Archive for November, 2010

My apologies!

I have been clearly slacking here. Things have been hectic! Tuesday night I started baking in preparation for Thanksgiving. I came home from work and got right to making a pumpkin pie. Wednesday night was full of making a sweet potato casserole and sourdough cranberry stuffing, and Thanksgiving day involved making an apple pie and vegan gravy for the Tofurkey my brother-in-lay to be cooked up (and it was delicious!). Black Friday I did absolutely no cooking outside of reheating leftovers but…. the fiance and I adopted a cat!

We have considered adopting for a couple of months now, considering our options and deciding if the timing was right to welcome a cat into the home. After almost getting a cat earlier and the owner neglecting to call us back, we turned to the SPCA. We then went to the local PetSmart as we knew the SPCA had cats up for adoption there. We saw two older cats we adored, and went home to think about it over the holidays. When Friday rolled around, we had decided we did in fact want a cat in our lives (especially after thinking about all the homeless cats in shelters and on the streets while we were sitting around eating mass amounts of food), we went back to Petsmart to look at the cats up for adoption we had previously considered. When trying to hold and play with them to get a sense of their personalities, we were told we first needed a pre-approval for adoption from the SPCA. So, we jumped in the car to go to the SPCA. Fifteen minutes later, we get there to find out that the SPCA is closed. Remembering that the SPCA does adoptions out of the mall as well, we ventured there, a brave thing to do on Black Friday (it was indeed chaos). We walked in and underwent the process to get a pre-approval. Before we left to go back to PetSmart, we looked at the cats that were there. And then we found Malachi. A bright-eyes, adorable 7 month old whose sister had been adopted earlier that morning. The woman volunteering asked if we wanted to go into a play with him, and we agreed. It was all over from there. We instantly loved him, and he seemed to take to us as well. By the end of the day, everything seemed to work out in the most bizarre yet perfect of ways, and now Malachi is hiding under the bed, acclimating to his new home. Between all the excitement of Thanksgiving and bringing the most adorable cat ever into our home, I have completely forgotten to blog. I promise I will make up for it however, as I was able to snap a few shots of the Thanksgiving feast, and of course, of my new baby.

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Delicata Squash Bread

...kind of like pumpkin bread...

I’m sure by now you are aware that I have a preposterous amount of all different types of squash in my house. I lay in bed sometimes wondering what I could possibly do with it all. One of my more clever ideas was to make squash bread. I figured, hey, if pumpkin bread is so delicious, why wouldn’t delicata squash bread be as well? Granted, it doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely, but I can assure you it tastes just as good. I started by baking my squash for an hour at 350 degrees. You actually only need one medium sized delicata squash, but I baked a second for good measure (and now I need to figure out what to do with it….).

this is a familiar scene for me

Here is the recipe:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup cooked, mashed delicata squash
2 substitute eggs (I used cornstarch and water)
1/4 cup Earth balance, melted

With the oven still at 350, I placed the batter in a greased bread pan an let it bake for 60 minutes. See, pretty damn simple.

I would say that delicata squash bread is just as great as pumpkin bread, and that pumpkin bread has unfairly stolen all of the attention. All the wonderful tastes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves are still present, along with the light and sweet aftertaste of squash. The bread really turned out to be a nice color, and was not too moist or dry. I would totally make it again, and probably will seeing as how much squash I still have left!

Cats on Campus dinner at Merge


While being having a primarily vegan lifestyle, and trying to cut animal products from your life as well, is a step towards making the Earth a better place for all creatures and species, it is always great to get out their and participate in projects, events and gatherings that help directly change the lives of animals and increase awareness.

Let me start by saying that my friend Morgan Dunbar was key in organizing this event/fundraiser. I met her during my last semester of college while taking Ethics. We ended up being partners in a debate, arguing the ethics being animal experimentation, and how our use of animals is ethically wrong. Our debate was strong, and it was obvious that we had intimidated the opposing side. Our conclusion was the beginning of the documentary “Earthlings,’ which eloquently explains how our exploitation of animals is ethically wrong. During this time period, it was Earthlings and examining my own relationship with animals that converted my from a vegetarian to a vegan. It really was a turning point in my life, and since has made me examine my actions in all regards in a more thoroughly, or at least more thoughtful, manner.

Morgan and I had recently both dropped the Veterinary Technology major from our lives at college, after realizing it was not what we had originally thought it to be, and also over the questionable ways the animals on campus were being used/handled/kept. After learning how to give injections and draw blood from my small lab rats, I had fallen in love with them and brought them home, not able to bear the thought of them being killed. Morgan as well has rescued numerous mice and rats from euthanasia at the college. The disposable nature of these animals and their apparent worth to us, among other things, had shown us that the life of vet techs was not for us. Morgan has since transfered schools, and truly has become the voice for animals. Her passion and drive is highly contagious, and the animal world is lucky to have her.

At her new college, she started the Companion Animal Rescue Society and on behalf of this organized the Cats on Campus dinner at the local Merge restaurant. Merge is known for having a particularly great vegan menu, as well as serving raw and gluten-free foods. Having the event here, in a space where there was room for a significant amount of people, a presentation, and an entirely vegan buffet was pretty ingenious. The event sold out, and I am sure it is safe to say that everyone had a great time.

The dinner/presentation was aimed to educate people on feral cats, and what one can do to help them. This included a demonstration on setting up live traps, the proper way to handle a feral cat population, and the pros and cons of trapping, neutering/spaying, and releasing. It was extremely informative, and everyone was able to meet inspiration and active people from the local organization 10th Chance Cat Rescue, wonderful individuals who have been caring for hundreds of feral and stray cats.

Obviously, an awesome part of this night was the food that was served. For many in attendance, this was the first time they would be consuming an entirely vegan, cruelty-free dinner, and I must admit that hearing people try to repeat ‘seitan’ and ‘quinoa’ was quite entertaining. The dinner included: an amazing garden salad with “green goddess dressing,” sweet potato fries, bbq and hot seitan ‘wings,’ smashed potatoes, red quinoa, sweet potato curry and a mushroom stew. It was all fantastic, and I particularly enjoyed the sweet potato fries (I could have ate the entire platter myself) and curry. Morgan had even brought mini red velvet cupcakes and brownies. Everyone loved the food, and I think it was a great opportunity for others to try things they may never had tried otherwise on their own.

waiting to eat! yep, that's me in the black and white stripped sweater.

happy people eating great food

After food and the presentation, everyone mingled to talk and discuss future events, as well as vegan pot lucks that would be occurring down the road. The Companion Animal Rescue Society had put together a fantastic basket full of tons of goodies for cats for a raffle, which I can only hope has raised a lot of money. A table full of informational packets and ways to get in touch with others and help feral cats was set up as well.

The night was fun, food was great, more people were educated on how to help feral/stray cats, and most importantly, awareness was increased and money was raised to aid organizations and events that instrumental in helping these animals.

Warm Millet Salad with Delicata Squash, Crispy Tofu and Beet Greens

My cousin Beth always seems to be cooking up some amazing things. When I saw the recipe for this on her blog I immediately got excited. I had a container of millet in the pantry for awhile now, that I bought in bulk from the Co-op, and have been waiting for an idea to come along and strike my fancy as to what to make with it. I had everything on hand which is also great, including more Delicata squash than I can actually use. So I got to cooking.

Cutting up the squash was not the funnest part by any means, and I went right ahead and peeled the squash while cutting it, after reading that the skin is not exactly edible, despite how colorful and charming it may seem. Don’t let it deter you though, this is one of the better squash I have eaten, becoming very soft and remaining incredibly sweet.

I then made the millet, which is super easy to make, which makes me think I should have made some earlier, and should make it more often as well. I then whipped together the dressing (using brown rice syrup instead of honey), pressed, cut, and cooked the tofu, and then cooked the beet greens. I chose the beet greens because we had a ton of them on hand, and they seemed in peril of going bad quicker than the rest of the greens. As it turns out, they were wonderful in this dish and went very well with the dressing. I would consider cooking beet greens and tossing them in the dressing on their own.

This salad, which functioned as a main dish for me two nights after work, is super great and packed full of flavor. It is also great cold! The best part is that it is easy to make, not ingredient heavy, and is also pretty cheap to throw together. Next time I would even cut the squash in half and stuff it with the greens, millet and tofu, and drizzle the dressing on top!

Squash, Kohlrabi and Barley Soup

 

This soup is truly the child of the CSA. In opening the refrigerator and seeing piles upon piles of squash, along with a couple heads of kohlrabi, I knew I had to do something with them before they started going bad on me. In remembering that I had barley in the cupboard and that it was amazing in soup last winter, I decided to go ahead and make soup once more. I was also motivated by having a large pot of food to come home to and be able to sit and eat without putting a lot of effort into (working in the pharmacy is wearing me down!). Plus, the days are slowly getting colder here in Buffalo as we descend sadly into winter, and having a bowl of hearty soup is one of the most enjoyable things ever.

I started by cooking the barley. While I love this grain, I don’t enjoy the smell of it cooking to much. But that’s okay, but it is totally worth it when it comes together in the soup. While the barley was cooking, I started cutting my vegetables, included 1 small onion and 1 minced clove of garlic,  2 stalks of celery, 3 carrots, 1 cubed kohlrabi, and one diced kabocha squash. The kabocha squash goes wonderful in the soup because it gets amazingly soft and the skin is edible.

 

Then, I sauted the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, and then added the veggies, followed y the vegetable stock and barley. I threw in some salt and pepper, a dash of cinnamon, and some fresh parsley and basil from our herb pot. It all smelled wonderful together, and looked great too!

Altogether, this soup was fantastic. It was warm and filling, and had a great variety of flavors and colors. The carrots, squash and celery all got unbelievably soft, while the kohlrabi maintained just enough of a firmness to resemble a potato. The squash was the perfectly sweet and essentially melted in your mouth, while the barley was tasty, chewy and hearty.

The next day we, of course, had leftover soup for dinner. We had to add a little bit more water as the barley had continued to absorb some of it over night (which can probably be avoided by soaking the barley for a couple of hours beforehand), and then to spice things up a little bit we threw in some chili powder and a package of Boca TVP crumbles. It was awesome like this too! I love versatile things like this, especially when I get a couple of meals out of them too!

White Russian Cupcakes


It feels like it has been forever since I have made cupcakes. My lofty dreams of being a vegan pastry chef, creating tons and tons of awesome cupcakes and pastries, seems pretty unattainable given the amount of time I had left over at the end of the day to bake (and my paranoia of getting fat!), so I am happy I baked these just in time to have sitting on the kitchen table for the boyfriend to eat after returning home from visiting graduate school in DC. After finding this recipe at Cute and Delicious, I knew I had to make it. Not only that, but make them, and then consume them while watching The Big Lebowski.

The best part about these is that they actually taste like White Russians. Not only the Kahlua and vodka infused frosting, but the cupcake batter itself. The double batter recipe made for a charming looking cupcake once you bit into it, noticing the darker and lighter layers. They rose nice and high as well.

The frosting was DELICIOUS, my only regret is that I did not have Earth Balance in the refrigerator despite thinking I did, so I was stuck with using margarine, which made the frosting runny and less visually appetizing. But hey, they look kind of messy, and let’s face it, The Dude was not exactly a neat, well put together guy. He would appreciate these cupcakes, and I would totally make them again.

Pizza Night

Pizza Night is much like Taco Night. Unplanned yet still great whenever it happens. It generally accompanies Sabres games. Again, there is only this singular picture, because I did not think to take a picture of the pizza in its entirety until well after half of it had already been consumed. We generally will switch up the veggies and the fake meat, and lately it’s been dependent on what pizza-friendly vegetables we have been getting from the farm share (which sadly, this is our last week of it for the season, which makes me very sad). This time, it was fairly simple, with just chopped green pepper and tempeh pan-fried in hot sauce and BBQ sauce.

We bought the dough from a local pizzeria (see, here in Buffalo and it’s suburbs there is a pizza place practically on every corner), let it warm on top of the stove while the oven was preheating to 475, and then stretched it out to fit the pizza pan. Then, regardless of what toppings we use, we first bake the crust alone. It helps it to not become soggy while cooking, and gives it just a little bit more of that desired crispiness in the crust. Then, we coat the crust with a thin layer of olive oil, and sprinkle on garlic powder and sesame seeds. Sesame seeds on a crust is one of the most amazing things ever. Next comes the sauce, and then whatever cheese-like substitute we decided to use. Most of the time it is a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, but sometimes we will throw on Daiya too. Then comes the veggies and the mock meat. We usually bake the pizza for 8 to 9 minutes at 500 degrees, and it turns out perfect every time! Now if only we could teach ourselves how to NOT eat pizza until we feel like we are going to puke…

Chicken Parm!

One of the many options for the chickpea cutlets...

Just like I had predicted, I found myself making the chickpea cutlets again, and this time making them into a ‘chicken’ parm dish. This was DELICIOUS, and again, really easy to make. I had the chickpeas pre-cooked before work, so when I came home I started making them immediately, which does not take long at all. This time I cooked the chickpeas for a little longer, so they were more soft, and I think it made the consistency of the cutlets even better, and particularly easier to work with, as there was not little pieces of chickpeas that had not become totally soft falling out of the mixture when I was kneading it.

While the patties were cooking on the stove (I pan-fried them again, next time I make them, which I am sure will be soon, I will try to make them in the oven and see if it changes the texture of the cutlet at all), I started boiling water to cook my whole wheat pasta. I understand that there are a ton of carbohydrates in this dish, but that’s alright every once and awhile I think, especially when it tastes this good. When both the pasta and the cutlets were done, I heated up some marinara sauce, poured it over both (I used a generous amount, the pasta and the cutlet seem to suck up the sauce pretty well), and sprinkled some vegan Parmesan cheese over the entire plate. I only wish I had my pot of spices on hand to add on some fresh basil and parsley. It was so good, and the texture of the cutlets turned out great for a second time, really making it a good stand in if you are ever missing chicken parm.

I don’t know if I have made this clear or not, but I really love this recipe from the Veganomicon. It is so easy, and tastes like it should have been a lot more difficult to make. I think this is definitely one of those recipes everyone should try out. It is a dish I would gladly feed to a non-vegetarian to gauge their response, it’s that convincing!

Good ol’ oatmeal

Never underestimate the power of oats

As I am sure everyone knows by now, I am a breakfast woman at heart. Sure, there’s a lot of fancy things you can make to pull together a breakfast, but sometimes something as simple as oatmeal is best. For over a week now, I have been making myself a bowl of oatmeal before work, and I have yet to get sick of it. It’s hearty, highly versatile, tasty, and above all, warm and filling. It keeps my belly happy and insides warm for the walk to work, and the complex carbohydrates of the oats keeps me going until I can eat lunch. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not talking about the boxed and individually packaged, sugar-laden instant oatmeal here. I mean real, stove-top cooked oats, where one can use their imagine and add whatever their heart desires.

I always have raisins around the house, and I like to add them into the cut of water before I let it boil. It gives new life to the raisins, making them more plump and juicy. Once the water is boiling, I add in the 1/2 cup of oats, and reduce the heat. Next, I will generally add in a good amount of cinnamon, probably more than most people, because I REALLY love cinnamon. Then, depending how I am feeling that morning, I may throw in some nutmeg, a hint of salt, some allspice, and maybe the tiniest bit of cloves. If I am craving something sweet, I will add some brown sugar or maple syrup, but never more than a tablespoon. If I have an apple around, I will dice it up and add when the oats are still cooking as well, making the apples warm and just a little bit soft. Sometimes I will even add a tablespoon or two of applesauce, giving the oats extra sweetness and a nice apple flavor, which goes particularly well with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. When the oatmeal is just about done cooking, I will sometimes throw in chunks of banana, just enough to make the banana warm and soft, yet not too mushy.

I know it might not be as quick and easy as opening a package of instant oatmeal and zapping it in the microwave, but the extra couple of minutes and addition of real ingredients, without all the sugar, is really worth the effort. Your body and taste buds will enjoy it. And if that was not enough, it’s cheap!

Butternut Squash Soup

Well worth the effort

Let me apologize in advance for the lack of pictures here. Some how the boyfriend and I neglected to take a good amount of them of the soup, but that is not to say that the soup did not turn out amazing, because it totally did.

The farm share has left us with so, so, so many squash. Delicata, kabocha, butternut, acorn, tons and tons of squash that are overflowing our kitchen table and fridge. It really is almost ridiculous the amount we have, which has me on the search for more squash recipes. That being said, expect a good handful of squash-related entries over the next few days. But hey, it is the fall, they are in season and plentiful, and it is good to be challenged cooking-wise.

Our squash center piece

As it turns out, it is a lot of working making butternut squash soup. After peeling and cutting the squash alone I almost wanted to call it quits. I even took a little break after cutting up the squash, celery, carrots, onion and garlic. There was a point when I thought, “I will never make this again!” After all is said and done, I will though. Because it’s delicious and because we have far too much squash.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp sage
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 apple, diced
  • cinnamon to taste (optional)

After preparing all of your veggies (and the apple!), saute your garlic, ginger and onion in a soup pot for three to five minutes. Then, add the celery and carrots, and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the squash, apple, broth, sage, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Let this cook for 25 minutes or until all of the vegetables are soft. Then, in batches, I placed the soup into the blender and pureed until everything was blended well, and was smooth. I then added soy milk to each batch to make the soup just a little bit more creamy. I returned it all to the pot, waiting to reheat when we were ready to eat dinner.

I love this soup. It had a great taste of ginger, cinnamon, and of course, the sweet taste of butternut squash. It is warm and deceptively filling, something I can appreciate now that I am living on my own and the days and nights are getting colder. Other than being sweet and creamy, it is also a brilliant yellow-orange color, basically begging you to eat it. I think I would even classify it as a comfort food. If you wanted to make it even MORE hearty, you could easily throw in some brown rice, greens (such as spinach or kale), or beans, after everything has been mashed or pureed.

Despite being fairly time consuming, I would make this again. It’s just too good not to!

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