Thursday, January 31, 2008

un-sushi appetizer

Jared and I are eating out less to save money. Vegan sushi isn't expensive, per se, but when you order a salad, drink and factor in a tip, eating sushi out can get expensive. I was craving some sushi yesterday but realized I didn't have any nori wrappers . . . So, I made a un-sushi dish that incorporated all of the things I love in sushi and had on hand. I made a sweet & spicy sesame sauce with soy sauce, agave nectar, sesame seed oil, sriracha, green onions and black & white sesame seeds to put on top of thinly sliced avocado. I also made some steamed rice that I covered in more black & white sesame seeds. This was so good and surprisingly filling.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

treats from a friend, fruit shake

Jared and I have really, really great friends. We are fortunate enough to have the same friends and some of our friendships have lasted as long as our own relationship (7 years). I met our friend Jon through Jared because they were both guitar players in a band called The Chain Link Disaster. Jon and I instantly bonded over our love of music and of cooking/baking. The cool thing about Jon is that once Jared and I became vegan he immediately started experimenting with vegan treats for us. So, much to my surprise, when I got back from Tampa, Jon had mailed us 4 kinds of HOMEMADE vegan treats all the way from Brooklyn! He made us oatmeal raisin cookies (although they are mini muffin shaped), brown sugar cookies, a giant cinnamon sugar cake thingy and a spiced fruit cake. The oatmeal raisin cookie/muffin treats are my favorite (can you tell? I have 2 on my plate). What a great guy! Sorry ladies, he's taken.
I haven't been too hungry at night, which is a good thing, so for dinner lately I've been drinking my dinners in the form of fruit shakes or smoothies. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but I have had several smoothie/juice bar jobs in my day. In fact, I am known as the Smoothie Queen in my family. So, I am fortunate to know how to make really great shakes and smoothies at home. Tonight's drink was less like a smoothie, since I didn't use fruit juice and more like a shake, since I used soy milk. This beauty is 1 cup of vanilla soy milk, 1/2 a pint of fresh blueberries and 1 medium frozen banana. That’s it!

Monday, January 28, 2008

back from sunny Florida

Well, it was a whirlwind trip. I managed to see about 15 family members and most of my old co-workers (which is a LOT) in seven days time. It was fun but I'm glad I am back in Atlanta with Jared, Sweetpea, Peeny and the colder weather.
First things first: I got to meet my new nephew Gabriel. He is a cuddle bug! He's winking at you.
I got to hang with my dad watching cooking shows, talking about, making and eating food. Always fun!
I managed to still eat beans everyday while on vacation.
My dad made this white bean stew which was very tasty.
I also made this very colorful salad with my famous House Dressing.
I did make these naughty cookies for myself and the family:
But I justified a few cookies since I was eating some of my Grammie and Poppie's lovely pink grapefruit from their trees.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

flight cancelled

Even though my flight was postponed until tomorrow, I still think snow is beautiful. At least I'm not stranded at some airport.
I got to hang out with Jared one more day (he's about to throw a snow ball).
I also got to build my first snow person. I'm not sure if this is a snowman or snow woman but they have strawberry eyes and a carrot nose. Jared thinks this is a snowman and the twig is a moustache. I think it could be a snow woman who is frowning.

Friday, January 18, 2008

vegan travels

I am flying to Tampa tomorrow to see my family and new baby nephew. This will be the first time I will be flying and having to wait at airports as a vegan. So, knowing that airports are full of fast food chains and not so great snack options at the gift shops, I am going prepared. Initially, I didn't expect to pack so much food BUT it might snow tomorrow (definitely gonna rain), so I wanted to be prepared for any flight delays. I have my laptop with loads of good music, this wonderful book I'm reading called Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong by James W. Loewen and this lovely spread of goodies including Japanese Rice Snacks, Animal Cookies, homemade cheezy crackers and a throw together mix I made out of dried cranberries, raw cashews, roasted almonds and dried coconut chunks. I am prepared in case the mood strikes me for something sweet, crunchy, salty or just in need for a little protein.
Here's hoping to no flight delays. Now I see why snow is frustrating for those who get it all the time!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

SNOW! and crudités lunch for one

Alright you northerners, excuse my utter joy for snow! It actualy snowed in Atlanta last night for a couple hours. This was the FIRST TIME I had seen snow. It was so beautiful and definitely in my top 10 things for coolest experiences I have had so far in my life. I don't know how to explain it other than, peaceful and amazing. There wasn't enough snow on the ground to make snow angels, but I did get to throw a few snow balls!
Sweetpea seemed unimpressed:
I, on the other hand, was elated:
It's no longer snowing but it is really cold. Which reminds me of another of my resolutions for this year (and forever): to eat more veggies and fruit! I know that sounds odd coming from a vegan, but I still find myself not eating as many veggies and fruits as I would like. So, today I made my naughty goddess dressing (because I am the pleasantly PLUMP vegan if you recall) I posted about before to have with some carrots, broccoli and bagel chips I made (leftover/stale bagels sliced thin, baked at 420 with olive oil cooking spray, garlic salt, onion powder and natural sugar until golden brown).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

it was a good day!

My sister had her baby today! His name is Gabriel and he is adorable. He is the first grandbaby for my dad and step mom, so he is one popular kid right now. I've only seen him in pictures but I love him already and get to meet him this weekend. On Saturday, I'm going to Tampa for a week to hang with my family, especially the newest member.
I know it's gonna drag until then!
In honor of such a great day, I made some awesome Triple Berry Ice Kream. I made this sweet (but healthy) treat while listening to Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life (on vinyl of course and really loud), dancing around, so happy!
Happy Birthday Gabriel!

Triple Berry Ice Kream
1 box of Mori-Nu tofu (I had extra firm, but I think firm or soft style would be better)
1 cup of Vanilla Soy Milk
1/3 cup of Maple Syrup
1 tablespoon of Strawberry Preserves or Jam
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Strawberry Extract
1-1 1/2 cups of Frozen Berry Mix chopped a bit (I used the rest of the strawberry/blackberry/blueberries I used in the muffins in the previous post. I probably used half of a 10 oz bag)
A couple drizzles of Agave Nectar

In a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender (what I used) blend the tofu, soy milk, maple syrup, strawberry preserves/jam and extracts together until very smooth. Place in your ice kream maker and follow the instructions for your machine. It took about 20-25 minutes in my machine. In the last few minutes of blending, add the chopped mixed berries until well incorporated. I also drizzled in some agave nectar in the last few seconds of blending since the berries cut the sweetness of the ice kream base.
Eat right away for soft serve style (my fave) or store in an airtight container in the freezer. It gets really hard; so let it sit out for a few minutes before serving if you plan on freezing and eating it later.

Soft Serve Style:

Monday, January 14, 2008

gotta love comfort food and the Yellow Rose Recipes cookbook

Ever since I got my copy of Yellow Rose Recipes on Saturday I have been non-stop in the kitchen. Joanna's cooking style and ingredient lists are very similar to my own recipes, so I was very excited to get my hands on it. This cookbook is a great example of how I would want my own cookbook done: comfortable, healthy (or at least with health in mind) and beautiful!
The first thing I made was the Baked Mac and Cheese (pg. 136) because I am out to find the perfect vegan mac and cheese. This version started like the rest I've tried- cooking the pasta and making a roux with nutritional yeast but something I had never tried was using vegan cheese in a recipe. I have been pretty disappointed with most of the faux cheeses on the market, but so far my favorite cheddar style faux cheese has been the Vegan Cheddar block from Galaxy Nutritional Foods. It still doesn't taste like cow's milk cheese, but it is a nice alternative, especially in this recipe! I did make a couple changes to the recipe because, well, that's what I do. Instead of rice milk, I used soy milk, used crunched up whole wheat crackers on top and I also added ground mustard and onion powder because salt, pepper and nutmeg just didn't give it enough punch. With my adjustments for our taste buds, it is the best mac and cheese I have had being vegan. I had a little mac and cheese with a big salad that had spring mix, tomatoes, onions, red bell pepper, avocado and a homemade sherry vinaigrette.
I also made the Chicken Style Seitan (pg. 128) despite not clearly understanding the cooking directions. I wasn't exactly sure how long I should have boiled the seitan, so I only boiled them for a few minutes and then let it set for about an hour in the hot broth. Whatever I did, it worked. This whole process took a long time for some reason, all the measuring I think . . . but it was still very tasty. I coated a couple pieces in a little all-purpose flour and garlic salt and sprayed a fry pan with olive oil cooking spray and browned these babies up!
The last thing I made out of Yellow Rose Recipes was the Very Berry Muffins (pg. 24), again with a few adjustments. Instead of egg replacer powder (not a big fan) I used ground flax seed and water slurry. I couldn't find any cheap fresh berries at the farmer's market so I used a strawberry, blueberry and blackberry frozen mix and added a little strawberry extract along with the vanilla extract to up the berry punch. The last adjustment I made was that I added a container of strawberry soy yogurt because I like the taste and texture soy yogurt lends to muffins. They turned out very good and made the house smell like sweet berries.
This last picture was from dinner last night. I found a purple cauliflower at the farmer's market that was just screaming out my name. While I don't cook things that scream I ended up roasting this head of cauliflower with just a bit of olive oil cooking spray and salt. I also made garlic herb mashed potatoes that were made with roasted garlic, fresh chives and fresh parsley. The green beans were blanched and then cooked in large fry pan on very high heat with a bit of canola oil until they were a little charred. I added soy sauce, agave nectar, sesame oil and sesame seeds to the green beans at the last minute. This is just a standard veggie plate special at our house, but because the cauliflower was so beautiful, I had to post about it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

a hearty breakfast for a day in the mountains

The mountains ARE my favorite place to be of all of this beautiful world's settings (this may change as I travel more, but for now, that's it). I've mentioned before that I spent most summers with my Grammie and Poppie in the house (which they built themselves!) in the mountains of Tennessee, so my love for the mountains started there. Jared and I live about 2 hours away from decent mountains in Georgia. Not having enough time to go back to my stomping grounds in Tennessee this weekend, we decided to take a quick afternoon trip up in Fort Mountain National Park for a little nostalgic nudge to my summers spent and a hike since it was gorgeous out.
No hike should begin without a very hearty breakfast, not something I am generally used to. Since I hadn't had tofu in a while, I decided to make my VERY FIRST TOFU SCRAMBLE!!! I guess I should mention also that my darling Jared bought me a copy of the Yellow Rose Recipes cookbook (which can be ordered at Cosmo's), which is where I got the spice blend idea for the scramble. Except for the spices, I didn't follow the recipe 100% but it turned out well. Our scramble had red peppers and onions cooked for a few minutes until soften and two veggie sausage patties chunked up. I set the peppers, onions and veggie sausage chucks off to the side. Next for the tofu, I sprayed my pan with Olive oil spray and let the tofu firm and crisp up. Once they were cooked I used a few shakes of the book's Tofu Scramble seasoning mix recipe, along with a couple splashes of soy sauce. I add the peppers, onions and veggie sausage chunks back in with the now seasoned tofu. I also used my new cookbook's technique for making homefries, which included parboiling the potatoes the night before and chopping, browning and seasoning the next morning. I added salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and dried rosemary in ours. Jared said they were his favorite! I also served sliced avocado and a small bowl of the last of the sliced strawberries.
Jared's plate filled up! He had his strawberries in a bowl off to the side.
My plate's more modest portions were able to fit my berries on the plate.
So, full bellies and all, we headed to the mountains.
This first picture was at a lookout going up the mountain towards the park. It just is so peaceful for me to be able to see and feel the mountains again.
Jared and I at a waterfall we came upon on the hiking trail. If it was warmer, I would have stuck my feet in!
Jared being my Mountain Man, although holding MY hiking stick (I found along the way the start of the hike. Isn't nature cool!) as his prop. He's goofy like that!
Lastly, this was me checking out this lovely lush green carpet-like moss on some cool rocks.
Notice, I got my hiking stick back!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

strawberries and pancakes = YUM!

I'm not sure if the rest of the country is so fortunate, but being so close to Florida, I've been able to find wonderful strawberries pretty much all year. Actually being from Florida, my dad and I use to pick our own strawberries . . . so, I am use to having great strawberries and was happy to find some Florida berries at the farmers market this week.
I decided to make pancakes with sliced strawberries. I sliced the strawberries and coated them with maple syrup to macerate them a bit.
The pancake batter is pretty simple. It's only 1 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, a pinch of sea salt, 1 tablespoon agave nectar, 2 tablespoons of canola oil and 1 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons of soy milk (for a CREPE like batter use 1 1/4 cups of soy milk). I also added about a teaspoon of strawberry extract to my batter this time to intensify to berry flavor. I cooked the silver dollar sized pancakes in Earth Balance and topped them with the macerated strawberries.

Monday, January 7, 2008

tomato bean soup and whole wheat maple bread

Another unspoken New Year's resolution I have had swirling in my head has been to eat some sort of bean/pea/legume each and everyday. I have always been a big nerd about nutrition and since becoming vegan, it's gotten worse (I have a Vegan Food Pyramid as the background on my computer). It occurred to me that these small but hearty, unassuming but flavorful little gems are even more important to me now than they ever have been. The great news is that I love all sorts of beans/peas AND most importantly, my body tolerates them extremely well. Today I am consciously making this an everyday thing (poor Jared . . . I may have to pick up some Beano!) although since New Year’s Day, I have eaten at least one serving of beans everyday!
Today for lunch I made a tomato bean soup that started out with a carrot, a rib of celery, a few garlic cloves, half of a sweet onion and a good sized sweet potato all diced up and cooked in about 1 teaspoon of olive oil. I also added a bay leaf, a bit of curry powder, oregano, sea salt, black pepper and a little celery salt. I added 2 cups of veggie stock, 2 cups of water and a whole big can of crushed tomatoes with about a tablespoon of natural sugar. For the beans I threw in about 1/3 cup of dry brown lentils and about a cup of leftover cooked garbanzo beans I had in the fridge. Topped with parsley, I am one happy girl!
As a side to my soup, I had a slice of this amazing loaf of Whole Wheat Maple bread I made yesterday. This loaf was made in my bread machine and only had whole-wheat pastry flour, vital wheat gluten, water, yeast, maple syrup, sea salt and Earth Balance margarine. This loaf came out dense and chewy, perfect for soup.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

picadillo with white rice, avocado tomato black bean and corn salad

Yes, more Spanish food. This time I made some Cuban inspired picadillo with white rice, which is an adaptation of picadillo my step mom makes. I started with sweating a sweet onion and green bell pepper in olive oil. I added tomato sauce, tomato paste, tofu crumbles and a touch of vegan Worcestershire sauce. Once that heated through, I added about a third of a cup of raisins and a couple tablespoons of pimento stuffed green olives . . . YES, I know, two things on my list of foods I dislike but part of my new year's resolutions is to eat more of the foods I think I don't care for. I'm not completely sold on raisins or green olives, but these are traditional ingredients in picadillo and I can't mess with tradition. I also splashed in a bit of red wine vinegar at the last minute.
I decided to make picadillo because my step mom emailed me about a avocado tomato salad she made that she added corn to. I decided, in honor of her picadillo, to also make a version of the salad she emailed me about. My salad started with lime juice, red wine vinegar, black pepper, sea salt and natural sugar, chopped avocado, diced tomatoes and diced sweet onion. I then drained and rinsed a can of black beans and a can of sweet corn and added them to the salad along with a glug or two of olive oil. Perfection!
I plated the dish with the picadillo on white rice and the salad separate, but I decided to mix the picadillo and white rice with the salad and it was even better! THANKS FOR THE IDEA DELIA!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

my favorite rice dish: Arroz con Gandules

Growing up, my mom's ex-husband's mother lived with us. She was the cutest, most sweet grandma you could have. She was from Puerto Rico and we of course called her Abuela (Spanish for grandma). There are a handful of people in my life who have helped define how I cook, eat and taste food and she was for sure one of these people. We had beans and rice with plantains just about every night with whatever else we were having. On special occasions (Christmas, Easter, etc.) we had Arroz con Gandules, which is rice with pigeon peas. This is a dish that is simple to make and was very easily veganized. Typically it has some sort of pork product, used mostly for flavor. Instead of pork, I just used extra oil since we all know fat is flavor. You can use canned pigeon peas (gandules) but today I cooked a half-pound of the dried peas for about an hour and a half, drained them and set them aside. In a large pan I heated up 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup canola oil with 2 packets of Sazon with Coriander and Annatto (this would be a seasoning blend you should be able to find in the Spanish/Ethnic section of your grocery store). Next, I added 2 1/2 cups of long grain white rice and lightly cooked the rice in the seasoned oil for a few minutes (like you would when you pilaf a rice). I then added 1/2 cup of Sofrito, which is a tomato, green bell pepper, onion and garlic sauce that is used as a base to many Spanish dishes (you can make this homemade, but I used a bottled store bought kind . . . again, you should be able to find in the Spanish/Ethnic section of your grocery store). I also added in about 3/4 of a can of diced tomatoes but ALL of the juice from the diced tomatoes (or you could just use 1 can of tomato sauce and not use any diced tomatoes). I squeezed the tomatoes in my hands before adding them to the pot so there wouldn't be huge chunks of tomatoes in the dish. Next, I added 4 cups of veggie stock, the reserved cooked gandules, 2 tablespoons of pimento stuffed Spanish green olives (left whole), sea salt and black pepper to taste. I stirred the pot once, covered it with a tightly fitted lid and cooked on medium low heat for about 20 minutes. DO NOT STIR THE RICE WHILE IT COOKS. Doing so will make the rice all sticky, starchy and just plan gummy (called "amogollao") Yuck!
There is something magical that only an Abuela can make happen to the bottom of this rice dish which is called "pegao" (a crispy layer of rice that everyone fights for when it is served). It takes a great deal of oil and a watchful eye. I attempted but failed at being able to have "pegao" and I think it was because my heat was to high (cos, it got a bit burnt) . . . Although, I think, I just don't have that special touch my Abuela had.
Not yet any way.