Thursday, February 26, 2009

lemony mushroom pilaf

Hello hungry people.

One thing you'll learn about me if you don't know it already is that I am absolutely, positively obsessed with lemons. I go through at least a Trader Joe's bag-full a week, and I'm ok with it. They are a flavorful and low-calorie way to add some zip to your dish!

Naturally, when I encountered a recipe for pilaf with mushrooms, onions, and spinach that seemed a bit lame on the seasoning side, I decided to try it with lemon. Boy, was that a good idea. I incorporated some of the elements I use in tofu piccata, and it proved to be a delight. This pilaf has great texture, color, and sheen, and the cherry on top? It's simple!

A note about pilaf: technically, a pilaf is a dish in which a grain, such as rice or cracked wheat, is browned in oil and then cooked in a seasoned broth. This recipe does not call for a browning of the grain, so perhaps it's not technincally a pilaf. However, I'm not sure what else to call it, so that's what we're going with. And hey, if you're feeling motivated, go ahead and brown your grains! It's up to you.

2 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup uncooked grain (i.e. rice, bulgur, etc. I used a mixed grain medley from Trader Joe's)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup onions, chopped
4 oz cremini mushroooms, thinly sliced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup white wine
juice of one lemon (I went for a large one, but if you're not so hot on it, go for a smaller one)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

To begin, bring your broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the grains and cover, reduce to a simmer. Cook until the grain is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Or, if you're using something very different, follow the package instructions. Whatever.

While that's happening, you can get going on the veggies. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, then reduce the heat to medium. Stir those bad boys till they're good and tender and looking a bit golden. This will take about 7 or 8 minutes. Add your mushrooms and cook until they're starting to get brown, about three minutes more. By now your skillet should have some nice yumminess on the bottom, so go ahead and add the wine slowly. With a wooden spoon, help the wine to lift the browned bits from the bottom by scraping it up gently. For you non-foodies out there, this is called "deglazing." When it looks like the wine has done its job, add the lemon juice and simmer for two minutes or so. Add the spinach, salt, and pepper, and cook until the spinach wilts. You'll have to add the spinach in sections for it to all fit in the skillet.

When your grains are done, spoon them into the skillet with the veggies, draining off any excess broth. Stir everything together over low heat until it's well combined. Eat it while it's hot!

What's so nice about a dish like this is that you can really get creative with it. If you don't like spinach, choose other greens. If you don't like lemon, try it with soy sauce or other spices. Go heavier or lighter on the veggies/grain ratio depending on your preference. It's totally flexible, and all kinds of delicious.

Om nom nom.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

simple mushroom soup

For my very first post, I decided to embark upon a winter favorite: mushroom soup. While the obvious choice for a thicker soup would be to add margarine or soy milk, my quest with this recipe was to find a lower fat and calorie option. I got the idea to add a potato from (I'm watching my figure, you know), and while this soup is not your traditional creamy mushroom soup, it is quite thick and satisfying.

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 medium shallots, diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms
4 oz shiitake mushrooms (feel free to mix up type/amount of mushrooms here)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp table salt
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 5 oz. peeled potato (I used a russet)

Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan or pot (large enough to hold four cups broth) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, throw in your shallots and cook for about two minutes or until soft. Be sure to shimmy them around in there so they don't burn.

Add the mushrooms and garlic, and shimmy some more. Cook this mixture for about five minutes until the mushrooms create a nice glaze. [note: I was worried here, becuse the bottom of my pan got pretty dry. However, as long as your heat isn't too high, and you continue to stir the mushrooms, they'll become nice and brown and won't burn. Just stick with it!]

Season the veggies with your thyme, sage, salt, and pepper. You can be flexible with these measurements, season until it looks and smells good to you!

Pour in the broth and bring the soup to a simmer. Make sure to scrape up any deliciousness that has collected on the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon... that's the good stuff. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, grate your potato on the smallest side of the grater. It's important that the potato is grated as thinly as possible, or it won't dissolve into your soup properly. If you're worried, or don't have a small grater, go ahead and throw 'em in the food processor for a few spins till it's nice and thin.

After your ten minutes of simmer-time is up, go ahead and throw in the potato gratings. The soup will thicken instantly-- it's sort of amazing. Keep an eye on it and stir constantly, 'cause it will stick to the bottom of your pot if you're not careful! Keep on simmering until the potato has dissolved. For me, this process took about ten minutes.

Season with some parsley and more salt and pepper if you please! Enjoy this lovely, chunky wintery soup!

Now, the next day, I had a lot of soup left over. So for another spin on things, I put a serving size into my food processor and let it whirl. The result was a smoother soup that had a completely different texture.

Either way you go, this is a nice, light soup that warms the belly in the winter time without knocking off too many points from your daily tally!

Dig in!

why veronica is doing a vegan food blog.

Why, hello!

Welcome to La Vie En Vegan, a yum-tacular food blog chronicling my exciting adventures in the land of vegan cooking and baking. Before I begin posting recipes and photos of my tasty experiments, I thought I should introduce myself properly.

My name is Veronica, and I was raised an omnivore. One year ago, due to a newly developed sensitivity to dairy products and a chance run-in with an article revealing some uncomfortable truths about factory farming, I began to consider veganism. I only knew a very few vegetarians and even fewer vegans, so the thought was daunting. I was afraid of being judged or laughed at, and especially of being a burden to my friends (the awkward "oh, so I guess you can't eat at this restaurant?"). However, as I began to do more research on industrial farming and animal welfare, and my tummy aches continued to worsen, I realized that I had to change my ways.

To put it simply, since the switch I could not be happier. On a very basic level, I have never seen my body work as well as it has for the past year. My energy levels have greatly improved, I sleep better, and I digest food like a champion! I have experienced less than a dozen stomach aches in the past year, which for me, is absolutely shocking. From early childhood, stomach aches were just part of life-- I had at least one per day, if not two (why I didn't try to change something earlier will continue to baffle me). I suppose I didn't realize that the discomfort I was feeling wasn't just a normal part of life. To put the (vegan) icing on the proverbial (vegan) cake, I feel good about my choices. By choosing these healthy and natural options, the food that I'm buying and eating is not only good for my body, but good for my peace of mind (yes, this may sound soppy, but I assure you, I'm quite sincere).

When I meet someone new and they find out I'm vegan, the first question out of their mouths generally is, "but don't you miss meat?" And every time I answer, "you know, it's the darndest thing, I don't-- at all." You'd think that a person raised eating meat or cheese with every meal would have some sort of withdrawal sypmtoms, but I seem to be some sort of bizarre exception. Sure, I'll still enjoy a whiff of a steak grilling as I walk by a restaurant on a blustery day or watching cheese melt over a hot pizza. But the feeling I get from this doesn't involve a longing to actually eat the food. It's really just a familiar smell or sight that reminds me of pizzas past.

Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of my shiny new vegan lifestyle has, of course, been the food. I've always loved cooking, but over the past year my interest has grown exponentially. With wonderful inspirations like Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, Donna Klein, and Lauren Ulm, I've been able to not only vegan-ize my favorite dishes but venture into unknown territory with vegetables and grains I'd never heard of before!

I have found vegan cooking to be thrilling, rewarding, and most of all delicious. It's something I've grown to be quite passionate about, so it feels only natural to begin blogging on the eve of my very first "Veganversary." I hope you enjoy this documentation of my growth as a vegan cook, and perhaps feel inspired to make some yummy dishes yourself.

Amen, dig in!