Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekend Food Prep

You probably know by now that I get home about 5 p.m. each day, usually ravenous. So if I want to cook something healthy, it's going to have to be fast. Having veggies cut up and ready in the fridge helps. I refuse to pay extra for pre-cut-up veggies, so I just do it myself when I get home from the store.

These clear plastic containers make fridge storage easy, too.

They stack up pretty nicely in my fridge.

So mid-week when I want to make something, I can see when I open my fridge what veggies need to be used! The mushrooms will just have to be washed later.

Do you have any tips to make your weekday cooking easier on yourself?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Why are you vegetarian?"

A couple of you may know that this isn't my first attempt at blogging. The first time was back in high school. Then in college. Again a few years ago, but I quasi-accidentally deleted that Google account and lost everything.

In trying to think of what to write about, I thought maybe I'd explain my vegetarianism again. Not that I feel a need to explain myself, but people do ask fairly frequently. So I dug through the file of old posts on my computer to see what I wrote before.

September 19, 2008
There's no religious reason. I don't have ethical concerns. No cultural or family backgrounds preceded my recent change of habits.

Internet research has been surprisingly unhelpful in trying to make sense of this. Then I found this from Wikipedia, the holy source of all things (often inaccurate):

"Some vegetarians choose to be so in part because they find meat and meat products aesthetically unappetizing. The Whole Earth Vegetarian Catalogue's '49 good reasons for being a vegetarian' says that one reason for being a vegetarian is that 'Decaying animal parts, whether in a freezer case or served in restaurants, can never be as aesthetically pleasing to the senses as the same foods made from wholesome vegetable sources. Only habit can allow one not to perceive this: a change in diet makes this self evident.'"

Well there's something that actually makes sense. As much sense as anything right now. My boyfriend's mom asked me last night if I was "going vegetarian" on her. As it turns out, a couple appropriate terms would be "Semi-vegetarian," or "Flexitarian.", although vegan, could replace for me. I'll just use real eggs instead of substitute, butter instead of whatever-the-hell, regular sugar and flour. Basically I'm going to pour animal by-products all throughout their cleansed recipes. It'll all be so tasty, though. I think first up is going to be pumpkin cookies. I'll always love allrecipes for giving me the world's best chocolate chip cookies, though.

I'm finding that it is difficult to eat vegetarian at restaurants. Most places are seeing the need for veggie foods, so they have one option. Maybe two. Geez.

Now I'm starting to see this cultural idea of "must have meat." Maybe it's really "we have the money for meat, so we have to eat it at every meal." Seriously, every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Possibly even a meaty snack. Yes, I've eaten that way in the past. I think I may have already eaten half a life's worth of meat already. I need to slow down or I’m going to be all out of meat before I turn 50. Gack!

This seems hilarious to me in a lot of ways, almost three years later. I'm now ovo-lacto vegetarian and never eat meat or meat-based broth if I can help it. My now-mother-in-law makes me delicious veggie alternatives at family gatherings. For the most part, my family and friends tease me less about it than they used to.

Honestly, I figured that not eating meat was just a phase, and that I'd "go back" before too long. At first, I gained weight because I didn't know how to healthfully eat meatlessly. Now I feel better and healthier than ever, and even try to incorporate some vegan foods into my diet. But 99% of the time, other people's meat consumption doesn't bother me. It's a personal choice I feel good about, but not one that I think everyone should necessarily make.

I do use eggs, butter and non-vegan sugar. But food has become increasingly about ethics for me, so I buy local and organic when possible. Now that I know how to modify recipes to make them vegetarian without tasting like they're lacking something, I get recipes and ideas from anywhere and everywhere.

And those cookies I mentioned nearly three years ago? Funny story. Chocolate chip. Vegan pumpkin.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vegan Pumpkin Cookies

There's a reason these are called "Who Knew It Was Vegan":

No one ever suspects that these cookies are vegan. But my husband tells them anyway because he thinks it's funny. Even funnier, my carnivorous husband is usually the one that asks me to make these.


I had frozen pumpkin in my freezer, so I thawed it in the microwave. You can use canned pumpkin.

Add brown sugar and oil.

Then your dry ingredients.

Mix the dry ingredients up a bit before incorporating them into the wet stuff. Otherwise sometimes I taste bits of baking powder. Ew.

These make great cookies, but I was in a hurry on a weeknight, so I made them in a 9x13 cake pan.

Smush it all in. Remind yourself that the dough is vegan and therefore egg-free, so eat a little.

These are also really good with wheat flour! And I have been known to put a little batter in a bowl and eat it with a spoon. Soooooooo good.

Who Knew It Was Vegan Pumpkin Cookies
(makes about 60 cookies or 9x13 cake)

2 cups brown sugar
2 cups pumpkin
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix sugar, pumpkin, oil and vanilla.
3. Add dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture until smooth.
4. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes or bake in greased glass 9x13 pan until set.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Peanut Broccoli Tofu

You still haven't tried tofu, have you? That's okay, because you start with my favorite tofu recipe yet! A couple weeks ago I had some incredible broccoli and tofu in spicy peanut sauce at Whole Foods. Even though it was cold, I just loved it. Even before dinner that night, I was trying to figure out how to make it at home, preferably warm.

The very next day, I did it and it was fabulous.

Yes, you could sub chicken in for the tofu here. You'll have to slice and cook the chicken, though, which will add a little to your prep time.

First off, start your rice cooking. Last time I made a tofu dish, I was sad not to have rice. Plus this way the rice is almost always done right about the time what I'm making is cooked. Perfect. I ran out of brown rice, so this is a mixture of brown and white.

Mix or whisk peanut butter (I used half creamy Jif and half chunky natural peanut butter), honey, red pepper flakes and vinegar over medium heat.

Cube good tofu. For once, I'm not going to fry this!

Add soy sauce and keep mixing until smooth.

Turn the heat off as soon as it's smooth so it doesn't get TOO thick.

Throw the uncooked tofu into the sauce and mix to coat.

Set this to the side for a while.

Cook some onions and garlic in a skillet with some oil.

I had this broccoli cut up already.

Toss that in.

Once the veggies are cooked to your liking, put the sauce-covered tofu in and mix it all together.

Keep heating until the tofu is warmed through. You don't have to cook the tofu, but I prefer mine not be cold.

Then serve over rice!

I wanted to eat the whole pan, but I didn't.

This makes four decent-sized meals with rice.

Here's the original recipe I modified from:

Broccoli and Tofu with Spicy Peanut Sauce
(makes four meals)

1 package firm tofu
1 lb broccoli
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion
1 tablespoon dried ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup hot water
6 tablespoons vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
red chili pepper flakes to taste

1. Place peanut butter and water in a sauce pan, heat on low heat and whisk until mixture is uniform. Add vinegar, honey, soy sauce and red chili flakes. Add tofu to sauce and set aside.
2. In a large skillet, heat the oil, ginger, onion and garlic. When hot add the broccoli and stir-fry a few minutes.
3. Add tofu/sauce to broccoli and stir until everything is coated with sauce. Cook until warmed through.
4. Serve over warm rice.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Arm Warmers

I cook for many reasons. For example, I like food. Also, I like making stuff. I'm trying to teach myself to sew, but it's taking some effort. Slowly, it's coming along.

That's only kind of relevant. This is not by any means a sewing project.

To tell the truth, I bought socks for derby. I'm a sucker for animal prints, so I thought they were adorable.

Adorable as they may or may not be, they did not fit my big ol' calves. Such is life. It's not unusual for boots not to fit my calves, but it's been a while since this was a problem in socks. I'm going to blame the fact that these came from a store aimed at teenagers, who likely do not have my muscular man-calves.

I'd just recently read online how if I wore arm-warmers under my derby elbow pads, I could just wash those more and my pads less. Seeing as I hate to be stinky (kind of unavoidable at practice, I think) but don't want to wash my pads so much as to break them down faster, I thought: maybe I could turn these socks into arm warmers.

Then I was afraid they wouldn't even fit my forearms. But they do. Barely.

Just cut a thumb hole in the heels. Cut off the toes as much as you want. And if they're too long, you can trim up the leg. I like them long, so I just push them down a bit.

When I tried wearing these under my pads at practice, they made them slide down even worse than usual. So for me, I don't think this is a viable de-stinkying tactic. However, I did get compliments on these cute arm-warmers when I wore them to a game. So score!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Part of me is a little reluctant to share my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I pretty much stole it from several years ago and now I can't even find it on there. It's my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I've been asked tons of times to make them. Now you can make them for yourself.

You don't even need me anymore.


Love me anyway, okay?

First, soften 2/3 cup of real butter in the microwave. Add 2/3 cup of butter-flavored Crisco. I don't like off-brand shortening, but if you have something else similar on hand, don't go buy butter-flavored Crisco until you run out.

I like to tidy up and put things away as soon as I'm done with them.

Grant took this pretty picture of the chocolate chips for me. He even spilled a few chips for effect. These chips were better than Nestle Toll House, but not as good as Ghiradelli. If you want fancy cookies, buy Ghiradelli. Walmart has them the cheapest I can find, but I wasn't at Walmart when I did this shopping trip.

I also try to buy local, free-range eggs, but I know "free range" isn't a regulated term. So I still need to do some research. These are from here.

Back to the cookies. Add a cup of white sugar and a cup of brown sugar. Mix well.

Then a tablespoon of vanilla and two whole eggs.

I'm sure I've told you before, but I love this vanilla.

Then a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of baking soda.

Just under four cups of flour.

If your cookies turn out too flat, you didn't put enough flour in. If the first batch is a little flat, you can add more flour before you bake the rest. I don't like flat cookies, but some people do.

Also, flour makes less of a mess if you mix it in a cup or a two at a time.

I think this is one of my husband's artsy shots. Maybe.

Mix in the chocolate chips. Then roll into balls. If you put in enough flour, the dough won't be super-sticky and should hold into balls well.

Let your husband eat dough. He will love you more for it.

While some cookies are baking, I like to freeze extra dough for later. This time I flattened little disks of dough between waxed paper and put it in Tupperware. It works really well!

Or you can make mini-logs in Ziploc bags. When you want to use it, you can slice it off later.

This is how these cookies bake up.

This is my picture-perfect cookie.

Just lovely. Take them out as soon as they start to brown, about 12 minutes on 350. They'll set after you take them out of the oven.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes about 60)

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 cups flour
1 bag chocolate chips

1. Mix butter, Crisco and sugars.
2. Add eggs, vanilla and salt.
3. Add baking soda and flour.
4. Mix in chocolate chips.
5. Roll into balls.
6. Bake at 350 degrees until the tops start to brown, about 10-12 minutes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Cream" of Mushroom Soup

A while back, I stumbled on this recipe: Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup

I think it was less than a week before I made it for the first time. And it's been made and enjoyed again since!

Dice up an onion, preferably white. If your nails are recently painted, breathe a sigh of relief that your hands don't look any weirder than necessary in photos today.

Put those onions in a large sauce pan with some olive oil over some heat.

Aren't onions amazing? Saute these a bit with some garlic.

Get out your other ingredients. My amazing photographer/assistant did this for me.

Wash and chop mushrooms. These are bulk non-organic creminis from Whole Foods. I don't know much about mushrooms, but I would not use white button mushrooms in this recipe. I'm afraid they'd be mushy and gross, even though I usually love those.

Mushroom gills freak me out, but otherwise I love chopping these things.

Throw the mushrooms in the pot with the onions. Ask your husband to add the soy sauce for you. Little did I know, this was the secret to good soup! The second time I made this, I didn't use as much soy sauce and it was bland at first. More soy sauce and Worcestershire made all the difference!

Don't you just want to eat these right now? I do.

Add veggie broth or an equivalent amount of water and veggie stock base. I always keep veggie base in my fridge for such times as these.

While that's all cooking, you don't need to stand over it. Puree half a cup of raw cashews (also bulk from Whole Foods, but you can probably find them elsewhere) with half a cup of water.

I used my Ninja! A blender or food processor should work just fine.

I also still had my hand stamp from open skate that morning. Oops.

Salt the soup a little. If you're afraid it's getting too salty, taste it. But this takes more salt than you'd think.

Stir it until the mushrooms are sufficiently soft to your liking.

My stove is gas. Look, fire!

You could probably just eat this as mushroom soup, but I was excited about the idea of a vegan cream soup.

So get your cashew "cream."

I'm not as big of a fan of cashews as my husband is, but this looks and smells really good.

Mix it all together and serve in cute bowls.

Eat it on the couch and pet your very-not-vegan dog at the same time.

Warning: You may end up with dog hair in your soup.

I'm not one for actual doggie kisses, so I'm probably sticking my tongue out at Frostbite here. Because I get tasty soup and he gets stinky dog food. He's probably okay with this, though.

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup
(makes about four servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
3 cups vegetable broth
salt to taste
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir, and cook for 1 minute more.
2. Add the mushrooms, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add pepper and  vegetable stock and cook at a simmer until mushrooms are completely soft, about 10 to 15 minutes.
4. While the soup simmers, prepare the cashew cream. Combine raw cashews and water. Blend on high until smooth. Transfer cashew cream to a small bowl.
5.When mushrooms are cooked through, add about one third of the soup to the blender. Blend and return to pot. Add the cashew cream to the blended soup and stir to incorporate.