Monday, March 31, 2008


It was supposed to be pizza night here, but after visiting Chez Mama this morning I decided to make calzones instead. The Dalai Mama had made calzones a few weeks ago, and I had said then that I was going to make them, but I forgot until I popped over there this morning and lo and behold she'd made them again. I was going to make pizza dough for tonight anyway, so why not make calzones.

The dough recipe I use makes 2 pizza crusts. I usually freeze one and use one that night. However, tonight I used one crust to make a "cheese" pizza for the girls, and I split the other ball of dough in half and used it for calzones for Rob and myself. The sauce was just some organic tomato sauce combined with some dried oregano, basil, garlic powder and crushed red pepper flakes. The calzones were stuffed full of veggies (tomatoes, roasted red peppers, zucchini slices, onions, black olives, and artichoke hearts). The veggies were then topped with a bit of grated Follow Your Heart mozzarella. These were very good, and a nice change from pizza.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spicy Peanut Noodles

Yep, you read it right, I said peanut. As many of you know, nuts are a no-no at our house. We do keep peanut butter here, and Mairin is allowed to eat PB sandwiches under very close supervision. Also, you may know from my earlier posts, we are having an "out of the pantry" kind of week, due to my hesitation to spend more money at the grocery following our Easter weekend.

So, the pantry is getting very bare, and we are running out of options. When I was reading Jenny's blog the other night, she had me craving something Thai. What could I make with no coconut milk, no tofu, and very few vegetable options in the house? Peanut sauce. We had spaghetti and jarred sauce last night, and had some pasta left over. I also had a few scallions left and some sugar snap peas, so I whipped up the sauce, then threw in the noodles and veg to heat them through.

Of course, their was a bit of logistical planning involved in this meal with regards to keeping it away from Stella. Pasta is her absolute favorite, and if she saw it she'd for sure want to eat it. So, we started by giving the girls some plain pasta drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a dash of black pepper. While they were eating I made the peanut sauce. By the time our meal was cooked the girls had finished eating and were ready to leave the table. So, we put on a movie (yes, I know all about using the tv as a babysitter.....shame, shame), put the girls in the living room and ate our dinner at the bar. After dinner we washed up real good, and washed all of the peanut-y dishes in scalding hot water. Then we cleaned the sink, changed dish cloths and washed up the rest of the dishes.

Oh man, this sauce was good. We only had a small amount of pasta left, so I was afraid we wouldn't have enough, but it was perfect. The sauce was very rich and very filling.

Spicy Peanut Noodles
1/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2 Tbs Tamari Soy Sauce
1 Tbs Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbs Seasoned Rice Vinegar
1 Tbs Brown Rice Syrup
1/2 Tbs Chili Paste

Combine all ingredients over medium heat. Stir until peanut butter has melted and sauce is heated through. Add noodles and veggies of your choosing to heat. Serve hot, garnished with green ends of scallions.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Black Bean Burgers

With all of the money spent for the Easter weekend cooking extravaganza, I hesitate to go back to the store for groceries for this week. I spent nearly a weeks worth of grocery money just buying food for the weekend. With the exception of going to the store to buy some fresh fruit and veg, this week's meals are coming from whatever I have on hand, so don't expect anything too exciting.

Last night we had black bean burgers. I had gotten the recipe from V-con a few weeks ago, and this recipe is loosely based on that. I had some mashed potatoes left from Saturday night's dinner so I chopped up some scallions, red pepper and garlic and turned those into hash browns to accompany the burgers. And of course, our ever present side of broccoli (it's the only thing green, aside from avocado, that my kids will eat).

Rob and I both concurred that the burgers were good, but slightly lacking in flavor. However, these burgers were devoured by the kids (and Mairin despises beans), so I hesitate to spice up the recipe any. I've decided that my kids just don't like "big" flavors. I hope it's just a phase, as "big" flavors are served quite frequently here. I'll share the recipe below, but you'll likely want to spice it up a bit to suit your tastes. A little chili powder and possibly some lime juice would do nicely.

Black Bean Burgers
2 cups black beans, mashed
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, kneading until wheat gluten is incorporated and a stringy texture forms. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Form burger mixture into 6 patties. Brown patties on both side. Patties will be firm to the touch when finished.

I served our patties topped with salsa and avocado slices. They would also be good stuffed inside pita bread with lettuce, tomato, avocado and salsa. Really I think the possibilities are endless with this recipe.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Belated Easter Post

Our house has been a hub of activity over the last several days, and I'm only now getting around to posting about all of our delicious eats for the Easter holiday. But, before I get started, above you see pictured the lovely clay eggs that the girls and I painted. This project was a lot of fun. Much more so than dying hard boiled eggs. First we got to cook and shape the clay, then wait while they dried, and finally paint them. Plus, they'll make great decorations for years to come, and wonderful keepsakes for my girls when they get older. A fun Easter tradition, even for the non-vegans out there.

My in-laws are over from Ireland, and they spent the weekend with us. As many of you know, there's very little in the way of pre-made, pre-packaged vegan food, so this meant a lot of time in the kitchen for me. It was both fun and stressful, as I always get a little nervous about cooking for my non-veg family. Have any of you noticed that the tastes of vegetarians and non-vegetarians are quite different? Us veg-heads tend to love the "real" flavor of food, grains and tofu are fave's of vegetarians (and often snubbed by the omni's), and I don't know about you all, but I ADORE beans. So, I always find it difficult to come up with vegetarian meals to satisfy the tastes of the omnivores among us.

Our guests arrived on Saturday afternoon, so I needed to fix dinner for everyone on Saturday. Actually, I spent much of Saturday preparing things for that meal as well as for the rest of the weekend. For Saturday's dinner we had Fried Chick-un with mustard dipping sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Tantalizing Thai Slaw from Compassionate Cooks, and Vegan Cornbread. For dessert I made Dreena's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies. I think the meal was a success. My in-laws really liked the "chicken", and the slaw was a great hit. One meal finished, one success under the belt!!

Sunday we had my vegan blueberry muffins for breakfast. It was quite chaotic here with 5 adults trying to shower for church, two kids going crazy over what the Easter Bunny brought, and egg hunting galore going on. I knew this would be the case, so I baked the muffins Saturday night, and breakfast was waiting for us on Sunday when we were ready.

Following church, my dad and step-mom also came to our house, as well as my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my niece. For lunch we had Egg-less Egg Salad on whole wheat pita, Chipotle-Lime Two Bean Hummus with assorted chips and pita chips for dipping, and some crudites. Again, another success. I even fooled my dad, omnivore of omnivores, with the "egg" salad.

Following lunch my dad and step-mom left, and were replaced by my mother, stepfather, brother, grandmother and grandfather. So, I think for our evening meal we had a total of 12 adults and 3 children. Our dinner menu consisted of Chickpea Cutlets, grilled asparagus, Less Dressed Potato Salad,and The Dalai Mama's Mama's Baked Beans! There was also a fruit salad that my mother brought that was not vegan (it contained dairy and marshmallows), and a small ham for the omnis. For dessert I made the Pieless Apples A'la Mode from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. Below is a photo of my plate of yummy vegan goodness. Unfortunately by the time we got around to eating dessert I was too beat to go get the camera and take a picture, so I have no photo of that.

I made a huge batch of cutlets, and there were only 2 left. A sign of success I should think. My brother ate two of them, and skipped the ham!!! The baked beans were also great. To the ingredients listed by the Dalai Mama I also added a can of crushed pineapple. Yum!! I just finished them off for lunch today.

And finally, for breakfast Monday morning I made my Powerhouse Pancakes, and some Boca Sausages. Before departing, my father-in-law took us out for a nice lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, where I had the Grilled Vegetable Salad. And too tired to cook another thing, we had left-over cutlets, potato salad, baked beans and slaw for dinner last night.

All in all, a weekend of successful vegan cooking!! My mother-in-law even requested a few recipes. And there was a lot of reading and discussion of The China Study and Diet for a New America going on!!
***As a side note, we had some left-over Fried Chick-un, and we ate it cold dipped in the mustard sauce Sunday afternoon. That stuff is GOOD!! It's almost better cold than it is hot, it totally tastes like Chik-fil-A.***

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Stir Fry

Last nights dinner was Tofu Stir-fry with Orange Chili Sauce served over a bed of quinoa. Stir-fry is soooo good, and so easy.......why don't I think to make it more often? Rob proclaimed that this was the best stir-fry he'd ever had. It was pretty darn good!! Quinoa makes a great base for stir-fry, as it really takes on and heightens the flavor of the sauce.

Our stir-fry was a combo of diced tofu, sliced carrots, sliced red peppers, sliced onions and sliced zucchini,some broccoli florets, and about 4 oz of sliced button mushrooms. I fried the tofu cubes in a bit of olive oil then removed them from the pan, adding the veggies starting with the slowest to cook to the fastest. When the veggies were cooked I added back the tofu and stirred in the sauce. This was heated through and served over the quinoa, garnished with chopped cilantro leaves.

I've made an Orange Chili sauce before, but this one was much better, so I'll post it too! This recipe makes a hot sauce, so if you prefer a milder flavor reduce the amount of chili paste.

Orange Chili Stir-fry Sauce
Juice from 2 medium oranges (I used Cara-Cara oranges)
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 inch piece of ginger peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1/3 cup tamari
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Pour over stir-fry and heat through. This would also be a great marinade for tofu before baking!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Beannachtam na Feile Padraig! (Happy St. Patrick's Day)

Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.

Today we went to our local Irish Pub for lunch and to listen to some Irish reel's. We've done this every St. Patrick's Day since we moved back to town. It's really a lot of fun, and the girls enjoy dancing to the music. I have to brag on myself a little bit though......I was so proud that I remained vegan when faced with fish and chips. I LOVE fish and chips, and I nearly gave in and ordered them. After much contemplation I settled on a salad and to fill that craving for fish and chips I ordered a side of chips.
For dinner tonight I made Shepherd's Pie and Soda Bread. Both were recipes from Vegan Planet. However, for the Shepherd's Pie, instead of using the crumbled veggie burgers that the recipe called for, I subbed in some cooked lentils. I also didn't have any tomato paste, so I just left that out. I can't imagine that the tomato paste would have made it any better. The shepherd's pie was incredibly authentic tasting, it was very rich and hearty. And, to my surprise, the bread turned out better than I expected. It didn't' look very pretty when it was baking (we'll call it rustic), but it ended up looking pretty authentic as well, and tasting great.

Éireann go Brách

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fried Chick-un

I learned two things today. The first thing I learned was, despite my previous experience, I LOVE seitan. That is, I love seitan that isn't home made. I've read over and over again how much people like seitan, so I just had to try it again. I mean, I had obviously screwed it up when I tried to make it, because there's no way in hell so many people would be like it if the disgusting mush that I made was actually what it was supposed to be like, right?

I bought the White Wave Chicken Style seitan and decided to make fried chicken with it. I found this recipe from the PETA website, and decided to give it a go. Holy smokes, this stuff is awesome. I absolutely could not believe how good it was. Rob also loved this dinner, and he is not a fan of fried chicken. As a matter of fact, I'd say real fried chicken is probably one of his least favorite things to eat. He's already been asking when we can have this again!!

To go with the "chicken" I made some potatoes mashed with plain rice milk, some sauteed rainbow chard, and some biscuits using this recipe. The biscuits were surprisingly good as well. I also made a mustard sauce for dipping. I didn't actually measure anything when I made the sauce, so I can't give you an exact recipe, but the ingredients were Dijon mustard, olive oil, brown sugar and vegan Worcestershire. I brought the sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, then removed it from the heat and let it set while the "chicken" fried.

This "chicken" was truly finger lickin'.

The second thing I learned.......I don't like tempeh. I mentioned in my post about tempeh curry that there was something about the way tempeh felt in my mouth that just didn't do it for me. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to like tempeh, I still feel that way.

This morning I made the tempeh bacon from the current issue of Vegetarian Times. The marinade was great, and the flavor was delicious, but the way that the tempeh felt in my mouth just grossed me right out. It's that firm, chewy, nutty thing that just makes my stomach turn. Tempeh will not be making any future appearances on this blog, sorry all you tempeh lovers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Vegan Pizza

After reading many good reviews, I took a leap of faith and bought some Follow Your Heart mozzarella cheese. I haven't liked any vegan cheeses that I've tried so far, so I was really nervous to try this one. We really like pizza around here though, and cheeseless pizza just doesn't really cut it all of the time......sometimes you just need a little creamy, cheesy goodness on your pizza, ya know?

I'm happy to report that FYH mozzarella was a hit, and we can have "cheese" pizza again!! Mairin is extremely sensitive to any changes in our food routines, so I was especially surprised to find that she actually liked the pizza. And, to my surprise, she liked the "cheese" best of all just cut off of the block (which I tried as well, and didn't like nearly as much as I liked it melted on the pizza). She even asked me after dinner if we could have this pizza every Sunday night :) (note that it's Thursday night, so I have no idea where that came from). I'm also happy to report, that as of blogging this, Stella ate the "cheese" and has had no reactions!!

I've read reviews that this "cheese" doesn't melt as well as the bold type "IT MELTS" on the package would have you believe. However, I found the bold type to be true. This "cheese" melted very well on our pizzas with no extra effort. Perhaps because I grated it with a fine holed grater. Or, perhaps because I cook my pizzas at 500F. But, either way, the "cheese" melted nicely in the same amount of time that dairy mozzarella would have melted. The flavor was very nice as well. Really, the only difference we noticed was that this "cheese" was creamier than dairy mozzarella, and it didn't have the stringy characteristic of dairy mozzarella.

About the pizzas, they were both made on white pizza crusts from dough made in my bread machine (I went with white crust because it tastes oh so good, and I thought that if the "cheese" was a bust, at least the crust would be good!). The sauce on both was made from one small can of organic tomato sauce mixed with a few teaspoons each of dried oregano and dried basil. The pizza in the top photo was topped with sliced black olives, baby spinach leaves, halved artichoke hearts, sliced roma tomatoes, Follow Your Heart mozzarella, and salt and pepper. The pizza in the photo below was topped with only black olives and Follow Your Heart mozzarella (Mairin's favorite way to eat pizza).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring-time Risotto

I've always thought of risotto as a winter-time meal. It's warm, creamy, rich and filling....perfect for those chilly winter nights. Well, as I was flipping through Vegan Planet the other night I came across this Lemon Risotto with Peas and Scallions. It sounded like a meal full of wonderfully fresh, spring like flavors. I thought it sounded interesting, and wanted to give it a trial run as a possibility for our Easter meal.

This evening was perfect to try it out. We had a high of 62 degrees today, and while it was warm, there was that springtime nip in the air. This is a perfect meal for nights such as this. It's full of really "fresh" flavor, yet it warms you up nicely and takes that chill off.

The risotto is made with the requisite Arborio rice, cooked in a combo of vegetable stock and lemon juice. I was out of scallions, so I just used some diced onion. I did make a few slight changes to the recipe though. In the last 10 or so minutes of cooking I added in 2 Tbs of nutritional yeast. I topped off the finished dish with some grated lemon zest. We had some grilled asparagus on the side. The risotto definitely made the Easter cut.

I also made up another batch of Dreena's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies. These cookies are unbelievably good. They are so much better than traditional chocolate chip cookies. I can't wait to wow my non-vegan friends (that would be ALL of my friends I might add) with these delicious vegan treats!!

If you needed more than just my word that these cookies are spectacular...................

How's that face for proof????

Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

As promised, version 2 of Dreena's Easy Pleasin' Oat Bars. This time I added 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips to the original recipe. Oh.My.God. These things are out of this world!! I can't imagine that the 10 bars I made are going to last through today. They are that good.

These have actually become both breakfast bars and snack bars at our house. They are a really quick and easy breakfast for those rushed school mornings. And really, they are just oats, syrup and rice milk.....pretty much what my kids would be eating anyway, only condensed in a less messy bar instead of a bowl!!

I'm thinking version 3.0 will be Coconut-Chocolate Chip. However, Mairin asked today if I could put apples in them, so I guess I'll have to get to work on version 4.0 as well!! I can see all manner of oat bars in our distant future. If you have any suggestions throw them my way, I'll be sure to try them out.

I urge you to try them out for yourself very soon. The original recipe is fantastic, so be sure to start there. After that, the possibilities are endless, really!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sesame Noodles and Fried Tofu with Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Tonight we had an Asian inspired dinner of Sesame Noodles and Fried Tofu with a Soy-Ginger dipping sauce. This meal came together so quickly, and it was so beautiful and delicious. The flavor of the noodles was just fabulous. And, to my surprise, the tofu turned out perfect. Slightly crispy on the outside, yet still soft and moist on the inside. I love tofu, and unfortunately because of Stella's possible soy allergy we haven't been able to eat it very often (news about that to follow the recipes).

Asian Sesame Noodles
1 lb angel hair pasta
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
2 Tbs tahini
1 Tbs toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic minced
1 Tbs fresh ginger, peeled and minced
one handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
a few dashes of cayenne pepper
one bunch of scallions, sliced on a diagonal (white and light green parts only)
1 large carrot shredded

Start water to boil, and cook pasta. While pasta is cooking, in a large bowl combine all ingredients except scallions and carrot. Whisk together until smooth. When pasta is cooked, drain and rinse in cold water. Drain cold pasta well, toss with scallions and carrot, pour dressing over and combine until noodles are well coated.

For the tofu, I used one block of extra firm tofu that had been pressed and drained. I sliced it in 3 slices, horizontally, then cut each into a diagonal. I fried it in a hot, non-stick skillet, coated with just a touch of sesame oil. Fry each side until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Do not mess with tofu while it is frying, just put it in the skillet, and leave it until it is time to turn. For the sauce, I just combined a little chopped fresh ginger, some crushed chili pepper flakes, a little chopped cilantro, and some tamari.

And finally, we have some *cross our fingers* hopefully good news on the allergy front. We did a food challenge with Stella for soy this weekend. She didn't seem to have any adverse reactions to drinking a whole cup of soy milk. That's a very good sign that there is no soy allergy. However, we will need to reintroduce soy back into her diet slowly, and watch her for reactions. With any luck we will be able to eat soy without caution. It sounds crazy, but I feel like there is a whole world of recipes out there that I'll finally be able to utilize. Please keep your fingers crossed that she continues not to react. Our next test will be some Follow Your Heart Mozzarella on a pizza later this week.

Snack Bars

My kids love cereal bars as snacks. I like giving my kids bars for snacks because they are a quick and easy snack. Because of Stella's nut allergy we are limited to the Enjoy Life brand bars for her. And for Mairin, we'd been relying on the WFM 365 brand fruit and cereal bars (btw, I re-checked the ingredients list recently and found that these bars contain whey). The Enjoy Life bars are great, except that they retail for just under $5 per box of 5 (yes, nearly $1 per bar). After trying the Enjoy Life bars one day, Mairin decided she liked those better than the 365 brand bars. So, we were going through nearly 2 boxes of bars per week!! All of the bar recipes that I could find included nuts of some sort as one of their integral ingredients. So, imagine my delight when I was searching the Internet last week and ran across Dreena Burton's recipe for Easy Pleasin' Oat Bars from Vive le Vegan. No nuts were involved in the recipe at all!!

The only ingredient I was missing was Brown Rice Syrup, which I purchased today. These bars are so quick to whip up, and they are delicious too. I used a 10x10 pan and got 10 rectangular bars. I haven't done the math yet, but I guarantee you this batch of 10 bars cost less than $1 to make.

You can expect to see some variations of these bars appearing here quite frequently. Dreena lists quite a few add in ideas on her blog post. I think chocolate chip will be next up, followed by raisin, and I'm thinking an apple cinnamon version would be good as well.

If you are looking for a great snack option for your kids, or yourself, I suggest you try out these Easy Pleasin' Oat Bars ASAP!!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Saturday's Eats.

After all of that playing in the snow, you better believe we were all hungry!! We'd started off our morning with the chocolate chip muffins I posted about earlier. After lots of sledding, snow angel making, and even a little shoveling we were all ready to head inside to warm up.

First up was the Hot Coco-Cocoa from the previous post. After we'd enjoyed our cocoa I got started on lunch. Mairin had requested nachos, that sounded good to me, so I headed to the kitchen to whip some up. First I made the lentils from the lentil taco recipe. When those were finished I poured them over some tortilla chips and topped it with some diced onion, tomato, and avocado. Then I sprinkled it all with some chopped fresh cilantro and squeezed the juice of one lime down over it all. These were so good that none of us even missed the cheese at all!

After our lunch we all laid down and took a nap. I have to admit, it was so awesome to lay down in the middle of the day and sleep. I felt soooo good when I woke up! After our nap we bundled up and went back out in the snow again. This time the powdery snow of the morning had started to freeze and stick together, so we had us a little snowball fight. After that the girls did a little more sledding and then we headed in for dinner.

While Rob and the girls warmed up in front of the heater watching a movie, I got dinner going. We had "Fettuccine with Red Lentil Sauce" from Vegan Planet, only I used whole wheat linguine instead. This sauce is very quick and easy to make, however, it is lacking in flavor just a bit. I added about 2 tsp of dried basil to it, and that helped bring it to life. On the side we had some grilled asparagus and portobello mushrooms. I just put the veggies on the grill and drizzled them with olive oil. Once they were cooked I removed them from the heat and sprinkled them with sea salt while they were still hot. Oh man, they were good. I could have made a meal out of just the veggies. We also had some simple garlic bread to go along with it all.

Snow Day....we had about 12 inches!!!

Running in the snow is very hard!!

Louis was sinking with every step.

Mommy made a snow angel and couldn't get up!

The snow was up to her knees!! But, she loved every minute of it!!

And yes, this post was food (well, ok, drink) related. This is the best part of playing in the cocoa when you come in!! We made Hot Coco-Cocoa from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan. It's a combination of coconut milk, vanilla non-dairy milk, cocoa and maple syrup. What a great way to warm up!!

To Satisfy My Chocolate Craving

All last week I was having a major chocolate craving, and with no dairy free chocolate in the house it just wasn't getting satisfied. There was a massive snow storm predicted for Friday and Saturday, so Thursday night I stopped by the store to pick up some dairy free chips. I wasn't going to get snowed in my house with no chocolate around!!

I had to go to our local, small town grocery. Dairy free chocolate chips were scarce, but I did manage to find one brand, that happened to be an "off" brand, and not a big name brand. What's in a name anyway, right?

So, Friday evening I baked Dreena's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies, from Vive Le Vegan. These cookies have the Toll House recipe beat, hands down. I've not had a more delicious chocolate chip cookie, ever! My only complaint......there weren't enough!! I ate mine dunked in some vanilla soy milk.....YUM. And, in our haste to eat them, I forgot to take pictures until we had only one lonely cookie left setting on the plate!

I also made some chocolate chip muffins for Saturday morning's breakfast. With the snow falling by the inch it seemed like muffins would be a good way to start the day before we headed out in the snow. I just used my regular recipe for blueberry muffins, only subbing in the chocolate chips instead. They turned out really well, only they need to cook about 2 minutes less than the blueberry one's, so they were a tad on the dry side.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I've been tagged!!

So, my husband was telling me about this study that says blogging is good for your social life. I kind of laughed about it, commenting that it's good for my "pretend" social life. He quickly pointed out that any social interaction, even if it is via the internet, is still a social interaction. OK, so maybe I should tell you that know that he's a computer geek, so of course he would think so. I don't know, I tend to find it less "social" than actually sitting face to face talking to someone, but, whatever, it's all technicalities I guess.

Well, anyway, I got tagged by Jenny today, and started thinking, "OK, maybe there is something to this "better social life" thing".

Here's how it works...I tell you 5 things about myself, then tag 5 other people via their blog. Sounds fun, right?? Here goes:

1. I can name all 50 states in alphabetical order.
2. I love to sing and dance, although I am not good at either!!
3. I almost never stay awake to watch an entire movie....movies put me to sleep.
4. I LOVE to color, with crayons in coloring books, it's so relaxing.
5. I was 29 years old before I ever used a lawn mower!!

Well, there you go, 5 things about me that you probably didn't know. Now......who to tag, hmmmm, let me see: Dalai Mama, Vegan Mother, Keeta, Vegetation, and Michelle.

Link to your tagger and post these rules.
Share 5 facts about yourself.
Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

Sauteed Polenta with Beans and Greens

Last night was a little creation of my own, "Sauteed polenta with beans and greens". I don't use polenta often, and haven't found too many recipes that really catch my eye, so I thought I'd just come up with something of my own. It turned out really good. What I liked about it was that it was really simple, and that the flavor of each ingredient was recognizable. I like when you can really taste what's in a dish.......especially when it's beans and greens, two of my favorite!! Along with the polenta dish we had some simple garlic bread with roma tomatoes. Every time I make this garlic bread it's a big hit. It really is so much better than pre-made, frozen, garlic breads.

Sauteed Polenta with Beans and Greens
2 - 3 Tbs olive oil
1 tube of refrigerated, prepared polenta, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked white beans
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 bag pre-washed baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add polenta and saute until beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper and remove from skillet and set aside. Add additional oil to skillet if necessary, then add onion, pepper and garlic. Saute until vegetables are beginning to soften. Then, add beans and saute for a few more minutes. Add vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and add spinach. Once spinach has started wilt add polenta back to skillet, stir gently to combine, and finish wilting spinach. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Why Vegan??

Last weekend when talking to a friend she says to me, "I understand why you don't want to eat meat, but what's the reason for not eating eggs and cheese and milk?". Then I realized, there are probably a lot of you reading this blog (mostly my family and IRL friends) who are probably wondering the same thing, but just haven't asked. So, I thought it seemed appropriate to answer that question for you.

To really get to the answer of that we're going to have to go back a bit, and revisit why I stopped eating meat in the first place. Going back nearly a year now, I decided, as a personal challenge, to stop eating meat. Initially there were no health, environmental, or ethical reasons for not eating meat. It was simply a test, can I do it or not? So, a few weeks passed, I hadn't eaten any meat, and it really didn't seem like something that was going to be too terribly hard to do. OK, so I can do this vegetarian thing, now I need to find out why people are vegetarian, and in particular, why I should remain meat free. So, I start doing some research.

That research leads me to some very compelling health reasons for not eating meat. According to numerous studies (which you can find all over the internet), vegetarians have lower rates of almost all chronic diseases, and in particular diseases of the heart. Now, there isn't any heart disease in my family, but, it seems to be less and less a hereditary thing, and more and more directly related to our diets, and in particular the Standard American Diet, ironically abbreviated SAD. Vegetarians also have lower BMI's and lower waist to hip ratios than their meat eating counterparts. Sounds like a good reason to stop eating meat doesn't it? By just doing an internet search you can come up with many more health benefits to not eating a meat based diet.

In researching health and vegetarianism, the link between factory farming and the environment kept coming up time and again. The most prominent of these issues seems to be the pollution that factory farming causes to our water, via run-off. Another major issue I learned about was the vast areas of land that are required for factory farming, not necessarily for the animals themselves, but for the massive amounts of corn and soy that are grown to feed these animals (the same amounts of food which could be grown to feed a lot more people than the animals feed). It also takes lots of water, lots of energy and lots of dangerous chemicals to grow the crops meant for these animals. Factory farms also produce some of the highest amounts of greenhouse gasses.

So, given the fact that we had been putting a lot of energy into reducing our impact on the Earth, it only seemed logical that we become vegetarian. How could we make all of these changes that we'd previously made for the Earth, yet continue to contribute to what may be the largest source of pollution out there?

Obviously, the decision had been made, I wasn't going to eat meat, and I was never going to look back. So, I started buying vegetarian cookbooks, finding recipes on the internet, and cruising the vegetarian and vegan blogs. One of those blogs that I frequented was/is Eat Air-A Vegan Food Log. While looking through the blogs one day I came across a post on Eat Air about the Vegetarian Food For Thought podcast. Out of sheer curiosity I decided to listen. After listening to just one episode I knew that I had to make the change.

I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I really had no idea how horrific the animal slaughter industry is. I mean, I knew that the animals had to die, and I knew that there were reports of animal cruelty, but I also knew that cruelty wasn't the norm. Wow! Was I ever wrong. The animals that are used for our food are treated absolutely horribly. Honestly, I'm not a huge animal lover, but even so, I can not contribute to such horrendous suffering and abuse (both to the animals and the workers).

So, that still doesn't explain the whole no eggs, no dairy, no animal by-products thing, now does it? Well, it does. Even the animals that are used for eggs and dairy are eventually slaughtered, and therefore have to suffer the same horrible fate as those that are used for direct consumption. Not only that, but the reproductive systems of the hens and cows that are used for egg and dairy production are egregiously exploited. The male offspring of these animals, which are obviously of no use to the egg or dairy industry, are either slaughtered or used as veal. The conditions that these egg and dairy producers live in are unbelievably bad. Really, the list goes on and on. The long and short of it is this....I just can't be a part of the abuse and suffering.

Becoming vegetarian was easy, I did it cold-turkey and I've never looked back. Becoming vegan is not as easy, it is a process, a process that I am slowly conquering. A process that we are all still working through. Mairin for instance isn't quite ready to give up cow's milk, cheese, and eggs. I'm ok with that. I've made it quite clear to her several times that I'm ok with whatever choice she makes, vegetarian or not. I will provide her with the information she needs as it becomes age appropriate, and what she decides to do with it is hers. Of course, I hope she chooses not to participate in the needless suffering, but forcing my ethics on her, or anyone else for that matter just doesn't seem right.

This was a very long answer to the question, but I felt that it was necessary for those who truly want to know.....I don't eat meat, dairy and eggs because I don't need to. I don't want to contribute to a systen that produces so much unnecessary waste and suffering.

Powerhouse Pancakes

In my last post I said I would be absent for awhile, because we are having a lot of repeats for dinner this week. Jenny sweetly commented that she'd miss Jenny, this one's for you!!

This morning it was cold and rainy, and it just seemed like a good morning for pancakes. There really isn't anything too special about these pancakes, no fancy fillings or flavors, just your run of the mill pancakes. So, what makes these pancakes powerhouses you ask........the addition of wheat germ. Wheat germ really gives these pancakes a nutritional boost. And, best of all, they've finally broken me from my usual pre-mixed pancake mix that includes milk powder (it was really the last thing holding me back from having a diet completely free of animals and animal by-products). These were so simple to make, I'm not sure what took me so long to break free from that pre mixed stuff. The kids all loved them (I have my extra kid today, so I was feeding 3), and they are the true test of whether a recipe is a success or not!!

Powerhouse Pancakes

1 cup plain rice milk

1 tsp white vinegar

1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 Tbs sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 Tbs canola oil

1 Tbs organic unsweetened applesauce

Combine rice milk and vinegar and set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the milk mixture, vanilla, oil and applesauce and mix until smooth. Spoon or pour batter onto griddle. Cook until edges are cooked and bubbles appear in the center, then flip gently. Cook a few minutes more, then remove gently from griddle. Serve with warm maple syrup, and enjoy.

I was able to get nine pancakes from this recipe, but I make them fairly small for the kids. You may need to double the recipe if you are feeding bigger eaters. Or, make extras and freeze them for quick weekday breakfasts. I freeze extra pancakes between layers of paper towel in a quart sized freezer bag, then just pop them in the toaster on the lightest setting until they have thawed.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Beans and Rice

Last night we had Spanish Beans and Rice. A recipe adapted from Fresh from The Vegetarian Slow cooker, and cooked on the stove top. I just cooked 1 1/2 cups of brown basmati rice in 3 cups of water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube. When the rice is finished, set it aside. For the beans, saute one large diced onion, 3 cloves of garlic, minced, and one large diced red bell pepper until beginning to soften. To the vegetable saute add 1 can of diced tomatoes with their juice, 3 cups of cooked pinto beans, and 1/4 cup tomato paste. Stir to combine, then season with chili powder and cumin until desired taste. Simmer for a few minutes to combine flavors. Add in 3 cups of cooked rice and heat through.

I served the beans and rice with some sauteed baby spinach and vegan cornbread.

I will probably be mostly absent from the blog this week. As much as I love finding new and exciting things to prepare, my family isn't always so keen on it. They've been asking for some old favorites, noodle soup and Thai curry, as well as some new favorites like Snobby Joes and Grain and Veggie burgers. So, our week is filled with a lot of repeats for the family. I'll post a few pics at the end of our repeat-a-thon, but I'll probably have little to say.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sunday Morning Pancakes

A few weeks ago I blogged that we have pancakes for breakfast every Sunday. Today was no different. Today however we had a change from our usual Old Fashioned Pancakes.

Yesterday when scouring the veggie food blog community I came across Jenny's blog featuring these yummy Apple Cinnamon Pancakes. I had most of the ingredients, so I decided to give them a try. I mostly followed her recipe. However, I didn't have any pastry flour so I subbed 3/4 cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour. I also subbed rice milk for the soy and added an additional 1/4 cup of rice milk. And finally, I didn't use the "flax eggs", opting to skip any sort of egg replacement.

These pancakes are delicious, and a great change from our regular routine. The girls have never really been fans of any of the variations of pancakes I've made in the past, so I wasn't hopeful that they would accept these. Boy was I wrong....Mairin finished her plate in a flash, and Stella ate 2 pancakes of her own!!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Chickpea Cutlets, finally!!

I finally did it.....I made V-con's Chickpea Cutlets!! For months now I've read rave reviews on nearly every vegetarian and vegan blog I frequent, as well as on People can't seem to get enough of these cutlets, so I finally decided to find out what all the fuss was about. I still don't own this book, but I found the recipe on The only change I made was to leave out the soy sauce so that Stella could eat them as well.

You'll recall that I made ED&BV's Chickpea Sensation Patties awhile back. And, you'll recall that we all really liked them, even Mairin. Well, I'll have to say, V-con's cutlets may well have been better than ED&BV's (although, Mairin disagrees....she didn't eat any of these). I really like the addition of the vital wheat gluten to these cutlets. They make such a wonderfully textured patty. And, contrary to my previous experience, these patties came together in less time than Dreena's version (I usually find that Dreena's recipes come together very quick and easy, and not so with Isa). We will definitely be putting these into our rotation of frequent repeats.

I decided, at the advice of a fellow mom, to bake the patties first and then fry them. When I took them out of the oven they seemed like they were going to be a bit dry, so while they were frying up I made a quick little mustard sauce to go over them. For the sauce I added about 1/4 cup Dijon mustard to 1/4 cup olive oil and whisked it together. To that I added about 1 Tbs of light brown sugar, and a pinch of salt and pepper, then gently heated it over low heat. It turns out the cutlets weren't dry at all, but the sauce was still a great addition. With the cutlets I served some yukon gold potatoes mashed with original Rice Dream. I also steamed up the last bit of broccoli and carrots I had in the fridge.

Last night we went to Buca di Beppo for my baby brother's 18th birthday. I am happy to report that they were very nice and accommodating to my requests of no animal products. I was able to eat their bruschetta and the penne campofiore (both of which they were happy to serve without cheese).