Monday, May 31, 2010

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms

Basically, I live on mushrooms.  Tons of mushrooms do I ingest; I'm not quite sure I could love them more.  Maybe there's some mushroom overload disease I can develop because of my mass consumption, but hopefully not. As fortune would have it, I had some baby portobellos begging to be cooked up. Because they perish so quickly, I didn't want to delay. Many stuffed mushroom recipes call for cheese and butter, but I think these are delicious without.  This is a great way to fancy up your fungi friends :)

Nate's Two Cents: It's hard to determine who loves les champignons more, Tara or me.  I was raised in northern Europe, where mushrooms proliferate like, well, like mushrooms.  Had them in soups, in sauces, ladled over meats, you name it.  So it was a wonderful surprise to come home from a busy day and find a plate of stuffed portabellos waiting for me.  Not only were they perfectly seasoned and succulently tender, but I could have sworn I tasted an almost bacon-like flavor in the mushrooms. (Maybe one of you chemists out there can explain that one....) Anyway, the dish was a winner.  If you're making these for your man, better fix about twenty of 'em.

Stuffed Baby Portobellos

1 1/2 lb. Baby Portobellos the bigger the better (or button mushrooms)
1 1/2 c. Fresh Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
3 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Red Onion chopped
1 Garlic Clove pressed
3/4 t. Sea Salt
2 T. Fresh Parsley chopped
1/2 t. Basil

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Process about 2 slices of whole wheat bread in a food processor.  You can use prepared bread crumbs, but whenever possible, I'd use fresh for sure. This makes about 1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs.  It's also a great way to use up the butts of your loaf bread.  Set aside.  Remove stems from mushrooms and chop them right up.  Brush one of the tablespoons of oil around in a 13 X 9 pan.  Heat the rest of the oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Add garlic and onions and sauté for 7 minutes.  Stir in salt, and then bread crumbs, basil, and parsley.  Evenly distribute mixture to mushroom caps.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your mushroom caps.  Keep an eye out that they don't get too brown.  Serve with a fresh salad, and enjoy!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

No Need to Fudge the Truth

My kiddos caught me looking at the Little House of Veggies blog the other day, and absolutely implored me to make the Chocolate Fudge Muffins.  My picture doesn't do them justice (check out the food porn over at the original recipe post.)  They are indeed fudgy, and quite delectable. The recipe calls for white whole wheat flour, but I only had regular which I think added to their already wholesome(y) goodness. With virtually no fat, I'd like to think these are (sort-of) guilt free. I happen to believe that adding a handful of chocolate chips to a recipe won't kill anyone right?  Cut these open, and they're ooey-gooey deliciousness. If you chopped up a cup or so of strawberries, this might make a dignified breakfast. My kids were more than happy to gobble these up.  Nate ate one, and then immediately added another to his plate and declared, "Guilt-Free just got a little more guilty!"  It probably looks like I'm eating nothing but dessert the past few days.  Hmmm...

Nate's Two Cents:  All true. These were really, really good.  In fact, I am seriously considering having another right now.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Kind Diet - Red Radish Tabbouleh

Well, I guess I'm stuck on The Kind Diet recipes this week.  A friend of mine told me about someone she knows who happens to adore the Red Radish Tabbouleh recipe.  I love, love Mediterranean food, so I was intrigued by this recipe.  I wanted to make it as-is to see if I could stomach the radishes after reading about their many benefits.  Radishes regulate metabolism, improve blood circulation, help a headache, relieve constipation, brings down fever, is beneficial to teeth, gums, nerves nails and hair, and can be used to treat bug bites or stings (and many, many more benefits.) Seriously, the radish is that good for you?  Huh! While radishes are still not my absolute favorite, I am going to certainly try to learn to love them given all I have learned as of late. This dish is Superhero material for sure. The bulgur wheat adds plenty of fiber and protein.  And for goodness sake it has parsley, well, look that up sometime.  It's another one of those things you would never guess would be a powerhouse of goodness.  I'm not sure I could eat this in the serving size suggested, but along side some freshly made falafel, I'd be in heaven.

Nate's Two Cents:  Tara's being honest about loving Mediterranean food, but usually she's the one ordering the vegetable platter while I go for the gyro special, so I was a little unsure about this whole Tabbouleh thing.  Anyway, the good news: It didn't really feel like I was eating radishes. The even better news: the bulgur wheat has a nice texture to it and is surprisingly filling once it settles in the belly.  It's like a fine oatmeal, with the lightness and spiciness of couscous, and the expanding power of cream of wheat once it goes down the hatch (Tara's not going to like that description). A little known fact:  South Seas pirates used to eat Tabbouleh before plundering passing ships. At least, that's what I like to imagine.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Kind Diet - Peanut Butter Cups

I finally made the beloved Peanut Butter Cups from The Kind Diet.  This recipe is talked about in the book a bunch, and is plastered all over forum, so I thought it was high time I tried to make them.  The recipe is super easy.  Reece's PB cups are one of my favorite candies, and most certainly prohibited as a vegan.  These definitely taste healthier for a peanut butter cup, but if you love peanut butter they'll hit the spot.  I spent the winter tying to become a chocolate snob by trying all the good dark chocolates I could get my hands on (maybe THAT's why I gained so much weight!)  Alicia's recipe calls for "nondairy chocolate or carob chips."  For some reason, I guess I didn't realize how easy it is to find nondairy chocolate, and thought I should at least try carob. Please for your chocolate loving soul, do not use carob.  I had never tried carob before, and used it in this recipe. I'm glad I made a few with less carob to get the idea. Some people really like carob.  I most certainly don't.  I'm going to make a new batch stat with real (nondairy) chocolate.  I may try a few other tweaks.  I'll let you know how they turn out...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

As a matter of fact I do know (flap)jack

I am finding out more and more that Vegans too can eat delicious foods, and don't have to suffer the loss of cupcakes, cookies and pancakes!  My kids were begging for pancakes this morning, so I veganified them.  I especially love pancakes cooked on a cast iron skillet.  If you put just a little (vegan) butter in the pan, they brown up deliciously.  An added bonus to cooking with cast iron is that you add iron to your food as well, which is lovely since I no longer eat red meat. I read that a new cast iron skillet adds more iron, but I love my old perfectly seasoned pan much better.  Always, always splurge on real maple syrup.  Yes, I know how expensive it is, but it goes a long way and is worth every penny.  You can substitute any non-dairy milk, but our family favorite is Blue Diamond almond milk.  Skip Silk brand almond milk.  It tastes like it's thickened with uncooked flour.  Applesauce can be substituted for pear sauce, but we happened to have pear, so I thought, why not?  These are filling and a perfect way to start your morning!

Delicious Vegan Whole Wheat Pancakes

1 C. Whole Wheat Flour
1 T. Brown Sugar

1 1/2 t. Baking Soda
1/8 t. Salt
1 C. Almond Milk

2 T. Pear Sauce (or Applesauce)
Earth Balance Vegan Butter

Mix all dry ingredients together.  Add almond milk and pear sauce to dry ingredients. Mix gently; batter will be slightly lumpy and thick. Heat cast iron skillet (if you have one.) Try to not get the pan too hot or you'll have burnt hockey pucks. Add a pat of butter to the pan if you want them to taste especially good, or omit and use non-stick spray if you're trying to save yourself some calories.  I like to use a tablespoon cookie scoop to add batter to the pan so they're more uniform and easier to flip, but anything will do.  When you see bubbles forming, it's time to flip-a-roo.  Try to wait until that happens or the pancakes will break.  Drizzle with real maple syrup, and serve them bad boys!  Your kiddos will be "yumming" all over the place!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bean There, Done Fat.

I love having something to do with leftovers. Being a vegan means you always have tons of perishables begging to be eaten in the fridge. I especially love a burger, a guilt free one that is.  I made this Dang Good Leftover Stuff in the Fridge Burger recipe I found on VegWeb.  What vegan doesn't have some brown rice hanging out in the fridge and a can of beans in the pantry?  I ended up doubling the recipe because 1 can of beans equals twice the recipe.  I highly recommend using fresh bread crumbs.  I tried to skip a step by using prepared bread crumbs.  While the burger was delicious, it would have been much better had I taken the extra time to make fresh bread crumbs.  Also, make sure you make the patties thin.  They'll be too beany if you don't. Next time I'm going to sauté some mushrooms till they're nice and brown, and add them to the mix.  I'm looking forward to taking some artistic license with this one!

Nate's Two Cents: Tara always includes some footnote to qualify her successes, but keep in mind most of her "short cuts" still lead to pretty tasty dishes.  I personally liked the tender, thick beany consistency.  I took the leftovers the next day and folded them into a whole wheat wrap with some lettuce, tomatoes, and veggie mayo-- sounds weird, but tasted fantastic. (Nothing like those scary looking Big Mac wraps a certain chain keeps plastering all over their billboards). Or an even better leftover idea--any taco salad lovers out there?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

You say tomato...I say mucho bueno!

Who doesn't love salsa?  It's delicious, and it makes pretty much everything taste good.  I don't just love salsa.  I need salsa. With summer tomatoes popping up at the farmer's market, I thought it was a great time to whip some up.  It's so easy!  This recipe makes enough to hang out in your fridge just long enough for you to eat it all, and still have some to share a jar with a loved one.  As soon as tomatoes show up in droves at my favorite local grower's table, I'll share a Pico de Gallo recipe too.  Here's one for now:

Mucho Bueno Salsa

5 Juicy Ripe Tomatoes diced
3 Cans of diced Organic Tomatoes
1 Medium Sweet Onion chopped
2 - 3 (4 if you like it spicy) Jalapeños (chopped, seeds removed)
5 Garlic Cloves minced
2 t. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Bunch of Cilantro Chopped
2 Limes
Sea Salt to taste

Sauté garlic in olive oil for a few minutes.  Add Tomatoes (canned and fresh), onion, and jalapeños.  Cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Use a stick blender to blend the salsa to your preferred consistency.  Add cilantro (I like tons, but use as much as you like), juice of 2 limes and salt to taste. Serious yum!  You could also add a can of drained and rinsed black beans and fresh corn if it suits your fancy.

And as a side note: Food Should Taste Good Olive Chips are A-mazing.  I love them with all my heart.  They have other varieties too, but the Olive is best for salsa.

Nate's Two Cents:  I kept going back to the frig for this stuff all week (I just kept telling myself that the acid in the limes probably keeps it from going bad for at least a fortnight).  Totally satisfies the need for something cold/citrusy/spicy/sweet.  I'm pretty sure all salsa is vegan, technically, but not all salsa is made of fresh and organic ingredients.  Even the omnivore in this marriage could tell the difference.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Kind Diet - Mom's Granola

My new favorite cookbook right now is The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone.  Seriously.  It's so fun to read, and very informative. I didn't find it preachy one bit like you may find other vegan cookbooks. It's kind of like pulling up a chair and talking to one of your darling, smart, and very funny friends. And how cute is Alicia Silverstone?  Really, being a vegan makes you this cute?  Count me in!  The only bone I have to pick with her is that she suggests giving up my daily cup o' joe.  I'm not quite there yet.  Anyway, I digress.  

So I made Alicia's recipe Mom's Granola.  Now, I don't know how "kind" it is to substitute many of the ingredients, but I can't help but give her credit for the inspiration.  The recipe calls for Quick Oats, Wheat Germ, Maple Sugar, Maple Syrup, Raisins, Safflower Oil, Coconut, Nuts and Vanilla.  The few substitutions I made were to add a little less oil (I used Vegetable Oil because it was the only neutral oil I had), dried cranberries instead of raisins and chose almonds as the nut, brown sugar instead of maple, substituted about a cup of rolled oats instead of quick to add more texture, plain omitted coconut because I didn't have any. Other than that this recipe was mostly true to the original.  It isn't chunky like some of the snacking granola you might buy, but I'm guessing to make it chunky in the first place you have to add way more oil and sugar to make it stick.  I would love to try maple sugar.  Maple + Sugar = Love.  I just have to find it first!  FYI: I'm a measuring junkie when it comes to food.  This made 18 - 1/2 cup servings.  I wouldn't eat more than that, or I would certainly feel guilty. I have to apologize to my fellow library patrons.  I am HOARDING this book until I receive my own copy from Amazon.  This one is definitely worth buying!  

Nate's Two Cents: Tara waited until I had gorged on this amazing granola (about three bowls a day for a couple of days) to let me know that, by the way, it IS possible to eat too much of it.  I'm still in foodenial, though.  Two words: wheat germ.  It's my WMD in the sand, making every last bite perfectly justifiable.  Needless to say, I'll be having another bowl tonight...  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tara-Yaki Vegetables

Since my dad grew up in Hawaii, many of my family's recipes have an Asian influence as does much of Hawaiian fare.  My mom has made teriyaki everything!  You can often find my dad out at the grill barbecuing up some teriyaki steak or chicken. I'm not sure I could ever force feed him tofu, but you never know! You can marinate anything in this sauce and it will taste great.  It's super simple, and keeps in the fridge for about a week if you want to use it on something else. Here's my vegan tribute to my mom:

Tara-yaki Sauce (or Mike's Teriyaki)

1/2 C. Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Shoyu or Tamari (preferably the good stuff)
1 inch piece of ginger finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
3 scallions sliced thinly

Mix it up, and that's it!  In the picture above I sautéed an enormous pan of veggies in 2 t. of sesame oil.  I added 2 tablespoons of sauce.  Perfection!  Serve with freshly steamed brown rice. This sauce goes a long way, so use it sparingly, or your food will be way too salty. Thanks Mom :)

Nate's Two Cents:  This dish surprised me a little.  Before Tara's little vegan journey began I could not have imagined being satisfied by any Asian dish that didn't include those requisite little bits of chicken.  But this veggie version was not only delicious; it was truly satisfying as a meal.  Nice, balanced flavors, and the brown rice (high in protein, from what I hear) rounds it out perfectly.  I can't knock it now that I've tried it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Deluxe Cocoa Brownies

So what do Vegans bake, you ask?  Lots, and lots of things it turns out!  I wondered too.  How in the world will brownies and cookies taste without eggs and real milk?  Will they be dry, dull hockey pucks?  Instead vegan goodies taste pretty darn good if you ask me!  I have baked a few things out of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  I absolutely love this cookbook. This time I tried the Deluxe Cocoa Brownies recipe.  Instead of eggs the recipe incorporates silken tofu.  These brownies are more dark chocolatey than say a boxed mix, but I like that.  Seriously check out this cookbook for real yo!  While some vegan cookbooks have way too many fussy ingredients when it comes to baking, this one is completely accessible.  It includes many favorites that you thought you might have to give up being that you're a vegan and all.  Bust out the mixing bowls, grab your kiddos, and have some fun!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Humming Along Hummus

Every Monday evening my wonderful, and most generous parents watch the kiddos (Hi Mom!), so my hubs and I can have a date night. Sometimes it's nice to stay in and save a few bucks to be able to enjoy our quiet little house sans the boys.  Tonight it's a light dinner in front of the tube. We're finally watching Crazy Heart, even though it's way old. We need to get out more often! Fortunately we've been married long enough not to mind each other's garlic breath.  This one is a vampire chaser, but one of my favorites :)

Try it yourself why don't ya?

Humming Hummus

2 Cans of Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas, preferably organic)
2 Small Garlic Cloves
2 T. Tahini
6 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 T. Lemon juice
1/2 t. Smoked Paprika
Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste.

Drain the chick peas.  Save a little of the liquid.  Place beans and the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add some of the reserved liquid to give your hummus a softer consistency.    Taste, and add more salt and lemon juice if desired.  Add a little drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika for a tasty garnish.  Serve with fresh veggies and whole wheat pita.  

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gardein Chicken Tacos

Tonight I tried Gardein meat-free Chick'n Filets for the first time.  I am impressed with the very realistic chicken-like texture. While it doesn't exactly taste like chicken, it satisfies you in the same way. This is quite the wonder food.  With 20 grams of protein per serving, I can put my mother-in-law's mind at ease that I am indeed getting enough protein.  Adding a 1/2 cup of refried black beans, and using Food for Life corn tortillas adds another 13 grams of protein for a whopping 33 grams total for the whole meal.  Amazing!  For all you vegggie naysayers that say vegans don't get enough protein: Boo-yah!  

Nate's Two Cents: I have to agree with Tara on this one.  Gardein has a taste all its own, not really poultry-like at all, but the texture is ridiculously meaty and soaks up the seasoning around it wonderfully.  Think of a spongier, springier version of chicken with a mild veggie aftertaste (I got used to it quickly).  The tacos were fantastic but Tara really went all-out with the fresh tomato salsa and organic black beans, so I'm commenting on the whole package rather than just the faux chicken.  

Here's the recipe:

Gardein "Chicken" Tacos

One 7 oz package of Gardein Chick'n Filets chopped into cubes.
2 t. Olive Oil
1/2 t. Smoked Paprika
1/2 t. Cumin
1/4 C. Chopped Cilantro
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
4 Food For Life Sprouted Corn Tortillas
Your favorite Salsa

Heat olive oil in pan over medium-high heat.  Add Gardein, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.  Saute for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat, and toss with fresh cilantro.  Add to warmed tortilla shells, and top with lettuce, and your favorite salsa. Serves 2. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Veggie Pizza Vindicated

One great thing about choosing to become a Vegan is discovering new restaurants in my own backyard that I never knew about.  Kansas City has so many great local restaurants, and a decent hippie population to boot, so I knew I could find a Vegan restaurant within a stone's throw.  My 7 year old pleaded with me to take him to Pizza Hut.  Since that is no longer an option I looked up Vegan Pizza, and voila, Waldo Pizza!  I ordered the Veggie St. Louis crispy crust with Vegan Cheese. They use Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella, and run the pizza through the oven twice (as vegan cheese is known not to melt very well.)  It was seriously delicious!  My carnivores, however, ordered the Waldo Choice Cut (5 kinds of meat.)  Nate ended up finishing off my pizza because it was great even to a meat eater. We will definitely be going back!

Nate's two cents:  It was a great experiment, alternating meaty bites with bites of Tara's thin-crust veggie pizza.  Of course it was a little bit like comparing apples to oranges, but all in all the veggie version held its own.  The most shocking thing was how close to the taste of actual cheese the "cheese" on her pizza came.  Don't ask me how they did it. I think the cheese is derived from cashews, or the milk of soy-producing goats or something.  Well worth the trip south, though.  Tara was right about how delicious her "sensible pizza" would be.  And you have no idea how hard it is to admit that...

Waldo Pizza (Waldo) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pearly Greats

As part of my new Vegan lifestyle I must have dessert!  I checked out Tal Ronnen's new cookbook, The Conscious Cook and in it found the perfect candidate for my first vegan treat.  I decided to try the Tropical Tapioca Pudding.  Instead of cow's milk and granulated sugar, this yummy recipe calls for coconut milk and agave nectar. You can only have a tiny bit if you don't want to feel guilty, but fleshed out with juicy, ripe mango, it is perfection!  I'm not normally a coconut fan.  While the coconut flavor is there, it is subtle and exotically delicious.  I can't wait to try out Tal Ronnen's recipes that involve Gardein (meatless chicken).  I'll share more about that later.  This cookbook does have some fussy ingredients, but if you enjoy a challenge (as most certainly I always do), it's a terrific place to find inspiration.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Difference is N-eggligible

There are a few things I will probably miss in food land.  Eggs are very high on that list. To cram in the veggies I'm supposed to have everyday, I have often scrambled up a few eggs, and thrown about every veggie I could find in the fridge along in the pan.  It's a great way to make a quick healthy and filling meal.  Today I tried my hand at scramble tofu, and I have to say it was strikingly delish!  It was reminiscent of egg whites, and not weird at all.  I sauted the veggies (asparagus and kale) in sesame oil, which coincidentally is yumminess in a bottle.  Just one teaspoon will do it, and your veggies will take on an exotic, smoky sexiness.  I sprinkled the whole deal with shoyu.  Perfection!  Yesterday wasn't a stellar day.  I bought cinnamon bread from the Amish at the farmer's market (no eggs or butter), and had a too late snack in front of the crap TV I watch every Thursday.  Today has started back on the right track. This is definitely a guilt buster for sure!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mis(uh)o Soup

I love going out for sushi.  It's one of my favorite things to do. There's something about the ritual of it all.  Chopsticks, little bowls of soy sauce, wasabi; It's just fun. I always order Miso Soup.  I had no idea until recently that miso is said to reduce your risk of cancer, strengthen your immune system, prevent aging, and minimize menopausal symptoms. While I'm not yet having hot flashes at 34 (Thank God), I'm not getting any younger.  Any food that will support my health long term is now being recruited!  The "Uh" in the title has to do with the fact that despite the pretty picture, I have much practice to do when it comes to getting the ratio right when making Miso Soup. This recipe used brown rice miso, ginger, garlic, scallions, tofu and a dash of sesame oil.  It was good, but maybe there's a reason I go to Japanese restaurants instead of tinkering around at home!  I'm also a ridiculous perfectionist, so who knows. Be prepared, this is probably not my first effort in the miso department.


Ok, so as a Mexican food junkie, I need options.  For real.  If I'm going to be a Vegan, I need to know I can have me some Mexican food and quick.  Don't get me wrong. I have been cooking up a Vegan storm around here, but there are times I don't feel like lifting a finger.  The problem is that most convenience foods where Mexican options are concerned are usually heavy laden with cheese which is no longer an option unfortunately. Enter Amy. Now I've never actually met Amy, but she knows what she's doing.  I'm sure that whoever she is, she has a darling little figure too.  I'm really loving these burritos.  They're much better baked in the oven, so if you decide to try them out, the extra step is worth it. Yum!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Piggy No More

When I got married 10 years ago to my carnivorous husband, I had been a vegetarian for 3 years. I watched some documentary about meat processing while sitting idly on the couch eating a Wendy's chicken sandwich. I spit it out (phooey), and didn't eat meat again (at least for a time.) I won't gross you out with the details lest you find me judgmental or a doom sayer, but believe me, you'd put down your spicy chicken sandwich too. I originally made the choice to be a vegetarian for conscience sake, and for the sake of brown eyed, furry, feathered creatures that deserve dignity just as much as we do. That was until I had to blend into my soon to be new family where my mother in law's mantra is, "You NEED your protein." So I caved, and sat down to my first non-vegetarian meal: A huge plate of Italian sausage and pasta.

In the meantime, I had a whole lot of emotional garbage to deal with over the last few years, and threw all eating food in moderation to the wind and gorged on just about anything I could get my hands on. Pop Tarts anyone? There's no question how I got here, that is how I gained 30 pounds in 6 months and kept it on for 2 miserable years. We all have reasons we overeat. We eat out of boredom, pain, or even entitlement. We give no regard to what it is we are actually eating, and that is why so many of us are overweight, and suffering miserably from poor health and low self-esteem (myself included). I have lots of excuses, but who really cares about that? I'm a piggy. I ate too much. Serious bummer.

So, what am I going to do about it? After seeing the movie Food Inc. and reading several books on food sources in America, I am rekindling all the reasons I made the choice to not eat meat years ago. Since then reading books like Food Revolution and The China Study have also informed me of the many benefits of refraining from dairy and eggs as well. The bonus about choosing healthier non-animal foods is that weight loss will most surely follow, not to mention a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Given the information out there on the nastiness in our foods, I thought it was high time I started paying attention to what in the world I was eating. In other words, I've gone Vegan. I promise to tell you if I slip on a piece of gourmet cheese, but I'm going to do my best. God help me when I tell my in-laws!  Here I will share with you my successes and failures, and hope that you too will join me in this experiment. To shedding piggy pounds!