Saturday Delights: Vegan Chocolate Soda and a Day of Food

Today’s run: a nice, slow easy few miles with my favorite guy, Shadow. Shadow does so well for an older dog. He used to be able to run 15 miles with me; I’m proud of him for still wanting to run, and being able to do a few miles. He’s my buddy.

I forgot to mention the most delightful part of Friday Delights yesterday: husband accidentally bought a container of chocolate soymilk instead of regular. We didn’t really want to give it to the girls, because we were fearful that this would turn them into chocolate-soymilk-monsters. Alas, what’s a conscientious parent to do but drink it herself? Heh. I love chocolate soymilk. I’m not much on chocolate in general, but chocolate soymilk is a different story. I think because it is sweet and creamy it is somehow better to me than hard, bitter chocolate.

Right after I had both girls and was nursing every 45 minutes (or so it seemed), I treated myself to chocolate soymilk. A lot of nursing books recommend that new moms drink a lot of milk to help produce milk (that’s basically complete nonsense, but that’s what the books say) so I would use that as an excuse to treat myself to chocolate soymilk. It was for the good of the baby, yes? And since I’m still nursing, I’m really doing it now for my toddler’s health, right? Right. ūüėČ

I discovered a new and delicious way to enjoy chocolate soymilk. I’d heard of chocolate sodas for a while now but have never had one. After a busy morning of running, walking to the library/coffee shop/town square with the girls, and cooking a quick lunch of homemade tortillas with refried beans, I was feeling the need for a little refreshment. I had one (okay, more than one) glass of the chocolate soymilk and realized I needed to slow down my consumption of it. I decided to try a chocolate soda, having never had one and knowing nothing about them. I figured it couldn’t be that hard – chocolate milk + fizzy water. The only fizzy water we had in the house was some lemon Perrier leftover from my sister’s last visit. I decided to give it a shot, although I was skeptical about the combination of chocolate and lemon.

Goodness, was I wrong! It was SO GOOD. I had two before I could stop myself, and I really want another right now. Here’s the ‘recipe’:

approximately equal parts of chocolate soymilk and lemon fizzy water (not sweet), both cold

Pour into a glass. Delight in the resulting foamy cream, and the sweet-but-tangy, creamy-yet-sharp drink. Seriously, this stuff is fabulous. It is sweet but not overly so; the lemon is not overpowering  but is definitely present; the combination of the fizziness and soymilk creates a creamy, rich drink that is far better than the sum of its parts. This stuff was good. I will definitely make it again the next time we buy chocolate soymilk by accident. Or maybe on purpose.

I drank it too quickly to get a picture. Whoops. Guess I’ll just have to make more, right?

Today has been a day of cooking and baking. We are hosting coffee hour tomorrow. I have made: mini cupcakes (chocolate and vanilla), my mother-in-law’s strawberry-almond bars, and chocolate chip cookies. Husband is making homemade salsa and hummus.

Then, for dinner, I made an approximate version of an Ethopian stew from Isa’s blog. Here’s the recipe: http://www.theppk.com/2008/10/ethiopian-spicy-tomato-lentil-stew/¬†I didn’t follow it exactly; I used yellow split peas instead of lentils, skipped the paprika because we didn’t have any, and used zucchini instead of peas because I hate peas. Yes, that’s right, I just used the word ‘hate’ with respect to a vegetable, and I don’t take it back. I hate peas. Yup, I just said it again. So there. Anyways, this was a good recipe and pretty quick. It’s worth making.

We grew to love Ethiopian food when we lived in Grand Rapids, MI (of all places!). There were a few Ethiopian places there, and one in particular – Little Africa, in EastTown – was our favorite. It was¬† total hole-in-the wall, run by one guy who worked when he did; you never knew if the place was going to be open. It happened to be 100% vegan (though not advertised as such) and cheap, cheap, cheap. One time we went with my parents and the entire bill came to 9 bucks for all four of us! Crazy. Plus the food was fantastic. Ethiopian food can be hard to make at home because of all of the spices. I have made berbere before but I don’t tend to keep it on hand.

Upcoming recipes: the afore-mentioned mother-in-law’s strawberry almond bars; maybe a mention of those cupcakes; cranberry-cashew bread.

Friday Delights and Vegan Cinnamon-Apple-Oat Pancakes

Ah, Friday – it’s cliche but true – Friday is a wonderful thing, particularly at the end of a hard week. This Friday was a particularly welcome one for me,¬†for whatever reason.¬†The girls and I have fallen into a delightful Friday routine of a run (with the double stroller), with stops at the library and coffee shop on the way home. Today was a bit different. Since I didn’t have to go to work today, the day started out in a leisurely fashion: pancakes followed by an easy 3-miler. Then, I did something I hate doing. I went shopping (insert applause here, please). I needed a new pair of black pants. I wear mine all the time, for work, concerts, just around, etc. Last week I realized that my black pants were being held together not only by packing tape, but also bobby pins. Not good. So, the girls and my mother-in-law and I all went on a shopping expedition. I normally consider shopping to be about the worst way to spend time¬†(unless its book or grocery shopping, neither of which I mind). However, the specific focus of our trip (black pants black pants gotta get some¬†black pants) and the fact that we were shopping with two young kids (i.e. in-and-out-as-quickly-as-possible) made for a somewhat tolerable trip. I even have a new pair of black pants to show for my troubles, and they are held together by honest-to-goodness thread! Hooray for me.

After our shopping victory, we went to Moe’s and picked up two vegan burritos to bring home for lunch. It was a delicious treat. Our Moe’s always has to cook tofu fresh for me, which means it’s extra-tasty. We rarely, rarely eat out or get take-in. That is partially because we are super-cheap and hate spending money, but it’s also partially because we live in a very non-vegan friendly area, and there’s just not much good food around us. It’s easier and better if we just cook. Every now and then, though, some take-out is a delightful treat.

Then, I made homemade tortillas with refried beans, Trader Joe’s chorizo, and spinach. Delicious. Hearty, filling, and sooooo easy. This also meant that I used my cast iron skillet twice in day, which always makes me happy.

I am working on a recipe for non-chocolate no-bakes. Confession time: I am much more of a vanilla person than a chocolate person. I like chocolate, but usually I can take it or leave it. I much prefer vanilla. I love no-bakes, but I’d really like a find a way to make them without any cocoa powder. Tonight’s experiment wasn’t a complete and total success, but it’s a step in the right direction. I will just have to keep trying until I get it right, eh? ūüėČ

I made these cinnamon-apple-oatmeal pancakes the other day. They were so good! This recipe makes a lot: enough to feed four, plus some extras for the dogs (ahem) or the freezer.

1 cup white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup oatmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

salt, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon ground flax seed

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups water/soymilk or a combination thereof (I usually use 1 cup of water and 1 cup of soymilk)

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

a splash of vanilla

1 tablespoon oil

Combine dry ingredients and mix. Add all wet ingredients at once and stir briefly and gently. Heat up your cast iron skillet; while it is heating, let the batter sit for about 5 minutes. Cook as you would any pancakes….pour batter by about 1/4 cup, wait ’til bubbly, flip, cook, eat. Flip only once, remember?

Serve with Earth Balance and maple syrup, or just eat plain (my favorite!).

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Smoothie

Yum. This was seriously the best breakfast I’d had in a while. I used to have smoothies all the time, but in recent years I’ve fallen out of the smoothie habit. This was delicious – creamy and cold, refreshing after today’s run (4 miles, more Beethoven).

I did not take pictures because the cocoa powder-spinach combination made the smoothe an unappetizing green-gray color. Sans spinach, this is a beautiful smoothie. It’s delicious either way.

1 banana, chopped and frozen, and defrosted for about 5 minutes

1/4 cup soy milk

1-2 teaspoons cocoa powder

a splash of vanilla, optional

1 tablespoon peanut butter

dash of salt, if you’re using unsalted peanut butter

a generous handful of spinach, optional

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend and enjoy. This is a ridiculously rich and creamy smoothie – almost like vegan soft-serve. Yum.

Gingery Tempeh-Kale Stirfry

Today’s run: 3 miles, Beethoven 7

Dinner: More kale, of course! This was a quick recipe that came together while the rice was cooking. I love tempeh, but if you don’t like it, use tofu or seitan. Tempeh and kale are really good together – they’re both so hearty and earthy and have a good chew. I really like tempeh with ginger; this stirfry has a lot of good, strong flavor and texture.

serves: 4, or 2 if you’re really hungry

1-2 tablespoons oil

1/2 onion, sliced

1 generous tablespoon ginger-garlic paste, available at Indian grocers, or 1 1/2 teaspoons each minced garlic and ginger

1/2 block tempeh, cubed

2 zucchini, sliced thinly

1 bunch kale, torn or cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon brown sugar

a squirt of srirachi (yes, I’m obsessed…..)

cooked rice

Method:

Heat oil in a good-sized wok/stirfry pan; cook onion until soft. add tempeh, garlic/ginger paste, and cook for a few minutes.

Add veggies. Stir for a few second, and then go make the sauce:

Combine the soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar, and srirachi; combine well in a bowl. Pour over veggies until well-coated; cook for another 5 minutes or until veggies are of your desired consistency.

serve over rice, with extra srirachi if desired.

Kale Bowl

I don’t watch any sports – except for the Olympics, but that’s only because my husband is obsessed with the Olympics – but I would totally watch a football game if it was part of something called the Kale Bowl. I. Love. Kale. Seriousy, folks, it is just the best veg ever. Speaking of loving foods, has anyone seen that icky Jack-in-the-Box commerical in which the guy marries bacon? ICK. It is just a weird and disturbing concept. I cringe and look the other way every time it comes on. I wonder who, WHO came up with that concept, and who thought it was a good idea and actually filmed it? I mean, yes, I profess my love for kale, but seeing a commercial for a restaurant that dramatically acts out¬†a wedding between me and kale would just be weird and not at all enticing.

Anyways…today’s recipe is barely a recipe. I love making rice-and-veggie bowls. Brown rice (or whatever grain you have around….I’ve used pasta, bulghur, whatever), steamed/sauteed veggies, a protein if you want (sauteed tofu, found in the ‘main dishes’ category, is delish in a veg bowl; so are chick peas), and then a delicious and salty sauce to pour all over and stir around. YUM. It is simple, good, fresh, healthy, veg eating at its best. I like to keep a bowl of cooked rice in the fridge; that way you can make the sauce while the veggies are cooking, and look! suddenly, in about 10 minutes, you have a healthy, satisfying meal.

With this particular sauce, I just cooked with veggies (kale and zucchini) sans oil or salt, since the sauce is salty and has a good amout of fat in it. Usually, I cook the veggies with both oil and salt; it just depends on the sauce. This sauce is good with lots of different veggie combinations – kale, zucchini, and carrots; kale, broccoli, zucchini; kale and zucchini; kale and broccoli…..as long as there’s kale, it will be good!

Use a Magic Bullet for this, if you have one, or a blender if you don’t. All measurements are approximate.

Serves: enough for at least 2 bowls

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1-2 tablespoons miso

1-2 tablespoons tahini

1 clove garlic

a squirt or two of srirachi

1 tablespoon oil

1/4 cup water

Put everything in the Magic Bullet, and blend until all smooth.

 

 

Slackness, Show Tunes, and Cinnamon-Roll bread

Yikes. It’s been a few days, eh? I really meant to be better about this blogging thing. The whole intent was for me to write down recipes so that I can replicate stuff we like, with a secondary intent of showing folks how easy veganism can be (i.e. you don’t need to buy all those fancy, pricey faux-meat and fauz-dairy products, nor do you have to have all sorts of wierd and unusual ingredients to make vegan food). So really, I should be blogging every day or every other day to accomplish these goals. Oh well. It’s been a rough week, mentally, for me, but things are picking up. In addition to my running goal, I’m going to challenge myself to blog 5 out of 7 days this coming week, starting Monday.

Business first: Running. Eh, almost non-existent….I haven’t done more than a few 3-mile runs this week. Today I ran pushing the girls in the stroller, which always seems like it should count extra. I will run long tomorrow, but not likely long enough to meet the 25-mile goal. Oh well. Life happens. This week, I’m going to shoot for 4 out of 5 week days, at least two of those being 4 or more miles, and then one at-least-10 miler on the weekend. Oh, and weights and crunches, again. We’ll see.

Today I had the opportunity to spend most of the day playing music. It is a nice break from my normal life of lawyer-professor-mommy. I sub in with a sort-of-local brass quintet; they call me when they need me. They had a wedding gig this weekend and needed an¬†extra horn player. It was a lovely ceremony at a woman’s house; we then played the reception in her backyard, right on the lake. We did not play any truly extraordinary music, or even any music that was challenging to the listener at all, because this was not an arts-type venue; we were there for entertainment. It was kind of nice to just let my mind go and just play, without having to engage in huge amounts of intense thought and concentration. The guys I play with are all good musicians, at least in terms of technique, so we end up sight-reading half the music we play at such gigs. That always keeps me on my toes; it keeps my mind awake, and lets me think only about the notes on the page as they go by. It’s a different sort of playing than one does when working up a big, serious work. One of the nice things about the reception today was the reaction we got from some little old ladies (they really were) who were sitting near us. We played something from some musical, and they just loved it, so then we started playing a bunch of showtunes. At the end of every one the little old ladies hooted and clapped; one in particular kept telling the trumpet nearest to her how much she loved it. It was nice to bring some joy and brightness to someone’s life, unexpectedly. I usually get bogged down in heavy, intellectually-and emotionally-challenging music; I love it, and it provides a certain service for my mind and soul, but every now and then it’s nice to see (and participate in) the fun side of music. We did that today, and it was truly enjoyable.

Onto a recipe…..I made this the other day. We’ve been eating it for breakfast. I love making bread. It is a very sensory experience, and somehow earthy and natural as well. It is also surprisingly easy. I’ve run into a lot of people who are completely intimidated by the idea of making yeast breads. It is SO easy one you learn the basics. Homemade bread is delicious, and cheaper than what you can buy at the store. I usually just make a standard half-whole wheat, half-white loaf, but when I have the time and mental energy, I get creative and make bread with herbs, or other seasonings, or shape it free-form instead of using a pan; then, when baked at a high heat, it gets nice and crusty.

I digree, however. If you’ve made bread, this is an easy recipe. If you haven’t, this will teach you the basics and give you a nice, cinnamony treat.

1 package active dry yeast, or 1 tablespoon

1 tablespoon white sugar

2 cups warm, not hot, water

salt, 1-2 teaspoons

4-6 cups flour; I use half whole-wheat, half white, but you can use all white (all whole wheat is hard to pull off, at least without a whole lot more sugar and oil)

1 tablespoon oil

for the filling:

2-ish tablespoons Earth Balance, or other vegan margarine

2-4 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

Method:

Put yeast, sugar, and warm water in a big bowl. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, until the yeast proofs – this means the mixture gets all bubbly; little bubbles will rise to the surface, and there will be a tan foamy substance on top of the water. It’s a fun process to watch, if you have time. After the yeast has proofed, add about 3-4 cups of flour, the oil, and the salt. Stir. Add more flour until you can’t stir any more. Scrape the spoon and bowl, flour your hands, and starting kneadin’ that dough! I like to knead it directly in the bowl. Add more flour as you knead, as necessary. Any time the dough starts sticking to you, add more flour. Usually, 5-6 cups will do it, but it depends on the humidity, the kind of flour you use, etc. You want the dough to be soft to the touch, but not sticky. So, when you have nice mass of dough, to test it for doneness, just poke it with your finger; if the dough attaches itself to your finger, keep going!

Once the dough is kneaded, cover the bowl with a towel that has been dampened with warm water. Place it somewhere warm and let it rise. Usually, an¬†hour or so is enough for the first rising; you want it about double the original size. Punch the dough down. If you were making regular bread, this is when you’d put it into bread pans. However, we’re making cinnamon roll bread! so there’s an extra step…

Divide the dough into two. On a floured surface, spread out one of the sections of dough. You don’t need to use a rolling pin; just use your hands/fingers to smush the dough into a rectangle that is about 6 inches by about 12 inches, approximately. Smear the dough with 1 tablespoon Earth Balance and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar. Roll, starting at one of the 6-inch sides. Gentle pinch the ends together. ¬†Put the rolled dough into a greased loaf pan. Gently pinch the end of the roll. You don’t need to completely attach it, though. Do the same with the second piece of dough. Let the dough sit, covered with the wet towel, for about 1/2 hours to rise again. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, or until golden on the top.

A Northern-Elitist-Snob Rant and Indian-spiced Tofu Scramble

Today’s run:¬† a mundane 3-miles, final movement of Mahler 7. Eh.

It’s been sort of a rough week. My job as it now exists is on shaky grounds, simply because we are losing one of the gov’t contracts that I work on. My firm is keeping me on but I am worried that there will not be enough work for me to do. This might end up being a blessing in disguise, as I have been wanting to move to 100% criminal defense work for a while now, and I have also been looking for a job closer to home (I drive a really, really long way to get to work. I have a very fuel efficient car, and my firm is very flexible with me, so it’s not all bad, but it’s still a really, really long drive). I’ve put in a few calls to some firms closer to home who might be looking for a part-time defense attorney. We’ll see what happens.

Then, there’s the whole general-discontent-with-life funk that visits me every few months. Although I try really hard not to actively complain about living in the south, and try to make the most of it, I really would rather be back up north. Day to day, my life is pretty okay here. However, I just don’t want to live here long-term. I think it’s really more of a rural-urban thing than a north-south thing; I might feel less downtrodden and discouraged if I lived in¬†a southern city as opposed to the country. Regardless, it seems that we are here for at least the time being. We have been trying to move back up north, but it’s not something we can do without jobs, and jobs are pretty darn hard to come by these days.

At times like these I wish I had a better attitude about living in the south. At times I’m pretty disparaging about southerners. There are some very nice things about southern culture – people ARE friendly, and¬†they are family-oriented – but it’s not the culture in which I grew up, so it’s hard to see those good things as being ‘valuable’ enough to me to outweigh what I see as the negatives of the south. We do not live in an area that seems to value intellectual challenge/rigor/curiousity, or artistic/cultural endeavors, or invites the critical examination of viewpoints other than one’s own. It is just a very closed-in, limited area. Many of the people here have never – NEVER – travelled outside of the county, let alone the state. That has been a hard adjustment for me. It’s hard to find friends here, because I don’t have much in common with most of the people I run into. Yes, I could probably learn some lessons in how to be more laid-back and go-with-the-flow from the people I meet, but again, it’s just too hard for me to aspire to that, because it’s just not what I’m used to. One thing I’m scared of is how accustomed I’m becoming to things/statements/attitudes that should shock and appall me. I’m worried that although I am able to ‘know better’ and be discerning about such things, my girls will grow up amongst such attitudes and will have a harder time seeing them as something not to be desired. I don’t want to be the stereotypical northern elitist snob, but it is just HARD living somewhere that you just don’t really feel comfortable in. I know, I have it so much better than so many other people, and I really should not complain. That’s why, as I stated in the beginning of this, I try hard NOT to complain. Every few months, though, I get in this dire “we’re stuck here for the rest of our lives” rut, and get all sad about not being in the north (or at least in an urban area…). I admit that this definitely became a lot harder once we had kids. Like I said, I can ignore/filter out/respond constructively and appropriately to the racist/homophobic/religious/anti-intellect/generally judgmental comments I hear, but I truly fear for my children. They will either become complacent, or will be picked on as the obnoxious, outspoken, hippie-commie-wierdo-kids. Sigh. (And yes, I have been called all of those things and more.) All I can do for now is hope and hope that we will someday soon be able to find our way back up north.

On to less depressing and more uplifting things…..I have some really exciting bread in the oven – cinnamon-roll bread! I am totally thrilled about it. I will blog about it tomorrow. I meant to take pictures of it before putting it in the oven but I can’t find our camera (I am choosing to blame the kids for this, rather than my poor house-keeping skills ūüôā )

I made this tofu scramble the other night for dinner. It’s good for breakfast or dinner, actually. I know every vegan cook on the planet makes tofu scramble, so there’s really nothing novel here, but it’s a decent recipe.

1 tablespoon oil (I never actually measure it; I just pour it in the cast iron skillet.)

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, or 1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 zucchini, finely chopped

1 pound fresh firm tofu, water squeezed out and crumbled

salt to taste

Saute the onion in the oil. When it is soft, add the spices and cook for a few minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until it is lightly browned. Add the crumbled tofu and cook until warmed through.

You can add spinach instead of zucchini; you can add garlic, nutritional yeast, whatever you like. It is a very basic and forgiving recipe.

I DID take pictures, but again, the lost camera….sigh.