Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is it Spring Yet?

OK - so we've had the wussiest of winters in all of my years on this earth. But it's still been windy and cold and cloudy and yucky. I signed up for our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and started thinking about what we're going to plant in our garden this year, and now I just can't wait for spring!

At the same time, it's made me realize that there's only about a month left when I'm going to want hot, comforting foods - so I'd better get cooking and make some of those soups, stews and chilis before it really does warm up! I started the week with these Sweet Potato Falafel, from Susan V.'s blog, Fat Free Vegan. I was looking for a way to use up my chickpea flour (they require a whole cup - woohoo!). These were easy, tasty and fun to eat! I made up my own yogurt tahini sauce (1 cup of plain or vanilla soy yogurt, mixed well with 1/3 tahini) and added some roasted Brussels sprouts (I eat these so often now!) and all was good! A strong three stars - they were a tad mushy in the middle ***.

And aren't they so cute?

I don't know why I didn't post about these already, but these Chocolate Cupcakes from VCTOTW are so easy and moist - you can't go wrong! This time, I used my silicone heart baking pan (see next photo).

The kitchen smelled a bit like burning rubber, so I'm not so sure I would use these pans again and you DO have to use Pam or a non-stick spray on them!

However, they were a great V-day treat for my co-workers who have been working their tails off to help me get the YA area ready for our library's grand re-opening (1 week now!). I frosted them with homemade (vegan) frosting and (I think vegan) pink, red and V-day sprinkles. Lots of great reviews, of course! We love Isa's cupcakes!! Four stars, as always! ****

Meanwhile, I dragged out my dehydrator and finally cleaned it up and got it working (in other words, I turned it on)! I made Banana Chips from a raw food cookbook, but really you just slice them and dehydrate at the recommended temp for about 8 hours. They could have gone longer, I think, but I just couldn't wait! The whole house smelled like baking banana bread.... I found that slicing them on a diagonal worked better as far as speed of drying, looks, and size. Yum! Three stars ***!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy V-Day!

To avoid commercialism and ruining the environment as much as possible (hubby did get me a dozen pesticide-laden but very gorgeous red roses!), we opted to make our 9th Valentine's Day together as laid back as possible. I slept in and he got up early so that we could to go the gym together in the morning. Afterwards, we had brunch together. I whipped up these Pumpkin Waffles (Belgian style) with our never before used wedding gift (that's five and a half years old) waffle iron. It was so easy to use, I was kicking myself for not opening it until now! Now that my carb-fearing days are over, I enjoyed every last bite of these delicious things from Vegan with a Vengeance. They weren't sweet, really, until you put the pure maple syrup on top (never ever use the fake stuff!). Although we had difficulties getting them crispy enough (they were a little mushy on the inside), they were still sooo good, after years of no waffles. :) Hubby enjoyed some vegetarian maple-flavored sausage patties on the side. We did a few other random things and then sat down to these Asparagus Sushi (which hubby helped make for the first time!).
I hate buying asparagus this early, but they were sooo skinny and delectable-looking, and hubby had mentioned them, so I bought them as a V-day surprise. I didn't have a recipe - just steamed them lightly, then made sushi rice and added bits of carrot, black sesame seeds and scallions.

It felt a little like St. Patty's Day instead, with this beautiful green plate! We sauteed up some kale with garlic and olive oil, then ended up drizzling some sesame oil over the extra steamed asparagus - wow! That sesame oil was perfect! I'd like to say we fed each other the sushi in front of the fireplace, but we just played our new Trivial Pursuit game instead - and he won by one wedge :P

Earlier in the week, I baked this Vanilla Yogurt Pound Cake from Veganomicon, for a Sierra Club meeting. It rose up beautifully! Picture perfect. And it smelled amazing.

I swear the cake tester came out clean (and I use an oven thermometer) but inside they were just a little too moist for me. I guess it's hard to live up to my dad's perfect pound cake (homemade, of course). Otherwise, good reviews all over and a great flavor! Three and a half stars. ***1/2.

Sierra Club meetings have also given me an excuse to make lots of different dips over the years! This Curried Carrot Dip, also from Veganomicon, was so pretty and very easy to make. However, I wasn't too sure I liked the dip with the curry flavor. Just something weird about cold curry. At any rate, the leftovers made their way into lavash bread wraps with baby spinach and then it kicked some ass! Yum, yum, yum. Three stars as a sammich spread ***. Two and a half as a dip **1/2.

Meanwhile, I'd been saving some bananas to make muffins or something to refill my freezer and snacking stock, and Veggie Girl's Banana-Pistachio-Fig Muffins came to the rescue! They were moist and flavorful and sweet but not too sweet, and the nuts gave it a neat little crunch! Best of all, they were gluten-free (I'm trying to bake more gluten-free for those in my Veg Group who are Celiacs). They were a tad underdone, which was hard to tell since the fig jam was in the middle. Three and a half stars ***1/2!

Last but not least, I made these Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Seed Rice Paper Rolls from Veganomicon, just a couple of hours ago. They were really pretty easy. Just 1/4" cube the squash, toss with olive oil and roast. Add these to rice noodles, cilantro and roasted, salted pumpkin seeds and wrap! They were so pretty, with the green and orange showing through the wrappers.

The rice papers did give me a bit of trouble tonight. Maybe the water bowl was too small, so they cracked and split as I put them in and thus the trouble rolling. At any rate, the recipe claims it makes 12 rolls (using 8" papers), but I only made about 9 rolls using maybe 5" wraps. I also had a TON of leftover rice noodles. Oh well! The dipping sauce was awesome and it was an easy meal, though I can't see me making these with a baby on the arm! (Not that there's any news, I'm just picturing the difficulty sometime in the future). I guess that's it for this post! Happy Vegan Valentine's Day to you all!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Veg-versary and Birthday!

Well, today was a big day, and not just because I turned another year old (sigh!). I have been vegan for exactly three years now, and vegetarian for a decade! Phew - if I can do that, surely you omnis can do it for a meal, a day, a week or even a month during March (Meatout Month)! :)

Start off with this meal from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook: Vegan Pot Roast! This hearty, winter type dish was my husband's meal choice this week, of course, but I have say, it was pretty darn good! We used my homemade seitan (see last post) which I had frozen in baggies with the broth (I label how many pounds or ounces in each bag). I thawed it, sliced it, marinated it in some great red wine sauce, and baked it in the oven in our never-before-used Dutch oven with some veggies! Everything was perfect, except perhaps there could have been more onions. Four star rating for this bad boy ****. Very good.

So, although today was my big day, I had to work today, so I spent the weekend doing my birthday ritual. Namely, relaxing, running, talking to friends and family, and shopping. No cleaning but of course I still had to cook (more on that later).

I had gotten some gift certificates to Pangea's (in Rockville, MD) so on Sunday hubby and I trekked up there to check out the store. Boy, was it tiny!! But, still very cool to know that every single thing there was vegan. I got some things I had been eyeing or craving for a while: that snazzy punk studded belt, white chocolate chips (ohhh....heaven!!), a humane mouse trap, Red Star nutritional yeast (has B12), Parma (which I was a little disappointed in - tasted like what I make at home), Chreese (mozzarella style mix), and some eye makeup (yes, most makeup is not vegan, as it has either animal urine or bug parts in it - yuck! This stuff was beautiful (No Miss brand)). Hubby wanted a big fat vegan cookie (500 calories for one!) and some Tofurky jerky. Thank you to Mum, Dad and hubby for the gift certificates!

Here's my no-curves waist showing off that hip belt. Not sure if I'm supposed to put it through the loop holes or not....I feel like such a bad ass wearing it, though....(no pun intended)

Then, it was off to eat my birthday dinner! We supped at The Vegetable Garden, just five minutes down the road from Pangea. Awesome food! It is macrobiotic but the style is mostly Asian. We were first served with some homemade brown bread that had a tender pieces of zucchini and summer squash in it. Neat! After an appetizer of Asparagus wrapped with Seaweed (served warm - sooo good!), hubby had the General Tso's Chicken (mock meat, of course, and honestly, really good!), while I opted for...

The Garden Pan macrobiotic plate. I figured that I can make Chinese/Asian food just about any time. Those cool looking round veggies are lotus root slices. It was basically a stir fry with the lotus root, marinated tempeh cubes (delicious!), bok choy, carrots, tofu skin (yuba?), mushrooms and kelp. Scrumptious. And, they served it with the most tender brown rice. Everything was so good, I didn't even miss dessert (they served it, but I'm just staying away from refined sugar and sweet stuff for a while...)
The best part? Seeing several stickers on the door such as this one....!

Last week, I had a hankering to bake and this Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake from Veganomicon did the trick. It looked so perfect and smelled so good! I tested it a few minutes before it was supposed to be done, and the cake tester came out clean. Unfortunately, it was a little bit underdone. Let this baby cook the whole way! Beautiful flavor, though. Three and stars ***.

Here are some slices up close. Don't know if you can tell they are a bit underdone in the middle. It crumbled a bit, too.

This Chickpea Tomato Spelt Soup was actually a recipe that I clipped from Body and Soul magazine a while back! (Click on the "recipe" link for the recipe! I subbed veggie broth for the chicken, of course). I had some spelt in my pantry to use up (saving money!) and some cans of chopped tomatoes that we bought in bulk at BJ's. I had the parsley and carrot, too.

The best part? I used some really cheap dried chickpeas and cooked them myself! You do have to plan in advance to do this (soaking overnight or at least in the morning before you cook dinner), but it's worth it! The chickpeas were done perfectly and with no salt - much better for you and definitely saves money! Not sure if it's more environmentally friendly, though, since you use energy and water this way, but I figure lots of energy and water go into the canning process, including the making and recycling of the can. Whatever. The soup was incredible. Four stars, easy ****(I'm on a four star rating plan at the moment -I may switch to five being the highest). I can't wait to make this for my Veg Group but unfortunately spelt is not quite gluten free!

I also made Jelly Donut Cupcakes from Veganomicon, but forgot to take a photo. The jelly kind of spread throughout the batter, but everyone who ate one seemed to like them well enough! (I didn't have one, remember? But the batter I licked was pretty darn good!). Three stars for these ***. I tried to make them gluten free with Bob's Red Mill flour, but I left out the xanthan gum and they were way too flat (zero stars). So, Berry-Coconut Crisp (yes, from Veganomicon!) to the rescue! This was gluten-free, with white rice and quinoa flours on top, and the coconut mixed with berry flavor was to die for! I had one tiny bite of this at the Veg Group and was in bliss! Four stars **** What a great way to celebrate so many milestones. Here's to good food - even in tiny bites!