrots and stir until the vegetables become translucent. Add the garlic and herbs; stir for about a minute. Add the peas, corn, wine and broth to deglaze the pan, and bring to a boil. Once the liquid has thickened slightly, remove the pan from heat and season with salt and pepper. 

Pour the filling into a 2 quart square baking dish (or any dish where the filling sits about 2 inches thick). Roll the dough out into the shape that corresponds with your pan such that the perimeter extends about two inches beyond the edge of your dish in every direction. Place the dough on top of the filling, centering it on the pan, and then roll the edges upwards and over along all the sides into the pan, to give the crust a thick, raised edge. Push this edge downwards along the edges of the pan into the filling. This is nice because despite the fact that there is no crust on the bottom, the outer edge of the pie has a little bit. With a knife pierce the top of the pie several times to allow steam to escape. 

Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove and enjoy.