Friday, April 30, 2010

Our furry family

Always entertaining with their personalities (yes, personalities) and quirks. Sometimes they are annoying but we love them no matter what...

What fabulous animals we have! Big B and the Soph Dog....

Bradley, aka Big B is our kitty, all 24 pounds of him! He has actually lost quite a bit of weight due to a strict diet upon guidance from the fabulous doctors at Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital. Last I checked he was down to about 19 pounds and has all the energy of a kitten... I am so glad he has his spunk back! Noodle Nose likes to tell people about Big B's diet... he says, 'yeah! and Big B? This is good! He's not diabetic anymore!!' We're all glad for him. I have had him since he was a teeny tiny kitten; we're going on almost 12 years now! And yes, even with his diet, he is much much bigger than the dog :)

Sophie, aka Soph Dog is our pound puppy... we're thinking jack/chihuahua mix? Whatever she is she's neurotic and we love and appreciate her for who she is. She had a rough life before us and we're glad she's with us now :)

Animals make life that much more fun... they are truly part of our family!!

xoxo, we love you Big B and Soph Dog!

Vegan Quiche... simple and tasty!

Ok... even when I ate all that stuff, I never did like quiche. There is something about the buttery flaky crust and jiggly middle that gives me the heebie jeebies. I have never been a fan of the flaky rich thing that everyone is so googly eyed over... croissants? ugh... (I know, I know).

So why on earth did I decide to try a quiche vegan style? Honey is the total opposite of me. I'm a food purist: sauceless, butterless, as 'original' as you can keep the food. Honey loves all things saucy, buttery and rich; I'm sure his motto is 'bring on the sauce', or 'is there more sauce?', something like that!

So I thought I might try something new for him, my way, of course... he loves it!

Extra virgin olive oil (about 2 Tablespoons for sauteeing)
1 leek, white part only, halved and chopped
3/4 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced (you can also use the dehydrated 'mixed' blend... I have those and love them!)
2 heads broccoli, cut into small pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic
1 pkg extra firm tofu, drained and squeezed of all extra liquid
1/2  cup soy or almond milk
Salt and Pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
4 T tamari
Pinch cayenne (optional)

One pie crust (see recipe on next blog)
Note: you can use a store bought crust but it probably won't be vegan, or as delicious as this one!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Heat your oil in a pan and add leeks and mushrooms. Let cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring as you go. Add broccoli, red peppers and garlic and continue to cook another 5 minutes or so. Set aside

In a food processor, crumble the tofu and add soy milk, tamari, curry, salt and pepper and cayenne. Blend until smooth.

Add tofu mix to vegetable mix, stir well and taste. If it needs more tamari or curry or salt and pepper, add it now.

Scoop into the pie crusts you made and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Once cooled, slice into whatever size you want and serve it with your salad of choice. I, of course, chose spinach!


Vegan Quiche Crust

Here's the super simple crust recipe I conjured for the quiche. When I saw the 'dough' I wasn't sure it was going to work out, but it's pretty darn tasty! So tasty I think I'll try it with a vegan pumpkin pie!

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 T soy milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

IN a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt together.

In a separate bowl, whip oil and soy milk with a fork. Add to flour and use fork to incorporate. Note: the 'dough' will look like a crumbly mess. It's ok!

Pour 'dough' into your pie plate and press it evenly across the plate and up the sides. Pinch the top of the sides for a pretty decoration.

Press tin foil on top of crust and bake for 8 minutes. Then remove the tin foil and bake for another 4 minutes.

You're done!

Now, let it cool and add your quiche (or pie) filling.

Note: When I made the vegan quiche, I did this step first, so it would have time to cool.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Eat your spinach

Ok, by now you understand my food 'tear' thing. Peanut butter, blueberry muffins, mac and cheese... do I sound pregnant? Yes. Am I? No, just acting like it.

Luckily for me, most of my food tears seem to be for good things, not bad. Recently (meaning a span of the last month or so) I have been really into spinach. This is good! I actually really like spinach; it's good for you, it tastes good and you should eat it!

I have found myself using it as a 'base' for a lot of other things I make. This works out well because I usually make way too much and honey has to eat it for leftovers. The spinach base also makes things look so much more fancy and fun, it adds 'bulk' to a salad and is packed (and I mean packed!) with good vitamins for your body.

Spinach is also good 'in' and 'on' things. I add it to pizza, pasta, various baked dishes, the possibilities are endless.

Why the post about spinach? Ok, in going through my food photos, I found some pictures of things I have made that inevitably have a spinach base. Instead of sending those pictures to the 'blogged' folder, never to be seen again (ok, not really) I thought I would try to inspire you to buy a bag or box or bunch of spinach and get creative! Just don't forget to wash it first... and that goes for the spinach that says it's already been washed!

Spinach with greek salad, tasty and light. A great 'ladies who lunch' choice...

Spinach with tabouleh; another light alternative...
(this is perfect for me for dinner. Lunch is my main meal so by the time I cook dinner, feed small child, sit down with honey, I'm usually over anything really 'big' or 'heavy')

Spinach on pizza...
Ok, you can't really see it, but it's there! Under the mass piling of fresh veg from the garden and Vegan Gourmet cheese!

Other uses, not pictured:
Spinach lasagna... so good! I have made it before and in fact, I'll make it again, take a picture and post a blog about it, just for you!

Simply steamed spinach... a little balsamic vinegar, a light steam, enough said. You're good to go.

Stir fry... add it at the last minute so it's not totally limp, just let it wilt a bit.

That delicious portobello vegan version of stroganoff... I have dreams about that stuff; mmmm.

And the list goes on! It's good for you, it tastes good so eat your spinach :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese (oh my!)

On another food tear, I found myself recently on a mission to make a good mac and cheese using 'cheese' instead of cheese. Small child loves the m n' c; I won't lie, I like it too but until now I haven't had it in what seems like a lifetime because I can't seem to work out a good homemade version.

All that has changed, oh my yes it has! This mac and cheese is so delicious and nutritious; small child loves it, honey loves it and so do I. I probably love it a little too much, but hey, everyone needs comfort food every now and again!

I hope you and your fam enjoy it as much as mine does!

1/2 cup 'butter' (Earth Balance is my fall to)
2 T flour
2 cups soy milk
1 tub vegan cream cheese (Tofutti)
1 block vegan cheese, cubed (Vegan Gourmet)
1 bag elbow macaroni (Note: I used almost the whole bag but not the whole bag)
About 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (this is to taste so you can use more or less depending on what you want)
About 1 1/2 cups panko breading (3/4 cup to mix in and about 3/4 cup for the top. Doesn't have to be exact)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil elbow macaroni in salted water; when al dente, strain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process, set aside.

In another pan, melt 'butter' then add in flour. From there add soy milk and stir until thick and smooth. Add cream 'cheese' and continue to stir over medium heat until melted together. Once melted, add the Vegan Gourmet cheese cubes and let melt, continuing to stir.

Back to your noodles, pour them into an oven safe baking dish (I use the glass pyrex with a lid). Pour your cheesey mix from the pan onto the noodles. Before stirring in, add the nutritional yeast and panko, then mix it all together making sure the noodles are covered and everything is mixed up. Once mixed, add the rest of your panko to the top.

Cover with a lid or tin foil and bake for 20 or so minutes. At 20 or so minutes, uncover and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove and enjoy!

Alternatives: This mac and cheese would be great as mac and TREE, which we do love. To do so, add some broccoli to the mix before baking.

We usually have a small salad with our meal, to get our fresh fiber. This mac and cheese is great with a salad. For the small child, I usually prep some 'mommy' beans (Edamame beans) or broccoli.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Great Cracker Critique... courtesy of honey

After my cracker baking extravaganza, honey came home and wanted in on the action; so I prepped a little cracker cornucopia for him and made sure he knew he had to critique them as well as gorge himself on them.

Here's what he had to say:

Rosemary (my recipe)
'Taste is great! Crunch perfect! I like that the rosemary is in the dough"

Truffle (olive oil recipe)
"Good design, although unintentional. Good taste, great truffle"

Telicherry Pepper (olive oil)
"Good crunch but tastes plain; can't taste the pepper"

Fennel (olive oil)
"Good crunch good taste!"

Rosemary (olive oil)
"Good crunch; put rosemary in dough, like the other one"

Seaweed salt (olive oil)
"Too soft, needs to be crunchier. I like the flavor of the seaweed salt"

In the end, I decided that I really need a pasta roller to get the consistency more even. That way they all bake the same and all taste the same. Well, mother's day is coming up :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mango Salsa

As seen on vegan 'crab' cakes!

I thought, instead of talking about it, it deserves it's very own blog post. It's so delicious with the vegan 'crab' cakes, by itself, on top of a salad... the possibilities are endless!

Make it up and eat it then or let it sit and marinate. Either way is fantastic!

1 ripe mango, cubed (see instructions below)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 to 3/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
1 or 2 jalapenos, diced fine (we like things hot and spicy so we use two. If you want 'not so hot', you can take the seeds out)
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or 'smashed', this can be optional
Juice of 1 lime
Dash salt and pepper

Slice off  the two meaty sides of the mango. Run your knife vertically through the meat of the mango, then run it horizontally, creating cute little squares in your mango meat. Then flip your mango 'inside out' which will protrude the meat. from there you can use your knife to pear off the cute little cubes. My mom taught me this when I was about 15 years old; she was doing it for a dessert and served it inside out. Back then that was pretty amazing! It's still pretty amazing. It makes a great presentation.

Add your onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, lime juice and salt and pepper to your bowl of mango cubes.

Mix well and let sit, then serve!

I use it for the crab or meatless crab cakes. It's also great with crackers as an appetizer or on top of a salad. It's very versatile and tasty!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Vegan Crab Cakes

'That's it. I have found what I would eat for the rest of my life if I could only choose one thing.'

That's what I told honey as we were eating these ever so delicious faux crab cakes. I think they're actually better than a real crab cake and that is coming from someone who hearts crab cakes!

I do eat seafood sometimes so crab cakes, made at home or by someone who understands my 'food needs', isn't a sacrifice. Restaurants usually put egg and/or mayonnaise in their mix so it's a no go for me but in the end, mine are better meatless or not.

These though, these. Oh. These should be on every restaurant menu!

1 pkg tempeh, cut into thirds
Water for soaking
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or smashed through a garlic mincer
3 Tablespoons vegannaise
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce (vegan worcestershire, of course)
1 Teaspoon spicy mustard (I used wasabi but any kind of spicy brown will do)
Salt and Pepper
Panko breading, 1 cup for the 'mix' and about 1 cup or a little more for the 'roll'
Oil for pan frying

Put your tempeh pieces in a bowl or flat container with the water and 1 tsp salt. Let soak for 45 min to 1 hour.

In a large bowl, add your celery, carrot, onion, parsley, garlic, vegannaise, lemon juice, worcestershire and mustard. Mix to incorporate.

Crumble your soaked tempeh and add to your mixture. Mix well to incorporate.

Add panko to your tempeh veg mix and mix to incorporate.

By this time you should have a big sticky mix. If it's not sticky enough to 'stick' together, add a little more vegannaise.

On a plate, put the rest of your panko breading, add some salt and pepper and mix up.

Heat your pan with oil. When you heat it, turn it on while you form your cakes so it has plenty of time to get nice and hot.

Form your cakes by starting them out as a ball. Roll the ball in the panko on the plate then set aside until your pan is ready. I waited until I had four or five cakes ready before I put them on the pan.

Repeat the cake forming and rolling until all mix is done.

Note: I formed them into balls and rolled then lightly smashed them on the pan once they had seared  a bit. That way they stay together better. They don't need to be flat cakes; in fact, I think they have more character when they're plump little round ball cakes.

You can serve them by themselves or with the delicious mango salsa. For that recipe, see the other crab cake recipe on my blog. The mango salsa recipe is there for you!

I tossed some fresh spinach in a little balsamic vinegar/oil mixture and used that as my base, then added the mango salsa and topped with the 'crab' cake.

So delicious! Enjoy!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Vegan Rosemary Crocantini Crackers

After my attempts at olive oil crackers, I decided to try and tweak the recipe a little; see what I could come up with. The result? A fantastically delicious cracker much closer to my beloved rosemary crackers than the olive oil version.

Don't get me wrong, the olive oil crackers are good; in fact, both types have seemed to get better since I made them. I enjoyed them with some delicious chevre last night and was highly impressed. I may not buy crackers ever again!

It was such fun experimenting with the very basic ingredients, I may go back in the kitchen and do it again in a couple days!

1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 Tablespoons rosemary (you can use more or less, or none at all if you want plain or something else!)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
In your Kitchenaid, add flour, sugar salt and rosemary; use the dough hook. While the Kitchenaid is on, stream in olive oil first, and then water. Let mix for about 30 seconds until dough is a nice mixed ball.

Put dough on lightly floured surface, or pastry mat and knead into a ball. Separate into six pieces, cover and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

Roll each ball out separately. Note: I used a french rolling pen. Before I started this adventure, I didn't think I would need a pasta attachment. My experience with the olive oil crackers and rosemary crackers has taught me that a pasta rolling attachment would be really helpful in order to get the dough even all the way through. If you're using a rolling pin, roll and roll and roll; especially with this dough which is much more elastic than the olive oil dough. Roll it as thin as you can possibly get it.

Cut into your desired shape; I usually just cut at random to make fun and funky shapes. Put pieces on parchment paper, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and pop in the oven onto a pizza stone or baking sheet.

Let cook for about 2-3 minutes on first side then flip for another 1-2 minutes. The bake timing really really depends on how thin you got your dough. I ended up baking them for about 3 minutes on each side. They do tend to come out a little soft, which is ok but if they cool off and are still soft, no bueno.

One of my batches cooled too soft so I popped them in the oven, which I had already turned off. They sat in there for about 10 minutes and I think it really helped.

I wish I could be more definite on the timing but you just have to play around with them. Keep an eye on them though, they do burn quickly!

See pictures... they should be a nice golden brown.

They are great by themself or with some delicious hummus or salsa; so versatile, get crazy with your dips!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Vegan Olive Oil Crackers

I went cracker crazy yesterday. I have been wanting to make my own crackers for a while and considering it was raining cats and dogs outside, I decided that it was a great day for cracker making. Luckily, Noodle loves it when I pull out the Kitchenaid, so he helped.

My nagging need to make crackers stems from an obsession with La Panette rosemary crackers. Then, about a month ago I found the Urban Spoon olive oil crackers at a local wine shop. Different but delicious.

I started out on online for this recipe; 101 cookbooks, check it out... it's pretty neat!

1 1/2 cups semolina flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

In Kitchenaid, mix fours and salt. With dough hook, add water and olive oil. Mix on medium for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough should be tacky but not dry or sticky. Add flour or water as needed.

Shape dough into ball and cut 12 even rounds. Rub with olive oil, cover and set aside at room temp for 30 to 60 min.

Preheat oven to 450. Flatten first dough ball with rolling pin. Roll and shape into a flat strip. To flatten and 'knead' dough you can also use a pasta roller attachment on your Kitchenaid. Pull dough to be thinner and cut into whatever shape you like (I just cut at random so they were funky and misshapen). Poke with fork and top with what you like (see below for my list of toppings). Bake in small batches until deeply golden (the original recipe did not specify a time; I found that 5-7 minutes, leaning toward longer was best. My first batch came out 'stale' tasting because they were too soft). Let cool before eating.

My toppings during this round:
Coarse sea salt
Telicherry pepper
Seaweed salt
Truffle salt (oh, you didn't think you were going to miss out on this one, did you?)

I found these crackers to be ok... they were less exciting than I had hoped; however they did inspire me to keep trying different versions which led me to the fantastic rosemary cracker recipe, which I will post shortly!

See pictures below:

Truffle salt... ah...

Fennel to the left, rosemary to the right

Seaweed salt

Telicherry Pepper

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vegan Applesauce Cookies or Biscuits

On rainy days we bake; the other day, I suggested the idea and Noodle said he wanted to bake 'apple cookies'. Hmmmm.... I've never done apple cookies, but it sounded like a good blog post so off we were!

These were good but they're more like a cookie biscuit type thing. A gal at work thought they tasted like a muffin top; not the kind you see atop my jeans, the actual top of a muffin. I do agree with her and this is a good thing because you could easily serve these for breakfast with banannas or some other fruit, or with ice cream. Me likey (and Noodle and Honey likey too!)

1 1/2 cup Earth Balance
2 cups sugar
2 tsp egg replacer
2 Tablespoons soy milk
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour (or all purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 1/2 cup applesauce (preferrably homemade)
Parchment paper

In a small bowl, combine egg replacer and soy milk and 'whip' with a fork until well blended.

In your Kitchenaid (or with a mixer) mix butter and sugar. When well combined, add egg replacer/soy combo and mix again.

In a separate bowl, combine all your dry ingredients and stir together.

To your wet ingredients, alternately add dry ingredients and applesauce. Dry, applesauce, dry, applesauce, until everything is added.

Once well combined, spoon out onto 12-15 inch long pieces of parchment paper. Spoon the dough lengthwise and then roll so it forms into a long dough log. Repeat with all dough (I ended up with three long parchment 'rolls')

Put in refrigerator for at least an hour, but I left mine overnight.

Once chilled:
Preheat oven to 375

Unroll your first parchment 'log' and slice in 1/4 or a little larger slices. You should have nice little rounds. Arrange on cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes depending on your oven.

My timing ended up to be 11 to 12 minutes and you do want them to be 'done'. This is not an ooey gooey cookie dough type thing. One of my batches was like that and they were no good.

They're great warm out of the oven, with vanilla soy delicious ice cream or with bananna slices in the morning!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Things to do with Mason (or Kerr) Jars

I heart Mason jars; I really do. I know it's kind of an odd thing but I am seriously drawn to things that can be re-used. For instance: I just can't get rid of (recycle or the other) empty Earth Balance tubs, salsa jars, salad containers, things of that sort. Every time I reach the end of a container/jar and I find myself cleaning it out, I think of my Grandmother. We weren't close but when she passed, my mom was at her house cleaning it out and I remember her on the phone with me, absolutely astounded at the vast number of empty tubs and jars she had stored away; I get this. My mom is not like that though; use it and lose it is more up her alley.

Back to Mason jars; or Kerr, whichever. I dabble in a bit of canning during the season. I mostly got into it because of my little apple tree that could. Sourest apples you've ever bitten in to, but they sure do make the best applesauce! My little tree went off the hook a couple summers ago and instead of seeing them go to waste (same theory as the tubs/jars) I decided to make applesauce and can my little heart out. It worked out well!

Now though, since we have moved, I don't have the tree nor the need for so many jars. Garage sale them? No. Let's think of more fun things to do with them... they're not just for canning anymore!

1. Drinking glasses! They're unique, creative and very durable. You can drop these babies on the floor and they aren't likely to break. Yes, you will have a liquid mess, but no glass! They handle hot or cold beverages like a champ, hence why these are our coffee mugs of choice. Yes, the teachers at Noodle's school have called me a hillbilly with my mason jar mug of coffee but hey, what'cha gonna do?

2. Flower Vase! I know, this one seems like a cop out, but wrap some cute ribbon around it and you've got something pretty darn cute. I was carrying flowers for one of Noodle's teachers out to the car when I ever so gracefully dropped the darn vase! More worried about the flowers I was frantically running around trying to find something else to put them in. Mason jar? Voila!

3. Baking Supplies Container! There is something about baking soda in an open cardboard container that just doesn't sit well with me. Also, egg replacer comes in a lame plastic bag in a box. Talk about annoying and messy. Whip out your mason jar and lid and you've got a perfect solution.

4. Salt cellar! My sister-in-law gave us jam for Christmas a couple Christmases ago. It was Noodle's favorite, lovingly coined 'Auntie Erin's special jam'. She cleverly (on purpose or not) put them in the tiny jars which is especially nice when you have a small child who likes variety; it goes fast so you change flavors fast. All done with the jam... what to do with those tiny little jars? I put salt in mine and leave it next to my stove with all my other cooking whatnot. Need some salt? There it is!

5. Herb Jar! I make a lot of my own herb mixes; where or where to put my herbes de provence? A mason jar, of course! This one is the 'medium' jar... courtesy of another fantastic 'Auntie Erin's special jam'. They stack nicely, if need be and they are easy to get into!

There are a ton of things that you can use these fantastic jars. Let's see what you have to say? Have an idea? Post your idea(s) below in the comment section; let's see how creative you can be!

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Best Pizza Dough Ever!

I have tried many dough recipes in search of the best dough ever; this one is so fantastic! I found it in the little recipe book that came with my Mario Batali pizza stone.

The original recipe called for honey; since I don't do honey, I substituted agave nectar which works great; given, I haven't used honey so I have no comparison, but it works so hey :)

It's really easy to make and very hard to mess up. It makes fantastic pizza, calzones, flat bread, you name it.

1/4 cup white wine (use the kind you like to drink)
3/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 oz yeast
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cups flour

In a large bowl, mix wine and water. To that, add your yeast. Mix to dissolve.

Add the agave nectar, salt and olive oil and lightly mix. Using a fork, mix in the first cup of flour to make a sticky paste. Continue adding flour, stirring with fork. When all the flour is incorporated, turn it out on the counter and knead until smooth and elastic.

Put it in a bowl (I use the same bowl. I figure, why dirty another bowl?) and cover with a little olive oil. Turn the dough so it is covered with the olive oil. Cover and let sit in a warm spot for 45 minutes.

Notes on the warm spot: a 'just used' dryer is good. Turned off, of course. I turn on the toaster oven for five minutes and set the bowl next to it.

After the 45 minute rise time, cut dough into 4 equal pieces. On a floured surface, put your first dough ball. Using your fingers, push the dough outward, working in a circular motion.

Once I have it to this point, I use a french rolling pin to get it really thin. Don't worry about the shape... I think pizza is more fun when it's misshapen.

From there, top with your pizza favorites. For ideas, see my pizza section... truffle pizza is so good!


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