Dessert O’Rama

I went a little crazy on Friday. Dessert crazy, that is. I made¬†8 different dessert items. But the last one was my hands-down, all-time favorite. And I can’t believe it’s my own recipe! Well, with a little inspiration ūüėČ

I started my day by trying to make my own coconut butter. I’ve never had coconut butter, or even seen it, so I’m not sure what it was supposed to look like, but I don’t think it was supposed to look like mine! I’d show you a picture, but I didn’t take one. I didn’t take one of the two different types of freezer fudge I tried to make from the failed (I think) coconut butter either. I’m new at photographing my food for future blog use. Sorry for my lack of blogginess – ha.

I used CCK’s recipe for the Coconut Butter, and I tried to make her Naughty Girl Fudge and Good Girl Fudge.¬†I added raspberries to the NGF¬†and lots of cinnamon to the GGF, but they just didn’t taste right. I ended up giving them away (no waste!), and my friend loved the chocolate and raspberry flavor! It’s her favorite flavor combo. Who knew? (Not me.¬†I’m a great friend, apparently.)

After I almost blew up my food processor making my failed CNB (and Magic Bullet, and immersion blender, and…), I made HH’s Black Bean Brownies. As I’ve posted before, I don’t care for the flavor of banana in things, so these weren’t my favorite taste wise. They were deliciously fudgey, though. Mmmm!

Black Bean Brownies

While they were in the oven,¬† I made DDD’s Chocolate Bean Spread. This, my friends, was todiefor! I did have to use a little extra sugar (I don’t have any stevia – yet!), and I think the next time I make it (because there will definitely be a next time!), I’m going to try it with black beans. I found the white beans a bit strong in flavor. Strange, hu? You’d¬†think the black beans would have a stronger flavor. Maybe it’s just me. That could definitely be the case.

I used most of the Chocolate Bean Spread to top the Black Bean Brownies. What a double bean delight!

Black Bean Brownies with Chocolate Bean Spread

I saved the tiny bit I had left over for a tasty toast topper the next morning. (OK, I ate it with my fingers before the toast was ready, but I intended to eat it on my toast.)

Chocolate Bean Spread

After the brownies came out of the oven, I slid my next treat in there – CCK’s Blondies¬†– peanut butter flavor. These also used beans as their fudgey, gooey base.

Naked Peanut Butter Blondies

I used Better’n Butter for the peanut butter flavoring. It’s not my favorite, but I’ve had an open jar in the fridge for a while, and I’m trying to use it up.

The blondies¬†were very, very good. Especially after I topped them with the next thing I made – chocolate g’nosh.

Blondies All Dressed Up & Ready to Go!

Chocolate G’Nosh

8 oz Baker’s Semi Sweet Chocolate (or other vegan chocolate)

1 TBSP coconut oil

Add both ingredients to a microwave safe bowl. Heat on high in 30 second intervals, stirring between cycles, until melty. Mine took three rounds, or 90 seconds.

This amount makes a double batch (or one, big batch for a chocolate indulgence dessert).

I used about half of the g’nosh¬†to pour over the peanut butter blondies, and I used the other half to make the most incredible dessert I’ve ever made – and the first time I’ve tried imitating a candy flavor from my not-so-distant past. Here it comes…wait for it…wait for it…I made vegan pecan candies! Or, more commonly known as turtle-style candies. O, the memories. Turtles were my grandpa’s favorite treat. And, since he was my best childhood buddy, they were mine too! Every time I eat a Turtle or even see them in the store (the old-school big pack with the¬†gold and orange stripes), I think about my grandpa.

My candies were inspired by Averie’s Raw Vegan Caramel. I’ve really, really missed caramel (insert drooling Veggie V face here).

Vegan Carmel Pecan Candies

1/2 c dates, soaked

1/2 c pecans, chopped

1 tsp vanilla (or more!)

dash salt

Using a food processor or a high-powered blender (I used my Magic Bullet), blend the dates until they start to get creamy. Add the chopped pecans. (I chopped my pecans in the food processor, then added my blended dates.) Pulse to combine, then blend to combine further. A ball of “dough” may begin to form. Stop blending if it does. If it doesn’t, process for a minute or so, then check the mixture. If it is significantly blended together and easily forms a ball in your fingers, it’s ready to go. If not, pulse for a few more seconds, checking texture often. (Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl. The mixture tends to fly up the sides and onto the top.)

Spread mixture onto parchment paper. Freeze for at least 20-30 minutes, or until firm instead of gooey.

When the mixture is firm, roll pieces (about 2 inches by 2 inches) into balls. Mine made 12 three-bite-sized balls.

Naked Vegan Caramel Balls

Roll balls in left over g’nosh, coating evenly. Return balls to parchment paper and return to freezer. Freeze until chocolate has set – about 30 minutes.

Chocolate Covered Vegan Caramel Pecan Ball

I swear to you, if you close your eyes, your taste buds will think you’re eating a turtle style candy. Even my omni taste testers thought so!

This batch of vegan¬†caramel pecan bars had about 170 calories per ball, which I thought was a little high for a three bite treat, but they’re WAY more nutritious than the original version – and vegan, too. And who doesn’t need a little indulgence once in a while?

Speaking of indulging, I’m submitting this recipe to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free. Check out some of the other delicious recipes while you’re there. (Side note¬†– Some of the submissions aren’t vegan, which isn’t one of the submission requirements.)

Indulge!

P.S.

I’m so excited about my crazy desserts that I had to keep sharing them with the world! Check out Tuesdays at the Table¬†and It’s a Blog Party for more dessert o’rama vibes. (Neither site is vegan).

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Easy Saturday Supper

After my second day of marathon baking and dessert making, I was desperate for something savory – but it had to be quick!

I knew I had a zucchini in the fridge (thanks to a random “take me” sign on a pile of veggies at work), and I’ve really been wanting to try zucchini “pasta,” so I tried it. Guess what…it worked great! I sliced the zucchini with a peeler¬†(I really want a spiralizer now!) and roasted it in the over w/ a little salt for a few minutes. Just enough to warm it up, really (and take out some of the liquid).

While the zucchini noodles were cooking, I made a quick, “creamy” tomato sauce.¬† Seriously delicious!

“Creamy” Tomato Sauce with Zucchini “Noodles”

1/2 lg onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 c diced tomatoes (1 can)

1/2 c tomato sauce (1 sm can)

1.5 c white beans (1 can – any variety white flesh bean)

1/2 c nutritional yeast

Seasonings: salt, pepper, oregano, basil, parsley flakes, chili powder

Saute onions and garlic in sauce pan with a little bit of water until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans and seasonings. Cook for a few minutes to allow flavors to meld and beans and tomatoes to warm through Рabout 5 minutes. Blend with immersion blender, regular blender or food processor (may need to do so in batches). Add nooch and stir to incorporate.  

Use sauce to top zucchini noodles or anything else of your choice!

Creamy Tomato Sauce with Zucchini Noodles

This quick meal turned out so well, I’m submitting it to Diet, Dessert, and Dogs’ Wellness Weekend. Check out all the other great recipes too!

Back-to-School Breakfasts!

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s back-to-school time in most of the United States, which means a lot less time for the luxuries of summer – like laying by the pool, late nights¬†on the computer, and sleeping in. (Or, if you’re a foodie like me, less time research and try new recipes, less time to blog, and less time to work off all those yummy calories!) Breakfast doesn’t – and shouldn’t – be a luxury that goes by the wayside when school starts again.

I work as an adjunct college instructor (that’s part-time for all you non-academics) and a tutor at a local community college. I’ve been blessed with an awesome schedule this semester, teaching 4 of my¬†5 classes online and being able to fit in my tutoring hours in three days, which gives me a four-day weekend every week. Woo hoo! I can only hope this happens again (insert big, relaxed-from-sleeping-in-the-last-two-days-even-though-it’s-the-first-week-of-class smile here). But, the days I do have to go to campus involve early mornings and a fairly long commute. Throw in daily workouts, and I’m up WAY before the sun. So, what’s a vegan to do about breakfast on a crazy busy morning? Slurp down a smoothie on the way out the door. Duh.

My favorite smoothie is a simple one. It doesn’t have a fancy name or taste like a pie or a cookie. It’s just a nice, fruity smoothie that fills me up and gets me out the door. You can, of course, jazz it up however you’d like, but if you’re wondering where to start, START HERE.

Veggie V’s Start Here Smoothie

1 c non-dairy milk

1 frozen banana, chunked

1/2 c frozen fruit

1 scoop protein powder

1 TBSP chia seeds

Put everything in a high-powered blender and whiz, whirl, and whip away!

TIP: Put the light, fly-away stuff in first (like the protein powder and chia seeds) so it gets weighed down by the heavier stuff (like the frozen fruit). Totally delicious and refreshing. Ah…what a way to break the fast.

My favorite combo of non-dairy milk and fruit is unsweetened vanilla hemp milk and blueberries, followed closely by unsweetened chocolate almond milk and pitted cherries. I’ve found¬† I don’t need sweetened non-dairy milks because of the sweetness of the banana and the other fruit.

I’m currently using a brown rice protein powder, but I have some hemp powder to try when I’m out of my current flavor. I used to be a soy protein all the way kinda girl, but after reading a bunch of research on soy isoflavones, I decided to go a different way. That’s not to say you should use soy protein, I still eat tofu and miso and other soy products, but the I’ve found other protein powders work just as well for me – and they’re a little bit cheaper. Big bonus! Of course, you don’t have to use protein powder at all. The smoothie will never know ūüėČ

As for chia seeds, if you’re not familiar with them, be ready for a little gooyness. They gel up (which explains why they’re often used as¬†an egg replacer in baked goods) and become almost like tiny tapioca balls. I love that they add some bulk to the smoothie and provide a little crunch. The Omega 3’s¬†aren’t ¬†a bad bonus either ūüėČ Of course, you don’t have to add the chia seeds. You could try some flax, or nothing at all. Your smoothie won’t be offended.

Last fall I became addicted to a pumpkin spice recipe¬†I found at My Vegan Weight Loss Journey. I made a few modifications to Katy’s recipe, and the resulting Pumpkin Craisin Muffins became my goto, on-the-run breakfast. They freeze beautifully and heat up in the microwave just as well. If I’m eating one as a snack, a little Earth Balance is a tasty add-on. Yum!

A few weeks ago I discovered a new goto quickie breakfast – Angela’s Blueberry Almond¬†Chia Squares from Oh She Glows. These also freeze and heat-up well, but I usually end up just letting the square thaw out in my bag at work; that way, it’s ready when I am (for breakfast 2.0, or second breakfast). I just ate my last square this week, so I’ll be making a new batch this weekend. I’m thinking of some alterations, which I’ll share later (with a photo – taken before I eat the last one!)

My last back-to-school breakfast is an internet favorite. Almost every vegan food blogger has a version of soaked oats in their recipe repertoire. Sometimes they’re called vegan oats, or overnight oats, or raw oats, or uncooked oats, or…the list is as endless and the awesome combinations of flavors. I just call mine DELICIOUS. (I’m one funny, breakfast-lovin’ vegan!)

Veggie V’s Awesome Oats

1 c oats

2 c non-dairy milk

1/4 c chia seeds

1-2 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP maple syrup

Optional: frozen or fresh fruit of your choice, diced (something firm like berries, raisins, apples, pineapples, or mangos work best).

Combine everything in a bowl so it has enough room to grown, stir, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or over night.

This amount makes¬†2 normal servings or one giant serving for a breakfast lover like me (I love, love, love oatmeal! Always have). I have a hot version of Awesome Oats (inspired by Hungry Girl) that I’ll share with your when I get excited for fall.

If you like your oatmeal a little looser, don’t use the chia seeds. Contrarily, if you like it a little firmer, use less non-dairy milk and/or more chia seeds. But remember, the chia seeds add a little¬†gelliness to the mix.

I love taking a big bowl of awesome oats to work for a late breakfast or even for lunch. I’m sure you could even eat this during a long commute (provided you’re not driving!) because it really gels up and isn’t sloppy at all.

With all these tasty, back-to-school breakfast ideas, there’s no excuse to skip. Just grab and go!

Freezer Fudge

It’s back-to-school¬†time in northwest Ohio (and most of the US), which means the luxury¬†of time has all but disintegrated. But just because¬†you don’t have time on your side doesn’t mean you can’t have a decadent dessert in your freezer.

I also went back to school¬†work yesterday, and I took a few treats with me to share with my fellow teachers and tutors. I came baring gifts of chocolate – the best kind! The OSG¬†Flax Glowballs¬†I made last week received warm reviews, but the Chocolate Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge I made over the weekend was gobbled up!¬† And because so many people asked for the recipe, I wanted to get it posted for everyone’s easy access.¬† So…here it is!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge

1 c chocolate chips (or 8 oz Baker’s chocolate)

1/2 c peanut butter

1/2 c coconut cream (the thick, creamy top of a can of full-fat coconut milk)

Put everything in a microwave safe and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat as many times as necessary until your mixture stirs into a nice, creamy bowl of chocolate and peanutty goodness.

Poor into a plastic wrap lined baking dish and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Remove from freezer and turn out into a hard surface. Remove plastic wrap and cut into bit size pieces.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Freezer Fudge

Mine made 24 pieces at about 85 calories each.

Note: Omnis can use cream/heavy whipping cream or sweetened condensed milk (which is what the original recipe calls for).

Double Note: If you try low-fat coconut milk or another non-dairy sub, please let me know how it turns out! I have some other ideas for different versions of freezer fudge, which I hope to try out soon, and when I do, I will, of course, share the results with you ūüôā

Becuase the Freezer Fudge was so popular at work, I’m submitting it to SS & GF for Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. TIA, Amy!

I have some awesome Back-to-School Breakfasts, Dinners and more Desserts Рall coming soon!

That’s Bananas, Yo

I don’t love bananas. I know. You’re wondering how any self-proclaimed vegan can’t be in love with the banana. It’s not that I hate them; I just don’t love them. I like them. I’m in like with bananas. We’re friends with benefits. We live our separate lives, but we occasionally hook up. And when we do, it’s amazing.

Lately, we‚Äôve been hooking up a lot. In the last two weeks, I‚Äôve made four recipes that either highlight or feature the banana. I finally broke down and made banana ‚Äúice-cream,‚ÄĚ and I tried two awesome desserts from two of my favorite blogs.

My first banana fling was last week when I had a frigid encounter with two frozen bananas. And some vanilla. The cinnamon just watched at first, but then it got involved, and it really became a party.

Vanilla Banana "Ice Cream"

Vanilla Banana ‚ÄúIce Cream‚ÄĚ

2 frozen bananas (remove the peel and break banana into pieces before freezing)

1/8 c French vanilla soy creamer (or non-dairy creamer or milk of your choice)

1 tsp vanilla

Cinnamon to taste

 Throw everything into a super, powerful blender (I think a food processor might work) and whiz, whirl, and whip away until a smooth, creamy mixture forms. (It will resemble soft-serve ice cream.)

 *Tip: Let the banana pieces thaw a few minutes before using. They’ll blend up quicker.

¬†Blender note: I have a Ninja 900 and a Magic Bullet blender. Because of the amount of time needed to make the ‚Äúice cream‚ÄĚ soft-serve-like, I use the Ninja. It took me three stopping-to-scrape-the-sides interventions to get the mixture to move around and start blending. Don‚Äôt give up on it! It will eventually turn creamy and delicious.

The taste of the banana is obviously pronounced in this ‚Äúice cream‚ÄĚ (a.k.a. banana soft-serve), but I didn‚Äôt mind it at all. The vanilla and cinnamon are a nice compliment to the creamy, frozen banana. Not bad. Not bad at all.

¬†A few days later I was craving ice cream again, which is weird because ice cream has never been one of my favorite treats. Back-in-the-day, when I ate dairy (so just over a year ago ‚Äď ha ha) and when Mr. M could convince me a trip to our local ice cream stand was a good idea, I‚Äôd order ice cream blended with candy. Lots of candy. Lots and lots of candy. Basically, I ordered candy with a little ice cream. Mmmmm‚Ķ.candy (insert Homer Simpson gurgle here).

Sorry. Where was I? Oh ya, my second banana party. This time I decided to try chocolate flavored banana ‚Äúice cream.‚ÄĚ

Chocolate Banana "Ice Cream"

 Oh ya. Right there. That’s the stuff. Chocolate is definitely my favorite.

¬†Chocolate Banana ‚ÄúIce Cream‚ÄĚ

2 frozen bananas

1/8 c French vanilla soy creamer

2 TBSP (or more) cocoa powder

Throw everything into a super, powerful blender (I think a food processor might work) and whiz, whirl, and whip away until a smooth, creamy mixture forms. (It will resemble soft-serve ice cream.)

*Tip: Let the banana pieces thaw a few minutes before using. They’ll blend up quicker.

Easy peasy chocolate banana ice creamsy. (Ha ha ha! I crack myself up.)

I didn’t add any vanilla to this batch, but I bet it would be good. I just didn’t think about. But it was still delicious and a definite remake!

After my banana big chill, I moved on to some more substantial desserts. Earlier this week I made Chocolate Zucchini Muffins from the Happy Herbivore and Flax Glowballs from Oh She Glows. HH and OSG are two of my favorite blogs. I’ve been following HH for years; and, although I just found OSG a few months ago, it’s quickly become my favorite blog to read.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffin

¬†Those are ice crystals on the Chocolate Zucchini Muffin, not¬†sugar crystals. So obviously, they freeze very well (30 seconds in the microwave bring them back to fresh-from-the-oven status). I thought the muffins were sweet enough with just a 1/2 c sugar. Actually, because of the sweetness of the¬†ripe banana, I’m going to try to omit the sugar next time.¬†(My taste buds have become accustomed to not eating sweets, so you may want to try the¬†full sugar version first!)¬† I also added a little more zucchini (because I didn’t want to freeze it). These muffins are crazy moist. They could easily be frosted or glazed and called cupcakes.

Flax Glowball sans bite

The Flax Glowballs are my first dessert ball. That’s right, I am no longer a¬† dessert ball virgin ūüėČ

I made a few substitutes with this recipe because I was missing or low on a few ingredients (but they looked so good I had to try them that night!). Instead of 1 c mashed banana, I only had about 1/4 c (I used my other banana to make the muffins). Instead, I soaked 3 big dates for about a half hour then blended them with the banana. Plenty of sweetness! But, not quite enough moisture because I was still missing about half the liquid from the banana. To fix that, I added 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce and it got the balls rolling. (Is it just me, or is this post filled with hilarity?!)

I’m keeping my balls in the freezer, along with my left over muffins. I individually page each treat so I’m not tempted by their friends when I grab one from the bag.

I have some ideas for my own ball recipes that I’ll be sharing in the near future!

I hope you’ve been saving your over-ripe bananas in the freezer because the recipes I’ve tired lately are definitely worth breaking into your stash. Let me know how you like them!

Black Bean Bonanza

I’ve never met a bean¬†I didn’t like. Seriously. When I was a kid, I would only eat the bean¬†part of a meat/bean dish (Hum, early indications of vegetarianism?¬†Oh ya!). Chilli? I’d only eat the beans. My mom’s goulash (kidney beans, mushy maccaroni, tomatoes, and hamburger) – I’d only eat the beans (and sometimes the tomatoes¬† – if they weren’t infiltrated with meat bits). Three bean salad? Ok, this was the one exception to my love of all things bean. CONFESSION TIME: Until recently, I didn’t care for green beans, and forget yellow-wax beans (Childhood memory: I thought they were made of wax – ha!). What kind of kid doesn’t like the standard green beans and corn as their go-to veggie choice?! (I’m still not a huge fan of corn.) Probably the same one who didn’t like ketchup – and never developed a taste for ranch dressing.

Ok, so back to the beans.

Beans are my friends. And they can/should be your friends too. They’re full of fiber and vitamins. Some are high in iron too. They’re great hot or cold – or anywhere in between. They’re even awesome sprouted! (For anyone interested in a raw diet or being high-raw, you can use sprouted beans without cooking them. It’s an acquired taste, but that’s how you learn to love new foods, right?) And don’t even get me started on how cheap they are! A bag of dried beans is less than $1.00 (and canned ones aren’t much more – and so convenient!). They can¬†be soaked over-night and cooked in the slow-cooker all day while you’re at work or running errands. When you’re ready to prepare dinner, they’re ready to assist you ūüôā Oh, and if you’re worried about the not-so-pleasant side-effects of all that fibrous bean skin, don’t be! Your body will soon become adjusted to breaking down the cellulose walls of the bean and your intestinal bacterial will become more efficient and thus produce less by-products, which just means the “musical fruit” won’t be making music for very long!

In celebration of my bean-love, I made two black bean dishes last night. The first one, my delicious Warm Black Bean Dip, which I usually eat cold (yes, I see the irony in that), is great with Taco-less Salad, and the second one, Bodacious¬†Black Bean Burgers (Is the bodacious¬†too much? I just added that…)¬†are so good, even Mr. M, a die-hard omni, eats them! (I’d call that a vegan victory.)

Warm Black Bean Dip

1 med/lg onion, diced

2-4 cloves garlic, minced (adjust to your taste)

1 can/1 c black beans, rinsed

1 sm can fire-roasted tomatoes (or 1 c fresh, diced)

1/4 c salsa or picante sauce

1/4 – 1/2 c cilantro, chopped

1 Р2 TBSP lemon (or juice of 1 lemon)

1 TBSP cummin

1 TBSP chilli powder

Salt & Pepper

Saute onions and garlic in a little EVOO (1 tsp should do it), cooking spray, or veggie broth/water (about 1 TBSP), until translucent Рabout 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, salsa (or picante), lemon juice and seasonings. Cook until thickens Рabout 10 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro.  Mash mixture with a potato masher until thick paste forms.

Makes 4 (1/4 – 1/2 c) servings.

Taco-less Salad topped with all my favorite fixin's, include a entire avocado!

Like I said, I love to add this to Taco-less salad: Bed of your favorite lettuce, Warm Black Bean Dip (which is great cold!), diced onion, diced green pepper, diced tomatoes, sliced black olives, sliced green olives, avocado, and salsa. Sooo goood!

Bodacious Black Bean Burgers

1 med/lg onion, chopped

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 sm green bell pepper, chopped

1 med/lg carrot (or 2 smaller ones), diced

1 lg stalk celery, diced

2 cans/cups black beans, rinsed

1/4 – 1/2 c cilantro, chopped

2 TBSP salsa

1/2 c quinoa flakes (or sub old-fashioned oats or other grain flake)

2 tsp cummin

1 TBSP chilli powder

1 TBSP soy sauce

Salt & Pepper

Saute onions and garlic in a little EVOO (1 tsp should be enough), cooking spray, or veggie broth or water (about 1 TBSP) until translucent Рabout 5 minutes. Add green bell pepper, carrots, and celery, and cook until tender Рabout 10 more minutes. (Covering the pan with a lid with help create steam, increasing the cooking speed of the harder veggies and maintaining moisture) Once tender, add 1/2 to 3/4 of the beans, cummin, chilli powder, salt, and pepper. Stir through  and move from heat. Mash mixture with a potato masher until thick paste forms.

Scoop paste mixture into a bowl. Add salsa, cilantro, soy sauce, and quinoa flakes. Stir. If mixture is too sticky to handle (should easily form a ball without sticking to your hands in globs), add more quinoa flakes (1 TBSP at a time).

Scoop giant spoonfuls of mixture into your hands and roll into a ball (or press into a form to make perfectly shaped burgers). Place burger balls in large pan and lightly press into patty shape. Cook until crust forms on burger, then flip until crust forms on other side. TIP: Cover burger pan with a lid to maintain moisture.

Bodacious Black Bean Burger

Serve on a bun with your favorite burger add-ons or with your favorite south-of-the-boarder flavors, such as: salsa, sliced avocado or guacamole, sliced or diced tomato, sliced or diced onion, and/or a mix of your favorite sliced olives.

Enjoy!

I’m a Dip…Convert

I’m not much of a saucy person. I don’t like a lot of sauce with my pasta; I don’t like a lot of sauce on my pizza; I don’t like a lot of dressing on my salad;¬† and I’ve never been a fan of dips – except for guacamole, but how can you not¬†succumb¬†to its creamy, fatty, salty, tangy¬†goodness?!

I don’t know where my dislike of sauciness¬†came from. I always had the ability to control my sauce-to-food ratio as¬†a child. My mom didn’t think ketchup was the key to good food. (We rarely had ketchup in the house, but¬†there was always plenty of mustard. Good ol’ yellow mustard. Yum.)¬†And, I wasn’t forced to consume salad with a bucket of ranch. (I never ate ranch dressing until I was an adult. Italian all the way, baby!)¬† Regardless of its origin, I came to veganism without a favorite dip or dressing, so I¬† had no desire to find suitable¬†substitutes¬†for my favs¬†because I had no favs! ¬†That all changed when I started making the dips and dressings from Appetite for Reduction (Moskowitz, 2011).

I’ve made just about every dip and/or dressing in this book, and I’ve really liked them all. I’ve fallen in love with the¬†Caesar Chavez Dressing, which I use as a dip¬† (Alton Brown would be so mad!), and I’m a huge fan of the Sanctuary Dressing¬†(which I’ve altered to be WAY more of a dip than a dressing).¬†After months of dipping,¬†¬†I’ve developed a couple of my own. Enjoy!

Pesto Dip

1 pg silken tofu (boil it to get rid of the beany taste)

1/4 – 1/3 c nutritional yeast

1 oz almonds

1 – 2 clove/s garlic

1 – 2 c fresh basil

salt and pepper to taste

Boil and drain the tofu. Allow to cool. Once cool, add to food processor (or high-speed blender). Add nutritional yeast, almonds, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper. Blend until desired consistency is achieved. Add non-dairy milk or vegetable broth if too thick.

Use as a dip for veggies, or thin with hot pasta water for a more traditional use.

Creamy Spinach Dip

Use the same recipe as the Pesto dip, but substitute spinach for basil and cashews for almonds.

Creamy Spinach Dip

Note: I thought the Creamy Spinach Dip could use a little tang, so I added some lemon juice, but I think a little apple cider vinegar would be a nice add or even some miso. That’s a definite must try next time!

It’s Boating Season

We’re in the midst of boating season here in the Midwest (and everywhere else in the US) – water boats AND zucchini¬†boats! I’m not much of a water boat kinda gal, but I’m all about the zucchini.

Why don’t I like boats? Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you. I’ve had bad experience after bad experience on boats. I’ve been stuck in the middle of Lake Erie on a broken-down boat¬†during a¬†round of severe storms that produced tornadoes and water spouts; I’ve gotten sea¬†sick on a new boyfriend’s parent’s sail boat (while it was docked!); and, I’ve almost barfed on so many rocking, boat-like rides at fairs, carnivals, and theme parks that I’ve lost count. Hum…now that I think about it, most of my experiences have a common thread – throwing-up! Again, I hate boats.

Weird side-note: Mr. M and I are planning a cruise¬†for our one-year wedding anniversary. I don’t know what I was thinking when I suggested it. He wanted to stay at a resort, but no, I insisted on a cruise. It’s a better deal; we can visit more places without the hassle of traveling to them; the food is (supposedly) good; we can go rock climbing in the middle of the ocean and be greater¬†daily by a towel animal. I don’t see Sandles¬†commercials¬†promising¬†towel animals!

Anyway, onto a tastier topic¬†– zucchini¬†boats. Zucchini¬†is abundant in this part of the country at this time of year. We can still get the sweeter, more tender small squash (traditional green zucchini¬†and yellow summer squash), and the bigger, more pulpy squash are starting to show up on break-room tables with signs begging people to take them home. Before I start stocking-up on hand-me-down gourds, I’ve been delighting in the smaller varieties, purchasing in bulk and receiving a discount from our local farm stand. The other night, I created this delicious dish….

I forgot to take the picture until I'd eaten half of my dinner. Oops!

Zucchini Boats with Quinoa & Mushroom Stuffing

2 – 4 small zucchini, halved lengthwise with seeds and pulped scooped out

1 c dry quinoa

2 TBSP + 1.5 c vegetable broth

16 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 med/lg onion, diced

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Roast the zucchini on a foil-lined cookie sheet while the stuffing cooks (about 30 minutes), flipping half-way through the cooking time. (I flipped when I put the lid on the quinoa.) The boats should be fork tender, but still holding their shape.

Saute the onions and garlic with the 2 TBSP’s of vegetable broth until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they shrink (about 10 – 15 minutes). Add the quinoa (rinse if necessary) and toast for about 3 minutes, stirring often so it doesn’t burn. Add the remaining vegetable broth. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa gives off its little round threads (FYI – red or black quinoa will take longer to cook and the threads are harder to see). Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the zucchini shells from the oven and fill with stuffing mixture. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture forms a nice, crunchy crust. Optional add: Top with veggie cheeze or cheeze sauce.

I had a lot of stuffing left over, so I added chickpeas to it and ate it for lunch and dinner the next day. Sooooo good!

I’m Having an Affair

That’s right. I’m having an affair…with the treadmill. And I’m cheating on it with vegetable sushi. I just can’t help myself. Both are so darn good that they’ve coaxed me into a love triangle.

Mr. M introduced me to the treadmill about a year ago. I was reluctant to even be friends with it at first, but we run in the same circle, so we kept running into each other. Eventually, I gave in and started spending time along with it, and, well, it was all up-hill from there.

Our relationship has developed into a torrid affair. I think about it at night before I go to bed, and it’s the first thing I think about in the morning. I bought special clothes just for our time together, even though by the end of our trysts, I’m barely clothed.
 
 
Mr. M completely understands and supports my relationship with the treadmill. He doesn’t question my hesitation to join him for early breakfasts or community service projects. He doesn’t wonder why I have an expensive wardrobe of brightly colored bras and skirts, fancy socks, or a seemingly endless accumulation of spandex. And he doesn’t¬†open the door to¬†the room when we’re together, even if he hears loud music and heavy breathing.
 

J'aime mon tapis roulant ‚̧

 
¬†Years before I was introduced to the treadmill, I stumbled upon vegetable sushi. I was on yet another go-nowhere-date when we met at what quickly became “Our Place.” At first, I was resistant to its flirting¬†– the sweet smell of its pickled vegetables, sticky rice, and seaweed wrap, the creaminess of its avocado goodness, and the saltines¬†of its friend and confidante – soy sauce. But eventually, I gave in. And once I put that first bite in my mouth, it was all over. I gobbled up my first plate and¬†waited for more; I couldn’t get enough! I begged my friends and family to join me, driving the 30+ miles to meet my new love. Each trip was punctuated by the thrill of anticipation. Giggling ensued and smiles were abundant. Careful planning allowed for the most of our time together.¬†

Mr. M hates everything I love about the tasty rolls, so my¬†desire for¬†vegetable sushi has gone underground. Because of the distance between us, I have to sneak visits, giving up what every¬†amount of time¬†I can between trips to other, more legitimate locations. Anticipation is still involved, and I still catch myself giggling¬†and smiling uncontrollably¬†¬†as my car gets close to the exit that leads to my old friend, but the pleasure¬†derived from my indulgence is tarnished with the knowledge that I’m cheating…on all the sweaty mornings the treadmill and I have spent together. To alleviate my guilt, I spend extra time with the treadmill when I get home, but not before I brush my teeth and take a shower.

Giddy with Anticipation