Summer Food Lovin’

Summer is upon us! So now is the time to be free and spend my days cooking, baking, crafting, blogging, and playing with my new kitten (who shall get his own post later).

I moved out from the dorms and into a lovely apartment with my friend, Ryan. We have a nice kitchen with plenty of space, and I plan on trying at least one new recipe a week over the summer break. This should give me plenty to blog about and, hopefully, add a few good recipes to my repertoire.

Below are the meals I’ve made from the last two weeks of school up until I moved into the apartment (except the last one).

Chilled rice salad made with brown rice, corn, carrots, tomatoes, and water chestnuts, all tossed in an olive oil and vinegar dressing and placed on top of mixed greens.
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Spaghetti with “meaty” marinara sauce, and a side salad.
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Slow cooker refried beans. Not particularly pretty, but delicious and much cheaper and healthier than the store-bought canned kind.
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Homemade salsa verde made by blending tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice, and garlic in the food processor. ???????????????????????????????Soft tacos with black beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and salsa.

???????????????????????????????Homemade chick’n seitan patty with ketchup, a side salad, and Spanish rice.

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And now I bestow upon you, my faithful readers, the most delicious vegan mac and cheese in existence. I tried the recipe on a whim, but this butternut squash mac and cheese is totally amazing. A lot of vegan cheese sauces are close, yet not exactly what I remember mac and cheese to taste like. But this recipe is so creamy and cheesy tasting, I bet you could even trick an omnivore. It reminds me of the Cracker Barrel mac and cheese I loved during my pre-vegan youth.
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Veggie salad with saffron couscous.???????????????????????????????One of the first meals I made in my new kitchen was seitan tetrazzini, mashed potatoes and squash, and fresh corn on the cob (take note of the awesome pig corn holders). I changed the tetrazzini recipe by adding an onion, Mrs. Dash garlic and herb, and using Morningstar chick’n meal starter strips instead of seitan. It was good, but a bit dry after baking it. Next time I’ll probably skip baking it and just broil the Daiya on top.

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Fall is the Season of Blogging

Well  summer has come and gone, thank goodness! As much as I like having nothing to do, I have desperately missed school and Montevallo. And for some reason when I have nothing to do, I don’t blog either. It may seem strange, but when I’m back at school (even with homework and projects to do) I have much more drive to blog just for the fun of it.

But just because I didn’t write this summer doesn’t mean I didn’t photograph all of my good meals. Here’s what I enjoyed:

Super veggie salad with mixed lettuce, avocado, tomato, cucumber, kalamata olives, a chopped Boca chick’n patty, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Baked tofu that had been dipped in a simple coating of flour/soymilk with tons of seasonings and topped with caramelized onions.

I realize this salad (can it really be called a salad if there’s no lettuce?) isn’t the prettiest dish around, but it sure was tasty. A tortilla bowl with beans, spiced veggie crumbles, nacho cheez (made with Daiya) and guacamole.

I also found out that the cardboard braces in the tortilla shell box make fantastic crowns! That is me modeling it below with my serious face on.
Summer is the perfect time for an ice-box pie. So I made this cherry cheez-cake pie. It’s just a simple homemade graham cracker crust layered with a mix of cream cheez, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar, then canned cherry pie filling. Super simple and fast, but really good.

Here’s yet another salad. This one has mixed lettuce, red onions, tomato, smoked tofu, and kalamata olive Greek dressing. I (sadly) can’t remember the name of the dressing brand, but I bought it at Earth Fare. It is by far the best salad dressing I’ve ever had, so if I can find the name I’ll be sure to share it here.

And this summer I also experienced something wondrous: I ate my first peanut butter cup since going vegan four and a half years ago. My traveled to Cullman, AL to visit my friend Seth and while we were there we found Justin’s organic peanut butter cups. They are less sweet than the traditional Reese’s Cups that I remember, but the dark chocolate and natural peanut butter were phenomenal together. Definitely worth the long wait to find something this good.

Craft Journal: Llamas, Germs, and Mexican Food.

Continuing my 365 Creativity Journal challenge, here is the last week’s crafts:

Day 7 – the prompt was “Make a stencil and use it in your work.” So I found a llama drawing online, took out my exacto knife, and started cutting away! I then used a grey marker to stencil it onto paper.

Day 8 – the prompt was “Transform an old book into something new.” I had just finished organizing my collection of books and taking out the boring ones I’d already read, so I had a plethora of books to choose from. I picked The Revenge of the Shadow King though, because the creepy cover is awesome. I (once again) took my exacto knife and carved out the majority of the inner pages. I then painted the edge of the hollowed out book with glue, to make it a more solid surface.

Now I have a secret compartment to hide money, jewelry, and small animals!

I couldn’t bear to throw away the book pages, so I used water colors to paint them, and then found a paper flower/pom pom tutorial.

I really have no idea what I’m going to use these pompoms for, but they are too adorable to throw away! I may attach them to ribbon and string them across my dorm room as decoration.

Day 9 – the prompt was “Make something with your breakfast before you eat it.” Too bad this prompt landed on the first day that spring semester classes started back, because in my rush I couldn’t make anything super cool. So I made toast, and topped it with some Speculoos spread and made a happy face with vegan marshmallows. 😀

Day 10 – the prompt was “Use only water as your inspiration today.” Coincidentally, it rained that day. So I used a cup to collect some rain water, and used it in water colors to paint out different shades of blue.

Day 11- the prompt was “Work on the other hand. Pick a medium you’re comfortable with and work with your non-dominant hand.” I’m not fantastic at drawing, but I am decent enough. Though if anything ever happened to my right hand, I would be out of luck when it came to any art or writing. Check out these two very different robots:

Day 12 – the prompt was “Make something camouflage.” When I hear camouflage I think of what most others do too: rednecks, the army, hunting. But I also think of octopuses. Since my sister loves tv shows about weird underwater sea-creatures, I have seen quite a few octopuses changing color. If you really want to appreciate their camouflage abilities, watch the video below.

And so, inspired by mother nature’s handy work and after seeing an adorable felt octopus on the blog Futuregirl, I made this precious octopus! He’s just looks so happy to be visiting on my desk and not in the deep sea.

Day 13 – the prompt was “Use tea leaves, tea bags, or liquid tea to create something today.” So I grabbed two tea bags from the cafeteria, some paper, and paper glue. And tada! It looks a bit like dirt, but it’s tea, I promise.

Day 14 – the prompt was “Make something microscopic.” Since I am not talented in the field of making things that are invisible to my naked eye, I did the opposite and made a tiny thing bigger! I knitted up Jimmy the Germ. He loves giving you a cold, the flu, or the stomach bug. But he’s just so sweet looking that you might not mind.

Day 15 – the prompt was “Use a dollar bill as your medium or inspiration.” I have seen some really cute money origami, so I searched it online and found a tutorial for making a dollar bill ring! And I like myself, so I put a ring on it.

Not part of the craft journal, but here is the delicious lunch I made today for myself and Peter. Toasted refried bean enchiladas that were smothered in creamy enchilada sauce, and paired with Spanish rice that had spiced veggie crumbles and fresh tomatoes mixed in. I can’t wait to eat the leftovers, yum.

Post with the P’s – Pasta, Pizza, and Pie

Spring is in the air!… Well, no, not really. But registering for spring 2012 classes makes me feel like it’s right around the corner. Only about a week until we all go home for Thanksgiving break and then less than a month is left of this semester.  My eating habits have gotten better over the months though and I’m making more well-rounded meals instead of quick-fix foods.

                                                        For example, this lovely Mexican “lasagna” I made for myself and Peter the other night. It’s layers of tortillas filled with refried beans, Spanish rice, Rotel, seasoned Tofu Crumbles, and Daiya. Lots and lots of Daiya. I topped it with diced onion, tomato, bell pepper, and more cheez. Then after it finished baking I added sliced avocado and a bit of salsa on top on my slice. Yum.

Another delicious meal I threw together this week was “cheezy beef pasta”. Which was just pasta, a quickly made cheez sauce (Earth Balance, flour, plain soymilk, nutritional yeast, and seasoning salt), and a crumbled Gardein burger. Simple, but quite tasty.

Food Prep class has also had some good vegan food coming out of its labs. This week was pie lab and we got to make a cherry pie. To release steam we had to cut a hole in the crust, so I went the school spirit route and cut a M for Montevallo. It kinda leaked while baking, but still managed to taste great.

We also had a pizza lab, where the wonderful Dr. Mathisen got Daiya so we wouldn’t have a wimpy looking cheez-less pizza. Everyone was skeptical about how it would taste (except me, of course) and one girl even so far as to say the melted Daiya looked like “melted Crayola crayons” but everyone was eating their rude remarks when they got a mouthful of the pizza. It was delicious with its yeasty crust, homemade marinara sauce, and toppings of onion, bellpepper, and fresh basil.

Lunch On the Go

I haven’t graduated yet, but I have been doing dual-enrollment at the local community college to get prepared for going off to the University of Montevallo in the fall. Every Monday and Wednesday I have a 2 hour break inbetween classes around lunch time.

Instead of opting for eating out twice a week, I decided I’d save money (and be healthier) by making my own lunch. So I invested in an Aladdin black 24 oz. lunch bowl to carry my homemade goods around with.

Above is one of my latest meals to make for lunch, spaghetti with homemade “meaty” tomato sauce. It stored nicely and kept pretty warm for the 3 hours it stayed in the car until my break.

Okay, I’ll admit this isn’t the prettiest picture. But it was a very yummy lunch. It was Spanish rice, and refried beans mixed with freshly chopped tomatoes and peppers.

Lastly, I had a homemade pizza roll and carrots with balsamic sauce. I love being able to store all these fresh veggies away for lunch and my lunchbox keep them nice and cool.

Nachos!

I had nachos for lunch today! Ever since I bought a tub of We Can’t Say It’s Cheese mexi-chedder style dip (which is sooo good) from the health food store, I’ve been making lots of Mexican food this week. These nachos had corn chips, refried beans, the mexi-chedder dip mixed with some Rotel, taco sauce, black olives and Tofutti sour cream. I forgot to put on some local tomatoes we bought before taking the picture. This was a super yummy lunch.

Lunch Out and Shopping at Garden Cove

Me and my mom went to Huntsville, AL a few days ago for lunch and a much needed trip to the health food store.

Rosie’s Mexican Cantina is one of the few restaurants around here with vegan options. Rosie’s has a huge vegetarian menu featuring tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, burritos and enchiladas. Most of which can be made vegan by asking for no cheese and sour cream. Be sure to tell the waiter you want vegetarian rice and beans. They have seperate rice made with vegetable stock (instead of chicken) and beans without lard (since they usually serve “traditional” lard filled beans) for their vegetarian customers.

With a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff, Rosie’s Mexican Cantina is a great place to enjoy lunch. You may have to wait a while to get a seat since they’re quite popular, but it’s worth it for the yummy food.

I got the spinach enchiladas (with no cheese) in corn tortillas topped with ranchero sauce, and served with spanish rice and refried beans.

It was all sooo good. The spinach in the enchiladas was perfectly seasoned and mixed with sauted onions and peppers. The ranchero sauce topping it was flavorful, with a spicy bite. Their rice was incredibly fluffy, the beans were yummy and perfect for dipping your tortilla chips in. I’m definitely ordering this meal again.

After stuffing ourselves at Rosie’s Mexican Cantina we drove to Garden Cove, a health food store. Although it’s small, it sure does pack a bunch of vegan food in there. It carries a ton of different things, from fresh fruits and veggies, to several different brands of soy cheese, to bulk spice bins, and more.

My huge load of groceries.

The back row (from left to right):

Textured vegetable protein breasts, Soyatoo whipped “cream”, organic pink lady apples, Road’s End Organics Penne and Chreese boxed pasta meal, Worthington canned Linkettes, Skallops and Vegetable Steaks, Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese and Better Than Sour Cream, Enjoy Life snickerdoodles, nutritional yeast, orange and cranberry granola, and last but not least ZenSoy vanilla soy milk.

Front row (from left to right):

Organic avocados, Nate’s Meatless Meatballs, two Alternative Baking Co. cookies (lemon poppyseed and oatmeal raisin), two packages of Yves deli slices (“ham” and “roast beef”), Follow Your Heart monterey jack soy cheese and two packages of Follow Your Heart mozzarella soy cheese.

Since Huntsville is almost an hour away and we don’t get to go there often, I always make sure to stock up on ingredients I use all the time (i.e. nutritional yeast and soy cheese) from Garden Cove. If you’re in town, I’d definitely recommend you eat at Rosie’s Mexican Cantina and go over to Garden Cove and look at all the great products available there.