Friday, February 7, 2014

An Early Valentine's Day Celebration.....

This will be my last post until the end of the month, because my husband and I are leaving for our whirlwind adventure in Costa Rica! I can’t wait to get out of this cold and dreary Midwest winter and into the warm and soothing rays of the sun! This trip will be more a trip of solitude and adventure then trips previous, we’ll largely be on our own outside of major cities. There will be a lot of time spent hiking in the National Parks, Visiting Ecological Reserves and Lazing on the Beach. Exactly what we need.

Since we’ll be in Costa Rica for February 14th I decided I’d make us a special Valentine’s Dinner before we left so that we wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to have a big decadent meal. Unfortunately since we were quite busy on Monday, we ended up eating quite late, which meant I was a bit neglectful with my photo taking. Rather then photograph each individual dish as I normally do I just took a picture of the plate. Sorry, but C’est la vie!

For the main Pièce de résistance I decided to try something new, and so I made the Seitan Mignon from “The Gentle Chef Cookbook” by Skye Michael Conroy. This was a book I was eager to get my hands on, but it seems I never have the time to actually cook from it. What better time then a holiday right? This was a bit of work to prepare. First you need to make your own beef broth which was actually pretty easy just time-consuming, but man it sure smelled good when it was simmering! Then you make the seitan dough, then you simmer the dough in the broth for an hour. Then the seitan needs to be refrigerated for eight hours. So I made the broth last Wednesday, the Seitan last Thursday and finally seared it up red-wine and Earth Balance style for our dinner Monday night.

Now, I’ve never had actually Filet Mignon in my life - and I’m proud of that! - so I have no idea what it’s suppose to be like, but as far as seitan goes this one was very mild. Not much aftertaste, and it was super juicy, and very tender. My twin brother E says he always hated Filet because it would crisp on the outside and be bland and mushy on the inside. If that’s how filet actually is then textually I think this version comes very, very close to that description - albeit with better flavor.

My husband really loved it, especially since I served it with sauteed onions and mushrooms! Flavor-wise I thought it was great, and I loved the seared outside, but I’m just not sure I was thrilled with the texture.  Overall it was worth trying though, and I always enjoy trying new things.

Since I’ve never eaten Filet before I wasn’t really sure what was appropriate to serve with it, but judging from all the steak commercials on t.v. people typically serve meat with potatoes and a token green, and that sounded good to me. I was really in the mood for asparagus and so I steamed some up and dressed it in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, garlic and black pepper.

Then I made the Papet Vaudois recipe from Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s book “The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions.” I love this little book and I’ve actually had my eye on this recipe for a while. It’s super simple, and yet super delicious. Potatoes, onions and leeks sauteed until brown and crispy then add veg broth, white wine, non-dairy milk, salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and liquid smoke - cook until creamy, So good!

We also had some toasty warm French bread and downed the whole thing with a couple of bottles of wine. One bottle of Riesling brought back from our trip to Wurzburg, Germany - I actually opened this by accident - oops! - happy accident though because it was AMAZING! And then a bottle of Italian Red that was quite a bitter contrast to the Riesling, but it did the trick.

For dessert, because I didn’t have the time to do any baking of my own, my wonderful husband picked us up a couple of slices of cake from The Chicago Diner. Once slice of Triple chocolate for him, and one slice of Chocolate Peanut butter for me. Which we enjoyed with entirely too much Coconut Bliss. I think out of the two flavors I picked up the Salted Carmel Chocolate was our favorite but the Ginger Cookie Crunch was pretty darn good too!

I hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s Day - See you when I return!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

January Cleanse Part 5...

I’m gearing up to go on vacation again, and so things have been kind of hectic around here. Lots of running around to get last minute things done, and lots of pressure to ger work on my final project for school squared away before I leave. Not to mention work, and all the regular duties of life. So this past week was slightly more slack in terms of the cleanse - meaning, we had some dessert, we ate a burrito from Chipotle, and I allowed myself another latte while I was bathing suit shopping Monday. All in all the week went pretty well, although despite originally wanting to continue the cleanse up until the day we left, I decided to end the cleanse Sunday. I’ll continue to eat healthfully until we leave, but I won’t be posting about it because A) I haven’t got the time, and B) We need to use up all the food we have in the fridge so the meals won’t be all that exciting. Probably a lot of salad, ha.

So in part 4 I left off on Friday. The next day started the same with a 12oz green juice, and then instead of a smoothie I decided to go for something a little different. I was really in the mood for cereal for some reason and my husband had just picked up a bag of unsweetened, rice puffs. The only ingredient is rice! They’re kind of bland to be honest, but I also kind of love that, call me crazy. To the puffs I added 1 tbsp of chia seeds, 2 tbsp of ground flax, some dried cranberries, and some dried golden raisins, then I topped it off with plain almond milk. Super delicious and surprisingly filling.

Lunch was a mixed green salad that I threw together with some of that artichoke aioli for dressing.

Dinner was leftover Chickpea and Root Veggie Tagine from Crazy Sexy Kitchen.

Sunday breakfast was the same, juice, and rice puffs cereal. Salad for lunch. Dinner was an entirely new dish though, and it was super amazing. Right now I’m doing some recipe testing for Richa of Vegan Richa and so for dinner I made her Simple Mung Dal Tadka. This dal was so flavorul despite it being very simple and we enjoyed it so much. I really loved the flavor of the mustard seeds and the asafetida.

Monday we spent a good hour or so juicing in the morning. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of our creations. I made the grapefruit/orange mix again, but this time I also added some apple and ginger and it was simply divine. Then I made some very green juice of celery, cucumber, kale, collards, lemon, lime, and spirulina. Then I made some beet juice. One batch had beets, oranges, carrots, and ginger. The other hand beets, apple, ginger, tomato, and lemon. Both excellent and perhaps my favorite mixes after the grapefruit/orange. Over the course of the week I just rotated these juices in the morning. Then followed the same pattern for the rest of the day, rice puffs cereal, salad or leftovers for lunch. Dinners were always new.

Except Monday while we were out we decided to grab an impromptu Sushi Lunch at a place called MoonSun Sushi. We’d never been there before but we were driving by and it just looked so inviting. We ordered green tea, hot plum saki, miso soup and then Avocado rolls, cucumber rolls, shiitake mushroom rolls and vegetable tempura rolls. It was delicious, and really hit the spot. We enjoyed our self so much, and enjoyed the atmosphere of MoonSun Sushi so much that we’re thinking of making Monday Sushi Lunch a regular thing.

Monday we enjoyed the Coconut Cauliflower Curry with Mustard Greens and Spinach from Wild About Greens by Nava Atlas. I was super excited to try this because I don’t know of a lot of recipes that utilize mustard greens. Overall though I thought the dish was just so-so, I felt it was missing something but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Still I really applaud the use of mustard greens, a seriously under utilized green!

Tuesday for dinner I made the Indian Chickpea Blinis with Cashew Coconut Chutney from Crazy Sexy Kitchen. These little chickpea pancakes were delicious! And the chutney was to die for. The picture I’ll admit looks a little brown, but don’t let that fool you. This is probably one of the best things I’ve made out of CSK, I’m sure I’ll be making this regularly now.

Wednesday night for dinner we had the simple yet wonderfully flavored Asian Noodles with Black Vinaigrette from Crazy Sexy Kitchen. This is like a Soba noodle salad full of delicious raw veggies like cabbage, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, snow peas, carrots, sprouts and I added green onions. The vinaigrette was a basic Asian style dressing with sesame, rice vinegar and agave. Very tasty!

Also on Wednesday I just couldn’t help myself. I wanted dessert, and so I made the Black Eyed Pea-nut Butter Pie from Kathy Hester’s wonderful book The Great Vegan Bean Book. This pie sounded so unique I had to give it a shot, and so I picked up some frozen whole wheat pie crusts - didn’t feel like making my own - and whipped this together in now time. It’s super simple, all it is is black eyed peas, peanut butter, agave, almond milk and chocolate chips. It’s practically guilt-free and so I didn’t feel to bad about enjoying this throughout the week. At less then 200 calories per slice how can you go wrong?

Since my husband doesn’t like peanut butter I decided to make him a treat as well, and so I also whipped up a batch of Kathy Hester’s Double Chocolate Devil’s Food Cookies also from The Great Vegan Bean Book these were super cakey, and super moist, and the fun part is that they’re made with black beans! I also used date sugar in place of the regular sugar called for and added a few drops of stevia for added sweetness. I think in the end they turned out phenomenal and again, practically guilt-free. It’s nice to be able to enjoy a ‘decadent’ dessert without having to feel too badly about it. Most of these my husband ate in no time at all, but I did sample a few over the week. How could I not?

Thursday’s dinner was another dish that I was testing for Richa. It’s Cauliflower, Carrots and Peas in a Coconut Poppy Seed Curry. This was amazing, My husband nearly devoured the entire pot. It had such great flavor and such a great aroma, we just adored it. I served it with a side of some jasmine rice I’ve had in the pantry for way to long. I jazzed it up a bit with some cumin seeds and garlic and it was really a perfect accompaniment to the curry.

Friday was the night we ate Chipotle. I was tired, and stressed, didn’t feel that great and didn’t feel all that much like cooking. Plus I just really, really wanted a burrito you know? So my wonderful husband picked us up some dinner, we got the new Tofu Sofritos Burrito and I’m not gonna lie, it was delicious!

Saturday I made dinner. A new dish also from Kathy Hester’s book The Great Vegan Bean Book. Another curry - I know, we ate a lot of curry this week, so sue me, - I have actually had my eye on this particular dish since I first purchased the book, but for some reason or other I just never got around to making it. The Kalpana’s Black Eyed Pea Curry was really worth the wait though. I loved the flavors a bit tangy, a bit spicy, everything you could want in a curry. I was kind of burnt out on rice though and so instead I steamed kale to serve with it, and it was a great way to enjoy this yummy curry.

Sunday nights dinner was pretty basic. It was just a big bowl or rice, steamed sweet potatoes, steamed kale, red cabbage, avocado, green onions and yellow bell pepper dressed in an Asian Ginger Sesame sauce. Very tasty, and exactly the kind of thing I enjoy eating, only I was kind of in a rush when I got home from work and forgot to take a photo.

So that wraps it up. The cleanse has been fun, I’ve felt really good eating so clean over the past month, and I’ve really enjoyed sharing it all with you. I didn’t loose weight as most people do on cleanses but I think that has more to do with the fact that I hardly exercised at all this month. The best feeling for me is just the satisfaction of knowing Im doing something good, and you know, I didn’t miss sugar as much as I thought I would. I allowed a little here and there on the cleanse but it’s nowhere near the amount I’m used to consuming and somehow it ended up being a perfect amount. I think I’ll continue the juicing trend when I get back from vacation because I really enjoyed that a lot, and I definitely need to incorporate more big salads into my daily routine, I loved that about the past month. So many salads. I also really love the idea of finding new ways to satisfy sweet cravings and I think I’ll probably make Kathy Hester’s desserts more frequently rather then go for the bad stuff.

So I hope you enjoyed this experiment as much as I did.