Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Leftover Soaked Cashews

I had 1 cup and 3 tablespoons left of soaked, ground cashews and had no idea what to do with it. I already made pies, cheeses, and sauces and still had this much leftover. I was lacking the normal ingredients for an entire pie so I did what I do best: improvised!

With my leftover graham cracker crumbs I made 3 tiny ramekin crusts. The fourth pie you see here on the bottom doesn't have a crust at all. It looks like a pumpkin souffle! (But of course is still the same fillling as all the others.)  And the last bit of filling I had, I didn't have a ramekin left to put it in. So I made my own crust for the first time and was very lucky it turned out delicious! 

I used earth balance, coconut oil, all purpose flour, and maple syrup. I know from reading recipes that everything must be ice cold, so after scooping my butter and oil, I stuck it in the mixing bowl in the freezer. I guess this is the trick to a delicious crust! It came out with the coconut flavor, which I normally have in the topping. No coconut whip this time, but dang these are just as tasty! So if you've got leftover ingredients, don't be afraid to put them together and get creative. My pumpkin tart turned out amazing and Mr.Organnix and I ended up digging in and almost eating the whole thing! 

No crumbs? Make a flour crust. 
No ramekin? Make a flour crust. (I used a mini cookie sheet and turned up the sides of the crust to hold the filling. 
Extra cashews? Make dessert healthy enough for breakfast. 
At 2am my creative cook comes out, and once again has exceeded my expectations to turn leftovers into breakfast...and dessert. Yum Yum! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shepard's Pie

My boyfriend loves Trader Joe's Shepard's pies because they are cheap, quick, easy, and yummy. Every time I go to Trader Joe's and ask him what he would like me to pick up, he says. "oo oo Shepard's pie?" with a cute little smile. They smell delicious, but the beef inside turns me off. So I thought, why not try and make one myself...the vegan way.

After cooking my Tofurky the night before and not even making a dent into it, I needed to make this pie. I normally don't like potatoes but these fake bacon ones (which I'm now calling Facon Taters) are to die for. Seriously good food. Instead of buying russet potatoes, I bought the cute little purple ones. They cook very quickly and are super creamy without any butter or milk. So let's get down to the nitty gritty: the pie.

Everyone makes their Tofurky glaze differently, but if you are going to make one anytime soon, I highly suggest coating it in molasses before putting on your glaze. It makes a world of a difference in flavor. I also cut slits every 2 inches to let the glaze seep in as it cooked. You can see the slits in the photo. The green herb is sage. I used orange juice, soy sauce, olive oil, and maple syrup for the glaze.

I made the Tofurky and mashed potatoes the night before the pie. So I just had to reheat some stuff and chop it up. If you're going all out and making the Tofurky and potatoes and pie in the same day, I would suggest also bringing your patience!

Shepard's Pie
Feeds two-three very hungry people 
Prep Time: 30 minutes 
Cook Time: 30 minutes

What You Need
1 C finely diced leftover Tofurky
1/4 C leftover stuffing (or whatever stuffing you have left inside)
1 1/2 C Finely chopped cooked veggies from around Tofurky I used:
9 baby carrots
9 pearl onions
5 potatoes
1 clove garlic
4 white mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

1 container Giblet Gravy (comes with Tofurky)
1/2 bag Daiya Cheese, mozzarella

2 cups Facon Taters (recipe follows)

1 standard foil pie pan

What You Do 

1) Melt gravy in saucepan over medium heat.
2) Heat up mashed potatoes over low (or if you just made them they should still be warm).
3) Assemble finely chopped veggies and Tofurky on bottom of pie pan.
4) Pour hot gravy over veggies, almost the entire container, but leave a few tablespoons out because it will overflow.
5) Top with warm mashed potatoes by putting large spoonfuls around the top, and then spreading them out with a fork. DO NOT put them all on top in the middle like frosting a cake. They will sink down!
6) Add your Daiya cheese.
7) Place pie pan onto cookie sheet into 375* oven for 30 minutes.
8) Eat a bowlful and enjoy your delicious hard work!

Ps: You can use whatever veggies you normally cook with your Tofurky in this pie. This is a very versatile recipe so that you can use what leftovers you have on hand. Got leftover stuffing from another recipe? Put a scoop of that in. Don't have regular mashed potatoes? Try your leftover sweet potatoes for a sweeter pie. Remember, cooking should be easy and fun. I used my leftovers and made this pie easy for me. Make it easy for you too!

Facon Taters
6 purple potatoes
1/2 C non dairy milk
3 T Earth Balance
1/2 package Fake Bacon (I used Smart Bacon by Lightlife), cooked and chopped finely

1) Cook potatoes in microwave, 2-4 minutes each depending on size.
2) Place in a medium sized pot and cream them with your smart stick.
3) Add in margarine and milk and cream until fully mixed.
4) Stir in bacon

Monday, November 28, 2011

Family Matters

Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies are to gain weight for. They were a hit! 

The mess of my kitchen the night before. That is fake bacon out front, along with the workings of my pumpkin pie. 

Here are my nuked sweet potatoes ready to be scooped and mashed with a background of cooling cookies. No, I don't have a cooling rack so I use parchment paper and my cold granite counter top.

Oreo chocolate chip cookies...a very sweet treat.

This is what happens when you ball up an oreo inside cookie dough. I had to cut the center out, but I didn't mind eating the sides in my cereal.  hehe

Graham cracker crust cooling next to my homemade old-applesauce jar of cinnamon pinecones. 

Isn't that a fun and creative idea? Mr. Organnix said, "Well aren't you a little miss Martha Stewart?" when I was putting them together. We used old jars and candle tins for other placements around the house. Upcycle!

Here is my Thanksgiving day feast plate. I've got tofurky with surrounding veggies, green beans and almonds, artichoke salad, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and butternut squash. Yum!

I got this hand-me-down to bring home; it's an antique bubblegum machine. Awesome! I'm thinking of filling it with marbles or something. What do you suggest?

And last night, three days after Thanksgiving, I had to make my very own meal. Like I said before, I just can't get enough of these fall flavors. They warm me up inside and out. Here is my tofurky with a molasses, orange juice, sage, and soy sauce glaze. It's a before picture but only because I couldn't help but dig in when it came out of the oven. The molasses gives it such a delicious sweet flavor, like the idea of a honey-baked ham (which I've never even had before). 

And as I mentioned in my last blog, here are my fake bacon (Facon?) mashed potatoes. I'm making a shepard's pie tonight with leftover veggies and tofurky, and topping it with these delicious babies. Small red potatoes are so naturally creamy; it's ridiculous. 

This is my precious Mary Jane. She's been visiting me for 3 weeks now, and gets to stay two more because of some stitches. She had a funny lump on her knee that Mr. Organnix called "Nipple Knee" so we got it biopsied. Fortunately, it was benign and she's a very healthy 7-year old dog...who still acts like a 3 year old brat. Technically she's not allowed in my apartment, but even after management found out she was visiting they didn't send her packing. I get a week and half more of her playful company. 

This is her as a burrito. 

Kudos to Mr.Organnix for taking these photos while I was out Tofurky-Day shopping.

Thanksgiving was a hoot...or should I say a gobble? Cooking was fun. The family was endearing. And the texts after about my pie recipe were very well received. ;) I did end up forgetting my favorite dish which I had prepared the night before, sweet potato mash with a vegan marshmallow topping. But what would Thanksgiving be if I didn't forget something?

Luckily my sister was preparing butternut squash with no plans for the final product and so I took to my best practice-improv. (Every time I improv a recipe, and don't have what I need, the final product turns out fantastic.) I turned it into my sweet potato mash! She had already cubed the squash and was cooking it in the oven with brown sugar. I decided to mash it with my Cuisinart Smart Stick (best invention for mashed potatoes) and add almond milk, powdered sugar, salt, and cinnamon. I topped it with my Ricemellow, which I happened to remember even though I forgot the dish of potatoes, and placed it in a pie dish to brown. And what do you know? It turned out just as delicious as if I used my original sweet potatoes. Everyone may have thought it was a pie by the looks, but I passed it off as part of the main course. Muahaha!

My fresh sourdough stuffing recipe could have used more time in the oven, but people still liked it more than the prepared boxed one. (Sorry Krystal) My sister Rochelle made this amazing cranberry sauce from scratch and I need the recipe. It was so yummy! I know she used orange juice in it, and it gave it this zesty freshness that made me want more, more, more. Too bad my little tummy couldn't handle all the good food! Ugh, I should have brought some of that home! I think most of it was gone by the end of the night though. Good Job Roch! 

For dessert, my pumpkin pie woo'd the crowd. I saw my sister Krystal go back at least 3 times for another slice. My brothers girlfriend, who said, "Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without stuffing and pumpkin pie," even liked my vegan version! I was super proud of my original recipe...especially because it's usually only me and sometimes Mr.Organnix doing the taste-testing. To have the whole family critique my food was a nice and eye-opening change. I like all the taste buds joining in. :) 

My sister Rochelle brought awesome brownie-cookies and I brought my chocolate chip oreo-stuffed cookies. My brother was the toughest critic, but even he couldn't say no to bringing the last one home in a doggy bag. And I kept hearing the question, "Are these vegan too?" I proudly said yes, still impressed that I made something tasty enough for people to go back for seconds. It was my first time having others eat my food and smile about it. It made me feel great. 

We had some fun debating which are the best TV shows out right now, and how Seinfeld was epic (or in other people's opinions boring and pointless). You can guess which side I'm on, on that one.

After all the debating and laughing was over, we caught a few minutes of Avatar and Back to the Future 2, which also warranted some universal and timeline chatting.

And for all my family reading this...Don't think you got out of being in my photo line-up!

Football in the background, wine being opened, family gathered, and food galore. Now that's Thanksgiving! 

Ps: After having so much fun with the family and cooking, I'm trying to gather them at my place for a Prixmas (Pre-Xmas/Hannukah) dinner. I'll do the cooking and entertainment and we can all exchange gifts. Keep a look out for more photos! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one's own in the midst of abundance.-Buddah 

It is that time of year where we go out shopping, buying, giving, and hoarding. We feast, we fatten, we revel in our new gifts. Sometimes we forget that billions of others don't have what we afford ourselves. This holiday isn't solely about stuffing our faces and emptying our wallets; it's about being with the people we love. It's about taking a day off from our daily regimen to drive or fly to our dearest family and have a memorable time. 

I'm giving thanks to the world for putting me in a place where I can wear short-sleeve shirts, be a head of a household, and show my belly button if I please. I'm giving thanks to my brother and sisters for being my loving siblings, and always there for hugs if I need one. Thanks guys. My dad always taught me to be grateful for having a roof over my head, a shirt on my back (in this case a warm sweater), and food in my belly...and I will always hold that as the highest importance in life. No matter what happens, as long as I have those three things, I will be appreciative of life. And I can't forget to thank my mom, for carrying me around 9 months in her belly, no matter how hard I kicked her to get out. Last, but certainly not least, I must thank Mr.Organnix, my boyfriend. Thank you for dealing with my daily whining, napping, complaining, and veganisms. I know I can be a pain in the apple, but you know I love you with all my heart. Thanks for staying in California and experiencing a Tofurky day with me. :) 

What am I doing this year to be unselfish? Donating food, and possibly some funds, to the local food bank.  Two years ago I packed apples and oranges into bags to hand out to the local homeless. This year I'll go on a shopping trip and donate shelf-stable products to those who need them most. What are you doing to show how thankful you are for a full belly? 

Speaking of full bellies, I'm cooking today. I've promised to bring my special pumpkin pie  along with some delicious cookies. I'm going to make half a batch of chocolate chip-peanut butter balls, and half a batch of oreo-chocolate-chip cookies. Mr. Organnix has raved about how his old friend in college used to make some oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies, and I always assumed, "Wow, that sounds unhealthy!" But if any day of the year I would agree to attempt those, today would be it.

I have also bought the ingredients for tomorrows sweet potato mash, topped with Ricemellow cream (vegan marshmallows). Days after Thanksgiving, I'm always wondering why I don't cook these delicious dishes more often during the year. Besides not having the seasonal ingredients, like pumpkin and Tofurky, I figure they are too many calories for a daily dish. So to soothe my, "I want moreeee" feeling, I bought a tofurky, fake bacon, potatoes, and stuffing ingredients to make for the following week...just incase there aren't enough vegan leftovers from tomorrow.

I'll be sure to post a photo blog of all the fun I have with the family. I'm looking forward to seeing them!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Beginner Chef

It's not easy being a cook with no clue. That should be the title of this blog since I'm constantly making mistakes and learning my way as I go. As the boyfriend says, I don't think; I do. I tend to just slam things together hoping for a great outcome instead of processing if those two ingredients will meld or mix.

Last night I attempted to make my very first vegan lasagna. It was fun preparing all of the ingredients and wasn't that difficult. The science behind the no-boil pasta got me tricked up though. The top came out all crusty because there wasn't enough sauce for it to absorb. I cooked the tofu too long so that it was crispy instead of soft and forkable. Although I continue to fudge up, I continue to cook and learn.

Here are 15 pointers that I've picked up in the past month:

  1. Cook hungry. (Because after all the tasting, you will be full.)
  2. Basics are essential.
  3. Work with what you know, not what every professional cook and blogger knows.
  4. Don't try and master a technique you should have learned in culinary school without preparing yourself with 10 hours worth of patience.
  5. When making mac n' cheese, rely on Daiya, not on a nutritional yeast sauce.
  6. You don't need a bunch of special tools to make something delicious. (Most of the time you don't need more than a fork and bowl.)
  7. Pizza dough is very hard to make taste good! Don't use too much flour on the board and pan.
  8. Soy cream cheese is expensive and should only be bought when seriously craved.
  9. Vegan desserts will never have the texture of real butter and milk, so stop dreaming, wishing, and hoping they will come out like that.
  10. Baking is way harder than cooking.
  11. Don't make a whole pan or pot of something when you only have two people eating. Downsize!
  12. Know that even if you fail, you can try, try again.
  13. Food styling can be tricky, but you don't need a lighted studio box to take good photos.
  14. A simple wrap, salad, and sandwich can be the best meal of all.
  15. You don't need to get complicated to make something amazing. 
Although we all make mistakes, we must live and learn...or in this case, cook and learn. Here are the photos from my adventure last night. Don't make the same mistakes I did and you will have a delicious lasagna. You can make lasagna out of whatever you like. Cook all the ingredients before you put them together in layers, and make sure they taste great. Use lots of cheese (low fat if using real cheese) and lots of sauce. Don't over cook your meat. And have fun! 

Lay out all your ingredients for easy access.

Cover the bottom of your pan in a flavorful marinara or tomato sauce. 

Mistake! Do not cook your tofu like this. Marinate it over night and then place it straight into the lasagna. Otherwise, it will be too crispy. 

This is no-boil rice pasta. I will use cooked pasta next time. I'll cook it in a vegetable broth for extra flavor.

This part was delicious. Finely chop red bell pepper, green onions, and white mushrooms. 

Saute in garlic olive oil, agave, and lemon juice mixture, plus the seasonings you love.

I will definitely make this pesto again! It was yummy. Basil, parsley, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, and agave make this great. If you don't have a Vita-mix, use a food processor.

Here is my layering with mozzarella and pesto. It tasted great with the sautéed vegetables. If only I didn't fudge the tofu and top! Grr! 

The vegetable mixture on top of the pesto and cheese. Again, delicious. 

Here is the mistake. I shouldn't have layered the pasta on top. It should just be the cheese and pesto bubbling on top. Too much pasta is never a good thing! It came out hard and crusty. I had to peel it off. 

And here is the crusty top. Do Not Do This!

See that bottom gooey pasta? That is the good stuff. Everything under the tofu and top crust was great. Next time: veggie only lasagna, boiled pasta, and more cheese! Can't get enough cheese in this thing. Yummo! 

So for all of you beginner cooks, don't fret if you mess up. There is hope. Just have the patience and drive, and you will succeed. Remember, it's not about making something super complicated, but something super delicious. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Experimenting with Fillo Dough

I decided to pick up some fillo dough on a whim because I thought it would be fun to play around with. I was thinking of making mini fruit tarts with a fillo cup crust, but then realized I didn't have tartlettes to form a pretty bowl. Mr. Organnix suggested I use a savory filling and I followed his advice. (He's always right!) I made this Gimme Lean sausage, white mushroom, and green onion filling to go inside the dough. It was so delicious that I ate a few spoonfuls before I even put it in the pastry. 
I microwaved a few tablespoons of Organic Earth Balance to brush onto the dough. I didn't have a pastry brush so I just used my fingers. I laid out layer by layer and brushed it with the "butter" and then put the filling in the middle. I topped it with a handful of Daiya Chedder cheese and closed it up. I folded up the corners to make the shape below. You can make any shape you want, but this is great for a sandwich. 

After cooking it for about 15 minutes at 375*, it came out looking like this and it tasted...

I gave half to Mr. Organnix and ate the other half. It was so yummy. I'm definitely making it again and adding it to my deli menu. :) 
Next I made a bluberry-cream cheese filling for a fillo dessert. I defrosted a frozen bag of blueberries in the microwave for 15 seconds. I dumped 1/2 cup of blueberries in the vitamix with half a container of soy cream cheese. I added 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to make a delicious pie-like filling. 

I made this shape in a cupcake pan. I was attempting to make the cuplette, but just folded up the edges and twirled them together. I thought it was pretty. What do you think?

This one I figured out how to make the cup-like shape by folding it into a square first, then carefully stuffing it into the cupcake pan. 

I decided I still wanted to cover it like a mini pie so I cut a mini square and place it on top. Of course, every single layer I used, I brushed with earth balance...using my fingers. :) 

The sandwich was easy and amazingly tasty. It looks super pretty and would satisfy anyone who loves sandwiches. I really have to thank the Mr. for this one because I didn't think about making anything savory with the fillo dough until he mentioned it. The blueberry pie cups were super easy too. The hardest part was not letting the dough dry out (cover with foil or waxed paper when working with it) and not tearing the sheets. I tore a few and had to crumble them up, or use parts of them like I did for the last mini pie. 

If you find yourself with leftover fillo dough, you can wrap it back up and put it in the fridge for a week until you decide what masterpiece you will create next. The end of my roll is waiting to be turned into something delicious. I'm thinking of making a stuffing and wrapping it up in the dough like a little savory coin purse. What would you make with this versatile dough?

11/9/11 Edit: Fillo Factory tweeted me to teach me that fillo dough is not the same as puff pastry. I had to change the title and a few words to fillo instead. They look the same and are both are to work with, but are very different! Lesson Learned.