Saturday, May 31, 2008

Light Up the Grill!

There are few things in life more exciting for a foodie, than the first lighting of the grill. Actually, we lit the grill many times before this beautiful meal you see here to your left, but you know what I mean!

It's funny to think that for so many people, grilling and BBQ = meat, because there are soooo many more fun things you can do with veggies and other protein options on the grill than meat!

For instance, take this gorgeous dish, Orzo with Lemon-Grilled Asparagus and Tofu Feta. I made this from our yummy book, The Vegetarian Grill. I haven't made a bad dish out of this yet, but perhaps that's because I bought it for my husband, and I have just too many cookbooks! At any rate, this included a wonderful citrus-olive oil marinade for the asparagus, which were grilled to perfection, along with a red pepper, roasted over the grill until black and then peeled. I NEVER buy jarred roasted red peppers! They are just too easy to make, especially in the oven. This dish was the perfect melding of flavors, especially with the tangy Tofu-Feta that I made the night before, using a recipe from How it All Vegan! Thank you, Sarah!

My weekly protein and veggie-packed lunch consisted of a nice, mild white bean spread, which contained the secret ingredient of raw cashews. This was from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan (ED&BV). I have tried almost everyone one of her hummus and spreads! I had to add some liquid to get it to more of a spreading consistency.

Here it is, hidden underneath a pile of carrots, red peppers, green leaf lettuce and summer squash strips. I then wrapped it up in the biggest lavash bread wrap I have ever seen. I love to buy these at BJ's, because they have no funny chemicals in them, and actually contain some good stuff like flax!

Now, with my husband out of town for a little bit, I will have some time to play around with more exciting dishes.... For instance, here is tonight's meal, Dreena's Thai Chik-Un Pizza from ED&BV.

Can I tell you just how easy and amazing this was? I used a whole grain Rustic Crust, then topped it with the spicy peanut sauce, followed by smushed chickpeas, red peppers, fresh pineapple (soooo much better than canned, don't you agree??), and then after it had cooked a bit, green onions. Out of the oven, I sprinkled on cilantro, bean sprouts, and chopped raw cashews (didn't have any peanuts on hand).

Now, you tell me - do vegans eat well or what?? Keep checking in for more tasty temptations this week, as I continue having fun with meals on my own (meaning, I can have coconut milk and fruit in hot dishes!) as well as some desserts for my monthly Veg Group. Here's to my last two weeks of least for now!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

All's Well that Ends Well

I'm awfully sorry about my last post - what a bummer to read! At any rate, I believe the things that happen in life, whether good or bad, are balanced. Without the bad things, you can't fully appreciate the good and without goodness, you can't get through the bad.

So, I'm happy to say that this past week has been better than the one before. Although we did lose a second colleague's husband a few days after my last post (this time, lung cancer but he had never smoked a day in his life), and my father lost his longtime companion dog, my grandmother's shingles is on the mend and she is enjoying this beautiful spring weather with me (although many, many miles away)! My new job is bright on the horizon, and I'm doing all I can to heal my body.

As we all know, cooking always helps! ....These gorgeous chocolate raspberry cookies from Veganomicon are a housewarming gift for a cookout we are heading to in about an hour. I whipped them up in no time, and with no fancy ingredients! They look hard, but they are only firm on the outside, with an incredibly chewy and soft middle! Four star recipe, or maybe just 3 and a 1/2 but only because I'm not a big chocolate person....
So, I spent yesterday in mid-70 degree weather with a perfect breeze and cloudless sky, chatting with a friend during our yard sale. The birds were everywhere (both sight and sound), my newly planted flowers were blooming nearby and I felt completely renewed. Later, I had a great workout, then came home to wash and wax the car, and mop the kitchen floor. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then I am surely a goddess after yesterday!

Oh yeah! My graduation party (last weekend) was a complete success. Unfortunately, I was so busy being hostess, I didn't take any photos!! Arghh!!! We had: 3 bean salad (family recipe), Spicy Slaw (I'll post about it again this summer - it's incredible! **** stars), Macadamia Nut Blondies (V w/a V - always amazing ****stars), Chunky Monkey Brownies (from Veg News' latest issue - only ** and 1/2 stars -kind of hard), Seitan Skewers with Chimchurri Sauce (see last post)(from Candle Cafe Cookbook - tons of great reviews and comments from omnis! ****stars), a tapenade from Trader Joe's with crostini (***stars), Dreena's white bean hummus from ED&BV but with rosemary instead (great reviews! ****stars), baba ghanouje (eggplant dip - from a can but authentic from the Middle East!
always **** stars but high in sodium!) with pita bread and veggies. The salad picture above is a leftover mix of the party, including the seitan on the top, which was just scrumptious (it reminded me of the steak salads my husband always talks about from PA - except they apparently put french fries on top, too- yuck!)
Needless to say, after all the prep for the party, I wasn't in the mood to cook after the graduation. We went directly (directly is perhaps a bad word to use when leaving on a Saturday afternoon from the middle of Washington, D.C.) to my favorite local place: Sammy T's. There, my family feasted on the following (I did remember to get pictures here! - sorry they're not all that great): The Adventurer (a bean/grain burger in a tortilla with hummus and loads of other stuff)....
A Bean and Grain burger (my husband's choice - soft but amazing taste! and no, I didn't bite the cheese)....

My all-time fav: the Spinach Foldover (tortilla with a great hummus/tahini sauce and sauteed spinach, red onions and mushrooms). I get this every single time, and am never disappointed!

And last, but not least, an equally yummy tempeh stir fry over linguine with a peanut sauce. I got this about five years ago and never got it again because as my husband was carrying the leftovers home (between his legs on the seat!!), it leaked and stained the seat of my brand new car and I'm just too wary to try it again!

Now it's time to go enjoy the gorgeous weather once again and be thankful it's not so cool anymore, but still not our typical Southern heat wave yet, either! Here are some non-food photos from my garden. I have planted some herbs and veggies I hope to share with you later this summer! Have a good Memorial Day!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Sign From Above

As a teacher (and as any working person), sometimes you just need a day off. I woke up this morning in a horrible mood: my hairdresser botched my haircut on Saturday, I sliced my finger through the nail while cutting an onion on Sunday (yes, the knife was dull! That's when most accidents happen), my unexplained dizziness has been at an all-time high, and my eighty-something grandmother just came down with shingles. Not to mention that it has been raining hard and nasty out for several days and I'm supposed to get a new student this week (which is a problem only because there's only a month left in school and our class has really settled into routine, and we just received a new student last week while losing another - it's a swingin' door around here!).

So, waking up this morning to miserable weather and all the other things crappy, I was in the worst mood ever. That quickly changed when I got a phone call from another early-school-bird (we get there early -unpaid! - just to keep up with the work) to say that school was canceled today, due to wind, rain and flooding! WOOHOO! I guess county officials weren't taking any chances today.
After the tornado came through town last week, we still had school that day, despite homes being ripped apart and major flooding. Some of my students and co-workers spent the night in their basements.
So, that seems to be a sign from above (pun intended) that I need to catch up on my blogging and all those other little things that I have intended on doing (not cleaning or cooking!). Actually, I spent about five hours in the kitchen yesterday. Here's what I whipped up. The top photo in this post is actually from last week. It's the Roasted Cauliflower with Olives from the latest Vegetarian Times. Let me tell you - if you don't like cauliflower, you MUST try this! It came out sweet from the roasting and savory and salty from the olives. I loved, loved this! ****Four stars. We also made the American BBQ Tacos (my husband's choice - next time we're making one of the other taco recipes that sounded a little more fun!), but we ate them all up too quickly for a photo! They were good but didn't make a ton. Three ***stars.

I was getting a little tired of muffins from the freezer, so I whipped up a batch of Crunchy Cereal Bars from the recent VegNews issue. I used Kamut Puffs, from Arrowhead Mills, instead of Rice Krispies, not just because they were a healthier grain, but because there were NO OTHER INGREDIENTS (and they were cheaper, I think). Can you believe it? Rice Krispies contain high fructose corn syrup, salt, and numerous other nasties. These cereal bars were overflowing with dried fruit, nuts and seeds, held together with almond butter and brown rice syrup. A nice afternoon snack before I hit the gym. This first picture is neat, because instead of cutting them in the pan (and scratching the pan) as called for, I just sprayed the pan with Pam and then when the bars were chilled, I inverted them onto the cutting board. Perfect!
Here, they are each wrapped in a small piece of parchment paper, ready for the week of lunches (not today - woohoo again!).

Oh, I forgot to mention - another yucky - my friend's husband passed away unexpectedly last week (bone cancer) and we just went to the funeral of another colleague of mine last weekend (leukemia). Needless to say, it's been a very emotionally draining spring! However, I have been able to share my concern and love with good vegan treats. Here are the Raspberry Chocolate Blondies from Vegan with a Vengeance, that I've made many times before. I'm glad I have to give these away, because they are soooo good! Note to self - let them cool entirely in the pan before cutting! This way, they are completely cooked - just like brownies. This is always a four ****star recipe.
Next weekend should be looking up, as it is my graduation! Technically, I already have my degree hanging on the wall (Masters in Library Science) and a job - Oh yeah! I don't think I've blogged about that yet! I will be working at the public library right down the street from my house after school gets out this June! I'll be a Youth Services Librarian. Working with young adults (aka, teens). My dream job since childhood, I taught for nine years before I recalled that I always wanted to, "be a librarian!" Now, I'll be even poorer, but much, much happier. And honestly, why spend your days here on earth (and most of each day is spent at work) at a job that is less than satisfying? And, with what we teachers get paid and the hours that we work.....Well, I won't go there right now! So, the Vegan Librarian is born :)

And, my graduation party....yes, back to that. I have family and friends coming to visit the day after, so I whipped up some seitan yesterday to make the following treat: Seitan Skewers with Chimchurri Sauce from Candle Cafe Cookbook. These are the closest thing I've made that look and taste like meat. The charred grilling flavor, and juicy marinade are almost too much for me! I hate meat-analogs, but this is still a delicious meal for omnis and veggies alike. I'll also be making a plethora of side dishes and last week's BBQ Seitan (we're not calling them ribs, remember?) as well.

Here's the shot from last summer, with some yummy grilled vegetables. But don't stop now! Keep scrolling - there's more!

After the cereal bars, seitan, and blondies, it was on to lunch for the week: Carrot Butter from Candle Cafe Cookbook. No recipe could be easier (except that I cut my finger halfway through, remember!). Just chop and cook the carrots and onions (with a few spices) until tender, then blend! I'm eating this all week on lavash bread with salad greens. Of course, I'll be eating it at home today!!! We made Green Tofu Curry (or something like that) from Vegan with a Vengeance last night as well, but I was too tired from cooking to take a photo! It was good - but I didn't make my own curry paste, so I had to estimate the quantity from a jar, and it was a leeetle too much ;) The heat was a packin', but it was still edible. Two and a half ** stars over rice cooker-quinoa and burned asparagus (argh! That sucked, too. I forgot about my organic asparagus in the oven last night ). See you probably sometime next week, after I've had a chance to take some party photos!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Miss Ribs?

Well, I hate to tell ya, but these don't really taste like "real" ribs. This is according to my husband, since the last time I had ribs (and the only time) it felt like I was gnawing on bones. I didn't think much of them, and that was when I enjoyed eating meat!

However, these BBQ Seitan Ribz were really just like good seitan with good BBQ sauce on them. I found that the bottled brand of Bull's Eye not only contained no high-fructose corn syrup or Red #40 (read, "nasty, chemicals that don't belong in our bodies"), but it tasted awesome as well!

These ribz were delicious but I don't think that I'll ever serve them as, "ribs" to meat-lovers, because they really bare no resemblance in texture and density. I'll just call them, "BBQ Seitan." They were definitely easy and very yummy, so go try them out with Susan V's recipe, but don't expect them to taste like the "real thing" (although, that is a good thing for those who don't miss meat!).

We had the BBQ last weekend, and enjoyed it as suggested, with a grilled potato and some greens on the side (we had sauteed kale with one of Dreena's yummy sauces).

Lunch last week was Tuna-Free Salad Sandwiches, from the latest VegNews magazine. It was really good! I actually had a piece of pita bread on the side and ate the salad on bed of fresh baby spinach. It was just mashed chickpeas with some usual additions such as chopped pickle and celery. The magic ingredient? Nori flakes. Well, I had to use kelp granules, which still worked wonders. Their ocean-flavor added to the texture of the chickpeas was awesome! Very tuna-like. However, the granules were also rather.... like bits of sand once in a while. So, I don't know if the kelp granules were too firm and thus crunchy like sand bits, and if nori flakes would be better or not. Comments anyone? More delish food pics coming up next week, with this week's recipes: sun-dried tomato hummus, American BBQ Tacos, and roasted cauliflower with kalamata olives!