Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Food Swapping

I recently found out that food swaps exist...which maybe some of you already know about.  I however had no clue that this was an actual thing! So I've signed up for 2 of them this year. The first one is a Vegan Food Swap, made up of vegan bloggers and non-bloggers scattered across the country.  For my first swap I received someone from North Dakota, who was open to receiving anything.  So here is what I sent her...

I went to Trader Joe's and bought a few of my favorite snacks to share...Cinnamon & Sugar Pita Chips, Thai Chili Sauce, Extra Dark Chocolate, and Olive Tapenade spread.  At Whole Foods I found, Justin's PB cups, Primal Strips, Veggie Krunch, and 2 Clif Mojo bars.  At Sprouts I got her a Almond Butter Ball (I got one for myself too!).  I also included a jar of my homemade Very Berry syrup and dessert topping (a fancy name for jam that didn't jell like it was supposed to!).

Now I'm waiting to get my box from another Vegan Food swapper...more on that when it gets here!

Today I found another food swap, this one is called Foodie Penpals, and it works the same way...except it's not exclusive to vegans.  I can however let the sender know that I am vegan and then they will only send vegan products.  I'm looking forward to this one, it will start for me in February.

I've included the links for both sites in case anyone is interested!  =]

Foodie Penpals


Vegan Food Swap

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mumbo Gumbo...

First...what the heck is okra? Second...why is it slimy?  Now that that is out of the way, let me say that I made my very first batch of Gumbo this week.  I used the okra from my CSA box.  It was good, and after you cook the slimy okra innards they aren't slimy anymore....but when you chop them up they are SLIMY!! So gross!

Here's my recipe for Mardi Gras Gumbo, it's quick and easy and tasty...three things I look for in a recipe!

Mardi Gras Gumbo...

olive oil

3 TBSP flour

1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, sliced into coins
1 celery, diced
1 zucchini, diced
3 cloves garlic
6 cups broth
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups okra, sliced into coins
1 tsp oregano
salt & pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste

2 Tofurky kielbasa links, sliced into coins

What to do...make a roux with the flour and olive oil, add onion and saute until softened.  Add broth and all other ingredients (except Tofurky). Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  The roux and the okra will thicken this soup up, just let it simmer until vegetables are softened.  Meanwhile in a skillet, brown the Tofurky until it's slightly crispy.  Add browned Tofurky to soup pot and let cook about 10 more minutes.  Serve over bowls or white or brown rice, with an additional splash of hot sauce.

I will be making this again, it was really good and super healthy.  It makes about 6 servings at about 185 calories a serving (without rice).  It was spicy and filling!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Last Week...A Recap

I had a busy birthday week last week, which left little time for blogging.  So here is what happened (mostly in pictures)...

I made a yummy Eggplant Caponata, using the eggplants I purchased at the Little Italy Farmer's Market.  It was delicious, and was even better the next day for lunch!

I picked up my first CSA box from J.R. Organics.  It was packed with 2 huge heads of lettuce (romaine & red leaf), chard, sorrel, yellow squash, 2 acorn squash, 2 HUGE Reed avocados, carrots, green beans, okra, apples and grapes.  That's a lot of produce!!

My birthday was on Friday, so for birthday dinner before a game night we headed to the Loving Hut in Mira Mesa.  A 100% vegan restaurant with really good food.  We got the Texas Fries and Loving Strips.  We also got the Strawberry Milkshakes.  Everything was great!!

After dinner we headed over to the Cobb's house for some birthday festivities.  Games, friends and a cake which Rob had decorated special, just for me...lucky me!

Saturday I headed over to the Gonzalez house after bible study to cook up some freezer meals.  We had a routine where we were doing this regularly, then summer came along and we all got extra busy and stopped.  So this was our first cooking weekend in a long time.  We did it proud!! We prepared Taco Soup, Pasta Fagioli, Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup, Marinara Sauce, Pesto Sauce, Alfredo Sauce, Aloo Gobi, Tamale Pie, Texas Hash, Shepherds Pie, Vegetable Pot Pie, Kofta Balls and Masala Veggie Burgers.  AMAZING!! Our freezers are stocked for a month with easy, healthy, vegan meals!! 

Sunday night after church we headed over to Lyle's house for dinner and Amazing Race.  I made a Apple Blackberry Crisp....yum!!  I used the apples from my CSA box.  Last time I joined a CSA I let too much of the produce go to waste, this time I am determined to use every bit of it!!

It was a great week, and I'm looking forward to this one as well! Tonight I'm making Mardi Gras Gumbo using the okra and carrots I got in my CSA box.  See ya!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What a Dal....

You may be asking what dal even is!  Dal comes from the Sanskrit word to split.  Indians use the word dal to refer to dozens of varieties of dried split peas, beans, lentils and other pulses (meaning the dried seed of legumes such as lentils, beans and peas). Dal is the name of spicy, aromatic side dishes made with curry, onions, tomatoes and seasonings which are generally eaten with rice or bread and a dairy like yogurt to provide non-meat protein.  Dal is an everyday dish in India. Indian Masoor dal is made with salmon-colored, round, delicately flavored split lentils that turn a mellow shade of yellow when cooked. Moong dal (or mung daal) is a hulled, split version of the mung bean that is used to make bean sprouts and is very popular in North India. Chana dal is similar to split yellow peas, but has a sweeter, meatier taste, and can be found in Indian and Pakistani markets. Dal can also be soaked and ground to make the fritters or pancakes called dosas.

Last nights dinner was a really yummy Sweet Potato Dal with baby spinach thrown in for good measure.  I've included the recipe and picture.  I wish I had added a bit more liquid as my dal was SUPER thick.  I added more garam masala too, only because it is a flavor I adore!

Sweet Potato Dal...

  • 1 small sweet potato, skinned and diced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • garlic, minced
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, split
  • 4 cups spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste
What to do...Line a medium pot with a think layer of water and saute onion and garlic.  Add red pepper flakes and cook until all water is evaporated.  Add turmeric, garam masala and stir to coat.  Add broth and lentils and bring to a boil.  Once boiling reduce to low, cover and simmer for a few minutes.  Add sweet potatoes, bring back to a boil and then reduce heat again, cover and allow to simmer until lentils are fully cooked and potatoes are tender.  Add spinach and stir until spinach wilts and softens.  Mix into dal and flavor with salt and pepper.  Serve with rice if desired. 

I love how brightly colored this dish is, it's very fall like don't ya think?  It makes me want to carve a pumpkin and roast some seeds!

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Very Vegan Weekend...

The first weekend of vegan mofo was great! I celebrated by going to 2 of my FAVORITE vegan restaurants here in San Diego, purchased some delightful produce at the Little Italy farmers market on Saturday, and ended the weekend with a veggie stir fry and The Amazing Race.

Here are the links to the 2 restaurants I went to...I like them both equally, but for completely different reasons.  Sipz has awesome vegan Asian fusion food (Sushi after 5 PM every night!), while Veg-N-Out is all about veggie burgers, hot dogs, and good old American food.  Sipz has two locations, one in Clairemont and  another in North Park.  Veg-N-Out has only the North Park location.  I highly recommend both locations for lunch or dinner!!

I got the "Loaded Dog" from Veg-N-Out.  A veggie dog smothered with homemade chili, Daiya cheese, tomatoes, onions, dill pickle relish, mustard, ketchup and Veganaise.  Served with REAL potato wedges, made from REAL potatoes and nothing else.  It was delicious and as hard as I tried, I was not able to finish my lunch!

This weekend also included a trip to the Little Italy farmers market, as mentioned above.  It is one of my favorite farmers markets in San Diego, it's set in the heart of Little Italy which means great architecture and vintage buildings surround it.  They have over 150 vendors and most of them offer samples...I love samples! I got some great deals and hopefully the produce I purchased will make an appearance or two in this weeks meals!

I was able to get some BEAUTIFUL produce from one of the many stands.  I got some sweet potatoes, eggplant, green beans and some Mexican squash.  Now I need to figure out what I want to make with these lovelies!

Finally, the most exciting purchase of the day has to be these....

I really don't eat a whole lot of apples during the year, that is until it's HONEYCRISP season.  I adore these apples. They are amazing.  Pretty sure they are the best apples on the planet.  So I will make sure I eat my fill while the season is here! If you haven't tried one, I suggest you do soon!  They are great in pies, crisps, cobblers, jams, and with peanut butter.  They are great all by themselves too! Eat as many as you can!

Well, that was my was pretty great! P.S....I love the Amazing Race, I really like the Heavy Metal Rockers and the Chippendale Dancers.  What team are you cheering for?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Last night I made over a Trader Joe's website recipe.  Acorn Squash Polenta Stacks (here's the link for the original recipe, ***warning*** there is cheese in the original recipe, so it's not vegan friendly at all!)

I veganized the recipe by skipping out on the cheese all together, and made a spinach tofu ricotta since I couldn't find frozen kale.  The spinach worked out just fine, so if you can't find frozen kale just use spinach.  I also made a really easy marinara sauce from scratch. 

Is it weird that I am "nervous" about using certain foods for the first time?  I've never cooked with acorn squash before, or eaten I was a little nervous about this recipe. Now I know I love it though, so no need to feel nervous if you decide to make this recipe (the original or the veganized one).  

Tofu Ricotta (simple version)...
  • 1-1/2 pounds firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon sweetener of your choice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
What You Do: Combine all ingredients together and mash until the mixture has a fine, grainy texture like ricotta cheese.

Marinara Sauce (also simple)...
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes 
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
What You Do: In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden, being careful not to burn. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, and bay leaf. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer about 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from heat and add fresh basil.

Acorn Squash...
Cut acorn squash in half lengthwise, cut off ends and scrape seeds out of center of squash. Cut each half into 12 half moons, place on prepared cookie sheet, spray with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before assembling stacks.

Now it's assembly time.  I highly recommend using the Trader Joe's polenta, as it comes in a nice tube and all you have to do is slice it into 12 rounds. After you have your 12 rounds sliced, spray a baking dish and get ready to stack.  Stacks will go in this order...polenta round, sauce, acorn squash, tofu ricotta, sauce, polenta round, sauce, acorn squash, tofu ricotta and finally sauce.  You may want to send a toothpick down through the center of each stack before you move the baking dish into the oven, otherwise your stacks may fall over.  Bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees, or until everything gets nice and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Here's what my stacks looked like, I really wish my food photography skills were better or that I had a mini studio in my house.  I don't, so sorry for the poor quality, at least it tasted good, right???

P.S...these are great the next day, I had the leftovers for breakfast.  Yum!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Despite what you think or may have been told broccolini is not baby broccoli.  It is actually a hybrid between broccoli and gai lan, also known as Chinese chard. The unique vegetable resembles broccoli or asparagus in physical appearance, with long stalks topped by delicate buds. It has a taste that lies somewhere between broccoli and asparagus, it's sweet and tender with a little bite.

One of my favorite ways to cook broccolini is to roast it with a little olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic.  It cooks pretty quickly and gets a nice nutty flavor after being roasted. The best part is that the whole plant is edible, so no need to peel the stem or trim off.

Tonight's dinner is one of my favorites, stuffed baked potato and roasted broccolini.  Peasant food, quick to make, inexpensive and filling.  For the stuffing part of the potato, I sauteed portabella mushrooms and caramelized some onions, served it up with a little dash (or two) of A1 steak sauce.  I love A1 steak sauce, it doesn't contain Worcestershire sauce so it is completely vegan.  Read the ingredients, you may be surprised to see raisins lurking in there!  I am not a fan of raisins on their own, but in A1 sauce they are perfect!

(I also think my food photography is getting a little better, it's hard to light food and photograph it.  High Five for those who do such an amazing job at it!)