Tag Archives: good morning

Good Morning, Orange Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake!

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I’m gonna keep this brief (for me).

Some Saturdays, you wake up and just want to laze about. You don’t want to put on pants. You don’t want to shower. You don’t want to cook, and you barely have the patience or energy to make a pot of coffee. All that you want to do – and in this scenario, you have the same cultural tastes as I do – is sit around in your pajamas, eat a slice of leftover pizza, drink that coffee you just barely mustered the strength to make, and stream The Hunger Games on Netflix. Needless to say, you’re not likely to cook anything. You’re not really likely to contribute anything to the betterment of your world. That’s okay. That’s for Sunday.

Then, there are Saturdays when you wake up and the world is your oyster, an oyster that you’re prepared to go out, catch, bring home, wash, prepare, and eat. You leap out of bed, get into your workout clothes, run a few miles, make some coffee, cook breakfast, clean the house, do your laundry, go shopping, meet up with your friends for some frozen yogurt, put in some volunteer hours, bake a cake, make a few dinner courses, host a potluck dinner party, and spend the waining hours of your day sipping wine and chatting with your guests.

Okay, so I’ve never really had one of those latter Saturdays. But for weekend days that you’re feeling a tad more productive than the former kind of Saturday mentioned, this coffee cake is for you.

I adapted a recipe from one of my favorite go-to sources for breakfast and brunch foods, Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I was worried that the orange and coffee flavors of the loaf would contradict, but the key is to limit the amount of each so as to achieve a flavor balance. Plus, chocolate!

This is an incredibly simple coffee cake to make, so feel free to give it a try even on those mornings where you really can’t be bothered to change into real person clothes.

Ingredients
– 1 cup non-dairy milk
– 1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals
-1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
– 2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 cup all purpose, 1 cup whole grain for a healthier option)
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup canola oil
– 1/2 tsp orange extract
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a loaf pan OR 9X9 pie dish.

In a 1/2 cup of the milk, dissolve the coffee crystals. Stir in the rest of the milk and vinegar and set aside.

Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk mixture, oil, vanilla and orange extracts. Mix together until batter is just moistened, then fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into loaf pan or dish and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Bake about 2-3 minutes longer for a crumblier cake.)

Allow to cool. Queue up your favorite series on Netflix, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Morning, Vegan Strawberry Cupcakes!


Strawberry season is in full swing. When I was a kid, strawberry season meant heading over to Trax Farms where for around two bucks a pound, you could pick your own berries and take them home, where many of them would not get eaten in time and would be thrown out in less than a week.

Strawberries are evocative of many of life’s pleasures: Sweet, crisp, a little tart, a wonderful thing to behold in so many ways, but all to quickly, they turn, they brown and get soft. White little spots of mold cover the stems. Overripe, they have limited uses, but they’re no longer the hand-held confection perfect for snacking. A little farther down the line, the strawberry isn’t good for anything, except maybe compost. So something that starts out so wonderful and appealing is, within a few days time, a rotting, disposable mess.

Luke, of the Food Bloggers Meetup, had a solution to how to use his large yield of strawberries from the East Liberty Farmer’s Market. Much like every neighborhood church, he decided to hold his own little strawberry festival and invite the bloggers into his home to consume his fruit before its time was past.

Because I also had strawberries to unload (and because I hate going to things like this empty handed), I decided to crack open the lovely and reliable The Joy of Vegan Baking and see what uses Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has for strawberries. After paging through pies and tarts and crisps and cobblers, I settled on an unlikely candidate: Strawberry cupcakes.

Most people give me funny looks when I tell them that I hate cupcakes. They don’t really believe me, and that’s fair enough, because I don’t hate cupcakes. But I do think they’re greatly overrated, and not just because of the cupcake craze that still hasn’t left this city, but because even as a child, I disliked the notion of cupcakes, a cake that was supposedly meant for hand to mouth consumption but never quite got there in a fashion that didn’t leave frosting on your mouth, on your face, on your hands.

And the cake was always so disappointing. Dry and crumbly. The frosting, even when good, was always too too much. As a child at birthday parties, I awaited the inevitable dessert with trepidation. While other kids went face first into their cakes and emerged somehow spotless and satisfied, I picked at mine with the slow patience and tact of an archaeologist and still somehow got icing on my clothes.

Anyway, so I don’t hate cupcakes as much as I think they’re a lot of fuss for little payoff. But many of my strawberries were going soft, and I was worried that they weren’t appropriate for most non-baked goods. I’ve made strawberry-banana muffins before, but they didn’t seem to be an appropriate fit for a dinner party. So strawberry cupcakes won out. And I’m glad that they did.

I topped my cupcakes with a variation on Patrick-Goudreau’s chocolate frosting, adding almond extract to give it a bit of Nutella-like flavor. Because the actual cake isn’t super sweet and the flavor of the strawberry is fairly mild, it takes well to almost any frosting. Don’t overdo it on the amount, however, cause too much frosting will overwhelm the rest of the cake. [If you are a frosting junkie, the actual yield of the frosting recipe surpasses the regular dozen cupcakes, so save the leftovers and consume in whatever way will please you.]

Strawberry Cupcakes

Ingredients
– 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 1 tablespoon white vinegar
– 8 ounces strawberries, pureed
– 5 to 6 large strawberries, sliced (optional for garnish)

– Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or line with cupcake liners.

– In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil and vinegar. Add the pureed strawberries and mix until combined.

– Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir until just mixed. Pour batter into prepared muffin tray, about halfway in each cup.

– Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and tin, cooling the cakes on a wire rack. Frost and garnish once cool.

Chocolate-Almond Frosting

Ingredients
– 1/2 cup non-dairy butter
– 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
– 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 tsp almond extract
– 2 tbsp soy milk

– Cream butter until smooth, then add the confectioner’s sugar. Cream for about two minutes, then add cocoa, almond, and milk. Beat until fluffy, then cover and chill.

(Recipes adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau)

Good Morning, Summertime!


On a recent episode of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, the foursome discussed the start of summer, specifically: What things, whether they be booklists, food items, or the start of blockbuster movie season, get you excited for summertime?

It got me thinking about the foods that inherently mean summer to me. As one of the commentators on the podcast mentioned, being an adult can sometimes ruin the seasonal aspect of treats enjoyed as a child. I don’t have to wait till the summer reappearance of the ice cream truck to get my ice cream sandwich fix. Hell, I could have one right now, if I wanted. (Well, I’d have to go down to the corner store, but you get what I’m saying.)

Feeding yourself as a grown up means overruling a lot of your worst impulses. It’s tempting, especially when my schedule gets chaotic, to eat cereal for dinner every night. Nourishing? No. But it’s easy to make, easy to consume, doesn’t dirty a whole of pots, pans, and dishes, and what’s more, I like cereal. But no, as an adult, I have to recognize that it’s not okay just to eat cereal for dinner every night. Nor is it okay to have an ice cream sandwich for breakfast every morning. (Seriously, though, as I write this at 7:30 am, that’s starting to sound more and more appealing.)

So… we pick and choose. We compromise. We get our vegetables in but eat cookies when we want to. Or we deny ourselves until specified times to indulge. But seasonal restrictions don’t really come into play. We might not eat ice cream sandwiches every day, but it’s not because it’s not summertime. It’s because we’re trying to make the better choice.

What about other stereotypical summer foods? Well, as soon as my friends started getting settled, they started buying grills, which meant that grilling also became less a summertime occupation and more of a “as long as the weather is decent” option.

Stuff that is generally only available in abundance on seasonal terms, like fruit, is still fairly restricted to specified seasons. You won’t find me eating much strawberries in the winter, but in the summertime, it’s rare to have less than a pound in my fridge. I generally eat more fruit in the summertime because the season yields some of my favorite crops. And right toward the end of August, when apple season is just getting started, I tend to eat more fruit than anything else.

But really, if there is a single item that most reminds me of summer, most makes me feel the oncoming summer season, it’s got to be lemonade. Despite how much I drink it in the summertime, I never find myself desiring it outside the months of May-August, but during the warmest months, I am in constant craving for the stuff. Cold, crisp, tart, refreshing, lemonade is my summertime drink. That first sip, sometime mid-May, always makes me feel like the summer is just moments away. That first sip reminds me of all the lukewarm, watered-down lemonade that I drank as a kid, at daycare or summer camp or served by well-meaning friends’ moms. It reminds me of infinite stretches of open days and nothing much to do but try to fill in the long gaps of time with stuff to do. It reminds me of the transition between the novelty adoration of the warm weather and then, usually around late July, getting really worn out on the heat and just wishing it would stop.

So my meandering has brought me to a general question: What foods do you still consider “summertime” foods? What food item most brings out a childlike summertime excitement?

Good Morning, Rabanada!


I’ve tried many of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cookbooks, but in the short amount of time I’ve owned Vegan Brunch, I’ve utilized it more than the nearly six months I’ve owned Veganomicon or the many years I’ve turned to Vegan with a Vengeance. Aside from the Sarah Kramer cookbooks, which I have turned to on a regular basis since 2008, Vegan Brunch has been the most prolific presence in my kitchen since I purchased it in early April.

Part of the reason is that it has a perfect blend of savory and sweet foods that work well for any meal. But the biggest reason by far is the simple fact that the recipes are damn good. They’re inventive but casual, not requiring a vast array of ingredients or a large prep time. There are some more advanced recipes, but for the most part, these are dishes that are easily prepared in an hour or less and that serve a whole host of functions, be it a lazy Sunday afternoon brunch with my partner or a potluck or even, on the rare occasion where I actually make something special for myself, a solo treat.

Because of my particular affection for pancakes and French toast, I’m always on the lookout for good vegan variations of these dishes. [Of course, the definitive list of pancake options appears in the fantastic Eat Me, a collection of recipes and general retrospective of Shopsins in New York, which features tremendous feats of pancakery such as the macaroni and cheese pancake. But more on Shopsins another time.] Browsing through the options in Vegan Brunch, one recipe caught my eye.

In Brazil, rabanadas is prepared to celebrate the birth of a child, as well Christmas, Easter, etc. The tradition of preparing rabanadas is so ingrained in the culture, bakeries sell special loaves around holiday time, called “Pao de Rabanada.” The prep includes soaking the bread in milk or water to soften, then dipping the slices into egg and frying in a small amount of oil. So, yeah, not much different from how French toast is prepared stateside.

Vegan Brunch‘s recipe offers a few very innovative (and tasty) vegan changes. Instead of egg, the stale bread slices are soaked for twenty minutes in a banana-almond milk custard. I made a few slight changes to the recipe, but basically prepared it as specified in the book. So, thanks in advance, to Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and this great recipe that made me and my partner pretty darn happy this past Sunday afternoon.

Brazilian Rabanadas

Ingredients
– 1 stale loaf of bread (she specifies baguette, but I used a stale Italian loaf and it worked fine)
– 2 ripe bananas
– 1 1/2 cup almond milk
– 3/4 tbsp Xanathan gum
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– Vegetable oil for frying
– 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– Strawberries (or other fruit) for garnish

– Slice stale loaf into eight thick slices. Lay out slices on a flat baking pan.
– In a food processor or blender, combine the bananas, almond milk, Xanathan gum, and extract. Process until mixture is smooth, then pour mixture over the slices. Allow to soak for ten minutes, then flip slices and let sit for ten minutes more.
– Once slices have soaked for twenty minutes, heat oil on a pan and prepare as normal, keeping the cooked slices in a warm stove or microwave until all are finished.
– Combine the cocoa powder and cinnamon in a sifter, if you have one, or if you’re like me, use a small measuring cup and hope for a steady hand. Lay out finished slices on plates and dust with the cocoa/cinnamon mixture. Top with berries and add syrup and vegan margarine.

Good Morning, Apricot Coffee Cake!

I used to make a killer sour cream coffee cake. The original basis came from AllRecipes.com, but as I returned again and again to the dish, I put my own tweaks on it. I toyed around with extra flavors, zests, extracts, fresh and frozen fruits. I got the cooking time just right. I knew when to use icing and when to use a crumb topping, and I knew exactly how much to use.

And they always came out perfect. Soft, but substantial, sweet but not overpowering, absolutely great for either breakfast or dessert. Provided there were any leftovers, they even stored well and could keep for up to three days if packed properly. I ran through every idea I had and the best turnouts- chocolate chips and cocoa powder, cardamom and orange zest, cream cheese and blueberry preserves – more than made up for the few failures. I never got tired of making them and no one seemed to be tired of eating them.

Then I moved.

The new apartment had a rented stove that was about fifteen years older than the one I had during my coffee cake renaissance. When I cooked my first coffee cake in my new kitchen, I was shocked by the way it had turned out. Where was the fluffy, moist cake? Why was the crumb topping so dry and flavorless? Why was everything so flat? And how did it get burned?!?

I was dispirited. Even my failed experiments had never been this bad. This was barely edible (in fact, after bravely eating a piece, most of the remains did find their way into the trash). I tried to learn from my potential mistakes: I must have been careless about the amounts of flour, baking powder, and sugar. It must have baked too long. I must not have greased the pan enough.

So I tried again. But even with the tweaking of cooking time, the careful attentiveness to ingredients and prep, and a watchful eye while the cake sat in the oven, it still failed. It wasn’t the horror show that the prior failure had been, but it was still a failure. I had to face facts.

The magic was gone.

So, flash forward to the present. Since my coffee cake heartbreak, I have made a total of zero coffee cakes. Like any jilted lover, I moved onto other culinary distractions. I had brief flings with cupcakes, dabbled casually with muffins, and settled into a nice routine with the dependable and delightful cookie, a relationship that satisfies me to this day. But sometimes, when I’m craving something that I can’t quite name, I know what I’m actually yearning for.

I was tempted by the coffee cake recipes in Sarah Kramer’s books, as well as the sure-to-be delicious recipe in The Joy of Vegan Baking, but I was always afraid to attempt them. For one, I didn’t want to come back to coffee cake baking after such a long absence just to fail once more. In addition, I had never tried a vegan coffee cake recipe, so I was worried about botching not only my comeback cake, but my first attempt at a vegan one at that.

Sunday, however, after a week that was rich in both pain and healing (a story that I will come back to another time), I was looking for a distraction and picked up my recently purchased copy of Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Mokowitz. Thumbing through the recipes, I was about to try out the tomato-rosemary scones when one last courtesy flip through the pages landed me on her recipe for “East Coast Coffee Cake.” And I thought, well, why the hell not?

For my first time back to coffee cakes, I stayed fairly true to Isa’s recipe, tweaking just a few ingredients to match my own tastes. Her basic recipe does include fruit preserves, but she includes handy directions on including any number of ingredients. The recipe turned out to be a cinch to make, and while the results weren’t perfect, they were far from the disasters of my last coffee cake attempts. I’m not sure we’ll ever be as close as we once were, but it looks like me and coffee cake are on the redemption road to a casual friendship.

Apricot Coffee Cake

Ingredients

For the topping
– 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
– 1/4 cup veg oil

For the cake
– 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
– 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup veg oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp almond extract
– 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp baking pwoder
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup apricot jam

– Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square pan. Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and set aside to allow for curdling.

– For the topping: Mix together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the oil by tablespoons, mixing it into the dry ingredients with your fingers. Keep mixing until you’ve got a mixture of large and small crumbs. Set aside.

– For the cake, mix together the milk-vinegar mixture, sugar, vegetable oil, and extracts. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth.

– Pour the batter into the pan. Pour the 1/2 cup of apricot jam over the batter, then swirl it with a knife or fork. Sprinkle topping over the batter and lightly pat down.

– Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool, add powdered sugar if desired, then slice and serve!

Good Morning, Brunch Feast!

Despite the time invested in this pile of delicious breakfast, this post is going to be exceedingly brief. I spent Sunday evening in glorious doom and gloom entertainment, first watching the final performance of Next to Normal Downtown [capsule review: Could also have been titled Depression! The Musical], then after post-show drinks, rushed home to watch the 11:00 pm re-run of the latest episode of The Killing on AMC.

I spent Sunday evening enjoying the most downbeat offerings stage and TV could possibly provide, which starkly contrasted with my midday minor vegan feast and the pure joy I felt throwing it together.

The meal was this: Roasted Cajun potatoes, scrambled tofu, navy bean gravy, and tempeh bacon. All delicious items when eaten apart, but as America knows, best when it can be collected in a big sloppy pile. The potatoes are easy enough – sliced and roasted with Cajun seasoning – and the tofu was just your typical scrambled tofu – turmeric, a little bit of vegan margarine, a little bit of liquid smoke, some salt and cayenne pepper – so the real stars here are the tempeh bacon and the amazing navy bean gravy, a vegan gravy so good, it could easily run for the same affections currently claimed by beef and chicken gravy devotees. And it’s incredibly easy to make.

Navy Bean Gravy

Ingredients
– 1 15 oz. can navy beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 tbsp oil
– 1 half onion, chopped
– 3 garlic cloves, chopped
– 2 tsp dried rosemary
– Black pepper (I tend to think more is better than less, but the actual quantity is a matter of taste)
– 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
– 1/3 cup flour
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1/4 cup water

Saute the onions and garlic. Add the rosemary and black pepper and cook until the onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Combine the broth and flour and stir vigorously with a fork until there are few lumps of flour left.

– In a blender or food processor, combine the stock mixture, beans, soy sauce. Blend until smooth, then add the onions and garlic. Puree again until mostly smooth.

– Pour the pureed mixture into the stove pot and simmer until bubbling, stirring frequently. Add water to desired consistency.


Tempeh Bacon

Ingredients
– 8 oz. package of tempeh, sliced widthwise into 1/4 inch strips.
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tbsp liquid smoke
– 1 tbsp maple syrup (I used honey)
– 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
– 1/2 cup vegetable broth
– 1 tsp garlic salt
– 1/4 tsp black pepper

– Combine all ingredients (except for the tempeh) into a large bowl. Mix until well combined, then add the tempeh strips. Marinate for 1 hour (can be done overnight as well).

– When tempeh has marinated long enough, heat some oil in a large frying pan. Fry the slices for six minutes on each side, or until both are browned sufficiently.

 (Adapted from recipes in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

Good Morning, Vegan Banana Pudding


I once had a banana pudding so good it had to have been evil. I don’t mean “sinfully delicious” or so bad for you but so good-tasting. I mean that it literally had to be evil to be that good. It had to have communed with the beast. It had to have divined its powers from another worldly realm so deep, so far from the simple divinity of heaven.

It was heavy and sweet and body-possessing. As a follow-up to an already very substantial lunch in Athens, Georgia in mid-August, it was a little too much to take. It was a taste that knocked the wind out of me, and pretty much every ounce of energy I might have had left. Emerging into the well-baked afternoon, I promptly fell into what could only be described as a euphoric food coma. It might also have been described as heat stroke.

Anyway, I suffered the same fate as those who dare chase the forbidden fruit. To this day, I’ve never found the equal to this banana pudding (found at Peaches in Athens, GA, if you’re interested), and I’ve never really desired to. One encounter is enough.

Still, I love banana pudding. Serve it with vanilla wafers, ladyfingers, or whipped cream. My favorite preparation is simple: Pudding and banana slices. I had some silken tofu and bananas on hand, so I was set to make up a vegan variation, which me and my partner set about devouring as soon as it left the fridge. Thank goodness this only takes five minutes to make. Next time I’m saving it all for myself!

Vegan Banana Pudding

Ingredients
– 2 ripe bananas (Don’t forget to have an extra on hand for topping!)
– 1 12 oz. package of silken tofu
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
– 1/2 tsp Xanathan gum

– In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients until well blended. Chill for at least two hours. Serve with banana slices.

(Adapted from this recipe on Vegweb.com)

Good Morning, Green Onion Stir Fry!

They say that what you cook for yourself and yourself alone is a good indicator of how much you consider your own well-being. While I think there is some truth behind that – after all, if you didn’t care about yourself, you would care little for nourishment even when absolutely required – it’s largely a subjective matter. What one person considers a perfectly adequate meal for one might horrify another solo diner, and these opinions are, for the most part, a matter of taste.

I just finished reading Alone in the Kitchen With Eggplant, a compilation of essays from different writers focusing on the idea of cooking for one, dining out alone, and generally eating by one’s lonesome. Some of the essays took the stance that one should treat themselves to a meal that is on par, if not better, than what they would serve other people, because it’s important to show yourself the same level of consideration and care that you show other people.

That’s all well and good, but I tend to side more with Ann Patchett on the subject. Despite her years of food knowledge and preparation expertise, she is reluctant to put any significant effort into a meal meant only for herself. She writes of subsisting on crackers eaten over the sink, meager yet satisfying meals of odds and ends and non-cooked foods. Despite having the ability to make challenging and delicious cuisine, the last thing she wants to do after the trying experience of cooking that meal is to sit down and eat it. So when it came to feeding herself, she stuck to things that required as little effort as possible.

I don’t exactly eat saltines every night for dinner, but I understand the point. When I’m not cooking for others, I tend to lack the focus and energy to make a complete meal for myself. There are things I’d rather be doing with my time, and besides, I’m very easily satisfied. What’s the point in expelling all the energy, using up all that time, dirtying another dish, another pot, another fork and spoon?

But last Monday night, I felt in a bit of a food rut. I had eaten out a lot the prior week and hadn’t really gotten a whole lot of time in the kitchen, not even on the weekend when I generally do most of my meal-making. I still had quite a bit of produce in my fridge thanks to a Strip District visit the weekend before, and I didn’t have much to do or anywhere to be. I wasn’t even particularly tired.

So I set to making a simple stir fry.  Those of you who already have their chosen stir fry, feel free to ignore this recipe. Those who haven’t found their recipe might want to try mine. I’m not saying it’s the best, but it’s damn satisfying, especially with the addition of the green onion pancake.

Another one of my problems in cooking for myself is that I always end up making way too much, to the point that it’s more than even simple leftover lunch the next day can handle. This recipe yields a quantity big enough to share between two people.

Green Onion Pancake Stir Fry

Ingredients
– 2 to 4 green onions, chopped
– 1 small green pepper
– 1 small red pepper
– 1 small zucchini
– 1 tbsp veg oil
– 2 tbsp dark sesame oil
– 3 tbsp soy sauce
– 1/4 tsp ground ginger
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
– Garlic chili hot sauce (optional – use to taste)
– 1 pre-packaged green onion pancake (found in Asian grocery stores – I got my pack of six at Lotus)
– 1 cup instant brown rice

– For rice, prepare as instructed on box.

– Heat vegetable oil in a large, deep pan. Add green onions and sesame oil. Saute until onions are tender, then add peppers and seasonings. Cook for a few minutes longer, than add zucchini and soy sauce. Toss until everything is well coated. Allow to simmer on low heat for ten minutes.

– Cook the pancake in the toaster until lightly browned.

– Assemble your plate: First a scoop of rice, then the pancake. Add extra soy if desired. Then top generously with veggies and leftover sauce from the pan.

Good Morning, Strip District Saturday

I’ve written about it in the past, but I have to reiterate: One of my favorite ways to spend an early Saturday morning is strolling around the Strip District alone. I love company down there, I do. Going with other people is often the perfect way to try places and things yet to be encountered. Other people mean joyful, talkative breakfasts at DeLuca’s or Pamela’s or even Chicken Latino. Other people mean a more curious, rounded shopping experience. Other people give you someone to talk to when the line at Reyna’s is really long and you’re struggling to reach your phone while also trying to keep all your bags from falling to the floor.


But other people come with a set of shopping demands all their own. Choosing to take the trip alone is lonesome, but liberating. You can move at whatever speed you want, visit the places you want to visit, come and go at your own leisure. You can invoke the zen state of being among those in very active states of mind and become a bit more passive in doing so. Gone is the necessity for distraction in that big line. That big line becomes its own distraction.


As for the rounded shopping experience, being alone can limit you to what you already know to be available, but between the flexibility of a lone person’s schedule and the comparative ease of moving one person through a dense crowd, it can also be the best way to find the little spots and corners and crannies missed on other ventures. Feeling free to do as one likes can often lead to people performing the same patterns of behavior over and over again, but it can occasionally lead to happy surprises.


I don’t like to have a big breakfast when I’m in the Strip alone. Instead, I tend to pick up things here and there: A small pastry at Lotus, a little fried dough pocket of spicy jerk chicken, a good cup of really strong coffee, a marshmallow.


I like to eat these things while perched somewhere, preferably outside, preferably perched on a concrete wall or sitting on steps or somewhere else I can simply blend into the scenery and enjoy the passing traffic. I never eat anything that needs a fork or spoon or plate. I eat with my hands, picking apart the marshmallow that has nearly melted while resting on my coffee. I keep the brown envelope around the pocket pastry, catching the little crumbs that escape with each bite. My bag and my camera are balanced on my lap. I stop to take a picture.


The Strip District alone is a world of other people’s adventures. The things that excite them, the things that tire them out, the energy and lack thereof is all externalized to anyone bothering to watch. I am watchful and therefore, while I may be alone, I am not lonely. I am entertained, I am heartened, and, of course, I’m fed.

Good Morning, Cauliflower Cheese Soup!


Mollie Katzen, Mollie Katzen. Is there anything you can’t make delicious?

Some of you out there might know of my current quest to conquer cauliflower. I’ve long held the albino broccoli in disregard. Its pure whiteness, its bland nothing flavor, its weird not-quite-crunchy-enough texture… All I’ve ever known of cauliflower is that people tend to avoid it on vegetable trays. While their fellow tray-mates, the robustly orange carrots, the crunchy, stringy celery, the vibrant and tree-like broccoli, find better homes on small plates and napkins (to eventually be devoured and rest inside various digestive tracts), the cauliflower is left to an uncertain fate.

All that changed with a little dish from Tamarind Savoring India: Gobi Manchurian, dry, fried, crunchy, a little spicy. The cauliflower was more like Korean spareribs than that pale, lonely little vegetable left alone on the party tray. This cauliflower was savory, vibrantly colored, and extremely flavorful. I was completely turned around.

So I’ve made a little mission of coming to terms with  cauliflower. Considering the benefits of the vegetable itself – low in fat, high in fiber and Vitamin C – and the expanding possibilities of its taste capabilities, this seems like a fairly easy challenge.

But one cannot subsist on Gobi Manchurian and only Gobi Manchurian. So it’s up to other cooks to show me how to best utilize this former enemy. Enter lover of all things veggie and culinary genius, Mollie Katzen, whose Moosewood Cookbook has become a formidable weapon in this delectable battle of will, wit, and tastebuds.

My pal, Jackie, had a great recent find at Beyond Bedtime Books on Potomac Avenue. Seemingly moments after saying that she needed to pick up the Moosewood at some point, she found a used copy right there on the shelf. Flash to weeks later and she’s cooking us up a version of Katzen’s “Cauliflower and Cheese Soup.”

Recommended for this recipe: Do not over puree. A little texture keeps the soup from being to gruel-like. We also threw in some steamed asparagus, optional, of course, but it was the perfect crunchy counterpart to the creamy, mildly cheesy soup.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Ingredients
– 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
– 1 medium to large cauliflower, cut or broken into florets
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 2 to 3 tsp salt
– 4 cups water
– 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
– 1 cup shredded Colby Jack
– 3/4 cup milk
– 1 tbsp fresh dill
– Black pepper to taste

– Set the water to boil and add the potato, cauliflower, garlic, onion, dill, and salt. Bring to boil, then simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Add milk.

– Puree about half of the mixture in a blender or food processor, then transfer back into the pot. Keeping on low heat, add cheese, then stir until cheese has melted completely. Season with black pepper to taste.

Optional: Take a pound of asparagus and chop off about two inches of the stem from the bottom. Steam asparagus and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until asparagus is bright green and tender, but still crunchy. Add a few stalks to the soup as a delicious garnish.

(Recipe adapted from “Cauliflower Cheese Soup” from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen)