Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Flavors Abound!

I can't say this enough.  I love, love, love Fall!  It's really my favorite season for produce and for cooking and baking.  In the summer I never want to be in the kitchen, especially when it's 90 degrees and I have a sad air conditioner that sucks up energy.  But now that Fall is here, there's a crisp coolness in the air and delicious vegetables to be had, which just says to me, "time to cook!"  Since the weather has taken a turn, I have definitely been slacking in my running and outdoor activities, and I have taken refuge in my kitchen.  (That should make my marathon next weekend rather interesting...)  Anyway, I went a little nuts last weekend with the cooking.  Now that I'm actually in town on the weekends, I have time to cook my meals for the week again!  As always, I left the Farmer's Market with far too many vegetables.  Everything just looks so good!  I can't help myself!  My friends and boyfriend definitely aren't complaining by any means.  :-)  I may be going a little overboard with the Butternut Squash, but I plan on making some fun things with that in the near future, so keep a lookout.  Although, just plain roasted squash is still my absolute favorite!

Soups up!  So my go-to Fall meals are always soups.  I love them!  They're savory, deliciously warming, and absolutely easy to make.  Win, win and win!  The broccoli and potatoes are so beautiful right now, so you must make this soup: Broccoli Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs.  Simple flavors team up to provide a light, but filling soup.  If you like your soups chunky (I do) then you can just blend half of it, or make a soup more reminiscent of cream of broccoli by blending the whole thing.  Whatever toots your horn!  I think this soup will always be one of my favorites, because it was the first soup I ever made.  Not only the first soup as a vegan, but the first soup EVER!  (I'm not counting the soups, that you get from a can or a box...come on now!)  I was so proud of myself when I pulled it off.  The only thing is the the original recipe calls for fresh mint, and I say OMIT!  Yuck!  I hated the mint in there.  Just the dill is perfect.  This recipe is taken from Veganomicon by Isa and Terry.

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (I usually use 1T)
1 medium-size onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice
3 cloves garlic (double it!)
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups vegetable stock, or 4 cups veggie stock plus 2 cups water
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (I don't peel mine, you're prerogative)
4 cups chopped broccoli, including the stalks: chop them into thin slices, and the tops into small florets
1/4 cup fresh dill

Heat a soup pot over medium heat.  Saute the onion in the live oil for 5-7 minutes, until softened.  Add the garlic, tarragon, black pepper, and salt, and cook for 1 more minute.  Pour in the vegetable stock and add the potatoes.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the broccoli and cook for 15 more minutes.

Use an immersion blender to blend about one-third of the soup.  Transfer back to the soup.  Add the fresh dill and let the soup sit for about 10 minutes to let the flavors meld.  Serve!

I paired this soup with some Pumpkin Cheddar Biscuits, which are to die for!!  I knew the recipe sounded good when I opened up my VegNews this last month, but they are even better!  They are a perfect pairing for sopping up soups or gravies.  I will definitely be making these for any future holiday events, or just for whatever!  They were a hit at the Packer party I went to yesterday, for sure!

Makes 8 large or 16 small biscuits

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy milk
1 cup flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons vegan margarine
3/4 canned pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine apple cider vinegar and soy milk.  Set aside and allow the mixture to curdle.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, pastry flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in cheese, coating shreds with flour so that they don't clump together.  Add margarine, and use a pastry cutter to break up the margarine and cheese shreds until course crumbs form.

To soy milk mixture, add pumpkin and whisk until well combined.  Pour mixture into dry ingredients.  Use a spoon to mix until a dough forms, and then continue mixing with clean hands until just combined.  Do not overmix,

On a liberally floured surface, pat dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Using a biscuit cutter (about 3 inches in diameter) (or just the top of a juice glass, which is what I use), lightly press into the dough to cut out a circle, and then gently lift the cutter back up, without twisting.  Continue until all the dough has been cut into biscuits.

Carefully place the cut biscuits onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Warm Blanket.

Ah Autumn.  It kind of took me by surprise, but now I'm settling into it's crisp air and welcoming all its harvest with open...mouth!  I don't know about you, but Autumn happens to be my favorite season.  Not just for the beautiful foliage, crisp air and holidays all about food, but because of it's gorgeous harvest!  Nothing quite beats a crisp Sweet Tango or Honeycrisp apple, a juicy Bartlett Pear, a sweet and savory roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato, delightful pumpkin spiced treats, or hot apple cider...the list goes on and on.  I know it's Fall when I walk away from the Farmer's Market with several Butternut Squashes in tow.  This is hands down my favorite fall vegetable.  I'm not picky either.  I don't like to mess with a good thing, so I just cube it, add salt and pepper and a little olive oil, and roast it.  Done!  So simple and so delicious.  Some people will use this as a side...psssh.  Side?  Try a meal.  I will sit down and eat an entire squash for dinner.  No joke.  And at 60 calories for a cup uncooked squash?  Mow down guilt free!  
Isa was not kidding when she wrote that roasted Butternut Squash is like a warm blanket on a wet Autumn day.  Seeing as Sunday was just that, I felt it necessary to roast some up.  You might want to write down these complicated instructions...

Purchase beautiful Butternut Squash.  Look for ones without blemishes.  Preheat oven to 375.  Cut up your squash into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes.  How do you cut it up?  Cut the neck from the bulbous portion.  Peel.  Cut horizontally along the neck.  Same to the bulb.  Scoop out seeds.  Cube.  Spray a cookie sheet. Spread squash evenly so that the cubes aren't touching, otherwise it won't carmelize.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper.  Pop in the oven for 45 minutes, flipping the squash every 15 minutes.  Serve hot!  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sweet Tango!

Perhaps you're one of the few who haven't made the journey up to Door County.  Yes, it's touristy, but it's so beautiful and there's an abundance of delicious spots that it's definitely worth the trip.  I was lucky enough to make a trip up there with my mother this past weekend.  It had been ages since I spent some time alone with my mom, so I was really looking forward to this.  We were originally supposed to go to Chicago (oh Chicago Diner, how I miss  you!), but Door County was a nice substitute.  We went to Egg Harbor, Fish Creek and Bailey's Harbor.  There was a really cute natural foods store called Greens and Grains in Egg Harbor.  I had actually been to this store last year to buy my food for camping at Peninsula State Park.  They have a good variety of vegan grocery items, and they also have a little juice bar and various to-go items like hummus, wraps and sandwiches.  I was disappointed that their tortillas actually have honey in them and the woman didn't know if their ciabatta bread was vegan.  She didn't have any package for them either.  After I explained what vegan was she assured me, "I'm sure there's nothing like that in this bread.  We special order it."  Well, I didn't really like the sound of it, but since most ciabatta bread that I've come across has been vegan, I just went ahead and ordered it.  Okay, okay.  I know a lot of vegans would chastise me for this, but I think we need to look at what is most important here.  Their sandwich, (w/o cheese) has a vegan burger patty, organic greens and Vegenaise.  They are supporting veganism with their various grocery items and their raw juices and smoothies.  Personally, I think it's more important to support a business like this that is making veganism more accessible than to stress over a microscopic animal ingredient in the bread that may or may not be there.  The important thing is that we do the best we can to minimize the suffering in the world.  This is something that I've just come to terms with recently, actually.  I don't typically do this, nor am I making it a habit, but in this one instance I did.  In all of Door County, this was the only store that used local, organic, and natural ingredients with vegan options.  At least, this was the only place that came up on the Happy Cow website.  I let the woman know I was vegan and what it meant, so perhaps they'll be more mindful of that in the future.  I do still feel guilty about it, but I know that it was a good decision to support this business.

Okay, done with the rant.  Attached to Greens and Grain is an eco-friendly clothing store and salon.  There's some really cool handmade jewelry in there as well as organic cotton shirts, tops, pants, and accessories.  I ended up walking away with a handmade necklace made up of two flowers pressed in glass.

Just down the road from the main row of shops in downtown Egg Harbor, you'll come across Wood Orchard Market.  This is a family owned fruit farm.  It might not be organic, but at least it's small and local.  This farm is known for their Honeycrisp apples, but I was ecstatic to find that they had Sweet Tangos!!  If you haven't had a Sweet Tango yet, then go out and find one immediately!  I only have 5 left, and I'll take you out if you try to take one!  :-P  The Sweet Tango is a new variety that was developed last year at the University of Minnesota.  It's a cross between Honeycrisp (mom) and a Zestar (dad), and it's absolute heaven!  Sweet Tangos are a little earlier to mature than the Honeycrisp, so they are in this September!  Look out, though, because they are in limited supply, with very few locations!  I have NOT been able to find any in the Madison area.  Door County and Minneapolis have been the only locations I've found them so far.  We bought a huge bag when we were up there, but I'm getting my mother to pick me up another bag when she returns this weekend!  But wait!  There's more!!  Wood Orchard also has delicious jams, fruit butters, and salsas!  My favorites are the Cherry Butter, Pumpkin Butter, and the Raspberry Salsa and Cherry Salsa.  I was skeptical when I first heard of a fruit salsa, but it is scrumptious!

Head further down the road and you'll come across Peninsula State Park.  This area is so beautiful!  There's lots of biking and hiking trails, and in the winter: cross country trails.  I had a nice 2 hour hike with my mom by the water and through the woods.  I definitely want to go back when the leaves change!  Nothing like spending quality time with a loved one while enjoying delicious vegan finds!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'll Stop the World and Melt for You

Sometimes we all feel like a little chocolatey goodness in our lives.  After a nice round of disc golf this evening, I just wanted some velvety chocolate pudding.  Recently I read through a recipe in the September issue of Vegetarian Times for just that.  I looked through my cupboards and improvised a little to come up with a delicious concoction.  What's fabulous about this recipe is that it's incredibly simple and takes less than 15 minutes to make.  I think this pudding would go perfectly with graham crackers (I dipped my Grateful Grahams in it), or a topping for a cake or muffin.  Use your imagination!

Velvet-Smooth Dark Chocolate Pudding
Serves 6

3/4 cup packed light or brown sugar (I used sucanat)
3 Tbs cornstarch
2 1/4 cup unsweetened hazelnut or almond milk (I used 1 can of light coconut milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz vegan semisweet chocolate chips

Whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.  Gradually stir in milk, whisking constantly to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Cook 1 minute, or until mixture thickens.  Stir in vanilla, and remove from heat.  Add chocolate chips, and let stand 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

To the Land of Flying Pigs

And so I return!  It has been an incredibly busy summer, and I have definitely fallen out of blogging because of it.  With one sprint triathlon and half marathon under my belt, I'm readying myself for my October 2nd Twin Cities Marathon!  I'm probably not as well prepared as I should be, but, hell, I'm going to give it a shot all the same!  My goal is to just finish!  Well, this has kept me pretty busy, among other things like traveling almost every other weekend, venturing to the Saturday Farmer's Market on the square whenever I get the chance, and spending quality time with friends and family.  As summer is winding itself down, I'll be making a more concerted effort to keep up with blogging.  AND, it just so happens that Fall is my absolute favorite time of year for vegetables.  Sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, and my favorite: Squash!!  Mmmm, nothing like roasted butternut squash to warm you up on a cool Fall day.

In the spirit of my recent travels, I will be doing a special blogging series to boast of all my favorite dishes in the various cities I've visited this summer.  My most recent destination spot was my hometown of Cincinnati, OH.  Every time we go back to visit we end up at the same spots that are favorites of my family: Big Boy, Graeters, Buskins and Sky Line Chili.  Since my sister and I went vegan, my family has been extremely supportive.  They try to accomodate for my dietary needs and even step out of their comfort zone by trying new vegan food with me.  This trip was no exception.  While they did get to Buskins and Sky Line, our first stop happened to be The Loving Hut.  Ever since I heard about this restaurant in VegNews, I've been wanting to check it out.  The cult aspect intrigued me.  Let's just say it did not disappoint!  The food just happened to be delicious!  It was very reasonably priced and left me full and satisfied.  I had the raw pizza, which was on a sun dried tomato focaccia.  I had never had anything like this before, and I was pleasantly surprised by it's texture and how flavorful it was.  I wrapped it up with an almond cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream frosting.  Yum!  They also happened to have Grateful Grahams for sale at this location, so I grabbed up a bag.  Grateful Grahams are made locally in Cincinnati, and were recently feature in VegNews.  This cookies are delicious and perfect for s'mores, topped with turbanado sugar and cinnamon!  You can buy them here on veganessentials in chocolate or original flavors.  The website is:  Okay, so back to Loving Hut itself.  While they have great food, this place in undoubtedly creepy as hell!  The people were just a  There were also several large flat screen TVs showing Supreme Master Ching Hai talking on various topics with subtitles in 20+ languages flashing up on the screen.  I think it's great that she's done such a good job in creating a successful chain of vegan restaurants, but personally I think she gives veganism a bad name.  It makes us look like a bunch of lunatics!  I just hope that people understand that that is merely her cult of followers and not the vegan community.  You can be the judge, of course, but my family and I all agreed that it was just creepy.  
Another restaurant worth mentioning in Cincinnati is Melt.  I was very pleased with this place.  We had the chance to go there for their Sunday Brunch and it was one of the best vegan brunches I've had (second only to Chicago Diner).  I had the biscuits and gravy, and an maple almond muffin.  Both were delicious!  The biscuits were a good size and nice and fluffy, smother in a savory herb gravy and vegan sausage, with a side of perfectly ripened fruit.  While the place itself is a little loud, difficult to find seating and located in an up and coming hip neighborhood, I'd say it was damn well worth the trip!  It reminded me of Wicker Park in Chicago.  

So if you happen to be in Cincinnati, do not miss out on this restaurants!  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What Stinks? Crappy Natural Deodorants!

Well, helllllloooooo!  Yes, I am ashamed to say that I've been hiding under a rock and I haven't blogged in AGES!  Sorry all!  This is what happens when Vegan Fest, summer, work, yoga, and training for a marathon and triathlon will do to you.  With Mad City Vegan Fest quickly approaching, though, I can say all of us organizers will have much more free time!  Phew!

I know I haven't done food in a while, but I swear I'll get some things up here.  I recently took a trip to Portland, OR, so I have a special Portland edition that I am working on.  Look forward to that!  I took a few souveniers home with me, including a bunny, "herbivore" tattoo from Scapegoat Tattoos in the vegan mini-mall.  Oh, Portland, how I love thee!

I'm going to make this edition short and sweet, because it's late and I have raffle stuff to work on.  Before I go, though, I want to share with you a glorious product that I just recently purchased.  The heat is on!  For summer, that is.  If you sweat profusely like I do, you don't mess around with your deodorants.  I'm an extremely active person, especially in the summer months, so all the natural products that I've used up until now have been horrid.  Egh hem...Tom's Naturals.  I thought I had just about had it with all the natural stuff, until Courtney Mayhew (cue angel chimes), told me about Natural Grooming deodorant. Okay, okay, it's a men's deodorant, but you know what?...I don't freaking care!  I love this stuff!  I got the Forest scent, because it didn't smell as manly and I don't like heavily perfumed products.  I knew I had hit the jackpot when I went for a 6 mile run, biked over 15 miles and went to yoga and my underarms smelled like daisies.  Well, not quite, but at least I didn't smell like the inside of a gym bag.  This stuff is glorious!  If nothing is working for you, you must try this stuff!  You can find it here or you can just go to your co-op or Whole Foods, if you must.  I'm telling you, you won't regret it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Vegan GroupOn?!

I just discovered this site Vegan Cuts the other day, and talk about perfect!  It's essentially a vegan GroupOn.  They have featured items that you get for a steal and it's a fantastic way to get introduced to more vegan products!  I'm so excited for this!!  Sign up to become a member and you get weekly emails with featured deals on vegan products, plus if you refer friends you get a chance to win prizes from companies like Coconut Bliss, Nacho Mom's Vegan Queso and Susan Nichole!!  (Say I referred you, please!)  Happy shopping!