Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the awesome, the awful, the so-so

I haven't felt very hungry lately and so, I haven't been super inspired to cook or bake. I think this may be a good time to thumb through my many cookbooks for ideas and inspiration. This week especially, it seems more often than not, I just haven't been very satisfied by anything I eat . . . even stuff I normally love.
I'll start with something I wasn't even in the mood for (but Jared was) that ended up being really awesome. Keeping in line with my plan to get rid of aging pantry/fridge/freezer items, I made a tofu potato skillet type breakfast with red potatoes, firm tofu, red and orange bell peppers (sliced and frozen), a part of a red onion from the fridge and a ton of dried spices and spice blends. In one big frying pan I steamed then fried red potatoes in canola oil with salt, black pepper and a healthy dose of Sarah Kramer's "Needs a Little Extra" spice blend out of La Dolce Vegan! Once the potatoes were cooked through, I added the slightly thawed bell peppers that I ran my knife through along with the diced red onion. In a smaller separate pan, I fried up diced and then slightly smashed tofu in a little canola oil with yet another spice blend, the tofu scramble seasoning mix out of Yellow Rose Recipes. Once the veggies were cooked and the tofu was crisp, I combined the two in the big frying pan and added a touch of maple syrup. The two spice blends married perfectly and of course everything taste better with a little maple syrup.
Now, the awful. I never thought a salad could be bad, but I was wrong. I cut up a head of Romaine (that was a bit bitter), sliced grape tomatoes, shredded carrot, a couple green onions, half an avocado, a few crunched up crackers, a shake of Bacos and my favorite homemade house dressing. I was going for a Chopped Cobb Salad. Besides the lettuce being bitter, the grape tomatoes weren't sweet at all, the avocado was funky, the Bacos overpowered everything and I used way too much dressing.
And the so-so . . . Jared personally loved these nuts, but I thought they were just okay. I have been munching on nuts lately and was in the mood for a candied spice mixed nut blend. So, last night for a sweet snack, I melted Earth Balance with corn syrup (another pantry item I want out of my kitchen, for good), sugar, cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg, vanilla, salt and a dash of cayenne pepper. I mixed in raw cashews, roasted almonds and raw pecan pieces (all from the freezer), placed the sticky mixture on a cookie sheet and baked for about 13 minutes. I let these cool on parchment paper. After about an hour of cooling, I was able to break apart the pieces. These kinda tasted like brittle that was assaulted by Christmas. I could barely taste the cinnamon because the fresh nutmeg overwhelmed all the other flavors, even the natural roasted nut flavor. Next time I'll leave out the nutmeg and add some chili powder instead. Thank goodness Jared digs it, because I'm not a huge fan.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Kitchen Clean Out = Beans & Rice

Spring-cleaning has still got a hold of me! The past few days I have been throwing clutter away (which is really, really hard for me) and reorganizing the whole apartment. Part of my reorganization plan is cleaning out the kitchen cabinets/fridge and using up items that I know are getting a bit old.
On my last trip to Tampa, my Dad shared his pillow-sized sack of jasmine rice with us, so I needed to use my old supply. We also have way too many dried beans (if there is such a thing) and so I decided to make plain old black beans with rice, with a side of fried plantains and an avocado tomato salad. The beans were cooked in water, garlic, onion, olive oil, dried oregano and sofrito (that has been lurking in my fridge for way too long) for a few hours. The beans weren't nearly as good as my Dad's but they filled me up none the less. The rice wasn't all that. I don't think my (almost always) trusty steamer cooked the rice very well. It was a tad on the al dente side, which is not a good feature in rice. The avocado and tomato salad was simply an avocado, tomato, red onion, red wine vinegar, salt and olive oil. The plantains were perfectly sweet and fried in canola oil. Dessert and side dish all in one!
Since I have been so busy with stuff around the house, this meal not only got rid of a few items in my kitchen but also gave me a much needed energy boost.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Spring Cleaning Pizza Party

Man, I'm beat. Jared and I have been cleaning like crazy today. It actually started last night with us taking everything out of our little computer room/nook, scrubbing it down and reorganizing the whole room in order to make it a haven for me to get some serious studying done once school starts. Then, before we knew it the rest of the house became shiny and new. To reward our immaculate surroundings (at least to our standards), I decided to throw Jared and I a mini pizza party. I made the pizza dough from VWaV in my bread machine (on the dough setting), and it turned out awesome! I made 2 pizzas, which were a little bigger than personal-pan size, both with tomato sauce, Teese, veggie pepperoni, garlic salt, dried oregano, nutritional yeast and red pepper flakes. I would've added extra stuff like bell peppers and onions, but I was so wore out from cleaning. Seriously, if you can get your hands on some Teese, make a pizza ASAP! So freakin good!!!
I even made a sweet pizza with the left over pizza dough that had cinnamon and sugar! Jared said it was really good but I think if I made this again, I'll roll the dough out thicker to form bread sticks. Perhaps I'll make a Tofutti cream cheese icing to drizzle over it too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good News Muffins

Not only is it my Dad's birthday today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!) but I also found out I was accepted into school to start this summer! Whoa Whooo! Granted, I still have a lot of work to do before I can apply to the actual nursing program, but at least I am finally able to take the prerequisites to get the ball rolling. I am still working on the residency issue, but hopefully I will get that cleared up before orientation in a few weeks. So, I am relieved I finally got in. Now the real work starts!
As usual, when I'm a little on edge, I like to be in the kitchen. Today, I made these beautiful 4 Berry Banana Muffins to clear my mind. I typically use soy yogurt in my muffins but I didn't have any so I used a mashed up banana and added lemon juice to the soymilk. Also, since fresh berries are pricey, I used frozen mixed berries that included blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.
Can you tell I <3 muffins?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

stir fried rice, grilled Teese sandwich

Jared gets off of work kinda late so I try to make stuff that tastes amazing reheated. This week I cut to the chase and made 2 of my favorite dishes into 1: Stir Fried Rice. Early in the day I steamed jasmine rice and let it hang out at room temperature. When I was ready to eat I fried up a block of tofu in canola oil and set it aside. I diced a broccoli crown as well as a small zucchini along with a shredded 1/4 of a green cabbage and placed the washed veggies in a colander. I slowing poured boiling water over the veggies in the colander to slightly steam/wilt the veggies so they wouldn't be raw in my fried rice. I then fried up my cooked jasmine rice with a bit of canola oil, sesame oil and sesame seeds until the edges were browned and crispy. I added the steamed veggies in with the rice with a little Hoi sin sauce, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. At the last minute I combined the fried tofu. I topped it all off with chopped green onions and more black and white sesame seeds. This was nothing ground breaking but Jared really, really enjoyed it after a long day at work.
Is it true that one of my favorite foods of all times is back: Grilled Cheese!? Thanks to Teese and Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe for carrying it, we can again enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich when nothing else will do.
I'm not gonna lie, the very first grilled cheese I made with Teese didn't blow me away. The problem? I cut the Teese (insert joke here) too thick and it overwhelmed the whole sandwich. It tasted too soy milky and got really juicy/drippy when it melted (kinda like Buffalo mozzarella when it's melted). Plus I didn't think it was salty enough and kinda tasted like dill (not my most favorite thing). So, for my second grilled Teese sandwich, I cut the Teese thinner and added a bit of garlic salt, which gave it a salty bite and toned down the dill taste. Both times I made this I did add thin sliced tomatoes because I don't know about your tomatoes right now, but ours (from Florida which we got at our local farmers market) are so wonderful. Sweet, full tomato flavor and bright red! Plus I think grilled cheese sandwiches are a little boring without sliced tomato.
Perfection on a plate!
The price of Teese wasn't too bad either, about $8 for a pound of it (I have definitely spent more on an imported cheese before). I'm not sure it will be something we will always have around, because I could dangerously eat too much of it, but it is certainly the best non-animal milk cheese I have had since becoming vegan and I am thrilled I CAN have a decent grilled cheese sandwich once again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Grapefruit Marmalade: A Total Failure

I'm sad to report that grapefruit marmalade is probably the worst thing I've ever made. I've had homemade grapefruit marmalade before, so I know it can be a great success but the batch I made tasted like we were eating aspirin like you'd eat candy. In short, it was the most bitter thing ever to touch my taste buds. Jared couldn't even pretend to like it and he is usually very excited about anything I make. It was so bad, I won't bother to tell you how I made it . . . just know it's not around the house anymore. The worst part is, the recipe used a TON of sugar. It was also a 2 day process and required a lot of stirring over a hot stove. I feel so wasteful tossing it, but there was no way we could choke it down. Anyway, I can cross that off my list of things to do to use up grapefruit. You've been warned!
What a shame, huh?

Monday, April 21, 2008

the Sunshine State

Jared and I got back from another one of our quick and fully packed Florida weekend trips. Jared did great in the bike race in St. Pete but did manage to get a bit sunburned in the strangest places like on the very tops of his knees, the back of one of his calves, and the top of his left hand. I guess it makes sense if you think about what is exposed when you ride a bike. Sunburns aren't funny, but it is a little comical to see him with random red patches and not in the usual spots like his face or arms.
We stayed with my dad and step mom the whole trip, which always means loads of good food. Unfortunately, I only took pictures of the last meal we had together and only because my dad reminded me. My baby nephew, Gabriel, was an adorable distraction. I got to hang out with sister, Erin, all day Saturday but my poor brother-in-law, Mike, had to work, so I only got to see him for a short time at dinner. While I didn't get to meet up with my busy little brother, I did get to see my Aunt Jennie, who brought the most lovely homegrown nasturtiums. If you have never had nasturtiums, they are a peppery edible flower. They look gorgeous on any plate, but I think they are the most beautiful in salads.
Our last meal on Saturday night was a mostly vegan Southern veggie plate. The vegan items we had included: squash, pole beans, vinaigrette coleslaw, baked sweet potatoes, tomato slices and marinated cucumbers. I also added an orange nasturtium to my plate. The only non-vegan thing made was cornbread, of which I of course didn't eat a piece of. For dessert, my dad and I made a vegan apple crisp and of course, I forgot to take a picture of it. I was very proud that my family ate a mostly vegetarian, if not a vegan, diet while we were in town. (This isn't the best picture because the lighting wasn't ideal for these shades.)
On our way back to Atlanta, we stopped to see my Grammie and Poppie, who live near Ocala, Florida. As usual, they unloaded a TON of fresh grapefruit from their trees (aren't we so lucky???). Somehow we managed to bring home 2 huge shopping bags packed to the brim with grapefruit. In fact, if you live in or around Atlanta, let me know if you'd like a few (leave me a message and we will try to meet up with you, if I know you). We have more than we could ever eat. I'm not sure what I am going to do with them other than juice or eat them, but I see sorbet in my future. If anyone has any grapefruit ideas, let me know! We have more than double than this picture shows.
For breakfast, I just cut off all the skin and cubed one up. It was super juicy, a bit sour and a little sweet. It was essentially, the best grapefruit!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

mini vacation, Apple Crisp tester muffins

Tomorrow we are off to Florida for a mini vacation! Jared is riding in a bike race in St. Pete on Saturday and I'm tagging along to visit my family who live in Tampa (St. Pete is only a bridge away from Tampa). It'll be cool to hang out with my dad and step mom, doing what we do best: cooking, talking about cooking, watching cooking shows. With all the crazy stuff going on with me trying to get into school and Jared surviving tax week, it will be a well deserved break from real life. Plus I get to see my sister, brother-in-law and new baby nephew Gabriel! I might even get to see my little brother, who is attending U.S.F, which are both mine and Jared's Alma mater and where we met.
As I mentioned before, I am a recipe tester for Happy Herbivore. Since we will be gone this weekend, I had to test the Apple Crisp Muffins before I left . . . plus, we do need a snack for the long car ride tomorrow (which is about 7-8 hours). I seem to be stuck on her muffins, which is a good thing because I love muffins!

Monday, April 14, 2008

making bagels and building a better compound

Man, I am so stressed out with school stuff. Like many of you out there, when stress overwhelms me there is nothing like kitchen therapy. After I got done going to the college to turn in more proof of my residency, I came home and decided to make bagels. Although a bit labor intensive, these were relatively easy to make. I got the recipe from here. For anyone who hasn't made bagels before there are essentially 3 steps: making the dough (mixing, kneading, rising, shaping and rising again), boiling the shaped bagels and then baking the boiled (and like mine, seasoned) bagels. The best part about this process was actually rolling the dough into bagels shapes. There are a few ways to shape bagels but I used the "rope method" which is when you roll a strip of dough out into a rope (go figure), wrap it around your four fingers, press the ends together and roll the seam side on the counter top or cutting board to essentially twist the ends together so they won't unravel during the boiling time. It takes a couple times to get it right but it's fun figuring it out. I like the recipe over all because the bagel turned out chewy but I did think there was a bit too much sugar and not enough salt in the bagel itself. Next time I'd bake the bagels a little longer as well. I did take pictures at every step, but I'll just show the before and after shots.
Shaped, risen and about to be boiled:
Boiled and dunked in an "everything" blend that included poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds, garlic flakes, onion flakes and salt, just before baking:
Out of the oven:
What might taste lovely with a homemade bagel? How about a little homemade compound butter made with Whipped Earth Balance, fresh basil and a little fresh garlic? Sounded good to me, and it was. There were a lot of flavors going on but my palate can handle it.
If you want to make your own compound butter all you need to do is take whipped Earth Balance (you could use non-whipped, but it won't be as fluffy) and mix in just about any finely chopped fresh herb (chives, basil, sage, thyme, parsley, garlic), dried spice (chipotle or regular chili powder, paprika, black pepper) and/or even a bit of lemon or lime zest. You can also make sweet compounds with maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest, alcohol (rum, tequila, amaretto), nuts and/or fresh fruit to put on pancakes, waffles or French toast. It is easiest to work with room temperature (or semi-room temperature) Earth Balance. If you are putting a liquid in, such as maple syrup or alcohol, only put a tablespoon or two in or else it may never set back up. The flavor combos are endless and only limited by your imagination. You don't even need any special gadgets, just a bowl and a spoon or spatula. Once it is all mixed together put it in a bowl with a lid to keep it in the fridge to use as a spread. If you want to be more fancy pants though, you can place the compound on a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a log and freeze it until it sets, like I did. Whether you use it as a spread or slice it into discs, savory compounds taste awesome on bread, baked potatoes, corn on the cob (or whatever steamed veggie you’d like), pasta or on a piece of grilled tofu. It will keep about 5 days in the fridge (if it lasts that long) or in the freezer for about a month. Fresh herb compounds or ones that include fresh fruit should be used fairly quickly though, as they will spoil on you and start to turn brown and not taste that great.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cold Udon Noodle Salad for Jared

AW, poor Jared. It's Sunday yet again and that means he is off to do a 12-hour shift at his job that is 30-45 minutes away (on Sundays . . . it's much longer on weekdays with more traffic). It rained the past 2 days here, which means Jared didn't get to ride his bike around town too much. Plus it seems to only rain on his days off. And the final kicker? Today is one of the most gorgeous days so far this year. Its chilly, breezy but crazy sunny and everything is green. Its a "go on a picnic" kinda day really. He's super grumpy about it and I really do feel bad for him. Plus I miss him like crazy.
So, I thought the very least I could do was to make him a big lunch that he can snack on throughout his long day. I made a HUGE batch of cold udon noodle salad with Chinese eggplant (a less bitter variety of the Japanese eggplant), orange bell pepper, fried tofu, green onions and black sesame seeds. The "dressing" for the salad included peanut butter, soy sauce, maple syrup, a healthy dose of Sriracha, sesame oil, chili oil, water, garlic, ginger (which I didn't have enough of) and rice wine vinegar. I wish I had used lime juice instead of the rice wine vinegar, which made the background too acidic without enough flavor to justify the acidity. I fried the tofu in canola oil with a little salt and drained them on a paper towel. In a screaming hot pan, I sautéed the eggplant chunks and orange bell pepper strips until they were just wilted. I think if not for the black sesame seeds and green onions, this wouldn't have been as good.
Jared said he enjoyed it, so I'm a happy lady.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

farmers market loot, bruschetta, tester muffins

Since Jared was working on his bike today, I went to the farmers market. I always forget how much I dislike that place on the weekend until I am already there. It gets so packed and people have no rhyme or reason in the parking lot or navigating in the aisles. A normal 30-minute trip took me about an hour and a half!!! I am already someone who doesn't like crowds, so I didn't enjoy myself as I usually do when I go on a weekday. We desperately needed some fresh produce, so it was worth it, I suppose. I got a lot more stuff than in this picture but I just liked the way this picture turned out, so I'm sharing it. I LOVE the Chinese eggplant. It's seriously one of my favorite things right now. It doesn't have too many seeds and is a gorgeous purple when raw and kinda has a blue hue to it when it is cooked. I also scored some basil, which is always great. Also pictured is some parsley, tomatoes, a sweet onion, orange and green bell peppers, avocado and bananas.
For some reason I haven't had the biggest appetite lately so I ended up just making bruschetta tonight for dinner. My version has Roma tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt, sugar, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I got the French bread from the farmers market and toasted it up with a little olive oil. One of my all time favorite simple spring/summer meals.
I am happy to report that I am a recipe tester for a cookbook Happy Herbivore is writing. The first recipe I tested (for her or anyone other than myself) was the Raspberry Cream Cheese Muffins.
It is super exciting to help contribute to someone's culinary ventures. I can't wait to see what I get to make next!!! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

break from a very trying day

UGH! Getting into school is so frustrating. I don't even know how I handled this the first time I went to college at 17/18 years old. I was informed today I gotta do a million more things despite thinking I had everything in order to get in this summer. I'll spare you the details but I ran into a roadblock with my transcripts, in state tuition petition and can't get the same answer from different "advisers" letting me know exactly what I need or don't need to take to get into the nursing program. Anyway, I've been stressed and haven't felt like cooking, or even eating for that matter. I know I need to keep my head clear to deal with this Dilbert-esque college, so, to clean out my fridge and get a power punch of nutrients, I made a veggie plate for dinner tonight. I roasted a head of cauliflower with olive oil, salt and Herbes de Province as well as a broccoli spears and a bunch of asparagus in olive oil, salt and black pepper. Needing some comfort, I also made some smashed potatoes with an Earth Balance, garlic, maple syrup and nutritional yeast sauce.
For dessert, my favorite fruit in the world, WATERMELON!!!!
I can always count on my sister Erin to send me pics of my adorable nephew, Gabriel. He always makes me smile, even on the worst of days.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

YRR Goddess Pasta Salad

My buddy Ashley (the awesome potluck organizer) made my favorite savory dish at the potluck, the Goddess Pasta Salad out of Yellow Rose Recipes. I managed to make Jared a plate of food from the potluck so he got to try a bite or two of this salad and was in love. I decided to give the recipe a try to see if I could make it as tasty as Ashley. Alas, I failed. She must have put extra super duper love in her batch because mine just didn't taste as good. Maybe it was because it took me an hour to make or maybe it was all the measuring, but everything just didn't seem to come together. There was something about the dressing that was off. I'm thinking I put too much dill in mine and not enough salt. It's possible too that this is the kind of thing that tastes better day after day of being in the fridge. I guess I'll find out because it made a ton!
For the most part I followed the recipe but I did end up slicing an avocado on top since it needed be to be used (that and I love the stuff). I think if I make this again, I'll leave out the cucumber, used grape tomatoes instead of plum tomatoes, and maybe use fresh basil instead of dill. The corn didn't add a whole bunch to the salad for me, so I'm thinking I may add red bell pepper instead. The edamame rocked though!
All and all, I like the idea behind this recipe but it won't be on my regular rotation, unless Ashley volunteers to make it for me!

**UPDATE** It didn't get better the next day : (

Monday, April 7, 2008

the BEST strawberry pie, ever

I have already informed Leigh from Raspberry Swirl that it is her fault that I made this particular pie today. After all, she brought this No-Bake Strawberry Pie to the potluck yesterday. The recipe is from this adorable zine called Papa Tofu by Kittee (Cake Maker to the Stars) and it is probably one of the best pies I have ever had. It kinda tastes like a cheesecake with serious strawberry action. The pie is basic but does have a few steps that make it interesting to make.
First, I made her piecrust (which does requiring baking). I couldn't find my pie pan, so I used a 9-inch cake pan and it worked just fine.
While the crust baked, I made the strawberry jam (that's right HOMEMADE jam) topping so that it could be cooling at the same time as the crust. I also whipped up the Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese and let it set out to so it wouldn't be so hard to spread on the cooled crust.
These beautiful strawberries were sliced while the crust and jam cooled and the cream cheese was brought to room temperature.
With the piecrust cooled, the crust bottom was slathered with cream cheese.
Next the sliced strawberries were arranged on the cream cheese layer. I didn't get a great pattern, but hey, if about the taste in the end!
Last, the strawberry jam was poured over the whole pie. I kinda wish the strawberries were peaking through more than they did but I wasn't about to waste any of this amazing jam.
Don't you want a slice?
Then you need to buy this zine. Look how cute it is!
However, if you need to make this pie like right now, Kittee was kind enough to post the recipe here.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

My First Vegan Potluck

Besides feeling a little guilty about Jared being at work while I got to play, today's potluck, my first vegan potluck, was a total blast. I can't even begin to tell you how much food I ate. Actually, I ate a nice amount of "food" but WAY too many desserts. In fact, I think I might be in a slight sugar coma at the moment. I got to meet a lot of cool people including the genius behind Dulce Vegan (who brought one of the best pineapple upside down cakes I have ever had) and a fellow Atlanta blogger, Laura of Eden In The Kitchen.
We had two tables worth of food! There were a couple pasta type dishes, tofu quiche, tempeh, chickpea salad, potato salad and watermelon (just to name a few)! Plus four kinds of cupcakes including pink lemonade (my favorite), root beer, chocolate and chick-o-stick. Leigh from Raspberry Swirl made a Strawberry "cream cheese" pie that rocked my socks off. Everything I ate was spectacular but I have to say the Goddess Pasta Salad Ashley made (out of Yellow Rose Recipes) was my favorite.
This was my first plate of food. Isn't that pink lemonade cupcake the cutest?
I made Mac and Cheeze, which was my version of this recipe that I added a little agave nectar and cayenne pepper to and topped with cracker crumbs with melted Earth Balance. It was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself (can't you tell I'm very modest).
Many thanks to Ashley (Vegan Invasion) and Armando for making today happen! You are the coolest!!! (and the cutest!)
Alright, time for a little nap to shake off this sugar! Wish y'all could have been here today.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Vegan Potluck Picnic TOMORROW!

If you are going to be in the Atlanta area tomorrow, my buddy Ashley Nicole put together a vegan potluck in the park that you should come to. The weather is suppose to be PERFECT and I heard there will be a lot of cupcakes from Dulce Vegan. I'll for sure be there but unfortunately, Jared has to work : (
Hope to see lots of people there with their favorite vegan food to share! I'm making mac and cheeze!!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Enchilada Casserole

At the beginning of the year, I vowed to eat beans everyday. I was doing well but unfortunately, beans became a weekly thing instead of a daily thing. We all know that beans are an important part of the diet, especially for vegans and vegetarians, so I am trying my best to makes beans an everyday thing again. I had a hankering for a Mexican themed dish so I came up with this enchilada inspired casserole. I fried up small pieces of tofu in a little canola oil until they were very crisp and brown. In a separate pan I sautéed red onion, red bell pepper, corn and black beans with salt, cayenne pepper, chipotle powder, chili powder and a little store bought enchilada sauce. I add the tofu to the bean mixture and combined. In a casserole pan, I coated the bottom with a touch of canola oil (to prevent sticking) and put a layer of corn tortillas, then the tofu bean filling, then another layer of corn tortillas and finally I drenched the whole thing with enchilada sauce. I baked the casserole at 375 for about 15 minutes. It didn't "hold up" like I would have liked but it was so good! Once plated, I added chopped Roma tomatoes, green onions and a little tofu sour kream.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Farewell Village Pizza (just kidding)

UPDATE! From several sources, I have heard Village Pizza is back in business. Yeah!

When I heard that the only place to get a vegan pizza in Atlanta (at least that I know of), Village Pizza, went out of business, I was kinda bummed. It was so nice to have a place actually have vegan cheeze and 3 vegan "meat" toppings including veggie pepperoni, veggie sausage and veggie ground round available. They had a great crust and pretty decent atmosphere. Unfortunately it was across town for us and in my opinion, a bit on the pricey side. A medium pizza, which could feed 2 comfortably, was around $20, after drinks and a tip, about $30. I guess that might be standard, but it always seemed a bit too expensive for pizza. Since they did offer vegan toppings, we tried our best to support them, knowing full well I could make a pretty awesome pizza at home, for a lower price that didn't require driving across town.
Like most towns, restaurants that offer vegan options are slim. Atlanta does have a good handful of places to eat but now we were minus a pizza place which meant I had to master pizza at home. I have always used my dad's pizza crust "recipe" (he doesn't measure) but decided to give Isa's pizza dough a try from Vegan with a Vengeance. MAN, is this a great crust. After mixing the wet and dry ingredients together, kneading by hand for 10 minutes, letting the dough rise twice for about an hour each time, I was able to stretch this dough thinner than usual. Isa's dough wasn't sticky and kept its shape fairly well with little effort.
I think the way to an amazing homemade pizza is a really hot oven (500 degrees or more) and an equally and pre-heated pizza stone. After the dough was stretched out, topped with tomato sauce, veggie pepperoni, FYH cheeze, fresh Roma tomatoes and dried oregano, it was baked for only about 8 minutes and broiled for another 2 minutes. It sucks that Village Pizza is out of business but I am happy to say I have made a pizza that hit the spot!
Before being baked:
Right out of the oven:
(I would have taken better pictures but I was too hungry!)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cheezy "Everything" Spelt Crackers

One of my favorite things for breakfast, lunch or just a snack is an everything bagel. I love the combo of the caraway seeds, course salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion flakes and garlic bits all toasted up with Earth Balance, or as strange as it might sound, peanut butter and jelly (trust me, its good). Since we are saving money and trying to hit the grocery stores less, I decided I'd make an everything bagel version of the Cheezy Quackers from Have Cake, Will Travel to stop my bagel craving. I have probably made these crackers a half dozen times (and already posted about it once or twice), so I thought it was time to branch out and change it up a little. They turned out so well, I had to once again brag about this recipe and share my version.
I followed the recipe technique but changed up the ingredients a little. Instead of all purpose flour, I used spelt flour, used 2 tablespoons of margarine and 2 tablespoons of shortening and a little homemade spice blend that has paprika, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, oregano and sugar. I used my mini-animal cookie cutters to make bite sized shapes and topped them with a blend that included caraway seeds, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and sesame seeds. Unfortunately, I didn't have any poppy seeds or dried onion flakes and garlic bits, but the general taste was there. If I make this version again, I will add cooking spray to the cracker dough before coating with the everything topping so it sticks better and of course get my hands on some poppy seeds.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you haven't made these Cheezy Crackers (or your own version of them) yet, DO IT!