Thursday, May 29, 2008


What’s better than coming home to find a box of homemade cookies at your door? Nothing, absolutely nothing. My prize cookies from Celine arrived today! Exquisite White Chocolate Lime Cookies. Not a one broken or melted. Slightly crisp with a hint of lime flavor and not too many white chocolate chips to make them overly sweet. These are perfection. And you know what makes them extra special? I was bold and asked her to make them wheat and soy free. Heck, I wanted to be able to enjoy more than just a bite of these treats! She promised she would bake them as I requested. I have enjoyed two tonight so far.

Thank you so much, Celine!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Burgers n' Stuff

Even one of the local weather guys said it was going to be the first rain-free Memorial Day weekend in a hundred years. Yeh, it’s an exaggeration, and instead of rain it’s like a hundred degrees outside, but we are all about family tradition and were glad to be able to light up the grill on Memorial Day. And it actually DID rain at my house Monday morning!

A long time ago when I was shopping with my dad, I couldn’t decide between two items to purchase (can’t remember exactly what, something trivial) and after listening to me agonize long enough, he said “Do what I do, get both!” He was such a smart and practical man. I loved that he said that, and it makes sense to apply that advice to simple decision-making. In my case, spend a couple of extra bucks and save yourself hours of torment. While I wavered between two holiday burger recipes, I could hear him whispering to me, Make both! So I did. Certainly no food would be wasted, and bonus – leftovers for Chase AND me!

I thought Vegan Addict’s Blackeyed Pea Soul Burgers were outstanding and I really wanted to make them again. I used black beans this time, but basically kept the recipe the same. You can tell you’ve got good burgers when the patties are easy to form.

When I found this recipe for Caramelized Onion and Chickpea Burgers, it was practically irresistible. It would also allow me to come up with things other than the usual mustard, lettuce, and tomato for accoutrements. These patties came together nicely too. The recipe says they’re smaller because they’re so rich, but really they are huge! (Look, Aunt Sara, I'm using the platter you bought me - thanks again!)

I baked the bean burgers in the oven and cooked the chickpea burgers in the cast iron skillet.

I know, I got a little extra iron in a couple of my burgers, but I figure I can use it. And I may have mentioned before that Chase and I actually like burnt food. I think it’s from all the years of eating meat that we would only eat extra well done, which I’m sure is because we didn’t actually want to taste the meat! We were so brainwashed into thinking we couldn’t live without meat. Anyway, we grilled up 2 of each of the patties for dinner.

I made a sauce of Tofutti with cilantro, lemon juice, garlic for the chickpea burgers, and sliced some radish, cucumber, cilantro, tomato, and purple onion.

I made slaw too. Packaged broccoli slaw to which I added green onions, bell peppers, cilantro, and a mix of Italian and Asian dressings so it was spicy sweet. It was good on and alongside the burgers.

And I made a fresh fruit salad. It was awesome with apple, red grapes, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, pear, apricots, and mango.

It was too hot to make fries, so I bought sweet potato chips. Here’s our table.

Chase remembered to grill the buns too.

Here’s my bunless chickpea burger. I have never been able to find glutenfree vegan buns.

Here’s Chase’s monster chickpea burger. We both really really loved these.

I didn’t take a picture of the giant bean burger he ate too!

I may be confused with 4th of July, but I was sure you had to grill AND have ice cream on Memorial Day. I hadn’t had frozen banana ice cream in so long. Thanks to Dreena for reminding me to make her Cashew Banana Ice Cream from ED&BV. Of course I only had peanut butter on hand, but OMG this is soooo good! Chase had his unadorned.

I had mine with fruit.

Oh, and here’s a slice of the banana bread I made a couple of days ago. Another winner from Happy Herbivore!

What a fun, delicious, and satisfying dinner. I wish all weekends were three days long.....

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bit by the Baking Bug

It’s not raining this weekend, but it’s really hot & humid. And smoke from the annual crop burning in Mexico is streaming directly over Austin and making it difficult for me to spend much time outdoors. So I’ve been keeping myself busy in the kitchen. I’ve made two test recipes for Happy Herbivore’s much anticipated cookbook.

PB&J Cookies

These are fantastic! I’m so lucky to be a tester. Another fantastic creation is her Banana Bread.

Well, I haven’t actually tasted it yet because it’s still cooling, but it smelled wonderful while baking. And it looks good, right?

Sugar Free Oatmeal Cookies (also gluten free if you use gf oats)

I found this recipe I had saved for years. It is on a handout from Whole Foods back when it was merely my neighborhood market (1980 something). I thought the recipe was really interesting, not to mention quick and easy. I added vanilla and cinnamon and some better instructions.

Makes 18 cookies

2 cups oats, measured, then ground
½ cup walnuts, measured, then ground
1/3 cup apple cider (or juice)
2 T. oil
½ t. sea salt
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla

Mix the apple cider, oil, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla in your mixer. Stir in oats and walnuts. The dough will be stiff, but not sticky. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on oiled or parchment lined cookie sheet and flatten. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Remove immediately to wire rack to cool completely.

I love these unsweet cookies. To me they taste like a bowl of oatmeal. This would be a great recipe to add stevia for those needing a sweet cookie but still wanting to keep it sugar free. The texture is soft, but firm. Really, really nice.

Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Pie

I made this with black cocoa powder. Looks wicked, huh? The crust is crispy and the inside is fudgy, but it’s a little too oily for my liking. Let me work on it before sharing the recipe.

Gluten Free Coconut Bars

These, on the other hand, turned out terrific. (Remember, if you don’t want to make gluten free bars, substitute AP flour for the gluten free, and omit the xantham gum.)

½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup Earth Balance stick
¼ cup applesauce
2 Ener-G eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon coconut extract
½ cup gluten free flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup quick oats
½ t. xantham gum
7 T. custard powder (OR a 3.4 ounce package Jello vanilla pudding mix OR coconut flavor and omit the coconut extract)

1 cup powdered sugar
2 T. milk
½ cup toasted sweetened coconut flakes

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix brown sugar, EB, and applesauce in your mixer. Beat until smooth. Add in egg replacer, vanilla, and coconut extract and mix well. Add in flour, oats, xantham gum, and custard powder. Pour into a greased 8 x 8 metal pan and spread evenly. Bake for 23 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk and pour over cooled bars. Top immediately with coconut. Let set a few minutes. Cut into bars and serve.

See you later in the week with Memorial Day food.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Grillin' & Chillin'

We had to grill Sunday because it will rain this weekend. It rains here every Memorial Day weekend. (Remember last year?)

I made some make-ahead salads (“chillin”) so I could concentrate on the grilled items (“grillin”).

You know I gotta have my broccoli, so I made Broccoli and Sweet Pepper Salad.

Broccoli and Sweet Pepper Salad

1 large head of broccoli with stem
1 bell pepper, diced (I used half a yellow and half a orange)
1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped
1 T. canola oil
1 T. cider or white wine vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 clove minced garlic
S&P to taste

Chop the broccoli head and stalk into bite sized pieces and steam for 2 minutes. Put into bowl. Add pepper and onion. Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over veggies. Chill until ready to serve.

My neighborhood market puts out a monthly magazine which includes recipes. I found several nice looking recipes featuring seasonal produce and organic products, but the most intriguing recipe was Pico de Strawberries. It is pico de gallo using strawberries in place of tomatoes and it is fabulous! I had 2 big cartons of fresh strawberries and I used the least ripe from each container.

Pico de Strawberries

16 ounces strawberries (fresh or frozen), chopped
1 cup sweet white or yellow onion
1 big fat fresh jalapeno, stemmed and seeded
juice of 1 large lime
1 tablespoon raw sugar
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Mix all together and serve as a dip or a salsa topping.

I had it out as an appetizer when Chase arrived for dinner, and I didn’t tell him what it was because you can hardly tell it’s strawberries instead of tomatoes. I asked him to try it with a cracker. He didn’t say anything for a while, then finally said “It tastes like fruit. I like it!” I think it’s much better used as a salsa instead of a dip. I highly recommend serving over sliced avocados!

I used some of the Pico in this next recipe, Individual Layered Salads. I had eaten a nonvegan version of this salad a long time ago, and all I could remember was you start with dressing and end with greens. So here’s my version with ingredients I had on hand.

Individual Layered Salads

Start with a twelve ounce cocktail glass and layer your ingredients in this order, pressing down as you go.

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) vinaigrette (I used “Sante Fe”)
shredded carrots
chopped avocado
pinto beans
pico de gallo
chopped yellow bell peppers
mixed greens

Mash down as best you can, then cover and refrigerate until serving time.

When ready to serve, turn out onto a salad plate. The dressing will drizzle through the layers. Guests can knock over their salads and eat!

This was the most fun part of the meal, and a fantastic salad. Here’s Chase preparing to unmold his salad. (I only had Christmas glasses to put the salad in. You know, Christmas glasses for Christmas cheer…)

He grew impatient and violently shook out his salad.

I, on the other hand, was more patient, which now that I think about it is unusual. My patience pays off!

See how fun!!

Spread on the plate and ready to eat.

The rest of the meal was from the grill – two kinds of kabobs and portabella mushrooms. I think the 6-inch skewers aren’t meant for grilling. Both ends burnt up.

Anyway, I found some “Mandarin Sweet Cherry Tomatoes” at my market. The produce man told me they were incredibly delicious and talked me into buying them. They are very orange.

I marinated them in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and thyme, then skewered them. They only needed about 3 minutes on the grill. They are sweet, really really good tomatoes, and grilling them was a good idea.

For me, portabella mushrooms, marinated in a store bought sesame ginger vinaigrette. Delicious! Tofu Kabobs for Chase, glazed with molasses and mustard. I brushed on the glaze before and while they were on the grill. Chase loved it.

Here’s Chase’s plate. (He put a mushroom on his plate and had a bite, but he’s just not a fan. He also likes to squish his tomatoes.)

And my plates.

The Grillin’ and Chillin’ table.

And cookies for dessert! Vive Banana Oat Bundles (with peanuts) and Happy Herbivore’s tester Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I hope you all have fabulous plans for the long weekend, and I hope I’ve jinxed away the rain.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Super Spices

Did you know some of your favorite herbs and spices contain as many antioxidants as a serving of fruits or veggies? (I realize this is a departure from my usual post, but if you read through the lesson, there’s cake at the end!) This is not an in-depth lesson. You can google any of these and discover their health promoting qualities. This is just a post to say you should try to incorporate these herbs and spices into your daily diet, and a few suggestions to help you do so. And maybe by doing so, you’ll cut down on your salt intake if that is an issue for you., plus you’ll be doing your body good.

Generally speaking, a half teaspoon of these dried spices and herbs provides the same or more antioxidants than a half cup of fresh fruit. Hence, they are Super Spices.

Cinnamon is among the highest in antioxidants. Of course we all add cinnamon to our muffin and cookie batters. TRY adding a half teaspoon cinnamon to coffee or tea before brewing. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon over peanut butter and banana sandwiches. When you bring home that pint of Soy Delicious Vanilla, let if soften, then stir in a teaspoon of cinnamon and refreeze. There’s nothing better on a hot summer evening than cinnamon ice cream over fresh fruit.

Ginger – I love my fresh ginger, but I do keep ground ginger as well. It’s not just for holiday baking. TRY sprinkling ground ginger over fresh fruit or adding a half teaspoon to a quart of lemonade.

Turmeric – DID YOU KNOW turmeric is a root and is in the ginger family? It has long been used as an anti-inflammatory to aid in treating conditions such as IBS and arthritis. We all use turmeric to make yellow rice and dals. TRY adding a half teaspoon to your next batch of hummus, or to a bag of popcorn to give it a buttery look, or to your next tofu scramble if you want an eggy look.

Pepper – this includes paprika, chili powder, red pepper, and cayenne. DID YOU KNOW the hotter the pepper, the more antioxidants it contains? TRY sprinkling some crushed red pepper flakes into your next batch of pizza or pasta sauce. Add it to store bought sauces or relishes for a real flavor boost.

Rosemary – Rosemary may be abundant in Mediterranean cooking, but it’s abundant in Texas too. The bushes grow roof high here! DID YOU KNOW rosemary is great for your hair and scalp? We are used to adding rosemary to focaccia and roasted potatoes. TRY adding a half teaspoon to your recipes for greens and dried beans, especially fava beans.

Oregano – This wonderful herb has one of the highest antioxidant levels of all the dried herbs, up to 20 times more than all others studied. Fortunately for us, oregano can be used as a flavor enhancer for practically any vegetable or legume. DID YOU KNOW there are 3 varieties of oregano - Italian, Greek, and Mexican? Mexican oregano is my favorite and I buy the dried whole oregano flowers. It’s the secret ingredient in my delicious and healthy ranch dressing and also in my favorite pinto beans. TRY adding fresh tomato slices and dried oregano to your grilled cheese sammies. Sprinkle it over those frozen pizzas when they come out of the oven for a more homemade flavor.

Thyme – This is another herb that goes with most veggies, as well as mushrooms and grains. It is a key component in the classic mire poix. Thyme lends an especially hearty flavor to bean soups, mixed vegetable soups, corn (think cornbread, cornbread stuffing), and tomatoes. DID YOU KNOW there are approximately 60 varieties of thyme? TRY a lemon juice, thyme, and white wine sauce on your artichokes. Sprinkle it on your tofu scrambles and into your tofu salads. And always season your homemade vegetable broths with thyme.

REMEMBER to crush your dried herbs before adding them to your food to release their full flavor. If you need just a pinch, simply rub the herbs with your thumb and forefinger as you sprinkle them onto the food. For more, pour it into the palm of one hand and rub your palms together to sprinkle it over your pan.

Thanks for sitting through your lesson! Now you may have cake, as promised. This is a picture of a slice of my mom’s lemon cake I made her for Mother’s Day. She LOVED everything about the cake – the flavor, the moistness, the bit of a crust it made on the outside, and the cute little personal size.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Cake for Mom

I have the best mom in the world. Really. Although she didn’t need to ask, she asked me to bake her something lemony for Mother’s Day. She loves lemon cake. She’s also leaving town Tuesday. So what is the perfect Mother’s Day treat for her? Lemony French Cake, courtesy of that fantastic baker (and lovely person), Celine of Have Cake Will Travel.

The cake is personal sized, baked in a six inch pan. It’s completely lemony, and loads of folks have made it and raved. I haven’t cut into it or tasted it, but I’m not worried because any recipe of Celine’s is a winner.

It’s hot, and I am in salad mode. I always have a green salad for lunch, but lately cold dishes are all I’m in the mood for at dinner time as well. I have made:

Vcon Quinoa Blackbean Mango Salad. I made it exactly as per the recipe and it’s just so darn good I could eat it every day.

Red Cabbage-Asparagus Salad with Tahini Dressing from Allrecipes. It’s interesting. I love all the components; I'm just not sure I like them together. I did leave out the pinenuts. Perhaps including them would make me like the salad more.

Broccoli Carrot Chickpea Salad. Just lightly steamed broccoli, shredded carrots from a bag, and a can of chickpeas to which I added lemon juice and garlic I ate all the broccoli and carrots out of it. Guess I wasn’t in a chickpea mood – weird…

I’m looking forward to spending a lovely day with my mom, son, and brother tomorrow. Special thanks again to Celine for helping me make my mom’s day special. I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all blogger moms and all bloggers’ moms!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Top Ten Dinner

I hope you have seen the post by Erik Marcus at for his Top Ten Recipes of 2008. For our Sunday dinner I prepared 4½ of them. It goes without saying that they are all incredibly delicious, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Nearly Instant Thai Coconut Corn Soup
Nava Atlas – Vegan Express

Chickpea Curry
Hema Parekh – The Asian Vegan Kitchen

Indonesian Coconut Rice
Robin Robertson – Vegan Fire & Spice

Plated with mixed steamed veggies with Balsamic Maple Sauce
Dreena Burton – Eat Drink & Be Vegan

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero – Veganomicon

The soup is dreamy, creamy, and corny.

The chickpeas are spicy and amazing. (Amanda, you will LOVE these!)

The coconut rice is easy to make and delicious. Dreena’s sauce over the veggies was the perfect sweet complement to our spicy dishes.

The bread pudding is also super easy to make and so tasty. I served it with a peanut sauce.

Please visit for all Top Ten recipes and get cookin’!