Wednesday, December 30, 2009

it's the most wonderful time of the year

If you work for a weight loss company, that is - the office is buzzing with ringing phones and sales pitches. It's not all roses, but it beats watching the agents chattering idly with one another while waiting as long as 30 minutes for their phones to ring. It's exciting, stressful, and completely exhausting.

Tonight we had Pasta with Beans and Chard which is always tasty, though not terribly interesting to talk about once you've made it a few times. I won't waste my precious finger (typing) muscles or your precious eyesight. If you want to read about it or see pretty pictures, click the link.

I am completely excited about my new menu. I'm thrilled to be able to craft one again, and to know that we will eat everything on it in a week's time (rather than 4 dinners over two weeks). I think my temporary but heartbreaking hiatus was just enough to restore my creative menu planning and taste for culinary adventure, because as I was seeking the familiar (read: easy) in my stand-by Vegetarian Times: Fast & Easy, I found myself intrigued by several dishes I've either never made before or haven't made in so long that I can't remember if I made them before. I also know better than to consult any of the cookbooks that don't promise I can go from fridge to stove to table in 45 minutes or fewer just as New Years and all the I-Will-Lose-Weight-This-Time resolutions cause me to collapse into a coma at my desk.

So, all six of my happy dinners this "week" are taken from Vegetarian Times: Fast & Easy.

1. Black-Bottom Tofu with Cashew Coconut Rice because I don't think I can ever make this enough times. It's fun and tasty. It smells fabulous when it's cooking. It's easy. Good enough for me!

2. Warm Chickpea Ragout with Swiss Chard, Carrots, and Harissa - this was the recipe that helped me creep back towards the more adventurous side of my culinary creativity. I pondered the recipe for a while because, although it sounds great, I am always a little skeptical of condiments/spices with which I am unfamiliar that other people say "it adds heat without being too spicy." If I add more than a scrupulous dash of cayenne to an entire pot of something, dinner will be a painful experience for me...and a hilarious one for Mister, who seems to take sadistic pleasure in watching my eyes tear up, my face turn red, and then listening to me sniff through dinner (with many long draughts of water) before surrendering and going to the bathroom to blow my runny nose.

3. Cauliflower and Potato Curry - I have made this dish in the past, though I'm not sure I have made this particular recipe. Aloo Gobi is pretty standard Indian fare and Mister loves him his cauliflowers and potatoes, so I have definitely made this before and will make it a hundred times in the future.

4. Chili and Polenta Casserole - I am still trying to figure out how this puppy escaped my attention on previous perusals of this cookbook. Even better than the idea of a baked, bursting-with-flavor chili topped with rounds of roasted polenta is the fact that chocolate is part of the mole sauce - this is going to rock.

5. Penne with Broccoli and Creamy Tomato Sauce - I love creamy sauces, Mister loves broccoli...sounds like a match made in heaven, just like us (awww...*gag*).

6. Garlicky Tofu with Spinach Over Pasta - I have pored over this recipe almost every time I've gone through this cookbook. On the one hand, Mister loves pasta, I love tofu, and we both love garlic and spinach. On the other hand, the idea of cubes of tofu actually crusted with bits of browned garlic is a little daunting. When I turned the flavors and textures over in my mind's mouth, though, it was just too tempting to deny one more time. We'll see how it goes!

Tomorrow we're reverting back to "No-Cook Wednesday," primarily because we have a ton of leftovers that need eating. Normally, leftovers become my take-to-work lunches, but because I work for a company generous enough (and profit-driven) to serve us all boxed lunches at our desks (so we don't miss any opportunities to sell), and because my previously unaware Vice President is now hyper-aware of my diet and has been ensuring I have something to eat every day, the leftovers have just been partying in the fridge.

Monday, December 28, 2009

all I want for Christmas...

A ventilation hood. I want to bake, make veggie burgers, and pan-sear polenta without sending the fire alarm into a screaming fit.

I would also like a little more time, if you please, Santa.

I am the worst blogger ever. I can't believe it's been more than a week since my last post. I know there are people who go longer, but I don't want to be one of them! To make up for my negligence, I will share a recipe with you for the first time in months, it seems.

So, heavens, what have I been up to? What vile mistress has stolen my attention? The easiest answer is work...heck - I haven't even had time to cook, much less write about it. All of that should end relatively soon, and I'm back to my regular schedule, so hopefully I will be more faithful in the future.

As always seems to happen with shortened weeks, I packed a ton of work into Monday and Tuesday last week. By the time Wednesday arrived and was cold as hell, I wanted nothing to do with Christmas shopping, regardless of the change in schedule leaving me destitute when it came to gifts to give. I did concoct this tasty mid-day meal:
You could call it Cookie Dough in a Bowl (with pears) because that's really what it tasted like. I started by dicing a fairly ripe Bartlett pear (skin on) and allowing it to cook on a sprayed skillet long enough to start releasing a sweet syrup. Then I stirred in a handful or two of oats, along with a glug of soymilk. When all was said and done, I think I probably added about half a cup of soymilk. I also crushed two Sparkled Ginger Cookies and stirred them in. It was so good and exactly what I was craving after freezing my fingers off playing Christmas music on my piano in a bedroom the heating unit hates.

I stayed inside all day, and tried to get excited about spending time with a special someone to celebrate a very special birthday...
At midnight, I suggested to my darling sister that she might need a bathroom break. When she agreed and took off, I grabbed the bartender and ordered two Birthday Cake shots. They were so good and I haven't done a shot since....well....I don't know....probably a few years ago, actually.

Before we went out to Southwark, though, I took my dear little sister to dinner at Horizons, so she could share the wonder. It was freezing cold and there was still snow (and ice) everywhere. In my enthusiasm for getting to a patch of clear sidewalk, I fell over on the two block trek to Horizons, but my sister told me I fell very gracefully, so I guess that makes it okay. We had a delightful dinner and great conversation. Let's add that to my Gratitude list.

The following day was Christmas Eve, and to my immense surprise and great delight, I was able to get all of my shopping and wrapping done while Mister was at work (poor thing). Once he got home from work and took a short nap, we headed to church with his dad and stepmom. The service was beautiful and afterward, we headed to Rittenhouse Square for one of the most amazing dining experiences of my life so far. We went to Lacroix, which most definitely did not have a vegetarian menu, resulting in my husband and I presenting a challenge to the chef to match the foie gras and veal his parents ate with a humane alternative. It came out extremely well, and I was amazed with their willingness and ability to create a multi-course menu out of thin French air. I still think the most fun part of the evening was when my father-in-law tested the very French (accent, pompous air and all) Sommelier to pair a red wine with their overstuffed duck liver and boxed baby cow chops as well as our crazy vegetarian entrees.

Regardless of my harsh words about their choice of dinner, I cannot find enough words to express my gratitude to my parents-in-law for treating us to such an extravagant and fun-filled Christmas Eve dinner.

On Christmas Day, we ventured out to my parents' home for presents and dinner with my parents, sister, and cousins. It was a good time with a plateful of tasty food. I made Colleen's Tofu-Spinach Lasagna and everyone was awed by the tofucotta. They did not know it wasn't real ricotta until I pridefully told them - that made me happy!

I spent the whole weekend at work, but at least I'm back to my regular hours, so I was able to cook up the last two items on my 2 week menu. I reprised Colleen's amazing risotto, only to be told by my husband (after he picked his way through half a bowl) that he doesn't actually like risotto. Awesome.

Last night's dinner went much better. I knew it would, because I've mentioned before that you can't go wrong with Mister and Pasta. Not true, actually - he doesn't care much for that whole wheat healthy pasta. So, as promised, here is a picture of and recipe for P.B. Thai
2 medium carrots, bias-cut
medium head of broccoli, cut into florets
large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
8 oz smoked tofu, cut into thin strips
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, pressed/minced
15 oz lite coconut milk
generous 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
2 Tbsp soy sauce
dash of cayenne
2 Tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
12-16 oz noodles (I used linguine)

Cook pasta according to package instructions.
Meanwhile, prep the vegetables and tofu.
When pasta is done cooking, drain and leave in the colander, covered.
Add oils to pot and heat on medium until the oil shimmers (shouldn't take long).
Add ginger and garlic and saute 1-2 minutes.
Add vegetables and cook 3-5 minutes, until vividly colored.
Stir in coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, and cayenne.
Simmer, do not boil, for 5 more minutes, then add pasta and stir to incorporate.
Heat through and serve.

(vegan and one-pot dinner)


Sunday, December 20, 2009

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

The weather outside might not be frightful, but it's pretty darn cold! Fortunately, while I was baking cookies, my darling husband went outside and dug out my car. I can't tell how much snow we got, but it's more snow than I've seen in Philadelphia in a while and I love it - I hope it never melts! Every time I look out the window I'm happy. Except when I first woke up this morning and forgot how bright snow makes everything...that hurt.

Anyway, as penance for my awfully inconsistent blogging lately, I will reveal my happy secret! The reason I have not been very faithful in my writing recently is because my schedule changed temporarily at work, which has resulted in me only making a few dinners in the past week and a half. I made up for that this weekend with a ton of baking and cooking, but first, my news:

After working my little behind off for nearly a year, I was promoted! It's so gratifying to see that giving something your all can still get you somewhere. As I've been alluding to in my gratitude lists, the Director of my department has been gracious in her praise of me and my efforts and she was all smiles when she offered me a promotion. As a result, I have temporarily stepped in to guide an absent supervisor's team during the second shift. Getting home at 1 AM is not terribly conducive to cooking dinner when my husband is still working "normal" hours. I'll be back to my regular hours soon, so hopefully I'll be able to return to my cooking and posting at that time...despite the crush of busyness we're all anticipating.

Like I said, I cooked and baked up a storm this weekend. There's not too much else to do when it snows for 24 hours straight. It was so amazing - every time I looked out my window, it was still snowing and there was even more on the ground. The best part is that since it was so cold today, it's all still there! Should make for fun driving to work tomorrow, but that can't be avoided.

After a long snowy day, I couldn't think of a better dinner than my more-loved-each-time Potato Corn Chowder from The Accidental Vegan. I don't care how many times I've repeated that recipe - it is one of the best snowy-winter-day meals I can think of. For pictures and a bonus recipe, follow the links!

After dinner last night, I made Isa's Sparkled Ginger Cookies again. I made them smaller this time, which unfortunately resulted in them being a little crunchier than the first batch. To be completely honest, some of them actually burnt. That was disappointing because those cookies are so good! I made up for that tonight, though, and if tomorrow doesn't come soon, I will eat them all before I get them to work!

Tonight's dinner was Peppered Pasta. I didn't know whether I wanted this or the risotto, but I realized that more than half of the vegetables I bought on Wednesday were for this dish and I didn't want anything bad to happen to them, considering it's already Sunday. The risotto is made entirely from pantry goods, so that can wait for last. Peppers and garlic smell so good when they saute together, too.

Before dinner, though, I made four cookie sheets full of the Apple Peanut Pretzel Cookies from VCIYCJ. They don't really look anything like the ones in the book but they taste SO GOOD and that's really what matters. Also, the lighting is weird in these pictures because the kitchen light blew out again. We really need to move before an electrical fire burns this whole place down. One of the first things that occurred to me when accepting my new position at work was the fact that the pay raise associated with this position will expedite the moving process by a bit. many cookies....

I might need another soon. I might also need a gym membership...

The most amazing thing about these cookies are the bites that contain peanuts - I used lightly salted peanuts because they were the only roasted peanuts I could find that weren't rolled in MSG. The only thing I would change about this cookie when I make them again is that next time I think I will chop up a fresh apple, rather than using dried apples - they were just a little too chewy for me.

I had an awesome time at my company holiday party, despite the fact that the only thing I ate was a carrot stick. Not very friendly to my "dietary needs," but why would you expect a posh country club to cater to the whims of its guests?
Left to Right: My (former) supervisor, me, and my generous colleague.

1. I am grateful for the opportunity to take on new responsibilities at work and learn more about that aspect of the company.

2. I am grateful for the beautiful snow adorning the streets and sidewalks of my happy little neighborhood.

3. I am grateful for this last quiet weekend with my husband before the chaos of diet season starts and I have the privilege of working 6 day weeks for 3 weeks.

4. I am grateful that my wonderful husband went outside in the sub-freezing weather to shovel the pretty snow away from my car, as well as dust it off of the windows and other important parts of my car so that I can just get into my car and drive to work tomorrow, instead of performing that same snow removal in high heels and nice clothes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

M.I.A., but still thankful

Wow. It's been a whirlwind of a week so far. In fact, I spent all day reminding myself that it's Wednesday. For some reason (maybe the crazy nature of the week) I had convinced myself it was Saturday. Anyway, more on the storms later - let's talk about food!

To be quite honest, when I was drafting my menu, I was more focused on how many cookies I could foresee myself making between now and Christmas (and how to prioritize those 200 glorious pages of recipes) than on what's for dinner. I managed to whittle my list down from "all of them" to 4 special and relatively easy recipes. Also, despite an ardent desire to make the Magical Coconut Cookie Bars, I wanted things that could be packaged and taken places to share. As much as I would love to eat them all, I don't like shopping enough to go out and buy a whole new (bigger) wardrobe.

Before I babble about whatever I haven't babbled about this week, let me share with you my bizarre menu (it has an equal number of dinners and cookies - unusual for me).

First, dinners:
1. P.B. Thai - this is my own recipe, and I swear I must have made it before, but I can't find a corresponding blog page for it and I never cleaned up the recipe page. Normally, each recipe I write has two pages - one full of my chicken-scratch with words crossed out or written upside down and quantities changed or inserted, and then the second page, which displays the finished recipe in perfect, school-teacher-legible printing. This only has the first page. In any case, I guess I'll get to share the recipe this time!

2. Peppered Pasta - I hemmed and hawed about this. On the one hand, it's very tasty and Mister is always happy to see pasta in his bowl. On the other, it's a lot of slicing. I actually find the slicing rather therapeutic, but it sure does take a while.

3. Arborio Rice with Roasted Red Peppers, Pine Nuts & Basil from The Vegan Table. When I was flipping through my little gold book of chicken-scratch and pretty printing, I came across a particularly horrendously messy page - it was my attempts to create this dish before I knew Colleen beat me to it.

4. Potato Corn Chowder from The Accidental Vegan. I tried not to have soup on the menu, but this one is just so good. I want to make it tonight, but it's Wednesday, so a veggie burger it is.

Now for the cookies:
1. Sparkle Ginger Cookies from Vegan With A Vengeance, because they were so amazing when I made them a week ago or whenever that was. I need more. I dream of these cookies.

2. Peanut Apple Pretzel Drops from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. What an amazing combination. I'm surprised Ben & Jerry haven't turned it into an oddly named pint of ice cream.

3. Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, also from VCIYCJ. I keep thinking of that horribly cheesy Savage Garden song, "I knew I loved you before I ate you." Okay, I changed the lyrics a little. The point is, these are going to rock. Or they are going to be profoundly disappointing due to the way I have been building them up in my brain for weeks.

4. Chocolate Agave Trailmixers - like trail mix in cookie form...mmm....

Go get the book. NOW.

I haven't been writing because my schedule has been off and I haven't been cooking as much. I did make my other dinner from my sister's hippie cookbook last night. It was a lot spicier than I thought it would be! Mister liked it and I can add rice to the list of things for which I am grateful.
Speaking of addition to my Operation Gratitude Attitude list, I wanted to share some lyrics to a song that has made me cry at least the first time I've heard it every Christmastime since 1998. Thanks, Celine...

The Magic of Christmas Day
Deck the halls with boughs of holly
It's the season to be jolly and be thankful for all that we have

All the lights and decorations put up in anticipation of the joyful celebration that's on its way
We're counting the days 'til it's time for Christmas day
God bless us everyone - The good and the bad, the happy, the sad
God bless us everyone - Here's to family and friends
It's good to be here again

On the streets there's children laughing
People smile as they are passing
Christmas time is here, our waiting is done
Wishing it could last forever not just twelve days in December
Through the year let's try to remember that special way that everyone feels

It's the magic of Christmas day

So fill your heart with love and joy
And through the eyes of girls and boys
Share their wonder, live through their joy - It's easy to do
Just open your heart,
the spirit will come to you

I want to cry just reading those lyrics. Granted, part of it is because I can hear her singing those words with every last bit of her soul when I look at them. Over the decade that I have unashamedly owned this CD, I have had various life events occur that could tie into that song, so in addition to the amazing sentiment portrayed through the lyrics, I've managed to attach a great many memories. I hope you enjoy the lyrics as much as I do, even if Celine isn't your cup of tea.

1. I am grateful I had today off and was as productive as I could be.
2. I am grateful that the upper management sees fit to throw a holiday party for us - we're not entitled to a holiday party, no matter what my colleagues think.
3. I am grateful for sites like to pull my husband out of whatever funk he was in earlier.
4. I am grateful that I will finally get to tell the world my big news very soon. You think it's driving you crazy not to know - imagine knowing and not being able to tell anyone.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

double the spinach, double your fun

Some people might not think spinach is as fun or tasty as Doublemint gum. Angst would disagree.

My little, angel has had a great weekend, despite the fact that I broke two separate bags of spinach. All that matters to him is that I shared it before the big mean pot made it all gross. Each dinner had its highlights and lowlights...kind of like my new hair:
Ignore the super-cheesy smile, if you wish. I just didn't feel like having another emo/goth pouting-at-the-camera picture. After all, I'm happy about my hair.

Anyway, last night I made Chamomile Couscous with Savory Spinach and actually bought chamomile tea to make it this time! I figured if I only had one teabag last time, I probably had no teabags this time. It came out much better with two chamomile teabags, rather than 1 chamomile and 1 spearmint/chamomile/licorice teabag. I modified the recipe slightly - in place of the 1/2 Tbsp of honey I just swirled in some agave nectar. If I had to guess, I would say it was probably a scant teaspoon.

I have to say...I am really developing a serious distaste for the Whole Pantry Garam's way too heavy on the cardamom - I like a more savory blend, especially for Savory Spinach. I may have to get my favored brand, McCormick, and save the WP brand for baking.

Also, I don't think the 2:1 tea:couscous ratio is quite necessary. Probably 1.5 cups would be better. 2 cups was overkill and created a little pool at the bottom of our bowls, no doubt with the help of the sauce from the vegetables.

It rained so much today. It was supposed to, according to the weather guesscast, but I really hoped it wouldn't. Alas, when I woke up and looked outside it was an absolute mess. I nearly called off my hair appointment because it just looked like the kind of day you want to be all scrubby and comfy and not go anywhere. In any case, that simply wasn't an option because our cupboards and refrigerator are becoming uncomfortably empty, so I braved the nasty rain and the temperatures. There's still a lot of empty in our fridge, but the freezer is well stocked and the coffee situation has been rectified. And there's bread. The end of the loaf is a sign of the endtimes for Mister, so it is very important to replace the bread as soon as it runs out. Normally, I get a loaf about three sandwiches from the end of one bread, but Whole Foods hates multigrain bread this week and I think it's ridiculous that a place called Whole Foods even stocks white bread.

So tonight we had Curried Tofu with Mixed Baby Greens. I thought I would be clever and try to cut out the fat of sauteing the garlic and ginger in olive oil, so I put vegetable broth in place of the olive oil and 2 Tbsp water, but then I kind of goofed and made the rational connection that if I was going to "saute" the garlic and ginger in broth, I may as well add the tamari at the beginning of cooking as well. Word of advice: if you choose to make this recipe, don't do that. I will tell you why now: the broccoli rabe hogs it ALL. This means not only that the spinach and bok choy don't get to swim in it, but that every bite of broccoli rabe is a flavor explosion in your mouth and you simultaneously love it and wish you were drinking water instead. It's intense. So take my word for it - saute the ginger, garlic, and broccoli rabe in broth (rather than oil) if you must, but don't add the soy sauce/tamari until you add the bok choy!

Also, you will do well to do one of these two things:
Cut the curry spice mixture in half
Don't use silken tofu.

It was kind of gross the first time I made it, and I thought it was because I didn't put the salt in the spices that was necessary to bring out their flavors. It was kind of gross this time because the spices just sit on top of the tofu...they don't absorb and flavor the tofu, they just hang out with it.

1. I am grateful I had a nice long weekend.
2. I am grateful for the opportunity to watch two timid little girls turn into bright and beautiful teenagers.
3. I am grateful for the years I spent learning how to play music so that I can now teach it.
4. I am grateful that Superfresh is only 3 blocks away and that I am able to walk with speed.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dr. Atkins' worst nightmare

That's me! I know I'm not alone, but sometimes I look at what I'm eating/cooking and think that Dr. Fadkins would have a heart attack (ironically, he did). Today was Carb Day in my home.

Breakfast: oatmeal
snack: slice of bread with Earth Balance
Lunch: PB sandwich
snack: pan-seared apple
Dinner: carbs cooked with carbs and covered in carbs (more details in a moment)

I remember, at the height of the Carbs-Are-Evil Craze, being in the middle of a grocery store and just getting all the things I normally got and suddenly noticing all of the absolutely horrified looks I was getting. Women were literally stopping in their tracks to stare at me. Naturally, I became a little nervous and self-conscious, but then I laughed inside my head when I realized the source of their horror. Inside my cart I had:
a few different kinds of pasta
a loaf of bread
burger buns
a bag of rice
a box of cereal

Obviously, there were various vegetables and other things, but those were the things my fellow shoppers were staring at in awe. They were then looking at me as if to say, "How can you eat carbs and still be thin? Don't you know carbs make you fat??" Of course, what seemed to escape the attention of all these carb-starved dieters was what was NOT in my cart: chips, cookies, ice cream, candy, and other crap. Newsflash! Those things are what really make you fat.

So, now that I have absolutely blown your mind, let's talk about my carbalicious dinner. Tonight, I subjected my husband to a feminist version of his favorite dinner: Shepherdess Pie from Veganomicon. I made a couple of substitutions, due to my husband's trouble with tempeh and distaste for mushrooms. I've mentioned "pet ingredients" before - Nava's is sundried tomatoes, Robin's is soy "meat" crumbles, and it seems to me that Isa's are mushrooms and tempeh - Mister's mortal enemies.
It was very tasty and extremely photo-friendly. I think one of the things I was happiest about was the mashed potato topping - it blows my mind that the creamiest, most spreadable mashed potatoes I have ever made from scratch are vegan. I think it was my secret ingredient.

You want to know what it is, don't you?
If I told you, it wouldn't be my secret ingredient.
Anyway, Mister compared it to a potpie but with a mashed potato topping. He stated quite bluntly that he prefers Sarah's Savoury Shepherd's Pie. I liked it, but I could think of a couple of variations I'd like to try, which would probably bring it more in line with Mister's preferences. He did agree that the mashed potatoes were awesome and he's a big mashed potato fan. We actually ate a tub of mashed potatoes for dinner one night of our honeymoon. Why not? It was our honeymoon.

So, 3 lbs of potatoes, 1 cup of peas (high starch vegetable), 1 cup of corn (same thing), and flour to thicken the gravy equals Atkins Apocalypse. You can keep your fatty corpses, sir. I still remember when a friend of mine fell victim to the hype. I watched him eat a combo plate of filet mignon and tilapia, nestled on a bed of really tasty looking risotto...which he scraped into the garbage.

I am firmly convinced that the reason the Atkins thing took off is because carbohydrate is an essential macronutrient and if you do not get enough of it, your brain does not function correctly.

Now we push the negativity into the corner and take a moment to be thankful:
1. I am thankful for this "3-day weekend" to spend time with my husband before my schedule turns upside down.

2. I'm grateful for the four walls that keep the sub-freezing cold out of my home (for the most part).

3. I am grateful the wind hasn't blown out the pilot on the heater or the oven. Yet.

4. I am grateful that my sister will be home in Pennsylvania for two weeks in ten days!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

smushy and green

I don't think I understand the big deal with avocados. One of my favorite bloggers, Nicole of Another One Bites the Crust, absolutely loves avocados and puts them on everything but dessert (and sometimes I think that's because she hasn't figured out how to incorporate them yet).

Tonight, I made Pasta Della California again, and this time I employed the help of a, well, employee of Whole Foods to help me find a ripe avocado. Perhaps we went too far and my avocado was too ripe, but it was just kind of mushy. It tasted kind of green (not a bad thing) and I'm still struggling to find the right words to describe the texture. I keep thinking of the yolk of a hardboiled egg, but that's too chalky. In any case, I can't seem to find a satisfying avocado. I'm not giving up, but I'm not going to actively pursue this healthy fat, either.
The sauce was exceptionally flavorful, though, and I didn't remember it being so intricate last time, so I think the whole dish came out better this time around.

Angst has developed an amusing new habit. I guess it was only a matter of time, since cats like to sleep/hang out on elevated surfaces. His new favorite place to sit/nap is on whichever chair I have vacated. Mister calls him "the mommy" when he does this, which seems to confuse and alarm him, since I then explain that if he's the mommy, he'll have to get up and make dinner or go to work (depending on the time of day). I was sitting at my computer, leaving my dining chair empty, and this is what I turned around to see (and yes, the chairs are directly beside each other):
He's so cute, snoozing away on my chair, isn't he?

1. I am grateful to have tomorrow off to spend with my husband before the insanity begins at work.

2. I am grateful for the opportunities presented by the insanity at work.

3. I am grateful that unlike 10% of the adult American population, I get to go to work.

4. I am grateful for the innovations in transportation that allowed me to try a ripe avocado from New Mexico (obviously, I'm not as committed to eating locally as others might steps, folks.)

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll BLOW your house down!

Today was so weird, weather-wise. It was miserable and rainy when I woke up, but it slowly tapered off and turned the middle of the day absolutely gorgeous! The sun was out, the air was mild, the birds were singing...okay - I made the last part up, but you get the idea. I wanted to take advantage of the day because tomorrow is supposed to be about 20 degrees colder and not at all the kind of day you want to wander about your neighborhood (and I'll be at work). My father and I went to Macy's to see the Christmas lights show that we've seen since I was a child and rode the monorail. By the way - it does not feel good to know that the object of a cherished childhood memory now resides in a museum! Afterward, we wandered around center city and the Reading Terminal Market a little while, then parted ways. I completed my menu for the week (which I shall share shortly) and set about to buying the things necessary to make these delightful meals. I made a short stop in to a bookstore to grab Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and while I was looking at some other books, the most amazing thing happened.

I heard screaming and clattering, and if it were the night before Christmas, I would have jumped from my bed to see what was the matter. It wasn't though, so instead, I merely peered out the window to see dead leaves swirling violently after scurrying sneakered feet that just barely cleared the (heavy) easel sign outside that had just been laid down by the most powerful wind I can recall in Philadelphia. When I crossed the street and approached the entrance to Whole Foods, I found that the wind had also huffed and puffed and knocked over a whole bunch of potted pine trees on steps outside. It was amazing how much destruction only one gust of wind could cause. Granted, we were in the middle of a wind advisory that I had (and I suppose many others had) gallantly ignored, so I shopped as quickly as I could and ran home as fast as you can with a load of groceries on your back. That is to say, not much faster than normal.

Anyway, no interesting food stories, really. Last night we had veggie burgers and tonight I heated up the leftover Coconut Curry Tofu from Monday. So, without further ado, here is the new menu:

1. Black Bean and Sweet Potato [Carrot] Stew from the Global Health Alliance Cookbook my sister gave me for Christmas last year. If you want the whole story, go back a couple posts.

2. Tempeh Shepherdess Pie from Veganomicon. I have skipped over this before, despite how delicious it sounds, because of the tempeh, but I'm just going to substitute baked and smoked tofu and hope that works!

3. Pasta Della California again, from Veganomicon. I made this before, so this time I grabbed the first person I saw wearing a WF apron and made her help me pick out an avocado. It better be good.

4. Chamomile Couscous with Savory Spinach because I was looking through some old posts and thought, "hey, that was pretty good!"

5. Curried Tofu with Mixed Baby Greens - I'll admit, the final recipe spot witnessed a showdown between this guy and P.B. Thai, but I think you can see who won.

I almost wrote earlier because I knew what I was grateful for by 1:30 PM.
1. I am grateful that the rain cleared up and gave me such a beautiful day off.
2. I am grateful that Macy's still hosts the largest active pipe organ in the country.
3. I am grateful that I have this Sunday off, too, to finish my hair :)
4. I am grateful for the nearly 2 hours I got to spend with my dad today.
Please excuse the crappy picture. It was taken blindly with my cellphone. It's the cute that counts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

brush the dust off the cover

Sometimes you need a little time to fit obscure gifts into your life - have you noticed that? Sometimes, someone gives you something and your first reaction is, "Oh...gee...thank you." Or, to borrow a phrase from my mother, "that's interesting..."

My sister has devoted her adult life to the service of others. After college, she did a year with Americorps, and I think she was only stationary for about 6 months before she was getting shot up with immunizations and plunking down in an airplane bound for Africa. Her heart preceded her by about 10 years, but she finally made it, courtesy of the Peace Corps. She was in Zambia for about two and a half years before taking the long way home (through Zanzibar and Thailand, and I think a few other places before landing in California and my beloved Tahoe). Upon her return to America, she moved to our nation's capital to actually work for (as in, get paid and wear clothes from a store and live in a building with a closing door) the Peace Corps. She is currently about 6 months away from getting her Masters degree in something long that I can never remember but will help her help others more effectively.

Last Christmas, she was full of Peace Corps influenced/produced gifts, including my everyday-is-a-holiday calendar and a spiral bound collection of recipes from all over the world, appropriately titled:
Food From Around the World: A Global Health Alliance Cookbook.
Apparently, it was a collaborative effort of her fellow students, the introduction would lead you to believe:
The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (MEZCOPH) is a diverse college with students, staff, academic professionals, faculty, and alumni who have lived, worked and traveled all over the world. This cookbook highlights the favorite recipes of the members of the MEZCOPH community.
The Global Health Alliance (GHA) is a student organization within MEZCOPH which is dedicated to improving the well-being of diverse populations. The proceeds of this cookbook will support various donation efforts as well as the GHA in future projects.

Anyway, a lot of the recipes call for meat and when a recipe from some hitherto unknown part of South America (as an example) uses meat in a recipe, it's really not the kind of meat you can replace with tofu or seitan. Considering the impoverished status of most of the countries visited by these students, though, there are a few vegetarian meals as well. I figured that since this week was so weird menu-wise anyway, this would be a good week to explore this cookbook a little more. I'll be honest - I looked through it when I got it, and it's been spending quality time with my relatively unused WIC cookbook on a shelf in the hallway ever since. It's okay, though - I know she just bought it to support the GHA.

Enough babbling - tonight I made the Coconut Curry Tofu from that little cookbook and it was really good! I really think that surprised the heck out of me and Mister.
You're supposed to serve it over rice, but I kind of like it swimming in broth/sauce. I think my husband would disagree, but he's okay. He just dumps the excess sauce in the sink before refilling his bowl.

I have finally resolved the rest of my week, so I will probably complete my menu tomorrow night (so I can shop for it on Wednesday), but I'll tell you now that the other recipe I will make from this book (probably tomorrow...duh) is called Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew, but since I do want Mister to eat it, I will be substituting carrots (yes, I got some) for the sweet potatoes.

1. I am grateful to have enough money to keep my home warm when the wind is howling forcefully outside the windows.
2. I am grateful for the resolution of today and the revelation of tomorrow.
3. I am (now) grateful for my sister's support of the GHA planting a really good curry recipe in my Pier 1 (that's international!) bowls.
4. I am grateful that my old coat is still so warm :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

making it count

Today may very well have been one of my last Sundays off for a while. I won't know for sure until sometime this week, but let me say - if it was, I spent it well.

In addition to a weak and horribly cold grocery shopping trip - by the way, December in Philadelphia is officially too late to still be stubbornly wearing your fall jacket - I revisited dear Candi KaBoom at Salon Sugar, had a nice dinner out with the hubby, and made cookies!

I got two dinners' worth of ingredients, as well as a frozen pizza for Mister and some veggie burgers as a back-up/quick dinner. I have no idea how this week is going to go and I'll do my best to keep you updated, as well as a big announcement coming soon! If I need to, I can "finish" my grocery shopping on Wednesday. I may also finish my hair that day!

So, today, Candi just cut my hair. I'm really bad at keeping up with that whole 6-8 week trim thing. I think the only time I've ever pulled it off was when I lived 5 minutes away from my salon, which was moderately priced, and my hair was only 2 inches long at the longest and shaved in parts, so obviously, upkeep was important. I haven't had my hair cut since Labor Day weekend, when Salon Sugar opened. To say I was in urgent need of a haircut would not do justice to the mutiny my split ends were organizing. We got a little crazy and I'm happy with the result, as well as our plans to draw "lightener" (Candi's euphemism for bleach) through my hair on either Wednesday or Sunday (depending on whether I'm off), then retouch the black streaks and add in some unnaturally bright red streaks. It's going to be great - I'll have pictures!

When I was at Salon Sugar, Candi told me she had recently had a lot of vegan/vegetarian clients in the salon and wanted to be able to give them restaurant recommendations, so she asked me about places Mister and I like to go...which soon had me fixated on going out to dinner. Horizons is closed on Sundays, so we went to La Fourno - I sound like a bunny rabbit, but I swear, they have some of the best salads there.

On Friday night, probably around midnight, Mister came into the kitchen (I swear, I spend the majority of the time I'm home in there. If I'm not prepping, I'm cooking, and if I'm not cooking, I'm cleaning up) and opened the food-containing cabinets and kind of wobbled back and forth, looking from side to side.

Me: Do you need something?
Mister: I want cookies.
Me: We don't have any. I'm sorry. Do you want me to make you some?
Mister:'s late.

So I made him cookies today.
I made Sparkled Ginger Cookies from Vegan With A Vengeance and they were wonderful. I really need to get Isa's cookie book. My next cookie conquest will definitely be the Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles. It's like everything you ever wanted in a cookie all rolled into one batch!
1. I am grateful to have had today off and to have accomplished so much and still had time to relax this weekend.
2. I am grateful for a husband who listens to me babble until I come to a rational conclusion.
3. I am grateful (this time, anyway) that his only guidance in my decision-making process was "I want you to do whatever will make you happy."
4. I am grateful that Isa is still pumping out cookbooks - I will own them all!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

a tale of two dinners

I truly intend to write everyday so I can record my gratitude attitude, but yesterday my brain was way too busy thinking about something big and exciting (to be revealed in a future post) and I could barely focus on making dinner, much less writing about it. I did remember to take pretty pictures, though!
That is the Thai Pinapple Fried Rice. I was going to make it the night I made the Chickpea Stew with Fried Polenta but I really had very little faith it would come together quickly (lots of chopping - I knew cooking would go fast) and I was really hungry that night. It was really good and the coconut milk helped everything stick together in a way that made it easy to eat with chopsticks.

I've heard it said that you learn something new everyday. Yesterday, I learned how hot pineapple chunks get when you stirfry them in a wok on high heat for 7-10 minutes. Hot.

Anyway, while I was chopping I was chatting with my parents. This weekend they are celebrating my mother's *mumblemumble* birthday and their 40th wedding anniversary. That is so rare these days and I think it's wonderful that they still have so much fun together - today they went up to NYC to see the Rockettes Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall. Granted, bus trips with a bunch of people from their church kind of screams "old people hobby," but it still sounds fun!

Tonight's dinner was Hearty Stew which seems to vary from Colleen's recipe each time I make it. The recipe calls for tempeh, which I've mentioned before does not get along well with Mister's belly, so the first time I made this, I used Steak Stirfry Strips by LightLife. This time around, I used Ray's Seitan, but that is not the major variation.

This morning I tried to put together the week's menu and grocery list. I didn't get it completely finished because I remembered the uncertainty that presented itself to me at approximately 6 PM on Friday and realized that I really can't plan a menu for this week until that is resolved. Fortunately, I'm scheduled to be off from work on Wednesday, so I can take care of additional shopping then - I did get two recipes and I'm going to pick up some veggie burgers as back-up.

Anyway, the point is that I realized last night that I had underestimated the number of carrots remaining in the bag and needed to pick some up in order to make dinner tonight. So my plan had been to make my list and do my 3 days worth of shopping today so I could get carrots. Then came the 30-degree temperatures with wind, rain, and very wet (but beautiful) snow, and all I wanted to do was drive to lessons, teach, and drive home. I completely forgot to stop at some lovely suburban food store on my way home and pick up just the carrots.

I made an executive decision: Corn is an acceptable substitute for carrots.
And I was absolutely right - I think I actually like the corn in the soup better than the carrots! I love the combination of potatoes and corn. Dr. FAdkins is rolling over in his grave. Look how pretty the corn made it, though! It was sooooo good, between the corn and the seitan. I am also officially in love with this herb combination: thyme, tarragon, and marjoram.
Marjoram smells so much like tea I can almost imagine it tasting sweet all by itself.
Tarragon also has the most divine smell. I'm not a big fan of anise/licorice-scented things, but it's subtle enough to enjoy.
I love how people talk about the "subtle hint of lemon" in thyme. Thyme is one of only two herbs I can smell the moment I take the cap off the jar (mint is the other). That is not subtle in my book.
Yesterday I was grateful for:
1. a few minutes to talk to my parents and tease them about telling the whole world about their anniversary.
2. getting home safely and finding parking relatively easily for a Friday night.
3. the end of a very busy week.
4. a mind-blowing and flattering conversation I had shortly before leaving work.

Today I am grateful for:
1. time to relax this morning before heading out to work.
2. time to play Christmas songs on my piano in that "quiet" time.
3. my special treat - a peppermint americano
4. the first snowfall in Philadelphia! It was so pretty - I love snow. I hate when people say you won't like snow when you get older - it's not true! Any young folks reading this - it's not true - don't believe them!

Friday, December 4, 2009

everyday I write the list

1. I am grateful for how quickly I can make Chickpea Stew with Fried Polenta when I get home from a long, exhausting day at work.

2. I am grateful that I had a Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Clif Bar that I could eat in the 10 minutes between training sessions.

3. I am grateful that my husband stayed awake long enough to take out the garbage tonight.

4. I am grateful for having the opportunity to overhear two people from Marketing at work tell the Director of my department that the training we did yesterday and today was the best training they had ever been to and the best organized.

Bonus: I am extremely grateful that I had the good fortune to overhear my Director's response to each of those two people: "It was really all Natalie - she did everything."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

step aside, mr reese's

Somewhere along my brain-dead ride home from work tonight, I managed to extract a few things from the squishy gray matter residing in my skull. Many of those things were about what I would like to eat when I got home - specific things pulled out of the "everything" that I wanted to eat. Today was the kind of day where calories just shouldn't count and probably don't since I ran around like a lunatic who had recently escaped the asylum today (I do work close to where Byberry Asylum used to be) and adrenaline makes the metabolism speed up (and I was running on adrenaline most of the day). I was hungry and thirsty and couldn't stop thinking of everything I wanted to eat and drink - a lot of good ideas came out of that mess, but here is the best one:

a scoop of chunky peanut butter sandwiched between two pieces of 72% cocoa dark chocolate

A week or so ago, I was in Rite Aid picking up a few things. I couldn't tell you what I went there for, but I know that as I left, I saw a sale on the amazing and luxurious Ghirardelli chocolate squares. A bag of these babies -->
ordinarily sells for about $5, but I got it for $1.50. I could not pass that up. I don't know if you can say these are vegan, as they are manufactured in a facility that also processes milk and therefore the chocolate could contain trace amounts of dairy, but they don't put it into this specific product on purpose, so I picked them up. SO GOOD.

Actually, they're great on their own, but with a salty, chunky, peanut butter "filling" they are nothing short of utterly amazing. I thought I would just have one. I was wrong.

Anyway, I had the same dinner tonight as I did last night, so here we go... I made the Orzo Pilaf with Roasted Red Peppers and Peas. It was very good and came together exceedingly quickly, which surprised me. The recipe certainly gave the implication it would be a fast cooking recipe, but I really did not think the orzo would absorb the broth quite as quickly as it did! I tried to deny it, but cooking 12 oz of orzo (2 cups uncooked) in 28 oz of vegetable broth does not quite get the pasta to al dente. A full quart would probably do just fine, as I was able to get the pasta to Mister's specification of "fully cooked" by adding about 4 oz of water. It was a fast and easy recipe, reliant completely on pantry staples (dried orzo, canned broth, jarred roasted red peppers, frozen peas) which will make it a very convenient choice for future busy weeks. Of course, I'm sure my schedule will slow down's such a shame sarcasm can't be adequately communicated through the written word sometimes.
It sure it pretty, too, isn't it?

Since I missed last night, we'll do a "double feature" today. Here are the 8 things for which I am thankful today:

1. I am grateful for my Director's kind words and efforts to build me up in the presence of her peers.
2. I am grateful for my supervisor's confidence in my abilities and his willingness to share that with me when I feel nervous.
3. I am grateful that I did not have to participate in the new hire training today on top of the company-wide trainings I helped facilitate.
4. I am grateful for the sale on Ghirardelli squares I took advantage of when I didn't need chocolate, knowing there would come a moment when I did "need" chocolate.
5. I am grateful for the coupons I got in the mail from DSW and Macy's to provide the incentive and urgency I need to get myself new shoes.
6. I am grateful for Sarah McLachlan's willingness to share her angelic voice and fiery disposition for the last two decades. (I've been listening to Wintersong the past two days - amazing holiday album).
7. I am grateful for the quiet moments I had when I got home from an insanely busy, no-lunch-break, nine-hour-long day.
8. I am grateful that this Friday, two paychecks will deposit into our bank account.

Monday, November 30, 2009

a thousand beautiful things

I don't want to say the last two dinners were failures...but I can't say they were successes, either. I enjoyed the Cuban Black Bean Soup just as I imagined I would, and Mister grinned and bore it, just as I imagined he would. Mister didn't have have anything to say about last night's Saffron-Spiked Moroccan Stew aside from "what is this?" However, I think both of us really had to make an effort to remember how fortunate we were to find out that we aren't big saffron fans and muddle through our flower-scented dinner.

Tonight, I sought out the safety of the Pasta with Beans & Chard because one can rarely go wrong with pasta, especially where my husband is concerned. I guess that's why pasta seems like such a reliable meal to feed one of those crazy people who doesn't eat the preserved corpses you usually serve. By the way, I say things like that to point out the irony of people thinking I'm weird because I eat the bounty of the earth rather than glut myself on the bloodless bodies of the weak. Sorry - I couldn't even say that straight. The point is, I think it's funny that people are so taken off guard by vegans and vegetarians and resort to trying to make us feel inferior about what seems like such a natural choice, purely because our choices make them uncomfortable.

So, that was quite the tangent. The point here is that tonight's dinner didn't suck:
I had mentioned in one of the posts where I was still forming the idea of Operation Gratitude Attitude that my recent introspective pondering was partially owed to the influence of Annie Lennox. I would like to share some lyrics from the specific song with you now, so that you might ponder it as well and keep it close to your heart and mind when you help me build my list of blessings.

1000 Beautiful Things
Every day I write the list of reasons why I still believe they do exist
A thousand beautiful things
And even though it's hard to see, the glass is full and not half empty
A thousand beautiful things

I thank you for the air to breathe, the heart to beat, the eyes to see again
A thousand beautiful things
And all the things that's been and done, the battles won, the good and bad in everyone
This is mine to remember

So, then, here is today's list:
1. I am grateful that today is over and I feel the pieces of a very complicated puzzle coming together.

2. I am grateful for the opportunity to prove myself at work this week.

3. I am grateful that I woke up this morning with enough time to paint my nails - it's amazing what a shiny new coat of red can do for a girl.

4. I am grateful for this tasty elixir:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

sometimes the obvious eludes me

For example, if you knew that saffron was the dried stigma of the crocus flower, wouldn't you expect it to emit a floral scent? You would, wouldn't you? Yeah, I didn't.

Tonight, I made Saffron-Spiked Moroccan Stew and it was my first experience cooking with the much exalted spice in the title. I mentioned in my menu post that I have substituted turmeric for saffron in the past. Why? They are not even remotely similar, aside from them both imparting a deep hue to whatever food they are sprinkled upon. Turmeric is a bitter spice that turns things (like scrambled tofu) yellow. Saffron is red, turns things red, and stinks. It has an inescapable and very strong floral odor that really made it hard for me to eat my stew. I don't know what I'm going to do with the rest of it!

Dinner was very pretty, though and Mister and I managed to fill our bellies, with the help of some salt and a serious effort to ignore the fact that our dinner smelled like a spring bouquet.
Today has kind of been a day of nauseating scents. Dinner actually didn't taste bad, it just smelled weird, which was distracting. Earlier, I made more scrambled tofu and although it tasted as good as it did yesterday, I absolutely could not stand the smell today. I don't know if I did something different or if I just wasn't paying attention to the smell yesterday, though that's not likely. Moving on...
1. I am grateful that I have just spent 5 days relaxing and ignoring almost any sense of responsibility.

2. I am grateful for my sense of adventure when it comes to selecting my menu, even if it backfires sometimes.

3. I am grateful that I can see clearly out of both my eyes now that I got rid of that flawed right contact lens.

4. I am grateful that today is the first day of the Advent season, officially marking the beginning of Christmastime, my favorite time of year.

What are you grateful for?

not everyone likes fruit in soup

So....remember my hesitance about the Cuban Black Bean Soup? I never really went into detail, but I mentioned that the ingredients were a little off the wall. I also said that I had little doubt that I would love it, but at least a decent amount of doubt that Mister would. Well, it turns out the most tactful way Mister could find to describe the soup was, in fact, "weird." He ate it, God bless him, but I don't think I'll be able to get him to eat it again. I loved it, on the other hand, so we can just move that to the Wednesday file.

There will be no pictures, because they really didn't come out well and the soup really wasn't much to look at anyway, but here is a synopsis of our dinner experience:
The soup contains this bizarre mixture: hot sauce, black beans, coconut milk, and bananas. There are some other things, but those are the ones that make it weird. Specifically, the bananas are probably what lost Mister's vote (and won mine). I guess we can't all love fruit in soup. They added what can only be described as a buttery smell, which really confused me, even though I was the one who made the soup and therefore knew that there was not even Earth Balance in there, let alone butter. The immersion blender gave the coconut milk a bit of froth, as well as gently pulverizing just enough of the bananas, black beans, and peppers to thicken the broth a bit while still leaving chunks to satisfy Mister's desire to not feel like he could eat his dinner with a straw.

With that, we'll head right into Operation Gratitude Attitude.
1. I am grateful for the opportunity to play Christmas music at my piano for hours today, uninterrupted.

2. I am grateful for and the opportunity to watch Josh sing one of the most powerful songs in musical theatre in the privacy of my own living room, so I could cry without shame.

3. I am grateful that facebook reunited me with a fellow JG-fan who told me that he played the part of Anatoly in a two-day performance of Chess, my favorite musical, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, directed my Tim Rice himself.

4. I am grateful that I still have one more day left before the insanity of the week starts.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

omni-vegan feast

Where to begin? Thanksgiving was really an adventure, challenge, and delight. As it turns out, my mom and I were almost matched dish for dish on the dinner table. Representing the Omnivores, she had prepared a hunk of turkey, our family tradition - pineapple casserole, a sweet potato casserole, and a salad with some biscuits. On the Vegan team, I brought my tofu turkeys (absolute triumph), spiced potatoes and green beans, and chai applesauce. Mom also had pumpkin pie and chocolate ganache sandwich cookies for dessert. Buckle your seatbelts, folks, I think this is going to be a long, picture-filled post.
here's the dinner table, all decked out for the holiday and covered with more food than I think any of the four of us had anticipated.
here's the Chunky Chai Applesauce, looking quite regal in gold and ivory
Tofu Turkeys keeping the Sweet Potato Casserole company
Spiced Potatoes and Green Beans in front of Mom's traditional Pineapple Casserole
my happy little plate, with my tofu turkeys bathed in just a bit of the gravy I made from the leftover marinade...which my father liked so much he wanted to keep it to use on his turkey leftovers this week!
And here's Dad, showing the whole world that he DID eat a tofu turkey. He also liked it so much that he had a second turkey with no prompting! I'm so proud.

Speaking of tofu turkeys, I ended up with a bunch of tofu leftover after I cut out the cute little turkeys, so I packed all the pieces into tupperware, covered with water, and sealed those suckers in there. Today, around brunch-time, I thought, "What a perfect day to make scrambled tofu!" I have never actually made scrambled tofu, but the idea has been growing on me for a couple of months at least, but probably more like since I got my copy of Vegan Brunch. I didn't have any nutritional yeast, so I consulted How It All Vegan because I seemed to remember Sarah Kramer also having a love of scrambled tofu. Sorry, Isa, but hers is much easier... So I heated some oil in a fry pan, blotted some of the leftover tofu on a paper towel and then "crumbled" it into the fry pan. I let it sizzle for a little while, then I sprinkled it with some turmeric, cumin, and garlic powder. I stirred it for a good while (at least a minute), then I sprinkled in some tamari and let it soak in for a bit. I think the whole process took a little more than 5 minutes and the effort was so worth it that I'm kicking myself for not doing this sooner...not that I frequently have scraps of leftover tofu lying around.
seriously - who needs eggs?

Tonight, then, we had the last thing on last week's menu - Beef and Cabbage Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce. It didn't come together quite as smoothly as I would have liked, but I think I could have been a little more organized. I was rushing myself because I got a late start and because it is my opinion that stir-fries should be fast, adrenaline-pumping experiences. I got to use my new juicer to get the 1/3 cup orange juice I needed (2 oranges, if you care) for the sauce. It came out very delicious and looking much like its picture, which always thrills me.

Now, on to this week's menu:

1. Saffron-Spiked Moroccan Stew on couscous, from The Vegan Table. I have stayed away from things that call for saffron, since it is excessively expensive, or I just substitute turmeric if it's not a main ingredient. I have decided, upon reading this recipe, that it is worth the cost of the saffron to try it out.

2. Orzo Pilaf with Roasted Red Peppers & Peas, also from The Vegan Table. This looks like a fun and savory pasta risotto kind of dish.

3. Cuban Black Bean Soup, also from The Vegan Table. I read this recipe three times, mulling the ingredients over in my head before deciding I want to make it. It is really a weird soup if ever I've made one, which both intrigues me and worries me. I have little doubt that I will think it's fabulous, but I never know how Mister will react to some of my more adventurous dinners.

4. Hearty Stew, also from The Vegan Table. I have made this before, but I want to make it again now that I have discovered the amazingness of Ray's Seitan. Yes, I know amazingness is not a word - spell check told me so, but I don't care - it's the best way I can think to describe this stuff. If you've ever been to Horizons, you'll understand.

5. Chickpea Stew with Fried Polenta from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook. I love this enough to have made it a few times in recent history, and it'll make a fast, easy dinner on one of my insanely busy nights next week (which one? pick one).

6. Thai Pineapple Stir-Fried Rice from Vegan Express. I would be lost without this book. What amazes me is that I have been relying very heavily on his book since I got it and I still find new things to make every time I go in there! This looks fun. It looks like it may be a lot of work, but her recipes really never seem to take longer than a half an hour, so I think I can make it happen.

7. Pasta with Beans & Chard also from Vegan Express. Okay, so I've made this one before... I didn't say I never repeat a dish.

I didn't forget! Yesterday was Thanksgiving and I should have started then, but I was too fat to type. Today, then, is day one of Operation Gratitude Attitude. Remember our deal? I'll start with my four things:

1. I am grateful that I have enough money to keep my home as warm as I want it to be.

2. I am grateful my parents love me and support my crazy aspirations and experiments.

3. I am grateful that I have over 145,000 miles on my car and it hasn't given me any real trouble yet.

4. I am grateful to be able-bodied enough to walk to the grocery stores tomorrow.

Your turn! What one thing are you grateful for today?