Sunday, May 31, 2009

happy birthday to me!

I had a fantastic birthday yesterday! I began my day with my usual weekend trip to the Farmer's Market:
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$36 poorer when I arrived home, but loaded down with all of this good stuff! Clockwise from top left: wholegrain sandwich bread, chives, hot salsa, two pounds of asparagus, wholegrain tortillas, basil, eggs, and pepper Jack cheese. YUM!

After the Farmer's Market, I met up with five of my girlfriends for lunch at Galactic Pizza! We chatted while we enjoyed salad, cheesey bread, pizza, and the awesome Chai Latte cupcakes Courtney made!! I received a couple of nice cards and gifts, too -- a great birthday surprise! Thank you Courtney, Ann, Christine, Tiffany, and Ashley! It was great to see all of you!

After lunch, Dan and I loaded up our CamelBaks, hopped into the car, stopped at the co-op for picnic supplies, and drove 45 minutes out of the city to Lake Maria State Park. We went for a six-mile hike, enjoyed our picnic dinner at the "Wildlife Viewing Area," and took one more short one-mile hike before heading back to town. Photos from the afternoon:
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On our way back into town, we stopped at Cheapo, where Dan encouraged me to pick out my birthday present -- two new CDs! We then headed home, where I pretty much collapsed into bed -- too much birthday fun, exercise, and busy-ness. (But I slept really well last night!)

Back to the grind for me today. But . . . less than two weeks until vacation time! Wee!

Friday, May 29, 2009

your opinion needed.

Got any favorite recipes in Eat, Drink, and be Vegan or La Dolce Vegan? If so, tell me about them -- I have so many new/library cookbooks right now, I'm having trouble focusing!! Aaaaaahhhhh!!!

(I guess I could have worse problems than this. But your help is still appreciated.)

:)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

backlogged dinner, weekly shop

First, here's a pic from Monday night's dinner:

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"Bare Bones Tofu Curry," with red peppers, asparagus, and mushrooms thrown in for good measure, from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. Dan loved this, I thought it was about a B+ -- nothing earth-shattering, but definitely a few notches above "edible."

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Next, the weekly co-op haul:

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BULK:
local, organic "gold & white" flour
locally-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee
local, organic rolled oats
organic bulgur
organic long-grain brown rice

DELI:
"Tempeh Tarragon" salad
"Wild and Crazy Rice" salad
"Greek Orzo" salad

FROZEN:
local, organic blueberries
organic mangoes

HERBS & SPICES:
organic vanilla bean (from a local company)

PACKAGED GROCERY:
artichoke heart quarters
chamomile tea
organic, diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
Seventh Generation kleenex
Seventh Generation TP
Seventh Generation laundry detergent

PERSONAL CARE:
NatraCare pantiliners

PRODUCE:
organic bananas
organic lemons
organic Packham pears
organic eggplant
organic dino kale
local hydroponic English cucumber
organic parsley
local, organic white button mushrooms
organic vidalia onion
local grape tomatoes
local hydroponic slicing tomatoes
organic strawberries

REFRIGERATED GROCERY:
Earth Balance buttery sticks
local, organic half-and-half
local, organic plain yogurt

44% of my purchase was local today, and that's not even counting what I'll pick up at the Farmer's Market this weekend!

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Last, this week's meal plan is a bit more elaborate, since Dan's officially moved in!

Breakfast stuff: granola w/almond milk and/or smoothies
Lunch stuff: leftovers and/or quesadillas and/or bulgur tabouli w/homemade pita and yogurt cheese

Dinner Friday: homemade pizza and side salads
Saturday: lunch and dinner are both planned out, since it's my BIRTHDAY!
Sunday dinner: "Tuscan Poached Eggs w/Parmesan" (from Fine Cooking,) garlic toast, kale
Monday dinner: "Eggplant-Tomato Gratin" and "Saffron Rice" (both from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen,) and side salads
Tuesday dinner: "Asparagus Crepes with Mushroom Sauce" (from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without,) and side salads

(Wednesday and Thursday dinners will be leftovers, since I have to work late.)

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Off to work!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge -- Apple Strudel

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Vegan Apple Strudel:

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I followed the challenge recipe fairly closely this month. I made a half-recipe, added extra cinnamon (per some brilliant Daring Baker's suggestion,) and used dried cranberries instead of raisins. The only switch for veganizing was using Earth Balance instead of butter. Very delicious! This reminded me of "Racine Danish Kringle," which I've never seen outside of southeastern Wisconsin -- a great throwback to my childhood. (I'm sure I've had apple strudel before, too, but nothing nearly as delicious as this!)

The most challenging part of this month's challenge was making and working with the strudel dough. I found the dough relatively easy to work with, and was able to get it quite thin. (I did let my dough rest for nearly three hours . . . time got away from me!) However, I cut off nearly a third of the dough around the edges, even though I had the right-sized rectangle according to the directions . . . hmm. Perhaps I'll keep stretching next time, so I have more than two layers of flakiness around my filling!

Thanks for a fun challenge, Linda and Courtney!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

yum.

You might be wondering what I did with those morels from the Farmer's Market . . .
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Lunch, that's what I did! Sauteed the morels and asparagus in olive oil, added garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and whole-wheat pasta. Topped with parmesan. Wee!

I'd never had morels before, and I think the thing that most impressed me was their texture -- very hearty, "toothsome," and savory. Mmmmmmm.

And, here's dinner:
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Sorry for the blurry picture, but we had fajitas! Marinated, browned tempeh, peppers, and onions, topped with queso fresco, tomatoes, shredded cabbage/carrots, sour cream, salsa, and homemade guacamole! Yum, yum, extra yum.

P.S. I love the library:
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morels!

And other good stuff:

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The morels made for a spendy week at the Farmer's Market, but we also picked up two pounds of asparagus again, (this time for immediate consumption, as opposed to steaming/blanching and freezing, like last week,) two huge packages of salad greens (w/edible flowers!), green onions, rhubarb, mint, and mozzarella cheese. Wahoo!

We spent $32.50 this week, but it was TOTALLY worth it. I anticipate amazing pasta for lunch, when Dan gets home from band practice.

I also noticed folks selling homemade tortillas and homemade salsas, which I will have to pick up next week -- I've been buying both like crazy from the co-op lately, and I'd much rather buy direct from the producer if I can!

Did you go to your Farmer's Market this week? What did you find?

Friday, May 22, 2009

thank you, Crystal!

Dinner tonight came straight from Crystal, of Cafe Cyan. I made the recipe she posted for "Tempeh Nicoise," and I must say, this was one of the greatest meals we've had in a LONG time. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Crystal!

Here's the salad, in all of its veggie-riffic glory:
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(And yes, that vinaigrette is guzzle-worthy. I found it tasted quite strong to me at first, but after an afternoon mellowing in the fridge, it's FANTATSIC!)

And I added a side to go with our salads:
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"Za'atar Flatbread," from Artisan Bread, and yogurt cheese, topped with an extra sprinkle of za'atar and a drizzle of (really excellent) olive oil.

And of course, there was dessert, too:
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Homemade strawberry-rhubarb crisp, with homemade vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. Yummy!

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Farmer's Market tomorrow -- weee! Until then.

food is expensive.

I should rephrase . . . healthy, organic, mostly local food is expensive. Alas! I guess it's cheaper than hefty medical bills, eh?

This week's loot from the co-op:

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BULK:
locally-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee
local, organic yellow popcorn

CHEESE:
local queso fresco

FROZEN:
local, organic strawberries

HERBS & SPICES:
local, organic vanilla bean

PACKAGED GROCERY:
organic Greek olive mix
coconut juice w/pulp
organic, lite coconut milk
organic extra-virgin olive oil ($5 off! woo!)
Seventh Generation TP

PRODUCE:
organic bananas
organic avocado
organic limes
organic apricots
organic white peaches
organic green beans
local, organic, white button mushrooms
organic red onion
organic shallots
organic green bell pepper
organic red bell peppers
local, organic red potatoes
local, organic coleslaw mix
organic fuji apples

REFRIGERATED GROCERY:
organic whole-wheat tortillas
organic tofu
non-gmo 5-grain tempeh
local, organic half & half

SUPPLEMENTS:
organic flax oil

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Holy moly, is flax oil expensive! I bought some to try out a new vinaigrette recipe, and I hope it's as amazing as it's supposed to be! (And I know I probably don't get enough Omega-3s on a regular basis, so a little flax oil every now and then will be a good thing.)

Here's our weekend meal plan:

Friday dinner: Tempeh Nicoise Salads, homemade bread
Friday dessert: strawberry-rhubarb crumble and homemade vanilla ice cream
Saturday breakfast: maybe pancakes again? or we'll just have smoothies or granola
Saturday lunch: pasta w/marinara and side salads
Saturday dinner: tempeh fajitas!
Sunday dinner: "Bare Bones Tofu Curry" from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen (My new favorite cookbook!)

Since I have to work Sunday AND Monday this weekend, (no three-day weekend for me -- boo hiss,) I'm not sure whether we'll have something fun for dinner Monday night, or just have leftovers. We shall see . . . !

Monday, May 18, 2009

busy bee.

I am thankful to have the day off today, and have been one heck of a busy bee with all of my free time!

First, many, many things happening in the kitchen . . .

Rhubarb for the freezer:
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Asparagus for the freezer:
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Oh yeah, more asparagus for the freezer:
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12 cups of chickpeas for the freezer:
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Pasta salad:
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Caprese-style with tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella, coated in a simple balsamic vinaigrette.

AND, "Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango:"
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Ah, VCON, how I've neglected thee lately. This salad ROCKS. Quick, simple, gorgeous, healthy, and delicious! I imagine this would make an amazing potluck offering at some point this summer. :) And maybe amazing camping food, too!

I also met my friend Ashley for coffee this afternoon, and ran a couple of errands. I spent a FORTUNE at Target . . . a few new summer tops, a dress for a wedding we're attending in a couple of weeks, camping supplies for our upcoming trip, dish soap, toilet bowl cleaner . . . it all adds up so FAST!

Can you believe, however, that the one thing on my Target list that I didn't get (because it wasn't available) was a black cardigan sweater? Weird. I guess I'll try the Gap? American Apparel? H&M? (Although, going all the way to the "Black Hole of Death" seems extreme just for one sweater.) Grumble. Target, why did you let me down!??!?!?

Off to finish up my to-do list for the evening -- I have tons of cleaning left to do.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

baked oatmeal, revised.

Baked Oatmeal is something I'd fallen in love with over the years, but never really made. The recipes I have all call for insane amounts of sugar, melted butter, and eggs, which never seemed all that . . . healthy? (Plus, from all of that gunk, eating it usually made me feel a little ill!) I decided to revise my recipe this morning, and discovered a delicious result!

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Revised Baked Oatmeal

Stir together:

1 1/2 cups oats
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed (this could be reduced even further in the future)
3/4 cup milk whipped with 1 tbsp Ener-G
1/4 cup Earth Balance, melted
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup nuts (I used almonds and walnuts)
1/2 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries and blueberries)

After stirring, let the oatmeal sit for a few minutes to absorb some of the liquid. Pour into a greased 8-inch pan, and bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

(I drizzled my portion with a wee bit of heavy cream . . . very decadent!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

weekly haul, pt. deux, and tasty meals!

I spent $33 at the Farmer's Market this morning, and came home with the following:

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TWO POUNDS of asparagus, rhubarb, tomatoes, mixed field greens, buckwheat honey, maple syrup, and basil! All local (MN or WI,) and all delicious!

When we arrived home, I made lunch:

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I finally got around to making the "Chickpea Cutlets" from VCON, and also made the mustard sauce to accompany. Deeeeeeeeeeeelicious! (Especially that mustard sauce! Dan would have licked the saucepan had I allowed him to.) :) Sauteed chard and roasted sweet potatoes on the side.

And later, I made dinner:

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I put many of our Farmer's Market finds to good use, tucked away in a fantastic pizza! Half-wholegrain crust as a base, with homemade peso, local mozzarella, parmesan, asparagus, sliced tomato, and sliced garlic to top. (I made a quick side salad of local spinach, local cherry tomatoes, and nonlocal cucumber to accompany.)

It has been one heck of a delicious day! Asparagus may be one of my new favorite pizza toppings.

So here's a question . . . what are some of your favorite pizza toppings?

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P.S. Attention all Twin Cities vegans and dairy-intolerant folks -- I noticed this week that the Wedge co-op has started carrying Teese. I've never tried it myself, (since I do enjoy dairy cheese on occasion,) but I've heard fabulous things. I may pick some up for a pizza sometime soon, though, just to see what all the fuss is about!

Friday, May 15, 2009

the weekly haul, part 1 of 2

Since growing season is slowly getting started 'round these here parts, I've found my list for the co-op is becoming shorter each week, and my list for the Farmer's Market lengthens! Here's what I picked up this afternoon at the co-op:

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BULK:
organic chickpeas
organic walnuts
organic, whole-wheat fusilli
locally-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee

CHEESE:
local fresh mozzarella

PACKAGED GROCERY:
organic coconut oil
wild capers
Crystal hot sauce
organic no-stir peanut butter
"Red Zinger" tea
"Moroccan Pomegranate Red" tea
Seventh Generation TP

PRODUCE:
organic bananas
organic mangoes
organic green chard
organic cilantro
organic green onions
organic red bell pepper
organic sweet potatoes
organic fuji apples
organic cherry tomatoes

REFRIGERATED GROCERY:
Vegenaise
Watermelon Chill "Naked Juice" smoothie

AND, add on a package of Earth Balance to the list, (not pictured,) since I FORGOT to pick some up and had to run back later in the afternoon. Baking crisis averted!

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Meal plan for the weekend:
Friday dinner: out (we have free coupons!)
Saturday lunch: chickpea cutlets with mustard sauce from VCON, baked sweet potatoes, sauteed greens
Saturday dinner: PIZZA!

I'm also planning on making the quinoa and black bean salad from VCON, and a toss-together pasta salad to have on hand for work lunches/dinners.

I've been musing about how my meal planning will change in just a short period of time . . . Dan moves in in two weeks! We'll have to figure out how many meals per week we'll be home for at the same time, and plan for plenty of leftovers!

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Stay tuned for part 2, Farmer's Market edition, of the weekly haul! Until tomorrow.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

breakfasts.

I forgot about this one!

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Dan's generally a big fan of sleeping in on the weekends, so he surprised me when he got up about fifteen minutes after I did on Sunday morning! Cause for a mini-celebration, no? Vegan, wholegrain, blueberry pancakes, topped with sliced bananas, walnuts, and maple syrup. Made having to go to work on Sunday ALMOST bearable, with a belly full of pancakes. :)

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I'm glad it's finally smoothie season!

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Today's blend: 6 ounces of organic, local, plain yogurt, a couple of handfulls of fresh spinach, 2 teaspoons of ground flaxseeds, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 a banana, and enough orange juice to make it liquid.

This is totally hitting the spot this morning, especially since I'm in one of those sleepy/crabby moods where I don't feel like chewing anything. :)

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Here's a question: what are your favorite "sneaky" ingredients to put in smoothies?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

so stuffed.

After my friend Ann and I went for our usual Tuesday walk tonight, we decided to hit up the Bad Waitress for some dinner. Ann wanted breakfast food, I didn't know what I wanted, so there we were!

I ended up ordering a quesadilla, which allows you to customize any three additions from their VAST menu of ingredients -- I chose mushrooms, red peppers, and asparagus. YUM, YUM, YUM, and they weren't skimping on the veggies! My quesadilla was served with healthy sides of guacamole, sour cream, and salsa, too! (I must admit, I did stick to the salsa and guac -- full-fat sour cream still kinda scares me!)

And after dinner? Well, we had dessert . . . a banana split, in fact! Can you believe I've never in my life enjoyed a banana split, until this very evening? The single dessert was too large for the two of us, but we managed to "take it down" anyways -- two scoops of vanilla, one scoop of chocolate, a banana, fresh strawberries, chocolate and caramel syrups, whipped cream, and THREE cherries! (Ann "forced" me to eat all three cherries, since she doesn't care for them. Wee!)

Color me stuffed. I'm nursing some peppermint tea right now. I don't make a habit of overeating, but sometimes, you just gotta enjoy a major dessert!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

exercise woes.

Since I've started working full-time at the kitchenwares store, (due to my layoff, blah blah,) I have lost almost all motivation to exercise. I think I forgot how physically demanding being on my feet for 8 (or sometimes 12!) hours per day can be!

Because I've been so physically exhausted when getting home from work these days, I've been feeling mentally exhausted as well -- not a good combination when you're trying to stay positive about being underemployed and searching for a new job! So, I decided to do something about this problem tonight -- I walked home from work, (took about an hour, but I did run one errand on my way home,) and I also did 30 minutes of yoga later in the evening.

You know, I've really been missing the yoga lately. I should try and get back into the habit of daily (or nearly daily) yoga that I developed in March! It's good for my whole self, and I should really make it a priority.

Guess what else I'm excited about, exercise wise? My BIKE!! Weeee! I love to ride my bike! In my opinion, the best part about biking is flying past cars in a traffic jam. Ha, ha, there I go, greener and faster!

So, I guess in the end, these aren't really exercise woes. Just ramblings.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Farmers Market finds, turned into dinner

Dan and I started our Saturday at the Farmer's Market. We had planned on picking up whatever looked good, and then meeting up with his family for brunch afterwards. However, Dan's brother, Ryan, ended up meeting us at the Farmer's Market, so the boys could pick out some plants for their mom for Mother's Day! They chose raspberries, chocolate mint, orange thyme, nasturtiums, and alpine strawberries. In-between the careful plant selecting, I managed to score the following:
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Local, whole-wheat egg pasta, and BASIL!!

After brunch, we stopped at the Franklin Street Bakery, and I picked up a lemon vanilla bean cupcake to be enjoyed later:
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Much later on, I made dinner:
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Greek salad, artichokes, and pesto covered pasta! I practically licked my plate clean.

Dan and I shared the cupcake for dessert:
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And we each added a scoop of mango-banana sorbet on the side. :) Yum.

Off to watch a movie . . . enjoy the rest of the weekend!