Monday, June 25, 2012

Girl, Interrupted: Black Eyed Peapers

What are blackberries, fresh mint, canned black eyed peas, and bittersweet chocolate?

A gauntlet, my friends. 

As is getting on the internet at a technology conference, but that's a post for another day.

A recipe contest, put on by The Post Punk Kitchen's Isa Chandra Moskowitz, was to challenge vegans everywhere to come up with a recipe utilizing those ingredients a la Food Network's CHOPPED.  

Since I have scads of homework, VBS, and packing to do and needed a solid reason to procrastinate, I have come up with a crazy ridiculous recipe in a lame attempt to win the following...

~Fame, respect and the Chopped Vegan title
~A $50 Vegan Essentials Gift Certificate
~A signed copy of any of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cookbooks
~A Post Punk Kitchen Apron
~Possible publication on the PPK blog and Isa's next cookbook

First, let me say that Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my kitchen hero.  When we were in Omaha for Little B's birthday, I was looking intently up at all the apartment buildings and houses we passed, hoping to see to her learning out a window sipping tea, petting her cat, and letting cruelty-free cookies rain down on the streets like it was vegan jubilation.  I don't think I saw her, but I was distracted by a dude who  I think was taking a leak on the side of a building.  Forgive me, please.

Back to the contest...So my first thought was brownies, but that's because I am obsessed with nailing down the best brownie recipe EVA.  Then I thought salsa, but BORING. Of course, there's salad, but GAH! No more vegan salads, thank you very much.

The combo of chocolate and beans made me think chili,  but who wants chili on a 98* Kansas day? Not this girl, I ASSURE YOU.  The blackberries made me think of a delicious dip I make inspired by So Long Saloon in Aggieville, but processed vegan cream cheese is out. Now I am sure some will take the sneaky way out and make a meal with a drink.  I say - PUT IT ALL TOGETHER! I may secretly be a liberal vegan ninja, but I still grew up in in the midwest: casseroles are the only way.

Not exactly a casserole, but this is my (hopefully) winning concoction...

  • 1 cup veggie broth or water
  • 1 cup amaranth
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup black eyed peas, drained & rinsed
  • 1/4 cup blackberries
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1/2 t. jalapeno diced
  • 2 t. shaved bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • 4oz firm tofu, drained
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 T. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup(s) fresh mint, chopped
  • 4 large peppers (red, orange, green, purple and/or yellow) whatever floats your boat!

  • Cook couscous in broth or water according to package directions. 

    Preheat the ol' oven to 350.*

    Saute garlic and onion in olive oil.  Add black eyed peas and raspberries. Break the blackberries up a little, but don't try to make jelly. Add the diced tomato. Add the mint, jalepeno (And it's pronounced "juh-LAP-uh-no" for this particular recipe) and the chocolate. Turn heat to low while you prep the cashews.

    Now, I have to stop here only for a moment to let you know what happened between me prepping the filling and make the next step. 

    I have been leading the music at our church's vacation bible school this week.  After I was finished with the opening, I ran to the store, picked up what I needed and ran home to make my winning recipe.  Well, I sort of got distracted, and bought a purse on the way home, which cut my cooking time a bit short.  I had just finished the filling when I realized it was eight o'clock and needed to get back to church.

    Backstory - The kids have been raising money for a radio ministry in Soweto, Africa.  It's a boys vs. girls thing, and the winning group gets to throw a pie in the face of whomever they wish on Sunday morning.

    I know you think you know where this is going, but you're wrong. This girl will be in San Diego at the 2012 ISTE conference, no pie for me! HA!

    So I get back, everyone's all excited to hear the final total collected.  Our children's pastor, Enola, said that each group gets to pick a victim for Sunday.  Two people are chosen. Now, I really felt bad about this but I stood up on a chair and yelled, "WHO WANTS TO PIE PASTOR ENOLA?" And after the screaming cheers dies down, and because I am beyond immature, I got all the kiddos chanting her name. She accepts her fate with a smile.  I feel bad. I shouldn't.

    Then, lo and behold, she says, "Now I have a surprise! Someone's going to get a pie in the face TONIGHT!"

    You know where this is going NOW.

    "She's been helping us out a lot this week...Miss Jennifer!"

    After the cheering quiets she says, "It's even a vegan pie!"

    Pastor Enola is money when is comes to details.
    Because I am a good sport AND and an idiot, I run up cheering, giving kids high-fives and basically act like a drunk frat boy.  I put on Little B's purple baseball hat, refuse the garbage bag to cover my clothes and open my mouth wide.     

    An hour and a shower later, I got back to my recipe. 
    In a food processor or whatever you've got, blend the cashews, tofu, salt, nooch, and the other half of the mint until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
    Cut the tops off of your pepper and clean out the seeds. Use a knife to trim the bottom as necessary so they sit flat in an 8x8 sprayed with canola.
    Fill each pepper as follows: Bean mixture, cashew cheese, Bean mixture...and a little dollop on top if you like. 
    Bake for 25-30 minutes or until peppers, I mean PEAPERS, are soft-ish. Serve with guacamole, salsa, chips, or whatever you like!

    Pretty delicious. Even with pie up my nose.  

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    The 'S' Word

    Ah, the 'S' word.  What's the first 'S' word you think of, sailor?

    Trust me, if you are over the age of seven, you do not know what 'S' word I'm talking about. 

    I'm going to type it now so, feel free to close your browser if you think your morality will be compromised.


    Like most households with young children, stupid is a dirty word in our house.  It's right up there with 'SHUT UP,' 'HATE,' and 'LIKE' (we are literary device bigots: METAPHORS only!). 

    If you've ever been a primary teacher, you are no stranger to this either.  Undoubtedly, a child rushes up to you at recess and yells,

     "He said the 'S" word!"

    At which point you crouch down, look into their sweet little face and say,

    "Oh, no! The 'S' word? I need you to tell me exactly what he said."

    The child's eyes widen, his little head begins to shake. Although you will randomly get a kid to whisper it into your ear, most of the time, he's not going to say it.  You have asked this poor child to  do what he fears the most. And you will probably call his mother. 

    At this point the kid is a little sweaty, so you take it down a notch by saying,

    "Okay, honey, I need you to spell it for me."

    A sigh of relief escapes his lips and he starts out slowly...

    "S...(VERY pregnant pause).

    This is truly your only moment of uncertainty.  Once the 'T' is out, you know what you're dealing with.  Occasionally, the dreaded 'H' comes out.  There is potential for disaster in this scenario, although 90% of the time, your third letter is 'U.'

    Then you smile at your little recess-language nazi and remind them,

    "Kind kids use kind words!"

    Kind moms, however, don't always use kind words. 

    (Wow. How's that for an introduction. Geez. I should be a preacher.  Took me long enough!)

    Poor Little B has been subjected to the 'S' word flying out of my mouth multiple times a day for the last few weeks.  Mostly followed by the word 'DOG.'


    The conversation goes something like this:

    ME: Where's Bella?

    LITTLE B: I don't know. Outside? (peering out the window) I think she's eating something.

    ME: (rushing to window) That stupid dog is eating poop!
    (now banging on window) STOP EATING POOP, YOU STUPID DOG!
    (charging out back door) You stupid dog, what are you eating? Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Get in here, you stupid dog!
    (me back inside) Now don't even think for one second, I'm giving you a treat, you stupid dog.

    LITTLE B: You know, Mommy, you really shouldn't call her stupid. That is a bad word and it probably hurts her feelings. 

    ME: (using all self-control I have to speak without sarcasm and condescension) If you eat poop, you're stupid. OUR. DOG. IS. STUPID.

    LITTLE B: Maybe if you called her 'Smart,' she'd stop eating poop and you wouldn't call her that bad word anymore.

    ME: You're right, honey. That's a great idea. I shouldn't use that word anyway.
    (walking into the living room) AHHHH! THAT STUPID DOG THREW UP POOP ON MY COUCH!

    LITTLE B: Mommy, that SMART dog threw up poop on your couch.

    And so on and so forth almost every single day of summer vacation so far. Let me clarify that she is eating rabbit poop and not her own poop.  It's practically Watership Down in our backyard, so there's no shortage of bunny poop to go around. 

    Now, I didn't waste the last 90 seconds of your time to get to a story about a barfing dog with a weak allusion to literature. 

    I did it for brownies.

    Stupid brownies. 

    See, back in the day, when I was a carnivorous hound, I was a decent cook, but could never master the steak.  No matter what I did, no matter what type of meat I purchased, I butchered it. No pun intended. 

    So, when I set off into vegan bliss, I laughed haughtily as I skipped away from days of meat consumptions and the dastardly gauntlet of t-bones and fillets. 

    Alas, there is a new challenge before me: the STUPID BROWNIE.

    See, I came back to it.  Everything's coming together.

    Except for my STUPID BROWNIES!

    I just can't get it right! I've tried and tried. I've googled vegan brownie more times than 5th grader googles 'Justin Beiber' and I can't get it right! Every cookbook lets me down and the egg replacer refuses to adequately replace!

    Well, after countless cups of cocoa have been wasted, I think I am getting closer.

    Now this would be a great place for me to present you with an amazing brownie that will blow your mind, but it's just not ready yet. 

    This Saturday, I am headed out of town to the ISTE conference in San Diego.  I plan on taking brownies with  me for the ride to the airport.  I will bake stupid brownies every day until I get it right. 

    Friends, watch for the post that will change my brownie luck.  I ought to start with the recipe title...

    SMART Brownies, maybe?

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Mile Marker 9

    Life is a journey.

    It took me a while to figure that out. For so long, it was all about getting to the end, the goal, the destination.  Go to school. Get a job. Get married. Have kids. Buy a nice house. Retire.

    At what point do you figure out there's more? And that a journey is better when you share it?

    I don't know when I did, but what I have discovered has everything to do with this man. 

    I knew pretty early on that this guy was the one, and I like to think that felt the same way about me.

    What I didn't know was that he'd turn out to be such an amazing husband, the best father, and the most loyal and reliable friend.

    There are so many moments I could share, so many memories, the mere recollection of one brings the flood of dozens more.

    We definitely aren't where we thought we'd be when we set out on this journey nine years ago, but I wouldn't want it any differently, and most assuredly I wouldn't want it with anyone else. 

    So as we come up to this mile marker on our little trek through life, I just have to say that I'm up for any journey, as long as it's with you. Sweaty hands and all.

    Happy Anniversary, Mr. B.