Monday, March 31, 2008

busy days = easy food

I had mentioned before that I was thinking about going to nursing school, and this past month I decided to make it happen. It seems like the past two weeks or so I have been doing so much stuff to get back into school. Between going to advising sessions, soliciting for transcripts from my high school, associate’s and bachelor’s degree from 3 different Florida schools, filling out forms, getting shots (YIKES!) and trying to convince this college I should be coded as in-state (for tuition purposes), I have been beat. Plus my stomach has been bothering me, which is probably stress related since the thought of going back to school in a program that is completely different from what I have already done (I have a BA in Business Management) is a little scary. I have been out of school since 2002 and it seems weird to be essentially starting over. I'm excited but I have to take all these prerequisite classes like chemistry, anatomy & physiology and microbiology (all classes I haven't taken in about 8 years!) and take/pass a nursing entrance exam before I am even considered into the nursing program. So, it'll be a lot more work and a couple years before I am done, but it will be so rewarding.
Anyway, since I have been so busy, I have been eating a lot of faster food. Tonight, I had a veggie burger on a toasted bun with Vegenaise, onion, ketchup and mustard along with a side of tomatoes, avocado and carrot sticks. I will get back into cooking once I know everything is set to start school this summer, which should be any day!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Very Berry Vodka Sorbet

It got kinda hot here in Atlanta today, upper 70's (just the day before it was in the 30's, so that's a big change) and I was wanting a fruity/icy but not at all creamy treat. I wanted something to appease my sweet tooth and cool me down in the rising temperatures both trapped inside the kitchen and outside with spring fully upon us. First thing to come to mind: SORBET!
I learned that the trick to keeping a sorbet less icy and keeping it from forming into a solid rock, alcohol can be added since alcohol doesn't freeze and allows the mixture to remain a bit soft.

Very Berry Vodka Sorbet

1 cup of water
1 cup of natural sugar
12-14 ounce bag of Frozen mixed berries. My mix almost always has strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. If you wanna use other frozen fruit like peaches or cherries you could, you'd just need to adjust the sweetness depending on those fruits.
Juice from 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon high quality Vodka

First, make simple syrup in a small sauce pan by combining the sugar and the water together. Heat over medium heat until sugar is totally dissolved. Do not boil the simple syrup since it will take longer to cool. The point here is to just dissolve the sugar into the water.
In a large mixing bowl, add the frozen berries (not thawed) and pour lemon juice over the berries, stirring to ensure an equal coating of lemon juice hits each fruit. Next, pour the simple syrup over the lemoned berries. This will slightly warm the frozen berries, but the berries will have a frozen center still. With an immersion blender, blend everything (EXPECT the Vodka) together until all the skins are pulverized. With a fine mesh strainer, strain out the seeds from the base into a bowl and refrigerate until it is nice and cold (a couple hours for best results).
Once mixture is cold, follow your Ice Kream machine's suggested instructions for sorbet. My machine ran for about 20 minutes and then I drizzled in 1 tablespoon of vodka into the base while it was spinning. I let it spin for about another 5 minutes to ensure the vodka was mixed in well.
Eat it right away or store it in the freezer in a bowl with a tightly fitted lid so it doesn't get freezer burn.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Quadruple Bean & Double Corn Pie with Avocado

I'm not gonna lie. This meal was a lot of work. Although it was very tasty, between cooking chickpeas, black beans and dark red kidney beans, prepping the tomato/chili base and making a double corn cornbread, this is not something I will be making all the time. I started by boiling the three beans together in water, garlic and veggie bouillon cubes for about 2- 2 1/2 hours until just tender. I drained the beans and sautéed a sweet onion in a little olive oil along with chipotle and regular chili powders, cumin, paprika, garlic, salt, black pepper and cocoa powder. I added 2 cans of crushed tomatoes, which I further broke down with my immersion blender. I added the three beans into the tomato chili base and swirled in the forth bean component, a can of spicy refried pinto beans. In a separate bowl I made a cornbread topper that had pureed corn, applesauce, canola oil, sugar, all purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and chopped green onions. Once the chili beans were in a casserole dish, I topped it with the cornbread mixture and baked it at 450 for about 25 minutes. I think I might have dipped into it too soon because the chili beans hadn't thickened up as much as I would have liked and the very center of the cornbread wasn't completely done. While I did have a small plate of this with some sliced avocado, I did end up putting the casserole back in the oven for the cornbread to get completely baked. Not bad, but not worth cooking in a hot kitchen all day!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Penne Vodka

Our trip to and from Jacksonville was quite the whirlwind. Typically it takes about 4-5 hours from Atlanta to Jacksonville, but because it was a holiday weekend, the drive took closer to 6-7 hours (12-14 hours roundtrip). It was exhausting to say the least. The Tofurky turned out really tasty. I especially liked the wild rice stuffing in the inside of the roast. I will for sure make this roast again, but I think I will experiment with different basting liquids next time.
After all that cooking last week I haven't been really motivated to get back into the kitchen. Luckily, Jared was, and made us some lovely Penne Vodka from Veganomicon (pg.193). I wouldn't say it tasted like the vodka sauce I’m use to BUT it was really, really great as it was. We had the sauce over Whole Grain Penne and guess what???? We actually really loved the pasta over the all white-based kind. I don't think this pasta was 100% whole wheat, so, for now baby steps are being taken towards 100% whole-wheat varieties.
Jared also made garlic toasts and a raspberry vinaigrette spring mix salad with walnuts, grape tomatoes and sprouts. We were so hungry though we inhaled the salad before we could take a picture. It was very pretty and tasty.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quick Trip to Jacksonville, Fla

Jared's family is from and around the Jacksonville area in Florida and we decided to take a short trip to see them this weekend for Easter. Jared's family is always a lot of fun, especially his Grandmom, who we are staying with. Apparently, there will be tons of relatives in Jacksonville this weekend, some of which I haven't even met yet! I think typical Easter fare in his family (like a lot of families) is spiral ham with sides loaded with milk and butter products. No surprise, Jared and I are more than likely going to be the only vegans celebrating this weekend, so I have made a few things to take with us so we can enjoy a meal with family without having to stress.
I made my very first Roasted Tofurky, which I basted in olive oil, soy sauce and fresh sage. Jared has made this roast before and loves it. If it tastes as good as it smells, I know I'll love it too.
For sides, I made roasted potatoes with fresh rosemary & thyme, garlic and olive oil, as well as fresh steamed green beans.
For a sweet treat, and to warm over wary non-vegans, I also made some of my chocolate chip pecan cookies, which is always a huge hit.
I am also bringing cereal and soymilk for breakfast and a raw nut mixture of cashews, almonds, pecans and pistachios.
I hope everyone has a Happy Easter and a lovely weekend with friends and family!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Carrot Pineapple Cupcakes with Coconut Maple Icing

When I first read Dr. Stonielove's Nonfat Carrot Cupcakes recipe, I thought I had everything I needed to make these beauties. Then half way into reading the recipe more thoroughly, I discovered I didn't have maple extract and didn't have enough maple syrup for the sweetener part of the cake recipe. I also don't care for raisins so I decided to go on with the "skeleton" recipe and improvise with what I had and liked. Instead of maple extract, I used vanilla extract. and instead of using 1/2 cup of maple syrup, I used about 2 tablespoons of unbleached granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. I also added the juice of one 8 oz can of crushed pineapple, which yielded about 1/2 cup of juice and I used orange juice for the remaining 1/2 cup of liquid. I also added the drained crushed pineapple to the recipe. These turned out remarkably well considering I made a lot of changes. My tongue could tell there wasn't any fat in the cupcake recipe but luckily, the icing made up for it. For the icing, which is NOT nonfat, I only had to substitute the maple extract with vanilla extract and added a tablespoon or so of pure maple syrup. I kinda wished the icing had a bit of Tofutti cream cheeze in it to cut the sweetness down a bit, but I didn't have any to add.
All and all, this was a success. Even though I changed a few things, Dr. Stonielove gets the credit for these half healthy, half decadent cupcake treats! You rock Dr. Stonielove!
Just iced and dusted with cinnamon!
About to be devoured!
Oh, yeah! As the big bite shows, these rocked!

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day Twice Baked Potatoes

The kitchen has been pretty inactive the past week or so with me not really wanting to cook and then have to clean up. I haven't even felt like grocery shopping! Today though, I was bit inspired and motivated by some of my left over Naughty Goddess Dressing I did make this past weekend to dip veggies in (we were serious snackers this weekend with sandwiches, chips and veggies with various dips, etc). My Naughty Goddess Dressing has Tofutti cream cheeze, Tofutti sour kream, Vegenaise, a bunch of green onions (whites and greens), a handful of fresh parsley, garlic powder, salt, celery salt, black pepper and agave nectar all blended together until it turns a very nice shade of green. I baked 4 medium Russet potatoes at 425 for 60 minutes. Once they were baked I carefully cut the very top off of each potato, scooped the insides out and added a little plain soymilk, a generous amount of Naughty Goddess Dressing, a little more salt and pepper and combined everything with a potato masher. I then stuffed the hollowed out potato boat skins until they were over flowing. For some of the potatoes, I also add a little Vegan Cheddar block and fake bacon bits to make "loaded" versions. I then baked the stuffed potatoes at 425 for about 20 minutes or until the tops were slightly browned.
As you can see, they turned out quite nice and had a lovely (and natural) green hue for St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Very Happy (Birthday) Meal, Just the Facts, Ma'm

First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY JARED!!! I made one of his favorite dishes: Red Curry Thai Tofu with steamed cabbage, carrots and broccoli with jasmine rice topped with green onions.

I have been tagged by Billy from Vegan Talk for five facts about myself. Fun!!!

1. I am seriously considering going back to school, possibly in the medical field, probably nursing school to become an R.N. I have been thinking about this for years and it crosses my mind at least once a week. Both my mom and dad are nurses and it would be an honor to follow in their footsteps in a most respected path. It would most likely end my job hunting. I can admit that fear has stopped me from pursuing this but I am tired of being lost.

2. I collect stickers. I especially love cute stickers like animal in space suits (which Jared got me from Borders), Hello Kitty, butterflies and flowers. I have a severe weakness for them, stopping me in my tracks every time I see some at the store. I love to put them on envelopes and letters. I am eternally 5 years old in this area.

3.I love grocery/food shopping. I could easily spend an hour in any supermarket, farmers market, specialty or international grocery store. I love planning meals, making lists, shopping and then putting away my loot.

4. I have recently picked up playing guitar again after a long hiatus. I forgot how lovely it is to create something as pure as music. Jared and I are planning on starting a husband/wife group and hope to start recording soon.

5. I am obsessed with watching shows about crime, real or fiction. I love shows like Law and Order, the First 48 and pretty much anything on TruTV (formerly Court TV) or A&E. If it's mob related, even better. My obbession started with Unsolved Mysteries when I was a kid. The music in that show still scares me a little. Ironically, I hate horror movies. Funny how I am afraid of stuff that will probably never happen to me but fascinated with stuff that could.

I'd like to hear from everybody, but since I have to pick five, I'll pick Theresa from The Tropical Vegan, VeggieGirl, Kamutflake Girl, Leigh from Raspberry Swirl and
Vegan Cowgirl (doesn't her name rock?!)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Labor of Love Cupcakes

I love Jared, that's clear. I have to say though, the biggest proof of my love and devotion to Jared is the fact that I tackled these cupcakes. I'm talking about the Brooklyn vs. Boston Cream Pie Cakes (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) I made for Jared's birthday tomorrow. These were a multi-step venture not for the faint of heart. I started making these cupcakes at 5pm and just got done around 9 pm! These are the days I am glad I'm not employed because I couldn't see making these in an evening after a least an 8 hour shift and an hour or two commute. The cupcakes themselves weren't that difficult, just measure, mix, bake and cool, nor was the chocolate ganache topping. The hard part was the Vanilla Vegan Pastry Cream filling. This was the first time I used Agar Flakes and boy was it labor intensive. I had to whisk the Agar/Soymilk concoction for at least 15 minutes just to get the "cream" base smooth. After about 20 minutes of cooking, the Agar/Soymilk/Arrowroot base kinda looked like silly putty, not the most appetizing looking stuff. Once the sugar, vanilla extract and silken tofu was blended together with the base, I guess I can see how it tasted and looked like pastry cream. To fill the cupcakes with the filling, I had to make a whole with my impeccably clean finger in the middle of the cupcake, which sounds easy but I kept accidentally blowing out the sides. I did successfully fill each cupcake with the filling, allowing the cupcake liner to hold everything together, and top each with a generous amount of ganache frosting (even though it did ooze over the sides). After all the measuring, mixing, whisking, boiling, cooling, stuffing and topping, I sure do hope Jared likes these babies!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Silky Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

Oh wow, sometimes I even amaze myself. This pie I made today is really, really awesome. It kinda tastes like chocolate mousse meets peanut butter pie meets heaven. I HAVE been eating way better but Jared has a birthday coming up (on 3/11) so, instead of celebrating just one day, we usually celebrate for at least a weekend, if not a whole week. So, to start off the celebration I made him this pie. Something this good shouldn't be kept secret, so I will share. You'll have to make your own though, unless you come over!

Pie Crust:
1 sleeve of Cinnamon (no Honey added) Graham Crackers
4 generous tablespoons of Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine)
1/4 cup of natural vegan sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, pulverize the graham crackers until it is a fine crumb and transfer to a mixing bowl. Melt the margarine and add to the graham cracker crumbs along with the sugar and combine until everything is moist. Add mixture to a 9 (or 10) inch pie pan and form wet crumb to the top of pie tin. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool and make filling.

1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
2 tablespoons (maybe more) of Vanilla Soy Milk
1 12 oz box of Firm Silken Tofu (I used Mori Nu)
6 generous tablespoons of Natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon agave nectar (this is optional, I just like the flavor)

In a small glass mixing bowl over a sauce pan of simmering water (double boiler action!), melt the chocolate chips and soy milk together. Once melted, set aside to cool a minute. In the same food processor that was used for the pie crust, combine the tofu, peanut butter and agave nectar (if using) until completely smooth. You may need to scrap down the sides a few times. While the tofu/peanut butter/agave is mixing in the food processor, pour in the melted chocolate chip/soy milk mixture until everything is well incorporated. If the mixture isn't pourable (it shouldn't be totally watery though) add a touch more soy milk. Taste to make sure it is sweet enough (I don't know . . . you may have a crazy sweet tooth). Add the mixture to the baked graham cracker crust and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm (I let mine set for over 2 hours).

If you have some kind of soy whipped kream, add to the top for extra naughtiness.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

An Update, Simple Food

I've had a few people inquire regarding my arm and job situation. Well, I am still hurting but healing slowly. I have more range of motion with my elbow but my wrist, which is what I actually fell on, is taking a bit longer to heal. I am able to do basic knife skills, cooking/baking and dishes but I am unable to left heavy items like big pots of water for cooking pasta. I have taken back most of the kitchen responsibilities but Jared does still help a lot with household things I struggle with like taking the garbage out, lifting laundry and washing the heavy pots and pans. He is my hero and I am a VERY lucky lady.
The other update is that I am still unemployed, which is getting more and more depressing. Thankfully, Jared is plugging away at work to support us. So, as usual, I keep myself busy with cooking, baking, recipe writing, resume tweaking and job scouring. I am one of those weird people that actually like to work, so it's tough to be without a job, unless you count being a home maker, which I do. Atlanta's job market is just too small for a college graduate (with a Business Management degree) with about 5 years experience in the field I came from (mutual funds/investing). I'm up for changing paths but it seems the only jobs are either super entry level, which employers feel I am too qualified for OR executive level, which of course I know I am not yet qualified for. NOTHING IN BETWEEN, WHICH IS MADDENING! If anyone in Atlanta knows of a job opening, let me know! If all else fails, I could always go back to school!
Anyways . . . that's my sad story for the moment. If ya'll could send me out some good vibes, it would be much appreciated!
Since being a little congested, my appetite hasn't been up for much. I have made a few simple sides and something I have been meaning to make for a while now, Tempeh Hot Wingz.
I am a huge fan of veggie plates, so I made some roasted red potatoes with olive oil, garlic, fresh thyme and fresh rosemary and kale that I sautéed in a little olive oil and sea salt. The potatoes were of course awesome, but I decided I'm not the biggest fan of kale. Maybe I just didn't cook them the way they shine, but I'm not sure I'll buy them again.
Ever since I saw the recipe for Tempeh Hot Wingz from Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk floating around I knew I wanted to try them. I'm not sure why I wanted to try them because I wasn't the biggest chicken wing fan pre-vegan days, but I liked the idea of baking on the crispy coating and dunking them a deliciously spicy and sweet sauce. What I took from this is I don't really like Tempeh all that much. For me, I just don't care for the texture. Jared liked the Tempeh Wingz and I liked the coating and sauce, so we'll make this again but with tofu instead. I made a "ranch" style dressing to dip the wingz in.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pesto Bread, Blueberry Muffins, Mac & Cheeze Plate

I have been fascinated with bread making ever since I was a kid. Between my Grammie's yeast rolls and biscuits and my Dad's pizza crusts and breads, I have been around good homemade breads my whole life. I mentioned before that my Dad found me a bread machine at a garage sale and I have been a bread machine girl every since. I still love the idea (and practice) of mixing, kneading and forming dough with my own hands, but the bread machine does provide a consistent product. This week I merged the use of my bread machine and my own hands by making a pesto spelt and whole wheat bread. I got the general idea from one of my fellow bloggers, Have Cake, Will Travel! I added both spelt and whole wheat pastry flours with some water, vital wheat gluten, brown sugar, sea salt, pesto and yeast to the bread machine and used the Dough setting. About 2 hours later, after a thorough kneading and long rise, I formed the dough into 4 loaves and baked them in the oven for about 30 minutes until they were golden brown. The bread turned out chewy and full of flavor between the 2 nutty flours and the bright (and mind you, leftover) pesto.
Baking in the oven:
Right out of the oven and cooling:
With steel cut oats becoming a bit boring in the mornings, I decided to make some muffins. With trying to stay in line with my healthier eating, a low fat muffin was in order. So, I turned to the Damn Tasty Vegan Baking Guide and made the Blueberry Streusel Muffins but cut the oil in the recipe with apple sauce. They did indeed taste healthier, but very delicious nonetheless.
Tonight I made one of my favorite things: Mac and Cheeze! I used quinoa shells instead of a traditional white flour pasta. The quinoa pasta wasn't as good as what my palate is use to but I think over time I will eventually get use to non-white pastas. I used the Soul Veg Mac and Cheeze recipe (the one they use at the ATL restaurants) I found online here, which is very naughty but between portion control and using a healthier pasta, I didn't feel as bad eating it. To go with the Mac and Cheeze I roasted some very sweet (and cheap!) asparagus and made a salad with mixed baby spring mix and cherry tomatoes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Black Bean Soup, Fruit Salad

As I mentioned in my last post, I haven't been feeling all that great. I'm congested, have a nasty cough and a bit of a sore throat. Since Saturday, I haven't been too excited about being in the kitchen but wanted to use up some of the produce I got last week. To soothe me, I decided to make a simple and quick Black Bean soup and Fruit Salad for dessert.
The Black Bean Soup had black beans (dried that were soaked over night and cooked), red onion, garlic, oregano, salt, black pepper, chipotle powder and veggie stock. I mashed up the beans with a potato masher and added the veggie stock until it got to a soupy consistency. I topped the soup with quartered cherry tomatoes and avocado that was left over from the sandwiches I made for our picnic this past weekend. Very comforting!
The Fruit Salad was super easy. I just diced up a golden delicious apple and mango and coated them with juice from half a lemon and then threw in the blackberries, blueberries and cut up strawberries. I think fruit based treats are my favorite way to end to any meal.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Signs of Spring

True signs of spring for us are tax season, picnics and allergies.
As I've mentioned before, Jared works as a stockbroker. Under normal circumstances, it can be a stressful job. Throw in tax season and Jared's job can be down right bad. This week ended especially awful for Jared, so I made him one of the first things he eyed in My Sweet Vegan: Peanut Butter Bombs!!! Okay, okay, I had one or two myself and they were good, but Jared really needed them, I swear! Little did he know, I had a great Saturday planned too. (Sorry for the blurry pic, we were hypnotised by these delicious and naughty treats.)
I decided to surprise Jared with a picnic. For Saturday's picnic, I made some lower fat potato salad on Friday night. That's right, lower fat potato salad. Yes, I did use Yukon gold potatoes and a little Vegenaise BUT to make a very creamy dressing for the potato salad I used soy milk and lemon juice. The lemon juice thickened the soymilk and gave it a tangy bite. I also added celery, grated onion, mustard, salt, black pepper and Herbes de Provence. Of course, Jared saw the potato salad and got into it when he got home from work Friday so I told him of our picnic plans.
Saturday morning came and I surprised Jared with breakfast in bed. I made him banana waffles with mixed fresh berries and maple syrup. I first let the blackberries, blueberries and strawberries macerate in maple syrup while I made the waffle batter.
I made the Banana Nut waffles from Veganomicon, minus the nuts. On top I added the mixed berries with maple syrup and little whipped Earth Balance. These were so good.
After breakfast and lounging around a bit, I made sandwiches for our picnic lunch. I got some ciabatta rolls from the farmers market and slathered homemade pesto that I made with that lovely basil in my last post. I used the pesto recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. I also added cucumber, avocado (just a little), red onion and tomato.
So, we packed up our food, blanket and dog Sweetpea and headed over to Grant Park. We couldn't have asked for a better day. It was in the upper 60's and very sunny.
There was also these beautiful flowers surrounding us, (which I think were actually weeds . . . but, hey, sometimes weeds have the prettiest flowers) that reminded me that allergy season is around the corner.
Sure signs of spring, maybe, but I am feeling like a cold is in the making so winter may very well still have it's grip on me. Hopefully, it is just allergies come early.