Sunday, February 28, 2010

Flat Out Wraps... my new favorite thing!


Ok, one more thing I have to say today!! I love Flat Out wraps! We found them a while ago at Costco and have been using them for everything. I was internally singing their praises this afternoon as I was prepping for dinner tonight. I made Black Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas and used the Flat Out wraps.

They are, first of all, tasty as all get out, only 100 calories for those of you calorie counters like me :) and so so useful for so many things. It's a tortilla, it's a pizza crust, it's sandwich bread. Fantastic! And, bonus: I haven't had a child turn them down yet! They come highly recommended!

http://www.flatoutbread.com/movie.html

Vegan Fruit Crisp From Frozen Fruit

My fantastic friend Julea inspired me to make fruit crisp last night. We had dinner over at their house a few days ago and it was so good I couldn't resist. So I found a random recipe and of course, you guessed it 'Ellen-ized' it :) I just can't help myself :)

Thank you Julea for being a fantastic cook and inspiring me to experiment. You keep me on my toes in the kitchen and in life!

Need:
Frozen Fruit to fill your dish(es) 3/4 full (I had two small bags of fruit and it was enough for 4 individual and 2 medium sized pyrex dishes)
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 cup 'butter' (I, as with all my recipes, use Earth Balance)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Do:
Preheat oven to 375. Put fruit in container(s). Mix dry topping ingredients (except nuts). When mixed, cut in butter until the whole thing is crumbly. Add walnuts and combine. Put your mix on top of the fruit and pack down. I ended up with more topping than necessary, but I packed it down and it ended up being perfect! Bake for 25 or 30 min... keep an eye on it.

When they are done, take them out and let them cool. This is a perfect 'do ahead of time' dessert. I, like Julea, did them ahead of time and then just warmed them up before I put ice cream on them. So delish!

Serve:
Best with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top.



The great thing about this recipe is that it makes a great breakfast too! And if you wanted to make them FOR breakfast, do it! I'd just cut the amount of brown sugar :)

Vegan Chili


I don't 'crave' chili like some people do. I don't even necessarily like it enough to say 'hey, let's have chili tonight!' But this day was one of those blustery, rainy, nasty days where all you want to do is stay inside in front of the fire and watch movies. It also happened to be a Sunday. So, while honey watched sports, I decided to have a go at making some chili. I found a random recipe then 'Ellen-ized' it... as per usual :)

As you may know by reading former posts, we like spicy food; this one topped the charts though. It was really TOO spicy due to my overzealous use of the chipotles in adobo sauce. You make the call when you're cooking it :)

Need:
Oil for cooking
One onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (I used one red and one green)
4-6 carrots, cut (if the 'circles' are really big, cut them in half too)
2 or 3 stalks of celery, cut (same with the big ends)
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1 /12 Tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 or 3 cups vegetable broth (start out with one or so and add more if you want it to be soupier)
2 Tablespoons canned chipotles in adobo sauce (here was my fatal mistake... I put the WHOLE can in. Yeah, I had no idea they were so hot! Play with the heat and put in as much or as little as you like)
3 cans diced tomatoes (the regular size cans)
3 cans red kidney beans (regular size)
Salt
Pepper
Vegan ground 'meat' (optional)
Tofutti sour cream
Chopped fresh cilantro

Do:
In your pot, heat oil and saute onions and peppers. Add the carrots and celery, reduce the heat and cook until tender. Best to cover with a lid so the carrots soften. About 5 min, stir every once in a while.

When the veg is soft, add the cumin, coriander, oregano, cinnamon, cloves and paprika and cover to cook some more, still stirring often.

Open your chipotles and either tear or chop them into smaller pieces. Add your veg broth, chiles and diced tomatoes to your cooking mix. Drain your beans and add them too. Mix everything together and let simmer covered but stirring often. Add salt and pepper. Let cook for about 20 minutes.

Add your vegan ground 'meat' at this point, if you want to put it in there. I suggest it; it adds more protein to the soup and tastes yum!

While everything is cooking, chop some cilantro and mix it into some of the vegan sour cream. When you are ready to serve, this will be your topping.

Serve:
Ladle chili into a bowl and top with a dollop of your sour cream/cilantro mix. Garnish with a bit more cilantro and serve!


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spring... garden excitement!


Now that we are nearing spring and summer, it's time to start thinking about what I'm going to plant in our garden!

Every year since we moved into our old Maryland house (where it came with a ready made veg garden) I have taken great pleasure in planning, planting and nurturing our veg. garden. Last year we moved into a house that didn't have a vegetable garden. After much deliberation, I talked my husband, brother and dad into building one for me! Inevitably it would have happened but I would have had to skip a year so we just did it.

Our first year, last year, was quite lucrative! Looking at these pictures reminds me of how much fun we had planting, tending and playing in the garden! Noodle has his own little dirt pile that he loves to play in while I'm in the garden. I am hoping this year will be just as lucrative in the veg department.

Now... what to plant?? Last year we had FAR too much zuccini... who doesn't? It's so easy to grow and forces me to be creative with a rather boring and tasteless vegetable.


I'm thinking this year I'll try out some fun things like okra... more to come!

This is one of my favorite pictures; enjoying the fruit of the garden... with only one boot on! Such a boy :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

If you're a parent...


Or if you want to be the best [Nana, Godmother, etc...] ever, you have got to check out the Tag!! My mom got one for Noodle Nose for Christmas but we just now got to opening it. He is in LOVE with it!! It came with The Cat in the Hat and then we also have an I Spy book and the Up story. There are tons of other books too... I can see that we are definitely going to be getting more!

The Tag thing (which apparently comes in many ages) can either read the story to your child or help the child 'read' the book by running the Tag over the words. There is even a spot for them to play games, etc...

Noodle Nose is not easily entertained but he is seriously loving being able to look at the pictures and be in control of the story. This is seriously my new favorite thing ever!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Homemade Curry Paste


This green curry paste is easy to make and soooo much better than the jarred store bought kind. I like to make it in large quantity and then freeze it in ice cube trays. When they're fully frozen, de-ice cube tray them and put them in a plastic bag or other container and pop in the freezer. Voila! Insta-right serving!

Need:
1 Tablespoon grated lime zest
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 teaspoon ground coriander
4 garlic cloves
2 stalks lemongrass, coarsely chopped
1 oz shallots
1-2 thai bird chiles, coarsely chopped
1 oz cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped

Do:
In a food processor, blend all of the above together until it is pasty and smooth. Portion into ice cube trays and freeze. When fully frozen, pop them out and into a plastic bag or other container. Put them back in the freezer until you're ready to use!

Note: try the green curry recipe I posted a bit back... it's fantastic!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fizzy Water

We love our fizzy water in this house! We love it so much that we were spending far too much money on purchasing bottled fizzy water. That is until my mom found the Penguin fizzy water maker! It's fantastic! We only use it for water, but my brother and sister in law make natural sodas with theirs... you can buy the 'mix'es for different types of sodas, etc... I so highly recommend this if you love fizzy but don't want to buy the bottled type!
Soda Club Penguin Soda Maker, Starter Package  Soda Club Penguin Soda Maker, Starter Package
This is the one that we have, the penguin... love it! It came with natural soda mixes and essential oil flavors but I haven't ventured out on that one. We just love the plain old water :)



This is the one that my bro and sister in law have... they make their own root beer, etc. and love it just as much as we love ours!

A word of advice: do not attempt to make fizzy wine... um yeah. Despite the directions which printed in bold caps: 'do not put anything but water in here', we did have an 'incident' where we decided to try making fizzy red wine. Needless to say, not only did it not work, it made a HUGE mess :) Live and learn!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Alton Brown's Brown Rice

I'm posting Alton Brown's recipe for brown rice because I haven't found a better way to cook it ever. Not only is it super easy (no watching involved), it makes the brown rice the perfect consistency!

Need:
1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 T butter (but we don't do butter so I use Earth Balance and it works just fine)
1 t kosher salt

Do:
Heat the oven to 375 f. In a pan, bring the water, 'butter' and salt to a boil. Put the dry rice in a 8 inch glass baking pan. For this, I have used my pyrex dishes, but if you don't have a lid, you can use tin foil to cover. When water is boiling, pour over brown rice and cover with lid or tightly with tin foil. Put in preheated oven for 1 hour. After your hour is up, remove lid, fluff with a fork and serve. So easy and delicious!!

Curry... kitchen sink style

I assume everyone has had the experience where you go to the refrigerator and see all the 'nearly gone' vegetables in the drawers and on the shelves. I do this a lot; and then I feel guilty that I may have to throw them away, or compost, as the case may be. In an attempt to make use of these 'nearly gone' veggies, which I most recently found in my refrigerator, I made a curry... it wasn't so bad! :)

 


Need:
'need' is tough to say because you can use anything you have in the fridge! Take this as a starting or 'idea' point and go from there. Here is what I used:
Rice or noodles (this time we used noodles, but I love brown rice with this!)
1 onion, chopped big
1 sweet potato, diced
6 carrots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed using a clove smasher... you can just dice it too
Vegetable stock (about 2 cups)
2 red bell pepper
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
About 3 tablespoons of curry mix (now for this you can use homemade curry mix or the jarred kind in the store. I'll post the homemade mix because it's fantastic and super easy. It's also very simple to make lots and freeze)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp crushed chili pepper paste (you can also use 1/4 tsp cayenne)
Coconut milk (about 1 can)
Salt and pepper to taste

Do:
Cook your noodles or rice. In lazy times I use the frozen brown rice from Trader Joes, but if you have time, cook it the Alton Brown way... I'll repost that recipe. it's the BEST!
In a stewpot or large pan, heat some oil and saute the onions for a couple minutes then add your sweet potatoes, carrots and garlic. Once you mix these, put a lid on your pot, it will soften the sweet potatoes and carrots faster. When they are softening, add your red peppers, vegetable stock, cinnamon and curry paste. Cover and let it simmer for a bit then add the chickpeas and coconut milk. Mix and cover again to make sure all the veggies are appropriately al dente.  Here's where you get to taste it too. Add more spice if you like (we like things spicy) and your salt and pepper. If you like a soupier curry, add more coconut milk. You really can't go wrong on this dish so be creative!

Serve:
Put some of your rice or noodles in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Ladle your curry mix on top, making sure to have enough liquid to saturate the rice/noodles. We added sriracha sauce to the top of ours for color and spice, but you don't have to. Another option would be to add some freshly julienned basil. Enjoy!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dakota Creek Winery


I like my wine. I like good wine. I think it is especially fun to know where my wine comes from.



So here we go Dakota Creek Winery... If you're in the area you have to stop by! Ken and Jill Peck are great and their wine is fantabulous! My sister-in-law and I love driving out to their quaint little winery to spend some quality time tasting their creative concoctions. Sometimes we go just for fun but we always go to taste/vote for the Firefighter Red blend! Jill's blend is always a fun one too; in fact, we're off this weekend to taste it. This year it's white and we're both anxious to try!

So not only is the wine delish, Ken and Jill are a wealth of wine knowledge and more than happy to share with anyone who inquires! I don't dare forget our fellow Dakota Creek lovers who wander in for a taste as well. You will never be without conversation and you will always leave feeling like family.

http://www.dakotacreekwinery.com/

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Spinach quesadillas

An underlying theme to my cooking? Yes we do a lot of mexican/southwest eating up in here! We like it hot hot hot, so it's a predictable route.

This recipe is similar to the mushroom quesadillas that I made a while ago. I saw this one, which sounded good; but in true 'me' form, I just COULDN'T stick to the recipe. I don't know; it's a curse.... or a blessing, depending on how good it is in the end :)

Need:
Whole wheat tortillas (I went to the Costco in Burlington and discovered a mecca of tortillas! Our Costco has the standard white flour version; at Burlington there were at least a dozen choices... so fun! Anyway, I found some that are 100 calories each and whole wheat. They're a cross between flatbread and tortillas which is fun because you can use them either way!
2 cups Sweet onion, chopped
1 fresh chile, minced
5 cups fresh spinach (10 0z ish...)
pinch dried oregano
salt
pepper
Cheese (I used Vegan Gourmet)
Optional:
Shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced and sauteed

Do:

Heat oil and cook the onions and chiles for 4 or 5 minutes. Add the spinach, oregano and salt and pepper. Stir until spinach is wilted, then remove from heat. Drain any extra liquid; however I didn't have any.

Put a tortilla on a skillet, sprinkle one side of the tortilla with cheese and add some of your mix. Fold in half. Let it melt and get crispy and brown. When done, remove and slice into wedges.

Serve:

Serve it with anything: salsa, vegan sour cream, avocado, guacamole... you name it! It makes a great appetizer or main event if you stuff it full. It's also really good for you!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Food looks kind of funny when you photograph it...

I've got to ask my photog. friend Julea, but I've been thinking, as I go through my pictures: food looks kind of funny when you photograph it!! Less appetizing? Perhaps... Odd? Yes.

A few weeks ago I made sushi: spicy tuna rolls. Delicious and NOT vegan. Ok. If we haven't established this already, (I'm sure we have) I started eating seafood again; almost a year ago... I call it 'pesce-vegan'. I'm coining a new term. :)

Anyway, I made this delicious meal and wanted to share it with the few people that even read this darn thing and perhaps the even fewer that stumble upon it by accident while googling something random :) (I've done that and found blogs I love and if you've done that with this, I love it!!) So I'm eating this food and I think 'well I have to take a picture', because I do with all my meals. So I take a picture and look at it later and I just have to delete it. It was just wrong.

So why is that? Now every time I look at one of my 'food pics', I think the same... the food looks weird. It's good though, I promise!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

And speaking of the Haagen Daaz Diet...

So we have already established that I don't do dairy so the real live Haagen Daaz wouldn't work for me; however, Purely Decadent is indeed my absolute favorite ice cream ever ever ever!!! Here are some of my faves... they come highly recommended :)

       

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Haagen Daaz Diet??

We make it no mystery that we are trying for a baby; recently though, we sought the assistance of a doctor in town. After a very interesting and detailed explanation of how a 'egg' turns into a baby, something was mentioned about exercise. A rather concerned 'ooh' passed through my lips which caught the attention of our doctor. He of course asked how much exercise I was talking about and I said 'not much... just 5-7 times a week of boot camp and running.' He laughed and wondered out loud (in question form) why we were wondering about the lack of 'child' after much trying.

Apparently exercise is not so great  for baby making. News to me. Apparently not news to my husband who proceeded to tell me that he definitely knew that and could have sworn that he had told me. Not.

Either way, our doctor's solution to our dilemma was to prescribe what he calls the Haagen Daaz diet. Yeah. When did being fit/in shape mean not being able to make babies? Most girls would be giddy with excitement about the thought of 'getting' to eat ice cream every day; however, for me our dear doctor also tacked a very ominous 'and' onto the end of his prescripton. The 'and' was: stop running. STOP RUNNING?? Uh. Ahem. Ooh.

Long and the short of it, I left the office dead silent (aside from the occassional uncomfortable chuckle which is about all I could muster). He asked if I had any questions and I probably did but I knew if I opened my mouth to say anything I would start crying. Silly? Not for someone who actually loves running.

That night I proceeded to open my first pint of 'ice cream'... not Haagen Daaz because I don't do dairy, but apparently Purely Decadent works just fine. Any full fat ice cream, dairy or not apparently works just fine, according to our doc. Funny thing is.... I had one bite and it didn't even taste good. Didn't taste good and I didn't want it.

Tonight is my next attempt at the ice cream thing. We shall see how it goes. I'm sure I'll settle into it eventually, especially with the prospect of having a baby...but it is a complete 180 for me and will take some adjusting.

As for the running? Well.... Uh. Ahem. Ooh. I haven't necessarily stopped :) but I am working on cutting back. It would be like, choose something that you love love love to do, see, whatever... your favorite thing ever ever ever. Now, imagine I said you couldn't do it anymore. What would your reaction be? Let me guess: Uh. Ahem. Ooh.

I'll keep you posted on my Haagen Daaz adventure, but for now... I'm off to have a snack :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Superfood Salad

Picture coming soon!!

My new favorite salad happens to also be super good for you! In fact, it's super in many ways: super good for you, super easy, super versatile; all around and in general: super :) It's also a great salad because you can make all the 'goods' early and in bulk and eat it multiple times.

Need:
Spinach greens (I use the Organic Girl triple washed greens and then I wash them again!)
Shelled edamame beans, frozen or fresh. (of course, fresh is better but not always easy to find)
Sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
Protein (here is where you get creative!)
Originally the salad's 'star' was seared ahi tuna, which is indeed fantastic. I loved the salad so much that I have been experimenting with other types of protein. So far I have tried grilled tofu cutlets of my own making, marinated tofu (like the kind you buy alread marinated in the package) and a good old favorite from my London days: haloumi cheese. Oh haloumi cheese... I could (and just may!) write a post all about you!
For the dressing:
Blood orange vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
A dash of balsamic vinegar
Pinch red pepper flakes
Truffle salt (yet another blog post in and of itself!)

Do:
Bring two pots of water to a boil. One is for the sweet potato cubes and one is for the edamame. I don't do 'time' very well because I'm a very hands-on cook, so cook them until they're done. Please please do not over cook the sweet potatoes or the edamame. When in doubt, take them off the stove early. Even if you run icy cold water on them, they will still keep cooking unless you blanch them.

While those are cooking, prepare your protein:

If you're doing ahi tuna, I like to sprinkle both sides with a bit of truffle salt first. You will find that I'm not big on extreme 'dousing' of sauces or marinades... Get your grill or pan super hot and sear it up! I usually go for 1 minute on each side. The biggest mistake you can make with ahi tuna is to over cook it; seriously go with 1 minute, maybe even less. Honestly; less is more!

If you're doing tofu, use extra firm, not the kind in the tray; even their extra firm is too mushy. Slice it into 1/2 inch thick pieces and marinate it for 30 min or so in a little thai chili sauce. My favorite is from Pasta&Co. (http://www.pastaco.com/)  can also do a mix of the sweet chile sauce you can find in a regular grocery store and thai chili paste, also probably in a regular grocery store. If not it is definitely at an asian food store; that's where I get mine. To cook it, get your pan hot like you would for ahi tuna. Sear it on either side so it's 'crunchy-ish'.

If you're doing haloumi cheese, get your pan hot and grill it up. I'll post something about haloumi cheese because it truly is fantastic and fun (and yum!).

Whichever protein you use, it's easy, as you can see.

Dressing:
In a shaker, I use one from Tupperware. If you don't have a shaker, use a leak free container. Combine 2 parts blood orange vinegar and 1 part oil. Yes, I know it's usually the other way around but I'm not a big fan of oil, let alone excessive oil. Add your 'dash' of balsamic vinegar, pinch of red pepper flakes and a good healthy couple of pinches of truffle salt. Seal up your shaker/container and shake the dickens out of it! I mean really go for it... the best part of it is the fact that it's emmulsified. I get tons of compliments on the dressing and I feel kind of guilty because it's really easy!

Serve:
In a large bowl, toss spinach with dressing. On  a lovely plate, arrange your spinach. Then top first with sweet potatoes and then edamame. There are no measurements for any of this because you get to decide how much you want! Roughly, I do about 3/4 cup of sweet potatoes and 1/2 cup of edamame beans. You can add more dressing if you want, but I usually just put it out so individuals can decide themselves if they want more. On top of your sweet potatoes and edamame, add your protein. You can now sprinkle with a little more truffle salt if you like.

Voila! Serve and enjoy :)
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