Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Vacation Over... A New Beginning

Sorry for not posting in a while! Here's a random picture of Pear from the other day.

Well, the month is up. We've decided (actually, we probably made the decision before we really started the month-long "trial") to continue eating vegan. And living vegan as much as possible. It's been a fun month, trying all sorts of new things. It's also been a month of some pretty spectacular fails in cooking (hello brownies, burgers, chocolate pie...).

But fear not! I am putting together a new yet-to-be-named blog. This one will cover eating and living vegan, baby Pear (year 2!) and all the crafty stuff I like to make--life in general for the most part.

Thanks for following along! Will post other blog soon...ish.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Squash-filled Ravioli Ultimate Dinner

After having a delicious dinner at the neighbor's the other night (you know who you are!), Mr S and I were inspired to make our own ravioli. Please excuse the awful photography :(

And I tell you, we were successful! They turned out delicious, and luckily we made a double batch and froze a whole bunch of them. We used this recipe. And yes, you really do cook them for almost 15 minutes! We cooked ours for about 11-12 minutes, and while they were plenty tender, I probably would have been okay to cook them just a tad longer. Of course, this could depend on how large you choose to make the raviolis.

By the way, rolling out pasta dough without a machine is hard. Not mentally difficult, but physically tiring!

The ravioli got drizzled with a glaze made from fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice, rosemary, olive oil and corn starch. A side of sesame kale (from Vegan Cooking), some french bead, a bowl of french onion soup and a green salad completed the meal.

Vegan french onion soup is super easy. I just thinly sliced an entire medium onion, saute in vegan margarine until nice and brown, then add vegetable broth, salt and pepper. Done!

Cinnamon-Pecan Coffee Cake

After having a  big meal of chili the other night, the Mr and I were hankering for something sweet. Enter: coffee cake for dessert. In no time at all, I had this baby whipped up and in the oven. Takes only ~30 minutes to bake, and it was promptly devoured for dessert and breakfast.

The recipe comes from our old standby, Vegan Cooking. The only substitution I made was with the apple sauce--I used plum jam instead. I also went ahead with the little suggestion box by the recipe, and added 1/3 cup of finely chopped candied pecans.

Phad Thai

This noodle dish is an old standby, if I can ever remember to get the noodles out and soaking before dinner time actually rolls around. Luckily, the other day when I made this, I had the forethought to get the noodles out and soaking in cold water. I have tried the whole, wait-until-5-minutes-before-I-need-them-put-them-in-hot-water thing... with disastrously gummy results.

So, soak noodles for 2-3 hours (at least) before cooking.

  • 1 pkg. rice noodles
  • 2 TB minced garlic
  • 2 TB vegetable oil
  • 1-2 bunches of green onions, chopped
  • 1 pkg mung bean sprouts
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste, dissolved into 1/4 C water (use AS NEEDED)
  • 1 TB lime juice
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • scant 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 TB peanut butter
  • 1+ TB paprika
  • chopped peanut

I don't have a recipe for the exact amounts of flavorings I add to the noodles, but I will outline the basic idea and give some rough amounts. This is for an entire package of noodles, which will feed, on it's own, 2-3 people. Some coconut or even plain rice would go really well with this dish.

First, garlic is sauteed in veg oil for a couple minutes, then the wet noodles are added. Saute the noodles until they are soft, adding a little water as needed. Crank up the heat to med-high at this point to give everything a little smoky flavor.

Add green onions and some deep-fried tofu chunks (we get ours at Uwajimaya), or plain or flavored tofu. Add the flavorings--soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, paprika, peanut butter, sugar and tamarind water (1-2 TB at a time). Adjust other flavors as needed--predominantly the sugar (sweet), lime (sour) and soy sauce (salty). The perfect phad thai is the right balance between these three.

Fry just until everything is combined, then add sprouts and cook for 1-3 minutes. Top with chopped roasted peanuts. Sometimes I like a little shredded cabbage and carrot, too.

Chili Bowl

The inspiration for this meal comes from a dish by the same name at the vegan cafe Prasad. With the exception of the special sauces Prasad drizzles over the top (I have been much too lazy to experiment with sauces, and the dish is fine without them), this "chili bowl" is pretty much exactly the same.

The main components of the dish are a sweet vegetable/roasted garlic chili, poured over rice (the restaurant uses red rice, but basic brown will suffice) and topped with steamed kale and avocado slices.

Basically, I make regular chili, no TVP or meaty stuff in it, and add more sweetener (in this case, some evaporated cane juice we just got from Bob's) and some celery. A little extra cumin and coriander, less paprika/chili powder, and a nice sprinkle of cardamom seeds gives it a different taste "profile" that I think better suits the dish.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Enchiladas with Spanish Rice

Short update post for today. We made some fabulous enchiladas last week. For fillings, we used black refried beans, corn, TVP, onions and mushrooms. For a side dish, I made Spanish rice using some extra enchilada sauce and veggie broth. The trick for tasty Spanish rice is to use veg broth instead of water to cook the rice, and add garlic powder and enchilada sauce (or tomato paste with some seasonings). Overall, enchiladas have been really easy to veganize. In the past, we've also used the pre-made veggie crumbles or faux chicken strips as fillings, too.

A little Daiya cheese and avocado slices over the top makes a hearty dinner (and lunch the next day...).

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Vegetable Medley

After a trip to Sauvie Island's Pumpkin Patch, I had some corn on the cob that needed to be eaten, stat! This dinner was sort of a random collection of vegetable-based dishes, but it worked well and was a hearty meal.

My favorite was a hot pasta salad made with orzo. I chopped a few leaves of kale and some asparagus into small pieces, and lightly sauteed them with some olive oil. I tossed them with the orzo, plus some salt, pepper, garlic powder, more olive oil, and a few drops of both balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. It was so good I had it for breakfast the next day!

A baked acorn squash (from the Eugene farmer's market, of all places) drizzled with melted vegan butter and agave nectar made a good side dish, plus I made a quick soup for protein. The soup was yellow split peas and chopped chanterelle mushrooms cooked in veggie broth for about 30 minutes. Simple, but very flavorful.

Veggie Pizza

Armed with the Daiya cheese we bought at Food Fight!, we made some awesomely tasty pizza the other night. I used the pizza crust recipe from the side of a Bob's Red Mill flour bag, and changed it up by adding some dried basil and garlic powder (and a little extra salt, plus some pepper). This makes a really great crust, and takes only a few minutes to knead by hand. Which is, admittedly, not exactly my favorite part about making pizza dough...
Toppings included:
chanterelle mushrooms (I think we actually live off of these things lately)
yellow pear tomatoes from the garden
green onions
dried olives (canned black olives put into a food dehydrator... adds less moisture to the pizza)
Yves fake chicken strips
peppers from the garden

Instead of traditional tomato sauce, I simply smeared the dough with some pesto and olive oil. Yum!

The cheese was pretty good. It doesn't taste that much like dairy cheese, but it melts well and adds a creaminess to the pizza.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Pancakes/Lame Update

Sorry, no pictures this time!

These pancakes were literally so good that we didn't even spare a thought to snapping some photos. The recipe came from Vegan Cooking, and I was a little skeptical at first. I'd never had one--chocolate and banana, in a pancake? What?--but these were so awesome. With a side of hashbrowns and some faux sausages, this made a good dinner, and would make a good breakfast too.

A little backstory: we got the chocolate bar (I chopped it into chunks for the "chips"), Rice Dream brand I think, at Food Fight! in Portland. Nice store! I'd seen it before when Mr. S and I went to the Red and Black Cafe, but hadn't gone inside. So, we made a special side trip after picking up some cases of beer at the Rogue Brewery garage sale. It's pretty relaxing to go inside a store and not have to continually scan labels for non-vegan ingredients.

We also got some Daiya mozzarella cheese. I'm thinking... pizza. Like, soon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Veggie Burgers and Brownies!

Last night was burger night. Since Vegan Cooking didn't have the proper recipe, I surfed online and found this recipe for mushroom burgers. The recipe was, initially, a total fail. The resulting mixture was much too moist and resulted in a patty that fell apart in the pan and was very gooey inside. Besides, we burnt it a little. Check it out...
So, Mr. S added almost 1/2 C of whole-wheat flour to the mix, which helped astronomically. The patties kept their shape during cooking and the inside wasn't as gooey as the first. Topped with some vegan cheese slices, onion, avocado and lettuce, a delicious burger was born.

A side of sweet potato fries made it awesome, as well.

Making dinner last night involved a little music, too. We rocked out to Journey (here's Pear watching the video for Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)). Best. Song. Ever. From Journey, that is.

We also listened to one of my new favorites.

Because, baby girl, you shock me like an electric eel.

After our burgers, we enjoyed some delicious brownies. Now, I must admit these were not vegan. I found two (somewhat) forgotten eggs in the 'fridge, nearing their expiration date. So, they got made into these. The next time, I'm going to try them with some egg replacer we got yesterday. I did veganize the frosting by using vegan butter and agave nectar instead of honey. Probably some of best frosting I've had in a long time.

Roasted Cauliflower Curry Soup

Yesterday, since we had no leftovers from the night before, I whipped up a quick soup for lunch. The creaminess comes from using coconut milk and from sending some of the mixture through a food mill to puree it. Random comments about food mills: I really like mine. No electricity needed, and it works awesome for making perfectly smooth tomato sauce and mashed potatoes.

To make the soup, first roast some veggies! For soup for two, I cut up 1/2 head of cauliflower and 2 medium potatoes into med-size chunks, then placed them on a oiled pizza pan, along with a few large cloves of unpeeled garlic. I roasted them in a 400 F oven for about 30 minutes.

While this was happening, I combined 2 cups of vegetable broth with 1 can of coconut milk and brought it to a simmer, and added maybe 2 teaspoons of yellow curry powder (dry). Once the veggies were done roasting, I roughly chopped them into small pieces and added them to the simmering liquid. I squeezed the garlic out of the skins and added those to the pan, too. After boiling the soup for about 30 minutes, I sent a few cups through the food mill and added it back to the pot. Voila!

Sesame Broccoli "Beef" with Fried Rice

A couple nights ago I decided to use some Yves' faux beef strips to make this classic Chinese-inspired dish. The "beef" pieces tasted pretty good! Not as chewy as real beef, but very similar. With a very flavorful sesame-ginger sauce, the dish made a great complement to some vegetable fried rice I made.
For the sauce, I made up my own recipe:
1/2 C veg broth
3 TB soy sauce
2 TB oil
1 TB cornstarch
1 TB rice vinegar
1 TB mustard powder
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp chili oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2" ginger, minced

Combine ingredients into a bowl, then pour over broccoli and faux meat in saute pan, frying over med heat until broccoli is tender. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. The mixture is very strongly flavored, so it goes a long way.

For fried rice, I cook the rice in our rice maker with 1/2 veg broth and 1/2 water. Then, I briefly saute the rice with some diced carrots, garlic, cabbage, green onions and some frozen peas. A few tablespoons of soy sauce finishes off the dish. If I want stronger flavoring, I add garlic and mustard powder, and some sugar.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

TVP Tacos

The other night Mr. S made the taco recipe from Vegan Cooking. It was very simple and fast to make, and you use your own TVP rather than buying the somewhat expensive pre-made stuff.

While certainly edible, there were some things I would do differently. The recipe calls for using a can of crushed tomatoes as the liquid to rehydrate the TVP. This resulted in a sort of mushy... stuff. I think preparing the TVP differently (maybe veggie broth and seasonings, then saute until liquid is gone?) and using fresh diced tomatoes as a topping would have been a lot better.

Sorry about the crap picture. Still trying to figure out the best lightening for food staging after the sun goes down. Darn you, fluorescent light bulbs.

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

It was lazy dinner night. Mr. S came home late, and I had already eaten dinner. So, he whipped up a simple meal of spaghetti noodles, sauteed mushrooms added to store-bought tomato sauce and raw parmesan topping.

I'm brainstorming something delicious for dinner tonight. There is some cauliflower calling to me.

As a side note, I think I've taken more pictures of food in the last week than of my kid for the previous month. Hmm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Vegan Biscuits and Gravy

Breakfast this morning was courtesy of Mr. S once again. He was itching to try the biscuits and gravy recipe from Vegan Cooking. The recipe was relatively simple, considering the biscuits were made from scratch. Despite over-baking the biscuits, this meal was pretty good! I'm not really even a non-vegan biscuit-and-gravy person, and I still thought this made a good breakfast. The avocados we added on top tasted perfect.

I think a fruit salad would have been really great with this to lighten things up a bit. Next time, we're going to attempt to make our own breakfast sausages for the gravy. We'll definitely be eating this again.

Lentil, Kale and Potato Soup

After much deliberation about "What's for dinner?" last night, we finally settled on a simple broth soup. Eager to try lentils for the first time (!), this soup was born. And it was fabulous. Especially with a big blob of vegan butter on top. Goes great with some toasted whole wheat bread, too.

I even looked up some factoids on kale and lentils on Wikipedia--turns out, dry lentils are a quarter protein by weight and kale contains high levels of vitamin K, vitamin C and beta carotene, and some calcium. So this soup not only tastes great, but it packs a nutritional punch.

1 small onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped (are we seeing a theme?)
2 TB olive oil
3 C vegetable broth
3 C water
3/4 C dried lentils
2 medium potatoes, diced
3-4 kale leaves, torn up
salt and pepper

Saute onion, celery and carrot with the olive oil for a few minutes until soft. Add the broth and water, and bring to a boil. Add the lentils, potato and kale. Simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes until lentils are cooked. Season with S & P, and herbs if you wish. Easy, eh?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mushroom Spaghetti with Raw Parmesan

Another dinner from Vegan Cooking. We made it with chanterelles instead of button mushrooms, but everything else was according to recipe. We also made the raw parmesan "cheese" from the book.

My thoughts:
The creamy vegan sauce, made with silken tofu and soymilk, was okay. It wasn't bad by any means, but didn't make me jump up and down either. If I made it again, I would halve the wine it called for, and maybe use some smoked salt or something to give it a savory flavor. The raw parmesan was alright, not fantastic, but this could be my own failing: I used old almonds and the only sesame seeds we had around had been toasted (recipe calls for raw). Next time I make it I'll use different nuts, or maybe add a little soymilk powder to make it more creamy/cheesy?

While I wasn't super-impressed, Mr. S thought it was "really good."

The next time I make pasta, I think I'll just do wine, garlic, herbs and olive oil. Simple, and dirties fewer dishes since I won't have to use the food processor.

Chanterelle Mushroom Sushi

What kind of hunting do vegans do?

Mushroom hunting.

We went into the forest and returned with these:

And holy moly, are they delicious. We've had pasta, stir-fry, pizza and pita sandwiches with chanterelles. Always looking for something new to try them in, we brainstormed sushi. First, we deep fried them with tempura batter. To do this, you need a small-to-medium pan that can hold about 2 inches of vegetable (or other suitable) oil for frying. Since I don't have a candy thermometer, I turn it up to about med-high and test small pieces and adjust until it takes about 1-2 minutes to cook a piece of vegetable. This process can take a while, so I'd better get one of those thermometers!

Making tempura batter is super easy. I do flour and water in a ratio to make a batter a little thinner than cake batter. Then, I season the batter with garlic, ginger and mustard powder (just a little bit!). And, I add a few drops of sesame oil to the veg oil for frying for subtle flavor. Toss in the veggies, coat well, and get to frying! So, we deep fried whole chanterelles, along with some veggies like sweet potato, zucchini, broccoli and green onions, for snacking. Then, fried some strips of mushroom to make rolls.

Dipping sauce for tempura snacks:
Equal parts water and soy sauce, with a big splash of rice vinegar. Adjust to taste.

My favorite rolls were chanterelle, avocado, cucumber and toasted sesame seeds. Of course, after they were doused in soy sauce and wasabi.

Vegan Chili

After picking up some faux "ground turkey" from the store (made by Yves), we decided chili sounded awesome for these first days of fall. Plus, I had a bunch of tomatoes from the garden that were begging to be used. And I'm tired of making tomato sauce!

To make, I used:
3 cans of beans--pinto, red kidney and white northern (juice mostly drained off)
An equal volume of chopped tomatoes
1/2 package of ground turkey
1 med chopped onion

Simmer these together for about an hour, checking if it needs more liquid or some cooked off. After getting too hungry to wait any longer, I added some seasoning. My favorite is cumin, coriander, sugar and paprika, plus the usual salt and pepper. If I remember to, I add a bay leaf at the beginning of cooking as well.

Topped with sliced avocados instead of cheese, this makes a hearty dish for cold days! You could also, in theory, make your own ground turkey using TVP granules. I'll be experimenting soon with that and update appropriately :)

If I'm feeling real ambitious, I make a sweeter/less salty chili with chopped celery included, and pour this chili over brown rice and have a side of steamed kale. The trick to steaming to kale is to tear it up into pieces, and when the rice cooker beeps "done!" throw the kale on top and shut the lid. In a few minutes, perfectly steamed kale!

Vegan Whole-Wheat Pancakes

For breakfast yesterday morning, Mr. S made whole-wheat pancakes from Guide to Vegan Cooking. They were delicious! Much fluffier than normal pancakes, they also had a great cinnamon flavor. By using whole wheat pastry flour, they didn't taste like I would have expected. We'll be making these again.

I smeared mine with vegan Earth Balance faux butter and some homemade plum syrup I made with plums from my parents' tree. Yum!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tofu Spread, or, Adventures in No Recipes

I'll admit that I am totally addicted to Toby's jalapeno tofu pate. It makes great dip for chips and a tasty sandwich spread. But, it's a little spendy for our budget. The solution? DIY that stuff!

My ingredients:
Firm silken tofu, about 6 oz
1/4 of a green bell pepper
1/2 stick of celery
1-2 TB of vegan mayonnaise
1 TB nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1/8 tsp turmeric (for that lovely yellow color)
dry chives
salt and pepper

Finely chop bell pepper and celery. Mash all ingredients in a bowl with a fork. Salt, pepper and chives to taste, and feel free to adjust garlic and mustard amounts. I used more salt than I anticipated because the tofu is very bland. Let the mixture sit in the fridge for 24 hours to let all the flavors blend, if you can stand it. The longer it sits, the more the yellow color develops--don't worry if it looks a little pale to begin with.

Full disclosure: midway through writing the post, I had to get up and eat some. It's that good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hello Everyone

I'm excited to begin the maiden voyage of my first blog!

This blog is going to chronicle my family's adventure of "going vegan" for a month. A try before you buy, so to speak. Dad is vegetarian, Mom (me!) is an occasional omnivore, and Baby is, well, still a 'lacto-baby' who enjoys the occasional avocado or banana. Even though I eat fish a couple times a month, we never cook meat at home, so essentially, we're a vegetarian family, making 'going vegan' a much smaller leap than a family that eats a typical American diet.

Our reasons for going vegan are ethics and sustainability. Since so much has been written about these issues and how they are related to veganism, I won't go into detail. If you want to do some reading, Animal Liberation and The Ethics of What We Eat, both by Peter Singer, and Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman (cattle rancher gone vegan!) are great. The Omnivore's Dilemna, by Michael Pollan, is good for learning about the food industry in general.

We're using The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Cooking as our culinary inspiration. I know, it's not very gourmet, but the meals are simple enough for Mr. S to follow and all sound reasonably edible. Plus, hello modifying recipes! Besides that, the book contains lots of information on doing dairy, egg and meat substitutions that make it pretty easy to veganize what we already like to eat.

A note on the basic format of the blog--I'm basically going to "cook my way through" the Guide to Vegan Cooking, evaluating recipes, and post recipes/how-tos for my own vegan creations.

Let the vacation begin!