Friday, February 27, 2009

A Trader Joe's Barbecue Sandwich

Let me preface this post by saying that I'm not a big fan of Trader Joe's.  Yes, they're good at what they do.  But I really don't need to buy 6 different flavors of cashews, apples wrapped in cellophane, and ready to eat frozen dinners.  In other words, they have great packaged novelty "foods", but not a lot of real food.  

Disclaimer over.

I was scoping out their store in Woodbury last week because we're getting a Trader Joe's just down the street from my house and I need to know what to expect.  And, of course, I ended up spending about $35 on fun treats while exploring.  I couldn't resist trying the Trader Joe's private label "Chicken-Less Pulled Chicken in Barbecue Sauce".  
How could I resist?  It's vegan and it has barbecue sauce- SOLD!  It's too bad it's not organic, but I bent my usual rules for the sake of the promise of "...homestyle barbecue, a little smoky, a little sweet..."  

So I heated up this soy protein and wheat gluen based dish,  sandwiched it between whole wheat bread, Veganaise, and sweet pickle relish, and served it with coleslaw.  

The verdict:  WEAK!!!  I like an intense barbecue flavor and this just did not deliver.  The box said that it would leave me wanting more.  And I did want more... flavor.  But once I added a bit of Pickapepper Sauce, I happily gobbled down the meal.  I'm a bit (ha!) picky about my barbecue sauce, so others might like it.  If you're not a big fan of spicy barbecue, then it might be perfect.  

The texture was a bit softer than I'd like, but it did end up being a pretty tasty meal.  And the "chicken" has 17 grams of protein and 45% of your iron, so that's pretty nice.

I doubt I'd get it again, but it was fun to try!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Normal is Nice

I feel like a new woman.  For the past week I've felt under the weather and it definitely got worse before it got better.  Our whole house was taken down by a stomach flu that left me disgusted by the thought of any food beyond organic saltine crackers and ginger soda.  It's funny how in the fog of a fever and illness, I sometimes feel like I'll never be the same again.  I couldn't imagine being inspired to blog about food.  Taking pictures of my saltine crackers certainly wasn't going to cut it.  This is me at my most unflattering.  Sick.  Tired.  Wearing the same braid in my hair for 4 days.  {But I had to take a picture, because the sight of myself in the mirror made me burst out laughing!}

But today, things are back to normal.  I got an intense craving for cucumber sandwiches with cream cheeze and I knew everything was going to be alright.  

Further confirmation that life is returning to normal:  My mixer is finally fixed!  That's right- the cornerstone of my kitchen, the Tangerine Queen,  has returned.  
I see frosting in my future, and LOTS of it!  I'm also really looking forward to the ease of kneading my bread dough with the mixer again.  While I always end up enjoying kneading and realize that it doesn't take that long, it sure is nice to have a machine to do the work when I don't want to mess with it.  Thank goodness there's a KitchenAid repair place nearby so I didn't have to ship that monster!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My New Toy!

I splurged today and bought myself a new camera.  I've been wanting to upgrade for a while now, but just couldn't shell out the money when we already have a camera that functions.  

But Circuit City is going out of business and had cameras at 30% off.  And 8 megapixels is not the best out there, but it's way better than 3!  I've had my eye on this Canon Powershot SD1100 because it's not too fancy, but has more of the features I want than my Fujifilm FinePix A210.  That little camera has served us well, but it's clunky and can't seem to take decent pictures in anything less than ideal conditions.  And ideal conditions are hard to come by.

I'm pretty excited about being able to record video with sound.  Our FinePix could only do about 30 seconds of video without sound, which wasn't too bad since Mike likes to create his own soundtrack to videos of the kids chasing the dog or "breakdancing" in the living room.  But I'm going to need to take lots of pictures and video of my little niece pretty soon here, so there's another excuse.

I'm reading the manual from cover to cover, trying to understand all the little quirks of this camera so that I will actually use the new features.  Hopefully this will mean better pictures on this blog.  At the very least it will prompt me to organize my photos on the old memory card!

Friday, February 20, 2009

So much cuteness

Sorry for the absence of good food on here lately.  Life's been crazy and we've all had a stomach bug in the past week.  And I've been working way to much, which means I've been eating more convenience foods.  I didn't even pack my own lunch this week!  Luckily the Co-op saved me with the "build your own panini" sandwich station.  Carmelized onions, sauerkraut, and herbed tofu on a panini?  Yes, please!

Tonight's the first night I've really cooked in about a week, aside from heating up some homecanned seitan soup.  We had walnut-tofu balls with a tomato peach glaze.

Super duper good.

Here's what you really want, though.  A ridiculously cute baby picture.

I want to snuggle my little niece SO BAD, but I have to wait until March to meet her.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best Day Ever!

Today was awesome!  Sure, I started work at 9am and then left at 4 and went on to teach for community education until 10 pm.  Sure, it snowed big huge clumps of snow.  Sure, I'm exhausted.  

But I'm an AUNT now!! My brother and his wife had their little girl today! 

Hooray!! Everyone is healthy and happy- Her name is Hannah Abigail.  So cute!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Calling all Lizzes...

Don't forget to celebrate Liz Day!!  Today is 2-17, and if you spin that upside down it spells LIZ. Last year I celebrated with pure gluttony.  How will you celebrate?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Last Call for Tuesday's Class!

There are a few spots left in my "Gluten Free Baking" class for Tuesday, Feb. 17.  If you're in the Twin Cities, just visit the South Washington County Community Ed website to register.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vegetable Love 2009

Just under the deadline, I present my submission to FatFreeVegan's Vegetable Love 2009 Challenge.  If you like my submission, then vote for my by clicking on the link and using the voting survey there.  But be sure to look at all the other entries, too.  There are some seriously amazing dishes!

No big surprise that I used beets here.  I used them in last year's submission, too!  I just can't help it.  I think beets are the most romantic vegetable out there.  

Don't believe me?  Check out this poem by Robert Samarotto, printed on my most prized set of greeting cards. 
(Cards I will probably never give away because I love them so much.)


Queen of the garden 
you rise from the poverty of earth, 
you wound me with your ripening 
bringing your sweetness nearer my hunger. 
All night – my little bonfire – you keep me awake, 
all night I burn in flames of jealousy.

I am suspicious of all your vegetable lovers, 
the way they mingle their roots with yours. 
Rain washing over you scalds my soul. 
Your leaves dancing to the wind drive me mad. 
I envy the beetle – the worm – the slug, 
vines that creep in the night.

O heart of hearts 
listen to my vegetable talk. 
Come with me to the cutting board 
let me discover your charms – slice by slice. 
Leave me with the stain of summer on my hands 
- then like Macbeth 
will I prepare for a winter’s madness.

Robert Samarotto

Now that you're all hot and bothered for beets, here's my recipe.  It's a spring roll inspired by the flavors of a banh mi sandwich, right down to the creamy sauce spiked with hot chiles.

Springy Beet Rolls
Makes about 4 spring rolls

4 spring roll wrappers
2 oz. thin rice noodles, prepared according to package
(usually just soaked in hot water for 6-8 minutes)

a big handful of cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced mint leaves
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced basil leaves
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 carrot, shredded

1 beet, shredded, about 1 cup
1 1/2 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar 
(regular rice vinegar with a pinch of salt and sugar will do)
a pinch of salt

2 Tbsp. Veganaise
2 Tbsp. plain soy yogurt
pinch salt
2 jalapenos, minced

*Thinly sliced beets for garnish

I know these look like a lot of ingredients.  Don't worry- It's easy!

First prepare your rice noodles according to the package directions.  Then rinse in cold water, drain, and set aside.  Prepare the green onions, herbs, and carrots and set out on the area where you will be making the spring rolls. 

In a small bowl, mix together the beets with the vinegar and a pinch of salt.  It will get juicy and more flavorful very quickly.  Place this in your prep area.

In another small bowl, whisk together the Veganaise, yogurt, jalapenos, and salt.  This will be your dipping sauce.  

One by one, soak the spring roll wrappers in warm water until softened.  Place a small amount of beets, carrots, noodles, green onions, and each of the herbs in a line across the middle, horizontally.  Fold in the sides of the wrapper, then start rolling up from the bottom.  Roll snugly, but not so tight as to break the wrapper.  

*If you want the heart shaped beets inside, just use a metal heart cookie cutter to shape the thinly sliced beets.  When making the spring rolls, first lay down the beet hearts, then top with the noodles for a pretty presentation.

Serve with dipping sauce.

If that hasn't convinced you, then look at the leftovers!
Who doesn't love a pink Vietnamese noodle salad made from spring roll leftovers?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ice Cream Fit for King George

This list made me laugh so hard! 

Admitedly, anything that has to do with creative ice cream flavors already has my attention.  I used to subscribe to the Ben and Jerry's newsletter so I could find out what their newest flavors were before they hit the stores.

But this list of Pres. Bush themed flavors totally made my day.  I think my favorites are "Choc 'n Awe" and "Caramel Preemptive Stripe".

Mom- don't read it.  There are bad words.  But I didn't write them.

Where you least expect it

Sometimes even gross things can be beautiful.

Like the sunshine falling on a winter compost bin filled with snow and rotting vegetable scraps.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A little bit of Summer

I'm usually 100% on the bandwagon of eating as seasonally as possible.  I eat citrus in the winter and apples in the fall.  I eat berries in the summer and asparagus in the spring.  

The food is fresher, makes more sense for our bodies, and is usually a better price when you shop this way.  

But sometimes, after having a taste of above-freezing temperatures and then being plunged again into ice cold temps, a girl just needs a taste of summer.  In February.

Taste of Summer Salad

1 bunch of curly leaf parsley, thick stems removed
4 roma tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1/4 cup black oil cured olives (or kalamata), chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. umeboshi plum vinegar
sprinkle of salt
fresh black pepper

Coarsely chop the parsley.  Add parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives to a salad bowl and combine.  In a little bowl or jar, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Pour over the salad and toss to coat.  

We enjoyed this on the side of a hearty- seasonal- winter dish: Brown rice with chili.  The kids had not seconds, not thirds, but fourths of this salad.  Pretty amazing.  We all licked our plates to get the last of the dressing.  Yes, really.

*I know what you're thinking.  "Why the heck aren't there any onions or garlic in this recipe?  Liz must not have thought this one up herself".  Well, you're wrong.  And if you make it, you'll see that it doesn't even need any onions or garlic.  The flavor of the parsley and olives and lemon vinaigrette are amazing!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Late Night Sandwich

My partner already gave his review of this Zukay salsa, but I haven't had a chance to give my opinion of their other products.  

Like Mike said, the salsa kinda weirded me out.  So I expected not to like the relish.  Boy was I surprised!  Granted, I was STARVING when I ate it.  But it was really good!

I got home from Mike's old-time show at around 1 or 1:30 am.  I went to the show straight from a yoga class and the only thing vegan on the venue's menu (ha, that rhymes!) was french fries.  Even after eating an obscene amount of those doused in high fructose corn syrup ketchup, I was really hungry.  So I whipped up a really good improv sandwich when I got home.  I wish I had a picture, but I ate it before I could even think about finding the camera.

Here are the layers of the sandwich, in order:
Whole wheat bread, toasted
Thick slather of Veganaise
hot Yves breakfast sausage
Shredded carrot
Zukay horseradish dill relish
More Veganaise
Whole wheat bread, toasted

I actually ended up dipping the whole sandwich in more relish.  And then I dipped some chips in the rest.  

I can't wait to open the garlic dill one!

Quick cupcakes

Left: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with French Sel Gris and Hawaiian Red Clay Salt
Right: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Ganach Drizzle

These are both based off the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World Gluten Freedom Cupcakes...with a few adaptations to fit my pantry and these flavors.  And to add more chocolate.