Monday, October 30, 2006

Daylight losing, storing food and a nocturnal friend

First up, Moussa is still with us. She's going slow, but she's still doing her thing and even wanted out to roll in her ball the other night. Thanks for your well wishes and thoughts. While to some she may be just a hamster, she's part of our family, we love her very much and it's going to be hard on us when the time comes.

I haven't had to participate in daylight savings in a few years... and let me just say, it sucks! No more light after 5pm. I know that this is only fair because it stays light out until 10pm in the summer and I love it... but this is a serious change from AZ. It's a good thing I'm so busy for the next few weeks, I don't get too lazy. I have been making some time for casual reading, though, and it's been very nice. I love snuggling up in bed, with flannel sheets and good book.

Now, onto the food. I have been wanting to power cook and make a bunch of meals that we could have in freezer to use for lunches or on nights that I don't feel like cooking or get home late. So I spent Saturday holed up in the kitchen, cooking and baking up a storm.

Zucchini muffins, currently living in the freezer. Lightly sweetened with maple syrup, with some raisins and walnuts in the mix as well.

Banana walnut muffins, my favorites! I couldn't freeze all of these, so I let myself eat one that night as a treat.

Another big batch of Leslie's stew/soup. I accidentally opened a can of pinto beans instead of chick peas, but it still tastes great.

I roasted some bell peppers I got at the farmer's market on Saturday and I really wanted to make some chili, but I didn't have any cans of black beans and I hadn't planned ahead and soaked any. A quick search online and 20 minutes later my lovely pressure cooker made me a batch of them. So good... I love this thing, it really does make my life easier.

Dinner last night: stuffed shells. Again, Michelle influenced me by making some tofu ricotta cheese from the Real Food Daily cookbook. We were just muching on it with pretzel sticks, like a dip, and it was really tasty. So I had to make it. But I over did it with the garlic, to the point where it was a bit hot, so I decided to put it in something. Served with some breaded and lightly fried zucchini.

And we had to have dessert! Brownies with Mint Fudge Stripe So Delicious and some chocolate sauce on top. There is nothing better than brownies and ice cream, I don't think.

We have a new wildlife friend! I hadn't gotten a picture and as I was typing this, Bindhi let out a yelp, which meant that he was back, so I rant to the window to take this picture. I had to use my night setting, which blew out his eyes and makes him look a little creepy, but he's not all. Here's the back story: We put out some whole peanuts for the squirrels a few days ago and later that evening I noticed the cats looking through our patio doors intently. It was too late for squirrels to be out, so I flicked on the light and was startled to see the back end of what appeared to be a cat-sized rat! I called up to Jim to get down here to see, and by that time our little friend had turned around and revealed himself as a possum! This is my first run in with a possum and I had no idea they were even around here! Actually, the North American variety is called an opossum. They are marsupials and are "opportunistic omnivores", which basically means they eat meat when it's available or easy to find. I imagine that in an urban environment they are scavengers much like raccoons. I'm very excited to have another little friend to feed. I'm going to do some research on other kinds of food to see if I can leave out some fruit or veggies for him tomorrow.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Variations on other's themes

A note about faux cheese:

Jim and I really enjoyed the cheese that I made the other day and we're still munching through it. But just so my previous comments weren't misleading, it's very good, but it's certainly not cow's cheese. And I don't mean that to sound like cow's cheese would taste better, because Jim is convinced that this is better than any cheese he ever ate before. So if you decide to make it, don't expect that you're going to take a bite and exclaim "Gouda!" Just think of it as a yummy thing to enjoy with crackers and accept it for what it is. Oh, and the flavor really deepens overnight, so if you're going to try it with guests, make it the day before.

Anyway... I wanted to whip up a big batch of something warm the other night that I could just put into containers for us to eat at work. I decided to try Leslie's Lentil Chickpea Soup.

Of course, I can never leave well enough alone and I tweaked it. I only had half of the amount of red lentils that were called for, so I used a mixture of red and green. I also only used 2 carrots and added a cubed potato, because I just love potato in my soups. And I didn't have any veggie stock, so I used just water. It was a very thick and hearty meal and reheating it the next day thickened it even more, much like a stew. It's very, very good and because it uses ingredients that we have around most of the time, I have a feeling this will become a cold weather staple for us. I was able to make it in about 15 minutes with my pressure cooker. Next time I'm going to make some quinoa to serve it over.

I had really been craving something super chocolatey, so I paged through Vive Le Vegan! and came across Dreena's Double Chocolate Almond Explosion Cookies.

Perfect! I subbed macadamia nuts for the almonds, replaced half of the maple syrup measurement with agave (because it's so sweet) and made up the difference with a splash of almond milk. Yum! We both loved them, but I'm normally more of the chocolate hound, so I didn't expect Jim to like them that much, but he loved them. And they made the perfect amount, 1 dozen, rather than the 2 dozen I normally would have baked, that we would have eaten ourselves sick on.

On a sad note, Moussa doesn't appear to be doing well. I've been thinking that she's getting old for a little while now, but I think we're nearing the end. She has been a wonderful little family member and is a very sweet little soul. Please send a good thought her way.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Faux Cheese, Muffins and Tofu That Will Never Go Bad

Yay, it's Monday! Which means a day off for me. I had a bunch of errands to run today, so I didn't get to cook as much as I would have liked, but I got alot of other things done, so it was a constructive day.

I'm really not into faux cheese (excluding cream cheese, which I'm addicted to). I was a huge cheese hound in my pre-vegan days and I figured I'd really miss it, but it's just not something I think about. We occaisionally try a new product to see what it's like, but it's more out of curiousity than anything. A few weeks ago, Michelle made a Cashew Cheddar Cheese from The Real Food Daily cookbook and I was actually pretty impressed with it. It had a nice texture and tasted great on a salty cracker, so I decided to give it a try.

If you can get past the fact that it is molded into the shape of a Gladware container (complete with #2 plastic symbol on top of it!), it turned out well. To those who may be interested in making it, it makes a lot. I made 2 blocks, each the size of the 2 cup plastic container, so you will have plenty. I will be halving the recipe when I make it again. This was my first experience working with agar and it was fun. It sets so fast and it was actually really fun to clean up, because I was able to play with the mess. It was a bit like string cheese. Jim and I had some of it on crackers. His quote, and this is coming from the man who thinks eating faux cheese is stupid: "This is so *$%#ing good!" LOL

I made some Carrot-Raisin Muffins from VwaV today. They turned out okay, probably the first recipe that didn't really impress me. They are a little dry and don't have the strongest flavor, but they'll work for breaksfast for the next few days. I still have some leftover cream cheese frosting in the fridge from last weeks' pumpkin bars, so they'll be getting slathered with that, anyway.

And now for something not food related. I've been spending some crafting time with my sewing machine lately, which has been really fun and relaxing. I've started making these little tofu pouches and I brought 2 to the store last Sunday and they both sold within hours. Apparently I'm not the only one that thinks they're cute!

They have a zippered top and are about 6 inches long and 5 1/2 tall. I got the fabric for them at a store by me and it's one of those silky, plush fabrics that is so soft you have to keep touching it. I've been really into making pouches lately, I don't know why. Maybe it's because it's the easiest way to sew in a zipper. Anyway, I'm going to be cranking out more of these little guys because they are just so fun!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Feeling Sick, Squirrels and Whatcha Eatin' #3

Well, I must have jinxed myself by teaching Jim to cook for my own selfish reasons of not wanting to eat Ramen when I'm sick, because... I'm sick! Or I'm well on my way there. So what do I do when I'm sick? Indulge in comfort food...

Mashed potatoes and Punk Chickpea Gravy. OMG, can I truly express how much I love this gravy? I think not. Just as one cannot fully express their love for a child. It is seriously that good.

Squirrel update! This morning Linus, Bindhi and I sat by the back door watching this little guy try to trash the pumpkin.

He settled for hanging out on the squirrel feeder, munching on some pumpkin seeds. When I got home tonight, the top of the pumpkin was pulled out and it was tipped over, with lots of claw marks and bite marks all over it. How cute! The cats are thoroughly enjoying the entertainment.

Whatcha Eatin' #3: Sliced Bread

So, I was researching the phrase "the best thing since sliced bread", which literally refers to the first sliced bread (Wonder bread, ick) and came across an interesting factoid: The Secretary of Agriculture banned the sale of sliced bread during WWII. There were several reasons given for this ban, all of which seem a little strange. One being that the metal from the bread slicers was needed to make guns and other war supplies. While we all have heard stories of war time rationing related to metal, the little metal that was used for bread slicers seems like a strange thing to sacrifice, and many people were skeptical of this reasoning. Another reason that was given was that the demand for sliced bread would cause the cost of bread to increase, which would be bad during times of such financial hardship. The whole thing just sounds a little strange...

But WWII rationing may have seen the beginnings of something near and dear to many of our hearts: the Trumanburger, a veggie burger made from mashed beans. Maybe meat rationing wouldn't be such a bad idea in today's world...

And, I couldn't resist this picture of Bindhi, sneaking a lick of frosting from Jim's pumpin bar. She was so cute, I couldn't help but let her have a little tasty-taste.

Monday, October 16, 2006

More Fun With Pumpkin!

I have today and tomorrow off, so I've been relaxing today by working on my book, cooking and playing with my blog. Can you believe it took me 4 hours to design the banner for this layout! Time always goes fast when you're playing in Photoshop. But I like this color scheme better. I think you need to have warmer colors when you're showcasing food, and the other template was too dull.

My brother-in-law and his wife are going to be coming down from Seattle to have Thanksgiving with us in a few weeks and I'm SO excited. I love hosting big dinners and what dinner is better than Thanksgiving? My family was never really into doing anything for the holidays. My mom, who does not cook at all, would resort to making weird, processed turkey loaves and we'd eat and watch TV, so having real, family-based holidays has been a big deal for me since we've been married.

I want to make pumpkin pie, but I never have before, so I thought it would be good to do a trial run before the big day. I made this pie based off of Bryanna Clark Grogan's pumpkin pie recipe, with a few minor tweaks.

I had a little crust dough leftover, so I used a small turkey cookie cutter to decorate the edges with. You are supposed to let the pie set in the fridge overnight, so we haven't tried it yet, but I'll give a report tomorrow. It smells heavenly.

So then I had a bunch of leftover pumpkin. What to do? I did an internet search and ended up making these delicious bars from a patchwork recipe I derived out of a couple that I liked. I posted the recipe on my recipes page

They are really light and cake like, so they're almost like a sheet cake, but I think I'm still going to call them bars, because I'm stubborn like that.

But before we could have dessert, we had to eat something substantial!

Brown rice and orzo pilaf with mixed green veggies (asparagus, broccoli, spinach, green beans and edamame) on top, a drizzle of a roasted garlic sauce that I threw together with some corn starch, soy milk, minced roasted garlic and salt and some more french bread with roasted garlic butter on it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Squirrel's Vegan Pumpkin

We used to leave out birdseed when we lived in Phoenix so the cats would have something interesting to watch while we were at work all day. Since moving to Portland, we don't really want birds hanging around just in case this whole bird flu thing blows up like they think it could. But we have all of these squirrels that live in the trees behind us and I wanted a way to feed them, while not attracting any birds.

I rememeber back a few years to when we lived in Minneapolis (yes, I like to move :) ). We had a carved pumpkin in front of our house that the squirrels just destroyed by tearing it apart and munching on it.

Exhibit A: Organic white pumpkin from Trader Joe's. $2.99. Quite the deal, eh?

Exhibit B: Squirrel's vegan pumpkin, carved in Squirrel's Vegan Kitchen, for the squirrels. Say that 5 times fast!

I also carved out random chunks and shapes for them around the pumkin, so they have an easier time getting at it. The previous owners of our house acutally had a squirrel feeder on the deck, so we put some chunks of pumpkin and seeds in there, too. I hope to get some picture of them tearing it apart, so I'll post them if I get 'em!

Tonight was "Teach Jim How to Make Chili" night. When I get sick this winter I want more than bowls of cereal and Ramen, dammit! I set out everything and then walked him through it. It was a simple chili, a can of diced tomatoes, some kidney beans, pinto beans and some frozen bell pepper slices. We had it with a hunk of mini wheat baguette with garlic buttah. For dessert, we tried some of the new (I think, I just saw them recently) Soy Delicious ice cream and sorbet bars. SO good. And they're low fat. We got the raspberry ones, vanilla ice cream with a raspberry sorbet swirl in them. Yum!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Vegan Butterfingers and Whatcha Eatin'? #2

Long time, no post! I've been very busy at work and when not at work, I've been working feverishly on the book. It's coming along quite nicely and I'm actually almost done, so I thought I'd treat myself with a post!

Teriyaki stirfry with brown basmati rice. For the stirfry I used broccoli, carrots and red and yellow bell peppers. I baked some extra firm tofu in the teriyaki sauce until it carmelized.

Last night was split pea soup (with potatoes and carrots) and some fresh wheat rolls. I really need to get an immersion blender, this whole "blending the soup in batches" thing is the pits. I could have sped this soup along with my pressure cooker, but I was home and had the time, so I opted to make it on the stove top normally. Basic hodgepodge, 1 1/2 cups split peas, 2 large potatoes cubes, 3 carrots, 1 cup vegetable broth, a medium chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic, some sage and thyme and a lot of water.

Okay, so my title is a bit misleading, because there aren't any vegan butterfingers, but these tasted pretty darn great. Chick-o-stiks are vegan! I had never even tried one prior to about 3 years ago because for some strange reason, I thought they were cheese flavored. I think it's the color. Anyway, I just melted some chocolate chips with some Earth Balance and dipped each chunk of Chick-o-stik in it, then placed them on waxed paper and let them set in the fridge. It was a very easy and cheap (10 cents for each stick!) treat that I will definitely be making again.

Whatcha Eatin'? #2: Water Chestnuts

Jim always makes fun of me because I compare things to the texture of water chestnuts. He once even said "Water chestnuts are the vegan chicken, you think everything tastes like them!"

Well, maybe, maybe not. The point is, I realized that they aren't chestnuts and I needed to find out what they really were.

Turns out they are actually tubers that grow in the water! They can grow large shoots, but mostly grow in conditions that resemble bogs.

Once they are loosened and dug up, they rememble Western chesnuts. Harvesting them is very labor intensive, which is why they are hard to find fresh in the US and are costly by the can.

Water chestnuts are low fat and high in vitamin B, iron and calcium.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Let the food begin!

Okay, folks, here it is. We had our official grand opening this weekend so of course there was food! I shared baking duty with Lisa from Sweet Pea Baking, so there were plenty of sweets to go around!

Lisa made the best baklava I've ever had, vegan or otherwise, and an assortment of different rugalachs. The cherry one was killer. Lisa also makes the world's best cheesecake. If you ever come to Portland, or if you live here, seek out whatever place is serving her cheesecake because it is phenomenal. Turtle cheesecake? Yes please!

This is the lemon almond torte that I made in mini form for a SHAC7 benefit awhile back. This time it was jazzed up with more raspberries and some almond slivers.

There cupcakes were fun to make with these cool star-shaped cupcake tins I found recently. I made the chocolate cake recipe from my Black Forest Cake and the same chocolate frosting as well.

I also make the Banana Peanut Butter Frosting Cake that I made for Jim's b-day recently. I didn't get a good pic of it, but it wasn't too long ago, so you all remember!

These were made for my co-worker, Jessie's, husband. He has severe food allergies and can only eat limited things. It was too sad for me to think of there being a vegan amongst vegans who couldn't eat anything there, so I made him some cookies with ingredients he could eat. They are based on raw cookies, with the outer shell being made out of dates. I mashed the dates and mixed in a 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to make them taste fudgey. I then made a nut butter center with some cashew butter, agave nectar and ground almonds to make it set up a little more. I flattened out a round of dates, added a scoop of the cashew mixture, sealed all the balls up and rolled them in cocoa powder to keep them them from sticking together. Adam seemed pretty excited and I thought they turned out rather well. I might make them again soon for us to have around the house, since you can just keep them in the fridge.

This was a sundried tomato garbanzo bean dip from a newer vegan cookbook called ExtraVeganZa! It was really delcious, I will definitly be making it again.

And of course, would a party be a party without one of Dreena's dips? Here is the Cannellini Bean Yam Hummus. Mmmm, it was so good, people were just raving over it. It was a nice smokey and creamy counterpart to the slight more sweet and gritty garbanzo dip.

And, on a more substantial note, dinner last night. Butternut squash filled with a basmati and wild rice pilaf I got from Trader Joe's and some mashed potatoes with Earth Balance on the side. Very tasty. I think squash is growing on me, while Jim eats it "because it's good" for him. I have a spaghetti squash sitting here, any ideas? It's a bit intimidating.

Also, for those who are wondering, I got a lot of work done on the book yesterday, so I'm hoping to have the first draft done within a week! Yay!