Friday, September 29, 2006

Pimientos de Padron!

After my last post, I couldn't stop thinking about pimientos. Some google searches turned up a local greenhouse that sells the seeds. Then, I came across They have a grower in Virginia and they ship the peppers once a week. Of course I had to order them. Today, when I arrived home, I found this box.

When I opened it, I was overwhelmed with a scent that reminded me of a five amazing weeks in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Almost every day I would meet up with friends and sit at a cafe, sipping sangria and eating pimientos de padron.

How I ended up in Santiago is a very interesting story and I'll share that on a future post. Since I was there on my own, I was more open and met many people. My subsequent trip to Sweden was to visit with some friends I met while I was in Spain.

Before I cooked up some of the peppers, I took this photo. Aren't they cute? These tiny little peppers taste like nothing I have tried here in the states.

I'd never cooked pimientos de padron before, but there were directions printed on container. Basically heat olive oil, add the peppers, saute until they blister and brown. Then sprinkle with ground sea salt. While they were cooking, the house filled with the exquisite aroma that I remember so well. Finally the peppers were done. These are finger food. You hold them by the stem and eat the rest of the pepper.

I only cooked up a few, but they were so good I ended up making a second small batch. Like I mentioned before they are usually sweet/savory; however there are always a few spicy ones mixed in. There were two comfortably spicy peppers in my batches and one that was too spicy to finish.

Pimientos de Padron are native to Santiago de Compostela and Galicia region of Spain which is where I spent my time. Santiago is beautiful city with a rich history. The Camino de Santiago is a trail that leads from the border of France all the way to Santiago which is on Spain's northwestern coast. Pilgrims follow the trail to reach the catherdral in Santiago where legend says St. James is buried. Santiago actually means Saint James. Each of the cathedral's four sides are built using a different styles of architecture. The original cathedral was built during the 1100's and over the years it was expanded. To the right is a photo looking down at the city and cathedral from Monte Pedroso (a mountain on the outskirts of the city).

Inside the church is the world's largest incense burner. I've seen priests swing a small silver incense burner during services in movies or on tv before. I'm not all that familiar with why it is done, but I suspect it originated in Santiago. On special occasions the huge 5 foot tall silver incense burner is swung back and forth across the cathedral. I was told that they originally would swing the incense burner to mask the smell of the pilgrims!

Here are two more photos. The first is closeup of the cathedral. The second is of the area on the southern side the church which was named by the medieval silversmiths. The area outside is known as Plaza de Platerias. (Plaza of the silversmiths) Many stores on this side of the square sell jewelry. The photo is of fuente de los caballos which means fountain of the horses. I snapped that picture on my first day in Spain.

I've got many more photos of Santiago and the surrounding areas and will try to post some in the future. Hope you all have a nice weekend!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jody Returns...

I've been busy at home and work. Sometimes it is difficult to post or even comment on the other blogs. Rest assured, I am checking out other blogs when I have a min, just not writing. I've got plenty to post about.

Let's see, the top 5... I've had quite a difficult time with this. My tastes really change quite often and I love so many different foods. I may have a favorite for a day or two and then move on to something else. A top five is just so difficult to choose. Here goes...

1. Hummus --I might also say falafel, hummus and tabbouleh. It is great as wrap or sandwich, but even mixing it together creates a wonderful fusion of tastes and textures.

2. Dark chocolate --Two I'd recommend: New Tree: Sexy which is made with ginger or Dagoba Xocolatl which has cacao nibs, chilies, and nutmeg. Of course, I love plain dark chocolate too.

3. Loose leaf tea --I'm lucky enough to have a local tea shop close to my house. The owner orders many teas and makes her own flavors as well. A few of my favorites: Russian Caravan which is smoked over pine fires, gun powder green tea, jasmine pearls, or plain old earl grey.

4. Fresh berries --Freshly picked strawberries have to be one of the sweetest most delicious foods on the planet. Though depending on the day, I might say the same about raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Tommy would always pick blueberries.

5. Seitan --Not the store bought kind. Home made seitan, pan seared with any combination of herbs/veggies/sauce/gravy. My first experience with seitan was the store bought variety and it scared me. I avoided seitan for years after that. One day I braved making my own seitan from scratch and I was instantly converted.

Interestingly when I started thinking about this list almost a month ago, I tried to remember foods that I tried at various times/places in my life where I was completely "wowed." Often times, these memories were not vegan. For instance, in Spain I had the most amazing flan at this tiny little hidden cafe. None of the other cafes could even compare. In Australia I had this absolutely amazing pumpkin soup. I've often wondered if I went back to these places as a vegan what foods I would recall.

BTW - In Spain, I had the most incredible peaches I have ever tasted in my entire life. They were huge and very pale orange with no red. They were a little creamier than apricots, but almost that color. These were the sweetest, juiciest, most wonderful peaches and I have no idea what variety they were. I've never seen (or tasted) anything like them here.

Hmm...and now that I have been sidetracked by Spain, I may have a #6 for the list. Pimientos de padron --First let me preface that I hate green peppers. If I had a top 5 worst foods list they would be number 3. (First is salt licorice from Sweden and second is vegemite). Pimientos de padron are these little green peppers that taste nothing like garden variety green peppers. They are sauteed in olive oil with salt. I was able to get these at at any tapas bar in the region of Spain where I lived. Most pimientos are sweet, usually there would be one or two super spicy ones that some how made it to the plate. You never know if you will get a spicy one, but it doesn't stop you eating these great little peppers.

Moving along...

L'shanah tovah to any other bloggers that celebrate Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish calendar is lunar and the new year has begun. Our new year is bit different than the secular new year. Rosh Hashanah begins a time of reflection where we think about what we have done wrong in the past year and how we can be better this year. It culminates on Yom Kippur which begins next Sunday evening. On Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) we fast.

Generally I am a very spiritual person, but not very religious. These two holidays have always "spoken" to me, even if I don't necessarily agree with all aspects of Judaism. Many people complain about fasting on Yom Kippur. I actually look forward to it. Fasting really makes the day different from any other day and allows me to concentrate on what I can do better this year. Giving up something, something I love so much, is a physical and symbolic way of asserting how serious I am about changing my ways.

This was my first year as a vegan at the Rosh Hashanah table. On Friday night I had dinner at my father's with his girlfriend. Two of her friends and my sister joined us. When I was a vegetarian, my dad's gf was always very concerned about whether I had enough to eat. (Believe me, I don't look like I am starving.) Now that I am vegan, she is even more worried.

She had hummus, tabbouleh and pita bread for me. I also had some green beans and rice. She had asked me to bring something and I decided on dessert because I figured vegan dessert might be the most difficult for someone else to figure out.

I baked a Chocolate Mousse Pie from Vegetariana by Nava Atlas. The pie had a graham cracker crust and I have to point out, it took quite a while to locate honey free grahams. Unfortunately, it was not very photogenic and I made the mistake of snapping the pic on my dad's granite counter top which did not compliment the colors at all. The top of the pie has crumbled Newman's Own chocolate cookies.

That night I would have rated the pie at 5-6 stars out of 10. I tried a leftover over piece from the fridge on Saturday and was completely surprised. Overnight the flavors melded and it morphed into an 8-9 out of 10.

On Saturday night my family had dinner at my aunt's. Normally I bake a challah (a type of bread) for Rosh Hashanah at my aunt's. Unfortunately challah has eggs, so I attempted a new vegan recipe for it from The Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook. The bread came out very well, but was not like challah at all. I'll have to play around with veganizing challah at a later date.

My aunt is a wonderful cook and I was able to have many side dishes for my dinner. She made this interesting cabbage and apple saute that I will make and post about in the future. Normally on Rosh Hashanah we use honey in many recipes. This is to signify the sweet new year. In the challah I used agave nectar instead. My aunt made my grandmother's famous honey cake. It smelled good, but I did not have any.

Early last week, I attempted some vegan cheese sauce/dip. It was a conglomeration of a few different recipes and it came out pretty well. The main ingredients were potato, carrots, white beans, nutritional yeast, miso and some different spices. Here is photo of some whole wheat pasta with veggie ham, broccoli, and the cheese sauce.

Tonight, I made up some veggie lasagna. It was really a packaged mix from Dixie Diner. Open the tomato paste, add water, pop everything in the pan and bake. Early in the week, I had picked up one of the cute eight-ball zucchinis that some of you posted about. I sliced it up and added it to the lasagna layers. It is pretty good considering that the contents came from a box. I did end up adding quite a few spices and opening a jar of tomato sauce. and dumping some on top. (after I took this pic) Here is photo of it for you all.

I'm off to check out what I have been missing on all the other blogs!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Spice Crusted Tofu with Green and Red Tomatoes

First ---cookie swap. I'm planning to assign partners for the cookies swap at veggin'out soon. If you want in on the vegan cookie swap, head over there and let me know.

Last month, I sent Tania these cookies. They are a variation on Dreena's Homestyle Chocolate Chip cookies. The additions were oatmeal, peanut butter, hemp nuts, and coconut. These tasty little buggers packed an extra omega-3 punch!

Tonight I cracked open a cookbook I found on clearance a few months ago that is called: All-American Vegetarian: A Regional Harvest of Low-Fat Recipes. Since I had fresh red tomatoes from a friend's garden and my garden has green tomatoes, I cooked up spice crusted tofu with green and red tomatoes. I'm a fan of spicy foods, but this was almost too spicy for me. It was necessary to mix the tofu and tomatoes in each bite to actually finish this dish. Though the recipe is titled spice crusted, the description explains blackened spices. This is really blackened tofu.

Perhaps I will try it again with slightly less cayenne next time. The green tomatoes were surprisingly tasty. That reminds me, I've never tried fried green tomatoes. Have you?

All-American Vegetarian has many interesting recipes. I haven't finished flipping all the way through it. Some of the dishes seem rather strange, but I'm always tempted to try something new. Tonight I saw boiled new potatoes and cucumbers with sour orange sauce. (Raw cucumbers, boiled potatoes, herbs, and the orange sauce.) It sounds intriguing enough to try once.

What else... Oh, Carrie tagged me for the top 5. I'm still thinking on that. I'll try to post my answers by Sunday.

Tomorrow is Friday, can't wait for the weekend. Hope you all have a relaxing weekend planned!

Quick Post

I've been MIA. Though I haven't been posting or commenting, I have been lurking at everyone's blogs. Yesterday at lunch, I even found a few new ones I like. Almost every week, sometimes everyday...I find another cool veg blog. It is so uplifting!

Before I start rambling... New Englanders, I usually go apple picking in the fall. I thought it would be neat to meet up at an orchard, pick apples, and maybe have a little veg picnic. There are quite a few of you that I know and other's that I haven't found yet. Karen in NY, Melody in NH, Heather and Megan in Boston. (I found someone else yesterday who is here in Boston for school, but I can't remember how I stumbled onto her blog.) Drop me a line via email or join the MSN group I created for us if you might be interested.

For lunch today, I am having some navy bean soup I cooked up last night. I don't have my camera with me and honestly, it wouldn't photograph well. It consists of navy beans, onion, celery, carrots, spices and TVP. The cool NE weather makes me crave soups this time of year.

Tonight, I have a special new recipe planned to try. I'll post pics later and make the blog rounds.

Travel has been rough lately, but we finally made a new hire while I was in CT/NY last week. Within a few months I will be sticking to MA/RI and driving further north on rare occasions. Yay!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Block Island

Today was a long, but wonderful day. I played hooky from work and we headed to Block Island in RI. When I was four years old, I asked my aunt about some smooth round rocks on her fire place and she told me that they were from Block Island. Since then, I always wanted to go. Today was finally the day.

We drove to Point Judith, RI and then took the ferry over to Block Island. It is about a 55 minute ride over to the island. I'm very cranky in the morning, so the first thing we did is stop at The Orange Cat Cafe on Dodge St for coffee. I was was psyched to find out that they had soy milk and quickly ordered a cappuccino.

After fueling up, we started our walk up to the Southeast Lighthouse and Mohegan Bluffs. Block Island is about 3.5 miles wide with 17 miles of beaches and it is surprisingly hilly. The walk to the lighthouse was mostly uphill for about 1.5 miles. It was worth it though. Here is a picture of the Southeast Lighthouse.

After the lighthouse, we headed a short ways over to the Bluffs. It is 142 steps down to the beach. The stairs are steep as they traverse down the bluffs. Because of this, the steps are a rather interesting geometric design. Here are two photos of the stairs, the first one is looking down and the second looks up.

The 150 foot bluffs were rather imposing. With all the jagged edges and striations they were neat to look at. The first picture reminds me a little of Lord of the Rings.The beach was covered with funky stones and I took tons of pictures. My favorite rock on the beach looked like a shark swimming on top of the sand.

Here is one last photo of the beach. The waves crashing on the rocks were so pretty and the water was surprisingly blue for New England.
After climbing up the steps we walked back into town and went in search of lunch. Froozie's Juice Bar & Cafe really hit the spot. I had a pineapple, peach, strawberry smoothie and a monstrous "Falafel Works" pita which was made up of falafel, hummus, tabouli, and veggies with tahini sauce. Froozie's had quite a few vegan options and lots of vegetarian menu items. Here's a quick photo of my pita before I dug into it. Their falafel was pretty dang good, though I was starving after the 3 mile walk and the climb up and down to the bluffs.

The rest of the day we puttered around and looked at some of the stores on the island. We caught the 5pm ferry back and then stopped at Garden Grille Cafe on the way home for dinner. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera inside the restaurant. My dinner was a side dish of sauteed dandelion greens with roasted red peppers and garlic along with tofu vindaloo over Israeli couscous and sauteed beet greens. The dandelion greens were really unnecessary because of the beet greens, but I wanted to try them out. The verdict...Not a fan of dandelion greens, they were a little bitter for my taste.

I took 70+ photos while on the island. Drop me an email if you want a link to my photo album so you can view the rest. Hopefully this weekend, I will get some cooking done. TGIF!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Jamaica, mon!

Well, Melody's island tart got me thinking and I decided to dust off one of my tropical cookbooks. Tonight for dinner I made Jerk Potato Stir from Delicious Jamaica: Vegetarian Cuisine. For the recipe, I needed to make a dry jerk spice mix which I can use in future cooking endeavors. Yay!

The recipe called for tofu, but I had some left over Soyboy sausages to use up. Potatoes and yellow pepper didn't seem like enough vegetables, so I added some baby spinach. If I lived in Jamaica, I would have added callaloo. Do you remember the Cosby Show episode where Dr Huxtable recreates the Callaloo Pot restaurant and the old chef comes by to make callaloo stew? No to-fu.

Later, I'll be making cookies for Tania.

Hope you all had a great holiday weekend!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

How fast can I type?

I've got a lots to write about, but I have a lye/water mixture cooling for some soap I am going to make tonight. This batch will be Woods, perhaps my favorite batch of soap I've made in the past. A few others have been asking for it too. Woods is made up of the following essential oils: Rosewood, Peru Balsam, sandalwood, spruce, cypress, juniper berry, sweet birch, atlas cedar, Virginia cedar, fir needle, and oak moss absolute.

Someone clarify the blogger beta issue for me... Is the problem that people who upgraded can't comment on any blog? Or is it that people that upgraded can only comment on other beta blogs? If it is the latter, then I will upgrade.

A few of you have asked for pictures of Tommy. Here is picture of Tommy from awhile ago. She currently has some feather issues and I hate to post current photos of her until she is looking better.

Yesterday I went into the city for a vegan meetup at Veggie Planet again. This time I decided to take the train instead of driving. I got a little lost, driving to a different T station in Quincy and then the wait for the train was very long. By the time, I got into the Harvard Square, I was pretty late for the meetup. Though, it turned it out there was the Cutting Edge of the Campfire Folk Festival going on. That meant we couldn't eat there without buying a ticket to the show. ---Bad planning on the part of the meetup people. (Megan, I hope you stayed home and unpacked instead of heading over to the meetup.)

Now I have no problem buying a ticket and hanging out for the show, but they only sold an all day pass. Unfortunately, I could only stay for a an hour or two and I didn't feel like buying an all day ticket. I got my lunch and hung out on the steps next door. While I ate, I got to listen to some cool folk music for free.

After the failed meetup, I headed over to The Coop. That is the Harvard/MIT bookstore. It is rather well known around the city and I had never actually been. As I wasn't interested in a clothes, I walked over to the regular book shop side after a quick wander through the student bookstore. It is a very pretty shop, but I can't say I was overly impressed with it.

Before heading back to the train, I decided to check out an ice cream shop I saw. Perhaps I was feeling lucky after finding Tofutti at Sweet Claude's. Worst case scenario, I figured they'd have sorbet. Lizzie's Ice Cream recently opened a shop in Harvard Square and guess what? They also carry Tofutti. It is just two flavors---chocolate and coffee at this time, but how cool is that? I've still got to send them a thank you note.

After my yummy coffee Tofutti, I got on the train and went home. The clouds looked ominous, but I was able to finally get lawn mowed before the rain. Saturday night, I had tickets to see Staind at Mohegan Sun in CT. The first time I saw them, was a festival with five bands. The only group I really wanted to see was Stone Temple Pilots. Staind really surprised me and I've been a fan every since. Aaron Lewis has an incredible voice.

Their current tour also included 3 other bands. They are Seether, Soil, and Three Days Grace. I've heard of each of those bands, but don't know them very well. Unfortunately, Seether did not perform and I missed Soil. Three Days Grace was ok. They have two songs I like a lot and I didn't care too much for their other music. The singer has a very cool and distinctive voice, but the music wasn't very creative.

Staind... They put on a great show. Some of their newer music is louder than I care for, but the more melodic tunes really showcase Aaron. His voice takes over and owns the room. At one point he did an acoustic cover of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb. ---If loud doesn't scare you, you should definitely check out Staind.

Last thing... I've been in touch with some of the local veg bloggers that I know and we've talked about getting together. I'd hoped to have a picnic this summer, but my schedule kept me from doing much of anything about making this happen. Tonight, I set up a group for us on MSN. That would allow us to stay in touch and have a shared calendar where we could setup group get togethers. Whether it is just a potluck for people in RI or something cool like apple picking in a central location for all the New Englanders. ---By the way, I'd like to setup an apple picking get together. We could probably have a picnic for that one. I know of a few of you in NH, NY, and Boston. If you are interested, then join the MSN group or just drop me an email. The website is:

I did not have a chance to do anything fancy on the home page or update much more than the blurb about what the group is. I will slowly get that done! Originally I thought we could use for it, but they charge a monthly/yearly fee and MSN is free. ---Free is good.