beans 'n greens soup.

i should have been grading algebra tests tonight but after my nap i was hungry for some beans & greens soup, so i threw together this little number. it's tastes a lot like it looks: green.
i used less vegetable stock than i would have normally, but i just made a fresh batch the other day and most of it is frozen. i didn't feel like defrosting, so i just used what was in the fridge. this soup is pretty light but so chockfull of stuff that it's got some stewy character. whatever, there's a soup-stew continuum and this is somewhere in the middle. (here, i will admit that i thought i invented the "stoup" concept, only to find that rachael ray, that beast in the kitchen, had already coined the term. so now i'm kind of reëvaluating my life's work and worldview. seriously, those tests will NEVER get graded.)
ate it with some olive oil & garlic ciabatta from trader joe's. would have been perfect with a delicious, crusty italian bread.

spinach, leek & navy bean stoup
1/2 t dried basil
1/2 t dried oregano
1 t ground cumin
1-2 T olive oil
1 stalk celery, halved & thinly sliced
bulbs of 4 leeks, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
32 oz. vegetable stock
~2 cups navy beans (i didn't measure, but it was a few handfuls of cooked beans)
1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
salt, to taste

toast basil, oregano & cumin in stock pot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
add olive oil and heat for a minute or so, then sauté celery for 2 minutes.
toss in leeks and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
add garlic to stock pot and sauté for an additional minute, being careful not to let garlic brown.
pour in vegetable stock, stir in beans, and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
add thawed, drained spinach. cook for 5-7 more minutes, then remove from heat.
add salt to taste. (when i make vegetable stock, i don't add much salt, so i end up having to add more than you would if you used commercial stock or stock powder.)

i ate it right away, but i'm pretty confident it's going to taste so much better tomorrow!


muffin challenge #2: spiced cranberry apple

i flaked on the debya-calcy muffin challenge last weekend, despite the fact that i had three days to get it done. so this weekend, i knew i had some making up to do. come saturday afternoon, i hadn't gotten word from deb of any new muffin outings, so i thought i was off the hook. alas, she came through around 8:30. though i was out, i came home realllly late to find that i was not one but TWO muffins behind. so this is actually the recipe that was due last week and i'll be attacking my newest challenge in the next day or two.

these spicy cranberry apple muffins came out really well balanced, despite a host of SNAFUs i either encountered or caused during the first production run. i made some straight-up stupid mistakes (like, you know, not following preparation directions and creaming the sugar & earth balance, duh.) but they came out really good despite that. i've heard or read about so many people who have major baking issues and it always leaves me thinking that baking is some crazy exact science and if you stumble even the slightest bit you will end up with inedible compost on your counter. not so! i had to improvise with ingredients a little and tweak the batter to correct my mistakes, but i still ended up with a delicious wintertime muffin. i tried one when it was still warm from the oven, and it was good, but i found they're actually better after they've cooled and the flavors have time to develop a little bit. i just ate another half-muffin and it was fantastic!
next time i'll include a streusel top because that would have put these muffins on the express train to awesometown. but as they are, made with half whole wheat flour, they have kind of a healthier feel, so a topping might detract from that.

i'm now undefeated in my muffin challenge, but i'm afraid my judge will consider penalizing me if i continue to be late on delivery. my confidence bolstered, i'm ready to get a handful of raspberries and get to work on debya's next find.

(recipe veganized and adapted from somewhere on the internet, don't know where just now, but i changed it up a fair amount so i'm okay with taking the credit. or blame. as you see fit.)
spiced cranberry apple muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup earth balance margarine
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped apples
1/2 cup chopped cranberries

preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin pan.
in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder & soda, and salt.
in a large bowl, cream together earth balance, sugar, and applesauce. add vanilla and stir in apples.
gradually blend the flour mixture into the creamed ingredients. (if your batter is really thick, add a splash of soymilk!)
bake ~30 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test.
remove from muffin pan and cool on tray.
makes 12.


ways of the weary.

i'm not sure if it's the midwintry blues settling down on me, if i'm feeling stressed about job-related stuff, or what, but i have been avoiding just about everything i have going on in my life and also feeling constantly exhausted. my sleeping is erratic and insufficient and that's adding to my general crankiness. it just seems like everything is slipping into disarray and i'm not up to fighting the entropy.

i know what i need to do. first things first, take control of the sleeping issue. when i get good, regular sleep, everything else seems to fall into place. until i do that, i'll just move through my days zombie-like, getting little to nothing done and slipping further under the surface of my responsibilities. i'm applying to (yet another) graduate program for the fall and am going to take a class this semester, so this rein-grabbing is ever important right now. plus, i'm really annoyed at being so crabby all the time. it's not good for me, it's not good for my dogs, it's not good for my kids or friends or coworkers. so my goal for tomorrow is to rectify the sleep issue: no nap, to bed at a decent hour.

a side effect of all this is that my cooking and eating have been pretty minimal, as far as effort goes. at the end of the long weekend that just passed, i managed to throw together some yummy pesto and oven-roast some grape tomatoes, at least. but one of the things about living alone and making a big portion of food is that if you don't freeze or share it, it tends to be what you eat for every meal for days on end. i've been in meetings the past two days, so lunch was provided for me, but my dinners have been the same: corkscrew pasta with pesto & tomatoes. and it looks like that's going to be lunch for the next two days, also. i am thankful, at least, that pasta is up there with potatoes in my food hall of fame and that i adore pesto, but really - i'm already kind of tired of it. another thing i'm tired of is my shitty camera and the lack of natural lighting in my apartment.

what i have REALLY wanted is cassoulet, but it's a little labor-intensive and i've preferred to lie on my bed and listen to mike watt than slave away in the kitchen. the week's almost over, so that might be a weekend cooking endeavor, but i also have to consider that i'm behind on the muffin challenge debya proposed (spicy cranberry apple? something like that) and if i know anything about deb, it's this: come the weekend, she's going to seek out a new vegan muffin variety. and i'll be tasked with producing a recipe for it. so tomorrow: muffins.


cardamom vanilla pear muffins

debya got me all worked up at the notion of vanilla pear muffins this morning and i couldn't get them off my mind. she flatly refused to bring one up to me (so WHAT if it would have taken her an hour and a half to get here?!) and wishing for them to magically appear didn't work. or didn't work fast enough, whatever.
so i realized i'd have to take action. not really up for traveling to the coffee shop where she found them, heights coffee lounge in brooklyn, i figured the only way to sate my craving was to make them my damn self.

i started with a pretty basic pear muffin recipe from recipesource and then veganized and tweaked the ingredients a little bit, adding the vanilla and cardamom. they came out really good, but fell just short of perfect. i might consider reducing the cardamom next time, but i'm not sure. it spices them up nicely, but overwhelms the pear and vanilla a little bit, i think. i'll probably also reduce the liquid a touch. my pear was pretty juicy and the muffins ended up a little more moist than i would have preferred. they were pretty cakey, but i'd have liked them a little more toward the scone end of the spectrum. regardless, they were kind of awesome and totally scratched the itch that debya started when she brought it to my attention that such a delicacy as vanilla pear muffins could exist.
added bonus: i now have breakfast sorted for the week!

cardamom vanilla pear muffins
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup soymilk
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup vegan margarine, melted & cooled
1 medium pear, shredded (1 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom

preheat oven to 425F.
sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
incorporate shredded pear into flour mixture, tossing to combine.
mix together soymilk, applesauce, and margarine. add vanilla.
gently stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. don’t overmix!
spray muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with muffin liners. fill cups 2/3-3/4 full. bake at 425F for 20 to 25 minutes, until tops are browned. remove from muffin pan immediately and serve warm.


besame, béchamel.

i don't know if i'm trying to make up for my slackitude or something, but i'm all about cooking stuff i should have made long ago. not because i've missed out, but because that's kind of what recipe testers are supposed to do. as soon as i figure out what it is i should plead to excuse myself, i'm going to draft some affidavits and try to clear my good name. truth be told, i think i'm just more interested in food now than i've been for some time - a fact my waistline can attest to.

tonight, i was relishing my early evening - home from work, dogs walked, shoes off, all right with the world - when the regular what's-for-dinner quandary hit. i'd never really been interested in making this béchamel before, but i knew i had some fresh shiitake and cremini mushrooms in the crisper and, well, it just seemed like the right thing to have for dinner. i hesitated for a bit, since last night's meal was pasta heavy, but i was already craving some delicious grilled mushrooms, so there really wasn't any turning back.

the béchamel cooked up really easily and i was able to keep an eye on the funguses while i was making it. though i love my chambers range, i was really wishing i had a fourth burner to get the spaghetti going toward the end, but i guess a commitment style comes with a price. no matter, it all came together perfectly in the end. the sauce was really good and i have the feeling it's going to creep up on me, so that eventually i'll wake up in a cold sweat and feel compelled to whip up a batch. also, it's official: i am a mushroom lover. i think what turned me off about mushrooms when i was younger was the kind of brown-grey appearance of the canned variety. i can't remember ever seeing fresh mushrooms on anyone's plate before i was an adult. oh, well, better late than never, or so they say. i'm psyched that i realized how awesome those little poop flowers can be.


(meyer) lemon artichoke pesto.

i'm the world's least reliable tester, but this is one of the recipes i did test for joanna's yellow rose recipes. i'm in the early stages of being sick and didn't really feel like cooking, but wanted to make use of some meyer lemons i got this weekend. well, this was the perfect dish. it's got a really bright flavor and is so easy to throw together you don't even really feel like you're cooking when you make it.

i cooked at around 10PM tonight and i always feel kind of bad when i use my food processor after 9 or so, because it sounds like it's powered by a jet engine. i temper that by remembering the regular percussive onslaught i get from my upstairs neighbor's drum machine and the inane TV chatter that pipes through the closet between my kitchen and living room. and also, i only ever use it for a few minutes, so if someone wanted to complain i'd likely be done processing by the time they got to my door. still, 2008 is my year of increased compassion, so it bothers me regardless.


yumbo, more like.

this recipe is one of those "meant-to-makes" that i had great intentions of testing for veganomicon. for whatever reason - probably because i thought no soup/stew would ever top isa's corn chowder - i never got around to it. well, the mercury is dropping here in the northern wilds of manhattan and i felt like i needed something strong and hearty to get me through the night. since i couldn't find a willing dude on such short notice, i thought i'd cook instead. HA. (sorry. it won't happen again.)

much as i love isa (not in that way, much to her chagrin), i am slowly but surely realizing that terry and i are culinary soulmates. her caesar salad kind of tipped me off to it, the pumpkin ziti made it impossible to ignore, and i made a batch of her gumbo tonight that has me fighting back the urge to send her email love poems. for real, if you were one of my taste buds, you would have a picture of terry with puffy hearts drawn all around it hanging in your gym locker. i mean, i guess if you were one of my taste buds when they were in high school. not now. now you'd have tiled terrys as your desktop wallpaper.

now, i'm not big on cooked peppers, in general. i find them overpowering more often than not and am only ever SURE i'll like them when i have them in thai food. even more so, i'm not that fond of roasted peppers. the sweet brawniness of cooked peppers becomes a curbstomp when they're roasted. so i was going to forego the roasted reds the recipe called for. i try to put my faith in someone's recipe, though, at least the first time i make it, so i went all out. i roasted a couple peppers on my crotchety old stove, popped them in a paper sack to steam, and hoped for the best.
well, i wasn't disappointed. everything comes together just perfectly in this gumbo and none of its characters are "too." it's got just the right amounts of smokiness, heat (with cayenne added to taste), and acidity. it leaves nothing to want, really, and it turned out to be the perfect counterbalance to the bitter cold outside.
also, i'm kind of a sucker for anything that is meant to be served either on top of or topped with rice. really warms my cockles.


m*a*s*h: christmas v2.0

my mom gave me an awesome double-sided griddle/grill pan for christmas last year. alas, my stove is too small to season it in, so i didn't get it ready for use until i visited last month. i finally got to use it tonight to grill up some tofu. it needs about a hundred more break-in meals before it's perfect, but so far, so good!

i'm considering maybe trying to have potatoes a new way every day this year, but i wonder if there are 365 ways to eat potatoes. tonight, i combined them with my most recent food infatuation: celeriac. that sweetened the mash up a little and also made it taste sort of pea-like. (which i realized only after i'd made peas to accompany it!) i'm finding that there are people out there who are totally anti-celeriac, which is unfortunate, in my eyes. it's an ugly root, no doubt, and may not be the most versatile of foods, but it's got character and i admire that. there's a little bitterness, a little celery-ish flavor (though not, i don't think, really "celery"), and wikipedia says it's been termed a "rastafarian turnip," which alone is enough to put it among my favorite root vegetables. i'm looking into all sorts of ways to prepare it and have found soups and mashes and slaws; sometimes it's paired with apples or pears, in keeping with its seasonal nature.

anyway, if you haven't given celeriac a go, i suggest you do. and i'm not just saying that because i'm the vice chair of the UN celeriac consumption committee. go ahead. you know you want to.


happy. oh, ate.

i spent most of new year's eve and day driving back to NYC from delray beach, florida, where my mom lives. it was, all things considered, a pretty relaxing ride. i chose (wisely, i think) to stop overnight in north carolina to avoid crazy drunks on I-95 and get some sleep so i wasn't totally exhausted when i got home. well, it seemed like i met my first goal, but within a couple hours of being home, i was fast asleep. i don't think it was all physical tiredness, though. i was pretty out of sorts when i got back - my neighborhood just didn't look the same and i was feeling kind of melancholy. i don't know if it was the quick transition from sunny, warm florida to overcast, chilly new york or if it was a side effect of having essentially two days of total alone time, mostly spent taking stock of years past. that always makes me a little blue. i end up thinking about friends that are gone, things i wish i could re- or undo, and retracing the path that winds up at my doorstep.

the nap was what i needed, though, because i woke feeling pretty refreshed and also significantly more optimistic and motivated than i'd been when i lay down. there are so many things i want to do and work on this year and i've given a lot of thought to perspective and how it really colors what we think and do and feel and how that perspective can be altered at our whim. it was a few hours well spent sleeping.

i'd wanted to make a sort of traditional new year's day meal of collard greens and black-eyed peas, not quite giving over to superstition but signifying my commitment to bringing some prosperity to my life. when i woke shortly after 9PM, though, i had to make do with what the 24-hour deli had in store. so i strayed slightly from tradition and cooked up some cannelini beans and dandelion greens. beans and greens are always a bonus, so i wasn't bothered by having to make exceptions.
and in honor of 2008 being the year of the potato, i whipped (literally) up some yukon golds. i've been intrigued by a potato puree i recently saw on a blog that featured some unfortunate short ribs, or i would link it. i just whipped these with EB and soy creamer, but if i ever invest in a ricer i might make a truer attempt at making a fluffy potato cloud.

anyway, this is what i ate on the first day of 2008. it hit the spot, i tell ya, and i'm going to bed sated and (relatively) happy.
here's hoping everyone else is, too!