Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Camera is Spooked

Yes, something is wrong with my camera. Ever since the Halloween party, my pics have turned out very fuzzy. What's wrong? I don't think it's user error, since I took like 20 pictures of the same thing to test. It must be bewitched.....
But, regardless of my camera problems, I will go ahead and show you my Halloween meal, beginning with dessert! I made the gingerbread cookies from JOVB, plus this sounded like a good way to get rid of the rest of my cupcake frosting from the weekend. The process was a little finicky, the dough seemed really dry until I added some water. I am also not very skilled at rolling out dough evenly yet. But in the end, the cookies turned out well, crisp but not too crunchy, just the way I like my gingerbread (I cooked them on the short side of the suggested time). I even got to use my seasonal cookie cutters for the first time! First a happy pumpkin with my cute skulls mini-bag from here on etsy....

And a fall leaf...
For dinner, I was excited to try my first recipe from ED&BV! Yep, I got it (and Veganomicon, still trying to decide where to start with that one!) a few days ago and now I'm officially overwhelmed with recipes. So I started with something simple that Dreena had also blogged about, the Cashew-Ginger Tofu. Served over quinoa with roasted Halloween colored vegetables (butternut squash, carrot, parsnip). Ooops, forgot to turn the oven down when I put in the tofu, so the sauce got pretty thick and pasty. My bad. But I enjoyed the flavor nonetheless. Oh, except for the parsnips. This was my first time eating them, and something about the roasting really dried them out and I thought they were pretty nasty. John told me not to give up on them though.

Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!! Just curious, what did those of you who had trick-or-treaters hand out? We don't have any since we live in a gated townhome, but if we ever move, I need ideas for vegan candy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Haunted Halloween Treats

Saturday night John and I went to a Halloween bash.... yes! An excuse to make cute Halloween cupcakes and other vegan munchies. And, since I have now become addicted to scrapbooking (working on one for my wedding and the other will be a few pages for every month of our first year of marriage....I know, dorky), I even made cute little Halloween-themed signs. I had been so excited about my idea to use those little spider rings you got as a kid for cupcake decorations. I call them my Creepy Crawler Cupcakes.

Recipe for the chocolate cupcake and vegan buttercream frosting (dyed orange) from VCTOTW. And, I discovered the secret for making cupcakes disappear at parties ... make them mini! I think full size cupcakes are too much of a commitment for parties, people want bite-sized items. So I just shortened the baking time to about 14 minutes. And what better way to display my mini-cupcakes than in my new mini-cupcake tower! These were gone before the end of the evening.
I was also in the mood for hummus, and lots of it, hence my Tricky Trio of Hummus. Clockwise from the bottom right: sesame peanut hummus (from Everyday Dish DVD), sun-dried tomato and caper hummus (modified from Everyday Dish DVD), and regular hummus (from Vive Le Vegan). I love Dreena's hummus recipes, and I love how quick and easy it is to make them! For dippers, we had pita chips, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and rice crackers.
And finally I made another favorite appetizer of mine, Spooky Stuffed Shrooms from VWAV. I substituted panko for regular breadcrumbs, I just love the crunchiness. Party goers popped these like candy, I should have doubled the recipe! But I did save some of the stuffing for our dinner last night, just put it in portobellos instead. I think I even got a conditional invite to another party from someone I barely knew, as long as I brought some of these!
I love baking with a theme! I think I will need to do some more Halloween-themed baking before Wednesday. Of course, you are all probably wondering if we went in costume. Well, yes, sort of. Neither John nor I get very excited about dressing up, so we went for something that wouldn't involve any effort, and something we thought was appropriate for us. So we went as an office couple "caught in the act". You know.... my shirt on inside out, his tie loosened, our hair disheveled, lipstick smeared on both of our faces. It was subtle but cute, especially since we met in the office! It was the best costume scare we dared to bare.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Raw for 30 Days

Check out the preview for this upcoming documentary. Kind of a reverse Super-Size Me....

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ode to Joy

Last week I got my copy of The Joy of Vegan Baking, and that's just what it's been so far. Makes me almost want to sing Christmas Carols (almost). On Sunday, we attended a housewarming dinner and I wanted to bring something seasonal. Pumpkin! The recipe for pumpkin cheesecake is amazing. I went with the pecan crust (since I can never find vegan graham crackers here, and although I can make my own, it adds a step). The result was a creamy dessert with a delicate pumpkin flavor and a tasty crust that all of my omnivorous friends loved. This would be a perfect ending to a fancy meal, and it may make a reappearance at our Thanksgiving dinner!

Last night I wanted something to warm me up, it actually got cool here in Texas! (you northerners up there, don't peak at the temps, I'm sure it would be quite balmy to you) So I made soup, Butternut Ginger Soup from La Dolce Vegan. I was craving some cornbread on the side, so I again picked up The Joy of Vegan Baking to make this southern staple. Not only was it easy and quick to make, but I wanted to melt along with my Earth Balance as I took that first bite once it came out of the oven. Had a piece for breakfast this morning too! Oh, and the soup was delicious too (I add plenty of ginger). I added half a can of pumpkin puree that was leftover from the pie. A good use of fridge leftovers...
And finally, more baking, but this recipe comes from my mom. I remember eating cranberry bread around the holidays and after randomly purchasing fresh cranberries, I knew I wanted to attempt to veganize the recipe. It didn't go perfectly, the bread was a bit crumbly, but it tasted just as I'd remembered. Maybe I'll fool around a bit more with the recipe and post it for you, but till then, here's some eye candy...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Everything's Better with (FYH) Cheddar

Or at least it makes you feel a little better.... This was my first experience with vegan Follow Your Heart cheddar-style cheese. When eaten alone, I wasn't too crazy about it, but when paired with two dishes where cheddar cheese isn't the star, but makes an expected appearance, it works quite well. Take this seven layer dip, recipe from Cozy Inside (my first try from this one, can't wait to make more!). From the bottom up: vegetarian refried black beans, TVP taco meat, pico de gallo, guacamole, vegan sour cream (Tofutti brand), and FYH cheddar. This dish pleased even my most carnivorous Texan friends....

And also as a topping on this southwestern casserole, a recipe from Houston's Society of PEACE president, Kristen. The recipe is listed below, with my additions in orange.
Santa Fe Green Chile Casserole

1 T olive oil
1/2 c. chopped green onion
1/2 diced yellow bell pepper
1 diced medium zucchini
12 oz. veggie crumbles (I used Boca crumbles, only 8 oz)
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed tomato soup
1 can (4 oz) sliced black olives (I omitted this)
1/2 can black beans
1 c. water (I just used a little more tomato soup)
2 t. chili powder or 1 pkg. taco seasoning (I used the first and added cumin)
1 1/2 c. elbow noodles (I used whole wheat)
1/2 c. grated FYH cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350. In large skillet, heat oil. Add green onion, bell pepper, and zucchini and saute till tender. Add veggie crumbles and cook until thawed, then add green chiles and continue to warm. Stir in tomato soup, water, and chile seasoning. Simmer while stirring until mixture bubbles, then set aside and stir in olives and/or black beans. Meanwhile, cook elbow noodles in boiling waer for approximately 6 minutes and drain. Pour cooked noodles and veggie sauce mixture into baking dish and stir to blend. Top with cheese. Bake approximately 25 minutes until hot and bubbly (may need to cover if you are low on moisture, I wasn't though). Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh green onion and enjoy!

Monday, October 15, 2007

San Francisco Treats

Lots of treats!! I met John out in San Francisco this past weekend, he had been there all week on business. Here's the scoop (literally, check out the last photo!)
Although my flight was four hours late leaving Houston, we still managed to grab dinner at one of John's favorites from back in the day when he lived out here, Cafe Sport. Not very vegan friendly, but I was too tired to notice while I gobbled up my penne pasta with tomato sauce (it was after midnight Houston time when we ate). We stayed in North Beach at the Washington Square Inn, cute place but pretty pricey. But it was nice to be within walking distance of so many places. Both mornings we had breakfast at Cafe Sapore, which had clearly marked vegan choices. I had peanut butter on a bagel one morning and oatmeal with soymilk, bananas, strawberries, and raisins the next. I loved all of the cafes everywhere, reminds me of Europe. The other two food pics below are from our last meal in the city, at Calzones (veggie pizza and arugula salad with oven roasted tomatoes, artichokes, and chickpeas). The VegSF restaurant guide was helpful for finding places in the North Beach area...

Another find from the vegsf guide, vegan truffles from XOX Truffles!! These little babies were so rich and chocolatey, I still have some in my fridge (but not for much longer!). I tried the dark chocolate, orange, and hazelnut truffles, which were all vegan. Thankfully, you can order them online....
After breakfast, buying truffles, and wandering around North Beach, we walked down to Fisherman's Wharf. Cliche, I know, but I'd never been and you have to at least go once, right? Isn't our little sourdough turtle the cutest?

After the wharf we walked to Chinatown. John was on the prowl for canned fake meats. We found several options (though not as many as we were hoping for), but didn't end up buying any, there's always Chinatown in Houston. There were a lot of things in Chinatown that screamed NOT VEGAN, but for lunch we went to Lucky Creation Vegetarian, which is actually all vegan. We ordered the mixed vegetables and the Curry "Chicken". Although I liked the curry, the mixed vegetables I wasn't a fan of. It should have been called mixed weird mushrooms instead. Now I like mushrooms, but the textures of these was just too much for me. Luckily John was a fan so we weren't wasteful :-) Aren't the little star-shaped carrots cute?

We spent the afternoon walking along Baker beach (didn't know there was a nude section...), trying to burn off enough calories to justify our big dinner at Millennium! Now, I have their cookbook and all, but have never attempted a recipe, I guess they just seem too complicated. Plus, it's best to let the experts handle this. For appetizers, I had a delicious salad with roasted pear, pecans (or was it walnuts?), and dried cherries. John had a raw butternut squash ravioli, different, but still good (just not what we thought it would be). Sorry, no photos, I hadn't had enough wine at that point to overcome my shyness for using a flash in a fancy restaurant. For dinner, John had a seitan roulade served over black beluga lentils with some amazing garlicky greens. I had grilled portobellos served over rice with butternut squash, cumin-glazed tofu, and pickled cabbage on the side. Both dishes were excellent, too difficult to pick a favorite. Why can't we have a place like this in Houston (whines)?

Update: Forgot to give you this piece of trivia. We asked our waitress about what percentage of Millennium's customers are vegan. Her guess was only 30%. This gives me hope that a place like this could open up in Houston. All they would have to do is drench everything in barbeque sauce and brand it with the outline of the Lone Star state.

But of course, the best part had to be dessert. I decidedly chose the chocolatiest dessert on the menu, Chocolate Almond Midnight (I think that was the name, maybe I'm just making it up...guess it was the wine). An almond-based crust with a chocolate mousse, topped with white chocolate mousse. These are the kinds of desserts I thought I had left far behind since going vegan. Too amazing. They even sent us home with a box of their cookies and truffles to celebrate our three week anniversary!

Here are some of our scenic photos.... the Golden Gate bridge in the fog, the Transamerica building (thanks Bazu!), Coit Tower, and of course, the crookedest street (Lombard).

On our way out of town, heading towards the airport, we made one final stop. Maggie Mudd's for vegan ice cream!! We tried the pumpkin (coconut milk based) and the tarmack (soymilk based, chocolate with peanut butter). This was the best ice cream I've had in my life (sorry mom, I know you love Blue Bell). We scarfed it down. Thanks to both Melisser and Jess for the great recommendation, and also thanks to Jess for the coupon!! Too bad these guys don't take online orders.

A little sad to be back in Houston now. We both love San Francisco, John especially. We even spent a few moments looking at real estate... need to start buying lottery tickets :-)

The Beauty of the Earth

The word environment conjurs many images, debates, and meanings. For Blog Action Day, I assumed that writing about the environment had a specific meaning, to save the environment. But as I reflected more on the topic, I wanted to focus instead on why you would want to save it in the first place. Although I have a long list of places in this world that I would like to visit, I believe that I have seen so many beautiful places, even some in my own backyard. It is this beauty that makes me passionate about words like "environment". So sit back, relax, and enjoy the photos (yes, I took them all!), and think about the beauty on Earth that you have experienced. (also from these photos I think you will realize how much I like the mountains!)

Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Berner Oberland of Switzerland

Along the Columbia River Gorge, on the Washington side

Looking up at Snowdonia, the tallest mountain in Wales and England (I've climbed it twice!)

The Matterhorn in the Valais region of Switzerland

Looking out over the Cascades in Washington

Reflections on a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado

Gathering energy at a vortex near Sedona, Arizona

Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia, Argentina

Looking down from the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

Torres del Paine in Patagonia, Chile. I think this is the most beautiful photo I've ever taken...

A lake near Neuschwanstein, Germany.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Apple Red Happiness

Apple red happiness
Popcorn cheerfulness
Cinnamon singing inside....
Peppermint energy
Gumdrop holiday
When you choose a vegan life!

So I've had that little tune in my head since my brother sang it a few weeks ago while we were in Boston (I'm not sure he was sober at the time). Okay, so I altered the last few words a bit, but I thought it sounded good. Plus, a perfect song to bring in a new season of eating apples! I've been snacking on them lately with my favorite apple pairing; peanut butter. The fuji apples at Whole Foods right now are ginormous. And so delicious.

I also used an apple last night to make a new batch of muffins, these are Zucchini Apple Muffins from the Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk zine (Issue #1). I added some walnuts. All muffins need nuts in my opinion. These are perfect for my grab-and-go breakfasts. I've become addicted to muffins lately!

And nothing to do with apples, but tonight my mom came over for dinner and we made LizzyQ's roasted fig pilaf. My only changes were to use fresh parsley instead of dried and I subbed toasted pecans for pine nuts. Then I stuffed the pilaf into half a roasted acorn squash, served with broccoli on the side. Definitely give this recipe a try! A perfect way to prepare for our cold front that should come in tonight, bringing the temps down to the mid-80's. Fall is here! (almost)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Better Than Scout Cookies

Tis true. These cookies are so much better than the Girl Scout samoas that I remember from my childhood. And probably better for you! Like Bazu, I used whole wheat flour, and a mixture of brown rice syrup and agave nectar. I think I could have actually eaten that jar of coconut oil (a solid at room temp), it smelled so good. And I couldn't resist drizzling these with a bit of melted chocolate, just to make them a bit more authentic....

These are now apparently John's favorite cookie I've made. Score!

Nothing else too interesting lately, although I made two new dishes that we both enjoyed. The first was from September's Vegetarian Times, Tofu and Vegetables with Tomato Couscous. Like others, I made a few changes. I subbed zucchini for carrots, added a few different spices, and used regular instead of marinated artichoke hearts. The result was a delicious dinner that will improve over time....

And finally, to celebrate Greek Festival in Houston, I made falafel from the Everyday Vegan. The perfect little patties were topped with tahini-tamari sauce. Mmmm. On the side, one of John's favorite salads; arugula with red pepper and fennel (from the Vegetarian Times cookbook). Me, I think it's okay, but the bitterness of the arugula is sometimes too much for me by itself. I cure that with plenty of toasted pine nuts. Not sure if that's really Greek, but oh well. Tried to go to the festival but got rained out.... boo! (they didn't have any vegan food there anyways)
I'm solo again this week with John off on another business trip (I know, I know... and we're newlyweds!). So we'll see what I come up with to eat...

But there's an upside to all of this, I get to meet John out in San Francisco next weekend, and we're going to celebrate three weeks of marriage at Millennium!! Any other suggestions for the good eatin in the Bay area? (I was already thinking Herbivore for pancakes....)

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Carb Cravings

When eating on my own, I tend to make lots of pasta... I love my carbs! So this week, although it may seem a bit redundant, I had whole wheat pasta shells two ways. The first, a recipe I've been wanting to try for ages, was Jess's Get Sconed version of the New Farm Mac and Cheez.

I think I have found a new addiction. This stuff is crazy good and way better than what I remember of Kraft Mac and Cheese or the Shells and Cheese. This made 4-6 servings and I ate half in one night!! I made a few tiny additions, I added grated FYH mozzerella on top then added panko instead of breadcrumbs. I can't wait to make this again. Here it is coming out of the oven all bubbly and hot....

For dinner last night, DGMGV's Oven Roasted Herbed Tempeh with Zucchini and Sun Dried Tomato Creme Sauce over Linguine caught my eye. I have recently discovered a great likeness for tempeh which I had previously not possessed. And sun-dried tomatoes make everything better. My only changes were as follows: I tossed the tempeh in 2 T nutritional yeast, 1 T corn flour, 2 tsp Herbes de Provence, 1 tsp garlic and parsley flavored salt, and olive oil. For the sauce, I added a generous helping of frozen peas along with the zucchini. It was a delicious and simple meal. When John got home last night, he gave his seal of approval for the tempeh as well! Can't wait for the leftovers today for lunch...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hole in One

Sometimes I bake when I'm bored. With John out of town, I decided to make something I've been wanting to try for awhile now, donuts! Since I don't own a donut pan (yet) I opted to make donut holes using the recipe from Vegan YumYum.

As you can see they turned out a bit more like donut muffins than donut holes. I filled the mini-muffin cups a bit too high I guess. Oh well. I made two different frostings. One was a mixture of powdered sugar, soy milk, agave nectar (as Melisser suggested), and pink food coloring. The other was just melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, dotted with the leftover pink icing.

They were a hit. I brought them to work for an all day meeting and I came home with nothing. I think my boss ate four or five... too bad my baking won't get me a raise!

Just an aside, I purchased two things in the grocery store that I wanted to share... first is Whole Foods new (at least here in Houston) vegan sugar. This made me happy to see on the shelves with the word "vegan" written boldly across the front. I forgot to check and see if it's cheaper than the Florida Crystals, I'll report back on that.

**Update** WF vegan sugar is indeed cheaper than the Florida Crystals counterpart. $1/lb vs. $1.90/lb.

Also, I bought some sprinkles for decoration. I am always questioning whether sprinkles are vegan with the strange color+number (i.e. red 40) combinations that are listed. So I was happy to see that these sprinkles are vegan (bottom left, not as big an advertisement as the sugar). My only disappointment is the amount of sprinkles that come in each box. Only two small packets of sprinkles. Does anyone know of good vegan sprinkles that you can get online?

Okay, I'm starving. I'm on a fast until 10:15am to do a health screening at work. Should be interesting though, I always like to find out where I stand as far as cholesterol, body fat, etc. Can't wait until lunch though!

Monday, October 1, 2007

One Week!

To celebrate one week of wedded bliss (and, sniff, to say goodbye to my new hubby until Wednesday as he left for a business trip to Utah), I had my first attempt at making waffles (a wedding gift from my aunt, thanks!). And success! Here are my pumpkin waffles, recipe from VWAV...

I couldn't resist a photo that included my new autumn accessories, lacquered gourds and mini-pumpkins! Making waffles was so much easier than I imagined, I had this huge fear of them sticking to the waffle iron. After a healthy dose of canola oil, I think I sealed my path to victory. I also added some pecans to the batter. This will be breakfast for the rest of the week!

Saturday night, we had pizza. I had been wanting to use up the Field Roast Italian Sausage we'd had in the fridge for awhile now and this sounded like the perfect opportunity. I should have taken a picture of John's pizza, I think it was triple the height of mine! We stacked our pizzas with pine nut pesto, spinach, heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, red pepper, zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, the italian "sausage", and FYH mozzarella. Quite tasty...

The best part about making pizzas is that I alwasy have enough dough leftover to make calzones. I sent this one with John on his trip, with a cute note from his "little wife". The other one I will enjoy today for lunch!

Cooking for one the next few days...