Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Baked apples stuffed with snausage

I conceived and made this dish a while ago, but never got around to posting.  It seems like a good Thanksgiving dish to me, so I'm putting it up now for the benefit of any last-minute types who are looking for a vegan protein to add to the plate.

I love baked apples and have always made them as a sweet dish.  My favorite way used to be to stuff them with chopped dried fruit and nuts.  This time around, it occurred to me that baked apples could be a savory dish.  I stumbled on a meatful recipe for baked apples stuffed with something disgusting like ground up pig muscle, and it occurred to me that I could stuff mine with vegan sausage.

The easy and peaceful way to do this would be to buy some vegan sausage, stuff it into the cavities left when you core the apples, and bake.  But I had to make my own sausage.  I looked at recipes calling for textured soy protein, tofu, tempeh (I don't actually like tempeh, but periodically think I should try to learn to like it), and seitan, and settled on one using frozen tofu.

I cored the apples, stuffed the cavities with snausage mixture, and baked as usual until the apples were done.  The snausage started to get brown too quickly, and so I covered the apples with foil for a while.  I would recommend starting out with them covered, and then uncover for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.

They look cool when you slice them open:

Verdict:  this was fun, but I wouldn't make it the same way again.  I ended up with way too much snausage for the number of apples I had, and ended up nuking the rest and just eating it for breakfast one morning.  I also didn't think the snausage was tasty enough for the amount of trouble that went into making it.  The dried herbs didn't integrate with the frozen tofu very well; you could kind of distinguish them in your mouth.  If I were going to do this again, it would be because I wanted snausage for some other purpose, or had some leftover snausage lying around.  Maybe when I finally attempt the bean and seitan sausage that has taken the internets by storm, I'll seek out a few baking apples and give it another try.  I wouldn't use Italian snausage, though -- I'd recommend something more like a breakfast snausage flavor.  If you want to try this with store-bought snausage, I would try either the Tofurky snausage links (because I like all the Tofurky snausage products I've tried), or splurge on Field Roast sage-and-apple snausages, which I've never tried but don't they sound good?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cranberry Applesauce for Thanksgiving!

I wanted to be sure to get this one up before Thanksgiving in case anyone else is experimenting with cranberries.

The apples this year have been disappointing.  A few weeks ago, my girlfriend bought a bag of Honeycrisp apples, of all things, and found them too tart for eating raw.  Honeycrisp!  Go figure.  I said no worries, I'll make them into applesauce.  I was going to do something really simple, just the apples and some Trader Joe's pumpkin pie spice (I love their pumpkin pie spice because it has cardamom and lemon zest in it).  Then I got to thinking about all the cranberries I have in the bottom of my freezer.

Trader Joe's Tomato Paste in a Tube

Just a quick note to say that this is a thing that exists, and I am thrilled.  99 cents, and no more freezing half a can of tomato paste and forgetting about it.  I bought three, because Trader Joe's has a nasty habit of discontinuing my favorite products, and I was terrified I'd never see it again.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Over the River and Through the Woods

I've written before about how I obsessively prepare for travel.  Well, on Wednesday my girlfriend and I are going to New York City for Thanksgiving; we'll be gone three days and you would think I'm packing for the North Pole.  It's not like they don't have vegan food there.

My thing is, I want to be prepared, and I don't want to be any trouble.  When I'm around my family, I go into serious people-pleasing mode and often don't take care of my own needs.  This is my issue and mine alone -- my family is wonderful and is incredibly accommodating of my vegan-ness.  My omnivore mom and aunt have planned what I think is going to be an entirely vegan menu, and my girlfriend and I will be the only vegans attending.  This won't be my first vegan Thanksgiving with them, either.  So they are amazing and kind  and supportive and nevertheless, I.  Have.  Issues.

For years, I would binge whenever I went to New York.  There is so much yummy food there, much of which you can't get, or can't get as good, anywhere else.  And there's a lot of food I connect with emotionally.  (Bialys are probably the best example of both these qualities, but there are many others.)  The last few times I've visited, I've been so worried about not overeating that I've undereaten, and then there has been an equal and opposite reaction when I've returned home.   On this trip, I am determined to do neither of these things.  I am determined to take care of myself.  I didn't take good care of myself when I lived in NY, and so far I haven't pulled it off on a visit, either, so this will be a first.  And for me these days, taking care of myself means bringing my own food.

Friday, November 16, 2012

In Praise of Plateaus

Everyone who is interested in plant-based eating and health should read Moonwatcher's blog, Plant-Based Slow Motion Miracle.  She is a terrific writer and her story of recovery from MS is really inspiring.

In a recent post, Moonwatcher talked about "the power of the plateau."   Everyone who's ever been on a diet has heard of plateaus.  A plateau is when you stop losing weight for a while and just . . . sit.  Much ink has been spilled about why plateaus happen and how to get off them.  The emphasis is usually on getting off the plateau ASAP, and sometimes you read crazy suggestions for how to make that happen.  Moonwatcher has a different take.  First of all, she expands the concept so it's not just about weight loss, but about other kinds of life journeys.  And then she gives a definition of "plateau" that I really love and want to carry with me:  "place of wide vistas and new perspective."

I like this idea a lot.  A plateau is not someplace to dread, someplace to leave as quickly as possible.  A plateau is a place to rest, look around and take stock.  And a plateau could be a place to live.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fare thee well, Towson Farmer's Market . . . .

. . . . see you in June!

I went out at lunch time to return some library books, and walked right into the final farmer's market of the season.  I had forgotten all about it, but today is the last day.  I couldn't resist picking up a butternut squash, an enormous cabbage, a big bag of potatoes and a bunch of kale, even though we are going out of town Wednesday morning.  I was going to nuke some frozen broccoli for dinner tonight, but I think instead I will cook up the remainder of the enormous cabbage I bought last time.  Last night I made mung beans with balti masala, so I am thinking I will saute the cabbage in a little coconut oil with some salt, turmeric, and panch phoron.  Just real simple.  Maybe chop a tomato up in there.  Mmm, this is sounding good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Green Smoothie Cat

I'm sorry posting has been light lately.  I've been preoccupied with the election and with the fact that QUEERS CAN GET MARRIED IN THREE MORE STATES NOW, INCLUDING THE ONE I LIVE IN!  Yeah.  The girlfriend and I are getting married this winter, which is making me think I should do some posts about vegan weddings.  But today I want to talk about green smoothies.

I've been on a bit of a green smoothie kick lately.  I bought some pre-washed kale at Trader Joe's, and I've been blending it up with frozen pineapple, almond milk, and hemp protein powder for yummy breakfast delights.  Because my blender is a Ninja and not a Vitamix, the smoothies are not exactly smooth -- the kale does add some texture.  I like them anyway.  But not as much as Newman the cat does:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Time for a cleanse.

I tend to be a rationalist when it comes to food choices.  I want facts and figures.  I dig books like "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease" and "The China Study."  I mostly think concepts like food combining and detoxifying -- not to mention the oh so ridiculous colon cleansing -- are a bunch of crap, and the people who push them are either well-meaning but deluded, or charlatans.  But every so often, after I've been eating foods that aren't good for me, I feel like it's time for a cleanse.

It's mostly a psychological cleanse.  I feel like my palate needs a reset.  And I've latched onto an Ayurvedic tradition that my rational brain doesn't believe in, but at least it's harmless -- the kitchari fast.

Indian food is comfort food to me, and kitchari is Indian comfort food.  There are a million kitchari recipes, generally calling for either sabud moong (whole mung beans) or moong dal (split, skinned mung beans), and rice, in varying proportions.  I feel best when there are lots of beans in my diet, so I tend to use either equal quantities of beans and rice, or 2 parts beans to 1 part rice.

My favorite kitchari recipe is the "Mung beans and rice with veggies" from the article linked above.  I like it because it has a lot of vegetables, and you just dump everything in the pot (I don't use any oil or other ghee substitute when I make that one).  I make my own garam masala, toasting and grinding the spices myself.  It actually doesn't take very long, can be done in advance, and makes the kitchen smell wonderful.

My favorite food writer for everything Indian is Raghavan Iyer, and I've also made a variation of the kitchari recipe in his book The Turmeric Trail.   It involves tempering the spices in ghee (I sub unrefined extra virgin coconut oil) and then sauteing fresh onion and tomato with the spice mixture and adding all that to the cooked rice and dal.  It is absolutely delicious, but I don't know how "cleansing" it is with the yummy, yummy coconut oil.  I love the fragrance of unrefined coconut oil.  Sometimes I just open up the jar and inhale deeply.

Last week I made a big pot of the "mung beans and rice with veggies," and then got really sick with an intestinal virus.  This was actually kind of a good thing, as my efforts to reset my palate and get back on track with healthy eating and other self-care had not been going so well.  I decided the kitchari I'd made (which included a lot of cabbage and was kind of spicy) was too much for my sick digestive system, so I made some that was absolutely plain, just white jasmine rice, moong dal, a little turmeric, and some grated ginger.  I ate nothing but that for a couple days, sprinkled with a little Herbamare for flavor, then started alternating with the veg-and-spice version.  I guess I ended the cleanse yesterday, because I ate some chick pea curry, and some hot and sour tofu and cabbage stew, in addition to a couple servings of kitchari.  I still have one portion of the veg-and-spice kitchari left, and I may cook up a pot of some other kitchari variation this week.    If it comes out pretty, I'll post some pictures.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Vegan travel update

I'm going to be more personal in this post than I have in most of my previous ones, and talk about my eating disorder.  As they say in the Post-Punk Kitchen, shiitake is about to get real.

A couple weeks ago, I posted about my food-related preparations for a business trip.  I used to overeat, and eat a lot of junk food, when I traveled.  Now I have a new pattern:  I put a tremendous amount of energy into preparing for the trip, I eat really carefully while I'm away -- if anything, I undereat -- and then there's a backlash.  Either on the last day of the trip, or right after I return, my inner brat takes over and I overeat all kinds of junk.  And I get a resurgence of all the emotional and spiritual symptoms of my eating disorder, too -- the lying, the sneaking around, the shame, the labile temper, the social isolation.  It's amazing how quickly it happens.  And then, eventually, things settle down and I get back to baseline.

I need to put some real effort into studying this pattern and figuring out how to change it.   But not this morning!  This morning I'm going to share what I learned about travel food.