Monday, April 28, 2008

A Taste of Thailand

Saturday night we had our neighbors over for a Thai inspired dinner party. We had a fancy shmancy 4 course meal, along with some good wine and good conversation. Some of our conversation centered around a discussion of using cloth shopping bags, after mention of this huge area of plastic "stew" fouling the Pacific ocean and killing marine life. If you aren't already using cloth shopping bags, shame on you. Read this article and you may change your mind!!

Anyway, on to the food. We started our evening with Mango-Snow Pea Shoot Spring Rolls. These rolls were filled with rice noodles, cucumber, mango and snow pea shoots. I served them with tamari for dipping. Yum!!

Our next course was the Thai Coconut Corn Stew from Eat Drink and Be Vegan. This soup is absolutely incredible!! All of the flavors are just perfect together. This dish is definitely going to come into heavy rotation here!! The flavors of this soup are so fresh that it'll even be a nice soup to serve through the summer. Rob and I ate the left-overs for lunch yesterday, and I actually think the soup was better after sitting over night.

For our main course I made the Orange-Chili Stir-Fry that I've blogged about before. This time I left out the mushrooms from the stir-fry and added asparagus instead. The stir-fry was served over Coconut Basmati rice. I really love cooking my rice in coconut milk, it really adds a nice subtle flavor to the stir-fry.

And to finish, I made the Frozen Coconut "Thaiphoon" with Mango and Lime from Vegan Planet. It's basically a dairy free ice-cream made from coconut milk and pureed mango, with some lime zest and lime juice stirred in at the end. Topped with toasted shredded coconut. It's the perfect dessert for a Thai inspired meal. It's flavors are nice and refreshing, and will be great for cooling off on a hot day.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tortilla Soup

Before we became veg, Mairin always wanted to get the tortilla soup from Whole Foods when we went there. She doesn't get it any longer because they put chicken in it. So, tonight I tried making a vegan version of tortilla soup. The results were spectacular. Rob is not much of a fan of soup or beans, and he really liked this soup.

I served the soup topped with a dollop of Tofutti Better than Sour Cream, diced avocado, chopped cilantro, and crispy tortilla strips. I used my pasta cutter to cut the tortillas into strips, then I baked them until they were crispy. I tasted this soup just after it was finished, but I didn't serve it until 3 hours later. It was good as soon as it was finished, but it was even better after it had set for awhile. I suggest making this soup in advance.

Tortilla Soup
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 large green pepper, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
9 cups vegetable stock
1/2 bag frozen corn
4 cups cooked black beans
1 jar medium heat salsa
2 tsp Mexican seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
6 corn tortillas, cut into strips, and baked until crispy
1 avocado, diced
finely chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and green pepper and saute until softened. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add veg stock, corn, beans, salsa and Mexican seasoning. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or let set several hours to combine flavors. Top with avocado, cilantro, and tortilla strips before serving.

Piña Colada Muffins

I was in an experimental mood this afternoon, so I started looking around the kitchen for what I had that I could throw into a muffin. I had some left over crushed pineapple hanging out in the refrigerator, as well as about 1/2 bag of unsweetened shredded coconut. Voilà, piña colada muffins were born!

Piña Colada Muffins

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus more for sprinkling

3/4 cup vanilla rice milk

1/8 cup canola oil

1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained

12 dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients stirring just to combine. Fill oiled muffin cups about 1/2 full. Sprinkle batter with shredded coconut, press one dried cherry into the center of each muffin. Bake for 27 minutes.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Middle East meets Mexico

Tonight's dinner was kind of an evolutionary process. I was first going to make Tortilla Soup, but realized I was out of veggie stock. So, that wasn't an option. I put a pot of stock on, and we'll have the soup tomorrow. I had planned on a night of a few different hummus flavors and some different things for dipping. So that was the route I thought I'd go tonight. But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted that. I started looking around to see what I needed to use up and came away with some cilantro, some limes, some green onions and a cucumber. Cilantro, limes, and onion meant something with a sort of Mexican vibe. So, what I finally came up with was the Chipotle Lime Two Bean Hummus, and a sort of Mexican style Tabbouleh (replacing the lemon with lime and the parsley with cilantro). This dinner worked really well, and tasted very good. It was so refreshing, and will definitely become a go-to on those hot summer nights that I don't want to turn the stove on. Not to mention this meal came together in about 15 minutes, and you can't beat that!!

Mexican Style Tabbouleh
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1 cup water
1/2 vegetable bouillon cube
1 medium cucumber, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely diced
1 large tomato, finely diced
1 1/2 cups finely chopped cilantro
juice from 1 1/2 large limes
salt and pepper to taste
Place bulgur in small sauce pan with water and bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. In the meantime, dice veggies and mix together in a large bowl. Add cooked bulgur, add lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use. This can be eaten right away, warm, but is nicer when the flavors have had time to combine

I also wanted to post a picture of our lunch today.........sort of a "Mexican" salad type day I guess. For lunch I made a bean salad. I just mixed some pinto beans with diced tomato, avocado, green onions, cilantro, and thawed corn kernels. I drizzled it with olive oil and the juice of half a lime, then salt and pepper to taste. Again, this was very good and very refreshing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blame it on Barack

I had something new planned for dinner tonight, but instead we ended up eating spaghetti with sauce from a jar. You can blame it on Barack......we spent the better part of our day at a town hall forum/rally for Obama. On my teaching days, if I can't start dinner right after lunch then we usually end up with something fast and easy.

Barack was worth spaghetti and jarred sauce. It was amazing to see him so close, and to hear him speaking in person. If you think it's moving to hear him give speeches on television, you wouldn't believe how moving it is to actually hear it in person. The sheer excitement of him being introduced almost brought me to tears.

We had our children with us, and they behaved absolutely perfectly. Mairin woke up early this morning excited to see Barack. And Stella asked all morning if it was time to see Mrack Omama. As Barack was making his way to the podium, little Stella was even chanting "Yes We Can" .

He pretty much did the usual stump speech, and then he answered a handful of questions from the crowd. As he was wrapping up we made our way to the front of the barricades, and *gasp*, shook hands with the man himself. He even took Stella's little hand in both of his, looked right at her and said "How are you doing, sweetheart". Again, I almost shed tears. We get our chance to vote two weeks from today, and I have never been so excited to vote, ever.

Change We Can Believe In

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Dinner

Ok, so it's only an "Earth Day dinner" because it's Earth Day, not because we did anything special to celebrate it. Honestly, I feel a bit ashamed that we didn't celebrate, but quite frankly, I couldn't think of a single thing we could do to celebrate Earth Day that we don't do nearly every day. That's right folks, it's Earth Day every day at our house!!

Actually, we had thought to plant a tree, but we've had terrible luck with tree planting in the past. Our trees never seem to survive the season. So instead, we've decided to have an arborist come to plant some trees for us. Therefore, tree planting was out.

I do have some cute Earth Day themed things that Mairin has said and done though. First, she's very concerned about conserving toilet tissue so as not to need to cut down trees to make more. She still hates to use a napkin if it has one spot of food on it, but heaven forbid if you use more than 1 square of TP. She can also frequently be caught picking up random trash and throwing it away, wondering why people don't do so in the first place. And, the other day the weather was a strange mix of sun, rain, clouds, etc. and I commented that Mother Nature was having a tough time making up her mind.......later that day Mairin says to me "Mommy, why are you having a hard time making up your mind today?" I looked at her puzzled and asked what she meant and she says "well, you are Mother Nature, aren't you?"

Alright, now to the food, that is after all why you guys stopped by, right? For dinner tonight we had Mushroom Burgers, fried Yukon Gold potatoes, and steamed broccoli. The burger recipe came from vegweb. I pretty much followed the recipe exactly. Only, I didn't use fresh herbs, I used about 2 tsp dried basil instead. Also, instead of the cooked white rice the recipe calls for I used a combo of cooked brown basmati and bulgur (because I had a bowl of those two already cooked and mixed together in the refrigerator). These burgers were really, really good. They looked very much like beef burgers, and while they didn't taste exactly like beef burgers, they did have the essence. I think next time I make them (and there will definitely be a next time) I'll add a little vegan Worcestershire, and less liquid smoke.

I grilled the burgers on my indoor grill, and served them on toasted buns with a bit of Vegenaise, sliced onion, and lettuce. For the potatoes, I just sliced them thin, and fried them in about 2 Tbs olive oil with about 1/2 a spanish onion sliced into small slices.

I hadn't planned any dessert, but then started thinking I should do something special since it is Earth Day and all. So, I started looking around to see what I had on hand, and it turns out I had everything I needed to make the Banana Swirl "Cheesecake" from Vegan Planet.

Actually, I took a little help and used a store bought graham cracker crust that I had in my freezer. Also, for the peanut butter in the filling I substituted soy nut butter. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as is.

Once again, vegan dessert did not disappoint. This was delicious. It didn't have that tang that traditional cheesecakes have, but that certainly didn't change the fact that this dessert was quite decadent!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Nothing new for dinner tonight to share with you. We had Snobby Joes and Sweet Potato Fries. The only thing I had worth sharing tonight were these yummy Chocolate Covered Strawberries. I was so excited to go to the store this weekend and find organic's a sure sign summer is coming!!

I try to buy organic whenever possible, but as you all know, it's not always possible. Strawberries however are one of the dirty dozen, so I only buy organic. It's not easy to find organic strawberries throughout the winter months, so they are something we only get to enjoy during the warmer months.

I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with these berries. I first thought of making shortcakes, then thought I would just serve them sprinkled with sugar. I finally decided on one of our favorites, chocolate covered!!

For the chocolate, I melted 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips in the microwave with 2 Tbs vanilla soy milk. Be careful not to burn the chocolate, checking it every few seconds. I sprinkle the plate with powdered sugar to help the berries from sticking once the chocolate hardens. After dipping the berries and sprinkling with powdered sugar, chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. YUM!!

Chipotle Chicken (style seitan) Burritos

Before he became veg Rob loved a certain pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. He ordered the Chipotle Chicken Pizza nearly every time we went there. Then Q-doba introduced their chipotle chicken burrito, and again, he had a new favorite dish to order. Since becoming veg he's had to order the pizza without chicken, and has had to pass on the burrito altogether.

While setting down to come up with my menu for the week it dawned on me that I could probably re-create the burrito at home using seitan. So, I decided to give it a go. I'm happy to report that it was a success. These burritos were so tasty. I can't vouch for how closely they resemble the aforementioned pizza or burrito, as I've never had either, but they were delicious all the same.

The burrito you see in the picture is topped with some home made pico de gallo (chopped roma tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, garlic and cilantro with a little bit of salt added in), and some Cilantro-Green Chile Sour "Cream".

These burritos are filled with a chipotle seitan mixture, black beans, romaine lettuce and avocado. I intended to add some corn kernels, but forgot all about them until we were actually eating the burritos, so, maybe next time.

Chipotle Chicken Style Seitan Burritos

1 lb chicken style seitan, shredded into bite sized pieces (I used White Wave brand)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 cup diced onion
1/4 cup chipotle in adobo, pluse 1 Tbs adobo sauce (this makes a HOT burrito, if you prefer a milder flavor reduce amount of chipotle pepper to your liking)
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper
4 flour tortillas, warmed (12 inch size)
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 avocado sliced

Heat the oil. Add the onion and sugar and cook until the sugar has melted and the onions have become golden brown and caramelized. Add the chipotle, adobo sauce, and tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and process until smooth. Return to pan, add seitan, season with salt and pepper and heat through.

Spoon the seitan mixture down the center of the tortilla. Top with black beans, lettuce, avocado (and corn if using). Bring the sides of the tortilla toward the center then fold the bottom up over the filling and continue to roll until the burrito closes. Top with Cilantro-Green Chili Sour "Cream" and pico de gallo and serve.

Cilantro-Green Chile Sour Cream

1/2 cup Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
1 4oz can green chiles, drained
1 handful of cilantro, chopped very fine
1 1/2 tsp water

In a blender add sour cream, about 2/3 of the chiles, and the water. Blend until smooth. Pour cream into a small bowl and stir in the rest of the chiles and the cilantro.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Creamy Spiced Quinoa

This was a recipe from the current issue of Vegetarian Times, Creamy Quinoa with Cranberries. I was so excited to try it, I mean, quinoa for breakfast.....could it get better?? Unfortunately it wasn't a hit. It definitely has potential, and I plan to give it another go some morning during the week. So, once I work on this a bit I'll post my recipe.

This version has the quinoa cooked in soy milk, then spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. It's all sweetened with maple sugar and served with a drizzle of vanilla soy milk at the end. The problem with this recipe was the spice. There was, in my opinion, way too much spice. It also seemed to take an unusually long time for the quinoa to become tender. Next time I'll definitely leave out the ginger and the allspice, and probably reduce the amounts of the other spices. I also plan to use maple syrup and a touch of brown sugar.

Watch for an update to this one in the days to come!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Eating out Vegan

The weather has been absolutely fabulous here. We've been spending most of our time outdoors, and I haven't felt much like cooking. Playing outside all day can really tire a person out!! Last night we decided we were going to get pizza (ok, so it's not actually eating out, but it's not home cooked, so you get the point). We usually get pizza from a local joint called Mazerella's Upper Crust Pizza. I usually just get the veggie pizza without cheese, and it's ok. It's not great, but it works.

Well, last night Rob had to make a few stops on his way home from work, so we decided to get Papa Murphy's take 'n bake. I had the vegetarian gourmet pizza, with no cheese and with tomato sauce rather than the creamy garlic. I am so glad we got Papa Murphy' was so delicious. This will definitely be our "don't feel like cooking, let's have pizza" pizza from now on!! Just look at it, it was absolutely loaded with veggies (most other places, unfortunately, skimp on the veggies and just fill it up with cheese........and you really notice the sparse use of veg when you hold the cheese!!)

Tonight my mom kept the girls while Rob and I went and did some much needed shopping, and went out for dinner. We ate at Zen Garden, Louisville's only all vegetarian restaurant. This was my first time eating at an all veg restaurant, and it was such a great have my choice of anything on the menu was so refreshing. Well, actually, I couldn't choose from everything because they did have egg rolls, and one dish made with egg noodles, but aside from those 2 dishes, everything else was fair game. And would you believe that the desserts were vegan!! Seriously, this is my new favorite restaurant, and I'm already psyched to go back.

The menu is all Asian (except for dessert, which tonight was vegan chocolate peanut butter pie, and vegan carrot cake). I started off with the Zen roll, which was just a California roll with cucumber, avocado and carrot. For my entree I had the Kung Pao Tofu. Rob got egg rolls to start and the Singapore Noodles. We shared entree's and both were outstanding. We finished off with one of each dessert and they were both great. Carrot cake is my absolute favorite, and the "cream cheese" icing was so incredibly authentic no one would ever know it was vegan. YUM.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me. We had a great seat right next to the window with lots of natural light and the dishes all looked so nice. I wish I had some photos to share with you. But, fear not, I have a feeling we will be returning very, very soon!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Double Chocolate Brownies and Va-Va-Vanilla "Soy Dream" Cream

Tonight's dinner was nothing new. We had the Great Grain and Veggie Burgers (a.k.a Giardino Burgers) from Vegan Planet. I served them with some garlic mashed potatoes that were made in the crock pot, following a recipe from Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.

For dessert we had Vegan Brownies that I've posted about before. This time I added 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips, making them "double chocolate"!! I also made some vanilla "Soy Dream" Cream, using the recipe from Vegan Planet for plain vanilla non-dairy ice cream. I made mine with vanilla soy milk, making it very vanilla....or va-va-vanilla, if you will!!

When I told Mairin what we were having for dinner tonight she gave me a big hug and said "you are the best mama.....thank you for making such good food for us". Isn't she a sweetie!!!??

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Asian Noodle Bowls and Faux Egg Rolls

Tonight we had an Asian inspired dinner consisting of noodle bowls and egg rolls. All of this meal was just kind of made up and I was very pleased with how it turned out. The flavors of the noodle bowl were very mild, and very subtle, but worked extremely well together. The egg rolls were a bit spicy and off-set the mild noodle dish very nicely.

I made something different for the girls thinking that this is something they would reject with just one look. To my surprise they both requested "noodle soup" and Mairin ate some egg rolls too. Neither of them ate what I had prepared for them, except the broccoli.

Asian Noodle Bowls

About 8 oz Soba Noodles

1 quart Vegetable stock

1 Tbs Mild Miso

4 scallions, cut into bite sized pieces on a diagonal

2 carrots, shredded with vegetable peeler

about 1/4 lb snow peas, cut in half on a diagonal

2 heads baby bok choy, chopped

2 Tbs fresh ginger, minced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

cilantro, chopped for garnish

Put vegetable stock and miso in a pot with about 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until ready to use. Bring water to boil and cook soba noodles. Once noodles have been cooked, rinsed and drained place equal amounts in the bottom of two large bowls. Add vegetables on top of noodles in order listed. Add ginger and garlic on top of vegetables. Ladle hot vegetable stock over vegetable/noodle combo until covered. Cover bowl with a small plate and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Remove plate, garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

Faux Egg Rolls

1 lb firm tofu, pressed and sliced into thin slices

1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup tamari

1/2 tsp chili paste

1 carrot shredded

1 head baby bok choy shredded

3-4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced very small

10 sheets phyllo dough, thawed per package directions

olive oil

In a small baking dish add ginger, garlic, tamari and chili paste. Stir to combine and place strips of tofu in to marinade, turning to coat both sides. Marinade tofu for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400. Take one sheet of phyllo (being sure to cover remaining sheets with a damp cloth). Place sheet of phyllo on work surface with long end at the bottom, brush one half of the dough with olive oil and fold vertically (now the bottom end will be shorter than the sides). Place a few slices of tofu and some of each vegetable about 1 inch from bottom of sheet, leaving a half inch or so on either side. Fold in sides of dough, then roll from bottom up, tucking in sides as you roll. Brush edge with olive oil to seal. Place with seam side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet and continue with remaining sheets of dough. Brush each egg roll with olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes until rolls are golden and crispy. Serve with tamari for dipping.

I had some tofu left from the egg rolls, so I put it in the oven in the dish I had marinaded it in and baked it for Rob's lunch tomorrow.

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's no wonder......

It's no wonder that America is fat, that our children are hyperactive and food allergic. It's no wonder that we are dying from cancer and heart disease, suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure. It's no wonder. Have you ever taken a look at what's in the food America is eating?

For years I've been shopping at Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, and our local HFS, Rainbow Blossom. I have the luxury of knowing that my food does not contain additives* and other unnatural ingredients, and therefore, aside from checking for allergens, I don't spend much time reading labels.

This past weekend we had a lot of errands to run and needed to get our groceries. We were near Meijer, and since they've started to add a lot of organics we decided just to get our groceries there this week.

Because I don't know which brands at Meijer are allergen free I had to read labels a bit more closely. What I am about to say may sound naive and ignorant, but I was shocked. I was absolutely in shock over the amount of "junk" that is in foods that are marketed as (and should be) healthy.

Now, if you've never been to a Meijer, it's similar to a Super Wal-Mart in know, one of those stores that has an aisle of no less than 200 brands of cereal to choose from, and probably 500 choices of "snacks" for your children (i.e. fruit snacks, cereal bars, crackers and the like). So, those of you familiar with the size of health food stores know that it is a bit overwhelming to have so many choices. And really, do we need that many? Do we need 200 varieties of cereal? And worse, do we need 200 varieties of cereal listing sugar and artificial color as their top ingredients? Do our children need "fruit" snacks in all shapes and sizes? Do our kids need "fruit" snacks at all? Why can't they just eat fruit?

I digress, so let me get back to the point........wouldn't you think that in a store filled with such an abundance that it would be easy to find food to feed your family? I thought so, but apparently I was wrong. I estimate that only about 10% of the stuff in that store would ever be purchased by me. Unfortunately, the rest of America doesn't feel this way, they don't read labels, and they blindly snag packages from the shelves. Most of us are fooled by the "health" claims on the packages (marketing is powerful stuff). Brown and/or green packaging does not equal health food.....READ THE LABELS!!

I think it's about time America wake up. Read food labels. Learn what you are putting into your bodies, and if you don't care what goes in your body, at least learn what you are putting into your children's bodies. Food should nourish us. Food should be healthy, be natural, and give us life (not cancer, heart disease, allergies, and death!!).

*Note: If you are not vegan, and you are feeding your kiddos cheese crackers (such as Cheez-It's, including organic versions), they contain yeast extract, which is a natural ingredient, but is actually MSG in disguise. Yeast extract is also found in a lot of canned soups and other processed goods. So, you will find some "unhealthy" ingredients in your HFS's as well, just watch out.

Just a few articles to get you started:

Hidden Dangers in Food

Danger to Children from Food and Drink Additives

Hidden Dangers of Food Additives

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A day of Good Eats

We started our Sunday with the Banana Split Bread that I posted about this morning. Our day of good eating continued at lunch time with these Mushroom-Spinach Phyllo Triangles from Vegan Planet. These were like a mini version of Spanikopita. The filling is made with spinach, silken tofu, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and just a pinch of nutmeg. They are a great lunch, but would be awesome to take along to a pitch in, or as an appetizer for a dinner party. They are just a little time consuming though, working with the delicate phyllo and all.

We spent our afternoon at a birthday party, where there just happened to be vegan cupcakes available!! Upon our return home I started on our dinner, which was the Avocado and Pinto Bean Enchiladas from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. These were so quick to put together, and mighty tasty as well. Mairin claimed she didn't like them, but she did manage to eat half of hers!! We had them with some blue corn chips and home made guacamole.

And to finish off our day of good vegan eating we had this Chocolate Chip Cookie Pudding Cake by Vegan Dad. If you like chocolate you have to make this is to.die.for!!! I didn't let mine cool quite long enough, so the "pudding" was a bit runny, but believe me, it doesn't matter, this stuff is seriously good.

I love vegan desserts. I've never been much of a dessert person until I became vegan, now I can't get enough dessert. Vegan desserts are sooo good. And, while this one in particular is a little heavy on the sugar, I like to remember what Rob says about vegan desserts........"they are healthier than most people's dinner!!".

Banana Split Bread

Last night I baked the Banana Split Tea Bread from Vegan Planet, and we ate it for breakfast this morning. This bread is awesome. It smelled just like banana splits in our kitchen as the bread was baking!!

It's basically a banana bread with chocolate chips, dried cherries, crushed pineapple (and nuts) added in. I followed Robin's recipe exactly, only subbing white whole wheat flour, and omitting the nuts. It was a nice Sunday morning breakfast, made even nicer by the fact that it was already waiting for us when we woke up. As you know, we usually have pancakes on Sunday mornings, but Stella requested pancakes yesterday morning instead!.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Italian Sausages

Last night I decided to try out the "sausages" I've been seeing all over the vegan blogs lately. I first saw this at Vegetarian Adventure (thanks for linking me to the recipe Jenny!!). I was a little nervous about how the sausages would go over. Before becoming veg Rob was a huge fan of sausages, and especially Italian sausages, so I knew that these sausages were really going to be scrutinized!!

I followed the recipe from Vegan Dad's blog exactly, only I made 4 sausages instead of 6. Once I got all of the ingredients mixed together I couldn't believe how much these things smelled like sausage. After I steamed the sausages I unwrapped them and refrigerated them until I was ready to grill. Before grilling the sausages I brushed them with olive oil, and continued to brush them with oil as I turned them. Don't they look freakishly like real sausage???

These were great, and Rob approved them!! They were similar to real sausage in nearly every way. The flavor was perfect. The only difference was that these were a bit drier than real pork sausage. I served the grilled sausages along side some farfalle pasta that was topped with a sauce of sauteed green pepper, onion and garlic. I also grilled some asparagus to go along with them.

Our barbecue will definitely be seeing more of these sausages as the weather gets nice.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Soy Dream" Cream

The weather has been so nice and warm lately. I've noticed the ice cream joints around town have all been packed this week. I love ice cream, it's my summer-time weakness (and the reason I gained a whopping 50 lbs with my first pregnancy!!), so I've been left wondering how I'll make it through the summer.

Double Chocolate-Chocolate Chip "Soy Dream" Cream, is how I plan on making it through. Oh my, this stuff was seriously good!! I used Robin Robertson's recipe for Double Chocolate Non Dairy Ice Cream from Vegan Planet. I used vanilla Soy Dream, and added about 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips in the last few minutes in the ice cream freezer. Choco-licious!!! By the way, yes I know that Hain makes Soy Dream Ice Cream, but it's so fun and satisfying to make it yourself, plus I like to be able to control the amount of sugar I add.

For dinner, at Mairin's request, we had lentil tacos again. These things are so good. We all really like them a lot. Actually, this was the recipe Mairin requested we turn in for her Preschool Class Cookbook (probably the only vegan recipe that will make it's way into the book!!)

Chinese Style Dumplings with Bok Choy and Broccoli

As you've probably gathered from my brief absence, there hasn't been much in the way of culinary creations in my kitchen of late. Rob was out of town for the last half of the weekend and first part of this week, so the girls and I have been surviving on lentil soup and quinoa-black bean salad for the last few days. Not to mention the weather has been beautiful and my computer usage has been minimal (I predict fewer blog posts as the weather gets nicer!).

So, of course, with Rob's return home I was excited to get back in the kitchen, and even more excited to try out this vegetable dumpling recipe from the current issue of Vegetarian Times. I generally flip through VT and mark all of the recipes that are labeled vegan, or that are easily veganizable. This recipe was labeled as vegan, so I was super excited to try it out.....I'm a sucker for anything Asian!!

I wrote down all of the ingredients I needed and headed to the store to get the stuff. Asparagus, edamame, bok choy, and won ton wrappers.....easy enough, right. Right, hit the produce section and the Asian foods section. No won ton wrappers in the Asian foods section....where to look now? Well, as I'm passing by the "vegan" section (tofu, tempeh, Vegenaise, FYH cheese, etc.) I spot the Nasoya won ton wrappers, great, I grab them and head home.

As I was getting the filling prepared and starting to form the dumplings I happen to glance at the back of the package......eggs. There are eggs in the freakin' won ton wrappers, WTH??? There goes my vegan dinner. I did find a recipe for vegan won ton wrappers on vegweb, but I'd already purchased these, my money had already gone to support animal cruelty, and I had no time for making and rolling out my own wrappers (maybe next time).

Now, I take total blame for not reading the label before I purchased the wrappers. I totally took it for granted that they were vegan, given that they were located in the section with all of the other "vegan" items at the store. Not to mention, VT labeled this recipe as vegan (and apparently after some Internet searching, vegan won ton wrappers are difficult to come by). At the very least VT could have put a disclaimer, warning that most commercially available won ton wrappers are not vegan.

Aside from their un-vegan-ness, the dumplings were very tasty. The filling is a mixture of ginger, garlic, edamame, asparagus, soy sauce and sesame oil. You just steam them with the bok choy for about 8 minutes or so, and they are ready. The only trouble I had was that the dumplings are quite sticky, and if you get them in the steamer basket touching, they are nearly impossible to separate without tearing them open.

Expect to see these, or something similar popping up here again, whenever I can find the time to make my own wrappers.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over My Kitchen

We're going to a birthday party tomorrow, and Stella can't have birthday cake (peanut cross contamination, yada, yada, yada). Not to mention, most birthday cake isn't likely to be vegan!! So, we have to come to birthday parties with alternatives. Our alternative to birthday cake this time will be Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting from The Joy of Vegan Baking. I used the recipe for Chocolate Cake and just made it into cupcakes. The recipe says that it will make 8 cupcakes.....I got 12 rather large ones from this recipe. The frosting recipe also says it is enough for 8 cupcakes.....again, I frosted all 12 and had extra frosting. The only changes I made were to the frosting recipe. Instead of 3 cups of confectioners sugar I used 2. They were plenty sweet, and I imagine they'd be almost sickeningly sweet if I'd added another cup of sugar. Mairin has a summer birthday so they are celebrating it next week at school, and she's requested these very cupcakes, so I think I'll try even less sugar when I make them next week.

We of course had to sample the cupcakes after lunch (actually, I made the girls eat lunch, cupcakes were my lunch.......sssshhhhhh!!) Wow, these are some delicious cupcakes. Better than any non-vegan recipe I've ever used. The recipe is on The Joy of Vegan Baking website, go make these now, don't wait another minute!!

By the way, I couldn't decide which photo I liked better, so I posted them both!!

Ziti with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Last night for dinner we had Ziti, Artichokes, and Olives with Spicy Tomato Sauce from Vegan Planet. This was very good, but not really something that I needed a recipe for. Actually, it was quite similar to something I made a while back. It was however, very tasty, and very quick to come together. It really only took the amount of time it takes for water to boil and pasta to cook. Don't you just love it when a good meal comes together in under 30 minutes!!??

My only substitution was rigatoni for the ziti.....they never have ziti at my grocery store. Otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter. Oh, I did put a sprinkle of Vegan Parmesan Topping on it. This recipe does lend itself to a zillion different add-ins though. Really, you could throw in just about anything you need to use up. Some chopped greens would be nice, or some sauteed mushrooms. Capers would have been delish, and even some bell pepper would have been nice. Anything, really. Go try it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Old Meal - New Way

Tonight was a meal comprised of all things we've had before, only I served them up in a new way tonight. It was Fried Chick-Un, only I served them sandwich style tonight on a whole grain roll slathered with Vegenaise. Again, the "chicken" was a hit. This stuff is seriously good. I can't wait for the weather to turn nice so we can take it on a picnic!! Along with the sandwiches we had Tantalizing Thai Slaw from Compassionate Cooks, and also some sweet potato fries. The meal was finished off with some of Dreena's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Not the greatest photo when shown is such a small format, but I couldn't resist putting it on here..........see that hand in the top right corner?? That's little Stella, getting impatient with my photography and ready to eat her "fench fies"!!!

Quinoa - The Super Food

I was having an e-mail conversation with my friend last night while she was working, and during the course of that conversation she inadvertently reminded me that I hadn't cooked with quinoa in awhile. That in turn reminded me that I'd never made the Quinoa-Black Bean Salad that I'd intended to make.

So, I got up this morning, pulled the Mason jar of quinoa out of the cupboard, pulled a bag of black beans out of the freezer, and set my mind to make this salad for lunch today. As soon as beans and corn were thawed I got to work. It's such a simple salad to throw together and it's all done in the time you wait for the quinoa to cook (about 20 minutes).

While I was making the salad it dawned on me that some of my non-veg friends who read my blog may not know what quinoa is. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is typically thought of as a grain, but is in fact a seed. Quinoa is a virtual powerhouse when it comes to nutritional value. It is very high in protein, and has a balanced set of amino acids, making it a complete protein, unlike most other sources. Quinoa is a great source of fiber and iron, and is gluten free. Before preparing quinoa it should be well rinsed. Quinoa is coated in a substance called saponin, which is it's natural protection from pests. The saponin tastes bitter and should therefore be rinsed off before using quinoa in your recipes.

You can find the recipe for the Quinoa-Black Bean Salad over at Jenny's blog, at the link I provided above. I did alter the recipe slightly, so I will post her recipe here, with my comments in red.

Quinoa- Black Bean Salad
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed (I used 2 cups) need at least 2 cups, I would recommend more
1 1/2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups corn, fresh, canned, or frozen
1 red bell pepper I used one roasted red pepper and 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
4 scallions, chopped (I used 6)
1 garlic clove, minced I used 2
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped (I used parsley) I used 1/2 cup of coriander
1/3 cup fresh lime juice I used 1/2 cup
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/3 cup olive oil (I used 2 Tbs) I used 1/4 cup

Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve under cold running water. Put quinoa into a pot with 2 1/4 cups water and one vegan bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. While quinoa is cooking, toss the beans, vinegar, corn, bell pepper, scallions, garlic and coriander (parsley) in a large bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the lime juice, salt and cumin and pour in the oil while whisking. When quinoa is done cooking, toss it with the beans and vegetables. Then, drizzle the lime mixture over quinoa and vegetables and toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Oh man, this stuff is so good. I could probably eat this stuff every day and not get sick of it. Hoping for the best, I also served this to the kiddos for lunch. To my surprise and delight they loved it, even the little omni-man that I babysit for gobbled it up!! Score one for quinoa!

Probably negating the super healthful lunch I consumed, I indulged in this little treat once I got the kids down for their naps. I made some extra coffee this morning, so I reserved the unused portion in the refrigerator. This is what's left of the coffee, with about 1/2 Tbs sugar stirred in and some vigorously shaken Silk creamer poured over top. MMMMM, iced coffee is so good! Really, caffeine and minimal amount of sugar aside, it's not that unhealthy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Orange Glazed Tofu

Tonight we had Orange Glazed Tofu. I've made the Orange Sesame Tofu from Eat Drink and Be Vegan before, and we thought it needed another layer of flavor. My plan was to add some crushed chili pepper or some chili paste. However, I wanted to have something the kids could eat, and adding heat would definitely rule that out. So, I decided to add some sweetness instead. I also topped it with cilantro this time, which just adds so much freshness. To accompany the tofu we had ED&BV's Coconut Lime Rice (also infused with cilantro), and some sauteed baby spinach with ginger. I think I've mentioned before how much I like tofu, and I think this may be my favorite way to eat it. It was so delicious!

Orange Glazed Tofu
1 block of extra firm tofu
zest of one large orange
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
3 Tbs Tamari soy sauce
2 Tbs Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbs Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbs Brown Sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions sliced
chopped cilantro

Press tofu wrapped in absorbent towel for about an hour to remove excess moisture. Slice tofu into 3 slices horizontally, then cut each slice into triangles (you will have 6 triangles). In a large baking dish combine ingredients, except scallions and cilantro. Lay tofu in marinade turning to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably more. Turn tofu once during marinading time. Heat oven to 400 and place baking dish uncovered in oven. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes, turn tofu, spoon marinade over top, and cook uncovered 15 more minutes or until marinade starts to glaze tofu. Serve garnished with scallion slices and cilantro.