Monday, December 27, 2010

Lucky Ducky

I'm feeling pretty lucky right now.  We had a fantastic Christmas with family we love, delicious food and way too many gifts.  Christmas Eve included a candlelight dinner with homemade tamales and eggnog.  

If you're like us and not drinking dairy eggnog, but not wild about tons of soy either, you'll LOVE this recipe. 

Soy-free, Dairy-free Eggnog

1 1/2 cups almond milk
1/2 cup unsweetened Mimicreme (cashew & almond creme)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Bigger pinch of ground nutmeg

Blend all this together in a blender or shake it up really good in a sealed jar.  Serve in a frosty cold mug with a pinch of nutmeg on top- Yum!

I knew I wanted to serve cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, so the night before I whipped up some of my favorite gluten free cinnamon rolls and refrigerated them in the pan, ready to go in the oven the next day.  Here's a tip to add to the recipe, though: when rolling up the dough, just put the whole log in the freezer for an hour or so to firm it up nicely. It makes slicing the rolls a breeze!  

I hate to brag, but these were crazy good.  I used the orange glaze from the orange scone recipe in Vegan with a Vengeance for a little something special.  But really, these don't need frosting.  But I guess I don't need cinnamon rolls.  

We all got some great presents this year.  My favorites?  A reverse osmosis water filter for the kitchen, CSI game for the Wii, tickets to see Snoop Dogg and tons of my favorite pens!

Billie Cat's favorite (only) present is a new bed.  

Unfortunately for Billie Cat, Hannah Dog also loves this present. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bag 'o Veggies

I can't believe I've never done this before.  This weekend I washed and chopped a variety of vegetables and threw them into a bag to use in a stir fry on Monday night.  I also had leftover rice to incorporate.  But Monday's plans went awry because of more snow and I ended up cooking something else.

Yesterday I arrived home late and decided to cook the stir fry for myself.  About 3 minutes later I was eating- crazy fast dinner!!!

The best news is that I still had more prepped veggies leftover, so I recreated the same thing tonight.  I think I'm going to start prepping a bag full of mixed vegetables to use every week- for a quick stir fry or even to snack on.  This week's bag contained yellow onions, carrots, celery, broccoli and cabbage.

This is especially nice for the nights I eat by myself and think, "hmmm... I could have hot chocolate, baguette and avocado for dinner, right?"  I tend to skimp on the veggies sometimes when I'm by myself.

Here's all that I added to my stir fry tonight besides the bag of veggies and cooked rice: ginger powder, red pepper flakes, the juice of 1 orange and tamari.    And somehow it was totally amazing.

Now I'm sitting back to finish my library book.  I'm a serious binge reader, and I'll do nearly anything to read a mystery book cover to cover.   I'm going to try to finish it tonight so I don't have to call in sick tomorrow (just kidding, coworkers!)  (kind of!).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beans with Wine!

My pantry challenge is morphing.  I'm not on a total shopping hiatus anymore.  I'm buying fresh foods- veggies, fruit, almond milk, etc.  But I'm trying to cook primarily from the pantry still.  I still have so many dried beans and grains!  Purple barley? I forgot I even bought that!  More millet?  Really?  And those red beans.  I don't even like red beans.  Why did I ever buy them?

I'll be eating them, though.

Here's my new favorite way to cook just about any mix of beans (especially beans with a little barley).  I just toss the soaked beans in the pressure cooker with a chopped onion, a little dried thyme, a couple of cups of red wine and a bouillon cube.  The beans come out amazing!!!  They need a little salt and that's it.  We had beans with biscuits on Saturday and the kids loved this simple meal.  Then I had them again today with toast for a really hearty lunch.

I really enjoyed picking up some veggies this weekend and ate a giant Greek salad with breakfast.  I used up leftover olives, artichoke hearts and the last of the red wine vinegar in the process, so it still sort of helped clean out the pantry.  Mostly it just made me happy, though.

Also on the menu today was hot chocolate.  I found marshmallows in the pantry buried underneath the seaweed!  I'm super loving my new chocolate Fiesta dishes (a little early Christmas present to myself...).

My big accomplishment for this weekend was finishing this puzzle that was pretty difficult only because the pieces all fit to multiple other pieces.  I kept rearranging the end pieces right up until I put the last dozen pieces in.  I wish I could get paid to work jigsaw puzzles and could just do that all day every day.  

Trouble cat likes working puzzles, too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This Week's Dinners

I'm feeling pretty good about the fact that I haven't done much grocery shopping to speak of since December 9.  Heck yeah!  Using up those pantry foods!  Of course, all that saved money is just going towards Christmas presents and the car insurance that's due this month (seriously?  December must be the worst month to have to pay car insurance).

I did buy some rice milk for the kids and some bread for lunchbox meals.  But it's been pretty strictly pantry food for the last week.  Here's what we've enjoyed:  

On Sunday I made the "Everyday Chipotle Tamales" from Veganomicon with only a few minor changes to the recipe to account for missing ingredients.  Wow!  These were awesome!  I ended up with a ton since I had only used 1/2 of the filling when all the masa was used up.  So I prepped another round of masa and just froze a ton of tamales for another day.  The kids really enjoyed unwrapping the little tamale presents.


On Monday night we enjoyed basmati rice with a crockpot dal.  I threw together a can of coconut milk with all of the rest of our red lentils, carrots, parsnips and lots of frozen kale.  I used a few tablespoons of red curry paste and some extra ginger and just let it cook all day long.  I've been loving this with some mango pickle in my lunch box this week.  And it's super fun to dip papadums into.

Last night I had a hankering for tortilla soup, but didn't have tortillas, cilantro, avocado, corn, zucchini or really any of the fun ingredients I usually add to this dish.  But I went ahead and made the broth with pureed dried New Mexican chiles, onions, garlic, epazote and tomatoes.  Then I added some soaked black beans and pressure cooked it up for a quick dinner.  This has got to be the most flavorful soup base ever!  It definitely felt like it was missing something, but luckily my sweetie showed up with some Whole Grain Milling Co. chips for me to crush in the soup.  That made all the difference!

 It basically looks and tastes like a really rich and flavorful black bean soup.  This is a shot from my desk at work today.  My lunch?  "tortilla" soup, satsuma mandarin, almonds & craisins, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

I'm going to have to purchase some veggies soon here before things get too boring.  We've got a bit of cabbage, a sad little delicata squash, lots of carrots from the garden and frozen kale.  But I'm out of grapefruits and my veggie intake needs to expand beyond pickled okra and green beans, so things are going to get desperate pretty quick here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowed in!

Usually I choose to do a pantry challenge based on overspending on my grocery budget or being bored.  But this weekend's pantry challenge was brought to me by 17 inches of snow.

I thought about pulling the sled and walking to the store yesterday (before the co-op had to close early).  But I got about a block away from the house and turned back.  In case you've never tried it before, walking in snow up to your knees is hard.  Really hard.

The whole family's been snowed in for nearly 2 days and I'm realizing just how much I value my alone time on the weekends.  But I'm taking this opportunity to clean and cook and work puzzles and do lots of laundry.  Mike's doing a fantasmical job of entertaining the kids with games of Risk, football and poker.

So far we've enjoyed: popcorn, 32-bean soup over rice, biscuits with jam, hot tea, hot cocoa, left over mac 'n cheese, peanut butter toast and probably more that I've forgotten.  Shoveling can seriously stimulate my appetite.  I promise some food photos next.  And who knows?  Maybe they'll plow our street and I can leave the house!

Friday, December 10, 2010

2 Quick Meals

On Wednesday and Thursday nights I cook for just myself, so sometimes I go extravagant and other times I go for convenience.  This week was all about convenience!

I picked up some of the Field Roast apple sage sausages and used them 2 ways for very different meals.

Wednesday I had a sausage on the side of an arugula, grapefruit, cilantro, mint and peanut salad. Fresh and light- just perfect for after a long day.

On Thursday I used the Rising Moon butternut squash ravioli with spinach, sausage and balsamic vinegar/Earth Balance sauce.  I'm pretty sure those packages are meant to serve more than one person...but they just served me :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I was so surprised when I arrived home last night to find brand new homemade risers on my spice shelves.  I knew Mike was planning on making these some day, but I squealed with delight when I saw how great they looked!

Mike's woodworking is almost exclusively with dumpstered reclaimed wood.  I love that the materials are put to good use now, instead of sitting in a landfill or getting burned.  He mostly makes banjos, but now he can say he's made a spice risers, too.  And I had a fantastic time organizing them, #1: by frequency of use and #2: alphabetically.

On another note, I'm a big fan of Microplane graters.  But I was really disappointed when the plastic housing of my box grater broke.  So I wrote them a little note explaining this and they're sending me a brand new one!  I love it when companies stand by their products and know how to make a bad customer experience into a great one.  So good job, Microplane!  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cranberry Cupcakes!

 As soon as I was asked to make cupcakes for this year's Yoga Day celebration with the Iyengar Yoga Association of MN, I knew I wanted to do something with cranberries.  But I don't think I've ever had cranberry cupcakes before.

At first I tried out a cranberry/orange recipe variation... That didn't turn out so hot.  I think I disliked them because of the orange extract that I used.  They tasted kind of like fake orange lollipops with some craisins thrown in.  Not terrible, but not what I was going for.  Unfortunately, I baked off 2 dozen before I decided this (we're still eating plenty of them).

Next I tried a basic vanilla cupcake recipe with a little orange zest and lots of chopped craisins.  Jackpot.  They were light, fluffy and flecked with red cranberries.  The frosting was the best part, though!  I used the cream cheese frosting from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and added some of my homemade cranberry ginger jam (strained) for color and some pomegranate molasses for tartness.  I'll definitely be doing this again.  It was just enough tartness to get a little pucker in the back of your throat along with the hefty sweetness of the frosting.

Look how adorable they look in their bakery box!  I'm so glad I picked up a bunch of these at Michael's a while back.  They come in handy for transporting all sorts of food.  

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mmm Mmm Good

I've eaten seitan noodle soup for 2 out of 3 meals today. Luckily Mike hates soup because this is full of gluten-y goodness!