Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Delusions of Grandeur

I am so excited right now. I just discovered someone wrote a blog post, about MY mac and cheese recipe!  I am ridiculously happy about this.  Sometimes I feel that my ramblings are only reaching my dear friends and family who feel obligated to read them, but it appears people I don't know are drinking my very-nearly-vegan kool aid too, hurray!  Another blogger posted my mac-and-cheese recipe (with a few of her own substitutions, natch!) and a link to my page, which I find absolutely flattering and I am deeply grateful for!  Please do me a favor and check out her super awesome blog too. 


Thanks again for the shout out, Allison!

As you can see here, I am basking in the warm glow of your recognition:

A mention on someone else's blog?  Can fame and fortune really be that far behind?  Ahhh, goodnight folks, can you tell I am up too late? :)

The Devil(ed potatoes) and Mrs. James

So over the holidays I totally fell off the wagon and ate dairy and eggs.  Sorry readers!  It was terrible of me, but don't worry, I paid the price. Heavily!  I gained five pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas! Yikes!  So that pretty much settles the debate on whether or not vegan food is better for you or not, at least in my book anyway! On Christmas day I had some really, truly awesome deviled eggs.  They were so good, I can't even tell you.  Mmmm.  But the fact that they were good is no excuse!  Just like anything else, there is an AWESOME vegan substitute.  Really, I'm not kidding.  You will never miss deviled eggs as long as you have the recipe for..... are you ready for this?? 

Deviled Potatoes!  Yes, it's real.  The love child of deviled eggs and potato salad you've always wished existed!  Even if you didn't.... aren't you glad there is one?  They are pretty easy to make, too, so bonus!

You will need:
1 bag baby dutch potatoes (these are the best because they are egg shaped and thin-skinned, but really any potato of small size will do)
Plenty of Vegenaise
Sweet Relish (I use two tablespoons)
Hot sauce (just two dashes)
Minced onion (I use the dried kind, once again 2 tbs)
MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT: Liberal dose of Indian Black Salt, also known as Kala Namak.  Don't have this?  Don't bother making them. 
(You can buy it on Amazon if you can't find it at a store near you)
Squirt of mustard
2 dashes of turmeric, for color


Boil potatoes till a fork can penetrate them.  Remove and run under cool water till they have cooled off.  Cut potatoes in half and scoop the centers out with a teaspoon.  Just make a nice divet.  Scoop the extra potato innards into a mixing bowl.  Add all the rest of the ingredients to taste (I, for instance like a lot of vegenaise, but not everyone does.), except for the paprika.  Mix well.  Reinsert into the divets you made into the potatoes, and sprinkle liberally with paprika.  I like to eat them instantaneously, but some people prefer them chilled.  I'll leave it up to your discretion. ;)

Your finished product should look something like this:

Aren't they cute?  They taste even better. :)  Enjoy!


Ok, so you might notice I have been MIA since Thanksgiving.  My apologies.  I hosted both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, while simultaneously finishing the semester for school so sadly my blog was put on the back burner for a time.  But I plan to make it a priority again, starting now! 

I thought today I would start back up by sharing a fun vegan fact.  Anyone familiar with the Old Spice guy?  Also known by his real name as Isaiah Mustafa?  Turns out he's a vegan!  He had a blurb in a recent issue of People magazine where he mentioned it.  Isn't that cool?  Maybe a picture would help convince you:

Does this guy look like he isn't getting enough protein?  I think not. :)  Looks to me like a vegan diet has done his body good!  Show this to your family and friends the next time they question you.  It should be a short converstion. ;) 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My-oh-my, vegan pumkin pie....

So Thanksgiving is upon us.  Let's face it, as much as we are unprepared (ok, so maybe I am just talking about myself here...) Thanksgiving is a week away.  Yikes!  I don't know if any of you dear readers are hosting this year, but this very-nearly-vegan surely is.  At the time I am writing this, I haven't gone shopping, my house is a wreck, and I don't have a menu in mind.  Ah, the tribulations of a wannabe domestic diva... ok, ok, pity party over.  I will instead share with you the only thing I know I am making for sure, which is pumpkin pie!  I don't care if you are carnivore, vegetarian, vegan, raw foodist, nudist (??), WHATEVER... you will most likely be serving some form or variation of pumpkin pie this year.  Since I usually just buy the giant one at Sam's Club for $3.50 (which is not even nearly vegan...), until this year I had no idea how to make a pumpkin pie, and figured I should give it a little trial run before the big holiday. 

I admit, I was worried about how it would turn out, but good news folks, it was actually a smashing success!  I took a Williams Sonoma recipe that sounded tasty, and veganized it.  I also made it low sugar with some artificial sweetener for my dear old dad, BUT.... I know there is a lot of debate about artifical sweetener, so please feel free to use regular sugar.  That's just not an option for my dad, being as sugar is his mortal enemy. :) 

You wil need:

1 can pumpkin
3/4 cup brown sugar, OR half that amount Splenda brown sugar mix (which is what I used)
2/3 cup tofutti cream cheese, room temp
3 tsp ground flax seed, mixed with a little water
1 1/2 cups plain coconut creamer
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 unbaked whole wheat (make sure it's vegan!) pie crust (I found mine at whole Foods)

Make sure your oven rack is at the lowest rung, and preheat oven to 425.

Mix everything but the pie shell in a kitchen-aid style mixer, and pour into the shell.

Cook for 15 minutes at the high temp, and then another hour at 350.  Check the pie, and it may need more time, even a lot more time, because you want it to be just barely jiggly.  Also, and this is important, because of the cream and cream cheese substitutes, this will look much lighter than most pumpkin pies.  Don't burn the crust waiting for it to look orange!  Top it with a little Soy Whip, and you are good to go,  see? :)

Good luck readers, and have a great Holiday!  I am thankful for each and every one of you! :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Oodles of Noodles!

Ok, so if you read back through my posts, I think it's pretty evident that a lot of nights I am too lazy to cook something fancy.  I feel bad, because I know that makes me a junk food vegan, which most "true" vegans hate... but a the same time... my food is really good and I don't have all day to cook.  I like to think my cooking is vegan cooking for real people who are pressed for time.  In light of that, hubby and I had to go shopping the other evening.  I don't know how the weather is in your neck of the woods, but last night here in Jersey it was just over freezing, and it was pouring rain.  Lovely.  So after our little excursion, we were famished, cold, wet, and tired.  Fun!  So I made like the laziest meal ever.

In case you're unfamiliar, the thing on the left is Indonesian Ramen Noodles.  If you've never experienced Indo Mie noodles before, they are by far superior to any and all other Ramen noodles available on the market.  The secret to their superiority is the four sauce packets, seen here:

Awwwwwwwwwwwww, yeah! *does happy noodle dance* 4 packets are where it's at!  And as long as I am reading the packaging right, the Mi Goreng flavor just so happens to be vegan! (PLEASE alert me if I am wrong, some of the writing in the ingredient list is just food chemical jargon, which I am unfamilar with, but know can sometimes mean there are traces of animal product in there they aren't telling you about.  I don't think there is, but don't hesitate to correct me, I would never want to lead my readers astray!)  Mi Goreng also happens to be the best flavor, in my opinion, so, bonus! Ramen is of course not a meal by itself, (unless you're in college of course!) so I added a can of Peking Vegetarian Roast Duck (which is vegan, don't know why it says vegetarian). 
You will need 4 packs of noodles and 2 cans of duck to make it like I did.

The cooking method went as follows:

Heat noodles in water in Microwave for six minutes, stopping to stir at 3:00.

(I did two packs at a time)

Cut up the duck.

Add noodles and duck to a pan, and pour on sauce packets.

Add some of this:

To taste.  Be generous, but don't go too far.  Know your sweet soy sauce limitations.  Note of caution: Don't think to yourself, "sweet soy sauce, regular, whats the difference?"  The difference is huge.  Kecap Manis Sweet soy sauce is available at most asian grocery stores, as are the Indo Mie noodles... put the effort in, you'll thank me.

The final product looked like this:

It was SO good.  Really hit the spot on a miserable night, and there were even some leftovers for the next day.  But I have to warn ya folks, this is not health food! :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010


So, I am bit of a Cookie Monster.  I can admit it.  I loooooove cookies.  It's more of an unhealthy obsession than love really... the kind of situation where I would follow them from a distance and take pictures of them sleeping, if cookies slept that is.  Let's just say if cookies weren't inanimate objects, healthy boundaries could be a problem for me, LOL!  But luckily for me, they are a less scary obsession than many I could have, so my obsession continues along unchecked.

I recently made a delightful batch of cookies, which I have dubbed "Chewy Trail Mix Cookies".  They are all the best parts of trail mix (like craisins and chocolate) without the down sides (all the seeds and bark and whatnot).

You will need:
1 cup earth balance
1 cup organic sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbs ground flax seed mixed with a little water
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup oats
1 heaping cup semi-sweet choc chips
chopped pecans (just dump some in, more or less however much you like)
1 cup craisins

Heat the oven to 375
melt the butter
mix the water and flax, then toss everything else in
scoop out spoonfulls on a cookie sheet
bake 10-12 mins till golden brown and delicious

These are best served with ICE COLD almond milk, for dunking!  See?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

There's something fishy about these crab cakes....

They aren't real! :) Ok, so I know technically crab cakes are a little out of season.  But one of the great things about being vegan, is that since we don't eat real crabs, there is then no such thing as crab season! :)  Due to the ri-doncu-lously cold weather that has just rolled in, I felt like having one last defiant summer style meal.  Due to the fact that I had a soon to expire package of crab flavored match meat sitting in the freezer, I thought that was as good a reason as any to make crab cakes.  If you're unfamiliar with match meat, here it is:

This was actually my first experience cooking with match meat, but I have to say it worked really well.  It was easy to cook with, and the taste was really superb.  Now, I can't tell you if they tasted like crab cakes, cause' I have never had a real one.... but they were yummy! If you need more info than that, I guess you'll just have to make em yourself, and tell me if they taste like crab, LOL.

Here's the ingredient list:
1 pkg crab flavored match meat
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 cup almond milk
1/2 a small onion, minced, or several tbs of dried minced onion
1/2 tsp salt
dash of cayenne
1/2 Tsp mustard
2 tsp old bay seasoning
2 tbs vegenaise
panko bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp paprika

In a small sauce pan, mix oil and flour, over low heat, and then add milk and salt.  Cook until thick.

In another bowl, mix the thawed match meat with all ingredients except for the bread crmbs and paprika.  Chill for 3-4 hours.  (I didn't do this, but my cakes were a little smushy, so I think this wold help)

Shape the mixture into little cakes, and roll in a mix of bread crumbs and paprika. Fry the cakes in either canola or olive oil.  (They're still bad for you as oils, but they are the lesser of the evils...)  Make sure they get nice and crispy!

Serve with vegan tartar sauce, mmmmmmmmm. :)

I served them with corn on the cob, peas, and crescent rolls, though biscuits would have been better I think.  All in all, huge success of a meal, that even my husband loved.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It Ain't Easy, Bein Cheesy...

So for some reason, most vegans I know are obsessed with finding a good mac and cheese recipe.  I admit, I include myself in that group.  For a while now I have had a very good mac and cheese recipe that is my go-to recipe, BUT.... it's not really like classic mac and cheese.  As I mentioned a while back, an awesome company sent me some dairy-free "cheese" samples.  I thought that having this available would be the perfect chance to try to just "wing it" and make my very own recipe.

I got out:
1 pkg Whole Wheat elbow noodles
1 pkg Galaxy Nutritional Foods Rice Cheese Block
1/3 cup Earth Balance Margarine
1 3/4 cup Almond milk
2 Heapin teaspoons Nutritional Yeast
big dash of paprika
big dash onion powder
4 table spoons vegenaise (seriously, I have yet to find something vegenaise did not improve...)
Panko bread crumbs
italian seasoning
onion flakes
garlic salt
More Earth Balance

I set water on to boil for the noodles, and then cooked them, while they were boiling I added the margarine and "milk" to a seperate pan and set it to warm.  Then I grated the cheese block into fine shreds and added it and the big dash of paprika, big dash onion powder, flour and 4 table spoons vegenaise.  I stirred this all till the cheese had completely melted and become an orange colored "sauce".  By this time the noodles were done, so I drained them, put them in a baking dish and poured the sauce over them. 

Now, if you like the Kraft mac and cheese style of macaroni and cheese, then you would want to stop here.  At this point it is already totally edible, BUT, I personally like baked Macaroni and Cheese with bread crumb topping, soooooo, I took the Panko bread crumbs, italian seasoning, onion flakes  and garlic salt and mixed them in a little dish and poured it over the mac.  I don't give you measurements here because it is all to taste.  I like quite a bit of seasoning, but that's me.  Then I put dollops of earth balance over the top (do small bits, but all over.  It makes the crust brown and crunchy.  Mmmmmm.)and baked it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  This was the result:

Do you see that?  Do you see it's deliciousness??  I hope this is coming through the page at you... all steamy and cheesy.  Not to toot my own horn (TOOT TOOT!) but it was awesome.  Even hubby was a fan, and he hates vegan food! :)

I served it with peas and some falafel balls cooked in a mushroom gravy.  Side note on the falafel, not so great in a mushroom gravy.  Eh, I tried something new, you win some, you lose some.  Anyway it was a success overall, so I can't complain, and for once, neither did my husband! ;)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Easy Peasy Junk-Food Vegan

Ok, so I admit it.  I use a lot of processed vegan products.  I like to cook, but I also like having the option of whipping something together at a moment's notice.  In many vegan circles, this is heresy, I know.  But here at very-nearly-vegan, I hope to create a little space that isn't so uptight.  I agree that all organic, fresh, homeade foods are best.  But I also live in the real world where sometimes you just don't have the time.  So I do my best, and move on.  

As I mentioned previously, I am working on my Masters degree, which takes up a lot of my time.  Last week was term paper time, which is always a time of much weeping and gnashing of teeth in the James household.  Because of this, my weekly cooking time was greatly reduced, as was my will to be creative.  The thing is though, during these times of stress, you crave something yummy even more than when you have the time to really cook.  So my solution was some prepackaged goodies to help me survive.

Here we have Gardein Chik'n Scallopini, boxed Mac and Chreese, and Green Giant Grillers.  I like to bread the scallopini in vegenaise and panko bread crumbs, and then heat them in the oven on an oiled cookie sheet at 350 for about 20 minutes or until brown.  The grillers (a mixture of potatoes and veggies) get heated in the microwave for 6 minutes, and the mac and cheese is prepared almost the same way as the Kraft version.  After your bread the Chik'n, really most of the "cooking" can be done from the couch, while you wait for the buzzer to let you know dinner is ready.  Heat up some frozen peas, and voila! A balanced, and super yummy dinner.  Awesome.

Nothing beats a dinner that took like 20 minutes from freezer to table.  Unless of course YOU want to come cook from scratch for me.... someone else cooking beats doing it yourself any day. ;)

Ball One.....

Ok, so I have already documented that I struggle with the absence of Fettucini Alfredo in my life.  It's a real drag, quite frankly.  I have had multiple failed attempts, and last week I had yet another.  I was quite hopeful about this recipe.  It really sounded like it had potential,  and it was the best so far...
But it wasn't that good either. :(

I will spare you the recipe, cause you shouldn't waste your time making it, but here were the ingredients:

Earth Balance
Soy milk
vegan parmesan
flour (for thickening)
vegan cream cheese
a splash of coconut creamer

There.  Doesn't that sound good?  Doesn't it look good?  Well it wasn't.  It was edible.  It was fine. Passable... at best.  Le' sigh.  But never fear folks, I will press on!  There MUST be a decent vegan alfredo recipe out there somewhere.... mustn't there??  The search continues, stay tuned.....

Back Blogged

My apologies dear readers!  I know it has been more than a week since my last post, and I feel awful!  How did you ever manage in my absence??  Don't worry, I am back, so your world can go on!  LOL, just kidding!  Though I have missed writing, and reading your feedback. I was busy writing my term paper for grad school and unfortunately it took precedence over my for-fun-writing, but I am finally finished!   Hopefully you were able to get your vegan fix at one of the other 9 billion vegan blogs while I was away. ;)  Look for multiple postings this week, because even though I wasn't writing, dear readers, you can be assured that I was cooking!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Crepe Me, My Friend....

Ah, crepes, that little french pancake that is sheer nirvana.  I always thought that the key ingredient to crepes was the egg.  I always assumed that was what gave it the thin, pliable consistency.  I assumed that in becoming a vegan, my crepe days were long over.  I am so happy to report that I was wrong!  This past Sunday I perused Vegweb.com, and found a nifty little recipe, which I of course then changed a smidge, and made for brunch.  Despite being egg free, they turned out awesome!  I couldn't have been happier.  Ok, so thats not entirely true.  I consistenly brown one side more than the other, as seen here:

I need to turn them quicker, but they tend to stick to my pan a little, which is beyond annoying.  But I can't complain, they are vegan, and taste IDENTICAL to the real deal.  Amazing!

Now the thing I love about crepes in general is the toppings.  You can put anything you want in a crepe (among things that are edible, though who am I to judge?), sweet or savory and the result is scrumptious.  This particular day we had the following options:

Blackberry topping and whipped soy cream
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Tomato sauce and veggie shreds

It was our very own breakfast buffet, and I really think that is how Sunday breakfasts should be eaten.  Preferable in one's pajama's, and around noon-ish. ;)

They were really great, even my husband thought so, and he is very critical of vegan food.  If I make it and he likes it, I know it's a winner.

So heres the recipe:

    1 cup unbleached flour
    1 1/2 cups soy or almond milk
    3 teaspoon Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoon water
    2 tablespoon vegetable oil
    dash of vanilla
    2 teaspoons of organic sugar

Mix the egg replacer with the water till there are no lumps, then mix in the rest of the ingredients.  Ladle out batter with a big, deep spoon, and tilt your pan so it is very thin, and covers the whole pan.  When it looks like it's bubbling underneath, flip it with a spatula.  This takes some practice, because the thin-ness of them makes flipping difficult, but the thin-ness is also their best attribute, so give it a chance.  Then simply fill with your toppings of choice.  Finished product?

Glorious, ain't it folks?  Happy eating!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pete and Repeat Were in a Boat.....

Pete fell out.  Who was left?  Repeat.  Ok.  Pete and Repeat were in a boat....

Just kidding!  But today's post is a bit of a repeat.  I know it's the worlds simplest thing to make, but I am back on grilled cheese again.  The awesome webmaster for Galaxy Nutritional Foods took a look at my blog and saw my constant mention of the casein in some of their line, so she sent me a box of FREE VEGAN SAMPLES!  Woo hoo!!  My first free sample experience on my blog, I was so excited!  Any-hoo, included in the samples was a package of their rice vegan slices, which are totally vegan, and I thought that the best way to test a piece of cheese is to make a grilled cheese (the sandwich that is cheeses crowning glory), obviously. 

So first impression, it looked good in the package.  Very kraft singles looking at first glance.  When you open it, the difference between rice slices and veggie slices (their casein containing cousins) becomes evident.  They are firmer, and quite susceptible to breakage issues.  The smell is different too.  Not a bad smell, but not really a cheesy smell.

They cooked quite well actually.  They don't melt as well as veggie slices, but they DO melt, which everyone knows is the true test of a good vegan cheese. 

Ok, first bite.  I'm not gonna lie.... veggie slices are better.  I find them to be indistinuishable from real cheese.  BUT.... rice slices were very good!  I liked them quite well actually, and will buy these instead of veggie slices whenever they are available.  They went great with some Imagine brand tomato soup (with a smidge of tofutti sour cream mixed in, for creaminess). 

I had the cheddar flavor, and hubby had the pepper jack.  He actually loved it, and he is the worlds biggest critic of vegan food.  So, all in all, rice vegan slices for the win.  Definite will-buy-again, even if I will miss my veggie slice cheese doppleganger's from time to time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Man, that is Na-cho cheese!

So three mice are talking, and decide to have lunch.  They go to the grocery store and decide they will each run in and grab some cheese and meet back outside.  The first mouse runs in, and comes out with a wheel of cheese.  The other two ask him what he got.  He looks at the cheese, sniffs it, thinks about it, and says "Well it has holes, so it looks like swiss cheese to me".  The second mouse runs in and comes out.  He looks at his cheese, sniffs it, and makes a face.  He says "Pew!  This cheese reeks, I guess it is Limberger!".  The third mouse runs in and comes out.  He scratches his head, and says, well I think I got Nacho Cheese.  The other two mice examine it, and say "well it doesn't look like it, or smell like it.... what makes you think this is Nacho Cheese?  The little mouse shrugs his shoulders and says "Cause the store clerk who was chasing me kept yelling, Hey man, that is not-yo cheese!". 


Sorry folks, I know it's corny but I couldn't resist.  Especially concerning my love of nacho cheese, or, if we want to be festive, queso!  I love a good plate of Nacho's, as does hubby, so the other night we whipped up these little beauties:

Ohhhh yeah, that's the ticket.  These were really great nacho's.  We covered them in our favorite vegetarian chili (Worthington, which says vegetarian on the container, but I read the ingredients, and as far as I can tell it's vegan.  Anyone know why it wouldn't be?  They usually clearly mark their products as vegan if they are...), a bunch of assorted veggies, Galaxy veggie shreds (I know, casein, I know), tofutti sour cream, salsa, and my own homeade queso dip. 

C'mon, you know you want the recipe.  Go ahead, twist my arm. ;)  Don't worry, it was really easy, and very yummy.  A little spicy, but not hot.  You will need:

    2 cups water
    1/4 cup canned, fire roasted tomatoes
    1 small can of green chilli's (I like Chi Chi's brand)
    1/4 cup raw cashews
    1 teaspoon garlic salt
    1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    2 tablespoon corn starch
    1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Put all ingredients in the blender, and run until smooth.  Pour into a sauce pan, and then heat to a simmer until thick.  Stir the whole time.  When done, use as a topping, a sauce or dip.  The perfect snack for watching football this weekend, if you must. ;)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dirty, Sexy, Cheesecake

Ok, so how have I not talked about dessert yet?  Yes folks, I am a confirmed junk food vegan.  I love sweets, adore them!  I try not to eat them.... but I fail!  In fact my sweet tooth is a huge part of the inspiration behind my diet change.  I knew that my lust for all things sugary would be the final nail in my diabetes coffin.  My hope is that by changing my diet now, I will avoid diabetes altogether, and be able to keep my veganized desserts.  *crosses fingers*  So far I am seeing all sorts of health benefits despite my desserts, so I think it's working.  Only time will tell! 

But enough about me... Let's get on with the cheese cake!

Generally I find most vegan cheesecake recipes to be gross.  I think this is largely due to the common use of silken tofu.  It's just not the same texture as cheesecake at all, and I personally think the baking process gives it a weird aftertaste that is reminiscent of play-doh.  Seriously.  The aftertaste is exactly what I remember the smell of play-doh beingas a kid.  This is a great smell when dealing with play-doh, but as a taste, not so much.  Ugh.  So after much searching, and some modification as as of my own, I came up with this:

Do you see that?  Isn't it amazing??  It has the consistency of cheesecake, the taste is as close as I think you're gonna get, and it looks cute, too.  I am actually not a huge cheesecake person, but I loved this recipe.  Here's what you need:
    1 graham cracker crust (many brands are vegan, just read the back)
    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    16 oz. Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
    1/3 cup sugar
    4 EnerG egg substitute "eggs"
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    juice of one lemon

Combine cream cheese, sugar, "eggs", vanilla, and lemon juice in a blender, blend until smooth.  Pour into pre-made crust.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until set. Let cheesecake cool.  Place in refrigerator and chill for 12 hours. (should be firm to the touch)

Finally, the topping.  Now this part is pretty difficult.  Yeah, you need to be a culinary wizard to do this.  Are you ready?  You will need:

1 pkg Frozen blackberries
Sugar (to taste)

Cut up the blackberries
Stir in sugar till it makes a "juice"
Chill in the fridge till it's time to serve

I like the blackberries because they have a nice strong flavor, and really drive the cheese cake taste home.  They are mildly tart, which is offset by the sweetness of the sugar.  Yum!  Hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Swing and a Miss......

Ok, so one of the great loves of my life is alfredo sauce.  I adore it.  It's rich, creamy, and delicious.  It's one of those foods that you have as a treat, and I always feel like eating alfredo sauce is a special occasion.  Any of my close friends would tell you, I am a special occasion kind of person.  I love occasions and events, and these occasions just aren't the same without my old standby.  I have been trying for about a year to make a passable alfredo sauce that is vegan, to no avail.  Don't get me wrong, there are LOTS of recipes, just no good ones so far.  I made this dish last week, and it wasn't great.  It was edible, but I totally wouldn't make it again, so I will spare you the recipe.

My question is, dear readers, do YOU have a good alfredo recipe??  I am DYING over here.  I will give you some exaamples of what wasn't good so far:
Tofu based
Silken tofu based (UGH!  Awful!)
vegetable broth based (Don't know why I thought that would be good anyway)
vegan "cream" based.  I had the highest of hopes for that one.  Hubby actually liked it and so did his omnivore friend, but it did not scratch that alfredo itch for me... AT... ALL....

Anyone have any good ideas I haven't tried?? I need your help, I'm a woman on the verge. ;-)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quiche Me Now, or Lose Me Forever....

Ah, quiche, you naughty temptress you, why must you be so full of egg-y, cheese-y, non-vegan-y goodness?  Missing quiche was a big concern of mine when I began contemplating going vegan.  I love quiche.  The consistency, the taste, the flaky crust, mmmmm.  So when I started on this journey to veganism, I immediately set about looking for an alternative.  I made some here and there, but nothing really satisfied the craving.  Well last night folks, I came pretty close.  I was trolling the Pillsbury site, looking for recipes I could veganize, when I came across their recipe for breakfast quiche to-go.  Adorable mini quiches using Pillsbury crescent rolls as the crust??  Yes, please!  So I set about chaging it.  Here is the original ingredient list:

2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury refrigerated garlic butter crescent dinner rolls (8 rolls each)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
3 Eggland's Best eggs
1 small onion, chopped (1/4 cup)
1 box (9 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed to drain
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 oz)
Here is what I used:
2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury refrigerated plain crescent dinner rolls (8 rolls each)
1 package (8 oz) Tofutti "Better than cream cheese", softened
1/2 a block of firm tofu
1 small onion, chopped (1/4 cup)
1 box (9 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed to drain
1 cup Veggie Shreds (with casein, sorry!) mixed Mozzarella and cheddar flavor
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons minced garlic
one teaspoon mustard
2 dashes turmeric for color
about a palm-full of crushed unsalted pecans
I mixed most of the ingredients in my kitchen-aid mixer, and then hand mixed in the cheese.  The oven was preheated to 350, and I sprayed my muffin tins with a little bit of olive oil.  I undid the rolls into 16 triangles, and put one triangle per muffin cup.  Once they were covering the bottom like a crust, I just poured in the mixture.  I baked them for about 18 minutes, but I recommend you check them after 15 minutes.  End result?

A quiche so cute it belongs on a pedestal!  Well, at least I thought it did.  Isn't it adorable?  I didn't know whether to eat it, or keep it as a pet. Need an aerial view?

Look at that coloring, it's sooo quiche like!  I can't say it tastes like an exact replica, but it's pretty close, and deee-licious.  The only problem was consistency.  I think that real quiche is a little firmer. I would TOTALLY make this again though, and if you have a great idea of how to improve consistency, don't hesitate to share, I'm open to suggestions! :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Short on Time, Long on Hunger

So last night I had to write a short paper for grad school.  Of course in grad school, a short paper means at least six pages, so it was a decent amount of work.  I came home from work starving, and I didn't feel like having something junky, I wanted real food.  This led me to my go-to in a pinch meal.  Spaghetti!  This is one of the quickest meals, but it's warm, filling, and healthy if you do it right.  I chose Barilla whole wheat pasta (You have to be careful, Barilla whole wheat pasta is vegan, but Barilla Plus, it's other wheat cousin, contains egg), Francesco Rinaldi Tomato & Basil sauce (Some of their line contains cheese or beef broth, just read the back label.  This kind is only normal, healthy ingredients, you don't need a science degree to read the label.), and Galaxy Nutritional Foods Vegan parmesan topping (My fave!  I really NEED some cheese on my pasta, and this is the best substitute I have come across, yummy!).  I had a salad I made the day before on hand, as well as some farm fresh sweet corn, and that took care of dinner. 

As you can see on the side, I have organic raspberry vinagarette and McCormick Salad Toppins' for the salad.  Most croutons seem to contain some sort of cheese, so I get Salad Toppins, which are a mixture of baco' bits (fake bacon), seeds, seasonings and crispies.  They are vegan, and add a nice crunch to the salad, and give it some flavor.  The dinner could have used some protein, but normally I would make veggie meatballs to go with it, and I didn't have the time.  Happy eating!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Breakfast is a Dish Best Served Warm

Well folks we are at that awkward time of year where it's not really summer, but not quite fall.  I find that this time of year leans towards chilly mornings where you overdress, and then becomes broiling at mi-day, and you wonder why on earth you thought a sweater was a good idea.  This is my least favorite kind of weather.  Today I am proposing a possible solution.  Instead of piling on the clothes in the AM, dress regularly, and have a piping hot breakfast to get you going.  My suggestion would be this awesome tasting (and ridiculously easy) french toast.

Just look at it, sitting there in all of it's vegan-ey goodness.  *slurp, drool*  I found this amazing recipe on VegWeb, which is the holy grail of free vegan recipe sites. I highly recommend the site to everyone. Since I gave credit to the site, and made a few changes, I will post the recipe:

 2 tablespoons Vegenaise 
 1/4 cup soy milk
 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
 1/8 tablespoon cinnamon
 1 teaspoon organic suagr
 4 slices whole grain bread (go with something hearty, so it stays with you)
 Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Directions:  So simple, mix all ingredients but the powdered sugar.  Grease a pan with some spray oil or a little margarine.  Not much! Dunk the bread quickly and fry (don't soak it, you'll run out of mix).  I like to eat this  dish COVERED in fruit.  Not only is the fruit good for you, but it makes butter and syrup unnecessary, saving you empty calories. 

The key to this dish is the vegenaise.  Don't skip it, or try to use an alternative brand.  If you want that french toasty taste, it's gotta be vegenaise.  If you can't find it at your regular stores, check out http://www.cosmosveganshoppe.com/ which is a wonderful source for all sorts of vegan products. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Stuck in the middle with me

Ok, so I have realized something.  My diet of very-nearly-vegan-ness is apparently a very polarizing stance.  No one claims me anymore.  Some meat eaters think I am an extremist, who will soon surely die of malnutrition, and many vegans think I am blatently offensive.  To quote one very sweet gentleman, "That's BS, either you eat products raped out of cows, or you don't".  To you sir, I say, you are right.  I am not a true vegan.  But the point of this blog, is that I am trying.  And I am succeeding more days than I fail.  To my friends who fear for my life, check out my chub.  I am sure you will see that I am plenty fat enough, even without dairy in my life.  There is no wasting away for me, no matter how much I may wish it, LOL!  Despite these two groups who either fear for my safety, or wish I would jump off a cliff with my occasional-dairy-eating-self, I find that I have had a great out pouring of support, and I just have to thank you guys.  I may be slightly biased, but I think the people who are stuck in the middle with me are the bestest. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday, Lazy Sunday

So I had a busy weekend.  Hubby and I spent Friday and Saturday with friends, and had a great time.  But let's face it, a great time can be tiring, and I didn't feel like cooking.  At all.  In fact, Sunday morning, I crawled out of bed at the crack of noon.  Actually thats when my husband woke me up, I have no idea how long my slumber may have continued.  Anyway, the rest of my day was spent running errands and shopping, and as we started towards home, the thought of cooking became too much to bear.  What's a hungry vegan to do when requiring take out?  There are actually a ton of options, but today I chose Taco Bell.  Now most people would not think of Taco Bell as a likely vegan hang out, but as long as you don't mind a little junk food, Taco Bell has some great options.  Here's what was on the menu for me:
Fresco Bean Burrito
Nacho's with guacamole
Cinnamon Twists

Those aren't even your only options at Taco Bell.  Many menu items can be customized to fit vegan needs.  There is something so satisfying about eating junk food in front of the tv after a busy weekend.  This meal satisfies that salty junk food craving, and as far as fast food goes, it's not that terrible for you.  I know a lot of vegans shun processed food, but folks, I'm not that kind of vegan. ;)

For a list of ingredients in Taco Bell foods, visit this handy web site: http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/ingredientstatement

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tune in for today's blog: "What's For Dinner?" or "Isn't this about to Expire?"

So last night I wasn't feeling well when I got home.  Not even a little bit.  My husband asked what was for dinner and I felt utterly uninspired.  Last night was not the night for wild experimentation, I was phoning in my culinary performance at best.  Anywho, I searched the fridge and cupboards, searching for some inspritation, when I found it.  I had food that was about to go bad!  Decision made.  We were having a comfort food hodepodge of all the stuff I needed to get rid of.  On the menu: avocados on the brink of demise, almost stale bread, open package of vegan cheese that needed to be used and an open jar of sauce that's been open just shy of too long.  So what did I make?  First, the appetizer.  Awesome three ingredient guacamole!  Yes, you heard me, three ingredient.  It is epic. 

So, here is how you make it.  Take one or more avocado's, and mash them with a spoon.  Leave it chunky.  Mix in a bit of your favorite salsa, any brand will do.  Add garlic salt to taste.  Eat.  It's really that simple.  Try it now, thank me immediately.

Now to use up the bread.  I decided on an old stand-by of my vegetarian days: Grilled Cheese.  Except of course this time I was using Earth balance vegan margarine, and veggie slices.  Before anyone says anything, I know, I KNOW. Veggie slices are not totally vegan.  They are a brand of soy cheese that contains casein, a milk ingredient.  But it's only ONE ingredient, and it makes them melt like real cheese.  I figure A for effort on this one, moving on.  I won't bore you with the details of how to make a grilled cheese, but here is a pic of my results:

Do you see the ooey-gooey fried goodness?  Yes, this is comfort food at it's finest, people.  Unfortunately, as you can see, there are only two grilled cheese sandwiches here.  This is a problem, because my husband requires at least three, so this wasn't going to cut it. 

I decided for my final two ingredients, I would have to make something really easy, and big enough to fill up hubby and leave me leftovers for lunch at work.  The answer to my problems?  Pizza.  Were you aware friends that Pillsbury pizza dough just so happens to be vegan?  Do you realize the awesomeness of that statement??  Pillsbury pizza crust is sooo yummy.  Add to that my open jar of just-so-happens-to-be-vegan Ragu pizza sauce, which is also awesome, and you are well on your way to sweet vegan pizza.  I topped it with veggie shreds (also not quite vegan, but very-nearly), mushrooms, spinach, and corn (because I was feeling saucy).

Final verdict?  Mushrooms and spinach on pizza are awesome as always.  Corn didn't really add anything to the party, but it didn't detract anything either.  We decided we "nothing-ed" corn on pizza, and probably wouldn't try it that way again.  It looked pretty though.  Maybe I'll make a mexican pizza with corn.  Hmmm.  We'll see. 

Anyway, it ended up being a great dinner, and really only took 15 miunutes of real cooking time.  The rest was just waiting for it in the oven.  My favorite kind of dinner is easy dinner.  Scratch that, my favorite dinner is dinner out, but easy dinner is a close second. ;)

In closing, boys and girls, todays blog title was brought to you by Rocky and Bullwinkle.  Have a great day! :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

And to think they said it couldn't be done! Ok, so maybe it was me who said it couldn't be done...

The other night I decided to expand my culinary horizons.  I went searching the web for suggestions and came across a recipe for vegan filet mignon, from scratch.  Home-made fake meat?  Perish the thought.  I mean, I always have eaten meat substitutes since I was a kid, so the concept of fake meat is actually an appealing one to me, but I always left the whole from-soybean-to-patty process to the professionals.  Make it myself?  From handy household ingredients?  Dare I?  I dared. 
The results were stupendous.  Now remember, I have never been an omnivore, so I have no idea if it was anything like a filet mignon.  I highly doubt it.  If it were that easy to make a filet mignon from scratch, I doubt it would cost 30+ at a restaurant, and killing cows would be a lot less popular.  That said, filet-mignon-ish or not, the results DEEE-LISH. :)  Hubby and my very carnivorous doggy both approved, as did my omnivorous co-worker, who deemed it "sausage-y".  I choose to take that as a compliment, despite the fact I don't know how sausage tastes.  I would post the recipe, but it's not mine, so you will have to follow the link to one of my favoritest blogs*, "A vegan for dinner".  It came out a little salty for my tastes, so I plan to tweak this recipe later and make it my own, and when/if I do (and if it's changed enough to be called my own), I will post it then.  Here is the results of my 2+ hours of labor over a hot stove.  Minutes before it was devoured. :)

*warning for the faint of heart, she is very funny, but sometimes her humor is a little blue. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What a co-inky-dink.....

Just after I posted today, I saw this on my MSN/Bing home page.  Good stuff!


The comments people made below it are a little scary, but the article is good! :)

So long, farewell, auf wiedersein, good bye vegetarianism?

I have been a life long vegetarian.  Literally from the day I was born, my parents raised me to be a lacto-ovo vegetarian.  I knew a lot of kids who were raised the same way, who looked longingly at the meaty treats the other kids were eating, but I was a rarity.  I loved being a vegetarian.  I was totally fine with my veggie burgers, while everyone else had the real deal.  My food had never taken a poo, and I was cool with that.  I even liked the word vegetarian!  I loved milk, cheese, eggs etc, but that was as far as I wanted to roam into the whole animal product world.  I was deeply, firmly entrenched in my comfort zone, and I liked it there.  It never even occured to me that eating the discarded egg from a chicken or milk from a cow was a little weird, or (dare I say it?) gross.  I would have been quite angry with anyone who suggested that farming these items is harmful to animals, after all, I'm not killing them, right? I not only disagreed with vegans, but I used to pity them.  Those pale, thin fools and their alfalfa sprouts didn't know the joys of a hot fudge sundae, a cold glass of milk with a hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie, or a feta cheese and spinach diner omelette on a Sunday morning.  Most vegans I knew looked as though a stiff breeze would carry them away, or they might pass out at any moment.  I always thought that if it weren't for the giant horse-pill sized vitamins they were always taking, the vegans would probably die.  I always told people, "The day I meet a healthy looking vegan is the day I will become one!".  Ah, how words can come to haunt us.....  Turns out I just knew the wrong vegans.  Bad cooks, who knew nothing about nutrition.  Man cannot live by kale alone, and these vegans were simply not doing it right. 
In 2000 my father was diagnosed with diabetes.  This is basically the cause of death for most of my family's dearly departed, so this came as no surprise.  It's a long standing curse that Butler's over 40 are diabetic, plain and simple.  Unfortunately, my dad had a worse case than most of our relatives, and quickly discovered he was on the fast track for all sorts of lovely things, like amputation, blindness, kidney failure, death, etc.  He went through all sorts of medications and treatments to no avail.  He kept on a strict Atkins-like regimen that was gross and ineffective.  (Turns out you need carbs to think and function, Dr. Atkins, who knew??) Despite dad's efforts, soon he was wheelchair bound, blind in one eye and having serious heart trouble.  So after about an 8 year decline (with an unfortunate end close in sight), he tried my long dreaded enemy; veganism.  And.......it.......worked.  I was flabbergasted.  Floored.  Happy for him!  But also eating my words.  You mean, veganism.... is healthy??  At first I wanted no part of it for myself.  After all, I'm not diabetic.  Yet.  But then I took a good long look at my life and realized I had to give it a shot.  I am overweight, I have hypothyroidism, high cholesterol and severe allergies.  I took a look at that list and realized that if I was being honest with myself, I had to admit that veganism would probably help with all of those things.This of course is easier said than done.  I love milk more than anyone I have ever known.  I used to drink two gallons a week almost by myself.  Ice cream was my constant companion, and don't even get me started on cheese....  sigh.  But despite my hesitations, I am determined to make a go of it.  I call myself very-nearly-vegan for now, because I can't pretend I will never fall off the wagon.  If you see me at Friendly's devouring a huge 5 scoop Sundae, don't judge me, I am weak!  This blog will chronicle my triumphs and failures at veganism, and all the fun stuff I cook along the way.  Thanks for reading!! :)