Tag Archives: roasted

A birthday, friends, drinks and great conversation…

5 Jun

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. It was just perfect. On Friday, we celebrated Brady’s 10th birthday at the local bowling alley. He wanted a bowling party, so we went all out with 8 friends, 2 games of bowling, the game room, pizza, blue slushies and dirt cake (his request). We left there at 8 p.m. and came back to our house with two of the families that were at the party. We had a campfire, the kids ran around playing games, and the adults enjoyed wine and beverages with a few simple snacks. It was great to just enjoy our screen porch and the beautiful weather with good friends.

Saturday was another gorgeous weather day. (We should have been camping!) It was about 80 degrees and sunny all day. After breakfast, I got to do a little garage sale-ing with my friend Stacey. Fun! Then came home and figured out what the plan was for dinner. I needed a few things from the grocery store, so Madison and I decided to walk there. It’s about 1.5 miles there and back and we picked up her friend that lives on our street along the way. It was nice to walk with “the girls” and chat for a while. I did a little reading, helped Brady with his new K’Nex kit he got for his birthday, did a load of laundry…just kind of a leisurely day.

The kids wanted grilled shish kabobs for dinner, so I whipped up a batch of my Meaty Marinade (see my June 30, 2010 post) and poured it over a big bowl of red bell pepper wedges, onion wedges, zucchini slices and whole baby portobello mushrooms. I marinated some “happy” boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s and a vegan “chicken” cutlet in it, too. Threaded onto skewers, along with some fresh pineapple chunks? Fabulous! To go alongside, I made a big fruit salad and came up with a new couscous recipe. This is super easy and is loaded with fresh herbs, making it a tasty Mediterranean-style side dish. I will definitely make it again. It was equally as good hot out of the pan as it was an hour later as I was scooping room-temperature bites out of the bowl while cleaning up. Yum!

Mediterranean Couscous
makes 6 (1/2-cup) servings
approximately 160 calories per serving*

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 teaspoon minced garlic
about 1/4th of a red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion (such as Vidalia)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
10 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
salt
freshly-cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional

In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and saute until tender and lightly browned. Add 1 cup vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Return to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so then fluff with a fork. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the fresh herbs and kalamata olives and season with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and toss to blend. Remove to a serving bowl and serve immediately or at room temperature. Enjoy!
*By my own calculations of the ingredients

Ah, Sunday…sunny and warm again. Honestly, it was the perfect camping weekend and we didn’t take advantage of it! We made a big veggie omelet for breakfast and then spent the day basically just “piddling,” as my dad would say. A little cleaning here and there, some work on the pool, a quick run to Target and Lowe’s, a little work on stuff for Madison’s 6th grade recognition program (I overvolunteered….again). Oh, and baked 3 dozen vegan Oreo cupcakes for Brady to share with his classmates tomorrow. (See my March 8, 2010 post for the recipe.)

I even went easy-breezy for dinner tonight. I made my own version of the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad. If you know this salad, you know it’s delicious! What’s served in the restaurant is far from vegan or “happy,” though, so I created my own recipe that’s very similar in taste. I’m calling it vegan-ish because the dressing has honey, which is not technically vegan. If you want it 100% vegan, try substituting agave. (Note – You will end up with more dressing than you need, so save it for the next day on a wrap!)

Vegan-ish Oriental Chicken Salad
makes 4 dinner-size salads

Dressing:
3/4 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

Salad:
16-20 vegan “chicken” nuggets
4 cups thinly sliced Romaine or other mixed greens
4 cups bagged cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
2 8-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup crunchy Chinese rice noodles
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and refrigerate. Bake “chicken” nuggets per package directions. Meanwhile, arrange 1 cup lettuce and 1 cup cole slaw mix on each of 4 plates. Top each with shredded carrots, mandarin oranges and green onions. Slice the nuggets and layer on top. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with Chinese rice noodles and toasted almonds. Enjoy!

As the weekend comes to a close, I feel relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead. It’s the last full week of school and it’s going to be crazy! (I’m forecasting a lot of thrown-together-at-the-last-minute dinners this week!)

June 5, 2011

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Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.

28 Apr

I am just back from a long Easter weekend in North Carolina. We stayed with my parents for 5 days and had a wonderful time. The warm weather and sunshine were such a welcome change from the cold, rainy days we’ve been dealing with here in Michigan.

I came home refreshed…and inspired.

While in North Carolina, I saw a poster in a store window that said “Put your money where your heart is. Buy local.” I thought it was so perfect. I know it refers to everything consumers spend their money on — not just food. But, of all the things I’ve learned over the last 16 months or so since I started this journey, trying to buy locally-made or locally-grown products as often as possible is the one that’s the easiest for me to incorporate into my daily life. I know it’s not always feasible to buy local goods…hey, I’m on a budget! But when it comes to food, I can’t stress enough how smart it is to really know where your food comes from, know your farmer personally, grow your own vegetables or support your local farmer’s market, and shop at smaller family stores instead of the big box stores whenever you can. Not only does this almost guarantee your food is safer, tastier and healthier, it also provides financial support to your own neighborhood. Now that’s inspiring.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, my mom is a fantastic chef. I always enjoy her cooking and our discussions about food, cooking and health. My Easter dinner was SO good. While the omnivores in my family dined on grilled pork, I devoured marinated and grilled portobello mushrooms. The side dishes were all vegan –- oven-roasted vegetables, grilled asparagus and a wonderful chopped salad with toasted almonds and chai vinaigrette.

While in Asheville on Monday, we had a fabulous lunch at Rezaz Mediterranean Restaurant. (I should have taken a picture!) We started with an appetizer of polenta fries with their housemade tomato jam (a sort of chunky sweet catsup). Honestly, I could think of a hundred things to slather that tomato jam onto! It was that good. My meal was a fat little potato cake topped with a green olive tapenade. On one side of this was a fresh arugula salad. On the other side were four thin slices of grilled ahi tuna. Then the whole plate was lightly drizzled with an orange vinaigrette. After lunch, we shopped some more and came home with 3-4 new cookbooks each. That gets me inspired!

Speaking of inspiring…I consider my dad the king of all things house-related. He’s a builder, woodworker, tile layer, painter, wallpaper hanger, upholsterer, deck designer, plumber, and master of just about everything under the sun. Honestly, my dad can do anything! His latest project is a restaurant in downtown Waynesville, NC, where they live. The owner/executive chef bought an existing restaurant building but is basically gutting the whole place and starting fresh — using local products such as reclaimed barn siding, tin panels and other materials. My dad has been working on this project for months. We got to tour the construction site while there and meet the owner/executive chef. His name is Kaighn Raymond and he, too, is an inspiration.

The name of his restaurant is Frogs Leap Public House. It will be a farm-to-table restaurant meaning they will focus on locally-grown, sustainably-farmed organic foods, which will then be transformed into amazing regional dishes. He’s planning to have a seasonal menu that will feature the freshest produce from local farmer’s markets and farms. I got to talk with him as we toured the place and I absolutely cannot wait to eat there! It looks like the grand opening will be in June, but I’m not sure we’ll get back down there before fall.

If you want to know more about Frogs Leap Public House, check out their website at http://frogsleappublichouse.org or “Like” their Facebook page. I left the restaurant…inspired.

So inspired, in fact, that I already have several new recipes on the menu for next week. Recipes and photos to follow, so stay tuned!

Oh, and put your money where your heart is!

Can you be vegan-ish?

5 Apr

I think that’s what I have to start referring to myself as. Vegan-ish. Not 100%, but mostly vegan.

I’m still making the majority of my meals vegan. But I do eat eggs a couple of times a week (fresh from happy chickens at a home in my neighborhood). I have, on occasion, enjoyed a small piece of humanely and sustainably-raised chicken or beef, purchased locally. Not too often, but once in a while. I’ve also been actively searching out sustainable seafood. I downloaded the National Sustainable Seafood Guide (here), which helps me choose seafood that is not overfished, is environmentally-friendly and supports healthy oceans. I’ve always enjoyed seafood and I’m glad it’s back in my diet.

I feel good about my food choices. I’m still eating lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. And I’m not supporting industrial animal farming in any way except dairy. Though we’ve cut way back on the milk consumption in our house, I still haven’t found a local source for it, so I’m stuck with the grocery store variety for Jason and the kids. Luckily, they like almond milk, so I keep buying it even though it’s more expensive than regular milk. I think that will be one of my goals this summer — locally made cheese and other dairy products.

But let’s get back to the vegetables. I think spring might actually arrive here in southeast Michigan sometime soon! Goodness, this weather is making us all crazy. We are 10 degrees or more below normal just about every day. I’m dying to get out into the garden and get my veggies planted! In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Some vegan, some gluten free and some vegan and gluten free. Check back often, because I’ll be posting them!

Here are a couple of recent ones that don’t require an actual recipe.

Sesame Green & Yellow Beans
Rather than the standard old steamed green beans with butter, try these for a quick side dish. Place cleaned beans in a deep saute pan with a little water. Bring to boil, cover and steam them until just barely tender-crisp. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. In the same saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil over medium-high heat. Toss the beans back in and give them a quick saute. Remove to a serving dish and toss with salt, pepper and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Polenta Pizzas
The kids wanted to do make-your-own pizzas Saturday night for dinner. They made theirs on regular pizza crusts, but I wanted something gluten free and vegan. I have a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pizza Dough mix, but just didn’t feel like messing with it. So I stared into my pantry hoping something would jump out at me. And it did! I pulled out a container of instant polenta. I cooked it per the package instructions (which takes all of 5 minutes) and poured it into a foil-lined baking dish. I spread it out evenly and placed it in the fridge to chill while I got all the pizza toppings ready to go. Once cold, I lifted the foil and polenta out of the pan and put it on a cutting board. Using a biscuit cutter, I cut it into 4″ circles and sauteed them in a little olive oil, turning once, so they were crispy on both sides. Then I used these to build my pizzas on. Though they don’t have the texture of pizza dough, they were really tasty and still had all my favorite pizza toppings. I just popped them into the oven with the kids’ pizzas so the vegan cheese got melty. Cut slightly smaller, these would be fun appetizers! Here are my combinations:

BBQ Chicken Pizza (top)
BBQ sauce + Daiya vegan cheese + red onions + sauteed vegan chicken slices + minced cilantro

Mediterranean Pizza (bottom right)
Vegan pesto mayo + Daiya vegan cheese + grilled red peppers + kalamata olives + red onion + dash of dried oregano

Sausage Pizza
(bottom left)
Pizza sauce + Daiya vegan cheese + crumbled vegan Italian sausage

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

3 Mar

Wow. I can’t believe March is here and it’s been almost a month since I posted anything on my blog. I apologize to those of you who have been looking for new recipes! I spent all of January’s and most of February’s “blog time” doing the one thing I dread most. The 4 or 5 hours a week I was spending on writing and creating recipes and blog posts has been used for exercising. Then, for the last two weeks, all of my spare time has been spent remodeling two bathrooms (paint, tile floor, baseboards, new wall hangings, etc.). I’m trying to get back into my morning exercise routine, yet the winter doldrums keep dragging me down.

But, spring is coming and that means gardening, fresh vegetables, and a whole new outlook on what to make for dinner. Plus, I finally got my new stove so now I have an oven that works! I promise you, new recipes are coming!

Maybe you already know this, but yesterday would have been the 107th birthday of Dr. Seuss, the amazing author of children’s classics such as Green Eggs & Ham and The Cat in the Hat, among hundreds of other stories. Dr. Seuss is a big hit in our house. All of my kids have enjoyed his crazy, rhyming stories as they’ve learned to read. As they headed off to school yesterday, one of them mentioned it was Dr. Seuss’ birthday. That got me thinking…about something fun for dinner.

Yep, I did it — I made green eggs and ham for dinner. The eggs were fresh from our local farmer (I waited in the car for him to gather the eggs from the barn yesterday). I simply whisked them for scrambled eggs and added a squeeze of green food coloring. I still haven’t found a local source for ham, so it was not exactly *happy* ham, but it was nitrate and nitrite free and minimally processed, so I included a small amount for my omnivore boys. I made Whoville Taters (cubed potatoes, tossed in olive oil, seasoned, and roasted in the oven) and Starbellied Sneetch toast.

For dessert? Some Cat in the Hat yogurt parfaits! I simply took vanilla yogurt (made with coconut milk) and mixed half of it with thawed frozen raspberries and some stevia. I mixed the other half with a little coconut extract and chopped ripe bananas. Then I alternated layers of the two yogurts to look like the stripes on The Cat in the Hat’s hat. The effect would have been better if I had tall, skinny glasses, but I used what I had and I didn’t hear any complaints!

It was a fun dinner and led to Brady running upstairs and digging out ALL of the Dr. Seuss books to read before bed last night. We didn’t make it through all of them, of course, but it was a great way to celebrate such an important birthday!

This has Thanksgiving written all over it!

23 Nov

When I was growing up, my mom would make acorn squash stuffed with Italian sausage and onions and seasonings. Delicious! As I was gathering my recipes for this month of vegan Thanksgiving foods, I was struggling to figure out what would be my main dish (this is my first Thanksgiving without turkey, you know). For some reason, I thought of that stuffed squash. As I pictured it in my head, I knew it would make a beautiful and substantial centerpiece for a Thanksgiving dinner plate.

Since I don’t eat meat anymore, the next thing I had to figure out was what to stuff it with. For the past, oh, I don’t know…6 or 8 years, I’ve been making this fabulous stuffing I found in Parade magazine a long time ago. The original recipe has toasted bread cubes, Italian turkey sausage, red onions, celery, dried fruit, tart apples and herbs and spices such as sage and thyme. I always baked the mixture in a large baking dish, rather than in the turkey, so it doesn’t get soggy. It’s so good, I decided to veganize it and make it gluten free. (If you are not on a gluten-free diet, you can make this with regular bread that has a dense texture.)

For dinner tonight, I made it as a test-run and piled it into acorn squash halves. It came out perfectly! Jason and my two older kids said it tasted the same as the original. Logan, who’s only six, couldn’t remember it from last year, but he enjoyed picking out the fruit and sausage!

This is a pretty easy recipe, but it comes out fragrant and jam-packed with flavor. I thought about trying it with homemade vegan cornbread but the weekend got away from me and I ended up using store-bought gluten-free bread slices. The best part of this recipe is that you can completely prep this two days in advance. Toast the bread cubes and store them in a sealed container or zip bag. Store the cooked sausage/veggie/fruit mixture in an airtight container in the fridge. On Thanksgiving morning, simply mix it all together with the broth then finish out the recipe. Easy breezy!

Harvest Stuffing Stuffed Acorn Squash
serves 8

4 acorn squash
2 tablespoons olive oil + additional
1/2 pound meat-free Italian sausage, crumbled or diced small
1 cup chopped red onions
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
3 cups cubed bread (gluten free or other dense bread), lightly toasted in the oven
1 small Granny Smith apple, diced
1/4 cup dried mixed berries
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup vegetable broth (Imagine No Chicken Broth)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the outside of the acorn squash and pat dry. Place them in the middle of oven and roast for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

While squash are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown the sausage then remove to a large bowl. Add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and sage and cook over medium heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add to the sausage along with the apple and dried fruits. Toss well. Stir in the toasted bread cubes and drizzle the broth over the mixture to moisten as desired. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Slice the acorn squash in half lengthwise (through the stem end) and scoop out the seeds and stringy part. Place cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill each half with stuffing, dividing evenly between the 8 halves.

Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until squash is tender and stuffing is lightly browned. (If you can’t imagine Thanksgiving without gravy, make some with vegetable broth and drizzle it on top.)

Enjoy!

Me? A butcher?

15 Nov

Yep — a vegan butcher. That’s what I felt like yesterday as I attempted to peel and chop a whole butternut squash. Good grief, those little buggers are hard to cut! I whacked at it for a while until my knife got stuck in it and then my awesome hubby came to the rescue! He took over with a much sharper knife (and a lot more muscle) and diced it into cubes for my recipe.

Thank goodness, because this is a not-to-be-missed recipe that is super easy once you get the butternut squash peeled and diced. Or, look for cubed butternut squash in your store’s freezer section and save yourself the butchering job. I’ve bought it before in the “natural foods” section at my local Kroger.

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I found on Prevention’s website a few years ago. I’ve never made it before, but it’s been in my big binder of recipes to try. I looked over the recipe and decided to veganize it and kick it up a notch by adding Granny Smith apples and more spices. I completely assembled this dish and took it to my in-laws all ready to bake. It came out of the oven warm, delicious, and very satisfying. It is a great holiday side dish.

Butternut Squash & Apple Casserole
serves 8

2 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar, divided
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
3-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cubed
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small pan, melt the butter and olive oil together. Add the onions and saute over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool while you cube the squash and apples.

In a large bowl, toss together the onion mixture, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, cumin, thyme, squash and apples. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle the top with the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake until squash and apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Just another Manic Monday.

28 Jul

Remember The Bangles? They were one of my favorite groups in high school. And their Manic Monday lyrics do a good job of describing how my week started. Actually, the mess started last week, but Monday was the worst.

I woke up last Thursday with a headache. By noon, it had turned into a major stiff neck. I figured I must have slept on it wrong or something, but I woke up Friday morning and it was even worse. I couldn’t turn my head left or right and it hurt. So I called my beloved chiropractor and he was on vacation! Nooo! The earliest they could get me in was Monday at 3 p.m. So I took the appointment and dealt with the neck thing all weekend.

Finally…Monday’s appointment. I told Doc what was going on and he helped me relax then did one heckuva big crack on my neck. I’ve never heard it that loud and I’ve been to the chiropractor a zillion times. Whew!

When we left there, it had settled a little and I was starting to feel better. We headed down the road and were only about 2 miles away when BAM! I got rear-ended by the car behind me. So much for my newly-adjusted neck. I had noticed the cars in front of me braking quickly so I looked in my rearview mirror and could see the guy behind me was coming fast. I tried to swerve into the center turning lane to get out of his way, but he slammed into me anyway. After calling 911, I called my chiropractor and told him what happened. We made an appointment for the next day so the boys and I could get checked out.

The police arrived and the other guy got cited and we left to head home. Thank goodness I had already planned an easy dinner, right? Yeah… By the time we got home it was almost 6:00 so I started dicing potatoes as fast as I could to get them in the oven and I managed to slice off the edge of my finger with the knife. ARGH! WHAT A DAY!

I do have to say, though, that dinner was a total success. Jason helped me get the vegs diced and into the oven for roasting — redskin potatoes and onions, plus zucchini and yellow squash from our garden, tossed in olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Yum. But the best part was the sandwiches we made. Tomato & Provolone Sandwiches from the August 2010 issue of Eating Well magazine. Did I say YUM already? I could eat these every day for lunch. I totally veganized the recipe and even the kids loved it. The recipe makes an herb-infused mayonnaise spread so I substituted Veganaise for the mayo. Then you use big, juicy fresh tomatoes and provolone cheese. I used smoked provolone soy cheese slices. (It’s the only fake cheese I’ve found that tastes good and melts). Rather than use the broiler, as in the recipe, I assembled the sandwiches and put them in the George Foreman Grill so they were toasty like paninis. Oh, man. Delicious! And so fast and easy to make.

So my neck is a mess again. Bruising, swelling, and bucketloads of pain. He did a minor adjustment Tuesday, but wanted to let it have a few days to settle and get the swelling down so I’m going back in on Friday morning. But, on a good note, Eating Well challenge recipe #6 is a success!