Apple Cabbage Skryim Stew

Busy week? Too busy download the new Skyrim add-on Dragonborn? Well I totally understand! Between Vegan Eats World related activities, various food experiments, holiday shenanigans and meditating on what my next book is going to be, my next major video game fix is still on hold. But not so much that I can’t get my vicarious Skyrim-fix via cooking.

For those who don’t know, Skyrim characters can engage in in-game cooking. While it’s not essential for a “power gaming” experience, it’s a fascinating virtual pastime for real life cooks like me: find those ingredients (be it a village market or stolen from a musty dungeon), stir and tap a pot (in your thatched-roof hut, massive stone villa or a over a bandit’s campfire), and violá, you have a stew or soup or fondue that will fuel your trek through the woods and mountains. Or scarf it down while running away from frost trolls. As normally with a home cooked meal.

Apple cabbage stew is an actual Skyrim in-game staple, one of the first things my character cooked (ask me about my character in comments if you dare), and one of the few vegan offerings in this snowy, pixely land. The in-game the recipe is fairly bare bones and requires only 1 cabbage, 1 red apple, 1 salt pile. Mine is expanded and enriched, but with ingredients commonly found in Skyrim and things I’d imagine that a mythical, vaguely Nordic/European land to harbor: leeks, shallots, garlic, dill or thyme, and yummy caraway seeds. The resulting stew is soothing, mellow and slightly sweet; I love eating it with a hearty sourdough rye bread, perhaps paired with a tart cashew cheese spread or white bean dip for a complete meal.

This vegetable-fruity soup is light fare indeed; use the heartiest, richest vegetable broth you can find for the best flavor possible. If that’s something you make yourself good for you, but don’t be afraid to make a strong batch of Better Than Bouillon veggie broth. I’ve made it with either fresh dill or fresh thyme for variety and occasionally tossed in a diced unpeeled red potato or a handful of cooked white beans for heft, but I like the simplicity of the basic soup best. Top each serving with a dollop of plain vegan yogurt for cool, creamy contrast.

So put down that skanky roasted skeever tail, hang up your ebony shield, kick back by the fireplace and dig into a bowl of tasty good for ya stew tonight!

Apple Cabbage Stew

Serves 6 Wood Elves or 4 Nords or 2 Orcs or 1 Giant

The simplicity of this recipe requires the freshest cabbage, apples and leeks you can find, making this the ideal concoction to use up produce seen at the farmer’s market during the winter or from a winter CSA share.

  • About 1/2 pound green cabbage, core removed (4 generous cups roughly chopped green cabbage)
  • 2 firm, tart red cooking apples, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 6 cups rich vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill OR 4-6 springs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • Abundant freshly ground black pepper and smoked salt to taste
  • Plain soy yogurt, additional chopped fresh dill for garnish

1. Slice the cabbage in half, then slice lengthwise into thick strips. Slice the cabbage horizontally to make 1 inch wide pieces. Slice the apples into quarters, slice away the stem and seeds, then chop the apples into 1/2 inch cubes.

2. In a 2 quart soup pot preheat the oil over medium heat, then stir in the leek, shallots and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened, then stir in the caraway seeds. Fry for another 2 minutes, then add the broth, bay leaves, marjoram, salt and cabbage. If using dried dill, dried thyme, or fresh thyme sprigs, add these now too.

Increase the heat to high and bring to an active simmer for 3 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Partially cover and simmer the soup for 15 minutes or until cabbage is tender.

3. Stir in the apples, partially cover and simmer another 8 to 12 minutes or until the apples are tender (simmer less for firmer apples, more for very soft, tender pieces). Turn off the heat. If adding fresh dill, stir this in and cover. Rest the soup for about 10 minutes, uncover and taste the broth; adjust the seasonings with more black pepper and salt as needed.

4. Serve the soup hot ladled into wide bowls, and if desired top with a spoonful of plain soy yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped fresh dill.

Child’s play chia pudding

Soaked slippery chia seed foods are all the rage now, but I was slow…very, very slow to feel the chewy passion. Post Thanksgiving and pre-New Year’s Eve, these next few weeks can be rocky territory for those trying to eat healthy on those non-party days, including yours truly. But since craving a nutrient-dense breakfast alternative to start the day, I’ve slipped chia seed pudding into my life. Call me a convert, but I now love the stuff.

I should have loved slippery soaked chia all along; after all, I adore okra, the princess of vegetal-slime delights. But for the past two years with it showing up everywhere from drinks to sauces in brunch spreads, I just couldn’t get past its blobby amphibian-egg looks. Just picking up a bottle of Mama Chia kombucha drink felt like being watched by thousands of tiny eyes.

For a few years I’ve been blending teaspoons of raw chia into smoothies and baked goods, so what was my problem? This summer I finally caved and gave into drinking chia in fruity kombucha. I was ready to evolve. Like a picky child discovering for the first time olives, capers, or raisins (the three things you couldn’t get me near as a kid but today I can’t get enough of today), I was hooked on texture-loaded charms of soaked chia.

The following recipe is rather raw but not obsessively so. It also can be pantry friendly: chia, cashews, almonds, dates and the spices and nibs are all things you can buy in bulk and when properly stored (refrigerate in warm summer months) are ready when you are.

This is the way I like my chia pudding, slightly thick, a little sweet, and mildly nutty. This makes about 3/4 of a quart of creamy, nutty vanilla pudding flecked with cacao nibs. Or leave out the nibs and customize every serving with other toppings (berries, fruit, jam, shaved dark organic chocolate, nuts, etc.) for an entirely different pudding every time. One batch made Sunday gives me enough to snack on until Tuesday; the fiber rich chia and nourishing cacao nibs keep me full longer, so a small serving goes a long way.

Chocolate chip chia pudding

Makes about 3/4 quart

  • 1/4 cup unroasted, unsalted whole cashews
  • 1/4 cup raw whole almonds
  • 6 large Medjool dates, pits removed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cup water (use 2 cups for a thinner pudding)
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons raw chia seeds
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cacao nibs

1. In a glass or plastic mixing bowl combine the cashews, almonds, dates and water. Set aside to soak for 2 hours, then pour into a Blendtec/Vitamix or blender and pulse until very smooth; it should resemble a thick milkshake without any chunks.

2. Pour the nut-date mixture into a 1 quart glass or plastic container, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of chia and use a fork and vigorously whisk the seeds into the mixture; make sure they are free of clumps and completely coated. 1 tablespoon at a time, thoroughly whisk in the remaining seeds. Make sure to break up any clumps. Tightly cover the container and chill for 3 hours or until cold and very thick. Stir in the cacao nibs, or alternatively stir the pudding, distribute into serving cups and sprinkle with nibs. Chill leftover pudding and eat within 3 days.

 Other toppings to stir into individual servings:

-Thawed frozen organic blueberries, raspberries or blackberries

-A spoonful of organic jam

-Shave the edge of a dark chocolate or raw chocolate bar with a veggie peeler for chocolate shards

-Diced seasonal fruit: peaches, plums, strawberries, melons, apples or tropical banana or pineapple

-Gently warm and sprinkle with more cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup

Just a maple granola recipe

There are as many granola recipes on the internet as their are stars in the sky. And making your own at home, is this the most vegan thing ever? Perhaps, but a lot of store bought granola can be too sweet and have a lot of needless junk in it. Regardless of what you eat beyond breakfast, it’s probably worth trying. Quickly researching the rocky origins of granola, it probably was the breakfast of choice of late Victorian-era health nuts and a corporate invention, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring it back to the people. Make your own, stick it to the granola man.

Well, here’s my star in that oaty constillation: a simple maple-sweetened concoction, slow roasted until crisp and with a light sheen. Because it’s autumn, there’s plenty of ginger and spice. Flaky Maldon sea salt adds sparkle and compliments beautifully the concentrated sweetness of dried fruit, but use any large grain salt, or even basic kosher salt.

Change things up by:
-Subbing agave for maple
-Pumping up the spices, or swapping out with garam masala or curry powder
-Adding coconut flakes or quinoa flakes, stirring in a few tablespoons of chia seeds or flax
-Use whatever dried fruit floats your boat. Just dice it fine.
-Omit the oil if you must, or cut it to 1 teaspoon

Use your nose when roasting the granola: don’t wander away from the kitchen long during the delicate roasting process! The oats should appear dry, have a golden sublte sheen, and perhaps a few lingering on the edges of pan appear extra toasty. Stir often, watch closely. Your oven may run hot (or cold) so your milage may vary, but the idea is to get deeply flavorful, evenly roasted oats.

It’s a challenge not to eat it all when it’s pipping hot out of the oven. Resist the urge, let it cool completely before stashing and enjoy the smug satisfaction of living off the store-bought granola grid.

Maple Maldon Granola
Makes about 5 1/2 cups

A maple syrup tip: spray the insides of your measuring cup with a generous coating of oil spray, then measure your maple. It will slide easily out of the cup into the bowl, just like that.

  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, olive oil, or melted virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or nutmeg
  • 5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 generous teaspoon Maldon salt or any coarse salt
  • 1 cup dried cherries, cranberries, flame grape raisins, or finely chopped dried apricots or dried apples

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray the insides of two 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pans, or similarly sized pans, with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl whisk together maple syrup, oil, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and allspice or nutmeg until very smooth.

2. With a rubber spatula or large wooden spoon, fold in oats and nuts and coat everything thoroughly with the maple mixture. Sprinkle with Maldon salt and thoroughly stir again. Spread in an even layer into  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and watching carefully; bake until the oats have a golden color. Don’t overbrown and promptly remove the granola from the oven.

3. While still hot, fold in the dried fruit; the heat will gently steam and soften the fruit. Cool completely (at least 45 minutes) before tightly sealing in glass or plastic containers.

Oatmeal Chipacado Cookies

Oh why the hell not…let’s bake desserts avocado already.

This recent article in Lifehacker with it’s claims of replacing some, perhaps all, of the butter in a baking recipe with mashed avocado sounded awfully vegan to me, even if by pure accident. Though not a fan of cooked avocado, I was intrigued and went along with sacrificing a perfectly ripe and tasty Haas in the name of vegan baking science. On a 91 degree day no less.

But here I am surrounded by chewy, moist, surprisingly almost-normal oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that to an uniformed eater seem like solidly good afternoon nibbles, perfect with coffee or the prize at the bottom of a brown bag lunch.

So what is different about these? Well, I didn’t color correct my photo very much, in hopes to preserve their semi-greenish, light olive hue. Unlike the claims in the LH article the addition of a heafty amount of brown sugar didn’t totally offset the mild green color.

And the taste? They taste good. They taste like brown-sugary, vanilla-laced cookies (besides the obvious nuts and chocolate bits), but with a mysterious avocado-like aftertaste. My husband claims he couldn’t (or just barely after another, cooled off cookie) taste it, but I picked up on it right away and it’s actually pleasant, even with my bias against cooked avocado. The flavor is faintly vegetal, nutty, creamy, and earthy all at once, without any of the fruity sweetness that other reduced-fat baked goods sometimes have. If I hadn’t had known and been served these myself, maybe I would have wondered why these seemingly pistachio-paste cookies taste like avocado.

The greatest victory of these “guakies” or “gamma cookies” as a few friends have dubbed them (but I’ll call them chipacados, thanks) is the the excellent texture. If you’ve ever substitued applesauce or prunes in cookies to the end dissapointment of cakey, overly-damp cookies, I understand if you’re less than thrilled at the idea of avocado used in place of fat. However, the resulting texture of these cookies was dense, moist and super chewy without that telltale low-fat cakey texture. As they continue to cool, they become fairly study, avocado strangeness considered.

So are these low-fat? Probably not. These are still cookies. Lots of sugar, nuts, and chocolate should keep you pacing youselves and not turn an entire batch into lunch. But if the idea of offbeat baked goods with slightly less fat and a pleasing chewy texture sound intriguing, then maybe a little ‘cado is what the cookie doctor ordered.

Oatmeal Chipacado Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

For best results use an avocado that’s just turned ripe. You want the flesh to be firm and bright green with little or no brown striations, which can add bitterness. If you’re feeling lazy, squish the avocado halves in your hands directly into the mixing bowl, instead of bothering with mashing them in a seperate bowl first.

The flavor and texture of these cookies improves as they cool, so do try and leave them alone for at least 15 minutes after baking.

  • ⅓ cup vanilla almond milk
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1 cup mashed, ripe avocado (about 1 large Haas avocado)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats or quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment paper with cooking spray (the dough is stickier than regular cookie dough and needs a little extra grease).

In a glass measuring cup whisk together the almond milk and ground flax seed and set aside for 3 minutes. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl using electric beaters beat together the mashed avocado and both sugars until creamy and as smooth as possible. Beat in the flax seed almond milk mixture and vanilla extract, then sift in the baking soda, salt, and flour until combined.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the oats, chocolate chips, and chopped pecans or walnuts and make a thick dough. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop the dough into balls on to the sheet about 2 inches apart, and gently flatten the dough balls with lightly moistened fingers. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are golden and browned on the bottom. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then use a spatula to carefully transfer (cookies will be fragile) to cooling racks to completely cool. Store loosely covered.

Here’s the rub: Chipotle Cauliflower Tacos

Here’s to another Tuesday, and another taco. I’m choosing tacos as a focus for the summer because with less effort you can still have a tasty, fun, and fresh meal literally in your hot little hands in under 45 minutes, and probably in a lot less with some shortcuts of store bought salsa or toppings borrowed from the salad bar at Whole Foods or wherever. Tacos are also a great way to feature the peak produce, either locally grown and in season or exciting tropical fruits and vegetables.

The focus of today’s taco is a smoky rub, made from pre-ground pantry spices, that can be applied to roasted or grilled things to fill up tacos. In this instance cauliflower gets the rub-down; this aromatic blend adheres wonderfully to mild cauliflower (and a big sweet locally grown carrot), and when roasted to perfection is both toothsome and surprisingly hearty for an all-veggie taco filling. The toppings are what I have on hand, in this instance a ripe mango and and some scallions that had to be used ASAP…but I’ll confese making a run to the store to find a perfectly ripe avocado, because some corners can’t be cut.

I love this rub and will likely feature it on upcoming Taco Tuesdays, so if you do find yourself with extra rub I’ll find a good and proper use for you very soon! Or you could use it right now to rim the glass of a spicy margarita, made with a little mezcale, please.

 

Cauliflower Chipotle Tacos with Mango Lime Salsa

Makes about 6 tacos

I had some parsley to use, so into the salsa it went too!

Chipotle rub

1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder

1 tablespoon sweet or hot paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon smoked salt or sea salt

 

Mango Lime Salsa

1 mango, diced into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup finely diced red onion

Handful finely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

1 scallion, root ends trimmed and thinly sliced

1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced (optional)

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Sea salt to taste

 

Chipotle Cauliflower Tacos

1 head cauliflower

1 large carrot

Olive oil or olive oil cooking spray

Corn or wheat flour tortillas

Sliced avocado or guacamole

1. In a small cup combine together the rub ingredients. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the cauliflower into quarters, slice away and discard the thick inner stems and leaves. Slice the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces about 1/2 inch thick. Peel and slice the carrot into strips about 1/4 inch thick. Pour the vegetables into a bowl, sprinkle on the rub and gently toss the veggies until coated with the rubbing spices.

2. Drizzle or spray the baking sheet with olive oil, then into a single layer spread the vegetables. Drizzle or spray veggies with oil, pop into the oven and roast for 18 minutes. Remove from oven, gently stir the vegetables and roast another 5 minutes or until tender and golden brown. While the vegetables are roasting, combine all of the salsa ingredients in a bowl.

3. To serve, heat the tortillas until soft, pile with veggies and top with mango salsa and avocado/guacamole. Stop reading this and eat some tacos already!