Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Sometimes I like to make this vegan mushroom gravy because you can dump it all over all kinds of stuff and it makes everything taste amazing. Savory and meaty and delicious.  (Sausage gravy will achieve the same purpose, but this is cheaper than buying nice sausage from the farmers market, and mushrooms are really tasty anyway). mushroomsToday I put it on a baked sweet potato for lunch.  Last night I put it on spaghetti squash and collard greens.  This is my go-to gravy for making vegan/vegetarian soul food dinners; I usually make mashed sweet potatoes with some brown sugar and bourbon, whip up a batch of this gravy, stew some greens, maybe fry a couple green tomatoes or bake some biscuits…. good to go.  No meat needed. purple sweet potato and mushroom gravy(I feel like I need to acknowledge that this sweet potato is bright purple.  I bought it at the co-op the other day, not realizing how vivid the color would be.  Hooray for purple vegetables, right?)

VEGAN MUSHROOM GRAVY

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs. vegan margarine, butter or olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. diced onions
  • 3 c. sliced mushrooms*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. of soy sauce (or, if you don’t eat soy, balsamic vinegar is good)
  • 3/4 c. water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs. chopped parsley
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a sauté pan on medium.  Add the garlic, onions and bay leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are cooked through.  Add 1/4 c. of water to the mushrooms while they’re cooking to make sure they don’t stick and burn.  Add the whole wheat flour and nutritional yeast and stir to coat the mushrooms mixture.  Let it start to brown on the pan a little bit, add the soy sauce and let it cook for another minute. The pan should be getting a little brown and crusty, but not actually burned.  Deglaze the pan with 1/2 c. of water or vegetable stock.  Keep stirring and the gravy should come together and thicken within a few minutes.  If it’s too thick, add a little more water.  Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

*I used a mixture of shiitakes and button mushrooms, but it really doesn’t matter what varieties you choose.

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Moroccan Vegetable Stew

moroccan vegetable stewThis is a perfect fall stew, filled with vegetables from the late summer garden and richly spiced with cinnamon, cayenne and turmeric.  It’s based off a recipe from Moosewood Restaurant, so I can’t take credit for the brilliant idea, but when I made it for the cooking demo at the Redwood Valley Farmers Market this past Sunday, I realized I’d made so many small changes to it so it would fit what we have locally available that I should probably write up a fresh version so I don’t have to explain it to anyone else.  Because it’s so good! You must make it. If you want a simple, cheap, delicious dinner using a bunch of stuff you probably have around anyway, this is it.

The original recipe is from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites, which is a fantastic cookbook and worth every penny.

MOROCCAN VEGETABLE STEW

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 3 c. diced onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. (or less) cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 c. peeled, cubed winter squash – 1″ cubes (this is about 1 average sized butternut squash or 2 average sized buttercup squash)
  • 2 c. water or vegetable stock
  • 3 c. diced heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 c. diced eggplant
  • 1 c. diced bell pepper (any color)
  • 2 c. diced summer squash (any color)
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. diced tart apples
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges, optional, for serving

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium low heat. Add the onions and salt and cook, covered, for five minutes.  Add the garlic and spices and sauté, covered, for another three minutes.  Add the winter squash and sauté for a couple more minutes, then pour in the water.  Add the tomatoes and eggplant, cover and let everything simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add the peppers, summer squash, chickpeas, raisins and apples, cover, and simmer for another fifteen minutes, or until the winter squash and eggplant are tender.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Garnish with lemon wedges.

Feel free to change around the fruit based on what you have available.  This stew would be great with dried apricots instead of raisins and I’d love to try it with chopped fresh pears instead of the apples.

Quinoa Tabouleh, Spring Lettuces and A NEW FARM

This salad.quinoa taboulehIt’s so delicious and so simple, and takes just a few minutes to throw together.

My brain is kind of fried from working so much, and this is the perfect kind of dish to make for that kind of time in your life.

We’re emerging from this crazy whirlwind right now.   In April, we moved from our house in the mountains of Lake County to a sweet little house down the road from our new farm space in Redwood Valley.  Part of the transition meant turning a bunch of raw land into a vegetable and flower farm over the course of about two months so that we could grow during this season and not have to wait til next year to start. Our last farm was tiny and took us ten years to get to where it was.  This farm is still very much in process, but it took us about a month to get an area planted that absolutely dwarfs anything we’ve ever had before.   We’re pretty excited about everything and I can’t wait to show you some pictures.

If you know me personally, you might know that I’ve been compulsively planting too many tomato starts for years and years, and that heirloom tomatoes are my one true vegetable love.  I always plant more than I should but it’s really never enough.  I’m so thrilled to say that I just planted the heirloom tomato garden of my dreams! (It’s HUGE).  The land owner, an expert farmer who’s been teaching us a lot as we go forward this year, keeps making comments along the lines of “you are an absolute lunatic for planting that many tomatoes” but I’m soldiering on, undaunted.
(I still remember the first time I ate an heirloom tomato.  I was working at Restaurant Lulu when I was 19 and had just moved to San Francisco, where they were serving this simple tomato salad, but it used tomatoes that were unlike any that I’ve ever seen before, and when I tasted one, it basically blew my mind and changed the entire course of my life.   True story.)

It’s like this song says: Only two things that money can’t buy, and that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.

Anyway though, this salad. taboulehI made this tabouleh with some leftover quinoa, lettuce and herbs from the garden and some mediocre grocery store tomatoes, and it instantly became my favorite salad of the moment.  It’s going to be amazing when I actually have some decent tomatoes to put in it.  It’s a nice side dish for a summery dinner, served with grilled lamb or chicken, but it’s also a wonderful lunch on its own.  We used butter lettuce leaves to make lettuce wraps with the tabouleh inside and it’s about my favorite thing to eat in the world now.

 

QUINOA TABOULEH

Vegan & Gluten Free

Serves: 4

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 c. cooked tricolor quinoa
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped mint leaves
  • 3 c. diced tomatoes
  • juice from 1 1/2 large lemons
  • olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small head of lettuce (butter lettuce would be perfect)

If you’re making the quinoa specifically for this recipe, rinse it with cool water after it’s cooked so that it doesn’t cook the vegetables in the salad.  Leftover quinoa that’s not steaming hot anymore obviously doesn’t need rinsing.  Combine all the ingredients except the lettuce in a bowl.  Add the olive oil, salt and pepper to your own taste.  Cover and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (not in the fridge! Cold tomatoes taste weird).  Serve on a bed of lettuce leaves, or use the lettuce leaves as wraps.

 

Gobi Mutter Masala (Kind of, I think), aka. Cauliflower Curry

I think that maybe this would maybe be called gobi mutter masala? That’s what I was googling when I was originally looking at recipes for cauliflower curry.  But then I changed the recipe a whole bunch, so maybe it’s just some weird americanized cauliflower curry.  Really, I have no idea.  Either way, this curry is delicious and a really wonderful way to use up cauliflower if you happen to have some lying around.cauliflower curryA few notes:

I used a pretty substantial amount of heavy cream and some butter in this recipe, but it could easily be made vegan by switching to a neutral flavored oil and coconut milk.  The amount of heavy cream can also be tweaked; I used an amount that made it taste super rich and creamy and good, but if you’re trying to go a little bit lighter (since it’s January and all), you could just add another cup of plain yogurt instead of the heavy cream.  It won’t be quite as luxurious, but it will still taste good.  For a lighter vegan version, I would use plain almond milk.

GOBI MUTTER MASALA

Serves: 4-6, depending on portion sizes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tbs. ground cumin
  • 2 tbs. paprika
  • 1 tbs. turmeric
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (remove the seeds if you want to keep the dish on the mild side)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 quart crushed tomatoes
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 c. plain yogurt
  • 1  c. heavy cream
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 c. frozen peas
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Heat the butter on medium heat in a large pot. Add the dry spices (fenugreek, coriander, cumin, paprika and tumeric) and saute them in the butter for a minute or two. Then, add the garlic, ginger, jalapeno and onion and saute for another few minutes until the onions start to turn translucent. (Add more butter or a little water if the onion/spice mixture gets too dry and starts to stick).
Add the quart of crushed tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, yogurt and heavy cream and turn the heat to a low simmer.  Cook for ten minutes and then puree with an immersion blender (or whatever you use to puree things in your kitchen).
Add the cauliflower and peas to the tomato sauce, cover the pot, and then simmer for another 20 minutes or so to cook the cauliflower.  Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice as necessary.  At this point the curry is ready to serve, but you can also simmer it on low for a bit longer if you have the time.  (The flavors tend to improve if it sits on the stove for awhile. )
Serve over rice topped with chopped fresh cilantro.

Cranberry Chia Smoothie and a Clean Slate

I’m kind of obsessed with New Year’s Resolutions, this year especially. Let me just say, I am relieved to be done with 2013.  It was really a mess. You know how life tends to go in cycles, with ups and downs, and it’s not always sunshine and flowers?  I thought about that often last year. It’s over though, thank god!

I know not everyone bothers with making resolutions and that they’re kind of made to be broken eventually, but I find it very clarifying to have a clean slate and the opportunity to kind of step back and evaluate what I would like to have happen for that year. I write ridiculously long lists of dreams, plans and ideas, knowing full well that I’m not going to do all of them at all, but usually I end up doing some of them, which is great.  I guess they’re not really “resolutions” in the traditional sense.  Intentions is probably a better word.  Past examples that worked out really well include: “start my own jam business” and “I think we should get 200 chickens.”cranberriesOne of the things I am focusing on right now, at least for the beginning of this year, is to take better care of myself. Meaning, if I’m trying to get my life really on track for where I want to be going, working every moment of every day and drinking 9,000 cups of coffee to get through it is a horrible way to make it happen.  Very little will end up getting accomplished, except being really exhausted and crazy.  It’s funny, because I totally know that already, but sometimes we just need learn things the really hard way, right? (Although… I might say that the thing about learning things the hard way is that the lesson is so painful that I personally will absolutely not be forgetting it any time in the near future). _MG_3970So. For the last few days I’ve been making smoothies for breakfast.  Some resolutions might be difficult to keep, but I think this one is pretty easy.  “Eat a real breakfast with things in it that are actually good for you.”  I’ll sheepishly admit that it’s pretty simple, not exactly rocket science, and I’ve known it for a long time, yet I decided to have coffee for breakfast for most of last year.smoothieHere’s to a happy and healthy 2014!

CRANBERRY CHIA SMOOTHIE

Makes: about 1 quart jar

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. almond milk
  • 2 tbs. chia seeds
  • 1 c. cranberries
  • 2 big kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 tangerine, peeled
  • optional: 1 tbs. honey or maple syrup

Combine the chia seeds and almond milk and let the seeds soak for atleast 30 minutes. (I do this step the night before so it’s ready to go in the morning).  Once the seeds are soaked, combine the almond milk/chia mixture with the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

How To Pull Off Your Own DIY Wedding, Pt 2: The Food!

When I saw all the boring menus offered on most wedding catering websites, we immediately decided just to cater the whole thing ourselves.  Other blogs talk about self-catering your wedding like it’s an insanely difficult task, along the lines of building a rocket ship or performing open-heart surgery, but it’s really not hard at all if you plan it right.  For anyone that enjoys cooking and is having a smallish wedding, I think it’s perfectly feasible. The key to doing this successfully is that you don’t want to actually cook anything on your wedding day.  I made virtually everything in advance and then just had my mom keep an eye on the oven while it all reheated. (We were outside trying to see if the dogs would sit still for wedding portraits.  They wouldn’t). wedding dog portraitIf you decide to go the self-catering route, there are a few things that you need to think about while you’re menu planning:

1. Does the dish hold well in the refrigerator for a day or two?

It’s perfectly fine to cook things several days in advance from a food safety standpoint, but will you be sacrificing texture or flavor? Steamed rice will dry out in the fridge, spaghetti is basically impossible to reheat without a microwave, mashed potatoes turn into one solid lump.  It’s better to think more along the lines of casseroles, braises, stews, curries and the like.  You can always do a test batch in the months leading up to the wedding and then see how it lasts in the fridge. Since we were cooking for such a large range of diets for our wedding day, we decided to go italian with everything. It tends to be a good common ground that will make everyone happy, from carnivores to vegans.

2. Do you have enough fridge space?

We were cooking for 25 people. We have a pretty average sized fridge and it was totally full of saran wrapped casserole dishes.  We couldn’t have fit one more thing if we tried.  Beverages were out in the garage and in coolers to stay cold. By this logic, I would estimate 1 refrigerator per 25 people. (You definitely don’t want to make a bunch of food and then realize you don’t have anywhere to store it…)

3. Remember food safety.

Remember to properly refrigerate the food you cook in advance. Make sure to reheat it thoroughly on the day of the event. When you’re cooking in the days leading up to the event, make sure you arrange your fridge properly and put vegetables and cooked food higher up than raw meats, which should be at the bottom of the fridge (so you don’t end up getting chicken juice getting on your raw vegan appetizers).

4. Menu Planning:

As with all local cooking, it’s not a good idea to get too set on a specific thing.  I knew what I had in the pantry and the garden, so I had some ideas, but I also shopped at the farmers market the week before the cooking.

With all that in mind, here’s the menu we figured out, doing our best to highlight the local foods we have available in February:

Friday Dinner:

We didn’t bother with a rehearsal or a rehearsal dinner, but for Friday night, when we had some friends over to help set up the space for the ceremony the next day, we had big pots of vegan curries that are simple to make and can hold on low for hours and hours.

 

and for Saturday, the wedding day:

Breakfast, self-serve for all of the guests that stayed with us:

Appetizers:

  • Vegan Summer Rolls stuffed with local greens, served with Peanut Sauce
  • Crab Rangoon, made with local dungennes crab and spring onions
  • Local Cheese Plate

Dinner:

  • Lasagna with beef & pork ragu, made with our home canned tomato sauce
  • Stuffed shells with local chard, ricotta custard and black pepper chevre from my friends at Shamrock Artisan Cheese, topped with our tomato sauce.
  • Vegan Polenta Casserole with Mushroom Ragu (The link takes to to a similar recipe with a different filling. Same idea though).
  • Garden Salad with greens from Floodgate Farms and Lovin’ Mama Farms

Dessert:

  • Vegan Chocolate Cake with Vegan Buttercream Frosting

 

Since I can’t write a post this long and not share a recipe, I should probably tell you about my summer rolls and peanut sauce…. summer rolls with peanut sauceThis is such a great appetizer; they always make people super happy and taste great.  Plus, since it’s really mostly salad, your guests don’t end up eating a bunch of rich food right off the bad (….. because that means food comas and food comas don’t really make for a fun party).  Summer rolls are super labor intensive, but they can be made a day in advance as long as you cover each layer thoroughly with saran wrap.   My new sister-in-law and I rolled about 100 of them while we hung out together the day before the wedding and it really went pretty quick.

The Kitchn has an excellent post about wrapping summer rolls, so I’m not going to bother re-photographing everything they already did….

For the peanut sauce, I use an approximation of the following recipe. (I wanted to tell you an exact version, but I burned out the motor in my blender, so now I just have to estimate.  I’ve made it so many times that this should be really close, though.)

Peanut Sauce

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. freshly ground peanut butter, usually found in the bulk-food section of the grocery store
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2″ of peeled ginger root, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 or 3 hot peppers, depending on your heat preference (dried or fresh will both work)
  • 1/4 c. roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1  c. orange juice
  • 2 tbs. soy sauce

Combine everything but the peanut butter in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add the peanut butter and blend again.* If the sauce is too thick for dipping, add some orange juice.  If it’s too thin and watery, add some more peanut butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If it tastes too spicy, add some honey or sugar.  You can serve this immediately but it will hold in the fridge for several days.

*If you put in the peanut butter first, you’ll burn out motor in the blender.

Note: Next time I make peanut sauce, I’ll check the amounts on this recipe, but if someone else makes it first, please let me know how it goes.

 

Kale Salad with Blood Oranges, Fennel and Olives

bloodorangesandkaleSomething about spring is making me crave salads.

(It makes me feel like an adult to say I’m craving salads and that I’m totally not lying to sound cool).bloodorangesol, While kale salad never will be as good as, oh…. fried chicken, this one is crunchy and delicious with the raw fennel and olives. It’s an excellent combination.

I guess you could say: if you’re the kind of person who likes raw kale salads, this is a good one.

kale saladKale Salad with Fennel, Blood Oranges and Olives

Cook Time: 10 minutes plus several hours to marinade

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium bunches of kale
  • 10 blood oranges
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 15 good olives
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and pepper

To prepare all the ingredients:

First, remove the stalks from the kale, then slice the leaves into very thin ribbons.

Peel 7 of the blood oranges then roughly chop them.

Slice the fennel bulb in half from top to bottom, the slice each half into very thin half moons.

Pit the olives and then roughly chop them.

Then: combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Juice the three remaining blood oranges and drizzle the juice over the kale. Drizzle olive oil over the salad and season with salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and set in the fridge to marinade for a few hours or overnight.