Team Burrito!

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Day 28: Tacos vs. Burritos. Where do you stand on this important issue?

This is too easy. I am wholeheartedly, always and forever, on #teamburrito. Sorry, tiny tacos.

My #1 reason for being pro-burrito is purely pragmatic: Burritos are easier and cleaner to eat! Consider the taco’s construction: It’s basically a tortilla folded in half, but left open on the top and sides. Whether you’re eating soft or hard tacos, so much of the taco filling is exposed that it inevitably comes out. Maybe you’re a weirdo who enjoys it, but I hate the feeling of drippy taco juices streaming out and onto my fingers. So much wasted flavor! So much mess! Plus, that open concept means that more of the filling’s surface is exposed to the outside air. More exposed surface area = more air passing over the filling = a filling that gets colder faster! You can keep your rapidly cooling, inevitably messy taco — I prefer the clean convenience and tightly wrapped warmth of a burrito. Its superior construction means you can add more filling, too, because you don’t have to worry about overstuffing it and having it start falling out the sides.

Not only does a burrito itself stay hotter longer than a taco, but the fact that you stuff all your ingredients in your burrito means that you don’t have to keep those disparate ingredients warm while you’re eating. With a taco, you usually make one at a time, so you’re on the hook to make sure all your ingredients are still warm and ready to go by the time you make the next one. Plus, think of all that wasted time making a new taco! You could be spending that time eating your single, delicious, hot burrito. And let’s get real — a single taco will never fill you up. You have to eat at least three, which means you have three chances for a catastrophic failure, and three times the amount of frustration. I don’t know about you, but frustration is not the feeling I want while I’m eating my dinner!

Now, it’s true that the secret to a compact, secure burrito is all in the wrapping, and it can take a few tries to get it right. But once you do, your burrito most likely won’t let you down! Practicing the art of burrito-wrapping is well-worth your time so you can avoid any unfortunate unraveling incidents.

Truth be told, I grew up eating tacos. But they were always more frustrating than they should have been — whether the hard shell broke in half at my first bite or the soft shell leaked, tacos always had some fatal flaw. I eventually found myself wrapping the bottoms of soft shells, creating a rudimentary proto-burrito in a desperate attempt to corral all the wayward fillings. These days, I forgo the frustration and skip straight to a trusty burrito.

I have zero burrito photos for you today, because we all know what a burrito looks like. I did eat a burrito bowl (a burrito’s inadequate cousin!) for lunch, but frankly it wasn’t very attractive. Refried beans are just not nice to look at.

So… are you #teamburrito or #teamtaco?!

Cumin-Mania!

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Day 27: Favorite herb or spice?

You’d think this prompt would inspire my typical “BUT I CAN’T CHOOSE A FAVORITE!” panic, but it doesn’t! Happily, one spice pushed its way forward without me even giving the question much thought: cumin! I love cumin because of its versatility. It pairs well with so many other spices, and it’s an essential component of lots of flavor profiles. Just imagine taco seasoning or a curry paste without cumin — it’s too crazy to contemplate (regional variants notwithstanding)! A quick search of my blog using the “cumin” keyword reveals lots of mentions throughout the years; I guess I chose wisely! For example, this red lentil soup wouldn’t be the same without cumin.

Sweet Potato & Red Lentil Soup

Hmm… I should’ve called that a stew, not a soup! It’s so thick. Delicious either way, though.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to figure out a way to incorporate cumin into tonight’s dinner!

Snow Drift/Pantry Challenge

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Day 26: It’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift outside your door! 

Wow, it’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift?! That’s some weather. Thanks, climate change! Truly, this prompt is really just a pantry challenge — and y’all know how I love a pantry challenge!

I had to set some ground rules for this prompt, though. Roots Market — one of my favorite local grocers — has been celebrating its “grand reopening” throughout the last week, and they’ve been running some great sales. I headed out to Clarksville to stop by and pick up some goodies, like Califia Farms almond milk (two for $7!) and a few Gardein items (buy one, get one free!), along with a pound of organic almonds (on sale for $5.99/lb!). But I didn’t think it would be fair to include anything I bought today, since I wouldn’t have been able to make it out of the house with that big ol’ cold/rain/snowdrift keeping me in. Instead, I used ingredients I already had to put together a super simple, super comforting kale and yellow split pea soup.

Kale and Yellow Split Pea Soup

Truthfully, I didn’t measure everything I put in this soup. If I were snowbound, I likely wouldn’t be worrying about keeping track of everything! And in a soup like this, the proportions don’t really matter; you can’t go wrong. This particular soup was nice and brothy, with lots of kale. Roughly, here’s what went in:

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 big bag of Tuscan kale (from TJ’s)
  • ~1 cup dried yellow split peas
  • ~6 cups water + concentrated veg broth
  • Lotsa spices (coriander, cumin, onion powder, turmeric)

This is exactly the type of thing I’d make on a snow day! I’d also whip up a loaf of crusty homemade bread — because what could be better than hot straight-out-of-the-oven bread when it’s cold outside?! Today, I used this recipe, because I wasn’t in the mood to knead the dough. I don’t have a Dutch oven, so I cooked it in a cast-iron skillet instead. And I didn’t include any herbs because I wanted a simpler bread. It was so simple and surprisingly good. Again, perfect for a snow day! (Or, y’know, a somewhat cool early fall day. Same thing?)

My Favorite Cuisine?!

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Day 25: Share your favorite cuisine.

Hmph! Today’s prompt is tough; I’m hard-pressed to think of a cuisine I don’t like! My thought process is going something like this:

“I really love Indian food. Dal, curry, naan… is there anything BAD about Indian food?! Nope. I could eat it forever. Oh, but what about Thai? Man. Those flavors are seriously some of my favorite. And I love noodles. Although I also love guacamole. Mmm… Mexican. Really anything from Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers is good…”

Can I just say that my favorite cuisine is “anything delicious” and be done with it? Sigh. I’m so boring and indecisive. Really, though, my favorite genre of food is hearty, homey, comfort food. And for me, that’s a blanket term that encompasses quite a few individual ethnic cuisines. For example, I don’t really think of mashed potatoes as comfort food, like a lot of Americans do. But a big ol’ yellow split pea dal? Oh yes, sign me up. And there’s nothing like risotto for a warm-your-belly meal that seems much more complex than it really is.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts

Comfort food can be sweet, too — like apple crisp, which reminds me of my mom, or angel cake, which reminds me of my grandma. (Although angel food cake has yet to be veganized, it’s coming! Go aquafaba!)

So maybe this is a cop-out, but hey — my favorite cuisine is comfort food and I ain’t ashamed of it.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Jane Goes Vegan

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Day 24: What [insert well known person] would eat if they were vegan. 

Oh, this is a prompt that I just love! There are so many directions to take it: current pop culture figure who’s super-duper not vegan, politico who you’d like to imagine as vegan, historical figure who would probably have been vegan if s/he were alive today… so many fun thought-experiments! I briefly toyed with the idea of focusing on a distant relative of mine, John Greenleaf Whittier. He was a Quaker poet and an outspoken abolitionist during the mid 1800s, and I like to think that he would have been more than receptive to veganism, thanks to his deep and abiding compassion. Just look at this Wikipedia quote (emphasis mine):

“In 1833, Whittier published the antislavery pamphlet Justice and Expediency, and from there dedicated the next twenty years of his life to the abolitionist cause. The controversial pamphlet destroyed all of his political hopes — as his demand for immediate emancipation alienated both northern businessmen and southern slaveholders — but it also sealed his commitment to a cause that he deemed morally correct and socially necessary. He was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and signed the Anti-Slavery Declaration of 1833, which he often considered the most significant action of his life.”

Awesome as Whittier was, I ultimately knew there was a different author I wanted to choose: the one, the only, Jane Austen. I’m currently reading Jane’s Fame, an exploration of how her fame has waxed and waned over the years, and it’s fascinating. There have been so-called Janeites from nearly every walk of life, and her novels have made their way into unlikely places — like the trenches during the first world war. The evolution of literary criticism — and how those changes affect Austen criticism — is fascinating to me as a one-time English major. Jane it is!

Book with a turquoise cloth cover, which features the feet and legs of folks dancing in old-fashioned clothes.

I was tempted to choose an Austen novel for the book/film prompt, but her books include a surprisingly small number of explicitly mentioned foodstuffs, and nothing really appealed to me. This prompt is a much better fit, though: Now I can play around with the entire Regency period’s palate! As it turns out, the Regency period ushered in some fairly substantial changes in dining habits — like the introduction of lunch (because breakfast was eaten earlier and dinner later). Most of these changes, of course, started with the upper class, the people who were in high society and needed to keep up with their trendy neighbors. The Austens were solidly middle-class (some higher-class acquaintances thought Jane herself a bit low-class and vulgar), so it’s hard to say how many of these changes would have trickled down to her family.

The good news for our cause, though, is that Jane was an avid letter-writer. Although her steadfast sister Cassandra destroyed many letters before her death, those that remain give us a little glimpse into what we might’ve found on Jane’s table. There are also two extant cookbooks used by friends and family close to Jane. Dining with Austen uses those resources to recreate recipes from Jane’s time. It promises to be a great resource for food Jane herself might have eaten; although it’s still a work in progress, the ultimate goal is a Jane-centric cookbook. For this prompt, I’m going to take it from the top and share my ideas on what vegan delicacies a day in the life of Jane might have featured. I’m trying to stay true to ingredients that the Austens would have been able to access — no Chao cheese or hemp milk here!

Breakfast

The Austens probably sat down around 9:00 or 10:00 with a pot of tea. Although breakfasts used to be heavy (I’m thinking of the full English breakfasts Jenny has been tantalizing us with!), by this time, they were probably simpler. Jane might have had some homemade bread with jam, canned from the previous year’s harvest. Or maybe she would have had something a little heavier, like a piece of spiced cake or a scone or two.

My recipe calls for spelt flour, coconut milk, and vanilla extract, but the Austens’ cook could substitute regular wheat flour, homemade oat milk (since oats would be easier to access than almonds and could be manually ground), and any other extract they had on hand. Jane’s tea could be sweetened with a lump of sugar and some of that oat milk, if necessary.

Luncheon

Jane’s midday meal wouldn’t have been anything fancy — maybe some small cold sandwiches of homemade bread and any vegetables that were on hand. The Austens would have eaten these sandwiches with knives and forks after they’d been cut into small triangles. On the side, Jane could snack on fresh fruit and leftover cake from breakfast. This was a light meal to tide her over until dinner. Perhaps the cook could have experimented with something like my Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich!

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Sandwich

Other than the nutritional yeast, I think they would have been able to manage something similar! Even the pickles on the side would have been welcome — pickled veggies were quite the fad.

Dinner

This was the largest meal of the day, and by the early 1800s, Jane’s family had begun eating it around 5:00 pm — a big change from their previous dining time of 3:00! Dinner would have consisted of many courses and much variety, including something like my Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges.

Warm Lentil & Brussels Sprout Salad with Roasted Radicchio Wedges

With a few simple substitutions, this nourishing, warm dish would have been entirely possible. Or maybe they would have served a soup.

Kale and White Bean Soup

The cook could have managed Kale and White Bean Soup easily enough! Jane might also have eaten whatever veggies were in season, sauteed in oil instead of the rich, buttery sauces that were popular at the time. She would have sipped wine with her meal, and rounded it off with dried fruit, nuts, and some kind of sweet — maybe candied ginger or something heavier, like cake.

Supper

If Jane stayed up late, she might have another bowl of soup around 10:00 or 11:00 pm, along with another glass of wine — or maybe negus, a nasty-sounding gelatinous beverage made with water, wine, lemon juice, spices, and, traditionally, calves-foot jelly. Jane’s vegan version would strip out the jelly and be more of a mulled wine. ;)

~~~

That was fun! And now I’m inspired to research what ingredients were available to Jane so I can recreate some of her family’s recipes. Maybe that will be next year’s MoFo theme!

Autumn Equinox Eats

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Day 23: Autumn equinox eats.

Truth be told, my stomach has felt off all day — not much appealed to me for dinner tonight. I considered celebrating the first day of autumn with some kind of pumpkin- or apple-based baked good, but a sugary dessert didn’t sound like a great idea for an unhappy tummy. I decided to go super simple instead.

Autumn Dinner

I defrosted the last few pieces of Unpork and gently pan-fried them, then served them alongside a big helping of sauerkraut. I also whipped up a quick cornbread, because I thought the mild flavor would soothe my stomach. Unfortunately, it was lackluster and a little too salty, even though I reduced the amount called for. Sigh! Not a very auspicious start to this autumn!

Kabocha Squash Pizza Sauce

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Day 22: Make a dish using all seasonal produce.

What a perfect prompt for this autumnal day! I had a big ol’ kabocha squash sitting on my counter, and all day long I mused about how to use it. Simple roasted slices? This beautiful soy-braised preparation? A gingery soup?

And then, on the give-and-take bookshelf at work, I found a copy of Mark Sutton’s Heart Healthy Pizza cookbook up for grabs, and pizza sounded mighty appealing. I’ve seen butternut squash-based cheezy pizza toppings, so why not kabocha?! I decided to make a thick sauce to top a pizza, and it exceeded all my expectations. This sauce is creamy, complex, and perfectly flavored with roasted garlic.

kabocha

You can prepare the sauce ahead of time, but I did everything in one night. It’s a little time-consuming, but there’s downtime for each component that lets you prep the next component. I included my workflow in the steps below.

Kabocha Squash Pizza Sauce

  • One kabocha squash
  • One head garlic
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 T yellow or white miso
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • A few grinds black pepper

Toppings

  • Basil
  • Caramelized onions

One recipe of your favorite pizza dough

Preheat your oven to 400˚ and pour a little water into a rimmed baking tin. Leaving the rind on, roughly slice the kabocha squash into sixths; don’t worry about how even they are. Place the slices rind-down into the baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, and place in the oven. Next, prepare the garlic for roasting. Add the foil packet to the oven and bake both the squash and the garlic for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender.

In the meantime, prepare the pizza dough, following your recipe’s instructions. Let it rise while the squash and garlic are in the oven. If you’re topping your pizza with caramelized onions, start caramelizing them now.

When the squash is ready, remove it (and the garlic) from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes while you roll out the pizza dough. Give the dough a brief second rise (after rolling it out) while you prepare the sauce. (If using onions, they should be done by now — just turn off the heat and leave them on the stove until ready to use.)

Preheat the oven to 450˚.

To make the sauce, carefully scoop the squash out of the rinds and add it to a food processor. Squeeze the garlic out of the papery skins into the processor. Be careful here too; it’ll be hot. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and process until it’s very smooth and creamy.

Spread the sauce as thick as you’d like on the dough. (Save any extra to use with pasta!) Top with caramelized onions and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, and let cool for about 3 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!