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!


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! ;)

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

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

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tasty Bite meals save the day when camping

I survived! This past weekend, I attended the annual family campout hosted by my BF's omnivore family. Thought not a camping virgin, I felt like an oddball around meal times because of my choice to eat vegetarian. There were about 2 dozen people at the campout and each family took turns making a meal... but none were even close to being vegetarian. :(

Two words for surviving a weekend with omnivores: plan ahead. I worked with my BF's mom prior to the trip, in hopes of finding out what people were planning to cook, so I could try to "blend in" as best as I could. For instance, Saturday's meal was scheduled as "burgers and brats" so I took along a veggie patty for myself. But, to be on the safe side, I also made sure to bring along a few extra, easy-to-cook back-up meals... just in case. I took two Tasty Bite meals as well as some Luna bars, apples, bananas, peanuts and gingersnaps.

I've blogged about the Tasty Bite meals before, and they surely saved the day this weekend. The omnis cooked sloppy joes for Friday's dinner. The kidney bean mixture I had prepared as a veggie version turned out too watery to be slopped onto hamburger buns. I thought the Bombay Potatoes might prove a worthy substitute, at least from the picture on the box, but its sauce turned out to be too runny as well. But, I ate it out of the pouch and was happy to have a hot veggie meal in my belly. :)

Saturday's scheduled burgers and brats actually turned out to be beef stew. :( So much for my veggie patty. :( I was even more glad that I brought along the Tasty Bite meals now, and happily heated up the Bengal Lentils, which worked out extremely well for that particular meal because the bread provided for the meat-eaters stew proved to be most excellent for dipping in the lentil mixture as well. :) And, I can happily report that this dish looked WAY more appetizing than the stew the omni campers were stuck with. Before digging in, my BF looked at my bowl of yummy lentils then back at his bowl of gross-looking stew and said, "Wanna switch?" LOL Two thumbs up for Bengal Lentils!!!

I'm definitely a big fan of these meals now. They taste good. They are super easy to cook. And they can make camping easier for veg*ns.... or any meal. I now keep a few pf these in my desk drawer at work in case I forget to prepare a lunch at home or don't feel like going out to lunch (see pic in this post... today's lunch! LOL). Since they don't need refrigeration, they're perfect for this purpose!

I have another camping trip coming up in two and a half weeks; my BF and I will be roughing it in Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park in Michigan's beautiful upper peninsula. Last year, we went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which feels like a second home to me because I've done so much hiking there in the past five or six years. For our weeklong trip last fall, we relied solely on Lipsmackin' Vegetarian Backpackin' as our bible for easy veggie meal prep in camp. (My BF, who is omni, goes veg for the week we camp... isn't that cool?) This year, I'm also using a cool new book I ordered from I plan to blog a bit more about veggie hiking/camping as the trip nears... so watch for those posts soon!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gone camping...

Just a quick note to say I won't be around to cook or post this weekend because I'll be camping in Merrill, MI. My BF's family is having its annual family group campout; I'll be the sole veg*n among some 2 dozen or so omnis. Wish me luck! I'm not expecting any big snarfus, because I've worked with my BF's mom to determine what the meals will be for the weekend. Therefore, I've been able to plan ahead and have attempted to coordinate the veggie meals I'm bringing to match as close as possible to what everyone else is eating. For instance, Saturday's dinner is supposed to be burgers and brats, so that's basically a no-brainer: I'm taking my favorite veggie patty with me. :)

I hope to post more about the getaway when I get back. Till then, have a great weekend everyone!!!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Monday's Lunch

I work at a university, and usually that allows me some decent foods choices for lunch... unless of course, it's the summer term with less students on campus. Our campus dining options are very limited July/August. Not usually a problem, because I normally bring my lunch to work, but on those days when I'm running late or whatever, it's nice to have something to fall back on.

Yesterday I walked over to our dining area, intending to get a Subway sandwich. However, I completely forgot that Subway, the grill, etc. were closed until September. All that was at the cafe were pricey grab-and-go items. And slim veggie options.

There was a "garden" salad, but I saw that it had egg in it. (What part of the garden do EGGS grow?) Most lacto-ovo vegetarians would eat this, but lately I've been toying with the idea of eating vegan as much as possible. I started reading Diet for a New America. While I'm nowhere near finished, I have read up to the part about the egg industry, and I really have no desire to eat eggs again. So, I didn't want the salad.

No veggie sandwiches were available; they were all meat-based. That left me with a choice of a three-bean salad, which actually looked pretty good, but it was in a small container and overpriced. Hummus and pita chips sounded good, but I could tell the chips were fried and really didn't want that. I settled on the "combo platter" with hummus, red pepper hummus, bab ghannouj, meatless grape leaves, spinach feta pie, olives and baklava. I love middle eastern food, but this combo was a pricey $5.95. At least I feel that's pricey, especially when I could've driven down the street and got a bigger and warmer similar combo for a buck or two more. But I digress. The lunch did its job and held me over till dinner. I barely touched the bab ghannouj, so I may buy some pretzels from the vending machine today and finish that off. :)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

'Nuts About Spinach' salad

Doesn't this look fabulous? It tasted just as fabulous too! This is the "Nuts About Spinach" salad on the menu at The Pool Restaurant, located inside the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn, Mich. You may remember that I did a previous blog entry about the restaurant at the mansion earlier this summer.

This salad was BIG, and it better be for the $9.95 price! LOL Baby spinach leaves were topped with melon, strawberries, mandarin oranges and Michigan dried cherries. Underneath all the fruit were the almonds, walnuts and soy nuts. Raspberry vinaigrette came with the salad on the side. I couldn't resist... I poured the whole cup of dressing on top cuz the vinaigrette was divine! It had a nice, thick texture to it, not runny at all. Tasted very fresh, too.

To my delight, my dining companion--an omnivore--ordered this gorgeous salad, too! And, I discovered through our conversation today that he has a secret longing to be a vegetarian! Go ahead, R... you know you want to go veg! ;-p

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Maple Fried Tofu

Ever since I discovered honey fried tofu earlier this year, I've been dreaming about trying the vegan version--Maple Fried Tofu.

Before getting extremely sick earlier this month, I bought quite a few tubs of 365 Organic brand tofu at Whole Foods Market during a visit to my BF's house (Lucky b*stard lives so close to a Whole Foods, and he's an omnivore that rarely shops there. Grr.). I try to stock up when I visit him because the WF tofu is cheaper than I can find it at my local grocer. So, I stocked up, then got sick and the tofu is now drawing close to the expiration dates (well, end of the month)... so I'll be using it up over the next few weeks. One of the recipes I'm dying to try is the BBQ Pomegranate Tofu from the book, Vegan with a Vengeance. Holding me back has been the pomegranate molasses ingredient. BUT, I found it at Whole Foods this past weekend, so I'm ready to dive in and try this one SOON! But for now, it's been quick and easy cuz we're having a heatwave here in MI... heat indexes hovering at 100 degrees. Oi. Last thing I feel like doing, especially since I don't have central a/c, is to slave over a meal on a hot stove.

Tonight I decided to use some of the tofu in my fridge with the quick and easy Maple Fried Tofu. I love making tofu this way so much that I didn't even make any sides, just the tofu, LOL. The recipe is the same as I reported back in February, but I used pure maple syrup instead of honey. Mmm, mmm good! :-D

Tomorrow, I'm treating a colleague of mine to lunch at the Henry Ford Estate in Dearborn, Mich. They have a great restaurant in a room that used to house Ford's indoor swimming pool! I first blogged about the Estate's veg*n dining options back in June when I ordered Clara's Garden Sandwich, which is a yummy veggie delight. Tomorrow, I plan to order the "Nuts About Spinach" salad... so be sure to come back to read about it! :)