Happy Holidays from StirthePotGR

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Ringing in the holidays with some plant-based martinis!

Thank you to everyone who came to our first official holiday party, hosted at San Chez in their Mezze Cafe.

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In my mind, I am picturing the servers with their ‘Veg Out’ and ‘Meatless Monday’ buttons proudly displayed; Cindy Schneider, San Chez General Manager, throwing off her jacket to get into a story; Chef Chet shouting out directions for the perfect paella, and the happy buzz of more than 80 people meeting new friends and bonding over plant-based food. It doesn’t get much better than this! (Plus, none of us had to do any dishes).

Of course, as with all first-time events, there were a few glitches. Cindy asked me to apologize for the delay in the food coming out. And I apologize for not knowing more about the menu and communicating that to you so you could plan more for appetizers and drinks as opposed to the copious amount of food we always have at the supper club.

Here’s the story in photos, from beginning to end, but first! Here’s the paellarecipe-retail, courtesy of San Chez. Thank you, Cindy and staff!

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Kevin-and-Friend copy

Shane-and-Shandy copy

Emma-Bryan-Sue-Walter copy

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A Late Summer Stunner

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There was something so arresting about this beautiful simple dessert brought by Andrea Hensen and her creative collaborative of food arttists to our recent supper club.  When they first skimmed the skin off the long watermelon, someone thought it was a ham!  But oh no!  It was a glorious watermelon cake.  Cut a long seedless watermelon in half and remove the skin.  Shape each half into a cake shape by cutting a smooth bottom and top.  Set it on a serving plate and slather the top in coconut cream.  See a tutorial for that here.

Then, if you are an artist–like Andrea and her friends–you find your inspiration in sliced fresh fruit, coconut and edible flowers.  I could say more, but a picture is worth a thousand words.

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Comfort Food, Part 1

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I’ve been a bit obsessed with ground beef subs. Why? Because ground beef is such a big part of the typical American diet and so to have a ‘go-to’ whole foods substitute to use in traditional recipes is a big bonus with the crowd I work with–namely people who switch suddenly to a plant-based diet for health reasons. You have to be willing to swap out ingredients depending on whether your diner is gluten sensitive, has an allergy to mushrooms or nuts, or is avoiding soy due to an estrogenic cancer. At my plant-based comfort food class, I’ll be providing more specific recipes. But for the moment, I will tell you some of the components I use when concocting a substitute for ground beef that will hold its own when used in recipes like hamburger helper, chili, sloppy joes and spaghetti bolognese.

Nothing beats a half cup of raw soaked walnuts, ground up in your food processor. Add a half cup of dried shitake mushrooms (grind these up, too), 8 oz. of drained and briefly frozen and crumbled tofu, and a half cup of bulgur wheat. Of these, all but the walnuts will act like a sponge and soak up liquid. I like to rub my tofu in spices–because recognizing bits of tofu is a real buzzkill for picky eaters. I usually use something like a tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce, a little beer or red wine, and maybe some coffee. To that, I might add smoked paprika, chili powder, ground fennel seed, freshly ground black pepper, oregano, cumin or blackening spices. Once the tofu is coated, you can mix in the other ingredients. Note that if you are using bulgur and dried mushrooms, you’ll need to add extra liquid to keep the recipe in balance. This could take the form of tomatoes or sauce when making chili or beer when making sloppy joes. In the hamburger helper above, I used a combination of chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and red wine.

Here’s a quick guide to swapping out ingredients based on your sensitivities.

Can’t do nuts? Do bulgur wheat
Can’t do tofu? Do navy beans, baked at 250 for 30 minutes in the oven
Can’t do mushrooms? Do well-rinsed ground up jackfruit or thoroughly squeezed ground up Butler soy curls.

The point is that the ground beef subs in your grocery store freezer case are highly-processed and filled with weird ingredients–including animal ingredients like egg whites. They’re also expensive! You can mimic the texture of ground beef quite well all on your own. When you’ve found the perfect blend, make a bunch and freeze it. That way your happy helper will be just as quick as the irradiated stuff that comes in the box.

Bean Can Man to the Rescue!

Another exciting installment in the life of Bean Can Man

I came home from the gym…starving. BUT I wanted exactly what I wanted, which was a taco salad. I wanted crunchy, creamy, chewy. Anyway. I started with Vertical Paradise baby greens.

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Talk about Paradise! It’s February in Michigan and I can get my hands on this stuff. We’re working on YOU getting your hands on this stuff. Come to next week’s supper club and lobby Tim Sharer, owner of Vertical Paradise Farms. Here’s Tim (holding his stash).

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Back to the salad. I chopped up peppers and onions, heated a little water in a non-stick pan and sauteed them. After a couple of minutes, I sprinkled on some chili pepper and cumin. Another minute went by and I tossed in two small zucchini (diced), some frozen corn and a half a cup of salsa. I gave it all a stir, turned the pan to low and my attention to the dressing. Into my blender went a half a box of tofu (silken lite firm tofu), 1/2 of a big–ripe, people!–avocado, juice of one half lime, 2-3 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (you could use water) and whir away until it is perfectly smooth. I wanted to add just a little salt, but when I tipped my jar of himalayan sea salt, a big chunk fell out into the blender. Drat! I tasted it. Like the rim of a margarita. What to do?

As I was sitting there, fretting, apron over my head, a can of Eden Organic No Salt Black Beans fell into my lap.

Bean Can Man with his faithful sidekick, Lime Boy

Bean Can Man with his faithful sidekick, Lime Boy

“Trouble, young lady?”
“Oh Bean Can Man, I am so SO sad. I just put too much salt in my creamy dressing.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head. Why not offset too much salt with my salt-free black beans? I assume I was destined to make it into your salad anyway.”

Yes, he was. So I mixed the dressing with the beans, which I had rinsed and drained. I chopped the lettuce and put on a layer of creamy beans, topped that with some sauteed veggies, another dollop of creamy beans and salsa. Looked like this:

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How do you say Yum! in Spanish? Add some super-thin and crispy Xochitli chips and you are fueled to save the world–one can at a time! Thank you Bean Can Man.

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Can’t Stop the Chop!

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Okay, I am in love with chopped salads. I have dabbled before, but this time I’ve fallen hard. These are the salads for people who don’t think salads are hearty enough to be the centerpiece of the meal (a.k.a. the former me). These are salads that seem gourmet and take minutes, miraculously transform your leftovers and make your life easier. They might even pay your bills if you let them.

You need a few simple tools: a large tree stump (or a v. big cutting board); a sharp knife and a pancake turner. I will provide you with my very favorite and oft-requested dressing recipe, the technique and some suggestions to set the salad artiste in you free. You must go boldly beyond and send me photographs for my facebook page (stirthepotgr…of course).

Chopped Salad with Peppercorn Dijon Dressing

Mixed greens to equal 10 cups, washed, dried and roughly chopped
Roughly chopped vegetables to equal 6 cups (celery, carrots, broccoli)
½ can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Fun add-ins, to include: sunflower seeds, shelled pistachios, hearts of palm, tart apple, jicama, leftover grains or vegetables or beans or seeds or nuts–nothing too mushy. Use your imagination!

Using the biggest cutting board surface you can find, begin chopping the greens and vegetables together. Continue to toss the ingredients from the outer edges into the center. Your goal is to fully incorporate the ingredients and chop the vegetables into small pieces. But not to make a mash! After a few minutes, add blobs of dressing onto your pile and begin to incorporate. Add the chickpeas and other add-ins. Keep chopping and rearranging until your salad is of uniform consistency.

There’s something about all this chopping that gets the men to volunteer. Here, Brian Doane demonstrates technique at a recent dinner party.

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Peppercorn Dijon Dressing
(serves 2, double for a party)

1/3 cup plain unsweetened soymilk
1 T lemon juice
1 T nutritional yeast
¼ cup almond meal, pre-ground or make your own by whirling whole nuts in a spice grinder
½ tsp. coarse salt
several grinds of pepper
1 T chia seeds
1 T whole grain mustard

Curdle the soymilk by combining with the lemon juice. Let rest for about five minutes. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Let rest another five minutes to meld and thicken. Best to put this in a jelly jar and shake it until your arm starts to vibrate on its own–this will ensure that the almond meal is fully incorporated. it will really thicken if you can put it in the fridge for a half hour or so.

At a recent cooking class, Joe and Gary took over and were very proud of their results.

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Sadly, we didn’t have enough dressing for this 24 person salad. That is a shame, because it’s just not good without a lot of delicious dressing…and the dressing doesn’t have to be caloric, either.

Here’s an example of where you can take this. I used peppery baby greens, leftover falafel and tahini dressing (that will be another post…promise!) It looked like this in the beginning…

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Don’t forget the dressing (and plenty of it).

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Two minutes later… I call it lunch.

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La Vida Local–Blueberry Peach Salsa and Cinnamon Chips

The focus of the food was local this evening in honor of a beautiful day and happy hour in my yard with good friend, Meghan Disselkoen, the Program & Fund Development Coordinator at Local First. If you are a local business and you haven’t joined and experienced the benefits of Local First, go to their website to see what you are missing.

Personally, I can’t resist the combination of blueberries and peaches, but there are just so many times you can make a cobbler and happy hour isn’t one of them. But, hey, how about chips and salsa? Cruising the web, I found lots of recipes with jalapenos and red onion and scallions, but why in the world would you want to mess with the success of blueberries and peaches by adding red onion? Maybe it’s just me. No–Meg concurred–here it is, a lovely and light appetizer.

Blueberry Peach Salsa
2 large peaches
2 cups blueberries
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 generous tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 tsp. agave nectar.
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh mint

Salsa Chips
3 uncooked Tortillas (we buy Tortillaland Tortillas at CostCo)*
1 T sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. Earth Balance

*you can bake cooked tortillas in the oven for about ten minutes at 350 degrees. Spray with a mist of cooking oil and sprinkle ahead of time.

For the salsa:
Pour the blueberries into a processor and pulse maybe ten times until many of them are chopped but some remain whole. Don’t overprocess!
Zest the lemon and pour the juice into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Peel and dice the peaches into small pieces and add to the bowl
Add the blueberries, and the rest of the ingredients and gently fold. Personally, I like this at room temperature, but it’s your call.

For the chips:
Using a biscuit cutter (or tracing the bottom of a glass with a knife) cut six rounds from an uncooked tortilla.

Gently peel the circles out of the dough.

Place the ‘chips’ in a heavy pan over medium heat and cook until bubbles begin to form (the one at 11 o’clock is just about ready to flip).

Using a small spatula, flip the chips until they are nicely browned on both sides. You don’t need oil for this operation because there is oil in the tortilla.

Once the chips were baked, I touched my warm spatula to a stick of Earth Balance pressed it on the top of a chip. Then I sprinkled a little cinnamon sugar on it.

I like to serve the salsa in individual bowls, so people feel comfortable double-dipping!

You say Tabbouleh, I say Tabbuli

Here’s the next in our series of “Please don’t make me cook in this heat!” Tabbouleh is such a versatile, delicious and filling grain salad that you must add it to your repertoire. Some love it with more parsley than bulgur wheat, some love it stuffed with mint. There’s cilantro on this salad (but that’s because I didn’t have any more parsley to garnish it). It is a little known fact that bulgur wheat (the parboiled, dried and cracked version of whole wheat) has fewer calories, less fat and about twice the fiber of brown rice. And here’s the kicker–you don’t have to wait 40 minutes and heat up your kitchen to eat it!

Tabbouleh with Garbanzos

This dish is a re-envisioned version from my first-ever vegetarian cookbook, “Fast Vegetarian Feasts,” published in 1982 by Martha Rose Shulman. As with many dishes I have made hundreds of times, I vary it according to what I have on hand, but the basic dressing ingredients came from Martha and they make a fantastic tabbouleh! Everyone loves this dish. I have added a chia oil substitute with no loss in flavor. This makes the dish as healthy as it is delicious—you can leave out the olive oil entirely if you like.

1 ½ cups raw medium grind bulgur (you can find bulgur at health food stores or in the Bob’s Red Mill section of your
grocery store)
1 cup boiling water
Juice of one lemon
½ cup white vinegar
2 cloves garlic (put through a press or minced fine)
1 tsp. prepared mustard
¾ tsp. ground cumin
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup chia oil substitute*
1 bunch green onions, both whites and as much green tops as you like
½ cup chopped parsley
2 tomatoes, flesh only, chopped (so core them and remove the watery innards)
1 English seedless cucumber, diced (you choose if you like it peeled or not)
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put raw bulgur in a large bowl
Heat water and pour over bulgur
Whisk together next seven ingredients and pour over bulgur
Layer next five ingredients on top of bulgur and cover the bowl with a towel
After about an hour toss the whole salad together and let sit at room temperature
Season with salt to taste and freshly ground pepper


*Stir 2 teaspoons chia seeds into ½ cup warm water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to gel. Stir and add to recipe as an oil replacement.