Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pine Nuts for Dinner, Pine Nuts for Dessert

Because I have no choice but to limit all my spending, including (but not limited to) food spending, deciding what to prepare means a lot of looking through my shelves and seeing what I’ve already got on hand to use.  As luck would have it, I need not feel poor because I’ve got plenty of one of the very most expensive ingredients I ever use: pine nuts.  See, for my birthday in December of 2009, my step-mother got me a huge bag of them from Costco – a gift that delighted and thrilled me!  I’ve kept them in my freezer ever since, because I understand they spoil if left out.

I found two recipes in 500 Vegan Recipes that use pine nuts and wouldn’t require me to buy too much.  One was the Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and the other was the Maple Pine Nut Bars.  All I had to get at the grocery store was basil, dates, and soy yogurt.  I had everything else, and was happy to have extra soy yogurt to mix with fruit and enjoy at lunch.  Oh yeah, I also bought some Italian bread to drizzle with olive oil and toast, to use as a vehicle for the dip.

The dip is simple enough – oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, basil, olive oil, cashews, and pine nuts, all whizzed through the food processor.  For those of you who care about that sort of thing (not me), it’s raw, since my cashews are raw.  Here’s a picture of the bread with the dip, which is not a very photogenic thing.  That’s why I put it on a leaf plate.  Not because it’s fall-themed or anything, just because I figure anyone who sees it will be like, “If it’s on a plate like that, it’s GOT to be good!”  That’s what you’re thinking, right?  Right?  Guys?

The Maple Pine Nut Bars are an interesting creature.  Authors Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman call them “bars,” but it really isn’t a recipe for a bar.  It’s cake.  Definitely cake.  I’d call it a coffee cake, and certainly, a lot of vegan coffee cake recipes do, like this one, call for soy yogurt.  It’s a good, sophisticated coffee cake.  The dates and pine nuts certainly do make me feel all growed up.  I could see my aunts enjoying this cake a lot.  I don’t know why I pick my aunts over any other type of person who is a generation older than I am, but I’m sticking with it.  For some reason, I really imagine that any of my aunts would greatly enjoy this maple, cinnamon, nutmeg, date, and pine nut treat.  Maybe because they drink coffee?  I don’t know.  This is good, though, especially with coffee, and if I were one of those awesome, artistic food bloggers who was smart enough to plan, the following picture would probably have some coffee next to it, or maybe, like, some coffee beans artfully scattered.  Too bad, though!  You're at my blog, you just get coffee cake on a plate.

I guess that a woman really shouldn’t survive on bread and dip and cake alone (although I contend that it’s not a bad living), and as soon as I get my tax refund (I filed on the very last possible day, pretty much at the last possible moment, basically because I couldn’t find all the various W2’s I got for last year, which got all shuffled around in my move), I’ll have a bit more dough to make complete, healthful meals.

Here’s something unrelated, but it’s on my mind sometimes reading other cooking blogs: how the heck do you get to be a cookbook recipe tester?? Allow me to put on my whining hat on for a moment. I wanna be a cookbook tester! Why do other people get to and I never do! No fair! I’m sure that it’s just because I don’t actually know anyone who is coming out with a book, nor do I engage in online forums. But I would be such a good recipe tester. I like to cook from books, I’m happy to try new things, I cook all the time, and I think that I give useful feedback. So, hey, if you know anyone who is making a vegan cookbook, I really, really, really, really want to test the recipes. Did I mention really?  One more time: really.  Just putting that out there. Ask and ye shall receive, or whatever. I'm actually not asking for anything, just offering my services, for what they're worth.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Adventures in Stirring

I made a really, really delicious meal that a lot of people would probably say lacked a main course.  It was risotto atop kale.  The kale was cooked how I almost always cook my greens -- with garlic, water, and tamari.  The risotto is a slightly-altered recipe from Crescent Dragonwagon's (no, I did NOT make that name up, stop looking at me that way!) Passionate Vegetarian, Risotto with Green Beans, Garlic, and Sage, which is on page 489 of that tome of a book.  I didn't want to buy sage, so I just left it out and also, obviously, I didn't put any Parmesan cheese in at the end.  Plus, she directs you to make it in a pressure cooker, and not only do I not own one, but I'm actually not 100% certain I know what one is.  So I just made it in the classic way of risotto -- cooking away the wine once the rice is coated with it, adding ladlefuls of veggie broth over top, and stirring, stirring stirring.

You know, people make a lot of this business of stirring risotto, acting like it's a real pain in the patootey, a true hardship.  But it's really no big deal.  Maybe if you had to stir it and it seemed like nothing was happening, it would feel like the watched pot that never boils.  But risotto has this satisfying way of progressing visibly, and quickly.  They say it takes about twenty minutes, and sure, that sounds about right, but those twenty minutes just fly by while you stir, whistle a happy little tune, watch My So-Called Life on Netflix Watch Instantly, and so forth.
Furthermore, a friend of mine wrote a blog entry where I learned that, apparently, people really struggle to make risotto well.  That's never been the case for me and, frankly, I call bullshit.  Just get some arborio rice (obviously), stir, use a lot of garlic, use onion but don't overdo it, don't forget salt, use the lowest temperature that still has the broth simmering, and there's no problem, folks.  No need for panic.  Keep calm!  It's just fancy rice we're talking about here.

And this fancy rice is so amazingly tasty served with some tamari-infused kale, you'll be craving it.  In fact, I'm tempted to make the exact same dish again after I'm finished my leftovers.  The biggest problem with food blogging is the way that it can hold you back from making repeats.  But now I've got a yen.  Maybe I'll make a different kind of risotto next week, still with kale.  Or, if I really want to shake things up, spinach!  Or I could bake some tofu to go along with it so that it won't seem to others that I'm one of those weirdos who only eats so-called "sides."  Oh, yeah, this is turning into a wild and crazy adventure now!

In other food news, I don't know about you guys, but I tend to want to snack.  And I tend to want to snack on salty junk food.  But I don't want to eat junk, really!  Plus, that stuff's expensive.  That's why I was so pleased to find that Market District sells organic popcorn kernels in their bulk bins.  Score!  Now that's some cheap, unprocessed (until I add my own processed stuff) junk food I can get down with!  I just put some Earth Balance in my big saucepan, add kernels, heat it on high, shake the pan around to cover the kernels with butter as it melts, then watch and listen for them to finish popping, which is kinda fun!  But if you've got a problem with stirring risotto, I'm not sure this will work out too great for you either.  It really doesn't take long, though.  I just pour them into a bowl, add salt, and sprinkle in a nice amount of nutritional yeast.
Now, I've made my fair share of "cheese" using nutritional yeast, with vary degrees of success, but let me tell you, it is just perfect on popcorn.  I'm not one of these people who simply hasn't eaten real cheese in so long that I don't remember what it tastes like.  I've had processed popcorn with cheesy whatever-the-f-that-s-is on it on occasion, at parties and the like.  This tastes exactly like it -- exactly! -- yet, it's got no animal products, saves you like a million calories (that was meant to be said like Sher from Clueless), and is made out of some mysterious, magically delicious collaboration of vitamins.  Honestly, I don't know exactly what nutritional yeast is or how it's made, but I think I'll just undergo a religious conversion right now and say that's it's a miracle.

In other, other food news, I subscribed to a CSA for this summer!  It starts in early to mid-June and goes for twenty weeks.  I chose one that had a mini-share for "one adult who dines in half of the time."  I dine in more than half of the time but that sounds perfect anyway.  I couldn't be more excited about it!  Trying to find ways to prepare different vegetables, not choosing, just getting what's in season.  Why, it's almost as much of an adventure as risottos and greens!  Doesn't my life just sound unbearably exciting?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Surviving Diabetes to Eat Pesto and Cookies

Diabetes is trying to kill me.  Seriously.  It’s out to put me in the grave.  

The problem with living healthy with type 1 diabetes is that if you keep your blood sugar where it is supposed to be, which is between around 90 and 120, you’re a lot closer to having low blood sugar than someone whose blood sugars perpetually run high – over 120.  And you don’t want high blood sugars.  Those will kill you too, and, in fact, that’s how most diabetics bite it.  It’s easy to let your blood sugars run high, but it causes all kinds of problems: kidney failure, blindness, loss of feeling to your feet, etc etc.  You want to keep your sugars down.  But when you do that, you’re going to have some lows.  It’s unavoidable!  Really, low blood sugar is a side effect of having GOOD blood sugars.

But these lows are trying to kill me.  A week ago, my blood sugar was low in the morning when my alarm went off.  In the confusion that accompanies low blood sugar, I must have turned off my alarm and went back to sleep.  Work was a’callin’, and the phone woke me up.  But I was confused.  I didn’t understand what time it was.  I didn’t understand how to get dressed.  Nothing made sense.  Suddenly it occurred to me that I should maybe drink some juice.  I did so, but, for some reason, my confusion didn’t really disperse with the rising sugar.  Rather, I succumbed to the WORST MIGRAINE EVER.  I went into work, feeling totally convinced I wasn’t late, because my brain just wasn’t working.  But I realized on my way in that it didn’t feel like 8:30, it felt like, well, 11 AM. 

When I got in, work thought I must have died or something.  I tried to explain myself, but I found that I couldn’t form words properly.  Nonsense was coming out.  Even though my blood sugar wasn’t low anymore!  It’s like the low blood sugar permanently killed off some of my brain cells.  And the migraine – the migraine!  Work talked to me for about 5 minutes before easily deciding I clearly wasn’t well and sending me home.  I got on the bus and felt so physically ill from the headache that when I got OFF the bus, I threw up on the ground.  Excellent.  I returned home and napped all day with my cat.

At 4:00 PM, I got up, still dying from a migraine, and decided to go to the grocery store to go food shopping and get some Excedrin.  Actually, after taking lots of pills throughout the day, and doing a ton of napping, that Excedrin actually made the migraine lift.  Alright!  Time to cook!

I made the Spinach Linguine with Edamame Pesto from Appetite for Reduction.  I think it’s a really clever idea, edamame pesto.  But it tastes, well, kinda plain.  I decided to add some jarred roasted red peppers to it to spice it up.  Only I think they went bad.  The texture was too soft, they fell apart.  That’s a pity, because I think that would have been good.  It was OK, though, because I used the oldest trick in the book (and, actually, Isa hilariously refers to this trick on page 19, saying, “Bored with fresh, healthy food?  Well, add a little excitement by burning your tongue off!”): I added hot sauce.  And, y’know, that’s delicious!  I’d totally eat this recipe again with hot sauce added.  But I’d like to try my first instinct also, the roasted red peppers.  

Before you look at this picture, can I just say that I haven't quite figured out the best way to take pictures of food in my new kitchen yet?  I can't seem to find that ol' sweet spot, where the light shines shinier and the pictures pic pickier... or something.  I'll get better eventually, though, I promise!

After that work fail, I thought I should bring in some cookies.  So, on Monday, I used a tried and true recipe: Banana Everything Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  You can’t go wrong with these.  They’re totally delicious, and they don’t have any classic allergens, except wheat, but wheat is to be expected.  No soy, though, nothing at all “weird” to warn people about.  I didn’t tell anyone at work that they’re vegan until after they had compliments lavished upon them.  I got the classic questions: What did you use for eggs? and Are they healthy?  Bananas are nature’s egg!  You know, after eggs.  And, yeah, actually, they are kinda healthy, relatively speaking.  But, you know, they’re cookies, not Brussels sprouts, what can I say?

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