Lima Bean Risotto

One of my favorite commenters, Josiane, managed to correctly identify and inquire about the lima bean risotto I made last week to accompany the “ricotta” butternut squash I mentioned in my last post. So I figured I’d make it again and post a recipe for her.

I thought I was lightly adapting the recipe for Risotto with Vegetables du Jour in Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure, but when I looked it up, I was pretty much making it exactly as specified, other than adding some wine to the broth. In a side note she even suggests lima beans, which I thought was my own idea, as one of the vegetables “du jour”. I wish I had actually adapted it so I wasn’t posting an exact recipe, but honestly, it’s a very basic recipe and there’s not much to change. Another thing: I used a pressure cooker, as you can probably tell from the name of the cookbook I got the recipe from. If you haven’t made risotto in a pressure cooker, you have no idea how EASY it is. I highly recommend investing in a pressure cooker – or putting one on your wish list. And as soon as you have the pressure cooker, get Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure because it’s excellent. Because I’m always looking up pressure-cook times for various beans and grains, it’s probably my most-referred-to cookbook.

You can also make this the hard way, by standing over the stove, stirring constantly and slowly adding the the broth as it is absorbed. It’s up to you!

Lima Bean Risotto
very lightly adapted from Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

1 large shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
large pinch saffron (Trader Joe’s sells this for a reasonable price, although that’s not very helpful for Josiane, who is in Canada!)
salt to taste (the recipe calls for 1 tsp; I find the perfect amount depends on the broth you choose)
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup cooked lima beans (I had some leftover from another dish in the freezer)
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
something green: thinly sliced scallions, chopped parsley or other herb, etc.

Mince the shallot.

Prep and measure the rest of the ingredients.

My broth is homemade and fairly concentrated, so I watered it down a bit so not to overwhelm the risotto. Here it is combined with the wine.

Heat some olive oil over medium-high heat in a pressure cooker (or medium-large pot if you are doing things the hard way). Add the shallots and cook until soft, then add the rice, salt, and saffron and stir to coat with the oil.

Add the broth and wine, put the lid on, take the heat up to high, and bring up to pressure. Then reduce the heat to low or medium-low (the lowest at which you can keep it at pressure) and cook for 5 minutes. Release pressure using a “quick-release” method.
(If you aren’t using a pressure cooker, get a book to read and a chair to sit on, and add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until it is absorbed to add the next dose. This will take about 30-40 minutes, if I remember correctly, but it’s been a very long time.)

There are three possibilities when you remove the lid of the pressure cooker: 1) the risotto will be a little dry, 2) the risotto will be a little runny, or 3) the risotto will be done perfectly. In the case of #1, add a little broth, as well as the lima beans and green stuff and return to medium heat just until the lima beans are heated through, stirring. In the case of #2, return to medium to medium-high heat to boil off the extra liquid, stirring and adding the lima beans and green stuff 2 or 3 minutes before it’s ready. If #3, just add the lima beans and green stuff and heat a couple of minutes until the lima beans are warm. Mine was a little liquidy.

I’ve added the limas in this picture.

After removing from the heat, add the lemon juice, adjusting the amount to taste. Adjust the salt if necessary.

And serve. This was accompanied by vegan “fish” in a garlic-tarragon sauce.

Josiane, I hope that helps – I’m sure you’ll add your own touches; let me know how it goes! As for the rest of you, any other requests?!

And now, Torticia.

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A brief overview of onigiri, and Los Angeles

Those of you who live in the US may have heard (or dealt with) about the slightly freakish snow the East Coast got last Saturday (it doesn’t usually snow in October in the mid-Atlantic region). Ordinarily this is something I would have been loudly whining about – probably right here in this blog – but as it turns out, Mark and I left for LA Friday night and missed the whole ordeal. Yes, it was snowing at home and I was in California enjoying sunshine and 90-degree temperatures. Boy, was that a great feeling.

For our late evening flight, I prepared onigiri (rice balls), which is perfect travel food. I wish I had taken pictures while preparing it, but I was busy getting ready for the trip. Next time I’ll take pictures and do a real post, but really it’s so easy, you don’t need much of a tutorial. And as with most things Japanese, there is little point in me doing a tutorial when Maki of Just Hungry has one that can’t be beat.

To summarize, though, I used a mold similar to this one (Maki’s tutorial explains how to do it without a mold). Just prepare some sushi rice, but don’t cool it and don’t season it as you would sushi – just cook it. Then stir in some salt to taste. Next, fill the mold a little more than half way with rice, then (optionally), make an indentation in the middle of the rice and add about a teaspoon of filling. The filling can really be just about anything as long as it’s not too wet. I used pickled radishes this time. Umeboshi is traditional and I often use it, but I was afraid Mark wouldn’t like it and didn’t want to worry about marking what was in each onigiri. Then fill the rest of the mold with rice, put the top on the mold, and push together. Then unmold – my mold has tabs on it that facilitate pushing the onigiri out.

Finally, and this is also optional, wrap the onigiri in nori, which you can cut out into fun shapes. For traveling, I then wrapped each onigiri in plastic wrap. Unless you use a mayonnaise-y filling, these will be safe at room temperature for quite some time, which is one of the many reasons they are so great for traveling. Other reasons include: you eat them with your fingers, they are filling, they are healthy, and they are super-portable.

For maximum fun, be decorative with the nori.

And now time to bombard you with pictures, though I will try to keep them mostly food- and animal-related. Last year I went totally nutso over the food in LA. As the Angelenos would say, it’s amazing. Here is an example of how amazing: Monday night Fort and Mark and I were at an event, after which we were meeting friends in Silver Lake. I was hungry and my friend warned me there was no food at the bar we were going to and so urged me to find something on the way. I figured that would be a hopeless cause, as we were in a hurry. Then, a block from the bar we drove by a restaurant called Vegan House. There wasn’t anything else around, just a random, open vegan restaurant with, of course, awesome food. There is no need to plan your meals in LA if you are vegan: vegan food is EVERYWHERE. (Except the airport. I hate LAX.)

Another example: I was browsing thrift and book stores near Fort’s new apartment in Echo Park and walked by an ice cream shop. I had really liked the book store I was in and thought how neat it would be if this ice cream shop a few doors down had anything vegan. Turns out it was ALL vegan. That’s LA: I think it might actually be harder to NOT be vegan there.

So anyway, here’s a little recap of my trip. I managed to forget to take pictures of many of my meals – despite the fact I lugged my new camera everywhere – but I did get a few. Saturday Fort took us for a walk through nearby Elysian Park. I love this picture I took of a lizard because he’s looking right up at me and I swear, SMILING! (I have another photo where he’s NOT looking at me or smiling, which makes me all the more sure that’s what he’s doing in this one.)

We hit up wine country on Sunday, where Mark made a new friend …

… as did I.

The views were almost as great as the animals.

Oh yeah, the wine was pretty awesome, too.

Even if I had to share.

Monday night was not only the best holiday of the year, it was Mark’s and my 7-year anniversary. Do you know who we were??

Tuesday we again met up with our friends, who suggested we check out Mohawk Bend. Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of our food because it was very dark but I did snap a shot of the menu because I thought it was really cool that everything is “vegan unless marked” otherwise, instead of the other way around! Not only that but they have separate kitchens for the vegan and non-vegan stuff. Everything was delicious here and the drink selection was terrific.

I chased a few cats around throughout the week. There are a particularly high number of them in Venice, where we went Wednesday.

Because I am a great wife, I suggested we go to Disneyland on Thursday, as Mark LOVES Disney. Disneyland fun, see?

Disneyland also vegan-friendly! Vegan gumbo in New Orleans! In a sourdough boule! If you’ve ever tried to find vegan food in a non-Disney theme park, you know how incredible this sort of thing is. It was good and very, very filling. Just what you need to fuel an action-packed day.

The rides are super-fun at Disney …

… but Mark found it very typical that I took more pictures of the ducks than anything else.

Disneyland and Disney World are kinda the same and kinda different. The castles…very different. Like Disneyland in general, it’s much smaller, for one thing.

After a long, hard day of Disneying, we were starving, so I checked my phone for vegan-friendly restaurants in Anaheim. Tana Ethiopian got good reviews and I love, love, love Ethiopian, so away we went! Veggie soup:


Friday the unthinkable happened: it RAINED! Actually, I didn’t have a problem with this, other than the fact that LA drivers are even worse in the rain than they normally are, and normally they are even worse than Northern Virginia drivers, who I previously thought were the worst. Mark and I took it easy and stayed local while Fort was in school, though. Which was fine because it gave me a chance to check out Sage Bistro, which was great.

A bright respite from the rain. The counter up front actually contains the vegan ice cream I mentioned earlier.

Mark’s Cobb salad:

My tuna melt with German potato salad:

The snails come out when it rains in LA.

Our final day was yesterday, Saturday. Fort insisted we go to his favorite beach, Malibu. I’ll let the pictures do the talking: gorgeous!

And that was our trip…and also an explanation of where I’ve been during my lull in posting. I’ve really missed Fort and V and am already looking forward to returning to LA, but in the meantime I’m glad to be home with Gomez and Torticia…if slightly less glad to be going back to work tomorrow!

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Mark’s Sushi Tutorial

The Smarkster and I were quite pleased to find that our local sushi restaurant recently upgraded their menu and greatly expanded their vegetarian options. Mark was so happy about it that he re-discovered his sushi obsession and when it came time to make his weekly Sunday dinner, he decided to make sushi. Which went so well that he decided to make more sushi last night. He suggested I do a post, so I have. Now you can learn from the guy who has made sushi twice sushi master!

What I didn’t chronicle is how to make sushi rice. I make my rice in my beloved rice cooker. To make sushi rice, I cook the rice as directed, then cut in some rice vinegar (sometimes seasoned with sugar, but sometimes I don’t bother) and salt. I just do this to taste, although there are plenty of tutorials around with much more precise instructions. Maki’s tutorial on Just Hungry comes to mind. When I’m making sushi rice to accompany a meal or even a scattered sushi, I just serve it warm, but when you are making sushi rolls, you’ll want to cool it, fairly quickly. To do this, Mark removed the rice from the rice cooker, put it in a wide bowl, and put it in front of a fan for a few minutes. So first, prepare some sushi rice.

Next, prepare some fillings. Raw veggies like cucumber, carrot, and avocado are common and easy. Cut them into thin strips like this:

I didn’t get a picture, but Mark also used some of the pickled radishes I’d made earlier in the week (using a simpler recipe than the one linked; I just put them in a slightly sweet brine overnight). This was fascinating because Mark has never, ever eaten a single one of my pickled radishes, and I’ve made tons of them. (Of course, I was only able to convince Mark he liked radishes at all a few weeks ago.) But he said these were really good! They’re great in sushi, even the red ones (whereas you usually see yellow pickled daikon in restaurants).

Mark, who would probably be happy living off of Gardein chick’n, also grilled up a couple of cutlets and decided to try that in sushi as well. Here he is slicing them thinly:

He also made some kimchi rolls. He prepared some bite-sized pieces of kimchi to use as a filling; though since kimchi is wet, these were a little trickier to roll. Totally worth it, however, as kimchi is great.

Next, he prepared the bamboo rolling mat. I’ve had this mat for years, with the best intentions of making my own sushi rolls, but I have never done it. Who would have thought Mark would make sushi before me?! He covered it with plastic wrap because he read that it is nearly impossible to clean stuck-on rice from them. Which I can believe, although I would imagine that once you’ve got enough practice, you shouldn’t be getting much rice on them, if you are making nori-outside rolls. Anyway, here is the mat all set up.

Place a sheet of nori on the mat. Our nori has these handy perforations on them showing you where to cut later. If your nori does as well, you want the perforations to go up and down, or opposite the direction of the bamboo sticks. Nori has a rougher side and a smoother side. Put the smooth side down; rough side up to receive the rice.

Set up a bowl with some water near your workspace. Sushi rice is sticky and you’ll want to dip your hands in the water often. With damp hands, grab a handful of rice and spread it out on the nori. You want to create a fairly thin layer of rice leaving about an inch at the top and bottom.

The lighting in our kitchen is not ideally suited for food photography, so this is a bit hard to see, but what Mark is doing here is placing some of the carrot and chick’n strips lengthwise along the bottom of the nori.

Next, he held the filling in place while simultaneously beginning to curl the bamboo mat, the nori lined up at the bottom edge, away from him.

Keep rolling until the edge of the mat hits the rice.

Then, keep pushing the roll together with your fingers, but release the mat.

And continue the roll without the mat, maintaining an even pressure on the roll and kind of tucking it in as you go along.

When the roll is complete, grab the top of the mat and start rolling back the other way to seal the roll.

Unfurl the mat …

… and if necessary, add a tiny bit of water to help seal the roll.

Next, with the sharpest knife you own, slice the roll into pieces about 1″ wide. My knives are rather embarrassingly dull right now, but Mark found that chopping fairly quickly was better than trying to saw through them. He also suggests wetting the knife first.

Pretty great for a second-time sushi maker, no?

Next up Mark wanted to make a drizzling sauce, which you sometimes find on extra-fancy sushi. He rummaged around the kitchen and pulled out these things: vegetarian stir-fry sauce, hoison sauce, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, sriracha, and lemon juice.

He mixed them together in proportions that were pleasing to him. The vinegar and lemon juice were literally just drops.

Then he plated the sushi with some wasabi, pickled ginger, and some of the Korean banchan we had bought at Super H, because it looks pretty (and goes really well with sushi). The rolls also got a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

I think Mark is trying to show me up by making things I’ve never made! And doing it well!

In personal news, we released some more raccoons this weekend, but this has been a long, photo-intensive post, so I’ll save pictures of that for another time. Oh, all right. ONE raccoon picture.

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A few weeks ago I was looking around for something different to do with rice and came across this recipe. Since I always have orzo on hand for adding to soups, I decided to make something similar. I was startled when I took a bite of it later: it tasted exactly like Rice-a-Roni. Which was surprising to me because I haven’t had Rice-a-Roni in over 20 years. I never would have thought I’d remember what it tasted like. In fact, I had forgotten Rice-a-Roni even existed. (Does it still exist?)

“Did your parents ever make Rice-a-Roni?” I asked Mark.

“No, why?” he asked.

“Because this tastes just like it.”

“I’ve never heard of Rice-a-Roni,” Mark claimed. “What is it?”

Well, I’ve never heard of not having heard of Rice-a-Roni, but I dropped the subject. But when we were washing dishes later, I started to sing, “Rice-a-Roni….”, and Mark chimed in happily, “the San Franciscan treat!”

“I thought you’d never heard of it,” I accused him.

“Well, now that you’re singing it, I know it. Whatever it was, it was awesome. Make it all the time.”

So, Mark, here I am making it all the time. Or every few weeks anyway. This is a quick and easy side dish. I’ll have no problem making it whenever Mark wants it.


1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
3 or 4 scallions, white parts minced, green parts chopped, separated OR 2 tsp dried minced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed OR 1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups vegan “chicken” broth
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
parsley – fresh would be awesome if you have it; dried if not

If using, chop the green part of the scallion, and mince the white part.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the orzo …

and stir to coat, …

… then saute until it’s beginning to turn golden.

Add the white part of the scallions or the minced onions and the garlic or garlic powder. It tasted a lot more like packaged Rice-a-Roni when I used the dried minced onions and garlic powder, by the way. Continue to saute until the orzo is completely golden.

Add the rice, broth, and soy sauce.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes or until all of the broth is absorbed. Stir in the green parts of the scallions, if using, and the parsley.

I served it with frozen veggies. JUST LIKE MOM USED TO MAKE! And a marinated and grilled Gardein chick’n scallopini, drizzled with sriracha. (Just like Mom never made!)

So, today is Tigger’s birthday. Look how nicely he poses for the camera! (This photo is particularly remarkable because I took it myself; it’s not as if there were someone behind the camera getting Tigger to look in that direction. He just knew to do it.) Tigger would let me hold him just like this for as long as I wanted, in fact, he begged me to. He’d even dance with me. Happy Birthday, Mr Sims. I miss you.

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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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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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Spicy Teriyaki Rice Bowl

This is a quick dinner that scales easily, uses whatever veggies and protein you have around, is cheap and filling, and tastes good. I’ve made a spicy version because, if you haven’t noticed, I think spice is the spice of life, but you can omit the chili paste and have yourself a regular teriyaki rice bowl instead if you prefer.

Spicy Teriyaki Rice Bowl

veggies to pan-fry, such as carrots, onions, bell pepper, broccoli, asparagus, daikon, squash, etc., chopped, sliced, or julienned into uniform pieces
protein, such as tofu, seitan, tempeh, fake vegan “meats”, and/or beans, cubed or sliced in uniform pieces
sushi rice, prepared
scallions, chopped and/or sesame seeds, for garnish

For the sauce (measurements for 2 – 4 servings)
4 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp mirin
4 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili broad bean paste (omit for a non-spicy teriyaki sauce)
1 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, grated

Prepare the sushi rice. I use a rice cooker. When it’s cooked, let it cool, then cut in salt and sushi vinegar to taste.

Whisk together the sauce ingredients into an appropriately sized pot. (For the amounts above I used this adorable cast iron melting pot.) Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer a few minutes or until sugar is dissolved.

Meanwhile, fry the veggies and protein (adding the ingredients to the skillet in descending order of their cooking times) in a small amount of oil (I used olive with a touch of sesame). I used: slivered onions, thinly sliced seitan, a carrot, three baby bell peppers in various colors, broccoli, and a handful of corn kernels.

When the vegetables and protein are cooked, remove from heat and pour the sauce over them, tossing to combine.

Serve with the prepared sushi rice. Garnish with chopped scallions and/or sprinkled sesame seeds if you have them (I didn’t).

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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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Way-Too-Fast Vegetable Risotto

I didn’t learn to cook, or even really appreciate food, until I became vegan. Things were a little different back then and it seemed a bit harder than it does now, but I did live mere blocks away from a great heath food store that stocked all the weird things I suddenly needed, like nutritional yeast. (Golden Temple sadly closed its doors a couple of years after I went vegan and I was crushed.) I don’t come from a family of adventurous eaters, so it wasn’t until I began cooking that I ate a lot of things for the first time, including some things that are often vegetarian or vegan in nature. Believe me, going vegan made me a MUCH more prolific eater: for every single thing I stopped eating, I started eating ten new things. Which is why I have to laugh at the “what DO you eat?” question.

It may seem astonishing, but risotto is one of the things I don’t think I ever had until I learned how to cook it myself. And I remember making it the first time: standing in my basement kitchen, reading a printout from the internet – this was before laptops were (in my book) affordable so I actually used this “printer” device – stirring constantly, adding veggie stock in small doses. It took about 45 minutes of constant stirring. The result was delicious, but I lived alone and much as I liked my new hobby of cooking, it seemed a little labour-intensive just to feed myself. So although I thought risotto tasted great, it didn’t go into heavy rotation at Chez Renae.

Years later, I got a pressure cooker and, to learn how to use it, Lorna Sass’s Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. There are a lot of great things I discovered about pressure cookers, many of them through that book, but one of the most important is that using a pressure cooker to make risotto is brilliant! I’m not kidding when I say that the risotto I made tonight was done in far too little time. I normally expect dinner to take me 20 to 30 minutes to prepare; actually, up to an hour. I’m really perfectly happy spending an hour making dinner, even on weeknights. But I’m often doing several other things at the same time: cleaning up, medicating the cat, doing other chores, while things are cooking. Risotto in a pressure cooker takes 5 minutes (with no stirring!) It throws my schedule out of whack! Tonight I needed to throw together a simple tossed salad and wash some dishes while dinner cooked and I barely had time to do either. If I hadn’t already had salad dressing made up, the risotto would have been waiting for me before I was even near ready for it.

This recipe is almost exactly Lorna Sass’s Risotto with Saffron and Seasonal Vegetables. I was going to pull it together without even looking at a recipe, because I wanted to use some of my farmer’s market bounty, but I needed to double check the ratio of rice to liquid, so I consulted the book and discovered what I planned to do was nearly exactly the same as the recipe in the book. Which is no surprise: I’ve made it several times before, and it’s good so I see no need to try to improve upon it. (Sass calls for 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked vegetables, any type. I’ve specified what I used, but know that anything will work.)

Too-Fast Vegetable Risotto

1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups risotto-style rice
4 cups vegan stock or broth
large pinch saffron
1 small crown broccoli, chopped into florets
1/2 large zucchini, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup orange cherry tomatoes, halved
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

Prep all the veggies. Don’t wait until the risotto is cooking to do this – it goes too fast. Chop them before you begin.

Put some olive oil into the pressure cooker over medium high heat and add the onions, cooking for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the rice.

Add the saffron and stock, then put the lid on and bring up to pressure.

Once it’s reached pressure, drop the heat to low or medium low and cook for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the veggies. I nuked the broccoli for 45 seconds, sauted the zucchini and bell pepper for 2 or 3 minutes, and stirred the tomatoes in after removing the skillet from the heat. You can really cook them however you desire.

Release the pressure in the pressure cooker via the “quick” method (i.e., run the cooker under cold water) and remove the lid.

Return the cooker to medium low heat. If it is still brothy, simmer for a few minutes until thickened (I have never needed to do this). When it’s the desired consistency, stir in the veggies and let them warm through, then stir in the lemon juice.

Serve immediately.

Here’s the salad I made; nearly all the ingredients were from the farmer’s market. I first tossed what I thought were two salad servings into a large bowl, then when a hungry Mark came prowling through the kitchen, offered him his salad as a first course before the risotto was ready. He pounced on the idea but took the entire salad! So I had to make a second one for myself. But I don’t complain about people wanting to eat salad.

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Quick Dinner with Sushi Rice

What with all the excitement of having Smucky here, I haven’t had a chance to post anything, which is okay because I haven’t really cooked anything spectacular. I figured I’d pop in and say hi this evening, though I still haven’t cooked anything spectacular, so you don’t forget about me. Food-wise, I am still recovering from the party last weekend. For example, I ate so many leftover chips with salsa as a snack late this afternoon that it wasn’t until 9:30 tonight that I even bothered asking Mark what he wanted for dinner. He told me not to worry about dinner, but I offered to make him some rice, his favorite food. He expected me to throw some sushi rice in the rice cooker and call it a meal – and he’d have been perfectly happy with that – but I simply can not serve a meal that consists entirely of rice. I am compelled to at least serve something on the side and include more than one vegetable. So here’s what I did:

I made the sushi rice as normal: sprinkling it with salt and sushi vinegar when it was done cooking, then mixing them in. Then I slivered about a cup of the yellow baby carrots I had leftover the party, as well as about 2/3 of an orange bell pepper. These I sauteed together with about half a cup cooked frozen edamame. Then I tossed the veggies with a sauce that consisted of 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons mirin, 2 teaspoons chili garlic paste, 3 drops stevia, and a splash of rice vinegar, thickened with a pinch of xantham gum.

I had much of a head of iceberg lettuce leftover, purchased to alleviate a party guest’s falafel craving, so I threw together a very simple salad of lettuce, carrot, cucumber, and celery. For the dressing I combined 3 tablespoons olive oil, a 1-inch piece of ginger, grated, 1 tablespoon mirin, salt and freshly ground pepper, and 3 tablespoons of a batch of kombucha tea that had turned to vinegar. The latter is a very mild, sweet vinegar which I wouldn’t expect anyone to have (it’s a mistake I even have it); to substitute for it, use 1 to 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or sushi vinegar).

Mark entered the kitchen, perplexed. “I thought you were just making rice. There’s an awful lot of food here for ‘just making rice’.” I know. I can’t make anything easy. Sue me. Or eat the delicious results and shut up! Not counting the rice, which was just made in the rice cooker anyway, this meal took about 10 minutes to throw together.

Yesterday Mark and I drove up to Baltimore to go to Artscape, at the beckoning of Fortinbras. Despite the fact that I for years lived about a mile and a half from the area Artscape is held, I never managed to attend it while I lived in Baltimore. I discovered why yesterday. It’s full of people. Which isn’t to say Artscape isn’t cool or anything – it is – but it was very, very crowded and I just do not like crowds.

I was absolutely famished when we arrived, and I get very cranky when I’m hungry, so the first thing we needed to do was find food. Fortunately this was easy, and there was even a vegetarian food stand at the first food court we encountered. I was carrying a huge camera bag containing several lenses, the camera itself slung around my neck, as well as the lemonade I purchased to go with my meal, and the two “veggie chicken” kabobs I bought, yet I still managed to get a picture of the kabobs for you. Mark asked me what the heck I was doing, as he thought I was crazy. It was a bit crazy to stand in the middle of an extremely crowded festival wearing a heavy camera bag, holding a lemonade, and take a picture of two kabobs I was holding in one hand. Please enjoy the results of my insanity:

The kabobs were very good, but not filling enough. I had to return ten minutes later and get a veggie wrap. Then we started exploring the festival and trying to find our friends: in addition to Fortinbras, we were looking for our friends Brad and April. The Charles Street bridge near the Jones Falls Expressway was festooned in streamers and various sideshow booths. It was extremely crowded. You can see Penn Station in the background of this photo:

There are several art cars in Baltimore, many of which were at Artscape. Here’s my favorite, although I couldn’t get far enough away from it to show that there is actually a car under all those hands.

I noticed that what I had previously taken to be a bizarre but exclusively Northern Virginia phenomenon – teeth whitening and dental services at street festivals and county fairs – has migrated to Baltimore. Here’s an inflatable dental spa, because nothing says “I like art” like a dental spa:

Artscape is a free event. It encompasses three days, several square city blocks, and offers performances by nationally known bands such as Cake. I think Etta James performed a few years ago. But all of this is free, and you just sort of wander around and immerse yourself in the wackiness that can be Baltimore (wackiness is what I love about Baltimore). So I found this interesting:

Instead of actually walking around looking at the displays, listening to the music, and participating in the games, you can pay $25 to stand on the top of a parking garage and look at the tops of peoples’ heads. Um, no thanks? The crowds did get to us, though, so Mark and I sought refuge at our favorite bar, then skipped over to The Yabba Pot for dinner.

And finally, I just wanted to share this extremely cute picture of Smucky and Brachtune playing Uno:

I’ll have a real post for you this week, I promise!

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