Friday, August 24, 2007

Away from cooking

Finally we are posting again. We've had trouble over the past few days logging in, but we've finally have gotten through!

This past week we had a lot of change happening. First of all, we were supposed to go to the Grand Cayman Islands with our family for the week, but the hurricane canceled our trip! Oh well, we are sick of flying anyways and hate airports and airplanes. We then spontaneously decided to take a road trip to Austin, TX for 2 days. We also are preparing for the long semester of school, which starts next week already. Books are SOOO expensive - tip: buy used from and sell your used books there too. It saves tremendously.

Austin was nice, just extremely crowded! It's funny, because we have been city girls forever, having lived in the Houston suburbs, but we do not like the big city. Driving is so scary! We traveled a lot in downtown Austin and saw UT campus, which is in the heart of Austin. Many of our schoolmates from high school and our friends go there. I don't know how they can handle it, because they are so crammed into the city and have to be extra cautious and safe walking around busy streets. I'm glad Texas A&M University is a college town and isn't nearly as big, although it, too, is becoming very crowded.

While we were in Austin, we went to many places.

Bookpeople bookstore, which is three stories full of great books!

Ladybird Johnson's Wildflower Center - absolutely gorgeous!

Wheatsville Food Coop, a great grocery store and vegetarian cafe, similar to Central Market or Whole Foods, only smaller. One of the great foods we ate included a huge, organic, juicy, golden peach worth $2.55!

Mr. Natural's, the best vegetarian Tex-Mex restaurant! We shared two outstanding, lard-free meals - tamale plate (with a pinto bean tamale, tofu and sunflower seed tamale, and vegetable tamale) and mushroom fajitas (on whole wheat tortilla), all served with Spanish brown rice, creamy pinto beans, and a side salad with avocado dressing! If you asked us which was our favorite out of the whole meal, we could not answer because they were all fantastic!
In spite of the cityness of Austin, the great thing about Austin compared to Houston is that it is more environmental and vegetarian friendly.

Anyways, since we were preparing for vacation or were out of town, most of our food we cooked was not homemade and exciting. Sometimes, you just have to get a fresh start and completely clean out the fridge! We had simple meals, like canned soup, veggie burgers, edamames, and wraps. One day for a filling, healthy, and decadent snack we made banana peanut butter smoothies with soy milk and flaxseed meal added. It was a great treat!

After coming back from Austin we started cooking again. We made homemade whole grain pitas, from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook, which are so fun and easy to make! They pocketed nicely from the high heat. We stuffed hummus, cucumber slices, and lettuce in them for a great pita sandwich.

We used the rest of the pitas the next day when we made a My Happy Sandwich , from Vegweb. It really was a happy sandwich because it was a pita sandwich stuffed with devine avocado. It includes chunky guacamole (avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, garlic) with some alfalfa sprouts and cucumber slices. The cucumber actually paired well with the guacamole because it cooled down the strong garlic/onion flavor.

So for this week's thought, I just want to say how great nature is. Let us try to be better stewards of this earth and take care of our precious land. That means recycle, reuse plastic bags, reduce waste, turn off lights to save energy, take a walk instead of drive, and eat vegetarian!

Smile, LK

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Time On Our Hands

It's been nice this week to veg and enjoy the joys of life! Love having time reading books, scrapbooking, and hanging out with our cats (by the way, Anne of Green Gables is such a pleasurable read while the new Harry Potter book is quite tense).

With more time on our hands, we've been making new and tasty meals.

First of all, we've been wanting to make egg rolls (which require more time to prepare), so we thought this week was perfect time to do so. However, the egg roll wrappers in the back of our fridge... well, moldy. So we improvised, used the rice paper wrappers in our fridge, and used the egg roll filling. Making fresh spring rolls seem like a simple task using minimal ingredients, but every time we make them they are so time consuming and exhausting to make. Oh, and also so difficult to roll nice and neat.

That said, we sauteed some diced celery and diced carrots and added that to our already-cooked cabbage. Our spring roll filling was more like egg rolls (cooked rather than raw) and we put a slice of tofu in each roll as well. We tried to make homemade sweet and sour sauce, but we didn't have rice vinegar so tried red wine vinegar, and well, it turned out more like barbaque sauce. So, we just served the rolls with honey mustard dressing. (We usually serve spring rolls with peanut sauce.) Even though this was a new twist on spring rolls, we'll stick to raw cabbage and vegetables for spring rolls and cooked filling for egg rolls. Still, it feels so rewarding always after making spring rolls:)

We must of bought too much cabbage... we had some with our meal the next few days. We served cabbage with wild rice (with onions, garlic, and celery) and sauteed tofu with leftover mushroom gravy (from last week's post). The gravy is a keeper!

For an easy day, we roasted sweet potatoes, onion, red bell pepper, and mushrooms - simple yet delicious.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Vegetable Combo: (Serves 3-4)
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/3 of large red bell pepper, chopped
4 large mushrooms, halved and sliced
1-2 garlic cloves olive oil, to lightly coat
optional: apple chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Chop vegetables. Place vegetables in an oven safe ceramic dish, and roast for about 30 minutes or until potatoes soften, stirring periodically.

For a sweet breakfast treat, we made our favorite whole grain scones, but changed it up and added dried cranberries and orange zest. We topped it off with a great orange glaze!

Graham Scones (makes 4-6)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
8 whole wheat grahams, crushed
1 Tb flaxseed meal
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cold margarine
1/4 - 1/3 cup soy milk
1 1/2 Tb Splenda sugar blend (or 3 Tb sugar)
orange cranberry (add 1/3 cup dried cranberries and 1-1/2 Tb orange zest)
cinnamon (1/2-1Tb) or other spices
walnuts or pecans (add 1/4-1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. If desired, soak dried cranberries in water to plump.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, crushed grahams, sugar, baking powder, and spices if desired. Cut in margarine until resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and if desired, add cranberries and orange zest or nuts. Stir just until blended.

Place dough on a greased baking sheet; pat into a circle. If desired, sprinkle on top sugar or cinnamon. Cut into 4-6 wedges and separate slightly. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. May need to cover with foil half way. Remove from baking sheet and cool 5 minutes.

For the orange glaze, mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 Tb orange zest, and 1 1-1/2 Tb orange juice, and spread over the scones. Enjoy!

Tofu "Cottage Cheese" , a new recipe from Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen that we tried earlier this week, was unique and healthy. It tasted slightly like cottage cheese and slightly like tofu. We added lots of garlic powder, some dill, and some dried celery flakes. The garlic powder made it really good. We served it with cucumber and lots of pineapple and the fresh pineapple is really tasty with it.

A really great recipe from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen that we LOVED was Mexican Enchilada Casserole. Full of flavor, spice, and creaminess! We loved the creamy beans and the tomatoes in it. We added our own touch to it by adding sliced mushrooms. We ended up adding more heat, because, well we're Texans and like our heat:) Leftovers were fabulous. Oh so filling.

Today we made pizza, but with pesto, broccoli, tomato slices, and mushrooms. We really liked this variation on pizza. We made our own pesto with fresh basil from our garden and our own whole wheat pizza crust.

Here's a quote to end for today:

"Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who hear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity. Hours fly, flowers die, new days, new ways pass by, Love stays." - Henry Van Dyke

Best regards, LK

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Freshness of Summer

Finally a summer break from school for us, and a time to catch up on all the delicious food we've had over the past few weeks! We are trying to take advantage of the fresh summer produce that is in season, such as peaches, corn-on-the cob, cucumbers, berries, etc... We are also trying to keep cool in this hot Texas weather (greater than 90 degrees, feels like over 100!).

Here is a list of our typical
breakfasts we've been eating this summer to fill us up and keep us cool and healthy!:

Barbara's Shredded Oats cereal, Kashi Shredded Wheat, Kashi Go-Lean crunch, Nature's Path Flakes (any variety), or any low-sugar low-fat granola, all served with fresh sliced peaches and Silk Plain Light Soy Milk!

On the weekends we do special breakfasts, such as homemade wheat biscuits, scones, tofu scramble, and homemade 4 grain oatmeal with peanut butter, banana, and ground flax seeds - hearty, filling, nutty, and creamy!

We also enjoy many of our afternoon snacks! We tend to eat a cereal bar of some sort and yogurt or a homemade smoothie.
Some of our snacks include: Odwalla Banana Nut, Peanut Crunch, and Choco-walla, which are extremely devine, soft, healthy, and tasty! Doesn't taste like a health bar, but more of a treat!
We also enjoy frozen bananas for a treat and fresh fruit smoothies. This week we enjoyed a fresh peach smoothie and a creamy mango smoothie! Can't get any better than fresh ripe seasonal fruit!

Now, for our delicious dinners, we decided to use fresh summer vegetables in new recipes we have not made before or recipes that we have not had since becoming vegetarian!

Fresh Summer Sweet Corn Soup, from Passionate Vegetarian cookbook, is the ultimate recipe you must make in the summer to take advantage of the delicious, sweet, and fresh local Texas corn! Although it is very time consuming and labor intensive, it is well worth it to make every once in a while. It has the flavor of fresh corn along with a hint of onions, carrots and yellow bell pepper flavors.

We also enjoyed our Homemade Sloppy Joes recipe, and used textured soy protein instead of ground turkey. It worked out really well, and was very healthy! Our sloppy joes are better than the typical meat joes because they have less sodium, added vegetables (carrots, mushrooms, celery, and bell pepper), and herbs/spices. When eating sloppy joes, as the name implies, it is very MESSY and requires alot of napkins! lol.....

For a great side dish, we spontaneously made an Edamame Salad, with bell peppers, celery, and red wine vinegar. It was very flavorful with great texture, and very filling! Easy, too!
We enjoyed another meal of Fantastic Food's Falafel in a pita with cucumbers, spinach, and tarragon mustard salad dressing. It is so fresh and flavorful. We personalized the falafel and mixed in some cornmeal and dried basil to make it taste less curry-ish. For another meal, we enjoyed the wheat pitas with a can of kidney beans. Yum!

About once a week we like to eat pasta in different ways. This time we used some wheat spinach spaghetti noodles and tossed in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dried italian seasonings, sauteed green bell peppers, diced tomatoes, garlic, and onions, and firm tofu pieces cooked on the skillet. Overall it was a great idea, but we accidently used too much balsamic vinegar, and it soaked the tofu and pasta and was too acidic for our tummys to handle! haha.... Next time, we'll just use less vinegar!
We used up the leftover frozen firm tofu from the pack we bought to make simple herbed tofu sandwiches, which is actually our favorite way to eat tofu! We just slice the tofu, sprinkle garlic powder and a little soy sauce and cook on med high heat on a non stick skillet till browned on both sides. Then we top heavily with dried herbs and avocado slices and put it on bread with spinach or lettuce leaves. So fresh, simple, healthy, and flavorful! The tofu is so chewy and lightly marinated.

Sometimes it is nice to take a break from cooking and use the crockpot! We cooked up some Vegetarian 2-Bean Spicy Chili. We used black beans and pinto beans, and added fresh Kalabasa squash (Mexican sqaush similar to summer zucchini), green bell peppers, onions, garlic, dried oregano, Mexican-flavored diced tomato cans, and jalapeno powder. Beware - the soup was FIREY! The fire department should have come to extinguish the spicy burn in our mouths! lol...but it was very healthy, fresh, and flavorful.

We served the chili with our favorite biscuits! We made some modifications and adapted our usual breakfast honey wheat biscuits to whole grain onion and herb biscuits with some cornmeal and ground flaxseeds. They were so soft and melt-in-your-mouth; really great and subtle to cool the mouth from the spiceness of the chili.

Having family from Germany and having taken German in high school, we have to post about our German feast! This week we adapted our usual German dinner to be vegetarian- friendly. It brought back so many great memories of our German experiences! Abendessen schmeckt ausgeseichnet! (Dinner tasted excellent!).

We made German cabbage by steaming cabbage and diced onions on the stove. Then sprinkled black pepper and some caraway powder when serving it! We also made our usual apple side dish, which is just apple chunks, cinnamon, sage, and nutmeg cooked in the oven or microwave. The aroma is fantastic! We served the cabbage and apples with German Shredded Potato Dumplings. It is a mix, however we made it healthier by adding 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds and our own vegetarian mushroom gravy, from Passionate Vegetarian cookbook. It was such a great savory, comfort food meal!

Before we end this week's post, we have to make a note on our lunches that stood out to us: peanut butter apricot jam sandwiches, and hummus spinach pita pizzas.....

If you have never tried this before, you absolutely have to:
pb with apricot jam is devine! Better than any other jam. They pair so well together, and are a gooey sensation!

On the opposite side, don't try this: Manischewitz Hummus Mix
It was way too SALTY! We even added garlic powder and lots of herbs to make it more flavorful, but it was still almost inedible.

But the idea of hummus pita pizzas are a great meal! We put fresh spinach leaves and green bell pepper slices in whole wheat pitas and crisp/heat them on a skillet or panini grill. The spinach is cooked nicely and the pita is nicely toasted. Then, we spread the tops with hummus. Next time the hummus will be tolerable and the pita pizzas will be tastier, I am certain!

So, as another week approaches, we would like to tell all to remember to take time out of your busy schedules to take care of yourself. Relax, do Yoga, read a novel, or listen to music. We can not live life and strenghten our relationships with our family and friends if we do not love ourselves and have control over our own lives. Pray, meditate, and clear your minds......

Also remember take advantage of the freshness of summer fruits and vegetables! :)

Peace, LK

Oh, here is a great end for you all to savor: Maple 4-grain oatmeal Cornflake Chocolate Cookies, adapted from One Smart Cookie cookbook, by Julie van Rosendaal! Heavenly sinful!