Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jury Duty Jury Duty Jury Duty!!! (And Vegan Greek Salad with Lemon Oregano Dressing)

That has been my life over the past week and a half.  And seriously is has not been fun.  I had to be in court Monday thru Friday, plus these last two days as well.  The schedule is from 9:30 am-4:30 pm, but it really isn't as bad as it seems in regards to time.  We were given an hour lunch break from 1-2 pm, which I have not had since I was working in Michigan, which was nice, because it's the first time I've been able to decently chew my food during lunch in about five years!  The worst thing was all the waiting.  And the waiting and the waiting .......

Being in the physical courtroom only occurred a couple hours out of the day, but sometimes it was the most boring and/or uncomfortable thing in the world.  Several of the jurors fell asleep, which I almost did yesterday.  When I first got the notice in the mail, I was horrified and angry to say the least.  This was several months ago and my schedule was beyond crazy, so I postponed it.  On the exact date I said would be ok to send me another notice, I received my notice.  So, I went to the Supreme Court in Brooklyn, and saw hundreds and hundreds of people in the main room and felt pretty confident that I would be sent home soon.  Then, the announcer came to the podium and told everyone that Brooklyn Court was one of the busiest courts and everyone possible would be needed.  I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.  Several different groups of people were allowed to be excused: those ill with doctor's notes, unemployed mothers with children under 7 that happened to have their child's birth certificate with them, and people who could not speak English.  There were several people I overheard saying in clearly spoken English that they would go and fake it.  And inevitably, they came back scowling, arms crossed over their chests.  It was quite funny.  Because prior to them leaving with the group to be tested, I remembered several of my friends' suggestions to get out of jury duty: claim you are racist or against whatever type of person the case is against, tell them you don't want to play god, tell them you couldn't be held responsible for sending someone to jail.  And honestly, I was thinking about the chances of any of these excuses working, even though I clearly did not agree with the statements my friends told me to make.  I just wanted out of it.  But even then, I was hesitant.

So, they called my name, and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of waiting later, I was chosen as an alternate juror.  When I asked what that was (I had absolutely no idea!) one of the attorneys told me that in the event of one of the main jurors calling out, I would replace them.  Ok.  He did not, however, tell me to come in the following Monday, or at least did not verbalize it clearly.  So, in my way of thinking, I would be called at home if I was needed as the juror.  So when Monday rolled around, I stayed at home and received a call from the court at about 10 am. I was horrified when I was told I had to come in immediately!  Frazzled, I ran around the house, getting dressed, brushing my teeth while putting on my shoes, etc!  I took a cab, which I thought was a great idea, but ended up taking me 25 minutes, and costing me $15.  The train by the way, took 15 minutes and only cost $2.50!  Boo!!!

So I got there late and looked like a moron.  Everyone else was up to speed, and I showed up with a red face, out of breath and feeling completely frazzled!  (One good thing that ended up happening, was that two of the jurors were vegan  - not sure how that's even possible!  And on three of the days, I brought in breakfast-y treats for everyone, and got some great feedback from non-vegans, which is very important!) So the day went on and we learned what our roles were.  I got it, but I didn't really think about the end result of me being an alternate juror vs. a true juror.  The case was about malpractice being brought about in a gynecology & obstetric case where a woman was given a hysterectomy at a young age to stop excessive bleeding she was having after a post Cesarean delivery hemorrhage.  It was quite graphic and disgusting at times and made me really happy about my future choice in a birth plan.  Absolutely no hospital and with a midwife at home.   I feel positively sure about that more now than ever!  We were given so much technical information, which was exhausting.  With the addition of the different methods of questioning by the plaintiff and defense's lawyers, it was even more exhausting and sometimes just completely ridiculous. 

As the trial went on, I felt better about the entire situation, even though I did have to put my life on hold completely and came home everyday in a weird mood towards my husband.  I needed at least 30-45 minutes to chill out as soon as I got home so I could process everything.  I can't stop saying how it was exhausting - that's the only way I can describe it.  So yesterday rolls around and it is the day when the judge is supposed to tell us the law and we are supposed to deliberate and come up with a verdict.  I assumed my vote would not count since I was an alternate, but I didn't really think beyond that.  When we were brought back to the deliberation room, the alternate jurors were told to take all of their belongings and were led to a separate room than the jurors.  We were told we had to wait until a verdict was reached.  So for almost four hours we were sitting twiddling our thumbs, coming up with our own verdict amongst ourselves.  I was really surprised by how upset I was at not even being able to give my thoughts on the verdict to the other jurors or even hear their thought process.  When it was 4:30, we were told a verdict was not reached and we would have to come in again tomorrow, to sit in the room by ourselves while the jury determined the verdict.  Unfortunately, I had a doctor's appointment this morning (seriously true, and I have had it for a couple weeks), so I couldn't come in.  Once of the jurors told me she would text me the result the next day when it was all over.  I felt like I was really missing out!  But the verdict just came in, and I feel very relieved and happy about how it ended up turning out.

So, absolutely needless to say, food did not cross my mind in the least when I was at home - what a crazy week!  However, I do have a hungry Hubby at home, so I needed to do something about it.  Most of the time, I prepared something that was at least partially pre-made, or frozen, which I don't usually do, but I felt the need to for this period of time.  I was just emotionally exhausted!  So, most of the evenings I would also make a gigantic salad, which is what I would eat for dinner, and also take for lunch the following day.  And silly to say, it was the same kind of salad everyday - a veggie laden Greek Salad.  It hit the spot, and I'm actually thinking about making it as soon as I'm done here.  So, my thoughts on jury duty have changed, and if you haven't had the opportunity of doing it yet, I think you will ultimately feel the same, even though it does take a huge chunk out of your life.  So, enough about that, and onto the food:

Vegan Greek Green Salad:

So tasty!

Yields: 2 very large salads

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped, washed and spun dry
1/4 green pepper, chopped
1/3 cucumber, quartered and sliced
1/2 small red onion, cut in half and sliced
1 small tomato (not overly ripe), quartered and sliced
1/3-1/2 cup vegan feta, homemade or store-bought, crumbled
5-10 green olives, sliced
pickled jalapeno pepper slices on top, optional (if you're brave!)

Lemon Oregano Dressing:
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons agave
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
fresh black pepper and sea salt to taste

1.  Prepare the dressing first:  place all ingredients in a glass jar and shake until completely  mixed and emulsified.  Place in the fridge to chill while making the salad.
2.  Place the lettuce in a large bowl.  Begin placing the veggie topping on top of the lettuce.  The order doesn't really matter, just start layering everything on top.  Place the peppers, cucumber, onion, tomato, feta, olives and optional jalapeno slices. 
3.  Place a generous serving of the salad on your plate and top with the dressing.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy with crackers if desired.


- Koko

Friday, January 27, 2012

Greek Lentil Salad

Whenever I get my Vegetarian Times Magazine in the mail, I am like a little kid, seriously.  I go through the entire magazine, page by page, looking at the tasty pictures, going through the recipes and dreaming about preparing every dish out of it. What usually ends up happening though, is after looking at the magazine for a week or so, I retire it to the bookcase and maybe will look at it again several months later when I am reorganizing the book cases.  Then I'll sigh about the recipes again, but I usually don't make the recipes.  Not sure what was different this time around, but I saw this recipe for a Green Lentil Salad and decided I had to make it.  It was good that I was going to a picnic in Prospect Park, because I could use it all up, so I decided to make it and bring it along.  It was pretty decent and everyone seemed to like it, though I likely should have added the chopped cucumbers right before serving it, because they got a little soft from sitting in the dressing.  But it was a nice addition to the rest of the meal.  I probably wont make it again, but it was good.

Greek Lentil Salad:

A lot of Pretty Colors and Contrasting Textures!

Serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as an entree

1 cup French Green lentils, rinsed
2 bay leaves

1large shallot, small diced, about 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small cucumber, seeded & diced, about 1 cup
2 medium tomatoes, diced, about 1 cup
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled mock feta

1.  Place lentils and bay leaves in a medium pot, cover with water, and cook over medium heat for about 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are tender. 
2.  Drain, remove bay leaves and allow to cool while preparing the rest of the salad. 
3.  Stir together the lemon juice and shallot in a medium bowl and allow to sit while prepping the remaining ingredients.  This will allow the bite of the shallot to mellow a bit. 
4.  Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl: the lentils, cucumber, tomatoes, mint and olive oil.  Toss together.  Add the mock feta and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.  Toss gently. 
5.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.  That's it!  Super simple!



Sunday, January 22, 2012

Leftover Pizza Dough: Snack Pizza

I usually don't have any pizza crust leftover when I make homemade pizza, but I did for some reason this time.  I'm pretty sure it's because the Hubby insisted on having his pizza be super thin-crust, but it actually turned out well.  A couple days later I noticed that I still had a chunk of pizza dough leftover in the fridge and most certainly did not want to throw it away after all the work and time it took to make in the first place.  So, I decided to make it into a snack pizza of sorts.  I also didn't want it to be like "regular" pizza, in that I didn't want it to have marinara - I wanted it super crispy, so that's how I made it.  It hit the spot and was nice and simple.  I dipped it in some leftover marinara sauce and it was darn tasty.  I'm sure I could have chosen to be more creative and make some form of calzone or something, but truth be told, this was much quicker and easier.  Next time though!

Leftover Pizza Dough: Snack Pizza

Yields:  A Snack Pizza!

Prepared Pizza Dough

Toppings of choice:
Chopped Green Peppers
Chopped Onions
Diced Seitan
Sliced Green or Kalamata Olives
Daiya or other vegan cheese

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degree.  Lightly oil a pizza pan or baking tray with spray oil and set aside.
2.  Place the remaining dough onto the prepared baking tray and spread it out as thinly or thickly as you would like. 
3.  Place the crust in the preheated oven and bake for about 5 minutes, or until the crust is partially baked.
4. Top the partially baked crust with your cheese, then with the remaining chopped veggies of your choice.
5.  Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is baked all the way through, the cheese is melted and the veggies are softened. 
6.  Let cool for a couple minutes and cut into pieces.  Dip in a prepared marinara sauce if desired.  I usually have some of that leftover as well when I make homemade pizza.


- Koko

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pasta with Capers & Artichokes & Spanikopita

Several months ago when I was still working at Lifethyme Natural Market in the Village, I did one last shopping spree.  While working there I received a 25% discount on all products in the store, which was great.  When items were on sale, with that additional discount, it was even better!  When I was leaving, there was a sale on organic filo dough, which is usually quite expensive.  With my discount, each package ended up being like $1.50 each, so I stocked up, buying four of them.  It seemed like a truly great idea at the time, but all of these months later, there are still 3 in my freezer.  One day when I was organizing my freezer, I decided that I really needed to use filo dough, and also finding a package of frozen spinach, I decided what better thing to make than Spanikopita?  (I was really tempted to make Baklava, but with just the Hubby and I, it would be a huge sin, because we would be forced to eat it ourselves - it's too good and expensive for him to take to work!)  It turned out pretty decently, but I would definitely like to tweak it. 

Only problem is, I of course misplaced the recipe scribblings.  Unfortunately, I am always doing that and it is forever driving me, but especially the Hubby absolutely crazy!  I am always running around the house, going "where is my ....".  And he is forever telling me the same thing my dad told me as a kid - "put it in the same place everyday and you'll know exactly where it is!".  If only it were that simple.  I am always moving things around.  Funny thing is, I am always writing down the recipes in these little spiral bound notebooks.  However, the problem is that Hubby is always bringing in new notebooks, and I am just grabbing whichever notebook I find first.  I know, I know, I should just take one notebook, clearly label the cover and just use that, but it is too simple of a solution.  Anyway, so until I find it, I unfortunately cannot post the recipe, because I don't remember the precise teaspoons of spices I added. So, until then, enjoy the simple pasta recipe I made!

Pasta with Capers & Artichokes & Spanikopita:

Serves 2-3

8 oz. spiral pasta, cooked

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and squeezed of excess moisture
1/4 cup parsley
2 tablespoons earth balance, or as needed
sea salt and black pepper to taste

1.  Cook the pasta in boiling salted, oiled water until al dente.  Drain and set aside.
2.  In a large wok, add the olive oil over medium heat and allow it to become hot.  Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until it is fragrant.  Add the capers and artichokes, stirring to coat in the garlic oil.
3.  Add the earth balance and allow it to melt.  Once it has melted, add the pasta and toss to coat.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Toss around until all of the ingredients are hot.  Sprinkle in the chopped parsley and toss to coat. 
4.  Serve with the Spanikopita or a green salad for a light lunch or dinner.



Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rice and Garbanzo Bean Stuffed Peppers

I love stuffed peppers.  I really do.  I'm sure I would love other stuffed foods like tomatoes, zucchini, etc.  I know I like stuffed mushrooms and cabbage too.  Stuffed foods are really fun and homey and so simple to make.  I have always thought that my mom used to make them, which is why I love them so much and make so many different varieties.  I was making a variation of them for the family I cook for about a week ago, and I was running late and wanted to expedite the process.  So I called my my mum and asked her advice.  I was very surprised when she informed me that she never made us stuffed peppers or stuffed anything as kids, yet I distinctly remember eating them at home.  Of course, at the time they were filled with white rice and ground beef.  I asked her several times if she was sure she wasn't mistaken, but she was adamant.  I'm just wondering where or whom the hell I ate these peppers with that I distinctly remember eating as a child. 

It's so strange how you have memories of things that happened when you were a kid that actually didn't happen as you remember them.  Such a strange thing.  There is one particular incidence I have in mind that happened when I was about five.  I have an older sister who is over 10 years older than me and shared a room with me for several years when I was very young.  Have I ever mentioned that I am one of 6 kids?  I know it sounds crazy in this day and age, but I loved and still love every moment of it.  Well, one day my sister was cleaning our room, tossing all of my/ "our" toys into the toy boxes in the closet.  I was in the closet, going after a Cabbage Patch doll (did those things really ever exist?!) she had just thrown in the box, and I had the misfortune to stand up as she was tossing in a Barbie doll horse with sharp hooves.  Of course the hoof gashed the side of my head and cut it open.  I didn't cry until I saw that my hand came away covered in blood.  My mom took me to the hospital and I remember being a very good girl, and being rewarded by the doctors with a small stuffed smiley face and then later with some bubble gum by the foot from my mom.  When I brought up the incidence many many years later, my mom told me I was actually the worst in the hospital - screaming at the top of my lungs, crying, making a huge fuss, and just generally being a hideous pain.  Funny right?  Because I truly remember it happening that I was a good girl.  Long way of saying it's funny how you remember things differently than they actually happened, right?  I'll have to figure out where it is that I first ate those stuffed peppers.  It's driving me crazy that I don't know how it is I fell in love with them!

Stuffed Peppers:

The Cooked Pepper Filling

Serves 4

Stuffed Peppers:
4 medium peppers, assorted colors tops removed, insides scraped out and tops reserved
1/2 cup green pepper, small diced (from reserved tops of peppers)
1/4 cup orange pepper, small diced (reserved from top of peppers)
1 medium onion, small diced, about 1 cup
2 stalks celery, small diced, about 3/4 cup
2 small carrots, small diced, about 3/4 cup
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons sofrito
2 teaspoons vegetable bouillion powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
Daiya, for top of pepper, optional

1.  Place a wok on the stove over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and allow it to become hot.  Once it is hot, add the green, orange and jalapeno peppers, onion and celery.  Saute for several minutes, or until veggies are crisp-tender.  Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.
2.  Add the sofrito, boullion, cumin, black pepper and chipotle pepper powder.  Stir to coat the veggies.  Add the cooked rice and cooked garbanzo beans.  Stir all ingredients to coat.  Season to taste. 
3.  Place the empty peppers into a pan that has been lightly oiled.  Portion out the filling into the peppers, really packing it tightly into the pepper.  Only three of my peppers could fit into a square 8" baking pan, and my 9x13" pan was busy with a casserole, so I baked my peppers in batches.
4.  To help the peppers cook faster and more thoroughly, place about 2/3 cup of water in the bottom of the baking pan.  Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the peppers can be easily pierced with a fork. 

The Raw Stuffed Pepper, Bottom of Pan Covered in Water

5.  If you would like, once the peppers are soft, remove the foil, top with daiya and return to the oven for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts.  These, you really should let cool for at least 10 minutes, because the peppers themselves will retain a lot of heat.  Once these cooled, I put them into leftover plastic 1 lb. deli containers - they fit perfectly, and were an easy, secure way for the Hubby to transport them to work for lunch the next day.



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gluten Free Wednesday: Gluten Free Cherry Almond Biscotti

Happy Gluten Free Wednesday!

I have honestly never really been that into biscotti before.  Not until my brief stint working as a vegan baker at 'Snice Brooklyn.  They have several creative baked goods that I really enjoyed making, although not eating.  The thing I didn't like about the baked goods there is that they were very refined.  They used a ton of Earth Balance, which I appreciate as much as the next person, but do not use it in all of my vegan baking applications.  I tend to use it in only certain things and would never use it in muffins or cakes, unlike 'Snice.  But I really did appreciate their creativity and presentation of the baked goods.  I love how they serve their cookies behind the counter in cookie jars - I think it is adorable and I am hideously obsessed with their sandwiches.  They are really too expensive for my tastes at the moment, unfortunately.  One of the good things about working there though was that I was given a bagel and coffee for breakfast and a complimentary sandwich when I left each day.  That was very cool, since I was able to sample a lot of the sandwiches free.  I have tried to replicate several of them at home, to the approval of my Hubby.  When I was working there, I would save him half of the sandwich, which he absolutely enjoyed.

Back to biscotti, shall we?  The first time I actually ever made biscotti was at 'Snice.  And it was another one of those things calling for mixing Earth Balance and white sugar together, then adding several other ingredients to the mixer to create the dough.  I do have a stand mixer, which is a little uncommon for NYC, simply because we tend not to have a lot of counter space.  Most of the time my mixer is in storage and I only get it out occasionally, so I did not want to make something with the mixer unless it is absolutely necessary.  I also thought their biscotti was far too sweet, but a good starting point.  So, I searched and searched for a gluten free recipe for biscotti, because I figured why not make something that I have never made before a little more complicated by trying to make it gluten free.  I came across several, but not a vegan gluten free biscotti recipe.  So I took several points from several of the recipes and combined them. 

The first time I made the recipe I was convinced it wouldn't work.  I was very surprised when it almost worked.  So I set about making several changes, trying it again, with the result being even better but not exactly what I was looking for.  It really improved the third time around.  Sometimes I think about how many times I test each recipe, and think about how many resources it takes to prepare them: time, money, supplies, disappointment when it doesn't work out ...  But I hate the fact that even after Hubby and I sample it, we have to throw it away.  If it is edible and enjoyable, I give it to him to take to work and give to his coworkers who are very honest in their opinions.  But a lot of the time when I make the first or second batches, they don't turn out and I wouldn't want to give them to someone.  Yuck.  I would love to compost them, like my parents in Michigan do.  They have an amazing organic garden and have composted my whole life.  I'm sure there are locations here in NY I can bring my compost to, but do I really want to keep a container of smelly compost in my apartment, and lug it on the train or bus somewhere.  Sigh.  Until a garden opens up down the block.  Shall we get onto the biscotti???

Gluten Free Cherry Almond Biscotti:

Perfectly Crisp & Delicious, Studded with Bits of Almonds
& Dried Cherries

Yields 8 Pieces, plus the ends

¾ cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup whole almonds
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 tablespoons arrowroot
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup organic dehydrated cane juice
¼ cup flax eggs (1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water)
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside until ready to use.
2. Place the almonds and the sorghum flour in a food processor and process until it is fine textured and no bits of almonds can be felt. Place in a medium mixing bowl and add the rest of the dry ingredients: the tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, sea salt, sliced almonds and dried cherries.
3. In a separate bowl, add the sugar, flax eggs, canola oil, vanilla and almond extracts. Whisk together until completely emulsified and thickened.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together with hands until a very firm dough forms - this cannot be mixed with a spoon or spatula. Press into a rectangle and bake for about 30 minutes, or until firm in the very center and the edges are golden brown.
5. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
6. Place baked biscotti onto a cutting board. Using a very sharp knife, slice off the very ends. Slice the remaining dough into 8 slices, about ¾” each. Lay the biscotti on their sides and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until firm and crispy. They will continue to firm up as they cool.
7. Allow to cool completely before serving.



Monday, January 9, 2012

Hubby's Spaghetti, Moro, Sweet Potatoes & Sauteed Veggies

 This is one of the rare instances where the Hubby actually not only participated in the meal, but actually cooked quite a bit.  Well, admittedly, the moro was from dinner the night before, and I made the sweet potatoes and sauteed veggies, but he made the whole spaghetti dish, all the way from dry pasta to the finished cooked dish.  Not sure why, but the Hubby has been in a fiendish carb mood lately, so I just went along with it, even though when I saw the plate he prepared for me (see below!), I had a mini freak out, but not wanting to say anything, I went with it and it all was delicious.  So, Hubby said he was in the mood for pasta, but not American pasta (meaning where pasta is served with the sauce on top, rather than mixed in), rather Dominican-style pasta (where the sauce is mixed in with the noodles). 

So, he cooked the pasta, set it aside and started on the sauce.  I told him that he should tell me what he was putting in it as he was making it, and he started off doing it, but then I looked in his pot and saw things he didn't tell me he put in there, so I'm not totally sure all of what he put in it.  I know he sauteed some onions and garlic in a couple tablespoons earth balance, then added some tomato taste, boullion cubes, black pepper, unsweetened soymilk (he wanted to use dairy milk, ugh!), and topped it off with some fresh basil, but I'm not sure on the proportions or what else he put in there.  I do know, however, that it was delicious and a nice change of pace to have the sauce mixed right in with the pasta.  Good job Hubby!  Now if he would only do it more often!

Hubby's Spaghetti, Moro, Sweet Potatoes & Sauteed Veggies

Hubby's Spaghetti, Sweet Potatoes, Moro, Sauteed Veggies
Serves 3

Sauteed Veggies:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large zucchini, quartered and sliced, about 2 cups
1 small onion sliced, about 1 cup
1/2 green pepper, julienned, about 1/2 cup
1/2 orange pepper, julienned, about 1/2 cup
2 medium carrots,sliced on the diagonal, about 1 1/2 cups
3 scallions, diced
1 celery stalk, sliced on the diagonal
1 c. leftover cooked sesame kale
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Sweet Potatoes:
1 large sweet potato
1 1/2 tablespoons Earth Balance
Pinch Sea Salt
1 tablespoon turbiando sugar

1.  You can prepare some other kind of pasta or rice dish instead of what the Hubby made.  Have that ready.
2.  Start by peeling and medium dicing the sweet potato.  Place in a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until potato can be easily pierced with a fork. 
3.  While the potato is cooking, prepare the sauteed veggies.  Place a large wok on the stove over high heat.  Add the oil and allow it to become hot.  Once the oil is hot, add the onions, peppers and carrots.  Saute, stirring frequently, until carrot is slightly softened.  Add remaining veggies: zucchini, scallions and celery.  Continue sauteing until tender crisp.  Stir in the leftover cooked kale.  If you do not have any leftover cooked kale, simply add the raw chopped kale when you add the celery, scallions and zucchini and cook until softened.  Season veggies with sea salt and black pepper.  Turn off heat and transfer to a serving dish.
4.  Finish the sweet potatoes.  Drain the potatoes and add the earth balance to the hot pot, allowing it to melt.  Add the sweet potatoes back to the pot, as well as the turbinado sugar and sea salt.  Season to taste.
5.  To serve, place spaghetti and/or moro on plate, followed by sweet potatoes and sauteed veggies.



Saturday, January 7, 2012

Vegan Blue Tortilla Chip Nachos

When is the last time you had nachos?  Before today, I think it has been at least 2-3 years.  2-3 years is a bit extreme when I think about it.  Why haven't I had them in so long?  That's an equally good question, and one I don't know the answer to.  When one of my coworkers and I were working last Monday, we were talking about what she and another coworker had to eat for lunch the Saturday before.  She somewhat nonchalantly said "nachos".  I was like "nachos"!?   Yum.  It's just something I haven't thought about in a long time.  But suddenly, I had to have it.

I luckily had most of the ingredients on hand, went home and whipped it up in under 5 minutes.  Popped it in the oven and had "dinner" within an additional 5.  It was seriously so good.  Salty, fatty, melty goodness, dipped in delicious spicy salsa and cooling sour cream.  It was good and settled a crazy craving I had, and now I think I'm good for another 2-3 years.  Next craving!

 Vegan Blue Tortilla Chip Nachos:

Vegan Nachos!!  Blue Tortilla Chips, Beefy TVP, Melty Daiya!

Blue Tortilla Chips
Taco-Style TVP or Trader Joe's Chorizo
Shredded Daiya
Chopped Tomatoes
Chopped Red Onions
Sliced Olives
Avocados (I didn't have any, but they would be delicious!)

Salsa and Sour Cream (vegan obviously!) on the side to dip the chips in

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
2.  Scatter a heaping amount of chips across the tray.  Sprinkle the daiya across all the chips, followed by the tvp or chorizo.  (I put my onions on before baking because they become a little less spicy.  I put the tomatoes and olives on after it was finished baking, and if you are using the avocado, I would put that on once the nachos come out of the oven too.)
3.  Bake the nachos for 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the tvp/chorizo is heated through. When the nachos come out, sprinkle with the chopped tomatoes and the sliced olives.  And avocado, if desired. 
4.  Serve with sour cream and salsa and chow down with a friend or significant other.




Thursday, January 5, 2012

Deer Run Bed & Breakfast Part II

Hey guys and gals!

Here is a continuation of the post I began in November.  This is Part II of the trip I took to the Florida Keys to teach a lovely woman named Jen the basics of vegan baking.  Jen and her partner own this gorgeous B&B called Deer Run Bed and Breakfast, which I had the great opportunity to visit back in September.  Here is Part II of my lovely experiences.  You can check out Part I here.

(9/26) Day 4:

Today started off the same. Up at 7:30 am, coffee and pre-breakfast. Today was a Banana Walnut Muffin garnished with star fruit and strawberries.

I love how she does these cute little place settings!

It was still rainy so we had breakfast inside, which was good because it was crazy humid out! Breakfast was amazing! Jen really outdid herself. It consisted of the beautiful pineapple (one of my favorite fruits), homemade cornbread made with her homemade soymilk (that's for another time - it was lots of fun!), spicy roasted potatoes, and the best thing, mini Quiche in ramekins. That was crazy good! I believe it was Italian-style, and had layers of seasoned tofu, layers of garbanzo beans, daiya cheese, salsa, onions, spices, etc. It was very very tasty and again so filling. I feel like I have never eaten this well! I was incredibly ridiculously full today, but it was so worth it!

Isn't this absolutely gorgeous?!

 I got the basic recipe for the quiche from Jen - I basically just scribbled as she dictated how she made the recipe. I really hope I can read it later - it's pretty illegible. She was also telling me a story about how she submitted the recipe to either Veg News or Vegetarian Times (I can't remember which one), they tested it and said it wasn't up to their standards. I was completely shocked. I'm not kidding-it was seriously that good! We both were convinced it was some kind of conspiracy because I cannot imagine anyone tasting it and not thinking it was amazing. Whatever!

After digesting a little more than usual, we were onto baking. Today we baked like maniacs again and made peanut butter and jelly scones, apple walnut scones, savory sundried tomato and herb scones (which we brushed with refined coconut oil (meaning it didn't taste or smell like coconut) and baked and were so buttery and delicious!) and brownies. By that time we were really feeling the sugar, which is crazy because at most we ate a couple bites of each item - never a whole scone, cupcake, etc. I suggested miso soup for lunch, because I remember when I was in the chef training program at NGI and we were doing the baking program and were so od-ing on sugar that we were almost comatose, the instructor prepared a giant pot of miso soup, and after eating giant bowls, we all felt much much better! It was amazing. Even though we hadn't been eating a huge amount, we were both feeling so tired and lethargic - I believe it was because we were ingesting the sugar as we were baking it, and it was going into our system that way.

SO, we ate the miso soup and had these little half-sandwiches filled with the hummus Jen made earlier in the week, tapenade, artichokes and roasted peppers. They were super tasty, and a nice savory end to the baking session that day.

This was so damn tasty, with shiitake mushrooms & all!

The lighting inside definitely doesn't do these justice- they
were crazy delicious!
Once we finished baking, we chilled out a little bit and decided to go out for dinner. It was still a bit rainy, but it was a good night. There really are not a lot of vegetarian, especially vegan options for eating out in her area, so we had to kind of go to special areas to see where we could eat. Then there was usually one or two things on the menu we could eat. It was a little different than what I am used to in NY, that's for sure. I have become really spoiled living here. If I'm hungry and don't want to cook, I can just call the local Asian veggie restaurant in the hood and they will deliver right to my door, with all kinds of tasty meat analogues. Or I could take the bus 15 minutes to Park Slope and have sooooo many veggie options there-there are tons of veg restaurants there!

But, back to Florida - it was such a gorgeous place and really inspired you to want to cook health supportively at home. Jen told me that there is a vegetarian restaurant in Key West that we will visit in a couple days, which I am very excited about. The place we went to today was called Parrotdise (funny name I know!). It was rainy like I said, so the view wasn't great, but it was really neat, because Jen was telling me that during the busy season, people can dock their boats right up to the dock and can get their meals delivered right to them. How fun? Check out their website, and the menu - you can see that it is very fish oriented, which seems obvious, great for others, but not for us, so we got the Vegetarian Black Bean Burger. I got the jalapeno burger option because I love spicy food, but it was quite spicy if I do say so myself. I'm not sure what was used as the egg replacer, all I know is that it was incredibly messy and fell apart as soon as I picked it up, which Jen warned me about. We ended up eating most of it with forks. It was pretty funny actually.

Looks delicious, doesn't it?  I'm still remembering the spiciness!

It was then that we talked and talked and I feel like really bonded and got to know each other a lot more. I learned about her housing experiences in New Jersey, she learned about my goals and aspirations for my cafe, and we told ridiculous housing horror stories. She learned about the woman that lives two floors up from me in Brooklyn that religiously throws her garbage out her kitchen window. No clue why, but Jen nicknamed her the Spaghetti Woman. It's gross, believe me!

Dinner was great - a nice end to a nice day! Afterwards we went out to have drinks at an open-air bar that boasted live music. I had a rum and coke and listened to the "Key West Cowboy" sing country songs (definitely not my favorite!), but I had a great time! It was also a definite plus that there was an incredibly incredibly drunken man there when we got there at about 8:30 pm who was just behaving completely ridiculously and made us laugh. What a great night! Jen, uber-generous, bought 3 cd's for my mom, from this "Key West Cowboy" guy, just because I mentioned that she would really enjoy this guy because she loved the songs he was singing. What a sweet heart!

Another pic of their beautiful beach - I find myself constantly
snapping pics here.  Everything is just so beautiful!

(9/27) Day 5:

This morning I had a creepy little friend greet me as soon as I walked out of my room.  I really had to force myself not to scream, which is ridiculous I know.  I have this crazy fear of things that are like a one-millionth of my size, but that run/crawl very fast.  Check him out - you probably wouldn't freak out. 

Little Mr. Creepy Crawly was on the side of the rain barrel!

Today's prequel to breakfast was a blueberry scone. The flavor was great, but as I told Jen, I am a bit of a purist when it comes to scones - I don't like them with nuts in them, which this one had. But the blueberries were super juicy and the scone wasn't too heavy or sweet.

So many delicious, juicy organic blueberries!

 Breakfast was French Toast topped with strawberries and served with pineapple slices and a container of papaya (from her organic garden of course) and bananas, which was drizzled with a sweet cashew crème sauce. The French toast was super tasty as was all of the fruit. The only thing is that I have a bit of an issue when it comes to papaya. I truly feel like it smells like dirty smelly feet. Sorry, but can't help it. And that is how it was first described to me by someone, so I can't get that image out of my head. I really only like it at this point in smoothies, so I just ate around it. Sorry Jen!

Her presentation is amazing!

Today we made vegan baked donuts. Lot and lots of donuts! We made vanilla donuts, chocolate donuts and pumpkin donuts! We made different garnishes, including chocolate glaze, coconut glaze, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar and a plain glaze. All delicious and tasty!

Glazed & Shredded Coconut Baked Donut

Chocolate Baked Donut with Chocolate Icing & Vegan Sprinkles

Cinnamon Sugar Glazed Baked Donut

Chocolate Baked Donuts with Misc. Toppings

Jen decided that we needed to take a break and actually take some time to enjoy the Florida Keys while I was there.  So, we decided to go to Key West, followed by the Vegetarian Cafe there, called appropriately, The Cafe.  It was quite delicious for the most part and we had such a good time exploring Key West and just generally behaving touristy.  The one thing I will say, however, is that it was so uncomfortably hot.  I literally had sweat dripping off my back after the first 5 minutes walking around.  Whenever we would go inside of some shop, I would sigh in bliss at the amazing coolness.  Another awesome thing we did was go to this hot sauce store.  Seriously, everything in the entire store was either bottles of hot sauce, or products that were super spicy in some way.  We literally spent like an hour looking for the place, and finally ended up finding it right before it closed, which was really lucky.  I met the owner and talked to him about being a chef in NY, and about food, etc.  I wished we would have had more time to talk to him - he was really nice.  I bought literally 7 bottles of hot sauce - it was crazy.  (As of today, the day that I am posting this, I have not even finished one full bottle of hot sauce yet, although I do have 2 containers open in my fridge.)

This city is gorgeous!  Too bad about the constant flooding :(

It was so freaking hottt!!

I love taking pictures of interesting things, telling myself I
will remember what they are later - yet I never do.

Wild chickens running through the streets!

Gotta love Hello Kitty graffiti!

Momma & her babies getting dangerously close to the street!

I love this sign!

Buffalo-Style Tofu.  Had real potential, but they didn't use
extra-firm tofu, & didn't press it, so it was awfully squishy.

Stuffed Spinach Dumplings.  Cute and tasty- loved the sauce!

Seitan Pasta Veggie Bowl.  This was pretty tasty, just in need of
some tamari - & a little more flavor for the seitan!
This literally fed me for 3 meals!

Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean Sauce.  Would have liked
the sauce to be saucier!

(9/28) Day 6:

Breakfast was gorgeous as usual today, but way too many carbs! That was partly my fault because I didn’t sample everything from the day before, and Jen wanted me to try everything we prepared. Pre-breakfast was a lemon poppy muffin, which I love and ate happily.

Love love love lemon poppy!

There was also a beautifully presented yogurt parfait that used the granola we had made a couple days before. I am not a huge yogurt person – never have been, but it was so tasty with the granola and fresh fruit.  And of course my pumpkin baked donut we made yesterday was there, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat it because there was still breakfast to think about – so I brought it back to my room with me for later.

Yogurt & Granola Parfait with my
Pumpkin Baked Donut

Close up of the tasty parfait

Breakfast, thankfully, was a simple affair – pancakes with shredded coconut, organic maple syrup and organic fruit. Yummy. Can never say no to some good maple syrup!

Beautifully Presented as usual.

I was reading the morning paper and made a funny discovery: I read my husband’s name in the paper – only the thing is, my husband wasn’t 79, 20 years ago, working at McDonald’s in the Florida Keys. What a funny thing! His name is pretty common, I’m guessing. So funny! Had to take a pic to show him-he thought it was hilarious!

Still can't get over how funny it is!

Jen, marvelously, gave me the rest of the day to chill out and enjoy the amazing B&B. I took full advantage of it and couldn’t believe my stay was coming to an end – way too sad. It went by far too fast! As I was changing clothes to go into the mineral salt pool and spa, Jen brought me an adorable drink. I don’t know a lot about drinks, but I am sure it was a non-alcoholic Pina Colada. All I know for sure that it was crazy delicious and amazing served while I was indulging in the pool.

So Thick and Yummy!

And all I can say about the pool and spa, was it was such a great thing to be in water that did not smell and feel deathly like Chlorine. Yuck! It was also great hanging in the pool and watching the Key deer walking by, watching me, and just hanging out. What a time!

What a beautiful tropical paradise!

For lunch, we ventured outside of the Deer Run B&B sanctuary, and went to the health food store in Marathon, called Food for Thought. The place was pristine – absolutely gorgeous, had a ton of books to choose from, a surprisingly large selection of products, and the nicest workers you will ever meet. I met a woman who was gluten free, and a new vegan and we talked for a while. I also met the owner, a tiny little thing who was very well versed in raw and she took me on a verbal tour of their kitchen. I admittedly, am not huge on raw, but ordered lunch and it was actually seriously quite good. And the thing I also liked about it was that not everything was raw, which made for a nicer texture and flavor. So I had this Mexican-style wrap with a nut “meat” filling and all of the other goodies you would expect in a taco. It was delicious. The only thing I really miss down here is a nice Hass Avocado. I really really have found that I do not like Florida avocados in the least. They are too watery and have a funky flavor, and I found myself picking them out.

The Chips were clearly not raw, and the wrap was sprouted
grain, but the filling was totally raw.

A close-up of the tasty filling.

Jen got a meat loaf type dish with raw coleslaw. She let me try a bite and it was quite good. It was a delicious and surprisingly filling lunch.

I love the presentation!

Then came dessert – a mostly raw cacao coconut pie with a date nut crust. It was very tasty, very rich and not overly sweet. I also like that the pie was frozen, because being the Keys, it was incredibly hot outside, so it really hit the spot.


The rest of the day we just hung out and had a good time. Then came dinner! It was Harry’s turn to make dinner. And of course it was to be made on the grill- typical guy, but I was not complaining! Grilled Asparagus and Roasted/Grilled Potatoes in a mushroom gravy with crusty bread to soak up all the delicious sauce! It was so homey-tasting, filling and delicious, and such a nice gesture on the last night!

Delicious Salad - Jen is the Queen of salads!

Wish I could have that dinner again now - it was so tasty!

And I of course had to get a picture of their amazing kitty Aggie. Such a sweetheart – I completely fell in love with her and had such a great time! Had to get her picture. I was planning on taking it home to the Hubby to further convince him that we needed a kitty – fat chance unfortunately!

Aren't I the most adorable thing in the world??

Hanging out on my favorite chair with my favorite blankie.
Look deep into my beautiful eyes!

(9/29) Day 7:

So sad to say it’s the last day. But I feel very fortunate in meeting Jen & Harry and feel like I have made friends for life. It has been such an amazing experience and I would absolutely love to come back and bring my Hubby. I know he would love them as much as I do. So, before breakfast, I went around and took my final pictures of the gorgeous B&B – Jen and Harry’s home.

Looking down from the balcony.

Goodbye little Key Deer!  I will miss you!

Sunrise.  Sigh.

Wish we could have hung out more here!

The backyard garden.

More of the gorgeous-ness behind the house.

One last look at the beautiful water.

I had a very filling breakfast of a rice scramble instead of tofu (Jen was out) – which was a great surprise. Nicely spicy. Roasted potatoes and fresh fruit went along with it, as well as homemade biscuits made with Jen’s homemade soymilk, in cute shapes, which I promptly slathered in Earth Balance. Yum!

A touch on the blurry side, but we were in a hurry!

Then Harry took me out to their organic garden to pick an unripe papaya to take home as a gift.

Picking the papaya.  I was convinced it was going to drop on my head!

Got it!

Jen also gave me a Cuban Oregano plant and several key limes, which I cannot wait to use and explore! They are crazy delicious and so cute! Then some more beautiful pics, and one with Jen. (Harry was feeling a bit camera-shy. :) Then on our way. I met their neighbor, a man in his 90’s living on his own, that they bring baked goods every day, and check up on. His name is Pop, fittingly. He was so amazing, I wish I had snapped a picture of him! He shook my hand firmly, looked me in the eye and we talked about me going back to NY (I believe he said he was originally from Philly) and seeing my Husband. He told me to go back and make Hubbs happy – what a cutie! He was married for many many years before his wife passed away. Then he told me to go ahead and go back to the “bullies” back home, which I thought was funny and cute.

Then off to the airport. On the way of course, we saw a turtle trying to make his way across the road. So, we stopped and attempted to help him, with me snapping a couple pics along the way. He was adorable!

Hey Mr. Cutie!

On the plane and back home to NY! Bye Jen and Harry and thanks again so much for sharing your home and life with me! I will never forget you guys!

Bye Jen!