Sunday, July 29, 2007

Out and about, some eats, and another anniversary

Yesterday one of my friends from Athens came down and we got out and explored the new town together. Her cousin works at a local restaurant called Raging Burrito so we decided to stop in there for lunch. I forgot to take my camera, but next time I'll be sure to--they have some really neat menu options, and everything is vegan except for the obvious meat, cheese, and sour cream. No hidden ingredients lurking in the beans, guac, and sauces, which meant there was plenty for me to choose from. I ordered the Thai Salad (not a burrito at all!) which came with sautéed tofu and was drizzled with a light peanut sauce. It was so tasty, and HUGE--on a normal day it would have been enough for Bob and me to split, but I managed to eat the whole thing yesterday as I had uncharacteristically skipped breakfast and was pretty famished. The prices were very reasonable--$5 to $7 per meal--and with each dish being big enough to share, I can see Raging Burrito becoming a great place to stop in for a quick bite every now and then.

After lunch we roamed the streets for a little while, ducking into the little shops and things downtown. The town I live in is so close to Atlanta that it is basically a part of Atlanta rather than being a separate suburb, but it has its own downtown area that is quaint and artsy. It reminds me a little bit of downtown Athens, but more sophisticated and less trashy--Athens was a college town, of course, which meant the streets always reeked of alcohol and other unmentionable scents, but here it's clean and classy. We had fun walking and window-shopping, and occasionally stepping inside a store to get a break from the awful heat.

After exploring downtown, we headed a little further into Atlanta to check out this store I had read about on Happy Cow.

I have browsed the website of Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe several times, but I was very pleased to learn that they recently opened a retail store only about five miles from my apartment! My friend is vegetarian and quite interested in vegan living, so she was delighted to come along and check the place out with me.

The store is small, but they have some wonderful shirts and shoes and purses and wallets, as well as a section of supplements and beauty products, a nice collection of vegan cookbooks and magazines, and of course a grocery section. I found some brands that I have wanted to try--including Temptation soy ice cream, as well as Sheese (though the Sheese is quite expensive, I have to say, and whenever I can finally bring myself to buy it, it will have to be a VERY occasional purchase)! I picked up two dark chocolate peanut butter cups and a little package of seitan jerky. Today I went back, dragging Bob along with me. He loved the place too, of course... He especially loves his ice cream, so we picked up a little pint of this:

It's so creamy and rich (read: fattening!) so hopefully I'll be able to control myself around it. It's made on 100% vegan equipment by a 100% vegan company... which is just cool, and the way vegan ice cream should be (though I definitely have nothing against Soy Delicious!)... I remember reading about it on Bazu's blog, and I'm glad that I can finally try it myself.

Here are some of the things I have been cooking this week:

I have made this dahl before, but it was so good that it merited another photo.

This I have not made before, but now that I have made it, I can't figure out why it's taken me so long--I guess because I've never been a fan of Ranch dressing, so it's not been high on my list of things to veganize. But The Grit Cookbook has a recipe for its Famous Vegan Ranch Dressing, and I decided to give it a shot because the only way I've ever been able to force myself to eat raw carrots is by dipping them in Ranch dressing. Now, I don't know how "famous" this stuff really is, but it's far, far better than any Ranch dressing I have ever had before. I used Nayonaise, which really doesn't taste like real mayonnaise--and I suspect that's the reason I like this so much, because I always hated mayonnaise. The other bonus is that by using Nayonaise, this dressing has less than 30 calories per tablespoon--much less heart-stopping than the "real" thing!

I was cleaning out some of our folders and things where we have been stashing junk for the past two years (it's amazing how that stuff accumulates), and I came across a recipe on an index card that I had stashed away and forgotten before I ever even made it. It looked good, and a quick glance at the ingredients told me that I could veganize it in a snap... so I did.

Gingerbread scones. I know it's not exactly the season, but how I love anything gingerbread! I'm including the veganized recipe at the end here. I used fresh grated ginger, but when I make these again I might splurge a little and throw in some chopped crystallized ginger for a special treat. These are excellent dipped in coffee or orange-flavored tea.

Monday was our wedding anniversary, but today, 29 July, marks another anniversary--two, really. It's the one-year anniversary of this blog, but more importantly, a year ago today was when Bob and I made the decision to remove animal products from our diet and our lives. We had been nearly vegan for a couple of months already, and we knew after being vegetarian for about six months and doing our research about animal agriculture that committing to a vegan lifestyle was the right thing to do. So we did it, and we have not looked back. We've learned that being vegan, once you get used to it, is not difficult but exciting. Our tastes have changed, our bodies are so thankful for being kinder to them, and my cooking skills have truly blossomed. And, I have come to know and love so many like-minded people through your beautiful blogs. I know I've said this before, but you all really inspire me and give me hope, and I thank you for sharing your lives and your families with me. So often when I'm talking I will just refer to you by name--"So-and-so said such-and-such," as if we had just had a conversation over a cup of coffee or something. And that's really special to me, my friends! So thanks for sharing this year with me, and teaching me so much, and just for being so special.

Until next time!

Gingerbread Scones

1 tablespoon flax meal
3 tablespoons very warm water
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
6 tablespoons Earth Balance margarine, chilled
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup molasses
Orange juice
Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 400. In a blender, combine the flax meal and the warm water and mix until frothy. Set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, spices, baking soda, and salt, and stir in the grated ginger. Cut the margarine into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the 1/4 cup water and the molasses to the flax mixture, and blend again until well combined. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, and stir until moist. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead about 10-15 times. Shape the dough into a circle and cut into 12 wedges. Place the wedges onto a cookie sheet, brush the tops with the orange juice, and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until done.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A new home and another year

I know it's been nearly a week since I posted, but I've just been incredibly busy--I'm sure you can imagine. I am becoming more and more excited by our new place every day, though, and it's really beginning to feel like home now. Here are a couple of shots of the dining room and the kitchen--which are finally in order.

The kitchen seemed so small at first, but with a little creativity and some thrift store shopping, we've got it up and running comfortably. I'm excited to have a gas stove instead of the electric one at our old place--I've always liked cooking with gas.

Since we were just about out of food, one of the first things I did when we got here was make a trip to Trader Joe's. There is a TJ's that just opened five miles from our apartment. I picked up this frozen entrée, which was very handy when we still had our kitchen packed up in boxes.

Here it is all cooked up--not too bad for a frozen meal.

I didn't do much cooking until yesterday. July 23, 2007, marked our two-year wedding anniversary! Instead of going out, we opted to cook up some special meals.

These are the Banana Bliss Pancakes from Vive! Always a favorite, and topped with blueberry sauce makes them really special.

Also from Vive! this is the Quinoa Spring Salad, which is also a favorite. As usual, I added about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas and made this a meal on its own.

Dinner, actually, was mostly Bob's doing--not from Vive! but still a Dreena recipe, we decided to try the Ginger Hoisin Rice Noodles from TEV. Simply delicious! In lieu of lemons I used lime wedges to finish, and it was just perfect.

We had hoped to go camping or take a road trip or something like that to celebrate our anniversary, but it kind of fell at an awkward time this year, what with moving (and the final Harry Potter book coming out--hee hee). So we settled on going for a nice, long walk and stopping at a local tavern for drinks. It made a lovely evening, and we'll have plenty more anniversaries to celebrate however we want!

I made these grasshopper cupcakes for Bob (though I did sneak a little taste). I used the Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe from VCTOTW, and I made a simple crème de menthe buttercream frosting. Very fun and satisfying.

I'm having a difficult time finding places to go online, but now that most of the hard part of moving is over, I hope to have more time to get out and check out the town. Until next time!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Semi-huge update

Okay, so this is day three of trying to post this blog entry. My laptop is having some serious issues so I'm going to be engaged in some major back-up and recovery operations... Whew! At least I didn't lose all these pics!

Hello! I am in the middle of moving--we have until Friday to be out of our current place so it's going to be a process of several days. I'm not going to have Internet access at my new place for a while, so I wanted to go ahead and fill you in on the past couple of weeks while I have the chance. So...

First thing: I finished my exams! At least for now. I won't know my scores for the last two exams for probably another month, and here's hoping I passed. But at least for the next few weeks, I can do whatever I want to do!

Second thing: Apart from Bob, Mary Ann is probably the best friend I have in the world... and I was delighted to be in her wedding Saturday. This isn't a great shot of the two of us, but it's the best I have until the "official" pictures are available.

And this picture's almost two years old now... when she was in my wedding.

Saturday was a very sweet and emotional day, and I can't wait until she and her beau Jacob get back from Mexico so that we can go on a double date together!

Food-wise, the whole wedding experience was quite wonderful. The reception (except for the cake) was a vegan's paradise--fresh fruits, raw and lightly steamed veggies, toasted pita wedges with fresh pineapple salsa... And the caterers told the wedding party to take home all the food we wanted after the reception was over, so my refrigerator has been full of fresh fruits and veggies ever since. As for the rehearsal dinner, it was held at a restaurant downtown. Both the bride's and groom's families were so gracious and accommodating... Here is the pasta dish that the chefs invented for Bob and me for the rehearsal dinner--artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes, spinach, and an oil-based dressing over spaghetti noodles. It was fabulous.

For dessert, the other guests ate key lime pie while Bob and I were served plates of fresh seasonal berries. I can't say that I was jealous at all.

Apart from weddings and tests and moving, I have a little backlog of food photos to share with you.

This is from the 4th of July... finally. I made a double batch of the Barbecued Seitan Ribz from Fatfree Vegan. I had to bake them in the oven as I had no grill available... but wow, were these good. The texture was a little spongy at first, but the leftovers were perfect after some chill time. Definitely, definitely a keeper. Does anyone have a good barbecue sauce they particularly recommend? Oh yes, raw broccoli and The Grit's Super Seven-Spice Potatoes rounded out the meal.

This was just a quick bean salad that I made after picking up some fresh, local green beans from the health food store. Blanched green beans, chickpeas, red onions, and a dressing of vegetable broth, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper. I got the idea from an online recipe forum somewhere, but now I can't remember where. Good, though--light and healthy and filling.

Just a quick grilled sauerkraut, cheeze, and seitan sandwich using up the rest of the block cheeze that I made recently. I know several of you have asked me how the cheeze melted; well, I didn't have much success with it, either broiling or grilling. It's okay--it was still tasty and worth making again--but it would be nice to figure out how to make it melt just a little! By the way, this sandwich, though being a bit on the junky side, was quite good. Dijon mustard is essential.

I finally found a little farmers market just outside of Athens, and a couple of weeks ago I hit it up for the first time. There were about five or six growers present, but the produce they had to offer was quite a treat. I bought three cucumbers, three tomatoes, a bunch of fresh basil, and over two pounds of Swiss chard!

This soba noodle stir-fry was one of the best, and quickest, meals I've made in quite a while. I just threw in veggies that I had on hand, including fresh green beans, carrots, daikon radish, plenty of chard, some squash and zucchini... and garnished with green onions. Quick sauté in a little bit of sesame oil, then at the end I added a sauce similar to this one from Stonielove. I can't remember exactly how I made the sauce, but I do remember kicking it up with some siracha sauce... yum.

Finally, I decided to try the Brown Rice Pizza from Vive! I made a nice basil pesto to top it with, in addition to mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, and red onion. The above photo is fresh from the oven...

And this is after trying to serve it. It was delicious, and the rice was seasoned so well, but... it fell apart. Oops. I followed the "crust" recipe exactly, so I'm not sure what went wrong. So, it was somewhat pizza-like but not really pizza... but it still made a tasty dinner.

And this is something that I created for Bob, one morning when he wanted pancakes but all of our cooking appliances and such were packed away. We had some leftover waffles in the freezer so I took them out, toasted them up, spread them with peanut butter and added a dollop of warm jam, then topped with a squirt of Soyatoo whipped topping. Don't know if this qualifies more as breakfast or dessert but he definitely seemed pleased (and based on the bite I stole, he had a good reason!).

I'll be back around periodically, but I don't know for now just how much I'll be able to get online. But I've been reading all your blogs and commenting whenever I could, and I promise I won't stop! :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

How 'bout that?

I'm still in over my head with my upcoming exam and other life events taking place, but I had to come out of hiding quickly to express my excitement about winning second prize in Urban Vegan's Vegans Gone Wild! contest! Thanks, Urban Vegan!

Also, let me extend my congratulations to the first place winner, Diann! Her Extreme Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Tart with Caramel Sauce certainly looks like a deserving win to me, and I am excited to give it a go when I have the chance.

Urban Vegan will be posting the recipes later this week for all the hedonistic dessert submissions, and I will certainly be checking them out. Some of your entries I have already seen on your blogs, and let me tell you, the world of vegan desserts is a happy place with people like all of you around!

That's all--and now I dive back into my busy world... but expect a nice, long post from me with lots of pictures sometime next week! And thanks for all your encouragement. It means so much to me...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Assortment of meals

One of Bob's friends recently wanted to take him out as a late birthday present, and he kindly allowed me to tag along. The restaurant was Clocked!, our local vegan-friendly diner with meat and cheese analogues to cover nearly every item on the menu. Bob opted for their hummus sandwich--they have a tasty hummus that seems to be pretty unique in the area of restaurant hummuses.

I chose this cheezeburger--and ended up discarding half of the enormous bun just so I could get a taste of something other than bread. It was tasty vegan junk food, and what really made the flavor great was their kickin' basil-jalapeño sauce.

Speaking of analogues, it has been on my mind for quite some time to try the Classic White Uncheeze from Vegan Vittles. Finally I got around to it, and I added liquid smoke as the recipe suggested for a smoked flavor. It's pretty tasty in my opinion--better than the Follow Your Heart stuff that we have purchased before. Next time I'll add more of the liquid smoke, which only comes through very subtly in this batch. The texture is somewhat firm but a bit crumbly, and I have not even tested its melt yet.

Bob tasted this and said "This would be good with that Seitan O'Greatness." 'Nuff said. A few hours later:

He's right. They do go very well together.

I had some local, organic zucchini on hand, and lasagna on my brain... so what ensued was this spinach and mushroom lasagna with zucchini in place of lasagna noodles. Here you can see it in its several stages of development:

I enjoyed it the evening I made it for dinner, but I have enjoyed the leftovers even more, as it firmed up much better upon refrigeration.

I don't know how much I'll be around in the next couple of weeks. I have my next exam this Friday the 6th, and then next week I'll be cramming for my last exam which I have scheduled for Monday the 16th. On top of that, we'll be packing for our upcoming move to Atlanta, also scheduled for the 16th... AND I am going to be in my best friend's wedding which will keep me occupied for most of Friday and Saturday of next week. I may not have a chance to post again until after we're in our new apartment, so in the meantime, happy cooking!