Friday, October 29, 2010

Tofu and Broccoli with Peanut Sauce

I love a good peanut sauce, and this one doubles as a marinade for baked tofu. It's also delicious with rice noodles or spring rolls.

1 14-oz. pkg. firm tofu, cut into 10 slices and pressed
4 cups broccoli florets
1 cup rice (1 cup uncooked)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp. sriracha chile sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced

While your tofu slices are being pressed, combine the water, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, chile sauce and garlic in a microwave-safe cup or bowl. Microwave the sauce for about a minute and a half, until the peanut butter is melted. Whisk the sauce until thoroughly combined.

Place the tofu slices in a large ziploc bag and pour the peanut sauce over them. Marinate in the fridge for at least one hour, or longer.

Move the tofu slices to a parchment-lined baking sheet, reserving the marinade. Bake the tofu slices for 45 minutes at 425 degrees F, flipping halfway through.

Steam the broccoli until tender (about 5 minutes) and boil the rice according to package directions.

To serve, microwave the peanut sauce for 30 seconds to reheat. Mound some rice on your plate, scoop some broccoli over it, and lay two or three tofu slices on top. Drizzle with reserved peanut sauce.

Olivia wishes she could eat that instead of mushy peas.  Grow some teeth, baby girl, then we'll talk!

Happy Halloween, have a spooooky weekend, and I'll see y'all on Monday for Vegan MoFo!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Montreal, Part 2

So, after our first couple days in Montreal, we still had much more of this beautiful city to check out. On Saturday morning, the wind was strong and bitter, so we decided to do another driving tour. We learned that Montreal has its own little mountain -- Mont Royal. The leaves were changing colors and it looked really pretty off in the distance!

For lunch, we stopped into La Banquise, a diner serving many varieties of poutine. Poutine is a local specialty consisting of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. Tony really wanted to try it. I ordered the vegetarian poutine. Since it was not vegan, it had cheese curds on top, which I scooped onto Tony's plate. OK...I tried a couple. They're squeaky in your teeth. Kinda weird!  The diner was totally packed, and everyone was digging into their poutine with enthusiasm. I'm sure it makes excellent hangover food...all those carbs! We really felt like we needed a nap afterwards!

Sorry I don't have a pic from camera ran out of batteries and we had to stop by the room and get some replacements. Don't don't eat poutine for its attractiveness. 

I did bring my camera with me for dinner, but the restaurant was dimly lit and my pics didn't turn out. The destination was Le Nil Bleu, a very fancy Ethiopian restaurant. I thought it might be a little too swanky for the babies, especially when we were seated on a white leather banquette with throw pillows. But the staff didn't give us any attitude, the food was tasty, and we ate quickly and got out before Jackson or Olivia managed to smear anything on the white couch!

We started with something called bouticha, a super-garlicky hummus-like dip made from chickpea flour. It was awesome, I must find a recipe.  Jackson the hummus fiend couldn't get enough of it. He was a fan of the whole Ethiopian food experience, actually. What kid wouldn't be -- you get to eat with your hands! For the main course, Tony and I had the veggie platter for two.  If you haven't eaten Ethiopian food, it comes served on a big round piece of light, crepelike bread called injera. More injera is served on the side, and you tear off pieces and use it to scoop up the food. Our platter came with miser wat (spicy red lentils),  alicha wat (mild yellow lentils), abesha gomen (collard greens), and atakilt wat (cabbage and carrot stew), with a little bit of azifa (very spicy lentil salad) that we used as more of a condiment with the other dishes because it's so hot. Each dish was perfectly seasoned and the servings were generous -- even with Jackson's help, Tony and I couldn't finish everything.

After dinner, we strolled up and down Rue St. Denis, the street where Le Nil Blue is located.

Like the nearby Blvd. St. Laurent, Rue St. Denis is block after block of interesting architecture, adorable little shops, and a mouth-watering variety of restaurants. I read somewhere that Montreal has more restaurants than any other North American city besides New York City. I definitely could have stayed another week and eaten amazing meals every day without putting much effort into it.

Sunday was the last day of our vacation and I wanted a fantastic lunch, to end on a good note before heading home. Aux Vivres, a cute vegan cafe in the Plateau neighborhood, did not let me down. For an appetizer we ordered the Cold Plate, a selection of spreads served with bread. There was a carrot spread, a creamy tofu dip, hummus, a nut pate that tasted a lot like Thanksgiving stuffing, and olive tapenade. I was in dip heaven here.

Tony ordered the Dragon Bowl -- a huge bowl of shredded raw veggies, sprouts, and grilled tofu over brown rice, served with "dragon sauce." It was really good -- a perfect light and healthy lunch.

I decided on the Smoked Montreal sandwich. Smoked meat is a popular thing in Montreal, apparently. We saw long lines outside the smoked meat delis every day. It's smoked beef brisket that is then steamed, similar to pastrami, I think.  This vegan version was made with seitan, served simply with mustard, mayo and a pickle on rye bread, and it was unbelievably good. The thin strips of intensely seasoned seitan (lots of black pepper) was piled impossibly high on the bread. This was such a giant sandwich, I could only eat about a third of it. I took the rest home with me and ate it for two more meals, and I was sad when it was gone!

So, that's our vacation. Who knows, maybe we'll go back some day. For now, I'm going to work on my vegan poutine recipe. How can I make tofu squeak?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Montreal, Part 1

I've been back from vacation for a few days now -- back to my usual routine and an excess of laundry and errands. But I think the sign of a good vacation is that you come back feeling relaxed and refreshed, so doing those mundane tasks doesn't seem so tedious. And that's how I feel after my trip to lovely Montreal.

Montreal is in the Canadian province of Quebec, where French is the predominant language. I wondered if my grad school French studies would be enough to get by. It turned out I had nothing to worry about, since everyone spoke English to us. In fact, with most of our encounters, as soon as they even sensed that French wasn't our native language, they switched into English right away. The street signs are all in French, but most restaurant menus have English translations printed on the reverse side.

When we arrived Thursday evening after a five-hour drive, we were starving, so we checked into our hotel in the Latin Quarter and immediately went to a nearby vegetarian restaurant called Le Commensal . The food was on a buffet -- you pay by weight.  I filled up my plate with leek pie, ginger tofu, parsnip fries, tabouli, lentil salad, a Greek vegetable medley with tofu, and Thai seitan strips.

The ginger tofu was amazing; I wish I knew how they got it so chewy. The restaurant had a cozy atmosphere -- we ate in a downstairs area that was almost cavelike, but warmly lit.

The next day we were ready for some sightseeing. It was a cold, windy day, so we did a lot of our sightseeing from the car, which is unusual for us. We've always enjoyed walking around a new city, stopping in a coffee shop or bar to people-watch, and walking around some more. But, the babies are sensitive to cold, and we didn't want them to be uncomfortable. Traveling is different with little ones, but still manageable and fun.

One thing I immediately noticed is how chic everyone on the street appeared. It sort of felt like we were in Paris or something. Even the mamas pushing strollers were looking stylish, which I always like to see! Another thing I noticed was that all the homes have spiral staircases on the outside. I don't think I would enjoy carrying groceries up spiral stairs during an icy winter, but they look really cool!

Old Montreal is a very picturesque area, dating back to the French settlement in the 1600s. I don't think any of the current buildings date back quite that far, but there are some cobblestone streets with little shops and cafes, and an impressive church, Notre-Dame Basilica.

At lunchtime, we were craving Indian food, so we went to La Maharaja, which had the biggest buffet I've ever seen. It's like the Golden Corral of Indian restaurants, my goodness. The waiter brought hot, fluffy naan bread to our table and we started loading up our plates. I can't remember everything I tried, but the pakoras, saag (spinach), and curried chickpeas were standouts.

Would you believe, somehow, after all that, we were hungry again at dinnertime?

Tony enjoys Chinese buffets, but I'm usually grossed out by them. However, my guidebook listed a place called Jardin de Jade in Chinatown as offering a good selection of vegetarian items. Since Tony was being accomodating by letting me pick all the restaurants on our trip, I thought I would be nice and take him there for dinner. Where is the food pic? Well, one rule I try to live by these days is: if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Let's just say I didn't want any photos to remind me of the experience.

We definitely made up for that one poor meal during the remainder of our trip! I'll have the rest of my write-up tomorrow. À bientôt, j'espère!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kitchen Sink Vegetable Soup

There's nothing fancy about this soup. I didn't feel the need to spice it up. I just wanted a soup that would warm me up and provide me with lots of different veggies. Throw in whatever you've got on hand! I like to put my frozen veggies in a colander and give them a quick rinse under warm water to wash the "freezer taste" off them before using in any recipe.

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups frozen broccoli, thawed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup frozen lima beans, thawed
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper or to taste

In a big soup pot, saute the onion, carrot and celery in olive oil on medium for 5 minutes until slightly softened. Add the tomatoes, broth, water, potato and garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes. At this point, add the broccoli, corn, peas, and lima beans. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes or until the veggies are all tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve.

Thanks to Blessed Mama at Blessed Vegan Life for bestowing the Versatile Blogger award on me! I'm honored!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Hummus

Hi all, I'm back from vacation and hope to have a write-up of my trip to Montreal soon. Tons of vegan options in that lovely city...we ate very well! In the meantime, back to our regularly scheduled pumpkin frenzy. Six more days till Halloween, Halloween, Halloween! Six more days till Halloween, silver shamrock!

Pumpkin Hummus
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
2 Tbsp. tahini
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Puree all ingredients in food processor until creamy. Thin with water as desired (I used 1 Tbsp.) and puree again.

Great with pita or crackers, it (or any hummus, really) also makes a great pizza topping if you don't have any faux cheese shreds on hand...especially sprinkled with some quick homemade parmesan and kalamata olives.

Check it out...Chocolate-Covered Katie is giving away some Artisana Coconut Butter. The contest ends tomorrow, so be sure to put in your entry ASAP.

Also...Blogger users, can you tell me if there's a way to go back and edit an old post without re-publishing it and sending it to everyone's feeds again? I noticed a misprint in a recipe that I'd like to fix. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sausages, Mofos, and Canada?

Sometimes I have no idea about a post title, folks. Sorry 'bout that..

I just got signed up for Vegan MoFo (Vegan Month of Food) which means I'll be doing my best to blog every day in November. If you want to take part, here is the sign up form.

I'm pretty excited because I'm going on vacation. The last time I went on vaca was May 2009, so I think the time has come! This means no computer for several days. We need those kind of vacations once in while, don't we? We're going to Montreal. I've been to Canada several times, but never Montreal, so I'm excited to check it out.

In the meantime I'm stockpiling sausages, ha.

That's how I steam my seitan sausages, since I don't have an actual steamer thingy. I made the Breakfast Sausages from Comfort Food Vegan. I think they'll freeze well. When I get home from a trip, the last thing I feel like doing is making a grocery list and doing a big grocery shop. It takes too much mental energy while I'm still trying to break out of vacation-lazy mode, get caught up on laundry, sort through my accumulated mail, etc. So, this time, I thought I would prepare a few things and freeze them so I can cook meals when we get back, without having to rush to the store. We'll see how that pans out.

Dinner tonight was simple, to give us more time to pack -- baked potatoes with sour cream, and sandwiches. I took some steamed broccoli and sprinkled it with garlic salt, then stuffed it into pita halves and added some vegan cheddar shreds. I grilled the sandwiches for a couple minutes on each side. They were pretty tasty.

Have a great weekend, see you all next week!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Give A Hoot, Eat A Cupcake

This week, I'm being a good girl and getting all my necessary health checkups over with. Dentist, check. Doctor, check. And today -- opthamologist, check. Oh, how I hate that one! My vision was terrible until I had lasik several years ago. I have many memories of visiting the eye doctor only to find out my prescription had gone up yet again. The left eye was always particularly bad. So, naturally, that's the eye Jackson punched me in a couple weeks ago. Not on purpose of course, but Mama got a little too close when he was flailing (I mean, dancing) around like a crazy man! It's still a little blurry, so I thought I better get it checked out, even though I was dreading it.

To calm my nerves before my appointment, I headed into the kitchen. I try not to be too much of a comfort eater, but I admit I am an unrepentant comfort baker! Nothing gets unpleasant thoughts out of my head like sifting, stirring, and scooping.

The result of my attempt at distraction -- owl cupcakes!

I came across this genius idea on Learning Vegan and, since owls are bad-ass, I had to make these cupcakes as a tribute to my favorite creepy, winged forest dwellers.

Fittingly, the eyes were the hardest part. I made them out of mini peanut butter sandwich crackers, which were not as easy to pry apart as I assumed they would be. They also slid around uncontrollably on the frosting, making my owls look slightly cross-eyed, or perhaps hung over.

Of course, I had to sample one of the little dudes after me and my scratched cornea got back from our exam. Nothing says "Good job going to get your wonky eye checked out" like a wonky-eyed owl cupcake.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Sometimes I don't feel like making one big main dish. Instead, I want a bunch of little things so I get several different flavors on my plate. Today was one of those days. So, for dinner, we had:

Tofu Scramble -- the one I always make, from Vegan Brunch

Green Beans -- these I picked up in Michigan on our visit to the cider mill and brought them home with me. Yes, I transported green beans over 600 miles. They looked that good. I roasted them with a little olive oil, sea salt, and dried tarragon. They're so addictive this way, I eat them as a snack.

Fried Green Tomatoes -- these tomatoes were another cider mill purchase. They're actually oven-baked, not fried. I had never made fried green tomatoes without egg before, but I found an easy vegan version on FatFree Vegan Kitchen that uses a flax meal and water mixture in place of the egg. It worked perfectly -- they baked up crispy on the outside, tender and juicy inside. We ate them all up while they were still hot.

Kind of a bizarre assembly of foods, but it hit the spot. Do you put random foods together, or do you want more of a theme to your meal?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lazy Saturday

It is a rare Saturday when we have absolutely no obligations or plans, but we just got back from Michigan and we're leaving on another trip later this week, so we thought we better take it easy for a couple days, catch up on laundry, all that fun stuff.

Lunch was simple - pitas with kalamata olive hummus, inspired by the Trader Joes variety that Jackson polished off all by himself. I made sure to make enough so Tony and I could have some, too!

Kalamata Hummus
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
10 kalamata olives, pitted
2 Tbsp. tahini
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Puree all ingredients in food processor until creamy.

In spite of my supposed laziness, I guess I did feel like cooking, because dinner got a little fancy. It was the return of the seitan saltado, this time with the addition of guac and homemade sour cream (recipe from Vegan on the Cheap). It turned out just as amazing the second time around.

Another thing I had time for this weekend was to go back and reply to some of your comments. Thank you SO much for coming here and reading about my little kitchen adventures, and for all your kind words!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday Night

New Paltz is a hippie college town across the river from us. Everyone here pronounces it "New Pawwwwlz," which is fun to say. We go there to stock up on incense and browse the cute little health food store. It's also the home of my favorite local restaurant, Rock Da Pasta.

According to their menu, they offer a vegan version of 85% of their dishes. They also have a lot of gluten-free options if that's something you're into. I know the name is goofy, and so is their method of naming all their pasta dishes after rock songs or musicians ("I'll have the Stevie Ray-violi, please") but I quickly got over that the moment I tasted the food!

On Friday, it was rainy and cold all day and, by dinnertime, I needed to get out of the house and do something, so it was a perfect occasion for dinner at RDP. We quickly got seated and I started out with a Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale. I took a picture of the glass in order to help me remember the name, and also because it had a cute seal on it.

This beer was gooooood. It wasn't like drinking pumpkin pie or anything. It was just a really tasty ale with the perfect little hint of spice.

Did I mention you can smell garlic half a block away as you approach this restaurant? And because the dining room is small and located directly next to the kitchen, you breathe in the heavy perfume of roasted garlic while waiting for your food and throughout your meal. I guess for some this might be a deterrent, but for me, it's practically an aphrodesiac.

I ordered the Hey Jude, which I've had numerous times: penne with mushrooms, onions and (tons of) garlic, in a vegan cream sauce, drizzled with balsamic and truffle oil. It came with a small salad and a giant slab of garlic bread.

Notice the enormous portion size, which means I'll be eating this again for lunch today. I'm already getting hungry just thinking about it.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 15, 2010

And Still More Pumpkin

Canned pumpkin is great. I know I missed it last fall when there was a shortage. But making your own pumpkin puree is not hard. In fact, it's pretty fun, hacking into the big orange gourd with a sharp knife, cracking it in half and scooping out all the guts. Well, I find that fun, anyway.

The Specimen

Step 1. Preoccupy your hyper child with a pumpkin of their own.

You know, for pumpkin bowling.

Step 2. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and guts. Rinse and reserve the seeds for roasting.

Step 3. Cover the cut side of pumpkin pieces with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet, foil side up. Bake for 90 minutes or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Step 4. Once cooled, scoop pumpkin flesh from both halves into food processor and puree until smooth.

Step 5. Use just as you would canned pumpkin. For example, how about some Curried Pumpkin Soup from 1000 Vegan Recipes?

Step 6. What about those seeds? Place them in a saucepan with enough water to cover them, plus about another inch of water. Add 1 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Toss them with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

I'm not sure why, but the boiling helps them stay nice and crispy, instead of tough and chewy.

I promise -- tomorrow, something besides pumpkin!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara

Hey all, sorry for my extended absence. My little brother's wedding was awesome, but the 11-hour car ride home left me exhausted! Anyway, a recap of my trip is still to come, but for now, another sort of recap. As I thought of Sean and his new bride Melissa enjoying their Vegas honeymoon, it led me to reminisce about my own.

Years ago, when I was a grad student studying Italian art and architecture, I was fortunate to get to travel to Rome and take Tony with me. When we got married we were too poor to take a honeymoon immediately after our wedding -- so this trip, a year later, is what we now refer to as our honeymoon.

2003 - we were babies!

We did some sightseeing.

I did some research, which was basically...more sightseeing. (Ah, I loved grad school.)

We drank a lot of wine late at night and took tipsy self-portraits.

And, oh yes, we ate.

Tony still raves about the spaghetti carbonara he ate at a tiny restaurant somewhere outside the Vatican.

So, while I was thinking about all this, and I came across a carbonara recipe in Urban Vegan, I knew I had to give it a shot.

I have to say it's one of the most unappetizing-looking things I've ever eaten! I honestly don't know if I'll make it again because it just looks so gross. But the flavor was good. The sauce was very rich -- buttery and smoky at the same time. Tempeh bacon takes the place of the pancetta in the original so, texturally, it's quite different. Not being a bacon eater, it made no difference to me, and Tony liked it for what it was.

Buona sera!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quick Note

I won't be blogging for a few days because I'm off to see my little brother get married! I'll be back middle of next week, hopefully with pics of yummy vegan eats from my trip to Michigan.

Have an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kale. Yep, Just Kale.

Sometimes, you just want a big plate of greens and not much else.

Hippie Kale

1 bunch kale, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Steam the kale 10-15 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, whisk together the tahini, water, garlic, lemon juice and soy sauce. Drizzle sauce over steamed kale.

P.S., Check it out, Vegan Unplugged is giving away three different vegan cookbooks!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Watch Out Cough, Here Comes Chard

So, Tony was feeling sickly, and went to the store to stock up on cough medicine and Kleenex. He returned with bags of kale and chard. He said, "These just looked like something I should eat -- can you make something with them?"

Can I ever.

Lentil Chard Soup

1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch chard, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/3 cup lemon juice

In a soup pot, combine lentils, water, broth and salt. Bring to a boil on high heat. When it boils, reduce heat to medium, cover partially, and simmer for 25 minutes.

In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion 7 minutes. Add garlic and chard. Cook for 3 minutes or until the chard wilts. You may have to add it in small bunches, stirring it with tongs to help it reduce in volume before adding the next bunch. When the chard is all wilted, add to lentils. Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

I think it's pretty cool how, if we pay attention, our bodies often tell us what they need. Chard is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is said to reduce the duration of a cold. Do you have any foods you turn to when you feel under the weather?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pumpkinninny, Part II

I love pumpkin. I have a cookbook that proves it.

Today's dinner isn't from that cookbook, but it could be. It's the Punk-kin Pasta from La Dolce Vegan.

Pretty soon I'm going to turn orange.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

This Morning is Pumpkinninny!

It's always good to start the day with a little Mr. Show, right?

Pumpkin oats are another good way to start the day.

(That picture is not a good way to start the day, but I eat breakfast early, before natural light is an option).

Overnight Pumpkin Oats
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. chia seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Stir together in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, mix it all up and add stevia to taste.

Next, a Pumpkin Spice Latte, recipe courtesy of Mama Pea.

Gotta have something warm to sip on while making a double batch of Pumpkin Pancakes (recipe from Vegan Brunch) for Jackson's breakfast this week.

Oh pumpkin, I missed you last fall. I'm so glad you're back on the shelves and in my food where you belong!

And in pumpkin-related but non-food-related contest news, Jen at Beauty School Blog is giving away some pumpkin-scented perfume oils . I collected bottles of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab oils for years until becoming a stay-at-home mom meant perfume was no longer in the budget. The Halloween-themed blends were always my favorite. Check it out!