Friday, December 26, 2008

The Holidays Have Ended

Every year I always feel so relieved when the holidays are over, but this year it never felt like the holidays! Maybe I was just too distracted with some other things to think about the winter holidays- who knows? I did, however, manage to quickly plan and throw together a meal and dessert to bring to my grandparents' house for Xmas.

First, let's start with Christmas Eve. I wasn't planning on making any cookies for Santa, but I decided that I might as well just for the heck of being festive. I tried the Glutton-Be-Gone Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies from ED&BV and did my best to make them completely free of any of my food sensitivities. I used the amaranth flour option, substituted the sugar with agave nectar, and used Enjoy Life brand vegan chocolate chips (which, unfortunately, do contain evaporated cane juice which I am sensitive to but I don't think I'll find any chocolate chips without it, so I went with it and gave myself a break). The cookies turned out really well, but I think subbing agave nectar for the sugar made the cookies a little thinner and caramel-y tasting than they otherwise would be, but it grew on me and I quickly began loving these cookies! I plan on going to the store this week to fine some all natural beet sugar so I can make these cookies again to see if there's a difference.

I didn't really ask for anything year, so I wasn't expecting much come Xmas morning, but I was pleasantly surprised. I got a bunch of small gifts (a t-shirt, some yoga equipment, tea, candles) but two gifts were really special this year. The first was a new cookbook to help a little more with my new diet- Gluten-Free Vegan. A lot of the recipes sound delicious and, while some do use rice or soy, they can easily be adjusted and I can't wait to get cooking! My main gift this year was especially exciting because my dad picked it out himself and has been talking about it for a few weeks now- an AeroGarden indoor herb garden! I set it up immediately and will be growing oregano, basil, mint, thyme, dill, and chives. Expect regular updates throughout the next few months about the growth of my herbs!

Alright, the real highlight of this post- the meal! I had planned making some sort of stuffed squash like many of you had suggested, but when I came across this recipe for a gluten-free, soy-free, vegan nut roast on Diet, Dessert and Dogs, I knew that I had to try it out (don't worry, I have stuffed squash planned as one of meals within the next week or two, so you will read all about that later)! I changed only a few things: I left out the garlic, replaced Brazil nuts with walnuts, omitted the oats, used gluten-free bread from Rose's Wheat-Free Bakery in Evanton for the bread slices (the bread will be featured in another post), used vegetable broth instead of wine, and baked the roast in muffin tins so I could have some individual nut roasts. I don't know how these ingredients came together to be so delicious, but they did! I am in love with this recipe and am so happy I have extra mini roasts to freeze! I can imagine that these would make an awesome "meatloaf" topped with some agave-sweetened ketchup......yum! I topped it with a garlic-free, gluten-free version of the gravy I had at Thanksgiving from the Chicago Diner cookbook. I brought some beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes, and sliced onions roasted with thyme and rosemary for everyone to enjoy along with my own cranberry sauce (using the recipe from ED&BV- this recipe is great! I love how it's sweetened with maple syrup). Everything was so good that I had this exact meal again for dinner tonight (which is actually the picture you see above since I didn't bring my camera to my grandparents' house). I'm also happy to report that this meal contained none of my food sensitivities, so I didn't have to take a digestive enzyme- yay! I purposely did this since I knew I'd have to take a pill before the dessert I had planned (and it was worth it!):

A classic chocolate tofu mousse pie with my own little twist- I added some peppermint extract and topped it with some Soyatoo whipped soy cream and crushed candy canes. My gosh, was this awesome! I was nervous about using the boxed Soyatoo for the first time, but after adding about 1/4 t. xanthan gum to stabilize it along with some confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract, and a splash of peppermint, it tasted great! I put it in the fridge for 24 hrs. before piping it onto the pie to make it a little stiffer and it worked really well. This pie was super rich but really lovely- not overly sweet and neither the chocolate nor peppermint overpowered each other. Only about 3 out of the 12 people at dinner had dessert (what's up with that? It's the holidays, people!), but those who did were sure to try my pie and loved it :) My dad did mention, however, that he would prefer this pie without the peppermint flavor which is fine since that's what the original basic recipe is for, so you can bet I'll be making this again!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and I am wishing you a happy new year- my gosh, it's almost 2009 already! Pretty soon the 90's will be almost 20 years ago- ah!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Latest Favorites and Some Obstacles

Lately, breaded tofu has been my new favorite method of cooking tofu. All it takes is a simple dip in a mixture of oil, soy sauce, and maple syrup and a dredge in some breadcrumbs, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and any other spices and into the oven it goes! I've also tried making these into little tofu nuggets and everytime I make them, my little brother and sister grab them off my plate (I'm so happy that they have all been more open to trying certain vegan proteins- it makes making dinner for them a lot more enjoyable)! Last week I finally got around to trying a dish in VWAV that I overlooked for far too long- the Maple Mustard Glazed Potatoes and String beans (I added some parsnips and carrots as well). YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMY! I just made this because I had everything on hand and wanted a warm meal, but this may be my new favorite way to roast vegetables. I think I might even bring this to my grandmother's house for Xmas dinner!

I finally had a free afternoon this past weekend and decided to take advantage of it and bake. But what to make? Hm....I didn't want anything super sweet or decadent because I was going out for dinner with a friend that night and knew there'd be lots of cake involved, so I considered muffins. As I thought of different types of muffins to make, I remember I had this recipe for breakfast cookies saved onto my computer from the Food Network. Perfect! These would be a nice, healthy breakfast and fun to make. The recipe was easy to veganize as I only had to sub EB for butter and a flax "egg" for the egg. I also used maple syrup as the only sweetener, canned pumpkin instead of the carrot baby food and added about 3 T. more, used oat bran instead of bran flakes, and added 1/4 c. nondairy milk. Despite all of these changes, the cookies were a hit and I'm sad that they're all gone. But they're so easy I can always make a bunch more :)

Alright, some news (I seem to have a lot of that lately, don't I?): I have recently found out that I have multiple food allergies including (these are off the top of my head): wheat, gluten, rice, oat, barley, almonds, peanuts, sugar cane, dairy and eggs (not that those matter much to me!) lentils, bananas, pineapple, garlic, soy, lettuce (how does that even happen?), and a few other things that I can't seem to remember right now. While I do not experience any obvious physical symptoms from these foods, these allergies may be causing some problems I've been dealing with for awhile now. So, over the next 2 months I have to weed out all of these foods from my diet, starting with the grains and gluten. Now, I still will be able to eat some of these foods if I take a digestive enzyme before each meal because I am allergic to so many commonly used foods that they will be difficult to avoid. I plan on not worrying about my allergies and just taking the enzyme when I eat out, but I really want to try to avoid these foods at home. So you can expect a lot for creative meals and my own versions of some recipes! Just wanted to let you know why I haven't been doing a whole lot of cooknig recently, but once I get to the store next week I will be cooking and baking up a storm! One of my first missions- gluten-free breakfast cookies :)

Oh, and I have a question for some of you- what are you planning on making for your holiday meal this year? My family and I are going to my grandma's house for Xmas and, while I have dessert already planned, I'm at a loss for what to make for my meal!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

No Food, but Some Exciting News!

I promise I'll be back with some actual food in my next post as soon as possible, but I just wanted to let everyone know about the contest being held by Eating Bender. You could win a Vita-mix! Now, if you're anything like me than this seems like the greatest thing ever and I encourage you all to enter this contest if you're as excited as I am!

Oh- if you do mention that I referred you, it would be greatly appreciated :) Good luck to everyone that does decide to enter this contest!

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Feast

Sorry it's a little late, but these last few days after the holiday have been hectic! Anyways, let's rewind to Thursday. For my cousin and I (she's a vegetarian), I made some basic mashed potatoes with Earth Balance, soymilk, salt, and pepper. I also cooked a Field Roast Celebration Roast instead of a Tofurkey which I made last year and wasn't crazy about. I really wanted to make some sort of homemade loaf with some stuffing, but since I had school Wednesday and had to all my cooking that night, I wasn't able to do that. However, the Celebration Roast was actually really good for something packaged and my cousin and I both enjoyed it. To top it all off, I whipped up a half batch of the gravy in the Chicago Diner Cookbook, but added some sliced shallots and miso. The gravy was probably the best part of our dinner- it tasted just like traditional gravy, but the miso gave it a nice twist. Another one of my cousins and my mother tried a bit of the gravy and were incredibly impressed. For everyone to enjoy, I made the Pear and Endive Salad with Maple Pecans from Vcon (I added some dried cranberries) and this was another hit! The big shocker of my night was when my "meat and potatoes" grandpa who has probably never had a meatless meal in his life complimented me several times on the salad and asked to take some home! I definitely did not expect that from him.

For dessert I made Ani Phyo's Raw Apple Pie because I knew how much my cousin loved the raw food we ate at a demo at Whole Foods this summer. I decided not to be concerned with making a dessert I thought everyone in my family would love since my aunt was bringing some pies and hers always get eaten first. Imagine my surprise when my pie was the first one to be cut and one of my aunts even told me that my pie is the best! I guess I really don't need to worry so much about impressing people with healthy, vegan food- it's so good they'll love it no matter what :) Also, this pie is an outstanding breakfast the next day (not that I have been eating it everyday for breakfast for the past three days....)

PS- One year ago today, I started this blog. I am so happy I made this decision because it has connected me to so many other amazing bloggers and I just want to let you know how much I appreciate each and every one of you!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy (Save a) Turkey Day!

Even though it is no secret that this is not one of my favorite holidays, I do hope that everyone is enjoying their day whether spending it alone or with their family and friends. In honor of the giving spirit of the holiday season, I have decided to participate in the Pay It Forward Challenge after seeing it on Walking the Vegan Line's blog. Here's how it works:

The rules are simple: I will send the first three people to leave a comment on this post a handmade gift within the next 365 days (that’s my kind of time frame!)

The catch is that you have to have a blog and be willing to do the same thing....

Because Thanksgiving is unfortunately known as a horrible holiday for turkeys, I felt that I should do something extra special and adopted two turkeys from Farm Sanctuary. Please meet Apollo and Faye:

Knowing that I am helping these two turkeys made me feel so amazing and I hope some of you decide to participate in this as well because it is so rewarding.

Once again, enjoy your holiday! (don't worry- I will post about my Thanksgiving dinner later this week)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Soup Season is Upon Us

The Chickpea Noodle Soup from Vcon is something that I have had bookmarked since the summer, but I just couldn't bring myself to make soup in 70 degree weather. However, with the sudden burst of winter weather we have been experiencing, I thought that this soup would make an awesome dinner for my family. When I was making this I was kind of nervous because I kept tasting it and it seemed like there was just something missing, but I knew that Vcon had never steered me wrong so I kept my cool. After I added the miso, this soup suddenly became magical. Whatever I felt like it was missing earlier was there now and it tasted like one of the best "chicken" noodle soups I've ever had!My family loved it too, so much so that there were no leftovers to freeze like I had originally planned! Not that that bothers me too much- this soup is so easy to make that I can make an extra batch to freeze anytime!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Perfect Way to Celebrate

Many of you guessed correctly that yesterday indeed was World Vegan Day and my (16th) birthday!I was pretty excited when I learned last year that they were on the same day- I suppose veganism is just my destiny :) My birthday was fabulous and I really wasn't expecting very many gifts since I told my parents that there wasn't anything I really wanted, but they were so sweet and went WAY above and beyond my expectations!

I actually was given this the night before my birthday (Halloween) from my family so I would have my own vegan candy to enjoy while they ate their Halloween candy. It's a gift basket from Pangea Vegan Store filled with: VeganSweets Chocolate Spread (tastes like hot fudge), VeganSweets Belgian Chocolates, Whizzers speckled eggs and chocolate soccer balls, a Mint Coconut Crispy Cat candy bar, a fudge brownie, a Tropical Source Mint Crunch bar, an almond chocolate bar, and an almond chocolate truffle bar. Talk about a chocolate overload!!! I told my family that I would be more than okay with it if they helped me out with finishing all of this candy because I know I will never be able to.

On the day of my birthday, it was time for more gifts! I was given two adorable t-shirts, some Alba shampoo, conditioner, body cream, and body wash, a cute striped scarf (not pictured), a turning cake stand (not pictured), a grapefruit-scented candle (not pictured), and a gift card to both Pangea Vegan Store and LUSH. Some friends of mine stopped by later that night and surprised me with a recycled notebook, some pomegranate goji berry red tea (it's a little joke between my friend and I because I always mention how I love tea and she always talks about how she hates it), and a slice of Chocolate peanut Butter Cake from Blind Faith Cafe.

All I wanted to do that day was go out to dinner with my family (and what better way to celebrate World Vegan Day as well?). I originally wanted to go to the Chicago Diner, but instead my Dad suggested we try Lake Side Cafe because it's closer and can seat more people (I had no idea why this was important if it would only be my family....). On our way there, my mom surprised me by telling me that she was going to pick up some other friends of mine to go out to dinner with us (then I understood why we need a place that could easily seat more people)! As always, I didn't bring my camera to dinner because I was so caught up in being around people I care about and having a good time that I didn't even want to bother with that. But I can tell you that I ordered the Vegan Gyros and apple cider to drink, and both were outstanding! I ate the leftovers of my gyro for lunch today and it still tasted amazing. For dessert, there was yet another surprise! The waitress brought out a huge chocolate birthday cake with a candle on it (the candle played the tune of "Happy Birthday" when it was lit, so I heard it before it came to the table and caught on). We were all so stuffed that we only had half slices of cake, but if I hadn't been so full I could have had a few more slices for sure. The cake was moist and the frosting was super chocolatey and fluffy, yet not at all too sweet. We brought the rest of the cake home, so I'm looking forward to a slice of that tonight :) Thankfully, everyone in my family and both of my friends really enjoyed their food and, most importantly, we all enjoyed each other's company and had a fun dinner.

As you can tell, between the two different chocolate cakes and the basket of chocolate candies, I am overwhelmed with the amount of chocolate I have in my house right now and I'm not sure how I'm going to even attempt to finish some of it. Oh well, trying is the fun part :) I really wasn't expecting much in the way of a birthday celebration this year, but it was by far my best birthday ever thanks to my awesome family.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

What a better way to celebrate the holiday than with a Jack-O-Lantern! But this isn't just any Jack-O-Lantern, it's one made from the PPK's Pumpkin Pie Brownies, of course. I hope everyone has a fun (and safe) Halloween!

Oh, I almost forgot! What's Halloween without costumes, right? I think I'm going to dress up in my usual "witch" costume (really just me dressed in jeans, a corset, and wearing a witch hat, but it counts, right?). What is everyone else dressing up as?

P.S.- Tomorrow is also a special day for two reasons. I'm curious to see if any of you can guess both reasons why.....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Only 5 Days to go!

... till Halloween, that is! There's no hiding that it's my favorite holiday, so I'm pretty darn excited. Anyways, onto what I've been eating lately. I've been able to try out a few new recipes from Vcon and VCTOTW and, thankfully, they've all been outstanding. I tried out the Spicy Tempeh and Broccoli Rabe Rotelle (subbing broccoli for the broccoli rabe since I love broccoli so much) for dinner one night and I'm in love with it! The best part of this dish without a doubt was the spicy tempeh. It was so juicy and flavorful and if you haven't already, you have to make it! I will for sure make this dish again but, since it did take quite a bit of time, I know I will at least be making the tempeh on its own very regularly.

I was also able to make the Tofu Florentine from Vcon and it's another winner! The broiled tofu itself didn't quite "wow" me, but set atop a crispy english muffin, sauteed spinach, and smothered in Cheezy Sauce, it all tasted delicious. I have some Cheezy Sauce left over so I can't wait to see what else I can do with it (I'm thinking in a tofu scramble burrito, maybe? yum.....)

My mom had some women over from her work Friday night for a party and I was on cupcake duty. My mom chose the Chai Latte cupcakes and the Maple Cupcakes with Sugared Walnuts from VCTOTW to fit in with the autumn theme of her party. She even went out and bought a cupcake stand to display them all (and you can see in the picture that some were already taken off and eaten before I was able to get a picture!). Everyone loved both varieties, but I think the Chai Latte cupcakes needed either a glaze or frosting on top because most people chose the Maple ones because of the frosting. Either way, everything was a hit! Also, as a side note- the sugared walnuts that go along with the Maple cupcakes are the best things ever. I had about half of them left over after making the cupcakes and my sister and I ate all of them because we just couldn't stop snacking on them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Fruits of My Labor

Here it is: my home-grown butternut squash! While I only got two squashes from my plant (I suspect some critters were snacking on the blossoms...), it was worth it because I was so proud of the little guys! I went back and forth decided what to make with my two precious squashes until I finally came to a conclusion:

I, of course, had to try the Butternut Squash Soup from VWAV! I will admit that I would have been perfectly happy ending the recipe after the squash was roasted and found myself snacking on it as it cooled far too much, but I was sooo happy with the final product and remembered how much I love squash-based soups. My family loved it as well and so did many of my dad's coworkers who were lucky enough to have this for lunch the next day (I sent off the leftovers with my dad to work). I can't wait to make this soup again and maybe some sort of variation? I'm sad that I will have to used store bought squash, but I have a feeling it will still be amazing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Quick, Convinient, and Oh So Yummy

My favorite healthy, super easy, and quick meal will always be a big ol' plate of hummus and veggies- this time I added in some Tamari Roasted Chickpeas from Ed&BV for extra protein and, well, just because I'm addicted to them. Oh! And I even made my own hummus this time using the recipe from Vcon. I've always wanted to make my own hummus but never felt I could until a few months ago when I finally got a food processor and now I see how much I was missing out on. This hummus turned out great and I have been fighting my mom for it since she's been eating it non-stop!

I can already tell this meal will become another addiction of mine for while. The Miso Bulgar Pilaf from Bittersweet is truley delicious. The only change I made was substituting the peas for edamame because I don't like peas and I figured that edamame would go pretty well with the flavor of this pilaf. Everything about this dish worked and I still have a hard time believing a recipe with such simple ingredients resulted in something with such a complex flavor. Also, my mom has decided this week to try eating much less meat from now on for health reasons. While she is not a vegetarian, I'm so proud of her for this decision because every little bit counts no matter what the motives. And, now I have to make this dish a lot more becuase she loves it as well and it's a greta meatless meal for her to have around the house when she isn't sure what else to eat. In fact, I think my whole family will love this pilaf, so I might just make it this week as an official "family dinner"'ll see....

On a side note- happy Vegan Mofo, everyone! While I myself am not participating (but I hope to at some point in the future) due to lack of time, I'm so glad to see so many great blogs participating and I love reading all of the blog posts everyday.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

1 Year Anniversary

One year ago today, I made one of the best decisions of my life. Actually, I had made the decision to become a vegan a few months before then, but it took until September 27 for me to finally bring it up to my parents and have them agree (I was so surprised since they had constantly told me that it would be way too extreme) to accept my transition to veganism so I consider today my one year vegan-niversary. While I did nothing exciting to celebrate and didn't eat anything blog-worthy today, it was still a special day for me because I know that I proved to everyone that my veganism is not a "phase" that I'll get over- it's a new lifestyle and something that has made me feel so much better about myself and my decisions and has cause me to have a more complete outlook on life. Here's to another great year to look forward to!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Power Cookies!

A few weeks ago, a new smoothie place opened up near my house. My family had been awaiting the opening of Robek's Juice, so we all ran over the opening day. While none of the smoothies appear vegan (which is fine by me since I love Jamba Juice), I noticed that they sell a variety of Luna Bars as well as their "Power Cookies" and "Power Muffins" (which are named so because they have about 7-8 grams of both protein and fiber). Imagine my surprise when I just happened to notice this:

The cookies are vegan (and even labeled as so)!!!! I could not believe my eyes! I actually did my little "happy dance" right there in the store, even though my parents thought I was crazy. While the muffins contain eggs, the cookies are completely vegan, and actually pretty darn good for you as far as cookies go. The ingredients list is: unbleached wheat flour, raw sugar, non-hydrogenated soy margarine, dairy-free chocolate chips (for the chocolate chip flavor), wheat gluten, water, isolated soy protein, pure vanilla extract, baking soda, salt. Not too shabby!

But the real question is- how does it taste? I bought both the chocolate chip cookie as well as the oatmeal raisin to test this. Right out of the package the cookies are a bit bland and too chewy. However, after being microwaved for about 15 seconds, the cookies became soft, the flavor is much better, and the chocolate in the chocolate chip gooey becomes melty and perfect. With a tell glass of ice cold soymilk these cookies are a nice treat. I usually turn to Luna Bars or soy yogurt for a healthy dessert option, but now I've added these cookies to the rotation! Robek's also carries a peanut butter and lemon poppyseed flavor of their Power Cookies and I haven't gotten around to trying them yet, but you can bet I will soon!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Breaking Even More Breakfast Rules

First eating pancakes without syrup, and now this! I am usually a firm believer in sweet rather than savory breakfasts, but my new favorite breakfast is the Vegan Omelette for One from Fatfree Vegan. The batter itself is simple to make and I find it convenient to make 2-4 servings of the batter at a time so I can just grab it out of the fridge and make an omelette any morning! I stuffed the one you see above with some roasted bell peppers and onion, baby spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic, and some sliced Teese (see? I told you it'd be popping up in my future cooking every once in while, I still have some left!). OH. MY. GOODNESS. This combination of fillings was amazing in the omelette because they all complimented each other so well- the garlicky spinach, the sweet onions and pepper, and of course, the melty tangy Teese. The omelette itself is obviously delicious. It lends its own flavor to the dish so it's not just about the fillings, but every component. Also, I think the fluffy, creamy texture of the omelette may not fool an omni, but that's only because it's so much better than that of egg omelettes!

I have one word to describe the Pad Thai from VWAV- perfect. Honestly, this pad thai is sooo good and my family loved it when I made it for dinner last week. The picture you see above is actually of some of the leftovers that I packed for a school lunch because my family started grabbing for the pad thai as soon as it hit the table and I couldn't get a picture fast enough! The rice noodle reheated pretty well the next day, but after that I think most leftover noodles become too gummy- not that that was a problem in my house, though, because the leftovers only lasted one day. Another dinner that I'll be making again for my family!

Just a lil side note here: School started last week for me and the work load is already overwhelming. I will probably not be able to post every single week due to lack of time, as well as lack of time to cook any decent food (one of my dinners last week was a can of refried beans and an apple- no joke. It was really delicious, though)! But don't worry, as soon as I have a few good pictures of some interesting meals I've made, I'll blog all about them. I'm still going to aim for one post a week, but I just wanted to let everyone know that it may not be possible all of the time. Thanks for understanding!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Last Berries of the Season

To make sure that I make the most of the final days of summer I stocked up on some of the last delicious berries from my farmers market. I was so glad to buy some raspberries because I already knew what I wanted to make with them!. The first recipe I tried was Ruby Red Vegan's Quinoa Porridge. I actually changed it up a bit, but only a little- I promise! I used vanilla soymilk instead of chocolate since I didn't have any chocolate soymilk (sad....I know...) and walnuts instead of hazelnuts because hazelnuts are pretty hard to find around here, but this porridge was still fabulous! I would probably half this recipe next time I make it because I was soooo full after finishing my bowl, but I just couldn't put my spoon down! The cinnamon and nutmeg make this dish very comforting and I think it will still be great with frozen berries in the Fall. In fact, I know I definitely will be making this a lot more throughout the colder months because it will do a great job of warming me up first thing in the morning.

I had planned on making the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Blondies from VWAV all summer but just seemed to never get around to it until now, which is such a shame because they were a huge hit with my family. I made these Wednesday afternoon and was planning on photographing the blondies after they had been cut up Thursday morning so the lighting would be better, but I woke up to find that every single one had already been eaten! I think my sister was the big culprit here (she claims to have had only four or five, but I'm pretty sure I saw her sneak a few more that night...), but that's fine with me- I'm just happy my family loved these because an entire pan of blondies for me to eat in our house could be really dangerous! So while I'm sad to say goodbye to the tons of sweet, fresh berries that are readily available in the summer, I'm now ready for Fall and all of the great produce it has to offer (I've been starting to crave pumpkin lately!).

Monday, September 1, 2008

All Good Things Must Come to an End....

Flipping through my copy of VWAV, I noticed that the recipe for Mango Summer Rolls had been bookmarked the entire summer! While the season is coming to an end (and school is beginning next week! Boohoo.....even though we normally start a few weeks earlier so I can't complain) the weather here is still very reminiscent of the hot summer months and I knew that these refreshing summer rolls would be a welcome meal in my home. The assembly of these was a little tricky at first, but after a few I had the technique down and they came together rather quickly. My family and I loved these and the dipping sauce that went along with the rolls (though I did change it a bit- I added some red pepper flakes and substituted 1/4 c. peanut butter for the chopped peanuts since I prefer more of a peanut butter based sauce) and my only regret is making them so late in the summer.... However, I then remembered that there is more of an autumn-inspired spring roll recipe in Vcon so now I have the perfect dish to use up the leftover rice paper wrappers- goodie!

I've been enjoying more of my parfaits with my new-found love, Whole Soy & Co. yogurt. The one pictures above features the strawberry variety of yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, sliced bananas, and my own homemade granola. I've been making this granola several times a week because my mom and I have used it almost every morning! It's super delicious and versatile and, while I prefer sunflower seeds and walnuts in my granola, you can add (or omit) any types of nuts/seeds you like. Dried fruit also make an awesome addition to this granola, especially raisins and dried apricots because of the warm flavor from the apple juice and cinnamon.

Crunchy Cluster Granola Recipe:

2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
3 T. maple syrup
1/4 c. apple juice
pinch salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. freshly ground nutmeg

Mix together all ingredients in a bowl and spread onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Oh! I almost forgot- Happy Labor Day, everyone! Tomorrow, it's back to work.....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Worth the Wait

Yes, I have finally defrosted my pound of Teese (which I had actually bought in the spring, but froze for a later use) and made some delicious dishes with it! Though I'm sure you've heard it before from many other bloggers, let me tell you that Teese is the best vegan cheese I've ever had by far- it's so melty and tangy that I have to resist topping everything I make with it.

The first thing I made with my Teese was a panini full of fresh summer vegetables. I sauteed some onion, chopped artichoke hearts, and slices of yellow squash just enough to cook them through. I even made my first homemade roasted red bell pepper for this panini! I don't know why I haven't roasted bell peppers before- they're so easy and way more delicious that the jarred ones. Anyways, back to the sandwich. I layered all of the veggies and some sliced Teese on one slice of bread and topped them with some fresh basil that my brother and I are growing in our garden, and then slathered the other slice of bread with a garlicky sweet mustard sauce I made earlier (no real recipe- just some spicy brown mustard, Veganaise, agave nectar, and roasted garlic). Thanks to my panini press, this sandwich turned out perfectly crisp and all of the layers really blended together, with the fresh basil and sweet bell peppers still standing out more than the others. Everything tasted so fresh and wonderful and the Teese added that extra melted goodness that made this panini special. I can't wait to think of how many other types of paninis I can whip up now!

The next dish I decided Teese would be perfect for was the Bean and Corn Tortilla Lasagna with Avocado from ED&BV (I was inspired by Dreena Burton's post on her blog featuring this dish.) While mine didn't turn out quite so photogenic, it certainly was everything I hoped it'd be and more! While I was curious about the avocado layer being baked into the lasagna, I was making this for my family and I knew that warm avocado may be too different for them so I just made some guacamole to top the lasagna instead. I'm officially addicted to this dish- the spices were perfect and the crunchy tortilla chips on top created such a contrast in texture. Of course, the Teese really shined through here because of the tangy flavor and my parents couldn't even tell it was vegan cheese on top (which is always a good thing since vegan cheeses have such a bad reputation). The portion of this lasagna are HUGE, but not too filling, and my only complaint was that I didn't have more leftover! My mom and I were starving and both went back for seconds (and maybe thirds....)- hey, I told you this was addictive. And, yes, I did serve this with more corn on the side, but I had just gotten home from work and was feeling lazy so I think it's okay!

Finally, I made some refried beans, green bell pepper, and Teese quesadillas on a whole grain tortilla with a big ol' dollop of peach mango salsa on the side. Yum! While I find cheeseless quesadillas perfectly satisfying, these ooey gooey ones were quite a treat. The Teese melted really quickly and got a little too melted because it oozed out the sides of the quesadillas when I cut then, but I didn't mind and just licked it all off! Believe it or not, I still have about half a pound of my Teese left so expect to see it reappearing in some more meals I'll be making :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sobriety Cake and the Vegan's Hundred

My family celebrated my dad's 21st sobriety anniversary this Thursday so I, of course, offered to make a cake! Being the simple guy he is, my dad chose a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream (I used the recipes from VCTOTW) but that was fine with me since I got to decorate it. I posted this thread on the PPK boards to help me think of decorating ideas and got some great advice. While I would have loved to make a wagon-shaped cake or one looking like a stack of AA chips, I really wanted to make a rectangular cake for some reason and I was a little crunched for time, so I went with a basic design and wrote "Yay! Good Job, Daddy!" (using Alton brown's recipe for writing chocolate) on it. I was pretty happy the cake turned out and, even though the writing was crooked and the I cut the layers were unevenly, it was great practice for me. Not to mention, it tasted great and my dad was so thankful for it. Just doing my job as a daughter to make him happy :)

This week, BitterSweet posted her vegan version of the Omnivore's Hundred on her blog so I took on the challenge and will pass it on to you. Here are the rules:

1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (I will only bold items that I've eaten the vegan versions of)

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (I'm just going to put them in italics since the crossing out font thing is not working right....)

4) Post a comment here once you’ve finished and link your post back to this one.
5) Pass it on!

1. Natto
2. Green Smoothie
3. Tofu Scramble
4. Haggis
5. Mangosteen
6. Creme brulee
7. Fondue
8. Marmite/Vegemite
9. Borscht
10. Baba Ghanoush
11. Nachos
12. Authentic soba noodles
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo Gobi
15. Taco from a street cart
16. Boba Tea
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (all alcohol items will be in italics since I plan on never drinking)
19. Gyoza
20. Vanilla ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Ceviche
24. Rice and beans
25. Kniche
26. Raw scotch bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de Leche
28. Caviar
29. Baklava
30. Pate
31. Wasabi peas
32. Chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Mango lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Mulled cider
37. Scones with buttery spread and jam
38. Vodka Jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Fast food french fries
41. Raw brownies
42. Fresh Garnazo Beans
43. Dahl
44. Homemade Soymilk
45. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Stroopwaffle
47. Samosas
48. Vegetable Sushi
49. Glazed doughnut
50. Seaweed
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Tofurkey
54. Sheese
55. Cotton candy
56. Gnocchi
57. Piña colada
58. Birch Beer
59. Scrapple
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Soy Curls
63. Chickpea Cutlets
64. Curry
65. Durian
66. Homemade Sausages
67. Churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake
68. Smoked tofu
69. Fried plantain
70. Mochi
71. Gazpacho
72. Warm chocolate chip cookies
73. Absinthe
74. Corn on the cob
75. Whipped Cream, straight from the can
76. Pomegranate
77. Fauxstess Cupcake
78. Mashed potatoes with gravy
79. Jerky
80. Croissants
81. French onion soup
82. Savory crepes
83. Tings
84. A meal at Candle 79
85. Moussaka
86. Sprouted grains or seeds
87. Macaroni and “cheese”
88. Flowers
89. Matzoh Ball Soup
90. White Chocolate
91. Seitan
92. Kimchi
93. Butterscotch Chips
94. Yellow watermelon
95. Chili with Chocolate
96. Bagel and Tofutti
97. Potato Milk
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Raw cookie dough

Now it's your turn!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Yogurt Showdown

With so many new vegan products popping up everyday, it seems like there are always new things to try! For awhile now the only vegan yogurt I've had easy access to was Silk soy yogurt, but it's always had too much of a soy taste to me and I'm often put off by the grey-ish tint to all of their yogurts.... so I was happy to recently find some other brands in my local grocery store and have been trying them in the hopes of finding a brand that I like better. Onto the yogurts:

The first yogurt I tried was Turtle Mountain's new So Delicious soy yogurt. I bought the blueberry, cinnamon roll, and vanilla (pictured above) flavors to try and decided to start with the vanilla for breakfast since I had been waiting to try another new (at least to me) product as well- Honest Foods Granola Planks.

I was on the lookout for these granola planks every since reading Vegan_Noodle's review of them on her blog, Walking the Vegan Line. I have only tried the blueberry vanilla variety, but they are delicious! They crumble easily into yogurt or nondairy milk for a quick breakfast or snack and are not too sweet at all- they are actually a little salty which tastes awesome with the nuts and dried fruits that these bars are full of.

Anyways, back to the yogurt! The So Delicious vanilla soy yogurt was very good and creamy (though it did require some stirring to get it that way) and was great mixed with a crumbled granola plank and fresh blueberries. However I found it way too sweet for first thing in the morning, or even an afternoon snack. I then tried the blueberry and cinnamon roll flavors, but as dessert with some Soyatoo on top and that's what these yogurts are perfect for! I will definitely continue to buy So Delicious soy yogurts and am looking forward to trying the other flavors, but I will save them for a healthy dessert.

Turtle Mountain's newest products are their new line of coconut milk yogurts. While I am surely NOT a coconut lover, I couldn't suppress my curiosity about this yogurt and bought a cup of the passionate mango flavor. The texture of this yogurt was a little creamier than the soy variety and I could not detect any coconut taste, which is a good thing for me! My only problem with this yogurt was that the passion fruit and mango flavors made it a little too sour for my liking, but I have not tried the other flavors and look forward to doing so to see if those are less tart. Like the previous yogurt, I thought this one would also be better suited for dessert rather than breakfast because it was still too sweet, even through the tartness.

Now I know that the Whole Soy & Co. line of yogurts are not new, but I've never tried them before so I guess they are to me. These were on sale at the store when I went, so I sure stocked up! There were so many flavors to try, but I stuck with my three favorites: peach, strawberry, and vanilla. I tried the peach one day for a quick snack and I was amazed to find that it is even creamier than the So Delicious coconut yogurt! The sweetness was perfect and I knew immediately that it would be perfect for breakfast. I had the strawberry flavor (even better than the peach!) with some more crumbled granola planks the next morning, but then I got thinking and realized what I needed to make next with my new favorite yogurt.....

....a parfait! I layered some vanilla Whole Soy & Co. yogurt with homemade granola (for another post, I have a few recipes to share!) fresh peaches, blackberries, and raspberries. Wow- that is all I can say! This was truly the kind of breakfast parfait that I have been dreaming of and I was finally able to make it thanks to this new yogurt I've found! Of all of the new varieties of yogurt I tried, Whole Soy &Co. was the clear winner for me because it's not too sweet and is perfect for breakfast, but I will definitely still keep my fridge stocked with several So Delicious soy and coconut yogurts to enjoy after dinner for a sweet treat! So really, they are all winners (I cheesy....)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Black Bean Burgers and...Pancakes Without Syrup?!

In preparation for the upcoming school year (yikes!), I've been making and freezing all sorts of veggie burgers like a madman! You'll see more of those in an upcoming post, but I just had to blog about the black bean burger recipe in Vcon! It's unlike any other bean burger I've ever had, most likely due to the chewy texture from the addition of vital wheat gluten. The spices are very good, though I would probably add more heat and cumin next time just to balance it all out and nothing tops these burgers better than some crisp lettuce, sliced tomatoes and onion, and a big ol' dollop of guacamole! As you can see in the picture above, I served this along side some Raw Collard Greens, a recipe I got from a raw foods (un)cooking demo I went to last month. I'll post about that and the recipes we were given some other time once I've made a few more myself, but these collard greens are great! The shredded collard greens and kale are massaged with some salt so they wilt a little bit and it makes them taste fresh and delicious without being bitter.

One awesome breakfast I enjoyed this week was the Polenta Pancakes from ED&BV. I realized that I had a few tubs of prepared polenta I bought from Trader Joe's that needed to be up because I felt bad that they were just sitting there all alone in my cupboard, so I remembered this recipe and decided to try it. Yum, yum, yum! This breakfast will be a regular of mine because it's so easy to prepare and so so so good! The cinnamon sugar coating on the sliced polenta caramelizes when they are cooked on the griddle, so no syrup is needed for this treat (and trust me, I'm a strong believer that pancakes must be topped with some sort of syrup- always). Instead of Dreena's suggestion of making banana "sandwiches" with these pancakes, I just served some sliced banana sprinkled with cinnamon on top and it was perfect! I can also imagine that these would be delicious topped with a blueberry syrup.......I'll just have to try it and see.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Quickie Cookies

Just a quickie post here since I'm not feeling too well (nothing major, I'll be fine by tomorrow), but these Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies from VWAV cookies so good they can hold you over until the next one! I was in the mood for cookies one day and I didn't have many of the ingredients in some other recipes I was looking at, but I guess that was a blessing in disguise because it caused me to try this recipe and boy, were they good! I filled half of the batch with apricot jelly and the other half with blackberry preserves to use up some of the many jars of jelly we had in the fridge and both flavors were delicious and really complimented the chocolatey almond cookie dough. My only complaint is that the dough got really messy and difficult to work with when I was rollign it into balls, so I think I may try flouring my hands next time instead of wetting them. If any of you have tried this recipe and have any tricks to working with this dough, please let me know! Well, that's all I have for now, but I already have a few more goodies planned for the next post :)