Saturday, March 29, 2014

Recipe: Baked Macaroni & Cheese

I am so glad that I bought Chef Chloe's cookbook. This recipe is one of the reasons. I thought macaroni and cheese was history for me when I gave up dairy, but my entire family (including my omnivore husband) have fallen for this recipe. The sauce is so rich and creamy, I could eat just that!

Best-Ever Baked Macaroni & Cheese
Recipe Source: Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli 
1 pound elbow macaroni
¼ cup vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups soy, almond, or rice milk (I used soy)
½ cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. agave
2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs (I used 6 whole wheat Ritz crackers, crushed)

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, make a roux or paste by whisking the margarine and flour over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Add nondairy milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt, and garlic powder to the saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until the sauce thickens. Adjust seasoning to taste and stir in lemon juice and agave. Toss noodles with the sauce and transfer to the prepared pan. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of the pasta and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Family Photo Bloopers 2014

We did it!! We survived family photos. With the crazy year we had last year (with George's heart surgery), family photos kept getting put off. Then we found out we were having another baby and my tummy began growing. I needed to get photos of just our family of 4 before I got too big. I didn't want George to look back and think, "oh, they forgot about me" when it came to family pictures (our last family picture was with just our family of 3). So we finally got it done today!! Some of them turned out really great, and of course there are the "bloopers".
This little boy is just adorable, and I love that little tongue sticking out. But it didn't make the cut to send to our family. But it does show his silly personality!

Oh she is so sweet. And super shy. It totally shows in this photo. In fact, it shows it in a lot of photos with her looking down yet still trying to look at the camera. I hope she gets over her shyness one day because she really does know how to make a great picture.

I think hubby and I look fine (I do have some hair out of place) but of course the kids are looking just a little bit off.

My husband's family apparently carries a gene (or a curse?) where they automatically shut their eyes when the camera goes "click". Bridget may have been able to avoid that gene but poor George inherited it!

My sweet little Bridget again. This would have been a perfect photo, but I don't know what in the world she was doing holding up her fingers!

This photo captures George's thoughts (and actions) during each little setup of photos. "Okay mom, I'm done now!"
That's why I say we survived family photos. Bridget was great (other than her shyness) but George was all over the place, grabbing extra props and using them as building blocks and wanting them all in his pictures. Then of course he wouldn't sit for more than 2 seconds. So I am amazed by some of the really good shots they did get of him.
It feels good to finally have this over and done with, and to have some updated pictures of our family to put on the wall. I've been a bit of a slacker. Now I just need to buy more frames (or save money for frames and buy them in 2015? Ha!).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Recipe: Dilled Chickpea Burgers

Oh my goodness, these were delicious! My sometimes not-so-easy-to-please almost vegan yet technically still an omnivore husband LOVED these. He even surprised himself! He had his first chickpea burger plain, in a pita pocket (which he had at first protested because he had a pita pocket about 15 years ago and didn’t like it). He does not eat yogurt (vegan or not) so his second burger he added ranch dressing and lettuce (when he requested the lettuce, I had to check and make sure I heard him correctly). He has already requested that I make these again.

My daughter, age 4, had her chickpea burger in a pita pocket with a little bit of yogurt sauce. She said  it was too spicy and burned her tongue, even though I used a quarter of cayenne than what the recipe called for. So I wiped it off so she could finish her lunch. The boy, age 2, preferred not to have a pita pocket but ate his completely plain. I had mine with everything on it: tomato, lettuce, onion, and yogurt sauce.
Dilled Chickpea Burgers

Recipe Origin: “Mayim’s Vegan Table” by Mayim Bialik
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, well-drained and rinsed
1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped (Harris Teeter has large bunches of fresh dill right now)
½ cup shallots, minced
2 Tbsp. plain dry breadcrumbs (I used 6 whole wheat Ritz crackers)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used lemon juice form the bottle)
2 Tbsp. tahini
½ tsp. salt (I used sea salt)
¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
¼ tsp. ground cumin
About ¼ cup vegetable oil for oiling the pan (I added a bit of oil before each batch)
6 pita pockets or buns
1.       Lightly mash half of the chickpeas in a medium bowl. (This task was surprisingly difficult. I ended up using my fingers to squish the whole chickpea and then I was able to easily mash them with a spoon.) Add the dill, shallots, bread crumbs, and lemon juice and mix well.

2.       In a food processor, combine the remaining chickpeas, tahini, salt, pepper, and cumin until smooth. Add to the mashed chickpeas, mix well, and form into six to eight patties.

3.       Oil a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and cook the burgers until very crispy and dark golden on both sides, about 6 minutes. Don’t flip them too much! Drain on paper towels or brown paper bags on a wire rack.

4.       Stuff the patties in pita pockets.

Spicy Yogurt Sauce

1 cup plain vegan yogurt
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
½ tsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (I used about 1/16 tsp. since I was feeding this to my children)

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until blended thoroughly.

Now about the yogurt sauce: I am actually not a fan of yogurt being used this way, but for the sake of staying true to the recipe, I tried it. For yogurt sauce it was okay, but I didn’t love it. I’m sure for people who like yogurt sauces with savory dishes that it’s a great match. I still prefer yogurt to be accompanied by sweet things, like granola and fruit. But I did make the effort, and chose to still include the yogurt sauce recipe here as well. But next time I will be doing without it. Besides, the chickpea burger is delicious enough as it is.

Recipe: Hot-Fudge-on-the-Bottom Cake

As a special treat, the kid's and I made this dessert after church. As beautiful as yesterday was, today was cold and gloomy, and it began to rain on the drive home. So a hot fudge cake seemed like the perfect thing to cheer us up!

The recipe is from one of our favorite vegan cookbooks, Chloe's Vegan Desserts. It's quite simple to make and the little one's are able to help. In fact, they did most of the work!

If you love cake and you love warm fudge, then you have to try this. You may already have all of the ingredients on hand. The best thing about this cake is that no one will be able to tell that it is 100% vegan!!!

Hot-Fudge-on-the-Bottom Cake
Recipe Origin: Chloe’s Vegan Desserts by Chef Chloe Coscarelli

Cake Layer
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup soy, almond, or rice milk (I used soy)
3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Fudge Layer
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ cups boiling water

To make the cake layer: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square cake pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together nondairy milk, oil, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix. Spread batter into the prepared pan.

To make the fudge layer: In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, sugar, and cocoa. Sprinkle this mixture over the cake batter in pan. Slowly pour boiling water evenly over the batter. Do not stir.

Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool for 25 minutes before serving.
As an extra special treat, I topped it with some vegan ice cream. Oh how yum it was for this pregnant lady!
I have so much fun baking with the kids. Sometimes it can be stressful, especially when cocoa powder ends up on the floor. But to see how much they enjoy helping me and watching the ingredients transform into a delicious dessert, it makes it all worth it.
It's also a great time to teach my 4-year-old how to read the names of the ingredients, find the correct measuring cups/spoons, and to stir very carefully so as not to make a big mess. My 2-year-old also does an amazing job with dumping the ingredients into the bowl and mixing them together. He's the most careful 2-year-old baker I've ever seen!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Recipe: Jenny's Lentil Loaf

This is one of the first strange non-meat recipes I tried when I became a pescetarian about 2 years ago. I was craving meatloaf but did not want to start eating ground beef again so I started looking for alternatives. There were tons of fake loaf recipes using tofu, tempeh, and lentils. The tofu and tempeh options didn’t sound appealing (even though I am a huge tofu fan) so I went with the lentils. This was my very first experience with lentils, and I’ve been hooked ever since!

The first recipe I tried used barbecue sauce, various spices, and had an egg to help combine it. I did not like the flavor of the barbecue sauce in the loaf or in the glaze, so I started using the glaze from my parent’s meatloaf recipe I grew up eating. I also learned that my husband does not like the taste of ground coriander, so I had to stop using this and find other spices to use. I knew my parent’s meatloaf recipe had sage, so I tried it. It was a win. It took a few tries to figure out our favorite combination of spices and this is what we came up with. Also now that we’ve been vegan for a year, instead of using egg, I use tomato paste. This works very well. Now this is a 100% plant-based, cholesterol-free dinner.
My kid's absolutely love when I make lentil loaf. When my son discovered last night that we were having it for dinner, the loaf had just come out of the oven and he ran to grab his spoon out of the drawer, and quickly climbed into his chair ready to eat. This momma had to move fast.
Now on with the recipe!
Jenny’s Vegan Lentil Loaf
Recipe Origin: Jenny’s Creation
1 cup dried lentils
½ cup bulgur wheat (I’ve been able to find this at Walmart and Harris Teeter near the oatmeal)
3 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and minced
3 tsp. ground sage
2 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 cup plain vegan bread/cracker crumbs

Glaze Ingredients
1 cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Rinse and drain the lentils, and pick out any bad ones you might find. Cover the lentils in a heatproof bowl with boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and let soak for about an hour.

 While the lentils are soaking, prepare your vegetables. Because I have young children, I chop the onion and celery very small, and almost mince the carrots (you could grate them, but I hate that task so I prefer to mince them). If you prefer larger pieces of carrots, dicing them should be fine.

After an hour, drain the lentils and put in a sauce pan with the bulgur wheat and vegetable stock. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce to simmer, stirring occasionally. Leave uncovered and let simmer for about 30 minutes (or until most of the liquid is absorbed). After 30 minutes, put the lentils and bulgur into a bowl (I re-use the bowl they originally soaked in). Mash them well with a potato masher until it all looks well-combined.

In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion, celery, and carrots in the olive oil until tender (the longer the better if you have small children). Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the sage, mustard powder, and paprika. Mix well. Add the tomato paste and turn off the heat. [I use the entire 6 oz. can because the kids prefer their lentil loaf a bit on the soft/mushy side (and this worked great when my son hardly had any teeth). If you prefer a firmer lentil loaf, start by using just 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste, and add more at the end once you’ve finished combing all of the ingredients.]

Add your vegetables to the bowl of mashed lentils and bulgur. Stir until combined, and then add your bread crumbs. Unlike meatloaf, lentil loaf does not lose its moisture during baking. There is no fat to cook out. So, the consistency of what you see in the bowl is about what your loaf is going to be. If it is too dry, add more tomato paste. If it is too mushy to your liking, add more bread crumbs.

Press your lentil loaf mixture into an oiled loaf pan or an oblong 11 x 8 pan. When I’ve used loaf pans in the past, I think I’ve been able to fill up 2 of them, but I prefer the oblong pan because it is much easier to serve from.

Make your glaze by combining the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. I prefer to use a 2 cup glass measuring cup. The reason why I use something that is microwave safe is because sometimes the brown sugar gets clumpy and won’t combine well. So I put the measuring cup in the microwave, cover with a napkin, and zap it for about a minute.

Spread about half of this glaze over the top of the lentil loaf. Bake the loaf at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Wondering what to do with the extra glaze? While the loaf is baking, put the other half in the fridge to chill while the loaf is cooking. The reason why I make extra of this is because some members of my family prefer a bit more on their portions (my 2 year old is obsessed with ketchup). The reason why I say to chill it in the fridge is because of the lovely contrast of cool glaze on a hot lentil loaf. If you don’t want extra glaze, then simply cut the glaze recipe in half.

Serve the lentil loaf with mashed potatoes and your favorite vegetable. Enjoy!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Recipe: Mayim's Vegan Reuben Sandwiches

When I woke up on this lovely St. Patrick's Day, I had no idea that I was going to be in for such a treat! This is probably THE best sandwich I have ever had. When I took my first bite, I thought I was going to cry tears of joy. It must be the pregnancy hormones. Kudos to Mayim Bialik for putting this in her new cookbook (Mayim's Vegan Table... order it, seriously). I think it may have changed my life.

Vegan Reuben Sandwiches
Recipe Source: Mayim’s Vegan Table
Makes 4 Sandwiches


Thousand Island Dressing
1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Follow Your Heart Original Vegenaise)
2 Tbsp.  ketchup
3 Tbsp. dill pickles, diced (I used Kosher Dill Pickles)

Sautéed Onions
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 ½ tsp. paprika
¾ tsp. caraway seeds (I omitted this because I didn’t have it, and the recipe was still delicious)
¾ tsp. dried dill
1 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. tamari (similar to soy sauce but more concentrated… can be found in the same aisle at the grocery store as the soy sauce)
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

8 slices vegan rye bread (I used vegan whole wheat Jewish rye)
8 slices vegan bacon (I fried up an entire package of Lightlife Smart Bacon)
2 Tbsp. vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread, and I didn’t measure it out… just spread it on the rye bread)
1 cup sauerkraut, drained



  1. To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. (My dressing turned out a bit runny, so next time I will probably get more liquid out of the dill pickles before I add them to the mayonnaise and ketchup.)
  2. To make the onions, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, paprika, caraway seeds (again, I omitted this), dill, salt, vinegar, tamari, and pepper. Add the water (this was left out of the ingredient list in her cookbook, but I guessed about ¼ cup would work and it did!) and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Remove the bay leaves.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spread two slices of the bread with margarine. Grill in a small skillet, margarine side down, for 3 minutes on one side only. Repeat with the remaining slices of bread. (I did this step completely different… I spread the margarine on both sides of the bread and popped it in my toaster oven for about 4 minutes.)
  4. To assemble each sandwich, spread the dressing on the ungrilled sides of two slices of toast. Add the sauerkraut, two pieces of vegan bacon, and the sautéed onions. (I also did this differently… I spread the dressing on, added 3 slices of vegan bacon, the sautéed onions, the sauerkraut, then a little bit more dressing.)
This recipe was so easy to prepare. I don't have a lot of time that I can spend in the kitchen (I have a 4 year old and 2 year old in constant need of my attention). I felt like I ordered a restaurant quality sandwich, and I still can't believe it came out of my very own kitchen. Not to say I don't make delicious food at home, because to me I do. But this is definitely in the top 5 of my list of favorite vegan meals. This will also be my lunch for tomorrow, and maybe the next day. I almost had one for dinner tonight.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!


Restaurant Review: MJ's Raw Bar & Grille in New Bern, NC

One of the hardest parts about going vegan is the very limited restaurants to eat at. Some things you might assume are vegan may very well not be. This past Saturday, the kids and I made a trip to New Bern, North Carolina to spend the day with my mother-in-law. She took us out to MJ's Raw Bar & Grille in downtown New Bern. While their menu does not specifically have vegan dishes, there are a few things that can simply be made vegan by omitting one or two ingredients.
For the kids, I ordered spaghetti from the kid's menu. This is usually a safe dish at most restaurants.  It is angel hair pasta with marinara sauce and parmesan Romano cheese. I just had to ask them to leave off the cheese. It came with a side of fresh fruit. All of the kids meals are also served with fries. I am not sure if these were vegan or not. I expected plain fries, but they are seasoned. I failed to ask if they were vegan. Either way, their lunch did look tasty. (I had just begun to stir the marinara sauce with the noodles before I thought to take a picture, which is why it doesn't look as pretty anymore.)

Kid's Menu - Spaghetti, Fresh Fruit, and Fries ($5.95)
For myself, I ordered their Veggie Burger. I asked our waitress if their veggie patty contained any milk or eggs. She informed me that it did not. The Veggie Burger comes with lettuce, tomato, and a pickle served on a Kaiser roll. I got the side salad with their Strawberry Vinaigrette dressing (dressing not pictured). Mustard and ketchup are on the table for burgers and fries.
Veggie Burger w/ Side Salad ($7.95)
The food was fine and the prices weren't bad (perhaps a little steep for the kid's menu, but the other food I feel was fairly priced).
Other possible options were: 
Veggie Wrap ($7.95), which includes "red onion, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, bean sprouts and avocado all rolled in a fresh flour tortilla with avocado mousse". The avocado mousse, unfortunately, is not vegan. It has sour cream in it. So that would have to be omitted. I imagine that the strawberry vinaigrette would be good to dip the veggie wrap in, though.
Portabella Veggie Burger ($7.95), which is a "fresh large portabella mushroom grilled and topped with grilled onion, bean sprouts and provolone cheese". Obviously would have to be ordered without the cheese.
As with any restaurant that serves meat, there is always a possibility of your veggie or mushroom burger being grilled on the same grill as the steaks, hamburgers, and other meats. It really just depends on how strict you are with your vegan diet. I'm sure you could always request they clean the grill before preparing your food.
So there you have it! Some vegan options in Downtown New Bern at MJ's Raw Bar & Grille!
After our lunch, we headed back towards our vehicle and stopped at the park located in the churchyard of the historic Episcopal church. It was nice being able to let the kid's burn off some energy. As you can see, it was a very nice day for March. The temperature got up to about 80 degrees, the skies were blue, sun shining... the next day was back down in the 40s. I'm glad we enjoyed it while it lasted!

This review is from a visit made on March 15, 2014. All prices are what they were at the time of our visit.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Recipe: Vegan Malasadas

Happy Malasada Day!

This Portuguese confection has been one of my favorites since as long as I can remember. I didn't only have it on Malasada Day (Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras). Every time we made a trip from Hilo to Kona, we'd stop at the famous Tex Drive In in Honoka'a on the Big Island of Hawai'i for their malasadas. As I got older, I became a little bit of a Tex Drive-In snob because their malasadas were shaped too perfectly. I much preferred the ugly, misshapen malasadas that were homemade. But, any malasada is going to be quite tasty. (I've since forgiven them for their mass production of malasadas).
So what exactly is a malasada?
Malasadas originated in the Madeira Islands region of Portugal. It is a yeast dough that is deep fried in oil and coated with sugar. They are also known simply as Portuguese doughnuts. The Portuguese that immigrated to Hawai'i brought this special recipe with them, and that is how it became popular in Hawai'i. Fat Tuesday is known as Malasada Day in the islands, because the Portuguese (a very Catholic bunch) needed to use up their sugar and lard in preparation for Lent. My great-great-grandmother, Maria Caldeira immigrated from the Madeira Islands to Waialua, Hawai'i with her parents in 1888. I do not know if the family recipe I have came from her or if it came from another family member.
When I switched to a vegan diet, I thought I'd never be able to enjoy a malasada again. But today, I changed that. I woke up this morning determined to turn my family's malasada recipe into a vegan one. Honestly, I didn't think I could do it because the recipe calls for SIX eggs! When it comes to vegan baking, it's very easy to substitute 1 egg, and it can start to get a little tricky when you're trying to substitute 3 eggs. I had to do double that! I used two separate substitutions for the eggs: vegan yogurt and ground flax seeds. I also had to substitute the evaporated milk with coconut milk (this part wasn't as intimidating).
The result? Heavenly.
Vegan Malasadas 

Recipe Origin: Family recipe, with modifications by Jenny

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
¼ cup warm water
6 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
¼ cup melted vegan butter (I used Earth Balance Organic Buttery Spread)
¾ vegan yogurt (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Cultured Coconut Milk)
3 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds + 9 Tbsp. water
1 cup coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchen CoconutMilk)
1 cup water
Canola or vegetable oil (for deep frying)
Sugar and dash of nutmeg (for rolling finished donut)
1. Mix yeast with 1 tsp. sugar and add to warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes.
2. Sift dry ingredients together. Stir in melted butter.
3. Beat yogurt, flaxseeds + water, and coconut milk, and water in with the flour mixture.
4. Add yeast and mix well. Dough will be sticky. (If the dough is too runny, add a bit more flour.)
5. Cover and let dough rise until doubled (about 90 minutes), then punch down. Let dough rise a second time (about an hour).
6. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees. Dip fingertips in bowl of oil then pinch off golf ball sized pieces of dough.
7. Drop in heated oil and cook until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and roll in sugar-nutmeg mixture. Serve immediately.
Tip: Be sure to check the inside of your first malasada to make sure it is fully cooked. Just because the outside is nice and brown does not mean it is done!

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