Margaret Riesen Cooks

Food for Thought

Make Mine . . .

. . . (no, not mink), but fake meat. People often wonder why vegetarians and vegans choose to eat “fake meats”, in other words, something that resembles what you’re trying to give up. Isn’t that a contradiction? As a chef and caterer specializing in vegetarian and vegan cuisines, I find that “fake meats” can offer an easy way for people to ease into meatless choices and a more plant-based diet. Making a major dietary shift can be challenging enough, without having to rethink the whole menu plan. To me, it makes perfect sense to ease the transition into a different way of eating by keeping some familiarity while venturing into new territory.

 

“Fake meats” have come a long way in the last couple of decades. You’ll find excellent products in the deli and frozen sections of most markets. Some of my favorite products include Field Roast‘s grain burgers, Beyond Meat’s “chicken strips”, and Lightlife’s “fakin’ bacon” (a smoked tempeh). Any of these products can be chopped up, simmered in a tasty sauce and added to tacos, sloppy Joes or your favorite rice or pasta dish.

Cauliflower Rock!

Here’s a warming side dish for a cold day. Cauliflower can be cut into florets, tossed in a mix of olive oil, turmeric, cumin, salt and garam masala.

Roast in a hot oven for 30-45 minutes and toss with chopped mint and cilantro for a stunning side dish to complement any creation.

Best of Oakland & East Bay…Please Vote

Every year, Oakland Magazine holds a Best of Oakland & East Bay contest where readers vote for the best in various categories. I am so humbled and thrilled to be nominated in the category of caterer for Best of Oakland & East Bay by Oakland Magazine. The Vegetarian Gourmet Catering has made it past the first round and is on the official ballot.

As a small business owner, this type of recognition is exciting.  I invite you to vote for The Vegetarian Gourmet Catering in the Catering category.  Voting will end March 10th. Thank you so much for all of your support!

 

Here is the official link: {www.oaklandmagazine.com/…/Best-of-Oakland-and-the-East-Bay…/}

 

Do the Right Thing!

Whether you’re about to pop the question or just the cork, treat your Sweetie to some chocolate this Valentine. Chocolate mousse is a fabulous choice and easy to make. Want something vegan and gluten-free . . . no problem! Try this very easy recipe with coconut cream, powdered cocoa, sweetener and vanilla extract.

Purée some cold (refrigerate beforehand) coconut cream with unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered sugar (to taste), and a dash of vanilla. Keep mixing until you reach desired consistency. Fill into a small dish or ramekin and top with a little berry and lots of love!

For more ideas – send us a quick note.

Biscotti–Make Your Own!

Afternoon project: chocolate hazelnut biscotti . . . thank you, Martha Stewart, you’re the best! Biscotti are “twice cooked”: the dough is initially formed into long flat sausages and baked until firm. Once the mass has cooled, the loaves are then sliced into quarter inch slices and baked again, which gives them the crunch. You’ll find many different recipes for biscotti. They’re easy and inexpensive to make, and your friends will be wowed. This recipe came from Martha Stewart’s “Baking Handbook”. I love her recipes – they’re easy to follow and always turn out well. Stay tuned for a fabulous gluten-free version . . .

A Healthy Diet . . .

 . . . on a limited budget?? Yes – it’s completely possible – think rice and beans. Look for organic grains and beans sold in bulk at places like Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl. The combination of grains and legumes provides lots of protein (all the essential amino acids), and other nutrients, at a bargain price. In one form or another, it is the staple diet for much of the world.

Boring? Naw, not with your prolific imagination . . . your options are endless. Experiment with familiar grains like rice, bulgur (cracked wheat), barley, quinoa, maize – or try something different, like faro or millet. The variety of beans is seemingly endless – and the best prices are always in the bulk section. Soak the beans overnight, rinse, and then cook in fresh water until the beans reach the desired consistency.

A favorite of mine is Mujadara, a delicious Middle Eastern dish which combines rice and lentils, and is seasoned with toasted cumin, garlic and caramelized onion. For optimum effect, cook the onions slowly over low heat in olive oil and sea salt. Mujadara can be served as a side dish, or it can be a meal in itself – perhaps with a dollop of plain yogurt and chopped cilantro.

Polenta with a Latin Twist for Your Holiday Table

Not sure what to serve your vegetarian guests at your Holiday Table?

Polenta is always a wonderful choice on a cool day – filling, comforting and gluten-free! Try this version with a Latin twist:

  • Cook the polenta according to package directions and pour into an oven-proof serving dish.
  • Sauté thinly sliced onion, garlic, chilies, bell pepper in olive oil, and pour over cooked polenta.
  • Add fresh chopped cilantro, cream, fresh cheese (queso fresco or feta), and pecorino. Place into a hot oven until heated through

We offer in-home cooking classes of your choice. If you’d like to learn more about our gift certificates, contact us.

We are here to serve – contact us if you need help during the Holidays or any other time. We make it easy, and we make you look good.

YUMMY COOKINESS . . .

Whatever you call them, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cookies, or your own pet designation — they’re easy to make and always a hit. Here’s the trick.

Mixing the cookies with soft butter is most efficient, but the dough will be sticky. Some recipes suggest refrigerating the dough and then forming the cookies into 1” balls . . . but that’s a pain in the you-know-what.

Do this – form the cookies into 1” balls while the dough is soft, and then place them into the fridge (or freezer) until they’re hard. Place the hard cookies into the pre-heated oven, and the cookies will stay round. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Spice Up Your Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Salsa

12 oz. fresh cranberries
½ c parsley
2 Tb lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
½ jalapeno chili, chopped
1 small red onion
½ c fresh orange juice
2 Tb orange zest
5 Tb honey
1 Tb cilantro

Finely chop the red onion, chili, parsley and cilantro and place it in a bowl.
Coarsely chop the cranberries in the food processor and add to the onion and parsley mixture. Fold in the orange and lime juice, honey, and zest. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Gluten-free vegan desserts, oh my!

Sugar-laden holidays right around the corner appear to be inspiring my obsession with desserts at the moment! Here is another fab vegan treat, this one made from rice. You may be familiar with kheer, a popular Indian rice pudding, made with milk and flavored with cardamom, saffron and raisins. My favorite rice dessert is Burma Superstar’s fabulous black rice and coconut pudding, which I’ve been able to approximate in my own kitchen. Here’s how:

Start out with sticky Thai black rice, e.g. Lundberg Black Pearl Rice. I usually soak the rice in salted water for a few hours, before draining and cooking according to package directions – but you’ll need to reduce cooking time and cooking liquid. Rice should be soft but not mushy. Drain and place in a heavy bottom pan with coconut milk and simmer until rice is creamy; sweeten, to taste, with organic sugar (try Billington’s dark Muscovado sugar). Toast some unsweetened coconut flakes in a dry pan, until toasty brown and fold into the rice; save a few sprinkles for the top. Serve warm, with fresh raspberries or slices of mango, and a scoop of Coconut Bliss vegan ice cream . . . heavenly!