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Good eats

My favorite cookbooks this fall

October 28, 2016

I am a cookbook fanatic! My favorite is when every recipe has a photo, so I know exactly what I’m getting myself into. Pinterest is great and all, but sometimes getting flour or onion on my keyboard just bums me out. Then I reach for my trustworthy cookbooks (and recipe cards! Hands up if you still use recipe cards!).

I find myself using a few cookbooks over and over again, and am never disappointed with how my meals turn out. So I thought I’d share them with you.

  1. Erin McKenna’s Bread and Butter. I have struggled for so. long. trying to make gluten-free and vegan breads. Erin has everything all figured out, and everything I make tastes exactly like the gluten-filled, non-vegan regular version. The pizza crust and the biscuits are two of my favorites.
  2. Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking. I don’t think it’s any secret how much I love Dana from the Minimalist Baker. Seriously, everything I ever make from her cookbook and website is killer! I can’t even choose a favorite, that’s how delicious everything is.
  3. Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry. You’ll find all kinds of kitchen staples in this book, along with some tried and true favorites like soups, pastas, and breakfast items. While not everything is gluten-free, it’s easy enough (usually) to make substitutions. Favorites right now are the eggless mayo and the cream of mushroom soup.
Good eats

Restaurant review: Zzest Cafe & Bar

October 9, 2016

Being a gluten-free/vegan couple, going out to eat can cause problems, especially in a town the size of Rochester. For once, Keith isn’t the problem, as many restaurants are aware of gluten allergies and have substitutions available. It’s now me who struggles to find something beyond fries at the majority of places.

We really enjoy going out to eat, but it’s gotten to the point where I know the one or two dishes I can eat at any given restaurant and I’ve eaten them all enough to be over it, for the most part. And I’ve griped a bit about the lack of vegan options available in this town, but until someone opens a vegan restaurant, I’m having to make do with what is here right now.

Last night, we tried Zzest Cafe & Bar. We were celebrating our two-year wedding anniversary and went for dinner with some wonderful friends. I called ahead earlier in the week to see if our diets could be accommodated, and we were not disappointed!

For starters, our server was incredibly knowledgeable. He immediately knew what was already gluten-free and what options could be made gluten-free. And while he was somewhat familiar with what could be made vegan, he went and grabbed the owner’s daughter, who works at the restaurant and is vegan. She shared a number of choices, and honestly, it was really hard to decide what to eat! Here’s a rundown of our dinner:

I started with their newly released winter cocktail (released just this week) and it was incredible! The base was port wine, and it was filled with fall spices and topped with mint leaves. Just like the server said, while the drink is served on ice, it will warm you up with its flavors, and it did not disappoint. One of the best cocktails I’ve had, hands down.

We had skordalia to start, a garlic potato white bean spread. Again, incredible, and they brought gluten-free crackers for Keith so he could have some too. I had the roasted cauliflower with no parmesan. Roasted with golden raisins and cornichons (which are tiny little pickles that are delicious), it was fabulous. I had a glass of white wine recommended by the server and, while I’m normally not a big white wine girl, it went so well with the roasted cauliflower, I’m glad I took his advice.

Keith had the flank steak and was very impressed. He is quite picky when it comes to steak, so they got a thumbs up from him. To finish the night, Keith had the dark chocolate sorbet and I had the pear riesling sorbet, which was bursting with pear flavor, a great finish to a great meal.

Final thoughts: We will definitely be going back to Zzest. It’s got great atmosphere, the food is delicious, and the knowledge and care of the servers really made for a fabulous dinner.

Good eats

What I ate

September 29, 2016

This past summer, I participated in my first CSA. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Basically, you pay for a share of the farm, and once a week you get a box full of fresh produce. We split a box with some friends, which was a great introduction to what to expect, and I’ve absolutely LOVED having fresh produce each week and trying to figure out what to make with ingredients I’ve never used before, or finding new ways to use familiar ingredients (I’m looking at you, eggplants!).

At the suggestion of a friend, I thought I’d do a “what I ate” post this week. I managed to take a few photos of my food, though I definitely missed a few meals, and forgot until about halfway through with others. Still, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been eating lately.

I started the week off with a bang on Sunday and had a delicious homemade brunch. Hand-scredded hashbrowns (yes, my shoulders were very tired, but it was totally worth it) and eggless benedict, a recipe from the Minimalist Baker cookbook. Eggs benedict was one of the meals I miss most as a vegan and let me tell you, her hollandaise sauce kills it! Absolutely delicious.

A Beautiful Mess inspired the marinated tempeh, chimichurri sauce and wild rice. I’ve been obsessed with chimichurri since adding it to my tofu tacos at Forager, and it’s so freaking easy to make at home. You’re going to be seeing a hell of a lot more chimichurri around here.

We’ve gotten an abundance of eggplant in our CSA this summer, so it’s been interesting trying to find exciting ways to use it. I’m a huge fan of eggplant parmesan, and so is my husband, who likes anything with pasta and tomato sauce.

A sneak peek at my go-to breakfast item, mashed avocado on toast (or english muffin or bagel) with sriracha on top. Bonus if you add some Sandwich Sprinkle from Penzey’s.

These potato nachos were out of this world good! Their inspiration came from a bunch of green onions I grabbed at the farmer’s market this weekend, and the vegan queso (from Minimalist Baker…what can I say, I’m a huge fan!) was insane!

And finally, I made this espresso chocolate torte on a toasted hazelnut crust for a get-together this week. It comes from the Oh She Glows cookbook, and I’m excited to dig into it tonight.

So there you have it, a glimpse into what I ate this week! This was kind of fun, so maybe I’ll do it more often (if I remember to take some decent photos).

Blog life Good eats

Onesies and cookies

December 17, 2015
(Scroll through the photos for a more full look at our cookie creations.)

There’s an annual tradition I greatly cherish: onesie night and Christmas cookie baking with one of my dear friends. While we typically stretch out the festivities into two different occasions, tight schedules prohibited that this year. So last weekend, we crammed the two of them together!

The day was filled with festive mimosas (orange juice, champagne and cranberry vodka), powdered sugar, our favorite onesies and her two adorable dogs.

It’s traditions like this that constantly remind me how lucky I am to be surrounded by wonderful people. And how much I love cookies.

Good eats

Vegan holiday recipes

December 15, 2015

This past Thanksgiving, my husband and I hosted my mother and brother for the day. We had planned a fabulously traditional meal and spent quite a few hours working on it. But it was a relaxed, joyful cooking experience. And yes, it was vegan (except for the turkey, but that was all on my husband).

keith turkey

While the hubs catered to the turkey, mom and I began prep for the rest of the meal. We spent a good few hours in the kitchen together, something I absolutely cherish. We were on no time restraints, since there were only the four of us, which meant if we ate late, it didn’t matter. There was something so serene about sharing my kitchen with my mom after sharing hers while growing up.

thanksgiving table

In short, it was a day I know I will look back on with a full heart for the rest of my life.

With the holidays quickly approaching (Christmas is NEXT WEEK you guys!), I wanted to share a bit about what we made on Thanksgiving and what we’re planning to bring to various Christmas gathering.

vegan thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving menu, gluten-free and vegan, consisted of the following:

Spinach and strawberry salad with walnuts and lemon poppy seed dressing

Mashed potatoes (made with almond milk and EarthBalance vegan butter)

Stuffing/dressing. I have my mom’s recipe and I use a gluten-free meat substitute. I think this was the best stuffing I’ve ever had. And I’m a stuffing connoisseur.

Gravy. You have to try this recipe; it’s so rich and delicious!

Green bean casserole. I was very pleased with how this turned out, since green bean casserole is another favorite of mine.

Veggie pot pie (that was my main course since the others had turkey)

And who could forget about dessert! There was a delicious pumpkin pie (my first time making it from scratch on my own) and chocolate cupcakes for the hubby who doesn’t like pumpkin or cinnamon.

Coming up for Christmas, we have a few potlucks and, having the special dietary restrictions we do, I’ll be making main courses to bring. Here’s what’s on the menu:

Vegan lasagna. Made it for the first time last week and it’s already a favorite. I will definitely be posting the recipe on here soon.

Jackfruit BBQ sandwiches. Apparently the jackfruit acts like pulled pork. I will be testing this recipe this week just to make sure it’s as delicious as all the hype claims.

Tempeh pate. A delicious appetizer to share that’s super simple to make.

Vegan chili cheese dip. Now a go-to for my party arsenal.

And now that I’ve made my mouth water talking about all this delicious food, I’m off to go eat!

Good eats

1 week vegan

October 21, 2015

It’s been one full week since I’ve started my vegan challenge, and I’ve already discovered so much about myself.

The first few days, food was all I could think about. What am I going to eat now? And as soon as I’d finished eating, what will I eat next? I seemed to have the word “vegan” on a continual brain loop—it was always there.

After a few slip-ups when traveling over the weekend, I feel much more confident being at home and cooking. Coming from a vegetarian diet definitely makes this a lot easier than if I had been eating meat, since I already have a good arsenal of favorite meatless recipes. What I’m doing now is mostly tweaking, taking out the butter or yogurt and finding substitutions.

That being said, I know I’m still going to struggle. But that’s okay. Being vegan isn’t about being perfect, it’s about following a lifestyle that aligns with your ethical center.

One thing I am certain I am going to struggle with is explaining my choices to others, especially my family *cough dad cough* I know I have a tendency to apologize for unnecessary things. Hello, I was raised in Minnesota, it’s what we do! That can make for some awkward social situations when I feel the need to apologize for any inconvenience I perceive, whether or not they are real.

But I was reading through The 30-day Vegan Challenge by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (which I highly recommend if you’re at all interested in going/trying vegan). In her chapter for Day 24, she tackles how to eat “confidently and joyfully in social situations” (italics my own).

Being vegan isn’t about forcing your views on someone else, making someone feel bad if they eat meat or feeling bad when you are asked why you’re not eating at a party. Here is a quick summary of what spoke to me in this chapter:

Making your own life changes is uncomfortable for others and can even be threatening to them. They often go on the defensive, either asking you any number of scientific/philosophical/ecological questions about your lifestyle choice or explaining the reasons for theirs. “You tell someone you’re vegan and that person takes it personally,” writes Patrick-Goudreau.

It can be threatening to others who maybe wish they were living up to their ethics or who believe they are and are measuring themselves next to you. That’s not what veganism is about.

One of my favorite quotes from the chapter (and there are many) reads: “When you state ‘I am vegan’ you aren’t simply saying ‘I eat vegetables.’ You are a physical representation of someone who is living a conscious life with an awakened mind and heart.” In all other aspects of my life, I strive to be aware, since I am a firm believe that an unexamined life is not worth living (thank you Luther College Paideia!). I am an avid practitioner of yoga, which is all about self-awareness. I believe in local and sustainable food sources, so it only makes sense that I fully commit to a vegan lifestyle of skating by as a vegetarian, fooling myself into thinking it’s good enough. For others, it might be. But if I stop and am truly honest with myself, it’s not enough for me.

I know this is kind of all over the place. I’m still trying to formulate coherent thoughts, but I have found there are many things to be thought. What you eat makes a powerful statement, even if (or especially if) you are unaware of your food choices. I am fortunate in that I truly enjoy cooking and that I love food and all that it stands for (and there are huge political and economic consequences to what and how we eat).

If you’re curious, here are a few things I’ve been eating this past week:

Breakfast – fruit smoothies, oatmeal with almond butter, nuts, dried fruit and cinnamon, and hash browns (just cook them in oil, not butter!)

Lunchcurried dal from Oh She Glows (I’m obsessed with this recipe!) and other dinner leftovers

Dinner – Burrito bowls (cilantro lime rice, black beans, corn, sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms and homemade salsa), chickpea salad (chickpeas, carrots, celery, veganaise, Dijon mustard)

I am so excited to be on this journey. And, like much of life, being vegan isn’t a destination, it is a journey. Thanks for being here as I start mine.

Good eats

Canning salsa

August 25, 2015

I have a salsa recipe that was given to me by an old roommate (thanks Kelly!). I’ve since altered it a tiny bit but still love it every bit as much. This salsa is great for canning but you could also make a smaller batch and eat it fresh. It’s just as delicious!

Ingredients

  • 6 lbs tomatoes. I use a combination of simple canning tomatoes and heirloom for variety.
  • 1 large onion
  • 4-5 jalapenos (depending on size and how spicy you like your salsa)
  • 1 package Mrs. Wages salsa mix (I usually go for the hot variety, but you can use any)

Instructions

1. Begin by blanching your tomatoes. Cut an X into the bottom of each fruit and place into a pot of boiling water. Don’t overcrowd them; you might have to do a few waves. Boil for about 1 minute, until the skin starts to peel off. Immerse the tomatoes in ice water, then peel skin off and core the tomato.

2. While you’re blanching your tomatoes, sterilize your canning jars. Submerge jars (full of water) into your canner and boil for 10 minutes. It can take a while to boil since there is so much water in the canner, which is why I start this early.

3. Blend up your tomatoes to a consistency you like. I like mine well-blended. Pour into a roasting pan or large pot, whatever will hold the amount you have. At this time, blend up your onion and jalapenos as well. Make sure you wear gloves when handling the jalapenos, those suckers can burn your eyes!

4. Pour all tomatoes, onion, jalapenos and salsa mix into your roasting pan or pot. Since I tend to make a double batch, a roasting pan works really well. Place on the stove and boil. Your purpose here is to get rid of much of the liquid.

5. To assist in liquid removal, you can place a colander in your roasting pan. Press down softly, wait a few minutes, and you will see an abundance of liquid. Use a measuring cup to scoop this out. Continue removing liquid until the salsa is a consistency you like. I like mine quite thick, so this process can take a while. Which is actually perfect, because my canning water takes a while to boil!

6. When your salsa is to your liking, pour into your sterilized jars. I have a canning funnel my grandma used, and it’s a life saver. Make sure to leave 1/2 inch of headspace in the jars, and keep your rims clean.

7. Once your jars are full, dip your finger into some warm water and wet the rim of each jar before you seal it. Don’t fully tighten the tops. Close them securely but don’t overtighten. You will tighten them more once they come out of the canner.

8. Place your sealed jars into your canner and boil for 15 minutes. Take the jars out and listen for the tell-tale “pop” of the top to let you know they’re fully sealed. Once the jars are cool enough to handle, tighten the lids fully and label with the month and year.

If you have extra salsa that won’t fit in your jars, it will keep in the fridge for a week or so. But, if you’re anything like me, there’s no way it will last that long!

Good eats

Podcasts and dessert

March 18, 2015

I’ve recently started listening to the Serial podcast, a spinoff of This American Life. I’ve only gone through two episodes because I’m trying to savor every one and not binge because I know how sad I’ll be when it’s over.

That being said, I’m still trying to figure out what I can do for 50 minutes where I can just listen. And focus. Because often I’ll have the radio on but I will get really absorbed in a project and have no idea what I’ve been listening to. With Serial, I really want to fully listen to each episode. But I have a problem sitting still and just listening. Going for a walk is always an option, I know, but it’s gotten cold again and I’m being particularly wussy at the moment. I’ve packed while listening, which has worked, but on Monday night I wanted to listen and do something besides pack. So what did I do?

Make brownies.

Not just any brownies. No-bake almost-good-for-you chocolate-fudgey delicious brownies. No joke. I got the recipe from Minimalist Baker, an awesome blog dedicated to delicious food that takes just one bowl and 30 minutes to make and uses 10 ingredients or less.

The gist of these brownies is simple: base and frosting. The base is the healthy part; made from almonds, walnuts, dates and cocoa powder, this is a powerhouse combination for a healthy dessert.

The frosting, on the other hand, is where it becomes more dessert than health food: chocolate chips (which I used instead of the cocoa nibs recommended for the vegan recipe) and powdered sugar. The coconut oil added helps make it not as bad, but I definitely added lots of powdered sugar because I wanted the perfect consistency.

And let me tell you, I hit the jackpot!

That’s all I’ve got for you this time. Seriously, you need to try these brownies. They’re unreal and I have a feeling they’re going to become a staple dessert in my home.