Monday, July 29, 2013

Pour Some Vegan on Me: Mac & Cheese

There are many things you can no longer eat once you make the decision to walk the path of a Vegan. Growing up I was a dairy fanatic, and most of my family is to this day. (Even though almost ALL of them are lactose intolerant. They take the OTC pills and pile on the cheddar.)

For me, that is not my path - my path involves:

Which means... VEGAN MAC AND CHEESE!!

You will need:

1/2 bag of Pasta - I use rice pasta, and find that Trader Joe's has the best.
1 full package of Daiya cheese - when I made it last, I used pepper jack - use what you like
1 1/2 - 2 cups Veggie Broth (make sure it says vegan)
1/2 Onion - chopped
2 TBSP Flour
1 tspn Turmeric
2 TBSP Olive Oil
Around 1/2 Cup - Bread Crumbs

(Not in the photo)
1/2 Red pepper - chopped
1 TBSP Vegan Butter - like Earth Balance

Pre-heat oven to 375

Bring a big pot of salty water to boil - add pasta and undercook by about 2 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside. In the same pot heat up Olive Oil, and add the Onions and Peppers - sautee for about 5 minutes (until onions are clear) or if you want - sautee a little longer and let the onions and peppers get a little crispy around the edges. That's how I like it.

As they cook - heat up the broth in the microwave - 2 minutes on high.

Once the Peppers and Onions are cooked, dust with Flour - all 2 TBSP. Get the Peppers and Onions nicely coated - then slowly add the broth, making sure to stir as you go, scrapping the bottom to incorporate all the floury bits. Allow broth mixture to come to a boil.

Now, add Daiya Cheese and stir.

Add Turmeric for that nice (natural) orangey glow.

Stir in Pasta and let it all meld for a minutes - as you melt the Butter. Add Bread Crumbs to the Butter and set it aside. Take your Pasta and Cheese mixture off the stove, and pour into a well greased baking dish. Top with Butter Bread Crumb mixture and place in oven.

Bake for 20-30, until the bread crumbs are a golden brown, and your Daiya Cheese sauce is all bubbly and gooey.

Allow to cool (so you don't burn your face off) and enjoy!

Happy (vegan) eating!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Parenting Life

Once upon a time, I was single - and then I met a boy. We hung out and did this and that - got married, started a band (or 2), wrote some things, worked on a movie, worked on a music video - and then we got pregnant.

Becoming a parent looks great on paper. You know, the pieces of paper that come inside every frame you've ever bought? Yes. There are smiles, a thousand hugs - usually a butterfly, or at least the sun is shining. And the world is perfect.

And then it happens. You realize you don't know shit.
You have never know shit.
And you being to wonder if you will ever know shit...

This would be where I've been for the last month or so. I. Know. Nothing. And, my hair is grayer because of it...

A few days ago, Huffington Post released an article - "The Latest Parenting Trend: CTFD" - a.k.a. - Calm the F*ck Down. And it is geared to the parents. It is geared to me.

Self-conscious and convinced I'm giving my child more complexes than the worldly knowledge that will allow him to succeed as a well balanced human adult in his life - I found it hilarious when I read the CTFD article. I'd quote it to you, but what's the point? The heading is all you really need. And if you need more, just realize when you're about to freak out about really lame things - like the fact that your kid hates ice cream (mine does), you should just CTFD.

Like I said, it was geared towards me. I firmly believe the Universe looked down at me a few times over this last month and finally was like, "Dude. She's gonna giver herself an aneurysm. We HAVE to do something."

I'm not sure when I cracked, allowing myself to get this stressed about everything related to my son. I know it has to do with the lack of preschool in his future (his old one didn't work out and I'm having problems finding a new one. And now it's mid-July. Yeah. Yeah... sigh...) And a week and a half ago I had my first big parenting issue, and I have been obsessing over it since then. (The short version is I had an issue with a teacher of my son's and my son's "spirited" energy.). My emotions have been up and down. I'm having problems sleeping, this in turn is exasperating the issues, and that has bled into other regions of my life - like writing, and the fact I'm not hearing anything about my submissions. (unless its a rejection - blurg + ugh = argh!)

So, as I read part of the first paragraph - because, like I said, you only need the title to get the drift - I stood back, and CTFD and realized that when I do I start to see solutions rather than only the aggravating problems.

At the end of the day, it has come to this - right now is just the beginning of all of this "parenting" stuff. And I can't possibly know all the right moves, because I've never done this before.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the Parenting Life, but I can say now - as long as I remind myself not to take myself too seriously - it will probably all be just fine. (hopefully)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pour Some Vegan on Me: Breakfast Potatoes that will rock your socks off!

What is breakfast, without breakfast potatoes? It's a sad, sad meal... This recipe is a cross between hash browns and potato pancakes. A warning, in advance, this will ruin your baking dish, but you won't care when you taste the finished product.

What you will need: (as pictured above)

4 Potatoes - I used California Golden, because once you've had them, you won't want any other kind.
1/2 medium sized onion - or 1 small onion
3 TSP of Garlic Powder (NOT SALT - DON'T USE GARLIC SALT. Just don't...)
1/4 TSP Baking Powder
1/4 TSP Black Pepper
1/2 TSP Salt
2 TBSP Flour
3 TSP Egg Replacer (You won't be mixing them as directed on the package. You just want the powder)
2 TBSP Olive Oil

You will also need:

Your food processor with the grating blade, or a grater
1 - 8"x8" or 2 QT baking dish

Preheat your oven to 375*

Step 1 - Peel your potatoes

Step 2 - Grate your Potatoes and Onion
Place them in a *teal bowl
(*teal is optional)

Step 3 - Add all your dry ingredients 
Use Purple Spatula to coat all of the potatoes and onion shreds. 
You won't have to add any water/broth, because the onion and potatoes are watery enough.

Add the 2 TBSP of Olive Oil and toss some more

Step 4 - Press Mixture into WELL OILED Baking Dish.

Place Baking dish in the oven on the center rack. 
It will take between 45-60 minutes for it to cook through.
You're dish will get crusty, as will your potatoes - on the OUTSIDE
On the INSIDE they will get creamy and UNBELIEVABLY delicious. 

In my house - this is a serving for 2. 
In the real world, it should be a serving for 4 - 1 potato per person. 
My husband is Irish/German and I have lot of Eastern European in my blood.
We like the potato.
A lot.

This recipe is my favorite breakfast potato recipe, because it's creamy and different than most things you'll find out there. And it, just like most of my other recipes, is versatile.
Not a fan of Garlic? Switch it for Onion Powder.
Really love peppers? Grate up some Red Pepper or some Red and Green and make them Fiesta Potatoes!

This recipes goes great with a plate of pancakes, fresh fruit, coffee, and family.

Happy Eating!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pour Some Vegan on Me: A Pantry List (in parts) & BBQ Tofu Recipe

So, let's talk "Meatless Mondays" and the life of a Vegetarian/Vegan. You have made a decision, maybe it's to be meatless for one day a week, or to be meatless ALL the time - either way, you've made a decision. (A hard decision in a world drowning in bacon commercials.) But you went for it, and here you are - looking for recipes to fill in the gaps of your dietary life - and have no fear, I have a list for you, part of one. I want to take it by section, because there are a 1000 lists out there, but I want you to understand why I use what I use. (and don't  you fret - at the end is a recipe, for BBQ Tofu. It IS summer! BBQ is a must.)

Meat Substitutes -

cubed up tempeh

Tempeh  - a soy product - so... if you have a soy allergy, this is not for you. Personally, I love tempeh bacon, but other than that I don't eat much, which is a shame, because Tempeh is by far one of the healthiest of meat substitutes. Tempeh is brittle and will crumble, you can marinade it and use it in sandwiches, or use it as a substitute for ground meat - like in sloppy joes.

pre-made seitan, by Westsoy, whom I love

Seitan - a dough like substitute made from wheat gluten - so... if you have a wheat or gluten allergy, this is not for you. Seitan works well in sandwiches, just like tempeh, but since its basically a boiled dough, it slices nicer and doesn't crumble on you. You can marinade it and make a delicious vegan Rueban, or a BBQ sandwich (with a little lettuce, tomato, pickle on a kaiser roll - yum.)

fried tofu, with slaw

Tofu - Basically, this is a bean curd loaf, soy bean to be exact. Back in the day when I first went vegetarian (circa 1990) I had no idea what tofu was, and it wasn't until 1997 that I ever bought a loaf - set it on a baking sheet and put it in my oven. (I had no idea what I was doing. None. I'm much better now, thank you.) Tofu may be the most versatile of the three I've listed. If you buy Extra Firm Tofu, wrap it in a nice clean dish towel and press it between two plates for a few hours (or over night) you will change the texture, drying it out, allowing you to grill or bake it much easier. Pressing it also opens to better marinading. Tofu acts as a bit of a sponge- after you press it, place it in a container with your marinade of choice and let it sit for a few hours. Cook how ever you see fit.
The same with the pressing, if you freeze Extra Firm Tofu, it will expand as it freezes, changing the texture of the loaf. Or smash it up and cook it up with some sauteed onions, peppers, tomatoes, - add a little turmeric and make yourself a delicious tofu scramble for breakfast.

And then there is Soft Tofu - that can be used as a substitute in dips, as sour cream, smoothies, and on and on.

Portobello Mushrooms
Portobello Mushroom - Because there is only so much soy and gluten a girl can eat. Mushrooms are the steaks of the land of herbivore. They are beefy and thick, so you can grill them. Slice them up and put them on your salads, or chop them even smaller and make a risotto, they are a wonderful meat substitute (and even healthier than tempeh, because they have one ingredient - mushroom). I like to marinade them with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and eat them like a burger. Top them with Daiya cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and avocado, and you'll have an amazing burger!

**I'm not adding pre-made substitutes, like veggie burgers, sausages, or luncheon meat, to this list because I want these posts to be about making your own, from scratch, and I'll tell you now, if you're trying to pinch the pennies, cooking from scratch is the way to go. That's not to say there won't be recipes down the road that may have pre-made foods in them. I just feel the base of what you have in your house should be versatile enough to make 7-10 different meals, if not more. Soy Chorizo, while delicious, limits you're menu**

And here it is! Your recipe!

Easy Peasy BBQ Tofu

1 block Extra Firm Tofu
BBQ Sauce that you love
Olive Oil

Take your tofu, and drain it, then wrap it inside a kitchen towel, and press it between 2 plates for at least an hour. The longer you do it, the better it will taste. (I do it over night - pressing the tofu I mean...)

Once the tofu has been pressed, slice it into cubes, and set aside.
Heat 2 TBSP of Olive Oil in a frying pan, toss in the cubed tofu and brown. It will take about 5 minutes. Cover with BBQ Sauce, about 1/4 of the jar to start with. Stir it up to coat all the tofu and let it simmer. After about 5 minutes, add more BBQ sauce, and let simmer until the sauce becomes all gooey. Remove from heat.

This is great over rice!

Happy Eating!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My L.A. - Aquarium of the Pacific

With access to a car, I now can take my son places that we normally wouldn't be able to visit - like the Aquarium of the Pacific, in Long Beach.

This is a place to go if you have a child or are in love with aquatic animals. My 4yo LOVE the Aquarium of the Pacific. He has the map in his room, which he reads, daily.

But a warning in advance - it's expensive. $14.95 for children ages 3-11, and $25.95 for adults - it'll take a chunk out of your wallet. (and if your wallet looks like mine, this trip is a "special" treat - right there with Disneyland.) You can buy a family membership for $115, which makes it reasonable - and honestly, that's the best way to go. If you go 2x, you've paid it off. (Family memberships are the key to all things family)

That aside - this place is AWESOME! It's has a ton of touch tanks, and I'm not just talking sea stars here. There are shark, sting ray, and jelly fish touch tanks. There is an incredible shark tank with larger sharks:

like this Sandtiger Shark
There are sting rays so large... just SO FREAKING LARGE... you can't believe your eyes.

Posing penguins:

Creepy deep sea ocean creatures:

And even a cool octopus...

There are also seals, otters, tons of tanks separated by type of fish - tropical, deep sea, norther pacific, southern pacific. So there is something for everyone.

It's a great place to visit if you're on vacation - and if you order online you can get a package deal to see the aquarium and the Queen Mary, which is across the bay from the museum. There are also harbor rides. And if you live here, like I said - get a family package, which I plan on doing (hopefully) soon. Because my son is in LOVE with this place.

L.A. county is a BIG place, and that means we have TONS to see... And to be honest, I don't know where to go next? Should we visit Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains? Or the tide pools in Malibu?

What would you suggest?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pour Some Vegan on Me: Melissa's Black Bean Burgers

This recipe is my friend, Melissa's. This is the best Black Bean Burger recipe I've ever worked with, and/or have eaten - PLUS it's the cheapest. Coming in around $4 for 4 - 6 patties, depending on the size of your patty. This recipe is delicious, healthy, VEGAN, and thrifty!

This is the brand of pre-made black beans I buy.
Please note the VEGETARIAN labeling

1 can of VEGAN Black Beans (Note: most black beans ARE NOT *vegan. Sad but true.) - or 1 1/2 Cups Black Beans. and - You can buy bulk beans for cheap at places like Whole Foods and hydrate as you need them. It's easy. All you do is measure out the beans you need, rinse them off, pick out the cracked and bad beans, soak over night, the next day, rise them, put them in a cooking pot - cover with water and boil until tender. (Optional - write a run on sentence on your blog on how to rehydrate them.)
soaking beans

1 Cup bread crumbs. Melissa used panko, I have used regular bread crumbs, and ground up crackers.  (If you're gluten free, buy gluten free bread, or crackers and make your own crumbs. Food Processor, Food Processor - pulse! pulse! pulse!)

once upon a time, I didn't own a food processor
I have no idea how I made food back then...
You will put your beans, bread crumbs and tomatoes in said food processor, with the "S" blade" and blend.

I can find Muir Glen at Target, not sure if that's an L.A. thing
or Target thing. But look around for organic, and even better,
look for organic in a glass jar. That is EVEN BETTER for you. Well,
unless you just dice some fresh ones... 

1/2 can of organic Diced Tomatoes with chilies - drained. (OK, they don't need to be organic, but honestly, they should be... just sayin'...)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Topping: (are optional, but delicious)

You will need a food processor or blender.

Are you read for this?

Drain beans, and rinse, put into your food processor.
Add 1 cup Bread Crumbs
Add 1/2 can drained diced Tomatoes with chilies

Blend until it starts to ball up. If the mixture is too wet, it will fall apart, so add more bread crumbs until you're able to mold a patty in your hands. (It should be around the 1 cup specified, give or take a tbsp or 2)

Heat about 2 TBSP of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add patty, brown on one side, flip - brown on the other side. Place on a bun, or on your plate. Top with Veganaise (vegan mayonnaise) and sliced Avocado.

Outside of just how inexpensive this recipe is, it's also extremely versatile. You can buy fire roasted tomatoes and add some cumin (1/2 tspn), garlic powder (1 tspn), and a little basil (1 tspn) with salt and pepper to taste, and you'll have a whole new patty. You could buy the oregano, onion, garlic diced tomatoes, or even one with chipotle peppers, which I have and is equally amazing.

Remember 1 can of tomatoes is 2 batches of burgers, which is enough to feed, and your friends! **My biggest note would be, that this recipe IS NOT grill friendly. You will need a pan.


*Unless something is marked "Vegan" or "Vegetarian" grow to assume the product is not vegan. OR you can download the free app, "Fooducate". It allows you to scan barcodes of pre-made (a nice way to say processed) foods, gives you a grade, and tells you if it's vegan friendly or not.

**This patty is too light for a grill, and will slip between the grill bars. That said, you can always put a small frying pan on the grill, thus allowing you to enjoy them at your next summer BBQ.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Life with (and without) a car.

"Mama, lets go to the red car."
Once upon a time, we moved to L.A. Selling everything that wasn't nailed down, my husband climb aboard a plane, and my son and I climbed into a car (with my father-in-law) and drove to Los Angeles. But you know this story (if you visit this blog on a regular basis), and if you don't - the condensed version is - We left everything in Ohio, including a 3 story house, with a lovely backyard, and ended up in sunny (300 days a year!) Los Angeles to set up our new home.

Welcome to Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles, California!

And then life went like this: my husband got a job, which required the one car we owned - and I stayed home with our son.

For a year and a half we lived like this. Some days my husband would work 15+ hours, one place he worked enjoyed 20+ kind of days - so we learned to walk. At first this wasn't so bad, the boy was still in his stroller, so I pushed and walked fast, and he giggled, laughed and at Cheerios.

But then he out grew that stroller, so we did a mix of carrying, and walking - until I finally broke down and bought a metro pass. We grew used to the life we had.

And then it changed again.

Now, 500+ days later - we have access to a car, and my husband walks to work. It's very exciting, having a car... you can go to the store in the afternoon, instead of predawn hours, or just before they close. You can go to the beach ANY time you want to. (Which we do, and I now wear foundation 2 shades darker than the one I wore in Ohio because of it.) We can visit pet stores, and go to far away parks, or even just drive up the PCH and stare at the Pacific.

The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)
It's only been 2 weeks, and I feel like I never went without. I find myself looking back fondly on that time as an amazing bonding experience with my son. What else can you call it? We became best little friends who went everywhere and did everything together, on foot, as one. Spending so much time together, alone together, makes you do a continual reevaluation of your life - and his.

Basically, we moved 2500 miles, across the country so I could have little to no contact with humans of any kinds - outside of this blog, twitter, and facebook. (And suddenly you understand why I'm on facebook as much as I am.) After many, many years of mass socialization, I was alone with only a toddler, and in the end I'm happy that it happened, and I wish it would happen to you too.

Life without a car strips away 1000 things you never really need to have near you. You can't go places, and if you do, you really have to want it because (in L.A.) you're going to be walking a long time.

Life without a car pushes you into new neighborhoods, onto streets you normally would drive past, into stores you may over look, and into places you would normally never go.

SR-71 blackbird - my favorite plane

If I had access to a car right away, I bet we would never have spent so much time at the museums.
If I had access to a car right away, I bet I wouldn't know the name of nearly every side street by my house, or all the small local parks, or where the metro could take us.

We live in a society that frowns on going without - but it's the foundation of my life. And I recommend it to you. See how it is to live ONE WEEK without a car. See what you discover in your own backyard. See what you find about yourself.

Life with a car is still new, and while I'm excited for all the new adventures we will have, I'm hoping I never forget what it's like to walk everywhere. Because - and I never thought I would say this - but I think I'm really going to miss it....

Monday, July 1, 2013

Pour Some Vegan on Me: Vegan Tomato Sauce!

Welcome to Meatless Mondays, here on Weekly Adventures! This week, I give you Tomato Sauce. Good, old fashion, not from a can - Tomato Sauce (a.k.a. Pasta sauce, spaghetti sauce, and/or tomato gravy.)

This recipe is both delicious, and easy to make.

What you will need:

Roughly 5lbs of rip tomatoes (you choose your favorite variety. I used vine ripened.)
1 medium sized red onion (or 1/2 of 1 large red onion) roughly chopped
4-5 Garlic Cloves, smashed
1 large carrot - peeled, and chopped into large chunks
2 sprigs of Basil (fresh)
Balsamic vinegar (roughly 2 tablespoons)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (old slutty olive oil won't do...)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 carton of vegan vegetable broth, low sodium (boxes are better than cans)

You will also need:
1 large cooking pot
3 medium to large bowls
1 sieve (and I mean sieve, not colander)
1 wooden spoon (because tomatoes are acidic, stir with a wooden spoon.)
Ice - and plenty of water

And let's begin!
First you will need your tomatoes...

 Wash your tomatoes with cold water, and then take a paring knife and make an X (as seen above) on the bottom of each tomato. This is for peeling the tomato.

Drop each tomato into a pot of boiling water (didn't take a photo - was too busy boiling tomatoes). Let them sit in the boiling water for, roughly, 30 second. Remove with a slotted spoon, droop them in an ice bath.

This stops the cooking process, and helps the skins to begin to pull away from the meat of the tomato. From here you will peel your tomatoes. If they give you any problems, meaning the skin won't come off easily, as it should - pop the tomato back into the boiling water for an extra 10 second, or so.

Peel tomatoes. Discard skins.
Skinless tomatoes

Cut the tomatoes in half, squeeze out the liquid and seeds into the colander. Reserve the tomato juice, you'll need it later. Don't be bashful, feel free to jab your finger into the innards of the tomato to loosen up the juices and seeds. Place the skinless, seedless tomatoes aside until you're done with all of them. Use your wooden spoon to push out as much liquid as you can. Scrap the sides of the sieve. Set this all aside.

Now, a lot of recipes I've seen tell you to puree the onions, garlic, and carrots, and keep the tomatoes whole, but I like it the other way. Use your food processor, or mixer, to blend up the tomato chunks, as they blend - peel one large carrot and cut it into large chunks, do the same with your onion - and smash up four to five cloves of garlic.

Place 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your pot, add the above listed veggies (you don't want to add the basil now) and sprinkle with a pinch of salt - let them saute for about 5 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, and the reserved tomato juice liquid. Sprinkle with pepper. Turn your burner on LOW and stir - then... walk away.

getting all bubbly on my stove top

Here is the hard part of this recipe. It takes time.

In roughly an hour, you'll want to add some of the vegetable broth to rehydrate your pot. Let the sauce cook down for a minimum of 2-2.5 hours, only adding a bit of broth. At the 2-2.5 hour mark add more broth and 2 tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar (if you don't like balsamic vinegar, you can use wine, or you can skip it and add a little more broth.)

Now you will wait another 1/2 hour - and then you will add more broth and your roughly chopped basil.

Now you will wait another 1/2 hour - and then you will taste it. You may want it to cook longer, because the longer you cook, the more concentrated the flavors become - and this equals even more delicious sauce.

Turn off the burner.

But we're not done yet! Remember all those chunky things we added early on? Well get your slotted spoon and your sieve again. Scoop out those veggie and place them into the sieve, inside the pot of sauce. Use your spoon to smash them against the side - release as much juice as you can. Remember to scrap the sides. (Waste not, want not.)

It'll look something like the above photo. 

And you're done! I froze mine, because I'm trying to bulk up, and save money. Lets be honest, pre-made food cost a lot, and if you want something that is vegan, organic, and delicious - you're looking at a $8-$12 jar. This sauce cost at least half that, if not less. 

*Alternatives - (because they're nice to have) if you are really, REALLY anti lumpy sauce, buy some cheese cloth. It's about $4 at target, and made a little sachet for all the veggies and even the basil. The flavor will seep into the sauce, and all you have to do is pluck out the sachet when you're done. 

**Also - if you skip the balsamic vinegar and basil, you have a nice base plain tomato sauce you can use to make enchiladas sauce with, or any other tomato based dish with, etc. 

***The cone sieve (or chinois) I used is my grandmother's. I remember her using it as a child as she mashed whole tomatoes through it with a pestle that has disappeared over time. You can buy a brand spanking new version - pestle AND stand from Amazon - or I'm sure at your local store that sells cooking supplies. You also have the choice of a food mill. 

Now - go eat!!

Pour some Vegan on me! IN THE NAME OF DELICIOUS FOOD! ;)

p.s. - Are you a vegan, or a part-time vegan or interested in veganizing your life? Comment below about your hopes and dreams, or even a recipe you'd love to see become veggie friendly!