Celebrating a full pantry with a vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday

I let myself completely run out of olive oil, then grapeseed oil, then sesame oil, then peanut oil. I ran out of chickpea flour which meant no socca pizza for fast and easy meals. I ran out of balsamic, onions, thyme, tofu, tempeh, and tamari, and how do you cook without the basics? (My mom would laugh at me for considering balsamic a “basic” – I remember I amused her greatly when I called her from college and said, “I don’t know how our grocery bill is so high, we just bought the essentials, you know cheese, bread, vegetables, capers…”) I’ve still managed to feed myself pretty well thanks to the farmer’s market and the generosity of friends and family. (I was treated to dinner or cooked for three times last week!)

Socca Pizza

Late last week I finally managed to make the grand tour, from the Indian market to Rainbow Grocery, my vegetarian co-op, to Trader Joe’s. I really love the full-pantry feeling. It just makes me feel so safe and secure. And it makes me want to cook! My well-stocked pantry has inspired my first proper menu plan in over a month. (I’ve still been doing less formal private menu planning – I can’t really remember how I used to cook and shop without it – but it’s better when I get to share it with you!)

Edamame, Corn, and Tofu Succotash

This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap is hosted by Heather of Celiac Family with the theme of corn. I am super, super excited about corn. I didn’t make it to the farmer’s market last week so I’m not sure if it has arrived there yet (or actually if any of the farmers at my market grow corn – there are so many fewer produce stands than there were last year), but I’ve certainly been seeing it in all the grocery stores, from Rainbow and Whole Foods to Trader Joe’s. Corn is one of my favorite parts of summer. Like asparagus, it is an entirely seasonal treat that I only get to eat for a few months a year. Unlike asparagus, it doesn’t cost $6 a pound. I’ll be trying a new recipe with corn this week, the Post Punk Kitchen’s fresh corn johnnycakes. And I’ll be making one of my favorite easy dinners, The Splendid Table’s edamame and tofu succotash with fresh corn. If there is indeed corn at the farmer’s market, I’ll get a bunch and make my absolute favorite corn recipe, Fresh Corn Polenta, every morning. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it…

Fresh Corn Polenta with Sauteed Cherry Tomatoes

Have a great week of cooking, everyone! For a giant round-up of menu plans, check out the Menu Plan Monday compendium over at orgjunkie.

Monday
Socca pizza with chard, cream cheese, and red onion
Impressionist cauliflower

Tuesday
Red lentils & kale with coconut and crispy shallots

Wednesday
Fresh corn johnnycakes
Brazilian shredded collard greens (Viva Vegan, sub collards for kale)
Warm sweet potato and black bean salad

Thursday
Edamame and tofu succotash with fresh corn (marinate/broil tofu instead of buying smoked)
Green salad

Friday
Chickpea picatta with mashed potatoes

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Tempeh helper,
Steamed broccoli
Chocolate cupcake brownies

Shopping list: 3 red onions, chard, 2-3 spring onions, 1 bunch kale, 5 shallots, 4 ears corn, collard greens, 3 sweet potatoes, frozen shelled edamame, tofu, 1 large tomato, scallions, 4 cups arugula, potatoes for mashing, (capers?), broccoli

More mint, GF tabouleh, and a review

When I bought my giant bunch of mint at the farmer’s market to use for my milkshake experiments, I bought a giant bunch of parsley at the same time. There’s something about huge gorgeous bunches of fresh herbs that are almost impossible for me to pass up. Maybe it’s because I’ve always hated that $2 at the supermarket will only get you a teeny bunch with a few stalks of mint, so when I see a veritable bouquet of herbs for the same price, I have to take it home with me.

This of course leads to entire shelves in my fridge being devoted to herb storage, and then there’s the anxiety and pressure that comes from worrying that I won’t use them up in time and they’ll wilt and I’ll feel wasteful. (Yes, I know, I’m a high strung person these days…) The answer to the question of what to do with huge bunches of herbs is, of course, to make herb salads. One of my favorites, tabouleh, is something I haven’t had in years. Tabouleh is made with bulgur; people often ask me if bulgur is among the gluten-free grain options, but it’s not, sadly bulgur is actually the name for wheat that has been parboiled and dried. Another food that people ask me if I can eat is couscous. Most don’t realize that couscous isn’t a grain at all – it is made from semolina (wheat) flour, just like pasta. Couscous is teeny tiny pasta!

Staring at my mint and my parsley, I could just taste the lemony, herby deliciousness of tabouleh on the palate of my mind. (Is that a weird thing to say? You know what I mean, right?) I even had a bunch of cherry tomatoes leftover from making raw kale salad the night before. (I never buy tomatoes out of season except the few times a year I need a total health and yumminess infusion from raw kale salad, and then I’ll sneak a box of cherry tomatoes, which are the only decent-tasting tomatoes I can find in the off-season.)

So the big question that remained was what to use in place of the bulgur. I could use quinoa, which is a great go-to substitute, and which people use in place of bulgur and couscous and wheat berries, etc., all the time. But quinoa lacks a sort of soft quality that bulgur has. Because bulgur has been parboiled, when you cook it you are essentially rehydrating it, rather than really cooking it, and so it has a soft, chewy texture that is quite wonderful. I had recently picked up a new (to me, at least) product at Rainbow made by Lundberg Farms, a local rice farm. It’s called Roasted Brown Rice Couscous, and I assume it has been processed in some way and parcooked, because, like regular couscous, it cooks very quickly.

The rice couscous was perfect for tabouleh. The texture was a bit soft, fluffy, a bit chewy, and altogether delightful. I loved how quickly and easily it cooked up, and the “grains” of couscous absorbed the dressing well, which meant the tabouleh got more and more delicious the longer it sat. It’s been a few years since I’ve eaten regular semolina couscous, so I can’t compare the two closely. But I do remember that my favorite part about couscous was how fast it was, and that part definitely carries over here in the rice version.

To make my tabouleh, I used a wonderful recipe I found on the blog Whole Grain Gourmet. The author there talks about how she (he?) made tabouleh many times, and it was good, but never as good as what she had in restaurants. Then she made this version, which involves a tiny bit of cinnamon, and suddenly all the flavors came together in a way that was exactly “right.” I tried this recipe and had the same experience! The cinnamon makes all the difference. I loved this so much (and had so much parsley and mint) that I made several batches, and so ended up creating my own, slightly tweaked version of the recipe. The flavors are so clean and bright and fresh. The rice couscous feels light, not doughy or heavy. I could eat a mountain of this stuff (and I did!).

Gluten-Free Tabouleh Salad
Adapted from a recipe found at Whole Grain Gourmet

1 package Lundberg Brown Rice Couscous
1 1/2 cups minced parsley
1/4 – 1/2 cup minced mint leaves
1/3 cup minced green onion
2 tomatoes or a large handful of cherry tomatoes, diced
1/2 – 1 cucumber, diced

Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (you may want to start with less)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Prepare rice couscous as directed on package. (It will take about 15 minutes plus time to bring the water to a boil.)

While couscous is cooking, whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl: olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Don’t put all the lemon juice in at once – I like my dressings to have a lot of acid, but I know not everyone feels the same way. Start with about half the amount and keep adding to taste.

Fluff couscous and put in a large bowl. Toss with the parsley, green onion, mint, tomatoes, and cucumber.

Pour the dressing over the couscous and toss until well coated. Refrigerate for about an hour before serving. The flavors will get even better if it sits overnight!

Gratitude and cool

I’ve written before about my tendency to fall in love with a particular dish from a particular restaurant and then dream of it constantly until I can have it again. If only I didn’t have such expensive taste, though… the obsession I developed with Cafe Gratitude’s $9 (formerly $12!) raw mint milkshakes (the “I Am Cool” – everything there is named with an affirmation) meant I had to make a choice between satisfying my gluttony or avoiding bankruptcy. (I chose avoiding bankruptcy – I’m headed there well enough on my own right now, thank you very much, without any ten-dollar milkshakes helping me a long.) But these milkshakes are really, really good; I hadn’t had one in a many months but I fantasized about them still.

So when my sainted mother gave me the Best Present Ever, aka my Vitamix blender, I knew I had to take my shot at recreating this particular fantasy food. All the vegans have been abuzz over Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss “ice cream,” so I decided to try using that as my base. Cafe Gratitude uses their house-made nut-based ice cream, and they’ve just come out with a retail version made from nuts and coconut milk, so hopefully I’ll be able to try that soon as well. I got a huge bunch of mint from the farmer’s market and I started experimenting. This was a good experiment. I was very happy to contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge in the arena of mint chocolate milkshakes.

Some recipes (including CG’s) add a handful of spinach or some spirulina to give the milkshakes that classic green tint. I don’t really care what color my shake is, though, and it’s another ingredient to have to buy. The idea here was to see if I could create a high-quality, low-cost milkshake; I think the shake is visually appealing on its own. A lovely pale green, flecked with the brown speckles that announce, “Chocolate inside.”

A short sidebar before I give you my entirely bootlegged recipe for this mint milkshake: I give Cafe Gratitude a hard time for being so darn expensive. And also for seeming like a crazy cult where to order food you have to say things like, “I’d like an I Am Alert with a side of I Am Accepting” and where everyone does Landmark Forums and there are superhippydreamy paintings on the walls. But they’re actually pretty awesome. They have some cool behind-the-scenes business practices that aren’t obvious from just going there as a customer. They offer the Grateful Bowl, a delicious raw kale and grain bowl whose cost is “pay what you can,” and they serve 37,000 of them a year. They’re entirely vegan, which is a huge contribution to the wellbeing of the world as far as I’m concerned. They work hard to source food locally, and even have their own farm where a lot of the CG produce is grown.

What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think the milkshakes are $9 because CG are elitist, bourgeois jerks. I think that’s probably a price that reflects the cost of having good business practices, buying local food, making your own raw vegan ice cream from nuts, and subsidizing projects like the Grateful Bowl. And right now what I’m grateful for is the inspiration, because for $9 I can make eight milkshakes at home (or four, rather, because I tend to guzzle the whole 16 oz. on my own…), and nothing inspires gratitude in me like being able to indulge my longing for a super refreshing vegan mint chocolate milkshake without breaking the bank.

I Am Inspired Vegan Mint Chocolate Milkshake
With gratitude for inspiration from Cafe Gratitude and Raw Food Recipes

1/2 cup vanilla high-quality vegan ice cream (I like Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss)
3/4 cup “milk” (I use almond, CG uses hazelnut)
24 mint leaves
2 pitted dates
1/2 – 3/4 cup ice cubes
1 T. cocoa nibs

Stick two glasses in the freezer to chill. Place all ingredients except cocoa nibs into the Vitamix container in the order listed. (If you don’t have a Vitamix you need to have a blender that can really handle ice in order for this recipe to work.)

If your Vitamix has a Frozen Desserts setting, just set it and let it run. Be sure to use the tamper throughout the cycle to keep incorporating the ingredients, or you’ll end up with little bits of date and mint leaf. If you don’t have the FD setting, use the variable speed and turn it quickly to high, using the tamper to incorporate, until four soft mounds form in the container. Check the consistency at this point. If it is too thin, add more ice and process again at high speed. (You can also add more ice cream, of course, but that’s not the most budget-conscious way to thicken the milkshake, and adding ice really does do the trick.) If it’s too thick, I’d just scoop it out and eat it with a spoon, but you can thin it out with a little more milk if you prefer.

Add cocoa nibs and process on high for a few seconds. Pour into chilled glasses and serve!

Makes 2 8-oz. servings.

Variations on a theme

More socca pizzas!

One of the things I miss most from my gluten & dairy days is Indian pizza. It’s a regular pizza, covered with a sort of curry sauce, and then “Topped with Spinach, Egg Plant, Cauliflower, Ginger, Garlic, Green Onions & Cilantro.” It’s one of those foods that transcends its ingredients list, that forms an alchemy of flavor your mouth never forgets. They even make a vegan version of Indian pizza, so it’s really the wheat crust that is keeping me from experiencing that perfect taste again.

Once I became obsessed with making socca pizza, I decided to see if I could recreate or approximate the magical memory of Indian pizza. On a base of Trader Joe’s madras curry simmer sauce, I spread happyveganface’s potato-spinach-pea patty mixture (only I used red chard, which is why mine is purple), which I then topped with a thick swirl of cilantro-parsley sauce, loosely based on happyveganface’s green chutney. I didn’t even come close to the original Indian pizza flavors (possibly because the elements I was using didn’t really come close themselves), but I did make quite a tasty treat for myself nonetheless. I ate, oh… let’s see… about four Indian pizzas in a week? (There was a lot of potato patty mixture to use up!)

I did discover during my Indian pizza week that eating a full cup of chickpea flour every day (which is what happens when you eat half a socca pizza for breakfast and half of one for lunch) for many days in a row will lead (at least in me) to a tummy-ache. So consider yourself warned in the event that you turn out to be as much of a socca-glutton as I am.

But once I figured I had given my tummy sufficient rest and recovery time, it was back into the frying pan! My next creation involved a layer of vodka sauce (which is a tomato sauce with MimicCreme and vodka) topped with chard and kale steamed and tossed with balsamic vinegar, balsamic-roasted chard stems, and toasted walnuts. I toasted the walnuts separately and added them after the pizza came out of the broiler, so I didn’t risk burning them. There’s just something about the chard and nuts on pizza that makes me weak in the knees!

Cardoons!

Even the most casual reader of this blog can probably tell I have a passion for seasonal eating. One of my favorite toy/refrigerator artwork/culinary aids is the Local Foods Wheel, a gorgeous paper wheel that you turn as the months progress and as you do so it reveals what foods are in season at that time. April is a fun month, full of yummy springs treats like radishes and pea greens and morels. I also noticed, when I spun the wheel into April, that it features a couple of things I’d never eaten – nettles and cardoons. I didn’t have any idea what cardoons were, actually. From the picture on the wheel, which I’ve been glancing at every April for the past several years, I gathered they were some sort of large, tan celery-like plant, but I’d never seen them anywhere outside the wheel, like on a menu or in a recipe or at the market.

This past Wednesday was the grand reopening of my local farmer’s market, which has been on seasonal hiatus since last October. I was there practically the minute the market opened, canvas bag in hand, cash in my pocket, camera at the ready. Imagine my delight when I came across these ugly beasties, all hard and spiny and prickling with tiny thorns:

As I was buying my bunch, I asked the farmer if he had any tips on how to cook them, and he admitted he’d never eaten them! That was a bit daunting, but I figured it was now or never if I was going to experience the elusive cardoon. My internet searching found a few concepts repeated over and over again. Cardoons have an “artichokey” flavor. They are time-consuming and laborious to prepare, with folks being fairly evenly split over whether or not they are worth the trouble. The methods I came across for how to cook them were braising, frying, gratin, and some sort of ancient Roman way involving honey. I don’t really care for sweet-savory food, so the Roman way was out, and vegan gratins tend to be a lot of extra work. I’m not particularly partial to fried foods, plus that seemed like the wrong way to experience a vegetable for the first time. That left braising, which was actually awesome, since, in addition to being super into seasonal eating, I’m also kind of obsessed with braising things in my Le Creuset Dutch oven.

First I followed a guide to preparing cardoons. Yep, there’s a whole guide for what you need to do to them before you actually use them in any given recipe. This involved trimming them, peeling off the tiny thorns that run along the edges of the stalks, and then peeling off the spines of each stalk. After that I cut the stalks into pieces and soaked them in a bowl of water with vinegar for half an hour. Then I parboiled the cardoons in the vinegar water for 10 minutes. Then at last it was time to actually get around to braising them. I followed a very simple recipe, just Earth Balance, shallots, veggie broth, salt, and pepper. The recipe also calls for bread crumbs but I skipped them.

Braised cardoons with shallots

So now that I’ve found them and I’ve cooked them, I can report: cardoons are amazing. They have the texture of firm, cooked celery. Not unpleasant. They have the flavor of something like a cross between cooked celery and an artichoke heart. I had a giant pile of artichoke heart-flavored food. When you think about it that way – and consider the amount of work it takes to get to a freshly cooked artichoke heart – the cardoon’s labor to flavor ratio is actually quite reasonable. You know that elusive sweet flavor that is so distinctive to artichoke hearts? Cardoons have that particular note. They’re awesome. My mouth has been dreaming of them all week. “Very sexy flavor,” indeed!

Braised Cardoons with Shallots
This recipe is direct from The Kitchn, I’ve just collated two recipes here (“How to Prepare Cardoons” and “Braised Cardoons“) for your cardoon preparation convenience.

4 to 5 cardoon stalks
1 to 2 shallots, sliced thin

1 tbsp. vegan butter (Earth Balance) cut in bits

1 cup of vegetable broth
Salt & pepper to taste

1/3 cup bread crumbs (optional, I left these out)

To prepare cardoons, first trim off the bottom and pull apart the stalks. Using a vegetable peeler, be sure to peel the edges of the stalks – by this I mean the top parts where the “U” forms two edges. They are covered with fine, hair-like thorns and need to be removed. Remove the leaves as well as they contain thorns. Then peel the spiny, stringy fibers off the backs of the stalks.

Cut the stalks into three-inch pieces and then cut each piece in half diagonally. Soak the cardoon pieces in a bowl of water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar for thirty minutes; the vinegar helps to reduce the bitter taste of cardoons and prevents discoloration.

Next, parboil the cardoons in the acidulated water for 7 to 10 minutes, drain, and run cold water over them.

Now the cardoons are ready for braising!


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a baking dish, add the cardoons, the broth, and the shallots. Top with the butter pieces and season with salt and pepper. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, checking every 10 minutes to make sure the liquids haven’t completely evaporated. If they have, then add more broth. Cardoons are ready when tender.

If using breadcrumbs: Remove the dish from the oven and turn on the broiler. Remove the foil and sprinkle the bread crumbs on top, and put back into the oven for 5 minutes or until the cread crumbs are nicely toasted.

Chickpea picatta

Sometimes a recipe turns out to be greater than the sum of its parts. Such was the case with the Post Punk Kitchen’s Chickpea Picatta. Obviously something attracted me to the dish enough that I wanted to make it (possibly the part in the post where adorable Isa says, “Picatta is like an instant fancy dinner,” since “fancy” is one of my favorite and most frequently used words), but the list of ingredients looked very basic and the recipe sounded like it might even turn out a little dull. The centerpiece of the dish is canned chickpeas, which I tend to find stiff and gross and reminiscent of hellish vegetarian scavenging at omnivore salad bars, especially in recipes that only call for them to be warmed, not stewed for hours.

But I made it, and I tasted it, and then I had one happy, happy mouth. The flavor combination may seem simple but it adds up to pure deliciousness. I used vermouth instead of white wine, and then there were shallots, capers, lemon juice, and thyme. The chickpea mixture comes out so saucy and yummy, and then you put that on top of mashed potatoes, and put those on top of arugula… It’s like having your main, your side, and your salad all together in one giant bowl full of goodness. It was great hot, and it made great leftovers. I will definitely be making this again.

The return of pizza

How freaking good does that look?

I have so many recipes for gluten-free pizza crust bookmarked. But the truth is that since even before I stopped eating wheat, I’ve always balked at any recipe containing the words “yeast,” “knead,” or “allow to rise.” I’m not a bread baker. I’m a cake queen, a mistress of vegetables, a goddess of savory dishes from all corners of the globe. I’ve conquered my fear of homemade beans and my pressure cooker paranoia. I’ve learned to ferment my own sauerkraut and kimchi. I’ve even finally managed to remember to defrost the darn stock/beans/etc. ahead of time, at least most of the time. But I’m simply not that interested in learning to make yeast breads.

The thing I miss about pizza is the convenience. It’s a magical meal where every part of the meal – starch, veggie, and protein – is stacked neatly together. For a few dollars you can get a slice of this efficient deliciousness just about any time of day or night. It’s tasty as heck, but if I’m going to put in hours of work it’s not going to be for pizza.

Well, today I made my first socca pizza for lunch. The whole meal took maybe 30 minutes, tops (which for me is practically an Olympic record), and, unlike some previous weird attempts I’ve made at gluten-free pizza, this actually recreated the experience of pizza. Savory, flavor-packed crust, crisp at the edges and chewy in the middle. Tomato sauce, veggies, and creamy cheese, piled onto a slice that actually survives being lifted and bitten into without flopping down and spilling its toppings hither and yon.

Socca pizza is similar to the socca de Nice I’ve made in the past. But instead of using chickpea flour to make crepes on the stove, you bake your chickpea batter in a skillet in a very hot oven. Then you top it with yummy things, run it under the broiler, and pretend you didn’t notice how the recipe said “serves 2 to 3” so you can, with a clear conscience, devour the entire thing.

I topped my pizza with marinara sauce from a jar, a sauté of dino kale, red onion, and garlic, and dollops of vegan cream cheese. I left the sauce off of a section of the pizza, and I couldn’t decide which style I preferred. I’d take a bite of one and say to myself, “Oh God, this is the one, no sauce, so crispy and delicious.” And then I’d take a bite of the marinara side and go, “PIZZA! YUM!” and it just went on like that back and forth until the whole thing was gone.

I’m so excited to have pizza back in my life again. And seriously, making socca pizza is almost as easy as heating up a frozen pizza, only it’s five times cheaper and a billion times more delicious. I’m already thinking about which toppings I’ll use tomorrow…

Socca Pizza with Kale and Red Onions
This dish was inspired by a post from Celiacs in the House, and adapted from recipes from the blogs A Mingling of Tastes and Simply Sugar & Gluten Free, and The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal.

Serves 1-2, as a main dish.

For socca crust:

1 T. olive oil + 1 T. olive oil
1 C. cold water
1 C. chickpea flour (also called besan at Indian markets; Garfava flour works, too)
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. dried oregano

For toppings:
1/2 jar marinara sauce (optional)
2 t. olive oil
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
5 leaves kale, washed, stems removed, and sliced
Vegan cream cheese (optional)
High quality olive oil & sea salt if you are opting not to use marinara sauce

Put a 12-inch cast iron skillet (10-inch is fine, too, the crust will just be a bit thicker and chewier) into your oven and preheat oven and skillet to 450 F.

In a blender, combine water, chickpea flour, 1 T. olive oil, salt, cumin, rosemary, and oregano. Blend until smooth, scraping sides of blender if necessary. Refrigerate batter until oven has preheated.

Remove cast iron skillet from oven. (Careful! It’s very hot!) Put 1 T. olive oil into pan and swirl carefully to coat the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides. Return oiled skillet to the oven for a few minutes until oil is hot and shimmering.

Remove skillet from oven, pour batter into skillet and place back into oven and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, or until center is set and edges are browned and pull away slightly from the pan.

Turn on broiler. Leaving the socca crust in the pan, spread on a layer of tomato sauce (some like it thick, some like it thin). If you are not using marinara sauce, drizzle some good quality olive oil and sprinkle some nice sea salt. Or skip both – it will still be delicious, I promise! Spread kale topping (see below) evenly across the pizza. Dot with knobs of vegan cream cheese, if using. Place pan under broiler until cream cheese is very lightly browned, being careful not to let the kale burn, about 3 minutes.

Remove pan from broiler and let pizza rest for 5 minutes. A steady hand and a spatula will easily slide the pizza from the pan onto a waiting surface, where you can cut it into slices and devour.

To make topping: Heat olive oil in a pot or pan and sauté red onion until it begins to brown. Add in garlic and sauté until it begins to brown. Add kale and saute until it reaches your desired texture (some like it al dente, some like it meltingly tender).

A vegan, gluten-free Menu Plan Monday, hold the commentary

I have a long week ahead of me, so I’m just going to post my menu without any extra commentary. This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap is hosted by wonderful Wendy of Celiacs in the House with the theme of noodles, in honor of National Noodles Month! (Who knew? Wendy did!) I’ll be making Sunrise Noodles this week, a perpetual favorite here, so easy and so satisfying.

As always, you’ll find many more menu plans (with an ever-increasing number of vegan participants!) at the giant Menu Plan Monday compendium over at OrgJunkie.

Sunrise noodles with gingered greens

Monday (strain, grind, and ferment dosa batter)
Nori rolls with raw sunflower seed pate (follow directions in Vitamix p.269)
Roasted sweet potatoes with red onions
Beginner blueberry kale smoothie

Tuesday
Potato spinach pea patties with green chutney
Red lentil dahl
Pickled onions
Rice

Wednesday
Sunrise noodles with gingered greens and tofu

Thursday
Cauliflower and red onion uttapam
Coconut chutney
Ethiopian red lentil soup as sambar

Friday-Sunday ~ Meals with family

Extra: Crockpot caramelized red onions

Shopping list 1: 4 large or 6 medium tan-fleshed/white skinned sweet potatoes, 2 C. parsnip, 2 carrots, cucumber, sprouts, avocado, 2 potatoes, 2 C. spinach

Shopping list 2: Red chard, tofu, green onions, 3 C. spinach, cauliflower, 1 lb potatoes

Tomato basil scones

This past week was all about trying out my new Vitamix blender. For my very first recipe, I made a potato soup following a blog recipe specifically intended for the Vitamix. It turned out to be the worst thing I’ve ever cooked. The thing of it is, the Vitamix’s blades go so fast that they can turn whole veggies into hot soup. However, this rapid whirring does not actually cook the soup. The internet seems quite divided on whether or not putting raw onions into Vitmaix soups is a good idea. I can say with total confidence that I am now firmly in the camp of “No freaking way, never again.”

The soup emerged as a greyish sludge (which I had been expecting since I opted to leave on the potato peels for flavor and nutrition). It was so acrid and bitter (from the half a raw onion I’d blended into the mix) that it was inedible. I should have just thrown it away, but instead I spent an inordinate amount of time cooking it on the stove, trying to mellow the onion, adding sprinkles of this and that in an attempt to recover it. The soup barely made it over the line to “edible,” but the acrid flavor stayed with me all night. Ugh.

Well, lesson learned! The Vitamix is not a place to dump raw veggies and expect them to turn into soup. Duly noted.

Luckily for me, for Disher, and for the sanctity of dinner, I had also made tomato basil scones to go with our soup. And the scones totally saved the day. They were savory and just a little bit sweet. They were moist but light, bursting with tomato flavor, and truly beautiful to behold. They were incredibly easy to make, they were undetectably both gluten-free and vegan, and they handily used up the half a bunch of basil threatening to wilt in my fridge. We ate a bunch (okay, I ate a bunch!) and then I froze the rest. They’ve reheated beautifully – I’m going to make a second batch soon and freeze them all, as they are perfect for a tired-night, no-cook supper of soup and scone.

Vegan, Gluten-Free Tomato Basil Scones
The original recipe for Tomato Rosemary Scones is from Vegan Brunch, and I found it online here. I’ve changed it a bit, reduced the sugar (maybe less is needed since basil is a sweeter herb?) and made the directions more clear. The original recipe has directions for making triangular scones – the directions here will result in drop scones, as shown above.

Ingredients
3 cups gluten-free baking mix + some extra in case dough is too sticky
(1 teaspoon xantham gum if your mix doesn’t already contain it)
2 tablespoons baking powder (or less if your mix already contains it – I used 1.5 tablespoons additional with a mix that contained baking powder)
2.5 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce (about 1 1/2 cups) (*see note)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pepper.

In another bowl, combine wet ingredients and basil.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid. Gently mix with a wooden spoon.

Add a little extra flour if the dough seems sticky. In the bowl, use your spoon to gently divide your dough in two, and then into quarters, and then divide each quarter into thirds.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Scoop the dough into 12 mounds on the cookie sheet (like drop biscuits).

Place scones on the baking sheet and bake 14-16 minutes or until the tops are firm. Remove and let cool a bit on plate or cooling rack. Serve either warm or at room temperature.

*Note: I made “tomato sauce” by putting a can of ground tomatoes in the blender just until the consistency was smooth and even. I recommend using plain tomatoes as opposed to a flavored pasta-sauce type of tomato sauce.

Behold!

When my mom called to tell me she had a birthday present for me (my birthday was at the end of January, but I’m terrible at figuring out something to ask for, so I put it off as long as possible and hadn’t yet picked anything), but that it was impossible to bring it on BART (that’s our subway) so I should come by her house with the car, my friend and I had a great time speculating what it could be. We ultimately decided it was a helper monkey that would scamper about and wash dishes for me.

When I unwrapped it, it would be an understatement to say my jaw dropped, I was stunned speechless, and my socks were knocked waaay off. (That last one is a turn of phrase. Socks stayed on in real life.) I was so proud of myself at Christmastime for actually having a list of things I wanted that I could pass on to my mom – that’s how I ended up with all those awesome cookbooks. I keep the list for myself, of wishes big and small, and when I emailed the list to my mom it was annotated, “And, just for fun: Vitamix 5200 blender (hahahahah, a girl can dream, right? I need to get married so I can register for one!).” I would never seriously ask my mom for a $500 blender for Christmas. That would be absurd.

But apparently last month the stars aligned when a friend asked if my mom wanted to use her very significant employee discount before she left her job, and Vitamix blenders were one of the items her company sold. And my incredible, loving, generous mom figured “it’s now or never,” picked the fanciest model they had (the Professional Series 500), and completely made my day, my week, my year. The next seven years, even (the Vitamix comes with a seven year warranty), and it even seems common for Vitamix blenders to last for decades.

I’ve just unpacked it and have begun to watch the enclosed “Getting Started” DVD, so I’ll write more at a later date about actually using it. Today it is my delightful project to plan a menu for the week that highlights my new toy, puts it through its paces, and lets me explore all that it can do.

This week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap is hosted by Cheryl, our organizer, at her blog Gluten Free Goodness. The theme she picked is “quick and easy,” and that’s one of the most enticing aspects of the Vitamix. You can make hot soup in the blender. The blades go so fast they can actually heat soup. I found a fun blog, Cindalou’s Kitchen Blues, with lots of vitamix recipes, and one of my favorite features is that she shows a picture of the ingredients in the blender before she blends them. Check out this post with a picture of the ingredients of a carrot-pear smoothie. Two whole carrots and a whole pear. You just put the carrots in the blender without cutting them, and the pear without coring it. Because the Vitamix blends with such strength that it makes everything perfectly smooth and you are just getting extra fiber? Even with pear core/seed stuff? This is somewhat unbelievable to me, but I am certainly excited to start experimenting! Considering that my current blender is iffy about frozen fruit and absolutely balks at ice, this is a huge step up for me in the field of blending.

For a huge compendium of menu plans from all over the web, check out OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday round-up. And without further ado, let’s get blending!

So many tasks the Vitamix can perform! (Sorry for blurry.) I used this as my guide in deciding what to make this week.

Monday (defrost 1 C. stock)
Quick and easy potato soup
Tomato rosemary scones

Tuesday
Spinach artichoke dip (so happy to find a recipe that doesn’t call for 1 C. vegan mayo and 1 C. vegan sour cream!) follow directions in Vitamix book, p. 135
Mary’s crackers
Triple berry smoothie (Vitamix book p. 38)

Wednesday (defrost 8 cups stock)
Carrot ginger soup with cashew cream (One Bite at a Time p. 30, make 1/2 recipe cream)
Savory Swiss chard pie
Frozen yogurt (Vitamix p. 226)

Thursday (defrost 3 cups stock, soak sunflower seeds for tomorrow)
Triple corn soup
Salad with creamy avocado dressing

Friday
Leftovers

Saturday
Nori rolls with raw sunflower seed pate (follow directions in Vitamix p.269)
Green smoothie

Sunday
Potato spinach pea patties with green chutney
Red lentil dahl
Pickled onions
Rice

Extras:
Vegan flourless chocolate cake – made in a vita-mix

Shopping list: Frozen spinach, TJ’s soy yogurt to freeze, 3 lb carrots, 1 C. cashews, 1 bunch chard, frozen fruit, 1 lb frozen corn (+ extra), romaine, 3 avocados, 1 C. sunflower seeds, 2 C. parsnip, cucumber/sprouts (for nori rolls)?, apple, kale, 2 cups spinach, green onions