Friday, December 6, 2013

Joe's Special-Inspired Sausages

A while back, I mentioned in my post Joe's Special with Tofu , how I came to love this dish.  I also now believe, although at the time I was uncertain, that my Toasted Joes must have derived from the same origin at some point: the dishes are too similar.  Anyhow, I've made Joe's Special at home several times with various versions of soy products, but I wanted something different and unique for my blog.  I thunk and thunk on my thinking log with my pot of vegan honey close by and was struck by the idea of making sausages with these ingredients. Ta dah!  These came out really tasty with very few ingredients, and the texture was very pleasant.  Give them a try and let me know what you think.


Joe's Special-Inspired Sausages

Ingredients:

6 oz. bag of spinach leaves, chopped small, approx. 3 cups chopped
3 cups mushrooms, chopped small, approx. 10 mushrooms
1 - 14 to 16 oz. pkg, tofu, water-packed, drained
2 and 1/2 cups water, divided
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 and 1/2 cups gluten flour

Directions:

In a large pot, steam the spinach and mushrooms over medium heat for ten to fifteen minutes, until shrunken and tender.  Meanwhile in a blender, break up the tofu and add, along with two cups of the water and the seasonings.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into a large bowl, and add the veggies. Stir well.  Add the gluten flour and stir.  Knead for a minute or so, just until everything is well incorporated and there are no overly wet or dry spots.   Tear fifteen pieces of aluminum foil and set aside. Take a clump of dough, about 1 and 1/2 times the size of a golf ball, and stretch out into a sausage shape on a strip of foil.  Roll the foil over at least three times, making sure you press it gently around the dough. Twist each end shut.  Place in the pot you used to steam the veggies.  Do the same with the rest of the dough.  Steam for 45 minutes over medium heat.  Near the end of the steam time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Pour 1/2 cup of the water onto a baking sheet that has a lip around the edge.  Add more water if needed to make sure the baking sheet has a thin layer of water.  When the sausages are done, carefully unwrap each one and lay on the baking sheet.  Bake for thirty minutes, turning the sausages halfway through.  Add a bit of water to the baking sheet, if it's all evaporated.  They are ready to be served with a nice vegetable and grain for a hearty meal.  These are very tasty!  Makes 15 sausages.  Serves five hungry vegans for dinner and for lunch the next day.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sesame Asparagus and Thanksgiving, 2013

For this Thanksgiving, I was inspired to remake a recipe I cut out of the newspaper and made several years ago, modifying it to make it my own.  Sesame Asparagus has such a beautiful presentation, perfect for the holiday table.  As usual, my family each got to pick up to two dishes they wanted for Thanksgiving.  Since most of them turned out to be Asian dishes, the asparagus fit right in.  Below is this year's unconventional menu.

Dinner:
Tofurky - picked by me
Roasted Potatoes - picked by SR
Gravy - picked by me
Steamed rice - picked by JK
Plain, Lemon Grass and Mushroom Tofu - picked by JK
Pizza - picked by GR
Hot and Sour Soup - picked by SR
Soy Chi'k'n - picked by SR
Sesame Asparagus - G made sure we had a veggie, and I made this one
Cranberry Sauces - general consensus

Drinks:
Apple and Grape-Apple Ciders - all the Blessings

Dessert:
Pecan Pie - G's working on perfecting his own recipe!  All he asked of me was to make the crust.
Black Tie Cheesecake  - GR picked and made it because I was sick, so sweet!

My plate couldn't even fit everything on it, nor could I finish this feast!

Black Tie Cheesecake - GR did an awesome job!

G's Pecan Pie, a delight in the works

Sesame Asparagus

Sesame Asparagus

Ingredients:

2 bunches of asparagus
Non-stick spray
1 Tbs. and 1 tsp. sesame oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbs. soy sauce or tamari sauce
1 and 1/2 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 tsp. vegan sugar
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 tsp. sesame seeds

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Trim or snap off the tough ends of the stems of the asparagus.  Spray a baking sheet with the non-stick spray.  Spread the asparagus in a single layer on the baking sheet.  Drizzle one tablespoon of the sesame oil over the asparagus.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for fifteen minutes.  In the meantime in a small bowl, mix together the remaining teaspoon of sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar.  When the asparagus are done, place on a serving platter. Drizzle the sauce over the top, and garnish with the almonds and sesame seeds.  Tasty and different!  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tofu-Sausage Patties

Here is another successful recipe for The Patty.  My family and I really liked my Tofu Quinoa Patties , and it really encouraged me to keep trying my hand at variations. This one was also well-received by the fam; little JK had three! This one's base is also tofu, and I'm happy with the texture and taste.  The center, like the ones with quinoa, is still somewhat soft, but it actually doesn't detract from the end result.  I tried different methods of preparing these particular patties and ended up liking the final method the best, even though it might seem redundant or time-consuming.  The final patty is worth the process.  Eventually, I'd like to try my hand at patties with bases other than tofu, although these patties and the quinoa ones hold up really well and could be eaten as a burger with the bun.  I'll let you know when I have another patty worthy of showing you. 


Tofu-Sausage Patties

Ingredients:

3 leeks, the whites chopped small
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped small
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 pkgs. 14-16oz. water-packed tofu, drained
1/2 cup cracker crumbs, either already boxed or grind your favorite
1 Gimme Lean Sausage tube
Canola oil for frying
Non-stick spray

Directions:

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray, and set aside.  In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks and garlic and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally, or until they begin to brown.   While those are cooking, mash the tofu in a large bowl.  Add the cracker crumbs and mash together, using your hands if necessary.  Do the same with the Gimme Lean sausage.  To the pan with the leeks and garlic, add the salt and pepper, and stir.  When ready, add those ingredients to the bowl with the tofu mixture and mix well.  Add a tablespoon or so of canola oil to the same pan, and keep heat on medium.  Shape the tofu mixture into balls slightly smaller than the size of a tennis ball - these are big patties!  Flatten them slightly in your palm and lay them in the pan.  Cook on one side for ten minutes without disturbing, then flip over and cook for another ten minutes. Add more oil to the pan, if you are doing these in batches. Place patties on baking sheet, and bake for twenty minutes, flipping halfway through. So good. Makes ten patties.  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Purple Sweet Potatoes with Facon

I first made this simple dish on Thanksgiving of 2012. We enjoyed it again last night.  It seemed like a simple way to snazz up sweet potatoes and make them savory instead of sweet.  This is such a filling dish that I think I made too much for us, but yay for leftovers!  Check out the steam in this photo!


Purple Sweet Potatoes with Facon

Ingredients:

5 purple sweet potatoes
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 pkg. SmartBacon
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Peel the sweet potatoes, and chop them into bite-sized chunks.  Put them in a large pot with water to cover.  Bring them to a full boil, and boil for five minutes.  While the potatoes are boiling, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Dice up the facon and add to the pan.  After the potatoes have boiled, drain them, and add them to the pan with the facon.  Add the salt and pepper, and continue cooking over medium heat for about another five minutes. When they have crisped slightly and been mixed well with the facon, they are ready.  Serve with a salad and another vegetable for a complete meal.  Feeds five hungry vegans with leftovers.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kale with Sausage

Sometimes I feel silly posting easy recipes like this one, but then I figure that maybe not everyone's thought of this, and then I plunge forward.  You first saw this family favorite of ours in my Easter, 2010 post titled, "Pecan Raisin Tart."   I mentioned there that I would post the recipe later, and I guess "later" is what I really must have meant.  Better later than never, right?  I served this alongside my Simple Garlic Bread , and it made for a tasty meal.  


Kale with Sausage

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tube pkgs. Gimme Lean, sausage style
2 bunches of kale, stripped from stems and chopped, about 6 - 8 cups
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Slice each tube of Gimme Lean lengthwise and then in semi-circles.  Heat in oil for five minutes to where they are almost browned.  Add the kale and toss thoroughly.  Cook until kale has just wilted but has a nice bright green color.  Add the salt and pepper and serve.  Feeds five hungry vegans.  Satisfying, especially served with garlic bread and even a salad or a steamed veggie on the side.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Biscuits 'n' Sausage Gravy

This is my "official" biscuits and gravy recipe for Saturday mornings.  I mentioned in my post for my Peppery-Garlicky Gravy that that recipe was just for gravy, and I paired it in my post with biscuits, but it wasn't my official biscuits and gravy recipe.  Well, now, this one is.  It's also very kid-friendly.  The trick to making a recipe kid-friendly, I've discovered over the years through lots of trial and error, is to make the dish with few ingredients and with familiar ones.  My Blessings do not like onions, but they do like garlic, so besides salt and pepper, that's the basis of my seasonings for this gravy.  One more tip that I've learned along the way when making this particular gravy is to use plain or original flavored soy milk, not vanilla flavored.  Vanilla makes the gravy too sweet, and believe me, you don't want to listen to a Southern man complain about the sweetness of his gravy.  So, there is no broth in this gravy like there is my others; this is based on the country-style or Southern gravy used to cover biscuits or chicken-fried steaks, or in my case Seitan-fried steaks.  The ingredient list is short, and the cooking process itself is easy, so there's nothing holding you back. We like a lot of gravy, so this recipe yields several cups, good enough for leftovers!   For the biscuits, I just use my Classic Biscuits recipe.  I'll copy and paste that below for your ease.  Let me know if you enjoyed this when you try it. 

Biscuits 'n' Sausage Gravy

Sausage Gravy in the pan

Biscuits 'n' Sausage Gravy


Classic Biscuits:

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 and 1/2 cups soy milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the shortening and use a fork or pastry cutter to blend it in until the dough is crumbly.  Use your fingers, if necessary, to complete the job.  Add the soy milk, and stir until well blended.  On a large, lightly floured surface knead the dough for about minute, not longer, or else it will get tough.  Put half the dough back in the bowl.  Roll out the other half to about a 1/2 inch thick.  Using a round glass, cut circles of dough out and place on an ungreased baking sheet.  When you've cut out as many circles as you can, roll the dough back up into a small ball and roll out a second time.  Try to handle as little as possible.  Continue cutting out circles.   With the last remaining dough, shape with your hands a final biscuit.  Repeat process with second half of dough waiting its turn in the bowl.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Serve hot in a bowl covered with a towel.  Makes approximately two dozen biscuits.  Feeds five hungry vegans for two meals.

Sausage Gravy:

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tube pkg. of Gimme Lean Sausage
5 cloves of garlic, minced
6 Tbs. vegan margarine
4 Tbs. flour
4 and 1/2 cups plain soy milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper 

While the biscuits are baking, you can start on your gravy.  In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Take the Gimme Lean Sausage and break it up between your fingers, kind of smooshing it, and drop in by chunks into the pan.  Don't worry if they're not too small yet.  Add the minced garlic to the pan.  Cook for at least five minutes, occasionally breaking up the sausage chunks into smaller bits with the tip of your spatula.  When the sausage is about pea-sized and browned, scrape it and the garlic over to one side of the pan.  In the other side of the pan, melt the margarine.  When the margarine is melted, add the flour and whisk with the margarine.  When they've become a thick paste, slowly pour in the soy milk, whisking constantly, keeping out of the sausage bits as much as possible.  It's okay if they blend together after the flour paste has been whisked into the milk.  Once all the milk has been added, go ahead and blend the liquid and the sausage mix together with the whisk.  Add the salt and pepper.  Stir slowly and constantly with the whisk until the gravy bubbles.  Let it boil for one minute, while constantly stirring, then turn the heat off. Serve over biscuits for a hearty breakfast.  Feeds five hungry vegans with enough left over for lunch or another breakfast...and more! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: Tasty Bites

The good people over at Tasty Bites offered to send me six packets of their various dishes for my family to try.  What an easy meal, so I said sure!  I believe I've made their Bombay Potatoes before, but it's been awhile, and I haven't tried their other dishes, so I was looking forward to these.  Please see below for the full review with feedback from the fam.

Here are the packets, from left to right:  Pad Thai Asian Noodles, Punjab Eggplant, Garlic Brown Rice, Channa Masala, Bombay Potatoes, and Ginger Lentil Rice.  All of these are microwavable and able to be boiled in their pouches.  Each packet serves two.  I asked for only vegan samples, and so that's what they sent me.  I chose to microwave each packet; the rice dishes were ready in 90 seconds, and all the others were ready in 60.

Here is my plate with a dollop of each dish.  I kept my dishes in the same order as I've listed above for ease of seeing what they look like.  As you can see, with a small sampling of each, it made for a full plate - this is the size of a salad plate, and it was plenty.

I'm not going to list all of their ingredients because that would make this just too long, but there was no corn syrup, msg, artificial colors or flavors or preservatives in any of them, making these very acceptable for my family.  Here is the full breakdown of each dish.

Pad Thai Asian Noodles:
JK:  "Good."
GR:  "All right."
SR: "Good."
Me: "Surprisingly Tomatoey."
G: He said most of the dishes, including this one was "tasty."

Punjab Eggplant:
JK:  Didn't like this one, but that's not a surprise.  I don't know too many kids that like eggplant.
GR: "Not bad."
SR: Didn't try this one because of dislike of eggplant.  She also wanted to say that even though she's not "big on Indian food," she liked all the dishes she tried.
Me: "Good, but the eggplant is indistinguishable from the other ingredients."
G: "Tasty."

 Garlic Brown Rice:
JK: Didn't try this one.
GR: "A little bland."
SR: Didn't try either.
Me:  "I agree with GR."
G: "Good flavor but slightly dry."

Channa Masala:
JK: "That is good!"
GR: "Okay."
SR: "Good."
Me.: "Good."
G:  "Tasty."

 Bombay Potatoes:
JK: These ended up being his favorite, and he went back to finish up the pot.
GR: "Good!"  Her fave too.
SR: "Good."
Me: "Good.
G: "Tasty."

Ginger Lentil Rice:
JK: "Not very good."
GR: "I like it."
SR: "Good."
Me: "Okay."
G: He liked this one.

My overall impression:
  • I liked the quick preparation.  For my family, this entire meal was ready in less than ten minutes; that's pretty good!  
  • When I had all the dishes on one plate, the brown ones blended in with each other.  I would have liked them to be a bit more visually different, but they were tasty.  
  • These are definitely not gourmet, and they wouldn't replace my dinners on a regular basis.  However, I can see me keeping a few of these on hand in the pantry, especially the favored ones, for those busy nights, or for the Blessings to make their own lunches or snacks during the day.
  • I prefer fresh foods over pre-packaged, but as far as pre-packaged goes, these were a fairly healthy choice.
  • In the end, these were definitely a hit with my family, and we give these an overall thumbs-up.  Recommended for purchase!




Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Another New Family Member - Mew, mew!




Meet Aurora!

Aurora dozing on my recliner.  She looks long here, but she's just tucked up in its corner.

On Saturday we received a precious two month old kitten.  How we got her has a bit of a short story.  I got an idea in my head last year that every birthday that I had where my age ended in a zero or a five, I should get a new pet.  G mumbled some kind of acknowledgement, but I could tell he wasn't really taking me too seriously.  After all, we already had two cats and two dogs.  But...then came Cleopatra in October, and any mention of me still saying I wanted my own pet with those special birthday numbers, were quickly brushed aside by him because we now had Cleo.

Well, I justified myself by explaining that Cleopatra was in a desperate situation, and we rescued her to be a family pet.  (Never mind that she prefers me...but, of course...over everyone else!)  If you've read a certain few of my posts, you know I have OCD, and when I get something in my head, especially regarding numbers, I can't let it go. 

So, this year in January, I had that birthday that I had been warning G about.  He ignored me, simple as that, but the Blessings, well, they latched on to it.  They love the idea of having a complete kingdom of all kinds and numbers of creatures.  So, I tried to catch ferals.  I suggested we adopt a senior kitty from the shelter.  I reminded and reminded G to no avail.  Well, on Monday of last week, we ran into his niece at his sister's house, and what do you know?  She rescued a kitten that she found on the side of the street!  The kitten had a leg injury that seemed to have healed, and the niece bottle-fed it back to health.  The only thing that appeared wrong with it still was a weeping eye.  She guessed the kitten to now be two months old, and she had had it for a few weeks already.  She didn't want to keep her because she already had seven cats; she also didn't name her because she wasn't going to keep her.  She was actively looking for a home for her.

Cue everyone turning their heads to look at G.  Poor helpless, outvoted G.  One could almost feel sorry for him, the ultimate dog lover's shoulders giving way to a defeated sag, the burly face that frightens strangers on darkened streets softening under the weight of his love for his family, the heart that tries to stay hardened to the world opening up once again to a sweet little girl kitten.  Needless to say, we got her on Saturday.  And by then, he was all for it, and was reminding me to call her to let her know for sure we'd accept her.  She'll be seeing the vet for a looksie in the next couple of days.

So, the only thing that technically makes her mine is that I got to name her, and when all the kids are fighting over her, I get to say, "She's mine. Give her here."  That's pretty much it.  Oh, and I feed all the inside kitties and clean up after them (Sparkly prefers the outside most of the time.).  Yay.  The Blessings are enjoying their first kitten, and she's adjusted amazingly fast to our home and all the critters in it.  All three cats, Charlene, Sparkly and Cleopatra, are acclimating as cats do, on their own terms.  The pups are great with cats:  Abby is curious about her, but Mindy is slightly intimidated.  We are now officially outnumbered six pets to five people.  All the pets are also female, so G and JK are feeling the pinch!  So, now I technically don't have to get another pet for five more years.  Unless...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pizza for Grown-Ups

Recently I made pizza for the G, the Blessings and I again.  I used my typical pizza crust from my Quick Veggie Pizza recipe. I divided the dough in five balls, as usual, but this time for mine and G's pizzas, I decided to go for toppings that the sweet Blessings would not find appealing at all.  Not only could we indulge in spicy goodness, but it also assured us that our leftovers would be untouched by grubby, greedy littler hands.  I usually have a variety of toppings for us all to choose from, but I decided to pull out red onions and jalapenos, which I knew only G and I would have.  Whereas the Blessings top their own crusts, G just trusts my topping instincts to have me make his own.  He was delighted with the finished product.   With onions and hot peppers, at least in our home, this is definitely pizza for grown-ups!


Here's a shot of Pizza for Grown-Ups still on the baking pan after coming out of the oven.


A close up of all those delicious goodies.

Pizza for Grown-Ups

Ingredients:

Crust:

2 pkgs. or 1 and 1/2 Tbs. of active dry yeast
2 cups of warm water
4 cups of flour
1 and 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 and 1/2 Tbs. vegan or raw sugar

Grown-Up Toppings:

We used:
Organic pizza sauce
Daiya cheddar shreds

Daiya mozzarella shreds
Red onion, chopped coarsely

Sliced black olives
Mushrooms, sliced
Artichoke hearts, chopped coarsely
Pickled jalapenos, chopped small
Vegan pepperoni slices

Directions:

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let rest for ten minutes. Combine the remaining crust ingredients in a large bowl, along with the yeast mixture, and mix well. Cover bowl with a damp towel, and let rise for 30 minutes. Punch dough down and divide into five sections. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out one section of dough to about the size of a plate. Pick up and gently toss with your hands, until it's at least one and a half times its original size. Put on your baking sheet or pizza pan, and load with toppings. Bake for 20 minutes. While baking, make your next pizza. I can bake two pizzas at a time side by side; a bit of one baking sheet rests on the edge of the other, but it doesn't affect the end result. Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes before slicing. So good and easy! Feeds five hungry vegans or two vegan grown-ups and kid-friendly toppings for the rest of the gang.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Root Beer Floats!

Who says vegans can't enjoy creamy, sweet goodness? Not us!  Every now and then, I love to make root beer floats for my family.  They are so simple, it's kind of silly to post a recipe.  But, think of this as a gentle reminder or encouragement to not give up the stuff we loved as kids or before we became veggie.  Drink on!


Here is my float.  As you can see, I don't have fancy tall glasses in which to serve them, so we used our Magic Bullet mugs.  I do have the long spoons for iced tea, though, which work great for scooping out ice cream.  And, of course you gotta have the crazy straw!

Here it is again from how it looks as I'm aiming for that straw.  Mm-mmm goodness.


Root Beer Floats

Ingredients:

Vegan vanilla ice cream - we used Soy Dream
Natural root beer soda with no corn syrup or artificial colors or flavors - we used Hansen's

Directions:

In a large mug or glass, scoop two large scoops of ice cream. Top with root beer.  Wait for the fizz to die down a bit, and add some more root beer.  Enjoy with a spoon and straw.  Feeds five hungry vegans or however many you have in your home.




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Puppy Dog Cake, Superhero Transformation Cake and JK's 7th Birthday!

Hello!  I thought before too much more time has passed I should put up the cakes for JK's birthday that was over the summer.  Since JK's actual birthday was on a Friday, I asked him what kind of cake he would want, and he asked for a puppy cake.  His party was the next day on Saturday, so I made him a cake that is supposed to represent the moment of transformation from an ordinary man to a superhero.  People thought I either just went crazy with the frosting and ended up with an abstract design, or politely nodded when I tried to explain what I did and that it was on purpose.  I think it looks good!  What do you think?  :-)

Both of these cakes use my White Cake with White Butter Cream Frosting  as their base, and then built from there.  They are easy and fun to make, and taste good too!

 Puppy Cake

 
  Side view of Puppy Cake - notice how the ears go down to the bottom layer

 Slice of that cute puppy!

 Superhero Transformation Cake - you see it, right?

 A slice of that transformation

Both cakes start with the batter for my...

White Cake:

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups cake flour
1 and 1/2 cups vegan or raw sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups soy milk 

1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. EnerG Egg Replacer
4 Tbs. water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two round cake pans with an oil spray, and lightly flour their bottoms. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream the shortening to soften it completely. In a small bowl or mug, whisk together the Egg Replacer and water. Alternate the flour mixture and the milk into the shortening, beating with a mixer on medium speed. With the last addition of milk, add the Egg Replacer mixture and the vanilla extract. Beat for three minutes, until completely smooth. Divide between the two cake pans, and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for fifteen minutes in their pans on a cooling rack. Then carefully invert the cakes out onto the rack to finish cooling.


The Frosting for both starts out as my White Butter Cream Frosting and is tweaked for each cake.  Here's the basic frosting recipe:

Frosting:

1/2 cup vegan margarine, room temperature
1/8 tsp. salt
3 and 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbs. soy milk


Directions:

When the cakes have completely cooled, prepare the frosting. In a medium bowl, cream together the margarine and salt. Starting on low speed and working up to medium, beat in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla extract and the soy milk, and beat on medium speed for three to five minutes, until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Makes enough frosting for one double layer cake. 

For the Puppy Cake:

Extra Ingredients:

2 Tbs. cocoa
2 vegan chocolate chips
1 freeze-dried raspberry or fresh berry

Extra Directions:

Divide the frosting in half.  Mix in cocoa in one of the halves.  Spread about half the chocolate frosting onto the top of what will be the bottom layer of cake.  Add the top half.  Spread the vanilla frosting on the sides of the cake and the top, leaving space for the puppy's ears.  Spread the chocolate into two large floppy ears that extend down to the bottom layer of the cake.  Add a couple of cute eyebrows and a little dot nose.  Place the two chocolate chips as eyes and the raspberry as a tongue.  Now, you've got an adorable puppy cake!

For the Superhero Transformation Cake:

Extra Ingredients:  NOTE:  I've misplaced my actual recipe, where I noted precise measurements.  I'll guesstimate here and update when I've found the recipe, but this is pretty close.

1/4 cup freshly pureed blueberries
1 Tbs. turmeric

Extra Directions:

Divide the frosting into 2/3 and 1/3.  Leave the 2/3 vanilla, and spread the cakes as normal.  Divide the remaining third into another 2/3 and 1/3.  Mix the blueberry puree in with the smaller amount and the turmeric in with the larger.  Spread the turmeric-based frosting in creative angles and segments to represent the explosion of a person becoming a superhero; don't forget the center of the blast.  Flick the blueberry-based frosting on the cake with a fork to add to the sheer excitement of the transformation.  Behold, the blinding blast of man to hero!  Eat up.

Both cakes feed five hungry vegans for a couple of days or several babbling children at a birthday party.  Yummers!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tofu Quinoa Patties

I've been on a quest to make new kinds of patties, so I'm not resorting to buying pre-made ones as much.  Pre-made ones are fine for a quick dinner when there's not a lot of time for preparation, but when I do have time, I've been trying my hand at methods that take just few ingredients.  I don't know about you, but when I play with bean burgers, they seem to fall apart.  I'll let you know if I come up with a truly hardy bean patty recipe.  And, I've been wanting to try grains other than rice on a more common basis.  So, one day I thought of using quinoa, which we all know is healthy, and binding it with tofu.  After a couple of tries, they came out really good!  And, what's even better, and this happens less often than you may think, everyone in my family loved them.  Not a single patty was left over, and that's saying something.  Let me know what you think, if you give these a try.


Tofu Quinoa Patties

Ingredients:

1/2 cup quinoa (uncooked)
2 cups water
2 - 14oz. pkgs. water-packed tofu, drained
1 Tbs. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Canola oil for frying

Directions:

Put quinoa and water in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down heat to medium and cook until quinoa swells and becomes translucent.  This will take ten to fifteen minutes.  Turn heat down to medium low if water is evaporating too quickly.  (I know these are different directions than most packages say, but I find this works for me better.)  You should end up with about 1 and 3/4 cups of quinoa.  In a large bowl, mash the tofu.  Add the quinoa and the seasonings and mix well; you can use your hands if necessary.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil on medium high heat in a large pan.  Make palm-sized patties and carefully add them to the pan.  Do not move patties while cooking.  Turn over after ten minutes, and cook undisturbed on other side for another ten minutes.  If you find your patties are cooking too quickly, turn the heat down to medium.  These will not be cooked solidly all the way through.  They have a crisp exterior and a cooked, warmed through interior. They hold up really well, and the texture is very pleasant.  Can garnish with hot sauce, mustard, ketchup or soy sauce.  Makes ten patties.  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Vejibag

The good people at Vejibag offered to send me one of their bags a short while ago.  Their cotton bags are intended to store vegetables inside of them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh longer for a week or more.  I was looking forward to trying this out because I sometimes have a problem with limp veggies and frozen spots on my veggies.  See below for my review.
 
 Here I've forgotten to rotate the photo before loading, but you get the idea.  The bag is 100& organic cotton, and is actually softer to the touch than it would seem to be.  Attached to the bag were a couple of labels promoting the benefits of using a Vejibag.  Towards the top of the bag, you might be able to see a flap of material. So, the bag would be able to fold over at the top to cover any veggies that were put in it.

 Here's another sideways shot of the other side of the bag.  These are also the other sides of the tags that came with the bag.  I was initially impressed with the feel and look of the bag.

I decided to test out the Vejibag by storing some of the produce I had picked up at the Farmer's Market Saturday morning.  This was now Saturday afternoon, and I had washed the veggies and was prepared to put them in the bag.  I had four very long peppers, two zucchinis, two crookneck squashes, and four cucumbers.  That is a large colander, and I wasn't sure all my produce would fit in the bag, but I'd see what I could get in.

 It turned out that all my veggies did actually fit!  I was surprised and impressed with the slight stretchiness of the Vejibag.  The instructions said to rinse the bag in water, wring it out, put the veggies in it, and store it in the fridge.  When the bag was completely fully, it was huge. I'm not sure that it would fit in most crisper bins, so I just put mine on one of my shelves.

Results:  On Tuesday, I pulled out my cucumbers, and they looked great.  No problems - nice and crunchy.  On Thursday, I pulled out two of the peppers.  One of them had a soft brown spot on its tip, but in all honesty, I could have overlooked that at the Farmer's Market.  So, I didn't feel that that was a mark against the Vejibag.  On Sunday, I pulled out all the squash and the last two peppers.  My bag was now empty.  One of the zucchinis was definitely limp.  I did keep it in for one day longer than a week, so I'm not really sure what the limit is.  But, it does say a week or more on one of its tags.  All the other veggies looked awesome, so I was happy with them.  As the bag got less full, I'm not sure if moving it to the crisper bin would have been advisable, but I couldn't find anything on their tags or their website that shed light on whether storing the bag in a crisper bin was better than storing on a shelf.  So, one zucchini down, but everything else was good.  I do wish that everything had stayed crisp because most people would have to pay for a bag.  But, in the end I'm really happy with it, and I will definitely continue to use it.

Their website is www.vejibag.com  .  They have a few options for prices, most commonly sixteen and eighteen dollars.  They also have package prices.  It's worth your time to at least check it out.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Three-Layer Neapolitan Cake and SR's 16th Birthday

Back on July 20th, SR celebrated her 16th birthday!  It was a great day, and I threw her a surprise birthday party.  My parents were gracious enough to let me use their home for SR and her friends.  SR thought we were just going over to Grannyma and Poppy's to drop off JK, so she could have a teen rollerskating party.  So, she was more confused than surprised when she saw her friends; she told me later she stood there wondering for a moment if we were picking them up from there to take them to the rink.  Anyways, we had a lot of fun, a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and baking, and a great, wonderful cake!  Now, this is definitely a sugar-filled cake.  I am going to dabble with other ways of sweetening, but I didn't want to practice on her cake.  So, be prepared: sugar!  I used my White Cake recipe for the white layer, and a double portion of the White Butter Cream Frosting that I made with it to frost the entire cake.  I adjusted my Big and Little Pink Strawberry Cakes, Naturally recipe for the pink layer.  I'm still working on creating the perfect natural pink color, so you'll see what I did below to achieve this pink look.  It was very good, but it's still a work in progress.  And for the chocolate layer, I used my Dark Chocolate Mini Cupcakes recipe .  I think the end result came out beautifully visually and taste-wise.  Let me know what you think!

Three-Layer Neapolitan Cake

The cake layers are cooling on my mom's counter.  

Stacked and ready for the outer layer of frosting.  The lighting here makes them look yellow, but look below to see their real colors in natural light.

Cake all finished and waiting to be devoured.

 Another shot of sacrificial cake.


I had to show a shot of one of the games I planned.  I asked each guest and SR if they wanted to either be a "thrower" or a "lander."  I gave them no other clues.  SR chose to be a lander, and her friend and teammate Brandon was the thrower.  Landers had to wear shower caps while throwers covered their heads with shaving cream then threw popcorn at the piles of cream.  The team with the most popcorn stuck won.  By the way, little JK played all the games too; he wasn't left out.  :-)  This is one of my favorite photos of the whole day.  I love the smiles!

 SR blowing out her candles.

SR enjoying her cake.

 A shot of the cake with vegan Neapolitan ice cream.


Three-Layer Neapolitan Cake

Ingredients:

For the White Layer:

2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 cups vegan sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. EnerG Egg Replacer
4 Tbs. water


For the Pink Layer:

2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 cups vegan sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup soy milk
Juice from one can of beets, about one cup

3 Tbs. strawberry extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. EnerG Egg Replacer
4 Tbs. water


For the Chocolate Layer:

Non-stick spray
A little flour for dusting
2 cups vegan sugar
1 and 3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. EnerG Egg Replacer
4 Tbs. water
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

For the Frosting:

1 cup vegan margarine, room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
7and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 Tbs. soy milk


Directions:

For the White Layer:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12x9 inch cake pan with an oil spray, and lightly flour its bottom. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream the shortening to soften it completely. In a small bowl or mug, whisk together the Egg Replacer and water. Alternate the flour mixture and the milk into the shortening, beating with a mixer on medium speed. With the last addition of milk, add the Egg Replacer mixture and the vanilla extract. Beat for three minutes, until completely smooth. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for fifteen minutes in its pan on a cooling rack. Then carefully invert the cake out onto the rack to finish cooling.

For the Pink Layer:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12x9 inch cake pan with an oil spray, and lightly flour its bottom. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream the shortening to soften it completely. In a small bowl, whisk together the Egg Replacer and water. Alternate beating the flour mixture and the soy milk into the shortening, beating with a mixer on medium speed. At the end, add the beet juice, strawberry extract, Egg Replacer mixture, and vanilla extract. Beat for three minutes, until completely smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for fifteen minutes in its pan on a cooling rack. Then carefully invert the cake out onto the rack to finish cooling.

For the Chocolate Layer:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 12x9 inch cake pan with an oil spray, and lightly flour its bottom. Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a mug, whisk together the Egg Replacer and the water.  Pour that mixture and the soy milk, oil, and vanilla extract into the large bowl with the dry ingredients.  Mix with an electric blender on medium speed for two minutes.  Pour in the boiling water and mix on low, until the water is blended in.  Batter will be thinner than you might expect, but it's okay.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool for fifteen minutes in its pan on a cooling rack. Then carefully invert the cake out onto the rack to finish cooling.

For the Frosting: 

When the cakes have completely cooled, prepare the frosting. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and salt. Starting on low speed and working up to medium, beat in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla extract and the soy milk, and beat on medium speed for three to five minutes, until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Makes enough frosting for a giant triple-layered cake. Feeds lots of people, including five hungry vegans at one big party or for several regular days.  Recommend to serve with vegan Neapolitan ice cream.  So good!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Claire from Almost Skinny Vegan Food gave me this lovely award too long ago (May), and I'm just getting to respond now.  I already thanked her shortly after she bestowed this on me, but I wasn't able to actually pass this on...until now.  Thank you, Claire, for thinking of me!  And now I'm thinking of all of you.  Read below for the rules and questions.  :-)


There are five rules to follow if you decide to accept this award:

1.  Visit and thank the blogger on their blog who nominated you (that would be me, ahem).
2.  Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back (I give you permission to use capital letters and flashing stars around my name.)
3.  Answer the ten questions (now, don't make us yawn!)
4.  Nominate up to 12 bloggers for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award (up to 12? Surely, I will have a harder time NOT going over that limit!)
5.  Copy and paste the award somewhere on your blog (up high, where we can see it!)
**If it's not obvious, do not add the parens to your post.  Those are just my unique additions.  :-)**

The 10 Questions: (dum, dum, dum!)  - again, my parens, sillies.

1.  What is your favorite color?  Well actually, I love all the colors, but I learned when my oldest was a toddler, that that wasn't an acceptable answer.  I NEEDED to have a favorite, and the rest of my children demanded a concrete answer as well.  So, yellow, yes, yellow is my favorite color.  It's happy, and I like it.  But, I love wearing brown, ssh.

2.  What is your favorite animal?  Of course, being vegan I love ALL the fuzzies.  Again, not an acceptable answer.  Okay, so my top faves are in no particular order: kitties, bunnies, elephants, and dolphins.

3.  What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?  Hot apple cider and hot chocolate. Yes, I know it's two, ssh!

4.  Facebook or Twitter?  This is the only online place you will see me, except for my e-mail.  Just my blog and only my blog, thank you very much.  Psst, I'll let you know if that changes...but, it probably won't.

5.  What is your favorite pattern?  This is a very open-ended question - could it mean clothing pattern like McCalls?  Could it mean geometric patterns?  I'm going to stick with my first reaction and go with my OCD.  I like symmetrical patterns, whether they be numbers or picture frames.

6.  Do you prefer getting or giving presents?  Giving, of course, right?  Everyone knows  that!  Especially when you're asked that on the Internet, sheesh!  Unless, of course it's my birthday, then gimme, gimme, gimme.

7.  What is your favorite number?  Well, I could say 3 since I have three children. Or, I could say 6, the number of precious children with which I've been pregnant.  But, I think it's got to be 4 or 8 because when I go grocery shopping, I always buy things in groups of 4 or 8, so it must be 4 or 8, yes, I'm sure of it.

8.  What is your favorite day of the week?  Monday, absolutely, right?  The beginning of the week, homeschooling those eager kids, work stretching out eons ahead of me.  Ah, no.  Sunday, for sure! That's the one day that Mama gets a nap, and even G doesn't bother me for that hour.

9.  What is your favorite flower?  Well, it could be a rose, since my middle name is Rosa - whoops, personal information alert!  It's a family name that's been passed down for generations, and the R in my own SR's name is Rose, but...I love Gardenias, I admit it!  Love, love, love those beauties.

10.  What is your passion?  Besides the obvious - God, Family, and Food, I love writing.  I've submitted four manuscripts, one of which was with a publisher for a year before not making the cut.  I'm finishing up my first full-length novel and will be submitting it to agents later this year.  So, yes, writing.

Hope you enjoyed this, and now it's your turn!

My fellow sisters, in no particular order...well, maybe by category and then alphabetically, but that's it!

1. My dear friend from church, Susan of Fruitful Words

2.  My dear friend from church (did I already say that?), Lynette of Lynettejoy

3.  Because she inspires me so much, Diane of Fit to the Finish 

4.  My Seattle buddy, Andrea of Andrea's Easy Vegan Cooking 

5.   Because I'm curious where she's flicking them, Joey of Flicking the Vs

6.  I like her style, Maud of Food Feud

7.  She does amazing food creations,Caralyn of Gluten Free Happy Tummy

8.  She impresses me with her athleticism, Ingrid of Ingrid Improves

9.  Loving her pizzas and cookies, Miss Rachel of Miss Rachel

10.  For a Puerto Rican take on vegan food, Millie of Nuestra Cena-American & Latin Vegan Cuisine

11.  I travel vicariously through her, Molly of Rambling Vegans

12.  Because she told me through a private e-mail that she really LOVES memes, SV of The Shenandoah Vegan

Don't forget to visit these sites and see what they have to offer!


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Three Bean Salad with Mint

Here is a wonderfully fresh and light salad to serve on a hot day.  My mom made a kind of sweet three bean salad when I was growing up, and I liked it, but now I like a tangy version.  I added a few other ingredients to snazz this up, and it's definitely a favorite of mine.


Three Bean Salad with Mint

Ingredients:

1 - 15oz. can of green beans
1 - 15oz. can of garbanzo beans
1 - 15 oz. can of kidney beans
2 sprigs' worth of mint leaves (about 8 to 12 leaves), chopped small
1 stalk celery, chopped small
1 green onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup of your favorite tangy dressing - can adjust to taste (We used LaMartinique True French Vinaigrette)

Directions:

In a large colander, pour all your canned beans and rinse under cold water.  Drain completely, and put in a large bowl.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients, and chill for at least two hours before serving.  Toss, taste, adjust dressing if necessary, and serve.  Yummy.  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Medical Scare - Back to Blogging

Hello, everyone!  It's been several weeks since I last posted on July 19th.  (You'll see shortly that the title of this post could have been a very different one.)  I have been very busy with medical tests to try and resolve a swollen lymph node in my neck. 

I first noticed it on July 20th, SR's sixteenth birthday and the day of her surprise party.  I noticed it, probably putting on makeup, I'm not really sure.  But, when I swallowed to check for a sore throat and checked my forehead for fever, I couldn't find any cold-like symptoms to explain the swelling.  After a few days, the swelling was bothering me - it was uncomfortable, large, and it wasn't going away (the lymph node would sometimes not be uncomfortable as the weeks wore on).  I contacted my doctor, and he put me on antibiotics to get rid of any infection that might be in my body that I just wasn't able to feel.  After a full ten days, my lymph node was still swollen; it was so swollen, you could see my neck bulging.

I went to my dentist, and he did a complete oral check and could find no dental reason why my node was swollen, even giving me new x-rays.  Imagine hoping for tooth decay!  But, no luck - everything looked good.  :-)

I went back to my doctor (he had prearranged a follow-up visit), and he ordered a CT scan.  During the CT scan, they noticed some masses on my thyroid.  I went in to have the largest one biopsied.  Also during that follow-up visit with my doc, he ordered a referral to have my lymph node biopsied. Several days went by, and while I was in the waiting room, waiting to be called for my lymph node biopsy, the medical assistant of the endocrinologist called to let me know the mass on my thyroid was a cyst and unrelated to the lymph node - just a coincidence.

I was called in to the procedural room for my lymph node biopsy, and of course, G was with me.  The doctor showed me my lymph node on the ultrasound.  It looked like a black circle/oval with white fibers running across it.  He showed me one of my healthy lymph nodes near it, and it looked like a black circle with a white center.  Because they had ruled out infection, cyst, fluid, salivary gland, dental, anything that would be easily explained, he looked at me and said, there really weren't any more options: the most likely cause was cancer.  I looked at G, and he gave me the most, intense, serious look that I've seen in a long time.

For those of you who don't know, I had cancer when I was in my 20's, and it's a very emotionally draining experience to have.  But, I was just shy of having my children then, and now I have three beautiful Blessings, ages 16, 13 and 7.  G was with me during the first cancer go-around, and here he was facing this with me again.  The thought of leaving my family now, and even my parents, who love me and depend upon me made me very, very sad.  I am Christian, that's listed below my photo here on this site, so I wasn't afraid of being with God, I just didn't want to leave my family at this time.

Anyways, he took six biopsies of my lymph node and said I would get the results in several days.  Of course, family, the church staff, and a few others had been praying for me, and I had been reading Scripture and praying.  The next day, we were supposed to have a garage sale, and I woke up excited to have it and also just to have a fun distraction.  But, in few minutes, I was overwhelmed with nausea, the shakes, clamminess and weakness.  It was so strong that I had to lay down.  G drove me very quickly to Emergency.  They ran a variety of tests, and they all came back good, which I found very encouraging.  I hadn't told anyone yet, but JK's party was the weekend after SR's, and I couldn't blow up a single balloon at his party, so I had been worried about my lungs.  They couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, so they sent me home with anti-nausea and anti-anxiety meds.  My ER doc told me she was Christian, which I thought was not coincidental.

During the time that I was waiting for lymph node biopsy results, I tried to just take life normally.  I am an intensely affectionate mom, so my poor kids had to deal with even more hugging than usual.  On Tuesday, I read Hebrews chapter 11 that listed several people that trusted God in their lives to do amazing things, they had faith.  I was so humbled because I realized that I had been vacillating between having confidence that God would heal me to being very fearful.  I had been praying for healing, that the lymph node would be benign, or that whatever I had would be curable.  I realized that I hadn't been consistent with my faith.

On Wednesday morning I read the first three chapters of James.  One section jumped out at me, James 1:2-8, and one verse specifically had a major impact, ""But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind" (6).  I was so convicted when I read that, that when I was done, I prayed, "God, you know I'm scared, but I'm going to believe that you will heal me, that this swelling will go down, and that I will be well."  Throughout the day, when I would get fearful, I would remember my prayer, brush away the fearful thoughts and believe.  During the day, I could swear that my swelling was going down.  At 4pm, my regular doctor called and said that none of the samples were malignant or cancerous!  He said they didn't know what was wrong with my lymph node, but whatever it was, they were sure it was benign.  I told him that I thought my swelling was going down, and he said that if it was still swollen to call him in a couple of weeks but that it should eventually go completely down.  I told him about the Scripture that had such an impact on me that morning, and he told me he was Christian - I never knew that.

Anyhow, it's been two awesome days, and my swelling continues to go down.  To go from thinking that I'm going to have to fight for my life - again, to being set free and allowed to enjoy my family and plan a normal school year is beyond wonderful to me.  I know this is laced with a lot of talk about God, but I feel it incumbent upon me to share this story completely.  There is no other reason besides divine intervention why my lymph node is suddenly getting healthy.  I saw it on the ultrasound, and all the docs had no other clinical reason besides cancer to explain what was going on.  I am thankful for the prayers on my behalf, and I hope I still get prayers for the swelling to completely disappear.

Enjoy every moment you are gifted.  Don't be harsh with each other.  Love any kind of weather that comes your way.  Appreciate each other's differences.  Notice nature.  Be vegan.  And finally, Praise God!

In a few days, I'll be back to blogging again.  I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.  God Bless.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Desperation Garbanzos

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was on the hunt for something to feed the fam for lunch.  Things were low in the pantry, but I didn't want to make a run to the store.  I was feeling desperate.  What to do, what to make?  Eight eyes were expectantly staring at me, almost audibly demanding, "Food!  We want food!  And not toast and cereal either!  Make something, Woman of the House, and make it good."  Gulp, oh, yes, the desperation was increasing.  Let's see, I had cans of garbanzos but no tahini - not gonna have hummus.  I had a strange bunch of just celery leaves I picked up at the Farmer's Market.  How to combine...  No potatoes, but rice is located, yes!  It's coming together...  I began sauteing, chopping, stirring, seasoning, and before I knew it, I had a dish, and not just any dish, but a dish that those demanding eyes would approve of.  I had...Desperation Garbanzos!  Read below to see how you too can make this awesomely satisfying dish that I will definitely be making again.


Desperation Garbanzos

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. canola oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 - 15oz. cans garbanzo beans, drained
1 and 1/2 cup celery greens, chopped (or celery if you don't have enough greens)
10 mint leaves, chopped
1 - 11 oz. of your favorite peanut sauce
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Jasmine rice

Directions:

In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for five minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for another five minute over medium heat.  Lower heat to medium low and simmer for another fifteen minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Serve over rice.  Very flavorful!  Feeds five hungry vegans.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: Nasoya - Vegan Nayonaise and Vegan NayoWhipped

Here is another of my horribly belated reviews.  I am grateful to companies who entrust me with their products enough to send me free samples, or in this case, full-size jars, in order to feed my family and do honest reviews.  I have just been so caught up in the doings of things in our life, that unfortunately, they got put on the back burner too long.  Anyhow, here this one finally is.

Nasoya was kind enough to send me two jars of their new and reformulated versions of Nayonaise: the "now creamier" original nayonaise, and their new nayowhipped spread.  Our family was regular purchasers of the old nayonaise several years ago before we discovered a competitor's brand.  GR, however, always preferred nayonaise.  What made me make the switch to the other brand was that I liked their thickness, texture and flavor; I always thought nayonaise was a bit on the thin side, but it was a good product to have on hand when we wanted a vegan mayonnaise.  So, when I was contacted about an opportunity to review a new formula, I was very excited to give them another chance.

The jars arrived well-protected in a small box along with two lid grabbers to make jar opening easier.  I love these grabbers and use them all the time!  It took a couple of weeks to fully review these products because I wanted to try them in different capacities.  So, for the nayonaise, I made a batch of my Kids Love It! Potato Salad for the Fourth of July, and for the nayowhipped, I made my Macaroni Salad .  We also had sandwiches with them, as well as just tasting them right out of the jar.  Keep reading for more information.

Here they are nestled in their box with the lid grabbers behind them.

Here is the reformulated nayonaise with the potato salad.  You can see that the potatoes are not really coated with the nayonaise, giving away that it still is a thinner product than its competitor.  However, the taste was great, for some of us, on the salad.  I made this for my family and parents, and everyone has eaten my potato salad with the competitor's spread and so could make an honest comparison.  However, I told them instead of straight comparing, I wanted them to tell me what they thought of it completely on its own merit.  Everyone but SR and GR said they really liked the flavor.  SR and GR were adamant that the potato salad was not as good with nayonaise.  I liked it as well and also liked it on sandwiches.  Straight out of the jar, it had a subtle flavor, but I do still wish it was thicker.  But, overall, we liked this.  I'm not going to say we'll switch back to using this full-time, but it is a nice substitute.

What really surprised me was the reaction to the nayowhipped.  I thought that the Blessings would definitely not like the tangier flavor of this formula on the macaroni salad, but all three of them loved it.  SR and GR actually preferred this flavor over the nayonaise.  So, everyone (I didn't feed this to my parents) liked this in the salad.  I prefer the nayonaise in sandwiches, however, just because I'm not a fan of tangy spreads.  Straight out of the jar, the nayowhipped had an almost sweet aftertaste that I could do without.  It also has the same spreading consistency as the original flavor, so the texture for me was not a whipped one.

On an interesting note, I compared the ingredients of the two jars to each other to try and figure out what made the whipped have a different flavor.  What I found was that they had the exact same ingredients listed, just in a different order.  The only things that were a bit ambiguous were "spices" and "natural flavors."  So, I can't tell you why one is tangier than the other.

Again, to be completely honest, which is what I like to do, I won't go out of my way to buy these products on a regular basis.  But, GR was so happy to have them again, that I'll probably buy her a jar to have for her sandwiches.  And, when I make the macaroni salad, I'll use the nayowhipped.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Patriotic Salad and Fourth of July, 2013

I know, I know, I know, I said I was going to get all my reviews and award out first...but, this is a timely recipe, and I just had to squeeze this one in.  On the Fourth of July, my mom and I decided to just serve up four salads.  She made three bean salad and coleslaw, and I made my Kids Love It! Potato Salad, which will be featured in my next review (hint, hint) and a fruit salad.  The fruit salad was going to have tons of different kinds of fruits in it, but I started putting berries in the bowl first, and then I added a few bananas, and then something struck my eye.  No, it wasn't a wayward blueberry; it was the look of the salad: it was red, white, and blue.  Hello?!  This was the Fourth of July, by golly, so I just to had leave it as is.  And, yes, I can tell you, that I made a big deal of it at my parents'.  "Hey, did anybody notice the colors?"  "Isn't it great that this salad is red, white, and blue?"  I ignored JK's comments that the blackberries were black; they look dark blue to me, humph.  "I know what!  I'm going to call this my Patriotic Salad, yes!"  Yes, indeed, I was very proud of myself, and you should be too.  Er, I mean, it's pretty, isn't it?



Patriotic Salad

Ingredients:

1 cup raspberries
1 cup blackberries
1 and 1/2 cups blueberries
2 and 1/2 cups strawberries, halved or quartered
3 bananas, sliced

Directions:

Make sure all the berries are rinsed and drained well.  Put all the fruit in a large bowl and gently toss.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  Try to finish in one evening; it does not save well.  Feeds five hungry vegans and a Grannyma and a Poppy.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Vegan Cuts Snack Box

Okay, everyone, be prepared:  I have three reviews to do and a blog award.  But...not all in this post.  I'm way behind in getting all these posts up, however; so, they will all be up within a week.  Hope you enjoy the sneak peeks at these products!  First up is the snack box by Vegan Cuts.

This is a monthly subscription box filled with samples of vegan products, mostly food, for you to try.  It was so fun receiving our box for review.  It was filled with products that I like, and one especially (Teese cheese) that I have been really wanting to try.  The only non-food product in this box was a lip balm.  I took pictures of all the products out of their packaging, but then that just got to be too many pictures.  So, you'll have to do with what I've pictured here.  :-)  Keep reading for a detailed review of these products, and how I feel about the subscription box in general.

 Here are the products kind of jumbled together in our box.  It was stuffed full of goodies.  Besides the products, there were coupons and a list of the products that were sent.

 Here's another shot of everything we got outside of the box.  From left to right we have Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips, Skinny Pop Popcorn, Teeccino Herbal Coffee French Roast Organic Dark Roast, 22 Days Plant Protein Power Chocolate, Oloves Lemony Lover, 22 Days PB + Chocolate Chip Nirvana Vegan  Protein Bar, Milas Roasted Peppers & Artichoke Bruschetta, Meow Meow Tweet Lip Balm Rosemary Eucalyptus, Teese Vegan Cheese Alternative, and Life is Life Parmesan Style Aged Nut Cheese.  Please note, I did not misspell any names; if one or two seem "off," that is how they are really spelled.  

So, in order of how we tested them:  

22 Days PB + Chocolate Chip Nirvana Vegan Protein Bar:
Ingredients: Organic Rice Protein, Organic Peanut Butter, Organic Tapioca Syrup, Organic Dates, Organic Inulin, Organic Dark Chocolate Chips, Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic Sprouted Flax. 
Of course you knew we'd I'd have to pick the chocolate bar to down first.  Did I really have to share?  Of course!  As a matter of fact, my whole family tried each and every one of these samples and gave me their honest feedback.  Here's what they had to say about this bar:
JK:  Good!  It looks like seitan.
GR: It's edible.
SR:  You can definitely taste the peanut butter; I like the chocolate chips.
Me: Besides a slight chalky taste, which is not unpleasant, I liked it.
G: It's one of the best protein bars I've ever tasted.
Overall, we gave the bar a thumbs up!

Oloves Lemony Lover:
Ingredients: Pitted green olives 91%, sunflower oil, lemon pieces 3%, garlic, oregano, salt, vinegar, acidifiers: lactic acid and citric acid.
JK:  They're great!
GR: Mmm, they're pretty good!  
SR:  They're really good; they're one of the best olives I've had.
Me:  They are really good, very  lemony.
G:  I would eat them, if I had other olives to mix them in with.  It's not bad, a good olive blend.
Overall, we gave the olives a thumbs up!

Teese Vegan Cheese Alternative:
Ingredients: Filtered water, tapioca maltodextrin, tapioca starch, coconut oil and/or sunflower oil, pea protein, yeast extract, salt, carrageenan, vegan natural flavors, lactic acid (vegan), natural white color added, annatto.
So, this is non-gmo and gluten-free, as well.  It says on the package that it's great for mac and cheese, so that how we tested it.  I made a big bowl of mac and cheese and we dug in.
JK: Good.
GR:  Liked the cheese, but missed the rest of it that was spilled.  (See my comment for explanation.)
SR:  Doesn't like cheese, so didn't taste it.
Me:  I liked the flavor.  What surprised me though, was the unexpected explosion and subsequent propulsion of a few tablespoons of cheese when I punctured the tube.  That was a good photo!
G:  I wouldn't not eat it, but it's a little too sweet.
Overall, we gave the Teese a thumbs up.

Life is Life Parmesan Style Aged Nut Cheese:
Ingredients: Cashews, Nutritional Yeast, Soybeans, Salt, Tamari, Lactic Acid.
JK: Good.
GR:  Didn't care for it.
SR: (Dared to taste this even though she doesn't like cheese, but she likes nutritional yeast flakes.)  I'd take this in small quantities.
Me:  This was a very small sample, about one teaspoon.  So, I made pasta and sauce and sprinkled just the tiniest bit on to everyone's serving.  What I tasted, I thought was subtle but good.
G:  Strong but tasty.
Overall, we gave the parmesan cheese a thumbs up!

Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato Chips:
Ingredients: Stone Ground Corn, High Oleic Sunflower Oil and/or Safflower Oil and/or Canola Oil, Sweet Potato, Corn Bran, Evaporated Cane Juice, Sea Salt.
JK: They're fine.
GR: Doesn't like sweet potatoes, so she doesn't like these.
SR: They tasted like a combination of tortilla chips and potato chips.  She liked them.
Me:  Yes!
G:  They're good.
Overall, we gave the sweet potato chips a thumbs up!

Skinny Pop Popcorn:
Ingredients: All Natural Popcorn, Sunflower Oil and Salt.  "That's all.  Nothing More.  Nothing Less."
JK:  Didn't like this.
GR:  It's okay.
SR:  Liked this.
Me:  I liked this.
G:  Okay for diet popcorn.
Overall, we gave the popcorn a thumbs up!

Meow Meow Tweet Lip Balm Rosemary Eucalyptus:
Ingredients: Cocoa butter, virgin coconut oil, hempseed oil, candelilla wax, essential oils of rosemary, eucalyptus and peppermint.
JK:  At first thought he liked it, but didn't like the smell.
GR:  Didn't like this.
SR:  Was worried about being poisoned by the eucalyptus, but also didn't like it.
Me:  Was overpowered by the menthol-like smell and bitter taste.  I did like the tingling on my lip and the smooth texture.  But, I didn't like it enough to say yes, I like it.
G:  Loved it!  He earned it for his pocket.
Overall, we gave the lip balm a thumbs down!

Teecino Herbal Coffee French Roast Organic Dark Roast:
Ingredients: Organic carob, organic barley, organic chicory, organic ramon seeds, natural coffee flavor.
This was one tea bag-like serving that G steeped in a mug, which we all shared.
JK: Didn't like it. - no surprise there!
GR: Pretty good!
SR: Liked the tea bag for convenience.  Better than the coffee at church but not better than Dad's coffee.
Me:  I'm not a coffee drinker, but I gave this a whirl.  Ready?  It tastes like coffee!
G:  Everyone who knows him knows that G is the ultimate coffee snob.  He also liked the bag and thought it would be good for the office for those people who didn't like the office coffee.  He didn't personally care for it but thought the flavor got better the longer it steeped.  Prefers caffeinated coffee and doesn't see the point in drinking caffeine-free coffee.  But, he would accept this in a social setting!
Overall, we gave the coffee a thumbs up!

22 Days Plant Protein Power Chocolate:
Ingredients: Organic fruit and vegetable blend, organic flaxseed, organic whole grain brown rice protein, organic cocoa, organic guar gum, organic natural flavor, sea salt, organic stevia leaf extract.
The directions said you could blend or mix this with water, so I whisked it with water in a large mug.  Definitely should have been blended.  I could not get out the lumps.  Also, we all agreed it would have tasted better with a tall cold glass of your favorite vegan milk.
All of us:  None of this liked this product.  The flavor was off, it didn't taste good in water, and it was too lumpy no matter how long and hard I whisked it.
Overall, we gave the protein power a thumbs down!

Milas Roasted Peppers & Artichoke Bruschetta:
Ingredients: Roasted Pepper, Onion, Artichoke, Vegetable Oil, Tomato Paste, Garlic, Salt, Vinegar, Thyme, Black Pepper, Basil.
I toasted a burger bun and spread this small sample on for all of us to taste.
JK:  Nope - not surprising to Mom.
GR:  Doesn't care for bruschetta, but this one was okay.
SR:  Likes the sour-y part of it.
Me:  Yes!  I loved it!
G: Would eat it.
Overall, we gave the bruschetta a thumbs up!

Whew, that was a lot!  So, for the box in general, I think this is a great idea.  It gives you a chance to do just what I did: try a sample of something to see if you like it before you plunk down money and/or shipping costs. I would have liked to see larger samples in the parmesan cheese and coffee, but everything else was large enough.  I also liked the variety of samples.  Their website is:  www.vegancuts.com.  I'm also looking into being an affiliate with them.  So, if I can figure out how to do their link, you may see that up on my page.  Keep an eye out for it.  Overall, my family loved VeganCuts!