Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random but Ever-So-Delicious Dinner!

So, last night, I had no plans for a meal. But, I ended up "throwing some things together," and we had a delicious, if not completely mis-matched, dinner!

I took a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, some water, a can of red kidney beans, a can of great northern beans, some pasta, some chunks of zucchini, some frozen spinach, plus some herbs and spices, and - voila! - minestrone!!!! I didn't have any green beans on hand, or I would have thrown those in the pot, too. Oh well, it was yum-O! A couple of days ago, Casey and I had lunch at Olive Garden (LOVE their minestrone!) - so, that is what inspired me!

And the completely random dish that went with it? Sweet Potatoes L'Orange! We first had this dish at Thanksgiving (thanks Rene'!), and I totally loved it. Unfortunately, I tried to re-create it at Christmas from the same recipe, and it turned out pretty lousy, if I do say so myself! So, I took the same recipe, only very loosely followed it and sort of improvised the rest. Turned out great!

Here is my tweaked version. Sorry, no exact measurements. I really hate when I find a recipe that sounds really good, but they don't give exact measurements...but, like I said, this was improvisation! Next time, I'll try to measure, and then I'll revise this post. It was really good (had some for breakfast and lunch the next day!), so I'll be making it again soon!

Sweet Potato L'Orange

Take a few sweet potatoes (I did four) and bake 1 to 1 1/2 hr at 425 degrees (until nice and soft).

When they are close to being done, start the sauce.
In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup orange juice to boil.
Add a splash of lemon juice.
Lower heat - keep at a simmer.
Mix 2 tsp cornstarch with 1/4 cup water - add mixture to orange juice.
Continue stirring until you see a slight thickening.
Remove from heat, let cool for a few minutes.
Add about 2 Tbsp agave nectar (or some other sweetener - I'm not sure how dry sweeteners will do, but it would probably be fine) and a splash of almond extract (vanilla would probably be good, too, if that's what you've got)

Peel baked sweet potatoes (skin can be peeled off easily with fingers once they have cooled a little)
Slice potatoes into 1/2 inch slices.
Arrange slices partly overlapping one another (like shingles on a roof) in a serving dish in a single* layer (something with sides - you don't want orange sauce everywhere!)
Pour sauce over potatoes.

*If necessary, you can arrange the potatoes in more than one layer, just divide the sauce appropriately and pour some sauce over each layer.


Again, sorry for all the "about's" and "probably's" - more exact info later...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spiral Diner & Bakery

Kenny and I had the pleasure of eating at a 100% vegan restaurant this weekend!! We ate at the Spiral Diner & Bakery in Fort Worth, TX. It was so delicious and quite affordable, too!!

I was so excited to be going to a restaurant where I had the freedom to order anything off the menu! We started with the Chip & Dip Party: great corn chips with salsa, guacamole, and hummus. I had the BBQ San'ich: chopped seitan (pronounced "SAY-tan" - yes, just like the Devil) doused in homemade BBQ sauce piled on toasted bread with pickles and onions & mayo (I 86-ed the last two). Kenny had the Red Coconut Curry Noodles. Sorry, I don't have the descriptors for his - I was too busy with my own plate!

For dessert, Kenny had a cookie sundae: chocolate chip cookie topped with chocolate ice cream. I had a piece of amazing chocolate cake (about the size of my head!) - it was so chocolately and moist!!! I'm still reeling over it!

Next time we're in DFW, we hope to have time for a visit to another vegan restaurant - the Cosmic Cafe in Oaklawn - we've heard from a couple of people that it is great!

Boy, does this make me miss vegan restaurants to be found in the swamp!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

As of this January, my husband and I have been vegetarian for a full year! For the past year, we have also avoided purchasing cow's milk or eggs. We switched to soy milk and used various egg replacements when cooking/baking at home. But, we didn't avoid these animal products at all times; we often ate foods at restaurants or other peoples' homes that included these items. We also ate plenty of packaged foods that were not completely vegan.

So, although we were already "quasi-vegan" since we had stopped purchasing cow's milk and eggs and didn't use them at home, we did still ingest and purchase a lot of animal product here and there. Also, I was pretty reluctant to give up cheese. I knew there would be no real replacement for it in a vegan life, and I just wasn't sure I could live without it.

So silly.

But, this is a common concern in the omni world - if only I had a nickel for every time I heard, "Oh, but I love cheese! I could never give up cheese!" I would be set for life...oh, okay, but I would at least have enough to buy a Tall Soy Chai Tea Latte at Starbuck's!! Everyone who eats cheese thinks they have some superior relationship with cheese that no one else can even comprehend (same with chocolate). It's like a teenager who is in love - they think they are the only ones to ever be that in love with another person. Good grief! Well, there's a good reason for that (cheese, chocolate, and love have a lot in common), but I digress...we'll talk more about that later.

With a couple of weeks under our non-leather belts, my husband and I (along with our 14-month old daughter) are doing just fine with out a shred of cheddar!

The funny thing about me being a vegetarian in the first place is that I really don't care for vegetables. I mean, there are a handful that I enjoy, a few others that I can stand a few bites of, and then some that I can swallow only if pureed. I have serious texture issues with vegetables. It's pretty unfortunate, but I am actively trying to like vegetables! My dream is to love broccolli one day! Maybe even raw broccolli!!!!

So, the obvious question is: What do you eat?! Even "normal" vegetarians/vegans get this oh-so-common question. It seems sort of ridiculous to those that are veg's (because there are about a billion and two options), but it seems like it needs to be answered for all those omnivores who are sincerely interested.

This blog is sort of inspired by that question. I plan to post some great recipes that we've actually cooked in our own kitchen and polished off, share some decent restaurant/fast-food picks, and even recount those meals that were a total flop (and, boy, are there a lot of them already!).

Another, less "ridiculous" question is simply, "Why?" Well, it's not so simple, actually, and it also inspires this blog. I will share mine and my husband's reasons for our choices. Why we feel it's the best lifestyle for not only us, but our precious daughter also. It is not because we feel the need for explanations, but perhaps it might open a meat-eating, cheese drizzling, milk chugging eye or two.

A year ago, we lost some of our naivety about the world, and we became vegetarians. Unfortunately, I continued to push what I knew out of my mind in order to guiltlessly enjoy food that I had become dependent on. The guilt was not permanently banished though; it always came back. So, finally, I looked the knowledge that I owned directly in the eyes and decided it was time to make the change that would allow my lifestyle to truly sync with my beliefs and moral stance.

My amazing husband was with me 100%! We share that moral stance and support each other in it. I applaud those who manage to be vegetarian or vegan in a household of omnivores; it must be extremely hard to get along.

Being vegan is not just about what you don't eat. It affects a lot of aspects of your life. No more leather shoes (don't even get me started on the leather/fur industry - we'll talk about that later!). No more ordering pizza delivery when friends come over to watch a game. Valentines Day is coming heart-shaped box full of chocoalte covered caramels will find a way into my lover's arms. Easter is also coming up...when my daughter hunts for Easter eggs with her cousins, we'll have to do a stealthy switch-a-roo if she finds any milk chocolate or Cadbury eggs (not to mention, we won't be dying eggs!). There will be chocolate, I guarantee, but not the kind you buy in bulk at Wal-Mart.

On one hand, these two examples seem like such silly, unimportant hurdles, but, on the other hand, they are events swathed in tradition, culture, convenience, and social norms. It's a big step - I've considered it through and through before making the declaration. Obviously, I think it's all worth it. I'm actually looking forward to V-Day and Easter; I'm looking forward to seeing just how awesome my husband and I do at bounding over such a huge, important, laughable, inconsequential hurdle.

Here's to being vegan! To being true to what we know and believe!!