SOJ Chef Demo 11.24.12

Resampled_2012-11-24_09-51-07_523

Chef Sam sporting his No Shave November look.

At this week’s South of the James farmers’ market cooking demo, Chef Sam Baker transformed local, seasonal ingredients into a delicious dish for market shoppers. It was a cold and windy morning, so I was grateful that we had an abundance of fall vegetables at our disposal. Fall and winter veggies have a way of warming you to your core, don’t they?

Resampled_2012-11-24_09-10-59_851

Chef Sam gathered collard greens, butternut squash, and apples to incorporate into a pasta dish featuring Cavanna Pasta pumpkin ravioli.

Resampled_2012-11-24_09-11-09_431

Chef Sam knew he needed an additional ingredient to tie together the dish, and he found the answer in two types of goat cheese.

Resampled_2012-11-24_09-11-16_600

For the first time this season, Goats R Us brought some aged goat cheese to market. The Chef counted on the sharp tangy-ness of this hard goat cheese to elevate the flavors in his dish.

Resampled_2012-11-24_09-13-15_865

The second type of goat cheese used was Night Sky Farm’s semi-soft chevre, from which Chef Sam made a creamy sauce for the pumpkin ravioli.

Resampled_2012-11-24_09-40-21_29

The Chef demonstrated how to chop the greens into ribbons by first stacking and rolling the leaves into a log, then chopping thin strips from end to end. Chef Sam also showed market shoppers how to quickly peel and seed a butternut squash. In important lesson for safety and efficiency was to make cuts that allow you to lay the squash flat, so that it does not roll around while you are chopping it. After cutting the squash into cubes, the Chef steamed the butternut squash for several minutes.

Resampled_2012-11-24_09-58-57_402

After steaming the butternut squash, Chef Sam added the apples and greens to the sauté pan. Meanwhile, the Chef cooked the pumpkin ravioli in a large pot of boiling water, and heated the chevre with a bit of the pasta water to create a goat cheese sauce. Chef Sam then seasoned the vegetables and sauce with salt, pepper, and an herb and spice blend from The Village Garden.

Resampled_2012-11-24_10-20-06_239

Chef Sam then layered the squash, apples and greens over the ravioli, and topped them with the goat cheese sauce. Then he grated the aged goat cheese over top of the dish. Everyone agreed that the cheese sauce tied all of the ingredients together. The Chef recommended that this dish be made with pears instead for a different flavor. I thought the apples worked really well. Upon tasting the pasta dish from the sample boat, one bystander commented, “finally we can build a positive association with those paper hot dog boats!”

We have just one week left for the South of the James farmers’ market in Forest Hill Park. Stop by to see us next Saturday, December 1st, between 8:00 AM and noon, for our final demo of the season. On the following Saturday, the market moves to the Patrick Henry charter school for the winter.

Thank you to Cavanna Pasta, Drumheller Orchard, Goats R Us, Night Sky Farm, The Village Garden, Walnut Hill Farm, and all of our featured vendors for producing this week’s fresh and delicious ingredients!

Three Sisters Soup

Resampled_2012-10-02_20-17-10_119

I recently discovered the “three sisters” on a trip to Charlottesville. About two months ago, on one of many wedding-planning trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains, we stopped into Revolutionary Soup near the downtown mall. I had heard great things about Revolutionary Soup and I had been meaning to try it for years. On a gorgeous September day in Charlottesville with my parents and Kyle, I finally had the opportunity.

Resampled_2012-09-22_19-10-54_583

Revolutionary Soup has an extensive menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. There is also a great selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I was impressed by the selection of local beers and ciders. Kyle had a matcha (green tea) flavored soda that he is still talking about, two months later. I think one of Kyle’s greatest regrets in life is not writing down the name of that soda.

Resampled_2012-09-22_19-07-45_788

One thing that really impressed me at Revolutionary Soup was this giant diagram that illustrated all of their local vendors on a map of Virginia. This is definitely a feature of my fantasy restaurant now.

Resampled_2012-09-22_19-07-18_445

I chose a tofu wrap and a small Three Sisters Soup, which was one of the seasonal specials they offered that day. I had never heard of “three sisters” before, but I learned that the term refers to the trio of squash, beans and corn. Native Americans grew the three crops together, using a technique called companion planting, because each one benefits from the other two. Not only are they a great combination in the garden, but they also taste wonderful together. The soup was a total knockout and I knew I would have to replicate it at home.

Resampled_2012-09-23_18-15-15_211

While I was picking up a few things at the grocery store later that week, I saw a giant bin of fall and winter squash. I couldn’t resist taking home this Turks Turban squash. I had never seen a squash like this before, and although I knew nothing about how to prepare it or how it tasted, I decided this would be the squash for my Three Sisters soup. Cutting and seeding it was really difficult due to its odd shape.

Resampled_2012-09-23_18-37-21_968

When peeled, chunked, and roasted, the Turks Turban squash is sweet, with a smooth, dense texture. It was fun to use just for the experience and for the look on the grocery store cashier’s face when the odd-shaped squash came gliding down the belt and to her scanner. When I looked up the Turks Turban, I was disappointed to find that it didn’t have great reviews for taste. I tried it anyway and thought it tasted like a cross between a butternut squash and a pumpkin. I thought it was great and had no complaints regarding taste. However, due to the weird shape, the peeling and seeding process was so labor intensive that it wasn’t really worth it. In the future, I think I’ll just use butternut squash instead.

Anyway, enough about the squash. This recipe is all about the soup. I have made three sisters soup three times now, with a different type of squash every time. It is delicious no matter what type of fall or winter squash you include. This soup is hearty enough to stand alone in a big bowl as a main dish, or you could serve a smaller portion with bread and a salad. It would be a nice starter to your Thanksgiving meal. A large pot of it simmered on a Sunday provides an alternative to chili for watching football, or plenty of lunches to reheat throughout the week.

Three Sisters Soup

Resampled_2012-10-02_20-18-27_72

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups cubed, roasted winter squash
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1- 15 oz. can pinto beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 5 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté onion, pepper, celery and garlic until onion is translucent.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Slow Cooking for Vegetarians

When it’s 100 degrees outside, most people avoid turning on their ovens or stoves. This is not the time for baking, roasting, frying, or braising. We do enough of that just laying out in the sun (except for maybe the braising, unless you count mojitos and tanning oil as braising liquids). When summer weather turns brutally hot, anything that raises the temperature of the house is out of the question. Perhaps that is why outdoor grilling is so popular in the summer. Who wants to bring the heat inside, when you can keep it outside and make even more delicious food with the help of your grill?

Another option for cooking healthy and delicious meals at home without heating up the house is dusting off the slow cooker. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But that certainly does not mean you have to give up cooking altogether.

CIMG3532

The beauty of slow cooking is that you can do it any season in any temperature, and, despite the name, it’s actually pretty quick because it saves time. That means home cooks have more time for hanging out with their families, putting in an extra hour at the office, gardening, bicycling, reading, ordering another round at happy hour. . . you name it. In my opinion, the slow cooker is an underrated kitchen appliance. It is an important weapon in the home cook’s arsenal of time saving devices, and it does not get the credit it deserves. For those of us who want to have it all, the slow cooker helps make our dreams come true.

CIMG3533

Unfortunately, most of the recipes out there for slow cookers contain meat. A quick search for slow cooker or crock pot recipes returns the same meat-centric dishes every time: pork BBQ, pot roast, taco meat, chicken and dumplings, beef curry, turkey chili. What is an I-want-it-all vegetarian cook to do, when she just doesn’t have the time to stand over the stove all evening to prepare a meal?

Do not panic. Remain calm. Do not order takeout. Get creative instead. Read through these menu suggestions. Plan ahead and let the slow cooker do the work for you while you are out saving the world, or whatever it is you do when you’re not stuck in your very hot kitchen. Whatever you do, do not let the meat eaters have all the fun.

Resampled_2012-06-25_19-47-11_204

Without further ado, let’s get on to the recipe roundup! We have some meatless mains as well as some fun dishes thrown in, so let’s get cooking.

cimg2599

Vegetarian Gumbo with Brown Rice from Vegology

CIMG3538

Slow Cooker Peach Butter from Vegology

Cranberry Apple Butter from Vegology

Resampled_2012-06-25_19-51-01_61

Unsloppy Joes from AllRecipes.com. Modification: chop everything and toss it in the slow cooker, cook on low 6-8 hours.

For a lighter version, try it wrapped in a collard leaf, a la Eating Bird Food.

Resampled_2012-06-25_19-43-40_53

Resampled_2012-06-25_19-46-06_665

Resampled_2012-06-25_19-50-25_371

I love how the heat from the filling just barely steams the collard leaf from the inside out.

Resampled_2012-06-26_20-52-07_937

Make BBQ Tofu by crumbling extra firm tofu into the pot of a slow cooker, adding a jar of barbecue sauce, and cooking covered on high 2 hours or low 4 hours. I used McCutcheon’s Apple Butter BBQ Sauce, plus a little turmeric, for the batch pictured above.

Here are some ideas from the pages of some favorite bloggers:

Spicy African Peanut Stew from Peas and Thank You

Vegan Curried Pumpkin Soup from Eating Bird Food

Homemade Greek Yogurt from Bran Appetit

Sweet Potato and Lentil Veggie Chili from Daily Garnish

The list goes on and on, and I could give you a dozen more suggestions, but I think the point has been made. Vegetarians can slow-cook too! Now that I have shared some of my favorites, I am interested to hear what suggestions you have.

What is your favorite dish to make in the slow cooker?

Have you ever tried to make anything unusual in your slow cooker, like chocolate cake or homemade yogurt?

Have any tips (or cautionary tales) to share?

Roughing It

Hi there, friends. I know I have been missing lately, but I promise I have a good reason.

and it's not just because i've been drinking wine. . . although that is one possible explanation.

Once upon a time, I had a housewarming party. And at that same time, my furnace stopped working. So you see, it’s really very simple. . .

1. Housewarming party prep = lots of cleaning, lots of decorating, lots of late-night takeout and very little cooking

2. Broken furnace = no heat, no hot water, no way to wash dishes, lots of late-night takeout and very little cooking

3. No cooking = no creativity = no posts

I really struggled there for awhile to come up with creative and healthy dishes that required one pot or less. I didn’t want the dirty dishes to pile up, so I limited my cooking. We waited patiently for five days for the parts to come in to repair our furnace. One particularly cold day, we got our first real snow of winter here in Richmond.

And we had no heat! The thermostat inside my home read 47 degrees F when I woke up the next morning. I spent the morning bundled up in three hoodies, then went to a friend’s house to shower, and then I decided to get cooking.

I had to use the heat from the oven and stove to heat up the house, so I baked a lot of cookies and made some slow-cooked soups on the stove top. I could not properly clean the dishes until the hot water was back on a few days later, but this soup was worth dirtying a pot and ladle.

I will post the recipe later this week – I know this one’s a keeper.

Here are some other ideas I had for one-pot wonders while we were “roughing it” inside our own home.

Now that we are finally getting back into the swing of things, I promise I will catch you up on my kitchen adventures soon, with a recipe for Caldo Verde by the end of the week. In the meantime, I would love to hear your suggestions for one-pot meals and hearty soups while there is still a little chill in the air!

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Ganache

As promised, I have a sweet new cupcake recipe for you. This winter citrus is insanely fresh and delicious right now. After enjoying fresh oranges for a few weeks, I decided to feature that nice zesty seasonal flavor in a sweet treat. I could pretend and say I was saving this recipe for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day person so my close friends wouldn’t let that fly. The truth is I have been super busy and just haven’t gotten around to writing the post.

I went on a citrus kick a few weeks ago and made lemon cream cupcakes (from allrecipes) and these chocolate orange cupcakes ( my original recipe to follow) one weekend. It is amazing what a difference fresh ingredients can make! The subtle sweet orange flavor that is baked into these chocolate cupcakes is so fresh tasting, with this slight tang from the orange zest. The orange plays really well with the rich cocoa flavor.

I have mentioned before that I am not a natural baker, so when a confection turns out for me, I am genuinely surprised and delighted. Lately I have been experimenting a bit more with baking, and I am starting to get comfortable enough to make up my own recipes. Those work out for me even less frequently so it’s really nice when I come up with something tasty.

I am not even going to lie – this recipe is the second attempt. The first attempt did not work out so well. I am still learning about the delicate chemistry of baked goods. I did not realize that putting finely diced fresh orange in a cupcake would result in the batter soaking up all the orange juice, leaving chunks of stringy pulp behind. Because I believe that cupcake eating should not require post-dessert toothpicks and floss, I tried again. This time with juice.

The first batch never made it to the office. I choked down one or two cupcakes then threw them away. They just weren’t right. I brought the final batch into work and my coworkers approved. Success! I think they were pretty surprised to find out that the cake is vegan. The frosting, however, is not. I couldn’t resist topping these with dark chocolate ganache. I had never made ganache before and I was really surprised at how easy it is! If you want to go the vegan route though, you could use any vegan icing that your little heart desires and I am sure they would still be delightful.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes (makes about a dozen)

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift flour and combine with other dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
  3. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and stir. Mix with a stand/hand mixer until well combined.
  4. Coat a muffin tin with non-stick spray or line with baking cups. Pour batter into cups until each cup is two-thirds full.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for a a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to continue cooling.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 ounces dark chocolate chips
  • Patience

Preparation:

  1. Pour the chocolate chips into a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat cream over medium heat. Bring to a boil then remove from heat.
  3. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and stir to combine. Continuing stirring until chocolate is melted, then whisk until smooth.
  4. Let cool completely. Pop the bowl in the fridge for an hour or overnight if you have a lot of patience.
  5. Bring the frosting back to around room temperature then whip with a whisk until light and fluffy.
  6. If you’re fancy, use a pastry bag or a cake decorating gadget to top your cupcakes. If you’re like me and have a ton of gadgets that you always forget to use, don’t bother dusting off the cookie press / cake decorator gadget, and just use an old fashioned knife to spread the frosting on to the cupcakes.

Hope you dig them as much as I do!

Adventures in Vegan Baking

I never understood how it worked. Vegan baking. If baking is a science, then vegan bakers must be mad scientists. Breaking all the rules, mixing up cookies and cakes with ingredients that most of us would never put in a baked good, vegan bakers are trailblazers in the kitchen. Baking scares me, because I am much better at stovetop cooking. For years, vegan baking totally frightened me and then I became intrigued. Recently, I finally rose to the challenge and tried it out. I dove headfirst into a sea of recipes and tried my hardest not to sink.

Miraculously, I swam. And in the process I discovered a few awesome things about vegan baking.

  1. Not all vegan baked goods are healthy, but a lot of healthy baked goods are vegan. Replacing sugar and butter with applesauce makes things a tad healthier. It also may make them vegan. There are a lot of healthy cookies and bars out there that are vegan, so entering this world may help you build a better breakfast for yourself.
  2. In most cases, you can eat the dough! And not worry about salmonella poisoning! This fact alone should convince you to whip up a batch of vegan chocolate chip cookies today.
  3. Searching for vegan baked goods recipes online will introduce you to a whole new world of awesome bloggers. So open your mind and make some new friends already.

Here is a rundown of all the things I tried:

Pumpkin Protein Bars from Peas and Thank You

These scared me because they came out exactly as I feared they would; they tasted like pumpkin scented cardboard. I think it was my protein powder. This vegan protein powder I tried tasted great in smoothies but it was pretty gross by itself. The pumpkin and sweetener in these bars did not cover up the bland chalkiness of the protein powder. I am going to try this one again with a different protein powder because the nutrition stats on these were awesome.

Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf from the Post Punk Kitchen

This bread came out really dense and moist with a very rich chocolate flavor. The pumpkin pie spice played well with the chocolate and I felt comfortable serving this to non-vegan friends as it tasted pretty normal. I doubled the recipe and made two loaves and I am glad I did. One is in the freezer for me to thaw out next time I have unexpected guests.

Fall Harvest Fruit Cake from FatFree Vegan Kitchen

I omitted the persimmons because mine weren’t ripe enough and I am not a patient person. I added pumpkin puree so as not to ruin the consistency by leaving out the persimmon pulp and I added sweetened dried cranberries because apple and cranberry is a winning combination. This one turned out awesome. I served it to a few friends and family members and they could not tell it was vegan at all.

Cherry Almond Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

So delicious! And excellent with a glass of vanilla soy milk. . . or dunked in almond milk? You definitely cannot tell these are vegan. Something about the oils and the almond extract make you think you are eating a buttery drop cookie, but there is no butter involved! Grab a Christmas gift card or scrape together a few dollars and buy this book. I can’t wait to try out more of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s and Terry Hope Romero’s vegan baking recipes.

I think I have more experimenting to do. The excitement of vegan baking is putting all these things that you don’t think should go on a cookie sheet or in a cake pan, popping it in the oven, and crossing your fingers that it comes out somewhat resembling a baked good. It’s science! It’s magic! It’s completely fascinating!

Maybe if you win my OXO Spatula giveaway, you could whip up one of these recipes to test it out. Don’t forget – today is the last day to enter my giveaway for a Good Cookie gift pack! Click here for details. Contest closes at 11:59 PM tonight!

Welcoming Winter Weekends

My four day weekend is coming to a close, and I am probably as relaxed as I will be this whole month. With the purchase of our new home, a move to a new neighborhood and the Christmas holiday all ahead of me this December, I decided to take some extra time off to get relaxed, focused and ready. Here’s hoping I will make it through December gracefully.

I woke up Friday morning feeling sluggish, but I still laced up my hiking shoes and went out with Kyle for coffee and a leisurely hike around our future neighborhood. There was a little chill in the air but it was perfectly sunny and the scenery was beautiful.

That afternoon, Kyle and I went out for veggie sushi at Sticky Rice. Then I headed out for a haircut and color, and spent a lot of time reading and trying not to fall asleep in the salon. I think I was really wiped out and needed a break!

That evening I just lounged around the apartment and tried to rest. I had felt off all day so I tried to do as little as possible. I woke up Saturday morning feeling refreshed. I bundled up and headed out to the local coffee shop for breakfast sandwiches and coffees. Then Kyle and I walked about a mile to the Richmond Christmas Parade on Broad Street. I knew we would have fun, but I was surprised at how entertaining the parade really was. I always thought this parade was very targeted at families with small children, but we really enjoyed watching the floats, balloons and performers march down Broad Street.

Spotted:

Harlem Globetrotters

No BS Brass Band and the Richmond Flying Squirrels

Some very skilled Hula Hoopers

Storm Troopers

My Alma Mater, VCU

And Rudolph was back this year, with a large Band-Aid after last year’s incident (I highly recommend that you click on the link for the footage).

We walked home after the parade and I prepared for Real Housewives Tea with my two best Richmond girlfriends. Modeled after the RHBH Tea Party, this event featured tiny sandwiches, delicious sweets, and wine. Yes there was tea, but we stayed true to the Housewives episode and made sure that no one drank it, in favor of a little bubbly instead. The only difference was that we left the drama at the door.

We had as much fun as you would expect to have while drinking cava at 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon, donning enormous hats and dripping in (costume) jewels. What’s not to love about that? It was truuuuuly loooooovely to catch up with these ladies and I had a deliiiiiightful time.

I spent Sunday and Monday running errands and making plans in preparation for the remainder of this month. There is still a lot of shopping, planning, baking and packing in store over the next three weeks. But I’m not too worried about it. I’m actually kind of excited, since I’ll be doing it all with my best friend.

Ready, set, go!