Sunday, December 30, 2012

Vegan Coconut Nog Recipe

We just had our first big snowstorm in Boston and I've spent the day in my kitchen trying out new recipes.

As the egg nog begins to disappear from the grocery stores, I'm still keen to hold on to this rich, winter treat.

Because real egg nog can be a bit overwhelming for the senses (as well as the stomach) with its cream and raw eggs, I've been fond of the dairy free So Delicious coconut nog I found at my supermarket. And today, I had a revelation: I can totally make that myself!

With a little taste testing, this is what I came up with for a dairy free, vegan and delicious homemade coconut nog.

Homemade Vegan Coconut Nog

1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
2 Tbsp raw sugar
1 cup almond milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground turmeric, optional (this gives the nog a mellow yellow color, without the egg yolks)

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk until it is steamy, but not quite boiling. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat.

Stir in almond milk, vanilla, nutmeg and turmeric.

Serve warm or chilled. Add rum if desired (try coconut flavored rum!), and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Happy New Year, Allison. It was so good to visit with you over the holidays! And eat food from your kitchen. xoxo Cara

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pumpkin Comfort Food

So now that Thanksgiving's long gone, you might be wondering what to do with all of those cans of pumpkin that you bought when they went on sale for 39 cents.  Is that just me?  Here are two delicious pumpkin ideas that will stave off those pumpkin pie* cravings once pie season has faded.

*Actual pie.  Made from the Thanksgiving 2012 issue of Bon Appetit.  
Delicious, simple to make and doesn't use canned milk.  

DIY Pumpkin latte or pumpkin chai:
If you'd rather not shell out $4 for a pumpkin spice latte, or it's past the limited time season, make your own!


2 Tbsp. canned pumpkin

1/2 C milk

1/2 C black tea or coffee

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

a pinch of nutmeg

1 Tbsp honey

heat milk on the stove or in the microwave.  don't let it boil!  add pumpkin, spices and honey to either a traditional blender or a large enough container to fit an immersion blender. blend and froth for a few seconds until thoroughly mixed.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin oatmeal:  Breakfast that tastes like pumpkin pie... that is actually good for you?  Ok.

1 package instant oatmeal ( I am really enjoying the Mom's Best Chai Spiced or just Mom's Best Plain ) or your favorite hot cereal

2 Tbsp canned pumpkin

1 tsp maple syrup

1-2 Tbsp milk

1/8-1/4 C water

spices* such as :"pumpkin pie seasoning" or your favorite combo of nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cardamom, cinnamon
*I don't use the seasoning when I'm using the Chai Spice oatmeal because it's already seasoned.

Optional:  raisins, nuts, berries, etc.

boil water.
in a bowl, combine oats, pumpkin, maple syrup, milk, and seasoning if using.
slowly add boiling water, pouring over the pumpkin to make it creamy until cereal reaches desired consistency. add optional toppings.  stir then cover for about 3 minutes.
I like to microwave mine for about 20 seconds right before eating it because I like it really hot!  Warning, this is an addicting, sweet and easy breakfast.  I have eaten it several days in a row!

Tastes great with coffee and Bon Appetit magazine!

How to Eat on a Road Trip

I started this post after our Summer road trip but never finished it!  Now I think it's relevant again when holiday travels are looming in the not so distant future...

Fine.  I'll admit it.  I'm a picky eater.  A foodie.  A gourmande.  Whatever the label, I like to eat good food!! The more I know about food and the more exquisite food I have the occasion to dine on (thank you to the  ever expanding Des Moines restaurant landscape! ) the harder it is on the discerning palate.... when the kind of food I like; fresh, creative, seasonal, vegetable filled and flavorful is not readily available.

I'm talking about traveling.  Yes, traveling can be one of the best ways to experience food, depending on where you're headed.  Through, traveling often traveling by car, through rural areas, finding good food can be particularly difficult.  I've been burned by looking for those hidden gems along the roadside, led astray by out dated Internet directions...  it seems that many of those mythical home-made roadside places seem to have vanished (unless you're Jane and Michael Stern, which, of course I'm not).    

However, I'm here to tell you that you don't have to settle for bad food or fast food when you leave your comfort zone.  Here are some guidelines that started to present themselves on a Summer road trip I took through Northeastern Iowa and Southwestern Wisconsin.  

1.  Pack some snacks, sandwiches, and water.  Bringing along some comforting things like the snacks you might keep around your house (granola bars, cheddar bunnies, pita chips, etc.,) will tide you over if you aren’t willing to settle just yet.  Plus, you can make a picnic at a rest-stop, town square or park.  Just because a cute little town doesn't meet your needs for food, doesn't mean that you can't always enjoy the scenery while eating your delicious sandwich from home.

2.  Be Flexible:  You may have food rules, like not eating at chains.  You might be a committed vegetarian.  You might want only to eat organic or local.  These are good ideas and commendable principles to live by but on a road trip, you are not always going to find it.  You just aren't.  It is relatively easy to find guilty pleasure food i.e. fried tenderloins or fried cheese balls on the road. This is what I mean by be flexible.  Sometimes, this is the good food for the moment.  Sometimes you just have to get over yourself and settle.  Especially when you’re starving, grumpy and driving through rural areas. So go ahead and pull over at the local A&W. Have a root beer float and enjoy it.  After all, it is a cultural experience... just not the one you may have had your heart set on.

A&W Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

3.  Keep your eyes peeled for organic markets, coops, and establishments that advertise things like “farm-fresh, organic, local, fresh” rather than “home-made” which can be a gamble.  We found some nice markets and coops that had delis.  These are the places that are going to have conscientious food and real coffee… and often times this food is much tastier and much healthier than your local dive or pub and grill. 

We found this little market The Driftless Depot near the House on the Rock in Wisconsin.  They were well stocked!

A kind lady at the Driftless Depot was kind enough to make me this  amazing marinated eggplant sandwich, even though they had technically stopped serving lunch.  Lucky for me, she hadn't put away all the fixin's yet. 

4.  Bring a cooler.  We are now the owners of a mini-cooler that lives in the trunk of our car.  You might just find some delicious local delicacies you’ll want to bring home.

our beer and cheese haul from Wisconsin!

5.  Investigate. Don’t be afraid to walk in to an establishment, take a peek and turn right around.  If you go in and and realize that it’s not for you, don’t be shy about turning around and walking out.  It’s your vacation, you want to enjoy it . You’ll probably never see them again, so who cares what they think! 

6.  The Internet can be misleading.    You can trust reviews online, such as Yelp, to a certain extent.  But ssometimes it’s just better to go and see for yourself.  What may have had a bad review might just please your taste buds.  Names can be misleading, and so can addresses, and even hours of operation.  Check it out in person, and you might find what you're looking for... and if not, then see  # 5 again.

If you're doing any traveling this holiday season, or any time at all, have fun be safe and remember #2:  be flexible!!  


Monday, December 10, 2012

Soup for Studying!

The fall semester is coming to a close, and I too have been doing what Cara called "survival" cooking most nights.  I wanted to make sure I had plenty to eat while I was cranking out those final papers so last night I made a simple, yet delicious savory butternut squash soup.  This easy soup was done in less than an hour.

1 1.5 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
16 oz. of vegetable broth
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. curry powder
1/3 C light coconut milk
olive oil
salt and pepper

heat olive oil in a large soup pot.
add onions, salt and pepper and cook until onions are soft and fragrant.
add squash and cook for a few minutes before adding seasoning and broth.
reduce heat to medium/low and cover, simmering for about 20 minutes until squash is soft.

carefully transfer your soup to a blender (the real deal, this is not a job for your immersion blender... I found it to be way easier in the real blender after I tried mashing the whole pot of squash with my immersion blender) and puree until it reaches the desired consistency.  Add coconut milk and stir or blend.

This made 3 16 oz. ball jars full of soup to stock in the fridge!  Re-heat for about two minutes in the microwave and voila!  Lunch!!

Here's what it really looked like on my desk, next to my computer, as I ate lunch.