Monday, November 21, 2011

Aunt Rebecca's Amazing Orzo Salad Recipe and Thanksgiving Menu Plans...Plus, Chris' First Stir-Fry!

"Mama Mia, a-gimme more-a spaghetti marinara!"
Kendall is my rock-star vegetarian in the house. She is always up for my veggie sandwiches that I pack with spinach, sprouts, and sundried tomatoes. Here she is with Noodles with veggies, grapes and carrots and hummus.

Well, yesterday we had Kaylee's first birthday party. Lots of...good but unhealthy food (pizza and cake, yep.) And I feel:Ugh. That's what I get for eating pizza with sausage and pepperoni (the one large veggie pizza went fast- go figure! I only got one slice!), veggie sticks (basically glorified potato sticks), and lots of cake. Dang, it was good going in! However. I have had heartburn all day. Ugh. That was a lot of dairy (pizza, cake...) and I haven't had meat in ...? a month?

I did make my aunt Rebecca's famous Orzo Pasta Salad which I will post below. I made a few variations (used balsamic instead of red wine vinegar, didn't have green onions, and omitted the pine nuts because I burned them while trying to toast them, boo!) but other than that the recipe was great- it is forgiving and you can add pretty much anything and it will taste good! Hmmm, that reminds me, I forgot to add my black olives! Now THAT would be good!

Anyhow, things are going well over here...we are getting into a groove. Even Chris made a veggie stirfry the other day and had it ready when I came home from watching Brandon's soccer game. If that's not progress then I don't know what it. Prior, the only food Chris ever cooked would be either: A) about 9 scrambled eggs or B) about 7 fried chicken thighs. I shudder at the amount of animal protein, saturated fat, and cholesterol in those meals. And the stir fry was delicious! It had mushrooms, broccolli, red onions, asparagus, and tofu!

This week for Thanksgiving I am planning on making a vegan pumpkin cheesecake, vegan green bean casserole, and vegan mashed potatoes. I may have some turkey (I know Chris will) but Mom said she would make some stuffing without adding turkey to it. Yay! LOVE mom's stuffing! It's full of raisins, nuts, and celery. MMMMMMMMM!!! I may have to bring some vegan gravy now that I think of it. I can't very well slather my vegan mashed potatoes and stuffing with turkey fat gravy! Anyhow, I am really looking forward to trying out these new recipes.

Now, for the best Orzo recipe ever...

(Aunt Rebecca's) Orzo with Tomatoes, Feta & Green Onions

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp honey

½ cup olive oil UPDATE: CAN BE OMITTED!

6 cups vegetable broth


2 cups red & yellow grape tomatoes halved

1- 7oz. package feta cheese cut into 1/2” cubes UPDATE: OMIT FETA FOR VEGAN VERSION

1 cup chopped fresh basil

1 cup chopped green onions

½ cup pine nuts toasted

1 can sweet corn drained

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in bowl, gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt & pepper.

Bring broth to a boil in saucepan. Stir in Orzo, reduce heat to medium and cover partially: boil until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occaisionally. Drain. Transfer to a large wide bowl, tossing frequently to cool and separate.

Mix tomatoes, feta, basil, green onions and corn into orzo. Add vinaigrette: toss to coat. Season with salt & pepper. Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Add pine nuts; toss and serve at room temperature.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Best freakin' healthy (baked) falafels ever!

OK, so last time I tried this recipe for some reason they were all crumbly and not too tasty...this time I think I got it right! I used a variety of recipes but mainly this one : I altered a few things so here is my final recipe.

Aly's Baked Falafels with soy yogurt tzatziki sauce

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained
1 medium or 1/2 large onion chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
sprinkle of pepper
1 tps. baking powder
1-3 TBS. flour (can use whole wheat breadcrumbsm whole wheat flour, etc. to make it even healthier) Basically you want to be able to form little patties without it sticking to your hands.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain and rinse chickpeas. Mash chickpeas with a potato masher or food processor. Add other ingredients and continue mashing/mixing until combined well. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.

Use a non-stick baking sheet or lightly oil a baking sheet. Form "dough" into patties about 2-3 inches in diameter and slightly flatten them. Bake at 400 for 12 minutes on each side or until slightly browned on each side (cooking times may vary). I throw the pita in while they are cooking to warm up.

Serve with tzatziki sauce, spinach, sliced onions and tomatoes (or whatever else you want) on warm pita bread.

Soy "Tzatziki" Sauce

1 1/2 cups plain soy yogurt
1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tsp. dried dill weed or 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill weed
salt and pepper to taste
1 TBS lemon juice

Directions: Mix all ingredients together and chill for at least an hour. Serve with warm pita and falafels or use as a dip or salad dressing!

So, that' s it! Super easy and delicious. The best part is that it is so good for you AND tastes amazing. We are not compromising on taste at all over here. :)

Here is what I am making for dinner tonight:

Thai green curry with light coconut milk, peas, cauliflower, potatoes and tofu over jasmine rice (out of brown rice). Served with a chopped salad of spinach, carrots, red peppers and red onion with thai dressing. Holy cow, this should be good. All "vegan" as well=bonus!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New dinner recipes tried and great blogs I am loving

First, my favorite new blog is Happy Healthy Long Life. The blog author is a medical librarian that takes a research-based look at nutrition and lifestyle choices. She has great recipes and links to articles and videos...truly a wealth of health inspiration.

Another great vegan website is Bonzai Aphrodite, she has a great home garden section and shows what she feeds her and her toddler on a frequent basis. I get a lot of ideas from here.

Some great things I have made for dinner lately....spaghetti with red sauce and meatless balls...I know that Meatless meat is something that should be avoided when possible (not the healthiest to rely on at every meal) but for a quick dinner when the family is hungry, using frozen meatless balls and just adding them to simmering sauce did the trick. Everyone loved it.

Fajita veggie burritos with rice and refried beans served with quinoa and black beans. Inspired by a fabulous veggie burrito I had at Rubio's on Sunday. Admittedly, these two dishes together were redundant (beans and rice, beans and grains) but I really wanted to try the quinoa dish and knew it wasn't enough to fill up the hoard for dinner. Next time I would do a salad with it instead. But both were really good-even Brandon liked the quinoa.

Tonight I will be trying Chef Chloe's Pad Thai Noodles and making a thai-inspired salad to go with it, loosely based on this recipe, omitting the cashews which I don't have.

Oh yeah, I also made a "beef" stroganoff that turned out pretty darned good...just sauteed an onion with some mushrooms, then added cut up strips of Vegan Boca Burgers to this and added a can of cream of mushroom that I had in cabinet (not vegetarian, but I will stock up on vegan versions of cream of mushroom and onion soon) and some worcestire (sp?) sauce. All of this was put over noodles. It was so good and really tasted like it had meat in it. I will try and start using healthier alternatives to regular pasta soon to up the nutrition factor. This meal definitely needed a salad. Again, I get very lazy about salads when I have the stuff right there in the fridge and it would take 5 minutes! No more excuses!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Breaking News: Junk Food is Bad!

OK, ignoring the obvious conclusion one can make from the headline of the article above (drug addiction is cool, guys? Duh, ok...) this article was interesting in a I-already-knew-this-but-like-to-pretend-I-don't sort of way. What I mean is, I *know* that processed/junky food is bad but man it just tastes so good so I like to ignore that information.

I didn't know it was as addictive as drugs, however! It really makes sense though: it is hard to eat one chip, donut, cookie, etc. without wanting another...and another...until the stomachache and sugar coma make you stop and you wake up the next morning filled with regret, self-hatred, and a hunger that only some sugary processed food can satisfy. It is a sick, cyclical loop of self-destruction, literally.

And I recently heard the term "junk-food-vegan" used to describe people that claim to be living a vegan lifestyle while most of their calories are still made up of processed food. Yes, the food is meat and animal cruelty-free but not necessarily healthy.

The bottom line is stick to whole, unprocessed foods and you can't really go wrong.

But in a pinch, I would go with dairy free ice cream instead!