Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bianca's BBQ Tempeh Pizza!

It's getting late and I've just now decided that I want to try being a blogger again....hahah.....funny how inspiration hits us sometimes, huh?

I've had at least one major change since I last blogged....I got a new job! I'm working in a field that is much closer to my college studies and trying to adjust to a much more rigorous work schedule. It's a schedule that I remember, but I was several years younger the last time I time around and it's safe to say that I've allowed myself to get lazy and comfortable in previous jobs. Sigh. I know it will come, but I'm fighting my desire to accomplish great things with my desire to sit around and watch hours of Netflix. Hmm.....kind of a no-brainer, right?

Anyway, this is a FOOD blog and in honor of my super-amazing best friend, Bianca, who just released her very first cookbook, Cookin' Crunk (!!!), I'd like to post a pic of one of her creations - BBQ Tempeh Pizza! Bianca blogged about this recipe awhile ago and it's in her brand-new cookbook. Drew and I whipped this up last week and oh my god, ya' freakin' good!

I love a non-traditional pizza. This pizza features BBQ tempeh that is sticky, spicy and slightly sweet, which pairs wonderfully with the earthy spinach and creamy cheese sauce.

I feel like I was never that creative with pizza sauces or toppings before going vegan. I pretty much always opted for a traditional veggie pizza or plain old cheese. Nowadays, I still like to make a traditional veggie with marinara and Daiya vegan mozzarella. But, there's also roasted red pepper sauce or roasted onion spread or hummus or cheesy sauce, like Bianca used in this delicious pizza.

I'm ridiculously happy and proud of Bianca. Her book paints a palpable picture of Southern living, as she recounts fun cooking times with her Mama and Granny and turns those tasty recipes over to you, cruelty free. She's put a lot of time and love into this cookbook and I promise you won't be disappointed! Cookin' Crunk is available for order on Amazon now and should be in Barnes and Noble very soon. You can also hop on over to Vegan Crunk for a copy and she'll sign it for you!

As we move into these cooler temperatures, I hope you'll check out Bianca's book for hearty Southern vegan recipes that will satisfy your taste buds and warm your soul.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Busy Month

I honestly did not intend to take a month long hiatus from the blogging world. Sorry guys! Life has been busy and good and we've been doing lots of fun things, but for whatever reason, I wasn't inclined or motivated to blog about it. And even though I would like to be consistent, I also never want this blog to feel like a chore.

So, for a very brief recap - Drew and I have seen some good theatre, judged a talent show, taken day trips, exercised a lot, saw the Crystal Bridges Art Museum in Bentonville, AR, had beers and food with friends, spent time with friends that will be moving away from us's been a fulfilling month for sure. But, honestly, we haven't focused as much time on cooking. I think that we always eat well, but dinner has become more relaxed and not necessarily the center of our evenings. In a way, it's been a nice break. We are still trying to lessen our portion sizes and honestly, that seems to be the biggest struggle sometimes.

As Drew was loading the pics of meals we've taken over the past month onto the computer, I became excited again. I remembered how much I enjoyed them and that alone is a great reason to document what you eat! ha! We have not been very diligent in photographing our meals over the past month, but we did snap a few, so here are a couple of meals we enjoyed.

First of all, we've had some great food dining out lately. Dining out vegan in the Little Rock area isn't always easy, but we've found a few little gems.

On Valentine's Day, we enjoyed the spicy Thai panang curry with tofu at Lilly's Dim Sum. This is one of our favorite dishes to order in Little Rock - mixed vegetables and tofu in a spicy curry sauce over ramen noodles. Lilly's is great, although a little on the pricey side for a regular evening out, so it was the perfect spot for a Valentine's Day treat. Sorry for the blurry photo, but I didn't want to be the asshole snapping flash photos in the restaurant on Valentine's Day.

Another great local place that we love to eat is The Root Cafe. It's one of the few places in Little Rock that actually mentions how to order their dishes to be vegan in their menu. They have a couple of great sandwiches that are already vegan, with the exception of mayonnaise, which they will gladly sub vegan mayo! My favorite is the spicy bahn mi sandwich - fried tofu, house pickled carrot and daikon radish, fresh cilantro, jalapenos seeded & thinly sliced, hoisin sauce, sriracha and vegan mayo on a baguette - served up with a green salad. I crave this sandwich on a regular basis!

Just last weekend, we took a trip to Fayetteville, AR to check out the Crystal Bridges Art Museum in the nearby town of Bentonville. While in Fayetteville, we hit up the Mellow Mushroom for some awesome vegan pizza. Now, I haven't been to a Mellow Mushroom since my days in the Carolinas, so not only was the pizza delicious, it was nostalgic eating there too. There are little tasty bites of BBQ tofu on that pizza! Oh and Crystal Bridges was amazing. The building alone is a work of art. If you are in the area, I highly recommend it!

Now onto the food we made...

This was a simple and tasty meal of stuffed peppers and salad. The peppers were filled with a mixture of brown rice, canned fire-roasted tomatoes, red onion, red pepper, black beans, green peas, and black olives topped with Daiya cheddar shreds. We enjoyed them with a green side salad and vegan ranch dressing from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. I've tried a few vegan ranch recipes and this one is probably my favorite. The only thing that I think is kind of strange about the various vegan ranch dressings I've tried is that they are all oddly sweet and usually call for agave nectar in the recipe. I think the next time I make it, I will leave it out altogether. I just don't believe it's necessary to achieve the ranch flavor.

This dish is from The Happy Herbivore - Cheater Pad Thai. This meal was quick, easy and really really good. Rice noodles are coated in a tasty peanut sauce and topped with sauteed tempeh cubes and crispy mung bean sprouts. Dee-lish!

That's all for the recap today. I'll try to catch up on some more meals tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New Goals

I wanted to share a conversation Drew and I had on a drive home from a visit with my family this past weekend. We spent about 6 hours total in the car that day, so there was plenty of time to muse about things. We've had an ongoing conversation for awhile that we want to reduce our grocery bills. Ever since going vegan last January, we have spent a lot on food. And I really can't complain too much, because it's been so great experimenting with recipes and learning new ways to cook. But, I've cooked big, full meals nearly every night this past year, not to mention making desserts or other treats just because we wanted to try them! Not only was it expensive, it's also been very time consuming.

On top of that, I started a new job about a year and a half ago that is much more sedentary than jobs I've had in the past. I've always been a sporadic exerciser and am constantly settting new goals to implement a more steady exercise regimen....that of course, have never really stuck. Maintaining a healthy weight wasn't too difficult in the past, because my job allowed me to stay active and any extra exercise I did was just bonus. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case and I have gained weight since starting this job, which is the exact opposite of what I expected would happen when I decided to go vegan. I know my lack of exercise is probably the biggest culprit, but also, for whatever reason, I gave myself some kind of  "free pass" to also eat whatever I wanted since going vegan. And we all know that just because it's vegan, doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy. I'm still not really sure why I did this. When I first became a vegetarian, I lost a lot of weight. So, I was sort of expecting the same thing after going vegan. But, I realized as a vegetarian, I was much more concerned with maintaining portion control and not eating too many sweets or fried foods or cheese. I also didn't cook nearly as much - I relied heavily on convenience foods. I'm not saying that was a good thing necessarily, just different from my switch to veganism.

So, maybe just all of the excitement got to me over the last year and it's been great fun, but I know I need to take better care with my diet and with my body. All of that to say, Drew and declared last year to be the Year of Food. We have declared this year to be the Year of Fit!

Aside from a steady exercise routine, we plan to simplify our meals, make healthier choices and just make less food in general, so it's not a constant temptation. We also plan to maybe mix in a few more convenience foods so that our entire night is not centered around cooking and eating. Don't get me wrong, we still plan to cook, but maybe only a couple of nights a week so that we can focus our time and energy on exercise and doing other creative things with our time.

I feel really good about these decisions and look forward to seeing our grocery bills and hopefully my waistline start to shrink. These feel very much like New Years resolutions just a month late. haha! But better late than never, right?

Did you notice changes in your weight or eating habits after going vegan? Did you allow yourself to eat more "treats" just because they were vegan?

Playing Catch Up

I've fallen a little behind on posting lately and just realized how many pictures were sitting in my camera waiting to be blogged about! When I first started blogging a few months ago, I could never remember to take pictures.....and now there are too many pictures, hahah, so I'm just going to throw them all into one post and hopefully become a little more regular with posting in the near future.
I don't normally post about breakfast, but between the two of us, we were able to snag a couple of breakfast pics!

1. On the Glow Basic Oatmeal Squares from Oh She Glows. I made a batch of these a couple of weeks ago for us to enjoy for breakfast each morning and we really enjoyed them. Loaded with oats and flax seeds, these soft, chewy squares were tasty and healthy. The recipe calls for chia seeds, but I didn't have any on hand, so I used hemp seeds instead. Angela recommends splitting them open and smearing them with a little nut butter and jam, which is the way I enjoyed them. This is Drew's pic though and he opted for some peanut butter spread on top with a drizzle of agave. Yum yum!

2. Kroger VEGAN Bagels with cream cheese spread and Cafe au lait. On a recent trip to the store, I remembered a post I saw on The Laziest Vegans in the World about Kroger brand bagels being vegan and actually saying it on the bag! I was stoked to find that our Kroger had some in stock. There wasn't a whole wheat variety, which is what I would usually pick, but I was excited that they were plainly labeled "vegan" and wanted to give them a try. I smashed some Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese up with some chopped green onions, a spoonful of vegenaise and a sprinkling of dried dill to spread on our bagels with some juicy tomato slices on the side. Drew whipped up some cafe au laits, using soymilk, for us as well. These bagels were awesome - a great Sunday morning treat!

3. Simple Sesame Noodles from The Cutting Edge of Ordinary with tempeh and cabbage . This meal was meant to be a dish to have on hand for quick lunches throughout the week, but we liked it so much, we ate it for dinner, lunch and everything in between. Needless to say, it didn't last long. The recipe is just for the noodles, but I decided to bulk it up with some steamed cabbage and cubed tempeh. I used Isa's preparation of tempeh from her Cozy Collards & Tempeh recipe on The PPK, just because I love the simple flavors she pairs together. It's my go-to way to prepare tempeh if I just want to add it to a dish. It may not look all that exciting, but it is straight up delicious.

4. Red Thai Tofu with wild rice from Veggie Bon Vivant. I really enjoyed this dish. The flavors were mild and subtle and everything worked really well together. The recipe suggests pairing the tofu with rice noodles, but we had some wild rice hanging out in the pantry, so I used that instead. Since the sauce was so mild, I actually really liked the bold flavors of the wild rice with this.

5. African Kale and Yam Soup over polenta from The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon. Wowee! I received Happy Herbivore as a Christmas gift, but have not gotten around to making something from it until now and I'm so glad this was our first taste of the book. The broth is silky and smooth with earthy kale and tender chunks of sweet potato (what we used instead of yams). The polenta was a last minute decision and I'm so glad we did because I loved how it soaked up the broth. I imagine this will become a regular dish around our house.

6. Baked Potato covered in Amy's Spicy Chili sprinkled with a little Daiya cheddar, Tofutti better than sour cream and green onions. I know you can't see it, but there is a little baked potato hiding under there somewhere. This was easy-peasy and so good. A great way to use convenience foods for a quick, healthy meal. I got an iPhone as an early Valentine's gift and downloaded the MyFitnessPal app, which has a ton of vegan foods already in their database. It's so quick and easy to calculate calories with it and I found out that our chili covered baked potato meal was about 475 calories. Not too bad for such a hearty, filling meal!

No Football, but Lots of Food and Fun!

Sooooo.....we didn't actually watch the Super Bowl. We intended to, but Drew and I don't have cable, so we tried to stream it online and it just wasn't happening. After an hour or so of glitchy coverage, we gave up and decided we would just check the score later. Neither one of us are really into football, but we were still going to try to watch just to say we did. Hehehee...

Our friend Joel joined us for the evening, so there was still plenty of fun, gameday food to be consumed! Since our entertainment for the evening wasn't working out, we scrolled through Netflix and decided to check out a Comedy Central show called Workaholics. Funny funny stuff. It's pretty crass, gross humor, so if that's not your thing, I don't recommend it...but we laughed our butts off!

Our snacks for the evening were pretty traditional and super yummy! First off, a tried and true standby - Gardein Buffalo Wings! It doesn't get much better taste and convenience wise than these little guys. We served them up with celery sticks, natch, and Vegan Ranch Dressing from Skinny Bitch in the Kitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnounin. I have never made homemade ranch before and this was good, but a little too sweet for my taste. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of agave, so I will be adding less next time we make it. I tossed in some extra apple cider vinegar to try to help balance the sweetness and that seemed to do the trick. Drew also really enjoyed dipping some Ruffles potato chips in it.

Next up was this awesome Kraut Baked Spinach Dip from Healthy Happy Life. This stuff was so so good! I was curious how the sauerkraut would taste in comparison to a more traditional spinach artichoke dip and I really loved the flavor combination. This was also my first time cooking with truffle oil and I am totally hooked. We scooped this up with some Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips. This dip is also good cold and it reheated very well the next day. Love it!

And finally - some good old chips, queso and salsa. The queso is actually Vegan Pimento Cheese Fondue from Healthy Slow Cooking, but I heated it on the stove top instead of in the slow cooker and added a can of rotel instead of the pimentos. Oh my goodness, this tasted so much like the velveeta "rotel dip" of my childhood. Now, I love a good noochy cheese sauce, but the texture and taste of this dip was definitely spot on for a cheesy queso dip. I still want to make it the recommended way with pimentos too, because I know that will make for some delightful bread dipping.

Even though we didn't watch the game, it was a great excuse to eat snacks for dinner and enjoy some TV time with a good friend and that is certainly nothing to complain about!

Did you make snacks for the Super Bowl? What are your favorite gameday treats?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Vegetable Soup

I typically have trouble straying from recipes. Drew and I plan all of our meals for the week on Sunday and shop for the required ingredients, so I rarely have to stand in the kitchen trying to figure out what to pair together. It's not that I don't want to experiment in the kitchen, I'm just not very confident that what I will put together will be all that tasty. As a devout recipe-follower, I am usually pretty disappointed when things don't turn out right. I know mistakes have to be made to learn and grow in just about any situation, but I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I normally stick to recipes. Tossing in a few extra spices is about as adventurous as I get.  

But yesterday, I threw caution to the wind and made a huge pot of vegetable soup sans recipe. I know vegetable soup is probably the easiest thing ever to make, but it felt liberating to pick ingredients out of the cabinets and fridge and spices off the rack without a guide telling me precisely what I needed.

Drew is busy with a show opening, so I wanted a whole lot of something available for quick meals since I know he will only get a short dinner break before having to run back to the theatre most days this week. Veggie soup seemed like the perfect solution for these rainy, cold days we've been having lately.

So, I must admit, I scanned a few recipes for some inspiration, but when it came down to it, I shut my laptop and started dumping things into the pot. This soup is thick, hearty and chunky - a big bowl of warm comfort food. It was also a great way to clean out a couple of pantry ingredients that have been hanging out in there forever. Sorry that my measurements aren't terribly precise. I tried to "eyeball" ingredient amounts and then just added spices to taste.

Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Vegetable Soup
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 giant cloves of garlic, minced
Half head of cabbage, chopped
1 32 oz. carton of vegetable broth
2 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup of water
1/3 cup dried green split peas, rinsed
1/4 cup pearled barley, rinsed
1 bag of Italian style frozen veggies

To taste:
Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper
White Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Garlic Powder
Celery Salt
a few dashes Tabasco hot sauce
Juice of 1 lemon

Heat a little olive oil mixed with water (about a half tbsp. oil plus a full tbsp. water) in a soup pot on medium heat

Toss onion, carrots, garlic and a little salt into soup pot and sauté/sweat the veggies until onions start to become translucent

This little gadget is a garlic zoom! If you don't have one, you should get one. They are awesome. We use it nearly everyday. You just toss in the garlic cloves and roll until they are minced!

Toss half a cabbage head in and add a little more water to help steam/soften the cabbage

Sprinkle in spices to taste (except for tabasco sauce & lemon) and stir to coat veggies with spices

Add the carton of veggie broth, cans of tomatoes, tomato paste/water mixture and tabasco sauce and turn heat up to medium high

Taste broth and add additional spices if necessary

Place lid on pot, tilted a little to allow for steam and let soup get bubbly

Once soup is bubbling, toss in split peas and barley and reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 20-30 minutes

After 20 minutes, stir and check split peas and barley for tenderness. I tacked on an additional 10 minutes of simmer time to allow the peas to soften more, but the barley actually had a pretty good texture at this point.

Once you have achieved desired tenderness of the peas and barley, stir in the bag of frozen veggies and lemon juice and simmer for 6-8 more minutes....

Enjoy soup with a slice of Ezekiel bread slathered with Earth Balance! Mmm mmm goooood.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Noodles & Korma & Naan! Oh my!

So, the holidays have passed and we are back in the swing of things....and sort of still attempting to make New Years resolutions stick.

I recently joined Pinterest and it has become a new obsession. The pin boards provide a great way keep track of recipes I find online and want to try and find new recipes from other pinners. You can check out my pinterest by following the link in the right-hand column.

Here's a quick update on some of the meals we've recently enjoyed.

1. Red Curry Udon Noodles:

This noodle dish from the Happy Go Lucky Vegan was great! Spicy red Thai curry. Udon. Shitakes. Green onions. There were no leftovers. 

2. Crispy Pan-Fried Beans and Wilted Greens with a side of wild rice:

This is a sorta fancy version of beans n' greens using sauteed rainbow chard and cannellini beans. It was simple, but comforting and delicious.

3. Spaghetti with Leeks, Peas and Pesto:

Another fabulous recipe from the Happy Go Lucky Vegan. This pesto is amazing! The leeks and peas were a nice addition too, but I know we will be using this pesto recipe again and again.

4. Thai Style Vegetable Korma and 5-Minute Naan:

This dish from (never home)maker was creamy and awesome. Cauliflower is one of my favorite veggies and it really shines in this meal. The coconut milk and spices were spot on and the 5-minute naan was extremely easy and perfectly complemented the korma.