Friday, February 22, 2008

Baja-style Grilled Tempeh Tacos

Where did the week go? Holy cow! I've only cooked one meal since Monday, because Brad was sick on Tuesday and we just had soup, Wednesday I made some awesome tempeh tacos (more on that in a second), last night I was at a charity benefit dinner and silent auction, and today I just had a really rough and disappointing afternoon, and didn't feel like cooking dinner. We don't expect to be home for dinner on Saturday or Sunday, so I won't be cooking then, either. Which means the seitan pot pie, chickpea cutlets, stuffed bell peppers and chipotle bean burritos will all make appearances on next week's menu instead. And that's ok.

I really did cook this week, however, even if I didn't prepare a lot of dinners! I made tempeh tacos, a batch of seitan, and a Guatemalan cheesecake, among other things. I know there's something else, but it's escaping me at the moment. And that, people, is why you should blog daily, and not try to recall it all at a later date. They say the mind is the first to go, and dude, if that's the case, I'm screwed. I'm only 32!

But I digress. Let me get back to the topic of food, and tell you about these tacos I made on Wednesday. They were awesome! I used the Baja-style grilled tempeh tacos recipe from Veganomicon. I'm not going to post the recipe, since I don't want to infringe on their copyrighted materials or anything, but I can give you a basic idea.

The tacos had several components. First was a tangy cabbage slaw, which was made of shredded cabbage and carrots, and diced pickled jalapeno peppers, tossed with lime juice and vinegar. Next was a lime cream sauce, made of plain soy yogurt, lime juice, grapeseed oil and cilantro. The third major component was the tempeh itself. It was my first time cooking with tempeh, and I was pleasantly surprised. I'd read about it before, and wasn't particularly tantalized by the description. Cakes of fermented (read: moldy) soybeans?? Are you kidding me? But I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted it. The tempeh was simmered for a bit, which I'm told removes bitterness, then marinated in a lovely, tangy, zesty sauce, before being grilled. Finally it was sliced into little strips, much like beef in fajitas.

Once all of those goodies were prepared, all that remained was to assemble the tacos themselves. We used flour tortillas, because I'll be damned if I could find corn tortillas at any of the three stores I tried. What the hell? So we had the tortillas, topped with cabbage slaw and tempeh, some soy cheddar cheese, and the lime cream sauce. YUM! They were fantastic, and surprisingly filling. We were each figuring on having three tacos beforehand, but by the end of the second, there was just no way we could eat more.

These are something I would definitely make again. The only thing I would change is to use a vegan sour cream instead of yogurt for the lime cream sauce, but outside of that, they were great! My first recipe from Veganomicon! So far the cookbook gets two very enthusiastic thumbs up! I highly recommend it.

About seitan

Today I made my first batch of seitan.  It's a vegetarian/vegan meat substitute, and I've been really excited to try it.  I only recently learned about it, and while it sounds somewhat vile, it was also intriguing.  I did a flickr search for pictures of prepared seitan, and couldn't believe how delicious and meat-like it looked.  So I gathered up my ingredients (thank you, thank you, thank you, Whole Foods!), and set to work.

It turned out beautifully!  And it was so much easier than I anticipated.  I did have to allow a whole hour for it to simmer, but the active prep time was less than 10 minutes, and you can't beat that.

I had planned to use this in a seitan pot pie this evening, but decided to put that off due to the difficult afternoon I had today. From what I've read online, however, it will keep in the fridge for up to a week, so I'll just make it on Monday instead.

This recipe has the bonus benefit of the broth left over once the seitan is cooked.  It smelled and tasted so delicious that I ended up using it to make a veg version of chicken noodle soup.  I had to dilute it with water because the broth was so salty, but that's cool because I ended up with twice as much soup!  I tossed in some 1-inch broken pieces of spaghetti, half of a shredded carrot, and some tiny bits of seitan.  Delicious!  Meg sucked it down, and Brad and I really enjoyed it, as well.

Seitan is also practically free to prepare.  The whole batch of it cost me maybe a couple dollars, AND I got 4 to 6 servings of soup out of the deal.  You can't beat that, especially with how astonishingly expensive meat is these days.  Add to that the shocking news story about the treatment of slaughterhouse cattle, and seitan just plain makes sense.

I had really expected our monthly grocery expenses to skyrocket here in the U.S., versus what we had been paying at the commissary in Japan, but I've been pleasantly surprised.  Buying generic, shopping for produce at the local farmers' produce stand in town, and eliminating meat has brought our grocery budget down to LESS than what we were spending in Japan.  Nice!

Guatemalan Cheesecake

Meg saw this recipe prepared on Noggin today, and it looked so good that I had to make it. I made mine in my food processor rather than a mixer, and it came together in a snap. The original recipe didn't call for vanilla, but I felt that it could benefit from it, so in it went.

The cake was good, and had a surprisingly light flavor considering all that cheese, cream and eggs.  On Noggin the cake was spread with whipped cream and decorated with sliced strawberries, but I think it's good just by itself.  It would be fabulous with a big glass of cold milk, or a cup of tea.  It kind of reminds me of the little Japanese cheese mushi cakes I used to buy at the commissary.

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, this is most definitely not a vegan recipe.  In fact, it's about as non-vegan as a recipe could get without containing meat.  Brad said I might as well just throw in some veal while I'm at it.  But I don't think that would go well with the vanilla...

Guatemalan Cheesecake

8 oz cream cheese
8 oz ricotta cheese
8 oz heavy cream
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp vanllla

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9 x 13 pan.
Process cream cheese and ricotta in a food processor, until smooth. Add cream, and process until smooth, scraping down sides.  Add eggs and vanilla, and process until smooth.  Add sugar and flour, and process until smooth.  Scrape down sides, and process once more.

Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown.  Top and/or decorate as desired.


1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 cup vegetable broth
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, pressed
8 cups cold water
2 to 3 vegetable bouillon cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce

Mix together the vital wheat gluten flour and nutritional yeast. Combine the 1/2 cups broth, soy sauce, olive oil and pressed garlic, and add to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine (I used a wooden spoon), then turn out onto a cutting board or the counter and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. The dough should be elastic. You don't need to flour your hands or the cutting board to knead it. It will be damp, but it will stick to itself.

Divide the dough into 3 pieces, and shape/press/pull/knead them to shape them into kind of flattened "cutlets", for lack of a better description.

Combine the cold water, bouillon cubes, and the other 1/4 cup soy sauce in a large pot. Add the dough pieces. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, but watch it the whole time. You need to lower the heat as soon as it boils, otherwise the seitan will get puffy and filled with air pockets. As soon as it boils, turn the heat down to a low simmer.

Simmer for 60 minutes, then turn the heat off, and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Remove it from the liquid, then slice it into pieces as desired. It can be stored in the fridge in some of the cooking liquid.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thai Red Curry

Alas, it appears that I'm continuing on with the trend of making things that are  I was so excited to have Thai red curry tofu tonight!  I haven't had a Thai curry since we left Japan, and I've been missing it a lot.  There was the best Thai restaurant in Yokosuka, and they made absolutely amazing red curry, green curry, pad Thai, and spicy papaya salad.  I've been able to successfully recreate the spicy papaya salad at home, with great results, but I haven't found comparable red or green curry recipes yet.

The one I tried tonight was all right.  Brad liked it, but I didn't even finish my bowl.  I think it would have been OK if the bar hadn't been set so high by Thai Erawan, but that's what I had my mind set on, so this didn't even come close.  :sigh:    I really didn't like the last steps in this recipe, adding in the lemon juice, basil and corn starch.  I don't think the curry needed to be thickened up like that, and the lemon juice and basil just tasted all wrong.  Next time I made red curry, I'm going to look for a recipe that uses kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass, and I think it'll be more what I'm looking for.  

I bought and prepared Jasmine rice for the first time today, and OH MY GOSH, it was delicious!  I always thought that Thai Erawan added something to their rice to make it taste so good.  I didn't know it was Jasmine rice!  Yum!  I'm so excited to have it again. 

I'll go ahead and post the curry recipe just for kicks.  Try it at your own risk.

Thai Red Curry

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion—finely chopped
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste (or 3 teaspoons for a hotter curry)
2 cloves garlic—finely chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons fish sauce (I used soy sauce, which I know isn't a real substitute, because I didn't have a vegetarian fish sauce on hand)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
1 red pepper, julienned
2 cups Jasmine rice
1 package extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed, cubed and lightly browned in oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed to a paste with 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 large fresh basil leaves—finely sliced

Prepare Jasmine rice according to package directions.  While rice is cooking, prepare curry.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the curry paste and garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce, sugar and salt, then bring to the boil. Add the red pepper and zucchini, cover with a lid, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 12 minutes.

Add the tofu to the curry and simmer, covered, for a further 8 minutes. Add the cornstarch paste and stir continuously until the curry thickens, then stir in the lemon juice and basil. Serve with Jasmine rice.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Banana Bread

I had some bananas that the kids didn't eat before they became over-ripe, so I just whipped up a batch of banana bread.  I used this recipe, which I found online, and it should be ready in about an hour.  I halved the recipe, since I only had two bananas, but I usually find that I only need one loaf of snack bread at a time, so I don't know that I'll ever make the full recipe.

I'll post an update tomorrow once I've tasted it, to give my review.

Update:  It was  It got really browned on top, almost burnt, so I'm lucky I checked it after 45 minutes and put some foil on top to prevent further browning.  I was also surprised to find that it was really dark inside, too.  Usually banana bread has a much lighter color, so this was strange.  It tastes decent, but not fantastic, so I'm still on the look-out for the perfect banana bread recipe.  Any suggestions are welcome, if you know of a great one!

Banana Bread

5 very ripe bananas
4 eggs
1 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300. Grease two 9-inch loaf pans.

In a medium bowl, mash bananas and stir in the eggs until well blended. Add shortening, sugar and vanilla. Using an electric mixer(I used a hand-held), beat until the shortening is evenly combined.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; blend into batter. Add walnuts if desired. Divide between the prepared pans.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

French Puffs

I've been meaning to make these muffins for quite awhile now, but kept putting them off on weekday mornings.  Our mornings are busy enough with getting ourselves ready, getting the kids up, packing lunches, eating breakfast, and getting out of the house on time.  I've made other muffins in the morning with no problem, but these have an extra step at the end, and I never know what I'll be busy with when they come out of the oven.  But now it's Sunday, and we have plenty of time, so into the oven they go!  

These muffins are incredible.  My mom got the recipe from a friend when we lived in Spain, and they were an instant hit.  They're light, fluffy, lightly sweetened muffins that are quickly dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon & sugar as soon as they come out of the oven.  Think of them as the muffin version of cinnamon toast!

To make these vegan, use egg substitute (mashed bananas or applesauce, or a commercial egg substitute), soy milk, and non-dairy margarine.

French Puffs

1 egg
¾ c milk
½ c vegetable oil
2 c flour
1/3 c sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Heat oven to 400. Grease bottoms of 12 muffin pan cups. Beat egg in large bowl. Stir in milk and oil. Stir in remaining ingredients all at once, just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Spoon into muffin cups, filling ¾ full.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove immediately from pan and roll in about ½ cup melted butter, then in mixture of ½ c sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of February 17th

Here's my menu plan for the coming week.  I'm still working on keeping us vegan at home, although we did slip up a few times this past week.  Still, though, we've cut back drastically on our dairy intake at home, so I'm proud of us!

This week I'm going to start taste-testing various vegan products like soy cheese, rice milk, and so forth, as well as meat replacements like seitan and tempeh.  I've had rice milk and soy milk before, but haven't ever used it in baking, so we'll see how that works out this week.  

breakfast - cinnamon toast
lunch - we went to an NCAA basketball game, and got 4 free hot dogs and sodas with our family pack of 4 tickets.  Nice!  
dinner - Pasta with Rustic Tomato, Basil & Kalamata Olive Sauce, and french bread

breakfast - French Puffs
lunch - taking the kids out to eat before the ladies' basketball game
dinner - leftovers

breakfast - tofu scramble w/broccoli and soy cheese
lunch - pb&j sandwiches, fruit
dinner - red curry tofu with rice

breakfast - oatmeal and toast
lunch - granola bars and fruit
dinner - Baja-style grilled tempeh tacos

breakfast - cereal and rice milk
lunch - taco salad made with leftover taco ingredients
dinner - seitan pot pie

breakfast - cinnamon toast and applesauce
lunch - granola bars and fruit
dinner - chickpea cutlets with mustard sauce, roasted veggies and potatoes

breakfast - banana nut muffins
lunch - pb&j, fruit and pretzels
dinner - Creole stuffed bell peppers, messy rice, hot-sauce glazed tempeh, and green salad

breakfast - pancakes
lunch - leftovers from last night's dinner
dinner - burritos filled with black beans with chipotle adobo sauce, rice, soy cheese and salsa

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pomegranate Martinis

I had a delicious pomegranate martini at J. Alexander's last weekend.  They make them with pomegranate-infused vodka, pomegranate juice, and fresh squeezed lemons and oranges, and were so yummy.  I asked Brad to try to recreate one for me this evening, and this is what he came up with.  We only had limes on hand, no lemons or oranges, but it was really good!  Sort of like a pomegranate Cosmo.

These measurements are approximate, as Brad just gave me a rough guess of how much he used, so feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.

Pomegranate Martinis

4 oz vodka
8 oz pomegranate juice
juice of 1 lime

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake thoroughly, strain and serve.  This makes enough to fill 2 to 3 martini glasses.

Spicy Dry Fried Curry Tofu

This recipe, which I found online, originally called for chicken, but I substituted it with tofu to make it vegan.  It was good, but not great.  Next time I think I would add something to give it a little more flavor, though I'm not sure what...maybe more salt and some crushed red pepper?  You'd think with all those spices that it would be loaded with flavor, but it just seemed like needed a little something more.  If I figure that out, I'll update the recipe.  

Brad really loved this, though, and asked that I make it again.  Simmering the tofu for so long allowed it to soak up a lot of the flavor, and gain a nice, chewy, meaty texture.

Spicy Dry Fried Curry Tofu

1 block extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 large onion, sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 leaves fresh curry
2 teaspoons ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
2 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Slice tofu into chunks. Place tofu in a large bowl, and season with turmeric powder, coriander powder, black pepper, chili powder, and salt. Cover bowl, and refrigerate until needed.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Fry mustard seeds, fenugreek, onion, cumin seeds, and curry leaves in oil for about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger pastes, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add tofu and water, stir, and cover with lid. 

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in coconut milk, and cook until almost dry. Stir to keep the tofu from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir in lime juice, and cook until dry.

Cucumber Peanut Salad

I loved this!  Brad hates cucumber, so he didn't try it, but I am hooked!  The coolness of the cucumber is balanced by the heat of the red pepper, and the spicy saltiness of the cumin and salt is balanced by the sugar.  YUM!  

You can peel the cucumber before seeding and dicing, if desired, but I left it on and liked the color it added.  

Cucumber Peanut Salad

1 large cucumber
salt to taste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped peanuts
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, then dice. Mix together salt and cucumber, and allow to drain in a colander for ten minutes to release water. Pat dry, and place in a medium size bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together oil, cumin and crushed red pepper.

Add the oil mixture, peanuts, lemon juice and sugar to the cucumber, and stir together. Garnish with cilantro.

Peanut Rice

This is soooooo delicious!  Both Brad and I scarfed it down, and can't wait to have it again.

I used a standard medium-grain rice since I couldn't find basmati rice at the two grocery stores I shop at, and it still tasted great.  I also made this in my rice cooker instead of on the stovetop, cooking the rice, water, salt and turmeric together, then stirring the peas and peanuts in when it was done cooking.  

Peanut Rice

1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup frozen petite peas
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts

Mix the rice, water, salt, and turmeric in a pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir the peas and peanuts into the cooked rice to serve.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ginger Ale

Continuing on today's theme of making unusual things from scratch (like the cheese below), I made a bottle of ginger ale tonight!  It won't be ready for another 2-3 days, as it needs time to ferment and carbonate, so I won't have a full review until then.  I did try a sip of the mixture before sealing it up, however, and it tasted good!  I'm really excited to see how the yeast and sugar work together to turn it into a carbonated beverage.  Should be fun!  If it tastes good, we can save money on the mixers for Brad's Crown and Ginger Ales.  ; )

Here's the recipe if you want to try it.  Very, very, very simple.

Ginger Ale

1 empty 2-liter plastic bottle with screw-on cap (DO NOT use a glass bottle)
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger root
juice of 1 lemon (optional)
fresh, cold water

Thoroughly rinse out the 2-liter bottle.  Using a funnel, pour the sugar and the yeast into the bottle.  Swirl the bottle around to combine.

In a small bowl, combine the ginger and lemon juice, and stir to make a slurry.  The lemon juice is optional, but gives a tartness to the ginger ale.  It can be made either way.  Add the slurry to the bottle, using the funnel.  Don't worry if some bits remain on the funnel.

Fill the small bowl or measuring cup with cold water and swirl around to get any ginger/lemon remnants from the sides.  Pour this water into the bottle (this will get any remaining bits from the funnel into the bottle), place the cap on tightly, and shake several times to combine ingredients and begin dissolving the sugar and yeast.

Fill the bottle the rest of the way with cold water, leaving about one inch of room.  Place the cap on tightly, and shake until the sugar and yeast are dissolved.  There will still be pieces of the grated ginger floating about, as it doesn't dissolve, but that's OK.

Leave the bottle out at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours (not usually more than this; it ferments very quickly), until the bottle feels hard.  Give it a good, forceful squeeze with your fingers, and if it's hard and doesn't give at all, it's ready.  Do not leave it at room temperature beyond this point, as it can explode.

Chill overnight, then open slowly to release some of the pressure before opening completely.  If desired, strain to remove floating bits of ginger.  Otherwise, pour and serve.

Pad Thai

¾ lb dried rice noodles (fettucine or linguine width)
¼ c lime juice
3 Tbsp Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce, or soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp red curry paste
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin julienne strips
8-10 scallions, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 c mung bean sprouts
¼ c chopped dry roasted peanuts
¼ c cilantro
1 lime, cut into 1/8-inch rounds

Soak noodles in 3 quarts hot water for 30 minutes; drain. In small bowl, combine lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, curry paste and 1 Tbsp water. Pour 1 Tbsp oil into non-stick skillet, and scramble eggs over low heat until barely cooked, then put aside.

In the same skillet (rinsed if necessary) add the remaining 2 Tbsp oil. Over medium heat, add the garlic and ginger. Saute for 30 seconds, then add carrot and scallions. Saute for 1 minute more, stirring frequently. Add the lime juice mixture, then the drained noodles. Cook the noodles, stirring constantly, until they are tender but still chewy, about 1 minute. Add the sprouts and the scrambled eggs, stirring well.

Divide the mixture among plates, sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro, garnish with lime slices and serve.

Note: Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a meal. You can make this a heartier dish by stirring in shrimp, seasoned strips of chicken or pork, or fried tofu.

Paneer (Indian cheese)

Today I made paneer for the first time. If you're not familiar with it, paneer is an un-aged cheese, commonly used in Indian cuisine. I seriously doubt I would be able to find any at stores around here, but it's easy to make at home, and it's something I've been wanting to try making for a long time, so I gave it a shot today. It's currently draining over the sink, and will be ready to cook tomorrow. I can't wait to see how it tastes! This is my first time ever making any kind of cheese at home, but now I'm really intrigued to try other recipes. I found a website that has photo instructions for making all kinds of cheeses, from cheddar to blue cheese and so forth. If I get around to trying to make some, I'll be sure to blog about it. ; )


1 gallon milk
1 quart buttermilk
1 cup canola oil for frying

Pour the gallon of milk into a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Watch carefully, as it will boil over almost as soon as it starts to boil. As the milk begins to boil, pour the buttermilk into the pot in a steady stream while stirring constantly. The milk will separate into curd and water.

Place a cheesecloth into a colander, and pour the milk mixture through it. Reserve some of the liquid for later. Let the milk mixture sit in the colander for a couple of hours, or until it stops dripping.

After the curds are strained and settled, transfer them to a food processor. Process until smooth. It should be able to form a ball if it is the right consistency. If it is too dry, add a little of the reserved liquid and process again. The consistency should be like a firm ricotta cheese.

If you do not have a food processor, turn the cheese out onto a clean surface, and knead until smooth.

Form into a ball, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until needed.

To cook the paneer, heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the paneer into bite size pieces. Fry for about 1 minute, or until a very pale golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Add to your favorite curry or dish.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chewy Granola Bars

I made these granola bars last week, as part of our ongoing effort to save money. Granola bars at the store aren't too expensive, but the cost adds up after awhile, especially considering how incredibly inexpensive and easy they are to make from scratch.

I made a double batch of these to maximize my time, and made one pan with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds, and the other batch with mini chocolate chips. The cranberry ones were hands-down the family favorite, but both were good.

Brad and I have class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, straight from 9am to 1:30pm. We leave the house at 7:15am and don't get home until about 3:00, so I've taken to packing us some quick snacks to eat in the 10 minutes as we walk between classes. I have a bento box about the size of a steno pad, with 3 divided compartments. I stick some granola bars, chunks of fruit, string cheese, hard-boiled eggs, baby carrots, and other similar foods in there, and it works out really well. If not for this, we'd either have growling tummies by the time we got home, or else we'd drop money at the Student Union for a Chick Fil-A. Either way, not a good option, so the bento box and these granola bars are saving us money and improving our quality of life. ; ) You can't beat that!

Chewy Granola Bars

4 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan with Pam.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking soda, vanilla, butter, honey and brown sugar. Stir in the dried cranberries and sunflower seeds.

Lightly press mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into bars. Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving.

Variations: Instead of dried cranberries and sunflower seeds, use any desired ingredients. Some options are mini chocolate chips, cinnamon chips, chopped walnuts, pecans or other nuts, mini marshmallows, raisins, etc.

Potato Pancakes

We had these for dinner tonight, and they were so yummy! The kids especially liked them, and ate 3 big pancakes each, with some homemade cinnamon applesauce that I cooked up earlier this afternoon.

Potato Pancakes

2 eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 medium potatoes, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Mix in potatoes and onion.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to scoop the potato mixture into the skillet. Press to flatten. Cook about 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of February 10th

Here's the menu I have planned for this week.  Today has been a busy day, and I've had a splitting headache, so we pushed back what we had planned to have today, and instead heated up some packages of Coco's curry that we brought from Japan.  The kids were so excited to have it, and so were Brad and I!  It was delicious!

So this is the plan for the week:

breakfast - French Puffs, applesauce
lunch - roast beef sandwiches
dinner - spicy dry fried curry tofu, peanut rice, cucumber peanut salad

breakfast - yogurt, leftover French Puffs
lunch - granola bars, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, fruit
dinner - potato pancakes, applesauce, stir-fried cabbage

breakfast - french toast
lunch - grilled cheese sandwiches, fruit
dinner - Pad Thai

breakfast - cereal and milk
lunch - granola bars, string cheese, hard boiled eggs, fruit
dinner - Pasta with Rustic Tomato, Basil & Kalamata Olive Sauce, and french bread

breakfast - oatmeal with raisins
lunch - leftover pasta
dinner - red curry tofu with rice

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cole Slaw

Today we're having Brad's parents and brother over for dinner, to celebrate his 31st birthday.  My roast beef po' boys, which I made for the LSU national championship football game recently, and which were a huge hit, were requested by Brad's dad for this evening.  So the roast is simmering away right now, and will be all afternoon, and I just threw together a batch of this cole slaw.  I had it at my Aunt Karin's house at a Christmas get-together in Spokane this past December, and it was absolutely delicious.  It's a copycat of the KFC coleslaw, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I tweaked the amount of dressing, as it just didn't seem creamy enough (and I don't even care for a super creamy cole slaw), but I stayed true to the ratio of dressing ingredients.  Meg was totally digging on it, and would have licked the bowl if I'd let her.  So here it is, my take on cole slaw.

Cole Slaw
8 cups finely chopped cabbage
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine cabbage and carrots in a large salad bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt, pepper, milk, mayonnaise, buttermilk, vinegar and lemon juice.  Whisk briskly until smooth.  Add the cabbage and carrots, mixing well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Roast Beef Po' Boys

1 recipe Roast Beef and Gravy
New Orleans style French bread, about 8-10 inches long per sandwich
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Dill pickle slices

Slice the bread about 3/4 of the way through, leaving a hinged top. Slather the bread with a very generous portion of mayonnaise on the inside of the upper and lower halves. Place about a cup of lettuce on the bottom half. Top with dill pickle slices. Cover the lettuce with a generous portion of sliced/shredded roast beef. Drown the beef with gravy.

Have plenty of napkins on hand. If you're not messy to the elbows by the time you finish eating this, you haven't done it right. ; )

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Candy Apple Muffins

My mom found this recipe when I was in elementary school, and they were an instant hit.  I took the recipe to my Home Ec teacher in junior high, and she loved it and added it to her permanent recipe line-up for class.  These really are fun muffins.  They're just applesauce muffins with red hot candies stirred into the batter, and they taste delicious.  Kids love them!

I threw these together this morning, right after I got out of the shower.  They literally took less than 5 minutes to mix and get into the oven, and they were done baking by the time I finished getting dressed, doing my make-up and drying my hair.  You can't beat that!  

Candy Apple Muffins

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup red hots

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir until just mixed. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check often as they may cook quickly.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Faux Meatloaf

I tried this recipe for the first time today, and it was good.  It tasted surprisingly similar to real meatloaf!  The only thing I didn't care for was the chopped walnuts.  I chopped them very, very finely, but you could still distinctly taste them and feel them after baking.  I'd like to try this recipe again, but will probably omit the walnuts and replace them with more filler, maybe some oatmeal or cracker crumbs or similar.  Also, this took a lot longer than 40 minutes to bake.  I checked it at 40 minutes, and it was very mushy, so I stuck it back in for another 20-25 minutes.  I would recommend letting it rest for about 15 minutes before slicing, as it set up nicely after that much time, but would have been difficult to lift slices out of the pan immediately after removing it from the oven.   

Outside of that, this was really tasty, and I will definitely make it again!  Once I do, I'll post my revisions.

Update!  This tastes even better the next day, and made for fantastic cold meatloaf sandwiches!  Yum!

Faux Meatloaf

16 oz cottage cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups cornflakes
brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine cottage cheese, eggs, vegetable oil, soup mix, walnuts and cereal. Spoon into prepared pan. Spread ketchup over surface of loaf, and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Weekly Menu - week of February 3

Here is my menu for this week. Already some things have changed and been pushed back from what I originally had planned, because leftovers have lasted longer than I anticipated, and we don't want to waste food. Thankfully I didn't buy perishables (veggies and such) for more than a couple days out, though, so I can just bump the planned meals back a few days.  The good thing about that is that I hardly have to do anything to plan next week's menu, since I already have meals on standby.

In regards to this week's menu, we are trying to eat all vegetarian food at home this week. This is primarily for health reasons, but also we want to see if it will help us save money on our monthly grocery bill. I hope so! I do have beef in there for Saturday, though, as we're having family over for Brad's birthday dinner, and my roast beef po' boys have been requested.

So here it is, my revamped menu for this week!

breakfast - cereal and milk
lunch - pb&j, frozen gogurt tubes, pretzels
dinner - tortilla pie, green salad

breakfast - cinnamon toast, applesauce
lunch - leftover tortilla pie
dinner - more leftover tortilla pie

breakfast - cereal and milk
lunch - lunch out at Cracker Barrel.  Yum!
dinner - still more leftover tortilla pie

breakfast - cereal and milk
lunch - grilled cheese, grapes
dinner - faux meatloaf, baked potatoes, steam-sauteed green beans

breakfast - candy apple muffins
lunch - meatloaf sandwiches
dinner - baked potato bar (veggie chili, fake bacon bits, cheese, onion, olives, broccoli, sour cream)

breakfast - hash made from leftover baked potatoes
lunch - cottage cheese and applesauce
dinner - dinner and cocktails out for Brad's birthday

breakfast - oatmeal
lunch - pb&j, fruit
dinner - roast beef po' boys, cole slaw, chips, birthday cake

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bacon & Gouda Macaroni & Cheese

This one's for you, Tootie. ; )

16 oz macaroni
1/2 lb bacon, snipped into pieces
1 medium red onion, diced
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups milk
2 cups (8 oz) Gouda cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 2-qt baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook macaroni in boiling water, per package directions. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, cook the bacon pieces in a large skillet over medium heat. When they are crispy, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings, then return pan to heat and add onions. Cook and stir until the onions are soft and translucent. Remove from pan and set aside with bacon bits.

Return pan to heat, and add butter. When butter is melted, whisk in flour, stirring until it bubbles. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly. Continue stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Reduce heat to a simmer, and add shredded cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Stir in bacon bits and onion. Gently stir in cooked, drained macaroni, mixing thoroughly. Pour macaroni mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.