Sunday, July 27, 2008

How to Fancify Your Salad

It’s still too hot here to prepare and eat much more than salads. So instead of bore you with salad recipes, I’m going to show you how I made ice bowls for serving salads.

You will need 2 bowls, plastic or metal (not glass), one about an inch in diameter smaller than the other. I had on hand two smallish bowls.

Decide how you want to decorate your bowl. Since my bowls were for salad greens, I thought orange slices would be a nice contrast. These are sliced thick and I actually used six for my bowl.

Fill the larger bowl about half full with water. If you were using chopped herbs or anything small, you would stir those into the water at this point. If using the orange slices, place the smaller bowl into the larger bowl. Secure it to the larger bowl with a couple of pieces of water resistent tape to keep it centered.

Place the orange slices in between the bowls. Finish securing the bowls with more tape.

Place the bowls into the freezer to freeze overnight. I put a plate on top of mine for extra security.

When ready to use, remove from the freezer. Remove the tape and the smaller bowl. Turn the ice bowl upside down onto a plate and let it sit until it releases. Mine took 15 minutes. For serving, the ice bowl will need to sit on something that will keep it from moving and that you won’t mind getting wet. I just used a paper towel, but a pretty place mat would be much nicer!

And the result –

Doesn’t it look cool and refreshing?

It was so fun I decided to make another one with flowers. (These aren’t edible, but it was just a practice bowl.)

The bowls will keep in the freezer, I would imagine for quite a while. I made a single serving size, but if your freezer is big enough you could certainly make a family size bowl. This is an inexpensive and easy project. I didn’t have to buy a single thing to make these bowls. Some other ideas I had were:

Use just water for a clear bowl to serve strawberry ice cream.
Use tinted water to serve vanilla ice cream.
Use water filled with lots of green herbs to serve colorful fresh fruit.

I’m not a crafty person AT ALL and I know any of you could make a much nicer bowl than I did. I would love to see what you come up with!

Finally, a special heartfelt thanks to shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl, Sam of I’m Vegan and Therefore Cooler Than You, and Katy of Legally Vegan for nominating my blog for the Brillante Weblog Award!

I’m honored that you thought of me. Rather than pass the award along to seven others (it has made the rounds!), I nominate everyone on my blogroll (and any others bloggers I visit but haven’t yet updated to the roll) because I truly admire your skills in the kitchen and your passion for veganism.
Now I’m off to make lots of salads for tonight’s dinner!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mini Fiesta

I made a small, no fuss Mexican meal to take to share with my mom for Sunday dinner. We’re fortunate to have fresh tortillas everyday here at our local grocers, so I decided to make bean enchiladas. I put some canned refried and whole black beans in a pot with fresh onions and garlic and seasonings, and let them simmer awhile. Then I rolled them up in white corn tortillas and put them in a 9 x 13 pan. I covered them in a homemade chipotle sauce and baked them about 10 minutes. (I made a veggie version of these about a year ago in this post.)

I also made Wild Rice with Green Chilies and Cilantro to have with the enchiladas.

I made a nice guacamole too. Since June 1st we’ve hit 100 degrees or more 30 times. It may seem odd to prepare spicy enchiladas this time of year (although we eat Mexican food year round here), but when served with a cool salad on top, they are quite refreshing.

Two beany enchiladas with rice and guac were very filling, but we saved room for dessert, FatFree Vegan’s Blueberry Oat Bars.

These bars are so yummy, perfect really, with plenty of blueberry filling.

It’s not easy to come up with a fully prepared portable dinner, but this one was quite nice – healthy, fairly low fat, and totally vegan and gluten free.

Speaking of gluten free, I would like to take this opportunity to remind my readers and inform new readers that although I am gluten intolerant, I do not have Celiac disease. I got chastised for eating birthday cake, so to those readers please know that I am not damaging my body by ingesting a bit of gluten. I am merely extremely weak when faced with vegan chocolate cake!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This and That, and a Piece of Cake

Not a lot of cooking going on since it’s so hot, but I have put together a few refreshing dishes.

First, a Cauliflower Salad – lightly steamed cauliflower flowerets with capers and fresh dill.

Next, a Sunflower Sprout Salad with fresh tomatoes and fava beans.

And a Raw Pasta and Pesto.

All of these were extra yummy and nice for dinner when it’s still 90 degrees out.

One thing I did serve hot was these Giant Runner Beans I found at my market. To convey their hugeness, here they are laying on a dinner plate.

To prepare them, I boiled them (in a soup pot!) for about 8 minutes, then sprinkled them with fresh and dried herbs. I ate 9 of them and was stuffed!

I googled “Giant Runner Beans” to make sure I had identified them properly, and the first picture that popped up was this one:

It’s not a real bean, but I thought it was funny.

I got an email this week from a nice website that promotes healthy diet and lifestyle saying they had included my blog as one of their 100 Blogs to Inspire Healthy Eating. It’s not the Nobel Prize, but it was nice to be recognized for what I try to promote here, and also nice to be included on a list with the fabulous bloggers at FatFree Vegan Kitchen, Urban Vegan, My Sweet Vegan, Day to Day Vegan, Karina’s Kitchen, Tinned Tomatoes, and Diet, Dessert and Dogs (just to name a few!) Check out the list for some new blog inspiration and the rest of the website for good health information.

It was kind of ironic to be recognized as a healthy blogger during my decadent birthday cake post. Oh, well. I promised some pictures of a slice of the Deep Vegan Chocolate Cake so here’s a couple for you. This is a nice shot to show that the cake has a light yet sturdy texture.

Here’s how I served it.

The cake eaters spewed forth OMG’s and Whoa’s as they ate each bite. I’m pretty sure the peanut butter frosting was the clencher.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday and I made my own birthday cake. I made the Moosewood Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting. (btw - I intentionally made a gluten containing cake so I wouldn’t overindulge.)

The cake is actually a crazy cake or wacky cake recipe, developed in the 1940s using no eggs, butter, or milk, so I knew it would turn out. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like buttercream frosting, and I’ve mentioned many times my love of peanut butter. I love whoever thought up using peanut butter for frosting instead of margarine and shortening!

I baked the cake into two 6-inch layers, then frosted it. I made a double batch of frosting to have leftover to pipe borders. Then I topped it with chocolate curls I made from a hunk of dark chocolate, and a few gold flakes.

I had a taste of the cake I leveled off with a squirt of leftover frosting. It is chocolate peanut butter heaven! We’ll eat it after our dinner at Satay tonight. I’ll show you a slice next post.

Now I’m off for a birthday manicure and pedicure!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Great Local Food

I visited the downtown farmers market Saturday morning, which is considerably smaller than Sunset Valley, but I did manage to pick up some wonderful produce. Aside from three baskets of peaches, I got sunburst squash, golden zucchini, purple onions, and beautiful tomatoes.

Because I love our peaches so much and can’t bear to do anything but eat them right out of the fridge, I was smart this time around and bought a big bargain basket of overripe and/or damaged peaches to cook. I was also happy to buy the peaches from Urban Roots. I noticed the vendors appeared to be two teenage boys, working very hard to keep baskets of peaches ready for the long line of buyers. Here’s some information I pulled off the Urban Roots website.

Urban Roots is a youth development program that uses sustainable agriculture as means to effect lasting change for youth participants, and to nourish East Austin residents who currently have limited access to healthy foods. Young people will cultivate a local 2 - 5 acre, diversified organic farm, selling a portion of their harvest in the Austin area and donating a portion to local hunger relief programs. Through this process young people can connect to the land and learn the benefits of growing, eating, selling and donating organic food, as well as leadership, entrepreneurial and life skills, and the importance of giving back to their community.

I felt really good buying my peaches from Urban Roots, and you get a yummy peach dessert recipe at the end of this post!

Chase would be working 12 hours on Sunday, without much to eat during the day, so I knew he would be extra hungry for dinner. I took a chance making a meal with squash (he’s not a big fan of summer squash) and no tofu.

For our entrée I made Blackeyed Peas and Collards from Vegan Fire & Spice. I used fresh local field peas I found at my market. This was a very flavorful dish, and I was so pleased that I was able to hold it for nearly an hour before serving.

I served it over Baked Brown Rice Pilaf.

I also served the Sunburst Squash, which I simply sautéed in broth with red pepper and onions.

And of course, the obligatory broccoli. Here’s my simple plate.

Here’s Chase’s plate. As hungry as he was, he took the time to make a lovely presentation and then take the picture himself. Please note that the rice is in a square pattern and the peas are in the shape of a pyramid.

I also set out chopped fresh tomato and some leftover 4th of July potato salad. I must tell you that Chase LOVED the sunburst squash and ate almost all of it. He also ate the fresh tomato, which he normally gags at. Tomatoes are so sweet right now it’s almost like eating fruit, which we all know it really is, but I’m just sayin’…

Okay, now desserts! That’s right, two desserts. I have tons of peaches and tons of bananas. As much as I love peaches, I still need my chocolate, so a banana and chocolate dessert was in order. I pulled out my copy of Sinfully Vegan and selected the gluten free Bold Banana Cake. The header reads “This is a heavy, rich-tasting cake…” and it is certainly true! I baked as directed until the sides pulled away and a toothpick came out clean.

But oh boy, when I sliced it, it was pure goo.

I would liken it to a big bowl of oatmeal with mashed bananas and chocolate chips in it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not what I had anticipated.

The second dessert, however, was stupendous! I made a gluten free Peach Buckle from a recipe inspired by Food Allergy Survival Guide, Living Well Without. A buckle is a great dessert to make gluten free, because it’s like cake, only it “buckles” or sinks when it cools. I couldn’t get a good picture of the bumpy top, but it was definitely a buckle! And I had no problem using the bargain peaches for this recipe. Here’s Chase’s corner piece with NadaMoo.

And here is my beautiful slice.

If you like peach cake, please give this recipe a try. And remember you can sub AP or WW flour for the gluten free.

Peach Buckle

¼ cup canola oil
½ cup Sucanat (or other granular sugar)
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup applesauce (I used peach butter)
1-1/4 cups gluten free flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
¾ cup oats*
2 t. baking powder
1 t. xantham gum (or guar gum)
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. salt
½ cup nondairy milk
1 t. vanilla
2 cups diced peaches (I like to leave the skin on)

½ cup oats*
¼ cup brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
2 T. canola oil

* If oats are not a part of your gluten free diet, substitute them with more gluten free flour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square glass pan with cooking spray (or lightly oil).

Prepare cake: Combine oil, Sucanat, maple syrup, and applesauce in a mixing bowl and combine. In a separate bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, xantham gum, cinnamon, and salt. Add half of flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix well. Add milk and vanilla and mix well. Mix in remainder of flour mixture and stir just until incorporated. Fold in peaches, then pour into pan.

Combine all topping ingredients and mix until crumbs form. Sprinkle on top of cake batter. Bake for 60 minutes, until lightly browned and tester comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

This was so delicious, a fantastic finish to our fresh local dinner.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fourth of July Meal on Wheels

I packed up a typical 4th of July dinner to take to my mom’s for dinner for just the two of us. I made black bean and veggie patties (mom supplied the condiments for our burgers).

Potato Salad

Mango & Avocado Broccoli Slaw

and a delicious Fresh Strawberry and Blueberry Pie in Lemon Crème!

This year a quiet celebration of good food and watching fireworks on TV was just fine for us.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Salsa Pesto, Stuffed Globe Zucchini, and More

It’s been awhile, but Sunday I got to enjoy my son’s company for dinner and prepare a tasty meal. On the menu:

Baked Tofu with Salsa Pesto
Stuffed Globe Zucchini
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli
Squash Pickles
Peaches and Coconut NadaMoo

The Salsa Pesto was fabulous – with crackers, on tofu, and on my pintos. I adapted a recipe from Newman’s Own. I hope you’ll try this pesto – Chase says it’s completely addictive. And it’s a beautiful fresh green color!

Salsa Pesto

½ cup medium hot salsa (I used a locally made fresh salsa – yum!)
2 cloves minced garlic
1-1/4 cups firmly packed fresh spinach
½ cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
½ cup toasted nuts (I used sunflower seeds)
¼ cup olive oil
pinch salt

Mix all together in blender or food processor until thick and smooth.

The Stuffed Globe Zucchini was also really delicious. I used this recipe from famed chef Eric Ripert, using about a tablespoon of bac-o’s instead of ham, and utilizing my lovely farmers market zucchini and tomatoes. The filling looks as wonderful as it tastes.

Ready to bake.


Chase is not much of a fan of zucchini, but he ate all his portion.

I had not made homemade pickles in a long long time, and I’m not sure my previous attempts were very successful. But when I saw Vegan Homemade’s recipe for Squash Pickles, I was anxious to try again. I made my own pickling spice, since I had none on hand, and reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup. All who tried these pickles really really loved them. I think they are wonderful. They are easy to make and ready to eat after an overnight stay in the fridge.

Thank you, Erin, for this terrific recipe!

So, here’s Chase’s dinner plate – Tofu topped with Salsa Pesto and resting on Squash Pickles, Stuffed Zucchini, broccoli, mashed sweet potatoes, and homemade pintos.

And my plate, same as Chase’s but with pintos topped with pesto instead of tofu.

I can’t get enough of our fresh Texas peaches these days. I knew our dessert would need to include peaches and I just can’t bring myself to cook them when they are so delicious out of hand. So I figured I would just serve them with ice cream. Fortunately, I received an email from Amy, maker of NadaMoo, stating she had recently discovered my blog and wanted to thank me for saying nice things about her ice cream by sending me some vouchers.

Thank you again, Amy, for such a kind and generous (and yummy) gift! I chose Creamy Coconut to go with our fresh peaches. Look how beautiful white the ice cream is!

Amy told me that new flavors are out and also that NadaMoo is now available in Colorado and California! Please check your favorite vegan friendly grocers and try some of this delicious, nutritious ice cream.

I hope you all have a safe and happy Fourth of July.