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! :)

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