Monday, July 29, 2013

happy summer!

It's been almost a year since I made this blog. I remember when I first started it, I totally thought that I was going to post every other day and get lots of views and everything. But it turns out running a blog is actually work... Creating recipes, taking and editing photos, writing the post, etc., all takes a lot more time than you might imagine. I kept at it for a few months, but let's be real, I am not a recipe blogger. I can reblog 100 pale vintage photos on Tumblr every day, but hell, this has proven to be too much work. Especially the "creating recipes" aspect. I am pretty good at throwing lots of ingredients together and having them taste good, but I'm way too lazy to actually make note of portions and directions. Besides, now that I'm gluten-free and that it's summer, basically all I eat is a grain plus a protein plus fresh veggies (aka zucchini...we have so much zucchini...), in a sauce of some sort, and that'd be awfully boring to post. See, I'm good at stir-fries and curries and the like, but I can't, for example, come up with dozens of unique and clever uses for zucchini. To me, zucchini is either grilled, in bread, or in a stir-fry — unless I find an interesting recipe in a cookbook that doesn't require me to be too creative. 

I've really enjoyed my experience cooking throughout the past year. When I started this blog in August, I really didn't know anything about cooking (see this "recipe" I posted where it's clear I don't know how to cook potatoes at all). I feel like I've learned a ton about cooking and a plant-based diet in just a year. I gained full-control of my health and went off medications for the first time in six years. I've gotten in touch with my body, learning how different foods cause me to feel (who would've guessed that my depression would nearly disappear at the removal of sugar from my diet!). I also have learned to take decent photos when I have the time and energy to do so. It's been a great learning experience.

In April I decided to cook my way through the book Veganomicon, and I'm not done with it, but I've sort of reached a standstill - I've completed nearly all of the recipes that are seasonally appropriate. While I think I was pretty good at cooking in March, I believe it was when I started using that cookbook diligently that my food-preparing abilities reached a new high. I mean, I was using ingredients I had never even heard of, making entrees I had never heard of (e.g. using corn husks [?] to make tamales [??] ). If it weren't for Isa and Terry, I think my eating habits would be a lot different! Thank god for unique, delicious, plant-based recipes.

My summer has gone surprisingly well. I got together with a friend who I hadn't seen in several years and we spontaneously flew on a last minute trip to Seattle to visit two of our friends who we hadn't see in six or seven years. I passed my driving test, on the second attempt. I've gone to some concerts. I've hung out with friends. I've read lots of books. I've thought about my future. You know, the usual. This week I'm meeting with a local vegan personal chef, to discuss the possibility of me being her apprentice (I'm like 99% sure it's going to happen, but I can't say so until Thursday), and I'm pretty excited for that. Not only does she cook dinners, she also prepares weekly meals for people, teaches cooking classes, and gives talks on nutrition. She's pretty much the only one of her kind in all of Southern Maine, and her business has been roaring lately, so she definitely needs help. She's really sweet and so knowledgable on plant-based nutrition and cooking that it was would be such an honor to learn from her. I'm very excited to start! I'm also hoping to work at a natural food store, but there aren't very many near me, so who knows if I'll actually get a job at one. I sure hope so, now that I realize how expensive it is to fill up a car with gas!

So anyway, what does this mean for my blog? Who knows! Maybe I'll turn this into a blog just for writing my thoughts. No one actually reads it, so I don't have to worry about being embarrassed. I suppose if I ever have a fantastic recipe, I'll still post it here. I don't have any idea. But I do know that it's almost 2:30am and I should have gone to bed hours ago.

here's the link for the photoset on Flickr for this Hawaiian themed dinner you see here! The photos have explanations in the descriptions.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake with Mocha Frosting (+My Vegan Anniversary!)

Lately I've been noticing people mentioning their first or second or third or twentieth anniversaries of being vegan, which made me wonder when I actually first went vegan. I knew it was sometime in 2010, but it wasn't until I looked through old PhotoBooth photos of me eating Italian ice that I realized it was sometime around May 20th, more or less, that I decided to try it. I mostly did it to test myself, to see if I could do it, and I posted a photo on Facebook every day, calling it "The Ten Days of Veganism". I didn't realize I'd like it so much that it would turn into over 1,000 days and counting. It's actually pretty funny looking back on it now because this was during my Nevershoutnever! fangirl phase (as you can see from my necklace, I always had to wear at least two or three peace signs), and I definitely only tried veganism because peta2 did an interview with Christofer Drew. Please note I do not support PETA and I no longer listen to Nevershoutnever! (except for on occasion when I feel nostalgic. I still know every word to every song... I stopped listening to his music after Harmony when his personality changed a lot, but apparently he's become super chill now and really into vegan food so he seems pretty cool again! LOL OKAY ANYWAY)

Wow, I can't believe I'm posting that photo on the internet. Anyway, in celebration of my anniversary, which is roughly some time around now, I made a vanilla cake topped with a delicious mocha frosting. This was the first time I've baked anything gluten-free that was my own recipe, and I am more than happy with the results. I'm still not a huge fan of the flavor of gluten-free all-purpose flour, but I'm figuring out how to cover it up. If you want to make this with regular all-purpose flour, use 1 cup and leave out the xanthan gum. Also, this is a single-layer cake, so you can feel free to double it if you want.

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake with Mocha Frosting
  • 1 cup + 3 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, or other mild-tasting oil
  • 5 tablespoons pure maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coffee extract
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk

1) Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly oil a circular 8-inch cake pan.

2) In a medium bowl, combine flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3) In a separate medium bowl, mix together oil, syrup, vanilla, coffee extract, vinegar, and non-dairy milk until completely combined.

4) Add dry ingredients to liquids and mix well, until no lumps remain.

5) Pour batter into prepared pan and spread as best you can, smoothing out the top. Bake for 28-32 minutes, or until golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

6) Cool on a wire rack in pan for 10 minutes, then carefully remove from pan and let cake rest on rack until completely cook.

Mocha Frosting
  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (not melted)
  • 2 teaspoons coffee extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk if necessary, but coconut is best)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until very smooth (you'll probably have to stir it a lot in between pulses). If you need to, you can add more milk until it reaches desired consistency. Chill until ready to use.

Monday, May 6, 2013

In Other News, I Am Now Gluten-Free

It's been a while since I've posted anything on here! I don't have any recipes of my own to share, but I can talk a little bit about what I've been cooking. Since I've begun making menus ahead of time and buying groceries accordingly, the quality of the food I cook has skyrocketed. I spend all of my free time cooking, and I just can't get over how much I enjoy it. I'm still cooking primarily nothing but recipes out of Veganomicon, and I am beginning to think Isa and Terry must be goddesses, because there's no way that two humans could create that many perfect recipes. I have yet to be disappointed with a single recipe.

Probably one of my favorite meals I've made from that cookbook was the Greek tofu benedict. I seriously cannot describe how much I loved it. I chose to serve it on top of home fries, which was a very good decision (and it felt most Greek to me, considering I ate roasted potatoes two or three times a day, every day, in Greece). The dill-tahini sauce was fantastic, and almost reminiscent of sour cream (I think I put too much lemon juice in it though, so it was more acidic than it was supposed to be - very good though). I might have to make that meal again soon because it was way too fabulous.

Another meal I made that I had to take a picture of because it was pretty was the Walnut-Crusted Apple-Cranberry Salad Pie from Vegan Planet. Essentially a waldorf salad in a walnut/date crust without lettuce. Unfortunately, it didn't serve well, and instead of looking like cute little piece of salad pie, it was more like a weird mess of apples and date chunks. I'm not sure what I did wrong. It tasted good though! I used raisins instead of cranberries, in case you care.

As of April 27th, I am officially gluten-free. My Crohn's is having a flare, and I'm hoping to stop the inflammation naturally. I usually get flares several times a year and, compared with the flares of typical Crohn's patients, mine are pretty mild. I've never gotten diarrhea, and typically only have bleeding (along with severe fatigue). It usually goes away on its own after a while, but this time it hasn't. So after talking with my GI, TCM, and integrative medicine doctors, we're going to try to take care of this using only alternative treatments. My TCM doctor prescribed a new herbal tea formula for me (the tea tastes like poison but hopefully it works), and I might see her soon for acupuncture. I'm also going to add boswellia supplements, in addition to the turmeric I'm already taking. But I've decided on my own to try for at least a couple weeks to eat a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a very inflammatory food, so even if it doesn't cause me to stop bleeding, it's probably still a good food for me or anyone with IBD to avoid. 

These are some gluten-free chickpea cutlets I made. My favorite recipe out of Veganomicon has always been the chickpea cutlets, and when I decided to go gluten-free, the first thing I thought was "oh my god, no more chickpea cutlets!". Thankfully, there's other people who have had the same horrible realization as me and have already come up with a gluten-free version. I used this recipe, and it was great. Instead of using the chia/flax slurry, I used xanthan gum, which worked well.

Unrelated to food, health, or veganism —— On the April 30th, I went with a couple of friends to see MGMT perform in Portland. Totally going to brag about the fact that I've been to that theater three times and gotten front row every time. It's actually ridiculously easy to get front row there; you only have to show up like an hour or two early. But seriously, MGMT was incredible. I'd seen mixed reviews online about how well they perform live, but they were way better than I ever could have imagined. I think the only reason they might not be best live was because they seemed rather uncomfortable on stage; they didn't move at all (well, to be fair, Ben was sitting, so he couldn't), and I don't think they ever made eye contact with the audience. The setlist was perfect, with a great variety from both albums plus several new songs. Siberian Breaks was magical. Electric Feel was fantastic, and the audience went crazy. This was possibly one of my favorite concerts I've attended. Also, shout out to Andrew and Ben for being the two most beautiful people on the entire planet. Here's some crappy quality photos taken on my crappy quality phone (I know my friends took better pictures, but hey, I don't have Instagram, so I'll never see them!).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chocolate Banana Milkshake

Sometimes I just really need a milkshake. Actually, I need one every day. I've been making these for breakfast daily for at least two weeks now and have yet to tire of them. They're really simple and quick and taste like heaven. Whether you need a milkshake for some 420 cravings or just for a delicious snack, this recipe is definitely worth making. It's so smooth and creamy and is perfect for those times when you miss going to the Burger King drive-through and getting some disgusting thing reminiscent of a milkshake (not that I ever miss that or anything). You can also add in some ground flaxseeds or chia seeds or hemp seeds or any sort of healthy addition that makes you feel happy, but it won't necessarily be as creamy; some nut butter could be good too, but I haven't tried that yet! 

Chocolate Banana Milkshake
  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • sweetener of choice (2 dates, 1 TBL syrup, 1 TBL sugar, or 1 packet of stevia powder)
  • 1/2 cup nondairy milk
  • 1 to 2 cups ice, depending on how thick you want it (I usually use as much as possible because I like thick smoothies!)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional (you can also try adding coffee extract ((to taste)) for a mocha flavor!)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender for several minutes until completely combined and no ice chunks remain.

Makes 1 big serving or two smaller servings (the yield amount really depends on how much ice you add though)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It's April Already?!

My mom and I have been discussing ways to save money, and for a while now we've been considering actually organizing a menu for the week and buying our groceries accordingly. Until now, we've always kept a general supply of foods and made a trip to the grocery store whenever we've needed something (the store's within walking distance).  But this way, if we get everything we need at once, we can make a trip to one of the less expensive supermarkets that are just a bit further away than our usual store and save some money (we actually saved $50+ on our most recent shopping trip). My town's farmers market opens next month too, so if I know ahead of time what veggies I need, I can get most of them there.

The other day I was looking through my copy of Veganomicon when I realized that, for a book I only just got at Christmas, I've cooked an awful lot of the recipes. And there hasn't been a single one I haven't liked. So I'm making it my goal to make everything in the entire cookbook, with the exception of some of the desserts and cookies. I'm not going to go full out Julie & Julia and cry while cooking and almost lose the people I love just because I have to finish the damn cookbook, but I hope to make everything eventually. I'm going to start posting more pictures of what I cook too and not just my own recipes. We'll see how this goes. 

For dinner I had bok choy with crispy shallots and roasted sesame seeds, marinated Asian tofu, and quinoa, plus a side salad with lots of veggies and a homemade Asian sesame dressing. And for lunch I had a vegetable sandwich that wasn't from a cookbook, but okay please just look at how beautiful that sandwich is.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Four Ingredient Banana Bread Pancakes

This is probably one of the simplest breakfasts I make. While I do still love my other pancake recipe, this one is truly my favorite. Not only is it easy to make and incredibly delicious, it's gluten-free and totally healthy! The pancakes are soft and fluffy and taste remarkably like banana bread. Bananas are the sugar-free vegan's savior, because they're so sweet that you almost never need to use an additional sweetener (for example, banana ice cream - way better tasting than any non-dairy ice cream you can buy, and all naturally sweetened). I usually add chopped walnuts and occasionally chocolate chips, but feel free to add a spoonful of any nut butter, different types of nuts or candies, or really anything you can imagine - it's a good recipe to experiment with! Eating these pancakes is the perfect way to start the day! 

Four Ingredient Banana Bread Pancakes 
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • optional: 1 tablespoon each nuts, chocolate chips, carob chips, etc.

1) In a small bowl, mash the banana with the back of a fork until it's as smooth as you can possibly get it. Stir in flaxseed, vanilla, baking powder, and optional fillings until combined.

2) Lightly oil a non-stick frying pan and warm over medium heat. Pour batter into three pancakes (or you could try cooking one giant one, but it won't flip well) and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the underside is cooked. Flip and cook for several more minutes. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chocolate Mocha Cookies

What's that, you say? I essentially post nothing other than dessert recipes? Yeah, that's pretty true I guess. I promise, I do eat things other than cookies and cake! I don't know why it always works out this way. I will try to post some non-dessert recipes soon!

I'm not sure what to call these. They're almost like mini cakes, only more dense. I'm claiming they're cookies. Besides, the original recipe that I was working from was out of Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, so I guess they really are cookies. However, these cookies are not only refined sugar-free, but also fat-free! And they still taste good too! The hint of coffee is perfect, but, if for some reason your digestive system doesn't like coffee, you could leave it out and throw in some chocolate chips instead (or peppermint extract, orange zest, etc. There's lots of flavor combinations you could try). If you want to add an icing, mix together 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon non-dairy milk until complete combined.

Chocolate Mocha Cookies
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee or 2 1/2 teaspoons coffee extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk, or more, as needed

1) Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2) In a large bowl mix together applesauce and syrup for several minutes, until thick. Stir in extracts (or instant coffee). 

3) While stirring, sift in dry ingredients. Add non-dairy milk and continue to combine until a dough is formed. 

4) Roll dough into balls the size of walnuts and place on cookie sheets. Press down on the cookies until they are about 1 1/2" in diameter.

5) Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets for several minutes then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I don't know why I'm posting this, it doesn't even have a recipe

Is it really March 10th already? I think, if anything, running this blog has taught me that being a professional blogger is not a career that will ever be in my future. On that note, I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about colleges... I honestly have no idea where to start in the process of looking at schools. My friends talk to their guidance counselors at high school, but since I'm homeschooled, I'm on my own. Unlike everyone else I know, I don't even have any idea what I'd like to do for a career.  I suppose something to do with food would be ideal, probably at a culinary arts school, but I don't think I'd be very comfortable working with (and eating...) non-vegan food.  It's scary and overwhelming to think about college, even though I know it shouldn't be such a big deal.  Thankfully, I'm only a junior, and I'm probably going to take a year off after school to get a job or volunteer or something, so I still have time.  

Anyway, my dad's birthday was this week, so this was my first chance to use my new Sticky Fingers Sweets cookbook, unadapted and with full sugar and fat.  Taking full advantage of that, I made the choco-raspberry dream (his choice), which is a decadent chocolate cake loaded with raspberry frosting and coated with a rich chocolate ganache. I'll admit, I had no idea what ganache is, and I still don't think I really understand. But what matters is that it tasted magnificent.  This cake was probably the most beautiful thing I've ever created. Really, really unhealthy, but beautiful. I'm not going to post the recipe, since it's not mine, but I'm sure a quick Google search would give it to you if you wanted - or you could just buy the book.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Hummus Crackers & Ginger Lemon Tart

I only have about 20 minutes of battery life left on my computer, so this has to be quick. I don't have any recipes of my own to post, but I wanted to post the links to some fantastic recipes I've made recently.

First is hummus crackers. Yes, crackers that are essentially hummus. I found the recipe for these delicious little pieces of heaven while perusing the hummus tag on Tumblr. I actually ate these with hummus, and it was like hummus-ception. These were pretty simple to make, and they tasted incredible. They're gluten-free too, if that's the sort of thing you like. The recipe is here.

Second is a lemon tart in a ginger cookie crumb crust. This is probably one of the most fantastic desserts I've eaten in a long time. It took essentially no effort to make, so I really would suggest you try it. The flavor is ridiculously good and the texture is perfect. Assuming you use gluten-free ginger snaps, it's gluten-free (there's a recipe link for the gf cookies with the tart recipe), plus it's refined sugar-free and SCD-friendly. Recipe here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Date-Sweetened Apple Bake

This is another one of my go-to recipes. Whenever I'm getting tired of oatmeal or tofu scramble for breakfast, this is always a good replacement. It's mildly sweet, a perfect way to start the day (of course, if you want to eat straight up apple pie filling first thing in the morning, you can add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup). This also works as a dessert, if you'd like. However you eat it, I'm sure the hint of autumn will be a nice pick-me-up during this never-ending winter.

Date-Sweetened Apple Bake
  • 1 apple, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2 tablespoons raisins, optional
  • 3 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup water
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • dash of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider, apple juice, or water
1) Preheat oven to 375°. Spray with cooking spray or lightly oil a small oven-safe dish (mine is 380ml or 2/3 cup). 

2) In a small sauce pan, combine dates and water, and cook over medium heat for several minutes, until dates are soft and beginning to break apart.

3) In a food processor, blend together the dates and cooking water until smooth. Add salt and spices and completely combine. 

4) Combine apple pieces, nuts, and raisins in a small bowl. Add date mixture and mix until the apples are completely covered. Evenly pour cider over apples.

5) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until apples are soft.