Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Xmas Eve Menu

Here it is!  This year I knew I had to make most things ahead or at the last minute, because I didn't have the afternoon free to do my usual cooking marathon.

Several days before, I made the marinated mushrooms.

The day before, I made deviled eggs, crudites, tomato sauce and allrecipes.com's Two Ingredient Pumpkin Cake.  I used Betty Crocker's Gingerbread Cake & Cookie Mix and a small can of pumpkin puree.  I have a personal tradition of making gingerbread cookies and I didn't want to go without them just because I couldn't take the afternoon off...so I came up with this instead.  I am so glad I did.  While the cake doesn't have the cute factor the  decorated gingerbread people do, it's hardly a sacrifice taste-wise.  Maybe this will become my new tradition.

Before you make this, I highly recommend you read the comments posted below the recipe.  I followed the recommendation to add 2 eggs and a little sugar.  I also added my usual extra spices, and a splash of bourbon.  I topped it with one of the poster's recipe for a simple glaze made from confectioner's sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and milk.  I baked it in 4 small, gift-sized loaf pans.  It is the moistest cake ever.  I'm telling you, it is unbelievable!

The hour before, I made everything else.  For me, I made Veggie Patch Meatless Meatballs.  These are fully cooked, so all you have to do is heat them up.   I don't know why, but I don't think I've ever tried these in spaghetti--what a treat!

For the cheese course, I followed Pillsbury's recipe for Baked Brie with Raspberry Preserves, except I added chopped pecans and almonds.  I omitted the cinnamon stick.

I cut the brie recipe in half so I had extra crescent rolls.  I used a rolling pin to flatten them a bit and sealed the perforations.  Then I spread margarine in them and sprinkled some Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.  Sliced into coins, they were little buttery pinwheels that went nicely with the cold appetizers.

Anyway, back to the brie.  Warm, melty, slightly sweet, creamy, with a flaky crust.  What more could you ask for?  Very good, and different. Lots of compliments!  I am sure puff pastry would be tasty too, but I didn't have time to fuss with that.  The crescents were very tasty and quick.

Then it was on to the Nutella Chess Pie.  I created a recipe involving one of my favorite ingredients--Nutella--into a nice pie reminiscent of warm brownies that aren't quite cooked all the way yet...and you eat them anyway because they are so gooey, fudgy and good.

Well...I'm off to have leftovers of brie and spice cake.  Leftovers that are more HO HO HO than HO HUM!  (OK, I know that was really cheesy! Ha, cheesy!  See what I did there?)

Buon Natale!


Marinated Mushrooms Red & Green Deviled Eggs
CruditésBasil Pinwheels

Pasta & Meatballs Italian Bread with Olive Oil Dip

Broiled ShrimpBroiled Garlic Eggplant

Brie En Croute

Nutella Chess Pie Cookies

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Restaurant review: Z' tejas

This restaurant has a cool vibe, good music and a fun atmosphere.  We were greeted by friendly, professionally dressed staff and sat in the bar while we waited for a table. 

I asked the bartender to suggest a cocktail.  He suggested an award-winning frozen margarita swirled with raspberry liquor ("Chambord Margarita").  Lime and raspberry are two of my favorite flavors, and I wasn't disappointed. The drink was very pretty, full of tartness and refreshing.

While waiting for our dinner, we were surprised by a hot loaf of skillet corn bread.  I am a lover of corn bread but most of it ends up being dry.  This was perfect.  Tender, not greasy, just the right balance of sweetness.  I took the leftovers home and ate it for breakfast.

I had the Wild Mushroom Enchiladas.  Delicious!

We liked it so much, we went back the next night.

Verdict: A great place to blow off some steam and have a tasty dinner.

Product Review: Silk Nog

Last year, I tried So Delicious coconut nog, and I really enjoyed it.  This year I decided to try Silk seasonal nog, soymilk's tribute to egg nog.

Perhaps still prejudiced by the 1970s hysteria about soy being a virtual communist plot, I was hesitant.  I do drink soymilk every morning in my smoothies, I eat veggie burgers and veggie sausage with soy, Cool Whip and Cremora...so it's not as though I'm soy phobic.

Yet every time I try a new soy product, I experience an irrational..."Ewww, this is unnatural!"  (Really?  Drinking eggs and cream is not more natural than a liquid made from plants, right?)  Knowing that's irrational, I proceed.

As I mentioned, I tried the flavor known as seasonal nog.  Another flavor, chocolate mint, is also available.

Once again, I'm really happy I did.  It does not taste like soymilk.  It tastes exactly like "regular" egg nog and has a texture most similar to Byrne Dairy's light egg nog.

Had I realized Silk nog offered a money back guarantee if I didn't like it, I would have been enjoying it for years. 

Verdict:   mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pinto bean burgers and green bean salad

Had the most delicious lunch and I had to share! As many vegetarians, I've been on an endless quest for a homemade veggie burger that doesn't fall apart when you cook it.  This time I tried vital wheat gluten, and it worked great.  I was conservative about the amount because I was worried it would taste too doughy.  It didn't taste that way at all and the burgers were a little too tender.  Next time I'll add more.

These are made from pintos, onion, spices, and vital wheat gluten, then covered in cornmeal and fried.

"Hamburger" shaped rolls were sold out at the store so I had to improvise on the shape of my burgers to fit the "hoagie" rolls.

On the side I have some garlic ginger green beans from the Dinosaur Barbeque Cookbook that I swear taste as good as candy or potato chips. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cannellini gaspacho

When I spent a semester in Spain, I first tasted chilled soup.  They made a cool, refreshing soup out of pureed tomatoes, garlic, fresh olive oil and cucumber chunks.  I've adapted it here by adding some cooked cannellini beans before pureeing.  You actually can't taste the beans but it makes the dish heartier...which was perfect for me right after I had dental work. :)

Another healthy, delicious, gourmet, easy-to-make way to enjoy fresh summer produce and some white beans!  Here it is, packed for lunch at work.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hoover's meatless meals plan

A bit of history!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Product Review: Jif Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread

Bought a jar of this spread this afternoon.  mmmm.  Nuts, sugar, chocolate--what's not to love?

If you're expecting Nutella, don't.  This does not taste like Nutella.  I do prefer it over this new stuff, which tastes...pistachoey.  But it's still delicious!

I see they're making a mocha version as well.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Product Review: So Delicious Minis

I previously reviewed So Delicious Nog.  This afternoon I had a hankering for some ice cream and decided to try So Delicious Vanilla Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches.

This product has earned its brand name.  It has the comfort factor of the ice cream sandwiches you used to get in your school cafeteria, except somehow more sophisticated.  Very, very good--and at 100 calories, perfection.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hummus & Roasted Vegetable Wraps--easy!

I've got a lot going on so I am not inclined to fuss with anything time-consuming right now.

I bought some plain tortillas, store-bought hummus, a few red peppers and an eggplant.  I sliced the vegetables into big "fingers", tossed them with oil and roasted them.  I've been packing my lunch by putting the hummus and veg into a container, to be spread on a freshly warmed (microwaved) wrap right before eating.

I've always been a bit skeptical of the hummus sandwiches I read about in vegetarian magazines and websites.  Yet it really is extremely flavorful and satisfying.

One of my metrics on how good a meal is--how much I look forward to eating it, even if I ate the same thing all week.  This one passes! 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Learning by Doing

Ever since I was a little kid, I tend to try new things, just for the adventure of doing them.  I often will embark on an adventure and research instructions midway.  This procedure has not served me well, but for some reason the fascination is lowered if I look up the facts first. 

Yes, if it's some major undertaking, like tiling my backsplash, I get instructions first.  Little trial-and-error things, like growing something new--I like to try it out myself to see if I can come up with an innovative way to do it without being influenced by others.  This is generally a silly and unproductive way to do things. :)

Not learning from past failures, I tried sprouting lentils this week.  I make no excuses for this.  Fed up with our still-snowy weather at the cusp of May, I crave green and growing things. 

So now I've got a fresh crop of lentil sprouts in my sprouting jar.  I'm trying to get them a little bigger so I'm eating less bean and more sprout, only because I'm concerned the raw lentils won't be edible.  Lentils have a lot more fiber than many other beans--eating them raw would seem to be a form of self abuse. :) 

So then I looked it up and found this blog post.  The guacamole blended with lentil sprout puree sounds good. 

My sprouts need to get a little greener.  I'm putting them on the windowsill today to see if they'll green up.  Then bring on the experimentation!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Restaurant Review: Spuds

This bar is on the water in North Myrtle Beach.  We went for lunch recently. 

It was spotless and quiet outside on this weekday.  Service was prompt, accommodating and polite.

I ordered for my entree an appetizer of black bean cakes.  I noticed they had grit cakes in one of their entrees so I asked if I could order one to accompany my bean cakes. 

Both were excellent--surprisingly so.  I didn't realize black beans could be so moist and creamy.  They seemed to be partially pureed, covered in a thick layer of bread crumbs and deep fried until crunchy on the outside.  The grit cake, for this Northerner, was a new experience.  Lightly crispy on the outside and lightly creamy on the inside. 


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Restaurant Review: Mykonos

At Myrtle Beach recently, we were looking for something with a different cuisine than the standard Southern faire.  We saw an ad in our hotel room for this spot nearby.  It advertised a coupon for a free appetizer or dessert.  We texted the number and received the coupon on our phone a few moments later.

We chose the hummus which was homemade and superb.  They had a nice wine selection, served ice cold in generous portions.  I had the Greek salad for my entree which was excellent as well.

The exterior had a large waterfall and inside was a nice fireplace.  The decor was tastefully done and the service was wonderful.

My only disappointment was the ad said it was casual dining.   We happened to be hoping for something not casual anyway.  This restaurant is fine dining.  To me, when you have such a high end property, smartly dressed staff, low lighting, table linens and candlelight, it's fine dining.  Mr. Bean felt a little underdressed.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Restaurant Review: King David's

This is one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

As you know, one of my pet peeves is a restaurant that claims to have vegetarian options, only to have just one frozen pasta primavera with horrible cream sauce that tastes like canned cream of mushroom soup.  The truth is, I have virtually stopped bothering accompanying my omnivore companions to such establishments.  Eating in restaurants is expensive.  I am not socially needy enough to tolerate a terrible, expensive meal just to be in the company of others.  Restaurants could easily have a meat-free unique item or two.  It's not hard.  You're chefs and restauranteurs--act like it.  You're losing 10% of your potential customer base if you don't--plus their companions, potentially.

So anyway, enough of that.

King David's has many delicious options to choose from, served hot, quickly and with a smile.  The prices are very reasonable as well.  My favorites include eggplant fries, sweet potato fries, eggplant pita, falafel platter, hummus, and portobello pita.  All very delicious--none seem frozen or premade.  I can't even choose a favorite among them.

My omnivore husband is quite happy with his meat-based options as well. 

They serve local beers.  I am not a big connoisseur of beer, but I do like the Syracuse Pale Ale.

The decor and music are modern and ethnic, giving you the feeling of escape to a place far away.  Let me reiterate the service--it is fast.  I am pretty shocked they can crank out a dinner for two in what seems to be 5-10 minutes.  The staff is friendly but not intrusive.  Everyone greets you as you walk by, welcoming you in or thanking you as you're leaving.

Clearly the owners and managers are highly skilled and know how to run a business. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Product Review: Morningstar Chikn Grillers

The spell is broken.

I've written before about my love for Morningstar Grillers, breakfast sausage and Buffalo wings.  I was starting to doubt I would ever meet a Morningstar I didn't like.  And then it happened--I tried Chikn Grillers

Out of respect for the brand, I won't go into too much graphic detail.  I didn't care for the flavor, appearance or texture.  I couldn't finish it.

The next day, I happily had a plain ol' Morningstar Griller.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Product Review: Breyer Golden Oreo Ice Cream

I admit I've bought golden Oreos, broken them up and mixed them with ice cream.  I like my ice cream very chunky--more chunks than ice cream actually.

I was wandering the grocery in search of something to soothe my sore throat and my heart jumped when I saw this product.  How could I go wrong?

I didn't read the package very well.  For some reason I had it in my head that it was vanilla ice cream with cookies.  It's not--it's golden Oreo flavored ice cream with cookies mixed in. 

Over the years of excessive ice cream consumption, I've determined I rarely like ice cream that isn't one of 3 flavors--chocolate, coffee or vanilla (ALL beans!).  I like my variety in the form of chunks or sauces.

Somehow Breyer's has managed to make this ice cream itself taste freakishly similar to the cookies.  Now if that's your thang, this ice cream is definitely for you.  I still prefer Breyer's vanilla with lots of cookies.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Pie with White Wine Cream Sauce


Total of 4 ½ cups of autumn vegetables (leeks, sweet potatoes, corn, celery and mushrooms), diced finely so they are approximately a uniform size
Refrigerated pie pastry – enough for double crust
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon margarine
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese and parsley to garnish


Roast vegetables 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

Follow pastry package instructions for setting at room temperature. Line bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with one pastry.

Sauté roasted vegetables with margarine, thyme, salt, pepper and flour, just until the flour is cooked but not brown. Add white wine and stir until the sauce has thickened and is coating the vegetables. Cool on wire rack until slightly warm.

Spoon the filling into the center of the pie plate. Sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley. Cover with pastry in an open design such as lattice or a series of cutouts. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, covering edges of pastry if needed to prevent over-browning.

Serve warm.

Related post with photos of this pie: 2 Pies for Thanksgiving

Monday, February 20, 2012

A lazy beany lunch

As I mentioned recently, I'm into Morningstar products right now. Today I put almost zero effort into my lunch and it was satisfying in a junk food sorta way. I baked some Morningstar Buffalo wings and had them on a salad of mixed greens and tomatoes with a spicy ranch dressing. mmmm

The sweet appeal of the Nation of Islam's bean pie – Eatocracy - CNN.com Blogs

The sweet appeal of the Nation of Islam's bean pie – Eatocracy - CNN.com Blogs

Just when I think there is no new beany thing I haven't heard off...here we have sweet bean pie, a custardy cousin to sweet potato pie. According to the article linked above, Nation of Islam members' beliefs did not permit them to eat beans, except for navy beans. They came up with this sweet recipe.

I've seen some sweet red bean pastry recipes in my Chinese cookbook, so I guess it's not totally unheard of to eat sweet beans. Interesting...I'll put this on my list of things to try!

Happy Meatless Monday!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Molee, molee, molee!

I was on a mission to have chocolate in every single dish for Valentine's Day, just to see if it could be done. And by that, I mean done well.

Stop wrinkling your nose.

No, really, stop! It's good!

Chocolate martinis
Spring greens, avocado, fried plantain with balsamic chocolate vinaigrette
Mole tacos (for me--eggplant; for my Valentine--turkey)
Chocolate Kahlua fondue with fresh strawberries and pineapple

By the time we were done with this chocolate extravaganza, we were vowing never to eat chocolate again as long as we lived. lol

I made the mole using a jarred mole paste. The jar's instructions said to blend it with broth--I used vegetable broth. I've never had mole before and hope to make it from scratch one day. I thought I'd try the jarred version first to get an idea of what it's supposed to taste like. Unfortunately, I now have enough mole paste to last me a long time.

I really wanted to try jackfruit in the mole. I've read it lends itself to dishes calling for shredded items in sauces (i.e., a vegetarian version of pulled pork). I couldn't find it in Wegmans, though. I've never even laid eyes on a jackfruit. I suppose that will be my next food quest.

Instead, I tried eggplant for mine. One word: INEDIBLE. Those flavors do not go well together at all. The eggplant tasted sour and the sauce was just odd. My Valentine loved his turkey taco with the same sauce, so my guess is the blend of eggplant and mole was the problem.

As I said, I've never had a mole so I was taking a risk paring it with something unusual without knowing what flavors might go with it. Or maybe it was the fact that I had the "molee molee molee!" scene from Austin Powers stuck in my head. ;)

I composted the mole eggplant and filled my tacos with plantain and the cheese (a nice local soft "farmer's cheese" since our grocery was sold out of queso fresco--equally good too). That was really, really good, especially since there were some remnants of the chocolate salad dressing on the plantain. I know, it sounds so odd, but it was scrumptious.

Other than that, mission accomplished--everything else was really tasty. Is there anything chocolate can't do? (Well yes, apparently there is--go with eggplant.)

I'll post pics as soon as I find the stinking cord to my camera.

P.S. Have a nice day and treat yourself, no matter if you're solo or with a friend. Enjoy. <3

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Food: Cheap eats: How to save money but not sacrifice health | BaldwinCity.com

Here are some useful tips on healthful, inexpensive eating: Food: Cheap eats: How to save money but not sacrifice health | BaldwinCity.com

Photographs in Lunch Tray Compartments and Vegetable Consumption Among Children in Elementary School Cafeterias - — JAMA

Photographs in Lunch Tray Compartments and Vegetable Consumption Among Children in Elementary School Cafeterias - — JAMA

D'oh! Why didn't I think of this? A group of researchers placed photos of vegetables on cafeteria trays in schools and vegetable consumption increased.

We attempted to increase vegetable consumption by placing photographs of vegetables in school lunch tray compartments. We expected these photographs to indicate to the children that others typically select and place vegetables in those compartments and that they should do so too.
Advertising works!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Obsessed with tofu and meat-free substitutes

I don't know what it is about the dead of winter, but it often has me craving tofu and Morningstar meat substitutes. As you know, I usually make my own main dishes. For some reason, all I want is a Morningstar Griller. E.v.e.r.y. D.a.y.

Or tofu from the Chinese takeout shop. I haven't figured out exactly how they make it, but my guess is it's deep fried, then tossed with steamed vegetables in some sort of soy-based sauce.

Soy, soy, soy. I suppose there are unhealthier things to crave!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vegetarian spring rolls

Lately I've been lunching on what I call vegetarian spring rolls. I bought rice paper wrappers which I fill with slices of avocado, mung bean sprouts, and Asian marinated baked tofu. I dip them in a combination of white vinegar and Thai chili sauce.

Goes well with a cup of Thai coconut vegetable soup.

I've found freezing sliced avocados keeps them from browning.