Friday, April 18, 2014

Parsley Is The Spice of Life...

Parsley is an herb that I use almost as frequently as Cilantro. I buy several bunches of it per week, and like with cilantro I throw it into everything. It’s got a beautiful color, a heavenly smell, and a wonderful taste - but really is it any wonder that I love it so much when Parsley and Cilantro are related? You might not think so but parsley and coriander (cilantro) actually belong to the same family. The Apiaceae family, other members of which include fennel, dill, cumin, celery, carrot, anise, hemlock and lovage. Though there are several varieties of parlay there are really only two types commonly used as herbs.  Curly parsley, and leaf - or Italian - parsley, which is my favorite. Curly parsley is more decorative in appearance, as it’s name suggests it’s rather curly, where as Leaf parsley, also called flat-leaf parsley is flat, and looks a lot like cilantro. The flat variety is said to have a stronger flavor then the curly type but different opinions on this subject abound. The reason I like flat-leaf parsley best is because it’s a lot easier to mince. There is a third type of parsley commonly grown throughout central and eastern Europe called root parsley which produces a much thicker root then the types of parsley cultivated for their leaves. These roots are often used in casseroles, or soups, or simply eaten raw, but they are not to be confused with the parsnip. Though the parsnip is actually the closest relative of parsley in the Apiaceae family, the two taste quite different. Now, I don’t know about you but I find that kind of stuff fascinating.

Unfortunately, as wonderful as parsley is, it is so often neglected in our cooking. Parsley is considered somewhat of a ‘bland’ herb - don’t ask me why, - and is more often then not relegated to the world of artistic plating where it is perpetually stuck playing the part of a mere garnish. A real travesty if I ever heard one. If you just so happen to be one of those people that doesn’t give parsley the time of day, then I hope that by the time you’ve reached the end of this post you’ve changed your mind.

History/cultivation -

Parsley is native to the Mediterranean (Southern Italy, Algeria, Tunisia.)  Though it’s been cultivated for more then 2000 years parsley was first used medicinally before it was consumed as a food. The ancient Greeks held parsley to be sacred and used it to adorn victors of athletic contests as well as for decorating the tombs of the dead. Interestingly enough using parsley as a garnish has a long history that can be traced back to the civilization of ancient Rome.

When  parsley made the shift from medicinal and sacrificial use to culinary use is unknown. However that change is thought to have occurred at sometime during the Middle Ages in Europe. Some historians even credit Charlemagne with it’s popularization since he had it grown on his estates.

Health Benefits -

Parsley contains two components that provide unique health benefits, volatile oil, and flavonoids. Parsley’s volatile oils - particularly myristicin - have been shown to inhibit tumor formation - particularly tumor formation in the lungs -  in animal studies. Myristicin has also shown an ability to activates the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase which helps attach the molecule glutathione to oxidized molecules that would otherwise do damage in the body. The activity of parsley’s volatile oils make it a ‘chemoprotective’ food, and a food that can help naturalize particular carcinogens - such as those found in cigarette smoke or charcoal grill smoke.

The Flavonoids in parsley - especially luteolin - have been shown to function as antioxidants that can help prevent oxygen based damage to cells. In addition parsley extracts have been used in animal-based studies to help increase the antioxidant capacity of the blood.

Parsley is also an excellent source of Vitamin C which is important since vitamin C is the body’s primary water-soluble antioxidant, capable of defeating otherwise dangerous free radicles in all water soluble parts of the body. Since high levels of free radicals contribute to both the development and progression of diseases like atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and asthma, people who eat healthy amounts of Vitamin C rich foods may be at lower risk. Vitamin C is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and so it can be useful in conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Not to mention the importance of vitamin C to the immune system.

Parsley is also a great source of beta-carotene, another important antioxidant working in the fat soluble areas of the body. Diets rich in beta-carotene are also associated with a reduced risk of developing atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. Beta-carotene may also help reduce the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Beta-carotene is also converted by the body into Vitamin A which is an essential nutrient for a strong immune system.

Parsley is also an excellent source of folic acid which plays a critical role in relation to cardiovascular health.  Folic acid plays a major role in the body’s process of converting homocysteine into benign molecules.  At high levels homocysteine can directly damage blood vessels and significantly increase one’s risk of heart attack or stroke especially in people who may already suffer from atherosclerosis or diabetic heart disease. Folic acid is also a critical nutrient for proper cell division and is vitally important for cancer prevention in two areas of the body that contain rapidly dividing cells - the colon, and the cervix.

Preparation - 

I really do use parsley in just about everything. Typically I add it towards the end of cooking or sprinkle it on just before serving a dish, because it’s really best eaten raw. I love it in soups, or stews - anything with an Italian, North American or European feel. I like it sprinkled on salads, or used in certain Middle Eastern dishes like Tabbouleh. It’s great in tomato sauce, it’s great in alfredo sauce. It’s perfect in horseradish cream sauce to ladle over tofu. It makes a great pesto, it’s fantastic blended into salad dressings. It works fantastically with grilled or broiled cauliflower, and I love it paired with chickpeas. Really it’s hard to go wrong with parsley so the next time you’re at hte market pick up a bunch or two and don’t be afraid to use it. Experiment and enjoy, that’s what cooking’s all about!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Passover 2014 - Exploring Old Traditions...

My Delicious Seder Passover Feast!

My husband and I are not Jewish, not by a long shot, and we are not particularly religious. My husband was raised in a pretty lax house of mixed faith - Catholic/Christian - then grew up to be an Atheist. I grew up in a somewhat stricter Christian environment that included Biblical Stories, Sunday School, and regular visits to church. In high school I began to reconsider what it was I believed and found that I was more inclined to a Buddhist style of faith, and living. I still adhere to the principals of Buddhism today, although I would say I follow it more as a philosophy then a strict religion. I’d say I’m more spiritual then religious - and as a spiritual person I still from time to time feel sentimental about the traditions I grew up with. Easter for example is a holiday I always liked, because it meant the beginning of Spring, and time shared with family. Passover is a holiday I never celebrated, but I’ve always had an interest in Judaism, and thus an interest in Passover as well. Normally I work on Passover - at least that’s been the case these past 4 years - this year, however I found myself surprisingly free of any obligations and so I decided to take the opportunity to celebrate Passover for the first time, with a delicious Seder meal.

I know enough about Passover to know that it last eight days - and normally takes place in April, just before Easter. I know it’s celebrated as the commemoration of Jewish liberation by God from slavery in ancient Egypt, and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses.  It commemorates the story of the Exodus as described in The Bible. I’ve always preferred the Old Testament to the New - better stories if you ask me, - and the Exodus is certainly an interesting story. 10 Plagues, death of the first born, the struggle for freedom and then finally obtaining that freedom. It’s a good story, and freedom - no matter what your faith - is a pretty universal concept. Everyone desires freedom from something or someone. Freedom is something worth celebrating in my opinion, and what better way to do so then with a nice meal, and some old school traditions?

Simple Vegetable Matzo Ball Soup 

Since I have no understanding of what’s acceptable to cook/eat for Passover I looked to my copy of Nava Atlas’s “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” for some inspiration. From her lovely book I picked several dishes to make that sounded interesting to me, and I have to say I was quite happy with the results.

Since Matzo is a traditional food eaten at Passover, we decided to start our meal with the Simple Vegetable Soup with Vegan Matzo Balls. I really enjoyed making this soup, it was relatively quick and easy, and something about the process made me feel really good. I felt connected to a time and a place, and a tradition - so much so that I thought a lot about the Exodus as I worked to prepare the soup. Now, I’ve never eaten a Matzo anything in my life, so I wasn’t sure how I’d actually like the soup in the end - especially since I always hear that Matzo is somewhat bland - but I was really blown away by this soup. It was so flavorful. In fact it reminded me very much of the Chicken Noodle Soup my Oma used to make when I was a child - minus the Matzo of course. It’s a simple mix of carrot, celery, onion, dill, potato, and then of course the matzo balls.  The balls are made using matzo meal, and quinoa flakes, as well as water, oil and salt. I really loved the way the balls broke up into the soup, and the contrast of the flavorful broth with the soft squishy matzo.

In fact I loved this soup so much I can’t believe I’ve never eaten it before, and I know I’ll probably make this soup again and again, whether it’s Passover or not.

Spinach, Leek, and Potato Matzo Gratin 

Originally I was also going to serve a salad along with our meal but in the end I decided to skip it only because I was tired, and didn’t feel like going through the extra trouble of roasting beets - which were a component of the salad I’d planned to make.

An Inside Shot of the Gratin 

For our main course I made the Spinach, Leek, and Potato Matzo Gratin. Which I thought was very good, but honestly it was a pain in the ass to make. First you cook the potatoes and then peel them! Do you know how difficult that is? Ugh! Then you need to soak the matzo to make them pliable, you have to cook the leek and spinach. There’s a lot of steps and when I opened my box of Matzo a lot of them were broken. So you’ll have to excuse the poor picture, and bad presentation but given it’s my first time making anything of this sort I think I deserve a break, right?

Now, I didn’t end up using the optional vegan cheese or the pine nuts in this Gratin - simply because I didn’t have either, - and I thought it could have used more salt and pepper but like I said I enjoyed it. It might not have been my favorite meal in the world but there was something hearty and comforting about It that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. As my husband said “It’s like a Jewish lasagna!” and I suppose he’s right. FYI - we ate the leftovers today with extra salt, and pepper, and a drizzle of Sriracha and man oh man did that really kick this dish up a notch! I’ve no idea if Sriracha is aloud on Passover, but if you’re not strict then give it a try it’s delicious!

Sauteed Asparagus and Broccolini 

As a side to accompany the Gratin I made the Sauteed Asparagus and Broccolini which was a pretty simple mix. Asparagus, Broccolini, and Yellow Bell Pepper are sauteed in oil, then lemon juice, salt, pepper, and Olives are added for a really nice, simple touch.

Passover Fruit Crisp 

For dessert I decided to go with the Passover Fruit Crisp, because, well - I love a good fruit crisp, and this one was different. Thinly sliced apples and pears mixed with maple syrup and cinnamon and topped with quinoa flakes. Not my favorite crisp ever, but pretty darn good nonetheless. Of course I think it’s a travesty to eat a fruit crisp without ice cream and so I made a batch of homemade Sticky Date Ice Cream with Butterscotch Sauce from Hannah Kaminsky’s book “Vegan A La Mode” I don’t know if ice cream is aloud on Passover but it was mostly made with coconut milk and dates. Dates are pretty old world - and aloud as far as I understand - so maybe it wasn’t a terrible choice.

Passover Fruit Crisp with Sticky Date Ice Cream

And that about wraps it up. I have to say I really enjoyed our little celebration. I enjoyed the feeling of enacting long standing traditions, and enjoyed cooking, trying, and sharing new - to me - foods. We didn’t read from the Hebrew Bible or drink wine or bless the matzo, or any of that other stuff but who knows, maybe next year, because we’ll definitely do it all over again next year.

I hope everyone out there who celebrates Passover had a nice time!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Seitan Making 101...

If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ve probably heard me talk about Seitan on a number of occasions. Or maybe you’ve scrolled through my posts and caught a glimpse of a rather ‘meaty’ looking dish and wondered to yourself “What’s that?” Maybe you’re new to the inventive world of seitan, or maybe you’re well acquainted with it, but didn’t know you could easily make seitan at home. Well, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, this post’s for you.

So lets start at the beginning shall we? Seitan - (Pronounced Say-Tahn) is a vegetarian meat made from gluten, the main protein in wheat. It’s said to have originated in ancient China as a meat substitute for adherents to Buddhism - but just who invented it and how is anyone’s guess. Some stories claim that seitan was born in a Buddhist monastery, made by monks who had originally been making bread. The dough became over-kneaded and tough and so they tired to salvage it somehow and ended up with what we know as seitan. Other stories insist that seitan was originally developed by the chefs who worked for the Chinese emperor who traditionally observed a week of vegetarianism each year. Personally I like the monk story best, but that’s me.

Even though seitan might be a new concept for you, it’s actually been used in a wide variety of ways for a very long time, and it’s still quite popular in many Asian cultures, in fact, you may be more familiar with it then you realize. Have you ever been into a Chinese restaurant and ordered something vegetarian? Mock duck, or mock chicken perhaps? Then you ate seitan. Have you ever been into a vegetarian Chinese restaurant and eaten anything that looked ‘meaty’? Then you were eating seitan, unless it was otherwise specified as being soy. The word might not have been in your vocabulary, but the product was on your plate.

Over the past decade as vegetarianism, and veganism have grown as a movement worldwide - and especially in the West, the word Seitan is popping up more and more. The product itself is popping up more and more, and sometimes in the most unlikely places. You can even buy prepared seitan in health food stores, and most other places that vegetarian meats are sold. This shift is really quite fantastic, and I think it’s great that seitan has become so easily available to the masses. However, I don’t personally like a lot of store-bought seitan. To me, it has a strange after taste that I dislike. In fact when I first went veg, and tried Seitan I found it so unpleasant that I avoided it for years until I discovered that making your own seitan was super easy, pretty fun, and way, way tastier! - Obviously this is not the case if you're Celiac, or have a gluten sensitivity or allergy, however I have heard of a few ingenious gluten-free vegans who've made gluten-free seitan. give it a Google, see what pops up!

Honestly, it might sound like a big hassle or a pain in the ass but it really isn’t, and the finished product is so rewarding. Typically I spend one morning every couple of months - maybe 4-5 hours - and make up huge batches of seitan to store in my freezer. This way I always have seitan handy when a recipe catches my interest, and this makes seitan a convenient food for me, it’s something I don’t need to buy, and something I don’t have to prepare on the spot. How often I do this is not set in stone basically whenever my seitan stores get low, I pick a day and have at it. How often I need to make seitan depends on how often I use it, and my use of it varies depending on the season or what recipes I’m currently interested in making. Sometimes I might not eat any home-made seitan for an entire month, and sometimes I might cook it once or twice a week. It’s never the same.

For the past month or so I’ve been telling myself I need to re-stock. The freezer’s been pretty empty, but I also haven’t really been eating seitan lately, and so I kept putting it off and putting it off. Since I knew I would have a lot of free time yesterday morning I decided to spend it making seitan, and I took pictures to show you just how easy it is!

Dry Mix for 'Moo-Free Seitan'

Firstly, there are a few different ways one can make seitan. The traditional way - the original way - is to use whole what flour mixed with water, and to knead and knead and then rinse the dough to remove the starch and then knead some more, and rinse again, and then simmer it for an hour or two. I’ve never made seitan that way, though I’m intrigued to give it a try even though the process is a little more time consuming.

'Moo-Free Seitan' once mixed

I typically use one of the three more common ‘streamline’ methods, which involve mixing Vital What Gluten with water/broth and other seasonings and then simmering on or in the stove, steaming, or baking. My personal favorite method of the three is steaming, that’s the one I use most often. I like it because it’s quick and easy and makes for really chewy firm seitan. The simmer method makes pretty flavorful seitan but I also find the end result rather soft, sometimes spongy. Finally the baking method I’ve only tried twice, both times resulted in really flavorful and extremely firm seitan.

'Moo-Free' Seitan' In it's broth and ready for the oven!

Yesterday I used two of the three methods. First, because I wanted to make the Monte Cristo Sandwiches from “Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day” by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes I had to first make the Moo-Free Seitan, which is a beef-flavored seitan used in several of the recipes in the book. This recipe called for vital wheat gluten, soy flour, nutritional yeast, and various other wet and dry seasonings like broth and soy Tamari. So, first things first. You combine your dry ingredients in a bowl, combine your wet in a separate bowl, and then mix the two together until a dough forms. Up to this point it’s very much like baking bread. Once your dough sticks together and isn’t sticking to your hands you knead it for 5-8 minutes, and then let it rest for 10 so that the gluten can develop. Then you roll the whole thing into a ball shape and place it in a casserole dish with vegetable broth, onions, garlic and a few other things. Then bake in the oven at 300'F for 3 hours. Though this particular seitan is being baked the finished product is more like what you get when you simmer on the stove for an hour. Soft and chewy - other baked seitan recipes require being baked in aluminum foil with no liquid.

The finished 'Moo-Free Seitan" with a few garlic slivers on top

Anyway, once that was in the oven it was time for me to move on. I set up two pots with water and steamer baskets on my stove and set about making a batch of Red Seitan and a batch of White Seitan both from Terry Hope Romero’s “Viva Vegan!” book. This is really my ‘go-to’ seitan recipe. It’s quick, easy, tastes great, and never fails. You can put it in anything. Now if you’re wondering what the difference is, red seitan is more like a ‘beef’ flavor, where as white seitan is more like a ‘chicken’ flavor. Different combinations of seasonings are used to alter the flavor while the same base recipe is used. While her recipes call for the use of vegetable broth or water I typically use a vegan beef bouillon cube and a vegan chicken bouillon cube to added flavor enhancement.

White Seitan on the left
Red Seitan on the right

So once you have your dough mixed together and properly kneaded your next task is to divide it. Divide each dough into four portions and roll those portions into a loaf shape. Once that is done you cut off a strip of aluminum foil place the seitan on top and wrap it up - tight but not too tight - like you would a Christmas parcel. Once that’s done you stick them seam side down in your steamer basket and steam for about 30-45 minutes, until the packages have expanded and they’re firm to the touch.

Seitan Loaf Ready to be rolled
Remember to roll it tight but not too tight. It will expand as it steams,
and if the parcel is too tight it will explode.

A perfect fit into the steamer

Once I had that going it was time for me to make some sausages. All I had left in the freezer were some curry apple sausages and some chorizo. So I pulled out my copy of Sky Michael Conroy’s book “The Gentle Chef” and proceeded to go crazy. I made the German Bratwurst, the Italian Sausages, the Bangers, and the Andouille Sausage. I’ve made both Italian and Andouille sausages before using different recipes - usually Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipe from "Vegan Brunch"  for the Italian, and Alicia C. Simpson’s  recipe from "Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations" for the Andouille, - but since I haven’t tried many recipes from The Gentle Chef yet, I wanted to give them a try. Plus I was particularly excited to try some seitan brats, and bangers.  I have to say the dough is much wetter, and softer then other seitan dough I’ve previously worked with, in fact most of the dough’s didn’t stick together at all and I had to add a bit more flour. No big deal though. After the dough rested the next step was to roll it into sausage shapes. Since the sausage recipes called for the same steam technique that he red and white seitan use, the process is fairly similar.

Once you have a nice sausage shape you place it onto a sheet of aluminum foil and then roll it up and twist the ends like a Tootsie roll. Once that’s done you place them in your steamer and steam for about 40 minutes.

Bratwurst Sausage ready for the steamer

Still, even after all that I wasn’t quite finished. I really decided to go all out and once my Gentle Chef Sausages were done I made a batch of Bianca Phillips Creole Sausages from her book “Cookin’ Crunk” and then a batch of Taymer Mason’s Jamaican Jerk Sausages from “Caribbean Vegan” only by then I was running low on vital wheat gluten and so I decided to half the Jerk Recipes - which was huge it made 12 sausages as written! Anyway I’m not quite sure what happened, I don’t know if my calculations were off or what but I still ended up with more liquid ingredients then dry and the dough was more of a paste. In hopes of saving it I had my husband run to the store for some more gluten, and in the end was able to add enough to make a proper dough. It steamed up nice, and the sausages were very firm, but I still ended up with 10 even though I initially halved the recipe so I don’t know flavor wise how those ones are going to turn out. Hopefully they still taste great though.

Andouille Sausage ready for the steamer

Anyway, once everything comes out of the steamer it’s a good idea to set your seitan on a plate and let cool to room temperature. Leave the dough in it’s aluminum foil wrapping and then once it’s cool place it inside a zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Then you can use them any little way your heart desires or pop ‘em all into the freezer for a later use. Personally I don’t always refrigerate for 8 hours sometimes I just throw ‘em all into the freezer right away, but I’ve read recently that refrigerating first helps develop the texture and flavor of the final product so I’ve been testing this out.

And that my friends is how you do it - seitan making 101. See how easy it is? I mean it may seem like a lot of steps but really the longest part of the process is either the steaming, baking or simmering and that’s all down time you know? Mixing the dough and kneading takes less then 10 minutes. Admittedly rolling the sausages can be a pain in the ass but once you do it a few times you’ll be a pro!

The Fruits of my labor.
Top, Left to Right - Red Seitan, Bratwurst, Andouille, & Creole Sausages
Bottom, Left to Right - White Seitan, Italian, Bangers, & Jerk Sausages

If you’ve never made seitan at home before because you were intimidated by it or simply didn’t know you could, I urge you to give it a try. There are a lot of great recipes out there, you can find plenty online or use one of the books I mentioned! Let me know how it goes! And if you’re an old hand at seitan making feel free to drop me a line with any helpful hints or tips for making the best seitan!

Lastly, the beautiful and delicious Moo-Free Seitan on the delicious
Monte Cristo Sandwich! 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Breakfast Sandwich of Champions...

Because, sometimes, when you get home from working the graveyard shift, you don’t want to sleep, and oatmeal just ain’t gonna curb that hunger. Instead you need something big, hearty, filling, and dare I say decadent? At least that’s how I felt this morning when I got home at 8:30am. I was wired from a cup of coffee I had, and simply ravenous - I knew no normal breakfast would suffice.

The first question was, what will I make? I didn’t want anything sweet, I was in the mood for savory. However I didn’t feel like tofu or a scramble, in fact I didn’t really want ‘breakfast food’ at all. After being up all night I didn’t feel as though it was really breakfast time, and so what better compromise then having a breakfast sandwich? Once the thought entered my head I pulled out my handy copy of Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes wonderful book “Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day!” and promptly settled on the Country Sausage Sandwich - which is the amazing and mouth-watering concoction you see in the photographs before you.

Since the tempeh requires some time to marinate, this is a meal you’ll want to plan ahead for. I failed to plan ahead so I just steamed the tempeh - rather then boil - and let it marinate as I cooked everything else first. Really it all comes together rather quickly If you have a plan.

The tempeh in this sandwich is sliced into four ‘steaks’ and then marinated in vinegar, liquid smoke, vegetable broth, onion, fennel, red pepper flakes, cumin and coriander. Then it’s pan seared. After that you load the tempeh up onto some English muffins, and top it off with some hash browns - yes has browns on a sandwich! Amazing I know! - baby spinach, and a delicious sauce made from chopped onion, bell pepper, lemon juice and vegan mayo

It might not sound like much, but believe me when I tell you that this thing is phenomenal. A bit of a mess to eat, the sauce and the hash browns have a way of spilling out all over, but man is it worth getting your hands - and your face dirty. If you happen to own a copy of this book I encourage you to give this sandwich a try!

And yes, my husband and I both ate two of these monsters for breakfast. Like I said, we were starving - don’t judge, we did enjoy a nice afternoon at the gym to make up for it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Coriander Is The Spice of Life...

I probably say this about every spice but I really, really love Coriander. Did you know that coriander is both an herb and a spice? This is because both the fresh leaves and the seeds are used. In North America we commonly refer to the seeds (ground or whole) as coriander, while we refer to the fresh leaves as cilantro.  While I tend to use both in my cooking I typically reserve coriander seeds and powder for dishes of a Mediterranean, Mexican, Indian, or Middle Eastern flair, where as Cilantro I’ll toss into just about anything. I use a ridiculous amount of Cilantro, and probably buy anywhere from 3-4 large bunches of it per week. I love everything about it from it’s unique flavor to it’s smell, and it works well in almost any dish.

Interestingly enough did you know that many people can’t stand the leaves because they experience un unpleasant soapy taste or rank flavor when eating them? This is due to an aromatic chemical compound within the leaves that is somewhat related to a chemical group found in the Stink Bug. Apparently the different perceptions of coriander leaves is genetic - like that whole Asparagus/stinky pee thing - with some people having absolutely no reaction to the chemicals whatsoever, while others can’t stand it. Glad I’m one of the people who can stand Coriander/Cilantro, because I don’t know what I’d do without it! But enough about all that, lets get to some history.


Coriander is native to a wide range of areas spanning Southern Europe all the way to South Asia, and since it grows wild in so many areas it’s hard for us to pinpoint exactly where it was first cultivated. There is however plenty of evidence to suggest that Coriander has been in use for a very, very long time. For example fifteen desiccated coriander mericarps were found in the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Level of the Nahal Hemel Cave in Israel which is potentially the oldest archeological find of coriander. Roughly half a liter of coriander mericarps were recovered from the tomb of Tutankhamun, and since the plant does not grow wild in Egypt archeologists interpret this as proof that coriander was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians.

Coriander also seems to have been cultivated in Greece since roughly the second millennium BC. A Linear B Tablet recovered from Pylos refers to the species being cultivated for use in perfume as well as for it’s culinary/medicinal properties Large quantities of the species being recovered at an Early Bronze Age layer at Sitagori in Macedonia could indicate cultivation of the species at that time..

If you want to get a little less Scientific coriander is also mentioned in the Old Testament of The Bible. It’s also said to have been used by the Romans to preserve meat and flavor bread, and it’s associated with Hippocrates who apparently used it as an aromatic stimulant.

Lastly coriander was brought to the British Colonies in North America around 1670, and became one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers.

Health Benefits 

Recent animal-based research has confirmed that coriander can control blood sugar, cholesterol, and free radical production. When it was added to the diet of diabetic mice, it helped stimulate their secretion of insulin and lowered their blood sugar.  When it was given to rats fed a high fat, high cholesterol diet, coriander lowered levels of total LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol. This effect appears to be caused by increasing synthesis of bile by the liver and increasing the breakdown of cholesterol into other compounds. Finally in rats coriander was also shown to reduce the amount of damaged fats in their cell membranes.

Interestingly in parts of Europe coriander has been traditionally referred to as an ‘anti-diabetic’ herb, and has been documented as a traditional treatment for Type 2 Diabetes.

A study published in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry suggests that coriander could be a natural way to fight Salmonella - which is a frequently and sometimes deadly cause of foodborne illness. Together US and Mexican researchers isolated the compound dodecenal, which laboratory tests showed is twice as effective as the commonly used antibiotic drug gentamicin at killing Salmonella.

Coriander - like many spices - also contains antioxidants, which can delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with it. Though antioxidants were found in both the seeds as well as the leaves the antioxidant effect of the leaves proved to be greater.

Coriander has also been used as a folk remedy in Iran to treat anxiety and insomnia. While it’s long been used in Indian Medicine as a diuretic, as well as a carminative and digestive aid.

Lastly the essential oil produced from coriander has shown to have antimicrobial effects.

So it’s antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-diabetic, and antimicrobial - what more could you ask for?

Preparation -

I like cilantro in just about anything but some of my favorite ways to use it are in fresh salsa, guacamole, black bean soup, in grain salads like tabbouleh, in dal’s, in curries - especially spicy curries or coconut based curries - in chili, in cornbread, sprinkled over top of roasted potatoes or carrots, in lentil soup - or any soup - sprinkled over top of salad, in chutney, dressing’s, dip’s, and even on pasta. It’s great with lightly sauteed white beans, and goes pretty well with just about any Mexican, Latin American, Indian, Asian, North African, Mediterranean, or Tex-Mex style cuisine.

You can even make a holistic tea out of it by boiling the seeds - though I’ll be honest and say I have no idea what that might taste like.

There’s really so much you can do with cilantro that as long as you don’t have an aversion to it you should just start liberally using it in everything.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Breakfast At The Diner...

Sorry for the absence but I’ve been working a lot and in my spare time I’ve been testing recipes for two different - upcoming - vegan cook books. There hasn’t been a whole lot of time in between for me to make anything creative at home, at least not anything creative that I can call my own. This will probably go on for the next couple of weeks and so in the meantime I probably won’t be posting many - or any - recipes of my own, though I plan to still post regularly, about something.

Today I wanted to talk about The Chicago Diner . I’ve talked about them before, and they’re fantastic! Really, if you live in the Chicagoland area and haven’t been you’re missing out, and if you’re headed this way either passing through or planning a stay then you need to get thee to the Diner tout de suite!  Still in all my years of visiting The Chicago Diner I had never been there for breakfast - until about a week and a half ago.

You see, I’ve started a new job and the hours are overnight - which may sound strange to you but I love it. - So instead of getting out of work at 5pm, or 10pm or some normal hour I end up leaving work at about 8 or 9am, and I don’t know about you but after a nice long shift I need me some breakfast? As it happens on one of those days last week my husband was off, and so we’d decided to go see a film at one of our favorite cinema’s in the city. - They always play the weird films, foreign films, and independent films - and since the theater is only a couple of blocks from the Diner we thought “Hey, lets get breakfast!” Best idea ever!

I fell asleep in the car on the drive which was great - nothing like a cat nap! - and by the time I woke up again we were parked out front and waiting for 11am - we were about ten minutes early. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, applied a little lipstick, and yawned. By then my stomach was growling and the doors to the Diner were open for business. My husband who is often a voracious morning eater was just as hungry as me and so we slid into a booth and proceeded to go completely insane.

We each started with a cup of coffee, with soy milk and a bit of raw sugar. I actually ordered this coffee by accident I still had ‘sleep brain’ and unknowingly said yes to coffee. Oh well, it was tasty, fair trade, and came in this cute little Diner mug. Since I hadn’t really been in the mood for coffee I didn’t drink it all, but my husband polished it off after his own cup.

Cinnamon Bun 

Next we each got a cinnamon bun because HELLO VEGAN CINNAMON BUN! Enough said. This was super delicious, and moist, and the cream cheese frosting was to die for. Cinnamon buns are something that I’ve always loved, when I was a little girl my dad used to make them himself. When I grew up and moved to the states I often traveled to the evil Cinnabon - but as a vegan it’s a lot harder to just go into a place and order a cinnamon bun. Normally when I get in the mood for it I make them myself but it’s a great novelty to be able to order them somewhere, especially when they’re so damned delicious!

Cookie Dough Peanut Butter Shake

I also ordered a milkshake to go with that. Yeah, I know a milkshake for breakfast isn’t exactly healthy but I was at THE DINER, and if you’ve ever been to the diner then you know that they serve up the best godsdamned vegan milkshakes in the world! I never go to the diner without ordering one. Normally I get the Lucky Leprechaun Mint shake but this time I thought I’d branch out and choose something different - Cookie Dough Peanut Butter. Oh my gods! This was amazing, I mean really and truly amazing. It tasted like Reese’s Pieces - which I used to love as a kid. It was so creamy, and flavorful, and delicious - and so utterly decadent!

Biscuits and Gravy 

Next up my husband and I split a plate of biscuits and gravy. I was having a really difficult time deciding what I wanted to get to eat, I really wanted the biscuits but I also really wanted something ‘eggy.’ I thought getting both would be too much food, so it was a good idea to split the plate. My husband will never turn down a biscuit and some gravy. I really loved the gravy that these biscuit’s came with it was creamy, rich, and herby. The biscuits were a bit hard to taste because they were absolutely drenched in gravy but that’s perfectly okay. Biscuits don’t normally taste like all that much anyway, they’re really just a vehicle for gravy. I’m not sure I’d say that this is my fave biscuits and gravy recipe but I would definitely get this again - and again, and again!

"STK" & Eggs

For my main meal I ended up getting the “STK” & Eggs. Which is a giant slab of country-fried seitan ‘steak’ that comes with 2 eggs if you’re vegetarian, or tofu scramble if you’re vegan, a potato hash and some fruit garnish. This was pretty damn phenomenal let me tell you. The potato hash was excellent, if my belly would have allowed it I would have eaten platefuls of the stuff. The Tofu Scramble was really well seasoned though a bit dry. I like a moister scramble, and I like a lot of funky ingredients in my scrambles but this one was fairly reminiscent of what I remember eggs to be like. Finally the country fried seitan. Well, I have to say I’ve only eaten chicken fried steak once in my life - it was after I moved to IL and I have to say it was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Seriously, the menu made it sound so good, and since it’s such an “American Staple” I thought I’d have to try it, but I took two bites and couldn’t eat any more then that for fear I might vomit. I tried to offer it to my husband but he never liked chicken fried steak either and so I ate around it and never dared try the dish again. My memory of that morning is actually so horrible, and so infused in my brain that despite having plenty of recipes for country fried seitan or country fried tofu I’ve never, ever tried to make a vegan version. So, I don’t know what possessed me that morning to order the country fried seitan at the Diner but I’m so glad I did. It was easily one of the best breakfast foods I’ve ever eaten. It was moist, it was crispy, it was chewy, it tasted out of this world dipped in gravy. If I’d had more room in my stomach I would have ordered another plate of just country fried seitan - no lie.

It just goes to show you that anything you can do I can vegan better. Ha.

The Big Bang Breakfast 

My husband got the Big Bang Breakfast for his meal which is 2 eggs if you’re vegetarian or tofu scram if you’re vegan, along with potato hash, fruit garnish, and either seitan bacon or a vegan sausage patty, with some toast. Lucky for my husband someone in the kitchen made a mistake and he ended up getting both the seitan bacon and the sausage patty. I was way too full from my own epic breakfast to even ask for a bite of his food, but I assure you he thought it was all pretty tasty, and if you like you can read his review at The Broke Vegan  - he just started blogging himself so go over and show your love and support!


PS: Breakfast is served at The Chicago Diner from 11am-3pm.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Restaurant Review: Urban Vegan in Chicago...

A couple of weeks ago I finally got the chance to eat at Urban Vegan which is a cute little Thai place with locations in Lake View and Lincoln Park. For the past few years I’ve seen Urban Vegan kiosks at the major veg-friendly festivals in the city - most notably Vegan Mania - and I always pick up something to eat at their booth, vowing that I’ll one day make it to one of their physical locations. However, like with so many other things, I just never actually got around to it until now. I really wish I’d made the effort to go sooner though, because Urban Vegan is serving up some of the best damn Thai food - vegan or otherwise - this side of Thailand. For real.

My husband and I chose to go to the Lake View location - because it’s closer to our house. It’s a surprisingly tiny little place, yet it doesn’t feel overcrowded. We took a booth in the back right corner and settled in to peruse the menu. With so many amazing options I’ll tell you, it was mighty difficult to choose. They serve up everything from noodles and rice, to classic Asian-fusion entrees like Orange chicken, and Sweet and Sour - to soups,  salads, burgers, wraps, appetizers, and a cute little chef’s special menu that’s somewhat of a hodgepodge of Asian, Pan-Asian, and American dishes.


As we sat mesmerized by the menu two complimentary bowls of miso soup arrived for us to enjoy. We were both grateful for the soup considering it was still pretty cold out in Chicago. Not -20 or anything but cold enough that snow was still piled up in the gutters and a jacket was a necessity. I enjoyed the miso - I always do, and drank it down pretty fast, and then it was time for appetizers.

Steamed Curry Dumplings

My husband who loves dumplings could not help himself and ordered a plate of the Steamed Curry Dumplings  - not that I’m complaining! - which was a veggie dumpling in a green curry sauce. These were so soft, and delicious, and the curry sauce was super flavorful without being overly spicy. I loved them. To go with our dumplings I ordered a plate of the chicken satay, this is where I couldn’t help myself. I’ve already mentioned my love of satay and so I couldn’t pass up the chance to order a plate of vegan chicken satay in an actual restaurant. This was phenomenal, hands down some of the best satay I’ve ever had - vegan or otherwise - the soy chicken was really flavorful and chewy like I remember chicken being, and the light curry flavored sauce it was coated in was divine, but the satay sauce itself was the real winner. Man, oh man, I could have eaten the sauce by itself - actually, come to think of it I did sneak a few spoonfuls of straight sauce one all our skewers were gone, don’t judge!  It was creamy, peanuty, and decadent, a tad sweet, a tad salty, it was perfect. I highly recommend it.

Chicken Satay 

For our main meals my husband went with one of the Chef Specials called Shrimp Spinach Noodle. This is a plate of spinach noodles, with soy shrimp in a curry sauce with some mixed vegetables. He really enjoyed it, though he thought it was a tad on the spicy side. I took a little bite and didn’t think it was overly spicy but to each their own. It was definitely good, that’s for sure.

Shrimp Spinach Noodle

I of course went with the Pad Thai, have I told y’all about how much I love Pad Thai? Well I do. It’s hands down my favorite Thai dish, in fact, it might just be one of my favorite foods ever. I never ever get tired of it. I could eat it all day long and still want more. There is just something so absolutely magical about the combination of flavors that make up Pad Thai. It’s sweet, tart, salty, savory, there’s crunch, there’s soft noodles, and fried tofu - it’s perfection. I’m a bit of a Pad Thai connoisseur actually, and so whenever we got to an Asian restaurant that serves Pad Thai I always order it. It doesn’t matter how many other great things are listed on the menu, it doesn’t matter if I think something else looks good, I always, always order Pad Thai because I’m always in search of the ‘best’ Pad Thai. Up until now my favorite Pad Thai has been the tofu Pad Thai served at Wok ‘n’ Fire a Japanese, Pan-Asian restaurant out here, and no matter where I go I’ve never found a Pad Thai that matches it. Until now. Urban Vegan has the hands down best freaking Pad Thai I’ve ever eaten anywhere. They blow everyone else out of the water, and I should know, because I’ve eaten Pad Thai all over the place. Halfway through my plate I was full to the point of bursting but It was so good that I couldn’t stop eating it. You must get this if you go to Urban Vegan, you won’t be sorry. The only thing I would do differently is next time I will just order my Pad Thai with tofu rather then tofu and soy shrimp. I really liked the novelty of ordering the shrimp, but they were not necessary in my opinion.

Pad Thai 

For dessert we had just enough room between the two of us to share a half shell of coconut ice cream with chocolate drizzle. Even though it was still a bit frosty outside this was a nice end to the meal and I really enjoyed it.

Coconut Ice Cream 

The whole experience was great really, the food was out of this world and the service was fast and friendly. There was ample street parking available, and the price was pretty moderate. Some of the appetizer and the dessert portions were a little on the small side, but the main dishes were quite large. I will definitely be going back again soon, and if you haven’t been I’m telling you, make the effort, the trip is 100% worth it!

Urban Vegan

Lincoln Park
1550 W Fullerton Ave. Chicago IL 60614
Tel: 773-472-8208
Monday -Closed
Tues - Thursday 11:00 am - 9:30 pm
Friday - Saturday 11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 am - 9:00 pm

Lake View
1605 W Montrose Ave. Chicago IL 60613
Tel: 773-404-1109
Monday - 4:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Tues - Thursday 11:00 am - 9:30 pm
Friday - Saturday 11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 am - 9:00 pm

PS: Wok'n'Fire's Pad Thai is still amazing, a close second, it not tied with UV

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Peppermint Is The Spice of Life...

Did you know there are about 25 different species of mint? Peppermint is a natural hybrid cross between watermint and spearmint and it is by far one of my favorite things in life. It’s my favorite mint because it has the boldest flavor, rich and cooling with a subtle hint of pepper, and a powerful note of chlorophyll. Other mints such as spearmint are more subtle and mild tasting, though possibly more ‘cooling’ as well. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved the taste of peppermint. As a kid it was all about peppermint candy, and then as a young adult it became more about peppermint tea. Mint of any kind is not something I generally use much in my cooking unless I’m cooking something Middle Eastern, but I do drink vats of peppermint tea regularly! I have always preferred herbal infusions to actual tea, and peppermint is by far my favorite. Some people use it only when they have an upset stomach, or are feeling nauseous and while I do use it for medicinal purposes as well, I really don’t need any excuse to enjoy a hot, steaming mug of peppermint. I love it’s soothing flavor, it’s refreshing aftertaste, it’s calming properties and of course it’s great for what ails your stomach. Regardless of whether I’m feeling sick or in perfect health I’ll drink peppermint tea any day of the year, sometimes in mass quantity.


Mint is an ancient herb that’s been used since antiquity for it’s culinary, medicinal and aromatic properties. Though it’s now cultivated everywhere Mint’s origins lie in Europe, where it is honored in Greek Myth. As the story goes Mint was originally a nymph named Minthe who was so infatuated with Hades, that she wanted to seduce him. Hades who felt a rather mutual affection for the nymph may have gone for it too if not for his wife Persephone, who quickly intervened and out of jealousy and spite transformed Minthe into a plant. Though Hades was upset, he could not undo the spell, and so instead he decided to impart Minthe with the pungently sweet smell characteristic of mint, so that when she was walked upon in the garden her aroma would be a delight to the senses and she would not be utterly forgotten.

Interestingly it’s because of Mint’s characteristic smell that it’s become one of the more popular perfuming herbs throughout history. All around the world from Europe to India to the Middle East Mint has been used as a strewing herb to clear the air both in temples and in homes. Over the centuries mint has also come to symbolize hospitality, in ancient Greece mint leaves were rubbed over the dining tables to welcome guests, and in the Middle East mint tea is still offered to guests upon arrival. Mint was also commonly used in funerary rites in ancient Greece. It was even used medicinally by Native Americans before the arrival of European Settlers. Some archeological studies have dated it’s use back 10,000 years, which is pretty neat.

Health Benefits 

Peppermint has a long tradition of medicinal use and has been commonly used to soothe upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion and irritable bowel. An Italian study published in 2007 reported that 75% of patients who took peppermint oil capsuels for four weeks had major reductions in IBS symptoms compared with just 38% of those who just took a placebo. A similar 2010 study conducted in Iran found similar results, and a 2011 study showed that peppermint acts through a specific anti-pain channel called TRPM8 to reduce pain sensing fibers.

Additionally the German Commission E found that peppermint oil as well as peppermint leaf can be used internally as an antispasmodic in the upper gastrointestinal tract and bile ducts to treat IBS, catarrh of the respiratory tract, and inflammation of the oral mucosa. While externally peppermint oil has been used for myalgia and neuralgia. According to the German Commission E, Peppermint oil may also act as a carminative, cholagogue, antibacterial and secretolytic and has a cooling action.

Of course Peppermint may benefit more then just your gastrointestinal tract. Some resent studies have discovered that Perillyl alcohol - a phytonutrient plentiful in peppermint oil - has been shown to stop the growth of pancreatic, mammary, and liver tumors in animal studies. It has also been shown to protect against cancer formation in the colon, skin, and lungs.  However these results have not yet been equally matched by human studies.

Peppermint oil has also been found to be antimicrobial which means it stops the growth of many different kinds of bacteria as well as inhibit the growth of certain types of fungus.

Peppermint contains the substance rosmarinic acid, which has several actions that are beneficial in asthma. Extracts of peppermint have also been shown to help relieve the nasal symptoms of colds related to allergy. Rosmarinic acid also has antioxidant abilities to neutralize free radicals and has been shown to block the productions of pro-inflammatory chemicals.

Some studies have even suggested that the aroma of Peppermint can increase memory and alertness.

On another note studies have also shown Peppermint to be a rich source of traditional nutrients such as manganese, copper, and vitamin C.

Preparation - 

As I’ve said my favorite way to enjoy Peppermint is through a nice mug of tea. However if peppermint tea isn’t your thing you can simply minced the fresh leaves and add them into salads - the flavor of mint works particularly well with grain salads such as tabbouleh. You can use it in soups particularly Vietnamese or Asian soups - like Pho - or Middle Eastern Soups or Tagine’s. You can add it to fruit soups, raw soups, or cold summer soups for a bit of additional flavor and it’s cooling properties. It tastes great minced and mixed with fresh ripe tomatoes in a tomato salad or try it in gazpacho. It’s great tossed with fried or grilled cubes of eggplant, or try it in a homemade non-dairy yogurt sauce. Add it to fruit salad, pair it with fennel and oranges, throw it into smoothies or turn it into a dessert! Mint Chocolate pudding anyone?

However you decide to try it, just try it. Get creative and let me know what kind of combinations you come up with, I’d love to hear all about it.

May your life be rich in spice and as always Happy and Healthy Eating to you!

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day, A Celebration of Irish Food!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone’s day is filled with good luck, and good cheer, great food and great beer. Today is the first year in three years that I haven’t actually had to work on St. Patrick’s day, that feels pretty special to me, and yet - funnily enough, this year is also the one year I don’t feel like doing anything! Ha. Every year there’s something I want to do and can’t, this year I can do whatever I want but there’s nothing to do - oh well, I could use a little relaxation anyway.

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t up to the challenge of cooking an Irish theme meal, I do it every year regardless of how busy I am or how I’m feeling, in fact some of you may remember that last year I spent the entire week prior to St. Patrick’s Day Veganizing Irish Classics. Man that was fun, if only I’d had the time to do it again this year. Instead I opted for a simpler affair.

For Breakfast I made two different versions of Irish Soda Bread - because what’s St Paddy’s without Soda Bread? The reason I made two is simply because I couldn’t decide which recipe I wanted to make more, and since my husband loves Soda Bread I knew it would all get eaten regardless.

The first recipe I tried was Alicia C. Simpson’s Irish Soda Bread Recipe from her book “Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations.” I’ll admit I was kind of skeptical about this recipe, yet still intrigued enough to make it. Sour Cream in a Soda Bread? That sounded like blasphomy to me, but since I had a carton of vegan sour cream sitting in my fridge, begging to get used I thought “why not?” The end result really blew me out of the water, I mean Wow! Normally I make Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Soda Bread which I love dearly - it’s my favorite soda bread - but this one, man, I hate to say it but I think Alicia might have Colleen beat with this recipe. I just love the subtle hint of sour that the sour cream lends to the bread, mixed with the sweetness of sugar, and savory salt and soda, plus the dried fruit - it just works. I used the suggested mix of raisins and cranberries, which I think was a great idea.

However, the recipe states to cook this all as one loaf, and man does it make a heck of a lot of dough! I think next time I make this I’ll divide the dough in half and make two smaller more manageable loaves, but damn was this a fantastic breakfast. Moist, and delicious, especially spread with a little Earth Balance.

The Next Irish Soda Bread I made was from Mark Reinfeld’s book “The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe.” This loaf is more traditional in the respect that it’s low on Sugar and High on baking Soda. It also only uses raisins - no other dried fruit, and vegan buttermilk made with soy milk mixed with lemon juice. Reinfeld also leaves out the caraway - which he claims is an American invention - and uses whole grain spelt flour. This is a dense and hearty loaf, that’s more savory then sweet. Definitely delicious but in my opinion it doesn’t hold a candle to either Colleen, or Alicia’s versions. Of course if you prefer savory over sweet then this is exactly the loaf for you.

To wash down my Soda Bread this morning I made a batch of Alicia C. Simpson’s Irish Cream Liqueur which is a mixture of Coconut Milk, Irish Whiskey, vanilla extract and agave. After making the cream I used it to make her Irish Cream Latte which is a simple - yet tasty - mix of espresso, almond milk, and her homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. Quite satisfying, even though I’ve never been particularly fond of coffee liqueurs before.

For Dinner I decided to go with something simple, and so I went back to Mark Reinfeld and his “Taste of Europe.” From it I decided to make the Irish Stew, and the Parsnip Colcannon. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical of the colcannon recipe. As much as I love a good vegan colcannon these days, and as much as I like a good parsnip the thought of including parsnips in colcannon seemed crazy to me. Of course, I have a lot of trust in cook book authors - especially those I rank among my favorites - and so I was willing to go against my instincts and make the dish as directed.

Lucky that I did, because holy guacamole guys! This colcannon is amazing, in fact it may just be the bed damn colcannon I’ve ever eaten. I love that the parsnips lend a subtle sweetness and snappy bite to the otherwise bland potato. They cream just as well as a potato does, and I love how simple the whole recipe is. Steam potatoes, parsnips and garlic. Mash with almond or soy milk, add finely chopped kale and parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper bam done! For something so simple there is so much flavor here!

Now, I was also a tad skeptical about the Irish Stew, mainly because it looked too simple. I thought briefly about going with a more complicated dish but then decided simplicity is what I wanted. Though I enjoy cooking, and don’t mind being in the kitchen for over an hour, today I wanted something I could just kind of throw in a pot and forget about. This recipe is actually very similar to the Seitan and Guinness Stew I made for Paddy’s Day last year, except mine has more ingredients. Of course I was tempted to ‘add’ to this stew but followed the directions as noted, taking the suggestion at the bottom of the page to add in a cup of diced carrots or ‘other’ vegetables as desired. I added a cups worth of carrots and parsnips - because I had extra, and then added some peas because who doesn’t love peas in a stew? But the peas were my only creative tweak. In the end I was mighty amazed by how good this stew turned out. For such a simple recipe it again packs a powerful punch of flavor. I used homemade seitan for it - which I think makes a huge difference, and home-grown Rosemary too.

On a still somewhat cold, not-quite-spring day, this was the perfect warming, comforting meal. Irish food has a reputation for being bland, but I think this is a grievous misconception. If you know what you’re doing Irish food is some of the most soul-satisfying and comforting fare around. It’s stick to your ribs good, and it always cheers me up. Especially on long cold nights.

However you choose to spend St. Paddy’s Day I hope you have a good time! Now go eat some potatoes and cabbage and blast some Pogues and Flogging Molly! Oh, and if you’re interested in more Irish recipes or perhaps a little Irish History then check out some of my posts from previous years!

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Memories of Ireland Potato and Leek Soup 

Irish Style Seitan In Mustard Cream Sauce with Wild Rice and Crispy Cabbage

Irish Tea Time Seed Cake

Irish Seitan and Guinness Stew with Champ