Tuesday, February 28, 2012


the blue mosque

Well, here we are in Istanbul! I don't have any recipes for you yet, but I thought I'd check in. 

It was a rough flight for me. Halfway through the 12 hour ordeal, I started to feel really crappy, and 24 hours later I still don't feel right. I have been spending more time sleeping and wishing I had an appetite instead of achy joints and an overall feeling of ick. This is unusual for me, as I usually am not sick, and almost always have an insatiable appetite for food...wah. 

I do have a couple of tips for the veggie voyager flying with Turkish Airlines. Make sure you order your vegetarian meal at least 24 hours ahead of time, as that is their strict cutoff. We failed to do this, and so we were served the meal without the entree at first (the flight attendant was actually able to find us 2 veggie meals in the end, so we got lucky, but it could have been ugly). And make sure that you check all the available meals they have on offer, as Turkish Airlines has a LOT of options! Options like raw food vegan (!), hindi vegetarian, ovo-lacto vegetarian, etc. Ordering special meals is always a good idea on flights, as you always get served first. Also, make sure you have your own headphones, as the provided ones totally suck, because there were about 300 (!) film choices on the in-flight entertainment. I tend to watch movies I would never watch elsewhere on planes as the choices are usually those kinds of movies, but Turkish Airlines is definitely pushing the envelope here. 

Interesting view from our hotel veranda.
I think the barbed wire is there to prevent intruders to the room.
but look at those ancient ruins right there!
It was 34 degrees and raining when we arrived, and I was exhausted, and nauseous with a mild case of diarrhea, so instead of taking the subway as originally planned we opted for an airport shuttle, forking out what seemed at first to be a sizable chunk of dough (remember, I am used to Africa prices) to be dropped right at the door of our hotel. It turned out to be the right thing to do, as our hotel was nearly impossible to find. Ryan had booked it online, as the price was right and it seemed smart. Once we did find it, we learned that the room available for us (we booked a tiny bed and breakfast) had a leaky roof. The owner connected us with another hotelier who shuttled us to his tiny hotel in Sultanahmet (the old, touristy part of Istanbul) and we were given a suite with 3 beds and a bathtub. It was a lifesaver (getting to take a bath, that is). Most people come to Turkey in the summer, but the prices go WAY up during high season. Now, although it's cold, rainy and snowy here, the prices are WAY down. Compare our room $30/night to $150/night at high season. Ouch! I'll take the snow... If you're wondering, we are at the Daisy Hotel, about 5 minutes walk from the Hagia Sophia.

Apparently, it is standard for all hotels here to provide a "Turkish Breakfast". Daisy Hotel did not disappoint, with a small buffet of fresh vegetables, fruit, yogurt, bread, cheese, olives, eggs, coffee and tea. 

only one thing here I wouldn't eat: the hot dog-like meat over there by the eggs.

yum to the standard Turkish breakfast!
Sights we saw today: The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Beautiful! I am a mosaic artist by trade so I am all about the mosaics and the Hagia Sophia did not disappoint. Other highlights include lots of cute, super friendly cats. Cats here use friendliness and cuteness as survival tactics and I did pet about 5 of them in our wanderings. There was a cat in the Hagia Sophia laying on one of the floor lights, presumably for the warmth who was attracting more attention than all the frescoes, architecture and mosaics combined. He was so funny and cute with the spotlight blasting on his face, we (along with everyone else there) had to take some pictures of him.

kitty in the hagia sophia
We also booked travel to Cappadoccia: an overnight bus with WIFI. I can't say I'm looking forward to a 10 hour ride, but am hoping this off-season thing will pay off with extra seats for us to stretch out and sleep somewhat comfortably. We went to a little tour agency called Pasific (just next to the Sultanahmet metro station if you're looking for it). Once we finished our business there, we asked our agent, Kursat, to direct us to an eatery free from the usual tourist trappings and he personally led us through backstreets to a cafeteria that was definitely a locals-only joint. You know its a good sign when there is a long line of locals out the door, waiting to fill their trays with goodies. Kursat even stuck around long enough to help us order (first day folks, cut me some slack!) our meal, which was simple but tasty and really cheap. I especially liked the spinach dish topped with yogurt. Other dishes included rice with white beans in tomato sauce (like Greek gigantes), an eggplant and potato stew, and mushrooms stewed in tomato sauce. I love how vegetarian dishes are so common here! Turkey is, so far, a great place for the veggie voyager. Tip: lokanta means "diner" or "cafeteria" here. 

Learning the language has been fun. Turkish is nothing like any of the other languages I have studied, and it is difficult to remember words. We have been learning how to count to ten...and have come up with a funny word association. First, the numbers in their actuality:

zero - sıfır
one - bir
two - iki
three - üç
four - dört
five - beş
six - altı
seven - yedi
eight - sekiz
nine - dokuz
ten - on

Ryan does not like beer, so this is the way we have taught ourselves to count, at least to 5. BEER is ICKY. OUCH! It tastes like DIRT and is BEIGE. Ridiculous, I know, but I hope it helps you when you come here. 

Kursat also told us a funny way to remember how to say "thank you" (thank you - teşekkür ederim). Just remember, tea sugar a dream. But say tea like you are French (the). 

Other useful words: et - meat, su - water, et su - meat water (broth). Merhaba - hello.
More as I learn...

Have I mentioned that I love learning languages? Such a good way to burrow your way into a culture. I know that 8 days isn't much time to even make the effort but if you start from day 1, it makes any voyage, veggie or not, more enjoyable.

I have to say that Sultanahmet, while old and charming and quaint and full of most of the sights one must see while in Istanbul, is kitschy and touristy and expensive. After a long afternoon nap we decided to hoof it somewhere else in search of food that was authentic and affordable. We ended up a few miles west of tourist-land in a much more regular seeming lokanta that looked good. It was a "fish and meat restaurant", but we were able to enjoy a lovely green salad, a cold eggplant dish, lentil soup and our first vegetable casserole (more on this dish later). We sat by the window and watched the snow fall while we ate. Then we walked back in the snow, remembering to take lots of goofy pictures along the way. Be sure to check out some of these silly images on Ryan's blog, http://everthine.blogspot.com/

dinner and a stroll...

Friday, February 24, 2012

V-10 Juice: Hangover Helper?

I'd like to apologize for not being a super blogger lately. Although off to a good start, with no plans of slowing down, it is difficult for me in these last days of preparing for my next veggie voyage to cook, take notes, photograph food, etc. Or even to find time to write about my favorite thing in the world.

Last weekend we went to a wedding for a dear friend who is very active in the locally sourced, organic, sustainable food movement. His bride is a perfect match for him and the food at their wedding was appropriately delicious, local, organic and free from genetic modification. So was the booze, and the day after the wedding, I had one of my rare once-a-year hangovers. This did not fit into my busy schedule of getting ready. I had to cancel all plans for the day and spend it, instead, nursing a wicked headache and feeling sorry for myself. There is a reason I don't like getting drunk at all (this is not to be confused with the glass of wine with dinner, which I have regularly). Sometimes you just have to remind yourself why you don't like something by doing it, right? (Why does this always seem to happen to me at weddings?)

I was on the phone with my friend, lamenting my state of mind and she told me to go and eat a couple of tomatoes, that they are known to replace all the stuff you lose when you get schnockered. I took her advice to heart and promptly went down and prepared my favorite vegetable juice, the recipe of which I will give you shortly. I drank about 3 glasses of the stuff and put myself back to bed. Although the headache didn't go away until the next day, I did feel better. Tomatoes are a good source of vitamin A and C, beta-carotene, and the antioxidant lycopene. I can't say whether tomatoes are a cure all for the hung-over...but even if you don't have this particular problem I wholeheartedly endorse this yummy, nutritious drink. 

(makes 2-3 pint glasses)
  • wedge of purple cabbage
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 lemon (no need to peel)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • sprinkling of salt or dash of tamari
  • squirt of hemp seed oil (optional)
Process through a juicer, adding the tamari and hemp seed oil at the end. If you don't have a juicer, use a blender and a paint straining bag. Start with the juicy vegetables (tomato, cucumber, lemon). Puree and strain the liquid using the bag as you would make almond milk. Pour the liquid back into the blender and add the rest of the vegetables. Blend well, restrain and add the tamari and hemp seed oil if using.

that would be the purple cabbage...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Inspired by Pad Thai

I love a good pad thai...but it's something I've never made at home until a few days ago. I had the noodles, but not the usual gamut of veggies that you see in pad thai: bean sprouts, bok choi, peanuts. Nor did I have eggs or the requisite tamarind paste. I did, however, possess red bells, romanesco (you know, the fractal plant), tamarind chutney (from the Indian market), cashews, purple cabbage, and a hankering for pad thai, so I improvised. It was excellent, and here is my recipe, culled from researching other pad thai recipes, especially this one. Ryan, who lived in Thailand, said it was great. No matter what veggies you have lying around, I'd venture that they'd be good in your pad thai, veggie voyager style!

  • 1 14 ounce bag of rice noodles, wide, or fettuccine style
  • Pot of water
Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the noodles to soak for about 5-6 minutes, until flexible but still chewy. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside. You will finish cooking them in the pan.
  • 3 TBS tamarind paste, or chutney
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 7 TBS soy sauce or Tamari
  • 2 TBS chili sauce (I used Sriracha) or 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 TBS sucanat or brown sugar, or more to taste
In a bowl, combine these ingredients and set aside.
The Rest
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TBS ginger, grated
  • 1 head romanesco or broccoli, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 4 carrots, julienned
  • 1/4 purple cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews (or peanuts), chopped
  • oil & extra water
In a small amount of oil saute the onion until it begins to become translucent. Add the garlic and the ginger and allow it to soften and cook. Add the romanesco (or broccoli) and carrots. A minute or so later, add the cabbage and the red bell pepper as well as the noodles and most of the cashews. Pour 1/3 of the sauce over the noodles and stir. Continue stirring so that the noodles don't stick to the pan but do begin to get sticky. When the liquid has soaked up, add the next third, and again for the final third. Try a piece of noodle and if it is not soft enough yet, begin adding small amounts of water (1/4 cup at a time), continuing the cooking process until the noodles are to your taste.
Plate the gorgeous mess and sprinkle with chopped cashews and cilantro. Serve with a wedge of lime.

I did not add the usual egg to my dish but if you would like to, do so just before you add the noodles: create a small space in the pan, add a little oil. Pour 1 or 2 beaten eggs into the space and allow to cook, stirring occasionally until they are scrambled. Proceed with the noodles. Or, do it like they did at Saffron restaurant, where a single egg is fried so thinly that looks like lace, and drape it over the top of the Pad Thai.

If you have bean sprouts, use them as they are a great classic ingredient. Add them towards the end, or raw, at the end.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A New Veggie Voyage...
5 days & counting!

turkey-india friendship pin

Have I mentioned that we are embarking on a six week veggie voyage through Turkey and India, starting Sunday? No? Oh, sorry. I've been too busy adding recipes and ideas to The Veggie Voyager, in order to gain a following so that I can do these things I love: traveling, eating , being, and connecting with the world at large.

I am so excited! I finally got my India visa back from the Consulate (apparently, $20 at the gate in the Istanbul airport is all that is required to get into Turkey). India, however, required a proof of residence (major utility bill, copy of your signed lease, or ID with address on it) as well as money, passport photos, extra pages added to my passport, and a slew of other bureaucratic requirements. I was anxious for weeks, waiting for my passport to arrive safely back at my doorstep.

But now, we go! It will be cold, I'm told. This makes backpack travel a little more cumbersome but that is our goal. We will be traveling on a shoestring budget, as usual. We have been urged to visit Cappadocia in Turkey; we have been told it is just incredible there. And I have been studying basic Turkish, without all that much success (merhaba=hello, seni seviyorum=I love you). Here is a great link for basic Turkish lessons (a girl after my own heart, she has a slang section, a "for your lover" section and a Turkish texting section). I haven't been studying up on India nearly as much, mainly because Ryan lived there for 2 years, we have a support system of friends and colleagues there, and we'll have about 4 weeks there, versus a whirlwind 8 days in Turkey. We will fly into Mumbai and out of Delhi, and plan to do most of our traveling in the north of India. Ryan's Indian hometown is called Manali, in the foothills of the Himalaya, not far from Tibet. About 6 years ago I was on the eastern border of Tibet, in China, and am looking forward to seeing and learning about the Indian version of Tibet.

I simply can not wait to learn about all the wonderful foods we will be eating while on this journey. I am used to traveling in countries where is difficult to be a veggie voyager. I am told that Turkish food is wonderful. I spent about 6 months in Greece a lifetime ago and I absolutely loved Greek food. From what I hear, Turkish food is similar, maybe better. I'll let you know if I agree, as I thought Greece was the bee's knees. And India is like a vegetarian's heaven, according to everyone I know who has been there.

I will do my best to seek out unusual dishes and recipes while on this veggie voyage as well as reporting on the classics. I imagine that due to limited internet access that there won't be a post every day, but please check back from time to time to see what we are up to. I will probably suspend my no-gluten rule to some degree while traveling, as Ryan will probably have to suspend his no-dairy restriction. As a veggie voyager one must choose one's battles. We are already somewhat of a pain-in-the-ass for not eating meat, and to flat out refuse to eat bread or dairy would be culinary suicide if you ask me. (Sorry, to those of you out there who have no choice. I am not, thankfully, suffering form celiac disease, and my GF status is voluntary) That said, I will diligently report back on all the indigenous GF offerings I encounter, with pics, stories and recipes that you can try from home.

If you like my blog, please share it with others! I love doing this and would love to continue doing this. Join! Comment! Share! I promise, it will only get better. I have hundreds of recipes in my mental file cabinet, just waiting for me to archive and share. 

pin photo credit

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thai Iced Tea with Coconut Milk

This is a quick and easy recipe and I just want to share.

If you can find this tea, then you can make Thai Iced Tea exactly like you would get in a restaurant, only vegan, and so much better (if you ask me). I have seen the Thai-tea product at the Asian and Indian markets here in San Diego in the tea aisles. It often has orange dye in it, but otherwise seems pretty natural and straight forward. I am willing to take one for the team on the orange dye if it means I can have this yummy treat at home. Here's the secret: When we dine at Thai restaurants we always ask for this drink to be made with coconut milk instead of dairy cream...and often we are denied. There is a great Thai restaurant out in Santee that will do it. I am not actually sure why some restaurants say no, but c'est la vie...

You can make a bunch of this and then pour the leftovers into a bottle to keep in the fridge for quite a while. When you want a Thai Iced Tea, all you have to do is pour it over ice and add coconut milk!

Thai Iced Tea (makes 8 cups)
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 Thai tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar (white evaporated cane juice)
  • Coconut milk or cream
Bring the water with the teabags to a boil. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes until the tea is dark and concentrated. Turn off the heat and add the sugar, allowing to dissolve. Only use sucanat, rapadura or any other brown sugar if you don't care about loosing the groovy orange color. 

Once the tea has cooled, fill a glass with ice. Fill glass to within 1 1/2 - 2 inches of the rim of the glass with tea and top with coconut milk. Drink away!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Apple-Cinnamon-Walnut Muffins

 Happy Sunday!

Here is another tasty addition to the-muffins-made-using-almond-pulp (and a buncha other stuff) collection...And they're vegan to boot! I was a vegan for a long time and I have decided to post more recipes without eggs for my vegan readers. (Know, too, that you can usually omit the eggs in these recipes, as the flax and chia are great binders on their own). One of the only baked goods I make that absolutely must have the eggs is the Amazing Chocolate Cake.

Anyhow, these are tasty nuggets of goodness, studded with juicy chunks of apple and crunchy bits of walnut, and they're not TOO sweet. I predict these won't last the weekend around here...

Apple-Cinnamon-Walnut Muffins
(makes 25 mini muffins and 8 large muffins)
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 apples
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chia gel (2 TBS chia seeds + water to make 1/2 cup gel, let sit for a few minutes to get gooey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flax meal
  • 1 cup quinoa flakes
  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 1 cup almond pulp
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sucanat or other natural sugar
  • 2 TBS cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 cup chopped apple (or one apple)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
 Preheat oven to 350F.

In a blender, puree the orange juice through the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine the flax meal through the cloves. Add the apple puree and mix until just combined. Add the chopped apple and walnuts and combine. 
In a small bowl, make the topping: combine the sucanat, cinnamon and walnuts.
Scoop muffin batter into muffin tins or if you have them, silicone muffin molds. Dip each muffin into the topping or sprinkle over the top if using tins. 
Bake small muffins for approximately 20-30 minutes, larger ones for 25-35 minutes, or until they feel firm to the touch.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Celeriac-Potato Mashup

Ah, celeriac. It's as if potato and a celery fell in love and had a baby. This funny looking root vegetable is crunchy and ugly and tastes kinda celery-like. We discovered its wonders when we were on the raw food road. My (and Ryan's) hands down favorite way to prepare celeriac is as a raw macadamia-apple soup. Here is a link to that recipe, which comes from the book Raw Food, Real World. (This book is full of elaborate and delicious recipes that take hours to prepare...except that soup, which is relatively easy to make.) Another good way to prepare celeriac is in a remoulade. (I will post my remoulade recipe one of these days...)

Tonight I decided to try celeriac in a garlicky, savory mashup. I thought that it was very good. Ryan still says that the raw soup is the best, but this recipe is definitely worth trying. It was super flavorful and satisfying. The texture and flavor of the celeriac changed quite a bit when cooked, becoming sweeter and softer, reminiscent of stewed apples.

Celeriac-Potato Mashup
  • 1 medium sized celeriac root, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 6-7 fingerling potatoes or 1 regular potato, chopped into cubes (no need to peel)
  • 1 head (or more, I used almost one cup!) garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 TBS rosemary
  • salt & black pepper to taste
In a large skillet or dutch oven, saute the garlic in the olive oil until lightly golden. Add the celeriac & potato and cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until the edges begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add the water, wine, rosemary, salt and pepper and cover. Cook for another 10 or so minutes until the root vegetables are soft. Using a potato masher, smash halfway to mashed. Check the seasoning and serve.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Nkatiekonto & Omotuo
(Groundnut Soup & Riceballs)

groundnut soup & riceballs: veggie voyager style

Here is a favorite recipe from Ghana. It is one of the more famous foods of the region, with good reason: it's delicious! Nkatiekonto is most commonly found on Sundays at chop bars (small street-side restaurants), especially in the bigger towns and cities. It is also prepared frequently in homes across the country.

As always, this is the veggie voyager version. I have made a number of changes to suit my tastes and needs. Typically this soup is thinner than the version I make. Nkatiekonto also, invariably, has meat and fish. And the riceballs are usually made with white rice, and are the size of a baby's head. When we make this in the village, my friends are always gracious and accommodating, omitting the meat and "beefing it up" with all kinds of vegetables, beans, mushrooms, etc. It is a phenomenal dish that is easy to make...

If you want to remain authentic, the following vegetables can be found in Ghana: green cabbage, green bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, garden eggs (a small, egg shaped relative of the eggplant), okra, green beans, and sometimes, if you are lucky, cauliflower. Ghana has many other veggies, of course, but these listed are the ones you'd want in your groundnut soup. Two more exotic additions include local mushrooms (see linked image below) and kontomire (which are the leaves of the coco-yam). In fact, the "konto" in the title of this recipe refers to the chopped kontomire in the soup. (Plain groundnut soup is actually called Nkatiekwan.) In Ghana there are only two types of dried beans found in the market: black eyed peas (simply called "beans" or "adua") and a more exotic bean, the bambara bean (which is actually more closely related to groundnuts than to proper beans). As it is virtually impossible to find bambara beans outside of Africa, go for the black eyed peas.

This is what mushrooms look like in Ghana.
They are seasonal and a real treat when you can get them

If you are willing to stray from authenticity, go ahead and add whatever vegetables you like to this. I took a middle road, adding carrots, green beans, crimini mushrooms, red bell peppers, zucchini, black eyed peas, chopped tomatoes, and kale. The soup base is seasoned with ginger, garlic, hot peppers, tomato paste, and salt. You should definitely like peanut butter if you're going to have this soup. 
In Ghana, groundnuts are a main staple in the diets of nearly everyone. I imagine that children with peanut allergies just don't make it long there. When I was in the Peace Corps, I served with a fellow who was allergic to groundnuts. I couldn't imagine the difficulties he had in eating every single day, not to mention all the tasty treats he missed out on because of his allergies. (Why the Peace Corps sent a nut-allergic person to West Africa is completely beyond me.) Ghanaian groundnuts are very similar to American groundnuts (peanuts) so you may use peanut butter when making this dish. When purchasing peanut butter for this recipe, try to get the all natural variety that has no additives. I like the kind that you can grind yourself in the market.

If you have a blender, then this soup is a breeze. If you don't, no problem. You'll just be mincing and/or grinding a little more. I got experimental this last time and used a pressure cooker. It worked great, cooking the soup and the beans in about 15 minutes, albeit burning the soup to the bottom of the pan. If you don't have a pressure cooker, know that your soup needs to simmer for about 1-2 hours, or until the oil in the peanut butter begins to separate from the rest of the soup. I like this thick, almost like stew. If you want a more authentic Ghanaian soup consistency, simply thin it down with stock or water as you are cooking it.

Now for the rice balls, which are but one of the myriad of balls of starch that are eaten in Ghana, and definitely the most accessible here in the States and abroad. Others include kenkey (fermented corn dough), banku (fermented blend of corn and cassava dough, and my personal favorite), and tuozafi (corn or millet dough). There are others but these are the main players. I chose omotuo (riceballs) because they are simple to make and the main ingredient (rice) is sold everywhere. I like to use brown rice and I make mine about the size of a lemon, using an ice cream scoop as my measure. If I were Ghanaian they'd be much bigger, and I'd get mildly offended if you didn't finish your whole ball.

eating with your right hand...

To eat this dish, one has a rice ball in a bowl of soup, often a shared dish with one or two other people. Using your hand like a knife, 'cut' off a bite of rice ball and scoop some of the soup up with it. Carefully convey this handful of soup and rice to your mouth. Only use your right hand, and only eat on your side of the ball when sharing a bowl with someone else. (That right hand rule is very, very important.) Sharing a dish with someone else is bonding, intimate and culturally gratifying. Try it at home! Just make sure your soup isn't too hot...

Nkatiekonto & Omotuo
(Groundnut Soup & Riceballs)
 Nkatiekonto (Groundnut Soup with Greens)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • 2 inches ginger
  • 2 hot peppers (habanero is the most authentic)
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1-1/2 cups natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 1 TBS of salt (or so)
  • 1 cup of black eyed peas, soaked for a few hours
  • 8 cups of vegetables, chopped into large-ish chunks (carrots, green or red peppers, green beans, cabbage, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, etc)
  • 1 head kale, chard, spinach, or collard greens (chopped)
ingredients of the soup base

Chop the onion and saute in a large soup pot with a small amount of oil. Once translucent, add the mushrooms if using. In a blender, combine garlic, ginger, hot pepper, tomato paste (which is widely used  in Ghana, by the way), peanut butter, and a couple cups of the water. Blend until smooth and pour into the soup pot. (If you don't have a blender then mince the ginger, garlic, and pepper and toss everything into the pot, it will work just fine). In Ghana they use a locally made clay mortar and wooden pestle to grind the ingredients; most people do not have a blender. Add the rest of the water, the beans, and the remaining vegetables, except for the greens, which you should add in the last 10 minutes. Simmer on medium low heat for an hour or more, until the beans are soft and oil begins to separate and float on top of the soup. If you have a pressure cooker, you can cook this whole concoction that way, but be aware that some will burn on the bottom. I let the pressure cap jiggle and spurt for 12 minutes. Serve with Omotuo.

Omotuo (Riceballs)
  • 3 cups brown or white rice
  • 6 1/2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt

scooping the smashed rice

In a rice cooker or on the stovetop, cook the rice as you normally would, adding the salt before you cook the rice. The 1/2 cup extra water will help to soften the rice and make it into balls when the time comes. Once the rice is cooked and all water is absorbed, use a wooden spoon or spatula to smash and mash the rice in the pot until it is pasty and sticky. Have ready a smooth surfaced, round bowl and a small amount of clean water. Moisten the bowl and scoop about 1/3 cup of rice into the bowl. Using a swift circular motion, swirl the riceball in the bowl for a few seconds to create the ball shape. Flip the ball over and repeat, and then transfer to a serving dish. Repeat with all the rice until finished.
shaping the riceballs
mushroom photo credit

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Noble Canyon & Alpine Brewery

happy love day...

Here's a "fungestion" for you...
About a one hour drive from San Diego proper is a trail that takes you through forest, valley, meadow and lake. This is one of those magical spots that I actually hesitate to post about as I love the tranquility and peacefulness of the place, but really, it's no big secret. People do go, especially on nice days. Sometimes we see wild turkeys here, which is always a big treat. We chose to come here most recently on a cold and blustering day and were the only people around, and it was wonderful. The dogs scampered and frolicked. There was an ice-cold swimming session for the golden lab. The African Brown dog chased butterflies and birds. The scenery was impeccable.

My purebred African Brown Dog...who came here from Ghana 4 years ago

Normally, when we visit this place, we drive to the top of the Noble Canyon trail head. The dog and I hike the easy 4-5 mile loop that takes you around Big Laguna Lake and then drive to the bottom of the trail head where the rest of the gang has ridden down on mountain bikes. It's a win-win situation for all. This time, however, we simply went on the hike, and then popped over to Alpine for a beer and some scrumptious sweet potato fries, served with a myriad of dipping sauces. Be sure to ask for the chipotle mayo that they hide in the fridge. For beer, I can recommend the Mandarin Nectar, a slightly sweet ale, and the Captain Stout, which tasted chocolat-ey...

There is a brewery and there is a pub. You can get a growler of Alpine beer at the brewery, or you can pop into the pub for a pint and a bite. Check the websites for hours.

I hope to see you out there! This is hands down, one of my favorite places to go in the San Diego area. If you are voyaging to, or live in San Diego, I highly recommend a visit. The trail is long-ish, but is very easy. It's a good trail for a beginner mountain bike rider, as there are little to no technical obstacles. The Noble Canyon trail, however, is not for the newbie.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lemon-Beet Lovecakes

In the event that you are looking for a romantic, blood red cupcake recipe for everyone's favorite Hallmark holiday, here you go.

I have been hankering to make these for a while. When I sat down to look at what others have thought of in the cupcake-colored-by-beets department I was not surprised to find that there are dozens of recipes out there on the myriad of food blogs. I was most inspired by this blog: My Diverse Kitchen. Nearly all the recipes out there either call for roasted or steamed or canned beets. I am TOO lazy to roast or steam if I think it unnecessary, so I simply pureed the beets along with the other liquid ingredients and it worked out just fine. Think of this as a naturally colored red velvet cake. The beet flavor is present but not overwhelming, and the texture is moist and slightly dense. The lemon and the small amount of cocoa powder compliment the beets in a wonderful, refreshing way. Best of all is the stunning color.

I learned about using olive oil in my baking from Jamie Oliver. I really love the flavor it imparts and it is now one of my go-to oils for baking. Yes, I know all that stuff about how heating olive oil converts it to something toxic...so if it really bothers you then use some other oil that doesn't have a bad rep when heated, like coconut oil or sunflower oil; the lovecakes will still be delicious. (While on the subject of substitutions and changes to the recipe, you don't have to put the egg in there if you don't want to.)

I am a lucky girl to have heart shaped cupcake molds in pink and red...but this recipe will work with regular cupcake molds as well.

 Lemon-Beet Lovecakes
2 medium-large beets (peeled and chopped)
2 oz (1/4 cup) lemon juice
1 TBS lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup olive oil
1 egg (optional)
3/4 cup flax meal
1 1/2 cup oat, millet, quinoa or other GF flour or a mix
1 tsp baking powder
2 TBS cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F
In a blender combine the beets through the egg and puree until very smooth. In a mixing bowl combine the flax meal through the salt. Add the beet mixture and stir to mix. Fill cupcake molds 3/4 full (these rise gorgeously). Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on cupcake size.
Frost if desired. I used the frosting recipe from the carrot cupcake recipe, but added the juice of one lemon and about 1/2 cup powdered sugar to it.
the sweet life

Sunday, February 12, 2012

GF Butternut Squash Bread Machine Bread

I always have almond pulp! This means that I'm always experimenting with baking.  If you've got a bread machine, and are looking for gluten free recipes for it, here's another one. I made it vegan, because I don't want to exclude my vegan friends. This bread is very flavorful, moist and rich. I could barely eat one piece with some scrambled eggs. It's got the density and mouth-feel of zucchini bread, maybe even denser and moister. Not a sandwich bread, but more of a meal in itself.

ever hopeful for a dropped morsel
Gluten Free Butternut Squash Bread (for the Bread Machine)
  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 TBS molasses
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup quinoa flakes
  • 3 TBS chia seeds
  • 1 cup flax meal
  • 2 cups rice/oat/millet flour or a mix
  • 1 TBS yeast
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1 cup green olives
In a blender, puree squash, water, oil, molasses, chia seeds, and apple cider vinegar. In a separate bowl combine the quinoa flakes, flax, flour, yeast and sugar. Pour the liquid into the bottom of the breadmaker. Add the dry mix and olives. Set maker to Whole Wheat, Medium crust. Press "go".

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Penne Rosé

The unabbreviated title of this dish might be "Vegan, Gluten & Soy Free Penne Rosé with Mushrooms, Cauliflower & Chard". For me, it is the pinnacle of comfort food. I am eating it as I write and it is deeeeelicious.

About two years ago, I deduced that I am allergic to most soy products. Prior to that I had a host of skin and other problems that disappeared when I stopped eating it. Although I occasionally eat dairy, usually in cheese form, Ryan does not and I like to find alternatives that provide us with the creamy goodness that we crave.

Penne refers to the type of pasta used. Rosé is the name for a sauce that is both creamy and tomato based, usually cooked with vodka (this dish is also known as Penne a la Vodka). It can be thrown together fairly quickly, using fresh or canned tomatoes and a handful of other ingredients. Soaked and blended nuts (cashew or pine) provide the creamy aspect. I have made this with both, and although cashews are slightly more available and affordable and work perfectly, the pine nuts add a flavor dimension that is worth the extra effort, especially if you've got them lying around anyhow, like I did.

You really should try this. Would it help if I told you that I had four bowls of it tonight?

Penne Rosé
(Vegan, Gluten & Soy Free Penne Rosé with Mushrooms, Cauliflower & Chard)
1 cup pine nuts or cashews, soaked
1 cup water
2 cans diced tomatoes or 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine (or vodka, I used wine)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 TBS dried basil
2 tsp salt
1 TBS garlic powder
1 jabanero pepper (optional)
1 onion, diced
1 can or 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 cups chard, chopped
1 cup cauliflower, chopped

1 package brown rice penne pasta 
Cook the pasta to al dente. Meanwhile, puree the nuts through the garlic powder (and pepper if using) until very smooth. For me, this was about 30 seconds in my Vitamix blender. You'll want to use a blender, not a food processor.

In a sauce pan, saute the onions in a small amount of oil. Add the garlic and sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms are browned. Add the blended nut/tomato mixture along with the tomato, chard and cauliflower. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until it thickens and changes in color from pinkish to orangish, and the wine (or vodka) has cooked out. Toss the pasta with enough sauce (you might have leftover sauce) to suit your tastes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or basil and enjoy.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Burger Lounge in San Diego

I feel like Burger Lounge was thinking of me when they came up with a soy free veggie burger on a lettuce "bun". It's actually a quinoa, sweet potato, cheese blend...very tasty. There are several locations, too, so if you are out with your carnivore friends everyone can eat happily here. I recommend asking for jalapenos on the side, but I like my food spicy...

Well done, Burger Lounge!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


When it comes to vegetarian food in Ghana and West Africa, I'm your girl. I have spent about 4 years (cumulatively) in Ghana in the past 10 years. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer there for 2 1/2 years, and while there I forged lasting relationships with many people. After I finished my service, I sort of stayed on in Ghana...and haven't really completely left yet. We have hosted & chaperoned 4 groups of teenagers in Ghana, to do development projects as well as to learn about the culture and see the sights.

palm nut soup...village style
Being a veggie voyager in Ghana has its challenges. Ghanaian food is very tasty...especially if you like goat meat. Or sheep or cow or chicken or fish. Dried, smoked, ground fish is used as a flavoring and a seasoning even in dishes that are otherwise vegetarian. I had quite a few miserable and hungry evenings when I first arrived, before I was in control of my diet and knew all the tricks. I wasn't even a vegetarian in the first couple of years...but I could never get used to the fish or the goat. They just don't taste good to me.

But I watched, and learned, and once I had my own kitchen, friends, and a grasp on the language, a whole new world of food opened up to me. There are quite a few delicious offerings in Ghana that a vegetarian can enjoy, especially if you are open to eating street food and snacks. And there are tons of dishes that you can make at home, sans fish or meat while still maintaining the integrity of the recipe. Some of my best memories involve listening to music, drinking local booze and cooking with my sisters in the village...learning from the best. I would like to begin sharing my some of these recipes with you, so you can have a taste of Ghana at home.

good times...
This is one of my favorite street snacks, and all the ingredients are available here in the States so I hope you will try it. It's called Kelewele (pronounced "kelee-welee") and is typically found in the South, on the streets, at night. It is a favorite out-drinking snack, although you can occasionally find it during the day as well. If you are going to Ghana, be on the lookout! You can't mistake the smell of these, like a beacon, the scent will draw you right to the lady (it's always a lady) on the side of the street, dropping clumps of seasoned plantains into hot palm oil. Kelewele is so good, I think, because it offers a wide variety of sensations to the palate: sweet, salty, spicy, umame, oily, and chewy.

I absolutely love this food, and I'm not the only one. Check out the kelewele facebook page, with over 30,000 members!

It consists of very ripe plantains, ginger, cloves, hot pepper and salt, fried in oil until dark and chewy. The plantains must be very ripe for this to be delicious, as it is the sweetness that sets off the spiciness. There are other recipes calling for unripe plantains in the Ghanaian repertoire but for this one they should be dark brown and a little bit soft. Here in the States, you can find plantains at Latino markets (sometimes called macho bananas) or at Asian markets. If they are not yet ripe, they will ripen on your counter with time. I like to add garlic as well, although I am not sure that all of the kelewele vendors of Ghana would approve...

In Ghana, one makes a paste or puree by using a locally made, clay mortar and wooden pestle (see fancy version below). The one I have here is more decorative than functional so I used an electric coffee grinder to pulverize the peppers, ginger, salt, garlic and cloves, and it worked like a charm.

Plantains should be very ripe!
  • 4 very ripe plantains
  • 2 habanero peppers (or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder)
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
  • Oil for frying (red palm oil if you can find it, otherwise vegetable oil is fine) I used rice bran oil.
Peel and then slice the plantains into medallions or chunks.
Pour about 1 inch of oil into a skillet or pan over medium to high heat and allow to get very hot.
Grind the peppers, ginger, salt, cloves and garlic together into a paste, either with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder. In a bowl, toss this with the sliced plantains until all are coated. When the oil is hot, carefully drop some of the coated plantain slices into the oil and fry, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove them and drain on a paper towel for a couple of minutes. Repeat until all the plantains are cooked. This dish is best served hot.

One thing I have noticed when I make this in the States is that the plantains I find here are not as inherently sweet. In order to compensate, I heat a quarter cup of honey and toss the fried and drained plantains with it. Only then, does my Stateside kelewele taste properly sweet, salty, spicy...and perfect.