Monday, June 30, 2008

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Who doesn't love a good broccoli rice casserole? It's one of those down-home comfort foods that just hit the spot and makes you feel good. This vegan version is equally satisfying, and soooo much lower in fat, plus it has healthy things in it, like low-fat, protein-rich, cholesterol-free tofu instead of sour cream or mayo, and nutritional yeast instead of cheese. Yum! If you wanted to go the extra mile, you could use brown rice instead of white, but I didn't have any on hand today. You can also shorten the cooking time significantly if you cook the broccoli before adding it to the rice mixture. Just make sure you undercook it, so it doesn't get mushy while baking.


This was a big hit with Brad and Lydia, but Meg only wanted plain steamed white rice because it's her favorite. Oh well.

Broccoli Rice Casserole

2 cups dry rice, plus water to cook
1 block silken tofu
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dry mustard
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
2 cups french fried onions, divided

Cook the 2 cups rice per package directions.

While the rice is cooking, add tofu, lemon juice, sugar, salt and dry mustard in a food processor. Process until very smooth.

Preheat oven to 350. When rice is done cooking, empty into a large mixing bowl. Add tofu mixture and stir gently to combine. Add nutritional yeast, broccoli and 1 1/2 cups of the french fried onions, combining thoroughly. Taste and adjust salt to your taste, if necessary.

Pour into a greased casserole dish. Bake 45 minutes, or until heated through and golden brown on top, and broccoli is crisp tender. Sprinkle remaining french fried onions on top, and return to oven for 2-3 minutes.


And just for fun, I thought you all might get a kick out of how Ringo was napping today. Silly dog!


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vegan Mock Tuna Salad

Chickpeas taste like tuna fish? Really?

My friend Sarah told me how to make a mock tuna salad, using coarsely mashed garbanzo beans instead of tuna fish. I'll admit, I was skeptical. Even though Sarah is my vegan mentor of sorts, I just didn't see how garbanzo beans could taste like tuna fish.

Brad and I had an overnight getaway to New Orleans this weekend, while the kids stayed at his dad's, and the dogs were boarded at their animal hospital. We got back around noon, and Brad's dad and stepmom took us out to lunch at Brad's favorite Chinese place, so we're understandably not super motivated to cook this evening. I got to thinking about the mock tuna salad, and since I had a spare can of garbanzo beans in the pantry, I decided to give it a shot.

And holy shit! It does taste like tuna salad! Amazing! I don't know how or why, but it honestly does! I think this may become a lunchtime staple in our home. Woohoo!

You can make this any way you want, just follow your usual tuna salad proportions, but use a can of drained, mashed garbanzo beans in place of the tuna. Tonight I made a really simple batch, with just vegan mayonnaise and dill pickle relish, but if I'd had some onions of any kind (red or green are my favorites, but yellow or white would also have been nice), I would have thrown them in, too.

Weekly Menu - week of June 29

Sunday - just got back from our weekend getaway, so we're foraging tonight

Monday - Black-eyed pea salad, french bread

Tuesday - Vegetarian Schezwuan noodles

Wednesday - Indian dahl with spinach, flat bread

Thursday - Curry cauliflower, potato and green bean stir-fry, jasmine rice

Friday - Broccoli-rice casserole

Saturday - dinner out

Friday, June 27, 2008

Shameless plug

A sweet, treasured friend of mine, The Bargain Babe, is doing a contest giveaway on her blog. Go check it out if you like to save money! She regularly posts great tips for ways to save money -- something we can all use!

Click! Enter! Save!

Chinese Take-out

Tonight we decided to splurge on some Chinese take-out. Good thing, too, because there was a big thunderstorm, and the power went out at our house right as we were leaving at dinner time. Lucky for us we weren't cooking at home, huh?

The girls got fried pork dumplings, and a combo plate of teriyaki chicken, pepper beef, pork fried rice and an egg roll. Brad got General Tso's chicken, pork fried rice and an egg roll. I got bean curd and broccoli, sauteed veggies and rice. I have to admit, today's the first day that I've been a little bummed that I've given up meat and dairy. At work today there was a big cake for someone who's leaving, and then tonight everyone else's food just looked soooooo good. Mine was delicious, don't get me wrong, but damn it, I love General Tso's chicken. Next time we go, I think I'll ask if they can make it for me with fried bean curd instead of chicken. I actually prefer tofu to chicken in most dishes, so I bet that would be really good!

Here's my yummy dinner! I love Chinese food!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another successful veganization

Yippee! It worked! I was craving something sweet, and since the only sweet goodies in the house aren't vegan, I decided to whip something up that I could eat. This Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Frosting is one of my all-time favorite desserts. My mom used to make it when I was little, and it just brings back so many memories of childhood, and all the yummy things my mom used to cook.


This recipe was super easy to veganize. I just substituted vegan margarine for the butter, 1 mashed banana and 2 teaspoons of baking powder for the egg (to cover my bases in both binding and leavening), and rice milk instead of evaporated milk in the topping. Easy peasy! I'm so thrilled that one of my favorite recipes was such a cinch to veganize, and without any compromise on taste!

If you've never made this cake before, it's a little unusual. You bake the cake, then take it out of the oven, immediately spread the frosting on top, then stick it under the broiler for a few minutes, until it's all bubbly and gorgeous. Yum! I love how the frosting gets crispy in places. It's such a great contrast to the moistness of the cake.


And it's vegan! All vegan! Hooray!

Red Beans & Rice


Brad has been cooking a lot this week. I've been really tired by the time I get home from work (don't ask me why, it's not like my job is strenuous in any way), so he's stepped up and helped out in the kitchen. Earlier this week he made some really yummy chunky vegetable spaghetti sauce, full of such good things as zucchini, tomato, mushrooms and onions, and we ate on that for two days.

And tonight he made one his specialties: Red Beans & Rice. He even veganized them for me, using Tofurkey smoked sausage rather than the meat kind, and leaving out the ham. These beans are so freaking good! I'm not going to say that Brad's cooking is the reason I married him, but let's be was a factor. ; ) I'll have him type up the recipe later.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My awesome dad

I'm not the only one who's been busy in the kitchen. Look at what my dad whipped up yesterday!


My dad has an amazing green thumb, and over the past several years he has really enjoyed growing garlic. He learned early on that garlic scapes are delicious, with a myriad of uses, and he began gifting them to his neighbors because there was no way he could keep up with all of them on his own. I didn't know about scapes, but evidently they're all the rage in the culinary world these days. I read about them here, and it sounds like you have to remove the scape in order for your garlic bulb to grow, so its' one of those win-win harvest the delicious scapes, AND your garlic grows. Nice!

My dad made this awesome spinach and garlic scape frittata, which makes me wish that I lived closer to my parents, and that I still ate dairy. ; ) This isn't something that I made myself, but I still felt it merited posting here, just so I could brag on my dear old dad.


TWD - Mixed Berry Cobbler

Tuesdays with Dorie! And I'm on time, even if not early in the day. Woohoo!


This week's recipe was chosen by Beth of Our Sweet Life. I was super stoked about this recipe, because I adore blackberry cobbler! Yum! I wish I still lived in Seattle, where blackberries literally grow wild like weeds, and you can pick them by the bucketful for free. Here, though, the best I could do was frozen berries from our local produce stand. Works for me!

I put this together as soon as I walked in the door from work, since I knew it had a long baking time. It was ridiculously simple to make, just a quick biscuit dough, and a few ingredients tossed with the berries. I used 4 cups of blackberries and 2 cups of raspberries. That's a little more berries than the recipe called for, and I honestly wish I had used even more. I made mine in a 9x9 square pan rather than a deep pie dish, so I could have easily fit several more cups. So if I were going to make this again, I'd use 8 cups of frozen berries, and increase the other filling ingredients accordingly. In my book, you can never have too much berry filling.

Oh! I almost forgot to add that I used vegan margarine instead of butter, and almond milk instead of cream, and the topping turned out great! And I served it with dairy-free vanilla ice cream. Another successful veganization! Woot!

All in all, this isn't my favorite cobbler recipe, but it was still delicious!


Monday, June 23, 2008

South Indian Spicy Mushroom Curry


I tried spicy mushroom curry at our favorite Indian restaurant back in Japan a couple years ago. Oh, and on that note, Brad gets to go back to Japan this summer for his 2-week Navy Reserve drill period, and I am BEYOND jealous. Initially we figured I could go with him, but that was before I had a job, and now I don't think I'll be able to take time off, plus the price of tickets is prohibitive. This is a huge bummer for me, as we still have lots of friends there that I would love to see again. And all the siteseeing we didn't get to do while we were there with the kids. And the shopping. And the karaoke! And all of our favorite restaurants! But alas, Brad will be going without me. Which means he'll go to Pepper Lunch, Coco Curry, yaki-niku, the sushi-go-round on the 8th floor of More's City, Garlic Jo's, Thai Erawan, Matchpoint, and Appughar. I could cry. : (

But with this dinner tonight, I feel a little bit like I'm back in Japan, eating at Appughar. That's something, right? And my mom is going to try to come visit while Brad's gone, which would be absolutely awesome. I miss her so much, plus it would be so nice to have some company while Brad is gone. And I'll just have to have Brad do my shopping for me. ; )

So anyway, I had the spicy mushroom curry one time at Appughar, and I loved it. This recipe tastes SO much like it, I almost can't believe it. I found it here, at Taj Recipe. What a great recipe! It called for the mushrooms to be sliced, but I just halved them so they made for more of a mouthful. And I sliced the onions thinly instead of dicing them.

Believe the title when it says this is spicy. It packs a whallop! So make sure you have some ice water on hand, or a cold beer. You'll need it.


South Indian Spicy Mushroom Curry

2 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cloves
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, coarsely diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp ginger, grated
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 lb button mushrooms
1/4 cup water
salt to taste
chopped cilantro, to garnish

Grind cinnamon, fennel seeds & clove to fine powder (I use a coffee grinder). Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the cinnamon mixture. Stir and cook one minute. Add onion, and cook and stir until golden brown. Add tomato, garlic and ginger, and continue to fry until the tomato softens and releases its juices. Add pepper, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. Mix well. Add mushrooms, water and salt. Stir to combine well. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked through.

Once mushrooms are cooked, remove the lid, increase heat to medium-high, and cook and stir until most of the water evaporates, and a thick gravy is formed.

Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with rice.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Grilled Mushroom and Onion Veggieburgers

Today we took our afternoon to just rest and relax. That meant I got to take my first nap in more than a month (woohoo!), and it also meant that we wanted an easy dinner that didn't involve a lot of prep work. This certainly fit that bill!


I was surprised to discover that a lot of veggieburgers still contain dairy products, so it took a little searching to find a vegan one that still looked good. I ended up going with Organic Sunshine Burgers, made of brown rice, sunflower seeds, carrots, herbs and sea salt, and they were really good! I don't know how they'd be just plain on a bun, but I had mine with Vegannaise, sliced avocado (instead of cheese), cooked mushrooms and onions, and spicy sprouts. Yum! What a delicious dinner!

So, my vegan diet is going fairly well, one week in. Yesterday I did have some dairy because we joined Brad's family out for pizza, and I don't really know what else I could have done, so I just went with it. I have no intention of becoming a militant dietary vegan. I don't intend to eat meat or dairy at home at all, nor will I eat meat when I'm out, and I'll do my best to also choose the dairy-free option when I'm out, but sometimes that just isn't viable. I'm just going to do the best I can.

I have to take a moment, while I'm on this topic, to give a shout out to my husband. He is -- and always has been -- so supportive of me, and is always encouraging me in anything I want to do. I knew he was on board with going meat-free at home, and I knew that he was also supportive of me transitioning to a vegan diet now. But this morning I was in the car alone with the kids, and Lydia was asking me about my decision to not eat meat or dairy, and told me that Brad had told her and Meg that it was really important for the three of them to be supportive of me in this. Isn't that sweet? I mean, it's not surprise because as I said, he's always been that way, but it was still awesome to know that he is totally on board with me, and wants to see me succeed. Hooray for Brad! : )

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of June 22

Sunday - Grilled mushroom and onion veggieburgers, tortilla chips

Monday - Spicy mushroom curry, rice, spinach

Tuesday - Red beans & rice, french bread, salad

Wednesday - Leftovers

Thursday - Spaghetti with marinara sauce, broccoli, french bread

Friday - BBQ seitan sandwiches, fries, salad

Saturday - dinner out

Friday, June 20, 2008

Black-eyed Pea Salad

Oh, this salad rocks! Wow! I can't say enough good things about it! I found it here on Vegalicious, and have been chomping at the bit to make it. It was SO easy to throw together after work -- no cooking involved -- and came together in a snap. I filled my bowl halfway with fresh spinach, then piled the bean salad on top, so my salad was all coated with the yummy dressing after I ate the salad. Nice!


I forgot to put avocado on Brad's shopping list, so unfortunately that was missing from our salad, but I also threw in a can of garbanzo beans to bulk it up a bit. And thank goodness I did, because between the two of us, we still devoured the entire batch tonight, with some yummy rolls.

This is a great summertime dish, so I think I'm going to make it to take to the Fourth of July pool party we're going to next weekend. Yum!

Black-eyed Pea Salad

1 cup dried black-eyed peas, or 1 (14 oz.) can, rinsed and drained
1 medium bell pepper, chopped (I prefer red, orange or yellow bell peppers as they are sweeter)
1 red onion, chopped
2-3 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 avocado, cubed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
dash Tabasco
2 teaspoons sugar

If using dried black eyed peas, soak them for at least 2-3 hours then boil in salted water for 45 minutes or until soft.

Toss together black-eyed peas, bell pepper, onion, jalapeno pepper, and garlic in large bowl.

Toss avocado with lemon juice in separate bowl.

Add avocado to black-eyed pea mixture.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, Tabasco, cayenne, and sugar in the bowl used for the avocado.

Toss black-eyed pea mixture with dressing.

Serve at room temperature in a lettuce cup.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thai Red Curry Tofu


This is my second attempt to make a really good Thai red curry dish, but it's still not quite there. This time I used kaffir lime leaves, which made a huge difference, but there's still something missing, and I don't know what it is.

Still, though, it was yummy! Next time I wouldn't use all coconut milk, because this was way too oily, but I think if I mixed half vegetable stock and half coconut milk it would be better.


I'm on day 4 of eating vegan, and it's going well! I haven't been able to eat anything at work, so I've been packing my own lunch. Today they catered in creamy chicken pasta, garlic bread, salad already tossed with ranch dressing, and chocolate cake. It all looked fabulous, but I stuck to my guns and ate my fruit and granola bars instead. Hooray for me!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sonic for grown-ups

Cherry Limeades from Sonic are one of my new favorite things. They're so refreshing and yummy, and it's great that they have a lo-cal diet cherry limeade, too. Nice!

When we were sipping on some a few weeks ago, Brad said he'd like to try making a cocktail version of one sometime, so here it is! It's so good! I'll admit that I'm totally a girly drinker. I don't like beer (after a bad experience at a Navy command party with two kegs 5 years ago. Oops.), and I like my alcohol sweet and fruity, so this drink is right up my alley.


Now all that remains is to come up with a name. What do you think we should call it? Cherry Bomb? It'll Fuck You Up Cherry Limeade? Supersonic Cherry Limeade? Come on, folks, give me your suggestions!

The Yet To Be Named Cocktail

2 oz light rum
1/4 cup cherry juice (not concentrate)
1/4 lime, juiced
2 to 3 tsp maraschino cherry syrup

In a tall glass filled with ice, add rum, then fill to within 1 inch of the top with Sprite. Add cherry juice, lime juice, and cherry syrup. Stir to combine. Garnish with a lime wedge and a maraschino cherry. Serve immediately.

Yield: 1 large or 2 small cocktails

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

I promised my co-workers that I'd bring in some goodies, so I whipped up a batch of blueberry muffins to bring in tomorrow. It was also a good excuse to try a vegan muffin recipe.


I made some regular muffins, and some mini muffins. Because, come on, miniature food is just cool.


These were good, but it was my first time cooking with blue agave nectar, and I think next time I'd increase it to 3/4 cup. These weren't very sweet, which on one hand was kind of refreshing, but on the other hand, was a little disappointing.

Vegan Blueberry Muffins

3 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup blue agave nectar
1 cup soy, almond or rice milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 400. Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine agave nectar, milk and oil. Whisk together to mix thoroughly. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over-mix. Gently fold in blueberries.

Fill muffin cups to 3/4 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes for standard muffins, or 10 to 12 minutes for mini muffins.


"Meat" loaf Sandwiches

Oh baby. I love meat loaf sandwiches! There have been times I've made meat loaf for the sole purpose of using the leftovers on sandwiches the next day. So it was much to my delight that I discovered that my lentil-quinoa loaf from Sunday made absolutely fantastic "meat" loaf sandwiches! Nice!

I fancied these up a bit, and put them on awesome Louisiana po' boy rolls (best bread ever!). I spread one side with Vegannaise, squiggled some ketchup on the other side, and topped it with some sliced red onions. Yummmmm. If I weren't trying to lose weight, I would go to the kitchen right now and make me another one. Instead, I'll settle for taking one to work tomorrow for lunch.


I did end up making my decision about whether or not to go all vegetarian, all the time. I'm going for it. I'm all in. I'm not promising that this will be a lifelong decision, but it's what I want to do now, and I'll leave it at that. My fairly short-term goal is to not eat meat until the holidays. I would hate to miss out on Thanksgiving turkey, after all. But in the meantime, I'm going to go meat-free and as dairy-free as I possibly can, and see how it works for me. I desperately need to lose weight. A LOT of weight. And I think this is a good place to start. My blood pressure has steadily risen over the years, and while it's not at crucial levels, it's still disturbing. A woman my age died of a heart attack on our base in Japan several years ago. That's sobering, to put it mildly. I realize, of course, that there's more to a healthy lifestyle than just one's diet, but it's still a good place to start. We can't afford a gym membership these days, and it's far too hot to exercise outside, so Brad is scouring the town to try to find a store that has Wii Fitness in stock, so we can start working out together at home.

So that's what I'm doing. I'm very, very curious to see how this works for me, and how I feel on a completely vegetarian diet. As I said, I'm going to avoid dairy as much as I can, but that can be difficult around here. Lunch is catered in at my office every day, and wouldn't you know that yesterday, the first day of work since making this dietary pledge, they would of course bring in a couple big trays of brisket, swimming in BBQ sauce. Damn it! There was also potato salad (mayonnaise), baked beans (bacon), salad, and garlic bread. I ended up just having a big plate of salad with vinaigrette, and a piece of garlic bread. There was cheese in the salad, though, and butter on the bread, but I at least went for the least egregious things I could. So things like that will be a challenge, but maybe I will just start packing my own lunch every day. Hmm.

Anyway, yesterday's cream puff ring was my farewell to dairy, and a fine one it was! ; ) But after this, I may have to bow out of future Tuesdays With Dorie recipes, unless I can find a way to veganize them. So we'll see how that goes. Next week's cobbler recipe should be a piece of cake -- no pun intended. ; )

Monday, June 16, 2008

TWD - Cream Puff Ring


Tuesdays with Dorie time! Hooray!

This week's recipe, Peppermint Cream Puff Ring, was chosen by Caroline of A Consuming Passion. I'd only made cream puffs once before, years ago, so I was looking forward to making them again.

The cream puff dough came together in a snap, and was easy enough to pipe into a circle. I didn't have a pastry bag, so I just used a Ziploc gallon bag, and snipped off the corner. Who says I'm not resourceful? It baked and puffed up beautifully. And then collapsed. Huh. But no harm done, because by the time I sawed off the top, filled the bottom with whipped cream, and placed the top back on, it looked great! I chose not to flavor my cream with mint, and instead just gave it a little shot of vanilla extract for flavoring. And I again took a shortcut and mixed up my chocolate glaze in the microwave, and it worked like a charm.

This recipe was enjoyed by all, adults and children alike. Success!

My pictures, on the other hand, SUCK. I don't know what was up with my camera, or maybe it was just too dark in our house, but even after I did all I could to adjust the lighting on my computer, they're still dark and dull. Lame. I'll share them anyway, just don't judge me by these photos, ok?


Here's Lydia, my goofbug, checking it for structural integrity.


Monday dinner

Our weekly menu plan got shaken up somewhat today, since our new puppy Ringo was getting neutered today, and Brad couldn't make it all the way out to Whole Foods. So I did some swapping of days, and tonight we had quinoa salad and French bread for dinner. I made this salad a few months ago, and Brad recently requested that I make it again. I hate repeating recipes too often, because I get bored when I do, but this is one worth repeating! It's light, fresh and delicious. And filling! Quinoa is awesome in that regard, and a little goes a long way, not just in regards to serving size, but also in regards to how much it yields when you cook quinoa. Two cups of dry quinoa ballooned to about 8 cups of cooked. Wow! So I only made half of it into salad, and set the rest aside to have for breakfast and snacks. Perfect!

Click here for the recipe I posted earlier this year.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Lentil "meat" loaf

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Brad was away this weekend, for this month's Navy Reserve drill weekend, and got home Sunday afternoon. We didn't do anything in particular to celebrate, but I did my best to at least let him put his feet up and relax once he got home. We also had a nice family dinner where we all sat down at the table together. We've been trying to do that more often, but given that the kids don't always eat the same dinner as us, and given that they eat much earlier than we like to, it doesn't happen every day. Meg made some comments recently about how families only all eat together at restaurants or on holidays, and that was the kick in the pants we needed to start doing it more often. I won't pretend we all eat together every day, but at least we're doing it more than we used to.


For dinner tonight, I made my second attempt at a meat-free "meat" loaf. I made a cottage cheese roast earlier this year that was pretty good, but I wanted one without dairy this time. I came across this awesome meatless loaf recipe generator from Vegan Lunch Box, and gave it a shot. Isn't it cool?? It gives you tons of options for what you want to include in your loaf, then it generates a recipe for you. Nice!

I opted for:

protein: lentils
carbohydrate: quinoa
nuts: sesame seeds
vegetables: onion, garlic and mushrooms
liquid: V-8
seasoning: oregano, nutritional yeast, and worcestershire sauce
binder: oatmeal
salty seasoning: salt
oil: olive oil

This isn't included in the recipe generator, but I went the traditional route and spread some ketchup over the top of the loaf, and (my personal touch) sprinkled a little brown sugar on top.

There are so many ways you can make this, and I'm really curious now to try out a different combination. Our loaf was delicious, but it didn't stick together very well, so next time I might try using something stickier. Still, though, it tasted fabulous, and got a thumbs up from all four of us. Yeah!

If you're going to make this, be sure to cook up your protein, carb and binder beforehand, so you're not scrambling to do so when it's time to make dinner. I just put my lentils in one saucepan, my quinoa in another, and my oatmeal in the rice cooker (in case you didn't know, you can make oatmeal in the rice cooker! What a time saver!). Easy peasy. I made some extra quinoa, too, and had it for a snack with a little soy milk, cinnamon and blue agave nectar. YUM!

Hooray for a totally meat- and dairy-free day!

Vegan Pancakes

Lydia wanted to make breakfast this morning, so she chose the pancakes recipe from her Strawberry Shortcake cookbook (that cookbook may sound cheesy, but the recipes we've made -- macaroni & cheese, spaghetti sauce, vegetable soup, and more -- have all been surprisingly good!). The pancakes recipe sounded good enough, but I didn't want to use eggs, so Lydia got online and searched for vegan substitutes. She came up with 2 Tbsp of cornstarch for each egg, so we set off to give it a try.

It worked! I'll admit I was skeptical, but it really did work! Woohoo!


We tweaked the recipe somewhat, using blue agave nectar instead of sugar, and adding some cinnamon. Lydia did a good job cooking, although she definitely needs to learn to take more time to read the instructions. She ends up getting ahead of herself and skipping portions of steps, or even entire ones. But she's learning!

You could do a lot of things with this basic recipe. Stir in some grated apple, mashed banana, or berries; add some chopped nuts; replace half the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour; or whatever strikes your fancy. Yum!



Vegan Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp cornstarch
2 cups soy milk
3 Tbsp vegan margarine, melted
3 Tbsp blue agave nectar

Whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl. In a medium mixing bowl, combine soy milk, margarine and blue agave nectar. Add soy milk mixture to dry ingredients, and whisk to combine thoroughly.

Heat a skillet or griddle to medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray, and pour the batter in 1/2-cup portions. When bubbles break on the surface and hold their shape, flip pancakes. Cook an additional minute on the other side, then remove to a plate, and serve.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of June 15

Time to plan our menu again! I've been doing a lot of hard thinking about food lately. I'm glad that we've almost completely cut out meat at home, but the more I read and learn about the meat industry, the more I feel compelled to try to cut back even further. I never pictured myself ever becoming a social consciousness vegetarian, but I'm beginning to lean that way. I'm glad that we've mostly gotten out of the habit of eating it at home, but I'm trying to decide if I'm ready to make the next step, because while I may not cook it at home, we're certainly eating our fair share of meat when we're out at restaurants, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

So yeah, I don't know if I'm ready to give it up completely, but it's definitely something I'm mulling over. Not the kind of decision you want to make without putting some thought into it, right? I've been pleasantly surprised at how easy it's been to stop preparing meat at home, and it's great that Brad and the kids are all fully on board with it, too. I doubt Brad would give up meat completely -- he really, really enjoys it -- but it's still something that I could do myself. So we'll see. A lot to think about.

Along the same lines, I do want to make more of a determined effort to avoid dairy products, too. We already primarily only buy soy milk and margarine, but as a person who loves to bake, some of the other substitutions/equivalents are more difficult to come by. Egg replacements, for instance. Soy sour cream. Or unflavored soy yogurt. I very rarely find those at the store, even at Whole Foods. And I LOVE cheese, but haven't found a soy cheese that I can really get behind. Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled that there are so many alternatives out there, but not al of them are adequate, or at least not readily available. I think that baking presents the biggest hurdle, but I'm game for trying to figure out ways to make it work as much as I can.

So there you have it. My random ramblings about meat and animal byproducts. I guess we'll see how it plays out.

And here's my menu for the week!

Saturday - Spaghetti with homemade sauce (kids' night to cook), french bread

Sunday - Lentil "meat" loaf, roasted baby potatoes, green beans

Monday - "Meat" loaf sandwiches, salad

Tuesday - Red curry vegetables with rice

Wednesday - Quinoa salad, french bread

Thursday - Leftovers

Friday - Black-eyed pea salad, french bread

Saturday - Dinner out

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tomato Tortilla Soup

My truly awesome friend Sarah gave me this recipe a couple years ago, but this is the first time I've made it. She's a vegetarian -- now primarily vegan -- and has been a wealth of awesome recipe ideas now that we're trying to eat less dairy and no meat at home. You rock, Sarah! I miss you!

This recipe doesn't call for it, but I decided to throw some seitan in anyway, since I have part of a batch leftover from yesterday, to add some protein and mimic a chicken tortilla soup.

I also discovered midway through that I didn't have enough tortilla chips, so I went ahead and whirled some corn tortillas in my food processor and put them in as well. It worked!

If you want, you can do crazy things like put cheese or sour cream in here, but it's fabulous just as it is, with a few wedges of avocado on top.


Tomato Tortilla Soup

3 cups diced onions
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 qt veggie broth
1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tsp minced canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1 1/2 cups crumbled corn tortilla chips
salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pot on medium heat, cook the onions in the oil for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the cumin and oregano and stir for a minute. Add the broth, tomatoes, and chipotles, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Pulverize the tortilla chips in a blender. Add about 3 cups of the hot soup to the blender and puree until smooth. To make pouring easier, add another cup of hot soup and whirl on low speed. Stir the puree in to the simmering soup pot. Serve hot.

Yields 9 cups.

TWD - La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

Tuesdays with Dorie time! Or Wednesdays with Dorie, in my case. Sorry I wasn't able to deliver yesterday, but better late than never, right?

This week's recipe, La Palette's Strawberry Tart, was chosen by Marie of A Year at Oak Cottage. The kids and I adore strawberries, but Brad hates them. Alas, no dessert for him. I don't often make things that I know he won't enjoy, but I didn't want to miss another week of TWD, and I've never made a strawberry pie or tart before, so I went for it.


It was easy peasy to make. The crust is a cinch, then I just brushed it with strawberry jam, filled it with halved strawberries, drizzled with them a little Chambord, and served it with a dollop of freshly whipped cream on top. Voila!

There were a few speed bumps along the way, but they were minor. First, I didn't realize that we were out of butter when it came time to make the crust, so I had to use two parts vegan margarine, one part shortening, and one part vegetable oil. Yikes! I also left out the egg yolk, just to see how it would work without, and it turned out beautifully! I also didn't have fine quality strawberry jam, but you know what? The cheapo generic kind I buy for the kids sandwiches worked just fine. And the only fruity liqueur I had was Chambord. Again, worked. And really well! We're on a budget, us later-in-life-returning to-college students, so I'm glad I was able to piece this tart together with what we had on hand. All I had to buy was strawberries and whipping cream. Nice!


I think my overall preference is my mom's fresh strawberry pie, made with a cream cheese layer in the pre-baked crust, then topped with fresh strawberries and a strawberry glaze. But this is such a nice, simple, fresh tart, and I love it for what it is!

If you don't have Dorie's book yet, I highly recommend you go get a copy. The decision has been made to no longer post the recipes in our blogs, which I think is awesome, but hopefully the recipes you've seen here, as well as on other blogs, will be the motivation you need to run out and get yourself your own copy of this book. I love it! Plus, then you could join in on the TWD fun!

If you do as I did, and use non-dairy fats in the crust, and (not as I did) use a non-dairy whipped topping, this would be a vegan recipe. Nice!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seitan, revisited, and BBQ "chicken" pizza

I tried making seitan again today, modifying the recipe somewhat, and I was much more pleased with the results. Yeah! This time I left out the garlic, and all but one Tbsp of the soy sauce, and cooked it in mostly water, spiked with a couple cups of veggie broth. It yielded a much milder flavor, which I think will work better in recipes than the batch I made several months ago. Hooray!

To give you an idea, this has the taste and texture of the pre-cooked Tyson chicken strips you can buy in the freezer section at grocery stores. It's not the same as fresh cooked meat, but it's a good substitute, and can be sliced and used in place of meat in any recipe. Nice!

Tonight I used it in place of chicken for a BBQ seitan pizza. I made my own pizza dough, then brushed it with olive oil, covered it with mozzarella cheese, drizzled it with BBQ sauce (I love Sweet Baby Ray's!), then topped it with chopped seitan, red onions and cilantro. BBQ chicken pizza is one of my favorite foods of all time, so it's great to be able to make a vegetarian version of it. I guess I could just leave the chicken/seitan off altogether, but I like what it adds to the pizza, so seitan is a great option.

Before baking:


And after:


Look at it! Doesn't it look like a piece of chicken on there?


If you want to try making your own seitan, here's the modified recipe. I'll probably delete the old one before too long.


1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups cold vegetable stock
8 cups cold water
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together the vital wheat gluten flour and nutritional yeast. Combine the 3/4 cups broth, soy sauce and olive oil, and add to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine -- it will come together in just a couple seconds -- 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. Shape them as desired. You can just drop the lumps in, flatten them slightly, or shape into a log and roll up in aluminum foil, twisting the ends tightly, giving a summer sausage kind of shape. Cook the logs in the foil, then unwrap after cooking.

Combine the cold stock, water, and salt in a large pot. Add the dough pieces. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, but as soon as it boils, turn the heat down to a low simmer.

Cover, leaving a little room for steam to escape, and 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.

Late again

Hey folks,

I haven't had a chance to make my Tuesdays with Dorie strawberry tart yet, because we were at baseball games all weekend, and I woke up today with one of the worst headaches of my life, and didn't even make it to work today. It will be challenge enough to get dinner on this evening, so my tart will make its appearance tomorrow evening after work. Sorry for the delay, but be sure to check back tomorrow evening, or later in the week!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of June 8

Sunday - Dinner out at/after baseball game

Monday - Dinner out at baseball game again

Tuesday - BBQ seitan pizza

Wednesday - Tomato tortilla soup

Thursday - Lentil-Quinoa "meat" loaf, roasted baby potatoes, salad Dinner out

Friday - Meat loaf sandwiches, chips Frozen pizza (busy day)

Saturday - Spaghetti and sauce (kids' night to cook)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Just chillin'

Hey all,

I don't have much to post right now.  I've been busy with work, we've been eating some leftovers and takeout, so I haven't had a lot to blog about.  This weekend LSU baseball has their super regional tournament, and Brad and I have tickets, so we'll be eating ballpark food and enjoying the games.  Geaux, Tigers!  : )  We also volunteered at the Kidney Walk this morning, which was a lot of fun.  Brad was out of the house before 5:30am, to help get the drinks delivered and set up, and the kids and I arrived at 7:30, then I spent the morning in the kids' area, painting faces.  It was so much fun!  I painted butterflies, rainbows, LSU logos, alien faces, koalas in trees, hearts, flowers, unicorns, sharks, and (the #1 request) lots and lots of Hello Kitty faces.  Fun!  I had an absolute blast, and the kids were so sweet and gracious.  We had a steady stream of customers for about three hours, so it was a busy morning!

I did make a batch of Puerto Rican sofrito beans & rice on Thursday, and they were awful.  What a bummer.  I love rice and beans, so I was sure we would love it, but I really didn't care for it.  Brad and Meg both enjoyed it, but I hated it.  I was starving since I didn't get lunch at work that day, so I choked it down out of necessity.  Next time I'll stick with a tried and true rice and beans recipe.  Last night we slacked and just picked up some take-and-bake pizza from Papa Murphy's.  Yum!

Hopefully I'll have time this weekend to make my TWD recipe, although with all the baseball games, I can't promise anything.  I'll do my best!  

I promise there will be more recipes and photos to come soon!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD - Thanks for waiting!

First off, to the lovely people who commented about my sweet new puppy: Thank you! He is such a sweetie, and we just love him to pieces already! We got him from the same animal shelter where we adopted Gretel a couple months ago. In fact, when we adopted Gretel, we held Ringo and his siblings who had just been born a month before, but we weren't in the market for such a young puppy at the time. Little did we know that we'd be back a few months later to adopt the little guy. A really quick PSA: please support and adopt from your local animal shelter! There are so many awesome dogs who will be put down otherwise, but who are longing for a family to love. Check them out next time you're looking to add to your family.

Ok, now onto food.

It's time again for Tuesdays with Dorie. Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook chose this week's recipe, French Chocolate Brownies. And holy cow! These brownies rock!

At first when I read the recipe, I was nonplussed. Raisins? In brownies? Really? All week I was less than thrilled about this recipe, but then it hit me today: Raisins + Chocolate = Raisinettes. And the drooling commenced.


I worked all day today, and then I started these as soon as I got home. I cheated and melted my chocolate in the microwave, and they came together in a snap. I will admit that the batter tasted so good that we were on the verge of foregoing baking, and just eating it raw with a spoon, but we kept ourselves in check, and I'm glad that we did.

They're amazing! They're incredible! They're the best brownies I've ever tasted! I think they're going to become that go-to brownie recipe that I make often. Thank you, Di, for choosing such an amazing recipe!

Sadly, photos don't do these justice, or at least mine don't. But take my word for it, they're incredible!


French Chocolate Brownies
- makes 16 brownies
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Fish Tacos


Who knew these were so easy? And so incredibly, crazy delicious? In fact, I think we're going to push back tomorrow's planned dinner, and have these again, because there's still plenty of tortillas, pico de gallo, cabbage, lime crema, and fish sticks. Why not, right?

Three of these makes a hearty serving.


Fish Tacos

1/2 head cabbage
red wine vinegar
fish sticks (2 per taco), cooked
1 cup sour cream
1 lime juiced
shredded cheddar cheese
pico de gallo
corn tortillas

Shred the cabbage, and toss with a liberal amount of red wine vinegar; set aside.

Juice the lime and whisk together lime juice and sour cream; set aside.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Do not grease. Heat corn tortillas one at a time, for about 20 seconds per side, until warm and pliable. Fold in half and remove to a plate while you continue heating the rest.

To make tacos, put 2 fish sticks in each corn tortilla, dollop with lime sour cream, add a few spoonfuls of pico de gallo, and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A heads up

I've had an incredibly busy day today, and haven't had a chance to make my TWD recipe yet. Work was crazy hectic, plus we adopted a new dog this morning! Brad and the girls picked him up while I was at work today. His name is Ringo, and he and Gretel are already fast friends. They spent most of the day wrestling, and now they're sacked out, sound asleep. Silly pups.

So yeah, my TWD recipe isn't ready yet, but I'll do my best to get it done tomorrow as soon as I get home from work.

In the meantime, though, I'll leave you with this picture of Ringo. Isn't he the cutest????


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Weekly Menu - week of June 1

June!? Already? How??? I can't believe it's already been six months since we left Japan. Time is whizzing by like crazy! I really thought two and a half years living here would be a long time, but holy crap, we're already 1/5 of the way through our time here. Unreal.

Here's our menu for this week. That's a lot of food for one week, though, so some of it may be pushed back for later. We'll see!

Sunday - Breakfast for dinner (hash browns, fried eggs, bacon and biscuits)

Monday - Fish tacos Spaghetti and sauce from my thoughtful Mother-in-law

Tuesday - Lentil haystacks (woot!) Fish tacos

Wednesday - Sofrito beans and rice Fish tacos, again

Thursday - Leftovers or dinner out Sofrito beans and rice

Friday - Tempeh stir-fry with snow peas, mushrooms, green onions and water chesnuts Papa Murphy's pizza

Saturday - Lentil-Quinoa "meat" loaf, roasted baby potatoes, salad Dinner out at ball game