Tuesday, May 29, 2007

100th Post! A Memorable Memorial Day

Memorial Day in Austin is a day of rain. It ALWAYS rains on Memorial Day here. At 6:00 a.m. the storms began and my power went off. By 10:00 a.m. we had 2 inches of rain. It has rained every day for the past six days, over 7 inches this month. My yard can’t hold any more water!

Memorial Day 1981 was one of our worst floods. 10 inches of rain fell in four hours. Shoal Creek, which runs from midtown to downtown and normally flows at 90 gallons per minute, peaked at 6 million gallons per minute. Needless to say it overflowed its banks. 500 cars were swept into the creek, 13 people died, and there was $36 million in property damages. One of the hardest hit was Whole Foods. It was just a small storefront and completely ruined. Mr. Mackey and friends were going to have to give up their dream, but the community rallied and private donations rebuilt the little hippy store with great produce we had come to love. The rest, as they say, is history.

The plan for this Memorial Day was to pick up Chase in the morning at his new apartment, assess what furnishings he needs, then shop at IKEA. And then while Chase put his new things together, I would fix a dinner to celebrate his new apartment and my 100th post.

Well, we couldn’t get out in the morning storms, so I ruined a cake while waiting for the rain to stop. (My sister had a hard time on her flight home.) The rain finally stopped at noon. First stop, Chase’s apartment. Here’s the view from his balcony.

He just loves his new place. He also loves his laundry room.

It’s his new pet rabbit, Smokey!

Shhh! The apartment manager doesn’t know. He’s just 8 weeks old and so sweet. Chase swears he researched excessively on how to properly care for him. He’s wanted a pet for so long, so I hope this one works out.

IKEA was a madhouse! We spent 3 hours there and got most of the things on our list. I was tired when I got home, but ready to cook. On the menu was VWAV BBQ Pomegranate Tofu and Coconut Rice, Veggie Chickpea Cobbler, broccoli, and cake, which didn’t happen. Chase proclaimed this one of the best meals I’ve ever made, so – YAY! The BBQ sauce for the tofu is really, really good. It was unlike any recipe I’d used before, so I was pleasantly surprised. I added some cumin seeds and mustard seeds to the rice and used lemon instead of lime. It was excellent.

The cobbler was also really delicious, which is a good thing because I made a huge pan of it. I sautéed all my veggies – sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans, cauliflower, and corn – until softened, then added in a can of tomatoes, a big can of chickpeas, and a mix of spices I didn’t write down, but included cumin, coriander, and oregano.

While the veggies simmered I made a baking powder biscuit dough with sunflower seeds and nutritional yeast, rolled it out, and cut it into star shapes. The stars went on top and it baked for about 12 minutes.

We had extra biscuit dough. Luckily, I found my Man in the Moon cookie cutter and we made more biscuits.

Here’s my plate. I had to have a half piece of BBQ tofu.

So about the cake…. I wanted to make a strawberry ice cream cake roll. Let’s blame the humidity for the cake cracking instead of rolling. I saw the crack, but continued anyway, thinking maybe everything would just freeze back together. Nope. In a panic I scraped as much of the melting ice cream and fresh sliced strawberries into a store bought graham cracker crust. I couldn’t bear to throw a 15 x 11 inch cake into the trash, so I picked up pieces of the ice cream soaked cake and put them into a bowl. Quite a few strawberries were still stuck to it. It looked good in that bowl. I took a bite. I had bread – or rather, cake pudding – a vanilla ice cream soaked vanilla cake with strawberries! Oh boy, it was rich tasting and so deserving of a bowl instead of a trash bin.

I also had a half filled graham cracker crust. Plan B – stop at the store for more Tofutti and make Strawberry Ice Cream Pie. Of course it’s yummy. It’s got ice cream and fresh strawberries!

This is already a lengthy post, but I’ll take this opportunity to say how fun it is to be a part of the vegan blogger community. I enjoy immensely all the knowledge and recipes we exchange. I actually GET a lot more than I GIVE. I can’t imagine ever tiring of cooking or blogging. Some bloggers have reflected on their favorite posts when they reach a milestone. I looked back on mine and thought “Why did I post that? It looks like crap!” Even if my food didn’t turn out perfectly, my favorite posts are ones where Chase and friends were involved in the preparation of the dinner. Cooking and eating should be fun and enjoyed regularly with family and friends. That’s when food tastes the best.

By the way, here’s what today looks like…..

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Texas Caviar, Lots of Veggies, and Extreme Chocolate

I wanted to get in a quick post before I take these dishes along with tofu for Chase and brownies (David Lebovitz’ Supernatural Brownies – terribly nonvegan) to the family barbecue (chicken and sausage) at my parents’ house today for the last day of my sister’s visit. I don’t know if I ever mentioned this, but when my parents last moved many years ago, the house didn’t come with a stove and my mom said she was tired of cooking and didn’t want one! My dad barbecues and she uses the microwave, crockpot, or hotplate. She did make a fruit salad for today, but otherwise I do all of her baking and cooking.

Texas Caviar – a lot like my black bean salads, but made with black-eyed peas. I had to leave out the cilantro for the haters.

Okay, I know I make roasted veggies all the time, but I wanted to show you the vast assortment I prepared today in a huge roasting pan. It has yellow squash, calabaza squash, baby bella mushrooms, onions, garlic, red pepper, broccoli, and cauliflower, and is seasoned with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and rosemary.

New Potatoes, Green Beans, and Carrots with Chives – It is what it is. (I was going to roast them too, but changed my mind at the last minute.) Boiled potatoes, local green beans, and carrots, dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and fresh chives.

Extreme Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Tartlets with Caramel Sauce – this will probably be my submission to Urban Vegan’s Vegans Gone Wild! recipe contest. It’s a pastry crust filled with a mixture of 99% dark chocolate, macadamia nuts, and dates, and topped with caramel sauce. Definitely an adult indulgence and a total sensory experience.

So Chase’s move took the whole day yesterday, but he’s in his new apartment. He’s sorry he couldn’t make time to go to the veggie dog eating contest. It was supposed to rain all day but didn’t, so that was a relief. And now that Chase is moved in and my sister leaves tomorrow, I promise to visit you all real soon and hopefully have another post by Tuesday.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Spicy Curries, Kullum, and Cake

I cooked all day and it was totally worth it. First I baked a loaf of Chickpea Potato Bread. I couldn’t taste the small amount of chickpea flour or potato flakes in it, but it was very good bread with a nice crust and texture.

The next thing I made was cake, but we’ll get to that in a bit. I baked some tofu for Chase. (I’m still abstaining.)

I made Spicy Chickpeas and Potatoes based on a recipe from Foods That Don't Bite Back, using your basic Indian spices and two cans of Rotel tomatoes. I made these early and let them hold over a low heat quite a long time. They were really tasty (and still steamy in this photo).

The most involved dish was Kullum, or Cabbage Rice, from Rice and Spice. First I prepared Basmati rice and carmelized some onions. Then I tempered the spices, added in some mild green peppers and instead of cabbage, I used broccoli slaw, and let the slaw soften. Then I put the onions in the bottom of pot, then half the rice, all the slaw mixture, then topped it with the remaining rice. It basically steamed while I fixed the rest of the meal, then got mixed altogether before serving. I didn’t really understand the layering procedure, but we really enjoyed this rice dish. It was a delicious departure from the norm.

Finally I made a Broccoli and Pepper Coconut Curry. It was really spicy tonight! I’ve been using the same Mae Plo green curry paste for years. Since this time the curry seemed especially hot, I asked Chase to check the ingredients. The list included mild green chilies and SHRIMP paste - ahhhhh! Darn those fish ingredients! I started using this paste pre-vegan and didn’t think to check the ingredients. Oh, well, the stuff was too spicy anyway, even if I only used a teaspoonful! Say No to Mae Plo!

I had to make strawberry avocado salads for Chase and Liz. Chase usually just tolerates salads, but he really really liked this one.

Here’s my spicy plate…..

….and here’s our spicy table.

All the dishes turned out really great, and thank goodness I made a cool cake for dessert. I made LDV’s Yella Cake and poked in some blackberries (I’m overstocked with blackberries!) and added in cinnamon and allspice and extra Mexican vanilla. I made VCTOTW pineapple topping to spread over it.

I had stored it in the refrigerator and we were anxious to have something cold and soothing. The cake is so moist and perfect, and the pineapple topping is killer! I served it with extra berries – oh so good.

Chase wasn’t feeling too good tonight, but he said this meal and a couple of slices of cake brought the first smile of the day to his face. That’s why I keep cooking for him!

Art Show and Vegan Potluck

I love this time of year when school is out and so much is going on in town. Friday after work I picked up some delicious falafel wraps made fresh while I shopped in the adjoining market…..

… then met Chase and Liz at an art show. The artists are mostly kids attending an alternative school and the bidders help raise money for the school. Liz offered lots of her works. Chase had a couple of pieces to show AND was the DJ. (Are you a “D”-J if you play music off your computer?)

Liz's wall.

Chase's work.

Some others I liked.


Saturday night was our first Austin Veg Network potluck dinner. Members offer their homes to host monthly dinners. Since Chase was working, I made his dish also. I made a blackbean salad, which was a huge hit. With the beans it had corn, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, green onions, avocado, and cilantro, and a simple dressing of olive oil, lime juice, garlic, crushed red pepper, S&P.

I also made VWAV peach cobbler, but I used fresh apricots and blackberries instead of peaches. Not the prettiest dessert, but the blackberries gave it a nice pink tinge. It was also well received, but there was a chocolate pie too, so….

One of the members told me when the dinners first started, people just brought a bag of chips. Now it’s really evolved into great homemade dishes. That’s what I’m all about! The hosts made awesome tempeh enchiladas.

Next to the enchiladas is some stuffing someone brought, which I thought was odd. Oh, well. There was also chips and homemade salsa, tabouli, peanut noodle salad, artichoke hearts, apricot bread and hummus, tofu from Whole Foods, a broccoli and walnut salad which was interesting, and cream of wheat with veggies, which I’ve heard is really good, but neither Chase or I tried it.

The desserts with my cobbler were an applesauce cake and the chocolate pie. The cake was really moist and the pie was fantastic.

After dinner is usually a speaker or movie, but I had to get Chase back to work so I missed out on that. This was a fun dinner with interesting people.

Now I have to start on Sunday dinner and catch up on your blogs. My sister and brother-in-law come to town Tuesday and stay through Memorial Day – yay!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Funky Tacos and My New Favorite Flavor Combo

The tacos don’t taste funky at all. They’re funky because they don’t have any “meat,” beans, or “cheese” in them. Corn tacos are filled with purple cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and onions, and spiced with garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Sort of macrobiotic and really yummy!

The hot sides are quinoa, corn, pintos, and a fabulous local salsa mixed in, and brocooli.

The cold side is avocado and a farmers market tomato, simply seasoned with lime juice and a pinch of salt.

This was a fresh, flavorful, delish meal.

So my new favorite flavor combination is ….. strawberry with avocado!

This salad was awesome! I sprinkled some hemp seeds over it and made a balsamic vinaigrette to pour over it. While I was eating it, I kept thinking how good it would be in a wrap or as a grilled sandwich. I’m not kidding – it was mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

(Is that a new plate, you ask? Why, yes, it is – a mother’s day gift from Liz!)

With the salad I had sautéd broccoli, cauliflower, and lima beans. I don’t know, all foods I like and it tasted good together. I put a little nutritional yeast on top.

I made more oatbran muffins. This time I added ¼ teaspoon more baking soda and substituted half of the soymilk with applesauce. Perhaps that’s why these were the tallest oatbrans muffins I’ve ever made.

One night for a snack I made some oatmeal with blackberries and raw chocolate – very nice. Blackberries (not organic) are 97 cents!

I have two bushes in the front yard that only during May produce beautiful purple flowers. With all the rain, I have hundreds of blooms and buds. I couldn’t get too close because I didn’t want to disturb the busy bees.

Don’t forget to try strawberry and avocado!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

A Perfect Weekend

This is a photo essay of my weekend. Saturday I picked up Chase and Liz and we had a light lunch before heading to the Mela Fair at Barsana Dham. I made Susan V’s Mini Crustless Tofu Quiches and Vegan Lunch Box Banana Oatmeal Cookies to have with hummus and salad pita wraps.

The compound is located about an hour away toward the hill country. The weather was warm and perfect.

The elephants arrived at the same time we did.

Just inside the gates is a pavillion where performers entertained all afternoon.

The temple is the first building you see. It was beautiful.

We opted to start away from the crowds and headed off to the trails encircling the grounds. We made the right choice. So much nature in one setting.

We were thrilled to discover a waterfall at the far end of the trails.

Near the waterfall is a wedding gazebo.

We saw the most amazing flowers in brilliant colors.

The last of the bluebonnets.

At the end of trail we came upon a huge peach orchard. Our hill country is famous for its peaches!

Next we went through the dining hall, but didn’t get anything to eat (shock!). Yes, it smelled wonderful and we love Indian food, but we had dinner plans. We shopped and played a few games before we left.

Chase ran into a guy handing out flyers for a veggie hot dog eating contest! It’s in two weeks and Chase is so there. He is sure he will win. He doesn’t even care what the prize is or that it’s the day he can move into his shiny new apartment. Liz and I will enjoy Temptation ice cream while we watch Chase down a few dogs.

We went home to relax a bit and wash our feet and change shoes! I don’t think I will ever get over going through a dining hall and public restroom in bare feet, then putting my feet back in my shoes.

Dinner time and we’re off to Casa de Luz. It’s pizza night and we are hungry!

Wheatfree, vegan, organic, all you can eat food, lunch and dinner, every day. On the menu tonight is Sweet Potato Veggie Soup with brown rice miso, Garden Salad with creamy almond herb dressing, Daikon, carrot and beet pickles…..

…. and Spelt crust pizza topped with a creamy pepita walnut basil pesto sauce, sautéed crimini mushrooms, black olives, caramelized onions and mochi “cheese” – not the prettiest pizza but definitely one of the best pizzas any of us had ever eaten. Also on the plate is red lentils, leafy greens with roasted garlic tahini herb sauce (the sauce was incredible), and stirfried burdock, broccoli, asparagus and corn.

We ate all we could, then strolled through the campus and headed home.

Of course today I spent with my wonderful mom and wonderful son. I hope you all had a wonderful weekend too.