Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Trip to The Butcher

I may have shared with some of you that I clench my teeth in my sleep. Due to so many years of clenching, heredity, the shape of my bite, things beyond my control, I have suffered serious bone loss in my gums. I used to wake up with horrible headaches every morning for as long as I can remember and thought it was due to allergies or sinus infections. My dentist and I had no idea I was clenching until he began finding cracked fillings and fractured teeth nearly every visit. He made me a night guard and the headaches stopped immediately.

About six years ago I was referred to a periodontist, who is now known to me as THE BUTCHER, and had surgery on the lower left gum to repair damage to my teeth. It was the most awful, painful thing I have ever experienced. I had to take lots of pain pills, which I hate, for several days. (I don’t like being “not in control.”) I was a bad patient at home. Chase said I was mean to him and I fainted a lot.

This Christmas I noticed in almost all photos I look like I have black pepper between my front teeth. Well, it isn’t pepper, it is a gap. My teeth are moving. Bottom line is I had to visit THE BUTCHER again, and on Friday morning he will do surgery on my entire upper gum. As much I want to keep my teeth, I can’t tell you how much I dread going through this again. I have 6 prescriptions to take for up to a week afterward. I have already apologized to my family and friends for anything I may say or do while in my drugged state. Hopefully I will not be able to sit at the computer and leave weird comments on anyone’s blog.

What really sucks is I’ve had the flu for the past five days and have already been in bed most of that time. I’m totally afraid of not being able to regain all my energy. PLEASE, all you yoga practitioners and tea drinkers and amazingly healthy vegan chefs, advise me on how to recover as quickly as possible.

I will take this opportunity now to say thanks again to all of you who leave nice comments on my posts. It means so much coming from such creative and talented cooks. The vegan community is awesome and I have the best time learning from you all and about you all.

I know I’ve sounded pitiful, but I’m really going to miss crunching on broccoli and salads. So thanks for listening, and I’ll be back as soon as I can, I suppose with blurry pictures of mashed foods, canned soups, applesauce, pudding ….

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Embracing the Pig (A Huge Dinner)

I got the flu yesterday, but that didn’t stop me from cooking a HUGE meal. First let me show you what I got at the Farmers Market Saturday morning. (The flu struck me at noon.) I got broccoli, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, golden beets, arugula, and oranges.

You'd think our meal would be more colorful, but it really didn't turn out that way. We began with an appetizer of pumpkin seed pesto and flax crackers. The pesto was made from a recipe I got from a macrobiotics class I took back in October. The crackers are super fabulous! I veganized this recipe from Land O’Lakes. They were easy to make and I wish I hadn’t halved the recipe. These are break-apart crackers....

and the pesto, one of our top ten favorite recipes.

Our main course was Seitan Bundles – locally made garlic hummus and a piece of seitan bundled in Pillsbury crescent roll dough. These were delicious and fun to make. I made tamarind ketchup from a recipe I posted here. Chase thought the ketchup was too sweet and put pesto on his Bundle.

Side dishes were VWAV Chickpea Broccoli Casserole – finally! I liked it okay, but still prefer steamed broccoli with a side of plain ol’ chickpeas.

and Beets and Brussels РI steamed the beets from the Farmers Market and fresh Brussels sprouts, then saut̩ed some onions, added in the veggies, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme, and topped with toasted almonds. Beets are another veggie (like eggplant) I am trying hard to love. This was delicious when I picked out the beets.

For dessert – Cupcake Mountains! I made VCTOTW Basic Chocolate Cupcakes and Tofu Whipped Cream from Sinfully Vegan. Beautiful and delicious!

I also made Orange Cinnamon Rolls using this recipe from Chris at Eat Air, just because I’ve been saying since Christmas that I need to make cinnamon rolls. Chris used tangerines in his recipe, but my farmers market oranges tasted miles better than my grocery store tangerines, so I used my oranges. This is a great recipe. Now I want to make apple cinnamon rolls and orange chocolate rolls and lemon almond rolls and …. Look how beautifully these turned out.

This was pretty much all my aching body wanted for dinner last night.

We won’t be having a family feast next Sunday. I’ll post about that later this week.

Stay well, everyone!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Busy at the Stovetop

Autumn Harvest Stew from Nava Atlas’ soup cookbook - a nice steamy bowl.

This is basically Three Sisters Stew, which I love. This version was a little bland, but it can get kicked up served over some tasty rice. I like to add edamame to it for some more color. I made this a week ago and still have several servings left. You are warned – it makes a ton! I think I prefer the version of this stew from 150 Vegan Favorites.

One night I decided I had to have Susan V’s Spinach and Artichoke Pie. But it was 7:00 and I didn’t have any phyllo. So to satisfy my craving, I made the filling and added in mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and a can of chickpeas.

It was wonderful and I will definitely make the pie someday. In the meantime, Crystal made it and posted hers. Check it out here.

For lunch on the weekend, I warmed up some of the leftover filling and put it on top of my salad greens. I really like hot stuff on top of my cold salad. Is this weird or do you all do this too?

I made a tofu scramble for Chase – tofu, black beans, tomatoes, onions, green chilies, lots of garlic, chili powder and cumin, and a bit of nutritional yeast. I bought him a bunch of flour tortillas too so he can have a take-a-long breakfast for school.

I had lots of veggies left over from our Chinese New Year dinner, so I made a sugar snap stirfry. I used almost a whole daikon radish, onions, bok choy, and bean sprouts. I wasn’t ready for another stirfry so soon, so I made a very light peanut sauce – so light I didn’t even use a blender – and it was fabulous. I wish I didn’t love peanuts so much.

I was bad two times. Sheree posted about Apple Swirl Bread from The Everyday Vegan. If you love apples, you will love this bread as much as I did.

And a healthy bowl of oatmeal that I tainted with chocolate chips and peanuts. It was so good – all the little chips were melting, yum!

I’m feeling quite stressed lately, so I’ll probably be cooking a lot to unwind. I worked late tonight, I have to be in early in the morning, and Chase threw his back out again. That poor child has had back problems since he was 14. I’m sure it’s from those incredibly heavy backpacks he has always had to carry to school. Is it Friday yet?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

To all I wish “Peace and Prosperity” in the Chinese New Year of the Pig. Tonight we celebrated with a contemporary twist to traditional dishes. We began with a trip to the Asian Supermarket for a few ingredients and plans to watch some of the festivities it was hosting. It was so well attended I could hardly get into the parking lot! So I didn’t get to see any dancing or martial arts demos, but since I had my camera, I thought I would share some pictures of the market I brag about all the time. Although there wasn't a cloud in the sky, it was super windy and cold.

Sorry about the close-up of the cart bin in the next shot. There are 3 more wings this size in the center, with 7 restaurants and various retail shops.

My menu selections for tonight were based on foods that symbolize health, prosperity, happiness, good fortune, and family unity. Chase and I are interested in neither fertility nor longevity. In fact, I specifically avoided the fertility foods – yikes! Our main course was Jai, or Buddha’s Delight, symbolizing happiness, prosperity, and purification. The stirfry included tofu, broccoli, shitakes, bamboo shoots, carrots, bok choy, water chestnuts, green beans, snow peas, and peanuts.

The Jai was served with jasmine rice with green onions, wakame, and almonds, which symbolizes harmony and good luck.

And baked spring rolls filled with broccoli slaw, red pepper, and daikon radish. Spring rolls symbolize wealth.

For dessert I tried my hand at a recipe I found at Vegalicious – Rice Balls with a Chocolate Heart and an orange sauce. Rice balls symbolize family unity and happiness, and oranges symbolize good luck and prosperity. A day before, I prepared the rice and decided to use the Chocolove Bar that had been in my pantry over a year. It’s so good. I can’t believe I didn’t eat it for all that time! Can you see the little heart in each square?

The rice balls were a little difficult to form, especially after I shoved the chocolate into them. I rolled them in panko crumbs, then set them in the fridge. After dinner, I prepared the sauce and fried the rice balls. These were quite difficult to work with. First I should say I really suck at frying. Two balls fell apart as I was frying them. In the meantime the sauce had jelled and was no longer a syrup. But here is what I ended up with, not much like the photo at Vegalicious!

The taste was nice, especially the chocolate. And the orange with the chocolate tasted a lot better than I had anticipated. I should have taken the easy and foolproof route and made a rice pudding with orange juice and chocolate chunks. Plus my house smells like fried stuff, which I really really don’t like.

If you have a holiday tomorrow, I hope you enjoy your time off. Even though the courthouses are closed, the law firms will be hard at work!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Nu Age Cafe Dinner and Six Weird Things About Me

For Christmas I received a $50 gift certificate to the best veg restaurant in town, Nu Age Cafe. Of course I had Chase go with me and he thought just the two of us should go and pig out. So we did. To use up the $50, we had to order appetizer, entree, and dessert. The meal cost $49.80.

Our appetizer was Rainbow Soy Wrap. It is described on the menu as cabbage, soy, enoki mushrooms, snow peas, bamboo shoots and carrots wrapped in handmade red yeast rice batter and served with a tangy red dipping sauce. I've never had red yeast rice, but it sure is pretty. The wraps and sauce were delicious, although a little oily. (Chase couldn't believe I wanted to take pictures.) Off to the side and very green is a glass of lemongrass lime iced tea.

When the cafe first opened, the menu was entirely vegan. Now many of the menu items have dairy added in, which I think is mainly in the form of whey powder added to the sauces. Chase ordered Sizzling Soy for his entree. It's a barbecue style soy protein served on a sizzling platter. It came on a bed of veggies with sides of mashed sweet potatoes and rice. He liked it, but not as much as he liked my entree.

I always get either the house salad or the soy tenders with broccoli. So I decided to venture off and ordered the Soy Spinach Rolls - "Sliced rolled soy tenders, spinach, pistachios and beets topped with mango cream sauce and a medley of chopped asparagus, squash and bell peppers. Served with mashed potatoes, portabella mushroom gravy, and brown rice." It sounded so good, but guess what -- not vegan anymore! So I stuck with Broccoli Soy Tenders - it comes with bell peppers, snow peas, squash, and a side of rice. It's always yummy. Oh, the rice comes in a banana leaf cone.

No room for dessert, but we ordered it anyway and ate it all. Chocolate Cake - Homemade organic whole-wheat chocolate cake with chocolate cream and dark chocolate icing. Thank goodness it's still vegan!

On another note.... I was tagged by Erica to tell six weird things about me, so here goes:
1. I never eat breakfast, I always eat a huge salad for lunch, and I always eat broccoli at dinner.
2. I never go to movies and I can't sit through an entire tv show, even a 30 minute one. I always have to get up and do something.
3. I have never eaten in my car, but I always have something to drink.
4. I can leg press 332 pounds - 3 times my body weight!
5. I have never had a pedicure.
6. I'm a little more tolerant now that I'm into plating my food, but normally I don't like the foods on my plate to touch each other. I eat a few bites of things at a time, and I actually plan what a want my last bite to be. When I was a kid, my mom would always serve us at the table, and she would pile everything into the middle of my plate. I would always get mad at her. She would always say "Sorry, I forgot." And my dad would say "Get over it. It all winds up in the same place anyway." This was a nightly ritual.

Am I weird? My first tag -- I tag Crystal.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A "Heart-y" Valentine Dinner

I don't normally get too excited about eating. I mostly enjoy the cooking and preparation. But I was really looking forward to tonight's dinner. I bought heart shaped pasta....

... and made a pasta dish of broccoli, roasted yellow peppers, sundried tomatoes, and a soymilk "cream" sauce. I just realized I forgot to put in the olives - rats! I thought it needed more salt, but it needed the olives! Oh, well. We rarely have pasta, so this was quite a tasty treat for us.

I also made green beans, potatoes, and carrots, with a little EB and garlic salt and pepper. Simply delicious.

I took a pound of seitan from the freezer and after thawing, cut it into heart shapes. I breaded it with panko and baked it. I also made a fantastic carmelized onion and date relish to serve with it. I love how the panko breadcrumbs get so crispy.

I made French bread too. When I set it on the table, I thought, I should have shaped it into heart - it's the only food without heart.

Then after slicing a piece and then cutting the piece in half, we noticed that could be made into a heart. Yea - a completely heart-y meal!

The hearty table...

For our treat I wanted to make strawberry sandwich cookies. I made heart shaped sugar cookies, and for the filling decided on Tofu Strawberry Cream from More Great Good Desserts. This cream is seriously the best thing I've eaten in quite some time. I don't know if I like the touch of lemon in it, or if I just got a great jar of "strawberry all fruit" but it is so so good. I have leftovers!

After I filled the cookies, I drizzled chocolate over them. Yummmmmmmy!

And that's our Valentine dinner.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How I Used the Homemade Ketchup

Sometimes I get tunnel visioned, like I thought I had to use my homemade ketchup that I made Saturday and let sit until Tuesday, only as ketchup. Then I got some nice suggestions from those of you who share my loathing for wasting food. I decided to convert the ketchup into a sweet and sour sauce, which is not my favorite thing, but I had lots of fresh veggies for a great stirfry. I took 2 cups of the ketchup and added Braggs, rice vinegar, and fresh ginger. The sauce was good, but did take on quite a cinnamon flavor when heated. I had fresh mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and carrots, and frozen sugar snap peas.

I put it over some leftover brown rice for a filling dinner.

Tonight Chase and his gf came by for a burger dinner, so we really got to use ketchup! That's it in the agave nectar bottle (that was supposed to go home with Chase Sunday). We had your usual lettuces, tomatoes, onions, and avocado, hot black beans with carrots, onions, and salsa added in, and freezer Ore-Ida fries. I had never bought frozen fries until today. That's how desperate I was to not waste the ketchup! Anyway, the ketchup - as ketchup - is really good. I think I'll make it again when I can use fresh tomatoes.

Right before I popped these lovely buns into the oven, I checked the ingredients again and was sad to discover they contain honey. We ate them anyway, and they were really very good. I tried to make myself feel better with the fact that honey was far down on the ingredient list.

I am trying to learn to like eggplant, so one evening I made eggplant patties from Eat to Live.

I ate them with some leftover greens and veggies. Actually, I put the veggies on the patties, then folded them like a taco and ate them. I have many leftover patties.

Saturday night I'm planning on using a Christmas gift certificate for dinner out at our Veg Award winning restaurant Nu Age Cafe. I go there often for lunch and get my favorite salad. Since winning the award, a new chef was hired and he has for some reason added dairy to many of the entrees, including my favorite soy nuggets over broccoli. The menu used to be all vegan. Am I the only person who thinks food tastes better without butter and cheese?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday Night Goulash

The weather teams had been telling us all week that Sunday was going to bring the coldest temperatures in a decade. Then Friday they changed their minds. I'm not complaining - it was sunny and 68 degrees! It just wasn't soup weather anymore. But I already had on the menu "Vegetarian Goulash" from Nava's Vegetarian Soups cookbook. It's her take on Hungarian goulash, made with potatoes, carrots, green beans, and seitan. I used sweet potatoes instead of white. Then I didn't want to use carrots (orange again), so I used cauliflower, which actually turned orange. I hate frozen green beans and the fresh ones looked awful, so I used edamame. The goulash is seasoned only with vegetable broth, red wine, fresh parsley, and of course paprika. It is wonderful, a real meat and potatoes type stew. I got a huge pot full, probably because of the cauliflower.

I had just made a pot of black beans, so I made a black bean, corn, and red pepper salad to go with the goulash.

Although we didn't actually watch the Super Bowl, I felt the need to make chips and dip. I had a huge bag of corn tortillas in the freezer, so I made the chips from those.

We like Alton Brown's guacamole. I made that to go with the chips. Why do I wait for sporting events to make chips and guacamole?

Chase fixed his plate and goulash like this:

For treats, I made Schoolyard Oatmeal Cookies. I used sour cherries instead of cranberries, and also added in some chocolate chips. We loved these cookies. Sugar-free, not too sweet, and I like the recipe because it only makes a dozen cookies.

I also made Native Blend Popcorn Balls from the Vegan Lunch Box blog, which I've been dying to make. I used puffed corn instead of popcorn. (I guess I made "Puff"corn Balls....) and as much as I love these, I just had all kinds of trouble getting them together, probably because cornpuffs don't have all the nooks and crannies of popcorn. I had to keep putting the mixture in the microwave to remelt the sugar, then burn my hands trying to form the balls before the sugar hardened again. But they are really really delicious and I definitely recommend you give them a try - but using popcorn!

Oh, I had thought about having Southwest Sunshine burgers to have with our meal (I made rice instead) and then I was feeling bad about having store bought burgers and buns, so I made ketchup from Real Food Daily. I had to add a little more agave nectar because it didn't seem sweet enough, but otherwise it's an easy and tasty recipe. I forgot to send some home with Chase, so I now have 3-1/2 cups of ketchup that will only keep for 5 days. Hopefully Chase will come have a burger with me later this week.

Now I get to enjoy some Sunday night leftovers and a couple more days of 70 degree weather.