Eggplant

Eggplant
Photo Credit: Google Image Search

Friday, December 16, 2011

Not a Crazy Vegan Visits BOMBAY WRAPS!

Well hello there.  Hehe, this is awkward.   I...uh...don't know what to say...

I'M SORRY, OK!  Life has been hectic.  WORK has been hectic.   My dog eats his own poop...


I know, he looks so innocent.  But you better believe his schnoz has not come even near my feet for the past few weeks.  I know where that's been...

Anyways, I've been cooking and actually have seen my skillz kick it up a few notches.  Just in time for my one year blog-o-versary and my New Year's Resolution which will be to cook at least one thing a week without a recipe.   This is scary to me.   Like, I'm sweating just thinking about it...

So let's call a spade a spade and move on.


Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an event to mark the 1-year anniversary of Bombay Wraps existence in Chicago.   I had never visited this place and was a little hesitant because the idea of "fast food Indian" sounded a little scary.   But, I decided to go anyways because they were giving out free beer.

I'm in.

And so was Matt.

We showed up and lo and behold SUZY SINGH was there.

Don't know who she is?   Let me refresh your memory:


 *Image Credit: Google Image Search*

She was like, the third runner up for the most recent Master Chef season. 

This was a big deal to me.  I never really get into those cooking shows, but for some reason, this most recent season got me HOOKED.  I was obsessed with this show.   Now, I won't claim that Suzy was my favorite...she actually took on the role of the villain in my opinion, BUT, I still appreciated her spunk and entertainment quality.

So, imagine my surprise when she was literally standing RIGHT THERE when I walked in...



Anyways, she was there because she is collaborating with Bombay Wraps on their breakfasts and desserts.   She also says that she's been trying to come up with an Indian food truck and thinks that Bombay Wraps has the most potential and authentic flavor for Indian street food.

So, Suzy (we're on a first name basis here) walked us through the menu.   Unfortunately, I could only eat a few items (I got to drink all the Goose Island beer pairings I wanted to...teehee), but those that I could were FANTASTIC.   The appetizer Samosas were delicious and the different sauces you could put on them were especially great (I think one of them was the cilantro chutney.  Me+cilantro=truluv4eva).   I also parked in front of the sweet potato fries and was a-ok until I was able to taste a wrap.

And the wraps were great.

I had the Potato Tava wrap which was filled with sauteed potatoes, pickled onions, and cilantro chutney.   The filling was great, but the Roti was SO delicious.   I feel that the Roti bread is what really set this place apart from other Indian restaurants and other fast food restaurants.  You sense that this is high quality and when we asked if they had Roti we could purchase to take with us they said that they only make it to order.  That's a sure sign of quality right there.

Even though I couldn't taste as much as the other people at the tasting, the owners and their family and the staff were soooo accomodating.   No weird "why are you vegan" questions.  The owner's brother-in-law actually went in the back and brought out a soup he had been working on and let me taste it.  The soup was SO good.  I encouraged them to put that on the menu as well, especially in winter.

All in all, I highly recommend this place.   It's great for a fast lunch that is still high quality.   As a vegan, there is really only Subway and Taco Bell when you're on the run.  This option is great because it's different, it's apparently authentic, and you don't feel like your vegan item is an after-thought.   I really hope to see Bombay Wraps develop into a chain because I mean, we have Mexican fast food, Chinese fast food, American fast food.  This is just so logical it's silly.

Anyways, I encourage vegans and non-vegans alike to give this place a try.  Great food, great service. great location right in the loop of Chicago.

Oh, and maybe you'll run into Ms. Singh


(That's Matt asking her if Gordon Ramsey is as much of a jerk as he seems to be...I'm glad he doesn't hold back in awkward situations...)

Happy ventures into holiday town, ya'll (that is the most inauthentic sentence I've ever typed).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Piece o' Pie Peace Offering

So, I wasn't technically participating in Vegan MoFo (a month of blogging about vegan food everyday)....this is partially because I don't really get it, and am not entirely sure I'm invited.  Oh, that and I've been way uninspired and busy.

So, with the new month of November and the fact that we are nearing my one year anniversary of blog-existence, I thought I'd recommit myself to this blog.

Because I love it.  And you.  Any of you that are reading this.

And as a peace offering, I've decided to post about a brilliant recipe I came across.   It is a fat-free crustless vegan pumpkin pie.

Alright alright, get off the floor.  I know there are some doubters out there that may be saying "fat-free+crust-free+dairy-free+egg-free=joy-free," but you are so so wrong.

This pie was awesome.  And it came in the nic (is it nic, or nick?  Like is Nick a person?) of time because I was starting to feel left out as we neared Thanksgiving.


Is it just me, or is Thanksgiving the least exciting holiday when you're a kid, but then quite possibly the MOST exciting as an adult?   I mean, it's a holiday that doesn't have all the stress of present shopping and decorations and high expectations like others (I'm looing at YOU, Christmas).   Instead, it's a day where you can relax, eat, cook, spend time with family, drink wine (or margaritas, which is what I plan on doing since I'll be in Florida...).   It's just such a pleasant and enjoyable holiday.

Anyways, make this pie if you are hoping to be able to watch your caloric intake on the big day.   Or if you want to balance out how much stuffing you end up inhaling.  Stuffing is my Thanksgiving drug of choice by far...

This recipe for Crustless Pumpkin Pie is from "Happy Herbivore."

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup mori-nu tofu, extra firm
  • cups non-dairy milk
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups canned pure pumpkin
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9” shallow glass pie dish, set aside. In a blender or food processor, blend tofu, non-dairy milk, cornstarch and vanilla until smooth, stopping to scrape sides periodically. Add remaining ingredients and blend for about a minute more, until the mixture is uniform and well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie dish and bake for 1 hour. Allow the pie to cool on the counter, away from the hot oven, until room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dog Soup?

So, it's been awhile.   I know, ok?   We've had some stressful times in our lives these past few weeks.

1) Bought new bedroom furniture which = stressful argument while putting said furniture together.
2) The weather has changed.  I hate being cold.  It's been cold a few times.  Therefore I hated "it."
3) I discovered an obsession with the hit series "Friday Night Lights."   It got so bad that I re-started my Netflix membership...for the 4th time.
4) Oh yea, and we added this mongrel to our family:


That's Otis.

He's been living with us for just over 3 weeks.

He's a bassador (basset hound/labrador) and he's 7.

He's perfect.

But he's also a HUGE responsibility.

Before we get into all that, let me set the stage:

Me: Hey, I want to get a dog (this convo happened at least 50 times over the course of this past year).
Matt: You travel too much.  And dogs are expensive.

Fast forward to a Friday 3 weeks ago.

Matt: How do you feel about going to get a dog (very non-chalantly)?
Me: Umm...(insert panic as I haven't had the chance to prepare for this life-altering decision)
Matt: We can just go and look at the dogs, just to see.
Me: Umm...ok.

3 hours later, we walk out with....



And I proceed to have a prolonged panic attack as to what this all means.  Then Matt panics.  Then I panic again.

But he's here to stay!

And we love him.

I'm so SO glad we adopted him because he's brought so much joy to our lives already.   Beyond how much fun he is, he's forced us to be more responsible and also to spend more conscious time together.  Now, instead of watching 6 episodes of Friday Night Lights on an evening, I only watch 4 because we take Otis for a long walk each night.   Now, instead of blogging regularly, I brush Otis' skankified teeth.

It's a good life.

Anyways, I've still been cooking.  And I've actually been taking pictures too.  Matt and I are still going strong on our plant-based oil free diet.  Matt's lost about 25 pounds...I went to the doctor and had lost 3 since my last visit.  That's...great.  But it's not about poundage!  It's about feeling good and eating healthy, so I'm actually ok with that.

Just so you know I'm not blowing smoke, here's a recipe that I've cooked probably 4 times in the past month because it's easy, SO healthy, HUGE, and delicious.



Savory Lentils and Greens Soup from Engine 2 Diet:

2 medium onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 1/2 cups lentils
5 cups vegetable broth
5 cups water
Ground pepper to taste
2 large heads of leafy greens, chopped into bite-sized pieces. Use kale, spinach, kale, collards, Swiss chard or Chinese cabbage.

In a large soup pot, add onion, celery, garlic, and carrots and stir –fry over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the lentils, broth, water, and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, turn heat down and simmer for 45 minutes. Add the greens and simmer for another 10minutesor. For especially the green and fresh-looking greens, boil or steam the greens first, then add them to the soup pot just before serving.    We added hot sauce to the finished product to give it a little extra flavor.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Vegan McGriddle...Yes it can be done.

I've mentioned before that Matt hates sweet breakfast food, so this past week I decided to throw the poor kid a bone.   I set out on a quest to find a savory breakfast food, hopefully in sandwich form, because I know that's what he likes.

In earlier days, Matt would eat a McMuffin sandwich from a chain that will not be mentioned (despite the Mc in everything) almost everyday.  He lived for those dry nasty things.  I on the other hand, would get a McGriddle because it would give me a little sweetness to go with my savory.

But we needed to compomise.

I saw a recipe in Happy Herbivore for Breakfast sandwiches and although I was HIGHLY suspect of the vegan egg part, I thought I'd give it a try.

And you know what, by golly these were delicious!  

(Man do I suck at taking pictures)

The egg "omelet" part, although I'm pretty sure I do not want to eat it on it's own, held up and had a similar consistency to that egg jello that they put in the McMuffins.

But the real star of the show was the "sausage."   This stuff was FAB.  We put it on everything last week...pizza...chili...granola bars (ok not serious on the last one, but I did eat a piece of sausage while simultaneously eating a granola bar...it's been a rough week, ok?).   The Liquid Smoke definitely hinted at the sausage flavor I remember, but the use of *gasp* MAPLE made all the difference!!!

I know, right?  I'm the queen of hating maple.

Except in this instance (and when making desserts/sweet breakfasts).

It just really worked out well.

Slap a sausage patty and some of that omelet together inside an english muffing (we left out the vegan cheese...didn't want to ruin a good thing), and that's quite a breakfast.  Matt has requested that these become a regular feature in his breakfast life from here on out.

We'll see...


Here's the recipe for the "Nomelet" from Happy Herbivore:

Ingredients:

1 12.3-oz. package Mori Nu extra firm silken tofu (although other silken tofu works too, I would imagine)
1/2 tsp. granulated onion powder
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic powder
3/4 tsp. turmeric
2 tbsp. chickpea flour (I used brown rice flour)
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. non-dairy milk
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Directions:

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Grease a shallow 9-inch pie dish and set aside (I used a large casserole dish since I was baking the whole thing at once).
-Blend all ingredients except salt and pepper together until smooth and creamy.
-Add salt and pepper to taste and then reblend.
-Divide batter in half, pouring one half into the pie dish and setting the rest aside for a later use (I put all of it into the casserole dish).
-Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch.
-Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
-Slice up the omelet into equal squares (I got about 8 total) and set aside for the sandwiches.

I can't find an online recipe for the sausage but from memory it was a tube of Gimme Lean breakfast sausage that I mashed up with 1 cup of cooked quinoa and then added 2 tablspoons of maple syrup and I think 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke.  I formed them into patties and then sauteed them sans oil on a skillet until the browned.  These were DELICIOUS!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's Not All Fun and Games, Folks...

I've been working on a grant proposal (news flash, I actually do have a day job), and throughout this whole lengthy ordeal, I have CONSTANTLY been working to stay on message and reflect back upon the mission and goals of the institution I work for.   I have spent probably 30 hours working on this grant and hearing myself and others say words like "outcome," "message," "theme," or "I'm going to pee my pants if we don't take a break."

Not funny?  I'm not even sure I know what funny is anymore...

Anyways, all of this talk of message and theme has creeped into other areas of my life as well.   For example:
-I get frustrated when Snooki does not stay on message with her character on Jersey Shore
-I wonder what Matt's "goals" are when he leaves his dirty peanut butter spoons in the sink
-And I realize I've strayed from my message on this here blog.

Well, not really.

I'm still blogging about vegan cooking and what not, but as of late, I may or may not be editing out some of the disasters because I have been having more successes as of late (I'm giving myself a big ol' pat on the back over here).  But I have a sneaking suspicion that you fine readers only stop by to see me suffer (we all do it...I only read parenting blogs to remind myself why I'm not ready to have children), so I needn't neglect you of the pleasure anymore.

So here's a round up of a few failures:


This was supposed to be a wrap with veggies and rice.   It turned into a depressing salad with no flavor that made a mess of my office.



Here's Matt making the most bland/soggiest stir fry of our lives.   He wanted me to point out that he was a childhood model (including a childhood HAND model).   Unfortunately, if you look closely on his middle finger, you can see that his modeling career has been cut short (get it?) due to an accident when he was a Carnie is Australia (not even joking..I know...).


Not really sure what happened here.  Pretty sure we each almost chipped a tooth on this Mexican inspired casserole...


These were supposed to be "burgers."  Need I say more?  Yes, well, here is the finished product:



By the time I ate these for lunch, it was definitely just rice on bread.   What a disaster.


And finally, the ultimate disaster:



An attempt at Shells and Cheese that went HORRIBLY wrong.  It tasted like maple syrup and there wasn't even a DROP in there.  I actually got a little ill after eating this and think I may be swearing off nutritional yeast for awhile (BLASPHEMY, I KNOW!).

All of the above has encouraged this:



...only in larger glasses.

I kid, I kid.  Engine 2 says NO alcohol.  I cheat on the weekends though.  Teehee.

Anyways, I'm not going to post the recipes of these disasters because a) no one wants to recreate them; b) I don't want to make anyone look bad; and c) it's very likely I royally screwed something up and the recipe author should not be held accountable for that!

So, there you have it kids.   Things aren't all casseroles and pies in my kitchen.  In fact, what really happens is I make something disgusting, Matt and I force ourselves to eat it, then decide to store it like we do ALL leftovers and then it sits in the refrigerator.  Fermenting.  Waiting to attack when an unsuspecting victim thinks to check inside the tupperware.  And then BAM.  I'm dry heaving as I scrape it into the trash.

Thus is life.

 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Quest for the Perfect On-the-Go Breakfast

As of late, I've been hitting the gym in the morning.

Crazy.  I know.

But hear me out.

I've realized that if I get into a routine where I just get up and zombie myself through my morning routine and don't actually wake up until I'm already exercising, I can coast through the first half of my spin class without even knowing where I am.  It seriously works!  And then my work out is DONE for the day and I was only aware of HALF of it!

I encourage you all to try zombie gym time.

Anyways, this complicates my life in many ways.

For example:

-I have to lay out clothes to workout in the evening before.  This cuts into my reality television time.
-I have to lay out clothes for work the evening before.  This ALSO cuts into my reality television time.
-I have to make my lunch the evening before (see above...)
-I have to make my breakfast the evening before (I think you get the picture by now)

There have also been a few instances where I get to the gym and realize I forgot hairspray...or have to deal with creepy lady who is putting her wart cream on her foot on the counter where I just had my lipstick sitting...

But ALL IN ALL, this has been going quite well for me.

It's forced me to be more organized and also forced me into a new routine which has me getting to work earlier and therefore leaving work earlier.  Which I like.

But I did need to figure out what to do for breakfasts.  

You can't really take cereal with you (I'm sure you can, I just don't really want to), and you can't really keep a smoothie cold for 3 hours in a car, so I knew it needed to be a potable b-fast.

Enter: baked goods.

I love all things baked for breakfast.  Scones, muffins, breads, all of it.  The more sweetness, the better.  Matt unfortunately, does not like sweet things for breakfast.  

I still make muffins and scones and breads.

He'll just have to suffer.

I came across these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins in Happy Herbivore and am happy to report that even though these are basically fat free and contain a vegetable, they are still delicious and filling.  I cut back on the sugar in the hopes that Matt would appreciate the effort.

He still complained.



Here's the recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Muffins from Happy Herbivore:

Ingredients:

  • cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 whole banana, mashed
  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ¼ cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • ½ cup raw sugar (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease muffin pan and set aside. If using paper liners, lightly spray inside of liners with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together. In another bowl, cream mashed banana with applesauce and sugar (use extra 1/2 cup for a very sweet, dessert-like muffin). Add in soymilk, vanilla, zucchini and any other optional add-ins you might like such as vegan chocolate chips or chopped raw walnuts. Stir until evenly combined. Add flour mix to wet mix in 3-4 batches and stir until just combined. Spoon batter into greased muffin pan and bake 18-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Super Easy Chalupas

Isn't it funny that prior to becoming a vegan and beyond that, prior to this whole low-fat vegan stuff, I never seemed to eat anything exciting?  Like, a meal with rice seemed "out there" or "ethnic" even if I was eating chicken and broccoli.

Since this whole thing began however, a night where I am not using a grain or spice that I cannot pronounce is rare.   My kitchen has seen cuisines from Thailand, Ethiopia, Greece, Lebanon, the list goes on and on.

And people claim vegans are deprived...

Well, this is not that exciting of a post.  In fact, Mexican may be our default cuisine these days.   When in doubt, put it on a tortilla and add salsa.  We'll both be content.

So we were in a bit of a rush and needed a simple meal that didn't feel like diet food.   Unfortunately, Mexican food, when void of things like sour cream and cheese, seems like diet food.   We were nervous, but these bad boys were DELICIOUS!   I think making my own salsa adds a whole new level of amazing to Mexican food because I control the heat and the spices.   By dulling down the salsa with cheese and sour cream, I'd been missing out on this delicate process.

Anyways, try these bad boys out.  Simple.   Delicious.  And Healthy.



Here's the recipe for Chalupas from Engine 2 Diet:

Ingredients for Chalupas:

6 corn tortillas
1 can fat-free vegetarian refried beans
12 cherry tomatoes cut in half (I used a lot more than 12 because they were almost past their prime)
1 jalapeno, diced
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and sliced
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1/2 bunch cilantro
Salsa

Directions:

Preheat oven to broil.   Place the tortillas on sprayed baking sheet (I used parchment paper) and broil for 2 minutes.   Turn the tortillas and cook for 1 minute, or until crispy.   Spread the tortillas thickly with beans.   Place 4 tomato halves on each chalupa.   Sprinkle jalapenos onto the chalupas.   Broil for 5-7 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to droop.   Divide the avocado slices among the chalupas, and top with the lettuce, cilantro, and salsa.

For my salsa, I basically mixed up a bunch of fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, onion, cilantro, and hot sauce.  Blended to perfection.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Garlicky Cashew Cream Sauce and a Eureka Moment

Although I've lagged on regular blogging these past few weeks, I assure you, my kitchen is getting one HECK of a workout.  I probably spend all of my spare time in that one room and couldn't be more happy about this.  Cooking has becoming something really special to me all of a sudden...

Cooking is a stress reliever, a celebration, a spiritual endeavor, a workout, an homage to good health, and a way to tell people I love them.

Many people already know this about cooking and baking, and to some level, I knew that as well.  But it's only as of late that this has really sunk in.  

Now, although I did cook prior to becoming a vegan, I did not cook all that much.  And when I did cook, I felt way out of my league.  Cooking meat just creeped me out.  I was always afraid of undercooking something and therefore making people ill.  One such moment involved cooking a turkey and a very wise friend of mine who said "these little [insert obscenity]'s are toxic if you don't cook them right."   After allowing it to defrost in my refrigerator, I then felt the need to completely detoxify my refrigerator so as to ensure I didn't kill myself or others after that bird sat in there.

Now that I don't cook anything that could really get me sick, I feel liberated and safe.  I cook almost every meal of the week with the exception of one meal out on the weekends and to many people, this may seem crazy difficult, but I love it.  I love the idea that I pick up all the ingredients I need to sustain myself and Matt for an entire week.  I also love the idea that I know EXACTLY what is going into my body.

I love rules.  I love following them.  I love that they stand for order.  I think they are extremely necessary in life.  Which is why I also am not one to move away from a rule that is set, i.e. a recipe.   In fact, in the world of cooking and baking, I believe one of my strengths is my ability to follow directions.  Unfortunately, this also means that I squelch creativity and avoid taking risks (this bleeds into the rest of my life as well, but that's another issue...), which is a weakness when it comes to cooking and baking.

But lately...

I've been taking more risks.  

I've been venturing into uncharted territories.

Ok, nothing all that exciting, BUT, I have been taking more liberties with recipes and have even come up with a few things on my own.   Nothing is worth posting about.  Yet.  But someday in the not so far off future, I believe I may have a few recipes of my own to share with you fine people.

So stay tuned.

Until then, try this delicious cashew garlic sauce that I smothered over some vegetables on a Friday night as I made my way out the door to go to a movie.  Super easy and SUPER delicious.  So what if I smelled like garlic all night...


*Sidenote: I'm pretty sure the plate is sitting on a Victoria's Secret magazine.  This is troubling in many ways because a) I obviously was too lazy to move the magazine in order to take a picture, b) the magazine was in the kitchen and c) I have no idea why this magazine is in my house...never subscribed to it...


Roasted Bell Peppers, Baked Sweet Potatoes and Galloping Greens with Cashew Sauce from Engine 2 Diet

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes scrubbed and pricked with a fork (I only had one)
3 red, yellow or orange bell peppers halved and seeded
1 package or bunch fresh mustard greens, rinsed and coarsely chopped
4 Tbsp water or orange juice (I used water...don't generally have orange juice around the house)
1/2 C home toasted cashews (I didn't toast them myself, use regular canned cashews)
1 Tbsp tamari
2 cloves garlic (I used four...teehee)
water for thinning the cashew sauce to desired consistency

Directions:

For Sweet Potatoes

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Place potatoes in a casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes, until they indent easily with finger pressure. Set aside to cool. Slice in half and serve with the skins on. (I had to run out the door before these were truly done, I think it takes longer than 45 minutes to roast these)

For Bell Peppers

If you don’t have a gas burner: De-seed the peppers and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Cook on the oven rack, above the potatoes for five minutes, until the skins begin to bubble and blacken. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Under running water, peel away the skins. Slice into 1 inch strips.

If you have a gas burner: Place the pepper directly on top of the burner, turn to high heat and turn pepper until it is completely blackened. This is best done with a long pair of tongs. immediately place under running cold water and peel the charred skin off. 

For Galloping Greens with Cashew Sauce

Place coarsely chopped mustard greens and juice (or water) in a large covered pot over medium heat. Cook the greens for 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until wilted and tender. In a blender, mix the toasted cashews, tamari and garlic together adding small amounts of water as necessary until the mixture is the consistency of a smoothie. Spoon the cashew sauce over the cooked greens and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A New Post, a New Cookbook, and Blueberry Scones

So I'm FINALLY done travelling for awhile.  A month to be exact.  Don't quote me on that.   I'm ready to be at home for a change.  Ready to not live out of a suitcase.  Ready to not wear the same 3 outfits for the majority of the month.  Ready to not go angrily running down to the front desk in search of a can opener while trying to maintain the composure that my hangriness is making OH SO DIFFICULT.

Yea, I'm ready to be at home.

And I'm ready to get back to blogging!

Just to bring you all up to speed about the Engine 2 Diet stuff, we're still going strong.   Matt has lost about 12 pounds and is feeling good and motivated about everything.  I'm not weighing myself, but I do know that my clothing feels a bit looser.  So that's always nice.   We eat a vegan, oil-free, whole grain diet the entire week and then go out to dinner once a weekend to celebrate.  It's been pretty impressive to see how much has changed (at least in Matt) in terms of his appearance, his energy, his mood.

But it's also been hard as HELL to do this when I travel.   Basically I have to cook 8,000 meals and try to bring it with me.  This works when I am driving to my destination, but when I'm flying, I have to research restaurants in the area I'm going to, research where the nearest Whole Foods is, and try to bring along foods that do not need to be refrigerated (hence the scene with the can opener).

All in all, it's a pain.  But I've been trying!

Matt and I were becoming jaded with the recipes in the Engine 2 Diet book and really do not feel equipped to make our own dishes yet, so I took to the internets to see if there was any help.  Thankfully, at just about this same time, I saw that the folks at Engine 2 were doing a giveaway of Happy Herbivore.  This is a cookbook I've been coveting for awhile and so although I did not win the competition (in fact, I did not even enter...so that sort of complicates things), I did make a very wise purchase of this book.  And THAT has made all the difference.

This book is great because it has recipes that basically all fall within the guidelines of the Engine 2 diet, so we feel like we can try out all sorts of things, but it's an ACTUAL cookbook.  Not a diet/lifestyle book with a few recipes thrown in there.  

It's been great and I've loved almost everything we've made from the book.

Especially these scones:


These were delicious and especially timely because I had just returned from a family vacation where we had "Tea and Scones" in the afternoon and I couldn't participate.  No, we aren't British.

So, here's the recipe from Happy Herbivore.  I also highly recommend purchasing this book if you're looking for a supplement to Engine 2 or are just looking to cook delicious low-fat vegan food.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c. non-dairy milk
2 tsp lemon juice
3 c whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp baking powder
pinch of fine salt
1/3 c raw sugar (optional...I chose not to use this)
1 cold banana, peeled and cut in half
1 c fresh blueberries (you can also use frozen)
dash(es) of ground giner

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.

Whisk non-dairy milk and lemon juice together, then set aside to curdle.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar if using, together in food processor and pulse a few times to ensure even distribution of the ingredients.

Add banana and let motor run until it has been incorporated  and the flour has little pebbles of bananas (my pebbles looked like stones...but I also didn't use a cold banana).

Transfer to a mixing bowl and pour in non-dairy milk, blueberries, and ginger, stirring until just combined.

Using a wide 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop up batter and drop onto prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm to touch.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cauliflower Soup

Dearest readers, I apologize for my absence this past week. I was traveling for work and then had a quick trip up the North woods of MN to see my family and attend a wedding. Needless to say, my computer access has been limited. Beyond that, my ability to keep my eyes open during a spare 5 minutes has been even more limited.

What I'm saying is, I'm tired. And I have to travel AGAIN this weekend. Remind me why I agreed to travel this much in this job? Oh yea, it's because that's what I do...

Anyways, my cooking has actually not decreased all that much even with all of the traveling because I took a big step and PACKED FOOD for my trips! This was HUGE for me. But now, after all is said and done, I am always going to plan ahead and pack my own food if at all possible. It saves me from a) eating Subway for every meal and b) getting so hangry whilst trying to google vegan friendly restaurants which then causes me to start crying in a hotel room and ordering a bottle of wine that will be my dinner. Neither of those things have ever happened...no, not a chance...

Anyways, prior to my departure, I also had to stock up for Matt. Now, listen closely all you feminists out there. I AM ONE OF YOU. And I have no idea how we got to the point where I had to pack Matt's lunch for him. This makes zero sense to me. He loves to cook. And he's 30, so he's obviously survived up until this point. BUT, now that we're on a diet and he can't zip over to McDonald's for lunch. Instead, he stares at the refrigerator and has no idea what to do and ends up eating bread and then acting like the spawn of Satan when I come home after work. So, I've taken pity. On myself. And I pack his lunch.

I'm horrified by this.

But anyways, I had to make a few extra meals prior to my departure to make sure Matt didn't die, and this soup was one of them. (Note to the world: mass quantities of soup are the fixall for all marital problems...at least 2 months in). So, I made this cauliflower soup from Engine 2. And it was divine. Creamy and delicious even on a hot August day.


Here's the recipe for Kole's Creamy Cauliflower Soup from Engine 2 Diet:

Ingredients:

4 cups chopped onion
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 1/2 cups water, divided
3 cups diced potatoes
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 large carrots, diced
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
2 cups vegetable broth (I used 1 low sodium vegetable bouillon cube)
2 Tbsp cashew or peanut butter (I used almond butter)
2 Tbsp low-sodium tamari
sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Heat onion, salt, and 1/2 cup water, then simmer on low for approximately 20 minutes, or until the onions cook down to a nice mush. Check to make sure the water is sufficient, and then add 1/4 cup water as needed, so the onions don't burn on the bottom of the pot.

Add the potatoes, celery, carrots, and cauliflower along with 2 cups of water and the vegetable broth. Simmer until all of the vegetables are soft--about 20 minutes. Add the cashew or peanut butter and tamari.

Mash with a potato masher (or an immersion blender) until the soup is mostly smooth, with some chunks. Season with cracked pepper and sea salt to taste.

Variations: Add one bunch of freshly chopped kale, mustard greens, or collard greens 5 to 8 minutes before serving for a nutritional power punch.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Green Pizza and I'm Feeling a Little CRUSTY!

It's been about a week and a half on this Engine 2 madness, and it had to be done. We had to make a pizza. No ifs, ands, or buts.

May I be frank for a second? I have a serious frustration with this Engine 2 book in terms of the recipes. Now, I know the book is not just a cookbook but is also the whole method behind the madness (and a really intense workout that made my bum sore for seriously 3 days), but I strongly dislike the product marketing. I get that this book has fostered a lucrative deal for Rip-a-roo and Whole Foods, but I RARELY buy processed or packaged or pre-made foods. But this diet has forced me to do that on numerous ocassions.

Exhibit A: Pizza Crust.

In the recipe for this Green Pizza, it calls for Kabuli crusts. I have no idea what those are. I looked around WF and could not find them. Since I have no idea how to make pizza crust that is prepared within the parameters of this diet, I had a mild panic attack in WF that lead to me buying some other crust.

That looked like this when I got home:


That's right folks, that's MOLD.

I spent at least $4 on a pizza crust that had MOLD on it when I am sure I am quite capable of cooking a knock out pizza crust!!!

I'm hurt. I'm not sure who to blame. The pizza crust company? Maybe. Whole Foods? I'm sure they're partially to blame. No, I am mostly pissed off that I had to buy this crappy pizza crust dough because I felt uncapable of cooking something for this diet!!!!

GAH!!!!!

Ok, so, glad I got that off my chest.

In other news, I did eat a bite of the crust before realizing it had mold on it. Was vigilantly checking myself in the mirror to make sure I didn't have the flesh eating bacteria after that little incident.

So, anyways, I went BACK to WF and bought ANOTHER crust and this time it wasn't moldy. And since I was so pissed off, I decided not to buy the suggested "pizza sauce" but rather was going to make Matt come up with his own. Which he did. And it was delicious.

The pizza was delicious. I will give you that. But the amount of effort and frustration that went into creating this dish was not healthy. NOT HEALTHY I TELL YOU!

(Can't you tell how angry I am by the quality of this photo??)


Here is the recipe for "Green Pizza" from Engine 2 Diet:

Ingredients:


1 jar pasta sauce (we made our own, can of tomato sauce, garlic, and a few spices)
2 Kabuli crusts (we used moldz-ville brand I'm not repeating their name because I'm not sure it was their fault)
8 oz frozen spinach, thawed, rinsed and drained (we used fresh spinach)
1/2 C fresh whole basil leaves (forgot this part)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 C broccoli florets
1/2 C sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 C finely ground raw cashews or 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (we used both)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Generously spread the sauce on the crusts, and layer with the remaining ingredients except for the cashews/nutritional yeast. After all the veggies are added, sprinkle cashews/nutritional yeast on top. Bake on a sprayed cooking sheet or pizza stone for 15 minutes (we cooked ours on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Vegan Veggie Burgers That Don't Suck!

Alright, we're still going strong on this Engine 2 Diet Review, but I have no noticed that since embarking on this journey, I have received ZERO comments. Not that I was swimming in the commentary over here, but like, I at least got a shout out here or there...

So that leads me to one of two conclusion:

1) You all were abducted by aliens
2) My crazy antics on this diet are not nearly as entertaining or noteworthy as they were before.

Any thoughts?

Is anyone out there?

Is this thing on?

Anyways, I'm still cooking and still screwing up in the kitchen so none of that has changed. I also just ordered a few new cookbooks which means this diet has a definite end date in sight :)

Anyways, I made veggie burgers this past week from Engine 2 and you know what, these were awesome! Like, I loved these bad boys and would gladly bring them to a cookout. They didn't fall apart and were really hearty. I slathered them in ketchup, mustard, and green hummus and also served them with some way undercooked red potatoes. Trying to eat those taters was like trying to chew on leather.

If that makes any sense...

On a vegan blog...

Anyways, I didn't really mess anything up with this recipe which must mean it is SUPER easy. So I therefore COMMAND you to try it. The cilantro really was icing on the cake for me and I could have easily eaten these two at a time. Matt loved them as well!

(Sorry for the weird picture, this was taken at work in a tupper ware container. That's usually a tell-tale sign that something is delicious - I was way too hungry to wait to take a pic at home.)


Here's the recipe for the "New York Times Veggie Burgers" from the Engine 2 Diet:

INGREDIENTS

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can tomatoes with zesty mild chilies, drained
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 green onions, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup parsley or cilantro
2 cups quick rolled oats
8 whole grain buns
Fresh veggie toppings and healthy condiments

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450º. Process the first seven ingredients using an immersion or a regular blender or food processor. Remove contents into a large bowl and stir in the oats. Form into patties, place on a sprayed baking sheet (I used parchment paper...trying to go completely oil-free), and bake for 8 minutes. Turn oven up to broil and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until the tops are nicely browned. Toast the buns and pile on your favorite toppings.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Breakfast Muffin Bread

I'm not a big breakfast person. I like something quick and easy in the morning, usually sweet and in the form of cereal. The only exception to this rule is brunch, but let's all be honest and fess up that we all know brunch is NOT breakfast whatsoever, but an exception to eat pancakes because you were too lazy to get out of bed 2 hours earlier.

When I realized I would have to cook an actual meal for breakfast on the E2 meal plan, I was not a happy camper. I mean, yes there was the option of making oatmeal or something like that, but that still involved far too much time and energy in the morning. I need something that I can consume in under 5 minutes, preferably in the car.

So, I searched for some sort of baked goods and found the recipe for "Mighty Muffins." I generally really enjoy muffins, especially of the lemon poppy seed sort, so I thought this was a good idea.

As I began compiling the batter for these muffins, I slowly came to the realization that I had neglected to buy any Pam spray (I've just been using olive oil in a spray can) and since Rip has seriously struck the fear of God into me when it comes to oil, I panicked. I had two options: I could make cupcake muffins with some of my cupcake papers, or I could turn these muffins into a loaf of Muffin bread. Since I only had about 3 cupcake papers (how does one only have 3 of those?), I decided to loaf it. I poured the batter into a parchment paper lined loaf pan which actually worked out quite nicely.


When I went grocery shopping, I had neglected to write down exactly how much of certain grains and nuts and what not I needed, but I assumed that since I was buying in bulk, this would not be an issue. Unfortunately, I had underestimated the large amount of strange grains and nuts we would be consuming, so I low-balled everything. I did not have enough oat bran for this so had to include one cup of old fashioned oats since I only had about 2 cups of oat bran. This didn't seem to make much of a difference.

This bread tasted alright all things considered. It was breakfast-y. Could definitely taste the 6 bananas (holy cow, that's a lot of potassium), but it was not something I'd generally serve to guests or crave for a snack. But it was filling and we still haven't gone through the whole loaf yet.


Here's the recipe for the Mighty Muffins from "Engine 2 Diet:"

Ingredients:

3 cups oat bran
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sweetener
Juice of 1 lemon
1 large apple, grated
6 brown bananas, lightly mashed (leave some chunks)
¼ cup walnuts, chopped or halved
¼ cup raisins
¾ cup water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375º. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice of the lemon onto the combined apple and bananas. Add walnuts, raisins, and water. Combine the wet and dry ingredients into one bowl. Pour into sprayed muffin tins and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What the heck is Ener-g and how can it make cookies?

I thought by doing this plant-focused Engine 2 Diet plan I would not be faced with any more surprises in recipes.

I thought wrong.

Majorly.

As I put together my shopping list for the week, I found myself going to 3 different locations, JUST TO GET MY WEEKLY GROCERIES.

Unacceptable.

I started out at the Farmer's Market, but instead of enjoying following my senses and picking out the produce that looked fresh and delicious, I had to follow a list. One of the vendors told me I needed to "live a little and lose the list." He has no idea how right he is...

Then I went to the local grocery store. Matt is convinced that we can find everything we could ever need at this grocery store. Sadly that is not true, but we did find MOST of what we needed.

Except things like wheat germ and Ener-G Egg Replacer.

WTF

I had no idea what either of those things looked like, but I knew the wheat germ would be in the bulk section of Whole Foods, so I figured I should start there.

I am pretty sure every employee at my local WF takes a bathroom break when I get there because I ask at least 9 of them to help me find things. This was no exception. I needed to find this freaking Ener-G stuff.

A kind employee led me to this box:

*Image Credit Google Search

Beyond the fact that this box looks like it is from the 1950s, I was a little concerned with the fact that this is in fact a processed food and that is exactly what Rip Esselstyn harps against. But, in the spirit of participating fully, I went ahead and bought this scary looking box that was filled with God knows what that is supposed to be an egg substitute. *shudder*

I needed the mystery box to make cookies. I needed cookies if I was going to survive this whole shebang. Therefore, the box was coming home.

I made these "Chocolate Chunk Cookies" and at first, I was way unimpressed. By first, I mean as I was scooping cookie dough into my mouth, I was not loving it. Also by first, when I burned the roof of my mouth trying one of these basically the second they came out of the oven, I was also unimpressed.

They were all cake-like and squishy and had a weird flavor.

But, by golly, by the next day when they had cooled, they tasted ok. I'd even venture to say that I liked them.

Eureka!


We're almost through this batch and I guess I need to venture out and find more dark chocolate chips (why is WF the only place that carries this?) because these may be my sole nutrition for the next few days. That's alright, isn't it, Rip?

Here's the recipe for Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Engine 2 Diet:

Ingredients:

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 cup plus 4 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt (I used regular ground...not sure what level of groundness is appropriate here...does it say so on the box?)
2 cups 70 percent cocoa (or greater) chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the applesauce, flaxseed, and sugar together using an electric or hand mixer. Beat in the Ener-G and vanilla. Mix the remaining ingredients (except the chocolate chunks) in a separate bowl.
Gradually combine the dry and wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks. Place rounded, heaping tablespoons of dough onto a sprayed or parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Bagel Panini that Wasn't

Here we are on day 2 of the Engine 2 recipe review (wow, that entire sentence rhymed). So far, things are moving along just fine. I won't go into detail.

This ordeal has really forced me to be more organized as I've had to cook basically three meals a day and do that the evening beforehand. In theory, this is an excellent way to spend an evening and cut down on hangry cooking after work, but in reality, if I know what the food tastes like and I'm not impressed, it ruins my whole day.

Thankfully, we've only had one really bad recipe so far, and this is not one of them.

I love lunch. I hate when people throw this meal away as if it's an unecessary distraction throughout the day. Drinking a shake or smoothie for a meal? Give me a break. Salad with only a touch of dressing? Ridiculous. Part of what I've really come to enjoy about cooking so much from scratch is that I always have leftovers and therefore always have delicious lunches that oftentimes taste better the second time around.

So, I was dreading this diet's take on lunch.

***Let me be clear again: I do not like to diet nor do I agree with dieting. I do not think that a temporary change to your meal plan will give you any sort of results and I also celebrate every person's body shape the way it is at any time. So, when Matt told me he wanted to diet, instead of launching into my soapbox about my feelings on dieting, I thought I'd be proactive and look for a "diet" plan that I could sort of get on board with. Engine 2 is more of a cleanse that teaches you the impacts of certain foods on your body and invites you to respond after the "cleanse" is complete. If this means never touching a drop of oil? So be it. But I consider this a lesson in body listening rather than a lesson in denial of certain foods. It also tells me I can eat as much as I want as long as it's a safe food, which I appreciate. Mama don't like being hungry. EVER.***

Ok, off of soapbox, back to lunch.

I wanted to make something from the book that had sustenance and have never attempted a Panini before, so I thought: now's the time, now's your moment.

Did this turn out like a panini? Well, no not exactly. I used these whole grain bagels and also was scared I was burning them so I either frantically flipped them or turned down the heat every 2 seconds or so.


This was actually quite delicious, refreshing, and filling. Mine was a bit more green than I think it was supposed to be, but that's because I was using my green hummus. Even though they weren't exactly paninis, I would make these again, even if I wasn't on the E2D.


Here's the recipe for Ann's Panini with Hummus, Mushrooms, and Spinach from Engine 2 Diet:

Ingredients:

8 ounces mushrooms
Bragg Liquid Aminos to taste
4 slices whole grain bread (or bagels in my scenario)
Green Hummus
4 green onions, chopped into rounds
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
3 handfuls baby spinach

Directions:

Saute the mushrooms on medium heat in a nonstick skillet for about 5 minutes or until soft. Season lightly with Bragg's. Spread all 4 bread slices thickly with hummus. Sprinkle two pieces of the bread with green onions and cilantro and reserve the other two pieces as sandwich tops. Using a slotted spoon to allow any liquid to drain away from the mushrooms, place them on top of the green onions. Put a handful of spinach on top of the mushrooms. Top the two sandwiches with the reserved pieces of bread, and press to seal.

Carefully place the sandwiches in a nonstick skillet. Place a heavy casserole dish on top of the sandwiches to flatten them. Cook the weighted sandwiches on one side over medium heat for about 5 minutes, taking care not to let them burn. Flip sandwiches and cook the other side in the same way. When done, paninis will be quite thin and browned on both sides (in theory).

Monday, August 15, 2011

A 30th Birthday and Green Hummus

We celebrated a 30th Birthday this last weekend.

Not me, silly, of course not. I'm still enjoying my youth, comfortably cruising through my 20s.

Matt on the other hand, well, he is getting old.

As we neared his Birthday, I tried to suggest lots of activities he might be interested in participating in to celebrate this momentous occasion. A Haunted Pub Crawl, a boat party, a 90s themed murder mystery party, a Boy Meets World marathon...

He chose the Renaissance Faire. And a diet.

Now, both of these things need a little clarification.

The Renaissance Faire.


Matt is a nerd. Always has been. Always will be. I just wasn't entirely aware of how far his nerd-dom went. Throughout this past year where we have transitioned from being engaged to married, he's let a few more skeletons out of his closet:

-He has a pretty healthy obsession with Disney World. i.e. we've gone every year we've been together (that's 5 times...4 times more than I had been in my life up until our relationship).
-He watches two shows with obsessive fervor: Dr. Who and Boy Meets World.
-He loves comic books
-He's obsessed with Harry Potter (I know this is pop culture, not necessarily a nerd alert level, but combine it with everything else, it needs to be noted).
-And recently, I've learned that he has a strange affinity for the Renaissance and Medeival times. Faires and dinner and tournaments to be exact.

I was starting to get a little worried that I had been blind-sighted by all of these things, but Matt has informed me that because he is now in his 30s, he no longer needs to HIDE his nerdy tendencies, but rather, is going to let his freak flag fly. Loud and proud.

Now, the diet.

It's no secret that Matt and I have had quite an eventful summer. And most couples would diet furiously prior to their wedding to look svelte and slim for the big day and also to offset the imbibing that takes place on a honeymoon. Matt and I are not those people.

So, Matt thought that along with quitting smoking for this 30th (PRAISE THE LORD), we should go on a diet.

I immediately panicked. I hate diets. Disagree with them fundamentally. And had no idea what I would do on this blog. So I googled.

And found a diet I could be ok with. At least temporarily.

Enter Engine 2 Diet.

I had read about this book before and heard that the author of the China Study had endorsed this, so I had already wanted to do a little research into what the big deal was, so I looked at this diet as blog research. And the book came with a recipe section. So, with that being said....

WELCOME TO THE ENGINE 2 DIET RECIPE REVIEW...for the next few weeks at least.

Ok, this is getting to be a long entry, but I decided that I needed to start out with something simple to get my feet wet. The Engine 2 Diet does not use oil, so this was quite frightening to me. Hummus seemed like an easy option. And in reality, this hummus turned out pretty great (despite this awful picture).


Here's the recipe for "Rip's Oil-free Low Fat Hummus Recipe" with a few alterations from your's truly:

Ingredients:

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Bragg Liquid Aminos (this is a soy sauce alternative that the author swears by)
6 tablespoons water
2 handfuls of spinach
1 jalapeno, chopped

Put it all in the food processor and blend until it reaches the consistency you like. Add more water to make it creamier if desired.


The moral of this story? I'd say wait until AFTER a mid-life crisis to make any huge life-altering decisions. Otherwise, you find yourself looking at this scene on a Sunday afternoon (that's Matt throwing the axe - while a group of Live Action Role Player "LARPers" watch).


Friday, August 12, 2011

Monday, August 8, 2011

I'm Not a Simple Girl...

I think we may have hit a road block. Things have been going great in the kitchen. No REAL mishaps and those that did occur were never all that detrimental to the flavor of a dish.

But I've lost my zest.

It's not that I don't like summer foods, it's just that I like almost every other season's food that much more!

Salads? Meh
Popsicles? Sometimes...
Chilled soups? Vomit-ville

I like hearty warm meals. Meals that make you feel as if you achieved something after you finish eating them. Maybe you're sweating, maybe you need to lie down, but you definitely should not need to put on another layer because your body temperature has decreased.

Sad face.

I went to Terry Walter's "Clean Food" cookbook again and found the recipe for a White Bean Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula and although the dreaded word "salad" was right in the title, I thought the "roasted" would overcompensate.

I revelled in the fact that I would be using my oven and my new cooking dishes.

Unfortunately, this salad failed to deliver.

Maybe that's because I took some liberties that I shouldn't have:
-First of all, my weird grocery store did not have arugula. I used Romaine.
-Matt hates fennel. Scratch that, Matt "claims" to be allergic to fennel and says that his throat gets itchy when he comes into contact with it. So, even though I LOVE fennel and think it's a great addition to many dishes, I have to suffer through finding a subsitute. I found out that celery is sometimes used as a substitute, so I did that.

The verdict: Not so good.

Maybe it's because I need more flavors in a dish or maybe it's because I hate large slices of onions, but this just really did not appeal to me at all. We ended up serving this on lettuce and dousing it in Italian dressing.

At least it wasn't ketchup.

It was a pretty dish, however.


Here it is with our own adaptions:


For those of you with a more "mature" palate than mine, here's the recipe for the White Bean Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Arugula.


2 sweet onions, cut into wedges (Walla Walla or Vidalia)
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and chopped
5 carrots, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
3 cups cooked great northern or navy beans
6 cups arugula leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In glass baking dish, combine garlic, onions, fennel and carrots. Drizzle with just enough olive oil to coat vegetables evenly. Toss with sea salt and plenty of pepper. Roast uncovered 20 minutes or until just tender. Remove from oven, fold in tomatoes and beans and return to oven to roast an additional 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft.

Remove from oven, cover individual plates or large platter with fresh arugula, top with bean and vegetable mixture and serve.

Serves 4

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Burrito Brings all the Boys to the Yard

I love burritos. Correction: I love CHIPOTLE burritos. It's actually pretty embarassing because when I come back from a work trip and am collecting all my meal receipts to file I have a hugely disproportionate number of Chipotle receipts. I would say I spend more money at Chipotle when I travel than I do on rental cars or hotel rooms.

That's a lie.

But still, I love me some Chipotle. The best/worst part about Chipotle is that moment when you hold the burrito in your hands and it almost feels like you're holding a small child. Then you suddenly realize that this small child will soon be inside of you. Then the guilt sets in...

It's never stopped me before though.

Anyways, I don't have a Chipotle in the near vicinity of my house, which is probably a good thing, because I've had to stress drive to the nearest one get creative.

This past week, a craving hit. Hard. I needed a burrito and STAT. So, I was still on my "Clean Food" kick (thanks again, Maris) and found this recipe for Black Bean Salad. It sounded delicious although a tad healthier than my usual Chipotle fare. But I had to make do.

This was SUPERB! Seriously. Beyond the fact that it was by far one of the more colorful meals I've ever eaten, the flavor was amazing. I have a new love for tomatillos...mostly because they come with coats, but also because the flavor is stronger than regular tomatoes.

*Really unclear as to why I had three utensils in this bowl.

Anyways, once the salad was made, I knew I had to take it one step further: burrito-fy it. I sliced up some avocado and put some pineapple chunks all up in there. Amazing.


Now, the next step was a little stressful since I don't know how to fold tortillas and I was desperate to house this feast, so here's my burrito/pillow.


All in all, I urge every single one of you to make this simple and delicious salad. It is the PERFECT summer dish mostly because it involves no heat and keeps for days in the frigde.

Here's the recipe for the Black Bean Salad from "Clean Food" by Terry Walters (with a few adaptations from your's truly).

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked black beans (I used canned, drained, and rinsed)
4 tomatillos, husked and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 1/2 cups corn, frozen or fresh
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced (I did not seed cuz I like spice)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate to allow flavors to blend, then serve cold or at room temperature. Store refrigerated in airtight container for up to five days.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Beet and Snap Pea Salad

I've never been a HUGE salad person. Even though I generally like to eat colder food (like, chili to me tastes best the morning after, still cold, like pizza), a completely COLD salad does not tempt me. Lately, however, I've been trying to expand my horizons. My work has an awesome salad bar that always stocks some of my favorite salad fixin's: chickpeas, black olives, spinach, and of course, PICKLED BEETS! I love pickled almost anything, but pickled beets might be one of my favorite foods ever. I seriously put almost an entire jar of those bad boys on my salad and savor every last one. So delicious.

Well, I didn't make pickled beets, if you're wondering. Not yet at least.

But I DID make a beet salad with the hopes that continuing my obsession with beets into the roasted area might be a good idea. After my weekly trip to the farmer's market (Saturday mornings=my idea of heaven. Trip to the farmer's market, trip to the bakery...bliss), I had managed to pick up BOTH of the star ingredients to this salad.

I found this recipe for "Golden Beet and Snap Pea Salad" from the "Clean Food" cookbook that Maris gave me for my bridal shower. It looked simple enough, except that I had to ROAST BEETS...which seemed terrifying.

I had a few snafus doing this one, which I'm pretty sure made the final outcome less tasty than what it should have been.
-I used regular beets, not golden ones (you know, the red ones that stain your life for 2 weeks after you work with them)
-I was feeling rushed, so I didn't boil the beets long enough, so they ended up being way hard.
-Matt was supposed to do the blanching of the snap peas...no comment.
-Didn't have fresh dill, so used dried dill. Didn't exactly know how much to use and am pretty sure we didn't put enough in.
-Frisee was called for. No idea what that is. Leafy greens I think? Didn't do that.

*Sorry for the poor quality picture. I'm not a photographer, but I'm still pretty sure that beets are about as unphotogenic as I am.


All in all, we ate this as a main course and it is definitely a side dish. Matt loved it, I felt like I was beet up (get it?) afterwards. I never thought a person could eat too many beets, but you can, and I did.

Here's the recipe from "Clean Food" by Terry Walters

Golden Beet and Snap Pea Salad

Ingredients:

4-5 golden beets
2 cups snap peas
2 cups frisee

DRESSING:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon maple syrup (we substituted brown sugar, for obvious reasons)
Juice of 1 lemon
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Place whole beets in large pot of boiling water and cook until tender throughout when pierced with knife (about 20 minutes). Drain water and set aside until cool enough to handle. Holding beets under cold water, gently push away outer skins. Cut away root ends and any blemishes, slice into wedges and set aside.

To prepare snap peas, pinch stems and pull down to remove ends and strings. Place in mixing bowl and blanch with boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse with cold water. Return to mixing bowl, combine with beets and set aside.

In small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients, pour over beets and peas and toss to combine.

Arrange beets and peas on bed of frisee and serve.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summatime Peanutty Noodles

I have been trying to eat colder meals lately. You know, cuz it's 5,000 degrees outside.

I also have had a real hankering for peanuts. And Thai food. For once in my cravings have aligned in a beautiful way that yields a delicious result.

I knew I wanted a Thai peanut noodle dish, and I knew I wanted to make this recipe from one of my favorite vegan bloggers. Peasandthankyou is a hilarious blog that combines funny real life anecdotes about being a mom and a healthy one at that with delicious recipes that are TOTALLY doable. Mama Pea, if you are reading this, I love you. Your blog makes me smile on a regular basis.

Just putting it out there...

Ok, things just got awkward...

Moving on.

So, I screwed up a few parts of this recipe, as could have been expected, so here's the round-up:
-Couldn't find any fire roasted tomatoes, so I just used stewed. Same thing? Not sure about that...
-My peanut butter was decidedly UN-natural. Jiffy just has to do sometimes.
-If you know me, you know I LOATHE maple syrup. Read this if you need your memory jogged. Against my better judgment, I put maple syrup in this sauce. I only used 1 teaspoon and the second I added it, I regretted it. I tasted the sauce and almost gagged. I'm sure if you are a normal human being, this would not have been an issue, but I just really can't handle even a hint of maple in savory dishes. So then I spent the next 5 minutes trying to throw anything I could into the sauce to hide the maple (mainly, rooster sauce and a whole jalapeno). The result was a VERY spicy sauce with a hint of maple. Thankfully, after it had sat out for a little bit, the maple disappeared. Lesson learned.
-I basically live in China town, so my local grocery store is awesome and has tons of Chinese staples. Unfortunately, much of the grocery store is actually IN chinese. Which has resulted in numerous fatalities, including a purchase of some authentic Chinese instant Ramen noodles that may have included Shrimp seasoning packets. Those packets are now awkwardly sitting in my cabinet...NO idea what on earth I will do with those.

All in all, this was a delicious summer meal once it had been chilled and kept very well. I'd highly recommend it, just sans maple for those maple haters out there like me.




Here's the recipe for Noodle Salad with Peanut Mmmm Sauce from www.peasandthankyou.com

Noodle Salad with Peanut Mmmm Sauce

Serves 4

Peanut Mmmm Sauce:

•1/2 c. light coconut milk
•1/2 c. fire-roasted tomatoes in juice (i.e. Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes)
•1/4 c. natural peanut butter
•3 T. reduced sodium soy sauce
•juice of 1 lime
•2 t.. minced ginger
•1 t. minced garlic
•1 T. agave or maple syrup or 1 packet of stevia
•sriracha to taste (optional)

Noodle Salad:

•8 oz. rice noodles
•1 red bell pepper, chopped
•2 c. bok choy, chopped
•2 c. edamame, frozen or fresh
•1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
•1/4 c. peanuts, chopped

For the sauce, combine coconut milk, tomatoes, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, garlic, sweetener and sriracha, if using, in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.

Meanwhile, prepare rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray or a spritz of oil and place over medium high heat. Add bell pepper, bok choy and edamame and stir fry until crisp tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add drained noodles directly to the pan.

And then add the sauce.

Toss to coat.

Serve hot immediately or refrigerate until serving and enjoy cold.

Garnish with cilantro, if desired, and peanuts

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mojito Popsicles!

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. It's been HOT. I love love LOVE hot weather, but it does discourage me from participating in another activity that I love: baking.

This means I have no desserts.

This means I'm cranky.

So, I had a revelation the other day. And that was that I should make POPSICLES! This was as I was contemplating a way to rob the CVS of all of their flavor-ice because I didn't have cash and think that charging people $7 for a package of flavored water that you then have to FREEZE YOURSELF is LUDICROUS.

I mean, I didn't care all that much...

Anyways, I did some sleuthing online and found this awesome website with recipes for alcoholic popsicles (don't ask me what I was googling), but honestly nothing sounds better than a frozen cocktail in popsicle form.

The only complicated thing about these was finding a store that carried popsicle molds. I seriously could not find them. I did however, find these weird ice cube molds that could double as popsicles, so I used that.

These were a little tricky to photograph, but here is an attempt:


They were most definitely delicious, even with my doubling of the booze involved ;)

The only thing I would warn against is that, unless you love to chew on mint leaves, be prepared for some awkward moments where you have huge mint leaves in your mouth. I would probably omit the mint leaves next time just for convenience sake, but I really do love mint and I know a mojito just isn't a mojito without mint.

Here's the recipe from "Kitchen Geek"

Mojito Pops

It makes 24 two-ounce ice cube-tray pops, six 8-ounce pops, or eight 6-ounce pops.

Ingredients
•1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
•2 1/2 cups Club Soda
•1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
•1 lemon, peeled and cut into wedges
•3 limes, peeled and cut into wedges
•1 1/2 cups sugar
•4 tablespoons light rum
Directions
Pour the lime juice, club soda, and 1 cup water into a pitcher and let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the mint, lemon and lime wedges, sugar, and rum to the pitcher. Mash all of the ingredients together with a muddler or a wooden spoon.

Pour into pop molds, being sure to distribute the fruits and mint evenly among the molds. Insert the sticks. Freeze for at least 12 hours. Remove from the freezer; let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing the pops from the molds.