(one of three, yup....only three, fireworks that went off in Key West during the new year celebration. what a tease but really beautiful as seen from the marina!)
Hey everyone. I can't believe how long it's been since last I posted! The holidays were great, if not traditionally crazy. Hope the new year is treating you all well! I know I made more food than you're about to see, but I think that lots of repeats make for a very dull blog. hehe. Here's a recap (and i promise not to disappear again any time soon ;):
During a pre-holiday gathering of friends, I made the ol' standby snack for us all...NACHOS! I just threw some Follow Your Heart laden organic corn chips in the oven then topped with everything i could find in the house...pinto beans, chopped tomato (marinated in red wine vinegar, oregano, and a bit of sugar, avacado, Zapata's Fire Roasted Salsa Verde, Toffuti Better'n Sour Cream, black olives, and red onion.
This lent itself nicely to a nacho bowl for lunch the next day wit h the leftover beans and fixings that never made it to the nachos ('cause, honestly? that was one HUGE pan of nachos we devoured in no time flat!).
(Mom, stop reading right here....I'll let ya know when it's safe to check back and catch up! ;) As Christmas presents this year, I decided to gift friends and family (with the exception of my family who I've yet to mail theirs to...we call it extending the celebration!) these adorable carryout boxes of vegan cookies.
Everyone always falls in love with the chocolate chip recipe that i found here, so i knew i'd be making those. I also saw many of you dive into Dreena's Chocolate Almond Explosion Cookies from Vive le Vegan, they looked so good that I had to try them as well.The dozens of cookies I baked this year were not without incident....I also had seen, on someone's blog (tho I cannot remember where), some candy cane chocolate chip cookies and thought it would be nice just to top off each box with one of those, being so festive. I broke out the hammer and went to town on the little candy canes I bought and happily mixed them into three batches of choc. chip cookie dough and put in the 'fridge to bake last. What I got? Wasn't pretty. One out of every dozen cookies looked like this
the rest? more like this
!! Granted, they still tasted amazing, but when you're giving out boxes with six cookies per box, you really want them to be pretty as well as yummy, no? This led to my moment of genius. I made Dreena's Choc. Almond Expl. cookies (have i mentioned yet how very much i LOVE these?!?!) but subbed peppermint extract for the almond and added some more choc. chips in the batter. I then added crushed candy canes only to the top just before baking. MUCH BETTER!With the cookies, I made up a cookbook of Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan's Greatest Found Recipes 2006. I only wish I'd thought to do this earlier in the year as it was a complete rush to get done at the last minute. i think I just may do this every year from now on, and look into getting bound books as I'll have more time. I'm also hoping that the Greatest Found part will, in time, change to a collection of my own vegan culinary creations! I will not, however, make that many cookies as gifts EVER. AGAIN. I found that, while I love cooking, baking is best, for me, done when I've just got one dessert to make at a time. 20 dozen cookies makes for a very crazed me. ;)
Sometime between cookie baking and Christmas I managed to whip up some of Susan's crustless mini quichesand my vegan caesar to take to a family dinner, both were a huge hit.
For Christmas Dinner, I brought along my Naked Tofu Marsala (which here, you see totally full of roasted brussel sprouts...MMMmmmmmmmm!), Vegan French Bread,
and (of course) my Caesar Salad. Everything was devoured and nothing makes me happier than that (well, 'cept maybe noticing that the nonvegan bread and cheese laden salad were left behind in the dust, woohoo!). I'm tellin ya, too.....all those people who turn their nose up at brussel sprouts? Watching them convert right before my very eyes is so satisfying.
Having made a ton of the quiches, I found a day or two later that, broken up, they make a great wrap filling (seen here with some leftover broccoli we had and some extra sauteed mushrooms. the quiches already had 'shrooms, onion, and red pepper in 'em).All that cooking and it was bound to lead to an Amy's burrito meal at some point. hehe. This one was extra yummy with fresh tomato, avacado, red onion, and more of that broccoli, black olive then topped with Zapata's Fire Roasted Salsa Verde). I'm thinking that I need to take a day per month and whip out some homemade burritos then freeze 'em. This would certainly be just as easy!
My sister in law is about to be married and came down to go wedding dress shopping in Orlando. The night before our big day out I warmed us up with some easy Lentil Curry. I used what we had on hand so the typical sweet potato was exchanged for some tiny yukons but the rest is my usual onion, lentil, cauliflower, can o' tomatoes, sea salt, and curry powder mix.
I love how, in one pot, you can just toss in all your ingredients, go get some stuff done, and come back to a truly wonderful meal. This and a green veggie and I'm in heaven!
For our venture out to find the perfect dress (which we totally did, and had the most AMAZING time doing it), I made sure to bring along Lara Bars and a quick tempeh salad I whipped up of poached tempeh, sunflower seeds, tamari, Vegannaise, fresh dill, chopped green onion, yellow bell pepper, shredded carrot, and salt and pepper.Packed with some wheat-free rye crackers, this was reeeeeally simple to make and sooo good to bring along.
For Christmas, a friend of Oh My Goddess Tempeh fame (thank you, Marlo!!!!) gifted me with the most AMAZING chocolates which are, conveniently, vegan.They're dark chocolate leaves with a minty sugar on one side which we've all agreed is formulated from crack. To have one is to eat the whole box. Marlo is an English and Drama teacher so I have to laugh when I look at this picture of a leaf and see a drama mask staring back at me.....see it?
After Christmas we were off to the Keys for New Years Eve.Our first night we were put up in this cool little bungalow type room, with a complete kitchen (a must for any vegan out in the world, if you can swing it. this always allows me to pack a bunch of food and cook the whole time we're there. Granted, I'm convinced the staple food item on the Island? RUM! hehe)and here is our cute bed upstairs, tho, even at five feet tall I nearly gave myself a concussion three times up here. I ended up being veeeery glad we had to move to the Marina resort for the remainder of our stay.For this trip I packed a bunch of fruit and nuts, along with leftover curry, the makings of a soba noodle salad, and a tofu scramble that's been my favorite lately:
heat olive oil in skillet, add chopped onion. Throw in crumbled tofu and add dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, tamari, salt, pepper, oregano, and thyme to taste. once that begins to brown, add sliced mushrooms and chopped broccoli. saute until broccoli is crisp tender, add shredded carrot and zucchini, saute just a min, plate and top with avacado.
I just packed it all up with some wraps and basically nuked it daily for breakfast, adding the zucchini and avacado after it was heated. I can never tire of this kind of breakfast, tho i am trying to have soy free days here and there, but breakfast out in the world (especially when you dont' want to fill up on bread type items) is near impossible to come by.
the soba salad was much enjoyed on our balcony overlooking the marina...it was like being on the deck of our own yacht, you know...without the plasma screen on deck or the dirty oil and exhaust in the water below.
our trip was nothing short of amazing. we had the absolute BEST time, the Cap'n and I, just relaxing and ambling around the island of Key West, enjoying the most tropical and gorgeous weather. I can't think of any better way to ring in the new year. We missed hanging out with our friends (we love to throw a party or two), but have plans to lug as many folks as we can down there with us next year. Such a magical place.
And I'm not kidding when I say that Rum should be added as a fifth food group down there. Whenever we go I seem to consume more rum in the form of Mojitos and my new favorite, Stumbling Sailors, than any one person should. Amazingly, I find myself hangover free while there. I figure it's a combination of the ocean air, tropical breezes, good vibes, and walking it all off as we seem to get lost or make a wrong turn at least three times daily during our visits. ;) To commemorate our good time we snagged this booty for the bar.
But home we had to come, to dreary skies...Once home, we were beat so we settled on a comforting bowl of whole wheat spaghetti with Amore Pesto Paste mixed with some olive oil, sundried tomatoes, and hempseed. Easy, check! Yummy, check! Filling, check!after a day or two of the back from vacation blues, tho, it was time to whip up something new in the kitchen. I've never made any kind of latkes in my life but the sweet potatoes in the pantry were calling my name one morning and these were born (with a side of apple heated with some EB in the iron skillet, with a little agave and cinnamon added.....mmmmmm)I just shredded one sweet potato, dried it out a bit in a dish towel, then added chopped green onion, cayenne pepper, egg replacer for two eggs, sea salt and some flour to bind better as the egg replacer wasn't really doin it. i dropped these little glops of the mix into heated sunflower oil in my iron skillet and impatiently waited for them to brown on each side (they smelled sooo good!). so easy and the cayenne really gave them a nice kick to match the sweetness of the potatoes. i'll definitely make these again but will try to be more patient and use less oil. Kitty liked the looks of 'em too.In a moment of unlikemeness (my own word, thank you ;) I picked up some Italian seasoned Tofurkey slices at the grocery store and enjoyed this easy lunch one day from their suggestion on the box. I toasted a sprouted wheat roll and added a bit of Vegannaise and dijon mustard, then topped the Tofurkey slices with sliced tomato, banana pepper, and butter lettuce.
While not my favorite thing in the world (I'm just not won over by fake deli meats, honestly), it was actually better than I anticipated. And, honestly? the convenience of just making a quick sandwhich was much appreciated after the holidays.
We had the amazing pleasure of hangin with our nephew recently and surprised him with a drip to Disney Quest in Orlando. If you've never been or haven't heard, DQ is a mecca of all things video games and virtual reality. For just over $30 you can spend an entire day playing everything inside (on all three floors!) totally free. I don't know about you, but there's little i find more fun to do on a dreary day then to find m'self immersed in game after game of Donkey Kong, Galaga, Frogger, Pac Man, Air Hockey, Trivia games, Driving Games, and Virutal Reality games where you can fight alien villians with light swords or hop onto the floating deck of your own Pirate Ship and use cannons to sink other ships and ward off evil skeleton ghosts. SOOOO MUCH FUN! But the more blogworthy part was my lunch...it was vegan!
A really delicious wrap of spicy rice, beans, cilantro (cilantro!!), corn and salsa. typically it comes with some sort of meat but i just had them leave it out. It was nice to have something substantial to eat during our break from all the gaming. hehe.
I end this unbelievably long post with two of my new favorite things from one of my most beloved Christmas presents, the Vegan Planet cookbook (thank you Lee and Ashley!). Does anybody else just LOVE Thai coconut soup but not want to bother with the exotic ingredients every recipe you come across seems to call for? Robin Robertson promised to deliver that same outstanding flavor with nothing but typical vegan staples....and boy does she with this one! Behold, Thai Style Coconut SoupWhat you can't see is the cubes of tofu and mounds of mushrooms and shallots that just soak up the flavor I've been craving ever since I became vegan. (our favorite Thai place uses shrimp paste in their curries so I don't go there nearly as much as we used to). You could add other veggies if you choose, but I think the simplicity of the way she's created it really allows the flavor to stand out.
I served this with our much beloved veggie rice paper wraps with spicy peanut sauce. what an amazing, healthy, and tasty meal! I even made my own veggie stock (using her recipe) for the soup, something I always put off but wanted to do. sooo easy! I'll never use store bought stock again!!!!
the other new favorite thing from this cookbook (ok, so maybe it's the only other thing i've tried yet, but wow. i'm won over already) is her Tuna Free Sandwich Filling.
I've been putting spoonfuls of it on wrap pcs like above as snacks when i'm hungry throughout the day. I love that there's no soy in it like most mock fillings. This uses Chickpeas and blanched almonds with some Vegannaise, scallions, celery, lemon juice, and Kelp powder to create a really tasty filling. I find that it's best to make it a day ahead as it just gets better and better the more you let the chickpeas and almonds soak up the flavor and get a little softer, and it all comes together beautifully.
whew! tired of me yet? and I didn't even get to the breadmaker or chef's knife that the Cap'n got me for xmas! I'll just leave those for the next post...which I promise won't take another month to get to. ;)
Hope this finds everyone happy and well! Happiest New Year! and yes, we cinched our good fortune for the new year by having some black eyed-peas 'n greens on new year's day. cannot get enough of this one...just saute onion and garlic, add beans and greens, splash in some balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and YUM, soo good!
Oh, and thanks for all the comments on my last entry. That first shot was not, as it looks, some acrobatic act of a veeery vertically challenged vegan but taken from the extended arm of her very tall husband (he's 6'4"). hehe.