Sunday, November 15, 2009

Back in Business

I never thought the day would come when I would have a) no energy to cook, b) no desire to look at recipes, and c) no taste for sweets. Luckily, those days are quickly fading, although Baby to Be is still giving me the woozies over sweets, bitter greens, and too much citrus too early in the morning. I feel like I'm one of Pavlov's dogs, and I'm a little slow on the uptake, learning what I can and can't eat!

Anyway, I was psyched that at least problems a) and b) are a thing of the past, although I'm often still too tired to cook much. However, I was able to crack open my new Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Moskowitz and Romero, in order to make my first treat from this brand new cookbook: Pumpkin Pie Brownie! Yes, it was as good as it sounds and looks. Funny thing, though - I'm not much of a chocolate person! Anyway, the pumpkin on top was "just right - not too much" as confirmed by a friend who's not big on pumpkin, and the brownie part was deliciously fudgy. It was pretty easy, too.

The perfect fall dessert! Three and a half stars ***1/2, only because I thought the topping came out too dark and again, that chocolate thing of mine...

On a healthier note, after a recent Veg Group meeting, I was inspired to buy and try opening a pomegranate for the first time! As suggested, I scored the fruit's skin, then opened it up in a bowl of water. As also predicted, the seeds fell to the bottom and the rest floated to the top where I could skim it off!

It took a little bit longer to dig out all the seeds, but there was basically no mess and no cleanup! Yummy treat in no time. The seeds are crunchy but sweet and tangy. Great antioxidants and just plain good!

I haven't really craved anything with this pregnancy, but sometimes I'll think about a past meal and think, "I really want that again!" Despite my aversion to greens (I literally gagged and had to walk away while cutting up the spinach for this dish), I really wanted this from Palak Soyabina Paneer from ED&BV. It is pretty easy to make (just marinate and crisp up the tofu cubes, which Mr. PLV said tasted very similar to the traditional cheese) and then wilt the greens with some spices and tomatoes, puree, and add the tofu back in. Not too spicy and a good way to be sneaky with my greens (although not very sneaky - this is pretty obvious).

Meanwhile, we had some pasta sauce to use up, so I snuck some gluten-free pasta (rice, amaranth, and quinoa) into Mr. PLV alongside his highly praised Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon. These are much better if you bake them (much more firm) but still, they are eerily like cutlets of an animal form, or like eggplant parm. Still, a familiar meal on a night with no time and little energy. The cutlets are wicked fast to make and can fry while the pasta is boiling. Three and a half stars ***1/2 - better if baked but we don't always have that kind of time! :)
I had to work this past Saturday - ugh - but really it's not so bad when you come home to a home-cooked meal by your hubby! He was craving these Tempeh Reubens that we've made several times before, so I gave in :) I had mine on Ezekiel bread (toasted with Earth Balance) and it was just as good as other breads I've had it with. The dressing was a little runny, so the photo isn't that great, but it was a comfort meal, to be sure! Marinated, grilled tempeh, hot sauerkraut, homemade Thousand Island dressing, all on toasted bread - so warm and crunchy! Four stars **** even with the sub par dressing. Well, that's it for this week's post. I was sick last Sunday (had just overdone it the week before) so I had tomato soup for dinner, not the Indian meal we had planned, but I'm going to go rest now, so that I'll have the energy to make samosas tonight! :) We'll have those alongside chana masala and hopefully a spinach/tomato dish. I'm full just thinking about it!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Two Exciting Things

Two exciting things to share today...
I was pretty excited to get this new cookbook in the mail the other day. I already have the Vegan Cupcakes book and it's amazing. Usually, I would have already baked at least one thing by now. But life sometimes has other plans...

I'll cut to the chase and share the other exciting thing, which basically blows the excitement of a new cookbook out of the water...we're expecting a baby in May!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) :) Yeah, I'm finally past the first trimester, and after last year's miscarriage, it's been an extremely anxious 13 weeks. Well, we didn't know for the first four weeks, but let me tell you - the rest was very long!! I'm so happy to be able to share this with people now, and even more happy for our future! Of course, the big question is, will this be a vegan baby? Well, the joke is, it has no choice for the first 9 months!

At any rate, I haven't had any particular cravings with two exceptions: 1) I want hot, comforting meals and 2) I want soup. The sad part is, I have actually had an inability to eat two types of things that (for me) literally make life worth living: 1) dried fruit and 2) greens and some veggies. I mean, I live on those things!! I also have been nauseous when eating sweets, which is actually a great thing for my health! Weird, though, to lose your sweet tooth.
Unfortunately, we add a third confounder: I have had no desire to cook. Yes, you read that correctly. I have had no energy to cook, to desire to look at recipes, and just want to open a can and eat. Luckily for me, Amy's Organics makes some great soups! Now that I'm feeling a little better,
I've been back in the kitchen as a sneaky pregnant momma, sneaking these foods into my body so I don't get nauseous and I keep getting my nutrients. As you can see from the above photo, Popeye Pasta is one way to get your greens in. I followed this recipe from ED&BV, which calls for wilting spinach into the pasta sauce. I even cut the work load for me (boy - evenings are rough!) by using jarred pasta sauce. And, I appeased Mr. PLV's craving for all things white, by using "regular" white pasta. This was sooo good and so easy! Four stars **** and very sneaky...

One afternoon, I had the energy to whip up these Walnut-Miso Green Beans, which my body still didn't care for at dinnertime, but was able to enjoy at lunch. I've made this recipe tons of times (gasp!) and just love the salty, nutty flavors. Plus, it's wicked easy. Four stars, as usual! ****
This would be a great dish for Thanksgiving.

Since soups were on my "yes" list (and a great way to get my veggies in - so sneaky!), Mr. PLV chose Creamy White Bean Soup from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook. This wasn't one of our favorites. It was good the first time around, but, unlike most soups, didn't really get better as reheats. It was just too thick and didn't have enough flavor. Too plain for me. Two and a half stars **1/2. Not very sneaky, either.

Now that I'm getting past the, "I just want soup," phase, I still want to cook things that are quick and easy, because I'm just so tired in the evenings. Saturdays and Sundays are now our big meal days, and the rest of the weeks it's leftovers! These Gimmi Chimmis, also from ED&BV were certainly easy! Not so quick, as we pan-fried and then baked them, but the flavors were great. Basically, a spice, zucchini, tomato and bean filling, wrapped in tortillas. I absolutely recommend squeezing some lime on them as you eat, and we also added some cilantro and avocado. Yum! Three and a half stars ***1/2, only because we had to adjust the cooking temperatures and times because they were burning. Mine came out OK, but poor Mr. PLV had some black stuff to eat.

So tonight, after the football games (because really, I do NOT feel up to mopping the kitchen floor!) and some other blogging, we'll try to make Indian samosas, one of my few remaining New Year's resolution challenges, alongside some chana masala. Oh, and I don't think I'll get to cookies today, but the Pumpkin-Brownies are calling my name! Meanwhile, I leave you with a really cool picture of Brussels sprouts on the "club" from my local farmer's market. How cool!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Comfort Food

These past few weeks, I've really been craving warm, comfort food, even though it hasn't been that cold. Last night, on Halloween, it was still in the 60s as the last trick-or-treaters came to our door! Today, the first day of November, however, is quintessential fall weather - cool, dreary, drizzling...which makes the leaves too wet to rake - oh well! :)

Last weekend, Mr. PLV wanted vegan meatloaf, so vegan meatloaf it was. He was out of town, so this was my project. I actually made it the day before, since, according to the directions, it is more firm after a night in the fridge. Well, I'm not sure that it was really that much more firm, but it was certainly delicious! It had a great texture, good flavor and tasted awesome with ketchup! Our only critique was that it was way too salty. I followed the first version of this recipe (from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen, by Bryanna Grogan) which called for vegan "ground round." I'm not one much for using fake meat things, but this was pretty tasty! But I guess with all the salt in that, plus soy sauce and table salt, it was just too much. As you can see by the photo above, Mr. PLV also doused his with (salty) homemade (vegan of course) gravy. Oh well. It was easy, yum, and definitely comforting! Three solid stars ***.

By far our favorite dish this week was this Vegetable Soup with Corn Dumplings from Cooking Light. I made this when it was published in their magazine eight years ago (gasp!) and decided that (drum roll here)...I wanted to make it again. Yeah, yeah, I know - what a shocker - me making a meal twice! Actually, I think this could be the third time I've made this. It's not that difficult and has lots of veggies: corn, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, zucchini, onion, garlic...and of course the tender, chewy corn dumplings! These tend to fall apart in the soup, so be careful about the mixture (add more flour than called for and don't let it simmer too hard). We both agreed that this is one of our favorite soups ever! Spicy, salty, sweet, savory - just about perfect. Go follow the link and make it soon! Four stars ****.

Last but not least, I had a craving for grilled cheese and tomato soup. Unfortunately, Campbell's tomato soup contains high fructose corn syrup - yuck. But I made do for now. Chreese makes a very good cheese mix, which you cook up on the stove. Mine was a little thick, but once you reheated it, it was fine. On Ezekiel bread, toasted in the pan, it was perfect! Creamy, crunchy, gooey, warm, yum. Don't forget to dip it in the soup! Four stars ****. Tonight's comfort food? Creamy White Bean Soup and roasted Brussels sprouts with garlic. "Is it hard being vegan?" someone recently asked me. "No," I replied with a smile, "It's delicious."