Saturday, February 28, 2009

West African Soup and Trail Mix Breakfast Cookies (Not in the same meal, of course!)

Well, there is a slumber party occurring at my house tonight so I am only needed when the kids get hungry or break something so I have had ample time to get some cooking done. I made "Easy West African Peanut Soup" from

It is a simple vegetable soup with a peanut butter infused, spicy broth. Maybe this does not sound good to you, but I think you should try it before you make up your mind. There is a similar recipe called just "African Stew" in the Becoming Vegetarian book by Melina and Davis. Their stew has yams, onions, chick peas, rice, greens (collards or kale), and fresh lemon juice. I absolutely LUV that version so this one seemed a little lacking in the veggies department but was good regardless. I did add some collards just because I had them in the fridge. I added Asian hot chili sauce and some lemon juice and it was darned good. If I had to choose a favorite, though, I would have to pick the one from the "Becoming Vegetarian" book. Just has a more substance and flavor to me. Anyhow, the kids ate raviolis-my daughter needs pasta at every meal.

After they ate, they decided to watch a movie so I was free once again. I thought I would start preparing for my long work week as a single parent while my husband is away. I decided to search for breakfast options that can be eaten in the car (AKA my office) and I found "Trail Mix Cookies" on - Love that website if you had not noticed yet! Check it out. It was basically nuts, seeds, dried fruits of your choice mixed with a mashed banana, some molasses, agave syrup, oats and whole wheat flour. I have a hodge podge of ingredients in my cabinets so I added: pistacios, walnuts, chopped prunes, chopped dried bing cherries, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. I made some into cookies and then some into bars in a loaf pan. I tasted one and they were sort of like a very fruity Clif bar. I will let them cool and eat them during the week instead of stopping for bagels or something else.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pasta and South Indian food

Although there have been no blogs in the last couple of days, cooking has not stopped. I made a very South Indian meal last night. One of my brother's favorites - parrupu (lentils) with varthakozhambu (really can't translate that one! - a yummily sour stew-ish dish) with Keerai masiyal (mashed spinach). I don't think I can do justice to writing the details of such a dish. One of my friends (at another blog) is going to write a piece on varthakozhambu and I will link to it this weekend. And also find a recipe for the spinach dish and link that too!! But, it was yummy.

Today, I threw together the left-over Seitan with sphagetti, peppers, mushrooms and Trader Joe's vegan meatballs in a Trader Joe's marinara sauce (bow to Trader Joe's!). I doctor the sauce based on my taste - I added chilli powder, garlic and herbs today. Another trip to Trader Joe's coming up this weekend!!

I sauteed the Seitan some more today (without meaning to - I left it on the stove too long) and the pieces browned and were crispy at the edges. I liked this version of Seitan a lot more!

Hopefully, I'll try something new this weekend... Happy Friday!

Vegan Products that We Really Like

OK. Since it is just me and the 11 year old, we are cooking very little so I thought I would look through the fridge and offer some tried and true recommendations for the lazy vegan adventurer right from my own tiny kitchen. Obviously I have vegetables and fruit, etc. but I assume most of you have a sense what those taste like so I won't list. I tend to shop at Trader Joe's and Wholefoods a lot. We also have a good local supermarket chain here (Hannaford's). I believe these items are fully vegan but, obviously, you should check if you are worried!

In My Freezer Now:
  • GardenBurger BlackBean Chipotle Burgers
  • Gardenburger Riblets (my family hates these but I like them)
  • Amy's Texas Veggie Burgers
  • Amy's black bean enchiladas (there is a dairy free one)
  • Boca chicken patties
  • Dr. Praeger's TexMex burgers (more like a soft potato pancake but yummy)
  • Morningstar Grillers Vegan
  • Ling Ling Vegetable Potstickers (Vegetable Dumplings)-These are filled with cubed tofu
  • Trader Joe's Thai Vegetable Gyoza
  • Tofutti Cuties-Vanilla

In the Fridge:
  • Silk Soy Milk in light plain and light vanilla (I have finally become accustomed to soy milk my coffee but that took a LONG time and, no, I don't lik ehte soy cream because it is sweetened and I hate sweet coffee)
  • Vegenaise Mayonaise-this is the best I have found so far
  • Earth Balance Buttery Spread- fabulous!
  • Tofutti sour cream-not really very sour creamy but sometimes you need it on a quesadilla
  • Better Than Bouillion Vegetable Base- I put this stuff in everything I cook. It tastes great.
  • Galaxy Foods Vegan Grated Topping- sort of like parm cheese supposedly. I only used this when making "rich and creamy lowfat vegan alfredo" ( Smells like chemicals to me so I don't use it much beyond that recipe.
  • WholeSoy Yogurts - My favorite is Mango Apricot
  • Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Cheese- Melts on a pizza. Very expensive though.
  • Smart Dogs - this is defintely an acquired taste. I ate one a year ago and did not like it but now I can eat them, no problem.
  • Tofurkey Hickory Smoked slices
  • Imagine Creamy Tomato Soup
  • Tings- made my the people who brought you "Pirate booty." They are cheese doodles without the cheese.
  • Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos (yes, I know, very nutritious. This is my Snack section, remember?)
  • Clif bars
  • Orville Redenbacher Simply Salted microwave popcorn
  • Mi-Del ginger snaps
  • Salt and Pepper potato chips
Well, I hope that helps out somewhat! Happy eating.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

No-chicken curry

As I type this, the 'no-chicken curry' is cooking away. This is my quick week-night dinner with the Seitan that I made over the weekend. My 'curries' change every time I make it. It depends on the time that I have and what I feel like doing. Here are the basics. Em, you can make it for yourself when Mike is away?
I sauteed pieces of the Seitan first.
Heat oil. This is the only standard :)
I always add ginger and garlic cloves (cut up) and let them cook a little, with a couple of green chillis cut up. Sometimes, I add cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves too and let them brown.
Add one onion, finely chopped. Cook till translucent.
Add 1-2 cans of tomatoes (based on how watery I want the gravy).
At this point, you can cook it down like this for a few minutes and leave as is or puree the onions and tomatoes.
Today, it was chunky.
The spices I add are also inconsistent. Salt, turmeric are standard. The rest - depends on my mood, again. The choices are pre-made garam masala, paprika, chilli powder, kitchen king masala or a pre-prepared masala powder. Occasionally, I will dry roast some ingredients and grind them too... very very occasionally! Kasuri meth is an option too!
Add the protien - paneer, seitan (today), beans (garbanzo or kidney), black-eyed peas, other lentils, tofu and cook.
Sometimes I also add a vegetable at this stage - peas, spinach (today, I threw in some broccoli) - so, this one dish has it all :) Cook it all together well.
To end, again options include - cream, plain yogurt whippped together, coconut milk or just broth/water to make a tomato-based gravy. I had some left over coconut milk that needed to be used and so it was used! Boil again. If using yogurt, don't boil it for too long. You can also grind together dry-roasted cashews and add them... makes for a nutty texture. Sometimes, I just add cashews for my crunch! (Or I tend to revert to chips... bad, bad)
I *love* cilantro, so that always gets added at the end. Depending on the taste, I add some sugar to cut the acidity or lemon juice to add acidity.
Serve with rice/naan/chappati/tortilla....
The moral of this post - let your taste guide you!!
As the curry cooks, I should confess that I tasted a lot of the seitan when I was cutting it and I am not completely sold on the texture. It is very 'meaty' and I am not a huge fan of 'meaty' textures. So the jury is still out. I have some seitan left, so I will use it in a stir-fry later this week too and see what I think.
Any other Indian-food enthusiasts that read this blog - any other modifications you would make to your curry? Add it to the comments section, please.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Carvel-ish Cake

Now my husband really, really, really loves Carvel cakes. We have been known to pick one up for many a random special occasion. Now that he is avoiding dairy products, I got a bit worried as his birthday approached. I tried to get a little creative and my final product is seen here:

There were some problems. I tried to spread the ice "cream" into a springform pan with the ridiculous idea that it would slip easily out of this pan and I could simpy flip it over revealing a perfectly circular cake from which would then just need a few decorative elements. dice. Ice cream stuck pitifully to the pan so I just added some chocolate suace to the top and crushed up some peanuts. Everyone was (relatively) happy.

Here is how you too can make a Carvel-ish cake/pie/whatever for your vegan loved one:

Tofutti Carvel-ish Cake

  • 2 tubs vanilla Tofutti ice cream
  • 2 tubs chocolate Tofutti ice cream
  • 1-1 1/2 cup crushed vegan chocolate cookies (I use Mi-Del Chocolate Snaps)
  • decorative elements-frosting, chocolate sauce, nuts, etc. (This is all you, I can only take you so far)
You will need a deep pie plate, round cake pan, square cake pan, or do what I did and use a springform although it is unnecessary. Let tofutti warm just a bit (it is typically pretty soft). Scoop chocolate onto the bottom of you pan spreading across as much as possible. Place wax paper over the top and press down to make it as flat as possible. Cover with crushed cookies. You may want to freeze slightly now before adding next layer. Repeat process with vanilla Tofutti. I topped it with "Chocolate Glaze" ( which was challenging since it is a warm glaze and, therefore, melted some of my ice cream. Oh well, you live you learn, you stuff your face with the mistakes. I also added some crushed peanuts around the edges sort of like Fudgey the Whale. This cake needs to be frozen at least over night if you want it to slice well but if you cannot wait, grab a spoon and enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cooking experiments tonight.

Earlier in the day, I made 'Seitan'. It was a mini-adventure.

I followed the directions completely. I had to get some groceries to start the process. Central Indiana shopping - I went to our regular grocery store and got the lemon, more vegetable broth. No Vital Wheat Gluten flour, No Yeast. So I drove all the way to the other side of the twin towns (about 6 miles, so really can't complain) to Target and only found the flour. So back to this side of town to our Organic grocery store and found the yeast there. An hour later - I started on the Seitan. And 2 hours later, I had it made!
When I was at Urbana-Champaign, a favorite meal was the Pad-Thai at the YMCA. She added Seitan to her Tofu Pad Thai. I fell in love with the texture and the taste then. I have not been able to find anything quite like that anywhere. I hope that what I made today will be close.
I have put it away and plan to make an Indian dish with it tomorrow for dinner. As the week starts, dinners will be quick meals!

For dinner, I made a paella. Here is the recipe - Paella

It turned out really really good. I did not have marinated Tofu. So, this morning I marinated the tofu myself - with some Frank's Red Hot sauce, some brown sugar and sauce from a can of Chipotle Chillis in Adobo sauce! V needed a little extra spice in his dish and added some hot sauce to his portion. I like crunch in my food and instead of chips, I added some slivered almonds. I also added some cilantro because I like the taste of cilantro too. V thinks he is getting spoiled by my being Vegan!!

Dessert was a piece of Trader Joe's dark chocolate. Yumm!!

How I got here/How this journey began

Ok, this is a bit embarrassing but one night I received a message on my answering machine. The voice was that of Alicia Silverstone (obviously not calling me personally) telling me to contact my congressman about the Farm Bill which was working to improve school lunches. Sounded good to me since my daughter's school lunches were often high fat, salty and deep fried. Alicia (hee hee hee) recommended that I go to the (Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine) website to learn more about this bill and, since my husband was away and I was bored/lonely I looked at each and every link and page on the website . Somehow, I ended up watching the "Meet Your Meat" video on That was all I needed. I was done eating meat that evening. I emailed my husband to tell him my decision. He thought I would never make it but here I am now over one year later. I do not regret this decision at all. Maybe I should contact Alicia and tell her? Anyhow, he has since made the switch and actually made a New Year's resolution to try to go vegan. I am not quite there but I am learning to cook and help his plight and hopefully I will get there soon too!

Dinner last night...

Based on a FB post from Emily, I made a vegan Alfredo pasta with steamed asparagus. Here is the link to the recipe that I used. I added pesto and sun-dried tomatoes too while blending the tofu. It was great!! Even non-vegan/vegetarian V enjoyed the pasta!

Our adventures

Emily and I have just started our conversion to vegan-ism. This was an easy way for us to talk about what we cooked and what we thought, so we can share our ideas with each other!
I am allowing myself 'one cheat meal per week' starting in March. When I am not vegan, I am vegetarian! Let the adventures begin :)