Friday, June 29, 2012

Vegan summer nights dream

While others are roaming the grocery stores to buy food to go camping next week  or are on a wonderful mid-summer vacation already, I am over my head in work and have an upcoming deadline. Fortunately, it will be over before July 4th. So, there is not much going on right now with good eats and cooking or any trips to the scenic coasts. Free time is spent on mowing the lawn for exercise and fresh air. Oh well, can’t be long anymore.

What did fit in was some nice red wine on the deck on a summer evening, grilled vegetables and sauted bok choy from the farmerr market.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Watermelon feta salad

One of the most delicious combination this week has been sweet, juicy, cold watermelon with tangy, salt, dense sheep’s milk feta. Also works well as addition on top of any salad (that includes sauteed mushroom and first local baby bok choy) with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012


The other day I read in the paper that the cultural wave of food trucks had finally made it way up to the most Northeastern corner of the USA. We’ve got our own local foodtruck! Like most foodtrucks, Street Bistro advertises its menu over Twitter and Facebook, and today I finally checked out the lunch fare. While they offered escargot poppers (you are reading correctly, really escargot) I could not be tempted at all by this menu option, but the pulled pork tacos with coconut rice, coleslaw and mango salsa sounded better. There were also braised beef tacos, but I went with the vegetarian option. Delicious!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Curvy summer squash

It is the time of the year when the summer squash starts to go wild: leaves that are humongous in size and all over the place and squash production is starting. This year it’s going to be round, mini-melon like squash. Can’t wait! I should call it the Botticelli squash….

I wonder when the summer squash will have taken over the raised planted bed….. At the moment they all are cohabitating nicely, the thyme, the lacinato kale, the sweet peas, the sage….. and of course a few weeds.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

A 100th birthday.

ok, nerd alert. But as a computer scientist I have to acknowledge that today is the 100th birthday of Alan Turing, a ground breaking computer scientist in the early days, basically a Steve Jobs of the earliest days of computing. His untimely death was tragic, but his influence enormous. So, now you know why the Google home page looks a bit different today.

Alan Turing's 100ths birthday

Friday, June 22, 2012

Watermelon, kale and feta salad

The cats are tucked underneath the bed, and peek out suspiciously. Yes, a thunderstorm is passing through. It should be a short one. The weekend is here, the good weather kind of continues, and lunch was another harvest from the lacinato kale bed. This time the olive oil + lemon juice massaged kale leaves were combined with watermelon cubes, a handful of briny kalamata olives and sheep’s milk feta from the farmers market. To be honest --- it was the best salad I had in a while!

Watermelon, kale, and feta salad (1 portion)
  • ca 10 lacinato kale leaves, washed and sliced
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 ts extra virgin olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of watermelon cubes
  • 5-6 kalamata olives
  • slice of sheep’s milk feta block, diced
Massage the olive oil and olive oil into the kale leaves. Add salt and pepper to tasted. Gently mix in the watermelon, olives and feta. It probably tastes even better when chilled for an hour, but I was too hungry, and it was divine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Avocado massaged kale salad

The summer introduced herself nicely, a hot and humid day, as along most areas of the East coast. Everyone seems to be in siesta mode in my house, and after watering the raised beds the second time today I was ready to harvest the first lacinato kale of the season for this wonderful lunch salad.


When I eat at Whole Foods, I always look for their kale salads. One of my favorites is the one with tomatoes, red onion, lemon juice and smashed avocado. Exactly for this purpose, two avocadoes were already ripening on my countertop The other inspiration is from Heidi Swanson recent kale salad with shaved (yes, shaved!) fennel.

Avocado massage kale salad (1 portion)
  • half of a hundle of lacinato kale (or ca 12 leaves) (aka Tuscan kale, dinosaur kale)
  • juice of a 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 of a hass avocado, ripe (soft)
  • pinch of salt
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ca 1/5 of a large fennel, shaved with a mandoline length-wise
  • 1 TB pine nuts, toasted
Stack and roll up the lacinato kale leaves like a cigar, and slice thinly (ca. 1/2 inch wide). Place in a bowl, add the lemon juice, and massage the lemon juice heartily into the leaves. Cover, and chill for ca 1 hour.
Cut out a 1/4 from a hass avocado. Score it with a paring knife, peel it and add to the chilled kale. Get clean hands, and smash the avocado into the kale leaves (basically, massage the avocado into the kale). Shave the fennel and add to the salad; add the salt, and about 2/3 of the cherry tomatoes. Mix gently. Serve with toasted pine nuts and the remaining tomatoes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Hummus of my Dreams

I have made hummus for a while, but somehow it always seemed a bit watery or not as good tasting as store-bought one. I was ready to get on the bottom of this. What do I need to change? I looked around for an authentic recipe, and found out that the proportions of chickpeas to tahini are essential: ca 2 cups of cooked chickpeas and at least 1/4 cup of tahini. Voila, the (home made) hummus of my dreams!


Hummus (ca 2 cups)
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved 
  • 1/2 tsp fleur de sel (or kosher salt), or to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup tahini  (sesame paste)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp reserved chickpea liquid (or water)
  • a few drops of Tabasco sauce, to taste
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Paprika, for garnish
Place all ingredients into a food processor (except the salt) and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Scoop into a bowl and drizzle with a good quality olive oil and garnish with paprika.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lobster roll with a view

Sunday was a gorgeous day, sunny, warm and it was finally time to get out and about again. A bit of antique hunting (those antique bundt cakes!), a lobster roll with the best view in Penobscot and watching the boats in Castine, one of my favorite New England villages.







Sunday, June 17, 2012

Yardsale Saturday

It was a typically Saturday here in Maine in the summer, it starts with a visit to the Farmers Market, and then it seemed like every institution and foundation had a yardsale fundraiser this weekend, kajaks and canoes included.

FM_2 FM_3
yard_sale1 yard_sale2

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vegan mango lassi

A ‘vegan lassi’ is an oxymoron since a lassi is an Indian yogurt drink. But I like the idea of a chilled, lightly sweetened refreshing milky summer drink, so I made it with vanilla almond milk instead of yogurt although with the slight tanginess of yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, there is another dimension to lassis.

This recipe is a very good replacement --- a cup of almond milk, a whole soft mango, a pinch of stevia and a pinch of ground cardamom. Delicious!


Time of the Peonies

The seasons have moved on to one of my favorite times: time of the peonies. It is also time of the lupines and the poppies. There are some spots around town which have my favorite peonies. This one is the first.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Leftover BBQ salad

Lunch salad was delicious (and simple) yesterday: mixed greens with vinaigrette, sliced baked (BBQ!) potatoes from Sunday, black chickpeas and goat cheese crumbles. The black chickpeas are almost nutty and the potatoes with the tangy balsamic vinaigrette filling and the goat cheese tangy and creamy. Not quite a potato salad, but potatoes in the salad.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Charcoal grilling, round 2

Today, I did what apparently everyone else did over the weekend (my google reader was almost empty): staying away from the computer and doing something fun outside in the nice, warm, sunny weather. One of the projects was to give the outdoor grilling with a portable charcoal grill from Bodum another try. Last time I had not used enough coals and they had not burnt and turned white, so I had little heat. This time I used the tip I got: use a charcoal chimney.


Note the large chimney and the small grill…… I was a bit scared if I would be able to pour all the hot coals into the small grill once they were hot, and after it started smoking and burning, I poured the (lighter fluid containing) coals pretty quickly into the grill and spread them. The lighter fluid smelled awful, but once it had burnt all off the coals were red hot.  And, I finally had heat.


The vegetables were ready: fresh corn, a tomato, a Belgian endive, a Boca vegan burger and 2 small potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil. Onto the grill!


I had so much heat that I actually had more charcoal than I had started out with…..


Delightful (practice) dinner. Fortunately I also had some swordsteak.


The potatoes the longest, and after the rest of the food was cooked I put them right on the coals. that did the trick. Done-ness test with a fork.


So, now that I know how it is done time to invite some people over for some leisurely grilling and chatting while it all cooks away.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lazy Saturday


Fig Olive Raincoast Crisps

My reservoir of raincoast crisps (or in my case maine coast crisps) was getting low. These are just a perfect snack with a glass of wine – super crispy, savory, slightly sweet, nutty, fruity, salty….  So, I made a new batch tonight. This time I choose ingredients similar to those of the package I originally bought in Ellsworth, with figs and kalamata olives. With the briney-ness of the olives I like these ones even better than the cranberry walnut rosemary ones from last time (although they are excellent!). 

Due how I prepare the figs and olives, the ‘bread’ (result of the first baking phase) is slightly more soft and crumbly, so it has to cool to be better able to slice it thinly. 

Fig Olive Raincoast Crisps (makes about 48 crisps);
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup dried mission figs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 TB balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brined kalamata olives, sliced (best from the olive bar!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas (Trader Joes!)
  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh or dried rosemary
Preheat oven to 350F, and spray a 5X12 pan. Set aside.

In a pan, heat the red wine and the balsamic vinegar together with the chopped figs to reconstitute the figs and add more flavor to them. Slowly simmer the figs until all of the moisture is evaporated, and the figs are almost dry in the pan. Let cool. 


Sift together the dry ingredients, mix the wet ingredients, and add both together (a standmixer is fine). Now, add the warm figs, the kalamata olives, and all the nuts and seeds. Mix well. Fill into the prepared pan and bake for 45 –50 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool thoroughly. 


Slice very thinly with a serrated bread knife. Set oven to 300F and place slices on cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Turn over and bake for another 12-15 minutes until crisp. If you give them a whiff with an organic canola or olive oil spray, they bake extra crispy. Cool on a cookie rack, and store in airtight container.


Here are the originals --- it might be good to only quarter the figs and not slice the olives to get the same texture.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rainbow coleslow

This is one of my favorite coleslaws – very colorful and tasty (and no mayo!). A third of a medium sized head of thinly shredded red cabbage, 3 grated carrots, sesame seeds, and a marinade of 1 TB tamari, juice of one orange, and 1 TB balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix and let marinate for a few hours before serving. Optionally: add dried cranberries.


Calorie counting for cats

Sigh. I have 4 cats: 2 are skinny, and 2 are chubby and they are all fed the same food: high quality brand dried cat food. Chanelle, one of the chubby ones, is very active and he keeps his (over the median) weight with a lot of running around, annoying his skinny cat sister, so it is really my fault if I cave and give him treats when he asks for them instead of staying mum, and give kisses and chases instead. Bad mommy. But another cat, Valentino, really worries me because her weight is still climbing. She is medicated (she has epilepsy) and so she does not move much since she sleeps most of the time. Since she was a little kitten her favorite ‘treat’ was getting food. She is a cat who eats anything: pizza crust, pumpernickel bread, licking of a bit of butter. You get the picture. When she was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 3 1/2 years old, I felt really sorry for her. Seeing her going through her grand mal seizures broke my heart. So, a diet was not high on the priority list at that point, just keeping her alive, and I pampered her with hugs and treats. 

Her weight climbed. She was quite overweight when she was diagnosed, but due to being drugged and sleeping a lot, she now gained even more weight. When her weight goes up, she needs more medication which can ultimately affect her liver health. So, getting her to loose weight is now really high on my priority list.

I cut out all the treats, and gave her cuddles instead. She is like “what that? I want food!”. I groom her fur with a fine comb. She loves that, she licks her paws and cleans her face and I groom her chubby back which she cannot reach anymore. I distract her with the laser pointer from asking for food. It often works. I cut out the free feeding over night. I emptied the bowl in the evening and filled it in the morning. She still shares the food with Manolo, who is on a special diet for her IBS. 

She still gained weight. Her ideal weight is about 11 pounds, but she is 20 pounds.
So, yesterday I decided I need more effective measures: no more ballparking, but calorie counting.

I went to petco and actually really looked for the calorie content in the different brands of Science Diet cat food. The “light” brand which I used to buy has actually more calories (387kcal/cup) than the indoor one (287kcal/cup). I got a small bag of the indoor variety. I checked how much I need to feed her for her weight and lifestyle. “15 pounds and over 3/4 of a cup”. I use a little cup with a lid, and measure the food out for her. I cannot leave it out because Manolo cannot eat it so every time Valentino asks for food, I fill some into her bowl, and fill the rest back into the container. Manolo’s food is hidden in a shelf to which skinny Manols can easily jump, but little chubby kitty cannot. (Calorie content of that food: 587kcal/cup). 

So, I am calorie counting for cats.

The stats are: 20-30 kcals/per pound body weight per day for a cat (aged 1-6 years, not pregnant). Older cats needs about 20-30kcal/pound. Valentino has a very sedative lifestyle, so it is 20kcal*20pounds= 400 kcal/day. It should not be reduced more than 10% per day, so the goal is ca. 360kcal. I think 300-350kcal/day would be good.

The Science diet indoor food has 287kcal/cup, so 1 cup of it. I will add a half jar of Gerber baby food, chicken, which has 100kcal for a whole jar. 

We are on day one. I think the hardest will be for me saying no to her, when she bugs me for food. But I will visualize her as happy, skinny cat jumping around and being much happier in the long run.

“Good luck with that!” she says, curled up sleeping between my feet under the covers.

Update, Oct 23 2012

valentino Calorie content of popular brands

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Veggie Cats

Every morning I bring a bundle of fresh cut crabgrass from the garden and put it in a small vase. It is immediately devoured by my veggie cats. I guess there are more salad lovers in this house than I knew.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Roasted fennel with balsamic vinaigrette

The rain finally came, making it an indoor Sunday, with curled up cats on the couch, and me watching the Iron Lady for a second time. It seems that people love or hate the movie equally strong. I find it very moving. To imagine that such a powerful woman, a world leader, today struggling with dementia she might look back on her life like this. Although the representation of her life of now is fictional, it is very well done. I am not sure how likeable Maggie Thatcher really is, but Maggie Thatcher with Meryl Streep’s heart makes me love her. Meryl Streep deserved this oscar. And she has a few more in her.

I deep cleaned the kitchen, made vegan muffins, which tasted great (apple cardamon!) but they were sticky instead of crumbling so they need a make over. The roasted fennel with roasted mini bell pepper and balsamic vinaigrette was delicious.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Maine Coast Crisps

It is a gray day and we’ve been told it would rain around 10am for the rest of the day, of the weekend, but it 2pm, John Mayer is singing “someone like Olivia”, and I made it both through the farmers market as well as my other grocery run without a drop of rain. At the farmers market I bought a creamy local goat cheese that would go perfectly with my baking adventures from last night: reinventing the delicious (but pricey) raincoast crisps from Canada. 

They are made similarly to biscotti: twice-baked. First, a loaf is baked, cooled, thinly sliced and the slices are baked again to crispy perfection. The combinations are endless (just as the originals), I added ingredients that I had at home: cranberries, pepitas, and walnuts and rosemary. It would work well with kalamata olives, dried figs, caramelized onions and pecans. I am pretty sure I won’t have to wait too long to make the next batch: perfect snack for friends coming over for a glass of wine. 

Home-made these crisps are inexpensive, delicious, and really easy to make. 


Maine Coast Crisps
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas (Trader Joes!)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh or dried rosemary
Sift together the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and stir (I mixed them by hand). Now, add the “flavorings”. Fill into a sprayed 5X12 pan and bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Let cool thoroughly. Slice very thinly with a serrated bread knife, set oven at 300F and place slices on silicone lined cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. Turn over and bake for another 12-15 minutes until crisp. If you give them a whiff with an organic canola or olive oil spray, they bake extra crispy. Store in airtight container. 

The batch mades about 42 crisps; each crisp has about 60kcals.