adventures in the kitchen

February 4, 2011

So….first off Texas drivers don’t have a lick of sense when it comes to driving in snow/ice. Sorry Texans, but ya’ll fail! I’ve been home now for 3 days due to the storm of the century. I attempted to drive to work today (usually an hour and 15 min drive). Yeah…I almost got hit about 5 times and made it about 5 miles in 45 minutes. Driving on solid ice with a bunch of crazies surrounding you is a bit of a headache, so I turned around and headed back for home. Took me another 45 minutes to get back. Guh.

The up side!? I’ve been cooking to keep from getting cabin fever. Some recipes turned out wonderfully, while others….not so much. Here they are in all their glory!  Let your palates enjoy! If you want the recipe, just let me know and I’ll post it!

Mac’not’Cheese & Veggies

This is sooooo unexpectedly good. It was supposed to resemble mac’n’cheese, but add in some veggies and top with ketchup and completely different and AWESOME! Yes, ketchup might sound odd but trust me, it’s good!

 

Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus

Matt loooovvveesss this stuff! It’s spicy but tastes so fresh and light. Definitely a crowd pleaser!

 

Orange Dreamsicle Cup’o’love

These are my show stopper. As long as you use the freshest ingredients, you can’t go wrong! They are a bit time consuming (about 2.5 hours) but they are adorable and delicious.

 

Mini Eggplant Lasagna Rolls

This was Matt’s baby and it turned out awesome! We edited the recipe since we didn’t have all the ingredients. Pretty sure it came out even better because of our improv skills. This was so good and had a wonderful cheese like texture. In fact, it was so good that I thought we accidentally put cheese in it!

 

Kale Chips

Again, we improvised due to a lack of curry and these came out really well. You wouldn’t think kale would be good, but it works wonderfully. Time consuming though….4.5 hours from start to finish.

 

Bay Biscuits

These taste just like Red Lobster biscuits! First time I made them I ate 4 immediately….not proud, but they were so good. You have to be careful not to over garlic salt them though!

 

Breakfast Scramble

Since I have the rare fortune of being allergic to bananas, this recipe is quite lovely! I edited the original recipe and replaced the banana with applesauce and it was delightful! Who doesn’t love chocolate for breakfast!? 🙂

 

Now, I did try to make 2 different versions of vegan Fettuccine Alfredo….they each went straight into the garbage. I think that’s one dish I will have to just let go 😦

 

So, I’ve been busy and well fed. This storm wasn’t too bad! Now Texans, LEARN TO DRIVE! 🙂

Advertisements

Bad Blogger

December 20, 2010

Well, I thought I would be able to blog about my adventures in cooking, but alas…I have failed. I have still been cooking 1 new thing a day, but I’m too tired to post about it…mostly because I’m tired from cooking and stuffing my face. I’ll get better….eventually. In the meantime, here’s a brief summary of what I’ve learned over the past few weeks.

– When cutting up peppers, don’t touch your face. Also, bell peppers are easier to chop if you lay them sideways.
– Biscuits and gravy is just as good without animal products. Just be sure to use almond milk. Regular soy milk is too sweet and unsweetened is to soyey…soy-e…soy-y…too much soy.
– Quinoa is so much better if you pan-toast it before boiling. It takes away the earthy flavor that I so detest.
– Tofurky is the most amazing thing in the world. We had one for Thanksgiving and we’re having another for Christmas (T minus 5 days). Be sure to follow the instructions and it will come out awesome! We paired ours with some Apricot jam and it was out of this world good. If you’re brave and like good things, try it.
– Pancakes are way more fluffy if you make the batter the night before.
– Fudge comes out better if you sift all of the ingredients. Yes, it’s very time consuming and you get white poweder all over you which makes you look slightly like a coke addict, but it’s worth it.
– A food processor is a girls best friend. I heart you Fabrizio xoxo
– Baking is one of the most relaxing things ever. I suggest trying it while listening to some music.  I especially feel inspired when listening to:

Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” – ridiculously catchy song
Adele’s “Chasing Pavements”
Michael Jackson’s “They don’t care about us” or “The way you make me feel”
Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue” – you can’t help but dance to this song…and if you don’t like it then you’re broken. sorry.

Very different songs but all equally fun to bake to. Also, I stronly believe that your finished product will be better if you dance while preparing it 🙂

So tonight I attempted to make pierogies from scratch. Warning!: If you are going to try this recipe, make sure you have a good amount of time in which to do it. It took me about 2 hours from start to finish. Definitely a labor of love.  The pierogies came out tasting real good, especially when you throw some salt on top. You could also have them with sour cream or pasta sauce, or whatever sounds good to you.

This particular recipe was for potato and onion stuffing, but you could always change it up. I’m not a huge onion person, but tonight I thought “hey, why the heck  not!?” So, I threw in about half of the required onion. Next time I might forgo them all together considering I tend to panic when I bite down on a big piece…and my panic often leads to me spitting out said piece of onion in disgust. 

Now for the play by play of my pierogie making experience:

Boil them potatoes!

Saute them onions!

The beginning stages of the dough. It’s a bit flaky at first, so just keep adding water and it will be a-ok

See! I tould you it would be ok! Bet you didn’t believe me!

Rolling out the pierogie

Filling the pierogie and tucking it in all nice like

Pinch shut and then make pretty with a fork

My first few were a bit rough looking, but no worries! You get the hang of it after a few trys.

Boil Bath

Fry ’em up!

Eat ’em up!

 

Recipe:

– 1 cup unbleached flour
– 1/4 cup water
– 1 teaspoon olive oil (your going to need more than that so keep the bottle close)
– 3 medium potatoes, cubbed
– 1 medium onion
– 1 clove garlic, minced
– 1 teaspoon dried parsley
– 1/2 cup soy milk
– 1/2 teaspoon butter
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon pepper

For The Filling:
– Cut up potatoes and boil until fork tender. Once done, drain.
– While potatoes are boiling, saute the onion in a bit of water until translucent.
– Mix the potatoes, garlic, parsley, butter, milk, salt & pepper. Mix in onion.

For The Dough:
– Combine flour, water & oil
– Mix it up with your hands (it’s much easier). If it’s too flaky, add more water a little at a time.
– Once kneaded and smooth, flour the surface you’ll be working on and then pinch off a piece of dough (about the size of a large marble) and roll out till nice and thin.
– Put a good spoonful of the potato filling in the middle of the dough
– Dab your finger in some water and rub it on one side of the outer edge of the dough.
– Fold the dough in half and pinch shut. Get a fork and press the edges to make it look extra fancy!
– Boil the pierogies in water for about 2 minutes (they’ll float up to the top when they’re done)
– Take the boiled pierogies and put them on a hot skillet with a bit of olive oil in it. Fry them up until lightly browned on both sides.

Enjoy! Next recipe for Monday: Garlic and Sun Dried Tomato Corn Muffins

Pot Pies!

December 3, 2010

Okay, so I was sure that I would mess this recipe up somehow…seeing as how I’ve never made a pot pie of any sort. I’ve also never made a rue, but I did both tonight! If you have the time, you MUST make this! It was soooo good.

The Beginning Mixture

The beginning of my rue!

 

Beginning veggie mixture plus the rue

Baby pot pies

Yummmmmm!

Recipe:

– 2 vegan pie crusts in the tin pan
– 1 1/2  cups frozen peas
– 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
– 2 medium potatoes, cubbed
– 3 cups water
– 1 veggie boulion cube (I used 3 teaspoons of veggie paste instead)
– 1 teaspoon black pepper
– 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
– 1 large sweet onion, chopped
– 1 large garlic clove, chopped
– 1 teaspoon cumin
– 1 teaspoon ground ginger
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 3 tablespoons flour
– 3 tablespoons earth balance butter
– 3/4 cup soy milk

-Preheat over to 400
-Remove pie crusts and let thaw (I put mine on top of the oven to speed up the process)
-In a large-ish pot, combine corn, peas, potatoes, water, boulion, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let simmer till potatoes are soft (I just left mine on simmer the whole time)
– Heat oil in skillet and saute the garlic and onion until transparent and lightly browned. Add cumin and ginger. Stir.
– Add flour to onion mixture and stir in.
– Microwave the soy milk for a minute, then add it into the onion mixture.
– Add butter to onion mixture and stir till thick-ish.
– Pour onion mixture into veggie mixture. Stir and continue to let simmer for 15 minutes.
– Roll out the pie crusts on a lightly floured surface. Cut the size you need for whatever dish you will be baking with (I cut my pieces a bit larger so there was some overhang)
– If your motivated, you can cut out little shapes to put on top of the pies (I made mine stick by using a dap the liquid from the pot pie filling)
– Fill up baking dish(es) and put dough on top. Cook for about 15 minutes or until crust is brown and yummy looking!)

I know it’s a lot of work, it took me about 1 1/2 hours to do all by myself, but it was soooo worth it!

Tomorrow’s recipe: Vegan potatoe/onion pierogies!

The moonblush tomatoes were a success! And that’s saying something since I usually only enjoy tomatoes in ketchup form. They don’t taste like tomatoes at all! They actually taste like garlic bread to me, so I gobbled them up! I’ve found that if I can mask the taste of things I don’t like, I can stand to try them and maybe even learn to love them.

Here’s a picture of my little beauties and the recipe if you’d like to try them. They’d be perfect as an hors d’oeuvre!

Recipe:
1 pound small tomatoes (about 24 tomatoes total)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon sugar

-Preheat the oven to 450.
-Cut tomatoes in half and place on baking sheet cut side up.
-Drizzle with olive oil (I found it easier to drizzle the oil and then to use my hands to make sure every tomatoe was covered)
-Sprink salt, thyme and sugar over tomatoes (I used a bit more of these ingredients because I wanted every tomatoe evenly covered)
-Put tomatoes into oven and turn off immediately.
-Leave tomatoes in the oven overnight and then enjoy the next day! They have to stay in overnight in order to soak up the flavors. Of course, you could start this recipe in the morning and serve the tomatoes later that evening if you’d like.

Now, today’s recipe is a bit more difficult. I will be attempting to make mini veggie pot pies! I’m very excited, but the recipe is a bit more time consuming. Hopefully they will come out looking as cute as this picture!

The December Project

December 1, 2010

So, I’ve been absent for a few weeks. What with Thanksgiving and traveling and shopping, I’ve been a bit distracted. But no more! Today is December 1st and I’m getting my cooking on! A couple of weeks ago I decided that for the whole month of December I was going to cook one new thing a day (excluding weekends) and document it. I will be uploading pictures and recipes and hopefully Matt and I will have tried 23 new recipes by the new year! Also, not only are these recipes new to us, but we will also be trying 2 new ingredients a week, be it olives (for matt) or raisins (for me) or artichokes (for both of us). We are on a quest to increase our culinary palates! WISH US LUCK!

Tonights new dish: Moonblush Tomatoes! We’ll see if mine come out looking this good!

Also, just for fun, here are a few of our christmas pictures 🙂

Alfie and his snowmen!

Lola and her reindeer!

The dogs were big fans of Matt’s reindeer ears 🙂

Do forgive my absence, but we’ve been busy as of late! However, the everyday busy-business has not gotten in the way of our food experimentation. We’ve tried a ton of new vegan recipes and they have all been awesome! Today, in honor of Emilee Foxworthy (who is going vegan for 30 days), I’d like to share some of our new favorites. They are not only tasty, but quick and cheap! If you try any of them, please let me know what you think!

Breakfast:

Easy Peasy Nice’n’Easy Pancakes!
These are so delicious and incredibly easy to prepare. Watch out though, they are super filling!

Ingredients:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup nondairy milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons liquid sweetener, such as maple syrup or orange juice

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the milk, oil and sweetener.
Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until moistened (Don’t overmix or the pancakes will be tough)
Heat a nonstick pan (or regular pan) over medium/high flame. (If you use a regular pan, add a bit of cooking spray)
Pour on the batter and let cook, then flip.

 We also add blueberries and walnuts to our batter, but you can leave ‘em plain or get creative!

 Lunch:

Super Simple Grilled Avocado Sandwich

Ingredients:
1 Avocado (this will make two sandwiches, or one really big sandwich)
Nondairy butter (we use earth balance)
Couple slices of bread (we just use regular whole wheat)
Fixins:
I use a spicy mustard and tortilla chips
Matt uses tomatoes and jalapenos
Get creative and put on whatever sounds good! 

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Butter one side of each piece of bread. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the “meat” of the avocado and place into a small bowl. Use a fork and mash up the avocado (should still be chunky, but spreadable).
Put the avocado onto the non-buttered side of a piece of bread. Place onto the hot pan.
Add whatever fixins you choose and then top with the other piece of bread (butter side up).
Cook until golden brown on both sides.

SOOOO Good! If you go my route and use tortilla chips, don’t add them until after the sandwich is cooked. If you cook with them on, they lose their crunch.

 Dinner:

No-Queso Quesadillas (Thank you The Vegan Table)

Ingredients:
1 container of Hummus (we use garlic, but you can experiment with your favorite flavor)
Flour Tortillas (as many as you want to make)
½ cup chopped scallion
½ to 1 cup salsa

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Spread 3 tablespoons (or more if you’d like) of hummus onto a tortilla. Don’t spread all the way to the edges or it will get messy.  
Sprinkle hummus with a bit of the chopped scallions.
Spread on a thin layer of salsa.
Top with second tortilla and throw onto the heated skillet.
Cook until tortillas are golden brown.
Cut with pizza cutter into small pizza-shaped triangles and then eat!

I’m not a fan of scallions or salsa, so Matt and I usually do a few variations with this dish. Matt goes traditional while I omit the scallion and salsa and replace with black beans and Diaya Cheddar Cheese (best fake cheese around – available at Whole Foods).

For sides, we usually cook up some cilantro-lime rice and make some guacamole.

Dessert:

The Best Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies In Town

Ingredients:
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup water
Chocolate Chips – We use Ghirardelli semi-sweet

Heat the oven to 350 degrees
Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Once mixed, add as many chocolate chips as you want.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and the oil. Mix well until a paste forms and then add the vanilla and water.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the sugar mixture.
Mix together (this is a very dry dough, so I just use my hands to mix everything together).
Grab a bit of dough and roll into a ball.
Place onto a baking sheet and pat down so it’s a little flat on the top.

Bake the cookies for 8 minutes (these cookies will not look like they are done, but don’t bake longer than 8 minutes! As the cookies cool, they will harden).

Hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do! If you have any questions, please let me know! Happy Eating!

Making the choice to switch to a vegan lifestyle was very simple for my husband and I. As I mentioned in my last post, my scary-high cholesterol levels combined with my grandpa’s heart attack convinced me to make the switch. My husband (who has always been willing to eat anything and everything), was ready to change his food habits as well.  I know how lucky I am to have a husband who not only encouraged me in this decision, but he enthusiastically joined in! We did make a very drastic and immediate change in our diets, and that will not work for everyone. It’s usually better to ease into this diet and develop a palate for all of the new foods you will surely encounter.

 This post discusses the 5 most common questions people ask when considering the vegan lifestyle (my husband and I were totally guilty of all 5!).

 #1: I can’t live without meat!

Response: You CAN live without meat AND it’s surprisingly easy! There are so many foods out there that you already eat that contain zero meat. All you really need at first is a kick ass cookbook. Thanks to our awesome vegan friends, Judah and Lorien, we now possess the BEST vegan cookbook around: The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. If you have a library card, go and check this book out and browse through the recipes. Bellissimo!

Click for a link to Amazon.com

 #2: Where do Vegans get their protein? You can’t live without protein!

Response: When people ask us this question, we’ve found the best answer is to simply reply: “Where do you get your protein?” Other than meat, can you name any other protein sources? Once you make the switch to veganism, you becoming very aware of everything you eat, and I mean EVERYTHING.  There is no way a responsible vegan could go without enough protein in their diet.

 Here is a brief list of high protein vegan foods (and no worries, I will post recipes later that show you how to incorporate these foods into your diet):

A) Beans – black, pinto, chickpea (hummus), green bean, peas, lentils, kidney, soy (which includes soy beans, tofu, & soymilk)
B) Grains – oats, barley, quinoa, rice, wheat, corn, millet, flax
C) Nuts – peanuts, cashews, pecans, almonds (and almond butter, yumm)
D) Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, flax
E) Others – spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, greens, mushrooms, okra, sweet potato, tomato

#3: It’s too expensive to become vegan. Don’t you have to eat specialty foods?

Response: It’s actually not expensive to make the change to veganism. We’ve actually SAVED money by cutting out meat from our grocery bill. Buying fresh produce is so cheap and it’s everywhere. Shoot, you could even grow veggies and herbs yourself and save even more money! Also, have you checked the price of beans lately? They are sooo cheap. A can of chickpeas (which could make hummus or chickpea burgers) only costs 62 cents at Walmart. Most other beans are just as cheap, and you can buy them in bulk and prepare them yourself. Easy Peasy! Also, we save a ton of money by not eating out. You pretty much say goodbye to fast food and most popular sit down restaurants when you become Vegan. No worries though, there are some places where you can still go (I’ll list them in a later post).

We do buy some specialty foods, such as: Earth Balance butter (which you can find at Walmart or Kroger and it is no more expensive than regular butter), soy milk (can be found in all grocery stores that have a brain), egg replacement (we use flax seed with a bit of water, but you can also use Ener-G), dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate (very easy to find), special cookies (throwing that in there because I love cookies and don’t always like to bake them. Look for Back to Nature Chocolate Chunk Cookies at Walmart and Kroger. They are awesome!) Tofutti cream cheese and sour cream (we have not bought these yet, but I am eyeing them closely…they’re at most Kroger’s in the health section).

Bottom line: you really don’t have to buy very many specialty products. Just read labels and you’ll find that a lot of things are vegan! And if they’re not, check other brands to see if any alternatives exist.

#4: Aren’t you hungry all the time, living off just rabbit food!? (thanks grandpa)

Response: YES! We are hungry a lot more than we used to be, but the great thing about being vegan is that we can afford to snack all the time! It’s like heaven. When you eat right and snack smart, you can eat a lot. When we started our vegan diet, I lost 5 pounds and I still haven’t gained it back. Being vegan has stabilized my weight to the point where I no longer fluctuate. It’s pretty awesome.

Another perk of eating healthy, bright, good-for-you-foods is that you feel way more energetic and spunky. Matt and I used to eat heavy lunches that contained meat and/or dairy. Now, we eat a healthy salad full of seeds, grains, veggies and fruit, and we feel revitalized rather than full and sluggish. Also, as a side note, the vegan diet cleared up my skin and gave me more energy and drive in all areas of my life (yes, ALL areas…wink wink).

#5: Doesn’t being Vegan take more time? (ie cooking, shopping)

Response: Yes, being vegan does mean that it takes longer to shop (until you get the hang of it), and longer to prepare meals (but only some of the time).  On average, most of our meals take about 30 to 45 minutes to prepare. That is significantly more time than it takes to stop and get greasy-fatty fast food, but it’s so worth it. Preparing meals at home and from scratch also doubles as Family Time! Matt and I cook all of our meals together now, which is an hour of “us” time where we can discuss our day and blah blah blah (I don’t want to bore you too much with our awesome love). So yeah, take the time to cook with your spouse, family, or friends. It’s fun!

When grocery shopping, at first it will take time to figure out what you can and can’t eat. All produce is a GO, so that’s easy. Most prepackaged food that you might enjoy (tuna helper, ramen, mac and cheese, most soups, rice dishes, pasta meals, frozen dinners, etc) contains some form of animal product. That’s pretty gross and sad if you think about it. BUT, there are plenty of healthy alternatives when you take the time to read labels and nutritional panels. Also, get a good vegan cookbook!! Figure out what recipes sound good and use that as your road map when shopping. This will not only speed up your trip, but also keep you on track and decrease your chances of buying junk food (except for those chocolate chunk cookies…you should definitely buy those).

Conclusion: You can live without meat while getting protein for the same amount of money with just a little more time and effort, and you get to snack more while you’re at it! These ideas are all mental blocks, hurdles between you and enriching your body, saving the environment, and sparing some cute, fuzzy little animals!

I have my reasons why

October 11, 2010

Back in the saddle again! My last blog was a big FAIL, so I’m really going to try with this one. I’m taking my time with everything I write, and I now have a subject that I am passionate about: The Vegan Diet.

Three months ago my husband and I decided to completely change our diets/eating habits. The background story as to why we made this change is persuasive…at least in our eyes. My husband and I have known a few vegans/vegetarians and we’ve always respected the way they lived. However, we never thought their lifestyle was for us (we were very selfish and closed-minded during that time, and we can admit that now). Early this summer, we decided to get physicals before our New York insurance ran out. The doctors treated us like we were crazy, asking questions about why we were there and why we thought we needed physicals. They were buttheads, simply put. After everything was said and done, we left feeling healthy and responsible. The next morning I get a call from the doctor… I’ve never had a doctor call me, and the tone in his voice was alarming. He inquired about my diet and asked how much red meat I consumed. I told him that we had actually cut it out the week before the physical (pure coincidence but definite foreshadowing!). He plainly told me to not pick up meat again. My cholesterol was at 245, and for my age/height/weight it should only be around 140. He sounded concerned and that scared me enough to take him seriously.

That night I cleaned out our entire kitchen and got rid of every piece of dairy, cheese, meat and anything with too much cholesterol. Until that night, I had honestly never looked at the nutritional panels on most of our food. I just bought things I knew I liked, regardless of the contents. Luckily, my wonderful husband was completely on board with this lifestyle change and helped with “the purge” of all of our favorite foods.

3 days later, while still riding our vegan high, I received a phone call from my mother. My grandpa had had a heart attack and was in the hospital. I literally cried for 2 days straight. Being in another state while my family was worried/stressed/out-of-their-minds-with-panic was so difficult. Once the diagnosis for my grandpa’s heart attack came in, I was shocked. He had 90% blockage in his heart. Every artery was clogged with cholesterol (that nasty little booger). Needless to say, finding that out and knowing my own cholesterol levels sealed my vegan fate.

So, that’s how I’ve gotten here. My husband and I are newly converted vegans, babies really. We started a little over 3 months ago and it’s been a fun/challenging adventure so far. My hope for this blog is to simply share our experiences as we go along. I have always appreciated helpful blogs (shout out to Sentiments by Denise and Homemade by Jen) where others act as guinea pigs for new recipes and whatnot, so I decided to roll up my sleeves and start one too.

Please feel free to add your input and ask questions. I plan on uploading a lot of recipes that my husband and I have tried, so your input/suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

Take Care,
Amanda