Monday, April 26, 2010

Everyday Soul

What a fabulous Sunday. Enjoyed some vegan biscuits n' gravy at The Top (my very favorite brunch spot in Gainesville) with my parents, with whom I then returned to West Palm Beach for a two-week visit.

After a raw pasta dinner courtesy of Mom, went for a walk around the neighborhood as the sun set. Back at home, I finally got to watch Coco Avant Chanel! It was a beautiful film, and fed my soul thoroughly. I love how much comfort and freedom guided Coco's designs. In fact, maybe I should direct my gratitude toward Miz Chanel for the fact that I can wear pants whenever I like without being called a boy.

Also savored a few chunks of this incredible small-batch chocolate, Escazu during the viewing and would highly recommend it. Good heavens, even two minutes after eating, the rich flavor still lingered on my tongue. A testament to the quality of the chocolate, but also to the way every bite of something sweet these days is truly a gift to me! Haha. I promise, give up sugar for a month or more and you will understand.

Action in the kitchen arena will quickly pick up now that I'm at home, so expect some recipes this week. Just wanted to deliver a few humble Soul Food encounters to your blog-reels on this rainy Monday, in hopes they might inspire some for you!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bottom of the Barrel!

This week will be my last in Gainesville for a little while, so I'm trying to use up some stuff in my pantry. For some reason, this intention has translated into a whole lotta Indian food! Made some simple moong lentil dal yesterday and tonight, shared a fun family dinner of what I have decided to call:

Indian Pizza
serves 3

I used a Socca recipe recommended by David Leibowitz for the crust, then made this to go on top:

[Chana Masala]
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chickpeas, with liquid
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala

Saute the garlic in oil over medium heat until fragrant, then pour in the whole can of chickpeas, undrained. Mix in spices, then cover for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spread chickpeas over the socca, cut like a pizza and serve! We ate it with...

Garam Masala Green Beans
a slight adaptation from the Vegetarian Times recipe, serves 3

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 cups green beans, halved and ends snapped
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water

Steam all ingredients, covered, for around 8 minutes.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Day for Cake

So yesterday was a very busy day, and a special occasion: boyfriend's birthday! The first part of it I spent on a backstage tour of Epcot's hydroponic garden. Let me just say, they may not be organic, or jive at all with my agricultural values, but my, was it magical! The kind of wonder one expects to find in a Disney affiliate. Check it!

400-pound pumpkins!!

A "tomato tree" that has produced 32,000 tomatoes!!!

Here's a wide view of the part of the greenhouse where all the vertical containers moved around on a huge track, suspended from the ceiling. So futuristic and weird.

Yep, that's a Mickey-shaped squash.

Jarred picked me up afterward and we went straight to my house to pick up his birthday cake! Couldn't even make it to the dining room before cutting into it. Let me introduce you, my friends, to the baklava cheesecake:

OMGGGG, this was literally the first processed sugar I've had in over two months, and I loved every second of it!!! It was the recollection of a distant memory of this cake that moved me to make it: Bizarre Avenue Cafe in downtown Lake Worth, FL had it as the chef's dessert special one fine day in my childhood. So here's my improvised version - pretty labor-intensive, but for special occasions, it's well worth the time and effort.

Baklava Cheesecake
serves 10

2 cups walnuts
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1/3 cup vegan sugar
1 roll of pre-made vegan phyllo dough (two to a box in my experience)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil

1/2 cup local honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegan sugar
1 stick of cinnamon

Toss the walnuts, spices and sugar together in a bowl. Pulse the mixture around 15 times in a food processor, then return to the bowl. Brush a circular metal baking tin with coconut oil, then start layering half-sheets of dough, brushing each one with the oil as well. Once you've got 10 down, spread a 1/3 of the walnut mixture over top. Repeat the process, this time with 8 sheets. Spread the next 1/3 of walnuts. Layer 8 more sheets, then the final third, and top with a final 8 sheets.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. In the mean time, boil the honey, water, sugar and cinnamon stick for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Adhered, for the most part, to Vegan Pandamonium's cheesecake recipe. My small changes due to ingredient availability were:

• lime instead of lemon juice
• no coconut milk
• arrowroot starch instead of corn starch
• phyllo dough crust, made in the same manner as baklava

Once the cheesecake has baked for 40 minutes, also at 350 degrees, allow it to cool for a bit, then plop the whole baklava onto it. Allow the baklava to cool completely, poke around 8 holes in the top with a fork, then pour syrup (minus the cinnamon stick) all over it. Refrigerate, covered, overnight. Serve at room temperature!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Alright, y'all. It's been a while! Hi! I'm not back into my cooking groove just yet, but in the mean time I've been playing around a bit with inspiration so when I finally get my life back (three real days of school left!!!), I'll really be in the zone. To express my excitement about this season we're enjoying right now, not to mention the thrill of this semester coming to a close, here are all the things I'm feeling inspired by this Spring:

(Click to see it larger.)

Clockwise, that's An Education (GREAT film, and so pretty), a blueberry tart (I've been dreaming of the ones they sell at this French bakery I used to work at), She & Him's Volume Two (adorable, duh), CB I Hate Perfume's "I am a Dandelion" scent, a sassy look from Marc by Marc Jacob's Spring collection, BASIL ice cream (OH god, so good), vegan electric blue half-oxfords my mom got me for Easter from ALDO, Food Not Lawns by Heather Flores (a fabulous introduction to permaculture), a glass bead necklace from Anthropologie (as usual, far out of my price range, but man, I love glass beads), aaaaand a stack of the most elegantly packaged chocolate I've ever seen: Mast Brothers.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I'll just keep it to myself in the sun

What a lovely day! So warm and sunny outside. Got to pull on my straw hat and head out to my garden at school with boyfriend in tow for some more Spring planting. And waiting for me when I returned home was a special Easter surprise:

Tailored precisely to my dietary preferences, hahaha.

That my parents had the foresight to choose vegan, sugar-free Easter "candy" for their weirdo daughter in lieu of the more traditional chocolate bunnies, eggs, etc. is a treat in itself!

Before I nommed out on those dried pears, I ate some leftovers from last night's dinner, an incredibly rich, hearty, misleadingly meaty stroganoff invented out of thin air by my genius roommate, Halie. You're going to have to trust my description as to the deliciousness of this dish because pictures reeeeally do not do it justice.

Carrot-Walnut Stroganoff
serves 6

olive oil
5 carrots
1 1/2 cups walnuts
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups water
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
2 sprigs worth fresh thyme
2 1/2 cups nutritional yeast
plenty of s&p

In a large skillet, saute the carrots and walnuts in oil, being careful not to burn them. Toss in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Pour three cups of water over top and add the onion powder, basil and thyme.

Cook this mixture until the carrots are softened, then transfer to a food processor and blend well. Return to the skillet, mixing in the remaining two cups of water, the nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Let it all meld over medium-low heat for a few minutes. Smother pasta with the sauce and serve.

Everything about this day is decidedly Spring-y. I am totally loving it!