Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cat Days of Summer

People like to call them the, "dog days" of summer, but if you've ever seen a hot cat, you know the cliche line can be easily changed! Here is my "little" Hobbes, flaked out on our "old but new to us" recliner (gotta' love FreeCycle!). We've had the windows open and air conditioning off as we stain our new windows, and poor Hobbes, with all his fat and long fur can't take the heat - literally! He usually races around, tearing across the floors, jumping at the walls and generally pissing off our other cat, Bear. But with the summer heat invading his usually cool house, it's all he can do to walk to his food dish! I promise, it's really not that hot, especially with the fans going in all the rooms - it's just that he's not used to it! We provide lots of cool water and run the air conditioning when we're done working.
Meanwhile, it's never too hot for me to bake! I celebrated my last day at my elementary school practicum (for those of you unaware, I am finishing up my Masters in Library Science), by baking these Chocolate Mint cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I had baked them before for my hubby's birthday, but when I overheard the librarian I was working with rave about the combination of mint and chocolate, I just couldn't resist making them again! This time, I didn't "dollop" or "plop" the chocolate ganache on top as recommended in the cookbook, but drizzled it. I also used a mint leaf from my herb garden instead of an M&M. I think that the result is more professional and prettier than the first round! What do you think? If you do make these, be sure to halve the mint extract it calls for, or else it tastes more like toothpaste than a mint patty!
And last, I have here a great summer salad, from (you guessed it) The Candle Cafe Cookbook. It was the Spicy Soba Salad with Creamy Wasabi Dressing. As usual, I really wanted to rave about the recipe, but have some misgivings. First of all, the tofu needed to be cut into 8 pieces, not four, for the marinade to fully absorb. Second, the baking time for the tofu was half as much (or even a quarter) as was really needed to crisp up the tofu pieces. Finally, the dressing was not just, "creamy," but downright thick. I had to add more soy sauce and rice vinegar to make it even spreadable. It also wasn't spicy enough for me. Yet overall the flavors were decent, the mix of textures (especially the arame seaweed!) fun, and the cool salad a nice change from hot evening meals. And it made enough leftovers that I don't have to cook again for several days. Rating: ** stars (out of four). So, off I go to stain some more windows and care for my beautiful, almost healed tattoo :) Question of the week: What is your favorite summer salad?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Summer Celebration

Yeah, I know this has nothing to do with protein, but it has a lot to do with my summer celebration! Turning another decade older, finishing comps exams and perhaps starting a family are all excuse enough to celebrate with body art. This is my second tattoo, and it does actually have a lot to do with veganism. I see being vegan as being an integral part of the earth. The earth's inhabitants (floral or fauna) share the planet in a balance (thus the green/blue ying-yang). As vegans, we participate by trying not to harm that balance and by respecting all life. In addition, I am a born-environmentalist (before it was trendy!) and am a member of just about every group out there, from WWF to the Sierra Club (and active, not just card-carrying!). All of this is reflected in my newest body art (on my thigh). I've been wanting this design for quite a while, although my first tattoo was a cat (something else I was born loving!).

Meanwhile, I spent the week in a total haze, still not quite sure that I was finished studying and finding it difficult to relax! Luckily, this weekend's gorgeous weather made it a little bit easier for me. Unlike Dreena's rainy, cool summer, we have been in a sort of a drought. My husband hasn't cut the grass in about a month and we can barely keep my herbs and tomato plants alive. However, this weekend the temperature has dropped and we are loving every minute of it, despite the fact that there's still no rain. It gave me ample opportunity to make my weekly trip to the Farmer's Market in Fredericksburg, where I picked up a huge sack load of fresh fruits and veggies for our week's meals!
This is just one of the beautiful things I got that day. Organic, multi-variety okra. Aren't the colors amazing? And look at the different shapes and sizes! I know, most people are already saying, "eww," at the thought of this mucus producing veggie, but the only way to enjoy okra is to grill it! Simply combine some salt, pepper, ground red pepper, a tad bit of sugar, and some olive oil. Brush this on the skewered okra, along with some cherry tomatoes and onion wedges, and grill for a few minutes on each side! Divine! I promise you, this is nothing like okra in a stew or anything. They are crispy and flavor-full - I ate about half of what you see here!
Here is the cooked okra, alongside our main meal of grilled veggies. The farmer's market supplied us with cherry tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, and an enormous and very sweet red onion. These were just grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper. But we used a red wine and balsamic vinegar reduction sauce to marinate them in (after chopping into bite sized pieces), along with some basil from our back porch pot. The white stuff is Vegan Gourmet mozzarella (sorry, but nothing like the real thing!). My hubby had the veggies in a sandwich with real mozzarella and liked it well enough. The flavors are supposed to get better after a day or so. I'd say, a two and half star rating here, for the veggies (out of four). Maybe three? I always feel bad giving food a low rating :)

This last photo is a shot of Quinoa Curry from a Vegetarian Times magazine (Feb 07 issue). I didn't realize that I had made it before, and was just looking for a way to use up some leftover mango chutney (mmmm!!). This is a great dish to use quinoa - an excellent source of protein (and a complete protein at that!). Quinoa also provides as much calcium as a cup of milk! Recipe rating about three stars (despite running out of curry and thus it not being spicy enough). Well, off to do a little bit more coursework and house cleaning. I am trying very hard not to sit down and finish my new Harry Potter book in one sitting!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I made it!!

To celebrate my return to the blogging world (well, I wasn't gone that long!), I made the much anticipated vegan krispie treats from Dreena Burton's upcoming cookbook, "Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan!" I have already pre-ordered it, but if I hadn't, I'd be rushing online to Amazon to do so, just based on this recipe!!

I mentioned to Dreena a while back that I saw a recipe in a Cooking Light magazine with cranberries and pumpkin seeds, and wondered how to veganize rice krispie treats. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the recipe and WOW~ I haven't had them in years, but these kick all the treats I have ever had, right in the ass (sorry for the language, but they do!). They are so grown-up tasting and yet so chewy and fun! The taste is incredible (I opted for some of her special add-ins). They are not burned, by the way - my chocolate chips melted - but it didn't spoil the taste or look one bit! I think they actually look quite elegant. I usually give most of my baked goods away, but this time I hoarded most of them in my fridge. The photo doesn't really do them justice. Just believe me and buy the book!!

I was gone from this blog to study for my comps exam, for my Masters in Library Science (my life long dream is to be a librarian - yay - I'm almost there!). I won't find out the results until August 27th, though - boo. It still feels like I'm in a dream, and I will wake up and have to continue studying. In fact, last night as I lay trying to go to sleep (I was a little buzzed from the wine!), I started thinking, "privacy... The Patriot Act....Lester Asheim....RSS feeds....Dewey Decimal..." I just couldn't stop! Two days of essays, nine hours of driving (DC traffic is the WORST!), and even two lost pounds due to stress (plus some MAJOR heartburn - oh wow), plus months of studying.... all worth the incredible feeling that I can now read for pleasure, spend hours at the gym or running, do not have to ignore my cats' meows to play, can eat dinner with my husband, and even do some house keeping (rats!). Best of all, I don't have to feel guilty about taking time to cook or bake!

We celebrated last night by going out to eat at probably the only vegetarian and vegan restaurant (but they also have hamburgers - yuck!) within a 50 mile radius. Sammy T's in Fredericksburg, Virginia is definitely worth the trip, if you're in the neighborhood. The prices are great, the wine and beer selection awesome (even vegan Yellow Tail!), including some locally made ones, and the vegan food - awesome! I almost always get the Spinach Fold-over, which consists of their delicious hummus, tomatoes, red onions and spinach, all cooked to melty perfection in a tortilla (folded in half, of course!). My hubby usually tries something new - this time he opted for the tempeh sandwich that he's gotten before. I don't know why he did, because he always complains that it's way too salty (and it is)! But this time, it inspired him to buy some tempeh at the store today and he's going to make his own marinade for it this week (which is a HUGE step for him - he never makes up recipes!). So, thanks to Sammy T's, I ended three years of study with smiles and a full (if still heart-burny!) tummy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Good-bye For Now!

I say, "goodbye for now," because I have my comps exam for my Masters, coming up very shortly, and I need to devote all waking hours (ok, not including eating and working out!) to studying. So, I bid adieu until July 15th! It will be really hard not to get on here, because I do plan on cooking some simple but yummy new recipes even this weekend! Wish me luck! Here are my latest food pics - and more from the farmer's market!

This photo is of Grilled Veggie Pizza, from The Vegetarian Grill. My hubby made it for us one night and it was really good! I am still teaching him how to 'lightly' toss the veggies in olive oil - actually bought an oil mister just for that! It's pretty simple to make - just grill the veggies, add sauce and grill the pizza. He said that he grilled the pizza top first, then flipped it over and added the toppings and grilled it again. This makes for a delicious crust! The crust is the Rustic Crust, recommended by someone... much better on the grill than on a sheet in the oven.

There were tons of leftover veggies, so I warmed them in the toaster over the next night and put them over a light salad with some balsamic vinaigrette (there was plenty of oil already on them, remember?) ;)

Next up, from the Candle Cafe Cookbook, is the Mixed Crunchy Sprout Salad with Vanilla-Tahini Dressing. It was super easy to make, but the dressing was sub-par. I halved it, as usual, and still had enough for weeks! I added some maple syrup because I didn't like the taste much, but it still didn't do much for me. Kind of bland and too strong on the tahini! Sesame seeds and raisins were a nice addition, too.

Here is my newest toy, which helped me make that sub-par dressing (and also lots of other great dressings and marinades!) It is my new hand/immersion blender! I got the "top of the line," because I knew I would use it a lot - and I was right! It's also my favorite color :) Sometimes, a girl just has to treat herself, right?

When life gives you bananas.....
Make banana smoothies! This one, though the photo is blah, was really quite delicious! I don't usually use a recipe, but this time I did and was pleased. From The New Vegetarian Basics cookbook. It had a little oatmeal and nutritional yeast in it- neat, but not overpowering flavors!

Of course, you can only drink so many smoothies (and the new hand blender can't do ice!). So, on to make banana nut muffins from the same cookbook. These were a bit dense and dark, from the molasses, but differently good! Wished I had had the dates they called for, though. I love dried fruit! I sprinkled some cinnamon-sugar on top.

Well, the last photos are from the farmer's market and actually, most of the veggies in the above recipes were from above there, too! What will I do in the winter?? I thought the figs would be awesome - never seen fresh figs there before, but they were sadly over-ripe! I thought that this would do for my Fourth of July post - very blue! The red will be from my face as I run the 5 -miler that morning! Again, I will bid adieu until the 15th, so happy eating!