Sunday, March 25, 2012

Vegan Chickpea Tacos and Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango

Dinner tonight was too delicious not to share. My husband is entering his third week of eating vegan and I continue to share vegan dinnertime! We've had some meals that were decent and some that we will most likely never eat again. This is one that we are sure to repeat. We loved it! And so did our son. It's always a good feeling to hear lots of mmmmm's coming from a toddler eating vegetables and beans! We were thinking that next time we would try soft taco shells, instead of the hard shells suggested in this recipe. We also skipped the sour cream (I'm not really a sour cream fan, vegan or regular). You can have the quinoa salad on the side or put it right on the taco. YUM!

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Mango
From Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

Chickpea Tacos
From Evertything Vegan edited by Mary Margaret Chappell

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Week of Vegan: Day Seven

Our week of Vegan has come to an end and we have officially decided to extend it. We are not being vegan for any moral reasons or because we have anything against meat and dairy. This was strictly a way to detox from the unhealthy food we eat way too often and to force ourselves to try some new recipes that we may not have thought to try in the past. We've really enjoyed the foods we've tried (much to the surprise of several friends and family members) and we are feeling great!

On this final day of week one we had a pretty simple cereal breakfast, and lunch consisted of leftovers and veggie pita sandwiches. What we were most excited about today was our dinner at our friends' house. Our friends have been "mostly vegans" for nearly a year now. They have both lost weight and look amazing, and they have been very helpful in assisting us with some of the ins and outs of vegan eating. My friend also happens to be a talented and very knowledgable cook, as well as the author of her own blog, www.theveganheldhostage.blogspot.com, so I was especially excited for a dinner at her house.

We were not disappointed! She made an appetizer of spinach dip, an entree of empanadas filled with squash and beans, as well as a side of homemade guacamole. Yum! It was all fabulous but the part that stole the show for me was the empanadas. You would never know they were vegan! I will certainly be trying to recreate this culinary creation at home.

My contribution to the meal was dessert. I gave up chocolate for Lent, so I tried to find a dish that was vegan and chocolate free, and I settled on cheesecake. I was nervous about making a dish with an ingredient that you are not even allowed to use, right in the title--CHEESEcake! Much to my relief, the cheesecake was excellent! The flavor was slightly different than that of a classic cheesecake, of course, but but it clearly was not an issue because every plate at the table, including those of the three children, were completely cleaned. Some tiny fingers even tried to secretly snatch some more fingerfuls of the treat when the adults weren't looking. I'd say that's a success! Below is the cheesecake recipe.

As for what's to come, my husband plans to take it week by week and I will continue my vegan dinners along with him. Eventually we are hoping to get back to a "regular" diet and maybe have one vegan and/or one vegetarian night a week. We have found this to be a great way to diversify what we eat, get our veggies in, learn a little more about different types of food, and jumpstart getting back into shape! I will continue to post about it here and there when we come across an especially delicious, share-worthy recipe.

Strawberry-topped "Cheesecake"
From Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Week of Vegan: Day Six

For our final day of cooking (it's our final day because we were invited to dinner at friends' house Sunday night) we started off with a new pancakes recipe that was fabulous. Making pancakes from scratch is really not that much more difficult that using the boxed pancake mix, and this way you can healthy it up a lot. Lunch consisted of lots of leftovers, as well as a veggie and hummus pita. Dinner was Asian themed with Seitan Chow Fun and Spring Rolls. I saved this dish for a Saturday night because the thought of trying to roll spring rolls while watching a toddler was exhausting in itself. So I waited for a night when my husband would be home to help cook and kid entertain. There was certainly a learning curve with rolling the rice papers, but by about the 5th roll I got the hang of it and they started to look pretty darn good. We were mildly happy with the Seitan Chow Fun. The noodle-veggie-sauce part was great, but we are probably going to put seitan to rest for a while. All in all it was a beautiful Saturday of sunny skies, plenty of exercise, cooking as a family, and enjoying three meals at the table together!

Flax-Berry Pancakes
From Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

Flax-Berry Pancakes with Maple Syrup and Bananas


Seitan Chow Fun
From Vegan Express by Nava Atlas


Husband is cooking tonight. He likes to get every ingredient pre-measured and lined up. 

Stir-frying

Seitan Chow Fun

Spring Rolls 
From http://vegan.sheknows.com/2011/07/11/vegan-spring-rolls/
Dipping Sauce
From http://vegetarian.about.com/od/saucesdipsspreads/r/DippingSauce.htm


Spring Roll ingredients, ready to be rolled

Even the toddler gave them a try, though I think most of it ended up in his lap

Starting at about 4:00 and moving counter clockwise you can see the rolling progression. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Week of Vegan: Day Five

The Week of Vegan is more than half way over and there are already talks of continuing another week or so. I will admit, eating healthy (combined with some exercise) really does make you feel better. While I do miss my pizza, I am looking forward to the week of vegan eating to come. Let's not get ahead of ourselves though, we still need to finish week one!

The new dishes we tried for today were Lemony Couscous with Broccoli and Lentils with Greens and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Both were yummy, and though I was was skeptical about these two dishes filling us up, we were pleasantly stuffed at the end of dinner. My husband also brought a Whole Foods tabouli salad (which he'd never had before) with him to work and made a point to email me after lunch to tell me how awesome tabouli was. So I think we will be trying to make some homemade tabouli next week.

Menu: Day Five
Breakfast
Raisin Bran with almond milk
Banana

Lunch/Snacks
Tabouli salad
Leftover black bean salad
Veggies and hummus in a pita
An apple
A clementine

Dinner
Lentils with Greens and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Lemony Couscous with Broccoli

Snack
Pita chips with hummus

Lentils with Greens and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
From Vegan Express by Nava Atlas

Lemony Couscous with Broccoli
From Vegan Express by Nava Atlas


 Lentils with Greens and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Lemony Couscous with Broccoli












Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Week of Vegan: Day Four

Every now and then we eat brinner (breakfast for dinner). Our brinner is usually an egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel, sometimes with ham or sausage. Maybe not the healthiest of dinners, but very delicious! For day four of The Week of Vegan we decided to have brinner, scrambled tofu burritos, breakfast potatoes with veggies, and a black bean salad. This was a spicy, savory, tasty brinner! The tofu scramble was a surprisingly good substitute for the real thing. The texture was just like scrambled eggs with the hot flavor of the salsa. I'm not big on spice so I would probably use less curry next time or even skip it all together. The vegan almond cheese was certainly not as satisfying as cheddar, it was more comparable to a fat free version, but melted in the burrito it was still a nice addition. The potatoes reminded me of diner home fries, the perfect accompaniment to a breakfast burrito. Our favorite component though was the black bean salad. We will be making this dish in the future for sure! It's going to be my go-to side-dish for summer barbecuing.

Menu: Day Four 
Breakfast
Raisin Bran with almond milk

Lunch/Snacks
Leftover black bean soup
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat
An apple
Pretzel thins
A clementine

Dinner
Any-Time-of-Day Scrambled Tofu Burritos
Breakfast Potatoes with Veggies
Black Bean, Mango, and Avocado Salad

Any-Time-of-Day Scrambled Tofu Burritos
From Vegan Express by Nava Atlas



Black Bean, Mango, and Avocado Salad
From Vegan Express by Nava Atlas

Breakfast Potatoes and Veggies
From Vegan Family Favorites by Erin Pavlina


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Week of Vegan: Day Three

Since we were trying some new foods this week, my husband decided that he would also be open to eating things that he normally wouldn't choose to eat, or in this case something he despises. I love olives, but my husband hates them. Good for me, I always get the extra olives when we order greek salads at restaurants. Bad for me, I never cook dishes at home that involve olives. But for this week of culinary experiments, he agreed to give them a try, so I made penne putanesca. On an interesting side note, did you know that puttanesca means "prostitute style"? Supposedly because ladies in the streetwalker profession often prepared it at the end of a long night's work. See, if we hadn't decided to be vegan for the week, I might never have learned that gem of information from my vegan cookbook!

The new dishes we tried today were a delicious maple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast, and a spinach salad and penne puttanesca for dinner. Breakfast was fabulous and filling. We will make that again for sure. The two dinner dishes we were not as crazy about, but I'll give the recipes anyway in case you are intrigued or motivated to improve upon them to your liking.

Menu: Day Three
Breakfast
Maple Cinnamon Oatmeal with Slivered Almonds and Dried Cranberries

Lunch/Snacks
Leftover black bean soup
Celery with peanut butter
Leftover seitan gyro
An apple

Dinner
Penne Puttanesca
Asian Pear and Baby Spinach Salad with Warm Walnut Dressing

Maple Cinnamon Oatmeal with Slivered Almonds and 
Dried Cranberries
From Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson




Penne Puttanesca
From Vegan Planet, by Robin Robertson


Asian Pear and Baby Spinach Salad with Warm Walnut Dressing
From Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson






The Week of Vegan: Day Two

Day two's menu was pretty easy to eat. Everything was familiar food. We tried a new recipe, Cuban Black Bean Soup. It was delicious! Not just vegan delicious, but regular delicious. And my son devoured it. We are definitely going to keep this soup recipe in the regular dinner rotation.

Menu: Day Two
Breakfast
Raisin Bran with vanilla almond milk

Lunch/Snacks
Veggie sushi roll (at a restaurant)
celery and peanut butter
salad with red peppers and cucumbers olive oil and vinegar
handful of mixed nuts

Dinner
Cuban black bean soup
Wrap sandwich (whole wheat wrap, hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers)

Snack
Green grapes

Cuban Black Bean Soup
From Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

Cuban Black Bean Soup with Hummus and Veggie Wrap


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Week of Vegan: Day One

A couple years ago Oprah did an episode where she asked all of her employees to go Vegan for one week. A majority of the workers, including Oprah herself, raved about how they felt by the end of the week. I don't have the desire to become a full-time vegan, I love cheese way too much! But, I was inspired to learn a little more about veganism and perhaps try the one week diet change.  My husband was on board for this as well, but we never seemed to actually get around to starting it. Pizza delivery was just always getting in the way. Recently he decided it was time to get back in shape and maybe this week of veganism would be a good jumping off point. If anything, it would encourage us to eat less pizza and ice cream, and eat more fruits and veggies. We have some friends who tried it for a week and didn't stop! So we turned to them for a little inspiration as well. My friend is also the author of a fabulous vegan blog, www.theveganheldhostage.blogspot.com. so I knew I could look here, in addition to cookbooks from the library, for some vegan recipes to get us through the week.

As I am 4 months pregnant, I didn't think this was the best time for me to experimenting with my diet. So my husband is going full-on vegan for the week and I am eating a mostly vegan dinner along with him. We began by planning out our menu for the week. One of our goals was to try some new foods that we normally wouldn't choose to eat or have never eaten before. I spent an hour and a half at Whole Foods on Sunday searching for the items on my grocery list, several of which I had never even heard of. So, the menu is planned, the pantry is stocked, and we are ready to go vegan!

As mentioned, I'm not going vegan throughout the day. I still plan to drink cow's milk and eat cheese, yogurt, and meat. But I'll write about my husband's vegan menu throughout the day and the new food items we've tried.

On day one we tried almond milk and seitan for the first time. I'm pretty particular about my milk, so I was not in love with the almond milk, but my husband enjoyed it. The seitan was decent. It basically took on the flavor of the spices. While it was not the same as the traditional spiced lamb meat of a gyro, this was a pretty good, meatless dish.

Menu: Day One
Breakfast
Raisin Bran with Vanilla Almond Milk

Lunch/Snacks
Frozen black bean burger on sandwich thin bread with sliced avocado
Salad with red peppers, bean sprouts, vinegar and olive oil
Celery with peanut butter
2 clementine oranges

Dinner 
Seitan gyros
Fingerling fries

Seitan Gyros 
From Vegan Express by Nava Atlas

Fingerling Fries
From Vegan Express by Nava Atlas

Seitan Gyros with Fingerling Fries



Monday, March 12, 2012

Soft Pretzels Two Ways

A friend of mine has a fabulous blog dedicated to recipes and decorating ideas for parties, www.sugarandbows.com. I decided to try one of her many delicious looking recipes, soft pretzels with beer cheese dip. As often the case with me, I decided to start cooking before actually checking to see that I had all the ingredients. I did not. So I decided to do a little improvising. I made soft pretzels two ways.
First I tried the Sugar and Bows recipe, with a slight variation because I was short on cheddar cheese. Then I decided to try a sweetened version with cinnamon and sugar. Both recipes were YUM and a perfect appetizer for a party or snack during the Big Game!

Sugar and Bows' Soft Pretzels with Beer Cheese Dip




The variations that I made were that I cut the recipe in half, since I only had one container of breadsticks. I also was short on cheddar so I used half cheddar and half shredded mozzarella. Still delicious. Then I decided to make the sweetened version. 

Follow the same recipe, except instead of sprinkling salt on the pretzels, sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar (about 1 part cinnamon to 2 parts sugar). Then instead of the cheese dip I made a simple icing to dip these in. Mix 1/2 cup powdered sugar with about 2 tablespoons of milk (add more of less milk to get desired consistency. Enjoy!