Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fakin' it

Every good, health-conscious vegan knows that highly processed meat and dairy substitutes are NOT a requisite part of a healthy, balanced diet. That being said, they certainly can be fun every now and again--so while we should be working to center our diets around whole, unprocessed grains, vegetables, and legumes, I think it's okay to enjoy these fun foods every now and again.

Like many of you, I received a shipment of vegan cheese samples from Galaxy Foods a while back. I never much shared on this blog how I used those products, so here's a sampling.

I used the Pepper Jack Rice Vegan cheese slices to make a small array of simple Southwest-style foods, namely...

Cheese and mushroom quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas, and

Nachos on baked blue corn tortilla chips with salsa. Both were ready in just a few minutes and made satisfying and tasty small meals. I was surprised and impressed by the melt that I was able to achieve with these rice cheese slices--a rare quality among vegan cheese products.

With the white cheddar block cheese I went a healthier route and made salads... most notably this delicious salad with roasted apple-shallot vinaigrette. Cheese and apples make a surprisingly complimentary pairing, and this "sharp cheddar" style vegan cheese brought back remembrances of that. All in all, I liked the Galaxy Foods products that I sampled. I was more impressed with the individually sliced cheeses than I was the block cheeses. I may purchase these products from time to time in the future, but I really can live without them. I'm sure all of us as vegans have heard people tell us over and over again that they could never give up cheese. But really, it's pretty amazing how you get used to not eating it, and you really don't miss it or crave it ever. You just have to learn new habits--and it's easier than most people realize!

But I digress. I picked up these vegan buffalo wings made by Health Is Wealth Foods one day just to give them a try. I always loved the flavor of buffalo wings. But you know what they say--Wings are for flying, not frying... I made a dipping sauce by mixing some vegan ranch dressing (from The Grit Cookbook) with some Louisiana hot sauce. These were actually very, very tasty--a good treat every now and then.

I used some vegan sausage patties from Trader Joe's to make this breakfast sandwich on a whole wheat English muffin with strawberry preserves. Another one that's good for a treat once in a while.

This one's an all-time favorite weekend brunch--tofu scramble. I threw in some mushrooms, red peppers, and zucchini, and added some fresh salsa at the end. Tofu scramble is hardly an egg substitute--it is delicious and unique in its own right. And it's a great way to take in some vegetables early in the day.

I made a nice trip to the farmer's market yesterday and picked up plenty of veggies to do some cooking this week. I recently got a new cookbook and I am excited to delve into it--and to share with you what I come up with! So I will be back around soon. Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A few favorites

Not much new in the world of my kitchen recently... though I have made a few of my favorite foods to enjoy.

First and best of all, I made Fantastic French Toast from Vive Le Vegan! Cooking a fun breakfast on the weekends used to be one of my favorite things to do... This was fabulous--I made it with slices of whole wheat sourdough bread, and I made a strawberry-maple topping. A breakfast like this puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Another long-time favorite is Quinoa Spring Salad, also from Vive! It's so easy to make and so refreshing and so healthy, I can't understand why I have not been making it for myself all summer. A simple dressing of fresh lemon juice and olive oil is all you need to allow all of the wonderful flavors to come through. This contains green peas, roasted red peppers, diced cucumbers, scallions, cilantro, and toasted pine nuts.

I had a fun sandwich idea one evening after work--slice up some portobello mushrooms, zucchini, and red bell pepper and sear them in a hot pan with olive oil and a glaze of balsamic vinegar. Then make a batch of Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto (Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan) and spread a nice layer of that on a slice of bread. Heap the seared veggies on top, and you have a fabulous dinner.

Here's something I've been meaning to blog for a while. Like many of you, I received a sample of Vegan Pro Bars in the mail a while ago. I received five flavors--cherry pretzel, maple pecan, kettle corn, cocoa pistachio, and sesame goji. I was anxious to try them and to share my thoughts on my blog... but somehow it fell by the wayside. But better late than never, eh?

This is the kettle corn bar, though I think my favorite was the cocoa pistachio flavor. In any case, I was quite impressed with this product. You can probably tell from the picture that it is made from whole, recognizable ingredients such as dried fruits, almonds, and sesame seeds. It is healthy and filling, providing plenty of protein and healthy fat. I found it to be an excellent breakfast, and I typically try very hard to make breakfast pack a powerful nutritional punch to start the day. The down side? They are quite expensive, to the point of being cost prohibitive. I don't know that I could ever fit Pro Bars into my food budget... Still, I'm glad to have been able to try them and be impressed with the fact that there actually are healthy, whole food snack options available out there.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Still here...

I'm still here, even though I have sorely neglected to blog recently. The truth is, my life over the past couple of months has been a series of ups and downs--and the overall effect has been to wear me out. It's funny how you can be on cruise control for a while, day in and day out, and then one day you your life just sideswipes you at 100 miles per hour. Has this ever happened to you? I'm sure it has... It happens to all of us once in a while, right?

I've done very little experimental cooking recently. I've been sticking to the basics, for the most part--easy, tried and true recipes that satisfy and require little effort. I got burned out for a while. But now I'm starting to miss cooking the way I used to...

I made this stir-fry weeks and weeks ago, but it was so good that it still deserves a spot on this blog. I made it for a good friend of mine who was willing to try tofu for the first time. In hopes to not turn him off by the texture of the tofu, I diced it extra small and used the twice-cooked method: Stir-fry it once in a little bit of very hot oil, add some tamari, remove the tofu from the pan and place on paper towels, clean the pan, add more oil and heat again until very hot, and then stir-fry the cooled tofu again. It creates a crispy outer coating that I have found even tofu-averse people can appreciate. The rest of the veggies we cooked in a teriyaki sauce that Melody created for her fabulous teriyaki tempeh recipe that I tested for her way, way back in the day. And we served it over udon noodles. We enjoyed this meal immensely, and I was quite pleased to have been able to offer my friend a pleasing first experience with tofu.

Talk about an easy meal... This is a Southwest-style Sunshine Burger topped with a slice of pepperjack flavor Rice Vegan cheese and avocado slices on half a whole wheat bun. Whereas I'm not normally a big fan of frozen veggie burgers, these are actually quite good. They have a kick to them.

It's never the wrong time of year for gingerbread... so that's how I justified making these Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting from VCTOTW. I took them to work where they were well received, as always. Personally, I thought they were fabulous with chunks of crystallized ginger hidden like little gems inside the cake.

But... these are my last cupcakes for a while. I remember a time when I was a health foodie, and I loved being that way. Once you slip out of that habit it can be difficult to get back into it, but I'm making an effort. Especially with a mini busy season coming up at work, I want to be in the routine of doing what is best for myself and feeling great and energetic.

In other news, I got a bike, and I am playing in a softball league, and I have been running again, and I have been going to Jazzercise classes... so I'm staying pretty active. And next weekend I'm going backpacking with one of my good friends--which is super exciting.

I hope you all have been enjoying your summer. As for me, I'm ready for fall again--but I'm making the most of this awful heat. I'll be around again soon. :) Take care.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cupcake mischief

Do you have those friends who always manage to entice you to get into things--things you wouldn't have done on your own? Such as super-fancy, decadent cupcakes? Well, I have friends like that. In particular, I have two friends whose presence seems to be the key to the spontaneous generation of cupcakes. Let me show you what I mean...

S'mores Cupcakes, from VCTOTW, of course. Towers of vegan buttercream frosting drizzled with ganache and topped with graham crackers? Mmm...

Putting on the finishing touches...

Some of them we chose to top with strawberries instead, just to mix it up a bit.

And on yet another occasion:

Tiramisu Cupcakes! For someone who loves coffee and cupcakes (and that would be all three of us), who can imagine a more pleasing creation?

Abby takes her work very seriously--See how meticulously she dusts the cupcake liners?

And, well, what would we have done without Jessica's masterful bean arrangements?

Everybody needs friends like this, don't you think?

So for future reference... whenever you see cupcakes on this blog that have truly gone above and beyond, you now know who is probably behind the madness.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eat, Drink, And Be Vegan!

I have not blogged very much about this cookbook since I got it for Christmas, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been wearing it out. I have quite a backlog of ED&BV adventures to share. Dreena Burton's Vive Le Vegan! has been my favorite cookbook for some time, but her latest is on the verge of surpassing it!

This Sweet & Sour Chipotle Tempeh with Sweet Potatoes I made a while back, but I certainly have not forgotten how delicious it was. Sweet and tangy, it went excellently over steamed quinoa sprinkled with cashews. An added perk: My entire apartment smelled divine as it baked! I ate this for lunch every day for a week, and I think it only tasted better and better each time.

Roasted Garlic Artichoke Spread with Fresh Oregano: I made this for a little dinner party I had one evening. Bold, rich flavors of artichoke hearts and roasted garlic with the gentle seasoning imparted by the fresh oregano created an exciting, complex spread that was excellent served on simple rye crackers. This disappeared quickly, receiving many positive comments along the way!

I had some friends over for dinner one night and made this Blackened Tofu, after poring over many tofu recipes to decide how best to introduce one of my tofu-wary friends. I was hoping for something that would impart a lot of flavor, not have an extraordinarily spongy texture, and be simple enough that she would feel comfortable trying it herself after watching me cook it. This recipe, happily, did all of those things--and the spicy coating was delicious to boot. We made a simple vegetable sautée to serve with it. The leftovers I mashed up with a dab of Nayonaise and some chopped celery for a tasty sandwich spread. I've definitely dog-eared this recipe to use over and over again.

Veggie Sizzle Burritos. Another simple, delicious meal. I opted to forgo the vegan cheese on this one because I wanted to taste clearly the zucchini and portobello filling, which was spiced nicely with chili powder, paprika, and tamari. Baking them made the whole spelt tortillas nice and crispy. This is another keeper for sure.

The Lemony Cashew-Basil Pesto was a refreshing new take on the idea of pesto. Raw cashews add a rich, creamy taste that other nuts just couldn't achieve... The pesto came out quite thick, almost like a paste, so tossing it in the pasta with a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water helped to create a saucier texture. Because the nuts were raw, this pesto came together a lot faster than other recipes do. This may be my new favorite pesto recipe--and with summer in full swing, I foresee making it quite frequently!

I took these Lemon Poppy Seed Crackle Cookies to work one day and left them anonymously in the break room. It didn't take long, however, for word to circulate that I had brought them--people have learned to recognize the "different" types of baked goods that I bring in, I suppose! Our office manager came up to me and told me that the cookies were "pretty much perfect." Of course, I really can't take all the credit for that. This recipe really is an exceptional take on the classic combination of poppy seed and lemon. The cookies came out moist and chewy, and the poppy seeds impart an earthy layer of flavor that balances so nicely with the fresh, light, tangy lemon flavor. Many, many compliments to Dreena on this recipe!!

Finally, these Cocoa Banana Muffins that I made in an attempt to make use of some overripe bananas that I had lying around. I have to admit that, for some reason, they came out a little dry... though I greatly enjoyed them for breakfast with a glass of almond milk. Chocolate and banana is truly a great combination!

There are still many, many recipes in ED&BV that have caught my eye that I have yet to make, but I would say that I have gotten off to a pretty good start at breaking in this fabulous cookbook!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I've not been in the mood to blog lately. I guess you could say I've been in a bit of a slump. Anyway... I didn't mean to disappear from this blog without a trace. So I wanted to drop a quick note to say that I'll be back soon--just as soon as I can pull it together. Thanks for understanding.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

California Dreamin'

[UPDATE: Some of you commented that you had some trouble seeing the photos, so I reloaded all of them. Please let me know if you can see them now...]

Wow--my trip to San Francisco has absolutely flown by. My friend Kelly and I fly home later today, and then Monday it's back to work. And every minute that we've been here has been just amazing. It's hard to think about going back to daily life after a week like this...

I wanted to do some blogging while I was out here but of course, I've been playing so hard that I've either been too busy or too exhausted most of the time. But I've thought a lot about blogging and I've taken lots of pictures to share. So sit back and get ready for a long post!

Our friend Kevin, whom we came out to visit, actually lives not in San Francisco but in the city of San Mateo, just to the south (though he's moving back to Atlanta in just a little over a month). So we spent a few days actually in the city of San Francisco, and the rest of the time we traveled around the area seeing other places, and hanging out in San Mateo a fair bit too. The first day after Kelly and I got here, last Friday, we went into San Francisco and walked around Fisherman's Wharf, down by the bay.

The bay was a spectacular sight, as was the view of the city behind it. We spent several hours just walking around the area, taking it all in.

And we took a break for Irish coffee (mine without cream, of course).

Many of you suggested that I try to make it to Millennium while I was here. Kelly and Kevin were open to the idea, so we headed there for dinner last Friday night.

The outside décor was nothing too fancy...

And the inside was low-key as well... and charming at the same time. All of us commented on these chandeliers, which somehow dressed up the room even in their simplicity.

We started off with some cocktails...

And we shared an appetizer, the Red Quinoa Timbale.

Each of us ordered a different entrée, and we all intended on trying each other's. It turned out that we all liked everything so much that we pretty much ended up sharing all three plates. Kevin ordered the Grilled Achiote Spiced Smoked Tempeh, which was sweet and spicy, with the flair of Latino cuisine.

Kelly's plate was the Erbette Chard Roulade, a French-inspired plate with toasted baguette slices filled with a tofu ricotta and cashew-chard "Florentine," on a bed of puy lentils.

I chose the Seared Edamame and Shiitake Cakes. The flavor of the fresh veggies on top played nicely off of the richness of the coconut-lime base.

Though we were quite satisfied after our meal, we still managed to share a dessert--the Chocolate Almond Midnight, a rich chocolate mousse cake with an almond cashew crust. This was a nice, sweet finish to our visit to Millennium. The waiter let me keep a menu, a great souvenir of the evening.

On Saturday we went hiking through Muir Woods... so no exciting food stories. But I did get to see some amazing redwood trees.

No photo, of course, can do justice to these spectacular trees, rugged survivors through hundreds of thousands of years of the history of the earth.

There were all sorts of wildflowers to be seen. These California poppies were among the most vibrant flowers I've ever encountered.

On Sunday we took it easy. We went down to the Stanford University campus and lay around in the sun for awhile. And we ate brunch at a cafe called Hobee's.

I had the Seven Veggie Medley, a vibrant dish of fresh veggies and tofu in a mildly spicy curry sauce.

On Monday evening we went down to the beach at Half Moon Bay, a straight shot west from San Mateo. I just love the ocean, and I had never seen the Pacific before.

Needless to say, it was fantastic.

The shore was wreathed by steep, rugged cliffs which were carpeted with these amazing, anemone-like flowers, that came in varying colors from pale yellow to deep fuchsia.

The sand along the shore was disturbed more by the footprints of seabirds than of people.

Tuesday we went up to Sonoma County... wine country. It was a cool, rainy day, not terribly conducive to taking photos.

Still, I did manage to get a few at each of the vineyards where we stopped. In particular, we took a walk through the viticulture garden at one of the vineyards, where I saw young wine grapes just beginning to bud on the vine. I believe this is a Merlot vine, but I can't remember for certain.

Wednesday while Kevin was at work, Kelly and I went on a short drive down Highway 1 along the coast. We started at Half Moon Bay and drove about an hour south to Santa Cruz... stopping often to soak up the incredible views.

We stopped for lunch in Santa Cruz, where we found this incredible falafel restaurant tucked away down one of the side roads.

I loved the message on this sign on the wall above the trash can. So, so true...

I got a sampler plate. The baba ganoush had yogurt in it, but the girl at the restaurant was happy to sub some dolmas for the non-vegan baba. The food was fabulous.

Thursday, Kelly and I went back to wine country. We both really love wine, and Kevin had some coupons for some free tastings, which he was happy to give us. One of the tastings was at an organic vineyard, and the first biodynamic winery in California. That was pretty interesting... though I would love to read more about the process of wine-making and its environmental impact. I have to admit that I'm not too knowledgeable on the topic.

At least as exciting as tasting the wine, though, was taking in the views of the vineyards throughout the valleys.

Yesterday was our last day to get out and see the city, so we headed back into San Francisco...

Though not before having lunch at Cafe Soulstice, a raw vegan restaurant right here in San Mateo.

In keeping with our custom, we shared several different items, starting with these nori rolls filled with fresh veggies and a "salmon" pâté.

We also shared the Nachos Rancheros...

And this fabulous sampler platter, which featured among other things some sunflower falafels, walnut hummus, and another taste of the pâté.

In the city we did what any visitor to San Francisco has to do at some point--we went for a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was pretty neat to see this landmark structure from this perspective.

But what was even more striking, to me, was the view of the bay and of the city.

Walking put us in the mood for ice cream, so we stopped in at Maggie Mudd, another spot that many of you recommended.

I was blown away by the extensive menu of dairy-free ice cream choices, and I had a difficult time choosing just one.

In the end, though, I settled on the Tarmack, a soy-based chocolate ice cream studded with peanut butter swirls and cookie chunks. Kelly chose a coconut milk-based flavor, the Dubliner, which I happily sampled.

And in just a couple of hours, I will be on the way back home. It's kind of sad to leave... but I've had so much fun here that I know I will be back out to the west coast again as soon as I have the opportunity. Thanks for sticking with me through this long, long post. I'll be back to blogging as usual in a few days... and another installment of my Atlanta Vegan Living series is coming soon. Cheers!