Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sick on New Year's Eve and Jaffa Orange Drizzle Cake

We don't do much on New Year's Eve. No fancy dress parties, no countdowns, none of that really. For the past few years we've been staying at home pretty much treating it like every other night. We do have a bit of champagne though. There's a bottle in the fridge chilling right now. We also have some Raspberry Lambic we got for a xmas gift that will be sampled. My husband's New Year's plans are to order pizza (AGAIN) and watch some Twilight Zone or possibly horror films in the comfort of his studio. Me? I'm sick. I came down with a nasty cold a few days ago and it just got worse today. Drippy nose, sore throat, a bit of sucks. My dinner is very uneventful tonight so I won't bother to photograph it. I made a simple comforting red wine marinara and will be having that on top of brown rice pasta. woo hoo! So in advance, Happy New Year everyone. Hope your celebration tonight's full of joy. After dinner, I'll be curled up in bed watching Doctor Who dvds.

To make myself feel better I made a little cake that was inspired by a vegan "Jaffa Orange Drizzle Cake" recipe that I found on Melisser's blog (The Urban Housewife). The recipe for it is here. I didn't use the cake part of the recipe, just the orange syrup and chocolate glaze. I used my favorite vanilla cake and made it orange flavored by switching out the liquid for half water and half orange juice and also added orange zest. I used kittee's basic vanilla cake recipe which you will find here. It's a very simple recipe that doesn't call for egg replacers or things like that. Just so you know, I missed out on trying real Jaffa Cakes when I was in London several years ago. I wasn't vegan then so I probably should have tried it. Oh well, too late! Now I'll never really know.

Here's the cake out of the oven and soaked with orange syrup. It actually looks good to eat just like this!

With the chocolate shell on top. I put the whole cake in the fridge to set it faster. You can tell the middle needs to set more.

And a slice. I can't tell you how good this cake is. I'm a big fan of orange and chocolate together and that is exactly what this cake delivers. The sponge is very moist with a light orange flavor and the chocolate is smooth and dark which offers a very nice contrast.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

'Gooda' Uncheese + Today's Lunch.

I woke early this morning because I had this idea last night to make "uncheese". For lunch I was planning on a cheese stuffed pepper with spinach salad. I had a nice assortment of red and yellow peppers and lots of spinach for a salad. I leafed through The Ultimate Uncheese Book to pick out which uncheese I was going to make. I saw the recipe for 'Gooda" and decided to give it a go. It turned out really beautiful in color and in taste!

Check out this lovely block of Gooda, a cashew based dairy free cheese. (I used an empty tofu container for the mold.)

So this is what I did for lunch. I took a half yellow pepper, seeded it and drizzled some olive oil into the cavity. I stuffed it with a little spinach, sliced tomato and about 4 TB of Gooda chunks. I stuck it under the broiler for about 7 minutes but the Gooda started to burn so I took it out and popped it in a hot 400 degree oven for about 4 minutes more. This is what came out.

I served it on top of spinach salad that was lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. I smooshed the cheese around with my fork because the burnt parts were too ugly to photograph!

Cut open to see the insides. The uncheese is gorgeous! It was spreadable and very creamy. It went very well with the pepper and the spinach leaves and gave it mucho flavor! Some of the ingredients in this uncheese: cashews, dijon mustard, paprika, garlic, onion, carrots, nutritional yeast*, tahini, liquid smoke. (*Nutritional yeast is a cheesy tasting vegetarian food supplement.)

Mmm, mmm. All together on a fork. A very tasty bite.

Can you tell I loved my lunch?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Smoky Tofu-Black Bean Burger

Last night we went out to eat and I was craving a veggie burger and fries but the restaurant we went to had no veggie burger options. I settled for a nice plate of vegetable skewers, rice, beans and plantains instead. It was delicious but a part of me wanted a burger! So today this is what I planned for dinner. The recipe is the same as this one but using black beans instead of kidney beans. They are seriously delicious and a perfect palette for all the condiments you can handle. I go for Vegenaise, mustard, ketchup and sometimes bbq sauce and hot sauce. I didn't have time to make baked fries so I opted for Ore-Ida Golden Fries (not pictured).

Here they are before going into the oven. Kinda pale and unassuming don't you think?

But after 35 minutes in the oven, all lovely and browned and dressed with grilled onions.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pancake Puffs!

Decided to use the "Pancake Puffs" pan I got for x-mas. I say, you need patience for this! It's the flipping part that you have to learn how to perfect. They come with these sticks that you use to flip them and if you don't do it deftly enough, the batter spills over and what you get is a perfect round puff on one side and an imperfect bumpy puff on the other side. I think I'll try to perfect my flipping technique before I start making chocolatey or creamy fillings. I do not know of a vegan Ebleskiver recipe so I used the pancake batter recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance and kept it simple with a little powdered sugar and maple syrup. They were delicious and fun to eat.

I photographed them pretty puffy side up.

Drowned in maple syrup.

Edit: This pan also doubles as a "Kanom Krok" pan which I loved to eat when I visited Thailand.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lasagna Rollups Recipe + Holiday Gifts

The family bash was great. Had loads of fun being surrounded by my gigantic family. They are such a happy bunch. I brought a Lasagna casserole to the party which got eaten up by lots of folks. I think there were only 2 rollups left at the end! This recipe was a last minute idea. I was originally going to make a shepherd's pie but thought better of it and made this instead.

Lasagna Rollups

1 box of lasagna noodles
1 recipe of Cashew Ricotta (recipe from Veganomicon but you can find it online here.)
1 10oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and drained of all water
2 TB olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6-7 mushrooms, chopped
Sauce: (you can used jarred sauce if you want!)
2 TB olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp italian herbs (or just oregano)
1/2 to 1 cup plain unsweetened soymilk (optional)
vegan parmesan (optional)

1. Make filling: Prepare the cashew ricotta. Defrost spinach in microwave and squeeze out all the water from the spinach. Mix spinach with the cashew ricotta and set aside. Heat the 2 TB of olive oil in a saucepan and saute the red peppers, onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add this mixture to the ricotta/spinach mixture and combine well. Place this mixture in the fridge while you prepare the lasagna noodles and sauce.
2. Prepare lasagna noodles al dente according to package directions. While they are cooking, prepare sauce. (If you want to use jarred pasta sauce, you may do so.) Heat the 2 TB of olive oil in a pot. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar and herbs. Bring to a boil then simmer on low. Add about 1/2 to 1 cup of soymilk to make it a creamy tomato sauce if you want. Otherwise leave it out and keep the sauce as is. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
3. Spoon some of the sauce into the bottom of a baking dish and set it aside.
4. Roll 'em up: Take the ricotta filling out of the fridge. Take a sheet of aluminum foil and lay it flat on a table or counter. Spray with some oil. When lasagna noodles are done, drain them and lay them flat on the foil. Spread about 2 TB of filling along each noodle. Roll up and place them seam side down in the baking dish side by side. Cover the whole thing with sauce. Cover with a sheet of foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with vegan parmesan and bake for another 5 minutes.


I got some great cooking related gifts! Took pics to show you.

Let's say it all together: "OMG!" I've always wanted one of these. Pancake puffs here I come!

Three great looking cookbooks that I can't wait to cook out of!

And my non-cooking related gifts only because I'm so flippin' happy that I got them! TV on DVD is the best.

Some good reads.

Not pictured: a beautiful vintage purse, chocolates, pretty washcloths and other great things...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cake!: Holiday Baking Part 2

Woo, that was a lot of hours baking... I'm really tired. I'm so glad it's all done and everyone will get to take home one of these lovely bundles of joy.

I didn't have a good set up to take proper photos so here they are hanging out on the coffee table.

The yellow ones are banana cake, the dark are mocha chip muffin breads and the glazed with sprinkles are vanilla spice.

Long view.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cookie Time: Holiday Baking Part 1

I have a big family bash on the 25th and instead of presents this year I am gifting my relatives with vegan baked deliciousness. Today I baked dozen after dozen of cookies. I've 3 kinds and they are all decadently yummy...

Sparkled Ginger Cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance. Oh my word, these are good. Kind of crispy and chewy with that spiciness that is oh so right.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Walnut from Vegan with a Vengeance. These are the perfect fall cookie. They bake up soft and tender with the most amazing aroma as you bake them.

Isa's Chocolate Chip Cookies. Perfection, perfection. When I want chocolate chip cookies with a tall glass of soymilk, I will go for these.

And all together.

Tomorrow: Cake!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gimme more pizza!

After two days of eating healthy casserole (I ate that whole thing by myself!), I am ready for some junky food. I was so in love with the pizza I made the other day that I had to make another one. I got some whole wheat dough to make it a little healthier this time. This one has lightly sauteed onions, garlic, cremini mushrooms, black olives, broccoli and red peppers. Oh and a little leftover "pepper jack uncheese" that was left over and vegan parmesan sprinkled on top. All that's missing is red pepper flakes. Yum yum yum yum yum...

Several pics to show you the goods.

I was hypnotized by this piece of mushroom drowning in a pool of "uncheese".

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Taste test: Gillian McKeith's Shepherdess Pie

I recently got Gillian McKeith's 'You Are What You Eat' cookbook because I like her 'healthy food contributes to a healthy life' philosophy. Sometime in Feb. the husband and I are doing a detox diet of sorts by using this book to eat from for 3 weeks straight without any sugar, added salt, alcohol, caffeine, white bread, white rice and processed foods. It's going to be 3 weeks of salads, vegetables, fresh fruit smoothies and veggie juices, whole grains and beans. I know it's going to be hard but I am willing to go for it. I hope it will help me focus on eating more fresh fruits and fresh raw vegetables (I can get lazy) and I also hope to get rid of at least 5-8 pounds. My husband could use some weight loss too but I'm more concerned with his colon/intestinal/stomach issues that he's had for years. I don't remember him ever feeling "well" in that department. Lots of discomfort and pain and I believe diet plays a big part. I know for a fact all the delivery pizzas and hot dogs/chips/salty popcorns etc are not helping him right now. So we'll see how this all goes...

Today I decided to do a test run on one of the recipes for myself (husband's ordering pizza, good grief!). I love all kinds of comfort dishes like pot pies, casseroles and especially shepherd's pie. This one has kidney beans, lots of veggies and a mashed sweet potato topping. It's supposed to also have black eyed peas and butternut squash but I didn't have them. Those additions would have been great. I added a little miso paste and a tiny amount of soy sauce to the vegetables as seasoning which I think shouldn't matter too much considering how healthy and packed full of nutrients this dish is. I'm a big fan of beans and sweet potatoes so I liked it. I must admit though that it was veeeery healthy tasting and I'm a little afraid my husband will not enjoy the food. We'll see! If you're interested in healthy eating, you can find this recipe here as well as other recipes by Ms. McKeith.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pizza Pie!

Seems like there's an italian theme going on here with pizza casserole and spaghetti in the past few days. It's pizza nite tonight. I wanted to use a ready made pizza dough* that I had languishing in the freezer for the past week or so. I also had a Tofurky sausage to use up so I made this yummy pizza. It also has lightly sauteed onions, squash, red peppers and black olives. I cut some thin slices of the pepper jack "uncheese" that I made a while ago and added them to the pizza. It melted quite nicely to a gooey-liquid consistency which reminded me a lot of Follow Your Heart soy cheese. Next time I will forgo the sausage and just overload it with veggies as that's more my style even before I went veg.

A perfect slice with all the colors of the italian flag.

*you can get a lump of pizza dough at Trader Joe's for a buck and some change.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A big bowl of pasta.

Sometimes that's just all you want. It's comforting, it's pretty easy to prepare and it just hits the spot on a cold, rainy night like tonight. I love pasta and it's probably one of the most prepared foods in my kitchen. For years, I was always aware that too much white flour pasta is just "carb and calorie" overload which leads to weight gain etc. etc. But recently I've become more concerned not so much with carbs and calories, but with processed foods and how a diet with a majority of it is bad for your body. Here's an excerpt from an article which talks about processed foods, in particular refined white flour (which regular pasta is made from):

Refined flour has had the brown husk of the grain stripped away, leaving the white, refined starch found in white bread, white rice, pasta, cookies, and numerous other junk foods. Without the fibrous husk, refined starches are broken down quickly into sugar and absorbed immediately into the bloodstream causing glucose levels to rise, and increasing the risk of obesity.

So that's not such good news. But don't get me wrong, I am not totally against things like white rice and pasta. You will have to pry my rice cooker full of Thai white jasmine rice from my hands and I will always make cakes and cookies with white flour and I will not give up white flour pasta. It's just that I need to balance things out but by eating more whole foods that have not been stripped of their nutrients. Which is why I'm over the moon about this brown rice pasta that I can now get at Trader Joe's for $2. It's lovely and I find tastes so much better than whole wheat pasta. A few days ago I tried the brown rice fusilli and it was great. My husband and I could not tell the difference between this and regular pasta. Today I got some spaghetti which I had with a luscious mushroom red wine spaghetti sauce that had been simmering for a few hours. I accidentally overcooked the spaghetti (D'oh!) so it was a wee bit mushy but my sauce rocked. I used this recipe but added mushrooms. Next time I have to keep a good eye on the pasta while it cooks.

Sprinkled with "Parmezano Sprinkles" which is just almonds, miso paste, nutritional yeast and salt ground into a powder. It's yummy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

When you're in the mood for nuggets but not the chicken kind... can get Soy Nuggets at Trader Joe's for $2.99! (Did I just rhyme?)

Perused the ingredient list and looks like we're good to go! No animal products to be found.

This is only a portion of nuggets, there are a lot in the box. I served them with a spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette and had some dipping sauces of bbq sauce and vegenaise mixed with hot sauce. The nuggets are not bad, not much in the flavor department but that's what the sauces are for. They are not "chickeny" as far as texture. The outside is nice and crispy but the insides are lighter and more delicate, kind of like fish. Next time I should have tartar and cocktail sauce on the side with a squeeze of lemon. So yeah, these are quite good when you're in the mood for nuggety things. And they are lowfat with around 1.5 gms of fat per serving.

I also made some granola with almonds, walnuts, coconut, raisins, cranberries, apricots and even some peanut butter! I was thisclose to adding chocolate chips but I didn't want to blow it. I'm trying to eat healthy!!! I'm having a bowl of this for breakfast tomorrow with soymilk. Mmm, can't wait.

And here's Buster just because. What a big head!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sephardic Rice Stuffed Peppers

More whole grain cookin'! Today's assignment: make something with brown rice. I want to make sure I'm getting more whole grains into my diet. Yesterday was brown rice pasta, today brown rice! I checked my 'Olive Trees and Honey' cookbook and found this simple recipe for stuffed peppers. It is very basic with very few ingredients: rice, tomatoes, onions, sugar, salt and pepper. I added some garlic, mushrooms and spinach to give it more color and flavor.

I also added tomato sauce for the tops.

Split open so you can see the inside. In the foreground is a cabbage salad with a sweet and sour dressing made from vegan mayo, red wine vinegar, agave syrup, salt and pepper.

Dinner was delicious and very satisfying. I ate one and a half peppers and a lot of salad. (Cabbage is very good for you! It prevents colon and breast cancer as well as being very good for your stomach! So if you have ulcers and stomach issues, eat your cabbage!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pizza Casserole!

After having pizza last night, I was reminded of Mo's pizza casserole that I was drooling over not too long ago. I had a bag of Trader Joe's brown rice pasta that I wanted to try. I've never had brown rice pasta before and decided to give it a chance because it's a much healthier alternative to white flour pasta. So there you go.

(And it's only $1.99 a bag!)

And on to the casserole.....

It has a lovely marinara sauce and Tofurky tomato & basil vegan sausage, black olives, capers, onions, garlic, spinach, mushrooms and soy cheese: ingredients that would naturally go on a pizza!

It was a little early for lunch so I only had a tiny tiny portion to taste. I sprinkled a little vegan "parmesan" on top. It was YUMMY!

And now for the recipe...

Sausage Pizza Casserole

1/2 lb. brown rice pasta
4 TB olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 14oz. can tomatoes
2 TB capers
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 tsp sugar
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
6 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
2 Tofurky Italian sausages, sliced
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup whole pitted black olives
1/2 cup shredded soy cheese

(You can find Tofurky sausage at Trader Joe's too.)

1. Make marinara sauce: Heat 2 TB oil in a small saucepan. Add half of the chopped cloves of garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add tomatoes, capers, italian seasoning, sugar and some salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and lower to simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. Make sausage/veggies: Heat 2 TB oil in another pan, add the other half of chopped garlic, the onion and saute until the onions are soft. Add the mushrooms, spinach and saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms get soft. Then add the sausage, fennel seed, sage, red pepper flakes and saute until the sausage gets browned. You may season with salt and pepper. Add the olives and cook for a few minutes. Add the marinara sauce and stir everything together. Let simmer while you prepare pasta.
3. Cook pasta according to directions on package. Drain and combine pasta with the marinara/sausage/veggies sauce. Add soy cheese if you like and stir into the pasta. You can actually serve it right away or you can pour it all into an oiled casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. This will melt the soy cheese just a little bit.

A note on the brown rice pasta: I liked it. I don't think it is much different from regular pasta. It cooks well and is nice soft and a little chewy. It worked very well for this recipe and I can see myself using this kind from now on.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Now that's what I call a dinner party!

We visited some very dear friends of ours today who gave us such a gracious and fantastic day and evening. We arrived there at lunchtime, gave the adorable kids Christmas presents, presented our hosts with baked goods (to be seen in yesterday's post) and fine liquor and sat down to a most delicious lunch. Our beautiful friend A made a complete vegan meal which was so very generous and kind. I felt very lucky to be partaking in a tasty spread of delicious stuffed cabbage leaves with rice and vegetables, olive hummus and chips, a bright and refreshing salad and Lutenica (a really gorgeous Bulgarian relish made of red peppers, garlic, tomatoes and other good things.) A also made homemade baklava which was seriously the best I've ever had. Husband and I couldn't stop eating them, they were that good. After many hours of conversation and drink (bourbon, beer, soda and plum brandy), A's husband ordered pizzas for dinner, including my favorite veggie style. It was beautiful and so very nice of him! A & I, if you are reading this, THANK YOU a million times, hugs and kisses and we owe you a nice dinner very soon!

Sorry for the absence of photos in this post. I so wish I had my camera to capture all the great food we ate!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pesto on Pizza and Baked Goodies.

Everytime I order a pizza delivery, I always always make a pesto sauce to dollop on top. It's so yummy and will probably always be the way I eat delivery pizza forever. Husband called me up from work and suggested pizzas for dinner. I said yes but then thought "Oh no! I have nothing to make pesto with!" No basil, no spinach... So I got creative with some edamame and cilantro. The result was lovely. I think this sauce will go really well with pasta.

Edamame Cilantro Lime Pesto

1/2 cup cooked edamame, shelled
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts
handful of cilantro leaves
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil or more
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process to desired consistency. Add more olive oil or water if you want a thinner pesto.

Tomorrow we are visiting some friends who we haven't seen for a while and I wanted to bring something for them for the holidays. I made Isa's Mocha Chip Muffins (but made them into a loaf) and also her Chocolate Chip Cookies. I haven't tried either of them yet as they are gifts but they are so beautiful. Check it out!

EDIT: I just sampled one of the cookies. OMG! Heaven....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I love my crockpot.

Crockpot's rule. I love that you can put a bunch of odds and ends in and you get something fantastic about 8 hours later. That's what I did this morning. I didn't necessarily have many fresh veg but I was still able to chuck in a bunch of frozen veg and come up with this easy vegetable and white bean soup.

I also made the 'Pepper Jack Uncheese' from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. This is a soft, mild tasting cheez with a hit of hot peppers. Very nice. I served it with seeded baguette slices.

Crockpot Vegetable Soup

2 TB olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14oz. can stewed tomatoes
4 cups water
1 14oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen green beans
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 tsp salt
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp all purpose seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)
2 TB soy sauce
fresh cracked black pepper

Saute onion, celery and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add them to the bottom of the crockpot. Add the rest of the ingredients, give it a stir and set it to LOW for 8 hours.
Option: To add some leafy greens to this soup, saute or steam some chopped chard or kale and add it at the end of the cooking time, right before serving.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Snobby Joes Take 2

I finally got around to making Snobby Joes once again. The first time I made them, I didn't have any burger buns so I had to use corn tortillas which were actually quite good. This time I had cracked wheat buns as well as a nice spinach, red pepper and cranberry salad with a strawberry balsamic vinaigrette. I had all the ingredients for a healthy meal. Protein? Check! Dark leafy greens? Check! Whole grains? Check! Antioxidants? Check! A very satisfying and tasty meal that took me back to my "Manwich" eating childhood.

Quick Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 tsp strawberry preserves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 tsp dijon mustard (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together. You may use less preserves if you want it less sweet.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Creamy Tomato Pasta

I have this really great cookbook called 'Pasta and Vegetables' that I got at a bargain bookshop for $1. It's filled with great vegetarian recipes utilizing vegetables in different ways and pairing them with pasta. Tonight's dinner was from this book. It's the "Creamy Tomato Blender Sauce" which was really easy to make and features lots of garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes from a can and soymilk. The recipe originally called for fat free milk but it was easily switched out to make the recipe vegan. I added a few handfuls of chopped and steamed swiss chard to give it some color as well as boost the nutrition content. This orangey pink sauce is thick, creamy, velvety smooth and delicious! The consistency of the sauce was very much like an alfredo sauce. You know, it's dishes like this that can shatter misconceptions about vegan food. It proves that animal free food is not bland or boring or a self punishing diet of plain vegetables. You can easily make tasty, comforting, indulgent food that you've always remembered, no problem. can get this book at Amazon merchants for as low as 1 cent!