heaven in a bowl

I made a new meal tonight. Or rather, I made a meal I haven’t made in about two years. We really enjoyed it the first time, as I recall. But somehow I never got around to making it again. This time I changed and simplified the recipe, so it would fit with our no-oil lifestyle. Oh, my goodness. Jesse literally said, multiple times, “This is the best thing you have EVER made!” I’m not quite sure that’s so, but it was absolutely delicious, and SO simple. It’s one of those meals that’s literally on the table in about ten minutes, but better than anything I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant. For the pleasure of your tastebuds:

Soba Noodles with Shitake Mushrooms and Snow Peas

ingredients:

  • 1 pack of shitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups of snow peas (I used a bag of frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable broth

Pour 2 cups boiling water over the dried shitake and let them rehydrate, about five minutes. Place the vegetable broth in a medium saucepan, drain the mushroom soaking liquid into the saucepan too, so you save all the delicious broth. Rough chop the shitake.

Place all the mushrooms in a frying pan with about 1/4 cup of water, the soy sauce, and the giner. Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are softened, about five minutes. If using fresh snow peas, add them to the pan as well. If frozen, nuke those babies according to package directions.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil, add your package of noodles and cook until al dente, just a few minutes. Add the vegetables to the saucepan of noodles, give it a toss to combine, and get it to the table pronto. I like a bit of spice so I added crushed red pepper to mine. Delicious and elegant!

Meal Plan January 30th

Thus begins our first official week of our gluten-free experiment. J and I have been gf since Saturday. Why? I think gluten, or at the very least an issue with wheat, might be the source of some of J’s… intestinal issues. He’s not convinced, but he’s willing to go along with 3-4 weeks of gluten-free eating. Especially since I’m the one that cooks and he has very little say in the matter.

So these last few days I’ve been scouring the internets, looks for recipes and suggestions and info. And inevitably found the world of gluten-free blogging. Anything you want to know about, I swear there’s a blogging community built around it. How lucky for me!

Celiac Family hosts a weekly Gluten-Free Menu Swap, and I thought I’d join in. What better way to learn than to just dive in? I’m hoping to find lots of inspiration for menus further down the road, as well as some camerades who have been there/done that.

On this week’s plan:

  • Monday – leftover Irish White Bean and Cabbage Stew (minus the barley) with homemade corn tortillas.
  • Tuesday – Three Bean Chili served over rice.
  • Wednesday – Split Pea Soup and attempt number two on gluten-free corn muffins.
  • Thursday – leftovers
  • Friday – Pasta Night! This will be our first gluten-free pasta attempt. Making MamaPea’s sauce and lentil meatballs to accompany it.
  • Saturday – Fifteen Bean Soup, most likely served over rice or with homemade corn tortillas.
  • Sunday – usually pizza night in our house, but I’m not quite ready to start experimenting with multiple flours and the like. Let’s go with hommade baked beans, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
Most everything here is a tried-and-true family favorite, with simple little changes – like gf pasta in place of regular, or corn tortillas instead of muffins for accompaniment. I know I’ll need to expand my repertoire if this becomes a lifestyle for us, but for this first week at least I wanted to keep it simple and comfortable, for everyone.

 

This week’s Gluten-Free Menu Swap is being hosted by Celiac’s In The House. If you’re new here from the Menu Swap, please leave me a cheery welcome message!

A new soup.

Tonight’s supper was Irish White Bean and Cabbage soup. K will be following with the recipe. Mmmmm. Soup.

** edited many days later by K to add the recipe link and details 🙂

I found this recipe at SusanV’s FatFreeVegan blog – definitely one of my favorite sources on the net. I left out the celery (because Jesse considers it to be poison), the barley (because we’re experimenting with gluten-free eating for the next month), and the caraway seeds (because I didn’t have any).

The soup was good the first day, but amazing the next! A definite keeper. Served the soup with my first attempt at gluten-free corn muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup corn flour (masa)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combined all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whizzed all the wet ingredients together in the blender, then added to the dry and mixed together. This recipe made 15 small muffins, baked at around 375 for 20 minutes.

The tast was  good, although the muffins weren’t nearly as tender as we’re used to. And they didn’t store worth a damn. If you choose to make these, I recommend only making what you need that night.

It took me a while to work out the kinks in vegan baking. Vegan and gluten-free?? The family might be in for some dodgy experiments in the next few weeks.

sweet potato pasta

Harry has decided that he will no longer willing eat a meal if it doesn’t contain pasta.*  I didn’t want to force feed him again, but I had some sweet potatoes in the cupboard that had to get used up. How to solve this epic problem? Turn to Google, of course 🙂

A quick search for sweet potato pasta will net you plenty of recipes, but most looked a little to thick and gelatinous for my tastes. I didn’t want something creamy and thick, I wanted something light — Spring-like but with an Autumn-flare, if that makes any sense to anyone but me.

Somewhere in my search I ran across this gem. The pictures sold me. Definitely check them out. My pictures look… edible. Her shots make me want to lick my computer screen.

I’m not going to re-post the recipe here. I never do that unless I change a recipe pretty much beyond recognition. Here are the changes I made:

  1. the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of oil, although Sara says they use just enough to coat the bottom of the pan. I didn’t use any, as we are a no-oil household. Instead, I sautéed the onion in a bit of broth.
  2. I used half the amount of onion and ginger. Actually, I doubled the recipe, but didn’t double the onion and ginger. I have young palates to please. I think I would have loved the extra ginger, personally.
And that’s it! Definitely give it a go! Click here to go to the recipe 🙂

 

*Little man is in for a bit of a shock, because we’re getting ready to do some gluten-free experimenting for the next few weeks.

Too fat.

There’s a guy named Bill Phillips who wrote a book called Body for Life.  Apparently, he’s turning into a self-help nut.  Also, his past with anabolic steroids and his involvement with nutritional supplements activate my bullshit detector,  but that’s not what I’m writing about.

Karena has decided we’ll be starting a 12 week round of a BFL challenge.  Which pretty much means I’ve decided we’ll be starting a 12 week round of a BFL challenge.  There’s nothing magical about this stuff.  Move more.  Eat less.  He outlines a sensible exercise routine that alternates strength training and aerobic training six days a week and lays out a simple, well balanced menu to control intake calories.  Some of the results people have posted in three months are astounding.  We don’t expect to astound.  But, we do expect to get to more healthy weights and fitness levels.

After only this first week, I can notice a difference in strength and stamina.  It’s getting easier to put on clothes in the mornings.

One day a week is a day off from the routine.  That is tomorrow.  All bets are off for a day.  We’ll probably overdo it.

baking days

Some weeks back we bought a mondo box of bite-size Shredded Wheat. Because it was a great price. Forgetting that no one in the family cares to eat it. I used to like it, but I find I’m more of a fruit-and-toast-breakfast kind of girl. So said box has been taking up way too much room in our cupboards. Since space is at a premium in this house, I decided it was time to use it up. Happily, I remember my mother once mentioning a Shredded Wheat bread that she’d been served once at a potluck. A quick search of the internet netted me (pun intended) this recipe. Liam and I had a great time putting it together.


He surprisingly got the knack of kneading really quickly. He was chanting fold and mush, fold and mush, and turn…


Note the flour on his lip. He has to try everything at least once.


The new kitchen in which we create our culinary masterpieces. It’s not much bigger than the last kitchen, actually, but it seems to have so much storage space. And the counters! I get misty-eyed just thinking about it. We love that the cabinets are all real wood, the counters are real tile, and the bricks are real brick. Not a bit of particle board to be seen.


The finished product. It was a little soft for our tastes — we’d have preferred it to have more of a crust. But the bread had a good taste and we’ll be making it again, with a little experimentation to hopefully perfect the outcome.

suggestions

I’ve been surprised lately at the number of people we suggested read “The China Study” who have actually read it, and then, even more surprised, at the number that have decided to make the same drastic change to their lifestyle that we have. I’ll be listing many more recipes, photos, and thoughts here, now that I know there are actually people out there reading this (although not commenting!!!!!!) and making the same choices we made just a short six months ago.

Here are a few things we found indispensable in the first few months, and things I still use almost daily months later:

1. a really good blender. We have a Vitamix, and I can’t imagine life without one now. You’ll find yourself making lots of soups, and blending half will give you a much more interesting overall texture. I have smoothies for breakfast nearly every day, and they are a pleasure with the Queen of my Kitchen. Since I am knife-challenged and most of my recipes involve cutting up copious amounts of vegeetables, I use the Vitamix to do this as well. Hummus, pesto, faux sour cream and mayonnaise…. I tell you, I use this thing every day.

2. a rice cooker. Now, I used to think this was only for the appliance collectors among us. But I’ve found it to be such a timesaver. No more standing around making sure the rice doesn’t stick or burn or boil over. Perfect rice, every time. I use it about once a week and make a huge batch, freezing the better half of it. We eat plenty of stir-fries, curries, etc., so we go through a lot of rice.

3. a few good vegan cookbooks. Unfortunately, unless you have access to a large library, you’ll probably end up buying some cookbooks you’ll never use. I have a few of those. But I also have a couple great books that I use a number of times a week. A few books I heartily recommend:

  • –“How it all Vegan!” by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer. There are actually a number of these cookbooks, but I only own the one. This cookbook has some good general ideas, but to be honest I rarely use their “meal”-type recipes. I turn here for the specialty recipes. They have instructions for making soy, rice, oatmeal, and almond milks (using a blender), ideas for making fake jerky out of tofu, chickpea snacks, and the like, and some great faux recipes — faux mayo, sour cream, whipped cream. Granted, the fact that I turn to this book for these kind of recipes is probably why Jesse and I haven’t seen a more significant weight loss, but they are great for the occasional treat.
  • –anything by Nava Atlas. Most of her cookbooks are vegetarian, not strictly vegan, but I find most of her recipes already have vegan alternatives listed, or would be easily adaptable. Probably my favorite, all-purpose cookbook. I also find her recipes to be quite kid-friendly.
  • –anything by Donna Klein. I have both her “Vegan Italiano” and “Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen.” These are by far my favorite cookbooks. The recipes require a little more time and planning than some of the others, but the results are definitely worth the extra effort. I cook from this book at least a couple times a week. I think the thing I like best about Klein’s books is that they don’t rely heavily on tofu or TVP. She uses more beans and nuts and seeds, and the recipes seem more natural.

4. a huge cast iron skillet. As large as you can lift. Although eventually I’d like to get a really high-quality wok, for now this serves the purpose quite well. Great for making stir-fries, ratatouille, and a billion other dishes.

5. buy in bulk. We buy beans and soy milk in bulk. Since we have a huge amount of pantry space in our basement, we also keep heavily stocked in the few canned items we use — all sorts of canned tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, chickpeas, etc. Oh, also vegetarian broth! I know it’s probably healthier to make your own, but the simple truth is it’s easier to pop open a can.

There are probably a ton of other tips in the recesses of my brain, but that will have to wait for another day.

New converts

As a man of science and reason, I had no choice but to become vegan after reading “The China Study”. And, as a man of conviction, I am more than willing to tell anyone whose opinion I respect what I’ve learned.

Recently, two people I’ve spoken to about this book have read it, and came to the same conclusion as we have. My step mother Karen, and the one true mentor to me in the Air Force from some 25 years ago, Glenn.

Karen wrote me a short note that she’d stopped eating meat a short while ago. I don’t know if she and her husband Mike have gone completely vegan, but I will find out.

Glenn just called me this evening and told me he got this book, and was waiting to pick it apart and tell me how full of crap it was. But he found, as I did, Dr. Campbell’s science and conclusions were simply too solid. To have Glenn agree with me about this is one of the highest compliments I’ve got in a very long time.

In fact, we’ve made this such a part of our lives, that we no longer consider it terribly remarkable and Karena hasn’t made an entry here for months.

I should mention, she ran into a recipe to make firm tofu into bacon that is for all practical purposes, completely indistinguishable from proper pig bacon. Add that to the mayonnaise she can make with firm silken tofu and I can make as good a BLT sandwich on rye as I’ve had anywhere. I’ll goad her into posting the recipes.

Thanks for the compliment Glenn, and good eating. Welcome to the dark side. Forever will it control your destiny. I only recommend this to people I don’t want to die, you know. Next, I recommend a book, Mad Cowboy , by Howard Lyman. He discusses the meat eating world from the supply side. There’s shit in the meat.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I’ve been searching for a great cake/cupcake recipe for Liam’s birthday. In recent weeks I’ve tried a few, and although Liam thinks they’re great as long as they’re drowned in frosting, all previous cakes have gotten an ehh reaction from me. Not bad, but definitely not as good as “real cake.” But today, ladies and gentlemen, we have success.

I found this recipe for a Chocolate Zucchini Cake while browsing the internet looking for just such a thing. Chocolate and zucchini, you ask? I would’ve questioned it a week ago, too; that was before I ran into rave reviews of chocolate and beetroot cake. If you can put beets in a cake, surely the humble zucchini would have its place as well.

Obviously I veganized the recipe, replacing the butter with a vegan alternative, the milk with soy milk, and the eggs with two very ripe bananas. I also left out the walnuts, simply to make the recipe more child-friendly. I also used bulk Splenda instead of sugar. For frosting I used canned — Duncan Hines Homestyle, which is surprisingly vegan. Obviously the frosting job here is haphazard — I’ll try to put a little more effort into it when I make these Monday evening for the upcoming big event.

Verdict: 6 thumbs up! That’s two from each of us, obviously. And Liam never knew he was eating a (gasp!) vegetable. Hmmm, should I try spinach cake next?

A couple days in the life

You know, it hardly seems fair to Liam that I only seem to blog about him throwing temper tantrums and refusing to eat. Ninety percent of the time, he’s super-ultra-cute boy, doing adorable things and utterly charming everyone he meets. So I thought I’d write about what a pleasure it has been to have him around the last few days.

About a week or so ago we got Liam his very own alarm clock. Of sorts. Here’s a picture of it (not mine, off a website), in-line, so everyone can see;

At night, the lower half is dimly lit and he can see the bunny sleeping in his bed. We control what time the bunny “wakes up.” It didn’t take Liam long to catch on, and now he waits in his room until the bunny gets up before getting us up. It was kind of pricey, and yet priceless. Before the clock, Liam would get up any time between 5:30 and 6:30, generally. We started with the clock set for 6:45, and we’re moving it in increments of five minutes up to 7AM. And he comes running in to us, so excited that he stayed in his bed the whole night, and that he knows it’s okay to get up now. I must admit, I delayed getting it because I thought it might be a little hokey and gimmicky; during my month of hemming and hawing over it I bet I lost between thirty and fifty hours of sleep. So glad we did. Aside from us getting that extra sleep, Liam’s getting his, too, and his disposition later in the day has really improven.

Yesterday Liam and I made oatmeal “cookies” — and I use that term very loosely. There were going to be an entry on the vegan blog, showing how you can bake and experience the same luscious niblets without using butter and eggs and milk; and you CAN, except this baking experiment failed miserably. So, no vegan entry, but you get a shot of Liam being entertaining.

That’s the tamper to my blender-to-the-Gods, the mighty Vitamix 5000. Someday I’ll write an entry solely devoted to that wondrous machine. Anyway, as I said, that’s the tamper to my blender. But in Liam’s hands, it has become a LIGHT SABER. Where he came up with that idea, I have no idea, because up until that point I don’t think he’d ever seen Star Wars. But he was brandishing it around the kitchen with all the skill of a true Jedi, even making appropriate bjooom noises. Naturally, he refused to stand up for the picture, but you should have seen him. After we finished baking, he and I traipsed around the house, using the force to fight off the bad guys.

No, I did not make that up.

This is Liam tonight, shortly before bed. Sorry about the color combination. He had on jeans earlier, but took an unfortunate tumble in our extremely wet yard today.

Hey, buddy, where’s your hand?