28 August 2006

*Some AZ Flare* ...Minus Mountains, Cacti, Scorpions and Sunsets

I know I told you all one time to not fall out of your chair upon viewing a Tofurky sandwich on my blog, as it was not intended for me to eat. What you see above here *is* and *was* for me to eat and I am sure happy that I was open-minded one day (to a particular food, that is). So, if you instinctively fell out, get up now because yes I did eat this. If you didn't fall out of your chair and think I'm a huge nerd... that's ok, too. For those of you who do not already know, I am not a faux meat/cheese person and I cringe even at vegan steak sandwiches. I have tried a Boca burger or two, I do not mind black bean patties as long as they are piled with greens and ketchup, but mostly I stay far away from anything between a bun or that is faux meat. I won't even try anything "fake" from an all-organic, all-vegan restaurant here in town. Ray thinks that's crazy.

Recently, I discovered Sunshine Burgers. These are fabulous, all organic, do not resemble nor taste like anything that is supposed to be from a dead animal, full of nutrition and good stuff grown from the Earth, and about a dollar a piece for a pack of three. Overall, these patties (I don't like to call them burgers) are wonderful and we grill them on the vegan-George F-grill and it only takes about 1 or 2 minutes. How easy is that!? I've seen another type of Sunshine Burger and they already come with a bun. That reminds me too much of gas-station-sandwiches and I am never in too big of a hurry, nor have a craving for a bun where I must buy a "burger" pre-built. I'll pass on those, even if they are all vegan and all organic. The Sunshine Burgers (patties to me) have been eating up around here on sprouted Ezekiel buns but I only use the bottom bun. No, I don't support the A-word diet, I just really can't stomach a whole entire bun, patty and what ever else I may have on the plate. Plus, too much bun takes away from the rest. The photo above is shown with the full bun for your viewing pleasure.
Above photo: Taken in the *real* Southwest on my patio. No, I can't see over the brick wall (something that the majority of AZ homes have- weird), no we don't have catci in the neighborhood, and no the palm trees are not native to AZ. Now check out the lovely list of all organic ingredients. These patties are wonderful, I love how it is free of soy, wheat and bullshit. Not that I mind anything soy or wheat, but for vegans who eat a lot of soy or wheat, this is a nice change of pace.
Now here's my plate with the top of the bun ready to be tossed outside to the birds. I even throw bread "like a girl" I was told the other day... What you see here is a huge bowl of organic yukon gold mashed potatoes made with soymilk and Earth Balance. Sea salt and fresh ground pepper were added as well as some minced garlic. Yum. I served this with a side of sweet summer organic corn and you can see the ketchup glob under the lettuce. I don't care that I'm 25, I still need ketchup on some things. It's 100% organic ketchup, by the way. Ray eats this with Veganaise on one side of the bun and a ton of Bone Suckin' Sauce on the other bun. The website shows one jar priced at almost $2 more than we buy it for at Whole Foods. You can also get it at places like Cost Plus World Market. I don't care for either of the above condiments.
This photo below is freaky. Doesn't it look like cow-burgers? I didn't realize how freakish looking these were until I posted the photo on the computer. In "real life" these don't look as burgery. I made grill marks on the Foreman by turning the patties 90 degrees by lifting with a knife.
EDIT TO ADD AND A HUGE ***WARNING***: I just realized a huge factor... I have raved above about the South West Sunshine Burgers. Keep in mind (as I didn't) that the bright yellow and red packaging is the same on the Original Sunshine burgers as well as the SouthWest. I accidentally bought a box of the "regular" kind, attempted to eat it for lunch, had 1/2 of it, and decided to dig into a pint of ice cream. Here's the thing: the SouthWest Sunshine burgers are everything I was talking about above and these are awesome. Unless you like the taste of a broccoli burger, I highly suggest not trying the regular kind. I don't even think there was broccoli in it. The ingredients are almost the same, minus black beans and a few other things, but the Original ones are freakishly green and I did my best to take down 1/2 of it, I even slathered ketchup on both sides of the patty. No luck. So, beware... if you do go for the Original ones (which I hear are easier to come by than SouthWest), don't say I didn't warn you, but if you do like them, more power to you. I simply returned them at WFM in exchange for some Gardenburger Chipotle Black Bean patties. Sorry this warning is so late, this all happened today after my big rant! (End of Warning)

On to the next business: Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy from VwaV. Let me tell you "yum". I have never been a gravy person. I didn't grow up with it, I never wanted to try it, and I always knew it was made with blood. This is a totally different scenario here. I think it was my de-virginizing to gravy. First off, this is packed with nutrition, from the nutritional yeast, chickpeas, onions and garlic, to the herbs, spices and no blood! This stuff is amazing and I apologize for this photo doing no justice at all. I have made this gravy twice now and it was even better the second time around. I am now a gravy fan, but only if it's Punk Rock.
Here's a blurry photo of the gravy. This was from the first batch and my first bite, so I was hesitant to pour it (like Ray did) all over the top of the mashed potatoes. The second time, I loaded it up!
Moving on: Just like the Sunshine patties, mashed potatoes and gravy, I have made Chipotle, Corn, and Black Bean Stew from VwaV twice now. I have made corn fritters several times now and plan on using fresh cilantro next time. I still have a ton left from the stew. You can now see that I am breaking in my VwaV book based on the recipes. If you saw my book, you'd think I have had it for a whole year. Or maybe you'd think it got sucked in by a natural disaster. I can be a messy cook... Anyway, this stew was great, a bit on the tomato-y side, but really hardy and "southwestern". This photo was taken from the first batch. I cut the potatoes way too large and they were a bit of a hinderance while eating. I also used dried cilantro instead of fresh like the recipe wanted me to. For the second time around, I used one less potato than the recipe called for and cut them up way smaller. I also got some local organic fresh cilantro and tossed that in. To my dissapointment this stew wasn't black-beany enough so I added a second can to the second batch that I made a few days later. The stew was served with blue corn tortilla chips the second time around and probably Seduction Bread the first. I also used the juice of 1.5 limes instead of just 1 the second time around.
Again, the first batch of black bean stew. I must say, fresh cilantro makes a big difference and I enjoyed the extra juice of the lime more this time around. I still have 4 servings worth of leftovers.
Not only have I made the above repeats at least twice each, I've also been making fruit-filled crepes with Maple Butter Cream (from a tested recipe for Dreena's newest cookbook), chocolate chip banana pancakes with blueberry syrup and kiwi (part of Banana Bliss pancakes from Vive le Vegan, part of my own magical creations, and Blueberry Maple Syrup from Vive le Vegan), Sloppy Lenties of course, cereal with vanilla hemp granola, many salads, and what would life be like for me without... ice cream. I just had to throw "ice cream" in there, even though that is a daily given, I didn't have a sweet photo to post. So that's that. I plan on branching out a bit, I guess I'm hooked on a few VwaV recipes... and flavors of my residence, the Southwest.

Most importantly, I Netflix-ed The Future of Food and I will go into it more some other time. For now, it is a good film to see. Sorry Vicki (and everyone else) I still haven't seen An Inconvienent Truth, but I plan on getting it on video. Back to The Future of Food... I don't know where I've been for 2 years, but it came out in 2004 and is about GMOs, farmers, corporations, politics of course, and all sorts of aspects of biotechnology. There is a microbial ecologist in the documentary and I am thinking of maybe pursing a Master's in this area (not due to this movie only, of course). Anyway, I watched this 3 times this weekend (to add to my redundancy of everything lately) and I attempted to take notes but then realized I was practically writing down the whole script of the movie. I have so much to say about it, but mostly it makes my stomach cringe, I get pissed off at my government and huge corporations that suck, and I will keep eating as many organics as possible. I even wear organic cotton when I can. This film told me a lot of what I knew already but I like the perspective it comes from. Go rent this film please.

17 August 2006

Yay to Cooking!

I have done some light cooking lately after going to the store and finally stocking the fridge, freezer and pantry back up. It feels good to have foods in the house again (other than simple fruits as snacks and boring stuff like soy yogurt, couscous and such) yet I am still dizzy and have no idea what the #%^@ is wrong with me. I don't think it is life threatening since I've had certain tests to show, but this still isn't anywhere near normal. I plan on doing more about this. I was getting stir-crazy from being cooped up, not cooking (much), going out to eat, running out of money to go out to eat, as well as not being productive nor having fun in the kitchen. It was time to change that so Ray and I went to the store and thought of some stuff to buy that would turn into semi-quick, semi-easy meals. See, I don't say quick and easy because for me, nothing ends up that way. Some recipe that is supposed to take 30 minutes somehow takes me 2 hours. But I thought of some good feel-good comfort foods to cook up for the week other than yukon gold smashed potatoes and a side of corn. I have had Sloppy Lenties about 5 times this month, but I thought I'd spare you all another photo of them. I did have a Sloppy Variation though... fill up 1/2 a pita with the Sloppy Lenties. Fabulous.

Above you see our "dining area", in which soon you will be seeing a lack of yellow countertops. I am happy to report that we finally bought kitchen chairs and finally took all the crap off the table we had for so long, moved all the crap to appropriate places (well, more appropriate), and are now eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and some snacks there. So now you will be seeing more "table" rather than yellow countertops, although I am missing the flare a bit from the counters.
Back to business... for some unknown reason I have been craving corn chowder lately. For some weirder reason, I've never had corn chowder (vegan or non) in my whole life. I had no idea why I was craving this (no I am not pregnant) and I decided to make and eat corn chowder for the very first time. What is an even newer first is my use of Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook. I am quite embarrased about this fact. I've had this book for months now, read it cover to cover probably about 20 times, memorized practically 5 recipes, but never made anything. There are a lot of "oven" recipes, but besides that and before I started to feel crappy, I can't believe I have never used this cookbook before. Maybe I just always thought I did since I've taken it outside under the umbrella and on the couch in the living room to read over and over, have seen other people's photos of the creations, and practically know the book inside and out. But this was a first and another first... Corn Chowder from VwaV.
Corn Chowder Verdict: I started smelling the soup towards the finish and exclaimed to Ray that I didn't think I was going to like it. It smelled a bit bland and I don't care for thick soups. I still went with it, after all, I spent all the time and energy to make the meal. I am also weird about not tasting foods while they are cooking. I know I need to change that since I could have made variations while cooking and tasted it to see if it was ok before it was served on the table. I served the corn chowder with Seduction Bread from WFM and overall, the soup was sweet and tasty. I used 2 jalepenos, and I didn't taste any heat at all, just sweetness from the corn and maple syrup. Just like the recipe says, it's even better the next day. I only had a few modifications in this recipe. First, I didn't have a fresh red bell pepper, as I am not willing to pay the crazy prices I've seen them for. Instead, I picked out all the red peppers from the frozen bag of red, yellow and green pepper strips and used those, just chopped more. I also used organic frozen sweet corn instead of shucking my own. Plus, I am really into having frozen corn on-hand lately. The recipe also called for 3c veggie broth and I used 2c broth and 1c water instead. Other than that, everything else was followed exactly, and yes, I measured.
This was tasty and filled me up big-time. While eating with Ray we discussed and I wrote down what we could do next time to make the soup better. This is what will be changed for the next time I make this: less thyme and rosemary because it was a bit overpowering, more salt and pepper, a tad less liquid to make it thicker (I don't like thick soups, yeah right I guess), cut veggies smaller, use one more potato and one more clove of garlic. It sounds like a lot but it's really just adding and subtracting here and there. I'd even add a third jalepeno if Ray can handle it. Oh, and this is my new snack set. I have a green one and Ray's is an earthy blue. These are great because they make huge coffee mugs with a small treat, a great bowl for soup or whatever, and in this case it was nice to have a set with the bread placed right on the side. I do a lot of snacking but it usually requires only a bowl and a spoon (you know where I'm going with this).
Above is Dreena's Sun-dried tomato pesto for her upcoming cookbook. I've tested this recipe about 20 times now. It's awesome and simple to make (even if you don't feel well) and it is warm and filling with great flavors. I love the almonds and pine nuts. I know many people will be quite pleased by the simplicity yet overwhelming yumness of flavors in this recipe. It is also quick to make, as it takes longer to boil water and cook the noodles than to make the sauce. And I make the sauce while the pot is boiling. Served with the pesto above is organic mixed greens, dressings and homemade green tea with cranberry. I have been making this tea by the gallon tri-weekly and sweeten it with about a teaspoon of agave nectar for the whole gallon. On the side are organic croutons (super-cheap at WFM bakery section) and Ray's parmesean grater. It is so nice eating at the table... Below is something I wasn't sure if I was going to post about. You see, this is just plain ol pasta with marinara. I decided to post this because I think simple, easy, hearty meals like this one are quickly forgotten about. Or they are picked over a lot because it seems to blah. One night we were wanting something simple and quick and I decided to boil up some curly spinach noodles. Then I just heated up a jar of 365 organic fat-free marinara, added a few spices from the rack, and dumped it in the pasta. Since I am no longer an oven/toaster user, I "toasted" garlic bread with nutritional yeast and salt and pepper on the next burner on the stove. It worked out pretty well. And fast.
Below is an organic mixed green salad. I am not going to say organic anymore because 99% (that's my percentage guestimate) of all foods we have in the house are organic. At least fruits, veggies and grains are. On that note, we have all organic: greens, carrots, red onions, whole wheat croutons and honey mustard dressing (yes a tad of honey is ok to me). I love the tanginess from the cider vinegar in this one. We have been eating salads at all dinners and sometimes twice a day, with or as lunch. Instead of buying bulk greens since I have an adversion to the tongs and certain bulk items (took too much microbiology in college and too many nasty hands using the tongs), we bought a 1 pound box of pre-washed greens. Just like those bags, but bigger for $3.99/lb. It lasts us both the whole week, plus greens for other recipes.
This next one here is my second recipe attempt from VwaV. I decided to make corn fritters since I was still on a corn kick. I will also mention that Ray made popcorn last night for our friends Jordan and Bob. This sweet summer corn is just sooo good. Before Bob came over to smoke cigars with Ray (eew, not me) I made corn fritters for the first time in my life. Everything was going well, there were minimal ingredients, I had everything, it seemed easy enough for me, and everything was going well until...
What happened here? I added more than a sufficient amount of oil, had it hot before dropping spoonfuls of batter down. I know it's not non-stick, but I thought if it's not non-stick you just add oil to it and it is non-stick. Anyhow, these were taking a while to cook and I attempted to lift one up and realized that they were badly sticking to the bottom. I was really upset at this point and didn't know if I was going to ruin and waste the whole thing and just eat leftover lenties and corn chowder and salad for lunch, or try to do something about it. I chose to do something about it by switching to a smaller, non-stick pan. I managed to save most of the mixture as it was falling apart and sticking to the pan. This worked out well, but you can see the mess I salvaged. This mess sure did taste and smell wonderful.
This recipe is to be cooked in two batches so luckily I still had half a batch to try to actually make patties with instead of corn fritter mush. Ray said it looked like scrambled eggs and I almost puked. Gross. Not even close to eggs. Anyhow, the second round went much better (don't you agree) and we ate the mess and the patties within a tenth of the time it took to make. And these were made quickly. I am going to make them again next time and add more jalepeno (you can tell Isa isn't from the Southwest. I'm not either, I'm just used to certain heat-flare after 7 years or so). I love how these were sweet from the maple syrup and the sweet corn, as it was a nice treat to have with veggies. These corn fritters are going to be made again soon. In a non-stick pan.
And what would this blog be without treats and sweets?! Of course there is ice cream here (SO Delicious Cookies n Cream, my favorite) in between an Original Newman's O's. There are two here, as how could I just chomp on one?
PS. I really appreciate all the comments, emails and pop-ins from everyone who has expressed their concern for my health and well-being. It makes me feel good to know (well, I already knew) that there are so many good and caring people out there. I am thankful for all the kind and warming words.