Monday, March 29, 2010

Olive, the other reindeer.

One of my FAVORITE vegan recipes comes from the cookbook, Vegan With a Vengeance. The recipe (which I have altered slightly, thereby making it MORE convenient) is for a pasta that is coated with a sauce made from Kalamata Olives, Red Onions, and Grape Tomatoes. The cookbook is for over achievers who want to make their own from scratch sauces, which when I have the time I am totally down for.....but since I am at work 8.5 hours a day, try to go to the gym 4-5 times a week and have other commitments, making sauces from scratch doesn't usually fit into my busy life. I originally found this really good olive tapenade from Trader Joe's (I can never quite escape from TJ's, can you say addict?), but today I found a Kalamata Olive Tapenade at Ralph's that has been imported directly from Greece (I read the label, grown and made in Greece!), so I instantly began craving this amazing pasta dish. So, it's now on the menu for tonight (or last night at this point)! Like I said before the recipe is very simple. The sauce is as follows....

Kalamata Olive, Red Onion and Tomato Sauce w/Pasta-2 servings

1/2 cup Kalamata olive tapenade (homemade or jarred)
1 large red onion, sliced into half moons
1 container grape/cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil (or I sometimes just use cooking spray)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Cooked and drained pasta (I usually use Farfalle or Penne)

In a large saute pan heat olive oil, add garlic and brown slightly. Add onion slices and tomatoes (keep tomatoes whole, sauce will be done when they start to burst). Heat through until tomatoes begin to burst, add Kalamata tapenade and blend well. (I usually save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and add it at this point, it makes the sauce saucier). After sauce has been well blended, add cooked pasta and stir to mix together, making sure to get all the good bits off the bottom of the saute pan. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if you like) and serve.

For those of you have more time (I know, I know....this is not usually the case for anyone) here is the from scratch recipe for the tapenade.

1 1/2 cups kalamata olives, pitted
3 tbsp capers, drained
2 cloves garlic, chopped
handful fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
dash pepper
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. The from scratch recipe makes 4 servings.

Also, if you noticed the saute pan in the picture is one of my NEW Rachel Ray pans....

Friday, March 26, 2010

A vegan dieter's paradise, the low-cal vegan cupcake.

As a low-cal eating vegan kinda gal, I am always on the hunt for low-cal treats that embrace my vegan lifestyle. In September of 2009 I became a member of (a FREE online community of people all seeking to lead a healthy lifestyle through eating, fitness, goal setting, etc-if you check it out and decided to join my user name is KATSMEYOW, put me down as a reference!!), I quit WW and became a Sparkette. Once you join this online community you have access to nutrition trackers, fitness tracker and many other tools. You join teams, add friends to your profile, write blogs, comment on other peoples activities, and you have access to over 25,000 recipes that have been entered by Sparkpeople users. I stumbled upon this soda cupcake recipe (some of you already know about this recipe), where you simply add a can of diet soda to a boxed cake mix. It's low-cal/low-fat and is supposed to produce really moist cupcakes. I immediately, upon finding this recipe began to research which boxed cake mixes are vegan friendly. I was pleased to find that MOST of the Duncan Hines mixes are indeed friendly. So a couple of weekends ago I made carrot cake cupcakes, adding a can of Hansen's diet ginger ale. I also created a vegan cheese frosting to go on them (which was AMAZING!!). All around a HUGE success.

This time around I made Devil's Food cupcakes w/Dark Chocolate frosting and a sprinkling of sprinkles!! Instead of adding diet soda this time, I used Club Soda. The results were fantastic. Actually better than using a flavored soda, the club soda didn't add or subtract from the chocolaty goodness of the Devil's Food flavor. And the best part....without frosting each cupcake only had 75 calories!! With frosting 100 calories each. Not bad for a low-cal vegan treat!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lentils, who knew?

When you hear the word "lentil", I'm almost positive you don't start salivating, drooling or dreaming about lentily goodness. You probably don't picture anything in your mind. Maybe when you hear the word "lentil", you remember the story of Esau who traded his birthright in exchange for a bowl of lentil stew, which seems rather absurd to most people. I would have to say that pre-vegan days I would have had little regard for lentils. What is a lentil? What do I do with it? These are the questions I would have been asking. So as the times change, so do I and I am now a big fan of the lentil. Another food (much like split pea soup) that I thought was disgusting and not worth my time. Here is a brief history of the lentil....

Lentils are considered to be one of the oldest cultivated crops with evidence of their domestication going back 5,000 years. Objects like your camera lens and the lens in your eye are actually shaped like lentils and therefore are named after them, not vice versa. They are mentioned frequently in literature throughout history. Even the infamous Greek gastronome Apicius had several recipes for lentils. They were the food of the rich and poor alike. There are current studies showing that Great Britain experienced a Mini Ice Age; from the 16th to 19th centuries where the climate was too cold for warm-season loving plants like lentils to grow. These findings are even backed up by insect, fish and many public records of the time. In Hungary, traditionally a pork and lentil stew is eaten after midnight on Dec. 31 to ensure financial success in the New Year, both pork and lentils being symbols of prosperity. Many cultures consider lentils as poverty food although they were buried in tombs with the pharaohs. The Egyptians even used them as packing material before the invention of those pesky Styrofoam peanuts. Over 100 tons of lentils were used to ship an obelisk from Egypt to Vatican City. Pretty neat, huh? Who knew the lentil was so interesting. Lentils are are a great source of protein, as much as 18g of protein in one cup of boiled lentils (that's amazing!).

The whole point of this entry is to share with you my FAVORITE lentil recipe, I made it up myself. I wanted to make all day chili, so thinking I had pinto beans I got out my crock pot and started digging through my cabinet, only to discover no pinto beans. No beans of any kind. I did however find half a bag of dried lentils leftover from some meal I had prepared. So I created Lentil Chili!! Here's the recipe....

In crock pot combine:
1 1/8 cup dried lentils (I prefer the green ones, they hold up better)
1/2 cup Texmatti Brown Rice
1/2 cup TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein, you could substitute 1/2-1 lb gr. beef or turkey)
1 14.5 oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 large Onion, diced
chili powder
garlic powder
6-8 cups Water

Cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. The lentils will soak up all the water you add, so depending on how many people you are serving add water accordingly.

This is a very hearty recipe and goes along well with corn bread, crackers or tortillas. It's also very inexpensive to make, lentils are about $.79 for a 1 lb bag. Which is why lentils were considered a paupers fare!

Do you have any lentil recipes you want to share? I am always looking for new ways to prepare these delectable legumes.

Trader Joe's, a love affair. (5 Products I can't live without)

So I was thinking that for my first blog entry I would write about Trader Joe's...maybe because the Trader Joe's March 2010 Flyer: Culinary Compendium with Cute Easter Treats! just came out today. I decided that I would highlight 5 of my favorite vegan products to purchase from said store. Really though, I'm pretty sure I could live at Trader Joe's and be quite content to do so.

The first of my favorite vegan products from TJ's is the Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas....

These delightful frozen entries are just the right balance of yumminess and satisfaction. They are DELICIOUS more than anything else. I highly recommend them and can guarantee your happiness (only regarding the enchiladas). Try them!

The second TJ's product that I am recommending and do fully support is the Split Pea Soup....

I don't really know what to say about this product other than it's the best split pea soup in the history of the world. I don't even like split pea soup, really. I think it is repulsive and disgusting. So why you ask would I even try this in the first place? Well, it was an impulse purchase and my tastes have changed since I was little. I thought I'd give it a shot and I am SO GLAD I did. It is the very filling and VERY low in calories (if that is something you are watching or are concerned about).

The third TJ's product is not healthy or good for you, it's just plain old delicious and helps when you are craving something sweet and chocolaty. Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds....

Like I said, there is nothing healthy about these little morsels, but they are so good. Be careful or you just might find that you have eaten the whole container by yourself!! These aren't "allowed" to live at my house, they are only for special occasions!!

The fourth TJ's product is probably my favorite, and I highly recommend it to everyone who has some form of lactose intolerance. Trader Joe's Soy Creamy Cherry Chocolate Chip soy cream....

Again a product that isn't "allowed" to live at my house except for special occasions. The reason I so LOVE this product is that you can't tell it's not regular ice cream, seriously. I have snuck it to youth kids, without telling them it's made from soy. They never knew the difference and thought it was the best ice cream ever. It's really good, especially paired with some Trader Jo-Jo's (TJ's version of an Oreo).

The last of TJ's products I would like to recommend is Trader Joe's Soyrizo....

This item makes a frequent appearance in my tofu scrambles (don't wrinkle your nose!!). Trader Joe's makes their own version and it is one of the best I've had, and it's only $1.99 for a package (other brands are usually $3.99!!). I like to mix it with red potatoes, onion, bell pepper and crumbled firm's good by itself or wrapped in a tortilla with some salsa. Give it a try, especially if you like regular chorizo (which is made from the salivary glands of cows and pigs...YUM!).

That concludes my first entry of Vegan What???? What are some of your favorite vegan or non-vegan items from Trader Joe's? If you don't shop there I suggest you give it a try, you will soon be addicted!! Keep in mind that I only mentioned 5 products, there are many maybe a Trader Joe's, a love affair part two will need to happen very soon!