Monday, June 25, 2012

This weeks menu. June 24-June30

It's hot outside. I mean really hot! With the temperature expected to hit 113 degrees (that's 45 degrees celcius for some) by end of week I'm thinking cooking in the hot oven or event the stove top is not something I'd like to do. I think I'd prefer to sit by a pool sipping lemonade all day. Wouldn't you?

Since I can't be a pool lounger I still need to feed the family, right? They've got to eat as do I. This heat can certainly drain a person so to keep up our fuel we must eat, and eat well.

My challenge (for myself really) is to start learning to grill more vegan foods. Anyone up for the challenge? What is your favorite grilled fare?

I'd actually like to make a whole weeks menu using mostly the grill. That won't be this week but I'm certainly working on it!!

Some of my favorites for summer are stir fry's! They are super quick to make on the stove top, oh I wonder if I could throw it on the grill?, and are full of yummy veggies. Okay, you caught me, stir fry's are always my favorites!

Black Pepper Tofu Stir Fry
Udon Noodle Stir Fry
So many different ways to stir fry!!

On this menu was last night's meal which I must say was pretty darn good! Calabacitas (hold the cheese!), Sunflower Seed "Refried Beans" and fresh mango. The Sunflower Seed, well dip really, is a raw dish out of Eat Raw Eat Well and was very tasty. The texture threw the hubby off a bit, I think our food processor isn't as strong as a Blendtec so it certainly leaves some gritty texture but was father flavorful nonetheless. The little one LOVED it! I really enjoyed it with chips as a dip. Mixed in with the calabacitas was tasty too! It seems versatile and it's simple to make. I will certainly be making it again. This meal was nice for the summer because it was mostly raw and the part I did cook, the calabacitas, is quick to make so it doesn't over heat your house. It's also a refreshing dish with fresh squash and corn. So good!

Calabacitas with Sunflower Seed "Refried Beans" and mango. Chips too!
Another great summer meal is salad. There are so many types of salads out there but for us a good ole "kitchen sink" salad is the fave! I make one every Tuesday and it lasts us through the week as a hearty side. We tend to eat just balsamic vinegar on our salads but lately Dreena Burton's "Raw"nch dressing has been making an appearance. It's so good!

"Kitchen Sink" Salad
I also have an obsession with popcorn. I loved popcorn since I was a kid. Even our dog liked popcorn when I was growing up. The whole family ate it nearly nightly. And, there has been studies to show that one serving of popcorn has more antioxidants than a day's worth of fruits and vegetables, based on the average diet.  So, perhaps not my diet seeing as I eat my weight in fruits and vegetables but for the average American it seems they should be eating their popcorn! Before going vegan I was like many others, I ate microwave popcorn full of butter. But, now that I'm vegan I had to give up my easy peasy microwave goodness.  It wasn't easy, basically dragging me kicking and screaming! How could I live without butter on my popcorn??? All I thought was that making my own to just pour on melted vegan butter would leave soggy bits of popcorn while others were left flavorless. Gross! But, I found this neat little old fashioned popcorn maker, yes I'm a sucker for kitchen gadgets, and because it's so neat I let go of my microwave bag and bought some good old fashioned kernels.  A tinsy bit of oil and some kernels and bam...I've got amazing popcorn! No butter needed! NONE. Wow oh wow, why didn't I do this sooner?? A little salt and I'm good to go!!

What are your summer favorites?

Alright, I've chatted long enough. Here's this weeks menu. Enjoy!

Sunday: June 24, 2012
Calabacitas, Sunflower Seed "Refried Beans", fresh mango

Monday: June 25, 2012
Curry "chicken-less Salad with pita bread and hummus (no cooking needed!) This is a recipe I found out of Blissful Bites, yum!

Tuesday: June 26, 2012
Salad and Magical Raw Tacos! I want avocados this week hence the tacos!!

Wednesday: June 27, 2012
Tacos (with SmartFood Mexican style fake meat for BK, why not? haven't made it in awhile!) with black refried beans. More avocado and fresh mango.

Thursday: June 28, 2012
Eggless Salad Sandwiches (yes, I make the same type items when we have BK, he's picky and I feed what he'll eat), veggie tray and pasta salad with champagne vinegraitte.

Friday: June 29, 2012
Hubby and I have date night! It's off to the Botanical Gardens for a picnic dinner. I'll bring left overs from Thursday and some fresh fruit.

Saturday: June 30, 2012
Portobella burgers with tater tots (another vice of mine) and grilled squash. Besides the potatoes, which I'll cook in my mini convection oven, all will be done on the grill! Grilled food #1!

Cheers and happy eating!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Garlic goodness

I don't know about you, but I love garlic. The hubby could eat it all day long so I'm sure to cook with it in my house.

Garlic is known to boost our natural hydrogen sulfide production. Okay, so in high quantities it can be toxic but our bodies makes it's own supply which acts as an antioxidant. These little cloves of garlic can then product us against certain cancers like breast, prostate, and colon cancer.

So, garlic is healthy right? You betcha! If you don't like what it does for your sweat or breath (that yucky odor) eat some fennel seeds to neutralize the odors.

My dilemma has been the time it takes to shuck the garlic of the outer skin and then use them to cook. I'm the kind of cook that likes to make things super simple in the kitchen so it just seemed a daunting task to me. How bout you?

I started buying the already minced garlic, you know those ones that come in a jar of some sort of liquid and seemingly last forever? Yeah those! First off some contain chemicals I'd rather not fuss with and second the garlic never tastes as rich and garlicky as the whole cloves you get and peel. When I cook with garlic I want it to taste like garlic! But, inevitably I'd prep everything for dinner and forget the garlic. When I needed to add it I'd be rushing to get the skins off, which can take some work, and get them pressed and into the dish. Sometimes, I just don't have the time and end up adding garlic powder which is not the same.

I want to share a little secret with you about garlic. This is something I do, now, every week. I get my garlic prepared and store it in a ziploc in the fridge. Makes life so much easier. Monday garlic tastes just as good as Saturday garlic.

My trick to peel them all on Sunday in a quick fire fashion, you ask?

Here goes!

Take two large bowls (preferably the same size or one slightly smaller), I like to use metal but plastic works just as well. Take the garlic bulb and pull it all apart, don't worry about the skin. Place each clove (skin on) into one of the bowls. Place the other bowl on top and shake as if there is no tomorrow! My little one loves this part, especially when I use metal bowls. It's like a concert in the kitchen! You don't need to shake too long. When you look in, most if not all, with be free of their skins! Like magic! Some will fall off with an easy tug while others may need to go for another round.

This is SUPER simple!! I love it and it makes time management that much easier in my kitchen!! So, get to shaking guys!

If your love for garlic is strong then shake, shake, shake!!

It's fun too!

Cheers and happy eating!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summery Armenian Cucumber Salad

It's summer, it's hot so what better way to cool off than a refreshing cucumber salad? I love cucumbers in most any way. Pickled, sprinkled with salt, lime juice and chili powder, in salads, soups. Whatever, I love them!

What's even better, they have great health benefits! They contain lignans that have a history of research in connection with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as certain types of cancer, breast, uterine, prostate. When unpeeled cucumbers are high in potassium, vitamin C, and folic acid. Sounds fantastic to me! It's also said they not only help with sunburns but they are a bit of a rejuvenator, with slices of cucumber on your eyes you feel fresh and youthful. I've tried it, have you? It's quite refreshing actually.

On Tuesday we picked up our CSA loot and in it was a cucumber I had not previously heard of, Armenian cucumber. It's rather large with looks like scored light green skin. It was curved and heavy. Reminded me of a melon actually. I suppose that makes sense as cucumbers fall in the melon family. I was intrigued.

Doesn't look like any cucumber I've ever seen but beautiful!

Cutting open the cucumber filled the air with a wonderfully fragrant cucumber sent. Better than any candle you could buy and more fragrant than regular cucumbers. It smelled like summer! Crisp, clean, refreshing!  The seeds inside are quite large and I do suggest removing them before preparing your salad. They are simple to remove using a spoon. 

Juicy! The flesh has a little different texture than regular cucumbers. 
I decided to use this cucumber to make a refreshing summer salad. With Father's Day coming up on Sunday why not make a salad that would go great with your BBQ?  It's light and tasty. I love the taste of fresh basil (and with my new plant why wouldn't I?) so that is an ingredient with the dressing for this scrumptious salad.

Basil plant! I'm hoping to keep it alive. I'm hard on my indoor plants for some odd reason. If I put it outside the squirrel family living in our yard will eat it.

Summery Armenian Cucumber Salad


8 cups armenian cucumber, peeling is optional, seeded, sliced, thinly, in moon shapes
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
7 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons dill
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 medium garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar
1 tablespoon fresh basil, plus some for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste


Place cut up cucumber in a large bowl with the onions. I like to add a bit of salt and pepper to taste, I guess it's habit to season the veggies before adding the dressing. This step is optional. If using just add a pinch of each. In a blender or food processer add all other ingredients, except garnish, and blend until smooth. Taste and add extra cayenne if you want more of a kick. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and mix well. Chill for 30-60 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh sliced basil leaves. Enjoy!!

Summery Armenian Cucumber Salad
For dinner I served up marinated portobella mushrooms, cucumber salad and sweet potato fries. It was a BIG hit. My Father-In-Law ate 3 helpings of this salad alone. I think he liked it! 

What's your favorite Father's Day BBQ dish? 

I know I'll be making more for this Sunday's BBQ. 

Cheers and happy eating!

Depeche Mode - It's No Good
Daft Punk - End of Line
Immortals - Techno Syndrome (Mortal Kombat)
Fischerspooner - The 15th
U2 - The Unforgettable Fire
Clearvision - She Killer 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thank you Dreena Burton for ALL the inspiration!

I know I've talked about Let Them Eat Vegan before but I must talk about it again! 

When I became a vegan in January (yay 5 months!) I was scared, to say the least.  My cooking skills was reserved to the fatty, the meaty, the unhealthy. But, I set out to get my health in line and to serve my family the goodness they deserve. 

I started this blog and found Twitter. I guess I didn't "find" Twitter. I had been on it before but never really understood the meaning behind it. I would send tweets as I sent updates to Facebook but that was about it.  What I discovered on Twitter as @PlantStrongMoma was how great a way to meet new people! Cookbook authors, health coaches, vegan advocates, whomever.  I have met so many great people!! 

One of those people is Dreena Burton. She is the author of the aforementioned cookbook, among several others. As I sit on Twitter tweeting away I read Dreena's tweets and decided to get Let Them Eat Vegan. This book was not my first but I must tell you, it has been the best! I love every ounce of goodness it provides!! My hesitation, anxiety, and sheer sense of unknowing, quickly lifted as I read this book.

With 200 deliciously satisfying plant-powered recipes for the whole family how could one not love this book? My book is in need of a washing (if one could do that) because I use it so much! 

From the very beginning of this book Dreena gives you "what you need?" Everyday tips for eating more leafy greens? She's got you covered! Veggie burgers that don't fall apart? Again, covered! Healthy snacks for kids? She has the best! It's all in this one book!! The book goes on to tell you want you may need to have on stock in your kitchen.  She suggests a frilly apron (for the ladies) but I do not have one of those. Instead I have my favorite apron the hubby got me from Woot!, It's named Kitchen Warfare. I love it!!

I could add lace?? Yes, those are all kitchen utensils!

Next up is the recipes themselves. With an insert in the middle of beautiful pictures. Photography by the talented Hannah Kaminsky.  Not only are there great photos but with each is a page number as to where you can find the recipe. A great plus (in my book anyway!!)

What I've tried out of this book because so far I haven't had time to make it all!
Chia Banana Muffins. This was my introduction to Chia Seeds. These little seeds pack a punch I tell you! With all the essential amino acids as well as fiber and essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, what's not to love? They are also rich in Omega-3's!! These muffins were a HUGE hit with my little one! They are moist and delicious!

Dreena has a whole section of smoothies as well! I've tried several. Yum!!

DJ's Hummus Salad Dressing. This dressing is super simple to make and wow is it good! I could eat it on salad, with raw veggie snacks, with pita chips, off my finger!! 

Raw-nch Dressing. Uhm...yes please! I would like some more!! Wow!

VegVeeta Dip.  I use this for nachos, burgers, dogs, sandwiches, chips, veggies, to drink (okay not really, but it's that good!). Don't drink it! But, eat it on all the above! Yum!!

Chickpea Artichoke Bliss in a dish. Yes, this is bliss!

Jerk Chickpeas. I could eat these all day!

Juicy Grilled Portobellas. This is the first time in my life I LIKED mushrooms!! 

Mac-Oh-Geez. I have to admit I used to be a Kraft Mac and Cheese fan! Even when my mom made it homemade. Besides the processed factors and nastiness this Mac-Oh-Geez changed my mind. Sorry mom!

Yellow Sweet Potato Chickpea Pie with Basil. So very savory and tasty!

Okay, I could be here all day. These are a few of the items I've tried. And I have to tell you, there is not one single thing I've tried in this book that I have not liked.  :)

So, one of the items I was really excited to try were the Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls. Not only are they healthy but I didn't have to bake them! I think I've mentioned before that me and baking don't always get along. I made these cookie balls and they were a hit. My little one can't get enough, the BK likes them, hubby loves them and the teachers at my little one's school not only like them but cannot believe they are good for you!

I make these often for snacks for the little one. What would be a better snack?

With permission from Dreena Burton and her publishing company I bring you the recipe for these great snacks! They are simple to make and taste like little pieces of heaven!

Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls
reprinted with permission from Let Them Eat Vegan
 by Dreena Burton

Makes 14 to 16 dough balls.
1/2 cup raw almonds (see note for nut-free option)
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp rolled oats
A few pinches of sea salt (about a scant 1/8 tsp)
1 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp nondairy chocolate chips or cocoa nibs (optional)
A few teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, unrefined sugar, or a combination of both, for dusting/rolling (optional)

In a food processor, process the almods until fine and crumbly.  Then add remaining ingredients and (except the optional chocolate chips) pulse or process.  Once the mixture starts to become crumbly, process fully for a minute or two.  It will appear as if nothing is happening at first, that the mixture is just whirring around in crumbs, but soon it will start to become sticky.  When you see it start to become a little sticky, add the chocolate chips and process again.  Continue to process until it forms a ball on the blade.  Stop the machine and remove the dough. Take small coops of the dough (1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons in size) and roll in your hand.  Repeat until you have rolled all of the dough.  Toss or roll the balls in the coating, if using,, and refrigerate.  Eat and repeat often.

Allergy-Free or Bust!:  For a nut-free version, replace the almonds with just 1/4 cup of raw pumkin seeds, and add another 1/4 cup of rolled oats.

If This Apron Could Talk:  Make a double batch and freeze half.  They thaw very well.

Kid-Friendly:  These are excellent to pack in school lunches, with a nut-free option for you if nuts aren’t permitted in your school. For a nut-free version, replace the almonds with just 1⁄4 cup of raw pumpkin seeds, and add another 1⁄4 cup of rolled oats.

Savvy Subs and Adds:  Replace vanilla with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract or orange oil.

A picture of one of the batches I made. I left out the cocoa powder topping, it's optional
If you are looking to add a couple of plant-based meals to your weekly menu's, looking to become vegan, or just want a new cookbook to add to your arsenal please check Let Them Eat Vegan out! It's a must have and to be honest without it I'm not sure I would have made it the 5 months I have. I continue to be inspired by Dreena as well as others and I look forward to a lifetime of good health! 

For your viewing pleasure here are a couple more photos from things I've made. All very tasty!!

Cream Cheese Brownies with Salted Dark Chocolate Topping! Oh dang, these are delish!

This is what I did with the Jerk Chickpeas! Tostadas!
Winter Veg Chickpea Potpie! Yummy!! Yummy!! Over rice, it's the best!

What are your favorite Let Them Eat Vegan recipes? Do share in the comments below.

Please check out Dreena's website, Plant Powered Kitchen for more recipes!

Cheers and happy eating!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Menu for this week June 3-June9

I wrote up my menu last Thursday, quickly, as I was busy busy doing so many other things. I never did get a chance to post this weeks menu. 

Sunday Morning I looked down at my menu and realized in my hurried writing I never picked something for Sunday night dinner!

Before I get to the menu I'd like to tell you about Sunday dinner. The hubby looked through a new (to me!) book I just got from our local used bookstore, Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food.  He picked out Orange Chk'n because the BK (Bonus Kid for all those who are new readers) loves Orange Chicken. This being a vegan version using tofu we thought it would be a big hit.  It was dinner FAIL. Almost! It gives two options for the tofu. Deep fried or baked. Seeing as we don't eat fried food and therefore do not have  a fryer I baked it in the oven. I've done this plenty of times before. But, this recipe calls for a spray of canola oil on the tofu. First sign, but I'm one to follow the recipe as is the first time.  The second sign I was that made me question this recipe was the amount of sugar it called for, 1/2 cup! And the amount of vinegar. Not only did the recipe call for rice vinegar but it called for white vinegar as well, with only a little orange juice.  I made the sauce anyway. While making the sauce I made some rice, fresh green beans and soycatash from Trader Joe's. I also made a side of rainbow quinoa. We had my MIL and FIL over for dinner and I wanted to be sure we had enough food. 

As the I cooked the sauce I got everything else going. I did not have white sugar, as a I rarely do so I used raw and I made fresh squeezed orange juice, perhaps these were the downfalls.  When I tasted the sauce I nearly choked! It had WAY TOO much vinegar! It was pure vinegar, no orange flavor! I tried added more sugar which did not help at all. I had no more oranges so I couldn't add that. Needless to say the sauce was ruined! It was bad! Luckily, and this is how dinner was somewhat saved, we have a Chinese Restaurant close enough to walk to who sold us Orange Chicken Sauce.  Thank you! 

But in all that wait, the tofu became VERY crispy. Even with the sauce dinner was a crispy tofu dinner fiasco. But, it was edible. The veggies were great as were the rice and quinoa.  We don't have left overs today, so that's a good sign, right?  I gave the link to this book, my Amazon page, if you'd like to check it out anyway. I may give it another try but I find the recipes far too simple for my taste. I know how to make a dinner salad, I'm not in need of a recipe.  But, it did get some good reviews so I leave it to the individual.  Oh dinner, how could you be a disaster? I should have gone with my instincts on this one!

So, on to the menu!!

Sunday: 6/3/12
Orange Chk'n with sides of rice, quinoa, green beans and soycatash

Monday: 6/4/12
This week is a bit different, we have the BK Monday and Tuesday this week as he is going on vacation with his momma and bonus dad! He's going to have a blast!! I'm making fajitas! I'll be using portobello mushrooms.  I may make a meat sub for the BK as mushrooms are not his favorite, but we'll ask that he tries.  I will serve with black beans and rice. Avocados too!

Tuesday: 6/5/12
Since Tuesday is usually salad night I'm still going to make that up but since BK is not huge on salad as a dinner choice I'll make a couple of pizzas as well.  He says he want's pineapple on his! I think I'll lay out some ingredients and let everyone chose what it is they would like on their pizzas.

Wednesday: 6/6/12
Tonight is Roasted Squash with Forbidden Rice Risotto and Brocollini.  We have squash and we have forbidden rice, why not mix it together and eat it up?

Thursday: 6/7/12
Chili-Sweet Mango Noodles with baked marinated tofu.  This one is from Everyday Happy Herbivore (love this book!)

Friday: 6/8/12
No Cook Friday night! I think I'd love a date night!

Saturday: 6/9/12
Caribbean Peas and Rice out of Everyday Happy Herbivore again. I'm not sure right now what else we will be making as we are having guests for dinner. Perhaps I'll make a dessert as well.

So, for today's lunch we will have to wing it as we don't have left overs from last nights disaster. We shall see! I'm so glad my In-Laws have had my food before!!

Cheers and happy eating!

Friday, June 1, 2012

This week in food...

This week has been a busy busy week. We started out with a lovely Sunday that ended up being a bit busier than usual. But, we started the day right with a yummy breakfast that we enjoyed outside on the patio. My little one has her own little table, it's darling. Although, we did learn she's not quite ready to eat a meal outside of her highchair. That girl just wants to run everywhere!

Tofu Scramble with red kale to top it off. Seriously tasty!

Monday, for us in the US, was a holiday. Memorial Day. This day marks the beginning of summer as Labor Day marks the end.  We didn't have big plans just wanted to spend a lazy day at home. But, why not have picnic type food, right? Don't you just love picnic summer food?  All we were missing was watermelon! We have that now for this weekend! Yum! Refreshing for sure.  I made up some black bean burgers and chili. Chili is one of my favorite things to make. I still don't think my recipe is "perfect" so I have yet to post it. This last batch was pretty close though.  I also made a VegVeeta dip to go on top of the chili. Chili Cheese Burger anyone?  VegVeeta is made from cashews and looks and tastes close enough to cheese that I use it for nachos, chili, chips (especially when mixed with salsa!) and now vegan hot dogs.  It's versatile, creamy, tasty goodness. You can find the recipe on Dreena Burton's website, Plant Powered Kitchen. You can also check out her book which I've found to be a savior for being newly vegan here

I also made a great Summer Party Potato Salad, also a great picnic favorite! Corn on the cob is another favorite and we found a fast easy way to make fresh corn. Leaving the husk on add a tad bit of water into the husks and place in the microwave, 8 minutes for 3.  Comes out perfect every time!

Tuesday I went back to work after a 2 week vacation. By the time I got home I was very much craving veggies. So, for lunch I made up a quick meal. I had left over rice from chili we had on Sunday night (the chili for the burgers) which I paired with a variety of veggies. I added some hemp seeds, hemp oil, and a splash of Liquid Aminos.  

First is the chili with rice we had Sunday night. I grew up eating chili on rice so it's a staple in my house.

And then there was lunch with the left over rice. Yum!! Veggies!!

Tuesday night I made our usual huge salad but I also grabbed another recipe from Eat Raw Eat Well to add to eating raw.  I made the Jerk Vegetable Kabobs but left out the skewers.  I always seem to stab myself far too many times to ever want to actually make a kabob again. These were a tad too sweet for me but good nonetheless.  Next time I'll add a bit more spice.  Very refreshing dinner when it's so hot outside!!

Wednesday night I wanted something simple yet again so I made up some avocado panini's.  I mashed up some avocado, sliced some fresh tomatoes I got from the CSA, added vegan mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.  We used a nice Italian bread with some vegan butter, although oil would work as well. Threw them on the panini type grill pan I have (it's cast iron with a very heavy lid) and cooked till flat and toasty.  With this I served sweet potato fries and summer squash. Very easy, very tasty!

Thursday night I wanted to use up more of the chili I had made at the beginning of the week. I'm really trying to use up everything in our fridge before our next shopping trip. Less waste. Not only did I have left over chili but I also had left over VegVeeta dip. What better to go with those items than hotdogs, right?  I hadn't tried vegan hotdogs and to be honest they are not my favorite but they weren't bad.  My BK likes the fake meats so I do sometimes serve them when he's with us.  I figured it would be a night of what seemingly is "fast" food.  VegVeeta, however, is fairly healthy as is my chili.  The most unhealthy was the hotdogs themselves, mostly because they are processed.  It was still a tasty dinner. I roasted some red potatoes with a little olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and basil.  We also made some more corn on the cob, a veggie I can get my 13 year old BK to eat.   

Tonight, No Cook Friday Night, is luckily sponsored by my Mother-In-Law.  She's making us dinner and I'm very excited!  Don't we all like food made for us??

What are some of your staples you love to cook in your home?  Any summer favorites?

Cheers and happy eating.

Listening to Dreena Burton interview by The Organic View