Refried Beans

Some people believe that refried beans are fried twice. They aren’t; the “re” prefix of their Spanish name (frijoles refritos) means “very”. They are simply cooked “very well” – until they are soft enough to easily mash. My refried beans aren’t even “fried” once, as I don’t see the need to add oil (and certainly not the traditional lard). And since I make them in the pressure cooker, they take, tops, half an hour instead of several hours. Healthier and faster! Here’s how I do it:

Refried Beans

1 cup dried pinto beans
1/4 cup diced or crushed tomatoes
vegan bouillon (optional)
1 small or 1/2 medium to large onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp chili powder (or more to taste; my chili powder is pretty hot and I was going for flavorful, not spicy), or some diced fresh jalapeno
1/4 tsp ground cumin
salt to taste

Soak the beans either in cold water overnight, or quick soak them by covering in plenty of water, bringing it to a boil, then covering and turning off the heat, and letting it sit for an hour. Drain, then put them in the pressure cooker with all of the other ingredients except the salt. Add water (or stock) to just cover the beans. Bring up to pressure, then reduce heat to low and cook for 6 minutes. Release the pressure, then heat over medium high heat to boil off the remaining water, salting to taste. When you reach a consistency that looks like this:

… remove from the heat and mash.

And that’s it!

Hardly harder than opening a can, right? And so much tastier.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, they are nearly as easy; they just take much longer. Follow the same instructions, but simply cook on the stove top for three to four hours, or until done. You could probably do it on low in a crockpot as well, although I never have.

My favorite way to eat them is in a burrito. Here’s the one I ate tonight, before I rolled it up:

It also features my pickled jalapenos and homemade taco sauce, which is essentially a small can (8 oz) of tomato sauce blended with garlic, onion powder, chili powder, pickled jalapeno juice, and salt.

I leave you with Gomez thinking pensively about the typical atypicalness of DC weather in March. It was 80 degrees on Monday, 70 on Tuesday, and then last night it snowed. It melted by noon, but Gomez and I hate snow!

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Mexican Breakfast

I really need to get to the grocery store today. I’ve been complaining for two days that there is no food in the house. Of course, that’s a ridiculous statement. There is a ton of food in the house. But, in a way that annoys a lot of people – in particular Mark and Fortinbras – all of my food takes the form of ingredients. I rarely have pre-packaged foods around. So if you are hungry, you actually have to make something. From scratch. Sometimes it even annoys me, honestly, though not usually. Anyway, I always have a ton of grains, tinned tomatoes, flour, dried beans, etc. You would not actually starve if trapped in my house for a month or two with no access to a grocery store. But it’s when I have no fresh vegetables around that I start saying I have no food. I’m kind of at a loss at what to do without fresh vegetables as a starting point. Mark kindly went out and got us some dinner from the Whole Foods salad bars last night as I was going out later and didn’t have time to contemplate how to deal with this situation, or just solve it by doing the shopping.

But this morning I was again confronted with the problem. What I did have on hand, though, was a bunch of leftover ingredients from meals earlier in the week. I had some pinto beans, nutritional yeast “cheese”, and half a tin of tomatoes. I got excited thinking, “tofu scramble!”, but alas, no tofu. So I started wondering what I could fry up in a skillet with those things instead of tofu. And concluded “rice”. So I put some rice in the rice cooker and started prepping. What resulted probably wasn’t anything most Americans would consider a very breakfasty food, but I’ve called it breakfast because I ate it as breakfast. It would really be appropriate and tasty any time of day. And anyway, the time of day I ate it was noon, so I guess it was more lunch or brunch. Whatever. I called it breakfast, I photographed it, I ate it, it was good, Mark liked it, I’m sharing it.

Mexican Breakfast

1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 or 2 pickled jalapenos, chopped
1 cup diced or crushed tomatoes
1 cup cooked pinto beans (black beans would also be good)
1 cup broth
1/2 – 1 cup Yeast Cheeze
3 or 4 cups cooked rice

diced avocado, optional
fresco sauce (this was some cilantro and serrano pepper sauce I got at Whole Foods), optional
Tabasco sauce, optional

In a large, preferably cast iron, skillet, heat some oil, then add the onions and fry for a few minutes, then add the bell pepper and fry another few minutes. Add the tomatoes, jalapenos, and pinto beans and saute a minute. Add the broth and cheeze, stirring to incorporate the two until they are smooth. Let the mixture become bubbly and thicken slightly. Stir in the rice. Top with avocado if you have it, and serve with fresco and/or Tabasco sauce.

In prior food news, I celebrated the new Vegan Pizza Day holiday on January 29 by making a new kind of pizza dough. I’m going to do a post on this crust very soon because it was gooooood.

Mark is sitting near me watching Mitch Hedberg videos and it’s making it very hard for me to concentrate on this post because I keep laughing. I will try to soldier on to bring you some kitten photos, though.

Gomez has a lot of nicknames. He’s Mez, Mezzie, Mezzikins, Mexicans. I mention this progression of names just because this post was about Mexican Breakfast. So here is Mexicans being extremely adorable.

His eyes are still both green and gold. I thought maybe the green would disappear as he got older, but he’s 11 months now and they still have the same depth of gorgeous colours as they did when he was a baby. They are really quite MEZmerizing. (I hilariate myself.)

Also, Torticia is often called Tortilla or Tortilla Chip. (As well as the more Italian-sounding Tortellini.)

And finally, my mother wanted me to share a picture of her tortoiseshell, commonly referred to as “the most beautiful cat in the world”. This is Casey, from 1995. Mom lost Casey a few years ago and hasn’t been able to replace her. Other than their colouring, Casey and Tortilla Chip have very little in common; their personalities were very different. But Casey was a big, soft, very sweet, quiet, and yes, very, very beautiful girl.

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White Chili

I have only a short post for you tonight; it’s been a very long weekend and I’m eager to just kick back and relax for an hour or two before going to bed and braving a new week. As I mentioned, when I reorganized my kitchen after I bought a bunch of vintage Mason jars, I found a few things I had several packages of because I couldn’t see things hidden in my cabinets and kept buying more. One of the things I have a ton of was dried navy beans. Always one to go against the grain, though it was allegedly the first weekend of fall (although fall has traditionally been my favorite season, I’m still fighting the passing of summer and am rather depressed about this) and the weather was relatively cool, and soup has been popping up on everyone else’s blogs, I didn’t want to make soup with them. I don’t feel the need to start making more soup this time of year because I never stop making soup. Soup’s my favorite food; I love it. I just didn’t want to make navy bean soup. Nor did I want to make baked or barbecued beans, probably because I did so pretty recently. So I thought about it and eventually came up with White Chili, and it was good enough to write up here, although I didn’t take preparatory pictures.

Torticia involved herself in the photo shoot….and a whole lot of other trouble today.

White Chili

8 oz navy beans
1/2 onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed
3 large pickled jalapenos, chopped
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
vegan “chicken” stock, enough to cover the beans after soaking
1 1/2 cups vegan “chicken” or chicken-style seitan, cubed – although I made some seitan today, it wasn’t ready in time to use in this dish, so I used Gardein Chicken Scallopini

Soak the navy beans, either overnight, or, after boiling for two minutes, for an hour. Put the rest of the ingredients, except the “chicken” in a pressure cooker, bring up to pressure, and cook for 25 minutes, then use the quick release method. Reduce any additional broth by boiling it off. Meanwhile, prepare the “chicken” by grilling or browning in a skillet. Combine the bean mixture with the “chicken” and make sure it is warmed through. Serve with rice and Tabasco sauce for additional seasoning.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, simply cook the beans on the stovetop until tender, which may take two or more hours.

While Torticia was interfering with my photo shoot in the dining room, Gomez was getting some love in the kitchen.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a picture of the flowers I couldn’t resist buying at the farmers market this morning. They look very nice with my dried beans when I use one of the Mason jars as a vase.

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Mafé: Senegalese Groundnut Stew

When I still lived in Baltimore, I worked at the newspaper, where one of my co-workers was a girl named Joann. Although we weren’t really friends outside work, I always thought Joann was a really neat person: I really liked her personal style, and she was very creative – during downtime at work, she made her own jewelry and she was always involved in something artistic. You could say I admired her. Joann saved up some money to take her dream vacation to Senegal, and while she was there, she fell in love. This resulted in a couple of trips back and forth for both of them, culminating in a wedding (followed, unfortunately, by nearly a year of living on different continents until her new husband was able to get a US visa). We had a bridal shower for her at work and after some research, I made benne (sesame seed) wafers to bring her good luck, as well as some other African-inspired dish I no longer remember.

For reasons I also don’t remember, Joann apparently brought food in for her own shower (unless she made this for the office at some later time), including mafé, which she made vegetarian just for me, which I thought was incredibly nice of her. It was also really good and at my insistence, she later gave me the recipe. Although I’d been vegetarian for a long time, I was a pretty new vegan and was just getting into cooking. This mafé recipe was perfect for me because it was really easy, really tasty, and it was exotic. I was at that stage a lot of new vegans go through where they realize how limited their diet was before they went vegan and how diverse it can be after going vegan. I felt like whole new worlds of flavor were opening up for me. So not only is this recipe delicious and particularly simple, it’s a meaningful one to me.

Senegalese Mafé

1/2 cup dried black eyed peas, or 1 pint fresh
2 sweet potatoes, the kind with red skin and white interiors (Joann noted I could find these in the international market and directed me to a store behind Baltimore’s Lexington Market; I used Korean yams from Super H), chopped
small piece of pumpkin, optional (Joann also directed me to an international market for this; I used a kabocha, which is a Japanese pumpkin, I also got at Super H), chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 medium onion, sliced from top to bottom (I missed this instruction today and just chopped it)
1 habanero pepper, stem pulled off, left whole
small can tomato paste
1 Maggi seasoning cube (Joann noted it was probably okay to use any brand from the regular market, and as neither Super H nor Wegmans had the vegetarian version, I used my old standby Better Than Bouillon)
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

If using dried black eyed peas, soak for 30 minutes. I was delighted to find fresh ones at the farmer’s market, though I had no idea how much fresh I should use. After comparing a dried pea to a fresh one, I concluded the dried one was 1/4 the size of the fresh and used about 2 cups fresh, which was what was in my pint.

This is what my Korean yam looked like inside:

And my pretty, pretty black eyed peas:

Combine all ingredients except peanut butter in a large pot. Add water to completely cover. I also added several dashes of liquid Maggi seasoning.

Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer until peas and vegetables are soft. Joann noted this would be about 1 hour and 15 minutes for dried peas; it was a little less for fresh peas. Taste the concoction periodically and when it is as spicy as you want it, remove the habanero, which may have burst; if so, remove the pieces. My typed recipe from Joann contains a pretty stern caution to NOT TASTE/EAT THE PEPPER!!, but if you live with a Smarkasauraus, you might try giving it to him. Try as I might, I never found my habanero, but we are used to a lot of heat and Mark actually found it necessary to add some habanero Tabasco to his portion.

Put half of the peanut butter in a small bowl and ladle some of the hot broth into the bowl; whisking until smooth.

Add to the soup pot and do the same with the remainder of the peanut butter. Simmer 15 more minutes.

Serve over rice. Joann said she used broken jasmine rice; I used brown basmati.

I mentioned in my last post that I took the kittens outside for the first time on Saturday. Actually, it was their second time, but their first time was aborted when Gomez had a sneezing fit right away and I got nervous because they hadn’t had their final shots yet. Gomez barely fit in his tiny kitten harness the first time I tried to take him out and he didn’t fit at all on Saturday. I’m reading Beasts and Super-Beasts by Saki on my phone when I get stuck in traffic and I came across this quote, which refers to the tendency of storytellers to exaggerate:

No moderate-sized rat ever seemed to carry out any predatory operations in these regions; they were all enormous in their enormity.

… but it made me think of Gomez, who I think is enormous in his enormity. However, he’s not so enormous he fits in a full-sized harness, and I’m not sure they even make a harness that fits 5-month old kittens who are enormous in their enormity but aren’t full-grown either.

In this picture you can see how he’s worming his way right out of his harness, although he’s not doing intentionally. As soon as I realized this, I took him inside and rigged up a tighter harness using a twist tie.

Surprisingly, Gomez was less nervous about being outdoors than Torticia. Usually Torticia is the braver one. But Gomez strode right out and started rolling around in the sun like a goof.

Meanwhile, Torticia sat near the door and looked a bit skeptical. I think maybe she wasn’t too wild about the harness; sometimes they make cats not want to move.

She just sat and watched Gomez.

Then someone started up a lawn mower somewhere and outside time was over instantly. Gomez was up and back in the house like a rocket, with Torticia right on his heels. I couldn’t even find him to take his leash off for a couple of minutes. Overall, though, it went well and I think they’ll both do pretty well on leashes, which I’m sure makes me look like a crazy cat lady.

In other news, Smucky is here for a visit right now, and he and Mark and I are going to Boston this weekend. I haven’t been to Boston in over ten years! Anything I must see, eat, or do?

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Smoky Pink Beans, Fun Slaw, and Fried Potatoes

Today marks the first time in a couple of months I’ve spent the entire day in the kitchen. I baked bread, made three different kinds of soda, pickled some radishes, made ice cream, and made a big dinner. Although I wanted to make a nice Sunday meal, I had no idea what to make. I finally decided I wanted to use up some dried beans, so I did an “extended quick soak” on some pink beans and just sort of went from there. I had also bought a “rainbow slaw” (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots) mix I wanted to incorporate into the meal. Here’s what I did:

Mayo-less Fun Slaw

Mark hates mayonnaise, made with eggs or otherwise, so I wanted to make a mayo-free slaw he would enjoy. This was quick and easy.

6 oz. “rainbow slaw” (a pre-packaged mix of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots)
3 Tbsp chopped scallions
2 Tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt

Place the vinegar, oil, mustard and salt into a small mixing bowl.

Whisk well.

Toss with the slaw and scallions.

Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Smoky Pink Beans

2 1/4 cup dried pink beans
2 small onions, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
vegan broth (I used “chicken”-flavored) to cover beans by 2 inches
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp salt (I used smoked Maldon)

Soak the beans overnight in cold water, or quick soak by boiling for two minutes, then removing from heat and soaking for an hour. Drain.

Place all ingredients but the salt in a pressure cooker if you have one. Pressure cook for 12 minutes then quick release if using a pressure cooker, otherwise, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until beans are soft. Stir in the salt after the beans are soft.

When my beans were done, I still had a lot of broth, so I brought it to a steady boil and boiled what I could off. I eventually got tired of waiting and wanted the beans to be soupier so I stirred in about 1/4 tsp xantham gum. You don’t need to do that, however. Break up the onions with the back of a spoon before serving.

Fried Potatoes

2 lbs potatoes, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp flaked salt (I used the smoked Maldon again)
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes for about five minutes, then drain. Heat some oil in a cast iron skillet, then add the onions, peppers, salt, oregano, and cayenne and black peppers; saute until onions are soft. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown. I deglazed the pan with a triple-strength mixture of Vegeta and water for extra flavor.

And here is everything together, served with brown rice.

Mark liked this a lot; he had two huge servings of the beans, which he thoroughly doused in Tabasco. There are plenty of leftovers, which I imagine will only improve with age.

And now it is time for a heartwarming tale. One morning a few weeks ago my manager and I had to go downtown for three back-to-back meetings. As we drove into the city, I warned him that I was going to be very cranky by the time the meetings were over because they were interfering with my normal lunch time and I’m not pleasant to be around if I don’t eat at regular intervals. My manager is a very good guy and when the meetings were over and we were heading back to the office, he wanted to know if I was okay or if I’d like to stop for lunch. I noticed him looking at a hot dog stand as he asked this, though, and I said, “that’s a hot dog stand, what the hell would I get there? You think they’re going to have vegan hot dogs at a hot dog stand?!”, as if he were totally off his rocker. Well, to my immense surprise, on Friday I came across this post on DC Vegan. It seems some hot dog stands in DC DO in fact have vegan hot dogs and not only that, the one we passed is one of them (it was the third on that list). Frankly, I’m flabbergasted. But that also made my month. This year has been a lot of things so far, good and bad, but I’ll tell you what: it is a GREAT year to be vegan. I FEEL SO NORMAL! I’ve been vegan for 12 years and when I started I never dreamt I’d be able to order a hot dog from a hot dog stand. That’s just…amazing.

You know what else is amazing?

This guy!

And this girl!

Doesn’t Gomez look a little evil in this picture?

But he’s not evil! He’s a sweet, wonderful, lovable, adorable, amazing little boy!

It’s really amazing that we are actually watching their personalities form. Sure, they already had very distinct personalities when we got them a week ago, but they are changing in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. Gomez is FAR less shy than he was when he got here (I’m not even sure the word shy even remotely describes him any longer), and they are both even more affectionate than they were a week ago. They constantly switch between which one is dominant. They are learning from one another. Every day – every hour, even – I learn something new about them. It’s so weird, yet exciting, to have cats I don’t know better than I know myself (after living with Tigger and Brachtune each for 16 years, I could anticipate their every move). Torticia is sitting on my lap as I type this, purring like a machine and licking my wrist: my plan to make lap cats out of them is going well!

Mark and I are both wildly in love with these kittens. I don’t know how a person could not be, honestly.

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Mexican Rice Bowl

Like, I’m guessing, many people, I go through phases of fall-back meal types. I’ve been in a “rice bowl” phase for a few months now. If I can’t think of anything else to make, I think of a cuisine, get some appropriate rice cooking in the rice cooker, put the cooked rice in a bowl, and top with various veggies, protein, and sauce. Rice bowls are great because they are extremely versatile, quick and easy, cheap, and good for using up leftovers. Tonight we had Mexican rice bowls, which is a first. I’m so fond of tortillas I’m generally very eager to wrap anything I can find into them, but tonight we had no tortillas and I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store. So Mexican rice bowl it was.

Although it may look like it, this isn’t really a recipe; it’s a list of suggestions. I’m just recording what I did for inspiration; a lot of it was stuff I used because I had it on hand and needed to use it, like the half can of tomatoes.

Mexican Rice Bowl

2 – 3 servings cooked rice
1 1/2 cups salsa (see below for a recipe or use your favorite)
1 can pinto beans
1 cup cooked corn
vegan “chicken” broth
1 packet Goya Sazon Azafran seasoning
1/2 small onion, diced (separated)
1 jalapeno, minced (separated)
vegan cheddar cheese, like Daiya

1/2 can diced tomatoes
1 large tomato, chopped
2 Tbsp minced onion
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 cube Trader Joe’s frozen cilantro, or fresh cilantro to taste
salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

To make the salsa, place all ingredients in a bowl and combine well. Set aside to allow the flavors to meld.

Drain the pinto beans and put in a small saucepan with half the diced onions, half the minced jalapeno, and the packet of seasoning. Add vegan broth to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened. I added a little too much broth and got sick of waiting for it to thicken enough, so eventually I added a little bit of xantham gum, which thickened it right up and made it gloriously saucy.

Because I wanted to finish the rice bowls off in the oven so I could have melty “cheese” on top, I used individual cast iron bowls. I sprayed them with olive oil then added a layer of rice. I then topped them with the beans, the corn, some salsa, the rest of the diced onions, the “cheese’, and finally the rest of the minced jalapeno. Then I popped them in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese had melted. This was very tasty and I’ll definitely make it again some night I’m lacking in fresh vegetables (as I was tonight).

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Boston Baked Beans and Boston Brown Bread

Some weekend mornings I wake up, realize I don’t need to be anywhere for the whole day, and wonder what kind of slow-cooking meal I can cook at my leisure all day – especially when it’s freezing outside and I want to warm up the kitchen. This morning was such a morning and I immediately thought of Boston baked beans and Boston brown bread. As many of you – at least the Americans – may know, baked beans and steamed brown bread were New England staples since Colonial times, traditionally cooking all day in Puritan homes and served for Saturday dinner. In fact, beans played such an important role that Boston is sometimes called Beantown. A little googling just now informs me that the Puritans learned how to make beans from the Native Americans, eventually replacing the maple syrup and bear fat in their recipe with molasses and salt pork. You don’t have to slaughter a bear to make my version, you’ll be glad to know. Nor a pig; I don’t even know what salt pork is though I assume it’s just pork that’s been cured with salt, which I know was a popular thing to do in Colonial times.

If you search for Boston baked bean recipes, you’ll find that nearly all of them call for ketchup. I find this bizarre. We have a baked bean recipe in my family (though we’re not from New England; most my ancestors hovered pretty near the Mason Dixon line); I believe it was my great Aunt Joyce’s but my mother would have to confirm. I don’t have access to it, unfortunately, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t contain ketchup. Ketchup sounds like a strange addition to me, and in fact, Google tells me that under no circumstances should ANY tomato products go into traditional Boston baked beans. I couldn’t resist putting tomato sauce in mine, though, and obviously I’m not putting pork in it, so my version isn’t traditional. It’s traditional in spirit though, in that I’ve been slowly cooking it all day and am anticipating an unassuming, filling, nutritious meal.

Boston Baked Beans

1 lb dried navy or other small white beans (I measured this for you in case you don’t have a scale and it’s about 2 1/4 cups. But you should get a scale.)
3-4 cups bean cooking liquid (and/or water)
1 onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup molasses
1 small can (8 oz) tomato sauce
3 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 Tbsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
2 bay leaves

Soak the beans overnight, or do a quick soak, which is what I did: cover beans with water …

… bring to a boil and cook two minutes, then remove from heat and soak for an hour.

Cover soaked beans with a 2-3 inches of water, bring to a boil, then simmer for an hour or two, or until tender enough to easily bite but overly soft. Check periodically and add more water if necessary.

Drain beans, reserving liquid. Also, preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Smash the garlic.

Dice the onion.

Put the beans and the rest of the ingredients in a bean pot, Dutch oven, or other oven-proof dish. (Have I mentioned that I’m in love with my new Dutch oven?)

Stir to combine.

Cover and bake 5 to 8 hours. Check on the beans periodically, stirring and adding more liquid if necessary.

Remove from oven. These could also have been cooked in a pressure cooker for 45 minutes, or in a crockpot all day.

Boston Brown Bread

I followed this recipe from Epicurious exactly (other than substituting oil for the butter and and non-dairy milk for the milk); it got really high ratings and looked good and simple, so I figured there was no need to change it up. I probably should have used blackstrap molasses but all I had on hand was mild flavoured. It turned out fine.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole rye flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used hemp; I’m a freakin’ hippie.)
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup dried currants or raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Whisk in the molasses and non-dairy milk, then fold in the currants or raisins.

Rub or brush the interior of a 28-oz aluminum can (from which the top but not the bottom has been removed) generously with oil, then pour in the batter. If you use different sized cans or change the quantities of the ingredients, just be sure to fill the can(s) no more than two thirds full as the bread will rise quite a bit.

Cover tightly with foil and secure with a rubber band (or tie with string).

Place an in an oven-safe dish or pot and fill with boiling water (that electric kettle of mine sure is handy!) to a point halfway up the can.

Put in the oven and steam for 2 to 3 hours. Check periodically and add more water to the pot if necessary. The original recipe said to steam for two hours, removing when an inserted skewer comes out clean, but I found it took closer to three hours to be done and it was still quite moist – almost too moist to eat easily. So next time I might cut back on the liquid just a smidge. Let cool in can for 30 to 60 minutes. (The original recipe said an hour, but I was already behind schedule because it was steaming for longer than it said, so I probably only cooled for half an hour.)

Slide out of can. Mine slid right out, but if yours doesn’t, just remove the bottom of the can and push it through.

Slice to serve. I was so caught up in making the beans and bread, as well as making a batch of tofu at the same time, that I completely forgot to make a vegetable to serve with them, so I just grabbed some corn, or as the Indians call it, maize, from the freezer. Mark informed me this was really good, and that he experienced several different taste sensations, including sweet, bitter, etc., terming it very “mouth palate-y”. I think that’s good anyway.

Here is a carrot sunflower bread I also baked today:

I think Whole Foods should start paying me to be a roving advice giver. I don’t know what it is about me, but people are compelled to ask me for help in grocery stores. I have lost count of the number of times people have randomly asked me what a certain vegetable looks like and where they can find it. Fortunately for them, I probably know better than most customers – and possibly employees – what everything in the produce department is, but I don’t know how they know that. Some guy asked me to help him figure out if he’s allergic to a certain detergent today; that was new. And also today a lady asked me what kind of tofu she should buy and how she should prepare it. I wasn’t even buying tofu. I mean, THIS is what I look like:

Would you approach this person and solicit her advice? Does this look like “Tofu Expert” to you? (Okay, I wasn’t wearing the hat in Whole Foods – today.) The weird thing is I am a tofu, and a produce, expert, but I don’t think I necessarily give off that vibe just by looking at me. Usually it’s produce questions, though. I’ve explained what shallots, sunchokes, kumquats, horseradish, chard, and umpteen other vegetables are, where they are located, how to tell if they’re fresh, and how to cook them. In fact, I’ve only ever been unable to answer one question: once, in Wegmans, someone asked me where to find some sort of meat and I told her I didn’t even know where the meat department is, which is true, although I know Wegmans like the back of my hand, so you’d think I would know where it was if only to avoid it. Both Whole Foods and Wegmans should at least give me a discount on my bill for all the customers I’ve helped for them. I guess I just find it strange because it would never occur to me to ask a random shopper questions like those. At best, I’d ask an employee where something was if I couldn’t find it. But I’d never walk up to someone and say, “hey, do you know how to cook tofu?” I really don’t mind, though. Elsewhere, it’s rare I’m asked questions I actually know the answers to, so I enjoy feeling useful for once. I just think it’d be awesome if WF and Wegmans rewarded me for my helpfulness!

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Pink Beans and Rice

This is another sort-of “use up all that stuff that’s been lying around” recipe. I had seitan in the freezer that needed to be used, dried pink beans that had been sitting around forever, a bell pepper on its last legs, and the ends of tomatoes that didn’t fit nicely on a sandwich. So…pink beans and rice.

Pink Beans and Rice

(I didn’t take a picture of all the ingredients beforehand, but here are many of them lined up after being prepped.)

2 cups cooked pink beans
2 dried chipotle peppers
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper (I’d have preferred green but only had red)
6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 pound seitan, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 6 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup water or vegan broth (you’ll probably need to add some salt if you use water)
2 packets Goya ham flavoring (it’s vegan!)
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped, or if you are like me and never have cilantro when you need it, 3-4 cubes frozen cilantro (Trader Joe’s sells this)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp (or to taste) chipolte powder
4 cups cooked rice

Cook the beans with the dried chipotles; a pressure cooker makes this easy. Drain.

Bring some olive oil up to temperature over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. Add the onions and cook until very soft.

Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook another minute or two.

Add the seitan and cook about 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for half an hour or until thickened.

Stir in the rice and warm through.


This was quite good but Mark picked out all the seitan and ate around it because he said it was “mushy”. What I should have done was fry it separately before mixing it in because by the time I added it to the pot and sauted it, it was too liquidy in there for the seitain to brown. This may not be a problem if you are using a less-tender seitan, but Kittee’s Gluten Log is very tender and meant to be well-cooked after steaming. You could also simply eliminate the seitan: the dish is hearty enough as just beans and rice.

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Party Leftover Chili

As far as I am concerned, my grandmother’s chili is chili. It’s a pretty simple recipe, but I guess because it’s what I grew up with, it’s the definitive chili in my opinion. Nonetheless, when I came across this recipe last week, I considered it fortuitous because it calls for a bunch of stuff that I had left over from last weekend’s party. I had leftover beer, tortilla chips and an entire jar of salsa brought by thoughtful guests. This recipe takes care of all that stuff! Here’s how I veganized it.

Alton Brown’s Pressure Cooker Chili

1 1/2 lbs your favorite seitan (if you are like many people, Kittee’s seitan may well be your favorite)
1 1/2 lbs soaked pinto and kidney beans –> Okay, I dropped the ball on this one by not weighing these before I soaked them; I merely soaked all I had left of both kinds, then weighed after soaking. I’d say maybe a pound unsoaked? There’s no need to be exact anyway.
1 tsp salt
1 bottle of beer
1 beer bottle full of water (12 oz) –> this is twice as much liquid as called for in the original recipe, however, you need it for cooking the beans.
1 jar of salsa
1/2 can chipotles in adobo sauce (chilis + sauce)
2 cups tortilla chips (whole or fragments, whatever)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin powder

Chop seitan into bite-sized pieces.

Place a couple tablespoons of oil (I used peanut as Alton Brown suggested) in a pressure cooker, then fry the seitan until golden brown.

Pour about half the bottle of beer into the cooker and deglaze the pot, scraping all the browned bits off.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients except the tortilla chips.

Add the tortilla chips and give a quick stir.

Put the lid on the pressure cooker, bring up to pressure on medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium low or low (the lowest setting at which you can keep the pressure) and cook for 30 minutes. Use a quick-release method to release pressure (i.e., hold pot under cold running water until pressure is released).

Garnish with vegan sour cream if you’d like and eat with additional tortilla chips.

This was great: very tasty, very easy, very fast, and I felt so great about using up all those party leftovers! The original was an all-meat, beanless chili, but I thought it would be seitan overload if I used all seitan, plus I love beans and I thought they made for a great texture. The pintos were creamy and the kidneys had just enough texture to provide a contrast.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you’ll have to cook it (in a Dutch oven or large pot) for several hours until the beans are done. Or just used canned beans (which I wouldn’t recommend in the pressure cooker because they’ll overcook): I’d probably use two cans pinto and 1 can kidney, but you can use whatever you like.

Incidentally, we don’t have cable TV and I therefore only ever get to watch the Food Network when we’re at Mark’s mom’s house or on vacation somewhere, and I’ve never seen Alton Brown’s show. I’m so out of touch. I always thought he was the “science” guy of cooking, though, (and kind of cute – some people think Mark looks like him and I’ve seen photos where that’s true), so I figured I’d like him. I was surprised to see things like jarred salsa and tortilla chips in one of his recipes. It just seemed more like a Sandra Lee (wow, I saw her show on a Virgin flight one time and I wanted to throw up) thing to do. Or Paula Deen (saw her show on the same flight and also wanted to throw up, for a different reason: she used about a pound of butter to make everything). Or am I overreacting? Jarred salsa isn’t bad: I use it sometimes. It’s even an ingredient in my famous nacho cheese. It’s just that I find it an unusual ingredient in a professional recipe because you can’t control what brand the user will purchase and they are so different. Not that I think TV chefs want to control people, but it seems a certain salsa could make or break their recipe. If I were writing a recipe, I’d probably just include individual salsa ingredients in the recipe. Then again, I have to admit I didn’t specifically taste the salsa in the finished recipe so I probably have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m probably being snobby. And also, I was delighted the recipe called for jarred salsa because I had so much of it!

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Lemony French dinner is mine

Dinner preparations were a bit haphazard tonight as I got home late and encountered some issues that needed to be dealt with when I finally arrived. Likewise my photos are haphazard. Nonetheless, I worked out a theme for the meal and it turned out pretty awesome. The theme was French. That’s because yesterday I found some French beans at Wegmans and revolved the meal around them. What I did was basically throw things together and ask myself what flavors seemed French to me, which isn’t easy because I’m not well versed in French cuisine as it’s not known for being particularly vegan-friendly. I’d also bought a bag of lemons yesterday because, well, I love lemons. They’re on my list of Things About Which I Freak Out if I’m Not Well-Stocked With. Garlic’s number one and onions are a close number two, but I think lemons may be number three. Anyway, right now I have PLENTY of garlic, onions, and lemons, so I found myself wondering what sorts of things seemed French and lemony. And here’s what I came up with:

Lemon-Dijon Roasted Potatoes

2 lbs red potatoes, chopped into even but chunky pieces
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves pressed garlic
1 tsp flaked sea salt, like Maldon
freshly ground pepper to taste
fresh herbs, to taste (I used rosemary and thyme)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash and chop the potatoes. How large you chop them will determine how quickly they bake.

Place the mustard, oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper into a small bowl.

Whisk together.

Place the potatoes on a baking tray or dish on which they will fit in one layer. Pour the sauce over them.

Coat the potatoes with the sauce by tossing them around in your (clean!) hands. Place in the oven and cook for half and hour. Remove and add the fresh herbs:

Herbs from my indoor herb garden that I haven’t yet killed!

Return to oven and roast and additional 10 minutes or until done.


Lemony Garlic French Beans

1/2 lb French beans, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp shallot salt

Blanch the beans in salted, boiling water for 3 minutes.

Brush or spray a large skillet with olive oil. Add garlic and lemon zest, stir for 20 seconds. Add the beans and stir.

Pour 1/4 cup water into the skillet, as well as the lemon juice and shallot salt; stir to mix. Cover, reduce heat, and steam for 5 minutes.


Basic Lentils

I know I was going for a vaguely French theme here and I do in fact have French lentils, but honestly, I love your plain ole, every day brown lentils more than any other and that’s what I’ve used here. I could eat them every day.

4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 cups dry green or brown lentils
4 cups vegan stock
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp shallot salt

In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring some oil (you need very little) up to temperature, then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the lentils and stock; bring to a boil. Add the thyme and shallot salt, adjusting the amounts to suit your tastes. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 40 minutes.

To serve, dress the lentils generously with fresh-squeezed lemon (I used 1/2 a lemon on my portion alone).

To be enjoyed with red wine and followed with dark chocolate. Trés français! If only I’d managed to incorporate a grapefruit so I could throw around my favorite French word. (Though I’m also fond of bibliothèque.)

Now for an explanation of tonight’s post’s title. If you’ve read my about page, you’ll know that part of the reason for the name of this blog comes from Invader Zim. I don’t remember the episode, but in one of them, Zim shrieks, “sweet, lemony-fresh victory is mine!”, which is something I have taken to shouting when things go my way. Dinner tonight did go my way, and it was lemony fresh. I have no idea how French it actually was.

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