Sunday, September 30, 2007

Happy World Vegetarian Month!

I think this is the first time I've blogged about breakfast! I usually eat homemade granola or Grape Nuts cereal with fresh or dried fruit, and during the winter I love oatmeal, but this summer I couldn't get enough muesli! The infatuation started at my sister's when we visited her in August. I ate her muesli (recipe from La Dolce Vegan! but you really don't need directions) and was hooked.

Muesli is just raw oats (whole, not quick), nuts and seeds (I use hemp seeds, raw sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, and raw, hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)), and dried fruit (I threw in a combo of blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raisins, pineapple, and papaya!). I also add about a quarter cup of cinnamon (yes, you read that right!) because this spice is known for its many health benefits. It adds such flavor with no fat or sugar! Not only is this cereal simple to whip up even on a busy night, I only put a drizzle of agave nectar (better than honey!) on top and then soak the cereal in some almond milk (fewer calories and sugars than soy). I look forward to this breakfast every morning! If you're always in a morning rush, it's quick to eat, too ;)

Now on to the title of my post, "World Vegetarian Month!" I love October for many reasons, and World Vegetarian Month is one of the biggest ones! I love sharing delicious vegan food with family and friends throughout the year, but this brings an incentive to do more!
Hubby and I went to the Charlottesville, VA 11th Annual Vegetarian Festival. It was my first of this kind of celebration, and I was super excited to go. The weather was perfect - 76 degrees with a cool breeze. When we got there, it had barely started but was already very crowded. We decided to get our food first, since we had gotten up early for the drive. He chose to try some Ethiopian food he hadn't had before: red lentil curry, curried vegetables and collard greens. When he wondered where his fork was, I showed him how to tear pieces of the injera bread (so spongy and fun to eat!) and use that to scoop up the food. Thanks to the ethnic diversity of our county, I have a Thanksgiving feast in my classroom every year, with "cultural diversity" as the theme. Thus, I have exposure to all kinds of foods I might never get to make at home, including pupusas, injera, speitzel, and pot stickers (yes, some of these I had before I was vegan!). Anyhoo, we loved these foods. The only sad part? Well, do you see the styrofoam?! I was heartbroken that all this waste (including plastic cups and silverware) were included in this earth-loving festival.
Here was my meal: a free sample of rice and beans from Whole Foods and a delicious smoothie from a brand new (organic!) food and juice bar in Charlottesville, called Sublime. My smoothie was called the Soul Sister, and included mango, banana, peach and other yummy fresh fruits.

After that, we perused the tabling and non-food vendors. I have to say, I was a little let-down with the large number of "doom and gloom" tables. Hubby in particular was disappointed. He had looked forward to maybe buying a new cookbook or sampling some snack foods. This was the only really "happy food" display we saw. Cute idea for a food pyramid, though, huh? Although I am vegan because of the animal welfare and environmental side of vegetarianism (the SPCA, anti-Factory Farm, Global Warming, etc.were well represented), I think that luring people to the veggie side might be easier with more happy smiles and good food. There were just too many depressing leaflets out there for me that day.

Yet I still enjoyed myself and wished we could've spent more time there. Here is one of the adorable puppies for adoption through the SPCA. Isn't it the cutest ball of fluff? It was like Dog Day at the park that afternoon - everyone had brought their dogs out to visit and play. I hope that some people made the connection between their dogs and the animals that weren't on their plate. :)

Here are two kittens that were up for adoption. Look at that one in the little hammock! I wanted to take them all home, cat lover that I am :)

I also decided that I would some day have a pet pig. Here is a pot-bellied pig (can't recall her name!) that they were raising medical funds for. Their poster stated that pigs are the fourth smartest animal on the planet! (Humans are supposedly first - ha, ha, then chimps, then whales/dolphins, then pigs. They're smarter than your dog!).

Here is one of the presenters (I think it was United Poultry Concerns) that I was glad to meet, but a little depressed afterwards. I can't recall this woman's name (JoAnn?) but her group supports the freedom of and non-cruelty towards poultry. She had a factory farm sized hen cage full of amazingly real paper-mache chickens! It showed viewers just how cramped and miserable the chicken's lifestyle is. She also had a great flier pointing out the misconception that free range chickens leave happy, carefree lives.
We left the festival with some vegan treats, some new fliers, and a new appreciation for the vast number of groups out there, working for the ideals of vegetarianism. However, we were also ready to go enjoy the earth the way it was meant to be - on foot!

We drove up to Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was National Public Lands Day, and we got in for free! It was the perfect day for a hike, with temperatures in the mountains at only 66 degrees (that's Fahrenheit to you foreigners!). Here is part of the AT (Appalachian Trail) that we walked. But the rest of the time, we just drove along the road and stopped at different overlooks for the view and some quiet time together.

Look at the way that the mountains resemble folds in beautiful, green fabric on the land.

That evening, we finally watched, "Peaceable Kingdom," together. I cried at several scenes, but there were enough uplifting parts to make me able to view it again.

So ended our wonderful Saturday. Today is Sunday, which means football and some school work and some baking for World Vegetarian Day tomorrow! Who knows, maybe my co-workers will enjoy some vegan Twinkies from my new bake set (purchased through Bed, Bath and Beyond- I had to call and special order it - they don't sell it in the stores anymore!), or perhaps a sprout salad from my new seed sprouter (purchased at the Veg Festival)!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Happy Fall, Y'all

OK, that was a cheesy title for this post, but I'm so darned happy it's fall! Autumn or fall, whatever you call it, it's my favorite season. Not too cold, not too hot (well, down here, it's still pretty hot during the day, but at least at night it's cooler now!), all the changing leaf colors, the Halloween candy (thanks to a fellow vegan blogger for posting vegan candy corn - yay!).... and later, Thanksgiving (this year, a Tofurky, I hope!), which is my favorite holiday next to Earth Day!
To celebrate, I made a chili today, from Extraveganza. This is truly the best cookbook for seasonal celebrations. Every recipe takes special care to use fresh, wholesome ingredients, and the results are always stellar! I love this cookbook :) Anyhoo, here is Vegetable Chocolate Chili Mole! Don't get excited, you really can't taste the chocolate, but it does add a little dark color and richness to the dish. The spices were spot on, and it made a TON! I will actually have to freeze some, I think. At any rate, despite the eighty or so degree temperatures outside, I pretended it was a crisp fall day and made this chili. With carrots, three kinds of beans, celery, corn, tomatoes, three colors of bell peppers, onion, and garlic, it was hearty to say the least. Delish!! Four stars from hubby and me :)

What made this dish so easy, was my mis en place. I started doing this pre-measuring, pre-cutting and laying out of ingredients back when I was in grad school and taking step-by-step photos of recipes for a web site I was making. I still do this mis en place when I can, and today it really helped! I just chopped all my veggies, measured my spices, and the recipe was almost done! This is a super quick (after the prep work) meal.

Last week, I was going to eat pesto till it came out of my ears, since I had so much frozen from this summer. However, after this quick dish, I was "all good" for a while. This was simply whole wheat macaroni, tossed while hot with pesto cubes, some cannellini beans, and some fresh spinach. It was really healthy and hearty, but kind of dry. I'm not the biggest fan of this type of bean - they're too mushy for me. Give me garbanzo or kidney any day! Luckily, the latter are also healthier for me anyway.
While my chili mole was cooking (see above), I whipped up my second batch of Lemony-Herb Tofu, from Dreena's, Vive le Vegan! It looked prettier when I made it earlier in the week (this batch of tofu was a little spongy) but the taste was still great. Fresh and herby and lemony - just like its title! I'm mashing this up with a little soy mayo to make a sandwich spread this week. So easy and so delish! Try it today!
So, I'll leave you with this question of the week: What are you doing for World Vegetarian Day (October 1st) or for Vegetarian Month (October)? My plans are to put out fliers and such in my workplace lunchroom, and to bring in a dish to share once a week. Since lots of people I work with are on diets, I'm going to have to stay away from the cookies and cupcakes I usually ply. Any suggestions as to a good dish that can sit out for a few hours during our lunch periods, is relatively healthy, and appeal to the masses?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Luscious Leftovers

Sometimes, there is nothing like leftovers! Some foods get better with time, and some you just can't wait to eat again and again and again. I will never understand why some people don't like leftovers - I can eat the same meal all week, provided it's good enough! Here is one example.

I made these three dips to serve with veggies and homemade pita crisps (just Pam and sea salt on the crisps) for our Sierra Club Open House. The top one is a Pumpkin Hummus from Cooking Light (this link will give you the recipe - yay!). I garnished it with roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The darker dip on the left is my famous hummus (though it came out a tad too runny this time!) sprinkled with a little ground cumin, and the lower one is the Herb Farm Dip from the Candle Cafe Cookbook that I made before with not so happy results. As I always say, recipes deserve a second chance. This time, the Herb Farm Dip (which has incredible amounts of fresh herbs - it tastes like a garden!) came out just right, because I left out the WHOLE ONION the recipe called for. All three dips were a big hit at the Open House. Luckily, there was still enough left for my yummy leftover lunch today. Hopefully no one at the meeting double-dipped... I will make some more pumpkin hummus for my lunch this week - now you go and make some, too! It's light and low-cal and perfectly fall.

Here is a close up of the pumpkin hummus!

I also made Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance, but I don't have a photo to share because ... they were eaten all up!! Yes, every single one of the three dozen. Mmmmmm... I love fall.

Speaking of leftovers, this is what came out of the leftover veggies that went with the dip. Well, just some of the veggies - there were quite a lot! I used another Cooking Light recipe (Curried Vegetables) and the pre-cut veggies were just perfect for a fast, easy meal. The meal could have been spicier, but overall it was pretty good. I substituted some of the veggies (zucchini for potatoes, and red pepper for green beans), so it wasn't a true curry, but that's what leftovers are all about - making the most of what you've got! It reminds me of my mum's Bubble and Squeak. Look that one up ;)

Last, this is a photo of my Sour Apple Muffins. Yeah, that's the right name! I made them after our neighbor gave us her (organic, local!) apples (a huge bagful) and I intended on giving her some muffins as a thank you. Well.... I've been known to mess up a recipe or two in my time and instead of the 3/4 cup apple cider... I put in 3/4 cup apple cider VINEGAR! Yeah, I was that stupid. What the hell was I thinking. Well, as I mixed it together and it started foaming, I thought, "Well, that's funny! I wonder why Isa didn't mention this neat reaction with the baking soda in her recipe description." (The real recipe is Apple-Pie Crumb Cake Muffins from V w/aV). That's when the smell of the vinegar hit me and I realized my mistake. Well, I also learned from my mum not to let food go to waste, so I added about a 1/2 cup of maple syrup and some more flour and put those suckers in the oven. They smelled a little funny and tasted a little sour (thus my new recipe name), but heck - I can still eat them and I will. And every time I eat one, I will remind myself that I need to slow down!!
P.S. - I made them again today with the correct ingredients and they were delish! Another perfect fall recipe. My question for the week is: I have a ton of pesto in my freezer. What can I do with it?? My only idea so far is to mix it with hot pasta, some white beans, and veggies, or put it on a pizza.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Protein in Grains

Amaranth Corn Chowder with Whole Wheat Molasses Corn Bread, from Vegetarian Times (I missed the last step - to blend it! So, it looks kinda' soupy. I'll blend it with my lovely immersion blender before I eat the leftovers!). Rating by hubby: 3 stars (out of four!).

Yes, it's true, there is an abundance of protein in many grains - you don't have to eat meat (or beans or nuts or soy) to get your daily intake of protein.

One common misconception about veganism, and the point behind this blog, is that it is deficient in protein. Actually, most people in the US get far more protein than they need. In an excellent article (here), a scientist at Tufts University discusses how this is true, and the side effects of too much protein. This includes calcium loss leading to osteoporosis, and kidney stress. The extra protein inhaled by Americans (including those on the Atkins diet) is actually excreted in urine and feces. It cannot be stored up!

In addition, people often get their protein from a few sources: red meat, chicken, and dairy (sometimes fish). Compare that to the wonderful foods vegans often explore: grains like amaranth and quinoa, countless soy products like tofu and tempeh, nuts and nut butters in huge variety from cashews to almonds, seitan (aka wheat meat), which can be used in any way you can imagine, and especially beans, whose variety number in the thousands and can be eaten in countless ways including the (often overdone)
dips and chili.
This is amanranth, a beautiful and amazing grain. I was inspired to write about this grain this week by one of the many blogs I read, but as I come to write this, I cannot for the life of me remember whose it was! I searched my favorites, but no luck.

Anyhow, here is a great link to some exciting information about amaranth and here is another for ordering it and recipe ideas. If you can't access these links, here is amaranth in a nutshell. It contains more lysine (amino acid) than the powerhouse quinoa. It is gluten free (good for those with wheat allergies!). Just 150 grams supplies an adult's entire daily allowance of protein! It is extremely high in fiber, magnesium and phosphorus. It was highly valued by the Aztecs (and thus cultivated in Mexico for thousands of years) but because it was used in rituals, their Spanish conquerors banned it from being grown and burned every crop they could.
Here is my great grain shelf! You can't see the labels, but it includes bulgur, quinoa, spelt, amaranth, Israeli couscous, millet, several varieties of rice (OK, so that is a seed, I think), plus whole grain pastas and TVP. Now, I ask you, where do you get your protein?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ahh..... back to the foodie life. It takes a lot of negative energy to write about negative things, and I'm really trying to be more positive about life in general. I think that I just have too much to be grateful for, to be angry for too long!

Speaking of being thankful, here is something to be very thankful for... pizza! Specifically, Isa Pizza from Vegan with a Vengeance.
I haven't had pizza in ... well, I can't remember the last time I had it! I bought the Rustic Crust the last time, and it was only OK. Pizza has to rock my world, for it to be worth eating, since it is so high in carbs and I really avoid them. Well, considering that there was only one slice left after my husband and I got to it (he had four slices, I had two!), I'd say it was definitely worth the carbs.

It took me about an hour to make all the toppings (all from her book), plus a bit of time to wait for the dough to rise, but it was totally worth it! The red sauce was perfectly flavored but not overpowering (and a cinch to make!). The Basil-Tofu Ricotta (the white blobs on the pizza) was equally easy to make and pretty good. The pesto (the green blobs) was easy as well but a little too oily and salty for me. However, matched with the kalamata olives and cremini mushrooms, these toppings just sang out together! If you have a free day, please, please try this pizza.

If you do make it, be prepared to adjust the salt, though! Nearly every step of this recipe called for a copious amount of salt. Luckily, I had other recipes to compare them to. The sauce, for instance, called for, "4 teaspoon salt." This must have been a typo, considering my own family recipe that makes four times as much sauce only contains 1 and 1/2 teaspoons. I put in a little less than one and saved the sauce. The other salt dilemma was with the pesto - I nearly gagged with the saltiness of it! But, after adding the lemon juice and nutritional yeast, this was cut quite a bit. It actually was very tasty, next to the olives and mushrooms on the pizza. There was also salt in the bread dough and salt in the ricotta. Awesome pizza, but not if you're watching your salt in take :) You could totally adjust it though, so now you are forewarned.

Also, although this crust was all white flour, it was my first time with this recipe and I didn't want to try doing a whole wheat version. Next time, I will for sure. I did cross-reference some of the steps in my favorite baking guide by King Arthur (which I think I saw on Urban Vegan's shelf??). I also froze half of the dough and most of the toppings, so I look forward to eating this pizza again... maybe next weekend?

Here is the pizza, fresh out of the oven. I had fun laying the toppings out semi-artistically. I love circles....
(keep scrolling, there's more!)

Another recipe that needs some tweaking was the Maple Nut Orbs, from How It All Vegan. I was excited to try these, especially as I could add my newly purchased carob powder to the batch. However, the dough didn't "come together" like dough at all. I had to mush and squeeze it together with my hands. When they chilled in the fridge, they became very, very dry. The flavor was still delicious, but I have to figure out what went wrong. I'm assuming that I should take out some of the nuts and add more liquid. This was similar to, but not as good as, the Almond Oat Balls by Leslie at Eat Peace Please. As I've said before, these deserve a second chance!

I'll be posting lots of sweets like these Vegan Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Nut Cookies in the coming weeks (can't recall what website these came from, except that I think Tropical Vegetarian posted about them once!). This is because I just bought, "Sinfully Vegan" this weekend! I buy one cookbook a month, or rather, Border's gives me one a month. If you are a book or music or DVD junkie, it is totally worth getting the Border's credit card! Each month, you get checks for Border's, although the amount varies upon how much you spend on your credit card, naturally :) Because of my poor car, I am getting good rewards every month - enough for a cookbook each time! So, with the pain, comes happiness. Anyhow, my hubby scarfed these down with compliments (rare, for him!).
Speaking of sweets, it's back to school for us here in Virginia, and here are my cat cookies for my Cool Cats (that's the name of our class). Two of my students informed me at Open House (we don't start until the day after Labor Day - coming soon, ack!) that they are allergic to cats!

I used Isa's V w/a V recipe for Buttery Lemon Cookies and added chocolate chip eyes and noses instead of icing (didn't have time). I was really disappointed with these cookies, in start contrast to her incredible pizza. The dough was incredibly fragile, needing to be refrigerated every five seconds, and the cookies broke very, very easily. And (guess what) ... they were salty. But cute, nonetheless. I had a song running through my head when I took these pictures... "All the little cats are marching..." (think Dave Matthews).
But wait, there's more! I didn't have time to take the photos of Dreena's delicious Coconut Raspberry Squares, so you'll have to go check them out on her recipe list. They were pretty darn good! My Veg Group ate them all up, and my hubby had two in one sitting! However, I think that a merger between these and the Raspberry Chocolate-Chip Blondies from last time are needed. I might have to create my first cookie recipe!!
But, to end on a healthy note (I am a fitness addict and health nut, after all!) here is a shot of my beautiful free-form salad from a couple of nights ago. I used one of Dreena's delicious dressings (I think it was Cumin-Lime) and it matched perfectly with the black beans, corn, yellow grape tomatoes and spinach (the carrot was just thrown in before it went bad!). The sun coming in the front room where we ate just lit it up perfectly. Thanks to Fat Free Vegan for her photo tips, I think I'm slowly getting the hang of the natural light thing! Here's to the beautiful things in life, especially vegan food!