Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pizza By Request

I love having friends over for dinner. I love it even more when they are excited to eat my food! Although, if I'm honest with myself, my friends are mostly college students and would be excited for any free meal. But, I like to think it's because of my cooking. My friend Courtney requested homemade pizza, and I'm glad she did since it made me remember how much I freakin' LOVE pizza! I doubled the recipe so we each made our own pizza, which made it a lot of fun.

This is an adaption to my mama's recipe. I always end up adding more flour after letting it sit so I've included that as well as added the nutritional yeast and more sugar.

Homemade Pizza Dough
What You Need:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup flour, use as needed
The Process: 
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup warm water with the sugar and yeasts. Set aside for 5-10 minutes. Let it get frothy. 
  3. In a large bowl mix the flours and salt. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir with a spoon until the dough starts holding together. Knead the dough for about 8 minutes. (This is where I usually end up adding some more flour, but not a whole cup.) Cover dough with a tea towel and let set for an hour. 
  4. Pour some of the extra flour onto the pizza pan. Knead dough into the shape you want, flipping it at least once to be sure it does not stick to the pan. 
  5. Add whatever toppings you would like and cook for 15-20 minutes. 
Our friend Courtney's pizza

Chris' pizza; He seized his chance to add extra meat to his meal

My pizza; I can't believe I thought being vegan would be difficult. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spicy Tofu Stir-Fry

I have been wanting to do a stir-fry for FOREVER. But, alas, Chris was adamant that he hates them. I finally decided I wanted to make one so bad that I put it on the weekly menu, told him it wasn't your average stir-fry, and he would like it. Sure enough, he liked it. I loved it. The best part, from start to finish it took less than 3o minutes! Including chopping all the veggies :)

Spicy Tofu Stir-Fry
What You Need:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup cut cauliflower 
  • 1 cup cut broccoli
  • 1 package firm/extra firm tofu, diced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
The Process:
  1. Heat the wok/pan until very hot. Add the cumin and coriander, and dry-fry the spices for a minute. Add the oil with the garlic, ginger, and chilli powder. Stir-fry briefly. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower and broccoli, and stir-fry until they are cooked through but still crisp. Add the tofu and lemon juice and toss well until it is coated with the spices. Serve hot.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tofu Lasagna!

No clever titles here tonight, just our excitement for Tofu Lasagna! In fact, Chris' request for this dish is what started the idea of a favorites week. Direct quote from the man himself, "I never thought I'd love vegan lasagna so much!" In fact, this may have been the first meal I ever made for Chris, but I didn't use vegan cheese that time. It's my mama's recipe which automatically makes it a classic in my eyes.

Tofu Lasagna
What You Need:

  • 1 package firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 package, or about 7 or 8 ozs of frozen chopped spinach
  • lasagna noodles
  • 1 package (vegan) mozzarella
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 4 ozs mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp oregano
The Process:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the pasta in boiling water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, defrost the spinach. In a large bowl mash up the tofu, add the spinach, 1/4 cup of the cheese, nutritional yeast, 1/2 cup pasta sauce and oregano. Mix all together.
  3. Pour some pasta sauce onto the bottom of your casserole dish. Add some of the cooked noodles. Put the tofu mixture on top of the noodles, then the mushrooms (if using), and top the layer off with some cheese. Repeat until you're out of tofu mixture. Top it all with more noodles, pasta sauce and the remaining cheese. 
  4. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. 
Here is what my first layer looked like. 

And the finished product!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Cleaning

I wouldn't say it was a pretty day here but it was a productive one. We rant some errands and I bought some fertilizer for my garden. Turns out 84 lbs of it was not enough, I guess my garden is larger than I thought. I planted my zucchini out there but it started to rain before I had the chance to plant the seeds that are suppose to be planted directly into the garden. Hopefully I'll have the chance tomorrow before heading to my internship :)

Once it started to rain we tackled some in home spring cleaning! Six Sisters had a blog post with some spring cleaning tips a few days ago that inspired me, which you can see here. I especially loved the list at the end of the post! I wouldn't think to wash the trim on a normal cleaning spree. One that we do often is the baking soda with essential oil for the bed. However, with four dogs we also use it on our rug and living room furniture. Our place smells so much better now than this morning!

Because it's favorites week, we're cooking things already on the blog. Tonight we had Kidney Bean Risotto tonight which was fantastic, of course. Tomorrow we're having Tofu Lasagna, which I can't wait to share with you all!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Start of Favorites Week!

I am so happy that Chris suggested a favorites week! It's nice to take a break from experimenting with new vegan recipes and go back to some in home classics. We kicked off our favorites week with Mexican Casserole. It was a huge hit the first time I made it a few months ago but that was before the switch to vegan. Tonight was my first attempt at a vegan version and Chris couldn't even tell the difference! Talking about it now is making my mouth water.

Mexican Casserole
What You Need:

  • 2 cans black beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups salsa
  • 1 can corn or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 3/4 cup (vegan) sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (optional)
  • whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 1/2 cups (vegan) Mexican blend cheese
The Process: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large skillet, heat the black beans, taco seasoning and onion for about 5 minutes. Stir in salsa, corn, sour cream and cumin. 
  3. Spoon a generous layer on the bottom of the casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese, and top with tortillas. Repeat until you are out of the mixture. Top with tortillas and use all remaining cheese on top. 
  4. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy :) 

Eating Healthy On A Budget

I am a college student and Chris is fresh out of college. It is safe to say that we are working on a budget, as many others are. One thing that I hear a lot is that eating healthy is expensive. It can be if you're not organized about it, and do what I used to do, and go to the grocery without a plan and just grab whatever you feel like it at the moment. This was costly and often led to us having nothing really to make a meal out of. Somewhere along the line I started a new habit of sitting down the day before grocery day and coming up with a dinner menu plan for the week. We have leftovers, wraps and salads for lunch and fruit, yogurt and coffee for breakfast.

Today, instead of a recipe, I'm doing a how-to: eat healthy on a budget

Eating Healthy On A Budget
What You Need:

  • A weekly planner (I bought mine from the dollar section of Michael's, it's magnetic and is always on the fridge) 

  • Cookbooks/blogs/pinterest to search through recipes you may want to try. 
  • A budget (ours is $70 a week, not including dog food or those "I just need one thing" runs to the grocery)
  • Lined paper; it can be any lined paper and size, this is to write your list on
  • A pencil
The Process: 
  1. Gather up your cookbooks and recipes you would like to try. If you're busy like me, you want to plan for quick, easy meals on the days you have a lot going on and longer, more complicated meals on your easier days. 
    1. Example: If you look above you can kind of see that on Friday/today, I'll be making Mexican Casserole. It takes about an hour to make, no big deal on a day I should be home by six. Sunday, however, I'll be out of town most of the day so we're just having leftovers for dinner. 
  2. It helps to plan a couple of meals with similar ingredients. 
    1. Example: Next Tuesday we're having Lentil Tacos, which has a lot of the same ingredients as the Mexican Casserole. This helps cut down on costs. Just be sure to not eat the similar meals back to back. 
  3. Write out your list. If you know the price of ingredients, add that to your list. 
    1. Example: I know the price of nearly everything we buy so I add it to the right side of the page. As we go along, I mark if something was on sale or cost more than expected. This helps us stay on budget and if we end up having wiggle room we get something not on the list that we enjoy such as a nice bread to go with the lasagna. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Long Week = Less Than Perfect Cooking

It has been a long week here. Extra stress lead to less than perfect cooking. I messed up a few of the recipes we tried this week which meant I had little to update here in blogland. However, Chris has requested a favorites week so we are very excited! We will be repeating some of our favorite meals, a few of which are already on the blog such as the Kidney Bean Risotto and Pita Pizza while others haven't made appearances yet but will next week!

Saturday I will be working on the garden and planting a few of the baby plants such as the zucchini and crookneck squash. Both are doing really well and I can't wait to finally have some plants in the garden!

Yesterday was another long hard day for me so I was really excited when I came home and Christopher had taken the initiative to see what was planned for dinner and prepared it :) So while none of the meals I personally prepared this week were hits, his stuffed bell peppers were!

Black Bean Stuffed Bell Pepper
What You Need:

  • 4 large bell peppers
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans or one can black beans
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
The Process:
  1. Cut the tops off the bell peppers, save them for later use, and remove and discard the seeds and membranes. Arrange the peppers upright in a slowcooker. 
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine the rice, beans, salsa and onions. Mix well. Fill the pepper cavities evenly with the rice and bean mixture, packing it lightly. Replace the pepper tops.
  3. In the same bowl, combine the tomatoes, cumin, oregano, and super. Pour over and around the peppers in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. 

This was a great meal for us because a stuffed bell pepper is enough to fill me up but Chris wanted more and ate his with mojito chicken. If we didn't just have these last night they could easily be on our favorites list for next week! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What About Lunch?

So I've been blogging here for nearly two months and have yet to say a word about what I eat for lunch, except once when I ate on campus. I swear, I do eat lunch at home. Normally, it's leftovers. But, if I make a few meals in a row that have basically the same ingredients, or are mainly pasta dishes then I know I need something different for lunch to get a variety of nutrients. My favorite way to do this is to make a wrap. It's quick and easy and stuffed to the brim with all sorts of veggies and seeds. Today, I made a Pepper and Hummus Wrap.

Pepper and Hummus Wrap
What You Need:

  • Hummus
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 tbsp husked sunflower seeds 
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds (optional)
  • Whole wheat wrap or flatbread
The Process:
  1. Put hummus and veggies on the wrap/bread. Sprinkle the seeds on top. Roll it up and enjoy! 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Oh The Places You Will Grow!

We have a shared fence with out neighbor. Their dog has created a long hole at the bottom of the fence and there have been numerous altercations between our dogs and theirs at this location. We have tried a few ways to fix it with no avail. After a particularly bad altercation, I stood in the backyard trying to figure out what in the world we could use to temporarily fix the issue until we had the chance to go buy some chicken wire. Then I spotted this cooler...    
I keep seeing all these alternative planters on pinterest and thought, why not? I just planted some seeds in a flower kit and some would be perfect container plants! But, me being me, I couldn't leave the cooler looking like this. It was a beautiful afternoon so I seized the opportunity to paint the cooler!

It's hard to see in this picture but I painted the phrase "Oh the places you will grow!" on the front. It's a twist of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss' quotes. I'm leaving the lid on for now because the flowers won't be ready for transplant for a few more weeks and I don't want anything else growing in there. I am so excited and can hardly wait to post a picture next month of how it looks with flowers and herbs in it!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring is Near!

The forecast for later this week is all upper 70's and sunny! I am so excited to start really working on my garden. I've been on the prowl for some pallets. I've been feeling extra college broke lately so I'm not quite ready to go buy some, but I just may end up doing that if I don't find any in the next couple of weeks.

I got home from my internship a little early tonight so I was excited to be able to make a slightly more complicated dinner. By complicated, I mean I roasted my own red peppers. It is another slow cooker recipe, which I love. It is loosely based off of a recipe from Saving Dinner the Vegetarian Way.

Roasted Pepper Pasta Bake
What You Need:

  • 1 lb whole wheat elbow shells
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup (soy) mozzarella 
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • Savory (a seasoning that came with the spice rack) and black pepper to taste
The Process:
  1. Cook pasta until it's chewy but not ready. Set aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, put 1 tbsp olive oil in a heated pan. Cook onion and fennel seeds until onions are soft.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes and crushed garlic. Bring to a boil. 
  4. Pour the tomato mix in a slow cooker. Add the pasta and mix. Top with the mozzarella. Cook on low for 4 hours or on high for 2 hours. 
  5. 30 minutes before the pasta bake is ready, slice the red pepper. Place on aluminum foil with some olive oil. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. 
  6. Top the pasta bake with the roasted pepper and seasoning. Enjoy :) 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rainy Day Soup

It was a rainy day here in NC today which means, Rainy Day Soup! That is what I call the soup that I make on cold, rainy days. On days like today, I don't want to cook anything fancy, I just want to curl up on the couch and watch a movie.

There usually is no recipe, which is what I love about it. I just throw in whatever extra veggies we have in the fridge, and let it cook in the crock pot for a few hours. Today's Rainy Day Soup was extra good though so I wanted to document it and share with yall.

Rainy Day Soup
What You (always) Need:
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced 
What I Added Today:
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 red potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup dry navy beans
  • 1 tbsp herb's province (that's what was on the label, it came with a bunch of spices my mom gave Chris for Christmas last year) 
  • 1 cup frozen corn
The Process:
  1. Peel potatoes and carrots, and chop/dice all fresh vegetables.
  2. Add everything to the crock pot. Set on low and cook for 6 hours. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day Trip Success!

This week is my spring break! Yay! Since we're trying to pay off some bills we decided to stay home this year. However, I couldn't resist a day trip to Wilmington, NC to visit my friend Cortney. I was a little nervous about how I would do considering we'd be eating out for dinner and snacks before hand.

We started our road trip with Starbucks, of course! A soy latte is exactly what I needed to jump start the trip. When we got onto Wrightsville we stopped to get some snacks. Christopher got twizzlers, I've never seen the appeal of those. I got potato chips. My old favorite is not vegan friendly, so I had BBQ instead. We took Sasha, one of the dogs, for a walk on the beach, which was a blast! She'd never been before so we enjoyed seeing her reaction.

I was nervous about dinner because we were going to dinner with Cortney and her new boyfriend. I didn't want to cause any problems with where we went so when Cortney suggested Front Street Brewery, we went along with it. The restaurant had a veggie burger option and I was really proud of myself for remembering to ask whether it was a boca burger or another brand. I was pleasantly surprised that Cortney knew that I needed to ask that too! It was a boca burger, so I had that and we ordered pita and hummus for our appetizer. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask how they cook their veggies, which is what I ordered for my side. As soon as I put the piece of broccoli in my mouth I knew it had been cooked in butter. So much for the veggies.

Here's where I admit that I had a planned cheat in mind. We went to Kilwin's for dessert and I knew I was going to get something. I figure one cheat every now and then won't be the end of the world and I am a complete sucker for adorable, old school ice cream shops. I justified my purchase of a caramel apple by telling myself that the main ingredient is the apple.

I would say that it was an overall success, with my only real slip up having been planned.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


Fun/Interesting questions I have been asked thus far:

1) Can you still drink Starbucks?
          Yes! I would never change my lifestyle if it meant I could no longer drink Starbucks! They are one of the few coffee shops in my area that offer to make their lattes with soy milk.

2) Do you have to eat beans every day?
         Nope, thank God! I also get protein from the soy milk in my coffee (see a theme?), tofu, tempeh, and various vegetables.

3) Where do you get your iron if you don't eat red meat?
          Spinach mostly. I love spinach and add it to a lot of my meals and smoothies. There is also a lot of iron in many beans and broccoli.

4) How in the world do you eat like that?!
        I open my mouth, chew the food, and swallow..Sorry, couldn't resist. But really, it's not as hard as it sounds. And because I cook with so many different vegetables there are a lot of flavors in every meal. I look forward to dinner now more than I ever have.

5) Has it been hard? (usually the follow-up question to #4)
          Yes and no. Since I was a vegetarian before, most of my usual meals were easily converted into vegan ones. The challenge is when I'm out with friends and get hungry. It's hard to grab a quick bite to eat. I'm starting to get into the habit of carrying nuts or fruit with me.

I had more that made me chuckle inside but I cannot remember them at the moment. Feel free to leave any others!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Campus Is Slacking

I had lunch on my university's campus with one of my littles, Lisette, today. It was great to see her and catch up! However, the vegan options at Chili's Too were limited. Actually, just one thing. A house salad with oil & vinegar dressing. No joke. So, since I wasn't feeling only eating a salad, I cheated and ate potato soup. I'm not too upset. Since coming to college a few years ago my campus has made huge strides to offer more vegetarian options, I can't really expect them to go from 0-60 in a snap.

After lunch, my day was long and busy. I had classes and the internship, then it was grocery day. Needless to say, I did not feel like making the fancy meal I had planned on for tonight. Instead, I cooked another 15 minute meal that turned out really well! It definitely helped ease the Alfredo craving I had last week. This one is from Vegetarian: Tasty Recipes for Every Day. Yea, they got real creative with that title, but it has had some winners in it. Again, I took some liberties with the recipe so what I have here is not exactly how it reads in the book.

Fettuccine Zucchini

What You Need
  • 1 lb fettuccine
  • 2 oz butter (I used margarine, I keep forgetting to find vegan butter)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 lb zucchini, grated
  • 3/4 cup (soy) Parmesan cheese
  • 16 leaves of fresh basil (that is a direct quote)
The Process
  1. Cook pasta. While it is cooking, prepare for and complete step 2.
  2. Heat the butter (margarine) in a deep heavy pan over low heat until it is foaming. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes. 
  3. Drain cooked pasta and add it the to the sauce. Add the Parmesan and basil and toss well.