Monday, April 30, 2012

Macadamia Nut Crusted Tofu and Seventeen Years of Wedded Bliss

They say time flies when you are having fun and if the last seventeen years are not proof of that fact I don't know what is!  On Sunday Mr. Meat and Potatoes and I celebrated seventeen years of wedded bliss.  They say marriage is hard work but I don't know... I am still waiting for the hard work part. So far it has been pretty great.



We decided to celebrate we would rather stay home, forgo some sort of fancy restaurant meal in favor of a quiet dinner with just the two of us. While we both enjoy a fancy upscale meal, more and more we prefer that in our own kitchen as opposed to a restaurant.

We spent a wonderful day outside- it was the same gorgeous weather we had seventeen years ago. And though we did no spend it in a fancy gown and tuxedo sipping champagne we did get our vegetable garden planted as well as some flowers.  I really couldn't think of a better way to spend the day!

In a rare moment of organization somehow we were able to get the kids fed and settled upstairs so we could have that quiet dinner. 

My husband, who I lovingly refer to as Mr. Meat and Potatoes, did not have the exact same meal as me -- he opted for a similarly prepared piece of tilapia.  I think one of the things that have made the last seventeen years "easy" is that we respect one another and support one another.

He is surpportive of my lifestyle, and he eats and enjoys (most) of what I make. Food is not something I ever want to make a battleground in my house. I don't prepare dishes like that often, especially since my kids have gone vegetarian, but he not vegan, probably never will be vegan and I am not going to try to "make"  him vegan. I love him for who he is- meat and potatoes included.

Plus, if the next seventeen years are anything like the first I am one very lucky gal!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Tofu

1/2 block tofu sliced about 1/4 inch thick (I used WildWood Organics Hi-Protein SprouTofu*)
10 oz mcadamia nuts
1 tbsp tamari sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a food processor blend nuts, tamari, garlic, hot sauce, brown sugar, olive oil and black pepper until a thick paste is formed.

Slather a thick layer of the mixture onto the tofu and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the macadamia mixture is golden brown and the tofu cooked through.

**The WildWood Organics SprouTofu I used was vacuum packed and not packed in water and required little to no pressing. While I am not ordinarily a big tofu fan I found it to be very good and am looking forward to using it in other preparations.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Grilled "Cheese" Kale and Mushroom Panini with Parsley Root Fries

It is funny sometimes how things come full circle.   Several years ago,  I was invited to go to QVC where they were doing a live broadcast  for the television show "The Apprentice". During the show two teams of hopeful winners competed in a  challenge to sell more during their segment on QVC than the other team.  I got to meet Donald Trump, hang backstage at QVC for a while and it was an all around fun evening.


One of the teams had chosen a panini press as the item they would sell. They ended up winning ( I think the other team was selling cleaner or sponges or something). Anyway, each of us in the audience was given a DeLonghi Panini Press at the end of the show (cool!).  At the time I thought I would never use it (why, I do not know) so I gave it to my Mother.  I have lamented the decision to give it away a number of times over the years but, she seems to enjoy it and for whatever reason I have not found it important enough to purchase one.

The other day I was watching the Food Network and one of the hosts made a grilled cheese sandwich on a panini press. It looked really good and really pretty so I decided to borrow my Mom's panini press to make some sort of sandwich of my own. It turned out great.  I served it with some parsley root fries (recipe below) and they were really good, too!

So, take a wild guess what I am going to be ordering this weekend? Yep! A DeLonghi Panini Press!

Grilled Cheese, Kale and Mushroom Panini

3/4 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese (I used Daiya)
1/4 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese (I used Daiya)
2 kale leaves
1/4 cup chopped shitake mushrooms
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
8 slices bread of your choice (I used seeded rye)
Vegan Butter (enough to lightly butter one side of each piece of bread)

Heat the panini press to high.

Chop the kale, mushrooms and shredded cheese together until relatively fine. Though the cheese is shredded already I find it melts more easily if chopped into smaller pieces.

Butter one side of each piece of bread.

Place 1/2 the cheese mixture onto the bread buttered side down. Top with a thin layer of red onion.  Cover with the other pice of bread, buttered side up and place on the panini press for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and the bread nicely browned and crunchy.

Parsley Root Fries

6 parsley roots, peeled, greens removed and cut into the shape of french fries
2 tbsp fresh rosemary diced very fine
Salt to taste
Olive oil to coat

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Toss the parsley root in olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle rosemary and salt evenly and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.

*Note: If you do not have a panini press you can do this on the stove top in a skillet just like you would a grilled cheese sandwich.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beer Battered BBQ Skewer Bites, a Giveaway and an Invitation

Not too long ago I posted a made over a childhood favorite Crunchy Chick'n recipe and it seems the nice folks at Gardein took a shine to it as they featured it as a Meatless Monday meal suggestion and kindly sent me five coupons for free Gardein!



I thought it would be nice to pass those freebies on to you and thus, here is a chance for you to win some free Gardein!

While admittedly I am not a huge "fake meat" type, I do like to use Gardein in cooking.

Before we get to the contest, I apologize for my lack of posting lately- sometimes life gets in the way and I cannot find the time to cook in any sort of meaningful way.  Work and family has been crazy and JL (of JL Goes Vegan) and I have been very busy planning this vegan culinary event set to take place at Flow Bar and Restaurant on May 19th in Jim Thorpe, PA. If you are anywhere near there you simply cannot afford to miss it!! For more information just click the event promotion to the right or give the restaurant a call.



Now for the contest-- if would like a chance (or three) to win some free Gardein simply do one of (or all) of the following:
  • Leave a comment on this post (with an email address by which I can contact you).  
  • Like Vegan Version on Facebook (please let me know you did so) 
  • Tweet "@VeganVersion I would like some free @Gardein http://www.theveganversion.com/2012/04/beer-battered-bbq-skewer-bites-giveaway.html" (please let me know you did so)
I will pick one winner on May 6rh, 2012.  Good luck!

Beer Battered BBQ Skewer Bites

1 package Gardein BBQ Skewers
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp chickpea flour
2 tbsp organic cane sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 oz light beer (research the beer you use- not all beer is vegan)
Canola oil for frying

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the light beer and stir until incorporated.

Fill a pot with about two inches of canola oil and heat to 375 degrees.  While waiting for the oil to heat, take the Gardein BBQ Skewers out of the package, remove the skewers and break into equal size pieces (they are perforated to easily break apart).

Dip the bite size pieces into the batter and put into the hot oil. Fry quickly until golden brown.  Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or spider and drain on paper towels.

Serve with toothpicks for skewering and barbecue sauce for dipping.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ten Course Tasting Menu for The Produce Loving Foodie

I am beyond giddy, pinch me I am dreaming, "on cloud nine" excited to invite you to an exclusive event co-hosted by myself and my dear friend JL (of JLGoesVegan).  We have been planning this for some time and it seems the stars and planets have aligned and it 's 'a happenin'!



If you are in the Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, South Jersey, Allentown/Bethelehem, Pocono Mountain, Metro New York City or surrounding areas this is an event that you cannot afford to miss!  On May 19th, 2012 Chef Zachary Pelliccio of Flow Bar and Restaurant in Jim Thorpe, PA will be cooking up a spectacular ten course (yes, you heard that right!) vegan meal.

While Flow is not an exclusively vegan restaurant it is clear that Chef Zachary Pelliccio understands the growing trend toward healthy plant based eating and this is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a fabulous dining experience.

Please see the information below- seats are filling up quickly so if you are interested please don't wait! 
_______________________________________________________

Ten Course Tasting Menu for the Produce Loving Foodie

Join host JL from jlgoesvegan.com and co-host Lee from the theveganversion.com for this rare event to experience culinary samplings of the young, rising Chef Zachary Pelliccio. Take the weekend away in beautiful Jim Thorpe, PA and join us at Flow Bar + Restaurant on Saturday, May the 19 at 8 pm, as we will demonstrate how anyone can fall in love with plant-based cooking. Chef Pelliccio will explain the simple details that make each dish flow so perfectly.

For $60 you will enjoy ten amazing courses of vegan cuisine, beginning with JL's introduction of Chef Pelliccio, including the story behind their first meeting and how this extraordinary event came to be. You will then be immersed in a dining experience like no other which will conclude with drinks and conversation with Executive Chef Pelliccio along with a chance to make many new contacts and friends in the vegan community. Flow is also proud to offer a fully vegan wine and beer list with over 40 local craft beers.

Reservations are filling quickly; please call for tickets today, Flow Bar+Restaurant at 570-325-8200.
_______________________________________________________

About Chef Zachary Pelliccio:
 
Raised on a farm in Lancaster, PA, Chef Pelliccio’s parents taught him about hard work and farm fresh food. He started his culinary career apprenticing under chef Anthony DiStefano. Later, he attended The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Philadelphia, and started his Philadelphia culinary career at Patou Restaurant working with Exec Chef Patrice Rames.

Pelliccio followed chef Colin Thompson to the famous farm-to-table restaurant Farmacia, where he worked with other renowned chefs such as Jesse Fellows and Kevin von Klause. Pelliccio’s career continued to other Philadelphia institutions such as Barclay Prime and Public House at Logan Square, where he reunited with DiStefano.

Chef Pelliccio has remained loyal to supporting small, local farms and his inventive, bold yet simplistic style has brought a wonderful renaissance to Flow’s menus.

Flow Bar and Restaurant is located at 268 West Broadway in  Jim Thorpe, PA 18229

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Pub at Wegman's

A full service restaurant with good food, good wine, vegan options (more than one!), great service, no tipping and in the grocery store?  That is The Pub at Wegman's! Sign me up!



I remember the anticipation when I heard they were building a Wegman's in my town (and less than a mile from my house, no less) ! I literally spent at least a year on pins and needles waiting for it and oh, how it was worth the wait.

Tuscan Fries


If you read this blog at all regularly, or if you are one of my Facebook or Twitter friends you probably know how often I am at Wegman's shopping their awesome produce and their great health and natural foods areas, too. The place is AMAZING and I am more or less obessesd!

Quinoa and Millet Burger with steamed veggies


The pictures are last night's dinner. I have never had a bad meal there. If you have one nearby you really need to try it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mexican Skillet Lasagna

This winter the family spent a very relaxing, quiet weekend at the Jersey shore.  My sister, who had been at the house a few weeks before left behind a huge stack of Australian food magazines called "super food ideas". SCORE!



I love food magazine and spent the entire weekend browsing these magazines and this dish was inspired by one I saw for an Italian skillet lasagna. I still intend to do that but honestly I did not have the inclination to make pasta or cashew ricotta this weekend. We had two perfect spring days and I really did not want to spend them in the kitchen!



This dish was super quick and simple and is big on flavor. A great easy weekend meal!

I served it with some guacamole. Delicious!

Note: measurements here are approximate as I did not measure- you really cannot go wrong- just add your ingredients according to your own tastes.

Mexican Skillet Lasagna

3 flour tortillas (I used the size intended for burritos- the larger ones)
8 oz vegetarian refried beans (1/2 a can)
~1/2 cup salsa
~3/4 cup vegan cheddar cheese ( I used Daiya)
~3 oz sliced black olives (I used almost one medium sized can of Musco Black Pearls)
2 fresh jalapeƱo peppers, finely chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread some refried beans on a tortilla. Add some salsa and spread evenly. Place the tortilla in an ove safe skillet or saute pan sprayed lightly with cooking oil. You will need one with a relatively high side (I used my Emerilware  high sided smaller size saute pan).  Add 1/3 each of the shredded vegan cheddar, black olives, jalapeƱos, green onions and cilantro. Repeat with each tortilla, stacking them one on top of each other in the pan.

Cover the pan and place in the oven until the cheese begins to melt- about six or so minutes.  Remove the lid and continue to cook for another couple minutes until the cheese is thoroughly melted and the lasagna heated through. Do not cook too long or the bottom will burn!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Falling into Green- A Book Review

As an avid reader I am always thrilled when asked to review a book, especially prior to it's publication!  Ashland Creek Press recently contacted me to ask if I would be interested in an advance review copy of a new eco-themed murder mystery by Cher Fischer.  Well, you do not have to ask me twice!

I read the book in just two days on vacation and without hesitation recommend it to you.  And, if and when the movie comes out I will be sure to see it!



Esmerelda Green, eco-psychologist, vegan and all around environmentalist is adept at solving mysteries of the mind focusing on nature and environment as an integral part of healing.

When a young woman is murdered at the same place Esmerelda's childhood friend committed suicide she is instinctively drawn to the location. She eventually finds a key piece of evidence and suddenly finds herself in the center of a complicated, quickly evolving and changing investigation.

Suspecting the two deaths are related she is pulled back in time to when her friend committed suicide looking for answers. After all... "everything- in nature and murder- are connected."

Turning to her own intuition and belief in our connectedness to our surroundings she has to navigate being a suspect while attempting to find answers and bring closure to her friend's death.

Throughout the process she is pulled into a complicated world of corruption and secrets, all the while falling in love with a key investigative reporter, a man who decidedly does not share her green philosophies.

Both a love story and a murder mystery/thriller Fischer skillfully makes you think about the linkage of the psyche to our surroundings and the world in which we live. This book will capture and keep your attention until the very last page.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chick'n and Rice Casserole


Sometimes you just want comfort food.  Yesterday was one of those days where I wanted a simple, hearty meal to share with my family around the dinner table.



Growing up we had a lot of Cream of ______ Soup type casseroles. I wanted something along those lines.

A quick search on the internet turned up this post.  The author discusses Cream of _____ Soup and the fact that she does not use them due to the ingredients they contain. She uses a substitute of heavy cream which immediately turned my thoughts to So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer.  I had a plan!

The only change I will make next time is to be more liberal with seasoning- both salt and fresh herbs (as a side note, I had some later in the night as a snack and stirred in some sriracha sauce which was quite good).

Everyone ate it and liked it and we had a nice family dinner.  My only wish is to be able to take  a decent photo of a casserole!  I can never seem to get a good photo- either in the dish or out of it- maybe it is just the nature of the beast but if you have any good casserole photographing tips, I am all ears!

Chick'n and Rice Casserole

4 cups vegetable stock
4 carrots peeled and sliced
1 russet potato cubed
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cups brown rice
2.5 oz shitake mushrooms, chopped
gardein Chick'n Scallopini "breasts" thawed and chopped into bite size pieces
1 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups non dairy creamer (I used So Delicious Original)
1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp chipotle powder (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot add vegetable stock, carrots, potatoes, onions and brown rice.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Do not remove the lid or stir the rice while cooking.

While the rice is cooking preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Once the rice is finished add the shitake mushrooms, non dairy creamer, garlic powder, fresh thyme, salt and pepper.  Stir.

Place the gardein chunks in the bottom of the casserole dish. Layer the rice mixture on top and sprinkle with bread crumbs and chipotle powder if using.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the sides get bubbly and the top gets brown.

Allow to cool about ten minutes before serving.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Very Vegan Aruban Vacation

I admit, I am still in denial that our Aruba vacation is over! But as promised I am excited to share some of the great vegan eats while relaxing and taking in all that wonderful Aruba has to offer.

Dinner at  Cilo City Lounge never disappoints! I chose the Chili Sin Carne. It was divine!



Most days we made our lunch from food we purchased at the grocery store but treated ourselves a couple of afternoons. Once at Sole (the pool bar) where I ate a terrific pizza. What it lacked from a cheese perspective was certainly made up for with lots of olives!



The other lunch we treated ourself to was at Papagayo- the restaurant on Renaissance Island- a private Island only accessible to guests of the resort we stayed at (and truly my favorite spot on Earth).  Lots of fresh veggies and fries hit the spot!



Dinner at Casa Tua consisted of pasta. Don't be fooled by the simple appearance- there was tons of eggplant goodness in this dish!



I enjoyed it so much I took pictures throughout the meal!



And I actually lamented that there was no more when it was finished!!!

















Easter dinner we stayed with our five year running tradition of eating at the Flying Fishbone. While this is the most decidedly non vegan place we go the setting more than makes up for that fact.  The tables are situated in the sand right on the waters edge making it a perfect spot.  So relaxing and if you time your reservation right, you will be guaranteed a spectacular Aruba sunset!  We started our meal with some bread and dipping sauces (mustard, olive, hummus).



My meal was a rolled vegetable tortilla sort of thing- it was tasty- filled with asparagus, squash and other veggies.



We had a lovely family dinner sitting at the waters edge with our feet in the sand!



And the sunset? Now, that is what I am talking about!



I am already dreaming about when we will be going back!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Herbed Garlic Bread

I feel as if I have been absent from my blog forever!  Between vacation in Aruba, the demands of kids and work I have  not had much time to ge creative in the kitchen.  I really need to change that - hopefully this weekend!



For now I am going to share this recipe for garlic bread. We have this often with pasta and the whole family devours it!

The recipe below made two large loaves of ciabatta bread. If you want just one, simply halve the recipe or use half the herbed 'butter' saving the other half for another use.



I promise you will love this!

Herbed Garlic Bread

2 loaves ciabatta bread (the ones I used were about 24 inches long)
1 stick softened Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread*
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl add all of the ingredients and stir until the herbs and garlic are well incorporated into the Earth Balance. The mixture will be very green.

Cut the ciabatta bread length wise in half. You will have four halves  Spread 1/4 of the buttery mixture on the inside of each bread half. Reassemble the bread halves  and completely wrap each in foil.  Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the buttery mixture is melted and the bread warmed through. Remove from the oven, unwrap, disassemble and then place each bread half back in the oven crust side down for another five minutes or so unti golden brown.

*Note I am aware of the controversy surrounding the production of palm oil and the negative impact to orangutans.  Earth Balance has this to say on the subject, claiming to use sustainably sourced palm oil.  I would be vey interested to know your thoughts on this subject.  Do you use Earth Balance? Why or why not?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Greetings from Aruba!

Hello from my favorite place on earth!!



As has been the tradition for the last five year the whole family has been in Aruba for the kids Easter break and we are having a  relaxing trip filled with lazy days in the sun and relaxed evenings checking out the Island's culture and cuisine.

While my husband and son started their vacation on the beach/at the pool my daughter and I headed out to the local grocery store to pick up a few snacks for the week. I love grocery shopping no matter where I am!  We did find some neat locally grown produce including these cucumbers.



Apparently they are native to Venezuela, which is indeed local to Aruba. Decidedly cucumber like they have a nubby exterior with a decidedly lemon flavor. I am not sure if you are supposed to eat the nubby skin but we did and it was good! I will tell you more about the trip to the grocery store later, as it is worthy of a post all it's own.




I am often asked if there is anything "vegan friendly" in Aruba and the answer is a resounding yes! But I am of the belief that you are never far from a great vegan meal if you do a little research and ask a few questions.  Dinners, thus far, have been great!

Veggie Pasta and Mirpas: Simple and Delicious

Vegetarian Fajita's at Iguana Joe's ("hold the cheese")

YUM!


But as good as the food has been thus far, my favorite part of this vacation has been hanging out with the family and enjoying natures magnificent beauty.



My daughter and I have been diligent about taking pictures of the scenery and many beautiful animals and I will be sure to share those with you in another post, too!

Oh, and did I mention I love Aruba?


Monday, April 2, 2012

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Perfection!  I have finally created what I would call the perfect chocolate chip cookie.



You may remember me posting a couple of chocolate chip cookie recipes, all in search of the perfect cookie.  Though I have not posted every attempt it feels quite possible I have made  a gazillion tries, and today, I am going to claim victory!

Run right out and get the ingredients-- these are awesome!!

The  Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli Semi Sweet)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raw (turbinado) sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp almond milk (I used So Delicious Original Almond Plus)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and chocolate chips.

In a second bowl mix the oil and sugar and stir until well incorporated.  Add the almond milk and vanilla. Stir until all ingredients are well mixed.

Pour the wet into the dry and mix until a batter forms (it will be somewhat crumbly- that is OK).

Roll the cookies into balls, forming 24 in total. Place on two ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 350 for 14 minutes.  The cookies will not spread out much, but they will be cooked after about 14 minutes.

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Winner and a Very Vegan St. Patty's Day in New York

I am happy to announce that we have a winner in the Blissful Bites cookbook giveaway! Many thanks to Christy for sending me a review copy and providing one to give to a lucky reader!

But, before I get to the winner of the book I am long overdue to tell you about my AWESOME St. Patty's Day trip to meet up with one of my best gal pals JL (who blogs at JL Goes Vegan).

I took the train into the city in the morning, hopped into a cab and met JL at Sacred Chow for lunch. All I can say is WOW!! We feasted on a fabulous (and very large) vegan lunch! Here is just a sampling of what we ate:
Lasagna

Olive Seitan

Latkes

Massaged Kale Salad


Since we were both feeling a bit stuffed we decided that walking was in order. And walk we did!We headed over to Moo Shoes to check out the store with hopes of finding some vegan shoes/handbags. No luck this time but, whenever in New York again I will give it another try- a very neat store!



From Moo Shoes we headed over to Whole Foods in Tribeca where Christy, The Blissful
Chef, was doing a stop on her book tour.  It was fun and informative (and tasty!).  Hard to believe that only a few short hours after lunch we were eating again, but hey, someone needs to do it :) You can check out some of the things we sampled here.


Christy

From there we hopped into a cab and headed over to Candle 79 where we met up with JL's hubby who I had never met before (Hi Dave!) along with Christy, Sharon (Big City Vegan) and Kate (of Le Chou Sauvage).  It was a great meal! Great food, great company and a celebrity sighting or two... Hello Dax Shepard and Kristin Chenoweth!


Sharon and Christy with Dax in the background!

I really cannot wait to go back to Candle 79, as a meal here embodies fine dining-- vegan or otherwise. As I am fond of saying good food is good food!

Samples of dinner:

Tempeh

Chimchuri
Nachos

Artichoke and Brussels Appetizer

Cashew Crusted Seitan

Setitan Piccata

Timbale

Peanut Butter Bliss

Cranberry Pie
Now on to the winner!! Congratulations to Erica Phillips who left this comment:

I would love to win this cookbook because I am so incredibly intrigued by the cooking with no onions/garlic rule she has. I am a straight up garlic addict, so I'm wary, but intrigued nonetheless. Fingers crossed!

No need to keep those fingers crossed or wonder about cooking without garlic and onion any more! You are the winner-- please check you email!

I hope to talk to all of you soon from a very small Island in the Caribbean Sea. I can promise I will not be doing much cooking but hope to find plenty of good vegan eats!