Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Favorite Things (or Things I Can't Cook Without).....

She's baaaaaaack.......

Sorry for the long absence. Life has been kinda nuts. Like I said in my last post, there has been a vacation (white-water rafting in Tennessee), 2 car accidents (a fender-bender on the freeway and the garage door opener malfunctioned and smashed my car), a bad case of bronchitis which set off my asthma in a big way, work madness, and lots of fun stuff going on in the sports and fitness ministry of my church, where I volunteer teaching spin and doing other cool stuff.

Then there is the fact that my little poodle, Winston, is sick with a mysterious illness that causes his nose to bleed. That all by itself has made me a basket case. The last severe bleed put him in the veterinary ICU for 4 days. He is home now and sometimes he goes for 3-4 days with no bleeding, but usually there is at least a small trickle of blood. I say mysterious because the vets that have examined him all concur that this is most likely a nasal carcinoma, but all the scopes and scans he has had reveal nothing other than inflammatory tissue. No tumor at all. He doesn't act sick - he eats well and he is energetic and happy and doesn't act like a 12-year-old dog.

Statistically, dogs who demonstrate this kind of bleeding and are diagnosed with kind of cancer are usually dead within 90 days of diagnosis. Winston's first bleed occurred over 2 years ago. I don't know - maybe it's his vegan diet keeping him alive. And maybe it's his sweet nature and tenacious spirit.

I'm happy to say that I am healthy and exercising again, although the bronchitis interrupted my training for the Army 10-miler to the point that I had to withdraw from the race. Sorry Jenny - you're gonna rock it even without your mom! You too, Jason!

I've been relying on lots of tried-and-true favorite standby recipes. Not much experimenting or innovating lately. So, I thought I'd write about some of the things you will always find in my pantry, spice cabinet, fridge/freezer. If I have these things on hand, I can always come up with a tasty, healthy vegan meal. These are items that I will buy even if they aren't an ingredient in my meal plan for the week, just because there will usually be a glitch in the plan or something unexpected come up during the week where I need something quick and easy. So, here they are, in no particular order.

With Vegenaise (I think this is the only decent-tasting vegan mayo) and some relish (I like dill best), I can use a can of chickpeas, some poultry seasoning, and some celery seed to make chickpea salad. Makes yummy sandwiches!

Vital gluten for seitan, vegan sausages, or chickpea cutlets is a must.

Many different herbs and spices. Cumin, ginger, cumin seed, fennel seed
, coriander, thyme, basil, rosemary, chili powders (ancho, chipotle, regular - several to choose from), marjoram, herbs de provence, poultry seasoning, several paprikas, several curry powders, garam masala, saffron, fenugreek.... the list goes on and on. If I have to choose a few I can't live without, I'd have to say cumin, cumin seeds, coriander, basil, thyme, and a couple I'll mention later. Thanks to Paul for installing the sheet of stainless steel which holds the magnetized canisters.

Yeah, I know this is funky-looking. These are chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. They come in a small can in the Mexican foods section. I never use but one or two of them at a time, so I put the rest in a plastic freezer bag and store them in the freezer til I need them. These are delicious in Cashew Chili-Lime Sauce.

For soups or stews.

Pan-roasted broccoli is the BEST!

Tahini for roasted cauliflower, seitan, or hummus.

Slice these sausages up with cabbage or pizza or grill them just like brats!

Sometime I just like a bowl of rice cooked in broth.

I always have several types of pasta. Rotini or fusilli is my favorite because the ridges hold whatever sauce you use. Easy tomato sauce and Cashew Chili-Lime sauces are my favorites.

Always buy organic soy milk. Organic will never be made from genetically modified soy beans. I like to have unsweetened on hand for sauces that don't need to be sweet.

I go through this stuff like water.

Coconut milk - the large can is the lite to save calories. Bit I keep a small can of full fat when I want more richness and flavor. For Asian recipes, especially soups, and adding richness to baked goods.

These are the best canned tomatoes ever. Throw a can in the blender, add one clove of garlic, some basil and thyme, an a bit of salt. Process, then add a little unsweetened soymilk. Heat. Voila! Almost instant Tomato Bisque!

I keep a variety of canned beans on hand. Hummus, chickpea cutlets, soups, chickpea salad. Lots of quick easy meals start with a can of beans.

Had to include this tea. We make tea in our coffee maker. It's crazy how much tea we drink. Four tea bags and 1/2 cup raw sugar make one gallon of the best iced tea any southern girl ever drank!

Red lentils are a life saver! They are a great meat substitute in pasta sauce and make a delicious dahl. Even my dogs eat red lentils!

Paul loves to snack on these,but I keep them on hand to make Cashew Chili-Lime Sauce, which takes about 5 minutes to make and is wonderful on veggies and pasta.

Red pepper flakes are one of those things I try to never run out of. Even if you don't want much heat in a dish, red pepper flakes add depth and flavor to any recipe.

Yes, fresh is always better, but when you're in a hurry...... And note, these are GRANULES not powder. Yes, there is a difference.

Smoked paprika, how do I love thee...... I love thee in cabbage, I love thee in seitan, I love thee in vegan sausages...... If you have never tried it, you really must buy some smoked paprika. It is my new favorite spice.

I really cannot cook without these wonderful veggie cubes. Rice, soups, seitan, I use them in everything!

Full spectrum sea salt has not been bleached or processed. It has less sodium and lots of trace minerals, including iodine, that are lost when salt is processed. Try some pink Himalayan sea salt and you'll never go back!

My kitchen shuts down when I run out of nutritional yeast. Really. I use it just abut everything. Seitan, salads, sauces, you name it. I try to buy it in bulk and when I have to buy the cannister, I save it to store the yeast in.

This is one of those ingredients that once you try it, you'll use it in everything. Use it in any recipe that calls for soy sauce and in many recipes instead of salt.

So, there are most the things I have on hand on any given day. I'm sure there are probably other things I could have mentioned, but these are the biggies.

What are the ingredients you can't do without? I have learned about many of these items by reading other blogs. Leave me a comment. Maybe I'll learn about a new can't-live-without ingredient!

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