Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reluctantly Gluten-Free (almost)

I haven't wanted to admit it to myself, but it's true. I should avoid gluten. For the past several weeks, I've been avoiding it almost completely. And I feel great. Dang it! I really didn't want to be a gluten-free vegan. It sounded like such a pain. But if anything, the past few weeks have taught me that it's not much of a pain after all. Swapping out spelt or sprouted bread and brown rice pasta for "regular" bread and pasta took care of most everything. And I can still bake, thanks to Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free Baking Flour.

Am I 100% gluten-free? Not really. I ate some naan at an Indian restaurant the other day. I couldn't resist! But I noticed that afterward, I felt drowsy, and irritated in both a physical and emotional way. Hard to explain, just a sort of sleepy yet inflamed feeling. That can't be good!

Avoiding this weird reaction isn't the only benefit of avoiding gluten, though. For the first time in my life, I am not constantly craving sweets. Jonesing for junk food, regardless of whether I am hungry, has been the background noise of my existence for as long as I can remember. I didn't think of it as a problem, I just chalked it up to having a sweet tooth. Wow, what a liberating feeling to simply feel either satisfied, or actually hungry. Now I know what it's like to be able to NOT think about food for long periods of time. Is this what normal feels like?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year's Dinner

I made this black-eyed pea soup on New Year's Eve, and I thought it was so-so. Then the next morning, a reheated bowl of the same soup was great! In fact, it tasted like a different soup altogether. I've heard a million times how soups are better the next day, but in my own cooking, I've only noticed subtle differences until now. Anyway, if you make this soup, please don't eat any until it's a day old!

2 c. dried black-eyed peas, rinsed, sorted, and soaked overnight
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
6 cups water
1/2 pound spinach, washed with any tough stems removed
28-oz. can chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. double-concentrate tomato paste

Saute the onion, celery, and carrot in oil over medium high heat until softened. Add garlic and saute an additional minute or two. Add thyme, oregano, water, and black-eyed peas. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are softened, about 30 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and cook an additional 25 minutes.

I served this with yams and cornbread. For the yams, I peeled and diced 2 yams, tossed them with olive oil, then roasted them in a 350-degree oven until they were soft and browned, tossing once during cooking. I salted them after cooking with coarse sea salt. If you don't have your own favorite vegan corn bread recipe yet, you won't find one here. Try Veganomicon!

Aloo Gobi

This is a recent cauliflower & potato dish I made, adapted from a similar recipe at Manjula's Kitchen. I cut down on the fat and salt -- because who among us really needs more fat or salt? -- and fiddled with the spices to suit my taste. Anyway, this is a hit at my house. Pictured here with dal, you can really serve it with anything, or eat it all on its own. In my opinion, the amchoor is the secret to really making this dish shine. If you haven't got any yet, now is a good time to get yourself to your nearest Indian shop and buy some amchoor powder.

Aloo Gobi

2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 medium potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes (no need to peel)
½ inch grated ginger
3 teaspoons ground coriander
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons canola oil
Pinch of Asafetida
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 jalapenos, diced
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)
½ c. frozen peas
1 teaspoon amchoor (dried mango powder)
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, create a paste with the grated ginger, coriander, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and 3 tablespoons of water. Heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat. Test the heat by adding one cumin seed to the oil; if seed cracks right away, the oil is ready. Add asafetida and cumin seeds to the oil. After the seeds crack, add the bay leaves and jalapeno and stir for a few seconds. Add the spice paste and stir for a minute until spices start leaving the oil. Add cauliflower, potatoes, 2 tablespoons of water and salt. Mix well. Cover the pan and let it cook on medium heat for about 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Stir gently every 3 to 4 minutes to prevent sticking, and if the mixture appears too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water. During the last few minutes of cooking, sprinkle the frozen peas on top; they will defrost and warm up quickly. Add the amchoor and cilantro. Mix everything and cover for a minute. Adjust the salt to your taste.

Five months later...

Claire Mixing up a batch of those healing vegan cupcakes from Nigel Ballard on Vimeo.

My first update to this blog in ages... moving house has taken precedence. We are settling in nicely, after an October/ November stint of temporary housing and the typical chaos of unpacking.

I'll post some house pics soon, but for now here are pics and a short video of Pistachio-Rosewater cupcakes that Claire and I made a couple weeks ago: the first baking in our new house! (Recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, naturally.) I chopped the nuts with my newest kitchen gadget, a Mezza Luna. Nigel bought it for me for my birthday in October, and it stayed packed until recently. I think it's mainly for chopping herbs, but it worked great with nuts too.