Archive for October, 2008

the perils of cooking while hungry (with tasty results!)

Lessons I’ve learned about cooking:

1. When baking, always follow the recipe when it comes to baking powder/soda (when I was little I tried making cornbread without cornmeal. How was I supposed to know you couldn’t substitute baking soda in its place?!)

2. Taste as you go (for instance, you really don’t need to add brown sugar to caramelizing onions, they’re plenty sweet as they are)

3. Try your best not to cook while extremely hungry.

This is best demonstrated by the meal I tried to make Wednesday night. Something compelled me to buy a bag of pistachio nutmeats (I swear the package calls them that), and I wanted to make something good with them that wasn’t another delicious batch of addictive and fattening cookies. Quinoa*, I thought! Haven’t had that in a while. The final breakdown: Quinoa with pistachios, dried cranberries, arugula and fried onions with a pomegranate/mustard dressing.

The dressing was easy. A quick search brought up this recipe – all I did was switch the lemon for lime juice. The rest would have been easy if I hadn’t been so hungry and unknowingly (unwittingly!) burned the quinoa. Apparently if you let quinoa boil over before simmering, it can burn with dire consequences. And by dire, I mean bitter. Holy Moses was it bitter! I went through the whole cooking process, thinking it looked a little darker than normal, but not worrying about it. Then the taste test. When the b-fri tried it, I’m pretty sure it would have been impossible to hide the grimace on his face if his life depended on it.

To say the mood was dampened is putting it nicely – two hungry and tired (the clock struck 8:30 at this point) people in a kitchen can be dangerous, but the hunger drove us on. The saving grace? A a box of Israeli Couscous, which when burned (because yes, I burned this a little bit, too) still tastes delicious. The lack of quinoa equaled a lack of protein, since the pistachios wouldn’t have been enough to satisfy us, so my lovely boyfriend graciously added some lightly grilled tofu to the finished product, which, by the way, ended up being sooo tasty!

Oh, one more lesson: I have a lot to learn in the ways of food photography. The only good picture I got of the salad is an X-TREME close up.

Is it just me, or do some of those fried onions look like worms? Maybe I shouldn’t have brought that up…

*Click the Quinoa link to read more about it.


October 31, 2008 at 3:55 pm 3 comments

totally tops ramen

When it comes to easy meals, all the food TV personalities say it – sometimes you need to take a little help from the store. Packaged foods may not be the healthiest way to go sometimes, but there’s always room for improvement! The fastest hot meals are usually the least healthy ones like boxed mac and cheese or cup o’ noodles, but if you want something more substantial, try sprucing up a package of Top Ramen! (Oriental flavor of course, since it’s the only vegan flavor)

Usually we throw in some broccoli, pre-cut greens (again from Trader Joes) and fresh super firm tofu into the mix, but for this version we decided to get fancy and pan fry the tofu with sliced button mushrooms while the noodles and veggies were cooking with the seasoning packets.

Normally, if you use the suggested ratio of water to seasoning, the broth is extremely salty, but because of all the extra stuff going in, we added a lot more water (I think we ended up putting 12 cups of water for 3 packages of ramen, where normally it would be 6-9 cups). See the pretty colors!

We made so much I thought we’d have leftovers forever, but we finished it off for lunch the next day! I was skeptical the noodles would be too mushy and the broth too starchy when reheated, but the soup as a whole was still quite good after sitting in the fridge for hours.

I wouldn’t make this everyday, but we managed to balance out the healthiness – and don’t forget…Top Ramen is CHEAP! Feeding two people for two meals (which rounds to about 7 heaping bowls) cost less than 10 bucks, and takes less than 30 minutes to make. Take THAT Rachel Ray.

October 30, 2008 at 4:54 pm 3 comments

using up the fridge – gourmet style

The good thing about not spending money on anything except food is that when you decide to use up what’s left in your fridge, you’re likely to find some pretty choice ingredients. Friday was such a night for me, and I managed to whip up quite a meal.

All I had to buy specifically for this were a couple of French rolls, which served us well!

First I piled on some sundried tomato bruschetta topping and Tuscan Italian Dressing from Trader Joe’s, then added Tofurkey, arugala and cherry tomatoes (cut in half). The “side” is just roasted green beans and more cherry tomatoes, and underneath that some thinly sliced yukon gold potatoes pan fried with olive oil and garlic.

I hate to admit I got the green beans and tomatoes idea from Rachel Ray, but alas it is true. Sometimes she has really good and easy side dishes, ok?!

As if that wasn’t enough for the night, my craving for dessert overpowered me. I had most of the ingredients needed for chocolate chip cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance, so I modified it slightly and made chocolate chip almond cookies instead. I think they might be the best cookies I’ve ever made, so I’ve deemed them evil (I ate 4 a day!) and will never make them again…except as gifts maybe. Or you know…if I want to. Recipe follows the picture:

Chocolate chip almond cookies (basically from VwaV)

1 cup margarine, at room temp (I used Earthbalance, which is salty already, so I didn’t add extra salt)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar (didn’t have molasses)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
1-2 tablespoons soymilk (I added because my mixture seemed a bit dry without the molasses)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (My oven sucks, so I put it up to 375)

Cream the margarine and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and incorporate. Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and mix until a dough forms. Mix in soymilk if necessary. Fold the chocolate chips into the dough.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls or drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until mildly browned (again, because of my oven suckage, I baked for about 13 minutes and they came out perfectly). Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.

Eat with soymilk, they are even better dipped! The only change I might make next time would be adding less regular sugar, as they were a little on the sweet side. Obviously that didn’t matter much…the recipe makes 3 dozen cookies and they didn’t survive the weekend. Oy!

October 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm 6 comments

chili con carne-soya and freeze tag

I’m so glad we got the b-fri’s camera working, because this chili deserves to have its picture taken!

Last night I brought out The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas so I could use her simple and tasty chili recipe as a base for the beauty you see below these words. You’ll also notice some PPK cornbread lurking in the background, which I’ve been craving for a while. If I had actually taken the pictures when we  made it, the bowl would have been adorned with some perfectly ripe avocado slices as well.

What are all those chunks doing in your chili, you ask? Making it tasty, that’s what! After reading some different recipes, I decided that adding potatoes for a starchy richness would be an excellent idea.  Zucchini, red beans (the store was all out of kidney) and black beans went into the mix as well, along with some Boca soy crumbles. This foodstuff was really enhanced by the tanginess of lime and freshness of cilantro at the end.

The cornbread is great with some whipped Earth Balance and dipped into the chili, but by itself it’s just OK, due to my having over-baked it in our not so hot oven. I think I overcompensated!

Next, I’m excited to say I got tagged by my sister to display and list the contents of my freezer. Unfortunately I don’t really know anyone else who blogs, so this length of chain will have to end here:

The contents:

Various bags of fruit
Peas, corn and artichokes
Soy meatless meatballs
Mostly eaten mango sorbet
A mostly empty ice tray
Frozen bananas (with which I fully intend on making VCon Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with!!)
Some leftover AMAZING tomato sauce (my mom’s recipe)
Ganache (still good, months after I made it), and
Some not so good Amy’s Texas Burger patties (the texture is a little too wheat-gluten-y for my taste)

Last note:
I have to thank Mikey, the aforementioned b-fri, for helping with the chili (especially when he went out after we had gone shopping to get me an onion), and for using his incredible strength to get the over-baked cornbread out of the pan.

October 24, 2008 at 1:57 am 2 comments

this is where pie goes to die

Ok, so the pie from Henry’s Market might not be as amazing as the cherry pie from Twin Peaks, but it is Vegan! Or at least some of it is. Unfortunately it’s not the “no sugar added” kind, but it still satisfies a craving in a pinch, which is exactly what I had last night. I wanted something fruity and sweet, but decided against making anything myself since I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before.

I’m not sure when Henry’s pies became vegan, but it must have been recently because I often check the packaging just in case. My guess is they’re cheaper to make without dairy or eggs…whatever works! Sadly the other way to make food cheaper is to add high fructose corn syrup, but when I really have a craving I don’t mind that so much. I’m not exactly vegan for health reasons, though I did refrain from buying the Soy Delicious ice cream that was on sale…2 for 1! I considered that a great feat.

On another note (though still health related in its own way), there’s a new game out for XBOX 360 called Fable II where you play an adventurer out to save the world (of course!). The easiest way to heal yourself from battle wounds is to eat food, and because of the purity rating your character has, the best things to eat are veggies! In fact, if you eat meat your purity rating lowers and your character can get really fat. Apparently the only way to lose the weight is to eat celery. According to the image below, you can become completely evil as well. Score 1 veganism?

October 22, 2008 at 7:35 pm 5 comments

Getting in the habit

I’ve been eating some really good food lately, and as a result I’ve decided to start this blog. I’m sure I’ll be writing about plenty of other things besides food, but for now I’ll be joining the ranks of all the other VeganMoFo writers! (Including my sister, the Semi-Circular Vegan.)

To start, avocados have been on sale recently! This allows me to make discoveries like Baked Potato with Garlic Earth Balance and mashed Avocado. Simple, not exactly healthy, but sooooo so good. Unfortunately I ate this last week (two days in a row, actually) so no pictures. In fact, the pictures won’t show up till next time when I actually remember to get my camera out.

Last night’s dinner started with a delicious salad of half an avocado, arugala, candied pecans and a simple dressing of white balsamic vinegar, macademia nut oil (I have to thank my friend in Hawaii for that!) and salt and pepper. It was almost a meal in itself when I threw some grilled tofu on top (grilled with the same oil.)

Second course consisted of garlic fries from Trader Joes mixed with some dark greens – collards, mustard, etc. I have the leftovers for lunch today…can’t wait!

October 21, 2008 at 6:25 pm 3 comments