Thursday, May 29, 2008

Empanadas- so good they get their own song!

I've never had an empanada before but after making them last night, the recipe from Vcon has made me realize the error of my ways. Instead of 12 regular-sized ones, I made 24 mini empanadas just because I think it's cute :) I was a little nervous about making these since my dad was putting a lot of pressure on me! Once he found out that I was making empanadas this week he made sure to remind me everyday that (and I quote) "these better not suck 'cause I'm looking forward to some empanadas!" He even started singing his "Empanada Song" (basically him just singing the word "empanada" to any random tune in his head- haha.)

The filling from the recipe sounded delicious, but I wasn't sure if my siblings and father would really like it, so I only made half of the filling from th book for twelve empanadas and filled the other twelve with half a package of sauteed Soyrizo (I've never tried this product before since I tend to not eat any fake meats, but this is good!).
The empanada on the left is one with the Soyrizo filling and the one on the right is stuffed with the Vcon Acorn Squash and Black Bean filling. I really can't decide which one I like better. The Soyrizo is nice and spicy and has a really "authentic" texture and flavor, while the squash filling is refreshing yet comforting and has the perfect combination of sweet and salty! And even though I thought my family would like the Soyrizo filling more, they thought it was a tie as well! My mom thought they were so great that she begged to take some to work with her today to share with some of the other women there (they loved them, by the way)! Hm......maybe my family is slowly beginning to prefer meatless dishes...? Well, maybe that's a little extreme for now, but I'm working on it! Oh, one last note about this recipe- the crust is AMAZING! With every bite, the flaky and crunchiness blew my mind. Wow.... too bad all 24 of these have already disappeared. Guess I'll just have to make them again really soon!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some Simple Sammiches

In my opinion, sandwiches are perfect for every meal; they're satisfying, healthful (usually- depends on my mood), and quick, not to mention that the possibilities are endless. Here are two of my new favorite sandwiches at the moment:

I'll admit it- I loved BLT's when I was younger. After become a vegetarian several years ago, I craved bacon for awhile, but that quickly went away. Now, as a vegan, I don't even crave bacon. However, the Tempeh Bacon from VWAV has become a staple in my house, and this got me thinking, "Hm.....I wonder what this would taste like on a sandwich... OH MY GOODNESS- TLT'S!!" So A Tempeh Lettuce and Tomato sandwich is exactly what I made last weekend after getting some Veganaise (this stuff works wonders, really- and I don't even like mayonnaise!) from the store. I stepped it up a bit by adding some fresh, buttery avocado, making this sandwich a TLTA. Geez, so many acronyms! Anyways, whatever you call it, this sandwich is good. I think this Tempeh Bacon is wonderful just eaten straight up, but it really shines on sandwiches with lots of crisp lettuce and firm, ripe tomato slices.

I don't know why it took me so long to get the idea to make falafels for my family for dinner since I love them, my dad loves them, and my mom loves them (my brother is far too picky to try these and my sister pretends to be all "I hate vegan/health food"...ugh). Oh wait- I remember now.... I was too lazy since I didn't have a food processor, but I have one now!! I used the recipe from VWAV and just sort of improvised the tahini sauce by mixing random amounts of tahini, warm water, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. The only thing I would do differently with these falafels is making them round instead of flat and deep frying them. My dad says that he would really like the classic round shape and more crispiness. Other than that, these were wonderful! We all scarfed down our sandwiches and my mom wants this to be a regular meal in our house since it's a nice, light summer meal (which she loves after a day of work). I'm not complaining- I am a falafel-lover!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

More of the Magical Grain...and Freebies!

When I first saw the recipe for Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Sweet Potato on the PPK boards, I knew I had to make it as soon as possible! Though my photo did not look quite as pretty as the one on the PPK boards, the dish is so damn good that it makes up for it! I normally am not a fan of cilantro at all, but I think that it really works well with this salad and I didn't mind the cilantro-iness (new word? haha- it sounds too weird to be a word). Yep, it's official- quinoa is my new favorite grain. Ever since I first tried it a few months ago, I have fallen in love! I have no idea how I survived my first few months of veganism without this grain.

These cookies were sort of a surprise to me. I ordered an Alternative Baking Company cookie from Vegan Essentials about two weeks ago, and I was blown away! So much so that I went as far as sending a comment to the company on the ABC website saying how great these cookies were. Well, what do you know that within a few days I received a reply to my email from ABC saying that they would send me some free cookies- YAY!!! Now I really love this company. Anyways, the three cookies you see above are the ones that I received in the mail a few days ago. The one on the far left is a Peanut Butter Cookie, the middle is Lemon Poppyseed, and on the right is Chocolate Chip. They are sooo gooooood. As for my's probably a tie between the peanut butter and chocolate chip- but they are all wonderful!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mommy's Cake (probably my new favorite)

For Mother's Day, I made my mom a list of about 5-6 desserts (including the oh-so-famous tofu chocolate pie, the pink lemonade tartlets and peach melba cake from My Sweet Vegan, and Papa Tofu's Strawberry Pie, along with others) and let her choose which one she would like for her special day. Well, after much deliberation (she said that they all sound wonderful and hopes that I make all of them very soon, and of course I will!) my mom chose a- drum roll, please-.............strawberry lemon cake!!

For the cake itself, I made a double batch of the lemon variation of the basic golden cupcakes recipe in VCTOTW and baked them in 9'' round pans for about 30 minutes. I leveled off the layers and cut them in half very carefully (this was my first time trying this!). I had made the strawberry filling the night before using this recipe to let it chill properly and it was the perfect consistency! I was terrified it may be too runny and ooze out the sides- but no problem here.

Before assembling the cake I whipped up a double batch of the fluffy vegan buttercream recipe from VCTOTW, set about 1/4 of it to the side for later, and threw in some yellow food coloring, lemon extract and lemon zest into the remaining frosting. I filled the layers with the strawberry filling and topped it all off with buttercream (I did a crumb coat to be safe) . I mixed the remaining strawberry mix and some red food coloring into the reserved frosting and piped it on top and finished it off with some fresh strawberries. As you can see, the strawberry frosting was a little too loose to pipe my piping needs some work, but I was pleased with it! My mom thought it looked gorgeous from the outside, but I think it was even more beautiful on the inside:

Since we went out for sushi for dinner that night (my dad's idea so my mom would not need to cook, but I know that he just loves his sushi- hehe) with my aunt and cousins who live close to the particular restaurant we went to, I just brought the cake along with us and we drove back to my aunt's house to eat it. I'd say it was a hit! There weren't many of us and over half the cake was eaten! My family and I can't get over how perfectly the filling and cake work. My dad was so silly in how he was analyzing my cake. According to him, "the strawberries don't overpower the lemon and there is not too much frosting....nice...." Haha- I think he's got it right!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

To All You Moms Out There....


I hope everyone- mother or not- is having a great mother's day. I made my mom a cake today, but I've been rushing around to get everything perfect for her today, so I'll post about later this week. See you then and enjoy your day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Some Surpirsingly Pleasant (meaning GREAT) Food

I have been waiting to try the Corn Chowder from VWAV since winter but held out until summer (okay, so it's still spring, but I'm impatient!) to make it with some fresh, sweet corn. And boy, was it worth it! My family loved it and was super impressed by how creamy it was. I had never had corn chowder, vegan or not, before trying this recipe so I was not sure what to expect. I was worried that it would not be salty enough, or that the rosemary and thyme might make the flavor a little off. Well, now I love corn chowder! All my doubts were completely unnecessary and I may even have a new favorite way to eat corn. Even though it's a hot soup, this recipe is perfect for summer and I'll be making it often within the coming months!

*Just a side note for those who do make this chowder- make sure it is no longer steaming before you blend it if you are using a blender! I know that many of you already know this and I did as well, but I sort of disregarded it. I had been able to puree fairly warm liquids before in my blender before without any problems- but this was a different story! The chowder went EVERYWHERE!! My hair, shirt, pants, floor, blender, and kitchen counter were covered int the stuff! I'm sure if I had taken a picture of the mess it would have been rather amusing, but I was way too pissed off to think of it then. It was easy to clean up, but be sure you don't make the same foolish mistake!

To go along with my first experience with corn chowder, I also made biscuits for the first time! I used this recipe because flaky biscuits are definitely the way to go when it comes to dipping in soups, stews, or chili! These were super flaky and could not have been easier- I have no clue why I was so intimidated by making biscuits before. As the recipe mentions, the trick to getting lots of flaky layers is to fold the dough in half, roll it out, fold it in half, roll it out, etc. several times (I probably ended up doing it 5-6 times). My family has been requesting that I make these again because they taste way better than canned biscuits (I shudder thinking about those nasty things- so gross....) and don't require too much extra work. Below is a picture of my delicious, soft biscuit slathered in melted earth balance- soooooo goooood.

I also finally got around to trying the Chickpea Quinoa Pilaf from Vcon that everyone has been raving about. I didn't think the recipe seemed very interesting or flavorful when I read it, but decided I'd go with it anyways. I mean, not that many people can be wrong, right? RIGHT! Though it may not be the least bit photogenic, this pilaf is surprisingly full of spice and flavor. I was gobbling it up before I could wait for it to cool and all four servings were eaten within about a day and a half of making this!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Muffins that Took 3 Months to Make

You may remember these muffins that I posted awhile ago but didn't have a final recipe for. Well, the recipe has been finalized! I's taken a long time, but I was delayed for awhile due to typical life stuff getting in the way. I finally set aside some time to dedicate just to baking these muffins and figured out what proportions of certain ingredients work the best. I'm very satisfied with the final product and, while I could go on tinkering it forever to perfect it even more, I think that'd a be a little tiring. So here it is- the recipe for my Berry Almond Crunch Muffins!

Berry Almond Crunch Muffins:

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1 Ener-G "egg"
1 c. vanilla soymilk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 t. almond extract
1/3 c. chopped almonds
3/4 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen
3/4 c. canned pitted tart cherries, drained but not rinsed

2 T. sliced almonds
1 T. sugar
3 T. flour
1 T. vegan margarine

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease your muffin tins. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, reserving 1 T. of flour for later. In a separate bowl, mix the soymilk, oil, "egg" and almond extract. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix just until combined (do not over mix!). The batter will look very thick, but don't panic! Combine the blueberries, cherries, almonds, and reserved flour in a bowl and coat the berries and almonds with the flour so they will not sink in the muffin batter. Fold the berries and almonds into the batter. The reserved liquid from the cherries should thin the batter out slightly, but it'll still be thick. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the muffins tins about 3/4 full. In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients until crumbly (the best way to do this is with your hands!). Top the muffins with the topping and bake for 20-22 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.