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I follow Scott Simon on Twitter.  He’s one of my favorite NPR hosts and he seems to relish the aspects of social media, so I enjoy his 40-character musings on family, work, and sometimes food.  He mentioned enjoying some roasted padron peppers in Spain, so I did a little research.  One pepper that came up as being related was the Japanese shishito.  The two are closely related, and both are commonly served roasted in the simple manner of : oil, salt, blister.  I vowed to try them the second I came across either species.  Happily, while at the large Asian grocery in Beaverton, I found a barrel of these beauties.  Brought them home, blistered them in oil and salt in the cast iron skillet, and munched.  Perfect as a wine appetizer.  I would say their spiciness level is about the same as a strong pepperoncini, so don’t worry.  Delicious flavor, mild-medium heat.  I look forward to trying their Spanish cousin.

In other news, Spring is in full force in Portland.  Bulb flowers, Dogwood, Grape Hyacinth, Lawn Daisies, Tulips, Daffodils and so many other flowers are showing up.  Cherry and plum blossoms are shedding now.  Apple and pear blossoms are on their way.  Forest Park looks lush.  Happy Spring.

Hearty enough for an Oregon lumberjack. About $4.50 per serving

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You get to make your own BBQ sauce too! 

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These pub buns are the best. Local is just the first reason why.

My favorite recipe for a vegan BBQ sauce originally came from The Veganomicon, which is still the basis of my own recipe.  Then after hubby and I enjoyed a scrumptious vegan BBQ plate at Blossoming Lotus, I stole their idea of adding apples to the coleslaw.  And after stuffing our faces at Home Grown Smoker, I switched from using seitan to soy curls.  I still can’t get my soy curls to be as full and lucious as theirs, (I’m sure they have access to restuarant-quality curls.)  But I’ve got my own strategy.  Seitan is still a great option, so I’ve included it here for you!

You can even use canned jackfruit as a different shredded-style “meat” option, as I learned from Luminous Vegans.  I will definitely try that next time.

Prepare to get your face messy after inhaling this creation.  Have napkins standing by.

Another option: instead of the cabbage/apple slaw, fill with my collard slaw!  You won’t know the difference and you’ll reap the nutritional benefits of raw collards.

Makes about 3-4 servings

Cabbage-Apple Slaw:

  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 red apple, shredded in food processor or with vegetable peeler
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of soymilk
  • lemon juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • dash or two of dried dill
  • salt/pepper to taste

Directions: Whisk everything from the vinegar down in a small bowl, then pour over the shreds and mix. Let sit while you prepare everything else.  Adjust to taste.

Homemade BBQ Sauce:

  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic – smashed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly cut
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomato
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup  balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke
  • generous dash of vegan worchestershire (optional)
  1. Sautee onion and garlic in pan with generous splash of olive oil on medium until the onions are soft.
  2. Add everything else except the mustard, liquid smoke and worchestershire. Turn heat to medium low.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes uncovered. Prepare “meat” while waiting.
  4. After “meat” is ready, add the liquid smoke, mustard and worchestershire to the sauce.  Add more balsamic vinegar if you require more tang.
  5. Remove sauce from heat and blend in a food processor. (If you want to use a blender, you can, but you have to wait until the sauce is cooled.  Hot sauce CAN go in the processor, but not in a blender.  See: Mt.Vesuvius.)

Choose and Prepare 2.5 cups of your “meat”

If using Soy Curls: Pour hot water over them to hydrate.  Once they’ve absorbed the water, drain and press to remove excess water and lightly brown in a pan with a sprinkling of salt.  This way they will be both plump and dry.  Once browned a bit, mix into hot BBQ sauce until curls have slightly absorbed the sauce.

If using Seitan:  Cut into long strips and lightly brown in a pan.  Cover with BBQ sauce in an oven safe dish and bake until the sauce sticks to the strips.  Add more sauce when adding to sandwich for more moisture.

Assemble sandwiches: spread veganaise on both sides, slather some BBQ sauce, then fill with coleslaw and sauce-covered”meat”.

IMG_8115Yum!  A great vegan take on a holiday favorite.  

Confession: I tried THREE delicious cheeseball recipes over the holidays this year, but didn’t get to post anything about my Thanksgiving or Christmas feasts until now due to travel, moving to the city from the suburbs, a death in the family- which meant more travel- and many other unforeseen circumstances that pretty much everyone faces at one time or another.  Life happens.

So….cheeseball numero uno is this scrumptious pine nut and chive-based ball.  It held together perfectly, since it incorporated tofu, and the flavor was fantastic- just like a mellow, nutty aged cheese. It wasn’t super-firm, but more like a  cold cream-cheese consistency. I rolled it in walnut pieces here, but next time I will use breadcrumbs and sage.  (The walnuts are a little too strong for me.)  Sliced almonds are another option to roll with, of course.  This recipe is from the Native Foods Blog!  Thank you, Native Foods!  I enjoy eating there, and they always have great recipes to share.  I stumbled on this by mistake in a google search and was pleasantly surprised.

Native Foods Chive Cheese Ball (with my few variations)

  • 1 cup slivered & blanched almonds
  • 1 cup crushed walnuts (to coat the ball)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, unsalted
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4.5 oz firm tofu, drained well
  • 1 Tbs SHIRO miso paste
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp safflower oil
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp fresh chives, chopped
  1. Place almonds, pine nuts, salt and sugar in food processor and blend until for 2 minutes or until clumps start to form.
  2. Add tofu, miso, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, safflower oil and onion powder and blend about 2 minutes.
  3. Gently fold the chives. Consistency will be very thick.
  4.  Pile mixture into a bowl and cover.
  5. Place in fridge to chill overnight.
  6. Next day, roll  into a ball and coat with chopped walnuts or breadcrumbs, or choice of topping.
  7. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve with crackers! Yum!

Tip: if you oil your hands a little when rolling, it helps the ball not stick to you!

Snowstorm 2014

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At least we have tofu scramble to keep us warm, with seasoned mushrooms.

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Got 5 inches of snow on Thursday, then it just kept snowing.  And it is still snowing.  Who knows how many inches we’re on now…and weather reports seem to conflict about when its going to stop.  All I know is that the snow is up to my knees, and the front door is getting piled on.  Brrrr.  Whiteout conditions for the last 3 days!

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Pre-shredded Follow Your Heart cheese on top :)

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A  simple, inexpensive soup you can serve with grilled (vegan gourmet) cheese.  Red peppers and tomatoes are available year-round, and who wants to make soup in the summer time anyway?  Eat up.

Tip: leave yourself enough time to let the vegetables cool so your blender doesn’t turn into Mt.Vesuvius and explode molten lava all over you and your kitchen. 

Ingredientsmakes about 6 large servings
  • 7-8 small, sweet tomatoes, such as campari or cocktail –   cut in half
  • 3 red bell peppers, seeded and halved
  • 1 medium yellow onion, (or one large leek) cut roughly
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • lots of olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Drizzle olive oil on 2 baking sheets. Place tomatoes, skin side down, on one of them. Arrange half the thyme springs between the tomatos.
  3. Place onions and red peppers on the other baking sheet, with the red peppers skin side down. Place the unpeeled garlic on the sheet, too. Drizzle a little more olive oil over everything. Arrange rest of the  thyme sprigs so they touch the veggies.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes. Keep an eye to make sure the herbs don’t smolder. You can remove them if they do.
  5. Let the veggies cool completely. Remove herb sprigs, leaving a few leaves, if you like.
  6. Peel your cooled garlic and toss it in a blender.  Add half the broth, add roasted vegetables and purée the soup with a few thyme leaves.
  7. Add more broth if you’d like the soup to be thinner.
  8. Pour soup into a big pot, heat on the stove until hot, then serve!

You can eat is as a salad or a slaw, depending on the dressing you choose!

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I didn’t realize that collard greens are only bitter when you cook them.  In their raw form, they taste like cabbage, maybe even more mild.  Cabbage is a super food, (and cole slaw still counts!) so this is an ultra-super food, as far as I’m concerned.  I’ve read that one should eat raw cabbage and/or collards daily to reap the benefits.  (Apparently cooking removes the beneficial compounds.)

Prepare your salad by chopping raw red cabbage and raw collard leaves  into thin strips, then shorten the strips by chopping up a little shorter.  Soak them in your dressing of choice for at least 2 hours. (See choices below…)

For a Coleslaw-type Dressing: Combine about a 1/2 cup of veganaise, a dollop of mustard, 2 splashes of vinegar,a few splashes of soy milk, a tsp of sugar, a little lemon juice and salt/pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Thin with more soy milk if you want it to be thinner.  Add more veganaise if you want it to be thicker. Add more vinegar and lemon if you like more tang. Maybe some more sugar…..just adjust to your taste.

For a lighter,more subtle salad-style dressing: 

  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions: Mix well, and let this soak with the cabbage and collards overnight for best taste.

I’ve recently  just started enjoying raw collards more.  A few months back I attempted to cook them and failed.  I didn’t want the Southern-style over-cooked-until-they-turn-grey collards.  In those cases, they are heated so long that they go way past bitter into completely  flavorless.  On the other hand, lightly steaming them brings out all the bitterness that lurks in this high-oxalate leaf.  They are so much like cabbage when they are raw, but cabbage becomes sweeter when cooked and collards go the other way.

My first breakthrough was when I wrapped  fajitas in a collard leaf instead of a tortilla.  In contrast to wrapping my fajitas in a raw cabbage leaf, the collard was  better because it had less of a skunky flavor. Both ways were enjoyable and highly recommended as a tasty way to support your 5-veg-a-day.

For those who are a little cabbage and collard-shy, (my husband says that raw cabbage is too “cleanse-y”,) just think of how much you love coleslaw.  That’s your way in.  Soon you’ll be enjoying collards and cabbage chopped up in your salads along with your kale, or just by themselves.  Enjoy!

Pear season?

Dug out the good ol’ Canon after a year of lazy cellphone food photos.  It really wasn’t that hard.

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Just wanted to share my shot of a pretty Forelle pear.  I snagged it because it still had its leaf.

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I haven’t lived here long enough to know the seasons of regional produce, I just go by visuals.

The markets seem to be brimming with pears now, and a brief internet search reveals that this is the prime area of N.America to grow them.

Fun fact: red freckles on pears are known as “lenticles”.

P.S – I ate it with a few slices of vegan cheese and it was tasty.

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