Saturday, June 26, 2010

Onions and Garlic

This week we had a lot of (you guessed it) onion and garlic-based meals. I made the French Onion Pie from The Vegan Table, or to be more precise, french onion pies, because it actually made two pies. The filling was a yummy combination of caramelized onions, tofu, soy milk, nutritional yeast, and spices. I bought frozen pie crusts instead of making them myself, which were not only organic, but also tasted almost-homemade! Unfortunately, I don't remember the brand name, just that I found them at Whole Foods.

Anyway, the french onion pies were a great contrast of creamy, cheezy filling and tender pie crust. I served them with the Marinated Lemon Zucchini from Vegan Italiano. I marinated the zucchini overnight in an olive oil, lemon, and spice blend, and then broiled the veggies for just a few minutes. Perfection!
I've been really into making soups lately, and had a crazy amount of garlic bulbs lying around. It was the perfect excuse for making Glorious Roasted Garlic Soup from The Garden of Vegan. I must warn you that this packs a serious garlic taste. Wow! I love roasted garlic anyway, but paired with shallots, onions, and potato, it's amazing.
The rest of the week has been rather hectic, so I've made quite a few "repeat" dishes, ones that that are both simple to prepare and super yummy. Unfortunately, that means I don't have a lot of food pictures to show off this week.

Last night J and I went to WYEP's Summer Music Festival, a great free music festival we've never been able to make it to in the past. Happily, the line-up included Sarah Harmer, whose music I love! Here's a picture of her and her band onstage. I was so happy because they performed "Basement Apartment" and "Uniform Grey," my favorite songs from her first album!
The stupid camera ran out of batteries before Nicole Atkins and the Black Sea took the stage, so no more pictures. But let me assure you, they were very, very good. I'd never heard Nicole Atkins' music before and was very impressed. J, who played guitar for years, was particularly impressed with the female guitarist (whose name I don't remember), who shredded it up. I don't know a thing about guitar playing, but even I could tell that she was good. All in all, it was a great music festival, and the perfect way to end a particularly grueling work week.

I know Saturday is typically the start of my cooking-frenzy-madness, but it started out early in the morning with a blood test (successful this time, I'm always grateful when they can actually find my tiny veins!), and by the time we got home from running various errands, I felt way too exhausted to try a new recipe. The Nabeyaki Udon from The Kind Diet  is incredibly soothing to both cook (something about adding all the brightly colored vegetables, one at a time, to simmer in a simple shiitake mushroom broth) and eat. It's also one of my new favorite comfort foods, so I made a big pot of it, and we mellowed out in front of the TV.

Tomorrow I should be back to my cooking-like-a-maniac self, so expect more pictures very soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sometimes Cooking is a Family Affair

This weekend my entire family got into a crazy cooking spree. It started with salsa. Two types of salsa, the tomatillo green salsa I've blogged about in the past from Viva Vegan!, and a red salsa (from a mix). We had to buy seven pounds of tomatoes.
My mother, hard at work boiling tomatoes and tomatillos.

J, chopping massive amounts of cilantro.
My brother, checking out the onions (a very serious duty).
A sampling of the finished product. The salsa was a bit salty, but had a mildly spicy taste from the banana peppers we added.

The green tomatillo salsa was really spicy this time, especially on Saturday. I remembered too late that I had seeded the jalapenos when I made this salsa before. It mellowed a little by today, however, and the flavor evened out to resemble the deliciousness I remembered last time. Here it is, in my cat-shaped shoyu bowl.
Another big project this weekend was making peanut butter mochi. I found the recipe here, from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin website. Last time I went to Hawaii, I had the most delicious peanut butter mochi, and wanted to try making my own ever since. I was a little apprehensive because I'd only made one variety of mochi before, a butter mochi that contained large amounts of (you guessed it) butter and was molded into a cake pan. But with a lot of family assistance (my Mom and brother basically assembled these on their own while J and I were making dinner), we produced a bounty of peanut butter mochi. We used Peanut Butter & Co's white chocolate peanut butter for the filling instead of plain peanut butter, and it turned out to be a wise choice. This is beyond amazing. You must, must, must, try this recipe.
A close-up of the mochi.
And since this post is so photo-crazy, who not add a few more? Here's one of our happy kitties.
And here's one of J and I, taking a break after an intense Strip District shopping marathon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oh Yeah!

To celebrate my mother and brother coming to Pittsburgh for a visit, we went to Oh Yeah! Ice Cream & Coffee Co.  J and I recently discovered that they have vegan ice cream options (thanks Nina and Jeff!), and were completely blown away by the delicious soy ice cream.

Last time I had the soy vanilla bean. This time I tried the soy chocolate with two mix-ins, peanut butter and Newman-O's. With a waffle cone, of course. Their swirl machine does a magical job of blending the mix-ins in completely, so that you feel that you're inventing your own flavor of ice cream.

Here's a picture of my brother, holding my waffle cone and his concoction of Big Lebowski ice cream with a brownie mix-in.
 Needless to say, I'm really hyped up about Oh Yeah! Ice Cream & Coffee. They offer 100 varieties of mix-ins, and I want to eventually try all of them (well, not the bacon, so almost all).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This will have to be the shortest blog entry yet. I made the Elegantly Simple Stuffed Bell Peppers from The Vegan Table (yes, that cookbook again). 

Let me just say, this was both elegant and simple, and very pretty as well. I did omit the raisins and sub short-grain brown rice for long-grain. The ground almonds were especially nice mixed into the filling. Another summer hit, even though I did have to use the oven.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No-Queso Quesadilla and the Tempeh Dilemma

So far this week, we had one amazing meal and one that was mediocre.
No-Queso Quesadilla is another recipe from The Vegan Table. It's simplicity at its best -- quesadillas with a filling of homemade hummus and a bit of salsa. I'd never made homemade hummus before (I know,  shocking), and found it difficult to get the right creamy consistency. I looked up the hummus recipe in 500 Vegan Recipes, and increased the amount of olive oil and tahini accordingly.

Don't let the picture fool you. This may look like a plain old quesadilla, but it's not! Hummus is the perfect filling for quesadillas. We'll definitely make this again, especially when it gets really hot outside and I don't feel like turning on the stove.

Next up was Hoisin-Glazed Tempeh with Green Beans and Cashews, from the March issue of Vegetarian Times. The hoisin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic seemed as if it would be a flavorful combination, but I found it rather plain. Maybe some of my ambivalence is due to the fact that I like tempeh the least of the vegan proteins/meat substitutes, the other two being tofu and seitan. I'm still getting used to the nutty, sometimes bitter taste.
I also served this dish over soba noodles, and maybe brown rice would have been a better choice. At any rate, I will be adding a lot of sriracha to the leftovers to liven things up.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mini-Post #2

For dinner tonight, I made Falafel Burgers from The Vegan Table. I was supposed to make a cucumber dipping sauce for the falafels, but couldn't find a container of plain soy yogurt at Giant Eagle, and was too lazy to backtrack to either Whole Foods or the Co-op. So instead we dipped the falafels into Trader Joe's cilantro and jalapeno hummus.
J used the cucumber to make a light summer salad. Mmmm. Cucumbers sprinkled with salt is pretty divine.

The falafels were really good. Next time, I'll use a little less bread crumbs, as my patties ended up a bit dry and crumbly, and rather difficult to flip with the spatula.

The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every OccasionThe Vegan Table, by the way, is a beautiful cookbook. It is reminiscent of something Martha Stewart might put together, if she was a vegan. There are very lovely pictures of almost every recipe (I'm a big advocate of pictures in cookbooks, the more the better), and tasteful menu plans. I think everything looks great, so expect to see at least two more offerings from The Vegan Table this week.

Mini-Post #1

J and I go to the library at least once a week. It is my main source of great vegan cookbooks, after all! It's really tough to find parking on Sundays, probably due to the fact that all meter parking is free. It isn't unheard of to drive around for ten or fifteen minutes before we find a spot, and J isn't the most patient driver in the world.

So this Sunday, I came up with a plan. We would get to the library at 11:30, half an hour before it opens, and go have lunch across the street at Schenley Plaza, which in addition to an extremely green field and old-fashioned carousel, has a few food kiosks and a nice tented space with little tables and chairs. One of the kiosks is run by The Milky Way, a restaurant in Squirrel Hill that is both kosher and has vegetarian/vegan options.

I ordered the veggie burger, partly because it was advertised as being their most famous item.
This had a surprisingly meat-like texture. I had J take a bite to verify that it wasn't actually a meat product. The patty was a little dry (a problem I eradicated with lots of ketchup), but otherwise very tasty. I will definitely have this again if I have a craving for a hamburger.

Once at home, I made a batch of Quick Corn Relish from The Joy of Pickling . I've become a bit obsessed with the idea of pickling, preserving, and canning after reading Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally. When I was a teenager I helped my mother cook and can a few things over the years -- salsa, and once a surprisingly sublime dandelion jelly. It was fun, and frankly kinda thrilling to open the cupboard and see rows and rows of bottled goodness that we had made ourselves.
I also like the idea of knowing exactly where my food comes from. Unlike the brand name jar of salsa in the grocery store, we picked our own tomatoes and jalapenos. There was no long list of unpronounceable and questionable ingredients. Tomato, jalapenos, onions, vinegar, salt. That was it.

So I have a lot of elaborate plans involving pickling and preserving, but decided to start with an easy, quick-pickling project. The recipe called for raw sweet corn kernels, sweet or mildly hot peppers, an onion, a variety of spicing, and apple cider vinegar.
Here it is, in a recycled Mrs. Renfro's jar. It will be pickled in two days, can't wait! Oh, and yes, that is a Shrek toy posed next to the jar. This is J's artistic input. He got (momentarily) very excited about having Shrek in the picture. And no, I'm not secretly hitting the McDonald's drive-thru in the middle of the night (or at any other time, for that matter). The Shrek toy was a gift from my mother-in-law.

I used to think toys included with fast food meals was a great idea. Sometimes I would specifically buy a Happy Meal to get a movie franchise toy from McDonald's. Now: not so great. At least not for the kids ordering and eating the food in order to get the toy. My generation, and every generation after mine, was brought up on fast food and convenience food like frozen dinners and sugary boxes of cereal. Is it a concidence that heart disease and type two diabetes is inflicting a large percentage of the population? I don't think so.

I haven't had a fast food meal since January, and I'm so thankful J and I don't eat at those places anymore. It was too salty, too sugary, and too processed, and frankly, we can do a lot better at home. We enjoy and thrive on our home-cooked meals. I can't exactly say that about the fast food hamburgers and fries we used to eat two or three times a week.

And speaking of the relationship between health and diet, here is the website for Forks over Knives, a documentary coming out this fall. Looks really good, and I like the catchy yet thought-provoking title.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mexiquinoa and Sauteed Jalapeno Corn

This week we've been eating a lot of quick and easy dishes. Mexiquinoa from 500 Vegan Recipes is a good example. All I had to do was cook the quinoa (I picked red over white), and then stir it into a mixture of salsa, jalapenos, black beans, and corn.
Here it is, pictured with a couple of sweet potato pierogi

I guess I was really in the mood for corn and jalapenos this week, because I also made Sauteed Jalapeno Corn from Vegan Soul Kitchen. This was wonderful with sweet fresh corn, and spicier than I expected. I didn't seed the jalapenos though, which may have had something to do with it. 

There are actually eight more ears of corn in the refrigerator, waiting to be shucked, so expect to see a few more corn-based meals!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Multitude of Breakfasts, Lemon Chickpea Lentil Soup, and Risotto

J and I had the buckwheat groats for breakfast, and they were excellent. J ate them with sliced banana and strawberries, and I just had strawberries (I can't eat bananas raw, only in baked goods). The groats are so much better than cereal. I think we'll be making a lot of this in the future. 
On Sunday morning I realized I only had a tablespoon or so of dark chocolate peanut butter left. Bianca of Vegan Crunk had a recent post about oats in a jar, so I knew exactly what to do.

Here's the almost empty jar.
I cooked half a cup of oatmeal, and added it to the peanut butter jar with a drizzle of sugar-free syrup.  
It might not look like much (sorry for yet another blurry picture), but it was a mac-daddy of a breakfast. Yum. I can't wait until we use almost all of the white chocolate peanut butter ...
 I made a big pot of Lemon Chickpea Lentil Soup from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan. After months of crazy cooking adventures, a soup like this seems like the easiest thing in the world. Just throw everything in a pot, let it simmer, and then blend it to creamy consistency. I made it on Sunday morning, and we took some of it to the park for lunch. It has a taste reminiscent of warm hummus, and was great with tortilla chips.

For dinner, I made the Risotto with Oyster Mushrooms, Leeks, and Peas from The Kind Diet. Or to be slightly more accurate, I used a mixture of button and baby bella mushrooms, not oyster mushrooms. I'd never tasted risotto before, much less made it. It reminded me of that cliche about watching paint dry. That's how I felt, patiently pouring ladle after ladle of heated water into the pan, stirring constantly, waiting for the water to absorb before adding more. Yawn. Halfway through, I picked up a book and starting reading while stirring (the book is Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally. I'm enjoying it, despite the fact that the authors, both vegetarians, decided to start eating seafood because they felt a balanced vegetarian diet wasn't possible within the parameters of their 100-mile diet).

The drudgery was worth it in the end. The risotto was creamy and wonderful, with a tart sweetness from the added mirin. Here it is, with some chilpotle mashed yams. I love the contrast of colors.

I have another comp day tomorrow (yay!), so expect more food pictures very soon.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Blue Grape and Buckwheat Groats

I found this picture on our camera. It's taken at Fallingwater, but as you can't tell FW trees from other random trees, I decided it was safe to share the pic with you. Beautiful, huh? We had a great time there.

Okay, okay. Back to the food. I borrowed my first raw cookbook from the library, Raw Food/Real World. I was kind of disappointed, because a lot of the recipes called for the use of a dehydrator, which I don't have. But everything looked really yummy and I was determined to try something, even if just a drink. Which is exactly what I made this morning.

This is the Blue Grape.
This great colored, summer-yummy drink is actually made out of grapefruit, not grapes. It also has some agave nectar and blue-green algae in it to give it the pretty hue. J and I were both a little apprehensive about the blue-green algae powder, because it smelled really ... well, algae-like. We both like seaweed and sea vegetables, but I wasn't convinced algae and grapefruit belonged together. Luckily, you couldn't taste anything but grapefruit and sweetness. Plus, you get the added benefit of the algae, which, according to Raw Food/Real World, is a great source of protein and B12.

I confess, it was a little weird to drink something other than water. Since embarking on this journey away from meat and processed foods, I've made a conscious effort to drink nothing but water and the very occasional diet soda. In the past I used to drink a LOT of soda. I'd even drink it for breakfast. And when I wasn't drinking soda, I was drinking "juice" -- you know, the kind with very little fruit juice in it, but a lot of high fructose corn syrup. So at this point, even healthful juices like this one seems kind of naughty. Tasty, but naughty.

I've been enjoying oatmeal (the quick cooking variety) for breakfast lately, which definitely is an improvement over the boxed cereal I was eating for months on end. But I wanted to try some groats, the hulled (unprocessed) version of a grain. In this case, of buckwheat. I found the recipe for Crunchy Buckwheat Cereal here.

Here are the groats, pre-oven.

And here they are, nicely toasted and tossed with maple syrup and natural peanut butter.

I tried a few spoonfuls after it came out of the oven. It has a nutty taste, with just a slight sweetness. I will have some of this tomorrow morning with sliced strawberries!

Friday, June 4, 2010

OMG It's Pizza!!!!!

So, the last time I had pizza (not made by either my husband or myself, that is) was January. I expected to have pizza again, but a cheese-less version that I would probably have to doctor up at home with a handful of Daiya. Then the other day I was googling vegan food in Pittsburgh, and found out about Spak Brothers. Take a look at their menu. It's amazing, with so many veg pizza, hoagie, and even appetizer choices. With much anticipation, J picked up two small pizzas. His was feta, tomato, and kalamata olive. Mine was soy cheese, fake pepperoni, and mushrooms! This is the sort of pizza combination I would eat pre-vegan!

And look how beautiful it is.

It tasted just as wonderful as it looks! The crust was amazing, and the soy cheese was perfectly melty. And because there was so much of it, I have leftover pizza for lunch (or breakfast!) tomorrow. Spak Brothers, I love you!

I guess indulgence was the theme for tonight. I had some strawberries and rhubarb from the Farmer's Market this week, so I made a pan of strawberry cobbler from the May/June issue of Vegetarian Times. I improvised and added the rhubarb (just a few thin stalks).

Here's a picture of what I spooned into my bowl.

Wow, this is good. The recipe is from Donna Klein's Supermarket Vegan (VT actually showcased five different recipes from the cookbook. There's a Jamaican-style Black Bean and Coconut Cornbread Bake that sounds great too). It was quick and easy to whip up, and yes, I could have gotten all the ingredients from my local Giant Eagle. If this is any indication of the quality of recipes in Supermarket Vegan, I want a copy!

To look forward to this weekend: my first adventure with buckwheat groats. Also, risotto! Of course, there will be lots of pictures.