Wednesday, March 31, 2010

shepherd's pie

Another make-ahead dinner last night:

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie, from Vegetarian Times. This was . . . just okay. I have to confess that I probably wouldn't make this recipe again as is, but have thought about several changes that would maybe make it a ton better:

1. I was originally concerned by the amount of liquid in the recipe, and no thickener added. I did add 1/2 tsp cornstarch to the vegetable broth, which was clearly not enough. I would add at least 2 tsp next time, or reduce the amount of liquid called for. The version we ate last night was REALLY soupy, which meant the sweet potato topping didn't brown at all. Ugh!

2. I would reduce the quantity of beans called for to probably a cup, add some sliced mushrooms to the veggies, and some cubed seitan as well. (The filling just tasted sort of "flat" to me. Bland food doesn't fly in this house!)

3. I don't cook with wine, so I just added extra vegetable broth this time. I would probably add 1 tsp white wine vinegar to the liquid next time, too, to wake the gravy up a little bit!

I'm curious if you've ever made a shepherd's pie before, and how it turned out!

Monday, March 29, 2010


One of the meals I prepped yesterday was tonight's dinner -- "Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas," from Vegan Planet:

Delicious! I did add a little pepper jack to the tops of the enchiladas, so they weren't technically vegan, but the recipe was excellent! I love black beans and sweet potatoes together, and Dan mentioned the sweet potatoes were mild enough tasting compared to the other ingredients that they just sort of "melted" into the dish. Score! I highly recommend using fire-roasted tomatoes if you make these -- they brought such a nice smokiness to the beans and potatoes. Additionally, I used whole-wheat tortillas, which we're becoming used to, and they weren't overwhelmingly "wheaty" in this dish.

These would be an awesome make-ahead dish for busy people, (I bet they'd freeze well,) or to give as a gift to an expecting mother.

Stay tuned for more pre-prepped dinners this week!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

old skool

I'm not the hugest fan of eggs, but for some crazy reason, I was really craving what I'd call an "old skool" breakfast this morning:

I like to dunk my buttered toast in the egg yolk. :)


Always thinking ahead, I prepped a batch of chili yesterday. Gotta love the crock pot:

Chili and cornbread muffins (from the freezer) were a great post-church lunch!

I spent my afternoon prepping all THREE meals (M, Tu, Th) for the upcoming week, so I'm going to have quite the easy time! This is a good thing, since I really need to catch up on yoga.

Off to church for our Palm Sunday choir concert, then out for dinner. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

chocolate pie!

Really, are there any words more exciting than "chocolate pie?"

(Well maybe, "boarding to Guatemala," but we're talking food, here!)

I'm getting together with some girlfriends tonight (we have a potluck and play board games once a month,) and I volunteered to bring dessert this time 'round. I can't wait to unveil this in a few hours!

This was the easiest thing in the world, and it's going to be awesome! I baked off a prepared, vegan, whole-wheat pie crust, and filled it with a basic tofu mousse (1 package silken tofu, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1 tbsp vanilla, and 1 cup chocolate chips, melted,) before topping with fresh raspberries. Easy! Rich! Delicious! Chocolatey Fabulous!

What's your secret weapon dessert recipe?

look what I found!

This is the nerdiest, foodiest, goofiest thing to get excited about, but here it is:

Organic tomato paste! In a jar! With a lid you can open and close!

I totally exclaimed out loud in the aisle at the co-op last night. :) Good thing it was late and the store was practically empty, right? Why am I so excited about this product? Well, I love the tomato paste in the tube, but when I need a larger quantity for a recipe, (i.e., 1/4 cup or more,) the tube seems like a waste of packaging -- I don't think there's more than 1/3 cup in the tube, anyway. So, I buy the can of tomato paste, cover the leftovers with plastic wrap and a rubberband, and promptly forget about it in the back of my fridge. Then the tomato paste gets fuzzy . . . drat! I think the jar will maybe solve this problem, plus it makes me extra happy since my co-op has a really hard time keeping the tomato paste in the tube in stock.

Ok, nerd time is officially ending for today. :)

Oh my goodness! I'm just now realizing that I intended on buying a pound of coffee, and left it sitting underneath the grinder at the co-op! Good lord. I think shopping at 9:00 on a Friday night is maybe not the best idea?

Here's the rest of what we bought:

local, organic, coarse cornmeal

local pepper jack

lemon sorbet
mango sorbet
organic orange juice concentrate

local, organic basil

organic firm silken tofu
organic pumpkin puree
organic diced tomatoes
organic, fire-roasted, diced tomatoes

organic broccoli
organic carrot
organic bananas
organic cara cara oranges
organic eggplant
organic dino kale
organic cilantro
organic parsley
local, organic white button mushrooms
organic red onion
organic leeks
organic red bell pepper
organic zucchini
organic sweet potatoes
organic turnips (except they were rung up as radishes! good gracious.)
local, hydroponic cherry tomatoes
organic apples
organic raspberries
organic "Scarborough" herb mix (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)

local salted butter
organic whole-wheat tortillas
local, organic vanilla yogurt


What sorts of silly grocery shopping mistakes have you made? I still can't believe I left the coffee sitting underneath the grinder!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dan can cook (still!)

To celebrate the beginning of spring break, (well, his spring break -- I do have to go to work today . . . and all next week . . . ) Dan volunteered to cook dinner last night.

Yay Dan! His stir-fry never disappoints, and he's working hard on keeping the spice level in check. (Last time it was so spicy I could barely eat my portiton!) It was an extra-good thing Dan cooked last night, because I was feeling like garbage. Too many nights in a row of not enough sleep, plus all of the kids at work are sick. Ugh.

After a spicy stir-fry dinner, I went to bed EARLY (ahem, 9:30,) while Dan did the dishes. After 10 hours of sleep, I'm feeling like a new person today! Woo! And it's Friday!

What is/are your significant's specialties? I'm always curious to hear what people give up their kitchen for!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

lots of leaves

We've really been getting our "leaves" this week -- lots of greens and salads so far!

Dinner last night:

One of the "Eggplant and Tomato Gratins," from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, over broiled polenta, with a side of swiss chard. Amazing.

Dinner tonight:

"Penne with Asparagus and Lemon Cream Sauce," from The Essential Eating Well Cookbook, with a side salad. This was a really really easy, really fast, really delicious recipe. Score!

Have you been getting your leaves lately? :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

today, I hate my cat.

What did I find on the kitchen counter when I got home from work tonight?

Half a pan of cinnamon rolls, with the plastic chewed off the top, and the frosting eaten off all but two of the rolls.

Naughty, naughty Oliver. He's hiding in the cabinet under the sink right now -- I think he knows he's in trouble!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

back to the bake-a-long . . .

First, a delicious brunch Dan and I prepared this morning:

After I got the potatoes in the oven and started the kale, Dan was on omelette duty (chard, mushroom, and swiss,) while I juiced a couple of grapefruit that have been languishing in our produce drawer. Bring on the vitamins!

I think Crystal, Victoria, and I are all in agreement that our bake-a-long has lost a little momentum lately . . . being busy will do that! After completing the rye part of our bake-a-long a couple of weeks ago, I finally got around to making the pumpernickel today. I also made my own caramel color, since I couldn't find a place locally that sold it. (Plus, homemade is always better, right?) Made the dough yesterday, baked the bread today:

Holy hell, this is some DAMN tasty bread! I love the rich depth and slight bitterness the coffee, molasses, cocoa powder, and caramel color lend the loaf, and the super-crisp, crackly crust was an added bonus. :)

We enjoyed slices of lightly buttered pumpernickel with our dinner tonight:

"Old-Fashioned Cream of Mushroom Soup," from Love Soup by Anna Thomas, bread, and crisp, green salads. I sense I have been craving a palette of colorful food lately!

And don't forget dessert . . .

Pumpkin cinnamon rolls . . . heck yeah! What a thrifty girl I am, using up that partial can of pumpkin that has been sitting in my fridge for over a week!

Off to drink tea and read magazines on the couch -- hope you had a great weekend, too!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

breakfast, lunch, and dinner

We have had an unusually quiet weekend so far, and I've been taking advantage of all of this down time to cook up a storm!

Breakfast today:

Lemon-Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes! Dan has been taking a Spanish class on Saturday mornings through community ed for the past seven weeks, so leisurely weekend breakfasts had been a thing of the past . . . until the class ended last week! Pancake time! I slightly modified the basic pancake recipe in Betty Crocker to include some lemon zest and ricotta cheese blended with the wet ingredients, and sprinkled the last of the hand-picked frozen blueberries over the top of each pancake before flipping. Recipe:

Blend together until very smooth:
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
zest of one lemon

Stir together, then blend into above:
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

(I used my Bamix to blend up the pancake batter, but I'm sure you could use a regular blender or even a whisk instead.)

After running errands on foot downtown, Dan and I came home hungry for lunch. I threw together a bunch of leftovers for a colorful, nutrient-packed meal:

I LOVE sweet potatoes, and although Dan's not a huge fan, he will eat them as long as they aren't used in a sugary application. I topped baked sweet potatoes with a dash each of salt and chili powder, black beans, steamed broccoli, a little shredded cheese, and a big scoop of salsa. Yum! I know this sounds like a really weird combination of foods and flavors, but it's one of my all-time favorite things to do with sweet potatoes.

After an afternoon of kitchen projects and laundry, it was time for dinner!

Whole-wheat pasta and a green salad never fail to satisfy! I have been on a huge fire-roasted tomatoes kick lately, and I love the smoky flavor they bring to my basic homemade pasta sauce. MMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!

Off to finish the laundry and watch a movie! Happy Saturday night, all.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Not my belly . . . my fridge!

I met up with my friend Ann tonight for a quick dinner at Chipotle, and then hit up the Wedge for our weekly grocery shop . . . and now our fridge is totally stuffed! The loot:

local, organic cornmeal
locally-roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee
orgnaic long-grain brown rice

local, organic ricotta
local asiago
fresh mozzarella

kava kava root

canola oil
organic fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
organic whole-wheat penne

organic broccoli
organic celery
organic carrots
organic cucumber
organic bananas
organic green grapes
organic lemons
organic asparagus
organic rainbow chard
organic eggplant
organic dino kale
organic salad mix
local, organic white button mushrooms
local, organic cremini mushrooms
organic green onions
organic red bell pepper
local, organic yukon gold potatoes
local yellow onions
local cherry tomatoes
organic dill

5-grain tempeh
local, organic half-and-half

We have a pretty low-key weekend planned . . . thank goodness! The weather is supposed to be lousy, so I sense quite a bit of baking, cooking, reading, and movie-watching in my future!

Happy Friday, folks!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

soup success!

I love bean soups, but Dan usually feels sort of "meh" about them. He eats them because I've lovingly prepared them, but I don't think it's something he'd eat on his own.

Tonight's soup, however, was a major success! I loved this one, and Dan scarfed down two huge bowlfulls -- must have been at least a little bit tasty, right?

Southwestern Tomato and Pinto Bean Soup, from Eating Well:

I know it doesn't look like much, (and reading the ingredient list, it honestly didn't sound like much, either,) but I'm so glad I took a chance on this recipe! I think the combination of roasted poblano and ground cumin make this soup something special. Even though the ingredients are short and sweet, it's a near-perfect combination of smoky, savory, and delicious! Cornbread muffins seemed like the perfect accompaniment, and even though I accidentally left the oil out of the muffins, they still turned out well enough to be enjoyed for dinner tonight.

NOTE: the linked recipe calls for 1 can of diced green chiles; I used one roasted poblano instead of the chiles, which is suggested in the cookbook.

I think I'm going to have to renew this cookbook . . . once or three times!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

savory bread pudding

When I read recipes for "savory bread pudding," I always balk a little bit -- bread pudding is just supposed to be sweet, right? In my head, I always think of these recipes as "strata," even though that might not be quite the right word.

Anyhow, I made Eating Well's Savory Bread Pudding with Spinach and Mushrooms for dinner last night:

Delicious! I'm starting to think The Essental Eating Well Cookbook needs to go on my "to buy" list . . . I checked it out from the library last weekend, and I don't want to give it back! There are so many recipes I want to try, and the ones I've tried so far have all been fantastic!

What cookbook have you discovered (or re-discovered) recently?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

eating out = not much cooking

We ended up eating out both lunch and dinner yesterday, so I don't have many photos from my weekend cooking extravaganza to post -- mostly because it wasn't much of an extravaganza. :)

Lunch today:

Dinner tonight:
(WHY does blogger do this???? Does anyone else have this problem?)

Spicy Peanut Noodles, from Eating Well, with a whole slew of veggies (green onion, red pepper, carrot, cucumber, and broccoli) included for both health and deliciousness. I made a few changes to the original recipe, including using soba instead of whole-wheat spaghetti, and omitting the garlic and cayenne in favor of chile-garlic sauce -- about 1 teaspoon. Since Dan and Ryan both doused their noodles with copious amounts of sriracha, I guess next time I'll increase the chile-garlic sauce to at least 2 teaspoons! This was a fast, easy, and really, really delicious recipe that I am certain will come back again and again.

I also cooked up some pinto beans, baked a pan of "Raspberry Oatmeal Bars" from Joy of Vegan Baking (with homemade blackberry jam as the filling,) prepped tomorrow night's dinner, ground up a pound of flaxseeds in the coffee grinder, and made some chana masala, which we actually haven't eaten yet. (We'll enjoy it in leftover form on Wednesday night, most likely.)

In addition to all of this cooking, I did manage to get outside and enjoy our beautiful weather today! Ann and I have revived our weekly walks on Sundays, and Christine has been able to join us occasionally. Yay exercise! (In addition to the 30 minutes of yoga I did, too!)

How was your weekend?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

weird week.

It's been kind of a weird week. I had all sorts of funny, little things that changed my schedule this week, (dentist appointment, errands, etc.), attended a funeral on Friday afternoon for a fellow choir member who passed away several weeks ago, and also found out that my grandma died on Thursday night -- the funeral is next week, and Dan and I will be out of town for a couple days for it.

Consequently, when things get a little crazy, some of the normal parts of life go on hold -- like cooking. :) We had a lot of salad/pita/hummus dinners this week, and also went out for dinner on Thursday night! Crazy! I did manage to cook a couple of simpler meals, though:

An old standby, coconut curry:

This truly never gets old, and I'm starting to realize the importance of recipes like this in the repertoire. You can put any veggies and/or protein with the simple sauce of 1 can coconut milk, 2 tablespoons each soy sauce, curry paste, and brown sugar, and voila! Instant curry deliciousness!

Another not-quite-as-frequent repeat, but definitely a favorite:

Fried rice! I think everyone loves fried rice from the Chinese restaurant, but really, you haven't had fried rice until you make it yourself. I always scramble a couple of eggs, scoop them out of the pan, cook up some garlic and ginger in peanut oil, then throw in any veggies that need to cook, the rice, the rest of the veggies that just need to be warmed, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, and that's it! Tasty and easy. :)

I'm very glad I took the time to cook up THREE cups of dry brown rice last weekend, because it sure came in handy!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

baking and cooking, cooking and baking.

This isn't a complaint, but does anyone else feel like sometimes that's all you do?

I did bake a couple of things yesterday:

At the top is a glorious apple pie that I didn't have to do much for, since the crusts and filling have been in my freezer since apple-orcharding this fall. All I did was thaw, assemble, and bake. Fruit pie is such a TREAT! At the bottom are some muffins that I made for Dan's breakfasts this week -- his work schedule has changed, so he's going to have to leave the house much earlier. I tried to come up with something that he could grab on his way out the door and still get his omega-3s! Each muffin contains an full tablespoon of ground flaxseeds, which makes them a little more dense than I'd prefer, but I guess that's the trade-off, right??

Banana-Flax Muffins
yield: 12
Whisk together:
3 overripe bananas, mashed well
1/3 cup milk (or more, depending on how moist your bananas are)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine, then stir into wet ingredients:
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Bake for 15 minutes at 400.

I also made a batch of granola yesterday, (but didn't photograph it,) cooked a TON of brown rice to go with several of our meals this week, prepped the broth for the pho we had for lunch today, (picture coming up,) and started some pizza dough.

I'm definitely not sick of eating pizza, but I'm kinda sick of posting about it:

Excellent, as always.

Pie a la mode for dessert:


Sunday lunch may officially be "Asian Noodle Soup" time at our house:

Enjoying homemade pho again this weekend was great! I love the combination of spicy, sweet broth, slurpy noodles, and fresh herbs and veggies. Dan commented that a big bowl of pho seems to treat his Sunday blues!

I haven't decided yet whether we're going to have Thai curry or Indian curry for dinner, so stay tuned . . . .

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Friday Night Pasta Party!

Dora, one of my friends from church choir, made a New Year's Resolution to cook or bake 50 things she's never made until this year. She asked me in early January if I'd be willing to help her with some homemade pasta, since you definitely need more than two hands to work the machine, and I excitedly volunteered! We finally matched up schedules and got together last night for the pasta party.

We decided on two varieties of pasta -- a spinach noodle, and a butternut squash-filled tortellini. What an adventure, especially since neither one of us has really made homemade pasta before!

The sheets of spinach dough got quite long:

Cut noodles, drying a bit and waiting:

Headless Dora, continuing to crank sheets of spinach dough:

Me, working on the dough for the tortellini:

Piles of gorgeous spinach noodles, waiting to be boiled:

Dan thought he was showing up just in time to eat, but really, we needed his help cutting circles for the tortellini:

Me, filling and shaping tortellini:

This was a LOT of work:

Finished spinach noodles, tossed with frozen pesto from Dora's garden:

Finished tortellini, tossed with a butter-shallot-mushroom-parsley sauce:

My plate:

This was a fun and delicious way to hang out on a Friday night! I may have to borrow Dora's pasta machine in the future, and make us a huge batch of tortellini for our freezer. I'm especially curious to try my hand at making whole-wheat pasta!

Friday, March 05, 2010


Truth be told, I've never had a reuben, at least that I can remember. Something about the combination of sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing on a GRILLED CHEESE seemed sort of . . . sacreligious, somehow?

However, the only thing I could think to do with the rest of the rye bread I made last weekend was cap reubens, so, there you go:

Homemade rye, Annie's Thousand Island Dressing, "Tempeh Bacon" from Vegan with a Vengeance, swiss, and co-op bought sauerkraut.

Verdict? Hmm . . . not bad, actually. All of the flavors in the sandwich did meld together nicely, and I think Dan was a happy camper with the rich, heavy flavors. I think I'd still prefer a plain grilled cheese, but this was a nice change of pace!

Here's the million-dollar question: what to do with all of the leftover sauerkraut?

Monday, March 01, 2010

risk = success!

I took a risk in my kitchen this past weekend -- when I made tonight's lasagna, I didn't preboil the noodles.

Why such a risk, you ask? Well, I've had TERRIBLE (i.e., inedible) lasagna in the past, due to someone not preboiling the noodles. We're talking tough, rubbery, semi-crunchy grossness. "Al dente," to the extreme.

I was especially worried about using whole-wheat lasagna noodles in my kitchen risk, but I pressed onward anyway. I stirred an extra cup of water into my homemade sauce, and hoped for the best!


I will never again preboil lasagna noodles! Why dirty that extra pot and colander, when one can achieve perfect results without?

P.S. What is it about fire-roasted tomatoes that makes everything they join taste AMAZING???