Archive | April, 2010

Breakfast scramble…

29 Apr

Do you tofu? I do, occasionally. It's not at the top of my list of favorites, but I have prepared it few times where I actually enjoyed it. 

One of the few things I've kind of missed as a vegan is eggs. Not that I was ever a big egg eater (once in a while on the weekend and the occasional deviled egg), but I do like making omelets and they are a great quick-prep dinner. Yesterday was one of those days where you never stop running until it's dinner time. So when we got home from the chiropractor at 6 p.m., with no dinner in progress, I turned to eggs. The kids wanted fried eggs and Jason wanted an omelet. I decided to try a breakfast scramble made with tofu. A recipe or two for Tofu Scramble appears in just about every vegan cookbook, so I thought I'd go for it. 
I looked up a couple of different recipes and they're all basically the same. Tofu + sauteed veggies + seasonings. I had leftover grilled mushrooms from the night before, so I sauteed onions and bell pepper slices and then tossed in the grilled mushrooms to heat through. I set those aside while I "scrambled" the tofu in a separate small skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray. I used firm (not silken) tofu that had been pressed to get the water out. Then I just sort of crumbled it into the skillet like feta cheese. I added a dash of turmeric to give it a nice scrambled egg color and cooked it until heated through. The vegetables went in next, along with some salt substitute and freshly-ground black pepper. I "scrambled" it all together and then topped it with vegan provolone cheese.
Honestly, for a first attempt, it was pretty good! It had the same texture as scrambled eggs. Next time, I would season it with other herbs, like thyme or tarragon, and maybe some fresh parsley. Jason and the kids gave it a "not bad!"
Along side, I decided to saute an Yves brand vegan Italian sausage link in a little olive oil. (Yes, I know…kind of a "processed" meal and probably not very low on the sodium…but, a nice treat!) It was delicious and passed the hubby/kid test with four thumbs up. Brady even asked for more, but I had already eaten the whole thing! I had sliced it very thinly on the diagonal and it got a little crispy in the pan, which actually gave it a Canadian bacon sort of flavor and texture. Next time, I'm going to slice it lengthwise and see if it ends up similar to a strip of bacon.
So, the moral of the story? Never fear trying new things. You just might end up pleasantly surprised!

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Cub Scout Camp with Brady!

25 Apr
In my opinion, the only hard thing about being vegan is eating at a place where you have no control over your meal.
I'm just home from a fun Mom & Me Overnight Cub Scout Camp with Brady. It started yesterday at 8 a.m. and ended today at 9 a.m. and was filled with activities made just for boys!
Though I didn't expect there to be a vegan meal available, I did expect there to be fruits and vegetables I could eat. I packed a bag of almonds so I could guarantee myself some protein, but I never expected to be fed a meal that I couldn't even modify to make it work for me.
Our first meal at camp was lunch yesterday. After a morning of activities, I was famished. We got to lunch and were presented with…hamburgers, hotdogs, macaroni salad (swimming in mayo), sour cream & chive potato chips and cookies. Nothing vegan but the bun and the burger toppings. Even the potato chips had dairy ingredients! With no other choice, I took a bun (white, yuck!) and topped it with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard. I threw two more pickles on as a side dish. That's it. And the drink options? Water or fruit punch drink. Not a piece of fruit in sight. I ate my "sandwich" and then we headed to the little gift shop where I picked up a small, expensive bag of trail mix and ate it on the way to the next activity.
Dinner was a slight improvement…spaghetti and choice of sauce with or without meat, salad and dinner roll. It wasn't bad. Drinks? Water or fruit punch drink, again. Not a piece of fruit in sight. (I was so hungry by then that I ate the whole thing before I realized I hadn't taken a picture.)
Bedtime snack was the almonds I had packed and a can of lemonade from the vending machine. There was no running water in our cabin.
This morning's breakfast was the worst case scenario for me…pancakes, sausage, milk, OJ and coffee (not decaf). Not one thing I could eat. Not a piece of fruit in sight. I had a cup of orange juice. Luckily, we headed home after breakfast. I snacked on my almonds in the car and arrived home ready for a real breakfast.
Okay, lesson learned! I had assumed there would be some fruit, maybe a few vegs, and peanut butter for those kids who didn't like the meal being served. So much for assuming. Next year I'll be taking a small cooler with drinks, vegan cheese slices, peanut butter and apples.  
The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, and I wasn't. But we had a great time together, and you know what? I survived. Next year, I'll be prepared. All that matters in the end is the smile on this adorable face. Love you, buddy! 

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Know where your meat comes from.

23 Apr

No, I haven’t gone back to eating meat. But my husband and kids aren’t vegan, and I’m okay with that. It’s a personal choice. But, I’ve learned so much about the meat industry that I will never purchase grocery store meat again. My mission for April was to locate a local farm where animals are treated kindly and raised humanely and safely. A farm that doesn’t harm the environment.

I found one. It’s in Grand Rapids, Ohio, about 45 minutes from our house. Yesterday after school, we packed a picnic lunch and headed toward Grand Rapids. We stopped at Farnsworth Metropark and enjoyed a picnic dinner on the edge of the Maumee River. It was a beautiful location with ducks, geese and fishermen wading through the waters. The kids enjoyed the sights and eating dinner outside.

Afterward, we packed up and continued on to the farm. As we turned on the road, we could see the farmer moving the cattle from one location in the pasture to another. They are moved every 24 hours to a new area so they can enjoy grazing on fresh grass while fertilizing the soil. There were two moveable egg laying structures with moveable fence to house the chickens. These are also moved regularly so the chickens have fresh ground to peck around in.

We were free to roam through the pasture and check it all out. The hens were very clean and healthy looking. They were happily pecking away at our pant legs and squawking at us as we visited with them. And the cattle just stared at us with interest.

We walked back up to one of the barns with the farmer and discovered a pile of eggs a wandering hen had left in a tight spot. Logan was allowed to climb into the space and collect the eggs. Because he didn’t know how long they had been there, the farmer asked the kids if they’d like to feed the eggs to his two pigs. Silly question! They were jumping around with excitement as we headed to the pig pen. He lifted each of the kids in and let them feed them the eggs, some apples and pet them if they wanted. What happy faces — on both the kids and the pigs!

We chatted a while longer and then went into the house to wash up and place a deposit on a split side of beef. They’ll let us know when it’s all ready to be picked up and packed into our freezer.

So refreshing to know where our food is coming from. And to know that there are people out there who truly believe in farming the old-fashioned way.

It never hurts to try new things.

22 Apr

One of the things we taught our kids as toddlers was that they needed to try new foods when offered to them. They didn't have to finish eating something if they truly didn't like it, but they still had to try. This has been our rule all along and they now actually look forward to trying new things, even 5-year-old Logan.

I had to drag, umm…I mean take, my kids with me to the store yesterday after school because I didn't have time to go without them during the day. While wandering through the produce department, they came across several fruits they had never seen before. I told them they could pick whichever one they could all agree they wanted to try. They decided on a Kiwano Melon, also known as a horny melon. It's about the size of a pear and is covered in spikes. We picked one that had a slight softness to it, assuming that would mean it was ripe.
I decided to cut it up for dinner. When I cut it in half, it was filled with little seeds and what looked like green Jello. I immediately got online and searched it, because I had no idea how to eat it! Apparently, you cut it in half and sort of slurp and suck this juicy green part out. The seeds are edible and have very little flavor. Then you discard the rind and what's left of the inside. 
We all gave it a try. At first slurp, it has a mild sort of kiwi/banana flavor. The texture is very much like Jello, only more slippery. All three kids agreed it was interesting and they kind of liked it, but not something they would eat regularly. I suppose if you could come up with a better way to eat it (i.e., make it into a smoothie or salad dressing or something), then they'd be all over it. 
In the end, we tried something new, liked it and benefitted from the nutrients in it. And I'm proud that I have raised kids who aren't afraid to try new foods. They're awesome.

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Not your grandma’s Brussels sprouts.

20 Apr

I'm not talking specifically about my grandma's Brussels sprouts — I'm talking about Brussels sprouts in general. The mushy, overcooked kind that seem to be a holiday dinner staple. I've never liked them. I think they're just steamed for so long that they end up bitter tasting. I'm sure I'm not the only person who would choose absolutely any other vegetable over Brussels sprouts.

That's sad, too, because Brussels sprouts are so good for you. Like most vegetables, they are low in calories and fat, and rich in vitamins A and C. They are loaded with calcium — which does more than just build strong bones. Research shows that calcium is an important mineral in controlling high blood pressure. In addition, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of potassium, which has also been linked to blood pressure control.
But here's the best part for those eating a plant-based diet: Brussels sprouts are high in protein. More than one-fourth of their calories come from protein. Eating Brussels sprouts with a whole grain, like brown rice, makes for a complete protein (and a great plant-based meal!).

While grocery shopping the other day, I came across a small package of Brussels sprouts sporting a clearance sticker. I don't think I've ever purchased Brussels sprouts before, but I'm a sucker for a mark-down, so I bought them. Hmmm…now what to do with them. I remember my good friend, Gene, telling me some time ago that he's had success sauteing them in olive oil. I started experimenting and here's what I came up with. They are surprisingly delicious!
NOT-YOUR-GRANDMA'S BRUSSELS SPROUTS
serves 4
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, halved
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter
salt substitute and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
In a large saute pan or skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts and saute until just starting to brown. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove lid and stir in garlic and vegan butter. Continue to saute (uncovered) until garlic is softened and Brussels sprouts are tender and lightly browned, but not overcooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and enjoy!
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A new twist on tacos!

19 Apr

We had a busy week last week with my mom in town. Plus, Madison performed in 6 shows of Rapunzel, which basically consumed Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Still, I managed to walk all but one day and eat just the way I need to for my blood pressure, thanks to some advance planning. Planning your dinners for the week on Sunday night and shopping on Monday makes the whole process of cooking dinner less stressful and that's important for controlling blood pressure!

When my mom came up from North Carolina last week, she brought a big envelope of vegan and vegetarian recipes that she had torn out of various magazines for me. Tonight I decided to try one from Eating Well magazine. We love Mexican food, so this one intrigued me — Bean and Butternut Tacos. Sounds like an odd combination, doesn't it? Well, all five of us agreed I should definitely make them again. They were tasty!
I made some small changes to the recipe: 
I used a few good dashes of chili powder instead of the small dried red chiles in the recipe.
I used pinto beans and black beans instead of just pinto beans. 
I used store-bought fresh salsa instead of making the green salsa in the recipe.
Also, the recipe calls for only 1/2 cup of shredded cabbage for 8 tacos. That's 1 tablespoon per taco — definitely not enough! I combined about a cup of shredded cabbage with a cup of shredded lettuce, two chopped green onions, and the cilantro (in the recipe) and everyone had about 1/4 cup of this on each taco. Jason and the kids ate theirs with the feta cheese, per the recipe. I just left it off of mine. (Someday, I'll be brave enough to try making the tofu version of feta cheese!)
Here's the link to the original recipe: 
It's not your typical taco, but it's a wonderful change of pace. Serve it with a side of sweet corn and fresh strawberries for a simple dinner.
For dessert, we had this delicious vegan ice cream from Trader Joe's. It is to die for!

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“This is delicious!”

15 Apr

Those are the exact words out of my 8-year-old's mouth as he ate his vegan lasagna last night for dinner. My kids are big-time lasagna lovers (that's the Italian in them!). Actually, they like anything made with pasta.

So a few nights ago at dinner, Madison asked, "Mom, do you think it's possible to make vegan lasagna? I'd like to try that." I said, "I'm sure I can come up with something!" And I did. It passed the taste test by my hubby, kids and my mom, who's in town this week!
The trickiest part of veganizing lasagna is the cheese. I have yet to find a vegan cheese that I like, although I haven't tried the packaged little slices that look like Kraft American cheese slices. They might be good. I don't know. I found a recipe in a cookbook for a vegan version of ricotta cheese. Then I decided to just make the vegan Alfredo sauce from Vegan Dad's blog (see my March 1 blog entry). I made it thicker than usual so it could replace the mozzarella cheese in the lasagna. Also, I made the ricotta and the Alfredo sauce the day before, to allow the flavors to meld.
The result was delicious — just like Brady said!
VEGAN LASAGNA
serves 8
Alfredo Sauce (make a day in advance and refrigerate):
see my March 1 blog post
Ricotta (make a day in advance and refrigerate):
14 oz block of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into large cubes
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 zucchini
olive oil
9 lasagna noodles, cooked to package directions
4 cups spaghetti sauce
To make ricotta: 
Place tofu chunks in a small saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes, drain well and refrigerate until cooled slightly (about 15 minutes). Place tofu and remaining ingredients in food processor and puree. Store in refrigerator up to 5 days.
To make lasagna: 
Preheat oven to 400. Slice the zucchini in 1/4" slices and place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Drizzle tops with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until tender and lightly browned, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Decrease oven temperature to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Spread 1/3 cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of the 9×13 baking dish. Place 3 lasagna noodles across the bottom to cover completely. Spread one-third of the ricotta on top of the noodles, covering completely. Lay one-third of the zucchini slices on top of the ricotta. Spread about 1 cup of spaghetti sauce over the zucchini, then drizzle on a layer of Alfredo sauce. Repeat noodles, ricotta, zucchini, spaghetti sauce, Alfredo two more times. Cover the final layer with more sauce. 
Cover and bake 45 to 60 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired. Enjoy!

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