Sunday, April 20, 2008


This sweet little fruit tree makes it's home in my front yard. When we first moved in I had to ask a neighbor what it was. The answer was a Loquat tree. I then had to ask what in the heck a loquat was.

The tree flowers in the fall, and puts out fruit in early spring. From what I understand, loquat vary in color and flavor. Mine have yellow skin and white flesh with one or two large seeds in the center. The flavor is sort of peach, sort of cherry. But not exactly. When fully ripe, they are extremely sweet. I almost prefer them a little unripe, when they are a bit tart.

Loquat are native to southeast China, have been cultivated in Japan for over 1000 years, and in the States are mostly grown in California and east-Texas/west-Louisiana. I think you can find them canned in some Asian markets, but I'm pretty sure the taste and texture will be very different. Around here, this seems to be a fruit that people either happen to have growing in their yard, or have never heard of.

The past few years, the birds have beat me to the loquat, and left me with only a handful to munch on. This year the birds lost out big time, because I picked them all the minute they seemed ripe. I don't usually have so much fresh fruit in the house, so it was fun to decide what to do with it. Tarts, crisps, cakes: all would have been good, but I was worried I still wouldn't use them all before they went bad. So in the end I decided to make loquat jam.

I kept fretting over how to go about making this, spending way too much time comparing recipes on the internet. In the end I just winged it, and it came out perfect. I made two batches; one with ginger and one without.

Loquat Jam

Loquat Jam

Halve loquat, removing seed and membrane. You can leave the skins on.

Blend in food processor to desired consistency. I like mine pretty chunky. Transfer to a large pot.

For each cup of puree add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 1-2 tsp. minced crystallized ginger if desired. Add cold water just to cover.

Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 40 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened considerably.

Transfer to a clean jar and store in the fridge.

Quinoa Biscuits with Loquat Jam

I made these biscuits the same night and we consumed an alarming amount of them with lots of the jam. The lavender in these really goes well with the loquat.

Quinoa Lavender Biscuits

1 1/2 cup flour (I used spelt)
1/2 cup quinoa flakes*
2 tsp. lavender
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil or melted margarine
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. flax meal (optional)

Mix wet ingredients and flax. In separate bowl mix dry ingredients. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir till just combined. Drop by spoonful onto oiled baking pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 7-10 minutes or until biscuits are firm and slightly browned.

*I use Ancient Harvest Quinoa Flakes. Rolled oats would work as well. Or, you could just omit and add an extra 1/2 cup flour.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I love food that is stuffed or filled. I think it's the contrast of textures and flavors. In addition it's always cooking and crafting at the same time. Here's a couple of tasty stuffed things I've made recently.

Stuffed With Fennel

These filo pockets are delicious. I wanted to use the filo dough that had been sitting in my freezer, and I had some lovely fennel in the refrigerator. The rest of the recipe came together when I thought about a Coconut Corn Fennel Chowder that I like to make. The flavor combination is wonderful.
Fennel Corn Filo Pockets

frozen filo dough, thawed
one onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 fennel bulb, stalks removed, quartered, and thinly sliced
pinch of red pepper flake
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 1/2 Tbsp. shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. coconut milk
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup firm tofu, crumbled
salt and lemon juice to taste
feathery greens from fennel stalks

Heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and fennel. Saute until the onion is beginning to soften. Add the vegetable stock and pepper flake. Cover and steam until the fennel is tender. Remove from heat. Add the rest of the ingredients, reserving some of the fennel greens for garnish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet.

You will need a large working area for assembling the pockets. Lay the thawed filo out flat, and cover with a clean kitchen towel or wax paper to keep from drying out. Remove two sheets of the filo and lay them (stacked one on the other) on your work surface. Spray them with a little oil, sprinkle the whole thing with some more shredded coconut, and cut into 5 even strips (about 3 and 1/2 inches or so wide). Place a small mound of the filling at the end of one of the strips of filo. Fold the bottom right corner up to meet the left side to form a triangle. Continue folding until you get to the end of the strip. Spray the whole thing with some oil and move to the prepared baking sheet. Continue like this until you use all of the filling.

Bake in preheated oven until the filo is crisp and slightly browned. Garnish with the reserved fennel fluff and eat! I really think this is one of the tastiest recipes I have ever come up with.

Stuffed with Strawberries and Bean Paste

I have a love/hate relationship with Asian sweets in general, and red bean paste in particular. During a two month trip to Thailand and Malaysia several years ago I was always being confronted with desserts that my taste buds and eyes just had no reference for. I still cringe at the thought of a bowl of black gelatinous cubes in a sweet liquid with shaved ice that my kind and gracious host set before me. I'm still not sure how I managed to eat it.

When I saw Kittee's post about Ichigo Daifuku, though, I was intrigued. Ichigo Daifuku is Mochi (a chewy cake made from glutinous rice) stuffed with red bean paste and strawberries. Not only was it pretty, but I love strawberries and Jeff loves red bean paste, so I decided to give it a try. These were really fun to make, and while I'm not ready to call myself a lover of red bean paste quite yet, they were somehow very tasty. I saved the stems and leaves from the strawberries I used and stuck them on the finished mochi. They turned out better than I expected! For directions and pictures, see Kittee's original post.

Mochi waiting to happen

Speaking of Kittee, she tagged me! So I now have to tell you five things about myself, and then tag five more people to do the same. Here goes...

1. I grew up in the Midwest. Indiana to be exact. The thing I miss most is the 4 distinct seasons...winter, spring, summer, fall. (they all seem to blur together in the South).

2. Jeff and I sometimes make music...and videos. Check it out if you dare.

3. In addition to Nutmeg the bunny, we share our house with Spiralina the mourning dove (rescued as a baby from the mean streets of the french quarter, New Orleans), and Castor the gecko.

4. I went Veg about 4 years ago. I had been married for about a year, cooking lots of meat, when I decided to cease and desist. I'm extremely lucky that Jeff not only went along for the veg ride, but was very encouraging about the decision.

5. I currently wait tables at a 'British' tea room that is NOT veg friendly. We do have lots of tasty tea, however, which is of course vegan!

And I will tag...

1. bugheart
2. kamutflake girl
3. bird by bird
4. your vegan mom
5. eve and johnny

Link to your tagger and post these rules.
Share 5 facts about yourself.
Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cheddary Tofu Quinoa Pie

I make some version of this 'pie' on a regular basis. This was the first time I have used the cheddar or the quinoa in this dish. The fact that I call this a pie is getting me thinking it would be good baked in some kind of crust...puff pastry maybe?

Cheddary Tofu Quinoa Pie

1 lb. firm tofu (chinese)
1 tsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. tahini
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or diced
lots of black olives*
pinch of turmeric and paprika*
dried thyme*
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup FollowYourHeart cheddar (soy cheese)
1 /2 cup cooked quinoa
salt to taste
fresh basil and chives*

In a large bowl, mash the tofu (I just use my hands) and mix in the mustard and tahini. Set aside.

Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil. When the onions are soft add the olives, turmeric, paprika and thyme. After a couple of minutes the olives should be getting toasty and it should be smelling really good. Add the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Combine the tofu with the onion mixture and the rest of the ingredients. Stir to mix well. Turn into a lightly oiled pie pan and press into shape. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, or until it's hot in the center and starting to brown on top. Put under the broiler briefly to brown it a bit more. Be careful, it will burn fast! Let it sit for several minutes until slightly cooled. Cut into slices and eat it up. Sometimes it falls apart all over the plate, but it's just as tasty.

*I never measure for things like this unless it's important to the recipe. The only rule is that it's better to use too little than too much (except can't have too many olives).

Served with baby yellow beets and their greens, and more quinoa

P.S. Spring is here!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eggplant Burgers

For this I started with a recipe from Crescent Dragonwagon's "Passionate Vegetarian" and modified it to suit my needs. The resulting eggplant cakes are my new favorite thing. There's really not much else I can say about these. You simply need to try them. They were twice as good as I was expecting.

Eggplant Burgers

2 eggplants sliced into rounds
3 Tbsp. Braggs or soy sauce
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 small slices of bread torn into pieces
1 Tbsp. tahini (or more)
1 teaspoon Chipotle sauce (or more)
1 1/2 cups dry textured vegetable protein

Bake the eggplant on an oiled baking sheet at 350 degrees until tender, turning halfway through. Remove from oven and transfer to a food processor.

Add the Braggs, garlic, bread, tahini, and chipotle sauce. Blend until smooth, then add the textured vegetable protein. Blend to mix well. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes. Blend again briefly and taste for seasoning.

Form into 8 patties (approx. 3 inch). When I am making patties from something sticky like this I find it helpful to form the patty between two layers of plastic wrap so they don't stick to my hands. Bake the patties on an oiled baking sheet at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, flipping over halfway through. If you would like the burgers a little crispier, put them under the broiler for a few seconds on each side.

Serve as is, with the sauce of your choice, or on a bun with greens, tomato, Veganaise, and spicy ketchup.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Apricot Almond Cookies

I recently purchased a mold for making mamoul, a traditional Lebanese cookie. They are a bit like shortbread in texture, and have a date, walnut, or pistachio filling. They are also some of the best cookies I have ever eaten.

The first thing I made using the mold, however was not mamoul at all. I didn't have everything I would need for mamoul, and didn't want to make something with as much fat as mamoul would require. Instead, I came up with these soft almond cookies with an apricot filling. Using the mold was so much fun that I turned right around and used it to make a coconut cookie.

You don't need a mold to make these cookies. It's easy to shape them in your hands, but if you can find one you will have twice as much fun making them. Mine was under 5 dollars at Mona's Cafe; a Lebanese and Mediterranean restaurant that also houses a small International market. They just recently opened a location near my house, and not only does it make my life easier to have such convenient access to falafel sandwiches, tahini, grape leaves, split fava beans, giant glass jars of tomato paste, dried figs, mamoul molds, etc., but I think it's important to support small independent ethnic markets and restaurants. My local Vietnamese, Korean, and Middle Eastern markets are usually less expensive then the supermarkets, and shopping there challenges me by introducing me to foods I am unfamiliar with. Now, on to the cookies.

Apricot Almond Cookies

2 Tbsp margarine, softened
1/4 cup soy milk
1 Tbsp flax meal
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp almond extract
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cup flour ( I used spelt)

Combine everything but the flour and mix well. Stir in the flour. The dough should be firm and dry enough to handle. Add more flour or soy milk if necessary.

For the filling puree some dried apricots with a teaspoon or two of agave nectar and just enough water to moisten and make a paste. Sorry, but I didn't measure any of this. If you make too much it just means you will have to make more cookies!

Lightly flour the mold. Press a small amount of dough into the mold, making an indentation for the filling. Fill the indentation with the apricot filling. Form a disc large enough to cover the filling and press firmly into place so the apricot will stay sealed inside.

Turn the mold over and give a firm tap on the counter or into your hand to release the cookie. If you floured the mold it should come out easily. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling. Make sure to flour the mold each time or the cookies will stick.

Bake at 350 degrees until browned on the bottom. These are tasty as they are or lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Makes approx. 18 cookies.

Sadly, I didn't get a picture...but I gave Nutmeg a bite of one of these cookies, and she gave them her highest rating.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Eggplant Rollatini

I'm way behind on my posts, but I'm still here cooking and taking pictures. I made one of Jeff's favorites on Valentine's day, Eggplant Rollatini with Corn Bread Stuffing from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This is a book I turn to again and again, not just for recipes, but for detailed information on how to store, handle, and prepare vegetables. I should warn you that there is a whole section on cheese, and that Madison states that she is an occasional meat eater. But in any case, this book served as my biggest help in the kitchen when I went veg. I served the Rollatini with a red wine tomato sauce from the same book. The sauce is so rich and good, and it's character changes depending on which wine you choose to use.

Eggplant Rollatini with Corn Bread Stuffing

This Rollatini is not difficult to make, but is rather time consuming with making the cornbread, then the stuffing and the sauce, salting and cooking the eggplant, stuffing the eggplant, and then baking your final Rollatini. The flavors are so wonderful that it is well worth the time it takes.

Start with 2 large eggplants. Slice them lengthwise no thicker than 1/3 inch, salt and let sit for an hour, then rinse and blot dry. Meanwhile start on the stuffing and the sauce.

For the stuffing, fix your favorite cornbread (preferably not a sweet one). Then chop and saute an onion with 1 tsp. dried sage and 1/2 tsp. dried oregano. When the onion is soft and a little brown mix in 2 cups crumbled corn bread and just a tiny bit of liquid (water, soymilk, whatever) to help moisten it. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the sauce saute two small grated onions with bay leaf, thyme, oregano, savory, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir often for about fifteen minutes, adding 3 minced garlic cloves near the end. Add 1 cup of red wine and 1/2 cup water, raise the heat and simmer till reduced by half. Add a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and salt to taste. Simmer till sauce has thickened.

Brush the eggplant slices with oil and bake, fry, broil or grill them till tender. Then roll each slice around about 2 tbsp. of the stuffing and put seam side down in a lightly oiled baking dish. You could secure them with a toothpick if they want to unroll. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve with the sauce and fresh basil.

Closeup of the goodness

And a big thanks to Jenn The Leftover Queen who hosts the Foodie Blog Roll (see my side bar) for promoting Veg blogs (mine included!) in her most recent Finest Foodies Friday post. She is putting out the call for more Veg bloggers to join the Blog Roll, so if that interests you, do it!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

White Bean, Tomato and Pasta Soup with Herbed Focaccia

It's been rainy and cold here, so I have been craving soup. Sometimes I use a recipe, but what I love about soup is how easy it is to improvise. For this soup I started out by sauteing some onion, celery, carrot, parsley, and garlic in olive oil. When the vegetables were soft I added a little red wine. Then I added vegetable stock, a large can of crushed tomatoes, and dried thyme and rosemary. We were trying to clean out the fridge, so a little spicy salsa went in as well; not in my original plans, but it worked nicely. I added some great northern beans that I had cooked earlier in the pressure cooker and let it all simmer for twenty minutes or so. Then I threw a few handfuls of rice pasta twists into the pot, and continued to simmer until the pasta was tender. I also added some fresh basil a minute before I took the soup off of the heat. A little sea salt and it was ready.

I also made herbed focaccia, and I was excited to find another use for my lavender here. I just added some in with the other dried herbs. I used thyme, rosemary, and the lavender. It tasted great, and really went well with the strong tomato flavor of the soup.

And finally, here's a picture of Nutmeg taste testing the fresh herbs. She was getting a bit cranky after several posts without any pictures of her. She kept looking at me like...hello! RABBIT food?!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Chocolate And Lavender Cookies

Recently I was at the store looking for some thyme when I noticed the lavender. It was so pretty that I snatched it up. Then I realized I was going to have to figure out what the heck to do with it. I did a little searching through recipes for inspiration and came up with these flowery bites. These are 'healthy' cookies due to the small amount of fat used. If you wanted to make these 'unhealthy' you could up the fat, add some more sugar, and just decrease the amount of applesauce accordingly.

Chocolate and Lavender Cookies
Makes 24 small cookies

Mix the following:
2 Tbsp. margarine
1 Tbsp. agave nectar (or other sweetener)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp. lavender
1 egg sub. (I used flax--1T ground flax+3T water)
2 Tbsp. soy milk
1tsp. vanilla

Mix together in a separate bowl:
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 3/4 cup flour (I used spelt)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chunks (I chopped a dark chocolate bar)
3 Tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger

Earth Balance and Lavender

Mix wet and dry together. Drop onto oiled baking sheet by teaspoonfuls. Press down slightly with your fingers (they will pretty much hold whatever shape you give them). Bake at 350 F for...oh...a little while. You want them to set and brown on the bottom. Because of the low fat content they won't get very dark on the top, so be careful not to overcook them waiting for them to brown, or they will be dry.

We loved these. On the first bite I worried they were too flowery, but then the other flavors kicked in and it worked really well.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chickpea Cutlets, and Chickpea Patties, and Chickpea...

Two new cookbooks recently showed up on my doorstep. Eat, Drink And Be Vegan, and Veganomicon. I haven't done much cooking from them yet, but have spent a lot of time with them just reading, and I really like them both.

The first thing I had to try was the Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon. I've read a hundred places online about how good they are, and wanted to see what all the hubbub was about. I've also never cooked with vital wheat gluten before, so I was curious. I opted to bake rather than fry. I really liked them, but wouldn't make them quite as thin again, because it was hard to find the right spot between done and burnt. I would also double the recipe, because it seems crazy to only make 4 cutlets. I would have gladly warmed these up for lunch the next day.

I made the 'Red Wine Roux', also from V-con, to go with. It was tasty, but I wasn't thrilled with the way it looked...sort of a grayish purple hue. If I make it again I would use a wine that doesn't have such a deep purple color. The sauce was also good on roasted carrots, turnips, and parsnips with a little olive oil, sea salt, and some parsley tossed in. For anyone averse to or inexperienced with turnips and parsnips, roasting is the way to go. Both, by themselves, are a bit too much of a good thing for me, so I like to mix them with other vegetables.

I had some chickpeas left from this recipe, so I decided to try them once again in patty form. First I sauteed some green pepper and shallot. Then I mashed the chickpeas (about a cup) and added a few tablespoons flax meal, some bread crumbs, thyme, chopped scallions, sea salt, garlic, a bit of spelt flour, and some oil. I mixed in the green pepper and shallot, and added just enough water to bind everything. I made small patties and cooked them in my nonstick skillet with just a little olive oil. I was unsure how these would turn out, but they were fine. I loved them.

We had them with the leftover Red Wine Roux, some quinoa (a delicious grain that just happens to be a complete protein) , and more roasted veggies. This time it was turnip, potato, carrot, onions and garlic with olive oil, sea salt and chives.

I have noticed that there is a recipe in Eat, Drink And Be Vegan for 'Chickpea Sensation Patties', so it looks like there are more chickpea patties in my future!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Magic Leftovers

The other night I threw together one of our favorite quickies-beans and rice. Brown rice cooked with tomatoes and spices, refried beans, lettuce, fresh tomato, and plenty of salsa, olives, and (tofu) sour cream. Simple stuff, but nourishing and delicious. I fixed quite a bit of both rice and beans, so we had a lot left over.

In one of my recent posts I mentioned that I love leftovers. The only time I don't like having leftovers is when the food wasn't any good to begin with. Otherwise, what's not to like about having tasty food cooked and ready to go? It's also easy to transform leftovers into something a little different.

I was pondering the possibility of making a casserole using the beans and rice when I decided to press the rice into a glass pie dish. The rice was fairly sticky, so it pressed into shape perfectly. I brushed the rice with a little olive oil to keep it from drying out and put it under the broiler for a few minutes to try to help it firm up a bit. Then in went the refried beans, and some frozen mixed vegetables that have been hanging out in the freezer (mostly corn with bits of cauliflower, broccoli, and red pepper). I steamed the frozen veggies briefly in the microwave and seasoned them with a little chili powder, Bragg's, and chipotle sauce. I also had half a can of diced tomatoes left in the fridge from making the rice the night before, so those went in with the vegetables.

I put it in the oven till everything was nice and hot, and that was that. I was hoping I would be able to get pretty slices out of it, but it was fairly messy looking on the plate. When I do this again I will play with the crust (flour, flax?) and let it set a little longer when it comes out of the oven. But that's just being picky, because it was delicious. The textures all worked well together and the rice was nice and crusty around the edges.

Magic Leftovers

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Jeff has been asking for enchiladas for a long time. On one of our last trips to the grocery he picked out a jar of enchilada sauce, followed closely by everything else we would need for enchiladas. He was tired of waiting.

I don't even remember the last time I had enchiladas, if ever, so I hadn't seen any reason to rush. You can't miss something you've never had. As of last night that has all changed, because these were good in a serious way.

For the filling I chopped and sauteed an onion, then added a package of Morning Star Farms Chik'n Strips that I had pulled into shreds. When they had started to brown I added crushed black olives and a little sea salt. Then I transferred the filling to a bowl and added some soy cheese and enough enchilada sauce to help everything stick together.

It's traditional to dip corn tortillas in hot oil (or lard) before filling them, but I sprayed them on both sides with a little cooking oil and heated them in a nonstick skillet. While the second tortilla was heating I spooned some of the filling onto my first tortilla, rolled it up tightly, placed it in a baking dish into which I had already added a thin layer of enchilada sauce, and continued with more tortillas until I had used all the filling. I had enough for eleven tortillas.

Naked enchiladas.
After pouring the rest of the sauce over the filled tortillas and covering them in soy cheese and more black olives, they went in the oven at 350 degrees for about twenty minutes.

Clothed in their Sunday best.

I served them with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, tofu sour cream, and cilantro. For the tofu sour cream I just blend some silken tofu with a little lemon juice (or vinegar), and salt. It's pretty runny at first, but sets up in the fridge. While not delicious by itself, it's great on the enchiladas (or tacos etc.) as a cold and creamy counterpoint to the spicy sauce.

Now that I have known enchilada bliss, I'm excited to try again with different homemade sauces and vegetable fillings. However, these were so good that I will definitely be happy to fix them this way again.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Luck and Money

I'm not superstitious. Many in the south, however, will tell you that if you don't eat your Peas and Cabbage on New Year's Day you will have no luck in the coming year. The black-eyed peas are for luck, and the cabbage is for money. Like I said, I'm not superstitious...but I love me some cabbage and black-eyed peas.

Nutmeg also loves her some cabbage.

For the black-eyed peas, I started out by sauteing an onion in my pressure cooker along with some diced carrot, celery, green bell pepper, and a couple cloves of garlic. While that was going on I sorted and rinsed the dried peas. I'm always tempted to skip the sorting part, but considering that I found a rock in with the peas this time, I'm glad I didn't. I added some bay leaf, thyme, chili powder, and a touch of allspice. Then the peas and about 6 cups of water. I let these cook under pressure for about 20 minutes. They get soft before that, but I like 'em starting to fall apart. Then all they needed was lots of salt and Tabasco.

I decided to do the cabbage a little differently than I usually would. I sliced it into sections, and set them in some vegetable broth in a covered skillet to steam. Once they were tender I moved them to a baking sheet. I sprinkled on a little dill+salt+some grated soy cheese and put it under the broiler until the cheese was browned. This turned out better than I expected. I highly recommend it.

I wanted cornbread. I didn't have any cornmeal. Walgreens is a block and a half away. No cornmeal, but there was Jiffy. Cool, that will work. WRONG! I didn't think to read the box until I had poured it's contents into my mixing bowl. I now know that Jiffy contains lots of animal shortening. For some reason it just didn't occur to me that this could be the case. So that was wasted. BUT!! ...I made a modified batch of Deborah Madison's Basic Buttermilk Muffins, and they turned out great. So in the end we were happy, and at least I can say everything was homemade.

Luck inducing? Maybe not...but tasty.