Thursday, July 31, 2008

Five Out of Six Ain't Bad

The past two weeks have kept me busy in the kitchen, especially with my husband being gone for half of that time! It's amazing how many dishes one person can accumulate, and how much house cleaning there is with just one person to do it! I have a new respect for how much my dad did when he stayed home with us.

This post's title is in reference to the five awesome dishes I made this week, and the one that flopped. I'm starting with my favorite and working down to least fav. First up are these scrumptious, utterly yummy "Swallow-it-All Banana Balls," from Dreena's first cookbook, The Everyday Vegan. I have to say, the title really had me laughing (sexual innuendos, anyone?) so I am renaming these simply "Banana Bites." Mine were pretty big, so they were really three bites in one (Schweaty Balls, anyone? NPR and Sat Night Live!). But oh, my god, they really were good. AND... no sweeteners! I really mean it! They mostly contain ripe bananas, dates, apples, and unsweetened, dried coconut, along with some ground oats and nut butter. They were so moist and combined the two flavors I love the most. Plus, they allowed me to use up some cereal crumbs I had laying around. I actually used raisin bran, instead of cornflakes. A great, healthy, filling snack. Four stars!

On we move to the second best... Grilled Yuca Tortillas from Veganomicon. I have been wanting to make these for a while, since I love yuca, which is like a very starchy, sticky potato. I added sliced kalamata olives, as suggested for an add-in, along with the jalapeno and bell pepper already called for. I actually grilled mine on our outdoor grill. The yuca was amazingly cheesy-like and it melted in my mouth..... I ate it later in the week by grilling leftover filling on the stove top and adding some good salsa - even better!! Four stars!

The side dishes pictured here are some grilled okra (nothing like the slimy stuff you might be wary of! Just crunchy and beautiful with olive oil, salt and pepper!) and my third favorite meal of the week...

Edamame Corn Salad. I took inspiration from Veganomicon's Corn-Sesame-Edamame Salad (or something like that) and added some local, organic grape and cherry tomatoes. I also did not cook the corn. I just cut it fresh off of the cobs (also local, not organic)! Soooo good. The sesame oil and rice vinegar just shone through in the flavors and it was as easy as could be to throw together. I could have eaten it just as it was, with nothing else! Four stars!

Fourth in line, but still really, really good, were the Seitan Gyros, from Vegan Express. I made them for my hubby, as he likes seitan and we both like (or used to like, in my case) gyros. Typically, they are lamb (ack!) but the seitan was moist and chewy enough (not in a gross, faux meat way, but in a pleasant, seitan way) and so perfectly flavored, I enjoyed every bite! We ate it whole pitas, just folded in half, with lettuce, tomato, and a cucumber raita (yogurt sauce). My only complaint was that the plain soy yogurt was too sweet and the seitan actually wasn't spicy enough! Still, very quick and very good. Just fry up the seitan, chop the veggies, and you're golden....Three stars!

Unfortunately, we're nearing the bottom of the post. I hate to write anything bad about a recipe, especially one from such an accomplished and yummy cook as Dreena (remember, her Banana Balls/Bites were number one this week!), but this Cashew-Ginger Tofu (from ED&BV), was just not all that great for me. I think I sliced the tofu a little thin, so the pieces were floppy and broke apart in all that sauce. I love, love tofu, but this was only so-so for me. No golden, crunchy crust, no firm bite. It must not be made for any tofu-haters! The creamy sauce was good, but got kind of grayish looking after a couple nights of leftovers. On its own, probably two and a half stars but I decided to lay it atop the real flop of the week....

No recipe this week compared to my own nasty creation. It all started out so innocently. I wanted to use up some red cabbage I had kicking around. I went to the farmer's market and got some fresh beans, carrots, bell pepper and mushrooms. They were so beautiful (see below shots)! But the cabbage leaked red all over my beautiful mushrooms and looked ten times worse than the tofu, especially after sitting around as leftovers this week. I ate it because I cannot waste food, but bleah - don't cook red cabbage in a stir fry!! One and a half stars, maybe.
I leave you with the bounty of last Saturday's farmer's market. Beautiful berries, and such gorgeous, organic mushrooms!!! Four stars for summer produce~ Enjoy the weekend and sorry for the late post!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Before I get to the big surprise, I'm sharing a yummy food shot. My parents were in town for the week (a rare occasion) and I was excited to try out some tried-but-true meals, as well as some newbies. This BBQ Tempeh sandwich with grilled pineapple and Mango Ketchup from the Candle Cafe Cookbook was a big hit all around, even for my meat-loving father. He declared it, "very good!" which is a big complement coming from him, and went back for seconds. We've made it before, with great success, so we knew it would be palatable, to say the least! Four stars!

Now for the surprise... You remember a couple of posts back, when I was sharing pictures of my garden? And how excited I was to watch the bean plants grow? Well, I went out earlier this week to do my daily garden inspection (weeding, watching for pests/mold, etc.) when I noticed that the bean plants didn't look very... beanish. They were just too short and round. I watched them over the next few days when all of a sudden, nestled under the canopy of leaves, I discovered.....

These are DEFINITELY not beans! I thought, maybe they're some kind of squash, or something. When my mother, experienced gardener that she is, came and looked at them, she suggested....


Now, I know I planted bean seeds. Or at least, they came from a packet labeled "organic bush beans." And they certainly looked like bean seeds when I planted them. I should know, being a Kindergarten teacher for so long (you do lots of fine motor activities with dried beans!). But, as disappointed as I was (I love fresh beans!), I was also ecstatic - MELONS! I also love, love cantaloupe and honeydew melons (of which I think these are the latter). Whatever they turn into (I'll take any guesses!), I'm excited that they are thriving so well and just praying that the resident groundhog doesn't get them first! Either way, I still got a thrill out of planting seeds and getting such great returns with such poor soil and over watering (the garden has been flooded several times with rain). And, it's a great story! Now, onto more food....

This is the Spicy Peanut Tempeh with Cool Cucumber Salad from the most recent Veg News magazine. I have to say, their recipes don't disappoint! The tempeh was marinated and skewered with some red onion and plums. Even my warm-fruit hating husband enjoyed the plums! In fact, he made this dish himself - yay! Unfortunately, I could tell right away by the sweetness in the peanut sauce that he had used Jiff peanut butter (ugh!- with all its added sugar) but I didn't complain and was just happy that he had made the effort to cook while I was at work! I whipped up the cucumber salad while he grilled (it's in the same issue, meant as a side dish for the tempeh) and was only disappointed in the incredible heat! Cool, my ass. The peanut sauce wasn't spicy enough, though, so this kind of balanced the two. Not bad, overall. Maybe three stars for the tempeh and two for the salad.
Continuing the grill-fest on the first night my parents came into town, was this delectable Penne with Grilled Vegetables, from The Vegetarian Grill. It was really very easy (julienne and grill the veggies, cook the pasta, toss with tomato sauce) since we used an organic jarred sauce, instead of grilling the tomatoes for a homemade sauce (although this would have been amazing, I'm sure!). I snuck in whole wheat penne (the men in our family can't abide the grainy texture) and left out the goat cheese from my portion (although everyone else raved about the way the cheese really enhanced the dish). I really must get my hands on some Teese! Three stars for everyone else, two for me, sans goat cheese.

The next night, I had to work, so we all made do with leftovers. But the following night we gorged on vegetarian and vegan pizza. Here is Isa's Pizza from Vegan with a Vengeance, on the homemade crust. We use Rustic Crust, too, when we don't have time for a fresh one. Everyone raved over this pizza. It has tofu ricotta (the white lumps), pesto (the green lumps), kalamata olives (soooo good!) and mushrooms (I think we used cremini). Everything is a little bit salty, so we leave out quite a bit of salt from the pesto. Everyone loves pizza! Four stars!
But wait, there's more!

One night, we were invited over to our neighbor's for dinner (including an incredible rice salad that I have to recreate!) and I brought ED&BV's Lemon Poppy Seed Crackle Cookies. They were pretty, easy, and even chewy (although I think they were chewy because I put them in a Tupperware container shortly after they cooled). A little too "poppseedish" for me, and needed more lemon maybe, but still very good!

On their last night in town, my mother and I whipped up Dreena's Spicoli Burgers from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. They really were pretty easy, especially with a rice cooker to do most of the work. They do have to chill for 30 minutes, so be prepared! There isn't very much prep work, overall. They can be expensive, since they call for one cup of hemp seeds, and they are a little mushy on the inside, but I would make these again just for the flavor! Three stars for sure. We were out of pita bread or hamburger buns (I finally found ones without any high fructose corn syrup- yay!) so we ate them naked, as suggested with her Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette, alongside some salad and....

Grilled Rosemary Potatoes! These were my own recipe (just drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped, fresh rosemary, then grilled on medium heat for about ten minutes each side), so I was very proud of how good they turned out. AND, I worked the grill all by myself! My husband loves the grill, and always takes charge, so much that I didn't even know how to light it! But I did it all by myself this time, and am now queen of the grill :) Three stars for the potatoes.

We finished the night with Strawberry Swirl Ice Cream (vegan, of course!) from the Vegetarian Times, June 2008 issue. I haven't made ice cream (dairy or otherwise) in years, so I was excited to turn on our "vintage" (1970s) ice cream maker! It's electric, so there's not a whole lot of work. And the results? Fantastic! My dad, an ice cream connoisseur, rated it "excellent," although he thought it tasted more like raspberry, especially with the slight grit from the seeds. It really was like sherbet, and I enjoyed every bite. Sweet, but not cloyingly. Fruity, but not too much, either. Four stars! What a great way to end the meal and the week! I plan on making more cool treats with my Vice Cream cookbook that I've had since last summer. My husband has asked for Mint Chocolate Chip!

While they were here, Hobbes entertained us all by climbing into suitcases and also playing "security guard," for my dad's laptop....

But wait, there's more!....
My garden continued to flourish this past week. Here are the zucchini flowers, and then, much to my surprise, a zucchini all of a sudden appeared! I had no idea they grew "upside down," like this! Isn't it cute?

I waited as long as I could, and then picked it, to enjoy with some white bean-rosemary dip (a modification of ED&BV's white bean dip with thyme and basil). So tender and delicious! Why do non-vegans always ask, "So, what do you eat?"

But wait, there's more!...

My gladiolus continued to bloom and surprise me last week as well, with white, purple, and yellow blossoms. The buds looked like ballet slippers, smooth as silk and ready to dance off the stalk!

And I leave you with a shot of "green energy," or our new solar clothes dryer! :) It was the best thing ever when our old one broke. Enjoy the weekend!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Summer Treats!

If you're a muffin fan, these muffins are a "must make!" These Banana Blueberry muffins from La Dolce Vegan are incredible. Moist, fluffy, sweet, fairly healthy....and a great way to use up overripe bananas! :) I think the molasses gives them their darker flavor. I even used whole wheat pastry flour and applesauce instead of the oil, for an extra healthy - oomph! Four stars!

Meanwhile, the other two overripe bananas went into the making of this Banana Cake, also from La Dolce Vegan. I added some chocolate chips to the batter, too - yum! I didn't have any confectioners sugar on hand for the frosting (that's a first!), so I whipped up some of Isa's (VCTOTW) chocolate ganache and sprinkled the whole thing with chopped walnuts. My coworkers enjoyed this treat before the holiday weekend, but there was still some left to take home - oh rats! :)

Here's what the inside looked like.... very moist and fluffy and just superb! I love, love bananas. They were my favorite as a toddler and I still can't get enough. Four stars for the cake - but I'm not the biggest chocolate fan, so only three for the ganache.

One night this week, my husband surprised me with having dinner on the table (now that I'm working full time and he's got the summer off - how strange it feels!). He made this fairly complicated sandwich - I was so proud! It was the recent Vegetarian Times cover recipe: Mediterranean Pressed Picnic Sandwich. How luscious.... Fresh ciabatta bread, spread with homemade pesto on one side and jarred tapenade on the other. In between sit slices of grilled red pepper, zucchini and portobella mushroom (we did the shroom in lieu of summer squash). This was all drizzled with balsamic vinegar before being pressed for a while. It was really, really good, but even better the next day, after the flavors melded even more! Yay for male cooks and grills! Four stars, for sure! The bean salad in the background is also from that issue: Picnic Caviar. I made that one and it was really excellent! A nice kick of spice and love the cilantro. Four stars for that one, too.

So I leave you this week with some shots of my gorgeous lily, just blooming now for us. It opened up overnight, after a heavy storm. I've been watching the bees in my veggie garden, and hope to have some pics of vegetables very soon! Have a great week!