Archive | February, 2010

Calgon, take me away!

27 Feb

I remember a TV commercial from my childhood where a woman who’s had a tough day says, “Calgon, take me away!” as she slips into a nice, hot bubble bath.

My Calgon? A cup of steaming, hot coffee and biscotti. Could there possibly be a yummier way to end a day? (Only if the coffee is a grande Starbucks soy latte!).

I generally make biscotti at the holidays, the family campout, and when my sister-in-law is coming up for a visit. I haven’t had any since New Year’s Day, so I’ve been craving them. My usual recipe uses eggs so I started working on a vegan recipe. Below is what I came up with and, I have to admit, they are delicious. My mother-in-law, sister-in-law and I all indulged in one this evening when they were here hanging out with me and the kids.

Dunked in coffee, they can definitely take all your cares away.

ALMOND JOY BISCOTTI
makes about 18 biscotti

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup chopped, toasted almonds
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (regular chocolate chips if you aren’t vegan)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the flours, almonds, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix together the sugar, applesauce, oil, and extracts. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well blended. Dust your hands with flour, then roll the dough into a ball. Shape into a log, approximately 2” wide by 11” long. Flatten the top so the log is about 3/4” thick.

Place the log on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Lower the oven to 300 degrees. Carefully slice the log, on a diagonal, into 1/2” wide slices. Remove the parchment paper from the baking sheet and put the slices back on, standing upright. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until light brown on the bottom. Cool on a rack.

Melt the chocolate chips in a flat-bottomed bowl that is wider than the length of the biscotti. Dip the bottom of each slice into the melted chocolate and place onto a sheet of wax paper. Cool completely. Brew some coffee and enjoy!

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Take that, you freezing cold weather!

24 Feb

I hate being cold. Hate. It. And I'm so sick of winter. Don't get me wrong — I love how beautiful my backyard is when the snow rests on the branches of all the bare trees, and our two acres is covered in a blanket of white. It's stunning. But, honestly, a month of winter would be great and then let's just move into spring. I'm always cold and I'm just tired of it. 

Yesterday I had a visit with my awesome chiropractor for an adjustment. We always talk about my blood pressure and how it's going. I told him I've basically been stuck at about 150/100 forever. I'm frustrated and I don't know what to do next or how long to keep trying to get it down with diet. He reassured me that I'm doing everything right and it just takes time. He also told me that it might just be a result of vasoconstriction. Ever hear of that? 
Our bodies use vasoconstriction and vasodilation to regulate core body temperature. Vasodilation is when the blood vessels in our arms and legs dilate, allowing more blood to flow to these tissues, cooling the body. Vasoconstriction is when blood vessels in the arms and legs constrict, preventing blood flow to certain tissues. Why would we want to limit blood flow through our extremities?
Have you ever noticed how your fingers feel thinner on cold-weather days? Vasoconstriction. The central nervous system constricts blood flow to our extremities to prevent cold blood from returning to your core, causing a rapid drop in body temperature. As soon as the vessels in your extremities are constricted, a large amount of blood is forced into your core — causing a rapid increase in blood pressure!
Doc said give it another month or two and see if it starts to drop once the weather breaks. It's possible my BP isn't ready to come down because of the cold weather. Interesting stuff.
While I'm waiting for spring, I'm fighting this freezing cold weather with yummy, warm soups. This is a cannellini bean soup with a taste of Tuscany. It has garlic in it, which is known to help lower blood pressure. It started as a recipe from Food Network. Last fall, I modified it quite a bit to our tastes. Yesterday, I veganized it. So, I'm considering it mine. It's fabulous, filling and very satisfying. Great with a panini!
ZUPPA DI FAGIOLI BIANCHI 
makes 6 servings
Croutons:
4 slices of thick whole wheat bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
oregano, garlic powder, black pepper and salt substitute
Soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (15 oz) cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed separately
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
4 cups vegetable broth (homemade or low sodium, if you can find it)
1/2 cup plain almond milk
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
salt substitute to taste
fresh parsley, minced for garnish
Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons olive oil with a few good dashes of oregano, garlic powder, black pepper and salt substitute. Brush this on both sides of the bread. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet (spray with nonstick cooking spray or use parchment paper). Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Place a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 can of beans, oregano, sage and garlic. Add the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes. 
Whisk together the almond milk and cornstarch and set aside.
Pour the soup in a large non-plastic bowl. Carefully ladle about a cup of soup into a blender. Place your hand on the lid and puree. Put the pureed soup back into the pot. Continue pureeing the rest of the soup in small batches and returning to the pot. 
Slowly whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Simmer until soup is thickened. Stir in the remaining can of beans and salt substitute to taste, and heat through. Ladle into soup bowls and top with croutons and fresh parsley. Enjoy!
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“It’s better than I expected.”

22 Feb

Yep — that was hubby's actual comment after trying the vegan brats that I grilled for dinner. We topped them with kraut, sauteed peppers and onions, and mustard. He thought the texture was very similar to a grilled meat brat and liked the taste. The only negative comment he said was that he missed that "crunch" you hear when you bite into a meat brat (the casing), but other than that, it passed his inspection! 

I, on the other hand, thought it was a tiny bit dry. I'm going to have to experiment with them a little more so I can get them perfect. I don't know if they need more oil in them, if I need to cut down on the steam time, or what. Not sure.

For these, I took Vegan Dad's recipe (see previous post) for vegan Italian sausage and modified all the seasonings, because I couldn't find a vegan brat recipe online. Then I stumbled across one on his blog this morning that's totally different from his Italian sausage one. So, before I post the recipe for these little grillin' treats, I'm going to work on my recipe and also try his recipe to see if it's better. So stay tuned for a brat recipe…I promise it will be posted before the summer cookout season starts!
Below is the picture I took of my dinner tonight. (And people think vegans don't eat anything yummy!) Since I'm not yet ready to post a vegan brat recipe, I'm going to give you this delicious slaw/salad recipe my mom and I sort of invented. We had lunch one day in a tea house and they served a delicious little salad with lunch. Mom and I dissected it and came up with a recipe that's pretty similar. If you want it to be more like a salad, use the Romaine lettuce. If you want it to be more like a slaw, use only cole slaw mix.
TOTAL CRUNCH SALAD
serves 6
1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
10 grape tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup fresh broccoli, cut into tiny pieces
1/4 cup fresh cauliflower, cut into tiny pieces
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted OR roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1 granny smith apple, diced small
4 cups bagged cole slaw mix OR 
     2 cups bagged cole slaw mix + 2 cups Romaine lettuce, sliced thin
In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar together. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, put a big spoonful of the dressing. Add the cole slaw/lettuce and toss well. Add the remaining ingredients, drizzle more dressing on top, and toss together. Continue adding dressing and tossing until it's to your liking. I use the whole dressing recipe, but you may like your slaw less-dressed. Refrigerate until serving. Enjoy!
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In the mood for brats.

21 Feb

No, I'm not talking about my children, although they do fit that description some days!
I'm talking brats — those tasty grilled sausages that are a staple of summer cookouts and Super Bowl parties. Unfortunately, store-bought brats are far from healthy. The average pork or beef brat has 300 calories, 15g of protein, 25 grams of fat and 700mg of sodium! 
I couldn't find a vegan brat recipe, but I found a recipe online for vegan sausages and it had a ton of good reviews so I decided to give it a try today.  I made the recipe exactly as written and the reviewers were right — these are really good. The texture is "freakishly sausage-like," as the author states. The end result is very much like Italian turkey sausage. I say "turkey" because it wasn't as greasy as a pork sausage. Even Madison thought it tasted just like "the sausage in our Thanksgiving stuffing" — which I make with Italian turkey sausage. She liked it. Brady tried a bite, too, and said it tasted just like sausage only too spicy for him (it has crushed red pepper flakes in it).
Besides being yummy, these are healthy! The recipe makes 6 bun-length sausages and each link has 164 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 23 grams of protein and 278mg of sodium. And if that's not enough to convince you, making them with this recipe came to about $3 per pound. Not bad.
Here's the original recipe:

http://vegandad.blogspot.com/2008/03/homemade-sausages.html

The next time I make this version I'm going to increase the oregano and black pepper. I thought it needed more. I might also add a dash of salt substitute. Another note: if you follow his directions, he says to get your steaming apparatus ready and bring the water to a full boil first because the rest of the recipe comes together quickly. He's right — the recipe does come together quickly, but rolling them into links isn't as easy as it sounds. After 10 minutes of measuring ingredients and mixing, it took me a good 15 minutes to get them shaped right and rolled in foil. By then, my boiling water was almost gone. My advice would be to mix everything together and then bring the water to a boil while you roll and wrap the links. Also, you need to steam them for 30-40 minutes, so make sure you have plenty of water in your pot so it doesn't boil away before you're done steaming.
After the success of this recipe, I decided to try making beer brats from scratch with no meat. I started with the above recipe, but changed all the seasonings to ones more typical of brats (thanks, Mom, for looking that up for me!). Then I used a couple cans of beer to steam them with. They look pretty good, but the true test will be tomorrow night. I'm planning on grilling a couple for dinner when Jason gets home from his guys' camping weekend. I'm going to top them with kraut, grilled onions and peppers, and all the usual toppings. If it passes the "hubby test," I'll post the recipe tomorrow.

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Life is So Delicious.

20 Feb

Just home from an afternoon/evening of “health food” shopping. I stopped into the Phoenix Earth Food Co-op in Toledo to see what vegan goodies I could find. Pretty much the same things as the other health food stores in Toledo. I will definitely go back, though. The people there are very nice and helpful.

Then, I picked the kids up from school and headed straight up to Ann Arbor for some shopping at Whole Foods. I haven’t been there in a couple of years. I had forgotten how overwhelming it is. Everything there is beautiful, fresh and fabulous looking — and you wish you could just buy everything. The kids were amazed and intrigued and excited about picking out some healthy treats to take home. Plus, they had “tasters” all over the store, a child’s dream.

My goal was to put together a list of things I would regularly buy there and try to go maybe every other month for a big trip. It didn’t quite go that way.

I did not buy meat, cheese or produce (except for a pomegranate). I can get all of those things locally and support the businesses here. I also didn’t see anything I absolutely had to have, or the things I was interested in were too expensive. So what did I get? Mostly stuff the kids had to have!

Some yummy Orange/Peach/Mango juice, almond milk (on sale), 2 bags of chips, 2 boxes of NutThins crackers (on sale), some dairy-free ice cream sandwiches, coconut freezer bars (which I assumed were dairy free and they aren’t…you know what they say about assuming!), 2 new flavors of Izze, a pomegranate (kids choice), organic cheesy crackers, a bag of non-dairy cheese (not pictured), and a 4-pack of vegan chipotle “sausage” that was much cheaper than I’ve seen anywhere in Toledo. I also let the kids pick stuff from the bulk bins (not pictured). We came home with yogurt-covered raisins, organic chocolate malt balls, figs, and instant black bean dip. But my favorite of all the items here is the coffee creamer. It’s non-dairy and it’s not soy! It’s made from coconut milk and it is SO DELICIOUS. Yes, they definitely named the product right. I bought the regular flavored one at The Phoenix in Toledo, but Whole Foods had it in French Vanilla, so I bought two of them!

All-in-all a fun trip despite being mostly treats. The bad news is I spent $80 and I don’t think I bought anything I can use for dinner this week, yet I spent most of my weekly food budget. This week’s meals will just have to come from things in the freezer and pantry and I’ll spend the rest of my budget on fruits and vegetables.

For now, I’m off to get kids to bed and collapse in the recliner with a cup of decaf and my latest library books, Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.

For more info on So Delicious products, check out:
http://www.turtlemountain.com
http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/2009/06/so-delicious-refrigerated-coconut-milks/

Blue Skies!

18 Feb

I'm please to announce that in the dead of winter…we have blue skies today! I'm taking full advantage and going for a walk outside in a few minutes. It's absolutely beautiful even though everything is still covered in piles of snow.

Lunch today will be some kind of leftovers and dinner tonight will be…well..a challenge. I'm receiving recognition tonight from my children's school PTA for the re-design of most of the PTA's publications. It's been a fun way to put my graphic design skills to use while promoting my kids' school activities.
The down part of this is that the banquet this evening includes dinner and you have a choice of chicken or beef. Since most vegetarian entrees at events like this are lasagna or some other cheese-laden pasta dish, I'm not going to bother requesting one. I'm going to eat something before we go and then eat only side dishes at the banquet. Oh, and try to steer clear of the desserts!
Wish me luck…and get out and enjoy the blue skies if they happen to be in your neighborhood!

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Jelly Donut Muffins.

17 Feb

One of my favorite things in February is paczki. You know…those yummy jelly- or cream-filled donuts you get on Fat Tuesday every year. LOVE THEM. I don't work in an office, so I enjoy a donut only about once a year. Unfortunately, they are made of all kinds of things your body just doesn't need and they are certainly not vegan.

In honor of Fat Tuesday and my new way of eating, I decided yesterday to make this recipe I found in Veganomicon, a vegan cookbook. Do they taste like a jelly donut? Not really. Are they fabulous? YES! They are more dense than a paczki…kind of cake like. I filled half of them with apricot 100% fruit spread and half of them with apple butter. Needless to say, they went like hotcakes!

FAT TUESDAY JELLY MUFFINS
makes 12 muffins
1 cup plain almond milk or unsweetened soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1.5 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
about 1/3 cup raspberry jam or other flavor jelly
confectioners' sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. Do not attempt to make these without the cupcake liners, which is what I did. I sprayed my pan with nonstick cooking spray and most of them stuck to the bottom.
Mix together the "milk", apple cider vinegar and cornstarch. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Create a well in the center of the flour to pour the wet ingredients into.
Stir the "milk" mixture with a fork to dissolve cornstarch then pour into the flour well. Add the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Stir until well combined. 
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Place a heaping teaspoon of jelly on the center of each cupcake. While it's baking, the muffin will puff up around the jelly so it ends up in the center of the muffin. Bake for 21-23 minutes. The tops should be firm to the touch. 
Remove from oven and cool completely on wire racks. Leave uncovered overnight so they get a little crispy. Sift powdered sugar over the tops. Enjoy!

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