Thursday, December 6, 2007

Tempeh Tuesday #4 - Vegetarian Tempeh Cups

It's now Thursday, but here's my delayed tempeh dish for the week! This is an omni recipe I modified in a pinch for Tempeh Tuesday. The original recipe called for ground sausage, cheese and ranch dressing. I used Isa's wonderful tempeh sausage crumbles, vegan cheese slices and Annie's Naturals Papaya Poppy Seed Dressing (cuz it's my all-time fav dressing!). Also added some chopped tomatoes... because I love tomatoes!

My biggest boo-boo is that I didn't read the ingredient label for the Nasoya won ton wrappers; they're not vegan since they contain eggs. I've been trying to eat more vegan lately, so I was disappointed that I didn't read the label closely in the store. Can won ton wrappers be vegan? Can anyone share a vegan brand or recipe for the wrappers?

Overall, I thought this was a neat idea for vegetarian finger food. Really, almost anything could be stuffed in the won ton wrappers... lots of possibilities for fillings! If I ever made these again, I'd skip the vegan cheese; it didn't melt and the whole recipe would've tasted more "fresh" without it.

Vegetarian Tempeh Cups - Makes 12 "cups"

Isa's Tempeh Sausage Crumbles
1 pkg. won ton wrappers
2 slices vegan cheese, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 c. salad dressing (I used Annie's Naturals Papaya Poppy Seed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the tempeh recipe while oven is preheating. Insert the won ton wrappers into the individual cavities of a muffin tin. Bake the won ton wrappers in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Allow wrappers to cool when done. In the meantime, continue cooking the tempeh crumbles. When the tempeh is done, combine tempeh, cheese, tomato and dressing. Spoon into cooled won ton wrappers and bake for 10-15 minutes.

I personally didn't use all of the tempeh crumbles for the dozen cups... but it would depend on how much you fill up the cups. I didn't want to overload them and have stuff falling out all over when I took a bite. ;)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Nana, nana, bobana, banana, fana, fofana...

I'm alive! I just haven't posted. *hangs head in shame* It's been busy with holiday shopping and preparation, wedding planning and family gatherings (Thanksgiving, a Baptism, etc). Haven't been eating anything too exciting lately, and have been eating out far more than I'd like.

I did manage to bake some vegan banana bread this past weekend, because, every time I opened the door to my freezer, it seemed I had to take cover from the ever-growing number of frozen bananas that are stuffed in there, shooting out at me every chance they get, as if begging to be used in a delicious bakery item.

I read somewhere that overly ripe bananas could be throw in the freezer and used for baking. It was an 'Aha' moment for me, because often I buy too many bananas and have always felt guilty about that one lonely banana I never got around to eating. Poor soul, left there on the counter till it turned a deep shade of brown. I rejoiced in my new-found knowledge and happily tossed these guys in the freezer, comforted by the fact that I would use them in the future. What I didn't plan on is how easy it is to just toss a banana in the freezer... and amass a nice little army of bananas that would revolt every chance they got.

"Bombs away!" I could hear them shout as Col. Banana took a sliding leap and jumped out of my freezer (without a parachute, I might add!) landing at my feet. Frustrated, I'd pick up Mr. Banana and shove him back in the freezer. Gotta use these SOON, I'd mutter to myself.

And so I finally did this past weekend. I used this recipe from vegweb.com, making modifications and cooking two different batches. For the first, I took the advice of one of the comments and used 1 c. whole wheat flour and 1/2 c. wheat germ. I also used the flax as the egg substitute. Turned out delicious. For the second batch, I tried subbing some of the butter substitute with applesauce (1/4 c. butter sub and 1/4 c. applesauce). I also used 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and no wheat germ, just to see what would happen. I haven't tasted the second batch yet, but it looks like the first. I may shave off an edge to taste, but I'd like to save this loaf and freeze it so my fiance can give it a try when he returns from being out of town. I snacked on and off all weekend on the other loaf, and well, there isn't much left. :-/

Baking aside, I feel so behind on blogging... not only in writing, but also reading all your great blogs and stories. My bloglines reader has been a lovely shade of bold lately, indicating all the blogs I haven't had time to browse. :( I do plan to catch up soon and look forward to reading about everyone's latest adventures!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Vegan Ice Cream That Could

All summer I drooled over the mouth-watering ice cream recipes popping up on blogs across the Net. I had such a passion to make my own little batch of cold vegan goodness, but there was only one problem: I don't own an ice cream maker. :(

So, I drooled and drooled. I sent recipes to my mom, who owns an ice cream maker, trying to lure her into giving animal-free ice cream a go. She offered to loan me her machine but I didn't want her to go without, so initially I declined and went back to the visions of ice cream dreams dancing in my head.

Then, Tofu-n-Sprouts posted an irresistible-sounding pumpkin spice ice cream recipe that reminded me of the delicious "limited edition" pumpkin ice cream I've had from a certain mass-manufacturer of the cold stuff. The temptation was growing and I wouldn't be able to wait much longer... so I asked to borrow the ice cream maker from my mom.

I was so giddy when I finally had the machine in my hands. Like a child on Christmas morning who must decide which present to open first, my mind was spinning as I contemplated my first recipe. Pumpkin. It had to be pumpkin. Dammit, it's 30 degrees F outside but I wanted pumpkin ice cream.

I tried to be smart about it. I printed off both Tofu Mom's recipe, and the one at A Vegan Ice Cream Paradise. Both recipes contained an ingredient I wasn't sure if I could find, but if I took both recipes along, I was bound to be able to make one if not the other right?

Wrong! It was as if some higher force was telling me it was too cold to be making ice cream. "You should be making hot cocoa or baking warm muffins instead," I heard the voice taunt. I searched high and low but I could not for the life of me find the Silk brand Pumpkin Spice soy milk for Tofu's Mom's recipe, or the arrowroot for the Vegan Paradise recipe. Dammit! What's a girl craving ice cream to do?

Find another recipe! LOL Thankfully, I remembered that one of the recipes I had sent to my mom was the vegan ice cream base from Vivacious Vegan. The magic ingredient in her recipe was coconut milk... and I knew I could find coconut milk! Finally! The vegan ice cream that could! :)

After all the frustration, I chose to keep it simple and made the vanilla ice dream recipe (pictured above) from VV. My fiance and I sampled it over an episode of Heroes recently. Good, but for me, the texture was a bit off. And, the coconut milk seemed to leave an aftertaste I could've done without. I'd have to do better to convince my omni-fiance that vegan ice cream is worth eating.

So once again I went in search of arrowroot and ended up at my local bulk food store. They had it. Yippie! I bought close to a pound. :) And I rushed home to make Agnes' Pumpkin Ice Cream.

Tom Petty has it right. The waiting IS the hardest part. The time period to wait for the ice cream to firm up was grueling, especially since my sample taste in the soft-serve state told me it was divine! Oh, but this ice cream was worth the wait. I loved this recipe. I felt the texture was more along the lines of what I had hoped for, and I felt it was a healthier recipe without the coconut in it. I think this recipe gives that famous E brand a run for its money. My omni sister thought it was delicious too!

My fiance, on the other hand, hasn't had a chance to try it yet... somehow the batch disappeared before he could come over for a taste! ;)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Catching up

I'm finally back after five days without Internet or cable service at my home! Rather than bore you with the cable company fiasco, I want to share with you my personal effort to raise awareness for veg*n food in my community. (Back to veg*n food postings tomorrow!)

I work in higher education. There are many "free food" opportunities on campus throughout the year. In the past, the organizers of these events have been accommodating to vegetarians. For instance, they've served veggie burgers at campus picnics. However, one of the last events held this past summer left me completely disappointed because all three of the main dishes offered were meat based. No attempt was made to serve a meatless dish. I expressed my disappoint to the organizers by sending them an e-mail outlining my concerns and offering to meet with them to talk about vegetarian options for future events. I never received a reply to that e-mail.

Last week, campus dining sent out an e-mail announcement advertising the third annual holiday brunch. This is an event with a $10 cost to attend. Of course, memories of the summer event came flooding back in my mind. Instead of complaining again that the menu is not veggie friendly, I decided to take matters into my own hands! I e-mailed the head of campus dining to ask exactly what items on the brunch menu were vegetarian and/or vegan. The response I received was that the corn and carrot dishes were vegan, but everything else had either dairy, eggs or meat in it. The woman from campus dining indicated that if 25 people expressed an interest in vegan dining, and paid for the brunch in advance, they'd be more than happy to add a couple vegan items to the brunch menu. That sounds like a challenge to me! So, I took the liberty of sending out a campus e-mail, asking if anyone else was interested in animal-free food choices at the brunch. Responses are still slowly coming in... but overall, the result has been positive. There are six people (me included) so far who will commit to buying a tix for a vegan food option. I'm not sure if we'll make the required 25, but what I'm hoping to accomplish is just an overall awareness that alternate food choices are desired at events like this. I've had several people e-mail me to say they can't attend the event, but they agree with what I'm trying to do. I've even had support from meat eaters, who themselves cannot believe there's not even a green salad on the menu.

If I don't get a commitment from 25 people, I won't be attending the event. Instead, I plan to create my own mini taste fest; I've received permission from my department to use its conference room for animal-free food sampling. I plan to make several different yummy animal-free goodies and bring them in for anyone on campus to stop by and sample. Again, I just want to begin to raise an awareness on campus about veggie food options. My hope is that someday there might be more of an acceptance of yummy animal-free food!! :)

I'll keep you all posted and let you know what happens in December. :)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Technical difficulties

Just a quick note to say I've had some technical trouble, which is why I haven't updated my blog. My home Internet/cable service was down yesterday, as well as this morning, so I called the company and it's being looked into today. Normally I could update it during my lunch break, but today I have to run out on an errand. If everything is peachy-keen when I get home, I'll post a new entry. If not, my blog may not be updated till late Sunday or so because I have a busy weekend planned.

I have been cooking though... made some vegan ice cream and a BBQ chickpea recipe (which unfortunately, wasn't very good... I'm hoping to 'fix' the dish to make it edible and post the results). Hope to share my experiences once my home Net is working again!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tempeh Tuesday #3 - Smoky Breakfast Tempeh

Ok, so I didn't have this for breakfast.

The fact is, when I saw it over at Pamela Cooks, I had to have it right at that moment. All the ingredients were in my cupboard already, so it was a no-brainer what I was having for dinner.

This was delicious. I added in a touch of peanut butter and pomegranate molasses, just because. The only thing I would do different next time is make more sauce. Mine seemed to cook off fast and it would've been nice to have some extra.

As I was chowing down, I realized that I'm really becoming a tempeh fan! I find myself craving the taste of it. I may have to add in a Tempeh Thursday, so I have an excuse for devouring tempeh twice a week. LOL

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Vegetarian Combo Plate @ LaPita Restaurant

I had the night off from cooking yesterday because last night was kind of special; my fiance and I picked up my engagement ring from the jeweler! We had it custom designed and it turned out beautifully! To celebrate, we went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants, LaPita Mediterranean Cuisine in Dearborn, Mich. This restaurant is where R and I had our second date, and it's been a favorite ever since. He usually orders the lamb chops. I, of course, go veg. The menu has plenty to offer vegetarians, going so far as to mark each veg entree on the menu to make choices easier. Last night, I ordered the vegetarian combo plate #2, which is my favorite. Lots of food for $9.99. Sides of salad and rice, as well as grape leaves, spinach pie, falafel, hummus and baba. The food is always excellent. However, last night the service left a lot to be desired. We've never had such bad service there and it was unfortunate since we were trying to celebrate a happy occasion. :( I told my fiance the restaurant should be glad we've eaten there before, because if last night's dinner had been our first there, we would not be returning.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Moroccan Lentil Stew

The last of the crockpot dishes for this week!

(And I definitely need the break... I've made WAY more food than one girl can handle in a week... I'm hoping all this stuff freezes well!)

This veggie stew was really good. Lots of good stuff in it to fill ya up! This is certainly one of those prep recipes tho, since it took more than 30 minutes for me to cut up the squash, potatoes, onion, etc. and get everything in the pot. Still, it was nice to come home to a cooked meal after a long day at work. :)

Moroccan Lentil Stew

1 c. dried lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
10 small red potatoes, cubed
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 c. water
8 oz. package frozen cut green beans, thawed

Put everything except the green beans in the crockpot and simmer on low for 8-10 hours (or until all the veggies are tender). Then, switch the setting to high and toss in the green beans, stirring to combine with the rest of the stew. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the beans and the entire stew is thoroughly heated. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sweet-Hot Pumpkin Soup ... veganized!

If you like your pumpkin with punch, then have I got a soup for you!

This is a recipe I found in a non-vegetarian crockpot book. It seemed easy enough to veganize--I replaced the chicken broth with veggie broth, and the three tablespoons honey became three tablespoons agave nectar. The book says it serves five to six people. It took me about 20 minutes to prep the ingredients for the slow cooker. I saved a bit of time by using packaged shredded carrots instead of peeling and chopping my own.

I thought this soup was delicious! It almost had too much of a kick for me (I used one jalapeno), but I'm the person who thinks mild spice at Thai places is too "hot." LOL Personally, next time I'll only use half a jalapeno, but foodies who like it hot should definitely enjoy this dish! I had my omni sis sample this soup, too, during our Halloween pasta night, and she agreed it was tasty. She saved some for her hubby to try; she thought the spice temp would be perfect for him--lucky her, he likes it hot! ;-p

This cooked all day (nine hours) in the crockpot without crusting up the sides. :) I have leftovers for lunches later in the week... good thing, too, because it's supposed to get cold 'round these parts.

Crockpot Sweet-Hot Pumpkin Soup

1 - 16 oz. can pumpkin
4 cups (32 oz. carton) vegetable broth
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons watercress, chopped
1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Sauterne wine
watercress leaves for garnish

Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in crockpot and simmer on low for 9 to 9.5 hours, or until vegetables are soft. Puree soup in a blender or food processor. Reheat if needed or garnish with watercress and serve! Enjoy! :)


Up next: a lentil stew in the crockpot.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tempeh Tuesday #2 - Blackened Tempeh

I couldn't disappoint y'all by skipping Tempeh Tuesday for a second week in a row... so last night I made this blackened tempeh inspired by this post on Eat Air - A Vegan Food Log.

I began by simmering a package of tempeh--cut into six squares--in water on med-high heat, flipping the tempeh occasionally. While the tempeh was simmering, I mixed the marinade (minus the hijiki) mentioned in the Eat Air post. I was short on time, so once the water had almost disappeared from the pan, I added the soy sauce marinade, turned the heat to low and let it cook, again occasionally flipping the tempeh to make sure it was all coated and cooking well. While the tempeh was cooking in the marinade, I mixed together the spices (omitting the salt and cayenne). Once I felt the tempeh had cooked sufficiently, I moved the tempeh pieces onto a plate, where I sprinkled them with the spices and transfered them to a new pan of peanut oil (spice side down) to begin frying. In the other pan, which still had some soy sauce marinade left in it, I placed some frozen veggies and added a little bit of water to cook the veggies. Before flipping the tempeh, I sprinkled spice on the other side to coat. I continued to sprinkle the tempeh with the spices prior to flipping the tempeh each time. I added the remaining spice to the veggie pan. Voila! This was a very easy way to prepare tempeh. AND, very tasty too. I really enjoyed it. Will be cooking this again! Two thumbs up!

For dessert, I couldn't resist trying the Veganlicious Hot Chocolate of Doom! that I spied over at Vegan. Chicks. Rock. This hot chocolate recipe was awesome! :) Just a word of note: vanilla extract is flammable so use caution if pouring it into your pot while on an open flame. Ask me how I know!!! O_o

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Vegan Barley Casserole Via Crockpot

The first recipe I chose to make for Crockpot Week is "Barley Casserole," which I found online. The recipe was simple enough; I made it easier by using a package of pre-cut mixed celery/onion I purchased at Meijer, adding in a little bit more onion (again, pre-chopped but from the freezer section!). Also, I didn't use fresh garlic, but the pre-minced kind in a jar. The only real prep work I had to do was chop a green pepper. Everything else was open and pour. :)

Overall this meal was pretty good, palatable to my omni fiance, too. It was kind of like a real thick tomato-based soup. We ate it with some rosemary olive oil bread. However, we both agreed the dish needs... je ne sais quoi. Something needs to be added to take this dish from "pretty good" to "Wow." It definitely has potential and I hope to fool around with it someday to make it better.

Vegan Barley Casserole

Prep Time: 20 minutes. Cook Time: 8 hours.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 oz. can ready-to-serve vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or chopped walnuts
Keep the pine nuts/walnuts aside, but place all other ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on low for up to 8 hours or until the barley and veggies are tender. Top with the pine nuts/walnuts before serving.


A few of my personal cooking notes about this meal: The estimated prep time was 20 minutes, which I found to be about right. Cook time was stated as 8 hours, though I thought the casserole looked done around 5-6 hours. It got really thick so I thinned it out with more veggie broth as well as some water. I should've kept track of how much additional broth I used; I'll be more careful about that next time. If you chose to make this, you may want to do it on a day when you'll be around to check on it and add in some extra broth here and there.

And, apologies for the crappy photo; now that it's getting darker earlier in the evening, I need to figure out the best lighting to use for my photos. I have a homemade lightbox that I've used to take photos of things I've sold on eBay, but my current space restrictions don't allow for that to be set up as often as I take food photos.

My sister has invited me to take part in her "Halloween Pasta Night" on Wednesday. I plan to make my next crockpot meal--a pumpkin soup--that evening to go with the pasta. Come back to see how it all turns out! :)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Get Ready for Crockpot Week!

Heh.

I've decided to make mostly crockpot dinners this week. Something about coming home from work and having a DONE meal turns me on. Seriously. A previous BF of mine once gave me a crockpot for Valentine's Day. I was a little miffed at first, but once he explained that having our meals cooked when we got home would leave time for other things.... *wink, wink* ... well, let's just say I warmed up to the idea quickly. :)

Besides, I don't use my slow cooker nearly enough as I should. Mainly, I use it to make my veggie chili. But, I know there's a whole world of slow cooking out there. It's time to become part of it.

I've picked out three recipes and purchased ingredients for them. I'm making the first meal tonight (actually it's cooking as I type!). Check back tomorrow and the remainder of the week for stew, soup and casserole recipes a la crockpot.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Awesome Green Tea, Chocolate Chip Muffins

I've been under the weather since Friday. :( That means a lot of bland food and liquids. BUT, I thought this would be a great time for me to talk about my favorite tea, Fuji Green Tea.

Quite simply, this stuff is awesome. I had been reading a lot about the benefits of green tea, and tried many different brands in hopes of getting "into" it, but they all tasted nasty... until I tried Fuji Green Tea. Now, you could call me a tea snob because I won't drink any other green tea except this stuff.

My favorites are the premium sencha and genmai matcha. The toasted brown rice in the latter gives it a more robust flavor... a kind of more manly green tea? (Hey, my fiance is a fan of it!)

I believe you can only order this tea online from the Web site. But don't worry if you're not a fan of online shopping; this company's customer service is top notch. Once, when they ran out of a tea I ordered, they sent me a note saying they were sending it directly from Japan! And sure enough, I got a priority package from them containing my tea. They've also thrown in freebies of different flavors for me to try. And if that's not enough, once a year they notify their customers of a buy-one-get-one sale that cannot be beat.

If you've been wanting to be a fan of green tea, try Fuji Green Tea. This stuff is the bomb, I swear! I've given friends tea bags to try and every one of them has loved it.

Now on to muffins...

I saw this recipe for chocolate chip muffins on My Life as a Vegan. Even though I've been sick, I had a craving for chocolate, especially after reading Kumudha's fabulous post about vegan chocolate on her blog. I had all the ingredients in my cupboard for the muffins, so I mustered up my strength to whip 'em up. The recipe was easy--I only had half a package of chocolate chips though, which were left over from my attempt at the Vegan Magic Cookie Bars, so I substituted some chopped hazelnuts for the difference. They came out looking fabulous, as you can see from the photo in this post. However, I thought they kinda lacked flavor. I felt all the taste came from the chocolate chips. I wish the muffin batter itself had been a little more flavorful.

I also should mention that I ran out to get some over-the-counter meds yesterday and popped into the bookstore next door to see if they had the new issue of Paste magazine; my favorite artist--Ryan Adams--is supposed to be the new cover boy. The store still had last months issue, but while I was there, I couldn't resist drooling over some of the newer cookbooks, namely Veganomicon and Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. I've heard so many wonderful things about them... it was tempting to splurge on one, whisk it home as fast as I could and start cooking like a mad woman. But the fact that I was warm and light-headed while looking at the books reminded me that I just needed to get back home and rest so that I could fight this cold. *sigh* I've been a good girl this year, so hopefully Santa will find it in his heart to gift me with one (or both!) book, LOL.

Have a good rest of the weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blog customization

Just a note to say please bear with me as I work to customize my blog! I'm tired of looking at the standard blogger template, so I'll be trying stuff out in hopes of finding a style that's perfectly me. Advance apologies if you stumble upon the blog while I'm working on it and things are unreadable. I'm also trying a new photo hosting service, so if any of my photos disappear, I'll try to get them back as soon as possible!

Lazy Vegan Tofu and Broccoli

My friend and I had a very nice dinner last night. I didn't take any photos of my delicious vegetarian combination plate (think: grape leaves, spinach pie, hummus, baba, falafel, etc.) because I just happened to be seated next to one of the local television personalities in this area... and I didn't want her to think I was pulling out my camera to take a photo of her! LOL Despite that excitement, the biggest news of the night was that I asked my friend to be my maid of honor for my wedding next year... and she said yes! :) I'll be so happy to have her by my side; we've known each other since high school!

Instead of sharing last night's dinner with you, I'm pulling out a dish I prepared a while back but never got the chance to blog about it. It's a Vegweb.com dish that's super easy yet delicious. Titled "Lazy and Hungry Tofu Plus Broccoli" on Vegweb, this dish is simple and a quick dinner if you need something made in a short amount of time. The only change I made was that I used peanut oil because I didn't have sesame oil on hand. I chose to serve this with brown rice that I cooked using veggie broth instead of water. Deelish!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Soap, jewelry and 365 Organic black bean vegan soup

I hope you don't mind, but I'm varying from my usual food posts for just a moment. (Well, that's not entirely true... there's a bit of food at the end of the post.) I wanted to show off some of my recent craftiness. :)

My fiance generously sent me to a soapmaking class back in February as a birthday gift. It was a blast! I love making my own soap because I can control (and know) exactly what is in each bar. I've even been making my own powdered laundry soap! :) What you see above is a gift of soap that I plan to give to one of my friends this evening. From left is chocolate mint, oatmeal and lemon poppyseed cold-process soap. The chocolate soap has real cocoa in it and smells devine. The oatmeal soap contains ground oatmeal. The lemon poppyseed soap is completely natural, made with pure essential oils. The other two soaps are scented with synthetic fragrance oils. Several months ago, my fiance had a severe allergic reaction to the synthetic scented soap. It was disheartening to watch; I couldn't believe that something *I* did, did that to him. I've vowed to only make natural soap after this stock runs out. For the record, I personally used the synthetic scented soaps with no problems. And, I realize someone could still be allergic to a "natural" ingredient, too. I prefer the completely natural soaps, though, so that's what I plan to make from now on. Each batch of soap makes 20 bars... so my family and friends will be getting these lovely bars as holiday gifts, too! :)

I've also been obsessed with making jewelry lately. :) The set you see above is a gift for my friend tonight, too. I think what I love about both jewelrymaking and soapmaking is that the possibilities are pretty endless... the only limit if your own imagination! I drool over the aisles of beads in my local craft stores, and the abundant selection of beads available online. It can be mind-boggling sometimes. I really have to make an effort to be focused on just one project and not oogle over every pretty bead I see. :) One of the memorable moments from my recent trip (which I have yet to blog about... I know, it's coming!) is teaching my mom some jewelrymaking techniques. She had some wonderful ideas, and her style is a bit different than mine, so it was interesting to see the beautiful jewelry sets she put together after learning the basics. :) It was great mother-daughter time.

This last one I throwing in just so I don't feel too guilty about sharing my crafts on my food blog. ;-p For lunch today, I brought along Whole Foods Market's 365 Organic Black Bean Soup, which is vegan. I don't know if it's my favorite black bean soup, but it was a yummy and quick meal. At 150 calories and 1 gram of fat per serving (two servings per can), it was a healthy lunch as well.

I should mention that there may not be a Tempeh Tuesday this week. I know, I know... terrible of me to try to start something new on my blog and then not follow through with it on the second week, but I'm finding myself eating out more often this week. For instance, yesterday I wasn't sure if I'd see my fiance for dinner or not, so I didn't cook anything fancy and we just ordered Thai take-out. Tonight, I'll have dinner with my friend and may be able to blog about it depending on where we go... but as you can see, I'm missing my opportunity for tempeh. I might be able to cook it Wednesday and do a tempeh Thursday? Hmm...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Vegan Magic Cookie Bars

It was an uneventful food weekend for me, with the exception of my attempt at the Vegan Magic Cookie Bars, which I drooled over when they were posted at FatFree Vegan Kitchen last week.
I managed to screw up the recipe, but luckily, these bars are forgiving and they still tasted yummy!

Let me explain. My fiance has been working a lot of overtime lately, especially on the weekends, which makes it difficult for us to schedule time to be together. :( He managed to get Saturday morning off, which worked out perfectly because we were able to make a trip to the jeweler to view the wax of the engagement ring that's being created for me (it's going to be beautiful, btw!). I invited my honey over for breakfast (vegan biscuits and gravy!) before our trek to the jewelry store. So, I'm cooking biscuits and gravy and trying to make the cookie bars so they can bake while we eat breakfast and making conversation with my honey because it felt like forever since I've seen him. In my haste, I accidentally used the entire box of silken tofu instead of the 1/3 c. called for in the recipe. "Wow, there's a lot of filling for this little pan," I said to my fiance. Then it dawned on me. I screwed up. :( I put the batch in the oven and hoped for the best. It actually wasn't that bad... probably could've been firmer, but it was still edible. Since I had extra filling from the mistake, I made a second batch (pictured above) ... adding in a bit more sugar and cornstarch to try to rectify my error. I had planned to take these bars to my 10-year-old cousin's birthday party that day, so I crossed fingers and toes that the second batch would be presentable. And it was. At least no one said they were terrible at the party, LOL. Maybe they were just being nice. :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Vegetarian dining at Andiamo Italia

This week I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a friend visiting from out-of-state. We chose to dine at the more upscale Andiamo Italia restaurant.

I had not visited this restaurant since going vegetarian, so the online dinner menu was a big help in determining ahead of time what I might or might not be able to eat. As lacto-ovo vegetarians know, Italian restaurants usually are not a problem for dining. However, lately I've been trying to eat as vegan as possible for several reasons, which I won't get into at the moment so I don't detract from this review. ;)

The service at more upscale restaurants is often top notch, and this location was no exception. Our waitress was very attentive and helpful, with one flaw -- she thought vegetarians ate seafood. :( After I informed her that I did not, she quickly indicated that the chef often will prepare a non-menu pasta primavera, which sounded absolutely delicious by her description. However, the downside was that I ate pasta for lunch, so I really didn't want to have pasta again. I'm getting married in 378 days so I've decided I need to start watching my portions more carefully in an effort to get in better shape. Since the restaurant seemed so eager to accommodate me by whipping up a non-menu item, I felt it was safe to ask for the Insalata d' Autonno (mixed greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette, topped with apples, walnuts, dried cherries, turkey and fried chevre cheese) without the turkey and cheese, and maybe some extra walnuts and dried cherries. :) Our server was happy to oblige, but when my salad came out, it did have the fried cheese. Thankfully, it was in the shape of a ball so I just left it there and ate around it.

The salad was good, but I usually prefer my dressing on the side and I totally forgot to ask them if I could order it that way. So, the mixed greens were drenched in the balsamic vinaigrette, which was just a bit too much for me. I'm not sure if I would order this salad again. In terms of more upscale salads, I'd rather have something like the gorgeous salad I had at the Henry Ford Estate this summer. It was cheaper too! Andiamo's Insalata d' Autonno will put you back $11. In the future, I'll make sure to plan better so I can order the spaghetti with marinara sauce.

Overall, it was a great dining experience. The service is outstanding and efforts were made to accommodate my veg*n eating preference.

In a situation like this, though, it's not really about the food. The night was about catching up with a friend, and boy did we do that! Our reservation was for 6:15 p.m. and we didn't leave until after 11 p.m. What can I say, we like to talk! :) And, my friend was gracious enough to pick up the tab. Thanks, Sue, for a wonderful dinner. It was so great to see you again. Let's hope our next talk fest will be sooner than later!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Lazy Yet Fancy Cream of Tomato Soup

I'm continuing my "lazy cooking" theme this week by jazzing up one of my favorite foods: cream of tomato soup. This particular dish is so easy yet it impressed an omnivore, too!

I began by making elbow macaroni. I know I could've done without the pasta carbs, but to me, cream of tomato soup just isn't cream of tomato soup unless it has elbow macaroni in it! LOL While the water was boiling for the pasta, I opened a standard can of condensed tomato soup. Instead of using water, I mixed in one can of plain soy milk with the soup. I mentioned yesterday that I was saving leftover diced canned tomatoes and its juice from the tempeh dish I had prepared. I dumped those diced tomatoes and juice into the soup and stirred well. Then I added in some dried basil, oregano and a bit of rosemary to taste and heated the soup on low while the pasta cooked. I added my preferred amount of pasta to the soup and voila! A super easy yet fancier cream of tomato soup. :)

My sister currently lives upstairs from me (we live in a multifamily home) and I joined her for dinner because her hubby wasn't going to be home till later that evening. She had prepared a chicken breast and side of veggies for herself. When I appeared with my bowl of yummy soup, she said "Wow, that looks gooooood. Can I taste it?" She said my soup looked more appetizing than her meal. :) Score another one for the veg*ns!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tempeh Tuesday #1

I'm back from vacation. As promised, I'll post about my trip but I'll need an extra day or two to ready the photos and write it up.

In the meantime, I'm going to post my lazy cooking habits since coming back home. LOL. Sometimes it's difficult enough coming back from a trip and getting back into the groove of the reality we call everyday life, without having to worry about cooking elaborate meals. So, my theme this week is EASY. I'm trying to use ingredients I already have in the cupboard and just keep things simple.

I had three packages of tempeh in my fridge because I'm trying to motivate myself to cook this soy-based food more often. I decided to make the tempeh sausage crumbles from Vegan with a Vengeance. I love this recipe soooooo much. The crumbles are so good. Much much tastier than any similar product that can be purchased pre-made in a store, and they're really not that difficult to make. So, I prepared the tempeh as directed in Isa's book. I also made pasta: Meijer Organics whole-wheat cappenilli, which I coated with a bit of olive oil when it was done. I opened a can of diced tomatoes that was pre-mixed with olive oil and garlic and, with a slotted spoon, scooped out some tomatoes (leaving most of the juice) as a topping to the tempeh and cappenilli. Simple yet tasty. :)

I did save the remaining tomatoes and all the leftover juice... I have plans for those later this week. ;)

I titled this post "Tempeh Tuesday" because I'd like to make Tuesday dinners my tempeh night, in an effort to try more tempeh recipes and learn to cook it better. (Did I ever mention I once tried to steam tempeh in the microwave and it came out as a hard, black block of yuck?) If you have a really great tempeh recipe, I'm all ears. I'd love some ideas from my blog visitors if you have any recipes to share. Please send them to: veggiecookster [at] gmail [dot] com. If I cook up your recipe, I'll give you credit and link back to your blog, so be sure to include the URL in your e-mail. :)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Another vacation!

Hi all,

Just a quick note to say tomorrow morning I'm heading out for another vacation. This time, my mom and I are driving up north a bit for some R&R. There won't be any new posts from me for the next 6 days or so, but I promise to take pics of some things I eat this week and post a report when I return!

Have a great week, everyone! :)

Jenny

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Easy creamy pasta sauce

Here's a little something I cooked up in the kitchen last night. I didn't follow a recipe. I just experimented and mixed things together!

I started with whole wheat shell-shaped pasta. While that was cooking, I opened up a pre-made marinara sauce--I chose Corelli's marinara, which is made with Tuscan red wine and extra virgin olive oil. I added in about three spoonfuls of Tofutti's Better Than Cream Cheese to the sauce. I also tossed in 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. I stirred the sauce, btcc and nutritional yeast together until it was well blended and hot. When the pasta was done, I mixed some of it in with the sauce and topped it with fresh basil, tomato slices and sunflower seeds. 'Twas good! And easy!

I haven't participated in Ruth's Presto Past Night in awhile. The parade of great pasta recipes is held over at her blog each week. But I think this entry qualifies! :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Homemade hummus

Last night, I made hummus for the first time! After tasting it, I don't know why I waited so long to make a homemade version of this versatile vegetarian food. It was super easy and it tastes fabulous!!! :) I don't think I'll ever purchase hummus from a store again.

Living in a city with one of the largest Arabic populations outside of the Middle East, I've had some pretty good hummus at the local restaurants. But because I do love hummus, I'm happy I found a decent recipe that I can tweak (I'm thinking roasted red pepper hummus in the future!).

I brought a container of the homemade hummus to work today along with some baby pitas ... makes a great lunch!

The recipe is from vegweb.com ... check it out!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Can you spot the vegetarian chili?

Well I did it! :-D

I raised awareness of yummy vegetarian food by placing SECOND in the chili cookoff hosted by my fiance's family Saturday evening. Wooooo! Out of seven entries, I placed second. Not too shabby!

I certainly wasn't expecting to place, especially since all the tasters would be omnis. But, I asked his mom not to announce that the batch I made was vegetarian. I wanted people to try my chili with open minds and tastebuds... not turn their noses up to a veggie chili. I felt if they knew it was veg*n, it would automatically taste 'different' to them. In fact, later that evening after the contest concluded, there were some latercomers who missed out on the top-choice chili because that part of the family had already left. When my fiance's mom indicated that my chili was still there and it was vegetarian, it was met with a less than enthusiastic response.

"Sorry, I need my meat... I'm a carnivore."

Yeah, whatever. Nevermind that my chili won a ribbon that evening, so it must be halfway decent. Go ahead and eat a less-than-stellar chili just because it has meat in it. To each their own, I guess.

And so I continue my quest to educate people that vegetarian food can be yummy and appealing and absolutely wonderful!

P.S.--I'm not sure which chili is mine in the photo. LOL It was made with Italian soy sausage so it pretty much looked like all the meat-based ones.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Seva Vegetarian Restaurant - Ann Arbor, Mich.


Last weekend, I finally got to dine at Seva, a vegetarian restaurant in Ann Arbor, Mich. that I have heard so much about but haven't had the chance to experience yet. All the entrees on the menu are vegetarian and many are vegan, or can be made vegan by request.

The restaurant has outdoor seating and since it was such a nice day, that's where we sat. I couldn't resist ordering the black beans and sweet potato enchiladas. I thought it was an interesting combination, black beans and sweet potatoes. I skipped the side of sour cream and poured the salsa over it. Deeelish! It tasted very fresh, which I liked a lot. It also was listed under the special entrees, so it may not be available year-round. My three dining companions--all omnivores--enjoyed their dishes too. My sister got a peanut stir-fry type dish which was vegan. Her hubby ordered the same thing as I, and my fiance ordered a pasta dish with soy sausage mixed in. Everyone liked their food! I was so worried we'd go to an exclusively vegetarian restaurant and my companions would think the food was horrible.

In fact, my fiance enjoyed it so much we went BACK to Seva the following evening because we had another show in the area that night, too. (I tend to think my fiance really enjoyed the pitcher of white sangria we had, LOL, and wanted a repeat.) I was surprised. I thought he'd want to eat someplace else, where he could have meat. But he wanted to go back to Seva. :) This time, I ordered a vegan Thai stir-fry and he ordered a ravioli dish. I thought my stir-fry was just so-so. There was nothing in the taste of it that wowed me. It tasted like something I could've thrown together in my home kitchen without a cookbook, you know? And, it was overpriced in my opinion. The enchiladas I had the previous night were more delicious and cheaper. I think my fiance got the better deal the second night. His pasta, which was filled with spinach and topped with a slightly spicy red sauce, was yummy.

So, Seva was enjoyable but because of the drive (45 minutes from my house) I don't think I'll be going there that often. But, I think it was definitely worth the effort to check it out, but could be hit-or-miss depending on what dish is ordered.

------------

On another note--wish me luck this weekend. I'll be away from my computer for a bit because my fiance's family is hosting a chili cookoff at their lake house this weekend. I'll be heading there after work this evening, with my vegetarian chili in tow. I don't expect to be crowned with the top honors, especially since everyone there will be omnis, but I think it will be a lot of fun and hopefully demonstrate to omnis that vegetarian food can be just as tasty, if not more tasty, than meat. ;)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BBQ Tempeh... Fried Tofu and Fries


I'm playing catch-up here with this post. Although I haven't been blogging much the past week, I have been taking pics of things to share with everyone when I do have the chance to sit down and write... like tonight. ;)

These meals are from a couple of weekends ago. My parents had my fiance and I over for dinner to celebrate our engagement. Everyone else had steaks... I had BBQ tempeh! I made the delicious BBQ sauce found in Vegan with a Vengeance because it is truly divine in my opinion. I thought the tempeh was too dry as pictured, so I poured some of the extra BBQ sauce over the tempeh after the photo was taken.

Because there was so much BBQ sauce left over--and I couldn't possibly waste sauce that good--the following day for lunch, my honey and I had fried tofu chunks with homemade fries... with the BBQ sauce for dipping! I used this recipe from vegweb.com to bread the tofu before frying it up. Nothing fancy but quite tasty. It hit the spot as a quick lunch that day. :)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Apologies for lack of posts

I'm sorry I haven't posted anything new this week; it's been an extremely busy week ... mainly trying to narrow down a wedding date/location. We're hoping to tie the knot around this time next year, so there's a bit of urgency in finalizing the date/location details so we'll have some choice before other couples snatch 'em up! LOL

So, my apologies for the lack of posts, but I do have many things to share with you and I hope to play catch up next week!

For instance, tonight we're making a trip to Ann Arbor, Mich. for a show and we're planning to eat at Seva, which is a vegetarian restaurant there. I can't wait! I've heard so much about it but haven't taken the 30-45 min. drive it takes to get there yet. Tonight is perfect though, so I hope to share my experience with you soon!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tomato Couscous, Freezer Bag Cooking style

Tomato Couscous turned out to be my favorite new freezer bag cooking recipe of the trip. (My BF's favorite new recipe was the Ramen Salad I featured yesterday.) We didn't eat it on the trail that day because the trails we chose to do--the East and West River trails along the Presque Isle River--were within walking distance of our campground and the hike itself was pretty short, so it didn't really require much refueling on the trail. A quick trail mix snack did that trick. So, we waited until we returned to camp and then boiled water for a hot afternoon lunch (although this dish could be made with cool water, too). The sun-dried tomatoes and nuts were a perfect compliment to the Fantastic Foods whole wheat couscous I used for the recipe, which is from the Freezer Bag Cooking book.

Tomato Couscous Salad - serves 1

1/4 c. couscous
3 tbsp. finely chopped toasted almonds
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
2 tbsp. finely diced sun-dried tomatoes

Combine all the dry ingredients in a sturdy plastic freezer bag. On the trail, add 1/2 c. water, stir, seal and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes before eating!

If you're ever in the Porcupine Mountains area of Michigan, and can only do one or two hikes, I highly recommend the East and West river trails, especially if you're not an avid hiker yet want to get into the woods for a bit to experience some nature. The trails are fairly easy and include a long boardwalk section that runs along the river near a series of waterfalls. Even if you didn't want to do the entire hike, the boardwalk is accessible via wooden staircase from the parking area. But if you do chose to hike the entire length of the trails, do know that there are about 2 or 3 places where the trail is pretty steep, and you either have to ascend or descend these areas carefully. A walking stick or set of trekking poles is highly recommended to make maneuvering easier. If those steep areas don't scare you away, then the remainder of the hike is just pure pleasure. A very pleasant walk through the woods. We took a little break on the beach at the tip of Presque Isle. Not only is this a beautiful spot to sit for awhile, it's also great for wildlife viewing. This is where we witnessed a bald eagle fly by. What a sight to see it soaring along Lake Superior! We also heard from the rangers, and then a couple we met along the trail, that a black bear cub was hanging around the area, too. We didn't see it the entire time we spent in the area, but the couple we met along the trail said they said it in a ravine near the parking area when they first arrived for their hike. Even though we missed out on the cub, we still managed to see a wild black bear before leaving for home--the dude (or maybe it was a dudette?) ran across the road in front of our car in the early morning hours as we were leaving the Porkies area. What a sight! I've been in sooooooooooo many situations where a crowd of people spot a bear and then close in on it, young children in their arms, as if it's their family pet. Helllllllo people, wild animal! I just don't understand people sometimes!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Might as well face it you're addicted to.... blogging?

While browsing Holler's fabulous blog Tinned Tomatoes, I came across her fun post about the "blogging addiction" quiz. As a fairly new blogger, I was up for finding out where I rank!

60%How Addicted to Blogging Are You

I don't know if that's good or bad! LOL I do like one of the ideas suggested by the quiz... I think I may look into RSS feeds for keeping tabs on my favorite blogs. There's so many fun blogs out there. Sometimes it's hard to keep track!

FBC Ramen Noodle Salad

The Porcupine Mountains are about a 12-hour drive from my area. So in an effort to break up the drive, we camped for two nights at Straits State Park in St. Ignace, Mich. which is a short ferry ride away from one of the state's jewels, Mackinac Island. Of course, this also was the holiday weekend which meant the island was likely to be packed with tourists. To get away from the craziness, we opted to hike some of the island's many trails.

I couldn't find much information about the trails prior to the trip. While we were hiking on the island, I joked with my BF that we should make enough trips to hike and catalog every single trail on the island so I could write a book (I'm a writer by profession) since no one else has seems to have taken on the task. All that we were able to find to guide us was a flimsy trail map inside the front cover of the Visitor Center's $1 guidebook. The map showed no trail distances and had no descriptions of what the trails were like. It was going to be an adventure because we weren't sure what we'd find!

We opted to walk the Arch Rock Bike Trail, which connected to Tranquil Bluff Trail. The latter lives up to its name. Although one of the islands quaint roads runs pretty near to the trail in many sections, no automobiles are allowed on the island. Therefore, the most disturbance we experienced on the trail were other hikers or people bicycling on the road... and the small airplanes flying overhead (the trail happens to be in one of the flight paths of the island airport). Even those encounters were few. This trail was quite the getaway we had been hoping for. An easy hike in terms of elevation, the path was sprinkled with tree roots often but it also ran near the water, and every now and then the trees would open up for an awesome view!

We picked one of these spectacular views as our place to lunch that day. On the menu was one of the new recipes I prepared from the Freezer Bag Cooking book I purchased. It made for an easy lunch: just pour in the water about 30 minutes prior to eating and the noodles soften for a delicious cool noodle salad. We let our meals soak for only 20 minutes, which left some of the veggies a little crunchy. I'd recommend letting the meal soak longer if you have the time (which is easy enough... just keep hiking!) but we really wanted to sit and eat and this one particular spot. The freezer bag meals can be a little messy after you mix things up and then try to dig into the bag with your spork to fish things out. Thankfully, I'm known as the napkin queen and we had paper towels to wipe off our hands and flatware after eating. But my BF recommended grabbing some wet wipes for other meals we'd be eating later in the week, and that turned out to be a good suggestion.

We rounded out our hike by making a loop and trekking down Soldier's Garden Trail, to North Blodgett Trail, to South Blodgett Trail, to Rifle Range Road, to Garrison Road and back down to Main St. I really wish I knew how long of a hike this actually was, cuz it was a good one! We were both tired! But, fulfilled. The main portion of the island, where all the shopping is, was a madhouse when we stepped out of the woods after 2 p.m. that afternoon. After being in such a peaceful environment, neither of us wanted to deal with the hoards of people that had descended on the island since our arrival early that morning. I told my BF I just wanted to make one stop to buy some of Mackinac Island's famous fudge and then we were chugging straight back to the ferry dock for the next boat outta there. It was too hot and we were too tired to fight with people in trying to oogle all the souvenir knickknacks the shops have to offer. I've been to the island many times and didn't need a souvenir anyway! Just my fudge, LOL.



Ramen Salad - Serves 1

In a sturdy freezer bag, place:
1 pkg. ramen noodles (only the noodles, no spice packet!)
2 tbsp. freeze-dried veggies of your choice

Take with you on your hike:
a packet of shelf-table salad dressing or 2 tubs of Ranch dip (we did the latter)

On the trail:
Add 1.5 c. of water to the freezer bag with the noodles, squeeze out the air and seal the bag. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain the water from the bag. Add the dressing and mix everything up really good and voila! A nice yummy trail lunch! My omnivore BF liked this recipe very much!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm back!

I'm back from nine days of hiking! Woo! I had so much fun; it's always difficult coming back to the reality of urban life after spending so much time in the mostly peaceful wilderness. But, this time I come back with some awesome news ... I'm engaged!!!!! :) My BF of two years proposed to me on Thursday atop the Summit Peak Tower in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Michigan's upper peninsula. He even had a small bottle of champagne hidden in his backpack! The proposal was the climax of that morning's five-mile loop hike: a combination of the Beaver Creek, Little Carp River, Mirror Lake and Summit Peak trails. Four trails, one great hike and one perfect proposal!

We have no date set. And we still need to shop for my ring. But, I'm really excited about spending the rest of my life with him ... and the fact that I'll no longer be cooking for one! LOL I've been longing to cook better, more detailed meals but I really hate cooking elaborate dishes just for myself. I know, I know... now it's cool to think about cooking for others, but I'm sure it'll get old once I'm doing it day in and day out, eh?

Getting back to the trip, we had a wonderful time and experienced some great things. Plenty of wildlife to go around, including bald eagle and black bear. Those sightings are always exciting! Our weather was mostly good except for an overnight thunderstorm that rattled our bodies to the bone on the fourth night of our outing.

As I mentioned previously, most of our food was prepared as freezer bag meals, including a few recipes that were new to us this year. Over the next few days, I'll share some of the better dishes along with a few tales from the trail!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gone hiking!

Hello! Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm currently hiking in Michigan's beautiful upper peninsula. When I return, I'll try to offer some tips about surviving nine days of tent camping/hiking as a vegetarian.

Have a great week! :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Eating out at the "Mo's"

I fibbed a bit; yesterday's post won't be my last for the week because I almost forgot that I wanted to mention my recent restaurant meals.

Thursday night I saw a Dave Matthews Band show, and my BF and I stopped at Montana's for dinner before the show. We had eaten there once before; I had a pasta dish which was pretty good but sun-dried tomatoes were part of the dish's name, and I remember there being very little of them on my plate. I wasn't too impressed.

This time, I ordered the vegetarian fajitas. I love vegetable fajitas. And surprisingly, Montana's did not disappoint. I wish I had my camera with me because the presentation of their fajitas is really nice. Even my BF said "Wanna switch?" before he dug into his salmon. The grilled veggies consisted of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers, onions and celery. I got four flour tortillas and sides of toppings: salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce and rice. The amount of sour cream they give you is unreal; my boyfriend agreed that it was a pretty disgusting amount of sour cream. I used a tiny bit of cheese and sour cream on my first fajita, but ate two more without the dairy and I actually preferred it that way. Next time, I plan to ask them to hold the cheese and sour cream and instead give me extra tomatoes and salsa. :)

On Saturday, my BF and I ate at one of our favorite 'fast' food places: Moe's Southwest Grill. I like Moe's because they have various vegetarian options on the menu, and you can customize your burritos. For instance, Sunday I asked them to hold the cheese and sour cream (the woman looked at me like I was nuts for not wanting these items on my burrito!) but they added black olives, onions and cilantro to my "Art Vandalay." Plus, their burritos are huge so you definitely get your money's worth!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Prepping for the Porkies

Four days from now, my BF and I will be heading up to Michigan's upper peninsula for a week of camping in Porcupine Wilderness State Park. It's absolutely beautiful up there... and peaceful. A welcome change of pace from urban life.

I've been busy prepping for the trip, which includes getting all our food in order. Thankfully, my BF allows me to take care of the food, which means all vegetarian meals! My BF, an omnivore, happily goes veg the week we camp! (We're tent campers, btw... no RVs for us!)

Last year, we spent a week inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, camping and hiking. My food survival guide for that trip was Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin' which introduced me to freezer bag meals. Essentially, freezer bag meals are a mixture of dry ingredients, stored in a zip-close freezer bag, to which hot water is added to cook/rehydrate the dry ingredients. I grew up camping, but doing what you'd call "car camping" which means you can eat pretty good because you don't stray too far away from the cooler and cookware in your car! My BF is very outdoorsy though and wanted to give the freezer bag meals a try. I was game, especially since I scored the LVB book. Our first time using the book, I wasn't sure how tasty the meals would be. The ones we tried on our trip last year turned out to be pretty good. I mean, my BF ate veg the entire week without complaining... I think that says something!

This year, to mix things up, I purchased the Freezer Bag Cooking book. While not entirely veggie, there are vegetarian recipes in the book and a lot of the dishes could be modified to be vegetarian. Most of our recipes this time out will be from this book. There are quite a few couscous recipes: spinach couscous, tomato couscous, cinnamon and sugar couscous (for breakfast!). Fingers crossed they are good!

But, as a veggie, I've learned to plan ahead... which means I've taken 'extras' along as spare meals, including several prepackaged freeze-dried trail food pouches (Mountain House and Mary Jane's Outpost) , angel hair pasta for spaghetti with Corelli pasta sauce in a neat paper container that travels well, trail mix, other nuts, crackers, Fantastic Foods hummus, Hormel's vegetarian chili, etc. We'll be 17 miles from the nearest town so I want to be sure we have plenty of food! LOL

I am soooooooooo looking forward to this vacation. I love, love, love being out in nature. And, I really love what my home state has to offer in terms of vacation destinations. Before we reach the Porkies, we plan to camp two nights in St. Ignace in an effort to break up the drive (the Porkies are a 12-hour drive from my area). While in St. Ignace, we hope to skip over to Mackinac Island for a day hike there. I'm really excited about that because, while I've been to Mackinac Island many times, I've never hiked the trails there. Plus, it will be nice to visit the charming island again. I've been to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard... and I'll take Mackinac Island any day over those two famous isles!

This will likely be my last decent post before the trip. But, I do plan to post a summary of our trip when I return... that won't be till Sept. 9 at the earliest, though. Please don't forget about me! I know I'll be ready to resume making and posting yummy home-cooked meals after 9 days of freezer bag cooking, LOL.

Till then, take care everyone!

Jenny

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Asian Salad

I'm not sure where this recipe originated, but my sister makes this dish often for parties. It's always a big hit for those potluck-type shindigs.

It's really simple but delicious! Perfect for a light summer dinner. It's a great change of pace from a salad of greens.

And, it's vegetarian! ;)

ASIAN SALAD
1 package of slaw
1 (3oz) container of rice noodles
2 packages of ramen noodles cooked with no flavoring
1 bunch of green onions chopped
1 cup silvered almonds

Sauce:
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tbl soy sauce

Mix the sauce and the other ingredients in separate bowls. Then combine it all together. See, told ya it was simple!


The recipe marks my second entry in the Presto Pasta Night round-ups, which are posted each Friday night. This week is the six-month anniversary of PPN. Head on over to Ruth's Once Upon a Feast blog to check it out... but only if you want your mouth to water!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

BBQ Pomegranate Tofu with Coconut Rice.

Apologies for not posting this yesterday, as promised. My cat got sick and I spent two hours at the vet after work and then still had some grocery shopping to do for my upcoming camping trip... so I was tired and not in a blogging mood when I got home last night. But I don't want to miss out on the chance to blog about this tasty dish from Vegan with a Vengeance...

Monday night's dinner was BBQ Pomegranate Tofu with Coconut Rice. The BBQ sauce is absolutely AWESOME. I plan to use this sauce recipe if anything else I make in the future requires BBQ sauce... that's how tasty it is!

But, I came to the realization that I need a bigger kitchen, LOL. Mine is an older-style modest-sized kitchen... definitely not one of the grand "cooking" kitchens I drool over in magazines. Which is usually fine for the often simple recipes I make myself as a bachelorette. Sometimes, though, I feel I need more counter space, which was oh-so-obvious as I tried to make both the tofu and the rice recipe at the same time. Or, maybe I just need to plan better... or make this recipe more often so that I become familiar with it and can jungle all its tasks with ease.

I may mod this recipe in the future... next time I might try frying the tofu in the oil mixture before smothering it in the BBQ sauce and baking it. And, I used half white rice, half brown rice for the Coconut Rice recipe... but next time, I think I'll make it exactly as stated with the Jasmine rice. I bet it tastes better that way.

I can't forget to mention that the Pomegranate Molasses--which I found at Whole Foods Market--used in this recipe is delicious! I don't really taste it in the finished sauce, but I tried it in its own. (Yes, I licked the drip that decided to escape down the bottle!) I would love to make some pancakes or waffles and drizzle the stuff on top. Mmm, mmm.

And, sorry for the crappy photo... I need to work on my food art photography skills!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vegan Biscuits and Gravy

This... I've been waiting for this dish ever since I went vegetarian about 7 years ago. Biscuits and gravy was one of the few meat dishes I truly missed consuming. Don't ask me why. For the first 20-some odd years of my life, biscuits and gravy never even came close to touching my lips. Then, a steady boyfriend of mine--who had a country flair--introduced me to Cracker Barrel and biscuits and gravy. It became a treat, something I only had when we went out to breakfast. It's definitely in the comfort food category. Maybe that's why I missed it so much.

I mentioned briefly a while back that my sis gave me Vegan with a Vengeance for my birthday in February. I can't believe it took me so long to try one of the recipes. Oh, I eyed them all many times over the last few months as I flipped through the pages. They all looked so scrumptious. But I had heard this book contained a vegan biscuits and 'sausage' gravy recipe--aptly titled "Baking Powder Biscuits and White Bean Tempeh Sausage Gravy"--and that's what I had been longing for.

Oh. My. Gawd. This recipe truly is to die for.

The biscuits were divine. The tempeh 'sausage' crumbles were awesome. Put them together... perfection. I'm not exaggerating. Even though I believe I made a boo-boo in the recipe, this dish still completely made my weekend after cookin' it up Saturday morning (especially since I had enough leftovers to repeat this heavenly breakfast on Sunday morning, LOL).

The only thing I'm going to do different next time I make this, is I'm going to add only some of the crumbles to the gravy. The recipe doesn't really say how much crumbles to use. In my haste, I mixed the pureed bean mixture in the entire pan of crumbles, which quickly ate it up. Thankfully, I had another can of white beans and I made another batch of the bean mixture, but it was still very thick, even after trying to dilute it with veggie stock. Therefore, I think most people only put in some of the crumbles, not all of 'em. Which makes sense because then you can have some crumbles leftover to mix in with your favorite spaghetti sauce or something.

I should also mention that this was my first time eating tempeh. I had been wanting to try it for so long but never knew what kind of recipe to make. This turned out to be the perfect recipe for losing my tempeh virginity!!!! ;-p

If you're a biscuits and gravy fan... buy this book and try this recipe. Heck, even if you're not a biscuits and gravy fan, try it... this recipe is the sh*t!

Preview: I made another VwaV recipe tonight for dinner... but I'm going to wait to rave about that one until tomorrow's post. ;)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Eggplant Salad

I spied this Eggplant Salad recipe this week in the New York Times food section. The photo accompanying the article was gorgeous. I drooled. I knew I had to try it ... and soon.

The recipe was really easy to make. It made way too much for just lil' ol' me, so I shared it with my sis and her hubby, too.

Unfortunately, I forgot the mint. :( It got purchased at the market along with the rest of the ingredients, but the basil-mint pesto recipe I made earlier this week also called for mint. I used all I had in that recipe, completely forgetting that I needed a bit for this one. The herb you see in the photo is basil, which basically just acted as a garnish for the photo. I'm sure this recipe tastes really good with the mint in it.

Eggplant Salad With Peppers, Mint and Caper-Feta Vinaigrette

Time: 45 minutes

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 3/4 pounds eggplant (any kind, or a mixture), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 2/3 cup)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon capers, chopped

1 pound mixed bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves.

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

2. Toss eggplant with 1/3 cup vinaigrette, reserving the rest. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden around edges, about 30 minutes. Let eggplant cool somewhat. (It can be warm but not hot enough to melt feta or wilt mint.)

3. Whisk feta, garlic and capers into reserved vinaigrette. In a large bowl, combine eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and mint leaves. Toss with vinaigrette, and serve immediately or within several hours. (It holds up all day.)

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ditching paper cups


Every now and then--especially when my boss won't be in the office--I like to stop at Einstein Bros. on my way into work to purchase a cup of coffee. We have "office coffee" but since my boss and I are the only ones who drink it, it has always felt like a waste to make a pot... even half a pot... just for me.

Walking into Einstein's this morning, it dawned on me that I should just buy its reusable travel mug instead of throwing away a paper cup, cardboard sleeve and plastic lid each time I purchase a coffee. So, that's exactly what I did. I bought the groovy brown mug, which was the cheapest of the two styles they offered. The shelves contained what might be considered a more hip mug in pretty hues of purple and blue, but they also were $9 and I wasn't about to pay that when I have my fair share of travel mugs at home in the cupboard. But, for $2.64, tax included, I got a refillable mug that I'll use for every future coffee purchase... and the coffee will only cost $0.99 each time. Bonus! I love Einstein's Euro-French Roast. It's my absolute fav!

Tonight, I plan to try a recipe for Eggplant Salad... so come back soon to see how it turns out! :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Basil-Mint Orange Pesto with Pasta

Found the recipe for this yummy dish in my local newspaper today. It was submitted by a reader named Bonnie Brines King of Plymouth, Mich. It's the first time I've made pesto from scratch... and it didn't turn out too bad! :) Loved the fresh taste of it. I mixed it with whole wheat penne pasta for an easy dinner.

Basil-Mint Orange Pesto

Makes: 1 cup

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup packed fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup walnuts

2 tablespoons frozen orange concentrate, thawed

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor, blend the basil, mint, walnuts, orange juice concentrate and garlic until almost smooth. With machine running, gradually add olive oil; process until smooth. If pesto is dry, mix in more oil by spoonfuls. Press plastic wrap onto surface, cover and refrigerate up to 2 days. Freezes well.


I've been wanting to make a dish for Presto Pasta Nights... and this is my first one! Wooo!

And, many thanks to my mom, who recently handed down to me her rarely-used older food processor. I originally requested it because I had planned to shred some of my cold-processed soap and turn it into laundry soap. However, I found it much more useful for making food instead! Thanks, Mom! :-D