Thursday, December 18, 2008

Twinkle, Twinkle


Confession: I'm not much of a sugar cookie fan. They're just a bit boring generally. I do love this recipe that I found on Annie's blog last year - the almond extract really adds that necessary little je ne c'est quoi :)
These are another great option for people who are bored with basic sugar cookies. The cardamom adds a lovely almost flowery taste. It's also quickly becoming one of my new favourite kitchen scents. I kept wafting the bottle under my nose as I was making the dough for these.
I found these to be rather reminiscent of lavender shortbread. Yum!

Cardamom Sugar Stars

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
Cookies ~
1 7/8 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (yes, I halved the original recipe and ended up with a wonky amount. Could have been worse...)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (room temp)
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 egg
1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract (no, that's not a typo! It should be 1/2 tablespoon)

Spice Mixture ~
1/8 cup sugar or sparkling sugar (see note below)
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom

Method:
*Note: You will need to refrigerate the dough overnight so keep that in mind before starting these.

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

2. Cream the butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp. cardamom in a large bowl. Beat in the egg and vanilla then mix in the flour mixture until it is just blended. Knead the dough by hand just until it is smooth. Divide the dough into two pieces; shape into flat rounds. Cover the rounds and refrigerate until firm enough to roll (overnight or up to two days).

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (one round at a time) and let it stand at room temperature until it is soft enough to roll but still firm. Roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper to about 1/8-inch thickness. If the dough gets too soft at any time, you can return it to the fridge until it's firm.

4. Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the dough (it's helpful to dip the cutter in flour to help prevent sticking). Reroll leftover scraps. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Combine all the spice mixture ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until pale golden brown at the edges. Let cool on wire racks.

These cookies can be made ahead. According to the original recipe, you can make them a month ahead and store them in airtight containers. I like to freeze my baked cookies.

Sparkling sugar:
I actually found sparkling sugar at Michaels (Wilton brand).
You can also order it from the following places:
King Arthur Flour
Fancy Flours
Great News
If you can't find it, you could sub regular granulated sugar or turbinado.

Reference:
Cardamom Sugar Stars by Alice Medrich. I found this recipe in the December 2007/January 2008 issue of Cooking Pleasures Magazine.
I didn't change anything this time around but I'm interested in trying different extracts (orange or almond? I think either of those would work with the sweet cardamom) or maybe subbing in cinnamon for the cardamom.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

OK, I feel like a dork!

LOL... I just read a thumbprint cookie recipe and found out why my Hershey Kisses burned (see the story in my previous post).
Apparently, you aren't supposed to add the Kisses until after you take the cookies out of the oven! Oops..! They are called thumbprint cookies because you make a little indentation with your thumb then bake the cookies and THEN insert the chocolate. Heh... oh well, least I know for next time!

Double-Chocolate Peppermint Cookies (Vegan!)













These are so festive :) Even though I'll take chocolate-mint anything anytime of year!

These were my first attempt at making vegan cookies. I've made quite a few other vegan sweets but those have all used egg substitutes I was familiar with. These called for a commercial egg replacer so I wasn't sure how they would turn out. It works! They were easy to make and I highly recommend these for any chocoholic, vegan or not. :)
Since they are dairy-free, they are also a good option for lactose-intolerant friends.


I made these as a special treat for my vegan sister and brother-in-law and decided to keep a couple for myself. Well, sinc
e I had some of those candy cane Hershey Kisses (bit of an impulse buy at Target last night), I figured I'd try out some thumbprint cookies with them. I have never tried making thumbprint cookies so this was a huge experiment! What do you know? I managed to screw them up a bit! Apparently the vegan baking gods did not appreciate my de-veganizing my cookies - the tops of the Kisses all burned! lol :) They still taste fine and they are just for hubby and myself so it's no big deal. They look really funny, though! Guess I gave myself a bit of bad cookie karma ;)

PS - the dough is also fantastic! And you can eat it since there are no raw eggs or other yuckies

This made 32 cookies
(I used my small cookie scoop - original recipe said it would yield 1 1/2 dozen but I always end up with more vegan goodies than the recipe states..! Nice problem to have, I suppose)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G Egg Replacer (see photo below)

2 tbsp. water

3/4 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter (I use Earth Balance)

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I like the Wholesome Sweeteners sugars since they are organic and fair trade)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
(I use evaporated cane juice)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup non-dairy chocolate chips (semi-sweet chips are usually OK)


Ener-G Egg Replacer:
Method:
1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and pre-heat the oven to 35
0 degrees.

2. Whisk together the egg replacer and water until it is thick and creamy. Set aside. Mine looked like whisked egg whites when it was ready (frothy). It will thicken up as it sits so don't worry if it seems too runny.

3. Cream the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat in the egg replacer as well as the vanilla and peppermint extracts.


4. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the butter mixture. Stir well to combine and then add the chocolate chips. Mix the chips in but do not over-stir.

5. Drop rounded tablespoons of the cookie dough onto a cookie sheet. Do not try to press the blobs of dough down with a fork - it's too sticky and they come out not looking very nice (yes, I tried on one batch!)
Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Remove the cookies from the baking sheet immediately after removing from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool.

These make great dunkers!


*If you would like to make a non-vegan version of these, simply sub 1 egg for the egg replacer. The butter amount would remain the same so you can sub in salted or unsalted butter as desired. I do recommend you make the vegan ones at least once. You'd never know they're vegan!
I know, I say that every time I post a
vegan baking recipe. It's true, though!

Reference: Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

Oops... ;)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Health Conscious Chefs Event

I've decided to participate in a blogging event! :) It's from Joelen's blog - she is always setting up such wonderful food-related events! I wish I had half that energy :)
This event is based on recipes from health-conscious chefs so I've decided to submit a couple:

Pineapple-Cashew Quinoa Stir-Fry from Veganomicon

Black Bean Chili from Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites

Here's the link to the event. I can't wait to see all the fantastic things that are posted!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Menu - December 15-19

Nothing new this week - I need to focus on getting Christmas shopping done! lol
I do have a couple baking recipes that I'd like to try when I can find time during the week.

Monday - Lentil curry for me; Lemon-mustard chicken for M with Pioneer Woman's Whiskey-Glazed Carrots (we have a bottle of Jack Daniels and neither of us likes that - all I do with it is make BBQ sauce! lol. Hopefully these will be another yummy way to use it up!) Yes, I am going to have the carrots alongside my curry... I know, doesn't go at all but oh well! :)

Tuesday - We have plans with a friend to go shopping so we'll probably just eat out.

Wednesday - Wednesdays are always a bit of a rush so we'll just have soup from the freezer (heated up, of course!) Beef stew for M and either black bean chili or split pea for me.

Thursday - Either Chickpea tagine or black bean and quinoa pilaf for me; either fish sticks or marinated pork chops for M (it will probably be the chops since I already have those and, knowing me, I will completely forget to stop and get fish on Thursday! lol)

Friday - Crispy chicken strips for M and black beans and rice for me.

Baking recipes I'm looking forward to trying this week:
*Cardamom sugar stars
*Tiramisu walnut cookies (how flipping amazing do those sound?! I hope they live up to the name!)
*Vegan double-chocolate mint cookies (trial run for some I'd like to bake for my sister and brother-in-law. I've never made vegan cookies so wish me luck!)

Black Bean Chili

My new favourite chili recipe! This is very similar to black bean soup, just a little chunkier.
It's pretty quick to put together so it makes a good option for a weeknight meal. Great with some cornbread.
The Moosewood book I got this from recommends using leftover chili to make chilaquiles (one of my favourite breakfast items!) so I will definitely have to try that soon :)

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tbsp. ground coriander
1/2 cup prepared fresh salsa
1 red or green bell pepper (or 1/2 of each pepper), chopped
1 (15-ounce) can of black beans or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (if using dried)
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomatoes, diced with juice
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
Salt to taste
Hot pepper sauce
1/8 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Grated cheese, chopped raw onion, sour cream to garnish (of course, dairy cheese and sour cream would de-veganize this recipe but you can get nondairy versions of both if required)

Method:
1. Place the water, onions, and garlic in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and stir on medium-high for another minute. Stir in the salsa and bell peppers, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the black beans and tomatoes, simmer for 10 minutes. Add the corn and continue to cook for 10 minutes or until everything is heated through. Add salt and hot sauce to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Garnish as desired.

Reference:
Festive Black Bean Chili from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites.
It really is very festive-looking! I'll have to get a photo next time.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I can't believe it's not butter... or egg!

Mmmmm! These little muffins are so fantastic!

One of my favourite things about vegan baking (other than licking the spoon) is that the end product is always so light and moist. I think there is this terrible misconception that the lack of egg or real butter would make it heavy as a brick and dry... not from my experience!
Another joy of vegan baking is that non-dairy milk (unopened) has a fairly long shelf life so you can always have a "box" of almond, rice, or whatever milk in the pantry. Same with many vegan egg substitutes (flaxseeds, for example, are good for up to 2 years!) So convenient :)

These are also quite healthy - no hydrogenated fats, low cholesterol (if any), all the great benefits of ginger (it's helpful in warding off colds so it's good this time of year), and flax seed which is a good source of fibre and Omega-3 fatty acids.

The muffins are wonderful just as-is but I highly recommend them heated through with a little non-dairy butter. Even better - add some marmalade or other jam, too.

PS - Do not try to substitute dried, ground ginger for fresh. It won't do these justice at all. And you will thank me for pointing that out when you experience the lovely smell that occurs when that ginger starts spinning around in your food processor :)

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:
2 tbsp. ground flaxseed (equiv. of 2 eggs) *See note on flaxseed below*
6 tbsp. water
1/4 cup finely minced fresh ginger (I may have used more - I just had a chunk of gingerroot and used the whole thing)
1 cup granulated sugar (I always use evaporated cane juice sugar since I know it's not refined in a non-vegetarian manner)
2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter (I really like Earth Balance - the whipped stuff is not good for baking, though!)
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond but you could use hemp milk, soy milk, rice milk...)
Juice from 1 lemon

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1. Remove the skin from the ginger (a small metal spoon does a great job!) and then chop the ginger into smaller pieces. Throw the pieces into a food processor and pulse until well chopped. If you don't own a food processor, you could use a Microplane grater or fine box grater. Remove from the processor and set aside.

2. Add the ground flaxseeds and water to the food processor bowl and pulse until you have a thick and creamy mixture.

3. Combine the ginger and 1/2 cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and is combined with the ginger. This only takes a couple of minutes. Set aside to cool and stir in the lemon zest.

4. Stir the salt, flour, and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

5. In a large bowl, beat the non-dairy butter until smooth. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until well-blended. Add the flax mixture and stir well then add the non-dairy milk and lemon juice. Mix well to combine. Add the dry ingredients as well as the ginger-sugar mixture. Stir until just blended.

6. Spoon into prepared muffin tins (I love to use my ice cream scoop for this). Bake 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
*I always seem to end up with more batter than I need with vegan baking recipes.

*Note on flaxseeds:
Tiny little nutrition powerhouses!
Flaxseeds are an excellent (mercury-free!) source of Omega-3 fatty acids but you won't get that benefit unless you grind up the seeds. Buy whole flaxseeds (Bob's Red Mill has them) and then grind them up as you need them. A coffee grinder does a great job of this.
But now you're saying "well, what the heck else do I do with this bag of flax?!" I like to grind some up and add 2 tsp. to my daily mid-morning oatmeal. You can also sprinkle them on salads, soups, in smoothies, or on cold cereal.
PS - not sure it's necessary but once open, I store my bag of flaxseeds in the fridge.

Reference:
Ginger Muffins from The Joy of Vegan Baking.

Tomato Couscous

A yummy (and quite pretty) side dish that goes together in a flash!

Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 (14.5 oz) can of tomatoes, diced (you will need the juice)
3/4 cup uncooked couscous (plain)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Good pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. small capers, drained
Vegetable broth or water

Method:
1. Strain the juice from the diced tomatoes until you have about 1 cup of juice. You can squeeze the juice from the tomato pieces if needed. If you don't have enough juice, you can add water or vegetable broth to make it up to 1 cup. Set the tomatoes aside.

2. Combine the juice, olive oil, and oregano in a medium saucepan. Cover and heat to medium high to bring the mixture to a boil. Stir continuously as you add the couscous. Quickly stir in the salt, cayenne, and cloves. Stir to combine and then remove from the heat and cover. Allow the pan to sit for 5 minutes. Fold in the reserved tomatoes and capers. Allow the dish to sit for 2-3 minutes or until the tomatoes are warmed.

Reference:
Tomato Couscous with Capers from Veganomicon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rustic White Beans with Mushrooms

Another Veganomicon success! I have yet to find something from this book that I haven't been crazy about...

I made this earlier in the week with tomato couscous (also from Veganomicon) - I'll post the couscous recipe after this one.

Note: you will need dry beans for this recipe. Canned beans will not work so don't try to take the easy way out! It's worth the extra time (and it's not like soaking beans is anything labour-intensive!) :)

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2/3 cup dried white beans (Navy or Great Northern will work well)
1/3 small onion, peeled and sliced into a few pieces (big chunks are OK - don't worry, you will not be eating this)
1 stalk celery, cut into two pieces
1 small carrot, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried tarragon
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 cup onion, finely chopped (original recipe called for a leek)
1/4 lb. mushrooms (any you like really - baby bellas, cremini [I used these], shiitake, white mushrooms [hey, they have the same nutritional value as any of their fancier cousins], or a combination), rinsed and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method:
*Before you begin, soak the beans for at least 8 hours. Put them in a bowl with 3-4 inches of water covering them in the morning and they'll be ready to cook when you get home from work.

1. Drain and rinse the beans and transfer them into a large pot. Add 1 cup of cold water, cover, and bring the water to a boil. Boil the water and beans for 3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium; add the onion, celery, carrot, thyme, and tarragon. Cover the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the beans are tender (mine always seem to take longer - I think I let mine simmer for an additional half-hour).

2. Remove the carrot, celery, and onion (you can re-use them if you're planning on making a stock). Lower the heat to low and continue to simmer while you prepare the remaining veggies.

3. About 10 minutes before the beans are done, place the garlic and a little olive oil in a cold skillet. Heat over medium until the garlic sizzles. Add the chopped onion or leek and saute 1-2 minutes. Drain the beans and then transfer this mixture to the beans. Add a little more oil to the skillet and allow it to warm through. Add the mushrooms to the oil. Sprinkle the mushrooms with some salt and saute until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add to the beans.

4. Turn off the heat and season the beans with a little more salt and ground pepper. Allow the beans to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Great with Tomato Couscous.

Reference:
Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms from Veganomicon.

Lattice crust = success!

So it took two tries but my lattice crust turned out quite lovely for a first, um ok second, attempt! :)


Story first and then the procedure..
Thinking everything was ready, I rolled out top crust #1 for my pie. I got the lattice pieces cut and on the pie and ran through to show the hubby. Well, I get back to the kitchen, turn around to stick the thing in the oven and see a mixing bowl with, guess what? A little flour, some cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and all-spice. Yes, blondie here had forgotten to mix the apples with the seasoning. Wow... I get distracted far too easily!

So, had to rip off my almost-perfect lattice topping and make a whole new batch of pie dough and then re-cut the whole thing. Ugh... it's really funny now but I was so pissed when I first discovered this! lol
Oh well - trial run, right? :) I actually think the second one turned out just a teeny bit better so I really can't complain.

I used my normal apple pie recipe. Here are the directions for making the fancy schmancy crust.
Arm yourself with the following:
*Plenty of flour
*A clean clear acrylic ruler
*A pastry cutter/ravioli cutter
*A clean countertop or cutting board (well-floured)
*A rolling pin (well-floured!)

Method:
1. After the pastry has chilled in the fridge for 20 or so minutes, give the cutting board and rolling pin a good dust with some flour. Roll out the pie dough as you would for a regular pie crust.

2. Place the ruler on top of the crust (I started in the center and worked out to the sides) and then run the pastry cutter along the ruler in one motion.

3. Move the ruler over about half an inch and repeat the pastry cutter motion. You will end up with a thin strip of pastry with fancy crinkle-cut edges.

4. Repeat until you have 10-12 pastry strips.

5. Carefully pick up the pastry strips and place them one at a time on top of the pie filling. Again, start in the center by making a cross shape with two strips. Work out towards the sides of the pie alternating under and over with the strips (now I'm wishing I'd taken step-by-step photos... if I make an apple pie at Christmas I'll do that for you!)
i.e.: You'll have the cross at first. Let's say the vertical piece is lying on top of the horizontal piece that made the cross. For the next piece (a vertical piece), you will want to make it go under the horizontal piece of crust (so, don't press down any pieces until you are completely happy with the results/everything is in place). The piece after that will need to go over the horizontal piece. And so on and so on... I hope this makes sense it's rather hard to explain!
Once all the pieces are in place, press the edges into the bottom pie crust which should reach the top of the pie plate. Brush with a little milk and bake.

Oh, and don't forget to mix the apples with the seasonings before tossing them in the bottom crust ;)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dear Guitar Hero (aka: next door neighbour)

Good Lord, man, it's 8:30 am on a HOLIDAY! Shut up with the bad guitar playing!

What the heck is wrong with people..? Seriously, guitar at 8:30 am? On Thanksgiving? Some people would appreciate being able to sleep in on a day off. I'm up (shopping online... lol) - I always get up early - but my poor husband is trying to sleep. I really hope you can't hear this in the master bedroom. And it's not even good... that's the worst part!

Sheesh... oh well, he only lives in his townhouse a couple days a week so at least we don't have to hear this every morning but still (and he is our only attached neighbour so I suppose it could be worse) but come on! Bit rude, don't you think?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008 Menu

As promised, here is the plan for Thanksgiving this year. It's really not much different from last year since I had lots of repeat requests from family members... oh well, made it easy to plan!

I still need some kind of appetizer but I'll think of something! I still have a week :)

Main meal
Turkey - My mother-in-law is taking care of that.
Vegetable Filo Roll Extravaganza (Moosewood) for me (yum!)
Sausage and cornbread stuffing
Cornbread and fruit stuffing (vegetarian; I'm just using this recipe and skipping the chicken-apple sausage and changing veg broth for chicken broth)
Brussels sprouts amandine (I have no clue how to spell that word for "with almonds" - and I took 5 years of French... my teachers would be ashamed)
Green beans amandine (for the people who don't like Brussels sprouts - ie: my brother and DH's family... don't know what they're missing!)
Brown sugar glazed carrots
Some type of potato (still have to figure that bit out. My dad does amazing things with sweet potatoes and orange.. maybe I'll have to borrow his recipe and make those)
Homemade cranberry sauce (my mom is taking care of that but it will just be plain cranberry sauce so I might make another version that is a little more adventurous.. I have a couple recipes I've been needing an excuse to try!)
Homemade apple sauce (I'll do this)

Desserts
Apple pie (from me) - I'm going to try to make a lattice crust
Pumpkin pie (my mom's)
Pumpkin bread (MIL's)
I think my mom mentioned something about minced pies (yummy British Christmas dessert that we, naturally, add lots of booze to!) and a fruit cake (Australian version from my Welsh aunt who has lived in Australia for 20 years [my family is just so fabulously international...lol] - nothing close to the brick-esque American fruit cakes! Sorry... but people actually eat [and enjoy!] our fruit cake)

In other words, far too much food for 7 or 8 people! But isn't that half the fun of the holidays? :) Actually, thinking of the appetizer, I may just say sod it since we have so many flipping desserts!

Menu - November 22-28

Ah... a blissful week off :) I am on Thanksgiving break from work and I'm done with school (talk about something to be thankful for) so I'll be enjoying a week off - hopefully spending lots of time in the kitchen discovering some new things and dusting off old favourites.

We won't be having Thanksgiving until Saturday, Nov. 29 since my dad will be on a plane coming home from Italy (must be nice, eh?!) on Thanksgiving day. My in-laws are hosting but I've volunteered to do most of the cooking so I'll post my T-day menu in a minute.

I'm still trying to decide if I want to brave the crowds (and insane car parks) and go shopping on "Black Friday".... maybe if people get me their wish lists before then!

Saturday (11/22) - Grilled veggie pitas with lemon saffron rice and a salad for me; fish sticks with cauliflower (shocks me that my picky husband loves cauliflower!) and salad for DH.

Sunday - Tuna melt/caprese panini for lunch; homemade ravioli for dinner (Italian sausage for H, sundried tomato and olive for me)

Monday - Split pea and lentil soup with salad for me; Parmesan pork chops for DH

Tuesday - Stuffed baked potatoes (I'll add some BBQ chicken with homemade BBQ sauce for DH)

Wednesday - Quinoa and black bean stuffed tomatoes (I could eat these every day!) for me; beef stew for DH (he always jokes that he doesn't understand how his veggie wife can make such great beef stew)

Thursday - Spaghetti with homemade marinara/marinara with homemade meatballs

Friday - Pineapple-cashew quinoa stir-fry (mmmm); margarita salmon for DH

Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

I'm back! With a little addition... ;)

I took a little break so I could focus on finishing my Masters degree! Yes, I have turned in my very last assignment! What a lovely feeling :)
The little addition, by the way, is the MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) I now get to add at the end of my name... heh
Er, maybe I should wait until I get something official from the university before I jinx something!

I need to actually blog the new things I made during all that time off..!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Menu - September 28-October 4

Sunday - I made a huge pot of spaghetti sauce (don't ask where I found the energy after spending 15+ hours at Disneyland on Saturday!) so we had spaghetti with homemade sauce. I was nice and made hubby some meatballs for his.

Monday - Double-Coriander Eggplant Tagine (because that last one was so fantastic!) with couscous; hubby is having this sweet and spicy tilapia that I'll probably add to the blog since I see a lot of tilapia recipe requests. We'll see how he likes it!

Tuesday - Middle-Eastern Lentils and Rice; Canadian Bacon Cheeseburgers for DH

Wednesday - It's World Vegetarian Day! I'm going vegan all day :)
Quinoa and black bean stuffed tomato for me.
DH is having some very un-vegan BBQ chicken.

Thursday - Vegetarian Split Pea and Lentil Soup (a little different from that recipe); Cajun Style Pork Chops for hubby.

Friday - Feijoada (mmmm) with some Brazilian rice; Oven-Roasted Ribs marinated in Beer and Honey for my honey :)

Saturday - Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie (I saw an article in Veg. Times with a recipe "Unemployed Shepherd's Pie" lol... I may just steal the name)
Tacos for hubby.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chickpea Tagine

I love Moroccan food. I actually had a good friend in high school who was from North Africa - she used to make the most fantastic food! :)
Last night, I made a chickpea tagine that I found in the October issue of Vegetarian Times (they have a whole feature on Morocca
n goodies!) - yum! Really tasty.. and I'm pleased to announce that I am no longer a Greek yogurt virgin! ;) Oh, Fage, why have I been holding out so long?! Great stuff - I highly recommend it if you've never tried it!

The actual tagine is gluten-free. I served mine with couscous which is a wheat product/not GF. You could use a gluten-free acco
mpaniment like lentils, quinoa, or rice if needed.
You can also make this meal vegan by using agave nectar in place of the honey and skipping the Greek yogurt (you're missing out on that Greek yogurt, though!)

Great things about this meal:
*It goes together in no time! Unlike traditional tagines that include chicken or lamb that has to simmer for a long time, this one is ready in about 45 minutes (including chopping time!)

*It's also a great source of vegetarian protein and iron!
*It's very super-market/pantry friendly - a great ethnic dish with no strange exotic items that you have to hunt high and low for! :)

Serves 2 (mmm... guess what I get to enjoy for lunch today?!)


Ingredients:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/8 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. honey or agave nectar
1 cup water
1/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley (optional)

Method:
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes until the onion is soft. Stir in the chickpeas, carrots, raisins, spices, honey, and 1 cup water. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add a scoop of yogurt to each serving. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Reference:
Chickpea Tagine with Cinnamon, Cumin, and Carrots from the October 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times.

Millennium Development Goals - MDG Blogging Day

Today is the MDG (Millennium Development Goals) blogging day so here I am sharing it with you all.
The Millennium Development Goals are a set of, well, goals developed by the United Nations to end poverty and hunger and combat AIDS as well as to promote global education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental sustainability, and global partnership. So basically all my causes all wrapped up in a nice little package :)
Here's a link to the UN site about the MDGs - http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
You might also like the ONE Campaign site (yes, I have one of those incredibly sexy white bracelets!) - http://www.one.org/

I think these are all goals that, regardless of our political or religious beliefs, we can all support.
My goal was to keep this non-partisan and secular but I found this blog entry from Rev. Mike Kinman who is the Executive Director of the group Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation and I wanted to share it. I think he has some powerful things to say.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"For World MDG Blogging Day: A Bailout We Can Believe In" -- by the Rev. Mike Kinman

In moments of crisis ... real or perceived ... the United States has shown that money is no object.

Often those moments have been crises of security. When we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we were told that critical security concerns superceded the financial burden that would follow. Now this week, a $700 billion Wall Street bailout is on the table ... and, once again, we are told that the crisis supercedes the financial burden that will follow.

More than a billion people live on less than $1 a day.

Nearly 30,000 children die a day of preventable, treatable causes due to extreme poverty.

More than 100 million school-aged children aren't in school.

Women around the world are disproportionately excluded from educational and economic opportunities.

If this isn't a crisis, I'm not sure what a crisis is. And we have made it clear that in a crisis -- and this one is real -- money is no object.

Today, while our leaders on Capitol Hill and in the White House are debating a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street, in New York City, world leaders are meeting to take stock of how we are doing on meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Here's a hint -- not so well.

On nearly every goal, we're behind where we need to be to reach them by the 2015 target date. It's not because the technology isn't there. It's because we lack the political will to do here what we have been willing to do elsewhere -- put our resources where the crisis is.

When the MDGs were agreed to by every UN member nation eight years ago, the World Bank estimated it would cost $40 billion - $60 billion a year to make them happen. That's a total price tag for the 15 years of $600 billion - $900 billion.

So as EGR's contribution to World MDG Blogging Day, we offer a simple proposal. If there's going to be a bailout, let's give the money to the people who really need it the most. The ones who are literally dying waiting for our help.

Let's keep our promise to make the Millennium Development Goals a reality. While we're ready to write nearly a trillion dollar check to Wall Street, let's shave $60 billion a year off the top and give a bailout to those who really need it.

Let's bail out the extreme poor.

This is a serious proposal. Until we realize that global extreme poverty is a crisis that dwarfs all others by comparison, we will never take the action necessary to heal a broken world.

This is a moral imperative that has gone unheeded too long.

We're not saying ignore the financial crisis on Wall Street ... we're saying if money is available for them, then it's available for people who need it even more.

The Rev. Mike Kinman is the executive director of Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation.

In case you'd like to read more on the EGR, here is a link to the blog I found that on: http://www.ringsurf.com/ring_browser.php?id=1655785

Just some food for thought.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What a Snob..!

I've never had a sloppy Joe... my husband would tell me that makes me un-American (which is OK since I'm English.. heh)
Anyway, he requested sloppy Joes for dinner this week so I decided to try these "Snobby Joes" that I found in that tome of yumminess - Veganomicon. Oh my! They are fantastic! Really easy to make and fast, well once you have the lentils cooked they are fast. I think these will be a fairly regular weeknight meal.

*I labeled these gluten-free since the actual filling is GF. You'd just have to find some sort of GF roll to eat them on (good luck - I've heard GF bread leaves a lot to be desired...) or just eat them sans roll! The filling was tasty just by itself :) Maybe with some GF pasta or rice...

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1/2 cup uncooked lentils
2 cups water
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small onion, cut into small dice
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. chili powder (no, that's not a typo!)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 can (14 1/2 oz.) diced (no salt added) tomatoes
1-2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 tbsp. prepared mustard (I made mine extra snobby by using Dijon instead of the regular yellow mustard.. heh)
2-3 rolls, sliced in half

Method:
1. Pour the lentils and water into a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.

2. When the lentils have about 10 minutes left, pre-heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil for 7 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and saute another minute.

3. Stir in the cooked lentils, chili powder, oregano, and salt. Add the tomatoes (I diced mine up a little more prior to adding them). Cook 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup and mustard; heat through.

4. Turn off the heat and let the pot sit for about 10 minutes. Serve open-faced with a scoop of the lentil mixture on each slice of a roll.

Reference:
This is based on the Snobby Joes recipe from Veganomicon.
The only change I made was to use canned tomatoes in place of 1/2 of an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce and 1/8 cup of tomato paste. I needed some tomatoes for DH's sloppy Joes so I figured I'd just use the rest in these. Worked well. Oh yes, I had no yellow mustard so I subbed Dijon.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Menu - September 22-27

Well, so much for my Sam=the dog theory on that True Blood (why the hell do I keep calling it True Love?!) show... sigh... he did bark, though! So maybe there is something to it after all... I'll have to keep watching and find out :) And now I'm noticing something odd about that gray cat - maybe it's Sookie's great uncle or grandpa or whoever had the same telepathic thing as she does. Hmmmm...
Oh, and Entourage was just too funny last night! I heart Ari :) and Lloyd - lol :)

Anyway, on to the menu.

Tonight - Middle-Eastern Chickpeas with Spinach for me; Zesty Jalapeno fish filet for DH

Tomorrow - I have to go to a school board meeting at work but hopefully I'll have time to make sloppy Joes for DH and *snobby Joes* (lol) for myself.

Wednesday - Marinated pork chops (all I remember is that lime was involved...) for DH; chickpea tagine for me

Thursday - I think we are going out with my parents for my birthday. If not, it will be spaghetti with home-made marinara and home-made meatballs for DH and spaghetti with home-made marinara for me.

Friday - DH told me to take the day off work so I think he has something birthday-related up his sleeve :) I hope so - I didn't plan any dinner! heh

Saturday - It's my BIRTHDAY! I'd better not be cooking ;)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

World Vegetarian Day

I'm not one to go pushing my lifestyle on others, in fact, that really drives me nuts when people try to do that! However, I will just take this opportunity to mention that World Vegetarian Day is coming up on October 1.

World Vegetarian Day is a fantastic opportunity for you to learn more about vegetarianism and try out some recipe(s) you've had in the back of your mind for a while. I have tons of yummy recipes on here that are totally meatless. You may also like to take a trip to the library to check out a vegetarian cookbook or look through a magazine for ideas.
Here's a website you might also like to look at: www.worldvegetarianday.org
Here is their welcome page for non-vegetarians :) http://www.worldvegetarianday.org/nonvegetarians/

For those who are more interested in eating meatless more often, October is Vegetarian Awareness Month (cracks me up how everything has an "awareness month") so it's a great time to do a little research to find out about going meatless in a healthy manner and the benefits (to your health and the planet) of vegetarianism.

I'm trying to come up with something I can do that day - maybe an entirely vegan day or something (I have some vegan ice-"cream" recipes I've been dying to try out!) I'd love to hear comments from veg. and non-veg. people who have neat ideas of how to celebrate!

Enjoy! :)

Friday, September 19, 2008

True Blood (HBO)

So I got sucked into this vampire show on HBO. I'm not much of a TV person at all but I do enjoy those HBO series (and some BBC America stuff but I think that's a given). Since they seem to not be brining back Big Love anytime soon, at least I have this and Entourage (oh, and Bill Maher!) to make up for it ;)

Anyway, I was just watching the last episode again and I had a bit of a revelation. I *think* I have figured out the dog! :) I think it's Sam.
Here you go:
*After she gets called in to Sam's office towards the end of episode 2, it flashes to a picture on the wall. It's a dog with a girl. After I saw that this second time I thought "oh! The dog! There is something with Sam and that dog." Well, then I started thinking about the rest of the episode...
*After she is attacked by the Ratrays and Bill comes and lets her drink his blood, the dog is around. When he walks back to her car, she says "oh, Sam's still up" (or something along those lines). Hmm...
*Have we ever seen Sam out during the day? Um, I think not! :)
So there you have it... I think Sam is some sort of shape-shifter (God, I sound like some Dungeons and Dragons nerd) who changes into that dog.

I'm really interested in seeing where they take this show! I loved loved loved Six Feet Under so I'm hoping this one doesn't just fizzle away (or get too cheesy which I'm a bit afraid of! lol)

Just for the record.. there is something with her grandma, too. I noticed something with that grandma in the first episode and it's still nagging at me. Hopefully they'll give me more clues soon!

Yes, some of you are like "Oh please, I had that dog figured out in the first five minutes of the first episode!" I'm naturally blond and feeling rather proud of myself for catching all this so please excuse me if this is old news! lol ;) Now I hope it works out to be correct so I don't feel like a huge doofus...

Hurray for good fall TV! :) (And HBO East so I don't have to stay up late for all this... heh)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Amazing Lentil Curry

Yeay for curry!
I used to make these really brilliant chicken and fruit curries - so tasty, you have no idea - and I have to admit, I miss them. This, though, has changed my mind! The lentils really make up for the lack of chicken and they do a wonderful job of absorbing all the great flavours. The only thing I'd add next time is some apple (and maybe some coconut...)
This does have a nice kick to it, even with mild curry powder, so if you're not a fan of spicy foods you may want to leave out the jalapeno
.
I should also warn you that it takes a small lifetime for this to cook! It is so worth it, though. :)
Almost forgot, this is a good source of vegetarian protein and iron. Not much to look at but it tasted wonderful!



Enough for 2 large servings (or 2 dinners and 2 lunches the next day - hurray!)

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 of a red onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper
1/4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. curry powder (any *strength* you like)
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
3/4 cup lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
3/4-1 lb. cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 tsp. sea salt

Method:
1. Make sure you have all the stuff chopped and ready to go (well, not the lime or cilantro - that's not added until the last minute) - it goes pretty quickly, like a stir-fry.

2. Heat the oil in a stock-pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and saute for 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add the ginger and jalapeno and saute another minute. Add the spices and then give them a good stir for 30 seconds.

3. Slowly pour in the vegetable broth, then stir in the lentils. Cover the pot and raise the heat to high. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute, stir, and then reduce the heat back to medium-low. Simmer for 12 minutes.

4. Add the cauliflower, stirring so they are coated with lentils. Partially cover and let it simmer away for 25 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and the broth has all been soaked up. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro, lime juice, and salt.

5. Allow the curry to sit (covered) for 15 minutes or so. This is a good time to make some rice to go with it. ;)

Reference:
Based on the Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry recipe from Veganomicon.
My changes - used regular old lentils in place of red lentils; used red onion in place of regular old onion; skipped the shallots; used olive oil in place of peanut or grapeseed oil.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pineapple-Cashew Quinoa Stir-Fry

Yum! This is wonderful!
I really recommend cooking the quinoa in the pineapple juice, but you can use leftover quinoa if you have any sitting around. I'd really like to try adding other veggies to this next time - mushrooms, broccoli, julienned carrots, maybe some zucchini or eggplant...

This is a great source of vegetarian protein. Quinoa is also a decent source of iron which makes it even more fabulous!


Serves 2

Ingredients:
For the Quinoa:
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup cold water
1/8 tsp. soy sauce

For the Stir-Fry:
2 ounces raw, unsalted cashews; chopped up
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Small piece of ginger (about 1/4-inch), peeled and minced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup frozen peas or cooked edamame
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, rolled and sliced into thin shreds
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh mint
5 ounces pineapple, chopped up into bite-size pieces (I actually cheated and used crushed pineapple)
1 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. low-sodium vegetable broth

Method:
1. Prepare the quinoa first. Combine the quinoa, pineapple juice, water, and 1/8 tsp. soy sauce in a saucepan. Cover and place over high heat. Bring to a boil. Stir and then lower the heat to low. Cover and cook 10-14 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa appears translucent. Uncover, fluff, and let cool. Chill the quinoa for at least an hour in the fridge.

2. Use a large nonstick skillet or wok. Have all ingredients chopped and ready to go before you start! Place the chopped cashews in the dry pan and heat over low, stirring constantly until lightly toasted, 4-5 minutes.

3. Remove the cashews from the pan and set them aside. Raise the heat to medium and add the oil, onions, and garlic. When the garlic sizzles, add the ginger and stir-fry around 2 minutes. Add the bell pepper and peas. Stir-fry another 3-4 minutes, until the bell pepper is softened and the peas are bright green. Add the basil and mint, and stir another minute before adding the pineapple and quinoa.

4. In a measuring cup, mix together the soy sauce and vegetable broth. Pour over the quinoa and then stir to incorporate completely. Add in the cashews and continue to stir-fry 10-14 minutes or until the quinoa is very hot (use two spoons or a spoon and a spatula to help you scoop it up and stir).

Reference:
Based on the Pineapple-Cashew Quinoa Stir-Fry recipe from Veganomicon.

Funny observation...

Why do they sell vegan shoes on a website called "The Tannery"? lol

I went looking for these cute J-41 Aquarius shoes that I found in a vegetarian magazine and one of the websites they gave me as a shop online place was The Tannery. That name conjures up all sorts of not very vegan images for me...! ;)

Think I'll get the shoes.. they look so comfy - great for work!

Recipe coming soon (provided my dinner is yummy, that is! lol) :)
I am so sick of looking at my thesis so I'm giving myself a bit of a break from it... my break involves writing on my blog so not really sure how much of a break that is... heh
I have it pretty much done - just revising a couple sections and working on my appendices as well as the PowerPoint presentation I have to do as part of it.
Yeay! :) The end of this Masters degree is so close now, I can touch it! I had totally forgotten what a great feeling that is!
<Pomp and Circumstance
>>

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Beginning of the End...

...of grad school! Well, at least for now... lol ;)
It has begun, I officially started writing my Masters thesis this afternoon. So far, so good. All my research is done (well, we don't really have to do *research* but I have read TONS of articles and a couple books on my topic) and I've started in on my review of the literature.
Hopefully I can keep up the pace and have this sucker done soon so I can work on revising it (aka: totally starting over... heh)

This does mean I may not be blogging much (trying to stick to old stand-by/easy/quick dinners) but I only have until September 27 (which just and so happens to be my birthday!) to get this paper written and submitted so I won't be gone too long. :)

Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Orzo Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes (and other yummies!)

My goodness, I love this stuff! I've made it a couple times for parties and it always gets rave reviews. Finally getting around to blogging it - figured I'd share the wealth a little :)

The first time I made this, I did it just as a "dinner" for myself and added some kalamata olives. Now, I usually love olives but I thought they made this too salty. I suppose I should have just rinsed the little buggers but I've left the out every other time I've made it and I do not miss them. If you'd like to add them in, use 1/2 cup pitted and roughly chopped olives per batch (6 servings).

Feel free to experiment with the fresh herbs. I've tried this with just parsley (as the original recipe calls for); with a mixture of 1/2 mint and 1/2 basil; and with a mixture of 1/2 parsley and 1/2 cilantro. Either way, it's fabulous!


I highly recommend making this ahead of time and letting it sit in the fridge for as long as you can. This will give it time for the flavours to really all mix together and seep into the orzo. Yum! *Just leave the cheese off until you are ready to serve.*


Serves 6


Ingredients:

Good pinch of saffron
1 pound orzo

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (see note about herbs above)
1/8 cup lemon juice (I usually use more - I love lemon!)
1 tbsp. capers, drained (I also give mine a quick rinse)

1/2 tsp. sugar

1 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes

1/4-1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup crumbled feta (chopped goat cheese is also wonderful with this salad)

Method:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the saffron and then the orzo. Cook for 10-15 minutes (or as the package directs), until the orzo is al dente. Drain the orzo and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

2. While the orzo cooks, grab a large glass bowl and toss together the olive oil, pepper, sea salt, herbs, lemon juice, capers, and sugar. Once the orzo is cooled, give it a good toss in the dressing mixture. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and red onions as well as the olives (if desired). Stick this in the fridge for at least one hour. Once it is ready to serve, carefully toss in the feta or goat cheese. Enjoy :)

Reference:
Based on the "Orzo and Feta with Lemon-Caper Dressing and Kalamata Olives" recipe from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Southwestern Falafel

So these need a little tweaking - the overall product is really quite lovely. The little bean patties and the avocado spread work wonderfully together but, without that avocado spread the little bean patties are, well, lacking. I'm sure it's an easy fix - some chili powder or cayenne (or both.. why not?) should do the trick!

LadyChicago on the Nest shared this recipe (and her tips) with me some time back but I just go to these this week. The original recipe is from Cooking Light.

Serves 2 (4 small falafel patties + 1 pita bread)

Ingredients:
~Falafel patties~
1/2 15-ounce can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/8 cup panko (original called for crushed tortilla chips - this was a tip from LadyC!)
1 tbsp. finely chopped green onions
1/2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1/16 tsp. ground cumin
Egg white (hard to measure, but use about half the white from one egg)
1 tsp. vegetable oil

~Avocado spread~
I love avocado anything so I am leaving the spread amounts so you make enough for 4 servings (oink). Well, if you don't use it all on the falafel things, you can use it on chips :)
1/4 cup mashed avocado
2 tbsp. finely chopped tomato
1 tbsp. finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp. fat-free sour cream
1 tsp. freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/8 tsp. sea salt

2 pitas, each cut in half

Method:
1. To prepare the patties, mash the pinto beans with a fork then add the cheese and the next five ingredients (through the egg white). Stir well until combined. Form the mixture into 8 small patties and dredge in more panko. (another tip from LadyChicago - thanks!)

2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the patties and cook 3-5 minutes on each side until they are nice and golden brown/heated through.

3. While the patties cook, make the spread by combining the avocado, tomato, red onion, sour cream, lime juice, and salt. Spread the avocado mixture on the inside of each pita and then place 2 patties in each half. You may want extra spread on the top of the patties.

Enjoy!

Reference:
Original recipe was from the August 2005 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tagged!

So Kayte tagged me about a gazillion years ago and I just never finished answering it.. then I was tagged again by Annie. Since the Olympics coverage is SUCKING right now (just show the damn gymnastics! Nobody really cares about anything else..! Well, maybe Phelps but you get the idea..), I figured I'd sit down and actually finish this tagged thingy this time. ;) Thank NBC and Bob Costas' crap show... (I wasn't going to watch any Olympics this year for, well to be honest, mostly political reasons, but as usual the gymnastics sucked me in! Sigh...)

Here you go:

Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

What was I doing ten years ago?
Well, let's see... I was just about to turn 21 so I can imagine I was having a good old time! Um, I was quite the little party girl in college. Who wasn't?! Please...
I was a senior in college and I worked on campus.
I can't remember yesterday so getting any more details out of me about 10 years ago would be like getting blood from a stone..! ;)

What are five (non-work) things on m to-do list for today?
I think I'll do tomorrow since today is just about over..
1. Laundry - wow! That makes for a thrilling Friday! :)
2. Get stuff for party I'm throwing on Saturday.
3. Do some more research for my MA thesis (oh joy!)
4. Clean the house.
5. Workout - I went on vacation and completely forgot the tai chi form I'd been working on... oops! ;)
Well, darn good thing I have something to look forward to on Saturday because tomorrow is not looking like much fun!
Ooh, I do have vacation photos to go through... that can be my *highlight*

Five Snacks I enjoy:
1. Fruit (seriously, I'm not just saying that to make myself look good!)
2. Hummus & pita chips
3. Guacamole - I could quite possibly live on avocados...
4. Dark chocolate (I love British and European chocolate, too - Hershey's sucks.. sorry!)
5. Cheese and crackers

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:
This must have been where I gave up last time I tried to fill this in! lol :) I really don't have the foggiest idea what I'd do with all that money! Adopt a bunch of dogs or something daft like that...
1. Fix this crap Olympics coverage... heh, couldn't resist! I would change the channel but then, knowing me, I'd miss the only reason I have it on to begin with. And is there really anything else on? I seriously need to convince DH that we need to get BBC America ;)
2. Clean up the planet... don't ask how but I'm sure with $1B, I could think of something!
3. Buy a house closer to the coast (I know, I'm in San Diego, how much closer do I need to be?! Well, we live like 10/15 miles inland and I'd rather be walking distance from the beach... too conservative for me out here in the valleys! heh).
4. Build myself the kitchen of my dreams in that house on the coast ;)
5. Give a bunch of money to some worthy causes (environment, animal rights, human rights, education, etc)

Five Places I've lived:
1. Thornhill, Cumbria, England
2. Rancho Bernardo, California (San Diego)
3. Escondido, California (N. San Diego)
4. San Diego, California (right smack in the middle of San Diego county this time)
5. er, that's it... oh wait! I lived in Egremont, Cumbria (England) for a year when I was a very brand new baby :)

Five Jobs I've had:
1. 2nd grade teacher.
2. Student Orientation Director - when I was in college. Talk about a cushy job! :) I had a corner office!
3. I was a waitress at a really nice retirement home when I was in high school/a couple years in college.
4. Pre-kindergarten teacher.
5. "Education Specialist" - fancy title, huh? :) That's my current job. I work with students who are home-schooled through a public charter school. It's really more "guidance" than teaching since I work a lot on helping with curriculum, getting courses squared away for the high school kids, making sure everyone is on-track with state standards, stuff like that. This year, I'll also be teaching a couple enrichment classes for the K-6 kids which I'm really looking forward to! I have a horrible case of classroom withdrawals... I also (as if all that is not enough) work as a mentor teacher to new (1st- and 2nd-year) teachers at the school. That's a really fun part of my job. :)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Oops...

I was tagged twice (once a LONG time ago!) and completely forgot... I'll get to it.. promise! :)
I also have an England trip review thingy coming soon! With lots of photos!

I think I seriously took almost 600 photos with my digital camera on top of 6 rolls of old school camera photos! I'll never give up film... ;)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pita + Pesto + Portobello = Perfection

No more wondering what the hell you're going to make for vegetarian friends next time you have a cookout! :) These were fantastic!
I think next time, though, I'll add some more veggies - maybe some grilled eggplant and tomato... Yum.
Just be sure to make extra - the meat-eaters may get jealous ;)

I found these recipes in the most recent (August 2008) issue of Cooking Light magazine and just made a few changes. The original recipe for the pita things called for "commercial pesto." First of all, it's one of the easiest things to make so I'd never go buy it. Second, I had two different types of pesto in the freezer. :) One was a vegan version - parsley and lemon pesto which I decided to use since I figured it would work well with the lemon rice. It did. :)
For the rice, I didn't have mustard seeds and thought that may be a bit weird anyway... I did, however, have saffron which worked wonderfully! Saffron may be the world's most expensive spice but it's worth every penny. I highly recommend keeping a jar in the pantry!
Saffron also imparts this great yellow colour which I think makes it look like totally fake FD&C coloured lemon yellow rice... lo
l :) It's absolutely not fake but it makes for a good conversation starter ;)

Speaking of vegan... this isn't a hard meal to convert to vegan. The only non-vegan components as it is right now are the sour cream or mayonnaise and the feta. Easy fix! You can get "Vegannais
e" (seriously, that's the brand name.. I may be spelling it incorrectly but you get the idea) which you can use in place of the regular mayo or sour cream. Or, you can just spread hummus on the pitas and then throw the veggies in.
I'm also wondering what a hummus and lemon-parsley pesto combination would be like.. that could work, too! :)
Obviously, you would just leave the cheese
off. While the cheese was a nice addition, I didn't think it was 100% necessary (yes, I had one sans cheese just to see). This would also make the dish lower in fat which is nice for everyone.

Here are the recipes!
Lemon-Parsley Pesto (Vegan)
This will make a bloody boat-load of pesto b
ut it freezes rather well so make the whole thing! :)
It thaws in no time and is great on pasta, white beans, sandwiches, as a dip...

Ingredients:
4 cups loosely packed parsley leaves
1/4 cup olive oil

2 small garlic cloves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt


Method:
1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as neede
d. The volume will reduce to about 1/2 cup.
You can change the amounts to taste (salt, vinegar, lemon juice) but the predominant tastes should be the lemon and parsley.

Grilled Vegetable Pitas with Feta Cheese and Creamy Pesto
4 servings

Another photo, this time with the cheese.

Ingredients
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise, Vegannaise, or sour cream (I always use sour cream in place of mayo)
1 tbsp. lemon-parsley pesto
4 whole-wheat pitas, halved
Lettuce leaves
4 portobello mushroom caps, sliced
2 medium bell peppers, thickly sliced
1 medium red onion, thickly sliced
Cooking spray
Pinch of sea salt
Good sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Method:
1. Combine the mayo/vegannnaise or sour cream with the pesto. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Arrange the mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions on a baking sheet. Coat the veggies with cooking spray and then sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle the vinegar over the vegetables and place the baking sheet on the grill rack. Grill 5 minutes on each side or until tender.

3. Spread the pesto mixture onto each pita half and then stuff with lettuce and grilled veggies. Sprinkle crumbled feta into each pita half.

Lemon-Saffron Rice (Vegan)
4 servings

Ingredients:
Rice (long-grain or basmati)
Sea salt
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Couple pinches of saffron

1. Cook the rice according to package directions, adding saffron when you add the rice (crumble it a bit between your fingers as you add it).

2. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the lemon juice, lemon rind, and cilantro.

References:
The lemon-parsley pesto recipe is from JoyGotDots on the Nest. The grilled veggie pitas and the lemon rice are based on the "Grilled Vegetable Pitas with Goat Cheese and Pesto Mayo" and "Fresh Lemon Rice" recipes from the August 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Vegetarian Gumbo

I've actually never had a *real* gumbo so I don't have anything to compare this to but I think it was really rather fantastic! I'm not even sure I can really call it a gumbo since it doesn't have okra in it... isn't that a key ingredient (or is that just a stereotype?) :)

This is a great "clean out the fridge" or "use up your CSA basket" recipe. It's full of wonderful veggies and is an easy one for you to substitute whatever you have.

I served mine over a bed of quinoa (told you I qualify for that Level 7 Vegan even though I'm not even vegan... lol) but I'm having the leftovers over rice tomorrow for lunch! Yum! :)


I highly recommend letting this sit and simmer for an hour (original recipe said 40 minutes). This will allow the carrots to become tender and will really let the great cumin-paprika-cayenne flavours to really meld together even more! It takes a while, but once you have everything chopped up and in the pan it's not a lot of work.

Serves 4


Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/6 cup flour
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes, juice included, diced
1 cup green beans (fresh or frozen)
1 cup carrots, sliced
1/2 cup parsnip, diced
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1 zucchini, sliced
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/2 tbsp. paprika
1/2 tbsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups vegetable broth (or water)

Method:
1. Stir together the oil and flour in a Dutch oven until smooth. Cook over high heat until the roux becomes a dark caramel colour (think a nice chocolate brown), stirring constantly.

2. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened. Stir in all the remaining ingredients and the veggie broth (or water). Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until the carrots are tender.

Reference:
Based on the Vegetarian Gumbo recipe from the May 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine. The only changes I made were to use broccoli and zucchini in place of the okra. I also used vegetable broth in place of the water.

Raspberry Smoothie

I wish I'd realised I had this smoothie book while I was on antibiotics a couple weeks ago! I was really hoping for some more adventurous ways to eat yogurt... these would have been great! Oh well... :)

I had to have some dental work done today (just a bit of a follow-up to a root canal I had last week - hence the antibiotics) so I figured that was as good an excuse as any to reward myself with a smoothie! Well, I got home around 11 and was starving but still numb. This was a nice way to tide me over until I could eat something a bit more substantial.

Makes 2 small smoothies

Ingredients:
1 cup low-fat or fat-free vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1 cup frozen raspberries
3/4 cup frozen strawberries

Method:
Place all the ingredients in the blender and pulse until smooth/most of the chunks have been broken up. Serve immediately.

Reference:
Based on the Raspberry Cream recipe from the book Smoothies and Ice Treats by Lindsay Barnes and Any Shawgo.

Black Bean-Quinoa Pilaf

This was so basic and easy (not to mention fast!) but so tasty!

The original recipe that I worked from actually called for chickpeas to go with the quinoa but I decided black beans would be great. Besides, I had half a can of black beans that needed to be used. ;) I also added a little cilantro which was fantastic.

Here's another funny quote from Veganomicon:
"Don't forget that cooking with quinoa at least once a week will elevate you to Level 7 Vegan in no time!" Heh... I'm not even vegan but I think I qualify for that. ;) In my opinion, quinoa is quite possibly the world's most perfect food. Well, after avocado, of course!

This could be used as a side dish alongside just about whatever (and not just vegetarian stuff). I just had mine with a side of broccoli, sweet corn, and some chopped bell peppers that I just steamed together.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tbsp. ground coriander seeds
Several pinches freshly ground black pepper
A little sea salt
1/2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup (1/2 of a 15-ounce can) of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth
2-4 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Method:
1. Saute the onion in olive oil over medium heat in a small stockpot until softened. Add the garlic and saute about 2 more minutes.

2. Add the tomato paste, coriander, cumin, black pepper, and salt. Saute about 1 more minute.

3. Add the quinoa and saute for 2 minutes.

4. Add the beans and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to very low. Add the cilantro, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. Stir occasionally during this phase.

Reference:
Based on the Chickpea-Quinoa Pilaf recipe from the book Veganomicon.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

London Calling...

..."Yeah, I was there, too..."
well, I will be in a week and a bit! woo hoo! :)

And, yes, I am a massive fan of The Clash... I actually believe they strip you of your British citizenship if you say you're not... lol ;) Same with the Beatles, Queen, the Stones, you know, all those other iconic English bands... (*sigh*... new music sucks!)
OK, so maybe in the case of bands like The Clash and The Sex Pistols, the government actually likes you better if you say you don't like them! heh... However, I will argue that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, so... ;)
Just don't let on to the Queen if you don't care for Sir Paul!

So, back to the point of this blog post! ;) Check out these other fabulous things I found to do while we're in the motherland! lol... (couldn't resist)

First, I should probably tell you where we'll be. DH has never been and I haven't been back in 11 years (homesick much..?) so we are doing a bit of the touristy stuff and trying to see a bit more of the country than I normally would.
*We're starting out with 3 nights in London (I'm not a city person so any longer and I think I'd probably implode). I have not been to London since 1986 (when my dad ran the London Marathon) so it's been a while! Think it's changed much? lol :)
*After London, we're heading to Bath which is one of my favourite places on the planet. We're having 2 nights there.
*Next stop, Caernarfon (don't worry, I can't pronounce that either!) which is a lovely little coastal town in North Wales. Just one night there (I wasn't kidding about *little* town...)
*After that, it's up to York for 2 nights. York is just so bloody lovely. No trip to England is complete without a stop in York.
*Finally, we'll be spending the last week and a half in the Lake District which is my home. :) You think a trip to England is not complete without a stop in York... well, it's even less complete if you don't get to go up to the Lakes! ;) No, not biased... it really is a gorgeous area and full of history (um, the whole country is..) Plus, it's right on the Scottish border so you can have a quick hop up there while you're at it!
We're staying in bed and breakfasts (which is really the way to do it if you go to the UK) in London, Bath, Caernarfon, and York. In the Lakes (since there will be quite a few of us), we've actually rented a house which will be great!

No, I will not be driving..! lol :)

Here are my finds:
**London:
Well, it's basically all the obvious stuff... however, some *not so obvious* things on my must-do list are the Tate to Tate Cruise on the Thames (that would be pronounced Tems, not Thaymes...! heh) which goes between really great museums and also makes stops at the London Eye and the Tower.
There is a restaurant called the Wapping Project which I'd like to check out. For whatever reason, eating dinner in a converted power station is strangely enticing to me...
Get really lost on the Tube... (actually, I love the Tube! And it's really hard to get lost on it... great, just jinxed that!)
Oh, and a trip to London without going to Harrod's is absolutely out of the question! ;)

**Bath:
Oh my gosh! So, I was reading more about the glass-blowing thing (I did post about that in my vacation post below, right?) and found they have this thing where you can blow glass with Mr. Darcy! lol :) How funny... great idea for a bachelorette party or a girls' night out!
Yes, I was very tempted to make a dirty comment about that blowing glass with Mr. Darcy sentence but I'll leave that to your imaginations... ;)
There is a museum of costume in Bath - a fashion museum! How fun! :) I'm not, by any means, into fashion but I do love the history of it so that's on the list!

**Caernarfon:
So the big pull of Caernarfon is the castle. It's a great castle that's still in very good condition. It's also the place where the Prince of Wales is crowned. Read: Tourist Trap but whatever... :) Should be worth a look around.
Caernarfon is also in the Snowdonia National Park. Excuse my ignorance on this, but Mount Snowdon is something like the tallest peak in Great Britain... oh bugger! Now I have to look that up :) OK, well, I was *almost* correct - it's the highest peak in Wales and the highest in Britain south of the Scottish Highlands.
Figured I'd enlighten you all with that piece of useless information... You'll thank me if you're ever on Jeopardy!

**York:
So there's obviously the stuff like York Minster but here's the other goodies I found...
Jorvik - it's a viking centre! I'm pretty darn sure I have quite a bit of viking running through my veins so this is on my list for sure!
The York Brewery Tour. I won't deny the fact that I love my beer! :) Well, look where I'm from! I think beer makes up the remainder of what's in my veins..
They have a river cruise I'd like to take as well as a walking tour through all these haunted places in York. Yorkshire is known as one of the most haunted areas of England so that should be, um, chilling! :)
Oh! And the golden nugget of my York research - I found this York Pass thingy that gives free or reduced admissions to a ton of attractions. Obviously you pay up front for it but it pays for itself in no time!

**The Lakes:
Um, yeah, I'm just excited about going home for the first time in 11 bloody years! There are some touristy things we definitely have to do but it will be mostly about catching up with family and my best friend who I haven't seen in, you guessed it, 11 bloody years!

And, for your listening pleasure, here you go ;)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqO1b-5RsAs

Yes, I realise the song is maybe just a bit *anti-London* but whatever... it was the punk/anarchy era! What do you expect?!
And I can still use it in my post about being excited about going to London! So there... heh :)

"I never felt so much a' like..."
(so that's what he says at the end... lol)

Jealous yet? :)

Strawberry-Orange Smoothie

In my quest to use up stuff from the kitchen, I have rediscovered the joy of smoothies! :)
Part of this was cleaning up my cookbook shelf and finding a smoothie book I forgot we had!

This one was fantastic!

Makes 1 1/2 high-ball sized smoothies
(no idea how else to measure that! I'd say it was enough for 2)

Ingredients:
1 cup non-fat or low-fat vanilla yogurt (you could use soy vanilla yogurt to make this vegan)
1 ripe banana
1 cup frozen strawberries
4 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate

Method:
Stick all that in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses. Enjoy.

I'm dying to try this with some frozen raspberries or blueberries in place of the strawberries. Or, how good does a triple berry smoothie sound? Yum! :)
Ooh, and how about adding something fun like a splash of rum, vodka, gin, or tequila? ;) Hey, I'm on summer break, I can play! ;)

Reference:
"Super Healthy Shake" from the book Smoothies and Ice Treats by Lindsay Barnes and Amy Shawgo.

Going Green!


Heaven-on-a-plate... seriously!
(Unfortunately my blurry photo does not do it justice... still trying to figure out a new camera!)

Meatless pasta dishes like this were a gateway drug for me transitioning from sort of omnivore (chicken and fish) to pretty much full-time vegetarian! heh...
Once I get back from England, I'm giving up fish, too. I just have to have my last decent plate of fish and chips and then I can completely cross over to the dark side. ;)
Hubby actually predicted today that I'll be vegan in the next couple years. I doubt it - I just love cheese way too much! And I just don't know what I'd do if I was denied my Cherry Garcia! ;) I do love vegan cooking and baking (in case that isn't obvious) but I'm not sure I could go full-time vegan.

This has a really wonderful *kick* to it from all the garlic and the little sprinkle of red pepper flakes. I am a huge garlic fan but if you're not, you can always cut back a little! I highly recommend leaving all the cloves in, though...
The wine and lime flavours also shine through - don't worry, the garlic is not so much that it over-powers them. I used spinach in place of arugula (trying to use up what we have) but any green leafies will be good in this dish.

My favourite thing about this dish, though, is how healthy it is even though it seems so sinfully delicious! :)
Let's see... we've got calcium in the spinach (not to mention iron, beta-carotene, and fibre!); all the wonderful omega fatty acids in the avocado; the antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering powers of the garlic; and the calcium, vitamin A, and cancer-fighting properties of broccoli.
Dang! Give this dish a cape and some tights - it's a super-hero! :)

Here's the recipe so you can experience it for yourself!

Pasta Della California
(yes, I was singing "California Dreaming" the entire time I was making this... and then for whatever reason, as I was eating it morphed into "Hotel California"... shut up!)
I just have to share this great quote about this recipe from the book Veganomicon. It's too wonderful not to...
"If we said in the title that this was pasta with avocado no one would take us seriously, so instead we call it Pasta Della California. Anything with avocado in it can be called 'California,' right?"
Since I live in California, pasta with avocado is absolutely not unheard of but the whole "oh, it has avocado! Let's call it California!" bit killed me... it's so true...

Serves 2

Ingredients:
1/4 pound spaghetti, linguine, or angel-hair pasta
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic
A bit of grated lime zest (use an organic lime so you don't end up with *poison pasta*!) - I used the zest of about half a lime
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
1/8 cup white wine
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
A good bit of freshly-ground black pepper
2 cups chopped, loosely-packed spinach (or arugula)
1 avocado, sliced and cut into chunks

Method:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prep all your other ingredients while the water boils (this cooks so quickly!) Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. When there is about 3 minutes left on the pasta, add the broccoli and cook with the pasta.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, lime zest, and red pepper flakes. Gently heat, stirring often, for about 2 minutes (watch it - be careful the garlic does not burn!)

3. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil so the wine reduces (2 minutes or so). Add the broth, lime juice, salt, and pepper, and bring back to a boil. Once the sauce is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the arugula or spinach.

4. Remember to add that broccoli to the pasta! :)
Once the pasta and broccoli are done, drain them both in a colander.

5. When the arugula/spinach is wilted, add the broccoli and pasta to the skillet. Use a pasta spoon to toss it around and make sure everything gets covered in the garlicy goodness! Cook about 3 minutes longer, stirring often. Add the avocado and turn off the heat. Gently toss the avocado in with the pasta and veggies, being careful not to squash it.

6. Serve with a couple good grinds of black pepper. Spoon the leftover garlic sauce over the bowls of pasta.

Reference:
Pasta Della California from the book Veganomicon.