Thursday, September 30, 2010

Super Cheesy

I was vegetarian for 25+ years before going vegan. I did quit eating cheese for a few years in college, but I started up again without giving much thought to it. I never thought I'd want to completely give up dairy. I loved going to Whole Foods and buying blocks of salty parmagiano reggiano or feta. I snacked on Wheat Thins and cream cheese daily during both pregnancies.

And then one day, I didn't want cheese anymore. Do I miss it now? Not really. There's Tofutti cream cheese. There's a million recipes for vegan queso. Apparently there's a way to make tofu taste like feta, though I haven't tried it yet. (There's also Daiya, but I think I kind of hate Daiya. There I said it!)

Today I made not one but two cheeses. First, Averie's "Spicy Dorito" Cheesy Dip. I didn't have sunflower seeds or hemp seeds, so I just used an equal amount of cashews. It's so awesome. Super rich, so a little goes a long way. And it really does taste like Doritos!

And then for dinner, we had pizza. I used leftover puttanesca sauce, homemade vegan pepperoni and, from The Uncheese Cookbook, "Mostarella" Cheese Sauce.

I picked up this cookbook secondhand many years ago, but I never really used it, probably because I was still eating real cheese at the time. And the way the author makes puns on the names of all the cheeses is, well, totally cheesy! But I gotta say, this sauce really does taste like creamy, melted mozzarella cheese.

My kitchen helpers were preoccupied watching the rain as it poured down all day long.

Now the wind is howling like mad -- we're about to get a major storm to welcome October! It's time to light candles, grab a warm blanket, and cuddle up on the couch with Tony and the little ones. I know the babies will want some extra kisses and cuddles when it starts thundering and lightning. Is that cheesy? Oh well, I guess you are what you eat!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seitan Saltado and Coconut Tres Leches Cake

My tummy is sooooooo happy right now. And full. Full of delicious, delicious seitan. For dinner, I made two recipes from Viva Vegan. The entree was Seitan Saltado.

For dessert, if you couldn't guess from the oh-so-creative title of this post, we had Coconut Tres Leches Cake.

These things took some preparation, as many dishes from this cookbook do. When I first got the book several months ago, I decided to go all out and make a feast: empanadas, enchiladas, side dishes, salsas, and the tres leches cake.

It all tasted good, from what I remember, but I didn't read the recipes carefully beforehand. So I'd get a to a point in a recipe where it would say, "Next, add the cold broth." I was like "What cold broth? I don't have any cold broth. Now I have to make broth and wait 30 minutes while it cools?" When I was finally done cooking, I was exhausted! And it kinda put me off the book for awhile.

Still, on our last trip to Mexican Radio in Hudson, Tony had a dish called Carne Asada Fries. It was shredded seasoned beef and salsa on a bed of french fries. He liked it, and I sorta wished I'd ordered their vegan version of it. Then I thought, "I bet I can make it at home. Wait, haven't I actually seen a recipe for something like that, somewhere?"

I got out Viva Vegan, and there it was. And today it was time to give it a shot. I had already made some white steamed seitan loaves on my productive Sunday in the kitchen. While the seitan thawed, I made the french fries and the rice that serve as the base layers. Yes, fries AND rice -- carb fiends take note! Then I shredded the seitan and let it marinate for a couple hours.

At dinner time, all I had to do was stir-fry the seitan with some onions and tomatoes. It was freaking awesome, I don't know what else to say.

And then, the tres leches! I baked the cake the night before, to give the sauce time to soak in. I didn't have any rum, so I used Kahlua in the sauce. Tasted fine to me, ha! Today, I just needed to prepare the "whipped cream" topping. It went more smoothly than the first time I made it (I burned the agar and had to start over), but you still need to have good timing. Have your milk/arrowroot mixture ready when you start to heat up the agar flakes and water. It heats and thickens REALLY fast and you'll want to quickly stir it all together and get it off the heat. Oh, and the book says to blend the tofu and coconut cream in a food processor, but it's such a small amount. If you have a regular food processor with a large bowl, like I do, it's not gonna work. I used a hand mixer, and didn't have any issues with graininess.

Austin, Texas, where I lived for three years, is like the capital of tres leches cakes. Every Tex-Mex restaurant in town serves them, every grocery store sells them. I sampled them all in my leche-consuming days. And this baby is as good as any of them. I predict it will be gone very, very soon.

Now I'm already looking through Viva Vegan trying to decide what to make next. Have you ever bought a cookbook that you had a less-than-awesome experience with, or found too complicated, only to return to it later and be glad you did?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Linguine Puttanesca

Dinner was linguine puttanesca (or "whore's pasta", as every cookbook ever written will tell you.) I used green olives in this simple sauce because that's what I had, but any kind of olive will work. I made a lot because I wanted to have leftovers for our lunch.

Linguine Puttanesca
1 lb. linguine
42 oz. diced tomatoes(1 28-oz. can plus 1 14-oz. can) -- we like a lot of sauce!
20 big green olives, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Cook linguine until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, place the garlic and olive oil in a pan and heat over medium until it begins to sizzle. You want to infuse the garlic scent into the oil. Next, add the tomatoes, olives, salt, sugar, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally and smush the tomatoes a little with your spoon. This helps the sauce thicken. Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Overnight Oats with Peanut Flour

Jackson's new thing is to pick up whole pieces of fruit and start taking bites out of them, instead of waiting for me to cut them up into little pieces, the way he has previously eaten fruit. At home, it's cute. The fruit looks so giant in his little hands. At the grocery's not so cute! Let's just say I've had to pay for a few extra pieces of fruit in the past couple weeks!

Speaking of trips to the grocery store, you may recall I was pretty excited about my trip to Trader Joe's last week -- and I was particularly thrilled about this new discovery.

Peanut flour! But what to do with it, I wondered?

Chocolate peanut overnight oats! (Sorry about the bad pic -- the light in my kitchen is not good in the early morning.)

Chocolate Peanut Overnight Oats
1 cup soymilk
1/2 cup oats
2 Tbsp. peanut flour
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. chia seeds (optional)

Combine the dry ingredients in a cereal bowl, then stir in the milk and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, mix well, add stevia to taste, eat.

In my opinion, peanut flour works sooooo much better than peanut butter in a bowl of oatmeal (and I'm someone who has always put peanut butter in my oatmeal). Its dry powdery consistency creates a decadent, velvety texture. Also, 2 Tbsp. of peanut flour provides 8 grams of protein while adding only 2 grams of fat.

I'm excited to see what else I can do with this stuff!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Creations

In our family, we typically do our running around on Saturdays and relax on Sundays. And by relax, I mean Tony watches football and I mess around in the kitchen. This Sunday was no exception.

I had my sous-chef Olivia with me, ready to assist.

First we made enough chocolate chip pancakes to last Jackson all week. I've had to double my batch lately. He used to eat one pancake every morning -- now he eats two!

The smell of "cake-cakes" (as he calls them) lured Little Man into the kitchen. I think he wanted to show off his new haircut. He was sporting quite the toddler mullet before.

Much better.

Next we made some steamed white seitan, from Viva Vegan. I'm not sure yet what I'll use it in, but it freezes well.

Finally, we made fennel-scented flax crackers from 1000 Vegan Recipes. I had trouble rolling them out super-thin. I got to a point where it seemed like I had added a ton of flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin, and I didn't want to add any more. They turned out more like a very thin flatbread, than a crispy cracker. But that's fine with me. They taste awesome (I love fennel) and they pair well with cream cheese or hummus.

I'd say we were pretty productive for a relaxing Sunday! Hope you had a fun weekend!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mashed Potato Enchiladas, Apple Clafouti

Last night I made some garlicky mashed potatoes and used them as enchilada filling. It didn't turn out so great. The potatoes got dried out as the enchiladas baked in the oven. They weren't terrible or anything -- we still ate them, covered in a "queso" which helped somewhat with the dryness factor.

I'll have to play around with my recipe before I feel comfortable posting it. Maybe it's simply a matter of whipping more milk into the potatoes before I spoon them into the tortillas.

Dessert was more successful: apple clafouti from Vegan on the Cheap.

Tony described it as apple cornbread; I thought it was more like a fancy apple pancake. I liked that it wasn't extremely sweet. Jackson didn't care for it, which made me a little sad. But then I remembered that he eats apple pancakes for breakfast practically every morning, so he was probably just experiencing apple overload. Sometimes it's good to be reminded that he's his own little person who goes through different phases with food, just like anyone. One day he can't get enough of a certain food, and the next day he won't have anything to do with it. But that's normal -- sometimes I'm not in the mood for leftovers, either!

I'm pretty much always in the mood for hummus, though. The kalamata is already gone!
And the horseradish would be, too, except that it's my favorite, so I'm eating it conservatively to make it last longer.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trader Joe's Hummus Grab

For dinner last night we had the smoky miso tofu sandwiches from Vegan Yum Yum. I didn't have the red miso called for in the recipe. I had yellow miso. I'm not a miso connoisseur, so I'm not sure if the flavor varied drastically from what the recipe intended. Nevertheless, the result was tasty. The tofu slices were smoky, sweet, and a little crispy. We ate them on ciabatta rolls with Veganaise, tomato, and lettuce.

Today we made a little journey to Trader Joe's over in Connecticut. We don't make this 45-minute trip frequently, but it's worth it to go every so often, because the prices are so much better than at our local supermarkets. I stocked up on olive oil, coconut milk, and ciabatta rolls (of course). Meanwhile, these somehow made their way into the cart.

For that lovely sight, I can thank my husband, the hummus fiend! My eyes lit up when he piled them on the checkout counter, one after the other. And apparently Jackson takes after us. He finished half a tub of the kalamata-flavored hummus in about 5 minutes. That's our boy!

And then there's this...

I'm not sure what to do with it, but I bet the internets can tell me. When you have someone who loves peanut butter as much as I do, something like this isn't gonna go to waste!

Have you used peanut flour? Or are you trying out any other ingredients for the first time? I'd love to hear about your experiments.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mexican Food on the Brain

Hola! Hope you all had a fun weekend. Our days are all mixed up here, because Tony had to work all weekend, and now he's off for most of the week. My scratchy throat from hell still comes and goes, but spicy food is good for the sinuses, right? So last night I made TVP tacos.

I sometimes make tacos from lentils or seitan, but I like TVP best. Tony also prefers it. He says its "ground beef" texture reminds him of eating Taco Bell.

Olivia was very excited at the prospect of eating tacos some day. Or maybe she was just proud of herself for learning to sit up!

The tacos were really good, but I guess they didn't fully satisfy our Mexican craving, because today we woke up and said "Let's go to Mexican Radio!" We've been there once before and even though it's an hour away, in Hudson, we knew we'd return. How can you pass up a Mexican restaurant that offers vegan versions of practically everything on their menu?

I had the Plantain Rellenos, which were outstanding. At first I was like, "plantains are sweet, is this gonna be weird?" No, it's gonna be awesome! You get such a variety of flavors in every bite from the caramelized plantains, roasted vegetables, garlicky salsa and hot jalapeno slices. The rellenos were topped with melted cheese and lime crema, both soy-based.

After lunch, we walked down to a playground overlooking the river and burned off some calories.

I think my cravings are finally under control...for now!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sickly Vegan Mama

I'm sorry for the lack of updates -- we've all been unsuccessfully fighting off sickness. I blame it on Tony working at the hospital these past couple months. God knows what kind of germs he's bringing home from that place. Luckily that's almost over. The kids are finally recovered, now it's just me who has a lingering sore throat. I think I have a pretty high pain tolerance in general, but I'm a huge baby about sore throats. I think it's because they interfere with my enjoyment of eating!

Anyway, I have been cooking -- nothing spectacular, but I don't think anyone comes to this blog looking for spectacular.

Spaghetti with Wheatballs

I made these faux meatballs a couple weeks ago , and they reheated nicely. A fast, basic dinner, but no complaints.

Red and White Cauliflower Bake

This recipe was courtesy of Vegan Yum Yum. There's a layer of seasoned tofu, then a layer of steamed cauliflower in cheesy sauce, followed by a layer of marinara, topped with breadcrumbs and baked. I'm not sure if I'll be adding it to the regular rotation, since it took about 45 minutes to prepare (plus baking time) and Jackson didn't care for it. I admit I wasn't really into it the first night, either. The next day I sprinkled it with red pepper flakes and it tasted delicious. I can't tell if the red pepper was the key, or if it's just one of those dishes that tastes better the next day.

Sweet Potato Succotash

Now, this recipe, from Vegan on the Cheap, I'll definitely be making again. I don't know how sweet potatoes, lima beans, corn and a few other simple ingredients can taste so awesome. I think the magical ingredient may be the allspice. I certainly never would've thought to add allspice to a veggie stew, but it definitely adds "a little something." And it, too, tasted even better the next day.

Hope y'all are staying healthy and having a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cooking Out

As autumn creeps up on us, we're inclined to use our outdoor grill more often, as though we're trying to prolong the cookout-filled days of summer. The other day we picked up some random veggies (and fruit!) and stuck them on the grill along with some veggie burgers.

Here's one tray, ready to go.

I'd never tried radicchio before. Raw, I'm sure it would've been far too bitter for my liking. But once it was grilled and drizzled with agave syrup, it tasted pleasantly sweet and smoky.

I did NOT care for the grilled pineapple. Maybe I should've cut it into thin rings instead of the chunky pieces you see above. I don't think it fully caramelized, or something. It just tasted like burnt pineapple.

We also had some summer squash, red pepper, and onions which, after being grilled, went on top of a pre-baked pizza crust with pesto. Mmm, I could eat this all the time.

Next time we cook out, I need to remember to get some eggplant. I love baba ganoush, but mine never has the smoky flavor that I love in restaurants. What's your favorite veggie to stick on the grill?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Brooklyn Eats and Art

Yesterday we went to Brooklyn for the day. First we ate lunch at 'SNice, a vegetarian cafe/coffee shop in Park Slope. There were several other families with strollers, so we fit right in. The service was fast and we all enjoyed our lunches.

Jackson polished off some fruit, granola and yogurt.

Tony had the BBQ seitan sandwich.

And I had the pesto panini with sun-dried tomatoes and smoky tofu slices.

Yum! I do love pesto, but sometimes I fear ordering it in restaurants because it can be like an oil slick. This was not the case at 'Snice. The pesto was the perfect consistency to hold the panini fillings together, without being overly oily. And, the bread used in both our sandwiches was awesome -- really chewy, the way I like it.

We left with satisfied tummies and made our way to the Brooklyn Museum.

It was the next-to-last day to see a couple of exhibits - Andy Warhol: The Last Decade and Kiki Smith: Sojourn, and I'm glad we caught both of them.

One cool thing about this museum is that they allow you to take pictures. And everyone was taking advantage of this relaxed policy, not just me!

Have you seen Up In The Air, where George Clooney is all, "Pictures are for people who can't remember things, you don't need pictures." I love looking at photos of places I've been, and places other people have been, too, so I can travel vicariously. I know not everyone feels this way, though. Do you like looking at "vacation slide shows" or does it bore you to tears?

We also checked out Abdi Farah's show. If you don't watch bizarre art-as-competition reality shows like I do, he was the winner of Work of Art on Bravo. And, like any good feminist, I had to spend some time with Judy Chicago's Dinner Party.

One last thing that especially caught my eye was this piece, entitled Soundsuit.

I thought it was by Nick Cave (because the man can do just about anything)...but actually it was by Nick Cave, who I never heard of. Still, pretty cool!

By this point, Jackson was a ball of energy, so we went to the nice, outdoor sitting area in front of the museum and let him run around for awhile.

It was a fun trip for sure. What fun things did you do this weekend?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Spaghetti with Curried Acorn Squash

Last night I had an acorn squash that I wanted to use, but I was craving pasta. So I came up with this easy creation. If you roast the squash beforehand, the meal can be ready in minutes. This is great if you're wanting a creamy, comfort food-y pasta dish, but don't want the fat of an alfredo sauce. Adjust the amount of curry paste to your liking -- I like a curry flavor but not a lot of heat.

Spaghetti with Curried Acorn Squash
(serves 2 adults and a toddler, or 2 very hungry people)
12 oz. spaghetti
1 acorn squash
1 cup coconut milk (reduced fat is fine)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. Thai green curry paste
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half and place the halves on a baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for 45 minutes.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Cook the spaghetti for 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain.

Scoop the flesh from the cooled squash into the food processor. Add coconut milk, brown sugar, curry paste, and salt. Blend until smooth.

Pour the squash sauce over the spaghetti. Toss well, so the sauce thickly coats the individual strands of spaghetti. Serve.

Busy day today -- the kids have their well baby checkups, then we're off to Brooklyn for some family fun. Have a great Saturday!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hot Dogs, Applesauce

Hot dogs and applesauce for lunch -- you can really tell I've got a 2-year-old, am I right? Well, we still have a bunch of apples left from our trip to the orchard, and nothing is easier...or better for making the house smell AMAZING...than cooking them down into applesauce. I almost feel silly posting my recipe, it's so basic.

6 apples, any kind, peeled and chopped (as small as you want)
1 cup + 1 tsp. water
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
pinch of salt

In a saucepan, combine the apples with 1 cup water, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. In the meantime, combine cornstarch with 1 tsp. water in a little bowl. When the applesauce is done simmering, there will still be quite a bit of water in the pot. Remove from heat and add the cornstarch slurry to thicken it up and make a nice sauce.

I add a few drops of stevia to sweeten it. If you don't use stevia, you could add 1/2 cup brown sugar to the apples when you put them on to cook.

We ate some for lunch along with Yves veggie dogs. I'm such a control freak with food sometimes, I swear. I've eaten numerous veggie hot dogs in restaurants, but I've never been in love with them because the bun is always soft, and it gets soggy! So I decided I had to get my own veggie dogs just so I could have the bun toasted, the way I like it.


Miss Olivia is six months old today. It's gone by so fast! At first, we were surprised at how serious and quiet she was, compared to her big brother who is always laughing and chattering away. Now she's coming out of her shell and we fall more in love with her every day as she shows us more of her own unique personality. Happy half-birthday, little chickadee!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pizza, Again

I've been doing this blog for what, 2 months now? And how many pizzas have I posted? Oh well, what can I say, we love our pizza. I think tonight's was one of the best I've made so far. I topped it with mushroom marinara, pepperoni, oven-dried tomatoes, and parmesan. The pepperoni was nice and crispy, and the tomatoes were so flavorful.

Jackson had seconds...and thirds!

I may not be blogging on a regular schedule for awhile as I've started running again, along with crunches and arm weights and other little things to get in better shape. That takes up about an hour of free time each day now...which doesn't leave a lot of time for writing. I'm still trying to drop five pounds of baby weight...well, more like ten lbs., if you count the five I never dropped after having Jackson! I'm in my brother's wedding next month and I'm tempted to hang up my (strapless) bridesmaid dress in front of my treadmill to inspire me. Anyway, I'll still be keeping up with all your blogs, just not posting my own eats quite so often.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Meatball Sub

Today I tried another recipe from Vegan on the Cheap, the "Wheatballs," which are meatballs made from chickpeas and wheat gluten. This recipe was super easy. You just combine everything in the food processor, form the mixture into balls and saute them for a few minutes. The taste and texture was pretty good. Just a little spicy, but not hot. Tony informed me that, while the texture was not like a real meatball, the taste was similar.

I wanted to make a hearty lunch for Tony before he left to work another 10-hour shift (just a few more weeks until this weird schedule ends and our lives go back to normal), so I decided to make meatball subs. I made a mushroom marinara and some Cheezee Sauce (also from VotC). There's really no way to make this meal look appetizing, but trust me, it was yummy!

And what to do with the leftover cheese sauce? Rotel! This is 100 times more appealing than the version made with Velveeta. What is that stuff anyway? It's unnatural. I'm so excited to snack on this dip tonight while I catch up on True Blood.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day Catch-Up

I love three-day weekends! Even though I don’t have a job right now, Tony does, and he works long hours. So it’s really nice to have him around for three days in a row and be able to do stuff as a family. Still I wanted to pop in and do a quick post, before I get a backlog of food pics. Here’s what I’ve been up to in the kitchen over this Labor Day weekend:

First, veganized oatmeal pies from Peas and Thank You. I made a special trip to buy Ricemellow Crème the same day I saw this recipe -- that’s how excited I was about it! I wondered if my tiny local health food store carried the stuff, and wouldn’t you know it, I got the only tub they had in stock! It was meant to be!

Aren’t they adorable?

I couldn’t wait for Tony to get home from work on Friday so I could surprise him with these treats. He was just talking about his love for oatmeal pies as a child, but now he considers them “off limits” because they’re so unhealthy. I know the vegan version isn’t exactly fat-free, but it’s healthy enough that devoured the whole plateful in a few days, guilt-free!

Next up, chocolate chip pancakes, recipe from Urban Vegan. These were a special weekend breakfast treat for Jackson.

Saturday lunch was avocado sushi. I had some nori sheets and sushi rice that had been sitting in the cupboard forever, so I made some quick rolls. I wished I had some pickled ginger and wasabi, but they were fine with soy sauce with a little sriracha mixed in.

Sunday morning, Olivia got me up at 6:30. Even though I was kind of a zombie, I still managed to get some oven-dried tomatoes going. I sliced several roma tomatoes and tossed them with a little olive oil and salt, and roasted them at 250 degrees for about three hours until they were nice and chewy. The tomato flavor becomes so concentrated and intense. And it's much cheaper than buying sun-dried tomatoes. I can’t wait to put these on a pizza!

Finally, a lovely tray of dog food.

Ha, just kidding, it’s an apple crisp. I don’t know how to make this sort of thing look appetizing in a photo, but trust me, it tastes way better than it looks! We went to a pick-your-own orchard and came home with a giant bag of apples. I still have a lot left!

Applesauce, apple bread, apple butter…I think they are all in my future. But I had to start with a crisp. It’s one of my favorite things to make. I don’t really follow a recipe. I peeled and sliced six apples, dumped them in the baking pan, and sprinkled a little lemon juice on them. I had a few walnuts in my freezer so I threw those in, too. Then I combined oats, flour, brown sugar, butter and a little salt, stirring it together with my fingers until it achieved a coarse crumbly texture. Then I baked it for about 30 minutes at 375. After a busy day, it's nice to space out and relax while peeling and chopping all those apples (just watch those fingers, ha!), and it makes the house smell SOOOOO amazing.

Hope you've enjoyed your weekend!