Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sweet Potato Contest

Another reason to be creative in the kitchen - Sweet Potato Contest! Now, we would NEVER used canned yams (especially those that aren't natural), but we did use organic natural sweet potato puree from the can!

Sweet Potato Jalapeno Cornbread

Our favorite cornbread recipe with the addition of sweet potato and jalapeno! (We served this with Black Eyed Pea Spinach Soup, adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen's recipe )

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (or all purpose)
1 cup corn flour
1 cup medium cornmeal
¾ tsp salt
3 Tb agave nectar
3/4 cup sweet potato puree or can sweet potatoes (no sugar added), drained and pureed
1 cup soy milk
1 – 1 ¼ cup water
1 – 2 Tb minced jalapeno, seeded if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients (whole wheat flour through salt). In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients (agave nectar through jalapeno). Add wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined. Pour batter in a medium-sized glass pan (1 ½ qt or 6 in x 8 in) or in a loaf pan (sprayed with cooking spray).

Bake until edges slightly browned for about 35 minutes, or until a tested inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cornbread to cool a few minutes before cutting. Makes 12-15 servings.

Chewy Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies with Dark Chocolate Chunks

Flax "Egg":
2 Tbsp ground flaxseeds (flax meal)
¼ cup water

1 cup stone ground 100% whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3 cups rolled oats (NOT quick-cooking)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup sucanat (unrefined granulated cane sugar)
1 cup sweet potato puree or canned sweet potatoes (no sugar added), drained and pureed
¼ cup safflower oil
½ - ¾ cup water

½ cup dried cranberries (preferably Eden Organic’s Dried Cranberries sweetened with apple juice instead of sugar)
½ cup (~16 squares) Equal Exchange 70% Dark Chocolate, cut into chunks (about 2/3 of the whole chocolate bar)

Preheat oven to 325 F.

In a medium sized bowl, combine ground flaxseeds and water and mix to make a pasty "egg". Let sit for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon).

In the medium bowl with the flax "egg", mix the rest of the wet ingredients just until incorporated (vanilla, sugar, sweet potato puree, oil, and water). Add the dried fruit and chocolate chunks. Make sure to distribute evenly and not over-mix.

Drop large spoonfuls of dough about 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Flatten each cookie just slightly. (The cookies will not spread).

Bake for about 10 minutes, making sure not to burn the tops. If needed, cover with foil. Makes about 30 cookies.

Dig in! - LK

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dessert first, then the meals!

We thought to start the post off with dessert first! These chocolate covered graham crackers are a nice treat! We used a mix of Sunspire's Tropical Source chocolate chips and Green & Black's 70% Dark Chocolate bar. By the way, there is a recipe contest to use Equal Exchange chocolate. We are turning on our thinking caps and going to see if we will bake anything worthwhile for the contest.

Anyways, this dessert was very easy to make - we made our own double broiler by putting some water in a small pot and placing a bowl on top of the pot (stove-top heat proofed). The chocolate goes in the bowl and the water boils below to help melt the chocolate! Once the chocolate is melted, we just spread some chocolate on each graham cracker. Top with an almond or two, and then place in the fridge to harden, and enjoy!

For chocoholics, it could be considered a "healthy snack" instead of a dessert, because of the healthy oat bran graham crackers and the antioxidant rich dark chocolate and the unsalted almonds. But that's a

On to the meals! With this hot Texas weather already, we crave cool refreshing foods like smoothies, fruit, corn on the cob...

and pineapple salsa with cold Mexican macaroni salad!
Fresh and easy. For the pineapple salsa, we diced onion, jalapeño, and fresh pineapple, and then added lots of fresh cilantro. So yummy with chips or with sliced cucumbers.

For the macaroni salad, we combined 1 can black beans, 3 chopped tomatoes, 1 chopped orange bell pepper, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 small zucchinis, diced jalapeño, cooked corn macaroni pasta (1 entire box!), and chopped cilantro. We made a creamy mustard Mexican sauce with cumin, cayenne, chili powder, nutritional yeast, and spicy ground mustard. The pasta salad was good, but a little strong in the cumin and a little dry, so next time we are thinking of adding less cumin and adding some lime juice and lots of avocado. Serving with pineapple salsa made it great. It made TONS of leftovers - enough for a party of 12 probably. For leftovers tonight we are going to add some orange baby tomatoes and fresh diced mango. We might try adding some balsamic for something different. Overall a versatile pasta salad!

Besides craving "cold" foods, we were hungry for a southern breakfast - tofu scramble and hashbrowns. We diced lots of red and yellow new potatoes (which are local produce from the farmer's market) and browned them on the skillet for a while (it took a while to cook, but it was tasty in the end!). Spices included paprika, cayenne, black pepper, garlic, and onions. We served the potatoes and tofu scramble in a wrap stuffed with slightly-wilted spinach.

We LOVED serving it with homemade "agave" mustard salad dressing and avocado! Ever since Spiral Diner, we've been craving mustard salad dressing. Here is our recipe!:

Agave-Mustard Dressing

2 Tb spicy mustard
2 Tb agave nectar
1/2-1 Tb safflower oil
2 Tb apple cider vinegar
a little water to your liking to make it thinner

Mix all ingredients. Enjoy in salads, wraps, tofu, potatoes, vegetables, etc!

Our only baking this week was Hummus Bread. We changed it up a bit, and used sun dried tomato basil hummus that we bought at Sprouts Market. It had a nice flavor and was soft inside, despite being dense. Yumm!

Hope you are enjoying a fun relaxing vegan summer!
- LK

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Recent Finds at Sprouts Farmers Market

Last weekend when we visited Dallas, we also got a chance to go to Sprouts Farmers Market! Sprouts had a huge selection of organic and natural products - produce, processed foods, juice, soy, frozen, and health & beauty. We especially liked the bulk, all the natural lotions & shampoos, the cereals & snacks, and the soy milk & soy yogurt. We also liked how they support local farmers. Here are some of our recent finds at Sprouts that we tried:

So Delicious Dairy Free Yogurt Cinnamon BunWe've heard great reviews about the new So Delicious soy yogurts, especially the Cinnamon flavor, as it is supposed to taste like a cinnamon roll. After trying this, we still like Whole Soy & Co soy yogurts best. This yogurt tasted like the cinnamon rolls you buy at a bakery, not necessarily the same flavor of cinnamon rolls you make yourself at home (perhaps more raisiny flavor if that makes sense?). And this yogurt was quite rich for our taste and a little runny.

As for the Whole Soy & Co. soy yogurts, we've been on a roll with finding new flavors! Last time we reviewed Whole Soy yogurts, we had tried lemon, cherry, and raspberry. We were jumping up and down when Sprouts had apricot mango and mixed berry! The apricot mango tasted similar to peach, but with a slight mango flavor and more sweet. The mixed berry was quite tasty and we enjoyed it with some frozen wild blueberries. The only yogurt of Whole Soy & Co that we haven't found yet to try is strawberry banana (which sounds so good!). So, minus the strawberry banana, here are our rankings of all the Whole Soy & Co yogurts:

1. Mixed Berry and Blueberry tie! 2. Cherry 3. Strawberry 4. Raspberry 5. Peach 6. Vanilla 7. Apricot Mango 8. Lemon 9. Plain

*The top 5 flavors (mixed berry through raspberry) were all so hard to rank - they are that good!

We love Guiltless Gourmet chips, but still had yet to try the Chili Verde and the Chili Lime Chips. At Sprouts we were delighted to see the Guiltless Gourmet Chili Lime Chips! These chips were slightly spicy, definitely limy, very crispy, and overall tasty! Great with pineapple salsa and guacamole. Would be awesome with black bean dip!

Thirsty for fresh cold orange juice? Try Simply Orange Orange Juice, Grove Made. 100% juice, not from concentrate, and with lots of pulp! This is so refreshing, especially in smoothies! We made peach orange smoothie, banana orange smoothie, and strawberry banana orange smoothie. We are eager to make that Spiral Diner smoothie we had - with lots of berries, almond milk, orange juice, banana, and pineapple.

Hope you all are findings some great food finds! Stay tuned for more tasty food finds next week - we're going to San Antonio (our mom and step-dad just moved there) and we'll be visiting some natural food stores!


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spiral Diner and Dallas

Our first time to eat at an all VEGAN restaurant - Spiral Diner & Bakery in Dallas, TX! LK had a nice road trip with our mom to see our cousin graduate from the University of Dallas. The weather couldn't have been better, and it was a beautiful outside graduation ceremony! On the way, we stopped in at the Spiral Diner, because we heard great reviews about it.
It's such a cute place, like an old-new look. The best part about it was that we felt welcomed and didn't have to search through the menu to find a decent vegan meal - all of the food was vegan! It feels nice when everyone understands and praises you for being vegan instead of feeling out-of-place and misunderstood at normal omnivore restaurants.

There were so many good looking items, so it was very difficult to choose:
*All of the beverages are organic/fair trade/or vegan - we loved the Red Tropical Iced Tea.

*For a refreshing treat, we slurped on the freshest fruit smoothie - Real Smooth Smoothie: "A combination of banana, strawberry, blueberry, and pineapple." We had ours blended with FRESH orange juice and almond milk. Oh, to die for...makes us want our own juicer to juice fresh fruits/vegetables!

*Our mom and us all shared three meals -
Sweet Luv’Us Hummus Wrap: "A layer of baked sweet potato, a layer of hummus, broccoli, cucumber, avocado, salad greens, and spicy walnuts, rolled in a flour tortilla." This was very yummy, especially the sweet potatoes, avocado, and broccoli. We asked to have it with their raw walnut salad dressing instead of ranch, and it was good. Creamy, flavorful, and filling!

The McNut Burger: "A tasty and healthy patty made from a blend of sunflower seeds, carrots, brown rice, and spices topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion..." We had ours on toasted spelt quinoa bread with avocado and agave mustard salad dressing on the side to dunk it in! The dressing was wonderful. The burger was good, like Dr. Praeger's burger. It was nice, but I wouldn't get it again just because it wasn't anything unique and special.

Viva las Migas: "Tofu scramble mixed with black beans, corn, black olives, bacun bits, onions, red bells, potatoes, and salsa. Topped with avocado and sour cream and served with corn chips, corn tortillas..." This was delicious and nicely flavored. The corn tortillas were very good. The meal was also tasty with agave mustard dressing drizzled on top.
*From the bakery, we took back a huge gooey brownie and a oatmeal cranberry cookie. The cookie was more like a sweet sugar cookie, which we're not fond of. The brownie was good, especially the nuts and chocolate morsels, but like all brownies, it is not healthy and there was guilt

For our cousin's graduation, we made vegan strawberry muffins:
3 Tbsp ground flaxseed

1/4 cup soy milk

1 cup oat flour (We use Bob's Red Mill)
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unrefined whole cane sugar

1 6 oz. carton strawberry soy yogurt (We use Whole Soy & Co.)
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup fresh strawberries, diced
3/4 + 1/3 cup soy milk

Wash and dice strawberries.

Mix flax and milk in a small bowl and let sit for a few minutes to make your "egg".

Preheat oven to 350 F and line mini muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and dash cinnamon heavily. (We forgot to measure the amount of cinnamon, but do it to your liking. We are cinnamon lovers.)

Combine wet ingredients in another bowl, except for the strawberries. Add wet mix to dry and stir just enough to combine. Gently stir in strawberries.

Divide batter into muffin cups, sprinkle tops with cinnamon, and bake for 13-16 minutes. If using big muffin liners (we used mini), then bake for about 20-25 minutes.

Makes about 24 mini muffins. May be good to eat with strawberry jam, more cinnamon, or some almond butter.

Thanks Spiral Diner for making our trip extra special! And hope everyone gets a chance to eat at a vegan restaurant. What vegan restaurant have you all been to, and what foods were noteworthy?

Cheers, LK

Saturday, May 17, 2008

No Bake Fruit Treats

Fig Pecan Bars

1 1/2 c. dried figs, cut in 1/2 and soaked in hot water
1/3 c. + 2 Tb finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 Tb no sugar added raspberry jam

Drain figs and process until pasty. Mix thoroughly the fig mixture with chopped pecans. Then add the jam. Smooth into a bar pan, slice into squares, and put in the fridge to firm up. Enjoy!

Other variations: add a little orange zest or lemon zest instead of jam. Add some cinnamon instead of jam and use walnuts instead of pecans.

Apricot Balls

3/4 c. dried apricots, diced and soaked in hot water
1/2 c. almonds, processed till finely chopped
1/4 tsp coconut extract

Drain apricots and process until pasty. Mix thoroughly the apricots with the chopped almonds. Then add the coconut extract. Form into balls and put in the fridge to firm up. Enjoy!

Other variations: add jam instead of coconut extract. Add maple syrup.

Apricot Cocoa Brownie Balls

3/4 c. dried apricots, diced and soaked in hot water
1/2 c. almonds, processed till finely chopped
1 tsp agave nectar
2 - 2 1/2 Tb cocoa powder
1/2 tsp chai seeds (optional)

Drain apricots and process until pasty. Mix thoroughly the apricots with the chopped almonds. Then add the remaining ingredients. Form into balls and put in the fridge to firm up. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Banana Cake and Trying New Foods

We took a trip home this weekend (Houston) and visited our parents. We had a nice time with our dad and with our Grandma on Mother's Day, and a great time with our mom as well! It was so nice to relax and enjoy time with our family without being stressed and worried about doing homework! Our favorite part of the trip was going to Arts of Glaze, where we got creative and painted ceramic cereal bowls, while enjoying quality time with our mom, who painted a beautiful cross.

Our mom had quite a few ripe bananas, and we were dying to bake something special, so instead of baking the usual banana bread, we tried Susan's Banana Coffee Cake!

It turned out wonderful! Lot's of bananas in the center of a soft slightly sweet cake. We actually made 1 1/2 the recipe to use up 3 bananas instead of 2. We used vanilla soy yogurt, much more cinnamon, and only 6 Tb coarse brown sugar instead of the recommended 8-9 Tb. It was plenty sweet even though we reduced the sugar. We used oat flour, which made it soft and fluffy. Definitely a great recipe to make in the future. We might add more cinnamon in the batter and some mashed bananas too.

While visiting home, we went grocery shopping at Kroger, and found some great new finds!

Apple Snapz

- We tried the Apple Banana Apple Snapz and really liked them. We just bought the Apple Strawberry and Cinnamon Apple varieties, but looking at their website they have more flavors, such as Apple Blackcurrent and Apple Orange. They even have Beetroot Snapz, and Carrot with Paprika Snapz!

Panda Licorice Flavored With Herbs

- We've had their original licorice and we really like the subtle flavor. We recently tried the licorice flavored with herbs, intrigued by the combination of herbs, and we were quite impressed! The peppermint made it slightly cooling on the tongue!

Celestial Seasonings Tea Dreams Tropic of Strawberry Ice Cream

- This tropical strawberry rice dream ice cream was pretty good with the addition of fresh strawberry slices. The mouthfeel was very creamy, almost rich, but then slightly shavy rather than smooth (when spooning it out it made shavings). Good flavor, but not the greatest. Our favorite ice cream so far is So Delicious - especially the Fruit sweetened Vanilla.

Pacific Natural Foods Oat Milk

- Yummy! So good with cereal and strawberries or blueberries. Would be good in muffins or pancakes! Silk Vanilla Soy milk, Pearl Original Soy milk, Blue Diamond Original Almond milk, and this oat milk are our top 4 milk alternatives!

WholeSoy & Co Soy Yogurts

- We've mentioned that we love the blueberry and strawberry soy yogurts, and we also like the vanilla and peach. We recently found 3 new flavors that we've never tried before - lemon, cherry, and raspberry. The lemon was ok- slightly rich, but good with bananas like a lemon pudding. We enjoyed the raspberry one with frozen fruit and granola. The cherry one was the best of the 3 - great cherry flavor, and tasty with frozen cherries!

Bob's Red Mill Apple Cinnamon Granola

- One of our favorite granolas now! We've tried Back to Nature granola and we loved the classic granola, but after trying this, this may be our favorite. It wasn't too apple-y in flavor, which we liked. Great with yogurt and blueberries!

Dried Mango Slices

- At Brazos Natural Foods (where L works) we've tried the best dried apricots and recently, the best dried mango! It tasted just like mango, and it had a great bite to it - not dry or tough, but somewhat like a fruit chew. Great plain, but also quite good with some almond butter on it.

Hope you all can try out these great food products! What new food product have you tried recently?

- LK Sisters

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

We're Back!

Our spring semester is officially over!

We celebrated instantly by going to the library and then baking scones and cookies - Scottish oatmeal scones with walnuts, and oatmeal cookies with walnuts. We were on an oat

So, we have been bad bloggers this semester - blame biochemistry and our other classes with lots of writing. This post will just be various food pics we've taken over the past few weeks.

First off, Part 1 is about foods that warm the soul:

- Since it was finals this past week, we wanted quick and easy snacks. The picture above is raw apricot-nut balls. One batch has cocoa powder in it for a chocolate fix, while the other batch is with coconut extract. Yummy, natural, and healthy!

- Next up, two Veganomicon recipes! A few weeks ago we tried the asparagus quiche with tomatoes and tarragon, since asparagus was in season. It was our first time to use fresh tarragon, and it gave a very nice flavor. We used filo dough pastry sheets for the crust. It wasn't a firm quiche, but more of a creamy bean dip texture. We really loved it with tomatoes, cucumber slices, and with crackers like a dip.

- Our other Veganomicon recipe was the almond quinoa muffins. We had a lot of cooked red quinoa sitting in our fridge and thought to do something creative with it. These muffins are really good. We love foods with texture, and the quinoa gave a nice but subtle texture. Instead of dried apricots/currants, we used freeze-dried green apple slices. We also used corn flour instead of almond flour and increased the cinnamon because we love cinnamon.

- We also made a dish that semi-followed the Veganomicon recipe "quinoa salad with black beans and mango". We just mixed black beans, diced fresh mango, bell pepper, spinach, diced squash, and quinoa together. It was very yummy!

- We have not made much soup this spring because it's been too hot, but we had a lentil-split pea-barley soup mix we needed to make. We just simmered the mix with a no-salt added vegetable boullion, some tomato paste, and cauliflower flowerets, and then in the last few minutes added arugula to wilt. Very filling and healthy. This was our first time to try Arugula and now it is our favorite, because it can be eaten cooked or raw like spinach and has a nice spicy bite!
- Another great meal we made was pesto flatbread pizzas. We made basil pesto (no cheese) with walnuts, fresh basil, and some nutritional yeast, and topped it with onion and tomatoes. It was so decadent! Just imagine walking along the streets of Italy passing by an authentic restaurant with the smell of pesto in the air. :)

Now, Part 2 is about fresh foods that make you excited for summer!:

- We've been on a kick for salads and lettuce/arugula ever since our AC has been cranking. They are so versatile and refreshing! One day we had a salad with walnuts, figs, chives, cucumbers, and balsamic vinegar. This picture is a salad we had with sunflower seeds, mango, sundried tomatoes, avocado, and carrots with Seeds of Change's roasted red bell pepper salad dressing.

- Other simple dishes we enjoyed were a marinated cucumber tomato salad with chives and balsamic herb dressing, and a strawberry banana smoothie. Like Veggiegirl recently mentioned in her post, smoothies are sooo healthy, refreshing, and filling. We love to make smoothies, such as pineapple banana cherry, or banana almond butter, or blueberry banana, among lots more!

- This last photo is just showing the beauty of fresh vegan food. Black eyed peas, avocado, and spinach in a wheat wrap, served alongside the tomato salad.

Hope you all have a blessed mother's day and celebrate the coming summer days! Here's a great song by Chris Rice that reminds us to just have fun and smile at the good things life brings us.
"Life gave me lemonade and I can't imagine why. Born on a sunny day, beneath a tangerine sky, I live life without pretending, I'm a sucker for happy endings. Thanks for the lemonade!"

-LK Sisters