Lemon-Berry Flan, Lime Tea Cake, and Homemade Chorizo
Boy, are we enjoying summer! My red, black, yellow, and purple raspberries have been producing like crazy…so much so, that I’ve begged friends and their kids to come over and pick and have had others over for berries, cake, and ice cream in the garden. We’ve had lots of dog parties with friends, hiking along Swedetown creek, and nipping off to pick lowbush blueberries and juneberries (sugar plums to long-term locals).
Nuts and Berries and Grains and Veggies, Oh My!
About a month ago, I went vegan for my cooking at home. That means no cooking with or eating animals products (meat, dairy, fish, eggs). I was vegetarian for many years, but never vegan.
I’m flexible though – for instance, I’m using up various eggs and dairy products I already had. I don’t plan to stick to vegan when I go out or visit someone’s home. If I’m having people over, I may cook something I usually wouldn’t.
Why did I do this? I usually don’t cook a lot in the summer – being vegetarian or occasionally eating meat, it was easy to slap some cheese on something and call it dinner. I wasn’t eating all the veggies I wanted to (for optimal nutrition, dieticians recommend 10 fruits and veggies a day – most Americans don’t get the minimum of five a day…).
I love cooking, especially South Asian and Latin American food, and wanted to do something to get myself back in the kitchen. I’d like to lose weight – I’ve got some early arthritis and the number one thing you can do to prevent it is to lose weight. A friend found it easier to maintain a healthy weight as a vegan than not. For environmental reasons, I like to eat lower on the food chain. I don’t think meat and fish and dairy are inherently unhealthy, but I do think that replacing high fat cheese with nuts and butter with olive oil is healthier. Finally, I was curious about what it would take to cook vegan.
So, for the last few weeks I’ve been on a cookbook reading and cooking binge and it has been so fun. Yesterday I made nut pate, guacamole, mushroom-broccoli soup, and lime chile spicy nuts. Right now I’m baking lemon-berry flan (with my remaining eggs):
And I’ve lost some pounds quickly, even while I had birthday cake, lime tea cake, and other delicious stuff hanging around the house. At least initially, eating vegan has changed my relationship with food. I’ve become more of a grazer, having a bit of this, a bit of that. I can eat thin slices of cake, one a day… I find the food that I am eating more satisfying.
I didn’t used to enjoy a mild tasting food without lots of cheese, such as a stew. But I do now. I have a ton of cookbooks and, while I do substitute stuff, I’m mostly following directions carefully. I’m finding the herb and spice mixtures in the recipes so delicious. But one challenge is that I enjoy them the first couple times, but then lose interest. One solution is to give some to my dogs (in lieu of the spoonful of canned food they usually get with their mostly dry food while watching out for dog-toxic foods). I’ve always composted leftovers I don’t eat. But I think I may have to learn to halve recipes…
Meanwhile, I’m mostly reading cookbooks:
Cajun Country Cookin’: Basic Arcadian Cooking from the true Acadian Country of Louisiana
My dear friend Christy brought me back a generous “New Orleans package” of Dis n Dat spice mix, Bat’s Brew hot sauce, and this cookbook.
What’s so wonderful about it is that it isn’t just a cookbook, it is also a chronicle of rural Cajun life. The book weaves explanations of the area, its history and culture, with key recipes. It has fantastic pictures of farms and buildings from the region, including cabins and dogtrot houses (which I’d heard of but never seen). This book makes me want to travel around rural Louisiana. Cajun food is spicy and designed for parties and sharing. Sounds perfect for my next dinner party!
The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy
This is one I’m reading right now. Kennedy has written a bunch of cookbooks about Mexican cooking, including ones about regional cooking. Her recipes are authentic and delicious. She has clear, helpful explanations of techniques and ingredients. I’d love to cook right through every recipe in this book.
This is the book that I’ve focused on the most, reading the whole thing and cooking a bunch of recipes out of it. Some include eggs and dairy, but most are vegan or have vegan options (for instance, using olive oil or butter).
It won the James Beard and IACP Cookbook Awards. And I can see why. It is a great cookbook with one recipe per page or two pages. It is well laid-out and illustrated. And the recipes are delicious. Some of the ingredients were new to me, such as mirin and kombu seaweed. But I’ve enjoyed seeking out items like this and others used specifically for vegan food (such as agar flakes to substitute for gelatin). This is another book I’d like to cook everything out of.
The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
How do you make cookies when you don’t eat eggs? Puddings when you don’t eat dairy? This is the most comprehensive vegan baking book that I’ve seen. It is the winner of the VegNews Cookbook of the Year Award. It reads like a standard dessert or baking cookbook, except that you substitute other things for eggs and dairy.
After reading it, you should be able to convert most of your fave baking recipes to vegan. I got it from the library, but I liked it so much, I bought it for my kindle (I use my ipad’s kindle app to view and cook from recipes).
Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts by the Moosewood Collective
I have almost every Molly Katzen/Moosewood Collective cookbook out there. I love them for their delicious, fun recipes and gorgeous illustrations. I have really cooked much out of this one since I wasn’t making a lot of desserts, but I made my coconut lemon layer cake birthday cake out of it (and it was sublime). Tonight I made my lemon berry flan out of it. I’ll let you know how it is (but I’m pretty sure I already know if will be delicious).
1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson
I got these two on my kindle and have been reading them on my ipad. Both are terrific intros to vegan cooking. Robertson is one of the main queens of vegan cooking – she has a number of good cookbooks out there. I’ve made a number of tasty dishes out of both.
Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers by Terry Hope Romero
Yes, a modern, Latin American food, vegan cookbook. I’ve been enjoying reading this. Last night I made her seitan chorizo recipe – never having made seitan before, I was apprehensive. But it was pretty easy and the chorizo is delicious. I felt so accomplished when I got done.
Veggie Burgers Every Which Way: Fresh, Flavorful and Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Burgers-Plus Toppings, Sides, Buns and More by Lukas Volger
This was on sale at Amazon – I haven’t gotten too far in, but so far I’m enjoying it. A week or two ago I made curried veggie burgers from one of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes – fantastic! So, I’m looking forward to making more and ceasing to buy the bland fake veggie meats and burgers I’ve relied on in the past.
Congratulations on One Year of Year of Reading My Own Books!
It has been a year since I started this blog… What a year! I’ll write something more comprehensive soon. But I just wanted to note the anniversary.
What do you do when you hit the end of a year of “a year of” blog? Well, it sure could be a good excuse to stop. I don’t think I’m ready to do that, but I might slow down. I’ve written more than one post every three days over the past year – I’m pleased with that, but I’m not sure I’m going to try to continue, maybe more like once a week… Stay tuned!
Happy reading, ruby