Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chickpea Olive Tofu Burgers

I finally cracked open The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet tonight. Rob was taking the boys to see a friend in a talent show at our neighborhood elementary school and I was taking Josie to meet Gita and her family to the Virginia Theater to watch The Muppets. Thus, supper was a hurried affair, but had to keep everyone satiated for several hours. I bought The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet a while ago, but noticed a lot of the recipes called for TVP and that isn't something we usually buy. I was reorganizing our cookbooks and decided to check out this one again. Of course, being me I picked out the Fire-Roasted Red Pepper Burger before realizing we didn't have any fresh or jarred red peppers. No problem! Chickpea Olive Tofu Burgers is what I ended up creating and they were so good Josie asked if she could have one for breakfast tomorrow. I can't wait to play around with more recipes in this cookbook!
Chickpea Olive Tofu Burgers
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas with a little of the cooking liquid
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 - 1/2 cup mixed olives
1/4 pound baked tofu (optional - I just had some around and threw it in)
2 Tablespoons tahini
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup chickpea flour (just to make it patty like consistency)

If your chickpeas aren't warm from cooking them, heat them up with the garlic for about 10 to 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Take the chickpea mixture and add all the remaining ingredients except the chickpea flour in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add a little chickpea flour at a time until the mixture is easy to work with. Place patties (should make about six) on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 F for 15 - 20 minutes on each side. Enjoy with your favorite burger fixings. The kids went with lettuce, vegan mayo, mustard, sauerkraut, guacamole, and their favorite hot sauce. They are a bit crumbly so I'm going to play around with the mixture next time. Maybe it is the tofu's fault? We'll see.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Quick Quinoa Casserole

This quick quinoa casserole was inspired by several of my favorite vegan "cheese" sauces. My version is satisfyingly savory but I won't call it cheesy. Rob and I put a bit of hot sauce on top, but the kids liked it as is. Parker isn't a huge quinoa fan, but he went back for seconds and maybe thirds. I served the casserole with thawed peaches and Pekara focaccia.

Quick Quinoa Casserole:
Lightly steam veggies (I used frozen peas, corn, broccoli, carrots, and green beans) and reserve the liquid.

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed (I used sprouted because that is what I had)
Use reserve liquid from the veggies and add enough water to cook quinoa according to package directions.
Optional: add 1/2 teaspoon vegan Better than Bouillon and 1/2 teaspoon red curry paste to cooking liquid before adding the quinoa.

1/3 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 raw almonds
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon mellow miso (I used white)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 yellow mustard
1 red bell pepper, seeded
1 small onion sauteed with a bit of water and 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Put all the sauce ingredients in a Vitamix or equally awesome blender and blend until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a casserole dish. Mix the prepared veggies, quinoa, and sauce together and pour in casserole dish. Add freshly ground pepper to the top and some panko or gomasio if you like. Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Double Duty Donut Party Dinner

We needed a dish to bring to Amelia's donut party Friday and the kids needed to eat something real before indulging in fried vegan donuts with their choice of sugary toppings (I wish I hadn't forgotten my camera and phone because the donuts looked good) so I whipped up something to do double duty.
PPK's Cashew Queso is my current go-to party dish. PPK's Tempeh Sausage Crumbles are my old go-to party dish. I put them together over whole wheat spaghetti and peas to create a satisfying dinner with queso left for chip and veggie dipping at the party.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Veggie Burgers and Flax Milk

A couple product reviews because I almost set the kitchen on fire the other night (food on broil + spontaneous conversation with neighbors on the porch = convenience foods) and it still smells like smoke. (Cough.)

Most of the time I completely disregard the processed foods in our food buying club catalog, but I'm a sucker for new vegan foods on sale so I caved twice in the last couple months and bought two different types of veggie burgers. What caught my attention for both products was the lack of unpronounceable or unidentifiable ingredients. I've mentioned one of the products before, but this time we did a veggie burger to veggie burger face off.
Asherah's Gourmet
Hillary's Eat Well "The World's Best Veggie Burger" (left) vs. Asherah's Gourmet (right and top)
I guess claiming that your product is "The World's Best Veggie Burger" was intriguing to me so I went against my normal leaning toward the Adzuki Bean Burger variety. I also thought Ahserah's original was a better comparison to Hillary's Eat Well than my preferred chipotle flavor.

They both are pretty good on the ingredient front:
Aherah's Gourmet (original) -
(photo from their website)
Hillary's Eat Well (veggie burger) - Water, organic whole millet, organic whole quinoa, expeller-pressed coconut oil*, organic sweet potato, organic spinach, organic onion, organic psyllium seed husk powder, organic arrowroot, Real Salt®, organic garlic, organic apple cider vinegar, sunflower seed oil (copied from their website)

*I'm not a huge fan of coconut oil, I know it is pretty uncool of me, but as much I love the taste of coconut I don't go for the coconut oil is a health food. Just me. I do however think it is fine once in a while. They both contain coconut.

Texture Winner - Hillary's Eat Well is the clear winner because it stays together. You could even grill these suckers, but the Aherah's Gourmet fall apart and can be mushy if you don't cook them long enough. I cooked both in the toaster oven.

Taste Winner - a tie. The kids said they preferred Hillary's Eat Well, but then on the side by side they liked them both equally. The Aherah's Gourmet tastes healthier, but that isn't a bad thing in our house.

Nutrition - from my layperson point of view, Aherah's Gourmet comes out a bit ahead of Hillary's Eat Well when you compare the numbers.

Packaging - Hillary's Eat Well is the winner on the packaging front with biodegradable packaging in sets of two patties. Aherah's Gourmet comes in four patty boxes so I guess it depends on how you look at it, but both companies seem to care about creating a quality product while being responsible about the environment.

Bottom line - I don't think you'll go wrong buying either of these two vegan veggie burgers and I'm so happy to see more vegan products hit the market.
I made an impulse buy at the co-op this week.** Flax Milk - I tried some on cereal and it works. Josie loved it by the glass. Our friend, Daniel, brought some to Amelia's vegan donut party Friday night. Josie was so happy to enjoy a glass with her freshly made vegan donuts. Flax Milk is devoid of protein and made with flax seed oil (we prefer the seeds), but I could see buying it once in a while. I wonder if it is okay to cook with since flax seed oil itself is not supposed to be heated.

**Valentine's Day was also Owner Appreciation Day at Common Ground. It was even more fun because my friend, Karen, offered to come pick us (Dema, Josie, and me) up so we could chat a bit and shop. We run into each other at the co-op and try to get a word or two in as the bustle goes around us so it was great to shop early in a less crowded store and chat on the way. We also checked out two other local businesses while we were there. Karen's son is so adorable I wanted to bring him home with me. We need to have Karen and her family over for dinner sometime soon!

We also ran into my sister, Karen, at the co-op and the kids she helped us find what was on our list and get the haul all bagged up. She is so thoughtful that later that evening she brought three things we couldn't find at the co-op, but were on our list; a pastry brush, Chinese five spice, and hibiscus tea.

I love my sister!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Corn Chowder and Biscuits

Summer Lovin' Curried Corn and Veggie Chowder (over basmati rice) from Appetite for Reduction and Fluffy Biscuits from Vegan Diner
A very enjoyable Sunday late lunch/early dinner. The corn chowder pairs very well with basmati rice because of the high curry taste. I used green peppers we froze from our garden this year instead of red and omitted the zucchini because we didn't have any. The biscuits were a total mess to make, but not because of the recipe. It is a long sticky sorted story, but the biscuits ended up being one of those things that Dema just falls for..."Mom, these are DELICIOUS, mmmmm, excellent food, mom!" Parker took the little leftovers to school for lunch. I can't wait to make the chowder with fresh corn this summer.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Orange You Glad I Didn't Say Banana

We've eaten a lot of orange foods this week. Gotta love beta carotene. No pictured are the pound of dried mangoes the kids ate throughout the week, several orange smoothies with peaches and mangoes, and lots of dried apple rings.
Oh She Glows Butternut Squash Mac 'n Cheeze (with more butternut squash, carrots, peas, and quinoa shell pasta) Kale and Black Bean tamales with peach mango salsa
Rob made a ton of tamales for Parker's so we could eat them all week. Parker had to take extras to school because kids asked for them at lunch. This time when I made the pasta, I realized the recipe only used a cup of the butternut squash (did I miss that before or ignore it?) so I used maybe two cups for the sauce and the rest with the other veggies. I'll do that again. Both times I've made this dish I have used a pound of pasta instead of 8 oz. and it was plenty of sauce without doubling.
Our friend Gita had a birthday this week and her daughters were over playing before her birthday and told me she liked carrot cake. I planned to make her one, but we didn't have the vegan cream cheese on hand and we did have leftover raspberry icing from Parker's birthday cake so I made my traditional post-birthday Lower-Fat Deep Chocolate Bundt Cake from Veganomicon instead and had Gita's crew over for dinner Friday night.
Gita brought leftover carrot cake from her birthday and the kids LOVED it. We don't make carrot cake often enough.
She also brought fixings for sushi and let the kids help roll.
I made Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples from Appetite for Reduction, 
Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits from Appetite for Reduction and Rachel's Sauerkraut and Kielbasa Soup
mashed white potatoes with nutritional yeast, "Fried Chicken" Tofu and Gravy (from Cookin' Southern Vegetarian Style).

The Sauerkraut and Kielbasa Soup was great, but I would cut down on the Better Than Bouillon to maybe 1 tablespoon next time because the kids found it way too salty for our tastes. We used Eden Foods organic sauerkraut because we buy it by the case (use it in sandwiches on top of veggie burgers, pretty much everywhere). The Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits go awesome with this soup and is the only thing that allowed me not to substitute something orange (maybe Delicata squash) for the white potatoes in the recipe. I made seitan sausage from Vegan Diner to stand in for the store bought kielbasa and didn't think too keep the seitan sausage out during the cooking process. For those of you who don't make your own seitan, it soaks up the water so it would be better if using homemade sausage to brown it and then leave it out until the soup is almost done. I just wasn't thinking, but it was fine. Josie had a wonderful time helping me cook everything. I love having her in the kitchen.

While we were cooking, Eric (a fabulous carpenter/contractor - let me know if you want his number, he works on several houses in our 'hood) was working on restoring the wood in the dining room back to the original color (an orange-ish tint!) since the previous owners painted it all white.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Turning Twelve - Part 2 Tea Time

Even after very little sleep Saturday night/Sunday morning, Parker entertained more friend Sunday afternoon. He had a great time with some homeschooling palls and the way it was so fun and non-competitive made me almost cry. I really enjoy getting to know Parker's new friends, but I already love these kids so much. The spent two years together in a local homeschooling group and one we've known since Parker was young. I am lucky to have witnessed these children grow. Since it was afternoon, I just served the kids snacks, which they gobbled up.
Pigs in a Compassionate Blanket of Love (vegan hot dogs with a puff pastry wrap)
Cheater empanadas (leftover mashed potatoes, leftover tamale filling - kale and black beans, and salsa with a puff pastry wrap)
Isa's Cashew Queso with chips, but this dip is so good you'll be looking for anything to give you an excuse to eat more. I can tell you from experience it pretty much tastes good on anything from mashed potatoes to veggies to pasta to licking straight out of the bowl. Make this now!

The kids building a Lego set together. I wish I had a picture or audio of them playing Creationary together. They were laughing so hard and they just made my heart happy. It was kind of like a pre-Super Bowl Party or as Josie called it a "twelve year old boy tea party". Lots of eating and laughing.

They also enjoyed (as did the kids from the sleepover) our favorite birthday cake. Yum!

After the kids went home, we all enjoyed Downton Abbey and not football. Sunday morning Rob fell down the stairs while carrying Josie and hurt himself enough to stay in bed the rest of the day. This meant we didn't trek the few blocks to Erin and Brian's for a little Super Bowl watching (missed seeing them, but happy to skip the game). We did cuddle up in bed sipping tea and watching our new favorite show. The only thing that would make Downton Abbey even more enjoyable for me is adding Richard Armitage to the cast. Alas, he is busy being a dwarf,

but he would be stellar on the show.

What tea have we been sipping lately? Wicked Wickham from Bingley's Teas (now available locally at Walnut Street Tea Company).

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Turning Twelve - Part 1 Sleepover

Parker turns 12 years old today (birth story here) and he decided against the "normal" big parties we usually have...he says he doesn't get to spend time with all the guests. Instead he decided on several different get togethers with different friends.

Friday night was an impromptu dinner at Fiesta Cafe with our neighbors, Scott and Deborah (and their boys) and more friends. I sat at the cool table while the adults were clearly more boring at their table.
 Parker trying to look serious.
 L and Josie being silly.
 E and Dema adding to the crazy.
 E and Dema BFFs.
L and Josie showing the love.

Parker showing you are never too old to clown around.

Last night was a sleepover with three new friends from school.
 Stuffed grape leaves (Parker's birthdays always include dolma).
 "Fried Chicken" Tofu and Gravy and nooch mashed potatoes.
 Bearitos chips with Common Ground white bean dip (so good!). Rob's famous kale and black bean tamales in the background.
 Vegan brownies (made by one of the moms, how sweet!).
 Parker received some cool cards and Lego!
 They boys played the Creationary game quite a bit.
 Rob made Whole Wheat Vegan Cinnamon Rolls for breakfast.
 Parker ate three and stayed in his pjs most of the morning. The birthday boy gets to do what he likes.
Rob made two batches of these rolls and we will definitely make them again.

Who knew 12 year old boys were so chatty? They never stopped talking. Rob and I couldn't keep up with all the conversation over dinner. The boys were so interesting and so much fun! Parker is looking forward to more celebrating with other friends throughout the month.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n

We have only tried Gardein products a couple times, but I will say that they are quality and good tasting. In fact, if Gardein had been around pre-kids when Rob and I were both working full-time in DC I think it is safe to say that we probably would have regularly eaten Gardein products. As it is, we prefer to cook from scratch. Even so, I couldn't pass up the $1.00 off coupon at Common Ground Co-op this week. I bought a package of the Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick'n to put in the freezer for one of those days when I was tempted to order out. Well, it didn't last that long. We didn't have a plan for Parker's lunch yesterday so I asked Rob to cook up the Gardein add some brown rice and leftover pumpkin bread on the side to pack in Parker's To-Go Ware. Conclusion? Parker was pleased. He didn't have enough time to eat the entire lunch (it is supposed to be three portions, but he is a growing kid and can eat a lot), but ate the rest as a snack after his walk home. He said his friends asked about his lunch (one of the reasons we packed the entire bag, he often has friends asking for some of his food). He said next time to add some veggies, but the taste was great and it filled him up. None of us were able to try some, but we might have to buy more sometime soon to spice up a meal of veggies and quinoa.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My New Favorite Way to Eat Cabbage

Braised Cabbage with Seitan* from Appetite for Reduction and roasted sweet potatoes
*seitan is Pastrami-Style Seitan Roast from Vegan Diner
Seriously simple, seriously scrumptious. That is all.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Strange Days Indeed

I was walking with Parker to school this morning, during winter, in central Illinois, in the morning and we just needed jackets no gloves/hats.! I'm not complaining, really. I mean this is the easiest car-free winter we've had, but Parker is totally freaked. He is a worrier about global warming anyway and this weather doesn't help. I tried to make him feel better telling him that we planted a tree in January twelve years ago right before he was born. This didn't help. I reminded him about the Science Tech assignment he finished a couple weeks ago for school. He had to fill out a questionnaire to figure out how many Earths we would need if everyone lived like he does. They actually mentioned veganism (they do on several of his homework assignments in this class...woot!) and when he filled it all out the results were 1/4 of an Earth. This totally surprised me because we are Americans and while we do what we do, there is always room for improvement. This whole thing didn't make him feel better either because his teacher said it didn't matter what individuals do, everyone has to do it.
While Parker is fretting, Josie is just soaking up the sun. This is her walking/dancing to the library in December. She's been riding her bike a lot and going without a coat.
Here she is walking to ballet, the shirt was off soon after this picture so we did hours of errands outside with her ballet dress and jeans. Crazy weather!

Tempeh with Mellow Mustard Sauce and Penne with Artichokes, Walnuts, and Olives from Quick-Fix Vegan
I've been trying to make a conscience effort to use tempeh, especially since I bought a twelve package case a month ago. Josie gets excited each time I open a package of tempeh, but to be honest we are really more of a tofu family. The Tempeh with Mellow Mustard Sauce reminded me of my mom's Swiss steak while I was making it. I don't remember what mom's dish really tasted like because I'm sure I turned my nose up at it with the sauce and everything, but I have fond memories of her cooking it. I could eat the mustard sauce on anything, seitan would work well too, but I thought it was great with tempeh. Quinoa would work great with the tempeh and sauce, but I forgot to make some and everyone was hungry. The whole wheat gobetti had artichokes, walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives, so what is not to like? Frozen cherries were Josie's suggestion and they were quite delicious too.