Monday, April 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge -- cheesecake!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

My spin on the challenge recipe was a slightly lightened lemon-blueberry cheesecake:


I was considerably creative with this month's challenge! I'm glad we had the opportunity to think "outside the box" (springform pan?)

~ I chose to lighten the recipe by using all Neufchatel cheese in place of the full-fat cream cheese, and half-and-half instead of the heavy cream

~ I chose a shortbread crust (from Joy of Cooking) instead of a graham cracker crust

~ I added the zest of one lemon to the cheesecake batter (I would zest two lemons and add more juice next time for more lemony flavor)

~ I chose to forego the waterbath method, and followed the baking instructions for the New York Style Cheesecake recipe in Joy of Cooking (I tend to prefer a more dense, almost cakelike cheesecake, and this resulted in fantastic texture!)

~ I topped the baked cheesecake with 2 cups frozen blueberries cooked with 1/4 cup sugar for 10 minutes

Delicious, despite the overly-browned crust. I think I need a new springform pan . . . drat. Perhaps I'll buy one of those watertight Kaisers, and try the bain marie next time?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

happenings in my kitchen

I did manage to squeak out a little cooking yesterday, in-between a trip to the Farmer's Market, some yoga, getting Dan's hair cut, picking up Dan's new glasses, etc. When you only have one weekend day off a week, you have to make it count, right?

I made, in my opinion, a very visually-appealing batch of granola for Dan to take home for his breakfasts this week:
Sweetened with locally-harvested maple syrup, and chock-full of almonds, sunflower seeds, dried apples, dried blueberries, and dried cranberries, I think this might be one of my tastiest batches yet!

I ignored recipes this time, and made a simple saute of onion, garlic, chard, mushrooms, and chickpeas, seasoned with extra-virgin olive oil, za'atar, and plenty of freshly-ground black pepper. A delicious puddle of polenta hiding underneath, and a sprinkle of feta on top. Yum.

You know, polenta is another one of those foods, like couscous, that I have a tendency to forget about. Love them, but hardly ever make them. Hm. Curious.

Cupcakes! I swear to you, the Moosewood Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe is the best cake I've ever had. Tender, moist, and TONS of rich chocolate flavor. (It's also the most ridiculously easy thing I think I've ever thrown together.) I topped the cupcakes with vegan almond buttercream, and Dan was in charge of the sprinkles. :)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Night Indian Feast

Dan's brother, Ryan, came over for dinner tonight, and this is all I have to show for all of my hard work:


I guess this is a good thing? ;-)

I made spinach and tomato dal, matter paneer, a basmati rice pilaf with golden raisins, almonds, and spices, a simple raita made from plain yogurt, cucumber, onion, and salt, jarred mango chutney, whole-wheat naan (from the store,) and frozen samosas.

I'm still WAY full, and we finished eating an hour ago, at least!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Have I written about oatmeal lately?

Here's the thing: in the past, I haven't much cared for oatmeal. I always THINK I like it, make myself a big bowlful, enjoy the first few bites, then have to "choke down" the rest. (Also, I have that weird problem that oatmeal doesn't keep me feeling full for very long.)

I must confess -- like everything else, I'm an oatmeal snob.

Recently, I've discovered a way to make oatmeal that I actually look forward to in the morning!


My basic recipe is as follows:

Bring to a boil:
1 cup almond milk (or water in a pinch)
pinch salt
1 piece whole fruit, cut up or sliced (I usually use an apple or a banana)
spices, if desired

Stir in, and cook for five minutes, stirring a lot:
1 cup regular rolled oats
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

Stir in before enjoying:
sweetener to taste (I prefer brown sugar)
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut butter (or other favorite nut butter)

I think the magic in this recipe is the flaxseed cooked in with the oats -- it changes the texture significantly, which I find very delicious. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

busy, busy, busy.

I think I am the busiest laid-off person I know. :) All of this busy-ness (job applications and interviews, working at the store, bussing all over town, etc.) has lead to some blog neglection on my part . . . sorry 'bout that! I will now make up for lost time.


I made this for lunch on Sunday last weekend:
Cauliflower-Chickpea Tagine, from urban vegan. Isn't purple cauliflower fun? This was good right out of the pot on Sunday, but WAY better today for lunch -- this is a dish that needs time for the flavors to get all happy. :)


A couple of nights ago, I made Jennifer's "Everything" Granola Bars, which are FAN-TAS-TIC! (No photo . . . sorry!) I added a few more rolled oats and a few less nuts/seeds than she called for, (since I always feel like I could use a bit more whole grain in my life,) and would probably add even more dried fruit next time, but these bars are a tasty, healthy, quick burst of mid-afternoon energy or early-morning get out the door breakfast. I've been needing food like this this week -- thanks, Jennifer!


I hit the co-op tonight for a very few items:
I walked into the co-op with a very short list and $27 cash, and left the co-op with most of what was on my list, and $2 still in my wallet.

The meager loot:

locally-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee

coconut sorbet

Seventh Generation recycled plastic kitchen trash bags

organic bananas
organic Murcotts (they are aparently like clementines?)
organic Italian parsley


This weekend's meal plan:

Friday Night: Matter Paneer and basmati rice
Saturday Brunch: eggs/chard/hashbrowns (we never ate this last weekend, so I still have a big ol' bunch of chard waiting for some happenin' action!)
Saturday Dinner: Herbed Seitan and Dumplings

And I have to work all day on Sunday, so no fun food for us. :( Oh well! (I'm still thankful for all these hours, don't get me wrong!)

Earth Day Resolutions -- 2009

Happy Earth Day, everyone! (I wish I was teaching right now . . . those kids would be picking up trash all morning long! Rats.)

As long-time followers of my blog know, I avoid New Year's Resolutions if I can, and choose instead to make "Earth Day" resolutions. Here you are:

REDUCE: I plan to reduce my consumption of non-local foods. I hope to buy larger quantities of some in-season fruits and veggies this year, and even though I have zero canning experience, I can make use of my freezer, right? I also plan to investigate tofu-making, so I can use local soybeans and my Soyabella to make my own tofu.

REUSE: I have tons of spring cleaning/purging I need to do, and hope to make several large donations to places like the Goodwill. I have a twin-sized mattress and boxspring set, and one or two other things, that I will post on Twin Cities Freecycle, in the hopes that someone else can make use of these things that I no longer need!

RECYCLE: I'm kind of a militant recycler, so my goal this year is to install that behavior in my soon-to-be housemate and partner in crime/life. :) He does well, but I still find recyclable things in the trash from time to time . . . I pull them out, of course!


So, what are your green goals? And don't forget to leave the car at home today -- walk, bike, or take public transportation if you can!

Monday, April 20, 2009


So, I gave myself the weekend to process my layoff and everything, be angry and the works, and started job searching today. I updated my resume and references, and hit the web. I found four jobs to apply for!

Here's the strangeness -- I was already contacted about one of the positions, and have an interview on Wednesday morning!

Now, I'm not getting ahead of myself here -- I'm just REALLY surprised. That's all.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

super-simple saturday night dinner

With the warmer weather we've been enjoying these past couple of weeks, I've really been wanting salads. Greek-inspired salad of romaine, chickpeas, cucumber, artichokes, red onion, tomatoes, olives, and feta. Yum! We had Dr. Kracker flatbreads with hummus on the side.

Once I get sick of green salads, you can bet I'll move on to pasta salads!

really crap news.

I had this super-fun post planned out for you all, about how to survive 14-hour days while eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner away from home, but since I'm not going to have to DO that any more, it seems sort of pointles.

Why? Because I was laid off yesterday from my full-time job.

I was offered some severance pay, which I took, and immediately found myself with 40 hours at my "part-time" job beginning next week, (thank you, Mike!), but I'm still in shock, my feelings are hurt, and I'm a little angry, too. (The way this whole thing went down was just . . . lousy, to say the least.) I didn't get much sleep last night, (I may allow myself an unusual second cup of coffee this morning, to get through my 4-hour shift at the store this morning,) and am not looking forward to going in on Monday to pick up all of my stuff (mostly books) and explain why I'm not going to be their teacher any more to the kids. That's going to be the hardest part.

My budget is going to take an even bigger hit than anticipated originally, so we'll see how creative I can get. Thank goodness it's nearly Farmer's Market season, where the produce is fresh, local, and most importantly, CHEAP.

Wish me luck. Off to apply for health insurance now.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

weekend meal plan

I'm realizing I forgot to post our weekend's meal plan when I posted the grocery shop last night! Whoops.

Friday night: "Matter Paneer Made Simple," basmati Rice
Saturday lunch: Dan's on his own, since I'll be at work
Saturday dinner: Cauliflower-Chickpea Tagine, whole-wheat couscous
Sunday lunch: eggs, kale and mushrooms, and hashbrowns
Sunday dinner: big salads, probably of the Greek-inspired variety

I also have some baking to do this weekend -- granola of course, probably muffins or scones, and my Daring Baker's project! I'm excited for the cooking frenzy to begin!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

800th post: a BIG SHOP, and salad ecstacy

I was hoping something awesome would come around for my 800th post -- grocery shopping is pretty awesome, eh? I'm sure glad I took the time to take a picture tonight!

Oddly, I kept thinking my grocery shopping would be a piece of cake tonight, since I "didn't need that much." I promise you everything I picked up was on my list:


This was, indeed, a BIG SHOP. And feel free to call me the cheese monster.

organic raw almonds
local, raw slivered almonds
organic "gold & white" flour
localy-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee
organic granulated sugar
organic golden flax seeds
organic dried apples
organic dried cranberries

local Neufchatel
local pepper Jack
local "St. Pete's Blue"
"Treasure Cave" Feta

organic blueberries
organic green peas

local ground cumin
local, organic vanilla bean
kava kava

Brianna's French Vinaigrette
quartered artichoke hearts
organic kamut puffs
organic light agave nectar
local, organic maple syrup
organic tomato sauce
organic, fire-roasted, crushed tomatoes
organic double-roasted salsa
organic chipotle lime salsa
two boxes "Dr. Kracker" flatbreads
Seventh Generation paper towels
Seventh Generation TP

local, hydroponic romaine
organic cucumber
organic bananas
organic champagne mangoes
organic lemons
organic blood oranges
organic (purple!) cauliflower
organic rainbow chard
organic fennel
organic white button mushrooms
organic red onion
organic yellow onions
local, organic red potato
organic gala apples
organic strawberries
local, hydroponic cherry tomatoes

Earth Balance buttery sticks
local light sour cream
two Naked Juice protein smoothies
local, organic half-n-half
local, organic, free-range eggs


I have three favorite salads of all time. All three salads begin with romaine and/or mixed baby greens, and then add either beets and goat cheese, a host of Greek-type veggies and feta, or . . .
sliced apples, sliced fennel, walnuts, and bleu cheese. Heaven in a bowl, in my opinion.

Monday, April 13, 2009

weekend recap, fun mail, and check one thing off the list

I have very few pictures from this weekend, partly because I was lazy, and partly because I loaned my camera to Courtney for the day on Saturday. (She's selling some stuff on Craigslist.) I promise we ate, though!

Saturday brunch was our usual poached eggs, kale and mushrooms, and crispy-delicious hashbrowns. Dan was quite the helper this weekend and tore up the kale, sauteed the kale and mushrooms, and made the hashbrowns! It's tricky squeezing two of us in my teensie kitchen, but we made it work. :)

Saturday dinner was delicious, and I think becoming one of my all-time most favorite meals -- Hot-Sauce Glazed Tempeh (from Veganomicon,) mashed potatoes with my own version of very speedy gravy, and steamed broccoli again. Dan took charge of the potatoes and gravy -- I've never had butterier mashed potatoes . . . and he wanted to add olive oil, too! I have to draw the line somewhere??? ;)

After we got home from church on Easter, I made a rather untraditional Easter Dinner:
Who says you can't have falafel sandwiches for Easter Dinner? Homemade pita, cucumber, onion, tomato, and romaine lettuce rounded out the deliciousness, all covered in a sauce made from plain soy yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and some grated fresh garlic.

Sunday supper was a super-simple whole-wheat pasta with marinara and parmesan, green salad on the side, but I made a fantastic dessert:
I cleaned out my freezer and made a raspberry, rhubarb, and apple crumble, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Dan searched high and low for a store open on Easter selling ice cream, and came back successful . . . eventually! (It made it that much more worth it, right?)


I got fun stuff in the mail today:
Since I completed the 31-Day Yoga Challenge, I rewarded myself with not two, but THREE new yoga DVDs! (Well, I guess techinically FIVE new DVDs, but three of them are a set, so . . . it counts as one, right?) I chose to skip a new pair of yoga pants in favor of some new challenges. I've been enjoying the sun salutes from Yoga Journal's "Step by Step Session 1," and will progress to Session 2 once I'm feeling stronger and more flexible -- maybe another month? "Yoga for Every Body" seemed very intriguing to me -- it's a highly-customizeable DVD, allowing you to choose your level (beginning, intermediate, advanced,) length of practice, and specific target areas, such as back or neck pain, improving balance, etc. "Stress Relief Yoga for Beginners" is an old favorite I had on VHS, that REALLY needed updating.

Between all of my new DVDs and the practices I downloaded at the end of last month, I'm going to feel challenged (at least in the yoga department) for a LONG time! Woo!


Last, I'm pleased to report that I will officially mail away all of my paperwork to renew my teaching license TOMORROW! (I would mail it tonight, except that I don't have enough stamps -- that sucker is heavy!) Now that I've finished that project, I can move on to bigger and better (and more fun) things, like cleaning out my apartment to prepare for Dan moving in this summer. Woo!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday night pizza feast, take 2

I made pizza again this week:
I had several odds and ends type leftovers lingering in my fridge, including a cup of cheese from last week's pizza, which I thought would translate very well into a pizza repeat this weekend! We weren't disappointed: half-wholewheat crust again, (based on Artisan Bread's "Light Whole Wheat" dough,) the last of the artichoke marinara, leftover mozzarella, parmesan, sliced mushrooms, kalamata olives, leftover red onion, leftover spinach, and leftover goat cheese!

I'm impressed, since I'd never consider myself the queen of using up leftovers, until very recently. Lack of funds translates into creativity in the kitchen, I guess! ;-)

Happy Friday Night!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

creature of habit.

I am, without a doubt, a creature of habit. This week has been a perfect illustration . . . I took Monday off from work, so yesterday totally felt like Monday. (Coupled with doing laundry last night, which I usually do on Mondays, REALLY reinforced the whole Monday-concept.) Today, however, feels like Thursday -- since I went grocery shopping! I'm so darn confused, and working tomorrow night will throw everything off even more. :) (Don't even get me started about the ADDITIONAL load of Monday laundry I did tonight!)

If I make it to the weekend in one piece, we'll call it a good week. :)

Anyhow, here's the loot:


organic chunky tomato pasta sauce
Seventh Generation TP

organic broccoli
local, hydroponic romaine
organic cucumber
organic bananas
organic lemon
organic kale
local, organic white button mushrooms
local, hydroponic tomato
local, organic shredded cabbage mix
organic apples

5-grain tempeh (2)


This weekend's meal plan:
Friday night: more homemade pizza, with side salads
Saturday lunch: poached eggs, kale and mushrooms, and hashbrowns
Saturday dinner: hot-sauce glazed tempeh, mashed potatoes, and broccoli
Sunday lunch: pasta with side salads
Sunday dinner: falafel sandwiches!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sunday in the kitchen

What's new?

"Carrot Bisque" from Vegan with a Vengeance. Coming from somebody who doesn't really like carrots, this soup was GOOD. And bright orange. Made me feel all healthy. (I made some rolls from Artisan Bread to go with.)

Ashley did come over and made a fantastic batch of granola all by herself, and I was so wrapped up in chatting, I forgot to take pictures! Well, you know what granola looks like, right?

I do have a shot of the army of beans, however:
Add these black and pinto beans to the nine cups of chickpeas I cooked yesterday, and I think I'd call my freezer well-stocked, at least in the bean department!

Vegan spanikopita! Amazingly delicious, and Dan told me he didn't think he'd guess it was made with tofu if I hadn't told him. (Double bonus!) Recipe here. (I used mostly dried herbs this time, since I have to wait a LONG time still for fresh herbs in giant bunches from the Farmer's Market!)

I felt compelled to use the rest of the package of filo. :)

Hope you all had wonderful weekends!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

food from today!

I woke up ridiculously early this morning, (like, before 7 AM) and couldn't get back to sleep, so I finally gave up on sleeping in around 8:00, got up, and got busy in my kitchen!

I started the morning by doing all of the dishes from last night, (WHY do I think it's a good idea to leave the dishes until the morning???), cooking up a big batch of chickpeas for the freezer, (9 cups total!), and baking off a quick double-batch of granola -- I used pumpkin and sunflower seeds this time to switch things up a bit. Yum!

While I had the oven on, I whipped up a batch of Raspberry-Almond Scones (based on the basic Scone recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance,) and we enjoyed them with the rest of brunch:
Frittata experiment again this week, made with onion, mushroom, spinach, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese, with a side of fresh pineapple, too. I referred to this week's brunch as "fancy hotel brunch." :)

Dan and I had a busy afternoon of walking, enjoying the conservatory at Como Park in St. Paul, and a few errands. Consequently, when we arrived back at my place, we were both HUNGRY. So, we decided to have dessert first:
Rootbeer floats, made with Virgil's root beer and Cedar Summit Farms vanilla ice cream (local!) This was a fantastic treat, even though it was gloomy, cold, and grey outside all day long!

(Pardon that "Elmo's World" DVD underneath in that photo -- the kids I teach get a special treat movie on Fridays, and they love new movies from the library!)

Then, I made dinner:
Jerk Tofu, (from the PPK), "Caribbean Coconut Rice," and "Japanese Asparagus Dengaku" (both from the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times.) This dinner was a winner in both speed of preparation and taste, but I must admit the coconut rice was the home run! The rice was so rich and delicious, and made a perfect pair to the spicy, seasoned tofu. I can't wait for leftovers in my lunch this week!

My friend Ashley is coming over tomorrow afternoon for her granola-making lesson, so hopefully she'll be a great sport and let you all see what she comes up with!

Friday night pizza feast!

When I make homemade pizza, I tend to make one large pizza, overload it with toppings, and it barely fits on my largest cutting board for scooting in and out of the oven, so last night I decided, instead, to make two smaller pizzas. I still overloaded both of them with toppings, but they each fit better on the cutting board, at least! :)

Pizza #1:
Red onion, mushroom, and garlic

Pizza #2:
Artichoke, kalamata olive, and sun-dried tomato

Both pizzas were made on a half-wholegrain crust (based on an Artisan Bread recipe,) topped with an artichoke marinara, fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and a chiffonade of fresh basil on top.

Dan is convinced I make the best pizza he's ever had -- that's pretty high praise, if you ask me!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

pictureless grocery shop

I went grocery shopping with my friend Ashley tonight, (thanks for the ride, hon!), and although I was WAY too tired to set up everything for a photo, I thought I'd type up the ginormous haul anyway!

Before beginning, I'm proud to report that, although I spent a FORTUNE, I saved $7.50 using my quarterly member discounts, and had $12.76 in coupons and specials! WOO!

Also, just under 20% of my purchase was local. Not bad!

Here we go . . .

organic black beans
organic chickpeas
organic pintos
organic walnuts
local, organic sunflower seeds
organic pumpkin seeds
organic unsweetened coconut
fair-trade, organic, locally-roasted coffee
local, organic rolled oats
organic, fair-trade, dark chocolate chips
dried blueberries
dried apricots
organic golden raisins
organic dried cherries

local herbed chevre

organic raspberries
B&Js Phish Food ice cream
organic filo

local, organic dill

organic white vinegar
organic peppermint tea
pitted kalamata olives
artichoke heart quarters
organic no-stir peanut butter
Moroccan pomegranate red tea
true blueberry herbal tea
Panda black licorice
organic ginger tea
locally-bottled, fair-trade, organic vanilla extract
Seventh Generation TP
Seventh Generation kleenexes
Seventh Generation dish soap (one for home and one for work)
organic lite coconut milk
unbleached parchment
unbleached muffin liners
organic extra-virgin olive oil

organic cucumber
organic bananas
organic kumquats
organic lemons
organic lime
organic minneolas
organic asparagus
organic ginger root
organic spinach
organic basil
organic Italian parsley
local, organic mushrooms
organic red onion
organic yellow onions
organic green onions
local, organic yellow potatoes
local hydroponic romaine
organic grape tomatoes
organic carrots

organic superfirm tofu
Earth Balance buttery sticks
local, organic eggs


I have LOADS of cooking planned this weekend, including pizza, more frittata, jerk tofu, spanikopita, a new (to me) soup recipe, granola, more scones, and pounds of dried beans to soak and cook! Ashley's also going to come over on Sunday for a granola-making lesson -- she already has all of her ingredients, from tonight's shop!

If I can find my way to the computer under mounds of dirty dishes, I'll post plenty of pictures, I promise. :)