Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


Let Them Eat Soup

We're having a cold snap here in the SF Bay Area. I know it's nothing compared to what folks in other parts of the country and world are going through, but cold is cold. So the super-spouse and I decided to huddle together, watching a good movie (Who Killed The Electric Car?) and slurping a steaming, spicy soup.

Some of my blog visitors have said I eat an awful lot of soup. Yes, as a matter of fact I do. It's good for you, plus I love making it, plus it's one of my favorite things to eat. So yes, soup again, and soup almost all the time in the colder months.

And also brown rice again, because it's on my top 5 list of nutritious and versatile ingredients that are so convenient to keep on hand. I cook a pot of brown rice once a week (sometimes twice) and eat it as breakfast gruel, wrap it in chapatis with veggies and sauteed tofu for lunch, and serve it under roasted veggies with miso tahini sauce for dinner.

But today it was soup, with cooked brown rice and cabbage and cauliflower and chickpeas and tomato and coconut milk and curry powder and lots of garlic and ginger. It was so delicious and warming and nourishing and easy to digest.

And BTW, the movie IS great, and important, and infuriating. Let's all go out and buy electric or at least partially electric cars tomorrow, okay? Because if we do, the global warming problem will be taken care of and the urban air quality problem will be taken care of and the foreign war problem will be largely taken care of. And then let's all put solar panels on our roofs so we can charge our cars without burning coal or building more nuclear power plants!

Or at least let's make delicious vegetarian soups for ourselves and our loved ones, so we can all stay warm and healthy.

Blessings and bon appetit!


Vegan appetizers

When it's party season, it's helpful to have a few festive appetizers in one's repertoire that are simple to make and never fail to please. Here are three of mine.

Carrot/Garbanzo hummus: I often make a lightened up version of hummus by steaming carrots and combining them with cooked and drained garbanzos in equal parts by volume. The other ingredients are tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and cayenne to taste.

Dried tomato/artichoke spread: My favorite festive red spread is made by combining oil-packed dried tomatoes (well-drained) with drained artichoke bottoms (sometimes called crowns), garlic, Herbes de Provence, pepper, and salt if needed.

I generally serve these spreads together, with slices of baquette alongside, and include raw cucumber slices as a fresh and crunchy counterpoint.

Now for something more "composed" and quite suitable for an elegant meal. It serves well as an appetizer, but has a gentle sweetness so could also make a light and lovely dessert.

Start by blending tofutti (or light cream cheese for non-vegans) with enough honey or maple syrup to achieve a slightly sweet flavor. Add a good pinch of allspice and mix well. Mound small portions of this "cheese" on whole dried apricots and top each one with a walnut half. Sweet, creamy, chewy, crunchy -- these are complex in texture and really yummy. My party guests always ask for the recipe.

Holiday blessings and bon appetit!