Tag Archives: potatoes

BBQ Chicken

Yesterday I had my second round of interviews with the Monterey Peninsula School District. I got home around eleven in the morning and decided to walk to the Safeway on 41st. We live less than a mile from the store, so it was a nice afternoon walk if I limited the amount of groceries I bought. I kept it to two bags and it wasn’t so bad, except for the bunch of middle-aged motorcyclists who decided to stop and check me out. Weirdness.

I was craving BBQ chicken like mad. I couldn’t stop thinking about the sweet, smoky carbonized sticky chicken skin. Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs were the cheapest cuts of chicken available at Safeway, though I tend to enjoy white meat more than dark. Dark meat does tend to stand up better to the high heat of the grill. Andrew got the grilled started up and then I got the chicken on.

To start with, toss the chicken in olive oil, salt and pepper. Do not put the sauce on the chicken yet. Andrew wanted to put the sauce on straight away and this is a mistake. You will end up with a bullet proof carbon shell around your chicken before the inside is even cooked. Once you put the chicken on the grill put the lid on and cook for about fifteen minutes, turning and flipping occasionally.

After about fifteen to twenty minutes, it is time to add the sauce. You can make your own sauce or you can use store bought. I purchased Baby Sugar Ray’s BBQ Sauce for 99 cents. 99 cents for more than a pound of BBQ sauce. Much lighter and cheaper than carrying all the makings for homemade BBQ sauce. Homemade is always appreciated, but so is a light grocery bag and a small bill. Slather the BBQ sauce on with a brush and continue to baste until the chicken is cooked. It took about twenty more minutes for my chicken to cook mostly because I’m terrified of undercooked poultry.

We served this with asparagus and grilled baby new potatoes.

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Vegan Chili Verde

This is one of my favorite cook book recipes. I’ve been recently mulling over my distaste for the way most cookbooks are set up. I find reading through the list of ingredients and directions for dummies to be tedious, boring, and uninspiring. The majority of cook books are made for the lowest common denominator, which is fine for when I want to learn how to cook something that I’ve never cooked before. That is when I turn to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I’ve learned a lot about the basics of cooking from reading his book.

I think the problem boils down to this: when an author writes in his or her introduction that he/she is passionate about cooking, food, and states that they show their soul through the cooking and then write the most soulless, scientific sounding recipes then I just don’t believe them. I find it disingenuous. Give me some character, heart, and explain to me how you feel as you cook. If you are not a gifted writer, then have someone else do the writing for you and you provide the recipes.

I’m veering wildly off-topic here. Back to what I cooked this weekend. This weekend we finally made our move back to Santa Cruz from the Silicon Valley. We had a housewarming party on Saturday, the day after we moved in. Andrew and I are amazingly efficient movers; we had our entire house set up and everything unpacked by mid-Saturday morning. That was with our movers being an hour and a half late on Friday and with me having to make multiple trips over the winding mountain highway in between Santa Cruz and the bay area.

I knew that I wanted to make the chili verde from the Veganomicon. I purchased the Veganomicon when I had my foray into veganism. I still enjoy vegan cooking. It’s something completely different than recipes that rely upon meat, dairy, and eggs. It’s a challenge and it’s interesting. The Veganomicon for me is the vegan cookbook to purchase. It’s easy enough to follow if you’re a beginner while still maintaining a level of variation and interest. They give fun, pithy explanations of each dish before starting in on the recipe which makes it enjoyable to read. Some of the recipes are damn good, such as the manzana chili verde, chickpea cutlets, and vanilla pound cake, while others suck incredibly (the mustard sauce is one of the most heinous things I’ve ever put in my mouth).

This recipe is based off of and inspired by the Manzana Chili Verde found on page 171 of the Veganomicon by Terry Hope Romero and Isa Chandra Moskowitz. These are also the same ladies who brought you Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  They know what they’re doing. I forsake traditional recipe writing here. If you want to know exact ingredients and cooking times please refer to that cookbook. The result is a tangy, spicy, filling concoction that is great as a tip or as a meatless dinner.

1. First wash the following produce: one pound of baby yukon gold potatoes (I used “gold potatoes” whatever the hell those are because Safeway didn’t have baby Yukons), two Granny Smith apples, two poblano peppers (my recipe deviates here and I ended up having to use two green bell peppers. Use green bell peppers if you’re not a fan of the spicy.), and three jalapeño peppers. Set aside the apples and peppers for now.

Wash and roughly chop potatoes

2. Set yourself to work on roughly chopping your potatoes. Then put them in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. You want them to boil for about twenty minutes at this point. Use this time to peel and chop your onion (I accidentally used two onions and this was perfectly fine) and chop the peppers. Roughly chop them. It doesn’t matter honestly because you’re going to be putting this through a food processor eventually. Leave the seeds in the jalapeño peppers if you want it to be spicy.

Peel and roughly chop the onion

Wash and chop the peppers. You want it in smaller pieces than this picture shows. 

3. Once your potatoes are tender enough to stick a fork easily in them take them off the heat and drain them. Now get some oil cooking on medium high and then add your peppers and onion. Cook for about ten minutes. While these are cooking, chop your garlic (I used an entire head. Use as much as you like. Exact measurements DO NOT MATTER), and get the cumin (I did not use cumin), chili powder (I used chili powder and the original recipe does not), a teaspoon of oregano,  and 2 cups of vegetable broth ready. Chop the apples into bite sized pieces. Prepare your tomatillos.

Note: To prepare tomatillos you need to remove the papery skins on the outside. Tomatillos are like little green apple and tomato hybrids. They can also be rather sticky. Remove the papery skins and then wash. Chop into small pieces.

Cook the onions and peppers on medium high in olive oil for about ten minutes.

Onions and peppers after 10 minutes

4. When the peppers and onions have reached a soft translucency, add the garlic, tomatillos and spices. Cook for about another minute then add the vegetable broth and apples. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes. I forgot to warn at the beginning of this that this is a rather time consuming recipe, but completely worth it.

Add tomatillos

Add apples and vegetable broth. Cook for another 20 minutes.

5. After the twenty or so minutes are up, carefully ladle your mixture into a food processor. If you have a large food processor good for you it will get done quicker. If you have an immersion blender well then you’re just super awesome and lucky aren’t you. Use that. If you don’t have either, but you have a food mill then use that, but be careful no matter because this shit is hot and can possibly burn you. Go through the entire batch and food process, blend, or mill until it reaches a rough smoothness.

Chili verde after its been in the food processor and the beans/potatoes are added. 

6. Add potatoes and two cans of beans (the original recipe calls for one can of beans but I found that meager). Simmer until heated through. I actually served mine at room temperature with tortilla chips and that was delicious.

People enjoying the manzana chili verde. 

Meat and Potatoes Go Wild

After a walk around the Scotts Creek Reservoir in Cupertino this morning, I was craving some strong red meat. I think the changing leaves and the fall breeze put me in the mood for some game meat. On the way back to our house, Andrew and I stopped in at the Whole Foods and picked up frozen packages of venison and bison. The venison is incredible expensive at 17.99/lb. , but it’s not like we’re eating venison everyday. This is a Saturday/weekend treat. The bison was cheaper at 8/lb.

Andrew was in charge of grilling the meat and white corn. We had some small yukon gold potatoes left over from the pot roast I made last Saturday and decided to make Papas Bravas, a Spanish potato dish using red chili flakes/powder and roasting the potatoes in the oven. It is a super-simple recipe that most people can make (unless you’re so inept at cooking that you don’t know how to turn an oven on).

Papas Bravas


Ingredients

  • 10 small yukon gold potatoes
  • red chili flakes
  • red chili powder
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • olive oil

Note: I don’t measure things when I’m seasoning. I like things very spicy and flavorful because I don’t have a very sensitive palate. Plus, it’s a pain in the butt to measure everything.

1. Pre-Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash, scrub, and pat potatoes dry. Then prick each potato three or four times with a fork. Place on a baking sheet. Pour olive oil and seasonings over the potatoes and mix around with your hands making sure each potato is evenly coated with the spice mixture.

2. Roast in oven for forty minutes. Take out and then enjoy!

Grilled Venison


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. frozen venison steaks, thoroughly defrosted
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • olive oil

1. Grill venison on high for two minutes then reduce heat to medium-high for a minute and a half.

Cook venison to rare-medium. Anything more than medium is overcooked and it will be incredibly chewy. This came out delicious and medium-rare. Andrew also cooked the bison, but it came out a little chewy. I enjoyed the venison more.

Venison and bison are healthier alternatives to beef. They are lower in fat and contain more protein. Venison has less fat than bison, but more cholesterol. The drawback is that these kinds of meat may be hard to find and they are much more expensive unless you have a direct resource, such as a friend who hunts game. Bison is cheaper than venison and is much more widely available, especially in ground form. They can both be found at Whole Foods.

The next game meat I want to try from Whole Foods is pheasant. I’ve heard it’s great.

Chickpea Cutlets and Vegetables

Last weekend I got the Veganomicon at Urban Outfitters for less than ten dollars. This book runs retail at around thirty dollars, so I was stoked to find it for so cheap. The binding and cover was a little damaged and there was some strange purple ink going on inside the book, but I don’t care: it’s a cookbook, it will get banged up around the kitchen.

It’s been inspiring to read all the recipes. One of the recipes that I was most interested in when I first saw the book was the chickpea cutlet recipe. One of the most difficult things about being vegetarian/vegan is finding meat substitutes. I’m sure that the need to have something meaty wears off as time goes by but I’ve only been doing this for a couple months so that desire is still there. I’ve tried tofu, seitan, TVP, and tempeh. I only like tofu and tempeh fried which isn’t the best thing for you. Plus unfermented soy is not good for the digestive system. I only like TVP when it comes pre-packaged as ground beef, but when I make it tastes like salty corn flakes: disgusting. Seitan is good but it takes a while to make and that much gluten is not good for your digestive tract. The chickpea cutlet is a mixture of mashed chickpeas, vital wheat gluten (what makes your seitan and the stuff that makes your bread chewy), bread crumbs, etc. I liked the idea of getting good protein from beans and the chewiness of wheat gluten.

The chickpea cutlets were simple to make and they came out amazing. I was completely surprised by how chewy, savory, and “meaty” they were. I even made some at my boyfriend’s parent’s house and they tried them and enjoyed them. They’re definitely big meat eaters and they enjoyed the meatiness of the cutlet. Andrew also liked them which is saying a lot since he’s a super picky eater. I was very pleased with the results.

One thing I do not recommend is re-heating these babies. They came out tasting like those frozen vegetarian fake meat products. It was gross, I couldn’t finish eating it. However, when they are fresh they are fantastic and would definitely impress veggies and meat eaters across the board. They however, are not for those who have to be gluten free unfortunately. Sorry guys, my body is fine with the gluten.

Chickpea Cutlets

Adapted from the Veganomicon

Ingredients

  • 1 cup canned chickpeas (The original recipe says cooked, but I buy canned organic chickpeas)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (the original recipe called for 2 cloves of garlic pressed, but I buy pre-minced garlic to save time)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (this is my addition)

Note: The original recipe also called for 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika, 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage, and 1/2 lemon zest, but I did not have these things on hand. I also made this recipe with 1/4 cup water instead of vegetable broth and Italian seasoned bread crumbs instead of plain bread crumbs. I am eventually going to try this with different seasonings and types of beans.

1. Pre-heat an oven to 375° F. In a mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas together with oil until no whole chickpeas are left. The first time I did this I used a food processor for this step. It goes much quicker and you come up with a less chunky “batter”. However, the second time I made it I just used my hands and a fork and it came out fine. Add the remaining ingredients and knead for about 3 minutes, until strings of gluten have formed.

2. Divide dough into four equal pieces. Knead each piece in your hand for a few moments and then flatten and stretch each into rectangle. Mine were not perfectly rectangular. Meat is not perfectly rectangular so why should other sources of protein come in funky shapes? I don’t like meat shapes.  Once they are shaped stretch them so they are about 1/2 inch thick.

3. Brush each side of cutlet with olive oil. Then place on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake for twenty minutes then flip them over and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Serve with a sauce of your choice.

Restaurant Reviews

As a recent traitor to omnivorism and convert to cooking vegan, I feel very lucky to live in an area with as many options as Santa Cruz has. Going out to eat is not difficult, it’s not as easy as it was before, but it’s definitely do-able and delicious. There are a couple restaurants in Santa Cruz that are purely vegetarian/vegan: Saturn Cafe, Malabar/Asian Rose, Charlie Hong Kong (I think, though I’m not 100%), Alfresco, and Dharmas.  There is also Black China Bakery which has a great variety of fine vegan desserts. I have only been once to the actual bakery, but they sell their desserts at some local grocery stores and coffee houses. Many of the restaurants have a large variety of vegetarian items.

This weekend Andrew and I got food from Yan Flower, Zachary’s, the Falafel House, and Sitar. Ugh, that’s a lot of eating out, but we almost always cook. On Friday night we got food at Yan Flower before going to see Robin Hood.  Before this weekend Andrew was convinced that there was no Chinese food restaurant that was better than competent. I told him that Yan Flower was pretty good compared to all others in Santa Cruz and therefore could possibly be considered “good”.  We got hot tea, vegetable potstickers, white steamed rice, salty and chilli pepper tofu, and Andrew got Mongolian Lamb. The potstickers were very good, but a little hot (as in temperature) and I almost burned my mouth. The rice was actually good for steamed rice: fluffy and tender. The salty and chilli pepper tofu was fried tofu, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and onions. It was not as salty or spicy as I remember it, but the tofu texture was great. Andrew described it as “egg like” and he enjoyed it as much as he could enjoy tofu. He said the Mongolian Lamb was very good as well.

After taking the night to recover from the mediocrity that was Robin Hood (or Gladiator 2010: Time Travel to The Dark Ages), Andrew and I got breakfast at Zachary’s. Zachary’s is an insanely popular breakfast venue on the main drag downtown. It usually would be insanely crowded at 9am on a Saturday, but we were lucky due to the craptastic weather that we are experiencing mid-May.

I got coffee with soy milk, tofu scramble with avocado, vegan home fries, and oatmeal molasses bread. They make their breads in house and they are all amazing, but oatmeal molasses is my favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed the bread with the avocado spread on it and the home fries were tasty. Tofu scramble just isn’t my thing and this had a rotting garlic scent to it. Andrew enjoyed his scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes with Earl Grey Tea.

Later that day we went to check out the Greek Festival in downtown Santa Cruz. There wasn’t anything to it this year: just a bunch of different food booths. This was mostly desserts with a gyro place and another place where you could get souvlaki. There was no falafel which was what Andrew was looking for. Instead we ended up going to the Falafel House on Walnut Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. The Falafel House is a Syrian/Middle Eastern restaurant. I got the vegetarian combo platter which consisted of baba ghanoush, pita bread, taboulleh salad, falafel, and hummus. Now, I fucked up. I ate the regular yogurt sauce on the falafel instead of the vegan tahini sauce. I didn’t know that they were going to put the yogurt sauce on the falafel and I didn’t feel like bothering them to change it.

I enjoyed the falafel, hummus, and pita bread. I liked the baba ghanoush as well which surprised me since I don’t like eggplant. I definitely think I make better hummus though. I didn’t like the taboulleh salad too much, but I still tried to eat it and it wasn’t wretched. I think I don’t like taboulleh. Another great thing about the Falafel House is the fact that they are always playing Syrian MTV or some other music video channel. Oh and they’re onion rings are amazing.

Today we went out for lunch/dinner instead of cooking because we were bummed after the Sharks losing the first game of the conference finals. Andrew got pizza at Pizza My Heart (a local San Francisco Bay Area chain that began in Capitola). My favorite slice at PMH is pesto. It was the first thing with pesto that I ever liked and converted me to a pesto lover. Screw you campus dining halls for making me afraid of pesto for so long.

At Sitar, I got Chana Masala (vegan chickpea/garbanzo bean curry), vegan naan, basmat rice, ice berg lettuce crap in a compartment, and raita (which I didn’t eat since it’s made with yogurt). The chana masal had wonderful texture: thick sauce, creamy garbanzo beans, melt in your mouth pieces of onion, but it the curry could have been spicier. The rice was a good texture and the naan was good.

Grapefruit Cake, Roasted Fingerlings, and Spring Rolls

On Wednesday I made dinner for my friend Ian and I. I was going to make a tempeh salad with bbq tempeh, black beans, avocado, and a citrus vinaigrette, but I completely botched my bbq sauce and my tempeh (they tasted awful). I ended up making roasted fingerling potatoes and salad spring rolls. The grapefruit cake turned out amazing. Ian and I ended up eating almost half of it together and he took the rest of it home. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of the food, but here are the recipes.

Grapefruit Cake

Adapted from 1,000 Great Recipes

The grapefruits at New Leaf market in Santa Cruz looked great this week so I bought two of them picturing some sort of dessert and then a citrus salad dressing. I never got around to the citrus salad dressing, but I did make an awesome grapefruit cake. The original recipe was not vegan so I veganized it and the original used lemons not grapefruits.

Cake Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 1/2 tsps. Ener-G egg replacement (mixed with 9 tbsps. of water)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • grated rind of one grapefruit

Syrup Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • juice of 1 grapefruit

1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8″ spring form cake pan.

2. Beat the earth balance and sugar together until light and fluffy, then gradually add the Ener-G egg replacement mixture. Fold in the flour and the grapefruit rind.

3. Turn the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour, until set in the center and golden brown. Remove the cake from the oven, but leave in the pan.

4. To make the syrup, gently heat the sugar in the grapefruit juice until melted, then boil for 15 seconds. Pour the syrup over the cake in the tin and leave to cool.

This made a moist, dense delicious cake. The original recipe called for self-rising flour, which I did not have so I used all-purpose flour. My cake did not rise, but this didn’t bother me since I enjoy denser cakes not light fluffy ones.

Roaster Fingerling Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1-2 lbs. fingerling potatoes
  • salt
  • pepper
  • sunflower oil
  • paprika

1. Pre-heat oven to 375º F. Cut potatoes into small chunks. Place on roasting pan with salt, pepper, paprika, and sunflower oil. Roast for about twenty minutes.

They were very good!