Saturday, January 30, 2010

"To prove that I am not a fool-- Back to school!"

It has been the loooonnngeeessttt week. Ever.

School started on Monday and I have had quite the time getting into a routine. My schedule is already goofy as a yoga teacher; running from studio to studio at various times to teach. I love teaching. I'm passionate about the practice and love sharing it with my students. Plus, it works out fabulously with my schedule at the University.

This week got bitter cold. Baker's lil' legs move so fast when we're on our walks. Thank goodness. If he were stopping to lift his leg every snowbank I'd freeze in place.

The cold does remarkable things and it has driven me to drink... cocoa! I am obsessed. What wonders a warm chocolate drink can make in my day! I've had quite a hard time making hot cocoa from scratch. Some days it's perfect and the next is a bitter cup of blah. I thought I'd try the Silk's chocolate soy milk and warm it up. I got their Light Chocolate soy milk, warmed it up and fell in love. I don't know if they got a new recipe or what, but it is so smooth, chocolately, and oh my! I sat down to do some reading yesterday afternoon and probably drank about half the carton! Oh, Suga', what a delight!

Hot cocoa accompanying some homework-- A delightful combination!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Give me vegetables, or give me death!

It always amazes me how intelligent our bodies are and how dumb our minds can be- the flippin' ego! Goodness! Most of us know that pre-packaged snack cakes are unhealthy, but eat them anyway. We can put a whole hell of a lot of crap into our bodies and they keep running. Put water into a gas tank of a car and it stops-- put frozen dinners and Twinkies into your body and they keep running. Well, until you get heart disease or diabetes...

I've always been a healthy eater, but since converting to veganism, my body has become a lot more sensitive to what I put into it. It is used to whole foods, grains, nuts, and the occasional wine and chocolate. When I overdose on wine, chocolate, beer or whatever unhealthy gorge I endeavor, my body takes it pretty hard. It starts to scream, "VEGETABLES! NUTRITION! NOW! YOU STUPID BITCH!" That's exactally what my belly yelled at me Monday morning after an afternoon and evening of watching football, eating too many chips and consuming way to many brews for my frame. Yikes.

To balance my body, I always drink a lot of water and eat a shit-ton of healthy fruits and vegetables. Usually, I keep the spices pretty plain to help restore my bod back to neutral. Craving some goodness, I made up a fresh spinach salad with roasted portabellas, green beans, and some cherry tomatoes we froze from the garden last summer. Has anyone froze tomatoes before? They weren't the greatest, but I felt better about eating some thawed out local guys instead of something from California. Anyway, it was flippin' delicious and made me feel a lil' better.

Portabella glaze
Balsamic vinegar
a few dashes of olive oil
Garlic- minced or powdered
salt or soy sauce

Eyeball all the ingredients to make enough to cover your 'bellas. I put enough balsamic vinegar and a about 1 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil at the bottom of a rectangular bowl. Place as many lil' 'bellas that I could in the bowl. I dusted some powdered garlic over them and then drizzled with a dash of soy sauce. Salt would also do the trick there, too. Toss a little pepper on them, making sure they are coated with the balsamic marinade. While marinating, heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the 'shrooms on a baking sheet and drape with some foil. Place in the oven to roast. Depending on the size and how many you are roasting, vary the time. I left mine in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Place these suckers on a salad, eat over some rice or even in a sandwich. They're delicious. You might even make your dog jealous!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thai it-- I did!

I stepped out of my comfort zone and followed a recipe... to a T. It's rare that I ever do that. I'm always modifying an original, even if I haven't made it before! Usually, I don't have one or two of the ingredients, skimp on oil, add too much oil, etc.

I had never had Pad Thai before, even in my pre-vegan days. I thought it would be something new to try and to cook. I made Isa's Brooklyn Pad Thai from VWAV. Leme tell ya, there is a butt-load of comfort in a recipe, especially hers. I've tried a bunch of her recipes and have loved pretty much all of them. If it's good enough to be published, there is a somewhat guarantee that it's going to be good. No improvisation, just directions and good intentions!

For those of you who don't know me, I am more than a bit geeky. Knowing that I never had the dish before, I wanted to learn about how the dish is originally prepared before making it. To learn, one must investigate. Soooo, I researched it! It's so interesting to do, especially if I have never experienced the dish or flavor. I usually find cool cultural facts, history and variations on the dish. Then, when I finally sit down to a new meal, I know more than just what is in it. Plus, it gives an idea on how the dish is supposed to turn out!

Above: ingredients to make the sauce for the Pad Thai

After the tofu crisped in the pan, I transfered it to an old paper bag to rest. The paper bag helps leach out any extra oil. I do that with cookies sometimes, too. I don't know if it really cuts back on calories and fat, but it's reassuring to see all the oil remaining on the paper!

Above: Tofu crisping in the pan. Below: Tofu resting on a paper bag
The recipe made a lot of food, it fed 4 hungry bellies, with some leftover. It was defiantly sweet and a bit spicy. I especially loved all the fresh cilantro, yum. As a whole, it was good, but something I don't think I'll make again, unless requested.

I'm glad I 'Thai'ed something new!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I've been Bitten.

No, not the Twilight Saga. Mark Bittman. I am in love.

I've always appreciated his columns in the New York Times and love his How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Both are beautiful and thorough cook books. I also love that he is aware and has written about the over production and consumption of meat and its effects on the environment and consumers health. It's an issue that I'm passionate about, so when I see someone with celebrity-like status speaking out and helping to educate the population, it only makes me smile.

After reading through his article on Jim Lahey's 'No-Knead' bread recipe, I pumped myself up to give it a shot. I tried once before to make bread and ended up with a flat loaf of flour. No one in the house ate it...

I followed his directions to a T and ended up with a beautiful loaf that made me glow with delight for the next 24 hours. I used half whole wheat flour and half regular, next time I think I'll try reducing the whole wheat by a half cup to see if it will be fluffier. Not saying that it wasn't, but after I had my success, I started reading more about how to make bread. One site suggested that if you add a half cup less of whole wheat flour, it's fluffier. We'll see. I'll report back! Either way, it really was soft on the inside and had a delicious crunch on the outside.

Above: Dough being prepped to rest and be baked
It's a real inactive recipe. The dough rests for about a day. A day! Actually, it just sits over night. This bread is really beautiful. It requires no kneading and really is no hassle. Next time, I might try making little balls out of the dough to make mini loafs to use as bread bowls. How cute would that be? Perfect for soup season!

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's all about Tortillas.

We're always buying tortillas. Enchiladas are a household favorite, vegetable wraps are a must for lunch and tacos are so quick on a weekday night. Let's just say, we use a lot of them.

I'm not a food snob, but prefer not having HFCS, hydrogenated oils and other goofy preservatives in what I eat. Baker and his Pop could care less, but I do. I like to fuel my body with healthy foods so I can feel fantastic all the time- minus the occasional cookie over load. I'm still working on that.

The other thing I prefer is making my food from scratch. I try to make as much as I can by myself so I can be sure it's healthy and fresh. Not to mention it helps to reduce waste. Bread, cereal, even apples come in plastic bags. Buying flours, nuts, granola, etc. in bulk help to keep costs low and reduce waste. Making things from scratch might sound like a huge hassle and yeah, sometimes it is. But, looking at the bigger picture and learning about the current impacts on how we get our foods leaves me with a responsibility. Because I have an understanding on where foods come from, the fuel it takes, and some of the poor agricultural practices occurring only leaves me with a choice. That choice is to become more responsible consumer. I have a choice in where I purchase my foods. As I've learned more about the fuel costs, waste of packaging and farming, I started to look at what I really buy that travels long distances and comes in excessive packaging. Tortillas, bread, cereal, tea, bananas, avocados etc. It's a frightening exercise to do; realizing that your tomato on your sandwich came from California or your apple traveled from New Zealand. Some of my favorite foods; avocados, bananas, grapefruits all travel long, long distances to my home. Not to mention coffee and tea, they come quite a ways, too. This year I'm trying to buy less packaging and trying my hardest to only buy seasonal foods. Yes, it's tricky in Northern Wisconsin, but I'm not about to give up on it and try my best. I ate a banana this morning, but maybe I won't buy bananas or boxed cereal for a month. Every little bit really does count. Consider it. If not for your health, your children's or the environment.

Now, back to tortillas!

Stage 1 of tortilla production: Rolling out the dough
It's easy, just take a little ball off of your big blob of dough and begin to roll out. They don't have to be perfect circles, that's for sure! I even made one that looked like a triangle!
When my parnter and I would go to the grocery store to get ingredients to make enchiladas and he'd see the price of healthy tortillas v. unhealthy ones. Oh, boy. The conversations we'd have. In no time, we'd be discussing marketing tactics. To avoid that, funky preservatives and the price I opted to made my own. They are way simpler than I thought they would be. If you have a free hour, you can roll these babies out no problem. They are so healthy and fun to make! I'd never made anything like it before. It was a new and fun culinary experience.

Tortilla dough all set to be heated up.

I got my recipe over at Novel Eats. Healthy and simple! It used walnuts as the base fat. How brilliant is that? Healthy omega fats and protein, all in a tortilla!

Tortilla warming in the pan. Gettin' bubbly!
Stack of finished tortillas.

If you are into cooking healthy foods for you and your family or want to simply cut back on the packaging your foods come in, check out the recipe. Depending on how you make them, they can make a lot. Whip up a batch for a weekend of Mexican food. We have so many tortillas right now it looks like Tortilla-Navidad! So many tortillas waiting to be stuffed with deliciousness. Go on, impress yourself! Make them!

Finally finished! Accompany your taco or enchiladas with a cool Modelo. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Green and Gallllicky

Hummus. A favorite for many herbivores and omnivores. I am in love with it and am trying to find my perfect recipe. When ever I make home made hummus, it's always too garlicky, too thick, too tahini-y, or too runny. I have yet to find my balance for such a simple and adaptable dip.

My last batch turned out a little green and too garlicky. I put in fresh chopped parsley and some scallions into the blender that made it turn a tad bit green. Delicious, yes, but I even scared poor little B's away with my garlic breath. What am I feeling bad about- he scares me with his breath every day, and not just in the morning.

There were some leftover tortillas in the fridge that needed a purpose and we needed something as a hummus transporter. I sliced the tortillas into little pieces using a pizza cutter, drizzled a little olive oil on them and tossed them with some chili powder, cayenne and salt. I've done that before with pitas, too. I love re-inventing ingredients that are just hanging out in the refrigerator. Plus, it can be a way to impress a crowd when you tell them that you 'made' the tortilla or pita chips. Keep it in mind for your Super Bowl parties!

Green and garlicky it was, but we were hungry after a day of snowshoeing and didn't mind too much. If you have hummus ideas, recipes you adore, or any tips, let me know! I'll continue my hummus journey and be posting some experiments in the upcoming weeks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Epic Fail

Growing up, I looooved Belgian waffles. My Mom, bless her, would round me and my sisters up for a weekend get-away to Appleton, Wisconsin to stay at the Paper Valley Hotel. Looking back, I can only imagine how stressful it was for my Mom. We'd arrive, swim, eat pizza, watch a movie go to bed and repeat the next Saturday. On Sunday, before we'd leave, we'd have brunch with my grandparents who live in the Fox River Valley. One thing I'll always remember the Paper Valley Hotel for is their amazing Belgian waffles. I'd get them with a heaping pile of whipped cream and strawberries. I loved it. Now, it's rare that I ever eat waffles.

This year for a Christmas gift, I got a waffle maker. Having some time this Saturday, I attempted and please, let me emphasize attempted to make waffles. It was an epic, epic fail in my book of culinary genius. The batter stuck to the iron, the insides were doughy and resembled nothing like a waffle. I think Baker was the only happy camper on Saturday because he ate all the scraps.

Baker eating scraps of waffle
I'm not about to give up on waffles. This childhood favorite will love on forever in my repertoire, therefore, I must persist. If you have any waffle tips, tricks or advice, let me know! I'm blaming my experience to my new iron and that I need to develop a better relationship with it; making sure it's heated enough before placing the batter in it, letting it sit long enough before removing from the heat, etc.

Waffle suck to new iron...
Heading into round 3 of my waffle attempt on Saturday morning, I was annoyed and hungry. I tossed the waffle towel in and said 'F-this, I'm making pancakes!' I really wasn't that annoyed, I try to find humor in everything, even dry walling... Ha! That's funny enough, me-- dry walling?! Ha!

The pancakes turned out lovely, and all of our bellies were happy. Moral of story-- So, when life gives you an unseasoned waffle iron, make some bloody pancakes and get over it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Bakies!

My blog is called Vegan Mutts. A blog dedicated to vegan cooking and my mutt, Baker. One of my readers commented that Baker doesn't make enough blog appearances. It is true, I rarely post about my lil' chunker. I should, too, he is a huge reason on why I became a vegan. I suppose I could give him a little more recognition than just being 'king of the couch'. For all of you Baker lovers out there, I will be more conscious about this and post more about our adventures in and out of the kitchen!

Baker: Overseeing oatmeal cookie production and proper use of my new Kitchen Aid mixer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Hon! Got the groceries!"

Fargo is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's embarrassing to admit, but probably at least once a day, I quote lines from it. Especially in the winter, it's just so fitting! I took a break yesterday from unpacking to run to the grocery store to pick up some staples and food for din-din. I had a bag full of groceries just like Jerry Lundegaard and yelled in the movie,"Hon! Got the groceries!" to an empty house. It put a smile on my face! Unless you're a huge Coen Brothers fan, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. If this is the case-- go put Fargo on your Netflix queue today!

William H. Macy as Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo, the best Co-Bro's movie.
I had quite the responsibility yesterday unpacking pots, pans, appliances, etc. and finding their perfect spots. Finding their perfect spots made me clean everything, even the oven! A confession-- I've never cleaned an oven. It just has never been a part of my repertoire, until yesterday. I even purchased oven cleaner. It's rare that I ever buy 'cleaner' for anything, so this is quite the event! Granted, it was a bitch to clean, it looks like new!

After cleaning, unpacking and cleaning, I was in need of some major comfort food. Comfort food to me is usually a hot dish with loads of vegetables. Not to be confused with a Minnesotan 'Hot-Dish', which usually has some creamy processed soup and frozen vegetables and meat. It's basically a casserole, called a 'hot dish', a pot-luck staple. Anyway, I needed something fast, hot and full of vegetables. What's got all that? Curry! Curry is not a casserole, or hot dish, but still pretty dang tasty in my book. Absolutely perfect to end a busy day of moving and unpacking.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chili? Me? Never!


I crushed up a whole dried chili pepper to top my chili for lunch this afternoon. I made the mistake of not washing my hands afterward and then touching my nose. Not just my nose, but kind of in it, my septum. Ooohh dang, it burns! It kind of makes me want to crush up chili peppers and put them all over my skin so I can stay extra toasty when I face the cold and snow! That, probably would be uncomfortable, but it crossed my mind.

Next week, I gear up for my first move this year! Especially after all the moving I did last year, I hope this will be my only one. If not, that's okay, too. So, I'm rummaging through my belongings, which are already sparse and deciding if they're worth taking along or giving away. I like to keep what I own to a minimum. I'm young and will be following where my heart takes me after the next year when I'm done with school. I don't want to lug a couch across the country, my massage table is enough!

Along with cleaning out my bathroom cabinets, I started to clear out the refrigerator and freezer. How amazing is this - It's cold out side, and I had some frozen chili from earlier this fall in my freezer! Sometimes, I forget how brilliant I can be! A fresh batch would have been just as tasty, but this was pretty dank. I can't provide a recipe because I don't even know when I made it... The bacteriologists in my family are probably shaking their heads. But it's frozen! It's okay!

Pretty sure that is a grill under all of that snow...

So, if you're living in the cold, or in North Dakota where it's supposed to be -54 today, put some chili peppers up your nose. Just joshin', make a big batch of chili. It will make your house smell so good, the neighbors will smell it through the snowbank and come over like chili zombies begging for some.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Yeast, schmeast!

No yeast! No problem!

85% of the time when I make home made pizza I always forget yeast at the store. Craving some comforting home made pizza and not wanting to run out in the cold to go get some, I risked it and tried it without. It works! Never again fear being without yeast! I am relieved knowing I can make a beautiful crust without yeast at any time! Just lovely!

This indiviual crust recipe is soft and rolls out smoothly. Mix the dry ingredients and spices together. Add the oil and water mixing into a ball. Put some corn meal or flour on the pizza pan and spread out into your desired thinness. While you're making the crust, heat the oven to 375. Bake the crust so it gets a lil' crunchy, making sure it doesn't stick to the pan. Take out from the oven and dress with sauce, vegetables and any other of your favorite toppings.

Individual yeast-free 'za crust
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup water
A pinch of dried rosemary, thyme, oregano and garlic

I only wish my partner in culinary crime, Baker, was at my feet to eat my crusts! He's really not my partner in culinary crime, more like my cute criminal in eating my plate of food when I'm not looking. The lil' bugger. Either way, I like to share my crusts with him.

Get cozy, roll out some dough, make a pizza and relax on this brisk January night.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cold Minnesotan Nightss

I spent the last week in Mexico enjoying the sun, too many Modelo's and good company. When I finally arrived home last night I was in shock at how frickin' cold it was. Ice all over the roads, nose hairs freezing and icicles forming on eye lashes. Alright, I am over exaggerating about the last two. There really was ice all over the roads.

Like many in the midwest in winter, I've found ways to embrace the cold - with a whole lotta whisky. Uhhh, I mean, spicy foods... Really, when in doubt, it does the trick! Spicy foods, that is. A hot snappy curry, peppery spaghetti sauce, chili with a kick or even a hot chocolate with some cayenne. Adding the right spices to a dish not only make it flavorful, it can warm a belly in negative degree weather.

There is an adorable artisan pasta shop by my house where I got some red pepper pasta. Sooo delish. I boiled that, sautéed some vegetables and a had some home made pasta sauce on hand. I tossed it all together and placed it all over some baby spinach. The heat from the pasta and vegetables helps to wilt the spinach so it is more manageable when eating. I can't stand spinach in cooked meals when it's wilted to shit. If you do, add it in the saute pan and get it rockin' with the rest of the vegetables.

This dish will work with any pasta, sauce and vegetables. A guarantee quick dinner. So if you're in the frigid temperatures, bust out some spice and tantalize your taste buds!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Vegan Mutts One Year Anniversary!

It's rare that I pay attention to anniversaries or any dates for that matter. I am that girl that never knows how long she's been dating someone, or how long she's been in college, it certainly seems like an eternity! It can go on and on. It's not that I am unaware of time, I just don't think much of it. Does it really matter? I think my best friend and I have been friends for eternity or that I've been out of high school for 15 years when it has only been about 7... or 6. Like I said, time, dates and ages mess me up. I don't pay attention to them. But I do remember when I started blogging because I blog on a regular basis, and well, it's been a year!

Blogging has been fun and quite the culinary adventure. Thanks for following me and Baker over the last year. If you have any requests or things you'd like to see in the new year, let me know!

Happy New Year! We'll be posting some healthy goodies once we return from Mexico! Adios!