Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Excellent Blogger Award

I was pretty excited and very honored to find out that the lovely Veggie, from over at the So What Do Vegetarians Eat Anyway blog has awarded me an Excellent Blogger Award! Thank you so much Veggie, it means a lot to me to know that others out there enjoy this blog.

But now the fun part, I get to spread the love!

This is always hard, as I love many blogs, and many of you have probably already been awarded because your blogs rock so much. But as follows are my 10 picks for bloggers that I think are excellent.

1. Lindsay of The Happy Herbivore/A Journey of Health blogs - her cooking blog is excellent (hence the award) and her meals are always right up my alley in that she uses mostly whole foods, lots of veggies, no refined anything, I love it. And her Journey of Health blog is very inspiring and motivating in that it shows what one can do if they put their mind to it.

2. Lizzy of the Trying Veganism blog - my lovely German blogger buddy! She always has excellent veggie recipes and her photos are amazing.

3. Cookiemouse, of well, the Cookiemouse blog - This blog is highly informative and touches on issues related to food, but not necessarily always food preparation. I love checking out this blog as I know I will always learn something new and Cookiemouse's entries always make me think, and I really appreciate that.

4. Lori of the Pleasantly Plump Vegan blog - I really like her blog a lot, her food always looks so yummy and she seems to have a great sense of humor about herself. She is currently challenging herself to eat healthier and get more active, so if you aren't already, you should get over there and encourage her.

5. Romina from the Vegan Eating for One blog - this is yet another excellent blog, what I like most about it though is the simplicity, tastiness, and high nutritional value of her meals.

6. Chandelle from the Authentic Deliciousness blog - her blog is wonderful, she cooks with a lot of whole foods, and her food is very 'Brett friendly' and tasty too, I'm still not over my 'candy for dinner'.

7. Calimaryn from the Fearlessly Vegan blog - this blog is awesome, it shows people that you can live and cook vegan without losing your sanity in the process. She also whips up so tasty looking baked goods too!

8. T from the Vegan Soul Power! blog - ok, for one, I just love the name of her blog. She is smart, humorous, and makes some damn tasty looking food, I always look forward to seeing what she whips up next.

9. Jess from The Domestic Vegan blog - she is just too funny! Her food always looks fabulous and you can tell she's a fun, silly girl who enjoys cooking and life, that you gotta respect.

10. And finally, I have to do it, Brett from over at the Parade of Rain blog - he is my Wet Blanket, so maybe I shouldn't pick him, but I truly respect his intelligence, his ability to expound on complex and 'tough' ideas and subjects, and I look forward to reading anything he has to write.

You guys are all awesome! And now it's up to you all to give out the 'E for Excellence' awards!

All of your blogs rock, even those I couldn't mention here, keep it up, between all of us, I think we can rate the vegan community 'E for Excellent'.

'Til next time!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why You Shouldn't Multi-Task While Cooking

So last night I was planning on making Happy Herbivore's Aloo Matar with Easy Naan. I was really excited and confident about it, I had gotten all my ingredients prepped. I scrubbed and cut the potatoes and put them in some boiling water. Then I went to read an article or two on Common Dreams. I got sucked in, the next thing I knew the potatoes had been boiling for almost an hour. Needless to say, when I drained them, they were nothing but mush.

We were really hungry, and luckily I already had the oven preheating for the Easy Naan. After some discussion with Brett, we decided to just turn the oven temperature up and we had vegan frozen pizza. We will try making this again sometime soon, but the moral of the story is: don't read anything highly absorbing while you are cooking.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Saag and Red Lentil Dal

So last night I made Indian food for the first time. Neither Brett or I had ever had Indian food, but were interested as they use a lot of lentils and grains in their cuisine, which we are trying to get more of. Upon the advice of Lindsay (aka the Happy Herbivore), I opted to start out with her Saag and Red Lentil Dal, as she told me it was easy and good for ‘beginners’. I have to tell you, when I was making this, all I could think was ‘I’ve never used this many spices in my life!’. But she's right, it is very easy.

I will be completely honest, I’m not sure how I feel about Indian food at this point. Neither Brett or I liked the Saag, it was much too flavorful for either of our tastes. It was pretty funny, Brett took a bite and said ‘They must not like the taste of spinach very much.’ Hehe.

(For some reason, this picture of food reminded me of the Italian flag.)

The Red Lentil Dal, especially with some short grain brown rice was really good. Next time I make it I will use less garam masala though, it could have stood to have less flavor as well. Spicy I like, but there is just a lot of flavor going on, it takes some getting used to, but I saw its potential. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Especially when I pulled out all those spices, I turned the oven for frozen pizza just in case (it didn't come down to that). I can say, we won’t eat Saag again, but the Dal was good.

I will be trying one more of HH’s Indian dishes tomorrow night, Aloo Matar (I figured it was a safer bet seeing as how we like both potatoes ‘aloo’ and peas ‘matar’). Gotta give it a chance before deciding I don’t like it!

Tonight though, is the tried and true Spicy Smashed Kidney Bean and Sweet Potato Burrito. One of my favorites.

'Til next time!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Quinoa Pasta with Roasted Veggies, Cannellini Beans and Rainbow Chard and I've been tagged!

While our dinner last night was nothing fancy, in fact, it was a very humble dish of pasta, veggies, and beans, it was nutritious, hearty, delicious and filling. These qualities equal a winner in my book, not to mention, this meal was perfectly in line with my budding whole foods, minimally processed, non ‘holy trinity’ emphasis in cooking!

The veggies were so pretty, they deserved their own picture.

Quinoa Pasta with Roasted Veggies, Cannellini Beans and Rainbow Chard

Serves 4 (two big dinners, and two nice sized leftover lunches for us)

1 8 oz. box of quinoa spiral pasta
1 zucchini, roasted and sliced
1 yellow squash, roasted and sliced
1/2 butternut squash cubed and roasted
3-4 cloves of garlic, roasted and sliced*
1 red bell pepper, roasted and sliced
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed**
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
3 leaves of rainbow chard, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup veggie broth
mushroom onion marinara (or any vegan marinara)
toasted pine nuts (optional)

Have roasted veggies prepped ahead of time and this makes a quick meal.

Otherwise, preheat oven to 425.

Heat coconut oil on a baking sheet to melt.

Wash zucchini, yellow squash and bell pepper. Cut in half and place on baking sheet. Cut butternut into small cubes and place on baking sheet.

Cut 1/2 inch off the top of a clove of garlic. Drizzle with melted coconut oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Wrap in foil and place on baking sheet.

Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until tender. The garlic is done when it feels soft when gently squeezed through the foil, it may need to go longer than the squash and peppers. Let veggies cool for a few minutes, then slice.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat veggie broth in skillet and add chard in batches, stirring often, until soft.

If topping with toasted pine nuts, simply heat an unoiled skillet, toss in pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently over medium heat until golden brown.

Transfer veggies and beans to a large pot. Add marinara and heat through.

Serve sauce over hot, cooked noodles.

Top with optional toasted pine nuts for an extra treat.

*You can refrigerate the leftovers for use in a different meal.

**I don't usually use canned beans but I had never tried cannellini before, and didn't want to buy a lot on the off chance I didn't like them. I also didn't see dried cannellini beans available, I'll have to look around for a local supplier.

The always informative and supreme kitty picture taker, Cookiemouse, has tagged me to partake in a neat little quiz!

1. What were you doing 10 years ago? In 1998?

Haha! This might be a more illustrative question for someone older. In 1998, I hadn't even started high school! But likely I was being an all around punk in the throes of puberty. :-)

What were you doing 1 year ago?

Ok, this one I can answer better. A year ago I was finishing my studies in psychology and sociology at a small, private liberal arts college in Columbia, Missouri. I was also working as a cashier for the University of Missouri - Columbia.

2. Five favorite snacks?

These questions always seem to put me on the spot, but I'll do my best. These are in no particular order: fresh fruit (preferably clementines, strawberries, or cantaloupe); whole wheat pita and veggies with garlicky hummus; dried fruit and nuts; Nature's Path Hemp Plus Raisin granola bars; a big glass of chocolate hemp milk

3. Five favorite toys?

Does the library count?! Hehe. My five favorite toys would have to be (again in no particular order): e-book reader; thumb drive; Playstation; camera; chess board (though I don't get to play enough and I suck terribly)

4. What I like doing

Hmm. Well, I like doing a lot of things, but in particular I enjoy: walking, bird watching, reading, cooking/baking, talking about current issues, watching documentaries, reading blogs, collecting recipes, listening to music, being silly, playing the occasional video game, forever contemplating co-authoring a book with Brett about stupidity (what a dumb idea, hehe), you get the gist.

5. My bad habits

Oh where to begin? Well, I'm going to steal one of Cookiemouse's responses: I drink too much caffeine, my favorite teas are even caffeinated. I procrastinate a lot, am too forgetful, and am horrible with the phone to the point where my family and friends often wonder if I'm still alive. (I seriously hate the phone - a lot, never have been fan, I rarely answer the phone [unless you're Brett], don't return calls, etc. I don't mean to be rude, I just hate it. My friends have come to understand that I am really weird about things, the phone being one of them. There are certain things you have to get used to when befriending someone like me.)

I guess this means I need to tag a few folks myself. Mwahahaha! So, I'll have to tag Romina (of the Vegan Eating for One blog), Lindsay (aka the Happy Herbivore), and Lori (of the Pleasantly Plump Vegan blog). Since Cookiemouse already tagged Lizzy, I won't double-do it, but I was going to tag you Lizzy!

‘Til next time!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Yummy Blueberry Crisp and Notes on the New Challenge

Oh my! Both Brett and I agree that what we just had was perhaps the best brunch food we’ve ever tried. I made Linday’s (aka The Happy Herbivore) Easy & Fat Free Blueberry Crisp. It was simple, pleasing to both Brett and my tastes, did not contain processed foods (unless you consider whole wheat pastry flour processed, which I do not), and it was fat free.

There is a whole world of possibilities with this too, pretty much any frozen fruit I could think of would probably taste fantastic in place of blueberries, but blueberries rock, so I just followed the recipe.

It was seriously good; it had me when I smelled it coming out of the oven. I wish I had a picture of Brett, with blueberry sauce dripping down his face, mouth half full, saying ‘you can make this whenever you want.’ Hehehe.
I hope my pictures do it justice. Seriously everyone who reads this blog, go out and make this, it takes like 10 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes to bake, and your mouths will thank you for it, your partner will thank you for it (if you don't have one, thats just more for you! hehe). We ate the whole thing!

I thought I would explain a couple of things about my new personal challenge – trying to reduce my use of tofu and seitan (we don’t actually eat tempeh, but it is part of that ‘holy trinity’ so I had to include it), and get our nutrients from whole foods as much as possible. We have never actually tried most of the other faux meats or ‘meat alternatives’, and don’t plan to so those will not be found on this blog either.

I am doing this for a number of reasons, first off, I really like the idea of living as close to nature as possible for someone who lives in a moderately sized modern American city. This means if given the choice between getting my protein from tofu or a dried bean, I’m going to go for the dried bean. Secondly, tofu is a processed food, seitan is a processed food, tempeh isn’t as much, but still, even though there are far worse processed foods out there, and I don’t chastise anyone for eating these things, I am not truly a huge fan of any of them, and Brett is most definitely not. And besides, I will use them from time to time, there are certain dishes we like very much, in which tofu or seitan is an integral part.

This also brings me to another point, Brett is very interested in getting into whole foods, growing foods, processing our own foods, as am I, and I would like to nurture this. And he really likes the idea of getting more protein from beans and lentils. We will, as usual, be having a container garden on our modest apartment deck. But this year, we are also going to have a Community Garden Plot (I love little ‘ol Columbia, MO), so we can produce more of our own food, being able to garden in actual earth will open up possibilities beyond a wide variety of peppers, which is what our container garden is generally relegated to.

But I have to be honest; there is only so much I can do. I have a full-time job like most people, I do enjoy doing things beyond making food, and if I tried to make everything from scratch, well I wouldn’t have enough time to do it, that would be a full-time job in itself. And Brett's just not really into cooking, and I have no problem with that. So I will use some minimally processed foods fairly often, and even some very processed foods from time to time. What I define as minimally processed foods are things like non-dairy milks, pastas, whole grain tortillas, canned tomatoes in their various shapes and forms, jarred vegan pasta sauces, soy sauce, mustard, peanut butter, applesauce, premade granola bars, you get the point. The more processed items that I will still use on occasion will be things like picante sauce, flour tortillas (I’m still searching for a good whole grain burrito tortilla replacement), vegan cheeses, Veganaise (very sparingly), and Brett will probably never ever, ever let go of the Newman O's.

If I have my way and get the Uncheese Cookbook soon, you may see the processed vegan cheeses being used much less as well.

This may be a challenge as I’m going to have to stretch my comfort zone with reference to spices, cuisines, vegetables, etc. There are a huge variety of beans, lentils, and other legumes available to me at my modest Midwestern grocery store, many of which, I have never worked with. There are grains I have never worked with. I’m pretty excited, I love a good challenge.

'Til next time!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Barley, Mushroom and Spinach Pilaf with Sweet Roasted Yams

What a title!

So last night, not sure how many of you were aware, there was a total lunar eclipse. If you saw it, I hope you enjoyed it as much as Brett and I did. It was bitterly cold here, around 10 degrees, but we toughed it out. I think the best part of all was how the shadow of the Earth made the Moon look. It was the first time I had ever been able to perceive the actual spherical shape that the Moon has. It normally looks like a one dimensional circle, and with the shadow, you could see the dimensions. Very cool, it was a bit of a humbling experience, seeing it like that, realizing how much it affects us (tides and such) and we affect it. I wish I could have gotten a picture, but it probably wouldn’t have been the same.

Anyways, dinner last night was really good. I had been eyeing a Vegetarian Times recipe for Barley, Shiitake, and Spinach Pilaf, and was trying to come up with a way to make a meal out of it. Well, I ended up switching around the mushrooms and stuffing the pilaf into a roasted acorn squash, I also served it with a side of Sweet Roasted Yams, a recipe I made up as I went along. A note though, this recipe is probably very time consuming if you try to make it all at once. I had Brett make the barley during the day while I was at work, and he started roasting the squash when I was on my way home. Having the ingredients prepped ahead of time made this a fairly quick dinner. Secondly, the ‘side’ of yams really is more like a dessert than a side, but that’s ok, right? You can find the original recipe that this meal was adapted from here.

Now, I must say, both Brett and I agreed that this picture doesn't really do the meal justice.

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Barley, Mushroom, and Spinach Pilaf

Serves 4

1 cup pearled barley
3 cups vegetable broth or water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 onion, diced
2 1/2 cups portobello mushrooms, sliced
small package of white button mushrooms, sliced
4 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
2 tbsp. shoyu (or other soy sauce)
2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 acorn squash, roasted

To roast the squash:

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, cut side down for 40 minutes.

Add barley and broth or water to medium saucepan.

Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until tender, about 1 hour.

In large nonstick saucepan, heat a few tablespoons of water over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft.

Add garlic, portabella and white mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until soft. Add barley, stirring often, until barley is heated through. Add spinach in batches, covering pan with a lid to steam. Remove from heat. Season with shoyu, sesame oil and cayenne pepper.

Stuff in to a halved acorn squash.

This makes a lot of food. We had it served in the squash for dinner, and I brought the leftovers to work, with a couple of whole wheat tortillas for lunch.

Super Yummy Sweet Roasted Yams
1 large yam, peeled, washed, and diced
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp agave (optional)
1 tsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put coconut oil in a baking pan and place in the oven so the oil can melt.

Toss diced potatoes will the rest of the ingredients.

Bake, uncovered for 35-40 minutes until yams are soft, stirring a couple of times while baking.

All and all it was a very good dinner and a very good night.

‘Til next time!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Late (but good) Dinner

Some good friends of ours are getting married pretty soon (in May!), and so last night the groom to be was going to drop off our invitations and chat for a just a bit. Well that bit turned into many hours of fine conversation on topics ranging from climate change to peak oil to weight training. So we didn’t end up eating dinner until after 9 last night. I was smart (without knowing it really) as since I knew he was coming over, I went ahead and prepped all my ingredients, so I’d essentially just have to throw the meal together when we were ready to eat. I am so happy I did as it would have been really late when we ate otherwise. We held out though thanks to the loveliness that is Chocolate Hemp Milk. I was ecstatic at watching Brett go to town on Hemp Milk!

So I made an Italian Veggie Casserole. The recipe didn’t call for enough veggies in my opinion, and I wanted to use different noodles and spices, so as usual I went my own way with this. You can find the original recipe I adapted this from over at VegWeb.

J’s Italian Veggie Casserole

1 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds
1/4 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
1/4 butternut squash, cubed
3-4 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1 rounded teaspoon basil
2 rounded teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 package kamut spiral pasta
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
Panko bread crumbs (I used about 1/2 cup you could use more)
Vegan Rella
salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add butternut squash and carrot and boil until soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and zucchini to boiling water and cook for 10 minutes or until pasta and zucchini are done.

Saute herbs, zucchini, onion, and garlic in coconut oil in a skillet. Cook until zucchini is slightly browned and onions are translucent.

Preheat oven to broil.

Drain pasta in a colander, and place in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Mix in canned tomatoes. Add salt and pepper if desired. Layer veggies on top of pasta.

Top veggie/pasta mixture with vegan cheese and Panko.

Broil 10 to 15 minutes or until bread crumbs are browned and "cheese" is melted.

This makes a lot of food. I will cut this recipe in half next time. But it was very good, Brett and I both liked it. This was the first time we had used Vegan Rella, and the stuff is pretty good. Brett even really enjoyed it, and he doesn't like faux 'cheese', he suggested next time we go to the store in town that carries it (not our regular store sadly) that we should get multiple blocks. :-) Vegan cheese over cow cheese? I'll go with that one!

Brett also picked up one of my favorite chocolate bars today for Cookiemouse's Chocolate Temptation Challenge. (I don't think it's fair trade Cookiemouse :-(, Brett didn't know it was supposed to be, he just got one of the vegan ones I like.) The chocolate bar is safely tucked into my bookbag I carry to work everyday. We'll see if I can resist it! I believe I must hold out until Easter!

I must end this entry with a big thanks to all the incredibly creative vegan food bloggers out there (of course, I have my favorites, and you guys know who you are, but I'm thankful for all of you). I have saved so many wonderful sounding recipes from you all that I have pretty much planned out my meals for the next month just to make sure that I try them all! I keep finding more, and then have to shuffle things around to include those, but I never got this excited, or had the level of creativity in my cooking before I was veg*n. So thanks all you out there for keeping Brett and I happily fed!

'Til next time!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sushi Bonanza

Ok, so as soon as I wrote that, I realized that the words 'sushi' and 'bonanza' don't really go together, do they? As promised, here is the sushi post! I don't make sushi very often as there is a lot of prep work that goes into it, but man Brett and I are both happy campers when I do make it.

Well, I got a little more creative with my sushi yesterday. Notice I said a little more creative. I made three different types of rolls that Brett and I shared and boy were we full! One time I made sushi, I made four rolls, which was way too much, then I made two, which was not enough, and go figure that this time when I made three, it was still too much!

First, I made 'our usual', except I forgot to get a cucumber at the store (they aren't that great here this time of year anyway), so it ended up being just shredded carrot, avocado, pickled ginger and toasted sesame seeds. (For official 'J Style' sushi, load these bad boys down with wasabi!)

The second roll consisted of roasted strips of red bell pepper, roasted asparagus, toasted sesame seeds, and wasabi spiked Veganaise. This one rocked! It was so good, and a bit spicy. Who knew how well Nori and roasted veggies go together.

And finally, I made an Asian tofu roll. I used Asian baked tofu in this roll, using the recipe for Asian Marinated Tofu in Veganomicon, subbing in 1 tsp coconut oil for the called for amount of sesame oil (thanks Lindsay! I love using coconut oil now!), and of course, adding a bit more hot chili sauce than it called for. The roll consisted of the above stated baked tofu julienned, with strips of roasted red bell pepper, avocado, toasted sesame seeds and wasabi spiked Veganaise. I really liked these, as they were spicy, filling, and just plain yum. Brett didn't seem to like this one as much as the previous two (must be the tofu), but he ate this as well, just not with the enthusiasm as the others.

Have I mentioned that I love sesame seeds? Not only are they tasty, but they are one bad ass food, loaded with calcium and lots of other healthy goodies. I think the world should eat more sesame seeds, it would be a better place. :-)

I noticed that many of my blog readers are very into health, nutrition, and wellness, Brett (my favorite Wet Blanket) wrote a piece discussing dieting over at his Parade of Rain blog, I highly encourage anyone who is interested in/brave enough to check it out, give him your thoughts or a piece of your mind. :-)

'Til next time!

Fun Veg*n Survey from Romina's Blog

I love these fun little surveys (which is weird, because as an Institutional Research Analyst, part of my job is to respond to external data requests, which in a lot of ways, is like filling out a survey). I found this one over at Romina’s blog Vegan Eating for One (an awesome blog you all should be visiting if you aren’t already).

1. If you have to choose between locally grown or organic, which do you usually choose?

Local – the food does not have to travel as far, saving resources, and is generally fresher, and definitely good for your local economy. Not to mention, much of the local produce I purchase is organic, even if it isn’t certified as such, these small farmers simply can’t afford the certification process.

2. Favorite way to prepare potatoes:

Roasted with fresh garlic, onion, jalapenos, habaneras, Caribbean peppers, Thai chili peppers, chili powder, cumin, and salt. (Note, this is not necessarily Brett’s favorite way, these are really spicy!)

3. Do you press your tofu before preparing/cooking it (if you eat soy)?

Sometimes if the recipe calls for it.

4. Name your favorite recipe that is a tradition in your family:

Banana nut bread! This is also easily veganized.

5. Any food allergies?

Dairy and fake food (that one is not really an allergy but……)

6. When you want to go to a fancy dinner, where do you go?

My apartment.

7. When you have a cold, what do you crave?

Soup with lots of beans and veggies.

8. What kind of water do you drink? (Filtered, spring, tap, etc.)

Filtered tap water. Though I am going to start harassing the City of Columbia to reduce the amount of chlorine in the water so I don’t have to use a filter.

9. Name a flavor of soda you'd love to see:

I like Izze alright, don’t really drink soda beyond that and Izze has the flavors I would crave anyway.

10. If the recipes you ate as a child were compiled into a cookbook, what would the title be?

What Restaurant Will We Be Eating At Tonight? (Mom wasn’t a big cooker)

11. If you were allowed to grow one food that can't grow in your climate, what would it be?

Oooooh tough one. Either coffee or tea, oh wait, chocolate, hmmmm. I can’t decided, but one of those that I listed.

12. Favorite type of mushroom?

A cooked one. :-)

13. Most frustrating part of your kitchen?

It’s smallness and how poorly designed it was. I have a cabinet that can’t be used because you can’t open the door all the way, it hits the stove.

14. Last food you burned?

Sautéed veggies I wasn’t paying enough attention to.

15. Usual response to a veg*n's favorite question, "But where do you get your protein?":

From everywhere you’re not.

16. If you were baking your own birthday cake today, what flavor would it be?

Well I am craving coffee and fruit right now, so I’d say Mocha Raspberry (or strawberry, cherry, etc)

17. Favorite brand of chocolate chips?

Tropical Source, though they come from so far away.

18. You have $200 of your tax return reserved for Williams Sonoma- What do you buy?

I don’t actually know what Williams Sonoma is, I’m guessing it’s a store we don’t have here.

19. Do you plan your menus in advance? Any tips to share?

I don’t own a car so I generally like to plan my meals in half week increments. On Friday, I shop for food for Saturday through Tuesday or Wednesday. Then I make a mid-week trip for the rest. This will all change during the summer when the farmer’s market is around. Then, it plans my meals, not me!

20. You have 3 minutes before you have to leave the house and you're starving- What do you eat?

Either a piece of fruit, a granola bar, a handful of nuts, or if I’m feeling ‘naughty’ a couple of dairy-free, wheat-free Newman O’s.

21. If Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray got into a fight, who would win and how?

Rachel Ray would likely irritate the others to death with that voice of hers.

22. If you eat oatmeal, what do you add to it before serving?

Hemp milk, cinnamon, agave, flax seeds, and a fruit of some sort. I add nuts from time to time as well.

23. If you got to travel to one country and learn all the traditional dishes there, where would you go (ignore commitments in your current place of residence)?

Japan or Mexico!

24. Favorite late night snack?

I don't like to eat before I go to bed.

25. Favorite springtime food?


26. Favorite food-related magazine?

Um, I don’t really read magazines.

27. Which do you prefer: shoyu, tamari, conventional soy sauce, or Bragg's Aminos?


28. What vegetable or fruit do you dislike the most?


29. Name a holiday food you look forward to all year long:

Stuffing and savory grains.

30. If you could convert anyone to veganism with your magic wand, who would you convert?


Pretty fun stuff, I'd be curious what other veg*ns' responses to this are too.

I made some vegan sushi yesterday, all of which were very good, but the pictures are on my camera at home (and I'm at work right now), so I'll probably post about that later.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mom's Visit and Candy for Dinner

As I had mentioned, my mom came to visit yesterday. It was such a nice visit; I hadn’t seen her since I graduated from college last May. Much, much too long since I’d seen her. We had very good conversation, and a nice time downtown. We had originally been planning on going to a tea room for lunch, but after calling a locally owned Mexican restaurant to see if their refried beans were vegan (they are made with corn or vegetable oil – not great for you I know, but hey – it’s not lard), we decided to go there. It was pretty good, I had heard great things about the place, but had just never thought to go there. I had a veggie burrito with guacamole and a Mexican mango soda. After that, we went to the best coffee shop in town, Coffee Zone, and I had a soy latte, Brett had a mocha latte with regular milk. Man I love that place, they have the best espresso I have ever tasted.

We walked around downtown for awhile, my mom got to see some of the nice ‘trinket and knick knack stores’ that sell locally made artwork, and she really seemed to enjoy it. I think I’ll have to try to get her up again when the weather is nicer so we can spend more time down there.

We got a couple of pictures, and she gave her permission to have her picture put up on my blog (Mwaaaahaahaaa can’t back out now Mom!), so here they are. Warning: I don’t always take the greatest pictures.

She also brought up our Christmas presents. What a good job she did, they were very thoughtful gifts, and things that I have been wanting. She got us a new coffee maker, one of those where you can program it to start making coffee at a certain time (the coffee maker we have is pretty old), AND this one has a reusable filter. It doesn’t take those paper filters, which reduces a lot of waste! An environmentalist and coffee lovers dream. She also got us a tea kettle! I have wanted one for a long time, as we drink a lot of tea, but would just heat water up in a pan. Until now, wahoo! So I was very happy with her choices in gifts. Thanks Mom!

Last night for dinner I made Chandelle’s Ginger Roasted Winter Vegetables with Maple Coriander Seitan. I think Brett put it best himself, it was like eating candy for dinner that was good for you. We had it over quinoa, which was super good, quinoa is something I could eat plain, it is just that good. The only thing I didn’t like about this meal was the rutabaga, which is nothing to fault Chandelle for; her recipe doesn’t call for it. It really wasn’t too bad though, the rutabaga was white and the rest of the veggies were orange so it was easy to pick them out. The flavor of rutabaga reminded me a bit of the bad cabbagey flavor of poorly cooked Brussels Sprouts. I don’t mean to offend anyone who likes rutabaga, we all have our own tastes, but it was not at all pleasing to my palate. The squash, sweet potatoes and carrots were so sweet when they were roasted and the savory flavor of the seitan went so well with the sweetness of the veggies. We will definitely make this again, but you know, actually using the right root veggies.

My only complaint, which is a very weak one, is that it made a lot of food. But now I get take this ‘healthy candy’ for lunch tomorrow, so I think it worked out all right. :-)

‘Til next time!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tofu, Veggie, and Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

So those of you out there, uncomfortable with the last entry, wondering if you still want to visit my blog, can breathe a sigh of relief that this one is about food. Though don’t say you weren’t warned, I added the ‘Other Random Musings’ part for a reason. :-)

We went to the store last night after work and got another load of grub. A little embarrassing but, I have a recipe I have wanted to try from over at Authentic Deliciousness’ blog, which called for parsnips. I have to be honest, I had never seen a parsnip before, I knew nothing more about them than that they are root vegetables. So at the store, the labels are not exactly in the spots they should be, as I ended up with a rutabaga, Googled ‘parsnips’ when I got home, and well, it wasn’t one, so I Googled other root veggies to identify this one. Since it is a root vegetable I think it will work for this meal. And hey, we get to try rutabaga right?

Anyways, I was planning on making VeganYumYum’s Pan Fried Tofu, Kale, and Stir-Fried Noodles, but ended up going a different way with it. What I hadn’t realized when I picked out this recipe was that it was simply tofu, kale, and noodles with a sauce. That would not fly in my house, as I mentioned earlier, we are pretty picky when it comes to tofu. And the sauce, while pretty good, was missing a bit of something, and only called for ¼ teaspoon of hot chili sauce, I mean, come on! I also like to buy my greens organic and there was no organic kale available, so we got red chard. So I changed up the sauce a bit, added more veggies, and cut the tofu in half.

Tofu & Veggie Noodle Stir-Fry
1 tsp coconut oil
½ package firm tofu, pressed, and cut into small chunks
1 bunch of chard, cut into bite sized pieces
½ red bell pepper, diced
¼ onion, diced
1/2 cup broccoli, cooked
½ cup snap peas cooked
½ package of rice stick noodles

¼ cup water
¼ cup shoyu (or other soy sauce)
1 tbsp ginger, minced
1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned would work, I used seasoned)
1-2 tbsp agave nectar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp stone ground brown mustard
1 tsp or more hot chili sauce (I would start with this depending on how spicy you like things, I used 2 tbsp, but I’m a spice freak)
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Press tofu and cut into small chunks.

Whip together the sauce. Reserve half the sauce for the stir-fry, and marinate the tofu in the other half of the sauce for about a half hour. You can use this time to chop and cook the other veggies.

Cook rice noodles according to package directions, set aside.

In a large skillet, heat a couple of tablespoons of water. Add bell pepper and onion and cook until translucent.

Heat coconut oil and add tofu, stir-frying over medium high heat until tofu crisp. Add cooked broccoli, snow peas, and remaining sauce.

Add chard in small batches, covering with a lid to help with the chard.

Serve over hot rice noodles.

Well, my Mom is coming for a visit today, haven’t seen her for probably six months or more, so I’m pretty excited. I’m also taking her out to lunch. Now this might not mean much to you all out there, but this is the first time I have ever been able to afford to take her out, when I was in college it was always the other way around, so I’m proud to take her to the tea room here in town she likes. They aren’t the most vegan friendly place, but if all else fails I can munch on their amazing sweet potato chips and have a nice pot of Earl Grey tea. As I’m sure you could tell by the picture of the groceries with the two boxes on it, we are fans of the Earl Grey.

‘Til next time!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Is War Really the Force That Gives Us Meaning?

I was going to write out a whole opinion piece regarding what I have read thus far in Chris Hedge’s book ‘War is a Force That Give Us Meaning’, but decided against it. You see, my opinion, in all honestly, shouldn’t really matter to you all, it is your opinions that truly matter. And this is what I am interested in anyway, I am interested in how others interpret the things that I have read, and personally, on my own, I can assess how others’ opinions and evaluations differ from mine. You see, I am not one of those people who are completely set in my ways; I am willing to change my opinions and viewpoints on things if presented with compelling evidence and simple arguments that make sense to me. I am also a huge individualist and feel that no matter what your opinion on an issue, if you can state your reasons for feeling a certain way in a logical and rational fashion; I will accept and respect that, even if I strongly disagree. This is why I can be civil and even friendly with Christian Evangelical Republicans even though their reality and my own are very different, and our opinions on pretty much everything are polar opposites, but the individuals I know are smart, their opinions are well thought out, they just came to a different conclusion from the ‘evidence’ than I did. And I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with that, I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it again, the world would be a pretty boring place if everyone thought, felt, and acted the same, now wouldn’t it?

Anyways, I thought I would simply use quotes that I have marked in the book and follow with some questions by me. Now, any of you out there who have a psychologically oriented background could probably figure out, at least to a certain degree, my opinions on this topic merely from the information I chose to present and the questions I ask, as well as the way those questions are framed. (This might also be a little something to think about when watching the news on NBC or any other mainstream media source, just remember news anchors are people too, with their own biases, and hang-ups, and this is reflected not only in the semantics used, but the very stories covered. I’ll leave it there, but trust me; I could go on and on.) Or you may just think you know how I feel about something, how much are you willing to bet that you’re right? Knowing just a bit about linguistics, persuasion, and public opinion due to my studies, what chance is there that I am sneaky in my use of semantics so as to intentionally not let my true opinion show through? Just remember, we psychology folk are evil like that. :-)

Quote 1: “The historian Will Durant calculated that there had been only twenty-nine years in all of human history during which a war was not underway somewhere.”

Now I haven’t checked the integrity of this ‘fact’, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that this is true. So, only 29 years in ALL of human history has there been peace.

What does this say about human nature? Does this mean that we are more like our animal relatives than we like to think? Are humans predators? To what or whom? With history in mind, is there any hope for true, lasting world peace? Is violence inherent in the human condition or are the evil few just very good at manipulating the masses? Why haven’t the masses learned from history and revolted against the ‘status quo’ of continuing conflict and violence? Are we bound to destroy ourselves because of our propensity towards violence or mere stupidity?

Quote 2: “Patriotism, often a thinly veiled form of collective self-worship, celebrates our goodness, our ideals, our mercy, and bemoans the perfidiousness of those who hate us.”

Do you agree with this? Do you think that Nationalism and Patriotism are negative qualities? Are we (any nation) really morally good and just? Why is it that, especially after a crisis, criticism of the policies of one’s nation is not accepted and ‘frowned upon’? That suddenly, by virtue of our criticism, we become one of ‘them’, the enemy? Why is it all or none? Why is it that we think the horrible things others do, at least in reference to America, are done because ‘they hate our freedom’? Do we really believe that emotion and rage of this level of intensity really stems from their ‘hating our freedom’ or being jealous of our stuff? What do you think the real root of a lot of this conflict stems from?

Quote 3: “While we venerate and mourn our own dead we are curiously indifferent about those we kill. Thus killing is done in our name, killing that concerns us little, while those who kill our own are seen as having crawled out of the deepest recesses of the Earth, lacking our own humanity and goodness. Our dead. Their dead. They are not the same. Our dead matter, theirs do not.”

What do you think of this statement? I must point out here, that I don’t think he is referring to individuals; he is referring to us collectively and that we seem to be much more affected by the death toll to our own soldiers than the death toll of the innocent civilians that occupy the area of conflict. What do you feel are the implications of the ‘us and them’ mentality? Does this give us, however thin, justification to commit atrocities since the enemy is the ‘other’? Why is it that in combat, where the mission of both sides is essentially the same, to win, that one side’s acts are moral, and the other side’s acts are barbaric? Why is it that seeing one of ‘our dead’ elicits and greater emotional response than witnessing ‘their’ dead? Aren’t we all people? Do you see animal cruely as an extension of our justification to do immoral things, the us and them mentality?

And finally, quote 4: “Just remember” a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel told me (Chris Hedges) as he strapped his pistol belt under his arm before we crossed into Kuwait (Persian Gulf War), “that none of these boys is fighting for home, the flag, for all that crap politicians feed the public. They are fighting for each other, just for each other.”

What does this say of the strength of our argument to go to war? Do our soldiers really believe in the mission of the conflict they are fighting in? Shouldn't they if they are risking their lives for it? In current times, with the above said statements in mind, do you think American soldiers are more worried about ‘bringing democracy’ to places like Iraq and Afghanistan or merely trying to survive their tour so they can go home?

Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read and ponder this. These statements really made me think and I was curious as to the reactions others would have reading them. Do they make you angry? Do you try to think about where the author is coming from, even though his views and statements seem pretty far out there? I probably didn’t ask all the right questions, but I was trying to ask the questions that Hedges may have had to ask himself before really being able to look at these statements and war in general though a different ‘lense’ or perspective. And believe it or not, I am hopeful about the future of humanity, that doesn’t mean that I think things will get better, but that I believe it is possible.

And I must add in closing that these questions are not asked to offend people. If you are offended, please tell me, and explain why, that was the point of this. I have family in the military, as many of you may have as well, and these statements do not diminish their bravery, it just merely calls into question whether or not we should be sending our brave men and women into conflicts, and whether or not, in the long term, constant conflict (with both nature and each other) will lead to our species' demise. I know how I felt about what I read; I was just curious how this resonated with others. Don’t be shy, call Chris Hedges a crazy or whatever you want, just please explain why you feel the way you do.

‘Til next time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's Valentine's Day?!

I am probably the only female on the planet who did not know today was Valentine’s Day. I guess it just completely slipped by me. I found out this morning when I got to work and noticed a lot of sweet treats (but all very non-vegan of course) in the break room. I didn’t think too much of this as my co-workers bring in treats from time to time (as do I). Then one of my coworkers, Kathy, came in to tell me she made brownies with applesauce (they were dairy free, but had egg whites), so I asked what was up with all the baked goods. She gave me this odd look and said ‘Um, it’s Valentine’s Day!’ I’m sitting at my desk like, ‘is it really? Huh.’ Shows how much I pay attention to these things. I’m sure any of you reading my blog would probably suspect that I’m not super into corporate holidays. I read on another blog and wholeheartedly agreed that every day is a good day to show your partner (or friends, cats, whoever) that you love and appreciate them, not just one corporatized day of the year. I’m suspecting there were all sorts of ads on TV (probably to the effect of ‘go into debt and buy your wife a car and a giant diamond for Valentine’s Day or you’ll be sleeping on the couch’), but since I don’t watch TV, I (so sadly) missed out on the frenzied advertising campaign.

I was actually planning on blogging today about some food (of course), but also some thoughts I have had reading the book ‘War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’ by Chris Hedges. It is a very fascinating book and most definitely makes you think about war in general, human nature, our predisposition for violence, etc. But seeing as how it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m sure no one wants to hear about war, so I’ll save that one for tomorrow or perhaps for Brett's blog as I'm not sure how interested the veg*n community is in my social and political rants.

One more thing before I get on to the food. I’m wondering how many of you out there has heard of the author Michael Pollan. I read his book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’, and even though I wasn’t even an omnivore anymore when I read it, I highly enjoyed the book. He has a new book called ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto’ that I’m interested in reading. Anyway, he was on Democracy Now! yesterday and as always the discussion was enlightening and fascinating. I really enjoyed his discussion on nutritionism (yes, like many other things this has now turned in to an –ism), finding it very interesting how he noted the American obsession with focusing on quick fix diets and specific nutrients. We do this to the point where we see food as merely a collection of nutrients, and even as we ‘learn more’ about nutrition we (Americans) keep getting fatter and more unhealthy. This has a lot to do with all the focus on particular nutrients, not our overall eating patterns, which allows for agribusiness and food science companies to sell their value-added ‘food-like substances’ (as Michael Pollan calls them), and make us think it’s good for us since it has antioxidants or less fat, even though it is more of a scientific concoction than actual food.

You see, the ambiguity of our nutritional advice (namely the USDA’s ‘Food Pyramid’) is not unintentional. Cattlemen’s associations, farmer’s associations, food manufacturing associations have a very large pull in the USDA, hence why they’ll never come out and tell you NOT to eat a certain product (as this could reduce business for the above stated organizations), but have no problem telling you to eat more of something than you really need (you can make money this way). It is easier just be vague and confuse everyone to the point where they think nutrition is too complicated for regular folks to understand, so they give up and go the McDonalds. Mission accomplished.

To be completely honest, there is no money to be made in telling people what they really need to hear: eat whole grains, fruits and veggies, avoid meat and dairy. It is that simple. Michael Pollan has a really nice one liner that pretty much says it all, ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’ Hard to believe it’s really that simple, eh? Just remember that for thousands of years, people did just fine by simply listening to their bodies and eating FOOD (not food-like substances), and a wide variety of it. And if anyone is interested in reading more about corporate and political influence on nutritional advice, I recommend ‘Food Politics’ by Marion Nestle (and pretty much all her other books as well).

Onto the food. I feel bad for spending this much time talking about other things when my dinner last night was truly amazing. This was seriously the best recipe I have tried for a long time. I made Happy Herbivore’s Maple Glazed Tofu. I was going to serve it over quinoa, but sadly I got home to realize that I only had about a quarter of a cup of quinoa. So sad. So I served it over brown rice and it was still fantastic. It was really easy to make. The tofu got nice in golden in the coconut oil. I am getting more comfortable with stir-frying (I’ve been reluctant to cook over such high heat for fear of burning stuff), but was brave last night and the tofu got all golden and crispy. Since I live with The Proverbial Sweet Tooth, I decided to make her variation for a sweeter glaze. Damn agave takes things to a different level, doesn’t it?

Both Brett and I are fans of steamed carrots, but I literally could have eaten the carrots and the Maple Glaze alone as a dessert. I’m honestly not sure when was the last time that I wolfed down something like I did this. I loved the glaze so much, I think I might try it with plain veggies, or as Brett suggested, make the Maple Glazed Tofu again and add more veggies like bell peppers and snap peas.

I brought the leftovers to work today for lunch to have with an arugula salad, and my mouth and belly were quite happy.

Now I understand why the Happy Herbivore is so happy, it is easy to be happy when your body is fueled with healthful, protein, vitamin, and mineral packed food that tastes delicious to boot! I’m going to try some of her simple Indian recipes here in a couple of weeks. If those are as good as this recipe, she may be my go-to-blogger for good, quick, healthy meals. I’ve been going through some of her archived recipes, and you all should too. (Oh, and just to let you know Lindsay, if all your food is as good as this recipe, you should write a cookbook too!)

'Til next time!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pasta, Sprouts, and Pretentious Rice Crispies

For dinner tonight was simple baked tofu and spinach pasta. I adapted this from a Vegetarian Times recipe for Garlicky Tofu. The original recipe called for much too much garlic for my taste (and I like garlic!), prebaked tofu (I can bake the tofu myself, thank you, it takes 20 minutes), and not enough spinach. This recipe was very simple and very filling. I used a different pasta this time, an organic whole grain pasta with flax, and neither of us were particularly sent by it. But the rest was good, so I’ll do this again, but with a different pasta.

I used the Veganomicon recipe for Italian Marinated Tofu and baked it, the above stated not-anything-to-write-home-about pasta, an entire bag of fresh baby spinach steamed, and store bought mushroom onion marinara. It only took about a half hour to cook, and it was healthy and so-so (we mostly ate around the noodles and there was plenty of spinach to allow for it).

I also tried Lizzy’s Roasted Mustard Brussels Sprouts again and they turned out much better. I made a lot more mustard sauce, and it had too much zip, so I added a little agave and that smoothed it out. I basted the sprouts again about half way through cooking time, and I think that helped with the flavor as well. Yum!

I felt like baking tonight, but not really baking. Anyone else ever feel that way? What to do, eh? I decided to make vegan rice crispy treats, as, well, this is ‘baking’ without baking. I made what I like to call a ‘Pretentious Rice Crispy Treat’ as I added chopped hazelnuts, diced dried apricots, and shredded coconut to them. Brett and I discovered this lovely flavor combination from a box of organic granola bars we bought a bit back. Both of us had been wondering where else we could use this flavor combination. We came up with two ideas, a rice crispy treat or oatmeal (super creative I know).

I found a product called ‘Ricemellow Cream’ at the store and it’s vegan with no hydrogenated oils or sugars added. So I decided to try it out, and it’s pretty good and makes a mean crispy treat.

J’s Pretentious ‘Not Your Momma’s’ Rice Crispy Treat

1 10 oz box organic puffed brown rice cereal
1-2 tubs Suzanne’s Ricemellow Cream (or other marshmallow substitute)
1-2 tbsp Earth Balance (I like the organic whipped variety)
handful of chopped hazelnuts
lots of organic dried apricots, diced
1 cup (or more) shredded coconut (I used organic reduced fat)

Pour cereal in a large bowl.

Heat Earth Balance and ricemellow cream in a sauce pan until they begin to melt. Add the hazelnuts, apricots, and coconut and stir well.

Once melted, pour over puffed brown rice and stir.

Spread mixture into a 9x13 pan and let sit until cooled. Cut into squares.


These were really easy and quick, between dinner and these treats I was in the kitchen for less than an hour. Nice.

So, before I close, I had to let people know that Brett finally started a blog! I am so happy he did. I can tell you, it definitely has nothing to do with food (though I’m sure he [or I as I may post on his blog from time to time] may broach the topic of veg*nism at least once). His points of view are – well, different, but not far out there or unreasonable (as are, I believe, my own). I have always thought Brett has a great way of articulating his opinions on things, so I am happy others get to enjoy (or fume at) his musings as well. If anyone dares, they can pop over and check it out. That is my plug, but seriously, I’m stoked, I love a good debate as much as the next person and hope to see some lively discussion going on around some important and touchy issues. Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable and really rethink some fundamental things to really get somewhere. These are just, of course, my humble opinions, but I thought I’d share.

Well, anyways.

‘Til next time!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Omega 3 Oatmeal and Healthy Vegan Comfort Food

I forgot to mention in my last post that I made those pancakes with hemp milk. I saw it when I was at the store the other day and decided to pick it up to try it out. I have to say, it might now be my favorite non-dairy milk – it is really good and also high in Omega 3’s, awesome.

So, as I had mentioned in my last post, I was contemplating making some sort of spicy brunch dish, but somehow the morning got away from me, so I opted to make some oatmeal. Man I love oatmeal. I made Brett a bowl of Sweet Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal and made myself something I decided to call Omega 3 Oatmeal. It was a bit of an experiment, I just kind of threw some stuff together, but it was really good. Brett tasted it and said he liked it better than his oatmeal. I will definitely make this again soon.

Omega 3 Oatmeal
1/3 cup regular rolled oats
2/3 cup plain hemp milk
3-4 dried apricots, diced
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
2-4 tbsp agave
1 tbsp brown sugar
dash cinnamon

Stir all ingredients together in a sauce pan and bring to boil, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for a couple of minutes. Enjoy!

For dinner, I made Sautéed Seitan with Mushrooms and Spinach from Veganomicon and served it over quinoa. This recipe was alright, but if any of you out there make it, I would taste it before adding the salt called for, as ours turned out a bit salty. This was remedied by serving it over lots of quninoa. I really like quinoa, it is probably my favorite grain, and I feel like I don’t use it enough, Brett loves it as well, so I’m going to have to find more places to work it in! I also made Mashed Cauliflower for the first time. Lizzy gave me this recipe, but I believe she said she had gotten it from someone else. I apologize that I’m not crediting the original individual, but alas I don’t know who it was. Whoever made this up – wow, it was wonderful. Brett went to town on this. I think I’ve found a great way to get him more veggies.

I was really in the mood for veggies, so I also whipped up some of Lizzy’s Roasted Mustard Brussels Sprouts . She seems to be the Queen of Good Tasting Simple Veggies, and I don’t think I hate Brussels Sprouts anymore! Now these didn’t turn out as good as they probably could have, but this is my own error. I left my pizza stone in the oven, so the sprouts took forever to cook that is until I noticed I had left the stone in. I also think I’ll make more mustard sauce next time too, it was really good. The only thing I did differently in this recipe was use malt vinegar instead of balsamic at Lizzy’s recommendation.

This meal was vegan comfort food, and healthy to boot. I am stoked that I have leftovers for lunch at work tomorrow.

‘Til next time!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What an Omni Requests for Birthday Food

So yesterday was Brett’s 29th birthday, and I took the day off of work so that we could spend it together. I had gotten him a birthday present, but had already given it to him. You see, I was trying to be sneaky (which I have never been very good at), so I listened carefully over the year, trying to infer something I could get him for his birthday, without having to come right out and ask. Well he loves video games (is this something all men love regardless of age?), and his wireless controller for his Playstation broke. Now I knew what to get him.

I ordered a nice controller off of Amazon, and had it shipped to my office, sneaky right? Well the thing came and it was in a giant box. I mean this little controller was in this huge box. I was trying to figure out a way to get it home and hidden without Brett knowing, since he’s usually home when I get home. So I decided to just take it out of the box and put the controller in my book bag and get it home that way. Well wouldn’t you know that Amazon decided to glue a giant piece of cardboard to the back of the controller box, not really alleviating the size issue, and creating another, the fact that when I put it in my book bag, well, it was noticeable. It gave my book bag a rather triangular shape. In order to get the packaging for the controller separated from the cardboard would have required me to pretty much rip the whole thing apart, which I didn’t want to do in case he didn’t like it. Long story short, when I got home, I just gave it to Brett, ‘cause, well he could tell there was something up with my book bag. But he really liked it, so all was well in the end.

For breakfast I made Brett the Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Pancakes from Vegan with a Vengeance and my modified version of the strawberry sauce recipe in the book. We prefer our fruit sauces, at least for use in this type of situation, to be pretty pulverized and thick, so, as usual, I had to go a different way with this. I just noticed that I was still in keeping with my pink pancake motif, so I guess I really do have a thing for pink breakfast foods. :-)

And you know, he was sweet enough to play guitar for me while I cooked, on his birthday. I know he enjoys it, but I think I enjoy it more. I even snapped a couple of pics of him jamming.

Back to the food.

You know, I like these plates more now that I have this blog. I think I am finally starting to appreciate the full breadth of their ugliness and novelty. :-)

J’s VwaV Inspired Strawberry Sauce

½ bag frozen strawberries
1 tsp. pure maple syrup
¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8-1/4 cup organic sugar
¼ cup water
1-2 tsp. arrowroot starch/flour mixed with a tbsp or so water

In a sauce pan mix all ingredients and warm at medium heat. Once fruit mixture has gotten warm, use the side of a kitchen utensil or potato smasher to pulverize the fruit. Bring to a boil and add the arrowroot mixture, stirring frequently until desired consistency.

These pancakes are good. I mean they are chocolate and more chocolate and if you like that – well, I think you’d be in love. These are also VERY sweet, so I would recommend this as more of a dessert unless you can handle really sweet food in the morning. Both of us tend to prefer nothing really much sweeter than a granola bar, so we’ll save these for dessert next time.

When I had asked Brett what he wanted me to make him for his birthday food wise, he said he wanted the Vegan Chocolate Chip Fudgy Brownies I make as well as a Black Bean Quesadilla, he didn’t really care about breakfast. So thats what he got.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Fudgy Brownies
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use Green & Black's Organic Cocoa Powder)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups organic sugar
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (optional)
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce (or 1 cup canola oil for higher fat baking, or 1/2 cup canola oil and 1/2 cup applesauce for somewhere in the middle)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup water
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (we like Tropical Source)(optional)
confectioner's sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir in the wet ingredients. If desired, add chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into a greased 9"- x 13"-inch baking pan, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar when it comes out of the oven.

Let the brownies cool slightly before serving.

Brett and I ended up with slightly different things for dinner as quesadillas and burritos can be very ‘mix-and-match’ and I had some pinto beans in the fridge that needed to be eaten, so I made a burrito for myself and a Black Bean Quesadilla for Brett. We usually use plain old Spanish rice in this recipe, but both of us thought it would be good to try subbing in Veganomicon’s Mexican Millet to see how that worked. Well of course, when I looked at the recipe, there were things I didn’t have or we don’t like and things I had that I usually add to my Spanish Rice that I thought would make good additions, so I ended up doing it a bit differently. I left the fresh tomato and cilantro out, and I didn’t have any tomato paste. So instead of using 2 cups of veggie broth, I used a cup and a half of veggie broth and a half cup of tomato juice. I also cut down on the onion called for and added sautéed red bell pepper. It was so good! Brett said he thought our Mexican food might be better with millet than rice. This stuff is really good so we highly recommend it to anyone who loves Mexican food like we do.

If you were curious here is a rough run-down of what went in Brett’s Quesadilla: Lots of black beans tossed with a bit of Simply Organics Southwest Taco Seasoning, some sweet corn, our variation of Mexican Millet, and cheese, real cheese, but it was his birthday, and this is what he wanted. It was topped with guacamole, tofu sour cream and salsa (not pictured here).

For my burrito I layered some Mexican Millet, and took a mixture of black and pinto beans, tossed them with a bit of the Southwest Taco Seasoning, then added a bit of sweet corn and some Follow Your Heart vegan Monterey Jack. I also topped mine with guacamole, tofu sour cream and salsa (again, not pictured). I had a bit of Mexican Millet on the side as my burrito ‘seemed’ small, but I didn’t end up eating it. The burrito was too filling.

You know, I don’t think I’ve had enough spicy food and guacamole yet :-), so I think I will concoct a breakfast around that. (Maybe I should turn off the Spanish guitar music.) Tonight I am also planning on making a more ‘Jen-Style’ meal, meaning more veggies, far more veggies than the types of things Brett picks out, but I think I have ways of dressing them up that will be pleasing even to the omni.

‘Til next time.