Making It Work

I’ve unintentionally continued last week’s theme of variations to not-so-old favorites with this dish of Millet and Spinach Stuffed Shells.  The plan had been to make the Forks Over Knives Eggplant Rollatini, which I’ve made a number of times now since first trying it last year for Week 2 of the 2013 Plant Strong Recipe Challenge.  However, laziness got the best of me and it just seemed easier to use up the shells leftover in the pantry from my whole food plant based stuffed shells recipe rather than process the eggplant for rollatini.

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Add some beet balls and dinner is served!

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The millet mixture is also wonderful and flavorful on it’s own if you’re looking for a new side dish to try.

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Grilled Vegetables Over Creamy Polenta

Not every meal or week has a lot of prep or thought put into it.  Some weeks, it’s a quick stop to the grocery for a random assortment of vegetables and I figure it out later.  When I first became plant based this wasn’t a good idea; I needed to sit down and plan out my meals if I wanted to be successful and avoid unhealthy old habits.  Over time, it’s become much easier to quickly throw something together that is healthy, fast and delicious.

This weekend it was a quick stop to the produce aisle – zucchini, squash, bell pepper, red onion, portobello, and eggplant.  I only marinate the portobello (my usual soy, garlic, ginger) and leave the rest just as they are.  Grill up the bounty.   Quick cooking polenta is hiding under all the veggies.  It cooks in less than five minutes; I tossed in a grilled jalapeño to add some interest.  Dinner is served.

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Keeping It Simple

It was a busy and wonderful weekend filled with visits with a dear friends I don’t get to see very often, a fun run, and family Easter celebrations, which doubled as my Birthday celebration.  The weather finally seems to be conceding to spring’s arrival and as the it gets nicer outside I seem to spend less time in the kitchen plotting meals.  A girl’s still gotta eat though!  In spring and summer I seem to rely more on grilled vegetables to form the basis of simple, wholesome and delicious fare without too much fuss or thought put into the planning. 
There is a lot of versatility in a batch of grilled vegetables.  I often will grab an assortment such as zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, peppers, red onion, and portobello mushrooms without too much thought as to how I intend to use them.  For me this is unusual.  Throughout the fall and winter I plan my meals and shopping lists carefully to ensure that I am not wasting food. Once the warmer months come along and perfectly content with big salads, which provide a great canvas for just about anything leaving little to waste.
I typically will prepare a simple marinade of balsamic vinegar, garlic, and some herbs to brush on the vegetables.  For portobello steaks, I find I enjoy the Forks Over Knives recipe, which is a soy based marinade with garlic, ginger and a bit of unrefined liquid sugar.   Grilling 3-5 minutes on each side leaves nice grill marks and tenderness to most vegetables. 
A grilled vegetable sandwich makes a nice light meal.  I like to smear some hummus on fresh bread and add fresh tomato, basil and/or spinach, some banana peppers for acid and crunch, a few kalata olives. 
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Grilled vegetables also lend well to pastas.  Fresh basil, kalamata olives, toasted pine nuts, nutritional yeast and fresh squeezed lemon juice makes for a special dish.  I also like to make a sauce of garlic, crushed red pepper and white balsamic vinegar.  The white balsamic has a less harsh flavor than it’s dark counterpart that lends well to sauces and salads, especially when you are not using oil to tone down the flavor.
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Of course there must be grilled vegetable pizza on a homemade whole wheat cauliflower crust.
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And it wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t a burrito.  A fajita burrito with portobello steak is a personal love.
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Even simpler is grilled vegetables over brown rice or in the aforementioned salads.  
I can’t believe I almost didn’t buy a grill, because what would a vegan need a grill for?!  Nonsense.  I love my grill and the simplicity it adds to meal planning. 
Next week’s post will be a bit late because I’m heading to Portland!  This weekend is the Engine 2 Retreat in Portland, Oregan.  What better excuse to cross a trip to the Pacific Northwest off my bucket list 🙂  Stay tuned for my review of the Retreat and the city.

A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish

Happy New Year’s Eve!  One year ago (tomorrow) I posted my first Dandelion Wishes blog post.   The goal, or resolution if you must, had been

“to live healthier through eating better, try new foods and recipes, and do more of what I love most…COOK!”

GoalPlanWishI love this quote, attributed to French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  So often resolutions are more wishes than goals because we lack the plan and commitment to make them reality.  The plan for 2013 was to prepare at least one new recipe a week and blog about the journey to track my progress and add some accountability, even if I were the only reader.

Here we are one year later, and I must say I’ve really enjoyed this project.  Trying new recipes has forced me to think consciously about my meals.  Even more important to me, this process has been a constant reminder to choose to spend more of my time doing something that I enjoy.

So, how’d I do??

  • In 52 weeks I prepared and tried 153 new recipes, averaging nearly 3x what the initial goal been.  There was only one week that I did not prepare a new recipe; I was on a business trip in Germany for all of Week 23.
  • I never missed a blog post. Some were a bit late and Week 23 didn’t have a recipe review but every week had a post.
  • It turns out I wasn’t just writing for myself after all!  As of today, the blog has 2105 views and I have 39 followers.
  • Week 4: Spicy Foods for Chilly Days was the top post with 129 views; I think that the Happy Herbivore Cheater Pad Thai probably pushed it to the top.  Since I’ve written that post Lindsay Nixon (aka Happy Herbivore) has made a tutorial of the full recipe for an online cooking show; you can find that on YouTube.

What’s next for me and Dandelion Wishes (Dandelion Plans just isn’t as whimsical)…stay tuned 😉 I have a lot of wishes right now and am still working out the plans but this weekend the 2014 Challenge will be ready to publish.  In the meantime, thank you for following my journey and have a Happy New Year!

 

 

Week 52: Something Old and Something New

This time of year is a time of reflection on the year gone by and hope for the year ahead.  That said, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves!  To be fair to Week 52’s recipes I’ll reserve this post for the Challenge at hand and plan to write more on reflections and hopes in a separate New Year’s post.

IMG_5653I was looking for a gingerbread pancake recipe for Christmas morning and discovered this Whole Wheat Vegan version.  The batter was very thin when prepared as written and wasn’t cooking up as I’d hoped so I added some additional whole wheat pastry flour until the batter reached a consistency I was expecting of a pancake batter, maybe an additional 1/3-1/2 cup.  The additional flour did the trick and the pancakes were perfect in texture, light and fluffy.  The flavors were also wonderful and, as expected, reminiscent of gingerbread with molasses and spice.

My omni parents were coming Christmas Eve to open prezzies and have lunch and I wanted at least part of our meal to be plant based.  After perusing cookbooks I decided on Veganomicon’s Creamy Tomato Soup.  This soup is delicious; it’s packed with flavor and not too acidic, a downfall of some tomato based soups.  The creamy in this lovely soup comes from potatoes, I used yukon gold, blended into the soup at the end.    I think the key to the flavor is the sun-dried tomatoes that add some depth to the canned crushed tomatoes.  It was a very easy soup to prepare ahead and reheat in the crockpot.

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I was very excited to receive Veganomicon author Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s new book , Isa Does It from my Secret Santa this year.  My cousin’s and I made our first attempt at Elfster for a Campbell Cousin Secret Santa.  The site makes it a bit easier in that it does the draw for you (and you can set up rules such that certain people, in our case spouses and siblings, don’t draw each other).  My first impression of this book is that it is AWESOME!  It is a large, dense, packed with recipes, serious, cookbook.  Pictures, why yes, there are tons of lovely pictures, and the wit you expect from Isa that makes it fun to read.  In my post-Christmas day of rest I perused this new lovely as I watched Bridget Jones’s Diary (a New Year’s tradition) trying to decide what to make first.  It was an easy decision…Scrambled Chickpeas.

I’ve written before about the hardest thing to give up since transitioning to a whole food plant based diet; it was a bit surprising to me that eggs would be the most difficult.  I love a good egg and most substitutes involve tofu, for which I have yet to find a recipe that I like (let alone love).  There it was on page 250 of Isa Does It, a breakfast scramble that is not tofu but chickpea based –  mashed just enough to appear scrambled while still holding onto some texture.  This recipe inspired my Saturday breakfast.  To make it a diner-worthy weekend breakfast I added Cajun Home Fries from the first Happy Herbivore Cookbook and a piece of rye toast.  

The scramble is perfection! A wonderful texture, egg-like color from turmeric, and flavorful from red onion, garlic and dill.  Adding the cajun home fries and a splash of hot sauce made for a weekend treat.  The Cajun Home Fries have all the flavor of good diner home fries without the grease.  The dish as a whole probably took about 30 minutes start to finish, which is longer than I usually spend on breakfast.  However, it was a simple and minimal ingredient enough to prepare pre-coffee.  This will be made often (albeit on a weekend).

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As I started thinking about how to write up this post and realized I had an old and new recipe from Isa and a brand spanking new cookbook from Happy Herbivore; it seemed perfect to add a Light & Lean recipe to complete Week 52 and come full circle in my final week post of endings and beginnings.  Having made hundreds of cookies (quite literally) but given them all away leaving not a single sweet treat in the house post-holiday, it seemed appropriate to peruse Light & Lean for a whole food plant based dessert.  Ruby Chocolate Muffins are 105 calorie whole wheat muffins just sweet enough to satisfy a craving.  These muffins are moist, light and not too sweet.Cranberries inspire the ruby namesake and add a nice tartness to accompany the chocolate.

IMG_5663[Beautiful mug was another Christmas gift purchased by a dear friend from a local artist, Paula Focazio Art & Design]

New Recipes Made This Week: 5

New Recipe Tally 2013: 153

Week 51: Jammin Around the Christmas Tree – Holiday Traditions

If someone were to ask what my signature dish is, what is the most requested, most associated with me foodstuff from my kitchen, the answer would be Jam Thumbprints.  I get more compliments and recipe requests for Jam Thumbprints than anything else I have ever made.  You may or may not associate these seemingly simple cookies with your holiday but in my family they always make an appearance on the Christmas Dessert Table.  I have a love/hate relationship with Jam Thumbprints.  I love that everyone loves them, and love the memories I have of my Pop-Pop stealing the tin and hiding it in his bedroom from the rest of the family.  I hate making them; perhaps hate is a strong word…they’re simple enough.   They only have four ingredients, but the process is tedious and when everyone loves something you have to make a LOT of them.

You can imagine my reservations in changing this recipe to consider a whole food plant based (or even vegetarian) alternative.  With only two weeks left in this year’s food challenge, it was time to test the Forks Over Knives Cookbook Jam Thumbprint.  First, let me tell you about my recipe.

I cannot recall the source of the recipe and am fairly certain that at one point in time it probably had baking soda and/or salt but in time it has been reduced to 1 cup butter, 2 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar and jam.  The cookies are soft, flaky and, unlike most store bought versions, have a good jam to cookie ratio.  Perhaps the 2014 challenge will be a Test Kitchen challenge and I will work on modifications.  For now, it was the Forks Over Knives version to satisfy Week 51’s new recipe for the 2013 challenge.

IMG_5639The Forks Over Knives cookies use oat flour, oats and walnuts as the dry ingredients and applesauce and almond butter as the wet.  The cookies mixed up well but were wetter than my version.  These cookies are denser than the signature version, still chewy, definitely nutty.  They’re really a good cookie.  If you are looking for a healthy substitute for a holiday treat, these cookies will do, but I don’t think they’d be the signature dish my version has always been.

I figured I’d continue the cookies and festive drink theme and made Vegan Chia Nog to go with my cookies.  The concept of egg nog was always a bit odd to me and I don’t think I have ever tried the real thing so I have nothing to compare the vegan version to.  I love the flavors; nutmeg and a splash of rum (perhaps I used the real thing instead of extract) made for a yummy accompaniment to my cookies.  The chia seeds seemed an odd textural component and I think I’ll try the banana version next time (I had none on hand this time around).

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New Recipes Made This Week: 2

New Recipe Tally 2013: 148

PS I’ve discovered Titles are probably the most difficult part of blogging…

Week 50: {Vegan} Hot Chocolate! Yeah, We Got It!

Week 50?!  How did that happen…I only have two more weeks of my Project 365…umm Project 52 (and a new found respect for those who successfully manage a Project 365).  As the year winds down and I get busy decorating, shopping, wrapping, card writing (hopefully, they may arrive with the Kings at this rate), and visiting – cooking and meal planning has gotten a bit slow.  I’ve stayed with tried and true favorites that are simple, fast and have lots of leftover potential.  Last night was a delicious chili that I’ve made versions of many times and will happily reheat all week.  On the plus side, tis the season for sweet treats and Week 50 was a great success in that department.

You may have thought we could stop talking about pumpkin but if you knew me at all you’d know pumpkin is a year round favorite that never hibernates in my kitchen.  Dreena Burton’s Vegan Pumpkin Muffins were the first new recipe this week.  I decided to alter the topping to be more of a streusel topping by mixing equal parts brown sugar, oats and chopped pecans.    These were wonderfully moist and delicious muffins.  The touch of chocolate from the chocolate chips and the added streusel topping were just enough to satisfy a sweet craving.

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IMG_5590As the weather turned to snow and ice leaving me homebound for the weekend, I decided hot chocolate and cookies would be necessary to weather the storm.  Everyday Happy Herbivore has a Chai-Oat Cookie recipe I’ve been eyeing but hadn’t made yet.  These cookies come together quickly with white beans (I used cannellini) and banana forming the base of the wet ingredients.  They are lovely cookie, with a texture that is reminiscent of Mexican Wedding Cookies as Lindsay notes in the recipe.  The abundance of seasoning really tones down the banana so even though I used very ripe bananas to make these cookies I don’t notice that overpowering banana flavor that sometimes results from baking with the distinctive fruit.

IMG_5589The Hot Cocoa recipe is in both Happy Herbivore Abroad and the new Happy Herbivore Light & Lean cookbooks.  After making this recipe you will never buy a packet again (mind you those packets generally have sugar and corn syrup as the first ingredients with cocoa somewhere around 3 or 4).  This is all whole food plant based and easy to prepare.  Absolutely delicious and the cocoa tastes so much better than any processed variety.  There is a Happy Herbivore Cooking Show online and tonights episode will be chocolate chip cookies and hot chocolate so tune in to get the cocoa recipe.

IMG_5586New Recipes Made This Week: 3

New Recipe Tally 2013: 146