July 22, 2010

Summer Salads Take Over My Kitchen

This has been the week of yummy summer salads. I was feeling burned out on the "plain" ol' green salad, and looking for exciting recipes to satisfy not just my tummy, but my palate as well.

First, a cilantro couscous cucumber salad:

1 cup couscous
1 cup veggie broth
1/2 cup water
1 large cucumber
1 medium squash
1/2-1 cup finely diced red onion
1-2 green onions, sliced thin
2 lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
salt/pepper/dried peppers/any spices that strike your fancy.

Cook couscous according to directions, let cool (I added about 1 cup of cooked quinoa that was sitting in the fridge as well... any small grain or even orzo would mix with the couscous). Zest both lemons onto the cooled couscous, then add all veggies and spices. Cut zested lemons in half and squeeze over the salad, then drizzle the olive oil and mix well. You can refrigerate at this point to let the flavors blend, or just eat it straight out of the mixing bowl, like I did!

After serving, Jacob and Albert added Feta to their bowls, which they claim is delicious as well.

This salad was so fresh, and cool, and the cucumbers and lemon complimented each other so perfectly.... It was a party in my mouth! And the recipe is not only easy, but lends itself to doubling or tripling. This salad is now my summer potluck action plan: delicious, flavorful, filling!

The second salad is a vegan pasta salad. I've been wishing for those "traditional" summer party foods, and decided with a potluck coming up tomorrow, I just had to go ahead and make one for myself!

Delicious Pasta Salad of Yum

1 lb pasta (I used bow ties... how pretty!)
1 small red onion, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 lemon cucumbers, seeds removed and diced
1 small carrot, diced
1/2 can black olives, sliced (or 1 can of pre-sliced)

Dressing: (measurements approximate, as I was just having fun)
1 1/2 cup vegan mayo
1/4 cup stone ground mustard
1/4 cup dill relish
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
spices to taste

Boil the pasta to al dente, drain and rinse with cold water. Put it in a bowl and pile veggies on top. In a separate bowl mix the dressing ingredients, taste and add more of the mayo mustard or relish as needed (I love pickles so I added another big spoonful of relish). Spice to taste, pour over noodles/veggies and mix well. Again, you can refrigerate or just munch away!

The thing I love most about these salads is after all the cutting is done they are so easy! I can impress a crowd and feed myself, even if everything else at the potluck is not vegan. With these recipes I dont feel left out, or jealous, or hungry... Just satisfied that I'm spreading the news that hey, life without eggs or dairy can still be delicious!

July 15, 2010

Two weeks, already?

It's the 15th, already? Which means I have been following my plant-based diet for 2 weeks, holy cow!

I've been feeling great so far... Not missing anything too much, although it's harder for J and I to agree on meals anymore, and he's been very reluctant to cook for me. His reluctance has really been my biggest hurdle, and as the weeks go on and he sees how good I'm feeling he's talking more and more about giving up dairy himself. I've been enjoying trying new recipes, and new types of food, and new baking techniques. Lots of quinoa, which I love: it's delicious, matches well with bunches of ingredients, and a perfect protien? Amazing.

My one downfall, I've found, is that I am falling back on sugary and convenience foods more often than not, so limiting both processed and sugar foods is my next goal. I'll have to do more advance planning to make sure I have easy to prepare meals and yummy snacks without all the sugar.

I went on a baking spree this week, both to test some vegan recipes I found, and to pay back my Auntie for buying me a 16 Qt pressure canner. (I bartered 2-doz cookies for it... best deal ever!) I made macaroons with carob chips, coconut balls rolled in powdered sugar, and traditional CC cookies. The macaroons were very popular, I could barely get a picture before they were all snatched up!

Coconut Balls (modified from Martha Stewart's recipe, but only a little.)

* 2 sticks Nucoa, softened
* 1/3 cup sifted confectioner's sugar, plus more for dusting
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
* 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter with 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar until fluffy. Mix in flour, nutmeg and salt until they're just combined. Stir in coconut.
2. Roll dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake until just starting to brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes, remove to a rack and sift the extra confectioners' sugar over the top. Let them cool completely. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

June 28, 2010

The First Post!

Vegan starts in 3 days. I've been vegetarian for almost a month, and have had no problems with that, but all of my "practice" vegan days have been derailed by cheese! I am sure gonna miss cheese.

Anyway.... I've been preparing for the switch slowly and with lots of excitement... Talking to vegan friends, reading voraciously, stocking up on foods and books and recipes.
From Costco: big bag of flax seed meal, big bag quinoa, 5 lbs of short grain brown rice.
Bulk: Whole flax seeds (they dont grind for shit!), azuki beans, black eyed peas, wild rice, nutritional yeast and more.
Books: The Kind Diet (where I began this whole crazy trip), the Vegan Gourmet, Vegan Baking. I've been bookmarking websites like mad as well!

I've also got the local Farmer's Market schedule memorized (Sat, Wed and Thurs, depending on which part of town), and tons of plans for veggie broths, soups, and baked goods. I'm so excited!

My other excitement comes from my garden. This is the first time since I've lived with my parents that I've been able to plant a really real garden, and I'm relishing it! I share it with Jacob, and neither of us can get enough! We've done as much as we could out of free and found materials so we have tires, and found wood beds, homemade bamboo trellises, and nursery cast-off pots; we're also into homesteading so we have compost, lots of patio plants growing up the trellises, and plans for chickens and ducks to use as pest control.

We've gone a little crazy with the amount of produce we have planted, I'll admit, but I have so many plans for preserving and improvised root-cellaring and baking that I feel like we can handle any amount of food!
So far we have planted: zucchini (yellow and green), oriental cucumbers, russet and red and blue potatoes (in tires), lavender, an orange tree, chamomile, yellow pear tomatoes, green zebra cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, spinach, peas, bush beans (yellow and dragon tongue which is purple and white!), radishes, lettuce (two mixes) pickling cucumber, lemon cucumber, walla-walla onions, strawberries, mint and rosemary! (Wow until I typed all that maybe I didn't realize how much we had!)

We've also got plans for corn, carrots, butternut squash, and who knows what else that will strike our fancy! For Christmas I got a water-bath canner from Jacob's mom, and my fabulous hippie-in-her-heart aunt is bartering baked goods for a pressure canner! Which means I can preserve the excesses of our bounty, and give a bunch away to family this year at X-mas (it's a family reunion year, so I'll need a LOT to give.)

The major problem we've run into is those nasty slugs and earwigs.... They're attacking relentlessly, we've lost several squash plants and some herbs and every single carrot that sprouted! Thankfully we got an extra long roll of copper tape, so we will hopefully get the carrot bed cleared and do another seeding as soon as the sun comes out again.

Time to put bread in the oven. I'll get some sort of pictures going and share my newest, possibly greatest bread discovery next time.