Thursday, July 31, 2008

just call me a quitter . . .

I've joined a bunch of great bloggers (and a few blog-readers) in the "Quit Now" challenge -- a challenge where you choose to quit doing or buying something you do or buy that wastes a lot of energy.

The challenge is all about deciding to not do or buy something that you feel might be really difficult for you -- some people choose to quit buying avocadoes, bananas, or coffee, others choose to go back to cloth diapering their children, switching to recycled paper towels, or switching off unnecessary appliances/energy suckers.

So, why am I a quitter? Because, for the month of August, I'm quitting long showers. Now, this might sound a little lame, but I LOVE a nice, long shower, even in this summer heat. I'm going to try and break myself of this water-wasting habit -- I'm going to set a five-minute timer, and stick to my limit!

What would/could you quit for a month? If you're ready to become a quitter, link over to Jennifer (posted over in my sidebar) -- or just take a peek and see what everyone else is working on!

a home run!

I brought Missy's cake into work this morning, and we promptly sliced into it for breakfast. I cut an enormous slice for Missy, having a more conservative taste, myself. (I wanted to make sure Missy had plenty of cake to take home with her for the weekend!) Her breakfast today:
As modestly as I can say this, this has to be the BEST cake I've ever made. By the end of the day, there wasn't much left for Missy to take home, because our coworkers nearly devoured the entire cake! Everybody kept exclaiming how moist the cake was and how perfectly balanced the frosting was -- not too chocolatey, not too intensely coffee-flavored, either. I must confess that I, myself, did have two pieces -- two slim pieces, but still!

AND, everybody was shocked that it was vegan! Pleasantly shocked, but shocked, nonetheless.

I'll be filing this one away for future repeats, that's for certain!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Missy!

Even though my coteacher, Missy, won't celebrate her birthday officially until Sunday, she's getting her birthday cake tomorrow! She took Friday off to enjoy her birthday weekend, so I wanted her to be able to take her birthday cake home with her to enjoy all weekend long. :) I asked Missy what kind of cake/treat she wanted, and all she said was, "CHOCOLATE!" I can do chocolate! I decided to go with a double recipe of Moosewood's Vegan Chocolate Cake, in three layers. (If you want the recipe, click on the link and scroll down -- it's the fourth recipe.)

I must confess, however, that I SUCK at splitting cake layers. I think I must have a malfunctioning cake-later-splitting gene or something -- I've always managed to completely destroy cakes in the past. So, one day I had a bright idea -- I just bought more cake pans and now bake cakes in individual layers. I own four 9-inch cake pans, but decided to only use three for this cake. I used roughly two cups of batter per pan, and they baked beautifully! (I shortened the baking time, of course.)
Look how rich and chocolatey they appear . . . the magic that is Valrhona cocoa powder. I did also opt for coffee instead of water, per the recipe instructions.

After work, I whipped up a quick Mocha Buttercream frosting using Earth Balance, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and Toddy coffee concentrate. (I know I've waxed poetic about my Toddy in the past, so I'll spare you.) Here's the cake, mid-frosting:

And the completed masterpiece, garnished with a few simple sprigs of mint:

I am so thrilled I was able to so easily and expertly (if I do say so myself) whip together a simple, decadent, homemade treat. AND, it's completely vegan, too! Sugar- and fat-laden, of course, but cruelty-free and (nearly) cholesterol-free!


P.S. In unrelated news, I've joined the Daring Bakers Challenge! I'm SOOOOOOOO excited. I can't wait to find out what my first challenge will be!

Monday, July 28, 2008


Wait . . . I thought I didn't even like cake! Regardless, around 10:30 last night, I got it in my head that I REALLY needed to bake chocolate cupcakes. Why? I still don't know. I made the chocolate peanut butter cupcake recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking, let them cool overnight, and frostened them with peanut butter frosting this morning. (Basic buttercream, subbing peanut butter for the butter.) Yum?
Review? The frosting is amazing (how could peanut butter, powdered sugar, and almond milk NOT be amazing?) but the cupcakes were just okay. I probably wouldn't make the recipe again -- not chocolatey enough for me, and the middles sunk big time.

Speaking of chocolate cakes . . . my coteacher, Missy, has a birthday coming up, and has requested a gigantic double-chocolate cake for her birthday treat. Anybody have a rock star chocolate cake recipe they care to direct me to? I don't make many cakes, because I'm not a huge cake fan, and really want to knock this one out of the park! Ideas??

Sunday, July 27, 2008

vegetables galore!

I seem to have a little, ahem, problem with the Farmer's Market . . . I tend to go twice in one weekend, buy a ton of stuff, and then wonder what to do with all of it! This past weekend was no exception.

Oliver wants you to see Dan's and my haul Saturday morning:
We were lured into purchasing not one, but TWO different kinds of honey -- I chose a jar of creamy, pale yellow pure raw honey, and Dan was drawn to a jar of thick, dark "Blue Earth Buckwheat" honey by Ames Farm. (Also raw.) I also picked up a beautiful bunch of radishes, a huge bunch of mint, and a gigantic bag of lettuce! After washing and roughly chopping all of the lettuce today, I am realizing I am in for a LOT of big salads this week. :) I've made big salads already for dinner Friday night and lunch Saturday, and am loving my veggies!

Dan and I also stopped at Shuang Hur and the Wedge after our errands Saturday afternoon, to pick up a few essentials for dinners this weekend:
I love the Asian grocery stores for their prices and otherwise unknown to me ingredients, but I DON'T love that they package all of their produce on styrofoam trays, wrapped in plastic wrap! Sigh. Anyhow, we picked up Japanese eggplant, a red pepper, some snap peas, broccoli, limes, green onions, ginger, and tofu for our planned stir-fry dinner, and some lychees!! Lychees, if you've never had them, have the texture of a grape, and are very sweet with slightly coconutty, slightly floral, slightly melon-y flavors. Go buy lychees! Pictured on the right are bulk chickpeas and yellow split peas from the coop, to use later in the weekend.

Basic stir-fry, over udon noodles:
I learned my lesson with Hmong Family sweet soy sauce -- it is SWEET. This was good, but I wouldn't make it again this way -- I'd use regular tamari next time!

Courtney and I went to the Farmer's Market again this morning:
Courtney kindly gifted me a bag of large lima beans, strongly encouraging me to make the baked lima bean dish from VCON. (She's so subtle! Do you think she feels strongly about this recipe???) ;-) Thanks, Courtney! I purchased spinach, beets, dill, a green pepper, and just over a pound of large pickling cucumbers at the market.

I was pretty hungry when I got home, so I made a green smoothie snack/second breakfast:
Pineapple, peaches, banana, spinach, a squirt of agave, and some orange juice. Dan enjoyed his own serving for breakfast, and was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, fruity, slightly grassy flavor. Dan doesn't eat as healthfully as he could during the week, so I'm happy to pack him full of vitamins over the weekends. :)

Give you two chances to guess what I made with the pickling cucumbers and dill . . .
Yes, that's right, pickles! Shocker. I made up a recipe that didn't require any cooking, and that didn't use any sugar -- I like my pickles cold, crisp, salty, and vinegary, and that's about it. Garlic, dill, salt, and peppercorns went in with the cucumber spears, covered with equal parts white vinegar and water. Give 'em a week, and we'll see what I've created!

OH! Forgot to show you two frozen treats I made earlier this week. Pineapple-Coconut Popsicles:
Simple recipe, yielding an amazing treat! One can of light coconut milk, one bag of frozen pineapple, 1/4 cup agave nectar . . . blend, fill the molds, and freeze. SOOOOOOO delicious!

I also attempted peach ice cream:
I used a basic ice cream recipe, lightening it up a little bit by using half and half instead of a mixture of heavy cream and whole milk, but made the mistake of choosing frozen peaches. I think I should have used fresh peaches instead, because this ice cream has NO peachy flavor whatsoever. It's still good, it just tastes like vanilla!

I decided to roast my beets this afternoon, and while I had the oven on I also made another batch of granola:
Dan's sister, Sarah, raved about my granola last weekend -- I should really email her the recipe!!

And last, dinner tonight:
I used the jalapenos Dan grew in his garden and the mint I picked up at the Farmer's Market yesterday, along with a whole host of other ingredients, to make Paraati Chana from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. This has to be one of my most favorite chickpea dishes EVER. (Plus, it's the closest thing I've made to authentic Indian food in my very own kitchen.) I served it atop brown rice flavored with a pinch of saffron, and a side of mixed greens -- kale from last week's trip to the market, and the beet greens from this week's trip.

I sent Dan home with the leftover dill and some of the mint, three lychees, leftover stir-fry, leftover greens, leftover paraati chana, and a jar of granola. As he was getting ready to leave tonight, I said out loud, "why is it that you always seem to leave with a goody bag?" He replied, "because I have a nice Jewish momma who takes good care of me." We both laughed -- I'm neither Jewish nor a momma, but I guess I do take pretty good care of him!

Friday, July 25, 2008

hey, thanks!

I was doubly-awarded . . .
Thank you, to both Julie and Nikki for the props -- it's lovely to know people actually enjoy reading this! It's fun making blog-friends across the world, and reading all about everyone else's kitchen-ventures.

AND, to share the love, here are a few of my faves (in no particular order):

Melody makes amazing, healthy, nutritious food, and also somehow manages to take cookbook-worthy photos of it all! I know who to go to when I need food photography lessons!

The House of Simon
Carrie and her husband like to eat, drink, and have fun -- and Carrie has an amazing sense of humor! Here silly posts about Bryan Adams and other crazy stuff always make me giggle out loud! Plus, she shared her lemon merengue pie recipe with me -- very important stuff.

Where's the Revolution?
Bazu and Daiku eat amazing vegan food, are firm in their beliefs, but never get preachy or annoying about it. The kind of folks you want on your side in a courtroom . . . AND in a kitchen!

Megan the Vegan
Megan's great -- she'll post about the most simple meal one day, the most complex the next. I love her sense of culinary adventure, coupled with her everyday favorites. Plus, she's one dang funny lady! I love her profile pic, spatula and headlamp at the ready!

B36 Kitchen
Jenna blows my mind -- she doesn't post all that often, but when she does . . . holy cow! Her food looks amazing, and she manages to prepare it with her baby daughter nipping at her heels the whole time! (And I just want to reach into my computer and pinch Reno's cheeks!)

Vegan Vice
Vicki and I go "way back" in blogdom, back to the day when she blogged under a different url and when I still ate a little meat! She has two beautiful daughters who are frequently featured on her blog, and she cooks wonderful things with them in the kitchen. Plus, all the Hodges have amazing style -- those girls have the BEST hats! (And Olivia frequently cooks in pearls, tiaras, or other wonderful accessories.) P.S. Jolie is a stitch!

The Urban Vegan
Dynese and "Omniman" make preparing the most complex of meals look like a walk in the park. Her photos of their meals are stunning, and their two adorable, funny cats make frequent visits to the blog as well. PLUS, they were featured in the New York Times! How cool is that??

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Super Salad Supper

Contents: mixed baby greens, cucumber, green pepper, tomato, cremini mushrooms, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, kalamata olives, feta, balsamic vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil.

I forgot to thaw out some chickpeas. Rats! It was still tasty delicious, though!

Monday, July 21, 2008


I'm sure almost everyone can relate to my dinner tonight:
Although seriously lacking in the veggie department, this is still a pretty healthy meal: PBJ made with homemade bread, homemade jam, and natural peanut butter, and a smoothie made with banana, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, pineapple, and orange juice.

Me and my vitamin C and antioxidants are off to take a shower and watch a movie now.

(Yes, indeed, it was THAT kind of a Monday. And I'm glad it's over!)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

the first harvest of the summer!

Have I mentioned yet that Dan has a garden plot at his work? Well, he does! He arrived at my house on Friday night with the first harvest of the summer: five skinny jalapeno peppers, a small handfull of basil, (both not pictured,) and the following:
A purple bell pepper, and a small bunch of prairie onions! The bell pepper, onions, and basil were put to good use in dinner tonight:
I cooked up some whole-wheat pasta and tossed it with my homemade sauce, which I loaded up with Dan's basil, and I also made a simple veggie saute, including the bell pepper and onions, as well as some other veggies (red onion, garlic, baby zucchini, and beet tops) that I had hanging around that needed to be used up. I adorned the veggies with a drizzle of olive oil, a few pinches of salt and pepper, and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

This was a delightfully simple, healthy dinner that we both devoured! Hooray for veggies!

(P.S. The prairie onions were SO sweet! Yum!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fastest Meal in the (mid)West!

Dinner tonight took less than ten minutes to prepare, if you don't count the time it took to boil water:
Gnocchetti tossed with pesto, pan-fried baby zucchini, and cherry tomatoes. And that's all.

And it was damn tasty. But I promise I'll make my own gnocchi next time, instead of relying on the prepackaged kind. :)

P.S. I cooked over two pounds of black beans last night. Look at my little army o' beans! (12 cups total!)
After cooling, they all marched to the freezer for later use.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

cat blogging

Does anybody else's cat do this?
Oliver has always liked licking cups/glasses/pop cans -- the condensation, maybe?

Come to think of it, he licks the windows in the winter, too . . . !

Monday, July 14, 2008


I managed to cram in a few more cooking projects before the end of the weekend, and I'm so glad I did! It's supposed to be awfully hot again this week, and I'm so glad I have a fridge full of food and won't need to turn on the oven or stove AT ALL.

Breakfast Sunday morning:
Homemade bread, toasted, with homemade jam. :)

Snack Sunday late morning:
I tried a green smoothie with kale, instead of my usual spinach. I think my stick blender is not powerful enough to handle the kale leaves. I'll have to stick to spinach from now on, until I get a new blender, that is! (This was still really good, even though it had some chewy bits in it!)

Sunday lunch:
Pesto pasta with white beans, broccoli, and a few leftover artichokes. Mmm.

Baking project:
Scones! I made the chocolate chip scone recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking, with only a few minor modifications: half whole-wheat pastry flour, (I find that sometimes all whole-wheat pastry flour makes scones too dense and dry,) and instead of the 1 cup of chocolate chips, I used 1/3 cup chips, 1/3 cup dried cranberries, and 1/3 cup sliced almonds. I had one of these at work for snack this afternoon, and they are FANTASTIC! Scones can often be too try and/or too dense -- this one was neither! Fluffy, "buttery," and perfect! Hooray!

Roasted chickpeas! These are SO, SO, SO amazing. Thank you, Courtney, for turning me on to the wonderful world of roasted chickpeas!
I had to quickly stuff these into a container and hide them Sunday night, or I think Dan (and I!) would have eaten the entire batch!

Remember my watermelon sorbet? It became unnecessarily hard in the freezer after a day or two, so I decided to thaw it out and refreeze it in popsicle form:
Just as refreshingly satisfying, but easier to get out of the popsicle mold than scraping the sorbet out of the container!

Part of dinner last night:
Dan and I were deep in conversation last night at dinner time, so I totally forgot to take a picture of our meal. We enjoyed a variation on this potato salad recipe. Since I had only two pounds of potatoes, instead of the three pounds called for in the recipe, and don't cook with alcohol, I made the following modifications to the dressing:
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup minced fresh chives
4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
2/3 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
Although not as pretty the next day, since the herbs had wilted and were no longer a vibrant green, the salad definitely had better flavor. I'd HIGHLY recommend this recipe -- a nice, basic, picnic-worthy, flavorful potato salad! We enjoyed this for dinner with a green salad with beets, and some curried tofu.

Brekafast this morning:
I made the most wonderful, all-in-one smoothie this morning. Mmmmm . . . plain yogurt, cold-press coffee concentrate, a frozen banana, some frozen raspberries, a couple tablespoons of Ghiradelli sweetened ground chocolate and cocoa, and a splash of almond milk. I might have to make this exact same concoction for breakfast tomorrow!! Delicious!

And last, my goofy, sleepy cat:

Off to eat some leftovers!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Farmer's Market Extravaganza!

I made a deal with myself at the Farmer's Market yesterday -- I knew that I had a couple of things in mind that I wanted to pick up, but I took out plenty of cash and told myself I was allowed to buy whatever looked good, and I'd deal with the (positive) "consequences" later. :) I only ended up spending $23, but I don't think I could have carried more home if I had tried! Look at what I got:
Two big bunches of basil, "candy-stripe" beets, baby zucchini and summer squash, kale, bananas, lemons, broccoli, baby new potatoes, and two cartons of strawberries! Everything was local, except for the bananas and lemons, of course. :)

When I arrived back home from the farmer's market, I got busy.

I have big plans for this all week long!

Homemade pizza for lunch:
I made a crust from some unbleached all-purpose flour, some spelt flour, and a touch of gluten, topped it all with homemade marinara, smoked mozzarella, zucchini, red onion, kalamata olives, artichokes, mushrooms, and dabs of homemade pesto!! YUUUUUUUMMMMM. A very satisfying lunch yesterday, with watermelon on the side. (Dan and I laughed about how triangular our lunch was!)

Strawberry Galette:
I had planned on making a strawberry pie, but decided I didn't want to fuss around with pastry quite so much, so I made a free-form, rustic galette. Next time, I won't brush the top of the pastry with lemon juice and sprinkle it with sugar, since it browned WAY too much. But this was so damn tasty, I'll give you the recipe -- I based it loosely on the pastry and blueberry pie recipes from Betty Crocker.
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
13 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery sticks, chilled and cut into small pieces
4 to 6 tablespoons cold water

Combine the flour and salt, and cut in the Earth Balance, leaving some larger pieces of the marg still in tact. Toss in the water with a fork until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill.
6 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Toss the above together. Roll out the pastry into a large circle, and transfer the circle to a large baking sheet or pizza pan. Pile the filling into the middle of the circle, spreading evenly. Dot the top of the filling with an additional 1 tablespoon of margarine. Fold up the edges of the pastry, overlapping around the filling. Bake the galette at 425 degrees Farenheight for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown!

I also made a jar of strawberry jam with the strawberries that were left after making the galette:
(I only made a half-recipe, since I had just over two cups of strawberries left.) So easy, and so delicious! I've made this jam with raspberries and blackberries before, and I think it would work well with blueberries, also. I can't wait to experiment more! I see strawberry-rhubarb jam in my future, I think. :)

I didn't actually make this yesterday, but I did thaw and bake it!
I had made a double-batch of homemade bread a while ago, and had parked most of it in the freezer for later consumption. After taking almost all day to thaw and rise, this loaf baked beautifully, and make excellent toast for breakfast this morning. :)

Dinner last night:
Brown rice, cucumber, avocado, and sesame seed nori rolls with a side of steamed edamame. 1 1/2 rolls each seems to be just the right amount for both Dan and I!

And lastly, Dan had to work yesterday morning for only a couple of hours, and after the farm tour he gave, he decided to walk through the woods and gather a surprise for me:
Black raspberries! These were SO good, and a very fun treat. We ate them as is over the course of the afternoon yesterday.

Less cooking planned for today, but I still have a few recipes up my sleeve. Until then . . .

Saturday, July 12, 2008

email change

I'm sort of being forced to change my email address!! Bah. I had been using .mac, and they are upgrading, and my ancient (but still very much working) computer and operating system can't support the software needed to run the new program. Since I can't afford a new computer, (and don't really need one,) I'm changing email addresses . . . which stinks! (I have had the old address for over five years! Ack!)

Check my profile if you need/want the new address. Thanks!

P.S. Farmer's Market this morning -- wee! Be back with a food-related post later, I promise. :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

stocking up (the freezer, too!)

My friend Ann and I usually go for a walk on Thursday nights, and after our walk last night, she was kind enough to drive me to the co-op! I had a huge number of staples/stock-up things I needed to pick up, and it just wasn't going to happen if I had to carry it all home on the bus. See?
2 pounds organic black beans
1/2 pound raw sliced almonds
1 1/4 pounds raw whole almonds
1 1/4 pounds organic, local, rolled oats
1 3/4 pounds organic, short-grain brown rice
active dry yeast
organic, local, brown flax seeds
dried apricots
dried cherries

smoked mozarella

locally-made greek salad with balsamic vinaigrette (I hadn't had dinner yet -- and it was great!)

organic sliced peaches
organic raspberries
organic, local blueberries
organic pineapple chunks
organic orange juice
organic, local edamame

local, organic dried basil
local, organic curry powder

organic brown rice vinegar
powdered wasabi
organic nori sheets
vital wheat gluten
can artichoke hearts
6-pack Blue Sky raspberry soda
tube tomato paste
organic, whole-wheat couscous
organic light agave
organic stoneground mustard
3 28-oz cans organic, fire-roasted, crushed tomatoes
Rapunzel veg broth mix (I had wanted to make my own, but my email is down so I couldn't get into it for the recipe a friend had sent me! Rats.)
organic, extra-virgin olive oil
roll unbleached parchment paper
2 rolls Seventh Generation toilet paper
1 bottle Seventh Generation dish soap
50 oz Seventh Generation laundry detergent

one organic cucumber
one organic avocado
one whole organic watermelon
two organic limes
1 1/2 pounds organic bing cherries
local, organic, white button mushrooms
one organic red onion
three organic yellow onions
one organic zucchini

Earth Balance buttery sticks
Holy Land Deli hummus (local)
Holy Land Deli whole-wheat pita (local)

AND, even after all the walking, shopping, and putting-away of groceries, I managed to squeeze out a couple of cooking projects last night, too!

Watermelon Sorbet:
Holy Moly, this is amazing! I pretty much followed the recipe as writ, except doubled it, and used agave (1/4 cup for a double-recipe) instead of the called-for sugar. (Why? I'm actually low on sugar. Don't you hate it when you get back from the store and realize you've forgotten or overlooked a major staple? Grumble.) Anyhow, I can't even begin to tell you how much I've grown to love my ice cream maker this summer! Sigh.

While the base for the sorbet was chilling, I started one more recipe, too!

Basic Marinara:
This recipe I, again, followed as writ, except subbed fire-roasted crushed tomatoes for the regular crushed tomatoes called for in the recipe. I was seriously considering buying jarred pasta sauce yesterday . . . but stuck to my "Five or Less" guns and decided to buy the ingredients to make my own instead! I've made this recipe before, and it's quite delicious. Nicely spiced with a hint of fennel and traditional Italian herbs, basic enough to be used in a variety of recipes, but still having its own personality atop hot, cooked pasta. Since this recipe yields twelve cups, I kept three cups in the fridge for use soon, and froze three additional three-cup portions.

Pizza and sushi planned for this weekend, plus a trip to the Farmer's Market tomorrow morning!!! What will I find??? I can't wait!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008