Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Dinner Party

Last night we had friends over for dinner. It rained all day and drizzled most of the night, so we couldn't eat outside. Other than that it was a fun night, and all the food was great.

Because I had a race in the morning and knew I wouldn't have a ton of time to prepare, I decided on a simple pasta dish as the main course and then added Italian-themed food to round out the pasta.

Appetizers:

White Bean Spread with Truffle Oil. I made it once before and loved it, and it was just as good this time. I think I let out an "mmmmm!" every time I had a bite. This time I didn't have time to cook the beans, so I just used two cans of beans and then boiled the garlic on their own without the beans. As before, the truffle oil really makes this spread special, so if you decide to make this, splurge and get the truffle oil (I found it at my local grocery store.) I served the spread with crackers. See the recipe I posted a few years ago.


Olives. I don't like olives so just picked out a few different kinds at the Whole Foods olive bar.

Strawberries. A big bowl of sweet, juicy, organic strawberries is always a great appetizer!

Drinks:

Ruby Red Sangria. I made this recipe for Ruby Red Sangria which pairs ruby red grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice, and sugar with red wine.  I added apples, blueberries, and strawberries. This sangria wasn't strong or super sweet. It was actually a little tart. I liked it but drank way too much!


Dinner:

The main meal was Pasta with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce by Vegan Yum Yum (recipe). The sauce is very simple and fresh, and the creaminesss comes from cashews. This sauce is by no means light or low calorie. Between the cashews and the olive oil, it's pretty decadent. But so delicious! I had based this whole meal on getting fresh pasta from Penn Mac in the Strip. When I walked to the Strip to get it, I discovered that the fresh pasta is not vegan but is made with eggs. Darn! I bought the egg fettucine to serve to everyone else and then made myself some whole-wheat spaghetti. It was still delicious!

My friend bought a salad with a lime-oil vingaigrette. She also brought a plate of salad add-ons so that everyone could add what they wanted, which was a great idea. I also had crusty white Italian bread and olive oil and balsamic to dip it in.

Dessert:

The best part, as always! I was super excited to make the vegan Lemon Bars from Veganomicon/Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar (see the recipe at No Meat Athlete). I had never made them before and thought they'd be the perfect summer dessert.

Most vegan desserts I make use basic ingredients, but this one called for agar agar flakes, which are a gelatin substitute. I had to make a trip to Whole Foods to pick up a bag, and they were pricey...but well worth it!

The crust was something like a big sugar cookie. I could have eaten just the crust and been happy!

The filling was made by dissolving the agar agar flakes in boiling water, then adding lemon juice mixed with arrowroot powder (another thickener that I already have in my pantry), sugar, and lemon zest. You whisk it until it thickens then pour it onto the crust and let it refrigerate until it sets.

Absolutely delicious! We all loved it. I'd absolutely make it again...and just might have to so that I can use up those pricey agar agar flakes!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Big Fat Taco Salad

Once the weather heats up, I pretty much only want to eat salads. With the hot and humid temps last week, the Big Fat Taco Salad from Appetite for Reduction hit the spot. You do need to make two other recipes--the Fresh Tomato Salsa Dressing and the Guacamame--but everything comes together pretty quickly, and it makes enough for a week of lunches.

The Guacamame itself is outstanding. It's made with avocado and edamame, which adds protein and makes it more filling plus lower in WeightWatchers points (only 2 points per serving!). I think it tastes nearly identical to regular guacamole, and I make it a lot in place of avocado-only guacamole.

The Fresh Tomato Salsa Dressing is also very good, though if you're tight on time you could likely subsitute a chunky-style salsa.

I found the salad overall to be delicious and filling, and it definitely works as a meal. Omnivores will have no problem substituting the black beans for another protein or adding another protein.

Find the recipes over on the Meatless Monday blog

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Grilled Tofu

I wanted a refreshing salad that worked as a meal so recently made the Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Grilled Tofu from Appetite for Reduction. Rice noodles are tossed with chopped green beans, sliced cucumber, red onion, chopped mint, and a dressing that features chili garlic sauce and lime juice. Tofu is marinated in the dressing then grilled. A peanut-lime gremolata sprinkled on top adds even more flavor. I found the flavor best after it sat for a day in the fridge. It's 7 Weight Watchers point a serving, and you can find the recipe here. I would have liked a bit more flavor from the dressing; next time I might drizzle with additional chili garlic sauce. Otherwise, it's a refreshing summer salad.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Argentinian Hearts of Palm Salad

I tried a new salad this weekend that's my new favorite. It's a Weight Watchers recipe and is five points a serving. I served this for a Memorial Day cookout with SmartDogs vegan hot dogs, grilled asparagus, and veggie baked beans. This salad is delicious and easy to make, and it will be great to take to potlucks.


Argentinian Hearts of Palm Salad
Serves 4

Recipe from http://www.weightwatchers.com

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a serving bowl, combine water, lime juice, oil, salt and pepper; stir in scallions and cilantro.
  • Add hearts of palm, tomatoes and avocado to bowl; gently toss to coat. Yields about 1 1/4 cups per serving.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Vegan Cincinnati Chili

The last time I had Cincinnati Chili from Skyline would have been when I still ate meat, and that's coming up on 12 years. My husband went to the University of Cincinnati, and we've taken several trips there to visit his friends and see the city. The first time I tried Skyline I was in love, and the memory of that sweet-ish chili served over spaghetti and topped with cheddar cheese still looms large in my mind. (And yes, I tried the vegetarian versio at Skyline after I became vegetarian...it's just not the same.)

You can, of course, get Skyline Chili at the grocery store now in either a frozen container or a can (ewww...meat in a can!). When my husband bought some last week, I decided to try to make a vegan version.

While I was very tempted to try a version I found that uses lentils--because everything is better with lentils!--I decide to make a more "authentic" version using vegan crumbles (yes, it is processed and bad for me, but I wanted to be as close to bad as the original!) I used this recipe from AllRecipes.com.


First I sauteed chopped onion in olive oil then added minced garlic and the veggie crumbles.
Next I added a can of tomato sauce (a deviation from the recipe, which called for one cup each of tomato sauce and water...why wouldn't I use all tomato sauce?), diced tomatoes (another deviation; I used just one cup), red wine vinegar, and the spice mixture, which includes cinnamon, brown sugar, and cocoa powder. I also did not use the hot sauce, since the only kind I have is Sriracha, which would be too hot for this recipe, or the kidney beans, since I don't remember beans in the original version.

I let it simmer for 20 minutes then served it over whole-grain spaghetti and topped it with Daiya cheddar cheese shreds.
While Daiya mozzarella cheese on pizza is great, I'm not a huge fan of fake cheese in general except for ones I make from scratch, and I don't totally love the Daiya cheddar flavor. I liked the parts without the cheese best, so next time I'll leave the cheese off.

Aside from the cheese...this was fantastic! I really loved it. I paired it with a salad of organic sweet baby lettuces and Santuary Dressing (ranch-style dressing) that I made from Appetite for Reduction. It was a great combination.

I asked my husband to try the chili and was curious to see what he thought since he just had Skyline a few days ago (albeit from a can...ewww!) His response: "It's pretty good!" That is high praise in his book, so there you have it. This recipe is a great substitute for the real Cincinnati Chili.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

To celebrate running a good race in the JASR 5K yesterday, I made Mint Chocolate Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. They're my favorite!

The cupcake is the basic chocolate cupcake batter with 1 teaspoon of mint extract mixed in. I tried a plain cupcake and it was heavenly--extremely moist and just melted in my mouth.

The frosting also has mint extract, with some green food coloring mixed in. You add a spiral of frosting to the cupcake.

Last, I made the quick melty ganache and spooned it on top.
I'd just spooned the ganache on here, but it hardens once you put them in the fridge to set. So delicious--the perfect race celebration treat!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Vegan Blondies


Recently I finished my freezer stash of my leftover Christmas cookies. So while at Whole Foods last week, I picked up a vegan cookie and considered buying it. But it was not soft and not very appealing, plus was $1.69. I knew I could cook up a whole batch of cookies for less than, so I broke out Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and made the blondies.

Oh my! They are absolutely delicious. They have the taste of a great chocolate chip cookie with the ooey-gooey goodness of a brownie. You can get the recipe here.