Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sugar cookies, rice pudding

So this will be my last post of 2006...

As promised, I have for you the sugar cookie recipe that my family has used every Christmas, which I veganized this year with excellent results.

Sugar Cookies

2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine
1/3 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
3/4 cup sugar
Equivalent of 1 egg (I used Ener-G)
1 tablespoon soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine dry ingredients; set aside. Beat the margarine and shortening until soft; add sugar and beat until fluffy and not granular-looking. (This part is best done with an electric mixer.) Add egg replacer, soy milk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix until well combined--it will be stiff. Place the dough in plastic wrap, wrap tightly, and chill for three hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into shapes. Bake on a cookie sheet for 8 minutes or until just done. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to a cooling rack. Immediately glaze and decorate (glaze recipe follows). The most important thing for these cookies is to not let them bake too long--they should become SLIGHTLY golden but if you let them get too golden then they will become crispy when they cool.


1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tablespoon soy margarine, softened
2 tablespoons vanilla soy milk

Combine all ingredients and beat with a fork until incorporated. NOTE: This glaze recipe made enough glaze for me to glaze exactly 1/2 of the cookies from the recipe above--my sister and I split the cookies and she did her half with a different frosting. If you want to glaze all your cookies with this glaze, double the recipe.

Bob's little brother came and spent a couple of days with us, and as we have been traveling a lot lately, there was not much food in the house to offer. What we did have was some kale that was dying in the refrigerator, so I made a pot of sloppy lentils--a dish that always seems to impress omnis. I also made some of the Banana Bliss Pancakes from Vive Le Vegan! and served them with the Blueberry Sauce from the same book. I've posted plenty of pictures for both of these already, so I decided not to bore you with them again.

What I will bore you with is this rice pudding I made this morning, with some leftover brown rice that I was afraid would otherwise go bad before it was eaten. Bob and his brother quite enjoyed it, and I have to say that I kind of liked it myself (even though the texture of rice pudding has never really appealed to me very much).

Rice Pudding

2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups vanilla soy milk
3/4 cups sugar (or less--this was very sweet)
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon allspice
Dash salt
2 tablespoons rum
1/2 cup raisins

Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the rum on top. Set aside. Combine the rice, soy milk, sugar (or whatever sweetener you would like to use), cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Continue to simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rice has become tender and the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat, stir in rum and raisins, and cool to room temperature before serving.

Tonight we got to hook up with one of our friends who has been in Mexico for several months, and came home just for the holidays. One of our favorite things to do together has always been to go out for sushi--so that is what we did. Bob and I shared a seaweed salad and then an inari tofu roll, an eggplant teriyaki roll, and a soba spinach roll. Bob decided he was still hungry after all that, so he ordered a teriyaki zucchini roll as an afterthought. Then we all went back to a friend's apartment and drank wine and played Catch Phrase. How I love just having fun with friends, not thinking about everything else in the world!!!

One last thing: I received a Barnes and Noble gift card for Christmas, so I went to the store today and asked them to order Dreena's The Everyday Vegan for me. Yay! I will finally have it, in about a week! I can't wait...

Everyone be safe, and I hope you have a peaceful, fun holiday!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A merry little Christmas

I have been checking up with a few of you, but I know that blogging is not #1 priority right now. I hope to catch up with the rest of you as soon as life gets back to normal!

As for me, I had a great visit with my family, even though our Christmas was warm and stormy (even to the point of tornado weather). My sister and I have a tradition of making sugar cookies on Christmas eve, and this year was no different--except she was kind enough to let me veganize the recipe. I just made a quick glaze for mine, with powdered sugar and soy milk and vanilla and a little bit of Earth Balance, and I glazed them when they were hot out of the oven. I will share this recipe soon--it's one of my mom's, and I will have to get her to send it to me.

I don't have a whole lot of food to share--one night we just ate vegan Boca burgers, and one night Bob and I had our leftover lasagna which I had taken just in case. We did make stir-fry one night and I sautéed some tofu for me and Bob, but I didn't photograph it--you have all seen sautéed tofu before, I am sure. But for Christmas, my mom did make a nice meal, and she did everything in two pans--the vegan version for us, and the regular version for them. She cooked a turkey too, and I did not bring enough tofu to make a meatless entrée (and where are you going to find tofu on Christmas day?), so we just made a meal out of stuffing, squash, and green beans. I still have a Tofurky in the freezer, so I will probably cook it now that we're home, to have with the leftovers. But here is the vegan version of the stuffing:

It's just made with a wild rice mix, a sautéed onion, some mushrooms, vegetable broth, and seasoned stuffing mix--which was actually vegan, though I expected it not to be. My mom put sausage in hers, and if I had had the option I would have added Tempeh Sausage Crumbles from VWaV... but it was just fine without it. It was a nice meal, and it was fun to be in the kitchen with my mom again.

One of Bob's friends gave him a book called The New Vegan Cookbook by Lorna Sass as a Christmas gift, and I have flipped through it already. It looks like there are some interesting things in there to try. I received a lovely picture book called Vegetarian Sushi, which is exciting mostly because it has large color photographs displaying how attractive and artful even meatless sushi can be--and I am excited to try out some of the recipe suggestions. But on the cookbook front, my favorite gift by far was this one from Bob (which I think he picked out for selfish reasons, but that is fine with me):

But I am seriously going to have to wait to try it out until some of these cookies and everything else have worn off a little bit.

Funny story: Bob and I got each other one of the same gifts for Christmas. Have you seen the movie The Last Unicorn? It's a 1980s animated movie, and we both love it. Apparently we each picked it out for the other one for Christmas! We're so silly.

Tonight, Bob and I are going to Atlanta to see The Nutcracker at the Fox Theatre, and I am so excited because I have never seen it before and it is something I have wanted to do all my life! We are taking his brother and his two sisters along with us, as our Christmas gift to them. I just know it's going to be fun and special.

Everyone take care! If I do not catch up with you before then, be safe and have fun for the new year. Peace.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mmmm, chocolate (and other stuff too)

This post is going to be quick--just an update on the goodies I have been baking. Bob and I are at my parents' house near Savannah, Georgia, and will be here through Christmas day. I may post again between now and then, if anything particularly exciting comes up.

Baked oatmeal, from Fatfree Vegan. The only changes I make are to use applesauce instead of shredded apples, and to use frozen blueberries instead of fresh. It's pictured here with some vanilla soy yogurt on top--yum.

The peppermint cookies I said I wanted to try, from Fueled By Popcorn (scroll down). WOW! Delicious. I love any manifestation of peppermint + chocolate, and I think in this recipe the peppermint to chocolate balance is just perfect. The candy canes were a huge mess--I have never wanted a mortar and pestle more than I did when I resorted to banging on a bag of candy canes with my rolling pin! But really... Try these, if you like this sort of thing. They're very good and pretty easy.

And then, of course, an army of my gingerbread men that I love oh so much. Dip them in coffee or hot apple cider or hot tea...

On to candy-making...

Truffles like the ones Vivacious Vegan made. The original recipe is here, and I think I stuck to the original recipe a bit closer than Crystal did (although her version using coconut milk in place of the water certainly sounds decadent!!!). I didn't have any bittersweet chocolate, so I used 3/4 semisweet and 1/4 unsweetened, and it seemed to work out right to me. I was seriously AMAZED at the use of cashew cream--I never would have thought of such a thing, but it worked in the recipe so well. I added a bit (about 3 tablespoons) of amaretto liqueur. I halved the recipe and got 26 truffles--a perfect number, because that meant we could give 25 to his aunt for Christmas and there was one left for "quality control." :) This really is a messy project, though, so don't attempt unless you really want to get your hands dirty!

Two kinds of chocolate bark:

Peppermint bark (1/2 bag semisweet chocolate chips, 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract, candy cane pieces to fold in and to sprinkle on top). It was really easy and is very tasty, but I had to go about the loud and sticky business of smashing up candy canes again.

Cherry almond bark (the other 1/2 bag of chocolate chips, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, dried cherries and toasted almonds for folding in and for topping). This was an experiment--I'd never tried it before, but I am glad I did.

Of course, I made another batch of the Double Chocolate Almond Explosion Cookies from Vive!. Here is a sampling of all the vegan cookies hanging out around here at the moment:

We have shared our treats (except the bark) with our family, and it has all been a big hit. Bob's family really put a dent in those peppermint cookies yesterday. And my mom professed that Dreena's almond cookies are the BEST cookies she's ever had, and has commissioned me to make some more before I go home. Bob's aunt and uncle (and everyone else) thought the truffles were wonderful, and we tried to have them guess the secret ingredient (cashews). But no one was able to guess it. I wouldn't have either...

Well, I guess this post has been longer than I expected, but that's okay. Every one of you, have a WONDERFUL holiday and relax and have fun and be blessed. You are all very special people!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Nice food, naughty food

So in the past couple of days I have not baked as much as I thought I would, though I still have some things planned which I will (I hope) get to today. But I have baked some goodies. Thankfully, I have also cooked some real meals so that we're not just constantly snacking on the sweet stuff!

First up, Double Chocolate Almond Explosion Cookies from Vive Le Vegan! I made these as a gift for Bob's grandmother, who was kind enough to take us to lunch at the all-vegetarian Bluebird Cafe earlier this week (where I had one of the best veggie burgers I've ever tasted). If you have never tried these cookies, I really suggest that you do it soon, because they are so delicious. All the chocolate makes them taste really special. And I definitely recommend that you add the optional almond extract, if you can. I will be making another batch of these today--my parents would definitely appreciate this cookie, and I want to have plenty of goodies to share with them when we leave Friday to visit them.

Also on the baking front, I made Fatfree Vegan's recipe for Cherry-Walnut Banana Bread. This recipe is actually kind of special to me because it is the first recipe that I ever made that was purposefully vegan--I tried it waaay back in the spring, when I was just becoming vegan-curious (as I like to say), and Bob and I were just amazed at how tasty it was. A couple of days ago, when I realized I had three nearly black bananas sitting on the counter, I remembered that this recipe required three overripe bananas, and I needed no other reason to make this bread again. The bites of dried cherry are so sweet (even if you search high and low and get unsweetened dried cherries, as I did)--a nice contrast with the body of the bread, which is sweet but not overly sweet. The only thing I wish is that I had miniature loaf pans to bake these in--what a cute presentation for gift baskets! As it is, I will have to just share it in slices. Still not a bad arrangement.

As for more holiday baking, here is what I have planned.

1) Another batch of the Double Chocolate Almond Explosion Cookies.
2) A batch of my favorite gingerbread cookies.
3) Some chocolate peppermint cookies that I found here (scroll down).
4) Some truffles akin to those that Urban Vegan posted about--if I can find a suitable recipe. These will be a gift for Bob's aunt. (Please, Bob's aunt, don't be reading this right now!)
5) This is ambitious, but if I have time I would really like to make a gingerbread loaf. I have not decided on a recipe to use yet.

Wow, even just thinking about all those sweets makes me crave nutritious food! Here is what I have made:

Lasagna that was based on another Fatfree Vegan recipe. I like to start with her recipe and then just do what I want with it. For example, I usually add a bit of lemon juice to the tofu "ricotta" mixture to give it a little tang. Also, in this particular instance I left the mushrooms out because I just don't often keep fresh mushrooms on hand unless I have something in mind for them already. I use whole wheat lasagna noodles--and the first time I made this, I was certainly a little skeptical about not cooking the noodles beforehand, but they truly do cook up just fine while the lasagna is in the oven. I sprinkled the top with Italian herbs and a couple tablespoons of Dragonfly's Bulk, Dry Uncheese Mix (which I always seem to have on hand).

I made my own sauce for the lasagna, just by first sautéeing a chopped onion and 3 cloves minced garlic in just a touch of olive oil (a teaspoon?), then adding 2 cans (the 29-ounce size) of crushed tomatoes and about 1 1/2 tablespoons of herbs--I used an Italian seasoning blend that contains basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and granulated garlic. We had steamed broccoli to accompany the lasagna, and it was a great meal--a good thing too, since the two of us get about four servings each from a pan of lasagna!

Lastly, a very simple, staple meal that is almost not blogworthy, but I will share it anyway. Bob grew up eating beans and rice very often, and he loves it. In fact, I recently asked him if there was anything he would like for me to cook that I don't really cook that often, and he immediately said he wanted more beans and rice--not even soups and stews and chili, just beans and rice.
That is fine with me--I love beans and rice too, and it is definitely a cheap way to eat. So last night we had pinto beans, brown rice, and garlicky kale for dinner. We both prefer black beans, but I had these pinto beans that needed a use. They just went into the crockpot for about eight hours, along with an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, some cayenne pepper, red chili flakes, sea salt, dried basil, vegan Worcestershire sauce, and lots of water. This made plenty to freeze as well, and I will certainly freeze a lot of it, since we're leaving Friday and will not be home until after Christmas.

I have been enjoying all of your blogs recently! I know everyone is busy this time of year, and I hope that you are all enjoying yourselves and your families. That's all for now--have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Life intervenes

I know I disappeared for a week there. I had one last push--final exams. I finished on Thursday evening, then spent Friday and Saturday with friends and family, relaxing. I have really needed a break from things, including blogging. As much as I love it, I guess I can get burned out with it sometimes and need to step back. Most of you can probably relate to that too. Anyway, I have been saving up some great pictures to show you!

These mini quiches from Fatfree Vegan have been very popular in the past couple of weeks, and there's a very good reason for that--they are amazing. They have the texture of, and taste so much like, the original thing, only better! I was amazed at how well these held their form--I kind of expected them to fall apart, but they hold together nicely. I modified the original recipe in the following ways: For my veggies, I used sautéed onions and some thawed, drained frozen spinach, and I replaced the onion powder with a dash of nutmeg. They were perfect for a light lunch. I steamed some fresh broccoli to serve with them, and some spicy peanut sauce from The Grit Cookbook to go with the broccoli.

Also, for the first time I tried the Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies from Vive Le Vegan! They were delicious! The texture of them surprised me a little bit--they were a little on the chewy side, and they spread out a lot in the oven so they were a little thinner than I thought they would be. I think maybe I just baked them a minute or so too long--definitely watch the time on these. But they were so, so good. Look at those soft, melty chunks of chocolate...

Just some roasted butternut squash. I love the flavor of roasted squash, with not much more than just a sprinkle of sea salt and olive oil.

One of my very good friends had a graduation party yesterday, and she asked me to help her with the menu so that she could be sure that there would be things for Bob and me to eat. As a nice, animal-friendly dessert that would not be too elaborate, I picked the Raspberry Blackout Cake with Ganache-y Frosting from VWaV (p. 217). It really was a very basic, low fuss recipe, and the result was quite elegant:

This is a very rich, dark cake. I ended up using extra dark Dutch processed cocoa powder, and it was perfect. The cake and the frosting are not extremely sweet on their own, but the layer of raspberry preserves that you spread just under the layer of frosting adds an ideal amount of sweetness. I was more impressed with this cake than I thought I would be, given the ease of preparation. Those who tried it at the party really enjoyed it.

That is all for today. I will try to update this blog regularly this week, as holiday baking gets underway. I've got several things planned that I will be sure to share. I hope you all are having an excellent holiday season! Take care!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Thanks for your well-wishes. I'm back and feeling so much better now. Honestly, I don't know why I have been more sick lately than I usually am, but I don't think it's anything I'm doing wrong. Anyway, I hope that it will not happen again. I tried the ginger tea that Dreena and Leslie suggested (thanks!) and it really is amazing how quickly it works to make me feel better, if I drink it just when I start to notice that I need something. I think I am going to make green tea with minced ginger a regular part of my diet.

This morning I was excited because I felt good enough to go grocery shopping--and we needed to, badly (last night's dinner was steamed edamame and celery, peanut butter, and raisins, to give you an idea of how bare our refrigerator got this week). So we went to the health food store and picked up some bananas and some whole wheat tortillas. When we got home, I felt creative so I made up these peanut butter and banana quesadillas:

Spread peanut butter on one half of a whole grain tortilla, and top with banana slices and raisins; sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Melt a little Earth Balance in a skillet, fold the tortillas in half, and cook them for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden and toasty and the insides have heated through.

Cut in half and serve.

With syrup, if you like!

I felt like such a kid with my little "brunch," but it was fun and it made me happy! I needed it!

For lunch I made a batch of hummus similar to the one I made last time, but I reduced the tahini to 2 1/2 tablespoons. It was definitely better than before, and I really enjoyed it on a wrap with some mushrooms, cucumbers, and red onion slices. I know, another tortilla meal... but we have not made bread in a week now (poor Bob has been pretty sick too, not just me). We're making some this afternoon.

That has been my day. It's so cold here, I predict some nice baked treats sometime soon. Mmm...

Have a great weekend, and I will be catching up with you all soon!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The story of my life

Hi friends... I just wanted to pop in for a minute and say that I'm sorry I have not been posting very frequently lately. It turns out I am sick AGAIN--this time with some kind of sinus infection. I think (I hope) I'm on the road to recovery now, but I literally have hardly gotten off of this couch in two days. The only thing I've managed to muster up in the kitchen was a peppermint hot chocolate. Not exactly photo-worthy.

I've never been prone to sickness before, so it's kind of odd that I have been sick so much these past few months. I take a lot of care to eat a balanced diet; I hope I'm not missing out on any vital nutrients to support my immune system! Any ideas?

I have some exams next week, so I may disappear again for a few days (I hope not). I wanted you all to know that I have been reading your blogs these past few days, but have not mustered up any comments because I've been drifting in and out of sleep...

I'll be back soon, but for now I'll leave you with a picture of the prettiest sunset I've seen in ages, which we saw as we were driving home from visiting Bob's family on Sunday evening. With this, take care! You are wonderful people!

Monday, December 04, 2006


Happy December! After a lapse back into warm, humid weather, it has finally started to feel wintry again here in Georgia. It is supposed to drop down to 26 degrees tonight--by far our coldest temperature yet this season.

I have been making quite a bit of food ever since I got over my headache spell late last week, and much of it has been inspired either by the cold weather or the holidays. Let's see, there was another batch of sloppy lentils--we seriously make this about 2 or 3 times a month, and that is significant since we each get about 3 meals out of it each time we make it. But it's so warm and healthy and tasty that I see it remaining a staple in our kitchen!

The next thing, perhaps not so healthy. I did a veg blog search on vegan nog, and I found this recipe. I only made half the recipe this time, since it was the first go round. It's a really good recipe. I like it because it is thicker than the commercial vegan nog that we have tried (Vitasoy Holly Nog), but not so thick that it feels like drinking raw eggs (yuck!!!). I didn't have the cardamom so I left it out this time. Very tasty--give it a try!

The whole time I was sick, I was dying for a bowl of soup, but was too tired to go grocery shopping (and our on-hand ingredients got very sparse after Thanksgiving...). Even though I felt much better this weekend, I still had soup on my mind--in particular, soup I had seen on Leslie's blog (though I got the impression that it has been adapted and adapted and adapted). Well, I took the recipe and adapted it again, so I'll share my version with you.

Ever-Evolving Gypsy Soup (Laura's Version)

1 cup dried pinto beans
1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 butternut squash, diced
1-2 yellow onions, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 bouillon cube
Several dashes tamari
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8-1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
Sea salt
Ground black pepper

After the beans have been rinsed, soaked for 8 hours, and drained, put them on to boil in a very large pot. In the meantime, chop the vegetables and sauté in the olive oil. Once they have cooked 10-15 minutes (the onions are getting translucent), add them to the pot with the beans. Add the spices and seasonings and simmer, covered, for about 30 more minutes or until the beans are very tender.

I changed the vegetables based on what I had on hand that needed to be used up. I kept the same spices (changing the proportions here and there) because, as Leslie mentioned, many of the spices really are known for their healthful qualities. Note: This made a ton of soup. I froze about 3 portions, and there are about 5 portions left in the refrigerator (this is after me eating a bowl last night and another today for lunch). Next time I'm sick I'll pull this out of the freezer!

I had a friend over to make lunch with me on Friday afternoon, and we made this nice stir-fry full of broccoli, carrots, garlic, onion, and edamame. The tofu I had frozen, re-thawed, and drained, and I marinated it in tamari and agave nectar while we went shopping for the veggies. I sautéed the tofu in peanut oil, then took it off the heat and sautéed the veggies in peanut oil. When they were tender, I added the tofu back to the pan and tossed it all together. Served on top of whole wheat noodles (should have gotten soba noodles while we were grocery shopping, but I forgot all about it). I tossed just a little bit of soy sauce on mine, and it was really tasty. I loved the way the tofu soaked up the sweetness of the agave nectar. Bob had the leftovers, and he was very impressed with them (which flattered me, since he had just gotten done eating our leftovers from P. F. Chang, the best Chinese food I've had in a long time).

Here, a quick potato stir-fry that Bob and I call hash browns, though it's really better than hash browns because we slice the potatoes thicker so they don't get mushy. This one has a purple potato thrown in, which made for beautiful color; also, mushrooms and onions.

The last thing I have for you is this: Last Monday my father-in-law had a birthday, and I wanted to make him a cake. But we had been sick all weekend and all day Monday, so I didn't get to.

Yesterday, we went over to their house, and I made him a cake then. I wanted to do a rum cake, but recipes are hard to find. I ended up using the Chocolate-Rum Pudding Cake recipe from VWaV (p. 221), and it was very good. Quite decadent and quite rich, I have to admit, but very good. It seemed to be well-received all around. Yay!

Sorry for the bad pictures, but I didn't want to make a scene out of photographing the cake while I was over there. I know it looks like a pile of dirt in the picture above, but it really does taste better than it looks. I love the sauce it makes while it's baking. We had it while it was still warm... with So Delicious vanilla ice cream. Yum.

That's all for now. Have a nice week (I know I will--tomorrow's my last day of classes for the semester)! I will see you soon!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A few good eats...

Blah. Blah blah blah. There has been sickness and laziness and fatigue at our house since the weekend. Saturday evening, Bob started feeling sick to his stomach. Then Sunday his stomach was okay (relatively), but he was just sick and sore and achy all over. And I didn't feel too hot either on Sunday. Monday we both stayed home from our classes/jobs; neither of us felt like eating much. I had a headache on Monday too, and it persisted through yesterday. I'm feeling tons better today, thank goodness. I think the weather we've been having--55 degrees and sunny one day, 75 and rainy the next--has been causing it, at least partly.

Hence, no cooking or posting. What we have eaten this week has been leftovers, and they're about gone now. And on Sunday I went to a friend's birthday party, which was a tea party. She made a whole platter of vegan tea sandwiches (Tofutti cream cheese, cucumbers, sprouts), and since I was the only vegan there, I ended up taking home all the leftover vegan sandwiches (and all the other leftover vegan goodies--scones, ginger cookies, coconut cookies... wow). Monday, those sandwiches were about the only thing I could stomach to eat, so it was a very wonderful thing that they were sitting in my refrigerator.

Yesterday I finally made Dreena's Banana Bliss Pancakes from Vive!, which I had been intending to make again for quite a while. I've posted about these before, but they are so good that they merit another look:

I asked Bob to make me some soup for dinner last night, but then he reminded me that he had thawed out some pizza dough. So pizza it was. It was definitely tasty, as our homemade pizza always is. I know pineapple on pizza is controversial, but Bob and I love it. I wasn't very hungry, but it was delicious just the same. Broccoli, mushrooms, and pineapple chunks, along with some tofu ricotta and the wonderful pizza sauce from VWaV.

After reading Leslie's recent post about it, I got it in my mind and have not been able to shake it. Easy Caramel Sauce from Vive! So last night after dinner, as Bob was kneading a loaf of bread, I finally got in the kitchen and made some of the caramel sauce. Wow... This stuff is incredibly tasty, and the consistency is just perfect. It was great on apple slices. I used demerara sugar, which gave it a very light color. I'm used to light colored and light flavored caramel sauces, so this tasted like what I expected. Maybe sometime I will try it with a darker sugar like Leslie did to see the difference.

And today for lunch, I made a quick hummus. I've been meaning to do that for a while now too. I used:

1 can chickpeas
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
Fresh dill, fresh parsley
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

That's more tahini than I have used in the past, and I think from now on I will keep to my 2 tablespoon standard. The tahini tastes just a little too strong in this hummus. I threw in the dill and parsley mostly because I had it and wanted to use it up, and I added the extra lemon juice (I usually only use half that much) to contrast with the strong dill flavor. Very tasty. I had it on an open-faced sandwich with cucumbers and mushrooms for lunch. Now the dishes are piled up by the sink, and I hate washing the food processor. Ugh. Oh well, it was worth it.

Time for me to run to class. I'm going to catch up with you all very soon, now that I'm feeling up to it. Take care and enjoy the day!

Friday, November 24, 2006

The right way to celebrate

I've been cooking so much in the past couple of days (not necessarily all for Thanksgiving) that I haven't even had a chance to blog about it! But it may be some days before I really cook anything again--we have got enough food in our fridge right now to last us nearly a week! But I am excited that I finally have a few minutes to share it with you.

I told you that I have been meaning to try the Rosemary Seasoned Tofu Balls from Vive! Bob and I finally cooked them on Wednesday afternoon for lunch. They turned out to be a very labor-intensive meal--partly because I made my own breadcrumbs so I had 2 food processors working. The only tweak I made to the recipe was to use a green pepper instead of red, as that was what I had that needed to be used up. This recipe was incredibly delicious! I loved the texture of the balls--crispy on the outside and soft and tender in the middle. They were packed full of flavor, and the balsamic marinara sauce that the recipe provides to serve them with added another dimension of sweetness and tanginess. This is a recipe I would use again if I was really trying to make someone say "Wow..."

After we had lunch on Wednesday, we went over to Common Ground Athens where Food Not Bombs was cooking. They always cook and serve on Wednesdays and Sundays, which are our two church days. But this Wednesday we didn't have a service so we wanted to check it out for the first time. We had the most amazing time cooking and serving the homeless people in front of the winter shelter downtown. It was so cold outside Wednesday night, and the people who were gathered at the front of the shelter waiting for us when we got there were largely wearing only light windbreakers or long flannel shirts. I was so glad that the food was piping hot and that there was plenty for everyone--what if this was the closest thing to a Thanksgiving meal that some of these people would get? I cannot think of many causes I believe in as much as taking produce that grocery stores would otherwise have thrown away, and making it into a delicious and healthy meal to feed to people who need it. It was a wonderful experience, and I hope that we can be involved more often--even if we come by to cook before church and then have to leave before it is time to serve.

And then, of course, was Thanksgiving. We went to celebrate with Bob's family, and it was a wonderful visit. Let me count... I think there were 17 people there overall, which I must say was kind of a shock to me, because Thanksgiving with my family has always been four, five, maybe six. This was my first year not being with them and in a way it made me sad, but in the end I was comfortable being with Bob's family.

Besides the food that Bob and I brought, the dishes that we were able to eat were flat Italian green beans cooked with almond slices; cranberry chutney (which was from a jar, but still excellent); baked sweet potatoes; and a gorgeous salad full of cucumbers and grape tomatoes and every color bell pepper I've ever seen, except purple. Here was the spread that Bob and I brought along:

And of course, for dessert:

We made mashed potatoes, using red potatoes, golden potatoes, and some beautiful purple potatoes that I remember seeing Leslie blog about and thinking, I should try those! The marbled look was so beautiful, particularly since we left the peels on. Anyone know anything about the nutritional value in different kinds of potatoes? Maybe I'll have to look it up... Anyway, we made a big batch of The Grit's Yeast Gravy to go along with the mashed potatoes, and the gravy seemed to be well-received at dinner.

I was so intrigued by these potatoes because, well, they were beautiful. See?

And we had to buy a potato masher because we've never had one before. But the cheapest one was this silly looking one with googly eyes. I thought this picture was too funny:

Anyway, moving on... We made garlicky kale again, which goes incredibly well with mashed potatoes and the nutritional yeast gravy from The Grit. We made two bunches of kale, and there is one serving left over. I have to credit VWaV for the idea of Garlicky Kale, though Bob and I have just taken to making it our own way and serving it our own way.

Our main dish was this stuffed acorn squash, and I just developed the recipe along and along. I've made something similar before, and I intended on following the recipe that I used the last time, but I did end up modifying it substantially with great results, so I'll share my new recipe.

Laura's Acorn Squash with Apple-Tempeh Stuffing

3 acorn squash, halved, seeds & pulp scooped out
1 cup uncooked rice (I used a brown & wild rice blend)
1 package tempeh, crumbled (I actually made the Tempeh Sausage Crumbles recipe from VWaV, which was a very nice touch)
3 large tart apples, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
4 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/3 - 1/2 cup apple cider
Dried sage
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook the rice in 2 1/4 cups water until all of the water is absorbed, about 45-60 minutes. Mix the apples, celery, onion, bread crumbs, and tempeh in a large bowl. Add the cooked rice. Add apple cider as needed to make the entire mixture moist but not too liquidy. Add sage and seasonings to taste. In an oiled casserole dish, line the squash halves and stuff the cavities with the stuffing. You can pack it in pretty tightly. Place the rest of the stuffing around the squash in the pan; you may need a separate pan for some of the stuffing, if there's too much. Cover with tin foil and bake at 400 degrees for at least an hour, but two hours or so if you have time.

This made an excellent main dish; it was so filling, though, that I only managed to eat half of one before I had to stop.

Finally, dessert was the pumpkin pie recipe from Bryanna that we made before, but this time we tried her streusel topping. We also put a couple spoonfuls of brandy in the pie, which I would highly recommend--but if you do, you may need to reduce some of the other liquid by a spoonful or two, as our pie didn't set quite as well this time as it did before. No worries--it was still absolutely worthy of being the finisher for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, especially with a little dollop of Soyatoo! whipped topping.

I have always had excellent, excellent Thanksgiving meals, all my life. My mom is a wonderful cook, and she really goes all out on Thanksgiving. I really do think this year was the best, though--not because I cook better than my mom, but because I knew that no turkeys or cows or pigs had to withstand any sort of cruelty to bring a delicious meal to my plate. Not only that, but the food Bob and I contributed was about 95% organic, as was, I'm sure, the first Thanksgiving. It just felt like the right way to celebrate the holiday.

In the future, though, I really look forward to veganizing my mom's cornbread dressing recipe--it is really tasty and I know that I can make it delicious and animal-free! But not anytime soon--Bob and I have tons of food to finish up as it is.

Happy weekend to you all!