Sunday, January 28, 2007

Light & Healthy Tex Mex and Pie Try #2

Tonight we had a delicious mexican meal. Our main course was Susan V's Sante Fe Spaghetti Squash Casserole. I made this casserole shortly after Susan posted it, but I gave it all to Chase without having any myself. I'm glad I got to eat it tonight because, like everything Susan creates, it's wonderful. Here's a shot of the filling, before the cornmeal topping went on. Isn't it beautiful!

This is the casserole right out of the oven.

To go with the casserole, I wanted something crunchy. I decided on texmex springrolls. Chase said chips and guacamole would have been good, and it would have been excellent, but I wanted a healthier accompaniment. I have never made springrolls - only rice paper rolls - to be gluten free. I made up a filling of green onion, red pepper, spinach, corn, cilantro, and pinto beans (I had just made a big pot), and lots of spicy seasonings. We filled one dozen, and then baked them. I added mango to our favorite salsa to serve with the spring rolls. They didn't turn out too pretty (don't laugh Megan!), but there wasn't a single one left over. Baked rolls are just as crispy as deep fried and we really enjoyed these.

There wasn't much left of any of this meal.

I was determined to make a good lemon pie after messing up last week. I followed Susan's recipe again, except I used 4 Meyer lemons and 1 blood orange for the juice. I even made the oatmeal cookie crust, which was super tasty. I barely filled the tip of my quarter teaspoon with agar agar. This time the filling was stirrable while cooking, and I could actually pour it into the crust.

The filling flavor combination of lemon and a bit of orange was soooo good! I had a little left over and put it in a small bowl. Several hours later I decided to see how the leftover tasted, and I was disappointed again.

I had jello again. I did NOT want to throw out another pie, because I loved the flavor. Then it dawned on me. I didn't screw up the recipe, and Susan's recipe isn't bad. It's just that Susan's recipe wasn't for lemon CREAM pie, which is really what I wanted. I think Candi left a comment on my last post that any of Susan's recipes she has made turned out great, and same goes for me, and I've made a lot of them. Anyway, I decided to make a quick trip to Whole Foods and get some whipped topping so I could have the kind of pie I wanted to serve. It really is a beautiful and delicious pie, especially with that crust!

The topping did the trick (although it does take away a little flavor). Here is Chase's SECOND piece.

Before I thought of the whipped topping, I thought I had better make a backup dessert. I decided to make Banana Oatmeal Cookies from Vegan Lunchbox, which commenters raved about. The cookies are simply oats, bananas, sunflower seeds, dates, baking soda, and cinnamon. I deviated slightly and used half sunflower seeds and half peanuts, and I added in two teaspoons of raw chocolate. These cookies are addictive little bites of heaven. I absolutely love them and highly recommend these healthy treats.

Hope you all had a great weekend! Is anybody into Super Bowl Sunday?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the So-so

Tonight we had an interesting pasta meal. We made Pasta with Sweet Potatoes and Roasted Red Peppers from The Complete Vegan Cookbook. It's a puree of sweet potatoes (grilled, but I just boiled mine), topped with roasted red peppers, and served over fusilli pasta. I love sweet potatoes, but not sweet, so I did not put nutmeg and mace in the puree. We're so used to a veggie filled tomato sauce, we wanted more ingredients. So we sauted some onions and seitan to add to it. It was different and very pretty, but it just wasn't quite what we wanted. Chase and I thought about what we could do to make it better, and we decided we missed the tomatoes. So next time we'll add some roasted or sundried tomatoes. We did enjoy the fresh parsley and squeeze of lemon juice over the sauce, and we both agreed that using the quinoa bread to soak up the sauce was the best part! So this dish was just so-so.

Along with our usual steamed broccoli as a side dish, I made Marinated Cauliflower and Edamame Salad from the Fatfree Vegan Recipes index. I did substitute sundried tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes, so it's not as pretty, but it was quick and easy to make and this dish was good!

I wanted to use my farmers market Meyer lemons to make dessert, so I made Susan V's Calamondin (or Lemon) Pie. I just made the filling and put it in a store bought graham cracker crust. Chase loves that crust and they come with those nifty lids so it's easy for him to take home. Anyway, I don't know what I did wrong, but I made glue. The instructions for the filling say to cook and stir for 3 minutes after it comes to a boil. Well, after just 30 seconds it was unstirrable. I went ahead and put it in the crust and it was tearing up the crust, and it was so sticky I couldn't get the top smooth. I remember thinking a 1/2 cup of cornstarch seemed like a lot, but I put it in the fridge to set (as if....)

It sliced easily and of course it held together. We spent some time taking a nice picture. Then Chase took a bite and didn't say anything. I looked over at him and he said "It's like jello." And it was. It wasn't creamy at all. It was rubbery and so not what I had in mind. The lemon flavor was great, the texture was bad. Maybe my pan was too hot????

Here's what I will throw away, along with uneaten slices :(

I have a bird update. Two weeks ago 63 dead birds were found within a 3 block area of downtown. Two vet reports have come in and they both conclude that this particular flock of birds was infected with parasites. The birds had not eaten in approximately 2 days, and that, coupled with the drop in temperature overnight, caused their deaths. There was no bird flu or poison or fermented mistle toe - that was one of the rumors going around. The vets said the only thing unusual about this incident was that the birds ended up in the middle of downtown.

The bird incident was 2 Mondays ago, and I couldn't go to work until 2:00. Last Monday I went to work, then got sent home because our roof had collapsed in 2 spots. I'm wondering what I will walk into tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cabin Fever = Too Much Cooking

Last week I was sick and missed work Thursday and Friday. Saturday we had four inches of rain. Sunday we got the arctic blast. Monday I went to work, but the roof had collapsed in 2 places from all the rain and we had to go home. Tuesday it sleeted and snowed (really!) and the entire city shut down. I finally got to the office today at noon. While stuck at home, I went through all my cookbooks, cleaned, and cooked to stay warm and busy. Here's what it looked like from my front porch yesterday afternoon. Yes, this is all it takes to bring Austin to its knees.

I don't remember when I cooked all this stuff, so I'll just put up the pics and briefly comment.

These are mini tofu puffs I found at the asian market. They come in a big bag and are terribly cute.

All I knew about them is they need to simmer in something to take on flavor, so I put them in potato soup. They tasted very similar to dumplings, but definitely had a deep fried flavor.

I also got a package of kung pao "chicken" from the asian market. I made a stirfry, but this stuff looked and felt so much like real chicken it freaked me out. The flavor was great, but see how it looks exactly like shredded chicken? I keep adding veggies to this stirfry and telling myself it's not really chicken, but I don't think I'll ever be able to finish it.

Pumpkin lentil soup and salad lunch.

Peasant's meal of my crockpot pinto beans with brown texmati rice and shredded Brussels sprouts.

Broccoli with hemp seeds.

Roasted cauliflower.

Raw fruit dessert - bananas, cherries, and raw chocolate.

Three Sisters Stew (plus edamame) over texmati rice.

In going through all my cookbooks I rediscovered some great books, including a bread book that had a recipe for quinoa bread. I love this bread! It baked up beautifully. It's light in texture and the quinoa got crispy like nuts or seeds would.

Maybe tonight for dinner I can lay out a buffet of leftover soup, bread, sprouts, cauliflower, beans, rice, and stew, but not kung pao chicken!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Best Chik'n and Dumplings & Best Detox-Friendly Muffins

The weather people are predicting a major ice event beginning later today and lasting until Tuesday noon, so we had Sunday dinner last night. These chik'n and dumplings were really easy to make, yet incredibly delicious. I'm sure Chase would have risked bodily injury to drive over and eat it, so I'm glad we made it last night.

Seitan is the last thing a gluten intolerant person should eat and that's why I've never attempted to make it. But I needed "chik'n" and decided to give it a try. Taking a tip from Cafe Cyan, I made the chicken style seitan from Real Food Daily. It was incredibly easy to make, just like Crystal & Ryan said, and so good. Here it is right out of the oven.

This is four pounds of seitan. I cut it into fourths and put 3/4 of it in the freezer. Chase cut the remaining one pound into small strips and stirfried it briefly before we put it in the pot.

Taking another tip from Crystal & Ryan, I made biscuits from La Dolce Vegan to use for the dumplings. I have never actually baked the biscuits BEFORE plopping them in the broth as dumplings, and I must say, it makes for a much less doughy dumpling and I definitely prefer this method. The biscuits were just huge! I hated to cut them up.

My simple recipe was to chop an onion and saute it in a little oil. Add 2 cups broth and 1/4 cup flour and let it thicken. Add 6 more cups broth and a bag of frozen mixed veggies, plus about a cup of frozen edamame and seasonings. Bring that to a boil, then add in the seitan and biscuits and simmer about 20 minutes. We all decided that we didn't even need the seitan. Veggies and dumplings would have been just as good.

Here is our huge pot of dumplings, simmering away on the stove.

We all know good ingredients make good food. I really think the reason a lot of my food tastes so good, at least to suit our tastes, are these two items:

Okay, I don't put these on my broccoli, but I do sprinkle them on almost all of my skillet dishes and soups and casseroles. I'm almost out of this broth and I'm always fearful that the next time I go to the asian market, they'll tell me they don't carry it anymore.

You don't really need anything more than broccoli as a side dish to chik'n and dumplings, but I decided to use my remaining yuba sheet and fill it with mashed sweet potatoes and black beans. They were quick and easy to roll up, and I just brushed the top with a little olive oil and garlic powder.

Ready to bake....

All done.

I've decided I don't really like yuba as a wrapper. I would rather have rice paper. Anyway, here's our table. I guess the broccoli wasn't done yet.

It was really cold and rainy yesterday, and I'm still trying to cut back on sweets. For dessert I wanted something warm, so I put four chopped apples in my mini crockpot along with a mixture of apple cider, peanut butter, oats, and a little brown sugar to thicken the juices, and let it cook on low about 5 hours.

I served it with a little coconut and peanuts on top. You could substitute almonds for the peanuts, but I just love peanut butter, esp. on apples, and this was yummy! We ate it in front of the fire.

I went a little freaky yesterday in anticipation of our "ice event" and wanted to make sure Chase and I didn't run out of food in case we can't get out for a couple of days. I also baked bread and made a huge bunch of pinto beans in the crockpot. I was running out of room in the kitchen so I moved them into the dining room. I have bread rising in the bread maker and a makeshift table for the beans.

We had 4 inches of cold rain yesterday, and it was not an ideal day for baking. When the bread was through rising, I just tossed it in the pan and into the oven. It tasted great, but looks a little weird.

Here's the giant crock of steaming beans.

Now for the muffins! I don't always eat breakfast, but if I do I eat at the office and need something quick and portable. I had been trying to recall a muffin recipe that I absolutely love, made with oat bran and no flour. Well I found it and veganized it and OMG they are as wonderful as I had remembered. No flour, no sugar, no oil, and only 100 calories. I think they are awesome, like eating a bowl of oatmeal.

They have a bit of a different texture, obviously, but they're still a muffin. Barely sweet and very satisfying. I hope you'll try them, even if you're not detoxing. Oh, and if they are not actually detox friendly, please advise.

Oat Bran Muffins:

Heat oven to 350 degrees and coat bottoms only of muffin cups with cooking spray.

2-1/2 cups oat bran (I get mine from the bulk bin, but Quaker makes it)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cup "buttermilk"
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 egg replacer
1 - 2 teaspoons vanilla (I used 2)
1 - 2 teaspoons cinnamon (I used 2)

Put dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Add in all wet ingredients and stir just until combined. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, until tester comes out clean. After baking, let sit 5 minutes before removing from cups to cool completely. Refrigerate leftovers after 24 hours.

Enjoy your Sunday! If you don't hear from me soon, it's because I'm frozen......

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Vive Casserole, etc.

Cedar fever has a death grip on me, which I'm told I must endure for another 2 weeks. They say if you live in Austin long enough, the cedar pollen will eventually get to you. Sneezing, coughing, sore throat, fever... I'm so sick of being sick.

Now that that's out of the way, here's what's been cooking the past week. I had a huge batch of chickpeas to use, so I decided to make Sweet Curry Chickpea Casserole from Dreena's book Vive le Vegan. I don't like sweet dinners or celery, so I substituted green peppers for the celery, and mushrooms for the apples. I made mine pretty spicy with lots of curry paste, and I didn't really enjoy it until I mixed in my jasmine rice with it one night, and left over cornbread another night. Then it was fantastic! And it made a ton. I have eaten it 3 nights for dinner, once for a snack, and gave away a bunch to Chase, who also thought it was superb with the rice.

Monday night I opened the fridge and those radishes, which were double wrapped, were stinking up my whole fridge and freezer! So I chopped up an onion, green pepper, and a few leftover mushrooms, threw in the radishes, and stirfried it. They smelled much better and were quite tasty.

The first night I made jasmine rice, I also made some miso mushrooms and broccoli to have with it. I went a little miso crazy for a while.

Another night I decided that mung bean sprouts were going to be my new "diet" pasta. Yes, it looks and tastes like a stirfry, but I actually made a veggie tomato sauce, then added in the sprouts and let it simmer a LONG time. They never did soften up or lose their sprout taste. My tastebuds were confused. I'll still eat it, but you can't call it pasta. Oh, well.....

I went to Whole Foods Saturday morning and picked up a few veggies from the salad bar to put over my salad for lunch, which I did as soon as I got home. They were so good. I got all kinds of marinated veggies, roasted edamame, and a little tabouli. Now I've got to try my own roasted edamame.

This next dish is simply one chopped apple that I put in the microwave for 20 seconds, then put some cinnamon and granola on top, and poured in a little vanilla rice milk. What's great about this is that the next day at the office, a friend who needs to lose 100 pounds, has terrible eating habits, and to top it off also has terrible teeth, told me she really missed being able to eat apples. So I told her about microwaving them and she said she would try it. I hope she did. It's sure better than putting a frozen burrito in the microwave and eating it!

Here's a few things I picked up at the asian market. NEVER BUY DRIED LONGAN! I popped one in my mouth. It was rock hard because it was the dirty shell! I was so disgusted I immediately spit it out. If there was a berry in there, it wasn't worth eating. I have not yet tried the kung pao "chicken," and my first bean curd pouch split all the way open. But I'll work with those another day.

When I had the blues last week, I decided a trip to our new IKEA store would make me feel better. I was looking for a wall piece to put on a huge space in my living room. I'm pretty eclectic in that I really like modern things, but I still love my antique things. Here's what I bought. I'm still trying to decide if I like it and accomplished tying together all my colors and my old and new pieces. What do you think?