Monday, September 29, 2008

Lots of Lentils, Chickpea Cutlets and A Pizza

I've really been doing some cooking the past several days. I enjoy cooking so much more when it isn't hot outside. I'd say we're full-on into fall at this point. Last Thursday, some friends invited us over for a big pot-luck party. I decided to take two dishes because I didn't know what vegan options would be available there. I decided on Carrie's sweet and savory lentils and some simple, mashed sweet-potatoes. The lentils were a HUGE hit. Talk about a good pot-luck dish! Easy to make and just perfect for this time of year.

Friday I decided to make some chickpea cutlets. They're a favorite around here for sure, and it had been quite a while since I'd made them. I wanted something a little different this time, so I made the Sweet Vidalia Onion Sauce, which is also in V-con. I also cooked some brown rice, and since I had a bunch of parsley from the CSA, I chopped it and added it to the cooked rice with some Earth Balance and salt. I steamed a bunch of kale and onions, which I seasoned with a dressing of red wine vinegar, sugar and a few drops of liquid smoke. The sweet onion sauce is soooo good. We used it for the cutlets and also to drizzle over the rice. What a fantastic dinner!

On Saturday, I made pizza because the kids just can't get enough of "Mama's homemade pizza". They're so sweet! Anyway, I made the kids their ususal cheese pizza. For Sleek and myself, I lightly sauteed a few cloves of minced garlic in some olive oil and brushed that over the dough. Then I added some Oliverio's Sweet Italian Peppers. (I can't believe they don't have a website!) They're kind of a local specialty item that Sleek grew up eating often and loving dearly. It was fantastic. There are really so many different things you can do with pizza to change it up and make it interesting.

I've been wanting to make some naan since I seem to make Indian food quite often. A while back, Carrie had posted aboutmaking naan. I swore I'd give it a try. Then I came across what I think is the same recipe via the forums over at The PPK. I decided to give it a try. I needed to find a good substitute for the yogurt, and we can't get plain soy yogurt around here. I decided to go with Better Than Sour Cream. I brushed it with Earth Balance after baking. It was phenomenal! I used my pizza stone as recommended, but I guess my "high" broiler setting is hotter than most because my stone ended up cracking and breaking. I'll have to be getting a new one ASAP! I set the broiler to low for the next batch (I was still able to use the stone to finish) and the naan came out much better. So, I look forward to making it often. It went perfectly with the Tamarind Lentils from V-con. They are so good and extemely easy to make. For a quick and easy dinner, it sure was delicious.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I'm Back!

Wow! It's been a while, eh? My dad and I had a fantastic time in Colorado. It was very beautiful there, and we had wonderful weather. We did lots and lots of hiking, which I seem to have developed a passion for over the last year or so. I'm glad I live in West Virginia. Lots of hiking here, and mostly in places I haven't yet explored. I have a lot to look forward to. Chez Mama will now be a vegan cooking blog, as I've finally fully committed to living a vegan lifestyle. It's been a rather slow transformation for me, starting four years ago when I stopped eating land animals. Over the last year, I ate fish a handful of times. Over the last few months, I've barely eaten any eggs of dairy. A couple of weeks ago, I ate something with dairy in it, and it just didn't seem right to me. So here I am. Vegan. I feel really good about it.

So, when I got back from Colorado I was ready to start cooking. When I'm gone for a few days, eating at restaurants, I realize how much I miss cooking and eating my own food. Restaurant food seems to wreak havoc on my digestive system. Even if it's relatively healthy stuff. It kinda sucks.

So, I got back and cooked up a big batch of black beans. It's always nice to have lots of beans on hand and ready to go. And with some of those beans, I made one of the best things I've made in a while. Sort of a "Huevos" Rancheros. Or, you could call it "Tofu Rancheros". I made up some tofu scramble, loosely using the recipe from VWaV. I add whatever veggies I have on hand. This time it was onion, various peppers from the CSA, and a bag of spinach. I also warmed up some of my black beans in a pan with a can of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, chile powder and diced onions. I had some corn tortillas which I heated on the griddle, then topped with the tofu, black beans, salsa and Better Than Sour Cream. It was so good that I think I'm going to be making it again this weekend. YUM!

I also made some black bean burgers this week. The same ones as usual from V-con. To go with those, I made some sweet potato fries. It's getting to be sweet potato time again, and I'm so ready for it. I can't get enough sweet potatoes.

Oh, and I made the Peanut-Butter Oatmeal Cookies from VWaV. I used whole wheat flour, and reduced the amount of sugar by 1/2 cup. They aren't really sweet, and they're soooo peanut-buttery. So good. I don't think I'm going to miss anything by going vegan! As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to enjoy baking more than ever. I mean, check out some of the cupcakes that Carrie (Adventures in Vegetarianism) whips up!

Sleek and I had the oppourtunity to check out a really fantastic concert last Sunday. We saw The Swell Season perform in Pittsburgh at the Byham Theatre. We've wanted to see them since last spring, so it was a real treat. We were introduced to them through the Irish, indie film Once. I highly reccommend checking out the film, and their music. They did lots of new stuff at the show, so I'm hoping for a new album from them sometime soon! It's not a show to be missed, so if they're coming to your area, check them out for sure!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Heading Out.

Hey, faithful readers! LOL I'm heading out for a little vacation in Colorado with my dad. We'll be gone for 5 nights. My longest without the kids. I hope I don't miss them too much. We're going to be doing lots of hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. Staying at the Stanley Hotel (in a villa on the hotel grounds, thank goodness!) where Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining. It's haunted, for sure. I know that because I saw it on Ghost Hunters. ;) We're finishing up the trip going to the WVU game in Boulder on Thursday night. Let's gooooo Mountaineers!

I hope there's some good food there!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Busy, Busy

Damn. And here I thought that when school started I'd have so much extra time on my hands. I feel like I've been running myself to death. It seems I've barely had a minute to sit down. Our computer was also invaded by some nasty spyware, so it was out of commission for several days. Sleek copied our photos and iTunes, and we wiped the whole thing out and started fresh. The upside is that our computer is now smokin' fast!

I also thought when school started, I'd have more time for cooking. However, this year Annelies's piano lessons are later in the evening, and Julian has soccer late once a week as well. So, I have two nights each week that make it difficult to put a full-on meal together. Tonight is one of those nights, so it's going to be SmartDogs. I can handle one totally junk meal/week.

Anyway, since I've last posted, I've made some interesting and tasty things. One was a Southeast Asian Coconut Zucchini. That one is from Moosewood Restaurants Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. (I don't think I told y'all that we ate at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca when we were on vacation, did I? We did, and it was tasty. The kids were having a tough time that day. It was the last day of vacation and Annelies was tired, and Julian had a cold coming on and had a fever. Doesn't make for the most pleasant of meals, eh? It was still a cool experience, though. Doesn't every vegetarian want to eat there?) Okay, back to the zucchini. It was very easy and quite tasty. I served it over jasmine rice. There are lots of good-looking recipes in that cookbook. I need to put it to good use.

I also made another green pizza somewhere along the way. Some falafel too. Also, the best damn banana bread ever. I kind of improvised the recipe from one I found online somewhere. Here goes:

3 ripe bananas
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup canola oil and unsweetened applesauce mixed (you could do either all oil or all applesauce, but I decided to go half and half.)
1/2 cup sucanat

1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sucanat (This needs adjusted to suit the ripeness of the bananas. If they're really, really ripe, I would omit it completely.)
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 cup coconut (I used unsweetened, flaked)

Mash bananas and add lemon juice, oil and applesauce mixture and sucanat.

Mix together flour and other dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until just moistened and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

One evening, I made some tofu scramble. I just use the recipe from VWaV for the seasonings, then add whichever veggies I have on hand. So easy and tasty. A side of roasted potatoes makes it a "breakfast for dinner" meal. I love that.

Last night, I made a batch of channa masala. It's easy to throw together quickly. Yum. Julian discovered that he loves it too. I've also been keeping some chickpea salad on hand for an easy lunch or dinner. I'm addicted to that stuff. This time I did add some chopped celery. It definitely made it even better. Mmmm. On toasted whole-wheat bread with some perfectly fresh, ripe sliced tomato? Insane. I've decided that instead of a mock tuna salad, it's much more like a mock chicken salad.

Oh, and I also made up a batch of the best granola ever. Same recipe as always, and for nuts I used cashews. I chopped up about a cup of dried papaya to throw in after baking. I also added a few drops of coconut extract for some extra tropical flavor. Mmmm. It's really good with So Delicious coconut milk yogurt.