Last week I found this website called Lighter. It is, on the surface, a grocery delivery website, but they also share recipes on their Facebook page, and you can sign up to test them. I received four recipes last week and chose one to make–the colorful quiche.

I picked this one because it was really simple, and it appealed to me most out of the choices. Plus, we like to have tofu scramble on Sundays, so this was in the same family. Tofu, toasted bread, spinach, spices–it was basic, but it was really tasty. I added some Daiya cheddar shreds and turmeric. The family approved–my daughter even said it should be on a restaurant menu! It was supposed to serve two, but I cut it to serve three, and no one complained.

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Back on Track, I Hope!

April 22, 2015

Life would be so much easier if I didn’t love food.

But I do. And within my vegan and gluten-free restrictions, I love it all–sweet, salty, spicy. I love to cook, and then I love to enjoy what I made. I love to try new things from the store. I love to go to the local vegan bakery and to eat out at restaurants.

The problem is that I am not so much a fan of exercise, so I need to have some pretty strict controls in place to keep from overdoing. And that control is hard to maintain.

In November 2013, my diet kind of went off the rails, and it stayed there until a month or so ago. I put on some weight–not a lot in the grand scheme, but enough that some of my clothes stopped fitting and others were approaching that point. I just couldn’t get my act back together. I also noticed that I lapsed in my posts here, partly, no doubt, because I felt I had little good to say about myself.

But last month I decided I had had about enough, so I recommitted to eating well. I bought a VivoFit, and I wear it constantly. I have it synched with a food tracking app, so I can earn foody treats by moving more. I started to going to Zumba again. So far, my knees are holding out, and it is paying off. Slowly, but I am making progress.

As long as I pay attention and diligently track what I eat, the pounds are coming off. I am doing better about not buying lots of extras at the store. Weekends are still tough, but I am working on that. I have discovered that a routine is key–and limiting temptation.

Of course, the other members of my family also love food, and it is a challenge to make them understand that we can’t have cupboards loaded with treats. Mainly because I work mostly from home, and, if it is here, I will eat it. Do I lack willpower? You betcha. But, on the other hand, not buying lots of snacks is good for everyone in the long run, and it gives us extra cash for other things, like books or yarn. 🙂

To be continued!

The wonderful folks at Fair Winds Press sent me some new cookbooks to review, and I have been hard at work sampling recipes! That is part of the reason I haven’t posted too much–I have been saving it all for the review.

So, the first book I have to talk about is Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen, by Joni Marie Newman. I wanted to sample at least one recipe from each chapter before I reviewed the book. I haven’t yet made anything from the dessert chapter, so I will update when I have!

The recipes are divided into seven sections: Sauces and Condiments, Starters, Soups and Salads, Main Dishes, Sides. Beverages, and Desserts. The Introduction is shorter than I have seen in most vegan cookbooks, so some knowledge of vegan food and cooking is assumed. What the intro does focus on is explaining fusion food and going over some ingredients one might want to have on hand for this style of cooking. There were only one or two things I had never heard of before, so it isn’t an obscure list. There is also a key explaining the the recipe/allergy notations that will be found at the start of each recipe.

From the Small Bites and Starters chapter, I made the Orange Tempeh Kebabs, which also required a batch of the Garlic Orange Sauce from the first chapter. I am the big tempeh fan in the family–the others blow hot and cold depending on the recipe. This one was a hit all around. I opted to not serve it as kebabs, or even as a starter, but, instead, as part of the main course. We had baby bok choy and some adorable, gluten-free, duck-shaped pasta I found a Whole Foods to go with it. I used the rest of the Orange Sauce on the bok choy and pasta–it was so good!

Orange Tempeh with GF Duck Pasta and Baby Bok Choy

Orange Tempeh with GF Duck Pasta and Baby Bok Choy

I love chowder, but haven’t had it too often now that I don’t use dairy, so I was excited to see a recipe for Coconut Curry Pea and Potato Chowder in the Soup and Salad section. I love Indian food, but my husband is often not a fan, so I did halve the amount of curry powder the recipe called for. I also had fewer frozen peas in the freezer than I thought I did, so I added some corn. It was creamy, thick, and totally yummy. I claimed most of the leftovers for myself, but it was a hit with everyone when I initially served it.

Coconut Curry Pea (and Corn) and Potato Chowder

Coconut Curry Pea (and Corn) and Potato Chowder

From the same chapter, I also made the Chinese Style Macaroni Salad, which also required a batch of the Sweet Chile Sauce. The recipe invites creativity, so I played with the veggies I included. I didn’t have any green beans or scallions on hand, so I added bell pepper instead. I opted to not include the sesame seeds, and I also reduced the amount of red pepper flakes by half. Even doing that, it was quite spicy–I will probably tame the sauce a bit the next time I make it. However, it was still good–my daughter even asked for it as her lunch that week, which is a definite sign of success!

Chinese-Style Macaroni Salad

Chinese-Style Macaroni Salad

Also from the Soups, I made the Sloppy Joe Pho. When I served this and said what it was, my husband almost refused to eat it–he is not a fan of anything “sloppy” when it comes to food. However, he did give it a try, and it was an all-around hit. It was warm and just spicy enough.

The Pho is one of only three recipes in the book that call for TVP, and the other two have wheat gluten as a main ingredient, so I almost didn’t try them. But they sounded so interesting, I wasn’t going to give up. The Kofta Kebabs recipe is in the Main Dishes section, and I decided to give it a go. At first, I was just going to cook the TVP with the spices and make a sort of scramble with them, but I did some poking around online for an alternative binder. I happened across the blog My Real Food Life, and a recipe for gluten-free meatballs. Taking inspiration from there, I used a blend of tapioca starch, flax meal, and rice flour until I got the consistency I wanted. I shaped the Kofta as burgers instead of kebabs, and the result was fabulous. The taste was unaffected by my gluten-free tweaking, and we all got to enjoy it! All the other recipes I made were gluten-free from the start or included g-f options in the recipe.

Kofta Burgers

Kofta Burgers

From the Sides and Snacks chapter I made the Nori Roasted Potatoes. I used a blend of white and sweet potatoes, and it was also quite good. I love roasted veggies in pretty much any form, so this was an easy choice.

When I was trying to figure out what to try from the drinks chapter, I mixed up a couple of the recipes in my head when I was buying ingredients, so I ended up making a combination of the Ice Blended Mexican Hot Chocolate and the Banana Bliss–it was fabulous. I made a half recipe since I am the only coffee drinker in the house, and it came out fine, and I had a little party of my own!

I have several cookbooks by Newman, and they all have been hits. This is another. The recipes are, for the most part, familiar bases with global twists–and the ethnic cuisines included cover just about every continent. Fusion cooking is a good way to dabble in international cooking without making anything too scary for picky eaters. While there are some ingredients that may be harder to find, there are plenty that are right there on any grocery store’s shelves. I look forward to remaking some of the ones listed above, trying some new ones, and getting to that desserts chapter!

 

This Week’s Yumminess

March 5, 2014

Sunday was my big cooking day, as usual. However, I didn’t make a big dinner. Instead I opted to make some Tempeh Tuna Salad I found the recipe for in The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet. It was really good and disappeared quickly. Yesterday, I made some mayo so I could make some more–used up the jar mayo I had on hand Sunday. That recipe came from The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions–I make the no-cook soymilk variation, and it is super easy.

Tempeh "Tuna" Salad

Tempeh “Tuna” Salad

Also made the Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins from The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread that I thought were tasty–daughter disagreed. So today I had to pick out the berries in order for her to eat it. Upside–I got to eat the berries!

GF Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins

GF Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins

For supper, we had Pumpkin Pancakes, which also didn’t stick around long–didn’t even get a picture!

Yesterday, I got some cookbooks in the mail to review, so I look forward to some new recipes to try out–which I will then report here!

Endless Winter

February 28, 2014

I know it isn’t really endless, but I am beginning to think we’ve all been transported to the North of Westeros. Forget Winter is Coming, it has come, kicked our butts, and is refusing to leave!

Anyway, the calendar says Spring is coming soon, though I do have my doubts at the moment–especially when the temperature reaching 32 is a cause for celebration. But I digress.

I wrote a few weeks ago that I was determined to get back to clean eating, and I am happy to say that I have been largely successful with that. My weight is just about back to where it should be and the cupboards are largely junk-free. All this bad weather hasn’t helped, since snow days bring out the desire for chips and warm bread–along with warm chocolaty things. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this before lunch….

To honor the cold weather, I did make a wonderful Pumpkin Chili last week–the recipe came from Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats. I cut back on the spices a bit for family consumption–though except for the day I made it, I have been the only one eating it! I had never made a pumpkin-based soup before, and I wasn’t sure I would like it, but it was quite good–pumpkin is definitely not just for sweets! It also has chickpeas, black beans, tomatoes, corn, and green pepper. Maybe I will have some for lunch!

Pumpkin Chili

Pumpkin Chili

Well, all this talk of food is making me hungry, so I think I should run with that lunch idea. More yumminess to come, I promise. And some new book reviews soon!

As always, the end of the school year brings with it an over-packed schedule! That is part of the reason it has been so long between posts–just too much going on! Of course, the over-packed schedule means lots of events and lots of cooking for me. And now that camp has begun, that is not going to end anytime soon!

So, to recap–

My daughter participated in an after school club called One Hen, which is a micro-finance site for kids sort of like Kiva. She really enjoyed it, and they raised quite a bit of money through various events. One was a bake sale, and I was persuaded to make cookies. Phoebe loves the Cowboy/girl Cookie recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so that is what I made. I experimented with the recipe and made it gluten-free–they were still great. I had to freeze them so there were still cookies for the bake sale! And once they were sent it, none made it home!

Cowgirl Cookies

Cowgirl Cookies

Since my daughter’s birthday is over the summer, she brings in a birthday snack around the right date in June, so she can celebrate with her whole class. This year, she asked for cookies–Chocolate Snickerdoodles and Lazy Samoas, both from Vegan Cookies Invade. The latter is a vegan version of the Girls Scouts cookie, and I made it gluten-free as well. They were delicious! Again, they almost didn’t make it to school! Unfortunately, the chocolate cookies were shy and didn’t want to be photographed.

Lazy Samoas

Lazy Samoas

Her class had an end-of-year party, and the parents were tapped to provide the buffet. How is it that the kids get to celebrate and the parents have to do all the work! Anyway, I was also making something for the school picnic after the moving up ceremony, so I turned to an easy stand-by–the Jam Bars recipe from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook. I used cherry preserves and called them Cherry Pie Bars. Sadly, my daughter failed to pass that info onto the rest of the class and most of them came home–but she has been able to take them for snack! For the all-school picnic, I made the Maple Pound Cake recipe from Have Your Cake and Vegan Too. However, with all the rain we had been getting, we opted not to go to the picnic in the end, thinking the park would be a mess. So we have that for snacks as well!

Cherry Pie Bars

Cherry Pie Bars

The last end-of-school baking requirement was for the class field trip, which I had offered to help chaperone. We went on a river cruise, which was nice, and I wanted to make something that was gluten-free so I could eat it to and not dependent on refrigeration. I decided on some Crispy Rice Treats from The Gluten-Free Vegan. I worried about the puffed rice that the recipe called for, but they were fabulous. I used dried cranberries instead of the raisins/currants. It was a challenge to eat just one!

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Crispy Rice Treats

Now that camp has started, we have gone back to Vegan Lunchbox to find more fun menus. The first week she picked one featuring Mini Wellingtons, which had a yummy filling wrapped in puff pastry. I sampled some of the filling before I made the Wellingtons! Since it was Harry Potter camp, I tried making lightning bolts in the pastry, but they didn’t all show up after they were baked. My daughter still thought it was cool though!

Mini Wellingtons

Mini Wellingtons

This week we decided on Chickpea Salad Sandwiches from Vegan Lunchbox. The salad is made using the Cheesy Roasted Chickpeas recipe, which came out quite tasty and would make a wonderful snack on their own. I also made some Strawberry Muffins for snack, using one of the variations for the Basic Muffins, Seven Ways recipe in Vegetarian Family.

Yesterday, my cooking moods continued, helped by the fact that I had gotten snacks out of the way Saturday. We received cabbage in our CSA box, so I made the Cool Slaw recipe from Appetite for Reduction. When making the dressing, I soaked the cashews like the recipe said, but I didn’t blend for the full five minutes–I am too impatient. As the recipe predicted, it was a little grainy, but it was barely noticeable, and it tasted great.

I also switched back to the Masala Baked Tofu recipe in Appetite for Reduction this week, getting a little bored with the Basic one. I wanted to make Buffalo Tofu, but I also wanted to make tempeh, so I compromised and made the Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh recipe from Veganomicon. As seems to always be the case, the marinade was more than enough for double the tempeh.

Cool Slaw

Cool Slaw

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Cool Slaw with Hot Sauce-Glazed Tempeh

After all of this cooking, I think tonight will be low key–mashed potatoes from the box and Gardein Chick’n patties (a burger for me!). Just need to add some CSA veggies to go along with it.

The wonderful people at Fair Winds Press sent me a copy of Whole Grain Vegan Baking to review for this very blog, and I have to say I am having a blast with the recipes. Counting the Chocolate Ganache, I have made six of the recipes so far, and they have all come out great.

This is not a gluten-free cookbook although a lot of g-f flours are used in conjunction with the wheat-based ones. I am always a bit nervous modifying a recipe to be g-f since I have had some less than great results in the past. So, I decided to make some as written and modify others to see how flexible the recipes actually are. Since some g-f ingredients were already used, the recipes only required partial substitutions.

The introduction gives a fairly thorough introduction to vegan baking and the different flours and other ingredients used in the book. There are many pictures for inspiration and motivation. The only thing missing is nutritional information, but these are baked goods, so knowing the calories would probably not be a good thing!

My daughter loves pancakes and waffles for any meal, so I made the Fill-You-Up Oat Flapjacks for supper one night last week. This I did modify, so I could have them too, and I did add a bit more flour to make the batter thicker–as mentioned in the recipe notes. My daughter insisted on some chocolate chips in hers, and the recipe made enough to feed all of us–two adults and a child. You could probably stretch it to feed four; I am just opposed to leaving just a few pancakes to be leftovers!

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Fill-You-Up Oat Flapjacks

The Blackberry Allspice Muffins I made pretty much as written, so I had to depend on my tasters for the verdict. My husband thought they could have been sweeter, and there is an option to add more sugar. But that was the only thing, and they are almost gone, so I am guessing they were otherwise OK!

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Blackberry Allspice Muffins

We went on a car trip Sunday, and I wanted to bring a snack, so I made the Kicked-Up Chocolate Cookies. This I did make gluten-free. I am not going to miss out on chocolate! I scooped instead of rolling and cutting, and I got 16 cookies. Since this was a family trip, I did leave out the cayenne to make the cookies more kid friendly. Next time I make the Chocolate Ganache that tops them, I will use about half the espresso powder–the coffee taste was a little too evident.

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Kicked-Up Chocolate Cookies

I just finished making the Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies to serve at my daughter’s book group meeting on Friday. I was out of peanut butter, having taken a spoon to what was left in the jar last night, so I used almond butter. And, since they are for kids, I left out the Siracha sauce. I did tweak these so I could have at least one to try, and the half I just ate was quite good. My daughter ate the other half and she concurs. I used a smaller cookie scoop and got 15 cookies.

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Almond Butter Surprise Cookies

This weekend we are going to a retirement party, and the food is potluck, so I made the Onion Caraway Whole Wheat Loaf to bring along. I made it as muffins to make it easier to serve. I got 13 that way, which left an extra for my husband and daughter to try last night–I did not modify these. Thumbs up from both of them, so we’ll see how the rest of the party goers like them!

Onion Caraway Whole Wheat Muffins

Onion Caraway Whole Wheat Muffins

There are many other recipes in the book I want to try, but I wanted to get the review posted, so I will talk about those another time. Modifying the recipes was definitely not a problem. If you like to bake and are looking for healthier options, do check this book out!

Kim Harrison

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