Sunday, January 30, 2011

Days of Leftovers Begins

After I got back from Soergel's, and then Giant Eagle to pick up what I knew was cheaper, I worked out for an hour and a half (Sunday is my longest day) so got a late start to cooking.

I started by roasting veggies to make a double batch of vegetable broth in the slow cooker.

Then, lunchtime: the first of many meals from leftovers. But it was delicious. I had Spinach Linguine with Cilantro-Basil Pesto and Artichokes, a chickpea cutlet, and kale chips.

On to cooking. I had some broccoli stalks and thought I'd use them in a soup. I'd make a vegan "Cream" of Asparagus soup before, where pureed basmati rice makes it creamy, and thought it was really good. The recipe said broccoli could be substituted for the asparagus. I've never tasted a broccoli stalk and stupidly thought it would work the same as the florets. Uh, it doesn't. The soup was so bland, and then made worse by the ton of herbs and spices I desperately threw in when it was done, that I threw it away. The horror! Seeing it all wash down the drain and all that waste was hard to take. Good thing it wasn't more than an onion, oil, a buillion cube, and 1/3 cup basmati rice that got sacrified. For what it's worth...Next I made the Sour Cilantro Cream from Veganomicon. Very good! I had it for dinner over the Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Roasted Chile Sauce, which I baked a little more in the toaster oven. It was so much better than last night! It got a little crispy, and the Sour Cilantro Cream on it was awesome. I also used some for salad dressing (shown here on a salad of greens and pepitas), but it wasn't great. I have another day or so of eating the enchiladas, so I'm glad I made the Sour Cilantro Cream. I like adding some new things to leftover dishes--makes them more fun.

Visit to Soergel's Orchard Family Farm Market

A few people have told me that Soergel Orchard Family Farm Market in Wexford has better prices on fruit and veggies than Giant Eagle. This morning I drove there to see for myself.

The market is one of several redwood framed buildings on a mini campus on Soergels' orchard and farm right off 279 at the Wexford exit. The produce section was small but had a nice selection. I liked the signs with each item's origin.
I picked up some locally grown tomatoes (from Indiana), apples from Soegel's orchard, honey belles on sale, and some other fruits and veggies.
Maybe it's because it's dead winter and prices are lower in summer, but prices varied from slightly to drastically above Giant Eagle's (I won't even mention Trader Joe's). I got collard greens for $1.79, $.20 more than GE's $1.59. I thought I was getting a bargain for a large container of mushrooms for $2.59....until I went to GE afterward and saw them on sale for $1!

Still, it's nice to support a locally owned business and farm, and everyone there was super nice. And it was cute and had a nice vibe to it. In addition to produce they had homemade jams, pasta sauces, soup mixes--that sort of thing. They also had a bakery and deli that I didn't go through.

Next I went to the Naturally Soegel's building. One of the Soergel's has celiac disease and wanted to bring gluten- and allergy-free products to the North Hills. The store has a ton of vegan food. It has specialty items (like the full scope of Bob's Red Mill products), a dairy-free milk and ice cream section, frozen food, organic food, and lots of vegan and organic snacks and things I haven't seen before.

But.....oh. It was expensive. Very expensive. Silk Soy Milk was $4.59 (on sale at Giant Eagle for $2.99). A 3.5 container of flavored kale chips (one was pizza) was $7.99! I was so tempted by frozen vegan soy taquitos--one of my favorite foods from my vegetarian-but-didn't-eat-healthy days. But the $6.49 price tag made me put it back. I found a decent price on agave nectar ($3.29) and bought just that.

I liked Soergel's, but with my food budget, I don't think I can afford it. At least, not in the winter.

Veganomicon Review: Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Roasted Chile Sauce

The star of this dish was the roasted chile sauce. Roasted and chopped chiles are added to onions softened in oil with canned tomatoes and spices then processed in a blender. The sauce was so good I couldn't stop eating it with tortilla chips. When making it, though, I missed the tip, buried in the instructions, about how to roast peppers and ended up taking my whole chiles out of the oven mid-way through cooking and trying to slice and seed them when they were very hot.
The filling started with chopped kale wilted in grapeseed oil with garlic. I added diced, boiled potatoes, pepitas, lemon juice (I was out of lime juice), veggie broth, and salt then mashed most of the potatoes with a wooden spoon.

It was good but not great. I thought the filling was too salty (maybe because of my juice substitution?) and didn't complement the taste of the enchilada sauce. I couldn't taste the pepitas at all, which is a shame because they were expensive. I'd definitely make the sauce again--it was pretty quick and easy and could be used as a dip--but not sure I'd make this dish again.Oh, and it's nearly impossible to get good pictures of enchiladas!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Spinach Linguine with Cilantro-Basil Pesto and Artichokes

Veganomicon has convinced me that pasta doesn't have to be boring. Since I started eating vegan, I rarely make pasta because it seems so easy, expected, and not creative. The two pasta dishes I made from Veganomicon, Pasta Della California and last night Spinach Linguine with Cilantro-Basil Pesto and Artichokes, have been outstanding.The Spinach Linguine recipe is a happy mix of contrasting flavors. The pesto, made with cilantro, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, and almonds, was divine. The cilantro adds a surprisingly delicious and bright flavor, and the almonds make it a little creamy. Sliced red onions cooked in olive oil with garlic lend a wonderful sweetness, countering the saltiness of the pesto and artichokes. The linguine itself (I used Trader Joe's Spinach and Chive Linguine) is flavorful.
Each bite of this dish made my tastebuds dance. I LOVED it and would give it over five out of five stars. It may be one of my favorite recipes in the book. My omnivore husband really liked it too.

And it was super easy to make. The hardest part was dismantling the cilantro leaves from their stems. It took about a half-hour so would be perfect for dinner after work.

I found that someone else posted the recipe on their blog. My advice: Make this! You'll love it! I know I'll be making it many times again.

Another recipe down for Cook Vegan Lover's Cookbook Club! Lots more I still want to try.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Chickpea Cutlet and Scrambled Tofu Pita

I've been itching to make Veganomicon's Chickpea Cutlets again ever since I tried them out last week. SO good! I made a batch and a half this time because four just aren't enough. They tasted as awesome as the first time.

I also made Happy Herbivore's Tofu Scramble and added some chopped chives to it because they were about to go bad. I've had other scrambled tofu, but I think I like Happy Herbivore's best.

I put the cutlet on a home-made pita and topped it with the scrambled tofu. The result: Mmmmm!

Week 3: Project Food Budget

Week 3 of The Reluctant Vegetarian's Project Food Budget

Goal: $100
Actual: $101.61 (plus $12 to finish up a few recipes from last week)

Ugh. What went wrong? Unfortunately, I couldn't find my Giant Eagle receipt but looked through my Trader Joe's receipt. Slightly less than half of my bill went to fruits and vegetables I eat raw as snacks and with meals, like sliced tomatoes and and salad greens and tons of fruit. I eat so much because I've gotten used to it on the WeightWatchers program. (See my note further on if you want a summary of the new WeightWatchers program introduced in November 2010--fruits and veggies are free!)

But, I don't feel so bad about spending a lot of money on fruit and veggies. They're good for my health!

In addition to the fruit and veggies, I got staples (flax seed was still on sale at GE! Thanks, Reluctant Vegetarian!) and made these recipes:
And will make these the rest of the week:
  • Chickpea Cutlets
  • Scrambled Tofu
  • Spinach Linguine with Basil-Cilantro Pesto and Artichokes
  • Potato and Kale Enchiladas with Roasted Chile Sauce
I'll also bake whole-wheat bread (which I calculated as saving me $16.34) and cook veg broth this weekend. Every recipe I made this week except for the brownies called for veg broth, so making my own is a great way to save money.

Wondering how everyone else did this week:

Note About WeightWatchers

In the WeightWatchers program, all fruits and most veggies are now "free," meaning you don't have to count them against your daily points food allowance. That's right: you can eat as many fruits and veggies as you like. The point is not to gorge on them but rather to use them as strategies to fill you up when you're hungry.

WeightWatchers' old system calculated Points values based on calories, fat, and fiber. It was too easy to choose a 100-calorie pack of Oreos over a 100-calorie handful of almonds.

WeightWatchers' new system doesn't look at calories at all. It looks at how your body processes food. The new PointsPlus calculation is based on fat and carbohydrates (what your body processes quickly) and fiber and protein (what takes more energy for your body to process while filling you up.)

I've seen this question a lot, "Won't you gain weight if you can eat unlimited fruits and veggies? They have calories, too." The answer is that fruits and veggies are so filling, it's very difficult to eat as much as you'd need to in order to gain weight.

I think it's a fantastic program. It forces people to examine their food choices and see how much better a banana (0 PointsPlus value) is than a soft pretzel (6 PointsPlus value). (The minimum daily allowance everyone gets on the program is 29.) Because nutritious foods are so low in PointsPlus values, WeightWatchers encourages you to eat nutritious foods. I think that's great!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Curried Tofu

Marinating tofu and then baking or grilling it is hardly a new idea, but I was curious to try Veganomicon's version of it using a curry marinade. The recipe called for marinating tofu for a half-hour. I let it marinate for 24 hours.I baked it for about 45 minutes.Veganomicon suggested eating it on a sandwich with curried mayo (adding curry powder to vegan mayo). Unfortunately, they didn't include a recipe for vegan mayo, and I realized too late that The Happy Herbivore, which I've had for weeks and have been dying to try out, did. I made the mayo from the Food Matters Cook Book:

Curried Tofu Mayo (adapted from the Food Matters Cook Book)
Makes about 1 cup

  • 6 ounces soft silken tofu (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (I squeezed a half a lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar (recipe calls for honey or sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
Blend until smooth!

I didn't have high hopes for this. I was surprised that it tasted pretty good and very close to mayo.I put the tofu and mayo on Poppy Seed-Cornmeal Roti for a sandwich. The mayo ended up looking like a melting mummy.The result? Eh. The tofu had the very faintest taste of curry. If I'd followed the recipe and marinated it for only 30 minutes, it would probably have tasted like nothing. But the texture was pretty good. Overall, the sandwich was ho-hum.

Tonight I cobbled together dinner from the leftover marinade, baked tofu, and some mustard greens. I wilted the greens in the marinade, added the tofu, and ate it with the Poppy Seed-Cornmeal Roti that seems to last forever. Not bad. Can't say I'll be rushing to make it again, but not awful.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Easy Stir-Fried Leafy Greens

Veganomicon says that eating enough dark, leafy greens throughout the week can be a challenge for even the most dedicated vegetarians and vegans. Amen to that.

Dark leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses, says"calorie for calorie, perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems, among many other effects. Dark green leaves even contain small amounts of Omega-3 fats."

Given the nutritional benefits, I want to eat more of them, so last night I cooked mustard greens using Veganomicon's Easy Stir-Fried Leafy Greens recipe with sesame oil, garlic, grated ginger, cooking sherry, and soy sauce. I've never had mustard greens before. These were fantastic! I'm going to modify the recipe next time to use less oil, but this is a great recipe to have on-hand for getting my dark, leafy greens in.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Poppy Seed-Cornmeal Roti

These were a real pain to make. You had to roll it out, brush it with oil, flip it in half, brush it with oil, roll it back out, brush it with oil and then crumbs, flip it in half, brush it with oil and crumbs...too much! I only did that for the first two. The rest I rolled out just once and hoped for the best.

They tasted really good. The poppy seeds added a crunch, and the cumin seeds added flavor. They went together perfectly with the Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry. I'm not sure I'd make these again, though, because they were a pain.

Veganomicon Review: Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry

You know how you're making a recipe and it seems wrong and you doubt it's going to turn out but have no choice but to finish it? That's how this was. I doubted it the whole way. Why chopped parsnips as an ingredient? What taste would the lime juice at the end give it? Would the final be as bland as the taste I took in the middle of cooking it?

There was a lot of prep work for this, and mid-way through cooking it, I'd already written it off, mourning the time lost in chopping onions, garlic, jalapeno, ginger, parsnip, and cauliflower. But I finished it and un-enthusiastically dished it over Basmati rice.

And it was WONDERFUL! It was extremely flavorful, and the cooked red lentils gave it a near-creamy texture. The parsnips, along with cinnamon, gave it a nice sweetness. I loved it, and my omnivore husband really liked it too. My only complaint was that it wasn't spicy, so next time I make it I might add some red pepper flakes. I served it with Poppy Seed-Cornmeal Roti, which went great with it.

Veganomicon Review: Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies

The smell of these baking filled my kitchen for a half-hour before they were done. It smelled so good, I couldn't wait for them to get done. I waited a whole five minutes before eating one (supposed to wait a half-hour), and it was so hot it burned my mouth, but I couldn't stop eating it.

This may be one of my all-time favorite desserts. Out of five stars, it's a 10. It's gooey and fudgy and moist, bursting with a blueberry-chocolate flavor that's just perfect, with whole blueberries and chocolate chips. I told my husband it was one of the best things I'd ever eaten. If I had to criticize it, it didn't hold together perfectly, but I suspect that's because my whole blueberries could have been dried better before I added them.

Because I have Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, I'm used to Isa and Terry's dessert recipes, and this is pretty standard for them. Simple to make and uses basic ingredients. I did have to buy blueberry spreadable fruit, but I had everything else on hand. It makes a whole 9X13 tray, so this would be perfect to knock the socks off of party or dinner guests.

I ate way too many brownies (which is pretty funny after my last post about maintaining my weight!) so will take them into the office to share with coworkers. If I don't, I could easily eat the whole tray.
Someone posted the recipe here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Before & After: Veganism & My Weight Loss

As I mentioned in my first post, I decided to eat vegan because I didn't want to support industries that treat animals so horrifically inhumanely. At that time, I was also trying to lose weight. I'd lost 40 pounds on WeightWatchers 10 years prior but gained 30 pounds back. I joined WeightWatchers again last year and was on it for two months before I went vegan.

I can't say that going vegan was the only reason I lost more than 30 pounds and five pants sizes. I was also following WeightWatchers and an extremely intensive exercise program combining high-intensity cardio and a lot of strength training. But I know that eating vegan taught me how to eat healthy, nutritious food that was also delicious so that I never felt deprived. This way of eating helped me lose weight and gain strength and energy.

These pictures were taken exactly one year apart. I've maintained my weight loss since September but know it will be hard work to continue to maintain my weight and fitness level. But by eating vegan, I know I can do it.

Taken January 22, 2010
Taken January 22, 2011
Lost 33 pounds & 5 pants sizes

Baking (and not kneading) Bread

Until I got the Food Matters Cook Book by Mark Bittman, I made my own bread maybe like five times in my life. In the book, Bittman gives numerous no-knead recipes for bread, baguettes, pizza dough, pitas, flatbread, etc. His 2006 New York Times article talked about the no-knead secrets of a New York baker, Jim Lahey. He posted a recipe for no-knead bread he adapted from Lahey's techniques. It became a huge phenomenon, and Bittman revamped the recipe a few times, posting recipes for Faster No-Knead Bread and Fast No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread. His recipe for Whole Wheat Bread in the Food Matters Cook Book that I posted is slightly different from those but has the same idea: mix a few ingredients in a bowl, let it sit for 12 hours, pour it into a bread pan, let it rise, then bake it.

I have made it every single week since the first time I made it. I mix up the dough on Friday night, let it sit overnight, and have fresh-baked bread by Noon on Saturday to last me the week. The texture is perfect--crunchy on the outside, chewy and hearty on the inside. It tastes amazing. And it saves me money. $7 of ingredients will make six loaves of this homemade bread. My preferred whole-wheat bread at the grocery store is $3.89 a loaf--$23.34 for six loaves. So, I'm saving $16.34.Yesterday I also made Bittman's recipe for Mostly Whole-Wheat Baguettes. I've made them twice before; they were good but tasted just like bread. This time I must have done it right: they tasted exactly like baguettes. They were soooo good that I couldn't stop myself from immediately eating one whole loaf of the four I made. These don't look like much, but they were delicious.Lesson learned: baking my own bread using Bittman's simple recipes is the only way to go!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Pasta Della California

Hot linguine tossed in a garlicky, spicy broth with wilted arugula, broccoli, and chunks of avocado--what's not to love about this dish? It was really, really good. As Veganomicon promised, it did come together in no time--about a half-hour. Perfect to make after work on a week night. Omnivore husband really liked it too.

Veganomicon Review: Chickpea Cutlets

WOW. This may be my favorite Veganomicon recipe so far. I planned to make the Red Wine Roux to go with them but ran out of time. After I pan-fried them, I ate one plain, and it was awesome just like that. I couldn't stop myself from reaching for a plain one for breakfast the next morning too.
The next day for lunch I had one on a homemade pita, topped with greens and Veganomicon's Mediterranean Olive Oil and Lemon Juice Dressing. Really delicious.
These are so simple and quick to make (about a half-hour) and packed with protein (15.25 grams per cutlet). And taste amazing. I'm planning on making another batch this weekend with the Red Wine Roux and baked french fries.

I'm posting the recipe because the authors posted it on their blog, so I'm not spilling any secrets.

Chickpea Cutlets
Makes 4 Cutlets

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth or 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves (pressed or grated)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika (smoked paprika)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • olive oil, for pan frying
  1. Mash the chickpeas and oil together until no whole chickpeas remain.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and knead for 3 minutes until strings of gluten have formed.
  3. Preheat large nonstick skillet over medium heat.*
  4. Divide dough into four equal pieces. Flatten each piece and stretch to roughly 4x6 inches.
  5. Add a thin layer of olive oil to to the pan. Place cutlets in the pan and cook on each side for 6 to 7 minutes. They are ready when lightly brown and firm to the touch.
*You can also bake them. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly oil a baking sheet. Brush both sides of each patty with olive oil, place on baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Flip patties and bake another 8-10 minutes till firm and golden brown.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thanks, Ollibird

Thanks to Ollibird for sharing their fabulous designs for Twitter and blog backgrounds! My new background is from their blog. Love it!

Week 2: Project Food Budget

Week 2 of The Reluctant Vegetarian's Project Food Budget

Goal: $100
Actual: $90.72 (but doesn't include about $10 of ingredients I still need)

In addition to staples and a ton of fruit and veggies for snacks and breakfast, the budget went to:
I saved money this week by making my own vegetable stock, whole-wheat bread, and pita bread! I'd never made pita bread before and was excited to find they're simple to make and taste 1000% better than store-bought pita.

  • I noticed that most of the other bloggers' budgets are for their entire family. Mine is just for me. While my omnivore husband does try my dishes and usually eats them as sides, he buys his own food, so what he spends isn't included in my budget.
  • Fruit and veggies to eat as snacks take up so much of my budget. Some days, I eat up to 10 pieces of fruit. I go through an entire carton of blueberries and cherry tomatoes nearly every day. Healthy, but costly.
  • Most of us have a similar challenge: buying things outside of our lists because we think we might need them. I was very conscious of this while shopping this week. Still, I found myself buying at least two things for recipes I think I'm going to make soon. Sticking to a list is hard.
  • When my fruit bowl was nearly bare, I couldn't wait to go to Trader Joe's and instead went to Giant Eagle to stock up. I think this is why I spent more this week!
  • I need to go to Soergel's market in Wexford for produce. I heard it's cheaper than GE.
I'm looking forward to seeing how the other participating folks did this week:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Chickpea-Quinoa Pilaf

Because I much prefer my whole grains in bread form (bread is my weakness), I rarely cook grains. And I've never made quinoa. But I've been wanting to incorporate more grains into my diet. As Veganomicon says, "There's a reason that grains were found in the tombs of the Egyptian pyramids as well as the base of our food pyramid: they're packed with so many nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and even protein, all while being low in fat." They go on to say, "Quinoa is also a complete protein, which has recently made it something of a darling to the vegan community and health-conscious foodies." I had to try it!

I had chickpeas left over from the batch I cooked over the weekend so made the Chickpea-Quinoa Pilaf. It was so quick and easy to make and was done in about a half hour.
First you cook onions and garlic in olive oil for a while over medium heat until they just start to caramelize. Then you add cumin, crushed coriander seeds, tomato paste, and salt and pepper. You add the quinoa, let it absorb the spices a little, then add vegetable broth and chickpeas and cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the broth, about 20 minutes.

I don't like coriander seeds, and after crushing them, sniffing them, and considering whether I should add them, I ditched them for ground coriander instead, which has a much less intense flavor.

The result: Yummy! Really liked it! I thought it was flavorful without being overpowered by coriander-seed-taste, which I'm happy I didn't use. This is a good, basic recipe, and I'd be interested in making it again and experimenting with different herbs and seasonings.

PS: My omnivore husband, who reluctantly tried it after looking at it and asking "What's in it?" liked it too.

WeightWatchers PointsPlus: 5 for 4 servings

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday's Cooking Round-Up

To go with left over Truffled Mushrooms over Whipped White Beans, I wanted a big salad for lunch. I made the Mediterranean Olive Oil and Lemon Juice Dressing from Veganomicon to go with it. It was really good--reminds me of the dressing they use in Greek restaurants with oil, lemon juice, garlic, and lots of herbs. The recipe made enough to last me all week.I also had left over hummus (Veganomicon recipe) from last night so decided to make Sesame Pita Pockets from Mark Bittman's Food Matters Cook Book. As with all his bread recipes, they were pretty easy to make--just time consuming, though mostly unattended. The recipe called for all-purpose flour, wheat flour, instant yeast, salt, olive oil, sesame seeds, and molasses mixed in the food processor. It rose for two hours, then I made little balls. After they rested for a while, I flattened them into pitas. And after another rest, I baked them. I couldn't taste the sesame seeds, and I didn't cut them into pockets. But they were sooooo good! I've never made (or tried) home-made pita bread before. It was fantastic. The recipe made 12, and I can freeze them. Happy I found one more thing I can make from scratch to save money. (Next time, I will use less flour while rolling so they turn out prettier.)
I also made another pot of Slow Cooker Roasted Vegetable Stock to freeze for future recipes.

For dinner, I made the Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits from Veganomicon. It was very time intensive. First, you saute leeks, onion, carrots, and garlic then add seasonings and vegetable broth mixed with cornstarch. Then you add boiled potatoes, frozen peas, and a can of white beans. It simmers into a rich, thick stew.
Next, you make biscuit dough from flour, salt, vegetable shortening, and water. You put the veggie stew into a casserole dish, drop the biscuit dough right on top, and bake it until the biscuits are done. It was really good comfort food. It reminded me of a really good veggie pot pie loaded with veggies in a thick and yummy sauce, with biscuits mixed right in. Though my omnivore husband said it was "good, but nothing special," I really liked it.

Dinner Party: Hummus, Cupcakes & Shepherd's Pie

Last night my husband and I went to our friends Maya and Ryder's new house in East Liberty (a gorgeous house built in 1890...with a turret!) to watch the Steelers game then have dinner.

I made the hummus recipe from Veganomicon. I usually make this recipe from Vegetarian Times that uses no oil because I love the intense chickpea flavor. Veganomicon's recipe used oil and not very much tahini. It was less chickpea-tasting and had almost a batter texture (my VT recipe is a little chunky). It was good and everyone liked it, but I think I prefer the no-oil VT recipe.I also made cupcakes! I hadn't made them since Thanksgiving because I'd been baking so many holiday cookies, so I was excited to make them again. Maya likes citrus (me too!), so I made Lemony Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting. As with all of the recipes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, these were fantastic! Loved them. (Bonus: Steelers gold!)Maya and Ryder aren't vegetarian, but Maya not only made this Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie...she veganized it! Successfully! It was awesome. It had carrots, parsnips, pearl onions, mushrooms, and seitan in a rich, hearty, meaty-tasting-without-actually-tasting-like-gross-real-meat gravy, topped with potatoes. YUM! A simple tossed salad went with it perfectly.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Truffled Wild Mushrooms over Whipped White Beans

I'd been wanting to make this recipe from Vegetarian Times for a while but had trouble finding truffle oil. (I got it from Penn Mac in the Strip District--pricey!) This was pretty quick and easy to make and was very good. And look how pretty it is! I was low on thyme so used much less than the recipe called for. Consequently, the beans were a bit bland, but I just salted and peppered them to death. Next time, I'll definitely add plenty of fresh herbs to the beans for more flavor.

Veganomicon Review: Cheesy Sauce

I needed to use up some broccoli before it went bad, so this week I whipped up some of Veganomicon's Cheesy Sauce, made with onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil, vegetable broth, flour, a bunch of nutritional yeast (what Veganomicon calls nooch), and seasonings.

I'm not sure what I was expecting (cheddar cheese?) but the first bite was a surprise. I wasn't sure about it. Then I poured it over steamed broccoli and liked it. By the time I poured it into a container to put what was left in the fridge, I was licking the spoon.

It's very noochy but I'd make it again. I think it would be good in some of the other Veganomicon recipes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Black Beans with Chipotle Adobo Sauce

Ayyyyyyyyy! Spice alert! These were HOT! However, trying to be resourceful, I used twice as many chipotle peppers as the recipe called for so I didn't have to throw them out. If you make this recipe, don't make my mistake unless you want to cry as you're eating it and have a belly full of heat for about an hour afterwards. I also ladled on the sauce like gravy, when I should have just drizzled.

Heat aside, this was really good. It was very easy to make and used just a few ingredients. The black beans (canned) simmered for 40 minutes in water with an onion and a bay leaf, resulting in very flavorful and tender beans. They would taste good plain.

I served them on a bed of spinach on a tortilla and way too much of the chipotle adobo sauce. Lesson learned!

Week 1: Project Food Budget

One of my new year's resolutions was to save money on food by being more resourceful with ingredients, making more of my own food from scratch, growing my own herbs, and shopping sales. So I was excited to see The Reluctant Vegetarian's Project Food Budget and decided to join her.

I set my weekly budget at $100. Because I rarely leave Giant Eagle (Pittsburgh's biggest grocery chain) with less than a $150-$200 bill, this seemed daunting. I was pleasantly surprised with the results! These are the totals from last Friday through today.

Goal: $100
Actual: $87.81

Staple items purchased:
  • 2 bags whole-wheat flour (on sale at Right By Nature)
  • 3 jars tahini (also on sale)
  • Earth Balance shortening
  • Soymilk
  • Olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Chocolate chips (yes, I consider this a staple!)
Food made from scratch:
Meals for the week:+
Items to make for a dinner party this weekend:
  • Hummus*
  • Cookies and Cream Cupcakes*
  • Lemony Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting*
+Regarding breakfast, I exercise in the mornings and need a high-protein breakfast. I usually have some combination of a bunch of fruit, soy milk, a high-protein fruit & soy milk smoothie with flax meal, whole-wheat bread, and peanut butter. I also make an endurance drink before exercise. All that is included in the above. Lunches all this week have been leftovers.

*items purchased, but haven't made this yet

  • I think my total this week was so low because I had so many ingredients on hand.
  • The food I made on my own saved me about $8.
  • I've never paid attention to sales before now, but I'm seeing it really pays off.
  • It also pays to not shop at Giant Eagle for everything. I now shop at Trader Joe's for most fruits and veggies and some staples (their vegan chocolate chips, for example, are nearly $4 less than Giant Eagle's!) And Right By Nature has good sales, plus a reward program.
Read how others who are participating in this challenge fared this week:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made about 300 cookies for the holidays--the first time I've ever baked for the holidays. After each new batch, I cut a single cookie in half for my husband and me to try, then immediately put the rest in the freezer. Until I made these cookies. They were so incredible, I ate three in a row. They were my and many of my family's favorite holiday cookie.

This recipe is from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I modified their basic chocolate chip recipe only to add the peppermint extract, a tip I got from Sweet On's blog.

I think this is the best chocolate chip cookie ever--soft and chewy on the inside, a little crispy on the outside, and wonderful. The mint makes it just perfect. I made these tonight to bring to work tomorrow (thought kept quite a few for myself).

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 24 2-inch cookies or 16 3-inch cookies

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or your favorite nondairy milk (I used regular soy milk)
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour (I used arrowroot powder)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two large baking sheets.
  2. Combine sugars, oil, almond milk, and tapioca flour in a mixing bowl. Use a strong fork and mix really well, for about 2 minutes, until the mixture resembles smooth caramel. There is a chemical reaction when sugar and oil collide, so it's important that you don't get lazy about that step. Mix in the vanilla and peppermint.
  3. Add 1 cup of the flour, the baking soda, and the salt. Mix until well incorporated. Mix in the rest of the flour. Fold in the chocolate chips. The dough will be a little stiff so use your hands to really work the chips in.
  4. For 3-inch cookies, roll the dough into balls about the size of ping-pong balls. Flatten them out in your hands to about 2 1/2 inches. As they cook, they will spread just a bit. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes--no more than 9--until they are just a little browned around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks.
  5. For 2-inch cookies, roll dough into walnut-sized balls and flatten to about 1 1/2 inches and bake for about 6 minutes.
My notes: I've made these three times. Two of those times, the dough was so un-stiff, I couldn't roll it into balls. Instead I just dropped it by the tablespoon onto the cookie sheet. Also, even though each batch of mine were small and made between 24 and 30 cookies, I still had to bake them for 8 to 9 minutes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cajun Stuffed Mushrooms

I wanted a veggie side to go with my leftover Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions, so I made these stuffed mushrooms, a recipe I adapted from WeightWatchers. This is quick, easy to make, and very low-cal. Makes a good, quick, snack by itself or a meal when combined with a salad and some type of beans or lentils.

Note that you'll likely have filling left over. It's good scrambled up with some tofu.

Cajun Stuffed Mushrooms
Makes 24 stuffed mushrooms

  • 1 spray(s) olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 pound(s) button mushrooms, about 24 large mushrooms
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1cup(s) onion(s), chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 10 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 - 2 slice(s) whole-wheat bread, processed into bread crumbs (I used 1)
  • 1- 2 tsp Cajun or Creole seasoning (I used 2)
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a jelly roll pan with cooking spray.
  2. Remove mushroom stems from caps and finely chop stems; reserve caps and set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sauté mushroom stems, onion, garlic, and spinach until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in remaining ingredients until well-combined.
  4. Stuff each mushroom cap with 2 tablespoons of filling mixture. Place mushrooms, stuffed sides up, on jellyroll pan. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes; serve warm.
  5. Note: The mushrooms can be stuffed in advance, covered, refrigerated and then baked later in the day to save on last-minute preparation time.
WeightWatchers PointsPlus: 1 for 4 mushrooms

Monday, January 10, 2011

5 Great, Quick Workouts

I read a lot of fitness magazines. Near the holidays, most featured quick workouts for when time's tight. These are my top picks. I do them either for a second workout in the evening, in lieu of my regular workout if I'm short on time, or before strength training. Note that you should do at least five minutes warm-up (light cardio: walking or jogging in place, step, jumping jacks, or just dancing around) before any workout and five minutes stretching afterwards to prevent injury.

1. Total Body Recharge: Energy-Boosting, Muscle-Burning Workout from Fitness Magazine
Video | Slideshow
This takes about 20 minutes, requires no equipment, and really does boost your energy. You can do it anywhere, even in a hotel room while traveling. Image from one of the exercises at right.

2. Crush More Calories: 15-Minute Workout from Women's Health Magazine
This is the best, quick workout for a serious shot of cardio. The moves also sculpt, so your muscles work hard while you blast fat.

3. 10-Minute Sculpting Blast from Shape Magazine
This is a really good, quick cardio workout, and you only need a weighted ball (or dumbbell). I don't use a jump rope--just my hands.

4. Your Do Anywhere Workout from Shape Magazine
Circuit 1: Melt Fat Fast | Circuit 2: Firm & Burn | Circuit 3: Total Body Sculpt
This workout features three five-minute circuits. You can do them all at once, or break them up if you really only have five minutes to spare.

5. Two-Minute Sexy Arm Exercise from Shape Magazine
This exercise actually works your back, biceps, shoulders, abs, and legs. If you have time for only one strength training move, this should be it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Veganomicon Review: Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions and Spiced Pita Chips

After spending a few months with Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, I started to worship Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. They are my heros. Because I want Veganomicon to make them a lot of money so they will continue spending their time creating fantastic recipes, I won't post the recipes I try as part of the Cookbook Club. Or maybe I'll post just one favorite. If you like how these sound, you should buy the book too!I love Mujadarah so was excited to try Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions and Spiced Pita Chips. The book describes it as "Spiced red lentils transform into a creamy, golden mash that just melts right into the fragrant rice and rich caramelized onions." That's right on the money. The recipe calls for roasting two pounds of onions in olive oil for a long time, until they're deep brown and very sweet and then adding them to spiced lentils and rice. The result is a fragrant, heavenly, creamy dish. I served it with their Spiced Pita Crisps, which are pitas cut up, sprayed with cooking spray, and sprinkled with spices (I used garam masala).

I give it 5 out of 5 for deliciousness. It's awesome. I would serve this for a dinner party or bring to a potluck. It's sure to impress.

It was very easy to make, though my cooking times were way off from the recipe. My onions needed to roast twice as long as it called for, and my lentils and rice absorbed the water in 30 minutes less than it called for!

(Note: It's a whopping 10 WeightWatchers PointsPlus, but worth it!)

Loved this dish. An auspicious start to reviewing this cookbook!