Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quick Vegan Corn Chowder

I'm from New England, the land of chowders, which is fortunate, because I absolutely love chowder. Basically, a chowder is a soup which always contains milk, onions and potatoes, and is usually thickened with flour. Most people add seafood, like clams or crab or fish, or ham, but I like corn chowder best! Yes, corn chowder is my most favorite chowder. With all of the nondairy cream and milk available, its easy to make a vegan chowder, and that is what I did. I usually don't thicken my chowders with flour; instead, I mash up some of the potato until it is the consistency that I want. If you want potato soup, add another potato at the beginning and leave out the corn. Simple as that!

Quick Vegan Corn Chowder
4 large potatoes (about 2 lbs), peeled and diced in 1/2 inch cubes
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
olive oil for sauteeing
1 Tbs veggie broth powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 heaping Tbs salt (I use Adobo Seasoning Salt which adds a slight yellow color and garlic flavor)
generous pinch each of: rosemary, sage and marjoram
2 generous pinches thyme
4 C water
2 C corn kernals
2 C nondairy creamer
1 Tbs non-dairy margerine like Earth Balance

Saute the onions, carrots, celery and potatoes in olive oil until onions are transparent and veggies are starting to soften. Add cayenne, salt, rosemary, sage, marjoram and thyme and saute for another minute. Add the broth powder, then pour in the water and stir well. Simmer for 15 minutes until all the veggies are very tender. Use a potato masher or a hand-held immersion blender to puree the veggies, giving the soup more body. I prefer to use the potato masher because it leaves a white colored soup with little orange and pale green flecks which is so pretty! Pour in the creamer and the corn, and heat until the corn and soup are piping hot. Adjust seasonings. Serve with a little shaving of margerine on top for added richness.


Chowders lend themselves to endless variations in spicing and ingredients, but sometimes its nice to chow down on a plain old New England classic like corn chowder.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


My father, Edmour Joseph Babineau, died January 23, 2009, and tomorrow we will celebrate the traditional 40 day memorial (in greek: parastas, in slavonic: panikhida) for him at church. We Orthodox remember the dead at every service, and on specific "soul" Saturdays in Lent, but tomorrow is special. There are special prayers for the soul as it departs from the body at the moment of death, and we hold what is called a memorial service on the 3rd, 9th, and 40th day, as well as at the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month and one year mark, and every year following. The 40th day is a echo of Christ's Ascension into heaven, and we will pray that Dad will also ascend to Heaven to spend eternity with God

I just finished making the memorial wheat for this service. This is variously known as koliva, hilbee, or kutia, depending on your ethnicity. A plate of this sweet wheat rests on the memorial table throughout Divine Liturgy and during the Memorial itself, after which all the congregation will partake of it. We boil wheat as a remembrance that mankind is placed in the earth like a seed, only to be raised up and blossom forth again through God's plan and power. This is a powerful reminder for Orthodox Christians of the words of St. John 12:24 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." The symbolism of death and resurrection, between that which is planted in the ground and that which emerges, is deeply embedded in the making and eating of koliva.

My father really loved memorial wheat and sometimes I would make it for him and mother as a breakfast treat. As I was chopping and toasting the nuts and seeds, I remembered happy times around that very same kitchen table: the four of us laughing and eating, or helping Elisabeth with her school work, or doing the crosswords, or just sipping coffee and deciding where to picnic the next day. Happy times, gone now.

But I'm not sad, I'm really not. My father was trapped in a body and a mind that failed him, and he's free now. I miss him, but that is nothing new - with Alzheimer's, the missing starts very early. And its not forever, you know. We'll meet again at the last. I am thinking a lot of him today, though. Here is the eulogy that I wrote for him and which was read so very beautifully by my dear friend, Carla McCurry:

Edmour Joseph Babineau
April 25, 1916 - January 23, 2009

Here are some remarks that Denise wrote about her father, which she has asked me to read to you today.

How do you measure a man’s life? Is it in the days, months, years? If so, at 92 years old, my father was rich. Is it in his possessions? If so, then I look at my father’s few mementos, the fishing poles, handles worn smooth through many years use, or maybe his trusty camera with all the lenses and filters and tripods, and think that perhaps my father was poor. Is it in the memories that a man leaves behind? Over the last few days, I’ve heard from countless people who knew my father, all of whom had their favorite, funny “Eddie” story. Maybe it was the one about the tomatoes that were so big that he had to cut them in half to get them in the door, or maybe it was the liver Popsicles, or maybe it was a memory of going fishing or golfing with him. Always, the memories were of laughter and fun. If memories measure a man’s life, then my father was rich.

Those of you who met my father when he was an old man missed out on so much. He was a real character - a great storyteller, unfailingly good humored, very smart, funny, loyal, brave, loving, a steadfast champion of the underdog, and could fix anything. He had a gluttonous love of cherry ice cream and Boston baked beans, though not together!

He loved his family more than anything. He passed his love of yardsaleing on to his granddaughter, Elisabeth. Together, they would hit the yardsales early on Saturday mornings, and haggle over prices, bringing home their treasures.

All his life, he loved traveling to new places and meeting new people. His Sunday drives for ice cream – to another state! – were legendary. He always said that someday he was going to buy a trailer and travel around the country. How many people get to live their dream? Well, my father did. He loved traveling in his motor home and did so for 15 years before settling down in Savannah. In that 27 footer, he traveled throughout the US, Canada and Mexico with my mom. He loved fishing and golfing, and was a seeded tennis player and professional boxer in his day. He was a real war hero, decorated in WWII and written up in the newspapers of the time.

My favorite memory of my parents is creeping downstairs early in the morning to the kitchen, and finding them dancing all alone to music only they could hear. He took tender care of my mother for many years, and never once complained.

He was a wonderful, loving, devoted husband, father and grandfather. He was a true gentleman, a charming raconteur and practical joker. He was honorable and true. He was everything a man should be and seldom is. He was one in a million, and we were so very lucky to have had him in our lives for almost 93 years. The world will be a sadder place without him. My daughter and I will miss him very much.

But right now, I think he’s standing just inside the pearly gates, the host extraordinaire, greeting newcomers as St. Peter’s right hand man, saying as he always used to at the Inn: “Welcome! Come on in. I have a special room just for you.”

Here is my recipe for Koliva, enough for home. For my church, I usually double it. I do not like it to be dry, so I leave out the zweiback or graham cracker crumbs.

1 C soft wheat (very important - it must be soft, not hard, wheat)
1/2 C chopped nuts, like walnuts, toasted
1/2 C sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 C golden raisins
1/2 C chopped fruit (I like to use craisins)
1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
1 C powdered sugar
zest of one orange
1 tsp anise seed, crushed a little

Simmer the wheat in 4 cups of water for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until very tender and cooked all the way through. Drain well and place in a large bowl with all the other ingredients. Stir very, very well to make sure that all the ingredients are mixed well. Let cool.

Once it is cool, place it in a flat serving platter. Smooth the top and decorate with silver dragees, jordan almonds, or other white candies in the shape of a three bar cross. I've used yogurt covered raisins when I couldn't get jordan almonds here in Savannah, and these work very well.

Enjoy. And if you make this, please, say a little prayer for my father as you eat it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Kale Braised with Carmelized Onions and Rutabagas

One thing I've learned about cooking is that you can never have too many carmelized onions! They are so very delicious that sometimes I eat them as a vegetable. I should have gone food shopping yesterday, but didn't want to brave the Saturday crowds, so I had a look in the fridge to see what I could put together. I had a lovely bunch of curly kale and a medium-sized rutabaga as well as a few onions, so this dish was born. Its really a riff on Italian minestra, which is garlicky greens and beans, and southern-style turnip greens with turnips. Whatever it is, it certainly is delicious - so delicious that I ate half of it in one sitting. Luckily, its pretty healthy, so no problem. The rest was packaged up for work lunches this coming week.

Kale Braised with Carmelized Onions and Rutabagas
2 Tbs butter or margerine
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 onions halved and sliced very thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 Tbs smoked paprika
1 Tbs garlic salt/Adobo seasoning
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bunch curly kale
2 Tbs water

In a large pot with a tight fitting lid, melt half the butter and 1 Tbs of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute, stirring often, for about 10 minutes until starting to carmelize and brown. Add the remaining oil, minced garlic, rutabaga, paprika, salt and pepper, stir well so that everything is coated with oil and spices. Turn heat down to medium, cover tightly, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring twice, until rutabagas are just barely tender. Add water to keep from sticking if necessary - this should not be necessary if your pot is nonstick. Uncover, add the kale and stir well. Cover again and let steam for about 4 - 5 minutes, until kale is wilted. Stir well and adjust for salt and pepper.

The onions continued to carmelize as the other veggies were cooking and ended up sweet and almost sticky, as did the rutabagas, which also were beginning to carmelize. This would be yummy with a spritz of lemon juice, or even balsamic vinegar to cut the buttery richness of the oil. I used Earth Balance spread rather than butter, since that's what I had in the house (Lent is upon us, you know), and it was yummy. I think this would be a fabulous base for a pasta salad - just stir in about a half pound of pasta, cooked al dente.

Again, I have no photo, and I apologize. I've unpacked the camera, but haven't found the charger yet, so photos will have to wait. Suffice it to say that this was a very pretty dish, with the small orange cubes peeking out from the dark green of the kale. In the meantime, I'll continue posting vegan recipes with photos from the archives of my omni cooking blog.

In the Orthodox Church, the Rite of Forgiveness at vespers this Sunday afternoon is the official beginning of the fast, of Great Lent. Every person in the parish, from the youngest to the oldest, will line up and ask forgiveness of each other for what they have done and what they have failed to do during the past year. There is always much hugging and many tears as hurts are forgiven. It never fails to move me, and humble me as well. So, in the spirit of Forgiveness Sunday, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to forgive me for my sins and offenses, for what I have done and what I have failed to do, for how I have consistently missed the mark and fallen short of Christ's example.