Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil Polenta Cutlets with Mushroom & Kale Saute

For the Polenta
3 cups water
1 cup corn meal
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Bring two cups of water to boil. Combine the cornmeal with the remaining cup of water and set aside. As the water heats, chop the tomatoes and stir them into the water along with the olive oil, basil, salt and garlic powder. Allow the mixture to come to a boil then whisk in the polenta/water blend. Bring down to low heat and simmer while stirring constantly for 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into an ungreased pie tin and smooth the top with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least a couple hours or overnight.

For the Veggies
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
dash of sherry
1 bunch kale, stems removed and torn into smaller pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes to soften before adding the garlic. When the mushrooms release their juices and begin to cook off, add the sherry and stir. Carefully add the kale, and don't worry if it looks like this . . .

. . . it will cook way down in just a few minutes. Turn the heat up to high and carefully stir all the veggies as they cook down. Meanwhile, turn the polenta onto a cutting board and cut into eighths. Heat enough olive oil in a second pan to cover the bottom and add the polenta cutlets. Cook the polenta over medium to medium-high heat for about ten minutes, until the bottom is a crispy golden brown. Gently turn over the cutlets (be careful of splashing hot oil!) and fry the other side to golden brown, about five minutes more. (Non-vegan option: after turning the cutlets you can place slices of provolone cheese on the polenta to melt)

Once the water has cooked off the veggies and they are tender, season to taste and remove from heat. Serve veggies over polenta cutlets.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beeswax Candles

Without much planning or practice, a friend and I made beeswax candles in my kitchen. We wanted to keep the process as simple as possible so we used empty jars that were sitting around the house and melted the wax in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. We did buy blocks of 100% beeswax and some ready-made wicks. We originally wanted to make our own wicks, but found out this process takes a little longer than our patience allowed, so we decided to save that project for next time. (In case you do want to make your own wicks and have a few days before you want to make candles, here are some instructions, though I have not yet tried this myself.)

The process was simple albeit a bit messy. We just melted a pound of beeswax in a double boiler (thrift store bowl + stock pot = excellent double boiler). This took a while, which is a great time to mix up a cocktail and enjoy it with a friend while keeping one eye on the stove. Wax does have a flash point, so you don't want to get it too hot. 

Clear off the kitchen table and cover it in old newspaper. Make sure your jars are nice and clean and place the wicks in them with a supporting chop stick to lean on so it won't fall over while you pour in the wax. If you are going to add any essential oils have those at the ready too, because once the wax is melted you will need to move quickly. 

When the wax is ready carefully bring the bowl (use oven mitts so you don't burn your hands, silly) over to your jars and gently pour the wax into each jar (ideally) without knocking over your wick. Immediately add a dozen or so drops of essential oil (if desired) to your candle and stir with a second chop stick. Then just let the candles cool down. The wax will tend to sink down as it cools, so if you want them to look perfect just top them off with a little more melted wax once they have cooled down. 

That's it. 

Best yet vegan mac 'n' cheese

Here's a simple down-home vegan lunch I made the other day: a quick bbq seitan sandwich using this basic homemade seitan recipe and a side of creamy mac 'n' cheese. I myself am not vegan, but I still found this recipe super tasty. And it's easy, here's how to make it:

1 pound of your favorite pasta (I mixed and matched)

For the sauce:
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1/4 cup flour
3 cups soy milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard (I used a Walla Walla sweet onion mustard)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to your likeness. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan melt margarine over medium heat and add flour. Whisk in flour and cook gently for four or five minutes allowing the mixture to bubble but not burn. Slowly whisk in the soy milk and stir then add the nutritional yeast, ketchup, mustard, salt, and garlic powder. Simmer over low heat for a few minutes until the sauce is thickened but stirred smooth. Take off of heat, add lemon juice and taste for added seasonings (a little hot sauce might be good too?). Drain cooked noodles and toss with the sauce. Happily consume.