Thursday, October 28, 2010

Typhoon Soup!

We may be headed for Dublin, but we still live on Okinawa, and today we are receiving a visit from Typhoon Chaba.  It's been chilly (for Oki) and gloomy for days in the run-up for this storm.  I felt we needed something hot and soothing.  We ate colcannon and heavy, bad-tasting meat loaf for dinner yesterday, so I wanted this to be something lighter and less clunky in the tummy.  Soup, of course, is always an excellent solution for this.

Because we are planning a move, there isn't a whole lot of food in the house, and I've used most of what I bought over the last week for specific, planned meals.  I rooted through the pantry and fridge to see what I could find and just threw everything that looked like a soup ingredient up on the counter.  This is what I came up with, and it was quite good.

This little soup is a simple, spicy, and stick-to-the-ribs meal without being heavy.  I call it Typhoon Soup in honor of the storm which inspired me to make it.  Do try this.  It's lovely.  I made a cornbread to serve alongside.  The slice you see up there in the photo is from my standby 1:29 Project Cornbread recipe.  It just looks different because I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose.  It, too, was perfect.  As the ladies on my Irish Mommies board would say, "It went down a treat."

Typhoon Soup
c. 1C Potato, diced
c. 1/2C Celery, diced
c. 1/2C Carrot, diced
c. 1/2C Onion, diced
1/4C Kale, chopped (optional)
1C Lentil Beans
1 Can Tomato Soup
4C Vegetable Broth (I made mine with a bouillon base)
1tsp Garlic Powder
1/3tsp Red Chili Flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste
the Juice from 1/2 of a Lemon (about 1T)


Heat a stew pot over medium heat with about 1T of canola oil.  Toss in the potato, celery, carrot, onion, and lentils.  Stir all of this around until the onions soften up a bit.  Add in the soup and dry spices.  Once that is all mixed and you've taste-tested for spice levels, pour in the broth.  Turn down to simmer and cover your pot.  Let it cook for 30-40 minutes until the lentils soften up.  I don't like my lentils mushy, but if you do, you'll need to let it simmer longer than we did.  Add your lemon juice and do a final taste test for salt and pepper adjustment.  Voila!

**Note of Trivia**
For those who were unaware, whenever you see the abbreviation "c." in a recipe or manual--or anywhere else for that matter--it stands for the word, "circa."  Circa is the Latin word meaning "around."  It literally meant around as in around the circle or looking around, but in English we use the c. to indicate around as in "approximately."  Cheers!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Colcannon for Halloween

We're moving to Ireland soon, and I have recently befriended a lovely group of Irish mothers online.  In the past few days, they've all been talking with one another about a dish called colcannon.  These discussions caught my eye because they kept mentioning "kale" and "curly kale."  As any of you who read this blog regularly know...I'm a little obsessed with kale.  So...I asked them to explain the dish and tell me how to make it.

Colcannon is a signature Irish comfort dish traditionally made for telling fortunes on Halloween.  The cook will hide coins, rings, and other tokens inside the dish to predict marriages and wealth for the coming year.  It is simple peasant fare, and it's absolutely and utterly delicious.  Here's how to make it:

1:29 Project Colcannon
4-5 lbs. of good, starchy Potatoes
2C Kale, chopped
2C Cabbage, chopped
1/4C Scallions, sliced
1C Soy Milk
6T Vegan Butter (I didn't say it was health food)
4 Cloves Garlic, pressed or minced
Dash Grated Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper to taste

Scrub and cut up your potatoes.  Peel them if you like (if your potatoes have a thick skin that will not easily mash, I recommend you peel them).  Put them in a large pot just covered with salted water.  Boil until forkably soft the way through.


While the potatoes are boiling, heat 3T butter in a pan.  When just bubbly, toss in your Kale and Cabbage.  As these begin to wilt (about 1 min.), add the garlic, scallion, and some black pepper.  Let these continue cooking for another minute or two until everything is soft.


Drain the potatoes and put them in a mixer or a large bowl for mashing.  Mash the potatoes down a bit and add the soy milk.  Once well mixed, add the nutmeg and another 2T of butter.  Stir in the kale mixture and mix until everything is well-incorporated.  Taste test for salt/pepper content and adjust.  Almost done!

Transfer the colcannon to your serving dish.  Make a well in the hot potatoes and place your last tablespoon of butter inside to melt.  Voila!  You now have before you a scrumptious vegan version of Irish Colcannon.


Meat Loaf Cupcakes

So, I was looking for a good vegan meat loaf recipe, and I came across this website that suggested putting the meat loaf into a muffin pan so that leftover portions could be frozen and re-heated easily.  Having a kidlet who doesn't care for meat loaf, I thought, "Hey!  Meat Loaf Cupcakes!"  Anyhoodle, we got a recipe and made the meat loaf.

It was terrible.

The recipe we used turned out practically inedible.  The flavors were just all wrong.  As disappointing as that was, however, there are other recipes to try, and this whole cupcake idea was adorable.  Here's how we did it.  Use with your favorite meat loaf recipe, and may yours turn out tastier than ours.  Ha ha!



Using pre-shaped cupcake foils or squares of tin foil (I embossed my corners in an attempt to be like Martha), line the cups of a muffin pan.  Taking generous handfuls of your meat loaf mixture, fill the cups to the top.  "Frost" with your topping.  I used a mix of ketchup and dry mustard.  It's delicious.  Pop your meat loaf cupcakes into the oven for about 30 minutes (remember these don't take as long to bake through as a full loaf pan would).  When finished baking, pipe on some fun designs with mustard.  Done!

The Beagle Has Landed

Little Kioko has arrived in safety.  She is being loved and cared for, and now I can finally rest.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vegetable Fried Rice

Because we're in the middle of moving from Japan to Ireland, I have emptied the refrigerator and stopped buying food.  We've been living on takeout and the good grace of friends for about a week now.  Last night, we were over at Bunnary's house, and she always makes me the most delicious vegan nummies.  The specialty of the evening was tofu fried rice.  It was Heaven in a bowl.

Now.  I haven't been able to stop thinking about that fried rice since we left, and I actually went to the commissary and bought ingredients to make it here at home.  It was worth the mess and chaos of making room in the kitchen.  Bunnary's rice was a simple comfort dish made with a few ingredients.  Using the same process she taught me, I added some ingredients because my eyes got big at the store and I bought up the whole produce section.  Also in the process of buying too many vegetables, I forgot to buy tofu. is my basic fried rice recipe...sans tofu.  It was delicious!

Remember that this is just a process recipe.  You can add tofu, beans, nuts, or seeds if you like, and you don't have to use the vegetables I've used.  Use anything you have on hand.

***About the Pictures:  Click on them to see the larger versions.  These thumbnails look awful!***

Vegetable Fried Rice
5-6C Fluffed Jasmine Rice (that was my yield cooking 2C rice in 3C of water)
1C Carrot, Diced
1C Celery, Diced
1C Yellow Onion, Chopped
1C Mushrooms, any kind, diced
1.5C Cabbage, chopped
2C Kale, chopped
4 cloves Garlic, pressed or minced
2T Soy Sauce (I used low sodium)
3T Canola Oil
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Heat 2T of the oil in a large pan on medium-high heat.  Add the rice.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Stir-fry the rice for a solid 5 minutes.  This will evenly distribute the oil and "fry" the rice.  You do not want the rice to burn or change color here.  You just want to fry it and get a bit of flavor in.


Remove the rice from your pan and set aside.  Heat the remaining 1T of oil in the same pan you just used to fry the rice.  Saute the carrot, celery, and mushroom until the mushrooms begin to sweat and the carrot and celery begin to soften (about 3 minutes).  Add the onion.  When the onions begin to turn clear (about another 3 minutes), add the garlic and stir through.


Quickly add your kale and cabbage.  Stir-fry actively until the kale and cabbage are good and wilted.  This shouldn't take more than an additional 2-3 minutes.  Now, you're ready to toss the rice in.  Add the rice back into the pan, and get everything really well mixed.  Almost done!  Pour in the soy sauce, stir well, and then let everything sit there getting cozy together for a few minutes.  This will bring your rice to that nice brown "fried rice" color we all know and love.  You can lower the heat and walk away to clean up if you like.  By the time you're done putting everything away, the rice will be ready to taste test.


Adjust the salt content to your liking and serve!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gershwin, Bowels, and Vegan Shops in Dublin

The U.S. Embassy in Dublin, Ireland
As we have entered this moving process, my "diet" has gone to junk.  As a vegan on Okinawa, I have learned that the meaning of convenience food changes drastically when you stop eating eggs, meat, and cow milk.  Pre-packaged food here is rarely vegan.  Don't even get me started on the packaged fresh bento boxes full of bitter melon, egg, cream, and batter-dipped chicken.  /shudder  My bowels scream at me for even looking at food like that.

Yes.  I said "bowels."  I can say, "poop," too, if that helps us break the ice in this area.  Lookit, every human being has a lower intestine, and very few American-type human beings treat that particular organ with care and kindness.  It is shocking how little thought people give to the health of their bowels and how little attention they give to the regularity of their poop.  I mean, seriously.  Though certainly not the most attractive function of the human body, pooping is supposed to happen every day...several times.  A lot of Americans are completely blocked up most of their adult lives and consider it perfectly normal to be so.  It's not.  It's very, very bad for you, and it indicates some serious problems with your diet.  If you don't poop at least twice a day, or if you need to take daily laxatives to get things need to put the pork chop down and start eating your vegetables.  I'm just sayin.'

Anyway, in my father's family, we have a genetic predisposition to bowel trouble.  My baby brother and I, at 31 and 35 respectively, are already showing signs of heading down that problematic trust me:  I got over any embarrassment in discussing bowels a long time ago.  You should, too.

Back to junk food and being vegan during a move:

So, you all know what kind of junk food I mean, right?  Chips (crisps, for you European-types), fries (chips, again, for my Euro people), and all manner of quick-grain foods like pasta and big sandwiches and hot cereals...all smothered or slathered with some kind of fatty sauce full of sugar, salt, and God-knows-what-else.

I've never been thin, but at this rate, I'll be the size of a house in no time.  Thinking of that got me to thinking about the Irish looking at me and thinking, "typical fat American."  That was a bit embarrassing, and the Irish people mocking me in my head had French accents.  That got me thinking about Gershwin's American in Paris, which is a lovely, happy piece of music.  So...I put that on the iPod and then started Googling vegan shops and restaurants in Dublin.  Yep.  I'm nuts.  This is what it's like to be me.

So, anyway - yeah, Buddy. I'm going to be a happy camper in Dublin.  Look at all I found:

The Dublin Co-op
The vegetarian institution of fair-trade and organic products in Dublin.  It's like a farmer's market/whole foods store.

The Irish version of Whole Foods, as far as I can tell

Blazing Salads
This is going to be my FIRST restaurant visit when we get there.  Just look at their beautiful food, and it's all take-out!  We won't have a lot of time for eating out properly at a sit-down place in the beginning, so finding and making friends with a good take-out place will be a blessing.  Apparently, their tofu pizza is quite the thing because everyone who reviewed the deli mentioned the pizza specifically!

Doesn't this look divine?  I can't wait.  I'm thinking Govinda's will be my choice for my first-ever sit-down vegan restaurant experience.

Moving Without Kioko

Just three weeks ago, we were preparing for a move to The Hague, Netherlands.  As life and the Marine Corps would have it, that plan didn't pan out.  Instead, we have been assigned to a post in Dublin, Ireland.  While we view this as a fantastic opportunity and are excited to see the green of beautiful Erin, there was a hiccup.  A big one.

Ireland has a strict animal quarantine, and Kioko had never been FAVN tested.  Americans don't FAVN test their dogs as a general practice, and so I had never heard of such a thing.  It never crossed my mind that Kioko's veterinary record was anything less than exemplary and complete...but I was wrong.

I have written two posts about all of this on my MCESG Blog, and you can read about the requirements for transporting an American dog to Ireland and the UK in my article, Quarantine for Kioko.  What I would rather you read, however, is the story I wrote about Okinawa's Own Saint Francis.  In it, I describe how Mary from Itoman saved the day and helped us get Kioko safely to our family in America.  There, the beaglet can hang out and get grandbaby treatment from my mother-in-law until the quarantine period is over.  We look to have Kioko  living with us in Dublin by late April or early May.

We are sad to be losing the company of our Wonder Beagle for six months, but the best we could make out of a bad situation has now taken place.  Like I say in my article about Mary, "I miss my dog...but I'm not worried about her anymore."