Monday, January 31, 2011

February Goals

VEGAN-O-CON for 2011 is officially over in 4.5 hours, and I already have my boy at the store picking up cheese. Don't know what's going to happen with that, but one thing is guaranteed - tasty time!

Now, I really like to feel the heat (I'm not talking the sunshine here, but that would be cool, too). I'm a competitive person, and enjoy pushing myself to accomplish even the most simple challenges. Which is why I have continued to set some healthy goals for myself for next month. Nothing too extreme, just four 7 day changes that I would like to see incorporated in my life. Maybe they'll be lasting, some should be lasting, but they are all things that I know will benefit my health in one way or another.

1st week of February (2/1 - 2/7)
What? Significantly reduce added sugar - in coffee, on oatmeal, while baking, anyhow with everything.
Uh, you mean..: No sugar granules of any kind (natural, raw or Stevia). No candy. Get  more accustomed to dark, savory coffee. Use natural sweeteners in baking, such as fruit.
(Honestly, this is going to s-u-c-k. No sugar in baking might as well translate to not wearing clothes in public. Possible, but not an awesome idea. Repeat, it's only a week.)

2nd week of February (2/8 - 2/14)
What? Run 30 miles in the week
Please, elaborate: The past few weeks I've been working on my fitness more than usual to prepare for the 1/2 marathon. I've averaged about 23 miles a week, but would like to see myself get up to 30.
My plan is to run 4 miles Monday-Friday on my lunch break, and log 5 miles on Saturday and Sunday.
This may difficult, given that I despise few hour long experiences more than jogging on a treadmill in a nasty cloud of stench that your nose never "gets used to." Which is why I aim to run 4 miles on my lunch break outside, which is rather difficult to do in the rain. Soooo, I might have to buck up my nose or buck up and run in the rain.

3rd week of February (2/15 - 2/21)
What? No excessive fats. We all need some fat, but there are some areas to cut back and still feel satisfied.
Pardon moi? No oil/butter in baking (applesauce will be a great replacement...hopefully), no extra cheese, no fried food. (It's only a week...repeat again.)

4th week of February (2/22-2/28)
What? No soda. I think we all got this.

I'm curious - what are your goals?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Versatile Vegan Loaf

I used to consider it weird and borderline glutenous that I would contemplate dinner 5 seconds after finishing off the last bite of breakfast. "There are so many other important life things that need attending to until 6:00pm, and all you can think about it more food?"

Cafe Gratitude, San Francisco. Not tonight's dinner.

Then I quickly learned there's nothing like completing 3 Sodokus, riding a luxury yacht for 2 hours and picking my pimples out my favorite picture of James Dean that will make you really appreciate a well-planned dinner. After all that, a girl is exhausted and wants some good eats. And besides, it's no secret that food is pretty essential to the act of living for all things living. Might as well make it delicious. Bam, justified.

@ home. Tonight's dinner.
We had this for dinner tonight, something I only started thinking about, oh, last night. But it was later last night, you know like 9 pm. I need an adequate amount of time to prepare a 4-slot meal.

Right now, I'm only going to share this guy:

This kid's the good kid. We're talking straight A's. It's not thick and bold and brassy - it tends to be more simple, classy and a little naiive. This loaf won't meet you at the 18th hole for some burrs and wings; it will meet you at your aunt's garden party. It's easy to love, hard to dislike, and looks about 15 thousand times better in realty than in the picture above.

Stay tuned the next few days to get the scoop on the rest of the dish. We have one kid down, but you have yet to learn about the rest of the family.

Vegan Loaf with Quinoa, Tofu and Veggies
makes one 9x5 loaf

*Wild! -  This truly is a flexible recipe. Stick with the tofu/oats structure and then add in whatever veggies you desire. If you’re not on the vegan train, I think cheese would be an excellent addition as well. Mix it in with all the other ingredients before you pack it in the loaf pan, so it gets all gooey and cozy with the other friends in there.

½ package of extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
½ cup quick-cooking oats (if you have Celiac disease, make sure they are gluten-free. I use Bob’s Red Mill, which is one of the few brands that is gluten-free.)
1 cup cooked quinoa (keenwah!) 
½ cup spaghetti sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup broccoli florets
small handful of dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease up your loaf pan.

1. First, if you don’t have 3 large Tupperwares of leftover quinoa in your fridge, come over and swipe some from me. Or you could take the really bumpy road and prepare yours yourself.

2. Put the tofu, lemon juice, olive oil and oats in a processor or blender and pulse until it resembles a ricotta-like texture; you might need to scrape down the sides a few times with a spatula.

You're tofu/oat mixture should look pasty, like this:

3. Using a spatula, scrape out the tofu/oat mixture and place in a large mixing bowl; add in quinoa and stir it all together so the quinoa is all covered.

4. Add in the spaghetti sauce and your desired amount of salt and pepper; stir it all again.

5. Finally, throw in the broccoli and cranberries (and any other wild veggies you choose) and mix one last time.

6. Scrape the mix in to the loaf pan and pop into the oven. Cooking time is about 40-50 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and crispy. Cool this guy for about 15 minutes if you want loaf-ish slice; dive right in if you want a more crumbly, casserole-esque experience.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Yam and Black Bean Enchiladas - Green Version

I made enchiladas for dinner last night, which has to be the most fun dish I've created in awhile. Stress is eliminated. There is no running from one pot to the next to check and see if water boiling, no urgency in stirring this or that so there's nothing sticking to anything, there's no worry of burning your foot on the George Foreman grill (name that show).

Enchiladas are a big ol' bang of repetitiveness, which is typically not my thing. I'm not a creature of habit, and like to constantly just make decisions depending on how I feel at that particular moment. My breakfasts vary from granola to bananas with peanut butter to plain coffee to leftover lasagna. Sometimes I eat it at home, something I eat it on the ferry...sometimes I eat it with a gnome, sometimes I eat it with my girl Carrie.

While I thoroughly enjoyed these enchiladas, they don't have a special place in my heart like other enchiladas in my life.

Approximately every weekend since as long as I can remember, my parents have made enchiladas.My brother and sister and I would find them in the kitchen, side by side, prepping all the ingredients. Fleetwood Mac or Tears for Fears would be in in the background while they dunked tortillas in oil and grated cheese from a thick block of cheddar (which I would continue to steal handfuls of throughout the night). To this day, if I call them on a Friday or Saturday night, 80% of the time enchiladas are what's happening on the homefront.

I am blessed to have a background filled with so much love (including 2.5 years of braces, which I have come to recognize as a definite sign of love). Growing up, our household was a constant, wild mess of heart and humor, and I thank my parents for that. Their ceaseless love and dedication to each other and their children is one of the reasons I am so excited to be married this year. I've grown up learning and believing that when you've found the love of your life, marriage is awesome!

Yam and Black Bean Enchiladas
Yields 12 enchiladas 

-12 corn tortillas
-1 20 oz can enchilada sauce (I love the green)
-1 can black beans
-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
-1 cup green onions
-1 large yam or sweet potato
-1 tablespoon ground cumin
-1 teaspoon hot sauce of your choice (or more if you're feeling frisky)
-vegetable oil for frying
-cheese if you're going the "his" dish route

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel your yam and wrap in a damp paper towel; microwave for about 4 minutes or until tender; cut into bite-sized pieces.

In a bowl, mix together the cilantro, green onions, black beans, yam, cumin and hot sauce. Set aside.

Open your can of enchilada sauce and pour a little into a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish, just enough so the bottom is covered. Cover a plate with paper towels so you are prepped to drain some oil off as soon as they come out of the frying pan.

Heat up the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Wait about 3 minutes and it should be good to fry.

Using tongs, place one tortilla in the oil for about 5 seconds, just enough for it to cook (you don't want it hard, chip-style). Flip it over and fry on the other side for about 5 more seconds, then place onto the paper-towel covered plate. Repeat with all tortillas.

Spoon a couple tablespoons of the black bean mixture down the center of each corn tortilla. Roll it up and place seam-side down into your casserole dish. Repeat with the remainder of the tortillas.

Once your enchiladas are all snug in the dish, pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the whole gang as evenly as possible. 

Bake for about 15 minutes, until hot and bubbly. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lunch (not courtesy of IKEA)

Some days, leftovers comprise my lunch. Others, not so much. It may look like this:

Which I'm perfectly happy with:

A. It's food. I am blessed in many ways, one being that I can supply my body with nourishing nibblets (not a word, but I deem it fitting).

B. Being that my desk resides in the kitchen area at work, I eat constantly thoughout the day. Little bits of here and there food work much better for this. No heating and re-heating in a tupperware. Just snacking as I please.

C. It means the Mr. gets more leftovers, which is perfect because I lucked out with a man who loves his Tupperware containers filled with the previous day's eats.

Whoa, now how did that get there? So weird. So GOOD. Sorry, bad influence. Now you should pay attention to my accidental suggestion and go make some of that biz.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Beet Greens, Chickpeas, and Mango-Orange Dressing

(*It took me far too long to learn how to pronounce quinoa, and I won't let the same thing happen to you, hence the "keenwah" repetitiveness in this update. I've got your back.)

Whew boy, have these past couple of days been long. Em-PHAH-sis on the long. Getting home after a day of working/working out/wedding planning (love those W's), makes me want to do nothing but sit and eat lime chips with my main squeeze.

But, I am a big girl (sometimes), and can pull myself together enough for a nice inviting bowl of quinoa (keenwah).

I've grown to really dig this seed. It's the only one out there that is a complete protein by nature (making it superb for vegetarians), and it melds with any flavor imaginable. From what I've witnessed. Maybe not tobacco chew. Sorry, I'll help you get your appetite back, keep reading.

We got our Full Circle Delivery on Monday, creating a massive overflow of green in our crisper. It made me want to incorporate more ingredients into tonight's dinner, but it just didn't seem right. I wanted the quinoa to be well-balanced and not hiding in the shadows of every vegetable I could get my hands on.

I had never cooked beet greens before, and really wanted to experiment. I also knew I needed a little extra protein, mainly just because I want bigger guns.

The dressing recipe comes straight from Karina at Gluten Free Goddess. I've had it starred for awhile, and am thrilled to have another slinky dress to put on my quinoa (keenwah). GFG has my heart - she has an abundance of vegan and vegetarian recipes, all being comprehensive and make you want to yell "I CAN MAKE THIS!" The goddess ain't trickin' you.

Quinoa (keenwah!) Salad with Beet Greens, Chickpeas, and Orange Dressing
Makes about 4 cups

To prepare the quinoa:

3 cups rinsed quinoa
3 cups water

Combine rinsed quinoa and water into one pot; heat over high heat on the stove until water begins to boil; decrease heat to low and cover until the water is gone; take off stove and fluff with a fork.

To prepare the mango-orange dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup mango-orange juice
2 teaspoons gluten-free soy sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon organic raw agave nectar

Whisk all ingredients together in a (preferably) pourable measuring cup and set aside.

To prepare the beet greens:

about 8 leaves of beet greens - tough interior stem removed and torn to bite-sized pieces
a bowl of ice cold water

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil on the stove; add the beet green bits for for 2-3 minutes until they are tender; drain and immediately place in ice cold water to keep them from cooking any longer. (You just blanched a vegetable!) Cut or tear the leaves into smaller, pieces.
To prepare the whole shebang:
Mix the warm quinoa, beet greens, garbanzo beans, and cranberries all together in a bowl.
Pour the orange dressing on and mix once more, until it's all enveloped together.

Dig in!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fresh Eyes

As I typed the title of this post, I couldn't help but automatically sing it to "These Eyes" by Guess Who, except Michael Cera was actually the star of the show in my head. Little cutie.

The Seattle Times ran a news article the other day on this eyeglass company - Warby Parker. I immediately fell in love with their style. They are modern and classy, but without the price tag to match - cheap, right up my alley. For $95 you get hot frames, lenses and (from what I gather) top-of-the-line customer service. So now, it's more like Nordstrom's without the price tag.

Another fact - I need new glasses. Perfect! All I need to do is convince my insurance company to pay for them. Please, please, pay for them Regence. I haredly knrow howw tio see anutmore.
(I should really not be a lawyer.)

These babies gotta get onto my face.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake

January is a tricky month for our household. It is a month when our diets consist of 50% vegetables, 25% fruit and 25% Mexican cuisine, with only slight deviation. The Mister is his usual gluten-free, vegetarian (and handsome!) self, and I decide to go the 31-day vegan route. In the past, it was simply to balance out all the tasty, surgary, heavenly morsels I inhaled in December. Vegan-O-Con 2011 is not much different, except I have another reason to deprive my hiney of cheese - training for the sneaky half marathon that I somehow signed up for. I think that actually occured in one of December's sugar-rushed, lethargic, cotton-headed states at my parent's house, so I can probably just blame that whole thing on my mom. She's good for many a thing, that mother.

I really do love all things earthly, so everything fine until my sweet tooth decided to rear it's hideous head back into my life. This was the outcome:


Um. Yum. This was courtesty of Joy the Baker, who I can't get enough of. You know there are those certain websites packed in your Google Reader that make you smile everytime you see a new addition? She's one of 'em. Check her out right after you check out the following green goo creation.

The cake is almost fudge-like, but not too rich, meaning you can easily eat it for breakfast. And the frosting, WHOA, the frosting. Let me tell you, if you like avocados, the frosting will not make it onto the cake. And for you wackos that don't have a love affair with avocados, you will still like this.

While Joy's recipe was already in vegan form (thank you!), it required slight adaptation for the boy. Here's how it went:

Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake
Yields one, round 9-inch cake
(double if you want a double-decker)

1.5 cups gluten free flour blend (I'm a lover of Pamela's)
3 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup oil (I used vegetable, I bet coconut would be outstanding)
1/4 cup mashed, very ripe avocado (about 1 small)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar (Joy uses white; I was out and used red wine)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease your cake pan(s).

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift all dry ingredients together except for the sugar. This is important for gluten free baking, as it aerates the flour to create a more fluffy, less rock-like result.

3. Mix all the wet ingredients together, including your mashed avocado.

4. Add sugar to the wet mixture and stir.

5. Add in the wet ingredients to the dry, and beat with a whisk by hand until smooth.

6. Pour into greased cake pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Once the cake is done, let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then on a cooling rack until you frost that baby.

Speaking of...

Avocado Frosting
Yields enough frosting for one round 9-inch cake

4 oz. avocado meat (about 1 small very ripe)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
half pound of powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Peel, pit and mash the avocado in a medium bowl.

Beat in lemon juice for about 2-3 minutes, until light in color.

Beat in powdered sugar a little at a time.

Add vanilla until just combined.

Refrigerate if not using immediately (but I totally suggest you do).

I frosted half with leftover chocolate butter cream frosting (making this, yes, not vegan), which the boy very much enjoyed. And BONUS (sing song tone), I get leftover avocado frosting to frost some strawberry brownie bites that were somehow leftover. Done deal, yo.