My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hot days, cool eats

As the Dog Days wind down, I realize it's been a dog's age since I did my last food/recipe post. Here's why

1. I'm an uninspired cook in the summer. I'd rather be out in the sunshine, am busy with outdoor projects, and prefer to avoid heating up the joint with stove and/or oven. Autumn will likely find me eagerly poring over my accumulated recipes and cookbooks and hugging my estranged kitchen gadgets to my so-called bosom ("Built for speed," chortles BW, "not for comfort!" lol), but during the hot summer months our food tends to be simple, quick and, preferably, cold. It's all delicious and healthy, but I've usually either blogged about it before or consider it just too simple to be blog-worthy.

2. I've had too many other things to post about instead!

3. After sharing photos and descriptions of all the amazing food we ate in Colorado, I felt a need to put a lot of posts between them and this, hoping it might reduce any likelihood that our relatively simple cuisine be compared unfavorably. ;-)

But we haven't exactly been fasting around here this summer (not by a long shot!), and a few dishes that we've especially been enjoying have inspired some Kodak moments. So these are the recipes I consider worth sharing as we in the northern hemisphere bask in the last sweltering days of August, while you in the southern half of the globe are looking forward to summer nosh. Besides, BW and I are marking our 11th Veganniversary this month, and what better way to celebrate than with yummy food shared with friends? :-)

Black Bean and Corn Salsa...

The McDougalls call this salsa, but we eat it like salad.
Whenever I make it I always make a double batch,
but it still only lasts half as long as we think it should!

Black Bean & Corn Salsa
from McDougall Quick & Easy by John McDougall, MD and Mary McDougall

● 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
● 2 tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can organic fire-roasted tomatoes)
● ¾ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed (I use organic)
● 4 green onions, chopped
● 2 tablespoons chopped & canned green chilis
● 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
● ¼ cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
● ½ tsp ground cumin
● several twists of freshly ground pepper
● ½ cup diced avocado (optional)
I also like to add a few some several sliced black olives :-)

Combine all ingredients, except avocado, in a bowl. Mix well. Stir in avocado, if desired, immediately before serving.

Makes 3 cups. Prep time: 10 minutes

Lemony Baked Tofu with Rosemary...

Served with brown jasmine rice and steamed broccoli
(After taking this, I seasoned the broccoli with tamari & nooch!)

Here's a typical, simple meal of the sort we enjoy in hot weather, starring this tofu recipe I found at the wonderful blog, Cadry's Kitchen. We've made many batches of her Lemony Baked Tofu with Rosemary this summer (replacing the oil with an extra ½ tablespoon each of tamari and lemon juice). It can be baked or grilled and is delicious hot or cold. Its lemony, herbed flavor is fresh and light and perfect for summer, while the marinade is quick and simple to prepare. And its aroma while baking is divine!

And finally


Since indulging in vegan gelato and sorbetto during our stay in Fort Collins, BW was inspired to whip up several delicious batches of sorbetto at home, all from the superb Nonna's Italian Kitchen by Bryanna Clark Grogan. It contains many sorbetto, granita and gelato recipes (and variations) in several flavors, along with illuminating information on the differences between them, instructions for making alcohol-free versions, and of course lots of other delicious, vegan Italian dessert and non-dessert recipes. So while Bryanna gave me her gracious permission to share the recipe for her chocolate sorbet, I highly recommend you buy her cookbook so you don't miss out on all the other goodies in it!

Strawberry Sorbet
(Sorbetto di Fragole)

Lemon Sorbet
(Sorbetto di Limone)

Chocolate Sorbet
(Sorbetto di Choccolata)

Chocolate Sorbet
Sorbetto di Choccolata (© Bryanna Clark Grogan, 1998)
Yield: About 3 cups
This dessert tastes so rich and intense that it's hard to believe that it is a water ice! Only for confirmed chocolate-lovers!

Note: Be sure to use only Dutch cocoa.

● 2¼ cups water
● 1 cup unbleached sugar (we use sucanat)
● ½ cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa
● 2 tablespoons coffee, almond, hazelnut, or orange liqueur* (we use Triple Sec)
● optional: 1 tablespoon grated orange zest (preferably organic) (we make a different orange variation; see notes below)

Place the sugar with 1 cup of the water in a medium stainless steel saucepan, and dissolve the sugar, stirring it over high heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder over low heat, and continue to whisk until it is completely smooth and a little cooked. Whisk in the remaining water and other ingredients. Chill the mixture, then freeze according to your machine's directions.
Per ½ cup serving: Calories: 150, Protein: 2 g, Carbohydrate: 33 g, Fat: 1 g.

* The liqueur adds some flavor and keeps the sorbet from freezing rock-hard. If you don't use alcohol, Bryanna's cookbook has instructions for making an alcohol-free version.

The taste and texture of this reminds us of Fudgsicles! Yum. As you can see from my photo, I like to sprinkle mine with a little unsweetened coconut.

We also enjoy our chocolate-mint and chocolate-orange variations. For chocolate-mint, we add ¼ tsp peppermint extract. For chocolate-orange, we substitute 1 cup of the water with 1 cup of organic orange juice and add 1 tsp orange extract. (We've yet to try adding the orange zest because we haven't had any organic on hand).

Update - our latest favorite version of the chocolate sorbetto! - A couple of years ago, BW started making this using 2½ cups of brewed Teeccino Maya Organic Chocolaté herbal coffee instead of water, reduced the amount of sucanat to ¾ cup, and using a well-rounded ½ cup of unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder (the amount of Triple Sec remains the same). It's very rich and dark-chocolately, made even more so with a sprinkling of organic cocoa nibs! :-)
I hope you enjoy some of these easy, healthy, tasty vegan treats before this strange and crazy summer comes to a close. Keep cool, calm and kind, and bon appétit!


  1. Will need to make that McDougall recipe. Have looked at it several times. Love the combination but for some reason never think to pick up frozen corn at the store.

  2. First of all: Happy Veganinnersary!!! 11 years!! You guys are awesome!

    All the food looks delicious...I'm especially drawn to the black bean salsa salad...I would eat that more as a main dish than a salsa too!

    The sorbets are all so pretty! The strawberry and lemon ones look refreshing, and the chocolate one looks so indulgent...yum! I have that book, so I'll have to check out those recipes before the summer wanes.

    Interesting to read about the origin of the "dog days". I always wondered about that phrase and thought it was sort of strange to make a connection between dogs and hot weather. Now, I know how that connection works! It's always amazing to me that phrases stick for so long and migrate to other languages and geographical locations.

    Hope you're enjoying the home stretch of summer! I think we have a good 4 - 6 weeks left anyway. I love autumn, but I never want summer to end either!! :D

  3. Get Skinny, Go Vegan ~ You'll have to tape a "buy frozen corn" note to your nose or something! :-) I have two or three other recipes I make frequently that call for frozen corn, so I usually have a couple of bags in the freezer. It's the avocados that I don't always have on hand, and I'm sorry but "avocado" and "optional" is a word combination that just doesn't make sense to me. ;-)

    Rose ~ Thank you, Rose! I don't know how awesome we are, but being vegan sure has been (and is) awesome! We're so very glad we made that decision.

    I can sure picture a bowl of this salsa among one of your beautiful table settings! Bet you'd really like it. I have a hard time stopping once I dig in.

    You've got the sorbet descriptions nailed. The first two are refreshing and the chocolate tastes wicked indulgent. :-) We made the strawberry once (during an awesome sale on organic strawberries), and it is probably the sweetest of the three. And I swear, the color in my (SOOC) photo is its actual color! It's a gorgeous dessert! The lemon is slightly more granita-like, and perfect for really hot days (we had some yesterday when it was 98º!) It's got a wonderful, sweet-tart flavor, and makes the biggest batch (4 generous servings). But BW has made the chocolate (and its variations) the most. It's so simple to make, and soooo good! Really rich, really chocolatey! YUM! We haven't even made any vegan ice cream this summer, we've been so hooked on these sorbets.

    I had learned the origin of "dog days" long ago, but had forgotten. Not until I'd looked it up for my Dog Days/Dog Doodads post did I remember why it's called that. I think most of us assume it has to do with dogs laying around in the shade, not wanting to do much in the heat. You know, like our dogs! :-) I find the origin of words and phrases really interesting. Do you get Chrysti the Wordsmith on your NPR station? It's just a two-minute segment, but it's often quite interesting. I enjoy the A Word A Day emails, too (which happen to be produced by a fellow vegan!)

    BW is on vacation next week, so hopefully we'll get in a little R&R time before summer really winds down. Last month we had hopes that we'd be spending this vacation packing and moving, but that's obviously not in the cards. *heavy sigh* Since you got pretty ripped off with such a late summer, I hope it will stretch well into October for you! Enjoy, Rose!

  4. The strawberry sorbet is certainly extraordinarily gorgeous! They all look just as good as anything I've ever seen in fancy gelato places!

    They don't run Chrysti the Wordsmith on our NPR station...bummer, because I love that sort of thing. Thanks for the links though!

    That reminds me of a book I meant to ask you if you've read...I can't remember was a propos at some point...but have you read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynne Truss?

  5. I'll take the chocolate sorbet please. Oh no, can't, I am on a constant diet -- can't eat chocolate. -- barbara

  6. Oh yum!Very appealing to the eye and I'm sure delicious too. Thanks for the chocolate recipe and the nutrition breakdown.
    BTW I missed seeing your Skywatch Friday photos. My loss! Amazing how fast the storms can come up; these are wonderful captures.
    p.s. I always enjoy my visits to your blog!

  7. Rose ~ I wondered if Chrysti the Wordsmith airs in many places outside MT. Well, you can catch her shows on that web site I gave you, so now you can listen to her on demand!

    I have not read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves," but it's been on my Amazon wish list forever! And when Jo's daughter was having trouble with grammar and punctuation in school several years ago, that was one of the books I recommended she consider getting to help. I don't know if she ever got it, but she's at Purdue on a full scholarship, so I guess she did alright! :-) Have you read it? Is it as fun and helpful as it looks?

    Barbara ~ Well that's a pity, but you could try the lemon one, which would be very refreshing on a muggy Kentucky day. Like a frozen, icy lemonade.

    Noni ~ You're most welcome! If you give the chocolate sorbet a try, let me know. It's been a couple of weeks since BW made that flavor so we're looking forward to a batch of chocolate mint this weekend. It's so rich, a small serving satisfies - we get 4 servings out of a batch.

    Nah, you didn't really miss my SkyWatch pics - you don't officially miss it till a week's gone by. ;-) It's hard to keep up sometimes, I'm sure I miss a lot of fun posts. At least I've got your blog on my dashboard, that helps! I'm so glad you enjoy your visits. I really enjoy blogging, and did even when I had no followers and zero comments and was pretty sure I was just talking to myself. :-) But knowing that people enjoy it is what makes it worthwhile, so thank you for letting me know that you do! I think your blog is lovely and fun, and I love its name!

  8. Ooh look at that chocolate thingy! I haven't got a machine to make ice-cream, sob... I do like the sound of that salsa/salad, it looks like the kind of thing I would take to work for lunch (avocado is surely obligatory, never optional, and I never use only a few olives in anything, more like half a jar :O)). I'm not sure what black beans are though, hmmm. I have bean shame.

  9. Just realised you don't need a machine to make that chocolate thingy... I feel even more shame now! And congrats on the veganniversary!

  10. Barbara ~ "Chocolate thingy!" LOL! You'd love it, but unfortunately you were correct the first time - you DO need an ice cream machine to make it. Unless you have a KitchenAid mixer, in which case you'd just need this attachment! (Look at what a great pal I am, I even went and found it on the UK Amazon site for you!) ;-) This is the ice cream machine we've got, but I couldn't find it on the UK site. This one is no doubt nearly identical, though, except in looks (and voltage, of course!) ;-) I realize you probably don't have a lot of days there that cry out for frozen concoctions, but you know you neeeeeed some of that chocolate sorbetto! (Or chocolate ice cream made from cashews or frozen bananas!) :-)

    LOL, right on! Looks like we are both "obligate avocadores." And okay, I'm busted - I do add quite a bit more than "a few" black olives. And that's not counting the ones I eat straight out of the can while I'm slicing the others for the salsa. :-) My mother's Italian friend Louie used to take a can of black olives to the movies, and that's what he'd eat while all the other kids ate popcorn and candy! That would be me. Going to the movies with my bag of contraband black olives and avocados. LOL

    Wait a minute, what do you mean you don't know what black beans are?! They are a staple in our house! How can you make Mexican food without them? Does this mean you've never had black bean soup? Okay, back to Amazon with you!! ("Bean shame" - you are too funny!!)

    Thanks for the congrats! :-)

  11. Barbara ~ Okay, I fessed up and edited my line about the amount of black olives I like to add. Troublemaker! ;-)~

  12. Just love a vegan food porn post!
    Nothing too thrilling emerges from the kitchen at this time of year, like you, we are spending as much time as possible outdoors. The gelato...well....would it be wrong to eat nothing but gelato?
    Jane x
    PS Where did you get the Keep Calm and Vegan On banner? I'd love one for my blog!

  13. Jane ~ Oh I know! Though I consider this post "soft porn." I go more hardcore in the winter. LOL But if it's food porn you love, click on the link to my Colorado vacation post. There are two serious food porn posts in that series, and the link will take you to the first of them. (You'd also love my friend Rose's blog. She doesn't blog frequently, but every one of her posts is well worth the wait! You'll find her among the comments.)

    Hmm... I'm trying to think of a reason it might be wrong to eat nothing but gelato. Well, there's the lack-of-leafy-greens issue, but I've seen a recipe for chocolate mint vegan ice cream that had kale in it, so that along with gelato should make for a balanced diet! LOL

    If you click on the Keep Calm and Vegan On banner it will take you right to my source. Here is the blog where I first saw it, though I'm not clear about whether she's the one who created it. Isn't it great?

  14. Yeah, I read it...about 7 years ago or so...I have a copy, but it's in Ireland. It was entertaining and interesting. I've always loved grammar-related things...I know, I'm a dork!

  15. Rose ~ Well, if you're a dork, I'm a dork, because I love that stuff too! :-)

    Have you ever read "The Mother Tongue" by Bill Bryson? I read it around the same time you were reading "Eats, Shoots and Leaves," but I remember it being a fun read. Seems to me it got panned by the critics for not being well-researched and/or having errors or lack of footnotes or something, but I thought it was a fun book.

  16. Ooh that is quite a covetable ice-cream make you've found for me there, although I want to know why it's so much more expensive than the US one! I just can't buy another gadget though, I just can't! My kitchen is so small that if I put one more thing in it one of us will have to move into the shed.

    What a sensible person young Louie was - I'd have wanted to be his friend too if he had a stash of olives :O)

    No I have never, ever had black bean soup. I now feel as if I am seriously missing out on something... I did a quick poll at work yesterday and nobody else had had black beans either. After some research we have decided that they're a kind of black version of red kidney beans, and Sue thinks she saw some in one of the supermarkets. I will investigate... (BTW I never knew Amazon sold tinned food!!!).

    Also, Sue's son still hasn't come up with an answer about that yellow flowered plant! Plus I asked her to ask him if he knew any trees that had white berries (I took a photo of some at Batsford) and he asked Sue if I was sure they were white and did I have my glasses on at the time! Cheeky sod - am going to have to set Charlie on him...

  17. Barbara ~ I know what you mean! When we downsize to a much smaller house, as is our plan, my biggest trepidation isn't about the furniture or our clothes - it's our kitchen gadgets! But if I have to use the guest bedroom as a pantry, so be it. :-) I have no idea why the UK ice cream maker is so much more expensive than ours. VAT? Import duties? The founder and president of Conair/Cuisinart actually owns a ranch on BW's route, and every Christmas he gives BW a Cuisinart item. Maybe BW could put in a request for a British ice cream maker this year! :-)

    I can't believe black beans are a rarity in the UK! We love black bean soup, it's one of our favorites! And black bean dal, too. I have black bean burritos for breakfast a lot, and we put black beans in our chili, too. I can't imagine Sainsbury's or Tesco won't have them. If you get your mitts on some and want any of my recipes, let me know and I'll send them to you. I wouldn't have described them as black kidney beans, more like black navy beans. Have you ever had black rice? Since you love black olives and black licorice (LOL), I figure you'll love the other black foods! (Okay, maybe not the licorice). ;-)

    I think you've discovered a new species with that yellow flowering shrub, and it should be named after you! And I pity the fool who has committed such an egregious act as to require having Charlie set upon him! :-)

  18. I hate to say this but I don't know what navy beans are either!!!

  19. Girl, how am I ever supposed to be able to tell you you're full of beans if you don't even know the black and white basics? ;-)

    Okay, to further your bean education, study this. There will be a quiz later. :-)~

    I actually can somewhat understand your not being familiar with navy beans, given that they also go by the names "Boston Beans" and "Yankee Beans." ;-)

  20. Bean update! No black beans of any sort in Tesco, but I got a packet of dried black turtle beans in Morrisons! Hurrah! I will study the bean idiots guide with due care - any recipes you might care to throw my way would be gratefully accepted :o)

  21. What a treat to see my lemony rosemary tofu on your blog! I'm so glad you're enjoying it. Next time I'm going to use your oil-free method. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. Barbara ~ Atta girl! (But I'm dismayed at Tesco's lack of black beans! Sheesh. I wonder if they're only sold in ethnic groceries, since they're mainly used in Mexican dishes?) I think all my recipes call for canned black beans, which is what I use exclusively now that our pressure cooker bit the dust last year and we're postponing that purchase till we've moved, and I'm usually in too big a hurry these days to wait for dried beans to soak and cook in a slow cooker. But I will send them along to you soon, before our day gets crazy (which it will!)

    Cadry ~ And I'm so glad you came up with and shared that delicious, delightful recipe! We took some to our friends' Robyn (she of the Sheridan Vegan Meetup!) and Jesse's last weekend, and they both loved it and wanted the recipe (and Jess is a very fussy eater!) and made it as soon as I'd emailed your post to them. :-) We love it and it was an honor to be able to share it on my blog, so I'm glad you consider it a treat to see it there! I think you'll like it just fine without the oil... let me know!

  23. I shall leave a comment thought I only read one line of this post! I clicked on the "dog days" and followed through those four pages until I did learn the true meaning of dog days. I enjoy learning about the meanings of phrases so I enjoyed that very much but unfortunaly didn't have time to read more. I will tomorrow.

  24. I came back to finish and I'm glad I did. There's nothing I like better than a food post to enjoy during lunch.

    As I will be having to cook again now that Melissa's leaving, I will have to spend this fall pouring over recipes and re-aquainting myself with kitchen gadgets I haven't seen in years!!

    I actually made a black bean salsa on Sunday. It's quite similar to yours except no cilantro and I used a Vidalia onion instead of green onion and I added green pepper instead of olives. I ate 8 cups of salsa and ended up eating every bite of it myself in three days - I do like black bean salsa and when you brought it up on the phone on Friday last week - well I just had to have some. Thanks for the inspiration.

    The lemony tofu sounds really good but the picture looks even better. Nice and crispy like I like it! Did you grill or bake it - it looks baked.

    And I'm delighted that Bryanna was willing to share her recipe because that chocolate sorbet looks so good and I do have some dutch cocoa on hand. I agree -that's the best!

    Thank goodness I had some food in front of me while I looked at all these great food pictures!

  25. Jo ~ Hey, I'm proud of you for reading the whole article about the origin of "Dog Days," especially with your limited time! Glad you found it interesting, I know you and I share that love of learning about the origins of words and phrases.

    I hadn't thought about the fact that you're losing your chef when Missy starts college! When/if I have time, I'll look through my stash of bookmarked recipes for ones that look like they'd make a big batch of food for the week. Your black bean salsa sounds good, I love the idea of Vidalia onions in it! The lemony tofu is easy and delicious, but while it's not crispy, at least not after it's refrigerated (you're right that the photographed batch was baked), it's got a wonderful dense, chewy texture.

    You have GOT to try the chocolate sorbetto! It's fantastic!

  26. Thanks for the offer to pass on those big batch recipes this fall and winter. I know that's when you'll get into cooking mode and hopefully that's inspire me too!

  27. Jo ~ Happy to do it, you just might have to remind me! (I have some new recipes I'm hoping to try this fall/winter too!)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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