Menu Exploration

Whenever Tim and I sit down to plan our weekly meals it quickly becomes obvious that we have a knack for repeating our favorites – a lot. For example, nutritionally balanced pizza (topped with homemade pesto, mushrooms, olives, spinach, and marinara sauce):

And BBQ tacos (filled with homemade BBQ sauce, soy curls, caramelized onions, and black beans):

And yummy veggie burgers, like this beet burger:

Tuesday is grocery shopping day and I have a handful of new and exciting meals planned for the upcoming week:

1. Summer Squash Soup (from Color Me Vegan)
2. Sesame Lime Soba Noodles with Shiitakes and Snap Peas (from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan)
3. Cashew & Red Lentil Burgers (from Color Me Vegan)
4. Peanut Butter Pancakes (from Color Me Vegan)
5. Couscous & Veggie Medley (from Color Me Vegan)

I always insist on including recipes we’ve never tried into our meal plans, but laziness can sometimes foil that plan. Despite having two shelves stuffed with cookbooks (and a fat binder overflowing with recipes printed from food blogs), I never seem to use them to their potential. There’s simply no excuse!

Summertime is the ultimate season for menu exploration because the bounty of fresh produce is unbelievably exciting. I am twirling with glee for pea tendrils, basil, golden beets, squash, peaches, and fingerling potatoes. This weekend I am hoping to buy some pickling cucumbers and can a bunch of dill pickles (not that pickles are a meal by themselves, but they are a nice accompaniment to vegan burgers and sammies!). I made them a few years ago and they were a lot of work, but so worth the effort (especially since I had a pickle canning companion)!

The best part about trying lots of new recipes is the potential to create more and more favorites! If I was capable, I’d challenge myself to try a new recipe every day for an entire year, but that would require some serious commitment! How do you avoid repeating favorites?

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s Something About Cherries

Well, it might be time to admit that I am a bit obsessed with picking fruit in the summertime. Colorful jars of jam are stowed in my cupboards and numerous pounds (and varieties) of berries are tucked in my freezer. I am running out of space quickly and blueberries, marionberries, peaches, and pickles are still waiting for my attention. In the meantime, I will make doughnuts:

What you see above is a batch of organic cherry doughnuts. These were inspired by cherry doughnuts I used to enjoy when I lived in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood many years ago. I actually lived down the street from a teeny doughnut shop called Presti’s and they had amazing cherry doughnuts. I could smell them from my apartment! Those were the days… Well, actually, I can sometimes smell VooDoo Doughnuts from my neighborhood now, so I guess not much has changed!

Anyway, let’s get back to those cherry doughnuts! I adapted a plain cake doughnut recipe from the always entertaining Peas and Thank You blog. I have tampered with several vegan doughnut recipes and I think I finally settled on one that makes me happy. I have made these twice in one week since cherries far outnumber people in my kitchen.

*A few notes about this recipe: I made cherry juice using my juicer. If you don’t have a juicer, store bought cherry juice should work, just make sure it isn’t loaded with icky ingredients. Also, make sure to really chop those cherries for the doughnut batter! The tinier, the better (you could give a handful of cherries a whir in a food processor to save time). If you have a juicer, use the cherry pulp extracted from your juicer instead of chopping cherries.

Cherry Doughnuts 

(recipe adapted from Peas & Thank You)

Ingredients for doughnuts:

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup oat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch cinnamon, optional
pinch nutmeg, optional
1/2 cup pure cherry juice
1/4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond milk)
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
2 Tablespoons melted coconut oil (any oil would work here, I just prefer coconut oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 Tablespoons very finely chopped fresh cherries (use sweet cherries, like Bings)

Ingredients for cherry glaze:

1/2 cup organic powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
1-2 Tablespoons pure cherry juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 6-count doughnut pan with coconut oil.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In a glass measuring cup, stir together cherry juice, non-dairy milk, sugar, coconut oil, and vanilla extract.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until no lumps remain. Gently fold in the chopped cherries.
5. Spoon batter evenly into doughnut pan.
6. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until doughnuts are golden on top. Remove pan from oven and allow doughnuts to cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before inverting them onto a cooling rack.
7. While doughnuts are cooling, make the glaze: In a shallow bowl (one that is wide enough to dip doughnuts into) whisk together powdered sugar, cherry juice, and vanilla extract. Add the cherry juice 1 Tablespoon at a time until you reach a consistency you are happy with.
8. Once doughnuts are completely cooled, dip the top half of each doughnut in the glaze and allow them to dry before devouring!

Enjoy! I’ll be back soon with a post on homemade pickles!

Annnnnnnd… It’s July (already?)!

Happy Summer!

Here is what I’ve been up to lately:

Summer weather arrived late in Portland this year (big surprise!) and despite my general dislike of rising temperatures, I am actually quite pleased with the sunshine lately. After all, warm weather fuels the growth of local berry crops! In the last few weeks Tim and I have picked close to 25 pounds of deliciously sweet, deep red, Oregon strawberries. Yesterday I turned some of those berries into jam. The photo above shows two pints of strawberry-orange jam. My list of future jams includes: raspberry, blueberry, peach, marionberry, fig-ginger, cherry, and kiwi. I am also quite excited to make dill pickles!!

Sandwiches are a quick and simple meal in the summertime. A few days ago I made panini sandwiches filled with chickpea spread, golden beets, green apples, olive tapenade, and sprouts. I found the recipe in the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. The combination might seem odd, but trust me, this sandwich was very satisfying!

Eating vegan ice cream is a great way to stay cool when the sun threatens to melt your shorts. Tim and I met up with friends today and enjoyed treats from Back to Eden Bakery. I had half of a Neapolitan cupcake and several generous bites of Tim’s banana split sundae (topped with peanut butter Newman O’s, Dandies, and house-made strawberry sauce).

A few weeks ago Tim and I went on an evening hike to Dog Mountain in Washington state. The hike is mighty steep but the views are very rewarding at the summit. Plus, we were greeted with tons of wildflowers along the trail and a gorgeous sunset. I am looking forward to August when the trails are lined with wild huckleberries (for making more jam, of course)!

I bought a doughnut pan recently and cannot stop making doughnuts! Eventually I will take the leap and try raised doughnuts but not until I have perfected the cake doughnut!

And finally, tomorrow I will be volunteering at Portland’s 2nd Annual Vegan Iron Chef competition. The event will be streamed live so you can tune in and watch the excitement from your lounge chair in the sunshine! Nifty, eh?

I hope everybody is enjoying summer (because my favorite season is coming up next!).