Tuesday, May 23, 2006

You know you're a procrastinator when...

I will never understand why I'll devote all the time in the world to my blog during the school year, when its the last thing I should do, but now when I'm only taking one correspondence course, I put it off. Weird!

So this means I've probably got a long post, with lots of pictures. I haven't really been inspired to cook lately, so I haven't been trying a whole lot of new things, but I did some groceries today, and I feel like cookin' again! Bam!

First, from Vegan with a Vengeance, I've mostly been making cookies and junk. A lot of the recipes seem complicated, so I haven't made any entrees or anything. I made the Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies. Cookie heaven! Chocolate cookies with an almond flavouring, with a dollop of jam in the middle. So freakin' cute! And delicious too. Between me, my mom, and my boyfriend, these didn't last long at all. I imagine these would be great with raspberry jam, but I worked with what I had, apricot and strawberry. Both were equally good. Its a really soft cookie.

Also from VwaV, Chocolate-Rum Pudding Cake. I've never made or eaten pudding cake before, and it is pretty good. It wasn't fancy or anything, but it was a great treat while watching CSI late at night...I loved how the "pudding" kind of went to the bottom of the cake. I tried it with ice cream, but preferred it all on its own. It was a pretty rich cake, best served with a glass of vanilla soymilk.

Then I made oatmeal banana raisin waffles from VwaV for breakfast. What a pain in the butt. I'm not sure if it was the texture of the batter or the waffle iron, or a combination of both, but the first batch was ruined. The batter stuck to the very well oiled iron and it still isn't clean! The second batch made it through, but I wasn't all that impressed with the waffles. They seemed kind of grainy. But there was a nice banana-cinnamon taste to them. I think I'd maybe try them again, to overcome the negative feelings from the first batch.

While we're on this "baked goods" roll, let me introduce Cootie's Coconut Cookies from How It All Vegan. These gems are like banana bread cookies, with the twist of coconut in them. Yum! These didn't last long either, and this time I was the only one eating them ;). Billy would love these, if I left the coconut out. I have dreams of trying this recipe again with chocolate chips instead of coconut. Mmmm mmmm. These were so simple to make, I whipped them up after a long shift at work and curled up with my book (Scar Tissue) to enjoy them warm from the oven. They are moist and sweet and full of banana flavour.

Now with all this junk food, I feel I have to present something healthy! Last week, I had a craving for a pasta dish that needed to be quick enough to make before work. Enter Vive le Vegan's Pureed Chickpea Pasta Sauce with Fresh Herbs. Oh my yum! It is so delicious and so easy to make, you just puree all the ingredients in a food processor, add some herbs and green onion and toss with cooked pasta. I really wanted to use my whole wheat bowtie pasta, so I did, but I think this sauce would work great with noodles too. And I didn't make enough pasta, so the sauce was a bit excessive, but that's my fault. The sauce has chickpeas, garlic, sunflower oil, lemon juice, miso, tamari, vinegar, dry mustard and some spices and seasonings, including turmeric, with soymilk. Fresh parsley and oregano were stirred in at the last minute, and it was all served with fresh lemon. I loved it! Its tangy and delectable.

So I'm all caught up now. Tonite I'm making cabbage rolls from La Dolce Vegan. I'll post about those soon.
Some life updates:
I saw the Da Vinci Code yesterday. It was alright, I was a little disappointed with some of the changes they made from the book, and I spent the whole carride home pointing out those changes :P I'm like that.
Billy got accepted to Sports Administration at LU, the same school as me...so next year we'll both be starving students together :) I'm really proud of him. He didn't get into the Phys Ed. program he wanted but he's excited about this program, and they only accepted 50 people. Its the only program of its kind, so its a great opportunity for him.

Well I'd best get cooking!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mac and Cheese Casserole

I got lazy for a few days...but I'm back with lots of pictures. The last recipe from Week 2 of Vegan Cooking for One was Piquant Chickpea Spread. Chickpeas, cumin, coriander, soy yogurt and Tabasco sauce...all mashed together and served on rolls or in pita. Watch the Tabasco on this one...I accidentally made mine extra piquant ;) Not bad...I still prefer chickpeas mashed with Vegenaise though.

Next thing I made: Black bean and lentil salad from La Dolce Vegan. I don't like bean salads usually. I find they're boring or just not tasty enough to keep eating. Sarah Kramer writes something similar in the book. But this salad is delish! It is very flavourful. And pretty. Its another "Wolffie Winner". Black beans, lentils, corn, red onion, red pepper, and a lovely oil and vinegar dressing. I love love love the colours in this salad. It would be perfect for a picnic or potluck. You could have it as a meal with a side or as a side, or as a quick and easy lunch.

I made a few things from Vegan with a Vengeance. Two of the recipes being for cookies. Billy approves of both so far, which makes the book worth buying already ;). I made the gigantoid crunchy peanut butter oatmeal cookies (or something to that effect) and the chocolate thumbprints (which I'll post tomorrow). The pb oatmeal cookies were huge! and so chewy and awesome. If you make these, get yourself a big glass of soymilk to up the perfection of this snack. I also threw in a few chocolate chips, which were great. I'll definitely add the chips next time too. For me, chocolate makes everything better. Yes, there is a big bite taken out of one of the cookies...the cookie monster snuck into the kitchen. Word of caution: these are the kind of cookies that don't seem done at all when they actually are. Take them out after the specified cooking time and just let them sit, they really do firm up. Some of mine burned at the edges because I thought they weren't cooked at all!

I had some food sitting in the fridge that had to be used up. So, using VwaV's Tofu Scramble as inspiration I threw together a breakfast dinner before work. Tofu scrambled with collards, tomato, carrot, mushrooms, onion, and garlic with seasoning (turmeric, paprika, cumin, salt) and nutritional yeast. It ended up being more veggie than tofu, but it was a good, quick, nutritious meal to fuel me up before work. I served it with some cauliflower and cinnamon raisin muffins.

I was browsing through a "magazine" that Kraft sent to my mom. It had a bunch of recipes using their products, of course. I decided to veganize some, just to get back at 'em, and because they looked yummy. The first one I experimented with was the "Cheesy Mac-topped Casserole". It is now Melissa's mac'n'cheese casserole ;). Here's how I veganized it:

I made the macaroni and cheese recipe from La Dolce Vegan (you can also use your own recipe or one from another source). I would use about one and a half cups of uncooked macaroni to use on the casserole.

The rest of the ingredients are:
1 pkg. ground round (I used President's Choice)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 can (19 oz.) Aylmer Accents Petite Cut Tomatoes with Garlic and Olive Oil, undrained
2 cups frozen green beans, thawed, drained
1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese ( I used Earth Island's Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare the mac and cheese. Meanwhile, cook the ground round with the garlic and oregano in a large nonstick skillet for 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes with their liquid and the beans; mix well.

Spoon meat mixture into 13x9-inch baking dish; top evenly with prepared mac and cheese. Cover with foil.

Bake for 30 minutes or until heated through and bubbling. Remove from oven; uncover. Sprinkled shredded cheese over top. Put back in oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

Makes 6 servings.
You can make this ahead of time by assembling the casserole (without shredded cheese) and covering for up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, bake at 375 F for 40-45 minutes or til heated through. Continue as directed.

This is my first attempt at making my own recipe, so I wasn't expecting any miracles. I found it was okay, but the flavour improved the next day as leftovers. Billy said it needed more seasoning, possibly some chili powder or something. But I'm not *that* creative yet, haha. All in all, I'd rather just eat the delicious mac and cheese on its own, but I think this casserole is well rounded, with whole wheat pasta, protein and nutrients from the fortified ground round and veggies from the tomatoes and green beans. Plus the awesomeness of the cheese :P. It was pretty easy to make. I can see myself making this ahead of time on a weekend during the school year and just baking it on Sunday or Monday. The leftovers would last me almost through the week.

I'm sure many of you awesome cooks out there can think of some variations and improvements...which I'd really like to hear about if you do!

Well this post was a long time in the making, but I finally got through it. Tomorrow I'll post the cookies and cake and waffles I made and will be making from VwaV.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Food is Good

One thing I'm really enjoying about following the weekly meals from Vegan Cooking for One is that the meals are so easy to make. Its nice to not have to worry about what's for dinner, and the meals pack in a lot of veggies. They may not be the most flavourful or original meals, but they are good and the point is that you can get your dinner ready in little time. I would really recommend this book to new vegans or vegetarians who don't know what to make and are a little apprehensive. Its a good way to break in new habits. Plus the recipes don't make more than two servings at the most, so if you don't like it, there isn't much waste. For the most part, the meals have provided me with the perfect amount of leftovers for the next day's lunch. I think I'll use this book a lot during the school year. That way I can get in a healthy meal without too much time or planning.

Yesterday's dinner (and today's lunch) was vegetable fried rice. Remember eating Chinese fried rice with the little bits of egg in it? Well this recipe mimics that with mashed tofu, without the grossness/unhealthiness of eggs. It is quite yummy. This meal can be made even faster if you've got leftover rice sitting around (which I did, I prepared twice the amount of brown rice needed for Monday's meal to use last night). Its a simple recipe, with sauteed onion, carrot, collards, peas, bean sprouts and tofu with soy sauce, pepper and topped with roasted almonds and sesame seeds. This recipe made too much for me to eat in one serving, so I saved some for lunch today. I served the dinner with brussels sprouts (one of my favourite veggies).

Today's dinner was a welcome change from the stirfries; Chickpea burgers! Mmm mmm these were good. A little mushy on the inside, but that wasn't a big deal. The burgers were made by mixing mashed chickpeas with soy yogurt, tomato paste, soy sauce, and marjoram; a spice I don't get to use very often. Oh yes, and breadcrumbs. These were made into three smallish patties and coated in flour. They were then refrigerated for half an hour. They can easily be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge as long as you need. Then they were fried in some olive oil until browned. I ate one in a whole wheat hamburger bun and one on its own. I was too stuffed to eat the third, so that's lunch tomorrow! For veggies, I had cauliflower and baby corn. I believe this was my first time making "burgers", and it was really easy with a great turnout.

I work a split shift tomorrow (at lunch and then at dinner) so I made tomorrow's dinner tonite, so I can bring it with me to work and eat between shifts. Spaghetti stir fry. The week's meals are all very similar, but the point of that is being able to use up all the groceries you buy for the week...and they all have a slight variation, so its not like you eat the same thing every day. This meal is whole wheat spaghetti mixed with sauteed tofu (I mashed the tofu instead of dicing), green onions, garlic, fresh ginger, green pepper, mushrooms, beansprouts, soy sauce and topped with diced cucumber. I tried a bite to make sure I'd like it, and it tasted awesome.

I went to the library last night and picked up some cookbooks. Vegan with a Vengeance and The Big Book of Quick and Healthy Recipes. I've heard rave reviews of VwaV and wanted to try out a few recipes before buying it to add to my lovely collection of vegan cookbooks. For all you fans out there, what one recipe would you recommend to really sell me? I was all set to make the oatmeal pb cookies and chocolate thumbprints, but decided against it, because I don't think I could stop at one cookie!
The Big Book really intrigued me. Its not a vegan book but the author gives vegan options for every recipe! So instead of lamb chops, it'll say to use seitan. Hopefully I can find some time to try a few recipes from that one too.

I'm still waiting for most of my marks back from school...so far I've got a 95 and an 87...hurry up LU!

For Catherine :)

Cream of Tomato and Basil Soup

From La Dolce Vegan, by the lovely Sarah Kramer :)

-1 small red onion
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-1/2 cup vegetable stock
-14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
-1/2 tsp. salt
-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
-1 cup "milk"
-1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
-1 tbsp. maple syrup

In soup pot on medium heat, saute the onion in oil until translucent. Add the stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover with lid and simmer for 6-8 minutes. Stir in the "milk", basil and maple syrup. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 2 large or 4 small servings.

You can serve it with some crusty bread and a salad, and can use up some leftover rice by tossing it in the soup.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Day 3 and muffins

Yesterday's meals consisted of all new recipes/ideas. Breakfast was a simple fruity smoothie from Calciyum. It was pretty good. It had oj, orange, strawberries, silk tofu, vanilla and maple syrup. I was too lazy to cut up the orange very much so there were a few chunks in the smoothie, but I liked them. The recipe makes a lot so that's all I had til lunch.

Lunch was cream of tomato and basil soup from La Dolce Vegan, served with multigrain crusty bread and salad. The soup tastes sort of like canned tomato soup but better! The basil lends so much flavour to the soup and I enjoyed the pieces of onion. With canned tomato soup, I practically have to put in a whole pack of crackers to eat. That's why I love homemade soup, you rarely need crackers to be satisfied, there's so much texture and flavour.

Dinner was week 2's Tuesday dinner from Vegan Cooking for One, Mediterranean noodles. Yum! My favourite dinner from the book so far, and very simple. Whole wheat spaghetti tossed with margarine and Vegan parmesan and topped with a sauce that has green pepper, onion, mushroom, veg stock, tomato paste and seasonings. Quite delicious. I really liked the parm on the spaghetti, I'll definitely be doing that again! I served the spaghetti with some stirfried collards with fresh lemon.

Last nite, I made some cinnamon raisin muffins from Table for Two for breakfasts and snacks. The book also focuses on smaller servings, so it makes 6 small muffins. I didn't take a picture, they're nothing special in the looks department, but they taste pretty good. I had one for breakfast this morning with a banana and I was pretty happy with the results.

I can' t wait to finish this week's meals, I have a lot of plans for next week!

So as I said earlier, I went to the dentist yesterday, and its all good...no cavities :) Things also went well with my academic advisor. He told me that with my grades I should go into medicine...that was a nice self esteem boost, and reassuring to know that if I wanted to, I could. He also told me I'm all clear for next year, and I actually have some room in my schedule in the fall, so I dropped one of my spring courses and am taking it in the fall...less work for me this summer :)

Hopefully I can post tonite's meal later on.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Day 2

For breakfast this morning I made the rich and simple pancakes from CalciYum! and topped them with some leftover raspberry maple syrup from Vive le Vegan. I also had a yummy orange with it. The pancakes are made from whole wheat and soy flour with allspice and cinnamon. There's also soft tofu, figs and maple syrup in the pancakes. These were pretty good. I made the pancakes pretty small so they required less cooking time. I also halved the recipe. I ate outside this morning in the sun to get some Vitamin D too :)

Lunch was leftover pilau and I also had a snack of edamame, an apple and a few almonds.

Dinner was Monday's dinner from Vegan Cooking for One, peanut butter-y stirfry. The veggie stirfry consists of onion, carrots, green beans, collards, and bean sprouts with tofu and a peanut sauce. It was pretty good. I don't like eating cubed tofu so I mashed it up and browned it, which I do like. It made a lot of food again but I was ravenous and ate most of it. Oh yes, it was served on a bed of brown rice. So I didn't get much variety in my grain servings today, but that will change eventually.

Billy and I went for a walk at sunset tonite. It was so nice out today! I love spring :D

operation: ME

Plans are underway for a new me. Well not completely but I need to start taking care of myself more, in all areas of my life. Step 1: a dentist appointment tomorrow morning. I haven't been in a while (shame on me) and really need to stop using school as an excuse for not doing things. Step 2: Appointment with my academic advisor tomorrow afternoon. I'll find out once and for all if all my credits and courses are in line so I can stop speculating. Step 3: I need to make an appointment for a *full* physical. I haven't had one since grade 12 (18) and I'm now 21. Step 4: take control and get my body back. I'm becoming a fat slob. I hate all these attempts I keep making. I'm going to dedicate myself to my wellbeing. My godmother bought me The Idiot's Guide to Being Vegetarian and The Vegan Sourcebook at a yardsale, so I'm going to bone up on nutrition and start exercising a lot more. I did yoga yesterday, my Jorge Cruise's 8 minutes in the morning this morning and I also walked to the market. Anyways, enough about that...FOOD!

The other day I wanted to make something for lunch that wouldn't take too long but that was still healthy and homemade. So I made the cauliflower potato soup with nutmeg from La Dolce Vegan. It was pretty good...it was even better the next day. As with most soups the taste improves as the flavours have time to blend and establish themselves. So maybe not the best "Last minute" soup but still very yummy. I really like cauliflower in soup. I didn't have any fresh cauliflower though so I used up the rest of my frozen ones. Its nice to have those on hand for situations exactly like this, because cauliflower is not a staple in my fridge.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this week I'm following the menu plan from Vegan Cooking for One. The cookbook gives a grocery list for the week and then there are recipes for Sunday lunch, dinner and dessert, weekday dinners and Saturday lunch. The book claims the recipes make enough for one, but so far I find that its still too much food for one sitting. It does make a lot less than some other conventional recipes though. Basically, it leaves you with leftovers for lunch, which is a bonus. For anyone who has the book, I am doing Week 2 of the Spring/Summer recipes.

So Sunday lunch was basque salad. I did most of the prep work Saturday night so I could just throw it all together at lunchtime. Its a simple recipe. Its roasted red pepper strips and sliced tomato on whole wheat toast with a dressing made of oil, vinegar, paprika, tomato paste, garlic salt and pepper. I roasted the pepper and scalded and skinned the tomato the night before. I had never done either one, but the recipe explains how to do it and I had fun roasting and skinning the peppers!

This is a recipe best eaten with a knife and fork. With the first piece of toast I used my hands and it was quite the mess, and the toppings kept falling off onto my pineapple on the plate. Afterall, you are putting a whole pepper and tomato onto two pieces of bread...that's a lot! The second piece was better with a knife. The recipe was okay...it wasn't gross or anything but I doubt I'll make it again.

Dinner was vegetable pilau special. This was kind of cooked the way a casserole would be but didn't end up looking like it on the plate. I made the turmeric-spiced rice the night before in my steamer to save time. The turmeric stained the container bright yellow :(. On top of the rice there was onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, chili powder, tomatoes, carrot, peas, green bean and slivered almonds. All in all, a pretty good dish. Again, I don't think I'd make it again any time soon but I did like it. The almonds added a much needed crunch.

Most of the prep work for the dessert was done the night before too. It was strawberry "cheese". Now this, I would make again. The recipe said to hang soy yogurt in cheesecloth over a bowl for several hours or overnight. The yogurt would then resemble fromage frais. I don't know if mine did, but some liquid did drip out and the yogurt became thicker. Then I refrigerated it overnight. Then all I had to do was mash a few strawberries (organic) in a small bowl and add the yogurt and some sugar and mix it all together. Mmmmm I loved it! Of course, this recipe only make a single serving, so I gobbled it up really fast. I used a tablespoon or a bit more of sugar, but if the strawberries had been sweeter I wouldn't have needed as much.

So all in all, Sunday was a good day food wise ( I had Wolffie's chocolate walnut loaf from LDV for breakfast with raspberry jam...I'm so naughty!) and although I wasn't blown away by the recipes, I enjoyed them and can say I tried a lot of new things!

Today's dinner is a stirfry...photos and deets to come later.