Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let the Gluten Free Adventures Begin!

Since being told I should try out gluten free, life has seemed just a little bit more complicated. There's none of that "I'm tired and don't feel like cooking so I'll just make a sandwich" anymore since, even if I can find a delicious gluten free premade bread without eggs, most fake vegan meat is made with gluten. So I again apologize in advance for a longer period between posts.

But to recap what's been going on lately, here are a few things I've been trying:

A pumpkin spice latte:

Personally I don't drink coffee - don't like the taste, the caffeine, and it tends to make me pretty sick after, but Seth happens to be a big coffee drinker so when I saw this recipe for a vegan pumpkin spice latte I knew I had to try it! I tried a little sip after topping it with Soyatoo and some cinnamon sugar and thought it was pretty delicious and considering Seth drank about 4 cups of it, I'd say it was a hit.

Next up is my organization of all our gluten free flours:

Yes, this is what your kitchen will look like if you go gluten free and yes, you will find yourself searching down countless aisles at the grocery store for mysterious ingredients like Sorghum flour and Xantham Gum. Whether some, or any, of these will help make delicious meals still stands to be seen.

It was a pretty relaxing weekend at our house, for once, and a much needed one at that - but as much as I crave relaxing weekends, when I actually have one I find myself slightly jittery. My foot starts tapping, I start searching around frantically for something to do and yes, I recognize this is probably something that means I need to take yoga or some form of meditation, but regardless, it happens. So what better way to spend a "relaxing" day than by crafting?

My coworker's wife is having a baby and their baby shower is this weekend so a few of my female coworkers and I decided to get together and get them a gift. I took on the task of actually braving Babies R' Us and while I was at it decided to try my hand at making a diaper cake for the first time. Here's how it turned out:

The company we work for happens to have some ties to owls, hence the theme of the cake. They're made of felt and stuffed! Overall I thought it came out pretty cute - maybe I have a future in diaper cake making?

And finally, I'll leave you with our most recent attempt at gluten free vegan cooking: spinach and artichoke souffles from here

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Happiest of Halloweens to You (Slightly late)!

So I've been slacking lately on my posts - you know it, I know it, but I promise there's an explanation. I recently got a food allergy test and, while there's nothing I'm violently allergic to, I have a lot of slight intolerances (sesame, peanuts, cashews, yeast, gluten, and wheat to name a few) which have resulted in my doctor telling me to adopt a gluten free diet and avoid all those other little ingredients.

Cue panic-stricken Heather here.

I don't have the slightest idea of how to even begin to go gluten free, yet alone of how to make any sort of cheesy, creamy vegan sauce without cashews or nutritional yeast, and thus I haven't posted anything because I've basically been eating salad and potatoes and cowering in the corner.

But I knew I needed at least one last Halloween post, even if I haven't posted it until November.

Here it is - jack o'lantern personal pizzas on a cornmeal crust

The crust was straight out of the Uncheese Cookbook and these lovely little guys are topped with pepper and pepperoni to make their festive faces.

We also were lucky enough to have the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival this past weekend and to get to sample all of their goodies. One thing we picked up was this adorable gluten free, vegan pumpkin spice cake because I mean, seriously, how cute is that pumpkin on top?

And then, for my first fully gluten free vegan meal attempt, mac and cheese with Tinkyada pasta, balsamic roasted potatoes, and steamed asparagus!

I pulled the balsamic roasted recipe from here and the mac and cheese recipe from here because I'm not quite talented enough in the gluten free world to try to make anything myself yet! But all in all I was pretty impressed with the pasta, though it was a bit mushy and the whole starchiness thing while cooking threw me off a bit. Still, it tasted pretty good!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Brinner, or Breakfast for Dinner to quote Scrubs, is sometimes a necessary event. I'm not a huge breakfast person myself - in fact I'd much rather eat leftover chili or pizza in the morning than any sort of traditional breakfast food, so it makes sense, then, that I'd eat breakfast at dinner instead.

With the craving for hash brown casserole haunting me, I decided to whip up a little Halloween themed brinner.

We enjoyed some spooky eye hash brown casserole, Smart Life bacon strips, and pancakes in adorable Halloween shapes courtesy of our Williams Sonoma mini pancake molds.

The hash brown casserole recipe was copied exactly from Epicurean Vegan's recipe here. Usually I tweak other recipes a bit, but this is so good the way it is thatthe only thing I change is to make my own sour cream because I hate the Tofutti kind. Otherwise, this thing is freaking delicious. Warning: will cause intense cravings at random hours of the day months later and also result in a need to eat the entire casserole dish.

We were in a super big rush so we didn't have time to be all delicate and cautious with our pancakes, but I still think they came out damn cute:

Only 5 days till Halloween!! Are you ready?!?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mummies, Pumpkins, and Costumes, oh my!

This week is turning out to be absolutely insane for us - full of work commitments, Dr. appointments we've been putting off, and ridiculously necessary hair cuts so free time to make dinner has not been readily available. So yes, I'll admit, the recipes this week have been somewhat thrown together and are probably going to continue to be widely reliant on pre-packaged vegan delights. With that caveat in place, I give you last night's meal:

Mummy dogs and jack o'lantern burgers.

The mummies are of course just crescent roll wrapped vegan hot dogs and the Amy's burgers are made festive with some creative cutting into vegan sliced cheese. And what meal would be complete without a ketchup and mustard spider web!

Now I seriously need to get on our costume hunt! Anyone want to throw one together for me?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

This weekend Seth and I decided to take a long, 4+ hour car ride out to Woodstock, NY to visit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. I had heard about the farm sanctuary from various vegan sites and, after exploring a little more, found that for a $50 donation you can buy a family membership which gets you unlimited visits to the farm as well as discounts at some vegan restaurants in NYC. Plus you get to know that you're helping support the animals, which is always worthwhile.

So we woke up early on Saturday and headed out. It was definitely a long trip, but it was worth it! The tour is informative and interesting. You get to hear the back story of some of their animals as well as see how well they're doing now. It was amazing to see the employees call each animal by its name and to see how much the animals loved them - we're talking pigs that roll over to get their belly scratched, sheep and goats that nuzzle into your hands to be pet, and a dog that paws you when it wants some attention. Seeing how I love cows and pigs, I was pretty much in heaven. Here are a few pics from our trip:

For more information and to help support the farm check out their website. They're also going to have a booth at the Boston Vegetarian Festival this weekend so be sure to stop by!

After such a long drive that weekend, Sunday we were pretty beat so I tried to come up with something Halloween-y that wouldn't have me slaving over the stove for a lot of time.

So here it is, Barbeque Jack O'Lanterns with Forked Adder Tongues and Roasted Ogre Toes:

The sliders are made from Gardein BBQ pulled shreds with BBQ sauce eyes and a celery stalk stem and of course they're paired with steak fries, brussel sprouts, and a spider's web made from ketchup and mayo.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Witch and A Mummy Walk Into A Bar...

Ok, I'm not sure there's actually a joke that starts like that, but it seemed like the perfect way to showcase my Halloween creation for tonight: mummy pizzas and witch hat calzones.

The mummy is just some pizza sauce, strategically placed mozzarella Daiya, black olives and chives. Laying the cheese is the most annoying part and had me desperately wishing for a vegan string cheese alternative, but c'est la vie.

The calzones are crescent rolls filled with a mix of chopped Yves pepperoni slices, Tofutti cream cheese, and Daiya mozzarella that are sprinkled with a basil/garlic seasoning mix and embellished with some cut pepperoni to add a little pizazz to the hat.

Oh AND I just got in a recent order from Pangea! Is there anything this store doesn't have?!?

In case you can't tell from the picture, we got a chicken noodle soup mix, Nacho Mom's Voodoo Queso, two different Dr. McDougall big cup soups, Parmazano, vegan caramels, and three different types of Sweet n' Sara marshmallows - pumpkin spice, mini marshmallows, and that adorable ghost!

I see a lot of soup, caramel apples and hot chocolate with marshmallows in my future and I'm not upset about it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Monster Taco Salad

So last night's premiere on ABC Family was a bit of a disappointment - a Halloween episode of Pretty Little Liars. I don't watch the show, know anyone who watches the show, or have any interest in ever watching the show, so needless to say, I passed.

But tonight is a win! HOCUS POCUS baby! Is there anyone who doesn't like this movie? I mean seriously, Bette Midler, vintage SJP, and it takes place in Salem! It's classic.

And yes, I own this movie. And yes, I can just watch it anytime I want, but there's something more fun about catching it when it's on TV during Halloween!

So in honor of the movie tonight I made up Monster Taco Salads.

I probably should have made something witch themed, but let's not talk about that right now.

The idea was taken from here but obviously veganized and changed a bit.

The Monster Taco Salad is made up of a layer of crushed blue corn tortilla chips, refried beans, Boca crumble mixed with taco seasoning, Daiya mozzarella and cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce.

Assemble the first four layers then stick in the microwave for about a minute to melt the cheese.

Sprinkle the shredded lettuce around the bean/crumble/cheese mixture.

The eyeballs are made out of slices of tomatoes that are filled in with a sour cream/taco seasoning mixture and topped with a sliced black olive.

And the mouth and fangs are just another slice of tomato with plain tortilla chip fangs.

Does anyone else think this kind of looks like Oscar the Grouch? Minus the fangs of course.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

13 Nights of Halloween

For those of you who happen to watch the childish movies or teen dramedies ABC Family is famous for, you know exactly what I'm talking about in the title. For those of you who don't, every year ABC Family runs a 13 day countdown to Halloween where they show a different Halloween themed movie. And because you all are now painfully aware of my love of Halloween, it's not too big of a surprise that I tune in anxiously every year for this countdown!

So of course I've been waiting somewhat patiently for this to start and I am happy to say that tonight marks the first night!! In honor of this glorious time of year, I've decided to make one Halloween themed dinner for each night. They may not be the most inventive or intense recipes, but I can guarantee they'll be spooky!

But first, a quick Wonton Wednesday post - Mini apple pies complete with lattice tops!

I used a variation of this recipe I found and added the lattice tops and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. This actually used up all of our wontons, so I guess Wonton Wednesday is dead until I can find another package of vegan wontons!

Now, for the main event and to kick off the 13 Nights of Halloween - Tofu cutlet tombstones with smashed potatoes!

I was inspired by a Halloween post I saw on Very Vegan Holiday. The cutlets are made from Vegan Dad's Crispy Tofu recipe and the gravy is just a quick Bisto mix. And of course no graveyard would be complete without some broccoli shrubs and a tofu cutlet coffin!

What Halloween movie do you like to watch to get you in the mood?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mean Gene's Pepper Steak

Back in my meat eating days (I know, I know, it's hard for me to even talk about it) there were a few meals that were on constant rotation in my house. Tomatoey chicken with peas and potatoes, chicken with mushrooms and rice, burger nights, and, of course, pepper steak. This was my dad's dish - Mean Gene the Dancing Machine himself - and even though I was never a big red meat eater even back then, it always provided that warm comforting feeling that I didn't want to miss. I have fond memories of leftovers smothered with cheese and ketchup on sub rolls.

So when a craving for this hit me the other day I knew I had to try and veganize it.

What you will need:

1 package Gardein beefless tips or other meat substitute of your choice
1 package baby bella mushrooms
2 peppers (*you can use whatever colors you want, but I used an orange and a red*)
1 cup diced onion
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/2 tbsp tamari
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp Bisto (*For those of you who don't know, Bisto is a gravy granule mix from England that is fantastic. You could use the equivalent amount of your favorite gravy, but I used to live in England so I'm partial to Bisto.*)
1 package instant brown rice (*You can use slow cooked rice or whatever type you want here, but I was all about making a quick dish so the instant rice was my best friend.*)

How to get it done:

Start by preparing your veggies.

Core, de-seed, and slice your peppers into thin strips.

Slice your mushrooms.

Chop up 1 cup of your onion.

I happen to have a little fancy mini chopper that I always put to work when it comes to onions since I hate them so much and am seriously sensitive to their tear-inducing power. With that said, I recognize that sometimes I have to use onions and in these cases I have a routine to decrease the amount of pain. I chop off the part of the onion I'll need, throw it into the mini chopper, throw the onions wherever they need to be, then quickly put the chopper in the sink and fill it with water and soap. It's probably hysterical to watch this happen since I freak out and run around trying to get it done before I'm forced to wrap a scarf and sunglasses around my eyes so I don't die from the onions. But regardless, it works.

Mince your garlic.

Prepare your rice and set aside in a covered pan to keep warm.

Heat your olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.

Throw in the onions and garlic and saute until the onions take on a slightly translucent look.

Throw in the mushrooms and peppers and saute for another 5 minutes.

Add in the can of diced tomatoes, the Bisto, soy sauce, and water. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes so that the flavors can mix together.

Add in your Gardein beefless tips or whatever other protein you are using and allow to cook for another 5 minutes or until the beef is completely heated through.

Serve over cooked rice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Voila! Super quick and easy pepper steak!

This was pretty tasty for a thrown together meal, but next time I would probably saute the Gardein first to get it a little bit firmer and crispy on the sides and them mix it in at the very last minute since it was a little bit soft for my taste. Seth, however, had no complaints. I think this would be pretty delicious on a sub roll with some melted Daiya on top and some ketchup (you'll learn that I add ketchup to most things). It wasn't exactly like I remembered, but I think with some tweaking it could be pretty freaking fantastic.

Next up on Dance Vegan Dance:

A small Wonton Wednesday and the beginning of my 13 Days of Halloween!

Friday, October 14, 2011

La Bella Italia and Lasagna Rollups

As someone who lived in Italy for four years, studied abroad there, and still tries to desperately grasp onto some vague knowledge of the language, I frequently get cravings for Italian food (*also read as, my excuse for posting A LOT of pasta recipes in the future*). Unfortunately thinking about Italian food results in visions of mozzarella balls, parmesan cheese, and rich pasta dishes dancing in my head, which obviously no longer really appeals to the vegan side of me. Nevertheless, once a craving hits you, it's impossible to resist. And so, with the lure of melted mozzarella and thick tomato sauce pulling me in, I decided to make a vegan version of the lasagna rollups my grandmother makes every year for Christmas. This one includes a ricotta/bechamel combo to help keep things nice and creamy which isn't exactly traditional for my gma, but I'm sure she wouldn't be too offended by my adding it.

Buon Appetito!

What you will need:

1 package lasagna (*I used whole wheat, don't use the no boil kind here since you need to be able to roll it*)
2 jars tomato sauce of your choice or comparable amount homemade
2 cups shredded vegan mozzarella (*I used Daiya, of course*)
1 recipe Alison's macadamia nut ricotta from her Za Za Ziti recipe (*which is also fantastic btw* NOTE: you will need to soak the macadamia nuts for at least four hours before making this so plan ahead)
1 package frozen chopped spinach
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tbsp flour
1 cup unsweetened original almond milk (*you can substitute soy milk here, but I like the creaminess of the almond milk for this recipe)
2 tbsp vegan margarine (*I used Smart Balance*)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
nutritional yeast for sprinkling

How to get it done:

Preheat your oven to 350.

Spray a large casserole dish with nonstick spray or lightly oil it with olive oil.

Make up the batch of macadamia nut ricotta and set aside.

Thaw the frozen spinach in your microwave or by running water over it in a colander in the sink.

Squeeze and drain the spinach until most of the water has been removed. Set aside.

Cook the lasagna according to package directions. (*I like to do this in small batches since it makes the noodles easier to work with and then I used tongs to remove them from the hot water so I could keep the water going. I'm sure there's an easier, more refined way to do this, but I don't know it so there you go.*)

Place a long sheet of aluminum foil across a flat surface in your kitchen.

Spray lightly with nonstick spray. This is so your noodles won't stick when you lay them out.

As your lasagna noodle batches are cooked, place them flat across the aluminum foil.

Get to work on the bechamel.

Heat the margarine in a small pot over medium high heat.

Add the flour and mix until you form a roux and the mixture is smooth.

Continue whisking for several minutes (about 6-7) until the mixture turns a light sandy color. This is a pretty subtle change, but it's noticeable.

Add the almond milk slowly, continuing to mix as you do so to ensure that there are no lumps.

Continue cooking until the mixture begins to thicken (about 10 minutes), whisking fairly constantly so it doesn't burn.

Once thickened enough, add the nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine the drained spinach with the ricotta until fully mixed.

Add in the garlic powder and Italian seasoning and season with freshly ground black pepper.  Stir til well combined.

Start assembling the rolls by spreading 1.5 - 2 tbsp of the ricotta mixture across the sheet of lasagna. Repeat this process until all of the sheets are covered.

Add 2 tsp of beschamel sauce on top of the ricotta mixture and spread across the sheet of lasagna.

Sprinkle lightly with nutritional yeast.

Spread enough marinara sauce across the casserole dish to cover the bottom completely. (*You can use homemade in this case, but I happen to have found jars of Barilla's Marinara sauce in my local Target, which just so happens to be the jars I used to eat when I lived in Italy and that I am insanely obsessed with, so I went with that and was not disappointed*).

Start rolling those babies up!

Roll the lasagna sheets up, placing the seam down onto the layer of sauce in the casserole dish. Continue until all of the rolls are complete (*I didn't have a big enough casserole dish so this ended up being one 9x13 and one 8x8*).

Ladel tomato sauce across the tops of the rolls until fully covered. (*I ended up with about half a jar left from the two jars after this stage which was perfect for heating up to serve alongside the rolls at dinner*).

Sprinkle the mozzarella across the top of the tomato sauce.

Cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the tin foil and sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast. Place bake in the oven to cook for another 5 minutes.