Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh the Possibilities....

I have always loved sushi. I was that seven year old kid who everyone thought was weird because I loved more "exotic" flavors than the other kids. I was amazed by how sushi could be filled with anything and almost always taste great. However, lately most of the sushi I have been eating has consisted of cucumber, avocado, and/or carrots since the non-fish/egg options in sushi restaurants around here are pretty limited. Not that I'm complaining though- I think a meal of some vegetable rolls and a bowl of edamame is extremely satisfying and convenient for when we go out to eat as a family. But.....sometimes I would rather have some variety in my sushi, which is why I was so excited to see the recipe for Spicy Tempeh Rolls in Vcon! I added some scallion slices and cucumber (I would have loved to add some avocado, but I used my last one the previous day...) to my roll and it was perfect! I also made a simple roll filled with mashed sweet potato mixed with a little pit of wasabi powder and these two rolls together created a wonderful and super satisfying meal! I'm actually very surprised how well these rolls turned out because I didn't have a bamboo mat to roll them up. My mom mentioned that she read somewhere that a brown paper bag with the sides cut so it can be unfolded and flattened out works well to roll sushi, and she was right! I'm hoping to practice my sushi skills a lot more throughout this summer and, hopefully, I'll eventually be able to make an inside-out roll!

While not as impressive as sushi, this dish was delicious as well. My grandparents hosted a graduation party last weekend for my cousin who graduated high school this year, so my entire family went over for dinner. I knew that there would be absolutely no vegan options, so I offered to bring a dish that was vegan but that everyone would enjoy. My aunt requested that I bring a quinoa salad since she loves quinoa but doesn't know what to do with it. Any sort of grain salad is such a fun dish to make, in my opinion, because of how versatile a dish it is; you can just throw stuff in and taste as you go until you have something you're happy with, and that's exactly what I did. I don't have an actual recipe for this salad right now since I sort of scribbled some ideas as I went and didn't measure too much, but I'm sure I'll make this again and I'll remember to actually measure the ingredients that I use. Basically, I mixed together some quinoa, chopped scallions and red bell pepper, dried cranberries, and Tamari-Roasted Chickpeas from ED&BV (I have been obsessed with these lately!). I tossed it all together with a dressing of soy sauce, olive oil, dijon mustard, agave nectar, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and hot sauce. I let this sit overnight and a few hours before dinner, and then added some chopped basil and mint and toasted almonds. Everyone loved this dish and when I went back for seconds I was surprised to find that nothing was left!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

Am I the only person who feels compelled to sing that song whenever I eat a muffin? Okay, maybe I am..... Anyways, I've been in the mood to bake (and eat!) muffins all week, so that's what I've been doing!

I had not planned on making the Carrot Raisin Muffins from VWAV, but after realizing that I have not tried any of the muffin recipes from that book *gasp*, I rushed to find what ingredients I had on hand, so these sounded perfect! They were pretty good; I loved the golden, crispy top to these muffins, but I think I would change a few things next time I make them. While the raisins added a wonderful burst of flavor and sweetness to these, I still think they were a little bland so next time I will use brown sugar instead of white, increase the amount of sugar from 1/4 c. to 1/3 c., and add a touch more cinnamon. I can't believe I went this long without trying any of the muffins from VWAV (I think I just forgot they were in there...)!

My mom and I had to make a stop at Whole Foods this week to grab something, and while I was there I couldn't resist buying a muffin from the Chicago Diner. They had several varieties, but I really wanted a bran muffin, so I bought a Bran Date Nut Muffin. While eating it, I noticed that there was some flavor that was just...."off." About half way through the muffin I realized what it was: I remembered that I hate the flavor of dates. Haha- I guess I should have gotten a different type of muffin then.... Still wanting to satisfy my craving for a delicious bran muffin, I decided to make even more muffins the following day.

I adapted this recipe from VegWeb to make the BEST bran muffins EVER!! I actually used blueberries in only half of the batter (bottom photo) and raisins in the other half (top photo) because I didn't have a lot of blueberries left, plus the fact that I love raisin bran muffins. Both varieties turned out wonderfully moist and delicious and I honestly can't say which one I like more. The rest of my family loved these as well, because they were all gone by the next morning! As you can see from the picture, these muffins had a little trouble rising, so I think I'm going to play around with the leavening in hopes of making these have the beloved muffins tops.

In addition to all of the muffins that you see above, I have also been playing around with some muffins recipes that I have created, so I'll hopefully perfect those soon (not in three months, like my last muffin recipe) and be able to share them with you guys!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cupcakes, Quinoa Salad, and a Meme!

I've mentioned many times that I make cupcakes for the women who my mother works with, and they requested some more last week! I asked my mom if I should make the Boston Cream Cupcakes or the Cappuccino Cupcakes with Espresso Creme (both from VCTOTW), and she immediately said she wants the Boston Cream Cupcakes (Boston Cream Pie is one of her favorite desserts)! While I had some issues with the filling being too loose and tasting a little bit like tofu, everything worked out once the cupcakes were assembled! My dad and I both had one when he came home that night after I packed half of them for my mom to take to work the next morning, and after my dad took one bite he said, "You saved four more cupcakes for us, right? Well, I'm going to go eat the rest now!" Haha- I guess he liked them! While he did not actually eat all four of them that night, they were finished within the next day or two. I'd really love to adapt the filling a bit and make this recipe into a full-fledged Boston Cream Pie (cake)!

I have had the recipe for the Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango from Vcon bookmarked for a few months now, but I knew it would have to wait for awhile before I could actually find some good mangoes around here in the summer. You can imagine how thrilled I was to buy my first mangoes of the season last Saturday! I resisted eating them right away, and rushed home to make this salad. YUM! I love the flavors of this and it's the perfect summer salad and super healthy, too! I also packed some with me for dinner while my family and I went to a Kenny Loggins concert (my parents love him, while my sister and I kept escaping to walk around the food court and lawn area) for Father's Day at Ravinia, an outdoor theater in our area. My sister tried some of my salad while I was eating it and actually really liked it and she requested that I make this for dinner sometime! As if I needed another reason to make this again! Oh, just an interesting little side note: while at the concert on Sunday, my family went to to buy their dinners at the food court area and right next to the check out I noticed that they sold a small case of meals from the local Whole Foods, so I got curious and checked what they had. I almost fainted when I saw that they were selling vegan chocolate mousse! I snatched some up, of course, for dessert that night and was super excited because I would never have expected to find it there!

And, because I ate a cupcake (obviously) and would love a pig as a companion animal (two categories Vegan Noodle listed to be tagged), here's the meme I filled out from Walking the Vegan Line:

What were you doing five years ago?
I just finished the fourth grade (wow! that's a long time ago) and...... was at summer camp? I don't even remember

What are five things on your to-do list today?
1. buy a graduation card for my cousin

2. test out a few muffin recipes

3. charge my cell phone (it's sitting right next to me, I just always forget it when I go downstairs....)

4. attempt to walk my dogs (this is will not go over well- trust me)

5. plan something to bring to a family gathering for dinner

What are five snacks you enjoy?
1. hummus with veggies and pita bread

2. cereal

3. peanut butter on sliced apples/bananas
4. fruits and vegetables
5. dry roasted soy nuts

What are five things you would do if you were a millionare?

1. go on a vacation across the country eating at every vegan restaurant I've ever wanted to go to

2. donate to various charities/organizations
3. buy a car

4. buy a bunch of baking supplies

5. put the rest in the bank for when I really need it (yes, I'm boring)

What are your 5 bad habits?
1. throwing my clothes into my very unorganized drawers
2. forgetting to put away the dishes while they dry
3. losing bobby pins

4. washing my hands excessively
5. over thinking things

Where are five places you have lived?
1. Wilmette, IL

2. Lake Forst, IL

(that's it...)

What are five jobs you've had?

(I'm just going to skip this section since I haven't even had 5 jobs, just babysitting and tutoring since no one will hire a 15 year old around here :( )

Five people I tag:
(in keeping with the pattern from both Shellyfish and Vegan Noodle) I tag you if you....

1. love scary movies

2. have never had surgery

3. currently have your fingernails painted

4. love sweet potatoes

5. can roll your tongue

Friday, June 13, 2008

I've Been Using A LOT of Soy Sauce Lately...

Believe it or not, I went through an entire bottle of soy sauce this week! It was worth it though because I was able to make some delicious seitan, potsticker filling and dipping sauce, and teriyaki stir fry.

While these potstickers were a lot of work, they sure were worth it! I used this recipe for the dough and made up my own seitan filling and dipping sauce recipe (below) based on a few I've seen. Everything about this recipe is quick and easy except for rolling out the pieces of dough for the wrappers- that was just tedious. However, I made a double batch, so I'm sure it would have been a lot quicker if I made only 12 potstickers. My family really loved these as well and they kept raving about how they didn't miss the meat at all! My dad mentioned that I should "add this recipe to 'the list'." (he's referring to the imaginary list of meals that he would like me to make again) Yay! My little picky brother tried one of these after much coaxing, and he approved as well! This really surprised me considering that the rest of his dinner consisted of plain white rice and soy sauce- yeah, he's that picky. I think my family and I really have a thing for dumplings- first the empanadas, now potstickers. Hm.....

Potsticker Filling:

1 T. vegetable oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 t. grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. seitan (I used the recipe from Vcon), chopped into small cubes
1 T. soy sauce
1/2 t. sesame oil
1/2 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. cornstarch mixed with 2 T. water

In a skillet over medium high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add the garlic, ginger and scallions and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the seitan, soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar. Cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, then add the cornstarch slurry and cool before filling potstickers. Makes enough for 24 potstickers.

Dipping Sauce:

1/4 c. soy sauce
1 t. sesame oil
1/8 t. dried ground ginger
1/2 t. Asian chile oil (if you can find it, if not just omit)
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1/4 t. crushed red pepper

Mix all the ingredients and serve.

For dinner tonight, I decided to make the Teriyaki Broccoli Cashew Stir-Fry from my new ED&BV. This could not have been any simpler! The only prep work I had to do was marinate the tofu, make the sauce, and chop the vegetables- soooooo easy! And this recipe is definitely a keeper! The tofu got so crispy and golden while the vegetables remained crisp and the cashews were such a pleasant surprise. I loved the teriyaki sauce so much that I think I'm going to make a big batch of it to keep on hand to use in some more quick meals. I sure am loving this cookbook!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Pistachio-Crusted Tofu and Some So-So Muffins

Go make the Pistachio-Crusted Tofu from the Fatfree Vegan blog! You heard me- go! I just finished this for dinner and I am in love. Mmm.....the crunchy, salty, creamy crust on the tofu matches perfectly with the sweet and sour sauce. Throw in a side of steamed broccoli and you have one great meal! Ever since I read this recipe on the Fatfree Vegan blog, I knew it sounded wonderful, but I wasn't expecting to love it so much. There are so many different layers of flavor to this simple dish from the pistachios, maple syrup, mustard, and apricot preserves. Pardon me gushing over this recipe, but it seemed to be just what I was craving tonight.

Now, onto some muffins that are not exactly perfect- the Almond Quinoa Muffins from Vcon. I really love the idea of adding quinoa to these muffins since it added a pleasant, but not too noticeable, texture. Unfortunately, I think that the rest of the muffin was lacking. They just were not sweet or flavorful enough, which is a shame since I wanted to freeze these to always have on hand, but instead I tried to finish these off as quickly as possible. However, I think there is still hope! I will eventually get around to trying this recipe again except I will add more agave nectar, cinnamon, and dried fruit. I also think some cranberries could be really nice in here instead of the So, for now, all hope is not lost! I just think I'll experiment with some other muffins before returning to these.

PS- I just was scanning my blog and realized how much I hate my plates.... I gotta find some more neutral ones for photo-taking.

Monday, June 2, 2008


On Saturday I received a nice little surprise in the mail- two copies of Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton! And before you begin wondering- no, I was not just sent these randomly. I had won them last week from a contest Dreena was holding on her blog! I'm so glad to have won because I have wanted this cookbook for months now and the recipes from it that Dreena features on her blog always make my mouth water- so thank you so much, Dreena! The second copy is for me to give to someone to help them incorporate more vegan meals into their lives. I have a few family members and friends in mind, so I'll update this post to let you know once I make my final decision!

Update: After my cousin spent a few weeks at our house this summer and taking her to a raw foods demo, she has decided to become a vegetarian! I am so proud of her and we're already planning on making a delicious vegan meal for us this Thanksgiving when we see each other again. To assist her in this transition, I've decided to give her my extra copy of ED&BV because I know that she will love these recipes and, while she may not make them fully vegan at first, I hope it helps her explore vegetarianism and veganism even more.

After reading through the entire book front to back and bookmarking the hell out of it, I figured it was time to break in my new cookbook! So, with finals starting this week (tomorrow- eek!), I figured that the "Nicer Krispie Treats" (such an adorable name) would be a great recipe to start with.

Well these bars certainly did give me a great first impression of ED&BV! Since I used the Enjoy Life brand of chocolate chips, which are mini, they melted a little too much in the mixture, but that's ok- it's just a little more chocolatey! I actually had to take a few of these treats and hide them because I didn't think that they would last throughout this week; my family and I are gobbling them up (especially my dad as they are the perfect little snack after his long bike rides)! I am so glad that school is almost over so I can spend some more time trying out some new recipes from this book.