July 31, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: A Vegan Dinner Party for my Meat Eating Family

My little cousin Henry looking at the meal curiously...

Hello everyone! My first ever Vegan dinner party was a success. I've never cooked for a large group of people before, but it was really fun. I loved hearing everyone's opinions on my cooking (even if it wasn't great - I'm looking at you Uncle Justin). Being that it was my first time cooking for a crowd, I definitely learned some things. I really need to give myself enough time to actually cook the meal. I had to work early Saturday morning and didn't get home until 3:00 and had to be to my Grandparent's house by 5:30. Let's just say I got there at 6.

The reason I was throwing this dinner party is because I was chosen by the company, Foodbuzz, that does the advertising on my site as one of twenty four people to host an event on July 30th - where you serve your cooking. I submitted my proposal saying that I would love to prepare a Vegan meal for my family using my family's recipes, but with Vegan ingredients. I know I've shared before, but let me give you a little background on myself and my family. I live in Minnesota and both of my grandparents on my Dad's side grew up on farms where they raised animals. My grandpa is a retired butcher, my Uncle Justin's favorite days of the year are deer hunting opener and fishing opener, and my grandma thinks cows were put on this planet for humans to feed on. You can imagine how they felt when I told them that I was going to become a vegetarian - and then shockingly - a vegan. Now, all that being said, I love my family dearly. They are such an important part of my life and have supported my decisions whole heartedly. 

 My grandma enjoying her Vegan dinner.

My initial plan was to make Lasagna for my dinner party. I wasn't sure how my family would react to non-dairy cheese so I invited my parents over to try out some stuffed manicotti with Daiya cheese. I thought it was absolutely delicious (recipe to be uploaded soon...), but my parents and my sister were not impressed. They just couldn't get past the fake cheese, so I had to go back to the drawing board. I needed a meal that would be a real crowd pleaser and that didn't have cheese as the starring ingredient. So here's what I served:



We also had a side salad of organic greens and store bought Vegan dressings. I'm so excited to say that it went over really well! Everyone loved the stew, the biscuits, and especially the cake. I was a little worried about serving the cake to my family since it's really my Grandma's signature dessert. I knew I had done well though when my Grandma said "This tastes just like my cake!". Best thing I could have ever heard! 

 My little cousin Calvin eating his salad!

In all - I was serving 10 people (plus another Uncle and two cousins who stopped by for a few minutes and ended up trying the stew) and I asked for everyone's opinion. Most gave everything an A for a grade, but my Uncle had a little trouble with stew. He said as someone who doesn't like beef stew, it was a C. I'll take that! However, he did give the cake an A!

My meat eating Grandpa chowing down on some Gardein faux meat!

All in all, everything went really well. They all really enjoyed the meal and were really surprised at how satisfying a Vegan meal really could be. I think a lot of people feel that once you go Vegan - all you can eat is salad. I know when I tell someone that I'm Vegan, one of the first questions I'm asked is "What do you eat?" Hopefully I proved to my family that you can have a hearty and delicious dinner without sacrificing the lives of animals! Before I go, I'd like to say how grateful I am to all my fans on Facebook. All of your words of encouragement really have meant a lot to me. Thank you all so much!

July 29, 2011

Apple Carrot "Pup"cakes with Banana "Frosting"


Keeva had her 4th birthday this past Wednesday on July 27th! I had to work in the morning - so Keeva went to stay at my Mom and Dad's house on Tuesday night so she could wake up on her birthday and play with her friends Nana and Sampson - my parent's two dogs. I went straight over to my parent's house after work and "frosted" the cupcakes for all the dogs to enjoy! I had made these the night before with a little help from my Mom. I don't know if anyone else does this, but I'm super conscious about Keeva's health. Way more than I am with mine. First of all, I felt super guilty that I was using white flour instead of 100% whole wheat or oat flour. Secondly, this recipe has no added sugar. Only the healthiest treats for my girl - meanwhile I'm stuffing my face with Molasses Cookies. She does get some special non-healthy treats every once and a while. Especially when she's at my parent's. I was told she had some french fries and chicken from McDonald's when I was at work. Not much I can do I guess. Happy Birthday Keeva!

 Everything was great - except she had to wear her cone for most of the day!

 Keeva with her birthday present - a new pink bone!

Keeva absolutely loves bananas - and carrots and apples. So she was so happy with this cake. You could try substituting your dog's favorite fruit or vegetable instead of carrots for a custom cake, perfect and special just for your little one!

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups applesauce
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 - 1 cup shredded carrots
Preheat the oven to 375F.

Mix together the applesauce, vinegar, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together. Once the dry ingredients are well mixed - add to the wet ingredients. Once the dry and wet are well incorporated - fold in the shredded carrots.

Scoop into a greased or lined muffin pan and bake at 375F for 18-23 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

For the frosting - I just mashed up two bananas and piped them on top of the cupcakes. Two bananas was enough for 4 cakes.

July 27, 2011

Chewy Molasses Cookies


It's been so long since I've had molasses cookies! They used to be one of my favorites when I was little. My grandma always made the best cookies. I was looking though my recipes trying to find a new dessert I could make with ingredients that I had on hand - and this was the winner! They're so chewy and sweet - and go great with a big glass of almond milk (or any milk of your choosing!) The smell of molasses always reminds of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. It's so funny how smells can do that to you! Those were some of my favorite books when I was little. I think the reason that they remind me of the books is because of a recipe I tried making when I was in the middle of reading the series. It was a sort of molasses candy that they had made in the book. I should try making it again!

I have a couple of new exciting things happening for Vegan Heartland! One being that I'll be hosting a Vegan Dinner party for my family this Saturday. My parents, my sister, some of my Aunts and Uncles and Cousins will be there! None of which are Vegan...not even Vegetarian actually. As part of the FoodBuzz publishing group though - I'll be doing a post with recipes + pictures + video! I hope they all like my Vegan food. Wish me luck!

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup shortening - melted
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine - melted (or your favorite margarine!)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sugar (for rolling the dough in)

In a medium bowl, mix together the melted margarine, shortening, 1 cup sugar, and applesauce until smooth. Stir in the molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg in separate bowl. Blend into the molasses mixture. Cover, and chill dough for 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350F. Roll the dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the 1/4 cup white sugar. Place dough balls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes, until tops are cracked. Cool on wire racks.

July 25, 2011

Asparagus Pasta Salad


Hello everyone! I hope everyone's Summer is going well! Mine has been a little hectic, but that's alright! I just can't wait to get all of this "big" stuff out of the way so I can focus on what I really want to put my attention to! One of those things being cooking (and coming up with new recipes!) So that brings me to today's post! I was going through my recipe box and stumbled upon a recipe that I had jotted down a few years ago. I had been looking for a new salad to take to work for the week and this was definitely the answer! Asparagus and pasta together? I'm in. The original recipe called for 2 endive, but I didn't have any on hand when I was making the salad, so they missed the cut! If you want to - try adding them in! I'm sure they'd be a delicious addition!

Ingredients:
  • 1 small shallot - finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 1/2 pound of your favorite pasta
  • 3/4 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
Heat the shallot and the oil in the microwave for 30 seconds. Once heated, remove from microwave and allow the oil to cool

Trim the bottoms of the asparagus. Roughly chop them and boil them in 1 inch of water for 3 to 5 minutes. Cool under ice cold water to stop the cooking and to keep the bright green color!

In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the oil/shallot mixture, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Then add the rest of the ingredients and toss together. Serve refrigerated.

July 17, 2011

French Toast Casserole with Maple Syrup


Hey all! Sorry! I know it's been a while since I've posted a new recipe! I've been so busy lately with life stuff that it's been keeping me from cooking! Don't you hate that? It's the first thing to go when I'm too busy. Lately my diet has been consisting of so many processed foods. I can't wait to get back on track. I did finally find a new car and I sold my old car. Now I'm just looking for a new apartment and eventually a new job. Like I said before "So much to do, so little time".

I did, however, find the time to invite my parents over for breakfast and offer to make breakfast for them! I was perusing the recipes over at Food Network's website and stumbled upon a recipe by Paula Deen for a French Toast Casserole. I was officially in love. I knew I had to make it, but the ingredients list was filled with non-vegan foods, so I had to come up with my own way of making it! Speaking of which, I know Paula Deen is not a "favorite" of the Vegan community, but I actually happen to love her. I love her show, I love her personality, and she just seems like a sweet person. I know that she puts 12 eggs, half a pig, and a pound of butter in about everything she makes, but I try to see beyond that. Really, a lot of her recipes look really good. Maybe I can see her differently since I grew up in a similar household (where my grandmother cooks my grandpa's eggs in bacon grease *shudder*). What do you guys think of Paula?

Also, there's something else I must address. I was born and raised here in America's heartland (Minnesota/Wisconsin). The only time I've ever heard the term "casserole" was if my Mom or Grandmothers were making Tuna Noodle Casserole. Otherwise, we always called casseroles by a different name - "hot dish". Is that a purely Midwestern thing or are there other parts of the country that do the same thing? I find it so interesting! A friend of mine and I were in Key West, Florida a few years ago and we went to eat at a restaurant. She asked the waitress what kind of "pop" they carried there and she said "You must not be from around here". She said they called everything "Coke"! Anyway, I've gone off on enough tangents today! My parents absolutely loved the recipe - so here ya go! You have to cut the bread and let it soak in the batter overnight, so it takes a little advanced preparation, but it's worth it!

Ingredients:
  • 1 large or 2 medium French baguettes
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 cups non-dairy milk (I used Silk Soymilk)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • Walnut Praline Topping - recipe below
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Slice bread into 3/4 inch thickness. Spray a large casserole dish or baking dish with cooking spray. Layer the first layer with slices of bread. Pour a third of the batter on top of the bread. Repeat to make three layers (or more if you have enough room in your dish and enough batter!) Cover with tinfoil and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350F. While the oven is heating, you can make the praline topping!

Praline topping:
  • 1/2 cup Shortening
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance Spread
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Spread evenly over the french toast and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

July 5, 2011

Very Berry Shortcake


I hope everyone had a safe and fun Independence Day! The fireworks show that I saw was incredible! Easily the best I've ever seen! Keeva and I ended up going over to my Aunt and Uncle's house to celebrate. They had steak on the grill and I ate my veggie dogs. However, I was in charge of bringing dessert. The last dessert I brought to a family function was my Carrot Cake that I brought to my Aunt and Uncle's house for Easter earlier this year. Knowing that my last dessert was well-loved, I was a little less nervous bringing a vegan dessert for everyone to try. So, in the spirit of the 4th of July I had to make a red, white, and blue dessert! I'm happy to say that everyone absolutely loved it! My aunt even had me leave a few for her to eat for breakfast the next morning with her coffee! So, another vegan dessert made. A few meat-eaters made to believe that vegan desserts aren't scary. My work here is done....until my next dessert.

*Makes 9-12 biscuits*

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp vegetable shortening (I used Spectrum brand shortening)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup dairy free creamer (I used Wildwood brand Soy Creamer, but you could probably just use regular non-dairy milk)
  • sugar for sprinkling on top
  • Your favorite berries (I used blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries)
  • Non-Dairy whipped cream (I used Soyatoo's whipped cream....so yummy!)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar until well combined. Add in the shortening (I like to add mine by the teaspoon. 4 tbsp of shortening is 12 tsp) and mix together with the dry ingredients until the shortening is the size of peas. It works well if you use a hand held mixer to blend.

Then add the vanilla and creamer and mix together with a spoon. You're probably going to have to use your hands to do the last part of the mixing. A spoon can only do so much and you don't want to use a hand mixer!

On a greased cookie sheet, drop them by the large spoonful. They don't spread out too much so you can put them a little bit close together. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

Allow to cool, then top with whipped cream and berries and serve!

July 3, 2011

Brown Rice and Chick'n Fajitas


In the spirit of the 4th of July, I'm making....Fajitas? Just kidding! I'll post my 4th of July dessert recipe on Tuesday! This is such a simple dinner to prepare that takes so little time to make! I was lucky enough to be sent some samples from the company Lightlife and one of the sample they sent me was their Smart Strips Chick'n! I had such a hard time trying to figure out what to make with them. I sort of stood there looking into my refrigerator one night, trying to figure out what to cook for dinner. It was one of those nights where you don't really have anything in the fridge and you don't really feel like leaving to go to the store. I know you've all been there! I finally decided on these super delicious fajitas! Of course, if faux-chicken isn't your thing, you could always just use black beans, pinto or kidney beans, or even lentils!

Ingredients:
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1 package of your favorite faux chicken
  • 2 red bell peppers - stemmed and seeded
  • 1 green bell pepper - stemmed and seeded
  • 1/2 of a large onion (you can use any color you like!)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 large tomato - diced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6-8 of your favorite tortillas
Prepare the rice in a rice cooker or bring 2 cups of water or broth to a boil. Add the rice and cook according to the package directions. To learn more about cooking brown rice - visit my VH BASICS post on brown rice! Once the rice is done cooking, remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Peel and slice the onion and add to the oil. Stem and de-seed the bell peppers and add to the skillet along with your chick'n. Saute for about 5 minutes until the onions have become translucent and the chick'n has browned. Stir in the rice, diced tomato and seasonings until thoroughly combined. Spoon onto your heated tortilla, roll up, and serve!

This would be so good with some Daiya Pepperjack! Or maybe some vegan sour cream and Guacamole! I can't wait to try this again!