Birthday for the Gramster!

Thursday (the 3rd) was my Grandma’s birthday! We celebrated on Saturday by gathering together at her place. Here’s just a sprinkling of her grandkids and great grandkids..

We gathered in a room just off the courtyard to take advantage of the beautiful fresh air. My cousins flew kites while I took photos..

We all gathered around and ate food my parents brought from home, including mom’s homemade tomatillo salsa and chips (my delicious nemesis). My contribution to the combination Cinco de Mayo/Birthday party celebration was homemade vegan tamales!

A combination of my tamale making skills learned from my cousin Norma, the recipe from Veganomicon and watching the “Taste of Peru” segment on Triple D (for the flavored masa idea), I came out with some slightly spicy, enchilada sauce flavored tamales!

There may be more soon. I have tamale husks wallpapering the walls..

Oh. And here’s a random shot from London! (I know it looks like a backdrop but I promise it’s real!)


Here a Bake, there a Bake..

For the past two weeks I have been obsessed with bakes. It all started over the Edible Perspective with her baked buckwheat post.

If you haven’t stopped by her site yet, I suggest you do. Her bakes have been popping up all over the blogging world, as well as the rest of her fabulous recipes. My breakfasts just haven’t been the same since I started reading oh-so-long ago.

There’s been a few flops before I really got it right here. Then I purchased an Italian made soup crock and started experimenting outside of buckwheat (mostly for fear of running out..).

I’ve had 3 major successes. All have been inspired by Ashley’s original recipe.

The first is a blueberry kamut bake.

Stuffed full of wild blueberries and topped with vanilla bean coconut butter!

Blueberry Kamut Bake
1/4 cup raw kamut, ground finely
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon raw buckwheat groats
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 banana, mashed
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax meal + 2 1/2 tablespoons water)
1/4 cup wild blueberries (for filling)

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease your soup crock (or whichever baking vessel you choose to use). Mix up your flax egg and let that sit to the side while you’re working. Mix together your dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the banana, pumpkin, milk and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add in the egg and mix again.

Spoon half of your mixture into the baking vessel and flatten with a spoon. Arrange the blueberries on top of the batter so there’s a slight border around them. Spoon the rest of your batter on top of the blueberries and flatten. Bake for 30 minutes and top with whatever your heart desires. As is the case with most bakes. 😉

Next up is a Mexican Cocoa Bake.

I used the leftover “filling” from my Blueberry Lime Cheesecake from the other day as a filling for my bake. Can you say YUM?!

Mexican Cocoa Bake
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 tablespoon raw buckwheat groats
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 flax egg
1/2 banana, mashed
1/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons non dairy milk
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Following the same procedure as above, whip those ingredients up and stuff the bake with whatever you choose. Be it leftover “cheesecake”, coconut, berries or even just leaving it unstuffed; all options would be wonderful!

The last (but certainly not the least) bake I have for you today is of the savory variety. I enjoyed the bakes so much I started to wonder why I couldn’t make them for dinner, too! So experiment I did!

In my opinion it turned out extremely well. So well that I think I’ll make a larger version for Kyle and I to share sometime. Comfort food: Indian style!

Stuffed Indian Chickpea Bake
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 tablespoon lentils
1 tablespoon flax meal
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch ground cloves
1 flax egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons non dairy milk
2 cloves garlic, crushed

For the filling:
1 pitted date, diced
1/4 cup chopped frozen spinach
3 mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch cumin

Saute the date, spinach, mushrooms and spices in a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms start to brown a bit. Remove from heat, mix up your flax egg and get to mixing up that batter! Layer the ‘shroom mixture into the bake and stick that sucker in the oven!

This guy needs a little more oven time, so bake him for about 35-40 minutes.

I topped this bake with a little savory almond butter and a cranberry/chipotle/strawberry jam I threw together a few mornings ago.

I hope maybe there’s a bake that strikes your fancy in that list! I know I can’t stop with the bakes.

Once you start, you won’t be able to stop either..

I hope to be back tomorrow night for some exciting news!!

Blueberry Lime “Cheesecake” with a Kick

The internet connection I was getting in my house is now completely inactive.

That sucks.

Of course that’s what I get for not setting up my own internet connection.

So now I’m sitting at Starbucks, sipping on a sparkling water (my first time drinking this San Pellegrino stuff) and kicking myself for forgetting to download the pics of my newest bake from this morning!

Another time, another post I guess!

With the temperatures reaching the mid 70s yesterday, I was itching to spend the day outside. When I got home from work, Kyle surprised me with some yummy wraps for a picnic lunch. He roasted his own red peppers, caramelized some onions and placed them on top of a nice soft green onion tortilla with a layer of red pepper hummus and some romaine! He’s so sweet sometimes. 😉

We packed up those wraps with some extra snackables I had in the pantry and headed out to the park to soak up some sunshine. Leave it to me to soak up too much and burn myself.

Darn my fair skin.

Lunch was DELISH!

Afterward we wandered around outside the strip malls to soak up some more sunshine in small doses. We would have preferred to play frisbee, but the ground was SOAKED from 2 straight days of rain. Sadness.

After a while we started to feel peckish again.

Kyle offered to take me to my absolute favorite restaurant in this town, La Villetta. I was ecstatic! This place is the only place in town I’ve found that is super vegan-friendly. However odd my request may seem, they always get it right. And get it right with a smile.

I left the camera in the car and was too excited to take photos with my phone. I just wanted to enjoy our meal. I know, bad blogger!

We started with a free bruschetta appetizer (it’s customer appreciation month after all) and their yummy fresh bread. Kyle decided to get the endless soup, salad and breadsticks. I decided on pasta. The part I was most excited about: the marinara sauce. I have an obsession.

I. Love. Marinara.

I had fettucini cooked in olive oil with tons of fresh sauteed veggies. Carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, onions and jalapenos all made it into the pool. Along with some garlic and oil. The marinara came on the side.

I have to say I was SO impressed with this that I will request it the next time we go in.

If you’re ever in the area and decide to go to La Villetta, be sure to ask for Melissa. She was the best server I’ve had in a long time (they’re all good but she was fantastic!)

After stuffing ourselves silly, we decided to walk some of that off by stopping at Walmart to pick up Season 5 of CSI. WOO HOO!

We hurried home to watch.

And make tarts.

This raw tart idea came from Vegan Culinary Crusade. I’ve been seriously drooling over this tart for almost 3 days and finally decided to make it. Kyle did deserve a yummy dessert after all his hard work from making lunch and taking me out to a fantasmic meal!

Boy was this thing worth the effort I put into it. I don’t think the filling whipped up as well as Lisa’s but it was tasty! To me it tasted just like cheesecake filling, but better! And way more nutritious!

Blueberry Lime “Cheesecake” with a Kick (adapted from Vegan Culinary Crusade)
1 cup raw walnuts
4 dates, pitted
pinch of salt

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours
3 dates, pitted
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons non dairy milk (I used soy milk, but you could use raw homemade milk to keep it completely raw)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Fresh blueberries (or strawberries) to top

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, dates and salt until fully combined and formable. Press the crust mixture into tart tins, little souffle cups, shot glasses, whatever you’ve got that’s tiny and cute. Make sure to press up into the sides a bit so you can see the beautiful crust after you put the topping on. I got about 3 small tarts and a shot glass tart out of this recipe. Plus I had some filling leftover (which I used in my chickpea bake this morning..) Place the containers in the freezer while you make the filling.

Without rinsing the food processor, toss in the cashews, dates and cayenne and let ‘er rip. While the processor is on, add in the lime juice and milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together. It will look like a thick cream cheese mixture. I think mine took about 10 minutes.

Remove the tart shells from the freezer and fill them with that yummy cashew filling. Even out the tops of your filling a bit and place back in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to chow, remove from the freezer, top with blueberries or strawberries and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.

You will enjoy this.

I guarantee it.

Check out Vegan Culinary Crusade. This woman is amazing and has fantastic recipes. I have so many of them bookmarked already and she just keeps adding more. I can’t wait to conquer another one!

Ode to Okra

First off I want to thank Angela for featuring my meat(less)balls in her Recipe Link Love for today! I love that she features vegan recipes from tons of bloggers.. but it makes my recipe pile start to teeter a bit!

My mom still raves about my “really yummy meatballs” whenever she talks about my switch to vegan eating. I think she likes them more than I did!

I’m so glad to have such a proud mama! =)

She would probably like what I whipped up for dinner last night, too. I know I was pretty pleased!

I give you: Spicy Okra Mole!

If you’ve never tried okra, I suggest you give it a whirl. The flavor and the crunch even after it cooks makes the fact that it looks a little sticky while cooking bearable. =)

I’ve been wanting to make the tofu mole out of the Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health cookbook for a while now. I checked the book back out of the library just so I could get the recipe. My only reservation was that I didn’t want to eat tofu. I ate a lot of it over the weekend. I decided that the best substitute for the day was the okra I had hanging out in the freezer!

I’m so glad I made the substitution! Yum!

Here’s my adaption of the recipe from the Moosewood cookbook!

Spicy Okra Mole (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 chipotle peppers from a can, diced
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 cups sliced okra (I used frozen)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 can water (using the can from the tomatoes)

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Toss in onions and cook until they start to turn clear. Add in garlic, salt, thyme, cinnamon and cumin. Cook another 2 minutes, then add in okra and chipotle peppers. After about 5 minutes, the okra starts to turn tender. At this point, add in the tomatoes, cocoa powder and water. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I served my mole sauce over some brown rice and topped it with 1/4 of an avocado, sliced and the juice of half a lime. Nomnomnom. Lunch was fantastic, I tell you!


In other news:

I’m finally getting around to posting the awesomely wonderous “Pudgy Cake” my supervisor, Tami, made for a co-worker’s birthday a few weeks ago. She used the recipe she found over at Cookies and Cups to create this 3 layered humongo cake! She switched it up and used a whipped cream frosting instead of a canned frosting.

Unfortunately the cake was not vegan, but Tami was nice enough to bring me in a small package of Oreos so I could have a sugar rush, too!

My co-workers are so sweet. No pun intended. =)

This bad boy was GONE by the end of the day. We were floored. Sweets + office = demolished!

Soup has me sold!

When it’s this cold out (yes it is snowing.. again..) all I can think about is soup. And chili. Oh man.. why didn’t I make chili?? Later this week perhaps.

I’ve been eating a lot of pasta lately, so I wanted to eat something that was a little less heavy tonight. I am in LOVE with red peppers so I chopped some of those up and just randomly threw some other veggies in the crock-pot this afternoon before heading to work. Half days are great for crock-pot soup since I know I’ll be home and ready to eat in 4 1/2 hours instead of 9.

I don’t like much salt in my food, so I added it in the form of the yummy toppings I threw on after the fact. This time I used some of the leftover ricotta tofu and kale pesto from last night. You could top this with whatever you like, avocado is always a great option!

Red Pepper and Rice Soup
1/4 cup beans, soaked overnight (I used flageolet beans)
1/4 cup brown or black rice, rinsed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons corn kernels
2 cups water (you could also use veggie stock here)
1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder

Throw all ingredients in your tiny (and in my case, borrowed) crock-pot, give it a quick stir, cover and set the heat to low. Cook for 4 1/2-5 hours or until beans are done to your liking. Add desired toppings!

Hot DOG it’s vegan!

That’s right, I made vegan hot dogs. I was SO proud of myself I ran outside jumping up and down with pride to meet Kyle.

“Guess what I did, guess what I did?!”

I then demanded he hurry up and make himself a dog and get to work on chowing!

I saw the seitan dogs on (never home)maker and was utterly intrigued by the idea. I got to work and switched up a few ingredients but pretty much followed the recipe.

I made some oatmeal dill buns to go with the dogs, too! There isn’t a recipe for those because, well, the dough they were made from was a mistake. I had wanted to make a loaf of bread for our security officer at the bank but I wasn’t sure that the variation I tried would work after my first loaf turned out a little gummy. I’m ok with slightly gummy bread so I just whipped up a different batch for him and kept the “oatmealy goop” for myself! Well the “goop” turned out well for the buns but I won’t make them again the same way!

The first round of dogs had a topping of a chunky pickle relish, brown mustard and sriracha (served with a side of roasted kale chips). The second round with spicy italian giardiniera and tomato paste for a completely different flavor!

I couldn’t get over the texture of these vegan dogs – so incredibly similar to a normal grilled sausage! I will definitely make these again (and spicier) during grilling season!

Vegan Hot Dogs (adapted from (never home)maker – makes 6 dogs)
1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons black pepper
3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons cold water
4 teaspoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (I added this after the fact since the “dough” was a bit dry. Water would work, too)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare 6 pieces of aluminum foil and set aside.

Mix gluten, flour, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and paprika in a large bowl. Set aside. In a blender, combine water, tomato paste, garlic, olive oil and adobo (or water) and puree until smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and slowly pour in puree. I started out mixing with a small spoon and continued on with my hands, kneading until the color was uniform. Split into 6 portions and form into hot dog shapes. This takes a lot of muscle and pounding but, trust me, it’s worth it!

Place your dogs on your foil wrappers and wrap them snug as bugs in rugs! Twist up the ends of the foil and place on a cookie sheet.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until they start to feel a bit springy. (Never home)maker warns not to over bake them or they’ll be too stiff.

Serve on buns and top with whatever your heart desires! Maybe some homemade ketchup!


How Corny!

So Tuesday morning I checked out some more vegan cookbooks from the library. SCORE! I’ve already come across about 30 recipes I have got to try! Some of those I will be posting about after this weekend. It is Annivalentinese New Year celebration weekend for Kyle and I! Greek themed, even! I had to be different.

In the Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health cookbook, I found a recipe for corn bread. Now I’m a cornbread spaz. I can’t get enough. This recipe looked so good I just couldn’t wait until I had all the correct ingredients to try it. So what did I do? I improvised.

This is what came out of it:

Warmed up and topped with my cocoa walnut butter and some sliced nanners, of course!

Chipotle Buckwheat Cornbread (adapted from Moosewood Restaurant: Cooking for Health)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 cup almond milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch metal pie plate and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix together buckwheat, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and chipotle powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, maple syrup and almond milk. Slowly pour wet mixture over dry mixture and stir until just combined. Pour the batter into the pie plate and bake 15-20 minutes or until the center is just set and the edges are slightly pulling away from the side. Allow to cool overnight before slicing.

This was so yummy! I made it with 1/4 teaspoon chipotle but I think I would up the dosage to 1/2 teaspoon or more the next time. I like some kick!

Yesterday I also received an exciting package at work! I recently won a contest on The Kind Life’s website. I was in dire need of some new makeup tools and a makeup bag! Plus I have two extra bags I can set aside!