Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Birthday Dreams of Cookies and Cream

Today is one of my dear friend's birthdays, we celebrated last night at her house with dinner and dessert, birthday cupcakes of course! I had been looking for an excuse to try out a new cupcake recipe, and this one fit the bill perfectly (read: chocolate). Here are my Cookies and Cream Cupcakes from VCTOTW.

I have seen these cupcakes on many of your blogs, and have always wanted to try them out. They were pretty fast and easy to make, I had two hours after getting home from work. The best part was I didn't have to deal with piping the frosting (which I still haven't gotten the hang of!), and instead just plopped a huge gob of frosting on top. The fluffy vegan frosting on these cupcakes is divine so light and smooth. Plus, the crunch of the cookies both in the cupcakes and in the frosting makes for a nice textural contrast, more plainly worded, just a damn tasty cupcake!! John proclaimed that these are my best cupcakes yet. He was amazed at the lack of a hint soy flavor (his most common complaint about vegan desserts .... although he's only complained once or twice). I was bad last night and ate two, must try to have more will power tonight.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Family Breakfast

This weekend my grandparents and aunt visited Houston, so this morning John and I drove out west to join them at my parent's home for breakfast. It was one of those breakfasts that leaves you pleasantly full, plus you feel like you've put something healthy in your body. Here is my yummy plate....

My mom gets credit for the amazingly yummy waffles and fruit salad. The waffle recipe is from VWAV, the Oatmeal-Banana-Raisin Waffles, minus the raisins. We topped them with fresh bananas, blueberries, pecans, and maple syrup. Mmmmm, so good, I'd been craving waffles for awhile now.

My contribution was mini crustless tofu quiches from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I got up early this morning to try this recipe out, and I thought they turned out well, nice and light and a perfect compliment to the waffles. In addition to mushrooms and red peppers, I also added some bakin bits. Here they are garnished with some fresh chives:

My only mistake I think was leaving them in the muffin pan while I went to take a shower. When I came back there was a lot of moisture built up in the pan (it's been insanely humid here the past few days), making it difficult to remove the quiches. But they were still tasty, everyone tried them and gobbled them up. Next time I think I will try different veggie combinations and maybe making a big quiche in a pie crust, the possibilities are endless!

Another quick breakfast this week, my favorite smoothie. Half a banana, frozen strawberries and mangos, ground flax seeds, a spoonful of peanut butter, and plenty of vanilla soymilk. Couldn't help but show it off in my VeganDish mug....

And finally, a yummy dinner from this past week that we tried for the first time, Quinoa Hummus Casserole from Vive Le Vegan. The roasted vegetables (zucchini, red pepper, fennel)were perfectly cooked and the creamy hummus paired with the quinoa made for a protein-packed meal. Another recipe that has lots of variations, different kinds of grains, different kinds of hummus, and an endless number of vegetables to top it off with.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Boston Part Three: Not Boston At All!

During our trip to Boston, we were able to escape up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for a two days of hiking, relaxation, and absolutely no wedding planning!! (my cell phone didn't have reception anyways). We stayed in the town of Bartlett, at a B&B called the Bartlett Inn. Whenever we travel we prefer to stay at inns or B&B's anything that's locally owned. It's much more personable and often higher quality. My love for B&B's has been slightly strained since going vegan, I haven't really run into any that have cooked me a full vegan breakfast like pancakes or waffles, but some do try harder than others. This time they were nice enough to make me some oatmeal tossed with plenty of fresh blueberries that were picked the day before! Oatmeal is a good start in the morning, especially when you're off for a hike!

Our first day there we did a half day hike up to Arethusa Falls and the over to the Frankenstein Cliffs, a popular place for ice climbing in the winter. The first half of the hike was full of foot traffic, many families making the short mile and a half hike up to the falls. Crowds thinned out after that, and John and I had the forest to ourselves. Here's a few pics from the hike:

The next day we had high hopes of summiting Mount Washington. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate very well. So we opted for a lazy morning in bed, then drove around to some of the nearby towns (North Conway) on a quick tour, then did a short hike along the Dry River Trail. It was rainy, but it felt invigorating to be walking amongst the trees. We went down to the river several times, John loves to explore places like this.

Our time in New Hampshire was enjoyable, a much-needed break that proved refreshing and invigorating. Of course, I'm a Colorado Rocky mountains girl myself (alumni of both CSU and CU), but the White Mountains were impressive.

Okay, back to normal blogging now. I'm hoping to try some new things this weekend that I'll post shortly! Hope everyone enjoys their weekend and the forecast looks better than it does here (more rain...yuck)!
P.S. Can anyone tell me why the spacing changes in my posts? I don't know what I'm doing wrong!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Boston Part Two: Wedding Planning Whirlwind

Planning a wedding in Boston while living in Houston is not easy. So what was originally scheduled as a vacation (before the engagement) turned into a few days of a frenzy of wedding planning (we successfully escaped for a few days as you'll see in the next post). First up: cake tasting!! Before I would even book our venue I had to ensure that Amy from Hippie Chick Bakery was free to make our vegan wedding cake. We visited her home to discuss the details and of course, taste the cake. Sorry for my photos of half eaten cake. I was so excited about tasting I forgot about photos!!

Here is chocolate cake with vanilla "buttercream" frosting and layered with fresh strawberries....

And a spice cake with ginger "buttercream" frosting....

And finally carrot cake with vanilla "buttercream" frosting....

We also tried lemon cake and a marble cake with chocolate frosting. They were all amazing!! John was thankful, even though he knows vegan desserts can be every bit as good (I think better) than their non-vegan counterparts, he was admittedly a little worried. We are also going to try a pumpkin cake with ginger frosting once they are in season. My favorite was the chocolate, so we've decided that will be the largest of our three layer cake. The second will either be the spice or pumpkin cake with ginger frosting. The top layer John and I will take home (yeah right I'll be able to wait until our one year anniversary to eat it!!) is still up for grabs. Any suggestions? I opted not to have a traditional white wedding cake. Instead it will be shades of green with orange frosting flowers. The style will be similar to this cake.

Next we visited our wedding rehearsal dinner site (although there will be no rehearsal!). We chose the Concord Colonial Inn. John actually washed dishes there back in the days of summer jobs! This historic inn is located near the Old North Bridge, where the American Revolution began.

Here is the a view of the Heritage room where we will spend the eve of our wedding.

And of course, the site of the wedding and reception. This is the house I enter from before heading down the aisle!

A view of the Atlantic Ocean, the backdrop for our wedding ceremony.

And the reception tent and cocktail patio.

Over the week we also met with two caterers and did menu tastings, met with our J.O.P., visited the hotel where we will spend our first night as husband and wife, did a trial run of my hairdo, and met with the florist. Whew!! Sixty days and counting, it will be here before I know it. Okay, enough wedding stuff. I promise to stick (mostly) to good ole vegan blogging. But first one more quick post about our trip, visiting the White Mountains....

Monday, July 23, 2007

Boston Part One: The Food

Well, we made it back! I have missed reading everyone's blog and I'm hoping to make lots of visits in the next few days! Like others have done with their recent vacations, I'm splitting my posts on Boston over the next few days. I'm going to make everyone wait to hear about the wedding cake, but don't worry, it's coming soon! First, here's some of the yummy vegan cuisine from Boston and surrounding areas...

My favorite dish of the trip by far was actually not from Boston or even Massachusetts! John and I drove up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to escape wedding planning during the week. Thanks to our B&B's recommendation (The Bartlett Inn) we tried the White Mountain Cider Company Restaurant. The chef created a unique and delicious dish especially for me. There was a zucchini stuffed with corn, asparagus, and chanterelle mushrooms. Underneath was a mouth-watering tomato-based sauce surrounding by more of the filling and purple potatoes. I thought the presentation was phenomenal. I highly recommend a meal here if you're ever in the area!

We had high hopes of climbing Mt. Washington, but alas, the weather was not cooperating. It all turned out well though, as we spent a relaxing day in our cottage and driving around the White Mountains. We stopped at Pinkham Notch to check out the trailhead we would have taken and got some lunch there.... veggie chili! It was just cool enough outside to eat this surprisingly spicy chili. Lots of zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, black and kidney beans with some whole grain bread. Made me want to snuggle up with John next to a fire and take a long nap.

Back in Boston, sort of. Thursday we had two tastings to attend (trying to decide between wedding caterers). Between the two we were trying to escape the rain in Beverly, MA and I remembered the Organic Garden Cafe. So we stopped there and I had a raw chocolate brownie with some fresh cashew milk. I was surprised that I liked the brownie so much, raw desserts tend to taste more like dates than chocolate, but I was pleasantly surprised. The cashew cream on the brownie was especially yummy.

The next day we returned for lunch. I started with a cup of their cold zucchini lemon bisque. It was delicious and refreshing.

Then I had a hummus wrap with veggies. Sorry for the blurry photo. I enjoyed lunch, my soup was definitely the favorite. Can't wait to return and try some of their other menu options when we're back in September!

And finally, while spending a beautiful Saturday in downtown Boston, we detoured slightly and stopped for lunch at T.J. Scallywaggles for vegan pizza!! I asked for the most popular pizza, and the swift response was the Chikhin BBQ. I was in heaven being able to order a pizza and not ask about the veganess of the dough, ask to hold the cheese, check and see if there's dairy in the tomato sauce, etc. Another cool thing that I've never seen at a restaurant before was a book with all their ingredients they use and the labels with nutritional information.

More tomorrow on our cake tasting trip as well as other wedding planning excitement!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Break in Beantown

John and I leave this evening for Boston. The next week will be filled with wedding planning and visiting family, as well as a quick two-night get away for us in New Hampshire's White Mountains. I think I am most excited about tasing vegan cakes from the Hippie Chick Bakery, who will be designing our wedding cake! Of course I hve some veggie dining options scoped out, so hopefully we'll make it to a few of those. I'll have a full report with pictures when we return next Sunday!

Till then, I'll leave you with a photo of John's seitan cacciatore that he made earlier in the week. It was experimental cooking, but turned out really wonderful! He marinated the seitan overnight in white wine, tomato paste, and some herbs and seasonings. The seitan was then browned on its own in a little olive oil. Then he sauteed green and red pepper, zucchini, onions, and garlic, added back the seitan with some wine and simmered for about 10 minutes. We served it over some couscous. It was one of those dishes that improved with flavor, luckily we had enough to last us two more meals...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mo and Mo Tofu

Last night I didn't feel much like cooking, so John and I drove two minutes (I know we should have walked, but it was sooooo HOT outside!) to one of our favorite local restaurants, Mo Mong. They serve up Asian fusion cuisine (Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese) in a hip warehouse-style restaurant with rotating funky local artwork. We started off with an order of their vegetable spring rolls, stuffed full of tofu (I prefer more stuffing and less rice noodles), cucumber, carrot, and lettuce. I love smothering these rolls in their yummy peanut sauce.

For dinner I ordered the same dish I always get, it's too good to try anything else!! Tofu luc lac served with brown rice. The texture of the tofu is perfect and I love the garlicky sauce. I have been known to occasionally eat all of the tofu in one sitting, although last night I pryed it out of my chopsticks and saved some for lunch today.

And mo tofu.... Tonight I made one of my favorite easy tofu recipes, Tofu Fish Sticks from VLB. If you try them, don't forget to add a squeeze of lemon, it adds a wonderful zing!!

Ok, I think I've hit overload, no mo tofu for a little while now.....

Monday, July 9, 2007

Playing with Pizza

After seeing the Thai pizza that aTxVegn posted last week, I kept thinking about how yummy thai flavors would be on pizza. I absolutely love peanut butter, in my opinion you can never go wrong with it, it is good on everything! I remembered seeing Dreena's recipe for Peanut Sesame Hummus and her hummus pizzas on the Everyday Dish dvd, so I decided to use that as a starting point. The hummus is amazing. Even if you are doubting the combination of hummus on pizza, you should make the hummus just to eat by itself.

I began by making my favorite pizza dough from VLB. Here's the dough before rising....

And after! How cool is yeast?

John requested that we also make a regular pizza, since I made about four batches of pesto on Sunday (thanks to my mom's overgrown basil plant!). So here are the toppings: red pepper for both pizzas, mushrooms, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil for the regular pizza, and pineapple, peanuts, green onions, and cilantro (added after baking) for the Thai pizza.

The pizzas turned out wonderfully. John preferred the original, but I really liked the Thai twist. Tough to choose a favorite!

Along with our pizzas, we had mimosas. I know, strange thing to have with pizza on a Sunday night. But, we were in the mood for champagne. In the background are some flowers my mom arranged that will be used at our wedding. In addition to the kermit mums and orange roses, we are also thinking of spider mums, hypercium berries, green hydrangea, and mango cala lilies.

And finally for dessert we had leftover blueberry crisp that my mom sent home with us from Saturday night. Warmed it up and topped it with more NadaMoo ice cream. Just like heaven.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fourth of July Food and Festivities

Although it was a soggy Fourth of July here in Houston, we still managed to enjoy our day off in the middle of the week (what a waste!). Mostly the day was spent lounging around, trying not to think about wedding details, and of course there was food. The strawberry shortcake was actually from a few days ago, but I thought it was patriotic-looking so decided to lead with that. I used the Lemon Torte recipe for the cake from Damn Tasty Vegan. Topped it with NadaMoo vanilla ice cream (thanks to aTxVegan for the tip), soy whipped cream, and of course strawberries and blueberries. The stacking style I borrowed from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen.

Last night we attended a small get-together to watch the fireworks, of course food was expected. I was especially happy to hear the host say that he knew I would bring something tasty. Of course that put the pressure on, so I relied on something I knew was a crowd pleaser. Springs rolls! I modified VWAV Mango Spring Rolls by adding some grilled tofu I got from Whole Foods. The filling included mango, cucumber, tofu, rice noodles, roasted peanuts, and plenty of cilantro.

Here's me rolling up the spring rolls. What fun, and so easy! And yes, that's my engagement ring on the wrong finger. We still haven't gotten it sized yet because I don't want to not wear it for a week!

And the finished product. These were gobbled up quickly at the party. I also brought a quinoa salad, which to my surprise, disappeared as well. A little disappointing since I had wanted some leftovers for lunch....

This was the first party in awhile that I decided not to bring dessert. Usually they don't get eaten and I'm basically just bringing it to satisfy my own sweet tooth. Another guest brought brownies and a banana pudding, something I knew I wouldn't eat. So most of the party I was imagining being home eating the dessert I had made the previous night, Ooey Gooey Caramel Bars from Vive Le Vegan. If you have not tried these you simply must because they really are ooey and gooey. I added extra chocolate chips and coconut. Mmmmmm......

Finally, I'll leave you with a picture of some of the fireworks. It was an impressive show. Hope everyone enjoyed their Fourth of July holiday! Back to work now!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Veggs Two Ways

Vegan eggs that is; eggrolls and eggplant. Last night for dinner we had a tapas style dinner (only in the sense that we had small plates) that included tofu curry eggrolls from Banyan Foods, a Texas family-owned business that sells tofu products. Sorry, they aren't available outside the Lone Star State! These were crispy, not too oily, and had a great curry flavor. John and I both gobbled them up at lightning speed.

And onto the next course, I made Nasu Dengaku (Japanese broiled eggplants with miso) from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen (check out her picture, mine is nowhere near as artistic). I am always on the lookout for eggplant recipes that don't really taste like eggplant. This recipe let the eggplant shine through a little, but the miso sauce was amazing and the toasted sesame seeds added a nice balance. Try this recipe out if you have the chance!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Vegan Gas Emissions Alert

Check out this spoof article on vegan flatulence and green house gas emissions. It'll make you laugh :-)