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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Dark chocolate chunk cookies

What I planned to make this afternoon was chocolate chip cookies. However, when it came time to add the chocolate chips I made the sad discovery that there were none (which is strange because I almost always have them on hand...). What I did have on hand was Scharffen Berger dark chocolate. This chocolate is my favorite! I made the ultimate sacrifice for the cookies and chopped up all 6 oz. I had in the drawer.















These turned out so good. There are varying sizes of chocolate pieces - from bigger chunks right down to the chocolate dust that was formed as I chopped. It all went in the bowl! These were thin and crispy and absolutely delicious. I felt so June Cleaver-ish baking cookies after school - and then I looked outside and saw my daughters sitting at the patio table, each with their laptops doing homework - then I felt a little more Jane Jetson-ish. Either way - the kids were happy :-)

Thin crust pizzas

Well we're back - we survived the weekend. I'll post more about it later.

I really didn't want to go to the store yesterday so tried to make do with what was in the house. Luckily, we always have a lot of stuff on hand so we were in pretty good shape. I made pizzas using lavosh bread for the crust. It makes a nice, very thin crust pizza. I found a small container of homemade spaghetti sauce in the freezer and that was our sauce. I used one package of Follow Your Heart mozzarella, finely shredded, to make four lavosh pizzas.

First pizza was caramelized Vidalia onions and tofu "blue cheese." On this one I didn't use the red sauce but instead used ranch dressing. The tofu wasn't exactly like blue cheese (though it's been so long I wouldn't be able to tell you really...). What I was going for was something tangy and a little salty to go with the super sweet onions. I chopped extra firm tofu into a very small dice to make 1/2 cup. Then I added a tsp or two of ume plum vinegar, about a 1/2 tsp of nutritional yeast and some salt. I let it marinate for awhile and then I cooked it in a tiny amount of canola oil - maybe a tsp. Not to fry it, just to firm it up and eliminate the raw tofu taste. Whatever it was it worked - everyone loved this pizza



















Next up - veggie canadian bacon and pineapple with red onion - another very popular one:



















Next we have chopped black olive, veggie canadian bacon, sliced orange tomato and red onion:






















Finally there is marinated artichoke hearts, chopped black olives, red onion and the tofu blue cheese:



















These pizzas are best when ingredients are chopped rather small and don't have too much moisture. The bottom two pizzas probably had too much stuff on them but they were still good. I baked these in a 450 degree oven - I think it was 10 -15 minutes or so because I had to keep switching them in the oven.

I had some leftover onions today and made an awesome sandwich:



















I mixed the onions with some better than cream cheese and spread it on a sourdough baguette. Next some sliced roasted red pepper (jarred). I put this under the broiler until it was hot and bubbly. Then I topped it all with fresh basil. Yum!!

I've got cookies in the oven right now - another post shortly!

Friday, May 26, 2006

This and that

I don't do a lot of food shopping at Costco - they just don't have the stuff I want. But I do go there for prescriptions so I end up cruising the aisles. The other day I found a prepared coconut curry that looked really good and was actually labeled as vegan. It was a large container for $6.99 and this was busy week so I bought it. I added a can of garbanzo beans and served it over basmati rice. It was delicious!



















Last night I needed something that everyone could eat as their schedule allowed. Ana had a performance and then was off on a red-eye flight to Boston. I made a pasta salad with rainbow radiatore pasta, wild rice, dried cranberries, chopped pecans and tofu feta. For the dressing I used Briannas Blush Wine Vinaigrette. I usually make this with orzo but didn't have any. This worked pretty well.














I'll be away for a couple of days. Hubby is holding down the fort while Hallie and I attend a family reunion (my mom's side of the family). While there are some very nice people I don't really have a lot in common with most of them beyond the fact that we all have allergies. It's a bond that only takes you so far. There is a dairy farmer, the wife of a cattle rancher... you get the picture. Wish me luck :-)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Black bean salad

Tonight I did some digging through the pantry and the fridge to come up with salad to go with our taquitos. Trader Joe's has a good soyrizo and potato taquito that doesn't have any dairy - they are awesome. I just don't have much time to cook this week so I'm take shortcuts wherever I can! I found some tomatoes and an avocado in the fridge and a can of black beans in the pantry. So a little of this and that and I had a side dish.

As we started eating, Ana tried the salad and said "this is good - is it a new recipe?" I replied "I didn't have a recipe - I just put some stuff together."

Hallie took one look at the salad and said "I could write a recipe for that - take everything I don't like, chop it and stir it up in a bowl."

So in honor of her I present the recipe for the Everything Hallie Doesn't Like Salad:



















1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, diced small
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
2 T. lime juice
a little bit of fresh cilantro
handful of pepitas
salt, pepper and cayenne

The rest of us liked it :-)

I also made some fruit kebabs:



















Only 12 days of school left!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Gnocchi with vodka cream sauce

I was in the mood for a creamy tomato sauce but not really in the mood to cook. Awhile back I made a pasta with vodka sauce and it was pretty good but I didn't want to make that same recipe. So I improvised a very simple sauce and served it over gnocchi with a salad of baby greens, grape tomatoes and avocado.



















Vodka Cream Sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 large can (28 oz?) Muir Glen Fire Roasted whole tomatoes, undrained, and pulsed in the blender a few times
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup tofutti better than cream cheese
basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper

Saute garlic in olive oil until browned. Add tomatoes and cream cheese. Stir carefully to break up the cream cheese and get it melted. Add the vodka and simmer for half an hour until sauce is reduced and the alcohol cooks off. Season to taste with basil, salt and pepper. My fresh basil is under attack from the dreaded snails so I used dried. Not the end of the world but it would have been great with fresh basil!

Also one quick update from the garden - our first pomegranate blossom!



















I sure hope we have pomegranates this winter - we love them. This flower is a good sign!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Puppy party

The next few weeks are going to be hectic - but I'm going to do my best to get some decent food into my family (and onto my blog). Tonight's post has nothing to with food however!

Not much cooking this weekend but we did attend a birthday party for Renzo's brother's and sisters. They even had goody bags for all the dogs!














There were actually only 4 dogs from Renzo's litter - but 11 dogs altogether. They were hilarious. I'm third from the right with Bella and H is there in the middle with Renzo.

This is Renzo on a timeout - getting a lecture from me to stop! barking! at the other dogs



















This is Bella smiling her best happy dog smile:
















Dog heaven:












Tomorrow - back to food blogging (or at least, no more dogs!). To think, three years ago I had to be coerced into getting a dog and now I have two and attend birthday parties for them. Go figure.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gyros salad




















The weather continues to be hot so I was in the mood for a salad. I combined a few different favorites and came up with what I called "gyros salad." I used a package of the morningstar farms "steak strips" and marinaded them in some red wine vinegar and greek seasoning. I let them sit for a few hours and then stir fried them in a bit of olive oil until they were sort of crispy and browned. I also made a batch of the onions from this recipe. I tossed the warm strips and onions with thinly sliced romaine and red leaf lettuce, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, tofu feta (I used the recipe in the current issue of VegNews - very good in a salad) and sliced Persian cucumber. For the dressing I did my usual Greek salad dressing - plain soy yogurt, red wine vinegar, granulated garlic, salt, pepper and some oregano. The combination of the warm onions and veggie strips with the cool lettuce was so good. Lots of flavors and textures and they all worked well together. I'd also picked up the "middle east feast" from Trader Joe's - it has some falafel, hummus, pita bread and tabbouleh. I can't believe they are opening a new TJ's in Walnut Creek. I already have 4 Trader Joe's within 15 minutes of my house - this will make 5. I always feel bad when people say they drive an hour to get to one!

I went to the produce store today and they had cherries - not organic - but I washed them with pesticide removing wash. I don't know how well it works but I like to believe it helps.



















I also ended up at Whole Foods - they also had cherries, conventional as well, and they were selling them for $14.99 a pound!!! I was convinced it had to be a typo but they had two varieties and they each had a sign for $14.99 a pound. That's insane!

Lettuce wraps

I think May is going to be a month of quick cooking recipes. It is truly such a hectic month! Last night I made mixture of cubed, baked tofu, sliced waterchestnuts, bok choy, sugar snap peas and Soy vay chinese marinade - all quickly stir fried - served in lettuce leaves, sort of taco style. The lettuce wasn't pliable enough to make rolls so we just made do.



















I also made a side dish of spinach that was quickly blanched (30 seconds in boiling water) until limp then rinsed in cold water, drained and chopped. Mixed with a dressing of toasted sesame seeds, sugar and soy sauce. This was a recipe I got from my friend Karlie years ago and I finally tried it! Delicious!



















And of course we had a big bowl of watermelon, cantaloupe and mango. We eat a ton of fruit in the warmer months - usually every night we'll have some kind of melon and strawberries. We actually have a few strawberries starting out in the garden - even one tiny red one. The plants winter over here - and they have a tendency to spread which is great! I like a plant with initiative!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Raspberry Hazelnut Brownies

Tonight was the spring concert for H's orchestra and they requested volunteers to bring desserts and drinks so they could have a small reception after the concert. I volunteered to bring brownies and dug up an old favorite. The concert was amazing - a very talented group of kids. I served the brownies on a thrift store plate - it's more environmentally friendly than a disposable serving dish and I'm not too concerned if it doesn't make it home again!




















Raspberry Hazelnut Brownies (adapted from Gourmet 1996 recipe)


1/3 cup raspberry preserves, forced through a fine sieve to remove seeds if desired (I don't bother with this)
3 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 sticks (10 T.) Earth Balance margarine
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Ener-G egg replacer to make 2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and chopped fine

Preheat oven to 350°F. and grease and flour a 9-inch square baking pan, knocking out excess flour.

In a small bowl stir preserves until smooth. In a heavy 1 1/2-quart saucepan melt chocolate and margarine over low heat, stirring, until smooth and remove pan from heat. Cool mixture 10 minutes and stir in sugar, vanilla, and almond extract. Add prepared ener-g eggs, beating well with a wooden spoon until mixture is glossy and smooth. In a bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and add to chocolate mixture, beating just until batter is combined well.

Spread half of batter evenly in pan. Drop preserves by spoonfuls onto batter and spread carefully to form an even layer. Drop remaining chocolate batter by spoonfuls onto raspberry preserves and spread carefully to form an even top layer. Sprinkle batter evenly with hazelnuts and bake in middle of oven 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack before cutting into 16 squares. Brownies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at cool room temperature, 5 days.


I find that these really benefit from a little time in the fridge after they've cooled. It helps to firm them up and keep them from being too crumbly. These disappeared very quickly tonight - we had fun watching people enjoy them. I made a double batch so we got to have a few at home too. It's such a great combination - chocolate, raspberry and hazelnuts.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

If I were to sum up today in one word it would be - allergies. I'm miserable. But we had a lovely day - our good friends came over for dinner (Thai takeout), I got some sparkly new earrings, a painting by my daughter and a beautiful handmade card from my other daughter. It was a relaxing, wonderful day.











I l
























I love being a mom - I love my girls and can't believe how quickly the time goes by...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Thursday night fast food - again

I will be so happy when the school year is over and Thursday night is no longer so busy. This week we squeezed in a quick dinner - oh so gourmet - but we were together at the table and that is always my goal!


















We had veggie dogs, broccoli salad, strawberries and bananas and some potato chips (it counts as a vegetable right?). Whenever we have veggie dogs I like to split them and pan fry them in a pan sprayed with a little oil. We like them much better this way. For the broccoli salad I made a dressing with some vegenaise, white vinegar and a little sugar. Then I mixed it with broccoli florets, raisins, sunflowers seeds and red onion. My husband advised against photographing this meal :-) but I said this is real life and in real life sometimes we eat a veggie dog!

Speaking of dogs...Renzo got ahold of a stuffed animal and he came and sat in front of me -looking rather defiant!



















He is going to be one on Monday so I let him keep the stuffed animal as an early birthday present ;-)

The bottlebrush explosion

May 10 2:24 pm



















May 11 8:07 am




















May 11 3:11 pm




















May 12 11:48 am



















I would love to see time lapse photography on one of these flowers. The whole shrub has exploded with color - it happens every year but this is the first time I've really paid attention to it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Grilled portobello mushrooms with quinoa salad

It's so hot - I'm not complaining, after all the whining I did about the rain. But somewhere in between would be nice. Oh well.

I had a dish planned for tonight that requires an hour in the oven. It's a favorite of ours with portobello mushrooms baked in a yummy sauce, served over rice. But no way was I going to have the oven on for that long, or make a pot of rice. So on to Plan B.

I took the mushrooms and marinated them in Soy Vay Chinese marinade for an hour or two. We haven't filled the propane tank for the outdoor grill so I cooked them indoors - but it only takes a few minutes so it wasn't too bad. I found some red quinoa in the pantry and cooked that up and after it cooled off I mixed it with some cucumbers, tomatoes, mint, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. We also had some fresh asparagus that I served at room temperature with a fig and red wine vinegar. I prepared a huge platter of fruit - fresh pineapple, watermelon and mango. It was so perfect for a hot night like tonight. And because my kids don't think it's dinner without some kind of bread we had some french rolls prepared in my favorite way (a little Earth Balance margarine, a sprinkle of vegan parmesan, a sprinkle of Old Bay Seasoning and under the broiler for a couple of minutes).














Last night was the last lacrosse game - H has been in a sport every season which means she has had daily practices since mid-August. I'm not sure she is going to know what to do with herself!
I took this picture of her at a tournament on Saturday:+



















I always get so many comments about our diet - here's a kid with clear skin, energy to burn and a smile that lights up my life :-) I think she's doing okay!

Finally, we have a bottlebrush shrub that seems to be blooming before our eyes. The other day there was nothing and suddenly today, everytime I looked out the window, there seemed to be more red. So I took a picture and will try taking one of the same flower over the next few days (because I'm just odd that way)




















I think it's supposed to be a little bit cooler tomorrow. One can only hope!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Spaghetti with soy meatballs

I got smart today and used my crockpot to make some spaghetti sauce - the house smelled wonderfully promising all day and I was able to get some work done in the yard. What I love about my spaghetti sauce recipe is that it is one of those where everything just gets dumped into the crockpot. I've been wanting to make lasagna recently but I didn't have any homemade sauce in the freezer. So this provided dinner tonight and will make the sauce for lasagne - maybe next week. We almost always have whole wheat pasta but today I didn't have any and the store I stopped at didn't carry any. It was good though and not a bad change of pace.














Crockpot spaghetti sauce

1 medium onion -- chopped
8 medium garlic cloves - chopped fine
2 28 ounce cans diced canned tomatoes -- not drained
3 6 ounce cans tomato paste
2 15 ounce cans tomato sauce
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons dried basil
4 teaspoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper -- coarsely ground
1/2 cup red wine
1 package meatless meatballs

Put everything into a large crockpot and cook all day (I start mine on high and then turn it down to low after a few hours).

We also had one of my favorite salad combinations - baby spinach, avocado, walnuts and cherry tomatoes.














And last but not least some amazing fruit - organic strawberries, bananas, mango and cantaloupe:


















The dish is another one of my thrift store finds - it's an old enameled 9 x 13 baking dish in my favorite color - green! And it was only $2 :-)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Greek tacos

I really need to find some meals that will cook themselves (and shop for and prepare themselves but then I guess we're talkin' about a restaurant aren't we?). I've been out in the yard so much that I come inside not feeling much like cooking. It was a hot day and we had a simple dinner.

Greek Tacos














1 box Gardenburger flame grilled burgers, thawed and sprinkled with greek seasoning on both sides
mini pitas
tzatziki sauce (plain soy yogurt, 1/2 cucumber finely diced, garlic powder, fresh mint, salt and pepper)
1 recipe lima bean skordalia *
chopped tomatoes
shredded lettuce

I cooked the gardenburger patties over medium high flame in a lightly oiled pan until browned, then sliced them thinly and put them on a mini pita. Top with lettuce, tomato, tzatziki and skordalia.

*Note: when I make the skordalia I use just a tablespoon of oil and then add water as needed to thin it out.

We also had a simple cucumber and tomato salad:



















This was made with persian cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, fresh mint, tofu feta, a splash of balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Now that it has stopped raining the mint is looking spectacular.



















I know that it's invasive and some people hate having it in their yard because of it but we love it. We are able to use it year round but it's particularly nice in the spring and summer. We also have oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, tarragon, cilantro, chocolate mint and lemon verbena.

Tomorrow is supposed to be another beautiful day - I think I'll get the crockpot going in the morning and then dinner *will* cook itself!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cinco de Mayo fruit salad
























Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo and in H's Spanish class they had a party. My kids have learned Do Not Raise Your Hand for the complicated contributions! Let me provide chips and salsa! It's not that I don't enjoy cooking - obviously I do. It's just having that one extra thing to think about on a school day that throws me. So H's assignment was a centerpiece and a fruit salad. I have some great table linens from Mexico so the centerpiece was easy. I filled a Mason jar with colorful candy and put some silk flowers in it - it actually turned out quite cute and apparently the candy was very popular. Go figure.

For the fruit I prepared it the way they serve it for breakfast down in the Yucatan. Mango, watermelon, grapes and bananas, drizzled with yogurt and then sprinkled with granola. I used the Wildwood Soyogurt plain flavor and mixed in some agave nectar. She said the kids in her group pretty much finished off the fruit so I guess it a success.

We attended a fundraiser dinner last night - not many vegan options - essentially some sauteed peppers on a tortilla with salsa but it was fun!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Risotto with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts and pistachios

I had a little technical difficulty trying to blog last night so I'll do a morning post instead. I usually blog after I've cleaned the kitchen and made the kids lunches for the next day. Last night we did an impromptu family movie night instead. We watched "High Fidelity" which is one of my favorite movies and has my personal trinity of People I Like to Watch (John Cusack, Bruce Springsteen - albeit briefly and Tim Robbins). Add in some hilarious Jack Black and what's not to like?



















Back to the food. The risotto was made as follows:

2 1/2 cups arborio rice
olive oil
1/3 cup white wine
~40 ounces vegetable broth
2 onions (I used one red and one yellow because that's what I had) thinly sliced and caramelized in a saute pan
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
1/2 cup pistachios (Trader Joes sells them already shelled)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
salt and pepper

I had one pan going with the onions - I started them with a little oil and then kept adding broth to the pan, just a little bit, to keep them from sticking. They cooked probably half an hour over a very low flame. Toward the end I turned the heat up and added the artichoke hearts to warm them up a bit and get them a tiny bit browned. I then added a splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and took it off the heat until the rice was ready.

In a large saute pan heat a small amount of olive oil, add rice and stir until it is all coated. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Then slowly add broth, one cup at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. When the rice is done (after about 20 minutes or so), stir in the nutritional yeast and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the onions and artichoke hearts and then the pistachios.

We also had caesar salad made with the tahini vinaigrette I posted about recently.



















And some asparagus:



















The asparagus probably isn't photo-worthy but I bought a great little dish at a thrift store the other day and it was the perfect size and shape for serving the asparagus. I love finding serving dishes, pitchers, old silver etc at thrift stores and antique stores. I'm careful about what I use them for because of lead etc. but I always find a way to use them somehow!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Nacho, nacho man...

I can't help it - I think of the song Macho Man everytime I hear the word nachos.

Today was another day spent in the garden so tonight was a simple dinner of make your own nachos. There was Follow your Heart monterey jack cheese, refried black beans, guacamole, salsa, sour cream, sliced black olives, sliced red onion and jalapenos. Here they are before going into the oven:



















I like to make individual plates of nachos using recycled aluminum pie tins - makes clean up easy!

Here's a plate after baking:




















We've had a few days of really hot weather (over 90) but tonight there is a breeze outside and I think it will be cooler tomorrow. Tomorrow night I'm planning on making some risotto and I don't want to stand at a hot stove when it's 90 degrees outside. If the weather doesn't cool off I may be back with a cheerios and rice milk blog :-)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Linguini with garlic cream sauce and roasted peppers and onions

Tonight's dinner was one of those where everyone was practically licking their dish clean :-) Nice visual eh?

I made a recipe from the Millenium cookbook for Garlic Cream Sauce. This sauce requires that you make the recipe for Millenium braised garlic (which is so simple). The sauce actually calls for 1 1/2 cups of the braised garlic so I used 6 heads of garlic instead of 4 (yes, SIX heads of garlic in one recipe!). I also roasted 2 yellow peppers, 1 red pepper and 1 onion in a very hot oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I tossed linguini with some (not all) the cream sauce and then added in the roasted vegetables. It was absolutely wonderful.



















I also made a simple salad of shredded raw zucchini tossed with some apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds - then sprinkled with some vegan parmesan. It was surprisingly good!




















We also had a watermelon I picked up at the product store this morning (along with a baguette).