Thursday, August 24, 2006

Heart Tart for Art

2 Fuji Apples - peeled, cored, cut into 1/8 inch thick slices (squeeze lemon juice over exposed apples to prevent browning)
2 Tbsp. Sugar
Agave Nectar
1 Lemon - finely grated zest & juice
4 Tbsp. Apricot Preserves
1 Tsp. Vanilla Soy Milk
Vegan Puff Pastry Squares

Preheat oven to 450*. Press puff pastry into individual containers. Combine apple slices, 1 Tbsp. sugar, zest from lemon, and several squeezes of agave nectar. Spread preserves over the crust (I used Organic Apricot Lavender Leaf preserves). Arrange apple slices in concentric circles atop preserves, overlapping. Try to build up a pretty edge for the crust, brush it with soy milk, & sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350*, cover crust with tinfoil and cook for 15 more minutes. Reduce heat again to 325*, cover entirely with tinfoil and cook 15 more minutes. Let cool.

Art & I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary this week, so I made 2 individual sized Heart Tarts. If you plan to use a regular tart pan, double the recipe.

This is for Urban Vegan's clever tART contest.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Cookies & Celebrations

The stage was set......

'Double Chocolate Almond Explosion Cookies' and 'Peanut "Better" Cookies. We were receiving a house-guest, and nothing says, "Welcome" like homemade cookies -- don't ya think? I used spelt flour for both batches because I think it tastes better. I really like that Dreena gives that option. My first experience with parchment paper was just this year, so I don't know "the rules", but I used the same sheet 3 times (toasting the almonds + 2 batches) and it was no problem. Does everybody do that?

I emptied the maple syrup container on the right during this cooking session, and on the left is the replacement. ($20.00 per 64 fl. oz.) I have never gone through so much maple syrup in my life! An itty-bitty bottle used to last us years -- it'd move with us. Even "no big deal" hubby raised an eyebrow when I noticed we were out of syrup and the pancakes were steaming. We don't want to get caught like that again, so we're buying it in bulk. You Canadians really like your syrup, don't you?! Obviously, we do too -- thanks for giving us a reason to enjoy it other than pancakes. :o)

I know, you've seen these cookies before -- this is a different photo....really. And there's a not so subtle message in that -- if you haven't made them, you should treat yourself & others.

Had to include a photo of my current favorite cookie. This time I had the almond slivers and it makes such a difference on the appearance, and I like the way a sliver crunches better than whole ones ground.

The next week or so is going to be busy and exciting for me. As you know, we have someone staying with us a couple nights, so we'll be showing him around town. The 22nd is our 14th wedding anniversary! Of course, we have a sitter. :o) The next night, Art will be spinning records at a cool restaurant/bar in town and three of my best buds will join me for drinks & food. The following Sunday, I'll be hosting a baby shower for one of those friends. I'm making some tea sandwiches -- you know, the fancy kind. Please, any cool ideas in the finger sandwich department?

I caught one of those moments on camera today. Abi was playing in their cubbard and for the first time, I saw her stacking the sippy cups. I was impressed and told her so, when Liv went over and they began working together. Stacking the cups together -- it was beautiful. Kinda makes up for the spilled smoothie today --- red, gooey, sweet, seedy, splattered all over the white cabinets.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Food & Find

Liv is my #1 helper when it comes to cooking, and her favorite thing to cook is muffins. Here she is stirring the dry ingredients for 'Wolffie's Banana Blueberry Muffins' from La Dolce Vegan! (p. 274) I like the hint of molasses, but perhaps the flavor is too strong for the girls?

I thought they were great -- warm from the oven with a bit of Earth Balance... But the girls didn't like them -- even though there were big, plump blueberries inside....

Can't win them all -- and the best compliment is from a critic!

They loved this! These smoothies had:

Fresh Banana & cantaloupe
Frozen Strawberries & Mangos
Carrot/Orange juice & Ice

They were as thick as they look.

It was a solo dinner for me and this is what I chose, 'Pureed Chickpea Pasta Sauce with Fresh Herbs' from Vive le Vegan! (p. 99) over Soba noodles. This recipe has 17 ingredients, excluding the pasta, and I had them all! Right down to the fresh oregano from our garden - I had to use a flashlight to pick it last night. This was really yummy and if you're a garbanzo fan, you gotta try it.

And now, for the "find" part of this post...
Look what we found at Costco -- A 12 pack of Amy's burgers! At .80 cents a patty, I think this is a great deal. I'm so pleased to see vegan, organic, delicious food available in bulk! One more testament that the Veg Lifestyle is becoming more mainstream. Can you believe this is the first time I've tried Amy's? Hands down, this is the best veggie burger I've had. Period. The only down-side is that we have to gack down the "other" brand burgers in the freezer.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Party Planning & on the side

Last night, all 5 party planners were here to talk details of Lora's baby shower. Teri made two batches of the punch for us to preview & sample (champagne, club soda, blackberry brandy, bitters & an lemon-ice ring) We liked it! I made 2 appetizers for snacking. Dreena's 'Cannellini Bean Yam Hummus' -- but I messed around with the recipe too much. The only white beans I had were Great Northern, and I used chipotle hot sauce (what the recipe calls for) instead of dry chipotle spice, which I prefer. I didn't have pinenuts or cilantro and so sprinkled almond slices on top with garden fresh tomatoes. Not the usual "WoW" of the dip.

Another repeat recipe was 'Classic Pesto' from VwaV, featuring tomatoes from the garden and walnuts from our trees. I did too much tinkering with this dish also. I decided that I wanted to double it, which is easy enough except I didn't have enough basil. Forging ahead, I added the optional nutritional yeast. The plate was empty at the end of the evening, but I knew it could have been tastier. A friend (omni) borrowed my VwaV & noticed the look of hesitation on my face upon handing it over - No..really, I'll be OK without it for a week. :o)

We've been enjoying the bicycle trailer my neighbor loaned us. A nice man took our photo at the park, and now I know why I don't turn my camera that way. We're going to take it out for a spin again today -- my plan is to map out a bicycle route for a house guest who'll be with us this weekend. He used to work at Mother's Market in Irvine, so I want to pick his brain and see if I can squeeze a recipe out of him. I also hope to cook something special, but I don't know what!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Vive le Cookie!

But, first an update on the previous post: The VwaV Seitan recipe makes quite a bit, so as you see, we have the beginning of three more meals in the freezer ready to go.

Liv was happy to help wash the Yukon Gold potatoes for....

'Miso-Curry Roasted Potatoes' from Vive le Vegan! pg. 68. These are so delicious, and the miso paste adds such a nice brown crispness to the spuds.

After seeing these cookies on nearly everyone's blogs and reading the rave reviews, I had to make them myself. 'Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies' from Vive are amazing & if you haven't made them yet, what are you waiting for?

'Double Chocolate Almond Explosion Cookies' from Vive are also delicious! I didn't have almond slivers, so I used whole almonds chopped up. Equally delectable are the Peanut "Better" Cookies from the same cookbook - Dreena really has a way with cookie recipes!

This weekend, we bought a new kitchen gadget, a blender. Enter....The SMOOTHIE! This is one of Art's just before hitting the motor, he likes his with yogurt, fruit, & some protein powder. The girls and I like ours with ice, fruit, & juice. Last night, I "Oooohed & Ahhhhed" over one with:
fresh pineapple
fresh banana
fresh plum
fresh cantaloupe
frozen strawberries
ice & OJ

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Soul Seitan

Those of you who check in from time to time know that we love soul food. Here's our latest helping: Blackeyed Peas, Greens, & Seitan.

This time, Art cooked the greens. They were extra good because the full flavor emerged & wasn't covered up. This is how he prepared it:

1 bunch each: Collard Greens, Purple Kale, Green Kale
1/4 Onion, finely chopped
2 small cloves Garlic
2 tbs. Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Boil Greens in 4 quarts Water. Add Salt after simmering 1 hour. Drain, add 2 cups fresh Water & reboil to steam. Serve with Earth Balance & Sea Salt.

I've been wanting to make this jerk, Seitan, for a while now & was inspired even more by Matt over @ the BakeHouse. Experimenting is fun, so I marinated the seitan (VwaV p. 157) four different ways:
1. BBQ Sauce
2. Sweet & Sour Sauce
3. Soy Vay Teriyaki
4. Jerk Mainade (VwaV p. 159)
We think the seitan tastes best when cut into thin strips and fried.

The seitan took several hours to prepare -- mostly with tasks that don't require a lot of attention like simmering & marinating. So it was a good day to get things done around the house......

Like organizing the tupperware drawer.

Good idea, Abi! :o)

The next day, I whipped up these drop biscuits from The Vegan Family Cookbook. While the biscuits were baking, I cooked some of the bbq seitan. Put them together, & you have a little sandwich. They were so good & cute. They disappeared too quickly for a photo.

We make a lot of muffins around here, but this is my first time making Dreena's 'As-You-Like Muffins' from TEV. I used half whole wheat pasty flour & half unbleached all-purpose. This is a basic muffin recipe, and she offers many variations to make them as you like. This time, I liked mine with dried blueberries & cherries. They were delicious warm with Earth Balance and had a sweet hint of applesauce.

Monday, August 7, 2006

Pesto, Pancakes, Pineapple, & Peanut Butter

Look under "P" in Webster's and you'll find it all. This is 'Classic Pesto' from VwaV, pg. 132. This recipe had two strikes against it before I began: 1. Art isn't a huge pesto fan. 2. I don't like walnuts. I made it anyway. We had an abundance of the ingredients and I wanted something different for the soba noodles. The pesto was a big hit & rated super delicious. I skipped the nutritional yeast, but plan to add it next time.

The basil and tomatoes for the pesto dish came from our organic garden! Look how grown in it is
compared to when we first planted it. It is such a joy to cook what you grow.

And, the walnuts for the pesto came from our walnut tree! Here you see Jolie really making the squirrels work to get the walnuts. The squirrels rule the tree-top & down below the walnut shells are furiously flying. We have walnut trees sprouting up all over the yard from them forgetting their stash. Even after the squirrels and crows have had their fill of walnuts, we still have a bunch left over.

Because I don't care for the taste of walnuts, I usually end up doing something silly them. We had a dinner party and guests each received walnut-mouse wine charms. Art's is blue & mine is brown, and everybody else took their unique colored mice home with them.
When Liv's birthday party theme was "ducks", I made walnut-duck party favors. People's names were written in sharpie on the back. Or, I'll just glitter pen people's names on walnuts as a place marker. But now, I look at the walnuts & I visualize P*E*S*T*O!

These are 'Banana Bliss Pancakes' from Vive le Vegan! pg. 19. I followed the recipe exactly and we just put a little Earth Balance on top. They are quite satisfying and next time I'll plan ahead and make the blueberry maple syrup on the next page for some added sweetness.

Last night, I made 'Pineapple Lemon Bars' from Vive pg. 135. We were out of lemon, so these are technically 'Pineapple Lime Bars' and there's some coconut in the recipe too. Instead of arrowroot powder, I used corn starch; and I opted for the wheat free version and used spelt flour. We ate them warm from the oven and they were good. This morning, I ate one for breakfast and it was amazing. To us, these are best chilled. This is my kind of breakfast bar.

Back up one page, and you get 'Peanut "Better" Cookies'. Again, I followed the recipe exactly -- utilizing the spelt flour option. I really like the quantity that this recipe yields. 12 cookies - one pan - not too much - just enough. The title fits. These are better peanut butter cookies. And it's a wholesome cookie that I can feel really good about giving the girls, who by the way, LOVED them.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Scones, Nectardew, & Nature

These are 'Glazed Orange Scones' from VwaV. This was my second time making them. But the first time, I used other citrus and also had fabulous results. Isa says the dough should be clumpy and not sticky. Mine was super-duper sticky both times. I just flour the cutting board really well & it works out fine. I made these again because I'm thinking about making them for a friend's baby shower - but, it's not until the end of the month, and I'm open to other amazing vegan party bread type things. Any ideas?!

Here's another hybrid, it's called a nectarine honeydew, and would have fit right in with my last post about artichoke zucchini. You can check this interesting article about hybrid fruits. I enjoyed this fruit almost as much as a regular nectarine. Whereas, the artichoke zucchini was a little weird -- I missed the ritualistic dipping of the artichoke leaves; and squash texture seemed strange with the artichoke flavor. I do recommend this though, and the window of opportunity is very short, so hurry if your going to try this new fruit.

Look, I caught a bee in our backyard pollinating the old fashioned way.

And, here's a volunteer butterfly bush. I want to transplant it to another spot, but I'm afraid I'll kill it. So it just keeps getting bigger, in the wrong place.

Can you believe a volunteer hydrangea? I absolutely love these flowers. We have another plant that has refused to blossom for past three years. I've tried everything, and still the healthy appearing plant never has flowers. So, I'm thrilled that at a completely different location, this flower pops up!

Liv and I enjoyed observing a preying mantis today. The praying mantis ambushes its prey and captures it with its spiny forelegs. A mantis feeds on all types of insects, including other mantises. The female praying mantis is widely known for her peculiar habit of biting the head off her partner while they are mating. The cannibalistic habits of praying mantises ensure that they remain solitary creatures.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Farmer's Market & Vegan Grub

Liv and I went to the farmer's market while Abi napped and Art worked with a band in the studio. It was fun with just the two of us, and we wandered over to the artists' area. The market has a wonderful, free art program for kids and this week the 3-5 year olds could choose between ice painting (paint with salt), or clay painting. Liv chose the later, and here you can see a great beginning to her fish composition.

There are several artistic vendors at the market, and my favorite is always the mosaics.

I saw the sign "Zucchini Artichoke" and saw neither zucchini nor artichoke, so I asked about this strange looking veggie. She told me that it cooks like a squash, but tastes just like an artichoke. Say what? Ease of squash...taste of artichoke? Count me in. Here she is showing me how to prepare it: Cut the neck into "carrot stick" pieces, Hollow out the seeds and dice the round part. Steam. We dipped ours in fresh lemon juice and Earth Balance. It really did taste like an artichoke! But it had a squash texture.

The sign reads:

We Care For Your Tree &
You Get To Pick
$75.00 - $100.00

Zucchini Artichoke

Baby New Potatoes
Swiss Chard
Kermit Squash
Yellow Squash
Summer Squash

No lettuce again. Not because of the deer, but because I wasn't there within the first 1/2 hour!

During the recent heat wave, this soup really hit the spot. All I wanted was food from the fridge, and preferably the freezer. But, even I need to eat more than just ice-cream, popsicles, & fruit from time to time. So, without heating up the kitchen, I enjoyed a healthy, hearty bowl of Earthy Lentil soup from Vive le Vegan! along with some whole wheat toast. The ultimate frozen dinner.

Cannellini Bean Yam Hummus also from Vive le Vegan! sans pinenuts & cillantro. Some pita chips did the dipping:

Pita Bread (whole wheat)
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the pita into wedges. Arrange on baking sheets and brush with oil and sprinkle on spices. Bake 5 minutes.

Dinner was centered around a jasmine rice dome topped with pineapple, but the main event was the picked-that-morning, organic kale. On the back side, you see Morningstar Meal Starter sauteed in Soy Vay with pineapple to mellow it out a bit.

Miso Kale:

1 Onion
3 Tbs. Light Olive Oil
3 Tbs. Miso Paste
2 Bunches Kale, rinsed & rinsed, and chopped
3/4 C. Vegetable Broth

In a large pan, saute the onions in oil until tender. Add the kale and broth. Cook until the kale is wilted. Turn down the heat and add the miso being careful not to boil it.

Did you know that Miso consumption is linked with up to 50% reduced risk of breast cancer?

This is our first harvest from the garden. Very exciting that it was edible. Fresh basil and some really good, plump cherry tomatoes.

and some flowers in the backyard.