Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Breakfast Of Pixiepine Champions!

Eating vegan doesn't always mean eating healthy or home-made. Teehee! I love a nice processed snack just like the next girl. Check out my workday breakfast today!

Yogi Tea in Organic Peppermint- yum!!

And the centerpiece...a vegan chocolate donut! Straight from my freezer to the work microwave! Glamorous and tasty!!
Sugar high!!!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Baker's September Challenge: Lavash Crackers and Dip

Welcome to my first Daring Bakers Challenge post. This month's challenge was to make Lavash Crackers and a dip/spread/salsa/relish to accompany them.

I made Lavash Crackers with a vegan Spinach Artichoke dip adapted from The Vegan Mouse blog.

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip
1 container Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (I find this at Trader Joe's, Ralphs Market and Whole Foods Market)
1 cup Vegenaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 10 oz box frozen spinach, thawed, drained and chopped
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped (I substitued 1/2 cup prepared kalamata olive bruschetta)
2 TB nutritional yeast
2 TB lemon juice
1/2 tsp italian herbs (I mixed my own blend of thyme, oregano, basil, and granulated garlic)
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and pour into a baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees F until browned and bubbly.

Lavash Crackers
The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread
Peter Reinhart

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see
http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Couscous Stuffed Bell Peppers a la Brad

Man in the kitchen!!! Last night I had my third bellydancing class. Brad decided to don the apron and whip up a delicious dinner while I was away shaking my sequins. His meal was wildly successful and I hope we have it again!

Couscous Stuffed Bell Peppers

1/2 cup couscous, uncooked
1 cup water
6 red or yellow bell peppers, whole
2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced
4-6 green onions (scallions), sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and add the couscous. Cover, and let sit for at least 20 minutes, or until couscous becomes fluffy when stirred with a fork. Allow couscous to cool.

Slice the stems and tops off of the whole peppers and remove the cores and seeds.
In a large bowl, combine the diced bell peppers, couscous and green onions.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and parsley. Pour this dressing over the couscous and gently toss to combine.

Spoon couscous into each whole bell pepper, and sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper on top.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

IronCupcake September: Basil!

Cupcake party! Welcome to my first IronCupcake Challenge! If you like what you read and see, please click here to vote for me beginning September 27th at noon!

My cupcake is a delicious chocolate with basil and orange, topped with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and basil sugar...all vegan!

I based my cupcake recipe off the Basic Chocolate Cupcake from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. Additions included fresh basil from the garden and pure orange oil.

The topping is a basic vegan whipped cream. I made basil sugar by processing granulated sugar and basil leaves, and sprinkled the cupcakes with this and grated bittersweet chocolate.

Cupcake recipe:

1 c soymilk
1 t apple cider vinegar
3/4 c sugar
4-6 fresh basil leaves
1/3 c canola oil
1 t vanilla
2-3 drops pure orange oil (found in baking supply stores)
1 c flour
1/3 c cocoa
3/4 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin tin with paper cups.

Whisk together soymilk and vinegar in a large bowl. Set aside to curdle.

In a food processor, pulse together sugar and basil until evenly blended. Add basil sugar, oil, vanilla, and orange oil to to soymilk mixture and beat until foamy.

In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients.

Combine wet and dry batches.

Fill liners 3/4 full and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Vegan whipped cream:

1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 cup oil
1 t maple syrup
1/2 t vanilla extract

Place soy milk and 1/4 cup oil in blender. Blend at highest speed and slowly drizzle in remaining 1/4 cup oil. Blend in syrup and vanilla, add a little more oil if necessary to thicken. Dispense with a whipped cream dispenser or just spoon right on.


Shaved bittersweet chocolate
Basil sugar (1/2-3/4 c granulated sugar and 4-6 fresh basil leaves pulsed in food processor or blender.)

IronCupcake is a monthly challenge! Check it out!
The prizes this month include:
HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Eat To The Beat: Cooking Tunes!!

I found a great blog through the Foodie Blogroll (see my sidebar) called Elly Says Opa! She has a neat blogging event called Eat To The Beat. Here's my entry...its all about how I incorporate music into the cooking and eating that happens in our kitchen!
Music in the kitchen makes all the difference while preparing a meal. The right tunes, whether carefully chosen or played in a whim, add to the fun of cooking and the pride in the finished product. Here are a few of the different ways I enjoy music while cooking.

Internet Radio For Dishes From Around The World
A great way to enjoy music in the kitchen is to use Internet radio sites. I use Last Fm or Pandora to play wonderful music suited to the food I am cooking. It may be my imagination, but authentic music seems to bring out the flavors and scents of food! One of my favorite meal/food combos is some delicious Indian food and the warm sounds of Mohammed Rafi.

Compiling Your Own Kitchen Mixes

Another great way to spend time in the kitchen is with personalized mix cds or playlists. Kitchen and cooking themed songs are perfect for this project.

"Kitchen Man," by Bessie Smith and "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked A Cake, " by Eileen Barton are two of my favorites. Check out this list of tons of food-themed songs.

Vinyl, Baby!
This is my favorite! If you are fortunate enough to have a record player and records in your home, crank it up and let the crackle of the music add another dimension to your dishes. My favorite cooking records on lazy afternoons are Sarah Vaughn and Elvis Costello.

While You Eat...

Perhaps the best way to enjoy music in the kitchen is with the food! Music sets a mood and can make a meal even more delicious. Enjoy!!!

Alfredo-Style Fettucini & Chicken-Style Seitan

Style, style, style! Anyone remember that Lemonheads song, Rick James Style? If so, hum it while you read this post about food in the style of other foods!

Last night we had a delicious, sort of homey meal of Alfredo-Style Fettucine from Vegan Planet and Chicken-Style Seitan from YRR.

My friend Brittany in California sent me Vegan Planet, and I have to say it is one of my favorite cookbooks now. Every recipe so far has been easy to make and they all come out tasty. The alfredo sauce is made of an almond, onion, and soy base. It was great!

One the side (ok I admit we mushed it all together!!) were seitan cutlets from Yellow Rose Recipes. One batch of seitan so far has made roast "beef " po boys, these chicken style cutlets, and there is still enough for one more meal. Who knows what's next! What's even better is that the broth the seitan is cooked and stored in can be used as a veg broth substitute after the seitan is gone. No waste! I love it.

Finally, I opened a can of baby peas, and the masterpiece was complete. Needless to say, it was yummy and there were no leftovers. Now that's style!!!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kitchen Bouquet

Lately I have been making lots of things involving roux and gravy-type stuffs. Some recipes called for Kitchen Bouquet, a gravy browner, which is found at regular grocery stores...except mine! I searched high and low and decided to make some from scratch. Yay for internet!
The more I learn to cook, the more I like knowing about ways to create store-bought items at home. Now I can add Kitchen Bouquet to the list. I used this recipe and stored it in a glass jar, ready for gravy-making!

Kitchen Bouquet:

1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups water

Put brown sugar in a pan on a slow fire and let it burn or parch, slowly stirring all the time.

When it turns a dark brown, add water and stir well, and then bottle. Use a few drops at a time to color and thicken gravies and soups.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cajun Tofu & Mac-N-Cheeze

Last night I made Cajun Tofu from Yellow Rose Recipes and Mac-N-Cheeze as featured in an issue of VegNews Magazine. We had green salads and french bread to round out the meal. Perfect food for indulging in America's Next Top Model!!!

This macaroni was amazing! It tasted just like the cafeteria-style restaurant macaroni and cheese that I loved as a little kid, except better!!! It was topped with breadcrumbs and paprika for a little grown-up flair. I would definitely recommend this recipe. It tastes great and cuts out a ton of the fat and cholesterol in traditional mac & cheese. This would be an impressive potluck dish or contribution to a family gathering.

The Cajun Tofu was good, but is still a work in progress. I am experimenting with how to get the taste all the way through tofu when baking or frying it. I loved the Cajun Spice recipe within this recipe for tofu. It makes enough to store in a jar and use again. The tofu was a good texture, and the breading tasted delicious. I think to make this recipe more to my taste, I will cut the tofu into smaller blocks and marinate for a day or two in some vegetable broth and seasonings. The perfect baked tofu...here I come!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Football Food!

The Vegan Mouse blog featured a great post about football food gone vegan.
Today I made my first game day snack from Kim's recipes, Spinach Artichoke Dip. It was very tasty and gave the men a lot of energy for the game...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Holy Cow!

I was introduced to Indian food by good friends whose focus was on quality ingredients and authentic recipes. What a great introduction! I've had the pleasant experiences of eating at handful of Indian restaurants, such as India's in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Utsav Contemporary Indian in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Essence of India (read: Masala Bloody Marys!!!) in Chicago, Illinois.
Indian food works great for veg eaters, with many recipes involving vegetables, nuts, fruits, and coconut milk. When I decided to ease from vegetarian eating to vegan eating, however, I didn't account for the little special foods and drinks I would miss like the dairy-based mango lassi and that amazing milky rice pudding. I have been so excited to learn about the healthier and cruelty-free non-dairy versions of these foods and more.

One of my favorite blogs to come across lately has been Holy Cow! Vaishali shares recipes and stories about traditional Indian food, her committment to animals, and how she melds these two aspects of her life together to create unforgettable meals. I jumped right in of course, and can't wait to try more recipes.
Here are two dishes I prepared from Vaishali's blog. They were delicious!

First, for dinner, I made Navratan Kurma, a delicious dish based on a plethora of vegetables and a cashew paste. Read Vaishali's story that precedes the recipe too!

For dessert, I made Vegan Almond Kheer (rice pudding). I don't know where to start about this dish! It was so wonderful and certainly rivals the dairy-based version. The vanilla extract makes all the difference in the recipe. Golden raisins and almonds toasted with cardamom top the pudding. The result is a fragrant, perfectly sweet dessert, that while feeling like comfort food, is relatively healthy.

Onward and upward! I usually use leftover coconut milk from dinner recipes to blend up delicious fruit smoothies, so I know a great vegan mango lassi is well within reach. Check out Vaishali's blog and enjoy her stories and recipes!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vegan Month of Food (October)

I am excited to be participating in the VEGAN MOFO this October. It's basically a month devoted to blogging every day (ok for me I'm guessing I will be lazy on the weekends, but 5 out of 7 days is not so bad!) about food.

Here are some of the potential subjects. Post a comment if you have any idea for neat posts.

Your first vegan/vegetarian restaurant memory
Something you used to cook but don’t anymore
Try to cook/bake something that intimidates you
Write about your grandma’s holiday cooking
your favorite dish to bring to a potluck
your favorite meal to cook for people who are scared of vegan food
your favorite meal to cook for your parents/in-laws
use a grain you’ve never used before
use a fruit or vegetable you’ve never used before
veganize a recipe from your childhood
cook dinner for a friend as a surprise and drop it off right after work
cook an all-local ingredients meal
Write about your favorite songs to cook to
Keep a photo food journal for the entire day
Veganize a recipe
Tell the story of the first time you tried tofu
Take a cookbook that you don’t use very often and make one new recipe out of it every day for a week

Join the fun!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Big Easy

We made our first trip of the season to New Orleans last weekend for the Saints opening game. Here are some highlights. You''ll notice the lack of food shots...have no doubt, we ate like spoiled Louisiana kids, but the food disappeared so fast, I didn't have time to take pictures! Yum!

Here are some girls double-dutching outside One-Eyed Jacks, where the Bloody Marys flow like...something really awesome.
Here is Brad at Juan's Flying Burritos! I am always down for burritos, flying or otherwise. This time I had the Veggie Punk, a burrito with beans, rice, potatoes, and a lot of spicy stuff! The Supergreen is also very good!
We went a'walking and a'shopping and found some neat places. This is a candy store full of sugary hyperness! Brad found a giant talking PEZ dispenser of a Saints football player!
Along another street was a magical pink fence with a big hunk of bananas growing! Wheeee!
Here's the lovely courtyard where we stayed...does this remind anyone else of Melrose Place...?
And for your viewing pleasure, yours truly and the Saints #1 fan, setting out on game day. Whoohooo!!
Afterthought: This trip really inspired me to learn more about New Orleans. We walked up and down the streets wondering about the origins of the architecture and the history of the city beyond the basics. I've requested a healthy list of history books, cookbooks, and NOLA music cd's from the library and can't wait to dig in! I loved the sights and smells of the food. Rather than bemoan the ingredients list, I feel very excited about veganizing Louisiana favorites with the help of some amazing cooks, cookbooks, and a little of my own zest for spicing up a recipe. I am helping to test recipes for a really exciting and authentic vegan New Orleans cookbook. Stay tuned for the results!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kittee's Stuffed Shells

I've had this recipe up on my kitchen chalkboard for weeks just waiting for the perfect time. Last night, we saw our NOLA friends off and settled back into life at the hive. I decided it was a night for an Italian delight and some red wine.

I didn't do the dish much justice with my amateur photography, but I can say there was dinnertime discussion of going back for "fourths."

The recipe is a basic stuffed pasta with a vegetable red sauce on top. The filling in this case is two types of tofu, nutritional yeast, and herbs. The sauce is storebought and spruced up with vegan sausage and sauteed veggies. The result is...amazing!!! Stuff, bake, eat!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Cookie Sammiches

I had some nice chocolate buttercream frosting left over from my Mad Love Cupcakes , so I baked up a batch of "Mom's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies- Only Better" from the wonderful Vegan Planet cookbook. Then I sandwiched those big giant cookies together in pairs with frosting! Cooky mutiny in the home!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Seitanic Red and White Bean Jambalaya

This weekend I made Seitanic Red and White Bean Jambalaya from Veganomicon. I was very excited to be able to share it with friends from New Orleans. The recipe was awesome, and it also marks my first experience making seitan.

Seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat. It was really easy to make and was perfect in the jambalaya. I can't wait to make more seitan-based recipes.

I started with the basic ingredients.

After mixing and kneading, I had three pieces of raw seitan ready to boil.

Here's the (rather unappetizing) boilng process. It did smell great though!

The test kitchen had some doubts...

The seitan turned out perfect and tender. It somewhat resembled cooked ground beef. I diced it after it cooled and prepared the jambalaya. Delicious!!!