Yellow beans + cherry tomato summer pasta

The thing about photographing food is that you have to take the time to photograph it before you eat it. This really doesn’t work well for me, because to do it properly you need to take a fair amount of pictures. Lately I’ve been snapping like, six, hoping they’re fine and then munch munch.

Yesterday I felt like I was making a big error putting beans in pasta, but it was wunderbar.

I was in Wimbledon Village when I stumbled upon a nice little supermarket called Bayley & Sage and found yellow beans, which I was genuinely excited about. I feel like being this excited about finding beans is some kind of reflection on my coolness factor/age …

I also bought locally grown maters and fresh egg tagliatelle.

Yeller beans. Chopped and tossed into the sauce with just a few minutes to go so they’d maintain their crunch.

To make the “sauce” I heated cherry tomatoes, a garlic clove, olive oil, white wine, lemon juice and s&p.

For garnish I added a few sliced raw tomatoes.

Twirl in the salad.

Done.

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Spicy smoked rainbow chard

Greens make me happy. Like, really happy.

When my mom was here I had an amazing, yet simple, discovery.

Rainbow chard.

On a random trip to Whole Foods they had some on sale and I thought it looked pretty so I threw it in my little cart and went on with my day. But wow!

It was nice having someone to cook with! Normally my evenings consist of me running around the kitchen by myself and listening to Tune In on my iPhone.

I try not to sing anymore because I had an embarrassing moment recently where I thought I was alone so I played the same song at least eight times in a row, sang loudly each time, and then my housemate’s girlfriend appeared out of nowhere. I pretty much looked like a psycho who listens to bad songs on repeat, and then sings badly to said bad songs.

So, when mom was here I didn’t have to pretend to be cool, because oddities are a lot more acceptable when you’re not on your own.

Mom washed. I chopped (and took photos – that counts as work, right?).

I can’t think of any greens I don’t like, so I guess it’s not a surprise this made my face happy. We did a simple pan-fry with garlic, onion and asparagus tips.

We bought humanely raised British bacon and cooked it up with that, but I made the chard again without the bacon and it was fine. I have some smoked sea salt that I added to it and honestly didn’t notice the difference.

Baguette to mop up the juice.

The smoked sea salt + spicy chili powder aaallmost had me feeling like I was eating Southern collard greens, and boy do I miss those. Does life get much better than collard greens and fried maters?

Wine to sip! It doesn’t appear so in this picture, but generally my mom poured less wine into my glass because she says I don’t know how to drink. 🙂 I’m a disappointment!

Vegan cupcake to finish. I love the vegan cupcakes from Whole Foods. They’re a lot thicker and tastier than normal cupcakes!

I’m a total loser so I’m going to bed in thirty minutes. It’s 6:30 p.m. See you tomorrow!

BBQ tempeh on naan

Tempeh. WTF is it?

I bought some at Whole Foods without actually answering my own question until just before I was about to cook it. (It’s a soy product with more protein and a firmer texture than tofu – which I loved!) I knew it was used in vegetarian cooking as a kind of meat replacement, so I figured it might be good in some barbecue sauce. But I was scared and shakin’ in my lil’ boots.

The package conveniently had no directions other than “steam, bake or fry.” Basically … heat it up.

OK … for how long?? Any prep necessary?? Thanks to the blog world, I was set to go in just a couple minutes.

I had originally intended to make a barbecue “meat”ball sub type concoction, but I had some leftover naan bread from a meal I made a friend a few days ago, so this was born:

I cooked the diced tempeh with a whole, sliced white onion in some olive oil and a bit of water for about 10 minutes, and then I added barbecue sauce and cooked for another 10 minutes. I tossed in a couple handfuls of small button mushrooms to cook for the last couple minutes and then it was done.

Incredibly easy, quick, flavorful meal.

My heart told me to get rocket, but my head told me it would be fun to get some romaine and have mini lettuce wraps as well.

Thanks, head! The barbecue tempeh was great on the baked naan, but it was even better rolled up and eaten in lettuce wraps.

I packed up the rest of my tempeh friends in my lunch box and experienced the joy all over again at work last night.

Someday I hope to live in a place where I have room to have a proper food photography set up. Kitchen floor by the trash cans? Not so appetizing.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Pig in the City

Oh. my. word. For so many reasons. One, I’m tired beyond words, so I’m going to leave it at that.

Two: Creamy, tasty miso tahini pasta with no dairy. Veeeeeegan!

I got the recipe, once again, from Daily Garnish.

Do I ever make recipes of my own? All the time. But as I’ve said before, I’m still too much of a flying-around-the-kitchen mess to stop and write anything down. Remember the sweet sesame tofu? That deserves a recipe, but it still hasn’t gotten one.

Anyway, totally make this. It’s a creamy sauce made with white miso paste + tahini and a bunch of fresh veg. I’m loving miso paste. (And mushrooms – when will this addiction go away so I can once again enjoy other things in life?)

Really simple. Toss it together, put it on a nice plate and set it on the nasty kitchen floor to take a picture.

Looks pretty good, and almost gives you the impression I had a lovely meal. It tasted nice, but I ate standing up in the kitchen at my trashed counter. Because I’m … what’s the word? Classy.

I tried to take a picture of myself enjoying my romantic solo meal at the counter, but it doesn’t work so well with a big DSLR. I might not attempt this again.

Or I could get a boyfriend, and have him take pictures of me eating every meal of the day. Because that’s not weird …

I need your help. I have a party coming up at my work, and we’re supposed to dress up in a costume with a movie theme. “Fancy dress,” as the Brits would say. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M GOING TO BE.

So far my best ideas included buying fat suit, a curly tail and painting myself pink so I could go as Babe, Pig in the City. I also thought about going as a piece of broccoli or a green bean, but then realized there aren’t any vegetable movie stars. Or are there …

Dear God, please help me.

Who needs a Hungry Man?

After all the dairy and occasional meat I ate in Copenhagen, I wasn’t feeling too hot. The one good thing about coming home was getting back to my regular eating habits.

I was so tired after work and buying my iPod shuffle (which is clearly mentally taxing), that I wasn’t interested in cooking. I’ve learned to stock a few frozen vegan veggie burgers for just such occasions, because anything can happen when I reach starving point.

Two burgers and one almost forgotten avocado later and dinner was served.

Who needs this …

…. when you can have this?

The burgers have no weird ingredients in them. Just veggies, nuts and spices. The avocado was simply smashed with some fresh lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder and pepper.

I don’t know what it is about avocado (in this case, almost guacamole), but every time I eat it I furiously shovel it down. We’re talking about dangerous fork wielding, potential tooth chipping, furious kind of shoveling. I don’t know if I was just hungry, or it was that good. I’m going with both.

Is it weird that I’m now sitting alone in my room, listening to tunes on my iPod shuffle? I’ve been running in total silence for months, and it was driving me crazy. I would sing songs in my head, but after a couple miles I really needed the motivation of a good song! I got the shuffle because it’s so tiny and will just clip somewhere, versus those giant armbands in which I see people stuffing their big iPhones. No.

I can’t wait to go for a run tomorrow with him tomorrow. He’s small and green, and I love him. I shall call him squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my squishy.

A rocket obsession

You know how little kids are always talking about rockets, airplanes, trains, etc.? Well, I’m always talking about rocket, too, except salad rocket.

With almost every meal I make I think, “This would be better with rocket!” If you think about this, I’m correct. Sandwiches, pasta, rice, salad, dips. Yes, even dips. If I make some kind of vegetable dip sometimes I put a pile of rocket on the side and have a bite-full of that as well.

Kalamata olive spread from Waitrose. Impulse buy, and a good one at that! It was perfect on a slice of toast with rocket piled on top.

Except that’s not actually how much rocket I ate. After I took the pictures this happened:

All washed down with two glasses of iced coconut water (with pineapple), and eaten in the SUNSHINE.

London is a perfect day today. 70 degrees and sunny. I’m … what’s the word? HAPPY.

By the way, if you haven’t seen The Hunger Games movie, GO NOW. It was seriously so good. 

Sun in the City (and healthy broccoli cheese soup!)

Here’s how it goes. I work in the basement of a building (editors don’t need natural light to survive), so the first half of the day I’m fine. Then I go to lunch and realize it’s gorgeous outside. I come back to work and I sit there all afternoon knowing what I’m missing.

See, some people say working in a basement is crap. I like to think of it as half a blessing, because while all the sales people are sitting upstairs looking out the window all day and knowing they are trapped in a freezing office, I’m sitting downstairs in total ignorance so I have to endure the knowledge that I’m missing sunny weather for only half the day.

Ha! Take that, sales people, with your stupid floor-to-ceiling windows.

I took a walk on my lunch break around the South Bank yesterday since it was so nice. Well … it was sunny and fairly warm. Good enough for me!

Hello, city flowers.

OXO tower in the background.

I went back to the office and turned on my space heater. 😩

When I got home I made a chunky broccoli “cheese” soup.

Roughly, this is what I used:

1/2 bag frozen broccoli
Vegetable stock cube
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar
1 chopped red onion
1 clove garlic
water
salt

I cooked the broccoli in a big pan with maybe half a cup of water. I added a bit more later, but not too much because I don’t like runny soup. I lightly sautĂ©ed the onion and garlic while this was cooking, then added everything to the pan to cook together a bit longer. Add it to the food processor and you’re done. It’s such a simple, quick recipe that packs a ton of flavor and is super healthy as it’s mostly broccoli.

As you know I’m not big on processed foods, however, last week I decided to try some dairy-free cheeses. I figured if they were decent I could use them occasionally. The cheese I used in my spinach dip didn’t make much of a difference and I won’t use it again. This brand, Sheese, was really great in this soup!

I’m sad to say that a small amount of this vegan cheddar made the soup taste very much like the broccoli cheese soup I am used to getting back in the US. The reason I’m sad to say this is because I used to use a small amount of REAL cheddar to make this soup, and while it was great, it didn’t taste like American broccoli cheese soup. This makes me wonder what kind of “cheese” they are using at all these chain restaurants!

You can tell this soup is mostly broccoli:

I love chunky soups, so I put it in the food processor just long enough to break up the chunks.

I adore this soup. Can you tell? It’s one of my favorite things to make, and it’s by far my favorite soup.

Mmmm …

The vegetarian question

This might be the most personal and serious post I’ll ever write, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for months. This is the story of how I went from eating cheap, factory farmed meat to having what I’d say is a 90% vegan, whole foods diet.

Yesterday in the kitchen at work I was reheating my coconut black bean orzo when a guy I don’t even know asked if I was a vegetarian.

As I’ve slowly cut out animal products from my cooking I’ve been getting more and more questions.

A question like this from someone I don’t know threw me back a bit because it made me realize that to most people it’s weird to see a meal with no meat, but to me it’s not weird anymore. It’s completely normal. Having meat in something I’ve cooked is not even a consideration anymore – it simply doesn’t enter my mind. A few months ago I’d have to think hard about what kinds of meatless meals were realistic options, and it was difficult.

Thanks in huge part to food blogs, I’ve started cooking with so many different types of food and I’ve learned enough to make endless amounts of meals for myself. Sure, I still use recipes every now and then, but I don’t need to.

Questioning where my food comes from is another thing that happened from reading food blogs. I was introduced to Michael Pollan‘s book, In Defense of Food, and it changed my life.

I couldn’t believe I’d never even thought about what happened to my food before it arrived at the grocery store. How had I never bothered to look at the disturbingly long list of unpronounceable ingredients and question if they were actually healthful?

I’ve always loved food, and so does my family. We’ll travel literally hours to eat at a restaurant we’ve heard about, and there’s always a food show playing on TV. It never occurred to me to question where that food came from either. All I knew was that it was good.

Although In Defense of Food isn’t about animal welfare, it got me interested in factory farming as well. I started reading a lot of articles online and other books relating to farming and animal welfare.

When you first start learning about the horrors of factory farming, it’s so terrible that you automatically assume it’s some made-up story by a hippie tree-hugging liberal. But once you keep researching it, and actually think about the logistics of producing meat for literally hundreds of millions of people’s multiple meals a day, you start to understand that it isn’t possible to provide these animals with the humane treatment no one would argue they deserve.

This is in addition to the quality and health of the meat. These animals are kept in such horrid conditions that they’re often routinely fed antibiotics to keep them from getting sick and dying. They are pumped full of growth hormones and who knows what else so that they will grow at a sickening and unnatural pace. What goes into these animals ultimately goes into you.

(photo by Karen)

After a while I just couldn’t justify eating meat. I stopped buying it completely, and started opting for vegetarian meals where possible when eating out. In the back of my mind I felt it was wrong to continue to eat dairy and eggs as well, but it was difficult to switch completely. Eventually I couldn’t escape the fact that as far as I can tell, animals raised for dairy production have deeply unhealthy, tortured lives as well, only they aren’t slaughtered to be eaten.

I know there’s the argument that animals are killed during the farming of vegetables, so what’s the point? My point is that I want to do as much as I can to reduce animal suffering. No one is perfect, but I think if more people made an effort to have a reduced meat or meatless lifestyle, things would be a whole lot better. I think we’d be a healthier, fitter nation, and I think it would go a long way in reducing needless animal suffering.

(photo by Karen)

A lot of people also have an odd obsession with protein. How will you get enough protein?? I eat  tons of beans, nuts and foods like quinoa, which is a complete protein.

I honestly have never felt better since I started eating this way. I used to have horrible stomach cramps every day, and I finally figured out it was because of all the processed, greasy foods and dairy I was eating. Once I switched to oat milk, stopped eating cheese and fried foods, I felt great.

I feel like I’m still not where I want to be in terms of diet, but I’m getting there and doing what I can for now. I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect anyone else to be either. This is why I don’t like labels and as of right now will not call myself anything. I don’t like telling people yes, I’m vegetarian. Or yes, I’m vegan. I have exceptions, and I have gray areas. Maybe in the future I won’t, but I do for now.

As of right now my diet stands at this:

– Vegan cooking at home with whole foods. I buy very few processed foods and I don’t eat things like white sugar (refined sugar is white because often animal bone char is used in its production). I make all my dinners, and almost always pack my breakfast and lunch for work the next day.

– While eating out, I take the vegan option first. If there isn’t one, the vegetarian option will do. If there’s no vegetarian option then I’ll make a decision about eating meat.

– If a friend or family is cooking a meal for me and there’s meat, I’ll eat it. This is the most difficult one for me because as strongly as I feel about health and welfare issues, I also think so highly about the importance of eating meals with people. All of our major holidays are based on coming together as a family or friends and eating together. If a friend goes out of her/his way to prepare a meal for me, I’m going to eat it. The following paragraph, taken from the food blog, Eat the Love, sums up this feeling:

A macrobiotic vegan friend of mine (the man doesn’t even drink tap water) once told me that despite the fact that he doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t eat processed wheat, doesn’t eat refined sugar, he would go home to his grandma’s home in Tennessee once a year for the holidays and she would make meatloaf and fried chicken and collard greens with bacon and buttermilk biscuits from lard and sweet potato pie and pecan pie and red velvet cake. And throughout the entire trip, he would eat everything placed in front of him. I asked him why he would do that, why he didn’t tell his grandma that he would prefer a tofu scramble over chicken and waffles. And he responded back to me “because when you eat the food that someone makes for you, you are eating their love. You are eating the love.” Not everyone has the luxury to eat whatever is placed in front of them (due to allergies, health reasons, religious or moral reason) but that doesn’t mean they should be left out of the love.

I don’t feel at all like my diet is restricted or that I won’t still be able to appreciate food as much as I did before. In fact, I think I appreciate it more than ever and I can’t wait to keep discovering new things to eat and new places to try.

Healthy spinach and artichoke dip

I haven’t had spinach and artichoke dip from a chain restaurant in so long that I honestly couldn’t even estimate how many years it’s been. I still remember, however, how much I used to love that gooey, creamy dip.

These days I wouldn’t go near anything with that much dairy. As good as spinach and artichoke dip is, it’s not worth feeling sick all day!

The thing I always liked most about this dip is the spinach, so I set out to make a dip free from dairy that still boasts an addictive flavor.

While this dip is far from any commercial spinach artichoke dip you’ll ever buy, I guarantee you’ll love this light version!

It was easy to make, too.

When I peeled my onion I got a little surprise. It was like two onions in one shell:

Diced them up and lightly sautéed them while I got the rest of my ingredients together.

To make the sauce I started with cashews, nutritional yeast (for a bit of cheesy flavor), nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Add this to a jar of marinated artichokes, a couple cloves of garlic, and blend in a food processor.

Is there any way to make processed food look appetizing? Because this looks … gross.

Here’s your chance to be smarter than me. I thought it would be OK to mix the artichokes and spinach in the bread pan. Not OK. Mess everywhere, and I had to dump everything in a mixing bowl, which I obviously should have done in the first place!

Once it’s mixed, dump it in the pan.

Bake for about 10 minutes, then yank it out of the oven. (I have this problem of cooking/baking when I’m starving and I end up devouring before I can photograph)

I’ve shown you only half of the baked dip because the other half was an experiment with vegan mozzarella that supposedly melts, but I found out it doesn’t. It worked well inside the dip, but not layered on top. Also, there’s a giant dent in the dip from where my fork accidentally kept going into it and “taste testing” before I was able to snap a pic.

Eat up! I had mine with a freshly baked baguette, but it would have been better with tortilla chips or vegetables. I ended up just eating the dip with a fork straight from the bowl!

Ingredients:

Half a bag of frozen whole leaf spinach (about 500 grams)
1 med onion
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
3/4 cup cashews
1/2 cup vegan mozzarella (or real mozz or cheddar)
1 tbsp vegan parmesan (or real)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 cloves garlic
1 medium jar marinated artichokes + a little of the oil from the jar (about 200 grams drained)
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)

Directions

Place the spinach in a pan on low-medium heat and let it cook while you prepare everything else. Be sure to stir it occasionally.

Dice the onion and saute lightly.

Put the cashews, nutritional yeast, nutmeg, salt and pepper in the food processor along with the diced onion, garlic cloves and artichokes. I poured a small amount of the artichoke oil into the mixture. Add more if it doesn’t process well.

I wanted my mixture to be a bit chunky, but process it as smooth as you’d like.

By the time this is done your spinach should be cooked. I used a slotted spoon to drain the spinach and put it in a bowl. Add your artichoke mixture and the shredded cheese, and mix.

Place mixture in a baking pan and bake on 200 C/ 400 F for about 10 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown.

Remove from oven and try not to eat too much straight from the pan!