Sunday, January 30, 2011

sometimes it's time for takeout.

Sometimes I have a really long shift, or a string of longer days working. Today wasn't really one of those days. I just knew that I didn't feel like cooking. I have plenty of quick go-to recipes for these cases, but they involve a little time, including waiting and prepping, and of course dishes. I just wasn't having any of that. I didn't eat much at work (I brought leftover jambalaya that wasn't working out very well) a cliff builders bar, 2 clementines, and a yogurt, and from 10-630, that's just not a great amount of food.

I absolutely love thai food. I have had very few bad experiences. It is flavorful, clean, and always bold. Service is generally very good, and takeout is fast. I love that the menu always has vegan options that are varied. That being said, drunken noodles are my favorite. I love the feeling of eating something so spicy that it knocks your socks off.


How does that not look delicious?! :)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

cooking up a storm! [cookbook club #2 & #3]

We've recently experienced "thundersnow" here in the DC area and I have been enjoying my break at home since Wednesday afternoon. Classes were canceled Thursday, and although I worked Friday and Thursday night, I definitely earned this great break.

I also had a phenomenal massage and facial Wednesday afternoon! I received a gift certificate from my parents for a massage and added on the facial. I had my services done at a wellness studio and my therapist had all sorts of certifications in relation to nutrition as well. She explained to me how your face is a mirror of what happens on the inside and commented on how my vegan diet might be a result of my skin tightening and increase in acne. Of course, she made it clear she was only one opinion, but she gave me some great advice and new information. She let me know that it also indicated I may be short on a few trace minerals and suggested altering my diet and noticing new changes in my face.

Last week I received The Happy Herbivore Cookbook and it This is vegan cooking simplified. The recipes are easy, require few steps, are completed in minimal time, and utilize inexpensive ingredients that you often have on hand for great flavors. I highly recommend it! I have made at least 5 recipes already and stand behind this cookbook 100%.

That being said, I took advantage of this break to begin cooking up a storm! I made many HH recipes, but I'll feature the ones I made from Veganomicon for the recipe review.

Turn to page 194 (if you haven't already). "Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping". Were more beautiful words ever assembled together? I love baked ziti. As an omni, I made Rachael Ray's recipe many times. She combined ziti noodles with a savory tomato sauce and a creamy bechamel sauce in layers and topped it with cheeses to broil, and it was quite amazing. I'm not a big fan of fake cheeses, so I have yet to veganize the recipe, although I know a great cashew cream could stand in for the bechamel. Speaking of which, the Cashew Ricotta is the cream of choice for Vcon's recipe.

I'll continue to say that this recipe was slightly difficult. It was fairly time consuming, involves several steps, but was completely worth all of the effort. I considered not making the homemade breadcrumbs, but the footnote describing how extraordinary they are assured me they were worth the effort -- and they are. They add the perfect crunch and texture to a creamy pasta dish. I think the sage, white pepper, and cayenne work beautifully together. I would have added a little more cayenne than I had originally to strengthen the flavors next time, although the recipe says "to taste". I served it aside a simple salad and had difficulty resisting a third serving. It wasn't the best recipe when re-heated as leftovers, but it was still worth it. This is an absolute MUST have.

Yesterday I made the mashed potatoes. I omitted the earth balance in exchange for a little more unsweetened almond milk and had great results. I've been trying to reduce the amount of EB in my diet, and didn't miss it one bit. They were creamy and the perfect comfort food I craved...probably because I topped them with the Jalapeno-Corn Gravy! The gravy had the perfect kick. It was easy and came together in about 15 minutes. Simply preparing the ingredients, blending them together, and pouring them over mashed potatoes was simple. I had it with a side of steamed beans and greens to balance things out a little bit, although that was barely necessary seeing as there wasn't any significant fat or calories in the gravy. How perfect! :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

seitan for a chance! [cooking club entry #1]

This meal should have taken a little less, according to the cooking directions. Probably closer to 2 1/2 hours. I'm not a slow cook by any means. If something isn't coming around, I turn up the heat and watch it closely to make sure it doesn't burn. I prep ingredients in advance. I pour and measure in advance. That being said, this is the first of many entries for the cooking club I joined!

If you're vegan, you've heard of this book. I've referred to it as "the bible". It definitely redefines the term "ultimate" as it is truly comprehensive in terms of cooking and preparing so many essential vegan items, as well as assembling them into a plethora of intriguing recipes separated into many different sections.

All of that being said, I didn't even suggest "Vcon" as one of my preferences for the cookbook club. I've made about 10 recipes form this cookbook in the 1 year + 1 month I have owned this book (I received it last year for Christmakkuh from a friend that had no idea it was so well renowned by the vegan community). I have enjoyed many of them. But this book is a staple in the community. There are so many books I have heard of (or even OWN) that I have made so few recipes from and really need an extra push to delve into them. OH WELL! Here's hoping I get pushed into some of the other books I have (or have even been considering purchasing -- DANGEROUS GROUND for me as I am someone that has a problem with buying cookbooks!)

Yes, a picture will come up here eventually. I have a camera, but I have yet to watch the tutorial on how to upload pictures onto my desktop (something I seldom use as it is).  More to come on that later.

This week I decided to give seitan a chance. I just googled an image to put above this paragraph and was disgusted. I've never liked this form of fake meat. I thoroughly enjoy tofu. I appreciate many frozen prepared meals made with TVP or soy isolate protein (read: 'chickn' nuggets/patties, etc.) and use them when I am short on time, although with so many odd ingredients I definitely don't make it a hobby.  At any rate, I wanted to embrace the challenge of joining a cookbook club by adding onto it with another challenge: getting over seitan. It has been enjoyed by so many in the vegan community that I feel like I could give it a chance. Whenever I have seen it in a recipe or menu item, I do without it (namely pho at vietnamese restaurants). I don't enjoy the taste, I think it's really bland. I don't want the texture, I know the chewiness is just so fake and I find it off-putting.

But I knew I should at least TRY and get over it. So I delved into Vcon to find some recipes that might explore this foreign food (I remembered it being rich with seitan-y recipes) and made "Seitanic Jambalaya" tonight. I enjoyed jambalaya as an omnivore -- it has so many deep flavors with the vegetables, tomato base, and the meat and seafood flavors. I was intrigued how it would translate as a vegan dish. I even made it a few months ago, well "Jumble-aya" from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan, a much more simplified version, and it was delicious and simple. I am going to start out by saying that this recipe was a lot more complicated than that one, but the flavor was definitely deeper. Red wine bolstered the flavors. The crispy bits of browned seitan really add flavor. But I still don't like seitan. I mushed it into the rest of the jambalaya and chewed my way through the bowl. I didn't even finish it, and I almost always finish my food. I might have to slice the seitan into very thin strips and brown it on all sides next time I prepare it.

Still, this dish took almost 3 hours. Making the seitan was a process unto itself. You could buy it pre-packaged, but that looks so disgusting. It is time consuming. While it boiled away, I prepped all my veg. It was somewhat therapeutic. I watched several episodes of Season 3 of ER today! At any rate, it all came together, except the rice never cooking. I used brown basmati rice, a choice selection in my household, and knew it would take the recommended 40-45 minutes for brown rice, but it definitely took an hour, and not every bite of rice is completely cooked. Kind of unsettling, but I'll get over it. Overall, some nice complex flavors that developed well, but the seitan was disappointing for me, and sort-of let the whole dish down with it. A bummer for me :(

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

and in the morning, i'm making waffles!

i went to bed last night thinking i would make it into the gym this morning. that didn't happen. i might make it in tonight, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. i was craving waffles like no other this morning! i threw together isa's old-fashioned chelsea waffles from vegan brunch and added CHOCOLATE CHIPS. isn't everything better with chocolate chips?

today was my day off, so i did plenty of laundry and got a lot of relaxation time in. caught up on my DVR, cleaned up the kitchen, overall not a bad day! :)