Photo Credit: Google Image Search

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Secret Ingredient to awesome chili: QUINOA!

It's been about 2 weeks since I've had chili. That's a really really long time. For me at least. And I just got back from Florida, so I'm cold. And I have a sinus infection. And I'm cranky. The only solution? Chili.

I found a recipe online that looked tasty and I bought all the ingredients for it, but then when I went to go cook it, I couldn't find the recipe online. I searched high and low and slowly came to the realization that I was on my own. I found a recipe that had some good guidelines on Oh She Glows, but since I didn't have the same ingredients and in fact had a bunch of other things intended for the chili, I had to improvise.

We all know how well this turns out for me...

I started off with a bit of oil in my Dutch Oven (I always think of the middle school fart prank when I hear those pots called that...har har).

Then I added the following:

-half an onion
-4 garlic cloves
-1 Jalapeno pepper (with seeds)
-2 celery ribs chopped roughly
-4 carrots also chopped roughly (I might make them smaller next time)
-1 red pepper, chopped
-1 green pepper, chopped

At this point I cooked them on medium heat until they shrunk down a bit and most of the vegetables got soft. The carrots never really softened up even after like 10 minutes, so I moved on.

Then I added the following:
-1 can black beans (drained)
-1 can kidney beans (drained)
-1 can vegetarian refried beans
-1 28 ounce can diced tomates with juices

I put the heat down a little bit and started to season. I used most of the recommendations from Oh She Glows.

But I had to add my own flava, because I'm so SPICEY. So here's what I used:

-1 tbsp. cumin
-3 tbsp. chili powder
-pinch sea salt
-a chunky pinch of cayenne
-a couple shakes of Italian seasoning
-1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (this is the key to chili, in my humble opinion)
-a squirt of ketchup

At this point, the chili was starting to taste mighty fine, but it was soupy. So, I had some leftover quinoa in my pantry and I decided, to hell with it, I'll get CRAZY and dump it in there. I probably dumped about 1/2 cup of the dry stuff into the chili. Then, I covered that bad boy and let it cook for about 30 minutes.

The end result: heavenly chili goodness.

This stuff was delish. And so thick that I had to lay down after eating a bowl. Quinoa really thickens things up, and to me, that is the essence of chili.

Here's another picture. I received some sage advice from Kaycee over at Vegan Machine and she told me to try taking pictures in natural light. I tried this, but I think that only works when there is actual natural light to be used. I took this picture at 5:30PM on a snowy day in my laundry room.

So, my dear friends. I think I have found two ingredients that make chili amazing: quinoa and cocoa powder. Any other magic tricks that make it SPECTACULAR???

My quest continues...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


There's this place in my old neighborhood on the South side of Chicago that makes the best calzones in the world. They hand make their dough and they fill these suckers to max capacity with anything you can imagine. In my younger days, I would order one with spinach and olives and cheese and mushrooms, etc.etc. and polish off one of those bad boys while dunking it in Ranch dressing...droooool.

Now, those days are a mere memory. Even though I'm pretty sure I am still within delivery territory, it seems that I should maybe cut down on my Calzone love...or at least learn to make my own.

I had leftover pizza dough from when I made this pizza and since I was heading out of town (can you see a theme in my recent posts about how travelling just SCREWS ME UP!), I needed to cook up the leftover things in my frigde.

Here's what I found:
-a half used jar of pizza sauce
-a tomato
-a crapload of basil

So, I started heating up the pizza sauce. I added the garlic and seasoned modestly. A dash of pepper, a dash of cayenne, some seasoning salt, oregano, and then, as I was looking for something to sweeten up the sauce, I turned my head for ONE SECOND and Matt poured MAPLE SYRUP IN THE SAUCE! It was like a movie scene in slow motion. I see him start to pour, I screamed NOOOOO while dropping a bunch of jars of spices, reaching my arms out to stop him, but it was too late. The damage was done. And boy, was it done. The next 45 minutes were spent trying to combat that flavor while also arguing. The argument went something like this:

Me: I can't handle how syrupy this is.
Matt: I never say your food tastes bad.
Me: Maybe you should.
Matt: I'm not mean like that.

All in all, it was a hot mess. But we pushed on. We divided the dough in two and put some of the maple sauce on one side. Then we loaded up the sauce side with tomatoes, broccoli, and basil (a little too much basil). After that, we folded the other side over and put 3 slices on the little burritos to make sure they could breathe. We baked them at around 350 I believe for around 30 minutes. Basically, we were waiting for the edges to brown.

The final result was actually pretty good. You could still taste the maple, but it wasn't overwhelming. There's something about eating a pocket of stuff wrapped in dough. I tell ya...

Here's the final product:

The moral of this calzone story is: maple syrup is a catalyst for an argument. So proceed with caution.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The BEST vegan ice cream out there!

My schedule got screwed up with all this travel nonsense.

So, at 8:00 last night, I found myself at the grocery store, starving because I had yet to eat dinner (I can hardly make it to 5 before getting hangry), sweaty (had come straight from hot yoga and after a week's hiatus, I was STRUGGLING), and annoyed (I was grocery shopping in yuppy-ville).

I had not done my normal weekend grocery shopping that commences after a leisurely morning of perusing my cookbooks over a cup of coffee and then meandering to the store. Oh no, I tried to make my grocery list while at work, in the middle of the dayfromhell, and had to rely solely on my urges and online recipes.

So, fast forward a few minutes in the fresh food section of the grocery store and you'll find me standing in front of the frozen dessert section. Almost in tears. I haven't had ice cream in a long time. And, I really wanted some. And it was staring me in the face.

But then, glory be, I saw out of the corner of my eye (past the nasty sorbet section), DAIRY FREE ICE CREAM! Could it be? Well, yes it could, but COULD IT TASTE GOOD? That was still yet to be determined. Although the selection of flavors was DRAMATICALLY less than dairy ice cream (why can't Ben and Jerry make a vegan phish food, wouldn't that be ironic???), I settled on a Neapolitan Organic SO Delicious made with Soy milk. No, I don't generally like Neapolitan. Yes, I bought it because it was the only one that came in a quart size. Judge me.

I got home and ate some rather unremarkable food that I did not prepare that will remain nameless, and as I made my way to the freezer, I found myself holding my breath. So many hopes and dreams were frozen inside that quart of ice cream. All could be dashed in one spoonful.


This stuff is GOOD. Maybe even, dare I say, GREAT! It had the same consistency as dairy ice cream and even the milkiness that I know and love.

-Photo Credit: Google Image Search

Go out and BUY this stuff. Yes it's a little more expensive than baking your own cookies, but sometimes, you have to live.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Strawberry Cupcakes...a belated Valentine.

I've been a little absent from the blog-o-sphere this last week, and I apologize for that. I blame it on the fact that I was in Florida and the weather was sunny and 75 for the ENTIRETY of my trip, and that sort of does something to a girl...makes her not want to go on her computer. Makes her not want to ever go back to the cold and dreary and wet and nasty midwest. I love Chicago. So much. But the flight back was so depressing (we left and it was sunny, we arrived and it was a "wintry mix" which is code for UGLIEST WEATHER OF ALL TIME) and I'm not sure when I will be able to recover. Yuck.

I won't torture you all (or me) with the photos from Florida...oh wait, I didn't take any. Like I said...I blame the weather.

Anyways, before I left I was invited to a ladies' night Valentine's Day Eve dessert party. I love desserts, but since there is very little likelihood that a dessert party will have much that is vegan friendly, I decided I better bring my own. The hostess DID in fact make some AWESOME vegan chocolate fondue, so that was great, but I was so full off of "testing" the cupcakes as they were being prepared (you must make sure it all tastes right...seriously...), that I could hardly put any more food in my mouth. I had room for wine though...

So, as I was planning the dessert, I had originally wanted to try a red velvet cupcake recipe that I had found online, but at the last minute, decided to go back to the "Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook".

These cupcakes looked simple enough and pretty, so I thought I'd give them a go. I topped them off with the recipe for Buttercream frosting that is also found in the book.

Here's what I did wrong with the actual cupcakes:
-I used bleached flour, not unbleached. I know unbleached is better, but honestly, it was all I had in the kitchen.
-I used regular sugar rather than evaporated cane sugar. What does evaporated cane sugar look like? And what does it DO?

These puppies turned out pretty delicious-like.

The real chaos came about when I tried to make the Buttercream Frosting. I don't have a hand mixer which is what the recipe called for, so I used my food processor. No matter how long I processed the Earth Balance and the confectioner's sugar, it would not turn into a liquid...or even a paste. So then I added all the wet ingredients (almond milk, vanilla and almond extract) and it turned into a soup. I was in full panic mode at this point and just started dumping flour into the processor which didn't seem to help. I finally just called it and decided I would put it on the cupcakes and hope for the best. And at first, it looked like they could survive, but then, after about 10 minutes, I checked on the cupcakes, and the frosting was literally DRIPPING off of the cupcakes.

So here's what they looked like...ten minutes before the catastrophic shift occured.

I was so proud for those 10 minutes.

Now I am never going to make another cupcake AGAIN.

Or at least for awhile.

Here's the recipe for the cake part. I am not going to even include the frosting recipe because I assume I did something wrong and don't want to slander the Skinny Bitch brand with the horror of my experience. But, I wouldn't be surprised if they had never tested the frosting...they are WAY too skinny for that.

Strawberry Cupcakes

2 cups (255g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120ml) canola oil
1/2 cup (120ml) almond milk
1 cup (200g) evaporated cane sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 (75g) silken tofu
1 1/4 cups (200g) chopped fresh or frozen strawberries

Preheat the oven to 325 F (165 C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with crimped paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift in the flour. Add in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir until combined. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, sugar, and extracts until well combined. In a food processor or blender, puree the tofu and strawberries until creamy. Add the strawberry mixture to the milk mixture and whisk until combined. Create a small well in the dry mixture and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir to combine but do not overmix. Pour the batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each liner about half to two-thirds full. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Top with Buttercream Frosting.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Opa! Vegan Moussaka!

I went to Greece last summer for two weeks. Those two weeks were arguably the best two weeks of my life. Matt and I traveled to Athens, then to some of the Greek islands (Naxos and Santorini), and then we went to Delphi. It was so beautiful, but honestly, beyond falling in love with the country for its beauty, I fell in love with the food. Well, not all the food. Just one dish: moussaka. I seriously ate it at EVERY MEAL. I'm pretty sure moussaka is the Greek equivalent to like tuna casserole, but seriously, I could not get enough of this stuff. No it wasn't vegan, it wasn't even vegetarian, but it was so.good.

Here's a picture of a smattering of Greek cuisine (including moussaka on the left):

Upon deciding to give this whole vegan thing a go, I realized that I would need to bid my dear sweet moussaka adieu. It was heart-wrenching to say goodbye to something that brought me so much joy, but alas, I did.

But then, that Veganomicon book came into my life. As I perused the pages, I saw, to my incredible disbelief and surprise a recipe for EGGPLANT-POTATO MOUSSAKA WITH PINE NUT CREAM SAUCE. As tears of joy streamed down my face, I tried to tell myself it wouldn't be the same, couldn't be the same, but hope springs eternal in my kitchen. That's why I keep coming back...

So I gave it a go. And...


Matt said he even liked it more than "real" moussaka.

This was a little more time-consuming than I would like for a normal Tuesday night, but it was so worth it. And I realized that the key to moussaka is all in the tomato sauce and the cinnamon. As the sauce heated, I seriously was taken back to Greece...

Did I mention there was a windchill of -15 in Chicago this morning. Sigh...

So, here's what I did wrong:
-Once again I did not really weigh the vegetables (ok, the weigher thing in the grocery store intimidates me, sue me). I'm pretty sure I did not have enough zucchini.
-I may have used more olive oil than was necessary to coat the vegetables for roasting...which was probably good because I didn't spray the baking sheets prior to roasting.
-I only used 3 shallots...mostly because I thought my eyes were going to start shooting flames. Why are shallots SO much more potent than normal onions?
-I only used a 28 ounce can of tomatoes.
-Matt put in 2 bay leaves...and then didn't take them out. Looking forward to chomping down on that later...
-Didn't have any lemons, so I used some old lemon juice in the fridge and only had enough for 2 tablespoons. Added a little water to make the paste thicken up.
-DEFINITELY do not have white pepper...nor do I know where on earth I would find that.
-Slicing vegetables length-wise is not my forte. The slices were either too thin or way too fat. And I almost lost a finger. Proceed with caution.

Here's the recipe from Veganomicon:


Vegetable Layer:
1 pound eggplant
1 pound zucchini
1 1/2 lbs. Russet or baking potatoes
1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. vegetable broth or red wine
2 (15-oz) cans crushed tomatoes, with juice
2 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf

Pine Nut Cream
1 lb. soft silken tofu
1/2 c. pine nuts, plus additional for garnish
3 T. lemon juice
1 t. arrowroot powder
1 clove garlc
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/4 t. salt, or to taste
white pepper
1/2 c. dry, fine white bread crumbs


PREHEAT THE oven to 400. Lightly oil three baking sheets or shallow pans.

Prepare the vegetables:
Wash the eggplant and zucchini, and trim the stems. Scrub and peel the potatoes. Slice the eggplant, zuchini, and potatoes lengthwise into approximately 1/4-inch-thick slices. Rub the eggpland slices with a little salt and set aside in a colander in the sink for about 15 minutes to drain. Briefly rinse with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet. Distribute the 1/4 c. oil among the three sheets and sprinkle the vegetables with salt (except the eggplant, if salted already). Toss to coat the vegetables on each sheet, making sure each piece is completely coated with oil. Drizzle a little extra oil on the eggplant, as it has a slight tendency to stick. Spread out the vegetables on each sheet; some overlapping is okay. Roast the pans of zucchini and eggplant for 15 minutes, or until tender. Roast the potatoes for about 20 to 22 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Allow the vegetables to cool.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the tomato sauce:
Combine the remaining 1/4 c. olive oil and minced garlic in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat over medium heat and let the garlic sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until slightly reduced, another 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, ground cinnamon, and bay leaf. Partially cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should reduce slightly. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and adjust the salt (if necessary.)

Make the pine nut cream:
In a food processor, blend the pine nuts and lemon juice, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until a creamy paste forms. Add the tofu, garlic, arrowroot, nutmeg, salt, and white pepper. Blend until creamy and smooth.

Lightly oil a 9x13-inch pan and preheat the oven again to 400, if necessary. Spread 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on the pan, then add successive layers in order of eggplant, potato, sauce, and half the breadcrumbs. Spread all the zucchini on top of this. Top with a final layer each of eggplant, potatoes, sauce, and bread crumbs. Use a rubber spatula to evenly spread the pine nut cream over the entire top layer. Scatter a few pine nuts on top, if desired.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and a few cracks have formed in the topping. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving

Give this a go and TELL me it doesn't taste like your Greek grandmother made it for you and forced you to eat the whole pan...

I should have taken a picture that showed all the layers, but I seriously don't know how you people have the patience to do a photo shoot with your food. After all that work, all I can think about is eating it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pizza? Oh pizza, where fore art thou?

I'm having a hard time in the pizza area. A really hard time. I love pizza. So so much. And even though I think this recipe is delicious. It still does not satiate my unquenchable desire for ooey gooey tomatoey goodness.

So I went a searching on the interwebs.

And I couldn't find anything that looked good.

Everything was using substitute cheese product which although I get it, but unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), my taste buds have been exposed to the most immaculate cheeses in my life, so substitution just won't do it for me.

And then there is the absence of pizza sauce. I know it isn't trendy or all that healthy, but if you have to remove the cheese factor, at least keep the sauce factor...wimper...

So I went to a few of my favorite non-vegan blogs and decided to follow Pioneer Woman's guidance as this pizza is her favorite. I love eggplant, I love garlic, I love tomato. A winning combo!

I went to Whole Foods and spent FAR too much money, but I decided to give some vegan cheese a go. I bought some Teese Mozzarella and prayed that this wouldn't taste like, well, a tease.

As I prepared the pizza with vegan touches here and there, I tried a little bite of the Teese...and it had the texture of mozzarella, but unfortunately, not the flavor. I went with it though.

I still have yet to find any vegan parmesan (this is one kind of cheese I don't care if it tastes all that much like the original since parmesan isn't that great in my mind), so the Teese Mozzarella was the only cheese factor.

Please excuse this horrendous picture. I had a guest over and we didn't have time to do a photo shoot, we needed to eat and watch "How to train your dragon." Such a sweet movie...I digress.

In the end the pizza was...ok. It needed another flavor. The Teese Cheese did melt, but it had a little bit of a rubbery texture. Maybe next time I'll put pineapple and jalapenos on the pizza (my favorite combination of flavors on pizza).

Here's the recipe from Pioneer Woman with my vegan substitutions:


1 teaspoon Active Dry Or Instant Yeast
4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
⅓ cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 whole Large Eggplant (or Two Medium Eggplants)
Kosher Salt, For Sprinkling
1 pint Grape Tomatoes
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
8 ounces, vegan Mozzarella (I used Teese), Sliced Very Thin
Extra Virgin Olive Oil For Drizzling
Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water.
In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with paddle attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined.

Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you need it. ***It’s best to make the dough at least 24 hours in advance, and 3 or 4 days is even better.


Preheat oven broiler.

Slice the eggplant thinly. Sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and place into a strainer in the sink. Allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse eggplant lightly in cold water, then pat the slices dry between layers of paper towels.

Slice grape tomatoes in half lengthwise and toss into a bowl with minced garlic.

Slice mozzarella very thinly.

Cut eggplant slices into fourths, and toss with olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and place 8 inches under the broiler.
Broil for 3 minutes, then toss around and broil another 3 minutes. Remove pan from oven and add tomato/garlic mixture. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove and set aside. (May do this 1 hour in advance.)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Drizzle olive oil on a large baking sheet and use fingers to coat thoroughly. Remove HALF the pizza dough from the bowl. Stretch pizza dough into a large rectangle, pressing with fingers to finish forming. Dough will be very thin.

Lightly drizzle a little olive oil on the dough and use fingers to spread. Lay mozzarella slices over the surface of the dough. Spread vegetables all over the surface of the cheese. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Remove from pan and slice with a pizza cutter. Serve immediately!

Does anyone out there have a GREAT pizza recipe that does not use imitation cheese??

Monday, February 7, 2011

Haunted Vegan Wheat-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been jonesing. Jonesing for some chocolate. Hard. What form this chocolate came in was not the biggest concern for me, but I did know that I was terrified of the idea of buying "vegan" chocolate.

But that's what the recipe called for.

I received a gift card to Barnes and Noble for Christmas and decided to put it towards the purchase of a new vegan cookbook. Everyone I've spoken with says that Veganomicon is the Bible of vegan cooking, so I went ahead and bought it. It arrived to my office at work last week which was probably the worst thing to happen to my productivity level since the internet was invented (don't worry coworkers/bosses, if you're reading this, the book is now confined to my house). As I perused this book, I came upon a recipe for Wheat-free chocolate chip cookies and decided to go for it. Even though it included things that made me nervous...nervous in terms of taste, but more nervous in terms of costs.

I went to the local Whole Foods and spent probably around 45 minutes in the "bulk" section, trying to find vegan chocolate chips (found them), trying to find flaxseeds (found them), trying to find oat flour (did not find, but didn't look because I ground up some good ol' fashion oats meself), and lastly, trying to find arrowroot. I had no idea what arrowroot was nor why it is important (if you're interested, here' the link to it's wikipedia page).

Now, here's the spooky part. I made these cookies and they were DELICIOUS! Like, better than non-vegan chocolate chip cookies, but when I tried to find the recipe online to pass on to all of you, none of these recipes included arrowroot. Which leads me to a few different conclusions:
1) I dreamt the whole thing about arrowroot, which just goes to show how BORING my dream-life is.
2) I have a different edition of the Veganomicon book that includes arrowroot in this recipe (doubtful).
3) I was possessed by some ghost-like being who felt the need to make me and the ones I love eat arrowroot. Not sure what happens next. You probably don't want to let me around small children for awhile...

It's not like I LIKE arrowroot...heck, I wouldn't even know how to begin to tell you how to cook with it. So, I'm thoroughly confused as to what happened. But these cookies were seriously

Here's the recipe:

1 3/4 cups oat flour (or make your own, like I did - ground up around 2 cups oats, yielded about 1 3/4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tablespoon flax meal
1/4 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flax meal and soymilk. Add sugar and stir, add oil and vanilla and whisk vigorously until all ingredients are emulsified (about a minute). (FYI, emulsified means mixing up liquids that are difficult to combine until they combine...had to google that one)

Mix wet ingredients into dry, fold in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by the tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheet, leaving and 1 1/2 inches of space inbetween cookies.

Bake for 10 -12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a bit (5 minutes). Using a spatula, put them on a cooling rack or plate to cool the rest of the way.

I couldn't tell you how much arrowroot I used...

Next time I'm going to try this recipe sans arrowroot. Can only imagine the cookies are like walking on a cloud with puppies jumping all around, because that's about how good they were with my own addition.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

"It's pronounced KEY-NWA..."

So a few weeks ago I went to a reunion of sorts with a bunch of my college girlfriends. As was to be expected, we were catching up with what was happening in each other's lives and since this was so close to the maiden voyage of my vegan ventures, I brought up the fact that I was giving this whole vegan thing a try.

A few of my friends had some questions and all weighed in regardless of whether the input was solicited or not (we are an opinionated bunch), but at one point, a couple of my friends were talking about something I had never heard of. They kept talking about something that sounded like a mixture of a Spanish and Chinese word.

Me: What the heck is Key-nwa?
Friend 1: Are you serious?
Me: Umm...spell it?
Friend 1: Quinoa
Me: Ohhhhh, KWIH NOH AH!! I know what that is...

The conversation went on for awhile longer to where I was shamed for my lack of knowledge and mispronunciation. How dare I?

Well, here's the thing. First of all, I've never really cooked with this stuff, second of all, as was mentioned before, this whole vegan thing is NEW. I guess maybe I shouldn't call myself a vegan...

So I decided to try cooking some Keynwa.

I decided to cook this Keynwa on my snow day marathon cooking session. I felt the need to have some sort of stew cooking in the crock pot for a large portion of the day. I don't know what it is, but my Betty Crocker/June Cleaver tendencies were in FULL FORCE during the SNOMG and I'm a little concerned with that, but my innate self was telling me to nest and make nice. So I did.

I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Lentil and Quinoa Stew from the Healthy Eating Site.

Here's what I did wrong:
-Instead of using strictly 7 cups of water, I used 3 cups of vegetable stock and 4 1/2 cups of water...I wanted to make sure there would be flavor.
-I had lentils...they looked green...they were the only ones in the grocery store.
-No miso, once again, so I used 2 tablespoons of terriyaki.
-For some reason I thought Rosemary would be a nice herb to add to this stew...bad idea.

The flavor was bland in the end, and for some reason I felt that ketchup would jazz it up. So I added probably about 3-4 tablespoons. Now, I love really love it. As a child I used to put ketchup on everything. Now, although I've cut back, I have been known to suck down ketchup packets on long car rides to keep me awake. Try it. It works. But, all this is to say that I love ketchup, but I RARELY think it adds to a recipe before the dish is completed. So, this was a weird thing for me to do. But, I think it drastically improved the flavor of this stew.

It was a nice hearty stew and it has given me some great ideas for thickening up my next bowl of chili!

Here's the recipe from the Healthy Eating Site.


2 cups brown lentils
1/2 cup quinoa
7-1/2 cups water
1-2 medium potatoes, diced
1/2 small sweet potato, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teas wheat-free tamari (or soy sauce if you aren’t on a wheat-free diet)
2 tablespoons miso
2 tablespoons tomato paste
mixed herbs (any of: oregano, thyme, tarragon, marjoram, sage, cumin)


Rinse and drain lentils, being sure to pick through them to make sure there are no stones. Rinse and drain quinoa. Add to slow cooker.

Dice potatoes and sweet potato, and chop garlic. Add to slow cooker along with herbs (dried or fresh and finely chopped), tomato paste and 6 cups of the water.

Cook on high for 3-1/2 to 4 hours. When the stew thickens and cooks down after about 2.5 hours add 1 additional cup water. Usually the lentils and quinoa will cook before the potatoes do, and potato cooking time will vary depending on how big the pieces are. Once everything is cooked, turn off the heat, add tamari and let set a further half hour.

Mix the miso and remaining 1/2 cup of water, then add to the stew and mix well.

***By the way, when I bought this Quinoa at the grocery store, I pronounced it my way first and then corrected myself, and the grocery store guy told me he pronounced it Kwih-noh-ah too. So there.

Vegan Carbo Loading for Warmth

So, it's now officially the second day of my snowcation and I'm already stir crazy. Not stir crazy enough to want to leave my house and shovel, but I exhausted my kitchen yesterday and basically have half a bottle of Gin and half of a sweet potato leftover (I'm pretty sure they will both be consumed by the end of the day).

But this is why:

So, I made a few things to keep warm.

I really really wanted to make some sort of bread but did not have any yeast, which complicated things a bit. But I found this recipe and tried out a yeast-less focaccia bread and left out the cheese.

It was pretty good, a little chewier than I would have liked, but I think that may have been due to the fact that I cooked it the additional 5 minutes that was called for even though I was not melting cheese.

I couldn't stop there...I needed to make something that smelled sweet. I needed to make some COOKIES! Once again, the limitations of my pantry necessitated a pretty intensely specific google search that came up with this recipe for Brown Sugar Cookies. These were UBER simple (so simple in fact, that I felt the need to use a German word to describe their simplicity), fast, and nice and sweet. I don't know why, but they have hardened up a little more than I would like, but that might be because I put them in a tin rather than air tight container.

These cookies were a great "make something out of nothing" treat. And they smelled great upon returning from the artic tundra.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


So, as many of you may know, there's quite the winter storm blanketing the midwest as we speak. This storm has turned me into a 10 year old schoolgirl as I watch weather reports and check my email to see if work gets cancelled. And, to my great surprise and joy, work closed early on Tuesday and is closed all day Wednesday!! On top of THAT, a conference I was supposed to attend on Thursday and Friday has been, I have some unexpected time on my hands!

As I was driving home from work realizing I would have loads of free time, I thought I might stop by the grocery store and pick up some things to cook with, but as I neared the grocery store parking lot, I realized that if I ever emerged from that pit from hell, it may be sans an eye, or ear, or arm. That place was a MAD house. Now, I've lived out on the East Coast in the mid-atlantic region, so I know what snow-storm shoppers do and look like (I worked at a bagel store in high school and when there was a threat of 2 inches, we were CLEANED OUT...because, you know, bagels are a necessity and all...), but I never expected this from the Windy City. I'm rather disappointed...but, to be fair, this storm is pretty wild.

So, I went home without any new groceries and decided I needed to get creative with the items I already had in the kitchen. I took a gander and I came up with this list: onion, garlic, peanut butter, alphabet soup letters,a few cherry tomatoes, leftover collard greens, and a few other things here and there.

Not a list very conducive to I thought. But then, I had a strange craving for THAI PEANUT SOUP! And you know what, I had most of the stuff for a recipe I found on Sketch-Free Vegan Eating's blog

I have never cooked Pad Thai or anything peanut butter based, but this was amazing.

I tweaked a good deal of this recipe, but it is adapted from Sketch-Free Vegan Eating's recipe for Thai Peanut Soup.


1/2 onion
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (with or without seeds, depending on your spice level)
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup rice milk
1 cup peanut butter (I didn't have natural, I had Jiffy...)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp. soy sauce
juice from 1 lime
salt to taste
dry roasted peanuts
1 cup prepared alphabet soup noodles (or rice, or anything, this is optional)


In a large pot, cook the onions, garlic and jalapeno in the oil until softened (about 5 minutes). In a small saucepan, prepare the alphabet noodles or rice as directed on the box. Drain the water out of the noodles and then add everything into the big pot (except dry peanuts) and simmer until the vegetables are soft (around 20 minutes).

This was great. So stick to your ribs thick that I needed a nap after eating it.

But that's not all! No, my friends, I decided that I needed to do something with those leftover collard greens! I de-ribbed them, chopped them up into chip form, washed and dried them, tossed them with olive oil and sea salt and baked them in the oven at 300 degrees for around 25 minutes and had me some collard chips.

Oh what a feast. If only everyday were a snow day...

The Spinach is WILTY!

As I was planning my grocery list last week, I realized that I was cooking a lot of dishes that had the main event be a starch - like a pasta or rice dish. I've never really been a big fan of salads and I don't generally tend to like to have the GREEN part of the meal be the focus, but due to budget issues and a little nostalgia for the South, I decided to try this recipe from Donna Klein's "Supermarket Vegan" cookbook.

The recipe was titled "Southern-Style Wilted Spinach with Peanuts over Brown Rice."


I don't think I've ever cooked anything so delicious before. Everyone must go home and try this.

Here's what I did wrong:
-I put the rice in water and started to heat it up, but then realized I needed to head out to yoga, so I then turned the stove off and left the rice in the water for oh...about 2 hours. When I got back from yoga, I started cooking the rice and probably didn't let it cook long enough because I was starving.
-The jalapeno was seriously hot this time, but that may be because the seeds were not ommitted. Still good. But if you DON'T like things makeyousweatspicy, maybe take out the seeds or only use half.

Verdict: I may start making this every week. I could not get enough. MAKE IT NOW!

Southern-Style Wilted Spinach with Peanuts over Brown Rice
-Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (10-ounce) bag fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
3 cups hot cooked brown rice


Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the peanuts and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately remove peanuts from the skillet and transfer to a small holding plate; set aside.

Add the oil, onion, and chili to the skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add the broth, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and half the spinach; cook, tossing often with a wide spatula, 1 minute. Add the remaining spinach and cook, tossing often, until spinach is just wilted, 1 to 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and add the cherry tomatoes (if using) and half the reserved peanuts, tossing well to combine. Serve at once, over the rice, sprinkled evenly with the remaining peanuts.

Make this. now.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is my grocery store the ONLY one that doesn't carry Kale in the Winter?

So after the incredibly delicious success of the Risotto from that Skinny Bitch cookbook, I decided to go back and try another one of her recipes. This time, I tried a soup called "Kale and White Bean Soup." Seemed simple enough, delicious sounding ingredients, and I love tomato based soups. So, on Sunday last weekend, I set out to make this soup.

Unfortunately, after a few successes in the kitchen, it was bound to happen: this was NOT a winner. Maybe a situation like this is just what I needed. I was starting to feel a little cocky, starting to think "hey, this vegan cooking thing is a piece of cake (bundt to be more specific)." It was time I was brought to my knees with a failure. And once I'm finally able to pick myself up from the kitchen floor, wipe off my tears, and put down that bottle of wine, I'll be ready to try again.

Here's what I did wrong:
-Didn't use grapeseed oil again, what is SO great about it? Please tell me!!!
-I could not for the life of me find ANY miso paste, let alone white miso paste. I was actually quite surprised by this fact because I live almost IN China town, so I would think that the grocery stores in the area would carry this product, but no luck. I had no idea what to substitute this with, so I put in some vegetable stock, a little soy sauce, and some sesame oil. Not a great combo. I think I hate sesame oil.
-The Skinny Bitch says this is a great winter soup, but I could not find ANY Kale in the grocery store. Is Kale a winter vegetable? I substituted collard greens for kale, but when I came home and referred to my trusty Subsitution book that was given to me by fellow food blogger Maris, it told me that Kale is a medium flavored leafy green, while collard greens are more mild in flavor. Oh well. This didn't seem to be TOO much of a problem.
-Once again I had to cook this about 4-5 hours before I intended on eating it, so I cooked it and then let it sit out until I came home. Not sure if that was sanitary or not.

Here's the finished product:

In the end, this was so bland that I added hot sauce, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and seasoning salt and STILL was unimpressed. Thankfully, once it sat out for awhile, the flavors of the vegetables began to get stronger, so that was good. I think next time I'll either make SURE I have miso paste, or I'll use stock instead of water to make up the broth. But to be honest, I doubt I will ever try this recipe again...mostly because in my rage I ripped the recipe out of the book and watched it burn on the open flames of my stove.

Oh well, at least it was PRETTY and HEALTHY! And I was able to follow it up with the bundt cake.

Here's the recipe from Skinny Bitch's Ultimate Everyday Cookbook.

Kale and White Bean Soup


2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 cup (130g) peeled and chopped carrots
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/2 cup (75g) peeled and cubed potatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups (1.4 l) water
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (135g) chopped kale with the hard spine removed
1 (14 ounce/400g) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Pinch of Pepper


Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until golden brown, about four minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, celery, potatoes, and tomato paste until the ingredients are well combined. Add the water, white miso, cumin, coriander, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 30 minutes. Add the kale, white beans and thyme and simmer another half hour. Garnish with basil and pepper before serving.