Category: Vegan

What’s been cooking– recent weeks at Gradissima’s house (honey sweet and sour ; Tibetan flatbread)


Spring makes me love the world again. Strike that. SUN makes me love the world again. We haven’t had too many days with glorious sun and good weather in the past weeks, but we’ve had enough to jumpstart my biological clock into “I love Portugal and farmer’s markets and flowers and the organic farm and fresh food and produce and making EVERYTHING in my kitchen” mode.

After such a long, gloomy winter, my sunshine standards have lowered quite a bit.

It also helps that Grandissimo, coming out of a few baby illnesses, teething periods, phases of velcro napping (ie, sleeping only when firmly attached to Mommy), etc. has gotten back into an easier routine. (I write this with great optimism, as the ‘routine’ has really only been a sporadic sequence of happy events… I think the real routine is rough, and the successes are little Easter eggs along the trail….)

Anyway.

A few weeks ago, while Grandissimo was sleeping and latched onto el boob, I watched a rerun of Jaime At Home (Love you, Jaime Oliver! Don’t you wish you could work with him? Anywhere?) and he was having fun with rhubarb. I loved what he did with pork (more or less THIS recipe). In reality, I just liked the garam masala and honey idea in a sweet and sour dish.

I recreated it, sans rhubarb and pork, with TVP nuggets. It was delicious. The oven time was ideal (like a fast marination) and let me do baby stuff in between prepping dinner in stages. I added extra carmelized onions. Greatness.

Then, this weekend, I did more or less the same with some shiny, happy eggplants from our local organic farm. Awesome. I’ve been eating my veggies….ahhhhhh. Responsibility tastes good 🙂 And, of course, I’ve been feeding My Man healthy food, too! (Grandissimo is still a bit young for the kind of spice I throw into these things, but he likes the noodles!)

Another recipe I’ve developed a serious crush on is this Tibetan Flatbread recipe. La Fuji Mama adapted it from Jacques Pépin. It probably has a very marginal affiliation with anything Tibetan, but it works, and it lends itself to adaptation.

I have a love affair with this bread for the following reasons:

1. I was already in the habit of making pancakes in the afternoons for snack time with Grandissimo.

2. La Fuji Mama’s directions are crystal clear. With photos for each step. And it worked for me the first time.

3. It is a great, great recipe to have if you live in Southeast Asia or anywhere conventional ovens are hard to find…if you like fresh bread.

As you might know, I spent some years in Timor, and I have beloveds still living there. Fresh bread on demand was hard to come by (though you could get awesome rolls in the mornings, if you caught the pão guy and his cart, or got to Tiger Fuel in time), and even folks with toaster ovens were bread-challenged. I wish I’d had this recipe back then, and I think my Timor pals will get a lot of use out of it now.

Last-minute, home-made, cheap bread. What’s not to like?

I have some Pro Tips for you before you get started.

1. Follow La Fuji Mama’s directions. They are clear. Yes, the bread will be very plain… but doing a trial run without variations is cheap and it will help you get an idea of what you need to tweak in terms of temperature, or baking powder, or flour or oil or water or pan… Have patience. Do the trial run.

2. If it sticks when you try to flip it, let it cook longer.

3. If it starts to break apart when turning, let it cook longer.

4. Now that’s out of the way, here are some variations I’ve tried and loved:

  • Mix dried herbs into the dough. Put half the batter into the pan, then layer cheese and tomatoes (seeded) and basil in the middle. Put the rest of the batter on top. PIZZA BREAD!
  • Mix about 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast and a couple teaspoons (or more!) black pepper into the dough. Instead of one big blob in the pan, make several “biscuits”.
  • If you want to use a bigger pan, increase the recipe by 50%.
  • Sautee some mushrooms or onions or garlic (or all of these) and throw them into the mix…

5. I know La Fuji Mama says (in the comments section) that a pan without non-stick coating should work, but I’ve had the best luck with the non-stick pan. I know…it’s bad for you, and the kids, and the air, and the world…but it works. I do think an uncoated pan would work, but sometimes things stick. And burn. I have little patience for anything BUT my child. Stick ‘n’ burn = no.

Give it a whirl, and let me know what you think!

-Gradissima

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Another rough sketch in progress: savory high-fiber, high-protein bars


Another kitchen experiment gone well…

The rough lines of it are these:

Quinoa, bulgur, sesame seeds, amaranth, flax seeds, chia seeds, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds, all soaked in water overnight…
Put the pot of this goodness on the stove the next day and heated until remaining water was absorbed…
About a cup of this goes to the blender with some homemade olive oil (portuguese family)…
About a cup (puréed) of butternut squash and a garlic bulb (puréed along with the squash)
Cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, curry powder…
Around two teaspoons baking powder added way too late, but in good faith…

Smoosh into baking pan….Bake for a while at 160C…
E voilá…

20120420-104822.jpg

It is not unlike spicy, delicious, moist cornbread….my Man likes it, I like it (VERY snack able when I feel like some thing savory), and I can happily eat it cold from the refrigerator or microwave it…

So now my foodbrain is going wild…this weekend, when my Man is home, I’ll be playing with quinoa and frozen strawberries to make bars…I’ll also make more of those amazing chocolate bars that inspired this savory adventure…they are so good, and I love them more and more as the days go on…they feel like healthy brownies…and they really fill me up! I’m satisfied, my chocolate cravings are met, and my blood sugar doesn’t fluctuate like mad. I really feel great, which is impressive since I pretty much subsist on these two types or bars and coffee and water during the day.

I have grand plans to incorporate frozen spinach, peas, broccoli…at least into savory bars! Though I’ve heard that black bean brownies are really very good. Beans are an easier flavor to work with than spinach or broccoli, however, when it comes to sweets!

Have you had any recent food adventures you’d be willing to share? Particularly anything involving whole foods and healthy goodness in bar form?

Return from Hiatus with a bonus bump


Olá, Gradissimites! I know, I know…it’s been a long time. Like months. What can I say?

Well, for one, I’m pregnant 🙂 I’m about 5 months in now, and for the first 3+ months, I felt hungover and lethargic, so cooking and food (an important part of my blogging world) was out the window. And of course, it was the tricky first trimester (for the uninitiated, this indicates a window of time during which, apparently, everything and/or nothing causes miscarriage, including jinxing and bad juju), so in the Portuguese fashion, I bit my tongue in re: the fetus situation. For me, this was difficult, since it was pretty much the only thing on my mind, so I simply stopped writing.

Not to worry– the multi-month hangover subsided, I took a trip to the US to visit my bestie and her new fabulous baby girl for some Baby Boot Camp (I passed with flying colors and a Certificate in Baby Neck Cheese), then back home to adjust to a new apartment (My Man moved us in, with some help from Paizinho, while I was away), and then Mom and Dad came for a fantastic visit 🙂 That is to say, things have gotten much happier in the recent past 😉

And now– I have a baby bump (I’m rockin’ it, yo’), and a couple weeks ago (Mom and Dad in tow), My Man and I went to the doctor and found out we’re having a Little Dude 🙂 Though we had no preference, it’s super fun to imagine my Little Dude as he bops around in my belly. I will, of course, be referring to My Man, Little Dude, and the Puppy as “my guys” or “my boys” after the birth. I’m pretty sure such things are mandatory in happy cheesy world.

So, Mom and Dad have returned to their busy lives in the US, My Man’s vacation is over, and the Puppy and I (and Little Fetus Dude) are settling into a routine. Plus, I love food again.

Before leaving, Mom harassed me (as good mothers do) about my protein intake. I pretended to blow it off (I’m still a daughter), but of course, I took it to heart. Yesterday, I made a healthy, protein-rich soup (because Mom is always right.)

The gist of it:
-Two small butternut squash from the market (cubed)
-Two medium potatoes from Paizinho’s garden (cubed)
-Lots of water and some boiling
-Leftover bits of an onion (chopped)
-Leftover 3/4 of a red capsicum (red bell pepper) (chopped)
-Leftover leeks (chopped)
-Vegeta veggie stock, to taste
-A big jar of garbanzo beans (chick peas)

Boil, then blend with immersion blender. Add fresh, chopped spinach and fresh, chopped basil (if you feel like it) at the end. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve.

I also whipped up a flour tortilla with some flamengo cheese and fresh thyme and a pinch of salt and threw it in the microwave with some grill action– a sneaky, pizza-type substance that went quite happily with the soup 😉

Ahhhhhhh….it’s good to be back 🙂

Teeny little health-bombs


O Meus Gradissimites,

Even the healthiest eaters among us go through rough patches. Recently, despite my best endeavors, my belly has been uncooperative, my taste buds lazy (due to non-stop congestion…thanks, bizarre weather patterns), and my usual ability to eat copious amounts of fresh fruits and veggies (especially those leafy greens…yum!) has been smacked-down by a rather inconvenient (and frankly worrisome) European outbreak of a super-strain of E. coli.

What’s a veggie girl to do?

Health bombs. Teeny little health bombs.

Shall I elaborate?

The other day, faced with appetite-malaise (just made that up) and a refrigerator full of potentially hazardous vegetables, I concocted a green-monster soup/porridge of healthy and surprisingly tasty goodness.

This involved the following components:

  • A rather large cooking pot
  • a bunch of brown rice
  • a bunch of green lentils
  • a bunch of red lentils
  • a couple tablespoons of chia seeds (my latest multi-seed, multi-grain loveaffairadventurefriend)
  • some Vegeta veggie stock
  • A hearty dose of fresh water
  • A big garlic clove
  • A lot of zucchini
  • a potato
  • a bunch of watercress
  • a bunch of cabbage
  • a bunch of cabbagey-green things that I had frozen but forgot what they were
  • a bunch of spinach
  • 2 chili peppers
  • An immersion blender

There’s no way I would have been able to eat that many good things at a time. Needless to say, once all was said and boiled (and blended), I had leftovers for the freezer (preparation for future appetite-malaise) AND lunch for the next few days.

I knew it would be healthy. I really didn’t expect it to taste as good as it did.

I’ve gotta say, a little bowl of this goodness is satisfying, nourishing, tasty, comforting…just right for an ambivalent belly. Even if I slack on quality food for the rest of the day, I’ve done pretty well (nutritionally speaking) after a bowl of this goodness.

Also, the green was really quite pretty. It looked somewhat like a happy pesto afterward….

What else?

And tonight, I made a veggie curry…. but instead of brown rice (which is awesome, of course), I cooked up a bulgur and lentil base. Bulgar and red lentils have about the same cooking time, so I did half and half in the same pot. Easy-peasy 😉

In a big pan, my curry concoction involved leeks, garlic, potato, zucchini, olive oil, curry powder and some liquid from the bulgur/lentil pot.

My carnivorous man loved it.

Any rice love?

I had a craving for risotto the other night, but I was in health-bomb mode. I skipped the risotto rice (fun as it is), and used brown rice instead. I also skipped the dairy… I know, that’s the point of risotto. But this was really good! I made a not-risotto with fresh mushrooms, veggie stock, zucchini, and some roasted pine nuts to serve. It was great. The brown rice is nutty-chewy perfection, and the other flavors were satisfying in the risotto-like way without the blood-sugar issues of white rice and the belly bloat of dairy.

I’m just saying…give it a whirl. It’s not risotto, but it’s damned good 🙂

Healthy-ish delights…(Cinnamon Rolls and Pancakes!)


What’s better than taking something indulgent and changing it so you can rationalize less guilt?

Ok. Don’t answer that.

Whatever. The important thing is that I made Cinnamon Rolls in a quick, easy, less-fat-bastard way, and they totally hit the spot. The important thing is that I’m going to tell you my recipe 🙂

(There’s another important thing, too– recently, the culinary rockstars at Chow.com have had the same mindset….so I’ll link to their recipe for healthy-ish pancakes in a moment 🙂 )

(There will be no photos involved. The Cinnamon Rolls à la Gradissima were not long for this world, and the camera was not quick enough to record their fleeting, beautiful existence.)

Recipe: Cinnamon Rolls à la Gradissima

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup regular self-rising flour
  • 1 cup superfine self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal/wheatgerm blend (I did a 3:1 proportion of oatmeal flakes and wheatgerm and threw it into the food processor to make a coarse powder)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (go raw, if you have it!)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fat free yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk or light soymilk

Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon ground hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk or light soymilk
  • 1 cup raw or brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon

Icing:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat milk or light soymilk (add more for a thinner icing/glaze)

Make the filling first-

  1. Combine hazelnuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add olive oil and milk and mix until damp and crumbly. Set aside.

Make the dough-

  1. Mix together the flour, oat/wheatgerm blend, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Stir in yogurt and milk to make a soft dough.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough (or use your hands) to make a large rectangle, about a quarter of an inch thick.
  4. Here, you have two options. Option 1: spread half the filling on the bottom of a 8×8 pyrex and half the filling on the rolled-out-dough OR Option 2: spread all of the filling on the rolled-out-dough. Option 1 gives you a crispy, gooey surprise on the bottom of your rolls, but there’s no wrong way to spread the love here 😉
  5. Roll up your rectangle of dough and goodness.
  6. Slice into rolls. (About an inch thick is a safe bet, but if you want to make fewer thick rolls or more thin rolls, by all means, do it!)
  7. Put your rolls into your 8×8 pyrex. I did 9 rolls and spaced them evenly. They grew to squish into each other in the oven quite nicely 🙂

The baking situation-

As you well know by now, I rock a gas oven with no temperature settings. It’s how I roll. I preheated the oven on medium/high and baked the rolls until they seemed done… not too dark, but just starting to get golden on top.

The icing-

  1. Throw your sugar into a food processor and powder it. Throw the milk in and blend it. If it is too thick, add more milk. I like lots of thick icing, so this worked for me 😉

After the rolls are done, put healthy schmear of icing on each one. The heat will soften the icing and you can spread it more evenly.

Eat these babies hot.

AND THEN….

Here’s the Chow.com goodness I was talking about 🙂

Whole Wheat–Oat Pancakes Recipe

Difficulty: Easy

TIME/SERVINGS

Total: 45 mins

Makes: 5 large or 10 smaller pancakes

Whole Wheat–Oat Pancakes See More in the Gallery

  By Aida Mollenkamp

Just because you’re trying to be healthy doesn’t mean you should have to abandon all of your favorite foods, right? Here we doctor up pancakes by using whole-wheat flour and oats, for cakes that are still fluffy yet have a satisfying chewiness that’s actually good for you—sort of.

Read on and get the recipe at Chow.com: http://www.chow.com/recipes/14108-whole-wheatoat-pancakes

Enjoy your healthy-ish delights 😉

Grilled portobello mushroom burgers – MayoClinic.com


Recipe: Grilled portobello mushroom burgers

via Grilled portobello mushroom burgers – MayoClinic.com.

I would cut-and-paste (with full credit, of course!) as usual, but I’m fairly sure the  Mayo Clinic requests written permission for reprints and sharing… so I’ll leave you with the link. They have tons of healthy recipes with easy instructions and nutritional breakdown.

This is the recipe upon which yesterday’s awesome lunch was loosely based. Huzzah for a bad-ass burger 😉

I didn’t take any photos of mine because we ate them too quickly 🙂

Enjoy!

(My Man loved it, btw, so this is Portuguese-approved 🙂 )