Archive | November, 2010

Goodbye, MoFo

30 Nov

Today is the end of Vegan MoFo for 2010. Thanks to everyone who followed my posts this month! It has meant a lot.

I decided on this list day to share once again my favorite recipes from the month since, really, we’re all here for the food, right? So here they are, Letterman Top-10-List style.

10. Butternut Squash with Sage. I’ve been craving this dish ever since I made it. Next time, I will double the amount of sage. It was perfect with the sweet squash.

9. Apple Arugula Salad. This salad was incredibly basic, but I loved it. I could eat it every week.

8. Pumpkin Cookie Shake (and all its variations).  Baked goods just got better.

7. Herb-Scalloped Potatoes. I was shocked at how easy it was to make vegan (and noochy!) scalloped potatoes. They were every bit as good as the dairy-filled ones I’ve had in the past.

6. Homemade Almond Milk. I don’t like the stuff straight up, but I never did drink dairy milk (or any of its alternatives) that way. This stuff is perfectly creamy and excellent in cooking and baking. Just make sure to strain it through cheesecloth or – my newest method – cloth napkins. Paper towels are a poor choice.

5. Stir-Fried Carrots and Ginger with Mustard Seeds. My mouth waters just thinking of these. They were delectable! The ginger added great dimension, and the mustard seeds added pizzazz.

4. On-the-Fly Peanut Sauce Version II. It’s ridiculously quick and adaptable to your tastes (i.e. I know not everyone likes spicy food as much as I do). I LOVED it on the baked sweet potato, but it’s also delicious on pasta. And probably any other vegetable you could throw my way.

3. Riso all’autunno. It’s rich, satisfying, seasonal, and chock-full of nutrition. Plus, it’s pretty, and it’ll get you to eat your beets AND Brussels sprouts. It’s magic!

2. Pumpkin Boatmeal ala Chocolate Covered Katie. Though you’ve been in my life but a short time, your power is undeniable. I spent all day yesterday dreaming about it, and today is shaping up to go the same way. Please, please make this stuff.

1. Homemade Gnocchi with Arrabbiata Sauce. This was my biggest accomplishment of the month and also one of the tastiest things I’ve ever cooked. The gnocchi are like little pillows, except they taste good. I’ve never eaten a pillow, but I don’t imagine they’d be my cup of tea. The sauce is deliciously spicy and a great complement to the soft gnocchi.

I also want to give out two Honorable Mentions. I excluded these from the Top 10 list because they weren’t at all new to me, so it didn’t seem fair to compare them to the above recipes.

What’s your favorite new thing you made this November?

Thanks again for sharing MoFo with me. I hope you’ll stick around!

Sunday Prep Work: almonds, soup and boatmeal

29 Nov

Dear Chocolate Covered Katie,

You are a genius.

But more on that in a moment.

Sunday was a really bizarre day for me. I rose around 8:00, got clean and dressed, and my taller half and I headed to his car. We were going to church, you see. Somehow I managed to hit the left side of my head so hard on the car that I spent the next six hours feeling like total crap. I actually worried that maybe I’d given myself a head injury. In addition to the head pain, my stomach hurt, I felt lightheaded, and I was seeing poorly out of my left eye. Luckily, by mid-afternoon, it faded, but it was a little frightening for a while.

I did, however, manage to get in some exercise – finally – following my ankle injury. We walked a little more than two miles at a moderate pace, which really helped to stretch the stiff muscles. Then I lifted some weights following this Self video. I modified it by using eight-pounders and by only doing two sets. It felt great.

And now, let’s talk about food preparation. Between the hours of 8:30 and 9:45 p.m., I accomplished the following:

  • Made a half batch of almond milk.
  • Roasted up some Mexican Chocolate Almonds.
  • Simmered a pot of Basic Lentil Soup.
  • Prepped the ingredients for a morning of Pumpkin Boatmeal.

Let’s go in order, skipping the almond milk ‘cause it’s nothin’ you ain’t seen here before.

My Week #3 contest winner is on a particular diet, so I couldn’t send her any of my old standbys. So I decided to try something new. Thus Mexican Chocolate Almonds were born.

  • 1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare a lipped baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Rinse almonds in a colander to remove any residue. Put them in a medium bowl and top with oil, cocoa, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt. Mix well to combine. Roast on baking sheet for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned.

These would be great with a touch of maple syrup added with the oil and spices, but that was on the no-no list.

Next up is my incredibly easy Basic Lentil Soup.

  • 1 cup red or brown lentils, rinsed
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 4 cups of liquid (I used 2 of low-sodium veggie broth and 2 of water, but you can use any combination of the two you want)
  • 2 bay leaves

Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to a boil.

Then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until lentils are tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve.

I accidentally overcooked mine slightly, so I added another cup of water at the very end to thin it out. I recommend just paying more attention. This soup is intentionally spice-less because I plan to doctor it up differently for dinner each night this week. I’ll share my variations with you.

And finally, I bring you the newest love of my life, Pumpkin Boatmeal ala Chocolate Covered Katie. Boatmeal is baked oatmeal, in case you aren’t a CCK reader (but, really, you should be!). I took her original recipe, quadrupled it to make enough for my whole work week, and then tweaked it slightly. Check out her post on making it for one. Here is my variation.

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
  • 1 1/3 cups homemade almond milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly spray an 8×8” baking pan with cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Pour into baking dish and cook for 20 minutes. Makes four servings.

I scooped out a fourth into a bowl and sprinkled a tiny amount of vegan sugar on top. The sugar was completely unnecessary. The hint of maple syrup plus the natural sweetness of the pumpkin are enough. Seriously, this is one of the most delicious breakfast foods I’ve ever, ever, ever eaten. It has the heartiness of stovetop oatmeal, but baking it takes the texture and spices to a whole new level. Seriously, you must try this dish! Here it is emanating heavenly light:

To prep the ingredients for this morning, I combined the oats, cinnamon and salt into a zip-top bag. I then mixed the vanilla, maple syrup, pumpkin, and almond milk in a bowl. I placed a small piece of plastic wrap on the surface to keep the pumpkin from getting a weird texture and then covered the whole thing in foil before refrigerating it.

This morning, I preheated the oven, sprayed the baking dish, and mixed the oat mixture into the pumpkin mixture. It took longer for the oven to heat than to do the prep work. The rest of the week, I will reheat a serving at a time in the microwave. I will report back on how well it kept.

Do you do cooking prep work on the weekends? I like devoted a little bit of Sunday to getting things out of the way. Whenever I have something home cooked for lunches during the week, it’s almost always something I whipped up on Sunday following The Amazing Race.

Veganomicon Winner

29 Nov

First, I’m a little sad to say that no one entered my final cooking contest, but I completely understand. Thanksgiving weekend is a busy time in my homeland, so I’m sure it is in yours, too. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t prepare anything either, so I certainly won’t hold it against any of you. I still think it’s a fun idea, though, so I will revisit it after the New Year.

Anyway, let’s talk about the Veganomicon giveaway. I received 20 entries by the deadline, so I plugged that lucky number into Random.org to choose a winner. Drum roll please.

It’s…

Number 18. However, commenter 18 is actually labeled 19, thanks to my own comment at number 5, which I obviously excluded. So, who do we have?

Congrats, Nik!  There isn’t a website or email address attached to your name, so get in touch with me to claim your prize.

Thanks everyone for entering!

 

Ecolissa

29 Nov

Today, friends, is what “they” call Cyber Monday. Yes, I was also disappointed to discover it’s not dirty. Nope, it’s the Black Friday of online shopping, when retailers offer discounts for shopping on the internet.

I was recently approached by Melissa of the brand-new Ecolissa site to offer a discount to my readers. Woo hoo! This isn’t just a Cyber Monday deal either. First, check out some questions I posed to her, and then check the bottom of the post for the discount link.

1.      When did you start Ecolissa and why?
Ecolissa.com launched on Sept 1st 2010. I became a vegetarian 2 years ago and then slowly transitioned to becoming vegan. I decided to convert my wardrobe to being vegan as well, but I had trouble finding fashionable vegan clothing that is also eco friendly. That is what inspired me to create Ecolissa.com!

2.      What makes your products different from other companies’?
Everything at Ecolissa.com is Vegan AND eco-friendly. Other companies only do one or the other. Plus, we only carry fashionable clothing because you shouldn’t have to sacrifice style for your morals!

3.      Tell us a little about the different fabrics your products feature.
We carry clothing and accessories made of sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, soy, bamboo, hemp, modal, tencel, and recycled materials. Many are also fair trade and made with low impact dyes. These fabrics are made from plants that require less water and grow quickly. These fabrics are high quality and very soft!

4.      How do you select your designers?
First I look for eco friendly designers that produce fashionable, but not too expensive, high quality products. Then I carefully look over the fabric content to made sure I only choose vegan styles.

5.      Anything else you’d like to share?

I would like to offer your readers 20% off at ecolissa.com with coupon code “vegan20”! Also, please join us on facebook (facebook.com/ecolissa) and twitter (twitter.com/ecolissa).

Awesome! Go check out the website. I know I have my eye on this gorgeous number:

Meatless Monday and Sunday Night Scramble: Tacos

28 Nov

Once again, I’m presenting a two-fer tonight.

Vegan MoFo has been fun, but it’s actually made me eat a little worse in an attempt to present interesting eats this month. In an effort to clean things up a bit, I’m going to do a week of eating based on Dr. Joel Fuhrman‘s Eat to Live starting tomorrow. So tonight, I wanted to finish off some not-so-healthy leftovers. The contenders: incredibly greasy (and delicious) fajita vegetables, half a can of black bean chili, and flour tortillas. The solution:

Fajitas! Wait, no, Quick and Easy Vegan Tacos! I mixed the rest of the salsa and some Chipotle Tabasco into them, too.

These could easily be made healthy by using a whole-wheat tortilla (Whole Foods makes my favorite kind), plain black or other beans, and veggies you saute yourself in a small amount of olive oil or vegetable broth. Defrosted frozen vegetables work well, too. There are also lots of fat-free refried beans on the market that are vegetarian, though the sodium count can be high. You can mimic them by lightly blending a can of beans and adding your favorite spices, such as cumin and cayenne. Guacamole would be a tasty addition, and I would have thrown in some nutritional yeast if I’d been thinking straight.

I hope your weekend was fabulous!

Gingerbread Pudding

27 Nov

I was a miserable failure at posting baked goods yesterday, but the truth is that I was just tired. I was too tired to bake and too exhausted to post anything other than my restaurant review. I didn’t bake today either, but I did whip up a double batch of Chocolate Gingerbread on Wednesday for my taller half’s family Thanksgiving. Four pieces remain, so I guess it was a hit. I used a slight modification on the original. In addition to doubling all the ingredients, I also:

  • Baked it in a 9×13″ pan instead of two 8x8s.
  • Added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  • Used about 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips.
  • Used 1/2 cup of maple syrup and 1/2 cup of black-strap molasses.
  • Substituted white sugar for the brown because of the molasses.

My taller half liked this batch better. I think the flavor was about equal to the first (different, but not improved), but they are moister and more brownie-like, which is nice.

I would like to state once again that I do not believe in leftover dessert. There is only dessert that has yet to be eaten. However, sometimes it’s fun to play dress-up with what remains a few days later. I was curious to turn a square into Gingerbread Pudding with the addition of a butter sauce. Enter this unbelievably easy recipe:

Quickie Vegan Butter Sauce

  • 1/2 tablespoon Earth Balance
  • 1 tablespoon homemade almond milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegan sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put it all in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Yes, that’s really it.

To make Gingerbread Pudding, add a slice of Chocolate Gingerbread into the bowl and spoon the sauce on top. Put it back in the microwave for 15 seconds. Eat and rejoice.

The sauce was incredible! The last thing I needed to do was figure out how to make my Chocolate Gingerbread full of more fat, sugar, and calories, but I did it anyway. I plan to eat the rest of the leftovers in a similar manner.

I hope everyone’s having as delightful a weekend as I am!

Restaurant Review: Ri Le *****

26 Nov

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and because I was too shy to whip out my camera during the festivities, I have no pictures to share. However, I can assure you that I stuck to my plan and did not overeat. I had baked beans (made by my taller half), three rolls (that may have been excessive), mashed potatoes, and two pieces of the Chocolate Gingerbread I made at the first meal. At the second, I just had salad, a little more mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, and vegan (gluten-free) pumpkin pie. It was all tasty, and I didn’t go to bed feeling like death.

We woke up with appetites today, however, so we went to one of our favorite places in town, Ri Le, a Vietnamese institution in town.

Here is the appetizer section of the menu:

Oh, baby. I will go ahead and confess that these photos are from a different visit to the restaurant, but we both ate the same thing. We started, as always, with the vegetable imperial rolls.

They come with a mouth-watering peanut sauce. The rolls themselves are lettuce, cilantro, carrots, and soy “chicken” in rice paper. Yum.

Now check out the vegetarian section of the menu:

I went with one of my four favorites, the Chicken Soys with Ginger. The picture below is the same dish but with the Beef Soys instead:

Look at all those veggies. The sauce is perfectly flavored and robust. Ri Le’s food is never particularly spicy, but it’s flavorful and delicious. For the record, my other fave dishes are Lemongrass, Sesame, and Hot Garlic. All are good with either the fake chicken or the fake beef. I’m not typically a fan of meat analogs, but these are amazing. Every time I go, I hear a meat-eater exclaim that they’d never guess the “chicken” was totally vegetarian.

My taller half had the Deluxe Soy Bun (vegetarian version of the Bun Cha Gio):

It contains soy meats made to resemble chicken, beef, fish, and egg rolls. It is also served with a delicious faux-fish sauce.

Meals come served with a bowl of steamed white rice, which you can see below the veggies and fake meat here:

Rating: a big, fat ***** for veggie options and ***** for deliciousness. (See this post for scoring guide.) This place has earned its reputation. Check out this article about the owner in the November issue of Tulsa People.

Ri Le is at 4932 E 91st Street, Suite 102. They are closed on Sundays.

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