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Posts Tagged ‘Vegan Cooking’

So it’s been a while since my last post.  A year….a very busy year filled with so many changes that those who know me understand how busy I have been.  We’ve turned our lives upside down, moved, put the kids in school (teenagers now, no more homeschooling for me) and could not be happier than we are at this very moment.  We have beautiful beaches, friendly people and great schools.

I have still not entered Vegan Land and at this point that is probably not going to happen any time soon.  I just am not ready to give up seafood.

I can say that I am healthier, happier, and feel great since all land meat has exited my diet.  I will not go back because 40 points came off of my cholesterol numbers and that’s a pretty big deal.

I eat lots of vegan meals, vegetarian meals, and pescatarian meals (my seafood).  Grill King still lights up the grill only now the meat sizes are smaller and it is not as often.  If I come across some fantastic vegan recipes and they taste wonderful, I will share them here.

Meanwhile, I am off to another journey because turning 45 has brought about some interesting happenings.  Feel free to check me out at www.waytoohot.me

Until then eat healthy, stay happy and Enjoy, Leslie

 

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I’m running behind on my blogs.  Sometimes life gets in the way of the things we really enjoy.  Writing is something I enjoy but the last couple of weeks have been filled with homeschooling, swimming and lots of little things that seem to trip me up.  I have not worked on my book nor have I blogged.  I have been eating well though and have discovered that I can still eat scalloped potatoes if I cook them.

I think I mentioned before that when I graduated from high school my Grandma gave me a cook book.  It was filled with yummy southern dishes and went with me off to college.  It has always been one of the cookbooks I grab when looking for something super tasty.  The problem with this cookbook is now that my diet is limited, I can’t just cook everything in there.

I already veganified the rice pudding recipe which turned out really good.   We had some potatoes that needed cooking so I decided to try to veganify my favorite homemade scalloped potato recipe that was in the cookbook.  Homemade scalloped potatoes are yummy, comforting and oh-so-southern. The boxed stuff just can’t hold a candle to the homemade.

Obviously these turned out fabulous or I wouldn’t be blogging about them.  I have had stuff not turn out and well that is always a disappointing waste that aggravates me to no end because of the time I spent on something that ends up down the garbage disposal.  Very frustrating because when you are cooking vegan, well, YOU HAVE TO COOK and cooking takes up time and you expect to be able to eat it in the end.  If that doesn’t happen, well then, you are pretty much ready to hurt someone.  These scalloped potatoes can be eaten in the end.  Everyone can feel safe.

Recipe for vegan Scalloped Potatoes:

About 5 large potatoes or 7-8 smaller ones (any kind will do, this time I used red), peeled(up to you, I didn’t peel all mine) and sliced

1/4 cup non dairy “butter” (I used Earth Balance)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

1/4 cup unbleached flour

1/8 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

2 cups almond milk

Melt the “butter” in a sauce pot.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Cook till tender but not browned.  Add the flour, salt and pepper.  Stir till mixed then pour in the almond milk.  Stir and cook till thick and bubbly.  Then cook about 2 minutes longer.  Turn the heat off and layer half of your sliced potatoes in baking dish.  Pour half of your thickened mixture over the potatoes.  Layer the rest of the potatoes and then cover with the other half of your thickened almond milk mixture.  Bake covered for 30 minutes at 350˚.  Uncover, stir gently and bake another 30 minutes.  Then take out, serve and chow down!

Layered potatoes

Potatoes with Sauce on top

Scalloped Potatoes Cooked and Ready to Eat!

I love Southern Comfort food.  I won’t be biting into a big piece of meatloaf but at least I can now have my Scalloped Potatoes.  Healthy Food, no guilt and super yummy.  I’ll have to make these for the next family gathering.  Now go make you some and Enjoy!

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I have now been tiptoeing towards veganism for about 5 months.  While I haven’t made it all the way to veganland as the road is not an easy one, most of my meals are completely vegan.  I have not touched anything that once roamed the land since August 24th, 2011.  Basically if it once had a hoof, a beak, or was a varmint of any kind, it no longer has to worry about me being on the food chain.  However, if it’s rabid, drooling and chasing me, then it may end up with a bullet in the head but I still won’t eat it.  Just making a point that if they leave me alone, I’ll leave them alone.   I love animals and I love observing wildlife.  I just don’t want to end up with any teeth marks in my butt.  Been there, done that, not fun.

I cut out eggs a couple of months ago.  Not an easy thing to do but I have somehow managed to cook everything I need without that added ingredient.  I do miss eggs, even more than meat.

I am now cutting out 95% of my dairy.  I guess this is my next step which I believe is step five on my journey.  Notice I say 95%.  That’s because a few mornings a week, I like to have a cup of coffee.  In that coffee, I place flavored creamer and whip cream.  It’s just my thing and I’m not ready to stop.  I am eagerly searching for alternatives but so far none have tasted near as good.  If you know any, let me know.  I would really like a tasty alternative.  I will not be touching any other dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc…  This will be a really hard one.  I will probably make a few mistakes by forgetting to look at the ingredients of something.  The truth is I have really cut back on this stuff because my cooking at home is completely vegan.  It’s when I go out that I tend to stray over to the dark side.  As I am writing this, I am sipping my coffee (just being honest here).  I just sprayed some whip cream on top.  I am trying to feel the guilt but honestly, there is none.  It’s just too darn good.

I am still eating seafood.  It’s not something I have everyday.  I probably get it about once a week or once every two weeks.  I am still not sure I can ever give this up.  I may end up being a vegan most of the time and a pescatarian vegetarian when I can get a hold of some fresh seafood.  Two of my favorite cities are Savannah and New Orleans.  You cannot visit these cities without eating the glorious seafood available.  Plus, I live in Florida.  Have you seen what surrounds this state?  Florida has some of the best seafood restaurants in the world.

I was having a conversation with some people last night and it’s funny because I always get asked the same thing.  “What do you eat?”  Sometimes I consider answering them  with a detailed way of cooking tree bark.  The vision in their head is that I only eat fruits, vegetables and maybe some roots, leaves and tree bark of course.  I tell them how creative one can become when your diet is limited.  I tell them about my spinach bean patties, couscous, quinoa, soups, homemade breads, coconut “ice cream”and all the different things I now can do with vegetables.  I tell them about all the neat vegetables I have tried that I had never eaten before and all the neat ways to cook them.  Usually their eyes glaze over and I figure after mentioning the spinach bean patties that replaces my meat, I lost them.  Some though stay interested and actually visit my blog.  Others get a few recipes and give something healthy a shot even if they do serve it beside a cooked carcass.  Others ask, “Why would you eat like that?”  My answer is always the same, “For my health.”  If they ask about my story, I tell them.  I have not yet tried cooking seitan and tofu.  I guess I need to venture out a little more.

So far I have lots of favorites about eating vegan.  I thought when I started this journey that I was going to have to give up so much stuff.  Now while I have given up tons, there are so many little things that surprisingly I still get to eat.  When I am having a chocolate craving its ok because that’s allowed.  I just don’t reach for the nearest snickers bar.  Instead I grab some crescent rolls and sprinkle ghirardelli chocolate chips on them.  Then wrap them up and bake.  Ghirardelli chocolate chips are “accidentally vegan.”  My kids like these too.  It’s like eating a chocolate croissant.  I always have these chips in the pantry for desperate times.  Grabbing a few and throwing them in my mouth works too.

Chocolate Crescent Rolls

Another favorite is that I don’t have to give up cinnamon toast.  I was thinking because of the butter that this was a goner.  Little did I know that a wonderful thing called Earth Balance existed right under my nose and it is the perfect butter alternative as the flavor is spot on.  Take some bread, spread on the “butter”, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, bake.  It’s that easy.

Cinnamon Toast

I’ve always been a big fruit eater and I serve fruit with most meals, even dinner sometimes.  We are lucky in that the little spot of land on which we dwell provides us with some fabulous fruit and I can eat it all with no guilt.  My own yard provides me with coconuts, oranges, tangerines, guavas, grapefruit, limes, key limes, lemons, mangoes, avocados, bananas, and loquats.  They all arrive different times of the year.

Some of my tangerines. Very sweet and yummy.

Other favorite things about eating vegan:

-It drives my family crazy.  They now have to think before I come over, “Will Leslie eat this?”

-I feel better.  This is one super bonus and I am not making it up.  I actually do feel better.

-I get to rag on my husband/grill king and he has to laugh.  Also, his meat consumption has greatly reduced.

-My kids are eating more vegetables and liking them.

-So Delicious Non-Dairy Coconut Milk Frozen Dessert “ice cream’.  Try the peanut butter chocolate swirl.  YUM!

-I can always lick the bowl.  No matter what I am fixing, I can lick the batter from the bowl and not have to worry about it.

-I started making homemade bread and it is both easy and scrumptious.

-Discovering new places I can eat at without the stress.

I was recently visiting the East Coast of Florida and happened to go into a restaurant called Little Moir’s Food Shack.  WOW is all I can say.  The Food Shack is a seafood place located in Jupiter Florida.  I need to become these peoples spoke person because their food truly bowled me over with it’s flavors and it’s menu.  Everything is homemade and fresh.  Some of the menu changes depending on what’s in season.  What caught my eye at first was on the menu it said that all their salad dressings were homemade and dairy free.  There were several items on the menu for a both a vegetarian and a vegan.  Embracing my pescatarian (seafood eater) status, I ordered a sweet potato encrusted fish and for the first time got brave enough to ask if the fish was dipped in egg or milk first.  No milk but they did use egg, however, they said they would do mine without the egg.  I nearly kissed the waiter.  Since their stuff is fresh, they can pretty much leave anything out of a dish.  They were so accommodating and didn’t even blink an eye at my request. This place was packed and when I tasted the food it was easy to see why.  I will go there again on my next trip across the state.  They have earned a forever customer.  If you live near or will be visiting Jupiter go to this place.  You will not be disappointed.  Just be prepared to have your palette wowed!!!  Enjoy.

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I have really had a busy two weeks.  It has been go go go for nearly 2 weeks straight.  Not always fun and it has seriously cut into my blog time.  I swear we have had to go somewhere nearly every day.  Normally the weekend is relax time but this past weekend consisted of getting up both Saturday and Sunday at 4:45 am (YUCK) in order to get my kids to their swim meet on time (they did awesome by the way).  Between homeschooling, being on the run and the swim meet, I pretty much look like a zombie.  I can’t wait until Saturday.  I may sleep the day away.

So while I have not blogged in 12 days (not a good thing), I am still tiptoeing towards a healthy heart.  We recently got our hands on some coconuts.  We have three coconut palms in our yard but the past two years my little area of  Southwest Florida has had some terrible winter freezes and that nasty cold weather has prevented my palms from producing.  It’s like they would start to put off baby coconuts and then they would just fall off and die.  Not good for one who loves coconut and fresh coconut water.

This year however, I think we are in business.  My palms are looking great.  The winter has been a very warm one.  There are  baby coconuts and they are looking very healthy.  Soon I will have my own.  Knowing I love coconuts, my father-in-law sent some over from his tree.

Grill King grabbed a machete (a large sharp hatchet looking knife that could easily dismember one who did not know how to use it) and went to work.  In a matter of minutes, I had a pitcher full of coconut water and the kids and I were digging out and eating fresh coconut.  We all still had our parts connected.  Grill King is a professional coconut opener and doesn’t let any of the water escape.  That way I have more to drink.

Coconut water is full of electrolytes and much better for you than a sports drink.  Coconut goes great in just about anything.  You can make your own coconut milk or use the coconut meat in things like smoothies and baking.  My favorite is just eating it raw right out of the shell.  I drink the juice/water for several days until it is gone.  It is just so refreshing.  There is nothing like fresh coconut water.

A friend of mine recently told me about this coconut milk she was buying in the grocery store.  I tried it and I just have to say YUM!  It is called So Delicious Coconut Milk.  One serving of this stuff gives you 50% of your vitamin B 12.  Hello non-meat eaters!!!  Here is the B 12 you’ve been looking for.  This company also makes a cultured coconut milk (I haven’t tried this yet) and a frozen dessert.  Basically a non-dairy, soy-free “ice cream”.  It is wonderful.  I am so happy that now when my kids want some ice cream, I can share in the joy!  Actually, we got an ice cream maker and I am going to try to make my own vegan ice cream.  I am going to attempt this on Saturday once I pull myself out of bed.

Anyway, if you have never had the privilege of drinking fresh coconut water  straight out of the shell, I recommend that you try it.  It is super delicious and while shredded coconut from the store is really yummy, nothing beats the fresh stuff.  So go find yourself a coconut palm and shimmy yourself up it (like us locals do, yeah right!), then pick one (a long stick looking tool with a knife thingy on the end works better).  If there are no coconuts growing in your area, check the grocery stores or fly down to South Florida.  Either way, go enjoy one.

By the way, today is Grill King’s Birthday.  Happy Birthday Honey.  I Love You!

Here you can see two of my coconut palms.

Just say Yum! Fresh Coconut and Coconut Water.

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It was bound to happen.  I had predicted it.  Grill King was stomping around the house feeling the need to rip into a hoof, beak or varmint.  We entered the grocery store and as we neared the meat aisle, I could see his eyes light up, then glaze over.  Before I new it, there was a cow carcass lying in my buggy.  It was a t-bone.  I can remember once sharing this with Grill King.  He always gave me the filet side.  Such a nice guy to share his kill with the one he loves.

I looked at the carcass with disgust.  Grill King, on the other hand, beat his chest as if he had just run out of the cave and chased down this ferocious beast with a single spear.  Ahhh Ahhh Ahhh! (is that how Tarzan yelled?)

Looking at the meat aisle, I realized for the first time that I was actually disgusted by the look of all that meat.  I guess that was going to happen eventually.  It has been 4 1/2 months since land meat has entered my body.  Cooked bacon still makes my mouth water.  I think that’s the only meat I dream about now.  While I gave up eggs 2 months ago, I am sure that over Thanksgiving and Christmas some sneaked into my body.  However, since the holidays, I have stuck to my guns.  Dairy will be leaving soon.  It is slowly packing it’s bags and only has a few items still lying around.  I hang out with fish and seafood a couple times week.  We are buddies and I still am not sure I will be able to cut that connection off.  Other than those couple of nights of hanging out with seafood, I am a veggie girl.

Once home from the grocery store, I went to work to see what could be served with grilled carcass and without grilled carcass.   I preferred the latter.  We did have some asparagus that would go great on the grill and since that baby was obviously going to be smoking, may as well use it for something healthy.  I am not a big fan of asparagus.  I eat it because it’s good for me and it doesn’t make me run for the porcelain god.  But really there are so many other vegetables that I would rather have.

Since cooking butternut squash for the first time a few weeks ago, I have come to love it.  I decided to try something different by adding it to couscous (I have a big bag of Israeli Couscous from Costco).  Together with potatoes and an onion, this turned out super yummy.

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes

3 small potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

1 small onion chopped

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 1/2 cup couscous

2 1/2 cup water

vegetable bouillon cube

fresh parsley

Salt, pepper, granulated garlic to taste

Put the vegetable bouillon cube in the 2 1/2 cups of water and set aside for it to dissolve.  Place the butternut squash and potatoes in a bowl, pour about a tbsp of olive oil on them, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic.  Mix well, then place on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, place 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pot and saute the chopped onions until translucent.  Add the couscous to the olive oil and onions.  Keep stirring until it just starts to brown, add a tad more olive oil if needed, and then pour in the 2 1/2 cups of water with the vegetable bouillon cube and the sliced almonds.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Take the roasted butternut squash and potatoes out of the oven.  Add to the pot of couscous and mix well.  Place in a bowl, sprinkle chopped parsley on top and serve.   Enjoy!

This recipe passed the Grill King test and the kid test.  Even my picky eater ate it.  I will be making it again.

Butternut Squash and Potato Couscous

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My goal was to see how many healthy things I could stuff in one patty and still get my kids to eat it.  It was an experiment  so I risked everyone going ewww.  Instead of the ewww’s, I got “can I have some more?”  Once again I got lucky and made something really yummy.

I considered calling these Spinach Chickpea Corn Cutlets but living with a carnivore put an end to that idea.  Cutlets usually refer to a meat item and Grill King let me know that I was not fooling anyone.  He could handle having a meatless dish but he drew the line at calling a veggie bean patty a cutlet.  I could tell by his mood that he was starting to crave a bite of that which once roamed the earth.  Either a steak was in his future or what he calls his “wing fix”.  Hooves or beaks will soon be on our grill.  Maybe I’ll hide the debit card.

The amazing part of these patties is that my picky eater not only ate them but said they were good.  Normally if I put things like spinach, celery, garlic and onion on her plate, she would pitch a fit and have her lip stuck out far enough for someone to trip over it.  There was no lip out on this one.

1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and mashed

1/2 cup corn meal

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 cups fresh loose spinach

1/2 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp paprika

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1/4 cup vegetable broth or water with vegetable cube dissolved

Salt and pepper

Mix together mashed chickpeas, wheat gluten, corn meal, olive oil, soy sauce, vegetable broth and seasonings (salt and pepper to your liking).  In a small food processor finely chop the celery, onion and garlic together.  Add to the chickpea mixture.  Then put the spinach in the food processor and chop on low so that the pieces are bigger.  Add the spinach to the chickpea mixture and mix together well.  If you feel you need to sprinkle a little more corn meal and wheat gluten go ahead.  Just be sure to mix it in well.  Make into several patties and then fry them in a small amount of olive oil or the oil of your choice.  Fry until brown and crispy on one side then carefully flip and fry until the second side is brown and crispy.

Serve with your favorite dish.  We had ours with Quinoa with sliced almonds and pineapple, and sliced tomatoes and avocado.  These are really good.  The cornmeal gives it a crispness on the outside that really seems to add an interesting texture to your regular chickpea patties.  I think it’s the cornmeal that makes this so yummy and different from all the others out there.

We had these patties earlier this week and since they were so good and went over well, I tried making a variation of these tonight using cannelloni beans instead of chickpeas and I also added a 1/4 cup bread crumbs to the mixture.  They were just as good.  So give these a shot and then try a variation of your own.  I think I may try to sneak in carrots or sweet potatoes next.  Enjoy!

Spinach Chickpea Corn Patties

 

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I decided I was going to make something I have never made.  I wanted something healthy and yummy.  I was in the mood for soup which gave me many choices.  About that time, Grill King calls and is at the vegetable/farmers market down the street.  I ask him to bring home two butternut squash.

With Grill Kings arrival and  the decision made, I started searching for recipes.  Once again my kitchen was lacking some of the important ingredients in the recipes I found, so I headed down the path of experiments and managed to make a fantastically delicious soup.

First let me point out that in my 40 something years, I have never cooked a butternut squash.  What I did not know was that trying to cut and peel one would be like using a butter knife to cut through a piece of concrete.  How is it that something you are going to eat starts off as hard as that?  I was amazed and actually considered giving up, thinking there is no way this is going to turn out.

Grill King was out on the porch talking on the phone to his mom and apparently telling her what I was planning to cook, because the next thing I know he is staring at me through the glass doors with a huge smile on his face.  He walks in and tells me that his mom, who apparently has cooked butternut squash, said I was going to have a tough time cutting it.  I was actually relieved to know that this super hardness was normal.

I gladly handed the knife over to him and told him I needed it peeled and chopped.  He went to work.

2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 small onions, chopped

6 celery stalks, chopped

1 apple, chopped (because I had one)

4 – 5 cups water

Vegetable bouillon cube

salt/pepper to taste

Coat the chopped butternut squash and sweet potatoes with the olive oil.  Stir all together, then place  on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until fork tender.

Meanwhile, place the garlic, onions, celery, vegetable bouillon cube and 2 cups of water in a pot.  Saute till all are soft.  Add the baked squash, sweet potatoes and 2 more cups of water to the pot.  Mix together well and then throw in the chopped apple, salt and pepper.  Dip out a little at a time and place in a food processor.  Blend till smooth and pour in a separate bowl for holding.  Continue this step until all is blended.  Place the soup back into the pot and heat for about 5 more minutes.  It will be thick and yummy.  Add another cup of water if you want it soupier.  Taste and season more if you want.  Then Enjoy!  Give it a try, I promise you will not be disappointed.  This passed both the Grill King test and the kid test.

This recipe made 6 -8 servings depending on the size.  It could easily be cut in half.  We had it for leftovers.

My only recommendation would be to make sure you have someone with the strength of Hercules to cut through and peel the squash.  Grill Kings strength comes from the fact that he is a carnivore and uses his muscles to rip through things like hooves, beaks and varmints.  Picture a T-Rex.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Thick and Yummy Butternut Squash Soup

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