Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Thanksgiving Visit From Family

I have mentioned before that I love being an Aunt, but I'll say it again. I love being an Aunt! We currently have five nephews and one niece. They are all such wonderful kids and we enjoy spending time with them. We are in the great position of getting to have all of the fun without all of the work!

It is a true delight any time we get to spend time with them. This Thanksgiving my brother David, his wife Rhea, and our niece Helena came for a visit. We were fortunate enough to have a full week with with them.

Every time I see Helena, I amazed by her ability to make everyone smile. She greeted us all with a hug and kiss. It had been a year since she had seen us, but she acted as though we saw her everyday. She warmed my heart. The whole week of the visit she passed herself back and forth to all of us to be held and hugged.

The sweet echo of her voice pronouncing my name will forever be ingrained in my memory...."Minda."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Vegan Thanksgiving 2010

For the past three years, John and I have attended the Triangle Vegetarian Society vegan Thanksgiving at Cafe' Parizade in Durham, NC. It is the largest vegan Thanksgiving celebration in the country. This year, we welcomed over 800 guests.

We had the pleasure of sitting with 12 of our friends, including three omnivores! To my delight, the three loved the food. It was proof that one can have a cruelty free gourmet meal and truly enjoy the experience. This event didn't turn them into vegetarians, but I know that it raised their awareness of vegan food and compassion towards animals.

This Thanksgiving marked the first year that I would attend as a gluten freer. I contacted the organizer several months beforehand and learned that they planned to have many GF dishes. As luck would have it, they were also going to mark the dishes that were GF. I was touched by the care and concern that was put into the preparation and the marking of the food. I am truly thankful to Dilip Barman and Cafe' Parizade. Check out the lovely menu that they put together. As usual, the food was amazing and I had so many tasty options. I enjoyed everything that I tried and even went back for seconds. My favorite item this year was the collard chips. They were crispy, simple, and delicious! My second favorite dish was the quinoa stuffed mushroom caps.

We always follow up this meal with a trip to see my parents and sometimes other family and friends. The emphasis becomes less about a dead turkey carcass and more about family and giving thanks. Which is, after all, the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

This year I am thankful for living in a community that is open enough to have a cruelty free Thanksgiving, a family that supports me and John in our veganism and my gluten free journey, great friendships, my family, strong support system of vegan friends, many evenings of laughter and smiles, and a wonderful husband.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Food To Celebrate A Jewish Heritage

It is the time of year where I am cold and I want something comforting. We have been on a potato kick lately eating sweet, white, and yellow potatoes. Since white potatoes are on the Dirty Dozen list we buy them organic. If we can also get them from a local farmer, it is a major plus!

My Dad's side of the family is Jewish and while I was not raised religiously Jewish, I still consider it an important part of my heritage. I spent years trying to hide this because I went to an extremely bigoted school as a child. For many years, I cringed at the sound of my last name-
Newman. I was so afraid the kids in my school would find out and I would be teased like the other "different kids."

If you were not anglo or catholic white, you were made fun of. While I was picked on non-stop in middle school, I seemed to escaped the Jewish ribbing- probably because my classmates saw me in church each Sunday. It didn't stop with religion, it also went to race. This blog, however, is not to talk about the racist classmates I went to school with, but to point out that I am proud of my heritage. It was one of the reasons I kept my birth last name when I got married and why I named my blog Newman Improved.

One of the traditionally Jewish foods that I loved as a child was latkes and homemade applesauce. John and I don't celebrate Hanukkah, but thought it would be a nice way to honor the holiday season. I came across a post by Hannah at
BitterSweet and decided to try her recipe for latkes. Her recipe was for baked latkes and since we don't fry anything, we thought this was a much better option for a favorite comfort food.

Along with the latkes, we made homemade applesauce. We like to make foods like this from scratch because it is so much healthier and not processed! Unlike many store brands, we made ours without sugar and used organic apples. Here is my recipe.

  • 4 granny smith, organic apples
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • splash of lemon juice

Wash the apples. Peel two of the apples and leave the skin on the other two. Cut all of the apples into one inch cubes. Place the apples and remaining ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil. When boiling, turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for about 20 to 30 minutes. The sauce can be left as it is or mashed. We served the applesauce with the latkes and a side of sauteed kale.

Here is to celebrating and being proud of your heritage! I am proud to be an Italian and Jewish American!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Etsy Listing- Recycled Bag

I recently came across an extra large breast cancer awareness shirt that reads "I support healthy hooters." I thought about turning it into many things, but the idea of a reusable tote/grocery bag stuck out the most. The shirt seemed like it would make a great bag because of its size and material. I saw the potential of being able to carry around many pounds of groceries or goods. To top that, it would send a sassy and fun message!

My favorite part is that this piece is recycled! The shirt was in perfect condition and made from 100% sturdy cotton. While this was great as a tee shirt, I thought it would make an even better bag. The material allows for many groceries and other goods to be stored and toted around. There is no worry that this bag will break if something spills as it isn't fragile like a paper bag. One also needn't worry about the bag ripping or tearing from sharp edges like with a plastic bag. If the bags stains, just throw it in the washing machine. The best part is that you can treat it like you would any tee shirt!

If you want to support breast cancer awareness or know someone else that would, come on over to my Etsy store and purchase this recycled bag!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Evolving Blog

The Vegan MoFo challenge is over and I had so much fun, but also realized that I have been delinquent in blogging. I enjoyed reading posts of other MoFo bloggers and I even made some blog friends along the way.

The challenge made me also see that my blog requires a vocalized change. It started with a different purpose and it has evolved and it is evolving. I am now almost three months into my gluten free journey. If it wasn't for the blogging communities that I am a part of, I might have been lost in this journey. I feel extreme support from other bloggers who are going through something similar.

Sure, there are a lot of people out there that also have Celiacs and everyone seems to know
someone who has this. The difference is that the gluten free industry is catered toward the meat eating Celiac. That isn't me. I want my food to be cruelty free. I am finding more support for gluten free vegans. I am glad that they are out there. The more vocal we are, the more products that will be catered to us and the more information that will be available to us.

The point of this post is to say that my blog is changing and I want to be a support to other vegans, vegetarians, and Celiacs, in addition to my involvement on Etsy. The title of my blog is Newman Improved, after all, and it would only be natural that my blog would evolve with my life.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Look Forward to Greeny Etsy Treasury

I am included in a treasury on Etsy! Thank you to Tinarosa, who created the "Look forward to greeny" treasury and included me! Please visit the treasury and click on my listing. I am the "Vintage 1970's Picardo Knits Mint Green Dress." I am currently in the third row.

Consider buying a handmade, recycled, and vintage item for your holiday gifts this year! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Counter Culture Coffee

Blog #21 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

It is the last day of the challenge and I met, and exceeded, my goal. I promised myself that I would post 20 blogs during the month of November to support the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge and I did it! Today is blog number 21.

In my last MoFo blog, I am focusing on coffee. There is an awesome roaster headquartered in Durham, NC called Counter Culture Coffee. They roast sustainable, organic, fair trade, and direct trade coffee. They go above and beyond most other roasters. They spend time with the growers on their farms to build long-lasting relationships. Through this they encourage ecologically responsible cultivation methods and excellent working conditions. They pay a high price for their coffee so they can get the best organic beans. In addition, they care about their carbon footprint by purchasing shade-grown, certified organic, and sustainably produced coffee and have also set goals for carbon neutrality by 2015.

Unroasted coffee beans

As if all of that wasn't enough, they also make the best coffee I have ever tasted! They pay special attention to the way in which the bean is roasted and brewed. Every detail from the type of machine used to the filtration of the water is important to them. And, it shows!

A friend works at Counter Culture and she informed me of the cuppings that they hold every Friday at 10am. I recently went with John, my Mom, and brother and found the cupping to be fun and informative. If you are in Durham or near any of the other training centers, I highly recommend that you attend a cupping to learn more about the nuances of roasting, brewing, and tasting.

Mom, bro-David, and John at the cupping

Me, be-David, and John at the cupping

The Counter Culture folks are crazy about coffee and it shows. This is the one thing that I enjoy every day and I want the time and attention paid to the beans that I drink. They have made two new customers out of me and John. I can't possibly imagine buying any other coffee after knowing what I know about the practices they use and the taste of the coffee! Lucky for us, Whole Foods carries their coffee in Durham.

Free shot of awesome espresso. Underneath it is my cupping form.

Check to see if a local store near you carries their coffee. If you can't find it, you can also order coffee directly from them on their website!
Happy sipping!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tofu Fried Rice and Stir Fried Broccolini

I love Asian food. I think I could eat it almost every day. I can't think of an Asian dish that I haven't liked. Since going gluten free, I have found it difficult to eat Asian food out because soy sauce is in most dishes and it contains wheat. I have been pretty sad about Thai food because that is my absolute favorite type of food!

Even before going gf, we never went out for Chinese food. I enjoy the flavor, but it usually has too much oil or more sauce than I would like. I always feel very full and heavy after eating American made Chinese food. We make a fair amount of stir fries and noodle dishes at home and enjoy them more than going out. We usually don't use a recipe and make it up as we go along.

Now that Thanksgiving was over, we decided to decorate. John suggested that if I cooked dinner, he would get down all of the Christmas decorations and set up our faux Christmas tree. I gladly accepted because I would rather decorate than get out boxes and set up the actual tree. So, while he decorated I cooked. The following are the recipes that I came up with.

Tofu Fried Rice

  • 2 cups of brown rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 package of extra firm tofu, cubed
  • Vegetable oil or spray
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh green peas
  • Gluten free, reduced sodium soy sauce
Prepare the brown rice per package instructions. We used a rice cooker and steamed the rice. Heat up a wok or a large frying pan on medium high heat. Non-stick works best. Add a small amount of oil or spray and add in the tofu when the pan is hot. Cook for several minutes and then add the scallions and carrots. Cook until the tofu is golden brown and the carrots are tender. When finished, remove the tofu mixture from pan and set it aside.

When the rice is finished cooking, set it aside and prepare your wok again. Heat the wok to medium high and add oil or spray (don't use too much or your rice will be greasy). Once the oil is very hot, add in the rice. Allow the rice to cook about a minute or so before stirring. When your rice is starting to get crispy, add in soy sauce. We don't like very salty foods, so we add in less than a tablespoon. The rice will continue to get crispy. When it is crispy enough for your taste, add back in the tofu mixture and add more soy sauce as needed. About a minute before the rice is finished, add in the peas.

Remove from heat and serve with vegetables!

Stir Fried Brocolini

  • Vegetable oil or spray
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1.5 inch chuck of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1.5 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup of homemade, no salt vegetable broth or water
  • Gluten free, reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 bunches of broccolini or broccoli, chopped stems included
Heat a wok or non-stick pan to medium heat. Add in a small amount of oil or spray. Less is better here. When the oil is hot, add in the garlic and ginger and let it cook for several minutes to become aromatic. Add in brocolini and cook for about 3-5 minutes. The broccolini should just become tender at this point.

In the meantime, mix the cornstarch with the broth. Whisk or stir to combine. When combined, add soy sauce to taste. We probably added about a teaspoon. When combined thoroughly, add it to the broccolini and cook for several minutes longer.

Remove from heat and serve!

We enjoyed the stir fried broccolini over the fried rice. We both enjoyed the meal and agreed to have it again soon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pumpkin Polenta

Blog #19 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

I love Autumn and making meals with pumpkin. I came across a recipe for pumpkin polenta from a gluten free blogger and was enticed. It had a combination of coconut milk and pumpkin, topped with a tomatillo salsa. The pictures on the blog were so beautiful and the pairings of flavors sounded delightful. I am not a huge fan of pumpkin, or any squash for that matter, being made with a sweetener, so lessened the amount of agave nectar.

I got out all of my ingredients and got to work following the instructions. The recipe called for a full tablespoon of agave nectar, but I only used about a teaspoon. The end result of the polenta was just beautiful. It looked so rich that I couldn't wait to try it.

I then got to work on the tomatillo salsa. This recipe also called for agave nectar and I did not want to add it here either. I am sure it tastes great just as the recipe was written, but was not in the mood for a sweetened salsa. So, I just added a dash of the agave nectar.

After all of the preparation, I placed the polenta in a bowl and served it with several spoonfuls of the salsa. I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor of the polenta and salsa, but not together. I ate all of the salsa off of the top and then enjoyed the polenta alone. It had such a rich pumpkin flavor and warmed me inside. I can certainly see us making the polenta for a meal again. I also see us making the salsa in the summer to serve with chips.

Sometimes recipes and meals don't always work out as planned, but we learn from the ones that aren't perfect. After cooking for so many years, I tend to know what I like and when to leave out an ingredient. I am almost certain that if I would have put in the full amount of agave nectar, I wouldn't have liked the meal at all. My point is that the more you take the time to make meals, from scratch, the more you will learn.

Happy vegan and gluten free cooking!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sugar Free and Raw Cranberry Sauce

Blog #18 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

A friend told me about Dr. Furhman's recipe for raw cranberry sauce and I decided to give it a try the day after Thanksgiving. I watched the YouTube video, giggled a bit, and then made the sauce.

The preparation for the sauce made the house smell lovely and reminded me of fall. I love cranberry sauce and am always looking for a new recipe. I was enticed by this one because it has three ingredients, is raw, and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.

I got out all of the ingredients and put them into our food processor. Note that this can be a bit messy as some came out the top of the processor.

The end result was a vibrant and beautiful sauce for our family to enjoy. My Mom liked it but, felt that there was too much orange peel. John and I loved the sauce! It was fresh and bursting with flavor. I agree with my Mom's suggestion and plan to make it again with only using about half of the peel that I used. My niece, Helena, loved the sauce. She had several scoops of it. Upon first bite, she made a strange face, but then begged for more. It is a bit tart, but the tartness is what I love and expect from a good cranberry sauce.

This is the type of sauce you can feel good about. It is raw, has few ingredients, is sugarless, gluten free, healthy, and full of vitamins!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chocolate Chip and Blueberry Pancakes

Blog #17 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

I have posted about blueberry pancakes before, but felt it was time again. Before going gluten free, we used to make pancakes from scratch with wheat flour. Now that I have made the switch to gf, we buy Bob's Red Mill Pancake Mix. I prefer to make food from scratch, but it has gotten more complicated at times and it is sometimes nice to use a mix that is premade. With this mix, you just add in your favorite non-dairy milk, a little oil, and egg replacer. To make these cakes my own, I add in blueberries, chocolate chips, a dash of cinnamon, and vanilla.

The process is quite simple. You mix the egg replacer with water and mix it in with the remaining ingredients. I usually use organic frozen berries, so the mix turns a purplish blue. When the pan is nice and hot, you pour enough batter out for your first cake. Then, you let them roll.

The best part is taking them out of the pan and onto your plate to enjoy. We serve them with fresh fruit, vegan margarine, maple syrup, cut up raw veggies, and sometimes tofu or tempeh bacon. It is a sweet treat that we don't eat often, but when we do we love them!

Even if your not gf, give this mix a try sometime. It makes fluffy and rich pancakes and you would never know that they were gluten free!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Adopt a Turkey

Blog #16 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

Thanksgiving week is a difficult week for me. I am always reminded of my grandfather's death on Thanksgiving in 1999. It is also not in my list of favorite holiday weeks because I am saddened by the staggering number of turkeys that are slaughtered for this holiday. Several sources, including PETA, share that nearly 45 million turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving alone. That is just for one day!

I am always so disgusted that our way of giving thanks is by senselessly slaughtering millions of innocent birds. What a sad and disrespectful way to give thanks. I would think that we should be honoring life.

To do my part to reject this ridiculous tradition, I attend the Triangle Vegetarian's Society Vegan Thanksgiving celebration. This celebration welcomes over 800 people to share in an all vegan, cruelty-free meal. It is a pretty awesome event with wonderful food and great people.

John and I thought we needed to do more this year, so we decided to Adopt-A-Turkey through the Farm Sanctuary. The Farm Sanctuary rescues turkeys and places them into loving homes. Now, we didn't actually get a turkey to come and live at our home, we just donated money to have a turkey saved. The organization also has adoption events, educates the public, and provides resources for cruelty free holiday eating. I hope next year to save two turkeys, but this year we started with one.

As you think about giving thanks this year, consider adopting a turkey, eating a vegetarian/vegan Thanksgiving meal, and taking a stand against animal cruelty. I'll leave you with a quote from Bruce Friedrich from The Huffington Post.

"Vegetarianism allows me to live my values -- to "pray ceaselessly," as St. Paul puts it: Every time I sit down to eat, I cast my lot: for mercy, against misery; for the oppressed, against the oppressor; and for compassion, against cruelty. There is a lot of suffering in the world, but how much suffering can be addressed with literally no time or effort on our part? We can just stop supporting it, by making different choices"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Zucchini Pancakes (GF)

Blog #15 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

I have fond memories in my childhood of going to Pittsburgh in the summer for a week to visit my great Aunt and other extended family members. My Mom, grandma (also known as Ma), Aunt Marcia, and several cousins used to join us there. My Aunt lived in an old city row house in the section of Pittsburgh known as Bloomfield. It was known for being the Italian section of the city. I have so many wonderful memories with my family. This was the Italian side of the family, so good food was always present and delicious! My great Aunt and great Grandma used to make gnocchi, homemade sauce, polenta, pizzels, aglio oglio, and many other special dishes that came from my ancestors in Italy.

One of my favorites were zucchini pancakes. It wasn't really a pancake, it was more like a zucchini blob. It was a tasty blob though! It had flour, eggs, zucchini, parmesan, milk/water, and spices. I used to help my great Aunt make them and they always remind me of her when I think of them. She passed away last Christmas.

I wanted to have them again and thought that it would be easy to veganize the recipe. However, when I learned I had to be GF, I thought that possibility of that was gone. Then I came across a fellow Vegan MoFo blogger named Mandee, from Australia. She runs a great little blog called Cupcake Kitteh. And guess what? She had a recipe for zucchini pancakes! I was so inspired by her blog and decided to use her recipe with several changes to remind me of the zucchini cakes I grew up with.

Following guidelines from her recipe, I tripled the portion because I wanted leftovers for lunch for me and John. I added a bit more liquid than her recipe called for and left out the salt. My additions included pepper and a pinch of Italian spices (basil, oregano, and parsley). I also added about a tablespoon of vegan parmesan.

The result reminded me so much of my childhood. The flavor took me back to a Pittsburgh summer, sitting around the kitchen table with family. I was in love with the pancakes and so was John. We both agreed that this recipe would come back in our dinner menus. I am excited to share this recipe with my Mom because I think she would enjoy it as well. I was pleased with Mandee's use of garbanzo bean flour. It gave the eggy flavor that I remembered from the ones I enjoyed as a child.

Goodbye great Aunt Sue- the happy and loving memories of you will live on in our kitchen in a vegan, gluten free way!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fresh Rolls

Blog #14 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

Thai is my favorite type of food (Indian is a close second) and I love eating in Thai restaurants. Since going gluten free, it has been more challenging to find Thai places that can cater to me. I have not yet tried to go to my favorite Thai place because I am scared that my favorite dishes won't work for me any longer and then I'll be crushed.

I am not great at making Thai food as a whole, but I think we have Pad Thai as well as a few others down. Generally, we like it much better out. One of our favorite things, however, is to make are fresh rolls, also known as summer rolls, with tofu at home. We often make sushi, fresh rolls, and miso soup and call it a dinner.

We were recently craving these rolls and decided to make them for dinner. We generally vary our ingredients each time we make them. In this particular instance, we used the following for our rolls.
  • Rice paper wrappers
  • Thin bean thread rice noodles
  • Extra firm tofu
  • Carrots
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Sauce- made of up gf tamari and agave nectar
In case you have never made them before, here is the process we use. Begin by cutting the tofu into strips, spray a little Bragg's amino acids on the tofu and bake until just starting to brown. While the tofu is baking, wash and prepare the herbs and lettuce and set them aside in separate containers. Follow the instructions on the package for the noodles. In the meantime, warm water in a tea kettle or on the stove. When it is hot, but not too hot to touch, pour it into a large bowl. The bowl should be big enough for the rice paper wrappers.

Now you are ready to begin putting the rolls together. Start by dipping the wrappers into the warm water. When they soften, pull them out. You don't have to let them get too soft. It takes about 10 to 15 seconds depending on how warm the water is. If you notice the wrappers are taking longer to soften, warm up more water and add it to the bowl.

Place the softened wrapper on a hard surface, and place the lettuce down and then top with the other ingredients. We usually do- lettuce, noodles, carrots, tofu, and then herbs on top. Any order will work, you just have to try it and see what works best for you. Make sure you place all of the ingredients in one section of the wrapper, close to the edge. Once all of the goodies are in place, it is time to fold.

I didn't take a picture of my best work here. The ingredients should be more towards
the edge of the wrapper towards the bottom of the picture

Fold the sides on the left and right over about an inch in. The sides folded in should not touch.
Note that if you have too much on the inside, it will rip or fall apart. It might take you a try or two to get the amount correct. Don't worry, you can just keep using the same wrapper.

Again, not my best work. The ingredients should be more towards
the edge of the wrapper towards the bottom of the picture

Next, begin folding the end with the ingredients over toward the opposite side that is empty. When you get to the end, you don't need to do anything as the wrapper will be wet and sticky enough to hold together.

I usually tuck in any folds that are sticking out before serving.

Then repeat until you have finished all of your ingredients. It is good to let them sit for about 15 minutes before eating. You can use this time to mix your dipping sauce. Sometimes we use a peanut sauce. This time, we used a soy based sauce. I mixed a tablespoon or two of low sodium, gf soy sauce with a little agave nectar. Get creative and add in what you like to taste on your rolls.

And there you have it- completed fresh rolls! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Buttercream Frosting

Blog #13 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

Anyone else out there as obsessed with vegan cupcakes as I am? When I found out that I had to go gluten free (gf), my heart broke. I instantly thought to myself "no more vegan cupcakes!" At that point, I was trying to work my way through Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and was crushed to learn I'd have to give that up. I had gotten about seven or eight recipes in, even though I only blogged about four of them.

In taking a closer look at the cookbook, I located two gf recipes. So, I decided I would try the chocolate cupcake one. Most of the frosting recipes are gluten free, so I went with one of my favorites- Peanut Buttercream. I paired that with the chocolate gluten free cupcake recipe and we were good to go!

I have learned not to be optimistic about gf baking. It is so difficult, especially when you add in the vegan element. We have had our share of failures since trying vegan, gf baking. Luckily, this is a post about a success!

I had some female friends over for a clothing swap and I made the cupcakes for the group. Before deciding whether they were edible, John and I split one to make out own assessments of this experiment.

Hello! This cupcake is amazing! I would never be able to tell that this cupcake was gf!! I decorated the top with a carob chip and set them out for my friends. I got very positive reviews and compliments about the cupcakes. I am sure to try Isa's other gluten free cupcake recipe. Thank you, Isa!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leek and Artichoke Risotto

Blog #12 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

Risotto is a dish that I enjoy, but never order it when out. Many restaurants refuse to make it vegan. (I say refuse because it is extremely easy to make vegan). Even one a local vegetarian restaurant has a risotto dish and it is the only dish on the menu that isn't/can't be made vegan. I have yet to find a vegan risotto on a menu.

Several years ago, we started making risotto. Since then, we have the main concept down and often make it without a recipe. It is made with about four to five cups of hot vegetable broth to one and a half cups of uncooked arborio rice. We have several favorite risotto's that we make such as leek and artichoke, sun dried tomato and basil, and pumpkin and sage. I tend to like risotto on a cool evening.

It had been a while since we made leek and artichoke risotto. The recipe is adapted from the weight watchers vegetarian cookbook. We used homemade vegetable broth, frozen artichoke hearts, two fresh leeks, rosemary, and vegan parmesan cheese. As a side to the dish we had sauteed garlic, lemon, and butter tempeh along with cut up bell peppers. I love the creaminess of risotto and it goes especially well with the sweet artichoke hearts.

Don't be afraid to get creative and put your favorite combination of vegetables, herbs, and spices together.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Vegan MoFo Blogger Survey

Blog #11 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

Many of the other VeganMoFo bloggers have posted answers to a MoFo survey and I thought that I would do the same. It is kind of fun!

What is one food you thought you'd miss when you went vegan, but don't?
Cheese. After learning about all of the horrid treatment that dairy cows go through, it is hard to miss cheese. I can't even picture eating it without gagging.

What is a food or dish that you wouldn't touch as a child, but enjoy now?
I liked a lot of foods as a kid, but the one thing I disliked was kidney beans. I have learned to really like them as an adult.

What vegan food or dish do you feel like you should like but you don't?
This is a tough one, I like most all vegan dishes. The one thing I keep trying to like is sweet potatoes. I am getting much better at it and have been eating a lot of them recently. Yay for fall!

What beverage do you consume the most of each day?
Water and a bit of espresso in the morning!

What dish are you famous for bringing to gatherings?
Cupcakes. Since becoming gf I have found it more difficult, but I'm not giving up. I made killer vegan gf cupcakes last night for a gathering.

Do you have any self-imposed food rules (like no food touching on the plate or no nuts in sweets)?
Not at all. I don't mind my food touching or mixing. I am pretty weird about texture though.

What's one food or dish that you eat too much off when it's in your home?
Mac n Cheeze!

What ingredient or food do you prefer to make yourself despite it being widely available repackaged?
Vegetable broth. It is such a rip off in the store when it is virtually free to make at home and a lot healthier b/c I can control the ingredients.

What ingredient or food is worth spending extra money on to get the good stuff?
Organic berries and fair trade, organic coffee

Are you much of a snacker? What are your favorite snacks?
Ohh heck yah I am! I snack way too much. I love tortilla chips and salsa, gf pretzels, pickles, olives.

What are your favorite vegan pizza toppings?
Diaya cheese, pineapple, onion, and pickled hot pepper rings. It is the best combo!

What's your favorite fruit and vegetable?
Raspberries and spinach

What is the best salad dressing?
I adore goddess dressing. I am so happy to have found a gf version.

What is your favorite thing to put on toasted bread?
Soy cream cheese and tomatoes

What kind of soup do you turn to on a chilly day or when you don't feel well?

What is your favorite cupcake and icing flavor?
I have several. Chocolate cake with peanut butter icing, pumpkin chocolate cupcakes with cinnamon drizzle.

What is your favorite type of cookie?
Oatmeal raisin

What is your most-loved weeknight meal?
I don't have a favorite. I crave variety. We are always eating new things.

What is one food or dish you enjoy but can't get anyone else in your house to eat?
I can't think of any. John likes pretty much everything.

How long on average do you spend in the kitchen each day?
About 1.5 to 2 hours.

There was my survey! I would love to read yours too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Vegetarian Restaurants- Asheville

Blog #10 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

Several weekends ago, we went to Asheville with vegetarian friends. Asheville is one of my favorite places because it is so very vegan friendly. There are a few vegetarian restaurants and many veg friendly places in the area. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about each place, but provide the highlights. I recommend you try all of those listed below, if you ever find yourself in Asheville, NC.

Firestorm Cafe. This is a book store, cafe combo. It is all vegetarian, it would be all vegan except they do offer milk as an option for their coffee drinks. Otherwise the rest of the place is vegan. This is a lovely tempeh sandwich that several of us ordered. Mine was made on vegan, gluten free bread. The picture shows the gluten bread.

Laughing Seed. This is a full restaurant with a lunch, dinner, dessert, and brunch menu. We went here twice while in Asheville. They are all vegetarian and mostly vegan. Almost everything on the menu can be made vegan. Many options are gluten free or can be made that way. I have never had a bad meal here and am always glad to return here. I will warn though that I ordered a gluten free dish one night and got sick afterward. I believe it was because they fried some of my dish in oil that wasn't gluten free. I would still eat there, but will ask more follow up questions even when something is labeled gf. The pictures below are from our brunch on Sunday.

Rosetta's Kitchen. Rosetta's has a counter where one walks up and orders. When the food is ready, it is brought to the table. They have a lot of American favorites that they have veganized. The food is all vegetarian and I think everything can be made vegan. They have a list of the food that is gf or can be made gf. I truly love this place. This is a place that I would recommend when you want comfort food. Pictured below is a grain burger with sweet potato fries, their vegan mac n cheeze, and my personal favorite- their pad thai with a peanut sauce. All around awesomeness!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lentil and Spinach Soup

Blog #9 for the vegan MoFo 2010 challenge!

I love lentils and spinach. I don't have a favorite food, but if I were to rank order my favorites I am sure they would both be in the top ten. Not only do I LOVE the flavor,
I love how many vitamins and minerals that they provide our body. Spinach contains vitamins A, C, K, iron, calcium, magnesium, and folate. Lentils are high in protein, folate, iron, thiamine, magnesium, and phosphorus. They also contain other vitamins and minerals not listed here. Neither contain any saturated fats, they are not high in sodium, and don't contain any cholesterol.

For as long as I can rem
ember, I have always enjoyed spinach. I think I was the only grade school kid who would proclaim "SPINACH!" when asked "what is your favorite vegetable?" Maybe I am a descendant of Popeye or maybe I knew good, healthy food as a kid. Even though my parents are not vegetarian (my Dad is not even close), we always had two to three vegetables at dinner along side meat. Vegetables were way more of a focus than meat and they were commonplace to me. When I became a vegetarian at age 14, I had a head start because I already liked my vegetables.

Lentils came into my diet after I became a vegetarian. I also loved them from first bite.
It wasn't until I was in graduate school that I started cooking with them on a regular basis. I enjoy experimenting and pairing them with many other foods.

Now that the weather has started to get cold (although you wouldn't know it this week), I have been craving warm soups. They are hardy, easy to cook, and provide food for several meals. So, when we planned our meals last week, we were excited to incorporate a lentil soup into a dinner. There are really so many ways to make a lentil soup. Instead of posting a recipe, I'll just highlight the ingredients we used. You can get creative, put any vegetables and grains into your soup and let it simmer until ready to serve.

On this particular night, we used:
  • Homemade vegetable stock, no salt added
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Lentils (any color will do)
  • Spinach
  • Black pepper
  • Cumin
The soup was delicious and provided a dinner and several lunches for us. Go on now, get your soup on!