Tuesday, November 30, 2010

P&AB, MoFos!

The last words spoken to me at work today concluded a ninety-minute planning session with the department director.  She looked into my bloodshot eyes and raised her voice above my sniffling:

Her:  Can you do me a favor?
Me, looking sad and worn out, I'm sure:  Umm...?
Her: Would you please go home and rest?

Yes.  I can do that.  I regret that I don't have some stupendously exciting meal to post about, since it's the last night of VeganMoFo...unless you count my killer Peanut & Apple Butters Sandwich and Yogi Detox Tea.  I have to tell you, I appreciate that Whole Foods makes their 365 Peanut Butter from only peanuts and salt (two ingredients, woohoo!), but it doesn't really taste like anything.  It does pair nicely with the apple butter I picked up forever ago, though.

I hope you all enjoyed reading my nightly posts as much as I enjoyed writing them!  Round-ups seem to be the popular way to end this month, so let me link back to some "special" posts, highlights if you will, in case you're just joining us (or just getting caught up on your reading, like me!).

Some recipes:
Breakfast Fried Rice 
Rotini with White Bean-Tomato Sauce
Banana Pecan Oatmeal

Food Zen:
Making Peace with Peas
A Whole World of Difference
Give me $5 and I'll Feed the World

and of course, The Chocolate Round-Up and the Epic VeganMoFo Survey!

That's all, folks!  I posted every single night of November and now I'm going to sleep.  See you in December!

Monday, November 29, 2010

victory is mine...for now

I knew it would happen eventually.  I knew if I just kept trying, plotting, scheming, and trying again that someday, I would win.  I had some strategy on my side, with plenty of time to mull over my course of action to be sure that this time I would prevail.

I beat Brown Rice.

It took some time and some of the tricks I had hiding in my sweater sleeve, but tonight, I made Mexican Rice and Bean Bake in only one hour.  Better yet, it was quite pleasing to the eye, so I took a picture this time!

It was every bit as hearty and savory as it looks.  I devoured it.  I was hungry, I was still a bit bone-chilled from the walk home, and...I think I'm getting sick.  What a time!

I have my many weapons to battle this nemesis as well, so hopefully, between my echinacea and herbal detox teas, I'll knock whatever this is out of my system before it knocks me out of commission - I absolutely cannot miss a moment at work this week.  That brings us to tonight's moment of zen:

thank you, Yogi Tea...sometimes we need remindin'

Sunday, November 28, 2010

$20 for groceries (revisited)

When I was taking the VeganMoFo survey and I got to the following question:
You have $20 to spend on fresh groceries and produce for the whole week (with a fairly well stocked pantry of dry goods, legumes, grains, and spices). What do you buy?
 I thought that it was a clever, make-ya-think kind of question.  I had no idea I would have to take it seriously a week later!  Nevertheless, I went grocery shopping today with the list I made from last night's menu planning and although I didn't have a dollar goal in mind (aside from spending as few of them as possible), that question/hypothetical situation kept repeating itself in my head.  I used my super-sleuth eyes to find the lowest prices on everything on my list and absolutely could not believe it when I arrived home with our entire week of groceries for...are you ready?  I don't think you are.  I have two receipts here to show any doubters that I walked away from the stores with everything I need for this week's dinners for only...(drum roll, please)


No, I'm seriously not kidding.  That is how much I spent, total, between Whole Foods and Superfresh.  
No, I don't think I could be any more pleased with myself. :D

And just in case you still don't believe me (I don't blame you), here is what you can get for that amount:
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 loaf of multigrain bread
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu
  • 32 oz almond milk
  • 16 oz ziti
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 14 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz cannellini beans
  • two 15 oz cans of black beans
  • 15 oz pinto beans
  • 16 oz salsa
  • 1 lb of colombian coffee
  • frozen apple cinnamon waffles
for $22.54.  I'm not lying.  Here's how I did it: first, I made a list and did not even look at anything that was not on that list (even though I almost got distracted by the "upsells" at WF checkout again).  Second, if there were a few brands available (for example, the tomato products and pasta), I looked for the lowest priced item, even if it was only a few cents difference - those cents add up.  Third, I have a Superfresh club card, which not only makes me eligible for the $1 can of crushed tomatoes, but also gives me an additional 5% off my next trip after I spend $300 there (which, by the way, takes me about 2 months at least), and I got my certificate last time, so that knocked a little bit off the SF bill (5% to be exact).

So, to my great surprise and Mister's delight, we actually have a precious few discretionary dollars this week.  We have food, with at least one item on the menu promising leftovers.  I have a miraculously unopened bottle of Beaujolais and I'm looking forward to seeing how long it stays in that state - I'm betting for tomorrow night.  I have $3 in my wallet and a few in the bank, and only 4 days until that wonderful transfusion called "my paycheck."  I think we're gonna make it.

Then, in an effort to stave off Mister's use of those discretionary dollars for pizza by at least one more day, tonight's dinner was Tuscan White Bean Pizza.

What an attractive and tasty meal - the pizza, which I really jazzed up (more in a minute), served with a bowl of mixed olives and the last of the leftover soup.  I feel like a little bit of a glutton, revealing that Mister and I each start with 2 slices of pizza, but neither of us went back for more, so think whatever you want ;)

Now for the fun: the picture isn't the best, but it's the best I have to show you the big chunks of green hiding in the "sauce."  You may recall the picture of my mom industriously mincing fresh herbs when we were cooking together for Thanksgiving.  Well, she doesn't use a lot of fresh herbs, so she sent me home with fresh sage, thyme, and marjoram.  I ran out of basil recently and keep forgetting to replace it so I usually sub dried marjoram because it smells very similar - sweet, ever so slightly anise-y but nothing like tarragon.  Fresh marjoram smells almost floral and has a very strong taste - sweet and slightly floral.  Anyway - the chunks of green?  Yeah, that's marjoram.

Also, I sprayed the pre-made crust with olive oil and then sprinkled a few pinches of my California-bought Tuscan seasoning over top of it before I spread the "sauce" over top.  I laid the tomatoes down in overlapping circles and then sprayed them with olive oil, sprinkled the whole mess with my beloved Mediterranean Sea Salt and sprayed one last time.  I might have used a little more of the sea salt blend, but nothing is going to change that we are well past prime tomato season now.  For heaven's sake, there are only two days left of November and VeganMoFo!

Well, folks, tomorrow begins my descent into madness, but I do have a few more tricks up my sleeve so don't go anywhere far!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Vegan on the Bottom Dollar

Have you ever "bet your bottom dollar" on anything (like the sun coming out tomorrow)?  I have and it was quite an experience, but everything came out alright in the end.  Like I've mentioned, Mister and I are still in the adjustment period of having less income and so far our pattern looks a little like this:  the first week after my paycheck, we are aware that there is less money after bills, but not paying close attention, so we still let little discretionary purchases like Starbucks (me) or pizza (Mister) slide.  The second week, which we are presently embarking upon, I check our bank account after receiving my warning email from the bank (what a great tool - I have set up an email reminder to hit me whenever our balance drops below an acceptable amount) and inform Mister exactly how little money we have.

As a result of this Adjustment Period, this week's menu is also sourced completely from Vegan on the Cheap, but this time I was even more strategic in my selections.  Before I sat down, I surveyed the freezer and cupboards to see what we already have to work with since money is not on that list.  Then, as I went through the book, I did my best to find the recipes that involved the most items I already have on hand, therefore, the least number of items I have to buy.  I kept thinking of that question in the Epic VeganMoFo survey about having only $20 to spend on groceries, because it would be amazing if I could pull that off.  I don't think it's going to happen, but considering I usually spend between $60-80 a week on our groceries, I'll be happy to stay beneath $30.

1. Black Bean Soup with Kale and Rice - see, this is how good at being thrifty I'm becoming: ordinarily, I buy a bunch of kale and put it all into whatever recipe I bought it for without bothering to measure.  When I made our Caldo Verde last night, I actually did measure out the 6 cups of chopped kale and found that I had 3-4 stems leftover.  Well, it just so happens, this soup calls for 3 cups of kale and I figure if what I have left isn't 3 cups, it'll be damn close.

2. Better Bean Burgers - yes, I know I made these last week, but a) they're super cheap; b) I still have the other half of those sandwich thins left, so why not?; and c) Mister wished they were flatter, wider, and crunchier, so I'll use that as an excuse.  Heck, we used to have frozen commercial veggie burgers and frozen french fries on at least a weekly basis, so unless Mister has become completely spoiled in the last couple of years, I don't think he'll complain.  Especially when he's perfectly happy to eat pizza for lunch every single day.

3. Baked Ziti - this is one dish my mom has always made really well, so it's kind of like comfort food for me, which I anticipate a possible need for this week (yes, folks, this is the week all hell starts to break loose at work).  I've reserved a bottle of Beaujolais for the occasion and Italy isn't that far from France.  Anyway, this also looks like something I could easily prepare the night before and then ask Mister to stuff it in the oven while I'm on my way home.  It might almost feel like he cooked!

4. Mexican Rice and Bean Bake - the first and last time I made this was a catastrophic failure, as is usually the case with any kind of casserole that involves rice and/or something tomato-based.  I have a plan, though, and this recipe still sounds too good to give up on without a fight, so let's see how Round Two turns out.

5. Pasta e Fagioli - don't get me wrong, there is a huge place in my heart specifically reserved for Dynise's recipe, but this one sounds fun, too, and I only need to buy two things for it.  Also, while I'm still trying to figure out why Dynise thinks her recipe makes a soup, there is little doubt that this recipe makes a chunky soup that you still need a spoon to eat.

I can't believe VeganMoFo is almost over!  I have so thoroughly enjoyed chronicling every single day/night and I hope you've all enjoyed reading.  My full intention lies in continuing to post every day, but I'll be honest - December is going to be rough and I've never been a fan of those Here's-A-Picture-and-a-Few-Pithy-Words posts, so I might skip a night here and there.  I took advantage of the time off I've had these past days (through tomorrow!) to catch up on some of my own reading and found some new great blogs to follow as well - check out my blog roll on the left <--- to see what I'm reading.

So....did you want to see a picture?

Here was dinner just a-sizzlin' away in my saute pan.  Isn't it beautiful?  When I saw how bright and attractive the browned tofu, green pepper, carrots, and chives looked, I wanted to take a picture before slathering them with pineapple sauce.

Tonight's dinner was Tropic of Tempeh Tofu from Vegan on the Cheap and it was kind of absurd. It is so cold in Philadelphia tonight.  The low is supposed to sink below the freezing mark, probably for the first time this season.  When I returned from teaching this evening, after the sun had set, I walked about halfway through this great underground path that lets me out of the belly of the city through a urine-soaked stairway.  I hold my breath the whole way up those stairs, but at least I was warm for half my walk!  The second half was just about enough to freeze me to the bone...I just kind of stopped moving once I was safely inside the apartment and took about five minutes to actually remove my gloves, coat, and scarf.

So, of course, I was kicking myself about 2 blocks from home for making the stupid soup dinner last night.  My options were a tropical tofu skillet supper or pizza.  I have nothing against pizza and I'm sure Mister would be happy, but I wanted to use my green pepper before it started getting shrivelly and gross and the tomatoes look like they still have a day left in 'em, so we'll have the Tuscan Pizza tomorrow. 

Anyway, it was very good and can go into my file of Perfect Portions for Me and Mister.  I enjoy having certain dishes I can make with the knowledge that there will be no leftovers.  Whether it's because we're going away or because we already have a fridge stocked with leftovers I'll be taking to work for lunch, sometimes you just don't want to put anything back in the fridge.  We each had two bowls with rice and the tofu-n-veggies - we were content but not "fat" with food; it was just enough and not too much.  The flavor was pleasant and every now and then, a bit of ginger or allspice would catch you by surprise.  I might increase the tamari to 3 Tbsp in the future for a slightly more savory flavor, but if I forget to do that, the sauce won't suffer.

I can't recommend Vegan on the Cheap enough, honestly.  I bought it because I'm familiar with Robin Robertson and have enjoyed her other recipes, but it won my heart by saving my bank account a couple of times now.  Even if it called for a bunch of expensive ingredients you can only get in specialty shops, though, I would still love it because there are a bunch of quality and unique recipes in here.  It is an all-around great cookbook, so if you still write a letter to Santa, you might want to put this one down.

I want to bid you a good evening with this one last moment of zen:

Last week at Essene, they were giving away free samples of Traditional Medicinals tea.  I grabbed an Everyday Lemon Detox ('tis the season!) and as my throat was a bit scratchy upon my return from teaching, I thought tonight was the night to give it a try.  The little hang-tag warmed my heart...

Friday, November 26, 2010

done with leftovers, on to soup

Sometime after I finished last night's post, Mister and I both decided we were hungry again.  I do think my hunger was partially due to the power of suggestion as a friend had mentioned (via Twitter) that she wanted to be hungry again so she could eat leftovers.  That got me thinking about the leftovers we had in the fridge from "greek thanksgiving," so I pulled out the broccolini, olive oil, and Mediterranean Sea Salt blend and sauteed me some greens.  I started with half the broccolini, but it was just so good, I went back and had the second half, too.  Ignoring the olive oil (I'm good at that), how many calories can a green veggie really have?

About 10 minutes after I scarfed down finished savoring the last of my broccolini, the scents wafting in from the kitchen got to Mister and I found him foraging through the fridge and cabinets.  He asked what there was to eat, I made a few suggestions, and he decided he was too lazy to eat (i.e. too lazy to make something to eat).  I asked him if he'd like me to make him something, he smiled, so I got to work reheating the last bits of Savory Sausage and Peppers in the same pan I used for my broccolini, allowing the garlic-herb-salt-tinged oil to add more flavor to the leftovers.  As that was sizzling away, I warmed up the last of the mashed potatoes in the microwave (I'll admit, I use it begrudgingly, but there have really been times that microwave has come in handy), then laid a little pillow of mashed potatoes at the bottom of a bowl and scooped the sausage melange over top and delivered it to my hungry Mister.

The only leftovers we have, well, leftover, are of the apple pie persuasion, and I believe the plan is to heat our last slices up in the oven once our bellies have emptied a bit from dinner.

Segue, anyone?

Before I started cooking tonight, there were three choices left on our 5-option menu, but I already knew I wanted to make the Caldo Verde from Vegan on the Cheap.  Today was the first day we didn't have to do anything at all and we both took full advantage of that, drinking cup after cup of the Snickerdoodle coffee I bought at a Coffee Bean out in California.

It was so good.  It was about 3:30 before either of us made any effort to do something a person could define as productive.  For me, it was taking a shower so I could go get kitty litter (yes, I live the glamorous life, try to tone down the envy).  Mister, at 3:45 PM, decided he wanted to try his luck at Black Friday so he could buy a multi-terabyte hard drive for very little money that my dad told him about last night when he was flipping through store circulars while Mister amused himself on his iPod and Mom and I cooked.  I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that they were all sold out.

Anyway, the total ten minutes I was outside to get the kitty litter (and spy a new "bakery" in the neighborhood - Cookie Confidential grand opening today) was quite enough to make me want soup for dinner.  The best part is that it's going to be even colder tomorrow!

The soup smelled phenomenal simmering away on the stove while I tried my hand at freeform "cheese" slicing.  I mentioned in a previous post that I picked up cheddar Vegan Gourmet "cheese," but it only comes in block form.  Fortunately, the block is about the same size as a piece of bread, so I just sliced off two big slices and plunked them onto the bread I already had toasting on the skillet.  As you can see, the package declares with great enthusiasm that this cheese substitute melts.  I'll grant that it took me three tries to get the Rice Vegan to finally melt all gooey like it's supposed to, but even on the first try it came far closer to melting than this stuff did... I'm sure it tried, but I was skeptical from the get-go; after slicing the pieces for the sandwiches, I cut off a little more to taste and the texture was so much like a cross between hard-boiled egg whites and extra-firm silken tofu that I couldn't see how it would melt.  Mister was a trooper - he coated his sandwich in ketchup and plowed through it in about 6 bites.  I took my time, trying to gauge how I feel about this one, despite that there was nothing that resembled melting going on.  It has a pleasant flavor, but it smells a little like mildew and scent is kind of important.  Nevertheless, the cheapskate in me my frugal side won't allow me to give up and chuck what's left, so I'll probably try broiling it on an open-face sandwich tomorrow or Sunday, just to see if I can actually convince it to melt.  I don't think it will ever find its way past Mister's lips again, though.

The soup was good - hearty and full of potatoey-kaley goodness, but nothing spectacular, so if I make it again, it will probably be by accident or a year from now.

I had this horrific moment today when I thought tomorrow was Monday.  Mister and I did a little dance in the kitchen (the only place with enough room to dance) when he informed me that tomorrow was actually Saturday - I am absolutely not ready for Monday yet.  I have laundry to do, a new menu to plot and shop for, a Christmas tree to set-up and decorate, and I really want to make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes from VCTOTW.  Also, heaven forbid a weekend should pass without a new oatmeal recipe!  See you tomorrow, MoFos!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

twice as thankful

I love holidays.  Yesterday marked the beginning of my favorite time of year - "the holiday season," or as I like to call it, Christmastime.  I have a strong desire to do my meager Christmas decorating tomorrow because I know me and I know what my schedule looks like between now and the blessed day, and if I don't decorate before Monday, it won't happen.  There is a minuscule part of me that even wants to hit up some of the Black Friday madness, only because I know that if I don't start soon, I'll end up doing all of my shopping on Christmas Eve again and that really doesn't allow me to enjoy my favorite time of year much.  Minuscule.  As in, maybe I'll make it to Borders but probably not.

Anyway, my parents are counting their blessings for having raised a child who loves holidays enough to sit on an overcrowded train for nearly an hour to come out for Thanksgiving the day after celebrating it with 100 of our closest Greek relatives.  Okay, there weren't 100, but there were times it felt that way! (if I haven't said it before, the movie is absolutely true)  My mother had come up with this awesome idea; ordinarily (see last year), she cooks a turkey breast and two sides at her house and I cook tofu turkeys and two sides at my home and then we join together.  This year, Mom says to me, "Why don't we cook together?"  So I sent her a list of ingredients for the Savory Vegetable Cobbler and when Mister and I had settled in, hung up our coats, and after Dad and I opened the Beaujolais Nouveau, Mom and I got to chopping and steaming and mincing and laughing and simmering and smushing and finally...baking.

look at all those pretty fresh herbs!

Mom, with her adorable mini-cutting board, mincing sage

after artfully smudging the biscuit batter over top of the veggies-n-gravy, I decided to sprinkle a garlic-herb blend over top for extra fun

came out looking pretty rustic, don'tcha think?

pretty caramelized almonds my mom makes for the salad

So, that was dinner: Savory Vegetable Cobbler, salad with mandarin oranges and those killer almonds, and an apple-yam-walnut bake that made my mouth happy.  Even though I've been pretty good about not eating my way into the much-talked-about "food coma," I still feel like Marilyn Monroe had the right idea and I feel some celebrity emulation coming on:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

sardines for thanksgiving

We spend every Thanksgiving Eve celebrating the holiday with my Father-in-law, et al.  His home is certainly adequately sized for his needs - only he and his wife live there, but there are guest rooms for when the grandchildren (or out of town children!) come to visit.  After about 5-6 people, it starts to get a little crowded.  Mister and I spent the evening navigating one of those puzzles with the blocks you have to shift around to make a picture, where this person needs to go left so this chair can move in so I can go over there.  We definitely had the opportunity to test the bounds of Mister's "natural" claustrophobia and my people-in-close-proximity claustrophobia.  We love our family, but sometimes, things get a little scrunched up.

The spread, as always, was magnificent and we were given the tour of which food was "safe" for us and which was not.  "Greek Rice" is not terribly descriptive, but when Mister skips it and it appears that there is as much grey ground beef as there is rice, you don't need much of an imagination to think that's probably not veg-friendly.  Obviously, the dead bird on the table was also not something veg-friendly.  For us, though, there were mashed potatoes, haricots verts (no, we can't just say green beans, that would be uncouth), broccolini, rolls, and a big oval Le Creuset dutch oven filled with sweet potatoes swimming in brown sugar broth.  Despite Mister's hatred for yams, I think I need to roast yams for Thanksgiving next year just to show people that there are actually other ways to prepare those suckers.

By the way, I am deeply in envy of my Mother-in-law's cookware.  They are definitely a couple who abide by an "only the best" philosophy of life, so their plates are Lenox, their silver is real silver, and their cookware is All-Clad and Le Creuset.  They were so pleased when we registered for Waterford china that they bought us all 8 place settings, then gave us a mahogany chest of the same silver they have.  To quote my FIL, "It's what Greeks do."

Anyway, dessert consisted of two pumpkin pies, pecan pie, French apple pie, lemon meringue pie, cherry cheesecake, and a cranberry cake a cousin made, which was vegan :)  That's a lot of pies considering that though it was crowded, that was still about 1 pie for every 3 people, including the little ones, of whom there were 4.  Speaking of entertaining little ones, has anyone else seen the movie Polar Express?  If so, how freaking terrifying was the animation on those children?  It was horrible!

On the way home, we drove through West Philly via Market Street for the first time in the 9 years we've been going to Thanksgiving Eve, because until now, they had the area closed at 63rd St for work on the Market-Frankford line that took nearly a decade.  It was quite a ride - just because they took their construction vehicles away doesn't mean it's not still a ghetto.  Woo hoo.

Tomorrow, we'll be heading out to my parents' home again.  Mom wants to cook together, so we'll be making Savory Vegetable Cobbler.  I never quite got the hang of cooking on electric ranges, so we'll see how that goes, but the idea is for Mom and I to have fun together - if dinner is a fail, there are always the side dishes!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

five days of freedom

My boss must think I'm a complete lunatic.  At the end of today, I absolutely lost it - I started laughing uncontrollably and could not stop.  My eye is still twitching.  I was so tightly wound today that I almost couldn't focus.  I didn't realize exactly how high-strung I was, though, until the day ended and the magnificent realization that I was finished until Monday whether I wanted to be or not set in and I felt such incredible relief that all I could do was laugh like a maniac.

I'm blatantly ignoring that I still have obligations for the next two days - at least they are happy reunions with loved ones, which may require effort of travel and a bit of energy, but at least I'm not bent over my desk, frowning at my computer, and trying to map out this logistical nightmare.

Mister didn't feel like eating and I can't honestly say that I was all that interested in cooking by the time I got home, so I reheated my Cajun dinner and poured a glass of wine (surprised?  only if you're new...).  Mister gave me a present:

ironic, don't you think?
Now, before I pour my second glass of Centine SuperTuscan, I'm going to jump on an unfamiliar bandwagon.  Jess of Get Sconed! recently posted the "epic veganmofo survey" from the Post Punk Kitchen forums.  I enjoyed reading her responses, so I thought in the absence of some smarta$$ comments about how awesome my dinner was, I would publish the survey here with my responses.  Hopefully, I'm interesting enough that you'll read it, but otherwise, I'm sure I'll have some fun things to write about after Thanksgiving with the In-Laws tomorrow evening, so you can skip this and I'll see you tomorrow!

EPIC VeganMoFo survey

What's your favorite spice or spice blend? Unquestionably McCormicks Gourmet Garam Masala.  They have the blend of spices perfected to the point I would travel across the country to acquire more (even though there are apparently stores in Philadelphia that stock it...just not near me).

You have $20 to spend on fresh groceries and produce for the whole week (with a fairly well stocked pantry of dry goods, legumes, grains, and spices). What do you buy?  2lb bag of carrots, bunch of kale, mixed olives, bananas, apples, a bunch of asparagus, and whatever's left goes to bell peppers.

What's your favorite way to make tofu?  marinated and pan-seared

Vegan guilty pleasure?  chocolate

If you could make anyone vegan, who would it be?  my Father-in-law, because it would be a two-fer.  He and his wife have a very harmonious relationship and I believe if he became vegan, she would follow.  Also, he appreciates the finer things in life, so I can imagine the great conversations and shared meals we would appreciate together.

If you could only read one other vegan blog, what would it be?  Oh no...I hate this question!  Even though it's subjective, I don't think there's a right answer!  probably Peas and Thank You.

Were you always interested in cooking, or did veganism change the way you saw and interacted with food?  I couldn't boil water without burning it before I stopped eating animals.  Veganism is one of two things that completely changed my interaction with food - Clean Eating Magazine (unfortunately, full of dead animals) is the other.

Excluding analogues, what new things have you tried that you probably wouldn't have as an omni?  Good heavens - almost everything - french fries were my favorite vegetable as an omni - but I'm going to have to go with Brussels Sprouts, Delicata Squash, and eggplant.

What is the one vegan staple that everyone seems to love, but you can't get behind?  mushrooms.  can't stand 'em.

What was your first "wow, I'm such a stereotypical vegan" moment?  when I started calling "meat" by its animal names to get a reaction and help omni-friends "see the light."

First recipe you veganized? I can't, in good conscience, say pasta sauce, since I think it should always be animal-free.  So, instead I'll say...well, probably Colleen's tofu lasagna, but I didn't actually veganize it, so instead I'll point to my mother's best friend's aunt's casserole.

What would you like to veganize, but haven't yet? I would like to successfully veganize my mother's best friend's aunt's casserole.  Also, I would like to completely veganize one holiday dinner, but that will have to wait until we have a home large enough to actually host a holiday dinner.

Favorite kitchen utensil/appliance?  Favorite utensil? my garlic press.  Favorite appliance? definitely the food processor.

Most disastrous kitchen failure?  I don't like to fail, so even if a recipe seems to be going in a disastrous direction, I can usually turn it around since I'm an ultra-anal perfectionist, so I'm happy to say my biggest "failure" was a pizza that had no interest in behaving like pizza...since there was no cheese/Daiya to hold everything together.

First vegan cookbook?  How It All Vegan, given to me after my mother tried to use it and failed ;)  Love you, Mom!

What question about being vegan do you HATE answering?  But...what do you eat??

If you could tell the world one thing about vegans, what would it be?  we aren't actually crazy - we just care about things outside ourselves.

Funniest vegetable?  umm...what does that mean??  I can't think of any that make me burst into uncontrolled laughter at the mere mention, but I guess phallic eggplants are kind of funny.

What is a family recipe you have veganized?  I was going to claim my family doesn't have any recipes, but then I remembered my mom's pineapple casserole.  I have not veganized it [yet], but going back a couple of questions, I think I will give it my best shot if I get to host Easter (like I'm hoping, though that is entirely dependent on a successful mid-winter move - fingers crossed!).

Weirdest food combination ?  normally, I would say this involves crossing cuisines, but I'm going to say caramel and seitan was a little bizarre.

Is there something you wish you could veganize, but can't/couldn't?  rare filet mignon?  I can't think of anything else that would be difficult to veganize that I would actually want to eat.

Favorite ways to prepare tofu, seitan, tempeh, any other vegan proteins?  I love to brown seitan until it gets a little crispy; I very rarely get to prepare tempeh, but I enjoy braising it when I do.

Are your pets vegan? if so, what do you feed them? Angst loves spinach, but Angst is an omnivore.

Favorite non-dairy milk?  Actually, if you're interested, I did a "milk" round-up not too long ago in response to my sister's desire to leave cows alone.  My favorite "milk" for actually drinking is Almond Milk - it has the most palatable flavor.  My favorite milk for everything else is a tie between soymilk and So Delicious Coconut Milk.

What’s one “vegan myth” you’d like to squash?  That mushrooms are the preferred meat replacement.  They are fungus; that is gross.

stress relief isn't always chocolate-flavored

It's here!  The moment you've all been waiting for - the post for which you've been holding your breath!  The Great Vegan Chocolate Round-Up.  Yes, I am a woman of my word.  But first, a lesson in stress relief, should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being destitute in chocolate possession.

Mashing a can of black beans until they look like the picture above just might be the best way to relieve stress I've found in 2010.  Sure, eating too much chocolate and occasionally drowning in wine might be fun, but beating the pulp (quite literally) out of a pile of beans is pretty darn rewarding.

What was even more rewarding was when they [eventually] held together and really did let me form them into Better Bean Burgers from Vegan on the Cheap.

Mister and I agree that I should have smushed the patties a little thinner to make them more crunchy and less mushy, but the Vital Wheat Gluten ended up doing exactly what it was supposed to and forming these into some pretty "meaty" (if not a little squishy) "burgers."

I placed each burger between two halves of an Arnold's Sandwich Thin and served with a healthy side of fries.  What you can't see in this picture is Mister's healthy side of condiments, because heaven forbid he should taste the food.  Anyway, the Better Bean Burgers were tasty and relatively simple to make once the beans were mashed.  Besides, I'm pretty sure I'll always have days when a little bean-mashing might help, so it's good to know I can turn that aggression into a tasty meal!

Now, my patient, dedicated readers, it's time for dessert (long overdue).

By way of introduction and explanation, I set out on this journey quite selfishly.  I love chocolate and I love excuses to eat chocolate.  That being said, I especially enjoy savoring my chocolate and I would rather have one really good small square than an entire bar of something I'm eating just because it's chocolate.  Life is too short and calories too precious for either to be squandered on less than the best chocolate.  While trying to discover the best ways to spend my time, money, and calories, I figured I would share my findings so that you might find it easier to navigate the road of vegan confections (if you're new to this game) or possibly get a pointer from someone who has traveled this road before.  Katie, I'm looking at you.

The contenders?
  • Theo Mint Dark Chocolate 70% cacao
  • Bug Bites by Endangered Species
  • Equal Exchange Very Dark Chocolate 71% cacao
  • Newman's Own Organics Dark Chocolate 54% cacao
  • Green & Black's Dark 70%
  • I very much enjoyed the Vivani I bought a few weeks before this idea popped into my head, but I wanted to focus on chocolates I hadn't tried yet, so you can see what I have to say about Vivani here, with the added endorsement that I will absolutely buy it again.
  • I have had Endangered Chocolate bars before and find them completely enjoyable.  Feel free to read about my first encounter with this vegan chocolate here.
The Criteria:  I tasted, savored, and chewed my way through these delights with these things in mind:
  • texture
  • "darkness"
  • savorability (on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the least and 5 being the greatest)
  • nutritional profile
  • company karma
Theo Mint Dark Chocolate was first on this reviewer's tongue.  It had a smooth, velvety texture, as well as a bittersweet darkness that was perfectly accentuated by the mint, resulting in a savorability score of 4.  I liked that there were only 5 ingredients, although as I made my way through the rest of my chocolates, I discovered that to be a theme.  That just shows how brainwashed I had been by commercial candy producers, to be impressed by simple, pure ingredients with no more than three syllables per word.

The whole bar was 420 calories, 34g fat (20g sat.fat), 22g sugar, 8g fiber, and 6g protein.  However, one of the things I enjoyed most about this bar was that it was divided into 6 perfectly-sized mini-bars (think Hershey's fun-sized), which make a much more palatable nutritional profile.  Assuming you can practice self-control and eat one sixth at a time, you'll only set yourself back 70 calories, 6g fat and 3.5g sugar, which is a small price to pay for dessert.

In terms of company karma, Theo has a pretty good leg up on other chocolate companies.  They were the first organic, fair trade chocolatier in North America and they invite consumers to visit the facility in Seattle.  "Best of all, Theo Chocolate tastes amazing because it's made with love, integrity and only the highest quality, sustainably sourced ingredients."  This is a company you and I can feel good about supporting.

 Next up, we have Bug Bites, individually wrapped .35oz pieces of dark chocolate by Endangered Species.  I grabbed one of these little guys on my way through check-out at Essene one day, figuring it was the perfect size to be a nice dessert one night without making a commitment to a whole bar of chocolate.  The texture was smooth enough to seem creamy, earning it a savorability rating of 4.5 and the dark but sweet flavor brought out the deep berry notes in the Beaujolais I was drinking alongside.  Something I found a bit alarming and a little charming was when I opened the wrapper, a small square picture of a Green Darner dragonfly greeted me.  I don't know why I wasn't expecting that.  Bug Bites are certified organic by both the USDA and Oregon Tilth.  They are also gluten free, kosher, and vegan.  A serving size (see nutritional label ^) is 4 pieces, but I found one to be completely adequate for satiating my chocolate cravings for only 50 calories, 4g fat, and 2.5 g sugars.

 Equal Exchange Very Dark Chocolate (71%) absolutely lived up to its name.  The chocolate was extremely dark with a strange hint of fruit juice at the end.  I couldn't quite make out whether it seemed to be a berry or citrus flavor, but it wasn't overwhelming either way.  For savorability, this bad boy was the favorite, coming in at a perfect 5.  The chocolate is fair trade, kosher, organic, and the cacao comes from small worker-owned co-ops in Latin America.  If that doesn't get you karma points, please tell me what does!  
The nutritional information is a little alarming, but once again, this bar can be broken into sixths for long-term enjoyment, bringing your evening dessert to 92 calories, 7g fat (4g sat.) and 4.5g sugar for 4 squares of dark chocolatey goodness.

Newman's Own Organics Dark Chocolate (54%) was far sweeter than the others and almost fudge-like in texture.  Honestly, it was cloyingly sweet and it may have been the lower cacao content, but I would be borderline on labeling this as dark chocolate.  I suppose its saving grace was the lack of dairy that would deem it Milk Chocolate, although that does have me pondering what SoyMilk Chocolate might taste/feel like.  Unfortunately, the overwhelming sweetness lowered its rank on savorability to a 3.  The whole bar has 470 calores, 32g fat (19g sat), 41g sugars, 4g protein.  The bar is divided into 8 squares and 2 seemed an adequate dessert which would still set you up with the scariest nutritional profile yet: 117 calories, 8g fat, and 10g sugar.  As for karma to balance that mess out?  Well, they are USDA certified organic as well as Rain Forest alliance certified.  I love their cookies, but I'm really not impressed with the chocolate.

 Green & Black's Dark 70% will bring this party home.  I picked up one of the "fun-sized" bars, weighing in at 1.2 oz, which is only slightly above the recommendation for daily dark chocolate intake.  Yes, that's what I said - due to the happiness-inducing qualities of the flavanoids (antioxidents) present in dark chocolate, health/wellness professionals recommend eating 1 oz of dark chocolate daily, especially through the winter months when people are at risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  That's right, folks, put away your artificial sun lamps and buy yourself 100 oz of dark chocolate!

Anyway, this little bugger is the only chocolate on our round-up with a foreign accent: distributed internationally, these tasty little treats were made in Italy!  Like the other chocolates reviewed, G&Bs are organic and paired well with Beaujolais.  This bar was adequately dark, but not outstanding and not quite as smooth as the other chocolates.  The wrapper is sophisticated and attractive, but the chocolate itself started out a little "waxy" for lack of a better term, which influenced its overall savorability, earning another 3.  The best thing about this bar is its size - I found half the bar to be quite sufficient for an after-dinner treat, but even if you ate the entire "Little Taste of Green & Black's" you would still only eat 190 calories, 14g fat (8g sat), 10g sugars, 4g fiber, and 3g protein.

So, there you have it - my Super-Duper, Organic, Good-Karma, Vegan Dark Chocolate Round-up.  I sure hope it was worth the wait!  Did I miss anything you were hoping to see?  Did I miss anything you love and think I should eat?  Let me know!  Until tomorrow, Champagne wishes and dark chocolate dreams!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

super foodie post

Please pardon what is probably about to be a somewhat random post - there will be at least one connecting thread: everything will have to do with fabulous vegan food!

Most of the time when I post my menu, I do so at the conclusion of the post.  However, it seems like the best place to start this one, considering my Ode to Cookbook Browsing and my Look What I Can Do posts this week.  So, I did finally sit down with a glass of Beaujolais and Vegan on the Cheap last night and figured out what we're eating this week:

1. Caldo Verde with Vegan Gourmet grilled cheeses.  This looks like a hella hearty soup - potatoes and kale work together so nicely, texturally, taste-wise, and nutritionally.  I love the combination of the smooth, squishy potatoes with the chewy, stern kale.

2. Savory Sausage and Peppers which was dinner tonight, so you'll read more in just a moment, but I'll give you this one little hint:  it was so freakin' good.

3. Tropic of Tempeh Tofu - It really makes me sad that Mister crumples into a heap of hurt whenever he eats tempeh, because I really like it and never get to eat it.  Nevertheless, this recipe looked way too good to bypass just because Mister can't eat the main ingredient...so I changed the main ingredient.

4. Better Bean Burgers with oven fries and these super-slick "burger thins."  I can't wait to make this and photograph it because these things are awesome - they're like the Macbook Air of bread products.

5. Tuscan White Bean Pizza because Mister loves pizza and I love Mister.  And I love pizza.  And all things Tuscan.  Plus, it takes a pretty picture.

So, tonight's dinner was Savory Sausage and Peppers and it was delightful.  How can you go wrong with a skillet supper involving diced Tofurky, bell peppers, and sliced potatoes (among other things)?  Also, there is something magical that happens when you add thyme to potatoes.  It seems like most people associate rosemary with potatoes, but I think they missed the boat - Thyme is where it's at.

It looks just as good as it tasted.  Between the intensity of the Italian Tofurky and the herb and salt-rich sauce, I was able to limit myself to just one-and-a-half servings, preserving a decent bit of leftovers for later this week.  This dish smelled phenomenal while it was simmering, even drawing Mister away from his computer and into the kitchen (all 7 steps) to see what smelled so tasty.  I wasn't at all surprised that it tasted as good as it did, but its inherent attractiveness shocked the heck out of me.  I mean, look at it - it's gorgeous!

Breakfast was also stupendous - a girl has to get fueled up for a fun day of grocery shopping and baking for work potlucks, right?  As promised, it comes with another recipe.

Banana Pecan Oatmeal
serves 1 (but easily multiplied)

1 banana
1 cup of nondairy milk (I used Almond Milk)
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1 Tbsp agave nectar (although I find the banana, when very ripe, is sweet enough)
cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Bring nondairy milk to a light boil.  Shake in oats, stirring, then reduce heat to low.  Simmer 3-5 minutes, stirring often.  Meanwhile, break the banana into pieces and place it in a microwave-safe bowl.  Nuke on high for 45-60 seconds, then mash to near-liquid consistency with your spoon.  Pour oatmeal into the same bowl, along with half the pecan pieces and stir to combine with banana.  Taste and add agave nectar if necessary.  Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (if using) and remaining pecans.

Tomorrow will bring three blessings (we have to counteract that whole Bad Things Come In Threes thing somehow, right?):

1. For me: When I leave work tomorrow night, I will be halfway through my work week :)
2. For everyone at work: we're having a Thanksgiving potluck and surely, tasty food will abound.

Applesauce Softies from VCIYCJ, more in a minute

3. For YOU:  finally, after all your patience, The Great Chocolate Round-Up.  Yes, I promise.

So, Essene was having a sale last week and I took the opportunity to stock up on BOGO Santa Cruz Organic Applesauce.  There are a ton of amazing holiday recipes which recruit applesauce as a fat replacer, binding agent, or just plain fabulous flavor to incorporate into autumn eats.  One of the reasons I don't have a pantry is...well...because there's no room for one.  Honestly, I would give up my dishwasher to have space for a pantry.  The other reason I don't have a pantry is because even though I have the purest of intentions, when there is a sale that causes me to get things I wouldn't ordinarily buy or have no specific use for right now, I bring them home, thinking I'll store them somewhere until I need them, but then they stare at me until I do something with them.  Such was the case with my applesauce, so when I remembered this afternoon that I have a potluck at work tomorrow, I decided to try my hand at the Applesauce Softies that have been softly whispering to me since I got the book (within days of its release to bookstores).

The first step of the recipe involves reducing the applesauce by simmering it until it becomes more dense and concentrated.  The recipe says this should take about 25 minutes, but it took me about 45 minutes to reduce the sauce from 1 1/3 cups to 2/3 cup.  I had hoped that the simmering applesauce would fill my home with the tasty scent of autumn and apples, but it really didn't smell much as it evaporated the juices into the air of my apartment.  The cookies, on the other hand, smelled amazing!  Mister and I did a small sampling, to make sure I wouldn't accidentally poison my work-mates.  The taste is subtle but they are pillow-soft and rather light for cookies.  The best thing to compare them to would be muffin tops - the kind you want to eat, not the kind that make you avert your eyes out of courtesy and self-preservation.

One last tangent, then I'll let you go dream of chocolate in anticipation of tomorrow's round-up: I stopped into Essene today for my last test chocolate, a pizza crust, and hand lotion (can you develop a more disparate shopping list?) and came away with a bonus prize.

That is an organic Winesap apple.  Until today, I was unaware of their existence.  I still haven't eaten mine - I will probably save it to savor for breakfast on Wednesday morning, but I fear that I will become addicted to these the way I have recently become addicted to Honeycrisps.  I fear this because they are not inexpensive, but heavens!  Look at how red that apple is!  The deep crimson apple, along with my newly ebony hair and perpetually ivory skin made me feel something like Snow White...so I took a cheesy picture: enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

lifestyles are like a woman's purse

For many reasons not worth going into right now, we're [temporarily] back to being a one-income family.  We did that for years, in a sense, so we'll be fine, but right now I'm still adjusting.  I think lifestyles are like a woman's purse: the more space you have, the more stuff you manage to fit into it.  Mister and I were really good at living primarily on my income, but when he started working in the city, it was like we won the lottery.  At first, we stuck to our plan to still live off of my salary and save every penny he made so we could move into a house.  Over the past year or so, we started to allow ourselves little indulgences just because we could, so although I know we can live relatively comfortably off of just my paycheck, I'm having a little trouble [and some anxiety attacks] trying to remember how.

Part of my memory returned to me this evening as I stood in my kitchen plotting dinner.  I got distracted last night - my brain wasn't really with me, so I failed to construct the new menu.  I intended to do it before work today, but I slept late (because I'm freaking exhausted, as my last post may have shown) and dilly-dallied shamelessly for the first couple of hours I was awake, so I ended up making a mad dash for the train anyway and didn't get my menu done.  I also had to clean up the death and destruction wrought by the kitty while we were sleeping.

This is what the rose looked like last night:

This is what it looks like now:

Yes, it is considerably shorter and my Lenox bud vase is considerably more distributed...in tiny shards.  Bad Angst.  Fortunately, he was too traumatized by the catastrophic explosion of the crystal vase to shred the rose, so he just left it there in the remains of the first wedding gift we've lost.

So, that was a heck of a thing to wake up to after a night of anxiety and introspection.  Let's look at the bright side - there's one less vase to wrap when we get to packing for our Spring move!

Anyway, when I got home from work, I thought it would be nice to go out to La Fourno, an intimate Italian place a couple of blocks away.  I had a craving for a good, garlicky pasta dish with dark red wine, and maybe one of their fabulous salads.  Then I remembered we have no money for such frivolous things.  Then I remembered I'm actually a pretty good cook these days and that pasta sauce was one of the first "homemade" things I mastered with approval from Mister and his Sister.  So, I popped out the door and ran up to Superfresh for a couple of ingredients and came home to make an Italian feast complete with a rich pasta dish and crunchy-outside-pillow-soft-inside garlic bread...at about $1.75 a serving (which is substantially less than we would have paid at La Fourno).

Rotini with White Bean-Tomato Sauce
serves 6

12 oz Rotini
14 oz Fire Roasted diced tomatoes in puree
14 oz petite diced tomatoes, drained
15 oz cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
6 oz tomato paste
7 oz roasted red peppers, chopped
2 Tbsp Olive oil
4 large cloves of garlic, pressed or minced finely
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1/2 to 1 tsp sea salt (to taste)

Set a pot of water on high heat.  When it boils, add pasta and cook as package directs.
While waiting for the water to boil and pasta to cook, heat the olive oil on medium in a 2.5-qt saucepan.  Add garlic and give it a good stir, then reduce heat to low and saute for about 3 minutes.  Sprinkle on basil and marjoram, stir again and saute 3-5 minutes, being careful not to brown or burn the garlic.  Pour in both cans of tomatoes and the tomato paste, then stir well to combine.  Increase the heat to medium-low, bringing the sauce to a light simmer.  Stir in salt, Balsamic vinegar, and cannellini beans, then simmer, stirring occasionally, while the pasta cooks (about 10 minutes).
Once the pasta is al dente, drain and return to the pot.  Pour in the sauce and toss to coat.  Serve with garlic bread and vegan parmesan, and maybe a full-bodied red wine, if that's what floats your Italian-style boat.

Friday, November 19, 2010

may your days be merry and bright

Happy Friday!  We made it!

It blows my mind that this time next week we'll have gone through the first round of holiday eating festivities.  I'm looking forward to the holiday, seeing family, not working, and not going to work.
Yes, I wrote that twice on purpose.  What a week and I'm not sorry to bid it farewell!  I had this awesome Good-news-Bad-news story with Mister during dinner tonight:

The good news is the week finally ended and I get to breathe for a couple of days.
The better news is that next week I only have to work two days!
The bad news is that means I have to fit a whole lot of work into those two days.
The good news is that lots of work makes the days pass faster.
The bad news is that lots of work makes the days disappear too soon.
The good news is, once I get through them, I'll be off for five beautiful days straight.

That seems a good place to leave it.  Speaking of getting through things, we've gotten through the menu this final night with a beautiful blend of cultures and cuisines.

Tonight's dinner was Cajun Baked Tofu with Cajun Beans and Rice, both recipes from The Accidental Vegan.  I've made the rice-n-beans before - in fact, it is absolutely my favorite beans-n-rice recipe.  The Cajun tofu was new and a delightful addition.  Since the tofu seemed the obvious Protein in the meal, I opted to leave out the veg sausage called for in the recipe.  I also discovered, while cooking and after Whole Foods was too far away, that I had only one of two tablespoons of the prescribed worcestershire sauce.  I subbed in a Tbsp of tamari, since it has a darker savory taste and could fill in if I closed my eyes and wished really hard (which I did, and it seemed to work!).

I also subbed an 8 oz can of tomato sauce for the 1/2 cup tomato juice that was the key part of the tofu marinade, which resulted in a fun lacquered kind of situation.  I flipped the tofu halfway through cooking and spread the remaining "marinade" over top of the tofu slices.  I whisked some harissa into the mix in place of hot sauce and was quite pleased with the heat it lent to the marinade - the tofu and rice-n-beans played well together, and the whole Cajun melange made fast friends with the Georges duBoeuf Beaujolais I picked up on my walk home from the train tonight.  I had actually intended to pick up the Beaujolais Nouveau people keep saying they see, but all I could find was a 2009 vintage - but hey! It was on sale and had a little hang-tag telling me it was the best year ever for Beaujolais due to....blahblahblah....a bunch of stuff my brain is too full and too tired to fit in.

Let's just say I had a sip during dinner and had the exact same reaction that I had to my favorite summer wine.  Mister was quite amused.

Mister loves me.

I'm not gonna lie - by the time I made it in the door tonight, I wasn't sure I would be able to extricate myself from a chair if I sat down, so I just stood in my kitchen, still wearing my coat, hat, and gloves.  After giving me my kisses, Mister walked away and came back with something lovely he thought would make me happy.

Yessir, it sure did.

 Speaking of things that make me happy (yup, looks like it's that Random time of year), has anyone else noticed that Starbucks has the most brilliant marketing ever?  One year, someone said, "Hey, why don't we make happy red cups for the winter holiday beverages?"  To everyone's ineffable surprise and delight, the world responded by thinking that was just the cutest thing ever, so now, the minute that bitter chill begins to infiltrate the breeze, Starbucks launches the Red Cup Campaign.  It's brilliant and it totally works.  I'll admit, I bought into the hype - I wanted a red cup.

Admit it.  You do, too.
P.S. You can get a Toffee Mocha Americano (not just a latte).  You want one because they are incredibly tasty.  Follow your heart.  I'll be waiting with my red cup, too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

sometimes I lose it

One of my favorite parts of every week happens tomorrow night.  Yes, it's Friday, but it's not my non-stop, can't-slow-down social life that has me to excited: tomorrow night I get to plan my new menu.  Yes, I know that makes me a total dork, but I'm actually okay with that.  I truly enjoy sitting down with my cookbooks and thumbing through, thinking of new ways to wow the Mister and get the most out of the money I plunked down at some point for the cookbook.

It's really a soothing, creative process for me.  I have a whole ritual!  Here is how tomorrow night will go, give or take an exciting detour I may take on my way home from work:
Come home and make dinner
Clean up dishes
Open wine while dinner photos import
Post something fun and entertaining about dinner or how relieved I am that the week finally ended but OMG I can't believe the week is already over and next week is Thanksgiving and there's only one full week left of November
Then, finally, I will pour [another] glass of Beaujolais Nouveau (which just hit stores today!) and sit down to plan the new menu, including my part of Thanksgiving dinner.

The longer I spend developing my menu and poring over recipes, the more courageous I become.  The wine might help, but I've noticed this phenomenon even without my dessert buddy.  As I work my way through cookbooks I've perused possibly hundreds of times, my eyes urgently scanning the pages for one recipe I haven't made yet that doesn't contain an ungodly number of things Mister hates or might kill him, I become enveloped in adventure and make, at times, outlandish decisions I might have otherwise passed over.  As a result, at least once a month, I end up in my kitchen, staring at my menu and thinking, "Really, Natalie?" or "What was I thinking?"  I end up saving the "weird" recipe until I have run out of other options, and finally...

I make Curry Fennel Cauliflower Bake from La Dolce Vegan, and wonder when I became so self-doubting.  I mean, really, isn't it possible that I know what I'm doing by now and I can just trust the part of me that thought this recipe was a good idea in the first place?

It was every bit as good as it looks.  The spice blend melded with the cauliflower and rubbed itself into the tofu while it baked, creating a savory meal complete with the perfectly conflicting textures of cauliflower and tofu.  The peas provided a nice squish of sweet in an otherwise umami-dominated dinner and the rice balanced out the light heat from the pepper that made my lips tingle and burn toward the last few bites.

That's all for now, folks - tomorrow I'll be wading through the wealth of amazing recipes suggested by VegNews to round out the perfect vegan Thanksgiving.  I'm still overwhelmed by the volume of recipes collected in the email I received, so if my brain is spectacularly broken by tomorrow evening, I may save my poking around until Saturday.  Sleep sweetly, MoFos!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

biryani in a hurry

So, I have this weird thing that happens when I eat an apple.  I'm starting to think I may be the only person alive afflicted in such a manner, so please, if you also suffer from the problem I'm about to share, please let me know.  I feel so alone...  ;)

Anyway, I eat an apple and I'm full and happy because apples taste good and take a little while to eat.  It's apple season, so I'm presently chomping my way through at least one a day.  Here is my problem: I am ravenously hungry within an hour of eating an apple.  Not just a little hungry - so hungry I can't make dinner until I stuff an olive in my mouth to pretend I'm eating.  It's bizarre because it's not just that the apple has apparently digested quickly and abandoned my stomach - it's as though in the process, it hijacked everything else I ever ate and went hiding somewhere.  It feels sometimes like I'm actually hungrier after eating an apple than I might have been if I hadn't eaten anything at all.

Anyone else or am I just a freak who should consider a new favorite fruit?

I have another Biryani recipe, which I mentioned when I laid out this week's menu.  It was the first biryani I made and I proudly made it for anyone who would eat it because I thought it was so spiffy.  That recipe, though, is better relegated to Special Dinners, as it is quite time consuming.  Compared to tonight's Vegetable Biryani from La Dolce Vegan, my original recipe has far more ingredients and requires a great deal more effort, since there is sauteing and simmering and baking before the eating.  Tonight's biryani simplified the process, which I dearly needed by the time my hungry self got home.  A few simple but complementary ingredients, set to simmer together on the stovetop for about 20 minutes, which gave me a little time to heat up the oven, set off the fire alarm, and make some garlic naan.

Laborious and burdensome though it may be, I am trudging on through my taste-testing for the chocolate round-up I hope to publish this weekend.  It's difficult, eating square after square of high-quality vegan chocolate.  I do it all for you, dear readers. 

Okay, I guess I do it a little for me.  You can see, however, that the chocolate always seems to be propped up against a glass of red wine, which is my reward for putting myself through these vigorous tests... and dark chocolate and red wine are such great friends, each enhancing the other's best qualities, while affording me the feeling of luxury if only for a fleeting moment.

Stay tuned - this weekend should finish things up and see the round-up come to fruition!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

one, singular sensation

I can't believe it's only Tuesday - I'm exhausted and would like to go to sleep now.  Instead, I'm posting about one of my favorite meals!

I will never stop loving Punjabi Peppers and Tofu from La Dolce Vegan, but I have to admit, I loved it more tonight than I've loved it in nearly a year.  Why, you ask?  Well, because I got to sprinkle my newly acquired McCormick Gourmet Garam Masala all over it and it tasted so much better than my normal attempts to compensate for blends I don't like as much.

The recipe was contributed to Sarah from the creators of Matt & Nat handbags, which meant very little to me until a local eco-fashion boutique started carrying their line of bags.  I make this all the time so it comes together very quickly, which Mister and I both needed tonight.  I noticed something I've never noticed before, though, while I was explaining to Mister why it's so easy to whip up (besides remembering the steps after so many makings).

There is one of every ingredient.  1 Tbsp of olive oil.  1 of each color pepper.  1 tomato, and on it goes.  All the spices are 1 tsp.  Now that I've made that connection, it should be even easier to make because I have the ingredients committed to memory already and the steps are common sense.  It cooks up very fast because you are essentially layering your prep.  Get the rice steaming, then start the tofu sauteing while you chop the peppers and tomato.  Once you add the veggies, sprinkle on the three 1 tsps of spices, give a good stir, cover and leave it alone for about five minutes.  Voila!  Super Simple Sensational Supper!