Eggplant and Sweet Potato Yellow Curry with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

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To say the least, I’ve been eating well lately. Very well. Cooking has always been “my thing.” It’s always been a form of stress release that isn’t quite escapism but somehow functions in the same capacity. No matter what’s going on for me in my life (right now about 300-500 pages of reading a week and rapidly approaching deadlines for research paper prospecti) somehow in the midst of chopping and sautéing garlic, pouring, dicing, cutting, and stirring, it’s all ok.

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Beautiful, rich autumnal dishes like this are the perfect comfort to cook and to eat. The rich colors and varied textures make this dish so palatable and something that I’ve craved since I initially made it. (Good thing I had leftovers!) This is the perfect dish to eat in a bowl, maybe with a few wilted greens alongside, over some rice, quinoa, or couscous. I chose quinoa as it’s been ages since I’ve eaten the stuff.

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Eggplant and Sweet Potato Yellow Curry with Mushrooms and Tomatoes

1 medium-small eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks and oven roasted*

2 cups chopped sweet potato, roasted until tender

1 medium sized tomato, chopped

1 cup mushrooms of your choice, quartered

1/2 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced or through garlic press

1 cup coconut milk (I didn’t use the full fat canned variety as I had a half gallon of the readily drinkable stuff on hand)

2 Tablespoons yellow curry (panang  or 5 spice curry) powder

1/2 teaspoon harissa

1-2 Tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari

salt and pepper to taste

oil for cooking

Prepare and roast necessary veggies until tender. Sauté garlic and onion over medium heat until onions become translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned and tender. Add eggplant, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. Add curry powder and harissa. (Make sure you know how potent it is before you go tossing it into curries and the like willy nilly.) Allow this all to cook for a minute or two, until you notice that the curry is smelling extra delicious, season with soy sauce (I used 1 Tablespoon, but season to taste) and salt and pepper. Add the coconut milk, and simmer until you have a rich, thick delicious looking sauce has formed. Serve immediately.

* Before cubing up the eggplant, slice it and sprinkle salt over top. Let the liquid drain out for about an hour, then cube, toss in olive oil, and roast.*

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Like I said, LEFTOVERS. Eaten in the graduate school lounge the next day in my cute little collapsable container.

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Now, if only I could get a little Fall weather to match dishes like this. Then I’d be one happy lady. I miss my NC fall, that should just be starting to brown right about now. It’s the trade off for getting to look at palm trees every day I suppose. ;)

Vanilla Pecan Cashew Milk

IMG_3096Last Friday evening, I found myself without almond milk and definitely not wanting to leave my apartment. I’ve GOT to have some sort of plant milk for my coffee. What was I to do?Luckily, I had raw pecans and cashews in my pantry. Homemade nut milk to the rescue! (Oh the first rendition of Veganland. The tiny photos. The cuteness…)

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Vanilla Pecan Cashew Milk

1/4 cup raw cashews

1/4 cup raw pecan halves

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Soak cashews and pecans over night. Rinse and drain. Blend with 2 cups of cold water in your blender until white and frothy. Strain through cheese cloth or a strainer and enjoy!

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I used to make my own almond, walnut, or cashew milk (or some combination of nuts) nearly every week. My current smoothie-for-breakfast practice has created a bit more of a demand than I can keep up with, so I’ve returned to buying almond and coconut milk at Trader Joe’s where I do most of my shopping. This emergency nut milk concoction has reminded me of how simple and tasty making my own can be. Hoping to do this more often for weekend coffee and maybe for pancake/sweet pudla making so that the flavor can really shine through.IMG_3100

Smothered and Stuffed Poblano Peppers with (Florida) Avocado Salad

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It’s farmer’s market day! Happy vegans all across the country will be flocking to their local farmar to purchase veggies for the rest of the week, and I’m among them. I tried out the local farmer’s market for the first time last weekend. I was amazed to see not only the usual suspects (sweet potatoes, jalepenos, onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes) but also Florida and Hass avocados and mangoes!

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Among my haul (sweet potatoes, bell pepper, tomatoes, a mango, and a pint of jalepenos) were these two beautiful poblano peppers and a giant, bright green Florida avocado. While I’m familiar with the poblanos, the Florida avo was new to me but so big and so pretty that I just had to try it.

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With the fresh batch of vegan queso that I’d just made, I knew the perfect thing to do was to stuff these peppers. And man, were they ever delectable. I thought about the stuffed poblanos I used to get as a kid at Mexican restaurants, smothered in sauce and stuffed with cheese. With that as my model, I set about cooking and stuffing. The results, dear friends, were nothing short of incredible.

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Smothered and Stuffed Poblano Peppers with (Florida) Avocado Salad

For the peppers:

2 medium sized poblano peppers

1/2 cup cooked brown rice

1/4 cup grated tempeh

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon diced onion

2 Tablespoons diced bell pepper

1/2 cup vegan queso, plus more for smothering

hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste

Oil for cooking

For the Avocado Salad:

1 Florida (or 2 hass) avocado(s)

2 tablespoons diced jalepeno or chunky hot sauce (like Melinda’s or Trader Joes’ habanero)

2 tablespoons minced fresh onion

salt and pepper to taste

the juice of 1 lime

For the pepper stuffing: Gut your poblanos by cutting out the stem, removing the ribs and seeds, and slicing down one side. Set aside. In a frying pan, heat about a tablespoon of oil. Cook the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and tempeh until the tempeh begins to lightly brown. Add rice, stir to incorporate. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of hot sauce to taste. Mix in 1/2 cup queso. Remove from heat. Spoon into the pepper halves, then place them into a lightly greased baking dish. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until the tops of the peppers are lightly browned.

For the salad: skin the avocados. (I’ll be writing a post about how to treat avos soon, so stay tuned!) Cut them into bite sized chunks. Place them into a bowl and squeeze the lime juice over top. Add jalepeno/hot sauce (I used freshly made jalepeno hot sauce that I made with half the pint of farmar jalepenos) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve fresh poblanos smothered with queso, fresh lettuce, tomato, and topped with avocado salad.

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I came up with the idea for the simple avocado salad during my first encounter with the Florida avocado. I’ve seen these boogers before, but have never ventured to try one. The texture was…odd. The outer layer, the bright green bit of the flesh, almost had the texture of a regular Hass avocado. The inner part was almost squash-like in consistency but still at the oily texture of an avocado. My verdict: if a normal avocado and a squash had a baby, it’d be the Florida avocado. On its own, it was bland. Granted, normal avocados are a bit bland on their own, but this one hardly tasted like a regular avocado. Strange, but seasoned up it was quite nice.

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I love a good vegetable-centric meal. Farmer’s market fresh is probably the way I cook best. Meals centered around what ever I happen to pick up that week seem to glow with the flavors of the season.

Life just got a whole lot better because… VEGAN QUESO!

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Really, there are no words. I mean. OH MY GAWD. QUESO. VEGAN QUESO! It’s like savory nectar from the kitchen gods. And is perhaps one of the best things I’ve made. Maybe ever?

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Rich, savory, delicious with just the right amount of spice and umami, this dip got all manner of delicious things dipped and dunked into it. Even a dish or two got smothered by its deliciousness. The fact that it’s gluten free is just icing on the very queso-y cake. And yes, I did just stand in my kitchen eating it with a spoon. No shame. No shame at all. Because it really and truly is that life changing.

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VEGAN QUESO!

(Adapted from The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook‘s Mac and “Cheese” recipe, pp. 62)

1/2 oil or Earth Balance

1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour (besan) or other flour of your choice

3.5 c. boiling water

1.5 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used tamari)

1 clove fresh garlic, run through garlic press or very finely minced

dash of turmeric

and additional 1/4 c. oil

1 cup nutritional yeast flakes

dash hot sauce

1 tablespoon finely chopped jalepeno (I used fresh but pickled would work well too)

1 smallish tomato, diced

Melt 1/2 c. Earth Balance or heat oil over medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Continue to stir until the mixture is smooth and bubbly. When you can smell the flour beginning to toast, slowly whip in the water. (It’s going to look realllly watery. Don’t worry, you’re doing everything right. It WILL thicken up.)  Add salt, turmeric, soy sauce, a tiny dash of hot sauce, and garlic and whisk well to incorporate all ingredients. Lower heat to medium-low. Continue to whisk occasionally. The roux will begin to thicken up, slowly but surely. Whip in the remaining 1/4 cup oil and nutritional yeast flakes, adding each slowly. Then add the jalepeno and tomato. Allow to cook until the tomatoes begin to look melty and a nice dip-able consistency has formed.

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Served on top of pudla for brunch the next day. Ermergawd. So. FREAKING GOOD.

Thick, rich, decadent, savory. I’ve been dreaming about this dip since I made it last weekend. It really is the stuff that vegan dreams are made of. Not to mention the possibilities for its uses are endless! Atop tots or fries (I’m imagining a killer chili cheeze fries with this!), on a burger, hot dogs, corn chips, tacos burritos, or stuffed poblano peppers as you will see in my next MOFO post! Until then, MAKE THIS. Eat it on EVERYTHING. You won’t be sorry!