Monday, June 27, 2011

ass kickin tofu

I am definitely a spicy food connoisseur. Ever since I was a kid, my dad and I have have been pushing the heat boundaries with copious amounts of Sriracha and hot peppers, much to my mom's dismay. Tonight for dinner, I thought I'd try my hand at baked tofu with a little kick.

Stuff you need: 1. A block of firm (or extra firm) tofu 2. Chili garlic sauce 3. Soy sauce 4.Hoisin sauce 5. Olive oil

Start off by squeezing all the liquid out of the tofu- I like to wrap it in a paper towel and place a heavy object on top while I prepare everything else. While the tofu is indisposed, prepare your marinade. Combine approximately 2 tablespoons olive oil and soy sauce with 1 tablespoon hoisin. Give it a good stir and a taste, and adjust the flavors to your liking- some ginger, sesame oil, or lemon juice would all be nice additions.

When your marinade is ready, grab the tofu, slice it into slabs, and arrange it in a glass baking dish. Lightly coat each piece of tofu with the chili garlic sauce, and then pour the marinade on top. Now pop the dish into the fridge while you preheat the oven to 350 F. About 5-10 minutes in, flip the tofu over so both sides soak up all those great flavors. At this point, I lightly coated the other side of the tofu with more chili garlic sauce. Please feel free to skip this step, unless you like your food with some serious burn.

When the oven is ready to go, pop that spicy tofu in for 15 minutes, flip the slabs over, and cook for an additional 20. When it's looking golden all over, gather some kleenex, a glass of milk, and dig in!
Now that is some tofu that will kick your ass. I mean, real coughing-fit-makes-your-nose-run kind of spice! Yeow! Some steamed broccoli and orange cauliflower were a really nice compliment to this dish- the hot, heat of the tofu, and the mild, subtle veggies were a great combo. I ate half of the slabs tonight, and popped the rest in the fridge for some stir fry tomorrow.

I must say, that for completely making this up on the fly, I'm pretty pumped with the results. Next time, I'll definitely increase the oven temp so it's a little less soft, and a little more crunchy- I think 375 or 400 degrees would work great. Also, I think a longer marinading time would help enhance flavors, but let's be honest, I'm usually hungry and impatient after a long day at the office.

A hot, fiery meal, for a hot, summer day. It needs a little tweaking, but not bad for my first attempt at baked tofu :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

rainbow cupcakes & carrot cake cookies

Where do I begin? Between Father's Day, PRIDE, and Westword Music Fest, I don't know where I found the time to whip up such delicious sweets, but somehow I made it work :)

Friday night, I got together with some friends to make rainbow cupcakes, and properly kick off Pride weekend with dinner, dessert, and drinks. I was nervous to make the technicolor sweets, but I'm actually really proud of the outcome!

Stuff you need: 1. A box of white cake mix 2. White frosting 3. Food Coloring 4.Rainbow sprinkles

Start by making the cake batter according to the back of the box. When all the ingredients are mixed together properly, divide the batter into 4 separate bowls, and dye each bowl with a different color. Grease a muffin pan, and pour dollops of each color batter into every hole. Once again, follow the package for baking times, and when they're properly cooked, swirl on some frosting and top with rainbow sprinkles. For how phenomenal they turned out, they were actually quite easy, and fun, to make!
This was also my first time using a decorating bag with an icing tip, and I think they turned out great! Now all I need to do is practice, practice, practice, and hopefully I'll be making beautiful treats in no time! See how happy I am with my rainbow cakes? Yayy!

After a rowdy time at X bar, a day of great local music, and the Pride parade this morning, it was finally time to tackle my Father's Day gift! But first, did I mention I saw Mondo at the Pride parade?! He's one of my all-time favorite designers from Project Runway, and I just about peed my pants when I saw him this morning. *Insert squeals here* OMG MONDO I LOVE YOU!!
Anyway, back to baking. One of my Pop's favorite treats is carrot cake- it also happens to be the cake that my parents had at their wedding. I knew I had to do something special, so I went to Tasteologie, and found this great looking recipe for Carrot Cake Cookies. I followed the instructions as written for both cookie and icing, and let me tell you, they turned out so so good. My crappy phone camera does these cookies no justice. You'll just have to trust me- these babies are outstanding!
My Dad loved them! He said that eating just one of these cookies, was like devoring a giant triple layer slice of a great carrot cake. They're soft, decadent and the flavors are perfection. If you have a carrot cake fanatic in your family, I highly recommend you try these out.

Well it was a wonderful, crazy weekend filled with great people, great food, and great music. I love that this weekend was all about celebrating local music, equality, and fantastic dads- 3 of my favorite things! Happy PRIDE & Happy Father's Day!♥

Thursday, June 16, 2011

overnight oats & homemade chips

I am not a morning person. In fact, I'm a total night owl, finding that my most productive hours are between 10 pm and 1 am. Because of this, I find it incredibly helpful to pack my gym bag, lunch, and anything else I can the night before. Enter, overnight oats. I made this recipe a lot last summer, and it's absolutely one of my favorites. Healthy, sweet, filling, and the perfect chilled breakfast for these hot summer days. The original recipe idea comes from Lorna Sass' cookbook Short-Cut Vegan, but I've altered it a little as well.

Stuff you need: 1. 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 2. 1 8 oz can crushed pineapple 3. 1.5 cups milk- or a soy milk of some sort if you'd like to make it vegan 4. cinnamon 5. Nutmeg6. 1 Banana

Just before going to bed, combine the oats, pineapple, and milk into a large bowl. Spinkle with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, cover, and pop in the refrigerator while you sleep. In the morning, scoop about 1 cup of the oats into a bowl, top with 1/2 a sliced banana, and dig in. No really, that's it!
It's so nice to have such a tasty meal already made for me in the morning, while I'm rushing around trying to get to work at a decent hour.The original recipe suggests using cardarmom and topping with toasted nuts or flax seed, but I like my changes as well. It still needs a little tweaking, but I think flavor perfection is almost there.

Also, on another late night note, I'm pleased to say that as of this evening, I have successfully prepared breakfast, lunch, and a snack for tomorrow. Less chaos for me in the morning! Currently, my favorite snack is homemade tortilla chips. If you've never made them yourself, you must try it.

Stuff you need: 1. Whole wheat tortillas 2. Olive oil 3. Sea salt

This is so incredibly easy and delicious, I may have to start making these all the time! Take your whole wheat tortilla and slice it into little triangles. I simply continuously folded my tortilla until I had little bite sized pieces. Place these tortilla chunks into your toaster over- or on a baking sheet in a real oven. Lightly coat with olive oil and coarse seal salt, and pop them in the hot oven at 325 for 5-10 minutes. Check on them often, making sure they become golden, but not brown. When golden, flip them over and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.
They are crispy, yet buttery, with just a hint of saltiness. You can serve them with salsa or guacamole, but I eat them plain cause I think they're that good. Mmm! Seriously. Bestest, most easiest snack EVER.

Oh! And one last thing-see how this late-night energy really kicks in? Tonight I also rummaged around in my craft bin, looking for something fun to make in honor of this festivity-filled weekend ahead of us. I found a tub of round beads in rainbow colors, popped in Julie & Julia, and 2 hours later, I'm filled with good-chick-flick vibes and half a dozen fun bracelets for my accessorizing pleasure. Pre-made meals, a heart-warming movie, and a little bit of crafting to boot. What a lovely Thursday evening, indeed!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

hot dogs, cocktails & dessert in a cup

I love summer weekends. The weather is beautiful, and there's so much to do! The last few days I found myself pouring beers at a bluegrass festival, grabbing meals with friends, seeing a few movies, enjoying jazz in the park, and continuing my search for an edible and delicious vegetarian hot dog.

Today my hangover brought me to Biker Jim's where I ordered up a basket of fries and one "Vegans gotta eat too" dog. I slathered it with ketchup, mustard, relish, and onions, and dug in. I would say that it's probably the best vegetarian hot dog that I've sampled, but so far, that's not saying much. The texture was pretty good- a little thick, but that's okay- and the flavor wasn't vomit-inducing like so many other meatless hot dogs. Definitely not as good as the real deal, but I'm just pumped that a place with veal and reindeer on the menu, would also have a vegan option. Kudos to you Biker Jim!
After hot dogs, frozen yogurt, and some Target binge-shopping, it was time for some jazz in the park. Everyone brought a little something to share- cheese, wine, bread, and fruits, so Michael and I contributed some boozy Arnold Palmers and strawberry shortcakes in a cup. Fun fact: Everything tastes better in a cup.
For the Boozy Palmers, we poured equal parts iced tea and lemonade into a carafe, added vodka, and shook well. As Michael would say, they were delightfully refreshing! For our sweets in a solo cup, we put a layer of angel food cake in the bottom, and topped it with strawberries and whipped cream. It was the perfect, light, summery dessert- and a huge hit!

It was a beautiful night with good music, tasty treats, and great friends. Here's to a wonderful summer weekend, and many more to come. Cheers! :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

chipotle sausage cous cous bowl

Ever since I made those fantastic faux-rizo and Anaheim enchiladas a few weeks ago, I've had the rest of the Field Roast chipotle sausages sitting in my fridge. I kept thinking I'd save them for something special, but tonight they called to me, and I threw them together with some fresh produce for a cous cous bowl with a south-of-the-border zing.

Stuff you need: 1. Cous cous- or rice 2. Meatless chorizo 3. Fresh veggies 4. Salsa 5. Spices

Start off by placing a pot of water on the stove for the cous cous- this grain works best with a 1:1 ratio of water, so measure accordingly. When the water is boiling, throw in the cous cous, give it a stir, pull it off the heat, and put the lid on.

While the cous cous is sitting, chop up your chipotle sausage and fresh veggies into bite sized pieces- tonight I found spinach, tomato, and orange cauliflower- oh yes. Orange. Throw the cauliflower and sausage into a warmed skilled with a little olive oil, and sauté the mixture for about 5 minutes. Next, throw in the spinach and tomato, and season everything with your favorite flavors- salt, pepper, cumin, and hot sauce!

When your faux-rizo/veggie concoction is heated through and smelling amazing, fluff the cous cous with a fork, place it into a nice deep bowl, and then top it with your veggies and meat. Slather a little salsa on top, mix everything together, and dig in! A little spicy, super fresh, and pretty hearty- the perfect combination for my Thursday night meal.
I like the juxtaposition between the light, fluffy cous cous, and the thick, chunky sausage- it's a hearty meal, that still feels like it's on the lighter side. I also love the little kick from the Field Roast chorizo, and the bright colors of the spinach and cauliflower. Tonight was definitely a "throw-everything-you-can-find-into-a-skillet" kind of night, but the outcome was successful. I even whipped up a vegan BLT wrap for tomorrow's lunch! What a tasty, productive evening :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

slow cooked black beans

As of recently, I've decided to start tracking my eating habits through Live Strong. They have a feature called MyPlate, and it allows you to see exactly what you're eating- how many calories, nutritional breakdown, etc, etc. While this is probably a bad thing, since I now count every morsel of food that enters my body, it has also been incredibly eye-opening. Among other things, I never knew how much sodium I ingested!

I come from a family with high blood pressure and cholesterol, which is partially one of the reasons I stopped eating meat in the first place. I always thought my newfound vegetarianism was so healthy, but I was surprised to find out, that some things I thought were so great, were secretly not. Did you know that 1 serving (1/4 cup) of Newman's Own Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce has 620 mg of sodium? That's like, 40% of my recommended daily intake!

Moral of the story, is that after looking at a whole lot of nutritional totals, I've decided to take some steps toward better eating and healthier living. From this day forth, I will no longer have canned beans in my household. 1 half cup of canned beans contained 390 mg of sodium! In the long run, I'm sure that's not so bad for me, but if I take enough baby steps, I think it will really pay off in the end.

Stuff you need: 1. Bag of dried beans 2. Water 3. A crockpot

Before going to bed, take that bag of beans, pour them into a large bowl, and fill the bowl with enough water to cover the beans by a few inches. Now let them sit overnight. In the morning, drain the beans of last night's water, and place them into the slow cooker. Cover the beans with water- I used 7 cups-, turn the crockpot onto low, and now get to the office! When you come home 8-12 hours later, you'll be rewarded with home-cooked beans out the wazoo!
This one bag made around 8 cups of prepared beans! I used a little for dinner tonight, and then divided the rest into 1 cup portions, and stuck them in the freezer for future use. Home-cooked beans are healthier and cheaper for you, and I love the feeling of accomplishment I get from doing something really good for my body. I think my next step in sodium reduction will be eliminating prepared tomato sauce, but for tonight, I couldn't be happier with my beans :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

food cart bites & crafty delights

Sometimes I take for granted the amazing vegetarian and vegan options out there. Friday night I went to a BBQ, and when the meat-free guests showed up, everyone looked around in amazement as to what they would eat. I quickly ran to the store for some Morningstar Farms burger patties, but it was very interesting. I just haven't found myself in that situation for so long. My parents and a number of my friends are all meat-free, so we always cook that way, or make sure to dine somewhere with options. A meatless lifestyle is becoming more widespread, but sometimes I forget that it's not the norm everywhere. This is definitely part of the reason I always get so excited when there are places that specialize in meatless cuisine.

Some friends and I attended a food truck party on Saturday, which is where we found the Steamin' Demon, the vegetarian/vegan food cart run by City 'O City and Watercourse, 2 of the best veg places in Denver. We all swore that we'd attend fewer food truck gatherings, both for our waistlines and pocket books, but when we heard the Steamin' Demon was going to be there, we couldn't stay away. If you're in the Denver area and looking for mobile meatless delights, definitely hunt down the demon!
Julie, myself, and Brian all got the Moco Loco- some kind of gooey bowl with rice, a spicy burger patty, mushroom gravy, avocado, and an egg if you so choose. It may sound strange, but it's amazing! Omg so good.
We also gobbled down a pistachio cupcake from the Cupcake Truck, while Jenna and Michael hit up the Biscuit Bus for some of the best fresh biscuits slathered in honey butter or vegetarian mushroom gravy. Also amazing. Food trucks may be fattening me up, but holy shit, they're so damn tasty.

Apart from oinking out on mobile foods all weekend, I've also been attempting to spruce up my kitchen. I'm currently renting a little studio, so it's hard to make the place look really great without being able to paint walls, or tear out ugly cabinets. I decided that red would be my theme, and this weekend I added some fun touches I wanted to share.

For simple cutesy magnets, I collected red buttons of all shapes and sizes, and hot glued them to small, round magnets that I bought at Michaels. While I was binge shopping arts and crafts, I also picked up some plain glass votive holders and a bottle of Delta rose red transparent glass paint. I gave each holder a couple coats of the paint, and realized that I was looking for a much bright shade. I added a few coats of Craft Smart in bright red, and when it was to the opacity I wanted, I finished off with a coat of the glass paint to give it a shiny surface. Magnets went on the fridge, and I lined up the newly painted glasses on my windowsill.
I'm very pleased with my newest red touches. I'd like to make a triangle banner to hang around the window next, but so far, the few things I've made are really helping make my rental a little homier. A very successful weekend, indeed, full of tasty foods and fun crafts. The summer is already starting out with a bang, and I hope it just gets better from here! :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

chorizo & sweet potato enchiladas

A few weeks ago, I was lurking over at Budget Bytes- one of my favorite blog haunts- and I came across the recipe for chorizo and sweet potato enchiladas. My initial thought was, all that crap? In enchiladas? No way. I think I've gotten too comfortable in my cheese and black bean enchilada rut. I sat on this thought for a week or so, and finally decided to be bold, and to try out this dish on a couple friends for dinner last night.

I stuck to the recipe pretty closely, except I used regular sized whole wheat tortillas for jumbo enchiladas, substituted Old El Paso sauce for Las Palmas, used Anaheim peppers since the store was out of Poblanos, and finally, used vegetarian chorizo instead of the meaty kind! That's right. Those chorizo enchiladas got vegatized!
So I chopped and sauteed everything according to direction, and pulled out a casserole dish. Budget Bytes says to coat the pan with non-stick cooking spray, but if you cover the bottom of the dish with a little enchilada sauce, it works just fine. I rolled the enchiladas, popped them in the oven, and 25 minutes later, I was rewarded with an outrageously delicious meal.
Oh my, doesn't that look amazing? Trust me, they taste even better than they look! I told myself I would only eat 1, but that didn't happen- I ate a few :) The sweet potatoes give this dish a great chewy bite, and the Anaheims + faux chorizo give it just the perfect amount of spiciness! All three of my carnivorous friends said they were damn good too! This is a dish I will definitely make again. And again. And again.

Oh! And if you're looking for a meat-free chorizo, I used Field Roast's Mexican Chipotle Sausage, and I highly recommend it! The texture is dead on - it even comes in a casing- and the flavor is great. Moral of the story is that the vegatized version of the sweet potato and chorizo enchiladas were a huge hit, and I can't wait to make them again! Yum!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

tempeh tuna wrap

June? Already? Yikes! With summer kicking into full gear, plans are being made, and time is starting to fly by. Since I last posted, I think I've made maybe 2 or 3 healthy meals at home. Bad Erin. Since I had the Memorial Day holiday off, I finally got the chance to kick back, relax, craft a little, and cook. I've been meaning to try this recipe for quite awhile now, but of course, just couldn't find the time- until today!

The recipe is mock tuna salad, which happens to be printed on the back of the Home-style Organic Five Grain Tempeh from Tofurky. I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, except I replaced mayo with vegenaise♥, and Old Bay seasoning with Paula Dean's house blend, because of course I had Paula Dean in the cupboard, but no Old Bay. Also, at the very end, I added pickle relish, because what's tuna with no relish?

While the tempeh was simmering and I was mixing sauces, I must say I was seriously skeptical. Soy sauce in tuna? Hell no. The tempeh boiled, I stirred everything together, spread it out onto a whole wheat tortilla, and guess what. It was surprisingly delicious!
The texture is much thicker and chunkier than normal tuna, which isn't a problem, and the flavors are actually pretty dead on considering that there's absolutely no fish in there. I also like the fact that the recipe makes a ton of food, and is very filling. I made a hearty, over-stuffed wrap, and still had a bowl full of tuna for leftovers. This was one recipe I anticipated hating, but ended up really enjoying. Once again, impressed with tempeh! :)