Friday, September 30, 2011

October is Vegan MoFo

It's Vegan MoFo time again. I'm a little excited for the challenge this time.

Last November, going mostly vegan was a little daunting. I discovered the difficulties of creating truly vegan meals. There really are eggs or dairy in so many foods that you would not suspect. On the other hand, it's really not that difficult to cook vegan, or at least be more "vegan-ish". There are so many resources out there for putting together a perfectly healthy and satisfying vegan diet, many more than there were just a few years ago. It's easier than ever, but it still requires a good deal of determination and will-power. Although I didn't stick to a vegan diet, I learned so much, and adopted plenty of good habits.

Since the last MoFo, I have become less dependent on fake meat products. They are still a staple in our home, but less so. I will tell you, however, that I've never had better finger nails than when I was chowing down on wheat-gluten, whey and soy protein regularly! I can't tell you that I've adopted the vegan diet. Or even a fully vegetarian diet. But each day that I eliminate meat or dairy from my meals, be it by choice or by chance, I know I have improved my health and longevity. If we could all just be a little more vegan-ish, a little more frequently, we might all live a little longer and happier.

I'm not going to preach to you about any animal rights. I have hunt-and-gather heritage, married into a vegetarian Hindu family, and love all animals very much, including my babycakes Mistypants. For me, it really comes down to the science of the body. Eating animal products is just not good for the body. The fats just do all sorts of nasty things to your cells, that in turn, do nasty things to your health.

Misty wonders what it would be like to go vegan. She doesn't even like vegetables!
Eating a vegan diet greatly reduces your chance of getting Type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood-pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis and several forms of cancer. Don't we all know someone, probably close family, that takes medicine every day for one of these conditions? What if you could reduce your chances? Or even stop needing medication for one of these problems? And all you had to do was eliminate a few things from your diet?

If you're thinking about being a little bit more vegan, for whatever reason, check back here often this month. I have a ton of vegan recipes already in the index, and I'll be creating more all month. I try to keep it simple, satisfying and interesting. Fake meats like Gardein chick'n or Smart Dogs fill in when I don't have enough time to cook. Bigger meals might be more intense, but usually leave leftovers that are great for reheating later.

Here are some recipes to get you started:

 My new favorite salad to accompany pasta: Fennel and Apple Salad

 A hearty soup that makes great leftovers: Lentil Soup with Leeks and Carrots

Satisfying Protein and Pasta: Crispy Chik'n with Wild Mushrooms

If you want to invest in a cookbook to get you started, a great one is How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. It teaches you all the basic techniques and gives vegan variations. I started with The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen, and found it quite interesting to read through all the information he gives aside from recipes. The recipes tended to have too many fancy hard-to-find ingredients like pea shoots and dulse, but I did get some really great ideas from it. The Chick'n Piccata is my go-to recipe, totally vegan, and my husband requests it all the time.

Happy Vegan MoFo everyone!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Delicata Squash Salad with Orange-Cranberries & Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Dressing

I only got a few groceries last night, but I feel like I have so many delicious things I want to cook. And I want to cook them all at once. Thankfully, I realize it's too much to tackle in one night. I was so excited to leave work on time today to come home a cook a delicious cozy dinner.

I planned on having some scallops, a potato leek soup, and a salad with delicata squash. Then, as I baked some chicken for Misty, I realized I should just eat some of the chicken and the salad, maybe some roast corn, and call it a night. Scallops and soup can wait 'till tomorrow. And that gives me a reason to save the other half of the bottle of wine I picked up for tomorrow's dinner, rather than polish it off tonight (all alone)... (you know I want to, you know that).

Misty knows something good is cooking for her. The house is filled with gorgeous smells of roasting chicken and squash. She's sitting under my feet at the computer, but gets up to sniff from a safe distance every time I open the oven. If I open the fridge she's got her nose in there full-force, but seems smart enough to know the oven is too hot for her snout. She's much more involved in the kitchen than Amit, who usually plants himself in his couch-divot to compute and game-watch.
Misty thoroughly enjoyed some chicken-fat topped foods, and ate much more than usual, which is a good thing. We worry she's anorexic sometimes, which REALLY doesn't fit our lifestyle here. The star of MY dinner however, was the crazy-ass awesome-sauce salad I made with the Delicata squash.

Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar from Savannah, GA
The salad would have been simply excellent, but what made it mind-blowing was the blackberry-ginger flavored balsamic vinegar my neighbor friends gave me for catsitting while they were in Savannah a couple weeks ago.  It made such an amazing dressing for an autumn salad of sweet vs. savory and creamy vs. crunch. If you can get your hands on some special fruity balsamic, try using it on a salad like this.

Delicata Squash Salad with Orange-Cranberries & Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Dressing
2 Servings

1 small Delicata squash, sliced into 1/2" rings, seeds removed
Olive oil, sea salt, black pepper

3 T dried cranberries
1/4 C orange juice
2T olive oil
1 T very good balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction -  preferably fruit-infused such as Blackberry-Ginger

2 C baby spinach, washed and dried
1/4 C toasted walnuts
4 T plain chevre goat cheese

1. Heat oven to 425F

2. Drizzle oil on a baking sheet and place the squash rings on top. Drizzle them with a bit of oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 30-45 minutes, golden and tender.

3. Place cranberries and orange juice in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Simmer until reduce to about 1 T of liquid. Pour the liquid off into a measuring cup and reserve the cranberries for topping the salad.

4. To the cranberry-orange liquid, add 2 T olive oil and 1 T balsamic vinegar and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust ratios if needed, as it will depend on the type of vinegar used.

5. Place spinach on salad plates and top with roasted squash rings, a couple tablespoons of goat cheese, walnuts, cranberries and dressing.

If you want the EXACT same experience as I, pair with a light white wine like Pannonhalmi Apátsági Tricollis White 2009, from Hungary.

Dinnerware Sample Sale on Fifth

 Yay for new dishes!
Salad plates

Cereal bowls

Holiday platter

Terrine in a basket

If you like to take pictures of food as much as I do, you might be getting a little bored of the same old dishes. But, with the holidays approaching, sample sales are popping up all over midtown NYC. You can get good deals on all sorts of good stuff, from outerwear to sheets to plates.

I got out to a dinnerware sample sale today on Fifth & 25th, and picked up some random new dishes. I wasn't able to carry much, but you should be sure to check it out if you're in the neighborhood. Bring a rolling bag, a granny cart or a few friends, and load up on new serving pieces for as little as $1.

PTS America Sample Sale
(Dinnerware, Accessories, Serveware, Home Furnishings)
222 Fifth Ave (between 25th & 26th), NYC
Tuesday 9/20 - Thursday 9/22
9:30am - 4:30pm
*Bring your own bag and wrapping materials

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sweet Ideas For Crescent Rolls

It's been a busy couple of months, and I'm hoping to get back on track with cooking. I spent the week in Montréal for work, shopping and eating delicious meals. Now I can't wait to just have some homemade food at home!

I couldn't keep my eyes open by the time I got home last night around 5pm. So I napped, ate, walked and went to bed, leaving all the chores for today. The chill of fall is in the air, which is both refreshing and a sad omen of cold weather to come. I feel like eating some rich fall foods!

This morning I finally got up when Misty poked her nose in my face around 9ish, which is late for me. After some coffee, and finally posting photos of the Kolkata portion of our June India trip, I felt like popping open some Pillsbury Crescent Rolls for an easy breakfast.

Fillings ready to roll, brush with melted butter and bake
I can't just do anything plain and simple, it's just not my nature. So I decided to fill them with chocolate and almonds. Then I saw the butterscotch chips and thought I'd try those too. And what about that blueberry goat cheese from Trader Joe's that was just a little too sweet for hors d'ouevres?

Chocolate-Almond, Butterscotch and Blueberry Goat Cheese Crescents

The chocolate-almond were classic, no compaints!

The butterscotch filled was actually my favorite.

The blueberry goat cheese was just a little too thick and rich, and not quite sweet enough for a croissant.

After eating all of the crescents, minus the goat cheese ones, my husband started to throw out ideas for other fillings. How about Nutella? Nutella and peanut butter? Nutella and bananas? He loves Nutella. Or PB & J? Cream cheese and guava paste - a favorite Cuban snack? Pepper Jack Cheese? I told him that was a whole other category of savory, for another time. The possibilities are endless.

If Mistypants is this tired, what about me?
I'm hoping that this kicks off my return to cooking at home. I've really been lazy the past month, mentally exhausted from work and physically exhausted from Misty's puppy energy. My biggest confession is eating chicken fingers and pepperoni pizza from Papa John's 3 nights in a row one week. You might say I hit rock bottom, so it's only uphill from there!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bienvenidos a Nuestra Casa, Misty Mex

Meet Misty, the reason I haven't posted anything in over a month. Our newest family member is a sweet 11 month old puppy (we think German Shepherd and Greyhound mix). She and her siblings were found in a dumpster last November in San Carlos, Mexico. Considering the puppies were around 5 weeks old when they were found, that makes her a Libra too!

First day home
This little Libra goes by several names in our house: Miss, Mistypants, Mistycakes, Mistface, Babygirl, Misticals, Biscuit, and Awesome Sauce.

Poster child for abandoned animals: insert sad Sarah McLaughlin song here. (Her first day 4 hours alone)
Every day is a new challenge with Misty. First, we had to do separation anxiety training and practice leaving her while she cried at the door. Luckily, I've only lost a couple shoes so far, and had some help shredding the paper recycling.

Extra sad because Amit is away for work.
Apparently when you move a dog to a new home, they also need to be re-housetrained. This was so frustrating. We spent about 6 hours walking her the first day - walking and walking hoping she would pee. We practically popped a bottle of champagne the first time she peed outside instead of holding it until we came in the door. She felt so insecure in our busy neighborhood, filled with traffic, noises, smells, constant passerby and literally hundreds of dogs to meet. Overstimulated, scared and nervous, we thought she would get used to it all if we just kept walking. It was a tough week of resorting to crating her, cleaning up accidents and frequent trips outside. It's a been a month now, and she is much more comfortable - but still extremely skittish.

Everyone in our neighborhood knows Misty now. Strangers come up to me and say "hi Misty!". There's a whole other social world of dog people outside that you don't notice until you're part of it.  Kind of like driving around in a Volkswagen Beetle - you don't notice how many are on the road until they start flashing lights and waving at you.

Another challenge has been getting Mistface to eat. She just doesn't care that much about food, and is super skinny. She needs to gain about 10 pounds (I've already lost 4 pounds since we go her). We have to remind her to drink water and practically spoon-feed her every meal.

Mistypants right before the broken finger incident.
Giving her proper exercise is another challenge - she is difficult on a leash sometimes. She either pulls like a sled dog or freezes every minute and refuses to move. She lays down on the ground if she spots a dog 2 blocks away and won't budge until they finally give her the time of day. Sometimes she flips out and acts scared for no reason, and tends to back herself towards oncoming traffic. Other times she just wants to jump and play - which is how I got my finger broken. Her leash somehow got stuck on my free hand and yanked my finger out of place, breaking it laterally through the knuckle.

Mistycakes also develops sudden confusing behaviors. We got stuck for 3 minutes in the elevator one day, and now she completely flips out in there, after being fine before. It's getting a bit better, but now she refuses to come inside the building because she wants to walk more. Now she decided to be scared of walking out from the apartment to the elevator, but getting in the elevator is fine. Sometimes chicken is magical, enticing her into anything, other days she could give 2 shits about your chicken. I joke that I don't need to lift weights any more because I'm always pulling her with the leash and carrying the 40 pound baby around when she refuses to move. Something new every day.

How innocent she is, dreaming of flying. Luckily this is the typical indoor behavior.
Between busy season at work, walking Misty, feeding her, playing with her, cleaning up after her and doctor visits at least once a week, my schedule has been insane. Amit has been travelling for work a couple of the weeks, and those are when I really have no time for anything. I can't tell you the last time I sat and watched TV for a solid hour without hitting pause or just giving up. My one goal has been to sit and watch a movie start to finish, but I've been unsuccessful. Forget cooking, I don't even have time to eat. And with a splint on my finger it's been too hard to chop, wash my hands and clean the dishes.

Puppy likes to bite. Only Amit lets her play rough.
Not only have I forsaken blogging because of the lack of time, but lack of content. I have hardly cooked beyond necessity. Most of the groceries get thrown out rotten, since I'm always too tired to use them. Half the dishes in the sink are from microwaving organic dog food.
Getting used to the surroundings in Downtown Brooklyn
Mistface has taken priority over our lives now, but things are getting more under control. She has a great submissive and friendly personality and is going to be a great pet. It just takes a lot of work in the beginning. I kind of like waking up a little early on sunny mornings. I like that I'm losing weight without specifically trying. I wish I had time for cooking or the gym, but really glad we have our new super cool roommate with the pretty pretty face.

There was an error in this gadget


Related Posts with Thumbnails