Oct 6, 2011

big move thursday

With the weather getting colder, and the fall colors beginning to pop up, I thought it was time for a change on my end as well. I'm saying good-bye to Vegtastic- seriously, there are like 50 blogs with the same name- and I'm saying hello to Erin Cooks!

There will still be PLENTY of delicious meat free meals- it was just time for a little revamp :)

So if you'd like to keep reading along, please head over to my new blog at: http://erincookingandcrafting.blogspot.com


Oct 3, 2011

almost vegan pizza

What could be better than starting off Vegetarian Awareness month with a meat-free pizza party?! Pizza is one of those wonderful, easy, versatile meals that I can never get sick of. Seriously, you could put anything on a pizza and it would be delicious.

Last week, me and the roommate opened opened some wine, watched Project Runway, and made ourselves some fantastic homemade pizzas!

Stuff you need: 1. Pre-made pizza crusts- we like the ones from Whole Foods- you get 2 per pack 2. Any toppings your heart desires!

Once again, anything on a pizza will taste amazing. Here were our concoctions:
Molly's Pizza!
Side 1: Brie, chopped garlic, carmelized onions, & arugula
Side 2: Tomato sauce, broccoli, zucchini, green bell pepper, & mozzarella cheese

My pizza!
Side 1: Tomato Sauce, zucchini, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, & onion
Side 2: Tomato sauce, tomato slices, fresh basil, & almond cheese

While Molly's pizza was very cheesy, I decided to go with an almost vegan version. My favorite non-cheese cheese is the almond or rice cheese made by Lisanatti Foods. I completely fell in love with it a few years ago, while looking for vegan options to my favorite foods. The texture is impeccable- melts alright, and can be shredded- it's not slimy like a lot of soy cheeses, and best of all the flavor is great. UNFORTUNATELY, it's made with casein, so after all my searching, my favorite vegan cheese isn't vegan at all *sad trombone* If you're looking for a healthy alternative to cheese, I highly recommend this stuff. However, if you're morally opposed to any and all dairy products, this one isn't for you :(

Anyway, it was a delicious pizza party. Both versions were super tasty, and made plenty of food for our lunches the next few days. For next time, Molly recommends getting good quality brie (instead of the cheap-o stuff) so it melts better, and I recommend sautéing the veggies before applying them to the crust, for more flavor, and delicious pizza cohesion. Great night. Great food.

ALSO! Don't forget to check out VeganMoFo when you get the chance! I was too nervous to join in this year, but they're only 3 days in, and there's already TONS of amazing looking dishes! Maybe next year I'll grow a pair and join in the fun :)

Oct 1, 2011

world vegetarian day

Happy World Vegetarian Day everyone! October is the best month of the year, and it's not just because of Halloween, and pumpkin flavored everything. October is also Vegetarian Awareness month, Vegan Mofo, and to top it off, it all begins today with World Vegetarian Day! Did you celebrate today? Enjoy any meat-free adventures?

There's lots of animal-free fun coming up this month & I can't wait! :)

Sep 20, 2011

veg eats at the ballpark

With the baseball season coming to a close in Colorado, Pop and I finally made the time to enjoy a Rockies game together this past weekend. The seats were great, and the company was even better- too bad the Rockies couldn't pull it together for a win against the Giants. *Sad trombone*
When going out to eat somewhere as meat-centric as a baseball stadium, it's always a challenge to find something vegetarian or vegan. When you think about a sports area, don't you always think of hot dogs, burgers, and nachos? I certainly do. Surprisingly enough, Coors Field has some meat-free options- yayy! In fact, Coors Field was named one of PETA's Top 10 Most Vegetarian-Friendly Ballparks in the country!

I personally think the selection of meat-free foods has decreased since last year, but hey, as long as I can find something tasty to accompany my beer, I'm happy. This weekend, Dad and I found Garden burgers and veggie dogs over at section 134. Not the best I've had, but definitely not the worst. In these situations, the key is loading it up with anything you can get your hands on- ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, sauerkraut, veggies, you name it! Drink 2 more big beers, and I promise it will taste pretty damn good :)
According to the Rockies website, you can also find veggie paninis, pizzas, burritos, and wraps around the ballpark. Whether these options will be well-crafted vegetarian fare is another thing, but hey, I'm not too picky. I just like the fact that in such a testosterone-pumping-beer-guzzling-sports-watching-area, that there are meat free options at all. Big kudos to you Coors Field. Go Rocks! :)

Sep 12, 2011

breaded eggplant

You know what I love? Food gifts. There's almost nothing better than free, delicious things, and recently, I've been quite lucky in receiving tons of edible presents! I got a beautiful eggplant from my boss, Connie, and a truck load of fresh produce and a dozen happy chicken eggs from my parents.

After reading so much about the factory farming atrocities in Eating Animals, I'm having a very hard time eating eggs, unless I know where they come from. My parents happen to know a man in their area raising chickens in proper, humane conditions, and I couldn't be happier about supporting this local farmer, who really cares :)
Anyway, I digress. With all the wonderful, fresh organic food in my house, the first vegetable I had to devour was the eggplant. What can I say? It's my fave. I based my recipe off this one for Vegan Crispy Baked Eggplant from Chez Bettay. Mine definitely didn't come out as beautiful as hers, but for my first try at breading anything, I think it turned out pretty good.

I mostly stuck to the recipe, except I didn't peel my eggplant, used Panko for the bread crumbs, and used a regular oven sans pizza stone, since I don't own one. I baked my eggplant for about 15 minutes on one side, flipped it, and then popped it back in the oven for another 10. When the bread-crumb coating was starting to look golden, I slathered it with warmed pasta sauce, and devoured it with a side of sauteed beet greens.
The soft eggplant was a nice compliment to the crunchy crust, although I definitely should have baked it longer to give the bread-crumbs some serious bite. Also, 1 eggplant made plenty of food for my dinner, and I used the rest to make phenomenal sandwiches the next few days. Baked eggplant + pasta sauce + lettuce & fresh basil on whole wheat toast = to die for.

It was a good first attempt, and I hope the next batch is even better!

Sep 8, 2011

veggie pot pie

I think I've eaten one singular pot pie in my entire 24 years of life. My parents never made them, I never order them while out, and I've never had the thought to make one myself, until tonight! For some reason I got a mad pot pie craving while sitting in the office today, and instead of being productive and going to the gym, I promptly came home and fulfilled my pot pie desires. I loosely based the recipe off this one from Betty Crocker, but used what I had in the cupboards, and completely vegatized it!

Stuff you need: 1. Any veggies for the inside 2. 1/2 cup Bisquick Heart Smart mix 3. 1 egg white or egg replacer 4. 1/4 cup milk or milk substitute

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees while you get everything else ready. For the vegetable filling, I found in my kitchen 2 carrots, 1 zucchini, 2 tomatoes, 1 cup mushrooms, and a handful of frozen corn. Sauté the veggies in a little olive oil just until they begin to soften. Sprinkle the mixture with a little salt, Italian seasoning, and anything else you think might be nice.

Meanwhile, combine the Biquick, egg white, and milk in a bowl, and whisk all the ingredients together. When the oven is preheated and the vegetables are slightly tender, place the veggies into a small casserole dish that you've lightly greased. Now pour the Bisquick mixture on top of the vegetables, and make sure everything is nicely distributed and coated in batter. Look good? Great! Pop it in the oven for 20 ish minutes, and then dig into that tasty little pot pie.
For the second pot pie of my entire life, I'm pretty pumped! The hot, juicy filling is so nice with the warm, fluffy pastry top. I skipped the soup from the original recipe, so it definitely wasn't creamy, but the tomatoes gave off juice, so the filling was still plenty moist. My only thought for next time is more spices and longer cooking time! I was so excited for my dinner and a new episode of Project Runway, that I pulled the dish out of the oven before the top was super golden. Otherwise, it was a damn tasty meal, and one that came together surprisingly quick and easy. It may have been my second pot pie, but it most certainly won't be my last :)

Sep 5, 2011

roasted root veggie salad

I hope everyone enjoyed their Labor Day holiday weekend. Mine included Fright Night with the boyfriend, brunch with the parents, a couple of birthday BBQs, fighting crowds at the Taste of Colorado, building lots of Target furniture for the new place, and watching True Blood with the usual suspects, Jenna and Michael.

After a full day of grazing on various snacks at the the Taste of Colorado, a light, healthy meal sounded absolutely wonderful. Nothing makes you feel better than a giant, fresh salad, loaded with all kinds of good stuff, so that's precisely what we made last night- big ol' roasted root vegetable salads.

Stuff you need: 1. Lettuce 2. A protein of some type 3. Veggies for roasting- we found parsnips, golden beets, sweet potatoes, red onions, and asparagus 4. Your favorite salad dressing

Start by cutting up all your vegetables into big chunks, while your oven preheats to 400 degrees. Feel free to peel everything if you'd like, but we left the skins on since we didn't have a peeler. You may also want to enlist a few friends for all the chopping, since this is the most tedious part.

When everything is nicely cubed, place the veggies in a large bowl, and toss them with some olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. You may need to use 2 bowls, or do them in batches if you have a lot like we did. When everything is completely coated, place the mixture into a baking dish (or a few of them) and pop them in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Take the baking dishes out of the oven, give the veggies a good stir and another dose of salt, and put them back in the oven for another 30 minutes, or until everything is perfectly tender, just the way you like it.

While you're waiting on the roasting, watch some True Blood, drink some wine, and prepare anything else you need to- dressing, lettuce, protein etc. For the leafy base, we tore up romaine lettuce, and the greens that came attached to the beets. The beet greens were a little bitter, but a nice compliment to the rest of the salad. Jenna and Michael made fish for their protein portion, and I tried out some chick'n from Gardein, which, I must say, was pretty tasty.

Finally, after waiting so long and patiently, pull those hot, steamy vegetables out of the oven, throw everything together with a little salad dressing, and thoroughly enjoy one giant, healthy, totally loaded salad.
It was just what we were all craving. The leafy greens, and the warm tender vegetables were the perfect combination for a light, healthy salad, that still had some real filling power. Ever eat a salad and still feel hungry? Yeah, not with this baby. Also, all the veggies we used- 1 bundle asparagus, 1 parsnip, 1 red onion, 1 sweet potato & 2 golden beets- made SO much food, there were plenty of leftovers for my dinner tonight. As fall approaches and the months get colder, I will definitely be roasting some more vegetables for my devouring pleasure :)

Aug 31, 2011

a better breakfast burrito

If I have not properly expressed this previously, let me tell you that I am not a morning person. I'm the girl rolling into work at the crack of 9 am, still putting on makeup, and eating oatmeal out of a coffee mug. For these reasons and many more, I rely heavily on late night planning, and frozen, homemade breakfast burritos. A while ago, I made my first batch of breakfast burritos, and since then, I think they've just gotten better. In fact, this last round has been the best yet!

Stuff you need: 1. Whole wheat tortillas 2. 1 block firm tofu 3. Morningstar sausage patties 4. Roasted green chiles 5. Your favorite salsa

Begin by squeezing your tofu like you would for any other recipe- I like to wrap mine in a paper towel, and set something heavy on top of it while I prepare everything else. Meanwhile, you can chop your chiles and defrost your faux-sausage.

When the tofu is ready, crumble it into a skillet with a little olive oil, the Morngingstar sausage, green chiles, and some spices until everything is warmed through. In my tofu/faux-meat mixture, I like to add hot sauce, garlic salt, and cumin. Yumm.

When your burrito stuffing is tasting the way you'd like it to, grab a tortilla, spoon a healthy helping of the tofu mixture into the middle, add a bit of salsa, and then wrap the whole thing up in a square of foil.

Keep wrapping burritos until you're out of filling and tortillas, and then pop them into the freezer for future use. For me, 1 block of firm tofu made about 6 burritos.
When you're ready to devour your breakfast burrito, wrap it in a paper towel, and microwave it on high for 1 minute on each side. The tofu is difficult to heat all the way through, so it may need a little extra time as well. This not-so-fabulous picture is taken inside the microwave at my office. While not super aesthetically appealing, it was absolutely scrumptious, and the perfect way to start off a long day at work.

The combination of the fake sausage, chiles, and salsa, are the perfect mix of texture, heat, and flavor. They're fast and easy to make, they're absolutely delicious, and they're a total life saver first thing in the morning. You better believe I'll be making more of these very soon :)

Aug 28, 2011

southwest veggie bake

Last week was crazy for me. Between multiple grandparent birthday dinners, 10 hour work days, and a few kickboxing classes, I barely had time to breathe, let alone cook! Luckily, with some quick, simple recipes, and some planning ahead, I survived the chaos! One such recipe I made, was inspired by this summer vegetable tian over at Budget Bytes. The reds, greens, and yellows of the tomatoes and squash, were totally eye-catching, and I knew in a moment that I had to make my own version.

Stuff you need: 1. Yellow squash 2. Zucchini squash 3. Tomatoes 4. Black beans 5.Sharp cheddar cheese 6. Your favorite salsa

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees while you get everything else prepped. Slice your squashes into rounds, and your tomatoes into chunks that are roughly the same size. When everything is chopped up, arrange all the slices in a greased baking dish, until it's completely full. Give it a good sprinkle of salt and pepper, and maybe a little cumin too for good measure.
Next, combine 1/2 cup black beans, 1 heaping cup sharp cheddar cheese, and 1/4 cup salsa in a bowl, and stir everything together, until it's mixed well. Spread this mixture on top of your veggies, and then cover the dish with its corresponding lid or some foil.
Pop the dish into the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the the vegetables are tender, and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Now grab those hot pads and retrieve your meal! I gobbled mine down with a little more salsa on the side, but it was pretty tasty on its own as well.
The colors of the summer vegetables are so pretty, and the meal came together incredibly quick. It's a great dish for a busy week, because I managed to do laundry and other chores, while I waited for it to bake. I also liked the addition of black beans and salsa, which gave it a little protein, and a gooier texture. Next time, onions, potatoes, and more spices would all be excellent additions. It was the perfect dish for a busy week, and it made enough for lunch the next day too- bonus! :)

Aug 21, 2011

spinach stuffed shells

One of my favorite things in the world is making dinner with friends. There's nothing like getting together on a beautiful evening to drink wine, gossip, and create something simply delicious as a group. I honestly think the meal tastes better when the effort is shared through hard work, and lots of laughter. Tonight happened to be one of those evenings when Michael, Jenna, and I got together to watch the newest episode of True Blood, and make spinach stuffed shells over a few bottles of cheap white wine. Nothing could possibly make me happier :)

Here's Michael & Jenna slaving away over my stuffed shells. You can tell they're good cooks 'cause of the pouffy hats and curly mustaches.
Stuff you need: 1. Pasta shells 2. Ricotta cheese- 1 15 oz tub 3. Parmesan cheese 4. Fresh spinach 5. Fresh basil 6. 2 jars red pasta sauce of your choice 7. Garlic

First and foremost, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and crack open that first bottle of wine- making stuffed shells is a slightly long and tedious task, but trust me, it's totally worth it in the end. When the water comes to a rolling boil, throw in your shells with some salt, and cook them until they're al dente.

While you're waiting for your noodles to soften, sauté the spinach and diced garlic in a little bit of olive oil, until the leaves are nice and wilted. Combine the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, and chopped basil in a bowl, and mix it all up with some fresh ground black pepper. We kept things simple with spinach and cheese, but other veggies or faux sausage might also be a nice addition to the stuffing mixture as well.

When the noodles are softened, drain them, and rinse them under cold water. Be warned. If you skip the cold water step, you will burn your hands off. TRUE STORY.

Take the shells, stuff them with the cheese mixture, and place them into a baking dish that has a layer of the pasta sauce on the bottom. Keep filling up the shells until you're out of supplies, and then cover the whole dish with another layer of pasta sauce. Pop the pan into the oven for around 20-30 minutes, or until it's warmed through and bubbly. Pull out the pasta, give it a good sprinkle of parmesan, and put it back into the oven for a final 5 minutes. When you can stand it no longer, serve up those shells and dig in!
Oh my, look how delicious those little cheese pockets look before and after getting baked into gooey deliciousness. For time management and calorie intake, it's definitely not a meal I would make all the time, but if you'd like to show off a bit, or celebrate a special occasion, this is just the dish! And let's be honest, anything cooked in mass amounts of pasta sauce and cheese has to be outrageously delicious, right? RIGHT.

Great food, great True Blood, great friends, great night.♥

Aug 18, 2011

roasted green chiles 2 ways

You know what I love? Summer produce. Everything is beautiful, in season, and delicious. When I went to the grocery store last night, I was excited to see that green chiles were cheap, so I scooped up a handful of Anaheims, and began to hunt for tasty recipes. After browsing all the great ideas on Central Market, I decided to make my own version of the black bean stuffed bell pepper, and then add a chili cheddar biscuit on the side.

First and foremost. Stop everything you're doing, and roast your peppers! I didn't know this was necessary, but a chat with my mom confirmed that roasting your chiles is the best way to go. Simply plop your peppers onto a baking sheet and let them cook under the broiler approximately 5-10 minutes or until they're brown and blistering. Make sure you flip the chiles half way through to get both sides cooked, and when they're looking browned to perfection, take them out, peel off the skin, and use them up!
You can immediately use them in your recipes, or seal them in a plastic bag for future use. Tonight I did a little bit of both-I used 2 for my dinner, and stored the rest for stew, or burritos, or something else amazing.

For the quick-fix chili cheddar biscuits you need: 1. Bisquick Heart Smart mix 2. Milk- I used rice milk 3. Cheddar cheese 4. Roasted green chiles

I know using Bisquick is like, half cheating, but when you work all day, and want something delicious and fast, then shortcuts are often the answer. Besides. The Box said Heart Smart, so it can't be all bad, can it? :)

Follow the directions on the back of the Bisquick box stirring together the dry mix with your milk product. Add a healthy 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, 1 diced, roasted green chili, and pop those babies in the oven. 9 minutes later you will have yourself 5 soft, moist, cheesy biscuits, with just a slight hint of heat. They were absolutely to die for, but note for next time: more cheese & more chiles. Yummm
For the stuffed bell pepper you need: 1. 1 Bell pepper- I used red 2. Cous cous 3. 1/2 cup black beans 4. Cheddar cheese 5. Your favorite salsa 6. 1/4 diced onion 7. 1 roasted green chili diced

Start off by preparing your cous cous. You can also use rice, or any other grain, but I used cous cous since I had it on hand, and it cooks very quickly. While your grain is cooking, cut off the top of your bell pepper and scoop out anything that's inside. Now chop up your onion and green chili, measure out your cheese, black beans, and salsa, and when the cous cous is ready, mix everything together in a bowl and stuff it inside of your hollowed out bell pepper. You will definitely have lots of extra filling, but you can serve it as a side, or snack on it while your pepper is cooking.

Place the stuffed bell pepper into a baking dish with about 1/4 inch of water in the bottom, and put it into a 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes. The recipe I based mine off of said 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, but just check on it occasionally, and when the pepper is soft and the stuffing is heated through, you're good to dig in!
Biscuits and stuffed peppers? A slightly strange combination, but both fantastic uses for my roasted green chili peppers. The slight hint of spicy heat in both recipes was perfection. I think my first time roasting peppers was incredibly successful, and now I can't wait to try my roasted green chiles in all sorts of new recipes! Yayy!

Aug 15, 2011

oh hello again

Good news! I'm alive. It's been quite a while since I last posted, but I think everything is almost back to normal. Since my last entry, I've celebrated some birthdays, traveled to Chicago for Lollapalooza, hosted a 17th annual slumber party, worked a ton, visited Colorado's first Ikea, and moved out of my wee studio and into a new place with my friend Molly. Phew! Tonight has really been the first time in weeks that I've had the chance to hit the gym, make a healthy dinner, relax, and update this blog!

Until I get the chance to grocery shop for my new place, here are just some fun things I've been loving recently:

I just finished reading Food Rules by Michael Pollan, and have now started on Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you're interested in what you consume, both books are fantastic. Food Rules is elegantly simple, and straight forward- a collection of fun suggestions for all your eating habits. Each and every rule makes perfect sense, leaving the reader empowered and excited about eating well. Eating Animals, on the other hand, takes a different approach at the food concept. Jonathan Safran Foer is an amazing writer, and his literary voice really shines in this novel. However, if you are faint of heart, be warned, because there is a lot of gruesome information on factory farms- far more than I anticipated. Depending on what you're looking for, both are good books, but very different ones, indeed.

Speaking of eating, I've had almost no chance to cook these past 2 weeks, but have been pleasantly surprised to still be able to find some tasty meat-free treats. Among all the burgers, pepperoni pizzas, and chicken burritos at Lollapalooza, I was super excited to find tons of vegetarian options. In fact, Crescent foods, was completely meat free! Big kudos to you Lolla :)
It was a rowdy weekend filled with fantastic music. One of the big sponsers is always Budweiser, and even though too much beer guzzling makes me feel terrible, it's at least nice to know it's vegan friendly! I've recently discovered Barnivore, and I'm completely fascinated by what's in my favorite cocktails. It's actually quite surprising :/

Anway, I could ramble on all night, but it's time to get to bed. I can't wait to organize our kitchen, pick up some produce, and start making more delicious food! More fun to come, I promise :)

Jul 31, 2011

wrap week

I try to pack my lunch as often as possible, both to save money and calories, and sometimes I feel like I'm just eating the same old stuff day in and day out. Last week, I thought I'd give myself a fun theme, and pack my lunch everyday accordingly. Thus, last week became wrap week! Each lunch had to include a whole what tortilla stuffed with something new and delicious, and it was a total success.
Monday: Whole wheat tortilla with spicy brown mustard, cucumbers, spinach & avocado
Tuesday: Whole wheat tortilla with broccoli slaw & a Boca spicy chik'n patty
Wednesday: Whole wheat tortilla with BBQ tempeh & BBQ onions and bell peppers
Thursday: Whole wheat tortilla with kale, rice, tomatoes, feta cheese & black beans
Friday: Whole wheat tortilla with pesto, spinach, tomatoes and zucchini slices

Look at that! 5 fabulous wraps over a course of 5 days. By creatively mixing my leftovers with the staples in my fridge, I managed to make a handful of really different, and delicious meals on a small budget- what a great challenge! Also, all the fillings were super tasty, and would be equally great stuffed in a bagel, pita, or sandwich of some kind. I must say, it was an excellent wrap week, indeed :)

Jul 26, 2011

bbq tempeh & kale

O.M.G. I don't know if it's possible to accurately describe how full and incredibly content I am right now. I don't know if it was sheer genius, or dumb luck, but tonight's dinner was incredible. I'd like to make this introduction better, but let's skip it and get right to the food. BBQ tempeh and kale! *drool*

For the BBQ Tempeh
Stuff you need: 1. 1 block tempeh 2. 1 bell pepper 3. 1/2 onion 4. your favorite BBQ sauce

Start off by bringing approximately 3 cups of water to boil in a saucepan. When the water is boiling, put some salt, and the tempeh brick into the water, and let it simmer on medium for 20 minutes. While your tempeh is boiling, thinly slice your bell pepper and onion into strips and sauté them in in a little olive oil, until they're nice and tender. When the tempeh is done, drain it, and slice it into long thing strips, just like the onion and peppers. Combine the tempeh, veggies, and a healthy helping of BBQ sauce in the skillet or saucepan you already used, and let everything heat together.When you can stand it no longer, dish it up, and dig in!

For the Kale
Stuff you need: 1. 1 garlic clove 2. a bunch of kale 3. 1 can diced tomatoes 4. brown rice

For the kale dish, I was inspired by this recipe from Epicurious, but I altered it according to what I had on hand. I started by making a pot of rice- using leftover rice would be helpful, but it wasn't a problem to prepare everything else while the rice cooked. Meanwhile, mince the garlic, roughly chop the kale, and open and drain the can of diced tomatoes. Sautee the garlic in a little olive oil, and when it's just starting to turn golden, add the tomatoes, kale, and a good sprinkle of salt. Occasionally stir it every few minutes, and when the kale is tender, add the rice, toss everything together, and serve.
Holy shit that was a good meal. The tempeh is just like good ol' fashioned BBQ- a little sweet, and the texture is perfect. Substitute this into a Philly cheese-steak, and you'd never miss the meat! Also, the kale concoction was just the right side to serve with the tempeh. The slightly-sugary BBQ sauce was nicely complimented by the savory, tenderness of the tomatoes, rice, and kale. Omg I just can't say enough good things about this dinner. Tonight's meal = AMAZING!! :D

Jul 25, 2011

broccoli slaw

What a lovely Monday evening. I got in a great workout, made an amazing dinner, prepared my lunch for tomorrow, and sat down on my bed and looked through the entire Ikea catalog page by page. Colorado's first Ikea store opens in 2 days, and let me tell you, there is some mad Ikea fever around here. I hear there are already people camping out in front of the store! I'm not
that crazed, but I am excited to pick out some cute new items for my place.

Before fully diving into the Ikea catalog, however, I made myself a giant bowl of broccoli slaw. I have an abundance of broccoli in my house right now, and even though I love steamed broccoli, I thought I'd mix it up with something light, chilled and summery. I modeled my recipe after this one I found on Apartment Therapy, but I adjusted it according to what I found in my kitchen.

Stuff you need: 1. 1 head broccoli 2. 1/2 small onion 3. 1 carrot 4. 1/4 cup raisins 5. 1/4 cup sliced almonds 6. a heaping 1/4 cup Vegenaise 6. 2 tablespoons lemon juice 7. 1/2 tablespoon stone ground mustard 8. a pinch of salt

Start by chopping/shredding your broccoli, carrot and onion. If you are lucky enough to own a food processor, you should totally use it. If you are poor like me, roll up your sleeves and get to cutting! When your veggies are ready, place them into a large bowl, and add the raisins and almonds.

In another bowl, combine the Vegenaise, lemon juice, mustard, and salt. Vigorously stir the concoction together and then adjust the flavor accordingly. The original recipe uses vinegar, which would have been a nice addition, but I didn't have any in my cabinets, so I just used more lemon juice. Combine the liquid mixture to the shredded vegetables and toss well. The flavors will blend better if you let it sit in the fridge a while, but let's be honest, this slaw is ridiculously delicious, and there's no way in hell it could possibly stay out of my belly for more than 5 minutes.
Isn't it beautiful? The colors are so nice with the orange carrot, purple raisins, and green broccoli, but let me tell you, it is even more tasty than it is attractive. It may have turned out a little overly-lemony, but for a hot, summer night, the bold, citrus taste was perfect. The chopped vegetables and crunchy almonds also give this dish a really great texture, that would be nice in a variety of recipes. Tonight I threw it in a black bean and corn burrito, and I'll definitely take the slaw for lunch the next few days. In fact, I might even make a second batch with my other head of broccoli and eat it all week! Yes. It's that good. Ikea may be premiering in Colorado, but this broccoli slaw is pretty exciting too :)

Jul 15, 2011

harry potter & the deathly hallows cookies

I love Harry Potter. Yep, I said it. I'm a total Harry Potter NERD. Binge-book reading, midnight movie openings, and collecting various wizarding paraphernalia- I've done it all, and now I can't believe the final movie in the series is here so soon. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, officially hit theaters today, which meant that it was definitely an occasion to celebrate. Since Julie and I snagged tickets to the midnight showing, we properly celebrated yesterday with themed t-shirts, and a big batch of deathly hallows cookies.

For the cookie, I used the vanilla almond sugar cookie recipe from Bake at 350, and for the icing, I prepared a basic buttercream from an old-school Betty Crocker recipe I found in my parents' house.

I collected my recipes and ingredients, and when I was ready, I cut the cookie dough into triangle shapes using a cardboard template that I made. After baking and cooling, I frosted each triangle with the buttercream frosting, and then added the detail with black icing that I purchased at Michaels. I tried putting a decorating tip directly on the tube, but of course, the coupler didn't fit, and I had a giant black icing explosion all over the counter. I also tried putting the icing directly onto the cookie, but it was way too much black, and it looked horrendous. Finally, I put the black icing into a squeeze bottle with a little water, and that was perfect! Easy to handle, the right consistency, and just the ideal thickness for the black lines I wanted.

I have A LOT to learn about dessert decorating, but more than anything, I was just excited to do something special for the big day.
They're not perfect, but they tasted great, and everyone at the office loved them! It was just the thing to get everyone in the wizarding spirit :)
After a full day at the office getting completely cracked out on sugar cookies, it was finally time to grab some dinner and get in line at the theater. Julie and I arrived at 9:30 pm, and there were already TONS of people there!

The feeling in the theater was astounding. There were great costumes everywhere, and you could feel the positive, anxious, energy floating in the air. Someone told me that at our theater alone, there were supposed to be over 4500 people in attendance! It was phenomenal. Finally, after much waiting and great anticipation, we filed into our seats and the movie began! Yayyy!
It was a fantastic night, and even though I was completely exhausted today, it was totally worth it. A great movie, and an even better book- it's truly been a magical journey. If you're a Harry Potter fan like me, I highly recommend you read this beautiful article from NPR, it elegantly sums up so much of how I'm feeling right now. The movies may be over, but it's definitely not the end. Whatever comes next, you better believe I'm making cookies for it! :)

Jul 10, 2011

a quick fix picnic

For those of you who survived the Colorado monsoon of 2011, congrats! This last week primarily consisted of working, gymming, and trying to stay dry through the daily, torrential downpour. Luckily, Colorado weather is as sporadic as it is fabulous, and there was still plenty of sunshine to go around- there was just enough blue sky to fit in some kayaking today, and a lovely picnic yesterday.

Since finding a little dry weather was rare, the picnic was planned, prepared, and devoured quickly. Regardless of the time crunch, the food was fantastic, and the company was even better.

Here is the menu for some speedy picnic prep in under 30 minutes or less:
Appetizer: Raw vegetables and pita chips with hummus
Main: Pesto bowties with cherry tomatoes and feta
Side: Watermelon slices
Dessert: Strawberries and whipped cream over angel food cake
Everything was very semi-homemade, but I'm most proud of the pesto bowtie dish. It was inspired by one my friend's mom who made it for a party, and it was to die for! The flavors are outstanding, it looks elegant, and if you use all pre-prepared ingredients, it comes together crazy fast.

Stuff you need: 1. Bow-tie pasta 2. Pesto- homemade or store bought 3. Cherry tomatoes 4. Feta cheese

While the bowtie pasta is boiling, chop up all the veggies and fruits for the rest of the meal- carrots, celery and red bell pepper for hummus dipping, little cherry tomatoes for the pasta, watermelon for the side, and strawberries for dessert.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it, rinse it, and then toss it with the pesto, tomatoes, and feta in a large bowl. Pop the dish into the fridge and let all the flavors mix up to one hour. Once you have everything else prepped, packed, and ready to go, grab your pasta, your picnic blanket, and head to the park!
It would taste even better with homemade pesto, but I was in a time crunch, and this worked out perfectly. For a vegan version, all you'd have to do, is use a pesto without parmesan, and substitute dairy feta, for tofu feta crumbles.

It was brief, but delicious. Just as we were digging into some strawberries and angel food cake, the storm rolled in, and we all scarfed down our desserts. It was quickly made, and quickly consumed, but the memories will last much longer- no? Too cheesy? Yeah, I know. Anyway. Great pasta! Great picnic! :)

Jul 7, 2011

baked tofu part 2

Ah, what a July 4th weekend. Rockies games, BBQs, surprise birthday parties, and lunches with good friends kept me outrageously busy! When Tuesday rolled around, and I was feeling like a big, fat, slob, I knew it was time to get my exercise and eating habits back on track. After a big produce shop on Tuesday night, and a couple of healthy, home-cooked meals, I'm starting to feel like I'm getting back to normal :)

Tonight I made a second attempt at baked tofu, except this time I called the expert- my mom! She has this amazing recipe that I had to get my hands on, and I must say, it turned out exactly like I remember it. The inspiration comes from a PETA cookbook, with a little help from my mom, and a dash or two of my cooking recklessness.

Stuff you need: 1. block firm or extra firm tofu 2. soy sauce 3. lemon juice 4. garlic powder

Start by pressing the liquid out of your tofu, while you prepare your marinade. For the marinade, combine 3 tablespoons soy sauce with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and a shake or two of garlic powder. Hint: it helps to prepare the sauce in a large bowl to make tossing the tofu easier- definitely should've thought of that before I used the cereal bowl. Ha!

Take the tofu, chop it into bite-sized cubes, and toss it in the marinade until all the pieces are thoroughly coated. Let the tofu soak for as long as you can. During this time, preheat your oven to 375 F, prepare anything else you need for your meal, and take a second to change out of your work clothes and relax.

When the oven is preheated, oil a baking sheet, and place the tofu on top. Pop it in the oven for 10 minutes, flip the tofu over, and then cook it for another 10. DONE! Omg look at that golden baked deliciousness.
I used half of the tofu in an asparagus and mushroom stir fry, and I saved the other half for a future meal.
Damn, this recipe is great. The tofu is tender in the middle, with a slightly crispy, perfectly baked outside that's just a little salty. It's great in stir fries, it's good in hearty soups, and it might be a fun addition to a fully loaded salad. Let's be honest, this baked tofu is good in everything. I'm feeling healthy, and very, very full. I'm definitely writing this one down for next time. Thanks Mom!

Jun 27, 2011

ass kickin tofu

I am definitely a spicy food connoisseur. Ever since I was a kid, my dad and I have have been pushing the heat boundaries with copious amounts of Sriracha and hot peppers, much to my mom's dismay. Tonight for dinner, I thought I'd try my hand at baked tofu with a little kick.

Stuff you need: 1. A block of firm (or extra firm) tofu 2. Chili garlic sauce 3. Soy sauce 4.Hoisin sauce 5. Olive oil

Start off by squeezing all the liquid out of the tofu- I like to wrap it in a paper towel and place a heavy object on top while I prepare everything else. While the tofu is indisposed, prepare your marinade. Combine approximately 2 tablespoons olive oil and soy sauce with 1 tablespoon hoisin. Give it a good stir and a taste, and adjust the flavors to your liking- some ginger, sesame oil, or lemon juice would all be nice additions.

When your marinade is ready, grab the tofu, slice it into slabs, and arrange it in a glass baking dish. Lightly coat each piece of tofu with the chili garlic sauce, and then pour the marinade on top. Now pop the dish into the fridge while you preheat the oven to 350 F. About 5-10 minutes in, flip the tofu over so both sides soak up all those great flavors. At this point, I lightly coated the other side of the tofu with more chili garlic sauce. Please feel free to skip this step, unless you like your food with some serious burn.

When the oven is ready to go, pop that spicy tofu in for 15 minutes, flip the slabs over, and cook for an additional 20. When it's looking golden all over, gather some kleenex, a glass of milk, and dig in!
Now that is some tofu that will kick your ass. I mean, real coughing-fit-makes-your-nose-run kind of spice! Yeow! Some steamed broccoli and orange cauliflower were a really nice compliment to this dish- the hot, heat of the tofu, and the mild, subtle veggies were a great combo. I ate half of the slabs tonight, and popped the rest in the fridge for some stir fry tomorrow.

I must say, that for completely making this up on the fly, I'm pretty pumped with the results. Next time, I'll definitely increase the oven temp so it's a little less soft, and a little more crunchy- I think 375 or 400 degrees would work great. Also, I think a longer marinading time would help enhance flavors, but let's be honest, I'm usually hungry and impatient after a long day at the office.

A hot, fiery meal, for a hot, summer day. It needs a little tweaking, but not bad for my first attempt at baked tofu :)

Jun 19, 2011

rainbow cupcakes & carrot cake cookies

Where do I begin? Between Father's Day, PRIDE, and Westword Music Fest, I don't know where I found the time to whip up such delicious sweets, but somehow I made it work :)

Friday night, I got together with some friends to make rainbow cupcakes, and properly kick off Pride weekend with dinner, dessert, and drinks. I was nervous to make the technicolor sweets, but I'm actually really proud of the outcome!

Stuff you need: 1. A box of white cake mix 2. White frosting 3. Food Coloring 4.Rainbow sprinkles

Start by making the cake batter according to the back of the box. When all the ingredients are mixed together properly, divide the batter into 4 separate bowls, and dye each bowl with a different color. Grease a muffin pan, and pour dollops of each color batter into every hole. Once again, follow the package for baking times, and when they're properly cooked, swirl on some frosting and top with rainbow sprinkles. For how phenomenal they turned out, they were actually quite easy, and fun, to make!
This was also my first time using a decorating bag with an icing tip, and I think they turned out great! Now all I need to do is practice, practice, practice, and hopefully I'll be making beautiful treats in no time! See how happy I am with my rainbow cakes? Yayy!
After a rowdy time at X bar, a day of great local music, and the Pride parade this morning, it was finally time to tackle my Father's Day gift! But first, did I mention I saw Mondo at the Pride parade?! He's one of my all-time favorite designers from Project Runway, and I just about peed my pants when I saw him this morning. *Insert squeals here* OMG MONDO I LOVE YOU!!
Anyway, back to baking. One of my Pop's favorite treats is carrot cake- it also happens to be the cake that my parents had at their wedding. I knew I had to do something special, so I went to Tasteologie, and found this great looking recipe for Carrot Cake Cookies. I followed the instructions as written for both cookie and icing, and let me tell you, they turned out so so good. My crappy phone camera does these cookies no justice. You'll just have to trust me- these babies are outstanding!
My Dad loved them! He said that eating just one of these cookies, was like devoring a giant triple layer slice of a great carrot cake. They're soft, decadent and the flavors are perfection. If you have a carrot cake fanatic in your family, I highly recommend you try these out.

Well it was a wonderful, crazy weekend filled with great people, great food, and great music. I love that this weekend was all about celebrating local music, equality, and fantastic dads- 3 of my favorite things! Happy PRIDE & Happy Father's Day!♥