Wednesday, October 31, 2012

vegan pumpkin pecan bread

"Love people.  Cook them tasty food."

I didn't think a bumper sticker could capture my life philosophy, but there it is.  I spotted it on a Prius at the grocery store buying a can of pumpkin for this recipe.  (The beauty of it, as with many vegan recipes, is that you probably have almost everything you need in your pantry already.)

I love cooking for the people I love.  And I have a dear, dear friend who loves all things pumpkin.  She's not vegan, but she can't eat soy or dairy because her little 4-month-old is likely allergic.  All the more reason to share a delicious bread that she can enjoy this season (her favorite season).   She also, coincidentally, introduced me to Penzey's Spices, which I suspect is the source of that darling sticker that will likely be finding a home on my car's bumper soon.


Now, I know some folks on a dairy-free diet can eat eggs and butter, but I don't know the rules on that, so I'm playing it safe and leaving out all animal products (= vegan).  This recipe for pumpkin pecan bread is totally vegan, fat free, and plenty tasty.  And it's very adaptable if you prefer to leave out the pecans, replace them with walnuts, or substitute chocolate chips (for heaven's sake, yes, do it). 

Here's another thing I've learned from practicing recipes intended for restricted diets.  Vegan baking is perfect for baking with kids.  There's no cross-contamination or raw egg to worry about.  It's easy, it's healthy, and it's fun.  I think everyone will enjoy this seasonal recipe that's friendly for all ages.  Happy Halloween. The recipe follows.

Friday, October 26, 2012

chocolate chip peanut butter banana cake

This is a cake for the kid in all of us.  It's loaded with goodies.

Too many goodies, actually.  (If I could blame my post-blog launch weight gain on any one recipe, it would be this one.)  So, friends, I've been working on a lighter version of this recipe with some fun substitutes that I've noted below.  I think you'll enjoy it either way.  For the fearless, there's also the full-fat, no-apologies version that is, frankly, gorgeous and delicious and worth every calorie.  Bikini season is over.  Indulge.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

spicy roasted cauliflower

It's a sneaky trick making cauliflower delicious.  And like the best magic tricks, the secret is actually a very simple technique.

Let me let you in on this.  Roasting cauliflower, like roasting just about anything, makes it so much better.  And, if you've never tried it, you won't believe how easy it is.  

The most important part of this technique is to roast the vegetables in the oven at a high temperature, which allows the natural sugars in vegetables to concentrate and become sweeter.  You can see evidence of this process on the outside of the veggies when they just start to caramelize and brown.  If the temperature is too low, the vegetables will really just steam (i.e., be bored to death and turn mushy and bland as a result).  Roasting works beautifully on cauliflower, root vegetables, or asparagus or broccoli (topped with a little parmesan cheese or squeeze of lemon).

So there you have it.  The recipe for spicy roasted cauliflower follows.

Monday, October 8, 2012

deborah madison's hearty lentil soup

It got cold outside, fast.  The fall recipes are out in full force now.  My pantry is stocked.  My heavy-bottomed pots, skillets, dutch ovens, and slow cooker are all seasoned and ready to go.

Deborah Madison's lentil soup recipe is a healthy, hearty dish for cold and rainy weather.  I learned it from my mom, so I'm sharing her (slightly altered) version here.  It's filling, it's cheap, it's delicious, and (since it's basically all vegetables) it suits nearly everyone's dietary needs and wants.


(Did I mention it has very few calories? But shh, you'd never know.)  The recipe follows.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

slow cooker thai pork sandwiches

I think I have just begun to scratch the surface of the wonderful ways to serve this thai-inspired, slow cooker pork recipe.  Its original--and probably best--purpose is to replicate the world's best pork sandwich.

For readers and neighbors in central North Carolina, I hope you've ventured out to my favorite food destination: the Saxapahaw General Store.  You might have read about it in The New York Times recently.  Nestled on the Haw River in our state's piedmont region, the town of Saxapahaw is at once farmer-friendly, tourist-friendly, kid-friendly, and foodie-friendly.  The old gas station is now a restaurant serving creative, locally sourced, mouth-watering food with out-of-this-world specials.  Don't even look at the regular menu or you will never decide.  Stick with Chef Jeff's specials on the chalkboard, friends.  They post pictures of it regularly on their Facebook page.

In the building next door, the General Store's friends and affiliates have expanded with a pub and restaurant called The Eddy, serving local beers and yummy dishes in the same style.  The Eddy offers great outdoor seating overlooking the Haw River.  You might hear music from around the corner at the lively Haw River Ballroom, which fills a renovated mill building with guests every weekend.

I can't tell you how cool this place is.  If you're like me, you'll plop down at a table with a (locally brewed) Mother Earth Endless River Kolsch and a (locally raised) short rib sandwich on housemade foccacia, only to realize (by eavesdropping of course) that the table next to you seats farmers from Cane Creek farm (who raised that short rib!).  I guess that's why the journalists call it "the middle of somewhere."

It's worth the drive.  The Saxapahaw General Store makes the best sandwiches on earth.  One of my favorites is a pork sandwich with spicy mayo, pickles, basil, and cilantro.  This is my version made at home, and it's perfect for game days, picnics, or dinners on the deck.  Unattended in the slow cooker, the pork cooks until it falls apart in a slightly sweet and spicy coconut broth.  Because the  recipe makes tons of leftovers, you could also serve it as a traditional main dish with rice and sauteed veggies.  The recipe follows.