Potatoes 24/7 | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Twenty-One

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Three: Ingredient Challenges
Making the humble potato the star of the show.

Considering I shared a potato-centric recipe just the other day, indulge me in a little fun today. I’m going to propose a day wherein one eats potatoes FOR EVERY MEAL! Just white potatoes. No sweet potatoes, yams, or any other sneaky tubers. It’s starchy white potatoes all the way through.

Vegan potato farls (Irish potato scones) // govegga.comBREAKFAST

Start your day the potato way — with vegan Irish potato farls! A favorite from last year’s VeganMoFo, these pan-fried triangles of potato-y dough make for a real stick-to-your-ribs breakfast. Pair them with some kind of vegan sausage for added Irishness, and be sure to have a pot of tea on hand.

Other breakfast options:

Crispy hash brown haystacks! Or this outta-control tater tot hot dish.

Better-Than-Your-Average Potato SaladLUNCH

May I suggest an unorthodox option? Make potato salad your main meal and pair it with a protein side (a veggie burger patty, bunless?). Alternative: If it’s a chilly day, how about hot soup? This creamy caramelized potato-onion soup should fit the bill!

Other lunch options:

Peruvian purple potato soup, perhaps? Or these chipotle potato cakes alongside a big ol’ salad.

Spicy Potato Casserole with Tofu ChorizoDINNER

No question — I’m going with my spicy potato casserole! It’s a tasty, filling, and unexpected take on a gratin-like dish. Make your own tofu chorizo or use store-bought.

Other dinner options:

Vegan colcannon, most definitely! Or a jacket potato stuffed with vegan haggis, like the one I just loved in Edinburgh. (There’s a link to a vegan haggis recipe in this post.)

BONUS SWEETS!

Mashed potato candy?! I’ve never tried it, but it’s a thing!

So. Would you try an all-potato day? What dishes would you include?

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Five-Ingredient Potato-Chorizo Hash | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Nineteen

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Three: Ingredient Challenges
A dish with five ingredients or fewer (not including cooking oil and salt and pepper)

Spicy potato-chorizo hash! Two of the five ingredients are right there in the name, and the other three are not too tricky to guess: onion, garlic, and green bell pepper. This versatile recipe does involve a fair amount of chopping, but it’s relatively painless and makes a great lazy dinner or brunch side dish. For the chorizo, I use my go-to — the soy chorizo from Trader Joe’s — but any product with lots of flavor will work here. I keep seasonings to a minimum since the chorizo adds heat, and the onion and garlic provide quite a bit of flavor. If you’re not limited to five ingredients, go ahead and add some spices: paprika, Mexican oregano, or anything your heart desires.

Spicy vegan potato-chorizo hashIn the past, I’ve simply sautéed the potatoes from raw, but they end up taking forever to cook through and often break down and get crumbly. So this time I experimented with kitchen genius J. Kenji López-Alt’s method: par-cooking with vinegar before sautéing. He says it helps them retain their shape and stand up to the sauté pan a little better, and in my single test of his method, it worked great! I’ve written the instructions with this method in mind, giving you tips for what to do at each step.

Although I sometimes cook everything in the same pan, staggering the time I add each ingredient, my favorite cast-iron pan can’t really accommodate this larger recipe. So I’ve written the instructions to cook the onion, pepper, and garlic together, and then the potatoes and chorizo. If you halve this recipe or have a massive pan, you can cook everything together.

Five-Ingredient Potato-Chorizo Hash

Serves four

  • 2 large Russet potatoes, diced into 3/4” cubes
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 9 oz. (3/4 package, if you’re using TJ’s) vegan chorizo
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First, heat a pot of water with about a tablespoon of vinegar. While it’s heating up, prepare the veggies: dice the onion, mince the garlic, and dice the bell pepper. Add cooking oil of choice to a cast-iron pan (or other pan of choice) and heat to medium, then add the onions and peppers.

When the water boils, add the diced potatoes and cook for 7-10 minutes or until just tender (not cooked through). Drain and set aside briefly.

While the potatoes are boiling, monitor the sauteéing veggies. When the onions start turning translucent, add the garlic. Sauté for about 5 more minutes, till everything is moderately soft. (I like my peppers to retain a little crunch.) When all the veggies are done, remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little more oil and add the boiled potatoes. Sauté for 10-15 minutes, until just about tender, then crumble in the chorizo. When the potatoes are completely fork-tender, turn off the heat and stir in the veggies.

Season with salt and pepper and serve with ketchup or hot sauce.

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Spicy vegan potato-chorizo hash // govegga.com

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Irish Farls — Vegan Potato Scones

VeganMoFo 2016 graphic

Week Two: International Week

I spent summer 2007 with a group of fellow English majors studying Irish literature in — wait for it — Ireland. We packed quite a lot into those two and a half months: a week in County Mayo (“God help us!”), where we climbed Croagh Patrick and I enjoyed my first whiskey; a month in Dublin, where we took classes on James Joyce under one of the finest Joyce scholars around; a week in Galway, where we attended the Yeats summer school with folks from all ages and walks of life who just can’t get enough of the poet; and just under a month in Northern Ireland, where we focused on more contemporary (political) literature at Queen’s University in Belfast. (There was also a blissful week break in Spain, but that’s another story for another post!)

Louisburgh, County Mayo, Ireland

Beautiful Louisburgh, County Mayo, at sunset.

During our time in Belfast, we stayed in the student dorms at Queen’s and walked about a mile up the road for classes each morning. Breakfast was included in our stay, and it was your typical full Irish breakfast fare: meat, meat, and more meat. I was a vegetarian at the time, so the few non-animal items became my breakfast staples. I soon became enamored with potato farls, a simple yet oh-so-satisfying fried dough made with flour and mashed potatoes, and I’d enjoy two or three of them every morning. (You might’ve heard of them by another name; they’re called tattie scones over in Scotland.)

Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland

Queen’s University, Belfast

Fast-forward nearly 10 (!) years, and I’ve yet to have a farl again, despite returning to Ireland with Steven a few years back. What better time to make them than during the first day of Vegan MoFo’s international week?! I decided to make the farls as part of a full Irish breakfast. Alas, fate (read: a sudden lack of vital wheat gluten for making sausages) stepped in, and I scrapped my more ambitious plans in favor of making the farls by themselves. And that’s okay. They’re just as good dripping with butter and jam alongside a mug of strong tea as they are accompanied by sausages, bacon, mushrooms, scrambled tofu, and baked beans. Give them a shot for a weekend breakfast and let me know what you think.

Vegan potato farls (Irish potato scones) // govegga.com

Vegan Potato Farls (Irish potato scones)

Makes 8 small farls or 4 large

  • 1 lb Russet potatoes
  • 2 T vegan butter (plus more for cooking)
  • 1/2 C + 2 T unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling out the dough)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Scant 1/2 tsp salt

Method

Set the 2 T vegan butter out to soften.

Put a large pot of water on to boil while you peel and chop the potatoes into roughly equal pieces. Add to the pot and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes and add to a large mixing bowl, then mix in the butter and mash (see note below). Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix with a fork until a light, soft dough comes together into a loose ball. If it’s still sticking, add one or two more tablespoons of flour.

Move the dough to a clean, well-floured surface and separate into two equal balls (for small farls) or one single ball (for large farls). Roll out into a circle about 1/4″ thick, then cut in half and half again to form four triangles.

Preheat a pan on medium-low and add a small pat of butter. When melted, add 3-4 farls (depending on their size and the size of your pan) and cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, or until just starting to brown. Flip and cook for the same amount of time on the other side.

Repeat with remaining farls until all are cooked. If necessary, keep in a pan in a warmed oven while cooking the remaining farls or preparing the rest of your breakfast. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Many recipes suggest using a potato ricer to get lots of air into the mashed potatoes. I don’t have one, and a fork worked just fine for me — the Russets break apart easily.
  • I used a cast-iron pan and it worked nicely; you could also try non-stick.
  • For extra-buttery farls, add a little softened butter to the side facing you just before you flip the farls in the pan. That way, both sides get cooked in butter.
  • If you don’t intend to eat these with jam, feel free to add black pepper or even chopped chives to the dough.

…and one more photo of County Mayo because it’s too pretty not to share.

Louisburgh, County Mayo, Ireland

Another sunset in County Mayo.

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Vegan potato farls (Irish potato scones) // govegga.com

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. 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. :)

Better-Than-Your-Average Potato Salad

I live for summer. For a few blissful months, I’m enveloped in the warmth of our personal star, tilting my head to the sky every time I’m outside. It’s the one time of year I don’t have to deal with my perpetual coldness. (Don’t even talk to me about air conditioned buildings!) I love the heat!

I also love typical summer foods: corn on the cob, salads with garden-fresh veggies, grilled everything. And, now that I’m vegan, potato salad. I stand firmly by the belief that vegan potato salads are orders of magnitude better than those gloppy, mayonnaise-y, sad non-vegan versions that are ubiquitous at summer barbecues. This version is an update on the potato salad I made five (!) years ago, and it’s full of crunchy veggies to counter the fork-tender potatoes. Dijon mustard gives this salad a kick, and a touch of vegan mayo adds just enough creaminess to keep everything together. I love this potato salad, and I hope you will, too!

Better-Than-Your-Average Potato Salad

Better-Than-Your-Average Potato Salad
Serves 3-4 as a side dish

1 1/2 lbs red potatoes, skin still on, chopped into bite-size pieces (about 3/4″)
1/2 small red onion, diced finely
3 stalks celery, diced finely
A handful green beans, chopped into 1″ pieces
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, separated
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoon vegan mayo
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon salt
A few dashes freshly ground black pepper

Put a medium-sized pot of water on high heat while you prepare the potatoes and other veggies. Just before the water boils, add the potatoes to the pot and boil for 7-10 minutes or until the potatoes are just fork-tender. Remove from heat and strain in a colander. Rinse briefly with cold water and let sit while you finish chopping the veggies.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and one tablespoon of the Dijon mustard. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and slowly pour the vinegar-Dijon mixture over the potatoes, stirring to distribute it evenly. Let the potatoes sit while you mix the mayo, agave nectar, salt, black pepper, and remaining tablespoon of mustard in the small bowl. Add the chopped onion, celery, and green beans to the potatoes, and then pour the mayo mixture over everything. Stir to coat evenly.

Refrigerate the potato salad until cold. If you’re serving it the next day, you might want to add an additional tablespoon of Dijon — the flavors lose intensity over time.

Better-Than-Your-Average Potato Salad

Enjoy outdoors on a sunny day! Be sure to double (or even triple) the recipe if you’re serving to a large crowd.

Spicy Potato Casserole with Tofu “Chorizo”

One of my favorite workday lunches (and quick weeknight dinners) is a baked potato smothered in baked beans, chili, or broccoli and a cheezy sauce. Keeping a few baked potatoes ready in the fridge or freezer is a great form of insurance against going lunch-less or having to go out and grab something. Cover that tater with last night’s chili or that can of baked beans you stashed in the pantry, and you’re good to go with a filling, hearty meal.

Last time I had a baked potato, I enjoyed it with Trader Joe’s veggie chili. As I ate, I began to wonder why potatoes and chili don’t meet more often. The flavor combination is perfect! I started picturing a dish that would take advantage of the flavors of chili but rely on potatoes for bulk. This casserole is the result, with layers of thinly sliced potatoes doused in a spicy tomato-based sauce. Adding black beans and tofu “chorizo” increases the protein content and gives lots of texture to a saucy dish. Cooking the potatoes right in the spicy sauce really infuses them with the spicy flavors, but it also adds substantial baking time. If you’re in a rush, feel free to boil or steam the sliced potatoes ahead of time and then bake the assembled casserole for 15-20 minutes.

Spicy Potato Casserole with Tofu Chorizo

I opted for a smoky, back-burner type spiciness, but if you love big, bold spices, go wild with adding more chili powder or red pepper flakes! The sauce is customizable to your tastes.

Spicy Potato Casserole with Tofu “Chorizo”
Serves 5-6

For the Tofu Chorizo

  • One block (14 oz) extra-firm tofu, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Cholula (or your favorite hot sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon achiote powder or chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • A few dashes liquid smoke
  • A dash cinnamon

For the Casserole

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or canola oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion (about 7 oz), diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 28-oz can tomato puree
  • 1 15-oz can black beans

First, prepare the tofu chorizo. In a container with a watertight lid, mix together all chorizo ingredients (except the tofu) and whisk to combine. Using your hands, crumble the tofu into the spice mixture. The tofu crumbles should be small but not fine; it’s okay if they’re not uniform. Put the lid on the container and shake until all the tofu is coated with the mixture. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil on medium. Add the diced onions and cook for about 4 minutes, then add the minced garlic and the tofu chorizo. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are translucent, stirring periodically. While this mixture is cooking, prepare the potatoes. Leave the skins on and slice them lengthwise into about 1/4″ slices. It’s okay if some of them are larger. Once you’ve prepared the potatoes, set them aside.

By now, the onions, garlic, and tofu should be cooked. Turn the heat down to low and add two cups of the tomato puree and all the black beans. Stir to combine and let sit for a minute while you prepare a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish. Spray or lightly brush the dish with a little oil, then pour the remaining plain tomato puree into the dish so it covers the bottom.

Taste the chorizo-tomato mixture and add additional seasonings to taste (chili powder, salt, etc.). Turn the stove off.

Place roughly 1/3 of the sliced potatoes into the prepared baking dish, right on top of the tomato puree. Create a single layer; it’s okay if there are some open spaces, but don’t overlap the potatoes. Using a ladle, spoon 1/3 of the chorizo-tomato mixture over the potatoes and spread to cover them. Repeat with another 1/3 potatoes and 1/3 chorizo-tomato mixture two more times, until everything is used.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for an hour. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. If you’re feeling fancy, top with your favorite vegan cheese shreds or cheezy sauce and broil the dish for another 3-5 minutes.

Enjoy!

***

(A note about the tofu chorizo: I based the spice blend on Vegicano‘s Lentil Chorizo. That chorizo de lenteja is out-of-this world delicious! I highly recommend making it and serving it with corn tortillas, pico de gallo, guac, and a simple cabbage slaw. HEAVEN.)

Kale and White Bean Soup

LVV MoFo 2014 main

Years and years before kale was thrust into the spotlight by foodies in search of the next food superstar, my mama started making a kale soup that my entire family loved. I thought of that soup today, the first chilly day of the year, and knew I needed to make it. Kale soup, of course, is nothing new, and I do feel silly posting a recipe for something that’s as simple as simple can be. But if you have yet to discover the combination of kale and white beans, this soup is for you.

Kale and White Bean Soup

Kale and White Bean Soup
Serves six

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, diced
  • 3 medium-sized yellow potatoes, diced (about 1/4″ cubes)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • Dash cloves
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 10-12 oz. curly kale, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 cups navy beans (or other white beans)
  • 4-5 cups water (or additional vegetable broth)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Sauté for about 30 seconds, then add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the potatoes and spices and give everything a big stir. Add the vegetable broth and turn up the heat to medium. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add the water or additional broth Add a big scoop of kale and stir it in; after it wilts a bit, add another big scoop. Repeat until you’ve added all the kale. (Or you can just add it all in at once if your stockpot is big enough!). Add the beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the kale is as tender as you like it. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Kale and White Bean Soup

My version of Mom’s kale soup uses a spice blend similar to that you’d find in chorizo, giving it a smoky, spicy flavor. But you can switch up the spices based your tastes. Like most soups, this one is endlessly versatile. You can also add and remove many of the ancillary ingredients. No celery? No problem. Feel like adding some bulk? Throw in some orzo or quinoa. In a rush? Use Trader Joe’s bagged kale; just pull off the larger stem bits. You could even reduce the spices and add some soyrizo.

Mom’s kale soup is, unsurprisingly, ridiculously healthy. A serving gives you 17 grams of protein, 18% of your recommended daily value of calcium, and 29% of your RDV of iron. You’ll also get lots of vitamin A and vitamin C. Thanks, Mom!

What’s your favorite soup?

Cookbook Challenge: 500 Vegan Recipes

Today’s theme: Cookbook Challenge

Hey y’all, guess what? I made 3 recipes from 500 Vegan Recipes! I feel a Bon Jovi comin’ on: whoa, whoa, I’m halfway… a quarter… okay fine, .6% of the way there. Yeah, that was pointless.

Anyway, I purchased this cookbook a few months ago when I received a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble for renewing the lease on my apartment. Score, right? I used the book a couple of times during the summer, but it’s been lazing about on my cookbook shelf ever since then. So I decided it was high time to give it another go. I actually made these recipes over the course of two nights, but I’m going to post them all in one shot.

First up – Spicy Frites. Okay, I know, this is sort of a cop-out recipe to make – I make oven fries in my sleep (Literally; I’m a pro at sleep-cooking. Okay I lied.), and they reallllly don’t require a recipe. But sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and use somebody else’s idea for a spice blend or a technique, y’know? These are flavored with garam masala and cayenne and definitely require a Kleenex or two when you eat ’em. Celine & Joni suggest serving them with a sprinkle of lime juice, but I 1.) didn’t have a lime, and 2.) get a little icked out by putting liquid atop something that has the potential to get mushy. Back in RI, people do the whole malt-vinegar-on-fries thing, which makes me want to vomit – I hate vinegar and I hate mushy fries. Nas-tay. These fries, however, were not nas-tay.

Taters, precious!

Pretty! Just ignore the little pile of peeing ketchup in the corner. Muir Glen ketchup is tasty but incontinent, apparently. On the subject of liquids, I should note that this recipe calls for peanut oil. I, however, do not keep peanut oil in the house, so I used the oil from the top of my peanut butter jar. I’m either a genius or a cheapskate. Your call.

Moving on! Up next: Chickpea Blondies. Now… I wanted to love these. I’ve been intrigued by bean-based baked goods for a while now, and the ingredient list was simple enough that I had [nearly] everything on hand. I made a half batch and baked ’em up in a loaf tin, and other than the issue where my roommate’s Magic Bullet didn’t want to blend everything very well (I don’t have a food processor, wahhh!), the recipe came together quite quickly.

Blonde chicks!?

They look sort of fudgy and chewy and intriguing, right? Well, they taste… meh. That’s really the best (and perhaps the worst) I can say. They’re not bad, and I don’t mind eating them, but I wouldn’t necessarily serve them to a skeptical omni and I can’t imagine waking up at night with a mad craving for them. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, though, because I didn’t have strawberry jam and ended up using a lackluster apricot variety, and then I didn’t even have enough apricot, so I added a tiny bit of canned pumpkin. Maybe if I made them with a bolder-flavored fruit, they’d have had a little more flavor.

I will tell you, though, that my final recipe was not at all lacking in flavor. No, this was the winner of the bunch, without a doubt. Take a look:

Gooey goodness.

Folks, that is the unlikely but ingenious Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding, and it is heavenly. Like, I-can’t-stop-eating-this heavenly. Like, how-can-I-work-this-into-my-family’s-holiday-meal-plans heavenly.

I was a tiny bit skeptical before trying this, because I’ve traditionally been fairly ambivalent towards puddings in general, and I’ve always found butterscotch puddings to be wayyy too sweet for me. But this is a true, homemade butterscotch, and it’s sweet in a way that doesn’t give you a tummyache or make you want to go straight to the dentist without passing Go immediately after having a spoonful. What I’m saying is, it has a distinct flavor beyond just SWEET!!!1!!!111! It has just enough pumpkin-y flavor to add a fun twist without being overpowering and it’s wonderfully spiced, with notes of cloves, cinnamon, and a bit of molasses. Plus there’s a spoonful of rum for all you boozers out there. A winner is you, Butterscotch Pumpkin Pudding!

So there you have it, my 3/500. It strikes me that all three photos have a fairly similar color palette, despite their subjects having wildly different ingredients. And that’s only enhanced by the the horrible no-time-to-take-photos-in-natural-light side effect of MoFo being in November. Ah well. Anyway, I can’t wait to tackle some of the more substantial recipes from this cookbook, because Celine and Joni have really put together an outstanding collection. I’m lookin’ at you, Pumpkin Fauxsage!

Do you have a cookbook you know is full of fantastic recipes but that you just don’t use often enough?Alternatively, how do you feel about pudding?

Purple + orange = green.

Remember preschool, when you learned about adding one color to another to make yet a third? It was pretty damn magical when you could mix red paint and blue paint and get a lovely shade of purple (or, um, poo-brown, if you were bad with proportions). Tonight I learned another color combination: purply blue + orange = green.

Craptastic stovetop photos ftw!

Yeah, you always thought green came from blue and yellow. WRONG, suckas! I don’t know if that picture quite conveys the vivid green that my water turned as I boiled up potatoes in preparation for dinner, but let me tell you – when I drained that pot, the water was green as the Grinch. Craziness.

Last week at the Madison farmer’s market I made some fun purchases: a crusty, satisfying loaf of spelt bread, a jar of cherry-rhubarb jam, and a kale plant for my garden plot at work (!). But I was most excited to discover organic blue potatoes (really more purple than blue), a variety of tater I’d read about but never personally eaten. I purchased three but didn’t use them ’til tonight, when I boiled up two blue potatoes and one sweet potato before sauteeing that shizz up to make a surprisingly wonderful potato hash.

I want to eat this photo.

Perhaps it’s not the most beautiful creation, but this was one of the most satisfying dishes I’ve had in a week or so, and that’s sayin’ something – I’ve had some pretty darn good food lately. It was so simple, too – I sauteed up some garlic and some onion flakes (in lieu of real onions; I inherited onion flakes from our college house’s pantry last year and always sneered at them until I had need of them tonight). With a little salt, pepper, and cayenne, this was so delicious. The blue potatoes were tastier and less starchy than your average Idaho, and the organic sweet potatoes were truly heavenly. And all those little burnt bits from the bottom of the pan? Freakin’ amazing.

Maybe I’m a cretin for covering this heavenly hash (heh heh) with ketchup, but I love Muir Glen’s organic ketchup alongside potatoes… such a fantastic flavor juxtaposition. It took a whole lotta willpower to save some of this hash, but I thought I might appreciate it for breakfast in the morn. Rest assured, I’ll devour those leftovers without hesitation tomorrow morning before a busy day of thrift-couch-shopping. Yeehaw!

So, what is your favorite naturally fun-colored food?

Better When Vegan: Tater Salad

As an omni – or even a straight-up vegetarian – potato salad was never high on my list of Things That Are Good. When I think “potato salad,” I imagine a bowl of sad-looking potatoes buried under mounds of gloopy, inexplicably yellow mayonnaise and squishy bits of egg. Inevitably, my mind places said salad on a picnic table piled high with at least two other varieties of disgustingly warm potato salad, all store-bought, because apparently that’s the extent to which some people are willing to contribute to a backyard barbecue. Aaanyway, the bottom line is that potato salad is not something I’ve ever had a burning desire to eat.

Until recently, that is.

Yeah, it’s weird, but a week or so ago, a truly bizarre potato salad craving punched me right in the gut and said, “Conquer your fears of the mayonnaise mess! You can do better than that!” And I listened.

It probably had something to do with the jar of Vegenaise I’d purchased at Whole Foods a few days before the craving came to call. Unsurprisingly, I’d never cared much for “real” mayo, so I’ve never purchased vegan mayo. But it was on sale, and I knew I’d seen it used in some recipes I wanted to try, so I decided to give it a shot.

With Vegenaise in the fridge and a bunch of red potatoes getting a little soft while sitting patiently in the cupboard, I knew I was well on my way towards conquering my tater salad aversion. But then I realized that I had no idea what the heck else went into a potato salad. Dill? Yeah, okay. But beyond that? No clue, dude. So I did my research on VegWeb, got some ideas, purchased a couple of items at the grocery store, and set out to make my own salad, unsure if I’d be able to eat it without imagining the unsavory salads of yore. When the potatoes were boiled and the ingredients were all mixed up, I gazed at the mixture with apprehension, unsure what monster I’d created. Sure, it looked a lot prettier than the nausea-inducing Platonic [not so]ideal of potato salad that I had in my mind, but would it taste better?

Tater salad, precious!

I cautiously speared a bite-size tater chunk and gingerly took a small bite. In a second, all my tater hateration disappeared. This shiz is g to-the-double-o d!  Holy crap! It’s amazing how actually being able to taste flavors beyond just mayonnaise makes this like 1000x times better. Good gracious.

My salad contained red potatoes, a small amount of Vegenaise (1/4 cup?), diced celery, diced red onion, a splash of apple cider vinegar (gag), lots of Dijon mustard (yum), and a goodly amount of dried dill weed. I got about 5 or 6 servings out of the batch, which was pretty sweet. Beyond an accidental overabundance of red onion, the flavors were pretty darn perfect. I was amazed at how, somehow, the flavors screamed POTATO SALAD!!! to me, even though I can’t really remember eating a potato salad that 1.) tasted like this, or 2.) was actually good.* The lesson here? Some things are just Better When Vegan. :)

*I’m pretty sure that, at one point or another, my mom – who’s no fan of mayo – has made a potato salad that wasn’t disgusting, so I may have exaggerated here. Artistic license? Sorry, Mom (not that you’re reading)!

The Other Kind of Pantry Challenge (+ Colcannon, Reinvented)

These days, my Google Reader is filled with bloggers participating in pantry challenges. Their general goal is to avoid spending money on groceries by only using what they have in their pantries. It’s a fine goal, to be sure. But when I see their lists of pantry items (5 kinds of rice, 7 varieties of dried beans, 3 cartons of almond milk, 4 jars of various nut butters, 2 pounds of tofu, etc etc etc!) I just can’t help but think, “If only my pantry were a tenth as full as theirs!”

The sad thing is that I’m not even exaggerating. As tempting as it would be to play down my foodstuff inventory for comedic effect, the pathetic truth is that – not counting spices – I probably have less than 30 food items to my name at this moment in time, and that’s counting stuff like soy sauce and Bragg’s and ketchup. So… yeah. It’s pretty sad. Being carless in an area with less than stellar public transportation kiiinda sucks. I don’t want to ask my roomie – as fantastic as she is – for rides all the time, so I walk to the grocery store when I need food and she doesn’t. I don’t mind walking at all, even when it’s f-f-freezing outside, but it does limit the amount of food I can purchase. Plus, the grocery store within easy walking distance is rather limited in its selection of non-boring food. The bottom line is that I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks, and my pantry is takin’ a major hit.

But fear not – my limited resources don’t always result in limited creativity! Tonight I realized that if I didn’t use up a couple of potatoes, they were going to reach levels of softness that would make the Pillsbury Doughboy’s tummy seem like abs o’ steel in comparison. Obviously I had to mash them, but I wanted to do something a little more interesting. So I decided to make a modified, empty-pantry-influenced version of colcannon.

Now, I’m not gonna lie – I’ve never actually eaten colcannon, which is stupid because 1. I’ve got me some Irish blood, 2. I love kale, and 3. I love taters. But theoretically it’s one of my favorite foods. Heh heh. Anyway, my sad lack of fresh veggies resulted in my using some frozen spinach in the place of kale or cabbage. Not the kind that comes in a dense block, mind, but loose leaf spinach from a bag. And you know what? It wasn’t half bad.

Colcannon...ish.

Now, obviously my ghetto colcannon is nowhere near as pretty as, say, Lolo’s more traditional variety. But I enjoyed it, and other than the potatoes that were on the verge of death, it didn’t really use up many of my limited pantry resources. I just boiled up two taters with some onions, then added the spinach to the mix just before the potatoes were soft. I mashed it all up with some Earth Balance, a bit of garlic powder, and – in keeping with my firm eschewing of tradition – a dash of Tabasco and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. So, was it actually colcannon? Prooooobably not. But was it good? Hell yeah! And will I be making a trip to the grocery store this weekend before my meals cross the line from “untraditional” to “downright revolting?” You better believe it.

Zebras like colcannon, too.

P.S. Isn’t my zebra bowl cute?! Best Goodwill find EVER.