Thursday, June 29, 2006

Carrot-Raisin Muffins & Easy Pleasin' Oat Bars

Liv loves to help in the kitchen, and I'm pleased that she enjoys cooking. My little kitchen helper is especially good at stirring the dry ingredients while I mix the wet. I usually call off the items as I measure and toss in the bowl, and she gets especially excited when I start working with the teaspoons. When I say "teaspoon" she hears "tastespoon" and wants to sample everything with these cute little spoons that must be for tasting. It tickles me so much. Here she is concentrating very hard on keeping the flour, sugar, etc. in the bowl.

Her favorite thing to cook is muffins, and I decided on the 'Carrot-Raisin Muffins' in VwaV. It's a good stand-by recipe because we usually have all the ingredients on hand, and they were good. They aren't the most exciting muffin I've ever tasted, but they were all gone before I cleaned up the kitchen. Sometimes good is better than exciting when you're really hungry.

I had 2 overripe bananas, and like a sleep-walker, I opened up Vive for the 'Banana Oat Bundles', but I glanced at the 'Easy Pleasin' Oat Bars' and decided to toss the sorry bananas and make these instead. Why? Well, I had made the bundles quite a bit, and had never made these. Plus, I think it'd be kinda cool to have made every recipe in Vive before Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan! comes out. It'll be a toughie, because it's hard not to get stuck on one recipe and make it over & over instead of trying a different one. Anyhow, with the Oat Bars, Dreena suggests adding different flavors and textures, so I added Let's Do Organic coconut and chocolate chips. These easily pleased me! They are delicious & nutritious.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Orange-Glazed Beets, Quick Asparagus Saute, & Creamy Hummus

I really love beets, especially the orange ones. They are less messy than the red and the flavor is so sweet. I had some organic beets on hand, and instead of making them my regular way, I decided to turn to the cookbooks. I found 'Orange-Glazed Beets' in VwaV and busted out my veggie peeler - something I never use when it comes to beets. What I usually do is trim off the top and boil - leaving on the skin. Then after the beet cools, voila! the skin just slides off - leaving a naturally juicy beet. I'll go back to doing that next time. For the asparagus, I also decided to use a recipe and found Dreena's 'Quick Asparagus Saute' in TEV. The asparagus was perfect! But inquiring minds ask, "Why does asparagus make your pee smell funny?" On the plate, you also see: lemon for the asparagus, fresh apricot, & citrus sparerib cutlets.

Earlier that day, we were famished! I kicked into auto-pilot and made Dreena's 'Creamy Hummus' from Vive by heart. It's because I *heart* this recipe! I threw some fresh parsley in the food processor for some added zing, and topped off with a fresh tomato. This was gone in no time at all!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Glazed Citrus Scones & Daisies

I was at the Post Punk Kitchen and read in one of the forums how The Urban Vegan made VwaV's Glazed Orange Scones with lemons instead. I love lemon, & that sounded amazing so I had to give it a try. I went to the fridge and only had a 1/2 lemon and 3 limes. My wheels were already in motion and decided to make do with what I had, so I made mine citrus. (this photo was taken the next day after a store run) The scones keep really well in the fridge and allows for the glaze to harden, though I admit to eating 2 hot & sticky ones right off the press. The scones are surprisingly easy to make and oh so delicious. My new favorite ingredient is zest!

I had to include some flowers from the garden since they echo the yellow & green of the lemon & lime. The colors of summer!

Four girlfriends & I are throwing a baby shower for a dear friend. For the menu, we'll each bring a bread item along with a fruit or veggie item. I'm seriously considering these scones, only with the intended orange flavor. Any menu ideas for me? A bread item? A fruit or veggie dish?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Toasted Quinoa Salad

This dish was inspired by Creative Kismet (link to see a slightly different recipe w/a fresh photo, and lots of other cool things), who was inspired by Vegetarian Times May/June 2006 issue. I was taken with the recipe for two reasons ~ first because she toasted the quinoa, and second because she didn't rinse the quinoa first to remove the natural bitterness. No bitterness here ~ just a more nutty, toasted, earthy, groovy flavor. Thanks for the recipe & inspiration!

This is what I did:
1/2 C. Almond Slivers
1 C. Quinoa
2 C. Water
1 Carton Grape Tomatoes
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/4 C. finely chopped Parsley
1/4 C. Olive Oil
3 Tbs. Fresh Lemon Juice

1. Toast almonds in a skillet over medium heat 4-5 minutes, or until fragrant and golden brown. Set aside.
2. Toast quinoa in the same skillet over medium heat 4-5 minutes or until light brown and beginning to pop. Stir in sea salt and 2 Cups water. Cover, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Transfer to serving bowl and let cool.
3. Add all other ingredients. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley. Creative Kismet served hers on a bed of lettuce, which is lovely.

Check the Vegan Club for more quinoa recipes!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Potato Chickpea Garlic Soup

Inspired by Michelle of Tiger the Lion, who was inspired by Jess of Get Sconed!, who was in turn inspired by this recipe. I was looking through some emails I had sent myself with recipes I'd seen on blogs that I wanted to try someday. This one caught my eye again, so I decided to make it even though it's hot as H - E - Double Toothpick outside.

This is what I used:
4 C. Vegetable Stock
2 C. Water
10 Whole Cloves Garlic, halved
1/2 Red Onion, quartered
1 Stalk Celery, cut into 4 big pieces
1 Can Chickpeas
1 Lg. Potato, washed & diced + skin left on
Sea Salt & Pepper to taste

Put everything except the salt and pepper into a large pot, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 mins, until potatoes are super soft. Puree in the food processor, reserving some whole chickpeas. Return to pot, season with salt and pepper to taste.

I garnished mine with fresh basil from the garden, and some heart biscuits I made with extra dough from the "weiner wraps". This soup was so easy to make, and I'm a potato & garbanzo fiend, so I was happy with the results. Thanks for the inspiration everyone!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Weiner Wraps"

Back in April I attempted some weiner wraps and they could have chipped a tooth they were so hard. So I was happy to see a weiner wrap recipe in The Vegan Family Cookbook. The dough is really easy to make, and is actually a "drop biscuit" recipe. I wonder if the book has a typo, because it calls for 3/5 C. Olive Oil ~ none of my measuring cups work with fifths, so I did slightly less than 3/4 and it all worked out fine. Is the 3/5 odd to you? Anyhow, I rolled out the dough, gave some to Liv to roll out too, cut the dough to size, covered the Tofu Pups up, and put them in the oven. Easy.

The dough was light and fluffy, and really perfect! I served the weiner wraps with naturally sweetened applesauce (no high fructose corn syrup), 2 grape eyes, and a celery stick smile ~ and you can see the other smile this meal produced! I really like this new cookbook!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Happy Father's Day!

I'm a proponent of beginning with dessert, and I'm so pleased to begin with 'Coconut Heaven Cupcakes' from Vegan with a Vengeance. These are easily the best cupcakes I've ever made (vegan & non), and possibly the best I've ever eaten. They are dense coconut cupcakes topped off with fluffy coconut icing. I used coconut extract instead of vanilla in the cakes & icing, let's do organic coconut, and topped them with a blueberry for color. The recipe should really come with a warning label for dieters "You can't eat just one". I'm telling ya...these are so delicious, and if you like coconut, you will LOVE these cupcakes.

Olivia painted a picture for Art. She said it had a yellow and a blue sun. She made finger prints all over and fingerpainted a bird. We only had blue, yellow, & red ~ and she mixed to also have orange, green, & purple. Every year, I pick out a new bedtime story and write Happy Father's Day & the year with a Sharpie. This year, I picked up, "What Am I?" It's a really cute animal guessing game book. Speaking of guessing on.

While she painted, I made 'Banana Bread' from "The Vegan Family Cookbook", which touts that this will be the best banana bread you will ever have! It is really good. Among other ingredients, this recipe call for egg replacer, 2 very ripe bananas, soy milk, & silken tofu. The bread also fills the house with a wonderful aroma, and I think this loaf would have gotten more attention if it weren't for the coconut cupcakes! (the only downside of beginning with dessert)

A guessing game: What vegetable do you think this is? Hints: It has thick skin, golden roots with purple shoulders. They are carrot-sweet and slightly peppery, with a golden flesh that tastes like a cross between a turnip and a yellow-fleshed sweet potato. Here is the mystery vegetable after being peeled, cubed and boiled. Below, you'll see it mashed with soybean margarine & sea salt. Comment on your mystery veggie guess & I'll comment back later with the answer.

I had a lot of fun cooking Art's Father's Day dinner. I began cleaning the collard greens by cutting out the spine, folding the leaf in half, & cutting into strips. I put the collard greens into a large pot, covered with water, added some sea salt, & brought to a boil, reducing the heat for an hour. Then, I changed the water, added some onion & soybean margarine and brought to a boil again. In a skillet, I browned each side of the Veats Bites, then added some Island Teriyaki sauce by Soy Vay along with some fresh green beans and a half can of pineapple ~ & let that simmer together. On the plate you see: a dual bed of mashed mystery vegetable and jasmine rice, topped with collard greens and veats bites & a thick tomato slice. Art called this 'Soul Food' and said it was the best meal I've made him. Wow! Happy Father's Day.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Sesame Asparagus, Maple-Mustard-Glazed Potatoes and String Beans, & Portobello Mushroom Burgers

The 'Sesame Asparagus' recipe is from VwaV (pg. 124) and is the new house standard for straight up asparagus. It is a basic recipe which enhances the flavor of the vegetable ~ not covering it up. I was without rice vinegar, so I substituted red wine, and they are topped with toasted black sesame seeds.

I had intended for the 'Maple-Mustard-Glazed Potatoes and String Beans' from VwaV (p. 113) to go with the Portobello Burger, but I only skimmed the recipe and didn't notice that it takes over an hour to make. So, I whipped up the asparagus quickly for the meal, and continued with the potatoes & beans. The flavors in this dish are perfect, I just finished the last of it cold from the fridge. The recipe calls for yellow onion, but we didn't have that on hand so we went with one red onion.

Here is the potato dish out of the oven. We sampled a few spuds, then put the rest in the fridge. My daughters ate some for lunch, we had some the following dinner, & I just finished the last as a snack. The flavor is a blend, as there is no one flavor that sticks out. It's a small secret in our home that I really don't like mushrooms. However, I did gag down a few bites of the portabello burger. Art sauteed it in a tablespoon of butter for 5 minutes, turning once, and adding cheese and a lid for the last minute. It was tasty, but I didn't finish my burger. Just a bite of a mushroom is a big deal for me, so I'd say the portabello burgers were good, served on onion buns with lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Creamy Potato Leek Bake & Garlicky Kale + Tahini Dressing

I found some info. on leeks: the leek is a member of the onion family, but the flavor is much more refined, subtle, and sweet than the standard onion. European chefs call leeks "poor man's asparagus." Asparagus is actually a distant relative of the leek, residing in the same Lily family as onions. Although giant leeks do not make for great eating, Britain holds a yearly competition and awards a prize to the largest leek, which can range from 4 to 5 inches in diameter. In 640 A.D., the Welsh wore leeks in their hats to distinguish themselves from the enemy during the battle between King Cadwallader of Wales and the Saxons.

Art requested a potato dish, so I looked through a few cookbooks, and came up with 'Creamy Potato Leek Bake' from Dreena's Everyday Vegan. There are 3 layers in this dish: Potato, Leek (what you see on top of this picture), & an optional soy/rice parmesan. I spaced on the Arrowroot flour, so Art & Liv made a store run and couldn't find it either, so I substituted the same amount of Corn Starch. Another major "DOH" is that I didn't have thyme, oregano, or savory! I didn't substitue for the spices, and this dish was really delicious plain! This is one of those warm comfort foods, probably ideal for winter but it's been a bit rainy (odd for June) and it really hit the spot. I'll make this one again.

The 'Garlicky Kale with Tahini Dressing' came from Vegan with a Vengeance. I was excited to try a recipe from Isa's cookbook other than fries (which are really great). I like this recipe because after getting the fresh kale & parsley all the other ingredients are always on hand. Art is a "big kale eater" (not big in stature, but rather "big" as in large quantities of kale consumed!), and he says it could be better, so we'll collaborate next time. This time, I cooked it (my first time), and I ate it (not a first), and thought it was delicious (also a first). So there'll be more kale in our future. Also on the plate, you see Vegetarian Sparerib Cutlets.

To go with the kale, I made Isa's 'Tahini Dressing' and stored it in this water bottle. We always consider the packaging when we buy things, and normally something like this would stay on the shelf. But take a look at the beauty of this bottle. It has that awesome self-contained rubber cork which is perfect for storing things airtight, so we splurged that day and bought 2 French Leamonades just so we could reuse the bottles. The leamonade was good too!

Oh, and I also made La Dolce Vegan!'s 'Green Bean Zasmashha' without snapping a photo. This recipe only has 3 items: breadcrumbs, green beans, & Earth Balance ~ extremely simple and surprisingly tasty.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Garden, Bundles, & Recipe Testing

"What are we doing today, boss?"

How about finishing up the garden spot that we
started back in April? I had found some raised garden bed plans in Sunset Magazine, showed them to Art, and said, "Think you could do something like that on the side of the house?" He didn't follow the plans, & came up with something better, "It's all up here," he says pointing to his head. You can see the pipe arch, which will hold a netting to keep out birds, squirrels, deer, & whatever else.

I love that Art didn't buy much stuff for this project. He reused some old boards that were torn-up from the deck last summer, and only had to buy the nuts & bolts. The frames are 2 boards tall, and has a wire netting underneath to deter the groundhogs.

We put down 4 of my mosaic stepping stones and framed the beds with a perennial thyme ground cover. Inside the boxes, on the right, there is a cherry tomato, basil, habanero pepper, 2 other pepper plants, & marigolds. The box on the left has a yellow squash, 3 peppers, & marigolds. (marigolds in the garden help repel pests) The pepper plants are a mystery ~ Art said the tags were mismatched in the store, so we have 5 unknown varieties of pepper plants.

Digging in the dirt works up an appetite, so I cooked up some 'Banana Oat Bundles' from Vive le Vegan! Our bananas were really big & made the batter runny, so the first group on the bottom row looks more like cookies. I added more oats and the top 2 rows look more like little bundles. Olivia kept saying, "These are yummy cookies!" She really likes helping with this recipe because she can lick the banana puree, & I can feel good about all the ingredients. This time, we added some chocolate chips, I used cardamom instead of cinnamon, and they are

Here is a recipe that I tested for Catherine. It is her healthier, veg version of Sloppy Joes ~ 'Sloppy Lentils'. I've heard lots of chatter about Sloppy Lentils, but this is my first time making it. Her "Party Of One" recipe yield was the perfect amount for us. I ate one, the girls shared the other, and I spooned up the remaining from the saucepan. It was a perfect lunch for us. I thought that I had all the ingredients when I began, but as you can see, we're missing the pretty green color. Next time. Awesome recipe, Catherine, thanks for sharing it with us!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Happy Hour

Last week, I had some girlfriends over for happy hour after they got off work. I served these 'Baked Cajun French Fries' from VwaV, accompanied by some Mango dipping sauce inspired by a restaurant in town.

Mango Fry Sauce:
1 mango, finely chopped
1 lime
1 hot pepper, finely chopped
1/4 C. agave nectar
1/4 cilantro, finely chopped
mix with 1/3 C. nayonaise
Then, I added some of the spices from the Cajun Fries ( paprika, cumin, cayenne, sea salt)

Recently, Dreena appeared in a podcast with Erik Marcus highlighting her 'Cannellini Yam Hummus', and in that segment another person reviews her cookbook, Vive le Vegan, and praises her 'Coconut-Lime Cookies' in such a way that I decided that I must cook them. It was such a recommendation that I didn't even try the recipe out before cooking them for my friends. These cookies disappeared so fast, and my friends were shocked that they are vegan. They made me go get the cookbook to prove it!

Along with the cookies, I made Dreena's 'Creamy Hummus' & 'Cannellini Bean Yam Hummus' the night before. When my friends arrived, I put down a leaf of lettuce in the bowls, spooned in the hummus, & topped each with toasted almond slivers & served with Ezekiel pocket bread. They were both such a hit ~ but especially the cannellini yam because it was a little different and the smoky/sweet combination is really so perfect.

Friday, June 9, 2006

Apple-Hemp Muffins & Hemp Brownies

I was pretty excited to finally find some hemp seed nuts at the Co-op, even if it was just 3 lonely bags sitting in the cooler. I snagged myself a sack and then it was just a matter of deciding which recipe from Vive le Vegan! to use them in. It was Dreena's description that convinced me to make these muffins: "Moist, lightly spiced muffins with the added nutrition of hemp seed nuts. These are easy and quick, and sure to please both kids and adults!" Sounded perfect to me, and they were. I baked 10 smaller sized muffins, and 2 larger heart shaped. This was my first time eating hemp, and I expected a stronger flavor, but it it sorta disappeared once cooked ~ no nutty crunch. I can see where these nuts would be easy to add to a recipe to gain the nutrition and not distract from the other flavors. Just yummy muffin goodness.

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a box of Organic Hemp Plus Brownie Mix by Nature's Path on a Midweek Munchies run. They look pretty good, don't ya think? We were craving chocolate & excited to try them, so each of us took a big, confident bite expecting the yummy goodness of a brownie...only better. I must say we were disappointed and didn't go beyond the first bite. They were dry and flavorless ~ how could that be with such a rich chocolate color? Anybody else tried this or other Nature's Path products? Next batch of brownies will be recipe testing for Catherine, & I'm really looking forward to that! I still have brownies on the brain. :o)

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Green Tea and Grapefruit Kanten & Guacamole

This is like vegan gelatin, and makes a refreshing snack or dessert. A little green tea in the kanten gives it a lovely flavor, and the grapefruit is pretty in the molds. This recipe comes from 'Veggie Life'.

2 large pink grapefruit, peeled & sectioned
3 tblsp. agar flakes
3 C. white grape juice
1 tblsp. loose-leaf green tea
1/4 C. agave nectar

In a saucepan, combine agar flakes and juice, & let stand for 15 minutes. Place grapefruit sections on a towel to dry slightly.

2. Stir in agave nectar. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium & continue unil agar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in tea and set aside to infuse for 5 minutes.
3. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain mixture into a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.
4. Arrange grapefruit sections in 6 individual dishes or a large mold. Pour juice mixture over grapefruit and chill until set. To unmold, run a knife around edges & invert.

This is what I call "dinner for 1, my style." I cut up an avacado and tomato into big chunks. Added fresh cilantro, cayenne pepper, & sea salt. I didn't have lemon or lime, so I added some Mike's hard lime for some added zip. Served myself some tortilla chips and green pepper to dip it up.