Friday, December 18, 2009

Sweet Surrender

I noted in an earlier post that my "near vegan" claim goes out the window around the holidays, while my status as a vegetarian stays intact. I guess I just don't have the willpower. This week has been a perfect example of my lack of restraint.

My office receives quite a few goodies from vendors with which we work during the year. Sometimes we get a nice fruit basket (but honestly, I have so much fruit at home in danger of crossing over to the dark side that I've been eating stuff at work that I brought from home). We get a lot of Hickory Farms meat and cheese boxes, too. I can resist those, no sweat. But when there are two ginormous barrels of cheesecorn and caramel corn in our kitchenette, I can hear the sirens' song calling to me. I cannot resist the cheesecorn in the least.

Plus, for the second year, my company has had an in-house bake sale to raise money for the United Way. I baked some banana walnut muffins that I got from an old church cookbook of mine, but veganized it with Earth Balance margarine and flaxseed/water egg substitute. I'm afraid they didn't sell very well, although I told no one they were vegan. (My office knows I'm vegetarian, but since I'm so unsuccessful in my vegan efforts, I haven't made mention of it.) So I brought home quite a few unsold muffins to keep in the freezer and thaw one at a time for breakfast.

Of course, my healthy offering didn't stand a chance when up against pecan pie, homemade cookies, Chex mix, ranch-flavored oyster crackers, cheesecake...I could go on. For $5, I bought a bag of Chex mix, slice of raspberry cheesecake, homemade turtles (circle pretzels with a pecan half pressed into a melted Rollo candy), and some sugar cookies for the kids. The cheesecake - devine! The turtles - faboo! The Chex mix - addictive! To make matters worse, I was asked to man the table for the afternoon and found myself with a dollar burning a hole in my pocket. Hello, pecan pie slice - goodbye, good intentions. (Gosh, I sometimes wish my co-workers - or their wives in some instances - weren't such good cooks.) I didn't even eat dinner last night, I was so full.

Then today, one of my co-workers handed out homemade peanut butter balls. Enough, already! Chocolate with peanut butter is my kryptonite! Luckily, I only got five of them. I ate three before lunch, then the last two in the afternoon. Followed by an unsold slice of leftover cheesecake. ("I can't believe I ate the whole thing.") Light dinner tonight - half of a leftover baked acorn squash with a little Earth Balance, and about a cupsworth of cold rotini noodles dressed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Oh, well. To quote Scarlett O'Hara, "tomorrow is another day."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amaranth Casserole

I had some amaranth in my cabinets but didn't know what to do with it. I bought it about six months ago and cooked it once, but I didn't know what to expect - it cooks up a bit like polenta. So, feeling creative, I thought I'd attempt a layered casserole. I based a lot of the recipe on one for lasagna that I found at the Fat Free Vegan website. My recipe is pretty tasty (I think the soy sausage makes it), but made a mess out of my kitchen because I had to use so many pots, pans and bowls.

Amaranth Casserole
Layer #1
3 cups water
1 cup amaranth
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Bring water to a boil. Add all other Layer #1 ingredients. Cover; lower heat to medium low. Cook for 30 minutes. Stir thoroughly when done.

Layer #2
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. fresh sliced mushrooms
4 soy breakfast sausage links, sliced thin
1 jar pasta sauce
1 can sliced black olives, drained

Cook oil, mushrooms and soy sausage in frying pan. When mushrooms are beginning to soften, add pasta sauce and olives. Warm through.

Layer #3
10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 lb. firm tofu, drained
2 tbsp. plain soymilk
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Mash all Layer #3 ingredients together.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray and layer ingredients as follows: 1/3 of Layer #1, 1/2 of Layer #2, 1/2 of Layer #3. Repeat once again, then top with remaining 1/3 of Layer #1. Cover casserole dish with foil, bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil; bake an additional 15 minutes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Well, we've been hit by our first major winter storm here in the Midwest - and it's a lulu! School let out early yesterday and no school today because of 14 inches of snow. Yikes! It was so bad, my office closed today - and we never close! Basically, if you can make it to work, great; if not, stay home and stay safe. About half of us live in town (I live less than a mile from the office), the other half much further out, so typically the townies are stuck working while the others burn a vacation/comp day.

Spent the day inside with the kids while my husband was outside with the snowblower. The kids and I did laundry, played video and board games, and got out the watercolor paints. I also baked the Garlic Basil Muffins from the VegNews e-newsletter. A new recipe - they turned out really well. A nice, savory biscuit in muffin form.

No school tomorrow (very dangerous wind chills in the forecast), but I'm sure I'll be at the office while my husband is home with the kids. I hope they don't go stir-crazy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Arch Nemesis

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my family and I did a lot of traveling across the state. On Thanksgiving Day we went to the northern border and my husband's folks - then, we headed to the eastern end of the state to spend a few days with my dad - then, home again in the state center. When you travel with kids, you need to make a few stops for food and potty breaks, and more often than not, we find ourselves at McDonald's.

Why, oh why, does McDonald's - probably the largest fast food chain in the world - have no decent vegetarian menu options? Salad minus the chicken, apple dippers, and yogurt parfaits are pretty much all from which you can choose. And when you need to eat in the car, the salad ain't gonna work. On Friday, we went through a Mickey D's drive-thru. It wasn't my first choice because I was really hungry and knew I wouldn't be able to get much, but I didn't want to force my husband to drive aimlessly through an unfamiliar town looking for another option - we wanted to make good time.

After staring at the menu board, I ordered the fruit and walnut salad and small french fries (although I'm pretty sure the fries at McDonald's aren't vegetarian). When we pulled up to the first window to pay, the shift manager told me they were all out of fruit and walnut salads. Oh, great. Now what? I asked (and not as politely as I usually would) if they had any vegetarian options; he suggested the fruit and yogurt parfait. Fine, great, I'll take it. I was really hoping that he would say they had veggie burgers stashed in the back, but just didn't have them displayed on the menu. No such luck. So I ate my parfait and fries.