Saturday, March 31, 2012

The good, the bad, and the delicious!

This past week has been quite the roller coaster. While my bad days were out numbered by my good days, sometimes the bad days are hard to shake off.

But, when I had good days, they were awesome days.

As I mentioned before, I won a pair of tickets to the Buffalo Wine Festival.

We're going tonight! I'll try to take pictures and I'll let you know how it goes!

Jon and I partook in Buffalo restaurant week for a second night at AcQua. It was a great place. They served 4 courses (although we skipped the first, which was duck), we got a table with a nice view of the lake, and our waiter was also a friend of mine from college! It was a great time.

Jon got the shrimp, scallop, and fettuccine dish

I got the mushroom pastry puff on top of seasoned rice with greens.

Jon surprised me with a beautiful pair of new turquoise earrings replace the pair he bought me while we were in Arkansas at a music festival. I lost one of the the old pair the other night while we were out. I was so sad I could have cried. They held such sentimental value to me. I tried everything to find it - I even called the restaurant we went to to see if they might have found it, but with no luck. I was pretty down about it ... until he pulled these from behind his back.
I'm a lucky girl :)

Aaannnddd I was asked to be co-maid of honor (with another of my BFFs) for my best girlfriend since 3rd grade, Dana!

This is me, Dana (with her little peanut still cooking in her belly), and Michelle
I was truly honored to be asked. I've only been in 2 weddings before - once as a flower girl and once as a bride's maid for my cousin. While these were great times, I am so very excited to be in her wedding and have this position. I don't know the first thing about being a maid of honor, but I know it's a lot of work...I have some research to do!

In the meantime, I better eat a hearty meal before the wine festival tonight . . .

Quick Banana Maple Walnut Oatmeal
You'll need:
1 C water
1/2 C quick oats
1/2 ripe banana, sliced
2 T brown sugar
3 T maple syrup
1 1/2 T chopped walnuts
1/2 t cinnamon

To make:
1. Combine oats, sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts in a microwave-safe bowl.
2. Add water and 2T of the maple syrup. Stir well.
3. Add banana slices and stir.
4. Microwave for about 3 minutes and let cool until settled.
5. Drizzle remaining 1 T of maple syrup on top of oatmeal and enjoy!

This makes 1 really hearty breakfast or 2 modest meals or snacks.
It is not too dense and has a wonderful sweet slightly caramelized banana flavor. The added maple drizzle on top gives this oatmeal a nice comforting flavor.

How do you handle roller coaster-emotion weeks?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Falafel Pie

This week is shaping up to be pretty good . . .and it's only Tuesday! It's restaurant week in Buffalo, Jon and I have reservations at 2 places, The Buffalo Sabres just took the 8th spot in the Eastern conference playoff race, and I won tickets to the Buffalo Niagara Wine festival this weekend!

First, Monday night, Jon and I had our first reservation for restaurant week at Sole restaurant on Elmwood Ave.

It's a Spanish-themed restaurant that just opened a little under 2 years ago. We both got the turmeric roasted vegetable empinada as an appetizer, the shrimp vatapa as the main course, and then Jon got avocado trifle and I got the dessert enchiladas and we split them both for dessert. While it all sounds tasty and fine, we were a tad disappointed. Aside from waiting nearly 40 minutes between courses, the flavors fell a little flat, the portions left one wanting, and the waitress even forgot to bring glasses of water.

Oh well . . .tomorrow we have reservations for AcQua restaurant.

It's supposed to be sunny and this place promises a beautiful view of Lake Erie, so maybe this experience will be a bit more pleasant. I'll let you know how it goes . . .

Another awesome part of my day was winning 2 tickets to the Buffalo Niagara Wine Festival for this Saturday evening! Jon and I have been to this festival since their premiere year and were thrilled to be able to go for free this year. This event features wineries from all over New York State and the tastings are endless. I'll let you know how this goes, too!

But, one cannot live on restaurant food alone - how about a healthy dinner recipe to help keep you on track during the week? With a little help from The Vegan Stoner . . .

Falafel Pie
You'll need:
1 box of Near East falafel mix
1/2 C water
1/2 - 1 C hummus
1 C Fat Free Plain Greek yogurt
1 Roma tomato
1 Cucumber
1/2 c pitted, chopped kalamata olives
1/2 t Lemon juice
1/4 t Garlic powder
1/4 t Onion powder

To make:
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Mix the entire Near East falafel mix with the water. Stir until combined. Press falafel mixture into a greased pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes.
3. When falafel 'crust' is done, take out of oven and slather on the hummus.
4. Next, slice the tomato and half the cucumber; arrange evenly on top of the hummus.
5. Add the sliced olives evenly on top of the pie.
6. In a blender, combine the yogurt, the other half of the cucumber (sliced and chopped), lemon juice, garlic, and onion powder. Blend until smooth (this will be liquidy).
7. Slice yourself a portion of the pie and serve in a bowl. Add yogurt sauce on top of your pie.

Does your city offer a restaurant week? Have you ever won tickets to anything?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wild Blue Lager

Wild Blue Lager

Wild Blue Lager

8% ABV

Brewed and bottled by Blue Dawg Brewing, Baldwinsville, NY

Look: Dark purple-blue body with a cranberry rim. An abundance of visible of tiny bubble carbonation.

Taste: Very sweet, syrupy, and actually tastes closer to grape pop than beer. A tinge of artificial sugar/flavor over-powers any "natural flavor". It finishes with a syrupy feel and overall is not entirely pleasant.

Other notes: I was drawn to this beer because it boasted being made from "all natural ingredients", its flavor was blueberry (I'm somewhat a fan of fruit lambic beers), and its ABV was 8%. I've had some good fruity beers and I was hopeful on this one. I bought it room temperature and let it chill in the fridge for about 24 hours.
After first taste, the distinct artificial blueberry flavor reminded me of the syrup sno-cones are made of. The carbonation bubbles were so tiny and delicate, it felt more like pop than beer.
Overall, I don't think I'll be drinking this again...but that's just me. If you enjoy a drinking a beverage that tastes like an adult version of grape soda, then, this is for you - however, immediately after I tried this, I cleansed my palate and moved on to a hearty Innus and Gunn oak-aged original :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kicked My Butt!

Have you ever done a workout and after you were were finished, you think: That's it?

But then, the next morning, your muscles are wobbly, they ache slightly, and you wonder how you'll ever stand up?

I love that.

It means you've worked hard and pushed yourself further than your muscles have been; they're healing and they're sore. But, they'll be stronger!

The other morning, I didn't have much time to work out, but I wanted to do SOMETHING, so I did these back to back . . .and it kicked my butt! You'll love it, too.

and then then this

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Low Fat Banana Maple Oatmeal Cookies

Weekends have been my sanctuary lately.
They've been my crunch-time fun time without a moment to lose. . .

 . . .filled with good company. . .
(Me and my family)

(Me and Jon)

. . .fun adventures . . .
Maple sap collecting in a deer skin pouch at Wolf Maple for Maple Weekend In Western NY

Maple glazed pop corn!

Cows munching on some dinner . . .yum, green tongue.

Jon and I visited Wolf Maple in Middleport, NY for Maple weekend. They had a bluegrass band (which was awesome), a variety of maple treats (including some super tasty soft serve maple ice cream), tours of their maple tree taps, and a bunch of very nice and knowledgeable sap collectors.

We learned about how the trees produce different grades of sap throughout the year (light, amber, medium, and dark), and how much weather factors into the production of good maple sap. The tour guide even let us put our finger under the tap to taste the sap dripping out of the tree. It was watery and slightly sweet!

We visited their gift shop and were surrounded by a plethora of maple flavored/inspired treats. I like to buy locally and support the people who work through a family business, so I picked up a couple items. I bought a ketchup bottle looking container of pure, homemade maple syrup for only $11. It was light in grade, but it was all natural and would have cost a small fortune in my local co-op.

I knew just what to make with my newly purchased maple. . .cookies!

With some help from the Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, I created these:

Banana-Maple Oatmeal Cookies (Gluten free, too!)
You'll need:
1 T ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons water
1 cup rolledolled oats
1 cup gluten free flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins (I used golden raisins)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 banana, mashed
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

To make:
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the ground flaxseed with the water and set aside.
3. Mix the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a separate medium mixing bowl. Add the raisins.
4. Add the maple syrup, vanilla, mashed banana, and lemon juice to the flax mixture and combine well. Pour into the dry mixture and stir well.
5. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined parchment paper.
6. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until bottoms and sides are lightly brown.

These cookies were soft and chewy. They were slightly sweet, but the raisins gave each bite a nice burst of sugar here and there. Also, they are gluten free and virtually fat free so, no guilt! :)

How do you spend your weekends - catching up on chores or making up for lost fun time?
Do you have a favorite maple recipe?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dashing And Dishes

After a long day at work, I was very pleased to come home to an unexpected package in the mail! With the return address being this
I had an idea of what the  package pertained to, but I didn't know what was in it. Excited for an end of the day pick-me-up, I tore into the envelope.

Inside, I found a T-shirt!
"I'm in training for the 2012 Buffalo Marathon"

The little graphic on the T-shirt basically sums up how I'm learning to train for this thing, so it's fitting.

In the past 2 weeks, I've gone from 5 to 6 to 7 miles . . . it may not seem like a lot of progress, but for a novice (like myself), it's quite the achievement! I'm learning a lot about time, speed, gradient, pace, and how to make them all work together to work in some kind of harmony so that I'm not gasping and struggling by the end of my run. The race is at the end of May, so I think I'm on a good track for training.

A while ago, I joined dailymile. This site is for people who want to record their physical activity, track their progress, and share their successes. You can share your miles ran/swam/cycled, friend other active members, and see other fun stats - like during your training, how many TVs you've powered and how many donuts you've burned. It's a super fun site.

I don't have much on there yet, but have a look at my profile if you'd like.

This past weekend, I stretched my in-training legs and went for a walk/shopping down the "artsy" part of town with my mom and sister.

With the sun shining and little to no wind, it was a great day for a shopping stroll.
We walked up and down the strip for about 2 hours, stopping at whatever little shop intrigued us.

I picked up a few little treasures that you might soon see topped with delicious treats . . .
A lovely little dessert plate

An interestingly textured little bowl

and a super awesome peacock feather looking mug.

I thought the blog could use some more flair with the dishes I use to display my food. The plain old green dishes I always use are getting a little boring, right?

Do you find certain foods look better on different dishes? Do you have a favorite dish/bowl/mug you always go to when photographing treats?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bright, Bright Sunshiny Day

So, as I briefly mentioned in my last post, Jon and I have booked a trip to San Fransicso, California! We'll be taking a few guided tours during our visit (a morning city tour, a tour through Muir Woods and into Wine Counrty for some wine tasting, and then finally to Yosemite for the day), but we also have a couple days free to do as we please!

This will be our very first time visiting the West coast and seeing the Pacific Ocean. We have a lot of research to do about the city still, but if anyone knows anything cool about San Fransisco, please feel free to share! We're interested in vegan/vegetarian restaurants, old pubs, 60s era hot spots and any little interesting city ditties that are out of the ordinary and not typical for a tourist to do.

To continue with the sunshine theme, here in Buffalo today, we felt a hint of spring! The sun was bright, the skies were blue . . .everyone and their dog was outside (and if we had a dog, he'd be outside, too!) A trip to the park was in order.
We saw waterfalls,

some of the season's first green,

sat on natural stump-chairs and pondered the meaning of life,

. . .and just acted silly in the sunshine.

It was wonderful to be outside.

So, to follow the sunshine theme, I'll give you a bright and happy dessert I experimented with a few weekends ago:

Sweet Peach Upside Down Cake
You'll need:
(for the peach layer)
2 cans of sliced peaches (or 4-5 whole, ripe peaches)
1/2 C white sugar
2 T Earth Balance
(for the cake)
1/2 C almond milk
1 t balsamic vinegar
1 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t cinnamon
3/4 C white sugar
3/4 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4t salt
2 T canola oil
1/2 C + 4 T applesauce
1 t vanilla extract

To make:
1. Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Melt the Earth Balance and evenly spread it onto the bottom of a standard pie dish
3. Evenly sprinkle the first measurement of white sugar (1/2 C) onto the bottom of the pie dish.
4. Lay your sliced peaches in a circular pattern around the bottom of the dish. Make sure you cover as much of the bottom as possible. Set pie dish aside.
4. In a small bowl, combine the almond milk and the balsamic vinegar. Stir together and set aside to curdle for about 5 minutes.
5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, 2nd measurement of white sugar (3/4 C),  baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
6. In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the canola oil, applesauce, vanilla extract, and 2 T of the curdled milk mixture. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl. Stir.
7. Add the 1/2 C applesauce to the remaining curdled almond milk, stir to combine,and add this to the rest of the ingredients in the large mixing bowl.
8. Stir all cake ingredients until combined and pour batter evenly over the peaches in the pie dish.
9. Bake for about 40 minutes - or until a tooth pick comes clean from the center of the cake.
10. When cake is cooked, take from oven and let cool completely. Once cooled, keep in the fridge until ready to serve.
11. When ready to remove cake from pie pan, put your serving dish face down on the pan, hold onto sides of dish and pie dish,and CAREFULLY flip in one motion. The cake should flip, cake side down-peach side up, onto your serving dish.

*whew* It looks like a lot of work, but it really was not that bad.
The result is a beautiful sunshiny peach layer on top of a light, slightly spongy sweet cake.

I used canned peaches which made the peach layer a little more juicy - I imagine the fresh sliced peaches might make the top layer a little more firm. Nonetheless, it was a tasty vegan treat!

What do you like to do when the spring weather arrives? Do you have any favorite spring-themed recipes?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Two from one!

Sorry it's been a while . . . the week got hectic with work, 1/2 marathon training, baby showers (oh gosh, not for me), our California trip planning (more on that later!), and Sabres games. I've still been whipping up grub, though!

When the week looks like it's going to be hectic, I try to make enough dinner so there will be leftovers for lunch the next day, and I also try to dream up food that could be used two ways.

My go to two-way foods are usually dips/spreads. With dips/spreads, I can make a big batch at one time, the flavor combinations are endless, and I can usually get one batch to last the week (depending how delicious, it is of course).

A favorite concoction is this:

Creamy Basil Avocado Dip/Spread
You'll need:
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium-sized ripe avocado
1 hand full FRESH basil leaves
1 T pizza seasoning (my pre-mixed dry spice contains Oregano, Basil, marjoram, and grain garlic)
1 T nutritional yeast
1/2 t season salt
1/4 - 1/2 t adobo light seasoning
1 t lemon juice

To make:
1. Throw all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth!

Who doesn't love a 1-step recipe?!?

This dip/spread's texture is light and fluffy/whipped. The flavor is fresh, herby, and slightly salted.

We usually dip fresh veggies into it and also pretzels and triscuits!
For lunches, I use this as a spreadable base in a wrap,and then load it up with veggies and hot sauce.
This can also be used on the roasted vegetable vegan pizza as the base (in place of the cheese).

Do you have any two from one recipes? How about any sneaky ways to make busy work week cooking easier?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Easy Vegan Cut Out Cookies (The stoned, the funny, the angry, and the appropriate)

Cut out cookies bring back wonderful childhood memories for me; they were not just synonymous with Christmas, but with almost every holiday - Valentine's day (cut out lips and hearts frosted pink), St. Patrick's Day (shamrocks and leprechauns frosted green), Easter (eggs and ducks frosted yellow and purple).

We'd make a couple dozen and bring them to school to share with friends, make a little cookie tray for the grandparents, and of course keep a few in the house for an after school snack.

The best part of cut out cookies is the decorating. You have a cookie with a general shape, but what you make of it is all up to the imagination!

My sister and I have a lot of fun decorating our family's Christmas cut outs . . .

Bob Marley Christmas Cookie (with dreads, Rastafarian colors, and little doobie)

Business Man Christmas Cookie (complete with cell phone and tie)

And, a Very Angry Christmas Cookie (with red angry eyes and big scary teeth)

Yes, cooking is CREATIVITY!

These cookies, however, are not of the stoned, funny, or angry kind, they're of the cute kind!

I'm going to a baby shower tomorrow and offered to bring a vegan treat. My first instinct was . . .cookies! Of course. After some deliberation, I settled on cut out cookies.

I wanted to do something that tied into the nursery rhyme "...frogs, snails, and puppy dog tails - that's what little boys are made of", but I didn't think bringing frog or snail cut out cookies to a baby shower would go over too well. I could just imagine it: "You think my baby will look like a frog?!?", "My baby is not a slug!" . . . I opted for the safe, socially acceptable baby duck cookie cutter from Anne Clark Ltd.

Easy Vegan Cut Out Cookies
You'll need:
2 C unbleached, sifted flour
3/4 C white sugar
1 t baking powder
1/4 C applesauce
1/2 C canola oil
1 T pure vanilla extract
1/2 t cinnamon

To make:
1. Mix together dry ingredients in large mixing bowl
2. Mix together wet ingredients in a separate, smaller bowl
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and hand mix with a fork. Careful not to over mix; this will make the dough tough.
4. Take ball of dough from the bowl and place on floured counter top. With a rolling pin, roll out dough to about 1/2'' thickness.
5. Use your cookie cutters to cut shapes into the dough. Use a spatula to get cookies off counter top and onto parchment-lined cookie pan.
6. Cook cookies at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes.

The cookies are not punchy sugar sweet, but more of a mild, shortbread-y flavor. If you really want to give them a sugar smack, frost them with vegan butter cream frosting!

Raw dough

Baked Cut Outs

Frosted and decorated (tastefully) for a baby shower!

Do you ever get silly when cooking/baking? What are some of your favorite cut out cookie shapes?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Low Fat (Yes! Low Fat) Peanut Butter Smoothie

Peanut butter is addictive. I have a hard time keeping a jar in the house for more than 2 weeks because I'll steal a spoonful whenever the mood strikes me - and with peanut butter, the mood strikes often.

While peanut butter has good protein, healthy fats, and is generally good for you in moderation, the line has to be drawn that peanut butter cannot be eaten every day . . .or can it?

During a recent grocery shopping trip, I was browsing the natural nut butters when a woman and her child came into the aisle and took a spot next to me, looking at the nut butters and spreads. She took something off the shelf, looked at its packaging for a second, turned to me and asked if I had even tried this. I looked at what she was holding and I had never seen it before - powered peanut butter.
She said that a friend told her this stuff was great to mix into plain Greek yogurt and then put in the freezer; she said it turned out like peanut butter ice cream!

I told her I've never heard of it, but that little trick sounded great. I took a jar of my own, inspected the label, and what a surprise - it was. . .low in fat! Peanut butter - low fat?!? Jackpot.
Into my cart it went.

While I haven't tried the Greek yogurt "ice cream" invention yet, I've developed a little smoothie treat!

Low Fat Peanut Butter Smoothie
You'll need:
1 banana, chopped, frozen
2 ice cubes
1/4 - 1/3 c plain Greek yogurt
2 T powered peanut butter
1 - 2 T honey
1 T chia seeds
1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk

To make:
1. Place ice cubes and frozen banana in blender
2. Next, add Greek yogurt, honey, powdered peanut butter, and chia seeds
3. Last, add vanilla almond milk
4. Blend on crush ice setting first for about 45 seconds, then liquefy for another 45seconds.
5. Pour into large glass and enjoy!

This smoothie turned out thick, slightly sweet, and with a peanutty flavor! You'll satisfy your peanut butter craving with (like the jar says) 85% less fat!

What's your favorite thing to make with peanut butter? Have you ever been randomly introduced to a product that you absolutely love?