Wednesday, June 01, 2005


If a blog were a living, breathing being this one would be dead and collecting flies by now. It would be pronounced dead on arrival at the blog emergency room (an amusing aside - because my last name starts with the letters D-O-A, all of my medical charts say DOA on them - such a comforting little acronym that one).

Anyone with kids in school knows that May is sort of Hell Month. I've attended 5 performances, 2 open houses, written multiple checks for teachers gifts, baked cookies for this that and the other thing. I'm tired.

Dinners have mostly been quick and simple. Last night I made sandwiches on these awesome Il Fornaio rolls - cream cheese (vegan style), olive and sun dried tomato tapenade, cucumber, tomato, red onion, avocado and pepperoncini. If there wasn't so much slicing involved I think I'd make them every day - yum.

Two weeks until St. Louis. Three weeks until Mexico.

Friday, April 29, 2005

crockpot to the rescue

Today was a pretty good day - I drove to Sacramento, about 1 1/2 hours away and had lunch with a couple of friends. Knowing that it would be a crazy afternoon getting back in time to pick up the kids, etc., I started the crockpot before I left. I didn't feel like doing it because my morning was already busy - but this afternoon I was so glad I did. We were able to take Bella up for a long hike this afternoon knowing that dinner was taken care of.

One other thing I did before leaving for Sacto was score some tickets to see Tom Petty. He's playing at the Berkeley Greek theater (outdoors) in August - just three days before my birthday. So happy birthday to me, a little early.

Here's my recipe for vegetarian chili - adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook "Chili for a Crowd" Recipe:

Vegetarian Chili

1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
¾ ounce ground cumin seed
1 ounce plain chili powder
2 tablespoons dijon style mustard
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried dill
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons red wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
2 28 ounce cans chopped tomatoes (do not drain)
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup TVP (texturized vegetable protein)
1 small can sliced black olives
water as needed

Combine everything except olives in crockpot and cook on high for about 4 hours then reduce to low for another 4 hours or so. Add olives about an hour before you’re ready to serve. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes.

Serves: 6-8

Sunday, April 24, 2005

purple potatoes

Free on a technicality

Our dog is a constant source of amusement and tonight I snapped a picture of her doing one of her more entertaining Bellariffic moves. She is not allowed on the furniture and as you can see she is technically not "on" the couch. She still has one foot on the floor, it's all good - her reputation is intact.

Not a lot of cooking this weekend - but today I made a recipe from the Millenium cookbook - a potato torte with purple and yukon gold potatoes and a pesto made with arugula, pistachios and rosemary. very, very good.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

tulips Posted by Hello

my helper Posted by Hello

Today was another day spent outside gardening. Bella loves to "help" me. She's found it easiest to offer her help while sitting in my lap. She thinks she's a poodle. She's so happy on these sunny days when we can just leave the door open and she can come and go as she pleases. The rest of the time she is in need of her own doorman.

I started the crockpot this morning and spent the rest of the day outside. I know without Winter I wouldn't appreciate Spring so much. I'm really appreciating Spring these days.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Three word weekend

3 word weekend Posted by Hello

So my favorite radio station (KFOG if you're curious) does this call in thing on Mondays occasionally - describe your weekend in three words. Mine would be flowers, fire and feast (no, it doesn't require alliteration but it's more fun for me).

Flowers would be for the outdoor spring cleaning we did. Getting annuals planted and cleaning up the flowerbeds. Scrubbing the patio furniture and re-oiling the wood. Scrubbing the patios, cleaning off the ping pong table - just getting ready for spending more time outside.

Fire would be for the fire I almost started by leaving an oil soaked rag sitting on a wood table in full sun. I walked by as I was getting ready to take my daughter to a party and thought I'd take the rag in and rinse it off. I picked it up and found it was sizzling and smoking and about two seconds from bursting into flames. I got it before it left a mark on the table.

And finally - the feast would be the birthday dinner we had for my sister-in-law's 40th birthday. We had Indian food - split pea and lentil curry, eggplant curry, rice, cucumber raita, crackling cauliflower, chapati, pappadum and some fresh mango with pineapple. I was cooking for most of the week but it was worth it. We finished the evening with a vegan chocolate cake with raspberry cream cheese filling, topped with frosting and chocolate curls - of course all this leads to a fourth and fifth word - feeling fat. Oh well. It was worth it.

Food rant

I've had this food rant building in my head for a week or so. Recently I went to Safeway to get a prescription filled. I get all my prescriptions from Canada so I don't really go to the local pharmacy very often - this happened to be on the way for me. I'm not a Safeway shopper - I do most of my shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. But I had a bit of a wait for the prescripton so I figure I could at least get a loaf of bread and maybe a few other groceries. I went through that bread aisle and every single loaf of wheat bread had high fructose corn syrup as one of the ingredients. Why? Why do pickles need yellow dye #5? When did our food get so polluted?

So that's how this food rant in my head got started. But then the other day I read one of my favorite columnists and he had it all there - everything I wanted to say. So I'll let him say it for me.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Corn Smut

Have you ever heard of corn smut? Doesn't it sound like porn for corn? Whatever - it certainly doesn't sound like something I want to eat.

One of my favorite restaurants is Millennium in San Francisco. It's a beautiful restaurant not far from Union Square. Everything on the menu is vegan - and delicious. They have two cookbooks out but it's pretty ambitous cooking - and let's face it, I'm not an ambitious cook (or blogger) lately. I keep checking the cookbooks out from the library but I've never made anything from them. It's the type of book where every recipe is really four or five recipes. Way too much work for me. But I love reading through the recipes and getting ideas here and there. One recipe made me stop in my tracks though - Huitlacoche-Polenta Roulades. That's just a fancy-pants way of saying corn smut with corn meal mush. Bon Appetit. I'm not saying I have to be able to pronounce something before I'll eat it but I saw this recipe just the day after reading this. oh. my. god. He isn't kidding about the smoker's lung - that just looks nasty. My enthusiasm for the Millennium recipes has been dampened dramatically.

But on a more pleasant note we went out to dinner with some friends tonight - Thai food - it was tasty and smut free. What more could a girl ask for? Tomorrow night I'm not cooking, again, because I'm taking my girls to see U2 in concert...rock on

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Well, well, well....

Skating at Yosemite Posted by Hello

This month has flown by - and actually I've been doing a lot of cooking and entertaining. Just haven't had time to sit down and think or write about any of it.

We went to Yosemite last weekend and had a great time. Ate way too much, played in the snow, watched tv. Perfect way to spend the long weekend. We went ice skating at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. I was feeling every one of my 41 years by the time we got off the ice but it was fun. I even remembered how to do a spin and my daughter took video of it with her digital camera. And then showed her friends at school. I hope she enjoys the military school we are sending her to.

Actually she is leaving tomorrow - for Reno not military school - her bass group is performing at the American String Teachers Association national conference. I'm so grateful I didn't sign up to chaperone this trip and am so appreciative of the people who did. They are saints (or extremely easy going people who are hard-of-hearing).

I haven't really been grocery shopping since we got back. So, tonight we are going to have bean and cheese burritos - primarily because it's stuff we have on hand. I had tortillas in the freezer, dried beans in the pantry, salsa, guacamole, vegan monterey jack and sour cream in the fridge. Voila - dinner.

Here is my favorite recipe for pinto beans:

Drunken Beans for the crockpot
1 large white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 cups dried pinto beans, picked over (soaked in cold water at least 4 hours and up to 12, then drained - if you remember the night before, I rarely do and they turn out fine)
1 ½ quarts water plus additional if necessary
½ cup sliced pickled jalapeƱo chiles (I include some of the liquid too - makes it spicier)
a 12-ounce bottle dark Mexican beer such as Negra Modelo or Dos Equis
2 teaspoons salt plus ½ teaspoon if necessary

Dump it all in the crockpot and cook on high all day. Easy and good.

Off to help daughter pack...must confiscate skating video...

Thursday, February 10, 2005


So we've had a couple of milestones around here lately. My older daughter, who is 15 1/2, had her first date. It wasn't a car date - they met up at the movies and I gave them both a ride home afterward. I remember when my kids were little and I couldn't imagine ever letting them walk anywhere by themselves, or go to the mall with their friends and no chaperone. And dating? Well our policy was always "no dating until you're 21 and no sex until I'm dead." Of course this was always said in jest but I think there was a part of us that believed it wasn't such a bad idea. But alas, real life prevailed. I always tell them I can't control what they do when they aren't with me - all I can do is provide them with the tools and knowledge to make their own good decisions. So much easier said than done. sigh.

Since I'm trying to keep this blog on topic I'll bring it around to another recent milestone - one that has to do with food. My younger daughter recently said to me "Mom, I really like asparagus now." Let me tell you - that's a string of words I never thought I'd hear together (that, and "Arnold Schwarzenegger is now the Governor of California" but that's another story...). The kid is always asking for asparagus. I couldn't stand it when I was growing up but I also grew up in a household where vegetables were almost always boiled. Not steamed, not sauteed nor roasted but boiled. To death. I like to toss the asparagus with olive oil and line it up on a baking sheet (and being a Virgo it's always a very neat line - a little row of asparagus soldiers). Then I sprinkle it with garlic, sea salt and fresh ground pepper and pop it under the broiler.

Roasted vegetables are one of my favorite things in the world and here is one of my favorite recipes. I got it from a neighbor so I don't know who to credit but it is a good one:

Caramelized Roasted Vegetables.

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 russet potato, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 green zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
2 yellow zucchini or summer squash, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
1 eggplant, cubed, salted, allowed to drain for 30 minutes in a colander, and patted dry
1 head garlic, unpeeled and broken into cloves
2 yellow onions, cut into 8 wedges each
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into wedges
1 or more red bell peppers, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I don't use anywhere near this much!)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F. Arrange all the vegetables in 3 or more pans, drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss the vegetables so that all of them are evenly coated. Break up 1 of the rosemary sprigs and distribute it over the vegetables, or sprinkle the dried rosemary over them. Roast until the vegetables are brown and tender (this will depend on your pan and the size and variety of the vegetables but probably an hour). Transfer to a large platter and serve immediately with a sprig of rosemary on top.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pizza Pizza

Last night we had pizza - pizzas that were at first viewed with skepticism by the kids but quickly consumed once they tried them. Pizza for vegetarians is easy - there are a ton of toppings that don't have meat. But vegan pizza is a little more difficult. While I'm not officially a vegan, my daughter is, so typically our household is a vegan one. When she first became vegan I tried all kinds of recipes for pizzas trying to find something that would replicate a regular cheese pizza. She'd never been a big pizza fan so the most adventurous she'd ever gotten was a regular pizza with tomato sauce and cheese. Occasionally some basil. What I've discovered since trying all these new pizzas is that her willingness to expand her horizons has increased a lot. Last night we had two different pizzas - one had caramelized onions, grilled pears (I used some balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan), homemade "faux feta" and vegan mozzarella cheese. One of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco is Scala's Bistro and they have a pizza on the menu very much like this one. Actually I've seen it on the menu a lot of places but this is the first place I ever tried it. The homemade version was quite a success:

The other pizza had sauteed mushrooms (cooked until they were golden then splashed with some balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper), sliced green olives and some veggie sausage that had been cooked and then crumbled. Instead of a red sauce I used a garden-herb salad dressing on both of them. Years ago I'd tried finding out what the "creamy garlic sauce" was that so many pizza restaurants use on their veggie pizzas and read somewhere that they use ranch dressing. It makes a nice change of pace from the usual pizza sauce. I use to always make my own pizza dough but since Trader Joe's now sells fresh pizza dough for 99 cents I take the easy way out and use theirs. I buy just one package though and make two pizzas with very thin crust. The vegan mozzarella I use is by a company called Follow Your Heart. There are many soy cheeses on the market but most of them contain casein which is a dairy product so they aren't vegan. I get people telling me all the time "but would your daughter know if you used something with an animal product in it?" and of course, I don't believe she would. But she is trusting me to help her stick to being vegan and I wouldn't feel very good about knowingly serving her something that wasn't vegan. I can well remember as a child eating something and then afterwards having someone tell me "did you like that? It had [insert name of something I didn't like here] in it. And you ate it. See, you must like it." All that does is make you suspicious, not grateful. Teenagers are suspicious enough.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Burgers and Fries

Thursday nights are usually soup or sandwich night in our household (and yes, every night does have some sort "theme" and no I don't have OCD it just helps me plan meals). We had awesome veggie burgers (Garden Burger "flame grilled" are the best), fries, baked beans and asparagus. I don't miss "real" burgers at all - after all it was always the stuff that went on top that I liked - avocado, pickles, onions, etc. And I really like the peace of mind of knowing what I'm eating. I mean, have you ever heard of Mad Tofu?

Speaking of...I had the privilege of meeting Howard Lyman, The Mad Cowboy, at a food festival last fall. This is the guy who was on Oprah Winfrey and was then sued by Texas ranchers under the "Texas Food Disparagement Act." He is quite a speaker. He told a funny story about his mother-in-law and her reaction to the fact that he and his wife had become vegan. She was complaining about having Thanksgiving at his house so he said "Come to our house for Thanksgiving and I promise you there will be turkey." So she shows up and looks in the oven - no turkey. Looks in the fridge - no turkey. Looks everywhere - no turkey. He takes her to the backyard and there, fully alive, is the turkey. He says to her "if you can kill it, I'll cook it." He ended with the quip "I'm happy to say that turkey is still alive. Unfortunately, so is my mother-in-law." Ba-da-bing. But he made a very good point. When it's sitting on a styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic wrap we really don't have to think much about it. Just because we don't have to doesn't mean we shouldn't. So if you're looking for the perfect gift for the person who has everything how about a turkey? My dad got one for his 82nd birthday (okay, just a picture of one) and loved it. Or at least he said he did. Maybe he was just being nice. Oh well, it's better than a tie.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

What's cooking lately

Posted by Hello

Not much really. I mean, we're obviously eating dinner every night and I'm packing lunches every day. But it's been crazy busy and my chances to experiment have been few. We've been to several dinner parties and birthday parties - so lots of eating but very little of it prepared by me. It's been a nice break.

Last night we had a mushroom risotto with oven roasted brussels sprouts. I made the risotto with some leftovers from a dish I make called Portobello Mushroom Bake. I made a basic risotto and then stirred in the leftover mushrooms, some nutritional yeast and some vegan parmesan. Some salt and pepper. It was hard to believe it was a dairy free risotto! The brussels sprouts were roasted in a very hot oven in some margarine (the Earth Balance, non-hydrogenated kind...) and then tossed with fresh Meyer lemon (from my yard) and capers. It is a much maligned vegetable that really shines prepared this way.

Portobello Mushroom Bake

1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup olive oil (I actually use less and increase the water)
1/4 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
4 large portabello mushrooms, stems removed
1 medium onion, sliced

Preheat oven to 425. In a blender or food processor, blend the almonds until powdered. Add oil, Braggs, water, vinegar, garlic, rosemary and oregano and blend until well combined. In a large baking dish, place the mushrooms upside down and top with onions. Pour sauce over and bake for about 45 minutes. Serve over rice. Friends I've given this recipe to like to double the amount of sauce - it's really good.

The evening was topped off with a new episode of ABC's "Wife Swap." I swear it's like a car accident you just can't help but watch. Last night a meditating vegetarian mom from California switched with a neatnik New Jersey mom who cooked lots of meat-filled Italian meals. I've got to hand it to the veg mom - she handled the meat cooking much better than I would have. But like she said - the other mom prepared this food with love and she was going to do the same. And then she got reamed by the MIL for not keeping the kitchen clean while she cooked (I would have wanted to smack her upside the head with one of those pork chops). Low brow television just doesn't get any better than this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Coming to terms with mushrooms

About 10 months ago I came to the realization that there were a lot of vegetarian recipes out there using mushrooms. And I couldn't stand them. To me they were the spongy little things getting in the way of the croutons on my salad. They were the slimy nuisance on my pizza. But like I said - when you're talking vegetarian cooking there's a lot of mushroom consumption going on.

So I set out on a mission to learn to like mushrooms. I've done this before - there were foods I wouldn't go near when I was growing up. Fresh tomatoes, eggplant, onion - these were all things I had to learn to like. How hard could it be?

My sister-in-law made a really nice mushroom soup one time when we were over. It was pureed so there were no pesky pieces of actual mushroom to detract from the wonderful flavor of the soup. Another time she sauteed mushrooms until they were really well done and splashed them with balsamic vinegar and lots of pepper. I actually didn't hate them. It was clear - I liked the flavor but not the texture.

The first time I cooked portobellos they were awful (to me). Hubby ate them, claiming they were delicious. Still too spongy for this girl. I'm nothing if not persistent and kept trying. I had a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich at one of the Downtown Disney restaurants that was awesome! Of course, the fact that I was dining with my friend Laurel who I don't get to see often and the 4 teenage girls I was traveling with had been sent off with money and instructions to find their own dinner probably helped. Oh, and the pint (or two) of pale ale didn't hurt. But I left there having been won over.

For Christmas dinner I made mushroom pot pies. I didn't really have a recipe - I just sort of made it based on pot pies I've made in the past. We were celebrating Christmas at my sister-in-law's house and I told her I would bring a vegetarian main course. When offered some mushroom pie, my nephew, who is 7 said "it sort of extends the idea of what a pie should be." Fair enough. But I realized when I did my shopping and piled cremini and portobello mushrooms into my cart that I can honestly now say I Like Mushrooms. Mission Accomplished.

Mushroom and Ale Pie

4 portobello mushroom caps
4 8 oz. pkgs sliced cremini mushrooms
1 large onion, diced
1 lb baby cut carrots
1 lb buttergold potatoes (or small red potatoes), cut into 1" pieces
4 cups mushroom broth
1 stick earth balance margarine
½ cup flour
1 12 oz bottle ale
2 tsp kitchen bouquet
½ tsp. dried marjoram
2T. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
Crust for 2 - 9" two crust pies (I buy ready-made at Whole Foods)

Saute mushrooms over medium high heat in about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Continue to cook them until they release their moisture - at this point add the onion and cook until the mushrooms turn golden brown. You will probably need to do this in two batches. Set aside when browned.

In the meantime place the carrots and potatoes in the mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are cooked - tender but not overcooked. Reserve the mushroom broth.

Melt margarine in a large saucepan. Add flour and stir together to make a roux. Stir for a minute or two until it begins to brown. Slowly add the mushroom broth and the bottle of ale, stirring constantly. Once it is mixed and slighty thickened add the marjoram, kitchen bouquet and dijon mustard. Stir in the mushrooms, carrots and potatoes. Season liberally with salt and pepper. There's your filling.

Divide evenly between two pie pans and cover with top crust. Crimp edges to seal, vent top crust. I bake these for about 45 minutes in a 425 degree oven. You'll need to watch the edges and cover them with foil if they get too brown.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Wacky Cake

Here in California it rained constantly over the weekend. Actually at one point it was raining in just half of the backyard. We watched as the cloud moved by and took the rain with it. It was very cool. Our very princessy dog really needed to heed the call of nature but we were only able to coax her as far out as the patio. Once the raindrops started hitting her she retreated as if she'd been caught in a hail of bullets. Did I say she was a bit of princess? I kid you not, my husband and daughter were outside trying to get her to walk under an umbrella.

It was the kind of weekend where you just want to hibernate. My daughters had plans to go to the mall and actually decided against it. If you know any teenage girls you know this is of some significance! So Saturday evening my 13 year old daughter decided she wanted to bake something. She picked the recipe called Auntie Bonnie's Wacky Cake from the "How It All Vegan" cookbook. In a sort of Freaky Friday moment she set to work in the kitchen while I had the rare chance to sit on the couch and watch television (VH1's "25 most cheesetastic tv stars" - I wasn't going to squander this precious moment of relaxation on news or something cerebral). I had to help her find a few ingredients in the pantry but other than that it was all her own project. She even brought me the bowl and spatula so I could eat the last of the batter in the bowl (the beauty of vegan baking is you can eat all the cake batter and cookie dough you want and not worry about salmonella).

I think there are probably 50 different versions of wacky cake recipes floating around out there. Some people call it crazy cake. I'm not sure, but I believe it is a depression era recipe - when eggs and milk were scarce commodities. I guess the lack of eggs and milk is what makes it crazy but it also makes it the perfect cake for a vegan.

I know waiting for the cake to cool was the hardest part. And there was a little trouble getting it out of the pan. But finally it was ready to frost and serve. It was a wonderful cake and she was a very proud baker. She served us all and we sat down as a family and watched VH1's "My Coolest Years - Rich Kids." Ah, such quality time. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?

Here is the recipe for Wacky Cake as she made it:

1 1/2 cups flour
4 T. cocoa or carob powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T. vinegar
5 T. oil
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the sweetener, vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water and mix together gently until "just mixed." Pour into a lightly oiled cake pan and bake for 45-50 minutes. Test with a fork to see if done. When cooled, ice and serve.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

On becoming vegetarian

"What do you eat?" That's what everyone says. Actually they say "how do you know you're getting enough protein?" followed by the "but what do you eat" question. So I reckon if I get it down in a blog I can just say "read this" and you'll know.

I've never liked eating meat. I mean, that's what I grew up with but I didn't enjoy it. I don't think I even knew what a vegetarian was. You know, pot roast on Sundays, chicken, hamburgers, meatloaf. The usual. Oh, and the occasional it-must-be-a-few-days-until-payday creamed tuna on toast. If I'd known about Child Protective Services I'd surely have given them a call. But I just never like the whole meat thing. Back then, it had very little to do with any ethical position it just grossed me out.

After I got married I got very interested in cooking. I love cooking, entertaining, trying new recipes, exploring new cuisines. We didn't eat a lot of meat but we certainly weren't close to being vegetarian either. I gamely made roast turkey for Thanksgiving (I'd shake it over the garbage can to get the stuff inside to come out - there was no way I was going to stick my hand in there), grilled hamburgers in the summer. But I didn't like it.

Finally a few years ago, while trying to cut up some chicken without actually touching it (it's not easy, try it) I realized I just couldn't do it anymore. That night I asked my family if they would be willing to go along with a vegetarian diet. I promised them I wouldn't make weird stuff and that they would still eat very well. Much to my surprise they said yes.

So here we are - nearly three years later - well fed and happy.