28 June 2006

Killian's Birthday, MwM, Pesto:Part II & Layered Cereal Squares

Today is Killian's Birthday! My baby boy turned 4 today and he is still my fat kitten. Today isn't technically Killian's birthday, you see, I rescued him from the pound and he was about 4 weeks old and fit in my size 6 shoe. I was unsure of his exact birthday and did know it was about the end of June, so I deemed it June 28. It's the 28th because I like the number 28 and it's my birthdate too. So, happy birthday Killian, who is now huge and poofy and about 16 pounds!
I have been wanting to get Killian a kitty condo (aka kitty playground) and have looked online. There are so many choices and sizes and prices and I really wanted to find one that would suit his fatness best. Ray and I were at the pet store (Pet's Inc., a family owned business, one location only) getting a few fish accessories for our 4 swimming friends. We decided to double our number of fish in the tank by purchasing a little algae eater (bottom feeder) as well as three other fishies that I don't know what type they are. They eat all the crap at the bottom and are already helping the tank out. Back to the condo... at the store there were many kitty condos to choose from. I decided on this one and to finally get it (it was a good price and we didn't pay for online shipping) and also purchased a blue fuzzy toy and a rolling-bell-thingy for him to get freaky with. The photo above is Killian checking it out. It didn't take him long to like it (and surprisingly not hard for him to jump onto) and he was lounging for a good part of the day.
Above: Killian perching and hunting the birds outside the window. What a different perspective for him up there. You can see the fuzzy blue toy that he likes to carry around in his mouth.
All passed out.
I am glad Killian likes this and uses this already because I've bought him toys and things in the past and he prefers household (aka MY) items and steals pens, caps, paper, almost anything. Ray even bought him a comfy basket and it took him a whole year before he stepped into it. He went through a faze where he snuggled in it for about a month, but hasn't returned to it since.

Below you can see the guy eating his special treat. He freaks out as soon as there's a little tear in the lid. He comes running and meows and mooches until (yes, I usually give in) he gets it. I give him a few licks of yogurt about once a week or so but today I let him have a bit more. He grew up in a vegetarian household and has always prefered soy. He mooches to Ray's cow ice cream, but really prefers mine, as well as many other foods.

I let him dunk his face in this time. He had yogurt in his eyelashes and even on his ears! I love my kitten.
And onto Midweek Munchies. Click on the photo to view the shopping list. The * means organic, and as always, this is a combined list for 2 weeks worth of munchies.
I made Dreena's Sun-dried Tomato Pesto with Almonds and Pine nuts again. I can't give the recipe because it's a tester. Stay tuned for the new cookbook. Anyhow, no photo, but there were 2 changes and I followed the recipe exactly the same. First, I used spaghetti this time instead of linguini. I prefer thicker noodles or super-thin ones. Next, this time I ran to the crappy store (walking distance, well, WFM is too, but I was lazy) and purchased conventional sundried tomatoes. I swear this is the only reason why the pesto wasn't as flavorful and pungent and awesome this time. I followed the recipe exactly again, but the tomatoes were missing a lot of good things. The pesto was still fabulous, but I will only make it with organic main-ingredients next time. I still had the leftovers for breakfast.

Next, I made Dreena's Chocolate Hemp Squares yet again. See the post about them below for details. This time I omitted the hemp seeds on top, doubled the recipe, and used 2 kinds of cereal plus rolled oats because I ran out of one type of cereal and was already in the works.
The bottom layer is Koala Krisp (Nature's Path like Rice Crispies) mixed with cashew and almond butter and all the other good stuff. Next, a layer of chocolate, then a layer of Gorilla Munch plus rolled oats plus the goodness nut butter stuff, then topped with a huge layer of more chocolate. These are awesome.

25 June 2006

Tofurky Sandwich

Now don't fall out of your chair... this is Ray's tofurky sandwich. I still refuse to even try a bite, but I still think it's way better than eating a real dead turkey. This Tofurky is new to us, not by acknowledgement but by actually buying it and Ray tasting it. It all started when we went to Green, a 100% vegan organic restaurant (one of the few around here) and discovered they are now hosting daily specials and a Pesto Tofurky Sandwich was the first one. Ray was super-excited and I just stick to my usual artichoke dip and jerk tofu salad, cliche, even for a vegan place. He thought the sandwich was great, especially because it was more than just a veggie sandwich but not a real-meat sandwich (his "last" bite of meat was in February... yes, I'm shocked!).

A few days later the Tofurky was still on his mind and he decided to buy some at the store (the peppered one, that's what Green had) as well as a big-ass roll and some veggies for topping. We have organic Veganaise, which I don't like either, never liked real mayo, and Ray likes it better than real mayo, so it works. He built this sandwich all by himself (thank goodness, as I just simply cut a piece of ice cream pie and had that for lunch yesterday, again) and it was ready in no time. He did a wonderful job, may I mention at stacking the layers so nicely.

And yes, the cheese you see is from a cow. He buys super-small blocks of "good cheese" every so often. On the tofurky sandwhich at Green there was faux cheese, it was a pepper-jack-something, but Ray has 5-year Wisconsin Cheddar and he was raving about it for the sandwich. It's all complete with peppers and lettuce and red onion. And isn't it nice to see a "meat-filled" sandwich that is still mostly veggies? So many sandwiches I see are just filled with meat and cheese or cheese sauce or some crap, and maybe a sprig of iceberg lettuce and a crappy tomato. In this case, there's a great variety and it is not overstuffed by one main ingredient. He ate the whole thing (it was huge!) and still has many slices left over for another time. He is trying to get me to taste even just one bite of one slice, but I feel like I am 5 years old again, throwing a fit, although this time it's not fitting about dead animals being eaten. It's about eating something that is claimed to taste just like a turkey tastes and I don't care to know that, chew it, digest it, nor even try to comprehend why I would want to eat something (vegan) that is supposed to be what the flesh of turkey tastes like. We've been through this before, I'll stop here. No thanks for me, but this is a pretty sandwich, right? And nothing dead.

23 June 2006

Vegan Ice Cream Pie & Walnut Basil Pesto & Polenta Verdict

How can I not start with this. I made this pie in about 4 minutes last night. I glanced at La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer and came across a recipe for easy ice cream pie that I liked and completely modified though. Instead of crushing my own creme-filled cookies, I took a pre-made graham cracker crust by Arrowhead Mills (that's been in the pantry for months) and lined the bottom with a small spread of organic almond butter. That would have been fantastic on its own! Next, I got out my food processor and combined about 2T maple syrup (organic, grade A) with about a handful (I have small hands) of chocolate chips and an even bigger handful of raw organic pecans. Blend until it's all combined. Then since I always have ice cream on hand, I grabbed a bigass container of So Delicious (used to be Soy Delicious) Cookies n Cream, my favorite kind, and added about 4c ice cream (1/2 the carton) to the food processor. From there I blended until everything was homogeneous and looked sooo good. Next, dip your spoon in it a few times just to make sure it really is as good as it looks, if not, better! The original recipe didn't have nuts and called for mint or any extract, and I omitted that completely. Next, I dumped the mixture onto the pie crust and spread it evenly. Then I topped it with hemp seeds because, well, that's just what I do with most things. Then the top of the pie still looked a bit boring, even though I knew there was awesome stuff going on within it. I decided to get out the Organic Santa Cruz (like hersheys) syrup and I topped it with that. You can see that the spout is bigger than my liking, and I had a few globs of too much here and there. I took this photo after the pie was frozen for about 2 hours. The active time in the kitchen was only 4-5 minutes (yay) but you have to patiently wait for it to firm up. I didn't. It was somewhat firm, and it is now 16+ hours later and all this "talk" has made me want to check and see how it is now... and eat it. I know it will only get better.
Now this is what I decided to do with the leftover basil (2c) I had. Yeah, yeah, it's another pesto, and I appreciate all the non-pesto advice, I just wasn't up to anything major. I used a recipe for Walnut Basil Pesto from Dreena's Vive le Vegan and served it cold (we usually eat cold and late on Tuesday nights with minimal ingredients). I topped it with pine nuts because I like pine nuts a lot and had them on hand. This pesto wasn't as good to me as the sun-dried that I tested for the new book, but I think it's because I didn't know it was going to be "creamy" and I don't really like creamy things. Even when I was a vegetarian that ate a lot of cheese (when I was a kid and young teen) I still didn't ever like creamy dishes or creamy soups. Therefore, I think it still holds true, and even though the creaminess is due to the crushed 1c walnuts, I didn't care for the milk in it. I did though, like the overall taste of the recipe, it was just too creamy for me. If you like pesto and you like creamy, go for this recipe!
Polenta verdict: I am going to make this as short as possible. I mapped out on paper what I was going to do with the polenta. This is how it goes: First on the bottom, a layer of polenta with blue corn chips all around the plate. The polenta was to be fried in olive oil on the pan with some garlic and nutritional yeast. Then there would be a layer of canned organic black beans with chopped red and yellow (frozen) bell peppers mixed with cumin, lime, cilantro, cayenne, s/p, and more garlic. Then there would be a top layer of jarred organic salsa with more cilantro on top.
I finally got out the tube of polenta (biggest mistake right there, after everyone's advice on homemade) and cut it open. It scared the shit out of me because I didn't know it was going to be rubbery. Yuck. So I just went with it. I took out a can of black beans and did the prepping according to plan. The black beans got overcooked while sitting in the pot for a while when the polenta was frying in oil. The polenta didn't get brown (after a really long time) so I stopped it to try it. It felt "done" in my mouth but I didn't like the texture. I stopped the heat on everything and attempted to try it all mixted together (just on my fork, not set up on a plate) and it tasted like complete crap. I've had this idea in my head for a week, mapped out on paper for 3 days, and it was such a disaster. By the time I thought about a photo, most of the polenta was in the drain and the black bean mixture was getting debated on getting tossed or not. It was a bad disaster and it may be another while before I have polenta unless I make it myself. I am never buying anything in a tube again (besides toothpaste and chapstick).

I'm going to have some ice cream pie for breakfast now...

20 June 2006

Cereal + Chocolate + Cashews + Almonds + Hemp = Squares

I made Chocolate Hemp Squares from Vive le Vegan last night. I must say, these are so sweet and rich that no matter what your stomach (and/or brain) tells you, one is satisfying enough. Well, maybe two. Anyway, I've been wanting to make this recipe from the very first day Vive arrived in the mail. I always spot out the hemp nut butter at the store but still haven't splurged. Why? I really don't know. After all, I always keep hemp seeds stocked in the house and eat them almost every day, but hemp butter is more expensive (for what it is) therefore I decided to modify the recipe. These bars came out so wonderful and of course, they were no-bakes and super-fast to make.

Instead of hemp seed butter I used cashew butter, and used almond butter as my other. Here's the list of ingredients I used: Nature's Path Gorilla Munch (kids) cereal, cashew butter, almond butter, maple syrup, sea salt, vanilla (all for the base), soymilk and chocolate (topping). I then sprinkled hemp seeds on top (to make it more authentic). I can't get over how good these are. They are super-rich, but not super-dense due to the ground cereal, but super-filling and awesome.

19 June 2006

SunDried Tomato Pesto with Pine Nuts & Almonds

I tested this fantastic Sun-dried tomato pesto with toasted almonds and pine nuts (pasta sauce) for Dreena's upcoming cookbook, Eat, Drink and Be Vegan! and it was a total success. I cannot say too much about the ingredients, but I really enjoyed having a pasta type dish that wasn't based on regular tomatoes or a vinaigrette. I also haven't had pesto in years because I find many prepared pestos are either made with cheese or they are just not appealing to me. But this sun-dried tomato pesto is awesome (especially because Dreena created it) and I am happy to report that there are a ton of leftovers, therefore I will be eating pesto pasta for the next day or two.

Of course it wouldn't be pesto without basil, and I have a lot of fresh basil leftover, so any suggestions (un-pesto suggestions, please) are much appreciated. I appologize to the major "foodies" out there for the lack of details in this post, but be patient and you will soon get all the details from the new cookbook from all the recipes I have tested. I plan on making some interesting meals soon, I just have been a bit unmotivated by the heat to turn on the stove (and we all know the oven is out of the question anyway). This pesto was nice and quick though,(faster than heating up jarred marinara) because I made it all in the VitaMix and just had to boil the noodles. The overall verdict of the pesto was a ten out of ten.

And to Vicki and anyone else waiting in deep suspense: I still haven't touched the polenta. I even re-checked the expiration date, and I still have some more procrastinating time.

15 June 2006

Vegan Chocolate Covered Pretzels & MwM

Yep, more special fun-to-make treats! This time instead of dipping fruits I dipped pretzels into chocolate goodness. I decided to include the word "vegan" in the title for people who are searching for these. I did a few searches (just for fun, I knew what I was doing), and can you believe there were eggs in some recipes, so much heavy cream, etc!? These are vegan, "healthy" and certainly rich and tasty. I think that even though these look like they could be so junky, they really aren't. I got a bag of pretzels on a late-night-indulgment-spree at the crappy supermarket next door. There were basically two kinds to choose from: Rold Gold which was out of the question because I don't feel like eating bleach. Next it was these Snyder's of Hanover 12 MultiGrain sticks. Let me tell you what's in them: unbleached wheat flour, water, molasses, malt, soy flour, malter barley flour, oat flour, potato flour, sesame seeds, buckwheat flour, rice flour, millet, salt, flax seed, poppy seed, yeast, sugar, soda. Yes I know there's a lot of ingredients, but there's really no junk, a lot of flours, but good ones. All the rest of the choices had maltodextrin and dextrose and honey and other unidentifiable chemicals and crap that I didn't feel like consuming either.

So, I took these healthy pretzel sticks and set them aside with 3 small bowls, one consisting of broken mint cookies (kinda like oreos), one with crushed almonds and the other with "Let's Do Organic" veggie-colored sprinkles. I made three of each toppings, the rest plain. Next, I took a bowl (the lazy method here) and put some chocolate chips, cocoa, a splash of agave nectar and a splash of soymilk and heated it in the... yes, the microwave! It heated a bit without burning and I stirred the rest to melt. It was ready for dipping time. This part was fun. I know I'm 25 and not 5 years old, but I really do enjoy "playing" in the kitchen, especially when it's something simple like this. I dipped many pretzels (by the way, pretzels are awesome with leftover Maple Butter Cream... yes, I'm sooo bad!) into chocolate and some I sprinkled with toppings. I set them on parchment paper on top of a baking sheet and chilled them overnight. They are now stored in a plastic container in the fridge. And to my suprise, the fridge isn't making the pretzels soggy. When I had them hanging out on the counter the chocolate started to melt. Yes, we have A/C, but I like to keep it around 80-83 degrees F, and that seems to still be too warm for the chocolates. It is at least 20-30 degrees cooler than outside! Anyway, these pretzel sticks were a great and fun-to-make treat.

Now let's get to Midweek Munchies (MwM). As always, this is a 2-week list compiled into one MwM post. The list is from the co-op and WFM. Click on the photo to get a larger view of the list. Not much bulk this time around, I had a good amount on hand.
Now take one last look at the pretzels.

13 June 2006

Fruit Crepes and Maple Butter Cream

I made crepes! I have never had crepes in my whole life (don't ask why because I don't know, eggs... maybe?), therefore, have never made crepes. I was drooling over Dreena's crepe recipe for her upcoming 3rd cookbook, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the testers. As you all know, I tested the maple butter cream first. It was amazing. Then I made it again, and it was amazing as well. Now, I have made it a third time (I know, I know), but this time it was to go with the crepes... for real. And it was amazing again!

I cannot give the recipe, but you'll just have to wait for the cookbook to come out. These were fantastic. I should have started working on these earlier, because I was pressed for time. You can tell by the crappy photos this time around, plus my hand was shakey from standing in the kitchen, hungry and warm, for an hour. The crepes tasted waaaay better than I ever imagined and it kind of reminded me of a super-thin pancake. I will say that these were spelt crepes and I decided to make my own filling by simply pureeing frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, a fresh kiwi and a splash of agave nectar. I don't think I really needed the agave, but I wasn't sure because of the tartness of the raspberry and kiwi. But then I remembered that I whipped up some maple butter cream and it was cooling and firming up in the fridge for a while, and that would sweeten it plenty. I served these crepes with fresh slices of banana, blueberry/raspberry/kiwi filling, and maple butter cream on top. All I have left to say is wow.
I also want to thank everyone who gave me helpful hints and advice regarding the polenta and fajitas from the previous post. I have taken all of them into consideration, and I really appreciate all the help and kindness.

12 June 2006

Bulgur Salad & Advice Needed

This salad was light and refreshing and took less than an hour to make, which is pretty much record timing for me in the kitchen. I still had one of those pre-washed bags of organic Newman's greens and I layered those on the bottom with my own non-measured version of a cider vinegar and oil dressing. Then I took a few cups of pre-cooked bulgur (I cooked it in a mix of veggie broth and water) and the layered it on top of the greens. Then I chopped up fresh red bell peppers, cucumber, parsley and fresh corn kernels and tossed it with a can (lazy me) of chickpeas. I took all of this goodness and tossed it with a mix of more apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. So simple. I also want to mention that this corn (well, all veggies) were raw. Fresh summer corn is so good raw, especially right off the cob. I'm slowly seeing organic corn coming to the stores.
Verdict: Ray gave it an 8. He prefers a seperate side salad. As for me, I prefer everything piled up and mixed up. I gave this a 6.5 or a 7 because it could have used some pizzaz or some kick or something to excite my tastebuds. I guess a ton of apple cider vinegar and black pepercorns didn't kick it up enough. Still a good, quick, healthy, fresh meal.
Now I have some questions... I feel like a polenta virgin. I've had it before, but don't really know what to do with it. I do have cornmeal, but for my devirginizing, I decided to go the easy (but costly) route and buy a tube of it already made. I want to fry it up on the stovetop, but I did a bunch of cookbook and online searches and I'm stumpted. Can someone give me ideas what I can do with the polenta, plus I'm thinking of dredging it in garlic and breadcrumbs. Any simple non-oven ideas?

Second question: Ray wants fajitas (I may too, but not with faux steak). And no, we haven't gotten to the faux meats yet... We have those steak strips and I know to just fry them up with veggies and such, but where can I get or how do I make fajita seasoning?

Just a quick post to go with a quick meal.

And just for Kai (and anyone else who wants this recipe)...
Roasted Pepper and Bean Dip
Makes 2.5 cups
1 - 7oz. jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
1c firm silken tofu (about 6oz)
1.3c cilantro leaves (I used dried and less)
2T. lime or lemon juice
1T. olive oil
1/2t. salt
1/2t. cumin, ground
1 clove garlic, chopped
1- 16oz can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed

Reserve 1/4c peppers for garnish and set aside. Place remaining peppers in a food processor and add all other ingredients and process until smooth. Spoon mixture in a small bowl and stir in the rest of the peppers. Chill for a while and serve.
Nutrition Facts: per tablespoon, 15kcal, 1g protein, 0.5g fat, 2g carb, 59mg sodium, 1g fiber, less than 1g sugar.

06 June 2006

Roasted Red Pepper Bean Dip + Pasta Salad + Maple Butter Cream Extravaganza

What an eclectic dinner it was tonight. I made whole wheat linguine noodles, cooled 'em off and tossed in broccoli-slaw (broccoli, carrots and cabbage) and some other spices and herbs. No pasta salad is complete to me without vinegar, so I added tamari, olive oil, white vinegar and red wine vinegar. This is where something went wrong. It is still a mystery and I am letting the leftovers chill in the fridge overnight and see if anything better comes of it. There are a few possibilities of what went wrong, for example, I think the garlic was going bad. Another could have been a vinegar overload, but it wasn't really tasting like that. I even added a bit of agave nectar to try to chill it out. I also over-stirred it by a million times. Nothing really worked, but it was edible and between ok and good.
But what we have below here is a different story. Of course, since I followed a recipe it came out fantastic (and yes people... I measured... with real measuring spoons and cups). I made "Roasted Red Pepper and Bean Dip" from Vegetarian Times November/December 2005 issue page 32. I followed the recipe exactly (gasp!) except I subbed dried cilantro since I didn't have fresh and I only had a lemon, no lime for juice. The ingredients are as follows: roasted red bell peppers (jar), firm silken tofu, cilantro, lime, olive oil, salt, cumin, garlic, cannellini beans.

Verdict: Ray said this was amazing and gave it a 10 (which he usually rates everything to a 9, since "nothing's perfect") and while that's true, I've had better dips, but yes, this one is up there. Ray was even eating it before it was on the table and finished off the whole serving at the table. Since I used a can of cannellini beans, a jar of roasted red bells and 1/2 a square of tofu, threw it all in the blender (which is something I am a pro at), and whizzed away, this awesome dip was made in less than 5 minutes, no cooking, no prep-work, and hardly any clean-up. I am glad I have a new dip, especially since most of my dips are really hummus. I can deem this one a true dip. We dipped organic carrots and organic blue corn tortilla chips into it.
And now... may I present to you all something wonderful. This goodness I am speaking of is Dreena's "Maple Butter Cream" aka "Celestial Cream" and it is showcased on the top right of the mini-dish. I cannot give away details of this recipe, since I am just testing out for her upcoming 3rd cookbook, but I will say this: Maple Butter Cream is a light, yet rich blend of maple syrup and only a few other simple - yet delicious ingredients that all blend together in a matter of minutes. I had some at room temperature right away and it was heavenly right off the spoon! I put it in the fridge for a few hours and ate it with the following all organic items: Nature's Path Kid's Animal Crackers, some crappy cookies that are only good dunked into the buttercream for a few minutes, Soy Delicious scoop of Mint awesomeness (going to make me huge) ice cream! This was a wonderful dessert and I'm glad I didn't eat too much of the borderline-crappy-pasta salad because saving room for this eclectic dessert was the best idea yet. I plan on having more Maple Butter Cream with fruit, as my favorite (surprisingly) out of all of this was the kiwi to eat with it.
Whew. And well worth it.

04 June 2006

Simple Summer Salads

Simple Summer Salads... try saying that one five times fast! Let me pretense this whole post by commenting on the temperature outside. It was 113 (degrees F) the other day, 112 today and is supposed to be about the same or maybe 111 or 110 (does that even matter?) for the next few days. Did I mention never a cloud in the sky (until monsoon season)? Then they call it "cooling down" to the 107's range through the week, and anything above 105 is considered hot. And yes it's a dry heat, and yes I'd rather have this than humidity or coldness, and no I am not the local forcaster.

Based on the conditions and it's not even July/August yet, I have primarily feasting on the following: fresh fruit smoothies, cereal, ice cream and fruit salad. I decided to get away from some of that, for dinner at least, and whipped up some summer salads that were nice and cool. First you will see a return of the pasta salad. It's a vinaigrette with simple spices, olive oil, red wine vinegar and cucumbers and carrots. Everything's organic except for the olive oil (too costly to buy for now) and the cuc's aren't organic. I had a personal battle at the store today, and decided to just go for it. You can see that I washed and scrubbed it like it fell in the toilet or something (would that have been better than eating conventional produce?!) and I even peeled part of the skin. I did leave some skin on in the case that there may be lingering vitamins and minerals under the waxiness and crap. Anyway, this is what it looks like. Yum.
I made another simple summer salad to go with the pasta salad. This one's a simple one because I went for it and bought a bag (well, 2) of Newman's Organics spring mix. I think there is about 20 kinds of greens in here and "three times washed". Sweet. I took the bag of spring mix, tossed it with the leftover carrots and cuc's from the other salad, added some walnuts and called it good. The hardest part about this meal was deciding on a dressing. Then got Ray involved and he wanted some sort of mustard-y kind. I thumbed through 10 old magazines of Veggie Life and VT... and then found my brain and picked up The Everyday Vegan & Vive le Vegan. I decided to make Dreena's "Simple Cider Vinaigrette" which has apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, maple syrup and a few other secret ingredients. It was simple to make and tasted bold and vinegary, just the way I like my salads, but with a sweet hint. Overall, this meal was tasty, refreshing, simple, and great for summer.