Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Day of 2012

Are you ready to ring in 2013 tonight? We don't have any big plans. We will be making our usual New Year's Eve snacky feast and, as usual, Tony will be laughing at me as I try not to fall asleep before midnight.

Last night I tried out a new cookbook I received for Christmas, The 30 Minute Vegan's Taste of Europe. I made the Gazpacho, which I guess is kind of an odd soup to make in December, considering how it's served chilled. But we had a roaring fire going, so we were okay. The recipe worked out great. I used canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh. I also doubled the amount of diced avocado, which never hurts. I love a soup that can be made entirely in the blender. The fewer dirty dishes, the happier I am!

This morning I used up the very last of our Christmas leftovers, from my giant sweet potato casserole. I was excited to try out my new waffle iron. Sweet potato pecan waffles, anyone? I just mashed up a cup of the leftover casserole and added it to a standard vegan waffle batter. Delicious! I froze the leftovers, so I can pop them in the toaster for the kids' breakfast all week.

Olivia is ready to party like it's 2013! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: Tarka

Today is a chilly, drizzly day and we have spent most of it in our PJ's. Olivia and I are getting over colds, which makes staying inside and under blankets even more appealing!
Before Christmas, we stopped in one afternoon at Tarka, a new-ish Indian restaurant in our hood. We placed our order at the counter and helped ourselves to mango lemonade. 
We were impressed with how quickly the plates of food flew out to our table, yet it all tasted fresh and was presented quite nicely.
We started with vegetable pakoras, served with mint chutney, and dusted with a bright red spice blend that added an extra layer of flavor.
We also shared an order of vegetable samosas, filled with potatoes and peas.

The garlic naan bread was a highlight for me. I don't know if you can see it in the picture, but this naan had minced garlic stuffed into every little crack and crevice. The more garlic the better, as far as I'm concerned.

For my entree, I ordered the Dhingri Mattar Paneer. Paneer cheese, mushroom, and peas in a tomato cream sauce. I may have moaned aloud as I dug into this rich, savory dish. Fabulous.

We typically choose Indian buffets so that we can get in and out in a hurry, before our two little monkeys reach their "sitting up straight, using indoor voices, and eating with utensils" limit. But Tarka's food tastes fresher than a buffet, and the food appears in front of you almost as quickly. Can't wait to go back!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pinterest vs. Cookbooks

Since I joined Pinterest, I've come across so many recipes that I'm dying to try. The other day I had a realization...thanks to Pinterest, I could pretty much stop buying cookbooks.
That doesn't mean I will! There's something about a new cookbook. I read them like novels, sitting down with a cup of tea to pore over them. I like the little anecdotes that make a cookbook personal.
However, I'm referencing my cookbooks a little less often these days. What about you? Found any "must-make" recipes via Pinterest?
Speaking of "must-make," please try this Buffalo Style Tofu, with vegan ranch dressing. So addictive.
Here's another find, Chickpea Tagine with Cinnamon, Cumin and Carrots. Currants aren't listed in the title (too many C's?) but they are the surprise star of this dish, adding a lovely sweetness to this Morroccan-inspired stew.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas!
Just taking a quick break from lying in front of the fireplace like a sloth to post a few pics of today's feast.
Green bean casserole. No canned, condensed cream of mushroom soup here! The recipe is from Quick & Easy Vegan Celebrations and it's so good, I've already called dibs on the leftovers.
Roasted brussels sprouts, a Christmas tradition in our house. I love these little green guys.

Roasted garlic mashed potatoes. I'm slightly disappointed with this dish. I roasted a whole head of garlic, yet I can't really taste it in the potatoes. Next time...two heads!

Sweet potatoes with marshmallows and pecans. I knew I'd peeled and boiled too many sweet potatoes when I realized I didn't have a casserole dish large enough to bake them in. Luckily, I remembered my 14" deep dish pizza pan and it worked out.

My plate, below. In addition to the above dishes, I also made Oh She Glows' Pumpkin Garlic Knots, as I have for the past few years. There's not much Christmas-y about these rolls. I'd say they're more Thanksgiving-ish, since they contain pumpkin. But they're so delicious, who cares if they're nontraditional?

For dessert I made Tony's favorite, coconut cream pie. I'll admit, I used boxed pudding mix and a store-bought graham cracker crust. That's how Tony's mom makes it and that's how he likes it! It is pretty hard to turn down a slice.

I also made my first-ever tart, a cranberry-orange-walnut fruit tart. The recipe is from The Voluptuous Vegan, a cookbook I've had for ages but don't consult that often. I think I'm prejudiced against cookbooks that have recipes arranged into pre-planned menus. I don't know if that's the control freak in me saying, "I'll plan my own menus, thanks!" or what.  I'm trying to get over it. The success of this tart is helping in that endeavor. It's so festive-looking, and makes a nice end to a holiday meal without being overly sweet (because we have the coconut pie for that.)

What was on your Christmas menu?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Vegan Fusion Testing

It's been awhile...hope you've been well! I'm not quite ready to return to regular blogging...I still take pictures of my food, but finding time to write posts is a different matter. Today I am just popping in to share some recipes I've been testing for Joni Marie Newman's new cookbook, Vegan Fusion.
First up, I made Spicy Korean Jackfruit BBQ Burritos. There were several components to this recipe.
First, I mixed together the Korean BBQ sauce. This was my first time using black sesame seeds, which I found at the Asian grocery. They taste just like regular sesame seeds, but look much cooler!
Next, I made Sesame Carrot Coleslaw. Tart and a little sweet, this is a nice light coleslaw for those times when you don't want to take the mayonnaise-laden route.

Those components were easy to make in advance. I made them in the morning. Then, at dinnertime, I prepared Cumin Cilantro Garlic Lime Rice with Toasted Coconut. That name is a mouthful. A delicious mouthful of many of my favorite ingredients! Being a cilantro fiend, of course I loved this rice. I could think of many different uses for it.

Finally, I made the Korean Jackfruit BBQ. This was my first time making jackfruit BBQ. It was difficult to find the right type of jackfruit (canned in brine, not in syrup) but I eventually tracked it down at a tiny Indo-European grocery. It was worth the search. As it cooks, the jackfruit breaks down into shreds, resembling pulled pork.

The final product, the burrito, with layers of jackfruit BBQ, coleslaw, rice, and a generous drizzle of BBQ sauce. This is a true fusion recipe, with so many various flavors and influences. Takes a good bit of labor, but worth the effort.

I also tested Creamy Cilantro Pepito Pesto Sauce, which I served over roasted veggies and rice. I'd never eaten a creamy pesto before. This one is super thick, as you can see.

Next up, El Paso Egg Rolls with Creamy Sesame Sriracha Sauce. The filling for these egg rolls has a Southwestern vibe, including plenty of creamy avocado. I chose to bake my egg rolls rather than fry them, but I don't recommend that. The egg roll skins were tough and leathery. This was my very first time making egg rolls, and they were surprisingly easy to assemble. So I will make them again soon, and fry them. I think the result will be much better.

Finally, my favorite recipe so far, Chinese Style Macaroni Salad, dressed with Sweet Chili Sauce. This pasta salad has a wonderful variety of textures -- toothsome pasta, crunchy cashews, and crisp snap peas. Then there's the sweet chili dressing, a perfect combination of sweet and spicy. Tony also loved this and requested that I add it to the regular rotation.

That's it for now. Tomorrow I will start preparing our Christmas feast, and hopefully be back soon to share that with you. Hope you have a lovely Christmas!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

So Long For Now

After two years (and 399 posts!) my blog is going on hiatus. 
The reason is simple.  Naptime = blogging time.  My kids are now 4 and 2 1/2, and they don't like to nap anymore!
I'm staying subscribed to all the blogs in my feed, and hopefully I can steal a minute here or there to comment.
It's been a pleasure, thanks for reading.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sudsy Fun

This afternoon, once it became clear that Jackson and Olivia weren't interested in napping, I quickly turned to my Pinterest boards for inspiration. Result: soap painting!  

I wasn't too sure about using the paint in the tub, until I found out whether it stained. So we headed out on the deck. The kids dug in, squishing the goopy mixture in their hands.

When I informed them that this was a special paint and they could paint themselves, that's when the grins and good times really started. Soon they were covered from head to toe in colorful suds.

After a rinse in the pool, they were squeaky clean. (And the bubbles didn't stain their swimsuits or anything else, so I'm sure it's fine to use in the bathtub.)

We had a light dinner of soup and veggies. I made Nigella Lawson's pea and pesto soup, a longtime favorite.

I fired up my indoor grill pan and charred some summer squash and okra.

I also roasted some little potatoes we got from the CSA. I had no idea they were bright purple on the inside, until I cut into them!

Quite a colorful day, overall.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Today we had lunch at Shandeez. It's located in a nondescript strip mall that I've driven past several times. When I saw a Groupon for the restaurant, I decided we should try it out.
We started with some baba ganoush and pita bread.

Hummus, too.

I had the choose-your-own vegetarian sampler with kashk-o-bademjan (eggplant with yogurt, mint, onion and saffran), dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with lemony rice) with yogurt, falafel patties, and tabouli. The tabouli was served in layers -- bulgur on the bottom, followed by tons of parsley, then tomato, then red onion. This presented a problem because it was served in a tiny bowl, making it impossible to combine the ingredients without spilling them all over the place. I thought it was funny. Aside from the odd deconstructed tabouli, everything tasted pretty good. I wouldn't say it's the best Middle Eastern food in town, but it was a fine lunch.

Afterwards we took the kids to the bookstore. The train set in the kids' section has been such a godsend for us this summer. Anytime we needed to get out of the house for an hour, but it was too hot to go to a park, this is where we found ourselves.
The books are fun, too!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bird Feathers

Jackson has become a collector of bird feathers. I made him a little bird that he can tape them on. Then he counts the feathers. He is up to twelve now. Poor, featherless birds! We have too many stray cats in our neighborhood.
For dinner last night I made Sweet Potato Falafels. I didn't care for them. They were dense and flavorless. I will stick to regular, chickpea falafels from now on. least I tried something new.

We ate them in pita halves, with various toppings: baba ganoush, red onion, cherry tomatoes, hummus, and thinly sliced summer squash. I've been making a lot of baba ganoush since we joined the CSA. We've gotten eggplant in every box, and Tony doesn't like eggplant in any other form.

Leftovers for lunch: falafels on ciabatta bread with Veganaise, sriracha, and red onion. Not much improvement the second day. Oh well.

By the way, I want to thank my readers for bearing with me during this time of crappy phone camera pics. My camera got broken on our trip to the Children's Museum. We decided that it is time to upgrade to a DSLR, which I'm excited about. But the first one we ordered turned out to be a dud and we had to send it back. So now we are waiting for our refund and then we will shop around some more. In the meantime, my phone is all I have!

Monday, September 10, 2012


It's official, my parents are buying a house about 40 minutes from us, in Georgetown. They will get the keys in a couple weeks. This weekend, Tony and I decided to visit Georgetown and get a feel for the area. Jackson and Olivia napped in the car while we drove around. When they woke up, we stopped by a fun playground.

After the kids worked up an appetite, we ate at the Monument Cafe. The building resembles an old-timey diner, the type we saw everywhere when we lived in New York state.

While we perused the menus, our server brought us each a giant, fluffy biscuit.

I ordered the garden sandwich -- a big slab of cornmeal-crusted fried eggplant, tomato, mushrooms, avocado, swiss cheese, and sprouts, served on hippie wheat bread, with a side of housemade potato chips. Tony hates eggplant, so I could never get away with making a sandwich like this at home. I savored every bite -- it was a great sandwich!

When I saw "key lime pie" on their daily specials board, I knew I had to order a slice. Even though it's my favorite type of pie, key lime pie is another thing that I never make at home. Tony doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so I'd end up having to eat most of it by myself. When it comes to key lime pie, I lack the restraint that such a scenario would call for.

Divine! Jackson and Olivia "helped" me finish it off. I didn't really need help, but we always tell them it's important to share, so I felt I had to set a good example. It was tough!