Doing it ourselves on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

It’s my turn to host the delightful Gluten Free Menu Swap this week. Each week the host chooses a theme and a group of gluten-free bloggers posts a week of menus touching on that theme. Inspired by last week’s Urban Homesteader’s Day of Action (which I wrote about at length in a previous post) I chose the theme of DIY/MYO (do-it-yourself/make-your-own) ingredients.

Bi bim bap mixed with homemade kimchi

As people who love food, who care about our health, who are trying to save money, and who follow gluten-free and/or vegan diets, I and most of the bloggers I know tend to find ourselves making a lot of foodstuffs from scratch. Of course any time we cook anything that involves more than sticking a package in a microwave, we’re “doing it ourselves.” But there are whole categories of things I used to buy – breadcrumbs, canned beans, chocolate syrup; the list is endless – that over the years I’ve found myself making instead. I wrote quite a lot about this last week, and I don’t want to bore you by repeating myself, but I’ll just hit the salient points again of why I chose this theme.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to make my own version (like dried beans vs. canned beans). Sometimes it’s healthier or tastier. Many times I can’t get a version that is both vegan and gluten-free (and that tastes good and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg). But most importantly, it’s fun. It used to be overwhelming to think about doing a lot of this stuff from scratch. I thought my pressure cooker would explode and kill me, I thought I would give my loved ones botulism from fermenting at home, I never seemed to be able to remember to defrost homemade frozen ingredients ahead of time, which pretty much negated the point of making them in the first place. DIY takes extra time, extra effort, and extra planning, and those are things I usually have in short supply.

Two pots of scrap stock

At a certain point a few years ago I loved my CSA box so much, and so treasured the beautiful vegetables that came in it, that I decided to try making some scrap stock with my leftover veggie trimmings so that no part of what came in my box would go to waste. The only recipe I could find was from the civil war, so I borrowed heavily from Deborah Madison’s vegetable stock directions and just improvised my own. It was so easy and tasted so good. Suddenly all the vacuum-packed boxes of broth I’d been buying just disappeared from my shopping list.

Stock, rich and flavorful, made totally from scraps!

Then I took some workshops on fermenting, and made a few batches of fermented food. So easy! Didn’t kill anyone! I made friends with my pressure cooker. I started menu planning – and leaving notes for myself throughout my menu plans, reminding me to defrost stock or soak beans. Little by little certain tasks stopped being overwhelming, became routine or even something to be looked forward to. And then, always, new challenges take their place. I’ve been doing so well on soaking beans for pressure cooking and mung dal for making cheela (pancakes) that I think I’m ready to try making dosa batter, which has to be soaked, ground, and then fermented. I want to try making crackers from flax seeds and vegetables in the dehydrator I picked up at Goodwill and have never used. I want to learn to pressure can my scrap stock so I don’t even have to worry anymore about defrosting it in advance. And the holy grail of DIY for me would be to make my own vegan, gluten-free bread. Not all the time, because I don’t really want bread to be a regular part of my diet, but often enough that I could have a good supply in the freezer of some different breads with actually decent textures.

For more amazing gluten-free menu plans and DIY ideas, check out below what my fellow gluten-free menu swappers have planned for this week. And you’ll find hundreds of menu plans from all over the web over at Laura’s OrgJunkie. The sheer act of planning a weekly menu is very DIY. We’re putting thought and time and intention into something that our crazy culture has been steadily trying to convince us we don’t have time for: No idea what to make for dinner? Nothing in the house to cook? No problem!  Just hit the drive-through, or grab a frozen dinner, or order delivery… But as all of us who have tried meal planning have discovered, far from adding to our burdens by being complicated, overwhelming, and time-consuming, meal planning saves money, leads to healthier eating, and makes helps to make cooking fun rather than stressful!

Cauliflower and potato uttapam

Monday
Kale and potato gratin
Impressionist cauliflower
Green salad
DIY: I make my own GF vegan bread crumbs by putting Trader Joe’s frozen GF waffles in the food processor with olive oil and herbs

Tuesday (soak rice and urad dal for uttapam/dosa batter following Wild Fermentation recipe)
Bi bim bap with napa cabbage, tofu, shitake mushrooms, and arame
DIY: Bi bam bap is excellent with homemade kimchi

Wednesday (strain, grind, and ferment dosa batter)
Thai red curry with tofu, pumpkin, cabbage, and basil
Bhutanese red rice
DIY: I still use curry paste from a jar, but I love to spice up my curries with serrano peppers I’ve bought in advance, chopped, and frozen. And I used to avoid recipes that called for basil because I could never use up the whole bunch before it wilted in my fridge. But now I make vegan pesto even if there are just a few leaves left and freeze it in ice cube trays. Then I can just throw a cube of pesto into soup, pasta, wherever!

Thursday (defrost 2 C. stock)
Chickpea picatta
Polenta
DIY: Homemade scrap stock & breadcrumbs

Friday (defrost 2 C. beans, tortilla chips)
Quick red posole with beans (Viva Vegan, p. 136)
DIY: I’ll make this using cranberry beans I cooked in the pressure cooker and then froze in amounts equivalent to 1 can of beans. Whenever I have a few leftover tortilla chips that came with a takeout burrito, I throw them into a big bag in my freezer, and then eventually use them for dishes like this, or chilaquiles.

Saturday ~ Beloved Gathering (pack leftovers)
DIY: One of the themes of the gathering is self-reliance, so I’m looking forward to meeting a bunch of new people with DIY ethics of their own, whatever that means to each of them.

Sunday
Red onion and peas uttapam
Ethiopian red lentil and vegetable stew used as sambar
DIY: Hopefully I’ll be making this using my first successful batch of home-fermented uttapam batter. And then I’m so excited as the stew recipe will call on me to make my own berbere spice mixture. I love having jars of homemade spice mixtures (like curry powder and garam masala) in my spice drawer!

Shopping list:
Part 1 (Monday) ~ 1 bunch kale, 1 cauliflower, 2 pkg firm tofu, napa cabbage, frozen spinach (check if I have some), cabbage, pumpkin/kabocha, basil, corn tortillas
Part 2 (Wednesday) ~ Large poblano/Cubanelle chile, dried Mexican oregano, radishes, avocado, 1 lime, 1 cup shallots, 4 c. arugula/spinach, 1 lb green beans (fresh or frozen), 3-4 c. spinach

Gluten Free Menu Swappers ~ What’s on the menu this week?

Heather of Celiac Family wasn’t too sure about if the DIY theme applied to her, but once she created her menu she realized that, like most GF cooks, there are all kinds of things she just ends up making for herself. She’ll be making her own homemade GF breadcrumbs to coat some delectable-looking chicken nuggets, a super tasty homemade Parmesan dressing for her wild rice salad, and a mouthwatering jalapeno-popper dip to jazz up her burgers. She’ll also be making kale chips, which I’m so curious about and keep meaning to try making. All in all it looks like Heather has a balanced, healthy, super scrumptious week planned for her family.

Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness (and the beloved organizer of our menu swap) has a crazy busy week coming up but even in the face of getting ready to move, teaching and facilitating groups and workshops, and discovering the time-vortex that is Twitter (uh-oh, Cheryl, it was nice to know you when you spoke in paragraphs longer than 140 characters!) she has an amazing menu planned. Homemade curry powder (so great – I can’t stand storebought versions!) will go with chicken and chickpeas, and lots of big flavors everywhere with rosemary salmon and herb salad and kalamata hummus. And of course Cheryl has drool-worthy extras planned with glazed walnuts and moist nutty skillet bread. Yum!

I had no idea Angela of Angela’s Kitchen was such a big fermenter and all-around MYO gal! (Even more reasons for me to show up at her house every night for dinner!) This week she shows off the prettiest pink kimchi, perfect for tempting a dubious sparkly princess girl, and her picklemeister apparatus which strikes envy and desire deep into my heart. I want! Angela is similarly smitten with all things DIY and in addition to her own pickling and fermenting she makes her own spice blends, baking mixes, coconut yogurt (ooh! I have to try that!), and more. She’s even become a certified Master Food Preserver, which I assume means she is officially qualified to come over and teach me how to not kill my family with botulism. (Yes, please!) She has a great menu planned, complete with extras she’s making and freezing for her daughter’s upcoming school trip, and all kinds of yummy things like sesame broccoli, and homemade apple-turkey sausage. Angela seems like one organized homesteader!

Wendy of Celiacs in the House has had a fabulous blog makeover! (Sorry if this happened weeks ago and I’m just catching up, Wendy – I’ve been in hermit mode for the last month or so and have been visiting any of my favorite blogs.) Wendy is adopting another gluten-free blogger so this week’s menu is full of intriguing recipes to try for the first time, including fish tacos (used to be one my absolute favorite foods), sesame peanut noodles (still is one of my favorite foods), and white bean puree with collards. She’s making socca pizza, which I am super curious about (I love socca! Why don’t I ever make them anymore? I need to get on that!) and something called “cheddar muffin tops” which makes my mouth water just reading that combination of words. This week Wendy will be making her own tortillas from scratch, using her mom’s 30-year old tortilla press!

Michelle of Gluten-Free Smiles writes movingly about how her celiac diagnosis shifted her cooking from reliance on packaged foods to making things herself. She has an admirably long list of things she DIYs, from pierogies, pasta, and potstickers to spice blends, juices and teas. I want to raid your pantry and freezer, Michelle! Or just come over for dinner. :) Like me, Michelle also has a dream list of foods she’s looking forward to learning how to make for herself including cheeses and preserves. It’s amazing how conquering the fear of making things that are generally considered “buyable” leads to an ever-growing appetite and interest in making even more complicated homemade ingredients. Michelle has a great week planned, with homemade wontons and personal pizzas on mouthwatering tomato basil bases!

Nicola of G-free Mom offers up some funny truths (and lies!) so we can get to know her better this week. Her family invented the After Eight mint. What a fabulous legacy! She is adopting Wendy of Celiacs in the House this week for Adopt a Gluten Free Blogger so her menu plan practically wrote itself. I want to devour her entire menu with salmon cakes, risotto cakes, shepherd’s pie, and butternut squash risotto, all favorite flavors! Nicola asks if making her own risotto counts as DIY, and I definitely think making risotto and then reusing the leftovers to make risotto cakes fits into the urban homesteader cooking ethos!

Sea of Book of Yum is having a kale week. I’m so there, Sea. Kale Week is like a mandated holiday around my house that is celebrated as often as possible! She’s been experimenting with creatively seasoned dehydrated kale chips of all kinds, and is even hosting a linky roundup to gather kale recipes from all of us to share. My dehydrator is an MYO tool I’ve been dying to try but haven’t managed to, yet, so all this amazing kale chippery from Sea is providing serious inspiration. In addition to all the snacky goodness, Sea has another fantastic, international menu planned, with “cheesy” broccoli and pasta, Indian cauliflower and okra, tofu-avocado sushi rolls, and something dreamily called “chocolate surprise.” Every time I read her menus I want to move in next door and “just happen” to show up for dinner every night! (Ah, blog-fan-love through stalkerdom, how sweet.)

Have a great week of cooking, everyone!

Culture Club ~ A story in (mostly) pictures

As I mentioned in my last post, I love love love fermenting food. For a long time I was interested but terrified – terrified of botulism (which you actually can’t get from fermenting food, just from canning it improperly) or any other undetectable-yet-deadly bacteria I might grow and then unknowingly kill myself and others with. I went to a lot of workshops and read some books and then was lucky enough to live with my very dear friend Farmer B. Farmer B is not only fearless about this kind of thing but also has a real talent and instinct for it. She’s a bacteria and yeast whisperer, you might say.

Farmer B getting ready to do some bacteria-whispering

The other barrier to doing urban-homesteader type food projects is time. There’s a reason we as a civilization have moved further and further away from DIY methods and developed all these conveniences – they save us the tons of time it takes to make foods by hand. To ferment vegetables you have to brine them for hours. Canning similarly involves hours of sterilizing, filling, boiling, etc. Of course a lot of this is down time, but let’s be realistic, you’re still going to spend the whole day in the kitchen.

So many veggies to chop and brine...

Which is why Farmer B and I created Culture Club. When you can chat while you chop and play games while the veggies are brining, crafting food becomes a party rather than a chore. It’s been hard to coordinate Culture Club with Farmer B so frequently away (farming!) but we took advantage of a window of Bay Area time and gathered friends together.

It's better with friends!

Culture Club has two components. One is making foods and the other is tasting/demoing foods. This is so that people who are perhaps interested in kombucha, say, can taste it and get an overview of the process before they commit to making it themselves. This time around we had two projects. The first was kimchi, using a recipe from Sandor Katz’s marvelous book Wild Fermentation. (Katz has been invaluable in helping me get over my paranoia about killing my loved ones with improperly fermented foods.) Culture Club had previously made a radish and roots kimchi, but this time around we went for the classic combination of napa cabbage, carrot, and daikon radish.

Giant, beautiful produce makes me dreamy! (That's a daikon radish I'm swooning over, there.)

Our second project was a blood orange cordial. A few months ago, I found an electric cordial maker (called “Cordially Yours!“) at Goodwill that promised to make cordial in hours rather than weeks, and I was super excited to test it out. I had done a small test-batch a few days earlier (no sense in wasting all that vodka if the thing didn’t even work) with Royal mandarins, but then a friend brought over blood oranges for a snack during a movie night and Farmer B and I just fell in love with the color. How dreamy would it be to have blood-orange colored cordial?

Zesting and juicing blood oranges for cordial

Blood orange juice & zest + vodka + sugar + "Cordially Yours!" + 4 hours = cordial. We hope!

While we waited for the vegetables to brine and the cordial maker to work its magic, we had our demo/tastings/lunch. Farmer B brought kombucha for all to try, and made a big pot of ogi, a fermented millet porridge, following another Sandor Katz recipe. We ate the ogi with stir-fried Chinese greens and homemade sauerkraut and turnip pickles, which were my contributions to the tasting party. I rounded out our lunch with cheela (mung bean pancakes) with tomato-coconut chutney. We also enjoyed a healthy amount of my initial test batch of cordial, which we had to drink for informational purposes of course. How could we know how to adjust the recipe if we didn’t drink thoroughly of the test version? And no Culture Club would be complete without a rousing round of some game, so after lunch we sat down with Balderdash (“the hilarious bluffing game!”) while we waited on the vegetables.

Tasting cordial out on the porch, where we brought the brine to cool it in the open air

Trying to fool each other with made-up definitions of obscure words

Once the vegetables had finished brining, we mixed them with a paste we’d made in the food processor of garlic, scallions, and ginger. I use a special Korean chili flake that seems like it has been deyhydrated in some way (not just dried, which I realize is the definition of “dehydration” but these seem like they were made into chili paste and then that was dehydrated and flaked and then you reconstitute it with warm water) and we made a paste from that and added it in as well. Kimchi can take a lot of heat before it starts to get spicy – we went through almost an entire giant bag of chili flakes.

Brined vegetables topped with two types of flavoring paste

Mixing the kimchi is the best part of the whole experience. We get to wear gloves – it’s DIY food surgery! (Is that gross?) The chile paste and the salty brine can be quite painful on your hands, but with protection you can flip and toss to your heart’s content.

Stuffing jars with kimchi (with gloves to protect our hands from the chile paste)


The cordial finished with little fanfare. It turned out I hadn’t stirred long enough to dissolve all the sugar so there was a (tasty) bunch of it left on the bottom of the machine, which hadn’t happened during my test run. Even though the Cordially Yours! remarkably cuts the time cordials need to sit, the instructions do recommend that fruit cordials be allowed to steep for three days after the machine has worked its magic. So we poured it into jars and sent everyone home with their cordial and their kimchi. In three days and a week or two, respectively, each would blossom into the exciting foodstuffs of our dreams! (I know that’s the stupidest ending sentence ever for a blog post but it’s been a really long day and for some reason this post took forever to write. The whole “story in pictures” thing was supposed to make it go faster, but apparently that plan was a failure. Anyways. Let’s look at the pretty pretty things we made:)

The finished products! Blood orange cordial in the foreground, kimchi in the background.

Defiantly enjoying some (trademark-free) urban homesteading

There are black beans in my pressure cooker, right now, merrily cooking away. Tonight I’ll make sweet potato and black bean enchiladas. Last time I made this dish (one of my favorites) I used canned beans and canned chiles. Now that I’ve gotten over my fear that my pressure cooker will kill me, I can use beans I bought for pennies, soaked overnight, and then cooked in minutes, and jalapeno and serrano chiles I bought en masse and then chopped and froze in little packets in my fridge. Cheaper, no cans or other packaging to deal with afterward, and every bit as delicious.

Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas with adobo sauce

Tomorrow night I’ll make falafel. I’ll eat it with the homemade GF pitas I have tucked away in my freezer, and the homemade Middle Eastern turnip pickles I have waiting in my fridge. I’ll have company, so maybe I’ll break out some of my Royal-mandarin or blood-orange cordial to liven up our meal. I’ll have to warn my guests about the funky smell in my kitchen – that’s just a huge crock of kimchi fermenting over there, not a small animal that crawled into the corner to die. Wait ’til you taste it, though – you’ll forget the smell the instant that hot, sour, deliciousness hits your tongue.

Falafel with homemade GF pita, baba ganoush, and turnip pickles

Are you noticing a theme, here? As a frugal, vegan, gluten-free cook, these days I tend to make a lot of my own “base foods,” as I call them. Stuff like beans, pita, pickles, and liqueur that I used to buy at the store. Some stuff I prefer not to buy because it’s cheaper or yummier to make my own. Other stuff, like breads or nut cheeses, I make because the buyable versions (like wheat bread and dairy cheese) don’t work with my diet. I also just think fermenting is an awesome process – it’s supposed to be really healthy for you, but I’ve never even bothered to check on the science behind those claims because fermented food is so delicious and also super fun to make.

Making cashew "goat cheese"

A lot of what I do might come under a term I’ve been hearing for a few years, “urban homesteading.” My interpretation of the term is that it refers to people who, like me, live in the city by choice or necessity, but still want to be connected to nature or to what they eat and wear and clean with and otherwise consume. Folks who keep chickens in their backyards and put up preserves and sprout sprouts and grow herbs in pots on their fire escapes. We’re trading back in some of that relentless consumerism that pervades our lives in exchange for becoming producers, for having a hand somewhere higher up on the chain of production. Sites like Punk Domestics are a paradise for city-dwelling people who want to make their own jams, sauces, syrups, pickles, olives, beer, wine, liqueur… the list goes on. (And yes, includes homesteady things you can do with meat, too, so be warned about the possibility of encountering photos of dead flesh.)

Jars of blood-orange cordial (with kimchi in the background)

This movement is not particularly new. It’s definitely still trendy (unless I’m totally behind the times, but as far as I know our collective what-is-hip consciousness hasn’t moved on yet), but interest in urban homesteading has been building slowly and steadily for years now. It is deeply connected to the general old-school-craft revival (knitting, sewing, building, etc.) that predates the widespread popularity of food-related crafting by several years. And of course, beyond food there are so many other areas where urbanites can work on self-sufficiency. Grey-water systems to handle waste water and irrigate the garden! Solar energy! Toxin-free cleaning! Urban foraging!

Crock of sauerkraut

Back in 2008, Duck and I got a lot of great inspiration from a newly published book called, fittingly enough, The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City. Last week Facebook received a complaint about this book and promptly took down its facebook page. The complaint? That the authors, Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, were infringing on the trademark of some other people to whom I’m not going to give more publicity (so I won’t be naming them here). The trademarked term? Yep, “urban homestead.” These people-who-shall-remain-nameless had sneakily snatched up and “owned” a term that has pervaded the blogosphere, the internet, and the world at large for the past several years. They’ve been threatening all kinds of blogs and websites with takedown notices. Too bad they trademarked this term well after Coyne and Knutzen published their book.

Making radish-and-root kimchi with friends

Are we in bizarro world here, people? Who on earth trademarks a term that’s been around for ages and is used by all kinds of communities and people, and then not only that but starts taking action against the other people who use it (and have been using it for longer, even!)? And these people aren’t evil Monsanto-corporation people. They’re kickass Urban Homesteaders™ like you and me. Or they were. Before they boarded the wtf-train and left us all eating their carefully composted dust, wondering what the heck happened. This is just so antithetical to the whole point of urban homesteading, for me at least. It’s not about shutting ourselves up in our root cellars full of jars and waiting for the apocalypse. It’s most definitely not about making money – then it’s not homesteading, it’s business. Duh. These skills and projects are about connection and community, about getting us all closer to the land and our food and each other. Learning and sharing these skills, both in person and through this blog, have been such an important part of my life these last few years. It irks me that someone is trying to take advantage of what all of our communities have built, that someone sees the power of the movements we’re creating and is trying to take it for themselves.

Anyways… that was an exceptionally rant-y rant, even for me. The point is, today is Urban Homesteader’s Day of Action where, in addition to pickling our pickles and tending our hens, we unite to “to blanket the web with the words urban homestead and urban homesteading through blog posts, web pages, and articles.” If you want to read more about this, here’s info from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) facebook page (nice avoidance of trademark infringement, there, eh?), an article from 2008 by the authors I mentioned above about how they define urban homesteading, a cranky little article about the controversy from TreeHugger, and a long, updated piece about the back-and-forth of the whole situation from the LA Weekly.

Changing topics a bit to talk about this week’s menu… (Although I really do feel like getting a CSA box and planning menus can both be important parts of an urban homesteader lifestyle, so it’s not such a jump in topics!)

This week’s GF Menu Swap is hosted by Michelle of Gluten-Free Smiles with the theme of garlic. There’s garlic in pretty much everything I cook! I can’t eat it raw (it disagrees with my tummy) or even in massive quantities cooked. When I was a kid my family practically lived on garlic, and I’ve definitely had to scale it back, but I still love the taste and how it adds something wonderful to any dish. Michelle talks in her garlic post today about how much she loves the immune-boosting and antibacterial/antiviral properties of garlic. I lived in St. Petersburg, Russia for one very cold winter. The city is built on a swamp, and the flus there can be terrible and frequently fatal. So it was not an uncommon sight to see little Russian babushki (old-fashioned granny types) walking around town in the winter with a clove of garlic stuck up each nostril! They believed this prevented the germs from getting in and infecting them. I never went that far myself, but it left me with a strong faith in the power of garlic as a preventative medicine.

For the giant compendium of menu plans from all over the web (plenty of urban – and rural – homesteaders among them), check out the Menu Plan Monday round-up over at OrgJunkie.

Monday
Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas ADD: stripe of vegan cream cheese to each one, use green salsa
Salvadorean marinated slaw (Viva Vegan, p. 80)

Tuesday
Homemade falafel
GF pita bread (in the freezer)
Baba ganoush
Turnip pickles

Wednesday
Quick red posole with beans (Viva Vegan, p. 136)

Thursday
Kale and potato gratin
Green salad

Friday ~ American-Jewish-themed Shabbat dinner
(I’ll post this menu later since the guests read this blog and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a surprise)

Saturday ~ Baby shower

Sunday ~ Birthday party

Urban Homesteader Extras:
Scrap stock

Shopping list: Eggplant, poblano chile, Mexican oregano, 1 Corona (naturally gluten-free!), avocado, 1.5 lb thin-skinned potatoes (e.g. red), 1 bunch kale, fresh herb (thyme/sage), carrots

Quinoa pickle bowl

After my sushi party I had a couple of special circumstances to address. The first was that I was totally wiped out from the party, both from the frenzied prep and the epic experience itself. The other was that I had a ton of leftovers, but not the kind that lend themselves to easy munching. The sushi rice had disappeared before the party even ended, so afterwards I found myself with a fridge full of Japanese side salads and sushi fillings. Mainly pickles.

Some of the stuff that ended up in bowls in my fridge:
Carrots simmered in sake and mirin
Shitake mushrooms simmered in soy sauce and Shaoxing cooking wine
Takuan (pickled daikon radish)
Japanese cucumber pickles
Gobo (pickled burdock root)
Avocado
Steamed sweet potato
Shiso leaf
Ground toasted sesame seeds
Pickled ginger
Cucumber sunomono (thinly sliced cucumbers in rice vinegar)
Goma ae (cooked spinach with sesame seeds)
Mung bean sprout salad

Situation B turned out the be the perfect solution to Situation A. For days after the party, I’d make a big batch of quinoa in my rice maker and then, when it was done, throw in a ton of chopped sushi fillings, pickles, and giant spoonfuls of cucumber, spinach, and bean sprout salads. The dressings from the salads served as sauce for the quinoa, the sweet, sour and salty flavors from the pickles brought the whole dish to life, and the colors were phenomenal. Plus shiso makes everything taste extra-special and magical, to my taste buds at least.

So, not so much a recipe as a serving suggestion/solution for what to do after a giant sushi party leaves your fridge full of Japanese pickles. Quinoa pickle bowl was so good and kept my mouth so interested that I basically lived off of it for days!

Love and carbs on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

It’s turned out to be kind of a carby week. Maybe because I’m feeling tired? Culture Club was awesome. I’ll write more and post some pictures soon.

Pressure cooker potato-cauliflower curry, mustard greens with capers and tomatoes

Reviews from last week: My first pressure cooker dish, curried potatoes and cauliflower with peas, was a qualified success. I would make this dish again, equipped with a better understanding of how my pressure cooker works. Creamy corn-crusted tempeh pot pie from Viva Vegan was very good with quite unusual flavors, with a filling that includes green olives and raisins. Viva Vegan Arepas with sexy avocado-tempeh filling and Salvadorean marinated slaw were both yummy. I’ll write more about the slaw later as it is one of my new favorites. The avocado-tempeh filling reproduced the flavor of Mexican crema perfectly, but was actually a bit too creamy (especially when Farmer B and I tried to eat the leftovers for breakfast! Mayo at breakfast… not the best plan.)

Vegan overnight oats were not my favorite thing, but I’ll give them another shot sometime soon, with additional ingredients/flavorings. Pear skillet bread was amazing. I have two pears left and I’ll be making it again this week! I also made something that wasn’t on my menu last week. FoodsCo had mushrooms on sale, so I picked some up and made Ricki’s fantastic nut roast, which I’ve been eating in sandwiches all week on a new kind of vegan, GF sandwich bread I discovered at Rainbow. I’ll have more to say about all of that soon as well.

Yum! Nut roast with walnuts and mushrooms

Cheryl is hosting this week’s GF Menu Swap at her blog, GF Goodness. The theme is “food as love.” (Maybe that’s why there are so many carbs on my menu this week? Nothing says love like pasta and potatoes. Tee hee.) I spent nine hours yesterday making huge quantities of kimchi and blood orange cordial with some of my favorite people, so I am replete with food-love goodness right now!

As always there’s a massive roundup of menus from all over the web over at the Menu Plan Monday compendium at OrgJunkie.

Have a great week of cooking everyone!

Monday
Pasta with avocado pesto ADD: spinach
Roasted broccoli with lemon zest and pine nuts

Tuesday (thaw: 4 cups stock)
Asian Noodle Soup with Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms (Vegan Express, p.30)
Golden Tofu Triangles with Rich Peanut Sauce (VE, p. 46)

Wednesday (cube & cook sweet potatoes ahead)
Sweet potato and black bean enchiladas ADD: stripe of vegan cream cheese to each one, use green salsa
Salvadorean marinated slaw (Viva Vegan, p. 80)

Thursday (start in the morning)
Crock pot curried red lentil, chickpea, and quinoa stew

Friday
Leftovers

Saturday
Bat Mitzvah reception dinner

Sunday
Kale and potato gratin
Green salad

Extras
More pear skillet bread!

Shopping list: 1.5 lb thin-skinned potatoes (e.g. red), 1 bunch kale, fresh herb (thyme/sage), carrots

Cornmeal-crusted tofu cubes

Monday night I got home from a weekend away to find a house nearly bereft of food. At least, that’s how it seemed on the surface, but of course, pantry-hoarder that I am, I can always rustle up something.

I settled on Tinkyada brown rice pasta shells with TJ’s marinara sauce. To perk up this dull combo a bit I added previously-frozen green beans and sauteed red onion. I wanted something more, though, something savory and chewy. I had a half a block of tofu in my fridge (amazingly it hadn’t gone bad despite being of unknown provenance), but what to do with tofu that would make it go well with Italian-ish pasta?

I must be on a roll, because for the second time this week I managed to completely improvise a recipe. I’ve missed that feeling of imagining something I’ve never made before and just intuiting how to make it. I wanted cornmeal-crusted tofu, but I haven’t made anything-crusted-anything since pre vegan and gluten-free days. But my brain engaged handily and so I just made some right then and there. And they were awesome. I had to restrain Disher (who thinks that tofu is just about the blandest food there is, and this from a guy who normally loves bland food) from eating them all!

Gluten-Free Vegan Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu Cubes

Grapeseed oil or other high-heat oil
1/2 block tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup + 1 T. cornmeal
1 t. cornstarch
2 T. chickpea/garfava flour
Dried oregano, salt, and pepper to taste

Combine cornmeal, cornstarch, chickpea flour, and seasonings in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Pour enough grapeseed oil into a pan (preferably cast iron) to thickly cover the bottom of the pan.
Heat oil on medium-high heat.
Roll tofu cubes in cornmeal mixture and drop them into the oil. Fry them until they are a nice golden-brown, then flip them and repeat on the other side.
Place on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
Eat them while they’re hot!

In other exciting news, I have joined up with a fabulous project that I am super excited about. Bloggers Kittee (Cake Maker to the Stars), Jessie (happyveganface), and Allyson (Manifest Vegan) have started xgfxcommunity, an awesome hub of vegan, gluten-free goodness! So many of the blogs I read are vegan but not gluten-free (and are obsessed with baking wheaty cupcakes!) or vegetarian but not vegan, and so on. So they certainly serve as sources of inspiration, but are often sources of frustration or a sense of deprivation as well. But when I read the posts from any of the xgfx blogs, I can read with ease, knowing that every recipe on every blog will be one I can actually make! It’s a great feeling – I actually didn’t realize how relaxing and abundant it would feel until I experienced that kind of unfettered blog-reading – and I love that xgfx is bringing us all together in one place.

So head over and take a peek. You can always find xgfx through the pretty “Vegan Gluten Free” flower design in my sidebar (they have a great design sensibility, too – these ladies are on it!) and all our blogs link back to the hub for easy clicking about through the marvelous world of vegan, gluten-free awesomeness.

The most delicious Indian baby food ever!

Last night marked the beginning of the Great Pressure Cooker experiment. I made Curried Potatoes with Cauliflower and Peas from this month’s Vegetarian Times, and I am pleased to report that I did not have my face scalded off by an explosion of steam, nor was I decapitated by a flying pot lid.

At the last minute – literally, I had a spoon in one hand and my laptop in the other – I finally found an article online that walked me through step by step how my old Mirro Matic pressure cooker works. All pressure cooker recipes assume you know what it means when they say “bring up to high pressure” and so on, but I needed a detailed, basic tutorial to get me started and I was lucky to find one in time to make my first pressure cooker meal!

When the cooker had cooled and I was able to open the lid, I stuck a fork into the potatoes and cauliflower and was shocked and dismayed to encounter no resistance at all. Ah yes, I learned that fateful night that the pressure cooker is a force to be reckoned with, a powerful tool whose might should not be underestimated. I had my friend Disher try some and he agreed with me that the flavor was terrific, and that we had just made the most delicious Indian curry baby-food ever. So, next time I’ll turn the heat waaay down. It was confusing trying to figure out when the weight was “only hissing and jiggling 2-3 times per minute.” But I clearly overdid it by a long shot.

My new BFF FoodsCo had bunches of Chinese mustard greens for $0.58 yesterday, so I made a batch of those to go with our tasty baby food. I wonder if something is changing in my brain, because for the first time in a long time I had no problem improvising a recipe. I prepared the greens with onions, tomato, and capers, and they were phenomenal. Both recipes are below.

The texture of this dish is supposed to be chunks of potato and cauliflower, not a smooth creamy mass as shown here!

Curried Potatoes with Cauliflower and Peas
Adapted from Vegetarian Times Jan/Feb 2011. I added more spices because I love whole cumin and mustard seed, and I added some lemon juice at the end because it really needed a bit of acid to balance the flavors. This is supposed to be a “30 minutes or fewer” recipe and it actually did take 30 minutes (not including prep time, of course, because they never do…).

2 tsp. canola oil
1 large onion, chopped (or a 10-oz pkg diced onions)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger (I use Ginger People’s in a jar)
1 tsp. curry powder*
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. mustard seeds
1.5 tsp. whole cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (1.5 lb)
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (1.5 lb)
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 tsp. lemon juice, or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Set out peas to thaw
2. Heat canola oil in pressure cooker over medium heat. Add onions and cook 2-3 minutes or until softened.
3. Stir in garlic, ginger, curry powder, ground cumin, mustard seeds, whole cumin, and turmeric, and saute 2 minutes.
4. Add potatoes, cauliflower, sugar, and 1/2 cup water.
5. Close pressure cooker and bring up to high pressure. Cook 5 minutes. (To do this on an old-fashioned Presto or Mirro Matic, read this article.)
6. Release pressure with quick-release button or transfer pressure cooker to sink and run cool water over rim to release pressure. If dish is underdone, close the top, return the cooker to high pressure, and cook 3-5 minutes more.
7. Stir peas and lemon juice into cauliflower mixture and season with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice to taste.
Serves 6.

*I HATE store-bought curry powder; it’s one of the few flavors I can’t stand. I prefer to always use a blend of individual spices when I am making curries. However, I know that some recipes (like this one) call for curry powder for speed and convenience, so I make up small batches of a homemade blend made from ground whole spices that I keep on hand. (I can’t find the recipe for you right now… I guess I’ll be in trouble when I run out!)

Chinese Mustard Greens with Tomatoes and Capers
This dish would work well with any kind of mustard green, turnip greens, or even collards, though the cooking time will be quite a bit longer for collards and you should use only the leaves, not the collard stalks.

1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 an onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch Chinese mustard greens, washed and sliced into thin ribbons (you can include the stalks, just slice them thinly)
1.5 T capers
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, season lightly with salt and pepper, and saute 2-3 minutes until onion has softened.
Add greens to pan and allow to deflate slightly. Then gently toss and stir greens and onions until greens deflate significantly.
Sprinkle capers over greens and stir to combine. Continue to cook greens until they are barely tender.
Pour diced tomatoes into pan. For fresh-tasting greens with crisp stalks, cook only until tomatoes are heated through and greens and stalks are tender and edible. For Southern-style longer-cooked greens, let the tomatoes come to a simmer and simmer greens until they are dark green and delicious!
Season with salt and pepper to taste (you may not need any more salt because of the onion-salting step, and depending on how salty your canned tomatoes are).

High pressure experiments on a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

I own a pressure cooker but I’m terrified of it and so have never used it. It’s an old Mirro Matic, with a heavy metal jiggler, and I stare at this device invented to make my life easier and simply have no idea how to proceed. Vegetarian Times has an article on pressure cooker recipes this month, and I made myself read it in the hopes that it might entice me to actually learn how to use the darn thing. I was right! When I read the recipes – which involve notoriously slow-to-cook ingredients like butternut squash and eggplant – and saw that the instructions say things like “Cook 6 minutes,” I was totally intrigued. Now that my evening social calendar is packed full, I’m always torn between making a nice dinner or just eating a bowl of quinoa and getting out of the house in time to keep my plans. Could my pressure cooker be the magic solution to this dilemma?

So hopefully this week will be the week that I conquer my fear of that hulking aluminum beast. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? Oh, right, I could have my face burned off by an explosion of steam or be decapitated by a flying pot lid. Hmm. On second thought, maybe I’ll stick with my bowl of quinoa…

I peeked at the Gluten Free Menu Swap this week and originally thought that this week’s theme was “food as love.” Learning to use my pressure cooker and make delicious, superfast meals would be a real gift of love to myself (not to mention my friends who are unsurprisingly not super pleased with the fact that I’m frequently an hour late to meet them when I try to cook and go out on the same night). But it turns out that’s the theme for next week (Valentine’s Day!).

This week our GFMS is hosted by Gluten Free Smiles with the theme of chia seeds. I think this is a sign that it’s finally time to make the Vegan Overnight Oats everyone has been raving about for ages. I haven’t bought a banana in years because they’re not local (and hence can never be in season here), but breakfast is such a tough meal for me that I really want to give myself the chance to add something wonderful to my breakfast arsenal. I’m also going to try Pear Skillet Bread from lovely Cheryl at GF Goodness. She experimented a long time before discovering that chia is the secret to holding it together! Thanks for doing all the experimentation, Cheryl, so I can reap the rewards.

We're making kimchi!

This Sunday is Culture Club! We’re making napa cabbage kimchi, oji (fermented millet porridge), and Satsuma mandarin cordial in my Cordially Yours cordial maker. I can’t wait to spend a day fermenting with people I love.

As always you’ll find hundreds more menu plans at OrgJunkie’s giant Menu Plan Monday compendium.

Tuesday (thaw: 1 cup frozen peas)
Curried potatoes with cauliflower and peas (Vegetarian Times, Jan/Feb 2011)

Wednesday (thaw: tempeh, 3.5 cups frozen corn, 1 cup stock)
Creamy corn-crusted tempeh pot pie (Viva Vegan, p. 144)

Thursday (thaw: 2 cups stock)
Toasted millet with harissa and sweet potatoes (Vegetarian Times, Jan/Feb 2011)

Friday (make in the morning)
Crock pot curried red lentil, quinoa, and chickpea stew

Saturday (dinner with Farmer B, make filling & salad at least 1 hour in advance)
Arepas with sexy avocado-tempeh filling (Viva Vegan, p. 181)
Salvadorean marinated slaw (Viva Vegan, p. 80)

Sunday (Culture Club!)
Leftovers

Other dishes to make:
Vegan Overnight Oats
Pear Skillet Bread

Shopping List: Millet (1.5 cup), large sweet potato, 5-oz bag baby spinach, 1/2 lb potato, basil, onions, 6 Yukon Gold potatoes, 1 cauliflower, tempeh, Vegenaise, green onions, jicama, 2 ripe avocados, cabbage, 2 jalapenos, cilantro, almond milk, small ripe banana, ripe pears to equal 1.25 cup, green veggies for sides, restock agave nectar