Thursday, November 30, 2017

Quick & Tasty Dinner

Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup & Grilled Vegan Cheese Sandwich
I've been on a soup kick this week.  Yesterday, I made Southwestern Black Bean & Corn Chowder from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson. It's one of my most favorite soups.  It comes together quickly, simmers for a half hour and is ready to eat.  It's forgiving when I don't have all of the right ingredients (like only 1 can of black beans, so I subbed 1 can of great northern beans and no fire roasted tomatoes, so I used organic tomato sauce).  I've used many different combinations of almost the right ingredients (no chopped mild green chilies? use dried jalapeno instead) and it's delicious every time!
Southwestern Black Bean & Corn Chowder
Today, I picked up a small container of Creamy Tomato Bisque soup and put it in the fridge at work.  I'm thinking you can guess what happened tonight when I was in the car driving home.  Yep! I left the soup at work.  My son still wanted Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese, so I went online searching for soup recipe.  And, I found a good one ... Panera Creamy Tomato Soup Copycat Recipe by The Novice Chef. 

It was an easy fix to veganize this recipe.  I switched out the half and half for SO Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer.  I also added a few things based on the suggestions in the comments of her blog.  The result was a creamy soup that mimics the taste of Panera Bread's Tomato Soup. Here is the slightly altered recipe below. 

Vegan Creamy Tomato Soup
Serves 4


2-3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves (run through a garlic press0
1 large onion, sliced (I used 2 small)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (add more for a spicy soup)
1 tablespoon Earth Balance
2 (28 oz.) cans San Marzano peeled whole tomatoes with juice
1 to 1½ cups water 
1 vegan chicken bouillon cube
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup SO Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer
1 small package of organic basil leaves (in the produce section) sliced in ribbons
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat pan, add olive oil and then add garlic & sliced onions at the same time.  Cook over medium to medium low heat stirring frequently for 4 minutes.  Add smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and Earth Balance.  Continue cooking another 4 minutes or so until onions are translucent.

Add the tomatoes with juice, water, bouillon cube and sugar.  Turn the heat to medium until soup starts to bubble.  Simmer for 12 -15 minutes.  Add the vegan creamer, basil, oregano and salt & pepper to taste.  

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it's smooth with no large chunks of veggies or spices.  Serve with crusty bread or grilled vegan cheese sandwiches. Can be frozen for up to 3 months.

This is definitely enough to feed 4 people.  My son and I both had a generous helping and I'm freezing the rest to eat another week when I need "fast food" at home. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016

It's Christmas morning for the next 32 minutes or so and I'm looking up my recipes for Christmas dinner.  I'm making an Vegan Eggnog Cheesecake from Susan Voisin's website, FatFree Vegan Kitchen.  I'm also making vegan filet mignon, a recipe I posted in March 2015.  I have since bought the cookbook the creator published, Meatless Meals for Meat Lovers by Tracy Williams. It's a mere $5 and has the recipe for both the Best Damn Seitan I've Ever Had PERIOD and for the Seitan Turkey and Stuffing I have made for Thanksgiving.
This year, I made homemade gifts for some coworkers.  I made bottles of vanilla extract. I used 1 vanilla bean for every 2 ounces of vodka.  I began seeping the beans on September 9, 2016.  The longer the beans seep, the richer the extract. By the time I gave them to my coworkers on December 22, 2016, the extract was a nice brown color and very fragrant. 
I also made them Vanilla Cinnamon Nuts. I got up at 4:00 a.m. on December 22, 2016 and by 5:20 a.m., I had made 8 cups of nuts.  The recipe was extremely easy and vegan.

Vanilla Cinnamon Nuts

4 cups of any type of nuts (raw)
1½ cups sugar
2/3 cup water
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon or so of freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350º F; roast nuts on jelly roll pan for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to prevent burning.  

Combine sugar, water, vanilla, cinnamon & nutmeg in a dutch oven (large enough to hold all of the nuts) and bring to a boil.  Over medium heat, add all nuts and stir constantly.  The mixture will bubble up.  Keep cooking and stirring until the sugar crystallizes.  This will happen in 6-10 minutes.  All of the liquid evaporates and the sugar on the nuts dries out.  Once it starts drying out, it will happen quickly.  You need to continue to stir (it will be harder since the liquid is gone) until the coating on all nuts has crystallized. Turn off the burner to prevent burning.

Line the same jelly roll pan you used to roast the nuts with a piece of parchment paper. (I did this immediately after I put the nuts in the sugar so it was ready when the nuts were done.)  Dump the nuts on the jelly roll pan and spread out to cool.  If the nuts stick together, once they are cooler, break the bigger chunks apart. Store in a sealed container. (I used Ball jars.)
I decorated my vanilla bottles and Ball jars with jute and red yarn and made labels for them. I believe in giving homemade, because it's from the heart, but I don't believe in sloppy homemade.  The packaging is a reflection on me and it takes so little to make things nice.  I bought the labels at Hobby Lobby and they came with a website address where I found templates and could personalize them. The labels even had a hole punch out to hang on my projects.  They are Avery labels #80503.  Great little labels.

Hope you all are having a Merry Christmas!  It's time for me to go cook. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

What Took Me So Long? Vegan Yogurt & Granola

Who buys a yogurt maker on September 21, 2013 and waits until August 29, 2016 to make her first batch of yogurt?  I mean really, after 3 years, wouldn't you think that the yogurt maker should go in the Goodwill box?  I hadn't even opened the box to look at it.

When I bought the yogurt maker, I had looked at many recipes and thought I could make yogurt.  I wanted to make vegan yogurt.  I had tried commercially prepared vegan yogurt and I liked it fine.  But it's expensive and hard to find different flavors.  I even had a hard time finding plain vegan yogurt.  So I bought the yogurt maker and ordered vegan yogurt starter (2 boxes - I was ambitious) and threw the starter in the freezer like I was supposed to.  And then everything stopped and sat waiting.

In August, I decided I would dig out the yogurt maker and make vegan yogurt. It seemed like I read 100 recipes and tips articles, but I'm sure it wasn't that many.  I finally decided on one recipe that heated the soy milk (Edensoy or WestSoy - the kind with only soy beans and filtered water in it - no other additives). It was very easy.  This recipe used cornstarch as a thickener and I'll admit, the yogurt was very thick.  I thought I cooked it too long (10 or 11 hours) as it was a little sour for my taste, but it turns out, that's just because I wasn't used to the flavor. 

My vegan yogurt starter expired in February 2014.  YIKES!  Turns out, it stays good indefinitely in the freezer.  I have used it for every batch of yogurt I've made except one where I added 1/2 cup of my yogurt instead as the starter.  Good thing the starter is still good - I have those two boxes to use up!

I tried another recipe using Arrowroot Starch for the thickener.  It turned out OK, too, but wasn't as thick as cornstarch.  Then I read another recipe and the author said she uses no thickeners and doesn't heat the milk before culturing.  She just adds 1 capsule of vegan probiotic (the refrigerated kind) to the milk and then cultures it.  That sounded great to me ... BUT ... I still have these 2 boxes of vegan yogurt starter.  So, I dumped a box of soy milk in my Pyrex bowl, added an envelope of vegan yogurt starter, and threw it in the yogurt maker for about 11 hours.  VOILA!  It's not as thick as when I use a thickener, but it's not soupy either.  Honestly, it's thick enough for me.  It's a softer set, but still delicious and perfect for granola or protein shakes. I've made it this way several times now and it's the only method I'll use.

My first yogurt attempt.
Now, instead of making yogurt in the little jars, I make it in a 7-cup Pyrex bowl so I can just dish out as much as I want into a ball jar to add a bit of fruit and granola.  Those little jars are great to only eat yogurt as they are big enough to add fruit to, but they are not big enough to add anything else. To flavor the yogurt, I have been adding a teaspoon or so of fruit butters that I made (blueberry butter and peach butter).  I also add fresh fruit.  I've been on a kick of adding 1/2 cup of granola to the yogurt and having it for lunch.  It's good and filling. 

I've been buying granola in bulk from Whole Foods or the Health Food Store, but I don't know what's in the granola and I like the idea of making my own.  It's taken me a couple of months to actually attempt to make granola ... enter today.  I have been collecting granola recipes in Pinterest waiting for the day I was ready to make granola.  I ate the last of my health food store granola for lunch, making a perfect opportunity to move forward.

I used a simple granola recipe and made it my way.  It has smelled heavenly cooking. 

Fruit & Nut Granola
Makes about 6 cups

Preheat oven to 300º F. Prepare jelly roll pan by placing parchment paper in it.

Dry ingredients; mix together.
4 cups rolled oats
½ cup raw unsalted Pepitas
½ cup raw unsalted Sunflower seeds
½ cup raw Pecans, chopped
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup Bing cherries, dried/chopped
¼ cup mixed dried fruit 
¼ cup Coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon (or so) freshly ground nutmeg

Wet ingredients; mix together.
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used canola because I didn't have coconut on hand)
1/3 cup agave syrup (or could use pure maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (homemade of course)

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients making sure the dry ingredients are coated.  Pour into the jelly roll pan and spread around. Stir every 10 minutes for a total cook time of 30 minutes.  Granola will not get crispy-crunchy until it cools.  Cool, break up the granola and store.  Enjoy!

Now, I only need to start using the yogurt cheese maker to make vegan yogurt cheese and vegan Greek yogurt.  BUT, I only purchased it on August 31, 2016, so I have time yet.  ;)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Best Damn Seitan I've Ever Had PERIOD!

On Christmas Day 2010, which seems like a lifetime ago, I made Seitan Filet Mignon au Jus for the first, but definitely not the last time.  It was on this website address:

However, A Veg*n for Dinner has been gone for a LONG time, years in fact.  The owner deleted the blog and along with it, some GREAT recipes.  I didn't get all of the recipes I wanted off of the blog, but I did get a couple choice recipes.  One being the recipe for the Best Damn Seitan I've Ever Had Period!  Another is for Seitan Turkey with Dressing.

I decided to share the Filet Mignon recipe with you.  If the creator of this recipe ever sees this blog, I hope it sparks you to reconsider sharing your FABULOUS recipes!
Cooked Filets
So ... here goes ... and again, I want to make it clear this is NOT my recipe.  I don't know who the creator is as I can't look at the website to give you her name.  The website was inactive for at least 2 years when I ran across this recipe and the entire website was deleted 2 to 3 years ago (at least ... maybe longer).

Seitan Filet Mignon au Jus
Serves 5-6

Add the following to a blender and blend until smooth:

½ of a 12 oz. box of firm silken tofu
3/4 c. cold water
1½ tbsp. ketchup
1 tbsp. oil
1½ tbsp. Braggs Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce
½ tbsp. steak sauce
1 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. sage
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
2 tbsp. beef-style bouillon

In a large bowl, mix well (with a whisk):
1½ tbsp. cornmeal
1½ c. (180 grams) vital wheat gluten

Add the tofu mix to the gluten and mix well.  While  mixing, add enough additional wheat gluten to form a firm ball (up to another ½ cup or 60 grams); just enough so it's not sticky while kneading (adding too much will make the dough hard and difficult to work with).  Knead for about 5 minutes; cover and let sit for 1 hour.

Roll out the dough on a surface dusted with vital wheat gluten flour until it's 2" thick.  Cut into 5 steaks; use a biscuit cutter or glass.  (I cut mine into 6 steaks.)

In a large skillet (12") or multi-cooker add the following.  (I use a 6 quart electric multi-cooker with a rack on the bottom to keep the steaks from burning.)

3 c. cold water
3 tbsp. beef-style bouillon (or can use 3 c. no-beef veggie stock)
1½ tbsp. oil
2 tsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. Soy Sauce
½ tsp, black pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp, onion powder (optional)

Put steaks in the pan before turning on the heat (so liquid is cold); cover.  Bring it to a boil over medium heat.  When starts boiling, turn temp to low.  Simmer for about an hour and 15 minutes, turning every 10-15 minutes.  (If cooking on a rack, you can wait a little longer ... 15 minutes at least.)  If not using a rack, watch to make sure steaks don't stick to the pot and burn.
Steaks cooking in the 6 qt. multi-cooker
Remove the steaks from the pan, keeping the liquid for later or reheating the steaks.  If storing for later, let steaks cool for 10 minutes (at least) before putting in a sealed container or wrapping for longer term storage (think freezer ... I've frozen these and used them in soups and sandwiches months after I cooked them).

You can use the au Jus to reheat the steaks and serve them with a little of the juice.  I made gravy and served mine with mushroom gravy.  I've also made a Port Wine gravy and served them with that. VERY TASTY!

Spring Begins in 5 Days!!!

Pale Pink Daylilies from my garden.
In only 5 days, Spring will begin.  I can't wait for Spring.  It's been a long, hard winter in Chicago. Depending on what article you read, we either tied for the coldest February on record (in 1875) or came close to it.  I've had Spring fever for awhile now.  I ordered (in advance) three types of flowers for a new spot in my yard, a spinning decoration to add to that location, and a new spade/shovel thing to use to dig for the flowers.
Burgundy Red Daylilies from my garden.
In only a few short months, my Daylilies will begin to grow and bloom.  I have three different colors and love them all.  I'll be planting my container garden.  Last year, I had both cherry and plum tomatoes, banana, jalapeno, and green peppers, cucumbers on the deck as well as, sweet corn and pumpkins in a 3'x3' patch on the side of the garage.  I learned a few things (cucumbers do not do well in a container), but for other things, I got bumper crops.
Various veggies from my deck container garden.
Last year, I also went full blown on fermenting.  I fermented veggies and made dill pickles.  I made sauerkraut.  I used half gallon and quart Ball jars, reCAP Mason Jar Pour Caps plus #6 drilled rubber stoppers and 3-piece airlocks for the fermenting process.  Worked like a charm. I was a little scared. I used leaves off of my Blackberry tree in the bottom of the jars to keep the pickles crunchy.  I made a half gallon jar of pickles for my girlfriend and her hubby and wasn't sure if they would like them They loved them.  I'll be making more this year.
2014 Fermenting Project
Back to food blogging soon.  Next weekend, I'll be making a Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cake for my son.  It was his birthday yesterday (he turned 24), and that was his request for a cake AT the last minute late Thursday evening.  I need to find a vegan recipe, so it will be next weekend.
The ONE and ONLY peony I got from this particular plant before my lawn care guy mowed it over.  UGH!
Brilliant orange Daylily from my garden.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A LOT has happened ... and a Southwestern Tofu Scramble

So much has happened in the last year.  I had some serious issues, my first foster dog had serious issues, but I made it through to the other side.  So, it's back to cooking.  Actually, I've been cooking all year, but it's back to blogging a bit.
I decided to use some of the tofu I bought a couple of weeks ago.  Both packages expire within days of each other and their time is about up.  One will be frozen and one was cooked today.  I haven't made a tofu scramble in a year or so and thought it would be a perfect "brunch" item for me.  
From my container garden ... yellow pear tomatoes, banana pepper, poblano pepper, red tomatoes, and jalapeno peppers.
I had some vegan breakfast sausage in my freezer that I had made.  Four little sausage patties was the perfect amount for the scramble.  The sweet white onion was from a farmer's market, and the poblano pepper and tomatoes (red and yellow pear) were from my container garden on my deck.  I have to say, I just LOVE walking out on my deck and picking peppers or tomatoes or snipping herbs!
My poblano pepper plant.
I wasn't sure what I was going to do because I didn't have all of the ingredients (or didn't want to put out the required effort) for some of the recipes I reviewed.  So, I kinda did my own thing. My inspiration came from Tamasin Noyes' American Vegan Kitchen.  If you don't have that cookbook, I swear, you must get it.  Every single recipe I've made from that cookbook has been fabulous!
I microwaved a couple of russet potatoes, peeled them, diced them, and then browned them in a couple of teaspoons of canola oil until they were crispy brown on a couple of sides.  I used some of the potatoes to make my son a couple of breakfast burritos. :)
While the potatoes were browning, I chopped up some red and yellow pear tomatoes, a poblano pepper, a sweet onion, and my vegan sausage.  My tofu had already been squeezed in my Tofu Xpress (love that thing) for about an hour, so all I had to do was crumble it. 
I sauteed the sausage, onion, pepper, and potatoes (again!) for a couple of minutes before I added a few spices (chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and Kala Namak also called black salt). I stirred it all up, then added the tofu, some nooch, water, lime juice, and Cholula Chipolte hot sauce.  I let it cook for about 10 minutes.
To serve, I threw about a tablespoon of Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Shreds and some Herdez Salsa Verde.  It was quite tasty.  Probably cheddar or monterey jack shreds would have been better than mozzarella, but that's all I had.

Here are the ingredients and measurements I used.

1 medium potato (microwaved, peeled and diced)
1 teaspoon canola oil
Saute the potato until browned and crispy on a couple of sides in a big skillet.

4 small vegan breakfast sausages, diced (was about a cup total)
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded, veins removed, and diced
 Add diced sausages, onion, and pepper to skillet.  Saute a few more minutes (2 or 3).

1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chipolte chile powder
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon or so Kala Namak (black salt ... I found it locally and it was pretty cheap)
1/2 teaspoon regular salt
pepper to taste
Sprinkle spices over sausage mixture.  Then immediately add the following to the skillet:

crumbled tofu (14 oz. package firm tofu, pressed and crumbled)
1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Cholula Chipolte Sauce
Cook on low for about 10 minutes.  Add 1 cup diced tomato and cook for a few more minutes.

Serve with salsa, avocado, fresh chopped tomatoes, vegan cheese shreds ... whatever toppings you like on your southwestern dish.  This would be excellent as a breakfast burrito filling.

OK, now onto my foster pups.  I began volunteering for a rescue group, It's a Pittie Rescue (Chicago, IL area) on April 7, 2012, which was Easter weekend.  I started by going to their boarding facility and walking the dogs.  One dog I walked was Gumbo or Gumbino as he was known to our family.
Gumbo, Kobe, and Jordan in September 2012.
As you can see from the picture above, Gumbo was a natural in my girls' pack.  Gumbino had other issues and we had to keep him away from most visitors.  Gumbo had actually bit a visitor to our home.  We don't know what happened to him before he joined It's a Pittie Rescue, but I would venture to say it traumatized him and made him distrust people.  We fostered Gumbo from May 12, 2012 through September 23, 2012.  I had surgery on September 24, 2012 so Gumbo went back to boarding while I recovered.  Unfortunately, Gumbo had aggression issues towards strangers and he bit a walker on September 28, 2012 and the decision was made to put him to sleep. This was a very traumatic time for my sons and I.  Gumbo came to see us one last time that day before he was put down.  It still brings tears to my eyes because I blame myself, in part, for sending him back to boarding.  
Gumbo wore worry on his face sometimes.  It was a product of the hard life he had lived.  September 2012.
Gumbo may have had fear of strangers and aggression toward them, but he would have never hurt our family or my girls.  Gumbo would have protected us to his death.  I still love this handsome boy and I still miss him.  I do take some comfort in knowing that for the last months of his life, from May to September, he knew what it was like to be a beloved member of a family.  Rest in peace, Gumbo.  
Frost LOVES laying in the sun. He regularly sunned himself on the deck.  This was in June 2013.
It took us a month before we fostered again.  I saw a plea from Reach Out Rescue, NFP for a foster for Frost or Frosty Frost in our world.  I thought he was beautiful and I thought it would be a short foster, as he already had an application for adoption pending (it fell through).  I applied to foster, was approved and have been fostering for Reach Out Rescue, NFP ever since.  They are a great rescue group that rescues all dog breeds and a lot of kitties. 

Frost is an extremely handsome, make that beautiful American Bulldog mix.  I picked up Frost on Halloween 2012.  We fostered him until August 21, 2013, almost 10 months. Frost was starved to the point of being a skeleton dog.  He was kicked in boarding and his hip was broken and he had to have surgery.  This was in February 2012 way before I met him and even before he joined the rescue group.  The broken hip was when the rescue group stepped in and took Frost under its wings.

From February 2012 to Halloween 2012, he was fostered by a former official of his rescue group.  The woman was wretched to all of the foster dogs in her possession as she kept them all in cages that were too small.  She made them stay in the cages for 24 hours a day, only letting them out to go outside to potty, and I'm not even sure how much that happened.  She made them eat in their cages and gave them rawhides in the cages.  She quit the rescue group and dumped the dogs in her possession at the vet's office on Halloween 2012.  It was the absolute best thing she had ever done for the dogs.  They were finally free of her torture.

Frost during his first week with us ... skinny and stained from life in a cage.
Frost had urine stains on the back side of all of his legs.  In the picture above, you can see the stains on his front and back paws. His tendons had shortened from inactivity and being confined 24 hours a day, so he "high-stepped."  He didn't know what toys were for, he didn't know how to catch a treat, he couldn't walk on my kitchen floor (ceramic tile) without slipping and sliding.  He didn't know how to walk up or down stairs.  It was heartbreaking. The first time I scratched his back from his neck to his tail, he actually shivered because the act of giving him back scratches was completely foreign to him.  How sad.  Back, side, and belly scratches and rubs quickly became one of his favorite things.
August 17, 2013, a couple of days before Frost left ... no more stained paws for this boy!
Frost flourished with us. Frost is an extremely loving dog.  I don't think I've met a more loving dog who craves human attention and affection more than Frost. Frost was a reluctant pack member with my girls at first.  He had a little food aggression (which he got over) and was jealous of the attention we gave our girls.  Over the months I realized that while Frost became a good pack member with my girls, he really wanted to be an only dog who got all of the attention.  
August 21, 2013, Frost's last day with us, sunning himself on the deck.
It took a long time to find the perfect family, but Frost is finally home with them.  He is the only dog in a family of four, Mom, Dad, brother (age 10), and sister (age 4), plus a cat, who he is still trying to get to know.  It was so sad for us to lose Frost (I still miss him a lot), but he is being so pampered and loved that I can't help but be totally happy for him.
Sadora, now Keegan - June 29, 2013
We fostered Sadora only for a night.  I got her on a Saturday from the vet's office.  Someone else had been fostering her and boarded her when they went on vacation.  I offered to pick her up to do a house check and adoption contract for her, but her new family couldn't meet on Saturday, so we kept her overnight.  She was adopted on Sunday, June 30, 2013.  Her new family named her Keegan. She has a furry brother to keep her company and is doing well.
Nacho Libre - August 31, 2013
That brings me to our current foster dog.  Nacho is a pure bred Boston Terrier.  He is a trip.  He's about a year and a half old and weighs 16 pounds, but he acts like he is a big dog.  He chases Kobe Bean (my black lab) and Jordan (my rottie/shepherd) like he is their size.  He's a good boy.  His family didn't have enough time for him, so they surrendered him to Reach Out Rescue, NFP.  I picked him up on Friday, August 23, 2013.  Nacho has an approved adoption application and I will be doing a home check and taking him to his forever family this week on Wednesday, September 4, 2013.  Even though Nacho is a short-term foster, he has made a big impact on us. We'll miss his crazy, frantic energy!
I am already thinking ahead and have offered to foster a couple of puppies.  They were born on July 13, 2013 and are a rottie/shepherd/chow mix.  I think I'll be getting them on September 13, 2013.  I don't expect them to last long here, either.  Puppies go fast.  But, I'll keep fostering.  Fostering and adoption saves lives.  I'm giving back and I feel good about it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's been a long 7+ months since the last time I posted.  I had a major issue crop up in my life that took me completely away from the life I knew and led me on a new path.  I'm finally making my way back here.  :::smile:::

During the last 7 months, I have cooked occasionally.  Actually, I've cooked more than occasionally, but didn't take pictures or have the energy to blog about it.  I'll recap now, though.
In February, I made a Blueberry Streusel Cake with Lemon Icing.  While it was tasty, it wasn't a dessert that my sons appreciated, so only a couple of slices were eaten.  (I mean, really, how much could I eat?!?!?)
I would make it again, but before I did, I'd make sure that I was making it for a crowd that likes blueberries and lemons.  The combination is very refreshing.
In March, I made a chili that had a combination of veggies that I couldn't imagine would taste good together.  Why I made it, I'll never know, but I'm glad I did.  I LOVED IT!  I made Chipotle Chili with Sweet Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts from Appetite for Reduction (p. 238). Luckily, the recipe is on, and I've included the link for you here.  I will be making this again this fall/winter.  It had such a great flavor and just enough zing for me.  I highly recommend this chili.  I know it sounds weird to put both Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes in chili, but it was excellent.  Sometimes it really pays off to walk outside of my food comfort zone and try something totally new.
In April, I made Creamy Avocado and Sweet Potato Soup.  It was pretty tasty.  I like a creamy soup now and again.  It was a good way to use up the avocado that was reaching the end.  In fact, I have an avocado and a sweet potato that I need to use.  This would be an excellent soup for his week.
In May, I made New York Times Veggie Burgers.  These were quite tasty.  My oldest son loved them.  I made 6 regular burgers and 1 baby burger.  I got to eat one of the regular burgers the day I made them and the baby burger a week or two later (I froze the leftover burgers), but my son ate the rest.  I need to make these again.
In May, I also made a Banana Crumble (recipe at the bottom of the webpage). I added sliced fresh strawberries to it.  It would have been good with half or even a third of the crust listed in the recipe.  There was WAY TOO MUCH crust on this and not enough fruit/filling.
Finally in May, I made Ole-Fashioned Chili Beans (click on the 169 and it will take you to the recipe) from Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Foods. The chili is a bit on the spicy side, but good.  I made it because I was going to make Chili Cheese Fries (page 165 of the cookbook), but I ended up just eating the chili.  I have some of the chili in the freezer and need to thaw it so I can make the Chili Cheese Fries.  All of the recipes in this book have less than 350 calories.  I still need to make the Seitan Cheesesteak that is pictured on the front of this cookbook.
This isn't something I cooked, but this dog is something I acquired.  This is Gumbo.  No, he is not my dog, but I have been fostering him since May 12, 2012, so just about 4 months now.  Fostering has been very rewarding and challenging.  Gumbo had been in a boarding facility for just about 6 months. At the time I brought him home, he had lived almost half of his life in a kennel.  (He was just over a year old.)  He's put on weight and is a loving dog to my family, but he has stranger issues.  He's good with my two girls (the black lab and rottie/shepherd).  Although we love Gumbo, he's not a forever dog for us. I'm really hoping that we can help him on his way to finding the perfect home for him.
These are two pictures of Gumbo in August.  He's relaxed a lot in the past four months.  I can tell he didn't know a lot of love early in his life because it took him a long time to connect with us.  Now, he has and he is an attention hound who thinks, at about 60 or 65 pounds, that he IS a lap dog.  :)
In July, I decided enough was enough with my appliances.  My oven stopped working.  The gas would come on, but the electronic ignition wouldn't light the oven burner, so I'd just smell natural gas.  That's not a good thing.  The oven did that once, but then lit up when I tried to light it again within a few minutes.  It worked for a week or two without problem, but then it started acting up again.  I couldn't mess around with natural gas.

My dishwasher was over 30 years old.  I believe my house was built in 1978, 1980 at the latest.  The dishwasher was the original one from when the house was built.  It hadn't been working well for a while, but I scrubbed the dishes before I put them into it.  It still left streaks.  I was just tired of it and knew I needed a new dishwasher.  Plus, it sounded like a jet engine when it ran.  It was extremely noisy.
I bought a stove and dishwasher in one sitting.  The stove crapped out for the last time on Saturday and I was using a small electric convection oven to bake.  Sunday night, I went online searching for a sale and found one at Sears plus 12 months no interest financing.  I bought a stainless steel stove with a black top and a black Bosch dishwasher that is so quiet, we can't hear it when it's running.  It has a red light that shows on the floor to tell us the dishwasher is running.  My fridge is black, so everything matches nicely now.  I swear the new appliances even make the 30+ year old cabinets look better.  :)  I love them both.
Of course I needed to try out my stove, so I made Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup from the Fat Free Kitchen Vegan blog. This is one of my favorite soups.  It hits the spot no matter when it's made during the year.  I also made Smoky Refried Bean Soup from this website, but I have no pictures of it.  I made it during the summer (June), and I liked it very much.  It's a heavy soup though, and really best suited for the winter months.
I made Vegan Patties Like You've Never Had in late August.  These are made with nuts, refried beans, and oatmeal.  I made the burger mixture on one day, threw it into the refrigerator overnight, and then formed the burgers the next day.  The mixture was very sticky and soft the first day, so the overnight refrigeration was perfect.  I pan fried them for 5 minutes on each side, but they were still very soft burgers, so I ended up baking them at 350º for about 20 minutes.  That helped, but I ended up putting them back into the oven (it had been turned off for 15 or 20 minutes and had cooled down a lot) and just let them sit in there for another 20 minutes or so.
They froze nicely.  I had one tonight and it was firmer, but I wouldn't call these really firm burgers.  They are very tasty, though.  This recipe made 12 burgers for me, 12 good-sized burgers.
Last week, I made Leek Mushroom Potato Stew.  OK, I didn't have any leeks, so I used more onion and a huge handful of chives (I have a huge plant on my deck).  I put in 24 oz. of button mushrooms because those were the only mushrooms I had.  I used Yukon Gold potatoes, because I didn't have purple potatoes.  AND, while I had chorizo sausage that I could have used, I decided to use two links of Field Roast Apple Sage Vegan Sausage, that actually seemed to go perfectly with the flavor of the stew.

I liked this stew, BUT, I hated the pasta in it.  I will make it again, but I will not put pasta in it.  It was mushy and did not reheat well.  Otherwise, it was a lovely stew. I will look for some Field Roast Chipolte Vegan Sausage to use in it. I might like the extra zing.
Tonight, I roasted broccoli, Yukon God potatoes, and baby bella mushrooms in a splash of olive oil, French gray sea salt, and pepper.  OMG!  I love roasted veggies and could have eaten the entire pan of them.  I tried to restrain myself and I saved a generous portion for tomorrow.
I ate them with one of the Vegan Patties Like You've Never Had smothered in pickles and a generous squirt of mustard.  It was a lovely dinner for a Monday night after a dentist visit in the afternoon.  bah!  I'm not a fan of the dentist, but I go when I'm supposed to.  I never want to have any kind of serious periodontal disease.  My ex-husband had perio gum surgery and it looked absolutely torturous.  
OK, that's caught me up to today.  I'm leaving you with a picture of the three dogs together.  As you can see, Gumbo (the lightest dog) thinks he fits right in.  :::smile:::