Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday gifts

I have been cooking all day today, but it isn't for me. I really should get in the habit of cooking ahead for the week, but that is a project for another week. This week, while I am off work to spend time with my children and prepare for the holidays, I am making gifts.

I used to do this all the time, when my daughter was small. I went through a phase of candy-making fascination. That is some serious chemistry, candy-making. I made fudge with many different recipes, potato candy, and caramels, and considered making divinity, like I remembered my grandmother and aunts making when I was small (although that looked a bit too difficult for me!) Time passed, and I went back to school full-time, then got the full-time job, and candy making seemed too complicated. Also, somewhere in there, I quit dairy entirely (except for the occasionnal Snickers bar...), which made the candy-making seem difficult as well as time-consuming. This year, though, with the new house, and the nonstop eating kids, I thought making gifts might be a good idea again. So, I headed for the Internet to find some recipes and ideas.

First off, the Internet has a LOT of recipes. When I added in my cookbooks, I think I may have over-planned. But, I did get some stuff done today, and I will do more tomorrow (and maybe tonight, too). Here is what I did today.

First, so that I would feel a quick sense of accomplishment, I made lavender sugar. This was easy--some sugar and lavender blooms in the food processor, then I was filling cute little bottles.

Also in the picture, flavored vinegar. That recipe made a lot of vinegar, so I had extra to keep for myself and, having just had a salad, I can testify that it is nicely hot. Amazing what habanero peppers will do for a recipe.

Next up was Def-Jam cookies, from Urban Vegan's cookbook. The finished product was really delicious, but I bet they would have been even better if I hadn't forgotten the cookie was in the oven. I think these will be for us to eat, and I may try again tomorrow for cookies I can give to other people.

The last thing I made today (so far) is White Christmas Fudge. I have to say, when I made this, it didn't look white or fudgy, but it did taste good. Here is a picture of it before I put it in the fridge:

Not the greatest picture, I know, but you get the idea. I just went and looked at it again, and it looks pretty much the same. My daughter says it looks delicious, though, so it's all good.

I did break out Urban Vegan's cookbook again to make Pumpkin-Daal soup for dinner, but by the time that was finished, I was exhausted, so there is no picture of that. It was good, we will be having it again. And, I guess I am putting off my remaining cooking until tomorrow. I only need to clean my house, finish some shopping and plan a dinner for my friends coming over tomorrow, so it shouldn't be too hard, right?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Another attempt at menu planning

I am trying to get better about menu planning. I have done it many times in the past, so I don't understand why it still seems so difficult sometimes. Here is what I have so far for the next week:

Tonight: Tempeh Shepherdess Pie from Veganomicon, sauteed spinach and tomatoes, steamed broccoli. We have family coming over, and they are about as far from vegan or vegetarian as you can get. This should be sufficiently normal seeming for them to enjoy it, but still nice and healthy.

Sunday: Salmon noodle casserole, peas. I kind of thought when I started this blog that I might move closer and closer to veganism as time went on, but now I don't think that is going to happen. I like the way we eat, and I don't think I am going to cut out the seafood, or the occasional egg or bit of goat cheese. On the other hand, all of my favorite cookbooks are still vegan, so there will be plenty of vegan dishes in my future, too. I am thinking maybe I should change the name of my blog, though.

Monday: leftovers. We are having a big brunch in the morning, that is an interesting menu: Tempeh Scramble, Fennel Risotto, roasted butternut squash, coffee chip muffins (all fromVegan Brunch), berry scones, coffee, juice, dark chocolate covered almonds. I am thinking we will need to clean out our fridge Monday night.

Tuesday: The kids will be at their dad's, so I am thinking of using up some of the appetizer stuff I have hanging around my freezer--edamame shu mai, Thai vegetable potstickers, tiny cocktail samosas.

Wednesday: Red Beans and rice, steamed broccoli, fruit salad.

Thursday: Fried rice

Friday: No clue. Kids at dad's, so not feeling the cooking. I will probably decide at the last minute.

So, not a bad plan. We could end up going to a friend's one or two nights, so we should be able to make it through the week with this plan.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Things I am thinking of cooking ahead...

...and putting in the freezer.

  1. Breakfast burritoes: scrambled tofu with shredded carrots, onions and bell peppers, hash browns, veggie sausage, maybe some salsa

  2. Chili--I could eat chili once a week, or more

  3. Quick breads--they make excellent late afternoon snacks, and I make mine more healthy than the coffee shop does

  4. West African peanut stew

  5. Coconut Curried Vegetable Stew

  6. Red Beans and sausage--to be served over rice

  7. Sloppy lentils

  8. Veggies from my garden sauteed with teriyaki sauce (or some other sauce)

  9. Spaghetti sauce

  10. Some kind of bean burger

I am not sure I have enough freezer space for this, but I can try to empty it out first. One of these days I am going to get a freezer to put in the basement. Anyone have any other ideas?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Look what I have!

Isn't it beautiful? It has a little friend, too:

The whole garden is growing. Look at these pictures:

Right after planting

This evening
So far I have mostly only gotten a radish and some herbs directly from my garden, but more is coming, and not too far in the future. I might have green and purple beans as soon as next week. I think that once the squash get going, they will go crazy. I can't wait!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Good fast dinner

I didn't take a picture of this, but I had to post, because it was fantastic. Also, the girl complained a lot and tried to get me to give the extra plain rice that I made for a future meal, but when she finally tried it, she loved it!

I was looking around online, trying to find all my old blogs on my new computer, when I came across this tahini onion sauce recipe. I love tahini, and I like to use recipes that we can customize at the table without me feeling like I am making separate meals. A sauce that everyone can choose to add or not add is ideal for this. It came together quickly, too.

For the lentils and rice, I cooked up the rice, then added some pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe's and seasoned the dish with a small palmful of ground cumin, maybe about half as much dried oregano, and a few shakes of Mrs. Dash Original Blend. I put about half an onion, sliced thinly, in a small skillet with some Earth Balance while I cooked the rice and made the tahini sauce. Since I wanted them good and carmelized, I mostly ignored them for 10 or 15 minutes (maybe longer), just stirring occasionally to make sure it all got browned and sweet.

On the side we had green and purple beans from the garden. Well, not actually my garden, but the gardeners brought some from other gardens they do, and we will be getting the same thing from our garden soon. They told me the purple beans would turn green when steamed, so I made sure the kids looked at them before I put them in the microwave to steam. They were originally a very dark, bright purple, making for an interesting experiment. They did come out green--a little mottled, but definitely green. The kids thought that was fun.

For dessert, sliced watermelon, which is always a big hit with the children.

The girl was convinced that she would hate the lentils and rice, but she loved it. The boy loved it, too, which I new he would. But he was also adventurous and tried the sauce. He didn't like it, but at least he tried it. I loved the sauce. I could probably carmelize an onion every day and happily eat it, but I think that might be going overboard. The people around me may not appreciate that! But at least I can enjoy some carmelized onion here, without worrying about kids complaining (or having to share!)

Monday, June 01, 2009

La Dolce Vegan

Man, I love this cookbook! I have had it for a while, but for some reason, I didn't use it until recently. A couple of weeks ago I got it out and realized that I should have been using it all along, because there are a lot of awesome recipes. I made the fruit dip for a picnic at the local Shakespeare festival, but I have no picture. It was really good, though, and I loved how it was all healthy and still felt like a treat.

Last week I got a delivery from my gardeners with radishes, lettuce, spinach and fresh parsley, so I decided to find another recipe to try. I didn't find much for the veggies, but I did find a great recipe for some fresh herbs--Peacefrog's Artichoke Heart Pasta. I used the parsley and some basil from out in my garden. It was so delicious and easy! I did get a picture of this one:

Doesn't that look delicious? I pretty much followed the recipe as is, although I did use a bunch of grape tomatoes instead of one large tomato, and I just used water instead of vegetable stock, but it was still great.

Tonight I got this cookbook out again, but I had to use a bit more creativity. I made Karen's Mexican Burrito Pie, but I only had three tortillas instead of the five the recipe called for, and I was out of shredded cheese and pinto beans. I had some sliced cheese and black beans, though, so I used those instead. I think the cheese may not be entirely vegan, and I honestly prefer Tofutti, which is vegan. Next time I will get that, but this was still an awesome casserole.

I can't seem to add another picture, so I will continue this in another post....

Friday, May 01, 2009

Is this cool or what?

I just sent an email to the folks at Backdoor Harvest. I found out about them at the Earth Day Festival I attended last weekend, and it is one of the coolest things I have come across in quite some time. The website is awesome, but to sum up:

  • They will come look at my yard and help me plan a garden
  • I get to pick all the produce
  • They will do ALL the work, from planting to weeding to harvesting
  • It won't cost me any more than I already spend on produce at the grocery store
  • They will use organic practices
  • Some of the produce grown in my back yard will go to other people in my community
  • No travelling costs for the food to get to my kitchen! This is really environmentally good!

I am so excited about this (as you can tell by all! the! exclamation! points!)! I hope they haven't filled up already....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An almost (but very convertible) vegan recipe

I know, I haven't been here for quite some time. I have good pictures, too, from my trip to Chicago and the Chicago Diner. I haven't had the time to...wait, I mean I lacked the energy to post those, and I still don't have it. I made a really delicious dinner tonight, though, and I had to share the link. I did make this with shrimp, but I think it would be good with tofu, too. I love cabbage, so I was glad to find a good stir fry recipe like this. I used half of the red chili flakes and maybe a fourth of the sriracha sauce this recipe called for, because my friend said she wasn't in the mood for really hot food. I could have eaten it hotter, but it still had plenty of flavor. We had yellow squash and zuchhini sauteed with a shallot in some olive oil, then steamed as a side dish. Delicious and healthy!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A new laptop! Woohoo!

Ever since my daughter knocked over my laptop and ruined the monitor, I have had a hard time with the blogging. My desktop is slow and uncomfortable, and I don't like to blog at work, so I have just been finding it all too much work. On Friday, though, I got my tax refund (thank you, new house!), and yesterday I got a new laptop. I am just amazed at how quickly technology moves on--I got my old laptop only two years ago, and this one has lots more memory and hard drive space, plus facial recognition for logging in, and probably other things I have not discovered yet, for $150 less than I paid for the other one. Yippee!

On the eating front, we have been doing pretty good. I am still cooking more, to avoid the expense of eating out. My biggest habit change that I am so proud of is eating breakfast at home. I had gotten in the habit of waiting until I got to work to eat breakfast, because we were so rushed in the mornings. However, that means being up for about two hours before I ate anything, which is terrible for my metabolism, and making poor choices, because I was starving by the time I ate. Lots of greasy hashbrowns with eggs, biscuits, donuts, and other heavy, unhealthy foods were had. Now I have cereal with rice milk, or oatmeal cooked with maple syrup, dried fruit and cinnamon, or a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a banana, or a fruit smoothie. Much better choices!

On a completely different note, I have to share a picture of my almost vegan desserts from the after-Thanksgiving meal I had with friends the first weekend in December:

Don't those look delicious? The first one at the top left is my almost vegan dessert--a pumpkin bread pudding. I used soy milk, but I went ahead and used the eggs in the recipe. I have not been brave enough to experiment with egg substitutes for cooking yet. Scrambled tofu for brunch? I got that down pat, but not so much on the cooking subs. Next is urban vegan's cranberry upside down cake which was absolutely scrumptious, as expected. Front and center is the Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake from the Fatfree Vegan Kitchen (not a fatfree recipe!). That is very nearly the perfect dessert. It's rich and delicious, and I really couldn't eat more than a small slice at a time, because of the richness. Everyone loved it, vegan or not.
Okay, I have gained about 5 pounds just looking at that picture and thinking about how good those desserts were, so I need to go do some exercising! Hopefully I will be back here more often with the new laptop--I've missed it.