Sunday, December 30, 2012

On My Hearth: Slow Cooker South Indian Lentil Stew

Here we are, back in Central Florida after a wonderful three weeks down south.  I will write a more detailed holiday post soon, but in the meantime I want to share a fantastic stew recipe with you. 

This Weight Watchers recipe is perfect for a chilly winter's night, savory & filling and warm! At only 6 Points Plus per serving, it's a great way to jumpstart those New Years weight-loss resolutions!

You may serve it over rice, or with a hunk of good whole grain bread as I did.  Enjoy!



Slow Cooker South Indian Lentil Stew

  2                     cup(s) dry lentils -- red variety
  15                oz  canned diced tomatoes
  10                oz  chopped frozen spinach -- thawed and drained
  4               cups  vegetable broth
  1              small  onion -- minced
  1               Tbsp  ginger root -- fresh, minced
  1               Tbsp  minced garlic
  1               Tbsp  curry powder
  1                tsp  mustard seed
     1/2           tsp  ground cumin
     1/2           tsp  ground coriander
     1/4           tsp  cayenne pepper
  1               Tbsp  kosher salt
  2                tsp  sugar
  2                tsp  fresh lemon juice
     1/3           cup  cilantro -- fresh, minced

Combine all ingredients, except lemon juice and cilantro, in a slow cooker. Cook until thick and creamy and lentil are soft, about 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired; stir in lemon juice and cilantro

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Serves 6; Per 1-cup Serving (based upon Mastercook's calculations): 154 Calories; 3g Fat (17.4% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 2271mg Sodium.  


6 PointsPlus Value

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Holidays



Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted! Like everyone else at this time of year, I've been busy with holiday plans and preparations. 



our "Charlie Brown" tree 



I managed to squeeze in some nature walks at the park near our house..





and then we packed up the car and headed south for a few weeks.  We've busy decorating this house, wrapping gifts and putting the finishing touches on some crafty projects. 

Jackson "helping" me wrap

 We've also been doing a bit of cooking, will post about that later.  In the meantime, I hear a cup of chocolate peppermint coffee calling my name..

Monday, November 26, 2012

Our (Mostly) Vegan Thanksgiving

Since South Florida is still "home" to us, we decided to spend the holiday weekend down there.  The college kids met us in Ormond Beach and we caravaned south on Wednesday afternoon.  Fortunately Kristyn was able to do the holiday shopping, cleaning and prep work, allowing us to swoop in and help with the last minute details.

Our Thanksgiving guest list included a mixture of vegans/vegetarians and omnivores, so we decided to appease everyone with a "mostly vegan" Thanksgiving feast.  From family favorites such as Mom's Ambrosia Salad to Lindsey's famous pies, we veganized as best we could.  Vegan marshmallows, Earth balance spread, and egg substitutes came to the rescue, making the task nearly effortless.  We did have a real roasted turkey alongside the Tofurky, made Cuban style by Jesus.  It smelled awesome but I'm happy to report that I stuck to the faux bird which, when topped with gravy, satisfied my meaty craving quite nicely. 

Below are a few photos from our celebration, hope you all had a lovely holiday!


Kristyn crafting the place cards


with a little help from sisters and friends

the end result, aren't they lovely?






Brynna manning the mashed potatoes


Lindsey making the pies
 
ooh, can we have dessert first??


Kristyn discovered that a bit of egg replacer makes vegan marshmallows less sticky and easier to work with!


Table set and ready for guests!
   
Most of the feast, served buffet style. Thank goodness for Crock-pots!
 
Presley taking an after-dinner nap..ahhh....


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On My Hearth: Vegetable Barley Casserole

You know that old adage about man making plans, and God laughing? Well, the Big Guy is having a big old chuckle at my expense right now! Due to job scheduling complications, we have not begun packing up the Ormond house, and may not be doing so after all.  At least, not in the immediate future. At this point all I know is that we are in Ormond today, will be down south for the holiday weekend, and then back up here through the first week of December. How's that for planning? I can hear a chorus of angels giggling. The good news: I don't have to give up my Gypsy title just yet. 

Here's a Weight Watchers recipe I made the other day, using ingredients I had on hand, thinking that I was gonna have to clean out the fridge and pantry for our Big Move. Ha!

I recently discovered barley, can't believe I haven't been eating this yummy stuff all of my life! It adds a nice texture to this casserole but of course you could substitute brown rice if you prefer.  I only had plain diced tomatoes, would definitely recommend the one w/chilies as I think the dish needed that extra little kick.  Otherwise, I was very pleased with this healthy, hearty meal!

        

                        Vegetable-Barley Casserole
 
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  2                tsp  canola oil
(I used olive oil)
  1              small  onion -- chopped
  1              clove  garlic -- minced
  2               cups  frozen corn kernels -- thawed and drained
  3               cups  swiss chard -- thick stems removed, coarsely chopped
(I used spinach)
  14 1/2            oz  canned diced tomatoes -- with chilies, well-drained
  2               cups  cooked barley -- quick-cooking recommended
     1/4           tsp  cumin seeds
     1/4           tsp  dried oregano -- crushed
     1/2           tsp  table salt
     1/4           tsp  black pepper -- freshly ground
  2              spray  cooking spray -- (s)
     1/2           cup  shreddedcheddar cheese, lowfat -- sharp-variety recommended
(I used Daiya vegan cheese)
                           
Heat oil in very large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, corn and Swiss chard; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and Swiss chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, barley, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper; heat through.




 

Coat a 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon barley mixture into prepared dish in an even layer; sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cheese melts and mixture is hot, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing into six pieces. 

Yields 1 piece per serving, 4 PointsPlus each.

Description:
  "This Tex-Mex casserole is jam-packed with tasty, fiber-rich ingredients. We used Swiss Chard but spinach, kale or turnip greens are all great options."
                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

NOTES : Add some canned black beans to make this dish even heartier (could affect PointsPlus values).




Saturday, November 10, 2012

Homeward Bound

Sorry for my lack of posting, have been busy dealing with some upcoming life changes. 

Due to the location of Chip's upcoming job projects, it looks like we'll be moving home base back to South Florida, abandoning the Ormond Beach house for now.  We plan to pack up and ready the house for rental, hopefully have a tenant in here by the new year.  I have mixed emotions as I really love this town, but am also looking forward to spending with my daughter, friends, and, of course, my cats.  South Florida will always be home to me, it's where I've lived for 47 years. It's where the majority of my memories were made.  It's a good move, but not without it's bittersweet moments.

Never fear, though, this gypsy isn't hanging up her compass just yet. There will still be travel, just perhaps not as much work-related.  I'm really not sure what the future holds, am trying to breathe deeply and trust the Universe. Easier said than done at times, right?

In other news, I've decided to re-commit to my fitness goals, before the holiday eating frenzy begins. Weight gain need not be a Yuletide tradition, nor weight loss an inevitable New Years Resolution. My goals are going to take much longer than 3 months, but there's no reason to put it off a minute longer. Anybody with me?

I'll be back later to post some recipes and reviews. Hope your weekend is off to a wonderful start!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Moroccan Slow Cooker Stew

When I decided to participate in the Virtual Vegan Potluck, I worked my fingers to the bone scanning websites and sorting through my massive cookbook collection in order to find the perfect soup recipe for the event. I wanted something spicy & savory, with seasonal ingredients.  Oh, and of course it had to be healthy, vegan, and perhaps even low-calorie.  After hours of searching and sampling, I came up with an old standby, a Weight Watchers recipe I've been making for years. This is the best soup I myself have ever made, and quite possibly the best I've ever tasted. Seriously, it is that good. The fact that it's high fiber, low-fat, and diet-friendly..perfection! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

While I find it perfect on it's own, with just a side of corn muffin or bread, you can appease heartier appetites by serving over couscous or quinoa. A dollop of vegan sour cream or yogurt & a sprinkle of cilantro adds nice flavor as well.




                        Moroccan Slow Cooker Stew

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
                  cooking spray
  1              small  onion -- chopped
  1              clove  garlic -- minced
  3             pounds  butternut squash -- peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  1                cup  baby carrots
  1                cup  canned crushed tomatoes
     1/2           cup  vegetable broth
     1/4           tsp  ground cinnamon
     1/2           tsp  cumin seeds
     1/2           tsp  red pepper flakes
  15                oz  canned chickpeas -- drained and rinsed
     1/2           tsp  table salt

Coat a small pot with cooking spray. Add onion and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes.

Place squash in a 3-quart or larger slow cooker (crockpot). Add onion and garlic, carrots, tomatoes, broth, cinnamon, cumin and red pepper flakes. Cover and turn on to low heat; simmer for 6 hours.

Add chickpeas and salt. Stir, cover and heat for 5 minutes.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

NOTES : *Partially cooking a hard-shell squash makes it easier to peel. Pierce the gourd in several places with a fork, microwave on HIGH for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size, and then peel.
 

Yields 6 Servings; approx 1- 1/3 cups per serving. 5 Weight Watchers
PointsPlus for those who are counting.




To visit the wonderful blog that precedes mine in the Potluck, Live.Learn.Love.Eat, click here.

To visit the amazing blog that follows mine in the Potluck, Cocina de Nihacc, click here.

To start at the beginning of the Potluck, click here.

Many thanks to Vegan Bloggers Unite for hosting this potluck. It's been a lot of fun and a wonderful way to discover other vegan bloggers. I can't wait to continue exploring and cooking!

Michele~

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On My Hearth: Isa's Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd's Pie



I don't know about you, but to me Shepherd's Pie is the epitome of comfort food, especially on a chilly autumn evening.  I've had many a version, from the "real" thing back in my omnivorous days, to several versions made with faux beef. However, I've never tried a legume-based recipe.  This one from Isa Chandra Moskowitz (of Post Punk Kitchen fame) looked amazing, combining the meatiness of lentils with the earthy mushrooms. The fact that it's "light" in calories/fat but high in protein & fiber is an added bonus.

As Isa suggests, I served mine over her Caulipots but you could also use traditional mashed potatoes, quinoa, cous cous, or even a baked potato. The possibilities are endless!

Take my advice, don't stop with this recipe from Appetite for Reduction. I've tried several others, each one more delicious than the last! I'll be posting more recipes and reviews in the future but you'll probably want to buy your own copy so you don't miss a single tasty dish. 
 
                     
                    Upside-Down Lentil Shepherd's Pie

  --------  ------------  --------------------------------
  2          teaspoons  olive oil
  1                     onion -- chopped finely
  4             ounces  shiitake mushrooms -- chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  1                     zucchini -- diced small (1 1/2 cups
  3             cloves  garlic -- minced
     1/2      teaspoon  dried tarragon
  2          teaspoons  dried thyme
     1/2      teaspoon  salt
                        Several pinches freshly ground black pepper
  1                cup  carrots -- peeled and diced small
     3/4           cup  du Puy lentils (aka French lentils) -- rinsed
  3               cups  vegetable broth
  1         tablespoon  Worcestershire sauce
     1/2           cup  frozen peas

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil until translucent, about 5 mins. Add the shiitakes, zucchini, garlic, tarragon, thyme, salt, and pepper; saute for 5 more mins.

Add the carrots, lentils, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 mins, stirring occasionally. By this point, the lentils should be tender and most of the broth should be absorbed. If it's not, then just let it simmer for longer and check on it. (Mine took about 15 mins longer than this.) Conversely, if the broth has evaporated and the lentils are soft, then add a bit of water and simmer for a bit longer.

Once the lentils are soft, stir in the Worcestershire sauce and peas. (I added 1 c. of peas instead of the 1/2.) Let sit for 10 mins or so for maximum flavor. Taste for salt.

To serve: Scoop a cup of Caulipots (recipe below) into a bowl and serve a cupful of lentils over it.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Makes 4 Servings; Per Serving: 210 Calories; 2g Fat; 11g Protein; 38g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 440mg Sodium.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                 
                 Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes (Caulipots)

--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  2                     russet potatoes -- cut into 3/4 inch pieces (about 1 1/2 lbs)
     1/2          head  cauliflower -- cut into florets (1 lb, or about 3 cups)
  1         tablespoon  olive oil
  2        tablespoons  vegetable broth -- (2 to 4)
     1/2      teaspoon  salt
                        Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a 4-quart pot in enough cold water to submerge them, making sure there are about 4 inches of extra water on top for when you add the cauliflower. Bring the potatoes to a boil. Once boiling, add the cauliflower and lower the heat to a simmer. Let simmer for about 15 mins, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.

Drain them in a colander, return them to the pot, and use a potato smasher to mash them a bit.  Add the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of broth, the seasonings and mix well. If needed, add another 2 tablespoons of broth. Taste for salt. Serve warm..

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Makes 4 Servings; Per Serving: 190 Calories; 3.5g Fat; 6 g Protein; 37g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 370mg Sodium.  



Enjoy!


Michele~

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On My Hearth: Apples and Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa

Hurricane Sandy made her way past Florida over the weekend, leaving just a few downed tree branches in her wake.  Whew! Big sigh of relief for us but my heart goes out to others along the East Coast who were not as fortunate.

As often happens, our post-storm weather has been absolutely gorgeous.  Last evening Chip lit a fire in the pit and we enjoyed happy hour on our patio.  




This morning donned even more bright and beautiful with a low of 47 degrees! After taking Loki for a breezy little walk, I did a search for something warm & cozy to put in my tummy.  This recipe for Breakfast Quinoa from Skinnytaste hit the spot!

                     
                     


                   Apples and Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa

Recipe By     :   Skinnytaste.com
Serving Size  : 4    

  --------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1                cup  quinoa -- rinsed well
  1 1/2           cups  water
  1                tsp  cinnamon -- plus more for sprinkling
  2                tsp  vanilla extract
     1/2           cup  unsweetened applesauce
     1/4           cup  golden raisins
  1                cup non-fat milk  -- warmed (
I used almond milk)
  1                     gala apple -- peeled and diced
     1/4           cup  pecans -- chopped
(I used walnuts)

Combine quinoa, water, cinnamon and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes until quinoa can be fluffed with a fork.

Divide cooked quinoa between four bowls then stir in apple sauce, raisins, and pour in warmed milk. Top with fresh cut apples and pecans and a dash of cinnamon.

                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per Serving (according to Mastercook): 297 Calories; 8g Fat (24.6% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 50g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 21mg Sodium.  


NOTES : Makes 4 servings. You can divide the recipe to make 2 servings.


  Enjoy!

Michele~              

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On My Hearth: Vegan Minestrone and the Best Garlic Bread EVER!



As I type, I am still under the influence of the most delicious garlic bread I have eaten. Ever. This recipe will replace any other I've tried in the past, hands down.  When I saw Laura Theodore (aka the Jazzy Vegetarian) make this on her popular tv show, I knew I had to try it. Tonight was the night.

Now, I should mention that the bread wasn't the main course, even a bread addict such as myself knows that wouldn't be a good idea. (right?) I served it alongside a scrumptious bowl of minestrone soup, but seriously, the bread stole the show.  My hunny, who isn't a carb fiend ate three big slices, sopping up every bit of vegetable broth and scraping the sides of his bowl with it. Seriously. It's that good. But don't take my word for it, try it yourself! If you don't like it as much as I do, let me know. I'll come over and take the leftovers off your hands.

Ok, here's the recipe, but please note: even Laura admits, it's not low-calorie. So, pace yourself. Have a slice..or two..and then put the rest away for the next meal.  I myself wrapped it up tightly and stored it in the back of the fridge where I can't hear it calling my name later tonight.


Jazzy Vegetarian’s Grandma’s Garlic Bread

MAKES 10 TO 12 SERVINGS

This recipe is based on my grandmother’s version, which was always a favorite of mine. I’ve updated it to use fresh garlic and whole-grain bread, as it’s more nutritious and hearty. This tantalizing loaf, with its crispy crust and herbed, soft, and steamy inside, is bursting with flavor. In other words . . . perfection!

1 large loaf whole-grain Italian bread
1⁄2 cup vegan margarine, at room temperature
6 to 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (see note)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Put the bread on a cutting board. Use a serrated bread knife to slice 1⁄2- to 1-inch-thick slices diagonally across the entire loaf, but don’t cut all the way through the bottom crust; leave the bottom of the loaf intact.

Put the margarine, garlic, and Italian seasoning in a small bowl and mash with the back of a fork until thoroughly combined. Working carefully so as not to separate the slices, spread the margarine mixture on each side of each slice. Wrap tightly in foil, crimping the edges to form a tight seal (see note).
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is crispy and the interior is hot and steamy. Remove the foil and serve the bread in a bread basket or large bowl, wrapped in a large cloth napkin to keep it warm.

NOTES

 If you have fresh herbs such as basil or oregano on hand, feel free to substitute about 3 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs for the italian seasoning, or add them along with the dried herbs.

Once the bread is wrapped in foil, it may be stored in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours before baking.


Oh, yeah, here's the entree.  Based on a Food.com recipe, I did a bit of tweaking and came up with this:






Vegan Minestrone Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
1 link vegan Italian sausage (such as Tofurky brand), optional  
3/4 cup chopped onions
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups diced zucchini
1 cup diced carrots
1can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained 
3/4 cup diced celery
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh coarse ground black pepper
28 fluid ounces canned plum tomatoes, dice and include liquid
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup uncooked ditalini or 1/4 cup elbow macaroni  
 
Heat oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat.

 


Add chopped onion, carrots, celery, basil, oregano salt, pepper, and sliced sausage. Saute until veggies are slightly softened and sausage is browned.

Add the above plus remainder of ingredients, except for pasta, in slowcooker.  


Cook on high for a couple of hours, reduce heat to low. Continue to cook until vegetables are tender.

Boil pasta separately according to package directions, just to al dente. Add to slowcooker and stir. Adjust spices to suit your taste. Serve hot, top with vegan parmesan if desired.


This one was a definite winner! While sausage is not a normally a part of traditional minestrone, I find that it adds a bit of substance to the soup and makes for a more complete meal, especially if serving it to a meat & potatoes kind of guy like mine who thinks of soup as an appetizer, not the main course. As I said, tonight he gobbled up every bite and I have no doubt he'll be enjoying it again tomorrow around lunchtime.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Michele~

Monday, October 22, 2012

On My Hearth: Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

Though the temps have dropped slightly, it's still nowhere near Sweater Weather here.  In an attempt to lure Autumn down south, I'm gonna keep cooking and posting fall-ish recipes until Mother Nature gets the hint!

This morning I whipped up a very tasty breakfast, Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal. The original recipe can be found at this adorable blog, Everybody Likes Sandwiches. I didn't have all of the spices called for so I did a little bit of tweaking. I also eliminated the yogurt option, but if you're not vegan, go for it!




Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch or two of pumpkin pie spice, to taste
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Toasted pecans or other nuts, optional but delicious


In a medium pot, boil 3 cups of water. Add oats and turn down heat to a simmer, keeping the lid on. Give the mixture a stir once in a while and keep an eye on things so it doesn’t boil over. When the oats have been absorbed and are ready (about 20 minutes or so), add in the pumpkin, spices and maple syrup. Give everything a stir. Divide mixture into 2 bowls and top with nuts, if desired.

Yummy!  This was the perfect beginning to a chilly autumn day (ahem..are you listening, Mama Nature?). The spices complimented the oats so nicely and the maple syrup added just enough sweetness. The toasted nuts were a lovely topping, sooo good! This recipe will definitely be part of our family cookbook.

Have a beautiful day!

Michele~

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tales from Home: Ormond Beach

Love Whole Foods, Ormond Beach
As I mentioned, we'll be spending the next few days at home in Ormond Beach, which is a stone's throw from the more famous Daytona Beach.  For the majority of the year, this is a sleepy little city.  While it has all of the basic necessities such as ample shopping, dining & various other entertainment opportunities, Ormond still manages to feel like a small town. Minimal traffic, quiet neighborhoods, low crime rate. We have just enough culture to keep me entertained, but if we get bored or want more "big city" fun, Orlando is only an hour away.  It's really a perfect place for me at this stage in my life as my needs are rather simple; as long as I have a library, a movie theater and a good internet connection, I'm content. And then, there's this, within walking distance of our house...

Central Park, Ormond Beach

And this, ten minutes from our doorstep..

Ormond Beach, FL

And, the best part, this is the view from our bedroom window..



If I want an "art fix," I can stop at the museum and stroll through the gardens..

Cecelia Lueza exhibit


Ormond Beach Memorial Museum & Gardens



For yummy veg-friendly dining, we often visit the Dancing Avocado Kitchen.

Chip enjoying a vegetarian Carrot Cream Smoothie

Vegan Veggie/Tofu/Avocado, etc. Sandwich & Taters


Or we can have a bite to eat at the beachfront Ocean Deck...

Tropical Salad, veganized by the Ocean Deck

When I'm in the mood for something spicy (which I usually am!), there are several wonderful Thai restaurants nearby...

Spring Rolls


Siam Tofu from Thai Erawan

So, you see, I'm really not missing anything here in this quiet little town...except for my cats and my kids. I'm working on that part. *smile*

No plans for today as of yet, looking forward to a relaxing Sunday. How about you?


Saturday, October 20, 2012

On My Hearth: Pumpkin Chick'n Chowder

Even though Autumn has yet to show her face here in Central Florida, I'm cranking down the a/c and pretending there is a chill in the air outside.  I'm craving comfort food - thick soups & stews, warm spices & seasonings. 

Yesterday was all about settling back into the Ormond Beach house. We won't need  The Beast until next weekend, so we spent the afternoon unpacking, cleaning, washing towels and linens, getting her ready for temporary storage.  Knowing that I probably wouldn't have much energy for cooking after all of that, I pulled out my slow cooker and prepared dinner while sipping my morning coffee. 

I've been a follower of Healthy Slow Cooker for a while now, the new cookbook at the top of my wish list, but haven't tried any of her recipes yet.  This one for chowder was perfect since I had all of the ingredients on hand, saving me a trip to the grocery store.




Slow Cooker Pumpkin Chick’n Chowder – serves 4

Cooking Time: 6 to 8  hours on low (or 3 to 4 on high)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin purée (I used canned pumpkin)
  • 1 medium potato, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cup vegan chick’n, cubed package (Gardein, Soy Delight, Smart Strips Chick’n, etc.)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon vegan chick’n bouillon, like Better than Bouillon
  • 4 cups water (I used vegetable broth in lieu of the bouillon and water)
  • cayenne or chipotle powder to taste
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy Toffuti sour cream
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • salt and pepper to taste (will vary greatly on the bouillon used)
The night before: Cut up the veggies and chick’n. Thaw pumpkin purée if you have it frozen. Store together in one bowl in the fridge. (I skipped this step, prepared the whole recipe in the morning)

In the morning: Add everything except the non-dairy milk, Toffuti sour cream, and the extra salt or pepper. Cook on low for 6 to 8 (or on high for 3 to 4 hours).

Remove bay leaf and thyme stems (if you used fresh thyme). Then add the non-dairy milk and sour cream.

Make sure you thoroughly mix them in the soup. Then taste your soup, and add more salt, pepper, cayenne, or thyme if needed.

If you want a thicker soup you can take about 1/3 of the soup and purée it in a blender or food processor and then mix it into the rest of the soup. Personally I liked the thinner soup.

Serve topped with shredded vegan cheddar, extra vegan sour cream, and/or chopped chives if desired.

 
 

The Verdict: While I loved the flavors in this soup, I found it too watery, more like a thin soup than a chowder. I used my immersion blender in an attempt to thicken it up, but all it did was obliterate the ingredients entirely.  Next time I will use a larger potato, or maybe even two, since the one I had on hand was rathe rmeasley. Also, my store was out of vegan sour cream so I just used Dayan shredded cheese, am sure the sour cream would've added some substance and flavor. 

It's Biketoberfest weekend so we'll likely stop by some of the local bars, enjoy the sights & sounds of this yearly event. It's a beautiful day, mildly warm temps so far, hope the bikers are enjoying it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

On My Hearth: Cajun Mac and "Cheese"

We are spending one more night in Jacksonville, then back home to Ormond Beach for a while.  I don't mind telling you, I'll be happy to see the last of this RV Park. I shouldn't complain, it hasn't been all bad, but the lack of open space is wearing on me.  Loki and I both need a nice long walk in a setting that doesn't include highway noise, mud puddles, and gravel driveways lined with motorhomes.

Not wanting to purchase too much food that will just be unpacked tomorrow, I searched the pantry for dinner inspiration. I found a box of mini wagon-wheel shaped pasta...hmm...a quick search led me to this Food Network recipe.  It didn't take much effort to vegan-ize it, just a few easy substitutions. I also reduced the amount of oil, found that 1 tablespoon was more than enough to keep the sausage & veggies from sticking without adding quite as much fat.



Cajun Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces wagon-wheel pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces vegan sausage, diced (I used Tofurky Italian flavor)
  • 2 bunches scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper (red or green), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun spice blend (I used Emeril's Blast!)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dairy-free milk (I used Almond Breeze)
  • 8 ounces dairy-free cheese substitute, shredded or cubed (I used Daiya)

Directions"

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 minute less than the label directs. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. 

Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and sausage in a large skillet over high heat and cook, stirring, until the sausage starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the scallions and bell pepper and cook until the vegetables are slightly soft, about 3 more minutes. Add the Cajun spice and flour and cook, stirring, 2 more minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and continue whisking until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 5 more minutes. 

Add the pasta, cheese and reserved cooking water to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, tossing to coat the pasta in the sauce and melt the cheese, about 1 minute. 



The verdict: Fabulous! This mac & "cheese" is quite hearty and makes a lot of food, would definitely say more than 4 servings, more like 6 for my family.  The sausage and Cajun spice provide a nice kick without being too spicy. I will definitely make this one again!


Monday, October 15, 2012

On My Hearth: Crockery Cassoulet

This past weekend we were "home" in Pembroke Pines, such a joy to spend time with Kristyn, Jesus, and, of course, my critters! It's also a pleasure to cook in the kitchen here as it's completely equipped with all of the gadgets I've collected over the years.  But the best part about being home? Having someone other than myself and Chip to cook for! I really miss the days when all of my family was under one roof, sitting around the dinner table each night.

Since Sunday is Kristyn and Jesus' only day off from the shop, they catch up on errands, chores, socializing..with a little bit of rest thrown in! I decided to prepare a meal in the slow cooker so they could eat whenever their schedule allowed, so I cracked open my shiny new cookbook, Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.  While I was browsing through the book searching for the perfect recipe, I threw together a little lunch for myself and Kristyn, just some eggplant cutlets I found in the freezer, browned in sauce and served atop penne pasta.



We had most of the ingredients on hand for this Crockery Cassoulet and I thought that along with some nice French bread, it would be the perfect dinner for a rainy Sunday.  Instead of relying on store bought, I dusted off my old bread machine and baked my own! Let me tell you, the scents wafting from my kitchen were amazing!

gathering ingredients..


Crockery Cassoulet

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern or Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2-cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup white wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup panko or dry bread crumbs
2 purchased vegan sausage links (I used Tofurky vegan kielbasa links), sliced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

For the best flavor, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes, adding a sprinkling of water, if needed, to keep it from burning.  Add the carrots, garlic, and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes longer.  

Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker.  Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, wine, thyme, marjoram, and bay leaves.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover, and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. 

While the cassoulet is cooking, lightly toast the panko in a small dry skillet until lightly browned.  Set aside. 

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook until browned on both sides. 

When the cassoulet is ready to serve, remove and discard the bay leaves, and stir in the sausage and liquid smoke.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.  Top with the reserved bread crumbs and the parsley.  Serve hot. 



The verdict: This was a very tasty dish, enjoyed the combination of flavors. The liquid smoke is a must, don't skip this ingredient! Next time I will probably saute the carrots a bit longer as, even after 8 hours of cooking they were a bit crispy.  This could've been the fault of my old slowcooker, though, will try it again with my new model.

Today we say goodbye to South Florida, head back north to Jacksonville for a few days. My new cookbook is coming with me so stay tuned for some more slow cooker recipes!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Yet More Tales from Jacksonville

As I eluded to in my last Tale, my visit to Jacksonville has been a tad disappointing. There doesn't appear to be much to do here, at least not in the vicinity of Chip's job site.  You should know that I'm a nervous driver, hate highways and bridges, so unless Chip is around to chauffeur me, I don't venture far from our "home base." Just down the street from us is a Wal-Mart and a Home Depot, neither of which hold much appeal. Last week the weather was terrible - hot & rainy, which led to a muddy campsite, not fun for Loki or myself.  So, I've been stuck alone in the RV for the most part, amusing myself with internet surfing (thank goodness we have wi-fi), reading and cooking.

Fortunately, the sun came out, the temperature dropped, and we relocated our motor home to a nicer space in the park, allowing for a much more pleasant camping experience!

Our view, when not obstructed by other RVs!

We also did a bit of research, learned that Jacksonville Beach (half an hour east) would be more to our liking, so we made some time for exploration.

Wednesday night we took advantage of a wonderful Groupon offer, went to dinner at the Buddha Thai Bistro(You know how much I love my spicy food!) They were recommended by Happy Cow, so I knew I'd find some veg-friendly options, but I looked up the menu beforehand just in case. I was thrilled to find a separate menu listing all of their vegan options, making my decision so much easier!

When we arrived we were immediately impressed by the modern yet cozy decor, charmed by the Halloween decorations mixed in with the abundance of Buddha statues. 

Spooky Buddhas!
 Our waitress was so polite & helpful, the service was impeccable! We each ordered an appetizer, vegan egg rolls for me.  The presentation was gorgeous, love the carrot rose garnish!



I also enjoyed a lovely cocktail called Thai Love Potion, a mixture of vodka, cranberry and other deliciousness. 

Alas, I have no personal pictures to share of my amazing Green Curry; the dim lighting at this point was perfect for romantic dining but not so much for food photos. I didn't want to ruin the moment or disturb fellow viewers with a flash, so you'll have to trust me on this: not only was this the best curry I've ever eaten, it was also the most beautiful! I've never seen this particular shade of green, just stunning.  The presentation was so lovely, it was a shame to eat it! I snatched a photo from the restaurant website, wish you could see (and taste) it for yourselves!

We sat right there...and here's the Green Curry I so enjoyed!


Between the appetizers, generous entree and a bottle of wine, neither of us had room for dessert, so we forced ourselves away from the table with a promise that we will definitely return to Buddha Thai during our stay here!

Since Chip had to work Thursday night, we took the opportunity to explore beachside again, this time during the day.  Our first stop was Joe's Crab Shack, located right on the beach.



While it was a lovely view, there is absolutely nothing veg-friendly on the menu so we had a drink and moved along.

a shot of Crown Royal with a beer chaser for Chip




Fortunately, there was a Mellow Mushroom just across the street. Since we had a nice experience at the location in Macon, I had high hopes for this one.
I was not disappointed!

From the funky decor...

Patio Mural


next time I want to sit in the Magic Bus!

to the pleasant outdoor dining...



to the delicious veggie pizza and cold beer...



it was a a perfect lunch! I really hope they open a Mellow Mushroom in our area, think it would be quite welcome in Daytona Beach. 

Today we pack up and head south for the weekend, looking forward to hugging my kids and cuddling my critters. We have a busy weekend planned so stick around for more tales!