Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Vegan Pizza

In my lifetime, I think I've met about 3 people who claimed they did not like pizza. Something about how they didn't like the combo of dough, sauce, and cheese - it was too heavy...I never really understood.

Being half Italian, I feel it's my duty easy to love pizza. It's such a happy marriage of salty, sweet, and savory - I don't know who couldn't love it.

When I started to sway more towards a vegan lifestyle, I was nervous pizza would become an extinct part of my diet. I read about vegan cheeses being rubbery and hard to melt; I tried some vegan cheese melted on top of some loaded sweet potato fries, found it not too bad, but couldn't imagine eating it in copious amounts.

I had to think of a solution - something that would be smooth and creamy, flavorful, and would combine well with a variety of traditional and non-traditional pizza toppings. Out of this, my creamy vegan pizza "cheese" was born!

It's the light green spread seen above.

Creamy Vegan Pizza"cheese"
You'll need:
1 can of Great Northern white beans, drained and rinsed
1 ripe avocado
1.5 T lemon juice
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 t adobo light seasoning
a dash or two of season salt
(I imagine you could also put nutritional yeast in this to add some actual cheese flavor...but I haven't gotten to experimenting with that yet)

To make:
1. Put whole can of drained, rinsed beans and avocado meat in a food processor
2. Pulse until contents are well combined and smooth
3. Add the lemon juice and spices. Pulse for about 30 seconds to mix in the spices.
4. Have a taste and add any extra spices to match preference

This spread is so smooth and creamy - it's the perfect healthy, vegan replacement for cheese. It retains its smooth, creamy texture after cooked and doesn't dry out (even on leftovers the next day).

We usually buy a pre-made crust since we get home late and don't have much extra time to make dough from scratch. A good vegan crust is Rustic Crust Ultimate Whole Grain.


Tonight, we wanted to try something new on our pizza - roasted veggies. We made the above pizza spread and put a thick layer on the crust. Then, we rummaged through the crisper and found baby portabella mushrooms, zucchini, and brussel sprouts.
We chopped them up, put them in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, lightly seasoned with Adobo light, Italian seasoning, dried parsley, cracked pepper and a little salt, and tossed to combine. We roasted them in the oven at 400 degrees for roughly 25 minutes, turning over vegetables once. 

When they started to smell really good and feel soft when poked with a spatula (a very precise method of testing tenderness, might I add), we took them out of the oven and spread them out over the pizza. For a little juiciness, we sliced some roma tomatoes and layed them out on top of everything a little shake of Italian seasoning on top for good luck and once more in the oven it went; 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

This pizza was a winner. The veggies were soft and bursting with flavor from the roasting. The spread gave the pizza a nice creamy, balanced base.

Overall, this took roughly 45 minutes total to prepare and cook! An easy, delicious, healthy weeknight meal!

Do you make pizza? What's the best/worst/most surprising topping you've used?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Moment In Time

Photography has always been an interest of mine, and although I've never taken a class, read a book on it, or learned anything technical about a camera, I've managed to teach myself a thing or two about getting a half way decent shot.

While I take pictures from time to time for fun, I find the act of viewing an object in multiple ways to extract the best shot an almost laborious effort. The angles are endless; capturing texture, color, and light have to be done precisely to ensure the photo has depth and evokes a feeling from the viewer.

I'm sure with some education on the subject, I'd learn how to overcome simple, beginner photo-taking mistakes...but until I get some extra money and time, I'll play with the set settings on my little point and shoot and hope for the best.

I've learned about texture:
You can use a macro setting to capture the finest of details.

I've learned about light:
It's really tough to work with a simultaneous dark and light. 
These pictures were taken from the same spot in some underground caverns.

This photo is nothing to write home about. It's out of focus and the colors are very bland.

This photo is taken from the same spot using a different setting. While it's still not that great of a shot, there's more definition of objects, deeper shadows, and an overall spookier feel.

A little more time down in the caverns proved to buff me up on lighting
And then shooting outside:

I learned about angling:

And just recently, a little with filters!

I made this...

...into this!

While I get lucky with a good shot once in a while, there is so, so much more to learn.

The inspiration from the world around us is endless, and it's wonderful to be able to capture a moment in time from your perspective and then have that moment forever.

What do you struggle at in photography? What do you excel at? Do you have a favorite subject to photograph?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sneaky Greens

Technology can be both a blessing and a curse.

In my case lately, I've been doing a lot of cursing at it - my cell phone is on the fritz and computer is struggling to stay afloat. Between the past few weeks when we had no internet, to now having access but nothing wants to keep a battery charge long enough to receive a text message, it's all quite frustrating.

But we've done it to ourselves, right? Remember when texting first became mainstream?!? Now, it's become most common to ONLY use a phone for TEXTING. Who talks on the phone anymore - HA! (Kidding, of course).

I try not to get too bothered by this lack of technology because this is not who I am, but there's just so many exciting things happening right now, and I have a lot to researching to do!

Exciting thing #1: I'm going to have to get a new phone and new computer. Thanks, tax money.
Exciting thing #2: Jon and I are trying to figure a trip to California in the near future. It will be our first time there.
Exciting thing #3: I signed up for my first 1/2 marathon in May (that's 13.1 miles, baby!) Let the training begin.
Exciting thing #4: The Buffalo Sabres finally won a game in a shoot out (while this really does not impact my life in the grand scheme of things, it makes me happy)

With all these exciting things happening and, all the while having  to work with broken technology, I've been back to basics in my cooking lately.

Using simple ingredients and some fun extras make all the difference to battle a mid-day slump. Also, being sure to get enough vitiamins and minerals is essential in being able to keep moving throughout the day.

I've been kale-ing my little heart out.

Kale is commonly used for garnish in chain restaurants, but it's very well known as a side dish or lunch around this house!

Kale is a great way to help get some iron and protein into a meatless diet. Check out that Vitamin A and C percentage, too! Wowzers!
(This is for 1C kale; raw, cooked, baked, or boiled)
It's versatile, too!

Sweet Sauteed Kale:
A very simple, beginner way to have kale is to saute de-stemmed kale leaves in a tablespoon on olive oil, and then add some raisins and walnuts.

You'll need:
Roughly 3 cups washed, de-stemmed kale leaves
1/4 raisins and or dried cranberries
2 T chopped walnuts
1-2 T olive oil
Dash of salt
To make:
1. Warm olive oil in saute pan
2. Add kale leaves and cover. Stir occasionally.
3. When the kale leaves begin to let out moisture and become soft, add the raisins. Cover and let cook for about 3-5 minutes. The raisins will absorb some of the moisture from the kale and become plump.
4. Add the walnuts and dash of salt (if desired) and let cook for about 2 minutes.

While raw kale is a little bit bitter and tough, when it's cooked, its flavor and texture becomes softer and more enjoyable. The raisins in this dish help bring out sweetness cut any leftover bitterness, and the walnuts add some crunch-factor and extra health benefits, too.

You can also choose to add more veggies to your veggies!

Salty Sauteed Kale
You'll need:
Roughly 3 cups washed, de-stemmed kale leaves
1/2 C sliced baby bella mushrooms
1-2 T olive oil 
1 T Earth balance (to make it vegan) or 1 T butter (to make it vegetarian)
Dash of Adobo light seasoning (or roughly 1 t garlic powder, 1 t onion powder, a few shakes of salt, and a few shakes of pepper)
To make:
1. Warm olive oil in saute pan
2. Add mushrooms and cook until they begin to soften.
2. Add kale leaves and cover. Stir occasionally.
3. When the kale leaves begin to let out moisture and become soft, add the butter. Stir and cover.
4. Last, add the spices, stir and let cook for about 3 minutes.

Pictured here next to the lentil burger and tomatoes.

If you've never tried kale as a main component of your cooking, it's time to give it a try. If anything, it's a good excuse to get a lot of vitamin C and fight off any winter colds!

Do you use kale often? You have a favorite dish to make using kale? 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale

Sierra Nevada
Southern Hemisphere Harvest
Fresh Hop Ale


Brewed and bottled in Chico, CA

Look: Amber/Carmel colored

Malts: Pale and Caramel
Yeast: Top-fermenting ale yeast
Bittering hops: Pacific Halertau

Taste: Slightly bitter with a strong hoppy after-taste (not as bitter as an IPA, but is certainly reminiscent of one in terms of after-taste.)
-Hints of citrus and perhaps pine

Other notes: This ale features fresh hops from New Zealand (hence the name Southern Hemisphere Harvest). The hops are picked as whole cones, dried, and shipped to the brewery in CA within days of their harvest.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sharing the knowledge!

This past week, I've had more than one person ask me about how to live a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle and what were some key food components to my everyday routine.

The first thing I always stress is: it's not as hard as it seems. Really! And it's delicious, too! You just have to keep an little arsenal of goods and learn to be creative.

Since I started cooking/eating this way, I've always found breakfast and dinner to be the easiest meals to make. Breakfast is almost always a green monster (specifically the smoothie I featured on Halloween) and then dinner is a hearty, filling meal that usually produces leftovers for Jon's lunch the next day.

I usually plan the week's dinners in advance so there's never really a question of what to make...we have a list of meals and set ingredients that are just begging to be made at the end of the day.

But, lunch is a fickle meal - it can't be too filling and it can't be too sparse. There has to be enough carb component to keep me moving through the afternoon, but it can't be so heavy that it feels like an anvil in my belly.

I've developed some lunch solutions this past year that are waaaay more interesting and flavorful than the typical, proto-type vegetarian salad-lunch...

1. Wraps.
They're fast to make and the possibilities are endless. They're usually composed of:
- 1 Flat Out Wrap (usually the  original light kind, but they have different flavors, too!)
- A spread (e.g., hummus, olive spread, pesto, re-fried beans, tomato paste)
- 1/4 cup of a soft bean (e.g., black beans, great northern beans, kidney beans)
- Lots of veggies (basically everything and anything you can think of here: avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, corn, cucumbers, carrots...whatever fits the "theme" of the wrap)
- Some kind of sauce/dressing for a little flavor (e.g., mustard, hot sauce, salsa)

2. Soup (with something in it). Usually composed of:
 - Well, soup! We always buy (organic) Imagine soup (e.g., red potato, sweet potato, Butternut squash, tomato)
 - 1/4 - 1/2 cup of beans or lentils to give it some substance.
 - Some spices to give it a zing (e.g., Adobo light sodium, garlic, onion, cracked pepper)

3. Grain and veggie bowl. Usually composed of:
 - One kind of hearty grain (e.g., brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, wheatberries)
 - A variety of veggies that taste good warmed up (e.g., edmame, corn, sweet peppers, peas, mushrooms, sauteed spinach)
- Maybe a chopped up bocca burger for a little something more to chew on
- A sauce/dressing of some kind (I almost always give my grain bowls a good dash of hot sauce, but I suppose you could always use salsa, vinaigrette, or tahini sauce)

These have proven to be fast, easy, filling lunch solutions and they've become trusted lunch buddies.

Do you have a favorite go-to lunch to make?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Finally Winter

Well, it's about time!
 Winter finally decided to show up to Buffalo.

I was beginning to worry it might not snow at all this winter, but I was proved wrong this past Thursday-Friday. We got around 3-5 inches of snow in about 12 hours. It was a great scene to wake up to -  I don't think looking out the window to a fresh blanket of snow will ever get old for me.

When the fresh snow sticks to the dark, wet branches, it creates a beautiful contrast. 

It's wonderful to take a walk in the woods when it's snowing because when the air is cold, sound actually travels faster through the air than when it's warm outside. So, when you're walking in the woods during the winter, you can actually hear the snow hitting the ground. It's humbling, almost, to hear such a delicate event.

So, what's better to accompany a snow storm than a warm, hearty breakfast? Here's an easy recipe that will keep you warm, full, and stocked with energy for a day of play in the snow.
Creamy Pumpkin Oatmeal
 (For 1 serving)
You'll need:
1/3 C steel cut oats
1 C unsweetened almond milk
1/2 C pumpkin
2-3 T brown sugar 
1 T chia seeds
1 T cinnamon
1/2 t vanilla extract 
Walnuts (optional) 

To make:
1. In a saucepan, heat oats and milk over medium heat until mixture comes to a low boil.
2. Stir in the chia seeds and the pumpkin.
3. Heat over med-low heat for about 5-6 minutes, stirring almost constantly.
4. Add in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring almost constantly.
5. When the oatmeal looks thick, it's should be ready. Pour into bowl or mug and sprinkle walnuts and maybe some extra brown sugar on top if you're feeling adventurous.

The result is a thick, creamy, comforting winter breakfast that (like I mentioned) provides plenty of energy for outdoor winter activities.

What do you like to do when it snows? Do you even like when it snows? :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dreaming Tree: Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast 2009

Dreaming Tree: Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast 2009

Winery: The Dreaming Tree


Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon
Year: 2009

Look: Plumy purple with raspberry rim
Smell: (when poured) Soft fruit, oak-y vanilla, sugary finish.
(When swirled) Sweet upfront with a punchy grape

Taste: Slightly watery on the tongue, but fuller bodied when swallowed. More acidic than alcoholic. Vanilla finish with a hint of oak.

Overall: Average - Slightly below average

Other notes:
- Malolactic fermentation evident.
- A little flat on the tongue, but more flavor and body in the swallow.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Doughnut Holes With Maple Glaze

To make up for my absence, I'll give you a most delicious doughnut recipe...and it's guilt free!

During the holidays, when I was asked to bring an appetizer or dessert to parties, I wanted to bring something a little non-traditional. I figured everyone already had their spinach artichoke dip in the oven and their cheese and crackers all arranged on festive plates...I wanted to bring something a little sweet, a little spicy, and a lot Vegan. 

When people tasted my holiday treats, I wanted to be able to slide in, "oh, and it's vegan, too". 

It's tough to break the stigma of a no meat, no dairy diet, but these little babies sure did the talking...

Pumpkin Spice Doughnut Holes (with maple glaze)
recipe from OhSheGlows

You'll need:
1 T water 
1/2 T ground flax 
1.2 t egg replacer (I just used more ground flax) 
1 T water 
1/4 t apple cider vinegar 
1/3 cup soy milk or almond milk 
1/4 cup pumpkin 
1/2 t pure vanilla extract 
1/2 cup white sugar (I used raw cane sugar) 
3/4 cup + 2 T all purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour when I made them) 
1 t baking powder 
1/2 t salt (or a bit less) 
1 t cinnamon 
1/2 t nutmeg 
1/4 t ginger 

Maple Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar 
1.5 T pure maple syrup 
1.5 t soy milk or almond milk

To make:  
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Mix the egg replacer with the tablespoon of water and whisk together in a bowl. Next add the ground flax and 1 T water and whisk. In a separate small bowl mix together the vinegar and the soy milk and set aside. In a saucepan over low heat, add the pumpkin, vanilla, sugar, and EVOO. Stir well several times until sugar dissolves. Now add the flax mixture and stir well. Finally add the soy milk mixture and stir well. Make sure you keep the saucepan on the lowest heat setting as you only want it to get warm. 
2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg). Now take the wet mixture and beat it on high speed to get it frothy and bubbly (see picture below). Now pour it over the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined but no longer. It should only take about 10 strokes to mix the batter. 
3. Now spoon the dough into un-greased doughnut pans or shape the doughnuts or doughnut holes by hand using wet hands. Bake for 11 mins. 
4. While baking, make the maple glaze. 
5. Maple Glaze: Stir the powdered sugar, maple syrup, and soy milk very well. You might want to sift your icing sugar beforehand to get the clumps out. If your mixture is too thick, add soy milk gradually to thin out. 
6. After removing the doughnuts from the oven, let cool for a couple minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. 
7. Once they are cool, dip them in the maple glaze and let sit to dry.

 Makes 20 mini doughnuts.

The result was a spicy, sweet, dense (because of the whole wheat flour) treat. Definitely a crowd-pleaser!

Did you make any 'different' treats this holiday season?

New year, new internet!

Hello friends! 
I'm back...and it's about time, huh? We finally got an internet connection last week, so I'm back in business.
Besides not being able to blog and keep up on my blog roll, the worst part of having no internet was not being able to do online shopping during the holidays! Relying on spotty WiFi from coffee shops to get a good bulk of my shopping finished did not help my holiday spirit. But, the presents were bought, delivered, and Christmas was a success. *Whew*

One thing I did a lot of during my internet black out was catch up on my reading! I forgot how much I missed binge reading :)

I got through:

Into The Wild
By: Jon Krakauer

A young man from a well-to-do family who can't deny his contempt of materialistic society ventures across the country towards Alaska to live off the land and find peace in the most wildest of climates.

Mother Earth, Father Sky
By: Sue Harrison

Young Chagak is thrown cruelly into womanhood and is forced to survive, cope, and overcome her situations in the primitive arctic world.

The Adventures of
Huckelberry Finn
By: Mark Twain

The classic character of Huckleberry Finn narrates his shenanigans and provides a playful view of a boy's childhood adventures.

Kitchen Confidential
By: Anthony Bourdain

A deliciously gritty view of the restaurant business, the people who work in it, and the 'real way' the whole operation works.

Along with reading, there was also much cooking, baking, eating, drinking, visiting family, cheering on our struggling Buffalo Sabres and trying to burn calories at the gym as fast as they were being consumed.

So, as you can imagine, I have a lot of recipes and wines to share, and now, all the internet to do so! Keep your eyes peeled! 

Did you get to do any reading during the holidays? What book(s) are you currently reading?