Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pie Anxiety

Around the Thanksgiving holiday, I'm a little less near-vegan than I try to be the rest of the year. I still avoid meat and don't drink milk or eat eggs or cheese on their own, but I let myself have cheese, eggs and milk in baked goods. So, for about 4-5 days, I'm purposely off the wagon.

Today, I attempted two pies. The first is a recipe I threw together on my own: Berry Cranberry Pie. However, I'm going to need to rethink this one. The flavor is wonderful (maybe a little too sweet), but the filling didn't set. I ended up breaking up all the crust and stirring it together with the filling and calling it a Berry Cranberry Cobbler instead. When I work out an official recipe to make it a cobber (and preferrably a vegan one), I'll post a recipe. In the meantime, I've posted a picture of my "pie" after I stirred it up (above).

My second pie is a recipe I've used before: Quick Quiche from the Food Network website. I mostly followed the recipe, but used 1 tbsp. cornstarch for the flour and I didn't add onions (my husband hates onions). I had a little trouble with this pie, too (see second picture, above).

For some reason, the pre-made crust (which has lard in it - I didn't realize that until I got the crusts home from the store - I used the other crust for the Berry Cranberry Pie - I'd already purchased them and I didn't want them to go to waste) broke all along the sides and the quiche rose like a souffle, along with the crust edge. Oh, well...I'm sure it will still taste great!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Orange You Glad for a Bad Pumpkin Pun?

Along with cranberries, I LOVE pumpkin this time of year. Yes - I know I can buy canned pumpkin year round (and I do), but when the temperature drops and leaves are crunching underfoot, my mind dwells on pumpkin. Especially pumpkin pie. I've never attempted a vegan pumpkin pie before, and I'm notoriously afraid of making my own pie crusts, so I trolled the internet for a no-bake pie. What I found was the Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe at I substituted spelt flour for the rice flour, but otherwise followed the recipe.

I tried to blend the ingredients in my blender, but I don't think it's powerful enough. Next time, I'll try it with my stand mixer and the wisk attachment. Also, I used too small of a pie plate and it ran over quite a bit - as you can see. (Good thing I had the forethought to put a tin foil-lined pizza pan under it as it baked.) And it really didn't make it's own crust. It turned out more like a custard in the shape of a pie. is delicious! I will definitely try this recipe again, but with a few modifications.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Life's the Berries

One of my favorite foods around Thanksgiving and Christmas is cranberries. When I was a kid, my mom would usually just crack open a can of jellied cranberry sauce. Not to pleasant to look at, but delicious. Just within the last few years, I've discovered the wonder and simplicity of making my own cranberry sauce from scratch. Now, I don't see why anyone would bother with canned cranberry sauces when making your own is so easy! This latest batch was a bit of an experiment - I decided to add a little vanilla extract - and wow! It's the best cranberry sauce I've ever made! Even my cranberry-fearing husband ventured to take a bite and really liked it - he compared it to rhubarb sauce. I think I'll make this recipe every time.

Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried, sweetened cranberries

Combine sugar, water, apple juice, cinnamon and vanilla in a saucepot and bring to a boil. Add the fresh and dried cranberries, reduce to a simmer and cook until all the berries pop. Cool and serve.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mean Greens

For dinner last night, I had leftovers - sauteed spinach and mushrooms wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and leftover roasted cauliflower and carrots. I love spinach, but it's probably the only green I eat and not really that often. Essentially, if its leafy-greens-in-a-bag (spinach, iceburg, romaine), I'll buy it every once in a while. Then it usually goes bad before I get it all eaten. I know that kale is a super-green I should be eating, but I don't like it. I've tried it twice (once steamed, once sauteed), and it was just too bitter for my tastes.

When I step back and try to evaluate my veggie intake, it centers on the red/orange spokes of the color wheel - pumpkin, squash (winter and summer varieties), tomatoes, red bell peppers. For green, I'll defrost some frozen broccoli or green beans. But no matter how good it is for me, leafy greens are few and far between on my plate.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Coffee Conundrum

(I just wanted to use "conundrum" in a post title!) I try to keep a small container of soy milk in the office fridge to use in my morning coffee. If for some reason I run out and forget to refill, I skip the coffee and drink green tea with lemon. Today was a day without soy milk...and I really, truly, desperately wanted a cup of coffee. In the kitchenette cupboard - some store-brand non-dairy creamer.

Now, I know that the "non-dairy" part is false advertising. Read the label - sodium caseinate - a milk derivative classified as non-dairy. Huh? Definitely not on the vegan list. But I used it anyway because I wanted coffee and I don't like drinking it black. Now, I feel guilty because I fell off the wagon so early in the day.

One of my big issues with trying to eat vegan is that as soon as I make a conscious decision to eat dairy/eggs, I usually write off the entire day as a loss. I don't engorge myself with cheese omelets, but I make no effort to stop myself if a non-vegan food is presented to me. I didn't do that today (whew!)- I stopped at one cup of coffee - but I don't understand why I view the rest of the day as a "free pass."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pasta with Squash and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Tonight's dinner: roasted cauliflower from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (my personal favorite cookbook) with some baby carrots thrown in for good measure, and my own concoction I call Pasta with Squash and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce. The sauce is very thick, but it really coats the pasta well. (For almost all recipes I will post on this blog, measurements are not exact and mostly to taste. I don't measure when I cook - I just dump things together that sound interesting and sometimes I end up with something great.) I make this pasta recipe all the time - it makes for great leftovers.

Pasta with Squash and Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
1/2 box whole wheat penne pasta
1 pkg. frozen butternut squash puree
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 tbsp. jarred minced garlic
2 tsp. maple syrup
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
black pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package. While pasta cooks, in a small electric chopper pulse together the sun-dried tomatoes (with a little of their oil) and garlic. In a microwave-proof bowl, thaw the squash in the microwave. When the squash is thawed, microwave another minute or two until hot. Then stir in the sun-dried tomato mixture, maple syrup, lemon juice, Italian seasoning and pepper. When the pasta is done, drain and add to the squash mixture. Toss well to coat.

I've switched up this recipe quite a bit, depending on what's in the fridge. I've stirred in drained capers for some extra saltiness. I've also added some jarred fire-roasted red bell peppers into the chopper along with the tomatoes and garlic.

(I had a very good vegan day...until about 7:30 tonight. I made the kids some microwave popcorn and just couldn't resist it. You know, it didn't even taste that great, but something about the salt of it made me keep eating. I ate most of the bag. Now I feel sick...)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

Here's the breakfast I eat almost every day: 12-Grain Muffins and Silk soy yogurt with a good tablespoon of flaxseed meal mixed in. Yummy!! Sometimes the muffin flavor changes (I just finished my last banana muffin), but the muffin/soy yogurt combo stays the same. My husband doesn't understand how I can eat the same thing for breakfast every day, but I just love the flavor. The kids help me bake the muffins about every other Sunday, then I freeze the batch and thaw them one at a time as needed.

I downloaded the muffin recipe from the web, but for the life of me, I can't remember where. Too bad...I'd like to give credit where it's due, especially because I've been making this recipe every two weeks for just over a year! I'll do a little more research and post a link to the recipe if I find it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Veg?

There are so many reasons why people go veg, but I bet I've got one of the strangest you've ever heard...I first went veg for the challenge of it. A little bet with myself - how long could I go without eating beef/chicken/pork/fish before going crazy? Turns out...quite a long time, thank you very much.

In all honesty, I don't miss meat at all. I didn't even have cravings at the beginning of my challenge. Sure, I love the smells of meat cooking - especially grilled hamburgers and bacon prepared every which way - but I don't want to eat it. Before I went veg, I noticed that I wasn't eating much meat anyway. Maybe a few times a week, and mostly for Sunday dinner and the one night a week eating out with my husband and kids.

I'd been playing with the idea of going veg for quite some time before I did it. My biggest concern was how my husband would take it...he's your typical "meat and potatoes" guy. Turns out, he has been super supportive of my efforts, mostly because he's the greatest guy in the world, but also because I'm not pushing him to go veg with me. If he wants to join me, he knows he is more than welcome...but that's his decision to make.

As for the kids...they are meat-eaters. Sure, I push fruit and vegetables at them whenever I have the chance (like all moms), but they eat what is considered a "normal" diet. Maybe when they're old enough to make their own lifestyle decision, they'll jump on the veg bus.

Since I went veg, I've experienced some of the usual (and delightful) side effects - weight loss, lower cholesterol, better blood sugar. And, while my first challenge was to eliminate meat, my ongoing challenge is to find delicious and easy recipes to meet my nutritional needs. I love that kind of challenge!

A New Adventure

Well, I never thought I'd start a blog - especially one about what I eat from day to day - but I realized that I was spending so much time on other vegetarian/vegan blogs that I wanted to have a blog of my own.

One of the main incentives to start my blog was that so many of the sites I visit are written by people seriously committed to the veg lifestyle. Me...I'm vegetarian for all but maybe 3 meals a year (mostly because I ate something I didn't realize had bacon in it). And as for being's a goal. When I cook for myself, it's vegan all the way and I love it! But I have a husband and two young kids who are not veg, and sometimes that cheese pizza they're eating looks and smells too good to resist. I'm not perfect, but maybe a blog like this will hold me a little more accountable for my eating. We'll see...

( the interest of full disclosure...just before I created this page, I had the very cheesy eggplant sandwich at Cheesecake Factory. Eating out and trying to be vegan is even harder...)