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!