Friday, October 26, 2007

Fall Weather

What can we say about this week? Well, it was BEAUTIFUL and RELAXING!

First of all, California came to us this week, as we finally have cool, clear blue skies, sunny, and DRY weather! We have enjoyed keeping our screen door open to feel the nice fresh air blow through the apartment.

It is making us, however, excited and antsy, just thinking about the possibility that we will be living in this weather hopefully everyday, once we graduate and move to the West coast! Our dream is to work for an organic food company in Northern California, Oregon, or Washington state.

Another great thing about this week was that our Dad came up on Sunday to celebrate his 47th birthday. It was so nice to see him and make lunch for him. We made him a vegetarian lunch and, even as a huge meat eater, he overstuffed himself! We have been slowly bringing our Dad to trying new things, such as Sushi and Vegetarian food.We made our Dad sauteed vegetables and bean burritoes with homemade wheat tortillas, which we posted about earlier and are really awesome! With all of the fixings-avocado, tomato, lettuce, salsa, and jalapeño powder (our dad is the king of spicy!), the burritoes came out very tasty and filling!

For our Dad's birthday dessert, we made Maple Lemon Cranberry-Date Bars on oat crust. All I can say, is WOW. This is one of our favorite recipes!

We modified it slightly by substituting half of the dates for some dried cranberries. The filling is so flavorful, with a lot of great flavor dimensions and textures. The zing of lemon, nuttiness of pecans and oats, sweetness and tartness of the dried fruit, and buttery flavor of the crust!

Part of his birthday gift was a creative "goody bag" of snacks - Honeycrisp apple, jalapeño powder, Organic Endangered Species Chocolate Bar with Peanut Butter, and the Date bars.

We also enjoyed this week Roasted Vegetables - Cauliflower, Delicata Squash, and Red Potatoes with garlic. The cauliflower and potatoes taste so nicely when roasted in the oven. The delicata squash was new for us to try. It was ok- similar to acorn. We like sweet potatoes and carrots better than winter squashes.

Here is a great lunch idea - Almond Butter Wrap with shredded carrots and currants. The carrots add a nice freshness with a slight sweetness, too. We will make this lunch often, because it is a way to incorporate one of our favorite vegetable-the carrot!

(Forgive us for those awful plates in the picture - they are from when we were very young, and we still have them! haha...)

Another meal we enjoyed was Mediterranean Chickpeas over whole wheat angel hair pasta. It was like jazzed up spaghetti because of a hint of lemon juice that made it very flavorful, yet it was so simple to make. We didn't follow the recipe exactly (it had a lot of onion and spinach, etc), but made a spaghetti sauce (with our usual squash, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and tomatoes) and tweaked it slightly. Next time we will try tofu or white beans instead of chickpeas.Today for lunch we just threw together hummus mix, some leftover green chiles, oregano, jalapeno powder, and cumin and made a great bean dip. It was quite good when dipped with raw broccoli flowerets, cucumber slices, baked blue corn chips, crackers, and diced tomatoes! Earlier in the week we used the green chiles by mixing it with soft tofu and enjoying it in a sandwich.

And, for dinner this evening we tried something today that we were very unfamiliar with - filo dough. We made Spinach Mushroom & Tofu Fillo Triangles, using "The Fillo Factory"'s Organic Whole Wheat Fillo Dough.

It was fun to make - place filling on a fillo sheet, roll up, and bake for about 10 minutes. Fillo is so thin and crumbly like thin cracker sheets. It was fun to eat, too- as we bite into the pastry, the sheet is so delicate that it breaks and gives this cool texture in your mouth. We enjoyed them by dribbling some balsamic vinaigrette over the pastry as we took each bite! Yum, spinach, mushrooms, tofu, onion, garlic, and herbs!

As you go out into the new week, remember to embrace your family and celebrate life! Also, celebrate the beautiful Fall season and every weather God blesses us with!

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." - John Ruskin

Kind regards, LK

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Starchy Week

So, how many different starches can you eat in a week?

Well, we weren't really intending to have a starchy week, but we wanted to reduce our grocery bill and thought potatoes, sweet potatoes, tofu, and beans were cheap, nutritious, and filling foods. We made some good meals and some were just ok; ultimately we realize that a balanced diet is the key.

What are starchy sources other than potatoes, beans, and bread?
  • tortillas, pitas
  • winter squashes
  • wholegrain breakfast cereals
  • lentils, peas
  • couscous, bulgur wheat, cornmeal

Many people think starch is bad and causes weight gain. Starchy foods actually contain little fat and are rich in complex carbohydrates. Starch provides energy and nutrients such as calcium, iron, and B vitamins.

We first had baked potatoes topped with lots of sauteed onions. Easy, filling, and tasty! Served with collard greens, though we weren't as thrilled with them - we prefer spinach or swiss chard.

We also enjoyed a tofu stir fry served with short grain brown rice. We seem to always enjoy a stir fry every week - this one had snap peas, yellow squash, onion, red bell pepper, and mushrooms with the sauce adapted from the Thai Tofu Saute, but with ground ginger instead of curry powder!

More potatoes - sweet potatoes! We were hoping this would be good, because we love sweet potatoes (and well, anything orange), but these weren't good this week. So starchy and thick and we were stuffed with just a few bites. Next time stick to organic sweet potatoes - those always turn out great, juicy and sweet, and not so starchy. After this meal, we were getting tired of starch...

But oh, the next meal was 10 times better- cornbread and black bean soup!!

We've been dying for cornbread - moist, soft, slightly
sweet cornbread - and that's what we got! We followed Crystal's recipe, and used spelt and kamut flours and honey instead of maple syrup. Did you know that kamut flour is highly nutritious (It has up to 20-40% more protein than wheat, up to 65 percent more amino acids, contains more healthy fatty acids, and is rich in magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E - reference)and more tolerated by those who are allergic to wheat? It has a subtle, nutty, and buttery flavor. For our cornmeal, we used medium ground, so it was slightly gritty and crumbly but in a good way. Sometime we'll try it with fine ground cornmeal for an even more melt-in-your-mouth experience.The black bean soup is now THE black bean soup we'll use. We've been wanting to replicate Panera Bread's Black Bean Soup because that soup is our favorite (also excellent with their whole grain baguette!)and we don't get to go to Panera Bread very often. After many trials and errors over the years, we finally found the right combination of flavors.

Black Bean Soup
1/2 c. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3-1/2 c. green bell peppers, diced
3 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp or more chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp or more cayenne
3/4 tsp or more cumin

Sauté the onions, garlic, and bell pepper in a 1/4 cup of broth in a nonstick saucepan. Once the onions have become translucent, place in a large stockpot. Add the beans, broth, and spices. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Taste-test the soup after 20 minutes and remove from heat once the beans are cooked to your liking.

Speaking of using Crystal's recipes, we also followed her Pumpkin Pecan Pie. Overall, it was a great backbone for a vegan pumpkin pie without any evaporated milk or eggs or egg substitutes. We ended up using an oat pecan crust, but it didn't wow us. We love pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust, so we'll have to use that next time. We actually liked this without the crust, just as Crystal made hers. Also, we tried these Nature's Path Ginger Spice Cookies this week, and they were really good with this!

This week we also made homemade grahams and used the recipe from King Arthur's Whole Grain Cookbook. We used kamut and wheat flours and cut down on the sugar. They ended up being a little too thick and crispy and not as sweet, but a great snack that we enjoyed having on hand while at school.

Some products we've tried this week include:
Back to Nature Cherry Pecan Chewy Trail Mix Bars -
these were ok - too sweet and the cherry flavor didn't seem natural tasting. Also small and expensive.
Soy Dream Green Tea Ice Cream- very rich - only needed a small serving. Won't get again; we'll stick to So Delicious soy ice cream.
R.W. Knudsen Blueberry Nectar Juice- soo good! Used in banana yogurt smoothies and it was like we had fresh blueberries!
Ryvita Dark Rye Whole Grain Crispbread- great crunch and good with avocado, tomatoes, or mushrooms. Would be good with bean dip.
Roasted Unsalted Almonds - we've been having these like every-other day, and these are so addicting. We may begin eating them everyday... they are one of the top foods to eat!

Anyways, what began as a starchy week (potatoes mainly), ended up as a balanced week full of different starches like crackers, breads, and beans. We had one non-starch meal, and it was so fresh, tasty, but very very filling just the same - a huge salad full of honeycrisp apples, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and avocado.

One last thought:
We are always striving to improve our ways, and this week we want to focus on motivation and optimism- "think positive and you will be positive". Think, “I am prosperous and healthy”,
“God provides for me every day in every way” , and “Today is a GOOD day!” (Maria Palma)


Friday, October 12, 2007

Ups and Downs

So, this week, like every week and every day in life, consisted a little of everything - beauty, peace, struggles, stress, faith, courage, and determination. Everyone experiences roadblocks, and we learn along the way and try to find hope and courage to get through life. We've been studying nonstop (to prepare for 4 tests), which has been giving us stress and requires a lot of motivation, focus, and endurance! Also, I think that for the first time we may have failed an exam, and we both feel awful (and afraid to look in the eyes of our professor when she lectures...haha). This experience happens for a reason, like all experiences, and teaches us to have courage, accept failure, and realize that God has a plan for each of us. In spite of the frustrations, we have found time to relax and have hope. Of course, cooking and baking always boost our moods - we had fun baking homemade cracker and cookies and preparing our dinners. Also, we finally have cooler and drier weather (low 63, high 88, perfectly clear blue skies), so we have enjoyed listening to the birds sing, being among nature, and studying outside. A lot of other changes has occurred too; our friends are graduating or will graduate like us in May, and some are moving away and getting married! It makes us realize that life flies by too fast and that every person goes their own path.

Anyways, this week we have made a lot of great, simple, tasty, and cheap dinners (to reduce our grocery bill). Being vegetarian can be expensive, from buying frozen veggie burgers, processed organic snacks, etc....but we have been trying to make our own crackers, cookies, and veggie burgers. We also find that beans, tofu, and potatoes are filling and cheap for the main dish.

When we first walked into the grocery store this past week, it was a delicious haven of rows and rows of apples!
We love apple season and both miss apple picking, which we did last year when we were exchange students at the University of New Hampshire. What is the one thing you would grow and have in your own backyard if you could? We would definitely love to have our own apple trees! Also, tomatoes and watermelon would be awesome. What are your favorite apples? Some apples we love include #1 Honey Crisp, and then Braeburn, Fuji, Jazz, Granny Smith, Gala, etc...What was so crazy this week, was that the apples were the size of grapefruit! Here is a picture of an apple we enjoyed - it was bigger than our cat's head, like 3 apples in one!

Another great "fresh" thing we enjoyed was fresh herbs from our herb garden at home. We went home last weekend, so we got to pick basil and oregano and use them in our cooking this week! We made a macaroni pasta dinner with an impulsive mix of foods that came together rather well. We cooked fresh green beans, diced onions, minced garlic, herbs, a can of stewed tomatoes, a little bit of tomato sauce, a can of lima beans, and a small amount of TVP in a large skillet till nicely sauteed.

We also enjoyed the fresh basil in Tofu Basil Sandwiches, from Students Go Vegan cookbook.
It turned out really tasty and addicting. It had medium tofu, crumbled, and Naynonnaise, organic ketchup, tons of fresh basil, garlic powder, chopped celery, and nutritional yeast. We served it on Great Harvest Bread Company Honey Whole Wheat bread, lettuce, and sliced tomatoes. It would also be awesome as a dip, with bell pepper strips and cucumber strips, or as "ricotta" on top of pizza or in lasagna.We brought leftover tofu mix to school and ate it for lunch with homemade "wheat thin" crackers (discussed in earlier posts), but this time we added toasted sesame seeds. They are awesome, better than any store bought cracker! We also enjoyed the crackers with some hummus and almond butter.

Another great dish in the works tonight for dinner includes baked sliced, breadcrumbed
eggplant, with couscous and garbanzo bean saute. We have a great big, hearty, purple eggplant ready to be eaten!

*Update on the eggplant dinner - it was very filling and flavorful! We haven't used eggplant in a while, and it was tasty, with Italian seasonings, sesame seeds, a little olive oil, and homemade breadcrumbs, broiled for a few minutes. And the couscous is always tasty- Hodgson's Mills Whole Wheat Couscous with Flaxseed and Soy. The garbanzo saute was a unique flavorful dish, with diced celery, red bell pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and lots of paprika! It was creamy, crunchy, spicy, and overall wow.

Our dessert this week was simple, yet tasty -
cinnamon applesauce cookie bites, veganized. They are light, fluffy, and soft, with flaxseed, margarine, cinnamon, brown sugar, wheat flour, and lots of applesauce. Such a healthy treat, with no eggs!

Cinnamon Applesauce Cookie Bites
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1/3 cup Brown Sugar Splenda mix, or 2/3 cup regular brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 1/4 cup various grain flours (did 1 cup Kamut, 1 1/4 cup Spelt)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp or more ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp flaxseed, ground

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, applesauce, and flaxseed until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add to the applesauce mixture, stirring by hand just until you have a soft dough.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Roll dough into 1 - 1 1/2 inch balls and place on cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. If desired, flatten the balls slightly.
Bake the cookies for 9-12 minutes, checking every few minutes and covering with foil to avoid getting too hard or overbrowned on top. Cool and enjoy!
Makes ~15 cookies.
(Could make bigger to be extra soft and fluffy, and add currants or dried cranberries)

So, this week, let us think of all the great things in our lives and not let the bad things bring us down. Let us all find time to enjoy life, either through cooking, reading, praying, etc.., and keep on doing the best we can. We shouldn't hurt others and be the person to bring their day down either. "Sometimes we need to look hard at a person and remember that he is doing the best he can. He's just trying to find his way. ~Ernest Thompson" (The Attitude of Gratitude blog, 10/06/07)

Smile!, LK

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Another Nutritious Week

Howdy everyone (as we say at Texas A&M),

Ready for another nutritious lecture?

This week we made awesome colorful fresh healthy foods.

We made tofu scramble again and used mushrooms, spinach, and bell peppers. We also made Rosemary Lemon Tofu Wedges from the Students Go Vegan cookbook, which were simple and refreshing. We love tofu because it is versatile, simple, tasty, and healthy. Tofu is very low in cholesterol and sodium, which is good for the cardiovascular system. It is also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, and a very good source of protein, manganese and selenium - all important for energy production, antioxidant function, and bone health.

To try something new, we used tempeh. We've tried it many times before, when we were on exchange at the University of New Hampshire last year, but we've never actually cooked with it, and it is difficult to find here. We got some at our health food store finally, and made Tempeh with Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard. We used a red wine vinegar sauce, which complimented well with the ingredients. A great mix of flavors and textures. We diced the sweet potatoes really small and they cooked fast that way. Tempeh is a good source of soy protein, riboflavin, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and fiber important for energy production, protein synthesis, GI and heart health.

We also enjoyed a summer-grill feast, with portabella burgers and carrot fries. Juicy thick hearty mushrooms marinated in balsamic vinegar made a great healthy burger. We made our own wheat bagels and used a bagel as our bun. Great chewy bagels - no need to buy any! The carrot fries were divine - a keeper! We are carrot lovers (surprised we're not orange yet!), and loved the spicy fries that resemble somewhat like sweet potato fries. Carrots are a good source of Vitamin C, A, K and B6, folate, iron, potassium and fiber important for eye, lung, and heart health.
For our weekly dessert Easy Pleasin' Oat Bars from Vive le Vegan. Great bar that's not too sweet. We used hearty four grain oats, oat bran, and some honey. Very hearty, and would be good to try different variations, such as cranberry orange, pecan, or oatmeal raisin. We actually liked them best with Dalfour Royal Fig Fruit Spread!

Finally, we enjoyed a hearty breakfast - Brown Rice "Oatmeal" with Pears and Cinnamon. We had excellent juicy pears and decided to cook them over the stove. We added cinnamon, and topped short grain brown rice for breakfast. The short grain makes it more creamier than long grain brown or white rice. Excellent and you wouldn't think rice would be a creamy alternative to oats. Brown rice is an excellent source of manganese, selenium, magnesium, and fiber, which help with GI health, energy production, and heart health, along with many other benefits.

So next time you eat, think about the nutritious components in your food and all the healthy benefits they provide!

- LK