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Thursday, April 21, 2011

A First Taste of Spring

      I'm currently on "Spring Break" from school this week. That translates to studying for 3 exams, working on a group project, and taking advantage of my "free time" to make the doctor appointments that I've been putting off all year. I tested a few new recipes over the past two weeks, including:

  • VegWeb's Barbecue Tempeh - a little too tomatoey and sweet for my taste; Danny pinpointed the missing flavor, and with a few drops of liquid smoke we had the barbecue taste we were looking for
  • Mexicali Tofu Bowl - my version of Chipotle's Burrito Bowl using the "Mexicali Tofu Scramble" from Skinny Bitch Ultimate Everyday Cookbook as my base: rice sprinkled with fresh lime, black bean mash, salsa marinated tofu scramble, sauteed peppers and onions, and black olives served with corn tortillas; amazing as is, but next time I would add some guacamole, corn, and fresh cilantro
  •  Homemade pizza - This isn't a new recipe, and I think I've mentioned it before. It's becoming a weekly thing now because it's such a quick and easy recipe: Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough layered with tomato sauce, grilled veggies (Trader Joe's frozen eggplant and zucchini blend), sundried tomatoes, and olives. Bon appetit!
  • VegWeb's Cinnamon Buns - I have finally overcome my fear of yeast! This recipe was definitely time-consuming, but most of it was downtime (letting the yeast rise). The instructions were so easy to follow, and the buns came out perfectly! I brought them to my friend's Arbonne party, and she had an amazing array of all vegan desserts prepared: homemade pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, and gluten-free banana waffles topped with ice cream! 

  • Spicy Wehani and Cashews - I usually never follow the suggested recipes on food packaging, but I bought a bulk box of my favorite aromatic nutty brown "Lundberg Wehani Rice," and wanted to try something new with it. I tested this recipe in my new cast-iron dutch oven, which reminded me of the amazing little cast-iron pot that my roommate's family swore by to cook their Puerto Rican rice dishes. The rice came out really fragrant and moist in the dutch-oven, and best of all - no sticking to the bottom of the pot!  If you can handle the bold flavors of cumin and cloves, try this recipe! 

To make all of these tasty dishes, I need some fresh, inexpensive veggies! Hence, my backyard garden! My dad and I started some organic seeds indoors a over a week ago, and they are doing well. We planted indoors: kale, tatsoi (an Asian green), red swiss chard, green lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, bell peppers, basil, butternut squash, delicata squash, cilantro, San Marzano tomatoes, and another unidentified tomato variety from my dad's family in Sicily. My dad went a little seed-happy and threw handfuls of seed into each cell, so we have lots of thinning to do! Outdoors we planted peas, sugar snap peas, red radish, mizuna (another Asian green), Indian Mustard, and garlic (from Sophia Garden, planted last fall). I've been on a gardening kick lately, thanks to two great events I attended this past weekend. On Friday, I attended the Small Farm Summit at SUNY Old Westbury. This conference attracted hundreds of Long Islanders interested in supporting sustainable local agriculture. The keynote address was given by Joel Salatin, the famous organic farmer and author featured in Michael Pollan's books and documentaries like Food Inc. and Fresh. At the event, I attended a lecture on starting an organic garden and another that featured new and experienced farmers on Long Island. There was also an expo at the event center featuring non-profit organizations and sustainable businesses on Long Island. The next day, Danny and I attended the Cornell University Cooperative Extension's Spring Gardening School in Riverhead. We attended two informative lectures by Master Gardeners: one on Asian herb & vegetable gardening and the other on growing vegetables. The Asian lecture was given by this cute and funny little Thai woman who made it sound really easy to grow things like ginger and lemongrass indoors. She went through so many other exotic herbs and vegetables that can grow outdoors in my region or in the home. The vegetable gardening lecture was given by a British man who runs an organic farm on eastern Long Island that grows just for food pantries! It's a beautiful day today, so I'm going to go study outside and watch my plants grow! Oh, and don't forget Earth Day (tomorrow, April 22nd!)

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