Friday, August 31, 2007

Game Day

Instead of the typical work-day, yesterday our team was treated to an afternoon out at the Astros ballgame. To start my morning right, I decided to try out DGMGV's pan-seared oatmeal, which I've been eyeing for weeks now. After a slight set-back in trying to open my new bottle of balsamic glaze (which resulted in a nasty cut on my finger, boohoo!), I made this relatively simple, but delicious and filling breakfast. I topped off the oatmeal with bananas, raspberries, walnuts, and agave nectar (with the glaze on the bottom). I have never really eaten much oatmeal, but this might change all of that!!

After a short morning in the office, our group went out to lunch at an apparently famous (and popular) Mexican restaurant called Irma's located just north of the ballpark. Whenever I go to a new restaurant, I always do my homework, which mostly involves searching for the menu on the web and reading any reviews. This particular restaurant only serves breakfast and lunch, and there are usually only 3-5 items available, which changes daily. This is scary for a vegan. Especially in a cheese and meat loving city. At the restaurant all that I could eat was a green salad with tomato and carrot. They did at least garnish it with some cilantro, which I thought was nice, but I was still hungry! Thankfully I came prepared with a peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich. It hit the spot and kept me full throughout the game...

Onto the ballgame where the Stros, who are having a less than stellar year (not that I follow, just what my coworkers told me), played the St Louis Cardinals. We had great seats. I just had to kind of control my upchuck reflex when seeing all of the loaded hotdogs. Another disappointment was the sign across the foul ball line, courtesy of Chick-Fil-A. Not surprising considering their other advertisements...

An aside, check out my newly purchased vegan shoes!! I got them at Whole Earth Provision Company, but for those of you outside the Lone Star State, you can get them at mooshoes. I love them, wish I could wear them to work everyday!

And the Astros pulled it off, defeating the Cardinals 2-1. The best part of the afternoon was that I got to get home a bit early and relax before heading out to dinner.

We met another couple that we are good friends with at Rickshaw, a sushi place that we've recently been frequenting more often for it's wide selection of vegan food! I think my favorite is the Coconut Curry Tofu (far right). I could eat several bowls of this stuff on my own. I followed that with some sushi selections.... veggie sushi in soy paper, avocado nigiri, and inari. This was my first time trying inari and I was not very impressed, maybe it's just not for me. But I love the sushi with the soy paper, I'm going to have to find an Asian market that stocks it so I can try making my own!

Hope everyone enjoys their weekend! I"m so glad it's a long one here in the US.....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

What Makes a Paella?

According to Wikipedia, the three main ingredients are rice, saffron, and olive oil. Well, I'm batting one for three! Not that it matters, because this quinoa paella (from FatFree Vegan Kitchen) dish was hearty, full of flavor, and made a ton of leftovers! We had it for dinner on Tuesday, lunch on Wednesday, and dinner again last night (added some leftover corn from the cob), and didn't get tired of it! I didn't have the saffron it called for, so I just added a little extra of the other spices. Maybe because I've never had paella, but I didn't miss it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Want My Spinach!

Oh no, here we go again. I just saw an article stating that a California company has recalled fresh spinach due to a positive test for salmonella. No illness has been reported yet. I remember the spinach scare last year (due to E. coli) that kept my favorite salad green off the shelves for what seemed like weeks! Please please don't let this happen... I was counting on eating healthy salads these next few weeks!

Now of course, I understand that if there is a chance that spinach is contaminated, that it should be pulled from the shelves. What angers me is the double standard! Meat recalls happen everyday, how often do you hear about them? During the spinach scare of 2006 you couldn't find spinach anywhere, but have you ever seen all beef taken off the shelves due to recall? No, of course not, because the meat industry and the USDA are best buddies. And of course, since the spinach scare, I meet so many people that, when I inform them I'm vegan, make some crack about how I have a better chance of getting salmonella because I eat vegetables. HELLO! Don't they realize that is the factory farming industry that is responsible for the E. coli and salmonella in my leafy greens?

Here's hoping....

Monday, August 27, 2007

Muffins Aren't Sweets

The weekend was pretty uneventful, just finishing up wedding details, catching up on sleep and baking in the kitchen. Sunday, we attended a birthday brunch with several friends. I took a chance and made a tofu quiche with asparagus and sun-dried tomato. The results were spectacular...

I started with FatFree Vegan Kitchen's mini-tofu quiche recipe, making several alterations. I added garlic powder to the tofu mixture and put it in a pre-made whole wheat crust. Baking time was somewhat of an experiment, but I ended up cooking the quiche for about 40 minutes. Next time, I may let it go a little longer. This is such an easy meal though, and quiche makes great leftovers (which we already ate up....last night for dinner). Everyone was pretty curious about the vegan quiche, so quite a few people gave it a shot, even though there was a similar egg and veggie dish there as well!

I also brought along two kinds of muffins. I tried out Celine's adaptation of Strawberry Corn Muffins from Have Cake Will Travel. It took some searching to find corn flour (versus cornmeal), but the result was a delicately sweet muffin brimming with strawberry goodness. I also made Lemon Poppyseed muffins from VWAV, which I've had before. Although the batter had kind of a funky texture this time (very frothy and bubbly...strange), they turned out beautiful as well (love the crunch from the poppyseeds and the subtle lemon flavor). I'm starting to suspect that my oven though is a bit hotter than it says, both batches came out a tiny bit browner than I would have liked.

These were breakfast this morning, and dessert last night (and probably the next few mornings and nights!). I figured, this doesn't count as junk food/sweets, they both have fruit and are called muffins. Right?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Last Batch .... Sniff

One month from today I'm getting married! I want to be as healthy as possible for the "big day" (wow, that sounds cheesy) so for the next 31 days, there will be no more of this stuff....

Last night I made my final batch of sweets (okay, I will be making an exception on my upcoming birthday and also at my wedding shower). These are the Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip cookies from vegweb. I love them, so tender and yummy with a hint of cinnamon. I think I ate three right out of the oven for that warm cookie gooeyness. A perfect goodbye to sugar and sweets. The focus for the next month will be fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains (something I usually do anyways). And no, I'm not trying to lose weight or anything to fit into my dress, I just want my immune system to be strong, my skin to be radiant, and my energy level high for all the wedding events.

Hopefully putting this information in blogworld will help me stay true to this diet/detox/craziness!!

Stacked Shroom

Yes, I promise, there's a mushroom somewhere in there!!

Last night I made a variation on a simple dinner from the Vegetarian Times Cookbook. The roasted portabella mushroom is stacked with steamed spinach on the bottom, orzo tossed with sauteed zucchini, red bell pepper, the mushroom gills, toasted pumpkin seeds, and parsley, and topped off with roasted grape tomatoes! A light and healthy dinner, plus there was plenty of extra filling leftover for a cold salad. If you haven't made those roasted tomatoes, do it now! I was meaning to save some for a tempeh sandwich, but they were irresistable, so I will have to make some more tonight!!

More later today on a bit of a change up in my food eating routine....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Spotlight on the Side and BBQ Wars

Very rarely does the side dish get the spotlight. Today is your day to shine!! Without further adieu, here is the Green Bean and Corn salsa from vegetarian times (a few issues back).

This was an very tasty side dish indeed. I used frozen sweet white corn instead of fresh, used about 1/4 of the red onion called for, doubled the cilantro, and added a touch of olive oil for flavor. Next time I may add more jalapeno for an extra kick, but otherwise, this was just about perfect.

On the side, let's say, was grilled bbq seitan ribz, finally! I decided to have my own little bbq sauce war, since I always seem to be trying to find the perfect bbq sauce, not too sweet, just the right about of heat, and a nice smoky flavor. True to my heritage (yes, as much as I'd sometimes like to deny my Texas heritage, sometimes it makes me proud) , I tried out two rival Texas brands, one from Fredricksburg and another from neighboring Austin (a woman-owned company, roar!).

The winner? For me, it was a bit of a toss up. John's favorite was the Austin's own, he thought the peach pecan was too sweet and tasted too much like worchestire sauce. But I thought it was a little spicier, which I liked. I think next time we may go for the Austin's Own chipotle bbq sauce. And just so they don't feel left out, here's a photo of the ribz pre-grill. I made a double match for the war, so I'm still eating leftovers two days later!! Nothing wrong with that....

Monday, August 20, 2007

Gimme S'more

Ahhhh, the elusive vegan s'more. The odds are stacked against us, from the lack of honey-free graham crackers to the quest of gelatin-free marshmallows. But once again, we can gather around our campfires (or kitchen stove as in our case), tell ghost stories (or whine that we have to go to work the next day), and roast marshmallows for that warm, gooey, sugary treat known fondly as the s'more.

Last night we did just that. Some of you may remember the vegan marshmallow saga from what seems like many months ago now. At that time, I vowed to get my hands on some of Sweet and Sara's vegan marshmallows. Low and behold, while browsing Vegan Essentials I discovered that they were finally in stock! I took my chance and ordered the toasted coconut and vanilla marshmallows. Since they were coming to steamy Houston, I had to order them second day air mail, packaged with cold packs, so they wouldn't be a sticky mess when they arrived. As soon as I saw they had been delivered, I ran (okay, drove) home from work to save these little meltaways from the blistering sun. The toasted coconut marshmallows survived the journey well, but the vanilla weren't so lucky. Regardless, I tossed them in my fridge to recover. Now I'm sure you're wondering about the taste, very authentic! The texture was similar, although not as fluffy and the taste not quite as sweet as a reguar marshmallow, but that was a welcomed change. The vanilla mallows were a bit tough to roast given that they never regained a tensile strength, but I still managed to get some of the edges nice and brown. The only thing I thought was missing was the nutritional information, although maybe I don't want to know....

For the graham crackers, I have searched far and wide in the grocery stores of Houston, but have yet to find a graham cracker that doesn't have honey. So I figured, they can't be that hard to make, right? I found a recipe from the VCTOTW blog, so I knew it had to be good. Rolling the dough and getting perfect rectangles was a bit tough, but it was worth the effort. Here they are about to head for the oven.

This was a fun little food experiment for me. For the chocolate, I used the Endangered Species Grizzly Bear bar, dark chocolate with raspberries, mmmm, I love their chocolate. Honestly, I'm not even that fond of s'mores, but it was the challenge that drew me to it (I'm a bit of a type A personality). Overall, I think they turned out well, at least I gobbled mine up! And it did bring back fond memories of sitting around the fire at Girl Scout camp, laughing and telling stories, and just having a good ole time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sweet, Sour, and Sassy

So many bloggers have been fixing the barbequed seitan ribz from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen, I have been feeling quite left out. But dragging out the grill is almost more of a winter activity for us, so last night I decided to try her variation on the baked seitan theme, the seitan baked in sweet and sour orange sauce.

Baked seitan is definitely the coolest thing. No messing with kneading for ten minutes, boiling for an hour, and cooling for another hour. Just throw the ingredients together, lightly knead, and smash it in pan. My seitan was a little bit stubborn and kept contracting into a ball, but eventually I got it to behave. The sweet and sour sauce was a snap, and it could be even easier (obviously) if you just used one out of a jar. I loved how both the seitan and the sauce had little chunks of garlic and ginger, it really gave this dish quite a lot of flavor. On the side I just sauteed some veggies I had on hand, asparagus, red pepper, and zucchini, and tossed them with some of the leftover sauce (the recipe makes quite a bit). This is definitely a recipe I will be using again, and trying some variations on!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When the Cat is Away...

The mouse will ..... go to work, do some yoga, bake, cook, eat dinner with parents, emboss, sleep, and of course, blog! John is returning home tonight from a short business trip, so I've had some extra time on my hands. Tonight I went over to my parents house for dinner. My mom experimented with a new recipe, quinoa risotto from vegetarian times. The verdict was it was alright, but not our favorite (or easiest) quinoa dish. On the side was some roasted asparagus, my mom's amazing homemade bread, and a yummy fruit salad with toasted almonds. Plus my mom made some more of those Best Vegan Brownies Ever which we topped with some vanilla soy ice cream. Yum.

After dinner, we did some embossing for the wedding favors. What fun, I think I may just start embossing everything. And it's so easy! I'm not exactly the crafty type (thank goodness my mom is!), but I managed to pick this up. I'll post sometime soon about specifically what we were embossing, it's a part of the wedding planning activities that I'm very proud about.

Last night I had breakfast for dinner, which I always loved growing up. I made blueberry banana oatmeal pancakes. Basically used the same recipe for VWAV banana-raisin-oatmeal waffles except no raisins and added blueberries. These were delicious, and made plenty to munch on for later. On the side my favorite breakfast faux sausage by Gardenburger.

And finally I was a good fiance (that sounds funny still!) and baked for my future husband. A week or so ago in his drugged daze (he's on painkillers for a slipped disc, ouch), he cried out for goldfish. And what a coincidence that Celine over at Have Cake, Will Travel just posted her recipe for Cheezy Quackers! I bought some cute little animal cookie cutters and made a bunch of these cheezy little critters.

It was tough not to munch on them before he returns. I thought they turned out wonderfully, very addictive!! Here they are following each other one by one in a little shadowbox....

Hopefully John will enjoy them! Okay, enough playing, the cat will return in a few hours, so I'd better go clean up all those dishes I've piled up!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hot Faux Sausage!

Our grill hasn't gotten much use this summer, it's either been too rainy or just too damn hot! But on Sunday evening, John braved the sweltering heat and lit up the coals. We grilled some Field Roast Italian Sausage, a grain meat that also has eggplant, red bell pepper, and plenty of fennel seed to spice it up! Here they are with their beautiful grill marks....

At first I just put these on a whole wheat hot dog bun with some whole grain mustard, but once we took our first few bites, John made an excellent addition. I had leftover red wine tomato sauce from the past week that perfectly complimented the Italian flavors, plus we got rid of some leftovers (I'm trying to get better about that)! Sorry no picture of the finished product, I ate it too fast. On the side, I also utilized other leftover veggies (red pepper, cucumber) to make the Quinoa Spring Salad from Vive Le Vegan. Added some edamame as well, a delicious, refreshing salad. In fact I just finished up the rest for lunch today.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Houston Vegan Potluck

That's right, you read the title correctly. A vegan potluck in Houston! When I first became vegan I thought I might be the only one in the city, but there are actually quite a few of us. The Houston vegan meetup group hosted a potluck last night at a gracious member's home. There was a wonderful variety of vegan food and it was a good time chatting with other Houston vegans. Here is a peak at plate #1:

The food includes (from the left): chickpea patty (which I brought, see below), Ethiopian food with injera bread, veggie sushi, mini-sandwich with hummus and deli "meat", three different kinds of tofu, and beans with veggies dogs. I gobbled up all the food and went for seconds, which included a Santa Fe green chile casserole and General Tao's tofu. Yum!! Here's plate #2:

And of course, who can resist vegan desserts. Here are the desserts I sampled, a vegan cheesecake, some kind of tart (must find out, it was delish), and chocolate cake. I was stuffed by the end of the night.

Here are the dishes I contributed, including Moroccan Chickpea Patties from Vive Le Vegan, served with Sesame Mustard Tahini Sauce. These were delicious and I thought the spices added a unique flavor, we will definitely be making them again. I also brought the Maple-Mustard-Glazed Potatoes and String Beans from VWAV that I've blogged about before. Love those, they are the perfect potluck food.

And of course I had to bring a dessert. I tried out Vivacious Vegan's recent post, the Best Vegan Brownies Ever. I have to say I must agree with the name! I used pecans instead of walnuts and topped them with some powdered sugar. They disappeared from the plate very quickly, a good thing because I'm trying (regardless of the dessert plate you saw) to cut back on sweets since this past week full of cupcakes.

The evening was a great experience. I can't wait for my next vegan potluck (which I think will be in September!), it is such a nice way to discover new types of food, share recipes, and meet new people.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Inside Out

Hopefully by the end of this post you won't think that all I eat is sushi. But we had leftover sushi fillings from Tuesday's dinner party, and I didn't want to waste them. Plus, this was the perfect time to try making inside out rolls! No pressure of guests hanging around, complete freedom to mess up. But they actually turned out pretty well! Check out my inside out mango and avocado rolls.....

If you are thinking of attempting the inside out roll for the first time, don't do it without first watching Isa and Terry's PPK episode on sushi! There is something about inside out rolls that I find more pleasing to the palatte than regular rolls. I think it has to do with the fact that your teeth are first biting into the rice versus having to chew through the nori. But maybe it's just me. Oh, and check out my pretty new blue serving platter, perfect for sushi. A wedding gift from my grandparents!

In addition to sushi making, I got a few treats in the mail yesterday from Vegan Essentials that I'll be showing in the next week or so. First up are my new, favorite candy bars, Crispy Cat. I first tried these back in Portland after stopping by every vegan tourist's must see, Food Fight Grocery. Last night I tried the roasted peanut bar, very reminiscent of a Snickers, yum. Now I must try and convince the Whole Foods in my area to start carrying these. They had a bit of a rough time surviving in the Texas heat (the chocolate melted a little), but they still tasted fantastic!

Tomorrow night we are attending a vegan potluck put on by the Houston Vegan Meetup, can't wait to taste everyone's food!! I have been so envious as of lately seeing all the vegan food events everyone has been attending in some of the, shall we say, more "vegan-progressive" parts of the country. So this is Houston's chance!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Asian Fusion Plus Runny Cupcakes

Last night we said goodbye to a good friend who is moving out to sunny California (lucky girl!). She has been contemplating veganism for awhile now, so a home-cooked goodbye dinner sounded perfect. I decided to go with an Asian Fusion theme, meaning anything with an Asian flair was game. That way I could try my hand at rolling sushi again! For munchies we had wasabi green peans and nori maki (rice crackers wrapped in nori, I thought they looked pretty fancy). Then we got to the good stuff..... here's a peak at our dinner spread. At the front left is a bowl of Thai Coconut soup, made courtesy of another veggie friend in attendance. It was chock full of red pepper, mushrooms, tofu, coconut milk, lime juice, lemongrass, and red curry paste. I will have to get the recipe from her, it was spicy and delicious, the perfect start to the meal. Fusion of Asian Cuisine ..... Thai, check.

Following the soup course, everyone dug into the vegan egg rolls served with an amazing (store -bought) pineapple-tomato sweet and sour sauce. Everyone raved about the sauce and the eggrolls, and I could see a wave of shock when I told them they were 1. vegan and 2. had tofu in them. I've blogged about these eggrolls before by Banyan. They have three flavors regular, curry, and chipotle, all excellent and they also made the sauce. Fusion of Asian Cuisine ..... Chinese, check.

Then came the sushi. The last time I made sushi it was quite successful and this time was no different. In addition to making the spicy tempeh rolls, I also tried the yamroom roll (subbed portabello for shitake due to an allergy in the group). I thought they were delicious, quite unique. Other fillings included the usual avocado, green onion, cucumber, and carrot. Fusion of Asian Cuisine ..... Japanese, check.

And finally, we filled our plates with glazed seitan stir fry aka my favorite seitan stir fry. Unfortunately I was short on edamame, but no one seemed to notice but me. I think it's safe to say that besides John and myself, this was everyone's (6 people) first time trying seitan!! I was a bit nervous, but knew that it would win them over. Many compliments were muttered in between bites. Fusion of Asian Cuisine .... Chinese again I guess?, check.

Here's a close-up of the spread....

And finally dessert. I had quite a time making these mint chocolate cupcakes from VCTOTW, but they were worth it. I decided to make the vegan fluffy butttercream frosting instead of the one the recipe suggested. Maybe that was a mistake. It has been soooooo hot here in Houston, the mint-green colored frosting was just runny and not setting up (but it tasted damn good!). I put it in the fridge and eventually the freezer, which helped, but then after icing the cupcakes I forgot to put them in the fridge, so the "icing runneth over" the cupcakes that is. No biggie, I served them with vanilla soy ice cream, perfect to balance out the minty flavor. These were amazing cupcakes, my favorite so far of the ones I've made. Everyone else agreed as well and the girl of honor just couldn't believe they were vegan and that good! Fusion of Asian Cuisine .... cupcakes? oh well, they were tasty even if they aren't really Asian-inspired. Here's a not so fabulous photo of my overflowing cupcakes, topped with chocolate ganache....

Overall a fun night filled with good friends and good food. We had a champagne toast with the cuppers to say goodbye, we will miss you E.M.!!

Monday, August 6, 2007

One Year of Cruelty-Free Living

Yesterday I celebrated my one year veganiversary!! Well, I'm not sure of the exact date last year that I decided to go vegan, but it was definitely early August. So how to celebrate? Cook a big meal of course! So I put on my Vegan Freak t-shirt and my Damn Tasty Vegan apron and got to work. My parents came over and we enjoyed manicotti, broccolini, a fresh fruit salad (courtesy of mom), and a fancy dessert (I'll get to that in a minute!)

The manicottis were filled with a creamy tofu-cashew ricotta. I added a package of frozen spinach to the original recipe. The filling was super creamy and rich, and the spinach was a nice addition. Next time I may add basil as well. To top the manicotti, I whipped up some tomato sauce using two cans of diced tomatoes (one with basil and garlic seasoning), one can of tomato paste, at least a cup of red wine, garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, a squirt of agave nectar, and some salt and pepper. After baking the manicottis for about 30 minutes, I topped it off with some Follow Your Heart vegan mozzerella and turned the oven on broil for the cheese to melt. And melt it did! The picture doesn't show it too well, but it was a nice addition. A very filling meal, but we had to make room for dessert....

I have been waiting to try aTxVegn's winning dessert from Urban Vegan's "vegans gone wild" recent contest. This seemed like the perfect excuse to make the Extreme Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Tart with Caramel Sauce. How could it not be a winner with those three things? I got up early Sunday morning to start baking. I was so proud, this is the first homemade tart crust I've ever made, and it turned out great!! Just a word of warning though, those tart pans are sharp! I sliced up my finger cleaning it ...ouch.

The result of several hours of labor was well worth it. This tart is rich and chocolatey and the nuts add a wonderful texture. Be sure to top it with plenty of the sugary sweet caramel sauce! But be careful, a sugar overload may ensue! (that's a good thing sometimes)

This piece disappeared in mere moments..... ahhhh, pure bliss!

This past year has been an amazing journey. I feel I have grown so much as a person, there is a certain peace that comes along with veganism that is difficult to explain to those that are still consuming animal products. I have never been happier or felt healthier in my life. I have discovered a love for cooking, baking, and creating. And of course, I have discovered my love for blogging! Thanks to all of you for the chance to peak into your vegan world, I have learned so much from you. Can't wait to see what the next year brings!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Little Lamb

While browsing through pictures on the internet, I came across this picture and it just made my heart break. This seven-legged lamb lives on a farm in New Zealand. I wonder if his condition is a result of the hormones and antibiotics that farms routinely give to animals. My only hope is that this little lamb isn't in any pain or discomfort. What can one do for an animal like this? The farmer has announced that the lamb will be euthanized. This article upset me by saying that the lamb was "likely to be destroyed". How can you word it like that? Would you ever say that about a human baby? I will be thinking about this little lamb today.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Too Much Brown?

Usually I like to see something green on my dinner plate, but this one turned out mostly brown (except the plate itself). I meant to make some asparagus, but it just didn't happen .... too many things going on in the kitchen! But hiding in the lack of color is a healthy dinner I believe. On top is Seitan Tikka Masala from Vivacious Vegan along with Three Bean Dahl from Vegan Planet.

I only slightly modified the Tikka Masala recipe by using all coconut milk instead of half soy milk (lower fat version though), replaced the paprika with curry powder, and used regular (homemade from VWAV recipe) seitan instead of the Seitan O'Greatness. This is definitely one of those dishes that improves with time as the seitan soaks up the flavor. Tikka Masala reminds me of being in the UK. Several years ago (pre-vegan days) I spent quite a bit of time there while my parents were living in Chester. I despise pub food, but it seems that on every pub menu, there was always Chicken Tikka Masala right alongside Shepard's Pie, Bangers and Mash, and the Fish and Chips. Of course, the tikka masala also came with chips, sort of odd, but at least it gave me something I would eat!

The Three Bean Dahl (yellow split peas, black beans, and kidney beans) is a favorite of mine, I've made it several times including Christmas eve dinner this past year! It is certainly not your traditional dahl recipe, but I think that's why I like it. Someday I'll have to experiment with different bean combinations.

Can't wait to have the leftovers for lunch today....