Veg-friendly Marshmallows

Has anyone seen a bag of vegan marshmallows? The kind that melts, that's good for end-of-summer s'mores, that might be used in a recent baking project I've been daydreaming about? Because I've checked — Sprouts, Central Market, Trader Joe's — and they are nowhere to be found. While I've been known to pretend I don't know what's in conventional marshmallows when sitting around a campfire, I'm lately looking for some more acceptable options. And the best-looking options seem to be mail-order or a 30-minute jaunt to Arlington's Whole Foods Market to get my hands on some Dandies.

Zucchini explosion

It's a first in our six years in Texas, and probably I shouldn't jinx it by bragging. But we have the most beautiful zucchini plants this year, producing like crazy and unmarred (so far) by the dreaded squash beetles that have ravaged our plants in previous seasons. It seems like dumb luck, as little in our methods has changed. So while it lasts I'm enjoying the grilled zucchini skewers, zucchini fries, zucchini bread, even an attempted zucchini burger.


Better Banana Bread

A bit of weekend baking had me tinkering with an old family recipe for Banana Bread. Great (great) Aunt Tee might not recognize this, but I imagine she'd approve of losing the Crisco in favor of vegetable oil, replacing bleached white flour with healthier white-wheat (not too heavy here, I promise) and adding chocolate chips, because chocolate makes everything better. The youngest generation showed its approval by fighting over the last piece. 20130318-122010.jpg

Great grapefruit

It's Texas grapefruit season, that time of year when big bags of juicy citrus show up at Central Market, Walmart, and everywhere in between. My youngest was tearful on Sunday to be left behind as big brother went to a big-kid activity. She took comfort in getting the very last grapefruit in the house, with an organic sugar brûléed topping. See, being home isn't so bad. (And those creme brûlée torches are more useful than you thought.) 20130128-162123.jpg

Heirloom tomato pie

Last week was my annual vacation to coastal Alabama with four generations, none veg except me. What could be a culinary challenge always turns out just fine; between the summertime produce filling roadside stands -- peaches, tomatoes, speckled beans, watermelon -- and a family that always takes care not to add bacon to the salad (at least before I get my portion), it was a week of good eating. A highlight this summer came from the June issue of Southern Living: The Old-Fashioned Tomato Pie is well worth making (drain those tomatoes thoroughly before stacking it up), and if you're on vacation (literally or figuratively), feel free to use a purchased crust. The filling more than makes up for it.

More Spiral in the New Year...

From the latest issue of 360 West, here's a vegan recipe from Spiral Diner's executive chef, James Johnston. One of the best parts of my job is the chance to meet the people in and around Fort Worth whose ingenuity and follow-through make our town culturally richer and so much more interesting for their efforts. James and his wife and business partner Amy McNutt are high on that list. They've been running Spiral Diner, our town's only vegan restaurant, for close to a decade; add to that the fact that 2012 should see their dream of opening an art house theater realized, and you can see why they're so important to Fort Worth. My thanks to them for sharing this recipe with me and our readers. I tested it at home with a jar of Joe T's salsa and it's good stuff. This simple recipe is also a great way to incorporate quinoa — that high-protein super grain (or seed, technically) — into your cooking. (Costco has great deals on big bags of organic quinoa.)

Homemade Pizza

It was Friday afternoon, a couple hours to kill with the kiddos, thinking about dinner and shaming myself out of ordering takeout. That's what lead me to pick up Anna Thomas' not at all new The New Vegetarian Epicure, a gift from my parents when I moved into my first apartment in 1997. It's a beautifully written book of vegetarian menus designed for entertaining, full of joie de vivre and fabulous food. But the page that's dappled and dented from being cooked over so many times? The one on homemade pizza, in a section entitled "What do children eat?" We made it our Friday afternoon project, using half whole-wheat flour for the crust rather than all white, and purchased sauce (Muir Glen organics makes a very handy canned one), but otherwise following her instructions exactly. We mixed up the yeast dough, then we went to do a little grocery shopping (mozzarella, peppers); as predicted, when we returned home, they were thrilled with the risen pizza dough, each shaping their own portion and topping it exactly how they wanted, as did I. As she writes, "There's peace in the house." Amen, sister. Check out her much newer soups book, Love Soup, for vegan and vegetarian meals for cooler weather. IMG_0323