Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Somen Noodle Salad

When the weather gets warm, I prefer lighter meals for dinner.

Somen noodle salad with vegetables is something my mother would make as a change-up to her usual routine of serving cold somen (or soba) with just a dipping sauce.

This dish is so easy to make, and it really is a perfect meal on a hot summer day.

Somen Noodle Salad
Serves approximately 4

4 bundles
somen noodles (somen noodles can be purchased at Whole Foods)
2-3 carrots, cut into julienne strips (I used a julienne peeler)
2 cucumbers, cut into julienne strips

1 napa cabbage, thinly sliced

4 cups mung bean sprouts

4 green onions, thinly sliced

4 eggs (cook 4 egg omelets and slice into thin strips)

For the dressing, whisk together the following:

1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Cook the somen noodles according to the directions of the package. Drain the noodles thoroughly under cold water.

Toss the somen noodles in the dressing. To serve, place the somen noodles in the center of a plate and arrange the carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, cabbage, and egg around it. Garnish with the green onions.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sweet Potato Wedges

These look good, don't they?

Unfortunately, these baked sweet potato wedges didn't quite turn out the way I had envisioned. I tossed the wedges in canola oil, salt, pepper, and cumin and baked them in a 400-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

They tasted alright. I had hoped for a crispier outer coating, however, that really didn't happen.

I'll make these again. The next time, though, I'll cut the sweet potatoes into thin matchsticks and then bake them.

Hopefully, I'll get the crispy outer coating I'm looking for without having to resort to deep frying.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Equal Time!

Most recently, I featured April, my chihuahua, on her second birthday.

Today, I'm featuring Joy, my other chihuahua. Joy has had a rough week. While my partner was cutting her nails on Monday, he cut into the quick twice. The quick is the live part of the nail that contains blood vessels. We had to wrap her paw in gauze to prevent blood from getting everywhere.

Then yesterday morning, Joy had to go to the vet to get her teeth cleaned. The vet had to put her under to clean the plaque from her teeth, as well as to extract a tooth. Several hours later, she was able to come home.

She's very happy to be back home!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Crabless Crab Cakes

When I first read this recipe for crabless "crab" cakes made with zucchini, I immediately thought, You have got to be kidding!

Nonetheless, I decided to try this recipe because 1) I already had most of the ingredients listed, and 2) Contra Costa Times disclosed the name of recipe's creator - Barry Horton, head chef of Ravens' Restaurant.

I've never heard of Barry Horton. And I've never heard of Ravens' Restaurant. But, in the back of my mind, at least I had someone to blame if these crabless crab cakes ended up tasting awful.

To my surprise (and relief), I was very happy with the way they turned out. In fact, they tasted almost like the real thing, although they lacked the lumpy texture found in actual crab cakes.

I would certainly make this again. And again. And again.

Ravens' Restaurant Crabless Crab Cakes
Makes approximately 8 crab cakes (2 per person) or 18 mini crab cakes.

1/2 cup onions, finely diced
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup trumpet royale mushrooms, peeled into julienned strips (I used oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped)
1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated on smallest setting of box grater (the grated zucchini will have a mushy appearance)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2-3 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
1 egg white
2 cups (approximately) ultradry breadcrumbs or panko (I used panko)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, except the olive oil, and mix together with a fork.

If the mixture in the bowl is too moist to form into patties, add more bread crumbs or panko until you are able to do so.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Take a 1/4 cup of the mixture (I formed larger patties with a 1/2 cup of the mixture) and form into 1/2-inch thick patties. Cook the patties in the skillet until lightly browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with tartar sauce (see recipe below).

Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup dill relish
1/4 cup onions, finely diced

Mix together all of the ingredients.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Vegan Pro Baseball Player via the Star Tribune

"Pat Neshek warming up" by peterreike

Earlier today, I came across this article featuring the vegan diet of Minnesota Twins' relief pitcher Pat Neshek.

What I found particularly interesting, though, were readers' comments that followed the article, including this one that said:
I have a girlfriend who is in Nesheks wifes shoes, she is a vegan. She had me try it for a month. I did. I just got done a week ago. I didnt lose any more weight than I normally did eating meat, plus I felt sick more because I wasn't getting the protein meat brings. I feel bad about what happens to the animals, but this country was founded by hunters and gatherers so we all wouldnt be here if it wasnt for killing animals. I wasn't losing more weight, plus I was losing muscle going vegan. Its not just about weight. Its healthier to be a little heavier and have more muscle, than be really skinny without much muscle. I lost some muscle going vegan. My advice would be to not go vegan.
Hmmmm . . . . Losing muscle as a result of going vegan?

Apparently, though, going vegan didn't hurt UFC fighter Mac Danzig. He clearly isn't lacking in the muscles department.

Damn, what a body!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Easy Cole Slaw with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing

My partner and I have somewhat differing opinions on this cole slaw, which I made to accompany mock "crab" cakes I made for dinner on Sunday.

I thought it tasted okay. My partner, on the other hand, thought it tasted really good. We both agree, though, that the cabbage could have been more thinly sliced.

Make at least 1-2 hours before serving.

Cole Slaw with Red Wine Vinegar Dressing
Serves approximately 4-6

1/2 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, canola oil, sugar, and salt and pepper (to taste).

Toss with the cabbage, red onions, and green onions. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, and serve.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekly Recipe Recap for the Week Ending 5.15.2009 (Click on Image)

From top: spinach and strawberry salad; butternut risotto with crispy seitan; and mock
"egg" salad sandwich

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mock "Egg" Salad Sandwich

Yesterday, while working from home, I decided to make a mock "egg" salad sandwich for lunch, with tomatoes, lettuce, and sprouts.

I took a block of extra-firm tofu and, using the palm of my hands, squeezed as much water out of it as possible. I crumbled the tofu into a bowl and mixed in Veganaise (vegan mayonnaise), chopped celery, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, and salt and pepper (to taste).

The sandwich tasted very good. I'll definitely be making this again. Next time, though, I'll add Dijon mustard to the "egg" salad to give it a little more flavorful kick.

(Update on 5/16/2009: I added some Dijon mustard to the leftover salad. Definitely made a difference - for the better, that is!)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Green Tip: Cloth Dish Towels Instead of Paper Towels

An American household uses, on average, 1 1/2 rolls of paper towels per week. My partner and I used to go through at least 1 roll per week.

In an attempt to use fewer paper towels, we purchased last year 5 packs of these inexpensive dish towels from IKEA. We use them for cleanup and drying dishes.

When these dish towels become worn out, they'll have a second life as detail rags for my bike and car.

We haven't completely given up using paper towels. However, we are now able to make a roll last 4-6 weeks. We use paper towels mainly for cleanup after one of our chihuahuas has an "accident."

In the process of using cloth dish towels, we're saving money (those rolls of recycled paper towels from Seventh Generation don't come cheap!) and we're contributing to preserving our environment.

Speaking of green tips, Patty, a JVO blog follower, has her own blog (among several) dedicated exclusively to green issues called Green and Groovy Old Hippy. Check it out, especially her post describing how to make eco-friendly home cleaners.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Seitan

This butternut squash risotto was inspired by one of my favorite dishes at a restaurant called Planet X Cafe in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Seitan
Serves approximately 4

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

5 sage leaves, finely chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

4 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a bowl, toss together the butternut squash, olive oil, sage, salt (about 1 teaspoon), and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon). Place the squash in a baking dish and cook in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until the squash becomes soft enough so that it can be mashed with a fork. Set the mashed squash aside.

Heat the vegetable broth in a small pot over medium heat. In a larger pot, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions become become soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the rice until all the grains are coated with butter. Add the wine and cook until the wine has almost fully evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Using a ladle, gradually (in 1/2 cup increments over the course of 20-25 minutes) add the hot vegetable broth to the pot and stir. (At this time, you should begin making the crispy seitan. See recipe below.) When the broth has almost fully evaporated, add more broth to the pot and stir. Continue this process until the rice becomes tender and creamy but is still al dente.

Finish the risotto by stirring in the mashed butternut squash, grated cheese, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve on plates or in bowls. Top with the crispy seitan strips, garnish with a few sage leaves, and serve. Pass additional grated parmesan at the table.

Crispy Seitan

1 package seitan, cut into strips

Canola oil

Corn Starch (1/2 cup)

Dredge the seitan in the corn starch. Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a pan over medium-high heat and fry the seitan strips. When the strips are browned on all sides, remove them from the pan and set them on paper towels so that any excess oil can be absorbed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Homemade Fortune Cookies via Inchmark

"Chinatown fortune cookie factory" by Conway L

Inchmark has some very cool photos showing how to make fortune cookie favors.

Check them out!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

I got this spinach salad recipe from my friend, Sean. He once described this salad to me as being "fierce."

It certainly is one of the best tasting salads I've had. I've made this spinach salad - with its tart, sweet dressing - many times for both family gatherings and potlucks where it has always received high praise.

BTW: Sean writes about Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Trans issues over at the The Bilerico Project. He's also co-publisher of the DC-based magazine, Metro Weekly, and owner of Ascribe Catering. Ascribe did a wonderful job catering my surprise 40th birthday party on March 14 that was organized by my partner.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad
Serves 4

1/2 cup sugar (I've also used Splenda in the past)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional) (see note below)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
6-ounce package baby spinach leaves
1 pint strawberries, halved (or quartered) lengthwise

In a small bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients.

Toss the dressing in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients.

(Note: Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies and is, therefore, not vegetarian. However, I did find vegan Worcestershire sauce at Whole Foods.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Weekly Recap for the Week Ending 5.7.2009 (Click on Image)

From top: Hearty lasagna with shiitake mushrooms; vegetable stir fry with udon noodles;
buttermilk scones with cranberries and walnuts

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Quick and Easy Vegetable Stir Fry with Udon Noodles

Last night, I was planning on making udon noodle soup when I returned home from work. As the workday was coming to an end, however, I realized that I had forgotten to prepare the vegan dashi (the soup base) in the morning. Darn. Can't make udon noodle soup without the dashi.

Driving home from work that day, I decided to stop by the grocery store to pick up a head of cabbage, a red bell pepper, and some shiitake mushrooms (my new favorite ingredient), so that I could make a simple vegetable stir fry with udon noodles.

A healthy (vegan) and delicious dinner was on the table in about 15 minutes from the moment I walked through my front door.

Vegetable Stir Fry with Udon Noodles
Serves approximately 4

3 bundles udon noodles (see photo below)
1 large red bell pepper

1 cup frozen shelled edamame

2 cups chopped cabbage
3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce

3 carrots, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sesame chili oil (Chinese chili, or even red pepper flakes, may also be used)

5 green onions, sliced in half lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch lengths, for garnishing

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the udon noodles according to the directions on the package. When the noodles are done cooking, drain them, rinse them thoroughly under cold water, and set them aside.

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, mushrooms, bell peppers, carrots, edamame, garlic, and ginger. Saute the vegetables until they become crisp tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and sesame chili oil. Continue cooking for another minute or so. Toss the udon noodles in the skillet until they are warmed through. Garnish with the green onions and serve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna with Shiitake Mushrooms

My goal on Sunday was to create a lasagna dish with colorful layers, like the lasagna dishes frequently photographed in food magazines.

Using eggplant, yellow squash, shiitake mushrooms, and baby spinach, I had hoped the end product would be a lasagna bursting with purple, yellow, brown, and green layers.

That did not happen, as you can see from the photo. Sauteing the vegetables caused their color to dull, with the exception of the spinach.

Nonetheless, this version of a vegetarian lasagna is my favorite one I've made thus far. The shiitake mushrooms, combined with the soy sauce, give this dish a really hearty, earthy, flavor.

Hearty Vegetarian Lasagna with Shiitake Mushrooms
Serves approximately 8

1 box (16 sheets) no-boil lasagna sheets (I recommend Barilla brand)

5 cups marinara sauce (I used the marina sauce I made weeks ago and froze)

1 package (8 ounces) grated Italian five cheese (I used Kraft brand)

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and roughly chopped

3 small yellow squashes, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 small eggplant, cut into quarters lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 bag (6 ounces) baby spinach leaves

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing the vegetables
Salt and pepper
Italian parsley, finely chopped, for garnishing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a pot, begin warming up the marinara sauce over medium heat.

Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet. Saute the spinach leaves, with a pinch each of salt and pepper, until they start to wilt, about 2 minutes. Remove the spinach leaves and place them in a bowl. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the spinach using a spoon, and set it aside.

Separately saute the
squash and the eggplant, with a pinch each of salt and pepper, in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, until they become soft, about 3-5 minutes. Remove them from the skillet and set them aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Saute the shiitake mushrooms until they become soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and continue cooking for another 30 seconds. Remove the shiitake mushrooms and set them aside.

To assemble the lasagna, spread 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish. Place 4 lasagna sheets in the dish as shown above. (The lasagna sheets will expand to the edge of the baking dish while cooking in the oven.)

Next, spread approximately 3/4 cup of marina sauce and the squash on top of the first layer of lasagna sheets. Lightly sprinkle (about 1/4 cup) the grated cheese over the squash. Layer another 4 lasagna sheets over the squash and grated cheese. Repeat these steps with the spinach and then the eggplant. Layer the final 4 lasagna sheets in the box over the eggplant and grated cheese.

Spread all of the remaining marinara sauce and the shiitake mushrooms over this final layer of lasagna sheets. Top heavily with the remaining grated cheese.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Funny Story from the Blogosphere . . . .

"jalapenos" by pink_fish13

Very funny post over at Cooking School Confidential involving a jalapeno pepper and a certain part of the male anatomy.

I recall one time removing my soft contact lenses after having cut some jalapeno peppers. Even though I had washed my hands thereafter, I still had (unbeknownst to me) some residual jalapeno oil on my fingers. My eyes started to burn badly when I proceeded to use my thumb and index finger to remove the contact lenses.

But then I did something stupid. I put the contact lenses back in my eyes the following morning, without even thinking that perhaps I might have transmitted the jalapeno oil from my fingers to the contact lenses when I had removed them the night before. Ouch!

It took me forever to remove the contact lenses that morning, because I had difficulty opening my eyes because of the searing pain.

Lesson learned. Use gloves or wrap your hands in dish towels or plastic grocery bags (my preference) when handling jalapeno peppers.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cranberry and Walnut Scones

For breakfast this morning, I had a scone with dried cranberries and walnuts. (I warmed it up in the microwave oven.)

It was a nice change from my usual cheese omelet breakfast. In fact, I would like to vary my morning meals a bit more. So far, I'm off to a good start.

Scones are incredibly simple to make. They require very few ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your pantry. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can vary it according to your own tastes. You can substitute, say, chocolate chips for the dried cranberries. If you have kids, my guess is that they'll definitely insist on this substitution!

Cranberry and Walnut Scones
Makes 8 scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, cut up into pieces
1 egg, separated
1/3 to 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 to 1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with butter.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter to the bowl. Using your fingers, break up the pieces of butter into smaller pea-sized pieces.

Next, add the egg yolk and the butter milk to the bowl. Using a fork, stir the contents in the bowl until a dough is formed. (Be careful not to overwork the dough.)

On a lightly floured surface, press (with your lightly floured hands) the dough into a disk shape (about 8 inches in diameter). Using a knife, cut the disk into eight wedges.

Places the wedges on the cookie sheet. Before baking them, brush their tops with the egg white.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the tops become brown, and serve. Yum!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Just Vegging out on a Sunday Evening . . . .

Try and guess what movie I'm watching tonight?

The Rose is a great movie, loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin. I highly recommend putting this on your Netflix queue.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Weekly Recap for the Week Ending 5.1.2009

Clockwise, from top left: photo shot with new camera; tempeh with mushroom-lager sauce;
mashed red potatoes; and chocolate tofu mousse