The Bright Side

I don’t like to get into too much personal biz on this rather public blog but feel like I need to let people know that my recent absence can really only be explained by saying that it’s just been a really weird month. I can pinpoint the start of the weirdness pretty exactly to April 15th, the day of the marathon bombings.  But the last week and a half in particular has been just a crazy roller coaster of crap.

I missed the Virtual Vegan Potluck on Saturday and I’m super-depressed about it.  I think it’s such a brilliant concept and I was so excited to be a part of it, but life sort of got in the way.  Even though I was one of the shameful no-shows, I encourage others to visit the Potluck and check out some of the rockstar blogs that actually followed through with sharing their amazing recipes and stunning photography.  If I’m not blacklisted for life, I might try again to get in on the next one.

I’ve been trying really hard to look on the bright side of all things and just take really good care of myself, and my husband of course.  Summer is coming and I am very much looking forward to the relaxed attitude that falls over New England this time of year, to just enjoy the time I have with my family and friends and make really delicious and nourishing food for us all.

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Recently I have been experimenting a little with my eating.  I’m trying to focus really hard on whole, unprocessed foods and balancing my diet a little better overall. It’s not always possible and it’s definitely not always easy. But I’m also trying not to be so hard on myself when my diet isn’t “perfect” or as “clean” as I’d ideally like it to be.

For our relay race two weekends ago, I made a huge batch of Winter Spice and Brown Sugar Granola (click for recipe) by PureWow.  I added dried cranberries for a little extra somethin’-somethin’.

Winter Spice Granola

This came out unbelievably delicious and smelled like heaven while it was baking. It’s sugary, yes, but highly satisfying and a little goes a long way.  And it certainly was great running fuel.  Highly, highly recommended (but be warned; it seriously makes a ton).

For dinners I’ve been all about the beans and greens. This time of year in general I find that I crave leafy green vegetables, and this is never something I feel guilty about eating!

This is Hottie Black Eyed Peas  (click for recipe) from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I added like a metric ton of hot sauce to the recipe after it was done because it just tasted so darn good with the black eyed peas.

Hottie Beans n Greens

I’ve also been enjoying Warm & Spicy Kale with Shiitake Mushrooms over Brown Rice (click for recipe) by Maria Guadagno of The Bombshell Blueprint.


I LOVE this recipe.  It is delicious and spicy, even as cold leftovers, which is fortunate because the recipe makes enough for three [large] meals! Just make sure you open some windows and put on your oven blower, if you have one, to avoid getting a blast of cayenne pepper to the face while this cooks.

Finally, there’s good old-fashioned Black Bean Burgers (click for recipe) served up with a side of greens, in this case sauteed collards.  The burger recipe is by Urban Vegan.  I also made roasted sweet potato wedges to have on the side.  And there was ketchup, obvi.

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Black Bean Burger

Sweet Potato Wedges

H was also a big fan of the patties.  I’m totally sold because they are so ridiculously easy to make, so his approval means they will be making frequent appearances on our lunch and dinner plates going forward.

So there you have it.  Look on the bright side and eat great food, and life is good.


The Mighty Mango

I freakin’ love mangoes.
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A good mango is one of the sweetest, creamiest things there is to eat. Period. A bad one is…bad.  Mealy, stringy, too flavorless or too tart, any or all of the above.  Fortunately I have long since learned the art of picking out a good mango. There is no science to this, just my own personal experience.  First, the color of the skin matters less than you’d think.  I used to think I wanted ones that were more red, or had a nice balance or red and green, but my experience has been that even mangoes with a uniform green or slightly yellow color to the skin can be good.  Second, the fruit should be relatively firm; not rock-hard, but definitely not soft.  Third, and most importantly, the smell of the mango should be, well, mango-ey.  Test the smell by inhaling near the stem end.  You can’t miss that sweet, citrusy mango smell.  If you don’t pick up on it, then you have a crappy mango.

My new job is conveniently located in a shopping complex that includes a Stop & Shop (as well as an A.C. Moore, an Applebee’s, and a liquor store, because why not?).  S&S recently has had crazy insane sales on mangoes so I’ve been stocking up bigtime.  Obviously many have been enjoyed as is, for breakfast or a snack, but I have also turned out some stellar recipes with them.

First is Mango BBQ Baked Beans, from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  This is the first recipe that really jumped out at me when I got this book a couple of weeks ago.
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Served with Jerk Asparagus, also from AFRIt was even better than I had hoped!  Sweet, smoky, complex barbecue flavor in a hearty, warming dish perfect for a winter evening (though I can also envision it as a kickass addition to a summer barbecue!).  H loved it.  He has added it to the list of vegan meals he will eat “anytime.”   As an additional matter, I know I am totally late to the party on AFR but better late than never, right?  This book is SO awesome.  I have like 56 stickies indicating the other recipes that I can’t wait to make.

Another gem from Ms. Moskowitz is Mango Fried Rice from her blog, Post Punk Kitchen.  Click through for the recipe.
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I ate mine with Asian Baked Tofu from Veganomicon (my go-to baked tofu, in case anyone was wondering).
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I also separately cooked up a little bit of chicken for the man (tofu remains on the Do Not Call list for my H) and was shocked when he told me he actually preferred the rice as it was, without the addition of meat!
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This incredible recipe does require a little extra work in the kitchen (the rice has to be cold before being added to the skillet, for example), but the beautiful, exotic and flavorful results are worth it!  It’s also easy enough to cook rice the day before and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
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Bonus: makes lots of leftovers for next-day lunch!

Now to be truthful, I actually made this many months ago but never got around to posting the pics until now.  But the recent bumper crop of mangoes has me thinking of whipping some up again this week…

So, I am currently training for a relay race in May, and the combination of Sunday cross-training and Monday running had me feeling super-sore, so yesterday was a rest day.  With my amazing new job getting me home around 5:30 every night, and no gym time scheduled, I realized that I’d have extra time to spend in the kitchen.  And so, last night I went for broke and attempted the Mango Masala Panini from Chloe’s Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli.

When I say “went for broke” what I really mean is that I chose a recipe that has multiple components that I knew would take me a significant amount of time to prepare.  Basically, making this Panini recipe requires making three mini-recipes: Mango Tamarind Chutney, Cauliflower Curry, and Chickpea Masala.
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Three bowls, Three Recipes (sorry for the dark [and, actually, kinda gross] picture)

While the final result was undeniably tasty, I would be remiss if I didn’t let you know that it took me a total of 2.5 hours to get it all done, and by the time it was over, I was too tired to flatten it into a “panini” using my grill pan and a weight, so I just toasted the ciabatta and ate it that way.
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When I say “ate it that way” what I really mean is I cut it in half and then opened each half up, leaving me with four open-faced “sandwiches”, because it was way too messy otherwise.

To be fair, part of the reason that it took so long to get this together is that I was washing dishes before, during, and after cooking.  Starting with a clean kitchen obviously would speed the process.  But even so, the food processor is required for all three of the mini-recipes and needs to be cleaned in between.  Let’s just say I cleaned A LOT of dishes last night.  And actually, since I’m big on honesty, I will admit that I used my immersion blender for the Chana Masala.  I just couldn’t clean that processor again.

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Mango Tamarind Chutney
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Cauliflower Curry
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Chana Masala

Final verdict: I liked this recipe, and I liked all of the components.  I am not sure that the final result is worth the aggregate time/effort, but if in the future I had time to do some ahead-of-time/day-before prep, I would make it again.  Plus, there is now a ton of leftovers in my fridge, which I always welcome during the work week.  I am even thinking about making the leftover Cauliflower Curry into samosas tomorrow, using another recipe from Chloe’s Kitchen.

Anyone else have any great recipes that use mangoes?