28 January 2012

lemon in its many forms

Kwan Yin (the bodhisattva of great compassion) sits peacefully under the Lemon Grass in our garden. At our house Lemon Grass goes into Thai green curry and Tom Kha soup. I understand it can also be cleansing and a very effective anti-inflammatory tea. Applied externally, it's a natural insect repellent, and was a good friend to me in Vietnam.

This Lemon Grass lip balm was made (in a bottle cap!) at Honeyfest, a weekend of community events to raise awareness about the global implications of the dying honeybees, and benefiting Grow Strong, an organization that promotes self-sufficiency in rural Kenya.

Lemon Verbena grows just out the back door.

Drying Lemon Verbena, soon to be enjoyed as tea. That's Oregano on the right.

Meyer Lemons from a neighbor. A key ingredient in coleslaw dressing.

Even more Meyer Lemons from another kind neighbor! Fresh-squeezed lemonade anyone?

23 January 2012

hearty vegan meals

Suzie's Farm delivers greens galore every week, and has stocked our cabinet with a subtle rainbow of dried beans and winter squash. Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites has been a terrific resource for rounding up ideas for squash and beans and fresh greens, plus herbs and peppers from our own backyard garden. This Chocolate Stout Chili layers on complex flavors topped with Smoky Creamy Almond Sauce from the Recipe Renovator, and a bright handful of chopped cilantro. Oh, and I made a batch of corn tortillas following the tips in Viva Vegan, with help from my trusty aluminum tortilla press from the local Latin grocery store. Being in San Diego has it's advantages!

Chocolate Stout Chili
adapted from Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman

1/3 cup chopped onion
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 large cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, cored, seeded, diced
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons chili powder
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can (15 ounces) fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
4 ounces roasted green chiles
12 ounces vegan stout beer (or water or veg broth)
3-and-1/3 cups cooked red beans

Soften onion, bell pepper and garlic in a little water until tender. Add jalapeno and seasonings, cook another minute or so. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, chiles and beer. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook another 15 minutes. Add beans and simmer another 15 minutes, until thickened.

Next up: Cabbage, carrots, fennel and butternut squash make a gorgeous Po' Boy sandwich. Picture and recipe coming soon!

16 January 2012

get involved with your food

I keep going deeper into DIY territory food-wise. Everything is fresher and there's no packaging, plus it is an awesome feeling to be intimately involved with my nourishment. A Grist article by Jane Mountain lit a fire under me last week! It's all about five packaged foods you never need to buy again, starting with soup stock.

I'm aware of the unhealthy BPA linings in many canned foods, so I already make my own beans, always with kombu! When it comes to soup I usually go the easy route and use a big onion, water and garlic as my base, but a stock with more complexity adds a lot of richness to the soup. I'll share my Vietnamese noodle soup recipe soon. It was noticeably better when built on this basic stock from Deborah Madison:

Basic Vegetable Stock

1 large onion
2 large carrots
2 celery ribs, including a few leaves
1 bunch scallions or chives
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional
8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8 parsley branches
6 thyme sprigs or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves

In a soup pot, I sweat the vegetables, garlic, herbs and yeast (if using) in a small amount of water (you could use olive oil) for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1-2 teaspoons salt and 2 quarts cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.

Oh my! Who knew granola could be so easy, oil free and irresistible? I used what I had on hand, which meant a handful of almonds and about a cup of walnuts (no pepitas or pecans this time), plus raisins and no oil. Tahini and candied ginger are the secret ingredients! Recipe from Rivka Friedman.

Granola with Tahini

2 1/2 cups oats
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon walnut oil, optional
2/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), either salted or unsalted, depending on preference
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup raisins, cranberries, or other dried berry (I like half raisins, half cherries)
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Preheat oven to 325˚.

1) In a small bowl, mix syrup, tahini, oil if using, salt, and cinnamon until incorporated. In a large bowl, mix all remaining ingredients until well-distributed.

2) Drizzle the syrup-tahini mixture overtop, stirring with a fork until all dry bits are at least slightly wet and clumps have started to form.

3) Spread granola on a large rimmed baking sheet in a thin layer and bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes.

4) Remove from oven, stir with a fork to move pieces from edge to center and from top to bottom. Make sure pieces that have started to brown are in the center and well-surrounded.

5) Return to oven and bake 10-12 more minutes, until golden brown throughout. Granola will not be crunchy when it leaves the oven; don’t worry — it’ll crisp up as it cools. Once cool, transfer to air-tight container; granola will keep this way for up to 1 month.