Tuesday, January 31, 2012


There is Valentine’s baking and then there is Valentine’s baking…. If you still look for a project and have sufficient time and skill, check out Bakerella! My baking was a red brownie, or better a …. reddie?


Snack time

Meatball weak continues, lentil meatball that is. They are the perfect little snack, with a crisp outside, and hearty and crunchy texture thanks to the walnuts. They are also a perfect salad topping, with some hummus and Florida strawberries.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Dear Emi

Dear Emi! You don’t know me, but I love you. Especially your recipe for happiness.

Emi Guner’s recipe for happiness:

“I'm a happy person. We've been through this before. But it's true and I often get asked why I'm so happy. I TELL YOU HOW TO BE HAPPY

Surround yourself with great people

Love your job

If you don't love your job, leave your job

If you can't leave your job, find life beyond job

Dance, daily

Sing daily, especially if you believe you can't sing

Eat chocolate


Take every opportunity to laugh

Limit shopping. Shopping doesn't bring the happiness. Am serious.

Have children in your life.

Find art that works for you

Make peace with yourself

That's all.”

Could not agree more.



Saturday, January 28, 2012

Vegan lentil walnut porcini meatballs

The other day I came across the recipe for vegetarian meatballs from the Meatball Shop in Manhattan. Vegetarian is nice, vegan is better. So, I added my own tweaks and twists to the meatball recipe and made it vegan. And still very tasty. 


Preparation of lentils:
  • 1/2 cup beluga/French lentils
  • 1/4 cup red lentils
  • 1/4 cup chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 2 garlic cloves
Wash and rinse the lentils and chickpeas, and place in a pot with the water, the bay leaf and garlic. Bring to a boll, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours  on low (simmer only for 30 min if you soaked the lentils and chickpeas for 12h). There is likely little water left, but if there is then drain it. It should make about 2 1/2 cups of cooked lentils. 

Lentil walnut porcini meatballs:
  • 2 cups cooked beluga and red lentils and chickpeas
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2  red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1 TB red pepper spread (avjar, or Trader Joes red pepper paste)
  • 1 oz dried shitake mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water, drained and chopped
  • 1 oz dried porcini mushroom, reconstituted in hot water, drained and chopped
  • 2 TB BBQ sauce
  • 4 TB ground flax seed, 1/4 cup of water (mix to make 2 flax eggs)
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4  cup bread crumbs
  • 3 TB finely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a  large baking sheet with some olive oil so that the meatballs won’t stick. Set aside.  

Prepare the flax eggs by combining the ground flax seeds with hot water, and set aside. The mix will gel. 

Add the olive oil to a frying pan and sauté the onions, chopped carrots, minced garlic, thyme and reconstituted mushrooms over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5-7 min. Add the tomato paste and red pepper paste and continue to cook for about 2 minutes, until all the ingredients are mixed well and the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, and let cool in the food processor for about 5 min.

Add about 75% of the cooked, and slightly cooled lentils/chickpeas to the vegetables in the food processor, and chop coarsely until all the ingredients are well combined. (It will be quite mushy, that makes the lentil balls even more sticky and hold together). Add the mixture to a large mixing bowl. 

Add the flax egg, regular bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs, chopped walnuts, BBQ sauce and the salt to the pureed mix as well as the non-pureed cooked lentil mix. Mix with a spatula until thoroughly incorporated. Let sit for about 10 min (for the bread crumbs to soak up the liquid and bind the meatballs). 

Use a small ice cream scoop and scoop out ping pong ball sized meatballs. Place the lentil balls in the prepared baking sheet, allowing 1/4 inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.

Roast at 400F for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Snow day

The weather has been all over the place this week. First, skiing on the weekend with temps in the teens, then a sudden warm-up and rain, which took care of the snow, and converted life into a puddle. Back to cold with streets, walkways and driveways doubling ice skating rings. By yesterday the streets were orderly and the temps colder. Overnight? New snow with a dash of sleet as garnish. Schools are closed today, and about everything else, too, which brings us to our first snow day of 2012, and an unexpected long weekend. Yeah.

I laughed and I cried, and I laughed again. It was very Shakespearian (or better Bridget Jonesian..). What did I do? I finally watched Bridesmaids on DVD last night. However, watching it the second time during the day (without a glass of wine) makes it a bit sadder. It is a classic, though, great, quirky, unforgettable characters. I think I will never be able to think about bridesmaid dress shopping carefree again.

A pot of beluga lentils with chickpeas is simmering on the stove. With the time on my hands , it is time to try something, the Lentil walnut meatballs from the New Times website, but with my own twist. And lounge on the couch with a bridesmaid rerun. Hold on, for one more day. Of snow.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Foggy Bottom

Well, foggy bottom is actually a subway station on the DC metro rail but it came to mind when I crossed the river this morning with a sudden increase of temperatures by 25 degrees, all snow gone and the river with a dreamy foggy layer. By afternoon it was more puddle bottom and with the sun peaking through the clouds there was a whiff of spring in the air. Pretty major for January in Maine. It won’t last, I am sure but we all needed a break from the cold.

Lunch was also quick with some help from the grocery store salad buffet. I think all salad bars can learn something from the Wholefoods salad bar. Why don’t they?


Monday, January 23, 2012

Winter Vegan

I typically start eating mostly vegan around October when the winter squash, winter leafy greens and dried beans are plenty at the farmers market. By January I am a  little bit in a rut feeling I ate the same-old all over again and check my vegan cook book library for inspiration to bring about new combinations and new flavor directions (indian? asian? provence?) Today, I went back to my own food from last year around this time and it looks like it is time to bring polenta, mushroom and farrotto back….


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The cold and the warm

We got the deep freeze here for 2 weeks already, temperatures in the low teens, and now a handful of snow. The good about the snow is that it allows for higher aerobic outdoor exercise again such as gliding through the sunny, cold woods on skis and still feeling warm. Warm is good.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Avocado Kale Salad

I turned on the IPad with the Pandora station set to Etta James. At last…… my love has come along. Or so. I am not a huge fan of avocado despite its healthy fatty acids, but the Wholefoods salad bar has a massaged raw kale salad with avocado, tomatoes and onions, which I just love. A match made in heaven – raw kale and creamy raw avocado. I searched around for recipes, but in the end made up my own: peel and smash a 1/2 avocado in a bowl, add 1 TB of shoyu and the juice of 1 orange. Mash these ingredients well. Now add one bunch of curly kale, stripped off the stems and cut into bite-sized pieces, to the avocado mash and using a hand to massage the avocado into the kale leaves. The heaviness of the avocado weighs down  the kale immediately, but you can wait for a 1/2 hour for the avocado to soften the kale leaves.
Serve with chopped tomatoes and peeled cucumber and maybe some thinly sliced red onion. Bon appetite!

RIP, Etta James!

Vegan Banana Milk with Dates

The other day I read about banana milk on one of the blogs I read. I don’t remember which one but the idea stuck. Banana milk! It brought back memories of a boxed banana milk drink from my childhood, bright yellow, incredible sweet and the artificial flavoring of bananas. I loved it, though. It was time for a grown-up version ---- fresh bananas and almond milk as main ingredients, a mejdool date for sweetness, chia seeds for umpf, and strawberries, why not. Exquisite!

Vegan banana milk with dates (1 serving):
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 date
  • 2 TB chia seeds
  • 5-6 strawberries
All in the food processor (add ice if summery temperatures), a good twirl, and ready to go!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sunburst salad in the middle of winter

It is continuing to be cold, very very cold and even some snow on the way. The woodstove is fired up day and night to keep us warm, and anything reminding me remotely of summer and warmth is welcomed. The grocery store had a delivery of beautifully looking strawberries from Florida that had the wonderful aroma of just ripe strawberries, an aroma so good that it convinced me to buy them out of season (for Maine, at least)  but at least national and east coast (all depends on the scope of local, right?). They were a great addition to the sunburst salad the other day, rounded out with mixed lettuce, orange bell pepper, goat cheese and toasted pine nuts with balsamic vinaigrette. 


Monday, January 16, 2012

Kale Feta Butternut Squash Mini Muffins

It is cold, really cold, like in the teens cold. I braved the temperatures, all bundled up and went for a sunny, blue skied walk. The fresh air and the sunny blue sky with a wintery serene landscape are marvelous. To warm up, the evening TV program promised Giada in Bora Bora, the Golden Globes and a preview of Kim’s marriage swan song. I bowed out of (watching) the Golden Globes this year and instead baked a double batch of my favorite savory muffins. I still had a block of sheep’s milk feta cheese from the farmers market but I was out of almond milk and baby spinach. Instead I used kale and real milk. I baked 2/3 of the dough as regular sized muffins and 1/3 as mini muffins. These feta kale butternut squash muffins definitely deserve a Golden Globe!

Feta Pumpkin Spinach Muffins (single batch):

  • cooking spray (for the muffin pan)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 255g butternut squash,peeled,  and cut 1/4-inch cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of raw curly kale, stripped from stems, finely chopped
  • 100g cubed feta (full-fat), also cut into same sized mini cubes as butternut squash
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 large organic free range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 180 ml milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 4 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 405F / 200C, with rack in the top third. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan and a 6-hole muffin (or a 24 hole mini muffin pan and a 6 hole regular muffin pan) and set aside.

Sprinkle the olive oil, salt and pepper over the cubed squash. Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and bake for 15-20  minutes so that the squash is mostly cooked, but not mushy or dry. Set aside to cool.  In a pot, heat water with some salt, and once boiling, shortly blanch the kale for 1 min. Remove kale from the hot water with a sieve, rinse with cold water and squeeze out as much water as you can. Set aside.

In a bowl beat the eggs, mustard and milk together; stir in some fresh ground black pepper and about a 1/2 ts of salt. Separately, sift the flours, baking powder and salt into a bowl, and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix until smooth. Fold in gently the kale, feta, and the butternut squash.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pans, filling each hole 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let cool for a couple minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack

Nutritional information: 1 mini muffin, 45kcal.

mini_feta_muffins2 mini_feta_muffins1

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Farmers Market

Today was one of the Saturdays when the winter farmers market takes place. Yes, we are in Maine, it is freezing cold and we have an outdoor winter farmers market. We are really serious about farmers market. As expected there was not much offered with regard to vegetables in the dead of winter, but goat cheese, fresh free range eggs, fish from the coast, milk as well as vegan cupcakes were available. Everyone was buddled up. A stand with hot coffee would have made a killing!


Black bread

101cookbooks is one of the first blogs I’ve ever read, and it is still one of my favorite ones. Heidi posted a recipe of a black bread in the last few days, and as bread enthusiast I planned to try it. The ingredients sounded esoteric for bread (cocoa? espresso? molasses?) but it could really work for a dark rye bread, which I love. Since I am rather busy and  have little time to babysit a bread right now, I made it using the breadmachine. My breadmachine makes 1-1 1/2 pound loaves so I halved of the ingredients. Verdict? It is delicious!!

Find the original recipe here!


Vegan Bolognese, Take 2.

Yesterday, it was the quick version with store-bought marinara. But it is just as simple to make from scratch with a can of salt-free, chopped tomatoes (I use the Trader Joes brand, but any salt-free will do). 

Vegan Bolognese (3 large or 4 regular servings):
  • 12 meatless meatballs (e.g. Trader Joes)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1 can salt-free chopped organic tomatoes, pureed (!)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth (or water)
  • salt, pepper, to taste
  • 2-3 TB red wine
  • handful fresh or 1 cube frozen basil
  • 2 TB ketchup
  • 3 TB Trader Joes roasted red pepper eggplant spread (or ajvar)
  • 1 hot chili pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 –1 cup frozen or fresh kale
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 TB goat cheese crumbs (optional for real vegans, but it adds a nice creaminess)
Thaw the meatballs (2 min in the microwave), and chop into crumbs. Heat the oil and saute the onion. Add the chopped meatballs, and saute for about 5min on medium so that the faux meatball crumbs slightly caramelized. Add all the other ingredients, mix carefully and simmer for  about 10 min. Cook pasta according to instructions, drain and serve with sauce!
1 serving (if divided into 4 servings) has 145kcal.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Vegan Pasta Bolognese

This is a very tasty dish, and it uses a few shortcuts for those busy weekday meals. I typically have a bag of Trader Joes faux meatballs in my freezer, but yesterday I did not feel like a dish with meatballs --- rather a hearty bolognese sauce. I thawed a about 10 faux meatballs, chopped them up, fried them with a 1/2 onion and 1 ts of olive oil, added a cup of Giada’s vegetable marinara sauce (at Target), 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, a handful of frozen kale (Wholefoods!), some salt, pepper, 1 grated garlic clove, 2 TB ketchup, a squirt of hot sauce, a cube of frozen basil, 1 TB of goat cheese crumbs, and voila a very tasty Bolognese sauce. I simmered it for 10 min, while the pasta cooked, and dinner was ready.

Plus, a serving of pasta for lunch today! 

Vegan Bolognese (2 servings):
  • 10 meatless meatballs (e.g. Trader Joes)
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1 cup Giada’s Marinara Sauce with vegetables
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1/2 –1 cup frozen or fresh kale
  • salt, pepper, to taste
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 TB ketchup
  • 1 ts hot sauce
  • fresh or frozen basil
  • 1 TB goat cheese crumbs
  • 4 oz of penne pasta
Thaw the meatballs (2 min in the microwave), and chop into crumbs. Heat the oil and saute the onion. Add the meatballs, and saute for about 5min on medium so that the faux meatball crumbs slightly caramelized. Add all the other ingredients, mix carefully and simmer for  about 10 min. Cook pasta according to instructions, drain and serve with sauce!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

What’s in your lunchbox?

The snow is finally coming down. I wonder if it will add up to the expected 6 inches or not. There is such a calm and quiet to the world when the dark, snow-pregnant clouds open up and snowflakes fall silently and thickly.

This morning I packed up my new lunch box; the separated departments are great for salads. Today’s combination was herbed salad mix with radicchio and chickpeas, sliced orange bell pepper, sliced Belgian endive and Florida strawberries with balsamic vinaigrette. Since I don’t like to eat from plastic I poured the salad into a porcelain bowl in my office.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A night for Gluehwein

It is the evening before a predicted, but unexpected snow storm. It will throw a monkey wrench in our day, likely cancel a half day of classes, mess up the streets and provide precarious precipitation. I am watching (appropriately/coincidentally) Anastasia on netflix, about an imposter Russian princess, with the ever wonderful Ingrid Bergman. The only thing missing to accompany the the anticipation of the snowstorm was the first brew of Gluehwein for this season (gluehwein does need snow). Find the recipe here!


Monday, January 9, 2012

Ode to….. many things

Somehow I came across a few articles lately of how hidden chemicals in everyday products can affect our health. It made me think back seeing “A Crude Awakening” last year, a documentary about the impact oil has had on our lives over the last 100 years (only!)… That we use it for heating and transportation is obvious, but it has also enabled a huge chemical industrial landscape with the production of everyday items like clothing, plastic and makeup. It’s been a while that I’ve seen the documentary but in a way it was eye-opening: we only have used plastic products for about 100 years?! 

On the other hand, I often wonder that with all the medical advances over the last 100 years why do still so many people get cancer, die of cancer and they are younger than ever? It reminds me of the sudden ‘scandal’ of detecting that BPA in plastic bottles and the lining of cans that affected people’s health negatively, and all the unknown correlations we don’t even know yet (and likely industry might also not want us to know).

Ever since the BPA issues I went back to using glass containers to store food. I have a whole arsenal of the beautiful and practical Frigoverre glass food containers, inexpensively bought at TG-Maxx. I also use glass storage glasses for a large collections of dried beans, lentils, chickpeas, grains and flours. I do still use plastic containers, but only for storing items in the freezer since I managed to crack quite a few glass containers with the massive temperature difference between the freezer and outside and there is nothing more fun that a broth container without a bottom  taking over the fridge ;-)

So, ode No 1 – the ode to glass containers. It is also much more aesthetically pleasing.

You know my LOVE for the vitamix (as everyone who has a vitamix). Once in the kitchen it upstaged any other blender I own. With a sad and lonely existence at the bottom of the list of my blenders, the magic bullet, hidden deep in the cupboards. But not anymore! Making a batch of hummus, a small batch that is, the magic bullet has a much better cleanup factor than the vitamix (which basically keeps half of a cup of hummus in in sharp fangs, aehm blades). So, ode No 2 – to the magic bullet for small serving cooking. (I also use it constantly for pureeing chopped salt free tomatoes for sauces!).

And ode No 3? Finally, some food. A new tasty version of hummus --- with sesame oil, garlic, curry powder, cumin powder and a dash of maple syrup, so good!

Indian spiced Hummus
  • 1 cup of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 ts cumin powder
  • 1 ts curry powder
  • 1 ts roasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 TB maple syrup (the real thing)
  • 1 TB tahini
  • good dash of salt
  • 2-3 TB of chickpea cooking liquid (or water or veggie broth)
Place all in the food processor (magic bullet! shake the ingredients to mix well) and puree away. You might want to take if off the socket and shake it up a few times. Done! (Now, if they would make that magic bullet with glass cups,….. ;-) )

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hungry yet?

Today, the lasted Williams-Sonoma catalogue arrived in the mail. WS is one of my favorite kitchen stores…… and, from the looks of it, the catalogue starts to double as a cookbook. My stomach is roaring. Where is lunch!!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lunch Inspirations

Lunch for me is different every day. There is no big recipe behind it besides a new combination of vegetables at hand. My staples in the winter are fresh kale, some winter squash from my fall farmers market stash, and many, many ziplock bags filled to the brim with various frozen vegetables such as frozen corn from the summer, petite brussels sprouts, exotic mushrooms, cannellini beans, lima beans, edamame, artichokes, broccoli, etc. Not every vegetable (or fruit) freezes well; the texture can change so much that I only eat them fresh (off my freezer list are for example bell peppers, summer squash, mango and also a few winter squashes).

Today’s lunch started with peeling a butternut squash, cubing half of it and baking it in the oven for future meals. About a 1/4 squash I cut into halfmoons and then strips, and started sauteing them with some basil  flavored olive oil, salt and pepper. I added the remaining wild mushroom medley, the last summer ripe local frozen corn, a handful of edamame, and then fresh kale. To wilt down the kale, a bit of water was necessary. All served up with something that is not organic, not local, and likely not cleaning eating, but it makes everything, especially vegan food, taste so good: a dash of BBQ sauce. Lunch is ready!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Busy Beaver

Hey there! How is your new year going so far? Resolutions, plans, a clean canvas? Busy? When I walked along the river yesterday I saw the handywork of some really busy beavers. Scaling a whole tree truck? Someone is keeping up the exercise…


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Green Garbanzo Beans

There was a time when garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) were mostly of the white variety. Then came the black garbanzo beans, which are really more  brown. Rumor has it real black indeed exist. But searching for my beloved petite frozen brussels sprouts at WholeFoods brought about a new variety: frozen green chickpeas. 

Green chickpeas are basically young chickpeas that -- when left to mature on the plant -- turn into the blonde variety that is dried. They are like edamame, and they do taste like peas rather than regular chickpeas. Nevertheless, off to trying them out, although I cringed at the cash register at the steep price tag ($4.69 for a small bag), but then what is not expensive at Whole Paycheck. 

Green garbanzo beans are basically raw garbanzo beans and do not take very long to cook. I put them in the microwave for about 3min with some water and they were ready to go. WF conveniently offers a few recipes for green chickpeas such as green hummus and chickpea guacamole,  but I think I will eat them as a salad ingredient. 

green_garbanzo WF_green_garbanzo

Monday, January 2, 2012

Semi-Vegan, who?

Mark Bittman, chef, food writer and food politician at the NY Times, wrote up an inspiring collection of vegan recipes that are attractive even for the sometimes vegan. Check it out!

Some of these recipes are standards in my vegan repertoire, too, like chickpeas and spinach (or kale), plenty of brussels sprouts, roasted squash, bean burgers, mushroom risotto or pasta. Fried rice, not so much.