Sunday, September 28, 2008

There's nothing like curling up on a chilly fall afternoon with some soy or nutmilk and some homemade cookies! Of course, a chilly fall in my area means temperatures anywhere below 70 ;)

I love making cookies for my friends, co-workers and various events, not just because everyone likes dessert, but because they are a great way to introduce newcomers to the vegan lifestyle! Everyone jokes with me about tofu, but no one jokes about my desserts (except for a few bad batches now and then!). These Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from The Joy of Vegan Baking, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau were another hit. Sweet and sugary, and dare I say buttery (they had a whole stick of non-dairy butter in them!) they were hardly healthy. Many people also associate vegans and vegetarians with healthy eating and although that is certainly true (no cholesterol or heart disease from whole grains, legumes and leafy greens!) our desserts can certainly tip the scale in calories and sugar!

These were pretty easy to whip up, although I didn't really have enough raisins. I like my oatmeal cookies to be really "oatmealy" and to have a ton of raisins, two things that these were lacking for me. However, looking at a similar non-vegan recipe under the lid of the oatmeal canister revealed a recipe that was pretty much the same as this one! Three Stars ***, with good reviews by co-workers!

I'm glad I didn't have too many sweets to bake this week, and this Cumin-Lime Tofu really kicked the savory up a notch! The fact that I've made this recipe before means a lot, since I rarely make the same recipe twice!! Four stars for this recipe - tangy and light, but filling and crunchy with a crisp outside and sprinkled with chopped pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds). Even my omni husband enjoyed this and reached back for more! The only change I made in this recipe was to press the tofu (thus removing more of its liquid to make it more firm) and marinating it longer (to allow the tofu to absorb more flavor). Everyone always says that tofu "absorbs flavors really well," but that's not true unless you marinate for a reaallly long time. Otherwise, just the outer edges of each slice or block get the seasoning.

The tofu was made to go with this other recipe (both, by the way are from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan). This pretty dish is the Sesame Lime Soba Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Snow Peas. I just love mushrooms! I was craving this for a while. Again, not a very fall-like dish, but it was quick and easy for the busy fall I'm having. Just stir-fry the veggies, cook the noodles, and heat them up with the homemade sauce.

Top with the Cumin-Lime Tofu and presto! A vegan meal to inspire! Four stars for the soba noodles, by the way. I just couldn't get enough! And it wasn't heavy, either. The best part? Perfect for leftovers the next night - just like cold Asian take out! Tonight I tackle the last of my phyllo recipes for a while and later this week I plan on making a gluten-free soup for my next Veg Group meeting!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good-bye Summer!

I'd like to say that we welcomed in autumn with some hearty, root vegetable meals, but it was more like a good-bye to summer! It was really nice and cool this weekend - felt like a perfect fall day - but on this first day of autumn it is over 80 degrees! Blech. So I had my last smoothie for lunch and some fresh fruit.

Pictured here is the long-awaited Moroccan-Infused Vegetable Phyllo Rolls, from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan (ED&BV). Since I made that spanikopita a few weeks back, I've been looking for ways to use up the extra phyllo. It's so easy to work with - I'm glad I tried it again! I think I'll try the Walnut, White Bean and Spinach Phyllo Rolls next week.

Here's a picture of those babies going into the oven, glistening with olive oil. Thank god it's heart-healthy! No cholesterol there :) My only complaint was that the recommended sauce was way too sweet. It overpowered the flavor of the rolls. And that's saying A LOT for me, since I have an incredible sweet tooth. Three good stars, maybe three and a half ***

My husband's meal of the week was the Mediterranean Tortilla Pizzas, from Dreena's other book, 'The Everyday Vegan.' These were not quite as good as the phyllo rolls, also because the sauce was too sweet - what a coincidence! The tomato paste in the sauce was just too thick and sweet for us. The toppings were awesome (roasted garlic, artichokes, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes = yum!!) and the thin, tortilla crust was different. A little hard to slice and eat, though - rather messy! Two and a half to three stars ** We made these together - not hard!

We had extra tortillas left over from the pizzas, so we ended up making Veggie-Sizzle Burritos (OK, so I made them while husband watched his football team - how stereotyped are we!) also from ED&BV. These were pretty good. My husband ate the two with the (non-vegan) cheese and went back for a third! We served them with some good salsa. Funnily enough, the Tostitos brand salsa is one of the most flavorful, fresh and simple ones out there! I like my burritos soft, not oven-baked, and I've made something similar myself before, but I was just so happy to have found another recipe that my husband liked. Three stars!***

My muffin supply in the freezer is getting pretty low, since I worked all summer, so this weekend I whipped up some Easy Pleasin' Oat Bars, from Vive le Vegan (yes, Dreena strikes again!). I always add dried fruit, and more than she calls for. They are nice and firm - one of my favs! Three stars ***
I did make the last hummus out of her ED&BV cookbook, which was the Kids' Dynamo Hummus. It has raw cashews, nutritional yeast and flax oil, all great ingredients. The flavor? Outstanding. A little cheesy, beany, and mellow - yum again! One of my favorites. Now that I've made all these hummus recipes, I can't decide which is my favorite? Possibly the olive-sundried-tomato one.

And that about wraps it up for this week of food! I'm off to make another Dreena recipe tonight, one with summer seasonings as we say good-bye to summer and hello to my favorite season!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Holy Kitchen Woman, Batman!

I can't believe how much food I made this week! I was writing in my recipe journal and realized that I had made seven new recipes this week! Let's get right down the vegan vittles, shall we?
First, these Peanut Butter Bombs from My Sweet Vegan TOTALLY redeemed the book for me (after the past few not-so-great results). They ROCKED! Sweet and soft and like eating a peanut butter cup cookie! Four stars! **** My only complaint was that the recipe didn't make as many as it said it would. Soooo... I had to make these next cookies as well (I was baking for teens that I work with).

Isa's Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies were hardly a thumbs up. At least, the way the recipe was written. When I got ready to "press the dough flat with my palms," it was still a gooey, liquidy concoction! I had to double the flour to get a good dough. At least they turned out OK. I guess I'm just not a big chocolate fan! I used blueberry preserves for the jam middle. Yum! Three stars, I guess ***

On Wednesday night, my husband helped me make the next dish (which he also chose), from The Everyday Vegan. These were Mexican Tofu Tacos. I've had plenty of vegan tacos in my lifetime. Tempeh ones, TVP ones, but I wasn't so sure how the mushy tofu would turn out. Well, with all the great veggies involved (minced carrot, bell pepper, celery and tomato) and all the great spices (not to mention the fresh avocado - yum!!!) these turned out GREAT! My husband and I gave them four stars **** A pleasant, spicy surprise. He put regular cheese on them, of course, but I didn't have any vegan kind on hand. They would have been better with some veg-cheese and lettuce.
Another night, I cooked these Mushroom Cashew Patties from Veg News for myself. They were wicked easy to make and used up some mushrooms and bread heels I had kicking around. Amazing flavor! Very soft and kind of crumbly, but I loved them just the same. Four stars! ****

Yet another four star **** recipe for the week... The Bliss of Krishna Tropical Rice Pudding (otherwise known as rice pudding), from the Vegan Fusion World Cuisine cookbook. Only the second thing I've made from this book (I've had it since this summer!) but awesome just the same. It used up some coconut milk I had (from the Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting from last week!) so all the better. An amazing treat for dessert or perhaps even breakfast? Basmati rice and raisins and macadamia nuts....mmmmmm.....
Of course, my husband's favorite meal was another savory, hot meal from the oven. This time, these Roasted Red Pepper and Mushroom Baked Wraps from Vegan Dad's blog. We used some lavash bread I had in the fridge, instead of tortillas, and double the portobella mushrooms, with baby bellas instead of the chanterelle. They also contain roasted red pepper (I made these myself - so easy!), lots of spices and some garlic hummus spread. I roasted the head of garlic in the oven as Isa suggests in Vw/aV, and added it to my favorite hummus recipe. So mellow and yum! Not vampirey at all....The lavash bread got nice and crisp.
I quickly steamed some farmer's market green beans and we had a meal!

Here's my wrap after I bit into it - so creamy and good! My only suggestion would be to add vegan cheese (the recipe called for some but I didn't have any) and we also thought that some different veggies would be great in here - maybe some red onion, too. It would make a great stromboli!! Four stars ****
The last recipe, I do not have a shot of, because I whipped it up for my Sierra Club Open House. It was the Chipotle Lime Hummus from Dreena's ED&BV. It was very, very good, too! Nice and spicy and different from all the other hummus recipes (included kidney beans). I think there are only two more hummus (hummuses? what's the correct plural?) I need to make from that book and then I will have tried them all! This one tops the bunch, along with the olive one, the white bean and thyme (I used rosemary) one and her Cannellini Yam one from The Everyday Vegan. What an incredible week! I'm exhausted just typing all this! Or maybe it's just the wine.... Happy Friday!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Going Gluten-Free!

Well, I'm not going gluten-free, but for my monthly Veg Group meeting, I thought it would be nice to try to make a gluten-free dessert. There are some folks who attend who are celiacs, and I realized that making desserts every time that had flour in them was just as bad as making vegetarian desserts for vegans! So, I gave Dreena's Gluten-Free Vegan Chocolate Cake a try. It included white rice flour, which I easily found at the Ukrop's grocery store nearby. Other than that, it was basically a Wacky Cake, which involves using vinegar and baking soda as the leavening. Pretty cool! It tasted decent, I think, and there wasn't much left after the meeting, so that was good for my hips - ha, ha. I used Isa's recipes for Coconut-Pecan Frosting and Peanut Butter Frosting with Chocolate Ganache (both from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World) to cover the two layers separately, instead of stacking them, so that there would be more cake to go around. I thought both frostings were good, but the peanut butter one was a little "weepy," due to the natural peanut butter oils separating, I think. I just love the coconut frosting!!!
Here's the one with peanut butter frosting and ganache. Four stars for both! Yum!

Unfortunately, not all things can turn out so well. For Labor Day, hubby and I (OK, just I) fixed some traditional dishes: grilled corn, grilled okra....and BBQ seitan ribz. (Traditional to vegans! - Lots of family values here!). The corn was a disappointment. Despite being local and freshly picked, it was chewy and starchy. The okra was also local and fresh, but rather dry. I think I could have used more olive oil on the latter. Oh well - it was edible. Two stars for the veggies. Three stars for the good as usual seitan from Susan V.
The last food I'm posting this week is the homemade spanikopita! I've been dying to make these for years, but due to the fiddly phyllo (filo) dough and loads of olive oil, I was always hesitant. Well, with my new year's resolutions in mind (the year is a third over!) I decided to tackle it. Here is the mix, containing tofu, fresh dill and cooked spinach with other spices. Pretty good, but could have used some more garlic.

Next step - take the thawed filo dough out of the package in the fridge, lay out two tissue-thin layers (with olive oil sprayed or brushed in between) and score it the long way into thirds.

Place about a tablespoon of the filling at the top left corner of one of the strips.

Now is when being a Girl Scout came in handy. Just fold the left corner over, then down, then over, repeating like you're folding a flag. Easy! Tuck any lose end under and brush or spray with more olive oil. My heart is saying thank you already, but that's still a lot of oil!

Here is a sheet of the little guys, fresh out of the oven. I think I'm having oven problems, because (like last week's baked goods), I found that these were still underdone. They only got brown on the tips. Delish and authentic, but not brown enough.

I reheated these in my little toasted oven for a great lunch throughout the week. A nice break from fruit salad and smoothies that I ate all summer!

We're going to try some mushroom cashew patties tonight - wish us luck!