Friday, October 23, 2009

Some Veggie Updates

I've been about the blog quite a bit lately. I've really been touched by the response. Everyone - vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike - have been extremely supportive. I'd like to work on expanding the blog and making it better to address the helpful feedback I've gotten from people, so starting today I am going to make two changes to my format.

First, I am going to add a tag called "Recipe Update." The nature of the blog is that I am posting recipes that I am constantly working on. Sometimes, I will end up with a result that is really different, and I think that merits a separate post (think all of my crazy chocolate chip cookie posts!). Other times, though, I've just figured out minor things, like turning a recipe that had eggs totally vegan. I want to share this change with my readers, but I don't think it is necessarily worth a post. As a result, I will go back to an old recipe, update the tags (for example, if I've made something vegan that previously wasn't, I'll add the "Vegan" tag), add a "Recipe Update" tag, and I'll flag the part of the recipe that changed within the post. I hope this will help people go back and find a recipe they liked when they initially read it but didn't try it because it either had or lacked particular ingredients when the post first went up.

Second, I've realized lately that a number of the questions are not just limited to vegan baking, but to my vegan transition generally. The questions are never judgmental, and I'm always happy to talk about what has led me towards a vegan lifestyle. Probably the number one question I get is what Greg and I eat for dinner. And here's the thing - although I have no problem talking about what we eat, for some reason, I never, ever remember what we have recently eaten. I think I love food so much that once I'm done eating, I sort of forget what we've already eaten. I realize how sad that last sentence sounds. I am convinced that medical science will have a name for this tendency of mine in the next decade or so, but in the mean time, very well meaning people ask me this fair question, and I stare at them like a deer in the headlights.

I've decided, then, that perhaps one of the best ways to combat this problem is to share some meals ideas that Greg and I have tried on the blog. I'm always happy to share recipes, and although I'd still like the focus to be on baking, I think interspersing some meal ideas as posts with my regular baking commentary could also help me with my other goal, which is to document my journey towards veganism. I really and truly have no desire to "convert" people to veganism, so I hope this addition doesn't make people uncomfortable. Rather, people seemed like they wanted to know what else we're eating, and I'd like to give the people what they want!

With this in mind, here is my first update. I'm into Month Three of the Vegan Experiment, and so far, so good. At this point, I am a vegan within the four walls of my house (and my office, if I bring my lunch), and I haven't used animal products in my baked goods for quite some time. I still function as a vegetarian beyond the confines of home. So far that balance is working well for me. (I've made other lifestyle changes, too, in terms of the shoes, clothes, beauty products I use...since this a blog about food, I won't discuss them, but if you're interested, drop me a line!)

One of the most unexpected changes has been how much fun it has been to cook at home. Granted, it's no surprise that I enjoy cooking, but the prospect of vegan cooking has been daunting. I've found myself leaning on some cookbooks to help me along the way, and I'm sure I will be writing about them more as the months go on.

One such cookbook is a longtime favorite - the Moosewood Cookbook series. One of my absolutely dearest friends gave me a Moosewood Cookbook as a housewarming present when I moved to Hyde Park a few years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. If you are interested in any kind of vegetarian or vegan cooking, you've got to get one of these books. The Moosewood Collective runs a great restaurant in Ithaca, New York, and they also write these cookbooks for their fans. What's great is that the recipes are easy, thoughtful, and delicious. They have recipes for all levels of cook - some basic without the "scary" ingredients of tofu, tempeh, or seitan, and then there are other more advanced recipes for those who want to give those proteins a try. They also include some fish recipes for their pescetarian followers.

The recipe below is a vegan adaptation from the fine people at Moosewood, from their Low-Fat Cookbook. Greg and I have made it for years. It is always a hit, and it is great for making ahead of time and reheating or bringing to a potluck. It also is great as leftovers, which can live in the fridge or be easily freezed for lunches. Enjoy!

Black Bean Chilaquile (adapted from the Moosewood Collective)
Yields: 4-6 servings

Vegetable or olive oil or vegetable oil spray
1 medium onion, diced
3 cups cooked black beans (or 2-15 ounce cans), rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped tomatoes or 1-15 ounce can diced (drained) or crushed tomatoes
3 cups (one bag) frozen corn
1/3 c. lime juice
salt and pepper
Bag of tortilla chips, crushed
2 cups salsa, divided (we like peach-pineapple, but any will do)

1) Heat oil or oil spray in pan. Add onion and saute for five minutes over medium heat, until soft and glistening.
2) Add beans, tomatoes, corn, juice, salt, and pepper. Saute until liquid is reduced, which can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
3) Spray a 9x13 pan. Put approximately half the bag of crushed chips on the bottom. Cover with bean mixture. Cover mixture with approximately one cup of salsa (until covered, but not soaked). Cover with remaining chips. Cover with remaining one cup of salsa (again, covered, but not soaked).
4) IF BAKING NOW: Put in preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.
IF BAKING LATER: Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready, remove wrapping and bake uncovered in preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, then crank up oven to 375, leaving the chilaquile in, and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

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