Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Roasted White Eggplant Alfredo Sauce with Fresh Fennel and Spinach

It's time for some more Kvetch Corner!

Sometimes I feel like I'm a victim of ageism. My 25th birthday is fast approaching, and I still am told on a daily basis that I look like a 15 year old. When people ask me my secret, I tell them it's because I moisturize with this new French lotion called toilette de bébé. It’s French for Baby Toilette. It’s actually made of of Aloe Vera, Primrose and Baby Urine. Keeps me looking youthful. Alright. I'm kidding. I'm just feeling sassy today.

All the time, people tell me how lucky I am because I look so young. But when I try to get a haircut at Fantastic Sams and they lead me over to the Rocket Ship chair and hand me a lolly pop, I don’t feel so fucking lucky. When a bouncer at the bar laughs at me before even asking for my ID, I don’t feel so fucking lucky. When I get all you can eat Mongolian BBQ for free because they waitress thinks I’m under 13, then I feel lucky.

Enough on that topic. There's been something else that had been irking me for the past few weeks. If you can't tell from reading my past blog posts (or this post for that matter), I'm just a little on the crazy side. I receive health insurance through the Actors Unions, but there's one slight problem. The Screen Actors’ Guild’s health insurance plan DOES NOT cover mental health care. Neither does the Writers Guild. At first, I was really angry about it. But after some though, they’re actually pretty smart smart because all writers and actors are crazy mo fo's. If they did cover all of our mental health expenses, there wouldn’t be any funds left over to pay for my pap smear, so I guess I can’t hold too much of a grudge.

Well, I'm clearly just rambling about nothing today. Let's chat about food for a while. This is a redux of a recipe I posted about two years ago, but it's one of my favorites. Check your local farmers market to locate yourself some white eggplants. You can use regular, but the white ones have a nuttier/creamier taste that make for an excellent "alfredo" sauce.

Roasted White Eggplant Alfredo Sauce with Fresh Fennel and Spinach

• 1 package Fettuccini Noodles (or use the Pasta Guide on pg 48 to
make your own!)
• 2 Large White Eggplants (You can substitute Purple Eggplant)
• 2 cups Fresh Spinach Leaves
• 1/2 large Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
• 3 cloves Garlic, quartered
• 1 Fresh Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced
• 1 TBSP Fresh Lemon Juice
• 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 1 Cup MimicCremeTM (or Alternative, pg 33)
• 1 1/2 cup Dry White Wine
• 1 tsp Thyme
• 1 tsp Dried Sweet Basil
• Sea Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Take white eggplants, prick all over with a
fork, and brush lightly with olive oil...

Place them in the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until soft, turning them over after 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

If you're not using MimicCreme, mix soy milk and apple cider vinegar together, and set aside to coagulate.

Cook Pasta until al dente, drain well and toss with a little extra virgin olive
oil to prevent sticking.

Heat the 1/3-cup olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, and sauté
fennel, onion and herbs for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add white
wine and lemon juice, then simmer until liquid reduces and veggies are

Once the eggplants are cooled, slice in half length-wise and scoop the
"innards" into a blender or food processor. Add MimicCreme (or soy milk
mix) and garlic to the blender, and blend until smooth and sauce-like. Pour
the mixture into the skillet with the fennel and onion, and mix in well. Salt
and pepper to taste. Add the spinach to the sauce, and reduce heat to low.
Simmer on low 5 minutes, serve over pasta and garnish with fresh fennel

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ditalini, Kale, Rainbow Chard and Kalamatas Braised in a Black Garlic and White Wine Reduction + A Guest Post!

What a week I've had! My typical day-to-day life consists of me waking up, chugging three cups of coffee (yes, I "chug" coffee), surfing the Internet, writing a recipe or two, going to the grocery store, cooking a little, then possibly indulging in some intoxicating substance(s) to wash my cares away. My routine rarely wavers. For whatever reason, the universe decided the past few days would consist of some mayhem.

It started off as a typical Saturday night. The wife and I have a really good male friend we always hang out with. Let's just call him John for the story's sake. John is hanging out at our place, and his motorcycle is in the shop at the moment. He wants to go to the bar with some of his friends, so we decide to let him borrow our second car instead of him having to take the bus.

Big mistake.

You see, John is fond of playing practical jokes on Jane and I. When my phone rings and John says "I've just been arrested and am about to go to jail for a few days", the first words out of my mouth are, "So I'll see you in 20 minutes, jack ass?". Turns out I was the jack ass. I egg him on for about 5 minutes, thinking he's joking with me when he says "I now have a DUI and they are jailing me for a few old warrants". Finally, I hear the cops shouting at him to "make it quick", and realize he's not kidding. And to top it all off, he's driving our car.

Since it was a Saturday night and parking meters are free all day Sunday, the cops were nice enough to park the car in a legal spot. Problem was, they took the keys downtown to the station with John. I had less than 24 hours to obtain my keys and return the car to safety before it was impounded. Being the lucky bitch that I am, I got to spend all day Sunday at the LA County Jail trying to safely return my vehicle. And let me tell you how simple they make it! On the phone, the cops told John to tell me all I have to do is go to the station and pick up the keys. We arrive at 11AM. The officer in charge tells me "Oh, no. You can't just get them back. You need his permission first. But visiting hours aren't until 1pm." Fine. We can kill some time. I get his permission at 1pm, head to the front desk, and am then told "Oh, no ma'am. We can't actually release the property until 3pm."

Why on earth am I being forced to suffer for someone else's mistake?! Killing the first two hours in downtown LA was difficult enough. I shouldn't have to "do time" just to get back my damn property.

They ended up giving me ALL of his belongings, including his shoe laces. Just to punish him a little, I stole all the quarters he had had in his pocket so I could do a load of laundry. So there.

And in case you're wondering, John is now safely out of jail with minimal fines and sentencing. He really is a good kid, but like we touched on last week, sometimes we don't always make the brightest decisions. Lesson learned? Don't loan your car to someone you know is going to the bar.

Anyways, this week you're in for a special treat! Two recipes, one post. The lovely Donna has prepared an article entitled "Easy Vegan Eating" to serve as a guest post. I'm keeping my recipe this week short and simple so you can focus on hers (which follows).

Oh, and don't drink and drive, kids. Not only could you kill someone, but I won't bail you out, either.

Ditalini, Kale, Rainbow Chard and Kalamatas
Braised in a Black Garlic and White Wine Reduction

  • 1/2 lb Ditalini Pasta (or substitute with Miniature Penne)
  • 1/2 lb Lacinto Kale
  • 1/2 lb Curly Green Kale
  • 1/2 lb Rainbow Chard
  • 2 TBSP Vegan Margarine
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil, plus more for "de-sticking" pasta.
  • 1 medium Onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup Better Than Bouillon's No Chicken Broth
  • 1/3 cup Dry White Wine
  • 2-3 TBSP Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 4 cloves Black Garlic, minced (or substitute with plain ole Garlic)
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, sliced
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Dr. Cow's Tree Nut Cheese, finely grated, for garnish (or Vegan Parmesan)
Bring two large pots of salted water to a for the pasta, the other for the greens.

First boil the Ditalini Pasta until just al Dente, drain well, then rinse with cold water and drain again. Toss with a bit of Olive Oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.

Next boil the Kales and Chard for 5 minutes. Drain well, set aside until cool enough to handle, then coarsely chop. Set aside.

In a large, deep skillet, melt the margarine in the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the onions and black garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened. Add the No Chicken Broth, White Wine and Lemon Juice, and allow the sauce to simmer until it reduces by 1/3rd.

Toss in the Kale, Chard and Olives until thoroughly combined.

Cover and cook for 3 more minutes.

Remove the pan from heat, toss with the pasta, season with salt and pepper, then garnish with vegan Parmesan.

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Easy Vegan Eating

Making the switch to the vegan lifestyle can be tough for people who want to get healthy but aren't the most talented cooks in the world. With that in mind, I've gathered a few simple recipes to guide you through a day of meals and show you that with a little bit of preparation, even the most clueless chef can whip up a healthy, vegetarian entree.

Breakfast: Pancakes
Pancakes are a breakfast staple, and a lot easier to make than you'd think. Plus, by using soymilk instead of cow's milk, you can make them vegan with ease. Here's what you'll need for a batch that serves four:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups soymilk (or water)
2 tbsps vegetable oil

All you do is mix and pour. Mix the dry ingredients together and stir in the wet ingredients. You can add water a tablespoon at a time to thin out the batter if it's too thick. After that, pour the mixture onto a nonstick pan and cook over medium heat, making sure to flip them when the edges start to brown. It's a simple, fast, vegan way to start the day.

Lunch: Vegan Mac and Cheese
Like many "regular" meals, mac and cheese can be turned into a vegan one with just a few ingredient substitutions available from your local grocery or organic food store. This recipe yields eight servings:
1 lb pasta
2 cups vanilla soy/rice milk
2 tbsps soy margarine
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground sage
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Again, it's a simple process once you've assembled the ingredients. Cook and drain the pasta, and then combine it with the other ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly and serve. That's it!

Dinner: Quesadillas
Here's a great, easy meal that won't tax your cooking skills. It serves eight, and it's a tasty way to end the day. Here's what you'll need:
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans
1/2 cup water-packed roasted red pepper
3 tbsps lemon juice
1 tbsp tahini
1 peeled garlic clove
1/4 tsp cumin
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup salsa

Drain the beans and put them in a food processor with the red pepper, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, and cumin. Blend the ingredients until they're smooth. Spread two or three tablespoons of the mix onto a tortilla and place it on a nonstick pan over medium heat. Sprinkle with the desired amount of onions and salsa, then cover it with another tortilla and cook for two or three minutes, until the bottom tortilla is warm. Flip it over and cook on the other side for a minute, and you're done.

These are pretty simple recipes designed to show beginner vegans and amateur cooks that it's possible to prepare a smart meal without being an expert behind the frying pan. Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty with ingredients, and soon enough you'll be able to make a variety of vegan dishes. Enjoy!

This guest post is contributed by Donna Moore, who writes on the topics of massage therapy schools. She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vegan Chicken and Jicama Pho with Basil Mint, Cilantro, Garlic and Lemon Pistou

Well, it seems that my tales of teenage stoner-dom are a much bigger hit with all you lovely readers than stories about my Brazilian waxing. This week, I'll divulge a tale of psychedelic proportions that my family has yet to let me live down. You see, I used to have a torrid love affair with magic mushrooms. I had many a great trip, leaving me feeling divinely connected with the universe and all those around me. But there was one trip in particular that, well, let's just say it wasn't "all good, man".

My best friend's grandfather had just passed away, and I made the trek back to Youngstown to support her and attend the funeral. I also happened to bring with me one gigantic mushroom that I'd been saving for a special occasion. I don't know what in my sick head led me to believe that the eve of a funeral counted as such, but when you're 18, your idea of a good decision is usually clouded by negative external influence. Here's how the night played out...

My best friend and I are at my childhood home sitting on the back porch. I split the gigantic mushroom in half, and I consumed the larger part. All's going well as we sit watching the iTunes visualizer, and I decided to get up and use the bathroom. That's when it all started to go downhill. (I'm going to mention now that my entire family was home at the time. Like I said, I wasn't the best at making decisions). That's when the shrooms started to kick in. I look in the mirror, and suddenly have no idea who I am, where I am, or even the fact that I just ate mushrooms. I was a complete blank slate.

At a loss for what to do, I simply lay down on my living room floor and stare up at the ceiling. My mother walks into the room, seems me laying there all zoned out, and we have the following conversation:

Mom: "Jenn, are you okay?"

Me: "Who are you?"

Mom: "Oh my god! What are you on?!"

My mother runs out to the porch, where my best friend is tripping and having a great time.

Mom: "What the hell is wrong with Jenn? Did you take Ecstasy?!?"

Friend: "Oh, it's fine, Mrs. Shagrin. We just ate mushrooms. Everything is great!"

My mom immediately flips out, thinking I'm about to overdose. She runs back inside.

Mom: "Jenn, you're poisoned. You are going to die! I'm taking you to the hospital!"

Now, bear in mind that I'm a complete blank slate, so I believe that I'm actually going to die. I start having a panic attack. My mother drives me to the hospital, but refuses to actually take me inside because:
A) She works there, and doesn't want her co-workers to think her daughter is a druggie.
B) She knows that they'll admit me to the psychiatric ward, which is probably where I belonged at that point in my life.

We sit in the hospital parking lot for almost two hours, and as I start to come down, the mushrooms have a truth serum-like effect and I confess every single bad thing I've done in my life. To top it off, I try to convince my poor, scared-shitless mother that it truly was "all good, man", and that mushrooms were amazing.

I spent a nice 30 days in rehab following that lovely evening.

My poor best friend had to hang out with my dad and little sister while she was tripping balls all by herself, and documented her entire experience on over 50 post-it notes that we turned into a poster. I keep it on my wall to this very day.

Well, I hope that story is truly unPHOgetable. Muahaha.

Vegan Chicken and Jicama Pho
with Basil Mint, Cilantro, Garlic and Lemon Pistou

  • 1/8 cup Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 batch of Vegan Chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 16 cups No Chicken Broth
  • 1 large Onion
  • 1 Daikon, peeled and sliced
  • 5 large Carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Jicama, peeled and sliced
  • 4 whole Anise Seeds
  • 4 whole Cloves
  • 1 Ginger Root, about 4 inches long
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick
  • 6 Whole Black Peppercorns
  • About 3 TBSP of Vegetarian Fish Sauce
  • 1 lb Rice Noodles, cooked very al Dente
  • About 1 lb of Bean Sprouts
  • Chili Paste, for serving on the side (optional)
  • Vegetarian Hoisin Sauce, for serving on the side (optional)
In a very large pot over medium heat, melt the vegetable shortening until it's completely liquefied. Add in the vegan chicken pieces and 16 cups of No Chicken Broth, then allow to cook.

Take the Onion and peel it completely, the carefully hollow out the center. Place the anise, ginger root, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon inside of the onion. Using tongs to hold the onion, place it directly over your stove's burner until well browned. Add to the "chicken" and stock pot. Also add the whole cloves and vegetarian fish sauce to the stock pot, then followed by the carrots and daikon.

Allow the broth to cook for about an hour, until the vegetable are softened, then taste to see if more vegetarian fish sauce is needed. Skim off any excess fat if necessary.

While the soup is simmering is the best time to cook the noodles in a separate pot.

To serve each bowl of soup, ladle in a good amount of broth and veggies, add the noodles and serve topped with bean sprouts and pistou. On the side, serve the chili sauce and vegetarian hoisin sauce.

To Make the Pistou...
  • 1 small Sliced White Onion
  • 3 Green Onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 small bunch Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 cup tightly packed Fresh Mint Leaves
  • 1 cup tightly packed Fresh Basil Leaves
  • 1/4 Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • Pinch of Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Using a food processor, first puree the while onion and garlic. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food process, and puree until completely blended, scraping down the sides once during the blending process. Serve atop Pho.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Miniature Cajun-Spiced "Cheese" Beignets with Dill Dijon Aioli Dip

After being Procrastination Patty for the past few weeks, I've finally started plowing through my To-Do List (or should I say To-Do Pile?). I'm not the type to just gently work my way thought my hefty workload, rather I bulldoze through it all in a matter of hours. In the past 12 hours, I've addressed and mailed ALL my wedding invitations, payed all my bills, cleaned my kitchen, wrote three recipes, vacuumed my entire apartment, took Jane to a job interview deep in the valley, and even found time for a coital interlude. A very successful 12 hours, indeed. Did I mention I did all of this completely sober with nary an energy drink in sight? I think sometimes I have crack in my bloodstream. Oh well, at least it's all done.

I find it odd because as a teenager, I was the biggest lazy ass on the planet. My room looked like a tornado blew threw a pizza restaurant but somehow managed to miss all the glass bongs sitting by the windowsill. I made my bed maybe a total of 10 times. My mom's cleaning lady even devoutly refused to even clean my room following the time she found a rotting grilled cheese sandwich inside my closet. How it got there? I have no idea. But I'm not very well versed in any topic dealing with "in the closet", so I have a get-out-of-jail-free pass on that one.

I was going to continue on the topic of how I morphed from stoner slob to neat freak, but I was just reminded of a lovely story that pertains to the previously mentioned cleaning lady. Ok. Here we go. So, one night my friends and I are passing around the bong when there's a little accident. The bowl breaks off from the glass down stem, which left me with only a clear glass tube that was shattered on one end. My stupid ass left the glass tube on the table, then I headed off to work.

When my cleaning lady found the clear glass tube, she ran up to my mother and screamed "Jennifer's smoking crack! I know it! This is a crack pipe!"

My mom, of course, goes ape shit, and leaves me the following voicemail:

Mom: "Jennifer, there is something I don't like going on at this house, and that something is CRACK COCAINE!". Don't try to lie to me. I know exactly what you're up to. You are going to rehab immediately. You and all your crack head friends need help, and I'm going to be the one to save you! "

I receive the voicemail, and and completely confused as I've never even seen crack before in my life. I rush home to find my mom holding the glass tube, then I just bust up laughing. I hold the broken tube up to the bowl piece, and my mom almost cries tears of relief.

That was a typical day when I was 17. I'm happy to report that my mother and I now have a much more fruitful relationship based on love and trust.

Alright. Food time.

Miniature Cajun-Spiced "Cheese" Beignets with Dill Dijon Aioli Dip

For the Beignets
  • 5 TBSP Vegan Margarine, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp Yellow Mustard Powder
  • 2 tsp Cajun Blast or other Creole Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt or more if needed (to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 heaping cup Flour
  • 1 cup MImicCreme mixed with 8 TBSP "Egg" Mix
  • 1/2 cup shredded Daiya Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Dr. Cow's Tree Nut Cheese, finely grated
  • Peanut Oil, enough for frying

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the vegan margarine, mustard powder, Cajun Blast and pepper. Add the 1 cup of water, then bring to a boil. Using a wooden spoon, add all the flour and quickly beat the ingredients together until the form a ball that doesn't stick to the sides of the pan.

Leaving the burner on, remove the pan from heat and beat in half of the MimicCreme/"Egg" Mix mixture until completely combined. Place the pan back over the burner and incorporate the rest of the MimicCreme/"Egg" Mix mixture, then remove from heat again and beat until a smooth dough is formed.

Return to the stove top again and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes until the dough is shining and smooth. Cool slightly, then beat in both cheeses.

Pour about 3 inches of oil into a deep pot or deep fryer, then heat to 375 degrees F. Working in batches, drop about a rounded teaspoon of dough into the hot oil. Fry, flipping once, until the beignets are puffed up and evenly browned on all sides, about 3-4 minutes.

Place on a paper-towel lined plate to drain prior to serving.

Dill Dijon Aioli Dip

  • 1 cup Vegan Mayo
  • 1/2 cup Vegan Sour Cream
  • 1/4 c Dijon Mustard
  • 1 TBSP French White Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed Fresh Dill
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, to taste

First, add the garlic to the food processor and pulse a few times to mince. Then, combine all of the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil in the food processor. Turn the machine on and blend for a few moments, then scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula. Turn the machine on again, and with the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil until fully incorporated. Taste for salt and pepper.