Monday, June 27, 2011

days pass and turn into weeks

A few weekends ago I went down to Salisbury MD to visit with my parents, go to my friend's wedding, and have my own bridal dress fitting!
It was a very eventful weekend and was plan filled!

The dress fitting went great! Luckily, the dress that is 10 sizes too big can be adjusted to fit me..what a relief! We've already bought it and I fell in love with it so it's great that it will work!!

After the dress fitting, my mother & I went blueberry picking.
I love getting fresh fruit, and I think we both ate more bluberries while picking than we actually put in our buckets! We got a huge tub full and my mom packed me a ton to bring home which I've been using in cereal, baked goods, and just eating by the handful to get a lovely dose of antioxidants!

While home, Jason & I went out to dinner with my parents in Rehobeth Beach. I wanted to go there after my dad mentioning that there was a vegetarian restaurant out there that he had heard about. It was called "Planet X" and I had looked up the menu and it sounded amazing! More of a sit down, nice gourmet dish menu! They serve meat options, but have a ton of choices for vegans! Not to mention, the atmosphere is very awesome -- tons of buddhas and zen lighting and decor!

Heres the outside as we were approaching, already I knew I would like it!!

This was a view from our outdoor table. I felt like we were in a treehouse! It was a great atmosphere and all the comfy couches and pillows and lights really added to the feeling of it!

This was my dish..the only vegan dish that was ordered that night. My parents both opted for the salmon and Jason got the steak.
My dish was described as "crispy tofu red thai curry, seasonal vegetables, basmati rice, crispy wonton sticks, toasted coconut"

It was great! The option was either tofu or shrimp, obviously I got the tofu which was perfectly cooked! Not too mushy--not an overly fried--just firm enough to get the flavor with the delicious curry sauce!

Usually I'm hesitant to order a curry..i don't like it coming out soup-like..but Planet X's dish was the right amount of sauce to vegetable/tofu ratio! Plus the staff was super accomodating and very friendly! :) We all left happy with our dishes..

After wandering around Rehobeth and seeing all the cool shops and sights, we found the Dogfish Head brewery restaurant.

I'm in no means a beer drinker. I'll have one every once in a while when with Jason and that's the only option, i much prefer wine. However, I was very intrigued at Dogfish when I saw that they had peanut butter vodka! I've never seen this flavor of vodka before, I've had whipped creme vodka and many other flavors..but never peanut butter! First... I had no idea what to mix it I asked the bartender. He said most people get it mixed with the grape vodka for a peanut butter & jelly martini. Sounded perfect in my book!!

Peanut Butter & Jelly Martini.
Holy WOW! This was awesome! I figured many food bloggers would appreciate if only they'd make an almond butter vodka! ;)

Rehobeth is definitely one of the COOLEST beach towns!
I'd definitely love to go back and try annie bananie's -- it's an all vegan "ice cream" place using frozen bananas as the ice cream! so cool!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

this fire grows higher

As the warmer weather keeps coming, the thought of soups & warm comfort foods are being pushed way out of mind.
However, one of my favorite soups is absolutely perfect for summer weather!
Gazpacho, of course.

I've made it once before a couple years ago and wasn't completely satisfied with the results. I like lots of green pepper flavor and good seasonings to balance it all out. Plus it's so great to make a meal without even turning on any appliances other than a blender..or magic bullet in my case. Which reminds me of how excited i'll be to get a REAL blender and food processor on the registry :)
I love my magic bullet, but trying to make a large amount of anything in it is quite tough..

I gathered a few ideas from blogs and forums for how to create my perfect gazpacho.

This recipe is loosely based on about 10 different recipes ;)

2 cups of tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped.
1 cup of cucumber, peeled seeded and chopped.
1 cup green pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped.
2 cloves garlic
1 cup tomato juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dill seasoning

Place half of the veggies and all the garlic and seasonings in a blender with tomato juice and vinegar and puree. Add the rest of the chopped veggies and just pulse a few times to finely chop, but still have chunks in your soup!

Easy, no?
If you are stuck using a small blender, or magic bullet like I was, it was easy to puree the first half and then add in chunks of veggies at a time. Taking some of the mixture out into the bowl you will be using to serve it in helps make room as well.

Definitely a great summer meal on a hot day :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

why is everyone so serious

Even though I do not live as close to center city Philadelphia anymore (I'm now in the Exton area) my best friend still lives quite close so we get to do our weekly "date nights" sometimes in her area. I always get excited driving out there and seeing the familiar buildings and places that I had spent the last four years in. I love living out here with my fiance as well and the new area that I've grown accustomed to, but I still definitely love going back! Luckily it's still only a 30 minute drive so not too bad!

Anyway, this past date night was in Philadelphia. We had planned on grabbing some takeout from Blackbird and enjoying some wine back at her place, but considering the temperature was nearing 100 degrees and there wasn't any air conditioning, we decided it'd be best to go somewhere instead.
I knew it was Beer Week in Philly and neither of us had tried The Belgian Cafe before, so that was a perfect opportunity to try it!!

The appetizers sounded more enticing than the meals, so we chose three to split to eat during our non-stop gab session, as usual. :)

The first one we got was the Edamame Hummus. I had remembered hearing about their sweet potato hummus, but that wasn't on the menu this time.

The hummus was great! It had cashews on top of it which added a crunch, and it came with the crispy wonton chips and red pepper slices. It was definitely a great option!

The next appetizer was the vegan barbecue wings. According to the site, it is corn meal crusted seitan with their spicy barbecue sauce. It came with the celery and blue cheese which wasn't vegan but also came with the vegan aoli sauce which was really good! I enjoyed the wings better on their own though since the sauce was so good!

Our last appetizer was the stuffed tofu. It was pieces of tofu marinated in Spaten Optimator, stuffed with dried cherries (my fave part!) cashews, cilantro, and garlic. According to the site at least, but I distinctly remember having pieces of red pepper in the mix as well! This tofu was a-mazing. Definitely something so different than the regular tofu options that are usually available!

Of Course, being Beer Week in philly, we had to drink some beers!

We figured being at the Belgium cafe we should drink belgium beers. I'm no beer expert, in fact I rarely drink it, more of a wine-o, but I knew which types of beers I liked and didn't like. After the waitresses suggestion, our first beers were drafts from Ohio..not exactly international but still good none the less!

After looking through the actual bottled beer list, we chose Delerium Tremens for our second beers. I've had this beer before from RFD in Washington D.C....I chose it based on its banner that read "The Best Beer In The World" and had a cute pink elephant next to it, how could I say no? Since then I've had it a few other times and I really enjoy it! could you not like a beer with a cute pink elephant on it??

I'd definitely love to go back to the Belgian Cafe sometime soon, it was a great atmosphere and the food was awesome and so vegan friendly!
There's just too many places in philly that I already want to try so hopefully one day I'll get back there :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Oh where does the time go?

4 months later and I'm posting again.
I seem to fall in this rut often within the past year or so..
Although I still read other's blogs all the time and am always inspired to keep going with mine, but yet I always put it to the side. I still take pictures of all the fabulous food I've been making though "just in case" i'll blog about it.
In which I will!

I have another cookbook review.
Appetite For Reduction by Isa Chadra Moskowitz, aka the vegan goddess of wonderful foods and cookbooks (veganomicon, vegan cookies/vegan cupcakes, vegan brunch..yes they're all great!)

I was intrigued by this book however because it was focused on healthier foods with less "fake meats" and more using pure vegetables and "real" food. Not that I don't love a delicious seitan scallopini, but sometimes resorting to how delicious just vegetables can be is a nice refresher.

I was able to get this book at a Border's that was closing, so I got a great discount! They had a lot of different vegan books that I was tempted to buy at such a great deal as well, but I already have quite the bookshelf full of them.

The first recipe I made from this was the Chickpea Piccata and Caulipots (pg. 115 and 54)

I love piccata sauces so I knew this would be good, and I loved the idea of a healthier mashed potato using half cauliflower as well. There were a few variations of the caulipots but I stuck to the original recipe and they turned out great.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes (Caulipots): (serves 4)
2 russet potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tablespoon of olive oil ( I used smart balance instead! made it taste "buttery" like mashed potatoes i'm used to!)
2-4 T of vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon of salt
several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a 4 quart pot in enough cold water to submerge them, making srue there are about 4 inches of extra water on top for when you add the cauliflower. Bring the potatoes to a boil. Once boiling, add the cauliflower and lower the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.
Drain them in a colander, return them to the pot, and use a potato masher to mash them up a bit. (I think i used a bottom of a cup, but I added a masher to my wedding registry!) Add the olive oil (or smart balance), 2 T of broth, and the salt and pepper and mash a bit more. Use a fork to make sure its seasoned well. Add more broth if needed and taste for salt.

These were so great and I honestly would have had no idea there was cauliflower used in it except for I made them.

Chickpea Piccata: (serves 4)
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly (i used a jarred minced garlic, about 3 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup white wine (i used pinot grigio because it's great to drink as you cook)
pinches of black pepper and dried thyme
1 16 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup capers with a little brine
3 T lemon juice
4 cups arugula (I used spinach)

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Saute the shallots and garlic for abuot 5 minutes, until golden. Add the bread crumbs and toaste tehm by stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. They should turn a few shades darker.
Add the broth, wine, salt, pepper, and thyme. Turn up the heat, bring the mixture to a rolling boil, and let the sauce reduce by half; should take about 7 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and capers and let heat through, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and turn off the heat.
To assemble correctly, and if you made the caulipots as well -- put on a plate the spinach or arugula, then top with a serving of caulipots, then a serving of chickpea picatta so the spinach gets warm and it all goes together perfectly!

These two recipes I think would win over any omnivore easy. It's such a comforting and delicious, yet extremely healthy meal that anyone would enjoy it. :)

The next recipe I tried from the book was the Red Thai Tofu (p.149) and Green Beans with Thai Basil (p.98).

Both of these recipes were great, and went together perfectly for a delicious meal :)

The flavoring and seasonings on the tofu were perfect and the way of cooking it made it just enough crispy and firm to not be on the mushy side.
The basil in both of these recipes really brought it all together.
However, for both of these recipes it calls for fresh Thai basil.
I could not find this type in the stores near me, and regular basil leaves worked just fine! As I've been learning with a lot of recipes..don't be intimated by the complex ingredients, as long as you can find something similar in your local stores then the recipe will be fine and have your own twist to it!

Another recipe that we made was the Mango Baked Beans.

I'm back and forth with this recipe. i halved it for just Jason & I, and it still made a TON. I'm pretty sure the leftovers ended up being trash after being in the fridge for too long though. :(
The night that I made it and we ate it I really did like it.
I also made the accompanied corn bread with scallions with it and that gave it a nice touch and was great to dip into the bean sauce.
The mango added sweetness to the beans and bbq-ish to it which was a nice contrast.
I don't think I'd make this again though, but it was nice to try and a great easy weeknight meal!

The most recent meal that I've made from AFR was the 2nd Avenue Vegetable Korma.
This was AWESOME!
I always have trouble when I eat out and order a vegetable curry.
It always comes to me the way I don't want it to -- more of vegetables in a "soup" then vegetables with a sauce on top. I like coconut milk in my curries, but not my vegetables drowning in it.
That's why I prefer to make my own curries with coconut milk at home. Plus I can make it with light coconut milk, which in my opinion is much better than the full just has a less overpowering taste but still brings on tons of flavor!

This recipe made a ton and was great the next day as leftovers over spinach!
Any indian-inspired meal I'm instantly drawn too, and usually very happy with so this was no different. It was great to use such fresh veggies for it as well. The zucchini was a nice change to the usual veg lineup.

This cookbook is truly great and I've been bookmarking many other recipes from it that I plan on making in the future.

My only demise? There is no dessert section!!

While I know Isa's cause of this book was to be "healthy" after making Vegan Cupcakes and Vegan Cookies cookbooks, it would still have been nice to see some "healthier" versions of her own desserts that she's come up with!

That's okay though, my "healthy" cookbook of Happy Herbivore has delicious fat free carrot cake cupcakes that we made to tie me over, which I'll review next time. ;)

Another recipe tried from the book was the