November 4, 2014

Easiest, Yummiest Mac and Cheese


It's finally Autumn in North Texas, my favorite time of year! After another brutally hot summer, it's finally cool enough to open the windows and let some crispy fresh air come inside. Even better, it's pouring down sweet, much-needed rain right now. I have the house to myself. And I'm catching up on both my cleaning and my Netflix queue. It's a great day! Of course, a great day like this calls for some comfort food. I made chocolate oatmeal energy balls last night, so sweets are covered. The only thing missing is something cheesy. Enter the Easy Vegan Macaroni and Cheeze recipe from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen. I just did a quick Google search for "the best" vegan mac and cheese and this is what popped up. Oh, and guess what? It's delicious! Creamy and "cheesy," even better than the boxed stuff - vegan or otherwise. Give it a try. It's perfect for this Fall weather, and I'm 99.99% certain that I will be serving it on my Thanksgiving table this year.

EASY VEGAN MACARONI AND CHEEZE
(recipe by Susan Voisin, who writes at blog.FatFreeVegan.com)


"Besides being low-fat, this recipe is also low in sodium, so salt-lovers may need to add salt. The tahini adds a little fat but a lot of flavor; still, leave it out if you need a completely oil-free dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta (regular or gluten-free), cooked according to package directions
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup plain, fat-free soymilk (may use other non-dairy milk)
  • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (optional, but lends creaminess and flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon mellow white miso (or additional salt)
  • black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put the pasta on to boil, according to package directions. While it’s cooking, blend water and all remaining ingredients together in a blender. When the pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to pan. Add the sauce mixture and cook, stirring, until mixture boils and thickens. Add a little of the pasta water if more moistness is needed.
  2. If the sauce is not as flavorful as you’d like, add a little more mustard and onion powder.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 303 Calories (kcal); 4g Total Fat; (10% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 316mg Sodium; 5g Fiber. Also, if you use nutritional yeast fortified with B-12, one serving provides 100% of the daily requirement of that vitamin."

November 3, 2014

Raspberry Waffle Syrup


I am forty-one years old and pre-menopausal. Is that something I shouldn't talk about online? I don't care! It's a living hell. And no amount of hormonal-type (i.e. of animal origin) food avoidance is helping. I'm as pimply as a teenager, and I have daily hot flashes that my daughter's Girl Scout troop director accurately described as "my own private summer." And, hey sue me buddy, but sometimes a pimply, middle-aged woman having a hot flash needs a got-dang waffle, and sometimes there's no syrup in the house. So, she hits the internet and finds a solution. In this case, it was homemade raspberry syrup. I'd purchased two cases of raspberries the day before because they were on sale for 99 cents a case, which is a steal! So, now we're here. This syrup is delicious. We were spooning it out of the saucepan before it was even cool. Give it a try, and enjoy!

HOMEMADE RASPBERRY SYRUP
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • In a medium saucepan, combine 1 3/4 cups water with sugar. 
  • Add raspberries and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low. Allow mixture to simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Place the mixture in a fine, mesh sieve and press to release all of the liquid into a bowl or large cup. Return liquid to saucepan.
  • Whisk in cornstarch remaining tablespoon water.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook one minute, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat. Allow to cool before serving.
  • Can be stored in the refrigerator up to a week in an airtight container.
  • Enjoy!

October 26, 2014

An Amusement Park for Bibliophiles


I am a bibliophile of the highest order, and I am proud to say that Fort Worth, TX, boasts an amazing network of libraries, complete with tons of programs for kids and adults, artistic displays, music, and lots more. But, best of all, twice a year, the library sells off their backstock of withdrawn and unused donated books for cheap - crazy cheap - and I never miss it! But, wait, it gets even better. On the final day of the sale, they let you "fill a box" with books for only $15. They provide the box, of course, but the box is of a generous size. Today, for example, my husband and I crammed a box with no less than 56 books, about a third of them hardbacks. We handed them $15 in cash and whistled all the way home. That's a cost of about 26 cents per book. I mention this here because I found some great vegan and health stuff. I don't have a photo because the books have already been dispensed to various shelves throughout my home, but I will post the Amazon pictures for you. Check it out...


The Kind Diet - This one has some strange, and possibly impossibly expensive ingredients in it, but there was a soup recipe inside that made my tastebuds tingle, so I had to get it.


Apocalypse Chow - I found this wacky little gem buried under some Junior League cookbooks. It's all vegan, weirdly enough, and some of the recipes actually look pretty good! Some examples are the "Duck and Cover" Tortilla Bake, Rice Noodles With Spicy Peanut Sauce, Polenta Fusion Fiesta and Curry In a Hurry. Yum! Plus, I live in Tornado Alley, so we lose our electricity a lot more than I care for. I think I will do well to keep this one next to the flashlights.


Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar Miracle Health System - Well, it just so happens that I have a jug of Bragg's apple cider vinegar sitting in my pantry as I type so, naturally, I couldn't resist this book! Maybe it will "banish my obesity." It might be difficult, seeing as how I use the vinegar to bake cupcakes, but we'll see what happens...

The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies - This book is about two and a half inches thick, so you can bet it's chock full of info, and I learned a bunch of stuff I didn't know about sleep apnea and headaches just in the two minutes I took to thumb through it at the book sale. Win!


Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe and Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning - At first glance, I thought this book would basically boil down to little more than a lengthy advertisement for Seventh Generation cleaning products (which I cannot afford), but I was glad to be wrong. It has a lot of great information, including recipes for household cleaners made from everyday products like baking soda and liquid soap. I can definitely afford that!


8 Weeks to Optimum Health - I read this book when it first came out in 1997, but I wasn't vegan at the time and, while I did follow the advice about eliminating hydrogenated oils from my diet and eating more broccoli, I pretty much ignored everything else, particularly the recipes. After flipping through it today at the sale, I was stunned to see all the vegan recipes. Ginger-Carrot Soup, Grilled Tempeh Sandwiches, Kasha with Vegetables? Yes, please! There are a few salmon recipes (Dr. Weil eschews dairy entirely and advises eating no meat other than cold-water fatty fish), but only a handful, so they are easy to skip without losing a large section of the book.  


The Macrobiotic Cancer Prevention Cookbook - I was fifteen years old when this book came out in 1988. If you had told me then, in the backwaters of Waco, TX, that there are people in the world who don't eat meat and dairy because it's "healthy" I would have told you that you were "plumb crazy." I probably won't be trying the Barley Tea recipe any time soon, but the Apple-Pear Kanten and the Sweet and Sour Seitan sound pretty nice.


The Vegan Sourcebook - Joanne Stepaniak is a vegan pioneer and her recipes are fabulous. You can't go wrong with Jo-Step! I was happy to find this one. I can't wait to try the Sweet Tomato Vinaigrette recipe!



UltraPrevention - I have two other Hyman books, The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First - The Simple Way to Defeat Depression, Overcome Anxiety, and Sharpen Your Mind and Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss, which are also fairly recent acquisitions. I haven't read them yet, but I thought I'd be uber-Ultra and grab this book to pad my Hyman collection.


Okay, so that's it for the vegan and health books. I'm still kicking myself for not grabbing a Nava Atlas cookbook the second I saw it. When I went back for it, it was gone. Gah!
As I learn and cook from these new treasures, I will share my findings with you.


P.S. I also got a ton of other great books. If you're a bibliophile, like me, take a look and let me know what you think of some of my finds! I also really love recommendations too. I'll read anything from children's and teen fiction to classic ghost stories, memoirs and health books, but my favorite genre is dystopian sci-fi. If you have a book rec, lay it on me!

October 23, 2014

Yellow Yum-Yum Soup

This soup was born from a soul-stirring need to have soup, despite having only a few standard soup ingredients on hand. Like, I just NEEDED to eat some salty, hot, delicious soup. And I would stop at nothing to get it.


Even if it meant that I pulled a bunch of random stuff out of my pantry and threw it into a huge pot, salted and spiced it and then ate it up. Which is what I did. And you know what? It turned out really amazingly good! I got lucky this time. This ain't my first rodeo, and I know what tastes good, but sometimes my pantry raids turn out terribly. This soup, though, was delicious, and has now been dubbed "yellow yum-yum soup." My kid and my husband loved it!


YELLOW YUM-YUM SOUP
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
2 cans vegetable broth (using the coconut milk can)
1 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced into ribbons
1 15-ounce can white beans, any kind (I used great northern)
2 cubes yellow curry
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (fresh Thai basil would be even better!)
Dash of turmeric
2 tablespoons lime juice, or more to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
A couple of sprinkles of sesame oil, optional

  • Put the coconut milk and broth into a medium to large-sized pot. Heat and stir until just boiling.
  • Add all remaining ingredients. 
  • Simmer over medium-low heat until cabbage is just starting to get soft. About half and hour.
  • Adjust spices to taste. I like an obscene amount of lime juice. 
  • Serve hot. 
  • It's just that easy!

September 25, 2014

Sleepaway Camp Surprise


If you have ever seen the fabulously awful movie, Sleepaway Camp (1983), you already know the "surprise." I shall reveal said surprise after the recipe, so if you haven't seen the film and don't want the surprise ruined, don't scroll down past the recipe.

Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Sleepaway Camp is a film that defies explanation or definition. It's just terribly, terribly bad. But it's so much fun to watch (seriously, it is!) it has a cult following almost on par with the Evil Dead trilogy. The original film (along with it's equally terrible predecessors) has it's own website. And the star of the film, Felissa Rose, is a frequent guest of honor at horror conventions all over the world. A Sleepaway Camp Reunion in 2001 pulled hundreds of fans who came to get a glimpse of the cast and have their t-shirts and memorabilia autographed.

In honor of Sleepaway Camp, and just good ol' summer camp food in general, I am posting a very simple, but delicious broccoli and rice casserole that is reminiscent of camp cafeteria food, but way tastier.

The recipe comes from the cookbook, The Compassionate Cook: Or, Please Don't Eat the Animals, which I was fortunate to find on the Half Price clearance rack for two dollars. Woo hoo!


BROCCOLI AND RICE CASSEROLE
from The Compassionate Cook: Or, Please Don't Eat the Animals!

"The nutritional yeast gives this casserole a 'cheesy' quality, the broccoli gives it color, and the spices give it pizzazz."

1 10-ounce package frozen broccoli florets, or 1 bunch fresh, cut into pieces
2 cups white rice (I used long-grain brown rice)
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine (I used Earth Balance buttery spread)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch of turmeric
I cup of nutritional yeast flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch of paprika
  • Steam the broccoli, about six minutes.
  • Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  • Spread the cooked rice evenly over the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish.
  • Sprinkle the broccoli over the rice and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Melt the margarine in a medium frying pan over low heat.
  • Beat in the flour with a whisk over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and bubbly, then whisk in the boiling water, salt soy sauce, garlic and onion powders, and turmeric. 
  • Cook the sauce until it thickens and bubbles, then whip in the yeast. 
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the sauce over the broccoli and rice, sprinkle the top with paprika, and bake for 15 minutes. 
  • If desired place pan under broiler for a few minutes until the sauce is browned and crusty.


Okay, are you ready for the surprise?

Are you sure you're ready?!

Don't scroll down if you haven't seen the movie and don't want to ruin the ending!

That's your warning!

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!

Here it comes...

Surprise! It's a weenie!
(A vegan one, of course.)


In the final scene of Sleepaway Camp, a twist is revealed. Angela, our heroine, has killed a boy and is crouched over the body. When she is approached by two camp counselers, she stands up, stark naked, to reveal that she has a dong, is a boy, and has been a boy from the get-go. She is also, naturally, the murderer. It's nonsensical gender-bending horror hi jinx like only the 80s can produce!

And, as a very special treat to my readers, I give you this...


September 18, 2014

Earth Balance Review


I'm going to take a quick detour from my Vegan MoFo theme and do a review of this amazing Earth Balance stuff that I won - yes, WON! - from VeganMoFo.com. So, I'm just putting it out there that I wasn't given this stuff specifically to review, and nobody asked me to review it. I am reviewing it because I thought it would be a nice thing to do since I won it. Did I mention that I won it?! Seriously, though, I only won it because MoFo is a time of magic, when unicorns whinny outside my kitchen window and pixies poop jellybeans into my morning coffee.
I love you, MoFo! Thanks for the giveaway and the awesome prize! And, mucho thanks to Earth Balance for supplying and shipping it - oh, and for inventing it too! I bet I eat my weight every year in organic Earth Balance butter, a substance for which I will always be grateful to you. Love the stuff.

This is my prize. ALL of this! Mine! ALL MINE!!!
Fra-geeeee-laaaaaay.

That top picture,yeah that one with all the goodies, is what came in a rather beat up box to my modest home in Fort Worth, TX, on a hot summer day earlier this week. I was tired from work and grouchy from the heat. Cracking open a homely and unassuming box to find pure treasure inside was such a delight!

Now, on to the reviews...

 Earth Balance Creamy Peanut Butter

It's creamy, sweet (but not too sweet), and easy to spread on toast. What more can I say? Oh yeah, it doesn't separate. You don't have to spend two hours digging into the dry gulch at the bottom of the jug, knocking oil out all over your countertop, trying to get the nuts and the oil to kiss and make up. It's easy-peasy to work with and it's delicious.
Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Squares

Oh my goodness, these are so yummy! They are light and buttery. The "cheese" flavor doesn't come through very strongly on the first bite - it's more of an aftertaste. But I didn't mind. These were really tasty. I had to stop myself from gorging on them. And today, when I got home from work, I was really looking forward to having another handful only to find that my husband and daughter had eaten the whole box! Grrrrrrr.


Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Kettle Chips

I'm gonna be honest. This was my least favorite offering from the box of goodies. The chips themselves are cooked perfectly - flaky and crunchy, and kind of oily, exactly like a good kettle chip should be. But the "cheddar" flavor is a bit off-putting. It's very strong, and it's not at all like traditional cheese. It has that weird whang of Daiya cheddar in it. If you've ever eaten Daiya you probably know what I mean. It's good, but it doesn't taste a thing like cheese. And it leaves an oily aftertaste in your mouth. To the chips' credit, though, I liked them enough to down the whole bag at work today. I let some of my coworkers try them too, to mixed reviews. I think this is a 'like it' or 'hate it' kind of treat. Some liked it, others hated it. My husband was one of the haters, but he also hates Daiya. I don't mind Daiya so much, if it's used on the right dishes. And I didn't mind these so much either, but I don't think I will buy more unless they are on deep clearance.


Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Mac and Cheese

It is absolutely amazing how much this looks like standard Kraft mac and cheese. It's a dead ringer! The flavor is nice, but it isn't going to fool anyone. It's amazing to behold, though - it's the closest I've ever seen to the boxed mac and cheese in vegan form. Like the kettle chips, it has a little whang of that Daiya-type aftertaste, and a slight acidity that I'm unaccustomed to in mac and cheese. But, if you don't go into it expecting it to taste exactly like the mac and cheese of your youth, and just go with it for what it is, you will be pleasantly surprised. My six-year-old daughter, who is a very picky eater, ate 2/3 of the bowl you see in the photo, so that right there is a vote of confidence. I think we will be buying this again, depending on the price. Take my advice and sprinkle a little nooch and freshly-ground black pepper on the top. It cuts the tiny sting of acidity you get (it's almost like a slight vinegar taste) and makes this totally snarf-able. My only complaint is that one box doesn't make very much. That bowl you see in the photo is the entire box! The bowl I used is just a standard-sized rimmed soup bowl that will comfortably hold one regular can of soup. The nutrition label purports to contain two and a half servings, but unless you are feeding tiny gnomes, you're hardly going to get two and a half servings out of it. 


Earth Balance Vegan White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

This box of mac and cheese was a vast improvement over the orange cheddar one. The flavor was much more smooth, less acidic. I really liked it and so did my daughter. This is the flavor we will likely be buying on a regular basis. The nooch and black pepper on top (not pictured) is good on this as well, but not 100% necessary. It tastes good all by itself. Thumbs up! Again, though, it didn't make very much. It's really just one serving unless you're eating it alongside other foods. But who the heck does that?? When I make mac and cheese it's because I'm too lazy to really cook, and the mac and cheese is all I eat. This happens more often than I care to admit... *sigh*

Altogether, my family and I thoroughly enjoyed this sample box of goodies and I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to try all of this wonderful stuff! 

P.S. Earth Balance, I have one request - please offer the white cheddar mac and cheese in a gluten free option and I will be your best customer. Seriously, I will eat it every day! Thanks!