Saturday, June 27, 2009

Homemade Soup is Fast Food!

The other night I came home wanting to cook something quick and use up my carrots and potatoes I still had.

When speed is of the essence, I pull out my pressure cooker. Mine's not a fancy one, but it cooks veggies great and soup is done quick as a snap.

I peeled some carrots and potatoes and tossed them in covering them with water - maybe double or triple the amount of veggies.

While that was coming up to pressure I cut up an onion - not too finely because of my later trick - and a couple of garlic cloves with some fresh basil.

Seven minutes of pressure cooking later, I ran the pot under running water to release the pressure quickly. I opened the top, tossed in the onion, garlic and basil and cooked it down for about 10 minutes while adding some Creole Seasoning. I didn't measure anything. I just seasoned to taste.

I also had maybe an ounce of coconut milk left in a can in the fridge so I tossed that in for a touch of creaminess.

When it was all done I grabbed the immersion blender and let it rip at slow speed to just mix it a bit. I left some small pieces of carrot and potato just for fun. It was good with a salad and some pita bread I had.

Homemade Carrot Potato Soup done in less than 30 minutes.

The carrots were left over from another great recipe I tested for Julie Hasson's upcoming "Vegan Diner" cookbook. I've been cooking lots of new recipes from it.

This is really going to be an awesome cookbook. Here are some shots (from my lousy camera, sorry) I took of some test recipes (note: some of these recipes are still in development, but they're all great.)

Carrot Pineapple Loaf Cake - also great with a schmear of Tofutti Cream Cheese.

Grace's favorite - a rack of Banana Biscuits, which are almost like scones.

Smoky Potato Scramble, which stars an amazing ingredient I had never tried before.

My FAVORITE - Orange Cornbread Waffles. I can't tell you how many of these I've eaten. Incredible!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

And Now, a Word About Running in New Orleans from June through September


Except for my right calf injury at the time, running in April was nice.

Heat indexes (indices? let's just call it HI) are climbing up to 110 every day. To make it less miserable, I run at the coolest time of day - 5:30 in the morning.

At that time, the HI during my runs can still hit 95, peaking in early August. What does an HI of 95 mean?

Imagine walking outside, it's still a little dark, the temperature is already 80, there's no wind whatsoever, and the humidity is 95 percent. Feel like hitting the road for a few miles as the sun comes out and heats up the morning? Not likely.

Yet there I am, several days a week, putting on my running shoes and getting in my regular six-miler. Yes, I must be sick.

The earliest in the Fall I ever ran a Marathon was October 29th (in Washington, DC). To accomplish a Marathon that early in the season I had to train with some long runs in July, August, and September.

I know I came close to heat exhaustion during some of those runs and definitely suffered with some dehydration. And that was despite dousing my head with water from a hose on the side of my house every three miles and drinking tons of water, sport drinks, and energy gels during those breaks.

Allow me to describe what it was like. Do you know that feeling you get when you step in a big puddle of water and your socks are saturated, every step squeezes water between your toes, and your shoes make an audible "squish, squish" sound with every step thereafter?

You can get that at just 10 miles. Not from rain or puddles, but from your own sweat which has accumulated on your feet and has also run down your legs into your shoes. And I'm 5-8, just 130 pounds, and don't sweat any more than any average guy. By the end of some of those particularly long 2 1/2 or 3-hour runs the HI was 100, even starting that early in the morning.

Just walking out the door to hit that noticeably heavy, humid air dampens your spirits and drains your will to live. Sure it's sea level and oxygen rich, but it feels as though you're carrying extra weight from your first step that will only get heavier as the morning heats up.

Forget running for time. Those normally easy, lazy 8:30 miles become horrible 10+'s by the end. Despite the dragging pace, your heart rate monitor is showing a tempo run heart beat, not a slow, easy-paced one. You're afraid to look up off the pavement because the bright sun in the thick air reminds you of the heat. You're on automatic pilot.

Why would you do such a thing? Because you promised someone in Washington, DC that you would run that Marathon, and you don't want to let that person down.

That's also why the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon (now the Rock and Roll Mardi Gras Marathon) is run during the beautiful month of February.

So there's really no excuse for me not qualifying for my first Boston Marathon when I've got all winter to train in nice weather, and a rockin', fast-course, local Marathon race to run it. Well, maybe one excuse.

I'm still 20 minutes too slow to qualify for Boston. Sigh...

Well, it's nice to dream about anyway. Maybe I can get serious about my training this winter and improve by nearly a minute per mile. Right.

Maybe the New Orleans Saints will win the Super Bowl, peace will reign in the Middle East, and I'll win the Powerball lottery, too.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Breakfast Benedicts

Sorry for not posting lately. I have been cooking new recipes, but all I can share are pictures so far because I was fortunate enough to be chosen to be a recipe tester for an upcoming cookbook called "Vegan Diner" by Julie Hasson.

Julie is the incredible video chef and baker at Everyday Dish TV so I was thrilled at being chosen to help test her recipes for her next cookbook.

I can tell you beyond any doubt this will be her best ever. If you haven't seen her making her wonderful recipes on the videos at her website, check them out. She also has a subscription option for some of her more incredible recipes, but many are free.

I wrote about one of those a few posts ago when I mentioned her Spicy Italian Vegetarian Sausages recipe. This was the one that was so good and yet easy to make that it swept the internet when she posted it last year.

This is Julie's first all-vegan cookbook, and will use comfort/diner food as the theme. How fun is that!

So far I've made two different kinds of pancakes using variations as Julie has refined them with her testers' input, breakfast sausage patties, and these Breakfast Benedicts, which have no eggs (natch) and I made using three of her recipes.

First, I started by making her Fluffy Biscuits, an option she gives in the recipe.

This batch was pretty fluffy, but I've since learned to follow her guideline on dough thickness before I cut them with a glass turned upside down. Her recipes are FULL of tricks and hints like that.

With the biscuits finished, I moved on to the making the bennies and one of her simple and healthy Hollandaise sauces (this was a Lemon Garlic one before I thinned it out a bit) to top it off. Here's the final product:

This was so good I ate two of them.

Bird Update:

On my last post I wrote about our back patio dartboard cabinet that had been used by at least two bird families so far this Spring. Grace told me it was actually four by that time and a fifth was looking at moving in on the nest.

She described as though it was bird house hunting. One day, the empty nest was spotted and looked at by one bird. Shortly thereafter, we cleaned the empty nest off and the dartboard inside to make it usable again. For us, I mean.

The next day, she swears she saw the same bird come back with another bird and it was like, "I swear, Alice, the nest was right here!" "Sure, Ralph, you made me come all this way to see an empty lot with no improvements. Honest, you have the worst sense of direction! And you call yourself a bird?"

- The Honeymooners as played by doves.