Thursday, September 28, 2006

Protein Primavera and Whatcha Eatin'? #1

Recently I saw some great pasta on Megan's
blog. I've been waiting to make this all week, but I had to keep putting it off because I had one ingredient or another that I needed to cook with because it was going to go bad if I didn't... so tonight was the night! I made bowtie pasta with a roasted garlic and cannellini bean sauce and some steamed broccoli.

We also enjoyed some Ciabata bread with bruschetta and garlic buttah. For the sauce, I roasted a whole head of garlic, then reserved about 1 tablespoon for the garlic bread. I pureed the rest with a can of cannellini beans, a splash of soy milk, some oregano, a splash of lemon and some olive oil. Then I heated it on the stove top while everything else was cooking, adding soy milk as needed to thin it out. It was SO good and much more substantially filling than just plain starchy pasta with a flour based cream sauce.

Do you ever have those moments when you look at something you're eating or cooking with and think "Wow, I have no actual idea where this comes from..."? Well, I do and to help myself learn and become more aware of my food and to add a new (and hopefully engaging) feature to my blog, I'm going to start a weekly column called "Whatcha Eatin'?" where we can explore some of the things that we consume.

Up this week: cinnamon.

I was cooking with cinnamon the other night and I thought "Where does cinnamon come from"? My first thought to that was "Well, from cinnamon sticks". But where do those come from?

Cinnamon may seem like an unassuming spice on your rack, but it has a dirty little secret. It turns out that it has a related species called "cassia" and that is actually what many of us have in our spice bottles in the US. Nope, no true cinnamon for you, what you have is cinnamon's sidekick, masquerading under its name. Is that so bad though? I guess it depends. There are many kinds of cinnamon and one can only imagine what they all taste like, but cassia has a stronger flavor, so maybe it's not so bad after all. Cinnamon is lighter colored and finer when ground and has a sweeter flavor than cassia.

But where does it come from? Cinnamon, cassia, the stuff in your pumpkin pie, comes from a tree. The trees are cut to a stump, from which little shoots grow out. These shoots are stripped of their bark and dried, making cinnamon sticks.

Cinnamon was once considered more precious than gold and was used as a currency in ancient civilizations. It was used for embalming and in medicines in ancient Egypt. While it grew in Europe, spice trade opened up a world of exotic cinnamon to try. Studies done in the past few years in the US have shown that cinnamon (cassia as well, presumably) is very high in antioxidents and may be beneficial for diabetics and in lowering high blood pressure.

Pretty interesting, huh? This kind of stuff really fascinates me, so if it bores you, just let me geek out for the moment and it will pass... :)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Foody McFood Food

*I mentioned Pacific soups in one of my last posts, but I actually meant Imagine soups. The Pacific soups aren't all vegan, but I believe most of the Imagine ones all are.*

I hate having to make titles when I have a random post to make. I can never think of anything witty!

Oh, I posted the recipe for the lime raspberry muffins on my recipes blog, look under my links!

For as much as I like working for Herbivore, I love being home. Now that the store is open I work most weekends so this week I had Monday and Tuesday off. That means lots of cooking.

I really like how some of you post your groceries online. I really like being able to see what everyone buys to fill their homes with yummy food all week. So, here were my groceries yesterday from a trip to Trader Joe's.

It included:
~Almond Breeze Chocolate milk. OMG, get this if you've never had it! Hands down the best!
~Unsweetened Organic soy milk (for cooking/baking)
~Unsweetened Almond milk (for cereal)
~Organic powdered and granulated sugar. I'm baking for the store's grand opening this weekend.
~Organic flax cereal
~Apple raspberry sauce
~Organic extra firm tofu twin pack. I love these packs, so convenient for cooking for two!
~Half of a par baked loaf of organic Ciabatta.
~Assorted cans of organic beans and tomatoes- restocking the pantry.
~Organic oregano
~Earth Balance
~Organic rice pasta
~Farfalle noodles
~One of my all-time favorite drinks, green tea with bergamot.
~Orange juice
~Organic mini peanut butter sandwich cookies. I just noticed these and they are vegan (obviously)!
~Tahitian vanilla extract
~Rice flour. I haven't used this before, but it intrigues me.
~Bruschetta. I LOVE this TJ's bruschetta. It's super cheap and incredible!

Now, while Trader Joe's is a gold mine for things like pictured above, fresh produce is not their strong suit. I get organic bagged salads from them sometimes and they are really cheap and they have great deals on organic basil, but their other produce is generally not organic and comes in plastic clamshells, which are crappy waste-wise and you can't select your produce yourself. Thankfully, attached to the TJ's I shop at is a place called Limbo. They have an incredible produce selection and their famed "Wall of Herbs". Anything you've ever needed for a recipe is there in a jar and you can just measure out a pinch of it and be on your way, without having to spend $10 on a jar of something that you need only a teaspoon of. They also have a very yummy smoothie bar. I like going there when I haven't had time to hit up a farmer's market. All the produce I buy is organic.

Red potatoes, Honeycrisp apples, avocadoes (.50 each!), broccoli, butternut squash, bananas (I'm making that cake again for the store, we don't eat that many bananas!), zucchini and summer squash, a giant sweet potato and a sweet onion.

Yesterday night we were way too stuffed from our leftover biscuits and gravy to have a formal dinner, but I was seriously craving some warm pudding. I made a vanilla version of the chocolate pudding I have posted under my recipes blog (see links section), with a hint of cinnamon. For the truffle center I used this amazing espresso candy bar I got at Food Fight the last time I was there. This brand is hands down the best vegan candy bar ever. With the temperatures dropping, making shipping chocolates easier, you should consider getting some as a treat. If you liked Caramello's try the carmel one. The raspberry one is heavenly, too.

Anyway, last time I was at Food Fight, I got an espresso bar and some wafer cookies, which went deliciously with the pudding. Placing the chocolate in the pudding while it's still warm gives you a decadent surprise in the middle. Warning- if you put it in the fridge, the chocolate will harden and it's not nearly as good.

I was inspired by Leslie's recent post for her quinoa tacos, so I made up some quinoa burritos tonight. I made a very veggie chili, using her recipe as a guide but using stuff I had laying around: onions, paprika, cumin, oregano, black beans, pinto beans, canned tomatoes, frozen corn and zucchini. It turned out delicious. Even Jim, who normally doesn't like big chunk of veggies in his burritos, loved the zucchini.

I served them on spelt tortillas with homemade guac, Toffuti Sour Supreme, and some organic salsa on top. It made so much that I made containers for us to take to work tomorrow and I froze a big container too!

Now my super busy work week starts, so my cooking fun is coming to an end. :( But I will be baking like a fool on Friday and Saturday, so be prepared for cavities!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

My Weekend Alone

Jim went visit his grandparents in Illinois this weekend. They were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary and his family put together a big celebration for them. With the house and other things, I couldn't go with him, so I stayed behind with the kitties. I watched the British version of "The Office", OMG it's so freaking funny! I love it! The kitties kept me in good company, with all three of them sleeping with me both nights he was gone. This is a rarity because usually no one sleeps with us, much less all three!

Odd as it may seem, when I'm by myself I don't really cook very well. I cook to please others more than myself, because I get enjoyment out of providing for them. So this weekend, I kind of ate like crap. :)

This is a new noodle dish they started carrying at Trader Joe's. They come in these little Chinese food cartons, with vaccuum sealed noodles and a sauce packet, all you have to do is heat it up. I added some steamed pea pods to it. The kind I tried was the Kung Po. I bit spicy for my tastes, but it worked great in a pinch. Jim tried the Pad Thai, which he said was "good, for the convenience and price". They are very cheap, $1.99 each, and like a normal Chinese food carton, contain a lot of food, so we'll be buying more of these for work.

BTW, I packed a half a suit case of stuff for Jim to eat. It was going to be too chaotic for him to go to a store and they live really rural, so I gave him one of these and some boxes of ready to eat Indian food from Food Fight, crackers, cookies, Odwalla bars, fruit bars and a few other assorted snacks to fill in his diet. I should have taken a picture.

This is a quick pizza I whipped up several times this weekend. A piece of pita with some pizza sauce, sliced cremini mushrooms and some Follow Your Heart mozzerella. I haven't tried this cheese before, but I'd heard that it melts. Well, if you consider getting really soft melting than it does. I wasn't that big on it, but I guess I'm just not into trying to replace cheese because I don't miss it. We usually just eat loads of veggies and pesto on our pizzas. But, again, it worked in a pinch.

Now, while I don't really like cooking for myself, I never mind baking. I made these muffins last night for Jim to come home to, his favorite, raspberry lime. I always make jumbo sized ones, they work great for breakfast or a snack with coffee. I presented one to a very hungry Jim when he got off the plane this evening, having only eaten some Frech fries since breakfast at 5 a.m. this morning. Poor boy. FYI, the St. Louis airport, not vegan friendly.

To help make up for a crappy weekend of bad side salads, I made a big breakfast-for-dinner for us tonight. Baking powder biscuits from VwaV, along with my own random tofu scramble (tofu, red potatoes, zucchini, onions, spices) and the Chickpea Gravy that Leslie keeps making. This way my first time making it and oh my! I left out the nutritional yeast, as Jim is allergic to it, but it was still amazing! Plus there are left overs for lunch tomorrow. Yum!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Quick dinner and extreme cuteness

Tonight I just threw together a quick bite because I got home late, using odds and ends from the fridge and the pantry. A box of Mac and Chreese (Cheddar style with shells) and some mixed veggies on top and a cup of tomato soup with some Ritz-style crackers I picked up at Food Fight. I'm really becoming a big lover of those Imagine brand aseptic sealed soups. So convenient and they taste really good!

Tonight was Moussa house cleaning night, so after a brief romp around the house (in her plastic ball) while I cleaned, I took some footage of her enjoying a corn cob. You'll see Ravi, who makes a cameo appearence in this film. The video is sideways, I was holding the camera the long way and I couldn't figure out how to rotate it, sorry!

I also uploaded a painfully cute picture of her to the Herbivore Blog today. It's so adorable, you can even make out her delicate little whiskers!

Monday, September 18, 2006

International Delight

Last weekend Jim and I went to an amazing Lebanese restaurant that's just down the road from us called Ya Hala. It was hands down the best restaurant we've eaten at here. Of course, I forgot to take pictures. Anyhow, they have everything that's vegetarian on their menu marked with one palm tree and everthing that's vegan marked with two. How nice is that? We had the Veggie Mezza, which is a sampler plater of hummus, baba ganouj, falafel, tabouli, and a cauliflower thing that I can't remember, Veggie Kibbeh, which was a delcious bulgur pate and an olive plate. They kept us loaded with fresh-from-the-oven pita, still warm and puffed in the middle. We left with two pieces of baklava, a full doggie bag and two very full tummies, all for $19! Craziness. Anyhow, attached to Ya Hala is an international grocery that I went back to today to purchase a few specialty items that I eyed on Saturday, including pomegranate molasses, which was my missing ingredient for Isa's Pomergrante BBQ Tofu. I made with her Coconut Lime Rice and some steamed baby carrots and sugar snap peas.

I really enjoyed it, but I think my excitement at making the recipe exceeded my enjoyment of it. I was just so happy to play with that pomegranate molasses and then I couldn't taste it! I think next time I'm going to up the ante a bit. It was a delcious meal, though, and it left us with plenty of leftovers for work tomorrow, which is always a good thing.

For dessert I played some more with another recipe that I'm tweaking for quick, single size pecan pie bites. 5 minutes of work, 10 minutes of baking and 10 minutes of cooling and voila! Pecan pie! I made them in a jumbo muffin tin. I tried phyllo dough this time and Jim really liked it, but I feel like it's more of a puff pastry kind of recipe, which is how I've played with it before. So I think I'm going to stick to the puff pastry. But these were still good enough to scarf down! The only thing missing was vanilla soy ice cream. A la mode...

Bindhi threw herself at my feet while we were having dessert and she looked so cute and pitiful, what was I supposed to do but take her picture? She's our youngest and she's been really rambuncous, but she's really starting to mellow and become more affectionate. It's really nice to get kisses and to have someone waiting outside the bathroom door for you. She's a great little kid. Just don't touch that belly or you'll be sorry!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Food, food and more food!

I have been having the worst time with beta Blogger and getting my pictures uploaded! I get this error page saying that the page has been reloaded. I've been having to write my posts and then save them as a draft and come back hours later to add the pictures and publish it. Is anyone else sharing in my frustration?

Lotsa cooking lately! We had brown rice pasta with a basil marinara and some fried, breaded zucchini.

Frying up zucchini in some oil sort of negates the fact that you're eating zucchini to begin with, but hey, it tasted great. I breaded it by dipping it in soy milk, then coating it in a bread crumb and Italian spices mix.

The next night we had some veggie burgers I bought at Wild Oats. They were chock full of brown rice and veggies. This is Jim's burger (I over-browned my bun), with some spinach, Vegenaise, avocado and a hint of ketchup. Sounded like a kind of gross combo to me, but he said it was one of the best veggie burgers he's ever had, so it worked. We had some yam fries on the side. I think I prefer making them with sweet potatoes, the yams just get so soft... but they were still tasty.

Last night I made muffins for the store for this weekend. They included a muffin version of my Pumpkin Cinnamon Swirl Bread:

And another fun treat, my Lemon Almond Bling muffins.

I used the leftover pumpkin from the muffins to make Isa's pumpkin waffle recipe, but I made pancakes instead. I just couldn't muster the energy to fight with my waffle maker this morning. We enjoyed them with a an apple and potato Field Roast Sausage and a sliced Honeycrisp apple.

Monday, September 11, 2006

We eat real food, I swear!

Man, looking back over my last string of posts, it looks like all we eat are sweets! Granted, this hasn't been the best streak for us, lately, but we do eat substantial food, too!

Dinner last night was sammiches! Whole grain bread with hummus on one side and an olive tapenade on the other, some lettuce and a simple warm chickpea filling in the middle. I mashed up a can of chickpeas with 2 minced sundried tomatoes, some Italian spices and some sauteed onions and garlic. I lightly fried the mixture in a tablespoon or so of grapeseed oil and voila! I couldn't resist lightly toasting the assembled sandwiches to make the outside crispy. I also dropped a hint to Jim about how cool it would be to have a panini press. Our wedding anniversary is next month, so who knows. ;)

Dinner tonight was acorn squash stuffed and surrounded by a simple rice pilaf: brown jasmine rice with rubbed sage, onions, garlic powder and salt. Simple, but tasty and filling.

I've been meaning to share with you all a birthday present I bought myself recently. This necklace was made by our very own Leslie ! I'm not a big jewelry person, but I have a few necklaces that are really just chains with pendants. At Herbivore I wear t-shirts every day and I wanted something I could wear casually, but would dress up my look a little more. I really like this necklace because it a) matches everything b) has a slight retro flair, like a contempory take on the classic string of pearls and c) is just plain pretty! It's also nice because I have a sensitivty to metals and I can't normally wear a necklace more than 2 days out of the week without my neck reacting, but because this is made from stone beads, I can wear it every day. That's enough about my wear skin reactions to metals! TMI!

Here's a cute picture I took of Linus the other day. He's laying on top of this foam that we have to put over our not-so-comfortable guest bed (it's very comfortable with the foam). We havent' set up the bed yet, and Jim bungied the foam into a giant spiral that Linus has taken to nesting in. I was sitting near him the other day and it slowly started to tip over so I reached out and grabbed it quick and he looked up at me as if to say "Mom! You're bothering me!" Totally unaware! Silly cat.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

My Birthday with Isa

My birthday was yesterday and Jim spent an abnormal amount of time (for him) in the kitchen with Vegan with a Vengeance making me breakfast and a cake. I woke up to some delicious Fronch Toast, made with some really dense Panatta bread that I picked up at Trader Joe's.

Then, I went to work (Josh and Michelle had a wedding to go to) and Jim spent the afternoon making Isa's Chocolate Raspberry Blackout Cake.

Jim has made one cake from a box mix when we first started dating and that is literally the only experience he has with baking, so I was a little worried that he would get frustrated with it, but it turned out delicious! I was so impressed and although he won't admit it, I think he is too. And he should be!

We went out with some friends last night to see a favorite band of mine, who happened to be in town, Hem. Ollabelle opened for them, it was a really great show. Then we went and grabbed some vegan pizza at It's a Beautiful Pizza and came home for cake.

This is a pillow that the cats gave me for my birthday. It's from Global Exchange, a fair trade store in town. I love it!

And here is breakfast this morning. I need to go grocery shopping, so I didn't have much to work with in the vegetable department, so our tofu scramble only had zucchini in it, alongside some rosemary potatoes and some apple slices and tangerine juice. I love these tofu twin packs they sell at Trader Joe's, they are great for cooking for one or two people, because they are split into two servings, so you just break off half of the container and cook and the other half is still sealed. No draining/soaking/storage worries, they're perfect!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

5 Foods

Okay, everyone is doing this 5 foods thing, so I have to add my 2 cents.

Hmmm, this isn't the easiest thing to come up with and would probably change everyday for me, really.

I'm going to cheat a little bit, because some of my foods are compound foods, you'll see what I mean.

1.) Perfectly ripened D'Anjou pear slices with almond butter. I like it even more than apples and peanut butter. Mix up the nuts in your life and try it sometime.

2.) Pick-your-own black raspberries. I love black raspberries more than any other berry. I grew up with them along the side of my grandfather's house. They are tart like a raspberry, but sweet like a blackberry and there is nothing like crushing them on the roof of your mouth while they are still warm from the sun. Nothing.

3.) Yams. I gotta back up Dreena on this one. Give me a yam or a sweet potato, I don't care, I'll eat 'em both! Baked with the skins on until tender, cut open and topped with a small pat of EB and some sea salt. OMG.

4.) Fresh baked wheat bread. The aroma. The crust. The softness. Honestly, I could give up the sweets, but I could never become a raw foodist because of bread.

5.) Hummus. I think that there is a kind of hummus for everyone and I honestly think my quality of life would decrease if I couldn't have hummus anymore. With warmed pita bread, just smeared on there... Whew! It's getting hot in here!

Okay, now I'm seriously hungry. Gotta go!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Birthday Bash!

What do you think of the new layout? Much more subdued than the green... I switched over to the new Blogger beta and decided it was time for a change.

Jim's birthday was yesterday (yay!) and boy is he lucky! He didn't get just one, but TWO birthday cakes! What can I say, when inspiration strikes, it strikes and I just had to go with it.

I'd planned on making him a carrot cake, because that's his favorite kind of cake. But then I really wanted to work on a new recipe for a banana peanut butter cake. Lest you think that a banana peanut butter cake would be gross, let me calm your fears. Firstly, it's a delicate banana cake with a creamy frosting that has just a hint of peanut butter in it. Two layers are sandwiched together with a layer of frosting and thin banana slices in the middle. Yum. So I figured I'd make both and we'd be gluttons. But we're sharing, I promise. It would be obscene to eat all of this, especially since it's my birthday next weekend and we'll have even more cake happening then.

So, the banana peanut butter cake was served with slices of banana and a warm chocolate sauce on it. Ooh, I'm still stuffed from dinner tonight, but now I want some cake! I've always loved a good peanut butter and banana sandwich, but this takes it to a whole new level.

And this is the carrot cake. I've found that it's best to let carrot cake sit overnight because the spices really deepen and it tastes better. This was frosted with a Tofutti cream cheese frosting.

Here's a picture of the duo battling it out for counter space in my still-being-unpacked kitchen. They are both the same size, even though the picture makes the banana one look huge!

And here's a picture of the birthday boy! He's ohsohappy with his cakes!

Friday, September 01, 2006

An Herby Evening!

Well, tonight was the big opening of the Herbivore Store and I'm too excited to sleep! I baked last night and this morning for our big evening and it was great! For a low key opening (we're planning a big grand opening for later in September), we had a great turn out and had loads of fun.

For the big evening I made 4 treats: Chocolate shell cookies with peanut butter filling, doubel chocolate brownies, raspberry liner cookies and a cookie version of my Mocha-damia bars, but the pecans instead.

No, I don't have a cross cookie-cutter and yes I am a compulsive freak. But what a better finishing touch than to have Herbivore cookies?