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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cook Now, Study Later

  It feels like forever since I wrote my last post. This past week dragged on way too long. I had exams in two different classes yesterday, so I spent most of the weekend studying after working the 5am opening shifts at Starbucks. I don't know if I've mentioned before, but I'm working towards a Masters in Nutrition and Registered Dietitian certification. I applied to Hunter College in Manhattan, so I'm still waiting to hear if I've been accepted to the program. For the past year, I've been taking the pre-requisite science courses at my local community college. I was also busy playing homemaker this week, since my mom was visiting my grandpa in Florida for his 93rd birthday. I always cook my own meals, but this week I had to feed my dad as well. He was born and raised in Sicily, so he really only has a taste for dishes with familiar Mediterranean ingredients. In addition to Italian food, I can usually serve him Greek or Middle Eastern style dishes, but Asian is out of the question. I made the "French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme" and "Chestnut Lentil Pate" recipes from Veganomicon one night. The soup was nice, but next time I would add tiny pasta and give it a spicy kick with cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. I used a bag of organic roasted chestnuts that I bought at a Korean market in the pate and substituted green lentils. I served the pate with melba crackers. It had a subtle sweetness from the chestnuts, but the nutmeg was a little overpowering for me. I also made a side of "tempeh bacon" from Vegan With a Vengeance, which is one of my favorite recipes. Another night I adapted a recipe for a chickpea, artichoke, and almond salad from Vegan Yum Yum by adding crushed tomatoes and serving it over whole wheat pasta. I had made this variation once before, and it was definitely better the first time. I think I overcooked the pasta a bit, because I usually prefer mine to be chewy "al dente" style.

On Friday night I picked an unassuming recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance, because it sounded healthy and I had most of the ingredients on hand. I made "beet, barley, and black soybean soup with pumpernickel croutons" (which is author Isa Chandra Moskowitz's interpretation of the classic Russian borscht). The soup had a beautiful magenta color, and interesting sweet, sour, and earthy flavor. I didn't have pumpernickel bread, but substituted some dense, chewy German dark rye bread for the croutons. These, as well as some fresh dill, rounded out the dish. My picky father actually ate two large bowls of this soup!

Tonight, Danny and I made a vegan version of "Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos" from, which we served with arugula salad and Trader Joe's sweet potato chips. We substituted black beans for the kidney beans and added some sweet plantain. They were good, but to make them really addictive I would add a lot more plantain, some brown rice, and corn. After dinner we baked up "Chocolate Chai Cupcakes" from VegWeb. They had a nice moist consistency, but the chai flavor was not strong enough (I even used three tea bags). I don't bake often, so I've never made frosting before. We attempted a recipe for "fluffy" frosting, but it turns out that coconut oil is not a good substitute for shortening. The frosting tasted good, but didn't really thicken, so we were unable to pipe it. If anyone has suggestions for making good frosting, let me know!

It seems as though I've tested a ton of recipes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's books this past week. Some were hit or miss, but overall her recipes are solid. I just remembered that I also tried the "chickpea cutlets" with "mustard sauce" from Veganomicon last weekend. I was actually really grossed out the first time I tasted the cutlets. I'm not a fan of vital wheat gluten, so the gumminess that it gave the cutlets turned me off. The mustard sauce was also overpowering, because I used a strong Dijon mustard and the capers were too vinegary. The next day I baked the leftover cutlets in the toaster oven, and they seemed to cook through more in the middle. I spread some tahini on them and then the mustard sauce and voila! the taste and texture had improved tenfold. Next time I make them I might try baking them instead of pan frying them and serving them with a different sauce. I had a gallon of this mustard sauce leftover, but found a great use for it! My new favorite salad is romaine lettuce, orange wedges, kalamata olives, chopped Medjool dates, and hemp seed with the mustard sauce as a dressing. If you don't want to whip up the mustard sauce, I've had this salad before with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.


  1. For frosting - don't use shortening either. You'll want to just use margarine. I use Earth Balance in all of my frostings. You also want to make sure that you don't over whip it. I'd give you my recipe, but since I'm trying to start vegan bakery, I'm a bit secretive :P

  2. Wow I can't imagine margarine holding up enough to make fluffy frosting...I was never very good at chemistry. Can I use EB from the tub? I assume it probably has to be the unsalted sticks? And by whip do you mean I need one of those fancy Kitchen Aid mixers? Because I used a cheap handheld mixer, which didn't really do much.

  3. Sorry I never answered this! I'd buy sticks of EB, but you can use it from the tub. It's just easier to measure in stick form. For any type of frosting you want to "cream" the butter first, which you should be able to do with your handheld. If you over whip or cream it, it just gets aerated too much.

    Also - Justin and I tried the Sweet Potato Burrito recipe you shared, the other night. It was really good! We're going to add some fresh raw veggies next time - some avocado, mixed greens, just to add a different texture to it. Thanks for sharing that link!!

  4. Thanks for the frosting tip! I said the same thing about the burritos...with a little crunchy texture to contrast the smooth sweet potato and black beans they would be excellent!