Friday, June 29, 2007

Comfort Food

This week has been all about comfort food. That and easy food. Monday night I got semi-creative and just threw together a dish, something I rarely do since I like the control of using a recipe (must work on that). So I took some tempeh and broccoli that were sitting in the fridge and probably would have gone bad otherwise. I steamed them together then topped it with leftover coconut curry sauce from the manicotti dish (last post). The result was actually a pretty yummy dish, certainly easy to make. Plus it was a good tempeh comeback. We haven't really given tempeh a fair shot, so I'm go to try and mix it in more often.

After a few nights of eating out on the run, I needed something refreshing and filling. So I went with a slightly odd combination, but that's what I felt like. First off is one of my favorite salads, summer fruit with spinach. The fruit includes strawberries, blueberries, and mango (I used a champagne mango, fancy sounding, huh?). Along with the spinach I toss in plenty of toasted almonds and pistachios. The dressing I use is about equal parts oilve oil and flax oil, along with some white wine vinegar and agave nectar with a healthy dose of poppy seeds. The result is a refreshingly sweet salad with a nutty crunch that you will love! I made my own version of this after tasting something similar at a local restaurant here in Houston, Ruggles. Of course, their version comes with bacon. Please explain to me why you would ruin such a lovely salad with bacon?!?

On the side I had one of my favorites, mashed sweet potatoes with cashew butter, maple syrup and cinnamon. I'm sure I've posted these before, but they are like heaven to me....

Last night after meeting some friends out for drinks, we came pretty buzzed (okay, that was mostly just me), always a fun time cooking dinner in that state of mind. The day before at the grocery store, there must have been a mistake, because I got fresh morel mushrooms for $5.99/pound. How crazy is that! So we sauteed them in some Smart Balance. Along with the mushrooms we had Quinoa with Tofu and Asparagus from the recipes at Whole Foods website. This dish has so many wonderful flavors that blend together; lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic. Plus the asparagus was perfectly cooked and tofu and quinoa added the perfect texture.

And finally for the ultimate comfort food, chocolate pudding. Triple chocolate pudding to be exact thanks to Julie Hasson from the Everyday Dish DVD. This was by far the richest, smoothest homemade pudding I've ever had. I topped it with some golden raspberries I saw at the grocery store, which I've never seen before. They are apparently a naturally occurring variant of red raspberries, but their yellow color is inherited through a single recessive gene. They were delicious, very similar to a red raspberry. Try some if you can find them because they have a short season and limited availability! But certainly try the pudding....

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Vegan Dish

Last night I took a break from wedding planning (thanks to everyone for your congrats!) and got back to making a mess in the kitchen. I wanted to fix something special to showcase my new dishes (more on those in a minute!). So I got my inspiration from Eat Air - A Vegan Food Log and made Chris's recently posted Sweet Potato Stuffed Shells with Coconut Curry Sauce. I couldn't find shells at the grocery store, so I made this with manicotti instead and I also didn't have fresh sage for the sauce, used half-fat coconut milk, and added extra walnuts. This turned out so wonderfully and would be great to serve to company. The sweet- and creami-ness of the potatoes with the kick of the curry and crunch of the walnuts was perfect. On the side we had steamed broccoli and some of the most amazing raspberries I've ever tasted. A relaxing, filling dinner was just what I needed to wind down my brain....

Did you notice my new "vegan" dishes? I just got them this week and they are so much fun! I found them at in the Vegan Dish shop. Jeanette was wonderful and her pottery is handmade and beautifully crafted. Plus, it's made for vegans, by a vegan! I will love proudly displaying my vegan food on/in these unique dishes. I have also purchased from several other etsy sellers including McFarland Designs (amazing vegan jewelry), Cards and Jewelry by Michele (beautiful original artwork featuring animals), Mindy Kuen (fun and funky headwraps). Check out their shops! Some etsy sellers also donate a portion of their earnings to various animal charities. I will post some of my other finds later!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Maple and Mustard Magic

This week the focus has been mainly on warp-speed wedding planning (we're aiming for early Oct. 2007), not really food. But even in my cooking haste, we've had a few tasty dishes. Monday night I tried a new recipe from VWAV, the Maple Mustard Potatoes and Beans. I needed to use the green beans in the fridge I had from last week's farmer's marker, as well as some new potatoes that I bought there. I figured there would likely be enough leftovers for lunch the next day .... wow was I wrong! I loved this dish, the maple and mustard were a great combination. I wonder how it would taste on different veggies?

Tuesday night, John cooked up some zucchini flowers that we spotted at the farmer's market. I had never had these before, but John remember them growing up, so he was in charge of the cooking. He dipped them in plain soy milk then coated them with flour, salt and pepper and fried them up southern style! (The browned thing beneath the fried flowers is a mini zucchini that was attached to one of the flowers, how cute!) Simple, but good. Served them along with some yellow squash and mushrooms sauteed with pesto and almond-crusted homemade seitan patties.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Weekend to Always Remember

Okay, I'll get to the good part at the end, but first a bit about food. On Saturday I made my first attempt at vegan sushi (or any sushi for that matter). I made spicy tempeh rolls as well as some miscellaneous veggie rolls. Fillings included avocado, carrot, green onion, cucumber, and toasted sesame seeds. I could not have accomplished this without the first episode of the Post Punk Kitchen, check out the video online! John helped with cutting the rolls and with plenty of emotional support during the rolling. Altogether we made six yummy rolls. I served our sushi on my newly purchased Japanese-inspired sushi plates from Sur La Table along with some wasabi (of course) and low-sodium tamari. With so many leftovers, I brought them along to a party that same evening and they were gobbled up. No one seemed to notice or care that it was vegan sushi, all I got was compliments!

In addition to the sushi, I also made some cupcakes to bring (since it was a birthday party). And, I admit it, I cheated and made boxed cupcakes from Cherrybrook Kitchen. To try and make up for my laziness I bought my first pastry bag to try and decorate the cupcakes, as you can see I had a rough time, but I figure you have to start somewhere! Hopefully my skills will improve with time. The cupcakes were pretty tasty, of course no where near the yumminess of homemade, but sometimes shortcuts in life are neccesary. I promise my next cupcake post will be my own creation!

Sunday was a very special day. We celebrated father's day at my parents' house with me cooking dinner (tomato and mango salad, seitan fajitas, farmer's market corn, and banana pecan brownie sundaes). Yay for dads! I feel so lucky to have two wonderful parents who have always loved and supported me, even through some of my crazy decisions.

Last night we also celebrated ..... our engagement! John asked me to marry him on Sunday morning and I happily accepted. I came downstairs to find a beautiful flower arrangement, mimosas, and a little box on the table. The morning couldn't have been more perfect. I am so excited to marry John and spend our lives together! Of course now comes the hard part, figuring out the details of the wedding ..... I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let's Play Hide the Eggplant

I have come a long way since my childhood days when it comes to the variety of vegetables that I eat. Really, there is nothing I won't try at least once, but there are certainly vegetables that are at the bottom of my list, this includes olives (which I'm not even sure are considered a vegetable, probably not), raw onions, and eggplant. Of the three, I actually eat quite a bit of eggplant and really enjoy it .... the secret is hiding the taste of the eggplant. I guess we do this with a lot of cooking, adding spices to add to the flavor, but in the case of eggplant, this step is a must. Many vegetables I am happy just to eat raw, steam, or saute in a little olive oil. Who does that with eggplant though? Maybe I am just a weirdo.

Last night I made a recipe that John has been begging to have for some time now, Eggplant Curry from the Best Ever Vegetarian Cookbook. I haven't made any dishes from this cookbook since going vegan, many of them include dairy or eggs. For the curry I used about half the amount of eggplant called for, used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, added more mushrooms and also threw in some red pepper that I needed to get rid of. I served it over quinoa with steamed kale on the side, which went together quite nicely. This didn't really taste like a curry to me, it lacked any real heat, but we enjoyed it just the same. If I fix it again I will likely add more chili peppers or powder as well as some curry powder to kick it up a notch. And most important of all, I was successful in hiding the eggplant!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My Favorite Seitan Stir-Fry

Last night I made (as the title suggests) my favorite seitan stir-fry dish - Glazed Seitan Stir-Fry from the January 2007 Vegetarian Times. Lucky for yall the recipe is posted on their website as well! I love the sweetness of the sauce with subtle kick of the red pepper flakes. I served this over Texas-grown brown jasmine rice. Leftovers for lunch today!

Farewell to Satya

Satya Magazine, a voice for vegetarianism, environmentalism, animal advocacy, and social justice, has recently released its final issue. Even though I haven't been a reader for very long (since I became vegan last August), I will miss the thought-provoking articles and intriguing interviews. Check out their final issue which is online now. I especially enjoyed Isa's contribution entitled "Vegan Culinary Activism in 10 Yummy Steps." I think the vegan blog world is carrying out that vision by spreading vegan yumminess everywhere. Enjoy the final issue, we will miss you Satya!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Mediterranean with a Lemon Twist

After an evening walk in the heat, we dined on a Mediterranean-inspired meal. I made the sun-dried tomato and kale hummus from VeganYumYum. Yum yum it was indeed, and a great way to get some kale (John is always skeptical when I add it to something but always ends up loving it). My only additions to the recipe were lemon juice and cumin. I served the hummus on toasted ciabatta bread. Alongside, we had a childhood favorite of John's, a simple salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes (from the farmer's market), avocado, artichoke hearts, and hearts of palm. Plenty of basil, finely chopped roasted red peppers, some salt and pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar are all that's needed to top it off.

Here's the simple fruit salad we had on the side, Texas peaches and pluots (more plum than apricot and I prefer these over apriums). Not fancy, but I liked the color contrast in the photo.

And for dessert, I tried my first recipe from Damn Tasty Vegan, the Lemon Almond Torte. This was fun to make, and a nice change up from all the chocolatey desserts I usually make. I thought it was so neat how the lemon filling gelled! I topped the torte with some farmer's market blueberries and toasted almonds. John claims this is now his new favorite dessert. It is also a great one to showcase for company, so fancy looking!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Confessions of an Iron Chef Addict

Before I became a vegan, I was addicted to Iron Chef America . Every Thursday I couldn't wait to see what the next "secret ingredient" would be ... artichokes, lentils, maybe cranberries? As I became a vegan, watching Iron Chef became harder and harder, until I just couldn't do it anymore. A week or two ago when flipping through the channels I saw that the secret ingredient was steak, ugh. I felt almost sorry for the judges who would have to eat 10 plates of cholesterol, fat, and cruelty-laden meat. They didn't seem too upset about it though. I sent them an email (you can send them one too!) asking to invite a vegan chef on the show, or even doing a vegan throw down for an episode, what would be more challenging for grillmaster Bobby Flay than that?

Where are all the vegan cooking shows? Heck, I'd almost settle for vegetarian. I don't even think I've heard the word vegan even whispered on the Food Network. But last night I was browsing the usual channels and stopped when I saw chocolate cake batter oozing out my television screen. Then I heard the words tofu, then vegan soon after!! I couldn't believe that this woman was admitting to making a vegan chocolate cake with a tofu-based chocolate frosting on national television! The show was "Get Fresh with Sara Snow" on the Discovery Health channel. I visited the website and found the recipe for the cake, but not the frosting (there was also a vegan stir fry). She ended the show by encouraging viewers to try a vegan dish, yay! Her show is on Thursday nights (same as Iron Chef, hah!) if you want to check it out.

And speaking of vegan cooking shows, everyone who hasn't already should grab themselves a copy of both Everyday Dish and Vegetarian Cooking by Compassionate Cooks. They are both beautifully put together and contain some great recipes and cooking tips as well. Show your support for the vegan cooking community!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Flowers for Now, Food Maybe Later

Okay, so I am getting over a nasty stomach bug, which has left me with absolutely no appetite. Hopefully by the weekend my stomach won't do flips when I think about food. (which has been really tough these last few days since I think about food so often now, what to cook, what to blog about, etc.)

So instead I have a picture and a short, sweet story. This is my now blooming hydrangea. John bought it for me nearly two years ago after I was feeling sick. We decided to save it and keep it on the porch of our townhome in the city. That poor thing has been through a lot. It lived through our near miss Hurricane Rita. We left for a two and a half week trip to Patagonia and thought it was dead when we returned. It also survived a recent powerwashing of the building, which left all the plants with yellow leaves (bleach in the water I think). Somehow, it has found the strength to bloom even in the Texas heat!! I thought it was so cute.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Dinner for Dad

Since my mom is traveling in Spain for the next few weeks, this evening John and I headed out to west Houston to have dinner with my dad. He'd been eating lots of brown rice, black beans, and Boca burgers this week, so I figure I'd change it up a bit for him. On the menu was:

Roasted carrots with rosemary and sage from my new Vegan Italiano cookbook( a birthday gift for John, so I can try and cook him more "authentic" Italian) and fresh green beans with leftover cashew sauce.

Fusilli pasta with sun-dried tomato pesto and lemon-herbed tofu (both from the Everyday Dish DVD)

And finally for dessert chocolate chip oatmeal cookies from the Candle Cafe cookbook.

The whole meal was a hit, and John claims that all around it's one of the best meals I've fixed (he always says that though...). And for a meal for company, not only was it delicious, but also quick and easy! The pesto I made a day early, and the rest took almost no preparation. One note about the cookies, I ended up added almost 3/4 c. extra flour! The dough was really runny, not sure why. They had a strange texture as a result, but still delicious. Not too sweet, but lots of yummy chocolate chip goodness. I was especially proud of the carrots since both my dad and John are not fans of cooked carrots, but they both gobbled them up with numerous compliments. This was also one of the first time's my dad has had tofu, and he asked me to pass along the recipe to my mom for future use! And what could be better than a pesto made with sun-dried tomatoes? I loved the nutty crunch from the toasted almonds and pinenuts. A successful dinner, plus we enjoyed good wine and conversation.

In other weekend cooking, I made(and froze) a bunch of Sneaky Girlfriend's Tomato Sauce, a modified version of the Sneaky Momma's Tomato Sauce from Vegan Lunch Box. I add mushrooms, zucchini, Boca burger crumbles, red wine, and black beans (yes, beans!). Perfect for a quick dinner when I don't feel like cooking.

I also made Coconut Chai Breakfast Cake from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen since we were going over to a coworker's house this morning to help take down a dead tree (that was a lot of work, and John did most of it!). It was a nice treat to have. Very dense but sweet at the same time. I added pecans which I thought were a yummy addition. Here's the piece I snuck on Saturday night after baking it just to "test" it out.