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.

  • 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!


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 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! :)


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 ... check it out!