30 September 2006

Pesto Part III and IV, Ray's Birthday and More...

Pesto Part III and IV: This is how it started... I was too lazy to actually make dinner the other night and was happy that I had 3 servings for the two of us of VwaV's corn chowder leftover in the freezer. I also had just less than 1/2 a loaf of bread leftover. I decided to just heat the soup up and dunk the bread into it = dinner. All of a sudden, I lost my mind and decided that it was completely out-of-my-element for me to not be running around the kitchen like a mad-lady doing 40-million things at once. I decided I must take on some sort of task. So much for laziness... that's when I remembered the basil was dying. I absolutely love Dreena's sundried tomato pesto with pine nuts and almonds that I have been testing over and over, probably about 20 times by now. I can't wait for the cookbook to come out for my personal selfish reasons, but also for you all to try this amazing sauce. I decided to take Crystal's pesto idea and pre-make pestos to freeze for a later date. What a freaking good idea.

I didn't have any almonds in the freezer so I loaded up on pine nuts to sub for it. I made a whole batch and froze it up. I still had plenty of basil leftover, but not quite enough to make a whole entire batch of Classic Pesto from VwaV. It is basically basil and walnuts and a few other ingredients, so I halved the recipe and added even more walnuts than called for in the full recipe! It came out so wonderful that I decided freezing it was a terrible idea and I had to eat it right away. So, dinner that night was corn chowder, leftover whole wheat something bread with Classic Pesto. It was fabulous. I also highly recommend this pesto mixed with balsamic vinegar. I really couldn't wait to eat the sundried tomato pesto that I premade and froze, so we ended up having that over whole wheat pasta the next night. I really enjoyed just taking it out of the freezer and heating it up. Funny, because the pesto isn't cooked in the original recipe, it is actually quicker to make it all at once in the blender than the time it takes to heat it up from frozen. Oh well, I didn't have a mess...

Someone around here had a birthday on Tuesday...
It was a nice day for Ray. He had class all day through the evening but we took out his favorite pizza (mine, cheeseless) and had vegan chocolate cake, ice cream and other fine treats and presents. It was a nice evening. I always like to decorate the house the night before soon after he falls asleep... I decked out his bass and music stand (which you can't see) too. Jess, do you recognize the poster?!
Next up, date bars. We get semi-locally grown dates from Yuma, AZ. I just say semi-local because even though it is in the same state, Yuma is quite a drive from here and practically bordering Mexico. I love these dates and supporting a family farm (of dates) and instead of about $6 a pound, they are $3. I bought 2 pounds and made 4 types of bars. They all are made with the same base, mejdool dates, agave nectar and rolled oats, all organic of course. First up we have cranberry pecan. Then to the right of that is chocolate chip cinnamon. Then cashew cocoa slash coconut and finally peanut butter chocolate chip. They are all wonderful and were super-quick and easy to make. Great for heavy-duty snacks.
Yay avocados! Miriam, look! This is the last batch of special seasonal hass avocados that we are getting at the co-op. They are $1.39 each and I quickly bought four. You all can see the two in the middle, those are now ripe and I bought them a few days ago. They are seriously 1/2 the size and the same price as the avocados I just bought today. I am sad to see them go... That's why I'm loading up and I am so happy they are huge!
Tomorrow, Sunday October 1, is World Vegetarian Day! Please spread the word to everyone you know and celebrate... wait, we do that daily, right?! Anyway, if you really want to celebrate there are super-cool festivals going on in most awesome cities (aka, not here).

21 September 2006

The Non-Edible Vegan Lottery. Have I Won?!

Check out all this wonderful vegan stuff (click all photos to enlarge)! I cannot express in words how happy I am today because my special friend Kris sent me a care pacakge that certainly made my day... a few days combined, really! First I thought it wasn't even a package for me. Then I saw it was for me and from Portland so I assumed it was my regular subscription order to Herbivore Mag that was oh-so-kindly tossed over our fence onto the patio. I knew I was getting a "special something" along with my subscription, but this felt like fabric (a shirt?). I really wasn't ready for what was about to come...

I sat outside under our umbrella, still-somewhat-cool-morning and not a cloud in the sky and opened the package. My eyeballs seriously popped out of my head and I did a little mini-jump out of my chair. There was so much goodness inside I didn't know where to start. Well, I did...
-It was indeed a shirt, and since Kris knows that brown's my favorite color, she chose very well. The shirt says "please don't eat birds". I love it! It is of course American Apparel made in Downtown LA (not by children and or underpaid workers and it actually fits like a shirt is supposed to not for beer bellies) and she knows I'm a size small (although I still have to shrink it up not in).
-Next up we have a special back issue of Herbivore Magazine, issue 10 from winter 05/06. I love that she knew I'd enjoy this issue, it has a lot of cookbook authors' insight, vegan people I am familiar with and their ramblings and other fun stuff that you will just have to read to find out about. It certainly is a great issue. For those of you who enjoy reading about vegan "culture" with a fun and sarcastic edge, subscribe now. And if you didn't know already, there's Herbivore Clothing and a new store (that I can't wait to go to) in Portland Oregon.
-Then I didn't know what I was pulling out. I unfolded it and it is a tote bag that also has the same phrase as the t-shirt. It's nice because Ray and I always just use one bag to bring to the store (why?) but end up filling 2 bags so that means I have to use one from the store which I reuse again and again, But now this going to be my special "produce" bag. I'm picky with everything, even where my groceries go in the bag/basket. Once again, great!
-On top of the bag on the left side is a cute little Herbivore button. To add to my wanna-be-but-not-collection.
-And perfect for this dry desert air (where Kris also used to live by the way), she kindly sent me organic lip balm and organic shea butter creme by Perfect Organics. Wonderful stuff they have at the Herbivore store.
-Then there's an assortment of stickers. One says "veganism is for lovers" and I was impressed that Ray randomly commented on it and liked it and I didn't have to say "what do you think?". It reminded me of a recent incident that Crystal had when she received stickers in the mail. She was surprised her husband wanted it up in the front of the house, so was I (but boyfriend). That's my deal with Ray and our car... he one day made me mad and said he didn't want to "veganize the car" (whatever the %$#& that means!) so we compromise on stickers, although I had many up in the first place... Just another one to add that we both like, thanks! The other stickers are nice (but not car stickers per se), one says "cow hugger" and it's light blue with grazing cows and children hugging them, and the other says "factory farms are mean and nasty". Ha.
-I'm not done yet. Next we have some little bar soaps made by Estrella Soap and they smell vibrantly but naturally. One is peppermint oatmeal and the other is Lemon Poppy Seed Scrub. There are ingredients but not on the package. I have no worries about it's veganness because I know where this came from.
-Finally (whew!) my dear friend Kris sent along a postcard with a note. The postcard has Herbivore's what-do-you-call-it slogan (?) that says "Putting the 'FU' in Tofu Since 2003". I always got a kick out of that.

Kris, I can't say thank you enough... or did you think I did in the email? I am super-grateful for this wonderful surprise filled with vegan goodness (can any of you believe I'm saying that about non-edible stuff?!). I hope one day soon I can go visit Kris and the Herbivore store (and Food Fight and tons of other incredible places, people, events, nature, etc that Portland has to offer). For now, I am enjoying my treats here in AZ. I have the shirt lined up in the laundry pile ready to get shrunk, I have practically read the entire issue of the magazine today, my button is pinned on my bag next to some others, lip balm and shea butter was applied upon opening of the package, and Ray is going to be the first sampler of the soap tomorrow morning. As soon as I wash the car I'll put the sticker on (that may be a while, he he).

What a gift! I am happy.

19 September 2006

I am Awesome... Tacos.

The other night I decided it would finally be "taco night". I grew up with a taco night and it was always fun because my mom would set out the prepared ingredients to go into the tacos in small bowls or plates and we would fill our own. Mine usually consisted of just veggies and cheese. Well, in those days mostly cheese, then veggies. I always refused the meat. These days (umpteen years later), I don't eat cheese and I eat a shitload of veggies, so I decided to make some unusual tacos. I remember Dreena making quinoa tacos one time and the idea stuck in my head. She called them ta-quin-os! I still will not eat fake meat although I do plan on having some ground round one day for Ray to enjoy filling his own tacos. We didn't have taco night as I am used to (fill your own) but these filled-by-Leslie tacos were amazing. Ray even gave me the biggest compliment by saying he was glad we didn't go to Green (a vegan restuarant that's amazing) that night. The chili was way thicker than it looks here.

I have had those Garden of Eaten blue corn taco shells in the pantry for a while. I have never had a vegan taco so I decided to just make it filled with what I wanted and didn't care that it was not a traditional taco. What would that mean anyway? I needed a basic guideline for the chili as it's been a while for me. I used Dreena's Last Minute Chili and Taco Filling recipe from Vive le Vegan just as a guide so I wouldn't forget crucial taco flavors. I ended up coming up with my own chili recipe. Wow, can you all believe I'm actually posting a real recipe?!

Leslie's Awesome Organic Chili Recipe
1T olive oil
1 small yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
1t sea salt
black pepper to taste
1t cumin
2t cayenne (could use more!)
1t paprika
1t oregano
1 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper (that's what I had)
32 oz canned fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 habanero pepper
1 jalepeno pepper
2 cans black beans
1 can kidney beans
1c frozen corn
handful of chopped fresh cilantro

First heat the oil and add the onions, garlic and spices. Cook it until the onions are clear and the spices fill up your house with awesomeness. Toss in the rest of the ingredients (except for some of the cilantro), bring them to a boil and then reduce to simmer until it is thick (about 30 minutes). While that is simmering it's a good idea to make the quinoa or other grain. Add the remaining cilantro towards the end of cooking or toss it on top of each individual serving. Taste the chili to make sure it's how you like, then do what you want with it.
Here is my wonderful plate of blue corn taco shells, homemade chili, homemade guac (oh my goodness it was the best guac ever... Miriam, I may have crossed over to the dark side!), quinoa, Muir Glen organic salsa and a lime. Yum. The hardest part about this whole meal was stuffing the taco shells and the best part about this meal was everything (ok, maybe the guac really topped it off). There were three on each of our plates but I could only take down two.
I froze the leftover chili for a few days and tonight we are going to have that with new fresh quinoa and guac again, but in a taco salad form... blue corn chips with the same toppings. I highly suggest making these.

17 September 2006

New Pancakes, Lebanon and Rambutan Fruit

I made two different types of pancakes for dinner the other night. I had been promising Ray's cousin Jordan the "Coconut Pancakes with Pineapple Sauce" from VwaV for about two weeks now. He has been dining with us often lately and was super-enthused about this particular recipe. The co-op recently had cans of organic pineapple chunks, pieces and some other fruits on sale, so I picked up crushed and rings and used the crushed for this recipe. The second batch of pancakes is my standard chocolate chip banana pancakes. You see, I used to make pancakes a certain way a while back. They were good, in fact, I used to really love them. That's until I got my hands on Vive le Vegan and I now exclusively follow Dreena's Banana Bliss Pancakes, modified to my standard personal recipe, and now we have the most amazing pancakes ever. Basically, I follow the whole recipe but I use 2 bananas instead of 1 and I add a handfull of chocolate chips (Sunspire). Topped with these bad boys is the going-on-one-year-old-standard Blueberry Maple Syrup from Vive.

Of course I liked the chocolate chip banana ones with blueberry. That's the best kind. My first few bites of the Coconut Pineapple pancakes were interesting, crunchy from the coconut but very pina colada-y with the sauce. I liked them, but not enough to finish them. Maybe it was a bit overwhelming for me, so much coconut and so much crunchiness in the cakes. I could modify this, but I do prefer saucy-syrup not just sauce on my pancakes. I did finish the other kind. Thank goodness we have a human garbage can over here sometimes (Jordan) and I just plopped my coconut leftovers onto his plate and they were gone in no time.

The night before the pancakes we had "dinner" at a weird time. It was more like an 11:30pm snack. We had meals at weird times all day and were randomly super-hungry around 10 or 10:30pm. We all decided that since the Punk Rock Chickpea gravy with mashed potatoes is so awesome, it would be the best thing to have. I said, "I can make them in no time. Someone just help me peel [the potatoes]." Of course this was not the case and it took about an hour for the water to heat up, boil and cook the yukon gold's until soft. Why is it taking me so long to boil potatoes? Anway, we finally ate before midnight and I couldn't believe that after my serving (probably about a pound's worth... that was all we ate), the guys ate the rest of the 4.5 pounds of potatoes. I seriously thought I'd have enough leftovers for the next day. I was wrong. They were pleasantly stuffed, but ended up like this (see below) 5 minutes after eating. Jordan never got up off of the guest-air-mattress until the morning (hee hee) and Ray slowly crawled into bed with me a few hours later... (Ray's the one on his back)
I like to go to Haji Baba, a middle eastern restaurant with an awesome market because it is authentic. I don't dine at the restaurant much but I go to the market for various items that I can't get at the co-op or Whole Foods. The only thing that bothers me is since I buy in the high 90's percent organic foods, they don't have any there. I stick with random stuff such as tamarind paste, cheap pomegranite juice, baklava for Ray it has butter, but they have super-cheap and good pita and they even have household items and great rugs (and more!). Turns out they also have great vases. Ray spotted this out, I exclaimed how much I liked it and the fact that it's made in Lebanon and he bought it for me. It was $6 I think. I love how it is handpainted and how I can feel that it is. I thought it was an interesting looking vase for how it was built. Sort of like a cross between a vase, a lemonade pitcher and a bong. I plan on using it for none of the above, just decoration.
It made me feel extra special that this was made in Lebanon. I wish for and strive for peace everywhere and would someday like to be able to visit this beautiful place and mingle around and talk and see and learn of the culture and beauty first hand, safely. Even though I've never been there, it sort of reminds me of aspects of Arizona, landscape-wise.
Next up, rambutan fruit. I have never heard of this and saw it randomly at Whole Foods. The man helping me out said that it is native to Vietnam and many other tropic places and he let me try one then and there. The ones in the store were conventionally grown in California. I thought that was weird, but he gave me the whole story on it. I tried it and thought it was wonderful. It reminded me of a peeled grape and you don't want to eat the seed/nut. I bought some more to take home. They ended up being about 20 cents each and the guy told me that in Vietnam you can buy a huge-ass bushel of them for fifty cents. Oh well, I'll just have to go one day for myself. Here's a link for better photos and more info on the rambutan fruit.
Killian had a blast playing hockey with it across the kitchen floor. I even knew at the store that he would love the "hairs" on it. Here he is being freaky and tossing the rambutan around.

07 September 2006

Caution: Danger Ahead!

What I've been stirring up: Yep, I finally used agar. In the kitchen, not in microbiology lab, that is. I have had plenty of experience with that during my college curriculum, and it was very unappetizing. On a lighter and non-bacterial note, few days ago I saw a wonderful use for my first agar experience in the kitchen on Susan's blog... fruit gels! She calls them Fruit Gel Babies, and she's right, you can gobble these babies right up. I enjoyed my time making these, substituting agar flakes for agar powder (I had to google a conversion), and I used mango nectar instead of apple juice. It took hardly any "working/prep" time at all, just lots of stirring and firmed up in less than an hour. I used all the same measurements and used fresh ripe mango and red plums for the fruit chunks. I had no other fruit cups to compare these to, but I haven't had a gel-like product in over 7 years, so this reminded me of what I think a non-crappy jello would be. Awesome!
This is just four of them. I forgot how many I made, I actually had to limit myself based on my availability of small containers. These are nice jiggly breakfasts or snacks, with no horse-hooves or bone char, may I add.

I really wanted to show you all a better photo of sopapillas from when I made them before. I made these one night to complete a Mexican-flare-type-meal. We had black bean chipotle stew with fresh cilantro and corn fritters with salsa and something I can't remember, and I thought sopapillas were a good end of the night, hefty treat. I love cinnamon and sugar. I made these the same as I did last time. They look better now, although I ended up being sick of eating the tortilla after a few bites and just stirred it up and ate everything else out of it instead. If you haven't made these yet, do it soon and thank me later!
A closer look at the amazing-ness. I had to hold it down this time with a pick. I loaded it up too much to make it burrito-like.
On to a completely different subject now: I was mozying around at the co-op when I stumbled upon these purple bell peppers (our co-op only has organic produce). I was super excited and happy to see something so unique to me and pretty deep purple. Especially organic, so I knew it wasn't some weird genetically altered or cross-bred in a weird type way, pepper. I was informed it was more like a green pepper and I couldn't wait to use it up, although I do prefer red bells. I finally decided to go for a stir-fry so I could still have it's crunchiness yet I really wanted the purple effect in the mixture, just to make it contrast a bit. I opened it up and was slightly dissapointed, maybe by my own expectations. I seriously thought this was going to be purple inside and out and it was more like a green bell than anything. I still really enjoy the deep purple hue but the inside was almost white. And very juicy. Weird. (even though my head-shadow is in the way of the photo, the flash makes the white part of the pepper brighter. Having my head in the way really shows what it truly looks like inside)
Then I threw the pepper in the stir-fry and to make my slight dissapointment a bit larger, the purple color quickly faded (after all, a good stir-fry is done in a matter of minutes), and these looked more like red onions. Good thing I didn't use red onion in the dish because I would have been picking at my meal trying to make sure I was getting a pepper, not an onion the whole time. Overall, these were still nice. Most of my excitement wasn't by the end result of eating it, yet the whole, pure and un-cut form when I first got it and watched it hang out in the fridge for a day or two before I ate it.
Excuse the steam in the below photo. In the stir-fry was tofu marinated in a bunch of stuff like tamari, rice vinegar, agave nectar, chili sauce, spoonful of peanut butter, etc... Cooked in a mix of toasted sesame oil and olive oil. Along with that was the purple bell pepper, a green bell, broccoli, onion, cashews, ginger, garlic, carrots, gamashio (which I am never using again because after years I just realized it says "may contain peices of crustacean in the dulse". Yuck!!!) I don't know what else is in here, it was almost a week ago by now.
Then I made these bad-boys spur of the moment. I had some of these pre-baked phylo pastries (15 kcal each) in the freezer and pulled out about 5 for a snack for three of us (not Killian, Ray's cousin was here). I had some chocolate pudding (I can post the recipe later. I have it posted somewhere back in Feb. I think) and I decided instead of straight-up, I'd make cups again. Get this... it's the best part! I had some of Dreena's Maple Butter Cream leftover from crepes for her upcoming cookbook and I love that stuff. I decided to stir it up, see if it was still good, and it was so I put a bit of the maple cream inside the cup, fill it with pudding, and top it with hemp seeds. Yum indeed (and no baking).
Ultimate Vegan Nog. It's from The Artful Vegan, a fancy-shmancy cookbook that takes about 10 hours to make everything, but some of it is well worth while, or at least worth the while to read and dream about. This drink is pretty much the ultimate, like it says. Nothing like the pre-bought Silk Nog (which I love and not eggy eggnog), but this is homemade goodness and somewhat nog-like, somewhat banana-smoothie like. Very good, but a bit on the tofu-y side. I plan to make it again and modify a bit. I like to try original recipes first then modify to my liking. If you have this cookbook, it's a good quick recipe to try where you just throw the ingredients in a blender and stir. I prefer these kind of recipes, as well as lazy-one-pot-meals.
Last up, I made Easy Caramel Sauce from Vive. Talk about easy! This took less than 10 minutes to heat up and stir on the stove, including clean up time. I let it cool like the recipe said, warmed it back up again and served it with wonderful cookies n cream ice cream and Ahlaska chocolate syrup. Yum. (that's one of my special ice cream bowls, I am very particular about "special" utensils, eating-ware, my-side-of-the-bed/couch, and many other detailed things)I was in such ice cream la-la-land, that I ate it all up and hung out for a while and then went to bed with it still cooling on the counter. I slept in that morning, even made coffee with it right in front of me, and still never realized until almost 12 hours later that it was left out. Most importantly, I can't believe Killian didn't get to it. He loves creeping up on the counter and "being bad". Not this time.
Due to my extensive food safety and microbial knowledge, I decided to toss it. It's a shame because this easy caramel sauce was awesome, so like how I remember caramel from 7+ years ago, so easy to make, and so light and creamy from the raw sugar. I plan on making this again, but remembering to put it away properly, or just eat it all up right away. I'll go for the first and even try out different recipes with it. I have a few ideas...

02 September 2006

For Isil... 5 Foods

This is a list of 5 foods that I have eaten and absolutely love, and that I wish for as many people to try at least once. Except for #1, this is in no particular order.

1. organic soy ice cream (cookies n creme, preferably)
2. organic kiwi (cut horizontally down the middle and scooped until hollow with a spoon, that's the best way to eat it)
3. falafel sandwich with lettuce and tahini (hopefully organic, but authenicity rules here)
4. organic ground cumin
5. organic hemp seeds (sprinked on anything, with high nutritional contents)
If I could pick a 6th (I am so bad!) it would for sure be organic wild blueberries. I was torn, but kiwi won.

Now I'm supposed to "tag" people, right? The following people are now due for their list of "5 foods". If you have been tagged already, I apologize in advance.


Stay tuned... I have interesting "things" stirring up around here!