Friday, July 29, 2011

Brown Sugar and Peach muffins

On Friday, I browsed through my Vegan Yum Yum app and saw a recipe for peach muffins.  All I needed were the peaches!  After buying five very hard peaches, I put them in a paper bag to ripen and hoped they’d be soft by Sunday so I could bake muffins for the week.  Sunday rolled around and we had a lazy day at the beach followed by a baby shower we hadn’t heard about until the last minute.  We got home around 7:30pm and I remembered the muffins.  “If I don’t make them now I’ll never make them and the peaches will just go to waste, I know it.” 

So, instead of going about my usual Sunday night routine of getting ready for the week, I set forth on baking muffins.  It was actually a pretty easy recipe and within no time they were baking away.

They were delicious and perfectly summery.  We ate them for breakfast (and snacks, and dessert) the rest of the week. 

Click here for the recipe from

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

We were trying not to buy a ton of groceries for the week since we were leaving town on Thursday and wouldn’t be back for ten days.  However, I always make sure we have some kind of vegetable, bread and tofu in the fridge.  These are important staples to have in the kitchen at all times.  Coincidentally these are also components of our favorite breakfast meals.  We are not sweet breakfast people.  Instead we tend to lean more towards the savory-style breakfasts like potatoes and scrambled tofu. 

For Sunday’s breakfast, we didn’t have potatoes, but like I said before we had plenty of tofu, veggies and toast.  My tofu scrambles vary each time I make them, so it’s hard to nail down an actual recipe.  This time I used McKay’s Vegan Chicken seasoning, which I’ve never actually done before but learned the idea from G when I was visiting her last month.  In addition to McKay’s I still added the cumin and tumeric as well as sea salt and black pepper.  I also sautéed some zucchini and onions to add to the scramble.  Delicious!  Let that simmer for a bit, add some toast and sliced tomatoes; some mango on the side, and you have the perfect Sunday breakfast of champions! 

National Hot Dog Day

It was National Hot Dog Day on July 23.  Did anyone else know about or observer this spectacular holiday?  I didn’t know a day like this was nationally recognized until some of the student workers in my office posted it on the workroom calendar.  I love hot dogs so much that as soon as I saw them writing this on the calendar I posted a reminder in my own personal planner, and immediately went to the store to buy my favorite vegan dogs, “Big Franks.”

Let me just tell you how much I love hot dogs and why I was so excited to find out there is a day designated to them.  Last year I turned 30.  What did I want for my 30th birthday celebration?  To just have a bunch of friends over and grill hot dogs!  I’m not even joking.  We had everyone over and made hot dogs with all the fixings; sauerkraut, baked beans, relish (sweet and dill), ketchup, French’s mustard, onions, sport peppers, chopped tomatoes, and probably more that I can’t think of at the moment.  I’ll put anything on a hot dog, but the aforementioned toppings are pretty much the basics. 

So here it is, almost a year later and I wanted another hot dog feast to celebrate National Hot Dog Day.  We had almost everything except the baked beans and sport peppers, but that’s okay.  I made one dog with the dill relish, onions and chopped tomatoes and topped with mustard as you can see.  The other I only topped with sauerkraut, onions and Tabasco sauce.   I was too busy creating my own masterpiece dogs to see what The Husband did with his, but I’m sure it was some other variations of the same ingredients.  Both of us were pretty excited about Hot Dog Day and enjoyed it to the fullest.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

How difficult is it to make a baked potato?

For some reason, every time we try to make baked potatoes it doesn't work.  I don't get it.  Isn't a baked potato supposed to be the easiest thing in the world to make?  All you do is stick it the oven and let it bake.

The problem is that we expect the potato to be baked after an hour in the over at 425 degrees, but it never is!  Are we missing something?  Is it supposed to bake for two hours?  That seems a little excessive.

We decided to try our hand at this mysterious baked potato business and I even followed what my Better Homes and Garden cookbook told me to do:  wrap in tinfoil and bake at 425 for sixty minutes.

At the 60 minute mark the potato was still raw.  I was so frustrated!  How could this be possible?!  Not only was the potato not even close to being done, I had prepared all the sides and toppings and everything was ready to go... sigh.  We just needed a potato to put it all on.

W was determined to get a baked potato, but I was impatient.  I took one out of the oven and sliced it up to fry in the skillet -- breakfast hash style.  W put another fifteen minutes on the clock and we waited.  I occasionally flipped my frying potatoes while his potato still baked.

In the end, W's potato came out perfectly baked, and I had hashbrowns.  Apparently it takes way over an hour to bake a potato.  No matter; we both just piled up our different potatoes with the same toppings and it all turned out.

Toppings included:
sauteed mushrooms, onions, and zucchini
steamed green beans
brussel sprouts

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Black Bean, Corn, and Orzo Pasta

We're still kinda refusing to go to the grocery store again this week.  Our fridge and pantry is stocked well enough, let's try to use it up before buying more stuff, you know?

With a can of black beans, some frozen corn, and a bag of orzo pasta I came up with this dish.  I also googled recipes with those three ingredients and found a Rice, Bean, and Corn Salad on  It looked great!  I used it as a guideline for my own creation and this is what came of it.  Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

1 garlic clove
1 onion
3/4 cup frozen corn
2 Tablespoons green olives, sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
Half a bag of Trader Joe's orzo pasta
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tablespoon vegenaise
Half a lemon squeezed in at the end

--Prepare the orzo according to the package.
--In the meantime:
 1.  Mince garlic an onion.
2.  Saute garlic and onion in a medium saucepan.  I'm getting into the habit of using safflower oil, but use whatever method you want for sauteing.
3.  Add, corn, cumin, coriander and salt. Stir on low-medium heat.
4.  Add olives and beans
5.  Simmer on low while orzo is cooking.

When orzo is finished, drain and transfer it to a large mixing bowl.  Add the bean and corn mixture, cilantro  and vegenaise.  Don't forget to squeeze the lemon over everything.  Mix it all together very well. 

This can work as a pasta salad, but we ate it warm as a pasta dish.  To make it interesting, I cut up an avocado and added that on top.  For sides I steamed some frozen spinach and green beans.


It was quite delicious and the husband agreed wholeheartedly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Favorite Dish

Back in May I made this dish from a recipe I found at

This is Golden Curry Tomokazu, a recipe created from a visit to Tomokazu in SFO airport.  (I happened to see that place when I had a layover at SFO in May, but didn't get a chance to eat there.)  Click here for my original post about it.  I remember it was really tasty and delicious, and I had some of the curry mix leftover, so I decided to try it again.

This time I just used cauliflower instead of broccoli and I have to admit it wasn't quite the same.  Cauliflower definitely did not go with this dish.  Luckly it was steamed separately and just added on top, so for seconds we didn't even add the white vegetable.

I also toned down the spiciness by only adding two blocks of the golden curry mix.  That stuff is HOT!  Even with only two blocks instead of three, it was still pretty spicy.  I kept everything else the same and the whole thing turned out to be just as delicious!  (Minus the cauliflower.)

I have to emphasize again how easy this dish is to make.  It's perfect for a quick meal during the week; it's so simple to whip all the ingredients up in a jiffy and get to eating it as soon as possible when you're starving after work!  Enjoy!

In this picture I didn't add enough of the actual curry sauce.  For actual serving purposes, you want to make sure you fill up the bowl with lots of the liquid.  That's the good stuff.  (See the original picture and post above.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Easy Pasta Dinners

After a busy weekend of babysitting, we were pretty much too exhausted to make anything other than the go-to pasta, vegetable, and salad dinner.

That's okay, because it's a very delicious meal.  Ingredients are simple, and preparation is easy:
Rice pasta
Trader Joe's Traditional Marinara Sauce
Trader Joe's frozen artichokes
Frozen brussel sprouts
Chopped onions and garlic
Fresh basil from garden

That's just the pasta and sauce.

For the vegetable side dish and salad, everything was straight from the garden!  I'm always excited when half of the meal was grown by us!  On the back patio!

Sauteed chard, with a little bit of Earth Balance butter and crushed garlic.  Mmm, yum.

Salad of baby lettuce, salad bowl lettuce, green pepper, and cherry tomato.  So fresh and delicious.  The dressing was simply a squeeze of fresh lemon a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of black pepper.
After doing parent duty for two little boys under the age of 3 all weekend I realized that as a parent it might be impossible most of the time to make elaborate dinners like I sometimes do.  With all those ingredients and everything taking up space and time.  When we were babysitting, we either ate at the counter while feeding the kids simultaneously, or were too exhausted after they went to bed to cook anything.  We definitely want our own kids someday, don't get me wrong, and I love those little boys like they were my own; but in the meantime... I think I will relish the time we have in the kitchen to cook, and follow recipes, and make up my own, and sit down at a table to eat dinner.  And when the time comes for us to have kids, I will cherish every moment of that too.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vegan Week in Review

Due to an extremely busy week, I didn't have much time to make any fancy dinners this week.    Also, I decided I'm not buying any groceries until next Friday so it's a "eat-whatever-is-in-the-pantry-fridge-and-freezer" time.  However, that doesn't mean we didn't still love our veggies.  This is what a busy, grocery-store-free week looks like for the Veggielover:

Lunch = Leftover Red Beans and Rice 
Dinner = Alphabet and star pasta with homemade tomato, basil, and garlic sauce.  And steamed broccoli.  Yum!  This last minute pantry and fridge throw-together meal turned out to be delicious!

Lunch = Free lunch at the School of Business.  It was build your own taco salad, nice!  ("Haystacks" for those in the know.) 
Dinner = I had a hair appointment after work which I correctly anticipated would last until 9:30 at night, so I packed a salad that quickly I ate in the car before heading into the salon at 6:30.

Lunch = National French Fry Day!  I celebrated with the never-ending basket of fries at Red Robin.   They're vegan, I checked.  (Fried in a separate fryer.)

Dinner =  Wednesday nights are bowling league, so I always pack a brown bag dinner to eat at the alley if I don't have time to make something quick before.  This time it was an avocado sandwich on sprouted wheat bread with Vegenaise.  Mmmm, delicious.  However, I was gently scolded by the bowling alley worker, B, that we're technically not allowed to bring outside food in.  Loving husband, W, stood up for me and protested that since I'm vegan I can't eat the "free" pizza that comes with our weekly game, and therefore have to bring my own food.  B took compassion and said to just keep it on the DL from now on.  Yeah, last week when I brought in the huge bag from Panera you didn't say anything, so I think I'm good.  Thanks.

Lunch = Salad from home at 11:30 and three vegan hot dogs (no buns) at the office picnic at 2pm.  Also, a few tortilla chips with salsa.  I was too busy organizing the picnic to eat much. 
Dinner = The husband took over this meal, hoorah!  Fresh corn on the cob, grilled, and rice seasoned with our new favorite seasoning, Zatarain's.  Chopped avocado and cilantro on the side. 

Hey, I think we did pretty good for busy week!  Not too shabby for this vegan household.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lousiana Red Beans and Rice

 It's Creole Night in our household!  Lately we've been a little bit obsessed with anything Louisiana.  It seems like every food show that W watches has featured Cajun cuisine on one of their episodes lately, and both of us have been following another TV show that takes place near Shreveport (Bon Temps to be exact.)  Not to mention, I've been reading a series of books that are centered in Louisiana!  Neither of us have been there and we're itching to go visit now.  In the meantime, we decided to bring the French-influenced Southern state to us!

One of the most traditional dishes of Louisiana is Red Beans and Rice.  A typical recipe calls for things like smoked sausage, ham, and bacon.  Yuck!  Not in my kitchen!  Luckily, had a totally vegan recipe for this Creole dish!  I was super excited to try this, especially since we should all know by now how much I love anything to do with rice and beans; and of course because I'm obsessed with Louisiana lately.  

I didn't know exactly when I was going to have time to make this dish since we've been kinda busy lately, so I just kept a couple cans of red beans on hand even though the recipe calls for dried beans.  That was pretty much the only change I made to the recipe, so here it is:

Real Louisiana Red Beans and Rice From

1 pound dry red kidney beans (if you're in Louisiana, only Camellia brand will do)
4 cloves garlic
1 very large onion (about 2 cups chopped)
4 ribs celery
1 large bell pepper (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4-1 teaspoon red pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons chopped chipotle pepper, in adobo (this is not traditional but lends a smoky taste; substitute another tsp. of Liquid Smoke seasoning if you prefer)
1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
salt, to taste
cooked rice, to serve

It's pretty easy to make if you're using canned beans like I did: 

-In a pot, cover beans with water with about an extra inch of water above bean line. 
-Finely chop the veggies and add to the pot.
-Add the rest of the ingredients except for salt and rice.
-Bring to a boil.
-Lower heat and let simmer for up to an hour.  The longer you simmer the better.
-I added some dehydrated vegan pork slices to try to make it more authentic, but it is fine without this.  The beans are amazing as they are with no meat or meat substitutes!

In the rice cooker I added a few sprinkles of Zatarain's Creole Seasoning.

 The Red Beans and Rice were delicious!  It was a true Cajun experience.  We had successfully brought Louisiana to Southern California.  W's comments were mumbled grunts of approval as he shoveled his food down.  That's always a good sign.  I think he was mostly exited that we finally have Tobasco sauce and liquid smoke in the house now.   

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Meal That Almost Wasn't

Here's a tale of the night I made Sloppy Joe's...

It all started when I was in the grocery store last week and passed the section that contained packets of Sloppy Joe mixtures.  Hmm, I haven't had Sloppy Joe's in FOREVER!  That sounds like it might be interesting.  I checked the ingredients, and it was vegan.  Next, I needed vegan beef crumbles.  The Lightlife Gimme Lean Ground Beef style looked like it would work. 
I had a grand idea to make a lovely garden salad and fresh guacamole with the Sloppy Joe's, and that is what I did!  

I picked two different kinds of lettuce, baby spinach and chard out of my little patio garden, and mixed up the guac with my handy chop n press.  I knew the Sloppy Joe mixture wouldn't take long to cook, so I saved that for last.  Everything was going so wonderfully.  I even chopped up some kale, celery, fresh tomatoes, and onion to enhance the Joe's and make them "fancy" (in my opinion.)

Then it all went downhill.  I misread the directions, and miscalculated the amounts of ingredients, and everything got all messed up and it wasn't sloppy enough or red enough and I didn't know what to do!

W came in and informed me that I had only read the amount for the serving size, when in fact the entire tube of veggie beef was 16 ounces, which is close enough to the amount that the packet of Sloppy Joe mixture needed.  (I was trying to figure out how much of the packet should go with only two ounces of beef mixture... sigh.)

Of course, I was embarrassed that I hadn't read the package correctly and became very frustrated with the whole process.  I thought the whole dinner was ruined, and I felt like I failed myself!  Luckily my kind husband took over and finished the Sloppy Joe's while I sobbed in the corner.  Yes, quite dramatic am I when something goes amiss in my kitchen.

Finally we were both content with the final results.  The Joe's were now sloppy and red enough, and our taste-tests confirmed that it was delicious!  "Do you want me to toast your buns?"  W said, referring to the bread, of course.  And just when I thought the worst had passed, everything went back downhill again.  The bread was moldy!  It had been in the refrigerator, and it was still moldy!  I could not believe this.  This meal was a disaster.  Nothing was going as planned; I was so upset.
A quick trip was made to the Albertson's down the street, and ten minutes later, we had fresh buns for our Sloppy Joe's.  All was well with the world again.  Phew.  That was quite an ordeal, and now we know what happens when my perfectly planned meal doesn't go so perfectly.  Also, it had been a really long week at work, and maybe I was a bit too frazzled. 

ANY-way, here it is, the meal that almost wasnt: Sloppy Joe's with kale and a fresh salad straight from my garden!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sesame Noodles with Kale

Kale seems to be all the rage right now, so I decided to try it out.  Kale is a form of cabbage and is apparently one of the healthiest vegetables in the world!  I'll go for that!  It's about time I mix things up in the veggie department anyway.  

I found this recipe on another blog called The Vegan Diet.  It looks like she got it from "Vegetarian Times."  No matter where it's from, here is my version of it, and it turned out to be amazing.  

I used:
9.5 ounce package of Japanese Udon noodles
3 hefty stalks of kale, washed thoroughly and chopped
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic chili sauce
Sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

I did this:
Boiled the noodles and kale together in the same pot for five minutes.
Mixed noodles and kale with rest of ingredients in a big mixing bowl
Served with an Asian cucumber salad and avocados  

I heard this from the husband:
"This is the best Asian dish you've ever made!"
It seriously was really, really good.  It wasn't heavy like stir-fry can be, and it was very flavorful with just the perfect amount of spiciness.  As you can see, we did add a little extra spice with Sriracha.  The kale added a nice cabbagey touch to the noodles.  Since it was so easy to make, I almost couldn't believe how tasty it was!  

As for the Asian Cucumber Salad, it was super simple to make.  I found this on and followed it exactly.
  • 3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lite soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1. Stir together first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Add cucumbers, tossing to coat. Cover and chill 1 hour. Add sesame seeds, and toss; serve immediately.

It's just all so yummy and delicious...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cool as a Cucumber

I went to the library the other day to pick up my requested copy of the cookbook Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson.  I'm always excited about new cookbooks and wanted to make something from this one right away.  I told myself I'd open it to a random page and make whatever recipe was on that page.  (I was going to Sprouts next, so I could pick up any necessary ingredients.)

Lucky me, I opened it up to "Cool Cucumber Soup with Cilantro and Lime."  I know, I know.  I just said I wasn't going to make anymore soups for awhile, but this one is a COLD soup -- perfect for summer!  W had even suggested a gazpacho type soup the other day after our too-hot-for-summer Italian Wedding Soup, so I thought a cucumber soup would be a sufficient and tasty, cool soupy treat.

It was pretty easy to make.  I just blended all the ingredients in the blender and let it chill in the fridge for a couple hours before dinner time.  In the meantime I also made McDougal's Potato Salad (of which I wrote on June 6) and let that chill as well. 

Finally it was time to try to cold summer soup!  I love gazpacho, so I was excited for this, especially since I also love cucumbers. 

"Mmmm, it is delicious!"  (Me.)

"Wow, it's...very garlicky..."  (Husband.)

"It's kinda like gazpacho, I love it."  (Me.)

"Very cucumbery..."  (Husband.)

Okay, so W was being nice.  Unfortunately, he didn't quite go for my super-cool cucumber summer soup.  It was actually quite hilarious watching his facial expressions as tried to get his (very small) serving down.  I finally rescued him and said he didn't have to finish it if he didn't like it.  With a barely noticeable sigh of relief,  he kindly commented that it was "very gourmet."  I'll take that, thank you very much!  Also, more for me!  Yum.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, the husband loves my vegan dishes and scarfs them down as if it were his last meal, so I can't really complain that he didn't like this one.  I'll let him slide this time.  Besides, the potato salad was still a big hit, and I barely salvaged a serving myself before he demolished it (and ate it for breakfast the next morning!)

Anyway, back to the cucumber soup:  I give it 4 out of 5, and W gives it a 2.  Why don't you try it and decide for yourself!  If you're like me, you won't be disappointed!  But don't let me bias your opinion or anything...

1 garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
14 ounces coconut milk
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro leaves
8 thin cucumber slices for garnish
Whole fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

1.  Place the garlic and salt in a food processor and process to form a paste.  Add the chopped cucumbers and process until smooth.   Add the stock, coconut milk, lime juice, and minced cilantro ad process until smooth.   (I just did this all in a blender.)
2.  Transfer the soup to a container and refrigerate, covered, for a few hours to blend the flavors.
3.  To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the cucumber slices and whole cilantro leaves.

Serves 4

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fakin' Bacon

My husband sent me an email while I was at work yesterday.  I think we should make vegan BLT's.

Okay, I replied.  Where did that come from?  I didn't question him though.  If he was actually requesting something vegan, I was happy to oblige. 

Now as we know, the B in BLT stands for bacon, so I needed to find a vegan substitute for that.  Most fake bacon's actually have egg and milk in them, so you have to do a little bit more searching for an actual vegan bacon.  The only kind I have found are the Lightlife brand.  They don't look as cool as the Morning Star brand, but they taste pretty good, and of course they are egg and dairy free. 

W advised that, "crispiness is the key," so I fried them for about six minutes on a skillet.    

Next up, you have the L (lettuce) and T (tomato).  We used romaine and hot house.

Spread some bread with Vegenaise, and pile up the BLT.  I used whole wheat bagel thins, and W used just regular whole grain bread.  The result was a delicious, filling, healthy sandwich!  The husband nodded his approval with stuffed cheeks, and I suggested we need to eat sandwiches more often.  This was such an easy, yummy lunch, can we have more please?