Friday, July 29, 2011

Aargh for Me....But Yummy for Them

It's Day Six of my self-imposed Bland Food Fest. Toast, rice, bananas, graham crackers. I'm getting a bit depressed over it. I mean, I love food. I love to eat. I don't love feeling like this. I also miss exercising. I look out my window and see people running and I want to throw something at them. Like maybe one of my innumerable bowls of rice. I finally broke down and called the doctor's office this morning, but there were no openings today, so I have to wait until Monday to be seen. Hopefully, whatever is ailing me will be gone by then. I'm starting to think something moved into my belly and has taken up residence there. Some kind of mad, rice-eating punk who hates running or something.

But alas, just because I can't eat anything, it doesn't mean I should deprive my dear hubby and son of food. Since it is also Day Sixteen of my self-imposed I'm-Not-Going-to-the-Grocery-Store-if-I-Can-Help-It project, I had to come up with another pantry-and-freezer-friendly meal. I browsed through a bunch of recipes I'd saved to my computer and realized I'd hit the jackpot when I came across the Tempeh Tamale Pie recipe from Mama Pea's awesome and pea-lightful blog. My hubby and son both love beans, tempeh, corn, and cornbread. I think we have a winner!

Tempeh, onions, garlic, pinto beans, spices, and some zucchini (my addition) were sauteed and simmered together, then placed in a casserole dish. You top this with a quick homemade cornbread batter  studded with frozen corn kernels. Finally, a light sprinkling of Daiya vegan cheddar cheese goes on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, and voila, dinner is served.

I threw some frozen green beans on the stove to steam while the casserole baked. I am pleased as punch to say that both hubby and son ate it up with gusto. I can't wait to actually try it myself some day (soon...I hope!!)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lentils and (Lots of) Rice

So.....not a lot of posts this week. I have been feeling sick (in some way, shape, or form) for the last 5 days. One day it was vomiting, another day it was...something else, every day it's been a headache and nausea, and every night has been poor sleep. You could say I'm not feeling my best :) As such, the meals I've been making have been simple - rice and tempeh, grilled cheez, quinoa salad. I've been cooking for my hubby and son because, thankfully, they both feel fine and want to subsist on more than just liquids and rice (unlike me). My stomach is not even letting me enjoy my beloved smoothies. In fact, the only thing I've been able to tolerate is rice...brown rice pasta, rice crackers, plain ole brown rice, etc. I decided to make some more rice tonight for myself and also make something more substantial for the boys.

When you haven't been to the grocery store in a week, and you're feeling pretty tired, Enjedra is your friend. Enjedra is a variation of mujaddara, a Middle Eastern dish of spiced lentils, rice, and caramelized onions. Really, it's just lentils, onions, cumin, and salt. Let them simmer together for an hour or so until it gets all fragrant and soft and squishy. Serve on top of some brown rice, and top it off with some frozen collard greens. A well-balanced, hearty, nutritious meal that costs about $2 and takes a minimum of effort.

Bonus? The lentils and rice are really sticky and easy for a toddler to spoon up. They're also really good at hiding the collard greens you just know he likes but pretends not to :)
This is a great pantry meal when you have nothing else to make, or when you're just too doggone tired to make anything involving a lot of chopping, stirring, or fussing. You get your proteins, carbs, fiber, greens, and lots of A and B vitamins. Much better than calling for take-out!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dill-licious Raw Green Soup

There is nothing better than making something out of nothing. Witness last night's dinner...I had some sad-looking baby spinach, a few pieces of lacinato kale, some huge zucchini my mother-in-law gave me, a few scallions, an overripe avocado, and a huge bunch of fresh dill leftover from the prior night's Tofu Dill Salad Sammiches. What I didn't have was a plan for dinner. All I knew is that I didn't feel like making salad, and I wanted something cool.

Then I had my a-ha moment: back in my pregan (that's pre-vegan) days, my hubby and I used to love a zucchini quiche that I made out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. This quiche is amazing...but definitely not vegan! But I realized that I had virtually everything I would need to turn that quiche into a raw soup!

I quickly got to work....some chopped zucchini, the spinach and kale, some scallions, an avocado, some dill, some nooch, some water, and some spices were tossed into my Vita-Mix. I blended it up, drizzled in some EVOO, and took a taste. It was incredible...and the flavors were very much like I'd remembered! I decided to put it to the ultimate taste-test: I didn't mention what I had made to my hubby. I poured him a bowl of soup, topped it with some diced tomatoes, dill, and a pinch of garlic salt, and asked him to take a bite. He took a bite, paused, and then said something that was music to my ears:

"It tastes like that zucchini quiche you used to make!!"


Course, genius that I am, I did NOT write down my measurements as I was going along. I tried my best to remember what I'd done, and so here it is!

Dill-licious Raw Green Soup
Serves 4 with a side dish

2 extra-large zucchini, chopped
2 cups raw greens (I used baby spinach and lacinato kale)
3 stalks scallions, chopped
1 avocado
1 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup (or more) water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1 large Roma tomato, diced
few sprigs fresh dill, for garnish

Blend soup ingredients on high until fairly smooth, then go to low and drizzle in 1 tablespoon EVOO. Return to high and blend 1 minute until smooth.

Pour into bowls and top with Roma tomato, fresh dill, and sprinkle of garlic salt.

I served the soup with some roasted cauliflower that I tossed with some dried herbs and nooch.

I love how GREEN this soup is! Zucchini, scallions, spinach, kale, avocado, dill. That's some serious green power!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tofu Dill Salad Sammiches and a Smoothie Recipe

When I'm in a cooking rut, or an I-just-don't-feel-like-cooking kind of funk, I look for quick and easy recipes. I mean, you gotta eat, right? But even when I'm not feeling inspired in the kitchen, I'm still too stubborn (and cheap) to call for take-out. Besides, being vegan in a small town, it's not like there are a ton of take-out options for me. I don't exactly get psyched about spending $20 on a take-out pizza that has no cheese on it. It also seems like when I ask for no cheese, they also take it to mean no toppings, too. I mean, throw a vegan girl a bone, would ya? I'm saving you the cost of the cheese, so could ya pleaaase put some more veggies on there so I don't starve? Thank you.

Okay, enough about that. So, yesterday, I didn't feel like cooking. Enter the most perfect, quick, no-cooking-and-very-minimal-chopping-type-recipe I could think of: Tofu Dill Salad Sammiches from Vegan with a Vengeance.

VWAV is Isa Chandra Moskowitz's first cookbook, and I'd be willing to bet it's in almost every vegan's kitchen. VWAV is legendary! And this sandwich is one of my faves from the book. It's so easy to make, and it's rescued me on many a nights when I just didn't feel like cooking. It's simply tofu, fresh dill, red onion, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, vegan mayo, and salt & pepper, all mashed together. I served it on some oatmeal bread with some sliced Roma tomatoes and baby spinach.

We had some tater tots, baby carrots, and cucumber sticks on the side, along with our favorite dips: organic ketchup for the tots, and Grey Poupon for the veggies. I'm positively addicted to veggies dipped in GP!
Earlier in the day, I decided to make a spin on my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, using actual pumpkin this time. I had a bunch of leftover canned pumpkin in my fridge, and I didn't want it to go to waste! I made a simplified version of my usual smoothie, and it came out quite delicious! There are no measurements (other than the coconut milk) because I just dumped stuff into the blender, so feel free to go with your instincts here!

Pumpkin Pie a la Mode Smoothie 
Makes 1 large serving / 2 small servings

1 1/2 cups coconut milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
1 large frozen banana
canned pumpkin (I probably used about 1 1/4 cups?)
few shakes of cinnamon
quick shake of nutmeg
Sweetener, to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon of maple-flavored agave syrup and a about 1/2 teaspoon of blackstrap molasses)
5-6 ice cubes

Blend on high until smooth and creamy!

I found this version to be a bit thicker and creamier than my usual version. I might even like this version better!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

But It's Not Quite 450 Degrees In My HOUSE....Yet!

For the love of Pete, I have no clue why I thought it would be a good idea to turn my oven up to 450 degrees and bake a pizza on the hottest day of the year. Perhaps the heat addled my brain a bit. But I'm stubborn like that - I had planned to make pizza for dinner, and doggone it, face-melting heat and humidity would not stop me!

Full disclosure: I had already pre-made some of the pizza toppings the day before, so I was somewhat forced to go through with said pizza-making. The truth was, I just wanted to drink some carrot juice and eat frozen bananas for dinner.

Feast your eyes on this deliciousness: Amazing Caramelized Red Pepper & Vegan Feta Pizza from VegWeb:

Did that grab your attention?

This pizza takes a little bit of work. There are several steps involved, and things that need to be done ahead of time, so it's definitely not a pizza you can make on the fly. But with a little advanced prep, you can assemble this pizza rather easily and throw it in the oven without too much fuss.

Here's what I did:

Step 1: early in the day (or even the day before, like I did), roast your peppers and onions.
It's amazing how much they shrink!
Step 2: prepare the red pepper jam, then set aside to cool.
Step 3: cube your tofu, prepare your marinade, and place in the fridge so it can get all tangy and feta-like:

These are the two steps I did the day before. These are also the two most time-consuming elements of the process, so putting the pizza together was actually a breeze. I made a quick pizza crust (whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, spices, olive oil, and water), topped it with some quick pizza sauce (canned tomato sauce, garlic, basil, and oregano), the pepper jam and feta, and baked it for 8 minutes:

Then I pulled it out of the oven, topped it with some steamed baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, and baked it another 2 minutes:

Here's my plate all loaded up:
This is probably my hubby's favorite pizza. It has a great medley of flavors...tangy faux feta, sweet pepper jam, garlicky sauce, zesty sun-dried tomatoes...a veritable symphony of flavors exploding in your mouth.

I think I just used up my quota of adjectives for the day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

All the Way Arame Salad

When it's this hot and humid outside, I almost don't even want to eat anymore. I just want to drink all my meals. I'd be happy just consuming smoothies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My hubby, however, doesn't exactly share my proclivity for liquid meals. Fortunately, last night's dinner satisfied us both: All the Way Arame Salad from Chocolate Covered Katie's blog.

This is just what we needed on a hot, hot day - cooling, water-rich raw veggies, avocado, and sea veggies (I used arame and wakame) tossed in a light dressing of Bragg Liquid Aminos and rice vinegar.
I used carrots, celery, yellow pepper, orange pepper, zucchini, scallions, lacinato kale, avocado, and dried cherries for some tangy zip. I served it over a bed of baby spinach.
This is just about the most hydrating food you can eat! It's almost as good as a smoothie...almost :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Raw Moroccan Gazpacho and Carrots with Moroccan Spices

I *heart* Morocco. I've never actually been there (YET!! YET!!), but I am just enamored with it. I love the food, the culture, the style, the landscape, everything. I want to go there and eat vegetable tagines and walk through a souq and buy spices and beautiful fabrics. Two of my favorite movies - Casablanca and The Man Who Knew Too Much - are set in Morocco. I turned my bedroom into a Moroccan-inspired retreat. I dreamed of actually going to Morocco this year to celebrate my 10-year wedding anniversary, but with a young son, it just wasn't going to happen. I told my hubby that he better plan on going for our 25-year anniversary!! :)

I'm just crazy about Moroccan food. So, you can imagine my utter delight when I spied this recipe on Kristen Suzanne's blog - Raw Moroccan Gazpacho! Hello!

Raw tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and spices are blended up, then topped with some diced tomato, pine nuts, and raisins. Why on Earth didn't I discover this recipe sooner?? I loved it!!

I also made some Carrots with Moroccan Spices from Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People:

Sliced carrots, lemon juice, carrot juice, olive oil, parsley, mint, and some dried spices.

Served with some lavash crackers, this was a wonderfully light, flavorful meal for a hot summer's night.

Question: What's your favorite type of ethnic cuisine?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Black Bean and Corn Salad with Country Corn Muffins

It's been hot. I've been busy. My toddler son is a bundle of energy, and by day's end, I haven't had much energy left to blog. I also haven't been having enough energy to put a lot of thought or creativity into my cooking. This past week, I definitely employed a let's-see-what-I-can-make-with-frozen-veggies-and-beans-and-grains-and-whatever-else-I-can-scrounge-up kind of cooking tactic. As a result, I did default to some quick and easy faves, like Mexican pizza, Kristen Suzanne's Raw Harvest Soup (doggone it, I made this last night and didn't take a picture because I thought I had already blogged about it - WRONG!!), AFR's Big Fat Taco Salad, and (when I was especially tired), Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs with spaghetti and frozen broccoli:

I also have been enjoying some Living Harvest Tempt Coffee Biscotti hempmilk ice cream, which I picked up on sale at Whole Foods (I'm too much of a blogger newbie to figure out how to rotate the picture, but you get the idea):
Today, I actually busted out the knife and cutting board (and muffin tin!!) and made a real dinner. It's an old favorite of ours, Black Bean and Corn Salad with some Country Corn Muffins from How it All Vegan!:
I've made this recipe dozens of times, and it is just so easy and so good. I take it to cookouts, potlucks, and even when we go camping, and it's always a big hit. Fresh tomatoes, corn, orange pepper, black beans, scallions, and cilantro are tossed in a zesty lime-garlic-olive oil dressing (I reduce the oil, though, from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup).
It's perfect in so many ways: easy to make, no cooking involved, makes a lot, transports well, and it's very nutritious.
I love the Country Corn Muffins recipe. It's probably the most fool-proof recipe I've come across. Even though the recipe calls for all-purpose flour, I have substituted whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, and buckwheat flour (as I did tonight), and the muffins always come out great. I actually love the funky color the buckwheat flour gives the muffins! :) I also use my own egg substitute (2 tbs garbanzo bean flour and 2 tbs water), agave instead of sugar, and lemon juice instead of vinegar. I told you, it's fool-proof! These are gluten-free, whole-grain, low-sugar, and chock full of fresh corn.
I bet the salad would be really great just scooped up with some tortilla chips, too! Hmm....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Work With What Ya Got!

There are some weeks when I just can't seem to drag myself to the supermarket. This has been one of those weeks. I think it's a combination of just not wanting to go to the store with a toddler, and also, not wanting to be tied to a refrigerator full of food during this beautiful, hot weather. During the summer, I like the freedom to just eat whatever or to make last-minute plans to eat out somewhere.

This freedom comes with a cost, though...and that cost is not having a lot of fresh ingredients on hand. I am happy to report, though, that for the last two nights, I have pulled together two really delicious and nutritious dinners without a whole lot of effort. Score!

Last night, I made one of our favorite meals, the Warm Potato Spinach Salad with Pine Nut Dressing from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan. I had to make a couple of substitutions (jarred roasted red pepper for the fresh red pepper, red potatoes for the new potatoes), but the salad was as delicious as ever. It's one of our favorite summer meals and I was so pleased to be able to pull this one out of my hat without a lot of fresh ingredients! The only fresh items I used were the potatoes, baby spinach, basil, and some chopped cucumber (cucumber is not part of the recipe, but I wanted to add some crunchy texture to make up for the lack of fresh pepper). The other ingredients were from the pantry - pine nuts, artichoke hearts, kalamata & green olives, and chickpeas (again, not part of the recipe, but I wanted to add some protein). Look how yummy this is!

 We ate outside on our patio and enjoyed the beautiful summer evening!
At four o'clock this afternoon, I literally had no idea what to make for dinner. I was debating whether to pull some frozen ravioli or Trader Joe's meatless meatballs out of the freezer, but I wasn't super excited about that idea. I decide to pull out my trusty Appetite for Reduction and see if there was anything easy I could make. I didn't have to look any further than the first recipe: Everyday Chickpea-Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette. Isa says this recipe is "forever customizable," and she is totally right. I made two substitutions - baby spinach for the romaine lettuce, and fava beans for the chickpeas - and also added some shredded carrot, chopped celery, and chopped cucumber. This salad took almost no time at all and it was INCREDIBLE!! The balsamic vinaigrette recipe is a winner - it is cashew-based and totally creamy and delicious.

I think food just tastes better when eaten al fresco. Don't you agree?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

It's been really hot the last few days. I mean, this is New England, so hot is a relative term, but it's been in the mid- to upper-80s with high humidity and lots of bright sunshine. That makes for some pretty steamy weather!

My hubby and I went running early yesterday morning before he went to work. Despite the early hour, it was still plenty hot, and my poor hubby must have sweated out a quart of water. We just ran out of coconut water this weekend (which is the best thing for rehydration after a sweaty workout, IMHO), so I came up with another idea to get him rehydrated: chia pudding! Chia seeds are great for more than just chia pets, my friends - they are also helpful in maintaining body hydration. So, stop growing that Chia Garfield and eat the seeds instead!

Chia pudding is so easy to make, it's ridiculous. You don't even need a recipe - I almost always just free-form it. The one I made yesterday was: 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, some cinnamon, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Mix it up, give it a stir every few minutes, and in 15-20 minutes, you have chia pudding!

Today, I could have used some chia pudding myself. I don't know what possessed me to spend 2.5 hours mowing my lawn during the hottest part of the day, with the sun beating down on me and the temps hitting 89, but I did. My dirty legs testify to my insanity:
I love the "sock line" where my shoes began. Nothing like a mix of sweat, sunscreen, dust, and dirt to give a gal some fine lookin' legs! :)

Tonight, I made an old favorite for dinner: Vegan Dad's Sweet Potato Quesadillas. I always reduce the amount of sweetener (I use 4 teaspoons of Sucanat, and it's plenty sweet), and I love to add some chopped pecans to the filling. I used some gluten-free Food for Life Brown Rice Tortillas for the first time, and I really liked them.

Here's the yummy sweet potato filling, mashed and mixed with sauteed onions, cinnamon, cumin, salt, and Sucanat:

 I spread the filling on half a tortilla and sprinkle with chopped pecans:
 Then I fold the other half over the filling, and repeat.
 I served the quesadillas with some mango and black bean salsa I whipped up:

This salsa was really good considering it took me 5 minutes to throw together! Here's what I did:

Quick and Easy Mango-Black Bean Salsa
Serves 4 as a side

1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen mango chunks
4 scallions, sliced
1/2 large English cucumber, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mild chili powder

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow flavors to meld.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pie, Smoothies, and Pasta Salad

Mmmm...this has been a delicious Sunday :)

It started off with my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie:

I first published this recipe on VegWeb a year ago, but I've been making it for at least two years now. I drink them by the boatload in the fall, but I had a hankerin' for one this morning. Maybe because it was 57 degrees outside? Who cares. It's always delicious, no matter what season it is! I've made a few small changes to my original recipe, but I think both variations are good. Give it a try!

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Makes 1 large serving / 2 small servings

2 cups diced butternut squash, frozen
1 large banana (fresh or frozen)
1 heaping teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 heaping tablespoon raw almond butter
1 cup filtered water (or more, depending on how thick/thin you like it)
5-6 ice cubes
1/2 packet stevia (or to taste)
3 tablespoons vanilla- or banana-flavored pea protein powder (optional, but it adds sweetness and thickness)
optional toppings: sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, and raisins, to taste

Blend all ingredients (except toppings) in a high-speed blender until thick and smooth. Pour into a glass and top with almonds, walnuts, and raisins to taste.

I usually opt for the additional toppings about half the time. Some days, like today, I just like it straight-up. It's one of the thickest and most filling smoothies I make. It hit the spot after my workout this morning!

Last night, before bed, I was having a wicked craving for Chocolate Covered Katie's Deep Dish Cookie Pie. I made a half-batch and had a small (large) serving before bed. I was sooo happy to eat the rest of it today! I mean, I did share with my hubby and son, but yeah, I did eat most of it :) This may be the only dessert I eat and don't feel guilty about. And I love Katie for that!!

For dinner, I made another recipe out of Appetite for Reduction, the Trattoria Pasta Salad with White Beans. I had some time before church this morning, so I actually whipped it up before leaving so it could sit all day and get super-awesome. Mission accomplished! My hubby, son, and I all loved it. What's not to love? Brown rice pasta, white beans, baby spinach, red onion, roasted red pepper, and kalamata olives are tossed together in a Sun-dried Tomato-Walnut Dressing. That dressing....oh my gosh. So incredible! It has an incredible depth of's slightly tangy, earthy, and full-bodied. It sounds like I'm describing wine! ;-D But seriously, it's so good. I know I'll be making this a lot this summer! I served it with some steamed broccoli for a simple and delicious meal.

Question: what's in your favorite pasta salad??