Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eggplant Rollatini

I looked up a bunch of recipes for stuffed and rolled eggplant.  Didn't really find any that flipped my lid, so I made up my own tonight.  Served up the rollatinis with garlic sourdough and fresh peaches and cherries.  My family ate a ton and asked me to add it to the good list.  I'll try to walk you through it step by step, but it's really not as difficult as it looks.

(If you don't have vegan mayo, use regular mayo or even just a little milk so the breadcrumbs stick.  But the mayo kind of evens out any bitterness from the eggplant.)

4 T. Vegenaise (vegan mayo)
1 T. vegan milk
1 c. breadcrumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning blend

Heat oven to 425 degrees and brush a cookie sheet with olive oil or vegetable oil. Peel a good size eggplant and cut it lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices.  Mix the mayo and milk together, dip the eggplant in the mayo mix and then coat with breadcrumbs. Lay out on the cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake about 12 minutes per side or until golden brown.

In a food processor, pulse together the following until the texture of ricotta cheese:

1 brick extra-firm tofu, drained
2 T. freshly minced basil
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper

Just buy a bag of fresh spinach and wash it.  Place on paper towel to drain.

1 package baby portabellas or white mushrooms, sliced
3 T. olive oil
Season with salt and pepper

Season and saute mushrooms in small fry pan in oil until soft.

Roll it all up and serve warm.  The heat from the mushrooms and eggplant will soften the cheese and wilt the spinach a little, but you want it to be fresh.  Season with more salt, pepper and parsley if you want.  If making a lot, go ahead and put them back in the oven to keep them warm, but the texture may change if you leave them very long.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

One More Product Test

My family has tried a few of the different "lactose-free" ice creams or healthier versions of frozen treats.  Honestly, most are not very good at all.  But we have found--and fallen madly in love with--So Delicious products.  I buy them at Wheatsfield Grocery in Ames, but I heard a rumor that Dahls sometimes carries them.  I haven't been to the new Dahls to find out. There are some made with coconut milk and some made with soy.  They have Gluten-Free and Sugar-Free products, too.  They are a little pricey, but really not as pricey as a DQ treat. And much tastier and much fewer calories.  Very creamy and satisfying.  The Coconut Almond Minis are a favorite here.  My hubby and I almost divorced last week when he ate more than his fair share.  My day care kids love the ice cream sandwiches--there's coconut, vanilla and chocolate.  The coconut really isn't too strong a flavor, and has no actual flake coconut in it.  It's just made with the coconut milk and is so creamy.  If you find them at a particular store, please let me know where and how much! 


So now I'm totally craving a mini, I think I'll eat one while I surf the web and see if I can't buy them by the case. 

So Delicious Dairy Free Ice Cream Treats

Product Testing

I know a lot of people just don't have time to plan, prep and cook full meals every night.  So I've been testing some vegan products to help make life a little quicker.  Vegan products aren't always easy to find, but I've been most successful locally at Wheatsfield and then at Dahl's. I've found some products at Hy-Vee, and a few at Fareway.  It really just depends on what you want or need.

I have conflicting thoughts on "vegan alternatives" when cooking.  First, I think vegan cheeses, sour cream, mayo or creamers would be great for cooking.  But I have a hard time with meat alternatives.  The idea of it seems weird to me.  If I don't eat meat, why would I want a meat alternative?  But I'm keeping an open mind and trying some new things.

I have tried some of the tofu-based meat alternatives (try them at the May House in west Ames--great food, cash only).  We ordered the soya garlic chicken and the soya vegetable beef.  My family loved them both, but they also loved the veggie rice noodles that had no meat product.  The consensus is this: we all know it's not meat, so we really aren't expecting meat, but it's pretty good meat.  I asked Eli what he was eating and he answered, "chicken and beef."  It's a pretty good match in flavor, the texture is slightly different. When it's mixed with rice and sauce and veggies, you really can't tell the difference.  I don't know exactly what product/brand is used there, so I can't vouch it's truly vegan.  But it is vegetarian and a much healthier option than meat, and certainly a healthier option than the fried meat plates served at most Asian restaurants.  Many restaurants offer vegetarian/vegan options now, so just be sure to ask.

Shopping around at grocery stores, I've found a number of frozen foods that are vegetarian.  Few are vegan, but Amy's brand has may vegan options that really are good.  I love the roasted veggie pizza, and the family likes the tamale pies.  Amy's also has a number of Gluten-Free options and a recipe section on their web page.  I found a very good selection of these products at Dahl's.  Amys Kitchen: Natural and Organic Foods

Our family also tried the Smart Dogs and Field Roast Brats and Sausages.  They are vegan, find them at Wheatsfield.  The night we had them, the conversation between me and my 8-year-old went like this:

Me:  How are the hot dogs, Eli?
Eli:  I just ate a regular hot dog, I'll eat a vegan one next.
Me:  No, I didn't make any regular hot dogs, only vegan ones.
Eli:  No, I ate a regular hot dog and I'll eat a vegan one next.
Me:  No, I didn't make any regular hot dogs, only vegan ones.
Eli:  No, I ate a regular hot dog and I'll eat a vegan one next.
(This went on for a about 2 minutes, then...)
Eli: Oh, well, it tastes like a regular hot dog.

So, a Smart Dog tastes like a regular hot dog.  I don't know if that's good or bad considering how a "regular" hot dog tastes.  But my kids couldn't tell a difference.  And I had one smothered in pickle relish and spicy mustard and it was pretty good. 

The sausages were an applewood smoked potato sausage.  So I wasn't really expecting them to be "meat-like" at all.  In the past, I've purchased gourmet brats--sun dried tomato and basil, or chipotle chicken brats, etc.--and these reminded me of that.  They weren't a traditional brat, but they were definitely tasty on a garlic bun toasted on the grill.  I liked them and so did my hubby.  Definitely a good alternative to keep in the freezer for those times we're invited to grill out with friends.  We can just grab those and have a good vegan alternative.

As for the cheeses and sour cream products, I think they suck.  Honestly, they have a terrible after-taste of bitter soy and they smell funny too.  My kids really like the Veggie Shreds cheese.  I add a small sprinkle on pita pizzas or garlic bread, but I don't pile it on.  I really do like the Vegenaise mayo.  It tastes like mayo.  I've used it on potato salad and to make the spinach artichoke dip.  Got great reviews on the dip and lots of people asking for the recipe. It adds a good creaminess and a little zip to pasta sauce or casseroles if I want it a little creamy. 

I've already discussed soy milk in a previous post (March 11, 2011).  I like the plain soy milk for cooking.  I also use the rice milk (a little watery, but good flavor) and almond milk (great flavor-by far my favorite and my kids' favorite, too).  It takes a little experimenting when cooking with the different kinds of vegan milk since they have more water content than cow's milk.  But they have a long shelf-life in the frig, so buy a half-gallon of each and mess with them as you cook and eat.  Find out what works best for you. 

Tofu and soy products are very good and healthy, but certain brands are better than others.  Try not to judge all tofu if you've tried one and not liked it.  I don't have any in the house right now to check brands, but the brand sold at Fareway is not as good as the brand sold at Hy-Vee in the organic frig section.  Some soy products tend to have a bit of a smell or after-taste if not handled properly.  Call me if you're working with something and have questions.  Our family loves tofu in soup, and we all love crispy tofu (previous post) with most any kind of sauce or dish.  A number of my carnivorous friends have purchased and cooked crispy tofu at home after trying it here.  It's pretty darn good.  But plain tofu is a little mushy, so it's really a matter of cooking technique to make it fit your personal preference.  Don't be afraid to experiment.

As always, I'm here to help.  If there's something you've been itching to try, give it a test. Call me and I'll talk you through it.  Or give me a day or so and I'll make it for you.  I love cooking for friends!! 

Friday, May 20, 2011

A couple cheater recipes... (Monkey Bread, Multi-Grain Pretzels)

I made two snacks today using "cheats" to save some time.  These are always big hits with the kids.  Neither is exactly a health food, but both are vegan and yummy.  Great comfort foods for a dark, rainy day!

1 tube refrigerator biscuits
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
12 t. brown sugar (2 t. in each muffin)
2 T. Earth Balance or your favorite vegan butter
Pam spray

Spray a regular size muffin tin (for 6 muffins) with Pam.  Cut the 2 T. butter into 6 equal portions and place in tins.  Sprinkle 2 t. brown sugar on top of the butter.  Place the cinnamon and sugar in a baggie and mix together.  Cut each biscuit into 4-6 pieces and shake them pieces in the cinnamon and sugar mixture until evenly coated.  Portion out the biscuit pieces evenly into the 6 prepared muffin tins.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Immediately flip hot bread onto a plate so the brown sugar and butter drizzle over the top.  Serve warm.

(I set these rolls out in the morning to rise and then roll them out and shape them when the kids go down for nap.  I bake them right before snack time so they are warm.  It's really only a couple minutes of work each time, so not labor intensive at all. I'm not sure if these store well because I've never had any leftovers!)

Frozen Rhodes Mult-Grain Rolls bread dough (from the freezer section)
Pam spray
1/3 c. baking soda
5 c. water
Smart Balance Butter and Sea Salt to taste

Each bread roll will be one pretzel.  Place desired number of frozen rolls onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with Pam, leaving room for bread to rise. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap that has been sprayed with Pam so it doesn't stick to the dough.  Let rise about 4-5 hours.  Then roll each out into a long tube about 18 inches long.  Make into pretzel shapes (or letters or numbers or something else fun) and place back on sprayed pan to rise a second time.  Cover with plastic wrap again and let rise about 2 hours. 
In a non-aluminum stock pot, dissolve 1/3 cup baking soda in 5 cups water. Bring water to a boil, and then remove from heat. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Dip each of the pretzels in the baking soda water and then place on a lightly sprayed baking sheet.  Cook about 8-10 minutes or until desired doneness.  Dip in melted butter and sprinkle with salt.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Pita Pizza and Red Pepper Veggie Pita Pizza

Made two kinds of pita pizzas tonight.  They were (wait for it....) AWE--SOME.  Seriously.  Awesome.  I don't mean to toot my own horn, but they were really good.  And the rest of the family agreed with me.  We served them up with some fresh fruit on the side and had a great supper.  Hope you enjoy it, too!!

Start with a good flatbread pita (not the pocket kind).  Use wheat or white, whichever you prefer.  Brush lightly with olive oil and rub with fresh garlic.  Cook on a baking sheet at 425 degrees for about 4 minutes or until they just start to brown.  Top with your favorite pizza toppings or one of the recipes listed here and then bake for another 8-10 minutes.  (Just be sure there's not too much liquid in your toppings to make the pitas soggy.)  Always serve the pita pizzas with crushed red peppers on the side. Mama likes it hot!

Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped coarsely
1 bag baby spinach (fresh, not frozen)
1/4 c. Vegenaise (vegan mayo)
2 T. Nutritional Yeast flakes
juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and Pepper
Season to taste with Basil, Italian Seasoning, Crushed Red Pepper, and/or Parsley
1 large tomato, seeded and diced

Cook the garlic and onion in olive oil in a large fry pan until soft but not brown.  Stir in artichoke hearts and spinach.  Cover and cook about 5 minutes over medium heat until spinach is wilted.  Stir in vegan mayo, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice and seasonings.  Spread on prepared pitas and top with diced tomato.  Cook at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  This recipe makes enough for 3 pitas.

If you make it as a dip, just spread the filling in a baking dish and top with tomatoes.  Cook at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until bubbly in the middle.  Serve with chips or bread.

1/2 jar of roasted red pepper slices, or 1 red pepper, roasted and peeled
1/2 - 1 tomato
1 t. pizza seasoning
Salt and Pepper
Place all of the above in a food processor and process to form a smooth sauce.  Spread on 3 prepared pitas.
Top with your favorite veggies.  I used the following:
Black olives, chopped
Mushrooms, chopped
Green pepper, sliced thinly
Red onion, diced

You can sprinkle it lightly with Veggie Shreds vegan cheese (I used the mix of Parmesan, Mozzarella and Romano Flavor) but this vegetarian cheese is made from milk products.  Technically not vegan, so I didn't add it to mine.  The kids and hubby like it.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 8 minutes or until warmed.  (The vegan cheese doesn't really melt the way "real" cheese does, so don't try to cook it until it looks melty.)

Shepherd's Pie

My son called this "the most favoritest recipe that Mom has ever made ever and not just vegan stuff either."  And my hubby agreed.  I think they like it because it's basically stew with mashed potatoes and that reminds them of meat and potatoes.  So it's a great comfort food without actually being meat. I don't have a picture because my family devoured a 9x13" pan of this in just minutes of the pan hitting the table.  I've got it on the menu this week, though, and I promise to click a pic before they get to it.

It looks like an involved dish that may be difficult to cook.  Do not let the recipe intimidate you!  It is basically a throw it all together dish, no real technique required.  If it makes you nervous, though, just give me a call and I'll walk you through it.

SHEPHERD'S PIE -- Vegan and GF
(A one-dish meal that's easy to prepare ahead of time and just throw in the oven when you need it.  If baking from cold, though, be sure to allow for enough time for the filling to heat through.)

Prepare about 4 c. mashed potatoes (homemade or even instant, I used diced red potatoes and left the skin on for color and flavor)

For the stew, stir the following in a large pot:
3 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion (white, yellow or red will do), diced
4 ribs celery, diced
4 large carrots, diced
1 green pepper, diced
Cook and stir over medium heat until onions are translucent but not browned.

Stir in:
3 c. veggie broth
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 container sliced fresh mushrooms (white or baby bellas), or two cans sliced mushrooms
1 small bag frozen peas

Season to taste with:
Salt and Pepper
Fresh or Dried Basil
Italian Seasoning
Splash of A1 Steak Sauce

Bring all ingredients up to a boil.  Dissolve 1/4 c. cornstarch in 1/2 c. cold water and slowly add to boiling liquid while stirring.  Let come back to a boil, cook and stir for about 2 minutes until mixture is slightly thickened (should be the texture of stew).

Pour this thickened mixture into a 9x13" pan that has been sprayed with Pam.  Carefully spread mashed potatoes on top.  Drizzle with melted vegan butter and sprinkle with Paprika to add a little color.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown on top.  We like a good "crust" on top, but if you prefer your potatoes soft, pull the dish out earlier.

I also think you could bake this with Tator Tots on top instead of mashed potatoes and the family would like it just as much. 

Pancakes times 2, Orange-Almond Sauce, and Zucchini Muffins

I really thought I had posted a recipe for vegan pancakes, but I can't seem to find it.  Anyway, I have here a made from scratch version as well as the Bisquick version. I'm not big on pouring maple syrup on mine, so I like them with jam or fresh fruit.  I'll also share the orange sauce that my kids really like as a special treat.  I served the orange sauce to guests for a brunch and it went over really well--even for the men.

Gracie enjoying the Bisquick version of pancakes.

 VEGAN PANCAKES -- Made from scratch
1 1/4 c. flour (I use half white/half whole-wheat or even just whole-wheat)
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. liquid (all water, or a mix of water/soy milk, or almond milk)
1 T. oil

Mix all together and fry like normal pancakes on a non-stick pan sprayed with Pam.

VEGAN PANCAKES -- Easy Bisquick version

2 c. Bisquick (I use the Heart Start Mix)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c. Almond Milk
1 t. vanilla or almond extract
1 T. sugar

Mix all together and fry like normal pancakes on a non-stick pan sprayed with Pam.  These sometimes stick a little, so be sure to spray between batches.  My family couldn't tell a difference between these and regular Bisquick pancakes. 

(When I make these I use fresh squeezed orange juice and add the orange zest to the pancakes just to kick 'em up a little.  This is also a good filling for crepes.)

4 T. sugar
2 t. cornstarch
1 1/2 c. orange juice, real juice, no pulp
1 can mandarin oranges, drained well
1 t. almond extract

Place the sugar, cornstarch and orange juice in a sauce pan and whisk until smooth.  Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Cook one minute more.  Then fold in the mandarin oranges and almond extract. 

(These muffins are meant to be a little bland, so if you like them spicier add more cinnamon and possibly some nutmeg or allspice to taste.  Also good with raisins or mini chocolate chips in them for a treat.)

1 c. brown sugar
1/2c. white sugar
2 1/2 c. Whole-Wheat Flour
4 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
4 t. cinnamon
2 t. salt
1 c. shredded zucchini (I use two small zucchinis and don't really measure)
1 1/2 c. shredded apple (I use two apples and don't really measure)
1 t. cornstarch dissolved in 3 t. cold water
1 1/4 c. soured soy milk (add 1 T. vinegar to milk and let sit)
1/4 c. oil or applesauce

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix wet ingredients together and mix into dry just until moistened. Portion into muffin tins sprayed with Pam or use paper liners.  Cook full size muffins at 375 degrees for about 20-23 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Black Bean Burgers, Fries and Brownies

I'm trying to catch up on a long list of recipes and topics.  Forgive me if I overwhelm you with posts this week, but I need to cross some stuff off my list.  And once more I'd like to remind you that vegan doesn't necessarily mean healthy.  Brownies are still brownies, people.  So don't think it's okay to eat the whole pan just 'cuz they're vegan.

(the pickiest eater I've ever had at my house eats these 2 at a time!)

1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 cup bread crumbs
~2 tablespoons olive oil

(I usually mix these up and then split it--1/2 batch with corn and the other 1/2 with jalapenos.  Makes it easy to tell them apart so the kids don't accidentally eat my spicy burgers.  I recommend making a huge batch and freezing them after they are cooked.  Easy to warm up and serve quickly for busy nights.)

If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil. If baking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C), and lightly oil a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.
In a small bowl, stir together chili powder, cumin.
Add the spice mixture into the mashed beans.
Mix in bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties and pat them firmly together.
If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side. If baking, place patties on baking sheet, and bake about 10 minutes on each side. (They tend to stick a little, so use enough olive oil or spray with Pam to prevent that.)
Serve with lettuce and tomato on whole-wheat buns.

(as written, it makes 4 large patties, 6-8 mini burgers)

Cut 2 large white potatoes or sweet potatoes into strips.  (Leaving the skins on.)  Toss lightly in olive oil and season with salt, pepper and paprika.  Bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until desired texture.

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4. c. cocoa powder (I recommend buying at a chocolate shop to get the good stuff)
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 c. coffee, brewed strong and cooled
1/2 c. vegetable or canola oil
1/2 c. smooth applesauce
1 t. vanilla

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Mix all wet ingredients into dry. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the gluten to form.  (No egg or egg substitute in this recipe--just let the gluten develop by resting the dough before cooking and this will keep the brownies from being too crumbly.)  Spray a 9x13" pan with Pam, lightly flour.  Turn mixture into prepared pan and cook at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool. 
Feel free to mix in nuts, vegan chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips before cooking.

Friday, May 13, 2011


(Note: the blog site has been down for a few days, so I am trying to catch up on a couple informative posts and will add some good recipes this weekend.)

When I asked for your best excuses for NOT trying a vegan lifestyle, the number one excuse was CHEESE.  Burgers were second on the list, and chocolate was third.  Many of you claimed that your just couldn’t give up a particular food.  I agree.  You can’t.  And do you know why?  Because you are addicted to it.  One friend even claimed that cheese runs through his veins.  Yup.  It sure does.  Literally.  And that’s kind of gross.

I found it so very interesting that I got the same answers over and over and over again regarding foods you won’t give up. So I researched the chemicals in these foods and consistently came up with the word “casomorphins” for meat and cheese. Do you see the root word “morphine” in this?  Meats, cheeses and other animal fats cause your body to release casomorphins that are similar to pain killing drugs you take at the hospital.  If you were on pain killers for your entire life and claimed that you couldn’t give them up, your family and friends would be concerned and would try to give you the help you need.  But because you are addicted to food, nobody does anything to help you.  So consider this an intervention.  I love you and I care about you and I want you to be the best person you can be.  I want you to be healthy and happy and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help you.
I have never claimed to be an expert on food, health, cooking or anything else. I won’t lecture, but I will refer you to a leading physician on the subjects of food addiction and diabetes reversal, Dr. Neal Barnard.  There are many, many articles on the internet that are helpful from him and others in the field.  Just search “Dr. Barnard” and cozy in for a day of reading and learning. Find out what it is you are doing to your body and why.  But until then, try this link from WebMD.  It is a back and forth discussion regarding food addiction.  Take a few minutes to read through it.  Have an open mind.  I’m not asking you to change your world, just do your research. 

I can tell you that I never thougtht I was addicted to foods.  But now that I've been "clean" for a few months I know that foods truly are addicting.  I had (am having) a difficult time giving up chocolate.  The cravings were really bad those first couple of months, but are now less and less.  I feel more full and satisfied and less likely to need a "pick me up" at the end of the day.  I pass over treats and snacks now that would have engulfed my entire afternoon or evening before my vegan voyage.  I still eat a little chocolate now and then, but I honestly feel very different about it.  Most of the time I could take it or leave it now, whereas I wouldn't have left even a tiny crumb a few months ago. Fighting the cravings hasn't been all easy, but it certainly is easier than I ever thought, and it gets even easier every day. 
If you think that you might be having troubles with food addiction, talk to someone. Talk to your family, your doctor or a friend who can help you to break the cycle.  I’m always here and I have two good ears and a couple of strong shoulders.  I’m available 24/7.  And I really do love you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What's for Dinner?

Dinner tonight looked pretty good and smelled pretty good and was a big hit with the fam.  No real post today, just a pic of what's for dinner tonight.

The menu was baked sweet potatoes with Earth Balance butter, brown sugar and maple-glazed pecans, a side of steamed broccoli, and sauteed carrots, mushrooms and yellow squash.