Monday, March 28

Cook Book Challenge Week #12

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule
Peanut Butter Cupcakes

I made these Peanut Butter Cupcakes a couple weeks ago to take to friend.  Of course, Chad and I had to sample a few too.  I used some almond milk and some coconut milk  and whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour, otherwise I followed the recipe.  The cupcakes were amazing-- super thick and moist on the inside with a little crisp on the edge for the first bite.  I think the molasses really heightened the peanut buttery flavor.  I topped them first with banana glaze (a little whipped EB and banana with a splash of vanilla and some powdered sugar), then Quick Melty Ganache and chopped peanuts.  I was so happy with how well they turned out.  Mmm, just thinking about these makes me want to whip up another batch...

Saturday, March 26

Cook Book Challenge Week #11

Vegan Brunch
Wednesday's Menu:  Red Flannel Hash and Chorizo Sausages
Thursday's Menu:  Navy Bean Gravy

I should be out running this morning, but I think my stomach is still trying to decide what to do with the greasy goodness of last night's Beer-Battered Tofu.  What else is there to do, but to eat a bowl of cereal and finish blogging about this week's meals?

On Wednesday, we made another pretty simple meal-- Red Flannel Hash with Chorizo Sausage.  I have to admit, this was the first time I bought a beet.  I've never been a huge fan, so I don't go out of my way to find or eat them.  Chad, on the other hand, loves beets, which is why he picked this recipe.  It came together really quickly, just chop the potatoes and beet, heat in a pan for a bit, then toss in the oven.  Before we chopped everything for the hash, I started the sausage, which is basically steamed seitan in sausage form.  The dough was pretty wet and I had just enough vital wheat gluten, but they turned out pretty perfectly.  Next time, I'll make sure to wrap them in extra aluminum foil, because each sausage exploded out of it's wrapper in the steamer.  I chopped two into slices and pan fried for a bit before serving.  This meal was pretty filling and definitely had a "meat and potatoes" feel.  Next time, I would make sure to plan for a fruit or vegetable on the side. I can also see adjusting the beans and seasonings in the sausage for different occasions, because it was fairly easy to make.

Our third meal of the week was Navy Bean Gravy with "buttermilk" biscuits.  This gravy was amazing!  Biscuits and Gravy is another one of my favorite breakfast meals.  So far, we've only used the Gimme Lean Sausage with a basic butter, flour and milk gravy.  The Navy Bean Gravy doesn't even compare!  It's so thick from the blended beans and flavorful from the surprisingly few seasonings.  After the gravy thickened up a bit, I added about a cup of pinto beans and a teaspoon of fennel seed to give it a little sausage-y flavor.  I will definitely make this gravy again, because it is WAY better than my simple gravy!

At the end of the week, I loved "Vegan Brunch" as much as I thought I would.  I checked this book out from the library, but it might need to join my collection soon!  We really enjoyed everything we made this week and recipes were all pretty quick and simple.  There are still many things I really want to try, like the Bagels, English Muffins and Scones.  Someday, I'll get through everything!

Friday, March 25

Cook Book Challenge Week #11

Vegan Brunch
Tonight's Menu:  Beer Battered Tofu

We've been busy in the kitchen with this cookbook all week, but I HAD to post this today.  One thing I've really missed lately is going out to a Friday night fish fry.  Well, after tonight's dinner I have nothing to miss!  Beer Battered Tofu more than exceeded my expectation.  It was really easy to prepare and absolutely delicious.  We used sunflower oil to fry and Sam Adams Boston Lager for the batter.  Each piece was super crispy and the beer was very flavorful.  We served it with loaded baked potatoes (with Coconut "Bacon" Bits from AVK) and a big spinach salad to feel a little healthier!  I was looking forward to this dinner all week and it did not disappoint!

Tuesday, March 22

Cook Book Challenge Week #11

Vegan Brunch
Tonight's Menu:  Peanut Butter Waffles and Revamped Tempeh Bacon

First of all, yum!  I've been looking forward to "Vegan Brunch," because what's not to love about brunch?!  We started the week out with two pretty simple recipes.  The Peanut Butter Waffles were delicious and super filling.  They weren't as peanut buttery as I expected, but I can't really complain.  We topped them with sliced bananas, maple syrup, powdered sugar and a few extra peanuts.  I was full after the first one, but managed to eat a second!  Next time, I think I will use crunchy peanut butter, because Isa suggests it will give the waffles more peanut flavor.  In other waffle-related news, I finally figured out how to make the perfect waffles with my 5-year old waffle iron.  I usually have it set to the highest setting and my waffles split in half, but tonight I remembered to turn in down to medium-high and, like magic, all the waffles came out perfectly!
We've made the Tempeh Bacon from "Vegan with a Vengeance" before and it was pretty good... but the Revamped Tempeh Bacon is unbelievably better.  It tastes just like, if not better than, the Fakin' Bacon we buy at the store and is way cheaper to make.  I loved the flavor combo and although I thought that one tablespoon of liquid smoke might be overpowering, it was perfect.  I added all of the marinade to the pan after the pieces "fried" for a little bit and let it simmer down.  They came out with a nice little crunchy, crispy bite.  I have a feeling we might make this often now, especially since we just stocked up on tempeh from Trader Joe's!

So, that was dinner tonight!  I don't even think I have room for dessert while I watch "Biggest Loser."  Maybe that's a good thing... 

Sunday, March 20

Meatout and One Year Vegan!

I planned on writing this post tomorrow, but then I saw a few things on twitter about "Meatout."  Upon a little more investigation, I found the website, a "grassroots diet education campaign."  You can read more at their site, but this is what it's about:

What is Meatout?
On (or around) March 20, thousands of caring people in all 50 U.S. states and two dozen other countries get active to host educational events for Meatout- the world's largest grassroots diet education campaign. Activists distribute free food, educate their communities, and ask their friends, families, and neighbors to "kick the meat habit” and explore a wholesome, compassionate diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

The other reason for this post is that tomorrow I will be "officially" vegan for one year!  I pretty much went "cold-turkey" from omnivore to vegan after watching Food, Inc. and reading "Skinny Bitch," but I started keeping a food journal on March 21st, so I'm considering that my jumping off point.  The picture I've included in this post is my small collection of books that I've acquired in the last year.  I've checked some others out from the library, borrowed some, but these are the books that have really helped me get to today.  I could go on and on about everything I've read and the changes I've made, but I can honestly say that I feel great and I couldn't be happier with my life right now!  

I thought it would also be fun to share a few pages from my journal on what I ate and thought the week:

Sunday, March 21
Granola and Soymilk
Apple Waffles with Maple Syrup
Mediterranean Quinoa with Naan
Fresh Pineapple

Shopped at Meijer today.  I was surprised by the whole vegan "meat" selection that I never noticed before-- sausage, hot dogs, cheese and tofu.  I'm coing to make chili with cornbread and lasagna this week.  Also, bought almond milk to try.

Monday, March 22
Granola Bar, Soy Yogurt
Quinoa leftovers
Gnocchi with Pesto
Peanut Butter Cookies and Soy Milk

Tried soy yogurt today and it was really good!  Baked cookies tonight-- long prep, but it was worth it.  Had a glass of soy milk with my cookies, ugh!  Definitely need to try some other brands or something new!

Thursday, March 25
Apple, Granola Bar
Oatmeal, Soy Yogurt, Banana
Chili, Spinach Salad, Cornbread
Peanut Butter Cookie

Yum!  Made the best cornbread!  It was so good with the chili.  Very filling dinner and already looking forward to leftovers!

Friday, March 26
Apple, Soy Yogurt
Chili, Cornbread
Lasagna, French Bread, Red Wine

Made Kelly's old tofu lasagna recipe tonight.. yum!  I used Follow Your Heart Vegan Mozz Cheese and it was better than I expected!

Thursday, March 17

Baking for Saint Patty

We didn't do anything special to celebrate St. Patrick's Day today, but I did bake a loaf of Irish Soda bread using this recipe from VegNews.  I used two cups whole wheat flour and one cup all-purpose flour and it turned out perfectly-- crunchy outside, soft and super moist inside.  It was just enough to satisfy my little Irish craving today!

Tuesday, March 15

Cook Book Challenge Week #10

Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers
Last Night's Menu:  Cuban Black Bean Soup
Tonight's Menu:  Sweet Potato-Chipotle Bisque

I've been looking forward to this week for a while, because 1) I LOVE Mexican and Latin-inspired cooking and 2) I don't own the book, so I've really only looked through it a few times at Barnes and Noble.  I decided to start out the week with two easy soup recipes.  My jaw is still quite swollen and stiff, so I can't handle much chewing action and the weather has been perfect for soup, but these soups were no compromise on flavor!

Last night we made the Cuban Black Bean Soup.  Black beans have long been my favorite bean, but lately we've been eating far more chickpeas, so I was excited to get back to the black beans.  We even made an extra batch while we were at it.  This soup was pretty simple, but very flavorful.  You soak the beans overnight, simmer for a couple hours, add the Sofrito (which is garlic, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, seasoning), season with liquid smoke and lime juice and serve!  For the minimal amount of ingredients, like I said, it was really good.  Terry lists the liquid smoke as optional, but I would definitely recommend it. Chad had two bowls and a piece of pie in the time it took me to eat just one bowl... someday I'll be able to use my molars again!  I had leftovers for lunch today with some cornbread, and it was just as good as last night.

Tonight we made an equally easy and delicious soup-- Sweet Potato-Chipotle Bisque.  The ingredients were minimalist in this recipe, too and I followed everything, only using coconut oil in place of olive oil.  It was super easy for me to eat, because once everything is softened you blend it (potatoes, onion, garlic, chipotle) and then add "cream" (I used coconut milk), lime juice and cilantro at the end.  It was so fresh and flavorful and the smokiness from the chipotle made the soup taste thicker than it was.    We served this soup with cilantro-lime rice and black beans.  It was very light and filling and ready in less than an hour.

Not sure what we're making tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to soup for lunch again!

Monday, March 14

Pi Day... Why Not?!

I was more excited that today's date, 3/14, is one month until my birthday, that I almost forgot it's also Pi Day.  Luckily, this email reminded me that I should be eating PIE!  So, here is how I celebrated Pi(e) Day:

I sort of winged the recipe, but it turned out as good as I had hoped.  It's a peanut pastry crust with a (thinner than planned) chocolate layer and a peanut butter layer topped with chocolate ganache.  It was just sweet enough, without being too rich.  Here's an idea of what I did...

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pi Day Pie
Crust: (Adapted from "The Best 50 Dessert Tarts")
1/2 c margarine
1-3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c peanut flour
1/3 c finely chopped peanuts

Mix all ingredients and press into pan.  Bake 10 minutes at 400.  Allow to cool while preparing the filling.

Filling: (this is where I winged it)
1 13 oz carton silken tofu, divided
a few tbsp creamy peanut butter
a few tbsp baker's chocolate 
a few tsp sugar or agave 
a splash of vanilla

Place chocolate and sugar or agave in a small saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring occasionally.  While the chocolate is melting, place half the tofu, peanut butter and vanilla in a food processor.  Process until smooth and creamy.  (Check on chocolate)  Scrape into a small bowl and set aside.  Once chocolate is melted, add the remaining half of tofu, chocolate and a sprinkle of sugar into the food processor.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Scrape into the pie crust and spread evenly.  Carefully spread the peanut butter layer on top.  Refrigerate until almost ready to serve, at least 1 hour.  Before you are ready to serve, prepare chocolate ganache (I used the Quick Melty Ganache from VCTOTW) and drizzle over entire pie.

I don't think you can really mess this up, it's pretty basic.  I'm off to enjoy another piece while watching the finale of "The Bachelor."  Happy Pi Day to all :)

Saturday, March 12

Bye, Bye Wisdom Teeth; Hello Blender!

I had an exciting start to my spring break yesterday-- a visit to the oral surgeon to have my wisdom teeth removed.  This is something I've been putting off for at least the last 10 years, since my orthodontist first told me it would be a good idea.  When we moved to Illinois, my new dentist was the third person to tell me it was a "good idea."  Since my spring break is a week earlier than Chad's this year, I figured now was as good a time as any and finally made the appointment.

I don't know if the doctor gave me a few extra doses of Novocaine or what, but I couldn't tell the difference between my tongue and my bottom lip for a good six hours!  Chad enjoyed making fun of me, since I could barely swallow enough water to take my antibiotics and pain meds.  I finally tried to eat some jello in the early afternoon, which was not as easy as you might expect.  I couldn't move my jaw enough to chew, so I basically slurped it by the spoonful and swallowed the chunks.  I decided if I was going to go through the effort of "eating," I needed to try something a little more worthwhile... which is where the blender comes into play.  We had some leftover Mexican Bean and Rice Bake and broth from last weekend, so Chad threw that in the blender and the resulting drink was much more satisfying than globs of jello.  The other two quick, yet nutritious and delicious "cup-friendly" meals I had are listed below.  The soup was so good, that I might make it again with a big loaf of homemade bread when I can actually chew again!

10-Minute Cheezee Cauliflower Soup
1/2 head cauliflower, washed and broken into large pieces
1 medium carrot, cleaned and cut into thick coins
1/2 c veggie broth
1/4 c cheezee sauce (I used extra from AVK)

Prepare steamer on stove top and add veggies.  Steam until soft, about 10 minutes.  Combine veggies, broth and sauce in a blender.  Blend on high until smooth.  Add more broth or water to achieve desired thickness.  Serves 2.

Banana Milk
Blend 1 ripe banana with 2 cups milk (I used unsweetened almond) on high until no chunks remain.  Pour into glass and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

I have a feeling I'll continue using the blender a lot more often than usual in the next week...

Friday, March 11

Cook Book Challenge Week #9

I planned to make one more chili recipe from "Vegan on the Cheap" this week, but never got around to it.  I thought I should make a quick post to review the book.  Our fridge was full of leftovers all week, which doesn't usually happen.  Chad and I both took leftovers for lunch the majority of the week, and still had enough for a second dinner.  I really liked everything we made and I love tips that Janet gives to save money.  Sometimes though, it's worth it to me to spend a little more to add some extra veggies.  With a few of the recipes we made, there were "splurge" options, such as using a red bell pepper instead of green or topping something with avocado.  Overall, I was very happy with this week's choices.  It's a really helpful book to have on hand, especially in the winter with it's canned veggies and many soups.  I really wanted to try the Chocolate Surprise Brownies, but we had enough other sweets this week!  They are definitely still on my long list of things to try from this book!

Wednesday, March 9

Cook Book Challenge Week #9

Vegan on the Cheap
Last Night's Menu:  Smoky Red Bean Chili with Chipotle-Cornbread Dumplings and Chocolate Chip-Walnut Rice Pudding
Tonight's Menu:  Mexican Rice and Bean Bake with Cheezee Sauce

We had an early dinner again last night, partly because it was raining after school so we couldn't run and partly because it was an easy slow cooker meal.  I threw everything in the slow cooker before leaving in the morning, which was as easy as opening a few cans and chopping a few vegetables.  Then, per the recipe, about 45 minutes before we were ready to eat, I mixed up the dumplings and plopped them atop the chili.  By the time they finished, the entire top of the slow cooker was filled with fluffy dumplings!  We love cornbread with chili, so this recipe saved time and effort.  The dumplings were really good, but not as spicy as I expected.  The chili was smoky (no surprise) and spicy (again, no surprise), but next time I might add some extra vegetables such as corn or broccoli and maybe an extra chipotle pepper.  There was enough for a filling dinner and leftovers for lunch.

We ate the rice pudding for dessert later in the evening.  It was the first time I made rice pudding, which is really no more difficult than making plain rice.  Since I hadn't made this before, I followed the recipe pretty closely.  I used almond milk, but cut the sugar in half.  Also, I served it with a sprinkle of cinnamon.  It is for sure something I will keep in mind for a sweet, but not too unhealthy treat!

Tonight was another quick dinner, Mexican Bean and Rice Bake.  It was really quick to prep and fairly quick, ready in just under an hour.  I also made the Cheezee Sauce, which was an excellent choice.  I melted in to the bake and brought everything together.  I didn't take a picture of this meal, because, well... it was beans and rice.  Let me give you a visual-- imagine pinto beans and rice on a place with some runny sauce.  I'm not saying it was bad, it was really good, just pretty simple and not the most photo-worthy meal that I've made.  We served it with a big salad and tortillas on the side.  As my dad would say, "It hit the spot."  In fact, if I don't leave the kitchen soon, I might eat the whole pan...

Tuesday, March 8

Cook Book Challenge Week #9

Vegan on the Cheap
Last Night's Menu:  Curried Tofu Wraps and Curry Coconut Rice
Dessert (and Breakfast!):  Great Northern Apple Cake

This week's cookbook over at the PPK is "Yellow Rose Recipes", but I am subbing "Vegan on the Cheap."  This was the second vegan cookbook that I purchased and it's fairly well-used.  We have a few favorites including Wheatballs, Spinach Pie and Chocolate Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Cookies.  I'm looking forward to checking off more recipes from our "To Try" list.

We started on Sunday with dessert-- Great Northern Apple Cake, which actually ended up being dinner due to a late lunch and a leaky sink.  The recipes includes two apples (organic Granny Smith apples were on sale, yay!) and almost a full can of great northern beans, so I didn't feel TOO bad about eating it for dinner (and again today for breakfast!).  The prep was pretty easy and I followed the recipe pretty closely, only doubling the walnuts and halving the brown sugar.  It turned out SO moist and delicious.  The walnuts were amazing, because they mixed with the apples and spices as the cake baked.  When I dished up the first piece, Chad said it looked like it belonged in a restaurant.  I'll admit, I thought it looked pretty professional, too!

Last night, we made the Curried Tofu Wraps with Cheapskate Chutney and Curried Coconut Rice on the side.  It was a really quick meal that was on the table within 45 minutes-- Chad was in charge of the wraps, while I made the rice and chutney.  The kitchen was all cleaned up by 6:00, which is usually when we are getting ready to sit down to eat!  It was a really fresh and filling meal.  I've never made chutney before; I always thought it was really difficult and fancy, but it was super quick and easy.  I used a mango in place of the pineapple, otherwise I followed the recipe pretty closely.  The sweetness and soft texture was perfect with the curried tofu and crunchy veggies.  The curried coconut rice was a good variation from my regular "use coconut milk instead of water" coconut rice.  I liked the veggies mixed in for a little more flavor and texture as well.  This was a perfect weeknight meal, it was quick to prepare, filling and packed with veggies and flavor!

For dessert, we finished off the last of the apple cake.  Next dessert?  I'm thinking brownies...

Sunday, March 6

Week 6 Training Update

Considering how busy this week was, I'm happy with my progress.  I made it to the gym a few times for cardio and weights and ran outside twice, including a long run on Saturday.  We ran with the group again, but it was actually just one other guy, Chad, me and a coworker I invited.  She is running the same half, so it was nice to run with her and maybe I'll have a running partner on race day!

This week's mileage: 14 (double digits, yay!)

Friday, March 4

Cook Book Challenge Week #8

American Vegan Kitchen
Tonight's Menu: Seitan and Herb Dumplings

this bowl is full of comfort!
I'll start this post by saying that I burned my tongue because I couldn't wait for a taste of this!  We didn't have everything we needed, but I've looked at this recipe every night as I flip through the book and we had all of the important ingredients.  It took some patience, because made the seitan and the stew tonight.  When we got home from school, we started the Seitan Lite, popped it into the oven, went for a quick run, turned the oven off, stretched for a bit, chopped veggies, watched a little TV and finally started to prepare the stew.  Once the seitan was done and the stew was simmering, we had time to clean up the kitchen and do a few other things.  I plopped the dumplings in early, because I couldn't wait! I almost doubled the dumpling recipe, but I'm glad I didn't because they more than doubled in size while cooking.  I thought the veggies might be a little crunchy since I didn't let it simmer the full time before adding the dumplings, but everything came out perfectly done.  This recipe was packed with flavor... it was full of seasoning at every step-- the seitan, the broth, the stew and the dumplings.

this speaks for itself
This was a perfect Friday night meal, especially tonight as it's rainy and chilly outside!  It might be a little too much prep for a mid-week meal, but now that we have some pre-made seitan, it would be much quicker.  Either way, it satisfied my dumpling craving and left us with plenty for lunch tomorrow!

I guess I should reflect on this week's challenge with "American Vegan Kitchen."  I absolutely loved everything we made this week.  I'm also super excited because we successfully made two new seitan recipes-- one baked and one steamed.  We couldn't stop raving about most things, and the only thing I would change would be to double the recipes to produce more left overs. I'm glad I finally got into this book, and it's one I won't stay closed for long; there are so many more recipes to attempt!

P.S.  Picture to follow soon!

Thursday, March 3

Chickpea Wingz & Avocado Ranch

We didn't have anything planned for dinner tonight, but someone posted these earlier this week on PPK and I've been thinking about them since!  Tonight we made the chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon into "chicken nugget-sized boneless wings" in chipotle wing sauce.  I also made the ranch dressing recipe from American Vegan Kitchen with a super ripe avocado for dipping sauce.  I could have eaten this with a spoon, it was SO good!  With a big tex-mex salad, tonight's dinner was a perfect thrown together weeknight meal!  Now if we only had leftovers...

Cook Book Challenge Week #8

American Vegan Kitchen
Last Night's Menu:  Peanutty Tofu Kale Pockets & Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

cucumber and carrots are hiding under the peanut sauce!
Chad made dinner last night and I must say, he did a great job!  This was the first recipe he picked earlier in the week,  but we needed to get a few things for it.  It was worth the wait!   He started marinating the tofu and had everything else set out and ready to go when I got home.  While the tofu was baking, we chopped and made the peanut sauce and by the time that was done, everything was ready to assemble.  Pita, peanut sauce, sauteed kale, chopped veggies and a few chunks of tofu... yum!  I guess I never realized, but Chad and I really like peanut sauce!  We had a recipe that we made a few times last fall, and since this challenge started, we've made Brooklyn Pad Thai, Thai Chick-Un Pizza and now Peanutty Tofu Kale Pockets.  I just love the combo of the peanut sauce with cucumbers and other fresh veggies and herbs.

For dessert, I made the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, with a few changes.  I used whole wheat flour and, since I was really craving chocolate, subbed chocolate chips for the raisins.  The cinnamon was a really great complement to the chocolate.  I made one regular batch and, for something different, made the rest in a mini muffin tin.  They turned out like little brownie bite cookies.  It was a fun variation, and they would've been delicious topped with a small scoop of ice cream! 

Tuesday, March 1

Cook Book Challenge Week #8

American Vegan Kitchen
Last Night's Menu:  Greek Town Gyros with Tzatzika Sauce & Midtown Greek Salad

This was the second seitan recipe that we've made.  I made the first one in the slow cooker, which was so easy.  I was a little worried about this recipe, because it needed to steam.  Either I'm a seitan pro or I'm just really good at following recipes, but this turned out (what I believe to be) perfectly!  We were both amazed by the flavor.  It's been a few years since I've had a gyro, but the flavor and even the texture were exactly what I remember.  AND the seitan was maybe even a little better than what I remember, because it didn't come from a twirling spindle of meat.

Okay, enough about that... this meal was a BIG winner.  It was amazing.  It was everything I expected.  Again, I can't say enough good things about it. It was also a quiet meal, with a few mmm's and yum's, because that's about all we could say in between monster big bites.  I really liked how the seitan turned out from slicing and pan frying.  The sauce made it a sloppy mess, which is exactly my kind of sandwich.  I ate two big pitas full of seitan, veggies and sauce AND a salad... I couldn't resist the second one.  The recipe says this serves four, but I think the amount of seitan, depending how thinly you slice it, can serve twice that.  Just chop lots of veggies.

We managed to save enough of the seitan for leftover Greek Salads tonight, which I'm pretty excited about!