Thursday, September 30, 2010

Black Beans and Mango

Jamie came over for dinner!  It has been awhile since I have seen her and even longer since we have had dinner.  It was a nice visit albeit short.  It also gave me a great excuse to cook.  Jamie has always loved her black beans.  When we lived together, burrito night was always one her of favorite.  I have had an idea in mind recently and decided this was the prefect time to execute.

Black Beans and Mango

1 mango
5 cloves of garlic (chopped)
15 oz of black beans
1/2 cup of vegetable broth
1/2 fresh cilantro (chopped)
3 tablespoons of onion (chopped)
2 tablespoons of vegan sour cream
2 teaspoons of jalapeno pepper (chopped)
1 tablespoon of oil
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of corn starch
1 teaspoon of soy sauce

In a saute pan, bring the oil to low heat.  Add the pepper, onion, cumin seeds, and garlic and cook until aromatic.  Add the black beans and let cook for 3-5 minutes.  The onions should be translucent by this time.  Add the broth (or water) and soy sauce and bring to a slight simmer.

While the water is heating, take a non-stick pan and heat on med with just a touch of oil.  Chop the mango into small pieces.  Once the oil is hot, add the mango and lte it cook until it turns brown.  This should take about 3-5 minutes.

Once the water and black beans are simmering, add the corn starch and vegan sour cream.  Mix well.  This should turn the color a light brown.  Once the sour cream has melted and the corn starch has folded in, add the cilantro and stir well.

I set mine of a bed of kale and riceand topped it with some additional sour cream, mango, and cilantro.  I enjoyed the meal and I think it was just want Jamie might have wanted.  As a bonus, Jamie even did the dishes!

For dessert, we had an apple crisp that I had made last night.  It was a nice treat.  I still can not master the crumble.  I will get it one of these days and when I do I will be sure to share the recipe.  The apples always come out great.  i guess I should learn to follow directions so that I can be a better baker.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Afternoon Pickles

Growing up my mum was never much for cooking.  However, I do recall coming home from school or a summer outing and there was often fresh fruit or a raw veggie plate on the kitchen table for us to nibble on.  I think this is one of the main reasons that I enjoy raw veggies so much.

One of the things my mum often had on the table was a kind of homemade pickle.  She said it would help me hydrate so that I could go back out and throw a ball against the church wall next door.  That was about as close to a church that I got as a kid.

With my dinner for one, I made myself some of these pickles with a few of the leftover cucumbers that I had.  It is nothing fancy but for all the mums with kids in a rush out in the blog world, these are easy treats!  Make sure the kids know they will help hydrate you.

Thank you to my mum for all the pickles and keeping my hydrated.

Afternoon Pickles

1 small cucumber
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of dill
a pinch of sugar

Slice the cucumbers into chip sizes.  In a bowl, add all ingredients and toss the cucumbers into the dressing.  Let stand for about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dinner for One: Breaded Portobello Strips

I have been trying to improve my eating habits when I am alone.  I tend to just eat veggie burgers or some other one player food.  I need to start taking better care of myself because I am often alone.

Today I decided that I was going to make myself dinner.  I got some portobello mushroom caps and picked some okra from my garden.

Breaded Portobello Strips

1 large portobello mushroom cap
1 cup of flour
4 tablespoons of bar b que sauce
2 tablespoons of water

1 tablespoon of corn meal
1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon of oil
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of hot sauce

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the mushroom cap into three slices.  In a bowl, marinate the mushrooms in the bar b que sauce.  Let marinate for about 15 minutes flipping every 5 minutes.

In another bowl, combine the flour, corn meal, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast.  Once the mushrooms are marinated, removed them from the bar b que sauce.  Add the water and hot sauce to the bar b que and mix well.  This will be very runny.  Add a tablespoon of the flour mixture to the bar b que mixture and stir well.  This will thicken the bar b que sauce.

Pour the oil in a baking dish.  Take each slice of the mushrooms and gently roll into the bar b que sauce and then lightly roll in the flour.  Place the mushrooms in the oil and bake for 15 minutes.  Then flip, and broil on 500 degrees for about 6 minutes.  The mushrooms should be a golden brown.

I laid my mushrooms on a bed of raw kale and fried freash (from my garden) orka.  I made a Basil Mustard Dressing with fresh basil from my garden to go over the top of the mushrooms.  I also made a few pickles but I will discuss those later.

It was complimented with a large glass of apple cider fresh from the Georgia orchards over the weekend.  I can not get enough apple cider!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Apples and Falls

There has not been much going on recently.  I have been laying low after being sick to ensure I do not come down with anything else.  I have also been working too many hours at the jobby job.  In fact, I even picked up some additional hours at another location because they were understaffed.  Working at another location is nice, it almost feels as if I have a new job.

Today was my day off.  Ashley and I decided to go pick apples in Ellijay.  It rained but we were not deterred.  We spent several hours out in the rain with the animals at the farm and the apples in the orchard.  It was a great day.  Nice and relaxing.  Apple picking is something the I have fond memories of from my childhood.  My mum and I used to go pick apples each year.  We did other fruits as well.  It was always a fun bonding experience for the two of us and is a tradition I try to carry on in my life even now.  As I get older, it amazes me that the value of things that I remember changes.

At the orchard, they has a vendor selling ribbon fries.  If you have never had them, I highly recommend it!  They take a whole raw potato and slice it, with what looks similar to a meat slice, into a pile of ribbon like chips.  Then they drop it in hot oil for a few minutes!  Luckily for us, this was the only item that this vendor was selling that was fried so we were safe from the potential of sketchy oils.  Delicious!  I have to get one of these ribbon cutters...and a deep frier!

After the apple picking we headed a few miles down the road a few miles to Amicalola Falls State Park.  Georgia has many waterfalls and I think I have seen most of the major ones.  Amicalola is one of the best.  It is a short but crazy hike up (and back down) 175 steep stairs to the base of the falls.  This site made me appropriate the day of rain.  The falls were cascading over the rocks more aggressively then I have ever seen in Georgia.  It was a great stop and by the time we zipped up and down the steps our legs were like jelly.  It was time to head home.

The greatness of some days can not be hampered.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Asparagus and Mushroom Rotini

My friend Kendra recently bought a bunch of asparagus.  After it sat in her refrigerator for a week she realized that she did not know how to use it.  I gave her some ideas but she simply opted to give it to me instead.  I will never complain about free asparagus!

Now that I am feeling better, I wanted to make a nice meal for myself.  I typically just cook asparagus as a side dish with garlic or make a soup.  I always get excited for those dishes so I never really venture out.  Today I forced myself out of my delicious comfort zone.

Asparagus and Mushroom Rotini

3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
8 - 10 asparagus spears
2 cups of rotini (cooked)
1 1/2 cup of portobello mushrooms (cubed)
1 1/4 tablespoon of vegan sour cream
1 tablespoon of oil

1 tablespoon of basil (chopped)
1 tablespoon of vegan sour cream
1 tablespoon of onion (chopped)
1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of jalapeno pepper (chopped)
pinch of salt

In a saute pan, bring the oil to low - med heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno peppers and saute until the onion is soft.  Add the asparagus, mushrooms, basil, black pepper, and salt.  Once the mushrooms are soft and beginning to brown a bit, add the sour cream, rotini, and paprika.  Stir well and cook until the sour cream has melted.  Remove from the heat and let stand for several minutes.

I added some additional paprika and basil as a garlic.  This has a nice creamy texture with a little pop of heat towards the end.  It was a nice summer evening meal.  Other pastas could be used in this dish and it would be fine

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Taking care of business

Over the week of illness, I was not able (or willing) to get much done.  I went to Ashley's house for dinner a couple of times.  She made some amazing eggplant dish that inspired me.  More on that soon.

While I was away, Ashley watered the garden daily!  It was so nice of her and now I am reaping the rewards.  My first garden at my house is slowly coming alive!  I have a few bell peppers coming in, several okra popping up, a handful of jalapeno peppers and even a few tiny summer squash are starting to spring from the vines.  Not to mention the resurgence of the mint and basil!  I can not wait to cook with some of my new veggies!

In the midst of being sick I was able to eat a few nice salads.  These were very tasty.  I will continue to make these and find the perfect fitting dressing to share!

As always, I never forget a bedtime snack!  Ashley made me these awesome s'mores cookies.  They were so good.  Maybe she will make me more....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Comfort or health?

When I am sick, I often find it difficult to draw the line between the foods that make me feel better and the foods that make me feel good.  So often I want the comfort foods and rarely do I want to take the time to prepare the healthier foods that may make me feel better in the long run.  It is a conundrum really.

As an example, the other day, Ashley and I opted to have vegan coneys and cones.  Granted, it was a yummy meal, especially with the added country potato salad, however I should have eaten something a bit better for me.  I did salvage it slightly with the addition of a spinach smoothie.

If it were only cool enough for soup!  I can not wait until it is soup weather.  Soup is healthy and comforting and I miss it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Flight home

After a week of vacationing, I was on a flight back to Atlanta (with a box of Ronald's Donuts).  Jamie picked me up at the train station and got me sick.  Actually, I think it was more likely that the casino smoke got me ill.  Last time I was surrounded with as much second hand smoke I was sick for a week.  It has been 7 days now and I am just getting over a grinding cough and painfully raw throat.

It was a long week of work (and calling out sick), struggling to get through the day to day.  I am much better now and expect some awesome things in the next few weeks.  I again noticed that there were numerous pictures that simply did not make the daily blog re-caps.  It is now my time to share!

...and one last one to make my mum laugh...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day Eight; relaxation, and Fator

Day Eight.

The final day of the trip was a day of relaxation that both my mum and brother had requested.  We went souvenir shopping, swimming at the resort pool, and headed to the casino.  Once again, I walked away from the gambling table with some second hand smoke and the same money I began with.

My mum on the other hand was the big winner.  It would be her time to pay for dinner.  We had plans to eat at another very vegetarian / vegan friendly place but I botched it up with some misguided internet based information.

After scrambling to find food on the trip at the last minuted I ended up getting a nice soup and salad at a moderately vegetarian friendly chain restaurant.  Then, we were headed off to a Las Vegas show.  I kept an open mind and had an entertaining time.

My mum has always wanted to see Terry Fator.  The day before, we surprised her with three good tickets.  Terry Fator is a singing ventriloquist, sadly I knew very few of his songs.  It was still impressive that he was able to pull it all off.

After the show we walked around the strip and watched the water show.  I could appreciated my brother's excitement, when I was in my early 20's I loved the city life too.  Now, I would much prefer to spend my time with a bottle of water in the desert enjoying the 124 degrees.

It turned out to be a vacations filled with amazing sights and quality family time.  I often wish my sister was there as well.  As a new mom herself, she does not have much of the time for these types of vacations.  In fact, she just told me the she in now pregnant with another child, this time a girl.  Congratulations Cait, I know this is what you want.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day Seven; death, raw, and smoke

Day Seven.

The three of us woke up relatively early and I took my mum and brother to Ronald's Donuts.  We each got a couple donuts and opted to head out for our final adventure outside of Las Vegas.  We were off to Death Valley National Park.

None of us knew much about this park before day seven.  It was only about a two hour drive from Las Vegas and ironically, it rained for much of the drive over.  As I am sure my mum and I will never forget, when the rain stopped, there was a distinct and pleasant odor in the air.  It was almost like a smell of fresh pine.  We began to get mildly concerned about flash floods and the temperature was lingering around about 80 degrees.  The thought of failure crossed my mind as we drove through the barren wet desert.  I clearly had no idea what to expect.

As we entered the park, the skies began to clear and the temperature began to rise.  We made several overlook stops but did not do much hiking at all.  We drove to the Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in the western hemisphere.  It was 288 feet below sea level and there was a very small pool of water surrounded my massive salt flats.  The were not nearly as large as the flats in northern Utah but were still impressively barren and devoid of life.

We got out to take some pictures and say we were there but did not spend much time lingering.  The temperature gauge on the car read 124 degrees and there were many warning all over the park about death from dehydration.  The highest temperate in recorded history was at this same point in Death Valley, 136.  It was hot on this day.  At one point, my mum heated a bagel on a rock while Ben and I ran out to an overlook.  There was a constant concern about the car overheating.

This was one of the most bazaar experiences I have ever had and is certainly something that none of us will ever forget.  The heat made everything seem a bit hazy and it was often difficult to fully open your eyes.  There was no cold water to be found in the park.  Even the water at the visitors center was hot.  It was brutal and amazing all at the same time.

That evening, after some debate, I convinced the family to eat at the Go Raw cafe.  They had never had "raw" food before, at least not in that sense that we would be eating this night.  We basically all shared several dished.  We got a sampler appetizer that had hummus, zucchini pasta (by far the highlight of the meal, and mexican wraps.  We also ordered an order of Tropical Toast (I was the the only one that liked this dish).  We had a Go Raw House Salad, a mexican pizza, and my mum ordered the vego-cotti.

My mum was not very impressed, my brother seemed to think it was tolerable and I thought is was decent.  None of us are huge fans of the strong flavor of flax and this places used more than we wanted.  Either way, it was a healthy meal before we went to a casino and sat in the smoke.

I tried my hand at the card table for the first time.  I understand the rules of blackjack but did not understand how the betting worked.  I ended up breaking even after tipping the dealer.  I walked away with my lungs full of second hand smoke and the same money I had when I started, I guess it could have been worse.  The trip was full of compromises.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day Six; fire, vegas, burger bar

Day Six.

We woke up in Mesquite Nevada with a plan to be back in Las Vegas for the second half of our trip.  On the way, we made a stop at the Valley of Fire State Park.  The park lived up to the bad ass name.  Ben, my mum and I immediately began to climb on the rocks.  These were some amazing red rocks.  Apparently, there are even some old Native Indian markings.  I was skeptical but I rolled with it.

I had so much fun climbing on the rocks and exploring the miniature caves.  There were some massive lizards running around the rocks as well.  Eventually my camera died and the heat began to get to us so we headed to Las Vegas.  After several failed attempts to find a beach on lake mead we slid into Las Vegas.

Once we were checked into our hotel, we went out for a dinner.  We ended up at The Burger Bar.  Chef Hubert Keller was the owner of this amazing restaurant.  Hubert Keller competed on the Top Chef Masters and scored very high on the vegan challenge.  For the quality of dinning, it was quite affordable.  Of course, I had the Vegas Vegan.  It was grilled eggplant and zucchini between two large portobello caps.  It was fabulous.  My mum, who is a pesco vegetarian since she was 16, kept asking for another bite.  The server was even nice enough to make me a vegan raspberry sorbet smoothie.  As a bonus, the fries were vegan and I was tearing them up.


After dinner, my brother took my mum and I around the strip.  We stopped and I watched them gamble at a big time casino.  After, we headed back to the resort, we had another big day tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day Five; zion, tubing, oscars

Day Five.

Day five was a fun and unexpected day.  Zion national park.  We drive into the canyon and took the shuttle to the final stop.  The hike lead out to The Narrows which I really want to hike some day.  There is waits deep water through very narrow subway style walkways that the virgin river has cut through the rock more years.  I will just need to watch for flash floods.

The park was packed.  It was the Sunday of labor day weekend and people were everywhere.  We began the day by walking the river walk path toward the narrows.  I lagged behind taking pictures and we ever were able to get some river access.  Standing in the virgin river was a great experience despite the ice cold water.  I was so glad that my mum and brother both crossed the river.  I think these are the types of memories that will stick with them over long periods of time.

Zion was gorgeous.  We were at the bottom of a massive canyon with sandstone mountains jutting up on all sides.  As we got further down the trail we even passed a marsh!  It was quite the oddity.  Dragonfly (my mothers favorite) were all over the rocks.

As the day grew on, we opted to go back to the town of Springdale Utah to go tubing down the shallow part of the virgin river.  It was a great 3 hour trip for the family.  It was just enough fun adventure for my brother and I and did not wear out my mum, even if she and I both got bad rubber burns on our arms and legs.

At one point, I flipped my tube and went face down in the three foot water.  I came up just in time for my mum to hit me in the face with her tube and push me back down.  All of this in front of some adolescent kids who were yelling and laughing at us, reminding us that we sucked.

For dinner, we found a nice little restaurant called Oscars Cafe.  We had blue chips with guacamole and I had a burrito.  They had a fair amount of vegan options and the menu was well marked.  After dinner we headed back into Nevada on our way back to Las Vegas with one stop left the following day.  This would be our final day in Utah, sadly.  I have always had an affection for this state.