Sunday, May 29, 2011

Recipes, Transitions, Writing, Gardening, & Winning (a ticket to Vida Vegan Con)

Why, hello there! I have to be honest - as we get closer and closer to the wedding (6 weeks-ish away at this point to the ceremony, 10 weeks-ish away from the party), it's going to be more and more difficult for me to post with any regularity. But to those who still visit, still read, still catch up and don't get sick of me rattling on...thanks for joining me on the journey. And I know if I drop off a bit this summer, we'll catch back up in the fall.

I have a lot to say, but I think it best to get on with what CC has been cookin' these days. The San Pedro Group continues. There was a two week hiatus due to summer travel (the two main players went to their property in Hilo, HI, and the rest just felt like taking a break during that time), and now that they're back, I cooked for them Tuesday (they got back last week), and was met with some resistance about how we should move forward as price continues to be an issue. I understand these are not rich people, these are average, working-class, baby boomers, and I have not tried to gouge anyone. The prices are more than fair, and when I check against industry norms for this premium of a service, and when I talk to other chefs/caterers/nutritionists, they all echo what I feel: these folks are getting a DEAL. I have worked for close to nothing because I richly believe in the depth of the need for what I'm providing - they need me, and I want to see them thrive, eating things that edify and hasten their healing and/or weight loss process. But I cannot undervalue myself, and I cannot sell myself short, either.

The San Pedro group has told me at this point, that unless they have at least 10 people, they can't afford to have me cook for them (as stated earlier, the price per person drops as more participants are added), and they have more than enough interested parties, but not enough that are willing to commit to paying weekly to bring down the cost for everyone. It's a little frustrating, but the universe has time and time again brought me to those that need my help, and I trust in that. And I've taken up another part-time job to ensure we're not financially floundering while trying to fund a wedding extravaganza of a summer while I figure out what I'm doing with my life, professionally speaking.

I'm being open to what is, and releasing those things that fall outside my circle of control.

Here's what the San Pedroans have enjoyed since my last post:

The strict religious stance toward TruNorth adherence (absolutely no oil/salt/sugar/gluten) has relaxed slightly, and there was a curiosity about what they missed the soyrizo enchilada week (those that participated raved), so I made the enchiladas again. Here's the recipe in case you missed it the first couple times. For the other meal that week, just to show them what was possible with a little Gardein faux chicken, I made a "chicken" teriyaki stir fry. Here's my stir-fry tips again, and I used Organicville agave-sweetened/gluten-free/low sodium teriyaki. So, this week remained very LOW in added oil/salt, sugar-free, and used only a small amount of gluten per serving (in the stir fry, as the enchiladas are gluten free). I felt good about this compromise, and so did they. Those that are staying true to TruNorth are ready at this point to take the reins in cooking that way for themselves. The other 8 or so people would like to experience a broader range, so to speak, of vegan cuisine...something a little less stringent.

Then, there was the two week break, and then this week, they requested INDIAN FOOD! (Yum! Nice choice! And easy to do TruNorth!) and then let me choose the other meal, and I chose lasagna, since I haven't made anything Italian-inspired yet. And tofu ricotta is so easy and so compelling. There are a lot of great resources out there for vegan Indian, but one of my favorites remains the blog Vegan Dad. A humble dad in Ontario, vegan dad is a master of healthy, vegan, sophisticated creations that are easy enough to make while the kids are screaming in hunger, and tasty enough that said screaming kids will eat to their content without any fuss.

I decided upon a Creamy Chickpea and Tomato Curry, and easily TruNorth'd it:

- 3 cups cooked chickpeas (about 1.5 cans of garbanzo beans, well rinsed, if you go that route)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp low-sodium veggie stock for sauteing (I like Pacific brand - it has no oil and the lowest sodium/serving)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 4 curry leaves (I was able to use some fresh off my curry plant on my garden balcony!)
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced (use less if you're not obsessed with garlic the way I am)
- 500g chopped fresh tomatoes, skinned (ever skinned a tomato? It's strangely satisfying)
- 400 ml can light coconut milk
- cooked rice, for serving (I used brown basmati, but you could do jasmine or even quinoa)

1. Heat veggie stock in a large frying pan over medium heat. Toss chickpeas with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Add spices and curry leaves to the pan and fry for a min, until nice and fragrant. Add more veggie stock or water if it gets to thick. Add onions and garlic and saute for 6-8 mins, until soft. Add a splash of water at this point to deglaze the pan, if needed.
3. Add chickpeas and tomatoes, mix well, and season to taste. Heat to bubbling, then add coconut milk. Simmer gently until ready to serve (over rice). The dish tastes best if it has sat for a while so the flavours can blend. Even better the next day!

Thanks, Vegan Dad! He took a better picture than I did, so, I'm crediting him here:

Next on the TrueNorth'ing-Indian-Vegan-Dad bandwagon, I selected Tofu Saag:

- 1 bunch kale
- 1 onion, cut into chunks
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 chunk ginger, chopped
- 3/4 to 1 cup water
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp mild curry paste (or powder), or to taste
- 1 tsp chili powder
- Squirt of Bragg's
- 1 pkg extra firm tofu, diced
- 3 tbsp soy yogurt (optional)
- cooked rice, for serving

1. Remove the tough stalks from the kale, and cook for 10 mins with a splash of water over medium heat in a large pot with the lid on. Kale should cook down and be tender, but still be a nice bright green.
2. Put kale, onion, garlic, and ginger in a food processor. Add water and blend until smooth. Add more water if too thick.
3. Put kale mixture in a large pot and bring to bubbling over medium heat, stirring regularly. Cook for a few mins. Add tomatoes (juice and all) and spices. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add tofu and cook, uncovered, for 15 mins, reducing heat if it begins to stick. Stir regularly and let thicken. Stir in yogurt, if using, and serve over rice.

YUM! I still have some push-back overall to tofu with the San Pedroans, but I think this was pretty tasty. And packing a serious nutritional punch.

I cut my tofu into smaller cubes (above) than Vegan Dad did (below), because I knew I was making it for people that are still tofu-phobic:

And now...lasagna! The only other lasagna I've ever posted on Curative Cuisine was the epic John's Nightshade-Free Autumn Lasagna. I have to say, I haven't made a lasagna since. That thing, ableit perhaps the tastiest thing ever, is so labor-intensive. It kinda burnt me out on lasagna for spell. But, I thought it would be a great thing to cook for the San Pedroans, a classic always fun to veganize, and because I was considering my (baby boomer! Keep it simple, remember?) audience, I wanted to stay pretty classic/simple about it:

Classic (and Easy) Lasagna__________________________________________________
2 packages gluten-free lasagna noodles
1 cup of Daiya mozarella blend (faux cheese)
1 vegan ground round of some kind (I went for St. Ives, as it was the lowest in sodium per serving)
1 package soft tofu
1 cup nutrtional yeast
juice of 1 lemon
1 jar organic, agave-sweetened, low sodium marinara (I used Organicville)
1 head kale, well-rinsed and de-ribbed
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried sage
water, for steaming

1. In a large lidded pan, steam the kale for a few minutes to soften it. It should be pliable, but still bright green/not completely cooked down. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large nonstick pan on medium high heat, cook the onion and half of the garlic and herbs and all of the sage in a couple tbsp of water until the onions are translucent, add the ground round and mash and flip until well combined and faux ground meat is browned-ish in areas. Set aside.
3. Boil water (perhaps during steps one and two) and cook noodles to instructions on package. Immediately transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop them from becoming overcooked and/or sticking together. Set aside.
4. Combine tofu, the rest of the garlic and herbs, and the lemon juice and nutritional yeast in a food processor and blend until well combined. Do not overblend - you want the tofu to have a crumbly, ricotta-esque quality still. Set aside.
5. Open up the jar of sauce (you can heat on the stove and season to your liking, if it needs it), get out a casserole pan (probably 9 x 12 or something close), and here's the layering construction, from bottom to top: sauce (thin layer to prevent noodles from sticking to the bottom, smooth it out evenly), noodles, faux sausage meat crumble, sauce, noodles, kale, sauce, noodles, sauce, tofu ricotta, sauce, grated Daiya cheese.
6. Bake at 350, uncovered for 30 minutes, then turn up heat or broil until cheese has melted and desired crispy edges have been achieved (if this hasn't happened already). Let sit until cooled slightly and congealed, and serve! As usual with lasagna - totally better the next day, when the flavors have had time to sit and blend.

Max and I have enrolled in Farm Fresh To You's organic produce delivery service. Now that finals are in swing for him, and as well as blogging and cooking and writing for the Examiner and wedding prep for me - we're getting a little too busy to shop for the produce we want and are sick of paying Whole Foods prices for out of convenience. I think this is a great service. You can customize what and when you receive completely.

In an effort to use up what we got this week in our Farm Fresh to You box, I made a broccoli & baby bok choy stir fry with cashews and a homemade sauce. More on that perhaps later. Baby bok choy is my recent obsession/the spring veggie of the season, in my opinion. I may devote a whole post to come to baby bok choy.

I also made a summer-inspired FEAST of roasted rosemary and herb fingerling potatoes, BBQ Tempeh, corn on the cob, and mac and cheese with peas:

And the cool thing is - these are all recipes I've posted before:
Corn on the Cob - just peal, boil for a few minutes, earth balance, a little salt/pepper and SERVE!

Since the San Pedro chapter for Curative Cuisine is naturally coming to a close, moving forward this blog may be less about what I'm cooking for others and more of what I'm cooking myself and Max. And I'm okay with that. It will keep me inspired to continue to practice what I preach and continue to be creative.

I am still writing for The as the L.A. Vegan Restaurant Examiner. Check it out, please subscribe if you haven't already, and if you're in L.A. and have a place you think I must review - drop me a line!

I've also got quite the balcony herb/veg garden going on at the moment. It feels so good to grow stuff again! I'm having a blast, and while the harvest may not be a huge bounty, it's the process that counts, and everyone is thriving, flowering, and growing at a crazy pace. Birds have made a nest in my hanging fuschia. I'm trying to not disturb them too much, as there are eggs now! Umm...if anyone has any feedback here on what I should do, let me know! Obviously I'm not touching the nest or anything close to the nest...but I have to water, and I don't want to let the fuschia die. Although, I am vegan, and I'm not hurting baby birds just for a plant, so if a sacrifice has to ultimately be made...I just wish I had put a birdhouse out! I put a birdfeeder out, and totally contemplated a birdhouse. Here is a photo collage:

To see what all these things ARE, you can either check out my tumblr feed, or check out the album in the Curative Cuisine's facebook page. P.S. "like" The Curative Cuisine while you're there! ;-)

And now for some REALLY EXCITING news. There is a Vegan Bloggers Conference (!!) coming up, being headed up by some amazing vegan woman in Portland, and the roster is SICK. By the time I had some money scraped together to buy a ticket...they were sold out. But I didn't cry, because soon after contests started popping up. When I saw Jess Scone of GetSconedPDX post a SONGWRITING contest for a free ticket/VIP goody bag, I knew I had to make a submission. See my the contest rules, me performing my song, and the other entries here, and see how I found out I HAD WON! here. There were some great other submissions, and I'm really proud that I wrote something original and that it was well-received. You can bet your bottom that I am going to get ALL I CAN out of this amazing opportunity, and I'm going to blog the heck out of it, better myself because of it, network like a mother, and just enjoy every moment in Portland (as usual). A Big Thanks! to Jess, and to everyone who supported my submission and celebrated my victory. It's only 6 days after our Vermont Wedding Celebration, so I may be blissed out, I may be exhausted, I may slightly out-of-body, but I will be a WIFE and I will be at VIDA VEGAN CON! So excited. As if this summer could get any better...

In closing, I leave you a picture from my bridal shower/bachelorette party, which took place a couple weekends ago. Me and Liz, my Maid of Honor Extraordinnaire:



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