Friday, February 24, 2012

Hot Southern Mess

Hi Friends!

I know it has been a while between visits but you will have to forgive me.  I've been ever so busy beating feet on the concrete.  I'm trying so hard to bring my vegan vittles to a grocer near you, but boy is it difficult.  Not everyone shares my passion for fabulous food.  Some days I have victories and most days defeat.  The 'no's' do not bother me as much anymore because when I get a 'yes, bring in a case of everything' I feel like I'm a LIVE WIRE and on FIRE!

Right now, I should be making a couple batches of Bangarang! and a couple batches of my Jengi and Punjabi lollipops, but I really, really wanted to take a moment and get back to the recipes.  It's always been the cooking that interests me most.  Savoring a flavor.  Enjoying the meal, tremendously.

I'm working on a new cookbook at the moment that I have fondly dubbed "Hot Southern Mess". Vegan Southern Cuisine. I have enjoyed every dish that I have tried to create, with the exception of my first batch of Pimento Cheese spread. I think it would have been better if I had purchased a jar of pimentos instead of roasting an organic red pepper and chopping it up.  For some odd reason, it made the whole batch taste very earthy like the scent of potting soil.  As soon as I made that association, I couldn't enjoy it.

You see, smell has so much to do with the way I cook.  I am SO sensitive to smells, whether it be good or bad.  I was a personal trainer and aerobics instructor for over 6 years before I took to farming and the smells in a packed gym would almost floor me by the end of my work/play day.  Being a personal trainer, I had to be very food/body conscious too. To this day I hate floor to ceiling mirrors.  They remind me of a book that I read many years ago. It was said that the Gullah women of the Lowcountry in South Carolina believe that those mirrors bring the devil out of you.  For some odd reason, I believe it.

I have lived in the South all of my life.  I was born in Virginia, then moved to Texas as a child, then Oklahoma, then back to Virginia, then to Georgia, then to South Carolina, then back to Virginia, where I've been for the last 5 years on a farm in Caroline County.  My family lives Culpeper, Richmond, Caroline, Reva, Mechanicsville, Warrenton (all VA), Hilton Head, SC, White Sulper Springs, WV, Oklahoma City, OK, Conway, AR and a great Uncle in Louisiana.  My family is as Southern as the day is long.

And in the spirit of great Southern tradition, I am writing a cookbook on my family's food. It can also serve as a remedy for all of y'all that cooked up Paula Deen's best dishes (which she did warn from the very beginning that her food should be enjoyed only on special occasions not everyday fare), and to combat against high cholesterol, high fat, high sugar foods.

Now, everyone knows that I'm vegan AND I hold a special place in my heart for Paula Deen.  I loved her memoir.  I loved that she busted her butt and supported herself and her two boys.  But I think she is a Shady Lady for lying to the health inspector and cooking illegally out of her home kitchen that was not certified.  She lied for years! All of those people eating those bagged lunches that were supposedly made in a certified commercial kitchen and there is no consequence.  She is above the food law and now it is a reflection, a funny little footnote in her Epic life.

Le sigh.

SOAP BOX (skip if you aren't into it)

I would encourage Southerners to please stop cooking your vegetables to death.  Seriously, they are so little nutrients left after you have cooked your greens for 3 hours.  Kale goes limp after 5 seconds of steam, seriously.  I just want us all to have the very best health.  We can't control our genes but we can control how we cook and eat.  Every meal is a choice.  Just make good choices.

Low sugar, low alcohol, low (or no if you are gluten-free) wheat, no meat (for me please and thank you). Bam! I'm sorry to shoot from the hip but I just have to keep it real and keep it simple.

STEPPED OFF THE SOAP BOX (continue reading for fun)

One of my very first recipes that I have enjoyed recently is my Jambalaya.  When I was at Longwood University I was Biology major.  I really don't know why, but I liked saying that I was a BI-O major when others asked.  I started working on my 3rd or 4th cookbook that was French Creole Cajun Cuisine.  It was packed with over 250 recipes that I cooked in the dorm kitchen.  I gained about 20 lbs during the cookbook and flunked all of my classes because I was obsessed.  Literally, obsessed.  There was so much flavor and so much fat and everyday was Mardi Gras to me.  College was like Mardi Gras and I was literally living like I was in New Orleans, hopping from place to place with a Hurricane in my hand and eating from the finest Creole kitchens.  I was a mess.  Needless to say, I had to leave on academic probation and go home with my cookbook in hand and black stretch pants.

A few years ago, I threw the cookbook away. It just hurt to look at it.  Truly a disappointment. There were things that it meant to me, like why was in college when all I wanted to be was a chef, but I was persuaded by others that was not a good professional for a mother, if I was thinking to the future. Long hours, working nights and weekends, working holidays and so on.  No, no, best to take the safe route, the unselfish route, and just have a hobby of cooking and writing cookbooks for no one else to see, or care and self-publish.  I've been writing cookbooks since I was 16, almost one book a year ever since.

I want someone to see and taste the food I'm cooking up in the GreenHearts kitchen.  I can't make and sell everything that I feel is a masterpiece.  This is a one man show.

So here's a little taste...

3 c. water with 1 ½vegan vegetable bouillon
 (I use Rapunzel brand vegan veggie bouillon)
14 oz. Tofurky Kielbasa, sliced
1 Tbsp. Earth Balance butter
1/4 c. green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c. yellow onion, chopped
1/4 c. celery, chopped
1/4 c. carrots, chopped
3 small tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. Bang! Bang! Bangarang! hot and spicy signature seasoning
1 tsp. fresh picked oregano
1 tsp. fresh picked thyme
3/4 cup rice, cooked using package directions
To begin, cook rice according to the package directions. At the same time, get out a large stock pot and heat the vegan butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, pepper, carrot and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add water and bouillon cube and bay leaves. Simmer until cube is dissolved. Add vegan kielbasa, Bang! Bang!, oregano and thyme. Stir in cooked rice.  Bring to a low boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.  Serve piping hot in soup bowls. Add more Bang! if you like.

I hope you enjoy.  This dish takes me about 30 minutes to make, start to finish.  It is great to feed my husband, a farmer who likes things to be hearty and feel satiated after supper.  My kids love rice and veggies. They are not crazy about the Tofurky.  But, I love all of it. Every element. I love the warmth and comfort of this dish.  I love the texture of the veggies and chewiness of the Tofurky.  I love the smell of the fresh thyme.  I love eating with a spoon.  No fork tines. The roundness of a spoon and how it's the perfect fit with no sharp edges.  It's just comfort.

From my GreenHeart to yours,

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