A humorous, optimistic blog about Food, Family, Friends and Faith

Archive for May, 2011

Ceci

Yesterday was a hot day here in the Northeastern US. Part of my dinner menu was a cucumber, tomato and chickpea salad with an herb/lime vinaigrette. It was one of those “What do I have in the house that I can throw together because I don’t feel like cooking” salads. This morning, as I found my 18-year-old daughter picking out the cucumbers and ceci and putting them in a wrap with a schmear of vegan cream cheese, she mentioned that I haven’t used ceci lately and they are just SO good. So I resolved to put them back in the menu rotation as a protein source.

Ceci [Italian], aka garbanzo [Spanish], chickpea [English], Bengal gram or Chole  [Indian], Hamaz [Arabic], and Cicer [Latin] have been around since forever and are been a valuable protein staple in the Middle East. It is said that the Roman leader Cicero proudly claimed his name because one of his ancestors had a wart on his face that looked like a chickpea (ewww).

Ceci are also one of the most delicious legumes on the planet. They can be mushed up and made into a paste, eaten whole in soups, stews and salads, baked with spices as a snack, or dried and ground for flour (known as besan, I use this frequently as a binder/thickener in Indian vegetable dishes). I adore chickpeas cooked and eaten cold with lime juice and herbs.

Here are three of my favorite chickpea recipes. One is hummus, the standard, easy-as-pie dip for vegetables and crackers, one is skordalia, a potato/chickpea dip or spread from Greece, and the third is a chickpea in tomato sauce dish from India. However you add them to your menus, they will not disappoint.

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Garbanzos in Tangy Tomato Sauce (from Laxmi’s Vegetarian Kitchen, by Laxmi Hiremath)

  • 2 T mild vegetable oil
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced or smashed
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, crushed (about 1T)
  • 6 whole cloves, ground (about 1/2 tsp. ground)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. amchur powder (mango) OR 2 tsp. lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 large (6 oz.) tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 10 cilantro sprigs (just grab a handful)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 T desi ghee or unsalted butter (vegans – use Earth Balance)
  • 1/8 tsp. turmeric, ground
  • 1 15-oz. can garbanzos, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 medium red or white onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 lime or lemon, cut into wedges
  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat until it ripples when the pan is tilted. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onion is lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the cloves, coriander, cumin, amchur (if you are using lime juice, don’t add it yet), and cayenne. Stir and cook 1 minute. Add the tomato, lime juice (if using) and cilantro. Reduce the heat to medium. cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato is soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food  processor and process until smooth.
  3. Heat the ghee in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add the turmeric and onion-spice puree. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beans and salt. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Serve in individual bowls, garnished with additional cilantro springs, if desired. Offer with slices of onion and lemon/lime wedges.
NOTE: I usually add about 1/2 cup water to the puree if I am serving this with basmati. It makes more sauce to soak into the rice.

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Linda’s Hummus (from American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond)

My daughter has developed her own version of Linda’s recipe, which I offer here. She will tweak the ingredients until they suit her on any given day. Then she will sit down and devour almost the whole batch.

  • 2 to 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon (3-4 T)
  • 1 medium garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 drained 15-oz. can garbanzos

Drop garlic into the feed tube of a running food processor and process until garlic is in tiny chunks. Stop machine and scrape down bowl. Add olive oil, tahini and lemon juice and process until smooth. Add beans and process. Scrape sides of bowl and add additional oil or water until desired texture is reached.  Serve with raw veggies or pita chips or unsalted tortilla chips.

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Chickpea Skordalia

Skordalia usually has ground nuts, potatoes and garlic as its base. Sometimes stale bread is added for bulk. This recipe, from Vegetarian Times’ Vegetarian Entertaining, is a delicious riff on the standard Greek dish.

  • 2 cups peeled, chopped, cooked white potatoes
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, undrained
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I use extra virgin)
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  1. Drain the chickpeas, reserving 1/2 cup of liquid.
  2. Add the chickpeas and their liquid, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cayenne to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (NOTE: a food processor is better for this)
  3. Add the potatoes and process until creamy. Scrape the skordalia into a bowl until ready to serve. Keep warm in 200F oven or microwave briefly to heat a little before serving. Serve with crudites or pita crisps or anything else you like to dip.

NOTE: This recipe works best if you smash the garlic or process it in an empty processor before adding everything else. The smaller the garlic, the better. Also, use half the acids (vinegar and lemon juice) and add to taste.

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Oprah

OK, the truth is out. I occasionally watched Oprah. Her show on ABC is now over, and she is moving on to other projects so I can confess my occasional guilty pleasure. I have to say that, despite my sporadic viewership, I loved her show. It made me think about who I am, what I mean and why I am here on this earth. From watching her show, I discovered that my love of reading was perfectly normal, that being positive and grateful were good things and that my perception of life as a glass (or a ladle) half full was not only appropriate but healthy. I had known all this instinctively, but she gave voice to the notion that to explore the inner self is divine and for that I thank her.

A few weeks ago, I played my last weekend as a church organist. It had been years since I was happy at that job, and finally I took the very frightening step of quitting, with no fall back job. I’ve always struggled with finances, but when I made the decision to leave that second job, I had full faith that the Universe/God will provide what I need to survive. Whether it was foolish to take that step in this economic climate or not, it was simultaneously thrilling and paralyzing. I attached my energy to the thrilling half of the emotional equation and leapt. I will not look back and I do not regret that decision. Regret has no place in my life. I learned that from Oprah.

This morning Rick and I had a conversation about the words “I can’t”. To me, they don’t exist. “I can’t” really means, “I haven’t figured out how yet”. There is nothing we can’t do. Perhaps the things we want to do are difficult, or require specific training or skill in order to achieve. Perhaps they will force us to confront some of our deepest fears, or overcome emotional obstacles that are decades old. I want to skydive someday, but am afraid of falling. It’s possible to overcome that, however. I want to see Broadway shows, but am ridiculously uncomfortable in crowds. I can (and will) work past that, though. Paul McCartney wrote in his song Blackbird, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” My moment has arisen and I will learn to fly. I learned that from Oprah, too.

One of my students is fond of saying she can’t do things. Fact is, she’s never been pushed to succeed. Fact is, she’s a smart kid but has always been told she was dumb. She has learning challenges, so reading is difficult for her. However, she thinks that, if she doesn’t confront her learning issues, they will go away. I can’t force her to believe in herself, but I can repeatedly say to her “You CAN do this. You just haven’t found the way that works for you yet.” Hopefully, one day, she will begin to believe in herself. That would be the greatest gift I could give her.

“Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.” – Oprah Winfrey, 5/26/11

I haven’t figured out what my calling is yet. I hope to find it, and, when I do, I will embrace it. I may also wind up living it but not recognizing it. Perhaps my calling is to work with students and show them how to succeed. Perhaps my calling is to feed people. Perhaps my calling is to encourage and support and be a friend. Perhaps my calling is to go to a foreign place and encourage a person there, who will, in turn, go out and do great things.

The day before her last show, ABC aired the second half of a star-studded extravaganza tribute to Oprah. The most touching moment of the show was when Kristen Chenoweth sang “For Good” while 200 young men that have been recipients of the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship at Morehouse College entered the auditorium from the rear and filled the stage and aisles, carrying candles that symbolized the ability to build a new life through education. She has spent $12 million of her own money to put over 450 young men through college since 1989. The impact of that one action is phenomenal and far-reaching. I don’t have $12 million to give to anyone, I barely have two nickels to rub together. However, I have a big heart and that counts for something in the long run.

Thank you, Oprah, for helping me understand that even the smallest pebbles make waves that widen and spread. The farthest shore will never feel the effect of our energy unless we drop ourselves into the center of the pond and start the first ripple.

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Cottage Pie

Last week I had one of the best vegan cottage pies ever! It was based on a recipe by former Kensington Palace chef Darren McGrady. I figured if it was good enough for the Queen, it was good enough for my family. Because of our resident vegan, making it with beef or lamb was out. However, making standard vegan substitutions resulted in a delicious, creamy pie. This definitely goes into the “make again” binder.

This dish has been traced back to the late 1700s. It was originally made by the poor (hence the name “cottage” pie) in England and Ireland. Whether made with beef, mutton, lamb or soy, it is a delicious, humble dish that is well appreciated in our house.

Vegan Cottage Pie

  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds (2 12 oz. pkgs.) Smart Ground Original flavor veggie protein crumbles
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 heaping T Vogue Vege Base OR 2 veggie bouillion cubes
  • 2 T Braggs liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 1/4 pounds red potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup Mimicreme or other heavy cream substitute
  • 1 egg yolk substitute (1 1/2 tsp. EnerG egg replacer mixed with 1 T water)
  • 4 T Earth Balance non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, approx.
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper, approx.
  • 1 cup shredded Daiya cheese, cheddar flavor
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan and saute onion, 5 to 6 minutes, until soft and translucent.
  2. Crumble Smart Ground into pan with onion and saute for about 2 minutes. Add flour and thyme and saute for a minute. Add water, Vogue Vege Base, and liquid aminos and mix well.
  3. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes until sauce is thickened. Add frozen peas and mix well. Pour into 9×13 deep earthenware baking dish. Alternately, you can use an 11″ round.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until tender, 15 – 25 minutes. Drain potatoes and mash (I dumped them into my KitchenAid stand mixer with the whisk attachment). Cut the margarine into tablespoon-sized pieces and mix into the hot mashed potatoes. Combine nutmeg, Mimicreme and egg yolk substitute and mix into potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste (I doubled the white pepper). Pipe potatoes over mixture in baking dish with a pastry bag.
  5. Sprinkle the whole pie with Daiya cheese and bake until potatoes are golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm.

NOTE: This would be wonderful made in individual sized ramekins, sprinkled with fresh chopped herbs.

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Chili

Finally, the weekend has arrived and I find myself with an abundance of time on my hands. The house is empty and my thoughts turn to a review of the past week. What went well? What didn’t? What do I want to change for next week? I go through this review every week to try to better both myself and the world in which we live.

I found great inspiration this week in southwestern cooking. Chili, green chile enchiladas, and burritos all found their way to our table this week. Since Mexican and Southwestern cooking is one of my all-time favorite cuisines (I plan on spending my 50th birthday at Rick Bayless’s Topolobampo in Chicago), I wanted to share some recipes.

Chili is one of those versatile recipes that can be tweaked to use any combination of ingredients you happen to have in the house. I wanted to give you two of my favorite chili recipes. One is with meat (pork and beef), the other is a vegan recipe that is super-fast and great for weeknights. It’s worth searching out Mexican oregano for these recipes – it is a totally different herb than Turkish or Greek oregano.

Numero Uno Chili (from the Manhattan Chili Company’s Southwest American Cookbook by Michael McLaughlin)

This chili has a slightly unusual combination of ingredients. The cinnamon gives it a slight sweetness that works well with the chili powder. A note before beginning – I make it with medium-hot chili powder. No wimpy chili for me! Also, I grind my own meat, using the large hole dye on my grinder. If you have a butcher, ask for chili grind or the largest grind they can do.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup mild chili powder
  • 3 T toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • 3 T dried Mexican oregano
  • 3 T unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 T ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 3 cups beef stock or canned beef broth
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2-3 T cornmeal, optional
  • 2 15-oz. cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large 5-qt Dutch oven, combine the beef and pork over medium heat. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until the meats have lost their pink color and are evenly crumbled, about 20 minutes.
  3. Scrape the onions into the Dutch oven with the meat. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice and beef stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
  4. Taste, correct the seasoning if needed and simmer another 30 minutes, or until the chili is thickened to your liking. Stir in the garlic. To thicken the chili further, or to bind the surface fats, stir in the optional cornmeal, followed by the beans, and simmer 5 minutes to heat beans.
Vegan Bean Chili
This recipe was given to me years ago by my friend Marie, the FCS teacher at the school where I work. I tweaked it and present it here for you. I am VERY liberal with the vegetable amounts, and frequently add a large diced zucchini and a few handfuls of corn to the pot. This is great with vegan cornbread (recipe follows).
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped red pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (yeah, right – use more!)
  • 1 T hot chili powder, more to taste
  • 1 generous tsp. Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 15-oz. can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained (I like the petite diced)
  • 1 15-oz. can tomato sauce (NOT spaghetti sauce)
  • vegan cheddar cheese as garnish (the Daiya brand melts the best)
  1. In a large pot (Dutch oven size) over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add onions and peppers (and any other raw veggies you are using) and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and saute until you can smell it – about a minute.
  3. Add the chili powder, Italian seasoning, oregano, cumin and salt, stir and and saute for 30 seconds, until they start to smell fragrant.
  4. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT cheese. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with shredded vegan cheese. Serve with a bottle of hot sauce for adventurous eaters.
Kaya’s Kosmic Kornbread (from Vegan Fusion World Cuisine by Mark Reinfeld and Bo Rinaldi)
While I admit hating the name of this cornbread (intentional misspelling drives me bonkers), I love the moistness and tender crumb of this bread. I will write the recipe as it appears in the book, followed by my usual substitutions in parentheses. My husband, loves this bread.
Dry Ingredients
  • 2 cup spelt flour, sifted (2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, unsifted)
  • 7/8 cup cornmeal (yellow or blue)
  • 3/4 cup millet or quinoa, toasted (I usually use 3/4 cup oat or wheat bran instead – I don’t like the toasted grain texture)
  • 2 1/2 T baking powder, sifted
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt (any salt works)
Wet Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb. firm tofu
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup, agave nectar or other liquid sweetener (I use agave – if using honey, use about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup safflower oil (any light tasting vegetable oil, like canola, works fine)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk well. Put wet ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy (do NOT use a food processor). Add wet to dry and mix well.
  2. Pour into parchment paper-lined 9″x9″ baking pan (an 11″ round works fine, as does a deep dish pie plate. I imagine a cast iron pan would be great, too.). Bake until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, roughly 45 minutes. Top will brown and cracks will appear – they’re fine. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Store leftovers, covered, in fridge.
Variations: Add 10-oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, to batter. For double corn bread, add 1 1/2 cups corn (thawed, if frozen) to batter.
NOTE: I don’t bother with the parchment paper. I spray my earthenware baking dish with PAM and pour in the batter. Any standard greasing method should work fine.
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New Chapter

It’s been a while since I blogged. The days and weeks have been flying by at a blazing pace. It would be gratifying to say I have accomplished something tangible in that time, but, in reality, Life has been teaching me her lessons in the most mundane and humbling ways. Through the angry young man whose comment, “Do you want me to piss on the floor right here?” almost brought me to tears, I’ve learned patience and compassion. Through the student who asked me for money one too many times, I learned to say ‘no’. Through the gift of a lollipop from a usually sullen and frequently volcanic eighth grader, I learned that even the most difficult and obnoxious kids have goodness at their core, something I seriously questioned. And, finally, by making a HUGE mistake while proctoring a state exam, I learned humility.

These are lessons I needed, and for which I am grateful. However, during the past few weeks I also observed that life is passing me by, and I’ve been so set in my ways with my eyes focused some imaginary, far-off finish line that I’ve missed some important events.

The tulips bloomed without me this year. They are my favorite flower, but I didn’t notice that they had grown and budded and opened. A week ago, as I drove down the driveway focused on the workday ahead, I noticed a blur of crimson in the corner of my eye. From the rearview mirror the tulips waved a greeting in the early morning light, and I felt so forlorn at that moment I wanted to weep.

My nephew turned 17 last week. The gift was planned, the card bought; that part I did in April. However, April came and went, and with it my birthday, Easter and Mother’s Day. For the first time since he was born, I screwed up his birthday. Nope, that’s wrong – I totally forgot it. Instead of consciously sending his package in time to arrive on his birthday the 5th, I thought I had more time and my brain put his birthday on the 17th. Turns out the 17th is my girlfriend Virginia’s birthday. {sigh}

My eye doctor died last week of pancreatic cancer. I didn’t even know he HAD cancer. And now he’s dead. He was a caustic, drily funny man, once commenting, when I told him I liked the SpongeBob statue he had in his office to distract kids during their exams, “I hate SpongeBob.” I was at his office today and saw a tribute to him on the wall where his cat trophy used to be. He loved his cats. I wonder who took them when he passed on.

These three events together, although they might not seem like a big deal to some, made me step back and ask, “Am I going to continue to chase after some illusion that one day I will arrive somewhere?” There is no valid reason for me to run like a madman 7 days a week. Louise has been telling me for years to slow down, Richard has been trying to teach me how to say “no” (I seem to be allergic to the word). But I have been overextending myself, working seven days a week during the school year, and refusing to take vacations because I didn’t want to leave the church parishioners without music – I love them! In February this year I finally broke down and told the priest of the church where I play organ that I couldn’t work Saturdays anymore. I said I needed the day off, but, in no time, Saturdays became full of activities, too.

Last Saturday, while spending a rare moment reflecting, I realized how desperately unhappy I am. For years I have wanted to leave my weekend job, but thought I really needed the money. I complained weekly about how I would love to stay home on Sunday morning and have coffee on the deck. Richard would always say, “keep your foot in the door” or, “maybe you can quit next year”. I always listened and took that to mean I had to stay, as though the decision was his to make. After all, my Dad always made those decisions for my Mom, or so it seemed. The job was also taking its toll on me physically – I would get so stressed at being there some weeks that I would have to go outside the church during the sermon and throw up, or I would have to pull over to the side of the road on the way to work Sunday mornings and do the same. It got to where I wouldn’t eat anything before going to work. I would have some toast and tea after the 9:00 Mass if I felt up to it. I told people it was allergies and mucus at the back of my throat making me gag, but in reality it was stress shutting down my body and rejecting sustenance. I didn’t take the hint, though.

I tried to come up with other ways to make money – after all, the economy is in the crapper and prices are steadily increasing. If I could only figure out a way to earn some extra money during the week, I could quit and have weekends free. That magic solution never materialized, however, and I stayed miserable, working week after week at a job that no longer held meaning for me. My “ah-hah” moment came while preparing for last week’s First Communion Masses. I pulled out a program last Friday night for the First Communion Mass I had played in 2006 and realized that nothing had changed since then. The music selections were the same, the readings were the same, the psalm was the same, all that had changed were the names of the kids. This was a metaphor for my life! I decided then and there to quit for good. I wrote a letter to the pastor of the church and resigned as of this coming Sunday.

I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t terrified about finances. How am I going to pay for the groceries? Clothing? Incidentals like bandaids or milk in the middle of the week? Textbooks? My family gets medical benefits through my school job, but I still pay the vast majority of the premiums and take home about $10 a day, a pathetically small sum, so I rarely have cash in my wallet. Richard has drummed into me for years how important it is to keep that job because his income is uncertain and my income gets us through the “bald spots” of his work year. I was expecting a mini-explosion when I told him I quit. However, his only response was, “Good!”

This stunned me. I had expected whining and complaining. I had expected a lecture about money. I had expected a pronounced sigh and the silent treatment for a day as Richard came to grips with my stupidity. None of that happened. He was actually glad that I could finally be happy and that we could go away together. Imagine my surprise to learn that the decision had been mine all along but I had given away my power and my freedom to an imaginary keeper! When Louise found out she hooted and squeezed me in a giant hug. I was moved to tears to know that they wanted for me what I wanted for myself all along: the chance to be happy.

A few months back I wrote a post entitled “The Winter of My Discontent”. I wrote then that “there are still days when I listen to my soul whispering to me that there is more than this. I want to surrender to that seductive whisper and fall in love with Life again.” Finally, I have listened to that whisper and taken the first step to reclaiming my life. It was daunting, but I took it.

My friend Erika said yesterday that she felt the Universe was “seriously shifting some gears.” I think she’s right. Perhaps I’ve tapped into that energy and that’s where the courage to make the change came from. Perhaps my guardian angel poked me in the butt with a sharp stick because she was tired of seeing me punish myself. Perhaps God whispered in my ear, “You deserve more than this, my child”, and I finally heard Her voice. Perhaps I finally gave up the martyr mentality and took back my human right to be happy. Whatever actually happened, I have ended one chapter and started another. This new chapter is yet to be titled and yet to be written. I am certain, however, that it will be an adventure. Bring it on!

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Reubens

There is something wonderfully soul-satisfying about a dish that combines both crunchy and soft, and has sweet, sour, and salty elements. Today we made reuben sandwiches for lunch, and they hit all those buttons. We didn’t make traditional reubens, however, we made turkey reubens and vegan tempeh reubens on marble rye. Yum. (stock photos for both sandwiches – mine looked SO much better!)

A turkey reuben is like a traditional reuben, but with a different meat – turkey breast, swiss, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on grilled buttered bread, served with a pickle. As the bread is being grilled, a layer of cheese is put down to melt on both slices of bread. Turkey is heated, Sauerkraut is rinsed, drained and heated, and the whole thing is assembled. The dressing is passed separately to be put on as the eater wants, or to be dipped into.

A vegan tempeh reuben is similar – turkey breast is replaced by a marinated, baked tempeh, and the swiss is replaced with Daiya cheese – mozzarella style. The bread is grilled with Earth Balance spread and served without dressing (although it’s very easy to find recipes for vegan Thousand Island dressing online).

Here’s the recipe for the tempeh. I used a 3-grain organic tempeh made by LightLife. This recipe is for the full 8-oz. package. I only made half, though. 8 oz. makes 4 sandwiches.

Tempeh for Reubens

  • 8 oz. package tempeh, sliced into 1/4″ slices
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seed
  • 2 tsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Arrange tempeh slices in a single layer in a glass baking dish.
  2. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over tempeh, lifting tempeh and flipping to make sure all surfaces are coated with marinade.
  3. Bake for 40 minutes. Tempeh will become dark in color. Lift out of any remaining liquid and use on reuben sandwich in a single layer (or double layer if you like more).
Serve these sandwiches with tiny pickles and chips (we like Herr’s sea salt and cracked black pepper chips).
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