Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Best of 2009

I worked for two afternoons on this great "best of 2009 post," only to be thwarted by (insert curse word here) Blogger. My typing fingers somehow deleted the entire post right before the autosave kicked in and saved the newly-blank page. And now, I can't even upload a few photos to add to this meager post. So....the Best of 2009 will have to wait for another day when I have more energy. I just wanted to say Happy New Year and I can't wait for another wonderful year of yummy vegan foods!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Let it Snow!

What better excuse to make Cinnamon Rolls from The Joy of Vegan Baking, than a snow day? Here in Virginia, we got nearly 20 inches of snow on the ground, starting this past Friday night into Sunday morning. With the winds and blowing snow, it was categorized as a blizzard. Stuck in the house, too pregnant to shovel much, what's a girl to do? Well, these rolls were the last things to make on my New Year's Resolution foodie list, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

They are best right out of the oven, of course! The only changes I made to this recipe (which my sister swears is better than Isa's recipe in her new brunch book - I may have to test that one, too!) were to use half whole wheat pastry flour (couldn't tell a difference and just a little healthier for baby!) and half the icing. I was worried I'd have leftover icing that would have to be thrown out (or inhaled) but actually, I could have used the whole batch. There was JUST enough to cover all the rolls nicely. But, the more icing, the better, I always say.

There are several steps to making these babies, from making the dough, to letting it rise, to rolling, filling, and slicing, to letting it rise again, and finally to baking them. So, I had to have one for lunch. Along with some carrots, I swear! Despite some burning (my fault), they were four stars, for sure ****!

Speaking of veggies, a fellow blogger noticed that I was back to putting dried fruit on my morning cereal, and yes, I'm back to fruit and veggies full swing! Here's a perfect example. Nausea kept my love of greens at bay for a couple months, but now I can chow down on beautiful salads like this one here: baby spinach, sliced Bosc pears, pecans (too hungry to toast them), drizzles of white balsamic vinegar and agave nectar, olive oil (sprayed on with my Mist-O - a must have!) and a grinding of fresh pepper. Yum, yum, yum. Doesn't get easier or more delicious than that! Another four star recipe ****.

But sometimes you want a warm, more hearty meal this time of year, and that's when Vegetable Paella with Tofu from Vegetarian Times (Sept 08 issue) comes in handy. This was pretty quick and easy to make. It has tons of veggies in it, too, including onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, corn, peas, and tomatoes. Brown rice and my own flavored tofu (diced really tiny!) rounded out the meal in a pan. Three and a half stars - ***1/2.

After making cinnamon rolls on Saturday, Sunday was the day to make a nice big meal, to fill up Mr. PLV after hours of shoveling the driveway (they still haven't plowed our street!!). This consisted of a very easy Bulgar Nut Loaf from Friendly Foods Gourmet Vegetarian Cuisine, which was shared at a recent Veg Group meeting (the loaf, not the book), along with some rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes (so cute! but not much different in taste from regular potatoes) and garlic roasted Brussels sprouts. We just can't get enough of the sprouts! Mmmmm....The loaf was a little crumbly, as you can see by the picture, but it was still very flavorful. Not "meat like" in taste but definitely nutty and you could also taste the barley miso (salty good). Mr. PLV said he didn't care too much for it, but he did go back for seconds (smile). We'll be eating these leftovers until Christmas, I'm sure! Three solid stars ***.

But sometimes you just don't have energy or time to cook (even when you plan ahead) and sometimes things call to you from the freezer section. Case in point, these SoyBoy Roasted Red Pepper and Tofu Ravioli. I hardly ever buy prepared foods, but these were 100% worth it. I ate them along with some of my mother-in-law's delicious homemade spaghetti sauce with some spinach wilted in.
But to be honest, they were perfectly amazing on their own! The filling was creamy, savory, and spot on. The dough was tender and perfect. The serving suggestions actually state that they are best with a light, barely-there sauce, and they are right! Wow. Four stars **** and thank goodness I didn't have to make them! Now, it's off to make Christmas cookies and sugared pecans for gifts! Happy Holidays, everyone - and Happy Winter Solstice!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soups On

One of the best things about fall and winter, is tummy-warming soups. In my first trimester, soups were the only veggie thing that didn't make me nauseous, and thus were a great way to get my nutrients. Now in my second trimester, we've continued making soups, but also stews and chilis, and I'm not tired of them yet, because there are just endless possibilities!

Tonight, we enjoyed this Black Bean Soup, from Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes, by Robin Robertson. It was really nice. Three solid stars ***. A nice base of onion, garlic, and red bell pepper, along with some spicy Tabasco sauce and sherry (I left that out of my portion). Mr. PLV liked this more than me, but it was still nice and warming.

Last week, we really enjoyed this Minestrone Soup with Mini "Meatballs," also from Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes. It was supposed to be like Wedding Soup, but it was nothing like it. Real wedding soup has escarole and not much else in terms of veggies. However, this was still excellent and the mini "meatballs" were super easy to make (just thawed Amy's veggie burgers, reformed with some nutritional yeast and pan-fried). Three and a half stars ***1/2 and quite delish!

This past week, we made a great chili, funnily enough, from a Wegman's grocery store magazine! It was called Cashew Chili and it was really superb. We subbed canned beans for the dried ones to save on time, and used one can of dark red kidney, one of black, and one of pink beans, for the all three red kidney it called for. I like variation in my beans! We both agreed that the cashews really made this dish distinct and enjoyed leftovers throughout the week!

Of course, even we get sick of leftovers, and one night we just popped this Celebration Roast from Field Roast into the oven along with some baked potatoes. It was really quite good! Funnily enough, Mr. PLV said he liked this more than the usual Tofurky we enjoy on Thanksgiving, while I thought it tasted less like meat and more like meatloaf (in consistency)! I did like the flavors very much. Three solid stars for this nice, meatless roast ***.

Although muesli has carried me through months and months of breakfasts, I was ready for something a little different last week. I whipped up some steel cut oats, courtesy of some online recipe (don't know where from), called, Apple Pie Oats or something like that. It was pretty good and made a nice batch for a few days in a row. (Note to self: apples and blackstrap molasses do not go. Agave nectar is way better).

This past Sunday, I had to make time to do some baking, for my mid-morning snack. These Zesty Cranberry Crumb Muffins from My Sweet Vegan were not only pretty easy, but healthy with whole wheat pastry flour, and delicious! Four stars ****. Light, fluffy crumb to the muffin. I left the crumb topping of butter and sugar off the top, though, to make them a little healthier. The best part is the way the dried cranberries are cooked in orange juice - very zesty indeed! They taste more decadent than they really are.
Last but not least, these Pumpkin Molasses Bars from the Have Cake, Will Travel blog were pretty easy and very seasonal! They are dense and very filling. Oh, and easy and pretty healthy (without the icing). A nice change from muffins and quick breads. Three solid stars ***.

OK - that's it for now! We don't have many more cooking plans for the calendar year, as we get ready to travel and will be busy with wrapping presents and making cookies, which I will be sure to blog about - yay!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Catching up with some great food

I can't believe it's been so long since I last wrote here...that's how I used to begin all my journal entries. Now, I just am happy that I'm writing at all. Same goes for this blog, I guess. With exhaustion, nausea and all that wonderful stuff that comes with pending motherhood, I'm happy to have gotten to my monthly Veg Group meeting today. With the lovely first snow we're having here in Virginia, it's a fine day to stay inside and ruin my eyes on the computer.

This first photo is what I took to the meeting. Cookie Dough Scoops (chocolate chip variety), from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. These are only the second cookies I've made from this cookbook so far, but they are awesome! Freezer cookies - not the best option for a cold almost-winter day, but still...yum....Three and a half stars ***1/2 only because they got "melty" after a few minutes out of the freezer. They're best eaten straight out of the cold - and so amazing, too. Almost too rich! But, that's what you get when you eat raw cookie dough. Great reason to be vegan - no worries!

However, these Magical Coconut Cookie Bars, also from VCIYCJ, were even better. Similar to seven-layer bars (although I can't count seven layers), they start with a graham cracker crust (Nabisco makes vegan ones), baked and topped with a coconut milk-brown sugar mixture that's been pre-boiled (similar to condensed milk), followed by a layer of chocolate chips (Tropical Source are my favs!), then a layer of sweetened coconut and pecans. Oh yum. Coconut and chocolate - what is better than that? Four wonderful stars **** These are also best when chilled but NOT better as dough/batter!

It makes quite a lot. There were extras besides what's on this large platter. Scarfed up at work within a few hours.

A surprising four star **** recipe this week were these Garlicky Black Bean-Broccoli Burritos from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan. I wanted something quick, easy, and with greens and protein. These fit the bill, especially as I didn't bake them, but ate them like fajitas. With vegan cheddar cheese, they were heaven. The flavors were amazing! The tortillas (gluten-free ones) sucked. They cracked all to pieces. I made this again last night with several modifications: a box of button mushrooms that needed to be eaten (SOON) instead of the broccoli, just threw in whole black beans and corn, and just drizzled the seasonings straight into the frying pan. Mr. PLV tasted the mixture and pronounced - "Hey - I would eat this!" (that's a compliment by the way - but he had already gotten Chinese takeout - something I'm trying to stay away from at the moment).
One of my favorite slow cooker recipes is this Hominy-White Bean Chili from one of Robin Robertson's books that I don't own. I think it's the Vegetarian Slow Cooker one. Anyway, I copied the recipe last year from the book at the library (free!!), and as we were painting the living room one recent weekend, threw this into the pot for an easy dinner. Mr. PLV really liked this, too. I just love the corn smell of hominy. Ummmm.....

As the year draws to a close, I realized that I needed to get cracking on my resolutions list. One of the meals I resolved to try was Samosas. Mr. PLV and I love Indian food, and we especially love samosas. With the 2nd trimester well underway, I finally had the energy to attempt this multi-step dish. I used the recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. First, you peel and boil the potatoes. Then, you fry them with lots of seasonings, carrots, and peas (her recipe called for edamame, but I'm a traditionalist)

Then came the pain in the ass part - well, that's what Isa said, but it wasn't really a pain in the ass. The dough was pretty simple to make (turmeric made the nice yellow hue), but they did take a while to roll out, cut, and fill. They were pretty small, and not really shaped like real ones, but they came out just fine. I'd say, oh, three, maybe three and a half stars ***. A little too much dough for me and not quite as good as the traditional fried kind :) We ate them alongside this Chana Masala from The Vegan Table, but we didn't care for the chana dish. Not spicy enough. Two and a half stars **1/2. (Lots of filling leftover.)

Later in the week, I ate the leftover samosa filling with this nice Indian dish of black beans, chickpeas, and kale, but I can't for the life of me recall where I got the recipe from. Really. I have no idea what is was or anything, except that it was pretty good. And, my boss thought it smelled like crap. But it was really very tasty. Three and a half stars ***1/2.

Thanksgiving was a busy, busy day for me. I was stupid enough to try to make the entire traditional meal myself, when it was just Mr. PLV and me eating this year. But, when there are a few dishes that you each can't imagine the day without...well, let's just say we ate about four hours later than expected.

This Apple Pie from The Vegan Table was the first reason for the lateness of our meal (and my exhaustion). The crust kept sticking to the counter and I had to paste it all together over the filling. Not the prettiest pie in the world, but I haven't made a whole lot of pies...

Then, I burned it a bit when I adjusted the oven. You see, our oven typically runs about 25 degrees higher than what the outside indicator says (we have an oven thermometer inside, so we know this), so I always have to turn it down a little bit. Well....I turned it UP a little bit. So, the first half hour it sizzled. Luckily, I caught it on the second half. The top actually is cinnamon, not burned. The filling collapsed a ton, so there was a large gap between filling and upper crust (I swear I packed those apples in!) but in the end it was very edible. Local apples made it a treat! Three and a half stars ***1/2.

The other reason why we ate late that day was the chestnuts. I have roasted chestnuts before, so I was surprised when I 1) sliced my thumb while scoring them and 2) had such difficulty peeling them. They were just not peeling whole! The insides were all crumbly. It took me a half hour or more to peel these. Luckily, the recipe they were intended for needed them chopped anyway. Just a bad batch of chestnuts, I guess.

This Chestnut-Sausage-Sage Stuffing from Vegetarian Times was a hit last year, and was amazing once again this year. In fact, maybe better! I used less liquid, so it wasn't as mushy AND I found these amazing Smoked Apple Sage sausages from Field Roast at our local Wegman's.

Well, we ate stuffing and streuseled sweet potatoes, and homemade cranberry sauce (all recipes from last year!), along with canned corn, Tofurkey (still good!), mashed potatoes, and that apple pie (oh, and Mr. PLV had that green bean casserole, which I can't eat and don't care for anyway - although I do love those crunchy onion things) all week long. I was pretty done with Thanksgiving by this weekend. But, we have another Field Roast product in the freezer and nothing else to eat (Ok - so that's a lie - I am too tired to cook) until I get to the store, so it's a veggie roast and baked potatoes and canned green beans for tonight. Oh well - we are so incredibly lucky to have the amazing foods that we have and the life that we have here in America - I am blessed. Stay tuned in the next week or two for "The best recipes of 2009" and the conclusion of my resolutions!