Sunday, July 29, 2007

And We're Off!

Just a quick post before we head out for the beach. Saturday we celebrated my dad’s birthday. I brought food gifts. I baked him a very nonvegan chocolate birthday cake, his favorite with lots of butter, eggs, and buttermilk. I also made another of his favorites, deviled eggs. The vegan treats I made him are blackbean salad, which you’ve seen a bazillion times, his mom’s recipe for French Dressing (not much to see from the picture, but it’s deliciously sweet) and spicy mustard.

Since my dad was grilling burgers, I made Sunflower Lentil Pie (using carrots instead of the hated celery) and Tahini Mustard Sauce for me and Chase to eat. It was great! I also took a bag of broccoli took micro-steam and some sautéed veggies that needed to not go to waste. My dad also grilled us a wonderful assortment of veggies that included Brussels sprouts and potatoes. They were way better than what I brought!

My sweet wonderful mom bought me and Chase Oatscreme and 2 huge vegan espresso brownies from Dhaba Joy. Yummeeee!

I also made a loaf of veggie bread for my friend that’s keeping Smokey while we’re gone. It kind of sunk on top, so I’m hoping it tastes better than it looks.

Here’s our hotel food – lunch and snacks. I hope I have room for suitcases!

Wishing us all warmth and sunshine!

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Mediterranean Vegetable Feast

After another 3 inches of rain last week, which puts us now at 15 inches above normal, Sunday was miraculously warm and sunny. I only mention this because (a) I’m so sick of rain I could cry; and (b) it’s thunderstorming as I post. Now I don’t know if it’s because we were in an especially happy sunny mood, or because of the sheer volume and variety of food we prepared, but we all agreed that this past Sunday dinner was truly one of the best we had eaten in a long time. I had two refrigerators full of fresh veggies and this dinner featured at least a dozen different ones, grilled, roasted, and in salad form. Of course I forgot to take a picture of my roasted veggies, so I will just mention that they were mostly green beans, with mushrooms, yellow squash, calabaza squash, red bell pepper, and onions, and seasoned with oregano, garlic, paprika, etc., and our featured herb, rosemary.

I also made a cold Broccoli Salad (surprise) with carrots, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, black olives, cucumber, and green onions. I made a vinaigrette dressing with Italian style herbs, garlic, and a little red pepper flakes and mustard. This was spicy good. Oh, I think we’re already at a dozen veggies!

I was hoping for grilling weather because I had been dying to grill potatoes on rosemary skewers. I found some fresh but smallish sticks of rosemary and purple potatoes. I boiled the potatoes until pretty much done, then pierced them with bamboo skewers, and then threaded them onto the stripped rosemary stems.

Before they went on the grill, I wrapped the top leaves in foil and brushed them with leftover tofu marinade (see below), but the tops of the stems actually burned and fell off. It didn’t affect the flavor, only the presentation. The flavor was not overwhelming, but a wonderful infusion of the rosemary into the potatoes, and the skins get crispy. I definitely recommend you give this method a try.

I was also anxious to use my grill wok again, so I prepped asparagus, red bell pepper, and purple onions for it. I also recommend a grill wok - totally yummy and no veggies slipping through the grate!

In keeping with our Mediterranean theme, I made a Romesco Sauce for all the veggies. I used one fresh tomato and one roasted pepper, but I think next time it would be best to go either all fresh or all roasted. It also had almonds, jalapeno, garlic, fresh rosemary and parsley, so who could complain really?

Another superb sauce I made was Celine’s Creamy Pumpkin Almond Sauce. I added this to quinoa pasta and it was soooo perfect with all the crunchy veggies. The sauce is a little sweet on its own, and creamy rich and delicious with pasta. I can’t wait to test more of Celine’s recipes. They are all so wonderful!

Chase needs tofu, so I baked him some using VWAV Italian marinade. I used Marsala wine and lots of rosemary and it was fabulous, as are all of Isa’s recipes. (This marinade is what I brushed the potatoes with.)

Chase warmed his tofu on the grill before dinner and ate it with the pasta. Well I can’t eat tofu, so I needed something else for protein. I almost didn’t make this because, let’s face it, I’ve gone overboard again. But I’m glad I did because it was so good. I followed a recipe from Mediterranean Vegan for Chickpeas with Tahini Sauce, and added in fresh cooked spinach and sundried tomatoes. Yum, yum, yum! It was like an amazing chunky hummus.

I served the pasta and roasted veggies from the stovetop, and put everything else on the table. There are toasted pitas too, essential for dipping in the Romesco and pasta sauces and the chickpeas.

Here’s my plate. I was in vegetable heaven.

Yes I did make dessert. I had also been dying to make something with shredded filo dough. I had seen it before at my Mediterranean market, but it’s 15 miles away, so I just bought the regular stuff and shredded it myself. From my research, I determined that to make fancy things with it, you would use it as a wrapper, like for fish or potatoes, or make bowls using muffin tins, or what I decided on – nests. I formed the shreds into nests, then drizzled a little melted EB and vanilla over them. I think next time I will mix the dough with the melted butter and then form the nests, because the dough dries so fast and I was a slow nest builder.

So the dessert was to plate a nest…..

…. then add fresh peaches and strawberries, and top it with vanilla Rice Dream and almonds. OMG these were so good! Chase and Liz ate two!

I admit it – we are pigs on Sundays, but only on Sundays. We have such fun in the kitchen and at the grill together and that’s what it’s really all about. Plus Chase gets to take home all the leftovers.

Before I go I have to mention that I made Kris’s Oatmeal Drizzles from Damn Tasty. I had one hour to make a thank-you treat, and this was perfect. The cookies are so pretty and so yummy and easily do-able in an hour. They were a much appreciated gift.

I cooked like a crazy woman this weekend because for one thing, I’ve been eating fresh and simple throughout the week, and secondly, I finally get to take Chase with me on vacation! This Sunday we’re off to Galveston to enjoy hopefully rainfree time at the beach and new vegan restaurant fare. I’ll make the blog rounds and try to get in another post before we leave. Yay!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Grilled Jerk Tofu and Too Much More

Sunday was a beautiful day, perfect for testing out the new grill. I know we’re all disappointed in John Mackey at the moment, but I selected three recipes from the Whole Foods Market cookbook. First, Jamaican Jerk Sauce for marinating 2 pounds of tofu. The sauce has hot peppers and pineapple juice in it and it is wonderful. It is rather thick, but the tofu soaked up almost all of it. I’m so excited about my new grill, so there are several pictures to endure of what a great job Chase and the new grill did.

Here’s the tofu on the grill. See how shiny the new grill is? And see how sunny it is? (I don’t know if you’ve heard about all the rain we’ve had, but we’ve already hit our annual total.)

On the table.

Also from the Whole Foods cookbook, I made Havana Black Beans. This recipe was quick to make using canned beans and was so flavorful with chipotles, cumin, and lime juice. I should have doubled this because we couldn’t get enough.

So this totally doesn’t go with the meal, but Monica K made such great looking summer rolls, I had to make some too. Mine were filled with broccoli slaw, carrots, red bell pepper, mango, leaf lettuce, cilantro, scallions, and peanuts. I made the Creamy Peanut Sauce from the Whole Foods cookbook. I don’t know exactly why, but these were super fab delicious even plain. They are just so fresh tasting and fun to eat.

I've got a new rollup technique to try out on the next batch.

Anticipating a need to soak up the yummy jerk sauce, I decided to bake bread. Chase gets leftovers, so I needed a loaf that would work for tofu or peanut butter sandwiches. I love my Bread Machine Magic cookbook and found a recipe for Crunchy Carrot Bread. It’s mostly whole wheat with finely chopped carrots and poppy seeds, but I subbed hemp seeds. It is de-vine!

One more shot of the dinner plate, aglow with sunshine.

I went overboard on dessert, but I couldn’t bear to cook or mash my fresh fruit anymore. I fixed a big bowl of organic strawberries, farmers market peaches, and leftover mango from the summer rolls and put it in the fridge. I haven’t made a single thing from Damn Tasty and feeling left out, but not wanting to be too decadent, made the Banana Bread.

Bazu made it and raved. Well, we raved too! It’s a simple, nothing unusual recipe, but man, it’s damn tasty! Chase said he was dreaming of peanut butter and banana bread sandwiches.

I really did go overboard because I made ice cream too. Coconut Pistachio Ice Cream. I made up my own recipe, and it turned out creamy and coconutty, but I wavered on whether I liked grated coconut in it. The kids liked it; I thought it almost interfered with the creamy goodness. But it was great with the banana bread and fresh fruit, and it’s really pretty with pistachios in it.

And finally, have any of you seen the article in Food & Wine “Why Vegetarians Are Eating Meat”? Molly Katzen now eats meat?!! Help me out. I can see how it might make meat eaters feel better, but I’ve read the article twice and I still don’t get it. My first reaction was that vegetarians were represented as unhealthy eaters, and admittedly, some are. And secondly, I read about how great the animals were treated during their lives, but nothing about their slaughter. If you want to read the article, it’s online here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Birthday Post

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, was my birthday. After so many birthdays it’s not a day I particularly look forward to or feel the need to celebrate lavishly. And though I don’t look it or always feel like it, I still think I’m 35, so I decided to pooh-pooh all the “old” comments and enjoy this week and the attention.

Tuesday evening was a family joint celebration with my baby brother who had a birthday two weeks ago. We had a wonderful time at Sampaio’s, a Brazilian restaurant, with great food and service. The food was not quite as spicy as I thought or hoped it would be, but everyone enjoyed their dinners and it was presented beautifully. The chef wanted to create special vegan fare for Chase and me. On a side note, to all the people I’ve seen comment that they were hesitant to take pictures of their food at restaurants, you should know that our waitress told me that the chef saw me taking pictures of the food and he was just beaming. So fear not and show us your food!

My salad appetizer was greens and hearts of palm wrapped in a grilled zucchini slice and topped with green olive, tomato, and herb vinaigrette. Terribly clever and so delicious.

The waitress knew which items were cooked with meat, e.g., the black beans, but I became a little concerned after she asked me twice if vegans could have oil. Chase finally asked her what oil they used, and it was soybean oil. Don’t really get that. Anyway, we were presented with this lovely platter of Shu-shu salad (greens and zucchini in a lettuce cup), grilled veggies topped with the most delicious crispy fried collards, and a roasted red pepper filled with pecan cilantro rice. The chef came out to watch us receive our food, and I gave him a thumbs up.

My mom had Oatscreme and vegan mini cupcakes awaiting us for dessert at home, so we didn’t order dessert. But I always ask to hear about them. Along with flan and bread pudding, Sampaio’s serves a chocolate layer cake filled with chocolate mousse and then set afire and presented afterward. I was hoping another patron would order it so I could catch a glimpse of that creation! Here’s a couple of pictures taken at the restaurant.

Chase wanted to come visit me Friday after work and bring me a present. I asked him what we would do after that and he said, “Eat?” I knew Friday was going to be extremely busy at work and I would be exhausted, so I planned to pick up the best Falafel sandwiches in town from Marakesh, across the street from my office. On Thursday, I made some things to have with it.

Spinach hummus – your basic hummus recipe with a handful of fresh spinach added in. Very, very yummy.

And Lentil Stew with potatoes, carrots, and fresh tomatoes. This turned out really great and was so filling.

Then on Friday, Chase and Liz and Smokey came over and sent me to my room while they prepared the dinner table. The falafel wraps have 4 huge patties in them. Here they are – bigger than my dinner plates.

I got some plain patties for myself.

Chase and Liz brought me some lovely flowers, a card, and an ABC Double Chocolate Decadence cookie!

We enjoyed all the food and were very full, and then to my surprise, Chase said they had one more special gift for me.

I still can’t believe they bought me a new grill! I’ve been talking about getting one all summer and now I have it. Sadly, the rain is back but we’ve decided we are grilling on Sunday despite the rain.

I guess birthdays aren’t so bad after all.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Teriyaki Seitan Skewers, 2 Sides, 2 Desserts

It FINALLY quit raining this weekend so we had to grill on Sunday. I drove through rain to get to the farmers market Saturday morning, then all of a sudden the sun came out. It felt so warm and I searched my purse for sunglasses that I hadn’t worn in 3 weeks. I happily began to gather veggies for the grill.

The main event was Teriyaki Seitan Skewers from Real Food Daily. I made the chik’n style seitan and one of the best teriyaki sauces we’ve ever had. It has fresh pineapple, mango, and orange juice in it, along with maple syrup and tamari. I marinated the seitan chunks in the sauce, though the recipe didn’t call for that, and I used all veggies and no pineapple on the skewers, again not according to the recipe. I found kabob size onions at the farmers market and some nice bell peppers. Chase basted the kabobs as they grilled.

The first kabob with no seitan is mine :( I selected two recipes from A Vegan Taste of Thailand for our sides. First was Pineapple Jasmine Rice. I added some shredded carrots to this (I always seem to have these on hand!) and this rice was the perfect spicy sweet complement to our kabobs.

The other selection was Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Sesame Salad. This was a cold salad of lightly steamed broccoli, and bell pepper, onions, cucumbers, and sesame seeds. The dressing was a simple mix of sesame oil, tamari, rice vinegar, garlic, and red pepper flakes. I added some grated coconut and peanuts for garnish. I made any of the recipes from this book, but so far it’s 2 for 2.

Chase asked for some bread, so I made another Buckwheat Potato Bread. It didn’t rise too good this time, but it still tasted great. (You know I like to blame the humidity when this happens!)

I had my heart set on making Alton Brown’s Lentil Cookies. The recipe intrigued me and I was sure anything AB makes is delicious. He is a food genius. I was fortunate enough to take Chase with me to one of his cooking classes at a local market a few years ago. These classes are so nice because seating is limited to about 30 people, you can ask questions and visit with the chef, and you can get autographs.

Here’s Chase’s book…..

…. and here’s mine.

I actually went to a Bobby Flay class that morning too. He was adorable and had partied too hard the night before, yet still gave an awesome demo. You know, that was an expensive day! But worth every penny in my opinion. I had a great time I’ll never forget. Oh, yeah, the Lentil Cookies. I didn’t love them warm from the oven, but the next day they were terribly addictive. I used chocolate chips instead of raisins and a flax “egg.” There’s definitely a different texture, but it’s not at all dry. And you don’t taste lentils, but there is noticeable but pleasantly different and distinct new flavor. I will definitely make these cookies again and try out lots of add-in variations.

I should tell you that the lime green and turquois placemats have been cheering me up through all of our dreary weather.

So Chase told me he WANTED the lentil cookies, but he NEEDED strawberry pie. I love when you kind of rush through a pie recipe and hope for the best, and then you hear it’s the best strawberry pie you’ve ever made! I don’t think it’s anything I did. It’s just that the strawberries are incredibly flavorful right now and I only added a little cornstarch slurry and a fourth cup of sugar to 2 pounds of strawberries to make this pie. I even used store bought graham cracker crust.

Especially yummy with Soy Delicious Vanilla.

Smokey came to dinner too and before we lit the grill, Chase pulled out this tiny harness and short leash and put on Smokey! Smokey took his first steps into grass.

He started out very hesitant, then became more curious and with a little encouragement went around about a third of my backyard.

The adventure completely exhausted him. I even saw him yawn. Isn’t that harness too much?!!!

Tomorrow is not quite my birthday, but it is my family birthday dinner, shared with my brother whose birthday was two weeks ago. We needed to select a restaurant that would please vegans and nons, and I have been curious about a new Brazilian restaurant, Sampaio’s. The flavors and ingredients in their meaty dishes sounded fabulous and there’s small print “Vegetarian Menu Available on Request.” My mom called and spoke to the chef personally who said he would be thrilled to create two vegan entrees for us tomorrow night. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for us!

I just found out in the midst of this posting that I won Urban Vegan's dessert contest! I can't believe it - I'm so excited!