Monday, January 31, 2011

Rockin da Pasta

On Saturday, we wrapped up the babies and headed over to New Paltz to eat at our favorite local restaurant, Rock da Pasta. How can you not love a vegan-friendly (and also gluten-free-friendly, if you're into that) pasta place whose name pays tribute to one of the greatest bands ever? I've written about this restaurant before.  I generally don't care about dining at Italian restaurants because I feel like, "It's just pasta...I can make this ate home." But Rock Da Pasta does amazing things with pasta.

We started with the Pot Stickers, stuffed with edamame and tamarind and served with a ginger-scallion-chili glaze. See what I mean about the creativity? They vanished in seconds.

I also ordered some hot tea since I was freezing, and I liked the cute little individual teapot so much that I had to take a pic.

For my entree, I had the Pesto Palooza -- angel hair pasta, artichoke hearts, avocado, and seasoned tofu, dressed with cilantro pesto and balsamic reduction. Now, normally I am the slow eater in the group who always takes home leftovers, but not today. This disappeared almost as fast as the won tons. Oh. My. God. So good.

Tony is partial to his Love Diablo, a spicy sausage rotini that he orders every time. He says next time he will order a veg dish so we can share. Aw.

We were also going to buy some incense at the hippie shop down the block, but sadly, it had gone out of business. I guess our $20 every three months wasn't keeping them afloat. Now I'll have to settle for ordering my incense online. (Do you like incense? I am pretty much always burning either incense or candles. I love pinon incense. It smells like a campfire.) At least we got an awesome meal out of our trip!

For today's 30 Day Challenge question...

#13 - Somewhere I'd like to move or visit.

Well, I've made no secret of the fact that I miss living in Austin. I'd move back there tomorrow if it was up to me. Maybe some day. I also love San Francisco, but it feels like you need a lot of money to raise a family there.

I've been fortunate to travel a lot, but I can always think of new places that I would love to visit. Hawaii, Paris, Barcelona, and Tokyo are at the top of my list. I'd also like to make return visits to Vancouver, London and Rome!

Vacation slideshows may be boring to some, but I love hearing about others' trips. Where have your travels taken you?  Where do you want to go?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Little Soup, A Little Cookies, A Little Pizza

Tony was able to come home for lunch today, and I made the Almost-Instant Chickpea-Tomato Soup from Vegan on the Cheap. It's one of my favorite soups to make because I always have the ingredients on hand and it's ready in minutes.

Tony said his sweet tooth was acting up, so for "dessert" I made the Oatmeal Cookies from Clean Food. I have owned this cookbook for a bit, but this is the first time I cracked it open. I dunno, I think the recipes look so simple, that I don't find them appealing. At first. Then I remind myself that simple can be really good.

These cookies are really good, anyhow. Feeling extra virtuous, I used spelt flour instead of white, and raisins in place of chocolate chips. I do think it's funny that the first thing I choose to make from a book about whole, clean foods is cookies. Well, when I said that one of my goals this month is to eat more unprocessed foods, I didn't say what those foods had to be, ha ha. Baby steps!

Tonight we were supposed to go to an event up in Rhinebeck and we were going to eat there, but it was cancelled, so we found ourselves with no plans and no dinner prepared.  We decided to go out to eat, and headed to Antonella's because Jackson always loves pizza.  I like their bruschetta pizza. Vegans don't have to specify "no cheese" because it comes topped with tomatoes, black olives, and red onion -- that's it.  Simple, yet tasty and satisfying. 

We did have some cheese, though, in the form of the easy listening music that was playing throughout our meal. I cracked up when I looked up their website and the same cheesy music started playing through my computer speakers.  Just a little warning for you there, my friends, before you click that link!

Anyone else taking on the 30 Day Challenge that I started yesterday?

We'll go with an easy one to kick off the weekend. #23 - pictures of 5 famous hot dudes!

1. Javier Bardem

2. Joaquin Phoenix*

* It should be noted I am referring to the Joaquin Phoenix pictured above. Not this Joaquin Phoenix.

3. Joel McHale

4. Christian Bale

5. Ewan McGregor

Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Buffalo Tempeh with Mac & Trees, 30 Day Challenge

Last night I tried out two recipes from Appetite for Reduction -- the Buffalo Tempeh, and Mac & Trees (the trees being broccoli).  Both are total winners. This cookbook is awesome.  Don't worry if you are not trying to lose weight -- none of this stuff looks or tastes like diet food.

The tempeh is really spicy. I would say it does definitely need to be paired with something creamy or cool. I'm going to eat the leftovers for lunch with some cole slaw.

The mac and trees went over so well with both kids. I used ditalini pasta which is a good size for Olivia to grab and devour.

Jackson ate three bowls. Mac and trees, you are going to be invited back to dinner again very soon.

A word about the Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce...last time I made it, for the Tempeh Helper, I was unable to find the chicken-flavored powder that it calls for. The other day I found some at the health food store, so I added it this time around. Personally, I like it better without the powder, so don't sweat it if you can't find it. It's a good sauce either way.

So...I feel like I don't have a lot to write about these days other than food. In the summer and fall, I was talking about our various travels, but it's going to be cold and snowy for a couple more months yet, which means we won't be leaving the house all that much. So, to spice things up a little, I think I will give this 30-Day Challenge a try. I found it on Averie's blog, and it originally came from Eliza.

Some of these topics are verrrry personal, so I believe I will skip around and do the ones I'm comfortable with. Today, I'll start with #29 - my goals for the next 30 days.

One of my goals is to practice yoga at least 3x a week at home. You might recall earlier this month I was so excited about a yoga studio opening nearby.  Well, between multiple classes being cancelled due to snow, and Tony's crazy work schedule, class attendance has not been working out so well for me.

I tried in the past to practice at home using a DVD, but the kids climbed all over me. I finally came up with a solution a couple weeks ago. I went old-school and got a book. Now I go in the bedroom, close the door, flip through the book and get an idea of what I want to do. I usually start with one of the brief sequences in the back of the book, and branch off from there, depending on what it feels like my body needs.

I haven't given up on classes completely. It's a new studio so they are still figuring out their schedule, and Tony is only on his 60-hour work schedule for another month. So I will check back after that and see if there is a class I can go to. In the meantime, it feels really good to be doing yoga again and I'm enjoying my less-structured home practice because I can focus on whatever I want.

Another goal is to eat less processed foods. I don't think I eat a huge amount, but I mean, I've been buying Jif peanut butter for years. It's delicious. But it also has sugar and oil in it that don't need to be there. So this week I bought natural peanut butter that is just peanuts and salt. I wouldn't sit there and eat it off the spoon (not that I do that with Jif...oh wait, yes I do), but when it's mixed into my morning oats, I can't tell the difference.

One more goal that is a little harder to attain is to be more patient with my little ones, especially Jackson. At almost 2 1/2, he's in that phase where he is testing me every second. (I know some of you with older kids might be laughing at my use of the word 'phase.' Please don't tell me if you are. Just let me go on telling myself this is a brief stage and not the next 16 years.) I'm struggling to always remember that even though he is trying to show his independence, he is also watching me every second, so my reaction is going to shape his future actions. If I yell, he will think yelling is what you do when you're frustrated. I wish I was one of those earth goddess moms and I could be like, "When Jackson steals Olivia's paci and throws it across the room for the tenth time, he's just showing his spirited nature and childish energy, isn't his expressiveness wonderful, la la la la la!" But I really doubt any moms are like that 24/7 without large doses of xanax. So I'm just trying to take it day by day and be easy with him and with myself.

There we go...I guess I'll report back in 30 days and see how I did.

Are you working on any goals this month?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cookbook Challenge - Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Here's my second Urban Vegan recipe for this week's PPK Cookbook Challenge.  The Roasted Root Vegetable Soup is versatile and can be made with a variety of veggies. Here are the ones I used: carrot, onion, potato, turnip, and parsnip.  A couple of those were new to me. A turnip is a lot like a potato once you peel it, and a parsnip is like a white carrot.

Little they are on the tray ready to go...

And the perhaps less attractive, but still tasty, result...

It's not a soup that makes you use exclamation points, but it has a nice flavor and is good for lunch on a cold winter day.

On the side we had raw vegan kale chips, recipe courtesy of Averie at Love Veggies and Yoga. I had been meaning to try these for awhile, but I had tried making kale chips in the past and burned them, resulting in a horrible stench, so I was a little gun-shy. Now I wish I'd gotten to them much sooner! Talk about addictive. I love cheesy, salty snacks, so these are perfect for me.

I don't own a dehydrator, but the baking method worked fine. Later in the day, the leftovers did get a little soggy. What I did was eat them on top of a hummus bagel. Or, you could probably pop them back in the oven for a few minutes to re-crisp.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cookbook Challenge - Chickpea-Chili Burgers

This week, the PPK Cookbook Challenge tackles The Urban Vegan. I'm testing recipes for Dynise Balcavage's next book, so it was fun to go back and try a recipe from her first offering.

Jackson was eager to help by adding the ingredients to the food processor (which is not plugged in...I can just see my mom freaking out over this pic so I thought I should point that out!)

And, by now y'all know how Olivia usually loves to supervise in the kitchen...but today she was caught up in a book.

The Chickpea-Chili Burgers are an economical alternative to store-bought vegan burgers. Roasted red peppers and chili powder give the burgers a slightly spicy, sweet flavor.  I made mine too wet and they were kind of sticky to handle, but they turned out OK.

The next day I formed the leftover mixture into small patties and ate them on pita bread, like falafels. I liked them even better this way.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cookbook Challenge Week 2 - Veganomicon

This week, I've decided to group all of my PPK Cookbook Challenge meals into one post. But don't let the fact that I'm not writing a novel over each of these recipes dissuade you from trying any of them, for they are all fantastic.

The Veganomicon is the cookbook I turn to most often, not only for recipes, but for information about how long and what temperature to roast certain vegetables or boil dried legumes. I'm the kind of cook who is always forgetting if you should bake a potato at 400 or 450, so it's extremely helpful to have a handy reference for that sort of thing. 

But the recipes are, of course, the main attraction of this book. I used the Veganomicon twice last week. Not for the challenge, just because Banana-Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding and Vietnamese Seitan Baguettes with Savory Broth Dip are awesome.  The Vietnamese sandwich is one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life, for real.

And what do we have this week?

Chile Cornmeal-Crusted Tofu Po'Boy
So messy, but so addictive.  The tofu's cornmeal crust provides a crunchy, spicy contrast for the cool, creamy coleslaw.  I topped my po'boys with hot sauce instead of the chipotle mayo, but that probably would have been delicious as well. Can't wait to eat these again.

I love the spicy flavors of fried samosas served at Indian restaurants, and this looked like a healthier, homemade alternative.  I halved the recipe so we wouldn't have a ton of leftovers. I cheated by microwaving my baked potatoes, so these came together quickly. I thought they looked really appealing, with the bright bits of pea and carrot.  They also smelled lovely, from all the Indian spices. My only complaint was that they were on the dry side, and could have used a dipping sauce or chutney. Next time, I'll pair them with the 5-Minute Mango Chutney.

Tofu Florentine
This took an hour to put together, but it was worth it. I halved the recipe and it still filled a pie plate. First I layered in some home fries, followed by steamed spinach and broiled tofu. I doused the whole thing in cheezy sauce and sprinkled on some chopped tomatoes.  The spinach makes this dish taste "healthy," but in a good way.

Next week, we move on to Urban Vegan.  Although I've been busily testing recipes for the Urban Vegan's new cookbook, it'll be fun to go back and revisit the first book.

This week seemed to fly by! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Urban Vegan Tester #10 - Cumin-Harissa Dipping Sauce

Today I tried out a new food item called harissa.  It's new to me, anyway.  Harissa is a North African condiment, a paste made from hot chili peppers, garlic, salt and olive oil. I found this brand, called Cap Bon, at Whole Foods.

I used the harissa to make a dipping sauce found in the Urban Vegan's upcoming cookbook. The spicy, creamy sauce tastes just fine on a seitan burger, but it really excels as a dip for sweet potato fries. Its heat is a perfect match for the sweet potatoes' intrinsic sweetness.

If you're someone who habitually adds hot sauce or crushed red pepper to your food, I encourage you to seek out your own little can of harissa!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kale Garlic Bread

Sometimes I buy the giant bags of pre-chopped kale (20 cups to a bag) because they are more economical than the individual bunches. The only problem is that once you get down to the bottom half of the bag, you get a lot of thick stems mixed in with the leaves. My desire to use all the parts of the kale, but not have to gnaw on the tough stems, resulted in this delightfully green creation.

Kale Garlic Bread
5 cups chopped kale (bits of stems included)
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Steam the kale for 6-8 minutes until tender. Combine kale with other ingredients in the food processor, scraping down the sides with a spatula to insure everything is blended. Spread the kale mixture thickly on halved ciabatta rolls, baguettes, or whatever bread you enjoy. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast, if desired. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.

Serve alongside pasta dishes, or on its own as a snack.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Urban Vegan Tester #9 - Tanzanian Curried Chickpea-Banana Soup

For today's lunch I made this soup from the Urban Vegan's upcoming cookbook.  Tony loved its super spicy, coconut-tinged broth.  Personally, I liked that it features bananas. 

Bananas in soup? Yes! I'm not familiar with Tanzanian cuisine, but I've enjoyed plantains (which are similar to bananas) in Latin American or Caribbean dishes. They provide just a little sweetness and creaminess that provides a nice contrast to the intense heat. That's the role the bananas play here. And it definitely works!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tempeh Helper

Yesterday I was sad to learn that Trish Keenan, the singer for one of my favorite bands, Broadcast, has passed away. I loved her style and voice. Their music always put me in a happy mood, and now listening to them won't be the same. Here is one of their videos. RIP.

Since I was so bummed out, lunch was an afterthought. But, Jackson needs to eat, so I made roasted garlic hummus with steamed kale, in a pita.

For dinner I made another Appetite for Reduction creation for the PPK Cookbook Challenge. I told Tony I was making Tempeh Helper and he asked "What flavor?" I looked at him blankly, unaware that Hamburger Helper comes in flavors. I guess this is cheesy flavor. In this picture the cheese sauce appears to be glowing, but that's just because it was dark out and I had to use the flash. In reality it looked really good.

It was quick to make, and of course it tasted great.  Pasta covered in cheese sauce, who wouldn't like that? I am not always in love with tempeh, but I enjoyed it in this instance.

Jackson is really into stirring lately. Here he is browning the tempeh.  I like Olivia's expression in the background.  I guess she was excited about the Tempeh Helper -- it surprised me how much she ate!

Are you doing anything fun this weekend? Tony has a 3-day weekend, but I'm not sure yet if we are doing anything. I feel like being outdoors, but I think it's going to be too cold to take the babies outside for very long. I'm sure I'll come up with something. Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quinoa Puttanesca

As part of the PPK's Cookbook Challenge, I made another Appetite for Reduction recipe for lunch: Quinoa Puttanesca.  As I got the ingredients ready, I exclaimed what a genius idea it is. I mean, puttanesca sauce is like the most flavorful sauce in existence, with its kalamata olives, capers, and red pepper flakes. Therefore it is the perfect sauce to dump all over a bland bowl of quinoa and transform it into something great.  The recipe says four servings, but for us, it was two. It was that good.

 For dinner, we saw the return of Kale Pizza with Garlic Sauce.  This time, I subbed sliced zucchini for the potato. I sauteed the zucchini right along with the mushrooms and layered it on the pizza with plenty of steamed kale on top. The kale gets so nice and crispy in the oven.

Did you see that the zodiac signs have changed? I was a Sagittarius, and the traits of the centaur archer seemed to fit me pretty well.  Apparently I'm now an Ophiuchus. I don't even know how to pronounce that. And the only information I can find on the snake wrestler's traits (snake wrestler, seriously) that we should pursue medical professions.
Do you have a new zodiac sign? Do you care either way?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Banana-Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

Today, I awoke to this...

What sounds good on a snowy day when you don't really want to get out of your pajamas? How about some Banana Chocolate-Chip Bread Pudding?

Jackson helped prepare the bread, while Olivia supervised from her crib (I roll it into the kitchen so she can hang out and be safe).

It was the perfect warm, gooey treat to nibble on while we watched the snow fall.

For dinner, another Veganomicon recipe, the French dip sandwiches. We loved these when I made them a few weeks ago and they were just as good the second time around.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Urban Vegan Tester #8 - Fajitas

This month, Tony is working his weird training schedule again, which means he sometimes gets home at 3 p.m. ready for a big meal because he's been up since 4 a.m. with no lunch break.  So I look for meals that I can make for him and then easily reheat when I get hungry later. The Urban Vegan's Fajitas fit this requirement perfectly.  Chunks of seitan, sweet red bell pepper, and caramelized onion on a warm tortilla -- this is just what Tony needs after a long shift spent on his feet. 

It was also just what I needed last night, after attending my first yoga class in over a year! I'm sore today, but it's a good soreness -- letting me know I used muscles that hadn't been worked out in awhile.

We got a foot of snow overnight and lots more coming down, so I'm not going anywhere today, just trying to entertain these kids the best I can while cooped up inside. Have a great Wednesday, guys!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cookbook Challenge - Baked Onion Rings

Hola, how was your weekend? On Saturday, I did a little retail therapy and ate some Mexican food. Yesterday I just did stuff around the house. I was in kind of a blah mood until I learned some news -- there is a yoga studio opening right by my house! This cheered me up immensely. I used to go to yoga regularly when I lived in Austin, and I was pretty upset when we moved to New York and I learned that there were no studios in this area. I've tried practicing at home, but my son always wants to climb all over me and it is the opposite of relaxing! So I'm super excited to check this place out soon. The exercise and stress relief benefits of yoga are great, and I'm also looking forward to having some "me time" a couple times a week, which I don't really have right now.

This week, the PPK Cookbook Challenge begins! I posted the schedule the other day. This week, it's Appetite for Reduction.

I don't own this cookbook yet (I ordered it because I keep hearing good things, but it hasn't arrived yet), but I found a recipe online for OMG Oven Baked Onion Rings. They were easy. I used to be afraid to bread things, fearing a big mess. But you really only need to remember one rule -- keep one hand dry at all times.  It worked for my New Years Eve jalapeno poppers, and it worked for these onion rings.

Tony thought the onion rings were perfect for snacking on while enjoying some football playoffs. I could care less about football, but I ate my share as well!

I'm afraid this dipping sauce doesn't fit with the low-calorie philosophy of Appetite for Reduction, but it does pair nicely with the baked rings.

Awesome Onion Ring Sauce
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
2 Tbsp. ketchup
2 tsp. prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl, serve with onion rings.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Urban Vegan Tester # 7 - Buckeyes

Here's my latest tester recipe from the Urban Vegan. Buckeye candies got their name because they resemble the nut of the buckeye tree.  Since you don't have to bake these chocolate and peanut butter confections, they are a breeze to make. The hardest part is waiting for the chocolate coating to set before you pop one in your mouth.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Technologically Challenged

I'm back -- hopefully my camera issues are on their way to being worked out. This week I learned that my nearly 10-year-old digital camera was not compatible with my new computer. The solution: buy an item called a card reader. It snowed all day yesterday and I didn't feel like taking the babies out on the icy roads to track down this item.  But the weather was much better today, so now I have my card reader (as well as a new printer, because my old one was also incompatible.)

Now, instead of loading the pics directly from the camera, I take the memory card out of the camera, insert it in the card reader, and load them from there. I lost several pics while figuring it out, but I think I know what my error was, so hopefully I won't lose anymore. I'm annoyed that technology becomes obsolete so quickly. My printer was only five years old and worked just fine and my camera, although ancient, is also in good condition, so why spend more money on new stuff?  But at least the card reader was only $15...a lot cheaper than buying a new camera, which was my other option.

Anyway, after making the necessary technology purchases, I decided I needed some retail therapy --buying something I wanted rather than something I needed! So we headed to the nearest Lush store at the mall over in Danbury.

Now, if you know anything about Lush, you are probably thinking, "This girl is complaining about spending money but she can afford Lush?" Their products are a wee bit pricey.  And no, I can't normally afford them. Years ago, I could.  But in a single-income family, fancy bath products are not in the budget. Fortunately, my rad brother gave me a gift card for Christmas!

Jackson didn't leave the mall empty-handed, either.

What I wouldn't give for a Lush bath bomb of that size...

We stopped to eat at the Desert Moon Grille.  They are sort of a healthy Tex-Mex place, really casual, you order at the counter and help yourself to chips and salsa.

Two kinds of salsa -- the green was hot and had a vinegary aftertaste; the red tasted like it had sugar added to it.  I didn't really care for either one, but Tony liked the green.

I had the fajita soft tacos with tofu.  They tasted really fresh and were not heavy at all, the way some Tex-Mex can be.

It's making me really happy to be able to load up pictures again.

How is your weekend going? Doing anything fun?