Sunday, February 27, 2011

Brunch and Blogger ABC's

This morning, I made a big stack of apple-cinnamon pancakes for Jackson to have during the week.

And for brunch we had breakfast burritos, made with some homemade soyrizo I had in the freezer, scrambled tofu, and ancho chile salsa.

It's been awhile since I've shared a recipe, so here's one for that salsa.  It is a cooked salsa, so it takes longer than some, but I think it's worth it.

Ancho Chile Salsa
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 med. onion, chopped
3-5 dried ancho chiles (depending on your desired heat)
1 cup water
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

First, put about a cup of water to boil in a saucepan. Tear the stems off your dried chiles and get the seeds out. Dried chiles can be fragile, but it's totally fine if you tear them up in the process. When the water boils, pour it over your chiles and let them soak.

In a pan over medium hear, saute the chopped onion in 1/2 tsp. oil for five minutes. At this point, drain your chiles and add them to the onions along with the tomatoes, garlic, 1 cup water, and all your spices. Turn up the heat and bring the salsa to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Let it cook for 20 minutes.

Carefully puree the salsa in a blender until it has a smooth consistency. Enjoy!

I saw this over at Vegan Epicurean so I thought I would fill out my own while I'm waiting for Tony to get ready so we can go run some errands. The errands are not absolutely necessary, but we are hoping Jackson will sleep in the car. He missed his nap yesterday and he was a grumpy bear last night, so we are hoping to remedy that today.

Blogger ABCs:

A. Age: 34

B. Bed size: Queen

C. Chore you hate: Dusting

D. Dogs: Awesome.

E. Essential start to your day: Oatmeal

F. Favorite color: Silver

G. Gold or silver: See F

H. Height: 5'7"

I. Instruments you play: None

J. Job title: I was a librarian, now I'm a stay-at-home mom

K. Kids: Jackson, 2 1/2, and Olivia, almost 1

L. Live: New York state

M. Mom’s name: Linda

N. Nicknames: I'll keep those between me and the people who call me them :)

O. Overnight hospital stays: One night when I had Jackson, two nights with Olivia (I have a special fondness for the doctor who told me, "Your ob-gyn in Texas must have been backwards to only keep you one night. Here in New York we do things the right way." Yeah, because we really needed that extra 24 hours of crappy hospital food and people barging into the room every few minutes as I'm trying to rest.

P. Pet peeve: Cocky doctors, hehe. And people who don't pick up after their dogs.

Q. Quote from a movie: "The time to make up your mind about people is never." - The Philadelphia Story

R. Right or left handed: Left

S. Siblings: My younger brother, Sean, and his lovely new bride, Melissa

T. Time you wake up: Around 7, depends on the kids

U. Underwear: Yes

V. Vegetables you dislike: Raw green pepper.

W. What makes you run late: Kiddos

X. X-Rays you’ve had: Dental, shoulder

Y. Yummy food you make: Yes I do

Z. Zoo- favorite animal: Sloths

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cardamom-Scented Tofu with Coconut Spinach Rice

I was up early this morning...Olivia is cutting her two front teeth and she has not been sleeping well. She woke me up at 4 a.m., wide awake. She sat there and chattered to me in her baby language for almost two hours. Now she is back asleep, but I'm wide awake. I am watching the pouring rain that is supposed to turn into snow later, and eating a bowl of oat bran with raisins and banana. I usually eat oatmeal but I thought I would try something slightly different.

It has a chewier consistency than oatmeal and is a little more gummy, as well.  I like it, for a little change of pace. You really do have to pay attention to it while it is in the microwave, like the packaging tells you. Yesterday I walked away for a few seconds, and when I came back, it had bubbled up over the edges of my bowl and made a goopy mess in the microwave!

 Last night I made a tasty Indian-inspired meal from The 30 Minute Vegan's Taste of the East. I pressed the tofu in my Tofu Xpress, which helped it attain a firm, paneer-like texture when sliced into cubes. While the tofu was marinating and baking, I made the sauce, which tasted like a rich gravy, with notes of cardamom and sesame.


I served the tofu over the coconut-scented basmati rice. The rice was studded with chickpeas and spinach, and it was a perfect pairing.  And, it was no more difficult than making regular rice on the stovetop! The rice didn't overwhelm us with flavor on its own, but it soaked up the savory gravy and we couldn't stop eating it.  I haven't made many recipes from this cookbook yet...just haven't gotten around to it...but so far I'm loving everything I make.

Jackson and Olivia played with their wooden blocks while I was cooking. Jackson is getting a lot better at playing and sharing, which makes me very happy. He loves his "baby sisser," as he calls her He loves all babies, really. Yesterday I brought home a package of toilet paper with a baby on it, and he cried "Awwww, baaaaabyyyyyy!" and kissed it. He is the same way with pictures of dogs. Every day when it's time to feed Monster, Jackson has to kiss the dog on the Beneful package before I put it away. Little kids are funny.

I was happy to receive a package in the mail incense! There is nowhere around here to stock up on our favorite brands, so I have started ordering it online. It makes me feel like a kid, waiting excitedly for the mailman to deliver the box. We love Incensio de Santa Fe and Nag Champa. Nippon Kodo is also good, although we didn't get any this time. We are always burning some kind of incense or candle in our home. It is one of the few items we splurge on. Do you like to burn incense/candles? What are your favorite scents? Or, have you gotten anything cool in the mail lately?

Well, I should probably get some laundry going before the babies get up. Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Restaurant Review - Zorona

Yesterday, the kids and I were stuck inside due to the nasty weather. I was having one of those "hungry days" where I could never eat enough to feel full. And for some reason, every time we emailed each other during the day, Tony and I brought up restaurants -- our all-time favorites, as well as new ones we'd like to try. So of course, when Tony got off work a little early, I was quick to suggest getting out of the house and going out to eat, and he immediately agreed.

We chose Zorona, a Jordanian restaurant we had dined at a couple of times previously. They have a great deal where you can pick five items for $9.99, with plenty of vegan options.

We started with velvety, rich hummus and pita, which Jackson mostly commandeered for himself.

Olivia loved the Middle Eastern music that was playing. She practiced her belly dancing while we waited for our food.

Tony had the unsettling feeling that he was being watched.

When our food arrived, we dug in and cleaned our plates. I had baba ganoush, stuffed grape leaves, tabouli, fava beans, and falafel. 

There are different kinds of stuffed grape leaves, known as dolmas or dolmades. Some are filled with lemon rice, and some have rice with a tomato-cinnamon sauce. Oh, and some contain ground beef, so it's a good idea to ask before biting into one! Zorona serves the kind with lemon rice, a.k.a. the best kind.

Olivia ate almost all the fava beans.When I would stop feeding her to take a bite of my own, she would grab at my arm with her little hands and try to push my spoon back towards the fava beans! It always surprises me what kids like eating if you just offer it to them. With a full tummy, she contentedly fell asleep in the car on the way home.  And my tummy felt full at last, too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Urban Vegan Tester #20 - Noochy Broccoli

Today's lunch was Noochy Broccoli, another simple yet flavorful tester for the Urban Vegan. Broccoli florets are transformed into a spread that's perfect with crackers or crostini. It would also be good on a veggie sandwich or wrap.

It snowed a lot, so we stayed inside all day. I was happy to have my cuddle buddies to keep me warm as I drank my tea and watched the falling flakes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Guatita (Potato Peanut Stew)

So, I recently discovered that I love soy curls in tacos, but what else could I use them in? I was leafing through Viva Vegan and came across a recipe for guatita, a creamy potato-peanut stew that is popular in Ecuador and Chile. Since I'm trying to cut down on my prep and cleanup time in the kitchen, this one-pot meal sounded appealing. When I saw that one if the ingredients was soy curls, I was sold. 

I served it over rice, garnished with hot sauce, cilantro, and pickled red onions, which I had left over from my Valentine's feast.  We all loved it. Jackson liked the soy curls most of all. The stew is hearty but not heavy, with complex flavor. Even if you're not a peanut butter fanatic like me, I would still recommend it. The peanut butter blends seamlessly with the other flavors; it's not the first thing you notice.

How was your weekend? We did a little early spring cleaning and got rid of a bunch of stuff we don't need on Craigslist. We had beautiful weather here on Friday, sunny and in the 60's. I took the babies out for a long walk in their double stroller. It felt so good to get outside! Of course today we're expecting six inches of snow, but it is only February so I'll take the occasional nice day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Urban Vegan Tester #19 - Romesco Bruschetta

My latest tester recipe for the Urban Vegan, Bruschetta with Easy Romesco Sauce, perfectly meets my need for simple meals with minimal cleanup. In the time it takes to toast some baguette slices, the sauce is ready, since you make it in the food processor.

Romesco is a Spanish sauce made with roasted red peppers. I served these little toasts with chili-marinated olives for a light, snacky lunch.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Soy Curl Tacos and Simplifying Dinners

I've been feeling kinda burned out on cooking lately, you guys. Between my Urban Vegan recipe testing, the PPK Cookbook Challenge, and eagerly trying out the new cookbooks I got for my birthday and Christmas, I've been making a lot of new recipes with very few simple "filler" meals in between -- I'm talking about noodles, pizza, tacos, stuff that doesn't require a ton of prep work or leave a disheartening pile of dirty pots and pans in the sink. So, to help me lose the cooking blahs, I'm going to be doing simpler meals for awhile. Simple meals that help me use up ingredients I already have. Simple meals that only mess up one or two pans instead of a whole sinkful.

Our Valentines feast provided enough leftovers to last the rest of the week, so I'm already off to a good start. Last night we had tacos filled with leftover cole slaw, pickled onion, avocado, and I also cooked some soy curls in taco seasoning.

This was my first time cooking with soy curls. I had the good fortune to win a bag from Liz at Vegan Food Rocks, and I'm so glad I got a chance to try them, because they are pretty awesome. They're really fast and easy, for one thing. You just soak them in warm water for 10 minutes to rehydrate, then add your desired seasonings and saute them in a skillet for a few minutes. They do a wonderful job of soaking up whatever flavors you add to them.

So easy a (heavily supervised) child can do it.

The tacos were a hit. Tony and I enjoyed the chewy texture of the soy curls as a nice alternative from the TVP or lentil tacos we typically make.

What are your favorite simple meals?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Viva Valentine's

Since Tony had to work late on Monday, we celebrated our Valentine's Day on Tuesday, when he had the day off.

I don't cook from Viva Vegan that often. I think it's a fantastic resource, but many of the recipes require either advance preparation or ingredients that are not found at my supermarket. Still, Tony loves his spicy food, so I promised I would cook him a Latin feast.
Here we go!  Did I mention the advance preparation? I started making this stuff on Sunday...

Annatto-Infused Oil (looks like grape jelly, doesn't it?)

Chimichurri Sauce

Latin Tomato Sauce

Salvadorian Marinated Slaw

Pickled Red Onions

 Chorizo Seitan Sausage

 Creamy Corn-Filled Emapanadas

The plan was to serve corn empanadas with chimichurri sauce, and then chorizo-and-mushroom-stuffed pupusas topped with the slaw, pickled onions, tomato sauce, and avocado.

The empanadas turned out great. The corn filling was slightly sweet, with a nice hint of basil. They paired well with the tangy chimichurri sauce.

The pupusas were another story...

I had diligently read the section in Viva Vegan where Terry explains the difference between masa harina, which is used for pupusas, and masarepa, which is used for other stuff.  Off I went to the supermarket. In the Latin foods aisle, I found masarepa and maiz de harina. Those were my only choices and, since I knew masarepa was out of the question, I bought the maiz de harina. Sounds close enough, right? No. My pupusa "dough" looked like watery cornmeal (which it was, actually). Sadness. So we improvised, piling the pupusa fillings/toppings on top of tortilla chips. 

I'm pretty sure I've seen masa harina (it can also be labeled maseca...just not maiz de harina!) at the Wal-Mart a few towns over, so one of these days I'll drive down there and then we will have our pupusas. In the meantime, the makeshift nachos were pretty delicious. But the chorizo was my favorite out of everything.  It got nice and crispy in the saute pan without having to add any oil, and it's super spicy. I can't wait to put the leftovers in some breakfast burritos.

Have you made pupusas or anything else with masa harina? How did it go for you?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spinach Quiche/Pie

It's Free Week in the PPK Cookbook Challenge, and I've chosen to try a few things from Robin Robertson's Vegan on the Cheap. I've enjoyed pretty much everything I've made from it so far, and this Spinach Pie was no exception.

When I saw the title of the recipe, I thought it would be a Greek spanakopita in pie form, but then I realized it's actually a quiche (Robin just calls it a spinach pie because her husband won't eat "quiche" -- sneaky!)

I've made a few quiches but I think this one is my favorite. I love the vibrant green color, and the texture was fantastic. But the best thing about it was, the longer it was around, the better it tasted! If you're a single person and you get frustrated with cookbook recipes designed to feed a family of four, I would definitely recommend this recipe. Yes, it fills an entire pie plate, but you can eat it for days. I found myself microwaving a slice for 30 seconds, just barely warm, and eating it for breakfast.

Olivia surprised me by eating a big-person sized slice, all by herself. One of my very favorite things about being a mom is watching them try all the different foods and seeing what their likes and dislikes are. And of course, the accompanying faces they make! Olivia's face lit up when I put a bite of this quiche in her mouth. We clearly have similar tastes.

Hope you had a happy Valentine's Day, if that's your thing. Tony had to work late, so it was just another day for us. But today he is off, and I am making a little feast of some of his favorite foods. I hope he likes it. He has been working so hard and I don't get to see him very I guess I'll finish up this post now, so I can go hang out with him!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Butternut Squash Linguine

Robin Robertson's Vegan on the Cheap is my favorite new cookbook of the past year, so naturally I chose it for Free Week of the PPK Cookbook Challenge.  Last night I made the Linguine with Roasted Butternut Squash and Lentils.

The babies are really keeping me on my toes these days. Olivia's standing on her own, and has taken a few tentative little steps. So I spend a lot of time walking her in laps around the apartment, letting her hold onto my thumbs with her wee hands. I don't have a lot of time to spend making dinner, so it's a good thing I've learned to divide time-consuming recipes such as this one into smaller, more manageable parts. I cooked some lentils the day before so that they would be ready to use. Then, in the morning, I peeled and roasted the butternut squash. At dinnertime, I cooked the linguine and made the tomato sauce.

Look at those deep earthy colors. Reminds me of autumn leaves. Tasted pretty good, too. Butternut squash isn't something I'm accustomed to eating with pasta and tomato sauce, but the combination was not bad.

Jackson ate a big bowlful, and Olivia ate some buttered pasta and squash pieces.

I guess they really liked it, since they were begging at Tony's knee when he ate his pasta later on.

Off to run some errands! Olivia needs some shoes that will actually stay on her feet. She just loves to be barefoot and always pulls her socks and shoes off. It's a nice day for a change...let's hope groundhog Phil was right, and spring is right around the corner!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Urban Vegan Tester #18 - Earl Grey Cookies

I couldn't wait to try the latest Urban Vegan tester, Earl Grey Cookies, for two reasons.  First, I drink Earl Grey tea practically every day. Second, these are shortbread cookies, and Tony loves shortbread. Sure enough, we both loved these small, elegant cookes, speckled with pretty flecks of tea and flavored with that citrusy bergamot Earl Grey flavor. As Tony popped the last one in his mouth, he requested that I make more because they are the best cookies I've ever made. Unknown to him, I made a double batch of cookie dough and stored half in the freezer for another time, so he'll have more cookies waiting for him tonight. Just consider it an early Valentine, baby! Haha.

How's your weekend going? Yesterday we did all our errands and ate some Indian food. Today, Tony is working a 12-hour shift. I'm so ready for him to go back to his normal 9-5 schedule in a couple weeks! I'm glad I have my little buddies to keep me company all day today.

Friday, February 11, 2011

An Assortment of Appetite for Reduction Recipes

I don't own Eat, Drink and Be Vegan, so for this week's PPK Cookbook Challenge, I turned to a recent acquisition in my cookbook library -- Appetite for Reduction.

Early in the week, I did a bit of prep work. I made the Basic Baked Tofu and the Sweet and Salty Baby Maple Carrots, and I also cooked some quinoa and bulgur.

(Let's just pretend those little feet in the corner aren't there, and I'm not the mom who lets her son sit barefoot on the dining room table.)

I hoped that the carrots would be a good snack for Jackson, but he wanted nothing to do with them.  Fortunately, Tony and I liked them and they did not go to waste.

So, the first meal we had was the Caesar Salad with Eggplant Bacon. Eggplant bacon, you say? Yep.

Tony the eggplant-hater recoiled in horror. More for me! Although the eggplant didn't really crisp up like bacon, the smoky flavor reminded me of baba ganoush made from grilled, charred eggplants, and I appreciated the extra note of flavor that the "bacon" added to my salad.

I made a double batch of the Caesar Chavez dressing so I could use it the next day on Mediterranean Bowls.

The dressing made a nice sauce over the bulgur, roasted cauliflower, baked tofu, and chickpeas.

Finally, another bowl -- the Supergreen Bowl, with Green Goddess Garlic Dressing.

Chock full of quinoa, edamame, and steamed broccoli. I love using the entire broccoli. If your broccoli stalks seem tough, just peel off the tough outer layer with a vegetable peeler. Then, thinly slice the stalks, and they will steam to tender perfection along with your florets.

My verdict on the bowls was...hmm, I don't know if bowls are for me. The grains seem to soak up the dressing and dilute its flavor. But I loved both the Caesar Chavez and Goddess dressings, and will use them on salads in the future.

Next week is free choice week on the Cookbook Challenge, and I'll be cooking from Robin Robertson's Vegan on the Cheap.

Yesterday I received something in the mail...

Soy curls! Liz at Vegan Food Rocks did a giveaway, and I won these. Soy curls are not sold locally, so I am really excited to have this opportunity to try them out! Thanks, Liz! I think I'm going to make tacos. Have you tried soy curls? Any suggestions on what else to make with them?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Urban Vegan Testers #16-17

Here are my latest test runs for the Urban Vegan's new cookbook.

Double Corn Bread -- Why double corn? Because, in addition to cornmeal, this slightly sweet bread is studded with corn kernels, which gives it a great texture.

Baked Apples -- If, like me, you don't own an apple corer, don't let that deter you from making baked stuffed apples. A 1/2 tsp. measuring spoon works fine for getting the seeds out.

Be careful, however, to keep an eye on your apple when it's baking...if you walk away for too long, like I did, you get an exploded fruit whose innards have turned to applesauce!

It actually still tasted fine...but my second go was much more successful.

Accent Vlog and Stylish Blogger Award

I first saw the Accent Vlog on Cook.Vegan. Lover and now I keep seeing them. I think it's interesting to match voices with faces and also hear the variations in our accents. So I thought I would post my own today.

If you want to make your own video, here are the words/questions.

  • What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
  • What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
  • What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
  • What do you call gym shoes?
  • What do you say to address a group of people?
  • What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped
  • body and extremely long legs?
  • What do you call your grandparents?
  • What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry
  • groceries at the supermarket?
  • What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
  • What is the thing you change the TV channel with?
The lovely Carissa at Coffee and Sunshine has given me a Stylish Blogger Award.  Carissa, if you could see me sitting here in my pajama pants and ancient hoodie, you might reconsider that label, but thank you all the same!

As a recipient of this award, I'm supposed to list 7 interesting facts about myself. Here are 7 facts, and I'll leave it to you to consider whether they are interesting.

1. I always thought I was a cat person until I got my dog. I grew up with cats...I wish I had some pics of my childhood cats, Murphy and Treena, to scan in. Here I am with my cat Luna who I had in college.

Luna ran away around the time I started seeing Tony. Tony is terribly allergic to cats, but he had nothing to do with this coincidence. That's what I tell myself, anyway. ;)

And of course here is my Monster, my original baby before the human ones came along.

2. I've lived in 4 states...7 cities...and let's see, I've moved residences 17 times.

3. Films I can watch over and over include: Rushmore, Office Space, Anchorman, Shaun of the Dead, and The Big Lebowski (although, I can only watch that one if I have fixins on hand for a White Russian).

4. I love sleep so much. 9 hours a night is crucial, 10 optimal.

5. I love owls. Also sloths. Just look at them.

6. Much like Barack Obama, Angelina Jolie, David Byrne, and Michelangelo, I am left-handed.

7. My kids are totally adorbs. Yep, that's a fact.

Thanks again, Carissa!