Vegan Valentines Feast!

I just got to wake up Valentines Day and have a chocolate-cherry-creme cupcake! Why, you ask? Because I am waiting tables tonight, and therefore made a Valentines feast for my fam and some friends last night. (My bf, unfortunately, was unavailable.) Amazingly enough, this meal turned out truly great. Seriously. I very rarely concoct a dinner and have everything go off without a hitch, but this really was delicious... not one of the non-vegans had anything left on their plate.

For an appetizer I made little mini heart-shaped pizzas. I used the Joy of Cooking pizza dough recipe I love so much, but divided the dough into four balls, rolled them out, and shaped them vaguely into heart shapes before brushing with EVOO. While the dough had been rising, I roasted two heads of garlic in the oven at 350, and marinated some sliced heirloom tomatoes in EVOO and salt and pepper. When the garlic was all roasted, I squeezed each bit out of its crunchy shell and into a bowl, where it was mashed with a little more EVOO and set aside. Finally, I caramelized a few sliced shallots. (To be fair, I had some time on my hands while the dough was rising to get all this inspiration.) To put it all together, I rubbed the garlic paste onto the pizzas and topped it with the tomatoes, shallots, some sliced roasted peppers (from a jar), and some red pepper flakes. I then cooked it for about 15 minutes at 425. They turned out really flavorful and delicious. This may be my new go-to pizza recipe.

I also made a simple strawberry salad with some spinach, sliced strawberries, hazelnuts, and a homemade dressing recipe I got from Vegetarian Times. I can't find it online right now, so let me just tell you, you combine:
-1/2 c. sliced strawberries
-3 T. Sugar
-3 T. Balsamic Vinegar
-1/2 a shallot
-1 clove garlic
... in a food processor or blender, then slowly add in 1 c. EVOO. The dressing is really creamy and thick, and the balsamic complements the strawberries perfectly.

For the main course, I made an old standby: grilled portabello mushrooms over mashed potatoes with asparagus. The mushrooms were marinated in some steak seasoning, EVOO and soy sauce before grilling and the asparagus were similarly coated in some Earth balance and salt and pepper before going into the oven at 375 for about 10 minutes. To make things EXTRA decadent, i made a "port wine reduction" for the shrooms, which is just a fancy way of saying "boil 3 c. wine in a saucepan until it reduces to a syrup." It was sooooo good over the potatoes too. But be forewarned- it takes longer than you think, so get started way before any grilling occurs.

To finish off, I made my absolute favorite cupcakes from VCTOTW. Since I was in such a hurry to get everything else cooking, I didn't have time to make these as pretty as they were the last time I made them. But trust me, they were still decadent and delicious.

Mmm. Especially for breakfast.

Have a happy Valentines Day!


B.'s Eggplant and Chickpea Tagine

Ok, so I know I've been talking about cooking something 'merican lately to make up for all my international experiments. But Troopers, (as my trust and estates prof would say) I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Not when the stars aligned to let me make this awesome Tagine. You see, I've been begging my ex-roomate B. to send me some of her recipes ever since I moved out. Other than her proclivity to scoop cottage cheese or plain yogurt on everything, B. is an awesome cook and is particularly adept with two things: vegan chili over mashed potatoes (*drool*) and Eggplant and Chickpea Tagine. So I finally got her to send me the latter recipe, and coincidentally, this month'sBon Appetit had a set of Morroccan recipes as well!

So what is a Tagine? Its a North African dish that is slow cooked and often contains dried fruit, ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and peppers. The word also refers to the awesome cooking vessel that rich people register for when they get married. :) Basically, the dish is cooked in such a way that the meat (or whatever) has a chance to braise in the spices and slow cook into a stew. Sounds good, right?

Well this recipe is a slight twist- I used the method from B.'s dish and the spices from the Bon Appetit recipe. I served the whole thing over 5-minute pine-nut couscous and with a side of mint tea- oh man was this a satisfying meal. And as usual, my reliably picky family gobbled it up.

This isn't really a labor intensive meal despite the large amount of ingredients- the only ish I had with the this recipe was that the potatoes weren't fully cooked when I finished. I'm not totally sure how to remedy this, I guess put them in earlier and cook them for longer before deglazing w/ the tomato sauce. Enjoy!

Eggplant and Chickpea Tagine

-1 Large Eggplant
-2 zucchinis (or one large one)
-3 shallots (or 1 yellow onion) diced
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 T. grated peeled ginger
-4-5 small boiling potatoes (or sweet potatoes) diced
-1/4 tsp. turmeric
-1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
-1/2 T. cumin
-1 can tomato sauce
-1 T. tomato paste
-2 T blood-orange preserves or bitter-orange marmalade
-1 1/2 cans chickpeas, drained
-1/2 c. dried apricots, chopped
-1 T. chili sauce or powder
-1 cinnamon stick
-1 thyme sprig

1. Slice up the eggplant and zucchinis and salt them liberally in a collander. Let them hang out there while you cut up the potatoes and onions.
2. Rinse off the eggplant and zucch and toss in some EVOO. Broil on a baking sheet, tossing once, for about 20 minutes or until browned.
3. In a large (I mean, huge) pot, heat 2 T EVOO over medium and add in the shallots (or onions), garlic and ginger. Cook until translucent, then add in the mushrooms. Cook for a few more minutes, then add in the potatoes. Now, add in the turmeric, paprika and cumin.
4. Once the potatoes are softened, add in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and 2/3 c. water. Bring to a boil and partially cover for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat back to medium. Add in the eggplant and zucch, chickpeas, and the rest of the ingredients.
5. Simmer for 15-20 more minutes, stirring. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4-6, w/ leftover. Serve w/ instant couscous and mint tea. Also excellent for leftovers with pita or tortilla chips.

Thanks B! Now, send me your chili recipe!


Spring Travel Extravaganza

Best news ever!

I am going on a magical mystery tour of Eastern and Central Europe in the spring. Starting off in Istanbul, I'm going to hit Budapest, Prague, Vienna, and hopefully Berlin. There is no reason for this trip other than the fact that I'm craving an escape from law school, DC, and... myself! And thanks to some extra waitressing money coming in, I can just about do it. (Although I really should be throwing it into bottomless pit of lawschool loans.) In my experience, if you put something off until there's a good time, you'll never do it.

I have been to some of Europe before. Right after college my bf and I traveled to England, France, and Spain via Eurorail and had a grand old time. The only dowside (other than the fact that my bf insisted on climbing every winding staircase in every church) was the food. Although these countries aren't naturally hostile to vegetarians, we weren't prepared in advance and it caused plenty of problems. After a day of trampling through museums and unknown parts of town, you're so hungry that you'll eat anywhere- even if the only available food is patatas bravas and beer. The other issue is that if you're not paying attention, you end up spending way too much money just to get some tofu. I'm hoping to avoid both these problems this time around. (Although, living on carbs and beer is not a fate worse than death.)

But this time I'm going to be uber-prepared. I'm going to have a list of every vegetarian establishment in all of Europe, and be aware of where grocery stores are. I'm hoping it will be relatively cheap as well. My friends think I stlll can't make it all vegan (cough, cough, M.E.!) but I'm going to do it.

In the meantime, if I come across good ideas for veggie-friendly travel between now and then, I'll definitely post it either here, or in the margins under the travel section. And if anyone reading this has recomendations, lay it on me! I'm ridiculously excited to embark.


Secret Ingredient: Artichoke

Ahh, lasagna. The ultimate comfort food. Everyone has their own version. My Mom's (vegan) version is simple, quick, and laced with artichokes. You don't even have to spend time cooking the noodles, cutting down the prep time significantly. I've had the kind with meat and cheese substitutes, and those have their charm, but why mess with imitation when just vegetables by themselves can be pretty perfect?

Lasagna alla Barbie
-1 package lasagna noodles
-1 large jar marinara sauce (or make your own)
-1 package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
-1 yellow or white onion, diced into large pieces
-1 zuchinni
-a few handfuls of spinach, washed
-1 jar artichokes, drained and sliced
-dried oregano

1. Coat a casserole dish with non-stick spray and preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a saute pan, cook the mushrooms and diced onions in EVOO until onions are translucent. Toss with some salt and pepper and transfer to a plate with a paper towel.
3. Slice the zucchini and saute in the same pan with a little more EVOO. When softened, sprinkle with oregano and transfer to another plate with paper towel.
4. Now come the fun part. Splash a little tomato sauce in the bottom of the pan and set down your first 3 noodles.
5. Start to layer the ingredients, beginning with the spinach. Reserve 1/2 of each other portion for the next layer.
6. Keep on layering till you run out of ingredients. In my house we layer cheese on half too for the non-vegans. :)
7. Layer a little more sauce on top and cover with tin foil. Place in the oven for 30-45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for twenty or so more, or until sauce is bubbling.

Even better as leftovers, when "the flavors have gotten to know eachother" as my Mom says. Although leftovers rarely make it to the next day in my house.