Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011 Recap

I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day! It's always nice spending this special day with loved ones (or talking on the phone), whether it's a significant other, family, or friends! Of course we always celebrate year-round, being surrounded by our loved ones, but I like to make this day extra special with David (all though, come to think of it, we have quite a few extra special days)!

So David woke up the morning of Valentine's Day with post-it notes EVERYWHERE! In the pockets of his work pants, the pocket of his work shirt, in his shoes, on the bathroom mirrors, on his car, in his lunch bag, on his coffee mug... I mean EVERYWHERE! Ha! I had wrote little love notes on about 20 post-its and put them in random places for David to find. What can I say? I love the guy, and I wanted to do something cute and cheezy!

David had tulips sent to the house... my favorite :) One day, I want to be able to grow my own tulips - they are so beautiful, but I feel I don't have the space to grow my own garden right now.

We decided to spend our Valentine's Day with a special homemade dinner. David had requested pasta with a meaty marinara sauce and garlic bread. The day before Valentine's Day I decided to take on a challenge and make my own French bread to make the garlic bread. I found a great recipe on Allrecipes! Turns out, French bread is for everyone! Vegans and non-vegans! It is very simple to make too! The only non-vegan step involved in making this bread is an egg-wash that is brushed on the dough before baking it - this is to just give the bread a nice, crusty, dark color though, which can also be done with milk! Since I wanted to try this French bread too, my "egg-wash" substitute was almond milk - perfect!

  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Cornmeal
  • 1-2 tbsp almond milk
  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, allowing the yeast to activate.
  2. Add the sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups flour. Stir the mixture until well-blended. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a stiff dough.
  3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning it on all sides so the dough will not stick to the bowl. Cover, with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour (I usually place my dough in the oven. I warm up the oven a little, but not too much, before setting the dough in there).
  5. Punch the dough down. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes, then cover the bowl and let rise again for 30 minutes.
  6. Punch the dough down again. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a loaf (16 in. long x 2-1/2 in. wide) with tapered ends.
  7. Sprinkle a greased baking sheet with cornmeal and place the loaf on the baking sheet. Cover the dough and let it rise until doubled, about 25 minutes.
  8. Brush almond milk over the dough. With a sharp knife, make diagonal slashes 2 in. apart across top of loaf.
  9. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  10. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

Unfortunately, my bread didn't rise as much as I would have wanted it to, so I didn't take a picture (to spare my embarrassment LOL). I don't know if my yeast wasn't activated enough (water may have been too warm, potentially killing the yeast) or if I had accidently formed the dough into something too long and wide. Who knows, I will do better next time!
The day of Valentine's Day I sliced up the bread and layed the slices on a baking sheet. I minced fresh garlic and put it in a small pan with vegan butter, allowing the garlic to saute a little in the melted butter. I then brushed the butter-garlic mixture on the tops of the sliced bread and sprinkled veggie parmesan cheese on top. All vegan and you would never even know it! I turned the broiler on and put the garlic bread in the oven for about 2 minutes - Perfect! David loved it!
For dessert, I made David's favorite... Gingerbread Cookies! I made one big cookie for him with lots of little heart-shaped cookies on the side. Since this was all for David, I did not "veganize" the recipe... they are perfect the way they are :)
I love Valentine's Day because it gives me a chance to get all creative and gives me a GREAT excuse to be beyond CHEEZY! LOL. I love it!


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Too-Good-To-Be-True, Healthy Nori Rolls

Liking the idea of a lower-carb nori roll, I came up with this yummy recipe! I don't think you could have a healthier nori roll! It's loaded with nutrient-rich foods, antioxidants, and get this, it tastes fantastic! I uploaded my recipe to VegWeb, so check it out!

Too-Good-To-Be-True, Healthy Nori Rolls

  • 2 nori sheets
  • 1/2 cup prepared hummus, divided (recommended: Veganomicon's "A Hummus Recipe")
  • 2-4 tbsp pine nuts, divided
  • avocado, thinly sliced
  • carrots, julienned
  • cucumber, julienned
  • red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts, divided
  1. Using a bamboo mat, place a nori sheet on top of it, spread approximately 1/4 cup hummus on 2/3 of the nori sheet (closest to you).
  2. On top of the hummus, sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp of pine nuts, then top with avocado, carrots, cucumber, and red bell pepper in a thin row. Top the vegetables with 1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts. Be sure not to pile too many veggies on top, as it will be difficult to roll (my recipe is very close to overload though!).
  3. Take the end of nori sheet closest to you, and begin to roll up and over the vegetables. Use the bamboo mat to tighten that portion of the roll. Continue to roll (with the use of your bamboo mat) until the entire sheet is rolled up. Place the roll on a plate, and begin making the next roll. Place the second nori roll on the plate.
  4. Refrigerate the nori rolls for at least 30 minutes before slicing. 
  5. Once chilled, slice the nori rolls. Wet a knife and cut each roll into 6-8 pieces. Wetting the knife aids in the slicing process. 
  6. Enjoy!
* Note: The amounts of vegetables in this recipe depend on your preference. Be careful not to overstuff the nori roll though! Recommend using 2-4 slices of each vegetable per roll.




Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Super Bowl XLV Hors d'œuvre Night!

What's better than hors d'œuvres for Super Bowl Sunday?! Woohoo! Although the Pittsburgh Steeler's didn't quite make the spotlight, we still had a nice and fun dinner watching the game, especially those commercials!

The Super Bowl XLV Menu:

Tuscan Bean Dip with Assorted Fresh Vegetables
Loaded-Veggie Nori Rolls
My Crazy-Healthy Experimental Nori Rolls
Baked  Spring Rolls
Homemade Nutella Spreads with Assorted Fresh Fruit
Front: Hazelnut Nutella
Back: Almond and Cashew Nutella

#1 Tuscan Bean Dip by Food Network

  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 (15-oz) can cannellini (northern) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2-1 tsp sea salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Fresh vegetables for dipping: carrots, celery, red and green bell pepper, cucumber, broccoli
  1. Heat oil and garlic in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Stir garlic until golden, about 3 minutes.
  2. Pull skillet from heat; stir in rosemary and cool slightly.
  3. In a food processor, add the beans, salt, cayenne pepper and rosemary oil. Process until smooth.
  4. Scrape the puree into a serving bowl.
  5. Serve dip with fresh raw veggies!
This bean dip is so delicious! A friend brought it over one time and I just loved it! I used to be all over blue cheese when fresh vegetables were near, but I'd never go back after trying this bean dip! I also never cared for rosemary until I tried this dip. Let me tell you, fresh rosemary is very different than dried, and it adds a wonderful flavor to this bean dip! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Yum!

#2 Loaded-Veggie Nori Rolls

#3 My Crazy-Healthy Experimental Nori Rolls

  • 4 nori sheets
  • 1 recipe Veganomicon's Sun-Dried Tomato Dip
  • Sun flower seeds
  • Carrots, julienned
  • Cucumber, julienned
  • Red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • Avocado, thinly sliced
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  1. Using a bamboo mat, place a nori sheet on top of it, add approximately 1/4 cup tomato dip on 2/3 of the nori sheet (closest to you). On top of the dip (on the closest part of the nori sheet to you), sprinkle sunflower seeds on top, then top with remaining ingredients. Be sure not to pile too many veggies on top, as it will be difficult to roll!
  2. Take the end of nori closest to you, and begin to roll up and over the vegetables. Use the bamboo mat to tighten that portion of the roll. Continue to roll (with the use of your bamboo mat) until the entire sheet is rolled up. Place on a plate, allowing the nori roll to soften, while you continue making the next rolls.
  3. When all 4 nori rolls are made, starting with the first one made, wet a knife and cut each roll into 6-8 pieces. Wetting the knife aids in the slicing process. 
I won't be posting Veganomicon's Sun-Dried Tomato Dip recipe unless it is requested. Unfortunately, I didn't really care much for it. I would like to try this same nori roll with hummus next time, maybe some pine nuts, and fresh basil! I will post this if I do! 

#4 Baked spring rolls (Click to view original recipe)

  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chop suey vegetables, drained
  • 1 (8-oz) can water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 16 rice paper wrappers (can purchase at an Asian market)
  1. Heat a large skillet with olive oil and add the first six ingredients. Cook and stir over medium heat until vegetable are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add the beans; heat through.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, water, soy sauce, oil, brown sugar and cayenne until smooth; stir into the vegetable mixture and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes; remove from the heat.
  3. Fill a large bowl with warm water. One at a time, dip the rice paper in the water for 20-30 seconds until it becomes soft and flexible. Lay on a flat surface. Spoon 1/4 cup of the vegetable mixture on the bottom third of the rice papper; fold sides toward center and roll tightly. Place seam side down on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat with remaining rice paper wrappers and filling. Spray the tops of the spring rolls with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.
These spring rolls were DELICIOUS! I highly recommend them! The only issue I had was with the rice paper wrappers...  I had made all of the rolls early in the day, so I refrigerated them in a tupperware container. As they sat in the fridge, each roll clung to one another, so when I went to take them out of the container they were stuck together! The rice paper is very delicate once it gets soft, so it tore easily when I tried to separate them all. Due to this issue, we had to eat these rolls with a fork, but this didn't take away from the delicious flavor at all! I will definitely be making these again!

#5 Wings from Frankie's Wings & Things

Of course when you have appetizers, and you're around David, you can't forget the wings! These are great but unfortunately I didn't get to have any this time around due to my recent vegan choices. They smelled delicious though, as always! My saliva glands were going crazy when I was serving them LOL! 

#6 Homemade Nutella Spreads (Click to view original recipe)

Hazelnut Nutella:

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • water (optional)
  • Assorted fresh fruit for dipping: sliced banana, sliced granny smith apples, sliced braeburn apples, strawberries, green grapes 
Almond and Cashew Nutella:

  • 1/2 cup almonds, blanched
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup (scant) powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Assorted fresh fruit for dipping: sliced banana, sliced granny smith apples, sliced braeburn apples, strawberries, green grapes 
  1. Place the nuts in a food processor and process until the nuts start to clump together in a ball, at least 5 minutes, if not more.
  2. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and process again for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is well combined.
  3. Drizzle in enough oil to make a spread. If the consistancy is not right after the addition of oil, add a bit of water (I had to do this for the hazelnut spread).
  4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks. Serve with fresh fruit, graham crackers, or spread on bread!
The homemade nutella spread was posted from One Perfect Bite, who seems to always be posting fun and exciting recipes!

Hope you like the menu! Some of the hors d'œuvres were a little time-consuming, but all worth it! Enjoy!



Monday, February 7, 2011

Eggplant and Chickpea Curry

In the mood to try something new, I came across Healthy Girl's Vegan Indian Eggplant Curry. It looked good and I had all of the spices that needed to go into it (minus the fenugreek, which is more of an optional flavor), so I gave it a shot and it was delish! I added a little protein into the dish (chickpeas!) so it could be a more nutitionally-balanced entree! I served this with sticky brown rice for David and he enjoyed it! I plan to make this again this week! Yum!

Eggplant and Chickpea Curry

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeno and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the broth, eggplant, peppers, chickpeas, salt, turmeric, coriander and cumin and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 70 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately or reheat before serving.
  5. Optional: Serve over brown rice.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Raw Chocolate-Mint Pie

So I saw this raw dessert on VegWeb and just knew I had to try it. I mean come on, a dessert that has avocados in it?! I would never imagine such a thing! And from the picture, would you even guess it was avocados? Let me tell you - you would never know they were in this! This dessert was great chilled in the refriegerator or as a tasty frozen treat! I think my favorite part was the crust though - the combination of nuts, dates and cocoa powder was just delightful!

This recipe was posted by Sketch-free Vegan Eating and I decided to start following their blog - they post a lot of fun and healthy vegan recipes!

When I made the raw chocolate-mint pie, I made a few changes, but it still turned out wonderful! Hope you enjoy this!

Raw Chocolate-Mint Pie (Click to view Sketch-free Vegan Eating's original recipe, Click to view recipe posted to VegWeb)


For the crust:
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup almond milk pulp
  • 1/2 cup packed Medjool dates (~ 8 dates)
  • 1 (8-oz) container cashews
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch sea salt
For the filling:
  • 2 large avocados
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the ganache:
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • pinch sea salt
  1. To prepare the crust: In a food processor, add all of the crust ingredients and process until well combined. Press into an 8-inch pie pan. Chill in the refrigerator until firm. Clean the food processor for the next step.
  2. To prepare the filling: In  a clean food processor, add all of the filling ingredients and process until well combined and creamy. Pour the filling into the chilled crust; chill in the refrigerator until it is set. 
  3. To prepare the ganache: In a small bowl, add all of the ganache ingredients and combine until smooth. Pour the ganache over filling. Use the back of a spoon to help spread it out over the pie. This must be done pretty quickly - the ganache will start to harden once it touches the chilled filling. Chill the pie until ready to serve. Can freeze or refrigerate.





Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rachel's Loaded-Veggie Sushi Rolls

Saturday night we decided would be sushi night! But I really had an urge to try making sushi myself! I got a few pointers from VegWeb's Healthy Avocado Sushi with Brown Rice on how to make the sushi rice. Healthy Vegan Recipes has a great video which shows you how to roll sushi and I recommend watching it if you're a beginner! Here's what I came up with!

Rachel's Loaded-Veggie Sushi

  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 5 nori (seaweed) sheets
  • Assorted vegetables*: Avocado, thinly sliced; Scallions; Red bell pepper, thinly sliced; Bean Sprouts; Zucchini, julienned; Carrot, julienned
  • Low-sodium soy sauce (optional)
  • Pickled ginger (optional)
  • Wasabi (optional)
  1. In a small pot, bring the rice and water to a boil. Once boiling, stir rice once, cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer for 50 minutes.
  2. When rice is finished cooking, transfer to a bowl. Gently stir in the vinegar until it is well-mixed into the rice (rice will stick together). Place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and allow rice to sit for 10 minutes, letting it cool, before making the sushi rolls.
  3. Here is where the video will really help you: Using a bamboo mat, place a nori sheet on top of it, add 1/5 of the rice on 2/3 (closest to you) of the sheet. On top of the rice (on only the closest part of the nori sheet to you), stack the vegetables in a thin row on top of each other. Take end of nori closest to you, and begin to roll up and over the vegetables. Use the bamboo mat to tighten that portion of the roll. Continue to roll (with the use of your bamboo mat) until the entire sheet is rolled up. Place on a plate, allowing the rice to soften the nori, while you continue making the next sushi rolls.
  4. When all 5 sushi rolls are made, starting with the first sushi roll made, wet a knife and cut each roll into 6-8 pieces. Wetting the knife aids in the slicing process or else the rice will stick to the knife, making it difficult to cut.
  5. Serve with soy sauce, ginger and wasabi. Yum!
*Note: I did not put amounts for the vegetables I used because it is really all your own preference! You really don't need a lot of veggies to make one roll, let alone the 5 rolls I made, so I highly recommend these few friendly tips before preparing your own sushi and deciding on amounts:
  1. Warning: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO STUFF YOUR SUSHI ROLL. Stuffing your sushi roll makes it very difficut to roll up and slice. Yes, I am speaking from experience but was not about to take a picture of the disaster!
  2. Wrap sushi roll as tight as possible with bamboo mat. The tighter your roll, the easier it is to slice.
  3. Wet knife before slicing sushi roll into pieces (the rice sticks to the knife, making it difficult to cut).
  4. Don't forget to have fun!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Homemade Almond Milk: Take 3

Happy with the recommended ratio of almonds to water for almond milk from Run Hard Eat Clean, I decided the missing ingredient from Homemade Almond Milk: Take 2 was sweetener! Rather than using sugar though, it is a little healthier to use natural sweeteners such as agave nectar or honey! Now most vegans eliminate honey from their diet, but I'm keeping it in mine! If you are curious to know why honey is not vegan, click here. Shannon calls me a psuedo-vegan, but I'm okay with that!

Homemade Almond Milk

  • 1/2 cup almonds, blanched
  • 2-1/2 cups water, divided
  • 1 tbsp honey (or agave nectar)
  1. In a blender, add cups of water, almonds, and honey. Blend until a creamy consistancy forms. Depending on how creamy you prefer your almond milk, you may need to add more or less water or almonds. It's your preference though!
  2. Hold a mesh strainer over a bowl and strain the almond milk. Store the almond milk in a jar/pitcher/plastic bottle and keep refrigerated. Keep the pulp refrigerated until ready to use (good to use in raw desserts!). Shake milk before using if it separates while sitting in the refrigerater.
The addition of honey gives the milk a perfect touch of sweetness! I use it in cereal, which I love! Yummy and oh-so fresh!

The Herbivore's Out-of-this-World 5-Bean Chili

Okay, so Recipe #4 of The 2011 Cookbook Challenge required a little something extra. We need some chili to go with our cornbread! So I came up with a new chili recipe. I just love experimenting! I decide to post this on and soon after they gave a special announcement on Facebook about my recipe! How exciting! You can really find some really good vegetarian/vegan recipes on their website. Hope you enjoy my latest creation!

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-1/2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 5 (small- to medium-sized) carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 (14.5-oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15-oz) can organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-oz) can organic soy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15.5-oz) can dark red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (15.5-oz) can light red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (15.5-oz) can black beans, undrained
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalepeno chili pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)
  1. In a dutch oven pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions, minced garlic, celery, and carrots until tender (about 5-7 min).
  2. Stir in the diced tomatoes, beans, red bell pepper, jalepeno and hot sauce.
  3. Add the chili powder, ground cumin, cumin seeds, garlic salt, and oregano. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Optional serving suggestion: Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro. Stir into chili for a delicious flavor.
  6. Serves 4-6.
The cilantro mixed into the chili brought out an amazing flavor. Cilantro is an acquired taste. It has a very distinct flavor and most people either love it or hate it. If you bring up the word cilantro to my sister she freaks out and will go on and on about how much she despises it. I will admit, I did not like it at first, but after quite a bit of experimenting with different foods and flavors, I have realized I do in fact like this little herb! And again, it is AMAZING when stirred into this chili! Enjoy!