Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Unlike our stupid president, I actually mean "Mission Accomplished" when I say it. The local food project has ended ... um, a little ahead of schedule. I was going to eat local through Friday afternoon since I started last Friday. But when I came home from walking my dog, this was in my oven:

It's fried hominy, and I did not cook it. My wonderful neighbor Wes did. While I was out, he texted me to say he'd cooked me a dinner of hominy, corn, and white beans, and he placed the plate in the oven to stay warm. He has a key to my apartment, so he must have snuck in while Datsun (my dog) and I were out on our walk.

I LOVE Wes's hominy. I never liked hominy until I met him, but I guess it's because I'd never had it prepared right. So I wasn't about to turn down a free meal of one of my favorite foods! Even if that did mean ending my local eating project ahead of schedule. I just love Wes! He's the best neighbor ever! He pets sits and keeps my babies stocked in dog and cat treats! And he makes delicious food!

Along with the hominy were hearty white beans:

And sweet corn:

I also steamed some local broccoli to go along with the meal because I'm leaving for Nashville tomorrow to visit the Dutchman. I didn't want the broccoli to go bad over the weekend:

And well, since I'd already broken my local rules, I decided to go ahead and quell my chocolate lust with this Liz Lovely Mochadamia Mountain Cookie!

I only had a small bite because half the cookie is 10 grams of fat. But wow! I think this is my favorite cookie ever! It's so soft and chocolate-y with a hint of coffee flavor. I only found one small macadamia nut in the bite I took, but it was flavorful and crunchy...just like a macadamia nut should be.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Kohlrabi Krazy!

I picked up a batch of kohlrabi at the farmer's market on Saturday, and though I'd heard of it, I'd never eaten it ... until tonight. Kohlrabi's not much in the looks department with it's weird tentacle-ish leaves and bulbous root. It's like some kind of bizarre alien crop. See for yourself:

I sliced the bulb and chopped up the leaves for my Local Kohlrabi and Bok Choy Stir-Fry tonight:

And it's actually pretty tasty. Well, at least the bulb is tasty...a little like cabbage with a hint of turnip flavor. But the leaves are very bitter. Probably the most bitter green I've ever eaten.

Once seasoned with soy sauce (and yes, I know that's not local, but I consider soy sauce a seasoning ... and I'm making exceptions for seasonings), the bitter taste was masked. I also tossed in local baby bok choy, squash, carrots, Farm Soy tofu, and garlic (from Granny's garden). Served with Riceland brown rice, it really fulfilled my Chinese food if I only could find some local chocolate...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Southern Charm

I hate a lot of things about the South — racism, poverty, stupid white trash people at Wal-Mart with no shoes and too many babies. But there's so much more to love — warm temperatures all winter, Southern accents, mint juleps, fans on the porch, polite strangers, and well, the food.

Tonight's local fare was about as Southern as it gets (sans the fried chicken and barbecue of course). For starters, I had a heaping portion of purple hull peas:

At the start of my local eating project, my Granny gave me several freezer bags of peas that she froze last season. In case you don't know, purple hull peas taste and look similar to black-eyed peas.

On the side, I steamed kale and turnips from the farmer's market:

And I baked a sweet potato (also from Granny) and topped it with Farm Soy yogurt and onions from the farmer's market:

Here's the whole plate:

For lunch, I made Local Tomato-Basil Rice Soup:

I used a jar of local tomatoes that Granny canned last season and pureed them with about four giant basil leaves (if using a smaller leaf, I'd suggest using five or six) and some garlic. Then, I added brown Riceland rice (grown in the Southern region). Not pictured is the salad I had on the side. I figure ya'll are tired of looking at my salad pictures.

By the way, I've been tagged by the lovely Romina to name five things about myself. It'll be my third time doing this, so hopefully, I can think of some new stuff.

1. As much as I love the food and culture of the South now, I used to despise it. As a young child, I thought growing up in Arkansas made me a hick, and I so wished I'd been born somewhere cool like California or New York. I got rid of my accent at a very early age. Now I let it slip through sometimes though.

2. I use Arbonne cosmetics and Lush bath and face products. I'm sooo in love with Lush, and Memphis has one of the few stores nationwide. All Arbonne products are vegan and most Lush ones are. The ones that aren't contain honey and are clearly marked.

3. My dad just built me a new computer desk, completely from scratch and all by himself! I'm sitting at it right now, and it's beautiful. It looks like something you'd buy in a furniture store, but it's way better because it was made with love!

4. I'm kind of a bad vegan when I eat out at restaurants. Not always, but if I'm somewhere where the options are slim, I'm willing to overlook margarine. Also, I never ask if veggie items are cooked in the same grease/pan/grill as the meat items. Honestly, I don't want to know. And I think being too anal about these things make veganism unappealing and unattainable for any non-vegans I may be dining with. My goal is to change everyone!

5. I work out at the gym at least 4 times a week. Some nights, I do spinning classes. Other nights, it's yoga or Latin dance class. Tonight, it was boxing. I can do a mean knockout punch.

And I'm tagging:
Kate at The Federal Vegan
Marisa at The True and Tall Tales of My Fantastic and Brilliant Life
Jessy at Happy Vegan Face

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

Well, I guess Memorial Day is actually almost over, but hope you guys had a happy one! My friend Greg and I grilled some local squash from the farmer's market today. Here's Greg hard at work:

You might notice two veggie burgers in the background. I couldn't help it. I know they're not local, but it's a freakin' holiday and the official beginning of the summer grilling season. But I gotta say, the local squash was the highlight of the meal. See how much I'm enjoying it here:

I did stick to my local food rules for lunch when I made this giant garden salad:

It's a mixture of baby lettuces, arugala, snap peas, French Breakfast radishes, organic cucumbers, carrots, green onion, toasted pecans, and tofu. Very satisfying! And though it's not pictured, I had a big ol' bowl of peaches and strawberries for a mid-afternoon snack.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eat Fresh

I think it's funny that Subway's motto is "Eat Fresh." I mean, granted, Subway's options are way fresher than, say, McDonald's. But seriously, who knows where their produce comes from? Who know how many chemicals are sprayed all over that stuff? Ick. Then again, I'm not going to stop eating at Subway, so...but for this week of local eating, I'm experiencing food at its freshest. Take my breakfast this morning, for example:

It doesn't get much fresher than organic, local strawberries served over Farm Soy soygurt (produced on The Farm, which is 3 hours from Memphis). Though the soybeans used for the yogurt come from Missouri, that's still pretty darn close (it is outside my 300 mile limit, but I figured I could make an exception for soy products ... a girl's gotta have her protein, you know).

Speaking of local breakfasts, I started my local food week with fried grit sticks using Delta Grind grits (produced and grown in Oxford, Mississippi):

Also on Friday, I made a Sweet Potato Saute with Squash and Fresh Basil and served with Riceland brown rice (also one my stretch items ... but it's grown within a small region in the South including Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi). I tossed toasted pecans from my Uncle Dale's pecan farm into the rice:

After hitting the market on Saturday morning, I threw together this delicious Strawberry Arugala and Baby Spring Salad with Toasted Pecans and Radishes:

And last night, I baked some Farm Soy tofu and tossed it with Swiss Chard:

In case you're wondering, I am allowing for spices, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar to allow for salad dressings, cooking oil, and seasoning.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Locavore Project

A "locavore," the New Oxford American Dictionary's word of year for 2007, is someone who eats food grown as close to their home as possible. Some locavores grow their own food. Other shop at farmer's market or hit up pick-your-own patches. Eating local reduces the miles from food to plate, and produce tends to be more nutritious when eaten soon after picking. Though I try to eat as much local food as possible during the growing season, I'm far from the strict mileage standards put in place by many locavores. Until now.

Beginning yesterday, I'm trying out a locavore diet for one week. I'll be writing about the experience in the newspaper I work for, The Memphis Flyer. So I'll save the pitfalls and details for the printed edition (hint: This means NO chocolate!). And I'll share the link with you guys when the story hits the web. But of course, I can't resist sharing the pics right away.

This morning, I stocked up at the Memphis Farmer's Market. I'm sticking to foods grown in a 300-mile radius, but I want to get as much from as close to home as possible. I was worried that would mean living on salad greens and sweet potatoes since it's so early in the season. But I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of produce available at market this morning:

From left to right: Arugala, Baby Lettuce, Japanese Turnips, Snap Peas, Carrots (the sweetest, most delicious carrots I've ever eaten), Squash, and French Breakfast Radishes.

L to R: Kale, Baby Bok Choy, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Wild Vidalia Onions, and Kohlrabi.

L to R: Cabbage, Organic Cucumber, Broccoli.

L to R: Organic Strawberries, Peaches.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fiesta In the Morning

All week, I've been starting my days with savory, spicy Tofu "Sausage" Breakfast Burritos:

I love salty treats for breakfast (though sweets are okay sometimes too). But mostly, I'm a savory kind of gal in the a.m. hours. When I was a kid, my mom let me eat Ramen noodles for breakfast everyday. Probably not the most nutritious choice, but that's what I wanted.

These days, I save Ramen for special occasions, like when I need food to solve an emotional crisis. It's the ultimate comfort food for me, even better than soy ice cream. But Ramen noodles tend to be fried and pretty fatty. But I digress. This is supposed to be a post about my Tofu Sausage burrito.

For the burrito, I made a tofu scramble seasoned with garlic powder, turmeric, dried basil, celery salt, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce. I thawed out a couple the Julie Hasson sausage links I made a few weeks ago (for the recipe and pretty picture, click here), and diced them into small pieces. Then I added them to the tofu scramble.

I topped the mixture with Follow Your Heart vegan cheddar and spicy garlic-cilantro salsa and then wrapped it all up in a Garden Spinach burrito shell. Perfect way to start the day! Too bad I'm all out of burrito fixins' for tomorrow's breakfast.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Meat Is Murder, So Pass Me the Artichoke

PETA stopped in town today during a 10-city tour to promote World Vegetarian Week (May 19-25). Two PETA interns, doused with fake blood and packaged like meat, lay in the hot Memphis sun to illustrate their "Meat Is Murder" campaign.

The demo was scheduled during the work day, but lucky for me, my editor sent me over to take some pictures for our newspaper. So I was working, but I still got to see the demonstration.

When I got home, I tried something completely new to me — Steamed Whole Artichoke:

I've had plenty of those marinated baby artichokes, but until tonight, I'd never actually cooked or eaten a whole artichoke. I was inspired by an artichoke article and recipe spread in the latest Vegetarian Times. On the side is Orange-Jalepeno Dipping Sauce, also from that Veg Times article.

The tender steamed artichoke was delicious, but man, it was a lot of work. For those who don't know (because I didn't), you only get a tiny bit of artichoke "meat" on the end of each leaf, which you scrape off with your teeth. Then, buried deep in the center under some spiky tentacle things, is the tasty, tiny heart. I accidentally tried to eat the spiky parts, but quickly realized that was a bad idea. Oops!

On the side, I made the Chickpea-Quinoa Pilaf from the Veganomicon:

Spiced with cumin, coriander, and tomato paste, this was one of the best quinoa dishes I've ever had. I think I like the combo of quinoa and chickpeas even more than I like quinoa and black beans. And that's saying a lot ... because I love black beans and quinoa.

How to Steam an Artichoke
1) Rinse the artichoke to remove dirt or nastiness.
2) Cut the tough stem and then trim the pointy tips from each leaf with scissors.
3) Rub a lemon half over the cut leaf ends to prevent browning.
4) Put about two inches of water in a large pot. Toss in one garlic clove and a bay leaf. Squeeze the rest of the lemon into the water.
5) Place artichoke top down in a steamer basket. Place the basket in the pot and cover.
6) Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Steam 40-50 minutes or until bottom leaves fall off easily.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Put My Root Down

Every time I cook with root veggies, I get the Beastie Boys' "Root Down" stuck in head ... which isn't a bad thing at all. Tonight, I used these lovely root crops to make a delicious Seitan & Root Veggie Pot Pie:

The pie is going in my cookbook, but you can see here what the main ingredients are — sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots, turnips, and yellow onion. I made a Whole Wheat Pie Crust using another "going in the cookbook" recipe. After some cubing, boiling, seasoning, mixing, and rolling, this came out of the oven:

This was one of the most comforting dishes I've made in awhile. However, I have a hard time making pie crust look pretty, so sorry if it doesn't look as appetizing as it tasted. I

Fortunately, I froze three slices and I've got another three in the fridge to eat for lunches throughout the rest of the week. Yea! Pot Pie Forever!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Free Veggie Burger!

I'm sure many of you got the Peta e-mail about Johnny Rockets May veggie burger promotion. But just in case you didn't, I'll fill ya in. For the entire month, Johnny Rockets (a 1950s-style diner), is handing out free veggie Streamliner Burgers with the purchase of another burger, drink, or fries. Click here for the coupon.

Now, I believe we have one Johnny Rockets location in Memphis, but it's way far out in the suburbs. And I'm not even sure if it's still open. But this weekend in Nashville, the Dutchman and I stopped into the Johnny Rockets location inside the Opry Mills Mall. He ordered a meat burger (yuk!) and I got my free Streamliner, which is made with a Boca patty (I assume they use the vegan one since Peta is promoting it).

Wow, this was one tasty Boca. They always taste better when eaten in restaurants for some reason. And it comes with lettuce, onion, tomato, and mustard, so there's no need to ask them to leave off the cheese or mayo. Yea! We also spilt an order of fries and onion rings. The fries were just fries, but the onion rings were amazingly crispy!

Also while in Nashville, we checked out the Farmer's Market. It was huge, but I was a little unimpressed with the selection of local produce. Many items, like bananas and oranges, had obviously been shipped in from way far away. Our downtown Memphis market is much smaller but it only sells local produce, and you get to meet the farmers since you buy from them directly.

I did find some locally-grown heirloom tomatoes though! I'm sure they're hot house tomatoes since it's too early for real tomatoes. But they were clearly marked "Tennessee product."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Omelet Scramble

So last night, I tried to make Susan V's lovely vegan omelet recipe from Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen. But apparently, I need a new non-stick skillet because my omelet turned into tofu scramble:

Grrrr....but I gotta say, this was the best damn tofu scramble I've ever put in my mouth. And I've eaten a lot of freakin' tofu scramble. Honestly, I knew better. I knew my crappy non-stick skillet wouldn't cut it. It didn't work for crepes, and I knew it wouldn't work for this. But I wanted it so badly!

Inside the omelet mush is Follow Your Heart vegan cheddar (see how well it melted here!) and hash browns cooked with shredded carrot, onion, and kale. The "eggs" (made from silk tofu) were so light and fluffy, way different than the texture you get with a typical firm tofu scramble.

I tried the recipe again tonight, but I baked the omelet in the oven like Webley did on Fueled By Popcorn. Hers turned out beautifully. Mine, however, was another flop. The tofu stuck to the baking sheet (even though I thoroughly greased it) just like it did in the skillet. I didn't even take a picture because it looked exactly like the first batch.

I'll be making this again though...even without a new skillet, it's the best faux scrambled eggs recipe I've ever tried.

BTW, I'm going to Nashville for the weekend, but I'll be back on Sunday. I'm going to visit my boyfriend (who lives there), and I'm also escaping Memphis' annual World Championship BBQ Fest. People come from all over the world to roast pig flesh this weekend, and I want to be as far away as possible. The stench of smoked death hangs over downtown Memphis for days...yuk!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Love for Legumes

Inspired by one of Jennifer's culinary creations over on Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings, I made Sweet Potato and Lentil Burritos:

Now, this recipe was totally a happy accident. Jennifer actually made Lentil and Potato Tacos (using red potatoes), but while making out my grocery list, I failed to consult her blog. In my head, the recipe called for sweet potatoes rather than red ones. Then my Granny gave me a bagful of sweet potatoes, so even after I learned my mistake, I decided to stick with the potato change.

And then I accidentally bought small Garden Spinach burrito wraps instead of soft taco shells (which is what I really wanted...Jennifer used hard shells in her version). When I buy burrito wraps, I usually buy the giant ones. So, by comparison, these looked small in the package. But when I got them home, I realized they were quite a bit larger than a regular taco shell. Oh well, the end result was still very tasty! Although I totally screwed up Jennifer's original recipe, my version is at the end of this post.

On the side, I had my recipe for Smoky Collard Greens (in the cookbook) using greens I picked up last Saturday at the farmer's market.

Bianca's Accidental Sweet Potato and Lentil Burritos
1 cup dry lentils
1 sweet potato, diced
4 burrito wrappers (I used Garden Spinach flavor)
1/4 small onion, diced
Chili powder
Garlic Powder

Boil the lentils and onions about 45 minutes or until soft. In a separate pot, boil potatoes 20 minutes or until soft.

Season the lentils liberally with chili powder. Add cumin, paprika, and garlic powder to taste. Salt the sweet potatoes. Scoop lentils into burrito shells. Top with potatoes and salsa. Roll up and enjoy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Organic Strawberry Fields Forever

Spring means three things — farmer's markets, asparagus, and pick-your-own organic strawberries from Windmere Farms in Raleigh, a surburb in north Memphis.

I've been waiting and waiting and waiting for my chance to pick the first juicy organic berries of the season. The folks at Windmere, the awesome Ken and Freida Lansing, send out emails when the berries are ready for pickin.' I received my first email several weeks ago and set up an appointment to pick, but others chose the same day and the ripe berries were gone before I could get there. A few days later Frieda called me for a berry alert. I told her I'd come later that day because I was at work when she called. But other strawberry fans beat me to the fields yet again and I missed out. So Saturday, I drove straight out there bright and early. I picked five quarts for $12!

On Mother's Day, I took a quart of berries with me to my mom's house in Jonesboro, and we made a yummy-nummy Vegan Strawberry Pie with Whole Wheat Pie Crust using my Granny's veganized recipe.

Granny usually uses strawberry Jello in her pie, but she's been experimenting with only using cornstarch as a thickener. Once she perfected the recipe, she passed it on to me to put in my cookbook.

At first, my pie didn't set properly because I didn't cook the cornstarch mixture long enough. We had to dump the strawberry mixture out of the crust, strain out the berries, and continue thickening the cornstarch. Fortunately, the pie was saved! And thank god cause because each bite was just delectable.

Last year, I taught myself to make Strawberry Jam using Sure-Jell, which is vegan since it contains pectin instead of gelatin. I made quite a bit last season, but I gave some away and I ate a lot of strawberry jam on toast over the course of the year. I only had one jar left, so I made six more jars. I gave some to my mom, Me-Maw, and Granny on Mother's Day, and I saved three jars for my own pantry.

The recipe is printed inside the Sure-Jell package, but it's really simple.

Strawberry Jam
1 package Sure-Jell
5 cups strawberries
7 cups sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)

Place lids for Ball or Mason jars in a bowl of boiling hot water, and leave them there until ready to use

Measure out sugar and pour into a bowl. Squish capped strawberries with a potato masher. Place strawberries in a saucepan and mix in Sure-Jell. Bring to a rolling boil (where the bubbles don't stop even while you stir).

Quickly pour in sugar and bring to a rolling boil again. Stir constantly. When a full rolling boil is reached, allow to boil for exactly one minute (and they do mean exactly...this step can determine whether or not the jam sets properly).

Turn off heat and quickly spoon into glass jelly jars. Wipe off lids (that should have been soaking in hot water) and screw on caps. Place jars in a canner (or I use a large soup pot). Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and allow to set for 24 hours.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Communal Dining

Food always taste better when eaten with friends! But since I live alone, I usually eat alone. This weekend, however, I've had the pleasure of two communal meals with fellow vegetarians. Today, our local veggie group Food Awareness meet up at Pho Hoa Binh, my very favorite Vietnamese restaurant. They have a $4.50 tofu lunch buffet during the work week. But on Saturdays, you have to order from the menu and the food is served family-style. So of course we all sampled each person's dish.

For starters, we split several orders of spring rolls. These come stuffed with fried tofu, vermicelli, tomato, and lettuce and a side of peanut sauce:

I ordered the Tofu Mushroom (this is soooo yummy! Its probably my favorite dish):

Stephanie from Poopie Bitch had the Hunan Wheat Gluten (mock duck with veggies in a sorta spicy sauce). She was a little freaked out by the texture of the wheat gluten because it's a little too close to feeling like real meat when you bite into it. But I thought it was pretty tasty.

Leslie had the Lemongrass Tofu (fried tofu in sweet and spicy stuff). This is one of my other fave dishes at Pho Hoa Binh:

Amberlyn, who isn't fond of tofu, ordered the steamed veggies (baby bok choy, mushrooms, baby corn, and carrots):

Vaughan had the Snow Pea Pods with Mushroom:

And then Stephanie surprised us with super-yummy Banana Cupcakes with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting!!! Oh my freakin' god were these good! And adorable! They had walnuts in them and she used whole wheat flour, so they were a little bit healthy ... um, kind of.

Last night, I was invited to a vegan dinner at Judith's house. She's a close friend of my friend Vaughan's and she has an amazing condo out in East Memphis. She made vegan chili using TVP, and it was really, really tasty:

And she also made vegan cornbread with jalepenos, which I crumbled up in my chili:

Vaughan was in charge of the salad bar. He did a great job with a veggie mix, spring greens, mushrooms, walnuts, and blueberries (not pictured):

Tomorrow, expect pictures of some yummy strawberry treats! I picked five quarts of organic strawberries this morning at Windmere Farms in Raleigh! Yea for spring!