Monday, August 30, 2010

Burning Down the House

Three hundred sixty five degrees
Burning down the house

Me. Kitchens. Fire. It's sort of a thing.

When I was 11 and my brother was 10, we came up with a brilliant idea to make crayons in the microwave. My mom's brand new microwave that she had received as a birthday present (this was back in the day when microwaves were new tech and the most kick-ass thing you could get anybody). So on this unsupervised afternoon we put about 10 crayons in a cup and stuck them in the microwave for about 15 minutes.

When I returned to the microwave to check my on my surely awesome candle, I instead found a cup of flames that were threatening the ceiling of the microwave. I quickly grabbed a hot pad and pulled out the flaming cup - just as the ceiling of the microwave was collapsing into a puddle of plastic. Flames shot out the top up the microwave-turned gooey pile and up the wall. Then the potholder that I was using to hold the cup caught fire and I dropped the entire thing in a panic; sending flames shooting across the kitchen linoleum. 

My brother and I were able to get the flames out within about 5 minutes, but needless to say, the microwave (and my mom's deposit on our apartment) was toast. I wasn't allowed in the kitchen again until I was about 17.

So that brings us to present day and I've obviously come a long way.

 My first attempt at making Pita Chips last night. Win.

You'd think being a woman who's cooked more than her fair share of meals in her 29+ years would know to not put anything in the top rack of oven under broil and leave it unattended for 25 5 minutes. If that is what you thought, then you thought wrong.

After carefully grabbing a cookie sheet filled with 6-inch tall pita-fueled flames, and then rushing to fan smoke detectors on both floors that were screeching like Gilbert Gottfried, I did not give up on dinner and sink into a bottle of wine. Don't get me wrong, there was wine drinking, but dinner also prevailed.

I tossed out the pita charcoal and started fresh with oven-baked tortilla chips. This time I kept a close eye on them in order to prevent further flames. I made some fresh hummus, but I used 1/2 chickpeas, 1/2 cauliflower to save a bit on calories and up the veggie intake.

Pretty good recovery, don't you think?

Worried that this probably wouldn't be classified as a well-rounded dinner by the food police in my head, I decided to add a large salad as well. I put a bunch of thinly shredded, raw kale in a LARGE bowl, added a large heirloom tomato and half an avocado. I then whipped up a quick and ohhh soooo delicious dressing using this fabulous mustard:
Check out those ingredients; pretty good huh?

I whisked it in with a clove of garlic, some balsamic and some olive oil. I then tossed the whole thing together to get this beauty of a salad.
However delicious this may look to you, it tastes a bajillion times better - even after inhaling mountains of pita-flame smoke.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Weekend of Fun Festivities

It's early Saturday evening and I am exhausted. This has been an action-packed weekend so far and I must say; it's time for a nap.

It started out with Friday at the fair.
Yes, a bunch of grownups at the fair can get quite goofy.
We've gone BANANAS!!
If you look closely, you'll see that's a button, within a button, within a button. Trippy.
Zombie Michael Jackson. Why not?
Awww, bunnies!
Crazy bird feet!

After spending waaayyy too much time staring at birds and bunnies, we hit the food carts. I was NOT a responsible eater. I was not very vegan either(I know there was dairy in most of the things I ate). I had fried pickles, half a funnel cake and corn on the cob. That doesn't sound too bad, but it's on top of pre-fair bar dinner of Amaretto and sodas, chips and guac, and fried mushrooms. Yes, I ate a MILLION CALORIES. It was a fun night, but my food baby must have weighed like 10 lbs.

Saturday was Malcolm's 9th birthday party!

Believe it or not, even with the party, I was able to make pretty good food choices. I got up early and started making cupcakes. I made the vanilla cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, but I made two fun changes. I baked them in ice-cream cones and I put a dollop of chocolate ganache in the center. I then piped a mountain of buttercream frosting (also from VCTOTW) so they looked like ice-cream cones. I served them with bowls of sundae toppings: sliced bananas, sliced strawberries, chocolate chips, pineapple, nuts and sprinkles, and let the kids put them on their cupcakes. I got so many compliments on them - nobody suspected they were vegan! They were quite a hit.
Can you tell how exhausted I am?
Marcus used his cupcake primarily as a sprinkles holder
Everytime he'd get messy, he'd run over to me and wipe his face on the skirt of my dress. I looked FABULOUS by the end of the party.

The kids also had pizza and apple juice, but I stuck to a veggie platter that I made. No pics, I was too busy on party patrol.

The kids stayed in the pool for 4 hours - we were so lucky that the sun came out today!

Malcolm had a blast! I'm so glad everything turned out great. He's spending the night at his dad's so now I'm drinking wine and contemplating cleaning this disaster of a house.

 What goes better with cupcakes than cake? Nothing, that's what.

Happy Birthday to my baby Malcolm. You and your brother are the light of my life and I am SO blessed to have such a wonderful son. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Half My Cookbook Library in One Meal

In these last days of summer, I decided that tonight was a good night for a real "summery" dinner. I also wanted to use some of my recently purchased vegan cookbooks (I have to justify the large percentage of my income that has been going to Barnes and Noble lately). With relatively little effort, I produced this lovely summer meal:
Doesn't it look delicious? Trust me, it was even tastier than it looks.

I made Black Bean Patties from Veganomicon served over quinoa

With Mushroom Sauce from Vegan With A Vengeance

And an AMAZING Heirloom Tomato Salad from Clean Food

The entire combination was delicious and summer perfection. The black bean patties were smoky like they just came off the grill. The mushroom sauce was earthy. The heirloom tomato salad was so refreshing. Each tomato had a different flavor and texture and the dressing was simple and light. The tomatoes were definitely the favorites of the boys too. It's rare that they eat all the veggies first!

I made a couple of mods to the recipes based on availability and personal taste. For the black bean patties I didn't have enough black beans, so I used half black beans and half garbanzo beans. I subbed the wheat gluten for quinoa. I also left out the chili powder. For the mushroom sauce I didn't have stock so I used water. I also used vermouth instead of white wine. For the heirloom tomato salad I didn't have avocado.

I think the sign of a good utilitarian cookbook is where you can sub multiple items and come out with dishes that still taste fantastic. I think that making a lot of substitutions is a great way to grow your cooking instincts as well. So grab a cookbook (or three) and have fun!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Food Voice

Just like Homer Simpson, I often feel like I have little angels and devils battling over my decision-making. Also like Homer, most of these decisions are food related.

I'm going to Hawaii next month and dream of wearing a two-piece swimsuit. Food devil says, "I'm sure you will find good food choices if you go out to Mexican restaurants 3 times this week." Food devil says, "If you eat a giant plate of eggrolls at 5pm, then a giant plate of chips and guac along with a large margarita would be a sensible 7pm choice."

Fortunately, since I've changed my diet these last few months, my body revolts pretty quickly and insists that I listen to the food angel voice. By dinnertime Friday, my stomach was about to apply for amnesty if I didn't make some smarter choices. I skipped dinner because my stomach was apparently on strike. Food angel and I vowed to do better tomorrow.

But then my mom called and wanted to go to breakfast.
Can you see the little food devil on her shoulder? All thoughts of a sensible breakfast were off - especially since I really hadn't gotten any quality time with my mom in a few weeks. We headed off to The Wayward Cafe in the UDistrict. I was excited as I seriously have never been to a fully vegan restaurant before. I looked at the menu.

Food angel said, "Oh look, they have a section called light-"
Food devil interrupted, "BISCUITS AND GRAVY!"
Then the server, who also apparently works for my food devil says, "You want to add vegan sausage patties to those?"

I think we all know the answer to that.
About a third of the way thru, my stomach completely shut down. It was not going to allow any more delicious food in. No matter how yummy the herbed biscuits were, no matter how thick and savory the sausage and gravy, no matter how perfectly fluffy the tofu scramble - it just wasn't going down. Not even the kale - my beloved kale. Marcus also seemed to revolt as well.
After a rather aggressive game of "got your nose," Marcus decided to shove an entire spoonful of margarine in his mouth. Marcus' stomach soon joined mine in complete clampdown and breakfast was pretty much over. I packed up over half my plate and took it home for later.

About 4 hours later I was still feeling bloated and icky, but the food devil said, "You know, I bet you can eat the rest of those biscuits and gravy now." I tried, and failed. I felt so gross that Marcus and I both took a long nap. I don't even remember what dinner was, but it was tiny and barely eaten.

So today I woke up and I think even the food devil had a stomachache. So the food angel won and breakfast was strawberry detox smoothie.
I started feeling better almost immediately. I followed it up with a piece of Dave's Killer Bread, a glass of tea, and a few glasses of water, and I was on the road to recovery.

Since I was feeling a better, I let down my guard again. Big mistake. Food devil wants cookies. Actually, Almond Blondies to be precise. The food devil and I adapted these from the Peanut Butter Blondies in the fabulous cookbook VCIYCJ.

The Devil Loves Almond Blondies
Makes 9 bars

1/2 c Maple Almond Butter
1/3 c Vegetable Oil
2/3 c Raw Sugar
2 T Maple Syrup
1/2 c Nondairy Milk
1 c Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/2 t Salt
1/2 t Baking Powder
1/3 c Roughly Chopped Almonds

Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, blend the almond butter, oil, sugar and maple syrup.Add the remaining ingredients, except for the almonds and process until just mixed. Use a spoon to mix any remaining clumps.Spread into a lightly greased and floured 9x9 pan. Sprinkle almonds on top. Bake approx 20-25 minutes until edges start to brown. Let cool and cut into bars.

Food devil says, "Eat 3 of them."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

For the love of Saturday

On Saturday, a day I love - here are a few more of my loves..

Coconut Water

Funny Hats
My Best Friend, Marie
Sun in Seattle
Potatoes Au Gratin

Potatoes Au Gratin with Kale and Tempeh Bacon
serves 8
1 head cauliflower
1/2 c tofu
1/4 c basil
1/2 t dried parsley
1 1/2 t salt
2 T soy milk
5 strips tempeh bacon, pan fried and chopped into med-small pieces
7 medium russet potatoes, very thinly sliced
2 cups chopped kale
1 c Daiya mozzarella-style cheese

In a food processor, combine cauliflower, tofu, basil, parsley, salt and soymilk. Blend until thick and smooth, like a slightly chunky bechamel sauce. Spread 1/3 of the cauliflower sauce on the bottom of a greased 9 inch baking dish. Put two layers of potatoes on top of sauce. On top of potatoes place 1/3 sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 tempeh bacon on top along with 1/2 of the cheese. Layer kale on top.
Dollop the remaining sauce on top, cover with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle on the remainder of the bacon. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for approx 50 minutes. Uncover and cook until browned on top.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Give a Little, Eat a Lot

Yesterday Malcolm and I were on our own for dinner, as Marcus was having his Thursday night dinner with his dad. On these days, I usually take Malcolm out to a restaurant so we can get a little chat time between the two of us. I decided to try the new Mediterranean place by my local PCC. We walked in and I was slightly taken aback by the prices, which seemed a bit high for the suburbs. $15 for a falafel plate anyone? But we were there, and falafel sounded good, so we opted for a slightly lower-priced falafel sandwich.

All complaints about price were discarded when the food arrived in it's ginormousity.
Child added for proof of ginormousity. As you can tell, Malcolm dove in. I, too was very happy with mine, with the exception that, even though I stated no dairy, my pita was full of giant chunks of feta. I couldn't eat the whole thing anyways, so I just picked out the falafel and the lettuce and ate those. I'm serious when I tell you that the falafel tasted like chickpea heaven.

Today, was my day to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. I was nervous and excited for three reasons: I am lazy, I am clumsy, but I grew up very poor and love the idea of helping struggling families (even in this tiny way) with fulfilling their dream of owning their own home.

Even though my employer was going to be providing lunch, I decided to play it safe and pack my own food for the day. I showed up onsite and work started immediately. First challenge was finding a hardhat that would fit my GIANT HEAD.
You think I exaggerate? After trying on all the hardhats, this is the best I could do. I am a human bobblehead doll. I spent most of the morning on my hands and knees, sanding floor joints followed by hanging some closet shelving. Don't be too jealous.

We broke for lunch and I was VERY glad that I brought my own food as there was nothing I could consume in the work provided lunches: sandwiches filled with cheese and sodas. I dug into my lunch and it was DELICIOUS.
That beauty is Dave's Killer Bread, half an avocado, roasted chickpeas and two slices of tempeh bacon. The yummiest sandwich that I've had in as long as I can remember.

My next job was a little more potentially life-threatening exciting. I was handed a nail gun and given the task of installing windowsills. Anyone who knows me and my clumsiness will see the potential for disaster here. I was having images of someone startling me and nails flying each and every way at lightning speed. After plenty of reassurance from the foreman that it is very hard to accidentally shoot yourself in the face with a nail gun, I was ready to go.

A few more jobs and suddenly 8 hours had flown by. The houses are looking pretty good and I'm proud to have done my small part (and proud that I didn't nail my fingers together).
Tonight it was just Marcus and I for dinner. I wanted something simple since I was tired and dirty and a bit sore. I also wanted something with vegetable goodness.

In fact, I'm still tired. I don't want to type anymore. Here is a photo journey thru tonight's truly yummy meal.