Creamy Fettucine with Squash Sauce

January 21, 2007 at 7:03 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Pasta, Ron Pickarski, Soymilk, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

I have fond memories of this creamy vegan squash sauce from my co-op days in college. It was a regular on our menu, and always popular. It’s from the cookbook Friendly Foods by Brother Ron Pickarski. Read the rest of this entry »

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Smoothies and “Milkshakes”

January 21, 2007 at 7:35 am (Beverage, breakfast, Derek's faves, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Soymilk, The Vegan Gourmet, unrated, Website / blog)

When I was growing up my mom called any thick beverage made with fruit juice a “smoothie” and anything made with soymilk a “milkshake.” Derek, however, insists that milkshakes must include cow’s milk and ice cream. Whatever you call them, there are a million variations out there, and I’m on a quest to find my favorite combinations. So far I’ve only taken a few steps. But don’t worry, give me time. I’ll get there eventually! Read the rest of this entry »

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Quinoa and Butternut Squash Risotto

January 20, 2007 at 9:58 pm (A (4 stars, love), B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Grains, Peter Berley, Starches)

I normally get nervous when I see risottos which call for grains other than rice.  I avoid barley risotto like the plague. But this recipe in The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley has quinoa and arborio rice, so I figured it was safe to risk it.

  • 4 cups water or broth made from squash and leek trimmings
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped leek (white part only) (I used the light green part as well, from 1 leek)
  • 2 cups peeled, cubed pumpkin or butternut squash (1/2 inch pieces) (from a 3/4 – 1 pound squash?)
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 2 Tbs. mirin  (maybe more?  or white wine?)
  • 4 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly milled black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
  1. In a 2-quart saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer.
  2. In a heavy 3-quart pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. oil, add the leek, and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the pumpkin and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.  Add the rice and quinoa and saute, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the grains are fragrant.
  3. Add the mirin and sage and cook until dry.  Ladle in the water, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed before adding each subsequent 1/2 cup of water.  Continue stirring until the grains are tender and creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Stir in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve garnished with parsley and the pumpkin seeds.

Yields 2 main-course servings or 4 appetizer servings.

My Notes:

I’ve made this recipe twice now and I really liked it both times.  It’s almost perfect, except it needs way more sage.  I added more sage with the mirin (about a Tbs.?), and then add the end rather than garnishing with parsley I sprinkled on lots more chopped fresh sage (maybe about 3 Tbs?).  This dish doesn’t quite taste like a traditional risotto.  The quinoa adds a slightly herbaceous note, which melds well with the other flavors.  Plus it’s vegan, and healthier than traditional risotto.  I think it makes more than 2 main-dish servings. Rating: B+

Note October 2008: Last night I tried the butternut squash and sage risotto recipe in Jack Bishop’s cookbook.  It was tasty but neither the squash nor the sage flavors were very strong, even after I added substantially more sage.  I actually prefer the version above with quinoa and leek.  They create a deeper flavor profile that I prefer to the standard risotto recipe.  Bishop suggests garnishing the risotto with fried sage leaves.  I tried to fry some up, but again they didn’t come out right.  They were crispy but lost almost all the sage flavor.  What am I doing wrong?

Note October 12, 2009:  Last night Derek made a combination of this recipe and the butternut squash risotto recipe from the Complete Italian Vegetarian cookbook.  He started with 1 Tbs. olive oil and 2 Tbs. butter, then added ~4 cups  1/2-inch diced squash (about 1 pound 6 ounces I think) and let it cook for about 7 minutes over medium heat, until it looked like it was starting to soften.  Then he added about 3/4 cup each of arborio rice and quinoa.  When fragrant he added a 1/3-1/2 cup of white wine and ~2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage leaves.  He added about 6 cups of salted vegetable stock slowly, stirring frequently.  At the end he beat in 1 Tbs. of butter, about 2 ounces of parmigiano-reggiano, and another 1-2 Tbs. of fresh, chopped sage leaves, and seasoned to taste.  It was delicious.  I think I liked it with the extra quinoa, and without the leeks, even more than the original version.   Certainly all the animal fat made it taste very good.  I think the absence of leeks gave it a purer squash flavor.  Rating: A-.  Derek rating: A-/B+.  He says it’s very tasty but not quite interesting enough to be A-.  I think the the quinoa flavor makes it interesting enough to make it an A-.

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes

January 13, 2007 at 8:06 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cook's Illustrated, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

For the past two years in a row I’ve made massive amounts of mashed sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. I bake the potatoes on a cookie sheet until they’re meltingly soft, then let them cool a bit and peel off most of the peel (and eat about half of the peel while doing so–the carmelized soft bit that was touching the cookie sheet is so sweet and delicious). I put them all in a big bowl and mash them. The question is then how to season them, and how much fat and sweet to add?

This year I added salt, a touch of brown sugar, and a whole bunch of fresh chopped sage (one of those plastic boxes full). It was good but was missing something Derek and his father thought. So we sauteed about 2 Tbs. of chopped garlic in a little olive oil. Much, much better. The sweet potatoes had a fuller, more savory flavory.

Last year I added orange juice and zest. They were good too.

I was just reading the recipe for Mashed Sweet Potatoes in Cook’s Illustrated The Best Light Recipe cookbook. They say they tried all kinds of ways of cooking the potatoes. Baking was excellent, but it took over an hour and then you had to cool them before you could peel them. Boiling sweet potatoes in their skins and boiling pieces of peeled potato were equally bad–little flavor and a wet puree. The microwave cooked the potatoes unevenly, and they went instantly from undercooked to overdone. They ended up suggesting braising peeled, sliced sweet potatoes in a little water. They say it yields a luxurious texture that is neither loose nor gluey. I decided to try it.

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (2 large or 3 medium), peeled, quartered lenghtwise, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 Tbs. half-and-half, warmed
  • ground black pepper
  1. Combine the sweet potatoes, salt, sugar, and water in a 3-quart saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork, 35 to 45 minutes.
  2. Off the heat, mash the sweet potatoes in the saucepan with a potato masher. Stir in the melted butter and half-and-half with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Season with pepper to taste.

My Notes

I didn’t peel my potatoes all the way–mostly just the ends and any rough spots I saw. My potatoes were done in about 30 minutes. They were so soft I didn’t even need a potato masher–just used a fork. I didn’t bother to melt the butter first, just threw it in to the hot potato mash. Six Tbs. of half-and-half sounded like a lot so I started with just 2 Tbs. (not warmred) and tasted it. Wow, it was plenty rich! I had some cold the next morning and the dairy fat was a bit overwhelming. Next time I will use less butter and half-and-half, or maybe just one of the two. I also think they were a tad too salty–Derek would disagree I’m sure, but I’d try only 1/4 tsp. salt next time.

This recipe made just over 3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes. Cook’s Illustrated says it serves 4, which seems about right for a side, although with smaller portions it could probably be stretched to 5 or 6, and if it’s more of a main component then probably it would only serve 3.

In any case, the mash was quite lovely–smooth and luxurious tasting, just as Cook’s Illustrated says. However, it was just a tad boring. I added some chopped fresh sage and that helped a lot. Cook’s Illustrated also has two variations (described below).

Cooking the potatoes in a pan was certainly easier than baking than peeling them, and the texture was perhaps even better. They seemed less stringy than baked sweet potatoes, although that could have just been the variety of potato I bought. With this recipe you do have to peel and cut them up first, but that’s pretty fast. I wonder how it would work if I was cooking a really big batch for Thanksgiving? The recipe says you can double the batch and cook them in a dutch oven, but then the cooking time doubles as well. In that case, it’s about as long as baking them in the oven. But on Thanksgiving the oven is a hot commodity (hee hee), so I guess it’s still better to use the stovetop even if it’s not much faster.

Rating: B

Update March 2007: I made this again, using 4 large sweet potatoes, about 2 lbs 5 ounces, which yielded almost 3 quarts chopped, and almost 2 quarts of mashed sweet potato (maybe 7 cups?). I added a bit more than 1 cup water, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1.5 tsp. sugar. I think it was a tad too much water since they were a bit too watery after being mashed. I think when you multiply the recipe maybe you don’t need to multiply the water, since the potatoes have their own water, so it’s really just to start them cooking. Even though I almost doubled the recipe, the potatoes still were cooked after about 30 minutes. I added 1 Tbs. butter and 4 Tbs. organic half and half, plus I followed my friend Alekz’s suggestion and added a canned chipotle pepper. I didn’t seed it or cut it up—just threw it in and mashed it along with the sweet potatoes.

Rating: ??

Derek: ??


Cook’s Illustrated Suggestions:

1. Use brown sugar instead of white, and add 2 tsp. minced or grated fresh ginger along with the sweet potatoes in step 1.

2. Replace the sugar with 2 Tbs. maple syrup, and add 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest to the butter and half-and-half in step 1.

My friend Alekz recommends making chipotle mashed potatoes:

Mash potatoes with chopped or pureed chipotle in adobo to taste (i like about one pepper per cup to cup and a half – seeds removed)

  1. Add low-fat sour cream to taste and for additional creaminess
  2. Add cumin to taste (maybe a teaspoon per cup of mashed sweet potatoes)
  3. Garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro, and maybe some roasted squash seeds for crunch

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Avocado Ideas

January 11, 2007 at 4:24 am (My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Uncategorized, unrated)

It seems so silly. I’m always lusting after avocados, and here I am with two avocados sitting in the fridge, perfectly ripe, maybe even heading past ripe, and no idea what to do with them!

Normally I eat avocado (or guacamole) with pinto beans or black beans. But I’m out of both of those beans. I like avocado mixed with greens like chard, but I don’t have any greens either. I love avocados in salad, but I have no lettuce or other salad-type ingredients. And that’s it–that’s my avocado repertoire. I clearly need more ideas for a food as scrumptilicious as avocado.

I called my mom and she said to mash the avocado and spread it on toast, then sprinkle with salt. I did that, and it was quite tasty, then I remembered some sage I had lolling about in the fridge. I tore it up and added it to my “sandwich.” Yum. Delish. Excellent.

Later I dug out a tortilla from the freezer, and some overcooked black eyed peas (20 hours in a crockpot yields a very carmelized tasting pea). I made a “burrito” with 1/4 cup black eyes, 1/4 of an avocado, 3 sage leaves, and salsa. Wow, it hit the spot. The burrito was reminiscint of the vegan burrito from Kiva Han (a local coffee shop), but much, much better.

I just searched my blog for avocado and found stuffed hashbrowns, spring rolls, and hominy and tomatillo stew. I’m out of hominy/tomatillos, but I am definitely making some stuffed hashbrowns for breakfast. I have spring roll wrappers but no cabbage or mushrooms… Maybe I can improvise?

I’m still open for more avocado ideas. I have another 1.5 avocados that desperately need to get eaten.

Today I tried a “pizza”: Muir Glen pizza sauce on a blue corn tortilla topped with avocado slices. It was tasty, but not stellar.

I’ve gotten some responses offline:

  • avocado pudding with cream and sugar (or soymilk and honey?)
  • on a veggie or bean burger
  • avocado banana yogurt soup
  • nori rolls
  • diced, with grapefruit (and a dressing?)
  • in an omelette, or on toast with a poached egg
  • a banana avocado smoothie

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Candied Sweet Potatoes

January 9, 2007 at 7:14 pm (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Peter Berley, Quick weeknight recipe, Root vegetables, Starches, Vegetable dishes)

This recipe is from The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley. It’s supposed to be a traditional Thanksgiving recipe, except for the addition of ginger. For a more up-to-date post see this one.

  • 2 pounds garnet yams or other sweet potatoes
  • 3 (2-inch) strips orange zest, white spongy pith removed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. pure olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. peeled and finely chopped gingerroot
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel and halve the yams crosswise. cut each half lengthwise into 4 wedges. Place the yams in a baking dish that will hold them in a snug single layer. Tuck the orange zest and cinnamon sticks among the yams.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the orange juice, maple syrup, oil, lemon juice, ginger, and salt. (Note, if you’re using butter, omit it in this step, but dot the assembled casserole with small pieces of it before it goes into the oven.) Pour the mixture over the yams.
  4. Bake for 1 1/4 hours, basting every15 minutes, until the yams are tender and glazed and the pan juices are syrupy.
  5. Remove the orange zest and cinnamon sticks before servings.

Yields 4 servings.
My Notes:

I tried slicing off orange zest but got tons of pith, so I ended up just using my zester to zest the whole orange right into the pan. The cinnamon sticks added almost no flavor I thought. If you want cinnamon flavor I think it would be more effective to add ground cinnamon. I didn’t want to waste my fresh orange so I ate it and used organic frozen concentrate instead. I used the butter not the oil.

I think if I make this again I might try leaving the peels ons the sweet potatoes. I bet in the glaze they’d get nice and soft.

I didn’t have a baster, so I flipped them after 30 minutes and mixed the glaze around. After 45 minutes though the glaze was starting to solidify and after 50 minutes it was starting to burn. I removed it from the oven. The sweet potatoes were cooked but not quite meltingly soft. I think if you don’t have a baster (or maybe even if you do), it would be better to cover the sweet potatoes for the first half an hour or 45 minutes.

When I first tasted these right out of the oven I liked the seasoning but thought it was way too sparse. The potatoes are cut quite thickly, and there’s not enough “candy” for all that potato. Plus, even though it’s a lighter recipe than many recipes, it’s still not low calorie (about 300 calories for 1/4 of the dish). It works as a side or a dessert but not a main course. I put it in the fridge and have been eating a few pieces a day as a late afternoon treat, and they’re growing on me. Maybe it’s just that these later pieces have been sitting around in the tupperware absorbing the sauce longer, or maybe they just got more of the sauce than their fare share, but they taste more candied. They’re still pretty high calorie for a “vegetable dish”, and I’d still like more of that yummy sauce, but they’re pretty good anyhow. I like the ginger/orange flavor.

When all the sweet potatoes were gone I added the leftover orange zest, cinnamon sticks, and ginger goo to my chai tea. Yowza! That was some yummy chai. Then I left the cinnamon sticks in the tea overnight, and when I got in in the morning it tasted just exactly like Good Earth tea.

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What’s (not) in a name?

January 8, 2007 at 12:37 am (Uncategorized)

I just noticed that another blogger (who I don’t know) linked to my blog on their sidebar. How exciting! Then I noticed that my blog had the longest name of all the 20 or so vegetarian cooking blogs she linked to. Oy.

When my blog was over at blogger it was called veggieheaven. But blogger’s search was totally broken, so I came over here to wordpress. When I moved the blog I decided that veggieheaven was a bit too optimistic and/or egotistical. So I changed it to the current title, which is supposed to reflect more of my nit-picky approach to recipe blogging. When I chose this title, I had no idea that no one, not one of my Phd-pursuing peers, knows what captious means. The only person I’ve met who’d even heard the word captious before was my father. But he didn’t like the title–said captious had overly negative connotations. Derek didn’t like it either–at first. He wanted me to change it to veggiesaurus. I was hesitant–it seems like what you’d call a vegetarian thesaurus or dictionary or something, not a recipe blog. In any case, now he claims captious is fine–it’s grown on him he says.

But I thought I’d ask my loyal readers–all five of you. How’s the name? Too long? Too esoteric? Just right?

If you don’t like it, have any better ideas? I really like vegendary, which is supposed to be a play on vegetarian and legendary, but my brother says it sounds like vegetables and dairy. But isn’t that what I eat???

In any case, I’m counting on you for feedback and/or new ideas. After all, it is the new year. Maybe it’s time for my blog to get a new name.

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Tasty yogurt snack combos

January 5, 2007 at 5:42 am (breakfast, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

I typically eat yogurt and fruit as a snack. I usually get nonfat yogurt, but that’s not optimal for a snack with fruit because then there’s no fat at all. Hmm, maybe I could add a few nuts? Or maybe I’ll switch back to lowfat yogurt, especially since my favorite east coast nonfat yogurt (Stonyfield Farm) stopped making organic nonfat. In any case, I’m always looking for yogurt seasoning ideas. So far here’s what I’ve tried:

In the summer I was eating my yogurt with berries. It was pretty good, but sometimes I felt like I was wasting the berries and I should just eat them plain for maximal berry-ness.

In the fall I always ate yogurt with a small diced apple from my CSA and lots of cinnamon. I liked it a lot.

I bought some pomegranate blueberry juice from Trader Joe’s and used a few spoonfuls to season my yogurt. It was reasonably good.

But lately I’ve discovered something even better. I prepare half a grapefruit using a grapefruit knife, dish out 1/2 cup of nonfat yogurt, then squeeze the grapefruit pieces and juice right into the bowl with the yogurt. Then I use my spoon to scrape out any pulp I missed as well. The combo is great. You’d think it would be too tart/sour but not with those Rio Star grapefruits from Texas.

Today I decided to try a variation and used a clementine rather than a grapefruit. It wasn’t nearly as good. It might be because I just put the clementine pieces in and there was no juice to season the whole thing. Or maybe I just missed the tartness from the grapefruit.

I tried wallaby yogurt with an apple, 2 dole pineapple rings cut into chunks, a splash of pineapple juice, and cinnamon. I really like it. The pineapple added a touch of acidity, which I always love.

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Cabbage carrot salad with peanut dressing

January 5, 2007 at 4:41 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Sauce/dressing)

This is a cook’s illustrated recipe that I’ve made a few times, and quite enjoy. It’s a piquant alternative to traditional coleslaw.

Makes about 5-6 cups.

1 pound green cabbage (about 1/2 medium head), shredded fine
1 large carrot , peeled and grated
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped coarse
1 1/2 inch piece ginger , peeled
1/2 jalapeño chile , halved and seeded
4 medium radishes , halved lengthwise and sliced thin
4 medium scallions , sliced thin
  1. Shred the cabbage using the slicing blade of a food processor, or slice by hand. Grate the carrot in the food processor or by hand. Slice the radishes in the food processor or by hand.
  2. In bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, puree the peanut butter, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño until smooth paste is formed.
  3. Toss the cabbage and carrot, radishes, scallions, and dressing together in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

My Notes:

First let me say that I think Cook’s Illustrated’s obsession with salting and draining cabbage is absurd. Omitting that part of the recipe left a happy grin on my face. Even if you don’t eat the salad right away, and it waters down the dressing a tad, who cares? It’s worth it for the extra crispness, and for the time and bother saved. Okay, now that that’s covered….

I guess I had a very large head of cabbage because 1 pound was less than 1/4 of my cabbage. I used crunchy (natural) peanut butter, since that was all I had, and I thought it was just fine. I didn’t have peanut oil so substituted 1/4 Tbs. olive oil and 1/4 Tbs. toasted sesame oil. It probably would have been fine with no oil. I was out of honey so used maple syrup and accidentally used a whole Tbs. rather than just a tsp. Oops. It didn’t taste too sweet though. I started out trying to just mix the dressing with a fork, but that was a bad idea, so I got out my stick blender–much neater than messing the food processor. Of course, I could have prepped the cabbage and carrot in the processor, but I did them easily and quickly by hand. I didn’t have radishes so added an extra 4 ounces of cabbage.

I thought the salad was very pleasant. I had a big bowl–then another. Before I knew it I had finished all 6 cups of it. Oops again. I guess it probably deserves more than a “just pleasant”, huh? Or maybe I was just hungry…

Rating: B.

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Product Review: recommended grocery items

January 2, 2007 at 6:58 am (Product Reviews)

I thought I’d share some of my favorite grocery store branded items. For now it’s just a list but eventually I will get around to writing some enticing tidbits about each.

  • Amore Tomato Paste in a Tube
  • Annie’s Goddess Salad Dressing
  • Tropical Source chocolate chips
  • Muir glen canned tomatoes
  • Whole foods whole wheat pasta, esp. the linguine
  • Whole foods peanut butter made from honey roasted peanuts
  • Muir glen pizza sauce
  • Ezekiel Sesame bread and Bran for Life bread
  • Whole Foods red chile tortillas
  • SunGold Sunbutter

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