Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Treat For Me!

Admittedly, Halloween is not my favorite holiday. I worked last night and my brother is playing a show tonight that I am going up to my parents' to see, so I have successfully avoided any parties. Don't get me wrong. Normally, I love a good party. I just hate getting dressed up.

Nevertheless, I still came home to find a treat on my doorstep. It wasn't candy. Not a little black cat. Wasn't a little green goblin. It was...

Granted, I sent this to myself. But still, it got here just in time to be a Halloween treat! And a day sooner than expected!! With recipes for everything from healthy(ish) applesauce cookies to homemade vegan Samoas (you know, the best Girl Scout cookie ever), this is most definitely going to be appearing frequently in my kitchen. I love cookies.

Sadly, I didn't have enough time or resources to make anything in there before bed last night (our pantry situation is dismal, we don't even have oatmeal!!). Plus, I will be away this weekend at my parents' and then Boston Veg Fest Sunday. I think the Veg Fest treats will make up for delaying the baking madness that VCIYCJ will ensue. Hm. I don't like the acronym for this one. I think I'm shortening it to VCI - VEGAN COOKIES INVADE!! --- Very Halloween appropriate.

I hope everyone enjoys whatever it is that they enjoy about Halloween, whether it be the treats, or the little kids in costume, and I will see you Monday with a Veg Fest recap! I also want to thank you all for your Blog-iversary support, I love the comments, and it kick started my little blogger spark. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Vegan Strong Blog-iversary!

I sat here today, thinking about how I was feeling a bit of the blogging slump. How I really wanted to just be excited about cooking again for the sake of cooking and not for blogging. I was thinking, its probably just like anything else, where the initial excitement starts to fade and you have to get through a rough patch to reach your stride. Of course, I say this all with a light heart, as it is, after all, just a blog.

But I started thinking about this in terms of the year and how after I hit a year, it'd probably be on the upswing. Literally, this happened less than a minute ago. Then I HAS been about a year. So I checked and, it has actually been EXACTLY a year! So, happy Blog-iversary to Vegan Strong. Its been quite a year. Some has changed, and some has not.

Bulgar Wheat and Soy, my second post, is still one of my favorite things.

My Vegan Coat is itching to officially come out of the closet this year (I have a new hat to go with it).

I had a Gluten-Free week, which definitely made me more sensitive to those of you with gluten intolerances/allergies/celiac's/etc.

I tried to involve as much of the "strong" in Vegan Strong as possible with posts about protein, protein powder recipes, and workouts, and while I know they aren't the favorite posts, they're important to me.

I've had a few raw days in there, something I wish I was more diligent about doing on a regular basis!

You were all there with me during my student teaching experience, the good and the bad.

I went to Hawaii and Maine, and moved to New Jersey.

And most recently, you've heard about my complete career change, which I am still really happy with.

All in all, its been quite a year, and I can't believe how quickly its gone by. I am really looking forward to this coming year, especially the upcoming holidays! I hope that I've been able to share some of my personality, my sense of humor, and given you an idea of who I am. Its been really great getting to know a lot of my fellow bloggers and developing relationships and doing exchanges and giveaways with them.

So thank all of you for visiting, reading, and commenting. I really love hearing from everyone, and I hope that I give back to you what you all give to me!

Have a great day everyone! And I hope you'll stick with me for another year!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Its Yum Yum

Vegan Yum Yum, that is. If you don't have Lauren Ulm's new book, you are missing out! Not only do the recipes all sound delicious, the full color photography is beautiful. Don't lie, you love when your cookbooks show awesome pictures of the food. I do.

Admittedly, life has been busy lately. While I have a lot of free time in the morning now, I pretty much come home and go to bed, which = no dinner. Don't worry, I'm eating, just not anything at all fancy.

But the Golden Chickpea and Artichoke Salad from Vegan Yum Yum was so quick and easy to throw together that it was able to make an appearance!

Browning the chickpeas gave them a warm golden color, and the artichokes gave a distinct flavor that was of course delicious. I really thought that the toasted ground nuts made it pretty, distinct, and yummy all at the same time. We actually threw this together with some whole wheat pasta to make a pasta salad.

Now on Sundays, I bake. Forgive me for taking a few days to get this up (I so badly wanted to talk about my Vegan Brunch that it had to wait!), but I made some of Veggie Girl's Peanut Butter Banana Bread.

Sans bananas on top...I had already used 3 of Nick's bananas (he eats about 10 a week).

This is yummy, although I found that mine was very crumbly. It also took way longer to bake than hers did. I don't know if I didn't add enough milk (vague recipes and me don't go together well when it comes to baking), but it was delicious just the same. Especially heated up the next day with some Earth Balance and a glass of soymilk...which coincidentally is what I just had for breakfast!

*Sidenote: Does anyone else have a cat who LOVES Earth Balance? Zoe will try to lick some of it up whenever I have it on something.*

So while the new job doesn't exactly provide a ton of time for cooking, there is still plenty of opportunity to squeeze in some good food. Today I am hoping to try a curry in my slow cooker. How do you balance food, work, and blogging about food? If I wasn't blogging, I wouldn't have an issue, I'd just have Trader Joe's soy nuggets for dinner every night. But no one wants to hear about that. Its good though, this keeps me on my toes and out of vegan convenience food mode, but its hard to make it all fit.

Other than finding that balance, everything is good, and the new job is going very well so far! There are lots of cute puppies that I get to play with every day. I hope everyone is having a great week, Happy Wednesday!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Vegan Brunch: Philly

Most things are fairly easy to replace in a vegan form. Now that Vegan Brunch has taken the world by storm, its even easy to replicate a lot of your favorite breakfast dishes, like the formerly elusive omelet. However, one of our favorite pastimes has always been going out for breakfast. With most diner offerings no longer being options, and our not wanting to pay $8 for a bowl of oatmeal, what is a vegan couple to do?

Well, after a quick search for vegan breakfast venues in Philadelphia, we just ate at home. Kind of a no-brainer. But then, when I was least expecting it, a place serving vegan brunch came onto my radar. Excuse me? I thought I had thoroughly researched this?!? A quick Google search told me that I was horrifyingly wrong, and hence, we had to go. ASAP.

Enter Mi Lah Vegetarian Restaurant, which is vegan, and on Saturdays and Sundays they serve up a fantastic vegan brunch.

We started out with a cup of coffee, with a sweet little plate of seasonal fruit. I love that its apple season, by the way. The decor in this place is perfectly sweet and modern, I really loved it.

It was very hard to make a decision because so many things looked so good. Okay, everything looked so good. The menu on their website it outdated, it used to be a Prix Fixe, but now they have a larger variety of entrees, and also encourage making yourself a meal out of their side dishes. (If you're curious about the price, now that it is not prix fixe, it was actually cheaper for us.)

I settled on the dish I had heard raves about, the omelet. Not really an omelet fan in my pre-vegan days, this was completely perfect.

My three fillings were red pepper, vegan sausage, and cheddar cheese. I was hesitant about the cheese, because as I've said here and again, I hate almost all vegan cheese (yes, even Teese, yes, even Daiya), but this was good. Altogether the omelet was amazing, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and plenty of filling. On the side were some red bliss and sweet potato home fries. All incredibly yummy.

Nick had the Yard Beer battered seitan with Belgian waffles. They ended up being chocolate waffles! He seemed fairly pleased with his, although he said he wanted an omelet next time.

As I mentioned, they have a wide variety of sides, not least of which is French Toast. Nick had to try the French Toast, so we split it, was divine. On good crusty bread, it was wonderfully sweet with just a splash of their organic maple syrup.

All in all, I can't wait to go back. I'm not kidding, I wanted to go back for dinner (we didn't). There are quite a few vegan restaurants in Philly, and many of them are Chinese. New Harmony and Singapore are two we've tried and are both very good. But sometimes you want brunch, and sometimes, you don't want Chinese food! So I'm happy that when this place is done with their delicious vegan brunch, they break out a very local, seasonal, menu. Think: brussels sprout and butternut squash gratin. Granted, they have this at Horizons, but this is less expensive.

The moral of this story is, be sure to go here. Don't even think twice, if you're in the Philly area, or within driving distance, you must go. Oh, and you don't even have to get up that early because, in true brunch fashion, they serve until 3. You will be happy, I promise!

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Week, New Job, New Food!

There are a few things I haven't really mentioned on here. First, I quit my job. Second, I got a new one. I know a lot of you were with me for my student teaching earlier this year, and I was really stressed out. I started a job with a very large school district here, and it just wasn't working for me. I think I cried every day except Fridays and Saturdays. So I quit.

Today I am starting a new job at a vet's office. I am really looking forward to it. The best part is that I don't have to do hours of planning at home, so I had plenty of time to get everything ready for this week regarding food. Of course, food is the first thing that pops into my mind when I have any kind of free time.

Sundays now, are spent planning meals, food shopping and cooking. All through the week when I find something I want to make, I put it on the "Dinner Ideas" list, and then add the ingredients to the list. By Sunday, I maybe have one meal to add, and we are ready to go. After hitting Trader Joe's (we are addicted to their granola, aka crack in a box) and Wegmans, I headed back for a nice afternoon of cooking my little heart out.

First up is a batch of seitan, same as I made last week. I had dinner plans, but I really wanted to bake something. I poured through my many cookbooks and ended up on the computer going through Sweet Freedom. I love this cookbook, but I've only made a few things because many of the recipes include things that I should have on hand...but don't. Like agave. I ran out a few months ago and didn't buy it again. There is a lot of agave. Anyway, I settled on a delicious Raisin Tea Bread. Named not because it is to be eaten with tea (which was what I thought), but because there is actually tea as part of the liquid in it. Sweetened lightly with maple syrup and made with whole grain spelt, this baked up beautifully, with a nice crunch to the exterior, but a light and moist interior.

I used Chai Tea, which was intensified by the warm spices added to the bread.

After that, we watched a movie and I have to say that our recent movie rentals have been dismal. One of them we didn't even finish, and the other two...if I had my way, we wouldn't have. Nick said, that's what you get when you get your movies from a vending machine (Redbox), but I really think we just chose poorly.

Dinner was Breakfast. Or the other way around. I wanted to try Bianca's Breakfast Casserole, and I knew I would never actually get around to making it for breakfast. Her recipe calls for the use of any cheesy sauce recipe, and I doubled this recipe, from Fat Free Vegan's Eggplant Parmesan, which was one of the first posts I made on here, actually.

It came out delicious; yummy pieces of soaked bread, chunks of scrambled tofu, and bites of smoky sausage. I used Yves breakfast sausage, and I added garlic and onion to the scramble. Next time I think I will add some greenery to it, maybe mix in some peppers, or spinach.

Of course, it was only natural to follow this up with something else breakfast-y, the Tea Bread! With some vegan cream cheese slathered on, this was the perfect end to my day of food.

How do you go about planning your meals for the week? Do you just play it by ear with what's in the fridge? Go shopping every other day? Plan everything in advance and hope it all works out?

Hope everyone has a fantastic week! I hope to see you back here fairly often since, as my job doesn't start until 11, I will have plenty of blogging time!

Friday, October 16, 2009

First Squash of the Season

The leaves are changing colors, there is a definite chill in the air and Halloween is just around the corner. But in my house, something is missing. For some reason, it just wasn't fall yet.

Well that reason was the squash. I was so excited when I first saw squash at our grocery store, and they are my favorites, so I picked them up right away. And they sat on the counter for over a week (you may have seen them lurking in some photos this week).

One of the reasons I love acorn squash, is that they are the perfect size for becoming a single-serve bowl.

I liked how my lovely friend at kubiclekitchen used them as a bowl for chili, and I decided that I would be a copycat. So after I cut them in half and roasted them, that is precisely what I stuffed my warm, orange, edible bowls with.

Three Bean Chili in the better edible bowl

This only used one half of my squashies though. Nick wasn't home, so he didn't have one, and he didn't take one to work along with the rest of the leftovers.

I don't know what the weather is like by you, but it is ugly here: rainy, foggy, cold. And I finally had that little light in my head go off that said "Time for Soup".

Not only was it the perfect time for soup, but it was the perfect time to use up the leftover squash, and a pantry items that I rarely use: red lentils.
Except, although I rarely use lentils, I ended up not having enough (go figure), so split peas went into the pot as well, along with some leftover roasted squash.

Roasted Squash and Lentil Soup
1 cup TOTAL red lentils and split peas
1/2 cup brown rice
6 cups broth (I used half low-sodium)
2 onions
3 carrots
3 cloves garlic
1 roasted acorn squash
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp dry rubbed sage
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 cup cooked beluga lentils (optional)
diced avocado (optional)
Serves 4-6

The onion, garlic, and carrots were sliced and diced, then sauteed until soft with the red pepper and sage. The squash, removed from its skin, was roughly chopped and thrown into the pot.

The broth was added and brought to a boil, and then the rice, lentils, and peas were added. This all cooked together for about 40 minutes, when the lentils were mush, and the rice was tender. The cooked beluga lentils were stirred in during the last two minutes and were just added something pretty, they are not necessary.

This could be pureed...except the rice kind of gets in the way. To puree, cook the rice separately, then add when everything else has been cooked and pureed. I happen to like my soup chunky.

Add some diced avocado for some cooling creamy bites, and this made a perfectly wonderful rainy day soup. Just a little spice, just a little sweet, and perfectly warm and hearty for a chilly day.
So there we have it, the first squash of the season, and now I have finally entered fall. I am much more in the fall mood now, and these warm meals have been perfect for this rainy weather. Is anyone else super antsy for the holidays this year?? I can't wait.

We have some indoor fun planned this weekend at the Philly Wine and Food Festival, which should be fun! I hope you all have something fun planned! And if some soup!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Choosing a New Gym + A Slippery Mat Tip

I mentioned yesterday that we joined a new gym, and I got a request to talk about it. Well, since we went out for dinner with my dad last night, I don't have any food to share (although you are more than willing to continue the wrap vs. bed debate!), I thought I would share our gym search experience and what I think is important in finding a gym.

1. Where do you live?
Okay, this one is obvious. If its too far from home you won't want to drive there. But, when we first moved here, we just went to the gym across the street...a chain which will remain nameless. So keep in mind that closeness doesn't always equal bestness (yes, I made up this word). We were members for about 3 months and only went a handful of times.

2. What do you do at the gym?
Do they have a wide variety of cardio machines that you like to use? Are they set up in a way where you feel comfortable? In our current gym there is a women's only area which is nice for ladies who may be a little self-conscious (I guess self-conscious males just need to get a straw and suck it up), or just want a more relaxed atmosphere.

Is there a variety of equipment in a variety of weights? Don't join a gym that has what you need right now, but not enough for you to grow into. And make sure they have what you want. Do you like free weights or pre-loaded machines? Hammer strength your thing? If there is a specific piece of equipment, make sure its there. For example, my husband and I will under no circumstances join a gym without a squat rack. That's just crazy talk.


If classes are your thing (anyone miss leotards???), make sure the ones you want don't cost extra and make sure they fit with your schedule. Do the classes get extremely crowded? Do you need to be there at a certain time to sign up? Are the instructors and classes current? Lots of gyms are incorporating functional strength and Zumba classes now. Those classes may not be important to you, but the fact that they exist might show that the other classes you DO care about are more current also.

3. No frills vs. Bells and whistles
The "no frills" gyms are becoming more and more popular: Planet Fitness, Retro Fitness, etc. If you are the kind of person who goes to the gym with solely for cardio or lifting and are happy with your iPod to entertain you and like a minimalist atmosphere, this may be the place for you.
Or, you may be the type of person who likes your own TV on each piece of cardio equipment. Maybe having towel service is important to you. Perhaps you'd like child care and a spa in your gym. If it is going to get you to work out, it might just be worth it.
If you're thinking, well I would *like* my own TV (I do), but those places cost so much more, that brings me to point 4.

4. Price
Don't let the prices listed online deter you from a gym that seems ideal but way to expensive. Gyms are ALWAYS having special offers. For example, my husband and I left a gym where we were paying $40 a month. We went to visit a gym, even though I thought it was way too expensive (they told us $59-$120 a month), because it seemed so ideal. Turns out they were having a special where you paid $59 a month...for two people. We also got a month free because we transferred from a competing gym, as well a free massage. How can you say no to a free massage? Also, be sure to ask about student rates or military discounts!

4. Facilities
Do you need a pool? A sauna? Maybe you like to play some 3 on 3 when you get off of work. If so, you probably want a gym with at least a half-court. Are you going to use the locker room? Is there a pro shop or a smoothie bar? How qualified is the personal training staff? Would you like to see a nutritionist? Is there physical therapy on site? What do you need? This is your money, don't let yourself be persuaded by a gym to pay more for a bunch of cool stuff that you won't use.

5. Music
I only add this because of my husband. He hated the music at our old gym so much that he commented about it every single time we were in the gym...and it kind of made him angry. Our first day in the new gym we were lifting to Manchester Orchestra, and he was immediately immensely happier.

6. The "Feel"
Lastly, the most important, and the most objective, how does it feel? Is it a family environment or a meat market? Does the membership representative you talk to sound like he's trying to screw you over? I know it sounds obvious, but someone who sounds like they're trying to sweet talk you probably has something to hide. Look for a gym that sells itself, with a membership representative who seems proud of what they're doing, and doesn't feel the need to justify the price to you. It should feel right.
Check the layout. Our last gym had a wide variety of weight lifting equipment, but it was a horrible layout. Everything was way too cramped, even when it wasn't crowded.
And of course, the advice that is always given, make sure you visit at the time you will be going. Also, make sure you are looking at the area you will be working out in. If you are going to the gym at 7PM, and there is no one on the cardio machines, but the weight room is packed, and you're going there you lift, you might want to think about that.

Our Gym: I am so happy with the gym we ended up with. As I have mentioned before, the things I mainly go to the gym for are weight lifting and yoga. I know yoga studios are great, but they are expensive, even if you don't also have a gym membership. So it is advantageous to me, to be able to go to yoga at a gym. Its just cheaper. Well, this gym has a great weight area. It has two squat racks, plus more cables than I've ever seen. There is a TV on every cardio machine, which I do enjoy (we don't have cable, so I like watching TV when I work out).
But the best part, in my opinion, is the classes. The schedule is huge, and that's because they have three studios, one of which is specifically a yoga and mat pilates studio. The classes are consistent, they don't get overly crowded, and they have a wide variety of levels and types.
This place does have all the bells and whistles, the masseuse, the pro shop, the smoothie bar, child care, all things we will probably never use. But considering that it is actually cheaper than our old gym, it is nice to have them there, plus it has a very family oriented feel. The membership rep was incredibly nice, no nonsense, the place sold itself...and he told us that.
He also gave us a handful of guest passes. That's a good sign. Of course they want you to bring people, they want to get new members, from their currently loved members. I was never a fan of only being allowed so many guests.

One thing I have found is that I tend to like gyms that have a focus. For example, my gym at my parents' house had a focus in gymnastics. This gym is actually a huge tennis facility. No, we'll probably never use it for tennis, but the largess of such buildings leads to more room for other fitness facility, especially upstairs levels, since they require large ceilings. Plus, there are a lot of family-oriented people going there for lessons, bringing kids for lessons etc. If you hate seeing kids in your gym, maybe that's not a good idea (maybe a more minimalist gym is better for you), but they're not in the work out area. It just tends to attract a more responsible crowd and I find that common space ends up being more respected.

One fast yoga tip:

So you can do more than child's pose

Have a slippery yoga mat? This is typical of new mats. Try washing it in your washing machine with a few tsp of vinegar and let it hang dry.
That helps, but the best thing is to use it. Okay, that can be hard when it is slippery; kind of a double edged sword. Try leaving it on the floor of your kitchen to stand on while you cook. It'll help the wear-in process, just by walking all over it!

So there you have it. I love my gym. Anyone have any other tips for choosing a gym? I would love to add any suggestions to the list!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In a Wrap or on a Bed

My husband loves things to be wrapped, sandwiched, covered with some sort of carbohydrate goodness. While I'm not afraid of carbs, I prefer that they be a separate entity (like muffins). So its become a trend that when I make tacos, or burritos, or anything that could be a wrap or sandwich, I end up eating it on a bed of greens.

Yesterday, our wrap vs. bed meal was BBQ Seitan Tacos.

This weekend I used this recipe for Seitan Cutlets.

I chopped up three cutlets and mixed with half an onion, sliced thin, and enough BBQ sauce to coat. I let it marinate while I cut up some avocado, tomato, and cilantro. After that, the seitan and onion went into a medium-hot pan coated with cooking spray, and it was covered, and cooked for about 15 minutes, stirring periodically (but not too often, so you get those nice brown spots).

Then the raging debate began.

On a wrap?

Or on a bed?

Then the debate ended because our mouths were too full. This was so easy and so yummy. Plus I had no idea how happy avocado makes my husband!

Anyone else for the wrap? Or the bed? I'm a supporter of greens wherever I can get them!

I am now off to a yoga class! We started at a new gym and I am quite pleased.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fiesta Oats

Pesonally, I think this is delicious, but my husband thinks its gross and a complete disgrace to oatmeal.

I love it. I think its fun, its colorful, its got veggies and whole grains. How could you go wrong. Well, decide for yourself, but I present you with one of my most favorite meals, that I probably have at least 3 times a week:

Fiesta Oats!
The consistently ugly pictures are what has kept me from posting about this...bear with me.

The ingredients are as simple as you'd think:
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 cups frozen broccoli
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup salsa
1/3 cup frozen corn.

Its the method though, that makes it perfect:
First, cook the broccoli (I just use the "frozen veg" option on my microwave)
Add the oatmeal, salsa, and water, stir until combined.
Cook at 50% power for 5 minutes.
(You should cover with a paper towel or something, it splatters)
Remove, stir in corn, cook an additional 30 seconds on 100% power.

Then, enjoy!
Keep in mind that it just finished being in the microwave for well over 5 minutes. That sucker is HOT. Sometimes I use oven mitts, but since I never eat in close proximity to my microwave, I always put the bowl onto a hot plate for transport

Today, I am eating in front of my computer, love Mac's Photo Booth.

I highly suggest you try it, the salsa makes the oats even more creamy, plus it gives them a little bit of a kick. Some pep. Something totally yummy and awesome. Oh, plus it is versatile; I've usually have it for breakfast but it is now also my default for lunch or dinner. I have added some black beans for a more substantial meal, Trader Joe's soy nuggets or tofu scramble for an extra boost of protein, and yesterday when I was out of frozen broccoli, I used frozen peppers and onions instead (for something I like to call, Fajita Oats). Any of those things get added in with the corn.

So there you have it. Weird but amazing and satisfying. Yummy way to start the day!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pear Berry-Jam Muffins

I know that fall is synonymous with apples, but pears are really the fruit that has always done it for me. Since they aren't grown locally, their season is sort of muddled, but now is when they're on sale, and now is when Trader Joe's sells a 1/2 peck of them for a few dollars. That, in my pear-loving book, is a deal.

I mostly like my pears unadulterated. Yes, a baked pear is nice, and they could be a nice addition to a salad, but for the most part, I just bite right in.

For this particular 1/2 peck of pears, I made an exception, and modified the Jam-Filled Oat Bran Muffins in Joy of Vegan Baking to include some of these perfectly ripened pieces of fruit.

Pear Berry-Jam Muffins (modified from JoVB)
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
6 Tbsp water
2 cups oat bran
1 cup spelt flour (could sub any other flour, AP or WW, etc)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup unsweetened soymilk
1/3 cup sunflower oil (use any light oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups chopped pears
1/2 cup blackberry preserves

I've been on a Trader Joe's 'kick' recently (I love the Chili-Lime cashews), and have been buying more and more stuff from them. One of my recent purchases was of my most favorite kind of jelly/jam/preserve, blackberry.

The fact that its low(er) in sugar makes it even better. The lack of sugar is definitely noticeable, but it actually lets the taste of the blackberry peek through a little more. I felt this would pair with my pears perfectly; the deep purple next to the light green is a beautiful contrast, tastes good.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
Whip the flaxseed and water to make your "flax egg" (I like to use a mini-food processor or my Magic Bullet for this job)
In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients (even the sugar!): flour, oat bran, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt.
In a small bowl combine the wet: milk, vanilla, oil, flax "egg" mixture.
Stir the pears into the wet mixture, then combine wet with dry, stirring until just combined.

Take out your muffin tins and either grease or apply muffin cups.
Fill cups halfway with muffin batter.
Using a 1/2 tsp, scoop out a dollop of jam (about 1 tsp).
Nestle the jam in the batter, then cover the jam with another spoonful of batter.
Bake 15-20 minutes. I took mine out around 18 minutes.

These came out completely perfectly. Little chunks of pear in a muffin that is warm with whole grain nuttiness from the oat bran, and then the jam...who doesn't like something filled with jam?
If you want to get crazy, these probably wouldn't mind being highlighted with some walnuts too, nuts in muffins just aren't my thing.

I made a half batch of these, and I came out with about 9 muffins. So plan for 16-18.
Nutrition Information: 158.7 Calories; 5.5g Total Fat; 0.5g Saturated Fat; 0.0mg Cholesterol; 24.2g Carbohydrates; 3.5g Fiber; 3.4g Protein.

If anyone is wondering about the sporadic-ness of the nutrition information, that is because while I don't count calories, I liked to calculate in the past to highlight how healthy vegan food is. I don't necessarily have the time for that now, but if I do have time, or if I'm curious myself (as I was for these), I'll post it! And if there is anything where I don't post it, and YOU are curious, let me know, I'd be more than happy to calculate for you!

One last thing...Bianca posted about this the other day, and while I assume I must be the last to know, maybe this will light up someone else's life as it did mine...

Skittles are vegan! This makes me incredibly happy, as they were always one of my favorites (back in high school, I logged onto their website everyday at work to vote to keep the green lime, and not apple). If you buy a pack now, you'll see under the ingredients that they are Gluten Free and Gelatin Free. Pretty cool. Healthy? No. Fake fruit flavored sugary goodness? Yes. Granted, they're a "once in awhile" food, but its nice to know they're there, and they're animal-free.

Enjoy the rest of your Columbus Day weekend! Hopefully you have some festivals to go to, fall is in full swing!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baked Falafel Patty

This past summer my husband spent a month in Washington state. Left to his own newly vegan devices (less than month), he subsisted on the same few meals over and over. One of them being falafel from the food court next door. He was going there on a pretty regular basis until the owner thanked him for his continual business, and then he got embarrassed and cut it down to only a few times a week.

While there are plenty of places to buy falafel around here, it is such a easy (and healthier!) thing to make at home that I have taken to making him a big batch and freezing it. Well, now I just refrigerate it because he goes through it so quickly there's no reason to freeze.

Yesterday we both had falafel for dinner, and there is just something so satisfying about those chickpea patties.

Our recipes involves a few additions and then we pair it with a silken tofu tahini sauce.

Baked Falafel
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp dried cilantro
2 Tbsp dried mint
2 cups chickpeas
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 Tbsp wheat gluten flour
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
water (optional)

*This recipe doubles...or triples (which I did last night) very well*

Preheat oven to 400.
Mix garlic, cilantro, mint, chickpeas, gluten flour, and oats in a food processor until chopped and blended.
Sprinkle baking powder, cumin, salt, and black pepper over the mixture.
I like my falafel mix to be almost paste-like, so at this point I will add about 2 Tbsp of water.
Form the falafel mixture into patties (you could go for more traditional balls, but it will affect your cooking time), and place on a greased baking sheet.
Cook 10 minutes, remove and flip, and cook another 10 minutes until golden brown.

Now, my husband is also a big fan of hummus, so that invariably goes into his pita, but I prefer the taste of tahini with my falafel, rather than overload the chickpeas with more chickpeas (although I guess some would propose that impossible!).

Silken Tofu Tahini Sauce
1/2 cup silken tofu
3 Tbsp tahini
1 clove garlic
3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
water to texture
salt and pepper to taste

Add everything into a small food processor or blender, and blend together. Add water to achieve the consistency you like. Ours was fairly thick, I added about 2 Tbsp of water.

In addition to health-i-fying the falafel by baking rather than frying, I had a falafel salad instead of a pita. As I've said before, I'm not a big sandwich person.

Go enjoy some falafel. Its good for you, its got protein and fiber, and..umm....its delicious!! Any other falafel lovers out there? From what I've seen, no one rivals my husband!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Harmony in Philadelphia

We have been living "just outside Philly" for a few months now. But since we're always away on the weekends, we have barely gotten to get over there at all. And after my initial disappointment, we finally got a chance to make up for it.

There are a few places that I have really been wanting to try. First on the list however, was a place that was right over the bridge that had vegan Dim Sum. How could you possibly go wrong? You can't, and they did not. The place is New Harmony Vegetarian, and for $12 a person, we got all the Dim Sum we could eat!

Hot and Sour Soup

Steamed Veggies and Scallion Pancake

Steamed Veggies and a Tofu Skin Roll

Steamed "Pork" Dumplings

Dessert: Fried Bananas and Fortune Cookies

Not pictured is Nick's Won Ton soup, and sticky rice with black eyed peas and vegan ham.

It was all good. Every last bit of it. But the *best* was the "Pork" dumplings. They were perfectly delicate, and savory, and just really wonderful. Another winner: fried bananas. It is kind of their specialty, they suggested it as soon as we said "dessert". Simply bananas in a light batter, fried, with a light sweet sauce. It was ooey and gooey and just totally perfect.

Its going to be hard to not come here every weekend! Those dumplings were really that good. Plus, who doesn't love a good fortune cookie?

If you are ever in the Philly area, definitely stop by. Although I am glad to find that my initial disappointment was unjustified, and there are plenty of really great veg places in Philadelphia!!