Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pumpkin and Azuki Beans

My son brought home a small pumpkin after a field trip to the pumpkin patch the other day. For the first time I considered that a pumpkin could actually be eaten, and that not all pumpkin made for consumption comes out of a can only to be made into a pie. I had bought azuki beans at the beginning of my vegan journey after reading The Kind Diet knowing there was some recipe in the book that had to do with them. I can't get my hands on a Kobacha squash to save my life, so I thought why not use the pumpkin? I'm sure butternut squash would be lovely as well. After reading reviews of the recipe, I thought adding a few ingredients might be nice. The toasted sesame seed oil adds a nice touch, and I think the cilantro is probably essential for a little brightess. I really enjoyed this. It's a nice warm bowl of goodness for a fall day.

Pumpkin and Azuki Beans
Recipe adapted from The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

1 cup dried azuki beans
2 cups pumpkin or kabocha squash, cut into large chunks
1 4-6 inch pieces of kombu
1-3 t. Shoyu
1 T. Toasted Sesame Oil
chopped fresh cilantro

1 Chopped Yellow Onion
4 Garlic Cloves Chopped
1 Inch Piece of Ginger, grated on microplane

Combine the kombu and beans in a bowl and cover with water by an inch or two and soak overnight. Drain the kombu and beans and rinse. Cut kombu into inch squares. Add to heavy duty pot. Add azuki beans, and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, and skim off foam. Reduce heat to low, and cover the pot. Simmer about 25-30 minutes.

In the meantime, warm olive oil and add onion to the pan with a sprinkle of salt. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook until browned and carmelized, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, and cook an additional 2-3 minutes until cooked through.

After 25-30 minutes, add pumpkin or squash to the top of the beans. Make sure water is still covering beans. Cook an additional 15-20 minutes, until beans and pumpkin are to your desired texture. Add cooked onions, garlic and ginger. Stir in toasted sesame oil. Stir in Shoyu 1 t. at a time to your desired taste (I think I ended up adding a little over 1 T. in the end), and cook an additional 5 minutes. Stir in chopped cilantro and serve.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vegan Veggie Chili and Cornbread by Morgan

I think this is the last day for a while that I'm going to borrow recipes from other blogs....I think. The problem is that no matter how little I read this or that blog, there is alllllways something I want to try. Being fall and all Morgan's Veggie Chili and Cornbread were calling my name. I hadn't made a vegan chili yet, so this was the perfect recipe to try. This was also the first time I have used Yves Meatless Ground. I was really happy with it, and will try it in something else soon. The cornbread was a delicious addition as well. The only thing I changed about the chili was to add a few teaspoons of smoked paprika (as I'm inclined to do in most chili recipes.) It adds a nice smokiness to chili. Oh, and I added an additional can of beans, and summer squash. You don't have to change a thing though, but I can't help myself when I'm in arm's reach of other random ingredients to add to an already great recipe. Thank you for all the awesome recipes Morgan! I can't wait for you to publish, so I can have a cookbook full of them :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Vegan Breakfast Burritos To Die For

I'm so depressed that this picture is so bad because this burrito was SOOO good! I so admire Morgan from Little House of Veggies. Pretty much everything that is ever served at her table is incredibly delicious. She doesn't obsess about sugary cupcakes like the Vegan Piggy here, but usually finds a way to make everything with a healthy twist using super creative ingredients. This here was Morgan's recipe for Breakfast Burritos with Potatoes and Bacon. I took the suggestions of a few local vegans and bought some Central Soy Foods (a local brand which is total bonus) Nigari Smoked Tofu. The crispy potatoes and "bacon" mixed with the veggies and smokiness of the tofu made me one happy girl. The only thing I changed was to use mushrooms (because I'm a mushroom addict) instead of carrots. I also had the fortune of having a little leftover guacamole that I made from last night to throw on top. The recipe says it serves 4, but I ended up making 8 smaller burritos. I'll see how they freeze. The only problem with this meal, was the ridiculously enormous mess I made. Despite the kitchen explosion, I will definitely make these again!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was so happy to find A Fresh Dille the other day. I love the blogsphere. There's never an end to inspiration or the likely-hood that you might bump into like-minded people. I love that the blog's focus not only on food, but fashion amongst other topics. What a lovely combo! I had been dreaming of chocolate chip cookies, and it happened to be my lucky day because I found just the perfect recipe as I perused the archives. The original recipe comes from Dreena Burton's Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies, and is just what I had been looking for. I love that this recipe only makes 12 cookies. There's less likely-hood to go off the deep end in a family of 4 with only 12 cookies. I have been out of maple syrup for a few weeks, so I had the mind to substitute brown rice syrup instead. They turned out beautifully. I love the tad of molasses. It adds just the right touch. I will try this recipe in its original form once I get the maple syrup, but I was happy the way they turned out with brown rice syrup.

Edit: I re-made these cookies exactly according to the recipe with the maple syrup this time. I have to tell you, these really were perfect. I liked them the last time, but I loved them this time so much more. And they're so easy. No creaming butter. Just mix with a spoon. So much less time consuming than non-veg cookies. You have to try these!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No camera = No posts

I haven't fallen off the vegan wagon, I promise. This perfectionist did however lose the camera battery charger. I'm unfortunately one of those creative/disorganized people who generally loses something of importance weekly. I really don't like posting pictures I'm not proud of hence the lack of posts. Lame right? Tell that to my neurotic brain. I ordered a new charger, so hopefully I'll be back up and running ASAP. I had to snap a picture of these cupcakes though. While the toppings might not be totally vegan (or at least I don't think they were) they were so pretty, so I had to share even if I had to use my crap cell phone camera. The recipe was marble cupcakes with fluffy vegan buttercream frosting from VCTOTW (as Amber from Almost Vegan likes to abbreviate.) I hadn't made this frosting yet, and it was indeed fluffy. It was just the right consistency to pipe huge cloud like mountains atop these yummy little cakes. The marble cake was yum too! I'm kind of craving these again just thinking about them. Hmmm....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vegan BBQ Pulled "Pork" Sandwiches - Say What!?

I had never heard of Jackfruit until this whole vegan adventure began. The little vegan restaurant I've been obsessing about uses it in a million different ways. They have "fish" tacos, chalupas, and recently added reuban and bbq sandwiches. I tried the reuban the last time, and whoa! The jackfruit looked freakily like meat. I have yet to try the bbq sandwich, but couldn't stop thinking about it, so I decided to make it at home. Since I had never heard of jackfruit, I had to figure out where in the world to buy it. Turns out you can buy it at the Asian grocery store (like you can find all other obscure and strange vegan ingredients.) Whole Foods sometimes has it fresh (I called to see), but they didn't have any. Jackfruit when it is unripe or green, can be used in savory dishes. Make sure if you buy it for something like this, it isn't the ripened version which is sweet. Jackfruit is reminicent of hearts of palm or artichokes if you've never had it, but it makes a nice medium for a sandwich. It's doesn't necessarily have the texture of meat, but man does it look like it. Freaakkky!

This is my attempt at making a bbq sauce. I have no idea why on earth I used this many ingredients! You could probably use all bottled sauce or omit half of these ingredients with the same results. They just all sounded good as I was grabbing stuff. I used what I call my "magic pot" (because everything goes in and comes back out incredibly delicious), or in other words, my little Le Creuset dutch oven. I prefer to use the oven rather than a crock pot on most occasions, but I'm guessing a crock pot would work nicely if you have a small one. Forgive the bad picture. I only had a cell phone available. Can someone on earth tell me where my camera battery charger went before I go bonkers?

Vegan Pulled "Pork" Sandwiches
½ Red Onion, Diced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
1/2 Jalapeno,  finely chopped (seeds removed)
1/4 cup ketchup
1 T. tomato paste
1 t. Molasses
¼ C. Vegan BBQ Sauce
½ C. Tomato Sauce 
½ t. Garlic Powder
1 T. Tamari or Shoyu
1 T. Vegan Worcestershire 
1/2 t. Crushed Red Pepper
1/2 C. Veg Broth 
¼ t  Liquid Smoke 
¼ t. Ginger, grated on a microplane
1 - 20 can of Jackfruit in brine or water, drained and squeezed of extra water
Whole Wheat Buns
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients except broth to small dutch oven. Heat until boiling, and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add broth and stir to combine. Add jackfruit and stir. Cook in oven for 1 hour. Once removed, shred jackfruit with a fork. Serve with toasted buns. Enjoy!

PS. I got my first set of Fiesta dishes from my mom for my birthday. Aren't they cute? :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Mother Of All Vegan Wraps

Ok truly, this was the best wrap ever. The little local vegan restaurant I keep raving about here in KC has a portobello wrap that we adore. They use all the fabulous local veggies they can get their hands on. The chef is incredibly creative. And because I can't afford to go there every day of my life like I want, I went to the farmer's market. This week I bought a little bit of just about everything. I think that I was in a bit of a veggie rut, buying the same stuff over and over again. Not this week I say! This wrap had portobellos, summer squash, red peppers, eggplant, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, pumpkin greens, red onion, and garlic to boot (and probably other stuff I'm not remembering.) All I added was salt and pepper. I decided to leave all this beautiful vegetation to taste just like it tastes without me messing with it too much. Sometimes vegetables in all their vegtable-y goodness are strikingly delicious all on their own. I thinned a little vegan sour cream with lemon juice, and zig-zagged a little on just for looks mostly. This is the natural "Airborne" (that icky vitamin mixture we drink to not get sick). Surely the vitamins in this wrap would kick any would-be sicky germ's butt. I feel so good after eating stuff like this. Yummmmmmmm :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Sweet Silas!

Today my baby turns five. I can't believe these years have passed so quickly. He's my little apprentice, always willing to help me pour this or that in the bowl, or sprinkle a dash of this or that here and there. What a precious little guy. His request for his birthday treat was for chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. I wish I could have gotten a picture of what he looked like after gobbling up his cupcake. So precious. Happy Birthday little guy :)

Oh by the way, these are (you guessed it) from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. I've decided that no matter what kind of cupcake recipe you're using, 15 minutes is the perfect amount of time to bake the perfect cupcake. A few minutes over, and you've got dry cupcakes IMO. This cookbook usually recommends 18 minutes, but I think they're just right taken out a few minutes before. These definitely got 2 thumbs up from the birthday boy.

Nate's Two Cents: I'd like to brag about my son's unbearable cuteness, but I can only take half the credit for that.  I do know that he has great taste in desserts.  And he seems to prefer almond/soy milk over cow milk, so he's much more likely than his brother to go the vegan route...And on that note, by the way, this vegan diet is amazing.  I would never have imagined before that I could eat this much and not only not gain weight, but actually lose weight (about 17 lbs, for anyone who cares).  I mean honestly, I gorge on different combos of grains, fruits, and veggies until I don't think my stomach can hold another ounce...and somehow the next morning the scale shows no damage.  And thanks to Tara's culinary wizardry, I don't feel like I'm sacrificing taste to eat well.  Anyway the cupcakes: awesome.  Chocolatey, moist, perfect texture, and really beautiful.  Probably going to have a couple more before this night is over, come to think of it...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower and Wilted Spinach Salad - Vegan Yum Yum

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I drop off my youngest kiddo for preschool. I only have one more year left with my little guy at home which is totally sad (I will most certainly cry like a baby when he goes to kindergarten), but I've been making use of the time. I should be working, but since I'm only a few weeks into the school year I'm trying to have a little fun before I get back to work. Today for lunch I made Vegan Yum Yum's Roasted Cauliflower and Wilted Spinach Salad. Yum! This is a pretty easy recipe, that had great payoff. All you do is drizzle cauliflower with olive oil, and roast for about 20 minutes, boil up some whole wheat pasta  (in the meantime), cut up a few sun dried tomatoes. Throw it all on top of a few big handfuls of spinach. Drizzle a tablespoon or two (for good measure) of balsamic vinegar (a bit of salt and pepper of course), and voila! The only problem with this meal was that after I had the bowl you see above, I went to pack away the leftovers and dropped it (PLOP) right on the floor, everywhere. BLAH! I found out that my dog likes cauliflower. Who'da thunk it?! Well, you won't hear Nate's 2 cents about this meal, but at least this is proof I actually made it. I'm drowning my sorrows in cupcakes (they are baking as I type.) I'll try this recipe again. Quite delish and super healthy :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pumpkin and Chocolate....Oh My!

It is the most glorious September day here in Kansas City. The humidity of summer has already passed, so I'm breaking out the flavors of fall. Yes, I'm making more cupcakes, and still not losing that last 10 pounds.  But, at least I'm still cuter 20 pounds lighter, and a girl needs a cupcake. I think cupcakes are on par with twirly dresses and scalloped awnings, and just absolutely necessary for true girlishness. Anyway, this is the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (I'm obsessed with it obviously. Seriously, buy it.) I didn't think I'd like pumpkin and chocolate, and almost omitted the chips. I trust this cookbook however, and wanted to try it as is. It was a nice combo. The icing tied the flavors together beautifully. I have to say the Cinnamon Icing is to die for. I think cinnamon rolls are most definitely in my future with this icing slathered all over them. Fun, fun! I love to cook with all my little cupcake loving heart :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Vegan Who Doesn't Love Tofu?

Since this whole vegan journey began, I have kept tubs of tofu in the fridge ready to be cooked or thrown into this or that. More often than not, I happen across it in the fridge and realize the expiration date is long past due. Dare I say, I don't love Tofu? Is that a sin in this new vegan world I'm living in? I like it kind of, but after two or three bites, I'm tofu-ed out. I mean this looks good right? There is nothing wrong with this recipe at all. It was a sweet and sour recipe I found. The tofu was coated dipped and coated in corn starch and sautéed, so it had a nice crisp. The sauce was yummy as well, but hmmm.....Tofu. Why don't I love it?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mom Knows Best - Vegan Banana Bread

My mom is a fantastic cook, and seriously makes the best banana bread on earth! Every time I have made her recipe and shared it, people have gone on and on about how wonderful it is (and they are right!) This is banana bread at its best. It may be more classified as a cake because it's that good. This is my second try making this vegan style. The first time I used Ener-G, and found that I really didn't like it at all in this recipe. It got all grainy. I know this recipe well, and it just didn't taste the same at all with an egg replacer. Fortunately bananas work well as a binder on their own, and because this recipe already has a bunch of banana, adding 1 extra to make up for the eggs doesn't mess with the flavor. This recipe makes 2 loaf pans of bread. I have no idea why, but I don't have loaf pans. They were swallowed up by the loaf pan monster or something. Instead I use 2 - 8 inch cake pans which works beautifully, or this recipe could make 20-24 muffins. It can be easily halfed if you prefer. I like having an extra pan to share :)

Best Vegan Banana Bread...Ever

2 C. Sugar
1 C. Earth Balance Butter
7 Ripe Bananas
2 1/2 C. White Whole Wheat Flour
1 t. Salt
2 t. Soda

1 c. Chopped Pecans or Blueberries (My mom uses either of these or none at all.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash Bananas, and set aside. I usually just mix them on high in my stand mixer. Cream Sugar and butter until fluffy. Add banana and combine. In a separate bowl sift flour, salt and soda. Add to banana mixture. If using loaf pans, bake for 1 hour. For muffins bake about 20-25 minutes. I hope you love this as much as I do :)

Nate's Two Cents:  I think I'd be stretching the truth to call this a guilt-free pleasure, but it's a little less guilty without the cholesterol of its non-vegan predecessor (the original Arial Banana Bread).  And it's loaded with actual bananas, which means something to a society that buys things made to taste like fruit even when eating an actual fruit would be simpler. I'm looking at you, Jello.  I just remind myself every time I eat Tara's banana bread that it's loaded with potassium.  I have good joints already, but still, it can't hurt.  And it's delicious.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vegan Cupcake Heaven

I love getting a new cookbook. I think they're the best kind of books, well, right behind historical fiction. Anyway, today I got my amazon shipment, and my long awaited copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. After failing miserably on a few cake recipes, I wanted to have something reliable on the shelf for reference. Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero are my vegan mentors (even if they don't know it.) I decided to make the Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe along with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting. My go-to chocolate cupcake recipe used to be Martha Stewart's one bowl chocolate cake, but no longer. These cupcakes are perfect, moist and super chocolaty. That may be due to the fact that I bought some rockin' Valhrona dutch process cocoa. French chocolate gets me all googly eyed and dreaming of Europe. Aren't cupcakes cute? They kind of have a little puppy quality. They always make me want to stop and saw, "Awwww....How cute!" Anyway, I can't wait to try more recipes. Yay!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How I Love Falafel

Are you starting to wonder if I am ever, ever going to lose that last 10 lbs? I promise, I'm not only eating fried food. But, falafel is kind of healthy (I like self delusion obviously.) Protein fried in healthy fat couldn't be that bad right? Anyway, we love falafel around here. It's one of Nate's favorites, so I can never go wrong if I call him in the afternoon cluing him in on what's for dinner. He likes it when he knows I'm not testing something totally weird and obscure on him. I'm a fan of the Joy of Cooking version. I've tried many different recipes, but this is my favorite (so far anyway.) I've found that I'm not crazy about falafel recipes that use canned beans.  They end up mushy. No bueno in my opinion.

Perfect Falafel

1 1/2 c. Dried Chickpeas (Rinsed and soaked overnight)
1/2 c. chopped onions
1/4 c packed fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. ground red pepper

2 T. Flour

Heat oil of your choice over medium high heat in heavy duty pan about 1/2 inch deep. Pulse all ingredients in a food processor, but not too long or they'll fall apart in the oil. Add mixture to bowl, and stir in flour. Form into little flying saucers. Let hang out for around 15 minutes, then fry for about 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  
For the sauce, mix 1/4 c. tahini, 1/4 c. water, 1-2 T. lemon juice and a pinch of salt. YUM!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vegan Fried Okra and Succotash

I'm already beginning to mourn the end of summer. Today was the first day I felt a little foretelling of Autumn in the air. While the fall is very dear to me, I'll miss the juicy red tomatoes of summer and the farmer's markets. My father in law has a little plot in a community garden.  He brought over some fresh cherry tomatoes and okra. Sometimes my dinners are just like this. Nothing fancy, just a bunch of color all thrown on a plate, but nothing makes me happier. 

One recipe I'm completely obsessed with (might not be a strong enough word) is Alicia Silverstone's Summertime Succotash from her book The Kind Diet. I probably make it at least once a week in some form or another. I didn't grow up on Lima beans, but she has completely sold me on them. I've made this recipe with all fresh ingredients (including once fresh lima beans I scored from my favorite vendor), but sometimes I totally cheat if I don't have fresh on hand. I finally took back my copy of the book to the library and ordered it myself. It's worth it I think. Here's a total cheater version of the recipe, but trying it just as she wrote it is definitely worth a go if you have the book. I love it with all fresh ingredients, but saving time is a great bonus every once in a while.

Cheater Summertime Succotash
1 - 2 T. Earth Balance
1 Can of Organic Butter Beans (the original calls for frozen lima beans)
1 Can of Organic Sweet Corn 
1/2 Red Onion, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
A cup or two of fresh Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in 2
1 T. Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh Parsley or Basil

Heat butter in large heavy duty pot. Sauté onions for around 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an additional minute. Add butter beans and corn. Heat through, and then add tomatoes. You don't want your tomatoes to lose their firmness or juice, so (really) don't keep them in long at all. Then toss in balsamic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Seriously delicious. I love all the textures involved.

Both of my in-laws are from the south, and are A-mazing cooks. Seriously. My brother in law calls it the best restaurant in town. While they are definitely meat eaters, there are always a million delicious sides. My mother in law says my father in law gets all the credit for the main dish, but her sides are always to die for. Since they brought me over a bunch of okra, I HAD to fry it. Ok, maybe I didn't have to, but is there really any other better way to eat okra? Absolutely not I say! But maybe that's why this last ten pounds is so slow to come off. I veganized his proportions, and they turned out perfectly.

Vegan Fried Okra

2/3 C. All Purpose Flour
1/3 C. Organic Cornmeal
1 t. Kosher Salt
1 t. Paprika
1/2 t. Garlic Powder
Pound or 2 of Fresh Okra
1 C. Unsweetened Soy Milk
Canola Oil

Heat canola in heavy duty pan over medium high heat. Sift together dry ingredients. My father in law says that you have to bread each batch right before dropping them in the pan or it doesn't work the same. Drop a large handful of okra in soy milk. Remove and add to cornmeal mixture. Toss to coat. Drop in the pan, and fry until golden brown. Taste before adding any additional salt. Enjoy :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

In search of the perfect wrap

So if you've wondered where I've been, I've been on a quest to make the perfect wrap. There's a little vegan restaurant called FÜD here in Kansas City that we've been to a few times. There they have the most incredible wraps and other delectable fare. I'm not usually one to order a glorified sandwich, but man are they good at FÜD. I think I'm most fascinated with the sauces that adorn almost every dish. Each sauce is of course vegan, and spectacularly great. I wouldn't know how to replicate them if I tried. The owner is going to have some classes that I'm really excited about. Being there has totally inspired me to come up with my own wraps that are super delicious. I love wraps because they are the perfect throw together lunch or dinner. This particular wrap was sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, garlic and generously sprinkled with curry powder. I mixed a few tablespoons of vegenaise, a few more sprinkles of curry, a little nutritional yeast and thinned it with a tad of water for the sauce. I think I may have to make this one again :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Flippin' Awesome Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

The way to Nate's heart usually involves a route taken through a pastry shop. However, for some reason unbeknownst to me (even though I've tried a ba-jillion times), yeast breads and pastries don't usually work out for me. This winter whilst locked up during a ridiculous two-week-longer than usual winter break due to snow, I made loaves a' plenty.  None of them were good, and I'm not just saying that. I would love to be a baker's apprentice, because I obviously have no clue. When I found this recipe for Quick Mini Cinnabuns over at Vegan Pandamonium, I had to try them. There is no yeast involved here, which gave me kind of a chance at not royally messing them up. The recipe uses whole wheat flour which eases my mind at least somewhat to their nutritional value (hardy har :)  The recipe title is true; they are quick and wonderfully easy. The hubs and kiddos loved them which always makes me smile. After failing on a batch of brownies yesterday, my baking self esteem was battered.  Making these helped me ease the pain of being responsible for the dry, crappy brownies I took to yesterday's family dinner.  Hooray for baking success! 

Nate's Two Cents: Tara puts the "sin" in cinnabuns, no question about it.  I thought I had broken my bread addiction, I really did.  Two months of vegetables and beans and colorful fruits and crunchy granola had seduced me into forgetting my vulnerability.  I felt like Superman, laughing at the donut temptations that used to do me in.  But every man has his kryptonite.  And mine takes the form of warm, sweet, fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon buns.  So when Tara put these in front of me, my delusions of strength suddenly came crashing down...I couldn't say no...I tried to stop at one, I really did!  But the smell, that cursed devil smell of cinnamon and sugar.  I have nothing more to say.  I have been humbled.  I am defeated.  Must...have...another...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Morgan's Magic - Vegan Refried Beans

Since becoming a vegan, I've found the greatest food blogs. I've taken to cooking up some of the recipes I have on a growing list from other blog writers over the last week. Vegan cooks are the most creative of foodie folks because they have to substitute and re-create recipes out of unconventional ingredients. I love learning about new ways to cook. I figure since I already have to cook, it might as well be fun right? Morgan over at Little House of Veggies is a perfect example of that kind of creative cook who always make you think "Huh! What a great idea!"  My oven is currently broken, so when I saw Morgan's Amazing Refried Beans recipe (which is serendipitously made in a crock pot), I thought it would be a perfect time to try them. Who doesn't love coming home to a house filled with the aromas of a Mexican cantina? Morgan's recipes are always thoughtfully seasoned, so there is rarely an occasion where you would want to change anything. These beans were delicious, and SO easy! I used my stick blender to smash them up. By the way, tostadas are married people food. If you have a really cute boyfriend you're trying to impress, tostadas are out. Nate and I were laughing at each other and the huge mess we were making of ourselves, but we're stuck with one another, so who cares!  Rather than tostada shells, I packed up a couple of bean burritos instead for Nate's lunch, so he doesn't freak out his co-workers with tostada all over his face :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hurry Up Alfredo Sauce - Vegan Yum Yum

Something creamy sounded good today. Every once and a while I miss heavy whipping cream. I'm still longing to find a vegan crème brûlée recipe (since that was the dessert I'm asked to bring to gatherings most often), but we'll see if I can find one that remotely passes as the real thing. Yeah, yeah, real cream isn't exactly thigh friendly, but it sure tastes good. I always have a recipe I've found here or there that I'd like to try. I had seen the recipe for Hurry Up Alfredo on Vegan Yum Yum and wanted to try it, but even more so after Kylea over at Veganizing tested it out and loved it. This sauce is creamy for sure, and while it doesn't have the same flavor as a traditional alfredo, it is pretty darn good! It is probably just as fattening as regular alfredo, but certainly more heart healthy. It definitely satisfies your cream craving. One word of advice on this recipe; make sure to use low sodium shoyu or tamari as suggested. In the pot it tasted too salty to me, but once I poured it over the pasta and veggies, it was just about right. I missed the low-sodium part on the recipe and used regular. I would have added less soy to make up for the difference, had I been a more patient recipe follower.  Man, this sauce made me wish I had a Vita-Mix blender. Ah well! Someday :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Vegan Chickpea Cutlets

Last winter my friend Kylea went veg for a full month to see if it would be an experiment that she could sustain for her family. She's one of those people who inspire you in many ways. I admire her for being more balanced than most, not just going out and buying organic veggies, but growing them in her own backyard, and for being one of the sweetest moms and wives I have met. It had never occurred to me to be a vegan before she did it. The concept seemed too difficult even though I had spent many years as a vegetarian. Once I started reading this summer about why a vegan diet is beneficial, I remembered her experiment. We began talking about recipes and what her successes were previously. It's so nice to have a friend to talk with about vegan recipes who doesn't think I'm a total weirdo. In the past few months, she has gone vegan again, but this time has taken her whole family along for the ride as well. She has started a new blog called Veganizing, where she has totally blown me away with the variety of items she has been cooking. Tonight I tried the recipe for Chickpea Cutlets. They were really yummy! While the texture is not exactly like chicken, the crispy outside gives you the same satisfaction. I multiplied the recipe by one and one half because one can of chickpeas equals about 1 1/2 cups rather than 1 cup that the recipe calls for. I still only used 1/4 cup of vital wheat gluten even though I one and a halved the recipe. I agree with Kylea that this ingredient is better used in smaller quantities. Oh, and by the way, wear an apron for goodness sake! This little suckers will pop you with hot oil if you're not careful. Check out Kylea's blog. I'm so impressed with all she's done in such a short time!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Vegan Fried Pickles - Bar Food Sans the Bar

I have totally and completely been obsessing about fried pickles. No, I'm not pregnant. It's my OCD, maniacal side. I haven't been officially diagnosed, but when I set my mind on something, I usually take it right off the deep end. Sometimes a girl just really, really needs something deep fried. Most fried pickle recipes I have found include eggs or buttermilk, so here's an improvisation. I prefer the slices to the spears, but pretty much all kinds of fried pickles are my friends. These don't need extra salting in case you want to head for the shaker. The sodium content in the pickles is plenty. I wish Nate hadn't left me alone with my vices today. Boredom and too much time on one's hands leads to mischief. Fortunately I only made a small batch. Am I the only one who adores fried pickles?

2 T. Brown Rice Syrup
2 T. Maple Syrup
1 T. Grainy Dijon
1 C. Corn Flakes
1/2 C. Flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour, but any would do)
1/2 t. Garlic Powder
1/2 t. Black Pepper
Small Pinch of Salt
2 T. Vegenaise
Jar of Dill Pickle Slices, large crinkle cut is best
Canola Oil or other Vegetable Oil

Pour about 2 inches of oil in a small heavy pot. Set over medium high heat.  On a paper towel, set a layer of pickles.  Pat dry. Combine syrups and Dijon in a bowl. Reserve 1 T. sauce. Combine 1 T. reserved syrup mixture with 2 T. Vegenaise. Set aside. This will be your dipping sauce. In a food processor, combine corn flakes, flour, garlic powder, pepper and pinch of salt. Pulse until well processed, but the corn flakes still have some body left. Place mixture into lidded tupperware container. Add 5-7 pickle slices to mixture. Cover and shake until well coated. Add to heated oil, and fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Set on paper towel to drain excess oil.

Nate's Two Cents:  For the record, I'm the one saying Tara's pregnant.  I just think there's something very ovarian about suddenly needing one specific fried food....and needing it NOW. But anyway, for what it's worth, I'm glad she had the craving.  The pickles were tremendous.  Perfect blend of sweet and salty, and somehow they didn't lose that "crunch" that sets good pickles apart.  I secretly wished she had made more.  There, I said it.  Tara, next time make more.

P.S. I'm really not pregnant. - Tara

Friday, July 30, 2010

Misir Watt

One great thing about being a budding vegan is all the new recipes I have been able to try as of late. I'm one of those cooks who never makes much of the same thing more than once.  I think it gives more creative value to to process of cooking and eating. I do have a few family favorites, but I really do love trying new things.  Recently I went to Blue Nile Cafe at the Kansas City River Market, a really great Ethiopian restaurant.  They have a great selection of vegan items on the menu, all of which are really flavorful and spicy. It got me really interested in learning more about about this particular cuisine. I love discovering new spice combinations. I found a really great local blog called Almost Vegan written by a fellow Kansas Citian (yes there are actually vegans in the Midwest) who had recently taken classes at Blue Nile. She shared the recipe for Misir Watt (Ethiopian Lentils) along with really great instructions, and how to images. This turned out really great. You do have to have berbere, a special spice that I purchased directly from the restaurant, but maybe you could find it at a specialty shop in your area. I also picked up some injera which is Ethiopian bread that I had neither the time nor the inclination to replicate at this time :)  There are a few other Ethiopian recipes I plan on trying, and will of course share them with you soon!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Cake & Chocolate Frosting

One of my many hobb-sessions, as Nate likes to call them, through the years has included cake making.  When this particular hobby/obsession came into my life, you could find me at Michael's or pretty much anywhere that had cake decorator tools. Of course like most of my hobbies, they die a slow death, but at least I can pick them up when I need them. My kids absolutely love when I tell them I'm going to make a cake. They run into the kitchen and grab two chairs and perch on them waiting for instruction on what ingredient gets poured into the bowl next. With only 2 weeks of summer left, it's a great time to bake together.  I'm sad to see my little helpers go back to school.  I have standby cake recipes that are most definitely not vegan. Time to improvise!

I found the cake recipe on Post Punk Kitchen. If you haven't already visited the site, it's a fun place to find recipes. All the recipes I've tried so far have been fantastic. I used the Rich Chocolate Cake recipe. I love that the recipe uses whole wheat pastry flour and maple syrup rather than sugar. Do follow the time suggestion. I left mine in a few minutes longer because it didn't seem done at the alloted time, and while it was still very moist and delicious, I think a few minutes less would have made a more moist cake the next day. I wouldn't know because I didn't have any left because it got gobbled up at a family gathering in 3 seconds flat, so it's just a guess. The frosting is a Chocolate Buttercream.  I mourn the loss of swiss meringue buttercream, as of course there are no eggs left in my life, but I have to say this one was still really delicious.  Really, who doesn't love chocolate frosting? I transformed an old recipe with vegan ingredients.

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream

2 C. Earth Balance Butter, room temperature
12 oz. Vegan Semi Sweet Chocolate, melted and cooled
3 T. Plain Soy Milk
2 t. Vanilla
5 C. Powdered Sugar

Beat the butter in a stand mixer until fluffy for about 2 or 3 minutes. Slowly add melted chocolate with mixer on low. After chocolate and butter are well combined, add vanilla, milk and sugar. Beat at medium low until just combined. This makes enough to frost 2 8-9 inch cakes. I had leftover frosting which I plan to use on a few cupcakes, or to eat out of the fridge as necessary :)

Nate's Two Cents: I'm really out of my element commenting on cakes, but I'll say this much, I really, really enjoyed this one. To me, anything with "chocolate" in the title should taste like it. And this cake is the real deal. There's no way I'd have known it didn't have eggs or refined sugar.  In fact, the maple syrup worked so well it inspired me to start sweetening my coffee with it. So my advice would be to just not even bother telling your guests what the cake doesn't have in it, unless they accuse you of violating your vegan values. What they don't know won't hurt 'em.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Goodbye precious friend...I can't wait to see you again.

So, you who actually read my blog have probably wondered where on earth I have gone. In early July one of my greatest friends on earth and sister in law Shanna passed away at the very young age of 43 due to complications after several major surgeries she had had 2 months prior. We had been friends for some time before she became my sister in law. We talked often of how fun it would be to be sister in laws, and how we would cook this or that for our families. I thank God that she became no longer just my friend but my family in 2002. This has been to date one of the greatest losses of my life.

It's been hard for me to think about sharing recipes or cooking and not being able to share that experience with her. One of Shanna's greatest gifts to the world was the food she prepared. Raising a family of 4 taught her how to stretch food on a very tight budget, and to be able to share it with so many others as well.  I can't count how many times she brought me dinner; soups, lasagna, enchiladas, and of course her famous desserts which were the best ever! Her funeral was so big that they had to break out extra chairs because there were SO many people. From bank tellers to hairdressers, all had stories of how she had brought them one of her creations.  She was extraordinarily giving.

More than anything, I admired Shanna's ability to put one foot in front of the other and serve people despite whatever hurts she may have carried in this life. When I have been hurt, I have stayed in and kept my gifts to myself and chose not to share my abilities with others. She never, ever did that. What a precious gift to me she was, and now especially after I no longer have her in my life I know even more so just how great a gift she was indeed.  I hope to make her proud and begin to give as she did not only of myself, but of my food :)  I'll miss being able to put together recipes with her, and share food with her. I know that I will see her again, and can't wait to share with her all that has happened since. I hope to have many cooking parties with her precious kids, so we can learn from one another how to be more like their more than amazing mom. So, as I soldier on I hope I can share food with you too, my few readers, even if we may never meet or share a table. Thank you Shanna for your example, for sharing your amazing faith in God, for being a mentor to me in more than a dozen ways, and more than anything for your friendship.  I'll miss you so much.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Some Like it (Very, Very) Hot - Masoor Daal

I found this recipe while searching the web. There's a great network of vegan food blogs, and someone is always suggesting one recipe or another. Lentil dishes always catch my eye because I'm always trying to find new ways to add protein dishes to my repertoire. I've always been a fan of Indian and South Asian food, but I've never really built a real understanding for the blends of spices that bring together the complex flavors of these cuisines. Enter Spicy Habbity, a blog written from the perspective of a Pakistani American with many traditional family recipes in her back pocket. I have to admit, that even for a (partly) Puerto Rican girl who adores really spicy food, this Masoor Daal is FA-laming hot, or maybe I'm just a wuss. Either way, this is one seriously delicious bowl of soup. I made it exactly according to the recipe even though my inner (don't do it) spice instinct said N-O to the whole teaspoon of cayenne it called for. I think if I made it again, I would add less water than the recipe called for. The picture on the blog makes this soup look much thicker than mine turned out (so I added a scoop of brown rice), and of course I might add less cayenne so I could eat bowls and bowls of it without passing out from internal combustion.

Edit: After sitting in the fridge, the soup mellowed out and thickened up to perfection. I wouldn't change a thing :) 

Nate's Two Cents: I may be the wrong person to ask since I have a general taste for international food, but all in all I really liked the Masoor Daal, which has a familiar texture something like split pea soup. As for the fire: Yes, it's spicy. No, it's not where's-a-piece-of-bread-quick-this-stuff-is-incinerating-my-tongue hot. Think instead of that time when your brother dumped an extra spoonful of cayenne in the soup when you weren't looking. Yes, you could taste the mischief when the final product was finished, but it's not as if the other flavors disappeared. If anything, it just made the soup more fun. So don't be scared. It's good. Really good.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sublime Simplicity - Vegan Pain au Chocolat

If my life depended on it, I'm still not sure I could tell you how many millions of times I have made these. Back in our Young Adult ministry days, we used to pack 20-30 people in our tiny little house, and feed them cargo ship quantities of these.  I believe the record eaten was 10 by one person.  Nate's favorite treat ever is a chocolate croissant, so as a new bride I wanted to find a suitable way to make it for him that didn't involve laboriously making croissant dough from scratch.  As I mentioned in a previous post, puff pastry is the perfect thing for a croissant fix. These little goodies are so affordable to make, and such a fun and easy thing to bring to a picnic or pot luck. The old recipe used eggs, so I was so excited that my vegan version of the recipe worked.  Score! You have to make these, seriously. Everyone, and I mean everyone loves them :)

Vegan Mini Pain au Chocolat

2 Vegan Puff Pastry Sheets, cut each sheet into 12 squares
5 oz. Vegan Bar Chocolate, cut into 24 rectangles
1/4 c. Vanilla Soy Milk
1/4 c. White Sugar
1/4 c. Raw Sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make sure your oven is good and hot before putting the pan in. Brush puff pastry squares lightly with soy milk.  Take one piece of chocolate and roll one each in each puff pastry square. Brush again lightly with soy milk.  Generously sprinkle white and raw sugar over little rolls. Bake for 15-20 minutes until brown and flaky.  Let cool for a few minutes (I know it's hard), or you'll burn your tongue on hot gooey chocolate. Enjoy :)

Nate's Two Cents: I think the one who ate 10 was me, though I'm not sure of it.  I would never survive on the Atkins diet (actually, I'm surprised anyone does): I can turn down a steak if necessary, but put a plate of pain au chocolat (bread with chocolate) in front of me and I lose all self-control.  I blame the early-morning croissant runs my father took me on when I wasn't much bigger than a baguette roll myself.  So everything Tara says is true; these are irresistible.  By the way, if they're done right, the outside crust should sort of collapse at first bite, like a tent folding down, giving way to a soft, warm, and sweet center.  I don't know why I just said that, but it seemed important to say. Oh well...bon appetit, friends. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

Vegan White Braised Onions

We scored these pretty little pearl onions on our last trip to the farmer's market. Nate was starting to stalk me on what I was going to do with them because they were so pretty. He even decided that they were worth popping in his mouth raw (not much kissing going on 'round here.)  I spent the much of last Christmas break snowed in, and with a brand new copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The best way to prepare pearl onions in my opinion is to brown braise them according to Julia's instructions, or I suppose it would be white braise since I no longer can use beef stock. Here I have made the instructions vegan friendly of course:

Braised Vegan Onions

20-24 Pearl Onions
1 1/2 T. Earth Balance
1 1/2 T. Olive Oil
1/2 C. Vegetable Stock
Bay Leaf
1/2 t. Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Warm olive oil and earth balance to bubbling in heavy covered pot. Sauté onions over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Lower heat to very low, add bay leaf, thyme and stock. Simmer slowly for an additional 30-40 minutes, or until onions are glazed and tender.  

Tonight I also tried Gardein again. I dipped it in olive oil, coated it with bread crumbs, vegan parmesan, basil, salt and pepper and baked it at 425 for 20-25 minutes. It turned out great! I think I'll try it this way Piccata style next time :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Abstract Tart - Vegan Mushroom Tart

There were a few things I was sure I was going to have to give up on a vegan diet. Certainly puff pastry isn't vegan right? Wrong! Or at least the last package I bought had no animal products listed in the ingredients whatsoever. Now I'm not saying puff pastry is health food because it most certainly isn't, but if you have a hankering for something croissant-like, this is the product you need. There are a few recipes I make a whole lot that require puff pastry, so I was elated to not have to give it up. Tonight I made this yummy mushroom tart with the Daiya cheese I mentioned in my last post. I have to say, I'm loving the Daiya even more. It was delicious especially on this tart!  Here's the recipe:

Vegan Mushroom Tart

1 Vegan Puff Pastry Sheet, thawed
1 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. Mushrooms, sliced
10 oz. Organic Fresh Baby Spinach
2 oz. Daiya Vegan Mozzarella (a little under 3/4 cup)
2 T. Olive Oil
1/2 t. Garlic Powder
Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll Puff pastry out to 15 by 10 inches. With a dull knife mark border around the puff pastry. Prick with a fork all over. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Make sure that the puff pastry is cooked sufficiently. I've made this before and taken the pastry out before thinking the additional cooking time would make the crust too brown. It doesn't :) In the meantime toss onion in 1 T. olive oil and salt, and cook on medium low heat in a covered pot for 15 minutes, stirring about every 5 minutes until caramelized. In another large covered pan, warm olive oil and cook mushrooms for about 10 minutes. Add spinach, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Drain mushrooms and spinach well, or it will make your pastry soggy. Spread mushroom and spinach mixture over pastry. Next add the cheese, and then evenly spread out the carmelized onions. Bake until the cheese is melted. Serve with a simple salad, and dinner is served :)

Nate's Two Cents: Puff pastry is comfort food for me. My folks were missionaries in Europe, so a lot of my memories seem to surface with flaky golden crusts over them. And I already loved sautéed mushrooms and onions before Tara busted out this recipe. At worst, three of my favorite ingredients were going to be present at the same time on my plate. Turns out, the three combine beautifully. It isn't guilt-free (puff pastry is not diet fare) but considering how delicious it was I'd never guess butter and eggs were absent. Tara stopped me after eating two pieces, but I fully plan to finish off what's left tomorrow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Taking Daiya Vegan Cheese for a Spin

Being a former cheese snob, the thought of substituting non-dairy cheese on any of my former food favorites seemed a little depressing. I have tried a few other vegan brands. I won't mention any names, but please (you know who you are) stop trying to pass off products for cheese that are not even remotely close, and in fact are repulsively disgusting. Maybe that's a little strong, but I would like my food to at least smell good. Since the whole vegan diet thing became more than a temporary way to lose a few pounds, I started looking more seriously for some cheese alternatives. I've read many vegan forums, and apparently there is a Daiya cheese cult among budding vegans. For those living farther away from a Whole Foods in your backyard, Daiya is harder to find than other brands.  I've heard that you can only buy a limited quantity at Whole Foods.  So, being that it is apparently a popular choice, I wanted to try it ASAP. 

Pizza is great way to use up one's veggies that only have a few days left in them before going bad, so I am hoping to keep a few prepared crusts in the freezer to waste less.  So, back to the Daiya Cheese. I have to say I actually liked it, though not in the same sense as dairy cheese. I've found that many things that are replacements; i.e. non-animal based bacon, chicken, and beef really never taste like the real thing. Let's be honest. But, I've also found that you can learn to appreciate new non-cruelty foods just the same as long as you don't expect them to taste exactly the same as their animal counterparts. The Daiya was definitely cheesy, and while it pulls apart and is stringy like real cheese, it has more of an American Cheese flavor.  I enjoyed the pizza, and look forward to using Daiya in a more recipes to come :)

Nate's Two Cents: Tara said it well; vegan pizza is its own thing.  As you long as you appreciate it that way, and don't expect it to taste exactly like a deep-pan stuffed-crust supreme from Pizza Hut, you'll find the veggie flavors work really well together and that thanks to the absence of cheese, it really is possible to gorge on pizza without feeling guilty afterwards.  (Also, for what it's worth, I don't know if authentic "pizza" and Pizza Hut even belong in the same thought.)  So go for it; grab those leftover greens--and yellows and reds if you have them--and give yourself a chance to experience a less cheesy, non-greasy, and nicely balanced version of the junk food you wish you didn't love so much.

Friday, June 25, 2010

FÜD for Thought - Vegan Restaurants in Kansas City

Every Thursday night my parents kindly watch our 2 boys, so we can have a date night. We never take it for granted, and usually take the opportunity to traverse to new places in our little city.  Thanks Mom and Dad!  You're the best :) Anyway, last night Nate decided he wanted to try to make me a vegan dessert out of one of the five-thousand vegan cookbooks I have littering the house. I'm kind of used to seeing strange ingredients now since I have been reading them for a few months, but Nate, not so much. He was a little overwhelmed to see ingredients like silken tofu, spelt flour, and flax seed meal in the place of 2 large eggs and all-purpose flour. It's the thought that counts, right?  

Anyway, I remembered that there is a new vegan restaurant to try, so out we headed to the west side in Kansas City to visit FÜD (pronounced food.) We were greeted by a lovely couple, and another gentleman who explained a little more about their quaint little establishment. And as luck would have it, they had a few desserts to satisfy our sweet tooths. I visited the website prior to visiting, and was drooling over the Sweet Stack dessert; a vegan brownie topped with raw cashew ice cream and some mouth-watering sauces to boot. They didn't have the brownie last night, but let me tell ya, the cashew ice cream was to die for. The ice cream is sweetened with agave, and would trick any "real" ice cream addict. They topped it with cacao sauce and superfood caramel. I might be dreaming of it right now..........yeah, I definitely am, yum! We will be going back for dinner next time, and hopefully I'll remember to bring my camera, so I can share with you what we get.  Make sure to bring cash because they don't accept credit cards. We didn't have any, and had to drive around town before we found an ATM. Check it out! 

Nate's Two Cents: Proof again, veganism can be a lot more fun than anyone ever says it can be.  The cashew cream was incredible.  No, I don't know how you make a nut-based food taste convincingly like ice cream.  All I know is that it worked.  I'm not a huge fan of ice cream on its own--I like to dress it up in fudge and pecans, usually--but there was a delicate, almost rum-sweet quality to this stuff that really made the sauces drizzled all over it almost unnecessary.  Hey, if you can find a dairy-based ice cream that tastes this good, has no cholesterol, is low in saturated fat and doesn't give you the sugar blues later (and has no artificial ingredients), good for you.  If, on the other hand, you can't, this is an awfully nice, naturally guilt-free alternative.

Füd on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Field Roast Sausages - For Piggy sans the Pig

As you've read in previous posts, sausage was a big part of our lives prior to the whole vegan thing. We ate plenty of sausage and pasta, sausage pizza, sausage and peppers, etc. I'm kind of new to the whole world of meat analogs, and I'm not sure how I feel about most of them just yet. I do know for sure, however, that the choices have greatly improved since my being a non-meat eater 10 years ago. Last night, I tried Field Roast Grain Meat Sausages for the first time, and I have to say that I actually liked them. They are seasoned thoughtfully with eggplant, garlic, fennel and wine, but may be a bit heavy on the salt. I think my new palate is learning to really enjoy foods without the extra sodium. Regardless, the sausage was still very good. I think they would certainly make a great addition to a pizza. 

For those of you who don't want to overdose on protein, don't go crazy on these. They serve up a whopping 25 grams of protein per sausage, which is awesome only if you're trying to find a way of making sure to have enough protein. I know, I know. You worry about my lack of protein, being that I'm a vegan and all, but balance is the key. While plant protein, unlike animal protein, is generally safe even in high quantities, it is still always good to have a varied diet, and not too much of any one good thing. A person of my stature should have about 46-58 grams of protein per day, and that may even be a high estimate. But this has nothing to do with the tasty sausage I'm complimenting does it?  Maybe I'll save the topic of protein for another post :)

Nate's Two Cents: Actually, Tara, it's too late for you to backtrack on this one.  You've already taken the lid off the "protein debate" can, so we might as well talk about it a bit more.  The largest and most comprehensive study of human nutrition ever conducted--the so-called "China Study" (also the name of a book that should be required reading for everyone in America)--demonstrated some amazing correlations between high animal protein consumption and cancer (among other things). I have been a lifelong animal protein junkie, but after reading several books on the subject, I've come to question everything the Beef Council made sure our schools told us. In a future post I'll expand on that.  For now, the sausage--incredibly well-seasoned, albeit salty, for a fake meat.  The fennel did its job, packing punch in every bite. Even my meat-obsessed seven-year-old couldn't tell the difference, and this is a kid who could tell when I used rice milk instead of almond milk in his pancake batter!  My suggestion would be to put this almost-sausage on pizza or in a sweet tomato sauce.  And don't tell your guests--I can just about guarantee they won't know the difference.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Best Brown Rice Ever

Apparently those who are conscious of their health should forsake white rice for brown rice. It just so happens, that I grew up on rice, but have more recently developed a love affair with the brown variety. My mom's rice cooker is nearly 40 years old, and is still churning out rice by the boat load year after year. I'm not normally a fan of kitchen appliances. Especially in a kitchen that is lacking space in a major way, I'm partial to a few good pots and pans to get the job done. However, brown rice is a little tricky unless you want to stand next to the stove for an hour making sure it doesn't burn at the bottom of the pan, which incidentally makes for a very unpleasant dish washing experience. Do I have a point?  Oh yeah, brown rice. I remembered that buried out in the garage was my rice cooker, and I thought I should try the brown rice in it instead of a pot to see what happened.  And guess what?  Perfect brown rice without any fuss.  I've tried a few brands, but right now I'm settled on Lundberg Organic Brown Jasmine as my favorite.  I just followed the recipe on the package which made for the best brown rice ever; nutty, chewy (not sticky) and perfectly delicious.  Seriously, you have to try it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

El Cheapo Burritos - Vegan Black Bean Veggie Burritos

I'm a huge fan of healthy convenience foods. Unfortunately, most of my favorite brands really put a dent in our budget. Many vegan burritos in the freezer section cost 2.50 - 3.50 a piece; quite the steep price for some beans, veggies and a tortilla. I've been having so much fun running around the city with my 2 handsome little guys this summer, so it's especially nice to have foods I can warm up easily for a quick lunch. And since Nate has jumped on my vegan bandwagon, many of my snacks have been disappearing mysteriously. I don't blame him. The hubs needs something he can grab on the way to work as well. He can eat at work in the cafeteria, but I'd rather him not unless I prefer him with high cholesterol. I whipped these up tonight, and yum! What a perfect way to make your tummy happy, and your dollar stretch. You can freeze these, and warm them up whenever your darling little heart desires.

El Cheapo Burritos

3 C. Black Beans
1 Can Organic Diced Tomatoes
2 T. Olive Oil
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Half Red Onion, diced
2 Bell Peppers, diced (any variety) 
1 t. Smoked Paprika
1 t. Cumin
2 C. Cooked Brown Rice
1/4 C. Chopped Cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
12 Whole Wheat Tortillas - Fajita size

In a food processor, process half of black beans and diced tomatoes until smooth.  Set aside. In large heavy skillet, warm olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper over medium heat until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add onion, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Next add the peppers, paprika and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until veggies are tender. Add processed bean mixture and whole beans.  Heat through, and add more salt and pepper to your taste.  Mix in brown rice and cilantro.  Heat tortillas on flat cast iron skillet, and add about 1/2 cup mixture to each tortilla. You can serve them now, or freeze them.  When reheating from frozen, wrap in tin foil and warm up for 1 hour at 350 degrees.  You can also microwave them, but I prefer the former method best.  Enjoy :)

Nate's Two Cents: Ay, caramba! I have NEVER enjoyed a bean burrito more.  Maybe it's my newly-vegan palate finally appreciating the explosion of flavors the veggie world has to offer, but really, between the beans and the peppers and the  I liked it enough to eat it cold. Not kidding.  For lunch at work I just pulled one of these out of the ziploc bag (oops, sorry, environmentally conscious readers) I had brought it in, and ate the whole thing without warming it up.  The flavors--sweet, tangy, spicy, hearty--might have even been enhanced by the non-nuke approach.